He waited patiently and quietly in the bushes for the girl. She came around this part of the forest around the same time every day to gather blackberries. The man smirked and popped one into his mouth, the darkly colored juice staining his fingers and lips. He licked it away, and settled himself in the grass. She would be an easy catch.

She was lean and fit, a healthy teenager overall, about the age of seventeen or eighteen, and had a perfect figure with curves in all the right places. Her long, dark brown hair was light and bouncy looking and her brown eyes completed the picture of innocence; the man could hardly keep himself still just thinking about the girl. Even a man like himself, who drifted about from here to there, could stop for a while to think about a woman. No, he did not picture himself being with the woman for long. But, the time he did picture, however, was just long enough for him. Then he'd be gone to the wind yet again.


Lina Mayfleet grabbed her basket. Mrs. Murdo didn't need blackberries today, because they had plenty now, so Lina was instead sent to gather herbs and roots that the doctor didn't grow herself. "And be quick about it," Mrs. Murdo repeated for the five millionth time, "because it'll get dark soon. If you stay out at night-"

"I know, I know," Lina rolled her eyes, laughing, "I could get myself into 'some real trouble'. I've heard this speech before."

"I just want to make sure that you don't forget it, Lina." Mrs. Murdo said. Lina nodded as Mrs. Murdo looked her up and down one last time, "Now go!" Lina dashed out the front door. She flew down the little dirt road that wound itself up and into the forest.

Lina gathered the things she was told and began to make her way out of the forest. The blackberries came to her mind, suddenly. Lina, for some reason or another, felt compelled to pick fresh ones. They could be for herself for once, she reasoned, and she could even bring some to Doon and his father and Mr. Pocket. So, she turned off her path and ran to the blackberry clearing. She wanted to do it quickly so Mrs. Murdo wouldn't get worried.

Lina was in such a hurry that she hadn't noticed the strange shadow watching her through the brush, getting closer to her. Lina plucked five more and began to count. She set her basket down and sat cross-legged in the grass, her blackberries in front of her. "One," she said, picking them up one by one and setting them down in a different place so she wouldn't keep counting the same ones again, "two, three…"

The man was right behind her. Lina heard a rustle from behind and jumped up. She wasn't quick enough to turn around, however. Two strong arms wrapped themselves around her in a tight, unbreakable grip, and a large hand covered her mouth. "Hello, beautiful." The man hissed into her ear. Lina stood rigid as a board. She didn't make a sound. "Now, you do exactly what I say, and no one gets hurt."

Lina wanted to see this man. She wanted to know who was trying to do whatever this was to her. She was angry and scared at the same time; so much, in fact, that she didn't know which emotion was stronger. She decided quickly that it was fear. She shook her head up and down.

"Good." The man chuckled. "I'm going to let you go, and if you scream or make any other sound that'll bring attention to you then I'll kill you right here."Lina nodded stiffly. The hand dropped and Lina whipped around. She didn't recognize this man. He was straggly and gruff looking, wearing dirty and dingy clothes. Lina's nose crinkled in disgust as he breathed on her face, flashing yellowed teeth and horrible smelling breath, "Get undressed."

"Wh-what?" Lina whispered unbelievably.

"You heard me. Do or die." He threatened. Tears began to blur her vision as her shaky hands began to unbutton her blouse. She was truly afraid now. Lina wished she hadn't wanted the blackberries. She should have done what Mrs. Murdo had told her and gone straight home. Now look where she was.


Doon walked to Doctor Hester's house to see Lina. These days, he visited often. He could instantly tell things weren't right when he saw the trail of blackberry juice in the shape of footprints that had dragged through the dirt. They were about the same size as Lina's. He could tell that something was wrong. Doon sprinted the rest of the way to the house.