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Cry, Baby, Cry

Cry, Baby, Cry by Maureen Mackey
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Francie’s life changes drastically when she and Sam trade their busy urban lifestyle for a tranquil house in the suburbs. But Francie soon discovers things aren’t quite as peaceful as they seem. Is her new neighborhood really full of witches, or does it just appear that way because it’s Halloween? Trick-or-treating this year leaves Francie with an abandoned baby on her doorstep, drawing her into a web of fear and lies. A murder sharpens her anxiety for the baby and its missing mother. Francie must cope with unforeseen stresses in her own little family while using all her wits to find a killer. If she fails, and perhaps even if she succeeds, at least one Christmas celebration in her picture-perfect neighborhood will be shattered.

Awe-Struck Publishing; November 2004
181 pages; ISBN 9781587494826
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Title: Cry, Baby, Cry
Author: Maureen Mackey
I had a brilliant idea. Walking Sally's dog would give me the perfect excuse to search all the fields and nooks and crannies of our neighborhood. Nobody would question practically anywhere I went as long as I had a leash in my hand and a dog on the end of it. We walked down every cul-de-sac and along every street within a five-block radius. We walked through piles of leaves, soggy with rain, saw Halloween jack o' lanterns rotting on doorsteps and porches, but saw no evidence of Angel or her infant. Then we came to the edge of the Twin Oaks Forest. It wasn't a real forest, but rather a five-acre park and nature preserve set aside by the city when the developers first came to the area and started chopping down trees to clear the land for homes. "What do you think, Lady?" I said to the tireless little dog. "Should we go in there? It looks pretty muddy. Still, there is a trail." A squirrel scurried up the trunk and into the branches of a tree down the path ahead of us. Lady didn't hesitate. With a strength amazing in one her size, she plowed forward, dragging me in her wake. "Take it easy, dog! I'm trying to stay out of the mud!" Lady pulled me further and further down the trail till we were deep in the forest. Then she stopped. We were surrounded by tall firs, moss carpeting their branches, ferns at their feet. The air was palpable with moisture, even though it wasn't actually raining. Here, I was suddenly reminded that this part of Oregon was actually a rain forest. Back in the neighborhoods, with the native trees cut down and the asphalt and concrete in their place, it was easy to forget what the land once was. Lady sniffed the air. Then she pulled me suddenly off the trail and into the trees. "Lady, where do you think you're going?" I pulled futilely at the leash. The dog maintained a steady forward pace as I struggled to hang on and keep up. I dodged tree branches, hopped over logs and fervently hoped I wasn't running through poison oak. Then Lady stopped in a small, protected clearing. She went over to a stump and started sniffing. I gratefully sat down on a relatively dry log. "You crazy dog. Are you going to stay here a while?" She started pawing at the ground, and whimpering. I tried to pull her away, but she wouldn't budge. "What on earth is so interesting, you mangy mutt?" I went closer to investigate. Lady sunk her teeth into some fabric, and was shaking her head from side to side while trying to back out with it. I reached down and tried to get her to give it up. "Lady, let go! Now!" She didn't exactly give it to me, but she didn't stop me from taking it, either. She had been pulling on a big pile of black cloth, wadded in the hollow base of the tree stump. With a trembling sense of dread I lifted the fabric up to the light. It was a skirt, a long black skirt. It looked as though it had been torn, or more likely, slashed by some sort of knife. Large patches of the fabric were stiff with a powdery dark stain. In the light the stains were a rusty brown. I knew what those stains were. They were blood. I had seen blood stains before, but never in such a large quantity. I also knew, with fatalistic certainty, where the skirt had come from. It was Angel's skirt, the skirt she had been wearing when I saw her on Halloween night. I closed my eyes and could almost see the scene--Angel here that night, crouched in pain by the tree, giving birth. Had she been alone? With all my soul I hoped not. I looked down into the stump and saw there was more there. I reached in and pulled out a black dress, some stockings and underwear. They were all bloodstained, too. I started searching around the trunk. In the bushes I found a some scuffed-up shoes. This wasn't right. It couldn't be right. These were all the clothes I had seen on the girl that night. All of them blood-stained. My stomach lurched, as if I was in a plummeting elevator. I felt faint. There was way too much blood on all these clothes. Was it Angel's blood? Was Angel dead?