January Nights.

In response to Finish it! #34 Author S B Mazing. It’s late and the day has been trying so please forgive if it’s somewhat rough. But I couldn’t pass up the intro when I saw it so here is my offering.

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She saw the bundle in the corner, covered by dirty blankets. It moved. It was freezing cold. No wonder it was trying to find cover or at least a little bit of it under the shredded and filthy fabric. It must be desperate, she thought. She was just about to walk on when she heard the sound coming from under the blankets. And it was not what she had expected to hear. She froze and slowly turned around…

It hadn’t been the squeak of rats or the screech of cats or even the whining of a dog. Those she could walk away from. It wasn’t the hacking cough that usually came from boxes and bundles like this in the cold January nights. What she had heard was the sound of something small but still human, not a whimper or a cough, more somewhere between a sniffle and a sob. A child. A small one. Out here, at night, covered in rags and cowering in the corner.

She pulled her coat up around her, and felt a little shamed that some part of her still wanted to retreat into her cave and curl up for the night. She had been at this for days with no clues, with no hope. She had seen a thousand children each with a story that should melt even these cold January nights. But none had been Celia, none had been the little girl in the picture burning a hole in her jeans pocket.

The girl that had been abducted from her home a few days ago, whose mother called in tears on a daily basis and who’s father was too distraught to do anything but stare at the news and call the hospitals hoping his little girl wouldn’t be there. The parents who had called Melissa, a family friend and a PI who was always out of work but who always spared time for their little girl.

The sound again, not a whimper, not a sniffle, it was definitely a sob. It was cold as hell out here, and even if it wasn’t her this kid was cold, most likely hungry and now even the cowardly part of her who wanted no part of being a good Samaritan was staring at the pile, willing to help the little human thing beneath it.

She stepped closer, cautiously. Her boots making a dull thud and a slight squish in the half inch of half frozen much coating the pavement. There was the slightest movement, and another sob. The pile shifted even closer to the wall. It was frightened, so was she, though this might not be the time to admit it. In a dark, cold alley, approaching a pile of things her faulty senses had told her was human larvae. Or was it pupa? She didn’t remember all that high school biology. She chuckled to herself and licked her lips taking another step. Thud, Squish. And another, Thud squish.

There was a flurry of movement, and the flash of something metallic. She was so shocked she fell, landing on her arse. Whoosh, smack, squelch.  Spread eagle on the floor and the barrel of pistol inches from her nose.

“Stay vewy vewy still.” the voice in her head said. “She’s hunting wabbit and that’s you.”

She rolled her eyes at her own ridiculous inner monologue. Who wants to die to the sound of Elmer Fudd? The barrel was shaking, but the little hands around it seemed steady enough. Shaking from cold not fear. Wait? Little hand? Little feet? Little body in baggy sweat pants and a bloody white vest. A little face looking more determined that traumatized. A little face belonging to Celia.

They recognized each other just then, both at the same time, and the little mouth let out a yelp as she threw her whole small self at the PI who had been hired to find her.

“Take me home please.” was the little whisper in her ear. And the child curled up in her lap and waited. Quietly clutching the gun to her chest. She wouldn’t let it go. Where the hell had she been?

Celia received her parents with the same veracious joy 15 minutes later. She relinquished her weapon only to her father, and let her mother bathe and examine her for injuries, there were few. Bruises about her arms and face, a few scratches, that was all. She hadn’t been toughed in any of the really bad places. Well the physical ones. Celia never spoke, didn’t utter a sound.

The next day 6 men were found, in a warehouse not long from where the girl had been found. All shot, all dead, all from an angle less that 4 feet. Massacred it would seem by and 8 year old girl. A girl who never spoke. A girl who never told what had happened in those cold January nights when she became infamous.

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