Story Excerpt
Gold Star Heart

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Deputy Eddie Fletcher slowed his cruiser and then pulled over to the side of the road at the spot where someone had reported seeing a car in the ditch. He couldn't immediately see the vehicle, and it made him wonder if it had been a crank call, but he needed to look anyway.

He grabbed his CB mic and hit the button. "Agnes, this is Deputy Fletcher. I'm on scene at the report of that car in the ditch on Lower River Road. I'll be out of vehicle for ten."

"Copy that, Deputy."

It seemed kind of ridiculous to tell someone he'd be out of his car for a few minutes when he was merely looking for a car in the ditch, but Sheriff John Riley was fanatical about following procedure. He wanted to make sure he always knew where his deputies were in case there was trouble.

Eddie checked his pistol before climbing out of the vehicle. He walked several yards in each direction, looking for the vehicle. When he didn't spot anything on his side of the road, he crossed to the other side and started looking again.

He didn't spot a car, but a flash of red in all the green trees and shrubbery caught his attention. Eddie walked closer, trying to get a better look. A set of blue eyes peeked at him through a mop of chestnut curls.

Eddie squatted down to get to the kid's eye level. He estimated the kid couldn't be more than three or four, maybe younger. He was clearly frightened. The blood all over his shirt was a good indication that he had reason to be frightened.

"Hello," Eddie said softly. "I'm Deputy Eddie. Can you tell me your name?" He pointed to the gold badge on his uniform shirt. "See, I'm a police officer."

Those smoky blue eyes were filled with trepidation as they followed where Eddie was pointing and stared at the golden badge.

Eddie smiled. "I'm one of the good guys, kind of like Batman."

Sort of.

Those frightened eyes moved back to his face for a moment before the kid turned and darted back through the trees.

"Hey." Eddie jumped to his feet and ran after the little guy. He had to dodge several branches as he tried to follow the kid through the woods and down a steep slope. He paused near the bottom when he spotted the car. The front in was crushed and wrapped around a tree, which seemed to be the only thing keeping it from sliding farther down the slope.

The kid stood next to the open door of the vehicle, his hands clenched together. He watched Eddie cautiously, but with a hint of desperation as if he was waiting for Eddie to save him, or whoever was inside the vehicle.

Eddie moved closer.

"Peas hep Cawy."

Eddie squinted as he tried to decipher those words. Peez hep...oh. "Cary? You need me to help Cary?"

Chestnut curls flopped as the kid nodded.

"Cawy hurt."

The car jerked and slid a little when the kid tried to climb into it.

"No!" Eddie jumped forward and grabbed him. He turned and set him down on the ground and pointed up the hill. "Go stand up there. I don't want to have to worry about you while I'm trying to help Cary."

Eddie waited until the little waif had climbed back up the hill then turned back to the car. He grabbed an overhanging branch and used it as leverage as he lowered himself down far enough to see inside the vehicle.

Damn. There was someone hurt inside.

Eddie grabbed the mic attached to his uniform. "Agnes, I'm going to need EMTs and a tow truck at my location."

"Copy that, Deputy. Code red or..."

"Hold on." Eddie reached in and felt the guy's neck. He breathed a sigh of relief when he felt a steady pulse under his fingertips. "Yeah, Agnes, code red. This guy is alive, but there's a lot of blood. Head injury for sure. I can't tell what else."

Agnes's voice was a little quieter when she replied. "Copy that, Deputy."

Eddie winced when he glanced back up the hill. "Agnes, I'm also going to need someone out here from social services."

"Social services?"

He swallowed tightly. This was always the hard part of the job. "There's a kid, Agnes."

"The victim?"

"No, I don't think he's injured, but it's hard to tell. He's covered in blood. I'm just not sure whose it is."

"Copy that, Deputy." The sadness in Agnes's voice mirrored the sadness Eddie was feeling.

He had been on the scene of more accidents than he cared to remember, and none of them good. The ones involving kids were the ones that tore at his soul. Young lives cut short or traumatized. It was never good.

A soft moan from the interior of the car drew Eddie's attention back to the car. He leaned in as far as he dared and tried to assess the damage. The guy a huge gash on his forehead that would need stitches at the very least. That would explain the blood. Head wounds bled a lot. Eddie just hoped there wasn't a fractured skull to go along with that gash.

There was also some blood on the man's leg, but Eddie couldn't tell where it was coming from. He hoped it was simply blood from the head injury, but he didn't think his wish was going to be granted.

"Hey," he said when the guy's eyelids began to flutter. "My name id Deputy Fletcher. You've been in a car accident." Duh. Like the man couldn't tell that already. "Paramedics are on the way."


Eddie glanced up the small incline. The kid was squatted down next to the base of a tree, his thumb in his mouth. His eyes were intent, watchful.

"Little guy?" Eddie asked as he looked back to the guy pinned in the car. "Red shirt?"


"He looks fine. There some blood on him, but I think it's your blood. I don't see any injuries on him."

The sigh of relief the man let out was heavy.

"Can you tell me your name?"