Something strange is going on, but for the life of her, Makkie Yeats can't figure it out. Someone or something is flitting past the cottage, but she's only seen confusing glimpses...Until the day she hears a mewing sound coming from the shed and sees a bloody handprint on its door...

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Nestle Down Inn

       It was nearly four o’clock, when I finally shut down the computer and headed toward the freezer, after suddenly remembering I had pulled out nothing for supper. Thank heavens for microwave ovens. I had just pulled out a freezer bag of homemade chicken and noodles, when, through the window, I saw the door of the shed open and hurriedly close. 

I couldn’t believe my eyes. Moving quickly, a young sprite of a girl fled from our shed, bloody and disheveled. I knew she was the one I’d seen flitting past for several days. I frowned, unable to imagine who she was. I knew everyone from the area, and she didn’t look familiar. I wouldn’t have noticed at all except for the crimson bloodstains streaking past my window. 

            I hurriedly threw open the door and ran out into the yard, yelling, “Please, don’t run away. Come back and let me help you,” but whoever it was had long since disappeared.

            What had she wanted with the shed? I headed toward it, noticing bloody handprints on the door and frame, plainly visible from the patio, not twenty feet away. The blood was fresh, bright red, and still dripping in places. Something was very wrong.

            My heart pounded loudly as I neared the shed. I heard a slight sound, like a kitten, mewing softly. Oh, God, I prayed, could it be? I threw open the door, and there in the tangle of tools and toolbox, was a brown cardboard box, with a wadded up wool blanket inside. My heart melted, as I parted the blanket and saw an infant, still bloody, and covered with vernix, the white creamy substance that protects a baby from the fluids it grows in. The src
atchy green army blanket was her only protection.

            I just stood there for a minute, not believing my eyes. Who would do this? I picked up the box and lifted the baby out, hugging her to me, and tossed the box in the burn barrel not far from the shed.

            The baby was small, her cry weak and movements jerky. She looked a bit premature to me. Her cord was tied and knotted with a length of new white shoelace.

            I thought back to my days as a student of obstetrics in nursing school. The baby needed warmth most of all, so I rewrapped the blanket, holding her snugly against my body, even though the April day was mild.

            I cooed, softly, “Oh, it’s all right, sweetie. I’ll take care of you.”

            I glanced in the direction the mother had run. She needed help, and I could only wish she had come to me. I would’ve done anything to help her.

            It seemed unlikely that the girl had prenatal care, and by the look of her, she’d probably had little extra in the way of good food to nourish a growing fetus. 

            I kept glancing around, expecting to see her. I tried to think of the lay of the land, places she might have gone to hide. But having never ventured past our hundred acres, I could think of none, as I carried the baby into the house. 

I hurriedly checked her over, to see if she was injured in any way, but she seemed fine, so I wrapped her in a softer blanket, then a heavier throw, and swaddled her snuggly. I found my purse, slipped into my shoes, and hurried toward my car.

            The emergency room of our tiny hospital, which rarely treats more than one or two people at a time, overflowed in a flurry of activity. Because it doubles as our doctor’s office, it was hard to tell if most of them were actual emergencies or not.  

          At the counter, I said to the nurse on duty, “Hey, Kit.”

She looked up from her paperwork, “So what have you got there, Makkie?”

I shook my head, turning the baby, so she could get a glimpse. “You’re not going to believe this, but someone left a baby in my shed. Looks to be a preemie. Anyone available to see her?”

“They left a what? A baby?” She laughed. “This could only happen to you.” After a beat, she added, “Oh, she’s beautiful. I’ll call Dean Schutte, down from upstairs. I think he’s still in the house.”

She paged Dr. Shutte and had a call back in a minute. Dean is an old school mate of mine, who comes to consult from his office in Kansas City. The hospital regularly rotates family practitioners down from the city, so outlying small towns have medical coverage. The local ER doc, Arlo James popped out of the double doors, heading for the desk, src
ounged through some paperwork then looked up and finally noticed me, and my wrapped bundle.

He grinned. “Makkie, I thought it was about time you showed up. Gettin’ mighty lonesome around here without you.”

Arlo had been on my bad side for quite some time now. He had cared for me during several different injuries and illnesses during the past year, always asking outright whether or not I had a death wish. I usually try not to rise to the bait, by biting my tongue, and this was no exception.

He continued, “So what’s that?”

He came to look, and his eyes widened. “A baby? Where did you get a baby?”

“She was left in my shed a little while ago. I saw a young girl running away, all bloody, but I couldn’t catch her in time, or I would’ve brought her, too. I’ve never seen her before, but you guys might be on the lookout for a young blonde girl, about fourteen or so, okay?”

“Sure thing, Makkie,” Kit said. 

Arlo glanced around the full waiting room, “It looks like I’ve got my hands full, or I’d take a look at her for you.”

“That’s okay, Arlo, I can see you have a full house. What is it, a full moon or something?”

“I’ve never really believed in that stuff until today,” he said with a sigh, grimacing, “but the flood of customers hasn’t stopped since last night.”

I laughed. “Did you hear that, Kit? He called us customers.” I looked back at Arlo, smiling. “Kit already called Dean Schutte for me, so you can feel free to attend to your other customers.”

“See you, Makkie.” He laughed, patting my shoulder before he turned away. Arlo was my kindergarten seatmate, and for that reason seems overprotective, as if we’re joined at the hip or something. He still looks much like the six-year old kid with a Dennis the Menace cowlick sticking up from a shock of reddish blonde hair, and even a peppering of freckles to complete the ensemble. He turned and waved as he said, “Keep me posted on the new addition, okay?”

Dean Schutte strode out of the elevator and headed straight for the desk.  “You needed me down here, Kit?”

She gestured toward me. “Dean, Makkie found a baby girl, a preemie, by the looks of her. Got time to check her out?”

Dean parted the blanket and smiled.

“Makkie, you found a beauty. Where?” He looked at me puzzled, his gray eyes intense. He towered over me, more than six-five, and I figured he must be working out to keep his youthful figure. He wasn’t experiencing middle aged spread like most of the guys his age around here. His wife, Michele, had been a good friend during nursing school, years ago. 

“In our shed. A young girl, all tattered and bloody, was running away from the shed, but I couldn’t catch her. I can’t help but wonder if she’s still alive.”

He looked from the baby to me. “You don’t know who she is--never saw her before?”

“I didn’t recognize her at all.”

I turned my attention to the baby in my arms, as he motioned us to a room.  “Here, let me have her. Let’s see how much she weighs.”

He laid her on the scales, to which she protested, throwing her arms and legs around, mewing.

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