As I looked down from the trail we had been following we could see an oblong table had been set up with something dark leaking off of it. It was beside a half of a metal barrel that was over an open fire. I didn’t know it then but I was to learn that the barrel was full of boiling water. There were a lot of people standing around, some looked like they were in charge and some looked plenty cowed by the men with the big knives. It didn’t take long to put two and two together when we saw a kid tied up on the table. Even from that distance I could see it was my Daniel.
Something popped inside my head. I vaguely remember Abel yelling for me to stop but I just had to get to my brother whether it made good sense or not. I ran full tilt down the trail, shucking off my pack and anything else weighing me down as I went. I heard a couple of shot and vaguely remembering a few people going down but by that point I was in the midst of the crowd. I barreled into the men around the table knocking most of them over. I punched, kicked, bit but it wasn’t enough. Eventually they got me and held me but I made sure it wasn’t easy on them.
When they got me they put a knife to my throat and that stopped Abel. “We’ll kill her. See if we don’t.”
I could see Abel hesitate and I yelled, “They’ll kill me one way or the other and you know it! Keep fighting!!”
I was proud of him because that is exactly what he did and soon there was a lot of wrestling going on as Richard’s followers were taken down by unarmed men and women who decided that a knife wound was preferable to what was about to happen. Richard, ever the lunatic showman, jumped up on the table and was trying to blather on about how it was ordained and all sorts of nonsense while flapping around in this cosmic colored cape he was wearing.
I kept moving like a greased pig and finally wiggled and twisted enough that the guy holding one of my arms let go. I immediately jammed the heel of my hand up into the nose of the guy with the knife. He let out a howl and backed into the table nearly knocking Richard off. It gave me an idea and with the idea came renewed strength from some place.
I yelled at Daniel, “Roll off!!”
Even though he was all tied up Daniel did roll and fell to the ground all in a lump. I finally got away from the guys trying to hold me though they ripped most of my shirt off in the effort and then grabbed the end of the table and heaved it upwards. Then time seemed to slow down. I felt something hard hit the back of my head and I started to go down. But I wasn’t the only one going down.
As I had lifted the table upwards, Richard’s legs had gone from in under him. As I continued to lift the table, he slid down the slick top. As I managed to turn the table completely vertical he slid right into the waiting barrel of boiling water.
My ears were ringing and the dark was closing in from the sides but not before I heard him scream … and scream and scream and scream. Even after he was dragged out of the boiling water he kept screaming but I didn’t hear him after that. I don’t remember it but I’d crawled to Daniel and had basically collapsed on top of him.
I came to in a bed that was softer than any I had ever slept in. The sheets were white, crisp, and clean and smelled of cedar wood. For some reason I sensed that I was clean as well. My head was throbbing and when I lifted my arm to touch it I felt lots of little pulls and twinges, starting with the stiches I saw running down the inside of my arm.
The memories slammed down and I sat up with a scream. “Daniel! Abel!!”
I was flailing around and falling out of the bed, trying to find them when several people rushed in and gathered me up and hushed me and told me everything was all right.
“Don’t tell me everything is all right. Where’s my brother? Where’s Abel? Where’s …?”
Someone shooed the women out of the way and put me back in bed much more firmly. “Hush Querida. Daniel is fine and sleeping after drinking some tea that Josef gave him. You will see him in the morning. And I am right here. I have not left you. So let this kind women make sure you have not torn open the … the threads on your arms. Look at me Day-cee. The bad man is gone. Si? I promise.”
My breathing slowly returned to normal and my heart stopped banging around in my chest like a ten-pound hammer. “Is … is Daniel … OK?”
Understanding my question he said, “Si. But he is shaken. He rocked and rocked and I worried he would hurt himself so Josef gave him a tea and now he finally sleeps. He is downstairs with the other boys. I stayed with him until I knew that he would not wake up afraid. In the morning he will probably pound up the stairs in search of you so you must be rested and ready for him.”
“I’m … I’m fine. I need … absolutely need … to see him Abel. Please,” I begged.
Abel looked over at an older woman who smiled kindly and said, “For a moment only. And please don’t wake the other children. They’ve been through so much already.”
I tried to get up and walk but Abel picked me up, quilt and all, and carried me down the stairs. I didn’t make a sound after Abel put me down just long enough for me to walk over to a bed. I knew it was Daniel’s bed because Dog was guarding it. She lifted her head and blinked and then laid her head back down.
When I walked back out of the room I had to sit in a chair by the door. I was shaking. “What happened to Dog? Why is she all bandaged up?”
“She fought the men that took Daniel.” The person who answered me was Monica. When I turned to her she said, “Josef is going to have a fit when he hears you’ve been out of bed.”
I said quietly, “I’m fine.”
She ignored me and turned to Abel. “You can get her back to bed? That’s where you should be too.”
I looked at Abel who suddenly looked far too innocent. I asked Monica, “Why does he need to be in bed?”
“Because he’s been worked over pretty hard … twice from what I heard.”
I didn’t see any new bruises but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some under his clothing. I refused to let him carry me back up the stairs so we hobbled together. The older women wouldn’t let him come in the bedroom and I was just about to get miffed when he shut me down. “They are right. I have no business being in there. Now get some rest and we will talk in the morning. Si?”
I don’t’ know how but I fell asleep as soon as I laid my head down. The next morning something woke me up, probably Dog’s breath. I opened my eyes and both Daniel and Dog were peeking over the edge of the mattress.
The first thing out of Daniel’s mouth was, “We didn’t make any noise. We were just waiting for you to wake up.”
I was so happy I cried which worried Daniel more than most anything else could have. Finally I got him to understand it was because I missed him and was so glad to see him. He grinned and said, “I’m hungry Dacey. Let’s go home.” Now that was a plan I could get behind.