Monday, May 11, 2015

Chapter LXXXII

Repaired what needed fixing.  Sorry for the delay.  Preparing for my parents to move in with me for a while.
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           I slid the shelf out of the way then whispered back into the dark.  “Hey, it’s me … Dovie.  You saw me upstairs when you came down.  Please don’t clunk me in the head when I come in there.  I’m just checking on you and to let you know that everything is OK again.”

            I jumped when a young woman, so pale both in complexion and hair that she could pass for a ghost, stepped forward.  “I am Hannah.  My sisters – Ruth, Miriam, and Sarah – are sleeping.”

            “Oops,” I said even more quietly than I had before.  “Sorry.  Look, I don’t know your story and I won’t pry.  I just wanted you to know that you are safe here.  I have to get back upstairs … Jude took a pounding when those creeps … I guess the same ones that were bothering you … came to the house.  Uh … but they’re gone now.”

            She nodded.  “There is a pipe where the sound came from.  I listened.  My sisters fell asleep once the men left but I heard you say that you were going to check on us.”

            This time I nodded.  “I didn’t think that old thing would still work.”

            “It did not always but I heard enough to figure things out.  Is Jude very injured?”

            “Pummeled but he’ll live.  I gather he’s been worse.”  My tone was not approving.

            She nodded in understanding.  “I have brothers.  They do not always behave as they ought.  Datt tries to give them plenty of work but it does not always stop them from wrestling.”

            “Boys will be boys,” I added in complete agreement.  “Do you need anything?  It stays cool back in there and I don’t know if Jude even thought to give you anything to bundle up with.”

            “He gave us quilts for our comfort.”

            “Do you have food?  Water?”

            “Jah, we have both thank you.  In the morning …?”

            “Oh … drat Jude anyway for not thinking.  Do you need to use the … uh … facilities?”

            “Jah, that would be gut … in the morning.”

            “What about now?”

            “Nein,” she said.  “It is better if they sleep.  Datt and Maemm sent us into the woods just as the sun went down.  My sisters are very tired from the cold and running.  As am I.  The cider was very gut but sleep is what we need.”

            I could tell she was exhausted.  “Then I’ll leave you to rest.  I’m going to hide the entrance again until I find out from Jude what he plans.”  She nodded and then stepped back into the dark. 

Everything taken care of to hide the entrance to the tunnel I trudged back up the stairs feeling every bruise on my body.  I had dry swallowed a Tylenol before coming back up and as soon as it hit my stomach I wanted to heave.  I had to stop on the top step.

Jude looked up and must have seen my green complexion.  “Whoa … Dovie?!  What’s wrong?!”  I ran over to the sink and started heaving.  He asked, “Are you hurt?”

I shook my head and tried to push him away as I hurled foam down the drain but he wouldn’t back off.  It took a few minutes but I finally got it under control.  Jude handed me a damp dish rag to wipe my face with.  Extremely concerned he asked, “Are you ok?”

I nodded.  “Made the mistake of taking a Tylenol on a stomach full of acid.”

“Why did you need a Tylenol?”  When I didn’t answer right away he said, “Dovie?”

I put my hand over his month and shushed him.  He wasn’t happy at all but then stopped when I pulled my ear and pointed down and then beckoned him out of the kitchen.  I didn’t stop until we were at my bedroom door.  He balked about coming in but I just rolled my eyes.

“Are you playing some kind of game to get out of answering me Dovie?”

“Hardly,” I answered.  “Those girls can hear us.  There’s an open pipe down there that carries sound.  When I was little there was a cork kind of thing that was kept in the end of it but I guess it got trashed when Dad did the renovations.”

“They could hear us?”

“Yeah, at least some of the time.  I knew about it … just didn’t have time to think it through as things were moving a little fast.”

“Tell me about it,” he said running his hand through his hair and making it stand on end worse than it already did.  “OK, we are going to need to do something about that.  I …”  He stopped, looked at me, then sighed.  “I shouldn’t have brought them here but I couldn’t leave them to fend for themselves.  Four girls … four Mennonite girls against those men.  They wouldn’t have stood a chance.”

“OK, now is it time for explanations?”

“As soon as you tell me why you were hurting bad enough that you wanted to take something for it.  And what’s with the puking?”

I rolled my eyes and then pointed to the chairs near the fire that had been there before my parents had inherited the house.  We sat down, Jude only reluctantly.  “They got in a couple of licks Jude, that’s all.  Mostly it is where that one idiot bit me that …”

Jude jumped up and pulled me back up, twisting me and turning me like he could see where the damage was.  “Which idiot and where?”

            “Relax,” I told him drawing a look from him for my attempt.  “Seriously Jude, I’m just bruised but more tired than anything …” I squawked.  “What are you doing?”

            “Hush unless you want one of the kids to come in here and catch us.”

            He’d stripped the sweater I was wearing right over my head and was pulling at my shirt where it was tucked into my jeans.  “Jude …”

            Jude stopped, his hands shaking.  “Dovie, this isn’t about seeing your skin, though I’ve been dying to.  This is about seeing your bruises.  I can control myself.”

            “I know.  But you don’t need …”

            “Yeah … yeah I do.”  He held me and laid his forehead against me.  “Dovie, I never should have …”

            “Enough.  I’m not broken like a toy.  And if it had been Tiff out there I hope that someone would have helped her the way you helped them girls.  Enough said.  Besides, I could have run from the fight … they just weren’t worth compromising my soul over.”

            Not getting my meaning he said, “Huh?”

            I shrugged.  “Sometimes you have to fight because if you don’t it’ll start corroding who you are from the inside out.  The devil sent those men to create fear and chaos and to mess up what we are building here … to corrode things.  If I let that happen the devil would win.  If I knowingly let the devil win …”

            A little impatiently he said, “Ok, I get it.  I’m just not so sure about the devil part.”

            I shrugged again.  “Well I am.  So you think on it how you need to and I’ll think on it how I need to and we’ll deal with it each in our own way so long as where we end up is the same and we don’t run counter purposes to one another.”

            “Fine,” he said shortly.  “But I’m still seeing the bruises.”

            “Jude …”

            “This is nonnegotiable Dovie.”

            In the end he saw them, cursed the ones that had done it, put some bruise balm on the ones that hurt while we were in front of the fire so I wouldn’t freeze to death, and then when he caught himself getting a little over warm and told me to get dressed so that we could go into the living room.

            Obstinately I told him, “No.  I’m pulling my nightgown and robe on and we are sitting right here.  I’m not going to turn into an icicle out there just ‘cause you need a cold shower.”

            He snorted but complied; but he also made sure that the chairs were opposite each other rather than next to and he refused to look at the bed.  “Fine.  I’m a man.  I can take it.”

            I returned his snort with one of my own.  “You just dished it out so you better be able to take it,” I told his averted back.  When I finished tying my robe I told him, “You can turn around now Prince Charming.  I swear, I had on more clothes than I would have at the beach.  My pants weren’t even all the way loose and you act like I was …”

            “Enough Dovie.  I said I can take it.  That doesn’t mean I like being tortured.  Now sit and let’s get this sorted out.”  I sat.

            Trying to pick out what I knew and didn’t know I said, “Those girls know you well enough to call you by your first name.”

            “Went to school with their older sister when we were in elementary.  That sister left when the Mennonites got their own teachers and school out here in the county but I still saw her and her brothers around when I was tractoring.  They’re the blacksmith’s daughters … the youngest of his kids, though now they are raising some other relatives’ kids because of how the virus hit the Mennonite community.  The blacksmith is less ‘old style’ than some of the others in the community and he had his family vaccinated when it became available.”

            “Wow, I didn’t think any of the Mennonite would get vaccinations.”

            “Some of them do.  It started after they lost all those babies to whooping cough about ten years ago.  Almost started a schism in their community but they worked it out amongst themselves eventually.”

            “I remember that.  Mom was totally freaking and wouldn’t let us around any other kids when we were up here, she cut out visit short even.”

            He nodded because I guess he remembered it too.  “So anyway, they are the only four unattached girls left at home that are old enough to be hauled away to the work camps.”

            Stating the obvious I said, “Regular people can’t haul folks off to the work camps.”

            “Exactly.”

            “What do you mean ‘exactly’?  The military hauled those guys off.  Are you telling me that they were … well … covering up something?”

            “Yes and no,” Jude answered.  “Look, it’s complicated.  Carlsburg messed up.  He came in here and tried to run things so different from the way Blankenship had it set up – which was tough but fair and everyone knew the rules – that he raised a lot of red flags and made some enemies.  However Carlsburg has too much political clout to suddenly prevent him taking over for DHS.  For whatever reason the military is getting on board locally and trying to balance Carlsburg’s power.  I guess they consider it a security issue or something along those lines.  They’ve now got him confined to city limits but he’s trying to Brown Shirt people in the county to see how much he can get away with.”

            “What does ‘brown shirt’ them mean?”

            Thinking how to explain it he started, “Basically bully boys throwing their weight around.  They use their authority to force people to do things that technically they may not be required to do under the law but if they don’t do it they run up against the power of whoever is in charge.  Think of them like civilian storm troopers … they scare people into compliance.”

            “Like the mafia?  Protection money?”

            “Kinda sorta I guess.  But the mafia is illegal and everyone knows it.  Brown shirts are … are … condoned I guess you would say by those in power.  They themselves aren’t considered illegal, just some of the things they wind up doing are.”

            I nodded.  “OK, I get it.  You are saying the blacksmith did something or refused to do something and was told to pay up or his daughters were forfeit.”

            “Pretty much.  I don’t have the whole story but you can guess what would have happened to those girls at a work camp.”

“But the work camps are in the county.  If Carlsburg’s authority it only inside city limits how would he send … ok, this is getting confusing.”

Jude nodded.  “Sure it is and that’s the problem.  We’re in transition right now and what comes out of this time will determine what happens down the road.”  He shook his head at the folly of it all.  “Blankenship only sent people to work camps as a last resort.  His preferred punishment was public works or stuff like that.  The court system uses the camps a lot more.  And Blankenship absolutely never sent kids to the camps.  Ever.  To be honest I don’t know if those girls would have even made it that far.  The guys he has working for him aren’t known for their humanitarian skills if you get my meaning.”

            Oh I got it all right.  “Do you think the military knew who those men are?”

            “They knew … or suspected.  Probably.  Too late for those men though so to me they are a non-issue.  Carlsburg doesn’t have any authority where they’ll be taken, so he can’t spring ‘em.  For all I know there will be summary executions or not.”

            “Execu … wha? … are you serious?”

            “Yeah,” he said quietly.  “They were fighting guys in uniform … no excuse not to know who they were.  They were told to halt or else.  You didn’t see it I guess but a couple of them pulled their weapons on the soldiers though no shots were fired.”

            “If they are Carlsburg’s men, wouldn’t they have said something?”

            “Nope.  They should know better … Carlsburg will disavow any knowledge of those men.”

            “Well, then it’s over with.”

            He shook his head sadly.  “Sweetheart, it’s only just started.”

            Surprised and upset at his words I asked, “What do you mean?”

            “Carlsburg isn’t going to give up; he’ll just change his game.  What some of us have talked about is that first he’ll take over all the blackmarket routes inside the city limits.  Some of the merchants will pay him a slice to let them continue operating so long as it is profitable and Carlsburg doesn’t get greedy.  That’s going to make it hard for some goods to make their way out here into the rural areas.  But where it will most likely hurt us is that he’ll probably just turn a blind eye to raiding parties that live within the city limits but come out to the county to make trouble or steal food and stuff.  The military will do what they can for a while – they need to assert their authority – but they’ve also got a war to run and Ft. Campbell is no small link in that chain of command.”

            “So is the military out here going to be a good thing or not?  And what about Carlsburg?”

            “We’ll have to just wait and see and continue to be careful.  For all I know instead of Carlsburg trying to take what we grow for the cities, the military will expect it to feed the troops.  There’s just no telling at this point.”

            “Lovely.  So what about those girls?  How long are we hiding them?”

            “I expect someone will be by as soon as they hear what has happened and escort them home.  If I don’t hear something by noonday I’ll go over there myself to find out.  Now, I think we’ve about talked enough.  I know you still have questions, so do I for that matter.  Let me see what I can find out tomorrow.  And …”

            “And?”

            “And I’ll tell you what I can about what I’ve been doing.  You deserve to know.  It isn’t as mysterious and dangerous as you’re likely thinking but it isn’t something I want spread far and wide either because it might turn into something now that we’ve got some serious trouble brewing.”

            His words got me a little more irritated at the entire situation.  “I thought you said we would see how things turned out.”

            “We will,” he acknowledged.  “But with the war heating back up, the military running regular patrols out this way, Ft. Campbell being so close – we’ve heard some rumors of attacks on bases right here in the states – and now the issue with Carlsburg kinda out in the open I doubt things are going to do much but get worse.  We just don’t know how much worse yet.”

3 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Oh dear.
    All that typing and time. I was so hoping things had started to even out with everyones health and the demands of grown and growing kids. Nothing else can get any of us so turned around.
    Take a day, refresh yourself Kathy, massage, hot stone rub, a dip in the spa, then come back to us and your family relaxed and at the top of your game. We really don't want you heated, stressed and turned to stainless
    steel as you said.
    Lovin' all the new and old stuff and am just working and waiting for moar.

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