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Authors: Patrick E. Craig

The Road Home (10 page)

BOOK: The Road Home
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“The girls are doing well. Jerusha is still as beautiful as the first day I saw her, and Jenny is growing up into a delightful woman.”

“Is she still as rambunctious as ever?” Bobby asked with a smile.

“Jenny does tend to rush in where angels fear to tread, but she's been a joy and a great comfort to us since Jenna died,” Reuben said. “I love her like my own flesh and blood. I've always been amazed when I remember the way God sent her to us. And I will never forget the part you played in finding the two of them in that storm.”

“Does that mean you're going to buy me lunch today?” Bobby asked with a grin.

“Is there a serious bone in your body?” Reuben asked.

“Sure, but in this job, I try not to wear my heart on my sleeve. I think
you know that besides my mom and dad, you, Jerusha, and Jenny are the only family I have. And that girl is precious to me too. Is that serious enough?”

Reuben sighed. He loved this man more dearly than a brother, but Bobby wasn't one to reveal his deepest feelings very often. Reuben's thoughts went back to the fall of 1950, when he and Jerusha were separated after Jenna's death and Bobby had been a loyal and steadfast friend. He had searched for Jerusha for three days in the middle of the worst storm Ohio had ever seen. And when Jerusha had found Jenny lost in the storm and the Springers adopted her, Bobby had transferred all the love he had focused on their first child, Jenna, to Jenny.

“Twenty-three years ago, we were heading up to the top of that ridge on that hellhole of an island to fight the decisive battle of that whole campaign,” Bobby said. “If the Japanese had gotten past us and retaken Henderson field, we might not be sitting here today.”

Reuben winced and then moved past the memory.

“Still bother you to think about it, Reuben?” Bobby asked.


Es ist schwierig, es zu vergessen
,” Reuben said. “It is difficult to forget. I used to have bad dreams about it, but in the last few years the whole scene seems to have faded from my memory, for which I am grateful. I don't know whether it's because I'm getting older or if I've just figured out how to block it from my thoughts.”

“For sure it's because you're getting older,” Bobby said and then smiled. “Actually, Reuben, I have had the same dreams. I don't think it's something you really ever get over.”

The two men sat silently for a moment, remembering the horror of the battle, the explosions, the cries of wounded and dying men, and the Japanese soldiers coming at them in wave after wave.

“Ever since I figured out that I needed to trust God instead of just following the rules, I've found a great comfort in my faith,” Reuben said. “How do you deal with it?”

“Now, Reuben, you know where I stand,” Bobby said. “I've always been glad that you've found solace in your church. But I just have never quite figured this whole God thing out. I'll probably wait the rest of my life and then be a death-bed penitent.”

“I pray that you'll come to faith before then, my friend,” Reuben said, holding Bobby's gaze.

“Come on,” Bobby said as he jumped up and grabbed his coat and hat. “Let's go have some lunch. I'll drive.”

“Ha-ha,” Reuben said. “Very funny. By the way, Bobby, I have something important to talk to you about over lunch. It's about Jenny. I'm in need of your help.”

C
HAPTER
E
IGHT

Come Find Me

J
ENNY WAS WATCHING FROM THE LOBBY
of the library as the young man in the blue van drove past. For some strange reason she wanted to run out and stop him. Her meeting with Johnny Hershberger had been strange and disconcerting. He had made her feel uncomfortable and nice at the same time. She remembered looking into his eyes and starting to lose herself in them. She still felt the touch of his hand on hers, so she shoved the offending member into her pocket and tried to scrub the memory off against the wool lining.

“What's going on?” she asked out loud. “I'm having crazy dreams, I'm remembering weird things from my childhood, I'm telling everything about my life to complete strangers…”

A library patron, hurrying past, gave Jenny a very strange glance.

…and now I'm talking to myself!

She stopped her thoughts and took a breath. She felt as if her life were spiraling out of control, and she realized that it might be a good idea to pray. But the idea made her uncomfortable when she remembered that she hadn't prayed in a week, so she quickly bowed her head
and whispered. “Lord, I'm feeling a little
verblüfft
, and I need Your help, I guess. Can You give me some help here please? Amen.”

Jenny looked up and looked around. No one had noticed her praying, but it hadn't been much of a prayer anyway. She glanced back out the glass door. The blue van was no longer in sight, and she didn't know which way it had gone.

She turned and walked toward the little desk that Mrs. Blake had given her in the back of the building. She decided to bury herself in her work all day and not think of the things that were troubling her anymore. She came to her desk, pulled off her coat, and hung it on the rack beside her cabinet. She pulled out her chair, sat down, and attacked the stack of historical material on her desk. But even as she worked, two images kept coming to her mind. One was a pair of sea-blue eyes that drew her deep into their unknown depths, and the other was a woman's face.

The woman's words echoed in Jenny's head. “Jenny, come find me. I'm lost, so lost.”

Later that afternoon, Jenny was still sitting at her desk. She had tried to work on a project with a fast-approaching deadline but hadn't been able to make any headway. Her thoughts kept drifting back to the dying woman. Jenny remembered her face being beautiful. She had long black hair, and her eyes were deep and dark, almost black.

Maybe that wasn't my mother. My eyes are violet, not dark
.

As Jenny tried to recall everything she could about the woman, the words kept coming back to her. “Jenny, come find me. I'm lost, so lost,” she whispered to herself.

Jenny wondered what that meant. Why was she lost? Where was she lost from? Then Jenny remembered something Papa said about the car where Mama found her. The car was from New York, and the police found a man in the pond with the sunken car. She thought
about the man and wondered if he was her real father. Jenny didn't like the thought. The man had tried to hurt her. She decided to look through the old newspaper files at the library for stories that could tell her more about the dead man.

Jenny put her unfinished project back in the file folder and then carried it with her up to the front desk. Mrs. Blake was checking in returned books. She was an older lady with white hair and pointy Harlequin glasses that hung on a chain around her neck when she wasn't putting them on her nose to peer at the paperwork in front of her. Jenny waited while Mrs. Blake finished checking in a copy of
Swiss Family Robinson
. Mrs. Blake looked up from her work and noticed Jenny standing there.

“Hi, sweetie. Do you need something?”

“Mrs. Blake, is anyone using the microfiche this morning? I need to do some research on my project, and I have to check the old newspaper and magazine files.”

Jenny felt a small check in her heart. Great—now she was lying to her friend. Maybe Papa was right. Maybe the whole pursuit of her past would only bring heartache. She felt a surge of guilt about lying to her papa and to Mrs. Blake, and she wondered where else her newly acquired sin would take her.

The librarian smiled and said, “No one's using it right now, honey. You can have it until someone comes in and asks for it.”

Jenny's need to know about the dead man in the car that night overpowered the quiet voice in her spirit, and she took the key to the microfiche room from Mrs. Blake's hand and headed down the hall. In the room she placed her folder by the reader and then went over to the wall of filing cabinets where the film was kept.

Now how did that all go? The big storm was in the fall of 1950. The police located the car in the pond the next spring, and while they were removing it, they found the man's body
.

She decided to look through the files for articles from early 1951 in the
Daily Record
, Wooster's local paper. She pulled all the film for the months she wanted and then sat down at the reader and began to work. It took her about an hour, but at last she found an article in the April 4 edition of the paper.

Local Police Locate Dead Body in Jepson's Pond

BY
B
OB
S
CHUMANN

The Wayne County Sheriff's Department discovered a dead man in Jepson's Pond near Dalton. The body was in a severe state of decomposition. Police were unable to take any fingerprints, and no means of identification was found, so the identity of the man remains a mystery.

The body was located while officers were removing a sunken car from the pond. According to sources in the department, the car had been in the pond since the Thanksgiving Day storm. Local resident and war hero, Bobby Halverson, reported the sunken car in November, but authorities had to wait until the ice melted this month before they could send divers to investigate. While searching the pond for the car, the divers came upon the remains of the dead man.

Halverson told this reporter that he and Reuben Springer, a member of the Apple Creek Amish community, found the car on the ice while searching for Springer's wife, Jerusha, who was lost in the storm, but that they did not know about the man in the pond.

The car slid into the pond when the ice broke as the two men were retrieving a battery from the vehicle during their successful rescue of Mrs. Springer.

In an unusual addendum to the story, it was also learned by this reporter that Mrs. Springer found a small child in the car two days earlier. She took the little girl to the abandoned cabin near the pond during the height of the storm
and kept her alive while awaiting rescue. The identity of the child was unknown, and it remains to be seen whether the man found in the pond was any relation to the little girl or if there was even any connection between the man and the car.

In the meantime, the child was first given to the State Child Welfare Agency and then, following the Springers' application, placed in foster care in the Springer home. Mr. Springer is also well known in the area as a winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor on Guadalcanal during the Pacific campaign before returning to the Amish faith after the war.

Mrs. Springer is an Amish quilter of some renown in Wayne County.

Jenny read on. There were a few more details about the make of the car, and then she saw that the reporter had put in the license plate number—SN12-66. Jenny looked to see if there were any follow-up articles and found one written a month later.

Dead Man's Identity Remains a Mystery

BY
B
OB
S
CHUMANN

An investigation concerning the identity of the dead man found in Jepson's Pond in April has proved fruitless. Police investigators working out of the Wayne County Sheriff's Department have been unable to find any clues concerning the man or what he was doing when he drowned in the pond.

BOOK: The Road Home
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ads

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