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Hide and Seek

Updated: Sep 11


SURVIVORS RESCUED!


Well now…newsworthy once again.


Unlike Kicking Up Their Heels In Omaha, Scott had prepared himself for the possibility of landing on The Placer Herald’s front page. He’d spied the paper’s astute artist knowingly setting up shop on a raised platform outside Auburn’s train station, which gave the man a perfect vantage point for capturing portraits of Jupiter’s unfortunate passengers as they arrived in town.


No doubt the gentlemen suffered some disappointment when learning the wagons carrying the severely injured were driven directly to the town’s hospital and churches, wherever an empty bed could be provided. But hope remained for the Placer County Rembrandt to get a few good renditions of these curiously odd and unexplainable travelers defying death before he scurried off to Auburn’s makeshift morgue. There’s where his artistic talent could really shine.


Scott mentally reprimanded himself. When had he become so cynical about the free press? He blamed Will Jenkins, felt less guilty and moved on to scrutinizing the headline picture.


The artist hit his mark with a compelling illustration that guided the reader’s eye to the center figure.


Kinsey. The gentleman’s pencil had captured her well.


Dark crescent moons above the cheekbones emphasized the delicate mix of confusion and defiance expressed in her eyes. Although standing in the middle of a crowd, it was her face demanding attention that made it seem like she stood all alone.


Scott speculated when it came to situations where mortality had been tested, acceptable social graces couldn’t hold a match to perverse inquisitiveness. The ambushing Auburn town folks vigorously backed Scott’s theory with a bombardment of questions and opinions.


Did you lose a loved one?

Look at the poor thing. I’m certain she’s been orphaned.

How badly were you hurt?

Get a lawyer! Sue Leland Stanford!

Do relatives know you’re still alive?

Where were you headed?


Examining his own drawn countenance, Scott thought of Orthrus, the two-headed dog from Maximillion’s, and the quiet anger the creature must have felt toward its gawking audience. Seth’s artistic rendition displayed a dipped chin, shunning the unwanted curiosity. Surviving, when so many had not, qualified the three business partners as quasi freaks in a dime museum.


Westcott’s finger tapped the newspaper. “I was unaware bugger off could be spoken politely with a smile, but the little lady somehow managed it with those ignorant idiots.”


Scott’s slight grin lingered at the picture before it dissolved while drifting to the column of names filling the right side of the paper. The partners hadn’t been the only ones chosen to be front page news.


********


The Boston Daily Journals were discovered on the floor behind his grandfather’s desk.


Remember, Scotty. A place for everything and everything in its place.


Although obviously read, the newspapers had then been meticulously refolded and neatly stacked. However, allowing the publications to remain in this inappropriate spot made them stick out like a sore thumb.


Scott had wandered into the study seeking quiet sanctuary. Since returning home he’d found it difficult to fall back into the rhythm of his life before enlistment. Family and friends meant well as they insisted he spent too much time alone and should accept so-n-so’s invitation to a such-n-such gathering. Just that morning he’d locked horns with the Garrett patriarch when turning down yet another suggestion to share lunch with a good brandy at the Union Club. Scott firmly declined to go and Harlan had left alone.


Sitting down at the carved oak symbol of authority, Scott snagged several newspapers from the pile and laid them out on the immaculate desktop. Observing the publications’ dates, some a few weeks old while others several months, he noticed they weren’t in any sensible order. A brow dipped at his grandfather’s randomly collected newspapers. What was it that inspired the man to become a hoarder of the press?


And then the obvious became so clear it pushed Scott to sit back in the leather chair. Along the right sides of the front pages listed the names of Union soldiers dead or missing. Each newspaper he retrieved off the floor possessed the same printed attribute. Name after name, line after line, column after column brought sad and worrisome news to Boston families.


Closer examination showed someone had guided a finger under each name to assist in reading. In some cases, the process was repeated so often the news ink appeared smudged.


“Ah, here’s where ye be hidin’.”


Scott glanced up at his dear friend as she entered the room. “Don’t you think I’m a little old to be playing Hide and Seek, Winnie?”


“No. But maybe a bit too tall to fit under the bottom shelf of the pantry. If memory stands true, it was yer favorite hidin’ place.”


“And a damn good one, too. I noticed Jameson still agrees.”


“Don’t ye be gettin’ cheeky now.”


Scott held up one of the newspapers. “What is all of this?”


“Ah, that would be yer grandfather’s doin’.” Winnie’s hands smoothed out her apron and approached the desk. “Fetched a paper every day and studied the names of so many he knew. When one of yer letters got held up, he’d go back over all the lists at night for fear he’d missed something. And then when yer letters stopped comin’ all together...well…those lists gave him wee comfort over his worry.”


Scott ran his finger under a line of fallen Union soldiers. How many times had his grandfather done the same? “I’m home. Why keep these?”


“Oh, isn’t that a good question to be askin’. Posed it to your grandfather myself. Told me he’s keepin’ every one of those newspapers. They remind him how blessed he is and to thank the Good Lord above each day.” Winnie paused and smiled. “I’ll let ye get back to playin’ yer Hide and Seek.”


Scott watched the woman who had subtly made her point leave. Neatly returning the newspapers to their rightful place, he glanced in the direction of the room’s ever present tik-tok. Lunch had yet to be served at the Union Club. A change of shirt was in order. He had time.


*********


A finger traveled under a printed line of Jupiter’s dead. Scott prayed the telegram he’d sent had arrived at its Beacon Hill destination and hoped the Boston Daily Journal would reprint the Auburn’s picture featuring the three partners’ recognizable faces.


“I tried to get the little lady to join us for breakfast.” Seth signaled for a waiter. “She politely declined. Again.” His tone reflected worry with a hint of frustration


“Hide and Seek.”


“Pardon?”


Kinsey hadn’t budged out of her room since they were offered accommodations at one of the local hotels. A big brother discussion was now in order. “I’ll speak with her.” The time had come to fall back into the rhythm of life.


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