by Loren Eaton
Webster marched the girl from the farmhouse to the barn by the reservoir. The naked oaks along the path creaked with ice. She begged him. She begged God. Her sobs contorted her face.
Webster put the knife in to smooth it out, to shut her up. This far out, there was no god but him.
He buried her in the barn with the others. He’d dug three additional holes last fall. Proper preparation prevented poor performance.
He’d just washed up when the sheriff came knocking.
Webster smiled at him, offered coffee. The sheriff was fishing. He obviously had nothing.
Filling the coffeepot in the kitchen, he looked out the window and saw it -- a vulture brooding above the reservoir.
The sheriff leaned against the counter, asked how long he’d lived out here, if he’d seen a young runaway. Webster glanced away, said no and looked out again.
A second vulture hovered over the face of the waters.
Impossible. It was cold. She was fresh.
The sheriff excused himself. The screen door screeled as he stepped back outside. Panicked, Webster whirled toward the window.
He slipped through the farmhouse to the back door. He had to move her -- now.
When the sheriff found him, he was shuddering in a corner of the barn. Melody Pugh, age thirteen, lay half-buried in a shallow grave. A smile curled her cold lips.
Cuffed in the back of the cruiser, Webster looked up one last time.
Into an utterly empty sky.