<-- Chapter One
As Abby dabbed Vera’s face with a damp cloth, Vera began to explain what had happened.
“Y’all know Philip was fighting in the war. Well they were defending Richmond a few months back. Apparently during the retreat they managed to hole up in the big bank for a few hours before gettin’ driven out. Nobody knows anything for sure - at least, nobody’s willing to say they know anything - but word is that each man walked away with a solid gold bar. He never mentioned the gold when he came home. Last week he went missing, and as best as I could learn from folks in the bars in town, that gold is the likely reason for it.”
“But what happened to you?” Abby’s mother asked impatiently. “How did you end up on our porch covered in blood?”
“They came for me during the storm. Broke into the house, demanded to know where the gold was. Said they’d kill me if I didn’t tell them. I said I didn’t know, but they didn’t listen. They were about to kill me, but lighting hit a tree near the house and startled them enough for me to make a break for it. I ran through the woods, hoping to lose them. I managed to shake them about a mile from your place, but not before getting this nasty graze.”
Vera gestured to the spot on her forehead where a new bandage had been tied.
“I’m so sorry for pulling you into this. I just didn’t know where else to go…”
Her mother hugged her aunt, and both began to cry. Abby turned to her father, who was nervously looking out the windows.
“They know you’re here, don’t they?” He asked.
Vera began to cry.
The last time Abby had seen Vera was her wedding day, just over three years ago. Phillip had rightly guessed that the conscription was looming, and decided they should tie the knot. Abby had been ten years old at the time.
She remembered watching Vera walking proudly down the aisle of the little chapel. As she passed, Vera had turned to Abby and given her a wink and a tiny smile. Abby treasured that smile - it was the smile that made her realize there were more men in the world that her father and brothers.
It was jarring to see her aunt so distraught. Abby’s mother was frail and grim. Vera was a woman. Beautiful, and young, and strong. And laying on their floor, sobbing.
Emery walked to the kitchen table and sat down. “Well, what are our options?” He asked aloud to no one in particular. Emery, tall and lean, had been preparing to follow his his brothers into war when they’d gotten the letter informing them of the war’s conclusion.
Glad spoke next. “We can run, or we can fight.” He spoke boldly, as if he had some idea what it would actually take to fight. Abby doubted his resolve, but stayed silent.
Glad and Osman joined Emery at the table. A long moment of silence followed. The beautiful day outside betrayed the anxiety that was settling into Abby’s stomach. At any minute men with guns could come bursting into the house and kill them, all in search of gold. Gold that might not even exist.
“We should make for town. It’s only a few miles.” said Osman “Even if you two knew how to fight, we don’t know how many men are out there, and we’ve only got a couple guns and a little powder. We should make for town as fast as possible.”
The knot in Abby’s stomach tightened a little more. Going to town was only a few miles, but it was a few miles through dense forest, following a rough track that was so overgrown that you could touch branches on with both hands if you reached out while riding. They could sneak up on us so easily. They could be ten feet away and we’d never know.
“No, no, no” Vera was murmuring, groggy but trying to listen to the conversation. “We can’t leave, they’ll catch me…”. She trailed off.
Marietta, Abby’s mom, sighed. “I don’t think we have a choice. We’re sitting ducks here. They might not have figured out where she went, but this is the only house for miles around.
Osman settled the discussion “Then we should move now, before they have time to figure out that we’re here. Get ready to go.”
Emery and Glad sat motionless, mouths open slightly, both clearly considering arguing the point. Osman stood up and walked upstairs. The discussion was over.
Chapter Three -->
Copyright 2016 Tyler Smith
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