William Robert Freign seldom told anyone his full name. Northerners called him Willy or Billy, neither of which suited him. Southerners called him Billy Bob, which he positively could not abide. So he told people his name was Bob. That usually worked.
He was headed from Washington to Flagstaff, but of course a straight line was impossible. He’d spent a day and night in Floyd County, Indiana. The sheriff there (a man with the peculiar name of Just Rider) told him he wouldn’t find much excitement in Indiana or Illinois. If he was looking for lawlessness, he ought to cross over to Kentucky, and go west from there. Freign thanked the sheriff, and caught the morning ferry.
He didn’t encounter all that much lawlessness anywhere east of Kansas.
Wichita seemed like a good half-way point. Soon after crossing the Mississippi, he’d acquired a short buckboard. Its’ wheels needed a good greasing. The buckboard wasn’t all that comfortable to ride, but it was much more convenient than having to load and off-load the mules each day. Many days Freign rode his horse, and led the mules – Clive and Bell. Nights he stretched out the canvas load cover, and staked down the corners to create a place to sleep under the wagon. So far it had worked well, but the nights were getting colder, and Freign was starting to think about needing a tent. Maybe he could find one in Wichita. He’d know soon. He could smell cows now. Dust and smoke marred the sky over a rise maybe a mile ahead. The rise was just enough to conceal the town. The wind also carried the sound of three faint gunshots – a hand gun most likely.
Freign pulled up and checked his guns – all of them. He’d be in Wichita directly, and he didn’t propose to be caught unprepared. He hoped to get settled in while there was enough light to look over the lie of the land. Cresting the rise, he saw cows by the thousands, at least four railroad spurs, a collection of low wooden buildings, and two brick buildings – probably a bank and a jail, he guessed.
A collection of wires showed him exactly where the telegraph station sat. He went there first. His message was simple: to u s marshal at washington d c stop freign at Wichita this day and two more stop equipment repair stop on schedule stop mules tired butt sore stop w r freign end
The telegrapher said sending the message would cost fifty cents.
“Mister, you see this badge? It says you’re sending that message right now, for free, or you’re going to jail for obstruction of justice. Your choice.”
“No free messages. Company policy.”
“How long do you think it’ll take the company to get you out of jail?”
Freign pulled his government-issue cuffs from the back of his belt, and held them up for the telegrapher to see.
About a minute of skillful clacks, and the message was gone.
“Thank you. Now, where’s the liveryman, where’s the jail, and where can I eat?”
“Livery’s just that way, down the street. Jail’s the brick building across and one door over. Eating place is on this side, a block down. Doesn’t usually serve Negroes though.”
“I’ll be either there or at the jail after I put up the animals. Bring any replies straightaway.”
Freign left a nickel on the counter.
The liveryman wanted cash up front too. Other than that, he was friendly, talkative and probably the source of every rumor in Wichita. Still, Freign trusted his animals would be well cared for.
A quick walk taught Freign about all he needed to know about the town. The only sign not decorated with bullet pocks was the casket maker’s. The ‘i’ in Christ on the church sign had at least six dots – only one was anywhere close to the painted dot. Freign made a mental note to find out who fired that one. About half of the horse troughs were low on water, or empty altogether. The ones that had water, wept in mourning for their shot up comrades, the most recent plugs having not yet expanded to seal their bullet holes.
The jail was locked.
When he arrived at the eating place, he set his hat on a table, and made a bit of a show of removing first his duster, then his jacket. The badge was in full view. He sat with his back to the wall, and had a good view of most of the room. The kitchen was beyond a door, but the door was open, so he could see at least some of that room as well.
A good-sized woman of indeterminate age clunked a metal cup on the table, and filled it with coffee.
“What do you want?”
“Ma’am, what would you recommend?”
“Beef stew. Beef’s fresh. Potatoes are okay.”
“Well then I’ll have the stew, and some milk.”
“No milk today.”
“Coffee’s fine, then.”
She said no more, turned, and walked into the kitchen. The coffee wasn’t fine. It was only luke-warm, and tasted of something – maybe lard. Freign figured it was better to drink the coffee than to chance the water in this cow town.
The stew was good enough, and a little salt and pepper made it tasty in its own way.
Bread with some sort of preserved fruit served as dessert.
Freign had almost finished when the telegrapher bustled in with a message.
To freign at wichita stop reeves in ellsworth requests assistance fastest stop freight forward unneeded supplies and animals to flagstaff stop assist reeves as needed stop u s marshal at washington end
Freign groaned. Riding with Bass Reeves meant trouble for a lot of people, including Freign, and jail or a grave for whoever Reeves was after. If Reeves was looking for help, the badmen he was after must be really bad. He gave the telegrapher a reply. To u s marshal washington d c stop w r freign leaving wichita tomorrow earliest end
The telegrapher left to send the reply. Freign mulled over whether to find a bed or find the local lawman. He never found either.
As he walked to the livery stable to get fresh clothes from the wagon, the telegrapher yelled at him.
“Freign! Marshal Freign! You must be very important to get such a fast reply. Here you go.”
To freign at wichita stop go now stop travel light stop fresh horses waiting with Reeves stop u s marshal washington d c end
Damn! He’d be riding into an unknown situation, and switching from Ed, whom he trusted, to some horse he’d never ridden. Well, no matter what Washington said, he wasn’t riding out in the dark. Besides, the freight company was probably closed by now, and he wouldn’t abandon the supplies or livestock. It looked like Clive, Bell, and Jigger would be taking the train after all. Jigger wasn’t as steady as Ed, and Freign guessed steadiness would be an asset in the next few days.
He spent the night in the livery stable, which cost him extra. In the morning he washed, and changed clothes. He bought some supplies, and set up shipping for the animals and buckboard. The liveryman watched in amazement as Freign used white paint to put a message on each animal’s neck. “freight prepaid to u.s. marshal flagstaff Arizona” he hoped the animals wouldn’t rub the paint off. It made him sick to send them off that way, but he consoled himself with the thought that they’d be riding for a week instead of walking for six or eight.
Freign was on the trail by nine. He hoped four guns would be enough.
On the good roads back east, Freign could sometimes cover fifty miles in a day. But only sometimes. There had been plenty of days when his little caravan had been held to as few as ten miles. There’d been days too, when he couldn’t go anywhere. But out here, things were different.
For one thing, every creek and river was a ford. This late in the season most creeks were dry, and most rivers were low. Even so, Freign was wet and miserable much of the time. He was pushing as hard as he dared. Ed was already flagging.
“Two more days, Ed, then we’ll find you a place to sleep.” Freign said it aloud, but the horse did nothing more than twitch an ear. Yesterday Freign had fallen asleep in the saddle. Ed had stopped, possibly sleeping too. Freign guessed he’d only lost fifteen minutes or so, but it was worrisome that he’d fallen asleep. Especially considering his dream. Cairo? A woman? What did it mean.
The trail wasn’t hard to follow. Tens of thousands of cows from hundreds of cattle drives had left their mark.
More than that, Freign saw a trail of misery. Broken wagon wheels, ashes of long ago fires, tins, bottles, remains of dead cows and horses, graves.
“Ed, they don’t say anything about this in the dime novels, do they?”
It was obvious the only thing the cattlemen, trail bosses, and drovers cared about was getting cattle to market, and getting paid.
Early into this day, Freign began to see signs that he was catching up to a northbound herd. At mid-day he came to the spot where they’d laid up for the night. He knew he’d see them soon, maybe catch them before nightfall.
“Ed, can we pick up the pace a little? Maybe those cowpokes will be able to spare a meal. Would you rather spend the night with other horses, or with me?”
Ed shook his head, and trotted faster for a bit, but Freign didn’t have the heart to prod him on when he slowed down again. He wasn’t going to ruin a good horse for anyone. Not even Bass Reeves.
They caught up with a good sized herd just before nightfall. He was relieved. Often smaller herds were driven by rustlers. Big herds were generally from big outfits. One of the night posts peeled of when he saw Freign coming. He cut through the camp on his way to intercept Freign. A couple of the men in the camp stood up as the rider passed.
Freign flashed his badge.
“Hello. I’m U.S. Marshal Freign. Mind if I ride into camp with you?”
“Marshal, huh? All you marshals negroes?”
Freign was tired, and he wanted to be cross with this cowpoke, but that would not win friends or get a hot meal. Best to stay even.
“Some are. Not all. Why do you ask?”
“Well, a fellow named Reeves passed us near Wichita. In a big hurry, too. Spent part of the night with us, but he was gone before any of the hands peed in the morning.”
“I’m riding to meet him. He says he has some business to attend to near Abilene.”
“Judging from the look of you and Reeves, it’s gun business. Well, here’s the boys. Dowd over there is the trail boss. The guy in the clean hat is Willey, the owner. Willey’s his last name, by the way. I better get back on station before he hollers at me. See ya, marshal.”
“I’m obliged. Hope you have a good drive.”
Dowd and Willey walked up as Freign dismounted. Ed huffed, clearly pleased to be relieved of his burden.
“Hullo . . . another marshal. Must be trouble brewing.” That was Dowd.
“Not tonight, I hope. Plenty of time for that when I catch up with Reeves. Can you spare a meal, and some water for Ed here?
“Marshal, I’m Willey. This is my outfit. We can give some of Cookie’s stew and a cup of coffee. It’s not the same as home, but Cookie’s food hasn’t killed anyone yet. Why don’t you put your horse on the line. I’m guessing he wants that saddle off right away.”
Freign was surprised by all the talking he’d encountered. He thought cowboys were supposed to be laconic. His mother had taught him that word. She’d found it in a dime novel.
“Mr. Willey, Mr. Dowd. I haven’t had a better offer in days. I’ll accept gladly. Just give me a bit to see to Ed.”
As he tended to Ed, Freign sized up the camp. About fifteen dusty, smelly cowhands sat or laid around the camp. A couple were already asleep. Freign guessed there were another six or so on the night posts. There was a peculiar comfort to be had from the scene. The smells of coffee, sweaty leather, horses and cows all mixed together to create almost a sense of hominess. This outfit didn’t show the tension Freign might have expected.
The stew was good enough. Freign drank coffee because he didn’t know where the water came from. Whether the coffee was any good, he couldn’t say. To Freign coffee was either black acid or brown water.
Most of the cowhands were sitting around the cook fire. Four were sitting by the coffee fire, playing cards. Dowd and Willey were sitting in one of the two wagons, talking quietly. This night, things were serene. Freign knew that wasn’t always the case. He slipped in between two men at the coffee fire, and introduced himself. As he ate, they talked.
“Marshal, everyone calls me Tex. I’ve been riding with this outfit for five years. That’s Olivera on your right. He’s been riding with us two years. Where you from, Olivera?”
“Off a horse. You know dang well I’m from Nogales. And don’t start with the may-hee-co stuff either.”
They were friends, and the talk was easy. One man across the fire said Tex wasn’t all they called Tex, but the other names were more colorful. They told him Willey bought smaller herds, and put them all together for the drive. If he found good stock along the way, he bought that too. The cowhands said they had the best horses on Chisholm Trail. They traded small talk for a bit, and then Freign turned to Tex.
“What’ll I find north of here?”
“Well, the riding’s mostly easy from here on. The only thing I think could be a problem for you is this herd catching you while you’re asleep. Those cows would make short work of a man on the ground. We don’t move at night though. Dowd would probably let you ride with us if you want. Three days to Abilene with us. Maybe two on your own.”
“I thought about that, but I need to get to Abilene as fast as Ed can manage. The last person on earth I can think of asking for help is Bass Reeves. If he needs me, I don’t want to let him down.”
“Cookie, why don’t you bring this lawman some more stew? If he gets shot, he needs something stuck in his belly to plug the hole.”
Cookie made a big show of taking offense. Then he offered Freign more stew and coffee. Freign declined both. Sleep was what he needed.
He was just settling in when Willey came over with a good sized blanket.
“Marshal, I see you’re traveling light, just like Reeves. You won’t be worth spit in a fight if you’re frozen. Use this tonight, and take it with you. It’ll keep your horse a little warmer during the ride, too. You can return it when we get to Abilene. I don’t think you’ll have any trouble finding this herd.”
“Thank you Mr. Willey. I’ll return the blanket as soon as I can.”
“I know you will. You may want to take a fresh horse in the morning.”
“Thanks, but no. Ed and I have been together through some tight spots, and we trust each other. If we run into trouble I’ll need a familiar ride. I do appreciate the offer though.”
Most of the cowhands stored their long guns in the chuck wagon. Freign put his, scabbard and all, on the ground next to him, under the blanket. He did the same with his pistols. It wasn’t the most comfortable way to sleep, but it kept the damp off the guns.
Freign woke with a start to unfamiliar sounds. Cookie was banging on a plate, telling everyone breakfast was ready. It was simple – biscuits, gravy, and coffee. Soon the night riders would come in. Probably in less than an hour, the herd would be underway. Then, in another half hour or so, the wagons would move out. Everything happened with a well-practiced precision. Freign wondered how often the drovers had the kind of days that got written into the dime novels.
Freign wanted to watch, but he knew he needed to get a move on. He saddled Ed, and got his gear in place. Then he covered the horse’s back with the borrowed blanket. Ed nickered and huffed. He didn’t really want to hit the trail , but Freign knew Ed would be good for the day. Tomorrow? Who knew. Freign ate with the cowhands. Then he and Ed headed out. Olivera could tell Ed was unfamiliar with, and uncomfortable among all the cows. He pulled up beside Freign and Ed, nodded, and said “follow me”. His cow horse cut through the herd for fifteen or twenty minutes before they reached the front. Freign waved to Olivera, and nudged Ed.
“Let’s go Ed. I don’t like this either, but I guess it needs doing.”
They traveled all day. In late afternoon Freign could feel a change in Ed’s step.
“Slowing down Ed. When did that start?” He slid out of the saddle, and saw that the cinch was loose. It was in the familiar marks, but Ed had lost enough girth to be noticeable. When they set out again, Freign walked, leading the horse. They went on like that until perhaps an hour after dark. Then Freign removed the saddle, and placed the borrowed blanket over Ed’s back. He tied one rein to the saddle. Ed was in no shape to wander off. Freign slept under the small cover of the saddle blanket. It was an uncomfortable, and fitful sleep. The rising sun was almost a welcome change from the troubled sleep.
Freign saddled Ed, but left the cinch loose. He set out walking, with the horse behind. After maybe an hour of walking, he tightened the cinch, and climbed into the saddle. Clouds had been building since yesterday. The rain came around noon. Freign could see squalls to the west, and they were moving his way. They caught the horse and rider about mid-afternoon. The first squall passed after a few minutes. The next was longer. After that the rain was steady. Freign pulled the borrowed blanket over his back, and Ed’s rump. It was soon soaked through, providing no shelter, and minimum warmth. Lightning cracked every couple of minutes. Rolling thunder was an almost continuous rumble.
“Ed, there’s one more creek between us and Abilene. We need to get there before it floods. Don’t let up now.”
It took an hour to reach the creek. By that time it was already swollen. Under other circumstances Freign would have waited for it to go down. But the rain was steady, and it might keep up for another day or two, which would only make matters worse, so he looked for a good ford, and pushed Ed into the current. The water reached to Ed’s belly, and a bit above. The only saving grace was that years of cattle drives had beaten a path into both sides of the creek bed. Even so, Ed struggled to climb the far bank, which was thick with mud. Freign jumped off and pulled Ed clear. They were both covered with mud, but that didn’t matter. The cold rain would wash it off – sort of a mixed blessing.
Freign cleaned Ed’s hooves, and they set out again. They hit Abilene just before nightfall. In their wet and miserable state, they didn’t see the town until they were almost in it.
The presence of other horses on the street seemed to raise Ed’s spirits. At least he wasn’t miserable alone. They found a livery stable, which was closed. Freign didn’t hesitate to open one of the doors, and lead Ed in. If the liveryman had a problem he could complain to Washington. Ed was getting out of the rain..
It was maybe ten minutes before the liveryman appeared. By then Ed was in a stall, and the saddle was on a buck.
“You must be Freign.”
“I will be when I dry out. Right now I’m a dead fish.”
“Reeves said you’d be coming, and I should tell you he’s scouting. You’re supposed to find a place to stay, and set until he comes back.”
“When did he leave?”
“Maybe two days ago? Nothin’ open in town tonight. Everything closes early when there’s no drovers around. You can stay here if you want. Ain’t fancy, but it’s dry. No charge beyond what you pay for puttin’ up the horse.”
“Thanks, I’ll do that. Be back in a little bit. I need to send a telegram.”
“Station’s closed, like everything else. The operator’s probably in the saloon across from the station. Buy him a drink, and he might send your message.”
Freign said thanks as he left. He took his guns, including the Winchester, with him. After all that pushing, he’d have to wait to find out what Reeves needed him for. Well, at least he’d be dry, and if the wait was long enough, Ed might be recovered, too.
The telegrapher was in the saloon all right, and he wasn’t keen to leave. The promise of a couple of free drinks finally got the telegrapher to move. The man was heavy, and didn’t move well, but when he finally sat down at his key, his fingers flew.
Freign’s message read: to u s marshal washington d c stop arrived Abilene this day stop reeves not here but left orders to wait stop advise in morning if any change in plans stop w r freign ends
“Wasting your time, boy. Stations along the way will be closed by now.”
“Maybe. Send the message again first thing tomorrow. Here’s a half-dollar for your trouble.”
Freign went back to the livery stable, and removed as much of his sodden clothing as he could. He was just about to start cleaning and oiling his guns when the liveryman came out of his quarters in the lean-to attached to the stable.
“C’mon in here for a bit. It’s warmer and you look like you need it bad. Bring your guns, you can work ‘em on the table. I’ve got coffee.”
‘Thanks. That’s kind of you. I don’t need coffee as much as my boots need drying.”
“You can wash your socks in that bucket over there – maybe wash your feet too. Hang the socks on the line by the stove. They’ll be dry by morning. My place may lack a woman’s hand, but it’s practical.”
Freign pulled off his socks, and his pants as well. He washed his shirt, socks and pants. The water hadn’t been exactly clean at the start, but now it was nearly black.
“It’s probably a good thing there’s no woman here, she’d be scared to death seeing me running around in my drawers. By the way, Willey’s outfit isn’t more than a day from here. You’ll soon be busy.”
“Willey’s bunch is good. One or two maybe a little wild, but compared to some of the other outfits, his men are like schoolboys.”
“Willey lent me a blanket. It’s a royal mess. I’ll have to wash it good tomorrow.”
“You take it over to Liddy’s. She’ll do it for you. Do your changes too, if you brought any. She gets things clean, and don’t charge much.”
“My changes look like I dragged ‘em from Wichita. Your Liddy’ll be put to the test. We’ve been talking the best part of an hour now, and I don’t know your name.”
“I’m Witt, my brother Will runs the livery at the other end of town. Boy, you’re armed to the teeth, three pistols, and that long Winchester. Looks like you’re fixin’ to fight the Battle of Bull Run again.”
“Witt, if there’s a fight to be had, I don’t want to be the one who comes up short. I’ve been a marshal two years, all of it out east. Back there we always had plenty of men to back us up. Here it looks like just me and Reeves against whatever arises. I figure Reeves knows I’m still green, and he’ll just want me to back him up. If there’s gunplay, I intend to come out the other end of it alive.”
They talked for a bit more, and Witt told Freign he was welcome to stay the night in the lean-to.
“This ain’t a hotel, so I don’t have an extra bed, but you can spread out on the floor, or sleep in the chair. Probably be warmer than sleeping in the hay.”
Freign thought about it for a bit, and decided sleeping in the chair would do. Witt gave him a smelly, but dry blanket. Freign slept fitfully at first, but better as he adapted to the surroundings.
Come morning, Freign was up shortly after first light. Witt slept longer. Freign stoked the stove, removed his drawers, and put them with the things going to Liddy’s. He felt a little uncomfortable without drawers under his pants, but sometimes cleanliness came at a price. Twenty minutes or so of walking gave him the lay of the town. The rain had stopped some time during the night. When Willey’s outfit arrived, the cattle would turn Abilene into a sea of mud.
Freign found Liddy’s, closed for another hour. There were two buildings that called themselves hotels, closed until noon. There were two eating places which claimed to be open, but were not. They probably opened early when cowboys were in town, but not otherwise. There was a bath house too. He’d stop there as soon as he saw it was open.
Dry goods – closed until noon. Both saloons were closed, with no opening time posted. The telegraph station would open at eight, if the sign could be believed. Even the jail was closed.
When Freign got back to the livery stable, Witt was up, sipping reheated coffee.
“Boy, you always carry all your hardware on your morning walk?”
“Yup. You never know . . . ”
“Well, set a bit. Mrs. Palmer will be opening in a half hour or so, and we can get something to eat. If we get there first, she might have eggs.”
Freign laced his rifle scabbard to the line by the stove. It hadn’t dried out overnight. He’d oiled the holsters, and though they were damp, they were supple. The saddle would need some attention later.
“C’mon Witt, let’s go tend to the animals.”
“Good of you to offer.”
“Just repaying your kindness to a wet, filthy lawman.”
They mucked stables, drew water, and fed horses and mules. It took a little better than a half hour.
“Check your boots real careful. Mrs. Palmer’ll throw us both out if she smells manure.”
They cleaned up carefully, and headed to the eating place. Mrs. Palmer called it a café, but Freign thought that was kind of high sounding for what was pretty much just a shed with tables, chairs, and an oven. Still, the food was good, and the prices were reasonable. Mrs. Palmer knew Witt well, and knew want he wanted. Freign asked for the same.
Their food came in good time – eggs, ham, biscuits and coffee. They ate hearty, Witt because that was the way he always ate, and Freign because it was his first real food in three days. Mrs. Palmer hovered over them, probably hoping to pick up gossip.
Witt headed off to his work, and Freign headed for the jail. He was part way across the muddy street when he saw the telegrapher waiting for him.
“Message for you, marshal.”
Freign thanked him, and gave him a dime for his trouble – which had consisted of standing on the sidewalk outside the telegraph station door.
The message read: to w r freign at abilene kansas stop wait two days for Reeves stop then investigate and report stop good luck stop u s marshal washington d c ends
So Freign was waiting. Well, he figured he’d use the time to prepare, get clean, and rest. Exactly what investigate meant, he didn’t know, and he hoped he wouldn’t have to find out. He dropped off his laundry, had a hot bath, and went to talk to the local lawman.
“Good morning sheriff, I’m Bob Freign, and I’m here to hook up with Bass Reeves.”
“I know who you are. Reeves said you were coming. That’s about the only thing he’s told me. My reach don’t extend outside of town, so don’t expect me to go chasing badmen beyond Abilene.”
“Sheriff, I’m pretty new to this, so I have no idea what to expect. Nobody’s told me anything either, except I’m supposed to help Reeves with whatever it is he’s up to. I just came in to introduce myself, and offer my help if you need it. Now that I’ve done that, I’m going to go find a room, and lay low.”
“You do that, and when your business is done, get out of Abilene, you hear?”
“Thanks for the advice sheriff. It was good talking to you.”
The sheriff didn’t reply, and Freign didn’t wait for anything more to be said. He’d wanted to make a smart reply, but thought better of it. He might need that man’s help some day. He headed for the nearer of the two hotels.
“Hello. You must be Marshal Freign. We’ll put you in a room next to Marshal Reeves. Sign here please.”
“Hello. Looks like you’ve been expecting me.”
“Marshal Reeves said you’d be here today, or tomorrow at the latest. He said to tell you to wait until he gets back.”
“Did he say when to expect him?”
“Nope. He’s been gone two days now. He didn’t say where he was going, just that you should wait for him. Your room will be up, and on the left, second from the end. Marshal Reeves has paid three days in advance for you. ”
Freign thanked the man, and found the room. Then he went back to the livery stable to look in on Ed, and gather his things. Witt said he’d miss the conversation. Freign told him there was a herd no more than a day away, and Witt would soon be busy.
When he got back to the hotel, Freign spread everything out to dry. Then he took off his boots and socks, and lay down on the bed with one of the Colts by his side. His sleep was so deep it scared him to think about it afterwards. A Texas longhorn could’ve come into the room without waking him. He woke at first light, and washed his face. Then he sat for a bit, just being still. Breakfast at Mrs. Palmer’s place was the same as yesterday, except she had bread or biscuits – his choice. He chose both, asking for a few biscuits to take back to the hotel. This was a lie, as he planned to give the biscuits to Ed, but Freign didn’t think it wise to tell the woman who was making his meals that some of her work was headed for a horse.
The day dragged on, with no word from Reeves. Freign picked up his laundry, and went back to the hotel to change. He felt more comfortable with his drawers on.
The Willey herd arrived late in the afternoon. It was late evening before most of the herd was penned. There wasn’t enough corral space for all the cattle, so some would be held in the open, outside of town. It was almost midnight when Willey’s wagon rolled into Abilene. As soon as Freign saw the wagon, he headed to it, to return Willey’s blanket. Willey said the blanket hadn’t been so clean in years. He invited Freign to join him at one of the saloons, but Freign said no, that he had to stay sharp. Maybe after whatever business he was here for had been completed, they could have that drink.
Then they went their separate ways. Freign’s sleep that night was comfortable, but not as deep as the night before.
Another breakfast. Another day that promised to be filled with waiting. Freign wanted to get on with whatever was going to happen. The waiting was becoming burdensome. The rowdy cowpokes didn’t help matters. There were a few fights, and lots of hooting and hollering. Might go on all night, Freign thought.
Again, another breakfast. This time, when he took a carrot to Ed, there were several new horses in the stable. Witt rolled out to talk to Freign.
“That one on the end is Reeves’s horse. They got in just before the herd arrived yesterday.”
Freign felt angry that Reeves hadn’t made his presence known, and he mulled over how much he should complain.
When he got back to the hotel, the clerk told him Reeves had arrived yesterday, and left orders to not be disturbed, that he wanted to rest. He told Freign Reeves wanted to see him at Mrs. Palmer’s at six that evening.
Finally, some movement.
Reeves must have been at Mrs. Palmer’s place for a bit when Freign walked in. He was drinking coffee, and looking very spruce. Clean white shirt and tie. Long black coat, black pants, black vest and shined boots. Freign suddenly felt sloppy.
“Little Willy, sit down.” Freign studied the room, and chose a seat that would allow him a good view. Reeves had taken the chair against the wall, so that option was not available.
“Good evening marshal. You must know my Momma. She’s about the only one who calls me Little Willy.” Then, in a lower voice Freign added: “I’d like to keep it that way, if you don’t mind. Would you call me Freign or Bob? Either would do.”
“Freign, I meant no offense.”
“And none was taken. But a lawman won’t last long if his name makes him sound like a child.”
“You’re right. We’ll have dinner, and talk small talk. No business. Do you understand?”
Freign nodded. Reeves was worried that anything they said might get back to the badmen they were after.
When they’d eaten, they went back to the hotel, and into Reeves’s room.
“I think the sheriff here is at least ignoring the men we’re after. He may even be helping them. Tell him nothing, okay?”
Again, Freign nodded.
Reeves pulled a sheet of folded paper from the inner pocket of the long coat, then removed the coat, and hung it on the coat tree. Freign caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a weapon sling in the coat – perhaps for a sawed off shotgun.
“Okay, here’s the deal. We’re after five men, led by Ern Mros. They all rode together in the war. They were loosely connected to the grays, but mostly they were looking out for themselves. I tracked them to a place about two hours north of town. I spent a couple of nights checking out the lay of the land. There’s no way to approach unseen during daylight. We’ll have to go in at night, then take them a daybreak. You follow so far?”
“Good, now here’s a map of the spread. See the creek? There’s a few trees here, maybe a hundred yards from the house. The creek runs toward the house, and there’s a few trees here, maybe thirty feet from the house. The barn’s over here. Your job will be to get between the house and the barn, and make damn sure nobody gets to a horse. And for heaven’s sake, don’t touch the barn. If the horses think there’s something outside, they may spook.
We’ll leave here as quietly as possible at two in the morning. We should be able to get to the house by four or so. Then we’ll take stations, and wait until someone opens the door to go to the outhouse. I’ll yell that they’re under arrest, and then I expect all hell to break loose.
These men have been robbing banks, stealing cows and horses, and killing people all over Nebraska, into Oklahoma, and Texas. I don’t expect them to surrender, and I don’t expect any of them to be taken alive. You understand?”
“Bob, you can talk, can’t you?”
“Not much to say so far.”
“You don’t fire the first shot. I’ll only talk once to Mros and his bunch. Once my gun comes out, there will be no stopping. I aim to kill, and you better do the same. This business isn’t over until I say it is, so stay alert, even if the shooting stops. If you have questions, now’s the time.”
“Any cover between the house and the barn?”
“No. Anyone coming your way will be running hard, hoping you’ll miss. Don’t.”
“What about windows and doors?”
“A door and two windows in front. A window on each side. No door in the back. The front door looks to swing in to the right. If anyone wants to shoot into this area here, they have to open the door wide. Once the shooting starts, if you see that door open, shoot into it.”
Reeves had put a lot of effort into this business, and Freign was impressed. Still, he was uneasy. There were lots of things that could go wrong.
“Bob, clean and oil all your leather now. I don’t want to hear any creaking from your scabbard, nor saddle, nor boots. If the liveryman asks what’s up, tell him we’re leaving tomorrow about noon. If you’re a praying man, pray it doesn’t rain, and pray the men we’re after can’t shoot straight. Now get going.”
Sleep didn’t come that night. Rowdy cowboys were out and about until after midnight, and Freign didn’t trust himself to wake up if he fell asleep. When Reeves tapped the door at two, Freign needed only to put on his hat.
They went to the livery stable, where Freign opened the door just a bit. He went in and got his saddle and blanket, and bought them out. Then he went back in, and got Ed, who huffed once, but was otherwise quiet. Reeves brought out his horse and saddle, and Freign closed the stable door as quietly as he could. They saddled their horses, and headed out of town. A few cowhands were still in the saloons, playing cards. No one seemed to remark their passing.
They road side-by-side for a little over an hour, then Reeves motioned Freign to fall in behind. In a few minutes they left the road for a track. In just over two hours they came to the creek. Another ten minutes or so brought them to the trees where they would leave the horses.
They slid down and tied the horses. Reeves relieved himself, and Freign was struck by the sudden realization he too needed to go. The tension in him was numbing. Reeves had a Winchester saddle gun he pulled out of its scabbard. It fit the harness in the long coat perfectly, but looked to Freign to be an awkward draw. Freign’s long Winchester couldn’t be hidden, and he wouldn’t have tried anyway. He felt the visible threat might be more effective than concealment.
By a quarter of five they were in their places
Maybe 45 minutes later the front door opened, and a man stepped out. He was half-dressed and unarmed.
“Hold it! I’m Marshal Reeves, and you’re under arrest for murder, theft and other crimes. This is your only chance to come out with your hands up.”
The man drew up with a start, then jumped back into the house and slammed the door.
Freign didn’t see it happen, but Reeves now had his rifle aimed at the house. There would be no turning back. A window broke, and a shot came from inside. In almost the same instant Reeves fired into the wood just below, and alongside the window. Another window broke, and two shots came from it.
Freign fired into the side window, more to make his presence known than to hit anyone. Reeves crouched, and backed away about ten feet. In a few seconds the door flew open, and two gunmen ran out. At the same time shots came from the two front windows. Freign fired once at the open door, and staggered the second of the men coming out. At least he thought he did. Reeves fired twice, and both men went down.
Freign caught sight of a figure in the side window, and he dropped to his knees. A pistol shot smacked the barn. Freign returned fire with two rounds into the wood below the window. The bullets penetrated the old wood easily. Freign moved a bit to get a better angle on the front of the house.
“You’ll have to come and get us, nigger. We ain’t comin’ out.”
“I don’t expect you are. Not alive anyway.” Reeves seemed to be goading the men to do something rash.
Freign saw a gun barrel peek out of one window. He fired, but the angle was bad, and he didn’t know if the shot had any effect. A few more shots came from the front windows, and a man ran out the front door. As he turned toward the barn, Freign fired and hit him somewhere in the chest. The man dropped like a stone. Reeves hadn’t fired.
Now there were only two left.
Freign chambered a round, then put two more in the magazine. Reeves signaled to Freign, and he fired two rounds into the wall, near the side window. In a moment the marshals heard the sound of breaking glass from the back of the house – the remaining two were trying to climb out the back window. Freign quick- fired three rounds through the side window, and Reeves stormed the front door. Freign ran hard for the back of the house, and saw only one man running away. He was an easy target, and Freign hit him on the first try.
Then everything went very quiet.
“Reeves, you okay?”
“Yes. There’s one dead in here, three dead out front, and maybe one more out there in the scrub. Wait for me.”
They walked into the scrub, keeping a good distance between them, and found the fifth man. He wasn’t dead yet, but soon would be. In about five minutes he’d passed on to wherever murderers go when they die.
The abandoned wagon looked barely up to the task at hand, but it would have to do. Freign rigged a rope harness, and got one of the horses from the barn for the pull. He put the other horses on a string. Then they piled bodies in the wagon. Reeves told Freign to bring out all the badmen’s tack. The load was increased more as Reeves brought out every gun, holster, cartridge and hat. A thorough search of the house and pockets turned up over four thousand dollars. These men could have been living easy somewhere else, but they chose to stay. Freign couldn’t figure why.
It was about noon when they got back to Abilene. Reeves left Freign to guard the wagon, while he sent a telegram to Washington. People came to gawk, and the casketmaker asked if he should take measurements. Freign told him to ask Reeves, and Reeves said he should ask the sheriff.
The sheriff, who’d been at Mrs. Palmer’s strode up and asked what was going on.
Reeves looked at Freign and said: “Tell him, Bob.”
“Sheriff, these men were wanted for murder, robbery, theft and a few other things. This one is Ern Mros, which I imagine you know. Marshal Reeves has sent a full accounting to headquarters, and they’ll probably send someone out to collect all the evidence. In the meantime, you’ll hold it in custody here.
Marshal Reeves, did I leave anything out?”
The sheriff said they couldn’t just leave the bodies.
“Sure we can. You can do whatever you want with them. Each of these men had a reward on his head. You might want to try to collect it. Marshal Reeves and I are going to clean up. I’ll be on the next train west. He’ll be doing whatever needs being done. I think it would be best if what needs being done didn’t involve you, me or Reeves.”
Freign and Reeves led their horses to the livery stable. They talked as they walked.
“Bob, you handled yourself well. I’ll be riding out early tomorrow, so I probably won’t get a chance to talk to you again. It looks to me like Washington has plans for you. The man you’re going to work with – d’Lon – is a good man. Not flashy, nor rash. He’ll teach you a lot. Mind what he says. I think the people at headquarters are grooming you to take over a post somewhere, maybe Flagstaff.
When you write to your Momma, tell her Bass Reeves says hello.
You be careful, now, you hear?”
They turned their horses over to Witt, and went their separate ways, Reeves to a hot bath, and Freign to a long sleep.
The trip to Flagstaff was uneventful. Freign collected Ed from the stock car, and his gear from the baggage car. He saddled Ed and set off to find the marshal’s office. The resident marshal told Freign he’d made arrangements for Freign to stay at a local widow’s home in exchange for doing maintenance. The house needed a roof before winter set in. Marshal d’Lon told Freign things were pretty quiet just now, so it seemed likely he’d have plenty of time to do shingling.
This lawman business was awfully complicated.
The Flagstaff station proved to be quiet indeed. Freign guessed that was at least partly because the local marshal had a reputation for toughness. The people who couldn’t behave avoided Flagstaff altogether. There were a few rides to catch badmen, but for the most part, the marshals spent winter stoking the stove and drinking coffee.
That summer, the marshal asked if Freign was willing to help Mark d’Lon with a problem. The marshal’s brother needed someone to provide added security for a secret money shipment. Freign agreed. He’d done enough shingling to last for a while.
The job took Freign to Denver, Chicago, and eventually Boston. There was a complication when a group of badmen tried to rob the train near Topeka. The attempt failed, and the would-be train robbers fled – well, most of them fled. One was badly wounded, and easily captured. Another was dead (and also easily captured, Freign thought to himself). Four badmen got away, though at least one was wounded.
Freign wondered what the trip back west would be like, when they would be carrying significant amounts of cash. He needn’t have worried. The trip was mostly uneventful, at least in the sense that it wasn’t laced with more bad men and robbery attempts.
The eastern portion of the trip involved a lot of changes. Freign knew that when they crossed the Mississippi they would stop less often. He was looking forward to getting back to Flagstaff. He was just nodding off when he heard the conductor holler “Cairo! Cairo, Illinois!” When he looked out the window, he saw the sign on the side of the station – the same sign as in the dream. The woman was here somewhere.
He pulled the money envelope from his inner coat pocket, and gave it to d’Lon, who took it with a startled look.
“I have to get off here. Someone is expecting me. I’ll write to explain it as soon as I can. I’m sorry to leave you so suddenly, but I have to get off here.”
Then he grabbed his things and fled like a man possessed. He had to get his baggage off the train. d’Lon moved to go after him, but Rebekkah stopped him.
“Let him go Mark. We’ll see him again when the time is right.”
Freign knew who he was looking for. He just had no idea where to find her. Cairo itself wasn’t all that big, but there were plenty of fields and farms in the area, and Ed was still in Flagstaff. Damn! Another problem he’d have to deal with. Where would the money come from? He guessed he wasn’t a U.S. Marshal any more. He walked over to the dry goods store, and asked if the clerk knew of a farm that employed a black woman about Freign’s age.
“’bout your height? Strong? Barefoot most of the time? That sound like who you’re looking for?”
“Maddy Buhl’s daughter. Maddy run away from a place in Kentucky. Came here before the war. God knows how she did it, what with the little girl and all. Maddy spoke good German, and she hit if off right away with old Frau Kinzel, who’s husband died from being kicked by a mule. Anyway, Maddy and Frau Kinzel worked the farm together for years. Maddy’s daughter started helping when she was old enough. The Kinzel woman’s dead a few years now, and Maddy’s getting on. Daughter’s name is Cecile. She’s smart, though she never had any schooling. You go straight north up the road about two miles. The old Kinzel place is on the right. Good sized house, set well back from the road. Kinzel built it himself. He was a better builder than a farmer – least that’s what the mule seemed to think.”
Freign thanked the man and made tracks. He went back to the depot, and asked them to hold his luggage until he found a place for the night. Then he headed north. He found the Kinzel place, turned in. About half way in, he stopped. The woman in the dream was standing in the field.
She walked over to him.
“Yeah. Yes, I’m here.”
“We’ve been expecting you for some time now. You must’ve had some trip. Let’s go meet Mammy Buhl. She’ll be pleased you’re here. Don’t let CeeCee talk your ear off”
Maddy Buhl was old and frail, but her mind was sharp enough. When she saw Freign she told Cecile that yes, he was the one. She told Cecile to bring Freign a drink. That done, she told Freign to help Cecile hitch a mule to the wagon, and go get his things from town. Mammy Buhl said his room was waiting long enough. A sleepy girl came down the stairs. This must be CeeCee.
She was indeed CeeCee, she was almost six, she could read and count to a hundred. She and Mammy Buhl talked in German sometimes. She liked rabbit more than squirrel, and peas more than beans. Carrots were good, but beets were her favorite. The bees didn’t scare her one bit, but the dragonflies were scary.
“Come on Freign. CeeCee will talk with Mammy while we’re gone.
The ride into Cairo was mostly silent. Not an uneasy silence, more the silence of comfortable familiarity. After he’d loaded his luggage onto the wagon, Freign told Cecile he needed to send a message to his boss in Flagstaff. Cecile said he should consider what he was going to say – sleep on it for a day, and then come back. It seemed a good idea, so they simply headed back to the Kinzel farm.
Supper that night was rabbit, bread with honey, fried sliced potatoes, and canned green beans. Everything except the bread and honey tasted of herbs Freign couldn’t identify. They drank a tea, also unlike any Freign had tasted in the past. He picked at the rabbit, wary of lead pellets. Mammy Buhl said Cecile’s eye was different than hers. Mammy saw broad things, sometimes far off. Cecile’s eye was closer. She didn’t use a shotgun. An old Sharps carbine hung over the door. Mammy Buhl said Cecile’s eye let her use one shot to drop a rabbit, squirrel, pheasant or deer. Then she held out her hand towards Freign.
“Let me see your eye, boy. Give me your hand.”
Freign hesitated, and Mammy made a hand motion that said hand it over. When Freign complied he found Mammy’s hand to be cold and hard.
“Yes, my hands are hard. Work does that. Boy, your eye is like Cecile’s. You see things close by, and you see through them. Your traveling isn’t done. You won’t be traveling alone any more.”
“What’s my eye like Mammy?”
“CeeCee, you have the best eye among us. You see far and near. You’ll see things we can’t imagine.”
“Mr. Freign, the man with the bad arm will come here some day.”
Everyone at the table was stunned by CeeCee’s pronouncement. How could she know about the wounded bad man, thought Freign.
Only Mammy Buhl spoke.
“CeeCee, is the man with the bad arm alone?”
“No Mammy, there are three more with him. That makes four. I can add too.”
Mammy Buhl told Freign to not be troubled, that whatever came was for a purpose, and it would all be made plain when the time was right.
They talked for a couple of hours. Mammy Buhl said her name wasn’t Buhl, but Muto. Her great grandmother and grandmother had been taken from a village on the Congo by white people who called themselves Belgians. The story of great grandfather Muto ended on a ship coming to America. Grandmother Muto went to a tobacco plantation in Virginia. When her time came, she was bred to a couple of men, and she bore three sons and a daughter. The daughter ended up on the Buhl farm, bound to the elder Buhls. There she bore five sons and two daughters. The last of the seven children, a daughter was born small, and lived but a year. The other daughter, a middle child was bred to a man from another farm, and bore a daughter – Gabby Buhl. Gabby Buhl had two sons who were sold to other farms as soon as they could work in the fields. Cecile was born to Gabby just after old mister Buhl died. Cecile’s Pappy was probably a house slave named Benjamin. Young Buhl took over the farm. Young Miz Buhl was mean, and often had slaves beaten. Benjamin brought Maddy into the house, and trained her in the niceties of language and behavior. The Buhls often spoke German, and Benjamin taught Gabby as much as he could of that language as well. Cecile was being groomed to be a house slave, and Gabby’s eye told her Young Buhl would be filled with lust soon. Her eye also told her the way out was by the river. So one night Gabby took Cecile and went to the Ohio. She found a good log, and pushed it out to the current. A piece of loose bark helped her steer and paddle. She kept Cecile in front of her, to keep her from falling off. The log hung up a couple of times, but ultimately came to the place Gabby’s eye had revealed. She paddled hard to get to shore, where she and Cecile slept for the better part of a day.
The walk to the Kinzel farm was easy enough, but Cecile needed to rest often. Mrs. Kinzel had just buried her husband the week before Gabby and Cecile arrived. She spoke broken English, and was delighted when Gabby spoke German. The two women formed a deep and abiding friendship. When Mrs. Kinzel died, she left everything to Gabby.
“Mammy, we don’t have to tell Mr. Freign everything all at once.”
“You’re right Cecile. In time we’ll repeat the stories to make sure they’re handed down as they should be. For now, there’s only one more thing to tell.”
“Boy, what I saw was much more complete than this drawing. There were more people around, but only five meant anything to me. I can’t draw, and I don’t know the meaning of what I saw. I just saw it, and that’s all I can figure out about it. I’m sure it’s not a church. Now I’m going to go to sleep right here in this chair, and don’t wake me until breakfast.”
Cecile gave her Mammy a blanket, tucked it around her legs, and kissed her on the forehead.
“’night Mammy. Mr. Freign, your room is upstairs. Come along and I’ll show you.”
With all the strange events of this day, Freign thought it unlikely that he’d be able to sleep, and for a while that was true. But eventually he fell asleep, and spent a dreamless night. He woke to the sound of chickens. Cecile and CeeCee were up, but Mammy was still asleep.
“What will we call you? What’s your full name?”
“William Robert Freign.”
“See Momma, I told you he’s Little Willie! Aren’t you?”
“CeeCee, I prefer Robert or Bob.”
“Well I prefer Dadda, so that’s what I’m going to call you.”
Freign bowed. “As you wish, Princess CeeCee.”
Cecile said there was nothing pressing to do on the farm, so they would go into town to take care of Freign’s affairs right after breakfast. But first she had to cut some fresh flowers for Mammy. Freign had seen the flowers when he arrived, and he’d seen the beehives as well. He assumed they were connected, but Cecile told him Mammy liked to look at flowers. They soothed her eye, and let her see things in a relaxed way.
“Cecile, is the tea brewing?”
“Yes Mammy. Let me help you up.”
“Little Willie, I’m going to have fun teasing you about that name of yours.”
Freign bowed to Mammy. “As you wish, Queen Gabby.”
Cecile drove the wagon, CeeCee provided endless chatter, and Freign drank up the whole situation like a man finding water in the desert. The first stop was the telegraph office. Freign’s message read: to u s marshal at flagstaff arizona stop quitting the service stop will return badge stop please send horses and belongings stop more complete information will follow by mail stop w r freign at kinzel farm cairo Illinois ends
Then he went to the dry goods store to get a pen, paper and envelopes. He had a lot of letters to write.
It was three days before Freign received a telegram in reply. to marshal freign at kinzel farm cairo illinois stop landlady will miss you stop me too stop horses belongings supplies on way stop keep badge and stay sharp stop your territory five oh mile radius from cairo stop confirmation coming by mail from washington stop introduce self to local lawmen stop establish office in cairo and send details to washington stop she must be quite a woman stop u s marshal flagstaff arizona ends
In time a map would arrive from Washington showing the locations of other marshal’s offices. He wondered where Bass Reeves was – probably a marshal-at-large, not attached to any office.
Freign sent the d’Lons a letter explaining all that had happened. He apologized for his sudden departure, and told them he and Cecile would be married in three weeks, when he’d met the residency requirement. He wrote much the same letter to Marshal d’Lon, but added his thanks for the faith d’Lon had placed in him, the lessons he’d taught the younger marshal. Then he wrote to his mother. She probably already knew about his appointment. Word traveled fast at headquarters, and Mrs. Freign knew everything about everything according to the men there. He told her the wedding plans, and asked her to come. It would be a small civil ceremony since he knew almost no one in Cairo. He told her about CeeCee, that he would adopt her immediately after the wedding. He told her about Mammy Muto, about the flowers, and about the bees. He wondered what is mother would say in her reply.
The weeks fairly flew by. There was an office open near the Cairo jail. It would serve perfectly. Gardens needed to be hoed – a new experience for Freign. He was probably the only person in Illinois who wore a cross draw holster and Colt while he hoed turnips. The bees he left alone. He didn’t fear them, but he saw no reason to upset their routine. He, Cecile and CeeCee would ride into Cairo each day, sometimes carrying the day’s produce, or a batch of honey. Not everyone was happy to see them, but there was no open hostility.
Two days before the wedding, a rider came from town. The sheriff sent a message saying there were some people poking around Cairo, asking about Freign, and he should come check them out. Not now, thought Freign, not with the wedding so close. He strapped on his side holster, and slipped the five-shot into his boot. At least Ed was here.
The ride was quick. As he entered town Freign looked around carefully, but he saw nothing unusual. He hitched Ed at the jail and went in.
“Freign, these people claim to know you. Is that true?”
The d’Lons were there, with Mary Rourke and a man who identified himself as Doyle. And an excited dog who was fascinated by the smells on Freign’s pants and boots.
“Yes sheriff, I know them all but Doyle, and if he’s with the others, he’s okay.”
“Well get them out of my jail, will you? What kind of people bring a dog to a wedding anyway?”
The visitors had already booked into the hotel, taking most of it. As they walked across the street to the café, Freign saw Cecile riding in on Jigger. Cecile didn’t bother to introduce herself, and before Freign could say anything she told him Mammy Muto was eager to meet everyone. They should come to the house as soon as they could. Then she told Freign Mammy wanted him to see if he could get some fresh beef – most any cut would do – since one of the visitors was not inclined to pork. Then Cecile turned Jigger and trotted off.
“Mammy Muto is Cecile’s mother. She has an eye, and sees things other people can’t. She and Cecile were expecting me long before I arrived. It’s odd, and maybe unsettling, but Mammy has an incredible gift. When you meet her, don’t fear it. CeeCee has an eye too, and a mouth that knows no restraints.”
They found a buggy and a decent cut of round steak. The ride to the house was quick. CeeCee was in the yard when they arrived. Mitzvah leapt from the buggy and danced around the child, then sat and let herself be hugged. Cecile came out, and was greeted with wags and sniffs. CeeCee gave the dog another hug, and asked her mother if they could have one of the puppies. Mammy Muto came to the door, her steps were slow, and she leaned on her cane. But her smile was as wide as it could be.
“Hello dog. Come here and let me see you.”
Mitzvah sat before Mammy, and extended a paw. Mammy took it for a moment, then put her hand on the dog’s head.
“CeeCee, I agree. You should have one of the puppies. Now, all the rest of you, please come in. I can’t stand here too long, and I want to meet you all.”
There were four chairs and a high stool at the kitchen table. Mammy took one of the chairs, something she only did at mealtime. CeeCee took her customary place on the stool. Rebekkah went into the kitchen to help Cecile. Freign helped Mammy to her customary place. Mammy motioned to Mary to sit next to her. She touched Mary’s hand, and turned it over.
“Missy, with that red hair, you most have quite the story. Your hands say you’ve done a lot of work, but I see ink too. You write. And I bet you write with a lot of imagination. Cecile told me your name is Mary Rourke. That man sitting across the table is Cullen Doyle. The way he looks at you tells me he’s both wanting you, and afraid he won’t be enough. I can almost feel him through you. You should tell him how you feel. And you, d’Lon, let me see your hand.
You’re hard to understand. I feel a lot of love, but a hardness too. I believe Rebekkah there in the kitchen will be much like you. Thank you all for coming here. It’s so good to see the people who are important to Little Willie – and Willie, you shush. I’m old enough to call you whatever I please. Be thankful my mind is sharp enough that I don’t call you something mean.”
That brought laughter from everyone. And the laughter set Mitzvah’s tail to thumping on the floor.
“Now Rebekkah, tell me, what kind of a name is Mitzvah? I’m not familiar with it.”
“It’s Hebrew Mammy Muto. It means a good deed. She slowed down Mark, and gave him a chance to find me.”
“Come here child, and let me see you clearly.”
Rebekkah approached and held out both hands to Mammy.
“Oh, both hands. You’re a brave one. And strong. Rebekkah, for all the trouble you’ve seen, you could well have been a mess. I don’t get the feeling you have an eye, but your strength makes up for it.
When I was on the Buhl farm Miz Buhl had an eye, but she didn’t have strength, and she didn’t know how to use her eye. I suspect it drove her crazy. I didn’t want to stay there to see what would happen.”
They ate and talked. Mammy tired easily, so the visitors took their leave earlier than they would have liked. Freign rode into town with them. Along the way he mentioned that he wished his mother could have come, but the cost of the ticket was too much even for their combined resources. Rebekkah poked d’Lon.
“Tell him Mark. Do it now.”
“Well Bob, I wrote to my brother in Flagstaff, and he wrote back about your mother. It seems she’s a legend in the U.S. Marshal Service. Her boss gave her a week off, and the men in Washington bought her passage to Cairo. She should be on tomorrow’s train. Rebekkah sent her some money for new clothes, along with a note saying she should spend the money on herself, and do her son proud. We’ll see what happens.”
The morning train was a little late. Freign, Cecile and CeeCee waited impatiently. When it arrived Freign’s mother stepped off, and ran to her son. There were introductions and hugs and tears. CeeCee asked why she was crying? After all, she was getting a brand new granddaughter.
“CeeCee, that’s why I’m crying. I’m so happy I can’t help myself.”
The wedding was at ten in the morning, in the Cairo Courthouse. Mammy Muto was carried in her chair to a wagon, and then into the courthouse. Momma Freign sat next to her, and they held hands. Freign heard Mammy tell his mother she must come to the farm for the rest of her stay. There would be an extra room after today.
About twenty minutes before the wedding began, Bass Reeves walked in. His clothes were clean, and gave no hint of time spent on a horse. At ten minutes to ten, Freign, spruce in the suit Rebekkah’s father had made, came in. He shook hands all around, and gave Reeves a second handshake. At ten on the dot, the judge entered from his chambers, bible in hand. As everyone stood for him, Cecile entered from the back. She was barefoot, and wearing her best dress. She carried fresh flowers from the farm. As she walked up the middle of the courtroom, she stopped next to Mammy Muto, and handed her the flowers. Mammy held her hand for a long moment, then gave the flowers back. Then she said “My eyes are rested. Take these with you.” CeeCee fidgeted, but said nothing.
The judge asked “Who gives this woman in marriage?” d’Lon and Doyle both said “I do.” When the judge asked who witnessed this marriage, Reeves said “I do.” The vows were simple testaments about love, faithfulness, and eternity. The whole ceremony lasted a quarter hour.
Freign and Cecile didn’t know exactly what to do next. The only plan they had for after the wedding was to complete the adoption process making Freign CeeCee’s Dadda. d’Lon told Freign to do that, then bring CeeCee, and Cecile to the hotel for a bit. The men would help Mammy Muto and Momma Freign there, and everyone could sit for a spell. What d’Lon didn’t tell Freign was that he’d rented the main room in the hotel, and arranged for food to be prepared and delivered. The party lasted until mid-afternoon. The men helped Mammy and Momma to the Kinzel place. For the next three days the two women would chat, chuckle and nap. Neither had ever know such contentment, and parting would be hard.
Reeves could stay only one day. The d’Lons, Mary Rourke, and Cullen Doyle would stay two, visiting the newlyweds and their mothers each day. Mitzvah wandered around the Kinzel place, but stayed out of the flowers. Mammy must have had some kind of connection with the dog, because Mitzvah would look to her for guidance whenever Mammy was near.
In a week’s time, all the guests were gone, and life settled back into its familiar track.
One morning about two months later Cecile woke up, and felt an odd chill. When she went downstairs she found Mammy sitting in her chair, holding the flowers that had been in the vase on the kitchen table. CeeCee appeared at the top of the stairs.
“Mammy’s story is over, isn’t it?”
“Yes CeeCee. It’s over.”
“It’s okay Momma. She can still see us.”
There were tears, and a funeral. Momma Freign offered to come, but Cecile said no, not just yet. There would be another time.
Life on a farm has certain rhythm to it. Seasons come and go. Crops get planted and harvested, and planted again. Sometimes it rains, and sometimes not. The family moved in a kind of comfortable pattern that mixed being busy with being at ease. CeeCee learned quickly, and talked and wrote well. Freign got books of all kinds from any source he could find. CeeCee read stories, the dictionary, newspapers and textbooks. Freign wrote to the d’Lon’s about a year after the wedding, that he was afraid CeeCee would miss out on being a little girl. In their response, the d’Lons told him to expect a crate, that they were shipping a dog. He hadn’t been named yet, and that would be CeeCee’s responsibility. He was Mitzvah’s puppy in temperment and appearance. If they found he was unsuitable, they could ship him back.
When he arrived, CeeCee went insane with glee. And the dog matched her insanity step for step.
“He misses his Momma, but he’s happy to be here. I told him to stay out of the flowers, and not wander off the farm. His name is Muto.”
Within a week Muto killed a couple of rabbits and brought them home. And he guarded the chickens as if they were his children. He slept in CeeCee’s room, and though he minded Freign and Cecile, there was no question whose dog he was.
Enforcing the law around Cairo was usually pretty slow business. In two years time about the only law work was when the local lawman, who now called himself a peace officer, needed help to arrest a brawler, and the time he was called away to Chicago to help with a murder investigation. In that instance he was asked to gather information about the shooting of a Negro by another Negro. White officers got nowhere with the witnesses, most of whom were Negroes. The murder took place in broad daylight, in front of a bar in a Negro neighborhood. It took Freign little more than a day to find the killer, a Negro meatcutter who’d lately taken to bragging about his new Colt. Finding the reason for the killing was more difficult. The victim was well known in the neighborhood. He walked each day to the home of a wealthy white man, and at first it was assumed he was some sort of houseman. In reality, he was advising the white man on buying stocks and bonds. His choices were almost always correct, and he’d even formed an investment group with some of his Negro friends. They were very quietly building their worth – something the white officers never learned.
When the full story emerged, it turned out one of the wealthy white man’s business competitors had learned that the victim was the key to his boss’ success, and had tried to hire him away. The victim said he was happy where he was, which caused the competitor to mention to the manager of his meat packing plant that he wished the victim wouldn’t advise anyone. The plant manager mentioned the whole thing to a foreman, who suggested he could make it happen for fifty dollars and a new pistol. The chain of pride, greed, and viciousness passed through a meatcutter who wanted money for shoes and clothes. The chain ended with the death of the victim outside the bar. No one would testify against the killer. He got drunk one night, stumbled, and fell on his butcher’s knife. The foreman died in a mysterious industrial accident when a butchered cow fell on him – three times. Freign spoke to the plant manager, who professed total ignorance about the whole matter. He also spoke to the owner of the meat packing plant, and told him local Negroes knew what had happened, and they were not happy. The man left for Florida, supposedly to escape the Chicago winter.
Chicago, Freign thought, had a code of its own, with killers killing killers. Abilene, with all its shooting, was probably safer.
In the summer of CeeCee’s eighth year, on a quiet evening, everyone was sitting on the porch at the Kinzel place. Freign was just beginning to think about going in when Muto sat up and took the air.
“Riders coming. We can smell them, can’t we Muto? It’s them Dadda.”
Freign hustled them all in. He didn’t want the dog or CeeCee complicating what was coming. Freign was about to tell Cecile what to do, but she was already headed up the stairs with the Sharps and cartridges. He gathered in CeeCee, and hustled up the stairs. Then he opened windows at the back and front of the house. From here he could see the riders, three of them coming. Two carried lanterns.
“There will be a rider coming from the back. Don’t let him get close enough to throw his lantern. CeeCee, you stay right here in the hall, and keep Muto with you.”
As he headed downstairs, he heard the action on the Sharps. For a split second he wondered if the flanking rider knew he was dead.
Freign strapped on his side holster, and put the small pistol in his boot. Then he grabbed the Winchester and went out to the porch. As long as the riders were on horseback, Freign would stay in the open. Shooting from a moving horse is more miss than hit, Freign knew. But these men would probably follow a pattern that served them well in the past. Intimidation and encirclement was their style.
It took about two minutes for the badmen to get into hailing distance. Freign didn’t intend to do a lot of talking, but he would give them a chance to leave.
“Stop right there. Turn around, and get off my property, NOW!”
“We found you, nigger, and now you’re going to pay. You cost me a friend, a brother, and an arm. Now I’m taking you and your family.”
Almost at the same time as the man with the limp arm stopped speaking, the Sharps barked once. The three riders fanned out, and started shooting. Bullets smacked the house. Freign dropped to his knee and fired. He hit one rider, the man carrying the lantern. The man and lantern fell together, and he screamed among the flames. Freign’s rifle barked again, and the man was still. In a few moments the bullets in his gunbelt began to light off. Freign yelled to Cecile to stay with CeeCee no matter what. He fired at another rider who was now perhaps fifty feet from the house. He dropped the man from his horse, but he didn’t know how badly wounded the rider might be. Only the man with the bad arm remained. He cursed wildly, and emptied his gun. As he reached for another, Freign fired twice. Both rounds hit.
Once again the intense silence after the fight. Freign hollered to Cecile and CeeCee to stay where they were, and if they were okay. The dog had wet the floor, and there was a lot of broken glass, but no one was hurt.
Freign checked on the riders in front. Two were dead. One was badly wounded, and would probably hang if he didn’t bleed to death. The rider in back probably still didn’t know he was dead. There was a single hole in his head. The lantern he’d been carrying had started a grass fire. Freign took off his shirt and started beating the fire to keep it away from the house. Cecile asked if it was okay to come out. Freign said yes, but Cecile should take CeeCee and the dog into town to his office, and alert Miller, the peace officer.
As it turned out, Miller was already on his way. He arrived as Cecile and CeeCee were leaving.
“Now what, Freign. Sounded like Antietam out here, and this one you’re cooking is making quite a smell.”
“Well Officer Miller, good of you to come join the fight. There’s another one out back. They came with lanterns, thinking to burn us out or burn us up. I don’t know their names. That one over there had a limp arm caused by a bullet I put into it when he was trying to rob a train I was riding. I left everything where it landed, for your investigation.”
“These boys were seen in town a little while ago. Nobody gave them much thought. Hearing the Sharps the first time didn’t raise an alarm. But when all the rest of the shooting started, I knew something was in wind. Would’ve been here sooner, but I had to saddle my horse. Good thing that lantern over there landed on the track. Kept the fire from spreading. You made a fine mess of the flowerbed. Mammy must be angry. By the way, you know you’re bleeding, right?”
Miller pointed to a spot on his own cheek, and Freign put his hand to his face.
“Must be somebody else’s blood. I don’t feel anything.”
“Oh, it’s yours alright. It’s still flowing. Well, I guess that’s it for my investigation. Let’s get the fire out, and load these fellows onto your wagon.”
Miller learned the men’s names, but Freign never cared. Nor did he ever fire a gun at a man again – in part because Freign was never tested again. He had no regrets, and would protect his family if need be, but as it happened need would never again be.
The Kinzels chose their land wisely. Mammy Muto and Mrs. Kinzel had been good stewards, but the work was simply too much for them. Freign and Cecile were stronger, and able to get a little ahead. That allowed them to hire a few hands, which increased the yield even more. They were able to purchase more land, some of which they put to clover. The bees thrived, and one of the hired hands was found to be nearly as good with them as Cecile.
In ’83 CeeCee announced she was going to the University of Chicago to study German. Cecile thought they should all go. They had been held to the farm more by the animals than by love of the land. And now those animals had moved on. Cecile knew Freign didn’t consider himself a farmer. Nor did she consider herself a farmer’s wife. She was surprised though, when Freign decided he’d had enough of marshaling.
They sold the farm, and made enough to buy a small apartment building, and put CeeCee in school. Within weeks of arriving in Chicago, Freign was working for Allan Pinkerton’s sons. He was often called upon to guard people or things, usually from a discreet position remote from the main guard force. His ability to mingle in crowds without drawing attention often let him spot would-be badmen, and alert the main guard force to their presence. Occasionally he worked with police in Chicago or other cities, going to places where other men hadn’t been able to penetrate.
Cecile, for her part, started spending a lot of time in libraries. She read on subjects like art and music. She read works of fiction, philosophy and science. And she found a sunny spot to raise herbs and bees. Her baby daughters were now old enough to accompany her on trips to the library, and to help in the garden.
CeeCee went to college, and within two years she knew more German than her teachers. By her third year, she was teaching basic German, and researching the language in the German neighborhoods of Milwaukee. By ’88 she was a full professor. When she showed her parents her new office, Freign wondered if she knew or cared that it was smaller, and more remote than the offices of other teachers.
“Don’t worry Dadda, this is only temporary. I’ll be here for a while, and then move on to greater things.”
Years ago he’d asked his mother to come to Cairo to live on the farm, but she said no – her place was in Washington with her friends, and she would miss city life. Her story, as Mammy Muto would say, ended in the spring of ’89. Freign, Cecile and CeeCee took a train to Washington for the funeral. They were amazed at the number of people who attended. Freign had no idea his mother was so well known and respected.
On his last day in Washington, Freign picked up a copy of the Washington Post. It was a much bigger paper than the Cairo Citizen, with much more international news. On the third page Freign found a story about the Paris World’s Fair. The story included an illustration of the tower being built by Gustave Eiffel. He wondered where he’d get the money for the long trip that lay ahead.
He mentioned the Eiffel Tower in one of his letters to Mark d’Lon. In reply, d’Lon said he’d seen the same advertisement, and remembered the picture Mammy Muto had shown them at the wedding. Then he wrote that he had investments in Europe, and would like to check on them. Would the Freigns be willing to accompany him and Rebekkah? A flurry of letters followed. It was agreed, the d’Lons would come to Chicago, and spend some time with Rebekkah’s parents. Then they’d travel to New York, from whence they would depart for Liverpool.
One of the Freign’s tenants offered to take care of the herb garden and bee hives, in exchange for herbs and honey. Another tenant couple agreed to act as building manager, collecting and depositing rents, and maintaining the building. They would be given free rent for their efforts.
And so, in June of ’89 the Freign and d’Lon families set out on a tumultuous journey to the old world. The children were by turns excited and bored, happy and crabby, sociable and withdrawn. Freign wondered if Europe was ready for the invaders headed its way.
The first day in Liverpool was strictly business. d’Lon and Rebekkah were going to check up on a ship outfitting business, in which they were primary investors. They asked Freign to join them. Cecile and CeeCee took the children on a tour of the city – which didn’t last long, since Liverpool was a hardworking city, not given to many fripperies. The next two days were spent touring London. There was no work but plenty of walking to be done. As they toured, d’Lon grilled Freign about his thoughts on the chandlering business in Liverpool.
“I saw nothing alarming. No over or under stocked goods. The number of employees seemed to fit with the amount of work being done. The manager, Higgs seemed nervous, but I’d put that down to being in the presence of the biggest shareholder. He may have noticed that you and Rebekkah were wearing pistols in cross draws. I might suggest keeping your coats buttoned unless you’re fixing for a fight.
What do you have on the French side of the channel?”
“Just a vineyard and wine exporting business. It’s mostly run by my sons in Boston. I’m just looking in on it for them.”
Their trip took them by ship to Le Havre, then by rail to Tours. At Tours they hired a coach. The driver spoke only French, but he understood that Freign, d’Lon and Rebekkah were going to a vineyard for the day. He was to return after six that evening, to pick them up. In the meantime, he would show Cecile, CeeCee, and the rest of the children the sights of Tours.
The vineyard turned out to be a surprisingly complex operation. Just the seemingly simple matter of labeling bottles for shipment was fraught with problems. Was the wine destined for sale in the United States? Canada? England and Scotland? France? Once the right label was on the right bottle, that bottle had to get to the right boat. Independent distributors collected the wine at the docks, and got it to stores and restaurants. Grapes were purchased from other growers. Barrels were needed. Bottles too. The list went on and on. And to top it off, the vineyard was experimenting with a sparkling wine, which might be years from hitting the stores.
That evening, as they rode back to their hotel, d’Lon asked Freign for his impression of the visit. Freign cast a glance at the coachman, and then to the d’Lons. He suspected the man understood more English than he was letting on. The only comment he made during the coach ride was that he really liked the peanut noir. When they were alone in the hotel, he gave d’Lon his impressions.
“Well, wine making is mostly art, and your people seemed very good at what they do. But I have never felt such disdain in my life. They treated us like we were ignorant and unwashed. I also suspect – just a suspicion, mind you – their bookkeeping leaves a little bit to be desired. I didn’t see any kind of record keeping anywhere. Barrels here, there and everywhere. Wine being loaded onto wagons, with no paperwork of any kind to record the shipment. That sort of thing.
If I owned the place, I’d invite everyone to dinner here, with the bigwigs at the tables in the back, and the laborers in the front. Nobody would be excluded, not even the men who cared for the draft horses. Then I’d ask them why they were unable to find a French investor to finance the operation, and THEN I’d ask them why this hotel, with its fine accommodations does not offer their wine on its list. Then I’d tell them I wanted them to enjoy a fine meal, with a fine wine, and the best I could find was the work of their hands. And then I’d tell the bigwigs in the back to go get the bottles from the kitchen, and give everyone a glass.”
“Rebekkah, what do you think?”
“Let’s do it, just like Bob said. I’ll go get the sommelier and concierge to get things going. We’ll plan for fifty people. Tomorrow you and Bob can go about mid-morning, and tell the bosses to make sure everyone comes. You lean on them a little, and tell them if anyone is forgotten or excluded, the bosses will feel the consequences.
Bob, how did you know our wine wasn’t on the wine list here?”
“Checked it this morning when I came down for coffee. First thing you want to do is to check the territory, and see who the players are.”
The hotel staff was reluctant. Their fine place was not to be defiled by laborers dragged in from fields and barns by américains fous. That l’américains fous had deep pockets, filled with francs was not entirely lost on the hotel staff, and in the end money won out over pride. The dinner that night was the talk of Tours for weeks to come, and the hotel got publicity beyond anything it could have purchased. The bigwigs, at first aghast at being put in the back, quickly realized the American investors were winning the workers’ appreciation. They were smart enough to figure out that if they wanted to share that appreciation, they’d best go along with the whole affair. Mon dieu, those crafty américains were forcing the bosses to eat with the workers. After a glass or two of wine, the bosses came to the further realization that an occasional dinner like this cost much less than giving the workers raises. Perhaps l’américains were not so fou after all.
The train trip from Tours to Paris was filled with anticipation. They could see as they neared Paris that it would be crowded. They’d been able to find a hotel on the north edge of the city. Getting themselves and their luggage to it was an ungodly task. But they could see the tower, and feel its’ pull. No one slept that night.
In the morning, they all set out by trolley for the tower. As they drew nearer, Freign felt an indescribable emotion somewhere between awe, dread, anticipation, and hope.
They got off the trolley at the edge of the vast parkway surrounding the tower. The families decided to go their separate ways, and meet that night at the hotel. And so the Freigns walked, drawn like moths to a flame, twisting and turning through the crowded parkway. This was not at all what Freign expected. And yet, his wife and daughters were walking and looking as if unaware of the crowd, even as they dodged the mass of bodies.
Freign felt a tap on his shoulder, and turned, expecting to see one of the d’Lons. Instead he saw a Negro, about his height, trim and dressed in worn but clean clothes. The man appeared to be in his twenties.
“Excusez-moi Monsieur. Vous êtes américain ?
“Oui. Yes, I’m American. And I don’t parly voo fransay.”
“That’s okay. I parly voo American. You are traveling with your family? Perhaps I can help you during your visit. I speak excellent French, and have helped several American and English travelers deal with the language problem. My name is Martin Carter.”
Freign’s wife and daughters stopped, and turned to see if he was following. In that instant, Freign saw the vision of Mammy Muto – the vision she’d drawn so many years ago. It was as if there were no other people around, just Freign, his wife, his daughters and this young man.
His family backtracked, and he introduced them.
“This is my wife, Cecile, my daughter CeeCee, my daughter Gabrielle, and my daughter Antonia.
How do you happen to find yourself in France?”
“My mother was a slave, brought here by a man from Virginia during the war of secession. Her master came here to try to convince the French to help the Confederacy. When the war ended, he abandoned her here in Paris. She met and married a man in similar circumstances. They live here in Paris, and do much as I do, trying to find work among English-speaking people visiting or living in France.
Did you bring your family here for the fair? Somehow I sense you have other reasons.”
CeeCee spoke: “The family came to see the tower. I came to bring you to Chicago with me. You’re going to teach French, while I teach German. Show us around the fair.”
They spent the remainder of the day roaming around the area near the tower. Cecelia, CeeCee, Gabby, and Antonia bought a few small things with Martin Carter acting as go-between. About mid-afternoon, Martin led them to a bistro he knew was popular among visitors, but it was crowded, and unlikely to have open tables any time soon. Cecelia suggested that they all return to the hotel, and sit in the lounge for a good talk. So they all piled on a trolley, which was crowded at first, but emptied out as it drew away from the center of Paris.
By the time they got to the hotel, Gabby and Antonia had decided they were hungry. Martin knew of a bistro nearby, so they walked to it, and were pleased to find seating for everyone. The younger girls peppered Martin with the kind of embarrassing questions only children can ask. No he wasn’t married. No he didn’t have a girlfriend. Yes, he lived with his parents. Yes he had a brother and sister. The brother was in North Africa, and the sister was a maid in a hotel. No, he’d never been to London or Liverpool. Yes, he’d been to Tours. Eventually, when she’d learned most everything there was to know about Martin Carter, Cecelia shushed the younger girls. Talk turned to Paris, and what visitors should see. Martin said the fair was nice, and a good source of money for him, but there were other things people should see in order to understand France. Cathedrals. Galleries. The Seine. Notre Dame alone was worth a couple of days. The Louvre? A week. And one could spend days marveling at the bridges. Freign got the impression Martin thought the French had reason to look down their Gallic noses.
Martin was invited to join the Freigns and d’Lons for dinner. He was reluctant to say yes, since his family would be expecting him at home. They agreed to meet in the hotel lobby the next morning, and Freign paid Martin for his help so far. Then he took Martin aside for a brief conversation.
“Martin, do you have another pair of boots?”
“Non – no.”
“Is there a place near here where you can get some?”
“I’m not sure. I suppose there is, but I’m not that familiar with the neighborhood.”
“What about near your home? Is there a shoemaker or cobbler or whatever near your home?”
“Yes Mr. Freign, there is. Why are you asking this?”
“Martin, I saw the holes in the soles of your boots. I want you to buy new ones, and take the ones you’re wearing now, to be re-soled. Can you do that between now and tomorrow morning? What will it cost? I’ll pay.”
“Monsieur Freign, you are very kind, but how can I accept? You’ve known me for but a day. I could probably get the boots in the morning, but it would be difficult to get here before noon.”
“Martin, there are a few things we need to accomplish while we’re here in Paris. One of them is to meet you, and that is done. Now we need to meet your family. I hope we can do that the day after tomorrow. You arrange a time and place for a dinner, and help us get there. The third thing is to find out if you’ll come with us to Chicago.
Cecelia and CeeCee see things most people don’t. They have known you for years. You heard what CeeCee said about why we’re here. It’s true. This picture was drawn by Cecelia’s Mother, many years ago.”
Freign pulled Mammy Muto’s drawing from his billfold. Martin looked at it, but wouldn’t touch it.
“Now Martin, whether you choose to come to America with us, or not, you can’t go around with holes in your soles. Take this money, get new boots, get the old boots fixed, and get here as soon as you can tomorrow. And don’t forget to set up a dinner with your family.
You’ve got a lot to think about in the next few days, don’t you?”
“Oui. Yes. A lot to think about. Paris is my home. Why would I want to leave it? Yes, I have much to think about.”
The Freigns too had a lot to think about. The girls seemed unconcerned, and Cecelia said little, but Freign worried that they might be pushing things. Plus, they knew next to nothing about Martin Carter. There would be a long discussion after the girls retired.
“Cecelia, what do we know about Martin? He’s a Negro in Paris, who speaks French and English, and has holes in the soles of his boots. He’s right-handed. And that’s about it.”
“You’re right, we KNOW very little about him. We’ll learn more as time goes by. But I think he’s the reason we were drawn to this place.”
“What if he doesn’t want to leave Paris? It’s his home. His family is here. It’s a magnificent city. I’m not sure I want to leave.”
“Bob, let’s meet his family. We can just take this one step at a time. I think the brother in the North of Africa may be more of a concern than anyone else in the family. If Martin does decide to come with us, how will we reach his brother?”
Martin Carter showed up just after one the next day, wearing new boots, and a clean shirt, but otherwise dressed in the same clothes he’d worn yesterday. Freign and d’Lon were sitting in the hotel lobby, reading week-old American newspapers. After introductions, Freign told Martin the d’Lons would be joining them today, and perhaps they could go see the Arc de Triomphe Mark spoke of. They hired two carriages, and set off for a grand tour. Several times along the way, Martin stopped the procession to tell his American charges about noteworthy sites.
Once again Martin declined dinner with the Freigns and d’Lons. He said he hoped they understood that dinner with his family was important to him. The carriage bearing the d’Lon family went back to the hotel. Freign insisted that his carriage take Martin to his door – the new boots being probably uncomfortable to walk in just yet. As they rode, Freign asked if dinner with Martin’s parents was arranged. Martin said yes, though his parents were reluctant. They were nervous about meeting strangers from what was for them, the old country. Freign asked Martin to divert the carriage past the place where they would meet his parents tomorrow. It was a modest café. Freign called for a halt, and then asked Martin to join him in the café for a few moments.
“Martin, does the owner know we’re coming tomorrow? A group of nine or ten? Please tell him to have everything ready. I will pay for everything. Will ten American dollars hold the table for us?”
Martin translated, and the owner warmed up visibly at the mention of money. And so the dinner was set.
Before they left the café, Freign stopped Martin. “Tomorrow Martin, I think we’d like to see the Notre Dame. Can you arrange for the carriage to pick you up, and bring you to the hotel to get us? The d’Lons will meet us at the cathedral at ten in the morning. Will that work?”
“Mais oui! That will work fine. I will tell the driver.”
“Good. Here, is this enough to cover the carriage for today, including taking us back to the hotel? Give the man extra. I want him to be happy to see us tomorrow.”
A brief conversation in French brought a nod and tip of the cap from the driver. Another brief conversation, and an exchange of francs led to another nod, and tip of the cap.
When the carriage arrived at the hotel, the driver was quick to help everyone down. Gabby and Antonia said something that sounded like “mercy”. CeeCee, Cecile and Freign said merci. CeeCee nodded to the man and said “Jusqu’à demain.”
The man tipped his cap yet again, and drove off.
Freign asked CeeCee what that was all about, and she said she’d picked up some words here and there. She’d told the driver that they’d see him tomorrow, and he said certainly, and good evening. Then she launched into an explanation of the difference between bonjour (hello) and bonsoir (good evening). Freign looked at CeeCee, and his eyes grew moist. My little girl, all grown up, he thought.
“Dadda, I’ll always be your little girl.”
The next day, Martin Carter and the carriage took the Freigns on an indirect route to Notre Dame. Martin explained high points along the way. At the cathedral Martin assembled the two families, and they set off to tour the outside first, with Martin explaining some of the architectural details. Occasionally, people hearing Martin speak English would join the group. By the time they entered the cathedral, Martin was leading about a dozen people. Another five or six joined them as he led a tour of the interior. At one point d’Lon held back a bit, and nodded for Freign to join him.
“That boy has charm, and a pleasant voice. He knows his stuff, and he knows how to talk to people. He seems not the least bit nervous, though he’s dealing with strangers. I’ve been fooled by people a few times in the past, but I’d stake my name on him.”
“Yeah, but would you stake your daughter on him? It’s CeeCee I’m thinking about.”
“Freign, I think it’ll be okay. And anyway, you’ve still got a gun, right?”
“Yeah, I do. But shooting suitors wouldn’t make me popular with the girls.”
And so the day went. They admired stained-glass windows, flying buttresses, foreshortened sculptures, soaring ceilings, and more. Once again, as the day wound down, the d’Lons returned to the hotel. The Freigns took a roundabout route to the café, and arrived to find the Carters waiting. The driver was given money to see to his own dinner and feed for the horses. He was told to return in two hours.
The Freign and Carter families half-filled the café. The Carters were nervous and subdued. The Freigns allowed Martin to order for the whole family – a subtle test to see how well he understood them. No one was disappointed in his choices. They chatted easily, although Mr. Carter was quiet, and not given to talking about himself. Freign could see by Mr. Carter’s hands that he was a working man. The hands were big and strong, even a little out of proportion to the man. Mrs. Carter was used to talking to people. Martin’s sister also spoke well, and showed no discomfort in talking to the Freigns. Though he said nothing, Freign felt she lacked education – or maybe it was just exposure to life that was lacking.
After dinner they had coffee. It was so strong Freign couldn’t bring himself to drink it. He had a bit of cognac instead. The talk turned to the future. Cecile explained how the Freigns came to Paris because of her mother’s vision. She told everyone she and CeeCee had both seen Martin, and they were drawn to him. Then she told them that if they wanted it, the Freigns would pay them to come to Chicago. She tried to make it clear that the choice was theirs, and the Freigns would respect it, whatever it was.
Martin spoke first.
“Mr. and Mrs. Freign, CeeCee . . . Paris is my home. My family is here. I won’t leave without them, and I won’t force them to leave for my sake. I hope you understand that. Your generosity has been overwhelming, but still, my family comes first.”
Before anyone else could say anything, Mr. Carter spoke up.
“Mr. Freign, I saw you studying my hands. I work hard. Sometimes I build furniture. Sometimes I repair carriages. I can work hard anywhere. I’m not against going to Chicago, but what will I find there, that I can’t find in Paris?”
“Mr. Carter, the only thing you will find in Chicago, that you won’t find in Paris, is my family. All of us care deeply for you. We will help you in any way we can. We hope that’s enough. We hope you will all join us. But if you choose to remain in Paris, then we hope you will allow us to be your friends – amis? Is that the word?”
“Martin, please wait here until the carriage comes, then bring it to our apartment. Mr. Freign, let us walk to our apartment. It’s small, but sufficient. Come, we’ll have a short parade.”
The walk was about the equivalent of two blocks in Chicago. The neighborhood was distinctly working class, but not rundown. The building the Carters lived in fit the neighborhood – neither fancy nor neglected. Freign wondered how much of the building maintenance Mr. Carter did. The Carters’ apartment was small, but meticulously clean. Since there were only four rooms, Freign assumed someone slept on the sofa, but there was no sign that it was used as a bed. Mr. Carter pointed to a cabinet along one wall, and told Freign it was the work of his hands. The table and chairs in the kitchen were also Mr. Carter’s work. Mr. Carter said there were other things in other rooms that he built himself.
“Mr. Carter, you do fine work. If you choose to come to Chicago, I’ll see to it that everything you’ve built is shipped to my home, and from there to wherever you choose to live. I really believe we can make things work.”
The women were having a separate discussion. Freign wondered how it was going. He was just about to join in when Martin entered, and announced that the carriage was waiting.
Cecile smiled to the Carters.
“Before I say good night I want to tell you we sail from Liverpool in five days. If you choose to join us, and I hope you will, there will be much to do. Good evening everyone. Martin, can you join us early tomorrow for breakfast?”
Martin nodded, and said he’d be at the hotel by eight.
Everyone went out to the carriage. The Freigns climbed up, and drove off. The Carters went back to their apartment. No one would sleep much that night.
The morning came, and Martin arrived about five minutes to eight. He was somber, and looked tired. Freign suspected he’d spent a long night discussing with his family what to do about moving to America. Freign spoke before Martin could say anything.
“Martin, today and tomorrow we want you to get to know CeeCee. Please show her around Paris. She has enough money to cover reasonable expenses. The rest of us will find ways to occupy our time. Knowing my girls, it’ll be expensive.
I know we’re pushing you and your family. Today we’re going to back off, and leave you and CeeCee to yourselves. All I ask is that you come back here for dinner at, shall we say, seven this evening?”
“Where does CeeCee wish to go?”
“You two can work that out between yourselves. Have fun, stay out of trouble, and we’ll see you at seven.”
As if on cue, CeeCee appeared in the lobby. Freign gave her a wink, and left them to themselves. Inside he wondered if things were going too fast, if they were doing the right thing. His emotions were boiling like a stewpot on a cattle drive camp fire.
At dinner that evening, Martin and CeeCee chatted easily. They were comfortable with each other. Gabby and Antonia kept poking each other, and giggling at their sister. CeeCee talked about the club they’d gone to, where the musicians played American-style music. The musicians were a mix of whites and Negroes, and the music was an odd mix – marches and something CeeCee couldn’t describe. Martin said he wished he could play the piano. Freign was about to comment that they’d get him one in Chicago, but a look from Cecilia told him to hold his peace.
Martin left at about nine. The girls could be heard giggling and talking until almost midnight.
Martin was back at eight the next morning. Freign asked him if he could arrange dinner with his parents again the following day. Then he invited Martin to join him in the hotel sitting room until CeeCee came down.
“Martin, what do you think of CeeCee?”
“Monsieur Freign, CeeCee is very smart and happy. She has great curiosity. We had beaucoup plaisir. But I must say, her second sight can be a little, how shall I say it, not frightening or annoying . . . unsettling. Often, we have gone to places, and she will say she has been there before.”
“You feel that too? She knew my Mother’s pet name for me before we ever met.”
“She is adopted then?”
“Not so’s you’d notice. As far as I’m concerned, she’s my daughter.”
“May we what?” asked CeeCee as she entered the sitting room.
“Go. Have fun. Dinner at seven again.”
Freign went to the room. Time to talk to Cecilia, he reckoned. He asked her if she thought they were pushing Martin and the Carters too hard. He told her he was worried that they didn’t know Martin well enough to hand their daughter over to him.
Cecilia said she thought things would work out as they were meant to be. Then she asked Freign if he could think of any instances where her eye had been wrong. As he thought on the matter, he realized that CeeCee and Cecilia didn’t see everything, but what they DID see was seldom mistaken. Still, he was Dadda, and he didn’t want to make any mistakes.
At dinner that evening it was obvious CeeCee and Martin were drawing closer together. Freign had to admit, they seemed like a good fit for each other.
When the Freigns and Carters got together the next evening, there was an air of anticipation hanging over the gathering. It was so thick Freign felt like he could touch it. The meal was strained. Everyone tried to be polite, and make small talk, but finally the questions had to be addressed. Mr. Carter spoke first.
“Mr. Freign, you’ve been very generous to us, and we appreciate it. My son and daughter will decide for themselves whether to join you on your trip to America. My wife and I will remain here for a bit longer. I’m helping a man with a big carriage project, and I want to honor my word to see it to the end. We can sail from Le Havre in a month or so.
Martin, don’t concern yourself with us. We will follow when my work here is finished. Marie, you can choose for yourself as well. I think America would suit you, and maybe it’s time for you to grow beyond what we can offer.
This is what I’ve decided.”
“Mr. Carter, how long do you think the carriage project will take? I ask because we will need to know when to book passage from Le Havre to New York.”
“The carriage is to be complete in four weeks. We are ahead of schedule. I would say booking the voyage for six weeks from today would be good.
Martin, Marie, what do you choose?”
Freign was surprised that Marie chose to speak. She hadn’t said but five words a couple of evenings ago, and nothing at all this evening until now.
“Martin, go with the Freigns and prepare the way for us. When we arrive in America, it will be good to see a familiar face.”
Martin looked at CeeCee, then at Cecile and asked, “Is this what you’ve seen? Tell me truthfully, will my family be together in America?”
Cecile, choosing her words carefully, replied, “I’ve seen you and CeeCee happy together in Chicago, with a new family. If having your sister and parents with you is required for that happiness, then it will be so. What your father and sister say makes good sense, though I would rather we all travel together now. Maybe it’s best if they come to America at the time of their choosing. Mrs. Carter, what is your wish?”
“Well, I’m never going back to Richmond, Virginia, that’s for sure! America’s a big place, and I think I’d like to see more of it. Maybe see Colorado, where your friends are from. Maybe New York and Chicago too. Give me a little time to get ready, and I’m up for the trip.”
Martin said yes, this is what they’d been talking about for the last several days, but it was hard for him to leave his family. His eyes filled, and in a moment everyone’s eyes filled. There was much hugging and crying. Happiness is sometimes a very wet and tight garment to wear.
CeeCee and Martin decided on a shipboard wedding. The d’Lons attended. Martin and CeeCee were given the Freigns’ first class cabin for the remainder of the trip. Freign, Cecile, Gabby and Antonia moved to a pair of second cabins, one of which had been Martin’s, the other of which had been unoccupied. Arrival at New York was a whirlwind of activity, with the d’Lons headed for Boston, and the Carters and Freigns headed for Chicago. Freign told Martin to remind him that when Martin’s family arrived, they should stay two nights in New York to ease the transition from ship to rail. As it was, Martin and the Freigns spent almost six hours at Grand Central Station waiting for their train to depart. The trip to Chicago took the better part of three days, much of it spent waiting in train stations along the way.
When they arrived at home, the Freigns were pleased to find everything as they’d left it. There would be unpacking to do, but Freign thought that could wait. He wanted to talk to Cecile alone, so he asked her to take a walk with him. She obliged.
“Cecile, we’re just about broke here. It’s going to be a struggle to pay bills when Martin’s folks arrive. I might be able to earn a little from Pinkerton’s, but I’m past my prime for a lawman. So now what? What do you see?”
“Actually Bob, I see baseball in your future. The White Stockings need ushers and people to protect the cash boxes. I think you can do that. I see you leading a group of men who work for the team, but not only the team. I think you’ll find a way to start your own company, maybe as a partner to Pinkerton’s. Or a sub-contractor. That’s what I see. Let’s go to a ballgame, and look things over.”
It was three days before the North Side team returned. Time enough to unpack. Time enough for CeeCee and Martin to visit the University, where Martin was hired to be an assistant in the French Language Department. CeeCee had some influence, and she wasn’t afraid to use it. She also managed to get Martin to look the part of a Parisian, which surely impressed the Dean of Languages.
The baseball game was something of an eye-opener for Freign. He was surprised at the size of the crowd, and the amount of money that changed hands. But most of all, he was amazed at the absolute lack of security. No guards at the ticket booth. The ushers were indistinguishable from the fans. People came and went from every part of the field, including the team benches. It took Freign about three innings to work out a plan for security – the most important item being uniforms.
It took Freign exactly one more game to find Bill Hubbard. Twenty minutes of talking, and pointing out weaknesses sealed the deal. Within two weeks Freign Security was providing uniformed ushers, a guard at the ticket booth, and much needed crowd control. Newspaper writers were no longer permitted on the field during the games, and anybody who threw anything onto the field was removed from the game. The White Stockings began to emphasize the family atmosphere. By 1901 Freign Security was working security for two baseball teams. His preference was for the South Side team. The North Side team, though closer to home, couldn’t make up its mind what its name should be. Given the opportunity, the South Side team snatched up the name White Stockings. The Sox played well enough to win, while the Colts/Orphans/Cubs mostly just provided entertainment.
By ’03 Freign Security was providing extra help to museums and businesses for special events. The company also provided contract security for some of the larger buildings downtown. Mr. Marx, Rebekkah d’Lon’s father, helped with that.
Mr. Marx made up several jackets, including one for Freign, which was cut to accommodate a concealed pistol. Mr. Marx wasn’t all that happy with the Mars Red fabric until he attended a ball game. Within weeks he and his partners were producing a line of uniform jackets and pants. It proved to be a successful sideline to their quality men’s clothes.
Martin Carter’s family arrived in Chicago about this time. They lived with Martin and CeeCee for a bit. The senior Mr. Carter had no trouble finding work. Fine cabinetry was in great demand in the new homes sprouting up in the city.
That summer, on a particularly glorious Sunday afternoon, Freign managed to wheedle Cecile into joining him at a Cubs (as they were now called) game. Cecile, Gabby, Antonia, Mrs. Carter, and Marie Carter were running a French bakery near a downtown hotel. Business was usually brisk in the morning, but quieter in the afternoon, and on this particular afternoon Cecile gave in and went to a ball game. Part of the reason Freign went was to take a quiet look at how his employees were doing. But he also felt a need to spend some time with Cecile, since they were both seemingly always busy. Freign needed only two innings to settle into the game, but he felt Cecile never did. Maybe she already knew the outcome? About the sixth inning, Cecile asked why they hired umpires with such poor eyesight. In her opinion, the umpire behind the catcher missed half of the calls, in which case he might as well just guess.
During the eighth inning Freign mused to Cecile about how his life changed over the years. There had been a time when all he needed was a horse, a gun (or five), and a badge. He caught bad men, who were never in short supply.
“Yes, and you slept in the rain, smelled like your horse, ate like a savage, and never got to really know anyone. Would you go back to that?”
“Nope. I really like sleeping dry.”
Cecile laughed, then stopped in mid-laughter, and gave Freign a nudge. An empty wagon was pulling into a construction site across the street from the park. This struck Cecile as odd, since there was no other activity at the site.
“Why would an empty wagon be going in there? Wouldn’t you think they’d be bringing something?”
They watched for a bit as the men loaded bricks onto the wagon. The men seemed to know what they were doing. Before they finished, another wagon arrived, and two men set to loading lumber. They too seemed to know what they were doing. Freign, still a lawman at the core, told Cecile he was going to follow the second wagon. There were a few cabs outside the park. Freign hailed one, and asked the driver to pull up on a side street where they could see the construction site. The wagon loaded with bricks left first, and headed north. In about twenty minutes, just as the ballgame was ending, the wagon loaded with lumber pulled out, and also headed north. Freign told the cab driver to hang back, but not lose sight of the lumber wagon. Following a load of lumber wasn’t difficult, even in the traffic on Michigan Avenue. They went north about two miles, then turned toward the lake. Two blocks off Michigan, the lumber wagon turned into a construction site. Freign told his driver to go past the construction site, and on to Lakeshore. As they passed the site, Freign could see it was a house – a large house – under construction. And as he’d suspected, the brick wagon was there too.
Freign told his driver to drop him off at Congress and Michigan. From there, he walked north a bit, and looked to see if the cab he’d ridden in was still around. It was gone. Freign walked west to Wabash, and took a trolley north, to within a couple of blocks from home. Something told him he was on the edges of a dangerous situation.
Early Monday, he went to the Federal Marshal’s Office in Chicago. It took a while, but eventually he was able to see the marshal in charge. Marshal Hamet listened to Freign, then asked some questions, the first being, did Freign know who owned the construction sites? Might it be they shared the same owner? Freign allowed as how he didn’t know who owned either of the sites, but he said if they shared the same owner, why would moving materials happen during an off day?
It took Marshal Hamet less than an hour to learn that the two sites were owned by different people. The building going up near the ballpark was the work of a group of developers. The house was being built for an alderman. Both Freign and Hamet thought it smelled fishy. This wasn’t a simple case of someone stealing building materials. Freign thanked Hamet, and said he’d leave it up to the marshal to decide what to do. But down deep he felt the marshal would do nothing – not because he was crooked, but because he simply didn’t want to get involved in political corruption.
Freign and Cecile discussed the situation that evening. They both thought the problem was widespread – that developers would grease the wheels of government to get things done. New buildings were popping up like mushrooms around a tree stump. And Freign knew from experience that Chicago could turn violent mighty fast. Better to leave this one alone, he thought.
In 1910 Freign sold his business to Pinkerton’s. In the Fall of ’11 the d’Lons came to Chicago for the funeral of Rebekkah’s father. The Freigns and the d’Lons spent almost a week reminiscing. At dinner, on the d’Lons’ last evening in Chicago, they asked Freign for a favor – one last trip, with their grandson Timothy. The trip would be to Liverpool, Tours, and Moscow to review businesses, and hopefully, show Timothy d’Lon how to see things in detail, as Freign was able to do.
“Mark, I’m not the young, sharp guy I used to be. What makes you think I can teach anybody anything? Not to mention, crossing the ocean this time of year is a rough, cold proposition. And why can’t his Dad or uncles make the trip?”
“I knew you’d cut right to the quick, Bob. Timothy is 23 years old, just out of college. He thinks he knows everything about everything. He’s smart, but he’s not that smart. And he has no awareness of what’s going on around him. He needs to see things, and see what consequences his actions produce. And to tell you the truth, I think you’re sharper than any of my sons. He’ll learn more from you and Cecile than he would from them.
Let’s keep that little bit of information between us, okay?
I’m also hoping he can mentor my children by Rebekkah – sort of a big brother.
As to the trip, we can set it up from Boston to Trieste. It would take longer, but the southern track should make for better sailing. From Trieste, you could travel to Moscow, thence to Tours, and on to Liverpool. That’s kind of a reverse circuit from what we did.
From Liverpool, you could choose your route home. Maybe to New York, or Boston, or maybe Havana. I’m thinking you could leave in mid-February, and be back by mid-to-late-April.
We’ll pay for everything for you and your family.
Why don’t you and Cecile discuss it, and write to us with your decision.
If it matters, you’re the only man I trust to take Timothy on such an excursion.”
Cecile listened, but said nothing until the d’Lons were gone.
After the d’Lons left, Cecile spoke up.
“This is something we have to do, not for the d’Lons, but for another family we don’t know.”
Freign knew Cecile’s eye, and trusted it. His only question was who would go. CeeCee and Martin would be busy with their teaching. Gabby and Toni had reached an age where boys were a major point of interest. Freign didn’t think he wanted to leave them with CeeCee and Martin. Cecile thought Gabby and Toni were responsible enough, but she also felt the experience would be good for them.
And so it came to pass, on a cold, windy day in mid-February of 1912, that Freign, Cecile, Gabriel, and Antonia set out for Trieste, by way of Boston. If the timing worked out, the Freigns would spend two days in Boston, eight to ten days at sea, and two days in Trieste before going on to Moscow, Tours, and Liverpool.
Timothy d’Lon was to meet the Freigns at Boston Station, but he never showed up. Or so it seemed. Cecile and the girls took it in stride, but Freign was upset. When they got to the hotel, Freign had the concierge send a message to the d’Lon’s office. The response was immediate – Tim d’Lon would meet the Freigns in the hotel lobby in half an hour.
The Freigns had been waiting about twenty minutes when a breathless young man came into the hotel, and talked to the concierge. Freign watched the discussion without looking directly at it – a lawman’s habit. The concierge pointed to the Freigns, and the breathless young man shook his head. More discussion followed.
In a moment the young man approached. “Mr. Freign? I’m Tim d’Lon. I’m sorry I didn’t catch you at the station. Nobody told me . . . well, I was expecting . . . well, I wasn’t expecting a family of Negroes.”
“Young Mr. d’Lon, what you were expecting doesn’t matter, does it? I’m a retired United States Marshal. This is my wife Cecile. She’s a deadly shot with a rifle, speaks fluent German, and a good bit of French, too. She runs a restaurant in Chicago, with a side business selling herbs and spices. My daughters, Gabriel and Antonia are students. I suspect they will tell you all about themselves as time goes by. The ladies are going up to the rooms for a bit, and then they’ll go shopping. You and I are going across the street to the tavern, for a much needed discussion. Ladies, if you’ll excuse us . . .?”
Freign strode from the room, and Tim d’Lon had to trot to catch up. Trouble was coming like a train, and Tim d’Lon knew he was sitting on the tracks.
“Sit!” Freign spoke, not loud, but with an absolute authority that brooked no hesitation. Tim d’Lon caught a brief glimpse of a pistol butt on Freign’s left hip, which only served to reinforce the authority of Freign’s voice.
“Now you listen, and listen good, Mr. Timothy d’Lon. Your grandfather asked me to show you some of the things he and I learned over the years. I also rode with your granduncle in Flagstaff, Arizona. If you ever again fail meet me on time, I’ll tell your grandfather and granduncle you’re not worthy of their name, and not worthy of my time. Do you understand?”
Tim turned red, an embarrassed, angry red. “I don’t have to take that kind of talk from a Negro. I doubt there’s much you can teach me about anything that doesn’t involve a horse. I was willing to humor my Grandpa, but I’m not willing to humor you, and I’m certainly not willing to obey you. Now, I suggest that our business is done. If you want to go on with the trip, that’s your affair. But if you think I’m going to act like some kind of student, you’re mistaken.” Tim stood and turned to leave.
“Get your candy ass back in that chair – NOW!” The voice came with a rumble, and froze Tim in his tracks.
“WHAT? What did you say to me?”
“I said sit down. How many people are there in this tavern? Do you know?”
Tim looked around. “Five. What the hell difference does that make?”
“Eleven. Seven customers, and four staff. The bartender has the hots for someone back in the kitchen. The man sitting alone by the window is waiting for somebody to leave the hotel. He’s probably a private security man tailing somebody. He’s probably going to lose his mark though. There’s only one hack outside. If the mark gets it, the watcher is going to get left behind.
Did your Daddy or Grandpa ever tell you about the bookkeeping problems we found in Tours? No? The ship’s chandler business in Queenstown had some issues too. Now sit down, and let’s talk like gentlemen. I’m willing to respect you as much as you respect me.
Tell me a little bit about the business in Moscow.”
They talked for another hour or so. When Tim d’Lon started talking about business matters, he quickly slid out of his preconceptions, and talked freely. Freign learned there were actually two businesses in Moscow. One was a distillery. The other was an investment business. One man in Moscow managed both businesses. Tim’s father was the driving force behind the Moscow experiment. The sons were only lukewarm about it.
They agreed to meet the next day at the d’Lon’s offices. The Carpathia would leave for Trieste the following day.
The office visit was mainly a formality. Introductions were made all around. A few general business questions were asked and answered. Travel plans and expectations were laid out. Most of everyone’s luggage was already in the hands of the Cunard Line. Each person was carrying only what was needed for shipboard wear.
The first few days out of Boston were rough, but manageable. Nobody felt much like eating, so meals were kept light. By the fourth day the seas calmed, and appetites perked up. The weather grew warmer as they neared Africa, and almost balmy as they crossed into the Mediterranean. The last leg of the trip was so pleasant Freign almost regretted arrival at Trieste.
Trieste was beautiful, of course. But this trip wasn’t meant to be a grand tour of Europe. After two days in Trieste, both Freign and Tim were anxious to move on. The trip by rail from Trieste to Moscow seemed agonizingly slow, with stops, border crossings, and even changes of track gauge to slow the process. Most of the passengers stayed in their berths except for meals. Freign was a little uneasy about the secrecy everyone seemed to display. Even during meals, there was very little socializing. What conversation there was took place in hushed, almost secretive tones. When he remarked this to Cecile, she agreed. She said she could smell conspiracy in the air, like the smell of rotting fruit. Everybody on the train seemed to be hiding a secret or secrets. As he listened to the conversation, Tim suddenly realized that Gabby and Toni hadn’t said a word since they left Trieste. He tried to shake it off, but the more he thought about it, the more he realized the Freigns had some sort of connection he couldn’t read. Once in a while he’d see Gabby and Toni make eye contact, and share a knowing glance. Freign and Cecile did the same. Tim found himself in the unfamiliar position of being an outsider. He’d NEVER been an outsider before. Kids in school had always wanted to hang out with him. In the office even older men sought his attention and approval. Women, especially women with daughters looked at him as a catch. But now, here he was on an exotic trip through Europe with four other people, and he couldn’t figure out who was the most important person in the group. All he knew for sure was that is wasn’t him. On the third day on the train he worked up the courage to raise the subject with Freign.
“Tim, the sooner you realize the world doesn’t revolve around you, the better off you’ll be. You don’t notice things because they aren’t important to you. But those things you don’t notice may be the most important things in other people’s lives. It took me years working with some of the best lawmen on earth to realize that.
Now, Cecile and the girls are a special case. They have an eye most people don’t have. They see things that haven’t happened yet. I’ve learned to respect that eye because it’s so often right. More than once they’ve seen something, and told me to expect it, and I’ve been able to prepare. My daughter CeeCee once told me riders would be coming to try to kill us all. She warned us months in advance, and the day they finally came, she warned us again before the riders were in sight. I killed three of those men, and Cecile killed one who tried to sneak up behind us. You and I, we’ll never have the bond Cecile and the girls have. We’ll never have the eye they have. But we can respect it, and use it.
Your original concern, as I understand it, is that you’re wondering who’s the most important person in this group. Well Tim, there isn’t one. Contribute what you can, and don’t ignore the contributions of the rest of us.
Oh, and one more thing – Cecile tells me we’re here for a higher purpose than just commerce. I gather we’re supposed to try to save a family. You might want to talk to her about it.
While I’m thinking about it, did you learn anything from the captain of the Carpathia?”
“What was there to learn?”
“Well, Carpathia sails out of Liverpool, where your ship’s chandler business is headquartered. She calls on ports all over the East Coast, even in Canada. She calls on ports in France and Italy. Every time she makes port, she deals with a ship’s chandler. Her captain should be chock full of information about chandlers, don’t you think?”
“Oh. Oh damn! Why didn’t I think of that?”
“Because you were too busy trying to keep distance between yourself and a family of Negros.
As it happens, when the Carpathia docks in Liverpool, your company chandlers to her. The captain – his name is Rostrom – says he has a few small issues with your company’s work, the biggest being he wishes the ship would be fully stocked a day before she sails, rather than having stores laid in right up ‘til the time she casts off. Apparently, chandlering in Trieste is a nightmare, LeHavre is bad, New York is so-so, and Halifax is limited. The captain wondered why your company hasn’t expanded to Boston, New York, and Havana. Maybe when we reach Moscow or Tours, you might want to wire that information to headquarters, huh?”
“Mr. Freign, when did you learn all this?”
“We were sitting in deck chairs watching Gibraltar. The captain stopped to talk to us. He even gave us a tour. Cecile and the girls avoided the engine room. Cecile was really impressed by the kitchen, or galley, I guess it’s called. We saw you in the barber shop.”
“Shit. I feel like a fool.”
“Well Tim, I guess the question is, are you going to learn anything from the experience, or just get angry?”
“Angry? Damn right I’m angry! I’m thousands of miles from home, listening to a gun-toting cowboy who probably doesn’t know a bond from a stock . . .”
“Stop right there. Hold that thought. I’ll be right back. Wait here.”
Freign stood and walked away before Tim could register an objection. He went straight to his compartment, tapped on the door, and poked his head in.
“Cecile, please go to the lounge and talk to Tim. He just called me a poor, dumb cowboy, and I’ve had about as much of his smugness as I can take for a while. Tell him about our finances, and anything else that comes to your mind. I’ll join you in about ten minutes. Please do this Cecile?”
Cecile knew her man. She knew how hard it was for him to make such a request. She looked at Freign and asked: “Do I take a hard line, or soft?”
“Use your judgement Sweet. Just don’t throw him off the train.”
Cecile checked the mirror, and set out on her mission.
Tim didn’t look up, or say anything as Cecile approached.
Mr. d’Lon, it’s customary for a gentleman to rise when a lady approaches his table. I’m a lady. Are you a gentleman?”
Tim stood, and bowed deeply. “Good afternoon Milady. Has your husband sent you to further my education?”
“If need be. A gentleman would offer to bring me a drink, to which I would reply, a bit of cognac, if you please.”
Tim stared at Cecile for a moment, then realized she expected him to comply. When he returned from the bar, Cecile thanked him, and removed her gloves.
“Mr. d’Lon, have you ever heard of Pinkerton’s Security? My husband and I are minority share-holders in the company. We sold Freign Security to Pinkerton’s for $100,000.00 in cash, and almost another hundred thousand in stock. Since then our investments in municipal bonds and other stocks have been most beneficial. My husband is not a poor dumb cowboy. Our shared net worth is well over a million dollars. Generally, a lady doesn’t talk about such things, but Mr. Freign has asked me to not throw you off the train, so I believe the only way to get your attention is with dollars.
And for the record, my husband was a lawman, never a cowboy. You, on the other hand, are an educated boy, in need of guidance, which my husband has agreed to provide.
I sense you have questions and comments. Share them.”
“Mrs. Freign, if you’re so rich and smart, why are you stooping to help a ‘boy’ like me?”
“Two reasons, young man. The first is because we respect your grandfather. He’s an honest, and absolutely decent man. We would do anything your grandfather asked of us. We believe he feels the same about us. Did you know your grandfather was a hero in the Civil War? Did you know he and my husband fought off a band of train robbers?
The second reason, which I’m sure will amuse you is because we – including you – are destined to try to save the lives of a family. Whether we succeed or fail will be largely up to you.”
Tim looked at her, dumbstruck. Cecile watched as he struggled to find words. Then she spoke: “You’re wondering if it’s true that I killed a man. Yes it’s true. He was riding hard with a kerosene lamp, intent on burning down my home, with me and my daughter in it. Three of his friends were at the front of the house, shooting at my husband. Those men came to Illinois from Colorado for the sole purpose of killing us all. I don’t know what you’d do, but for me, nobody harms my family.
I’m going to call you Tim, and you can call me Cecile. Tim, give me your hand.”
Tim was by turns reluctant, surprised, and amazed. It took him a few moments to realize Cecile was serious. He gave his hand grudgingly.
“Tim, soon you’ll find yourself having to choose whether to fight on land or sea. I think you should choose the sea. Your knowledge of chandlering will be useful to the Navy.”
“Cecile, are you trying to tell me you’re a fortune teller too? Do you expect me to believe that stuff?”
“Believe it, or don’t, as you choose, but how do you think we managed to do so well in the stock market? Here comes Bob.”
“Sorry I took so long Tim. Looks like you and Cecile had quite a chat. Did she tell you about the reasons why we’re making this trip?”
“Yeah, both of them, and some other stuff too. Mr. Freign, I guess I owe you an apology.”
“What for? And call me Bob.”
“Well, if for nothing else, I did call you a cowboy.”
“Tim, let’s start over at dinner tonight. In the meantime, I think Cecile and I should take a turn to the lounge. Maybe you should scout the train a little bit. I expect stocking a train wouldn’t be all that different from chandlering a ship.”
They spent the first day in Moscow familiarizing themselves with the area around the hotel. At first glance, the city seemed like a dream landscape, with pointed domes, wide plazas, and soldiers in fantastic uniforms. It didn’t take much looking, though, to find a darker, more desperate side to the city. Most Muscovites were poor, and it showed in drab, worn clothes. It was an easy walk from the hotel to squalid neighborhoods where young thugs roamed the streets. To Freign’s mind, aside from the language, Moscow wasn’t all that different than Chicago.
At mid-morning of the second day they called on the office of the distillery owned by the d’Lons. The woman at the front desk spoke some English, and said that Mr. Broberg was expecting them. Broberg welcomed them warmly, in Scandinavian-tinted English. His parents had emigrated from Sweden to England when he was a child. He asked if they all wanted to tour the distillery, or if the ladies would prefer to have him arrange for sightseeing. He was surprised when Cecile said she and the girls were looking forward to seeing the distillery.
The tour was unexciting. The girls said the place stunk of vodka, rotten potatoes, and mold. Freign and Cecile asked a few questions about the operation, especially about the source of water, the Moskva River. Tim d’Lon said very little.
After a two-hour tour, they ate a late lunch in the office conference room. The lunch was mainly sandwiches made of bread dough folded over ground beef. There was also cheese, and boiled potatoes. Everyone drank a strong dark tea.
They spent the remainder of the afternoon discussing finances, shipping, and production capabilities. As the gathering broke up, Broberg asked if the Americans would like him to arrange entertainment for the evening. He was speaking more to Tim d’Lon than anyone else. Freign gave Tim a look that said ‘no’, and Tim, to his credit, was quick enough to say they were all tired from the trip, and needed to rest. Tomorrow night would be a better choice. They agreed to meet at mid-day tomorrow, at which time the girls would go sightseeing while the boys talked business.
The ride to the hotel was quiet. No one was sure how much English the driver spoke, and somehow, he made them all uneasy.
At the hotel, Cecile and the girls went to their rooms to rest and get ready for an evening dinner. Freign and d’Lon repaired to a quiet corner of a lounge, with cups of strong, thick coffee. Freign wondered if this was actually what Russians drank, or if it was just something brewed to impress foreigners.
“Tim, any impressions?”
“Lots. Probably not as many as you got, but lots. The distillery wasn’t the cleanest place I’ve ever been. Knowing we were coming, you’d think they’d spruce the place up a bit. Broberg is doing fine with the books, but the place looks like it could produce twice as much vodka as it does. The vodka is actually pretty good. Smoother than the stuff back home. The operation is profitable, but I think it could do better. Clean the place up, increase production, and the the vodka as a premium product. I think earnings would go up a good bit. The investment part of the business is pretty straightforward. It’s making money, which is what investors hope for.
What did you see?”
“Well, for starters, Broberg doesn’t read, write or speak Russian. All the newspapers in his office are from London or New York, so he has no idea what’s going on around him. He wasn’t even willing to go to a restaurant for lunch, lest he be faced with a menu he couldn’t translate. The woman at the front desk, whom he never introduced, could be robbing him blind, and he’d never know it. During the whole time we were in the distillery, I never heard anyone laugh. The employees look shabby and unhappy.
Also, I get the feeling production is higher than sales. Some of your vodka is finding its way to drinkers who aren’t buying it from you. I’m willing to bet ten to fifteen percent of production never makes it to a legitimate sale. I picked that up by the number of unlabeled bottles in the filling operation.
I agree about the cleanliness. The place needs ventilation too. As to the quality of the vodka, I’ll defer to you on that. I wouldn’t know the good stuff from the bad.
What say we take a walk? I need to stretch my legs to keep them limber.”
They walked perhaps three quarters of a mile, and came upon a meeting hall of some sort, a man was passing out leaflets. Even though he couldn’t read it, Freign took one. The desk clerk at the hotel, who spoke some English, would be able to tell him what it was about.
“Menshviki. Trotskyites. Not to worry about.” The clerk made a motion with his fingers to signify the leaflet was about money, which Freign took to mean the Menshviki wanted better pay.
Freign told d’Lon he intended to go to the meeting, so he was going to hustle the ladies to an early dinner. Gabby and Toni grumbled. For them, late dinner in a restaurant was oh so adult, and sophisticated. Cecile knew Freign was onto something, and she rolled with it.
Freign and d’Lon arrived at the meeting hall more than a half-hour early. There was a street café two doors down, and across the street. They grabbed a table, and ordered coffee – kofye – one of the few Russian words Freign knew.
“Tim, I’m about to say something, and I don’t want you to react in any way, okay? Don’t look directly at him, but there’s a big guy in a suit just down the street, across from the meeting hall. Some kind of policeman, I think. Turn casually, and look around. See him?”
“Yeah, and two more like him in the other direction. Not as big. It looks like they’re going in and out of the alley over there. Do you think they’re strike busters?”
“Could be. Sit tight. I’m going into the café.”
Freign grabbed the cups, and went in to get more coffee. When he came back out he said there were two men and a woman together inside, and the woman was giving the men money. About ten minutes later, one of the men came out and crossed over to the meeting hall. Perhaps five minutes later, the woman came out and crossed over. Finally the third man came out, but didn’t head for the meeting hall. Freign figured he was the leader of the group, who would look for some other way into the hall. His suspicion was confirmed when he and d’Lon went into the hall, and spotted the third man – in a different cap and coat – standing to one side of the seats.
“Tim, do you see the three of them? Don’t make it obvious you’re looking.”
“I see them. It looks like they’re talking to some of the audience. The woman just slipped a guy some money.”
“Provocateurs. They’re going around seeding the audience to get them to applaud or yell, or whatever. Let’s watch for a while, but be ready to leave fast, okay?”
“I’m ready to leave NOW. What the hell are you getting me into?”
A young man mounted the stage. He had wild hair, a bushy mustache, and scholarly glasses. He began to speak, his delivery rising in intensity as he went on. At first the audience was silent. Then a couple of people applauded and yelled. Soon almost everyone was clapping or yelling, or both.
“Tim, let’s get out of here. The head bangers will be coming soon.”
Freign and d’Lon had no sooner settled inside the café than a group of about ten men in suit coats ran from an alley, into the meeting hall. There was shouting, and crashing furniture. Then the men in the suits left.
“No arrests. Those guys were just thugs. Tim, I tell you, Moscow is looking more like Chicago to me every day.”
When they got back to the hotel, Freign convened everyone in a lounge, and told them what had happened. Then he shooed Cecile and the girls, so he could talk to d’Lon.
Freign told d’Lon that as soon as he took the leaflet, he saw trouble. It was printed on paper way too good for a bunch of poor workers. Then there was the trio of provocateurs, seeding the crowd to draw a response. There was also one person in the audience who was taking notes – either a policeman, or a reporter. Then there were the thugs.
“Tim, it might be my imagination, but something doesn’t add up. That guy who was the leader changed clothes to look shabby. The trio spread money like it was nothing. The speaker seemed fluent and polished. That was not a gathering of poor peasants struggling for better working conditions. Oh, and the leader of the trio was mixing in another language when they were sitting in here. I think it was German.
The leaflet says there’ll be rallies in four or five more places. Somebody’s paying to rent halls, travel from town to town, and to foment riots.
What I’m thinking is, someone wants unrest in Russia, maybe to the extent of revolution. Who would gain the most by that? My guess is Germans, or more specifically, German businessmen. I think even the thugs were a provocation, designed to make it look like the Tsar is responsible. What do you think?
“Damn, you’re way ahead of me. What do we do? Pull out of Russia? Damn, do you still want to go out with Broberg tomorrow night?”
They talked for more than an hour, and came to the conclusion that the smart thing to do would be to seek a Russian buyer for the distillery, but keep the name, and move the operation to Norway or Sweden. Investments should be quietly liquidated. They also decided it would be best to keep things quiet for now, so the evening with Broberg would go on.
The next day they talked business until noon. Broberg asked if they still wanted to do something in the evening, and Freign said yes. Broberg told his secretary to get tickets to the ballet for that evening, and when she asked how many, Freign interjected and said seven. Broberg nodded, and the secretary set upon her errand.
Broberg was curious about who would use the two additional tickets, and shocked when Freign replied that Broberg and his guest would join them. Broberg said that was very generous, but he had no companion, to which Freign replied that they would treat Broberg’s secretary if she wanted to go. The secretary, whose name was Alena, was delighted, but said she had no appropriate dress. d’Lon said he would take her shopping, and they left for the afternoon.
That evening, Alena was subjected to a bombardment of questions from Gabby and Toni. Long after they returned to the hotel, Freign could hear the girls giggling and chattering about her, d’Lon, and Broberg.
The next day was strictly sightseeing. Alena was drafted to serve as guide and interpreter. This was the one day in Moscow when everyone seemed to have fun.
Then came three days of trains to Paris.
They spent almost a week sightseeing. Cecile said she felt a much better air in Paris than in Moscow. To her, Moscow had been forbidding, and foreboding. Paris seemed more welcoming, though Cecile said her eye told her there was trouble coming for the French too. One evening Freign found Gabby and Toni chatting in French with a young bellboy. Freign felt a pang in his heart to see his little girls growing up, but he also felt pride that they were becoming strong women like their mother.
The trip to Tours was a disappointment. The train left an hour late, and was delayed twice along the way. Service en route was either indifferent, or surly. The only bright spot was the food. Freign counted himself fortunate to be traveling with people he could talk to.
The d’Lon’s vineyard was doing well. The staff seemed satisfied, for the most part, and Freign didn’t get any sense that anyone was trying to hide anything. Unlike the Moscow distillery, the Tours vineyard was clean and orderly. There was very little to do, so the visit was mostly a social call. The singular event of the trip was a dinner for all vineyard employees and their wives or husbands. Tim d’Lon gave a very brief speech, praising everyone for their efforts, and complimenting them on their fine wine.
The trip to Le Havre was uneventful, but the channel ferry to Portsmouth was rough. It was an uncomfortable trip, during which no one ate, slept, talked, or walked. Freign was glad to set foot on land, but even so, his balance was off, and he was wobbly for two days. He hadn’t been seasick on the ferry, but when he laid down his head started to swim. He spent the night in a chair.
They spent two days in London, then traveled on to Queenstown.
The chandlery business was booming, in no small part because of one ship in the harbor – the Titanic. Already her boilers were making steam. Her bunkers would be topped tomorrow night, and she’d be under way the next day. Stevedores were moving everywhere, stowing luggage, cargo, and supplies. The general manager of the chandlery operation asked if Freign and d’Lon could stay until after the Titanic launched. There was simply too much going on to give them a proper tour, or to consult in any length. D’Lon said he understood the situation, and they would stay out of the way, but they’d be leaving for New York soon, though not on the Titanic. They planned to sail on the Adriatic. They left the general manager to his work, and they could tell he was relieved to see them go. As they were leaving his office, Cecile picked up a dinner plate from a crate on the floor. Her hands shook as she held the plate.
“That’s the Captain’s Table set, ma’am. That china will be going aboard this evening.”
Though Cecile tried to set the plate down gently, it still clattered.
Freign, Cecile, Gabby, Toni, and Tim d’Lon walked through the hustle and bustle, to the dock. Freign felt a strange unease. Toni and Gabby, usually curious and talkative, both said they wanted to leave. Cecile was still shaking. D’Lon looked at his four companions like they were crazy. For his part, he was impressed by the sheer size of the Titanic, and by the effort that went into getting her fit to sail.
Cecile said she was taking the girls to the hotel, and that they needed to talk that night.
D’Lon asked what was going on, and why was everyone so nervous?
“She’s too big, Tim.
I see sixteen lifeboats. There might be more, maybe as many as twenty all together. If each one can accommodate fifty people, there’s space for a thousand. Jam those boats full, and maybe you can accommodate twelve hundred people. But the ship will be carrying more than three thousand souls. And if such a big boat were to go down, it wouldn’t sink on an even keel, so it would probably be impossible to launch some of the lifeboats. Maybe two thousand or more people would end up in the water, where they’d die of exposure.
We won’t be able to save everyone, but Cecile thinks we can save one family. That’s the real reason we made this trip.”
“Do you honestly think this ship is going to sink?”
“I think it might. Cecile is sure it will. We’ll talk about it later at the hotel.”
“Bob, that’s bullshit. This ship is designed to withstand a collision. She’ll not sink.”
“We’ll talk about it tonight. Why don’t we go see how the Adriatic is doing?”
Dinner was subdued. As discussion began after dessert, d’Lon found himself once again outside the conversation. Freign and Cecile started by talking about how or if Gabby and Toni should be involved. The girls both said the ship scared them, but they felt they were needed. Freign and Cecile agreed, but not without some trepidation.
d’Lon asked who exactly, they were expecting to help, or save, or whatever. His skepticism was plain.
Cecile replied that she would know the people when she saw them. There would be a man and his wife, who was expecting a baby. There would also be a young girl, who would be crying and fighting with her father. The family was not rich, so they would be entering by way of the steerage ramp.
d’Lon hmmphed, and said Cecile had probably just described 25 families that would be sailing on the Titanic.
“Tim, be skeptical if you wish, but my eye tells me you have a role to play in this. I don’t know what that role may be, but I pray you’ll fill it.”
The next day was spent in talk about how they would keep the family of four off the Titanic. Cecile and the girls did most of the talking. d’Lon remained skeptical, and actually scoffed at some of the more fantastic options presented. He said he wasn’t game for kidnapping or bribing a crewmember to refuse to honor their tickets.
They left for the dock early the next morning, and took up a position near the steerage boarding ramp. The family of four arrived a little better than two hours before the Titanic was to cast off. The father carried a couple of suitcases, and what appeared to be a pillow case filled with – something. The mother struggled with a young daughter who cried hard, and tried to pull away. Cecile looked at d’Lon, and cocked her head in an ‘I told you so’ way. As the family drew closer, the little girl’s crying became more distinct.
“Noooooo! It’s too cold! I don’t like the cold water!”
Cecile’s eyes got as big as the dinner plate she’d held the day before yesterday.
“That child has an eye. She sees what’s coming. What do we do?”
It was d’Lon who spoke first.
“Cecile, take the girls and go comfort the child. See if you can connect with the mother. Bob, do you have your badge with you?”
Freign looked at him and said, “I like it. Let’s go.”
d’Lon and Freign approached the low-level ship’s officer who was taking tickets.
“Sir, I’m Timothy d’Lon, of the d’Lon Chandlery Company. Here’s my card. This gentleman with me is Marshal Robert Freign, of the United States Marshal’s Service. We’ve been conducting an investigation into theft from the company, and our investigation implicates that man over there. We ask that you not allow him to board the ship under any circumstances. He’s to be held here until the courts can decide on jurisdiction. The company’s goal is to have him extradited to the U.S., but British courts may claim jurisdiction. Do you understand?”
The junior officer look puzzled. Freign unbuttoned his coat, and revealed his badge – along with a considerable amount of his pistol.
d’Lon asked again, “Do you understand what I’m saying? We’re about to arrest that man, and we need to act quickly. I suggest that it would be in your best interest to not delay the process. You don’t want to cause the ship to miss its departure time, do you?”
The young man didn’t know what to do in this unprecedented situation, so d’Lon told him to just keep taking tickets, and get his passengers aboard. Marshal Freign would deal with the suspect.
The junior officer welcomed a solution to his predicament that would allow him to get back to logging in passengers. He said he would keep the man and his family off the ship, but it would be best if Freign quietly removed them, to avoid disturbing the other passengers. Freign and d’Lon nodded, and set off for the family of four.
When they got to the group, Freign said, “Good morning sir. I’m Marshal Robert Freign of the United States Marshal’s Service. Will you please come with me to the chandler’s office? I have some questions for you.”
The father was about to protest, when Freign flashed his badge and gun. The mother looked puzzled and nervous, but her young daughter was now quiet. Cecile put her hand on the mother’s shoulder, and told her everything would be okay. Gabby and Toni each picked up a suitcase. The young daughter smiled, and walked between them. Cecile picked up the sack, and they all set off for the chandler’s office.
When they got there the father begged them to be quick. He’d spent every cent he had for their passage, and most of their belongings were already stowed. Freign said that if they caused him to miss his ship, they would provide transportation on another one, and he could pick up his belongings in New York. The father said that was unacceptable, and he wanted to leave right now, that he was a Irish citizen, and he had rights. He was about to say more when his wife shushed him.
“Hear them out Michael. The woman has spoken to me, and I believe her. Hear them out, and don’t go off at them.”
Michael and Mary Shannon, and their daughter Elspeth were bound for America. Most any ship could get them there, but for once in his life, Mickey was going to buy the best, and that was passage on the Titanic. Ellie had been fine on the ferry. Mary got queasy, but it wasn’t too bad. But when they got near the docked Titanic, Ellie went off in fits of crying and screaming. Mary knew something was wrong, but Ellie was too young to articulate her fear, other than to say the water was cold.
Cecile told the Shannons about her vision, and she said Ellie was seeing the same thing. Ellie’s Mum and Da knew their daughter had a gift of some sort, but it wasn’t clear what the gift was. Cecile told the Shannons that the Titanic would sink, and take many, many people with her. People in the lower decks would be especially vulnerable. Mickey was unconvinced, but he could see that Ellie was calm now, playing with Gabby and Toni.
When Freign spoke, he told the Shannons he would pay for passage on the Adriatic – the ship the Freigns and d’Lon were sailing on. It would leave in a few days. In the meantime, Freign would set them up in the hotel where he was staying.
D’Lon listened to all of this, and inwardly shook his head. Shanghaiing the Shannons had been a bit of a fun prank, but the idea the Titanic might sink was absurd. She was the most advanced ship on the ocean. Wouldn’t the Freigns be embarrassed when the Adriatic docked beside the Titanic in New York?
Queenstown was dull, and Liverpool wasn’t any better. Mary Shannon didn’t travel well, and Mickey was unwilling to be away from her for any length of time. Freign, Mickey Shannon, and d’Lon went out for drinks a couple of times, but mostly the group sat around in the hotel. The only excitement came on the 15th, when they learned that the Titanic had hit an iceberg, and sunk, taking an unknown number of passengers and crew with her. The death toll was expected to exceed 1,000. Only Cecile, Gabby, and Toni were not surprised by the news.
The trip aboard the Adriatic to New York was somber. Usually when Freign traveled by sea, he found a lot of conversation and fellowship. Not so this trip. Freign tried to get the Shannons to travel on to Chicago, but they declined. Mary had kin in New York, and they had pledged to help Mickey find work as a drayman. Mary hoped to find work as a seamstress, but that was going to be difficult with two young children. Still, they were optimistic. God had spared them for a reason, they were sure. Now they had to find out what that reason was. Mickey said he was still mad that all his belongings were on the Titanic, but then he added that Ellie must have been right. If there were icebergs where the Titanic went down, the water must have been mighty cold.
The Freigns and d’Lon spent two days in New York getting their luggage forwarded to Chicago and Boston respectively. Freign told d’Lon the play in Queenstown was a master stroke. d’Lon told Freign the time in Moscow had been an eyeopener.
Cecile told d’Lon he should visit his grandfather in Colorado because there wouldn’t be many chances left to do so. To which d’Lon replied with a question.
“Cecile, if I book a trip to Colorado by way of Chicago, will you and Bob go with me?”
“Tim, you should ask your brothers and sister to go with you.”
“Oh, I will, but they’re not a very adventurous bunch. I’ll ask Dad and the uncles too. But regardless, you and Marshal Freign are like Balthazar, the magi. You see signs, and travel where they lead. Speaking of which, what about that business of me and the navy?”
“I’ve seen a war coming Tim, and it’s worse than anything you can imagine. I can see two paths for you in that war. One is to the sea, and the other is to land. I think your experience with chandlering would work well in the navy. But your quick wits would work well in the army. It will be a difficult choice. Bob, what do you think he should do?”
“I think navy. Somebody has to make sure everything gets where it’s going. Tim, you’d be good at that.”
d’Lon thanked them for their advice, and he thanked them again for the trip. They promised to keep in touch, and d’Lon said he thought he’d try to set up a trip to Colorado in the fall. Gabby and Toni were itching to speak, and when he looked at them, Toni poked Gabby, and whispered “Ask him.”
“Ask me what?”
“Toni wants to know if you’re going to go get Alena from Russia.”
“Do you think I should?”
“Absolutely! She likes you. Don’t be a dope and miss a chance.”
“Thank you Miss Toni. Your advice is duly noted.”
Late that night, when Freign and Cecile were alone, he asked her why she hadn’t told him the rest.
“The rest of what?”
“Where the trails end.”
“I don’t know where the trails end. I just know that one is light, and the other is dark. I’m not sure which is which. Tim will have to choose, and find out.”
Titanic sank on April 15, 1912
She was fitted with 20 lifeboats, which could accommodate 50-60 people per boat – 1,178 people if all boats could be launched.
She carried the following: passengers: 2,435, crew: 892. Total: 3,327 (or 3,547 according to other sources)