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My 7th Birthday

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I used to love going to this movie theater when I was a kid. It was a small building between two clothing stores on main street. Every Saturday morning I went in to see the $2 cartoons with most of the other kids in the neighborhood. The owner was a pot-bellied white-haired old man named Bucky. He was the only one who worked there, and everyone in town said he didn't have any kids or a wife. He was always nice to the kids who came in. My parents said he treated us like family.

The only strict rule Bucky had was to never go through the red door between the auditorium and the concessions door leading to the other side of the snack bar. He said that was where he kept the spare projector parts, heavy machines and tools. I always wondered what kind of heavy machines such a small theater would have. I remember one time my trouble making friend Travis tried to go through it but it was locked, making me wonder why he told us not to open it anyway.

On my 7th birthday I was really excited because every birthday kid is given a tour of the theater projection room upstairs by Bucky. The Wilson twins, Lucy and Robbie, had their birthday tour three weeks ago, but I hadn't seen them so I couldn't ask them how it was. My parents dropped me off early that morning in front of the theater before it was even open. I sat on the curb waiting for whatever car Bucky drove to pull up. After a little while I heard the door behind me open, and Bucky was standing there with a giant grin he always wore, wishing me a happy birthday.

I was shocked that he was there, because there wasn't any parking space in the back of the theater and I hadn't seen any car pull up in the front.

He invited me in and led me through the concessions door into the back room behind the snack bar. It was small and smelled like cement and mold. There wasn't much back there except for the soda syrup boxes and the hoses connecting them to the machines on the other side of the wall. There was a staircase in the middle of the room that Bucky said would take us to the projection room.

"You excited, son?" Bucky enthusiastically asked.

"Yes," I eagerly replied.

"Good! Good!"

He looked more excited than I've ever seen him. His eyes were widened and his smile looked glued to his face. I heard some cars pull up out front as he took my hand and led me up the stairs. He gripped my hand rather firmly and kept glancing back at me as we went up the stairs, which stopped at a wooden door that looked out of place. He pulled a key from his pocket and used it to open the door.

The room wasn't what I had expected but it certainly was interesting. The projector stood in the middle of the room, in front of the window overlooking the auditorium. That was the only ordinary thing in there. There was a queen sized mattress in one corner of the room and a table with a clown suit laid out on top of it, next to a Kodak camera. What caught my attention the most was a padlocked trap door surrounded by dark-looking stains. I pointed to it.

"Where does that go?"

Bucky stood by the entrance and looked at me menacingly.

"That place..." he started. "That goes straight down into the room with the red door.."

Bucky started to shut the door when two police officers slammed it open, hitting him in the face. One of them tackled Bucky to the ground and the other picked me up and told me to stay calm because I was safe now. He waited for more officers to run into the room before he took me downstairs. The last thing I saw was Bucky pleading as two officers held him on the ground, and the rest of them looked around the room.

My parents arrived by police escort 15 minutes later and the police filled us in. Lucy and Robbie Wilson had apparently gone missing on their birthday three weeks ago. Bucky had kidnapped them during their tour and kept them somewhere. They suspected it was the theater, and that's why they were searching the building thoroughly. They wouldn't tell me what he did to them, but they told me that Jenny Fitzer saw Bucky drop Lucy into Crescent Lake while she was playing. She ran and told her parents.

My mother fought back tears as she put her arm around me, and we heard a gunshot from inside the theater. By then the entire police force was there. Both the onlookers and police turn their attention towards the theater as another shot was heard. Multiple cops stormed inside before several others ran out. There was so much shouting and confusion, but I heard someone say something about them shooting "the padlock" off because Bucky wouldn't show them the key, and that "he" grabbed an officer's gun and shot himself.

Most of the officers I saw run into the police station started to sprint outside with expressions I had never seen before. Most of them just paced around with their hands covering their faces and some went to the curb and cried their eyes out. There was too much going on for me to make out entire spoken sentences but from most of the cops I heard two distinctive words, "red door".

One officer finally offered to take us home for questioning, so we didn't have to see anymore. My parents sat with me in the back and held me as they drove off into the streets while several of my friends and neighbors watched us. I looked back, and the last thing I saw were two people walking out of the theater and carrying a large body bag. Behind them, a teary eyed policeman, holding the hand of Robbie Wilson, emerged. Robbie struggled to walk right and his face was hidden under the policeman's jacket for reasons I never found out myself, and my parents never told me.

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