Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Part Two, Chapter Thirty-Eight

The winter passed in a monotony of cold and chores. The women heard no news and eventually quit hoping. All they had was the land and each other, and that would have to be enough. At least as far as the land was concerned, they had reason to be optimistic. The winter had been wet and the creek was running high. On a cold day in March, Amalia and Will hitched docile Cordelia to the plow and went out to the fields. They would've liked to have had Tasha along to help drop seeds, but she had been ill with a chest ailment and it was better that she stay in the house. Will and Amalia could manage alone.

In spite of the bitter cold that had followed on the heels of a line of showers the day before, it was a perfect day for plowing. There had been just enough rain to soften the earth and put down the dust, and the sky overhead was a blazing cloudless blue. Will and Amalia bickered over who was stronger and should therefore have the harder task of guiding the plow. Amalia shrugged, sensitive to his young ego, and allowed him the first turn. "When you get tired, we'll switch."

"If I get tired."

"Of course." She picked up the lead and began guiding Cordelia across the field, the plow carving a neat line in the earth behind them.

They worked steadily for about an hour, then stopped for a break. Will rubbed his shoulders and windmilled his arms. "Tired?" Amalia asked.

"No. It's just been a long time since the last plowing. And it's cold."

Amalia picked up the lead again, Will grabbed onto the handles and they continued.

"Wait a minute." Will jumped onto the back of the plow, driving the blade deep into the earth as Amalia stopped and grabbed Cordelia's bridle.

She looked across the field toward the house. Here came Tasha, running wildly, no coat, no scarf. "Is that child trying to catch pneumonia?" She looked toward the road and her heart set up a pounding that took her breath away. She grabbed onto the plow for support. Guard. There was no doubt about it. There were trucks. Transport trucks. They weren't just here to steal what they could carry away in a saddle pack; they were here to strip the valley clean. Coming to her senses, she fumbled with Cordelia's traces. "Go warn the Petersons."

Will swung onto the jenny's back and grabbed hold of her stiff mane. "But Tasha"

"They don't care about children. Go!" She slapped the jennet's rump and took off toward Tasha, scooping her up mid-stride. "Does Carina know?"

"Yes. She was in the kitchen when I saw. She went"

"Good." There was no time for that now. She dashed into the house and deposited Tasha on the floor, in such a panic she scarcely knew where. She grabbed her pistol and shoved it into her waistband as she moved through the kitchen, then flung open the door to the hall closet. The door to the room below was propped open, a gaping black hole. She dropped to her knees and pulled it shut, tugging a bit of carpet over it and throwing down some quilts and blankets for good measure. She closed the door and looked around wildly. What next? Their plans had always hinged on a small number of raiders, after little things like coins and jewelry. Or maybe a Guard scouting party of only a few men. But a whole unit? A wave of weakness swept through her body. There was nothing she could do against so many. Nothing except hope that Carina got the animals herded out into open country so the soldiers wouldn't be able to catch them all. Pray the men would fly through the house in too much of a hurry to look at anything closely.

They pulled into the drive in a roar of coal diesel, kicking open the door without bothering to check if it might already be open and storming into the house in their heavy boots. She shrank against the wall as they pounded past, opening doors, tossing furniture aside, upending knitting baskets and breaking random objects in their rampage. Hoping they were too intent on plunder to notice her, she crept toward the kitchen with a thought of making a dash toward the animal pens. But a freckled soldier grabbed her by the arm with a grip intended to inflict pain and fear. "You going to tell us where the stash is? Or do we have to find it ourselves?"

"I don't know what you're talking about. Get your hands off me. I'm the sister of Colonel Evan Gaddington and you have no right"

"Well isn't that cute." The boy shouted to one of his companions. "Hey, Ravotti! The hoarder says she's the sister of some Colonel Gaddington."

Ravotti stopped on his way to the bedroom and took a good look at her. "You're kidding, right? Well, lucky for you. Maybe we won't hang you."

"Hang me for what? You can't prove" Too late. Already soldiers were filing out of the back of the house with coins and jewelry in their hands. How had hey found the secret cubbyholes so quickly? "That's not hoarding," Amalia said, changing tactics. "So what if a woman wants to keep a pretty thing or two? I bet your girlfriend does the same."

"Those rat holes aren't what I'm talking about."

To Amalia's horror, he walked over to the hall closet and went straight to the trap door. There was only one way he could've known. In a sudden rage of betrayal, she reached for her pistol, but another man pounced on her, forced the gun out of her hand and shoved her against the wall. "Want me to shoot her?"

"No," another man said. "I want to kill the bitch myself."

"Don't kill her Malone." It was Ravotti, and he seemed to be a leader of some sort. "Take her to Strecker. If she's really a colonel's sister, he might have other plans for her."

Muttering, Malone tied Amalia's hands behind her back while soldiers began filing in and out of the storage closet, taking away gold, salt, spices, solar panels, batteries, everything the women had saved against scarcity. Frantically, she cast about in her mind for something she could do or say to make it stop.

Suddenly there was a shriek and an enormous crash from the kitchen. Amalia cringed. That trick wasn't going to work this time. A shot rang out. "Clumsy brat nearly got me killed," someone said. And then the footsteps continued, back and forth across the linoleum. Amalia stifled a whimper and sagged against her captor, her mind shocked numb.

"Come on, bitch. Think I got all day?"



  1. great so now they take all and arrest poor Amalia why did Levi turn on them because he wanted Carina so bad? poor little Tasha as well

  2. I've been waiting for this for a long time. It's not quite as bad as I feared, yet, but I assume we still have a bit of this scene to go. It'll be a relief to get through it.

  3. I wish they had an even safer hiding place that no-one knew about. However as you are writing this in an unpredictable form of reality such an event was always possible. Anxiety must rule for another 7 days.

  4. For a brief moment i was lulled into the comfort of them hits you like that it seems..I hope it wasn't Donovan's betrayal...i don't believe in knights on horses...but if there was ever a time for would be good