Welcome To The Harem
Indian Summer by Sylvia Tremblay Part 2 of 2
Summary: Deslea's rec: "A very well-researched, well-characterised casefile. Doggett and Reyes' friendship is explored in the light of Monica's inimitable point of view. Wonderful story told with warmth and a sense of humour."
INDIAN SUMMER BY SYLVIA TREMBLAY PART 2 OF 2
SEE PART 1 FOR HEADERS
I was going to wait exactly five more minutes.
This time, when I told myself this, I meant it. The other six times
It was past ten o'clock and I was past antsy and way past restless.
The stench of stale cigarette smoke and staler criminal that
permeated the unmarked beater Ritchie had loaned me was still in
my nostrils. I had conducted a fruitless tour of the area's
campgrounds til around eight, then checked back at the B&B to
see if Doggett had returned--no such luck--and headed out again to
enjoy a nice meal at a nearby Greek restaurant I had seen on the
way in. One chicken souvlaki and salad and a cup of sludgelike
but delicious coffee later I was ricocheting around my room
getting changed for my nightly excursion. The park signs had
warned against poison ivy and ticks and recommended the proper
attire, so here I was dressed in my shit-kicking boots, cuffs of my
khakis tucked into my socks, waiting like Sandra Dee for my man
to show up. I paced the spacious suite from end to end, cursing
the faux Victorian decor and the frilly pillow shams in time to the
thudding of my soles on the hardwood floors.
Time was up. I grabbed my cell phone and punched the speed
dial. He picked up on the second ring.
"Doggett, where the hell are you?" I barked before he had time to
A knock sounded at my door, nearly vaulting me out of my skin.
"I'll give you three guesses," he drawled. He tried to cover it most
of the time, but twelve hours in Virginia and the man was drawling.
I prayed for this case to end soon.
Putting away the phone, I assumed my best hands-on-hips stance.
He entered with a half-smile which disappeared when he saw my
clothing. "Where're you goin'?"
"You mean we, Lone Ranger. I'd like to take a look at the crime
"Now?" For a couple of seconds I actually felt sorry for him. He
looked exhausted, and I was willing to bet his supper had been a
hastily eaten burger. Then I remembered his annoyingly
boundless energy earlier in the day and my heart hardened.
"No, it doesn't have to be this minute, but I'd like to go tonight if
that's at all possible. If you want to take a shower and get
changed, I don't mind waiting." My peace offering wasn't
completely altruistic; his five o'clock shadow lent him an
appealingly rumpled air that put a crimp in my equilibrium and I
hoped he would shave as well.
"OK," he breathed, giving in with stunningly little resistance. "If
it'll wrap this up sooner, I'm for it. Give me about a half an hour."
When he left, I paced some more to mask the sound of the shower
down the hall.
"Mind telling me what we're looking for?"
Doggett's voice was more than a little irritated, no doubt due to
my request that he not use his flashlight until absolutely necessary.
I picked my way easily over tree roots and around huge rocks to
the light of the full moon; all that hiking and backpacking with my
fellow granola-eaters had sharpened my reflexes. My partner,
however, was too many years removed from the country, as the
steady stream of muttering, not to mention the odd sound of
impact with various natural objects, would indicate. I smiled
evilly and murmured, "You got soft while you were with the
jarheads. I bet they gave you guys the latest in night-vision
goggles, didn't they?"
"My eyesight starts to give out after I've been up for eighteen
hours, that's all. Nothin' serious. Now would you answer my
"We're looking for answers," I told him sweetly.
"That's great. I appreciate your friggin' candour."
I deftly side-stepped a large fallen branch, while beside me
Doggett blundered into it and almost tripped. "I honestly can't tell
you what we're looking for. If I could, this case would be solved
and you'd be in bed, snoring happily. I had a feeling we'd find
something here tonight, something important. But you'd already
reached your mumbo-jumbo threshold for today, so I didn't want
to go into the details with you."
He stopped walking, and I turned to face him. His eyes were
washed to a silver grey colour in the moonlight. "Listen, I'm sorry
I walked off earlier. It wasn't right to leave you like that. I just--I
had to clear my head, y'know?"
Recovering from the shock of his sudden apology as quickly as
possible, I ventured softly, "I wish I could say I did know, John,
but I've always been aware I had this gift. It never seemed as
strange to me as it does to you now. But I can imagine it must be--
Doggett's gaze roamed the woods around us. There wasn't a
sound to be heard. "That's one way of puttin' it." He chuckled
softly, enjoying a private joke. "The hell of it is, I--" His words
trailed off and I watched as his features transformed from relaxed
to tense, as if he were listening to something intently.
"DOWN!" The command was given at the same time I felt his
hand grab my shoulder and jerk me toward the ground. I didn't
need any more prompting than that; a half second later and I was
kissing the forest floor.
A half second after that, I heard the sharp crack of something
hitting the tree trunk behind us, as if a giant had just struck it a
heavy blow with a hammer. Doggett's hand landed again, this
time on my arm, and I scurried with him to the large rock that
mercifully sat about twenty feet to our left. My Sig was out of its
holster by the time I was halfway there.
Silently, he motioned in the direction from which the shot had
come. I nodded. Leaning close, he whispered in my ear. "There's
another rock about forty feet closer to their position. Get ready to
"How do you know where they are?" I whispered back. "And
how do you know there's more than one of them?"
"I heard talking right before the shot," he returned, his whisper a
bit impatient now.
My heart began a slow pounding. "Did you hear gunfire?"
"Yeah, didn't you?" Then his eyes locked with mine, and he
"John, give me your hand," I murmured softly. "Please."
He stared at me for a long moment, then at my proffered palm.
Finally I felt his warm hand slide into mine, and simultaneously I
felt the world expand and stretch around me.
Just as if a needle had set down on a phonograph, the voices
sprang into my consciousness. "--don't think I hit 'em."
"Those weren't no officers, I tell ya," grumbled another.
"Don't go gettin' soft on us now, Will-yaaam," a third replied,
sarcastically drawing out the man's name.
"Thought we didn't want any more killing, is all," the second,
obviously William, answered back defensively.
Hand still clutching his for dear life, I looked over at my partner,
who was clearly champing at the bit. "John," I began quietly, "I
don't want to tell you what to do, but if you're about to yell
'Federal agents' at the top of your lungs, I'd rather you didn't.
Somehow I doubt that's going to impress them favourably."
"I'm open to suggestions," Doggett whispered. I noted his hand
was gripping mine almost as tightly.
"I'd like you to tell them you're a civilian, and that they've just
fired on a woman."
"What will that get us?"
"The chance to talk to them, I think." Pausing for qualification, I
added, "If we can reach them."
I watched Doggett turn this over in his mind, weighing the pros
and cons, raising and discarding questions he knew couldn't be
answered. Finally, he nodded once, an economical
acknowledgment and expression of his trust.
"This is John Doggett," he called out distinctly. "Don't shoot.
There's a woman with me."
My heart hammered slowly and noisily, one, two, three. Then a
returning shout: "How do we know there's a woman there?"
"My name is Monica Johnson," I told them, hastily choosing an
ethnically neutral surname. "Please don't shoot. My--brother-in-
law is unarmed." I felt Doggett staring at me, and I turned toward
him swiftly. "You're not going to like this."
His brow was already furrowed. "Yeah. Will they search you,
"Probably not. I'll keep mine if you want."
"Oh, I definitely want." He laid his Sig on the ground and covered
it lightly with a few dry leaves.
"Doggett!" This from the man I had heard speak first. "Come
forward, and bring Miz Johnson."
We breathed out together, and he cast a look at our joined hands,
then raised his eyes to mine. "Mind telling me what we're walkin'
Meeting his gaze, I was only half joking when I answered, "I have
a feeling it just might be the mouth of Hell."
"No problem, then," he growled, pulling me to my feet. "I've been
End of part 3/5
The smell was unlike anything I'd ever experienced. I'd been
around more dead bodies than I cared to think about, but I had
never known the all-encompassing presence of rotting human
flesh which assailed my senses as soon as we went from here to
there. That was when I knew with certainty that the half-formed
theories which had been rattling around in my brain for the past
twenty-four hours had some validity. Now if I could only keep
from losing the souvlaki I had eaten earlier, everything would be
Well, not precisely fine. The man who had probably shouted at us
earlier was now visible to me, and he was pointing a deadly-
looking museum piece in Doggett's and my direction. Two more
stood slightly behind him, presumably the other men we had
heard. Their faces were unshaven and haggard, their clothes dirty
and disheveled, but from this distance in the dark it was
impossible to make out colours. I experimented with a looser grip
on my partner's hand, and experienced no loss of image or
sensation--unfortunate in some respects, but it was as I had
suspected. I didn't need his help any longer to focus on the other
world, because we were smack dab in the middle of it. I couldn't
make it go away now if I wanted to. Hopefully there would be
some sort of road back when we needed it.
Momentary panic set in then, and as I clamped down on it I got a
ridiculous image of myself in blonde pigtails, tripping merrily
through the forest with Doggett. "Hey, Hansel," I whispered,
slowing my pace. "You got any candy bars or other shiny objects
"There's a pack of Juicy Fruit in my pocket, I think. Why?"
Juicy Fruit. Who would've thought? "We may need a bread
crumb later. I think if you reach for it, though, that nice man will
blow a large hole in you, so I'd better do it." My gaze strayed
toward his jeans. "Right or left?"
"That's my *shirt* pocket, Monica."
I cleared my throat. "Right. OK."
"Keep moving!" shouted one of the men.
There was my opportunity. Throwing one arm around Doggett's
neck, I let out a terrified wail. He took my lead, twisting his left
side away from them as I deftly snagged the gum and dropped it
on the ground beside us. His arms came up in a show of calming
me, and after a few moments in which I "collected" myself, we
"Hands where I can see them," barked the man with the rifle,
interrupting a question I probably couldn't have answered anyway.
"I'm not armed," Doggett, truthful as always, declared.
"Caleb, for God's sake," grumbled one of the men behind the
shooter, and I recognized William's voice. He was thin, too thin,
his unkempt uniform hanging off his limbs, his face sporting a
sharply defined nose and definite New England features. Deciding
to keep up the nervous female act to appeal to the more chivalrous
among them, I clutched at Doggett's arm. "John, I'm so
frightened. Please tell him to lower the gun."
Mercifully, Caleb lowered the barrel of the rifle so that it was no
longer pointed at Doggett's centre of mass. "Whut kind of woman
is that?" he grunted, and my mind scrambled for an explanation
for my attire and hairstyle. It didn't help that in my hiking gear I
was dressed mannishly even for my century. But before I could
babble a half-baked excuse, my partner startled me with a
"If you know a safer way for a lady to travel over ground
occupied by thousands of soldiers, I'd like to hear it," growled
Doggett, who at that instant looked every inch the gentleman
defending a family member of the weaker sex. A couple of the
men shifted uncomfortably at the mention of womanly virtue in
front of an actual woman, then Caleb broke his military stance and
turned, motioning us to follow. I breathed out slowly: we had
The clearing into which we entered was occupied by about thirty
or forty men in various states from grievously wounded to merely
exhausted. Some tended their friends, others slept, and a few sat
apart from the rest and sang in lowered tones while one of them
strummed a guitar. What struck me right away was the fact that
these men belonged to both sides, or at least they had. Stealing a
glance at Doggett, I mouthed "Deserters" at him. He nodded as if
he had already surmised as much.
Caleb and the others led us to a small campfire where he indicated
we should sit. I tried to be as dainty as possible in settling myself
on the ground, but it was a difficult state to achieve in hiking
boots. A few of the more alert among the men had noticed I was a
female and I wondered whether my clothing would mollify or
inflame soldiers of a hundred and forty years ago. After all, the
concept that women had legs was usually enough to cause a
spontaneous erection in Victorian times. As I felt the weight of
several pairs of eyes settle on me, I hoped this question would
"So, speak. Where are you from and where are you headed?" I
noted from this longer string of gruff yet more softly-spoken
words that Caleb was probably German and most likely foreign-
born. He was stocky, with a considerable mustache, but was
otherwise clean-shaven. An old scar, probably from a Bowie
knife, ran up the back of his right hand and disappeared under the
cuff of his jacket. His shoulder flashes indicated he had been with
the 1st Pennsylvania Artillery and he carried sergeant's stripes.
I could tell Doggett was not going to leap in this time, so I
ventured my hastily concocted story. "We're from New York City.
John--my sister's husband--agreed to accompany me when we
learned my husband had been wounded." Keep it simple, I
thought. I knew a fair bit about New York and Doggett knew
much more. I only prayed he was familiar enough with history to
avoid mention of any obvious anachronisms, like the "A" Train or
the Statue of Liberty.
"How come you was comin' up from the south, then?" asked the
third and as yet unidentified man. His accent and the grayish-
brown cast of his jacket marked him as a Confederate.
"Well, we did get a little turned around," I admitted, smiling in
what I hoped was a demure fashion. "John is a wonderful
merchant, but his woodsman's skills are out of practice, I'm
afraid." A couple of the men chuckled at this and I sensed Doggett
shift beside me.
"Only one problem," Johnny Reb persisted, killing the moment of
levity. "You ain't from New York. I got a cousin in Georgia. He
sounds a powerful lot like you do." I muffled an unladylike curse.
I had forgotten that these men were much more conscious of
regional differences than Americans are today. It was as though
each one of them was a living, breathing Henry Higgins.
"I was born in Georgia," Doggett conceded without batting an eye.
"Haven't been back in more'n twenty years. Lit out on a ship
headed north when I was sixteen. Five years later, I had my own
business." Jesus, I thought. Horatio Alger's Ragged Dick meets
Huck Finn. Luckily, neither of those books had been written yet
so they wouldn't spot the clich?.
"Whut kinda business?" enquired Caleb.
"I run a saloon in the Bowery," Doggett deadpanned before I had a
chance to answer. Surprised by his historical knowledge, I
narrowed my eyes disapprovingly at him for having mentioned the
William snorted. "Keepin' those Mic bastards in liquor, are ya?"
"My mother is Irish-American." Doggett's voice was low and
deceptively calm. There was a quietly manic aspect to the man that
presented itself now and then, and even though I suspected most
of it this time was a show for Caleb's benefit, I suppressed a
shiver when I caught the look in his ice-blue eyes.
"Didn't mean anythin' by it," mumbled a cowed William, who
suddenly found his battered boots fascinating.
Caleb nodded solemnly, though the corners of his mouth quirked
upward. It seemed as if Doggett had passed yet another test.
"Sehre g?t. But do not make the mistake, John Doggett, of
thinking there will ever be such a thing as Irish-Americans or
Deutsche-Americans. To them, we will always be foreigners."
Then he abruptly turned his attention to me. "Your husband,
madam. What regiment was he with?"
Here we go. "The 140th New York." I remembered from the
Wilderness history I had read that the regiment had been Zouaves,
and I didn't see any of the distinctive, brightly coloured uniforms
among the deserters.
Caleb shook his head. "There is no one here from the 140th." I
tried not to let the relief show on my face. "We know the battle
has moved on to the southeast--"
"Spotsylvania," interjected the Confederate.
"--and there is a Union field hospital, or slaughterhouse, to the
northeast, about ten miles from here. You are welcome to stay
here this night and share our fire. I make my promise that no
harm will come to you."
Actually, I silently amended, my Sig will make sure of that, but I
thanked him sweetly. "We appreciate your offer, but we must
travel by night, so we will be leaving shortly." I made a gesture
which included the makeshift camp. "Sergeant, what will become
of these poor men?"
"We will stay until our wounded are well enough to leave or until
they are no longer feeling pain. Then we will scatter to the winds.
Some will survive. Others will be caught and shot as cowards.
Most will never see their homes or families again, whether they
live or die."
"And is that how you see yourselves?" I asked quietly. "As
cowards?" I knew I was testing the limits of Caleb's fragile
tolerance, but I couldn't resist this incredible chance I had been
Caleb sighed, and other men who had been listening to our little
group drew nearer. "I cannot speak for anyone else. I have
fought for two years. Bull Run. The Wilderness. Gettysburg.
The Wilderness again. I have seen the same thing over and over
until this time I see a dozen of my men roasted alive in a brush
fire. One of them I pulled out and he died in my arms. The others
screamed for me to save them." His eyes focused at some spot in
the far distance. "I will not sleep very much for the rest of my life,
I think. Their screams are very loud." His gaze swung toward me
and pinned me like a butterfly in a glass case. "After two years of
moving forward like a good soldier, I walked away. My feet and
my heart made the decision, my head did not. I do not know if
this makes me a coward. What do you think, Miz Johnson?"
"I think I have no right to judge a person who has been where you
have been." I could feel Doggett's presence beside me and I
realized I wasn't only speaking to Caleb and his comrades. "I
think you have endured what no man should be forced to endure.
I don't blame any of you for the decisions you have made." At the
edges of the firelight, I could see a couple of the men take off their
caps, as if they were in the presence of a Father Confessor, a
granter of absolution. I was reminded of the Victorian concept of
women as more virtuous, more perfect than men. We couldn't
vote, go to medical school or do a hundred other things I took for
granted, but I could be put on a pedestal as the true North of their
"Mary!" The near-hysterical shout pierced the air around us,
breaking the spell. "Mary, is that you, sweet?"
The Confederate shook his head. "Damn. He's gettin' worse." He
told Caleb, "Must've heard Miz Johnson's voice."
"His wife?" I asked. The Southerner nodded. "Who is he?"
I could see him pause for a moment, as if weighing whether the
release of information would do his friend any harm. "Jacob
Campbell," he finally told me. "He's--he was--my lieutenant."
I was already on my feet. Starting toward the sound of the fading
cries, I felt a hand on my arm. "Monica," Doggett warned. I
looked down at him and something in my eyes must have pacified
him, for after a moment he sighed, "OK," and rose to accompany
"Uh, ma'am, I don't think you want to be doin' that," began the
"What is your name, sir?" I asked him. I was tired of thinking of
him as 'the Confederate.'
"Jedediah Thorne, ma'am."
"Well, Jedediah, I can assure you I have witnessed much worse--in
"He's got the cholera, Miz Johnson," protested William. "It ain't
"I have tended cholera victims in New York," I countered, and
when no more arguments were forthcoming, I strode forward.
Of course, there weren't a lot of cholera outbreaks in NYC these
days, but I was vaguely familiar with the disease and its symptoms.
It was caused by unsanitary conditions, and to say that conditions
among Civil War armies were unsanitary was like saying Hitler had
been a little ill-tempered. Thousands of men died from such
diseases in the camps and after battles when they drank from
contaminated water sources. Hardly a medical expert, I could
nevertheless tell the minute I saw Jacob Campbell that he was
descending into a state of shock. He was beginning to shiver
uncontrollably and his skin was clammy when I grasped his hand.
"Jacob." I squatted beside him. His eyes swung toward me, his
gaze fixed on my face but unseeing.
"Mary. You came. I knew you would come."
"Yes, Jacob. I'm here." My chest felt tight. There was something
wrong here. I'd been around people who were, for want of a less
melodramatic term, marked for death, and this man bore all the
signs. But at the same time, I felt the presence of another
possibility, another path. It was as if there were two Jacobs
holding my hand.
"Have you come to take me home, Mary?" I looked up at Jedediah
"Mobile," he whispered.
"Yes. We'll be going home to Mobile soon." I touched my other
hand to his forehead to try to increase the contact, to tell me
whether he was meant to live or die, but there was nothing more.
Then I reached out blindly for Doggett. "John, it's so terrible," I
breathed shakily, hoping he'd take the hint. He did; a moment
later his warm fingers, such a contrast to Campbell's, slid into
mine. And at that instant, I knew.
Doggett wasn't going to like this.
"Sleep now, Jacob. You'll be home before long." Stroking the
soldier's forehead, I gently closed his eyes. He drew in a long,
shuddering breath, then smiled faintly. When his breathing
became as normal as it was likely to get, I eased my hand from his
grip. He stirred, then relaxed.
Straightening, I made eye contact with Doggett, who nodded. "We
should get going, Monica. We have a lot of ground to cover
"Yes, John," I simpered. Turning toward Caleb and the others, I
smiled. "I wish you all well. If we have the chance, we may
return with--provisions for you."
"That's kind of you, ma'am, but you've done enough." Jedediah
smiled back, bobbing his head. A connection made, at last. I felt
the force, at that moment, of the strangeness of it all. "That was a
good thing you did, helpin' a man you had no duty to help."
"You're wrong there, Jedediah. I feel a--particular responsibility
to Lieutenant Campbell. He and my husband--well, they are both
in a similar predicament."
"We understand, Monica," John rumbled, clearly itching to be on
his way. He shook each of the men's hands in turn. "The best of
luck to all of you."
It took us several hours to find the portal again, as we had been
forced to head northeast to make it appear as though we were
walking to the Union hospital. We followed a circuitous route
around the camp aided by my pocket compass, but with no
landmarks we recognized it was rough going. It was well after
daylight before we came upon Doggett's blessed pack of gum, and
another half hour before we stumbled through the opening.
"Thank God," exulted Doggett as our lungs took in great gulps of
fresh, untainted air.
"I was beginning to wonder, myself," I breathed, annoyed to feel
my knees weaken with relief. To hell with the ticks. This time, I
literally kissed the forest floor.
"Wonder what time it is?" He scanned the sky, I imagined to
check the position of the sun, but steel-coloured clouds obstructed
My hand was cramped and sore from holding his in our search for
the opening and I shook the circulation back into it. "As long as
it's sometime after 1864, I could care less."
"I hope it's a little closer than that." Doggett strode over to our
rock refuge of the night before and started digging around in the
underbrush. After a minute that stretched to an eon, I saw his eyes
close, then with a flourish he hoisted his regulation Sig.
I released the breath I'd been holding and began laughing
foolishly. "This is the only way to time travel," I grinned. "I'm
going to recommend this temporal rift to all my friends."
"Yeah," drawled Doggett, "but I never got my complimentary bag
of honey-roasted peanuts."
At eight that morning we were sitting in the dining room of the
cozy little B&B while our hostess flitted about refilling coffee cups
and dishing out massive quantities of eggs and bacon. Her name
was Blossom and although, as she had confided to me last night,
she had been born and raised on a hippie commune, there was no
muesli served at her breakfasts. She still had nightmares about the
stuff. No, her fare was hearty, greasy and definitely Southern.
And after traipsing though the woods all night, I had to admit my
veins were ready for grease.
Doggett and I hadn't spoken much about our experience after we
left the camp, focused as we had been on finding our way home.
Even after returning, however, he had remained oddly quiet, as if
he were trying to sort and classify the night's events, fit a square
peg into the round hole of his world view. I had no desire to push
him, but I wanted to get to him before he'd explained it all away,
and time was of the essence, so to speak.
"John," I began softly. He regarded me over the rim of his coffee
mug, his eyebrows raising slightly. "You haven't said much since
"What can I say?" he murmured, pitching his voice below the din
of the room. "It's not every day I go back in time. I've just been
tryin' to figure out how it's even possible. I mean, are there--
holes--like that all over the place?"
"I don't think so," I told him, shaking my head and smiling
politely when I saw Blossom advancing on me with a mountain of
griddle cakes. She lost the spring in her step, but recovered it
when the man at the next table forked three onto his plate. "I'm
not an expert in temporal mechanics," I continued. "But there's a
theory that suggests these rips occur at a time of--imbalance, I
suppose is the best term for it--in the life cycle."
Doggett frowned. "The 'life cycle'?"
"Many cultures represent their world--and time itself--as a circle,
neverending, flowing in both directions. Death follows life, but
life also follows death. They seek one another out. Hence plagues
coming after population explosions, baby booms coming after
"So you're sayin' this 'rip' happened because of the battle?
Because there was too much death? Then how come they don't
happen more often?"
"This wasn't just any battle. The area around us had already seen
several major engagements and dozens of skirmishes. The
balance had to be restored by opening a window to another time,
when life had returned to this place." I cut off another hunk of
Canadian bacon. "Or it could just be an enchanted forest. We'll
never know for sure."
Doggett huffed. "Sounds like Shirley MacLaine's Theory of
Relativity, but I suppose it's as good an explanation as any." He
drained the rest of his coffee, then ran a hand over his eyes. "I
wish I could try out that bed upstairs, but we're meeting with
Ritchie at ten. How do we tell him we found the perp but he's
going to be kinda hard to arrest because he's been dead a hundred
I breathed in. Out. In. Get on with it. "Uh, about that meeting.
Do you suppose we could put it off for a while?"
"Why? You want a cat nap, too?"
My gaze locked with his. "No. Because we have to go back to
save Jacob Campbell's life."
end part 4/5
I hadn't meant to be so blunt. I'd hoped to lead up to it
gradually. But deep down I knew there was little time for
Doggett stared at me for several seconds after my
announcement. "We have to--what?"
"Save Jacob Campbell."
"That's what I thought you said."
"It's going to be easier than you think. You see, the biggest
danger with cholera is dehydration. I put in a call to the
Fredericksburg hospital when we got back just now. I posed as a
travel reporter so my questions wouldn't seem so strange, and I
found out just what he needs."
Blue eyes locked with mine. "Are you telling me you want us to
go back there after everything we just went through to get out?"
I stared him down. "A man's life is at stake."
That set him back. A muscle twitched in his jaw, then he
muttered, "Lots of men died in the Civil War."
"But not this one." He frowned at me, and I took a deep breath.
Mumbo-jumbo time. "Please hear me out before you close your
mind. When I was touching Jacob, I sensed he was going to die,
but also that he wasn't. I've never experienced that kind of
duality before. Then when you held my hand, I knew he was
meant to live. But there is no way that's going to happen unless
we do something."
"Why do you think you got this--dual--feeling from him?"
Somewhere in the back of my brain it struck me that he hadn't
challenged my perceptions, but the front part was too
preoccupied to consider it further. "I'm not sure. Maybe the
shooting of Dave Morgan caused some sort of reaction..."
"Or maybe our presence there screwed things up," Doggett
finished for me. "Did you think of that? And if we go back, we
could start a whole friggin' chain of reactions that never ends."
That possibility hadn't occurred to me. I mulled it over for a
moment. "We could," I admitted. "But if we've upset the
balance, it's our responsibility to restore it."
Doggett sighed heavily. "Monica, you obviously feel strongly
about this and I understand that. I was there, too. But we can't
just go off half-cocked until we've had a chance to think this
"Listen to me. We don't have that luxury. We've seen that
time passes at the same rate on either side of the portal. After
talking with the doctor earlier, I believe Jacob could have days
left, or he could have hours. We could plan this thing literally to
death. And I'm tired of always presiding over death." His
expression became stricken, and I knew exactly which ghost I
was summoning then. But I couldn't seem to shut myself up.
"John, I don't blame you for wanting to throw away this gift we
have. After having a chance to see it through your eyes, I'm
getting sick of it myself. I realized that we're usually too damn
late to do any good. It's not that often we get there in time. I
want to get there this time."
He didn't say a word, just rose from the table and walked out of
the room. I'm not sure how long I sat there, staring at nothing.
My body felt big, awkward, my limbs weighed down. I gripped
the arms of the chair until my hands grew cold, trying to keep
from running upstairs. And how would that help anything? To
him, I was a vulture, picking at his bones.
Finally he was standing in front of me. He had put on his hiking
boots again. "OK. I'm ready." As I stood, before he had a
chance to turn away from me, I saw that his eyes were rimmed
in red. I blinked once, twice, then moved to follow him.
"It's Miz Johnson!"
The welcoming shout came from Jedediah, whose white teeth
stood out plainly in his dirt-streaked face. It struck me now,
seeing him in the daylight, that he couldn't be more than fifteen
or sixteen. What a godforsaken hell this was.
Caleb got up from his place by the side of one of the wounded
and walked toward us. "You have returned quickly. Did you
reach the hospital?"
"No, we didn't," Doggett admitted.
"What's all that, then?" Jedediah asked, pointing to the large
number of bags we had set on the ground around us.
"It's what we need to help Lieutenant Campbell," I told him
softly. "Jedediah, Caleb, we weren't being entirely honest with
you last night. And we're not going to be entirely honest with
you now. You have no reason to trust us. But I can tell you
truthfully it's very important to us Jacob Campbell recovers, and
I can tell you truthfully he's not going to do it without us."
The Union soldier and the Confederate stared at us for several
long moments, then looked at one another. Caleb turned back to
me and shook his head. "I think we knew you weren't who you
said you were. It didn't really matter to us. We will all have to
be storytellers soon, why not learn the language of tall tales?
But when you sat with him last night, this part I saw was true."
He gestured to where Campbell lay, his arms and legs thrashing
weakly. "Do what you wish. But I fear you may be too late."
Doggett made a sound I didn't recognize as human, then
growled, "Not this time, goddammit."
Doggett took charge right away, following the advice we had
been given by the doctor at the Fredericksburg hospital. A
young intern, he had been quite excited about the prospect of
being quoted in a high-profile travel magazine. I felt a twinge of
guilt at that, but letting him suspect there might be a cholera
outbreak within the U.S. would have set off every alarm they
had down at the Centers for Disease Control. This way, we
could get the supplies we needed, no questions asked.
First, Doggett cleaned Jacob up with disinfectant and hot water
and wrapped him in the dry, warm clothing and blankets we had
brought. The soldiers watched in silence as he then set up a
small, waterproof tent made of a material none of them had ever
seen before, nor would ever see again. Meanwhile, I started
mixing a packet of Oral Rehydration Solution the doctor had
provided us for 'our Latin American trip', coupled with some of
the water purification tablets we had bought at the local Wal-
Mart. The solution was used to treat dehydration caused by
cholera and other intestinal infections throughout the world, and
contained important sugars and salts the body lost with severe
diarrhea and vomiting. I was worried, though, that Campbell
might have reached the point where only an I.V. would be able
to restore his fluid levels, and told Doggett my concern.
"If he can keep it down more'n a couple of hours, it'll at least
have done him some good," he replied gruffly. Storm clouds
threatened, and we enlisted the help of Jedediah and Caleb to
get our charge into the tent. The two of us huddled nearby
through the night, our rain slickers getting a workout in the
downpour. Luckily, I had thought to grab a few cheap metal
buckets on our shopping spree, and they collected clean,
untainted rainwater while the storm lasted. There was no sense
in anyone else getting cholera on our watch.
At about six a.m., Doggett checked on Lieutenant Campbell, as
he had done every hour on the hour since we began. His face
was drawn as he emerged from the tent. "What is it?" I asked in
a hushed voice, fearing the worst.
He ran a hand over his damp hair. "I dunno. He seems to be
sleeping peacefully, but I'm not a doctor."
"No, you're not," I mused, "but you do have other resources."
Easing my way into the tent, I sat down beside Jacob and
grasped his hand. I held out my other hand to Doggett and for
the first time he took it without hesitation.
There was no ambiguity now. "Can you feel it?" I whispered.
Several seconds passed. "He's going to make it, isn't he?"
"You felt it," I breathed. Finally, he had taken his first step in
the journey. I opened my eyes and smiled up at him.
His ice-blue gaze held a glint of fire and mischief as he grinned
openly at me. "Nah. But I figured I had a fifty-fifty chance."
Releasing Campbell's hand carefully, I crawled out of the tent
and rose to my full height. Above me, the clouds were swiftly
dispersing as the sun warmed the earth. Doggett feigned fear at
my relentless advance, then a spark of real apprehension
appeared when I picked up one of the half-full rainwater
buckets. As I broke into a run and he took to his heels, I could
hear him yell, "What is it with you women and water?"
We stayed three days and nights, until Jacob was well enough to
start eating some solid foods. He had recovered quickly with the
help of the solution and our other modern goodies. We passed
out multivitamins not only to him but to anyone else who would
take them, and Doggett tried to explain the importance of boiling
their drinking water from now on. I knew this last would
probably have little effect; if the commanders of the Armies of
the Potomac and Northern Virginia hadn't been able to enforce
the minimum standards of hygiene, I doubted a lone time
traveller would make a dent. But then, we weren't here to make
a large dent. And if we stayed much longer, we would begin to
cause the chain reactions Doggett had mentioned.
"We'd better get going." John snapped his head up at my softly-
voiced statement. He had been watching at a distance as
William and a couple of his buddies said their farewells to the
other men in the camp. They were well enough to travel and off
to seek their uncertain future.
"Yeah." He turned back to the group, who waved at us. We
waved back. "Camp's breaking up."
Resisting an urge to rest my hand on his shoulder, I ventured,
"You miss the military life, don't you?" I swept my arm in a
circle. "The camaraderie, I mean."
"Sometimes. Things were a lot simpler then. But nothing's
going to be simple for these guys once they leave here."
"They're headed for a new season." I could feel Doggett turn to
look at me. "A friend of mine in New Orleans speaks of the
stages of people's lives corresponding to certain seasons of the
year. Not in the sense of your age, but in the sense of the forces
at work in your life at that point. Each season has its own
characteristics, its own pros and cons."
"What's your season?" He treated me to a lopsided smile. "If
that's not too personal a question."
"Right now?" I thought about it for a few seconds. "Spring, I
think. It's a time for new beginnings and growth, but also
rushing water, dangerous currents."
He nodded, then his smile faded. "What's mine?" His gaze was
intense, as if something inside him was waiting to be released by
My mind tangled into a knot. I willed it to unravel. "I'd have to
say yours was Indian summer. If I remember it right, it's a
deceptive time. Everything appears peaceful on the surface, but
change lies just below, great change. It's also the time of
greatest energy, the storm season, and the season of the first
harvests." My eyes locked with his. "It's both a beginning and
We breathed together for several moments. Then he nodded.
"OK. I'll take that."
"Miz Johnson!" Caleb called as he marched toward us.
"Jedediah tells me you're leaving."
"Yes, I think we've done what we came to do," I agreed.
"We will remember you both."
"As we will with you." I was surprised to find tears welling in
my eyes. Banishing them with a sharply drawn breath, I asked,
"Caleb, will you make us a promise? It will seem small, but it is
"Yes, whatever you ask."
"We're going to leave some of our provisions behind for
Lieutenant Campbell. When they are used up, we need you to
bury the containers as deep as you can. None must be left
"This I will do." He took our hands in his, and raised mine to his
lips for a kiss. "Go with God, John and Monica."
The following Monday, we were back in the office as if nothing
had happened. The boss raised a couple of eyebrows at the
whopper we told to explain why we were incommunicado for
several days. I think from all the coquettish smiles he directed at
Doggett during the briefing, he figured my partner had spent
every minute of the lost time rogering me, but good. I half
expected to be sent out of the room at some point so he could
get the play-by-play and slap Doggett's ass with a towel.
At any rate, I had been away that afternoon getting my annual
physical so I missed the next assignment meeting. When I
returned around two, Doggett was sitting at his desk poring over
"Don't tell me. It's another one," I intoned dramatically,
placing my hand to my forehead. He looked up at me then, and
I saw his eyes were rimmed in red. Oh God.
"What is it?" My voice dropped to a whisper.
His mouth twitched. Then he began laughing. Really laughing.
And I realized John Doggett's laughter was a sound I'd never
heard. "If we ever run outta cases," he told me as he fought for
air, "we can find that portal and make some more work for
I strode over to him and peered over his shoulder at the report.
"The Wilderness *again*?"
"Archaeological dig found some interesting items." He fished
out a photo and handed it to me. "They were crushed and
deteriorated, and the labels were faded, but they were
"--Gatorade bottles," I finished. "But they can't think--"
"Well, it'd be explainable, except for the letter they found in
one of 'em," he grinned, handing me another photo. I sat in the
chair beside him and began to read.
"'To the merciful angels of the Wilderness: I have no words to
thank you for what you have done, but I cannot stop my pen
from trying to capture my feelings. You will always be in my
thoughts and in my heart as a pure example of God's light,
which resides in all of us. My children will know of your deeds,
as will their children. In the midst of all this death, you served
life, and for that you will not be forgotten. Yours always, Jacob
Campbell.'" The bottom of the letter was a little out of focus,
and I squinted to read it. "'P.S. I believe the Fruit Punch was
We exchanged looks, and for the first time since starting here on
the X-Files, it seemed to me that we were truly in synch with
one another. Maybe, just maybe this partnership would work
out after all. But I could worry more about that later.
For now, our laughter came together and filled the room.
Sources and Thanks: I'd like to credit some of the wonderful
sites that helped this story be a bit more authentic, particularly
the Civil War sites. If you are at all interested in this history, I
suggest you have a look at them:
National Parks Service Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania
National Military Park
The First Vermont Brigade At the Wilderness
The Battle of the Wilderness: A virtual Tour
The Battle of the Wilderness Official Records and Battle
The book Brothers In Arms by William C. Davis is an excellent
informal social history of the life of the Civil War soldier.
The information on cholera came from the Centers for Disease
Control site (http://www.cdc.gov/) The Gatorade is strictly my
idea, though; I have no idea if it will actually work on a person
with a severe illness like cholera. Don't be suin' me or the CDC
if you think you can get medical information from an XF story,
Thanks are due to the wonderful people who took time to write
me a note about my story. I was rather nervous to tread the
hallowed halls of XF fan fiction, but everyone has been so kind.
This is such a supportive community of readers and writers and
I'm proud to finally be a part of it. (Sniff!)
And last but definitely not least, I'd like to thank my personal
ballistics and weaponry source, Jim Hubley, who helped me
immensely with issues involving guns, range, wounds, and other
Civil War questions. Realism is important to me, so I hope
anyone who spots a boo-boo will let me know. Any such errors
are mine alone.