The Green Children: A Sycamore Moon Novel (Sycamore Moon Series Book 3)

BOOK: The Green Children: A Sycamore Moon Novel (Sycamore Moon Series Book 3)
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THE GREEN CHILDREN
 
by Domino Finn
 
 
Copyright © 2015 by Domino Finn. All rights reserved.
 
Published by Blood & Treasure, Los Angeles
First Edition
 
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to reality is coincidental. This book represents the hard work of the author; please reproduce responsibly.
 
Cover Design by James T. Egan of Bookfly Design LLC.
 
Print ISBN: 978-0-692-61822-6
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Act 1 - The First 48
 
 
 
 
Chapter 1
 
 
Ongoing lives, no matter how interesting, trended toward routine.
Diego de la Torre's time in Sanctuary had been anything but ordinary. Fistfights, shootouts, wolves, witches—and a body count larger than the eighteen months he'd lived here.
But lately, things for Diego had been business as usual. The tow business, specifically. He was now a biker-turned-blue-collar. A clock-puncher.
Diego's company truck rumbled along Interstate 40 on the way to another suit with a flat tire. His third job this year wasn't the most glamorous, but it wasn't the crappiest either. It was honest work, dealing only in breakdowns and emergencies. None of the scams the tow companies in Detroit pulled that preyed on hardworking people. Diego didn't do cold tows. The open Arizona land had no demand for them. There was something to be said for that.
The open road appealed to him too, but it wasn't enough. Driving a rig was simply too low key. Sure, there were errant threats from disgruntled drivers and arguments over distance and money, but those were nothing more than bluster. There was no real danger anymore. That fact never stopped Diego from secretly hoping the next call would be the one where somebody threw a punch or pulled a knife.
Hey, there was nothing wrong with a respectable disagreement once in a while.
But Diego considered the bright side. It was a beautiful spring. It was a legal paycheck. He hadn't been shot at in nine months. Life always offered the hope of something more, with the caveat that the best of times were often the most bland.
The old days he longed for... They weren't bland. An ex-service man, an ex-biker outlaw—Diego had lots of stories. He wanted to regain that source of adrenaline. Changing tires and charging batteries wasn't cutting it.
So when a frantic woman lunged into the highway in front of his speeding truck, Diego once again felt that spark.
He jammed the brake pedal to the rubber floor mat. The six tires smoked and scraped against the asphalt, causing the rig to swerve dangerously. By the time it came to a stop, the tow truck took up both westbound lanes.
Luckily, traffic was light this morning on account of it being Easter Monday, the day after the holiday and the cap of a long weekend. No vehicles rear-ended him. Diego swiveled his head searching for the woman.
A fist pounded his window and made him jump. The woman had somehow circled his truck.
"You've got to help me!" she screamed. "Help!"
Again Diego scanned the area. The dense forest on either side of the highway cut down visibility, but aside from the crazy woman in the middle of the Interstate, nothing appeared amiss. She yelled again to get his attention.
"All right. All right," he said, shifting his rig into reverse. He backed up over the wide shoulder and didn't stop till his back wheels were in the dirt. It wasn't a graceful parking job, but it wouldn't cause any accidents.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" he demanded as he kicked open his door. The woman clutched at him like glue.
"My daughter," she rasped. "My eight-year-old daughter is out here."
And then Diego immediately understood the mad look in the woman's eyes, the shimmer of sweat on her skin despite the crisp breeze. She wasn't crazy. She wasn't a tweaker. She was a mother living her worst nightmare.
"Slow down," he said, grabbing the woman by the shoulders. She was slender. Thin nose, narrow lips—everything about her was fragile except for her wide, gaping eyes.
She shook against his grasp. Her long brown hair, almost black, swung wildly as he held her.
"You need to calm down for a second," urged Diego. "Look at me."
"She's out here."
"Look at me."
She turned to him and brushed the hair from her face. Her light-brown eyes met his and relaxed for a moment. He glimpsed them in their normal state, at ease, welcoming. Kind. The woman had a natural beauty that was elegant and soft.
"What happened to your daughter?"
She took a breath. "We were hiking in the woods. Just ten minutes ago."
"Where?"
"Up there," she sputtered, pointing north to the trees. Besides the access road, the area was heavily wooded. The Sycamore forest, they called it.
"She came to the highway?"
The woman became exasperated again. "I don't know."
Diego searched up and down the 40. The only clear sightlines were along the road. He hadn't seen any pedestrians before pulling over. If the little girl was only a few minutes away, she wasn't on the street.
"Okay," he said, grabbing the woman's head to lock into her eyes again. "Don't worry. We'll find her." She returned a slight nod.
The biker climbed into his truck and reached for the CB.
"Hey, Harry. You there?"
It took a second to raise the man, but he answered.
"Diego? What's it look like?"
"Uh, I'm not there yet. I might be a little late."
Harry's voice immediately grew coarse. "You better not be. Not again."
"I'm serious, Harry. Call up Chuck to cover for me."
"I'm not gonna call Chuck 'cause I've got you."
Diego hissed. "There's a missing kid out here. This is an emergency."
"It's always an emergency with you, Diego. Can't you—"
The biker switched off the radio. He didn't have time to deal with his boss.
"Take me to where you last saw her," said Diego with comforting confidence.
The woman smiled at him. There was something alluring about a smile from a stranger. Not a business smile like a cashier might flash, but an earnest one from the heart. Maybe the appeal was in what came next. In the desire to get to know the person better. In the possibilities ahead.
Diego remembered that smile because he realized he might never see it again.
 
 
Chapter 2
 
 
"Julia Cunningham. That's two Ns, right?"
Julia nodded and wrapped her arms around her body for warmth. For two hours she had been numb to the cool air. Now, back at her cabin suite with the fire running, her adrenaline was spent.
"And your daughter's name is Hazel?"
"Yes, Detective."
Diego sat on the arm of the couch, trying not to be a nuisance. He'd taken over the search for the missing girl and assumed he had a good handle on things. Coming up empty felt like his fault.
"My daughter and I were hiking this morning," began Julia. "Not too far. She's only eight. She was running back and forth, looking for the perfect sticks to make magic wands. I called for her, but she didn't answer."
The Coconino County detective nodded but kept his eyes on his small notepad. He looked like a pro, in his early forties, smooth, clean features except for worry wrinkles on his forehead and by his mouth. His hair receded at the temples forming a sharp V at the top of his head. Average all around, except for his bright pink tie.
"Why did you think to run straight for the Interstate?" he asked pointedly.
Julia shook her head and paused. "I don't know. I had last seen her in that direction. I thought I heard her singing. I just kept running until I was on the highway."
"Do you have any other friends or guardians in town?"
"No."
"What about a husband? A boyfriend?"
Diego wasn't sure why these questions were being asked, but he found himself interested in the last answer. Julia shook her head absently.
The detective stopped writing and focused on the woman. "And you're sure Hazel went to the Interstate?"
Julia twisted her face in frustration. "What? No. I told you I'm not sure. I was just looking for her."
The detective seemed to frown. He considered the mother for a moment before speaking. "Chances are she didn't cross the street. Most likely she's still in the woods somewhere, closer to the campgrounds than we realize. She might be hurt or scared, but I'm organizing a search party. We'll cover the area and find her. I'll have someone posted here in case she manages to wander back."
The detective glanced at Diego. The biker looked away. He felt like an interloper, intruding on this woman's most vulnerable moment. Diego examined the business card in his hand to keep busy. Detective David Harper, Coconino County Sheriff's Office. The man seemed capable enough, but he was distant. Disconnected.
"What about your home address?" asked David. "Does she know it?"
"Yes," answered Julia. "Why?"
"It's possible a car picked her up and she got a ride home. Williams is close. She could already be there. It's probably best if you returned just in case."
"No," said Julia firmly. "I'm not leaving. Hazel will be right back. I know it."
Detective Harper sighed. "Ma'am, if you knew that, then why'd you call the police?"
Diego stood up. "I called. Don't give her a hard time, okay? She's just trying to be optimistic." Diego moved beside Julia and put his arm around her back. She looked so fragile, but she was trying to be so strong.
"Oh my God," she cried. "What if someone picked her up?"
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," said the detective. "There's absolutely no reason to think that. It's a possibility we're aware of. We'll put out her description statewide. We're going to need some pictures of her, Ms. Cunningham. The quicker we get those, the better. That's another reason I suggest you let one of my deputies take you home."
David Harper moved to the front door and opened it. He waved in a young woman wearing a sheriff's uniform: a dark brown hat, tie, pants, and a tan button-up.
"Deputy Garza will see to everything." The woman stood by the doorway and gave a firm nod.
"You're not coming?" asked Julia.
Detective Harper frowned. "I have a few things to finish up here. I'll be over as soon as I can." As he spoke, he marched everyone outside.
Quiet Pines was charitably labeled luxury camping. The reality was far from roughing it. Most of the campers stayed in expensive cabins or their own RVs. Full amenities like electricity and water were available at every site. But it was a clean taste of nature, and the weather was just getting nice. The combination packed the grounds with visitors, many of them locals.
"What about you?" asked Julia, turning to Diego. Her hands clasped his shoulders. "You'll come with me, at least?"
Diego balked at the request. He didn't know how to answer. He didn't belong here. "You sure?"
"I don't want to be alone."
The biker relented and slowly nodded. He was getting himself deeper, but he didn't have a choice. Before he could speak, he noticed a man with a white panama hat approaching from the office building. Like the Coconino detective, Maxim also wore a suit, more stylish with a modern cut, but also more worn and neglected.
Diego's expression turned apologetic. "I need to talk to the friend I told you about. He'll help us. I'll swing by right after. I promise."
She was disappointed despite his reassurances. It worried Diego to see the empty look on her face. He wondered if Julia would ever be happy again. Deputy Garza escorted her away, leaving him with the Coconino County detective outside the cabin.
"Sorry I'm late," said Maxim, joining them. "I had to finish some things up." He eyed David Harper. Maxim brushed the left side of his jacket away to reveal a gold badge on his belt. "I'm Detective Maxim Dwyer from the Sanctuary Marshal's Office."
The other detective raised his eyebrows. Sanctuary was a small town ten minutes away; the marshal's office had no jurisdiction here. "This is a county matter, Detective."
"I know. I'm not here officially. Just as a favor to a friend."
David turned to Diego and understood. "I see. I'm Detective Harper. We're still searching for the girl. I don't suppose you have any knowledge that can help?"
Maxim shook his head. "Not at all. I'm just getting here. Are you organizing a search?"
David grimaced slightly. "Of course, Detective."
"I'd like to be involved. I can offer the manpower of my department and drum up civilian support in Sanctuary."
Begrudgingly, the county detective agreed.
BOOK: The Green Children: A Sycamore Moon Novel (Sycamore Moon Series Book 3)
12.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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