A Cold Hard Day (Story by R.C. Peris)

I was walking in the snowy woods on a cold and hard day. I was looking for a girl. It didn’t seem likely that if I found her she would be alive. There had been a blizzard two days ago when Morgan “Chickadee” Green went missing. She was seven years old. I knew her parents and had only seen the girl in passing. Glances. An occasional wave. She was cute with long, black hair that was usually in a single braid. The parents had called the police department frantic. The front door was open and Chickadee was nowhere to be found. It seemed odd that a child would run away in a blizzard. Kidnapping was suspected but the snow drifts erased any tire tracks. I couldn’t gather a search party during the blizzard so I, a detective with the police department, called relatives and family friends. None had seen Chickadee. When the blizzard ended I got my search party and we combed the woods. I was on day two of the search. I stopped at the edge of a frozen lake and yelled the girl’s name. All I heard was cracking ice. I turned to retrace my steps when I saw Chickadee standing on the ice hard path in snow boots and a white gown. Her hands were balled up into fists.

“Chickadee, where have you been?”

She said nothing and I took off my jacket and wrapped her in it. Her skin was warm. Her cheeks were red. I pried open her hands and in each was a small statue of the Virgin Mary.

“Where have you been? Why aren’t you cold?” I picked her up. Caked snow fell off her boots. She kept the statues in her hands. I took her to my jeep and drove straight to the hospital. Chickadee had no frostbite but she had bruising on her thighs and bottom and the doctor suspected sexual trauma. Chickadee said nothing. Her face was placid and her voice was lost. I called her parents. Her mother tried to take the statues but the girl screamed.

There was no DNA evidence. No trail. No spoken words by Chickadee to explain her ordeal. The case went cold and the department moved on.

About five years later, Father Fred reported a burglary at the local Catholic church. I went to investigate. Father Fred led me into the basement. Several boxes of old crosses and Bibles were missing. The basement window was busted. I noted the robbery when I spotted a box of small Virgin Mary statues that Chickadee had grasped in her hand. There was a door covered in cobwebs in the basement.

“Where does this lead?” I asked.

“Oh, it’s just another room.” Father Fred tried to lead me away. I pried open the door. There was an old mattress on the floor and a rack of small, white gowns. The same gown Chickadee had been found in. I looked at Father Fred who was clearly nervous. I called the Department.

“Send a forensics team.”

It was then that Father Fred fled. It was a snowy day and the next day his frozen body was found not far from where I had found Chickadee.

“The priest?” asked the Chief. “I can’t believe it.”

“Given the crimes of the Church I am not very surprised.”

Father Fred was buried on consecrated ground. I visited Chickadee and when I told her he was dead her voice blossomed through tears. Father Fred could not stifle her anymore.

THE END

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