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Driving through the night, he had the ransom money in a grocery bag and the girl's body in the trunk. He scanned the glowing radio dial and hugged the curves of the two-lane highway. The road was good and he knew where he was going. Afterwards he would head back to Fort Smith, dog-leg over and drive straight through to Tennessee.
He thought about the girl saying "Angel of The Morning" was her favorite song. He had laughed at her then, but even with her face swollen and her hands black from the ropes, he could imagine this unearthly radiance about her in the light of dawn.
"There's a Moon Out Tonight" sang the radio, but there wasn't. Just the last of the winter stars trailing Orion over the western horizon, their points softened by spring and grown heavy by the pull of sleep.
He got to the turnoff, killed the lights, got out and untied the old gate. Then he drove, slowly 'til he saw through the trees the river reflecting the starlight. Opening the door he heard the murmur of the water and the distant cry of a kingfisher. He carried her body one last time and laid her gently in the hollow trunk of a fallen tree. He covered her with pine-boughs in the manner of the Osage, and the wilderness listened. He pushed her over the bank and the water swallowed her up beneath a canopy of stars.
He was driving east now, and all that was sordid and tainted in his life was behind him. His soul felt full of sweetness and beauty, and as he rolled down the window the purifying air rushed in. And in amazement he heard the radio sing "Angel Of The Morning."
"How art thou fallen from Heaven,
0 Lucifer, son of the morning!
How art thou cut down to the ground."
With a smile he held the money out the window and felt it blow through his fingers. It fluttered wildly and just for a moment flew behind his car like the tail of a comet. And he was on the Arkansas line. In the hour before dawn.
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Copyright © Thomas Anderson, Angry Young Grad Student Music