Part 5


Tsar thought about the young girl from his long past while he discreetly followed Manning to the Old Orphanage. Tsar watched from the background as Manning climbed the stairs, stepped onto the porch, and came to a halt in front of the entry. He appeared to be studying his reflection in the glass pane when he brushed the top of his head. Putting aside his thoughts of the young girl, Tsar remembered his prized jersey.

He spun several scenarios around in his mind as to who, or why, someone would take his jersey. He had hoped maybe he might find it here.

Manning walked down the stairs and headed back out for the Main Trail.

With Manning out of sight, Tsar stepped out of the darkened shadows. He eased up the stairs of the Old Orphanage hoping that this time no strange and beautiful woman would appear.

He slipped his knife in place and unlocked the door without any difficulty this time. He stepped inside the foyer. He walked from room to room, poking around for several minutes, and found nothing. No jersey.

And then…

Standing in what once had been a library; he heard light footsteps climbing the stairs outside, followed by a light thud. He snapped off his headlamp. As though he walked on air, Tsar tiptoed into the foyer, and from the side of the front door, he peeked out to the porch.


She shut off the flashlight after she got comfortably seated on the porch of the Old Orphanage. With only the sliver of a new moon in the sky, Frankie felt safe with the dogs nearby. They showed no hint of danger. Bouncer went about sniffing everything while Warden stayed at her side.


Careful not to give away his position, he watched as the young woman quietly sat on the front steps of the building with the German Shepherd nearby guarding her. Manning’s dog was on the grounds sniffing everything – appearing to guard the perimeter.

Good dogs. Good team work.

Manning was certainly protective of his wife. He even had their dogs well trained to watch over her. Tsar looked from the dog guarding the perimeter to Manning’s wife, who sat with her knees to her chest, looking out into the darkened night.

Something about her… like that day so long ago, made him take pause.


Frankie looked down the shadowy path that led back to the main trail. As her eyes adjusted with only the sliver of light above, she sighed deeply with brokenness, brokenness from both the past and the present. Her husband’s childhood would always haunt them if she couldn’t find a way to help him. She thought back to that night, a night from another lifetime…

Summer of 1997

Frankie, only nine years old, had snuck out of the house and followed Chase, who was 14, the night he’d left their cottage having said his goodbyes to them. She followed and came up beside him as he walked along the edge of the forest. She slipped her hand into his. He jumped slightly. When he turned to find it was her, he gripped her hand, and together they walked the beaten path to the Old Orphanage.

When they arrived, Chase turned the knob, but the door was locked. Frankie, surprised that Chase hadn’t simply used his knife as he had done before, gently reminded him.

Once inside the building, his eyes grew wide, and he looked frightened even. He tried to speak, but no sound came out.

He froze.


Now daring to take a stifled, deep breath, Tsar slowly exhaled as he let his mind take him back to the first time he’d ever laid eyes on the young girl…

Summer of 1997

Awakened by whispers that would frighten the dead, he pushed open the door from where the secrets were buried. It opened. He climbed out of the Box like a vampire awakened to feed.

I am a warrior; a fearless Leader.

The whimpering of a child below the tunnels stirred him to life, his release only temporary. Standing at the front, he narrowed his eyes at the sight of a girl. Not a girl of the Shelter, but a foreign girl.

He studied her for only a moment… maybe it was an eternity.

Searching his face, she narrowed her eyes for a moment. She looked at him as though she knew him. Her lips tightened, while her eyes sparkled. In this hideous place where fear reigned, she looked fearless, confident even. Her eyes glimmered with joy, perhaps even… love?

He pulled away from his perusal of the young girl and stole a glance at the hovering creatures that had gathered above – they hesitated.

Slowly, his face molded into a smirk; a smirk for her boldness. He wondered what challenge a mere child offered against strength that was drawn from a legion of evil spirits.


The pressure of evil energy began to build from all sides, pressing in upon him, and yet, the girl showed no signs of distress. The beasts, likely stifling an impatient screech, consumed the air all around him. He could not breathe, yet he watched the girls every movement – her eyes intently fixed upon his own as she moved directly in front of him.

Surprised at her touch of farewell, she took his hand and gently squeezed, drawing him deeply into her gaze. The intensity of her eyes – like she knew something he needed to know.

He dared another glance above. The creatures now seethed with rage as they were forced to maintain their positions.


What was it about this girl that the vile demons dared not challenge?

Remarkable! She didn’t even notice them.

Turning from the hideous creatures and back to the young girl; he watched as she stepped down from the porch and onto the path ahead.


As the young girl distanced herself from them all, his confusion was pushed aside as a girl from inside the Shelter appeared. She moved swiftly past him without acknowledgement, then down the stairs, slowing her pace as she came up beside the foreign girl, a girl who dared make entry into their world.

Lost to the scene before him as the two girls faded into the night; the creatures from above dropped to the foyer behind him. The Leader turned towards the scene as the creatures shuffled to the opened cellar door, moving toward the spineless kid who had tried to hide behind the protection of the young, foreign girl. Shoving him, the kid fly-dropped to the floor below. There were no stairs that led to the basement, a basement that opened up to deep, black tunnels.

He shut the door.

So began the mingled wailing of both the kid and the Baby. The entire residence shared the confusion and the pain, even he, himself.

But this little girl, this young woman… she did not belong to the Shelter. She was free.

The Leader walked to the front door and looked through the glass pane into the moonlit night, wondering, maybe even hoping, to someday encounter the foreign girl once again.

And now that same confusion found Tsar as he watched Francine Manning, a young and bold woman, step down the same stairs with the grace of an angel, embraced with genuine innocence, and an aura of strength and courage that he’d never seen from a civilian.

She’s gonna be a problem…

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