Chapter 3: To Hell and Back

A rhythmic knock at the door roused everyone from their slumber. The realization hit them all simultaneously. It was Christmas Day and all types would come to call.

Mother stood, straight faced, straightened her dress, and hurried to the door. She paused for a moment in the foyer and they could see she took a moment to refresh her hair a bit in the hallway mirror, and opened the door only a bit.

"Happy Christmas Mrs. Burrows!" came the familiar voice of Reverend MacLeod - a burley Scot always eager to make house calls and sample the local holiday fare of his parishioners.

"Reverend," Mother started, "please forgive the delay in my answering the door. We've had a Dickens of a night." The stout Scotsman made a move toward the door to let himself in, eager to sample mother's famous Christmas cookies, but she blocked his entrance. "I'm sorry Reverend but you'll have to come back another time. Little Amos is rather peaked. He was coughing a tempest all night and I'd feel bad if you caught it and spread it to the other parishioners."

Reverend MacLeod's demeanor changed. His desire for sweets didn't outweigh his desire to live. A bad cough could mean all kinds of things and he wasn't about to take any chances. "Well you and yours will be in my prayers then. Please give my regards to your husband and kin and I'll see you at church hopefully on Sunday," he said hurriedly and was on his way.

Mother closed the door, turned, sighed with relief, and then was back to the study looking through father's books until she found the one she sought. War and Peace. And inside was a small bag of hard money. James had the foresight to not stash away paper that could burn or wouldn't work in different regions. They could all tell by its heft, it must have been substantial.

"Get your coats, I felt a chill on the air while I was talking to the Reverend. We're going to get some answers," she said. No one dared question the resolve they saw on her face.