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Find Anna-Marie Alive
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.”
© 2013 Frank Atanacio