Little Girl Gone - By Battles, Brett


“Get the girl,” the voice whispered once more.

Slowly, Logan Harper opened his eyes. It had been the dream again, always the dream.

Get the girl.

He knew the words wouldn’t completely go away. They defined him now. He’d come to accept that. The best he could hope for was to force them to the back of his mind, and make them a distant whisper he could almost ignore.


He reached for his cell phone a second before its alarm started softly beeping. 4:05 a.m. It was time to get up, and start pushing the words away.

Creating habits had been the key. He’d developed a strict schedule that allowed him to go from one task to the next to the next. In the two years since he moved back to his hometown of Cambria, California, he’d basically done the same things everyday. In the mornings this meant a six-mile run, a shower, twenty minutes reading, then out the door to work.

The reading had been the hardest part. In the first few months, it had been almost impossible to concentrate on the words. His mind would drift back. He’d see things he didn’t want to see. Hear things he didn’t want to hear. But he kept at it, finally training himself to focus on the page and not on the past.

At 5:55 a.m., he would close whatever book he was reading, and head out. That Tuesday morning was no different.

Cambria was located on the Central Coast of California, almost exactly at the midpoint between Los Angeles in the south and San Francisco in the north. It had been a good place to grow up, but like most teenagers in small towns, Logan had seen it as confining. He couldn’t wait until he turned eighteen and could leave, and that was exactly what he did—Army, college, a great job at a defense contractor based in D.C. He was gone fifteen years before everything changed, and the only place that made sense for him to go was home.

Now, instead of small and confining, he would have said Cambria felt right. But that wasn’t really the truth. Nothing felt right to him. What Cambria was for Logan was a place where he could just be, and not worry if it was right or confining or safe or any of those kinds of things.

It was a way station between what was and…what he had no idea.

At his normal walking pace, it was eleven minutes from the front door of his apartment above Adams Art Gallery to Dunn Right Auto Service and Repair where he worked as a mechanic, but only if he was heading straight there. His routine included a stop at Coffee Time Café for a large cup of French roast, black, and a toasted bagel with a light smear of cream cheese.

Tun Myat had owned Coffee Time for nearly two decades. He was a seventy-something year-old Burmese man who moved to the U.S. in the 1980s, and was a close friend of Logan’s dad, Neal “Harp” Harper, for nearly as long. He was always smiling, and never had a problem if a regular was a little short on cash. No one called him Tun, though. He was Tooney, even if you’d just met him.

As usual, the lights inside Coffee Time were all blazing when Logan arrived. He pushed on the door, but had to pull up short to keep from slamming into it when it didn’t open. He took a step back and looked at the sign propped in the front window. CLOSED still faced out.

Logan was pretty much Coffee Time’s first customer everyday, and Tooney almost always made sure the door was unlocked before he showed up. Peering inside, Logan looked through the dining area, past the glass cabinet that housed the pastries, and into the visible section of the kitchen. He couldn’t see anybody, but Tooney had to be there somewhere. When Logan had run by an hour earlier, the lights had been off.

Chances were, Tooney was just running a little behind, and scrambling to get everything ready. If that were the case, he could probably use a little help, Logan thought. He decided to go around back and see.

Coffee Time was the second-to-last unit in a row of tourist-focused shops on Main Street. Logan headed around the last of the units, then toward the back. Just as he reached the end of the building, he heard a raised voice. He paused, worried he’d almost walked into something that was none of his business, then took