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Satan’s Bargain

Wadmalaw: A Ghost Story (Coming March 2011)

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Dedicated to Caroline

Chapter 1

“Your Honor, I can live by myself. I don’t need anyone.”

“Loren Creek, you are fourteen; a precocious fourteen, but fourteen nevertheless. Even if I agreed that you were capable of doing so—which I do—the statutes forbid it. In the eyes of the court you are a minor, and as such, you must be under adult supervision.”

“We’ve tried that twice, and it didn’t work.” Loren felt Mattie’s sharp elbow in her ribs, then added, “—Your Honor.” Loren shuddered as she remembered the groping hands waking her in the dark. Hastily whispered entreaties, promises, and then threats. Only her quickness and strength saved her. The second foster placement was as bad as the first. You little slut. You tryin’ to snake-eye my man from me. I seen how he watches you. I seen the looks you give him. As soon as that “foster mother” stomped out, Loren went to her bedroom, packed her bag, and was out the window. She hitched a ride to the only home she had known; the modest frame house in the hollow where her mother raised her. Police searched her out two days later. When they returned Loren to her second foster placement at nine in the morning, a slatternly woman appeared at the door dead drunk. She was the only adult there. I just don’t know why the child up and left—we been kind to her. The officers returned Loren to Mattie in Piney Flat, and then saw to it that the inebriated woman’s name was removed from the list of foster care homes.

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