We’re glad you came back to read the Part 4 of “Riding the Black Horse” and we hope you are enjoying Coffin Hop. If you need to catch up with the story, here are links to the other parts:
Of course, it wouldn’t be Coffin Hop without a devilish contest. This year we’re giving away a signed copy of Seeds of Love and Anguish and a signed copy of our first book, Bones of the Woods. You can enter the contest three ways:
Each thing you do will add your name once to the devil’s derby. Yes, that’s John E. Miller appearing as the devil and he will be the one to draw the winner’s name.
And now it’s time to take a ride with me….
Riding the Black Horse
by Rachelle Reese
Joanne tried Aimee’s phone again as she started the coffee. Still no answer. She cracked eggs into a bowl and started whisking them, harder than necessary even if she’d been making a soufflé, which she wasn’t.
Frank came in and turned on the television. “No answer?” he asked.
“Not a word.” Joanne chopped up some tomato, letting a little anger out with each punch of the knife. “It’s not like her.”
“It’s just like her.” Frank unfolded the newspaper and started to read. Joanne could never understand how he could listen to the television and watch the newspaper at the same time, but that was his routine.
“I know.” Joanne said softly and scraped the tomatoes into the bowl. “Do you want cheese in your omelet?”
“Better not. Remember what the doctor said about my cholesterol.”
“Right. Maybe I should buy yoghurt instead of eggs.”
“Eggs are fine a few times a week. I’ll pick up some oatmeal for the other days.”
“Alright.” Joanne poured the egg mixture into the pan. They sizzled and the steam rose up.
“A woman’s body was found early this morning on the 900 block of Elm Avenue. The identity of the woman is unknown. The police department is asking for any information about a missing person.”
Joanne’s stomach turned over. “Do you think we should report her missing?” she asked softly.
“Now why would we do a thing like that? She’s a grown woman. Not a smart one, but she’s an adult.”
“Did you hear anything the news said?”
“No. I was reading the editorials.”
“There was a woman’s body found on Elm Avenue.”
“Even Aimee has sense enough not to go to that part of town. That’s where the junkies…” Joanne started to cry. Frank put down the paper and took her in his arms. “Now, honey, we don’t know it’s her. Lots of women die down there.”
“I just have a bad feeling.”
“If it’ll make you feel better, we’ll drive down there after breakfast. Britt can watch Colby. I’m taking my gun though.”
“Thank you,” Joanne kissed her husband. “I know I don’t say it often, but this time I hope you’re right about me being paranoid.”
Aimee sat on a stoop near the spot where her heart had slowed to a stop for the last time. She hoped Shawn would come back, but she doubted he would. She knew from experience they didn’t give children born drug addicted back to their mothers without a struggle. She was alone now and she knew it. She’d watched them put her body on a gurney and pull the sheet over her head. She’d heard the silence of her heart.
She sat and watched as the sun rose over the ruins of what had once been a city where people worked and shopped and raised their families. She watched a preadolescent sell a handful of pills to a schoolmate. She called out a warning, but no one heard. She watched pregnant teenager tie a tourniquet around her arm and put a needle inside her vein. She saw women clutch shaking children to their breast and toddlers going door to door calling for their mothers. Every now and then, one of the children’s eyes would rest on her as if they could see her, but when she tried to speak to them, they turned away.
The sun was high in the sky when a familiar Oldsmobile drove down the road and turned into the alleyway where she sat. Her parents got out of the car and stood for a moment, looking down at the spot where her body had lay. The chalk outline was there on the sidewalk. Her mother kneeled down and for a moment, Aimee thought she was praying, but then she began pulling weeds in the little yard of the abandoned tenement next to the chalk outline. Her father took a hoe from the car and joined in. Together they worked side-by-side as Aimee had seen them work every springtime when she was a child, planting the garden that would feed their family all summer long.
“Mommy?” she called out. “I didn’t want to do it. Justin put them in me.”
Her mother didn’t look up. She just went on pulling weeds. When the little patch was cleared, she drew furrows with her finger and sprinkled seeds in each furrow. Aimee couldn’t read the packet, but she knew what her mother had planted – morning glories because they would rise up and cover the ugliness of the tenement near where her daughter had taken her last breath, and near the road nasturtiums because they had always been Aimee’s favorite.