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A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

4: A Hard-Workin’ Man

Stacy Lawrence liked life in Thurmont, mainly because there was little drama. The worst that she had to deal with was the occasional bar Romeo trying to pick her up while she was working. So far, they had all taken “no” for an answer.

She was surprised she needed this slower pace of life. It gave her a chance to take a deep breath, regroup, and rebuild her life. Having her car break down on Catoctin Mountain might be the best thing to happen to her since she divorced Jack, Peter’s father. She hadn’t even bothered to tell Jack that she and Peter were moving. He hadn’t paid any alimony or child support, so she didn’t feel she owed him anything.

Peter was making new friends. He had been thrilled to discover Thurmont had a skateboard park that was close enough to their apartment that he could go on his own.

Stacy finished her work closing the tavern, locked up the place, and went upstairs to her apartment. She had stopped in earlier during her break to make dinner for Peter and put him to bed, so the place was quiet and dark when she entered.

She turned on a lamp next to an old armchair and sat down. She soaked in the quiet. She enjoyed her job, but it was noisy. After work, she just wanted to get off her feet and enjoy the quiet. She picked up a novel by Sherryl Woods and started reading until she fell asleep.

She woke the next morning and saw Peter watching television and eating cereal. “Good morning, kiddo,” she said, wiping the sleep from her eyes.

“Hi, Mom.”

“I’m going to the library for some new books today. Do you want to come along?” she asked.

She was off today and tomorrow, and she planned to enjoy it.

“Can I get some DVDs?”

“I suppose so.”


It was a sunny day, so the walk to the library was pleasant, and Stacy was happy to be spending time with Peter. She was working so many hours that she didn’t get to see him much, and when she did, it tended to be in the apartment or the tavern.

At the library, Peter hurried off to the DVDs while Stacy strolled through the stacks, looking for something that caught her eye. As she walked by one of the large windows that looked out on a back porch, she heard a trio of musicians playing music.

She walked out onto the porch to listen. About a dozen people were gathered around, sitting in chairs.

“They’re pretty good, aren’t they?”

Stacy looked over her shoulder and saw Bobby Hennessey, the older man who had helped her when her car broke down on Catoctin Mountain. He had also given her a good recommendation to Kevin at the tavern to help her get her job.

She smiled at him. “I’m surprised. I thought libraries were supposed to be quiet.”

“Technically, these people aren’t in the library.” He paused. “How’s the new job?”

“Busy, but I like it. The tips are good, and I can use all the money I can earn right now.”

“Why’s that? It’s a lot cheaper to live here than in Montgomery County.”

Stacy nodded. “It is, but I have a lot of debt that Peter’s father left me with.”

“Doesn’t he pay support or alimony?”

Stacy snorted. “He’s supposed to, but you have to be working to do that. So, I’m having to work 50 hours a week. It helps that I can live above the tavern. It makes it easier for me to watch over Peter.”

“Watch over? When I was a kid, I’d come home from school, do my homework, and disappear until dark with my friends. Sometimes, my mom didn’t even know where I was.”

Stacy put her hands on her hips. “When was that? The 60s?”

He pointed to himself. “I guess I’m doing pretty good for a dinosaur.”

“I didn’t mean it that way; although, you never did tell me your age.”

“And don’t think I will now.”

“You can’t be that old.”

Bobby shrugged.

A man walked by and clapped Bobby on the back. The man had thin, white hair and a full beard and mustache. He wore a baseball cap that read: Vietnam Veteran. “Haven’t seen you at the legion lately.”

“I was there two nights ago, Mack,” Bobby told him.

“Well, I wasn’t there.”

“I know. Why do you think I went then?” Mack laughed. “Mack, this is Stacy Lawrence. She’s new in town.”

Mack turned to Stacy and smiled. “How do you do, young lady?” It had been a while since she’d been called young, and even longer since she felt it. If this man was a Vietnam Veteran, he must be in his 70s.

“Nice to meet you,” Stacy replied.

“What brings you to Thurmont?”

“I was looking for a new start, and Bobby convinced me to give this place a try.”

Mack nodded. “Yeah, he got out for a while, but now that he’s back, he’s our best advertisement for the place.” The musicians started playing a new song. Mack turned back to Bobby. “I’ve got to go, but stop by and see me.”

Bobby nodded. Mack left and Stacy said, “Does everyone in town know you?”

He shrugged. “Maybe not everyone. I think the kindergartners at the primary school haven’t had the pleasure yet.”


Two days later, Peter came in from playing at Community Park, excited. “Mom…Mom, Bobby offered me a job.”

“What? Who?”

“Bobby. You know, the man who helped us on the mountain. He asked me if I wanted to help him on his farm.”

Stacy laid down the clothes she was folding, trying to take in what Peter had just told her.

“You’re too young to have a job.” He was only 12.

“No, I’m not. Besides, he said it wouldn’t be too much. I can help you now, so you don’t have to work so much.”

Stacy hugged her son. “That’s sweet, Peter, but I don’t know. I think Bobby was just being nice.”

“Please, mom. Bobby said it wouldn’t be too hard, but I had to ask your permission. He’s in the tavern waiting to hear what you say.”

This was all coming at Stacy so quickly that she could barely take it in.          

She went downstairs and saw Bobby talking with a couple at one of the tables. When he saw her, he excused himself and walked over to her.

“I can’t tell if you are mad,” he said.

“I’m not mad, but why would you offer my son a job?”

“He asked.”

“Peter asked you for a job?”

Bobby shrugged. “Well, he asked me for a recommendation like I gave you because he wanted to help out, so you weren’t working so much. I admire his enthusiasm, but he’s not likely to find work at his age, so I offered. I have plenty of odd jobs around the place that a boy his age can do.”

Stacy shook her head. Peter wanted to work to help her. She also didn’t want to discourage his initiative, but she wasn’t sure it was the best thing for him.

“I can’t be running him up the mountain every day, even if I wanted him working,” she said.

Bobby grinned. “No worry there. I can pick him up and bring him home.”


“I grew up on a farm, but I never had to run one. There’s a lot that needs doing, and honestly, there are other things I’d rather do.”

Stacy nodded. “I know. I spent my summers with my grandparents in Western Maryland, helping them on their farm when I was growing up.”

Maybe that was why she was enjoying Thurmont. It reminded her of her summers in Western Maryland.

“I never took you as a country girl,” Bobby said.

“I’m not anymore, but it is the reason I like animals.”

Bobby nodded, but said nothing.

Stacy sighed. “Fine, we’ll see how it goes.”

Bobby put a hand on her shoulder. “It will be good for him.”

“I hope so. I don’t want him to grow up like his father.”

Stacy looked over toward the kitchen and saw Peter standing, waiting. She nodded. He cheered.


Peter took well to his new job. He was tired some evenings when Bobby dropped him off, but he never complained. From Peter’s description, Bobby had him doing odd jobs around the farm. If he didn’t know how to do them, Bobby showed him how and watched him until he got it right. Most of them were just basic chores. Peter said he enjoyed feeding the animals the best because he got to spend time with them, and they appreciated him more since he was feeding them.

After his first week as a working man, Bobby brought Peter home, and the boy came into the apartment with a smile on his face. He handed Stacy an envelope filled with money.

“That’s my first week’s pay, minus $20,” Peter said. “I want you to have it. I want to help out, so you don’t have to work so much.”

Stacy looked over at Bobby. “He earned it all. He’s a hard worker and a quick learner.”

Peter smiled at the compliment. Stacy did, too, as she passed the envelope back to Peter. “I can’t take this. Like Bobby said, you earned it. It’s yours.”

“But I want to help,” Peter said, with a bit of pleading in his voice.

“Uh, Stacy, can I ask you something over here, please?” Bobby said.

“Right now?”

Bobby nodded. She walked over and he whispered, “He’s been excited about giving that money to you since day one. It’s the reason he took the job.”

“I can’t take his money, though. It wouldn’t be right.”

“You’ll hurt his feelings if you don’t,” Bobby warned her. “He’s stepping up. He said since he’s the man of the house, he’s doing what he can. If you won’t take it, it will discourage him. Take it. Open the boy a savings account for when he gets older and wants a car or needs money for college. You don’t need to tell him that, though.”

Stacy looked at Bobby, then Peter. She couldn’t believe that her baby was growing up. She walked over and swept him into her arms and hugged him tightly as she cried.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

3: Job Hunting

Saturday morning, Stacy Lawrence slowly woke from her slumber, feeling disoriented and unsure of her surroundings. She looked at the ceiling and then at the nightstand. She didn’t recognize them. With a jolt, she remembered that she and her son, Peter, were holed up in Thurmont for the weekend while their car underwent repairs.

With a heavy sigh, Stacy relaxed back into the pillows, but then realized that she had no plans for the day ahead. Apartment hunting in Pennsylvania had been on her agenda, but the unexpected car trouble had derailed those plans. She mentally scolded herself for not having a backup plan.

She got up and went through her morning routine, the hot water from the shower soothing her tense muscles. As she dressed, she glanced over at Peter, still sleeping soundly. He would probably be content spending the day lounging around and watching TV.

Downstairs in the breakfast room, Stacy sat alone at a table with a cup of coffee and some toast. She wracked her brain, trying to come up with a new plan. She was someone who needed structure and organization to function properly, but lately, her plans seemed to crumble beneath her.

Pulling out her phone, Stacy pulled up a map of Thurmont. It was a charming small town, but its size limited the options for things to do. She thought back to what Bobby Hennessey had suggested last night at the pizzeria: Why not consider finding work and settling down in Thurmont?

Intrigued by this idea, Stacy began researching businesses in the town and potential apartments to rent. Unfortunately, there were only a few places available within her budget.

Frustrated, but determined to make the most of her weekend in Thurmont, Stacy decided to explore all possibilities and make a decision once they got their car back. After all, she had nothing else planned for now.

When Stacy returned to the room, Peter was awake and engrossed in a TV show.

 “They have waffles in the breakfast room,” Stacy said.

Peter’s face lit up. “Awesome!” Waffles were the 10-year-old’s favorite breakfast.

“Before you go stuff yourself with waffles, I need to talk to you about something. Can you turn off the TV for a minute?”

Peter complied and sat up, curious about what his mother had to say.

 “I know I said we were going to live in Pennsylvania, but what would you think about staying here instead?”

Peter shrugged. “I haven’t really seen much of it.”

Stacy nodded. “I know, but I’ve been doing some research online. It seems like a nice place to live. It’s almost what I was looking for, although it’s a little smaller.”

“What would you do for work?”

Stacy sighed. “That’s a good question, and the answer is: I don’t know. If you were agreeable to staying here, I was going to spend the weekend looking for a job. Bobby said there’s a veterinarian in town, so I can apply there. I also saw there’s a zoo—maybe they could use some help.”

“Do I have to walk around with you?”

Stacy shook her head. “No, you can stay in the hotel room as long as you promise not to wander off by yourself. And, don’t forget, you can’t order room service without my permission.”

“That’s fine. I can watch TV.”

She tussled his hair. “I didn’t think you would mind that. I’ll leave you some money, so you can order a pizza for lunch if I’m not back.”

Stacy spent most of the day trekking from one end of Thurmont to the other. Her first stop was the veterinary hospital that was near the high school. Even though they weren’t hiring at the moment, the office manager accepted her application since she had experience in an animal hospital.

Walking back through town, she stopped at stores, banks, doctor’s offices, and restaurants, asking if they were hiring and filling out applications. She even followed signs to the public library and applied there. She wasn’t picky, and she had worked a variety of jobs in high school and college, so she had experience in a lot of fields. However, she doubted some of the jobs would pay well enough to live on.

She also took the time to inquire about apartments or rooms for rent wherever she applied for a job. Thurmont had a few apartment complexes and many businesses downtown that appeared to have living quarters above them.

Luckily, the weather was pleasant, with plenty of sunshine and no extreme heat. This made the walk enjoyable for Stacy as she walked around town.

After submitting her application at a local tavern, she settled onto a barstool and ordered lunch while scrolling through the Internet to find potential places to live. The bartender, Kevin, struck up a conversation with her.

“So, why did you decide to move here if you didn’t have a place to live?” he asked curiously, wiping down the already spotless counter.

It was after the lunch rush, but before dinner, so there were only a handful of people in the tavern.

“My car broke down yesterday, and a friend convinced me that I could live here as easily as Pennsylvania.”      

The bartender, Kevin, nodded. “He’s right, but why isn’t he helping you search? If he lives here, he would know where to look.”

“He’s not that good a friend. I just met him yesterday. He helped me out when my car broke down.”

“What’s his name?” Kevin asked, filling a glass with ice from the large machine behind him.

“Bobby Hennessey.”

Kevin smiled and nodded. “Bobby! Everyone around here knows Bobby.”

A small smile tugged at her lips. “He ate dinner with me and my son last night at Rocky’s, and it seemed like everyone knew him there, too.”

“Not surprising. He’s one of those people who makes small towns worth living in.” The bartender paused and then added, “I tell you what. If Bobby vouches for you, you can have this job.”

“I don’t know that he will.”

“I’ll give him a call and see what he says. He’s a good judge of character.”

She hesitated, unsure of whether Bobby would actually vouch for her after only meeting her yesterday. But before she could respond, Kevin disappeared into the backroom. When he came back out, he was smiling.

“Bobby said I should give you a chance and that I wouldn’t be disappointed.”

“I have to be honest, Kevin, I’m not sure why he said that. Like I said, we just met yesterday.”

“Well, do you want the job or not? I’ll see for myself if you can handle it, but I hope you don’t make a liar of Bobby.”

The bartender gave her a sly wink before turning to tend to other customers.

Stacy started her new job at the tavern the next day. Kevin even arranged for her to stay in an apartment above the tavern. Although it was far from luxurious and desperately needed some TLC, it was a roof over her head that she could afford. The walls were riddled with holes and peeling paint, but she was determined to make it her own.

Kevin had struck a deal with her. He would keep the rent low if she put in some work to fix up the place. It wasn’t a glamorous offer, but it would allow Peter to be nearby while she worked. Stacy was grateful for the opportunity, especially since she had bartending experience from college and knew she could make decent tips.

Although it may not have been her dream job, it provided some much-needed breathing room. She could start saving money and get back on her feet, all while searching for a more permanent living situation.

For now, this was what was available, and Stacy was grateful for any chance to rebuild her life.*Read what happens next in our March 2024 issue*

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

3: Planning

A hand shook Brian Johnson’s shoulder, and he opened his eyes. The first thing he realized was that it was still night. The second thing he realized was that Lt. Harcourt was standing beside him.

“You have five minutes to get ready and be out front,” the lieutenant said. “Don’t turn on the lights or wake the others.”

Brian rolled out of his bunk in the OSS training camp and scrambled to get his clothes on in the dark. No one else was moving. He was the only recruit in this building being ordered to get dressed and report outside.

Had someone discovered Brian was a German spy? If so, they might be preparing to interrogate him.

He didn’t have any weapons on him he could use to defend himself. Ironically, he would have to use the skills he was being taught as a U.S. spy and guerilla fighter to escape from this camp if need be.

Lt. Harcourt glanced at his watch when Brian came out of the building. “You now have 10 minutes to get to the spook house. You’ll have to run to make it in time. Go.”

Brian took a second to absorb the unexpected order and orient himself to where the building called the spook house was located. He took off running in the dark and quickly realized he couldn’t run at full speed or he was likely to trip. What little moonlight was out was being obscured by the trees around the camp. He jogged in the right direction, trying to remember where the trails were so he wouldn’t chance tripping on a stone or root.

He cut it close, but he made it on time. He stopped in front of a soldier standing at the door.

“Recruit Adam,” Brian said, using the name the OSS had given him when he had first been brought here. “I was told to report.”

The soldier said nothing. He knocked on the door. When a voice inside said, “Enter,” he opened the door and waved Brian inside.

Brian walked into a dimly lit room. A captain sitting at a desk said, “Recruit, inside this building, you will find Nazi soldiers hiding.” Nazis. Real Nazis? It couldn’t be. “Your job is to eliminate them before they eliminate you.” The captain laid a .45 pistol and two clips of bullets on the desk. “This is what you’ll use.”

Brian picked up the pistol. He loaded one clip and put the other one in his pocket. This had to be a test of some kind.

“Recruit, there may be others in there, as well, be careful to not shoot any innocents,” the captain said.

The captain motioned to the door behind him. Brian walked over, took a deep breath, and entered the room.

The hallway he found himself in was dark except for a dim light showing at the end about 15 feet away. He started forward, only to realize the floor wobbled beneath him. He balanced himself and moved forward more cautiously so as not to twist an ankle.

He held his pistol at the ready, unsure of what to expect. He paused at the end of the hallway and swung around the corner. He saw a small empty room with a single light on. A paper target made of the photograph of a German soldier popped up from the ground. Brian fired twice as he had been taught. The target didn’t move, but he saw the bullet holes in it.

He moved from room to room, checking doors, and treading carefully in case a trap door opened beneath his feet. As the targets popped up or swung out from the walls, he fired at them.

In the last room, he saw a dummy dressed as a German soldier, sitting in a chair and holding a lighted cigarette in his hand. Brian fired twice and went out the door behind the soldier.

He was back in the original room.

“Very good, Recruit Adam.”

“Thank you, sir.”

The pistol was still in Brian’s waistband. He had been hoping to find a weapon to use to kill President Roosevelt when he visited the area. This might be it.

Then the officer said, “Leave your weapon here and return to your bunk.”

Brian hid his dismay. He removed his pistol, ejected the clip, and set both the clip and pistol on the desk.

“By the way, if you hadn’t shot the dummy at the end, you would have failed this test no matter how well you did throughout the rest the spook house,” the officer said. “You must be willing to kill or you will be killed.”

Brian had nothing to say to that. He was quite aware of the need. It had already been taught to him.

“Don’t say anything to anyone else about what, happened here this evening. You’re dismissed.”

Brian headed back to his bunk, climbed under the wool blanket, and quickly fell asleep.

He dreamed of how he could execute his plan. Not having a weapon was his first concern. Weapons were kept in the armory and accounted for when not in use. If he couldn’t find a firearm or an explosive, he would need to get close to the president to stab him.

Brian would have to find the presidential retreat and get into the area. He knew from Col. Smith’s phone call that it had to be away from the spook house but close enough to the firing range for the shots to be heard. Brian would start searching near there. He would need to sneak away from his other recruits, perhaps making detours on the way to use the latrine.

Once he had answered both questions, he would go hunting.

The next morning before breakfast, Brian decided to take a run. It was unusual given the extent of the physical training they were undergoing, but it wasn’t something that was disallowed. Also, it gave him a chance to be alone.

He checked his watch to figure out when he needed to be back so as not to create unreasonable suspicion. He started jogging through the camp along the established roads and trails. Between the camp buildings and the camp entrance when he was out of sight of everyone, he veered off and started searching for a fence line. Even if the training camp didn’t have one, he was sure the presidential property would.

He found it about ten minutes later. It was a long section of wire fencing. He stopped running and approached it. He listened for any humming and heard nothing. So he darted his finger out to touch one of the strands of wire. It wasn’t electrified. He didn’t think it would be, but he had to be sure.

He ran along the edge of the fence trying to find some sign of the president’s home of the other side. He heard voices and stopped. He squatted down and watched for movement. He saw Marines walking along a path, patrolling the property on the other side.

This had to be the president’s property. Brian would need to add shears or a hatchet to his list of needs. He had to find a way to cut through the fence, but he wanted to make sure he knew where he was going on the other side.

He was running out of time.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

2: Arrival

Navy seaman Brian Johnson and the nine other sailors looked around at where the army truck had dropped them off apparently in the middle of nowhere. They were in the woods standing in front of what looked to be a log cabin a long way away from a place one would expect to find a sailor. This was like no other military camp Brian had ever seen. Then again, since this group of sailors had been dressed in Army fatigues, nothing was as it appeared.

That was certainly true for Brian, too.

“Fall in!” Lt. Harcourt ordered.

The 10 sailors formed a line in front of the lieutenant, facing the cabin. The lieutenant then walked down the line and handed each sailor a pin with a name on it. The one he handed Brian read, “Adam.”

“Pin them on your shirts. That is how you will be known from now on,” the lieutenant said. “Do not share personal information, including your real names, with anyone here, even the officers.”

A tall, broad-shouldered man walked out the door and stood on the front porch staring at the men. He wore no insignia on his own fatigues. He didn’t need to. It was obvious he was in command. It showed in the way he carried himself.

“Attention!” Lt. Harcourt said.

The sailors straightened up.

“Welcome to what we call, Camp B,” the commander said. “My name is Colonel Smith. It is not my real name. It may not even by my real rank. No one here is to know your real names. The names you have been given will be how you are known. Learn them. Remember them. Respond to them. This is for your safety and the safety of your fellow recruits. What you don’t know, you can’t tell the enemy. As for any rank you may have had before you came here, it no longer exists. I am your commander and you are my recruits and will be referred to as such.

“You men have all volunteered to become members of the Office of Strategic Services. We have been tasked with intelligence gathering, resistance training, and sabotage of our nation’s enemies.”

Brian nearly chuckled. It took all he could do to keep from smiling. What were the chances that one spy agency would recruit a spy from another agency?

“The things you will learn here will prepare you to operate behind enemy lines. Some things you will be familiar with from your basic training, but other skills are outside of the purview of the military, which is why we operate in conjunction with but not as part of the military.

“The work will be grueling and challenging, both physically and mentally. If you succeed in your training, you be part of your nation’s secret weapon.

“The lieutenant will show you the grounds and your quarters. Acclimate yourself to where everything is today. Tomorrow morning your training begins.”

He saluted. The men returned the salute. Then, Col. Smith turned and walked back into what Brian assumed was his office and quarters.

This was an opportunity for Brian to serve the Fatherland, but only if he could find a way to relay what he learned to his superiors. That seemed very unlikely at the moment. He did not even know where he was, let alone how he would contact anyone.

The lieutenant marched the men over to the quartermaster building where they were issued clothes and hygiene items. They were then taken to a larger building that 12 bunks inside along the walls.

Each man took a bunk and laid the pile of items the quartermaster had issued them on the mattress.

Lt. Harcourt then walked them around the camp and pointed out various buildings; the mess hall, the latrine, the classroom, armory, and a few others. One building off by itself was called he called “the spook house,” although he didn’t elaborate on what it was. Another area was a training area made of telephone poles with cables and nets strung between them.

Brian didn’t notice any fences, but that could have that Harcourt didn’t take them near the edges of the camp. He did see patrols of soldiers walking around, and he wondered how many men were stationed at this camp.

Just how many spies and guerrillas was the United States training?

Brian knew one thing, though, they were going to tell their secrets to one German spy.

The next morning he began his training along with the other recruits. He was given a sledgehammer and sent to break up a pile of small boulders into gravel. He didn’t see the point of it. He wanted to object that it was a waste of time, but he went to work on the pile. He wasn’t the only one working at it. There were multiple piles of boulders that they pounded with their sledgehammers.

The recruits tried to talk to each other, but the work was grueling. He soon had his shirt off as it was soaked in sweat. Brian felt like he was a convict on a chain gang.

Other than taking breaks for meals and water that was all he did for the first day. He was in fit condition, but the next day his shoulders and back ached, and he had blisters on his hands.

“Do you all hurt this morning?” Lt. Harcourt asked when he saw them in the morning.

When the recruits in Brian’s group admitted they were sore, the captain said, “Get used to it. The rocks were just to show you how monotonous the work you can do might be. It requires patience and focus… and preparedness. If someone had attacked you while you were doing the work yesterday, how do you think you would have fared?”

Brian had to admit that he doubted he could have fought anyone off, especially near the end of the day.

“My job is to help you survive whatever may come your way. You will learn unorthodox fighting as well as code breaking, safecracking, and explosives. We will train both your body and mind, and both will be better for it at the end your time here.”

Their next work was on the firing range where their instructor showed them a variety of weapons from standard military handguns and rifles to machine guns and derringers. The derringer was small, but it was easily concealed and could be useful in close combat fighting. It was not a soldier’s weapon.

Brian kept looking for chances to get away from his group and explore the camp, but they were hard to come by. At lunch, he excused himself to use the latrine.

He was walking by the commandant’s building when he heard someone talking inside. He paused near the open window trying to look nonchalant. He looked around to make sure no one was near and moved closer to the building.

“Yes, sir, I’ll see that it’s done,” one man said.

“How much rearranging of the schedule will it require?” the commandant asked.

There was a pause. “Some. We’ll just close the firing range and explosives area for a few days, although I think we can still use the spook house. It’s indoors and on the other side of the camp from the President’s compound.”

President? Was he talking about President Roosevelt? What President’s compound? They weren’t anywhere near Washington. At least he didn’t think so. Washington wasn’t so forested.

“That is acceptable.”

“Once he leaves on Sunday, we will just concentrate on the training we had to postpone while he was here.”

“Good. President Roosevelt comes to the mountain to rest and get away from the politicians in Washington. He doesn’t need to hear a lot of gunfire and explosions,” Col. Smith said.

“Yes, sir.”

Brian stepped away from the building and hurried on. He had heard enough. He knew that President Roosevelt was coming to stay somewhere near enough that gunfire would disturb him. He also knew the President would be here soon and staying until Sunday. That gave Brian a small window of opportunity.

He knew what he can do to further the cause. Kill Roosevelt.

written by James Rada, Jr.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

7: The Love of Your Life

Jessica Weikert walked up next to Thomas Hamilton, who was standing in front of the Loys Station Covered Bridge staring at it.

“Who are you talking to?” she asked.

“I wish I knew.”

Thomas had met the old man on the bridge twice. The first time, Thomas had crossed the bridge at the old man’s suggestion months ago and wound up in the 1950s. This time, the man had said he could come back to 2023 if he crossed the bridge again.

It couldn’t be that simple. Thomas had crossed the bridge at least a hundred times over the past two months, and he was still in 1951. Something more was involved with getting home than simply walking across a historic covered bridge in Frederick County.

The problem was Thomas believed the old man. Fog covered the other side of Owens Creek while this side was bright and sunny, just as it had been when Thomas crossed to 1951. If he crossed now, Thomas could cross the bridge and be back in his house in a few minutes.

However, with Jessica standing at his side, he knew he couldn’t do it. It didn’t matter that she was engaged to marry George Kirkpatrick, the son of a store owner in Thurmont. Thomas didn’t want to leave her.

Jessica walked up to the bridge to get a better look at the man.

“You look familiar,” she said.

“And you are as beautiful as ever,” the man replied.

“Do I know you?”

The man smirked. Then he turned and walked back to the other side of the bridge. He faded into the fog until Jessica couldn’t see him.

She turned to Thomas. “What was that all about?”

Thomas scratched his head. “I am not really sure.” He paused. “Jessica, do you want to marry George? Do you love him?”

Jessica said nothing. She just frowned. “He’s a good man and will make a good husband.”

That hadn’t answered either of Thomas’ questions. “Do you want to marry him? Do you love him?”

“No,” she said forcefully, as if she was being made to admit something she didn’t want to.

Thomas closed his eyes and sighed.

“Then why are you going to do it?” he asked.

They sat down there next to the road and talked for the next two hours. It got tense at times, but they had a deeply personal conversation. Thomas probed for why she was going to marry George, but only came up with that she wanted to please her father. Thomas also suspected it might be that she didn’t see another option. She wasn’t going to inherit the farm. John Weikert would leave that to his son, not his oldest daughter, who had proven herself capable at running it.         Thomas told Jessica about Paula, and how she had hurt him by breaking up with him using a text message, which led to a side conversation about what smartphones and text messages were. It also led to Thomas telling Jessica about Loys Station Covered Bridge and the first time he met the old man.

“That doesn’t make sense,” she said when he finished telling the story.

He nodded. “I didn’t say it did, but it’s what happened.”

“You mean, if I walk across that bridge, I’ll be 70 years in the future?”

“It doesn’t work all the time. Believe me, I tried. All I know, is that it seems to have something to do with the bridge, the fog, and the old man.”

“And you.”


“Well, you’re the only person this has happened to, right?”

Thomas drew back, caught off guard. “I don’t know.”

“So why didn’t you go back if you had the chance?”

Thomas looked down at the ground. Then he reached over and took her hand. When he looked up he said, “Because home is where you are.”

They married in 1952. John Weikert wasn’t pleased that his daughter chose a farm hand over a successful merchant, but he understood being in love, and he respected Thomas.

Jessica and Thomas married on Loys Station Covered Bridge on a sunny day without a fog bank in sight. No one understood why they wanted to marry on the bridge rather than a church. They knew why, and that was enough.

Over the decades, they had five children, three boys and two girls. Thomas stopped visiting the bridge as his work and family duties took over. He wasn’t sure why he had even continued visiting the bridge after he married. Did he want to see the old man again and thank him? He certainly wasn’t thinking about going across the bridge. He was hesitant to cross it, in even the best weather. He didn’t want to chance losing his family.

At some point, Thomas realized his life was overlapping when he saw his parents walking along Main Street in Thurmont one afternoon, holding the hands of a toddler. He recognized his parents from pictures he had seen of them when they were younger. It took him a moment longer to register that the toddler was him.

Thomas stared at the little boy with the curly brown hair and wondered if he should introduce himself. He decided against it. Not only would his parents think him crazy, but revealing himself might change his future (or past; he wasn’t sure how that worked). He only knew that he loved his life and didn’t want to risk changing it.

The doctors diagnosed Jessica with breast cancer in 2018. She fought it as best she could, but in the end, whether it was the drugs or the disease, she seemed to wither away right before him.

As he sat beside her bed, clutching her hand in his, she whispered, “It’s not over, Thomas. It’s just beginning.”

He wanted to believe her. He wanted to share her faith in an afterlife, but staring at her on the bed, he just couldn’t.

“You don’t see it, do you?” she asked.

“See what?”

She smiled. “Sometimes you can be so blind, but I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“I know, and we will continue loving each other.” She coughed. It was a raspy sound. She lifted a frail hand and pointed to the water pitcher.

Thomas grabbed the pitcher and filled the glass. When he brought it to his wife, her eyes were closed.

“Here’s your water, Jessica.”

She didn’t stir. He stroked her cheek and then felt at her neck for a pulse. There wasn’t one.

His children told him that the funeral had been large because so many people wanted to say goodbye to their mother. Thomas had barely noticed. He had stared at the casket and felt the growing emptiness inside him.

The children did what they could to help him, and they did, but not in the ways they thought. He could see his Jessica in all their faces, and if it didn’t make him forget that she was gone, it brought him comfort that she was still around in some way.

It took months, but eventually, he started coming out of his grief. He would remember Jessica and then put that memory in a box in his mind. It was something he would be able to look back on, but it wouldn’t be ever present.

He was watching the Weather Channel one morning when he noticed the date: February 4, 2023. That date nagged at him. He knew it wasn’t one of the children’s or grandchildren’s birthdays. It definitely wasn’t his anniversary. He had never once forgotten that day.

His eyes widened. He hurried to his truck. His kids had been asking him to stop driving, but he wasn’t ready to give it up yet.

He drove out to the Loys Station Bridge Park. He climbed out of his car and walked to the bridge. Then he saw himself running down Old Frederick Road.

It’s not over, Thomas. It’s just beginning.

He walked up to himself, who was staring through the bridge at the clear skies beyond. Thomas was tempted to walk across the bridge to see Jessica again. He knew she was walking along the road just on the other side. That wasn’t what happened, though, and he would see her again.

“Hello, Thomas,” he said to his younger self.

Yes, the love of your life awaits you across the bridge.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

6: The Decision to Cross

Surprisingly, Thomas Hamilton found it easier to accept that he was stuck in the 1950s than to accept that his boss’s daughter, Jessica Weikert, was going to marry George Kirkpatrick, the son of a store owner in Thurmont. Thomas had met the man. Not that George was mean or boring, but he wasn’t a farmer, and Jessica wanted to farm. It was in her blood, just like it was in Thomas’s. George wanted to take over his father’s store, not John Weikert’s farm.

Thomas kept working on the farm through the harvest. It was easy and hard working beside Jessica at the same time. Easy because he enjoyed talking with her, laughing and thinking about life while they shared the labor. However, it was hard knowing she left the fields to see George in the evening. Did he make her laugh? Did George know how much Jessica was tied to the land?

Thomas felt those conflicting feelings helped him decide. Since it appeared he had no way to return to 2021 and no farm in Rocky Ridge, he had no reason to remain in Thurmont. He had no life here any longer. His farm was somewhere in his future. His parents were children at this time. He was alone.

Thomas often went running after work. He wasn’t sure why since he was usually pretty tired, but the run worked different muscles in his body and got his endorphins flowing. It allowed him to familiarize himself with the new, or rather old, Rocky Ridge. He often ran by his old farm, feeling nostalgic about it.

One day, he was running near Loys Station when he saw fog on the other side of the covered bridge. He stopped and stared at the bridge. It was the exact opposite of what had happened to him two months ago, except he was standing on the clear side and looking at the fog on the other side of Owens Creek.

Thomas walked along the road until he could see through the bridge. He saw an old man standing in the middle of the bridge, a stupid thing to do in the fog. If a car came along, it would hit him before the driver could see him.

Somehow, though, Thomas didn’t think a car would come along. This was the same old man he had seen on the day he walked across the bridge and back in time.

“This is my way back, isn’t it?” Thomas asked.

“Back, yes, but not forward,” the old man said.

“What do you mean?” Thomas wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his arm.

“You fought to get Paula back after she dumped you with a text, but if you cross this bridge, you’re letting Jessica go without a second thought.” Paula Clark had been his girlfriend. They had been dating for a year when she dumped him with a text message and didn’t return his calls.

“Jessica’s engaged.”

“So? Engagements are broken.”

Thomas stepped closer to the man, who looked familiar. “Who are you?”

“Someone who made the right decisions and still got hurt. Sometimes, you have to gamble. You may not win, but if you try to understand the game, your chances are better.”

“I understand the game. If I cross this bridge, I will be home.”

The old man shook his head. “You’ll be in 2021, but you won’t be home.”

“Who are you? Are you the one making this happen?” Thomas paused. “Are you an angel?”

The old man laughed. “Does this look like heaven?”

“No. It’s Rocky Ridge.”

“Then I’m not an angel.”

“No, you’re a cryptic smartass.”

The man laughed again. “I’ve been called worse. So, are you going to cross?”

Thomas looked around. He saw the nearby farms, but he knew he was looking for something farther away. He wasn’t looking toward his old family farm where he had scared his very young grandmother when he walked in two months ago. He was looking toward the Weikert Farm where Jessica Weikert was probably out in the fields checking on crops before she got ready for a date.

“Why won’t you explain things to me?” Thomas asked.

“You’re an adult. You need to make your own decisions.”

“You said the first time we met that if I walked across the bridge, I would find the love of my life.”


“I only wound up going back in time, apparently.”


“So, where’s the love of my life?”

The old man gave him a look as if to say, Are you that stupid?

“Jessica?” Thomas asked. “An engaged woman who can’t wait for me to leave her farm is the love of my life? How do you know that?”

“Does it matter?”


The old man shook his head. No, I think it only matters how you feel.”

Thomas hesitated. “Okay, so I like her. I like her a lot.”

“More than a girl who broke up with you via text?” the old man asked.


“Then I think you know whether you should cross this bridge right now.”

“What will people think if I just disappear?”

He wasn’t sure whether he meant the people here in 1951 or those in 2022.

“I don’t know,” the old man admitted. “I can’t tell the future, and it’s still the same day here that you left.”

Movement caught Thomas’s eye. He turned and saw Jessica walking along the road towards him, but she wasn’t looking at Thomas. She was staring at the fog bank across the creek.

Could Thomas break her engagement to George? Could he really be in love with Jessica, or was he just fooling himself like he had with Paula? Jessica didn’t seem to be in love with him. Yes, she had held his hand the one time, and they had grown close enough to call each other a friend. That was a lot different from her being in love with him, though.

The love of his life. Could it be?

Thomas turned to the old man. “I want to stay and see what happens.”

The old man smiled and nodded. “I knew you weren’t an idiot.”

written by James Rada, Jr.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

4: You Can’t Go Home Again

Thomas Hamilton was in no rush heading back to Rocky Ridge because he had no idea what he would do when he got there. All he knew was that the bridge at Loys Station was the key to him getting home. Scratch that. He was home. He needed to get back to his own time, and the bridge was the way there.

The problem was that he didn’t know how it worked. He had wound up in the 1950s simply by walking across the bridge at the wrong time.

It didn’t make sense to Thomas. He only hoped it was all part of a bad dream he was having and that he would wake up. Maybe a car had hit him while he had been jogging in the fog. He rolled his eyes. How worried must he be if he was wishing he were unconscious by the side of the road?

Until he figured out what was happening, his body still told him he needed to drink and eat. He inquired at the farms he passed whether they needed a hand. Thomas knew farming. He was a farmer, so it was work he could do. No one needed help. Some paid him for odd jobs that he did, like sharpening plow blades or chopping wood, but they were one-time jobs. Thomas wanted to find steady work in the area while he tried to sort through what was happening to him.

He finally came upon a farm along Myers Road that could use his help.

“What do you know about farming?” John Weikert asked him. John had broken his leg earlier in the week and needed help. His daughters and wife were doing their best, but they had other things to do besides work in the field all day.

“I’m a farmer,” Thomas said. “I have a degree in agriculture.”

John snorted. “My youngest has a coon-skin cap, but that doesn’t make him Davy Crockett.”

“I grew up on a farm. I’m working my way out to Western Maryland to help my brother with his farm near Grantsville.”

“I need someone to help until I get this thing off.” He slapped his cast. “I won’t hire someone only to have him leave in two days.”

“I understand, sir.” Thomas didn’t know how long it would take him to figure out what was happening at the bridge. He doubted it would be something he figured out quickly, though.

In the end, John hired Thomas. Thomas got room, board, and what Thomas assumed was a fair wage for the time. He had to adjust his thinking about money. Even expensive things in 1951 seemed cheap when he compared them to 2021 prices.

John showed him to a room in the barn that had been built for a hand to live in, although the Weikerts hadn’t used a hand regularly for years. Thomas unpacked his clothes and sat on the bed. The room was small but comfortable. It was well-lit with a bed, bureau, sink, chair, and desk. John explained that Thomas still had to use an outhouse and the claw-foot tub behind the barn for his other needs. The barn had power, but the waterline had only been run to a spigot behind the barn.

Thomas came into the house at 7 p.m. for supper. He was looking forward to having his first full meal in two days. Up to now, he had been living off what he could scrounge from farms he passed, but the fruits and vegetables weren’t always ripe.

As he walked into the kitchen, John said, “This is Thomas. He’s going to be our hand around here until I get the cast off.”

Thomas looked around at the Weikerts. John and Amelia had three children, and one of them was the young woman Thomas had frightened when he came across the bridge yesterday. Her name was Jessica. He saw by her expression that she recognized him. The Weikerts also had a 10-year-old named Nathan and a 6-year-old daughter named Emily.

As soon as Thomas smelled the sausages and vegetables on the table, his stomach growled loudly.

Amelia laughed. “Someone’s hungry.”

“I guess I am, ma’am,” Thomas said. “It smells wonderful.”

He ate dinner quickly, or as quickly as he could between answering questions from the family. He tried to keep his story as close to the truth as he could. He didn’t want to have to remember too many lies.

He woke up early the next morning and dressed in his sweat clothes. He had washed them in the sink the night before and hung them in his room to dry. They would have to serve as his work clothes until he could find something else.

When he walked into the kitchen for breakfast, Jessica laughed at him. “I thought you knew farming.”

“I do.”

“You don’t look it.”

“It’s all I have right now. I’ll buy something else when I get paid.”

Amelia laid an arm on his shoulder. “Ignore her, Thomas. She’s just mad.”

“About what?”

“She is learning she can’t run this farm by herself.”

Jessica blushed. “That’s not true,”

Thomas tried to suppress a grin. She looked like a young child who was pouting.

John gave them instructions on what he wanted to accomplish for the day. He had Thomas harvesting the corn using a Massey-Harris combine Thomas had only seen as an antique, although this model was fairly new. The children, including Jessica, much to her chagrin, picked tomatoes. John tended their roadside stand, freeing up Amelia to handle the additional work around the house that the children usually did.

It went smoothly. Thomas enjoyed driving the old combine. It also gave him time to think about his predicament.

After dinner, Thomas walked over to the Loy’s Bridge and walked back and forth across it, hoping to find a way to trigger whatever had sent him into the past. Nothing happened.

When he came across the bridge a third time, he saw Jessica standing to the side.

“What is it with you and this bridge?” she asked.

“If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me.”

“Why are you here?”

For a moment, Thomas thought she was asking why he was in the 1950s, but then he realized she meant the farm.

“I needed work,” he said.

“We don’t need your help.”

“It looks like you do. Your father can’t work in the fields, and he probably needed the help when he was healthy.”

Jessica put her hands on her hips. “It’s going to be my farm someday.”

Thomas cocked an eyebrow. “Okay.”

“Just in case you had any ideas.”

“About what?”

“About trying to take my farm.”

“Your farm? I think you have quite a few years before it becomes your farm, and even then, your father might split it between you and your brother and sister.”

“No, it will be mine. They won’t want it. I do. I can turn it into a first-class operation if my father would just listen to me. There is so much being done that is helping farmers get more from their land. I intend to grow our farm and make it larger and better.”

“It sounds like you’ll need help.”

“Not from you.”

“Why not me? What do you have against me?”

She stared at him for a few moments and then she said, “I don’t trust you. You are lying about something. You say you’re a farmer, but you don’t dress like one. You say you have a college degree, but you don’t have anything more than the clothes you’re wearing. And you keep coming to this bridge.”

Thomas was about to reply, but Jessica turned away.

And this was the woman who was supposed to be his future. It didn’t look too promising to him.

Look for what happens next in our March issue

written by James Rada, Jr.

A new serial fiction story for your enjoyment

2: Times Past

Thomas Hamilton walked across the Loy’s Station Covered Bridge, ignoring the wooden beams around him. He focused his attention on the other side of the bridge, where the sky was clear and the sun shone. It stood in stark contrast to the thick fog on the side of the bridge he had just left.

He reached the other side and shook his head. It was a cloudless summer day in Rocky Ridge. It wasn’t even overly hot. He looked across Owens Creek and saw that it was now clear. The fog had lifted in the time it took him to walk across the bridge.

He couldn’t see the old man who had encouraged him to cross the bridge and find the love of his life. How could the man have walked away so quickly that he was out of sight? Thomas looked back across the bridge, wondering if the man had followed him, but it was empty.

He shook his head. This was turning out to be an unusual day. First, his girlfriend had broken up with him via a text message. Then, he had met the old man with his message that Thomas would find the love of his life on this side of the bridge. And, finally, Thomas had seen the odd fog that had moved in quickly, stayed on one side of the creek, and disappeared just as quickly.

The woman he had seen walking across the field was closer now. She was an attractive redhead who had her hair tied up in a kerchief. She wore overalls and work boots. He had grown up in the same house his father had grown up in. He thought he knew just about everyone in the area, but he didn’t recognize this woman.

“Where did you come from?” she asked.

Thomas shrugged. “I just walked across the bridge. You had to have seen me. You were looking right at it.”

“I must not have been paying attention. It was clear and then, suddenly, you seemed to be standing in front of it.”

She looked him over and then her nose wrinkled. Thomas realized he must still be sweaty from his run.

“Sorry about that. I was running earlier.”

“Running? From what?”

“For exercise.” She looked at him like he was crazy and stepped back. “I don’t recognize you. Do you live around here?” he asked.

“All my life. You’re the one who’s not from around here.”

“Of course, I am. My name is Thomas Hamilton. I live out on Old Mill Road.”

“I know the Hamilton Farm, but not a Thomas Hamilton.” There was only one Hamilton Farm on Old Mill, and it was his family’s farm. The woman cocked her head to the side. “You don’t look like a farmer. You look like someone dumped a can of fluorescent paint on you.”

He looked down at the reflective vest he was wearing. He didn’t think it looked that unusual, and it helped protect him from getting hit when he ran.

“You should talk. You look like someone trying to imitate Rosie the Riveter.”


“It doesn’t matter. What’s your name?”

She raised her chin and glared at him. “I’m not sure I should say.”

Thomas shrugged.

“Whatever.” He had been crazy to give that old man any credence. This woman was the love of his life? Not likely.

He turned and walked back across the bridge. When he reached the other side, he still didn’t see the old man, but other things were different, too. The road wasn’t paved. It was macadam. And the playground in the park off the right was gone.

“What gives?”

He hadn’t thought things could get weirder. He was wrong.

He jogged back to his house to shower and change. Even the house looked different, particularly when he walked inside. All of his furniture was missing, replaced with the type of stuff he would see in an antique store. Wallpaper, not paint, covered the walls. He smelled ham cooking when he knew he had left nothing in the oven.

A woman screamed, and Thomas spun around. She had walked out of the kitchen, her face red from the heat from the oven and stove.

“What are you doing in my house?” she shouted.

“I–I live here,” Thomas said, even though he wasn’t sure of that any longer.

“You do not! This is my family’s house. Leave this instant before I call the police.”

“But this is the Hamilton Farm. I…” He was about to say “I live here” again, but while the house itself might match his home, these furnishings and the wallpaper all said someone else lived here and had for some time. Certainly, longer than the hour Thomas had been out.

“Can you…?” he started to say.

The woman ran back into the kitchen and came back with a rolling pin covered in flour. She waved it at him.

“Get out now!”

Thomas held up his hands and backed toward the door. Once he stepped out onto the porch, the woman slammed the door, and Thomas heard the lock engage.

He sighed and walked back down the driveway to the road. He headed toward MD 77, although he wasn’t sure what he would do when he got there. Something unusual was happening, but he had no idea what it was.

He walked along the road toward Rocky Ridge when a vintage truck pulled up alongside him.

“Need a lift?” the driver asked. “I’m headed to Thurmont.”

Thomas didn’t recognize the man, but he had friends in Thurmont who might help him, or worst-case scenario, that’s where his doctor’s office was located.

Thomas climbed into the truck bed, and the driver started off. A confused Thomas looked over the countryside. He recognized the landscape and many of the buildings, but others were different. It was like he was in Rocky Ridge, but not his Rocky Ridge. It became very obvious as they entered Thurmont. The two elementary schools, police station, and housing development on the east side of town were all missing. The truck pulled over to the side of the road and stopped across from the middle school, which now had a sign that said it was the high school.

The driver hopped out and said, “This is as far as I go. I have to arrange for some lumber.”

Thomas jumped out of the bed to the ground. “Thanks. I appreciate the ride.”

He walked toward the center of town. He grew more nervous with each step. This was all wrong. He stopped when he saw a sign in the window of a clothing store. “New Styles for 1951 Are In!”

Thomas staggered and had to lean against the wall. It couldn’t be, but in the back of his mind, he had been seeing the signs and ignoring them.

He was in 1951…48 years before he was born.

Look for what happens next in our January issue

written by James Rada, Jr.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

7: The Last Fight

Tim Ross wandered from window to window in the basement of the nurse’s building of the State Tuberculosis Hospital in Sabillasville. The foundation of the building was stone, but except for load-bearing walls, the inner walls in the basement were all frame construction. Most of them were empty, but some had been converted to storage.

Tim looked out the windows, expecting to see Dr. Vallingham or one of his personal orderlies/guards approaching the building. Tim had already been down here overnight, but no one had come into the basement, not even Frank Larkins, the orderly who had hidden him here.

It was probably better that way. If someone saw Frank coming into the basement, it would be suspicious. Tim was getting hungry, though. No one had brought him food, and he hadn’t found anything to eat down here, although he did find a half-filled pint bottle of moonshine. It slaked his thirst and calmed his nerves.

While he hadn’t seen anyone other than nurses approach the building, Tim thought he heard sirens at one point. He also saw more vehicles driving around than he had seen in his short time at the hospital.


Tim jumped. He spun, holding a fireplace poker he had found in one of the storage rooms. He relaxed when he saw it was Frank.

“Give a guy some warning,” Tim said.

“I did. I said your name and stayed back from you,” Frank told him.

“You didn’t bring me breakfast by chance?”

Frank shook his head. “Sorry.” Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out an apple. He tossed it to Tim. “You can eat that for now. I’ll get you something to eat.”

“Does that mean I have to stay down here?” He bit into the apple. It was sweet and crunchy.

“Not for too much longer, hopefully. Someone saw Vallingham drive away last night. I’m hoping that means he knew the game was up and won’t be coming back.”

“He deserves to be in prison.”

Frank shrugged. “I’m sure they’ll catch up with him eventually. I’m just happy he’s not around here interfering with the bootlegging.”

Frank and some of the other employees at the hospital ran a bootlegging operation from the powerhouse.

“And killing patients,” Tim added.

“That, too.” Frank chuckled to himself. “Boy was Dr. Cullen furious when I told him what was happening. His face turned deep red, and he stomped around the office. He called the police himself; I give him that. He’s a good man, and this hospital is important to him.”

“Surprised he let something like this happen then.”

“Well, there’s a lot going on here nowadays. We’ve got the regular TB patients, the children’s hospital, and the nursing school. One man can’t run it all.”

“I suppose not.”

Frank left and arranged for a nurse he trusted to bring Tim breakfast, so that he wouldn’t risk being seen coming into the building again. Tim ate the pancakes and sliced apples with cinnamon and then took a nap. He had been up all night worried Vallingham would find him.

Frank came back after lunch. “Things are in an uproar. They are still searching for Vallingham in the woods. We had to break down our still and store the pieces in different locations.”

“Do you think he’s in the woods?” Tim asked.

“I doubt it. Why would he stick around? They’re just being careful, and so are my people.”

“So, is it safe for me to leave?”

“I suppose you can. The police have been asking for you, anyway. I guess they want to talk to you about everything.”

“You didn’t tell them where I was?”

“I do my best to avoid the police. It’s a habit. I don’t want them recognizing me if they spot me at a still.”

Tim followed Frank back outside the nurse’s building. He looked at his watch and saw it was dinnertime. He went to the dining hall and ate while he listened to the surrounding conversations, as people speculated on why the police had been at the hospital all day.

After dinner, he walked through the connecting hallway to the administration building. The police were eager to talk to him. Tim sat through two hours of questions from Dr. Cullen and the Frederick County States Attorney. Tim explained everything that had happened to him, leaving out finding out about Frank and the moonshiners who operated in the powerhouse. By the time he finished, it was dark out.

He walked back to the shack and wondered if the police were still wandering the property trying to find Vallingham, or if they had moved their search away to other locations.

When he walked into the shack, it was dark. He turned on the light in his ward and saw Vallingham standing there with a pistol.

“What did you tell them?” Vallingham asked.

“Everything. At least everything concerning you.”

Vallingham grimaced. “You have ruined everything. I was trying to heal people.”

“So, if you killed some along the way, that’s all right?”

Tim wondered if he could turn off the lights again before Vallingham shot him.

Vallingham jabbed the pistol in his direction. “What would you know? You just stumbled into something that was beyond you. I tried to get my notes from my safe, but the police were all over the building.”

“They will catch you.”

“Doubtful. I have money saved. I can disappear and start my research again elsewhere. I had hoped to get what I had done so far.”

“You don’t think a new doctor studying tuberculosis might give you away? You want attention.”

Vallingham paused and thought for a moment. “I want…”

That’s when Tim turned the lights off and threw himself backwards into the entry area. He heard the shot fired and the impact when it hit the wall. He scrambled out the door on his hands and knees and then ran.

Tim meant to run for the administration building, although he wasn’t sure anyone was still there, but when he came down off the porch, he slipped and tumbled down a hill toward the woods. Then, he heard Vallingham coming after him and another shot fired. Tim took off for the cover of the woods.

The shots would undoubtedly bring the police if they were still around, but Tim couldn’t wait to see if they would show up before Vallingham shot him.

He ran into the trees, feeling like he now knew what Max Wenschof had felt like when he ran into the woods chased by a moonshiner. He slowed as he reached the woods because he didn’t want to trip on a root. He wasn’t thinking about going somewhere in particular, he just pushed further into the woods. He stumbled once but caught himself on a tree. After that, he moved slower and kept his hands out feeling for trees.

He heard Vallingham coming behind him, but he also heard the man yell when he tripped and fell.

After a few minutes, Tim saw a low light in the distance. He headed toward it, thinking it must be one of the hospital buildings. However, as Tim came into a clearing, he saw it was four moonshiners working by lantern light around a still.

They yelled when they saw Tim, but he didn’t stop. He shouted, “Revenuer coming.” Then he ran back into the woods.

Out of breath, Tim dropped behind a fallen tree and tried to find a place where he might hide.

He heard more shouts and gunshots. When the gunshots stopped, Tim heard voices speaking too low to be understood. He heard metal and wood hitting each other. After fifteen minutes, things fell silent.

Tim pushed himself and walked back toward the clearing. The lanterns that had cast the low light were gone. He tripped again, but this time, he hit the ground. As he pushed himself up, he felt something soft and realized it was clothing. He patted it. It was a body. He felt for a pulse. Whoever it was, was dead.

Tim pulled out his matchbook and lit a match. It cast a small circle of light. He held it toward where the head was. He saw Vallingham’s dead eyes looking back at him.

Tim shook the match out and sighed. Then, he slowly stood and made his way back the way he came, although he came out far from his shack.

Police were walking around with flashlights on. One of them shined a light on Tim. “Who are you?”

“Tim Ross. Dr. Vallingham, the man you’re looking for, is in there.” Tim waved toward the clearing. “He’s dead.”

“Dead? Did you kill him?”

“No, he ran into bootleggers. They shot at each other. He lost.”

By morning, police were swarming over the hospital grounds. In Dr. Cullen’s office, the doctor profusely apologized for what had happened.

“I’m alive, at least,” Tim told him.

“Yes, and like you, I mourn for those other patients who aren’t so lucky. There are doctors from the state right now pouring over hospital records, looking over all patients Dr. Vallingham supervised. Their families deserve to know the truth.”

Tim nodded. Dr. Cullen was right, but Tim had been thinking that he was alive while Dr. Vallingham was dead. This might have been Tim’s last fight, but at least he had won it.

The End

written by James Rada, Jr.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

6: Time To Leave

Tim Ross looked at the body Frank Larkins and the other orderly loaded into the truck bed. It was the same man. Paul Donofrio. He had spoken a few hours earlier about recovering from tuberculosis. He had praised some sort of secret treatment Dr. Vallingham, the assistant director of the Maryland Tuberculosis Hospital in Sabillasville, was giving him.

“That’s him,” Tim said.

“Him who?” Frank asked.

“The man who was getting the secret treatment I told you about.”

Frank turned to stare at the body. “Are you sure?” Tim nodded. “He was a good guy. I liked him, and he seemed to be getting better. I thought they might send him home.”


“I didn’t run any tests on him, but he was looking a lot better than he had been when he first came here last year. He had better color and was gaining weight.”

“Was he getting aspirin?” Tim had discovered that was virtually the only medicine that patients received at the hospital. The main therapy was rest and fresh air.

Frank shook his head. “Not that I know of.”

Paul Donofrio had been getting better and had seemed fine at breakfast. Now, he was suddenly dead. Even if the treatment hadn’t been working, Paul shouldn’t have died so quickly. It didn’t make sense.

“Are they going to autopsy the body?” Tim asked.

“No, we’re going to put the body in a coffin and send it out on the evening train.”

“Is that unusual?”

Frank shook his head. “No. People here die from TB.”

“Does he look like he did?”

“That’s what Dr. Vallingham wrote on the death certificate.”

That was a surprise. “Has he seen the body?” Tim asked.

“I don’t think so.”

Tim sighed and shook his head. “Something’s not right.”

Frank loaded the body and drove away to wherever he needed to go. Tim watched him leave. Then, he turned toward the administration building. He thought he could see Dr. Vallingham standing at the window of his second-floor office, but it could have been his imagination.

So, if Paul had been getting a secret treatment, where would he have been getting it? Dr. Vallingham wouldn’t have wanted to meet with him openly. At that moment, Tim remembered the beds on the second floor of the laboratory.

He headed back across the campus and up the hill to the two-story stone building. When he arrived, he found the door was still unlocked. This still surprised him, having come from Baltimore where people locked their doors out of necessity. Inside, he walked around the tables that were filled with test tubes, bottles, Bunsen burners, and the other things one would expect to see in a place where medicines were prepared. He wasn’t sure what he was looking for. Did he expect to find a bottle labeled “Secret Treatment”?

He walked upstairs to where the beds were. Here, he found a cabinet filled with vials. He picked one up and held it up. The fluid inside was light green. Was this the treatment? He slipped it into his pocket.

A small desk sat in one corner. He walked over and looked through the drawers to see if he could find anything useful, but they were empty. Then, he looked over at the three beds with straps that would restrain whoever lay on the bed. This had to be where Dr. Vallingham administered his treatments, but he didn’t see anything he could definitely point to as being sinister.

“You do not belong here, Mr. Ross.”

Tim spun around and saw Dr. Vallingham standing at the head of the stairs with his special orderlies. He wore his tweed suit and seemed out of place in the room.

“I’m a curious person.”

“You were told specifically that you were not allowed in this building. It is a reason for dismissal from the hospital, which is what I will do. It is time for you to leave the hospital. You are not a good fit here.”

“Who is a good fit, though, for your special treatment?”

“I told you that there is no special treatment,” Vallingham said.

“That’s not what Paul Donofrio thought.”

“He died from tuberculosis.”

“Did he? You signed the death certificate without examining him.” When the doctor said nothing, Tim said, “Maybe I should leave. I need to get in touch with his family and encourage them to have a doctor autopsy his body. I imagine if it turns out that Paul died from anything other than TB, the authorities will have questions.”

Vallingham took a deep breath and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I am only trying to help people, Mr. Ross, and I have been making progress. If I have a few setbacks along the way, that is the cost of research.”

“Easy for you to say when you aren’t the one paying the cost.”

“I am. My reputation is on the line.”

“But not your life.”

“No, but perhaps yours.” Vallingham stepped back. “Strap him down. We’ll see how the next iteration of the serum works.”

The orderlies stepped forward. Tim backed off, looking for a weapon. He could grab the chair, but he could only hit one orderly before the others swarmed him. Then what would happen? Tim wasn’t sure he wanted Vallingham’s special treatment.

Tim grabbed the wooden chair and swung it back and forth, trying to ward off the orderlies. That was the best he could do. He didn’t have much of his strength anymore. One orderly grabbed the chair and yanked it out of Tim’s hands, tossing it off to the side. The other two closed in on Tim from different sides. Tim punched at them, but his jabs lacked power.

A group of half a dozen men rushed up the stairs with hoods over their heads. Two had bats and three of them had pistols.

“What is this?” Vallingham shouted.

“Let him go,” one hooded man said.

“This man is a patient of mine.”

One man swung his bat at Vallingham’s stomach. It hit him, and he doubled over, falling to the floor. The orderlies moved forward, but the armed men pointed their pistols at them.

“Let him go,” the hooded man repeated.

The orderlies released Tim. One of the men with bats grabbed Tim’s arm and pulled him away. They went down the stairs and out the door. They crowded into a truck Tim recognized.

“Which one of you is Frank?” Tim asked.

Frank took off his hood. He was driving.

“Thanks,” Tim said.

“I saw you heading back here. Then, I saw Vallingham head out with his goons on my way back from the station. I figured that couldn’t be good.”

“He’s using people to test his treatments.”

“Crap! That’s worse than I thought. I figured he was just doing some side work for money.”

Frank stopped the truck in front of the nurse’s building. He climbed out and took Tim’s arm.

“Come with me.” He turned to the other men. “They’ll be looking for the truck. Park it at the administration building and then disappear. Double the guards at the power house for now.”

The truck drove off.

“Bootleggers?” Tim asked.

Frank nodded. He took Tim into the building through the basement door. It was dark and smelled musty.

“We’re not supposed to be here, either, but every once in a while, a nurse and orderly will hit it off.” He nodded toward a bed in one corner. “You can stay here for now. They won’t look for you here.”

“What if one of the nurses reports me?”

“They won’t. They hate the way Vallingham treats them but stay quiet just in case.”

“For how long?”

“We can try to get you out on the train, but Vallingham will probably have the orderlies watching it. I think we should call the police. We’ll have to move the still somewhere off into the woods.”

“Wait, what if you turn Paul’s body over to the police? We can tell them what is happening, and they can have a doctor autopsy the body. It should show that Vallingham was lying about how Paul died. You might not even need to move the still.”

Frank rubbed his chin and then grinned. “I like how you think.”