Lost and Found goes back to November 2012 and is actually a salvaged scene from my scrapped first draft of my first supernatural suspense novel, The Man in White. The novel was set back in the ‘60s and Mr. Jones, my Big Bad (to steal a phrase from the Buffyverse), originally started as a traveling preacher from Georgia with a predilection for brutality—and small children. He’d go from small Southern town to small Southern town, teaching Sunday school classes to children twelve and under, and then when he’d find one that struck his fancy, he’d kidnap and murder him or her. (He wasn’t very particular about gender in my first draft.) My premise became, “What if Mr. Jones tried this on a West Indian child from the Louisiana bayou, right in the heart of hoodoo-land, but the child escaped? And what if this child’s family was connected to primal energy, something old and more evil than Jones himself, and he was made to pay for his crime? And what if after he’s put to death for his sins, he comes back connected to his victim?”
It was an ambitious novel to say the least (so ambitious it needed to be split into two books or risk being the length of The Stand) and I really didn’t have a clue how to start so I just wrote the first thing that popped into my head. This is a cleaned up version of that writing session.
He took the knife and ran it along the edge of his belt. The belt strap was black leather, thick and worn; the scratching sound the two materials made as they came together echoed throughout the deserted room.
He ignored the whimpering mass in the corner. Soon, she wouldn’t make a peep. She’d be little more than a blissful memory.
But first he would play. Taking her right now, like this, her fear turning her into a defeated mess, was no fun. He needed her to need to live. She wouldn’t, of course, but he didn’t see the harm in letting her believe otherwise. At least for a while. And if she was good, he might consider keeping her around a bit longer.
He untied the girl, removing the shackles from her wrists. She looked up at him with wide, watery eyes—he could tell she didn’t know what to make of this.
He knelt down beside her and kissed her forehead, relishing in the shiver he felt course through her. He could almost taste her adrenaline on his lips. He took his tongue and ran it across his mouth to really savor his handiwork.
“Please,” she whimpered. “Please, Mr. Jones—please let me go. I swear I won’t tell anyone about what happened.”
Mr. Jones smiled and ran his hand down the side of her face.
“I can’t do that, darlin’.” His sweet, Georgian accent drawled out the last word and to Josephine’s ears, almost sounded like a song. “I can’t let you go yet. First, I need you to do something for me.”
He placed the knife against her lips and smiled, baring all of his teeth. “Run.”
Mr. Jones got up and stepped to the side. He folded his arms across his chest and leaned one shoulder against a wall.
At first, Josephine sat hunched on the floor. She didn’t move; she stared at him like he was a puzzle she was trying to work out.
He looked at his watch. “Tick tock, tick tock. Time’s a-wastin’.”
Sensing this was a trap, but knowing that if she could even risk the possibility of escape she’d take it, Josephine leapt from the floor and raced through the room. The basement was dark and full of old furniture. She could barely see where she was going and nearly tripped over an old coffee table. She strained her ears to hear over the pounding in her head, listening for footsteps. He wasn’t following her.
Her legs were weak from squatting on the ground for how many ever days she was chained up. She lost track of time days ago. Or was it weeks? God help her if it was longer than that. Her white cotton panties, the only bottoms she had on, were soiled—he’d forgotten to bring her the bed pan this morning. Or maybe he didn’t forget; maybe he finally decided to kill her after all so there was no need to account for proper hygiene.
The memory of him with his hand in her personal places, bathing her with a moist rag, almost made her vomit. She steeled herself. She had to find her way out. But which way was which? And what would she do if she did make it out of what she assumed was his house?
A bright yellow light shone in the distance. She squinted through the dark and her blurry eyes adjusted enough to make out something in front of her—a window. It was face level; it was her salvation. She ran harder than she ever ran before and reached up to the pane. It opened from the bottom. All she needed to do was somehow unlock the latches above it and push. She stood on her tiptoes and went to work on her escape, grunting through gritted teeth.
The window was stuck.
She frantically searched around for something, anything, to stand on. A few feet away sat an old toy chest. She dragged it over to the window and clambered up on it, gripping the windowsill so as not to fall. She continued listening for sounds of Mr. Jones, but didn’t hear anything. For some reason, that unnerved her more than if she’d heard him moving around.
She pounded on the top of the window to loosen it up. Then she grabbed the bottom of the window and pushed. It creaked open and warm tears slipped down her face. She pushed again with all her might, but her tired arms gave out.
“Oh, God!” she screamed. She no longer cared about taking the Lord’s name in vain the way her mama warned her not to do.
She was going to die if she didn’t get this window open. She knew it as sure as she knew the sky was blue and the grass was green.
Josephine took a breath and pushed on the window again, praying for help. The window inched up just enough for her to get her tiny torso through. Steadying herself, she pushed herself up and managed to drag her body out onto the ledge.
The window wasn’t that high up from the ground and she was grateful for that small favor. She let herself drop down to the soppy wet grass. It must have rained recently. She didn’t remember rain the day she left school with Mr. Jones, the day he took her wherever he had taken her.
She didn’t have time to think about this—she had no clue where he was. He could leap out from behind her like in every horror movie she’d ever seen and stab her with his knife. That thought propelled her forward as if being pulled by an invisible string attached to a speeding car.
A car. That’s what that light must have been. Someone’s car passed by and the headlights shone through the window. That meant she was close to a street or highway. She’d run in the direction she remembered the light shining from.
She sprinted barefoot through the mud, not minding the goopy mess hitting her exposed legs.
“Help!,” She screamed as she got nearer to the break in the woods. “Help me, please!”
Her calves burned and her left leg cramped—still, she ran. Her chest hurt from a lack of rest, water, and her constant sobbing. She wouldn’t give up, though. No matter how bad she felt, no matter how long it took, she’d keep going until she found someone to take her home to her parents.
The girl stood out on the edge of the woods by the street. She forced herself not to cry when she saw the blackened night with no moving vehicles in sight. Was the earlier car a fluke, a random passerby making their way across the county line, or had she imagined it all along? It was completely possible that after how many ever days she’d been in captivity, she’d begin to hallucinate a savior. Maybe there wasn’t such a thing. God knows Mr. Jones wasn’t one, even though that’s exactly how he portrayed himself to her and her parents when they first met. How someone could be so charming and polite, so sincere and good, how that person could suddenly turn so cruel and evil was beyond her. She couldn’t believe the man who’d been hurting her day after day was the same person who’d helped her with her homework and sat at her father’s table for Sunday dinners.
“Help me, somebody!” she shrieked before racing down the street. A cold breeze whipped through her flimsy t-shirt and chilled her to the bone. She didn’t have time to feel embarrassed by her partially dressed state.
She needed to find someone before she was found.
A flashing light in the distance caught her eye and she sighed, stumbling down the empty road, ignoring the sharp stabs of rock beneath her feet. Josephine found herself drawing near the light and let out a laugh. It bubbled up out of her throat before she could catch it. She was becoming hysterical she knew, but who could blame her?
The flashing stopped when she approached the end of the street. Her eyes, blurred from tears and strain, narrowed to better see into the night. She saw a ravine, but no car. Her eyes darted to her left and she choked on a sob.
Mr. Jones stood beside a black sedan with an open trunk.
“No.” She dropped to her knees, burying her face in her hands.
For a moment, his face almost appeared concerned. Quickly, the look vanished and a grin played across his lips.
“Aw, darlin’—don’t cry,” he said, his voice low and calm. “It was a good effort.”
The girl’s frail frame convulsed as she doubled over, sobbing. He’d led her into a trap. Worse—she knew it when she ran. And now the chase was over.
“Oh, sweetie—please get up.” Mr. Jones lifted her off the ground by her shoulders. She had no fight left in her to protest. He cupped her chin in his rough hand, pulling her body flush against his. “I want us to be close when it happens,” he whispered.
Josephine stared up at him with blank eyes. She was frozen; a statue. Her mind and body shut down, which was for the best she thought. Then panic seized her when she realized that was probably the last thing she’d ever think again.
Mr. Jones whistled a jaunty tune, swing maybe, as he carried a sheet-covered body to the trunk of his car. A fresh red stain pooled in the middle of the bundle. He gently laid the girl in the trunk, bending over to kiss the spot her forehead used to be. He hadn’t meant to mess up her face. Shame—he loved her face. It was so…open.
He said a quick prayer for the young girl, then tossed in his blade beside her. He slammed the trunk shut and resumed his song. It was definitely swing.
The hunger had been abated when they shared her last moments together, but now he felt the throbbing right below his navel resume. He was disappointed. This meant he’d have to get to another town as soon as possible and another town meant more risk.
He climbed into his car and drove into the woods. Tossing Josephine in the ravine would have been too easy. He didn’t want anyone to find her until he was clear of Indian Hills. Sure, he hadn’t given anyone any reason to suspect him of wrongdoing, but he didn’t want to overestimate his own intelligence and underestimate that of the townsfolk. They might have been out in the middle of South Bumblefuck and Hillbilly Hell, but not everyone around here was an idiot. People would talk. His absence so soon after Josephine’s death would raise concern. He needed to put her some place no one would find her for days.
When he got far enough in the woods to where he was confident animals wouldn’t scavenge the remains (and how strange it was for him to think of his sweet girl that way), Mr. Jones removed her from the safety of the car’s trunk. He found a semi-dry patch of land and laid her out. He removed the sheet and tossed it by the wayside. He wanted people to see his work. Obscuring it seemed like sacrilege.
Gazing down at what was left of Josephine Harvey, he wondered what she was thinking at the climax. Was she scared? Did she hate him? Was she thinking about her parents and sister or was he the only one on her mind? It bothered him that he’d never know the answer. Maybe he should have had her talk to him during. Well, she couldn’t really talk through all that screaming, he supposed, but maybe if he’d let her say something before he put the knife to her throat he’d know for sure.
The unknown would stay with him long after the memory of her faded. He’d feel that loss for quite some time, he was sure of it. And this town didn’t know it yet, but they too would soon feel that loss.
Dark Tales: eVolume Two will be released via Amazon and Smashwords October 31st for free until November 1st.