The streets were crowded, lit by the light of several torches. Jeers and chants could be heard. The town square was full of the town’s inhabitants. Directly in the center was a pyre, and attached to it, a woman crying and begging for the crowd around her to cease, but her efforts were unheard among the shouts.
“Burn the witch!” shouted the crowd.
A young man stepped forward and set the pile of wood aflame. Immediately the wood caught fire and the flames began to grow higher and higher as the crowd cheered and watched. Another abomination was taken care of, that's all that mattered at the moment.
The woman’s screams could be heard beyond the little village of Salem. A man and his family were sneaking through the night, away from the chaos that encompassed the center of the town. It was time for them to flee to safety, or they’d be the next ones standing trial.
He hushed his son as he cried out at the sounds of the woman’s screams. Reminding the boy that secrecy and silence was their only hope of survival. William Harper was a protective father, and he’d do anything to save his children from the so called ’trials’ that his fellows were undergoing. People feared what they didn’t understand, and they didn’t understand what the Harpers could do.
It had taken them a long time, but they finally managed to get to safety. They found a place where no one had been yet. With sweat and blood the men of the Harper/Bishop family built their new home along a lake in Upstate New York. It was here that they’d start a new life. Far from anyone who knew where they came from, or who they were. A place where they could be themselves without fear of being persecuted.
She woke with a start, lifting her head from the desk that she had been napping at. The nightmare she had been plagued with started to fade to the back of her mind. Rubbing her forehead and feeling the indention of the spacebar from her desktop computer, she stifled a yawn. It was 6:43 a.m., according to the time on the computer screen.
She had been working on an article for her last-minute deadline on a court case she had covered and had fallen asleep after she finished it. She scrolled the document to the beginning and stifling another yawn, and began to read it over.
Hudson Falls Local Imprisoned For 6 Years
By Aloura Williams
George Huntsman, 43, of Crown Point was charged with possession of child pornography and will be registered as a sex offender after a jury found him guilty on Tuesday.
Huntsman was found in possession of several videos, pictures and was using an internet chat web site to get in contact with minors.
There was no indication on if Huntsman had met any of the minors he was in contact with.
Judge William C. Hawthorne called the crime, “A lowly disgrace that people have unfortunately put themselves into. It’s immoral, and I will never tolerate it in my courtroom.”
Though Huntsman was convicted for six years, prosecutors said that he would most likely be released in a year on probation, if he were awarded good behavior.
Huntsman’s sentence hearing is due to start Friday.
Aloura fixed a few mistakes she had made in the early morning hours when she had been typing up her notes and saved the document. It wasn't an extremely long article, and should have been turned in the night before had she not been pulled into a binge-watch of The Newsroom on Netflix. She pulled up her email, typed in her editor’s name at the Adirondack Times and attached the document. Her deadline wasn't until noon, but being her punctual self, she didn't want to wait until that point.
She sent the email and closed down her computer, giving it a well-deserved rest and stood from her chair. Groaning from spending the night in the hard wood seat, she stretched slightly, brushing her blonde hair from her face before opening the blinds of the two large windows of the study.
The sun had just started to rise over the mountain range that surrounded the lake, the water calm and lazily splashing to the shore. Aloura stared out at the scenery for a second before walking down to the kitchen.
She bustled around, turning on the old radio on the corner of the counter to listen to the local channel’s morning show as she put on a pot of coffee. She hummed along to the song that played while she made her way to the pantry, picking up the box of pancake mix. She found a decent sized bowl, a skillet and sat it on the stove before going to the refrigerator, getting the appropriate ingredients and adding a small container of blueberries before returning to the island in the middle of her kitchen.
As Aloura made breakfast, she stacked pancake after pancake on a plate until she was out of the batter she had mixed, and made a few pieces of bacon, scrambled eggs, and put a few pieces of bread into the toaster before setting it to her usual time. She placed the dirty dishes she had so far into the dishwasher after rinsing them off. Making sure the kitchen wouldn't catch fire, she entered the hall to the living room and up the spiral staircase to the second floor.
The second floor doubled as a balcony overlooking the first floor of the log cabin and was an open den area with arm chairs and ottomans next to each one. A bookcase spread across the wall before the open area branched off into two separate hallways on each side. As Aloura reached the top stair, she turned left and made it down to the last door on the right, and knocked gently.
“Phoenix,” she said softly as she opened the door. She walked over to the ball of blanket that was on the bed and pulled it back. “Wake up, it’s breakfast time.”
The boy groaned and put his pillow over his head. “Mom, it’s Saturday,” came the muffled reply.
Aloura shook her head and pulled the blanket away from her son, who curled up into a ball immediately to try and stay warm. “I am aware of what day it is; however, we have to make our trip into town. We do this every Saturday.”
Phoenix looked up at her groggily through his long, shaggy hair, and made a grab for the blanket, which Aloura pulled further away from him. “Mom,” he whined.
“No whining,” she said. “Up, and downstairs in fifteen minutes.”
“Does that mean I can sleep for ten more minutes?”
Aloura sighed and shook her head. “If you insist,” she muttered, giving into her son and giving him the blanket once more.
Phoenix immediately threw it back over his body and stuck his head under the pillow, and dozed off to sleep. Smiling and shaking her head slightly at her son, Aloura returned downstairs to the kitchen, getting the toast from the toaster and putting it on a plate. She piled a little of each of the portions onto it before setting it down where Phoenix usually sat.
Fifteen minutes later, she heard footsteps approaching and glanced at the pre-teen as he rubbed his eyes and sat down at his place. He looked down at the food on his plate. “Thanks, Mom,” he said before picking up his fork and tackling his blueberry pancakes immediately.
“You’re welcome,” she said before making her own plate and sitting at the head of the table, both eating in silence. As they finished, Phoenix helped his mother clean up and get all the dishes into the washer before running upstairs and getting dressed for the day.
Aloura followed, but turned right at the top of the stairs, going down the hallway past the den and to her bedroom on the right. She glanced at the clock by her bed, noting that it was 7:23.
Assuming that the weather would continue with the warm streak it had been in for the past two weeks, she settled on a green sundress that was accented with a white belt. She found a pair of white flats in her mass collection of shoes and slid them on before shutting the closet door behind her and stepped into the bathroom that was located directly beside the room she was in. Brushing her hair through the tangles and crimps from sleeping on her keyboard the night before, Aloura put her hair up in a simple ponytail with a matching green hair tie. She brushed her teeth quickly and checked her appearance once more in the mirror before deeming herself ready and turned off the bathroom light. She grabbed her purse off the table next to her bedroom door, and made her way back downstairs.
She went to her study and picked up her fully charged cell phone, and looked at the time once more. 7:45. She put the phone in her bag and slid it back onto her shoulder, stopping at the foot of the stairs. “Phoenix!” she called. “It’s time to leave!”
Thundering footsteps filled the second floor as Phoenix ran down the hall and down the stairs. He was dressed in his usual outfit of cargo shorts and a blue plaid shirt. He bent down and tied his Converse shoes and then stood.
“I’m ready,” he announced. Aloura shook her head and mussed up his hair. “Mom, I just brushed it,” he groaned.
“Really? I couldn't tell as shaggy as it is,” Aloura joked, grabbing her keys off the table next to the door. She waited for her son to exit before shutting and locking the door behind them and let him lead the way out to her car.
They lived fifteen minutes from the town limits. The first thing that locals and visitors both saw of the historic town was the small white church on the left. Since the population of Harper's Cove had outgrown its small population in the early 1700’s, a larger church loomed in the background of the original.
Another half-mile into the limits, the heavily-wooded area began to thin out. A long park and joined beach area ran along the coast of the lake, while a main street of barber shops, antique stores, souvenir stands, local cafes and diners blended into the left. Over the years, tourism became the heart of Harper's Cove, and the locals had to adjust their ways of life. They adapted to the strangers who arrived in upstate New York each summer and showed them all the kindest welcome until the last straggling family left in the cool, September air. Then, it went back to small town living, and small town secrets.
Aloura drove through town, turning right on the last stop light and up the hill past where the public school system had been built some 40 years before. Being a small area, the elementary, middle, and high school shared the large building, broken up by two large double doors that led into the next school branch. She drove down the road leaving the school behind them and pulling into the town’s newest edition. The strip mall, an addition the older folks in town didn't quite approve of. Phoenix had been wanting to go there and meet up with some of his friends for the afternoon.
“Remember, Taylor’s dad is coming to get her at one today,” Phoenix said, looking over at his mom as he unlatched his seat belt and grabbed his iPod from the jack.
“I’ll most likely be in town all day,” Aloura assured him with a smile. She leaned over and kissed his temple. “I love you. Have a good day.”
Phoenix smiled and stuffed his iPod into his pocket. “Thanks. Love you too,” he called as he got out of the car and shut the door, waving after one of his friends who had already showed up, and running to catch up with him.
Aloura watched to make sure they would be okay before making her way out of the parking lot and back down the hill, finding a spot to park on Main Street. She slid the gear into park and turned off the ignition. She pushed the remote on her keys to lock all the doors as she exited before sliding them into her bag and making her way down the sidewalk that was slowly starting to come to life with locals and strangers who had already started their vacation.
Living in Harper's Cove for almost seven years, Aloura was still astonished to discover places that she hadn’t before. Some shops she rarely ventured into, and others she frequented to gossip with friends or to pick up an item that she had worn out or needed to replenish.
Locals who knew her waved as they passed, and she stopped a couple of times to catch up. Though she was a resident of Harper's Cove, she spent most of her time in nearby Hudson or Queensbury as a reporter for the Adirondack Times, the local newspaper. To some, she was the small town’s own celebrity, and to some of the older residents, a nuisance. She didn’t pay either side of judgment any mind; she loved her job and it supported her and Phoenix. That was all she cared for.
After a few hours of strolling through shops, Aloura made her way to one of hers and Phoenix’s favorite diners for a cup of coffee. As soon as she opened the door, however, she regretted the decision quickly.
“Allie! Allie, over here!” she heard a voice from a corner booth call out. She didn’t need to look over to see who it was.
Jane Lawson was one of the first locals that Aloura met when she decided to inherit her uncle’s log cabin years before. A retired entertainment columnist, Jane had settled in the woods of the Adirondacks to escape the city life. Her husband, Samuel, was an English teacher for the middle and high schools.
On Jane’s other side was Bridgett Hamilton. She was a registered nurse and worked both at the hospital in Hudson and doubled as the school nurse when a substitute was needed. She lived in a lake house two miles south of Aloura and Phoenix, although she seldom visited.
“So, how is the life of a journalist?” Jane asked as Aloura sat next to Kara.
Aloura shrugged and smiled her thanks to the waitress who brought her coffee over. “Can’t complain,” she said, adding sugar and cream to the black liquid before stirring it with a spoon. “Travel from here to Ticonderoga, then down to Glenn’s Falls in a day, report on three or four different issues, and wrote them all in a twenty-four-hour span.”
“And you’re not complaining?” Bridgett gave her a perplexed look.
She shook her head no. “I love to travel, and I love to write. What do I have to complain about?”
The two women shrugged and sipped at their own drinks. Aloura knew they thought she was mad for doing some of the things she did for a good story, but she didn’t mind. She loved her job.
“How are you two?” she asked. “Anything exciting in your lives?”
Both women shrugged. “Not really,” they answered simultaneously.
"So," Bridgett said, leaning onto the table and looking over at Aloura. "Have you met your new neighbors yet?"
Aloura looked at her confused. "New neighbors?" she asked. "Kara, my 80-year-old neighbors have been on this lake before I was, and the cabin next to me is still pretty vacant. Or it was when I left this morning."
"No, no, the cabin next to that one," Jane explained. "Somebody just bought it. Big family too, from the looks of it."
Aloura blinked a few times and shook her head no. She definitely needed to get away from her work more.
Phoenix had been home for less than an hour was already lost in the woods.
Even though he and his mother had lived in Harper's Cove a few years, the 12 year old hadn't spent a lot of time in the woods around his home. Most of the free time was spent on the lake or in town, plus his mother would have a heart attack if he was gone for long periods of time.
He didn't know what had possessed him to follow an old path near his house, or when the path mysterious disappeared, but Phoenix knew that the farther he was walking, the farther he was losing light, and being in the Adirondacks of New York meant no cell phone service in 85 percent of the area.
He hated to admit it to himself, but...he was getting scared. Phoenix was already starting to freak out at the sounds of twigs snapping and leaves rustling. He remembered all of the times his mother and others warned him of the wild animals and other horror stories about the area.
When he heard a voice speak to him, he yelped out loud and tumbled to the ground after his feet made contact with the roots on the forest floor.
"Not lost are you?" the voice asked with a hint of humor.
"I-I-I'm fine," he managed to ground out, looking around for the source of the voice. A boy not much older than himself was leaning against a tree. He had snapped off a branch and was peeling the skin off the branch with a pocket knife as he leered down at the pre-teen on the ground. Phoenix swallowed and just knew he was done for.
The boy chuckled and shook his head before dropping the stick and putting the knife away. He hopped down from the slight embankment he had been standing on and made his way over to Phoenix. "Yeah. Sure you are," he said standing over him. He held out a hand to help the boy up to his feet. "I'm not going to bite you." he added with a chuckle.
Phoenix took the older boy's hand and got to his feet. "Okay, I'm a bit lost," he finally admitted, looking down at the ground feeling ashamed. "I followed a path from my house and it just disappeared. And if I know my mom at all, she's probably freaking out and demanding search squads to drain the lake to find me."
He realized he was rambling and looked up slightly. "Sorry," he apologized. "When...I'm...I'm nervous, I ramble."
The older teenager nodded and let go of the other boy's hand once he was to his feet. "It's okay. But you don't have to be scared of me. I won't hurt you unless I'm provoked,” he said with a chuckle. "I'll help you find your way back if you want. My house is just back that way a bit. Follow me." He turned back in the direction that he had come from and started walking away.
"I'm not scared of you!" Phoenix said quickly and started to follow the older boy through the woods. "I'm scared of these woods," he added in a mumble. "I don't know why I even came out here."
The boy chuckled and looked back over his shoulder at the him. "Right. I'm Gerard Harris by the way. And you are?" he asked as he continued to walk ducking under trees and branches.
"Phoenix," he answered, also dodging branches and keeping his eyes glued to the ground, afraid of tripping over another tree root. "Phoenix Williams."
Gerard stopped and turned to look at the boy. "Phoenix? Really? Dude, that is an awesome name." he said and started walking again.
Phoenix smiled slightly. "Thanks, I think," he said. "I think my mom was just obsessed with mythology."
Gerard chuckled as he made his way out into the clearing and his own backyard. "That's cool though. Wish my parents had been as creative. Well, this is my house. Not sure where you live, but maybe my Uncle Zachary can help you find it. He's been around here a lot longer then I have. He grew up here."
Phoenix nodded and continued to follow the older boy toward the house. Once it came into view, the younger boy noticed it didn't look much different from his own home. It had a few additions like a longer deck that housed a couple jet skis and a water trampoline, and a sitting area underneath a covered wrap-around porch. Glancing out toward the lake, he could make his own house out just a few lake houses down. Had he really ventured that far into the woods?
Gerard made his way up to the porch, stepping over random toys on the lawn as he made his way across the grass. Stepping onto the front porch, he opened up the door. An older man sat in the living room, short black hair and wearing horn-rimmed glasses. He looked up as Gerard and Phoenix came inside.
"Gerard, look, I'm sorry about before-"
"Don't sweat it Uncle Zach. This is Phoenix Williams, he uh, kind of got lost in the woods. Maybe you can help him find his way home." Gerard said stepping aside so Zach could see Phoenix.
Phoenix looked slightly curious at the brief interaction between the two older men, and wondered in Gerard had been in the woods to get away from something that had been bothering him. As Gerard introduced him, he gave a sheepish smile and gave an awkward wave.
“Ah, I heard there were still some Williams' living in the area,” Zach said, standing from the couch. “I'm Zachary, but everybody around here calls me Uncle Zach.” He gave a reassuring smile to Phoenix. “I'll get you home before your family calls a search party. Gerard, do you mind watching after your siblings and nephew?”
Gerard nodded, and Phoenix could notice there was some tension between the two. He said goodbye to Gerard, who gave a hasty shout as a child upstairs started to cry. Zach made his way back out of the house, Phoenix following.
“My mom is going to kill me,” Phoenix mumbled.
Zach chuckled as he made his way down to the path that circled around the lake. The wildlife in the area had walked around the edge of the lake so much it had left a faint trail through the tall grass. "You haven't been missing that long have you?" he asked jokingly. "Don't worry she can't officially report you missing until it's been at least 24 hours, so I think you're safe.”
Phoenix chuckled slightly and shook his head. "No, I've only been gone about two hours," he assured. "But to my mom, it might as well be days. She's a huge worry wart. I won't be surprised if she's trying to get divers to come and search the lake for me."
Zach looked out over to the lake. "Well, I think I see someone out there." he said before looking down at Phoenix with a smirk. Phoenix's eyes widened and he whipped his head toward the lake. "Joking of course."
Phoenix smiled slightly and relaxed a little. "I didn't know you lived so close to us," he said, changing the subject. “Mom said something about new neighbors.”
Zach shrugged as he continued to walk. "Well, there wasn't enough room at my place in New York City for 3 more kids to come and stay with me so I came here to my parents old place. At least until my brother gets back. I'm taking care of his kids for him." Zach explained.
"Oh," Phoenix answered, not knowing what else to say. "Have they lived out here before? I don't remember seeing Gerard at school before. But I'm only in middle school, so that may be the reason."
Zach nodded and listened to Phoenix's questions. "You're a curious kid, aren't you?" he asked with a smile.
“Mom says it's never a bad thing to ask questions. She's a reporter, so I guess she does it all the time,” Phoenix answered.
“That explains it then.” Zach said. “Well, here we are." He said nodding up towards Phoenix's house.
Phoenix nodded at his words and then looked up at his house. He turned to thank the man when he heard a voice ring out behind him.
"Phoenix Elijah Williams!"
"Uh oh," he muttered, turning around to see his mother jogging over to them.
"Where have you been?!" she asked hysterically. "Do you know how terrified I was? I didn't know where you were! I was about to call the police!"
"I found a path by the house and started to follow it," the boy explained. "But then it disappeared and I got lost, but Zach's nephew found me and he brought me back."
Aloura looked up at the other adult and blinked a few times, and seemed to calm down slightly when she spoke again. "Thank you," she said, hugging her son to her. She held out a hand. "I'm Aloura Williams."
“Zach,” he introduced and they shook hands. "My niece and nephew are staying with me and my son a few houses down. Good thing we're close neighbors, right?”
Aloura smiled and nodded. “I'm glad your nephew found him. Thank him for me, will you?”
Zach nodded. “Of course. Phoenix is more then welcome to come and hang out if he wants to. Just as long as he takes the lake path, and not the forest path." he gave a short chuckle, looking down at Nix.
Allie kept one shoulder around her son’s and nodded. "That would be nice," she said. "As long as somebody tells me where he's going next time."
Phoenix looked down at the ground. "Sorry, Mom," he mumbled.
Zach chuckled and nodded in agreement. "Yeah. Well, speaking of kids. I'd better get back to them. The younger ones can be a bit much for the older ones to handle. It was nice meeting you."
Allie smiled at Zach. "It was nice to meet you as well," she said.
Zach gave a small wave before heading back along the lake. She and Phoenix watched him walk back down the path before she led her son back up to the house. “Alright, mister, now what possessed you to go on an adventure and not tell me where you were going?” she asked.
Phoenix just knew that he was about to get a lecture that would haunt him for the rest of summer and followed.