Alicia’s Angel

The sun strained to break through the sheer, dingy yellow closed curtains in Alicia’s bedroom. How she hated their drab color and lack of privacy. Her mother had insisted on that style so Alicia would avoid shutting out the daylight when the curtains were closed to guard against the sun’s heat. The thought of her mother sent a fresh flood of tears down her brown cheeks. Alicia buried her head into her pillow and screamed until she felt her lungs burning.

Why had her mother left? She had done everything she could to keep her mother with her. She prayed and pleaded to God. Alicia had held her mother’s hand as the chemotherapy brought wave after wave of nausea across her mother’s stomach and she expelled things neither mother nor daughter wanted to ponder. Night after night, and day after day Alicia had given her heart to her mother, and her God.

Yet, the aggressive stomach cancer stole away Alicia’s mother. The doctors offered no answers other than, “Sorry.” For all of her prayers, and all of the prayers her friends and family claimed to have given, the stomach cancer inside her mother’s body had won. Alicia stared up at the ceiling and scowled, “I thought you were all powerful, but you’re nothing more than a fantasy.” She buried her head into her pillow and wept until it was soaked.

Her aunt and uncle had taken her into their home since her mother’s death. Alicia had requested they take her to her childhood home to mourn, and they were happy to oblige. The couple seemed to know exactly what Alicia needed and left her alone in the empty family house. They promised to return whenever Alicia was ready to be picked up.

Bereft of any more tears, Alicia sat in silence and stared at the muted sunlight filtering through the curtain. She took a long, deep breath. The air around her around her begin to turn cold. It was like an icy touch, and yet it felt so familiar. Soon, the cold enveloped her body, but she did not feel afraid. Her loneliness disappeared, and for a moment she swore she could feel her mother’s arms around her. Alicia closed her eyes and whispered, “Is that you, Mom?”

Not a word was spoken. It seemed as if all sound had disappeared. Alicia felt like she was in a dream, and yet still wide awake in her old room. Alicia had no idea how long she sat there. The freezing air seemed to slowly warm up, and soon she felt empty again. Alicia opened her eyes and looked around the room. She was alone once more, but she no longer felt alone. A sigh escaped her lips and she whispered, “Thanks, Mom.”

Alicia looked up once more at the ceiling, “I’m still mad at you. Why did she have to suffer? Why did you take her away? You know I needed her.” She tossed the bedroom pillow from her hands and it hit against the wall with a soft thud and fell to the floor. Alicia forced herself up and headed down the familiar, empty hallway of their small two bedroom house to the kitchen for some water.

A knock at the door made her jump. “Who can that be?” she asked herself as she put down her empty glass.

Alicia was not in the mood for any visitors and ignored the knock. A second knock seemed to reverberate around the house and Alica nearly knocked over the glass as her hand jerked. She headed to the front door, partly out of fear, and partly out of anger. Alicia swung open the front door. A tan man with black hair and eyes stood over her. She estimated him to be well over six feet tall. Even in his black suit his large biceps and well-developed chest were easily seen underneath the straining silk fabric.

The stranger smiled. He had the whitest, straightest teeth Alicia had ever seen in her life. He stuck out his hand, “I’m Pedro, and I have a message from the Lord.”

Alicia rolled her eyes and answered curtly, “I’m not interested.” She attempted to slam the door, but it would not budge. She grabbed it with both hands, determined to send it crashing into the doorjamb with all her might. Instead, it held as fast as the wall it hung from. The sudden rush of fear was soon replaced by anger and annoyance at the unwelcomed drama.

“Go away!”

Pedro did not flinch.

Alicia slammed the side of her fist against the door. “Why? Why is this happening?”

Pedro’s voice seemed to calm her rage inside her heart, “Because it happens to all of you.”

Alicia buried her head into her hands and started to cry. She felt Pedro’s large arms wrap around her body, but she did not feel afraid. Peace and warmth seemed to surround them as if she was wrapped in a mother bird’s wings. Alicia’s mind knew she should try to break free of the stranger’s embrace, but her broken heart reassured her she was safe.

Pedro released Alicia and stepped inside the house. Alicia turned to say something and the door gently swung shut of its own accord. Pedro sat down in her mother’s worn recliner and pointed to the couch. Alicia wanted to protest, she wanted to run in terror, but she needed to know who this stranger was that caused her such fear and love at the same time.

Pedro began before she had a chance to fully sit down. “I came here with a message. Your father wants you to know that he is watching over you.”

At the sound of “Father,” Alicia slapped the back of the couch. “I have no father, my dad left me when I was a baby.”

“Not that father, child, your real Father.”

Pedro’s dark eyes felt as though they could penetrate right through her. “Who are you?”

Pedro’s laugh seemed to brighten the room, “I told you, a messenger from God.”

Alicia had seen too much to dismiss him as a nutcase. Still, she was not sure she could trust him. “Who was that in my room?”

Pedro’s face relaxed, love filled his eyes and he reached over and took her hand. Electricity gently flowed up her arm. “You know who that was. She wanted to say goodbye.”

Alicia pulled her hand away and crossed her arms. “Why did she have to die? Why did she have to suffer.”

Pedro shrugged and pointed towards the ceiling.

Alicia blurted out, “What kind of message is that?”  

“I’m not here to talk about your mother, I’m here to talk about you. I know you feel alone, He knows you feel alone. Don’t believe the lie that death is a part of life, it was never supposed to be this way. Let yourself be sad. Let yourself be angry if it helps you, but don’t let your grief take you over. God is listening and wants to comfort you.”

Alicia stood and began to pace. She turned and flailed her arms as she spoke, “What about my mother? Is she with, Him? Is she safe, happy, is she glad God tore her away from her daughter?”

Pedro leaned forward, rested his elbows on his knees and looked down at the floor. “Where your mother is,” he sat up and looked her in the eye, “Time is different there. You two are apart now, but you’re together where she is. Time is not linear as it is here.”

Alicia sighed and dropped down on the couch. Her fist punched the cushion next to her. “Well, time is “linear” here, whatever that means. I need my mother.”

Pedro stood and peered down at Alicia. “Your aunt and uncle will care for you, but you must not blame them for your mother’s death.”

Alicia stood and looked up into Pedro’s dark eyes. “That’s silly, I would never blame them for mom’s death.”

Pedro nodded, “Yes, but you’re directing your anger towards them. They’re hurting too, don’t forget that.”

Alicia closed her eyes and buried her head into Pedro’s strong chest and wrapped her arms around him. The smell of roses and lilies filled her nostrils. She felt his strong arms wrap around her once more. “I wish you could stay.”

“The Father’s spirit is with you, in your heart, but I will not be far away.”

Alicia breathed in Pedro’s pleasant fragrance once more. “Do you promise?”

Nobody answered, and Alicia opened her eyes. She found herself standing alone in the middle of the family room clutching her mother’s favorite pillow. Alicia dropped the pillow and flung open the front door. Up the dusty road at the top of the hill, the silhouette of a large man slowly walked towards its crest. Tears began to form in Alicia’s eyes, it had all been an illusion. Perhaps she was losing her mind.

As if the distant stranger heard her, he turned around and waved. A familiar voice traveled across the gentle breeze, “I’m not far away.”

Alicia wiped the tear trailing down her cheek. She walked back into the house and called her aunt to come and pick her up.

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Interrogation Room

“Come on, Carl. Quit wasting my time.” Sargent Tony Sanchez smacked the corner of the wood laminate desk. Carl Jones jumped in his chair. Tony knew Carl had information about Julie. Tony grabbed the young girl’s photo and slammed it again in front of Carl for effect. Carl startled again, but not as much this time. Tony watched Carl lean down towards the photo.

Carl’s index finger traced the outline of the child’s face. A chill ran down Tony’s spine as Carl ran his finger down the thirteen-year old’s black hair. He raised his hand and resettled it on the girl’s high cheekbone and tan skin.  Suddenly, Carl raised his hand, extended a second finger, and poked out the photo’s two brown eyes. A gasp left Tony’s mouth before he could stop himself. Tony could feel his chest tightened and rage began to build.

Tony jerked the photo away and slapped it down on the far side of the table. Carl’s eyes followed it, and the corner of his lips curled up. Tony stood over Carl, placing himself between the photo and the disturbed, evil man that sat before him. “Tell me, Carl. Tell me who has her.”

Carl shrugged, “How would I know?”

Tony slapped the wall of the interrogation room. “Don’t play dumb with me. Not after that little show.”

Carl crossed his arms and smiled. Tony’s knuckles turned white as his balled-up fist shook to restrain themselves. He cleared his voice and spoke to Carl in what sounded almost like a growl. “I promise you, Carl, if you don’t help me, I will make sure you go down for this.”

Carl lifted an arm and waved off Tony’s threat. “Really,Sargent? How do you propose to do that?”

Tony took two deep breaths, turned his back to Carl and walked over to his chair. The old metal groaned as Tony rested his weight in it. There was a broad smile across his lips by the time he sat down and faced Carl.

Carl frowned, “Why are you so happy all of a sudden?”

Tony crossed his legs and watched himself pat the top of his knee. He looked up at Carl. “Well, I was thinking about how much fun it’s going to be to have you put back in jail. Those boys over in County probably won’t let you make it to the state prison.”

Carl’s voice grew higher. “You can’t do that. I ain’t done nothing wrong. I want a lawyer; you’re bluffing.”

Tony raised his hand, and Carl took a breath.Tony leaned towards Carl. “I was just trying to help you out, but you’ve made it clear that you don’t want my help.”

Carl scowled, crossed his arms and legs and glared at Tony. “Don’t play your games with me. You didn’t help nobody but yourself. You had me arrested. I wasn’t doing nobody no harm until you showed up at the halfway house.”

Tony nodded, “I know, and we know you didn’t take this girl.”

Carl nodded his head furiously.

Tony continued, “Now hear me out, we also know who did. Of course, you know we need evidence for the jury. I happen to know that you know who has her, or I should say who had her.”

Carl looked at the floor and said nothing.

Tony continued to press. “See, here is my problem. Because the two of you associate in the same, um, social circles, one might argue that you had something to do with it.”

Carl bristled, “You can’t prove that cause it ain’t true.”

Tony shrugged, “Perhaps, but it’s still a violation of your parole. You know you aren’t supposed to be hanging around your old crowd. I was doing you a favor by letting you return to town to be with your sick mother when she passed away.Now, you need to do me a favor and tell me where to find the man who has Julie.”

Carl pulled his legs up on the edge of the chair and wrapped his arms around his knees. His dull brown eyes peeked over the top of his dirty, faded jeans. Tony stared into the angry, dead eyes. There was something about them that seemed to exude evil. Carl spoke from behind his knees, “I ain’t no snitch.”

Tony sighed and said, “Well, Carl. Then I’m going to arrest you. You know what prisoners do to convicted child molesters. You’d be safer being a snitch.”

Carl grabbed the back of the chair, “I won’t go, I can’t go. They’ll kill me,” he screamed.

Tony lifted his hands, “Now calm down, take a breath. All I need to know is where your buddy is keeping the girls. That’s it; I have everything else I need.”

“What buddy?” moaned Carl. “Do you mean Curtis?”

Tony nodded.

“Curtis is staying in that abandoned cabin just outside of town, near the edge of the lake. But he has booby-trapped the woods,so don’t just go walking up and knocking on his door.”

Tony had his lead, but he focused and kept his calm. “Do you mean the cabin right off the road on the south side of the lake?”

Carl shook his head. “No, there’s an old place on the north side. You can only hike to it. It’s about a mile through the woods. Most of the trail is overgrown,that makes it hard for people to find. Curtis told me it was the perfect place.”

Tony pulled out a legal pad from the corner desk and began to write furiously. “Perfect place for what, Carl?”

Carl released his knees, and his feet slapped against the linoleum floor. He leaned forward on his elbows, “You know what for,Sargent.”

Tony felt queasy to his stomach as he nodded his head. “How do you know all of this?”

Carl’s voice was flat, “Curtis and some of his friends told me.”

Tony flipped the page and kept writing. “Friends? Are you on the internet again? You know that’s against your parole.”

Carl shook his head, “No, I’m not violating my parole. We talk in the park some days. The fellas find me out there reading or feeding the squirrels.”

Tony nodded, “Do you know what happened to Julie.”

Carl closed his eyes and nodded, “Yea, she’s gone. Curtis said she tried to get away twice and kicked two of his friends in their groin. They let loose on her, and then buried her in the mud about a foot under the water.”

Tony worked to keep his lunch in his stomach. “Okay, Carl. You helped me. Now I’m going to help you. I’m putting you in protective custody.”

Carl jumped to his feet and tried the doorknob, but it was locked. He turned to Tony, “You can’t do this, they’ll kill me if I go back to prison. I ain’t touched a soul, just like I promised. I wanted to, but I’ll kill myself before I do that again.”

Tony grabbed Carl’s arm and pulled him away from the door. “Easy, you aren’t going to general lockup. We’re putting you in solitary in a nearby town until all the arrests are made. It won’t take Curtis long to figure out you snitched on him. I want to make sure none of your friends show up at the halfway house.”

Carl crossed his arms and shivered, “Two of the guys live there.”

Tony nodded, “We’re aware. Well, turn around and let me cuff you so we can be on our way.”

Carl took a step back. “Wait. If this is protection, why can’t I go without being handcuffed? Believe me; I’m no flight risk now.”

Tony nodded, “Okay, Carl. I suppose you did do the right thing. Have it your way.”

Carl stepped back to let Tony take the lead, and then he gently put his hand on Tony’s shoulder and spoke, “You know, Sargent, I know I’m a monster, but even monsters can be redeemed if they really want to be.”

Tony nodded, “I hope so, Carl. I hope so.”

Guarding The Innocent

Steam poured from under the hood of his Ford Focus. John stood there cursing himself. Earl’s voice played over in his mind, “John, you better summerize that little car. It’s gonna get real hot this year, let me tell you.” John kicked the car’s front tire, and his foot bounced back. “Idiot” grumbled John to himself.

He looked down the road in hopes of seeing the tow truck he had called for earlier. The hopeful sound of a truck engine was non-existent. John looked at his watch, had it only been five minutes? It would be at least another hour before anyone showed up if he was lucky. Why did I use that dirt road? John thought, I could have stayed on the main road, and it would have been easier. Stupid.

At least the moon was full so that he could be on the lookout for snakes crossing the road. The heat and humidity were so thick on this southern summer night that it formed a low-lying mist that covered the ground and extended into the dark woods. John swatted at the occasional mosquito and the gnats that continually buzzed his face. He began to pace back and forth, hoping to break free of their incessant buzzing. Twenty feet from his car the cloud of bugs seemed to dissipate.

John stopped and tried to relax. The sound of frogs singing back and forth, and an owl hiding somewhere in the forest helped his nerves to settle. John began to breathe more naturally, and then a twig snapped just inside the tree line. John started to walk back towards his wounded car slowly.  He listened carefully, trying to estimate the size of the hidden animal. A moment later a figure emerged from the dark woods.

A woman stumbled into the light of the moon. She had red clay covered hair, but John could see golden strands of blond locks poking through the muck. Her mud smeared face was hardly recognizable, and a white sundress clung dirty and wet against her body. She walked stiffly towards John, and he froze. Everyone had heard the stories about the woman in white. It had been used for decades to scare teenagers from parking with their dates in the lonely woods. John could barely breathe.

“Help me,” she said. “I need help.”

John felt light-headed and didn’t move. She stumbled up and grabbed his shirt with her dirty hands. “Please help me, somebody tried to bury me alive.”

John grabbed her wrists. She was human and very much alive. Her skin was slick with mud and sweat. The woman’s frightened blue eyes pleaded with him. “Please help,” she said again.

“What’s your name?” asked John

The woman gave her head a quick jerk to the right. “Rebecca, Becky. People call me Becky. I need help.”

“I have a tow truck coming. Are you hurt?”

The woman looked and felt about her body. “I think I’m okay, but my legs are sore.”

“How did you get out here?”

Becky looked back at John. “I can’t remember.”

Becky started trembling, and John put his arms around her. “It’s okay. You’re going to be alright.” John could feel her ragged breaths. He held her until her breathing became more regular, and released her. “Tell me what you do remember.”

Becky looked around. John could see she was trying to get her bearings. “Well, I was at a bar and met this guy. His name was George, John, Jason, Jeff.”

“Jim?” asked John.

Becky nodded, “Oh no, where’s Jim?”

She ran back towards the woods screaming, “Jim, Jim, where are you!” Her voice echoed back for several seconds until the forest became a cacophony of “Jim.”

John walked over to her and put his hand on her shoulder, “Please, stop. There’s nobody else out here.”

A colony of bats flew overhead, and then the forest was silent. “Is it possible Jim did this to you?” asked John.

Becky stood there silently thinking. “No,” she said. “I can’t remember what happened to Jim, but he wasn’t with me anymore at some point tonight. Another man put me in the back of his car.” Becky looked around and noticed John’s car steaming on the roadside. Fear enveloped her face, and she pointed at the Focus, “Oh God, it was you. You put me in the back of that car and raped me. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t scream. Then you tried to bury me, but something scared you, and you left.”

John shook his head and raised his palms up in surrender, “I promise, it wasn’t me.”

Becky stepped back towards the woods, “Yes it was. I remember your hands and your disgusting shirt that smells like rotten pork.”

John sighed and shook his head, “Why did you have to remember?”

“Get away from me,” screamed Becky.

John’s clenched his fists as he approached the retreating woman. The sound of a branch breaking behind him stopped his movement. Becky’s expression changed to one of relief and then fright. John spun around. A woman with wet raven hair stood before him. Her black eyes seemed to disappear into nothingness. A pure white gown hung loosely from her body.

She spoke with a  guttural growl and pointed her finger at John, “It was you.”

John screamed and the black-haired woman pulled John into the woods so quickly that Becky thought they had simply vanished. The wildlife in the woods screeched and hollered in harmony with John’s cries, and then everything was silent.

Becky folded her arms in front of her and slowly made her way up towards the road. The headlights of a truck appeared on the horizon. A tow truck pulled up and stopped between her and the wounded car. A large man got out of the cab and Becky trembled at the thought of what might happen next.

The driver rushed around with a cell phone in his hand. “Don’t worry ma’am. I’m calling the police right now. I’ll get an ambulance here too. I don’t know what happened to you, but help is on the way. Feel free to sit over there on my truck’s bumper until they get here. I’m gonna check out your car and stay right over there until help arrives.”

The driver headed up towards the car with the cell phone in his ear. In a few minutes, she could hear sirens fill the distant air. Becky sat on the rear bumper, bowed her head and began to weep. She was safe at last.


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