Sally – Chapter Twenty-Six

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Jeremy and his horse broke out of the woods. He traveled to the Thompson property as the terrible winds howled over the fields. In the not so far distance, a twister tore up bushes and trees. He could barely feel his limbs as he rode on and kept an eye on the tornado’s proximity to the Thompson farm.

The house that Sally grew up in looked wicked with the black horizon behind it. He already sensed that she had been there. He was an idiot not to go there first and wait for here there, thinking that he could catch up to her in the forest. She would have arrived there with nothing more than a hunting knife. Even if she were skilled enough to fight someone with a sharp object, she wouldn’t have a chance against a skilled marksman like Mr. Thompson.

“I’m a damn fool.”

Dread weakened him further as he slowed his horse to a walk. At a time when he needed to be strong, his own body failed him. He had never felt so hopeless in all his life as he jumped down from his mount. He nearly lost his balance from the force of the gale. He fought against it and stepped toward the devil man’s property.

His gun was already loaded. He’d kill the man at first glance even if it meant that he’d be in the path of the twister. He and Sally crossed paths and met their fate because of a twister less than two years ago. It was eerie to think that one appeared on the day he might have lost her forever.

He closed his eyes, not wanting to mourn Sally until he knew for sure, but knowing that it was unlikely she’d survive a run in without a gun of her own. He looked away from the growling funnel cloud and stepped past the deacon’s shed. A chill raced down his back at the sight of blood everywhere on the floor.

He held his breath as he walked into the small building with his gaze fixed on the crimson stained wood. Mr. Thomspon lay dead in front of his work bench. Jeremy nearly fainted in relief at the sight. It had to mean that Sally had killed him and was still alive. She was probably on her way to another deacon’s home, mindlessly braving the grave storm in her insanity.

“Why did you run from me, Sally?” he cried.

He rushed back to his mount and rode in pursuit of her. The twister hadn’t moved any closer to him as it veered toward a bush and uprooted a bunch of spindly trees. Perhaps it had a different person it wanted to tear apart this time.

He rode for Deacon Allan’s house. It was the closest dwelling to the Thompsons’. He could only hope that he’d catch up with her before she got in over her head. She was good shot, but not that good.

He reached the Allans’ residence and caught sight of Mrs. Allan and her two sons fleeing to their root cellar. He searched the area for her husband, feeling like a madman as he watched the little family take refuge while a tornado ripped through the countryside just behind him.

He rode through their yard in search of a dead body.

“Sally!” he called.

He ran into the house and searched frantically for a sign of a dead Mr. Allan. No one was inside – living or dead.

“Where the hell are you?” he shouted.

He stormed out of the house and caught sight of Sally running away in the distance. He jumped down the steps and went to retrieve his horse when the sight before him made him freeze. The tornado was nearly upon the property. It was so close that he was frozen in shock. He stared up and down the length of it. It had grown in girth and in darkness since the last time he glanced at it. It roared in anger and the surroundings winds screamed as they rattled the house and pushed even the bigger trees to bend.

He glared at the monstrous funnel of wind and debris.

“You want me, bastard?” he screamed. “Then you’ll have to move faster than that!”

He found his horse cowering against the barn. He grabbed its reins and patted it gently, whispering soothing words.

“You’re going to outrun this thing,” he commanded as he remounted.

The gelding reared with a panicked whinny before making a retreat for the open field. Jeremy scanned the lands ahead for a sign of Sally, but before he could focus on anything, something hard hit him at the back of the head. Black stars flecked his vision before he blacked out.

***

He fought against the black, but it wouldn’t let him escape. He tried opening his eyes every time he would venture back to consciousness and hear voices only to fall back into deep sleep.

He awoke again with a throat so dry he could hardly swallow.

“Jeremy,” said a familiar voice.

“Help me,” begged Jeremy. “Help me escape.”

He groaned as he forced his eyes open. His blurry vision startled him, but he forced himself to sit up. Someone held cool ceramic to his lips. Water slipped into his mouth. He grabbed the vessel and guzzled the water down.

He blinked several times until his eyesight sharpened. Concerned, dark eyes stared into his. Jeremy set the cup down on the night stand next to his bed.

“Gabriel… you’re here.”

Gabriel leaned forward and took Jeremy’s hand into both of his. The worry in his eyes told of how long he must have been out cold.

“I found Mary. She is safe and well. You wouldn’t leave this place when I fell ill, so I came back to help you and Sally leave.”

Gabriel squeezed Jeremy’s hand and leaned forward.

“Gabriel, Sally has gone mad.”

Gabriel looked down.

“I know.”

“Where is she?”

“I haven’t been able to find her, but I found out what happened to her mother and sister.”

Jeremy groaned.

“That’s only the half of it.”

Nausea swirled about in Jeremy’s stomach; he took a deep breath to prevent himself from spewing out all of the water he just drank.

“We need to get up and go,” said Gabriel.

“Tell me what happened.”

 

“I’ll show you. This people in this place are unreal, Jeremy.”

“You’re telling me.”

“Come on. Let’s go.”

Jeremy got out of bed put on his coat. \

“Please help me find her.”

“I won’t rest until I know you have her back. Is she angry with you?”

“She tried to stab me.”

Gabriel let out a whoosh of breath.

“All right. Well, let’s go.”

 

Sally – Chapter Twenty-Five

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When Sally awoke from her deep sleep, everything was so quiet. Even the birds weren’t singing as the hot sun shone down through the trees. She examined her gown. It was filthy, but nearly dry. It was well after noon.

Her hair stood on end as a terrible sense of dread surrounded her. She gripped her knife and strode for the house. She squinted as she left the protection of the trees and ventured out into the empty field where the merciless heat hit her full force.

She needed a gun. A knife would not do with a man like Mr. Thompson.

She reached the perimeter of the property and removed her shoes. A blanket of thick, dark clouds caught her eye. The sky directly above her was an amber hue, but it would soon be sable as the storm moved in. It looked like the wrath of God was about to hit.

She stepped lightly, using the swaying trees that lined the edge of the farm as camouflage.

The door to the shed was open. Mr. Thompson was inside. She licked her lips and crept past it toward the house. She tried the knob and the door opened. She found it interesting that he didn’t bother to lock the door.

She peered behind her to ensure he hadn’t seen her yet.

She stepped inside of the empty house and grabbed one of the rifles from the rack in his study. She loaded it.

Being in the house where her mother and sister once lived made her feel empty. The memories that they all shared in that place were crushed by the reality that Mr. Thompson was a sadistic killer. He murdered Mama without a thought.

She had been too shocked by Amber’s death to do away with the pastor. She fled the horror like a coward rather than face her baby sister’s murderer, but now was the time to make the devil who killed her mother pay.

Holding the rifle with both hands, she walked outside toward the shed. Her limbs trembled with the desire to kill the most pathetic thing that walked the earth. She held her breath and stood at the entrance of his favorite place on the farm. His back was to her as he was bent over the work table.

He was so intent on polishing his rifle that he did not hear her as she padded through the entrance in her bare feet. She inched closer, salivating. For the first time since she found her mother lying dead in the middle of the foggy road, her stomach growled. He didn’t seem to hear it.

Her finger massaged the trigger as the corners of her mouth lifted into a grin. She couldn’t kill him before he saw her. It wouldn’t do.

“Hi, Bruce,” she said.

He spun around, clumsily gripping his polished rifle with both hands. He nearly lost his balance. His normally emotionless eyes radiated terror as he searched hers.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“No one’s ever had the guts to sneak up on you before, have they?”

“What’s going on? Put the gun down, Sally.”

He took a step toward her.

“Stop!” she shouted.

Her command halted him.

“What has possessed you?” he asked.

“The same thing that possessed you, maybe.”

Her voice sounded hollow, even to her. Her finger applied pressure to the trigger.

The monster in him died as his false pride melted away.

“Sally, don’t.”

“How many people have begged you for mercy?”

“Those slaves weren’t real people.”

She stomped her foot.

“Shut up!” she screamed.

He stared at her.

“I had to kill Michael and your Mama because they were traitors.”

She tilted her head, wondering how someone could be so oblivious to their own wickedness. Even as she held a gun to his head, he couldn’t apologize for a single thing.

“What about Amber? You tossed her aside to that wolf. Guess what? He’s dead. Soon you will all be dead.”

“Is that so?”

She stepped closer to him.

“A part of me wants nothing more than to kill you slowly, forcing you to live through the same fear and suffering as your victims.”

He backed into the table, still gripping his gun. The flicker of life faded from his gaze as his hope vanished. It was the look of a creature about to die.

“How does it feel to be the helpless one now?” she asked.

“I don’t feel anything.”

“Yes, you do.”

He dropped his gun.

She kept an eye on his hands.

“I won’t make you suffer,” she said. “I just want to rid the world of you.”

For a brief moment, he wore the expression of the man who raised her. A man she once called ‘Papa’. Her heart raced and she fought to push away the memories of a time where she had loved him more than life itself.

She choked back a sob and swallowed past the painful lump lodged in her throat.

“This isn’t my fault, Papa.”

His eyes narrowed.

“Do it, Sally.”

“What?”

“Do it before I kill you.”

His words startled her and she took a few steps backward. The warm breeze blew in, stirring up his graying hair. It had once been a rich brown. Back when he pretended to be a good man.

Thunder roared over the land as they stared at one another.

His left hand quickly went to his belt and he pulled out a pistol.

She pulled the rifle’s trigger. Blood splattered all over her face as his body hit the floor with a loud thud. She took a rag from the rag pile and wiped tears and blood from her face.

He lay dead on the floor with a bullet shot clear through his head.

“No one will suffer by your hand ever again,” she said.

She dropped down to her knees.

“Why did you ask me to do it?”

An uncontrollable, loud cry escaped from the pit of her stomach. She screamed along with the blowing wind. Wheezing, she forced herself to stand. The gale was so strong that it shook the shed.

She peered outside at the dark clouds. Her heart raced at the sight of the dark funnel cloud forming over yonder. She ventured out to the field toward it.

Sally – Chapter Twenty-Four

 

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Jeremy found Sally’s mount at the edge of the forest tied to a tree. She must have thought it would be easier to get away from her pursuer on foot by hiding away in the thick bushes. He slowed his horse to a walk, searching everywhere for a sign of Pastor Scottson.

He closed his eyes for a moment, not wanting to imagine the hell that Sally was going through as she attempted to dodge her murder. His hunger to kill made his mouth water. He wanted nothing more than to see the bastard’s blood soak the earth. He opened his mouth and held his breath, listening for a the sound of a horse clearing a path through the forest as its rider searched for a young girl who had just lost her mother and baby sister.

“God, let me find him,” whispered Jeremy. “Let him pay.”

The river rapids sounded close by. Loud, irregular splashing sounded above it. He peered through the trees toward the water. Sally waded across the river still carrying the rifle. Pastor Scottson rode down the ravine toward it. He shot at her and missed.

With trembling hands, he aimed his gun at the bastard. He pulled the trigger.

Pastor Scottson yelled as he fell off his horse with a splash. His head bobbed above the surface of the water. Jeremy jumped down from his own horse and slid down the gully. Bleeding, the old man tried in vain to swim against the current as it swept his weak body away.

Standing at the water’s edge, Jeremy pointed his gun at the dying man a second time. The pastor’s pain-widened eyes met his for a moment. Jeremy shot him between the eyes. The water carried his limp body away. His horse reared, backing out of the water and back onto dry land.

His eardrums thundered as he searched for Sally.

“Sally!” he shouted.

She poked her head out from the cattails lining the other side of the river. How he longed to kiss her tear-streaked face and carry her away from there. He stepped into the water.

“Sally, I am so sorry!” he cried.

“Stay away from me!” she screamed.

Her head disappeared behind the plants.

“Sally!”

He pushed his way through the waist deep water. He reached solid ground again and ran in the direction he thought she might have gone. She was quick, but he was quicker. He stopped and listened for her periodically, but as the hours dragged on and the sun began to set, he found no sign of her.

Thick storm clouds rolled in to drown out the beautiful sunset as Jeremy wandered through the woods. He had never felt so ill in his life. Sally was too chaotic for him to be able predict. At first light, he would continue on his search for her. She couldn’t get too far being on foot.

He secured his horse to a tree for the night and leaned against it, staring into the darkness. He  remembered their short lived, happier times. Her voice danced around him, caressing his eardrums.

He killed the murdering pastor for her. He saved her life and still, she ran away from him. The wind picked up as thunder and lightning dominated the countryside. Somewhere in the thick of the woods, Sally huddled cold and alone with her hunting knife. He cursed and led his horse back through the woods until he found a thicket. Being shielded from the brunt of the tempest, his eyelids grew heavy. Terrifying thoughts swirled in his mind.

Someone would eventually find Pastor Scottson’s horse. They might never find his body, but they would put two and two together. Mr. Thompson might suspect him or Sally of the murder. They needed to get out of there as soon as possible, but there they were playing a game of hide and seek. All he could do was pray that he found Sally before one of the deacons did.

He shuddered, imagining how cold she must have been wearing nothing more than an evening gown and a shawl. He fought in vain against depression and fatigue. He fell into sleep as the storm raged around him.

***

Darkness and heavy rain surrounded Sally drenching her, but neither stopped her from trudging through the woods. If she stopped moving, she would think about the dead bodies of her mother and sister. It still didn’t seem real that Amber was dead. She was so small, so innocent.

For the time being, she could travel without being pursued and she needed to make the most of it. She succeeded in fooling Jeremy into thinking that she had went the other way. The pig was dead and floating down the river. She hoped that the fish would peck away at his body so no one would ever find him in one piece. She would be sure to return to the Scottson home and give Mrs. Scottson what she deserved for not protecting the little girl.

She walked through the night, inching closer to the edge of the forest. The thunder stopped and the rain ceased around four o’clock in the morning. She longed for the sun to warm her, but it was still hours away from rising. She took a moment to sit on a thick log and give her swollen feet some momentary relief. She was too exhausted to cry or even think about the terrible things that happened to the most beloved people in her world. She didn’t want to feel anymore. When things were taken care of, she’d ensure that she never felt anything again.

She stared through the woods at her childhood home. She could see the roof of it in the distance with the crops plowed. She longed for a hot cup of coffee as she yawned groggily. Craving something like a hot coffee after days of feeling nothing but grievous death felt horribly self indulgent. She hit her thigh hard with a balled up fist. Her self hatred rose and she beat herself repeatedly, screaming and yelling until she lay breathless and in pain on the wet forest floor. She rolled onto her back and stared up at the fading stars. The clouds had moved away and the day was about to bring in warm sun.

She trembled in exhaustion. She had to keep going.

“But I’m so tired,” she moaned.

Her mind came alive with beautiful memories of her and Amber playing in the fields two years ago. Sally pressed her hands into her aching midsection.

“No. God, no,” she begged.

She longed to forget. It hurt so much to think that her baby sister would be gone forever. She tried to save her, but Jeremy had locked her away for too long. She was too late.

Somewhere beyond the stars they used to make wishes on, Mama and Amber lived on. They were freed from suffering. Knowing that she could see them again in Heaven did little to comfort her while she remained on dirty, cruel earth. She wondered if the hell that the Bible mentioned was really just a parable of the real world. Hell couldn’t have been any worse than life. It wasn’t a place she wanted to remain in much longer.

“I’ll be with you soon,” she whispered. “Soon.”

As the sun rose and painted the horizon and clouds with the most beautiful soft coral hue, Sally’s consciousness slipped away into a deep sleep.

Chapter Twenty-Five

When Sally awoke from her deep sleep, everything was so quiet. Even the birds weren’t singing as the hot sun shone down through the trees. She examined her gown. It was filthy, but nearly dry. It was well after noon.

Her hair stood on end as a terrible sense of dread surrounded her. She gripped her knife and strode for the house. She squinted as she left the protection of the trees and ventured out into the empty field where the merciless heat hit her full force.

She needed a gun. A knife would not do with a man like Mr. Thompson.

She reached the perimeter of the property and removed her shoes. A blanket of thick, dark clouds caught her eye. The sky directly above her was an amber hue, but it would soon be sable as the storm moved in. It looked like the wrath of God was about to hit.

She stepped lightly, using the swaying trees that lined the edge of the farm as camouflage.

The door to the shed was open. Mr. Thompson was inside. She licked her lips and crept past it toward the house. She tried the knob and the door opened. She found it interesting that he didn’t bother to lock the door.

She peered behind her to ensure he hadn’t seen her yet.

She stepped inside of the empty house and grabbed one of the rifles from the rack in his study. She loaded it.

Being in the house where her mother and sister once lived made her feel empty. The memories that they all shared in that place were crushed by the reality that Mr. Thompson was a sadistic killer. He murdered Mama without a thought.

She had been too shocked by Amber’s death to do away with the pastor. She fled the horror like a coward rather than face her baby sister’s murderer, but now was the time to make the devil who killed her mother pay.

Holding the rifle with both hands, she walked outside toward the shed. Her limbs trembled with the desire to kill the most pathetic thing that walked the earth. She held her breath and stood at the entrance of his favorite place on the farm. His back was to her as he was bent over the work table.

He was so intent on polishing his rifle that he did not hear her as she padded through the entrance in her bare feet. She inched closer, salivating. For the first time since she found her mother lying dead in the middle of the foggy road, her stomach growled. He didn’t seem to hear it.

Her finger massaged the trigger as the corners of her mouth lifted into a grin. She couldn’t kill him before he saw her. It wouldn’t do.

“Hi, Bruce,” she said.

He spun around, clumsily gripping his polished rifle with both hands. He nearly lost his balance. His normally emotionless eyes radiated terror as he searched hers.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“No one’s ever had the guts to sneak up on you before, have they?”

“What’s going on? Put the gun down, Sally.”

He took a step toward her.

“Stop!” she shouted.

Her command halted him.

“What has possessed you?” he asked.

“The same thing that possessed you, maybe.”

Her voice sounded hollow, even to her. Her finger applied pressure to the trigger.

The monster in him died as his false pride melted away.

“Sally, don’t.”

“How many people have begged you for mercy?”

“Those slaves weren’t real people.”

She stomped her foot.

“Shut up!” she screamed.

He stared at her.

“I had to kill Michael and your Mama because they were traitors.”

She tilted her head, wondering how someone could be so oblivious to their own wickedness. Even as she held a gun to his head, he couldn’t apologize for a single thing.

“What about Amber? You tossed her aside to that wolf. Guess what? He’s dead. Soon you will all be dead.”

“Is that so?”

She stepped closer to him.

“A part of me wants nothing more than to kill you slowly, forcing you to live through the same fear and suffering as your victims.”

He backed into the table, still gripping his gun. The flicker of life faded from his gaze as his hope vanished. It was the look of a creature about to die.

“How does it feel to be the helpless one now?” she asked.

“I don’t feel anything.”

“Yes, you do.”

He dropped his gun.

She kept an eye on his hands.

“I won’t make you suffer,” she said. “I just want to rid the world of you.”

For a brief moment, he wore the expression of the man who raised her. A man she once called ‘Papa’. Her heart raced and she fought to push away the memories of a time where she had loved him more than life itself.

She choked back a sob and swallowed past the painful lump lodged in her throat.

“This isn’t my fault, Papa.”

His eyes narrowed.

“Do it, Sally.”

“What?”

“Do it before I kill you.”

His words startled her and she took a few steps backward. The warm breeze blew in, stirring up his graying hair. It had once been a rich brown. Back when he pretended to be a good man.

Thunder roared over the land as they stared at one another.

His left hand quickly went to his belt and he pulled out a pistol.

She pulled the rifle’s trigger. Blood splattered all over her face as his body hit the floor with a loud thud. She took a rag from the rag pile and wiped tears and blood from her face.

He lay dead on the floor with a bullet shot clear through his head.

“No one will suffer by your hand ever again,” she said.

She dropped down to her knees.

“Why did you ask me to do it?”

An uncontrollable, loud cry escaped from the pit of her stomach. She screamed along with the blowing wind. Wheezing, she forced herself to stand. The gale was so strong that it shook the shed.

She peered outside at the dark clouds. Her heart nearly stopped at the sight of the swirling funnel over yonder. She left the shed behind and took her real father’s black hat from the bushes where Mama hid it. Then she ventured back out to the field to watch the force of nature form before her eyes.

 

Sally – Chapter Twenty-Three

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It was well after dark by the time Sally reached what had once been her mother’s home. All of the lights were off inside. The monster must have still been at the church.

Sally pushed her the window of her old bedroom open, pulled herself up, and crawled onto the table that rested beneath the pane. She went to Mama’s bedchamber and lit a candle. Sitting on her mother’s neatly made bed, she stared at all of her elegant belongings. Her perfume still lingered in the air. There was an energy in her room that made it feel like she was still alive somehow, even though it had been days since her passing. The solitary flame made the wall come to life with dancing shadows. It was a phenomenon that Mama always enjoyed looking at. The world was such a cold place without her.

She buried her face in her pillow, inhaled Mama’s aroma, and wept.

“Oh, Mama, come back.”

She took the second pillow and hugged it. She could almost feel Mama’s life surrounding her, intensifying her grief. To have someone you were close with for your entire life suddenly leave the world was the worst kind of hell.

“I will be with you soon, Mama,” whispered Sally.

She felt warm surrounded by Mama’s soft comforter and pillows. A soft whisper relaxed her and she closed her eyes, savoring her final moment alone with all of Mama’s things. She stripped down, poured the rose water from the fine boned pitcher into the wash basin and washed herself. She selected Mama’s favorite lavender dress and put it on. She went into Mama’s jewelry drawer and took a ring, a bracelet and choker and put them on. If she was going to die fighting evil, she was going to bring a part of Mama with her.

She brushed her hair and braided it out, smiling at the sight of herself in Mama’s things. Mama would be happy that she took the time to appreciate all of her stylish items, taking some of them with her. She would never condone violence, but she might have given one nod for being well dressed while inflicting consequences on the world’s scum.

“Are you still here, Mama? Would God let your spirit stay with me a little longer?” she called.

No one answered, of course. She had hoped over the last several hours that if she believed strongly enough that Mama’s spirit would visit her, then she would. No such thing happened as she left Mama’s room, poured a glass of water in the kitchen and then stepped outside toward the monster’s shed.

***

Jeremy watched Sally leave the Thompsons’ house in a clean dress with her hair brushed out and braided. It hadn’t been easy following her at a safe enough pace, but he realized how little he knew her in the process. She led an entirely separate life from him and it was very real.

She had transformed into another person. The old Sally who longed to love him was finished. He would never see that version of her again.

She stepped toward Mr. Thompson’s shed. He held his breath as she went inside. He couldn’t let her do what she was intended, even if it cost him his own life. He cast a desperate glance heavenward and started toward the building.

She darted out of the shed when he was steps away. Without noticing him, she sprinted with a long gun in her hands toward the stables.

He ran after her. Once she was inside of the stables, she slammed the door behind her as if she knew someone was behind her. He opened the door and peered inside carefully. She had already mounted one of the horses and was riding it out of its stall and toward the back entrance.

“Sally!” called Jeremy.

She glanced over her shoulder at  him, threw him a nonchalant eye roll and rode away. He opened one of the stalls and led a mount outside of the stables. He scanned the area carefully before mounting and riding after the madwoman.

As he rode across the bleak landscape, he had lost sight of her. She would reach the Scottsons’ house well before he would, leaving too much time for her to get shot and killed. He urged his horse to run faster. He couldn’t lose her now. Not with how they left things.

When he reached the pastors’ property. it was too quiet. No one was in sight. Taking a deep breath, he jumped off the horse, grasped his pistol, and started toward the house. He reached the back of the Scottsons’ house. It was pitch black inside. He circle around it to the front. The pastor’s wife stood in the middle of her front yard. A chill ran down his back and arms.

“Mrs. Scottson?”

“Jeremy…”

“What happened?” he called.

He reached her side. She stared ahead without blinking.

“Ma’am? Did you see Sally ride past here?”

“She was here.”

He stood in front of her and grasped her by the shoulders. She shuddered and met his gaze at last.

“What happened?”

Her eyes widened as she threw her head back. She pointed forward. He looked to the garden that she gestured to. He stepped slowly toward it, sensing the death that thickened the air around him. He swallowed hard, bracing himself for what lie beyond the rose bushes at the entrance of the gardens.

A little girl lay on the grass next to the goldfish pond. He put his gun away and ran to her.

“Amber,” he breathed.

He reached down to feel her pulse and drew his hand back at her icy touch. Blood stained the front of her dress. He closed his eyes and held her little hand.

He gathered Amber in his arms and carried her to Mrs. Scottson, who stood there crying and hugging herself.

“What happened?” he asked.

“I-I didn’t know he was capable of it, but he killed her. He killed that beautiful baby girl.”

“The pastor did this?”

“Yes. He saw Sally coming and killed her. Sally doesn’t understand how things work around here. By coming here, she killed her own sister.”

“These men deserve to burn in hell!” he shouted.

“Let me take her!”

She reached her arms to take Amber away. He let her.

“Did you see where she went?”

“I saw her ride in the direction of the river.”

“Where did the pastor go?”

She stared up at him in fear.

“He went after Sally.”

Rage welled up inside of him and he screamed. He remounted and rode like the wind toward the river, ready to kill.

 

 

Sally – Chapter Twenty-Two

 

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Being freed from Jeremy sent a wave of new energy through her as she stood in the meadow staring at the woods. She ran into the forest and her skirts caught on a prickly shrub. She screamed and cut the fabric loose. She caught her breath and looked up at the tall tree branches reaching for the sky.

Her gaze scanned the clouds as they separated and revealed the blue heavens.

“Mama,” she whispered.

She lifted her skirts and continued on. Her eyes glazed over as her mind wandered to all of the things she would do the pastor and the deacons. She imagined tracking down and killing every single one of them. It was time that someone ended the evil by committing one final act of evil.

As she reached the outskirts of the Cherokee village, she slowed to a jog. A boy in his mid teens leaped out in front of her. He held a bow and arrow. She stopped and held her hands out in front of her.

“Don’t shoot! I know Inola,” she huffed.

“You are Sally, Jacob’s friend?”

“Yes,” she said with a vigorous nod.

“Follow me.”

He looked over his shoulder at her.

“In the future, you shouldn’t run like that when you approach our village. It arouses suspicion.”

“Oh, yes. Of course. Sorry.”

“I will take you to Inola’s home.”

“You seem to know English well.”

“We’re all taught English as children. They’d treat us like savages if not.”

“Only a total idiot would consider any of you savages,” said Sally gently. “You deserve the same respect that you freely give.”

He smiled at her and looked away.

As they entered the village, she stared at the ground to avoid the gazes. She didn’t want anyone to see the wild hate she held in her heart for the men she would soon kill. She took deep breaths to calm herself down. She had to conduct herself accordingly for the woman who treated her so kindly despite what the white men had done to her people over the centuries.

“Wait out here,” directed the boy.

Sally placed her hands in her pockets, suddenly feeling like a fool for barging into the village demanding to see a woman she barely knew. A flush warmed her cheeks as Inola emerged from her tipi.

“Sally,” she said.

The older woman clasped Sally’s clammy hands.

“Oh, Inola. Forgive me for coming here unannounced.”

Inola studied her.

“No need to apologize. It must be important for you to come all this way alone.”

“They killed my Mama.”

Inola’s eyes widened and she brought her close with a tight embrace.

“My heart aches for you, dear child. God will punish them in due time.”

“I will punish them,” said Sally.

Inola let her go and shook her head.

“Sally, I understand why you want to take justice in your own hands, but until someone breaks the violence, it will always continue to cycle.”

Talking about her mother’s murder in such a matter of fact way made her feel numb.

“I will break the cycle.”

“Sally, listen to me. Say you succeed in killing all of them. Someone else will then seek justice on you. The killing will continue.”

Sally crossed her arms.

“I won’t let them catch me.”

“Oh, Sally. I am worried about you.”

Sally’s gaze went to the young mothers in the village playing games with their little ones. She remembered how happy Mama seemed when she was younger. It was almost as though she saw her death coming one day.

“She just died this morning,” said Sally. “Did you know that? My mind has only just absorbed what has happened to the most important person to me in the world and here I am telling you what I am going to do with her murderers.”

Inola took Sally’s hand.

“I don’t recall you saying exactly what you would do.”

“I’ll keep it to myself.”

Inola shook her head and glanced up at the skies.

“What about your husband?”

Sally blinked.

“I never want to see my husband again.”

“I see. Where will you go?”

Sally hung her head.

“The main reason why I came here was to see if you could tell me where Jacob went.”

Inola sighed and wrapped her shawl tighter around her shoulders.

“I know he’s my father. Mama told me.”

“It is good that you know now.”

“Do you have any idea where he went?”

“Wait here.”

Inola went into her little home and returned with a rolled up map.

“He gave me this map. Here, unravel it.”

“He wouldn’t just tell you where he went?”

“He thought you might be around one day curious about where he went off to.”

Sally held the paper taut as Inola pointed to the red ink mark.

“He said he was going to work at the mine there.”

“Another mine,” sighed Sally.

It was a place in Osage County, Kansas.

“How many mines are there in Osage County?” asked Sally.

“Likely hundreds. He told me that is where he was going to go after he spoke with your mother.”

Sally closed her eyes.

“My town belongs in the pits of hell.”

“Oh, Sally. I will pray for you.”

“Pray for Jacob and for my baby sister, Amber. Please don’t ask God to help me. I’ve turned like they have. I’m a monster now, Inola.”

“Child, listen to me. You have just lost your mother. I see the kindness in your beautiful eyes. Never tell yourself that you have become like those men.”

Sally reached out to hug her.

“Thank you so much for talking to me and for helping me.”

“I am so glad you came to see me. Please take care of yourself. Go to your Mama’s funeral. Let her body rest in the grave before you leave town.”

“May we depart as friends still?” asked Sally.

“Of course,” smiled Inola.

Sally stared into her friend’s wise eyes before turning away. She unbuttoned the top of her dress slid the map into her corset. If she survived saving Amber and finishing off all of the murderers, she would find Jacob in Kansas somehow.

Inola’s words echoed in her mind as she traveled through the dark woods. No one could understand the suffocating pain of grief until they experienced it.

If she didn’t do away with the deacons and Pastor Scottson, no one would. If she did, then the town would be able to start over again with good people running the churches and businesses. The children would have a chance to grow up without seeing their pastor or mother murdered in cold blood.

“It’s all in my hands now.”

Sally – Chapter Twenty-One

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Sally didn’t know how much time had passed since he had locked her in there, but she faded in and out of fitful sleeps filled with terrible dreams about Mama as the days passed on. He would come in when she wasn’t conscious and leave food and water for her. She groggily wondered if he was putting laudanum in the water to keep her sedate. She stopped drinking the water and her awareness sharpened.

She awoke one morning fully awake. She stared out her window at the wood beams keeping her trapped inside. Her scream was so loud that it shook her skull and summoned an army of black stars to mar her vision. She leaned against the wall to catch her breath. She vomited on the floor and her emptiness grew. Her rage at being treated like an insane patient died down as she thought about how far away Mama was. It no longer mattered what he thought of her. Without Mama, nothing mattered.

“Oh, Mama,” she panted.

She glared at her window that was bolted shut. She longed so much to die, but Jeremy would never allow her that relief. Her own husband locked her away. She went to her bed and lay there, forcing herself to think to take her mind off of her agonizing loss. She would grieve Mama properly once she was freed from her prison. Then she would end it all.

Jeremy’s heavy footsteps sounded outside.

“Pacing around while he figures out what to do with me,” she hissed.

He had turned his back on her once and for all. She was on her own. She had to get out of there soon. No one had any right to keep her under lock and key. As she lay there trembling, her heart turned to ice.

Jeremy became her enemy the moment he decided to subdue her grief. He couldn’t have cared less about Mama’s murder. Come to think of it, he never did seem particularly shaken over Michael’s death either.

Jeremy was just a stupid farmer she had been forced to marry.

“This won’t do,” she said.

Staring at the night table, her mouth twisted into a grin. The oddest sense of delight rose over her grief. She embraced it for the moment. She rolled off her bed, pulled open the drawer, and picked up the box of matches that rested within it.

She lit one and brought it within an inch from the candle wick. She blew it out and lit another match. Dark laughter filled the room, echoing off the walls. Her laughter.

***

Jeremy stared at his cooling cup of coffee on the table in front of him. She would probably hate him forever, but it would be far better if they never spoke again than to lose her to suicide. If he had let her go that day, she would have been dead already. He couldn’t have lived with himself if that happened. Three souls would have risen from the eerie little town that day.

He buried his face in his hands.

“Show me how to fix this,” he prayed.

He didn’t know what to do. It was wrong to keep her locked up like a rabid dog. He made a vow to respect her for this rest of his life and he broke that vow moments ago.

If he let her out  too soon, she could make a run for it and do something to harm herself or him. If he didn’t let her out, he would be forcing her to bear the terrible pain of losing of her mother alone.

Mrs. Thompson’s lifeless, pale face flashed across his memory. He wept, silently begging God to forgive him for being too weak to take Sally and her mother out of there sooner. He was just a simple farmer too stupid to think past his crops and cattle herds.

The pungent smell of burning blankets danced into his nostrils, awakening him from his grief-inflicted trance. He looked up and saw the smoke. For a moment, he thought that he heard Sally laughing.

He ran down the hall and unlocked the door. Sally had been learning on it and fell forward. He caught her and carried her out of the house. Her body twitched as she laughed hysterically. He set her down and she stumbled over.

He knelt next to her.

“Sally, please forgive me. I am so sorry.”

Too weak and distracted by hysteria, she fell back and stared up at the sky, sputtering out odd babbling. If the rest of the house caught fire, it would bring the rest of the town to his property. That was the last thing that they needed.

“Stay here, Sally,” he said gently, resting a hand on her shoulder. “Please.”

She had gone somewhere else, likely to a terrible world. He knew then that he would never get her back because he never had her in the first place.

He ran to the barn and took one of the horse blankets, soaked it in the horses’ water trough and ran back for the house. He smothered the fire on her bed with the wet blanket. He stepped backward, staring at the charred bedding. He had been right to worry about her,  but no matter what he did, she would find some way to hurt herself.

He ran back outside. His guts knotted when he saw no sign of her. His gaze went to the cornfield. A section of the tall corn swayed. He broke into a sprint in pursuit of her.

***

She ran so fast that the corn leaves slapped her as she passed them. The pain was oddly comforting and she forced herself to run faster before the enemy caught up to her. She zigzagged through the rows in hopes of getting him off her trail. The woods were still over a mile away and she couldn’t afford for him to catch up to her before she reached them.

She jumped into another row and a figure suddenly jumped out in the middle of her path. She screamed and tripped in an effort to not run into him. Lying in a heap in the dirt, she stared up at Jeremy.

“You bastard,” she hissed.

“I deserve to be hated by you, but I’m not letting you hurt yourself.”

She gritted her teeth as their eyes locked. The tips of her fingers tingled as the desire to kill warmed her up from the inside.

She stood up without taking her eyes off him.

“Get out of my way.”

“Sally, please forgive me. I was a monster to lock you away like that. I’m an idiot, all right? Just know I never wanted to hurt you.”

“Get. Out. Of. My. Way.”

He shook his head.

“I can’t let you hurt yourself. Sally, I’ve cared about anyone so much.”

As she stared at him, she realized how little he really meant to her.

“I didn’t want to have to do this,” she said, grinning.

She pulled out her hunting knife and swung it at him.

“Oh my God!” cried Jeremy.

The look of disgust and horror in his gaze made her stomach churn. She didn’t want to hurt him, but she would if he tried to fight her.

He backed away from her, looking at her like he hated her, too.

“Run away then. If you hate me that much then go.”

“I do hate you. So much.”

He threw his arms up in the air and disappeared into the corn maze.

She had longed so much to love him once, but all he did was give her reasons to despise him. It was the end. She wanted nothing more than to be held and to grieve, but he uprooted her before she was ready to leave and disposed of her so he didn’t have to deal with her. Now, he would never have to be bothered with her again.

It was fitting that their final parting be equally as violent as the storm that brought them together.

***

I’d love to see a different world

A place where you can’t find me.

Feel me, kill me, my back’s up against a wall.

Korn, A Different World

 

 

Sally – Chapter Twenty

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He stepped into the house. Sally wasn’t there.

“What now?” he asked in exasperation.

Shaking his head, that familiar sense of dread filled his being and he went after her. Maybe they would never share the same love that Gabriel and Mary had, but they might have a fighting chance of finding their own version of love once they got out of the crazy town.

He started his journey down the road on horseback. The fog still hadn’t let up yet so he had to keep his mount at a slow pace.

“Sally!” he called.

His warm breath trailed out into the cooling evening air and mingled with the fog. Then he heard the weeping. He jumped down from his saddle and stepped slowly toward Sally. The dark hair of Sally and her mother appeared through the fog.

Mrs. Thompson’s dress was covered in blood. Jeremy closed his eyes for a moment, willing for the situation to vanish and awaken from the nightmare.

He opened his eyes to see that Sally was weeping and her mama was still dead.

“Sally,” he said softly. “Sally, I’m here.”

She moaned, grasping her mother tighter. He sat next to her on the road.

“I am so sorry.”

“She just needs to rest.”

“Sally…”

Her little jaw trembled.

“Papa did this.”

“Sally, we need to get off the road. I’ll carry her home with us.”

Sally sat up and played with her mother’s loose, wavy hair.

“Yes. We can nurse her back to health. Then the three of us can leave.”

He gently clasped her little shoulder. Her hopeful smile broke his heart.

“Sally, look at me.”

She looked in his direction without meeting his eyes.

“She’s gone. I am so sorry.”

“No. Quick! Carry her home. She needs water and a warm bed.”

“Sally, she is dead.”

She shook her head.

“You’re wrong.”

Sharp footsteps sounded above their voices.

“Who is there?” asked Jeremy, standing.

Mr. Thompson’s cold, blue stare was more piercing than ever as he appeared through the wispy gloom.

“Papa, tell him she’s just sleeping.”

“I need to take her and make funeral arrangements.”

Jeremy nodded helplessly. There was nothing he could say.

Sally stood, finally meeting Jeremy’s gaze.

“Tell him she’s still alive, Jeremy!”

“Sally, I am so sorry.”

Papa bent down and picked up Mrs. Thompson’s slender, lifeless body and carried her away. Jeremy blinked back the tears that stung his eyes.

“Is Amber all right?” asked Sally.

“Yes, of course. She’s staying at Pastor and Mrs. Scottson’s home.”

“Who did this Papa?” asked Sally.

Jeremy went to her, forced her to look at him, and shook his head. Mr. Thompson was already gone.

“Stop him,” hissed Sally.

“There is nothing we can do, Sally. We can only honour her memory now.”

“Her memory?”

He went to hug her, but she pushed him away. Her eyes darted all over the place as her mind slowly began to realize the reality. He longed to do something to help her, but there was nothing to be said or done once grief set in.

“I can’t survive this, Jeremy. I can’t.”

“Sally, I’ll take you home. We can prepare something nice to say at her funeral.”

She took a run at him and he blocked her with his arms.

“Sally, please. I want to help you. Tell me how you take care of you.”

“How dare you accept this? My Mama has just passed and you’re already talking about her funeral like she’s been dead for days! You let Papa take her away!”

He reached out to hold her, but she slapped him.

“Don’t touch me. You are the reason why she’s dead.”

She wasn’t aware of her words, because sadness was swallowing her whole, but the accusation stung like hell.

“Sally, I wish I could do something, but we can’t. If I tried to stop him from taking her, he might have shot me.”

She stared at him hard.”

“You are a pathetic, weak man,” she rasped.

“Sally, let me take you home so you can grieve away from this place.”

She increased the distance between them as she slowly backed away, disappearing into the fog.

“Sally, I don’t know what to do.”

She started to run, but he caught up with her and threw her over his shoulder.

“Put me down!” I hate you!”

She kicked and screamed, but she was so small that her movements had very little impact. They had to get home and away from the macabre setting. For all he knew, the deacons and Pastor Scottson wanted to get him next. None of the senseless deaths made any sense and all he wanted to do was take Sally and get out of there, but they couldn’t leave yet. They would have to play the part of clueless grieving family members. They had to wait until their planned date or they could get caught.

Sally’s struggling waned and her sobs quieted as they reached the property.

“I don’t want to lose you, Sally.”

“I’m already gone.”

“No you’re not.”

He entered the house and set her down on her bed, rushed out, and quickly locked the door from the outside. He felt like a monster, but there was no telling what she would do in her state. He went to the barn and grabbed four two by four wood beams and started to nail them to her window. When he finished nailing the third beam, she came to the window with a confused look in her red eyes.

She screamed and pounded the glass. She wasn’t going to get out of there. Not until she calmed down. He finished and stepped back.

He wanted nothing more than to help her get through her grief, but allowing her to roam free like a maniac could get her killed. He tossed his hammer across the yard and stormed toward the field. The tall corn swayed in the breeze as he approached. He hugged himself with his shaking arms and wept for Michael, for Mrs. Thompson, for Gabriel and Mary, and for Sally.

He stared up at the overcast sky and begged God to help him deal with Sally. Perhaps she was only meant to be a curse to him. A lesson to teach him to never assume that life was simple and good if one only worked hard. Sally showed him that it was meant to be so much more than that.

Or maybe he never did anything worthy of punishment. Maybe bad events befell good people and there was nothing anyone could do but try to cope with the aftermath. He wasn’t a fighter like Sally. He was supposed to be the one to protect her, but she was the braver one. It was why he was so afraid of letting her out of her room. Setting her free could kill her. There was no telling what she would do.

So he would keep her caged inside.