The cicadas screamed. Their shrill, interminable cry gnawed into the girl's brain like acid. She lay on her side, her knees drawn up toward her chest against the pain. Her flesh was torn and raw and now unpityingly scorched on that side exposed to the caustic desert sun. But though her body sweltered, and the stones beneath it stabbed like broken glass, she could not move.

"Don't hurt me anymore." "Don't hurt me anymore." The phrase droned over and over in her mind as if the tape across her mouth had locked it in. "Don't hurt me anymore"; its rhythm strangely mimicked by the flashing red/blue lights that suddenly appeared as if to mock her helplessness with alternating stares.

"Oh, my good God!"

"Is she alive?"

"Barely. Get a blanket from the car, will ya? And call the Rescue Unit."

While the one officer hurried back, the other tried to shield the girl from the midday sun.

"Don't worry, honey. You're gonna be okay."

He had to force back the rage and nausea that swept over him on seeing the gore. The girl was naked, bloodied, had been gagged and bound with heavy tape, beaten, raped, and mercilessly left alone to die. All the hair had been shaved from her body. Both eyes were blackened and swollen shut.

"They're on their way. Shouldn't we at least un-tape her hands and feet?"

"No, we'd have to move her." He covered the blistered body with the blanket. "There's an awful lot of blood between her legs. And she's been burned."

"Jesus, she's just a kid. Whataya think? Fourteen? Fifteen?"

"Better take a look around."

More flashing lights appeared. The medics worked quickly, efficiently. Before long the girl's bonds were cut, the gag peeled off, and she was gingerly lifted onto a stretcher—I.V. and blood-transfusion bottles dangling over her bald and battered, oxygen-masked head. They carried her into the waiting van.

"Hey, is she gonna make it?"

The driver closed the double doors and turned to the officer.


"Did she say anything?"

"Yeah. 'Don't hurt me anymore.'"

"Jesus Christ."

The ambulance pulled away. The patrol car followed.

On the ground where the girl had lain remained a pool of clotted blood, as though the earth itself had ruptured. The sun glared down to cauterize the wound. The cicadas screamed.



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