It was Founder’s Day. A beautiful late July day in the south. They planned everything to be perfect, and it was all going according to plan until a scream cut through the noise of carnival. The sound was full of pain – she sounded as if she was in desperate trouble.
Everyone, well, almost everyone, stood unmoving as her screams continued. The only person to move was an eighteen-year-old boy who had been manning the ferris wheel at the edge of the midway. He slammed his hand on the emergency stop button. An instant later, he was running full speed, heedless of his safety. He ran across the field toward where he thought the sound had come from, skidding to a stop just inches from the tree line. His eyes landing on what he thought was a pile of dirty cloth. A moment later, he could make out movement as if the pile was breathing.
John leaned down even as he pulled his cell phone from his pocket. Reaching toward the pile with one hand, he dialed 911 with the fingers of the other. As his hand touched the cloth, another scream, though much quieter, ripped through the silence.
“911, what is your emergency?” Came through the phone as he pulled his hand back.
“I’m at the tree line of Potter’s Field. Someone has been badly beaten. I need an ambulance as soon as possible,” he said without taking his eyes from the person on the ground.
“I understand, Sir. Is there anything you can tell me about the victim?”
“Not really. I don’t even know if it’s a man or woman. I would say from the voice a woman, but I can’t be sure,” he said.
“Is there anyone else there?”
“No Ma’am. I was running the Ferris wheel when I heard someone – I thought it was a woman – scream. I ran over and found them laying here in the leaves and tall grass at the tree line.” He paused as he heard the siren of an ambulance cutting through the afternoon air. He spoke into the phone again. “I can hear the ambulance.”
“Okay. When they get there, just stay out of the way. An officer should be on his way to so he can take your statement.” The emergency dispatcher hung up, leaving him in silence, looking at the body on the ground in front of him.
At the sound of crunching tree branches and wood on metal scraping, he moved a few feet away to allow the ambulance as close as they wanted to be. He stood there trembling as he watched the emergency personnel work on the woman. He was so focused he didn’t notice the officer walking toward him until the man was blocking his view. “Are you the man who called this in?” The officer asked, holding a top spiral notebook and pen at the ready.
John nodded. “Yes,” he said, his voice sounding hollow in his ears.
“Can you walk me through what happened?”
“I was working at the Founder’s Day Carnival. They had me on the Ferris wheel this year. I heard someone, I thought it was a woman, scream. So I pushed the emergency stop on the ride, knowing that would get someone to take over fastest, and I ran toward the sound. I made it across the field and found that.” He pointed at the body the paramedics were working on.
“Chief,” the officer closer to the gurney called out. The man standing in front of John turned and walked over. John didn’t even realize he was moving until he got a better view of the body.
They had wiped some of the blood from her face while tending to her wounds and now that he could see her, John felt his heart sink to somewhere around his feet. “Holy dear God. That’s Annabel.” The words tumbled from his numb lips. His feet took him closer until one paramedic stepped in front of him, stopping his progress.
“Sir, please give us some space. They are trying to get her stabilized so we can move her. Why don’t you talk to the officer about what you saw?” He pushed John away before straightening and positioning himself to stop him if John tried to get close again.
The officer spoke to John. “You said her name is Annabel. Do you know this young lady?”
John tried and failed to pull his gaze from her. “Everyone knows Annabel. She’s Doc Masters oldest daughter.” He said. The words meaning nothing to him as he searched for proof she was alive and breathing. He couldn’t see her chest moving.
The officer nodded, wrote the information in his notebook and lifted his head back toward the men working to save the woman’s life. He continued speaking. “Okay. I’m new here. Who is Doc Masters?”
John pulled his eyes from the scene to look at the officer. “Doc Masters is the only Doctor in town. He’s been here since he came back from medical school. His family was one of the founding families of the town. Annabel was on track to go to law school and take over for her uncle once she passed the bar. She has sisters, four of them. Who is going to notify the family?” He asked, his words pouring out like rain.
“I don’t know.”
The paramedic stood and walked toward them. His eyes were dark and filled with pain. “There’s nothing we can do. They are going to take her to the hospital, but since we can’t get her stable, I don’t know what good it’s going to do.” He spoke to the officer, completely ignoring John.
John wanted to be offended, but a second look at the man had him understanding. He had to say something to ease the man’s pain. “Lar. None of this is your fault.” He knew it wasn’t much, but it was the only thing he could think to say.
Lar gave him a weak smile and walked away as the remaining paramedics maneuvered her onto a backboard. John stood watching as they put her in the ambulance, his heart torn into pieces as his eyes took in how much blood was on the cloth still on the ground. He was no medical student, but even he knew there wasn’t much chance of someone losing that much blood and making it.
John turned to the officer. “I’ll go inform her father. He’s going to want to hear it from someone local. Do your best to find the monster that did this. Everyone is going to want answers and want them fast.” He walked away, back across the field to the carnival. Founder’s Day would never be the same.