There was a piercing scream that shattered the night and then the quiet sound of footsteps galloping through the leaves. Sadie stepped over the fallen tree limb and went further into the woods to investigate the sound she had heard. Over the little, hill she spotted a man lying on the ground. She ran over to him and hovered above him. There was a puddle of blood surrounding him and a hunting knife lodged in his stomach.
Sadie lives in Hidden Hills, a small town hidden by hills in the country. The people there are all very amiable and she couldn’t imagine who would do this or why. Sadie knew the only way she would be able to figure out who did is if she worked with her best friend, Mark Nelson. So, when she reached the end of the woods, she grabbed her bike and began the ride to his house. He had been her friend for as long as she could remember. He had always been a bit gauche, which was why he was unpopular at school, but Sadie didn’t mind. She knew that, like her, Mark had a hard life at home, so they always tried to help each other out.
When Sadie reached Mark’s house she rang the doorbell. He raced outside like a cat after a mouse.
“Whoa, what happened to you?” Sadie walked over to Mark and put her hands on his shoulders. He flinched, but did not move away.
“N... nothing. Why do you ask?” he stuttered.
“Well, you just bolted out of your house.” Sophie used her hand to brush her long brown hair from her face.
“Oh, that’s nothing, my mom is yelling at me again. What do you need?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Well you’re never going to believe what I found. A dead guy, can you believe it? In our little town! I mean this is horrible, but it’s great. I have been waiting for something to happen in this sleepy little town for ages. We have to figure out who did this and why.” Sadie leapt around Mark excitedly.
“I don’t know if that is such a good idea, Sadie.” Her face fell and she began to argue.
“But this could be our big break. This could make us famous! Please, pretty please.” Sadie smiled and Mark couldn’t resist. Sadie saw his face soften and she dragged him back to where she found the body. When they got there the man was still lying on the ground and Sadie dropped to her knees to take a closer look. “First, we need to figure out who this is.” She snapped a picture of the lifeless face, its eyes staring back at her like her was looking into her soul. “Let’s go, this thing creeps me out.” Sadie looked back at Mark, only to find him staring at the man lying dead on the ground. “Mark?”
“What…. oh…yeah, let’s get out of here.” They ran back into town and headed to the library.
“Ok,” Sadie sat down in front of one of the two computers in the small, bland library. “We need to see if this guy has any family, coworkers, or friends.” Sadie input the picture from her phone into the browser and hits ‘search’. The screen loaded and then showed that the mystery man who worked at Tucker Corp. “Wait, that’s is my dad’s business. This says that he was fired just a few months ago. I think we should go into town and ask people if they know anything about this guy.” Sadie jumped up from her swivel chair and grabbed Mark by the hand, dragging him out of the library.
When the pair reached town, they are surrounded by shoppers buzzing around the little shops like little bees. The kind men and women with little tykes were in tow wave to Sadie as she passes by.
“Where should we go first?” Sadie looks to Mark only to find him stumbling along trying to look back while keeping up with Sadie. “What’s wrong?”
“Umm… I think someone is following us.”
Sadie and Mark ran through the town taking every shortcut they knew, but they could not shake the man.
“Who is this guy? And why is he following us? Maybe he knows the guy that died and he doesn’t want us snooping around him. We should go check to see if the man is still there.” Sadie panted while trying to escape the strange man.
“Ok,” the kids turned and started into the forest.
Once they reached the clearing, Sadie bent down to examine the man who still lay on the ground. “Well as you can see the guy is still here, so we should get going before… oh no.”
“What is it, Mark?” Sadie stood and turned to face her friend who was being held captive by the strange man that had been following them. Up close, Sadie could see his strange outfit consisting of a bright orange Hawaiian shirt and kakis shorts. His face was shaded by a baseball cap that covered his eyes. “What are you doing with him?” Sadie’s voice annoyingly cracked as she talked.
“Ymmm lmm me gmmm,” Mark’s voice was muffled by the rag the strange ‘tourist’ had put in his mouth.
“I am saving you, young lady. You should be thanking me,” His voice was very deep and tinted with annoyance.
“Saving me?! This is my friend,” Sadie approached the man with unfamiliar anger and courage.
“No, this kid committed murder,” Sadie looked at the body and the man nodded. Tears flooded her eyes as she looked, ashamed, at Mark.
“Sadie, wait,” Mark had managed to spit out the gag, but nothing he could say could fix the mess he was in now. Mark turned to the man that held him captive, “Why? Why is this happening to me? This wasn’t even my fault. And now I have lost my best friend.” Tears began dripping from Mark’s face.
“What do you mean it wasn’t your fault?” The strange man let go of Mark’s wrists and stood in front of him.
Sadie ran through the dense forest, branches whipping her face, but she didn’t care. She just had to get away from Mark. Thoughts rushed through her head. She had no idea where she was going, she was just running. Finally, she emerged from the woods and fell to her knees on a grassy field near the park. She sobbed and sobbed till she had no tears left, then she left the field and went home.
Sadie sneaked in through the back door, hoping her father wouldn’t notice her. Her mother had died when she was six, but in those few years Sadie’s mother had become her best friend. Her father had never loved Sadie at all, but her mother always made sure that he was kind to her. But now she is gone, and her father does whatever he wants to her. She is forever indentured to him.
“Yes, Father,” Sadie slouched and walked slowly over to her living room couch where her father was working on his computer and watching football.
“Have you cleaned my bathroom yet?” Sadie’s father did not bother to turn to face her while he was talking.
“You know I like it cleaned every week.”
“Yes, I know, Father. I was with Mark.”
“MARK?!? That boy is a horrible influence on you. Do not go to his house ever again, unless you want to be sleeping with the cat.” Sadie grumbled under her breath. “Now go. Get cleaning.”
Mark had been in this cold, hard chair for almost two hours now and the police were still questioning him. He had told them everything and now he could only hope they would believe him. But why would getting out of this prison camp even matter Sadie would never trust him again.
“Mark, please get up. We are going to pay Mr. Tucker a visit.” A small police officer with a handlebar mustache pulled Mark out of his chair and took the handcuffs off. Mark was in too much shock to question the man. What would happen now that they knew? Would they arrest him or worse? One thing he did know for sure was that Sadie would never speak to him again after this.
Sadie was on her hands and knees when she first heard the sirens, but she didn’t think anything of it. That is until the sound stopped right in front of her house. She raced out to see her father frantically pacing around the room, swearing under his breath. Then, there was a loud knock on the door.
“Hidden Hills police department, please open this door immediately!” Sadie rushed to the door and unlocked it. “Sadie, is your father here?”
“Yes,” but before she could finish, a dozen police officers raced into her house and apprehended her father.
“Excuse me, sir. Why, may I ask, am I being arrested?” Her father’s voice was calm and the look of terror had disappeared from his face.
“Our sources have shown that you are the murderer of Mark Henley.”
“But it wasn’t me. It was that little nerdy boy, the one with the freckles.”
“How would you know this? The name of the murderer has never been released.”
“Wait!” Sadie was confused and on the brink of tears. “What is going on?”
“Sadie,” Mark entered her front door and walked over to her. He put his hands on her shoulders and began explaining. “Your dad blackmailed me into killing this guy. He claimed the guy stole from him after he fired him. He said if I didn’t do this he would never let me see you again.” Sadie turned away from Mark and let it sink in. Everyone watched as she turned around, furious, to face her father.
“I can’t believe you would do this to me! Treat me like dirt for seven years after mom dies and now this.
Blackmailing my best friend, lying to me, and killing someone! What is wrong with you? Take him away. I don’t ever want to see you again.” The officers began dragging Sadie’s father out the door.
“Sadie, wait. There is something you need to know before I go.” Sadie’s father showed a kindness she hadn’t known since her mother died. “Your mom is still alive.”