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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Sellout (05/26/11)

TITLE: The Enemy Within
By Patricia Protzman
06/02/11


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Twelve chimes rang out from the belfry of St. John’s Church in Richmond. A few houses down the street a middle-aged woman emerged from the darkness carrying a lantern and plate of food. Accompanied by the melodic ticking of a grandfather clock her hooped skirt swooshed across the steps as she ascended the mansion’s elegant staircase. One floor, two floors, three; she stopped in front of a bookcase near the attic stairs and tapped out a code on the wall with the toe of her shoe. Slowly a panel opened; a bony hand protruding from a tattered sleeve grabbed the plate.

“Thank you, Ma’am. I am famished.” A young Yankee soldier whispered as he tore into the chicken legs and stuffed spoonfuls of black-eyed peas and cornbread into his mouth. Within two minutes, the mountain of food was gone. He wiped his mouth with his ragged sleeve. “Mmm . . . This is the first real food I’ve had in months.”

“I am sorry you had to stay here all day without any food or water, but the Rebels appeared on my doorstep a few minutes after you arrived. They suspected me of helping you and the others escape from Libby prison. The scoundrels searched my house and questioned me for hours.”

“I heard them talking. I’d rather go without food and water than to lose my life or go back to prison. I’m grateful to you and your people for gettin’ me out of that place of torment. What happened to the other three prisoners?”

“The less you know the better for everyone . . .” Before she could say another word a large shadow danced across the wall. Connie gasped, whirled around, and faced the intruder.

“Oh, it’s you, Maggie.” She sighed, clutching her bosom. “My nerves are on edge.”

The young Negress set down a pail of water, and placed a shirt, pants, and shoes on the bookcase. “Miss Connie, here are all the items you requested. Jim is waiting in the kitchen for you.”

“Thank you, Maggie. Please tell him we will be down in ten or fifteen minutes then you can retire for the night.”

“Yes Ma’am.” Maggie replied taking the empty plate from her employer. She nodded to the man before vanishing into the dark hallway.

The soldier grabbed the water dipper and drank thirstily.

“I hope the clothes and shoes fit.” Connie said. I’ll be back in ten minutes.”

Back in her bedroom, Connie stepped out of the hooped skirt and donned a calico dress and heavy boots. A blue, cotton bonnet finished her outfit. Sometimes she felt lonely. Unmarried, without a brother or sister, her only living blood relative was a crippled, elderly aunt who lived on the second floor.

An abolitionist, Connie freed and educated the family slaves after her parents’ death from a train accident fifteen years ago. Three had remained at the mansion while six had returned at the start of the war three years ago to help with the Union cause. She considered them family. Her few neighbor friends thought her eccentric but a patriotic Rebel.

* * * * *

Connie and the young soldier met Jim in the kitchen. The older man, once a slave in her father’s house, was someone she trusted with her life. He removed a brick from the fireplace that triggered a panel to open.

A dank, earthy smell filled their nostrils in the narrow passageway. The trio trudged on in silence during the forty-five minute trip that ended at a ladder leading to the outside.

“Wait here and don’t talk.” Jim whispered, turning off the lantern. He climbed the ladder, and slowly pushed open a small earth-covered wooden hatch. A full moon revealed two rebel soldiers talking close by. He waited five minutes and checked again. With no one in sight, he beckoned to his companions. Together they slid down the steep riverbank.

A young Negro named Moses and three bearded Yankees met them.

“I was afraid the Rebs would see you, Jim. Moses said in a hushed voice. Three patrols came by tonight. Let’s get everyone on the boat before they come back.”

Jim pointed to the dory the men uncovered and motioned to the young Yankee to get in.

“God bless and thank you all for your help.” He said quietly, and then jumped into the boat with his three companions and Moses.

“God bless you and the Union.” Connie whispered before hurrying with Jim back to the tunnel.


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This article has been read 348 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Linda Goergen06/03/11
The Civil War one of the worst times in American history! Today, the idea of anyone being another's slave is abhorent!

Your story a realistic reminder of that terrible time and injustice and that there were those that risked their lives and fought for justice behind the scenes away from the battle field!

Your story fits the challenge word in so many aspects! Well done.
Leola Ogle 06/03/11
Very moving story! You did a great job in your writing! God bless!
Noel Mitaxa 06/06/11
Very atmospheric treatment of the dark, insane nature of warfare between brothers, cousins, fathers, sons and friends.
diana kay06/08/11
great story :-) at first I thought it was set in England as we have a Richmond just down the road. :-) this seemed like a taster chapter for a bigger story which I am sure you would be able to write as you have such a clear picture of the characters and the adventure.Perhaps I have missed something I am not quite sure how it fitted the topic.
that would be my only criticism of it because the writing seemed very good and i was reading on to find out more... i am sure i might read the whole book even though i dont generally go for period fiction/historical fiction.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 06/08/11
Oh it is so nice to read A well-written fresh take on the topic. I felt like I had traveled to the past and watching it all firsthand.
Edmond Ng 06/08/11
Very well written! I was completely drawn into the story and able to picture the whole scene. Good characterization and imagery.
Amanda Brogan06/09/11
Awesome! Great job with the historical fiction. It had me on the edge of my seat the whole time, waiting to see if you would take the "traitor" route of "sellout," especially because of the title. I like the way you fooled me and made the ending happy anyway. :)

It may need a few commas in some areas, but other than that, this sellout story is perfect. Love the patriotism.
diana kay06/09/11
congratulations on being in the editors choice. my choice too :-)
Kelvin Fowler06/09/11
Congratulations on your third. Well done, good story. Cheers :-)
Danielle King 06/09/11
Great story Patricia. Congratulations on your placing.
Noel Mitaxa 06/09/11
Congratulations on your well-deserved placing
Noel Mitaxa 06/09/11
Congratulations on your well-deserved placing
Bonnie Bowden06/09/11
Excellently written story. I am so glad you won an EC spot.
Kim Hamlin06/13/11
Great job Patricia, I enjoyed this, congratulations!