Joined: 20 June 2012
Sunset was always a special time for Khushi Kumari Gupta. She loved to watch the myriad color changes across the vast plains. The clouds changing color from white to gold to pink-gold to red, until they became gray blobs in the sky. The first star comes out in the East, while the sun is still sinking in the West. The plains turn darker and darker until the sky and the earth become one.
Khushi strode briskly along the wooden sidewalk, her low heeled boots beating a steady rhythm as she walked. The sky was almost dark now, as she turned the corner and stopped at the sight in front of her.
Two men stood in the half-shadows across the street. One of them held a gun to the other's head. She clapped a hand over her mouth. 'Holy Mother Mary,' she thought, her eyes rounded, as she slowly backed into the shadows of the building.
She watched as the man holding the gun raised it and shot the other man at point blank range. She watched the blood and gore fly, as the second man flew back a few feet and dropped. The shooter looked around, and her grey-green eyes widened as she caught full sight of him, even under the brim of his hat. She watched as he wiped his face with his left hand, and then moved away.
He had barely gone five steps when she turned around and ran. Ran as fast as she could. She knew the streets, so she was at an advantage. She took little side streets and finally slipped into a barn and found her self in a dark place. She could hear him following her, his heavier footsteps following her.
She hated the dark. But right now, it was her best friend. She ran to the back, and crawled into a bale of hay, holding her breath, trying not to pant. Thank God her dress was black. Through the hay, she watched as he walked through the barn, trying to see through the final slats of light coming through the wooden walls and the open door. She held her breath, and closed her eyes.
He walked around and then bent to pick something up, before throwing it aside. He stood there quietly, then, waiting for her to make a move. She opened one eye, the hay making it hard for her to see.
Finally, he turned around and walked away.
An average sized man, with a powerful physique. He walked as if he spent hours in the saddle. A silver and turquoise Navajo bracelet hung off his muscled left arm. He wore a holster on his left side. He was left-handed. His tight jeans were tucked into tall boots, and a pair of spurs on the heels, jingled as he walked. The low brim of his hat revealed the French beard on his chin, framing thick lips.
She sat there, shivering as the night got colder, too frightened to come out. But she was afraid. Afraid to come out, even as it grew pitch dark inside the barn. Not until she heard movement of people outside. There were many feet running outside.
Carefully she stepped out of the hay. A pair of fireflies danced in front of her, giving her a little light. Slowly she went to the door, opening it, expecting a hand, at any second to come out and grab her.
People were running towards the body of the man who lay by the sidewalk. She walked with them, realizing it would be safer for her to stay with the crowd. She looked down at the face of the man who lay there in his own blood.
Who was he? No one seemed to know. He must be a out-of-towner, they said. The sheriff and the coroner arrived. People started drifting away when she saw her father, walking with his friend, Happy, both quietly discussing the murder.
'Papa!' she cried, running to him.
'Khushi? What're you doing here, gal?' he asked, his kindly dark eyes concerned.
'I .. was going to get Payal from Tina's house. She's working on her bridal dress,' she explained.
Her father looked at her face, pale even in the dim light of the gas lamps, her eyes wide and dark and frightened. He put his arm around her.
They walked to Tina's house, and Payal joined them as they walked back home.
Khushi was not her normal chirpy self through their dinner. In fact, she didn't even eat as much as she usually did.
Shashi decided he had to know what was happening with his baby girl.
'What's up, little one?' he asked.
She shook her head, chewing her lower lip as she tried not to give away her nervousness. Finally, she looked up to his face, 'Papa, I saw him!' she blurted out. Her face was pale, her hands shaking, the gray-green of her eyes now dark with worry.
'Saw whom?' asked her mother.
'The man,' she lowered her head.
'Which man?' this time it was her father.
'The man who killed that other man tonight.'
Garima and Payal gasped. Shashi frowned. 'Did he see you?' he asked.
'I don't know, but he chased me. He might have seen me,' she gnawed her lower lip between her teeth. 'I ran. And I hid in the barn.'
'Would you know him if you saw him again?' Shashi asked.
Shashi sat quietly thinking it over. 'Let's talk to the sheriff tomorrow,' he said. 'Go to bed, Khushi and Payal,' he said.
Garima and Shashi watched their two daughters walk off towards the stairs to their bedrooms. She looked at him. 'Do you think Khushi is in danger?'
'I don't know Garima. But I reckon I don't wanna find out,' he said grimly.
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