Free Fiction Monday: The Dead Line

Andersonville. The name strikes horror in the memory even now. But before Lieutenant Nathaniel Garrison lost two years of his life to that place, he fell in love with a beautiful Confederate—and married her at the exact wrong moment.

Even fifty years later, he hears her voice.

Then, on the Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympic, he sees something he shouldn’t, something that brings back everything: the war, the loss. The woman herself.

“The Dead Line,” by New York Times bestselling author Kristine Kathryn Rusch is free on this website for one week only. The story’s also available as an ebook through various online retailers here

 

The Dead Line

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

 

June 17, 1911

Nathaniel Garrison gripped the silver handle on his walking stick and cursed the unsteadiness of his legs. After three days, he should have had his sea legs. The Olympic was the largest ship ever built and, as a result, was steadier in the water than most. He had spent a fair number of years on ships—both before and after the war—and he had never had so much trouble walking on a deck.

Of course, in those days, he hadn’t been recovering from a bout of pleurisy that had nearly taken his life. He hadn’t been this thin since those horrible years in Andersonville, years he was still amazed he had survived.

The afternoon’s weather was balmy and he couldn’t stay confined to his stateroom. He was supposed to remain indoors—all that outdoor air was supposed to be bad for him, not that he cared. He had not made it seventy-four years by believing everything other people told him. His body craved light and air and exercise. By gum, he’d have both.

The Boat Deck was filled with people. Many were sitting in lounge chairs, blankets at their feet, staring across the railing at the surprisingly calm Atlantic. Others were gathered at tables, having animated conversations. Rich people, of which he was one. Captains of industry, their wives, children, and mistresses. People he did not socialize with unless necessity forced him into it.

He supposed he would find a great deal of entertainment among the luminaries on this ship. It was the Olympic’s maiden voyage and, as a result, he found himself in a floating party, complete with reporters hired by the White Star Line to capture the grandeur, and allowed access to all the first-class berths, so long as they did not bother the passengers.

Sometimes he wondered how difficult that was. In addition to him—a man who never gave interviews because he despised the influence of the scandal sheets—there were several other well-known men, including J. P. Morgan who was here, of course, to monitor his investment. Several members of the British peerage were on board as well, many on vacation and some, like Lord Reginald Seton, to do business in New York.

If Garrison had been a reporter, he would have interviewed them all. What would the crew have done, after all? Thrown him off for violating his agreement? He suspected a number of journalists were taking notes, and the very thought of it kept him away from the public areas most of the time.

He rested his arms on the deck’s wooden railing and stared at the gray Atlantic which stretched as far as the eye could see. The sky above it was bluer than the ocean but they still blurred at the horizon. Out in the middle of nowhere, going somewhere fast.

He looked down. Even though he’d been on the Olympic for three days, he still couldn’t believe the size of her. Here, on the Boat Deck—A Deck as the brochures called it—he was as high as he could get. Seemingly miles above the frothing water, as if he were watching from the balcony of one of London’s tall buildings overlooking the Thames instead of from the deck of a ship. A floating palace, the ads had called it, and that was probably true.

A floating palace filled with the usual sycophantic and self-absorbed courtiers, all of whom thought they were more important than they were.

Behind him, a woman laughed. The laugh was fluted, trilling up and down the vocal register like a diva’s playful attempt at a scale. The hair rose on the back of his neck.

He hadn’t heard that laugh in nearly fifty years.

Surely he was mistaken. He was short of breath and just getting over being ill. He had spent too much time alone, and whenever he did that, he thought of the war.

He thought too much of the war.

Then he heard the laugh again, closed his eyes, and saw her, just as he had that first night.

She had taken his breath away then.

Much as she was doing now.

June 17, 1861

Lieutenant Nathaniel Garrison placed his cap under his arm and nodded crisply to the Negro butler who opened the massive oak door. The man before him had to be at least eighty; his dark skin lined with wrinkles, his curly hair a pure white. The man took his hat and his card and ushered him inside.

Garrison had an odd feeling that he had suddenly stepped across the Mason-Dixon line. But he knew that wasn’t so. It wasn’t legal to own slaves up here. The butler had to be a free man.

But it still made Garrison uncomfortable. Despite Lincoln’s denials that this was a war fought over slavery, slavery was the issue that had caused the South to secede. Even the appearance of it here, in the nation’s capitol, made him more uncomfortable than he dared say.

The air was cool inside, despite the awful heat. The entry was large and mostly made of oak. A wide staircase led to the upper stories. On the banister, an iron gas lamp, carved in the shape of Cupid, rose.

Garrison had never been inside the Cunliffe house before, and had no real idea how to act. It was his first society party and he was here only because he was on General Scott’s staff, not because he was important in and of his own right.

His summer dress uniform was still too hot for the heat and humidity of official Washington. A trickle of sweat ran down his back despite the coolness of the entry.

The butler had hung his cap somewhere and was opening the pocket doors that led into the main part of the house. “This way, sir,” he said, bowing before Garrison.

Now Garrison could hear voices and the soft music of a string quartet, playing Mozart. The sound wafted in from the verandah, but there were people in the drawing room as well, holding glasses filled with champagne and plates covered with hors d’oeuvres.

He caught snatches of conversation as he moved into the room.

“…when Tennessee seceded…”

“…President Lincoln isn’t acting as if we’re in a war…”

“…General Scott isn’t just old. He’s senile. We’re—”

That last conversation stopped as the speaker, a young man who wore a cream summer suit, saw Garrison. Garrison took a flute of champagne from a tray offered him by a Negro waiter, and walked toward the verandah.

President Lincoln wasn’t the only one who wasn’t acting as if there were a war. Half of Washington’s military was here, eating finger foods and discussing secession as if it were a parlor game.

Garrison didn’t want to be here himself. He had a lot of work ahead of him drilling the 90-day militia units and trying to form the new three-year volunteer units into a coherent army. None of them had had any real training. Many were simply young men who wanted to fight. And even though Washington was now ringed by military camps, organized units and fancy uniforms did not make an effective fighting force.

Lieutenant General Winfield Scott, who was general in chief, had planned to spend the first year of the war preparing. Even if the plan hadn’t leaked, Garrison thought it wouldn’t have worked. The cries that started with the firing on Fort Sumter had risen in May when Richmond had been chosen as the capital of the Confederacy, and were now hitting a fever pitch.

Richmond wasn’t that far from Washington, after all, and most people thought the war would be over quickly if only the United States quashed the Rebels in their capital.

Garrison was worried that the Rebels might try to do the same to Washington—a fear he shared with General Scott.

Either way, the war would escalate from small skirmishes to a large battle soon enough. The only question was when.

The champagne flute was made of crystal and he had to hold it delicately as he made his way to the verandah. Here, even more people stood. The air smelled of the small smoke fires burning in bowls at the rim of the property to keep the mosquitoes away. Several more servants, holding large fans, waved them up and down so that the thick air moved.

It wasn’t yet twilight, though that hour wasn’t far away. The longest day of the year was fast approaching and sometimes it seemed to Garrison that the days would never be long enough.

Across the yard, he finally saw his hostess, Mrs. Evangeline Cunliffe. Mrs. Cunliffe was a widow whose husband had died of a fever several summers ago. She was known for holding the most important society functions in all of official Washington.

When General Scott heard Garrison complain about the invitation, Scott pushed him to go. Old Fuss and Feathers was never one to turn down an important social function. His political nature was too honed—perhaps from the days when he was the Whig candidate for President, days he rarely talked about since he had lost so badly to Franklin Pierce.

Garrison was not a social man. He would thank his hostess, mingle for a few moments after that, and then disappear into the house. Without making his apologies, he would be on the road back to camp within the hour.

Behind him, a woman laughed. The laugh was fluted, trilling up and down the vocal register like a dance hall girl’s playful attempt at a scale. In the days before his father forced him to go to West Point, Garrison had fancied himself a musician. His father had sent him away precisely to destroy that ambition and had succeeded, for the most part.

Except when something caught his ear, as this laugh did now. He turned, looking for the source of it. Women in wide hooped skirts stood on the lawn, their shoulders bared, revealing cleavage, and their hair in ringlets that seemed too girlish for most of them.

The laugh came again, and he turned again, finally catching the last note of it. The woman who made the sound was wearing pink, but on her the color seemed natural. She had black hair and eyes equally as dark, against skin the color of alabaster. The pink dress had no ornamentation—no lace, no frothy ruffles designed to enhance the bosom. Even though the woman was petite, her features small and foxlike, she filled out the dress nicely, naturally, as if the style had been created just for her.

She wore diamonds around her neck—or what appeared to be diamonds—small ones that caught the light. They added radiance to her face, but he was already captivated. He had never seen such delicate beauty before, delicate beauty that added to, and did not try to hide, strength.

The cloying scent of perfume overwhelmed him, and he suppressed the urge to sneeze. A hand slid through his bent arm and gripped it tightly.

“Lieutenant Garrison.”

He looked down at Mrs. Cunliffe. Her long black hair had been pulled to the back of her head and held in a snood. She still wore black, even though her husband had been dead for years, but the dress whispered as she moved. Silk, and from the look of it, expensive silk at that.

“Mrs. Cunliffe. I was just coming to pay my regards.” His voice sounded foreign to him, stiff, formal, and unnatural, in a way it usually never was.

Her smile brightened her face. She lacked the beauty of the woman he had been watching, but she made up for it in personality. Even he could understand why so many men in Washington discussed her with such open admiration—and he was at least fifteen years younger than she.

“Come now, Lieutenant.” Her voice had a soft Virginia accent that somehow made her seem even more feminine. “We both know you were not looking at me.”

To his surprise, he felt a flush rising in his neck. He was not a man who blushed—but then, he was not a man who usually got caught unawares.

“If I had been looking at you, Ma’am,” he said, “I would have been more welcoming as you approached.”

She laughed, deep-throated and rich, a woman who no longer had need of feminine games. “You are as charming as they say, Lieutenant.”

“Who says?” he asked.

She shrugged and gestured with her free hand. “All of Washington. You’re one of the city’s most eligible bachelors, you know. Rumor has it that you’re going to whip old Fuss and Feathers’ troops into shape long before he realizes there’s a war going on.”

To hear Scott’s nickname come from a civilian startled him almost more than her disrespect had. “General Scott is aware of the war,” Garrison said quietly. “He simply believes we must prepare for it.”

“Admirable,” she said, “if we were going to fight a prolonged war.”

He wasn’t going to get into a political discussion with his hostess. He’d been raised in the country, but even in the hinterlands, he’d learned enough about decorum to know that politics and parties did not mix.

She took his champagne flute and set it on the flat top of the wooden railing. Then she led him off the verandah and down the stairs to the lawn. “What, Lieutenant? No opinion? Or would you rather seem loyal to your commander by keeping your silence?”

He smiled. She was good. “I’m merely a lieutenant, ma’am,” he said. “My opinions do not matter.”

“I suspect that as a lieutenant who is out in the field every day—”

“If you call the perimeter of the city a field, ma’am.”

“—your opinions are probably more accurate than those of General Scott. I hear he’s not as sharp as he used to be. Is that true?”

He was sharp enough to order me to this damn thing, Garrison thought, but did not say. “General Scott has a long history of military leadership in our country. That he is old and that the press has ridiculed his preparations does not mean that he has diminished capacity.”

Even though Garrison had seen evidence of it. The shaking hands, the sometimes befuddled look in Scott’s blue eyes. Occasionally the man forgot he had given an order, or forgot which day of the week it was. Other times he was so quick that Garrison felt he could never outthink  the old man. It varied from day to day, and in degree and measure.

“You’re one of the few to deny it,” Mrs. Cunliffe said, her tone musing. “Of course, your carefully chosen words were not an exact denial, were they? More of a way of avoiding the question.”

That flush still warmed his neck. The woman was smarter than he expected, and not nearly as retiring as most women of his acquaintance. Of course, most women of his acquaintance were matrons who were concerned with their broods or girls who had just reached their majority and were interested in becoming an officer’s wife.

“Such a shy man,” Mrs. Cunliffe said. “Who would have thought such a big strong strapping fellow like you would be shy?”

He wasn’t shy, just focused. But he would let her take his actions any way she wanted. It was easier that way.

She led him across the yard directly toward the beauty he had been admiring moments ago.

“Shoo,” Mrs. Cunliffe said as they got close, waving her arm at the men who were surrounding the younger woman. “I have an introduction to make.”

To Garrison’s surprise, the men left, several with backwards glances at the beauty as if they had expected her to defend them. She said nothing, merely watched Mrs. Cunliffe with a polite and curious smile on her fox-like face.

“Serena,” Mrs. Cunliffe said, “I would like you to meet one of Washington’s most eligible bachelors. That we even have him here is a rare treat. Lieutenant Nathaniel Garrison, Serena Freneau.”

Miss Freneau offered her hand, small, delicate, and white, and he took it by the fingers, then bent over it, not quite kissing it. Her fingers were warm and smooth in his own.

“A pleasure, miss,” he said.

This time, her smile was all for him. “The pleasure’s mine.”

“I’ll leave you both,” Mrs. Cunliffe said. “And remember, Lieutenant. This is a party. No need to be so very serious.”

He looked after her, watching her black skirts sway as she walked away from him. A party, and he was too serious. Of course he was serious. There was a war going on, a war no one seemed to understand except him.

“Perhaps the city’s most eligible bachelor is interested in the city’s most famous widow.” Serena Freneau’s voice was soft and teasing, with a bit of a bite to it.

He looked back at her, unable to believe his lack of manners. He hadn’t let go of her fingers yet, and didn’t dare now. It would make him look even ruder than if he continued to hold them.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “It was just that was our first conversation. I had no idea she even knew who I was.”

Miss Freneau’s eyes were a shade of brown that matched her hair. They twinkled at him. “You’re at her party, aren’t you? Of course she knows who you are.”

That flush—why was he cursed with it on this night?—rose again. A trickle of sweat followed the drying path along his back, tickling as it traced his spine. “I meant—”

“I know what you meant.” Slowly she looked down at his hand, still holding hers. “Aunt Evangeline always surprises people with her knowledge. Perhaps it is because men think knowledge is unusual in females.”

He almost felt trapped by those fingers in his, the way that she wasn’t protesting what was becoming almost a faux paus. “I don’t find knowledge unusual in females,” he said. “I’m just surprised that as important a personage as Mrs. Cunliffe would know who I am.”

“A member of General Scott’s staff? The only one, it’s said, who knows that a short war is what the country needs? Of course she knows who you are.”

And apparently Miss Freneau did as well. “I didn’t realize that Mrs. Cunliffe was your aunt.”

Miss Freneau smiled at him. This one was soft and rather indulgent. How many different versions of a smile did this woman have?

“You don’t have time to keep track of social conventions.” Her fingers squeezed his in acknowledgement of their touch, and then she broke the contact. “It’s simply nice to know our fair city is being kept safe by men such as you.”

“Our fair city is under no immediate danger.”

“That’s not what they say.” Miss Freneau leaned toward him. “I’ve heard that the Rebels want nothing more than to destroy the Capitol. What sort of disgrace is that?”

“It’s war, miss,” he said, and wished he hadn’t. When had he gotten so prim around women?

“Are you saying we should take their capital as well?”

“As your aunt just reminded me,” he said gently, “this is a party. There’s no need to be so serious.”

Miss Freneau’s eyes widened and then she laughed—that same musical sound he had heard before. It was entrancing, almost seductive, and he felt a small thrill of pride that he had caused it.

“Of course,” she said, taking his arm just as her aunt had. “I’m the one being rude. I’m asking you to discuss work and this gathering is supposed to make you forget about work, relax, and enjoy yourself.”

He placed a hand over hers, noting the looks he got from the men who had been gathered around her before. He remembered how she hadn’t touched any of them, but she had touched him. Again, that small pride ran through him.

“Would you like some punch, Miss Freneau?”

“I thought you would never ask,” she said, leading him to the outdoor table covered with punch and various cakes.

Her skirts brushed his legs. She wore a light perfume, so unique that it took him a moment to realize it was lilac water mixed with her own scent.

When they reached the table, he slipped out of her grasp and took the cut-glass punch cup an elderly female servant offered him, then handed it to Miss Freneau. He took another glass for himself. He was going to ask if she wanted cakes, when she leaned forward.

“There will be dancing later, Lieutenant,” she said. “My aunt has given permission for at least two waltzes. We’re being informal—no dance cards—but I would hope you save one waltz for me.”

This time he smiled. The waltz was a brazen dance not often allowed at social functions, especially social functions of this caliber. “Have you ever waltzed before, Miss Freneau?”

“Only with my dance instructor,” she said, “and only because I forced him to teach me.”

Garrison could see that. The woman had a strength about her that could not be denied. “To dance it might compromise your reputation.”

Her eyes twinkled and this time, her smile was wide. “Reputation? Lieutenant, we’re at war. In six months time, who will care about reputations?”

“If we do this right,” he said, “you won’t even notice the war.”

She tossed her ringlets back and sighed. “And here I was hoping for a measure of freedom.”

“That seems to be,” he said, “what everyone is hoping for these days.”

June 17, 1911

Garrison turned, the remembered scent of lilac water still in his nose. That waltz had been the highlight of his life until that point, Serena Freneau’s small body moving with his in a sweeping motion, her skirts flaring behind her, his hand pressed against the small of her back, her bright eyes holding his as if there were no one else in the room—indeed, no one else in the world.

It had been the beginning of something, although not quite the something he had thought.

The laugh again, musical, warm. He scanned the deck chairs, saw no one laughing. Most of the passengers there were reading or talking softly, enjoying the maiden voyage of a ship he couldn’t even have imagined fifty years before.

The world had changed, so much that at times he barely recognized it.

He scanned until he saw a grouping around one of the iron tables placed on the deck by the crew before dawn. An umbrella shaded the table itself. The women who sat there were not the young creatures he had thought, but elderly, most of them wearing tasteful black gowns. Not the black silk that Mrs. Cunliffe had worn fifty years before, with reams of material over hoops, but long skirts that covered sensible shoes, black lace around the neck, and in the case of one woman, a long strand of pearls that added a bit of brightness.

He was about to turn away when he heard the laugh a third time. It came from the woman wearing the pearls. She had silver hair rolled into a bun at the back of her head, rather like that of an aging Gibson Girl. Softly curling tendrils fell along the sides of her narrow face.

The chin wasn’t as sharp as it had been and the skin look papery, like some women’s skin got when they aged, but the brown eyes were still sharp, maybe more sharp now that they no longer matched her hair.

He leaned against the rail, feeling sea spray mist him like tears. His breath was in his throat again, his heart racing like a boy’s.

It wasn’t possible. It couldn’t be possible. She had died, drowned as she tried to escape a U.S. naval blockade runner. The rough seas had pulled her under when the lifeboat she’d stolen capsized.

He’d seen the obituary, visited her grave. Clenched his fist on top of the stone and pounded until his skin rubbed away, and his blood stained the rounded edge.

If that were her, if she really lived, it meant she had told yet another lie, and another lie might be more than he could bear.

May 20, 1864

Heat, already, even though it was barely noon. Flies, on his face, his arms. Too tired to brush them off. Thinner than he’d ever been. The dysentery was bad. Not as bad as some, dying in the middle of the camp, no one noticing until they’d become so covered with flies that they looked like a strange hive. And the stench…

A man never got used to the stench.

Garrison sat, arms around his legs. Uniform was all rags, which was good in this heat. It’d been cold when he was captured, over a year ago now. Over a year and he hadn’t changed clothes since. Hadn’t really bathed except early on, when he didn’t know that he shouldn’t use his drinking water for washing.

He sat near the edge of the log stockade. Other men around him, though he barely noticed. He was too weak to notice much. His brain simply hummed as he tried not to think, tried not to think about any of it, from the first awful days.

Ahead of him, the line drawn in the cracked red Georgia clay, harsh now, deeper than it had been last summer—the days of the miserable heat. He’d tried to bury the dead then, had some strength, but when he’d collapsed, no one had picked him up. No one had helped. He just kept thinking of the bodies and the disease. Less than 16 acres this camp was, and, some said, more than twenty thousand men here—living men. Who knew how many dead?

And who cared anymore?

Still, he stared at the line. The dead line, they called it. One foot across it and a guard would shoot him, not care if they only wounded, let him rot in the wretched Georgia sun. Sometimes men cried from out there, whimpered, moaned in pain, and no one dared go help them. No one dared try. Not if he still valued his life.

Garrison sometimes wondered why he did. It would all end so easily. One foot across, maybe two. The perimeter wasn’t as well guarded here. There weren’t enough guards for all these men. That’s why, he guessed, the lack of food, the horrible conditions. Keep the men weak and they couldn’t run. They wouldn’t even try.

But he stared at the line. The dead line. Like he did every day. So easy to end it all. And so hard.

One shot, or maybe, escape. But to what?

The thoughts were too much and he willed his mind back to hum. It wasn’t going there, rarely did when he contemplated the dead line. For there was nothing left for him. Nothing at all.

No way he could face her. Anyone. No way he could face anyone from his past at all.

A hand on his back, then a crust of bread thrust at him. He looked over, saw Major Tom Winthrop of the New York Zouaves, his gaudy uniform now tatters, the colors faded and no longer joyful.

Winthrop thrust the bread at him again, and this time Garrison took it. The crust was so dry it crumbled in his hands. He knew how it would feel in his mouth, impossible to swallow without water—and he wouldn’t get his ration until that night, if he was lucky enough to survive that long.

Lucky enough. The thought almost made him chuckle.

Still he took a bite, forced himself to chew, swallow, nearly choking on the scratchy stale crust going down. He uttered a weak cough, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and then checked it for blood.

None yet. But it was only a matter of time. Only a matter of time.

“New recruits today,” Winthrop said, using the term that had once been a joke and wasn’t any longer. More prisoners in the already overcrowded space. Raw and green and unable to know what horrors faced them, thinking at that point that they were better off than their fellows, at least they were alive. “There’s one you should see.”

It took Winthrop a while to make the whole sentence, but it took Garrison a while to follow it as well. They were well matched, like old men who had said everything they needed to long ago.

“Why?” Garrison asked.

“News. About that woman.”

Winthrop knew everything. Down to the ugliest detail, like a father confessor. There had been nothing else to do in here, but talk. Even then, Garrison hadn’t said much. Only to Winthrop whose unit had left him for dead, thinking he had betrayed them, when—in truth—he hadn’t. He knew who did, he had said, not that it mattered now. That man was free or dead or in some other camp. Winthrop was concerned with survival here.

“Don’t need news,” Garrison said.

“This you do.” Then Winthrop turned, slowly, like a man underwater, and waved his fingers at someone, beckoning him forward.

Garrison heard the footsteps, the intake of breath, saw a droplet of sweat hit the dry red clay. The man still had enough water in him to waste it in sweat. Some day, he would think that a luxury.

“My God in Heaven, are you all dying?”

Garrison looked up, saw a young man’s face, red whiskers sprouting in patches with the growth of a week, hair messy and covered with grime. New recruit, captured nearby. Not a long journey. Not a lot of suffering. Yet.

“Tell Lieutenant Garrison what you told me,” Winthrop said.

The boy waited for Winthrop to finish, impatiently, Garrison thought, obviously not used to the pace of life here. The conservation of life, the way energy had to be stored, held, a commodity as precious as water, twice as precious as bread.

“Lieutenant Garrison?” the boy asked. “Not Nathaniel Garrison?”

“Yes,” Winthrop said.

Garrison stared at the boy, the green eyes sliding back and forth, the beginnings of a panic that Garrison didn’t yet understand.

“I’m sorry, sir.” The boy bit his lower lip. “She said you were dead.”

“Who?” Garrison’s voice was little more than a whisper. The voice a man not yet dead. But close. Too damn close.

“Your wife.”

Garrison’s hand snaked out before he could stop it, all bone and sinew, and it caught the boy’s wrist, still fat with flesh. The boy looked down, startled, tried to wrench away and couldn’t.

“How do you know my wife?” Garrison asked.

“A party, last summer. She held a charity function for the widows and orphans campaign.” The boy’s voice was trembling. “Please, sir, you’re hurting me.”

“Did you sleep with her?”

“Sir, I—”

“Did you?”

The boy swallowed, his Adam’s Apple bobbing. Garrison envied him the saliva that made such a movement so simple, so involuntary.

“She said you were dead, sir.”

Garrison flung the boy away from him. How many lives this time, then? How many?

“And I suppose you told her everything you knew, figuring it wouldn’t hurt.”

The boy was rubbing his wrist. He studied Garrison for a moment, then an awful understanding filled his face, an understanding quickly denied. “Sir, I thought she was a loyal officer’s widow.”

“She was a loyal officer’s wife.” The words caught in Garrison’s throat like the crust had, and he coughed again, wiping, checking for blood, seeing none. Not yet. “But she was not loyal. Not loyal at all.”

April 25, 1863

In his own bedroom, the window open, the spring air carrying the faint scents of cherry blossoms on the breeze, Garrison could almost see the future. His wife beside him, naked, her warm body pressed against his, both of them still sticky from love-making, the softness of the cotton ticking in the well-stuffed mattress lulling him toward sleep, it wasn’t hard to imagine years from now, the war over, how he would lie here, holding her, trying to make no noise so that the children wouldn’t hear.

Perhaps it was a fantasy. There were no children yet, neither of them wanting to bring a child into this horror, this world that was so far from the one he had known. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, only four months old, guaranteed that if the North won—when the North won—the world would be a different place from the one Garrison grew up in.

Serena had just been complaining about how difficult it was to keep help any more. She had grown up in Evangeline Cunliffe’s house where the servants had once been slaves who had stayed with the family after receiving their freedom—or so the Cunliffes had told Garrison. He doubted even that was true when, after the war began in earnest, the servants vanished one by one, like thieves in the night, stealing their freedom the way that their counterparts had for decades down South.

Serena sighed next to him and he wondered if she were drifting into sleep. They had promised to stay awake together—he only had twenty-four hours until he had to return to hell—but they had not always managed to keep that promise before.

“Where will you be?” she asked him, her voice sleepy. He felt her breath on his chest, and the softness of her hair beneath his hand.

“I don’t know for sure,” he said, hating to lie to her. The lie spoiled the beauty of the night. The war came back now in all its bloody terror, the stench of mud, the cold, the smell of gunpowder and smoke filling the air.

She raised up on one elbow and looked down at him. Her beauty was greater without the clothes, the way her neck rose out of her shoulders and collarbone, the way her torso tapered into a waist so small he could wrap his hand around it.

“I swear I don’t know why General Hooker trusts you as his attaché,” she said, that faint teasing look on her face, the one that had entranced him two years before. “Best hope you never have to lie for him, Nathaniel Garrison.”

“You know I’m not supposed to tell you,” he said, drawing her down.

But she put her other arm on his chest, keeping her face above his. His eyes had adjusted to the dark. He could almost see her expression, could imagine it even though it wasn’t completely clear.

“Who am I gonna tell?” she asked. “Evangeline? She disappeared a month ago. The other wives? They’re fearing a summer siege on Washington and have gone farther north. There’s no one, Nate, no one I’d trust to tell, not and risk your life.”

He pulled her down, kissed her, wished he could stay even one more night. “You don’t need to know.”

“Sure I do. If you die, how’ll I know? Silence for months and then a casualty list? At least—”

“You can watch the battle, see the number of dead, and worry that I’m in it?”

She pushed herself up again. “I do that anyway, only now I do that with all of them. Maybe if there was only one—”

“We’re trying for Richmond again,” he said. She could always get him to tell her, and she said it eased her mind. And knowing that she knew eased his. “And this time, I think we’ll take it.”

“You have a plan.”

“I don’t,” he said. “General Hooker does.”

“Is he as good as they say?”

“Better.” Garrison liked working with Hooker. So different from the other generals who had led the Army of the Potomac. The men were fed properly and had decent camps. Hooker had worked with the Calvary until Garrison believed they could take on Jeb Stuart, and he knew how to use the abundance of men. “He’s given us our confidence back.”

“Good.” She lay her head on him, her hair falling across his face. “Where will you be?”

“Chancellorsville, most likely,” he said, “although there’s a chance I might be in Fredericksburg.”

“You don’t know?”

“It’s part of the same maneuver,” he said. “It just depends on where Hooker puts me. He usually likes me to be in the thick of the action, so that means Chancellorsville.”

“You’re splitting the Army?”

“And hoping Lee heads the wrong way.”

She let out a small sigh, and said nothing for the longest time. He stroked her hair, memorizing it, knowing he would keep this memory with him through the worst of the battle—the waiting.

“Why can’t you stay here? You delivered your dispatch to the President. They don’t need you.”

But they did. There were men who relied on him. They listened to him, much to his surprise.

“If I did that, love,” he said, “I’d be hunted for a deserter.”

“We could live in Michigan, or maybe Canada. Far from all this. Maybe go West. No one would care.”

“Except me.”

She was silent for a moment, then she said, “It’s like a game to you all, isn’t it? Diverting Lee, trying to cross into Richmond, getting the capital, like the king in a game of chess.”

He hadn’t expected the outburst, although he should have. She had done it before. “Chess doesn’t cost lives,” he said.

He hadn’t meant to. He tried to keep most of the reality of the war from her.

He put his arm around her and pulled her back close. “Let’s not fight. I have to leave in the morning.”

She held the rigid posture for another moment, then collapsed against him. And he held her like he always did, as if it were going to be the last time.

May 6, 1863

He wasn’t even sure where he was. Somewhere in Virginia, but nowhere he recognized. His head ached. He had a lump on his forehead the size of a walnut, according to the man he was chained to. They were tied together like plowhorses, expected to eat and move and shit together like animals. He didn’t exactly know how he’d been captured, only that it had happened.

His last memories were of his rifle, hot in his hands, the bayonet bloody from the man he’d just stabbed, the morning sun rising, sending light and heat on the battlefield somewhere outside Chancellorsville.

Lee hadn’t retreated like Hooker thought he would. Faced with an army of superior size, Lee had charged forward, with strength and courage and fury. Hooker had expected Lee to turn tail and for some reason, Garrison had thought that would happen too, even though now, three days after the worst of it, three days after he’d been captured, he had no idea why. Lee was no coward, although some were saying Hooker was. Inept, cowardly, stupid. His plan had backfired. Somehow Lee had seen through the ruse at Fredericksburg, dodged the trap laid over the Rappahanock, and had come to Chancellorsville ready to fight.

And fight he had.

Garrison had lost his horse in the middle of it, the beast screaming and falling beneath him, throwing him clear. He hadn’t had time to see if the horse was dead—the momentum of the battle had carried him forward and he’d stabbed and shot and fought hand to hand with more men than he could remember, most of them younger than he was, most of them bloody and thin and filled with a fighting frenzy that seemed almost crazy.

He’d been fighting with his own frenzy, thinking how angry Serena would be if he died, how she would check the casualty lists and see his name, and that had driven him forward, over bodies, dead men, dead horses, and blood slicker than water on the ground. Forward until he heard—felt—a crack so loud that it shook the entire world, and then he had wakened, a day later, chained to other men, men who said they were sure he was going to die or never wake up because of the lump on his head.

They fed him, shared water with him, happy that he was awake and they wouldn’t have to drag his dead weight to whereever it was their guards were taking them.

Right now they sat in the woods, near the thin underbrush and the copse of trees, and waited, as they had done before. Their guards were scouting the path ahead, leaving a handful behind to watch the prisoners.

Garrison thought this might be an opportunity, but he wasn’t sure what kind of opportunity it was, a wise one, a foolish one. He was chained by the legs and arms to men he didn’t know, and he saw no way of escaping without dragging them all with him. That wouldn’t work for even the first mile, and even in his most hopeful state, he knew it.

One of the guards, a man nearer to forty than thirty, had been watching Garrison for the last day, a smirk on his face every time he caught Garrison’s eye. He was one of the ones left behind, and when he saw Garrison staring at him, he smiled.

“I can get you special favors if you like,” the guard said, strolling toward him as if they were at a lawn party instead of in the woods.

Garrison frowned, felt the tug against the bump on his forehead. “Me?”

“You’re Nathaniel Garrison, ain’t you?” The guard smiled, revealing a gold tooth. He had bars on his gray uniform, gold bars, and tassels too. He was someone, then.

“What’s it to you?”

“Ain’t had a chance to thank you.”

The men stirred around him. The ones chained to him moved away as if he were tainted. “For what?”

“Our greatest victory. Heard you made it possible, letting General Lee know he was facing a trap.”

“Wha—?” the man next to him started, but Garrison raised his right hand, stopping him.

“I haven’t spoken to Lee.”

“I know that.” The guard’s smile grew. “You didn’t speak to anyone except your wife. She says you was one of the toughest. Most men, they take a bit of tail now and then, but you was all proper, almost like a Southern gentleman, insisting on courtship and love and marriage. And she was willing, seeing what a prize a man like you was. Right hand man in the Army of Potomac not to one but to all of its generals. They liked you, didn’t they, Lieutenant?”

He rose, felt the chains hold him, but he stumbled forward anyway, and fell.

“Didn’t know that about your wife, now did you? Little Serena Freneau, one of the P. G. T. Beauregard’s special ladies, doing the work of Rose Greenhow, but doing it better. So much better, landing a prize like you. Do you think she done it so that she could be with Beau after the war? Or do you think it was the glory all along, like she said? The glory and the cause of it—”

Garrison lurched forward, dragging the others with him, reaching for the guard’s boots, but the guard stepped out of the way and laughed.

“Don’t like the way the lady took you by your testicles and—”

“That’s my wife you’re lying about.”

“Lying?” The guard crouched, just outside of arm’s reach. “Lying? Her aunt run to Richmond before they could put her in the Old Capital Prison, didn’t you hear? Mrs. Cunliffe’s in London now, making sure the English know we need them at our side.”

“Don’t listen,” one of the other prisoners said. “He’s just trying to make you do something stupid so that he can shoot you.”

But the guard was watching Garrison like he was enjoying the reaction. He didn’t look like a man bent on shooting anyone.

“You couldn’t know this,” Garrison said.

“I’m on Beau’s staff,” the man said. “I got the report direct from your wife’s contact, like I got the others. Then they told me you was here, and I was to come take care of you. Make you an offer, Lieutenant Garrison. You can join our side and stay with your wife, or you can become a prisoner of war like the rest. We could use someone like you, with the knowledge of the Yank force from the inside out.”

Garrison stared at him, at the gold tooth that caught the sunlight, dazzling the rest of the man’s mouth and making his tobacco-stained teeth seem even dingier by comparison.

“Think on it, Lieutenant. These men here know your traitorous bent. They’ll make sure you pay when you get to whatever camp they’re sending you to. You can die there or you can come to Richmond, see your wife, spend the rest of your life in relative luxury.”

“By becoming an agent for the Confederacy.”

The guard nodded. “Now you’re thinking.”

And he was thinking of it, for just a brief moment. An agent for the Confederacy, getting information and somehow sending it back to Washington. But he needed a network for that, and if the United States government knew about Serena, they would never trust his information.

Serena. Her face rose in his mind, the fox-like intensity, the way Evangeline Cunliffe introduced them, the way Serena had smiled at him when she hadn’t given time to any of the other men. A set-up, even then?

All this time, the warm words, the loving, all a diversion to get information?

Where will you be? She would ask, her voice sleepy, and he would tell her, things he had sworn to tell no one, thinking her an extension of himself, his wife, loyal to him and to all he was loyal to, believing as he did. Living as he did.

His wife.

“No,” he said. “I’ll never help your cause.”

Only the words came out thick and angry, and he wasn’t sure if he was talking about the Confederacy or Serena—her cause, not his, taken at the price of his trust.

Why was he believing a greasy guard with a single gold tooth over the gestures of his wife, the woman he’d pledged to before God?

Because the man knew too much, too many things, and it put all the questions in perspective.

Where will you be?

“Surely, Lieutenant, your life is worth more than that,” the guard said.

And Garrison stared at him, out of reach, the anger cold in his stomach. A killing anger that would have rampaged through this small section of woods if he were only free.

Here I was hoping for a measure of freedom, she had said on that first evening.

And he had replied, so blithely, almost flirting, That seems to be what everyone is hoping for these days.

“Lieutenant? Are you reconsidering?” the guard asked.

“I gave you my answer,” Garrison said.

The guard frowned. “She thought you would do it for her.”

Garrison looked up, that last more appalling than anything that had come before. Appalling perhaps because it held some truth. If he hadn’t known of the betrayal, he might have joined her in Richmond, might have found a way to continue his marriage without sacrificing too much of his soul.

The thought rocked him to his very essence.

“It seems,” he said slowly, “that my wife doesn’t know me as well as she thought she did.”

It was an affliction they both had suffered from although it looked, from his new vantage, as if he would suffer more for it.

If he lived.

May 20, 1864

“I’m sorry, Sir,” the boy was saying. “I didn’t know.”

Of course not. Garrison hadn’t known either. She had been so good at playing parts, not thinking of the consequences.

At least his discussion with the guard so long ago had done one thing. It had saved him from the wrath of the other prisoners. They had seen his face; they had known his betrayal of his own troops had been involuntary.

But he learned in the year that had gone on, through rumor and discussion and the general torment of the guards who had learned who he was, the cost of his midnight confession. Seventeen thousand lives lost, and just on his side. Seventeen thousand in a battle they should have won.

How many other lives, from Shiloh to Fredericksburg, could be laid directly on his love for his wife? How many?

He would never know.

“I didn’t bring him here to have him tell you that.” Winthrop had his hand on Garrison’s arm. He could feel the bones of Winthrop’s fingers, the unnatural scaliness of his skin. Winthrop was dying. They were all dying, slowly, and of more diseases than Garrison had thought imaginable. Disease exacerbated by starvation, heat, and the god-awful stench.

Garrison looked away. “He’s not the first to tell me he’s had her.”

It explained why she was so practiced, when he had been so inexperienced that he thought her skill normal for a woman of eighteen years. It explained so much.

All those nights he had thought of it, of her, going over the words they exchanged, the secrets, the way she had wheedled things out of him, even while he was discussing with first Scott, then Burnside, then Hooker, how to stop the flow of intelligence from the North to the South, how to deal with the disloyal women like Rose O’Neal Greenhow, a society woman just like Evangeline Cunliffe, who had created such a stir by being imprisoned early in the war.

“Why then?” he asked the boy. “Why are you here?”

The boy looked at the log stockade, the men sitting outside it, the dead line. He apparently thought Garrison wanted to know why he had come to Andersonville.

Garrison clarified. “What do you know about my wife?”

The boy winced at the word, but answered. He had more courage than Garrison wanted to acknowledge—or wanted to see. In a place like this, courage could get a man killed.

“Only that she’s dead, sir.”

That caught him. He saw, for a brief moment, her vivid brown eyes, remembered how, when he had looked in them on his wedding night, he knew she would outlive him. Nothing, he had thought then, could extinguish a flame like hers.

“How?”

“Drowned, sir. Trying to get back into the Confederacy. She’d been in England, and their ship was being pursued near the Carolina shoreline.”

“How do you know this?”

The boy looked down, his red whiskers standing out like bristles against the pasty skin. “I saw her, sir.”

Garrison frowned, trying to make sense of this. “You’re Navy?” They usually didn’t house Navy here.

The boy shook his head. “I was called to identify her.” He studied his hands. “It was known that I…”

Garrison studied his own hands. It would take little for them to wrap around the boy’s throat, and throttle him. It would actually be merciful, more merciful than living here, or slowly dying here as they all were.

Instead, he clenched his fists, placed them at his side in the baked clay, and asked, “Did the ship go down?”

“There was a storm, sir. She took a lifeboat, afraid their ship would run aground. If they caught her on it, apparently, she was to be hanged.”

Winthrop looked at Garrison. Garrison said nothing. Someone had found her out then, long before the boy. And the boy, then, had been under suspicion, to see if he sent secrets to the enemy. Perhaps he had. Perhaps he was here because he had betrayed the wrong person.

Garrison didn’t care.

He got up, staggered away from the dead line, trying to avoid the men sprawled like corpses in the dirt.

She was dead, then. The light in those eyes gone forever. That dry humor, the softness of her pressed against him in the night. Gone. He wouldn’t have to face her, wouldn’t have to face that moment which he had been certain would come, the one in which he would have to choose between his loyalty for his country and that passion, whatever it was, he had felt for her.

It had been so easy in the woods. He had just found out. She hadn’t been before him. He could still feel the hurt like an open wound.

But what if she had told him? What if she had leaned against him in the night, after their loving, and told him, then said, as she had that last night, We could live in Michigan, or maybe Canada. Far from all this. Maybe go West. No one would care.

Except him, he had said.

Except him.

June 17, 1911

He had a choice, he knew. He could walk away, chalk it up to coincidence, his illness, the dazed feeling men sometimes got while at sea.

But he remembered her eyes, their vividness, the way they had held him when she said her vows, his certainty that she had more life force than he.

Nothing, not time, not infirmity, not wishful thinking, could keep him away from that table.

He put his walking stick down forcefully, tried not to lean on it too hard, and made his way toward her.

The conversation stopped as he approached, the women staring up at him as if he were a curiosity. He could only see her. Eyes usually faded, got watery, lost their color and intensity with age and time, but hers had not. They still had a fire in them, a life force so intense he could feel it.

“Good afternoon, ladies,” he said, bowing as he had the first time he had seen her. He smiled as he stood, knowing he still had some of the old charm. “Forgive my interruption, but I would like to speak with Serena alone.”

She could have denied it, he supposed, and would have tried if she had been alone. But the other women turned toward her, looking surprised, as if they should have known all of her friends.

Her skin seemed paler than it had a moment ago, and up close, he could see the fine wrinkles, like flaws in parchment. “It’s all right,” she said. There was still a trace of Maryland in her voice. Like home, he used to think. Like home.

The women got up, gave him another glance, and then walked away. The stoutest of them, an imposing matron with the kind of power women of a certain age gained, patted a gloved hand on hers.

“If you need us, my dear, we’ll be on the deck chairs.” Then the woman looked at him as if warning him of all sorts of dire problems should he assault their friend.

He slipped into the chair the woman had just vacated, and after a moment, she left them alone. He hung his walking stick on the arm, using the movement to think about what he would say, what he would do.

He wondered if he could get the captain to place her under house arrest, if the United States government would pursue a 48 year-old case. War crimes, perhaps, treason of the highest order. Could he actually prove she had caused all those deaths, done all those things? Most of the witnesses were dead now, but he was still alive. He and a handful of others.

She was looking at him as if she couldn’t quite place him. He hoped it wasn’t an act. He had thought of her daily for the last fifty years. The first two with love so fierce he thought he would die from it, and the last with a hopelessness that seared him to his very soul.

He had never loved like that again, never trusted anyone again. He had held several women, almost brought two to wife, but could not bear the thought of letting them in his home, in his bed for an entire night. In the end, he had channeled his energies into his businesses, except for the time he made for his nieces and nephews, treating them as if they were his own. She had taken so much from him, more than the war ever could.

“You wished to speak to me?” she said, so impersonal, so formal, as if they had just met.

“Serena Freneau Garrison,” he said softly, “I saw your name on a grave in Washington, D.C.”

She stared at him for a long time, her eyes running over his face as if she were searching her memory, looking at portraits. Then tears came to her eyes. “Nathaniel.”

She said his name as she had when he loved her, half a whisper, filled with promises. His heart lurched again.

“They told me you died at Chancellorsville.”

“They told me you betrayed us two days before.”

Her eyes widened.

“I know it all,” he said. “The way you pulled information from me. The way you sent it all to Beauregard, who then used it to slaughter our men. Tell me, Serena, who died for you that day in 1864? A servant? A life you considered less valuable than your own?”

“It was all a mistake,” she said. “And the rumors were so terrible, I decided to let Serena Garrison go. I thought it better—”

He put a finger over her lips and she closed her eyes, the movement of a lover. She tilted her head into his touch ever so slightly, and he remembered how she let him hold her fingers so improperly that day on Mrs. Cunliffe’s lawn fifty years before.

“No more lies, Serena,” he said, and let his finger drop.

She opened her eyes. The tears were still in them. “It was a long time ago,” she said. “I was young and stupid—“

“Serena. No lies. I spent two years in Andersonville before I got exchanged out. You owe me the truth.”

She let out a small breath of air, glanced at the deck chairs where her friends sat. “I asked you to go away with me. I fell in love with you, Nathaniel. I mourned when they told me you were dead.”

“By your hand.”

She raised her chin slightly. So familiar. The gestures, the movements. He had remembered them perfectly. “We were at war.”

“You and I? Funny, I thought we were in love.”

A tear fell, glistening like a diamond as it hovered, caught on her cheek. He saw her more clearly now, how she had acted for him as if she were playing a part on the stage. But the young man inside him, the man who had hoped and believed her to be a part of him, he still wanted to believe her.

And the rest of him wanted to carry her to the rail and toss her over, let her drown for real.

This time, he was the one who glanced at her friends. The stout woman was glaring at him, her eyes accusing.

Serena followed his gaze.

“They’re making me uncomfortable,” he said. “Walk with me.”

She rose quicker than he did. He grabbed his walking stick, used it to lever himself up, then switched it to the other hand so that he could offer her his arm. She took it, her hand light and delicate against his coat. He felt absurdly like asking her if she wanted punch or perhaps to waltz.

They walked to the railing. He led her behind one of the lifeboats, roped in and covered at the edge of the deck. He had stopped shaking. He felt stronger than he had in weeks.

This would be his only chance, here, out of the sight of those women. He would still have to lift her, but only a little. And then a toss that might wrench his back and she would be falling, a scream floating up at him before she hit the froth below.

She was studying him, those dark fox-like eyes, probably seeing all the emotions on his face.

“There are people who will miss me,” she said. “Are you still such a terrible liar, Nathaniel?”

“No,” he said.

A small shudder went through her then. She hadn’t expected that, although she had seen on his face what he meant to do. He would be able to toss her over and lie about what he had done. Another of her legacies.

Garrison looked over the railing at the gray Atlantic. The vast ocean of nothingness, the place that was supposed to have claimed her, when in fact it hadn’t.

“I’m sorry, Nathaniel—” she started, but he didn’t let her finish.

He dropped his walking stick, grabbed her waist—not as small as it had once been—and hoisted her up. She didn’t scream, but she grabbed the railing and hung on, her body tense.

It wouldn’t be easy. Nothing with her was ever easy.

“My husband is a rich man,” she said. “We can pay you, Nathaniel. You could be rich.”

His hands tightened on her waist. “Who’s your husband?” he asked softly, as if he were intrigued by the notion of another man’s money.

“Lord Reginald Seton. Please, Nathaniel. Let me down.”

He let go so quickly that she nearly fell overboard anyway. Her body collapsed against the rail, her heels kicking against the side. She eased herself down and for a brief moment, he saw fear in her eyes.

“Does he know of your past life?” Garrison asked.

She raised that sharp chin. “I met him in London. During the war.”

One of the collaborators. One of the men who had hoped to fund the South.

“And how long have you been married?” Garrison asked.

She stepped away from him, the movement small but noticeable. “I thought you were dead.”

Forty-seven years. They had married while Garrison was starving in a camp she had sent him to. The camp she had condemned him to.

She had spent forty-seven years in London society under a different name, and no one had been the wiser. Forty-seven years in a marriage that had obviously worked, with a man who had a reputation to protect. A man, by the very nature of the peerage to which he belonged, could suffer no hint of impropriety.

“Where is he now?” Garrison asked.

“The smoking room, I believe,” she said.

“This early in the day?”

“He enjoys cards,” she said. And cards offended many of the women. The smoking room had become a replacement for some of the men’s clubs.

“Let’s go there.”

“I can’t.”

“But I can.” He took her arm, dragged her forward, then slipped her hand in his elbow again. “Walk normally,” he said softly, “and smile.”

She did. They were halfway across the deck when he realized he’d left his walking stick behind. He was functioning on something purer than energy now, something deeper. He would go through with this if it killed him.

Fortunately, they weren’t far from the smoking room. He pushed open the doors and saw, as he had hoped, the reporters that the White Star Line had hired to glorify the Olympic’s first trip.

“Gentlemen,” he said, as he dragged Serena forward. “Come with me.”

They did, of course. No one said no to Nathaniel Garrison. How ironic that he needed them, them and their scandal sheets, to get the only revenge possible now.

He would destroy her place in society. Once he revealed her identity, everyone would know who she was, who she had been. His story was familiar enough.

It was time to make that story hers as well.

He would ruin her life as she had once ruined his.

Garrison walked across the checked carpet, past rows of empty tables flanked by green leather chairs, to the center of the room.

There Lord Seton was already standing, his cards turned down in his large arthritic hands. He was a big man who did not stoop with age, with a large white mustache that seemed to have stolen all the hair from his head. His eyes were faded, so faded it took Garrison a moment to see the color.

“Serena,” Seton said. “What is the meaning of this?”

Garrison glanced at his side, made certain the reporters were there, saw Serena, her eyes wide, the fear evident now.

“Lord Seton,” Garrison said, letting Serena’s hand drop and placing his own on the small of her back. “My name is Nathaniel Garrison. I’ve been so looking forward to meeting you. Please allow me to introduce you to my wife.”

He paused for half a moment and saw the horror plain on Seton’s face. The reporters had gasped. Serena looked as if she were about to faint.

Garrison stared at her one last time, saw how years of good living had softened her, and knew the publicity, the scandal, the trial would be her Andersonville.

He nodded to her once, an acknowledgement that finally the table had turned. There was nowhere for her to go, no escape possible. She couldn’t even handle the lifeboats by herself.

Then he turned and left her there, surrounded by reporters, and a scandalized man who had only thought he was her husband for forty-seven years. Garrison, her real husband, left her to face her future alone—her bleak future—as she had once left him.

Fifty years to the day it began, the war was finally over.

 

Copyright © 2017 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
First published in The Blue and the Gray Undercover, edited by Ed Gorman, Forge Books, November 2001
Published by WMG Publishing
Cover and layout copyright © 2017 by WMG Publishing
Cover design by Allyson Longueira/WMG Publishing
Cover art copyright © Christophe Boisson/Dreamstime

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

3 responses to “Free Fiction Monday: The Dead Line”

  1. I made no mistake when I signed to follow you and your writings. You inspire me to continue my own writing.

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