The Law of Moses
Author:Amy Harmon

The rope around my wrists and feet hadn’t loosened when he tossed me, but falling so abruptly and hitting the ground without being able to break my fall had knocked the air out of me. I gasped and choked and rolled to my side so that I could spit out the filth in my mouth. I could feel my belt buckle digging into my hip. He’d pulled at my Wranglers and my belt had come loose. I couldn’t stand up. I couldn’t even wipe my eyes. I lay like a rodeo calf, helpless and hog-tied. I tried to wipe my face against my shoulder, just to remove some of the grit from my eyes so at least I could see. I had to be able to see so that if he came back I would be able to identify him, so I would be able to protect myself. So I would be able to attack. I don’t know how long I laid there. It could have been an hour. It could have been ten minutes. But it felt like years.

 

I swore I had heard someone call my name. Wasn’t that why he ran? And then, like I’d conjured him, he was back. Adrenaline coursed through me once more, and I rocked and lurched, trying to move away an inch at a time. I screamed, only to cough desperately. I’d drawn some of the grit still coating my mouth into my lungs. He stopped as if he hadn’t expected me to still be there.

 

“Georgia?”

 

It wasn’t him. It wasn’t the same guy.

 

He came toward me quickly, closing the space. I squeezed my eyes shut like a child trying to make herself invisible by closing her eyes. Oh, no, no, no, no. I knew that voice. Not Moses. Not Moses. Why did it have to be Moses?

 

“Should I call someone? Should I call an ambulance?” I could feel him beside me. He wiped at my face as if to see me better. I felt a tugging on the ropes around my wrists and ankles, and suddenly I could straighten my legs. Blood rushed back toward my feet with an enthusiastic ache, and I started crying. The tears felt good, and I blinked desperately, trying to clear my vision as I felt Moses pulling away the rope that was looped around my hands. And then my hands were loose too, and I moaned at the dead weight of my arms and the searing pain in my shoulders.

 

“Who did this? Who tied you up?”

 

I looked everywhere but directly at him. I could see he wore a black T-shirt tucked into cargo pants along with a pair of army boots that no self-respecting cowboy would wear at the Ute Stampede. My attacker had worn western wear. He’d worn a button-down shirt. With snaps. Cowboy attire. I’d felt the snaps against my back. I started to shake, and I knew I was going to be sick.

 

“I’m okay,” I lied, gasping, wanting desperately for Moses to turn away so I wouldn’t have to throw up in front of him. I wasn’t okay. Not at all. I mopped at my cheeks and I looked up at him, my eyes darting to his face to gauge whether or not he believed me. I looked away immediately.

 

He asked me if I could stand and then tried to help me to my feet. With his help I managed, teetering like a newborn foal.

 

“You can go. I’m fine,” I lied again desperately. But he didn’t leave.

 

I turned around, walked several steps on shaking legs, and threw up against the fence. Mud, manure, and my rodeo hamburger burst forth in a gush of Pepsi broth, and my knees buckled beneath me. I clung to the corral so I wouldn’t fall as I heaved and purged, but Moses didn’t leave. The snort and stamp of the bulls on the other side of the wooden rails reminded me where I was. Satan’s Alias and his minions were nearby, and I had no trouble believing I’d fallen through a rabbit hole straight into the bowels of hell.

 

“You’re covered in mud and your belt is hanging off.” The statement was flat, accusing almost, and I could tell Moses didn’t believe I was okay at all. Imagine that. I kept my back turned to him, pulled my big shiny belt buckle into place with stiff fingers, and shoved the end of my belt through my belt loops, ignoring the fact that my button had come undone too and my zipper was down. My T-shirt now hung over my waistband so maybe he hadn’t noticed that. And I wasn’t going to draw attention to it. The belt would keep my pants in place. I shuddered.

 

“Someone tied you up.”

 

“I think someone was playing a joke,” I stuttered, still coughing and wheezing at the irritation in my throat. “I think it was Terrence. He was pissed at me earlier, and maybe he thought I would laugh or squeal instead of fight. I fought hard. Maybe it wasn’t supposed to be scary. Maybe he was just supposed to tie me up so they could come find me and laugh at me all trussed up . . . I’m totally fine.” I wasn’t sure I believed anything I said. But I wanted to.

 

Weird how Moses was the one who had cut me loose. Ironic. A cowboy had hurt me and a troublemaker had come to my rescue. My mom thought Moses was the one who was dangerous. It had been Moses she warned me about. And he had saved me.

 

“I’m okay,” I insisted and pushed myself completely upright, still mopping at my eyes and at my trembling lips, humiliated by what Moses had seen, devastated by what could have happened. What almost happened. And most of all, destroyed that it had happened at all. If it really was a prank gone wrong, then it had gone terribly wrong. Because Georgia Shepherd was now afraid. And I didn’t do afraid very well. I wanted to go home. I didn’t know where Haylee was, and I didn’t want to go looking, especially if she was in on whatever that was.

 

“Can you take me home, Moses? Please?” My voice sounded strange, and I winced at the child-like tone.

 

“Someone needs to pay.”