Find Anna-Marie Alive

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351 acres of protected land and wildlife only made it much more difficult to find the missing child abducted early that morning. BridgeportConnecticut’s most successful private eye was leading the search party because of a lead that fell into his lap. He wanted to be there when they find the child.

Nick PT Barnum needed to find a live body.

He didn’t need a murder to investigate.

In all, Nick didn’t want to find a child’s body, still and stiff and void of all life. He’d settle for a cold, worried, eyes filled with fear child, but alive. Hell, he’ll even settle for an injured child, but the key word had to be alive.

The climbing was enough to pull legs and arms out of his sockets, but it had to be done. He almost turned around to retrieve one of his limbs that he was sure had fallen off. During the days of his military training he remembered going up a dozen or so of similar slopes, but he was twenty years old then and dreaming of combat. He later regretted the combat, and twenty was long gone and the climb just plain hurt.

Nick Barnum had bruised knees, scraped elbows and a pair of heaving lungs, and all he had to drive him forward was his determination to find Anna Marie alive.

He spat out dirt and wet leaves kicked back by two young police men, who were climbing ahead of him at a quicker pace. He could keep up with them if he had one more foot-hole, one more tree root to grab onto with his bleeding dirty fingers.

Suddenly something hit him in the back of the head and drove his face into a pile of caked dirt. He would lay almost flat against the wet soil face still in the mud and his eyes so dirty he couldn’t see anything in front of him. That’s when he realized that the younger police officers were tired of walking behind him; they just pushed him out of the way. He almost shouted to them that their clumsiness had knocked him down, but instinct kept him from speaking out. They had a job to do and he respected their efforts. He took the opportunity to rest for a moment, and then another moment, just in case.

The ground vibrated faintly. Footsteps! He heard footsteps coming from the other side of the climb. Nick would lie completely still. Above him the other officers had completely disappeared into the brush. He strained his eyes forward to see what was in front of him without wiping the mud from his face. It was as if he really didn’t want to know what was ahead.

Footsteps crunched across the crest of the slope. Two sets of footprints, three, maybe more, he just didn’t want to see what was there. In his heart he knew something wasn’t right. There was no jubilation, and no cheering, just footsteps. Dust burned his eyes. He squeezed them shut hoping they would water enough to soothe the burning. They did not and the desire to rub them was infuriating.

For a moment there was damnable calmness when there should have been screaming, shouting and Nick would have appreciated a flare of anger, anything that would have shattered the unsettling calm.

“Nick,” Detective Peter O’Brien called.

Nick PT Barnum stood up and was almost floored when he saw the young girl’s clothes nested near a tree. Someone had undressed her and folded her clothes neatly. Then Nick saw the tiny body with more than a dozen superficial blade wounds to Anna Marie’s face. The sick son of a bitch had enough ice in his veins to prolong her torture. Of course he had help. There were drugs and drug paraphernalia scattered on the ground. The sight just chilled his heart.

Five minutes of staring at Anna Marie’s body turned fear into anger, and anger into rage. Nick PT Barnum had a new agenda. He wasn’t looking to help the police make an arrest; he was going to kill that son of a bitch.

“Nick, we got another call,” said O’Brien. “Another girl was just abducted.”

Nick’s face dropped while the back of his legs were throbbing just trying to keep him up when he digested the news.

“Listen, we have to go investigate because it’s our job,” O’Brien continued. “You don’t’ have to, you can stay here with Anna Marie.”

There was nothing more Nick could do for the young girl so he turned away. “Pete, I have to go.”

O’Brien understood.






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© 2013 Frank Atanacio

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Comments 24 comments

Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

Boy I don't blame him; I would kill the sick sob too!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

Good story again Frank. I hope Nick Barnum never gives up until he gets his man. Pity it was too late for Anna Marie.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

The saddest thing about this, is how often it happens in real life. You've captured the horror, helplessness and anger brilliantly.


Theater girl profile image

Theater girl 3 years ago from New Jersey

You "had me at hello" so to speak! I was hooked from the first sentences. I like your way of weaving words together very much!


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 3 years ago from Hereford, AZ

Beautifully written story. I was heart-broken with Nick and totally understand his feelings.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton Author

thank you so much Jackie, Jodah, tobusiness, theater girl, Becky Katz, for reading my Anna Bless you all


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

Such a compelling read. You are such a marvelous writer in the way you capture the raw emotion of your characters.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton Author

Flourish you are way too kind bless you :)


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean

Reports of missing children always tug at our heartstrings. We may not think of the emotional turmoil which happens inside the officers who look for them. You showed that to us this time. Thank you.


Ghaelach 3 years ago

Hi Frank.

As I have a little criminal series running at the moment of which you have made comments. I can say that the task of writing such a story gets you so involved with the characters (as in "Ink Heart") that you feel for them. As this is about a little girl you could say that fiction has changed to non-fiction as this happens far to often. I could feel the pain that Nick went through as he found Anna-Marie. His after thoughts are what every mother and father think.

Well written Frank. Up and sharing.

LOL Ghaelach


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton Author

thanks so much Msdora and G--- for visiting my Anna Marie :) bless you both


SandCastles 3 years ago

Great, poignant writing as usual Frank Atanacio. The story also makes angry. I hope Nick finds that evil person. Why do people do such horribly evil things? Where I live, a man lost it and stabbed his entire family and a room mate, eveyone except for the baby, and then stabbed himself in the baby's room. He said the devil made him do it and had called his parents a day before the murder to tell them that he was possessed by the devil. This man was a professional man and didn't seem to have any mental issues (not reported anyway). It shocked the city and the police officers were devastated when they found the victims.


tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 3 years ago from California

Gut wrenching. Your clean concise style makes the reader angry and sick at the same.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

Another great write, Frank! Your Nick PT Barnum wrties are always compelling and, sadly, true to life.

Up and more and sharing

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours,

Faith Reaper


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton Author

sandcastles, Tireless and my ever Faithful Faith thank you for reading my Anna Marie :)


Jane Arden 3 years ago

O my goodness. Such a sad but realistic story!


mylindaelliott profile image

mylindaelliott 3 years ago from Louisiana

Yep, I would want to kill him too He might as well go to try to help the next girl.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton Author

thanks Jane and mylinda for stopping by :)


Valleypoet 2 years ago

Such a harrowing story, but as always, so very well told...great writing Frank:-))


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton Author

Valley thanks so much :)


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Frank, your stories and characters are always so very real. I felt Barnum’s anger, his frustration and deep sadness. I can’t imagine how real-life detectives must suffer when situations like this occur…and they do all too often. I find it almost impossible to maintain a Christian heart when considering the punishment that Anna’s killer – this monster -- deserves. Voted up and shared.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton Author

Genna thank you so much for reading Anna Marie


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Frank, This one chilled me to the bone. The pace was fast, the action unceasing, and the emotions right over the top. My heart went out to those officers who made the discovery and to Anna Marie who didn't deserve that end.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton Author

Pegcole thank you for reading my Nick Barnum short...:)

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