Authors: Susan May Warren
Â© 2010 by Susan May Warren
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced
in any form, except for brief quotations in printed reviews,
without permission in writing from the publisher.
Scripture references are from the following sources:
The Holy Bible, King James Version (kjv).
All characters are fictional. Any resemblances to
actual people are purely coincidental.
Cover design by Chris Gilbert |
Interior design by MÃ¼llerhaus Publishing Group |
Summerside Pressâ¢ is an inspirational publisher offering fresh,
irresistible books to uplift the heart and engage the mind.
Printed in USA.
For your Glory, Lord.
For my children who delight my heart,
and my husband, who knows me and loves me anyway.
God blessed me with so many “Nightingales” for this story. My deepest gratitude goes to the following people for their assistance in creating this story.
Sarah May Warren, who wrote the song that is woven throughout the book. Your talent takes my breath away.
Susan Downs, dear friend and amazing editor. Thank you for believing in me.
Ellen Taver, another dear friend and amazing line editor. Thank you for knowing exactly how to tame my words.
Rachel Hauck, writing partner and best friend who is always on the other end of the phone with answers to, “what do I do next?” Thank you for your faithfulness and prayers.
Harry Kraus, M.D. Thank you for helping me sound like a medic.
Jeannette Kelly, who graciously gave me a tour of the Reedsburg Hospital and let me quiz her for two hours about life in WWII. Your insights were invaluable.
Donna Hoffman and her family at Parkview B&B in Reedsburg. Thank you for making Reedsburg (Roosevelt) come to life and for your wonderful hospitality and research!
The Library staff in Reedsburg, WI, for helping me gather information about the local hospital and POW camp.”
Good night my dear,
You must never fearâ
For your love is here,
And she'll hide you from everything.
'cuz you, my dear,
You're my everything,
You're the song I sing
When my nights are starless.
Given a different day, a different hour, she might have jumped with him. That thought, perhaps, shook Esther most of all.
Two hours before Charlie Fadden perched himself on the edge of the top floor of the Roosevelt Mercy Hospital, Esther Lange had fed him cookies and beat him soundly in a game of gin rummy.
He'd taken the cookies, smiled at her with eyes that appeared lucid, and declared that she couldn't possibly beat him in poker, if she dared to play, and what book was she reading to the patient in bed number six, because he had a few questions himself.
The Bridge of San Luis Rey.
She understood his question. Why did unexplainable events happen to the innocent?
Perhaps that particular piece of conversation accounted for why she found him on the roof with the biting wind pasting his flimsy army-issue pajamas to his skeleton, staring out over the blanketed town of Roosevelt. Still, she should have seen the desperation rising in his eyes, right?
Another moment she longed to snatch back, replay.
Somehow she had to learn how to stop living with one eye over her shoulder. Or she'd end up on the roof, like Charlie.
A full moon and the splatter of stars along the Milky Way illuminated the GI, his hands whitened on his crutches, staring into the clear midnight. He glanced over his shoulder at her with a wild-eyed fury. “Get away.”
Esther drew a breath from where she crouched near the chimney, her fingers digging into the brittle cement, the petroleum odor of the tar roof curdling her nose. Her bare legs prickled against the lick of the night air.
“I can't do that, you know. I'm here to help you.”
“There ain't no help for me.” He turned away, his shoulders rigid.
She glanced past him, measuring the distance to the ground below.
The blackout curtains washed the town into the milky darknessâthe Queen Anneâstyle homes, the bungalow “box houses,” purchased once upon a time from Sears Roebuck and Company, the stately colonials, the few Victorians with their steep-roofed towers and ornamented gablesâlike Caroline's boardinghouse, all nested between the budding oaks, maples, and elms, the balsam firs, and occasional cottonwoods, the sidewalks that cordoned off Locust, Park, and Walnut streets. A gentle town, filled with hardy German immigrants, the kind that sent their boys to war in the land of their ancestors.
Her gaze tripped over Judge and Mrs. Hahn's three-story French Empire monstrosity, with the mansard roof that sat like a cap upon the house, the round windows' eyes despising the peasantry along Pine Street. Above it all, the twin spires of the Lutheran church parted the night.
And as if it were a woman in repose, watching the doings of the Wisconsin hamlet, the dark shadow of the Baraboo range lounged along the horizon.
What it took for Charlie to drag his shattered body out of the second-story convalescent ward, down the hall to the roof access closet, up the ten-foot ladder, and out to the crisp, fluorescent night, wellâ¦ Despair made a person lose herself sometimes.
Charlie, for sure, had left too much of himself on the beaches of Normandy.
Her feet scuffled as she stood, but Charlie didn't move, as if contemplating freedom.
Of course Esther should tell him not to jump.
Of course she should scream that life was worth living. Really.