Excerpt of Standing Guard

Psalm 23:4
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow
of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with
me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."  


"Mama? Mama?"

The little voice was barely audible, yet it was enough to reach into Lindy Southerland's subconscious and rouse her from a troubled sleep. 

She sat up in bed, raked her long, reddish-gold hair back with her fingers and strained to listen. Could she have imagined hearing Danny calling? 

Suddenly, something hit the floor somewhere in the otherwise silent house. The thud was muted but unmistakable. Had her only child fallen out of bed?


Danny's high-pitched plea was tinged with anxiety. She hadn't imagined hearing it the first time. Poor little guy sounded scared. Again. No wonder. Neither of them had slept well since they'd seen Ben…

Banishing the memories of her family's kidnapping and her husband's murder that continued to haunt her, Lindy threw back her blankets, stood to slip into a warm robe and belted it. 

How she hated the night. Her irrational fears had increased in the six months since she'd been tragically widowed and she didn't know how to fight back. Or how to help her seven-year-old son.

She took a settling breath and mustered her courage. Danny needed her. That was all that mattered. 

"It's okay," she whispered, trying to fool herself by pretending she was composed and unruffled. "I'm okay. Danny's okay. We're fine now."
But she wasn't fine. And her little boy wasn't fine, either. They'd been through too much, seen too much, suffered too much. 

"I'm coming, honey," she called. "Mama's coming."
Trembling inside, she padded barefoot down the second floor hallway. Danny's open door was illuminated by one of the tiny nightlights she had placed throughout the house after her son had begged for them. Not that she blamed him. Their world seemed far less gloomy and intimidating when it wasn't filled with shadows. 

Lindy expected to spot his tousled head on the pillow but the blankets were too bunched.

She tiptoed closer. 

Reached for the edge of the covers. 


Lindy whirled in the direction of the distant echo. He was terrified! 

Without pausing to think, she physically answered the child's summons, her feet slapping the cold, hardwood floor, the hem of her robe fluttering behind her as she bounded down the stairs as fast as she could without falling.

She paused at the bottom. "Danny? Where are you?"
All she could hear was his nearby whimpering. Had he been sleepwalking and awakened somewhere other than his bed? That was most likely the case. It had happened before. The pediatrician had assured her it was probably just a phase the child was going through but that didn't keep Lindy from hurting for her confused little boy.

"Danny?" Still on the trail of his soft sobbing, she dashed past the entrance to the ultra-modern kitchen. 
What she glimpsed in her peripheral vision took a second to register. Although momentum had already carried her well beyond the doorway she suddenly realized she'd seen movement. Menace. 

A huge, dark shape jerked and shifted as she darted past.
Lindy almost faltered. If not for the continuing sounds of her child's weeping she might have bolted, have run for her life. But she could not think only of herself. She had to find Danny.

She rounded the corner into the living room and stopped. Held her breath. Cast around and saw no one. Nothing. Where was he? His last plea had definitely come from this direction but there was no sign of him.

The childish crying had ceased. All she could hear now was muttered cursing and multiple, heavy footsteps behind her. There had to be at least two prowlers, maybe more, and she had nowhere else to go. She was cornered!

The high back of the brown tweed sofa caught her eye. It wasn't much but it was the only object in the room big enough to provide an adequate hiding place. 

Lindy raced for cover, turned sideways, edged behind the bulky piece of furniture and then froze momentarily, straining to listen, to better assess her situation. 

A shout of, "Get her," made the fine hairs on her arms prickle more than the icy February weather outside. 

"Why me?" another male voice replied. "You're the clumsy one. We could of gotten in and out without a problem if you hadn't dropped that stuff."

"Shut up and do as you're told. I'm almost done."
Lindy nearly gasped aloud when something cold touched her ankle. 


She fell to her knees, opened her arms and pulled a thin figure closer. "Danny!" His name was little more than a hint on her breath. 

"Mama, I…"

"Hush." Lindy gathered his shivering body closer. "Don't talk."

A nod told her he understood. Satisfied, she grasped his shoulders and held him so they were eye to eye. Terror painted his shadowy expression so vividly Lindy could hardly bear to look. 

"Shush," she mouthed, directing the boy's attention beyond their hiding place with nothing more than rapid eye movement. They could hear at least one person drawing nearer. Once the footfalls reached the carpeted living room, however, the noise was muted.

They heard that prowler pause and yell to his partner. "I don't see ‘em in here."

Lindy pulled her quivering child closer and held tight. Was it possible this man was too dumb to think of looking behind the couch? Could anyone be that dense?

A long shadow flowed across the floor and crept up the wall behind her. He might be slow-witted but he was coming closer just the same. Should they stay there like sitting ducks or make a run for it? 

Was there a chance they could get to the front door, unlock it and flee before he overtook them? She doubted it. Besides, it was freezing outside and Danny was wearing only light flannel pajamas. 

"I'm done in here," the more distant prowler shouted. 
"C'mon. Let's go."

"You sure? What if she saw us?" The bulky shadow shifted and shortened slightly, as if the man might be moving away.

"What do you care? You know what happens to witnesses who get in our way."

The man closest to Lindy laughed hoarsely, making her skin crawl. She bit her lip to stifle the urge to scream.

"Yeah," he said, projecting his voice as if making an announcement. "No cops, lady. You got that? You rat to the police and we'll be back. Next time, you and your brat won't be as lucky as you were when good old Ben got what was coming to him."

He was still snorting and chuckling as the sound of his morbid attempt at humor faded away.

Lindy slumped down, pulled Danny into her lap and just sat there, rocking him and weeping silent tears while she wondered what to do next. She knew she should call the sheriff and report the break-in. That's what a normal person would do.

But she wasn't a normal person, she was the widow of Ben Southerland. And Danny was his son. Some of the higher-ups in the criminal organization that had abducted her and Danny, and had cost Ben his life when he'd tried to save them, had evaded capture. 

The police had assured her that those kinds of white-collar crooks would have no further interest in her family.
Lindy had wanted desperately to trust their opinion and had almost convinced herself they were right – until tonight.