In Dragged Off, the fourth story in the #CemeteryHillSeries, part of Tales from the Mountain, three people are forcibly taken from the township.
Can the sheriff and other officers, with the help of the men from Cemetery Hill Township, figure out who or what took them, before it’s too late?
And who do they bring back when they return? It’s someone from Willa’s past.
Find out the answers to these questions in this short story by Shannon L. Buck. $3.99 (See excerpt below.)
Excerpt from Dragged Off
The Cemetery Hill Series Part 4
A Tales from the Mountain Story
By Shannon L. Buck
When they woke the next morning, she made toast and eggs, and served them with milk. She added a few hard-boiled eggs to her husband’s lunch, and took the rest of the cheese and bread with her to her parents cabin. Before Wes left her there, he kissed her and held her for a minute.
“Please be careful,” she begged. “You don’t know what those people are like. They’re evil.”
He soothed her. “I remember everything you told me about them. I will be careful, Willa,” he said, holding her face in his hands as he looked deep into her eyes. “Is there anything else you can remember about how you got there. Anything, no matter how small.”
She hadn’t thought about that time in her life in so long, but things just sort of rushed back at her. “I remember going past a red schoolhouse. And then he took a left onto a road that didn’t look like a road.”
“What do you mean?”
She hesitated, remembering. “It didn’t look like a road, but it looked like a place where people might pull off the road. I remember thinking we were going to stop, then thinking he was trying to drive us straight into some trees. My heart jumped right up into my throat, but then he veered right and there was a wide path, barely big enough for the truck to fit in.”
“That’s good Willa. Can you remember anything else.”
“Not much. Just that it was a rough ride due to all of the rocks and stumps on the path.”
Wes kissed his wife and told her that she’d done great. He brought her in to her mom, and told everyone that she had provided him with a couple of leads. The men took up there rifles, went out and piled into two pickups, and were off. The children watched them from the porch before they were made to go inside, waving to the men who sat in the back of the trucks.
The men were not back by sundown. Willa and everyone else who had remained within the community were worried, even when she reminded them that Wes had told her they would not be coming back until they’d found Mamie and Little Eileen. He was serious, too. She could tell. “He’s tired of people taking and killing off those that he cares about, and he’s meaning to do something about it.”
Bright and early the next day, everyone was up and outside, needing to use the outhouse. They all stayed together, going back inside a few at a time. When there were six people left outside, two men grabbed Edna Knowles and dragged her off. They held a gun to her head so the other ladies wouldn’t follow. The women were scared they would shoot Edna, so they did nothing to prevent the men from taking her.
Willa had been inside helping to get breakfast, so she didn’t see the men. If she had, she could have told the women that they were Bobby’s father and brother.
She, her mother, and a couple of others took guns with them to Ingrahm’s store, to radio Wes so he would know to look for Edna as well.
Night fell again, and still no sign of Wes and the others. Everyone ate dinner, and Willa thought she should have packed more food for Wes. She decided the other women were likely thinking the same, and worrying about their husbands as she was hers.
The women put the children to bed early, and sat around working on sewing, quilting, or rug braiding to try to busy their hands and minds. Maryjane read aloud to them from Gone with the Wind. She was at the part where Scarlet was attacked.
After a while, Willa got up and looked out the window. She heard a truck coming, maybe two. She was relieved when she saw her father in the light of the lantern Mildred had left on the porch. Her mother opened the door, and the men entered one by one. As they entered, so a small group of children children. One little girl was familiar to them, and being carried in by her own father. Little Eileen and Mamie were back home.
Willa ran to Wes and hugged him tight. As she looked at her father coming through the door, she noticed that he was helping a girl in. On closer inspection, she realized it was Carol Lee, her first husband Bobby’s sister. Looking at Carol Lee and all of the children, Willa was glad she was granted an annulment based on abandonment. They were messy, and they all had bruises. Carol Lee was bleeding. It was a horrific sight.
Willa ran to Carol Lee. They were happy to see each other and to know they were each alive. She helped to get Carol Lee settled into a rocking chair, and all of the children settled onto the floor nearby, while Mildred chopped more meat and vegetables to add to the pot on the fire. Willa poured each of the children some water, and made Carol Lee a cup of tea. While they waited for the pot of stew to cook, Wes told the women what they had been through.
“We didn’t mean to frighten you. We were hoping to be back yesterday, or at least this morning. We found the camp yesterday as a few of the men there were leaving on foot. We had to wait for them to return so we could, hopefully, get everyone at once. Berry even called in more officers because we thought we would be able to get everyone into custody by late last night or early this morning. It didn’t work out that way for us though.
“We waited and waited, and they didn’t return until almost noon today. They were dragging someone in with them. We were hiding in the trees, and as they got a little closer we could see that it was Edna. Sadly, we could tell she wasn’t alive. It was a hard thing for us to see, and I think all of us who live here were fighting back tears at that point. They dumped her on a porch, and talked about burying her later. It was horrible.”
He took the mug of coffee that Willa handed him. “We went in not long after. We approached quietly, a team going through each cabin door. I can only tell you what happened in the cabin I entered. I went in with Berry, Havris, Lawrence, Martin, Alton, and three officers.
“We snuck up to the door, and I kicked it open. There was commotion inside as they all jumped up and started for the door. One of them shot Lawrence, and he was down. I heard one of the old men say ‘Bobby, watch out!’ as Berry went after a young man. I just couldn’t help myself. I went right after the guy they called Bobby, grabbed him, and pushed him against the wall.
“All around me, there were shots and shouts. I heard Berry yell, ‘watch out for the young girl and the children!’. I hit Bobby in the face a couple of times, before I heard Berry saying not to kill him. I came to my senses and put cuffs on him, staying with him as the others got the rest of the people down, put cuffs on them, and escorted them out of the cabin.
“I noticed a fire had broken out, and, I’m sorry to say, was not able to get to Lawrence in time to get his body out. The state police will take care of that for us when they go back up, so we can give him a proper burial.
“I heard a little voice call out ‘sheriff, help me,” and looked up to see Little Eileen, along with Carol Lee and her three children. I put out some flames with my jacket and was able to save them all.”