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Authors: Marylu Tyndall

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BOOK: Abandoned Memories
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“What are your orders, Doctor?” A nurse, apron sprayed with blood, stared at him with eyes filled with panic. The same panic that had kept him frozen in place.

“Doctor? He’s dying…he’s dying…do something!”

“James.” Eliza touched his arm. She handed him the needle…slowly as if she had no energy. “Are…you…ready?” Her words were garbled and distant. Like she was there, but not there. He faced Mr. Jenkins. The soldier remained. An officer. The single gold star on his collar stood in stark contrast to the blood oozing from his midsection. The nurse continued shouting, “We’re losing him…he’s dying! Doctor…Doctor…”

James dropped the kidney. It disappeared. Along with the nurse and the wounded officer. He drew a breath. Just a vision. Not real.

But once, years ago, it had been

“Pour rum into the wound,” he ordered, taking a step back. His head grew light. “Stitch the blood vessel.” Another step back. The room spun. “When the bleeding stops, suture the wound.” He turned, pressed a hand over his heaving stomach. “I can’t. I’m sorry. I can’t.” Ignoring their protests, he barreled out the bamboo door to a burst of fresh air and stumbled forward, praying for strength to return to his legs before he made a complete fool of himself and toppled to the ground.

People stared at him, whispering. No doubt mocking him as he charged down the street and dashed into the jungle, foisting the brunt of his anger out on leaves and vines that stood in his way. And all the while wondering why the cruel visions continued to assail him. Especially since it had been over two years since he’d left the battlefield. Did they come from these invisible beasts the Hebrew book described, or were they just figments of his tormented guilt? He remembered that injured major well. It was the first time he’d held a man’s kidney in his hand—a kidney shredded from a cannon blast. He’d tried to remove it to save the man’s life. He had failed. The poor soldier died in a pool of his own blood.

Halting, James pressed hands to his knees and heaved onto the ground. When there was nothing left in his belly, he wiped his mouth and gazed up in the canopy, where life went on in a myriad of chirps and chatters as if he weren’t completely losing his mind below. Only a madman saw visions of men who died long ago. Men who died under his knife. Under his hands. Hands that still trembled. He held those hands up before him now. Not a doctor’s hands anymore. He’d failed at that profession. He’d also failed at preaching, but God had given him a second chance at that. This time he was determined to be a good preacher, to avoid temptation, and to be a spiritual guide to the colony.

If only he could stay away from blood.

Angeline woke with a start. Her heart raced. Heat stormed through her. Tossing the coverlet aside, she swung her legs over the edge of the cot. Another nightmare. Just like all the others. A kaleidoscope of haunting images from her past: rain splattering on her father’s muddy grave; the vacant, lifeless look in Uncle John’s eyes as he stared at the ceiling; Aunt Louise’s maniacal laugh of victory; dim taverns, male hands reaching for her, groping. Lowering her chin, she rubbed her eyes. The odor of stale beer and sweat clung to her nose. Would she never be rid of it?

A gray hue lit the window. Almost dawn. One glance told her that Sarah and Lydia were still fast asleep on the other side of the hut. At least she hadn’t woken them as she’d done so often these past months. A ghostly tune rode upon the wind stirring the calico curtains. Angeline cocked her ear. Was she hearing things now as well? An offkey piano banged “God Save the South,” a tune she’d heard many a time at the Night Owl tavern in downtown Richmond.

Rising, she tore off her night rail and quickly donned her blouse and skirt. Did visions play piano? Tired of being bullied by whatever or whoever was causing these nightmares, she intended to find out. As she passed the foot of her cot, she brushed fingers over Stowy curled up in a ball. The cat opened one eye then nestled farther into the coverlet, obviously too lazy to join her. After slipping on her shoes and stuffing her pistol in her belt, she burst onto Main Street to a blast of dewy air and the smell of musk and orange blossoms.

Still the music continued. More angry than frightened, she charged toward the meeting shelter when a shadow leapt in front of her. Shrieking, she barreled backward, heart bursting. The music stopped. A nebulous form drifted in her path. “Who is it?” Struggling to breathe, she plucked out the pistol and leveled it at the shape.

“Just an old friend.” The voice rang familiar. Eerily familiar.

Moonlight speared the clearing, and the figure of Dirk materialized—Dirk Clemens, if she remembered correctly. “You’re not real.” The gun shook in her hands, defying her statement.

“That’s not what you said back in Richmond, dear heart.” His voice was sickly sweet.

“Get out of my way.” She attempted to shove him aside with the barrel, but the pistol swooshed through air, sending her off balance. She tripped, quickly regained her footing, then spun to face him. He grinned and cocked his head. Her heart crawled into her throat.
He’s not here. He’s not here
. “Leave me alone!” Turning from him, she dashed down the street.

“You can’t fool these people for long. They’ll soon know
you are.”

His sordid chuckle faded as she rushed onward, vision blurring, drawn by a lantern in the meeting shelter. Surely the women weren’t up already preparing breakfast? No, it was James. Sitting at the table, leaning over a book.

Like a beacon of hope and light, he drew her to him, longing for the safety and comfort of his presence. Head bent, eyes narrowed, brows bunched together, he didn’t seem to hear her approach. Wiping tears from her cheeks, she hesitated, hating to disturb him. A breeze sent the lantern light rippling over him like waves upon the sea. She was within a few yards of him now, so close she could hear his deep breaths, see the dark stubble on his chin, the way the wind swayed the tips of his hair over his collar. Dawn’s prelude cast a heavenly glow around him that left her speechless. Somewhere a whippoorwill sang. She dared not move, dared not breathe. She could stare at this man forever. Just watching him seemed to unravel her tight nerves, slow her heart, and steady her breathing.

He looked up then. Right at her as if he’d sensed her presence, known she was there. Surprise melded into delight before the burn of shame torched his bronze eyes. No doubt at his performance in the clinic yesterday.

Laying down his pen, he stretched his back. “Forgive me, Angeline, I didn’t hear you.”

“It is I who am sorry, Doctor. For disturbing you.”

He released a heavy sigh. “Don’t call me that. As you saw today, or yesterday, rather, I am anything but.”

“I imagine you are a great doctor.”

“Imagining it is all you’ll be able to do, I’m afraid.” He snorted.

Angeline wanted to tell him that perhaps he could overcome his fear someday, but she’d heard too many useless platitudes in her life to foist one on this wise man.

“I’m sorry you had to witness my atrocious behavior.” A muscle twitched in his jaw as he stared at his book.

“We all have our fears.”

“And what are
fears, Miss Angeline? Nothing seems to rattle you, save visions flying off cliffs.” He gestured toward the pistol stuffed in her belt and grinned. “God help those visions should they ever turn into flesh and blood.”

Angeline smiled and took a step closer. “I wish they would.” For she would have blown each one back to hell where they belonged. She ran her fingers over the gun’s brass-plated handle, finding comfort in the hard metal, in the power resident within. She’d sworn to never allow a man to touch her against her will again. But how could she fight things that weren’t even there?

James stood, concern bending his brow. “Did you see something?”

She stared at him, hesitating to add fuel to his supernatural fancies. “Outside my hut…” She glanced that way. “Someone I knew from long ago.”

He took her hand and led her to a stool. “Sit down. You’re trembling.”

“I’m all right.” She took the seat anyway. Mainly because his touch sent a spire of heat through her that she didn’t want him to notice.

“The visions are getting more intense.” He took a seat opposite her, leaning elbows on knees, and studied her with such unabashed concern, she squirmed.

“Is that the Hebrew book?” She gestured toward the volume on the table. Bound in cracked, aged leather, the yellowed pages crinkled at the edges and contained strange letters that looked more like drawings than words.

He nodded with a deep sigh, gazing at the book as if it held the secret to life. A breeze ruffled the ancient paper as the croak of frogs and buzz of night insects serenaded them.

“Any clues as to what’s happening?”

“Many, yes. None I think you would believe.” He gave a cynical snort.

“Those pesky invisible beasts again?” She grinned, desperate to wipe the frown from his face.

Eyes aflame with conviction met hers. “Yes. Chained in a catacomb below the temple for many years—maybe thousands.”

She wanted to believe him, she truly did. But all this God and angels and devil stuff? It was beyond ludicrous. If there was a God, why had He ignored her all these years? “I don’t understand. If these beings are so evil that they had to be chained up, why would anyone release them?”

“I don’t think the cannibals knew what they were doing or what lay beneath the temple they were building.”

“And Graves?”

James rubbed the scar angling down the right side of his mouth. “Graves sought power above all else. Somehow they convinced him that would be his reward. Poor fellow.” His forehead tightened as he stared at the strange letters.

realize how silly all this sounds?”

“Yes.” He smiled. “And I tell you at great risk to your good opinion of me.” His tone bore humor, but his eyes begged acceptance.

“You are right about my good opinion, Doctor. And I assure you, it is intact.” Oh my, she shouldn’t have said that. Lowering her gaze, she stared at the hands in her lap then across the dark jungle surrounding the meeting area. “So what happens next?”

“I don’t know. I fear my command of Hebrew has faded over the years.” He rubbed his eyes and seemed to slump in his seat. “It’s been quite awhile since I studied under my father.”

“You’ve been up all night, haven’t you?”

“Couldn’t sleep.”

Something she could well understand. “So what will this newly released beast do?
, was it?”

“Yes, and I have no idea. But if his name is any indication…” He chuckled.

Rising, Angeline pressed down her skirts, only now noticing she’d forgotten to pin her hair up. Drat. She so wanted to appear a proper lady to this man. She expelled a ragged sigh. “Why can’t everything just be normal? I simply want our colony to succeed and everyone to be happy.”

James stood. “We all do.”

“Why, if it ain’t the two lovebirds up to watch the sunrise?” Dodd’s taunting voice scraped over Angeline. Turning, she faced the man as he strolled into the clearing, a malicious grin twisting his lips.

“We were only talking,” Angeline said.

you were.”

James slipped in front of her as if he could barricade her from the fiend. If only he could. “What do you want, Dodd?”

“Nothing.” He scratched his mop of blond hair that had become even more unkempt with each passing month. “Heading out early with Patrick to search for gold and wanted to find a banana or mango or something to fill my belly.” He made his way to the end of the table and plucked an orange from the basket of fruit.

“Apologies for the interruption.” He tossed the orange in the air, caught it, and grinned at Angeline before he sauntered away, immensely pleased with himself, though Angeline could not imagine why.

“Odd man,” James commented.

Unnerving was more like it. Dodd had the power to bring Angeline’s entire life to ruin—if he truly remembered her.

The hum of crickets soon gave way to morning birdsong as Eliza and a few other women approached with yawns and sleepy eyes. Sarah, holding baby Lydia, swept a knowing glance between James and Angeline, muttering something about how she should have known where Angeline had run off to so early. Which, of course, caused James to squirm and Angeline to drag the woman away before she said anything else to embarrass her. Besides, Angeline should help prepare breakfast.

Before they’d even managed to boil water for coffee, Blake strode into the meeting area making a beeline for his wife. Despite his limp from a war wound, he moved as though he were still a colonel in the Confederate Army marching before troops. That authoritative demeanor abandoned him, however, when he halted behind Eliza, wrapped his arms around her and leaned to whisper in her ear. Whatever he said brought a blush to her cheeks and a smile to her lips as he locked hands with hers and laid them upon her belly.

Angeline turned away from the touching scene, joy and sorrow vying for dominance within her as she continued to slice bananas to be fried for breakfast.

BOOK: Abandoned Memories
5.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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