Daring to lift her eyes, she glanced around. The kinder amongst those twelve good men would describe her glance as furtive, the less kind would say shifty. Had she been asked she would have said fearful; but no one did enquire. The judge asked his question a second time; this time with impatience.
‘Have you anything to say on your behalf?’
What should she say to a judge? It was beyond her experience, so she replied with the only words she could conjure.
‘Please sir, I am a housemaid and my family don’t know where I am.’
She shivered uncontrollably, although the afternoon warmth made her stained, woollen dress stick damply to her skin. The huge courtroom overawed her. It was a room bigger and grander than she had ever seen or imagined was possible. The jury to her right stared intently at her, but she avoided their stare as she would avoid the look of any man. Instead, she hung her head and stared unseeing at her tight, entwined hands, making her look both sullen and guilty. It was of no consequence to them that she was young and pretty for she was just another girl down on her luck. There were a thousand others, no ten thousand, others like her. Something must be done about it.
Nora felt unrehearsed for these legal proceedings. She had no money for a lawyer and found this whole experience terrifying. The stern appearance of the judge, in his scarlet robes and long horsehair wig, made her want to crawl into a hole somewhere. But here in this large courtroom, there was nowhere to hide, nowhere to escape. She was the main exhibit.
The horrors of the morning still tormented her. Chained to other prisoners at the ankle, she shuffled from Millbank to the Old Bailey. The journey took a good hour, as they tried to avoid the rotting fruit thrown by ragamuffins, gleeful that there were some worse off than themselves. The shame of it sickened her. She felt tired and sore where the iron had bruised her ankle and. longing for home and her sisters to comfort her, Nora’s mind began to wander again.
But now the judge was speaking and she forced herself to try and take in what he was saying.
‘Eleanora Nolan, you have been found guilty of grand larceny and will be transported beyond the seas for the term of seven years. Next case.’
A smirk of triumph appeared on Mrs Pocket’s face, satisfaction on the constable’s and boredom on the judge’s. Nora listened to the judge but without understanding because the words made no sense to her.
‘Please sir’ she tried again ‘when may I go back to my family?’
‘Take her down,’ was the terse instruction and the court official hastened to comply.
"There were moments when I was doing the literary equivalent of shouting at the TV. It moved me, I felt alarm, indignation, great sadness and elation." Ingenue Magazine Summer 2017
A moment's foolish mistake costs sixteen-year old Nora her freedom and her family. Sentenced to seven years transportation for larceny, she needs to grow up fast to survive prison, the long journey and then life as an assigned servant in Van Diemen's Land of the 1820s. She is sustained by
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Everything starts with little girls.
This little girl was walking down a white dirt farm road one day in June 1954. Her slender shadow was just twice her height. And it crossed the road in a westerly direction, reaching out nearly to the irrigation ditch that ran alongside. A single thick braid was bouncing up and down on her back. The braid was stiff and damp, for the little girl had just been swimming at the big Vanducci house on the hill. Plomp, plomp, plomp went her bare brown feet in the warm soft dirt, little puffs of dust blowing up in her track to settle slowly in the windless air.
Cradled in her long skinny arms she had a big nervous fighting cock with beady eyes. She’d found him by the side of the road just a moment before. And she was very happy to have met him there, for she’d had no idea that he had escaped from his pen in her mama’s backyard. The cock was brown and gold and purple. His feathers shone in the sun. He turned his head all the time, fast and jerky from side to side. Her eyes were like the bird’s eyes, black and darting. She turned her head like him too, looking everywhere.
Her name was Selena Cruz.
Surrounding her were vast fields of alfalfa, tomatoes, and sugar beets, cut through with irrigation canals and county roads, sliced like adobe cakes into gigantic squares. The valley was green where it was planted, brown where it was fallow, and wide: fifty miles from the yellow Diablo Range, which rose up directly behind her, to the blue Sierras on the horizon. Lengthwise its dimensions were beyond her imagination: five hundred miles from Red Bluff in the north to Bakersfield in the south.
‘Seven reasons they have for risking life… not fealty, faith, nor fee, but reasons of their own and cause enough to die for.’
On Solway Sand, set against the turmoil of sixteenth century Anglo/Scottish border conflict, is the third instalment of The Borderer Chronicles series. Jack Brownfield, a borderer, in a life not of his choosing, continues to travel a dangerous path not of his design. He seeks to escape the bonds that hold him. But ties, bound tightly, are never easy to break. This is a story of contrast and redemption, as seven seek salvation for a lonely Cumbrian village on a Solway shore.
‘There is a place, ethereal, where the elements of rock and sand slowly melt into the sea. A place to find in the morning, when the wind is stilled and tide receded. When God’s breath sits over the water and clouds the distant hills of Dumfriesshire in blues of unnatural hue. When he colours it all so perfectly with subtle brush.’
PROJECT ORION: WE COME IN PEACE (WITH NUCLEAR BOMBS!)
[DECLASSIFIED IN 1979]
It could have been just like the movies. Specifically, the soppy sci-fi melodramas of the 1950s, those humorless, grim-faced sagas of men (always white Americans), square-jawed and broad of shoulder, who faced that Great Unknown, outer space (cue the reverb) with stoicism and Yankee guts. The troupe of six to twelve individuals were usually clad in faded blue jumpsuits (probably because they were all of military bent, possibly US Air Force)—no space suits or helmets for these guys; worrying about decompression is for sissies. These were steely-eyed, anvil-chinned rocket men. The heroes would walk up a ramp or climb a ladder into the great, gleaming, cigar-shaped silver rocketship (a long-lost term widely used in the early 1950s) without assistance or fanfare—in that sunny postwar era, it took only a handful of servicemen and a few elderly scientists to launch a manned rocket. Once inside, the crewmen would close a submarine-style hatch, strap themselves into great steel chairs, take one last look around their girder-festooned, capacious cabin (1950s rocketship flight decks were the size of your average New York bachelor pad and built like battleships), nod silently to the eldest of the bunch (usually wearing colonel's eagles), who would then push the button. This was inevitably a large red push button, marked in true military parlance with something like "IGNITE ROCKETS" or more simply "FIRE!" and off they would go into the Wild Blue Yonder, while on the ground (in a similarly military posture, perhaps within a Quonset hut in New Mexico), a few worried guys in white lab coats watched a twelve-inch radar screen with a huge white dot ascending. A handful of servicemen usually stood nearby, looking vacuously at meaningless blinking lights dancing on their consoles. A single computer, the size of a small RV, would click and whir nearby. This was Space Command (or some other imagined, militarized NASA precursor) after all.
Upon reaching space, the colonel would grasp an ice cream cone–sized microphone cabled to the control panel, and as he looked in awe at a receding Earth on the giant "televisor" screen, he'd announce in dour tones, "This is spaceship X-1. We are in outer space." It was all very dramatic and thematically colorless. If you don't believe me, check out the classic 1950s cinematic space extravaganzas The Conquest of Space or Destination Moon, staples of the genre. Be sure to watch closely during the launch scenes, as the actors' faces are distorted by the horrifying, and as yet little understood, g-forces of launch. Within moments the 737-sized, single-stage craft was in space—no dawdling in orbit—heading in a straight line for the moon or Mars. It's all very humbling and fun, in a deadly serious fashion.
To be fair to the pioneering producers of these epic motion picture dramas, little was known of spaceflight before the 1960s, and sci-fi movie budgets were puny. Few movie studios took the genre seriously, and it's amazing that these innovative moviemakers pulled off what they did, given the general lack of respect these drive-in, Saturday matinee potboilers gained for them.2 But as we now know, the dramatic scenario outlined above is not exactly how human spaceflight turned out.
But it could have been.
The Apollo lunar landing program, initiated shortly after these types of films were made, mandated a different approach. NASA's moon rocket, Wernher von Braun's masterpiece, would be a multistage affair, operating right at the edge of its weight-lifting capability. NASA's first plan was to ascend directly to the moon, land, then, after a suitable period of exploration, return to Earth, shedding stages at appropriate junctures. But this brute-force methodology would have required a truly massive rocket (it was to be called Nova, and was much larger than its successor, the Saturn V), well beyond the means at hand. A bit more planning and a lot of innovative thinking resulted in the moon program we all remember, with the still-massive 363-foot Saturn V rocket propelling a tiny capsule and lander to the moon, of which only the thirteen-foot-wide capsule returned. It took hundreds of thousands of people to build it, thousands to launch and operate it, and somewhere north of twenty billion 1960s dollars to finance it. Apollo was a far cry from the rocketships of the movies.
But there were alternative plans for a massive, battleship-sized single-stage spacecraft that could have flown to the moon and beyond. In its ultimate form, this behemoth would have dwarfed the motion picture versions. A hundred or more crewmen, leaning back in space-age versions of Barcaloungers, would have departed Earth with enough fuel, life support, and supplies to reach the moon, Mars, or even Jupiter and Saturn within months. Once in space the crew would have unbelted themselves and had far more room to drift, eat, work, and sleep than the International Space Station and even most modern submarines offer. It would have been like a well-appointed office complex in space, a true space liner—this majestic craft could have unlocked the entire solar system to exploration within the decade. And best of all? It was atomic.
The massive spaceship was called Project Orion (no relation to the modern shuttle-replacing spacecraft beyond the cool name), and it would have been a nuclear-powered behemoth. Orion was first formally conceptualized in a 1955 study by Stanislaw Ulam, a Polish American mathematician who was part of the Manhattan Project in WWII, and Cornelius Everett, working from notions that Ulam had first pondered soon after WWII. Besides working on the bombs dropped on Japan, Ulam was, along with Edward Teller, a prime mover on America's first hydrogen bomb project. Soon after completing his work on H-bombs, Ulam formalized his thoughts about nuclear rocket propulsion. Other work was being done on atomic rockets, but was less dramatic—these projects involved superheating a fuel mass, such as liquid hydrogen, inside a fission reactor to eject it at high speeds out of the rocket nozzle. While much more efficient than the chemical rockets being designed by von Braun and others, it was not the massive leap in propulsion that would take humanity to the stars. Ulam had a different idea—nuclear pulse propulsion, which was not fully declassified until 1979.3 From the abstract:
Repeated nuclear explosions outside the body of a projectile are considered as providing means to accelerate such objects to velocities of the order of 106 cm/sec.4
Yes, that's right. Rather than fiddling around with rapidly expanding heated gasses with a nuclear reactor, Ulam took the most direct path to high energy release: nuclear explosions. Ulam had been mulling this over for more than a decade, reasoning that chemical rockets were terribly constrained by both the mass of the fuels and the temperatures at which they could realistically operate. Other proposals to detonate tiny nukes inside combustion chambers (one proposal suggested a chamber diameter of 130 feet, or almost four times the diameter of the Saturn V), while an improvement over chemical rockets, were deemed impractical, and did not offer a large enough increase in performance to impress Ulam. But what if the combustion chamber could be eliminated altogether and a small nuke simply detonated in open space? A percentage of the energy released by a reasonably sized nuclear explosion—not specified in the paper, but probably on the order of a half to one kiloton (about 10 percent that of the Hiroshima bomb)—would nudge a nearby spacecraft with propulsive force that, while brief, would be enormous.
Ulam characterized the spacecraft as an unmanned thirty-three-foot diameter, disk-shaped ship, with a mass of twelve to twenty tons. It would experience an acceleration of up to 10,000 g (the Apollo astronauts, riding atop the Saturn V, maxed out at just under 5 g, though the rocket was capable of more)—hence the unmanned nature of the design. Human occupants would have been turned into puddles of red jelly within moments. This robotic probe would carry dozens to hundreds of bombs, to be released at roughly one-second intervals (accompanied by a disk of plastic or container of water that would vaporize when the nuke ignited, to enhance the effect), and the resulting force of these continual explosions would propel the craft forward—right now.
Ulam was concerned about the heat impinging on the base of the craft, and suggested that a magnetic field might help to shield the spacecraft from the high-energy, one-millisecond flashes.
This was about as far as he got—it was a short study, but an intriguing one, and did not go unnoticed. In 1955 a new company called General Atomics was founded. It was a subdivision of General Dynamics, a huge defense contractor and builder of military submarines. General Atomics would specialize in efforts to harness the recently liberated power of the atom—in effect, their mission would be to find profit in nondestructive uses of atomic fission. The company became involved in a number of ventures, including a commercial nuclear reactor power generator, which was widely deployed. They also became interested in Ulam's classified paper (to which the chiefs of the company were apparently privy), and decided to pursue a serious study of the completely theoretical ideas within. Thus was born Project Orion, the nuclear pulse spaceship.
Two souls, united for a brief moment in war-torn western Europe during World War II, is more than a coincidence. Major Daniel Humphrey, a former high school teacher, is injured while on a reconnaissance mission for General Patton’s Third Army at the start of winter in 1944. He is transported to a hospital in Nancy, France, where he meets a pretty American nurse named Cassandra Burns. For him, it is love at first sight, but it is only temporary. The next day she disappears, and he is told she never existed. However, the rose she left on his pillow tells him otherwise.
After the war ends the following spring, Daniel confirms Cassie’s existence but she did not return to the states. Fearing she died or is missing, he visits the place where they first met and unknowingly opens a Pandora box of intrigue that changes his life forever.
Cassie is an American spy and married to one of Hitler’s most notorious spymasters for the Eastern Front — Oberfuhrer Erik Bauer. Now, armed with information about Bauer’s plans to destroy the West’s restructuring efforts, Cassie is on the run.
Cassie wants out of the espionage game, but what price will she pay for leaving? Can Daniel find Cassie before Bauer and his band of Hitler loyalists find her first? Is Bauer the only threat to Cassie's safety, or is someone more sinister hiding in the shadows?
It was nearing dark, and the servants were lighting the torches while Godwine played chess with the King. They sat in Canute's favorite room—perfect for entertaining the early arrivals of the Yuletide celebration. Already, Earl Eric of Northumbria was present, tasting some of the breads at the sideboard. Tovi was in his usual place behind the King speaking quietly with two other Danes, and a musician was in the corner, plucking on a harp.
The door opened and Godwine, whose back was to the newcomer, concluded who it was from Canute's grimace. The sleek voice of Eadric Streona confirmed his guess. "Good even’, your grace. I hope you are well." All other voices in the room stopped.
Canute moved a piece, nodding an answer.
Two servants followed Eadric into the room, carrying a batch of firewood. For a moment, the sound of wood being stacked filled the silence. Then the servants left the room, bowing.
"And yourself, my Lord Eric?"
The Northumbrian Earl moved closer to the King, bending over the chess-board. "Considering the rare quiet within my earldom, I am content. And yourself, Eadric?"
Godwine heard the newcomer striding back and forth behind him. His concentration broken, the Saxon quickly turned around, watching Eadric rub his arms as though he needed more warmth. Godwine turned back to the board, but not before he noticed Eadric's mouth twitch.
"I could be better." Eadric’s tone brought Canute's head up questioningly. Godwine straightened in his seat but Canute caught his eye, nodding at the board. Eadric took a stick and poked the fire.
Taking a closer look at the Earl, Godwine noticed that his hair was unbrushed, his fingernails were cracked, his clothing wrinkled. He began pacing again, adjusting his belt.
“How is that Christmas pie?” Canute asked Eric, holding out a hand for a taste. The Dane cut a piece for him, holding it out on the edge of his knife. Taking a long time to sample it, Canute leaned back, evidently enjoying the taste. He licked all five fingers and wiped his hand on his tunic, then reached for another chess piece. Eadric stopped pacing and faced Canute, his arms crossed over his chest.
"And what might be the problem?" The King's voice sounded appropriately concerned.
"My earldom is restive,” he started slowly. "The populace has not yet recovered, the revenues are poor, and the people are hungry."
"That is a pity."
"More the pity that the King does not concern himself with their troubles."
"I see," said Canute, interested. "And what of the exemption I gave them from this year's taxes?"
Closing his eyes, the other gestured as if it were nothing.
"Eadric, this is not what is bothering you."
Stopping, the Earl glared at the King, unable to hide his antipathy. He came to the table, leaned over it. Godwine could smell alcohol on his breath.
"All right. I believe that I deserve better than this. You have given me the most devastated, the poorest earldom in the kingdom. You exclude me from your council. You treat me like a stranger. After all I have done for you."
"And what is it that you have done for me?"
Eadric straightened up, crossing his arms again. He took a deep breath. "You know damned well.”
Intrigued, Canute gave Eadric his full attention. "I know damned well,” he repeated softly.
The tension between them was so strong it felt as though there were only two people in the room. Everyone knew Canute was at his most dangerous when he was totally quiet. But Eadric seemed beyond caring.
“Ask Edmund Ironside, if you could."
Godwine gasped aloud, more in amazement at the man's blatant admission of the deed than its actuality. Even Canute had paled. Getting slowly to his feet, he faced Eadric so fiercely that the other stepped back.
"Then you shall get everything you deserve. You killed your own lord! My sworn brother! Your own mouth has pronounced you a traitor; let the blood be on your head.
"Eric, dispatch this man, lest he live to betray me as well."
The Earl of Northumbria was not loth to obey. Pulling an axe from his belt, the man moved purposefully toward his enemy, narrowed eyes reflecting his satisfaction with Canute's command.
For a moment, Eadric froze, unbelieving. Then his instinct for survival gained sway, and he pushed the table over, making a dash for the door.
But Godwine blocked the way—Godwine, this nonentity, who had barely rated his acknowledgment. The Saxon was standing with legs apart and drawn sword, opposing his exit.
Preferring to die under the blade of an equal, Eadric whirled, pulling his sword. But he was already too late. Eric's axe head was making its deadly arc, and Eadric's blade came up uncertainly, not even delaying the impact of the edge as it cleanly severed his head from his body.
Canute had been watching from the fireplace. "Throw the wretch's carcass from the window, into the Thames."
Eric was glad to do so. He had hated the Earl, and saw this as a fitting end to a despicable career. Seizing one of the convulsing legs, he dragged the body across the floor, oblivious to the gushing blood. Stooping, he hoisted the corpse onto the sill and dumped it unceremoniously into the river.
Godwine stared at the disembodied face, as it gawked back at him. Then he grabbed the hair and came up behind Eric, flinging the head through the window and far out over the water.
As he listened for the inevitable splash, Godwine felt an eerie satisfaction; at least this once, he had done his part in wreaking revenge on the betrayer of Edmund Ironside, and possibly his own father way back in 1009.
Both bloodied Earls turned to Canute, who had observed the scene dispassionately. "Thank you. You have done me a great service."
Godwine controlled his trembling with an effort. "You drove him to it, didn't you?"
"You might say that. Although I was expecting his demands in a more rational form...and at a better time." He glanced at the horrified servants, who were huddled at the newly opened door. "Yes, come in, come in. As you can see, it is time we met the queen in the great hall and started our celebrations in earnest. Send for some water and buckets and take care of this mess.
"Oh, and come, my friends. Let me arrange for some clean tunics before you present yourselves."
June 15, 1865
Lily sat on her horse looking intently south, up the valley. The mountains blocking their path to the west, endless prairies as far as the eye could see behind them. They had joined a large wagon train at Fort Laramie and were into their second day on the Oregon Trail. The train was turning right, headed to the north, away from the valley and toward the mountain passes discovered by the mountain men decades before.
“What’s this valley called?” Lily asked the scout riding alongside.
“Doesn’t have a name I know of, ma’am. Maybe Chugwater? I’ve heard some call it that after Chugwater Creek way up the valley,” pointing to the south and east of where they sat.
“How far to Denver City from here?”
“Denver City’s about due south of here, ma’am. If you were a bird, you could fly there in a little less than two hundred miles.”
“Thanks. And the name’s Lily, not ma’am. Lily Smoot.”
She trotted over to the wagon. Gus was driving. John swaying up and down in a Cheyenne cradleboard on his back. Lincoln was riding alongside. As in the previous train, he had taken the job of getting children up and down the back of the wagon to ride with Auggy the bear.
“This is it, Gus,” she said.
“Look all around. This is the valley Iliff told us about. The greatest ranchland ever.”
The two men looked around at the gentle hills to the base of the mountains, the trees green in the few creek beds to the south of them. A sea of ravines hidden among the hills all the way to the looming mountains in the western distance.
“Must be quite a sight when it’s covered with buffalo,” Lincoln said.
“It’d be an even better sight covered with our cattle,” Gus said.
“Iliff told us we wouldn’t last a week up here,” Lincoln said. “The Cheyenne and Sioux aren't even crazy about the wagon trains headed west through here, but they’ve agreed to give them free passage as long as nobody stays.”
As if on cue, two of the scouts trotted over.
“Gus,” one of them said. “Craziest thing. There’s a group of Indians approached us from the west when we made the turn to the north. The scouts said they came in peace. They asked if we had a wagon with a big black bear on it.”
Lily looked out to the west. Toward the magnificence of the mountains. And Mount Laramie towering over all. On a hill above the pattern of threaded ravines, about two miles away, she could just make out a small group that looked to be two of the wagon train’s scouts with three Indians.
“What’d you tell them?” Gus asked.
“I said we’d go look and see.”
“You got anybody who’ll drive our wagon for a while?” Gus asked.
“Sure. You going out to see what they want.”
“We know what they want,” Lily said.
A Novel of Murder. Mystery. Faith. Hope. Redemption
Bestselling Religious Mystery recommended for readers of Dan Brown.
The Lazarus Succession is a modern-day thriller with a medieval mystery attached to it. The discovery of which could change mankind forever.
According to legend, Annas Zevi, an artist who witnessed the raising of Lazarus, was told by Christ to paint what he saw. Over the centuries, his completed works has vanished, along with every other painting depicting Lazarus' resurrection. They were rumoured to be sacred icons with miraculous powers.
Broderick Ladro and Ulla Stuart are hired by a disgraced High Court judge, Sir Maxwell Throgmorton, to locate a long lost medieval painting by Spanish artist Francisco Cortez. Like Zevi, his work is said to be divinely inspired.
Throgmorton's client, a wealthy Spanish Condesa, is terminally ill and the icon is her last hope. She will pay and do whatever it takes to find the missing work of Cortez. Unbeknown to the Condesa, Throgmorton seeks to make a vast personal fortune from the discovery of the paintings, and plans to use it to reclaim his place in society.
When Ladro and Stuart learns of Throgmorton's deceit, they begin a battle to stop his plans. In the process, they discover a secret that changes their lives forever. Just as it changed the lives of everyone it touched across the centuries.
A few months before Bess had been hanged, times had been happier for the Shoreman family, still far from easy but certainly a lot happier than this.
As a slave Marcus Shoreman had been a clever stud manager on a horse breeding farm and his owner had seen to it that his slave learned all the skills necessary to help him run a successful business. Since being able to read, write and work with numbers had served him so well in the past Marcus had every reason to believe it would serve him well in the future.
With freedom had come the risky chance to go into business for himself but he grabbed the chance and took the risk. He was one of the few who, in these early years, got lucky enough to find an investor, move away from the sharecropper settlement and into a rented place of his own. There he started a business as a horse breeder and livestock trader.
The Shoreman Holdings had a well-built but modest-sized horse barn which opened onto a corral with a fence strong enough for people to climb and sit on. There were a couple of paddocks and an area of pastureland fed by a small stream that was used to grow grass rich enough to make hay for winter fodder. The small but comfortable farm house completed the holding with its yard and cheerful vegetable garden. Even though Marcus hadn’t been able to find the money to buy a property for himself he thought that, all in all, he had made a good start on the road to real freedom, financial security for him and his family. But that road was proving to be bumpier than he’d expected.
As a free-man Marcus had married his wife Milly. She had been a house slave working in the plantation mansion and her life’s training had been mostly in the trivial concerns of a large southern house but she had learned some other important lessons too. Most of this education had left her skeptical but she had been smart enough to learn how to survive relatively unscathed in the petty world of rich, white landowners. By the time freedom had come around and she had met Marcus short and roundish Milly had grown into a strong, no nonsense sort of a woman, maybe a bit short on romantic notions but with a clear idea of what-was-what and how to get things done . That was especially true when it came to the business of her two daughters Leona and Bess.
Leona was their twenty three year old first born. She was bright enough like her mother but lacked imagination and, like her mother again, was a bit on the plain side and roundish. But unlike her mother Leona sometimes let her looks get in the way of her own self-confidence especially when she found herself around prettier, ‘more interesting’ girls. And there were plenty of those to be found – one of them was her own younger sister Bess.
Bess was a couple of years Leona’s junior and if Leona took after her mother then plainly Bess looked like her father. Her face was fine-featured with big, grey, oval eyes and her long-limbed and slender body got the attention of plenty of men who would have found her beautiful if only she didn’t choose to behave so much like a teenaged boy at least some of the time. Ever since she had been a small child she had been the one with an energetic intelligence as well as the looks but it was her unending search for answers that had stolen her father’s heart.
Bess’s open- minded approach to life had allowed her to find happiness in a whole variety of different ways in unlikely places and tonight, as she had many times before, she would find it here in a hidden corner of the old slave compound.
Close to the spot where the gallows would later be built freedmen celebrated an ancient religion whenever they got a chance. The tribal religion of Vodun had come from West Africa along with the slaves themselves but the practice of this ‘evil and pagan’ belief was illegal in the deep south at the time. None the less it was growing in popularity among the younger freedmen who were eager to blot out all memories of their enslaved past by re-finding their tribal roots. Out of fear of being found out and punished then these devotees held their ‘services’ where white people wouldn’t see them.
It was a joke among some of the younger, more cynical celebrants of the ‘old religion’ that the real reason they hid their activities from white people was because if they saw what went on the ‘crackers’ would want to join the party – and nobody wanted that.
Either way praying Vodun style certainly could be a lot of fun. Typically a rite involved drummers sitting in a circle around a fire while the ‘congregation’ danced around them giving themselves over to the complicated beat - and sometimes, depending on the minor god or ‘orisha’ being honored, to each other too. For some devotees the aim was to give themselves over so completely that there was room for an orisha to temporarily possess their body – then look out, anything could happen next. Usually, as bodies heated up from their exertions, unneeded clothing would get peeled away to reveal glistening skin, some with strange, decorative markings called ‘tas’ that adorned some body parts not normally on display in public.
On this particular night and wearing not much at all Bess danced right at the center of the devotions. She was in the middle of all those hearts happily at one with their roots but paying special attention to a good-looking young man called Robert. To be honest she had never been really sure about the sincerity of those that followed vodun but from the way she was grinding her hips and pressing the bottom of her belly against Robert’s thigh she appeared to be more than happy to give the ‘old religion’ another good try.
One early morning the hired hands were working horses in the corral while a couple of would-be horse-buyers hung on the corral fence and looked on unimpressed by what they saw. In the near-by yard Milly was taking dry laundry off the clothes-line while Leona sat on the front steps of the house reading a thick book. The light grey dress uniforms of the house slaves were still good enough for Milly but Leona liked to wear something brighter than she had been allowed to wear in the darker days of bondage.
Leona also liked to read but she had always found it impossible to stop talking for more than a few seconds at a time. Her way out of that was to share whatever she was reading about with anybody that would listen and that’s what she did now.
“Did you know Queen Elizabeth could speak six languages, play four different musical instruments and she died a virgin.” She gave that last part some extra thought then went on, “what do you suppose would make such an educated person want to rush to war all the time instead of having babies?”
She didn’t get a chance to hear an answer because she caught wind of what Bess was up to and was forced to duck, pull her skirt over her head to hide her face and yell at her sister.
“I’ve told you before, get that creepy thing away from me.”
But she was managing to complain and giggle both at the same time. Milly had a way of pretending to be irritated with the girls when she wanted to make a point – maybe she thought it would make them take what she said more seriously. But they could always tell the difference between a pretend telling off and the real thing – Milly had always made sure of that too. On this occasion she let her daughters see easily through her act.
“These chores would be going a lot quicker if you girls stopped your silly games and came over here to help,” she complained but she didn’t miss the opportunity to make them giggle by adding, “and you Leona could do with not showing your drawers to the whole world.”
Bess grinned but did as her mother asked and went to help her leaving the plate camera she had been focusing to go on staring blindly at Leona.
Bess’s clothes were different again from both her mother’s and her sister’s. She favored the same brighter colors as Leona but her dress was more form-fighting, more European in style. She had made it herself the way most of the sharecropper girls did but she’d copied the design from the latest Sears Roebuck catalogue. She was laughing but still remembered to answer Leona’s question.
“I can’t say for sure what would have made ‘Good Queen Bess’ into such an aggressive soldier but I’d guess staying a virgin your whole life could make you kinda’ uppity.”
Keeping up the act her mother pretended to add shock to her irritation.
“I’ve told you before Bess, watch that loose tongue of yours. What would other people think if they could hear you?”
That was when Marcus came out of the house – he had heard the women’s chitchat and as usual found at least some of it interesting so he added his own thoughts to the mix.
“Maybe not having a man does explain her life or maybe trying to be one, trying to be the strong son her father wanted so bad explains it better.”
Before Bess could answer she noticed the smile on his smooth, unlined face sag when he saw his customers walking away from the corral. He chased after them trying not to look like he was running and called out, “gentlemen, what else can I show you?” They didn’t even slowdown in their rush to get away. The women watched Marcus. None of them liked seeing the man they all loved struggling so hard to make a living for them all.
As soon as he was out of ear-shot Milly launched into her daughters. It happened this way sometimes, she didn’t mean to give them a bad time but it was, in her mind, a good way to take their attention away from some of the hardships in their lives, in this case from their father’s business troubles.
Finalist for Book of the Year Military Autobiography in 2015 and Nominated for Best First Book of the Year in 2016
A GRIPPING, TRUE STORY TOLD FROM THE FRONT LINES AS THE WORLD FACED THE POSSIBILITY OF NUCLEAR WAR
This is a personal account of military service and the historical events that were happening during President Reagan's time in office as the world faced the possibility of nuclear war. The author was in the US Army from November 1980 until March 1988 which coincided with President Reagan's time in office. He quickly went from a naive seventeen year old boy to a dedicated die hard soldier ready to sacrifice his life for his country.
An assignment that likely would have been at Ground Zero of a nuclear war.
On the verge of World War 3 and nuclear war, "We Were Soldiers Too" is about the difficult job of serving in the infantry during a very critical time of the Cold War.
Serving as the first line of defense for a Soviet invasion in Germany, he found himself assigned the responsibility of defending an area in the Fulda Gap with only one objective, to hold the advancing Soviets until reinforcements arrived.
Read what other veterans think of "We Were Soldiers Too"
"An excellent illustration of the lives and sacrifices of our Cold War enlisted service members. I recommend it to all. It brings back memories of those days and what we did during that era." Edward A. Chesky
"I highly recommend this for anyone to read, especially for anyone that has served this great Nation. I suspect that my fellow Cold War Veterans will be able to relate to a lot of what this author writes about." Tracy A Stephens
"An excellent book about those men who served during the Cold War. Excellent insight into how the Army prepared for a possible Soviet invasion. I highly recommend this book." Gary E. Earls
"I too am a Cold War Reagan Soldier and I Enjoyed this Book very much. I think Bob did a great job by putting in writing how we all feel. We were highly Trained and Ready to meet any Challenge and Subdue any Threat. We were part of the Strongest Army in the history of the United States. We were and Still are Soldiers. I am Proud to have served with such fine members of the Military." Curtis Nazelrod
Missions to the Moon traces our quest to explore this final frontier, starting with the deadly development of German V1s and V2s in the Second World War, through the pioneering adventures of the Apollo moon-landing program, and culminating in the future of lunar exploration with the recent missions by China, Japan, and Europe.
Through 150 stunning photographs and 20 beautifully recreated rare facsimile documents that almost make you feel like part of the crew, we witness the lethal Apollo 1 fire; celebrate the success of Apollo 8, the first manned spacecraft to orbit a celestial body; marvel at Apollo 11 and the first man to land on the moon; and share the dangers endured by the astronauts aboard the ill-fated Apollo 13.
These are events the whole word watched in rapt attention. Now everyone can relive the experience or enjoy it for the first time.
The historic facsimile documents include:
• Werner von Braun’s 1964 design for a space station
• A 1969 issue of the USSR newspaper Pravda, celebrating the success of Soyuz 4 and 5
• The official NASA photograph of the Apollo 7 flight crew
• The mission report from Apollo 11, as well as the descent map
• The Apollo 13 flight log
• A memo outlining future plans for Apollos 18, 19, and 20 before they were cancelled
• And more!
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Tastes Like Murder (Cookies & Chance Mystery #1) by Catherine Bruns Narrator: Karen Rose Ritcher Series: Cookies & Chance Mystery #1 Published by Gemma Halliday