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“But, Dad,” Jack protested, “we only have one more inning. It’s not even dark yet.”

Nash looked to the west. “I don’t see the sun, do you?”

“It’s still light out.”

Nash handed Charlie to his wife. “Why don’t you give him to Shannon and tell her to put him down. I’ll get these clowns rounded up.” Nash made the exchange with his wife and then marched down the sidewalk.

Jack whacked the yellow plastic bat on the ground. “Not fair, Dad!”

“Life isn’t fair. Get your butt inside.” Jack tried to protest again,

but Nash cut him off. “Jack, I’m not going to tell you again. I didn’t say you couldn’t have fun. You guys have a Ping-Pong table in the basement, hundreds of movies, and an Xbox. Get your little butt inside, and I’m not going to tell you again.”

Rory stepped forward. “Come on, guys. We’ll play you in Madden 360.”

Nash and all four kids walked in the house. When they got to the kitchen, Jack plopped down in a chair and ran a hand over his freckled face. “Can we at least have a can of pop?”

Nash nodded. “You can each have one can. And if you decide to microwave some popcorn, hit the popcorn button on the microwave. That’s all you have to do. One of you two keeps burning it and it stinks up the whole house.”

“How do you know it’s not Shannon?” Jack asked.

“Because she’s the only person who picks up after herself around here, and I’ve seen her make popcorn.”

Maggie entered the kitchen. “I’m ready.”

“One last thing, boys. No one leaves this house. No one answers the door. When your mom and I leave I’m going to turn the alarm on. If you guys turn it off, my phone will beep and I will paddle some major ass. Do you understand?”

All four boys nodded.

“Good.” Nash looked toward the staircase and in a louder voice said, “Shannon, we’re taking off.”

She bounded down the steps a few seconds later and came cruising into the kitchen. “Have a great time.” She kissed her dad on the cheek.

“No one leaves the house. Understand?”

“Yes!” she said in a dramatic voice. “I heard you the first four times. You two go and have a good time. We’ll be fine.”

“Come on,” Maggie said, grabbing his arm. “The restaurant is only a mile from here.

Nash followed his wife into the mudroom. He stopped at his locker and opened his gun safe. There were several options. For tonight he grabbed the subcompact .40 caliber G27 and its small leather holster. At the back door he armed the security system and then left and locked the door. Back in the kitchen Shannon and her brothers shared a conspiratorial look and then darted to the front of the house. They dropped to the floor and crawled into the dining room. From the big window they watched their mom and dad back down the driveway and leave. None of them moved for close to a minute and then they sprang to life.

Jack announced, “All right . . . Let’s go. We were up two runs going into the top of the seventh.”

“But the security system?” Rory’s blond friend asked.

“He’s been saying that for years,” Jack scoffed. “I’ve already tested it. He has no idea if we turn it off or leave it on.” Jack punched in the code at the front door and disarmed the system.

Shannon came back from the kitchen and handed Rory the baby monitor. “Here.”

Rory took it without protest. “Be careful.”

“Be careful with what?” Jack asked.

“I’m just going to drive around the block a few times.”

Jack shook his head. “You’re crazy. If Dad catches you, he’ll kill you.”

“Jack, I’m only driving around the block! It’s not a big deal.”

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