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BLOOD AND BONES
Freshly spilled blood is wet, shiny, and startlingly crimson. Newly exposed bone is a pearly, glowing white.
Blood and bones. Before the night was out, Nick Walker would see things that would drop him to his knees. Before the week was out, he would do things he would have said were impossible. And he would learn truths that he would desperately wish were lies.
A GOOD GIRL
In a little over an hour, seven-year-old Mariana Chavez would be lying in a ditch, her unseeing eyes staring at the stars.
But for now, Mariana lay on her back looking up at the lights on Home Depot's faraway ceiling. She was stretched out on a low, flat cart topped with curved bars that looked like an orange jungle gym. She lifted one of her legs so she could admire her new rain boot, red with black dots. The best part were the toes, decorated with eyes and antennae. The boots looked just like ladybugs.
"Why is this so confusing?" Mariana's mom muttered as she scanned the rows of little round pieces of shiny metal and black rubber that would somehow fix the drippy kitchen faucet. "And why must Mr. Edmonds be so"-she paused and Mariana knew she was skipping over a swear word-"so useless?"
Mr. Edmonds was their apartment manager. He was the one who was supposed to fix things. Only two years ago he had tried to fix the leaking toilet and just made it worse. And after that, Mariana's mom had started just trying to fix anything that broke herself.
Mariana also didn't like Mr. Edmonds, but for different reasons. When her mom wasn't watching, he sometimes stared at her. And said things to her, too, about how pretty she was, about how she seemed older than seven. It wasn't that she minded being told those things. She just didn't like to hear them from Mr. Edmonds, who looked a little like a tanned lizard.
Finally her mom picked something and paid for it. When they drove home, it was already growing dark. Mariana helped carry in the groceries they had bought before going to Home Depot, staggering a little under the weight of the bags.
"You're a good girl, Mariana," her mom said, resting her hand briefly on her shoulder. "You're a good helper."
Helper reminded Mariana of what would come next. Putting away the groceries and then holding a flashlight while her mom swore at the wrench and the faucet and Mr. Edmonds and complained that Mariana wasn't holding the light still.
"Can I go over to Hector's to play?" Hector was her best friend. He lived in the next apartment building.
Her mom was already shaking her head. "I don't think so, honey."
"Please..." Mariana drew the word out.
Her mom relented. "Okay. I guess you've earned it."
But when Mariana knocked on the door to Hector's apartment, no one answered. It was fully dark now. She knocked again, but there were no sounds from inside. She was dragging her feet back down the walk, not at all eager to go home and hold the flashlight, when she spotted something that made her stop.
A kitten. A little black-and-gray-striped kitten. It took one startled glance at her and then ran around the corner.
Mariana loved kittens. And if she brought this one home, maybe this time her mom wouldn't say no. Not when it was right there in their apartment and already best friends with Mariana.
Hands outstretched, Mariana ran around the corner and into the darkness.
* * *
Ninety minutes later, Mariana's mom called Hector's mom to say it was time for her daughter to come back. And learned that the family had only been home for fifteen minutes-and that they had not seen Mariana.
Copyright © 2015 by April Henry