Halloween Ghost Story Contest -- 2011
Adult Winners

First Place

Our first place Adult winner is Leonard Varasano of Sea Bright, New Jersey. Mr. Varasano writes:

In addition to TVOSL my story Father Knight recently won Editor's Choice top honors at Novella contest # 2 - If you enjoyed reading TVOSL please visit and read some others I've posted there (gratis! - just follow the prompts).

Light a candle at sundown, pour a glass of your favorite libation and savor the words of:

The Vision Of Sara Lyle

Leonard Varasano

In the desolate countryside many kilometers to the north of London, on the outskirts of the town of Hobbs, two young lads walked along a dirt road lined by aged, gnarled oaks, encompassed by swamp, in the shadows of towering cliffs. As they approached an adjoining trail leading off into dense thickets, the older lad veered off, while the smaller boy hesitated.

“Mum doesn’t want us to go through there,” the younger lad whispered fearfully, looking up at his older brother. “She wants us to stay on Gully Road... you know that. She’ll be spanking mad!”

“Stop being a sissy-boy.”

“Don’t call me that!”

“Well, Michael, that’s what you are. If you want to follow me, fine. If not, take the long, sissy-boy way home.” The taller lad turned and disappeared down the trail, leaving his little brother standing beneath the dark canopy of interwoven branches of the great oaks rimming the road. It always seemed darker beneath those trees, and no more so than the present, now that the sun had dropped behind the hills.

Michael looked up at the tall cliffs, imposing, dark palisades extending to the darkening sky, and shivered. “You’re not supposed to leave me, Colin!” he shouted.

There was no answer, beside the faded echo of his voice from the distant, rocky bluffs.

He wanted to follow his brother, but was too scared. Nearly in tears, he chose to stay on Gully Road, and started running fast as his seven year old legs would carry him.

Colin had made his way deep into the brush. Finally, he heard footsteps coming up quickly behind him. Running footfalls crunching leaves. Sissy-boy is getting braver, he thought, and then realized the steps were much too heavy for little Michael. Alarmed, he started to turn, but a large arm hooked him around his throat from behind, choking his cry before it could reach his lips. He tried to struggle, but was yanked off the ground, helpless against the strength of his attacker. As the vise tightened around his thin neck, I’M DYING! was the last living thought he ever had.

And so went the first of many disappearances of a child from the village of Hobbs. Throughout northern England, it was whispered that a modern day curse had enveloped the village, as one child per year was taken after Colin had vanished. Despite vigilant parents and guardians hovering over the children, an opportunity would always arise, and a child would disappear. The frantic villagers would mount an ineffectual search, with the same result: Failure to locate a body.

On three occasions, the trail would lead to the quicksand bog beside Gully Road. Had the child fallen in? Pushed in? Did the trail really end there, or was that simply a ruse?

Even the hounds had failed. Once, the dogs had led searchers to the local ne’er do well’s house. Little did the group know, that the killer had deliberately baited the property with the missing child’s clothing, then returned to join their ranks prior to the search commencement. The murderer, a pillar of the community, helped incite the search party to mob-induced violence.

During the brutal interrogation, the man was beaten severely and died. Still, the missing child was never found. And then, the next year, another child disappeared.

Twelve long years had come and gone since Colin had disappeared. During that time, eleven others, nine boys and two girls, had simply vanished without a trace.

It was true that the bodies were near the quicksand bog. But the killer, a lifelong resident of this area, had, as a child years before, discovered a narrow, invisible trail of igneous bedrock lying just beneath the quicksand surface, leading to a peat bog, an excellent medium for burying and preserving bodies. No one else knew of this trail.

So it was there, in the desolate, God-forsaken mire below the great cliffs that the murderer buried the small corpses, under cover of darkness, where the swamp and night melded and reigned supreme.


During that dreadful span, there’d come a time of year when the mountain mists would cascade down the palisades in a spiraling fleece, blanketing the unmarked cemetery in an opaque fog. From there, the children’s spirits would arise to perform their macabre dance, to the beating pulse of the black night; a caliginous pulse real as a living heart, to this they would move in a whirling circle above the ground, the dance of death, holding hands, spinning faster and faster to the insidious throb of the earthly hell that was theirs.

The mist was so thick, that none alive had ever seen the ghostly prance, but the cacophony of restless souls, forever damned in earthbound perdition while awaiting justice done in their name, was said to have been heard from Gully Road and the swamp beyond.

It was during the fortnight leading to All Hallows Eve, when the spirits would converge in earnest, arising at dusk. With their communal lament consummating All Saints Day, they’d call for the soul of the one who had forced them all into their present and final state. The children would clasp hands, floating, circling their unmarked and ungraced graves, free from another year of hellish limbo, free for the one night when the dead may return to the world of the living.

Now, through the ethers, the spirits sensed an unprecedented opportunity. A convergence of the fates was at hand, setting to conspire for them. A living, young child, one with the ability to see them, to hear them, to allow them access to the world of their killer, would soon be in their midst.


Sara Lyle hadn’t always been different than the other children. On the contrary, she’d always been a beautiful little girl, with the brightest smile, and prettiest bows adorning her curly, auburn locks. With her little girl friends, she would play tea party, and they’d dress up their dolls and kittens in miniature Victorian gowns, then parade through her garden, alongside the pool filled with emerald-hued water, where orange, fantailed fish swam slowly amongst water hyacinths and pond lilies.

After the complications that arose during Sara’s birth, her mother had become a sickly, bedridden young woman, so Sara was raised by a nanny, and of course, her father, Sir Franklin Lyle. When her mother had died when she was a toddler, Sara was too young to understand the reality of death, so she grew up believing that her mother was in heaven, watching down on her. That was Sir Franklin’s wish for his daughter to think that, because inside his broken heart, he knew that to be true.

But the true differences that set Sara apart began that dark day when she contracted the raging undulant fever, presumably from drinking unpasteurized milk. Priests were called to the Lyle residence, where they administered her Last Rites while she lay submerged in an ice bath. Though she did not die, the girl’s existence changed from the happy-go-lucky glee of childhood, to a world of never-ending nightmares, where joy was a full night’s sleep without baneful, debilitating visions.

Too many nights of sudden and horrible visions forming within her mind’s eye forced the child to mature too abruptly. Though her father brought in a succession of doctors and specialists, with their elixirs, prescriptions and pseudo-cures, her mind’s eye never lost the ability to siphon images conjured through the air, inexplicably released from seemingly brutal deeds of horror and violence.

The new gift was not limited to visualizations. Sara was dually transformed, displaying a highly developed sketching talent, able to record her visions with utmost clarity, dead-on details from the murder that only an eyewitness would know. Those horrible details that sound benign on paper, such as multiple, bilateral lacerations, eviscerations, decapitations, strangulations. One can only imagine the impact on a young child, enduring the graphic horrors of these murders, the types of weapons used, the facial imagery of killer and victim, and then, swiftly developing the telling scenes as images of charcoal upon paper.

While her classmates were still playing dress up and serving tea, Sara would now spend her days recuperating from those sleepless nights drawing pictures of dark and foreboding scenes, violent images that couldn’t possibly be conceived by a child’s mind. So vivid were these drawings, that one day a constable arrived at the Lyle home, inquiring about the child artist. Sara’s reserved father, Sir Franklin, though concerned, did not seem particularly surprised that the police would want to see her drawings. The neighborhood girls would still visit with Sara when she was well enough. Invariably, they’d ask to see her macabre drawings, and she’d show them. One of the girls had a father who was an officer on the local precinct.

The night that Constable Charles Winston’s daughter informed him about Sara’s drawings, they had just finished eating dinner. He was reading in the parlor by the fireplace, engrossed in the sensational newspaper account of the murder of a renowned London socialite. The maid had found the woman dead in her bedroom chamber, and the police speculated that she had known her assailant, as the house had not been broken into. But there was much more to the story then what the newspapers had printed. Winston’s position with the police department allowed him access to the real sequence of events.

First, the police had not released the full details of how the woman was killed. She had been garroted from behind with a thin strand of rope.

Because of the victim’s celebrated social status, the heat was on from Windsor Castle for an arrest to be made quickly. But the prime suspect, as it turned out, was the victim’s estranged husband. He, too, was from an equally prominent family, afforded the lofty protection that only went to the very wealthy. The scuttlebutt was that the police had nothing that could directly connect him to the murder. To complicate matters further, his family had retained London’s most renowned defense barrister.

So while Constable Charles Winston read the account, his daughter Kate was trying to get his attention. She would talk, and he’d absently nod and say “Yes, my dear.”

But then Kate began talking about Sara, and her drawings. And when she spoke of the dead woman, and a length of rope, Charles started paying notice. And when she said, “The man had rope wrapped around his hands,” he put down the paper, directing his full attention to his daughter. There was too much of a coincidence, between what the girl said and what really happened, for him to ignore.

The next day at work, Winston approached the station Inspector with his findings. The man was skeptical, but knew Winston to be a solid constable. Plus, though not advertised to the public, he knew the police had consulted with psychics on occasion. He granted Winston some leeway for follow-up.

That night, Winston walked the four blocks to the Lyle residence. After some small talk with Sir Franklin, with whom he was acquainted, he explained the reason why he was there.

A distraught Sir Franklin frowned as he thought of his poor daughter, and the new ordeal that she must now endure. “Constable, you must promise me that you will not frighten her. Go gently, please. Between losing her mother when she was a toddler, and now, with these visions of hers, she’s been through quite much, I’m afraid,” he said, leaving the room.

After a few minutes, Franklin returned with Sara. The constable’s heart dropped at the sight of the pale, haggard little girl, listlessly devoid of happiness. Dark circles ringed her eyes, as she looked like she hadn’t slept in days. Winston suddenly felt absurd for having disturbed them. Sensing the policeman’s hesitation, Sir Franklin broke the awkward silence. “Sara, this is Kate’s father, Constable Winston. He’s heard about a drawing you’ve made. He’d like to see it.”

“I didn’t do anything wrong, did I?” Sara asked with a quivering lower lip.

“Of course not, my child,” the constable spoke up. “Quite the contrary. Your drawing might help us catch a bad person, Sara. Scotland Yard, and Her Majesty the Queen would be forever grateful.”

Sara smiled a bit at the thought that she could do something that would be appreciated by the Queen.

The detective asked her about a particular drawing that he’d heard about, where a man was holding a short length of thin rope, wrapped in each hand, around a woman’s neck. And though Sara didn’t know what the word garrote meant, she knew exactly what one looked like, thin strands wrapped and knotted in the killer’s hands as it was.

Sara nodded, moving to her desk, the site where she’d often interpret her thoughts into transfixing images. Leafing through her macabre manuscript, she withdrew one of the sketches and handed it to the constable. The man was taken aback by the darkness and intrinsic detail of what was undoubtedly a murder scene. How could a child conceive such horrible images? Yet the details of the drawing were complex, and the killer’s facial portrait, including an unusual birthmark on his cheek, and puffy, coiffed hair was a dead ringer for the suspect, the estranged husband of the socialite victim. Winston couldn’t take his eyes off the drawing and the harrowing expression on the victim’s face, with its bulging, lifeless eyes.

Suddenly, Sara clutched at her chest, breathing hard. “It’s starting!” she cried. The startled constable watched as Sir Franklin quickly went to her side, pushing a charcoal stick into each of her hands.

“It’s usually at night when this happens. I guess most murders occur at night, Constable?” Sir Franklin asked. “That’s usually when she draws…hardly ever happens during the day.”

Icy fingers clasped the back of the gaping policeman’s neck at the sight accosting his eyes. Sara’s face contorted with anguish, as her eyes rolled white and glazed over. The stunned constable watched as the girl’s ten fingers curled and twitched with an eerie, writhing action, as if controlled by unseen strings. Both hands, drawing independently of one another, found their range with unerring certainty, marking images of violence, occurring at that moment, somewhere in London.

All the while, she’d stare off into space, with those whitened eyes never looking down at the paper. An inner vision seeing a killing committed firsthand, as a ballet of murder…a stabbing death…a victim with many wounds…with an especially deep one in her throat…so deep that only a flap of flesh kept the head intact. The murderer lived one floor above the victim. Sara drew the room numbers. The murder occurred in 512. The killer lived in 612…one block from the red-bricked church facing the river.

A transfixed Winston shuddered at this sight. Surely, it wasn’t possible for this little girl’s hands to move so fast and accurately, while staring sightlessly into space with blank, white orbs? And the quality of her images was extraordinary and certainly could not be duplicated by Scotland Yard’s best police composite artist in five times the span it took the girl to sketch.

Finally, Sara was done. She dropped the charcoal sticks on the desktop, sweat dripping down her face. Sir Franklin poured her a glass of water, which the girl gulped down. “She must rest now, Constable. I’m sure that you understand.”

“Of course, Sir. May I have these two drawings, Sara?”

Looking up to Winston through melancholy eyes, she nodded. The constable thanked the girl and her father, and left. He walked quickly through the darkened, empty streets. As the fog began to swirl around the gas lit street lamps, he looked over his shoulder more than once.

Forty-five minutes and two whiskeys later, Winston’s hands still trembled, as he studied the drawings in the security of his own home. He kept visualizing Sara’s grimace, the dreadful, leering face devoid of eyes. Shuddering, he knew this was all too horrible to be just a nightmare.

In less than twenty-four hours, two arrests relating to Sara’s sketches had been made. Of course, the detectives still needed to interrogate the suspects, but now, armed with the drawings, they skillfully extracted detailed confessions: One suspect’s admission for the garroting murder of his estranged socialite wife, the other from the man who’d butchered his neighbor residing one floor below.

Word of the gifted child artist circulated rapidly through Scotland Yard. Sara immediately became known to the police community as an empath; a visionary. Detectives combed through her portfolio, marveling at her skills. A few whispered that they wished she had been afflicted a few years earlier, when Jack the Ripper had eluded their grasp.

Within a few days they’d determined that Sara had recorded nearly every murder that occurred within a twenty-kilometer radius of her home on the outskirts of London, since her affliction began.

Some cases remained unsolved: Scotland Yard couldn’t identify the depicted killer, who had, perhaps, moved from the area, or had randomly preyed upon the victim, and had nothing else in common with them beside the fateful interlude. And because forensic science was in its infancy, and the police had just embraced the new technology called photography, most criminals were still unphotographed.

However, the cases involving the spouse, jilted lover, or neighbor as a prime suspect, or where the murderer committed multiple killings over a period of time using serial methodology, Sara’s drawing’s proved to be an invaluable tool for the police. Constable Winston was quickly promoted to detective, and was the vital energy driving the special task force investigating the drawings.

Despite Scotland Yard enjoying an unprecedented homicide arrest and conviction rate, there came a point when the logic of the police finding led Sir Franklin to hypothesize that if his daughter was removed from the city, with its relentless violence, then perhaps she could again experience a normal childhood. He decided to put his theory to the test, by taking Sara into the country for an extended, peaceful holiday. The family doctor debated the logic, but Sir Franklin remained steadfast, convinced that he had to at least try. As a retired, knighted army officer, with vast, inherited wealth, he could simply afford to pickup and leave.

Sara loved and trusted her father deeply, and looked forward to the trip with unbridled enthusiasm. She so loved the English forests, with its ancient trees and winding trails of green, and the clear streams of shimmering, cool water that flowed like rivulets of jade. The times that they’d visited the parks near her home, she had nearly forgotten the horrors running rampant through her head.

It was into the village of Hobbs that Sara Lyle and her father Sir Franklin arrived late one autumn afternoon, on their planned trek through the English countryside by horse and carriage, in search of the ever-elusive peace that would allow the lass to recapture the childhood that had been wrested away and still so cruelly eluded her.

But the stop at Hobbs began a new and immediate downward spiral for Sara, as the lass took ill the moment she stepped from the carriage. Within minutes she developed a high-grade fever and began to swoon. Sir Franklin carried Sara to their inn room, where he swabbed her head with towels soaked in cool water. Finally, he asked the proprietor to locate a doctor to examine his daughter, and then bring a bucket of ice. The proprietor in turn ordered his son to fetch Dr. Simon.

Sara began to hallucinate, crying out about the children, the pallid dead ones floating over her bed…with black circles surrounding their lifeless eyes. She verbally anguished for paper and charcoal. At first saying no, her father quickly relented, realizing that she had to draw. As much a necessary function to her life now as breathing and eating, the drawings were her way of coping, a cathartic response to the visionary overdose of violence forced into her mind. Propping her up on two pillows, Sir Franklin gave her the drawing tools.

Her eyes had glazed white, locking with the horror floating over them. Sara’s fingers began their awful dance, like strobing marionettes controlled by the unseen horrors undulating above and now materializing on paper. Limbs adjoining torsos and heads. Repeatedly. Many victims, levitating above the four bedposts.

Watching her draw, her father kept glancing above the bed, knowing that something awful was right there, right then, but an arm’s length beyond. He cringed, with no way of knowing that the spirits were ignoring him, concentrating solely on the fevered Sara. They’d known about her for a long time, knowing that she was their only chance to finally be avenged. All Hallows Eve was nigh; their collective strength could be no stronger than its present state.

Sara’s drawing was quickly completed. In it, twelve children floating above her bedposts, to the backdrop of a tall mountain, with flowing mists leading to a blackened zone at the base. Twelve graves emerging from the darkness beneath the ominous shadow of a man wearing a suit, sporting a neatly trimmed Van dyke beard, holding a shovel.

Sir Franklin examined the sketch. This was perhaps Sara’s most gruesome work. He put the sketch down, swabbing Sara’s fevered forehead with a cloth dipped in cool water. The girl drifted off into a shallow, fitful sleep.

Pacing the room, Sir Franklin again studied the horrid drawing, shuddering. Having faced death and the unknown many times in his life, he was not a man to frighten easily; in his younger days, on an obscure piece of parched earth known as Rorke’s Drift, Natal, he and the 100 men under his command had battled and miraculously repelled 4000 enraged Zulu warriors that had surrounded them, earning him and nine others the Victoria Cross.

During his ensuing military tour of British colonial Africa he’d also witnessed the nocturnal exorcism of a young boy seemingly possessed by demons. The village shaman performing the rites went mad and died while invoking his gods. Sir Franklin had witnessed many ghastly events on that night which he was never able to explain, nor forget.

He had seen the worst that humanity could inflict upon the world. Yet it was all by his own volition, and he was a grown man and a trained soldier.

His poor Sara was just a little girl, forced to not only endure unrelenting horror, but now, the ghosts of murdered children haunting her consciousness. Again, he looked above the bed, knowing they were still there.

For a moment he felt helpless, but had the presence of mind to recall his resolution that he must present a strong front to Sara at all times, even when she was asleep. There was a bond between them that transcended the spoken word. No matter what might happen, he must maintain his strength so she may draw upon it. If all else failed them, it wouldn’t be due to his shortcomings.

Suddenly there was a low rap on their door. Opening it, Sir Franklin did a vivid retake, deeply startled by the man standing with the innkeeper. His blood pressure surging, Franklin fiercely eyed the nattily dressed, bearded Dr. Simon. The man could have been the floor model for Sara’s drawing.

Sensing her father’s sudden stress, the child’s eyes fluttered open. She saw the doctor and her reaction to his presence was severe. Through all this her burning fever intensified, raging forth for the worse, as she recognized the man’s face from her inner vision.

Indeed, Dr. Simon was the murderer of the children, and now she saw that the spirits no longer floated above her, but tore at the doctor with gossamer hands gnarled into claws, faces contorted and eyes ablaze with hatred. Only poor Sara could see this macabre nightmare playing out, in and around her bed.

Not only did she see the children’s spirits, but now, was forced to endure seeing them murdered, again, one at a time, strangled quickly by the leering Dr. Simon. All this within the outline of an inverted pentagram inhabited by dark, cowled figures, contained in a whirling montage detailing the horrific final moments of twelve drastically shortened lives.

“MURDERER...MURDERER,” she screamed out, rearing up, thrashing, her father barely able to hold her down. “The bodies...the bodies in the swamp...In the peat bog!” The doctor flushed at the apparent unveiling of his ruse, though the inn proprietor thought it was just fever talk.

Sara’s father, however, knew of her uncanny gift and of course her most recent drawing, with this doctor drawn so precisely. He eyed the physician with great wariness, contemplating whether to hold him for the village authorities.

The doctor was panicking. He sensed correctly that it wouldn’t take long for people to start listening to this girl. He wanted to kill her, and from his black leather bag prepared a syringe with a lethal dose of barbiturate. Sara sensed this too, watching the children’s spirits tear at the doctor with a renewed frenzy. She screamed to her father “DON’T LET HIM TOUCH ME!”

Having never seen his daughter this hysterical, Sir Franklin forbade Simon from examining, let alone injecting her, physically placing himself between Sara and the doctor. “Leave here, while you still may,” he scowled at Doctor Simon, still a formidable presence with his ire evoked, as now.

There was a tense standoff between the men. The doctor realized if he attacked the man before him to get to the girl, there’d be no rational explanation he could later provide, so he hurriedly exited the room and left the inn, heading back to his office to collect digging tools. If he could dispose of the bodies into the quicksand before the girl could lead searchers there, he thought, there’d be no direct evidence to tie her claims to him.

As he left his office, shovel and lantern in hand, he paid no heed to the calendar, or the wall clock chiming half-past eleven. All Hallows Eve.

Hurrying along darkened roads, forcing his horse to gallop faster than prudence would allow while pulling a buggy down winding paths traveled more by sheep than men, he pushed with the madness borne of desperation.

Finally, he jerked in the reins and stopped, on Gully Road near the point where Colin and Michael had fatefully parted ways twelve years before. The white, billowing mists had already cascaded down the cliffs, shrouding the swamp. Lighting his lantern, the doctor moved quickly, knowing he had much work to do before sunrise.

In the dark, tense silence he made his way to the secret place where the children were buried. He began digging. Time did not seem to pass…

All of a sudden an icy shroud of fear clasped his limbs as he saw that the interred children, in various states of decomposition had begun to push out of their graves, grasping at him. Swinging the shovel, he shrieked, but the blade just swiped empty air. The ghastly children, with the collective strength of the supernatural that was theirs but once a year, were able to tear at him with ripping hands.

The vengeful moans of the damned were a frightening sound to behold, and the terror-stricken Dr. Simon ran blindly through the dark, bellowing, with the children flying after him, swarming, smiting, biting, able to keep up with him effortlessly, though he was running fast as he could. Bleeding from a score of cuts, eyes gouged, he lost his bearings in the mist.

Suddenly, the earth below him was gone as he stepped into the quicksand. As he frantically clawed for solid ground, the spirits suddenly disappeared, and he momentarily caught his balance by grabbing a handful of sedge grass strands. For an instant, his frantic breathing the only audible sound, he nearly pulled himself clear.

But then, sounding ominously in the distance the village clock struck midnight. The children’s spirits pounced upon him anew, rending, tearing, laughing with sardonic malignancy. Losing his grip, Simon screamed, slowly sinking into the mire and drowning beneath the fouled water.

With requited tenacity, the spirits watched grimly, as Simon could only die once, instead of twelve times like they. Silent now, satiated with the revenge that finally was theirs, they held hands, ascending in a slow, numinous spiral, higher and higher into the heavens until they had disappeared.

Hours had passed before the local constable arrived and spoke at length with Sir Franklin Lyle and the innkeeper. He’d, of course, heard of the child empath who had helped Scotland Yard solve dozens of London homicides. After taking a long, hard look at Sara’s drawing, they searched for the good Doctor Simon. By dawn, the trail led to the swamp beneath the cliffs, where the doctor’s horse and buggy were discovered.

Shortly after, they found his footprints, still outlined in the stagnant water, leading across the bedrock trail through the quicksand. Then the lantern, still lit, and shovel were found, along with the twelve full graves, and his footprints-alone-leading to the quicksand’s edge.

The ensuing investigation never revealed why the killer hadn’t simply disposed of his victims instead of burying them in the peat. Suffice to say, the police located evidence of satanic ritual beneath the doctor’s residence, in an ancient chamber dating to the days of druids and runes, laden with dark, stained stone altars, and carved, inverted pentagrams.

Beneath the words 'MOLOCH EST ET VIVIT' chisled into the walls of stone, robed figures in black, with but lambent eyes visible beneath ebony cowls had been painstakingly painted throughout, mute witnesses to the horrors inflicted by Dr. Simon. The black arts were long-rumored to involve the periodic exhumation of remains. There was ample proof of that having transpired in this awful room.

Just at the stroke of midnight, as Dr. Simon was meeting his demise, Sara’s fevery illness had suddenly broken, and soundly she slept till late morning. Upon awakening, with the visions of the previous night fading to memory, she sensed that the forces were again aligned, as the green calm of peace permeated her vision. The children were gone.

Word of the murderer’s identity spread through the Hobbs populace like wild fire. People were devastated by their doctor’s connection with the village curse. Though grief-stricken parents lamented the twelve children that were finally found, there wouldn’t be a sigh of final relief from the rest of the village until a full year had come and gone without a child disappearing.

As for Sara Lyle and her father, they moved finally to a village far north of Hobbs. On the cusp of the moors was the hamlet of Leedston. There hadn’t been a killing there in anyone’s memory.

In the quaint village a tiny, one-roomed schoolhouse stood, above which lazy, gray smoke drifted out of the chimney from the black, pot-bellied wood stove within. A pretty school marm, whom both Sara and her father would grow to adore, taught twenty students there. Four were girls Sara’s age, and they took to her right away. When school was out, they’d play tea and dress their dolls in the latest Victorian outfits.

Now that she slept the night through, Sara’s eyes shined with life again, with the return of her enchanting smile. Sir Franklin’s heart was at peace once more.

The girls would often play a game, where the object was to quiz your opponent with a series of true or false questions, then bluff with answers, and decide who was lying, and who was telling the truth. Though always able to win if she desired, Sara chose to intentionally lose more often than not, knowing that it was only fair to her new friends for her to do so.

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