The rain kept falling, swelling the creek until it lifted the girl into its muddy flood. She swept down through the town, unseen by anyone as she passed the grassy mounds where three hundred years ago Indians worshipped the sun. She bobbed in the current beneath the Highway 61 bridge, naked and unbloodied, not yet gray, limp as a sleeping child. She rolled with the creek, which wound through the woods toward the paper mill and crashed into the Mississippi River in a maelstrom of brown waves. The girl made this journey alone and unknowing, but soon she would whip the town into another kind of maelstrom, one that would make the river seem placid by comparison.
She never meant to cause trouble. She was a quiet girl, brilliant and full of life. When she laughed, others laughed with her. When she cried, she hid her tears. She was blessed with many gifts and took none for granted. At seventeen, she had already brought honor to the town. No one would have predicted this end.
But then no one really knew her.