Little Dead Red

Little Dead Red

By:  Mercedes M. Yardley  Completed
Language: English
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Grim Marie knows far too much about the wolves of the world, a world where little girls go missing. After all, she had married one before she/he showed his claws, and what that wolf did to her little girl was unforgiveable. Grim Marie isn’t certain if she can ever forgive herself for putting her Little Aleta in harm’s way. When Grandmother becomes ill, Aleta offers to take the bus through the concrete forest to Grandmother’s house to bring her some goodies. She knows the way. What could possibly go wrong? In this modern day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, the wolf takes to the city streets to capture his prey, but the hunter is close behind him. With Grim Marie on the prowl, the hunter becomes the hunted. ©️ Crystal Lake Publishing

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19 Chapters
Prologue
PROLOGUEOnce upon a time, long long ago, somewhere before her second divorce, Marie had smiled. She had simply been Marie then, and occasionally even Happy Marie, and that was a kind and gracious thing. Marie knew of the dangers of the world, but Marie also knew of love and laughter. Marie knew of her tiny little girl, Aleta, who used to hop around on one foot to see if she could keep her balance, and stuck her naughty fingers into Marie’s jam, and would ask for a bedtime story even when it was nowhere near bedtime.“It doesn’t have to be a bedtime story, dear,” Marie would say, and her eyes would twinkle. Smiling Marie. Happy Marie. “A story told at any other time is simply a story.”Aleta, who had dark eyes like her mother, and dark hair like her mother, and it refused to be tamed and combed, also like her mother’s, would say, “But bedtime stories are the best. Won’t you please tell me one, Mama?” Marie often had things to do. There were dishes to be put away and dinner to be c
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Chapter One
CHAPTER ONEGrim Marie’s mother was dying. She had been dying for several years now, off and on, but this time seemed like it might actually be THE TIME.“I’m not ready for you to go, Mama,” Marie whispered to nobody in particular. She was putting together a basket for her mother, full of treats and homemade breads and jams. Grim Marie liked to cook. It set things right in her mind. She spent the morning pressing flour, salt, eggs, and water together to form noodles. She rolled them into dough. Cut them into strings. Let them dry around the tiny apartment like Christmas tinsel made of carbohydrates. Spider webs of love.“Talking to yourself again?” Aleta appeared in the doorway. Her dark eyes were lined in black. She’d pierced her nose and lip and dimple. She had tried her tongue but regretted it almost immediately.Marie tried to smile at her, but her lips didn’t quite work right. She felt them twist and shape themselves into something almost eerie. She let the attempted smile f
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Chapter Two
CHAPTER TWOMarie did, indeed, take a bath. Such a luxury, time spent on herself when she should have been cleaning, or catching up on that night’s batch of work, or taking the soup to her mother with Aleta. But she didn’t. She did neither of those things. She pinned her dark hair up. It was thick and streaked with gray, but sometimes it still managed beauty. She liked to think so, anyway, when she caught unexpected glimpses of herself in mirrors and store windows.“I don’t look half bad,” she sometimes mused, and very nearly tossed her head. If she did so, perhaps her hair would fall over one eye. Perhaps it would hide the heavy circles under it, the weariness that peered out of her irises. Perhaps somebody’s eyes would be drawn to that rather foppish section of hair instead of the worry lines around her mouth.Worry lines. Not laugh lines. Grim Marie knew this, knew there was a difference. She knew she wore her station and her sorrows on her face like other ladies wore fine hats
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Chapter Three
CHAPTER THREEMarie arrived at her mother’s hospital room with her hair slightly damp from the rejuvenating-bath-that-wasn’t.“Hi, Mom.”Her mother’s gentle face lit up. It was like opening the window and leaning outside into the morning air. Marie fairly breathed her in.“Darling! What a nice surprise!”“Surprise? Didn’t Aleta tell you I was right behind her?”“Who?”Marie sighed.“They’re giving you too many medications, Mom. Where is Aleta? Did she run to the restroom?” The old woman reached out and grasped Marie’s fingers.“I love when you come to visit, darling. Brightens up my day.”“I love coming, too. So tell me how you’re feeling.”Marie leaned back in her too-stiff hospital chair and listened to her mother chatter on about things like the life cycle of Painted Lady butterflies and who was doing who wrong on her latest soap opera. It killed her to hear this . . . this prattle, because this wasn’t who her mother was. Talk on international travel politics, sure. Dis
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Chapter Four
CHAPTER FOURThat night seemed unusually cold. If Grim Marie had friends, they could have come to stay with her while she worried and fretted over Aleta’s disappearance. They would have discussed how the thermos came out of her pack. Was it torn open? Did she open it herself? Was she perhaps willing to share the soup, which meant that perhaps the person was kindly? Was this just a misunderstanding? Perhaps she took the wrong bus. Or got off and wandered away to something a little more exciting than a sick grandmother. Maybe there was a boy.Marie desperately, desperately hoped there was a boy.The friends she didn’t have would have surrounded her and offered their assurances. “It’ll be fine,” they would have said. “She’ll come home. Oh, how you’ll tan her hide when she does!”But there were no friends. Nobody to help and comfort, guide and muse. Nobody to tuck Marie in when it became too much. Nobody to brush her hair and make sure she took something to calm her nerves. Nobody to
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Chapter Five
CHAPTER FIVEThe second she saw the policeman, the look in his dark eyes, her hand flew to her mouth.“Ma’am, we believe we found your daughter.”Two months had passed. Two months of looking out the window and doors and standing on the front porch in the wind and rain and sunshine, just in case Aleta forgot what home looked like. If her little girl happened to wander by, confused, looking at houses and front porches and trying to remember which apartment had been hers, why, there would be her mother! To love and hold and greet her. To smooth her hair back from her eyes and promise she’d love her always, no matter what had happened, no matter what she had been forced to do. There was Grim Marie, who would become Benevolent and Joyful Marie, and her little Aleta would be safe.But the eyes of this man, of the way he held her gaze far too carefully while his partner couldn’t manage to hold her gaze at all, told her she had no need to stand in that doorway ever again.“Oh,” she said.
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Chapter Six
CHAPTER SIXThey held a funeral for the bits and pieces of Aleta they could find. It wasn’t much. Marie chose to have her cremated and then there was even less.She kept her in a jar in the living room. She had always believed in burial, but had dreams of wolves digging Aleta’s bones up at night, gnawing on them and taking them away off to some dark magical forest. Night after night. So in the jar she went, and the jar was placed high, and when her mother died she cremated her as well and set them side-by-side.“Hello, family,” she greeted them once, and then she was unable to get out of bed for three days straight.“I’m so sorry, baby,” she said again, once she was standing in front of the jars again. “You died because I wanted the selfish luxury of a bath.”She was in bed for six days after that, unable to move or speak or sit, and when the young second officer couldn’t get a hold of her, he managed to break down her door.“We don’t need all of you lined up in a neat little row
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Chapter Seven
CHAPTER SEVENPart of Aleta’s favorite red hoodie turned up in some bramble outside of the city. It was cut, shredded, and stained. Animals had been gnawing and tearing at it, pulling it apart thread by thread by thread with their canines and incisors and grinding molars.From what they recovered of Aleta’s body, she had also been gnawed and ripped, but the animals pulling her apart had been a different sort.Angry Marie made a decision, then, and the impact of that decision would way heavy in her soul for the rest of her life. But seeing as her soul was pretty much tattered beyond recognition anyway, it didn’t seem like that much of a leap.She combed her hair that day, but that was because Marie was a neat and cleanly sort of woman. This was for herself, not for anybody else. She didn’t blacken her lashes. She didn’t outline her mouth. She hoped her frown lines were frownier than ever. And Marie hopped on the bus.The ride went on for hours, but it still wasn’t long enough. On t
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Chapter Eight
CHAPTER EIGHTTo find The Wolf, one must think like a Wolf. Wolflet Marie looked in her mirror one dark night for the last time. She was saying goodbye.Goodbye, dark hair. Goodbye, soft eyes. Goodbye, lips that quivered and trembled and did everything but speak and eat. Goodbye gentle, hard-working hands.Her smoothly curled ears grew sharp and hard, pointed at the ends. Her nose elongated into a snout. Her teeth sharpened, her eyes darted and watched and threw back light in the darkest of the night. Fur ran across her mother’s skin, tufted at her collar. Her hands grew, stretched, and were tipped with claws. Wolflet Marie howled and shattered the mirror. She didn’t want to chance seeing weak Human Marie in there ever again.She stayed up late doing batches of work. She smiled at the cashier when she picked up her few groceries. She donned her sunglasses and looked like any other woman when she traveled to and fro on the bus line. Deceptions. A wolf in human skin. She was on the p
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Chapter Nine
CHAPTER NINEShe saw The Wolf twice more, each time eyeing the victim that she herself had chosen.She knew it was him. Deep down in that primal part of her guts, she knew. The way he breathed, the way his teeth flashed, it all pointed him out to her.“Officer.”She stood in the police station, feeling like a criminal herself. Her bag was thrown over one shoulder. In it, she had something very, very important.“This is him,” she said, and pulled out the phone. She thumbed through until she saw his long face, his devilish eyes. “This is The Wolf.”Will the Officer eyed the picture carefully, committing it to memory. He pushed a few buttons and things zinged and zipped and flew through the etherverse until The Wolf and the various features that made up his face were contained neatly in nice little criminal files.“He didn’t see you take it?”“No. I was careful. Do you recognize him?”“I don’t. But that doesn’t mean anything.”He slipped the phone into his desk. Marie fidgeted.
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