A Baby’s Cry

The Genre Stretch challenge this month was for a ghost story.  There’s a description of a murder.  It was interesting to be able to connect it to another set of stories that I had written long ago.

**

Sometimes we must do terrible things in the name of love.  Love had turned Henry into a killer.

It had all started out so innocently.  He’d been interested in the girl and, after seeing her a few times from afar, he’d decided to talk to her.  That was how all the great romances started, wasn’t it?  A chance encounter that led to so much more…

However, Henry hadn’t realized when he met Connie Blair that he wasn’t living a modern day romance.  If anything, he was trapped in a horror story.

It wasn’t until he had dated Connie for a few months that he met her father: Boss Jacob Blair!  Her father had big plans for Henry and he was in a position to put Henry just where he needed him to be.  Before the next month was out, Henry had been promoted and placed on a team within the wardens office.  Of the five wardens on that team, two were already in Blair’s pocket.  Now, thanks to Henry’s love for Connie, there was a third.

Even so, Henry mostly just warned Blair’s people of pending raids.  There was no harm in that, just no arrests.  That had changed when one of those calls had resulted in a death.  There was a witness that could tell the wardens where Blair’s people had gone – who had proof that they were there in the first place.  That would never do.

Henry had waited for the girl at an appointed time – late in the night, when no one would see what was about to happen.  She came out of the library and he followed her back to the garage.  Hers was the only car in sight and, as she hurried to it, he stole up behind her.

He caught her around her waist and covered her mouth.  No one had told him about the baby.  As Henry dragged the woman into a dark corner of the garage, it began to cry.  He pushed the woman to her knees and forced her to lay the infant, still wrapped in its blanket, on the ground.  Then, as the baby’s cries grew louder and more frantic, Henry did what he’d been ordered to do.  He wrapped a cord around the woman’s neck and tightened.  He used another cord to bind the woman’s wrists.  Then, he lowered her to the ground and let her die.

He looked at the infant.  What could he do with the baby?  He considered taking it.  Perhaps he could give it to Connie or leave it at a children’s home or the hospital.  He didn’t take it, however.  Instead, he covered the infant’s face with the blanket and pressed his hand down over its mouth.  The woman, near death, struggled to escape – to save her child.  However, soon, she fell completely still and so did her child.  Henry laid the baby beside her and hurried away.

That was the end of it.  That was supposed to be the end of it.  However, that wasn’t how things worked out.  Now, he heard the infant sobbing everywhere he went.  It would wake him in the night.  It would startle him at work.  It drove him to distraction and he made a mistake: he forgot to clear the call log.

Pemberton found the evidence.  The only honest member of the team had sent that call log to the authorities.  Henry ran the moment he heard that the Agency was after him.  He was sleeping in the woods, hiding from both the Agency and Blair’s organization.  He woke to hear a sobbing baby and, as he lifted his head, he saw something that sent chills down his spine.

The woman he’d killed was standing over him, holding her baby close.  She was exactly as she’d been when Henry had attacked her.  The only difference was that he could see the trees behind her – through her.

Henry nearly screamed as she reached out to him.  Then, he noticed that she was holding something.  Torn between fear and curiosity, he reached out to her.  He was trembling as he took the item from her hand.  It was a pendant.

As he looked up from the pendant, she vanished and the child’s cries faded into silence.  He frowned at the pendant and then startled when he heard a branch snap somewhere nearby.

He had sat up once again when the lights flicked on all around him.  He was caught.  The Agency had found him at last.  He raised his hands, the locket dropping on the blanket he’d laid out when he’d settled down to sleep.

Frowning, one of the agents stooped and lifted the pendant.  He examined it for a moment and then glared at Henry.  “Where did you get this?” he breathed.

“Chris?” one of the others said.  When he thrust the pendant at the other agent, he looked at it in horror.  “This… this belonged to your wife.”

“Her killer stole it,” the agent called Chris said.  He grabbed Henry by the front of his shirt and pulled him to his feet.  “You better have a good reason why you’ve got that pendant, Leonardi.”

Henry released a soft laugh and nodded.  In a soft voice, he said, “She gave it to me.”  He looked out into the trees and said, “The ghost gave it to me.”  Then, he was telling them everything.  He knew he would be lucky to go to prison.  If this agent had his way, he’d be executed.  He amended the thought as other agents pulled him away from the scene.  If this agent had his away, he’d never make it to trial.

Shaking his head, Henry said, “It was all such small things at first.  I – I didn’t want to kill her, but what choice did I have?”

“You best quit while you’re ahead,” one of the other agents said, as he pulled Henry’s wrists behind his back and locked them in place.  He heaved a sigh and murmured something about solving the murder.  All Henry could wonder was if he would finally have some peace now.  Would he have escaped from the torture he’d endured since he killed that woman and her baby.  When the agents were dragging him over to the car, he heard it.  It started off soft and distant, but it slowly grew louder: the sound of a baby crying.

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