August 29

The Quiet Farm (Part 2)

[…continued from August 28 entry…]

 

Lara could see from a distance that the fences around the animal pens were broken.  The sheep and goats, horses and pigs, all seemed to have abandoned the Headley farm.

Walking closer, examining the breach in several places, she decided the damage wasn’t caused by human tools.  The wooden posts had been gnawed at, bitten and broken; the chicken wire, too, looked to have been snapped with teeth, bits of gum- and lip-flesh hanging from sharp clipped metal.

She couldn’t initially determine if the animals from within the pen had done the damage, desperate to escape…or if some outside predator had gnashed its way into their midst.

Checking behind a feed trough, she discovered not all the Headley animals had gone missing.  A large sow lay dead on the ground.  Its stomach was gnawed through as severely as the wood and wire fences, and the entire animal’s body looked almost…deflated.

Lara couldn’t imagine the Headleys would have stood by and let their farm be overtaken like this.  They had guard dogs, they had shotguns.  It didn’t seem possible that the animals could all have been taken without their cries reaching the main house.

She turned to the house now, walking slowly so as not to provoke a frightened response from within.  “Mr. Headley?  Arthur?   It’s me, Lara.  Are you home?”

When she reached the door, she expected it might be locked — or even barricaded from behind.  Instead, the door was ajar.  It opened easily as she pulled it.

Again she called out names from the Headley family — the parents, the eldest son and two daughters, the in-laws from the mother’s side.

The interior remained dark and silent.  No signs of life, but no signs of violence, either.

In the silent farm, her footsteps echoed loud on the wood floors and the well-worn area rugs.  She almost didn’t hear the weak voice from the crawlspace behind the stairwell.

“Please don’t hurt me.  Please.  I’ll be good.”

Lara announced herself again, in a quieter voice, gentle steps bringing her closer to what looked like a pile of clothes thrown in the corner.

The pile of clothes breathed.  It spoke.

“Please don’t hurt me like the others.”

Lara bent her knees, stooping closer to the frail girl who crouched on the ground, her hands locked behind her head.

“I’m not going to hurt you” Lara had spent enough time with the Headley girls to know this person wasn’t from their family.  The voice was too tender, the thin body bent in a nimble position the well-fed Headleys couldn’t have managed.

Lara reached out a tentative hand — the same motion that hoped to calm a nervous animal.  Her hand hovered over the girl’s shoulder, ready to pat her gently.

And the stranger’s head turned with a sudden jolt, her eyes flashing with fear.

Definitely not a Headley daughter.  Yet Lara recognized her…

 

[…continued tomorrow…]