The Christmas Ship, chapter 3, historical romance

TheChristmasShipChapter Three

Roselle’s knees knocked together under her long skirts and coat. She was about to be shot thanks to Michel Gaspard and his interference in farm matters. Worse, his orders had endangered an innocent. The poor American, Jacob Kerrigan, must rue the day he’d left his home country. Swallowing the wad of dread in her throat, she faced Captain Schiedel of the Kaiser’s Imperial Army staring at her from a bristling wall of fixed bayonets. Despite her brave words at the cottage, her papers didn’t authorize her to be out after curfew. She filled her lungs. At least, she could protect Jacob. She opened her mouth.

With his hands raised to shoulder height, Jacob shifted slightly, placing himself between her and the Boche officer. “Captain, I thought we’d agreed to meet again in America.”

She blinked, processing the English. The German captain and the delegate of the CRB knew each other in America? But America was neutral, wasn’t it? Extended out to her sides, her gloved hands formed fists.

“And I thought we had dropped you off at your proposed residence.” Captain Schiedel’s hand remained on the grip of the pistol on his hip.

“As did I.” Jacob inclined his head toward his suitcase. “Alas, it seems we were both mistaken.”

“The Kaiser’s Army doesn’t make mistakes.”

The soldiers’ attention darted from their captain to Jacob then to her. A few gazes lingered.

She clenched the coat at her throat and shifted a little behind Jacob.

The delegate squared his shoulders. The harsh light of the electric torches deepened the forest of stubble on his square chin and jaw. Red rimmed his bloodshot eyes. A bruise marred his right cheek and dirt smudged his high forehead. “Then, I was mistaken about the location of my new quarters.”

Roselle locked her knees to keep her legs from folding. To admit to deceiving the Germans was punishable by death. “Captain, I think I can—”

Captain Schiedel’s blue eyes locked on her. “Please allow me to finish my conversation with Mr. Kerrigan, mademoiselle. Then we will speak.”

His accented French differed from Jacob’s, and yet both contained similar phrasing.

“I—I understand.” Her tongue stuck to the roof of her dry mouth. Michel’s warnings flooded her brain, stilling her words. She must say as little as possible and reveal only what they already knew. But what did they know? Her attention cut to Jacob.

The left side of his mouth quirked before he stilled it. “It seems that the Comité National assigned me to one of Mrs. Perrine’s properties. And Mrs. Perrine rented out the same cottage to a tenant. She has graciously offered me a room at her house.”

“Ah.” The captain motioned for his dozen men to lower their bayonets, then whispered, “Communication is difficult at the moment.”

Jacob nodded. “That is why I’ve come. The CRB needs information on the state of the canals to deliver supplies to the area.”

Roselle nearly clapped. The rumors had been true. Antwerp was prepared to feed her village.

“So you’ve said.” Captain Schiedel shrugged. “Many times while you were entertained by the kommandantur.”

“He didn’t seem to believe me.” Jacob’s shoulders relaxed a little.

“That is because they don’t understand our need to help our neighbors, to do something instead of accepting our fate.” Clasping his hands behind his back, the officer left the safety of his men to meet Jacob. Side by side they walked along the road. “War is both a religion and a disease to my parents’ people.”

Roselle blinked. There it was—a confession that the Boche was an American. She had to warn the Comité National. The CRB could be just another form of invasion. And so many people viewed them as a symbol of hope. Was it a lie?

“Our? You’re an American?” After stopping to pick up his suitcase, Jacob cupped her elbow and guided her to his side. He placed his body between her and the officer’s.

“Illinois born. I was visiting my father’s people in Bavaria when war broke out.” Captain Schiedel glanced over his shoulder. “Since I was born of German parents, I was conscripted into the military along with my cousins.”

Setting their rifles on their shoulders, his men fell into neat ranks behind him.

Jacob turned along the hard-packed road when the captain directed. “Those are all your relatives?”

“Them and more. Some have already gone to the Somme. We’ll join them later.” The captain’s straight nose twitched. “I wasn’t supposed to say that.”

“I don’t think I heard you.” Jacob squeezed her arm.

She had. Her fingers itched to put it on paper. But that could wait. What else would the good captain say while he thought she didn’t understand any English?

“Good. It’s good.” Captain Schiedel slapped Jacob on the back. “I forgot how good it is to talk to another American.”

Jacob frowned. “So what brings you out?”

“So many questions can be dangerous. Not all appreciate curiosity, especially Germans.”

Roselle’s insides condensed as the captain pushed open the gates to the chateau. The ring of pines opened onto a frosted lawn where wooly sheep dozed. At the end of the gravel drive, the red brick chateau jutted four stories into the air. Conical towers bracketed the sides and dormers emerged from the steep sloping roof of the attics. Lights blazed from the main rooms on the ground and first floors. Thanks to the curtains thrown open due to the German orders, the windows revealed the frenzied pacing of the occupants.

Mon Dieu. Something has happened. But what? She had only been gone a few hours. She lurched forward.

Jacob’s grip tightened, holding her back. “Has something happened at the chateau?”

“I must see to my family.” Roselle jerked on her arm, but his hold remained tight.

“Ahh.” Captain Schiedel unclasped his hands and switched to French. “I had thought when I encountered you, mademoiselle, that an emergency had sent you out.”

Her ribs changed to bands of steel, trapping air in her lungs. Stick to the truth. Say as little as possible. “I had spent the evening at the cottage, waiting for Monsieur Kerrigan. I planned to wait only a little longer and must have fallen asleep.”

Captain Schiedel arched a golden brown eyebrow. “You were in the cottage and didn’t identify yourself?”

Jacob tugged her against the wall of his body. “She was obviously sleeping. If she’s anything like my sister, she had to take a moment to compose herself and make herself presentable. Do you have sisters, Captain?”

A muscle flexed in the officer’s jaw.

Roselle shivered. While Jacob attempted to explain her behavior, the Boche was determined to think the worst. Not all Americans were the same. “I awoke at the sound of your voices. By the time I had lit the candle to reveal myself and find my way out of the kitchen,” and illuminate the fact that she was unarmed. “Monsieur Kerrigan was alone.”

There. That sounds plausible, doesn’t it? Shifting ahead, she peeked under her lashes at the captain.

“You should have identified yourself before bothering with the other things.”  Captain Schiedel glared at her. “There are standing orders to search every unoccupied dwelling on our patrols. If you had been discovered, you could have been treated as a franc-tireur.”

And execute.

Death trailed a frigid hand down her spine. Muscle trembled in its wake. She could have been shot in her own cottage. Damn this war and the Boches who started it. At least with the little house occupied, the wounded soldiers she helped wouldn’t be discovered. She had been lucky, very lucky, and hadn’t known it. She knew it now. “I am sorry, Captain.”

The words were bitter on her tongue. Pride often had a foul taste. But better false words of contrition than death.

Remy, her butler, paused by the mullioned windows of the front parlor. His stately figure warmed her fear-chilled heart. Nothing too dire could be happening. A minute later, he retreated toward the door to the hall. She sighed. Remy would meet them at the front door.

“It won’t happen again.” Jacob eased his grip on her elbow. “When I report to Antwerp in a few days, I’ll let them know future delegates should seek accommodations at Mademoiselle Perrine’s chateau.”

She started at the mention of her name. “Pardon?”

Captain Schiedel motioned for his men to stop at the edge of the white gravel moat surrounding the chateau. “My commander noticed the lights burning in the windows and sent me to investigate. Do you have any idea as the the cause of the commotion, mademoiselle?”

“We shall find out.” Tugging free from Jacob’s grip, Roselle bounded across the last few meters.

The butler opened the door before she reached it. Dressed in his traditional black suit and white shirt, Remy stared down at her from his two-meter height. Close-set black eyes regarded her from a face better suited to a Pug. He had never looked better. “Mademoiselle, it is good to have you home.”

“I apologize for keeping you.” Roselle forced her arms to her side to prevent herself from hugging the man. He’d been a constant in her life since childhood. And with the war, she depended upon him more than ever. “My errand took longer than expected, but I was successful.”

“Yes, mademoiselle.” Remy’s black eyes glistened like polished buttons in the light. They darted to the soldiers behind her, the captain, and her before alighting on Jacob Kerrigan.

She practically heard the connections forming in the butler’s head.

Feet slapped the marble floor in the foyer, and a shadow stretched across the oriental rug. A moment later, her brother rounded the corner. The pink and white nightshirt flapped around his gangly frame. Elbows and knees tented the fabric in sharp points as his oversized hands beat the air to stop the rest of him from sliding into the receiving table. “Rosie! Rosie! You’re home.”

Pimples interspersed the wiry whiskers sprouting from his babyish face. He looked so much older than he was. Worse, his mind hadn’t even caught up with his age.

“I am here, Felix.” She held open her arms for her little brother.

He lurched forward then wrapped skeletal arms around her and curled his towering body over hers. Tremors rippled through him. “I was so scared, Rosie. You weren’t here.”

Captain Schiedel rested his hand on his weapon. “How old is the boy?”

Jacob released his breath slowly. “I’m certain he isn’t of fighting age.”

Remy pulled a packet of papers from his dark suit jacket. “I took the liberty of bringing everyone’s papers with me. Felix Perrine turned eleven on the Eleventh of September.”

She rubbed her brother’s back. In five years, the Germans would deport him. Despite their promises, they allowed few male Belgians of fighting age to remain.

The Boche officer snatched the papers from the butler’s hand and angled them toward the beam of his flashlight.

Jacob studied the gravel under his shoes. A vein throbbed at his temple.

Kissing her brother on the cheek, Roselle pried his arms from their stranglehold around her neck. His exposed skin was chilled. “Please warm yourself by the fire, Felix. I can’t have you catching cold.”

Scratching his nose, her brother rubbed the top of one foot with the bottom of the other. “You’re coming inside, too?”

“I’ll be right there.” She bussed his cheek before pushing him into the house.

Captain Schiedel compared the photograph on Felix’s papers to him. “He is very large for a child.”

Foreboding raised goosebumps on her arms. Her compatriots were being deported for the tiniest infractions. She couldn’t let them take her brother. She wouldn’t. “He is only eleven, Captain.”

Grunting, the officer returned the papers to the butler then gestured to the lights in the windows. “And what was the reason for all this?”

Drawing himself to his full height, Remy rearranged the papers and looked down his nose at the German. “Felix had a nightmare. When he found his sister’s bed empty, he first searched for her then cried that she had been deported.”

The captain blushed.

Jacob hid a smile behind his hand.

Roselle stilled her own lips. They could best the Boches only so far. Her butler was skirting the line. “Now that everything has been explained, perhaps we could retire for the evening. Or the rest of the morning.”

“A moment please, mademoiselle.” Captain Schiedel raised his hand. “Why didn’t your brother know where you were?”

“Because I didn’t tell him.” Smoothing her coat over her belly, she stepped back. Now, she just hoped she could count on the butler to back up her story. “Remy, please place Monsieur Kerrigan in the green room. He’ll be staying with us while he conducts his CRB business.”

“Very good, mademoiselle.” The butler glided forward and eased the suitcase handle from Jacob’s hold.

The delegate stood beside her. His sleeve brushing her arm. “I for one will be thankful to retire to a nice, warm bed.”

Captain Schiedel raised one finger. “And why wasn’t your brother informed?”

She sighed. She’d expected the question. Thankfully, the answer was the truth. “Felix imagines many things for events yet to happen and can work himself into a state. If presented with a deed already accomplished, he accepts it quickly and without undue fuss.”

“Very well.” The captain clicked off his flashlight. “Please present yourself to the kommandantur in the morning. He will have further questions.”

There were always questions. Roselle raked a hand through her hair and scraped off her shawl. The thin material crackled with cold as it swept by her ears. She trudged forward. She didn’t mind the trip into Brabionne, after all she had letters to deliver. But visiting the enemy’s headquarters was bound to cause talk.

She couldn’t afford talk, or the extra scrutiny that came with it. Someone might suspect her nocturnal activities.

Someone might turn her in to the Boches.

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Santa Baby Blog Hop

SantababybloghopGood morning everyone

I’m participating in the Santa Baby Blog Hop, so be sure to look for the line from the song then use the link at the bottom of the post to check out other authors posts.

For some reason (I don’t know why) there’s been a lot of talk about Christmas Carols lately. My friend was telling me that she has a very definite viewpoint on what makes a Christmas Carol, one that excludes songs like The Christmas Shoes . A radio personality stated that since Mariah Carey’s All I want for Christmas is You there hasn’t been a new Christmas Carol added to the pantheon.

I think they’re both nuts.

TheChristmasShipEvery year, I find a new Christmas song to add to my holiday play list. As for what constitutes a Christmas Carol, I think it is anything that puts you in a holiday mood, because if Die Hard can be the most popular Christmas movie ever, then I can make up my own rules, too.

So, if you’re looking for some new-to-you Carols to add a little cheer to your holiday, here are a few that I rarely hear but love, by the artists that first introduced them to me:

Mary’s Boy Child

Baby, It’s Cold Outside Not a new song but I hadn’t heard it until Elf then this version came over the radio

Mary Did you Know? Enjoying a resurgence thanks to Pentatonix

Where are you Christmas? From the Grinch remake

Christmas Canon

Text Me Merry Christmas—Which is soon to be my favorite newbie.

To be entered into a drawing for a copy of either A Gift from St. Nick or The Christmas AGiftfromStNickShip, leave the youtube link to your favorite Christmas Carol.

Now, click here for the next blog:

 

 

 

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Friday Funny and a Confession

Before we get to the funny bit, let me just admit that it’s true, I’ve been writing on other blogs. Not only that, but I actively sought them out just to write on them. I know shameful. But wait, you’ve visited other blogs while I wasn’t posting, so perhaps all will be forgiven.

In the interest in full disclosure, here’s the places I’ve been this week:

http://pennyestelle.blogspot.com/2014/12/linda-andrews-talks-about-christmas.html

http://mona-karel.com/2014/12/07/welcome-linda-andrews-discussing-dogs-in-war/

http://romancerecipes.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/linda-andrewsgrandmas-cookies/

WHEN YOU FEEL STUPID,READ THIS!

You’ll feel much better after this….

and then read it again; you’ll begin to think you’re a genius…..

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(On September 17, 1994, Alabama’s Heather Whitestone was selected as Miss America 1995.)

Question: If you could live forever, would you and why?

Answer: “I would not live forever, because we should not live forever, because if we were supposed to live forever, then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever, which is why I would not live forever,”

–Miss Alabama in the 1994 Miss  USA    contest.

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“Whenever I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can’t help but cry. I mean I’d love to be skinny like that, but not with all those flies and death and stuff.”

–Mariah Carey

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“Smoking kills. If you’re killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life,”

– Brooke Shields, during an interview to become spokesperson for federal anti-smoking campaign

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“I’ve never had major knee surgery on any other part of my body,”

–Winston Bennett,  University    of  Kentucky    basketball forward.

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“Outside of the killings,  Washington    has one of the lowest crime rates in the country,”

–Mayor Marion Barry,  Washington    ,  DC    . ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

“That lowdown scoundrel deserves to be kicked to death by a jackass, and I’m just the one to do it,”

–A congressional candidate in  Texas    .

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“Half this game is ninety percent mental.”

–Philadelphia Phillies manager, Danny Ozark

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“It isn’t pollution that’s harming the environment. It’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it..”

–Al Gore, Vice President

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“I love  California    . I practically grew up in  Phoenix    .”

– Dan Quayle

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“We’ve got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?”

–Lee Iacocca

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“The word “genius” isn’t applicable in football. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.”

–Joe Theisman, NFL football quarterback & sports analyst.

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“We don’t necessarily discriminate. We simply exclude certain types of people.”

– Colonel Gerald Wellman, ROTC Instructor.

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“Your food stamps will be stopped effective March 1992 because we received notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if there is a change in your circumstances.”

–Department of Social Services, Greenville , South Carolina

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“Traditionally, most of Australia ‘s imports come from overseas.”

–Keppel Enderbery

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Feeling smarter yet?

 

Posted in Books, Friday Funny | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

The Christmas Ship, Chapter 2

TheChristmasShipChapter Two

Standing in the open cottage door, Jacob Kerrigan raised his hand in farewell. Frost glistened in the oppressive darkness. Grit stung his eyes and fatigue hung heavy on his limbs. His leather suitcase dragged his arm to the ground. A yawn slurred his words. “Thank you, gentlemen, for the escort.”

Not that Jacob had a choice, but it was better than a jail cell.

A patrol of helmeted German soldiers fanned out in the front yard. Their exhales fogged the cold night air, and the two-piece flashlights shone brightly on the dark night. Skeletal branches reached for the waning moon nearing its zenith amid a blanket of twinkling stars.

By the light of his flashlight, the captain lit a cigarette. “Perhaps, I will look you up once I return to Chicago.”

“On your way to Chicago.” Jacob’s answer clouded the air. A repeat of many such answers during his six hour interrogation at the hands of the captain’s commander. “Hope’s Point is in Michigan, but many passenger ships stop there. It’s a great place to vacation.”

Jacob stressed the lack of industry in his hometown. The Germans hadn’t trusted him despite the piles of paperwork and passes from the Commission for Relief in Belgium. They knew he must have an ulterior motive for entering the occupied country. Apparently, the only acceptable meddling in another country’s business was war. Not an option for neutral America or Americans, but this… This meant he was helping in a small way.

The German captain rubbed his clean-shaven chin and flicked ash in the yard. “Perhaps I will vacation in your Hope’s Point this summer, when this…” He waved a gloved hand toward a pink glow on the horizon—flares marking the battlefield miles away. “This will be all over by then.”

Jacob bit back his sarcastic retort. Every German he’d met thought their country would triumph once fighting resumed in the spring. The head of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, Herbert Hoover, warned his delegates that hostilities could last for years. Some predicted a decade or more.

Scraping a hand down his face, Jacob sagged into the fatigue puddling at his feet. He had promised the CRB six months. He prayed he could replace the images of carnage and destruction in his head by then. Neutral. I promise to remain neutral.

The CRB depended upon him not to take a side. No matter the provocation.

“I’ve heard many state the war will be over by summer.” The same fools had predicted an end by Christmas. Jacob rubbed his numb nose on his wool muffler. “If it is, then come see me at the Ojibwa Inn. My folks run it, and I’d love to return the hospitality you’ve offered me.”

There was a cramped attic room with a bed small enough to allow the captain’s feet to hang off it. As an added bonus, the window was painted shut and the room sweltered during the Michigan summers. Yes, sir, Jacob would return his treatment in kind.

“I accept.” Bowing slightly, the German officer tossed his cigarette aside, clicked his heels together, then switched off the flashlight around his neck. His men snuffed out their cigarettes and fell back into formation—shoulders square, arms length between them, and fixed bayonets piercing the night sky. After they turned off their lights, the captain marched them away to the rhythmic thud of hob-nailed boots.

Obviously sarcasm was wasted on the Germans. Closing his eyes, Jacob rested his head against the jamb. If he never met another German, he could die a happy man. Unfortunately, he would have to meet them. Lots of them. He just hoped he wouldn’t see the destruction of Liège or the slaughter at Louvain and wonder where the captain had been during it.

Behind Jacob, fabric whispered. A boot scraped wood.

The hair on Jacob’s neck stood at attention. Had he escaped the Germans to fall prey to some brigand looking for food or money? His grip tightened on his suitcase handle. If he got clear of the doorway, he could swing the leather case at his assailant and run to the Germans. No. No, he couldn’t. The soldiers might execute someone who just wanted food.

“They have gone, then?” Dulcet words were smoke in the cold.

Sieving air through his teeth, Jacob fought the fire building in his gut. He must be exhausted for a woman’s words to affect him so. Opening his eyes, he turned slowly, holding his arms away from his sides so she could see he only carried a suitcase. “I’m sorry, mademoiselle. I had thought the house unoccupied.”

No one had answered his knock.

A woman stood in the aura of candlelight. The flame gilded the curls peeking out of the shawl surrounding her oval face. Pale green eyes sparkled behind round spectacles. Her lips were a Cupid’s bow of perfection, and the severe cut of her ankle-length coat emphasized her Rubenesque curves.

Jacob’s mouth dried. Oh, boy. The Germans might be safer company.

She blinked at him before tilting her head to the side. “The cottage is unoccupied, but will soon be full.”

Her broken English tugged at something deep inside him. Like most of the Belgians he’d met, she made an effort to put him at ease. He should return the favor. His mother had raised him better. Setting his suitcase on the wooden floor, Jacob wiped his damp glove on his coat. “Perhaps, I should introduce myself. Jacob Kerrigan, CRB.”

He thrust his hand toward her.

She stared at it for a moment before shifting the candlestick to the side. “Roselle Perrine.”

“Mademoiselle Perrine.” He savored the roll of her name on his tongue. It was rich, like the chocolates her country was famous for. He wrapped his hand around hers, holding it as if it were a hummingbird. “It is mademoiselle, yes?”

He fumbled with his French. He had discovered extreme differences in the native patois of Hope’s Point’s Gallic founders and the lyrical language of the French-speaking Europeans.

“Yes.” She peeked at him from under her lashes.

In the dim light, he detected a blush of color sweeping over her cheeks. Had he mangled his words and insulted her? There were many that sounded the same but meant something entirely different. Silence descended like a soggy blanket. He groped for something to say.

She tugged on her hand.

He released her then fisted his hand to erase the emptiness. “Oh. My apologies.” Her name connected with the small part of his brain that still functioned. “Perrine? Isn’t that the name of the cottage owner?”

“Yes.” Roselle stared at her gloved hand for a moment. Her lips pursed before she visibly shook herself and forced her hand to her side. “My papa owns the estate.”

Belgians were such hospitable people. And yet… Yet, it was very late, or early, depending. Even on his island home, daughters wouldn’t be allowed out unescorted at this time of night. He peered into the gloom over her shoulder.

“Is your father here?”

“No.” Her mouth opened and closed before she took a ragged breath.

Jacob’s stomach clenched. Something had happened to her father. The certainty filled his shoes with buckshot. Please, God, don’t let him be shot like so many others.

She swallowed audibly. “Papa was deported to Germany.”

She sniffed and studied the scuffed floor.

He stepped forward, wanting to comfort her, to tell her everything would be well. The faint scent of roses, lavender, and chamomile rose up between them. Neutral. I must remain neutral. His arms trembled at his sides. “I am sorry. Is there anything I can do?”

His teeth snapped at the last words, desperate to recall them. Mr. Hoover, the Chief, had warned him about becoming emotionally entangled with the Belgians. Any hint of partiality and the Germans or English could renege their permissions.

If the CRB couldn’t deliver the provisions, then nine million people would starve.

Comforting one woman wasn’t worth endangering so many. Was it?

“You are kind to offer.” She smoothed her gloves over the coat covering her lush hips. “But there is nothing to be done.”

His mouth dried at the movement. Her actions were innocent; his thoughts were not. He pulled his attention away and turned it to her face. She really was quite beautiful. By all the saints, she’s speaking about her imprisoned father and I’m being callous. It had to be the exhaustion effecting him. “I’m sorry for that.”

Nodding, she bit her lip.

He ran his thumb and index finger over his eyes. White spots played along his vision. Finally, he found a topic and latched onto it. “Would it be alright if I sleep here tonight? I’ll find a hotel in the morning.”

The bits of gold coin he had left drained from his pockets. He was hopeful they would buy him a night or two until he could leave for Antwerp or find other accommodations. Sleeping on the ground was out. The Germans didn’t like anyone out after dark. Their fear of francs-tireurs was still palpable.

“No. No.” She glanced over her shoulder at the darkened room. “There is no wood, and the window and door have not been fixed.”

“I can chop my own wood if you show me some logs. As for the window and door, this room seems pretty secure.” He’d slept in worse places. And this parlor had a better ambience than the jail cell he’d spent the previous evening in. Crossing the warped wooden floor, he crouched in front of the stone hearth. Not even a cinder remained in the blackened fireplace. “Once I get a fire going, I’ll be right as rain.”

She shook her head and a golden ringlet escaped her shawl to bounce on her shoulder. “No. No. You must not stay. You must not chop the wood. Or light the fire.”

The hair on the back of his neck stood on end, brushing his stiff collar. Was it the language difference, or was there something else going on here?

The candlestick shook in her hand, but she didn’t elaborate.

His stomach clenched in foreboding. I have to remain neutral. Retreating, he picked up his suitcase. “I see.” His leather gloves creaked as his fingers curled around the handle. “I think I’ll walk into town and present myself to the kommandantur. I’m sure he’ll find me a place to stay.”

Jacob just hope it didn’t involve another strip search. He’d had more than enough of those in the last three months.

“No. No!” She flashed her palm at him before batting the curl out of her eyes. “Mon Dieu, I am tired.”

He paused. Was it just fatigue? “I don’t understand.”

“Papa promised the Comité National that there would be a place while I—I offered it to an older couple that would help with the farm.” She ran her hand over her mouth. “Their house burned to the ground when…”

“Ah.” He knew first-hand of the difficulties facing Belgium. Communication was chief among them. He’d been dispatched here to inspect the condition of the canals and narrow gauge railroads because the CRB had no information. But that didn’t explain why he couldn’t stay here tonight.

“You must stay at the chateau. There is wood and coal for the fires, food, and a warm bed.” She shivered. “Yes, I will fix this, and still fulfill my promise to Papa and the Comité National.”

“Thank you.” Jacob squelched the twinge of disappointment. Naturally, she wouldn’t think about the promise made to him.

Blowing out the candle, she set the holder on the chunky wooden mantel. “We should go.”

He filled the doorway then stopped. A chill seeped into his marrow. “Do you have a pass to be out at night?”

With a gentle push, she forced him onto the packed dirt in front of the cottage. “This is my property. I have any number of reasons to travel it when I need to.”

Oh, boy. He squirmed at the hauteur infusing her words. She was an aristocrat. Landed gentry. When he’d heard farm, he’d assumed an earthy, grounded family like in America. But no. He stumbled forward. For a moment, Victoria Van Hylton’s face masked Roselle’s. Her sneer burned through him just as it had that day last summer when he’d discovered she’d used him for her own purposes. He tried to tamp it down to snuff out the memories. This was Belgium. Not every woman would use and mock his desire to help those in need.

The patina rusted his iron clad memory.

Roselle pulled the door shut behind her then swiped at the chalk on the dark planks. “Your staying at the chateau will be good. The Germans wouldn’t dare harass us with an independent observer there.”

Hooking her arm through his, she dragged him into the moonlight speckled path under the trees.

Vomit rose in Jacob’s mouth. At least, she was honest in her use of him. He engraved the words on his resolve. He would do his duty to the CRB and move on. He would not be snared or mocked by a pretty face again. Through the tree trunks, campfires dotted the flat plain near a forested patch of ground. Lights flashed at intermittent intervals, indicating the German patrols.

Hunching in his coat, Jacob followed her. She promised a warm bed. A toasty fire. Frost crunched and slush sucked at his shoes. Despite his thick wool socks, his toes were numb. Minutes ticked off as they walked along the windbreak between the fallow fields. Should he have insisted they stay behind?

Would she have listened?

Her kind rarely did. Privilege came with expectations. He doubted the war had crushed hers yet.

She jerked him to a stop at a dirt road. Lights blinked in the wooded area ahead.

“Oh, no!” Releasing him, she darted forward.

A patrol rounded the trees. The soldiers halted and stabbed their bayonets toward him. “Halt!”

She skidded to a stop under a sheltering pine tree.

Dropping his suitcase, Jacob raised his hands. He just hoped his passes protected them both. He didn’t want to start the day as a human pincushion.

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Still Time to Enter

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Friday Funny—A Very Public Toilet

This is a picture of a public toilet in Houston, TX from the outside.

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Now that you’ve seen the outside view, here is the inside view:

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It’s made entirely of one-way glass.

No one can see you from the outside but when you are inside it’s like sitting in a clear glass box.

Now, would you? Could you? Probably not.

A Painted bathroom floor

Tenth floor of a high-rise building

Imagine you are at a party and have to visit the bathroom.

You open the door and…

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This is a ceiling mural in a smokers lounge:
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How much do you love your hometown?

Enough to destroy it?

Fictionally, of course.

Since a few of you wanted to know what happened to other places in the world in the Redaction novels, I thought I would offer you the opportunity to offer your favorite place for me to mention in my new apocalyptic novel.

Sooo, if you’re game, tell me the city, county, and country plus your local icon/hangout/favorite place that i can have horrible things happen to.

You have till Christmas to post it.

And speaking of Christmas, if a fully decorated tree is toppled by four playing cats in the middle of the night, it may make a sound but no person sleeping in the house heard it.

And no, I did not blame the dog. The sheer evidence of cat toys told it’s own tale.

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