Deep in the forest, near the bend of the river, a man, under hood and cloak, trudged over a stone bridge dragging a scythe. The wind followed him through the front door of a dilapidated cottage into a candle-lit living room.
Fourteen-year old Oliver Krankston, the banker’s son, cowered against the clay wall. Uncomfortable in his faded long johns and saggy woolen socks, the boy trembled. He squinted toward the flickering flames. “Mr. Fetters,” he whispered, “did you find him?”
Mr. Fetters shook his head. “No.”
On the wooden floorboards a long trail of bloody footprints glistened in the soft glow. Mr. Fetters tossed a few logs onto the fireplace while coughing up blood and vile. “Get to sleepin’.” His words were slurred.
“Why did you take me?” The boy’s voice was hushed.
“Your father owes me his life. I’m collecting.”
Oliver opened the palm of his hand, unfolding a crumpled-up paper Valentine—from Lily Payne, it said. He hoped she had received the one he sent her. There might have been blood on it. Maybe she’ll rescue me.
“Don’t fear, child.” Mr. Fetters flung his black cloak over the scythe propped against the stove. “She might just care enough to take your place.”
Oliver quickly put all thoughts of Lily out of his head. “You can’t have her!”
Later that evening, a pounding on the door startled Oliver out of a restless sleep. The door almost creaked off its hinges as Mr. Fetters opened it.
“Mrs. Shackles and … Lily Payne? A pleasant surprise.”
Mrs. Shackles shoved a shoebox into his hands. “Give me the boy!”
“Only if you have his father in this shoebox.”
Mr. Fetters raised his eyebrows and opened the box. He recognized the banker’s hand. His displeasure became obvious as he flung the box into the snow. “He was mine!” he bellowed. “The boy stays!”
“No!” Lily wrapped her tattered blanket tighter around herself and shoved her way into the cottage. “I am here to take his place.”
Snow cascaded off the roof as the cottage rattled on its foundation.
“Mr. Fetters,” Mrs. Shackles’s eyes widened, her head slightly tilted, “you do not want to mess with that girl.” She hobbled inside, shaking her head and rubbing her chin. “Oh, she’ll be a burden to live with if you make a hero out of her.”
“You think I won’t keep them both?”
Mrs. Shackles grinned. She straightened up and raised both arms out to each side. Two large, black wings slowly tore through from the lower part of her back. The right wing was frayed. And then … a loud piercing scream broke through the howling wind. Two bodies slammed through the door, finally blasting it off its hinges. Lily and Oliver picked up the scythe together and crept out the back.
Dark, spiny wings squeezed tight around Mr. Fetters. He gasped, but she had caught him off guard. Just before his last breath Mrs. Shackles released him into the river creating a large and loud splash.
Turning over and over, his cloak cocooned him and carried him downstream.
Mrs. Shackles tossed the severed hand into the murky water. “All you had to do was take it.”
Oliver squinted into the waters. “Is that my—”
“No, child,” Mrs. Shackles said. She blew out a painful breath. “It’s just a hand. Can’t quite remember whose father was attached to it.”
Lily wrapped her tattered blanket around Mrs. Shackles. “Let’s go home.”
“Yes, let’s.” Mrs. Shackles picked up the scythe. “Ah, there it is. I thought I had lost it forever.”
"Mrs. Shackles: Her Bloody Valentine"
Copyright, 2016 by Deborah L. Alten (yep, that's me)
Mrs. Shackles says to buy your loved ones some chocolate for Valentine's Day.
|Gourmet Valentine Chocolate Keys|
|9 Chocolate Hearts|