A Merciful Secret(2)

By: Kendra Elliot

Hopefully in one piece.

“Morrigan, what happened to your grandmother?” She pushed to keep up with the child.

“I don’t know! She had blood everywhere.”

“How far away is it?”

“We’re almost to the house.”

“We should have driven,” she muttered.

“No, the road to the house twists way up to the north. This way is quicker. There it is!”

Mercy raised the beam of her flashlight. Far ahead she could make out the outline of a small ranch-style home. A dim light shone in one window. No outside lights. She’d never known there was a home in the area. For years she’d driven the old rural road and never seen a hint that someone lived in this particular section of the woods. And I thought I valued my privacy.

The girl dashed up a few crooked concrete steps and pushed open the door. “Grandma!” she shouted.

Mercy paused at the bottom of the steps and checked her cell phone for service. Nothing. How am I going to get her grandmother to the Tahoe? I should have insisted on driving.

She carefully entered the dark home, following the sounds of Morrigan’s soft sobbing. She turned on a light switch, but nothing happened. Her flashlight lit up each corner of the room, as she was unwilling to enter the unknown. It smelled of old dust, as if it’d been abandoned for years, but it was fully furnished and there were clear signs of habitation. A book on the end table. A mug next to a stack of magazines. To her right was a minuscule kitchen, its limited counter space crowded with a dish rack and slow cooker.

“She’s in here!” Morrigan called. “Hurry! Please!” The fright in her voice pushed aside Mercy’s common sense, and she plunged down a dark hallway. Following the child’s sounds, she found Morrigan in a bedroom that was poorly lit by a hurricane lamp. Her grandmother sat in an ancient easy chair, its back reclined forty-five degrees. She was a very thin woman, her body barely taking up a fraction of the big chair. A quilt covered her from the neck down. Even in the dim light, Mercy saw it was soaked with blood.

The woman’s head had turned ever so slightly as Mercy entered, and she made a pleading sound. Mercy’s fingers found another useless light switch, so she dropped her bag next to the overstuffed recliner and went down on a knee. Stop the bleeding. “Where are you hurt?” she asked as she gently took the woman’s wrist to check her pulse. It felt like the weak fluttering of a baby bird. The woman made more pleading sounds and tried to sit up. “Hold still,” Mercy told her. “Bring that lamp closer,” she ordered Morrigan. “And hold my flashlight so I can see better.” The girl obeyed, and Mercy caught her breath as she met the woman’s desperate gaze. She pawed Mercy’s arm, her fingers fumbling to grip the fabric of Mercy’s coat as their gazes locked. Her eyes were wet, her lids wrinkled with age, and her sounds grew more urgent.

Can she speak?

Mercy gasped as she slowly pulled back the wet quilt, and Morrigan’s grandmother let out a small cry.

The woman had been slashed across the chest, abdomen, and upper arms. The weapon had cut right through her thin nightgown. The dark stains made obscene patterns across the fabric, the wounds continuously seeping.

“Who did this to you?” Mercy couldn’t move. Her brain wouldn’t accept the brutal punishment that had been inflicted on the woman. The woman started to chant in a soft singsong voice, and Mercy couldn’t make out the words.

“What happened to her, Morrigan?” she asked as she dug in her duffel for bandages.

“I don’t know. I got up to use the bathroom and found her like this. That’s when I ran to the road for help.”

Mercy pressed thick bandages against the wounds. They quickly grew wet with blood. There’s too much blood. She moved faster, using tape to bind the cotton in place. Her worry grew; she knew her small medical supply wouldn’t be sufficient. She quickly used up the last of her bandages. “Get me some clean towels or sheets,” she told Morrigan. The girl darted out of the room.

Mercy took the woman’s hand, noticing it had more bleeding cuts. Defensive wounds? She forced a smile and looked into the worried dark eyes. “You’re going to be fine,” she said with a sinking feeling in her stomach. The woman continued to chant, and Mercy wondered if she was American Indian. She looks more Italian. “What’s she saying?” she asked Morrigan as the girl reappeared and dumped a stack of towels next to the chair. Mercy grabbed one and pressed it against the heaviest-flowing slash on the woman’s neck.