A Silver Medallion
~ CHAPTER ONE ~
CRYSTAL Moore drove slowly along the sandy road that curved through the property she had roamed as a child. Her grandparents had christened it "The Park" when they purchased it over fifty years ago. To Crystal, they could have named it Serenity. The tall, stately Southern pines, the oak and hickory trees, the mirror-still lake, the peaceful quiet, all worked to cast a spell of tranquility over her.
Crystal's maroon LeSabre crested the hill. Two hundred feet ahead, her grandmother stood under a maple tree, its autumn foliage creating a golden halo above her grey hair. Eula Moore was staring at the small storage shed about twenty feet behind her cedar-shake house. She aimed a double-barreled shotgun at the door of the building.
Fifty feet from Eula, Crystal switched off the ignition, eased out of the car, and moved forward, careful not to crack a twig or crunch a dried leaf. Now she saw her grandmother's right index finger curled around the trigger. Whatever was going on, she did not want to distract her Nana.
Eula Moore pointed the shotgun at the shed, her wrinkled hands as steady as those of an eye surgeon. "Don't make no sudden moves. I got a nervous trigger finger. I might just blow your head off."
"Now, very slowly, come on out in the open, and keep them hands over your head where I can see 'em."
Experience told Crystal her grandmother had heard the car, but Eula 's attention never left the shed. The elderly woman stooped down, gaze still fixed on the building, picked up a rock with her left hand and made a sweeping, underhanded throw. As the chunk of limestone arched skyward, Eula pulled the ancient shotgun up and once more trained it on the shed.
The rock struck the tin roof with a satisfying bang. No animal came bolting out the door. The noise echoed and died away. The birds stopped their chirping. All was quiet.
Crystal crept up beside her grandmother. "What's in there, Nana?" she whispered. "Animal. Person. Beats me. But I didn’t git to seventy-five being careless."
Eula Moore, five feet two inches tall, ninety-five pounds with short-cropped grey hair, held a strategic position. No one could leave the shed without coming into her gun's sight. And no one could see her without first revealing himself. Eula looked frail, but her voice was strong, her will stronger. "Better come out 'fore I start shootin'."
A slight breeze wiggled the leaves on a towering oak tree shading the area. A squirrel sat motionless. The scene was as peaceful as a painting of a country lane. Except for the shotgun.
A few moments passed. Then a single finger came into view. Gradually, it turned into a whole hand, waving in a small arc. "Por favor, no dispare." The tiny brown hand fluttered again. The voice quavered slightly. "Please. No shoot. No shoot."
Eula didn't lower the gun or take her gaze off the shed. "Por favor? Spanish?" Eula said to Crystal. Then to the tiny hand, "Manos arriba."
Now, two hands waved. But no body appeared.
"You need to work on your Spanish, Nana. He may not know what you’re saying."
Eula snorted. "Pardon me. I didn't go to S.M.U. Or Stanford. Maybe you can do better."
Crystal turned toward the shed. "Salga con las manos arriba. Come out with your hands up."
A foot materialized in the opening. "Hands up." Then a body began to emerge. "Hands up."
Was it a child? Little more than five feet tall and slender as broomcorn, she could have been a girl of fourteen. Her uncombed hair, nearly reaching her waist, appeared as black and shiny as obsidian. Pink and blue embroidery decorated the rough-woven, white dress hanging from her shoulders and stopping just short of her scratched knees. Well-worn leather sandals revealed feet accustomed to no shoes at all.
The small hands trembled slightly as the young Mexican edged forward, but she held her head high and her back ramrod straight.
Eula waggled the barrel of the shotgun at the girl. "Far enough. Hold it right there. Alto." Eula focused on the girl, but spoke to Crystal. "Okay. So I don't remember my Spanish good enough to find out what I got here. See what you can do. But don't get in my line of fire."
A cloud drifted away, allowing the sun to play fully on the girl's face. This was not a child. Those large eyes could not develop such sadness, such pain, in such a short life.
"Como se llama?" Crystal asked.
The thin young woman maintained her focus on the gun. "Rosa. Rosa Bonita Lopez."
"Hablo Espanol un poco. Vamos probando con Ingles. Let's try English," said Crystal. The young woman's expression did not change, nor did her attention waiver from the shotgun. "Okay. Your name is Rosa Bonita."
"And what were you doing in the shed?"
The Mexican woman's forehead wrinkled and she tilted her head slightly to one side. Is she puzzled by the English or by what kind of an answer to give? Crystal tried Spanish again. "Que hacias en el cobertizo?"
After several seconds, Rosa looked at Crystal. "Food."
"You were looking for food?"
"Are you hungry?"
Eula made a small grunt. "Dumb question."
"When did you eat last? Cuando comiste por última vez?"
"Ayer en la manana."
"Yesterday morning!" Crystal turned to her grandmother. "She's probably starving. Let's take her in and give her something to eat. Then we can find out why she's here."
Eula didn't move or lower the shotgun but Crystal walked over, smiling, took the young woman’s hand and led her into the house.
Inside Eula's large country kitchen, Crystal gave Rosa a tall glass of orange juice while Eula put the finishing touches on a chicken and rice meal she'd been preparing for her granddaughter's arrival. Rosa drank the juice without stopping and her dark, wary eyes remained focused on the chicken as Eula moved it from pan to serving dish.
"Why haven't you eaten?" Crystal asked.
"Where do you live?"
"No casa. No casa."
"No home?" Crystal glanced at Eula, then back at the Mexican girl. "Por que?"
"I run away."
"From your husband? Esposo?"
"No." Her sad eyes closed for a moment, then softly, "No."
"No. From hombre malo."
"Quien? Who is the bad man?"
"Senor Blackwood." Rosa scrunched her mouth and eyes as if she had bitten into a piece of spoiled fruit.
"Who is he? What is your relationship to him? A relative? Un familiar?"
The Mexican woman shook her head violently from side to side. "No. No familiar. I am ... his ..." She furrowed her brows and cocked her head to one side. "How to say esclava?"
Crystal looked down for a moment as she searched her limited Spanish vocabulary for a translation. Finally, she looked up at Rosa. "The only English word I can think of for esclava is ... slave."
Rosa's head bobbed up and down. "Si. Si. Slave. I am his slave."
Order from Amazon. Just click here to visit the Amazon listing for A Silver Medallion.