Monday, October 8, 2012

Starting Today: The Silent Child
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Archive: Save the Girl!

Episode One of The Silent Child

Waves of relentless heat passed in front of Rance Dehner as he rode away from what had been a bloody confrontation in an Arizona town. Two days back, Dehner had killed five men: men who needed killing. The job was finished, but the horror would stay with him.
 Dehner gazed at the purple mountains which stood like a stone fortress. Their strength and timelessness seemed to mock him. Rance felt weary and wondered if his life was becoming a strange sort of trap. Could he ever settle down and start a ranch or open a store or do any of the things normal men do to make a living?
            The question made him restless. Sundown was still an hour or more away but a belt of water looped down nearby from the mountains. He decided to make camp early and give himself some extra time to read. Two books were in his saddle bags: a Bible and a volume containing Hamlet and King Lear.
            Dehner planned to start with Shakespeare. He was in a mood for tragedy.
            Without prompting, his horse began to move faster as they approached the water. The detective halted near a large grove of trees. He dismounted, allowed his horse to drink, then bent down and began to cup water in his hands.
            A cracking noise sounded from the trees. Instinctively, Dehner sprang to his feet  and drew his .45. The sound continued but Dehner couldn’t place it. Whatever was behind those trees didn’t sound like an animal or a man, at least not a man who was trying to keep his presence a secret.
            The sound was coming closer. Dehner watched intently as a few branches parted and a child stepped out.
            The detective holstered his weapon and smiled at the girl as he slowly approached her. Dehner figured the kid to be about seven years of age. She had blondish-brown hair, a round face and blue eyes that were vacant.
            Rance smiled as he crouched in front of the child. “Hello.”
            The girl said nothing. Her eyes looked directly at Dehner, but her expression conveyed no emotion. Her dress was tattered and her shoes covered with dirt.
            “My name is Rance. What’s your name?”
            The girl remained silent.
            “Do you know where your mommy or daddy are?”
            The child said nothing and Dehner stopped with the questions. The look on the girl’s face caused him to pause. He had seen that empty expression before, on the face of people who had witnessed death and destruction on a massive scale.
            The detective sighed inwardly. He had been through hell only a few days ago. He had a feeling that this little girl had been through something even worse.

Tomorrow: Episode Two of The Silent Child