We met in the Hollow.
It was May of 1930, and there was word that something in the Hollow was taking prisoners. Clothes and belongings had been found scattered along North Road, as well as an abandoned automobile. Not exactly the type of thing a person leaves behind.
At least not willingly.
I went into the Hollow on a Monday morning, tracked the prints of an animal I didn’t know and came to a small house. From within it came the sound of a woman singing, and I drew my Colts as I approached the door.
Through a window, I saw a tall, graceful woman, dancing alone and singing to herself.
I confess I was smitten by her.
With my Colts still in hand, I rapped the butt of one on the door and waited for it to be opened.
She did so a moment later, her eyes widening slightly at the sight of Colts. I introduced myself and asked if I could come in.
“I’m Charlotte Caisson,” she told me and invited me into her home.
Soon I was seated in a small, delicate parlor with a blue teacup in hand. The tea was sweet, and I sipped at it politely as we spoke.
“Have you seen any strangers come through the Hollow?” I asked.
She laughed, nodding. “It’s the Hollow, Mr. Blood. Everyone’s a stranger.”
“Yes, there have been a few strangers, but nothing terrible.” She bit the corner of her bottom lip as though she wanted to ask me a question, and then she shook her head. “Have you come far?”
“Only from North Road in my Cross.”
She brushed an errant strand of hair back behind her ear. “I was about to fix something for dinner. Would you care to stay?”
I told her I would.
The day passed by slowly and pleasantly, and by the end of dinner, we were on a first-name basis. By evening, we were sitting on the settee together. And by nightfall, well, there’s no need to write about that.
That night and the following day were exceptional, and when I told her I had my farm to check on, she pressed this photograph and a letter into my hand. She knew as well as I that the Hollow would shift.
When I reached home, I opened the letter and read, “I’ll take no more from your Cross.”
She never did, and I’m glad.
It would have hurt my heart to kill her.