P is for: Payment Owed
(Serial short story, part 3)
Mrs. Peyton Bennet stared at Netta, fear radiating from her eyes. The Baring Woods were off limits for a reason and the kids darned well knew not to go near there. It was Netta’s idea, Peyton was sure of it.
Everyone told the city council to put barriers up. They said they wouldn’t allow it. How the city council knew that, they never said. She’d get answers from them now if it was the very last thing she did. Peyton took Netta by the hand and marched over to the makeshift city hall.
When she arrived, she thanked God that each of the four council members were there. They sat in the “lounge area,” a corner of the one-room city hall with reading chairs under the high windows, drinking tea, most likely spiked. Peyton led Netta directly in front of the four, looked her in the eyes and said, “Tell them what you told me. Leave nothing out.” She took a step back, forcing them to give Netta their full attention.
Netta told them, leaving out only how she said she wanted to sell it to pay off the house and go to Disneyland. As Netta spoke, Peyton saw the terror bloom in each of the council member’s eyes. Once she finished, they immediately clammed up, their faces stone cold.
Peyton turned to Netta and, in a delicate but stern tone, said, “You go straight to school, Netta, and stay there until I get you.” She watched Netta as she turned away from her momma and left for school. Peyton then faced the group.
“You told us that we were safe. You said that we paid full price to be left alone and that a border was not necessary. Instead, my daughter is gone!”
“It was up to you to teach your children to not enter that area, Mrs. Bennet,” said Dara, the eldest council member. Her lips pressed into a thin line of determination though her eyes held a hint of moisture.
“She is a child. We told you over and over again that children get curious and may wander over there, maybe not even realizing it. We warned you! And now look what happened. How can I get her? What am I supposed to do?”
“In all honesty,” Marcus, the longest running council member said sympathetically, “there’s nothing you can do. She’s gone. If anything could be done to get her back, believe me, we would do –.”
Peyton cut him off, rage billowing from her voice, her index finger pointing at the group, “You guys have held back information on this, and everyone knows it. You assured us the payment we made was sufficient, more than enough. But I’m telling you now, payment is owed and it is you folks who are going to pay it unless you tell me how to get my daughter back!” Tears streamed down Peyton’s cheeks. “You said if we keep our population static, we’d be safe and even prosperous. We did that, giving up our right and ability to have more children, and supposedly avoiding a cancer-like disease from them. But now the payment owed by you is the truth, or the power of hell will come down on all of your heads.”
Quiet settled over the room, until one after the other, the four council members rose and walked to the closet door. Peyton Bennet watched in shock as they each entered the seemingly tiny closet, leaving the door opened. Peyton followed with cautious steps only a few feet behind Marcus. When she entered, the door shut behind her. Ahead of her, she heard what sounded like the mournful cries of dying souls.
~ To be continued ~