PART TWO: Wendi
Sweat beading my face, I jerked up in bed, stopping short of screaming. It was my first nightmare in a while, but having one never surprised me. Thirty years had come and gone. Yet still…I dreamt of their faces, that horrible town…and the lyrics of that eerie song.
What had I been dreaming of, anyway? I struggled to remember as I stood up, stretched, and made my way to the kitchen. Marianna was sitting in a kitchen chair, her back facing me. Dressed in a silky, baby blue robe, she was working hard at something, sifting through pages of reports, her ice-blonde hair covering half her face as she wrote.
Five years had come and gone since our first meeting. She’d matured, aged even. Based on my own age, I was more of a mother to her, but she called me her friend. Taking the seat across from her, she shot me a worried look.
“You were dreaming again…was it about Flocksdale?” she asked. Her bright azure eyes beamed at me.
I shrugged, reaching out to steal her coffee. I took a sip. Made a face at her. She always used too much sugar.
Marianna had no one but me. And…the others, of course.
We’d formed a club of sorts…the “Lost Girls,” we called ourselves.
Thanks to my late husband’s position as a police sergeant, I still had connections in the police force. For the past several years, “the club” had been following all reported missing persons cases coming through the system, specifically missing teenage girls.
Ever since we burned down half of Flocksdale, the evil in that town had been laying low. Not one of the cases we’d followed up on could be linked to Flocksdale. Yet, we still met weekly to discuss the cases we’d each reviewed.
Truth be told, I’d have given it up years ago—if it weren’t for Marianna. She was obsessed, pressuring me to bring as many copies of case files as I could manage.
“We need to talk,” I said firmly, returning her mug of coffee. It was time to tell her—all of this needed to stop. She had plans to attend community college and I was working as an advocate for child sexual abuse victims. I loved my work and I wanted nothing more than for her to find something she loved to do just as much. This obsession with Flocksdale and missing girls was holding her back, stifling her.
I’d recently set her up with a counselor to work through some of the trauma and grief. I’d even tried taking her to the gun range, tried teaching her how to defend herself and let out some steam. But she’d missed her last few appointments, and nothing interested her besides Flocksdale and the possibility of linking one of these cases to the town that nearly destroyed both of us.
“No, wait. Me first,” she interrupted, ruffling papers. She lifted up a missing persons report. It looked like any other. My reading glasses were in the bedroom, so I had to take it from her hands and squint at the tiny printed lines.
I skimmed it, sat the paper down. “Okay, what is it about this case? What makes you think it’s linked to Flocksdale this time?” I didn’t mean to sound condescending, but that’s exactly how it came out.
Marianna narrowed her eyes at me, but explained, “This girl, Josie Crowley…she went missing a week ago from a town called Lamison Point. That’s—”
“Far away from Flocksdale,” I finished for her, sighing. I stood up, moving around the kitchen as she rambled on.
“Here’s the thing, though…she took off after another incident…another girl—her friend, apparently—went missing several days before.”
“They probably ran away together, like the last ten cases we looked into,” I protested, pulling out an expired carton of eggs.
“Will you let me finish?” she shouted, slamming her fist down on the table. I stared at her, shocked by the outburst.
I set the spoiled eggs down and leaned against the counter, listening.
“The night before the first girl—Freya was her name—went missing, the girls were hanging out at a local carnival. The Carnival de Arcanorum—”
“The Carnival of Secrets,” I said, crossing my arms over my chest. Marianna gave me a surprised look. “I studied a little Latin while in rehab,” I said defensively.
“Instead of hanging out with her friend—Josie—Freya ditched her for a carnival worker. Josie was mad, so she left Freya there. Needless to say, Freya never turned up at school the next day.
And when Josie went back to the carnival, the carnival had skipped town.” I gestured for her to continue.
“Josie was cooperating with the police. Telling them everything she knew…and then she turned up missing too. Only, in her case, she called her parents a couple days later. She told them that she had to find Freya and she was following a lead of sorts…”
“This still doesn’t sound like anything the police can’t handle, Marianna. I thought you were going to fill out those apps—”
“I’m not done,” she reminded me again, giving me an icy cold glare. “Right before she took off, Josie went to her local librarian, asking for help finding an author. She wasn’t sure it was relevant at the time, but that librarian recently came forward—after weeks of no sign or word from Josie—and she told the parents the name of the author Josie was so intent on finding.”
Frustrated, I went back to the spoiled eggs. I took down an earthenware bowl. Started cracking away.
“According to the librarian, Josie said that if she could track down the author, she could find the carnival. So the author must have worked at the carnival, right? Well, the writer’s name was Lucinda Livingston.”
I suddenly remembered my dream. Less of a dream, and more of a memory…Marianna’s face in that tiny window, like my own face reflecting back at mine…I’d nearly burned the house down with her in it. I was trying so hard to destroy Flocksdale, that I nearly destroyed her too. Maybe I’ve already destroyed her…by bringing her here with me, turning my obsession into hers.
I was barely listening now. “Wendi, did you hear what I just said?”
“I’m sorry…what?” I asked, shattering the egg’s delicate shell on the hard, unbreakable bowl.
“I tracked her down…the author she mentioned. Turns out, she really is an author…and guess where she’s from? A tiny northeastern town, a town barely anyone’s heard of…you might know it…” she said, shuffling through her papers.
I turned around, giving her my full attention.
“It’s about time you listened,” Marianna said, her icy blue eyes boring holes into mine. She was no longer ruffling papers, but staring at me intently.
She was holding a piece of paper in her hand, gripping it so tightly I could see the veins in her hand.
“Flocksdale,” we said in unison.
My body jerked, bumping the edge of the bowl with my elbow. I watched the bowl crash to the ground, shattering into a million pieces, runny bits of egg leaking all over the kitchen floor.