“I always wanted to go traveling.” Lars stood on the other side of the bars and talked while Jill munched on sausages, potatoes and various kinds of vegetables that were just thrown on the plate and which were not nearly as tasty as Angelica’s supper. Ethan listened and watched Jill in amazement as he turned up his nose and picked at his dinner. Kirsten was there, too; but all she could do was cry. Ethan imagined the girl liked them.
“I hear out past Fort Detroit, there are inland seas made of fresh water, but big enough where a man can be swallowed by the water and have no sight of the land. I hear out west, the Ohio River runs into a greater river that runs the whole length of the continent, sometimes more than a mile wide. I hear beyond that, there is a painted land and a canyon so wide and long and deep, you could put every fjord in Scandinavia together and it would not equal that one canyon.”
“All true.” Ethan nodded with another look at Jill, thinking that she must have a caste-iron stomach, or perhaps she let her taste buds have the night off. “I vacationed one summer on Lake Mead, I mean, that is near the Grand Canyon, and I have been to Mackinac Island several times.”
“Why didn’t you travel?” Jill asked, hardly giving Ethan a glance.
The big farmer shrugged. “Angelica came along, and then our son, but he died, and then Kirsten, and then our other son, but he died too. And then I guess I got old.”
“You’re not old,” Ethan protested.
“I’m nearly fifty,” Lars protested right back. “I can’t do what I did when I was twenty, or even thirty. I feel it in my back well enough when I do too much, let me tell you.”
“Papa.” Kirsten paused in her cry to encourage her father with a hug.
“But then I don’t suppose you two will be going anywhere now.” Lars shook his head, sadly and clicked his tongue, and that started Kirsten crying again. “I just wanted you to know, no hard feelings and all that. It was not my idea, you know. And I never thought you were spies.”
Ethan took a big bite of sausage and considered that it might actually be his last meal. He looked more disgusted by the food than afraid of hanging in the morning. Somehow, all of this had become plain strange and at present, he was having a hard time accepting that any of it was really happening.
“Bad decision.” Lars continued to shake his head sadly. “The penalty is too much, even for spies. I am sorry. I never would have thought it would go this far.”
“So.” Ethan gladly set down his spoon and interrupted. “Do I get a last request?”
Lars thought for a minute before he nodded.
“How about some telegraph wire?” Ethan gave it his best, hopeful grin.
“Sticking to your strange story?” Lars nodded. “But they are watching everyone to be sure that does not happen.”
“Why?” Ethan wondered. “If the story is not true, then giving us some wire will not matter. But if the story is true…” He let the sentence hang in Lars’ mind for a minute before he finished it. “Then we are innocent of spying for the Anglish and really should not be hung.”
“Why should it matter to anyone if we get some copper wire at this point?” Jill added.
“I am sorry,” Lars said. “I am really sorry.” He hustled his daughter out of the cellblock and Ethan groused about the second-rate sausage.
“Still think someone will come?” Ethan asked after the food was thankfully taken away. He looked at the drunk in the cell across the way and wondered if the man would ever wake up.
“I don’t know.” Jill answered honestly. “I don’t know.”
Jill felt terrible about getting Ethan mixed up in all of this. She knew she would survive whatever happened in the morning, but at this point, he did not stand a chance of surviving. She wanted to cry but dared not for his sake, so instead she took his hand and held on tight. She needed his touch as much as she needed to give him what comfort she could. She knew he was having a hard time accepting the reality of all that was happening; but she also knew he would accept it in the morning if help never came. She did cry then, just a little, and he ended up comforting her.
After a time, the gaslights got dimmed and Ethan and Jill looked at the two cots. Jill wondered if they might spend the night together. That was when they heard a soft noise outside their window and a line of copper telegraph wire began to slip in between the window bars. Jill stood on the bed and looked out while Ethan collected the line. “Angelica.” Jill identified their savior.
“I used to be Anglish once.” Angelica refused to look up. “I’m not sorry I turned you in. I do not know if you are spies or not, but I do not think hanging is proper. I brought your wire. If you can save yourselves with this, be my guest. Hanging is not proper, only don’t come back.” That was all that the woman was going to say, and she turned around and walked away, leaving a big spool of wire on the ground beneath the window.
“Enough.” Jill turned back from the window. “I only need about six inches, not twenty feet.”
“Oh, right,” Ethan said. “Maybe two feet. I have always found I need more than I thought.”
Jill felt such relief, Ethan would never know. She spoke with a light heart while she cut off a compromise one-foot length with her teeth and the dull butter knife they gave her for her meal. “And you have been world hopping often?” she asked with her mouth full.
“No speakers and stuff.” He started to respond, like it was a real question, before he stopped and smiled. “No. First world hop was with you.” He sat down beside her and slipped his arm over her shoulder. “I’m saving all my world hops for you.” She elbowed him in the ribs, softly, but otherwise ignored him.
When the laptop was wired and ready, Jill took out the dimensional watch, as Ethan called it, and wired it as well, noting that there was plenty of charge in the unit. That was when the drunk across the way decided to get up.
“Jillian.” The drunk, turned out to be a young man who called her by name, which surprised both Jill and Ethan.
“Dominic.” Jill knew him right away, and he and Jill passed some dialogue in a strange tongue, while Ethan eyed this tall, dark haired, romance cover kind of man and took an instant dislike to him. Dominic pushed open his cell door, which was curiously unlocked, and he headed straight for the sheriff’s office. Jill took that free moment to whisper a different thought in Ethan’s ear.
“He says he wants to help, but I don’t know if I can trust him. I don’t know which side he is on.” She spoke quickly and held tight to Ethan’s hand. She slid the dimensional watch back in her pocket and picked up the laptop with her free hand. Ethan picked up his briefcase, and swung it once, like he might test a weapon. “Whatever happens, don’t let go,” Jill insisted, as Dominic came back and took a pen from a pocket in his cloak. A brief flash of blue light came from the pen and the lock on Jill and Ethan’s cell popped. The cell door swung open.
“This way,” Dominic said, and he led them out the back door to avoid the gas he had released in the front office. He checked carefully in all directions first before he waved them to follow.
“He says they have been looking for me, that he has a real transfer unit near and he has come to take me home after dropping you off.” Jill whispered as they walked through the dark streets. There were gaslights along those streets, but the lights did not illuminate much.
“So why didn’t he speak up sooner?” Ethan whispered back. “Why wait until we were ready to go without him? Was he going to wait until after we got hung to take us home?”
They heard a noise up front, somewhere across the street near a streetlight, and Jill spoke quickly. “We are known,” she said. “If we go with you and get stopped, we will end up back in jail. You check it out.” Dominic wanted to argue, but Jill cut him off. “I am not moving from here until I know it is safe.” Dominic looked ready to growl, but he merely nodded and went to scout ahead. Jill turned quickly to Ethan. “You are absolutely right,” she said. “It proves nothing, but I just don’t trust him.”
She had secretly turned on the laptop, and now opened it all the way. She entered Ethan’s password and waited for the stupid computer to boot, almost cursed twice and only held her tongue after a glance at Ethan. At last, she began to type and when she got ready to hit the enter button, a big hulk of a man stepped out of the shadows, grabbed Ethan and reached for the transfer unit.