March 13th, 1943 - Alaskan Highway Project: Yukon.
Harsh winds blew snow flakes across the frozen earth like a great river. Eddies swirled around the edges of embankments. Ears protected from the dull roar by his hood, Nathan watched the white sea pass him by.
He knew that his feet would have been frozen solid if not for the thick boots and three layers of socks. Survival here depended upon common sense and a great deal of insulation, only a fool believed other wise. A man had already lost the lower half of his leg due to that kind of stupidity and nothing else.
This was a hell of a turn from medical school. Had he known signing up would mean building roads instead of saving lives, he wouldn't have fucking bothered.
Goggles misting up, Nathan turned out of the wind to look back at the rest of his crew. There were twenty of them on this leg. Not a single white man was among their number. As far as he was concerned, that was a good thing.
The road was officially finished, but that was only for the brass back home. It wasn't fit for a mule cart, let alone a supply truck. If his estimates held true, they would be another six months at this.
At least he was getting paid for it. This same work back home would have involved a chain around his ankle.
The foreman signaled to him with a wave of his flag. Even in the dim light of a Yukon dawn, the orange could clearly be seen.
Nathan waved the command off with his gloved hand. He wasn't fucking slacking. Cutting down old growth forests in winter was hard work. Still, he had been standing, staring for about five minutes. His break was about up.
With a groan, he bent over to snatch up his chainsaw. He was staring at the shiny edge of the blade when it flashed at him. Frowning, he eyed it for a second before he realized it was just a reflection.
Looking in the opposite direction, he...
March 29th, 1943 - Alaskan Highway Project: Yukon.
Tightening his grip on the reins, Josiah jerked right. His team obediently followed his lead and turned in to the indicated direction. The ringing of their bells reached his ears even under the muffler he wore.
He had been riding for the past week. It wasn't an easy trip, the storm had seen to that. But the good lord brought him safely this far for a reason. The supplies in his sled were too important.
At least the trail was clear. It was wide enough for the planned road and then some. These boys had been busy. The whiskey he brought with him was well deserved.
Josiah grinned at the thought of their reactions. It had been about five months since any decent hooch had been had around these parts. If they had had the means, he knew a still would have been set up. Not that he would have blamed them. This far north was forsaken territory to ordinary men.
Loud barks drew his mind back to the world around him. Frowning, he tried to focus through his goggles. He had to release the reins to wipe them clean of the built up frost. It was only for a second, but it was enough.
The lead dog shot forward. Her barks grew frantic as she led them further up the trail. They followed along, echoing her cries.
Heart pounding, he managed to grab on to the reins once more, but the team had control. All he could do was hold on and pray his feet didn't slip. Hunching down a little further in the sleds, he tried to see what had the bitch spooked.
Half a mile ahead, flitting among the snow covered trees were tiny black flecks.
Josiah felt his already thumbing chest squeeze tight. His breathing grew labored as he felt a weight settle over him.
Crows. He would recognize them anywhere. Their appearance was something he would recall even in the depths of hell after a thousand years of torture.
Feeling himself grow distant, he swayed on his feet. Alarm spiked his pulse and he sucked in a startled breath. Josiah found the strength to jerk the reins despite the loss of sensation.
The lead bitch gave a startled yelp, but refused to yield.
He jerked them again and called out, "whoa!"
At last, she cried out with a little pain and began to slow. She still bayed at the birds ahead, though.
Whistling, three short bursts, Josiah signaled a full stop. They eventually came to a halt some two hundred yards from the edge of the forest. It was close enough for Josiah to see where the work crew had been busy. He could also see the crows in the trees.
There were five of them, large and looming. They watched him, still in their roosts. Not a single feather moved in the winds that buffeted the evergreens.
Reaching up, Josiah placed a hand over the cross around his neck. He couldn't touch it under his clothes, but it gave him a small measure of comfort. He swallowed and looked down.
Among the drifts and frozen embankments lay the road equipment. Two bulldozers, chainsaws, a dozen pick axes in a pile, all of it on the edge of the clearing. It looked ready to be used, if not for the thick layer of snow.
Josiah nearly jumped out of his skin when one of them drifts began to move. As it was, he held a death grip on the reins. He watched with growing horror as it slowly rose up.
The snow fell from the figure as he attained his full height. Staggering, the man turned around to look. Blinking, he focused on the stunned Josiah. The man reached out with a shaking hand. "Help me."
Only a strong clench of his muscles kept Josiah from soiling his longjohns.
April 17th, 1943 - London.
Hearing the roar of a strained engine tugged his gaze upwards. The expected fall of his hair over his shoulders left Vin disappointed when it never came. Still, he watched the freefall of a spit fighter as it merrily lead the charge in the practice run. Behind it, chased five others with flashing lights to indicate gun fire. He had to hold onto his hat to keep it on when they bottomed out twenty feet over the air field and roared by.
Several men shouted in anger, shaking their fists and flashing hand signals. Not him, though. His were only for the planes, glued to their shiny skins.
He would soon be up there among them. He would be off the ground and on his first actual mission. The thought of soaring among the clouds left him breathless. Wanderlust is what his grandmother had called it. It didn't matter what the words were, all that he cared about was that he was up there.
Chest heavy with emotion, he forced his gaze away from the fighters to the behemoth in front of him. There she sat, heavy enough to crush a model A without blinking. His flying fortress was the most beautiful gal he had ever laid eyes on. There was a stupid grin on his face, but he didn't care.
Vin was startled when a hand settled on his shoulder. He jumped a little and glanced over out of the corner of his eye. Seeing knowing green eyes caused a flutter in his chest and he looked to his feet, cheeks burning. Well, he would have looked to his feet if it weren't for the box of weather equipment in his arms.
"Do you require assistance installing that in your tail section?" His voice was a low growl and full of promise. "After all, it is a delicate piece. It takes skillful hands and a knowing touch."
The tips of his ears burning, Vin was tongue tied to the point of stupid. Shaking his head, he snickered.
"All right, lovebirds, quit fuckin' around and get that gadget installed for the eggheads! This mission goes FUBAR and I'll have both your shapely asses."
Captain Reynolds' voice was sharp, but without rebuke. Body snapping at attention, Vin nodded his acceptance of the orders.
Likewise, his companion straightened and saluted their CO. "Already to be taken care of, sir."
"Make it like yesterday, today's already too late," the man piped at them. He wasn't paying attention to either of them, though, as he moved towards their bird. "This is gonna be a shitty season, I friggen swear."
"Sir?" Curious, Vin followed him to the fortress' underbelly. His burden shook a little with each step.
Reynolds sighed. "Baseball, son, don't you fuckin' pay attention to the dailies?" As he bent under the belly to grab the hatch release, he grabbed the cigarette from behind his ear.
Being called Son by a man four years his senior would have left Vin riled six days ago. Hell, it got his dander up from someone rightly old enough. But then he had got here and learned there weren't any men old enough to have that right. That had been a somber morning.
"Ever since that goofy lookin' fuck, DiMaggio, enlisted, the Yankees have been shit," Reynolds continued unabated. "I'm not lookin' for them to even make the pennant. What say you?" He twisted the latch, then pulled it open to release the locks.
Vin stared at him dumbfounded, his cheeks red. He knew almost nothing about what the man was talking about. Even after his time among these people, their sports talk still left him feeling a bumpkin.
Luckily, Ezra was suddenly there to rescue him. Putting a hand on Vin's shoulder, the man gave him a knowing smile. "Our dear Mr. Tanner is unable to answer your question, Captain. As you may no doubt be unaware, there is no such thing as a southern professional baseball team."
This startled the captain enough to look up at the two of them. His eyebrows were halfway up his forehead. "Really?" Shaking his head, he jerked the hatch down, then stepped back to give it room. "All right, up you go!"
For the first time since he arrived in England, Vin was grateful for his lack of height as he stepped under the plane. There was no need to duck and he was able to heft the box inside without any assistance. This didn't stop a familiar pair of hands from helping him into the plane by holding his ass, though.
April 17th, 1943 - En Route To Nazi Germany.
Groaning, Ezra rubbed at the bridge of his nose. The vibration of the engines made his headache entirely too much to bear. When the plain jumped, he had to clutch at his desk. The supplies bounced in their tin, but other wise remained in place.
Moaning his distress, Ezra leaned over his arm rest to glare down the line of the plane. The cockpit was bright in the late evening sun, but he didn't care. "Gentlemen, do try to keep us flying in one piece long enough to reach the Krauts."
"What's the matter, Ezzie? Seein gremlins back there?" Captain Reynold's voice sounded dull over the roar of the engines. Even inside the plane, their roar was almost deafening.
Eyes narrowed, Ezra sat up straighter in his chair. "I'll not dignify that with a response." Really, these barbarians were beneath him. Still, his life depended upon them until his feet were once upon beautiful mother earth.
Closing his eyes, he leaned forward to press his forehead against the cool aluminum desk. That was the one good thing about these flying coffins, their cheap metal always stayed cold. Which meant he could rest his burning skin against them and get some relief.
He had just about drifted off to the land of Shangri La when the plane shook again. Sitting up straight, he grasped the arm rests to keep his world from spinning out of control. "Just what in thunderin' tarnation are you two jackinapes doin' up there?"
"That wasn't us!" Hand on the throttle, Reynolds was all the way forwards in his seat. Instead of looking at his controls, he had an eye on the dome above him.
Before Ezra could ask why, he got the answer half a heartbeat later. His jaw dropped as an orb of blue light flew down over the cockpit windows. It hovered in front of the nose, flashing brightly at them. The radio in his ear cracked with chatter from dozens of voices.
"What the blue blazes is that?"
"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!"
Swallowing, Ezra couldn't help but agree with those sentiments and more. It wasn't until the plane shook again that he realized he was standing. He clutched at the panel in front of him to keep his balance. Unlike before, the shaking didn't stop.
"What the hell is goin' on out there? These blasted instruments just went haywire!"
It took Ezra a second to realize the words were from the tail gunner, the voice was so badly distorted over his headset. He started to wonder why Vincent had such delicate equipment back there when he remembered. There wasn't time to feel stupid about it, though. A violent shudder from the plane jerked him from any musings.
Blue lights appeared throughout the plane.
Ezra glanced back towards the main hatch. The windows beyond it all the way to the tail were lit up.
As the lights grew brighter the shaking increased. The plane began to groan at her joints.
"Holy mother of god." Reynold's voice was barely above a whisper but echoed throughout the plane.
Jerking around to look, Ezra nearly fell over again. What he saw made his joints lock in fear.
The blue orb was overtaking the cockpit. The Captain and his co-pilot were encased in pure blue light, frozen at their controls.
As their brilliance increased, Ezra felt the world drift away. He couldn't even hear the roar of the engines any more. The deck under his feet was suddenly gone, leaving him floating. He tried to clutch at the wall panel, but even that was no longer their.
Blue light surrounded him.
That was when the pain started. Ezra screamed.
April 27th, 1943 - Normandy, France.
The crashing of waves woke him.
A chill breeze dusted over the hair so his body. Ezra shivered with a pained groan. Hunkering down, he opened his eyes to see why he could feel the wind. Pale white skin covered in goose bumps was the first thing he saw.
Shivering, he wrapped his arms around his body tight. As he drew his knees up to protect his body, he looked around.
They were in a field. Seven of them were present. None of them had a stich of clothing on.
The cold must have been effecting his vision, he rationalized. Blinking through the wind borne tears, he tried to make his tired eyes focus.
That number didn't change.
Lowering himself closer to the ground, Ezra searched the field. It was overgrown and had thick hedges lining the fencerow. He couldn't tell what had been growing nor did he care. Where exactly they were was important.
His teeth were chattering when something occurred to him. Frowning, he glanced about him at the slowly stirring crew. There were six young men aside from himself.
That wasn't right. It was...too few.
Ezra shook his head. He was having difficulty focusing. The cold was having a terrible influence upon his mind. Groaning, he tucked his hands under his arms to warm them up. This had little effect as his body was too cold.
Spots began to form in his vision. The tremors were bad enough that his muscles cramped. Still, Ezra tried to put it from his mind. There was something important that he was forgetting. It was imparative that he remembered.
Frowning, he tried to recall. He knew it had something to do with people. Men. His men. He looked about him.
The crew were in similar states, curled up in balls in the field around him. They were either unconscious or close to it. Feeling his own mind grow numb and begin to shut down, he groaned in pain.
Above him, blue lights swirled and flashed. Then they shot off in to the sky and disappeared.
April 30th, 1943 - London, England.
Hat in his lap, Ezra wrapped his fingers around the brim. They squeezed tight twice before he released it. Keeping his gaze level, he met the stares of the three men in front of him. There was nothing to fear. This would not be laid at his feet, no matter what the whispers in the barracks had been.
In the semi-dark room, the tribunal gave off the air of menace. There wasn't much circulation and every sound carried well. It was well done for intimidation, in his opinion. Had he not any experience in an interrogation, Ezra would have definitely been uncomfortable.
Clearing his throat drew attention to the man in the middle. His blue eyes were hard as steel as he stared Ezra down. From the wrinkles at their corners, it was obvious this was his normal expression. The hint of accusation in them, however, was something new.
Ezra felt a weight on his chest. Taking a deep breath, he released the building tension. "What can I say, sir? You already know everything about the mission."
The man snorted. "I some how doubt that, Lieutenant Simpson." Eyebrows crushing together, he leaned over the table. "We've gone over the reports. You've done a very thorough job. Every single gruesome detail is mentioned except one important fact."
"How we escaped?" It was said more out of a need to give voice to the thought. He had no wish to give them any amunition to use against him. Mouthing off to a investigative tribunal would be enough, at this point, to get him some serious thinking time, most probably behind bars. Sighing out of aggrivation at himself, he dropped his gaze to the floor.
Someone else in the room shifted in their chair. It was the only sound for a while.
It wasn't an easy question. He had run it over in his mind for the past three days. Hell, they all had. The same thing kept coming back to him in the end. When he could think of nothing to answer them, sweat began to prickle at the back of his neck. "May I speak freely, sir?"
Sitting back in his chair, the middle officer nodded.
"I have no clue. Every time I grasp for it within my mind, my thoughts keep coming up blank." Feeling his eyes widen, Ezra stared hard at the floor. His breathing picked up. "There is no memory of our gaining freedom or any attempts there of. We were there one moment, then all I can recall is waking in a field, cold. It is not forgotten or put from mind, gentlemen, there is simply no memory to be had."
Face blank, his lead inquisitor remained silent. This was an ominous sign for his future incarceration.
Panic gripped his chest, making his heart thump painfully. Sitting up in his chair, he brought a fist to his chest. "I am not lyin', I promise you." Ezra had to swallow to keep speaking. "There are no traitors among my men."
"That is not what puzzles us, son." For the first time, the man on the right spoke. His salt and pepper hair was a little long. The worn look about him made him seem older.
Frozen, Ezra could only stare at him for a heartbeat. He raised a curious eyebrow. "Then, what, pray tell, am I being accused of?"
The central figure snorted. "Nothing. Yet." Reaching out to the stack of green folders in front of him, he pulled one open. "It is strange, though. You are the only one in your flight group that recalls any of the ten missing days."
Ezra fell back in his chair, jaw working, but nothing came out. He shook his head in disbelief. "That cannot be true." He forced himself to breathe deeply, then exhale. The world around him grew brighter, while his uniform became uncomfortably tight. "My men..."
"Recall nothing." The Colonel, as his now visible rank indicated, on the right gestured to the open folder. "You are the only one." He stared sympathetically at Ezra.
"I can't..." Tugging at his collar, Ezra clenched his eyes shut. "That is to say, I don't..." He had to calm down. Hand in his hair, he shook his head in confusion. What the hell was going on? This was only making him look like he had something to hide.
The Colonel cleared his throat, glancing down to the table. "I believe it is best for all if you were sent back home at this point."
Before Ezra could protest, or think of a reason to do so, the General in the middle frowned and nodded. "Yes, it seems the best option. You've served your country to the best of your ability here. Now, we must make sure you are taken care of."
Feeling like the rug had just been jerked out from under him, Ezra stared dumbly at them. A stroke of the pin in his file, and then it was closed. They were going to Section Eight his ass back to the states.
May 6th, 1943 - El Paso, Texas.
A heavy weight settled over him as Ezra walked up the steps. His feet started to drag and it became an effort to reach for the doorbell. With a shaking hand, he pressed the buzzer once.
Swallowing thickly, he stepped back and stood at parade rest. He didn't have to wait long before the door shook. The pulling of the inside door open caused the screen door to shake.
A small, old woman poked her head out through the crack. Deep lines marred her face. Her bloodshot eyes were visible through her glasses. Staring up at him with a somber expression, she took in his appearance with a sigh. "What do you people want this time?"
"Mrs. Potter, I am not here to request anything of you." Voice tight, Ezra kept his gaze at a fixed point just above her head. Reaching in to his back pocket, he pulled out a brown paper covered package. He held it out without meeting her gaze. "This belonged to your grandson. I am returning it to your family."
She stared at the package as if it might jump out and bite her. Eyes narrowed, she obviously fought with herself as she pushed the door open. Stepping out on to the porch, she accepted it when he held it out to her.
Ezra watched her peel open the tape, careful not to tear the paper. He accepted the paper when she gave it back to him. What she now held was a tiny, leather bound book.
Turning it over, she examined the cover. On it stamped in gold lettering was the name 'Diary of Vincent Tanner'. Her lips pursed as she started to blink. "Has anyone read this?"
"No, madam, they have not." He broke with his stance and looked her directly in the eye for the first time. "You have my word of honor on this."
Mrs. Potter stood there staring at him, unmoved by his declaration. Lowering the book to her waist, she held it close. "Will they ever tell me what happened to my Vincent?"
"I am not certain." Glancing away, he swallowed. It took all his training to keep a straight posture. "I was there when it happened, and have no recollection of the events as they transpired."
With an aged nod, she closed her eyes. "That makes three of my babies, the last." There was granite in her voice as she spoke, but no rebuke. Stepping back, she reached for the door handle. "Thank you, young man. You'll understand why I do not ask you in."
"Of course." He inclined his head and gave her a small salute. Clacking his heels together, he stood at attention.
She gasped as if in pain. Turning away, she headed inside the house and gently shut the door behind her.
His task done, Ezra turned about face. He then marched off the porch and down the path back to the gate.
June 16th, 1943 - Bethesda, Maryland.
His back hurt. Shifting to try and get comfortable only made it worse. So, he laid there like a bump on a log. There wasn't much else to do here besides.
It was torture to keep from shivering in the cold ward. How cool they kept it here reminded him of a meatlocker back in Macon. Nathan had vivid memories of making excuses to hide in it just to escape that god forsaken heat. Hearing the other bodies shifting in their beds reminded him it wasn't the only comparison.
His grandmother had always warned him that his joints would ache with age. There hadn't been a doubt about that. Though, he had remembered her complaining when she was much older. Still, it wasn't unheard of for someone his age getting arthritis.
At least, that's what he kept telling himself. It wasn't like they gave him any other options here.
Staring up at the ceiling, Nathan had never seen so much white in his life. Not even during his rotation in the sterile ward back in med school was there such a lack of color. Hell, the wilds of Canada at least had the occassional black and green. The pines were every where up there. He had hoped that maybe with the beds being steel, but they were covered in a white anamel.
Whoever had set this place up didn't want his people getting lost. Not that they'd know if one of them had, with the stunning lack of doctor visits. They probably had a bunch of lighter patients who needed them more. Snorting, he closed his eyes. He started to drift off until he heard cloth rustling to his right.
The man cleared his throat to get Nathan's attention.
Licking his lips, he cleared his throat to wet it so he could speak. "If you got a degree that says doctorate, I'll look your way. Other wise, walk your narrow, white ass back the way it came. I'm not answering anymore of your stupid questions." Voice cracking, he winced. He couldn't remember the last time he had taken a drink of water sitting up.
"I take it your back is still bothering you, Lieutenant Jackson?" There was a measure of authority in the voice. This was a man who was used to being obeyed without question.
Not that it moved him an inch. Nathan closed his eyes and sighed through his nose. Apparently this was going to be another of those visits. He wasn't about to waist any of his abundance of time on this fool. So, he laid there silence waiting for him to go away.
The man snorted in amusement. "I see." Whatever conclusion he came to, it wasn't anything of importance. "You'll be happy to know that you will be receiving better care from now on. You and your entire company." He took a step closer, just enough to bring him into Nathan's field of vision.
Surprised, Nathan glared at the man from the corner of his eye. It was another old, white man in an army uniform. He was just one in a long line of them. This one, however, wore stars, indicating he was highly full of himself. "This makes a difference to me, how?"
A pleased smile sharpened the man's features. "Because now, you are now under my authority." Hat under his arm, he nodded at Nathan. "By command of the president himself, we are going to find out what happened to you."
Seeing the supremely confident stare leveled at him, Nathan shivered. This man wasn't like the others. He winced in the next heartbeat from the twisting of his sore joints.
June 17th, 1943 - Bethesda, Maryland.
Rich and heavenly, the hint of fresh cocoa wafted up from the box. Josiah paused a moment to enjoy the smell. Holding the package under his nose, he took a deep breath. He couldn't help the tiny moan of pleasure. It had been months since he had even the hint of a chocolate bar.
This damned war was sucking all the joy out of life.
The amount of cocoa he held might as well have been gold. Getting his hands on it had been damn near impossible. Six weeks of meat rations, it had cost him, and that was a criminal price. Eyes fluttering in bliss, he knew it had been worth it. It would go good with the honey mead he was smuggling in the bag he was holding with his left hand.
Exhaling happily, he carefully lowered the box back to his side and continued down the hall. He nodded at the duty nurse in her white uniform, but didn't make eye contact. They weren't that familiar. She would be gone in another week and a new nurse would take her place. Such was the way of things these days.
Josiah was almost to the ward when he heard her call to him. Sighing, he didn't really want to dally any longer. It couldn't be helped, though. Pasting on a pleased expression, he turned to face her.
To his surprise, she was not back at her station, but actually coming towards him. Her expression was one of annoyance and concern. This sent a prickle down his spine.
Clearing his throat, he stood a little taller. "Miss, what can I do for you?"
She stared hard at him, studying him. Her gaze drifted from his face to the package he was carrying in one hand, then the bag in his other. "I'm afraid I can't let you go in there."
"Oh?" Tilting his head to the side, Josiah readied himself. He had practiced his excuses in car ride over. "Is there any particular reason I can't visit my friend? I only wish to cheer the man up. See, he's been..."
"Moved," she interupted. Raising her hands, she held up a clipboard he hadn't noticed before. She checked it over before pointing at something on it with the tip of her pencil.
Confused and a little concerned, he stared hard at her clipboard. He had to lick his lips twice before he could speak. "What...happened?" The words came out barely above a whisper as panic set in. "Where to?"
Almost as if surprised he had spoken, she looked up with a raised eyebrow. "That's not my concern." Checking the list, she dropped her arms. "At least, that's what I was told this morning when I signed in."
A sudden wave of malaise settled over him, sapping the strength from his body. Shrinking in on himself, Josiah glanced back at the doors to the long-term ward. "Can you tell me anything?" He was startled again by the feel of her hand on his arm. He hadn't even heard her move.
She was smiling sadly at him when he could force himself to look. "I don't know. Sharon, the night duty nurse, wasn't here when I showed up for my shift." After giving his arm a squeeze, she stepped back and let him go. "They aren't telling us anything. I'm sorry."
He nodded numbly, struck dumb by the whole situation. Foisting off the box to her, he no longer had the stomach for it. "Keep this, for your trouble." The honey mead, he had a feeling he was going to be drinking himself.
July 4th, 1943 - El Paso, Texas.
Watching through the slats of her front room blinds, Mae could only sigh. Children raced down the streets, their sparklers glittering in the setting sun. The heaviness in her chest brought tears to her eyes. Closing them, she let the wooden slats fall back into place.
They weren't having a celebration this year. There wasn't much to be happy about. It felt more like a memorial service anyhow.
A clink of glass drew her back to the world. Sighing, she turned to face her sister-in-law and husband. The coffee table had been ushered aside while she had been watching the festivities. For a moment, she almost asked why, then she noticed the cards on the arm of the couch.
"Come on, Mae. We can't play Bridge without our south." Gloria's gentle teasing was little more than a whisper.
Mae snorted. "Bridge with the Potter men might as well be Go-Fish." Still, she moved away from the window and headed for the hallway. "I'll get the folding chairs. There's two in...the spare room." Forcing the sudden welling of pain from her mind, she shook her hand at Gloria. "No, I can handle it myself."
She looked to protest for a moment, then nodded. "I'll get the lemonade."
"That will be nice. Thank you." Putting the entire situation from her mind, Mae marched down the hall to the back of the house. The door on the right led to the basement. Her goal was the one on the left.
It had been so long since anyone came down this hall. Cobwebs had started to form in the corners. Mae noticed them and made a promise to herself to clean back here more often.
Grabbing the door handle, she heard a soft thump. She pushed the door open with a frown. "Harold, what are you doing..." she trailed off as her eyes focused in the dim light of the room.
There was a man in the bedroom, but that most certainly wasn't her brother-in-law.
He had his back to her, but that changed as she spoke. Whipping around, he brandished a blade and a snarl. "Back the fuck off, lady, if you know what's goood for ya!"
Mae's breath caught in her throat as she recognized him. "Eli Joe." She froze in place at the sight of his weapon. Fear and rage made her body tremble. "What are you doing here?" Her voice barely broke above a whisper when she spoke.
By now, he had started backing towards the window. It was half open, crooked in its sill, having been pried up from the outside. "Nothin' that concerns your wrinkled ass."
Sudden rage made her bold. "You're lucky you have that knife." Her fists clenched at her sides. "You're the reason he's dead!"
He snorted. "You'll never be able to prove that." Holding a pillow case in his hand, he shook it at her. "Not now." Moving quickly, he ducked back through one leg at a time. He hit the ground and disappeared out of sight.
It was a full minute until she felt safe enough to breathe again. Still unable to move, Mae felt like her feet had taken root. Clenching her eyes shut, she cried softly her anger into the room.
October 12th, 1943 - Chicago, Illinois.
It was two person table tucked in the shadows of a seedy bar. Left over from prohibition, the place had a decades old charm that pealed like the table's cheap vinear. Taking the empty seat, he eased his aching joints back with a groan. "Tell me, what do you know about the Nazi agenda?" Voice a low growl, Orrin flicked through the pages of his newspaper.
Across the table, whiskey in hand, the man stared at him. The twitch of his lips clearly indicated he thought this a joke. "I beg your pardon?"
Orrin glanced once over the top of his newspaper. He barely had time to meet the man's gaze before he was looking at the sports section again. "You're a bright man with exposure to the news in a large, metropolitan city. Surely, you must know something of their plans."
The man looked about, searching for something. When he didn't find it, he frowned. Turning back to Orrin, he leaned over the table. "Look, I don't know what you're getting at..."
"Lieutenant Krauss highly recommends you." Catching the man's nervous tick at the corner of his eye, Orrin felt a moment of triumph. "In fact, he can't stop singing your praises." He heard the click before he caught the flash of steel out of the corner of his eye. "I wouldn't do that, young man. My people are very good at their jobs. You'll be dead six ways before you hit the floor, I promise you that."
Pale and swallowing, visibly upset, the man coughed into his wrist. "Aren't you a little old to be playing these games, Mr..." he left it open ended to for identification.
"Not really." Pistol leveled in the center of his paper, he squeezed the trigger.
The man's arm flew backwards, jerking him to the right as he lost the grip on his gun. He cried out in pain, clutching at his now useless arm. Moaning softly, he grit his teeth and glared at Orrin. "You'll not a thing out of me. I'll die first."
"Pity." Raising the barrel, his second shot put a hole between the man's eyes. After blowing through the tip, he tucked it back down the inside of his cuff. Glancing to his right to his people, he noticed no one was paying any attention to them. In fact, they were all making a deliberate attempt at not looking.
Folding his paper, he stood up. Sometimes, he really loved this city.
December 1st, 1943 - Homestead, Colorado.
A quiet breeze tickled at the firs. It brought the crisp scent of ice and frozen pine to his nose. Breathing softly, Chris crossed his arms. His exhalation sent twin plumes of breath out into the dark night. The only sound was the rustle of his coat as he leaned back against the porch post. Thick frost fell off down his collar where he rubbed.
The ramshackle porch of his shack was god damned cold through his thick wool socks, but he didn't mind. He wasn't in the mood to think about a lot of things at the moment. Standing in his longjohns and work coat on the porch didn't require a lot of forethought. If he had, he probably wouldn't be out here.
Shaking his head, he looked out from under the eaves. There wasn't a cloud in the sky but for the smoke from his chimny. That explained the god awful cold. Hell, it was hard even for Colorado.
Looking out over the yard, even in the dark, the two foot of snow seemed to glow. It was deciptively beautiful. One step out in it with his lack of dress could prove fatal. A head cold might send him to an early grave. Then again, a lotta things did that.
"You're gonna wake the neighbors if you keep thinking so loud."
Startled, Chris jumped up and spun around. He landed off balance and nearly fell back in the snow. Only two quick hands on the front of his coat kept him from falling.
Sarah jerked him to her, towards the front door. Her gentle chuckle echoed in the dark night. Pulling him flush against her body, she smiled up at him. "What are you doing out here, beautiful?"
"God, woman." Shaking his head, he growled down at her. He tried to be stern, but her smile set him off his anger. "What the hell are you doin' up?"
"The bed's cold." Her fingers slid up the front of his coat and into the collar. Her cold digits slid around his neck to warm up.
The sudden chill made him shiver. Closing his eyes, he dropped his forehead to hers. "I'm sorry. I couldn't sleep thinkin' about..."
"Shh," she silenced him. Humming to herself, she swayed slowly against him. "Let's not dwell upon things we have no control over."
He wanted to sway with her. The urge to give in and press himself against her was so strong that it made his entire body tremble. Only fear held him back. "You know I don't want to do this, right? It's only because we need the money."
She nodded. "Mhmm." Wrapping her arms around his neck, she drew him down.
Chris found himself pressed against her bossom. Sighing, he gave in and wrapped his arms tight about her waist. "Please forgive me."
"Honey, there's nothing to forgive." As he pulled back to stare her in the eyes, she captured his face between her hands. Her smile was brilliant and glowing like the stars above them. "We both agreed this would be the last winter in this shack. That old house will be fixed up come spring, with two candles waiting in each window for you to come home."
Closing his eyes, he closed his eyes and nodded. A burning tear ran down his frozen cheek.
In the sky above, a blue light flashed among the stars.