Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Part Two, Chapter Thirty-Seven

The women waited until after breakfast before asking Will any questions. He still looked peaked, but he was eager to get back to work and ashamed to have brought the wagon home empty.

"Goods can be replaced," Amalia assured him.

"You did the right thing by getting the animals home safe," Carina added.

"But how did you manage to lose everything? We're just curious."

Gradually the story came out of the strange trip to Higdon, the wild, barely-tamed character of the place, and the market where vendors and customers stole from each other right out in the broad light of day. There were brawls and carryings-on in the middle of customer traffic, so that he and Donovan had to keep their hands on their guns and their eyes peeled at all times. Donovan was in top form, never missing a trick. The night before they were to head back, the wagon was loaded high.

Will had made a friend, an honest boy of about his own age and they pulled their wagons together for the night and agreed to take turns sleeping and keeping watch. Donovan used the arrangement as an excuse to run a late errand in town.

"Hunt up a card game," Amalia said.

"Probably." Will went on to describe how late in the night, his friend had shaken him awake. Before they could get their bearings, soldiers swept through their campground, swarming over wagons and taking any contents considered contraband, including batteries, fuel, solar panels and any guns and ammunition not specifically for hunting. Able-bodied men were rounded up and herded toward a transport truck. "I figured I got off easy," Will said. "We'd been mostly trading for food and animal feed. Donovan was away, so I figured he hid somewhere, but when he didn't come back, I got worried. Since there were still soldiers on the streets, I figured I'd wait an extra day."

In the morning with still no sign, he realized he would have to get out and look around. "I paid a beggar girl to watch my spot, hitched up and started driving through the streets." He didn't know what he was looking for, but the military presence meant he didn't need to guard his wagon so carefully. He found a Guard encampment just outside of town. Up to this point he had assumed Donovan was in hiding, but on a hunch, he went to the Guard camp. He found the area where the prisoners were penned and bribed a guard for information. "The man said he was being held as a possible deserter, but didn't know what would happen next."

"They weren't planning to shoot him?" Carina asked.

"Not right away. They hung a few guys later that day on the town square as an example, but Donovan wasn't one of them."

"They were probably checking his papers," Amalia said. "What did you do next?"

"Made friends with the guard. I brought him some food, talked to him, pretended like I was interested in joining up some day." He made a face. "Man, was that guy dumb. I finally asked what would happen to him if a prisoner escaped. He said nothing, so long as no one could prove it was his fault in particular. So I went back to the market, sold everything for gold and silver, and went back. I gave him half and said he could have the rest if he let Donovan out. The guy said he'd be back on duty first thing in the morning, and if I came early while it was still dark, he'd let him go."

"And did he?"

"No. I went back the next morning just like he said, but there was a different guard on duty, and he wouldn't bargain with me."

"That was very resourceful of you," Amalia said soberly. "But that only accounts for the first week, and here it is January."

Will went on to describe how the Guard had loaded Donovan and the other prisoners into transport trucks and took them away. Then the entire unit bugged out, and the town devolved into an even more lawless state than before. He tried to buy some goods with the money he still had so he wouldn’t come home with nothing, but everyone tried to rip him off, including the man who was boarding the animals. Before he realized it, he was broke and didn't have enough food to get home. On the advice of a girl he met at the market, he applied for a job as a delivery boy. His pay and tips were enough to keep him and the animals fed, but there was never enough left over to buy supplies for the trip home. Then one day he made a delivery to a veterinarian whose assistant was sick with a fever. Will's training with Carina and natural rapport with animals got him a two week arrangement with not only pay, but room and board for himself and the team. By the time the assistant was on his feet again, Will was ready to go.

Carina was pleased to hear that Will's education had gotten him out of a tight spot. "But you still came home with no food. Did you not have as much money as you thought?"

"Oh, I had enough, but the bastard at the toll bridge took it all."

"Toll bridge?"

Will had to explain. "I thought I had enough food to make him happy, but he saw I was alone, so he took advantage. He left me a few tortillas and told me to live off the land, as if anyone could live off the land out there. It's just desert."

"Well, at least you got home safely," Carina said.

"But Donovan..."

"Got himself into this mess by his own bad behavior," Amalia sighed.

"I thought you loved him."

She sat back in surprise. "I do. You can love a person without liking everything they do. The situation he found himself in was his own fault. You did the most anyone could've done."

"I only did what was right." Will got to his feet, eager to get out from under feminine eyes for awhile. "I'm going to check up on Goneril and Regan."

After he was gone, the women looked at each other. "That's one good kid," Amalia said. "I know I was bitchy about it when Donovan first brought him here, but I'm glad we have him."

"He's going to make Diana a fine husband someday."

"What a silly thing to be thinking about at a time like this." Amalia stood up.

"So what about Donovan?"

"What about him? They've surely shot him by now."

"We don’t know that."

"We know they were hanging deserters. We know they carted him off for additional investigation. It's best we consider him dead, for the sake of our sanity."

"But what if he's not?"

"There's still nothing we can do about it. We don't know where he is and we'd be fools to go traipsing to every Guard unit and asking. If he's still alive and can get away, we'll just have to hope he comes back to us. But I'm not going to waste my time expecting miracles."



  1. I think they probably both hope he is alive ..but sometimes a little denial or bravado helps us carry on with the day to day ..I sense there could be more to will's story

  2. poor Will what an adventure. He's very resourceful. Donovan really got into trouble I hope he can get put of it and realize how lucky he is with them.

  3. I have a feeling we'll see Donovan again!

  4. Amalia is sometimes a little too sensible. I doubt she really loved him at all.

  5. I am in two minds about this. Will although cheated has proved himself doubly in getting back home through all his troubles; He did all he could. Donovan though has failed spectacularly again.