Drama Thriller Crime

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

The curved rockers snap clean from the hooves under the pressure of her weight. The rocking horse Dad built for her when she was only three years old finally gave way. It was no surprise; Sophie had been truly pushing it to the limit recently. Dad might be upset with her, even though Horsey had been coming up to five years and didn’t owe her anything. She gets up from the hard floor and inspects the broken rocker. Ancient, yellowed adhesive shimmers against the light of the lantern by the table. Toys aren’t fun anymore. Maybe she’s too bored and slightly too old. Perhaps Dad should play with her more.

Out of the cabin window and upon the snowy turf, something catches Sophie’s eye. Under the setting sun, a young rabbit potters past, leaving tracks on the ground. It stops to sniff the air, and the top lip of the mammal splits as it does so, showing off its tiny teeth. She giggles and waves, though it doesn’t seem to react. There’s quite a lot of wildlife around the area, as the cabin is in the middle of nowhere.

After a while, the rabbit bolts away. Fleeing into the shadows from the sound emanating from the other side of the building. Unmistakably, she identifies the noise of Dad’s apish feet thud up the stairs of the porch and kick snow from his boots.

A wave of icy air collapses on her once he enters, and again when he closes the door. She returns to the lantern, cocooning herself in her blanket and awaits Dad’s reaction to the rocking horse. Dumping a shopping bag on the table, he turns to see the window. Mumbling something inaudible, he wrenches the blackout curtains across. Dad returns to the bag and digs through it before coming to see her. With a small smile, he holds out a chocolate bar then quickly withdraws it as he notices the shattered rockers.

“What did I say about riding her too hard?”

Sophies eyes fall to the floor, like a wrongful child would.

“It’s no matter, Soph. I can fix it.”

Dad was always quite handy. A while ago, there was a storm, and the bathroom ceiling caved in. He patched it up in no time at all, but that’s what he was like. He was always fixing things. He used to be a policeman, but he had retired.

He nonchalantly walks into the kitchen and rummages through the drawer next to the sink. Out it comes, the same glue used to stick Horsey. After twisting off the cap, it’s apparent that the adhesive hardened, and he throws it away.

“It’s no matter, I’ll cook us some dinner and then I’ll go buy some more.”

Dad only goes to the store once a month for canned food, other than that he’s self-sufficient. He keeps chickens and a cow, and there’s a well out the back for water. There’s electricity from the turbine, and a generator that’s only used when the wind isn’t up. The truck is kept under a tarp. Sophie used to enjoy riding in the back, but Dad doesn’t drive it that much now.

He calls her to the kitchen table, and she comes over, plonking down in the chair opposite his. Pork and beans again. At the head of the table in front of the vacant seat, sits a dusty photograph of Mum, smiling at them both while they eat. Sophie wasn’t alive in the time that picture was taken, as it was from her parents’ Vancouver holiday in 2015. The picture used to be warming, but now it feels cold and weird. It helped that she was young when Mum passed away, as she doesn’t remember her all that much.

“We’ll get out of this cabin soon, Soph. Once I figure some things with your uncle, we can move to Sacramento.”

Sophie pokes the beans around the plate, making two-by-two boxes with the sausages and herding them inside.

“Don’t play with your food, sweetie.”

They finish their plates without speaking all that much, and Sophie takes both their plates to the sink. He kisses her on the head before putting his coat back on and leaving for the store.

Once she’s sure the sound of the engine carries away from the property, she stops washing up, grabs her coat and scurries to the shed. Dad doesn’t permit her going in there as it’s ‘dangerous’, but there’s nothing except the odd tool or bucket. Heading out the back and across the garden, she crunches through the ankle-deep snow in her slippers until she reaches the rickety old building. The door isn’t locked, but she struggles to pull across the frozen latch to get inside. Back to the kitchen, she takes the cooking oil and dabs a little on a towel.

Once lubricated, the steel latch pulls back with ease. She’s been in the shed a few times before, but never for too long. Dad is very quick when he goes out. Sophie is welcomed to an immediate, overwhelming smell of old paint and water. In front of her lies wooden carvings and projects Dad had started. If he wasn’t hunting, he was building things around the cabin. There are old, half-built toys in here that were made specially for Sophie, but they were never quite finished.

Something metallic behind some boxes catches her eye. Upon closer inspection, it looks to be a console of sorts with knobs and buttons. On the top, a coiled cable is attached to a microphone. The whole thing is rather dusty, and Sophie brushes it down with her sleeve before dragging it out. Trailing behind the box, a wire, plug and some headphones. She bunches them all up and looks for a way to switch it on. The turbine only provides power to the cabin, so the generator will have to do.

Sophie’s seen how Dad starts it up before, but she can’t quite recall what order to do things. There’s a valve at the front with the word ‘fuel’ next to it. She turns that. She grabs the recoil cord and pulls as hard as she can, but the generator doesn’t make a noise. She fiddles with the choke and then notices the engine switch. After flicking it, she pulls again with both hands and finally hears the grumble of the machine. A few seconds pass, and it shuts down again. Puzzled, she thinks hard and remembers that Dad turned something else afterwards. The choke.

She pulls it hard again, but this time she changes the choke to run. The engine churns and thumps wildly and she cheers. Aside the generator are a few sockets, and she plugs the device into it. The interface lights up bright orange, and bold numbers giggle on the screen as the generator reverberates the floorboards. Sophie clamps the large headphones around her child-sized head, and she plays with the buttons. Once she twists the big dial, she can slightly hear crackling and even some voices. They’re hard to make out above the exasperating drones of the generator. She drags the whole thing through the shed and out of the door, closing it enough for the wires to still fit. She sits down and listens, slowly turning the dial. Some voices can be heard more clearly now, but they’re still indecipherable. Picking up the microphone, she presses the big button at the base. Doing this makes a small clicking sound, and she murmurs softly.


Repeating the word another few times before giving up. Reaching for the dial to turn it again, she hears a scrunching clunk sound, and someone finally replies.

“Hello. How did you get this frequency?”

Surprised, Sophie recoils to the man’s husky voice. She didn’t think someone would respond.

“Hi.” She whispers sharply with her mouth up against the microphone.

“Hi there. I don’t know how you managed to get hold of us, but you’re talking to the police right now.”

She goes quiet for a while, gets up and walks back to the cabin. Peeping around the corner past the birch, she checks if Dad is home yet. The driveway is still clear, so she returns to the box. As she sits back down, she can hear the man still talking though the headphones. Sophie slips them back on and listens.

“We don’t really use this radio frequency anymore, but still, you shouldn’t be using it.”

Again, she hesitantly presses the button down on the microphone.

“I’m sorry.”

“That’s OK. What’s your name?”

“S-Sophie.” She stutters, waiting for his reply. Though, there isn’t one for some time.

“Sophie... Horne?”

She flinches hard once she hears her name being said aloud. She runs across the snow again to check if Dad’s home, and he isn’t.

“Yes, how did you know my name?” She squeaks.

“Where are you right now? Tell me your surroundings.” The man demands, and it scares her.

“I’m at home, in the mountain.”

“Which mountain? Chabron?”

Sophie doesn’t know. She’s never left the mountain.

“It’s important you tell me where you are. Are you in a house?”

“I live in a cabin with my Dad.”

The back door to the cabin thuds open, Dad’s here. He rushes over to her and stomps on the box. His boot crushes the exterior and there’s a flashing crackle that bursts from within.


“I’m sorry!” She sobs, holding her head in her cold hands.


“A man.” Sophie whimpers.

“Oh God, oh Jesus. Go grab your boots.”

She runs inside with tears streaming down her face as she shakingly laces up her boots. She’s never seen Dad this angry before, and it frightens her. He shifts into the cabin and throws some things into a backpack, including the picture of Mum. Grabbing her by the arm, he pulls her outside to the truck and almost throws her inside. Dad fiddles with the ignition, swearing whilst doing so.

“We’re going to be alright. Just stay calm, sweetie.”

Dad puts his foot to the floor and tears down the bright white path. The corners are sharp, but he navigates round them with ease. Sophie turns and watches the cabin disappear behind them. He warbles gibberish to himself, keeping his eyes glued to the road.

“Where are we going?” Sophie cries.

Dad turns to face her. He forces a smile with his eyes bulging from his sockets. “I’m going to fix things, sweetie.”

Another vehicle peels around a tree and collides head on with the truck, sending Sophie into the back of the driver seat. Stunned, she looks around to see Dad’s head bleeding on the dashboard. The vehicle, a flashing red, and blue police car wails at the scene. The driver side door opens, and the officer holds something up. A gun.

“Hands.” The officer says sternly.

Dad groans, peeling himself up from the dashboard and raising his arms. The officer holsters his pistol, removing handcuffs from his back pocket and clasping them on Dad’s hands.

“Joseph Lee, you are under arrest for the murder of Lorraine Horne and the kidnapping of Sophie Horne. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in court.”

Sophie never saw Dad again. Not too long after the incident, she moved into a home with other children in similar predicaments. It took a while to get used to being around so many people, but she enjoyed it. She made a new friend who she met with every week. She was a pretty woman named Clare, and she would write down on a notepad whilst conversing with Sophie. Clare asked a lot of questions about the time spent with Joseph Lee, and how Sophie had been missing for five years. She will naively think of Dad sometimes but will soon remove the memory of him as she grows older.

Joseph Lee was a schizophrenic stalker, who abused his role as an officer to worm his way into local houses and commit murder. These residents were usually women, and there have been three previous murders linked back to Lee due to The Horne Case. Lorraine Horne was the fourth victim. She was a single mother who met Joseph at a bar, and after refusing Lee’s advancements towards her, he followed her home. Lee broke in at 3.27AM, and suffocated Lorraine in her sleep. He stole certain belongings from the house, including children’s toys and a photograph of Lorraine. Sophie, Lorraine’s three-year-old daughter was kidnapped, taken seven miles from the Horne residence, and raised in an abandoned cabin in Chabron Mountain. Joseph Lee proceeded to murder four more women over the last five years of his activity.

If it wasn’t for Sophie’s communication with an officer over an old police radio, they would have never located Lee, who lived completely off-grid.

Joseph Lee stood trial at the Montana Supreme Court where he was sentenced to death for the murder seven women.

February 10, 2023 18:40

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Wendy Kaminski
03:28 Feb 17, 2023

Wow, what a wild ride, Kade! This story was seriously impressive, and the plot was well-developed, with plenty of surprises. Excellent first step up onto the site! Thanks for the engrossing thriller, and welcome to Reedsy!


Kade Baker
09:37 Feb 17, 2023

Hi Wendy, Thank you for your lovely feedback! I throughly enjoyed writing this piece, and I’m glad you enjoyed reading it! I joined the site last Thursday and finished the piece late Friday before submissions were due, so I didn’t give myself much time and had to cut the story shorter than I wanted to. But hey, it’s a start! Thank you again :)


Wendy Kaminski
12:24 Feb 17, 2023

Then that is honestly doubly impressive! And, my pleasure. :)


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