Abandoned, afraid, and destitute, Heather faces danger, fear, and death. Then she finds hope, love, and true compassion from strangers who could look beyond the circumstances.
In a whirlwind of events, one girl is ripped from her home and dragged through a harrowing chain of events that could only end horribly. The love, concern, and witness of a special woman touch untold numbers of lives in this riveting book.
The Legacy of One will demonstrate the power of her witness and how one individual’s witness for Jesus impacts so many lives.
Read and Hear from the audiobook in this Free Preview of Chapter 1
Stranded and alone, Heather stood cold and helplessly abandoned along Highway 14. The cold rain pummeled down, coursing over and through her once lovely curled hair. She trudged slowly along, hoping and praying that some kindhearted soul would come by and pick her up. At least this would be a temporary reprieve from the bitter surroundings in which she was now engulfed. Several had passed by and either didn’t see her in the blackness of the stormy night or just refused to stop.
It seemed like hours she trudged through the muck and mire alongside the road. No lights along the roadside anywhere giving any semblance of life. The loneliness seemed to close in around her like a smothering shroud of absolute destitution. No lights of any town on the horizon, if she could even see the horizon. She wasn’t sure just how far she could actually see or how far she had walked, and for that matter, which direction she was walking. The dark gave the impression to be closing in on her, as if trapped in a blacked-out room with moving walls that slowly but steadily moved closer and closer, claustrophobia becoming a terrible certainty.
At the point of exhaustion, she crumpled into a weeping heap alongside the deserted highway. Clutching her meager and only possessions close to her, she raised one hand as if in defiance to the pounding torrential rain as she clutched her muddy, rain-soaked hoodie with the other. Her tennis shoes were filled with mud and gravel from the soppy roadside. She looked once more up and down the road, really hoping but not expecting any lights of any kind and just as she had thought, nothing.
For as long as she had walked, it seemed three times longer, she sat motionless along the road, now shaking and shivering, drenched from the downpour, her soaked jacket felt more like a sponge, trapping and holding the bitter cold rain. It had let up some but was still like an unwanted plague. Light was now appearing, but it wasn’t the light of a vehicle but morning light, the sun was still hidden behind layers of clouds. But it was evident the rain might be stopping soon. There were signs of slight breaks in the clouds and rays of sun were trying to escape the broken but dense cloud cover.
Morning seemed to bring relief and a glimmer of hope, but the cold and wet still dominated her consciousness. As the storm passed and the sun’s warmth ushered in the new day, her hopes were beginning to rebuild that possibly some wonderful person would have pity on her.
As the new day broke, the rain stopped, and the sun chased the clouds far away, flooding the earth with wondrous warmth. She felt frozen and numbed by the cold. She shivered uncontrollably, and she hoped the warmth that was sure to be present would offer solace.
Though tears were still streaming down her face, a smile began to creep across her face as she squeezed rain from her hoodie, “Now for a ride to somewhere,” she whispered, showing more hope and enthusiasm than she had expressed since being dumped along the road. “That’s the last internet romance I’ll ever have,” she promised herself!
It was at that moment, she remembered one of the few items she had in her backpack. Since her Dad had died, she had always carried her small Gideon Bible with her and she felt along the sides of her backpack trying to just touch it, as if that might bring her some comfort. The instant she felt the small rectangular book, a car that she had not seen before eased to a stop just a few feet from her.
A kind looking older gentleman rolled down the power window on the front passenger side and kindly says, “Young lady, I almost never stop for people along the road, but I felt that you might really need some help. I don’t have a cell phone. My son and daughters keep insisting that I get one, but I just don’t understand those new-fangled gadgets and frankly don’t want to.”
“Oh, thank you so much. I am so cold and wet. I didn’t think I was going to make it through the night,” she wailed, fighting back sobs.
“Where are you headed? I am not going too far. I am headed for a doctor’s appointment. That is about 15 miles from here. Do you have family around these parts? How old are you? You look awfully young to be out here all by yourself. How long were you out there in this cold?” then embarrassed, he paused. “I’m sorry, that is too many questions. My wife always tells me I ask too many questions and talk too much. It is none of my business and I apologize.”
“Oh, that’s okay. It’s just good to hear a voice right now and even better to be in the car. It is really warm and thanks again for stopping.”
The rest of the ride to Dodridge was very quiet, Heather didn’t answer any of the kind old man’s questions and he didn’t ask any more. Neither of them volunteered any information and neither asked for any. But the warmth of the heater blowing softly at her feet and directed also at her still numbed red hands was satisfying and it seemed this was all that was needed at the moment.
As the two pulled into town, the soft-spoken man asked a final question, “Is there any place that I can take you?”
“A café would be just fine. After last night, a hot cup of cocoa and a bite of breakfast would be most welcome. Thank you so much for your kindness.”
“I wish there something more I could do to help you. Do you have any money? I don’t have much, but I could help you a little.”
“No thanks,” Heather smiled. “I’ll be okay now. I’m sure sorry for getting your car seat all wet and muddy.”
“Not a problem, I’m sure it will dry before long and it’s just a little dirt. I’m just glad that I could help you this far,” he spoke softly as he handed her a twenty-dollar bill.
As she exited the car in front of the Stars and Stripes Café, she glanced over her shoulder to see the gentle man give a rather concerned smile and drive slowly away.
Standing in the doorway of the café, she watched him disappear around the next corner and head north.
“Come on in and close the door,” a curt middle-aged waitress nearly shouted she wiped her hands on a tea towel looped in her apron string. “We are not trying to heat the great outdoors.”
As Heather stepped in out of the cool fall morning and allowed the door to close behind her, she looked for a table or booth which was out of the direct sight of everyone. She wasn’t in the mood for conversation or company.
As she settled into a corner booth as far from the door as possible, the same rude waitress strolled over to her.
“What’ll you have? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you around these parts before, have I?”
“No, I have never been here before. I’ll take some hot chocolate, two eggs over easy and wheat toast.”
“Would you like some bacon, sausa…” she began but was interrupted as quickly and as rudely as she greeted Heather at the door.
“No, just hot chocolate, two eggs over easy and wheat toast,” Heather repeated.
“You look like a drowned rat…” the waitress began.
“Okay, now can I get my breakfast?” Heather interrupted again.
Quietly, Heather sat hidden from sight in the booth, mentally reliving the nightmare of the night before. Never had she experienced such horrible treatment. In fact, she couldn’t even remember anybody ever describing what she had gone through. How could anybody be so cruel, so uncaring and inconsiderate? Actually, it was more hateful than uncaring and inconsiderate.
“Here I am, probably four-hundred plus miles from home,” she began considering her situation, muttered to herself, “I only have twenty dollars, only one change of clothes; a water-logged cell phone that doesn’t work any more and a small Gideon’s Bible in a sandwich bag. That won’t get me very far.”
As she quietly and slowly cherished every morsel of breakfast, she overheard four men at the neighboring table discussing some church-like business. They laughed and joked with each other, obviously of different churches because of their dress and their jabs at each other’s particular religion. It seemed this was a regular occasion because they all laughed and hooted and none seemed upset with each other’s comments. The only recognizable one was evidently a Catholic because of his collar. The others wore suits or very casual clothes.
Not wanting to be noticed, she just sat there and ate in silence, not looking around or squirming to find a drier spot to sit because of her soaked condition.
The waitress came over to refill their coffee and asked them, “Might you boys be able to help out a drowned rat? This girl in that end booth could probably use some assistance.”
“We’ll see what we can do, Shirley,” the youngest of the four spoke first. We do have the Ministerial Alliance that has a fund for this kind of thing. What do you know about her?”
“Nothing. She just walked in here this morning looking like she’d been walking in the storm all night. Mr. Pickering dropped her off in front of the café as if he’d picked her up hitch hiking.”
“Okay,” all four agreed. “We’ll see if we can help.” The youngest man, 36 years old, was the first to get out of his chair and stroll over to her booth.
“My name is Pastor Greg Wilkens of the Community Gospel Church here in Dodridge. Shirley, the waitress, tells us that you were all wet and bedraggled when you came in this morning. Is there something that we can do to help you?”
“Well…” she paused, “I am a long way from home, alone and broke.”
“We have a Ministerial Alliance that can help you, if you let us.”
“Well…” she drew out. “I could use some help I guess. What do I need to do?”
“Just sit right here,” Pastor Wilkens smiled. “I will call the police and when they have confirmed your identity, we can get you a bus ticket, food or a night’s stay in the local motel, or all the above.”
“That’s okay. I won’t be here that long, but thanks anyway.” Then Heather slid out of the booth and started for the door, leaving some of her breakfast still on the plate.
“But wait a minute,” Pastor Wilkens pleaded. “It will only take a minute or two.”
Without looking back, Heather walked briskly through the door and disappeared, not even thinking about paying for her breakfast. She just wanted out of there.
Hurrying down the streets of Dodridge, she turned corner after corner making sure that she wasn’t being followed.
“This is really stupid,” she mumbled to herself. “Why did I turn tail and run when someone mentioned the police? I did nothing wrong, I am just too embarrassed, I guess, to be found out what a fool I am.”
Around the next corner, she saw the city park. It had enclosed restrooms that surely had heat in them. It would be a good place to rest and think things through, so she as casually as possible made her way to the lady’s facility.
After going into the restroom, she began pacing back and forth, sitting on the commode then standing and then pacing some more, she decided to find the Community Gospel Church. Pastor Wilkens seemed to be genuine enough and she hoped that she could trust him.
Before leaving the public restroom, she stopped to look at herself in the mirror. She was a sight to behold and not a good one. Her hair was matted and clumped together in homely wads, there was mud on her forehead, and the legs of her blue denim jeans were badly covered with grass stains and mud. Digging through her backpack, Heather pulled out the only change of clothes that she had, shook them out, trying to shake out as much dampness and wrinkles as possible. Hanging them on the stall door, she went back to the mirror and pulled out her hair brush to make sense of her hair.
With drier, though still very damp, clean clothes on and brushed hair, she felt better about herself. She paused one more time before the mirror and leisurely walked to find the young pastor who had shown such genuine compassion.
Too embarrassed to go back to the Stars and Stripes Café, she began walking to what she thought was downtown. Farther and farther she walked, and more and more houses appeared. In desperation, she walked to the door of a medium sized frame home and knocked at the door.
A nicely dressed, somewhat attractive woman answered the door. “Yes, how can I help you,” she answered in a very pleasant voice?
I was looking for the Community Gospel Church. I met the pastor this morning at the café and wanted to speak with him.” Heather was mortified that she had disclosed so much to a complete stranger, but she, though appearing to be calm, cool and collected outside was terrified on the inside.
“I see,” replied the lady at the door. “Would you like to come for a moment? I will give him a call.” As the lady, escorted Heather in to a comfortable couch, she smiled and said, I’ll be right back dear, just get comfortable. Okay?”
“Okay,” Heather agreed sheepishly. Looking around the house, it was very nicely decorated. Not fancy but definitely not one of a poverty-stricken family. There were pictures of children and groups of people. About the time her eyes settled on a wedding photo, Pastor Greg entered the room.
“It is a pleasure to see you again,” he smiled, a quite assuring smile. “Our last meeting was… let’s say short.” He gave a short laugh and then sat in the chair across from her.
“Now, how can we help you? I am sorry, pardon my manners, this is my wife Suzanne and of course, you know that I am Pastor Wilkens, but I am at a disadvantage. I do not know your name.”
“I am Heather Locklear. I apologize for my behavior this morning.”
About that time, three rambunctious boys and a girl who had to be the older sister came charging into the living room. They were arguing about whose turn it was to play on the video game.
As quickly as they came in, Suzanne expertly ushered them out into the kitchen.
“That was our four blessings, Mary, Peter, Paul and James,” Pastor Greg gloated. “They are great children, but rest assured, they are typical children. Now, Miss Locklear, how can I help you?”