Bang, bang, bang.
The pounding wouldn’t stop. He crawled out from the covers, floorboards creaking as much as his tired old bones. He reached for the robe hanging on the bed knob and made his way down the hallway. He didn’t bother to turn on any lights, as he was very practiced at this midnight walk.
He pulled the curtain back and peered out the window, seeing some uniformed men standing there, lit by the street lamps. He didn’t open the door, but called out, “Problem, officers?” His drawl was still as thick as ever, despite the years of living up north.
“We’re sorry to disturb you, sir, but there are fugitives loose in the area.”
”That so?” He doubted they really regretted waking an old man from his sleep. “What kinda fugitives? Hadn’t heard of any problems on the news.”
”Some of those…radicals.” The officer in front moved closer to the door. “Could we come in and speak with you, sir?”
“We can speak just fine from here. How can I help y’all?” He watched them through the window. One of the officers in the back of the group continued to scan the area with his light.
”Sir, we just wanted to make sure you were all right. One of your neighbors reported seeing someone near your home.”
”Oh, the bus stop is just down there a piece, see? I have people near my home all the time. I’m right as rain. Have a good night, now.”
The officer sighed. ”If you’re sure, sir, but don’t hesitate to call if you see anyone suspicious.”
”That I’ll do in a heartbeat. G’night.”
Instead of going to his room, he detoured into the kitchen. “Might as well have a snack, since I’m awake now.” He opened the pantry door, “And the two of you might as well join me.”
A young couple came out of the pantry.
“Are they gone?” she whispered.
He nodded, ‘Yes, my dear, they are gone. I’ll put on some water for tea.”
“Thank you again.” The young man sat down. “We could never repay you for what you are doing.”
”Young man, my payment’s already been taken care of.” He pointed up as he set a tray of cookies on the table.
She took a cookie and nibbled at it, “Are you sure this is going to work?”
”My dear, this old station was well used many years ago. Thanks to the new history books, they’ve been all but forgotten. The Railroad saved the lives of many men, women and children desiring their freedom. We’re just continuing in a proud tradition, just running the routes the other direction, where there are pockets of believers.”
The teakettle whistled. Before he could pour, a soft, rhythmic knocking was heard at the front door.
The young man stood, placing his hands on the young woman’s shoulders, not able to stop her shaking.
Their host motioned for them to be quiet and went to answer the door.
For the second time in one night, someone in a uniform knocked at his door, but this time there was only one man there. It was the officer who’d been looking around with his light earlier. This time, instead of speaking through the door, he opened it.
The men greeted one another with a firm handshake, with the officer placing a hand on the older man’s shoulder. “So, Captain, I see retirement’s treating you well.”
“Eh, thirty-five years on the force and still have work to do. Keeps me outta trouble.” He winked. “Speakin’ of work, have some for you.” He led his latest guest to the kitchen, where the young couple froze as they saw a police officer join their midnight snack.
“John, this is, um…Mary and Joseph.” He sat beside the young woman, taking another cookie off the tray.
John nodded. “Pleased to meet you, both.” He sat, placing his hat on the table.
The couple looked at each other, then their host. Joseph looked uneasy. “But…”
“John and I were partners together back home. I trust him with my life, so you can trust him with yours.”
“Speaking of back home, " John poured some hot water into a fresh cup, brewing some tea for himself, “there are folks expecting to hear from you. Wanna come along?”
”Nah, I have work to do here. After the Bible ban, I knew things were going to get worse. I’ll be home soon enough.”
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