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.                                                                  Crossroads

“Where is Foehammer!” Captain Digby demanded of Nurse Rosamond upon meeting her in the lobby of the Dunsany Institution. “This is completely unacceptable. He was instructed to have the prisoner ready before noon on Monday and  yet the door to that cellar is locked up tighter than a bank vault.”

 “The doctor is upstairs with Brother Pizarro,” Nurse Rosamond informed the head of the militia, “From the church—”

 “I am aware of who the brother is—” Captain Digby began.  

 Juris is here?  With Joseph!” Ezra Crumb’s exclamation interrupted the captain. “Is Martha with them? I want to speak with them.”

 “You cut me off Crumb!” said Captain Digby testily. “My business supersedes your reunion with your friends. This city has been in a state of chaos since Friday and I am needed elsewhere. With the mayor dead I am in charge.”

 “No you ain’t!” Whiskey Jack spoke up, shifting Elvira from one hip to the other.  “I don’t know of no law that puts you in charge.”

 “I have the guns, the men and the moral authority required to lead.”

 “But do you have the will of the people?” questioned Ezra.

 “Crumb, please. I have no time for your philosophical rhetoric,” Captain Digby turned to the nurse. “Where did you say Foehammer and Pizarro were?”

 “Upstairs on the second floor,” Nurse Rosamond was looking quite flustered. “I could go let them know you are here…” the nurse trailed off, not really knowing what more to say on the matter. “Father Moonwall is up there too, but not with them. He is in the ward visiting the patients.”

 “What patients?” asked Captain Digby. “Who is up there?”

 “Well, I can’t say,” replied the nurse. “That would be a violation of hospital policy. But I will go up and inform the doctor that you have arrived.” With that, Nurse Rosamond hastened to the stairs.

 “This is poppycock,” said Captain Digby. “I don’t give a fig who is up there; I am a busy man and I have no time to wait!” Captain Digby’s voice began to rise as his patience ebbed. “Remove that cellar door,” he signalled the two militiamen who had accompanied him. “We are going down there whether Foehammer is with us or not!”

.                                                                       ****

 The cellar had gone dark while she slept; the candles allotted to each cell long since spent. The thick stone walls, while effective at muting all sounds from beyond the chamber that housed them had the unsettling effect of amplifying any sound emanating from within. Nelly took a deep breath. She was hungry and had to get out of this cage.

 A sound. She was sure of it. Nelly cocked her head to the side in concentration. “I heard something.” She smiled in anticipation of excitement. “Somebody is trying to break in.”

“Miss Faulkner, you are awake!” Martha Foehammer’s exclamation of relief seemed to float  through the darkness. “We were worried. Your voice sounds quite strained.”

As soon as Martha spoke Nelly localized her position, about five feet beyond her reach. “My throat is very sore,” Nelly replied.

“No doubt from all the retching,” said Brother Kadmus.

“How do you feel?” Martha asked. “Are you feverish?”

”I can’t tell,” said Nelly, angling to get to within arm’s reach of Martha Foehammer. “Perhaps if we both come to the bars you could place your hand upon my brow.”

“So what if you are feverish?” called the young militia cadet, Donovan Shaw from the opposite cell. Though the dark made it impossible to see his expression one could sense the contempt with each word he spoke. “Even if Mrs. Foehammer could do anything to alleviate your fever, why would she? You are vile.”

“There is no call for insult, Mr. Shaw.” replied Martha. “I can provide comfort to those in need. Come to the bars, child. Sit with me. I can hold you until we are rescued.”

“I don’t believe that is wise,” Brother Kadmus advised. “Afterall, the girl is not exactly a child and she is a confessed killer.”

“Brother Kadmus,” said Martha with righteous authority. “I am surprised at you. We have a sick girl with us who just a few hours ago came very close to death. Circumstances notwithstanding, she has lost both parents and a sibling. I think she could use some comfort.”

Nelly moved through the darkness until she reached the bars to her cell. “Mrs Foehammer,” her raspy voice dropped to a level barely above a whisper. “I am here.”

Even without sight, Nelly was able to formulate a picture of the world around her. She sensed Martha’s hand reach out blindly, searching until it found her brow. The touch indeed felt cool and soothing against her skin.

“You are still feverish,” said Martha, “Sit with me.” Even as Nelly slid down along the bars she heard the percussive sound of the outer cellar door being broken. Soon the men would be at the laboratory, a much lighter door to breakdown. She felt Martha Foehammer’s hands rubbing her arms, trying to keep her calm. Nelly had never enjoyed being touched but now the world was different.

“I hear the sounds too,” said Thomas from his cell.

“They are coming to take you away,” said Nelly, leaning like a cat into Martha’s arm. “After your neck snaps your body will jerk around at the end of the rope for up to three minutes. It will look like someone shaking a puppet.”

“Nelly, please,” scolded Martha. “Have some sympathy.”

“They are just outside the door,” Nelly squeezed Martha’s hand. For some reason she couldn’t explain she felt like life was at a crossroads and she was going in the right direction.

The door burst open with an explosion of light. Nelly cried out with shock at the unexpected brilliance, shielding her eyes, turning her face and wedging it between the bars more fully into Martha’s cloak.



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  1. Bookworm Hienrichs Bookworm Hienrichs May 12, 2014

    Oh, dear. I foresee one heck of an oops coming soon…

  2. Tepic Harlequin Tepic Harlequin May 12, 2014

    Shooting between the bars of a cell? Never ends too well that, cus most people ain’t a good enough aim ter shoot between, an then, well…….

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