What are some of the authors you go to first in an anthology? Or is it the length of the story that draws you in? Or perhaps the title? Or its placement in the collection?
With me, if I see the name James Sallis, I will go to his story early on.
This story had an odd feel about it. Slightly unfinished, like it was part of something bigger, which it turned out to be. In lesser hands, this might have made the story suffer more than it did. But because Sallis is such a master at creating characters, situations, locations, descriptions, it only felt incomplete in a few spots.
A cop asks a woman if she might be willing to speak to an abused girl the department has found. At first she refuses. Her back story turns out to be one of abuse too, and then escape and then years of living alone in a mall and then the typical social services trauma. She eventually goes to see the girl.
We don't know why he came to her, nor why the few things she said to the abused woman would count for much. Where are they going at the story's end?What makes the story are the details of her abduction and her time as a twelve-year old living in the mall. And the writing, which is terrific.
But because he has made his characters real to us, we don't mind too much. And I will probably look for the novella this became. Because these characters are compelling and that's the trick.