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Authors: Patrick E. Craig

The Road Home (8 page)

BOOK: The Road Home
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He lowered his head and spoke quietly. “Jesus, if it was You who helped me escape and find this hideout, thank You.”

Then, for the first time in days, Johnny felt better. It was as though warmth slowly crept over him, and he felt his muscles finally relax.

A thought occurred to him.
Hide the money!

Johnny stood up and looked around the barn. He grabbed one of the boards and broke it so it had a sharp point on it. He went to the pile of firewood and took several pieces out until the floor of the bin was exposed. The floorboards had rotted from sitting under the wood, and he easily broke through them. Under the floorboards the ground was dry and hard. Johnny went back to the van and got the briefcase and the sack.

I'm almost out of money. Maybe I'll borrow just a little from the stash

Johnny counted out a thousand dollars and put it in his wallet. Then he put the paper bag back into the briefcase and closed it. He shoved the case under the floor of the bin and laid a few short boards over the hole. He stacked the firewood back up, being careful to leave the area as undisturbed as possible. He felt a little better, but he was still troubled. He needed help. He decided that in the morning he would drive to the closest town and turn himself in. Then the police could protect him or maybe capture the dealers.

Johnny threw another piece of wood on the fire and pulled the stump he was sitting on closer to the flames. Outside, the wind howled and the rain continued to pour.



in Wooster toward the Wayne County Public Library. She had always been good at history and had recently completed an ambitious undertaking, detailing the historical roots of her family and their arrival in Apple Creek more than a hundred years earlier. The magnitude of the project caused her teacher to think Jenny might be of service to the Amish community by continuing her research.

At first her
objected, but then Jerusha intervened, pointing out that one of the goals of Amish education is to teach children how to be valuable members of the Amish community. Reuben had finally given his consent, though with some misgivings.

Jenny loved the library and was so earnest in her studies that finally Mrs. Blake, the librarian, suggested she take on her current position as a research assistant, specializing in local history and genealogy. For two years Jenny went twice a week to Wooster. When she was baptized into the church, Reuben wanted her to quit her job, but some of the elders of the church saw value to the Amish community in her position and
asked Reuben to reconsider. He did so reluctantly, and Jenny continued working at the library.

Jenny usually looked forward to her days at the library with great anticipation. The library had an exceptional department dealing with local history. Often she would spend the whole day in the basement, poring over the dusty tomes, organizing long lists of birth records, and tracing and detailing the influence of the Amish on Wayne County and the rest of Ohio. The hours would fly by, and finally Mrs. Blake would come to the top of the stairs and call down to her that it was closing time.

But there was no joy in her heart today. Today her thoughts were dark and gloomy, and she couldn't put the images from last night's nightmare out of her mind. The sky was overcast, there was a chilling bite on the fall wind, and it felt like it might rain. The day matched her mood.

In the morning after the big storm, Johnny Hershberger awoke slowly beside the burned-out fire, wrapped in an old blanket he had dug out of the back of the van. A chill had crept into the barn. In the dim light he could see the remains of the storm sailing by in a glowering sky through the hole in the barn roof. His hair felt greasy, and hunger gnawed at his belly. He dug through the knapsack to see if he had anything left to eat, but all he found was an empty potato chip bag. He got up, kicked at the fire to make sure it was out, and then packed his stuff into the van. He fired up the engine and drove slowly out of the barn. Leaves and tree limbs littered the clearing leading to the road. On the horizon, the sun was beginning to peek through the gray mass of clouds that still roiled overhead.

Johnny drove out to the road and turned back toward the main highway. When he got to the intersection he looked for directions.
Across the road was a sign that said
, 4
. He turned onto the road and headed toward town, making sure he remembered the turnoff so he could find his way back.

Soon he approached the outskirts of town. He saw a sign that said
. A man was walking along the sidewalk, so he pulled over and asked him the way to the sheriff's office. The man took one look at his van, pointed vaguely toward the next street, mumbled something unintelligible, and walked off, shaking his head.

Johnny turned onto Liberty Street and headed in the direction the sign pointed. After a few blocks, he saw another sign that said
, and below it,
. He came to a red light and stopped. It changed to green, and he started to turn left off Liberty when someone stepped off the curb right in front of the van.

Without looking at the light, Jenny had stepped off the curb. She didn't see the vehicle making a left turn onto Walnut Street from Liberty. The driver honked his horn and swerved to avoid her, and the van screeched to a halt as it rammed one of its tires into the curb. The driver leaned out the window and yelled at her. “Hey, watch where you're going! I almost hit you.”

“Well, if I remember correctly, pedestrians have the right of way!” Jenny called back.

“Yeah, they do if the light is in their favor,” he said pointing toward the signal.

Jenny looked back at the light. The left turn arrow was green, but the pedestrian light still said
. She felt herself wanting to say something nasty, but realizing she was in the wrong, she mumbled, “I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention,” and walked on.

“Wait a minute, are you okay? I guess I should have been more careful, even if the signal was in my favor.”

He opened the door and got out. Jenny stopped and looked back. “I'm fine. A little startled, but fine.”

For the first time, Jenny looked at the driver. He was tall and trim, and his long hair was pulled back into a ponytail. He wore a leather jacket with fringe hanging down, bell-bottom jeans and some kind of green boots. Then she saw that he was driving a blue Volkswagen van and that his van was covered with strange pictures pasted on the metal in a collage. There were flowers and strange foreign-looking men in very awkward positions. The largest picture was pasted on the driver's door. It was of a white-haired man in a white jacket with the words “Turn on, tune in, drop out” written below it. She looked back at the young man. She realized that he was very good looking, but his most striking feature was his eyes. They were deep sea-blue, and she could see a hint of a smile behind them. She felt herself being drawn into those eyes and had to pull herself back with a start.

His eyes—they are just like Papa's!

Jenny noticed that the young man was staring at her
. His eyes traveled down, taking in her face, and then her plain wool coat with the hooks instead of a zipper, and then the high-top laced shoes.

“Excuse me,” he said. “Are you in a play or something?”

“What?” Jenny asked.

“A play,” he said. “You're dressed like you're in a play.”

“Right,” Jenny retorted, feeling both a blush and an irritation rising up within her. “I'm one of the starving pilgrims and you must be Squanto, the Indian who saves us. But wait! The Indians didn't wear green boots or drive decorated trucks, so you must be one of those beatniks I've heard about. But I don't remember any beatniks at the first Thanksgiving, so I guess you're not in the play after all.”

The young man smiled. “Whoa! Slow down! Beatniks dress in black and play bongos. I guess I'm what you folks would call a hippie, but in San Francisco I felt a little more local. Right this minute, I feel about as local as a fish in a tree.”

He was trying to be smart, but instead he came off sounding very foolish. Jenny didn't miss the opening.

“Well, perhaps you should get a paint job for your truck and maybe trade in that jacket and those boots for a pair of overalls and some work shoes. Then maybe you'd feel a bit more local. And by the way, I'm Amish, and I dress this way every day, if it's any of your business.”

The young man shrugged off Jenny's barbed remark and smiled again. “Listen, this isn't going well. I've never met anyone who is…Amish, and I didn't mean to offend you. Look, let's try another approach. I just got into town, and I've got a problem. I'm trying to find the sheriff's office. A guy down the street gave me directions, but they weren't really clear, and I'm wandering around in circles. Can you tell me where it is?”

Jenny pointed up Walnut Street. “You're not too far away. It's right up there on the corner of North and Walnut.” She looked the young man over once more and then offered her assessment. “You're not in San Francisco, you know. I would make sure you don't have any of that stuff you hippies like to smoke before you go up there. My Uncle Bobby—
Bobby—doesn't take kindly to strangers who break the law.”

“Your uncle is the sheriff? I thought the Amish were all pacifists.”

“Well, he's not my biological uncle, but he's a very close friend of the family. He and my papa fought in the war together.”
Why am I telling him this? Why was he so nosey?

The young man cocked his head and looked at her. “Your dad is an Amish war vet?”

“Well,” Jenny said, “it's actually none of your concern, so it doesn't really matter, does it?”

“Hey, it's okay,” the young man replied softly. “I'm not trying to pry. It's just interesting, that's all. Can we start again?”

He stuck out his hand. “I'm Johnny Hershberger. I just happened to be driving through Wooster and almost ran you down…”

Jenny could feel his eyes study her face.

“…and I'm a great believer in destiny. What's your name?”

Jenny hesitated for a minute. She was put off by the young man's brashness, but the fact that his name was Hershberger appealed to the historical researcher in her. She put out her hand hesitantly and took his.

“I'm Jenny Springer. I'm from Apple Creek. It's interesting to me that your name is Hershberger—that's my mother's maiden name.”

“Is she Amish too?” Johnny asked.

“Well of course she is,” said Jenny with a toss of her head. “What else would she be?”

“I'm sorry, that was a dumb question. Of course she's Amish. It's just that I'm a Hershberger and I'm not. Amish, that is…not Amish.”

“Well, that's obvious,” Jenny said with a small smile, momentarily forgetting her irritation. “Still, all the Hershbergers I know are Amish. Don't you know anything about your family history?”

“Not really,” Johnny replied. “My dad never talked about it, and my mom was too occupied with her club socials to ever sit down with me and talk family history. So I'm pretty much clueless about the previous generations.”

BOOK: The Road Home
4.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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