Solomon Sands stood on the dock at Norfolk Navy Yard and wondered how the hunched skeleton in the wheelchair could have ever cut a fearful figure. River water, bay water, ocean water, chopped into crests and troughs, assaulted the USS Cormorant, ready for decommissioning this October day in 1868.
When the German artillery finally ceased firing around sunset, Jack’s neck and shoulders slowly relaxed; he hadn’t realized he’d been tensing them all that time. The relentless shelling had forced his company to hunker in the trenches for over forty-eight hours. Now the silence unnerved him. The shelling could resume at any time, but the officers sent word that the men should rest as best they could.
The last time I saw M. Renoir, he was sitting beneath an umbrella at a sidewalk cafe in Paris, leisurely drinking coffee and glancing through a newspaper. M. Renoir, every inch the French gentleman with closely trimmed mustache and beard–gray streaking at his temples–was usually impeccably dressed, his hat and cane placed casually upon the seat of an adjacent chair. I say “usually” since, on this occasion, he appeared not altogether unlike a much poorer and less refined version of himself. I was, I confess it, rather taken aback at his appearance.
The suspect scanned the interrogation room through a pair of thick-lensed, gold-wire aviator glasses. His wrists were cuffed, chained to a handle on a metal table. A detective sat opposite him. He wanted to know about the head in the refrigerator.
The moon’s on its way to November, sailing a sullen sky. I think the whole world breathed a sigh of relief tonight, when the major told us to find shelter, get some shut eye before tomorrow. We’re too close to the enemy for camp fire, all of us hiding behind trees, and under bushes, keeping as quiet as smoke, settling into the dirt and leaves like animals on the prowl.
“You expect me to speak to the Archbishop? Your ideas are somewhat radical Father. For you to get on in your career you need to know how to play the game.”
“Radical? I don’t see it that way Your Grace. I think we could do a lot of good. We would build bridges. We could now bring together two sides once and for all. We need to do this, not just with our religions but with them all! But we can start with what we know.”
Pahuac rested his head on the sacrificial stone. He would have to go through this if he wanted to find his way back home. Why couldn’t he remember?
“Ahhh.” The palm reader sighed heavily. Such was his power that we all exhaled lightly with him, and then leaned forward to hear what would come next.
In May 1726 Voltaire sailed up the Thames, London-bound. He was thirty-two at the time, a scrawny Frenchman with a big mouth. Everyone was after his ass. Back in France he’d had a run-in with someone called the Chevalier de Rohan-Chabot, got himself arrested, and was graciously allowed to leave the country in lieu of becoming a full-time resident of the Bastille. It was a fine day and it made him fall in love with England. The King was out on his barge, a thousand little boats were in his wake, and some music was being played. Was it Handel’s “Water Music”? Let’s say it was so that you can understand what Voltaire felt that day. Later he saw some fat merchants in town and thought he was in paradise.
Chester McNaughton Connaughton, aptly named for both sides of the family, landowner in the new world, squeezer of pennies and nickels at the very corpulence of coin, embarrassed at times by his own good fortune where his roots had once been controlled and ordained by potatoes and turnips or the lack thereof, gazed over the latest acquisition of a two-acre parcel abutting his prime abode and wondered how he could best utilize it. Mere coinage, he had early assessed, would apply the jimmy bar under Carlton Smithers and separate him from the land in their town of Saxon, not far from Boston. Carlton was old, alone, susceptible. It would be a piece of cake. It was, subsequently and as he had forecast, a swift steal, and papers and proper process moved the property under the shield of his name.