He had been riding two days from Lisomon where he had left her — or abandoned her, as he saw it. By necessity, she pleaded. It had to be done to survive, she cried. Because of Lechke.
Lechke was a large, hard man with dirt beneath his nails, both real and symbolic. He knew the sheriff, so he thought he was above the law — and divine justice too though he didn’t know God.
He had taken a shine to her, and no one should say no to Lechke. The fact that Jahn had loved her so long meant nothing to Lechke who wanted her now, and that settled it in his primitive mind.
Jahn glanced at the young girl beside him. Fleeting snow brushed the bus window as sundown drew near. Light was fading. Trees flashed by.
The girl boarded the bus that morning at the town called Fiscada. She was 15 years old, she said. Small for her age, brown-haired and plain.
Looking back out the window, he remembered what his love said. This will not be forever, but it will be months. Not months but years, Jahn thought.
It will be like death, but he would still breathe, place one step ahead of the next, patient. He was headed to Mintablisko. He would be alone.
He turned toward the girl again and wondered. Could it be true?
She looked so innocent.
* * * *
I killed my mom and dad last night. Why? Because they always hurt me.
I waited till they fell asleep and then I got Daddy’s pistol from the dining room drawer. I wanted to shoot them both between the eyes like you see in the movies, just like that.
I walked up to the bed and put the barrel near Daddy’s face and pulled the trigger, right between his eyes. The noise surprised me, and the pistol kicked.
Mommy woke up and screamed. I stepped back, aimed at her chest and pulled the trigger two more times.
Then I went downstairs and made two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and I put milk in a thermos, and I walked six blocks in the dark to the bus station.
* * * *
Jahn wondered. Is she telling the truth? She said her name was Kristanabel. He looked again out the bus window and saw ice sticking to the glass.
He felt gloomy and lonely. Kristanabel was wearing a short pleated skirt and sandals with no socks in this cold weather.
Three hours later the bus pulled into the station at Mintablisko. Police were waiting at the door, waiting for Kristanabel. No one was waiting for him.
Outside, he picked up his bag and shivered.
* * * *
(First in a series titled The Marbol Hotel.)