Mary Had A Little Lamb: A Writing Exercise

Author’s Thoughts

This is simply me playing around. I heard a little kid reciting the old nursery rhyme, and it prodded me to head off in a dark direction.

If you aren’t into dark then thanks for stopping by; my suggestion is you leave right now. Lol

If you stick around and read, thanks a bunch.

Either way, it was nice seeing you again. I doubt this is going anywhere beyond this one chapter, but you just never know. My muse is in charge.

From the Nursery

“Mary had a little lamb,

It’s fleece was white as snow.

And everywhere that Mary went

The lamb was sure to go.”

High tide on the mudflats of Olympia
High tide on the mudflats of Olympia | Source

The Scene

It was the stark contrast that first got to me . . . bright pink pajamas with little dancing lambs, golden hair, ghostly white skin, all unnaturally bright under the July sun, a little girl named Mary Burnett, splayed out on a dark bed of tidal mud on Olympia’s waterfront. She’d been missing from her bedroom for twelve hours when an early-morning jogger spotted her. Ten hours earlier her frantic parents called the police, us immediately responding because, well, Mary was only four, and any missing four-year old is trouble.

Sea gulls rode the air currents above. A gentle breeze danced through my hair. The sounds of traffic on Pacific Avenue, two blocks away, a horn, a siren, someone shouting to get the hell out of the way, background noise for the stillness of death.

I was standing alongside Dawn Robie, Detective Grade Two, my partner in homicide, ten years on the force, someone I completely trust. The M.E., Doc Meyster, was standing next to us. Dawn looks more like a schoolteacher, but I’d never tell her that. Long auburn hair, usually in a bun, wire-rim glasses, slight build, she is unassuming and possesses a gentle face, not beautiful but stunning in her imperfect way.

“This just pisses me off, Bill,” she said, taking her eyes off the scene and watching a gawker drive by slowly. “Jesus Christ, Parker, block off this road,” she yelled at a uniform twenty feet from us. She turned back to me, studying my face. “What kind of sick world do we live in?”

She wasn’t expecting an answer. Good thing because I had none.

Dawn tried another question.

“How the hell did he put her body out there? There are no footprints leading to her.”

She was right. The mudflats of the estuary were exactly that, mud, and anyone foolish enough to walk on them would sink a good foot, maybe more, but Mary Burnett was twenty feet from solid ground and nowhere leading to her was there a footprint. It was as though she had been gently placed there from above, airborne special delivery.

Again I had no answer, and no answers would be forthcoming until we retrieved the young girl.

“We can’t disturb the scene and we need Doc out there. Let’s call it in, have someone deliver four or five sheets of plywood. We’ll use that to walk on, a straight line to the body . . . no, make it ten sheets of plywood. We want to approach the body from an angle; we can’t take the same path as the killer, assuming he took a straight-line route from where we’re standing.

“Sunrise was what, two hours ago? He had to have dropped her off within the last three hours, right? The tide pretty much dictates that. Is it coming in or going out? Dawn, get someone on that. Doc, we’ll get you to her as soon as the plywood is dropped off. I’m going to get a couple of the uniforms to canvas the area. Someone might have seen something unusual, and this definitely qualifies as unusual.”

“What do you think, Bill? Same guy?” Dawn asked.

“It sure feels like it.”

Burfoot Park
Burfoot Park | Source

The Background

If it was the same guy, Mary Burnett was number three on his list. The first two, both girls, ages five and three, had been strangled and molested. One such murder, in a city the size of Olympia, is alarming. Two is cause for uproar and hundreds of calls to the police hotline. This new one would have parents sleeping in the same room with their daughters, and dad’s registering for gun permits. The chief had labeled this series of killings as priority number one for the department, “nail this sick bastard and do it yesterday,” was his directive, and I had no doubt he was fielding calls from the mayor several times a day.

It had all started in April. Theresa Mullins, the mother of five-year old Angela Mullins, had taken her daughter to Priest Point Park to play on the Big Toys. She had walked thirty feet to a water fountain, her daughter playing happily on the swing, gotten a drink, turned around and Angela was gone. She re-appeared twenty-two hours later, floating face down in a pond at a nursery out on Lilly Road.

In June, three-year old Jaycee King went missing from her backyard where she was playing with her constant companion, a six-year old Golden Lab. Her mother, Sarah King, said it happened within a five minute window, the amount of time it took her to pull something out of the freezer and stick it in the microwave . . . five minutes to kill the dog and leave with the child.

Jaycee was found draped over the branch of a Douglas Fir alongside a popular jogging path at Burfoot Park.

And now, Mary!

At City Hall

The Medical Examiner’s office and city morgue are in the basement of City Hall, a three-story, all-glass structure in the heart of brick-and-mortar downtown Olympia, a visual pimple-on-the-ass attempt to modernize the capital city of Washington State. Six hours later, Dawn and I were with Doc Meyster as he conducted the autopsy of Mary Burnett. I felt it important that Dawn and I be there. This needed to be as personal as possible.

We had notified Mary’s parents, watched as two loving human beings were reduced to emotional rubble, and we promised to make the killer of their daughter pay for it.

I’ll never get used to the morgue. It’s a combination of factors, I suppose, the lingering smell of death, the temperature, the stainless steel examination table, the drains, the drawers in the walls, each containing what once was life, now containing the aftermath of violence and invasion.

I rubbed some Vicks under my nose, handed the jar to Dawn, as Doc’s saw started up and he began to cut and pull apart the young child. I thought of my own daughter, now eighteen, living with her mother in Eugene, saw her on that table, and shuddered.

It took two hours for our answer.

“Same guy,” Doc told us. “Mary was strangled and invaded. No DNA, but the technique is exactly the same as the other two, the strangulation the same, a knotted rope, half-inch in diameter. There were rope fibers in her neck where it had dug into her skin. Solve this case and you solve the other two, and you better hurry. Whoever did this has picked up his pace. He’s hungrier, bolder, and the next one will be happening very soon.”

The safe harbor of home
The safe harbor of home | Source

“you Better Hurry!”

I knew what Doc Meyster said was true, but his words of advice were as worthless as tits on a boar. Hurry with what? We had no clue, no DNA, no evidence of any sort. The guy appeared to be a phantom, appearing, disappearing, in the blink of an eye, and in this latest case he had done a Houdini we were still confused about. How the hell had he dropped Mary off in the middle of a tidal estuary without leaving footprints?

Dawn rolled over and put her head on my chest, her auburn hair loose, her finger tracing the outline of an old bullet wound just above my navel. The clock on the nightstand said it was two a.m. She and I had been breaking department regulations for the past three years. We didn’t give a shit, and as long as our arrest rate remained high, nobody else would care either. That’s just the way it was.

“Are you awake, Bill?”

“I can’t sleep, Dawn. Mary won’t let me. I keep thinking that sooner or later, if I remain on this job long enough, I’ll finally figure out what makes these sick assholes do this shit, you know? But I’m still as clueless as I was when I started on the force. This kind of darkness is unexplainable. Maybe we should both put in our papers, buy that farm we always talk about, and leave this shit behind us. It would be nice to wake up one morning and not smell death, you know?”

But my words were hollow and we both knew it. I was already excited by the chase. I was already inside the head of the sick bastard, thinking as he thought, feeling as he felt, and God help me, I needed it.

2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

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Comments 66 comments

Janine Huldie profile image

Janine Huldie 11 days ago from New York, New York

Wow, to the fact that this old nursery rhyme got your writer's wheel spinning in this direction. But would be interesting still nonetheless if you continued on with this short story and made into something more. Nevertheless, thanks for sharing with us here and Happy Thursday now, Bill!!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 11 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

I know, Janine, right? From a sweet nursery rhythm to something twisted. LOL I should be concerned about myself.

Thanks, as always, for being here, and Happy Thursday to you.

Coffeequeeen profile image

Coffeequeeen 11 days ago from Great Yarmouth

That was a really interesting story to read Bill, and all from hearing a child reciting an old nursery rhyme. Really enjoyed reading it. =)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 11 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you Queeen! I had fun writing on to other things. I appreciate you taking the time.

simplehappylife profile image

simplehappylife 11 days ago from United States

That was fun! Very well written and should definitely be a serial on amazon :) First person can seem tedious at times, but you pull it off well :)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 11 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you SA! Oddly I have always preferred writing in first person. :) It gives me a chance to pontificate a bit more. LOL

MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 11 days ago

Yes, Dear Bill, it is dark and sad, but you are a master of this kind of writing. And this stuff is the truth. I shed a tear or two just reading this because it reminded me of the abduction of six-year-old Morgan Nick from a little league ball game at Alma, Arkansas, in 1995. She or her body has never been found. The only good to come of it was the founding of the Morgan Nick Foundation by her mother, Colleen Nick, to aid in finding lost and kidnapped children.

Anyway, I hope you continue this story because you have me hooked.

On a lighter side, the Mary had a little lamb inspiration reminded me of a story my Mom told me. Her high school English class was given an assignment to write a poem, and one male student acted with as much enthusiasm as I felt for poetry at the same age. He wrote:

Mary had a little lamb,

She fed it castor oil

And everywhere it went

It fertilized the soil.

The teacher wasn’t happy. Have a great rest of the week, my friend.

always exploring profile image

always exploring 11 days ago from Southern Illinois

I love your style of writing. Someone could list several stories by different writers and I will know which one is yours. Please continue with this story, I've got to know WHO did these terrible murders?

Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 11 days ago from Germany

Wow! You got me hooked Bill. I hope there is a continuation of this story. Loved it. I always love thrilling, crime stories. Well done! Thanks.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 11 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Well thank you so much, Thelma! It was just something I threw together a couple days ago and thought I would toss it out to you nice to know you liked it.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 11 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Well shoot, Ruby, I don't have a clue who did the I'm curious. LOL Thank you dear friend.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 11 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Miz B, I'm going to be laughing the rest of the day about that little poem...very funny! Perfect for our urban farm.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read my dark exercise...perhaps I'll continue.

Enjoy your weekend! You deserve it.

Kaili Bisson profile image

Kaili Bisson 11 days ago from Canada

Sometimes you just gotta go where your muse takes you!

MsDora profile image

MsDora 11 days ago from The Caribbean

Not surprised that a real writer could create a story from the sound of a rhyme recited by a child. Thanks for sharing another resource possibility. And it is a story well told!

Venkatachari M profile image

Venkatachari M 11 days ago from Hyderabad, India

What a wonderful creativity! Bill, I am much fascinated with your skills. Enjoyed it a lot. Thanks for providing this wonderful story.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 11 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you so much, Venkatachari M. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 11 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

I appreciate that, Ms Dora! I hope you have a splendid day, my friend.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 11 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

True words, Kaili! My muse definitely has a dark side at times. :) Thank you!

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 11 days ago from Oklahoma

Cool concept!

Jodah profile image

Jodah 11 days ago from Queensland Australia

Gripping stuff, Bill. You have a way of getting the reader into the heart and soul of your main character. It is amazing how something as innocent as a nursery rhyme can inspire a murder mystery and the like but our minds work in strange ways. Of course I would like Bill and Dawn to catch the sick child killer, he promised Mary's parents he would :)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 11 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

We shall see, John! I suspect they are up to the challenge.

Thanks a bunch for being here.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 11 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thanks, Larry, for taking a stroll through my mind.

Missy Smith profile image

Missy Smith 11 days ago from Florida

Sometimes life is dark. It's just the way it is, and this story reminds me that I've known that all my life. It's the reason I've chosen to live very simple while my kids have been growing up. I could never fathom leaving them for an instant in a stranger's care, or if I'm honest, in a family member's care. Not that I would think they would hurt them, but like your story implies, it only takes five minutes, turn your head, and that's it! There are so many perverts out there.

I think this story will also be useful to readers. It's real life that will remind young parents never to let their children out of their sight for an instant.

I remember my mom letting us run free. I was even sent to kindergarten in a taxi cab all by myself. I can remember feeling bad about it, not comfortable at all. I never said anything until I was older, I didn't feel I could. God, I was such an extreme introverted child. Today, my mom will get angry, even if I mention it and say, "I did the best I could!" However, I couldn't see myself using that excuse with my kids. I hope that doesn't sound bad.

I've been criticized about not letting my kids play outside without me watching and things like that, but I don't care. I don't care at all. What they don't understand is I know how it feels to be in scary situations. I'm very thankful my fate wasn't like so many other precious children.

Yes, this story may be dark, but it's relevant to a big wake-up call. Much like the speech Ashton Kutcher gave to Congress yesterday. I cringe to think about what is going on in this world to little children. I can't be 100% positive that I am not shutting something out about my past. I always wondered. I was extremely shy, and I can remember feeling like I couldn't talk. I actually could not talk. I mean, who knows, but I hope your story affects some that are nonchalant with taking care of their kids. I'm not downing parents, but some are really naive.

clivewilliams profile image

clivewilliams 11 days ago from Nibiru

Poor Poor Mary. It's the Little lamb that needs to be first suspect.

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Michael Milec 11 days ago

Well, being sent away, without knowing the rest of the story, I am leaving . l "aren't " into ...

Goodbye dear friend.

Rodric29 profile image

Rodric29 10 days ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Bill, this was a capturing first episode. I look forward to more. I am still not back to writing hubs since the house fire but I am glad that I read this one. I love the sensory details. I am writing my personal history a few hours at a time. This inspired me to add some sensory details. Please keep this one up.

Genna East profile image

Genna East 10 days ago from Massachusetts, USA

Hi Bill. When you said this was dark, you weren't kidding. But you didn't sensationalize what happened to Mary Burnet, and Theresa and Jaycee. If we thought back in horror for a split second, we kept right on reading because of the fine skill and talent of your writing, drawing us into this mystery. And we seek justice in terms of how Bill and Dawn will catch this horrible serial, and hope he will come to experience everything that Karma has to offer. I hope more chapters will follow. We are hooked, my friend.

Suzie HQ profile image

Suzie HQ 10 days ago from Dublin, Ireland

Amazing where the mind leads us Bill, powerful creativity enjoyed reading this captivating piece, bravo my friend!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 10 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you Irish! I can't go dark very often for obvious reasons, but perhaps I'll keep this going for a little while.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 10 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Genna, thank you dear friend. I'll continue for a couple weeks...we need to catch the dude, right? :)

blessings always

billybuc profile image

billybuc 10 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Rodric, sending you peace of mind during troubling times. Thanks for taking the time to visit me and please do continue with your personal history.

btrbell profile image

btrbell 10 days ago from Mesa, AZ

What a power you captivate and mesmerize. I loved this story, as frightening as it is. Everything about it felt real!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 10 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Michael, I wishes, blessings, and love coming your way

billybuc profile image

billybuc 10 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Oh Clive, how your mind does work? :) Thanks my friend!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 10 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

All true, Missy! I don't think, as a parent, anyone can assume there is safety in the mundane. There is just too much evil out there to ever assume that. Just turn on the news each night and we come to realize that no one is truly safe.....thank you for sharing your thoughts. I love your mind and your compassion....truly I are a person I'm happy to call as a friend.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 10 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Randi, thank you so much. There is kind of a hypnotic affect some horror has on us, isn't there? I really appreciate your kind words.

Vellur profile image

Vellur 10 days ago from Dubai

Spine chilling read. Wonder whether they will arrest the killer, you should follow this up and am sure that this will make a great murder mystery.

lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 9 days ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


This was a great story, I think you got the emotions that the cops must feel when they see things like this right down to a tee!

I don't know if you've come across a book called 'The Shack' but the story reminded me of that book, a similar idea, but with the twist of a father trying to come to terms with what's happened..

I hope the story continues


annart profile image

annart 9 days ago from SW England

Wow, what a story! It's chilling but compelling; the perpetrator has to be found, bill! I hope we get some more of this one. It's always the same with crimes that involve children, isn't it? We think of our own, or ones we know and the thought is repellent; we end up wanting very rough justice for those who do such things to innocents.

At home trying to pack things now as the move looks like it might not be long.

Have a great weekend, bill!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 9 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Ann, I'm so glad you enjoyed my little trip into the dark. True, crimes against children seem to upset us parents something awful. I really don't like to go there in my writing, but my muse had other ideas.

Best of luck on that packing and move. Wishing you a smashing Saturday!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 9 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you Lawrence! I've never heard of that book but maybe I'll look it up.

Much-appreciated, my friend!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 9 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

We shall see, Vellur, but I'm so happy you enjoyed it. Thank you!

lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 9 days ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


I gotta warn you, it'll blow your mind on any conception of God you might have! The guy is really angry at him and, well lets just say it wrecks any idea you might have about him, but it's well worth the read.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 8 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thanks Lawrence! I have been warned. :)

Blessings always


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 8 days ago

Do the twisted minds ever sleep?

Causing every mother of a daughter to weep

And every father to go into a rage

As we must turn another page

Mary’s little lamb still cannot be found

Where is Mary’s little lamb?

Is it still looking for Mary upon the solid ground?

Or did it grieve in horror without a single sound?

Was it the little Lamb that led to the muddy end?

Or was it Ewe?



This shatters my peace of mind.

Blessings Bill

fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 8 days ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Bro..Since I cannot say you did not warn your readers (I would be one of those people)...I have only myself to blame. Well, maybe not...hmmm. I'll accept the blame for choosing to read. You, big bro, are responsible for being a master at everything you put in print....reaching into my mind & heart and soul and pulling me in so that not a tiny speck of me is left in the real world. Yes, it's your fault your writing is the art of pure magic.

So when I cannot sleep tonight....I will curse your damned genius. Don't take it personally??? :) Sis

shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 8 days ago from Texas

Wow! You are so wrong! Wrong, I tell you! And not for having a twisted mind. Because I could probably take something sweet and twist it, too. For the sake of a story, of course. But you are just plain wrong for suggesting that this is the only chapter! We must know how this one ends. You simply cannot expect us to sleep if Detective Bill can't even sleep with a sick SOB still out there roaming free. Too many unanswered questions for my brain. Inquiring minds NEED to know!

grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 7 days ago from Philippines

I love this story, Mr. Bill. The nursery rhyme, the evil contrast keeps the reader engaged, and then you get into the psyche of the detective. Yes, I very much agree with the rest that this could be the first chapter of your novel, and doubtless it will be compelling from start to finish.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 7 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you Mona! I'm working on Chapter Two now. I appreciate the support and kind words.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 7 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

LOL...Shannon, I promise, another chapter coming on Wednesday. I love reading stories like this one; hopefully I can write one. Thank you!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 7 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Sis, I'm so sorry! NOT!!!!!

LOL....I tried to warn you, dammit! But just like when we were kids, you had to find out for yourself, didn't you?

Happy Monday dear friend. Chapter Two coming soon.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 7 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Darn it, Shyron, I'm sorry about your peace being shattered. I guess I should be happy that you finished it. :) Thanks so much for the poem, my friend.

blessings always

fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 7 days ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

All I remember from my childhood is being in my room, feverishly doing your homework every day.....You BULLY!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 7 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

LOL...that was you???? I was wondering how I managed to pass sixth grade.

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 6 days ago from USA

I'm catching up on reading and wow did I miss a good one. This is really good stuff. This is what you need to write more of. This is what you do best. Great stuff.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Aw, Flourish, thank you so much. I guess this is where I'm most comfortable. I'm not sure what it says about me LOL but I guess I'll keep doing it.

jo miller profile image

jo miller 4 days ago from Tennessee

I'm hooked. And so are you I think.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

True, Jo! Chapter Two today. Thanks so much!

Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 days ago from Riga, Latvia

I do believe you are being led down the creative paths that other great writers get led down. Love the second gripping part as well. Looking forward to more.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you so very much, Rasma! I may be on the same path, but I've got a ways to go before my writing is where it needs to be.

phoenix2327 profile image

phoenix2327 3 days ago from United Kingdom

Wow. This is quite a departure from Max and Katie. I like the change of pace, though. I hope you continue this, Bill. I just have to know who done it and why.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thanks, Zulma! I'm having fun unraveling the mystery. I'll let you know who done it when I figure it out. :)

manatita44 profile image

manatita44 3 days ago from london

Brilliant! Outstanding! A mighty fine piece of writing, Bro. It is an area that you are a natural at, not easy for many. Superb stuff!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you so very much, Manatita! I am humbled by your words, my friend.

cam8510 profile image

cam8510 35 hours ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

The first sentence just grabbed me by the throat and dragged me into the story. Doc Meyster? Really? haha, love that name. Really well written, Bill.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 13 hours ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thanks Chris! That was my goal with that first sentence, so thankfully I was successful.

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