Where Shadows Meet

Where Shadows Meet

Colleen Coble



“Hannah, why do you fight back? Always you kick against the goad. We’re told to turn the other cheek.”


Hannah Schwartz quickened her pace along the path from the farmhouse until she stood on the hillside peering down at the covered bridge. The Indiana winter wind pierced through the black wool cape she wore. She played nervously with the strings on her bonnet.

Had he come already? Oh, she shouldn’t be here. Mamm would be so unhappy with her. But Hannah had made this choice for a good reason.

Though only seven o’clock, the darkness deepened with the storm clouds building in the southwest. Thunder rumbled, and she heard the strains of her cousin Moe’s yodeling as he went to the barn. She couldn’t let him see her. Slipping past the bare branches of an arching goldenrod barring her path to the road, she hurried the last few feet. Flanked by bare maple trees, the opening yawned ahead. She stepped onto the planks of the bridge. A lingering odor of gasoline exhaust made her sneeze three times.

Pausing, she waited until her eyes adjusted to the deeper gloom. She didn’t need light. The interior of the covered bridge was as familiar to her as her own bedroom. Reece would be along in a few minutes. She shivered, but not from the February chill that swept down off the hills of Parke County, Indiana.

It was wrong to be here. If her parents knew . . . and Noah.

She paced the wide wooden boards of the covered bridge, pausing occasionally to listen for the sound of Reece’s truck. She’d expected him to be here waiting for her like usual. Perhaps he’d had to attend to a convenience-store break-in or some minor law violation. She leaned against one of the massive crossbeams supporting the bridge and looked through a cutout in the siding that formed a window overlooking the water. Still there was no sign of Reece. If he didn’t come soon, she would have to go back.

She heard an engine and turned with an eager smile, only to face two men she’d never seen, approaching in a small four-door car. She stepped up onto the footpath of the bridge and waited for them to pass, but the car slowed. The window ran down, and a man who looked to be in his thirties leaned out as the car stopped. He hung his arm, covered with a red and black plaid jacket, out the window.

His blond hair was thinning on top, and his pale blue eyes gleamed in the light from the car’s dash. “Hey, pretty lady, need a ride?”

“No, I’m waiting for a friend,” she said.

“Well, your friend’s not here, but we are.” The door opened and he got out. The other man hopped out as well. He was about the same age and wore an orange hat. They approached where she stood.

Hannah shrank back. “My friend will be here any minute.”

The man’s smile turned predatory. He grabbed her arm and pulled her toward him. “We can have some fun.”

“No!” She struggled to pull her arm from his grasp, but his other hand snaked around her waist. To her horror, she felt him grappling with the snaps on the back of her dress. “Let go of me!” Panicked now, she began to kick and strike at him.

“Whoa, we’ve caught ourselves a little wildcat.” He pinned her hands down and began to drag her to the car. The other man held open the back door.

Where was Reece? She opened her mouth to scream, but the man clapped his hand over it. She smelled tobacco on his fingers and beer on his breath. He tossed her like a rag doll into the car and began to crawl inside with her. She kicked him in the face and scrabbled for the other door, only to find the other man there. A shriek tore from her throat. Hannah’s limbs froze. This couldn’t be happening.

The first man’s face twisted into a snarl, and he grabbed her ankle when she tried to kick him again. He managed to climb in next to her. “Get us out of here,” he told the other guy.

The man in the orange cap ran around to the driver’s seat and jumped in. He accelerated toward the end of the bridge. Hannah shrank against the door and fumbled with the lock.

The blond man grabbed her arm. “No, you don’t.”

He tried to kiss her on the neck, but she bit him on the ear. Bile rose in her throat at the taste of his blood. He swore and pulled away, holding his ear. His face darkened, and he raised his hand. His arm and hand cast a shadow in the light of the overhead dome. She cringed just before his slap landed on her cheek. Her vision darkened, and she saw stars.

The car was nearly to the end of the covered bridge. The man in the front seat swore, and the brakes began to squeal. The car fishtailed as he tried to stop. Over the top of the seat, Hannah saw a truck blocking the end of the bridge. Reece stood between the vehicles, gun drawn. The car’s headlamps caught the gleam of his badge.

“Get out of the car!” he shouted. “Hannah, get out of the car.”

Hannah found the strength to grab the lock and flip open the door. The blond man made a halfhearted attempt to grab at her, but she slid out of the car. He slammed the door shut, and she heard him shout to the driver, “Let’s get out of here!” The car reversed and backed quickly toward the other side of the bridge.

She lay on the wide wooden boards with the stink of car exhaust filling her lungs. She could see the glimmer of water through the cracks in the boards. What had almost happened? Shudders racked her shoulders, and she rose painfully to her hands and knees. Her palms stung, and her neck muscles throbbed. Running steps sounded on the boards, and Reece called her name.

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