The air was dank and cold. The ground beneath her was hard and lumpy. It was pitch black. She drew in a breath and gagged. It smelled rancid, and stung her nose and eyes.
She sat up and tried desperately to see something, anything in the darkness that surrounded her. It was hopeless.
And then, she heard it. The whimpers, the sniffles, and the tiny sobs.
“Hello,” Sam called out and her voice echoed in the stillness. “Who’s there?” The sounds of sobs only grew louder. Low to the ground, Sam crawled toward the sounds, feeling her way in the darkness. “I’m here.”
The cold dirt squished between her fingers as she moved on. When something slithered over her hand, she screamed. She wanted to run, to get away from the filth, the dirt and the bugs, but the sobbing kept her in her place.
“Can you speak to me? What’s your name?” But all she got were sobs. “My name is Samantha.” She bumped into something solid and as she felt for it, recognized it as a shoe. “I’m here now. It’s okay, I’m here now.”
Sam bolted out of sleep as the child screamed.
She sat up, her heart pounding. Taking a few deep breaths, pushing from the bed she went to the washroom and ran the cold water, then splashed it on her face.
Looking up into the mirror, Sam didn’t like what she saw. Her eyes were dark and hollow and her face was white as a ghost. She looked like the dead she had just been with in her sleep.
Turning away, she pushed back the shower curtain and ran the water while she undressed. Stepping beneath the hot water, she turned her face to the spray.
Who was this child that kept coming to her? She had to have a name. Someone had to have reported her missing.
Needing answers, Sam quickly showered and dressed then grabbed an apple before dashing from the house. She hoped her sister had found something out for her. If not, she didn’t know where else to turn. Surely not her father.
Though the bookstore was the last place she wanted to be, there was nowhere else she could go for information. As much as she hated to admit it, Colleen really was good at research and Sam truly needed her help. With cautious eyes, Sam entered the bookstore and headed straight for the computers. She was in no mood to talk to anyone.
Especially Ethan Montgomery.
When she was informed that Colleen was on a break, Sam reluctantly tried to do the research herself. Grabbing an available computer, Sam sat down to search for her missing girl.
It didn’t take long before she felt his presence.
“Don’t start with me, Ed.”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“All the better.”
“Aw, did someone have a rough night?” Sitting his short frame on the desk, Ed looked down at her with sincere sympathy.
“You could say that.”
“Was a man involved?”
“Go away, Ed.”
“Who is he? I’ll go possess him and maybe have some fun, get him in trouble.”
Now wouldn’t that be funny. Still… “Go away.”
“Who are you talking to now?” Colleen asked, pulling up a chair next to Sam.
“Ed. Your break over already?”
“Yes.” Colleen leaned in real close. “Is Ed the horny ghost?”
“Hey,” Ed grunted, offended.
“Yep.” Sam nodded and the yawn slipped out.
She’d just gone through this with Ed and she didn’t feel like going through it all again with her sister. “Have you found anything out on my missing girl?”
“Not yet. I’m really sorry, Sam. I have some time now.” Colleen pushed Sam’s chair aside so that she was in front of the computer. “Okay, I’ll type in a search for missing children in the past six months and see what that gives us.”
“Thanks.” Now why hadn’t she thought of doing that? Yawning again, Sam cursed. “Damn it.”
“Okay, I can’t take it anymore. Why are you so tired?”
“Couldn’t sleep,” Sam said simply, scanning through the missing persons section.
“How come?” Colleen inquired.
“I just couldn’t, all right,” Sam snapped. She was sure her sister didn’t want to hear about her gruesome dream of a tiny girl taken so violently.
“Fine, don’t bite my head off. I was only asking out of concern. You would think you would be overjoyed at the fact that one of your pieces is being showcased here in the bookstore.”
“What are you talking about, Colleen?”
“You’re statue of the Mother. Oh my God, Sam, you don’t know?”
“Okay, either you tell me what you’re talking about or I give Ed permission to possess your body and have his way with you.”
“Now we’re talking,” Ed rubbed his hands together exuberantly.
“Not going to happen, Ed. Now go away.”
With a sulky pout on his face, Ed vanished.
“Don’t even joke about that, Sam. Your statue; it’s sitting up on the third floor behind glass. I saw Mr. Montgomery put it there earlier. How on earth did he come about buying one of your pieces?”
“He seduced it out of me.”
“Oh my God, Sam, tell me you didn’t sleep with him?”
“No, I didn’t sleep with him. He took me out to dinner, alluded to the fact that he wanted me then handed me a check and walked out with my statue.” Now she wished she hadn't let him have it. The slime didn’t deserve such wonderful art as her Mother statue.
“For God sakes, Sam he’s married.”
“And in the process of a divorce.” Now why was she defending the slime?
“But it isn’t final yet, which means legally he is still a married man.”
“I know that,” Sam snapped back. She was very aware of it.
“Then back off,” Colleen spat back at her.
“No problem. The guy’s a jerk anyway,” Sam snarled, glaring at the faces that moved over the screen. None of the girls were the one she saw in her dreams.
“Oh, Sam, please don’t get me fired. I really love this job.”
“Don’t worry, Colleen, your job is safe. Oh my God, that’s her.” Her face nearly planted on the screen, Sam stared into the cherub faced little girl from her dreams.
“Who?” Colleen looked around the bookstore.
“The little girl I’ve been dreaming about. Over here.” Sam nudged her sister, pointed to the monitor. “Alexis Marshal, missing since February 2010. Last seen walking home from school, wearing—” Sam swallowed. “That’s what she’s wearing when I see her.”
“That is so freaky. I don’t know how you can do it.”
It wasn’t like she had a choice.
“It’s so sad, she was so young.”
“Yeah, and it’s going to be even sadder when her parents find out she isn’t just missing, but dead.”
“Dear God, Sam! How can you be so cold?”
“I’m not cold, Colleen, it’s just a fact.”
Colleen stood, obviously appalled. “She was an innocent little girl who lost her life.”
Sam matched her sister’s anger. “You don’t think I know that? I’m the one she comes to at night, begging for help. I see her tiny face, grey and decaying, her neck wound open and gushing with blood. I feel her pain and I smell the death even when I wake. She deserves to rest and that’s why I’m doing this.” And…she had to detach herself if even just a bit because if she didn’t, the tragedy of death that came knocking on her door would drag her into a dark depressive state.
Colleen let out a long breath, her shoulders slumping. “I’m sorry. I know this isn’t easy for you, or at least I think I know. It’s just so sad.”
“I know. Hey, why don’t you show me where the jerk put my statue?”
“I wish you wouldn’t call my boss a jerk.”
“I won’t, not to his face at least.” Turning, Sam nearly ran Ethan down.“Too late.”