The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

November 17, 2010

Chapter 11: As the Small Town Turns


ATHENS — Harriette Rost

Guest writer

The rude knocks on the trailer door woke Lorena from a dead sleep. She staggered to the door and threw it open in the face of a burly man with a pot gut wearing a coffee stained T-shirt.

“You Rock’s kin?” demanded the man in a gravely voice.

“Yeah, what of it?”

“Where is he? Better yet, where’s his rig?” he growled. “I’m picking it up. He’s three months behind on payments.”

“I have no idea,” snarled Lorena, still irate and groggy. She slammed the thin door in the man’s face, throwing the bolt. She turned and noticed Rock’s new Elvis costume was gone from its hook.

“You’ll never find the truck in Branson,” she mumbled.

Sheriff Binky stood in the Traubenkraut’s yard with Buck as the EMTs pushed the stretcher to the ambulance. Raquel’s face was pale as the blood from the ugly gash on her head seeped through the bandage.

“Try not to worry, baby. I promise we’ll find her,” Buck whispered in her ear. She never opened her eyes.

Fingerprinting experts were busy in the bedroom with reporters and photographers from the News Carrier snapping photos all over the house. The sheriff and his investigators soon determined the intruder’s entrance into little Roxanne’s bedroom. An oil leak from a lawn mower near the window revealed the source of greasy footprints, in and out of the house.

“I’ve got my copter at Pryor Field right now, standing on ready,” the sheriff said to Buck. “The Amber Alert went out and will make people aware the little girl is missing. If Rock took her, he can’t get far in that big rig. Want to ride along or go with the lady?”

Tires skidded to a dead stop in the drive as Maggie bolted for the ambulance. Before the doors closed, she hopped aboard, saying she was Raquel’s closest friend. Her neighbor, a dispatcher from the Sheriff’s Department had phoned Maggie.

Torn for a minute, Buck was relieved to see Maggie.

“Looks like she’s in good hands, Sheriff, I’ll ride with you, if you don’t mind.”

In Branson, Rock draped a thick motel towel over his lap. It wouldn’t do to mess up his new Elvis outfit. He stripped the diaper and wet pajamas from Roxanne and pulled her from the dingy mattress to the front seat of the cab. Her frail body shook with cold as he fastened the suspenders of the overalls.

“Where are we, Mommy?” whined little Roxy, still in a state of dreamy confusion.

“Don’t cry, baby, your Daddy’s here.”

Rock unscrewed the top of the Cherry Vodka and tipped it to her thirsty lips for a big gulp. She coughed and sputtered, but soon her eyes grew droopy and she slipped back in dreamland.

Scissors snipped away as the golden curls fell down to the filthy floorboard. When the truck door opened, Raggedy Ann made a brave escape, falling headfirst under the running board. Soft rain dampened her red hair reflected in parking lot puddles of the Star Dust Theatre in Branson, Missouri.