The rain had died down earlier that morning, but Sarah still brought her cloak with her, to keep herself dry as she walked through the forest, water droplets sporadically falling from the trees. Also, it was September, and the temperature was just cold enough to give her a chill after a rainstorm. The chill that shuddered down her spine now, however, had nothing to do with the weather.
Last night, a resident in town had caught her outside the Lincolns’ home doing spellwork. For a time now, children had been snatched from their beds by a vampire in the night and, though Sarah knew keeping her abilities a secret was something on which her life depended, she couldn’t help herself. She didn’t have the strength to defeat a vampire, but she could protect those children. And so, she had tried.
But there was no question, they would have contacted the local witch hunter over this. Spellwork was no joke, and Sarah was sure the parent would want to slit her throat, terrified that she had been the one kidnapping and killing those children. So, Sarah had gotten up at first light, prepared to beg for her life. The hunter would chase her for as long as it took to track her down and kill her, so her only hope would be to plead with the local law for mercy, with as much dignity as she could sustain in her fear.
Sarah made the long walk to town, finding her way to the sheriff’s office. She kept her hood covering her head, though she knew everyone could spot who she was. The hood was only a small comfort, a subconscious attempt to hide in plain sight. She could feel the eyes on her, everyone in town staring at the witch. Probably wanting her dead just as much as the parents, but too afraid to do the deed themselves.
Finally, Sarah stopped at the building’s front door and reluctantly lowered her hood. She realized her lower lip was trembling with the threat of tears, but she took a deep breath and swallowed back the feeling. She would not give them the pleasure of seeing her afraid. Not if she could help it.
Just as she reached for the doorknob, the sheriff, Wayne Barrett, swung the door open, freezing Sarah in place. She slowly lowered her hand, clasping it in the other. “Sir, I wished to-”
“Get out of the way,” barked a voice behind the man.
Sarah flinched as a tall, stocky man shoved through the doorway past the sheriff and grabbed her wrist, shoving her in the direction of the small staircase she’d just walked up. She cried out as she tripped and fell, collapsing in the dirt road, jarring her wrists when she instinctively tried to brace against the impact.
“You’re making my job easy,” he said with a grin, drawing his firearm from its holster.
“I told you, no!” Wayne shouted. To Sarah’s utter shock, he barreled down the stairs and stood in front of her. “I don’t know who called you, but this witch is under our protection.”
“She’s been killing your children and you want to protect her?” the hunter shouted.
Wayne shook his head. “You know that’s not what was happening, Marcus. This is your job; you have to know this is the work of a vampire. This woman’s no vampire, any fool can see that,” he said, gesturing at the rising sun.
“You think a witch wouldn’t try to cover her tracks?” Marcus sneered at the sheriff. “They’re nothing but malevolent forces that take whatever they can from folks like you.”
As Sarah finally pushed herself to her feet, Wayne drew his own gun. “This is my town. And I say you are not killing this woman.”
“It’s our town,” said another man, Brian Coulter, walking up to the sheriff and standing by his side. His wife Julia followed him, carrying her infant in her arms, and stopped next to Sarah, giving her a nod. The witch could only stare, stunned. “You think we wouldn’t know if a witch was taking our children? This woman comes to town every day, buys food from my store, talks to my wife, goes to our church. She’s a good, Christian woman-”
“She can’t be a Christian if she’s a witch,” Marcus said, shifting his gaze to glare at Sarah. She shrunk back a few inches, averting her eyes.
Sarah had spotted Wilson Wright walking over and when he arrived, he also took a stand beside the sheriff. “This is our town,” he snapped at the witch hunter. “Our sheriff is telling you your services are not needed. You kill one of our residents when she ain’t done anything wrong, that’s murder. We will put you away.”
Marcus stared in shock at the threat, looking back to the sheriff, and Wayne nodded his agreement. There was a moment where Sarah wasn’t sure if he would push his luck, but eventually he reluctantly holstered his gun. He shook his head in dismay. “You’re letting the Devil in, letting a witch walk free. It’ll be the death of this town, mark my words.”
At that, he turned and walked toward the pole to which he’d roped his horse, getting on and quickly coaxing the horse into a gallop.
“I don’t…I don’t understand,” Sarah managed.
Julia gazed at her, kindness in her eyes. “Like they said. This is our town. We know you’re a witch, Sarah. How could we not?”
Wayne walked down the steps to them. “Ms. Brown, what is it you were doing at the Lincolns’ house last night?”
“I was putting up a warding,” she said. “The vampire’s been going after children, so I thought-”
“You thought we’d think it was you?” Wayne shook his head. “We ain’t simpletons. You been living here too long for us to think something like that. So, how about this?” He put his hands on his hips. “I’ve got a call in to a vampire hunter, and they should make it here by Thursday. ’Til then, you head around with your…plants and whatnot, whatever it is you need to do these spells, and protect our children. Is that something you can do?”
A smile bloomed across Sarah’s face, tears coming to her eyes, and she nodded quickly. “Yes sir. I can do that.”
Republished with permission from the author, karenvideoeditor. Image created using Stable Diffusion.