- 2014 Community Novel Project of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library
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- A different Topeka author and illustrator featured in each chapter
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Downloading Superimposed Chapter 12 by Reaona Hemmingway
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Read Online: Superimposed Chapter 12 by Reaona Hemmingway
May 17, 1945 – Dover, England
“Over here, Lieutenant.” Salvatore turned his head to where a sergeant stood behind a table with his arm outstretched to wave him over. “Officers check in at this table, sir.”
Salvatore picked up his duffle bag, winced at the pain the weight caused on his spine, and started walking toward the sergeant. The weight of the money belt full of gold further hampered his ability to walk comfortably. Halfway to the table, he set the duffle bag down and took a few slow breaths to regain his stability. Why the army insisted he have a full duffle bag full of clothes and gear just to go home and never use any of the uniforms again made no sense.
“Private, take the lieutenant’s bag,” the sergeant ordered.
A kid not much older than Salvatore stepped from his post near the gangplank and lifted the duffle bag with little difficulty.
“Thank you, Private.”
The private followed him to the table where he showed the sergeant his identification card. “Lieutenant Salvatore Caló.”
The sergeant turned to a page with a large red S at the top. “Four-hundred-thirty-seven.”
Another sergeant pulled a key off of a pegboard behind the table and handed it to Salvatore.
“This is your room key. Enlisted are in steerage, NCOs in the cabins on the three decks above that, and officers have the upper decks. The higher your rank, the plusher your accommodations.” The words came out of the sergeant’s mouth like the lines from a well-rehearsed play. “The large key fits the cabin door. The small key is for a lock box in the ship’s vault. If you have any valuables, such as the pay you were given at the out-processing center, you can check in with the ship’s purser to place them in the vault.” The sergeant’s finger pointed to a map of the ship’s interior. “You’re on my list as medical rehab, which is why you’re on deck four with the infirmary. Your room is two doors aft of the main staircase.” His finger moved to the square representing Salvatore’s room. “Once you unload your gear, report to the infirmary and hand the intake nurse your sealed medical records and your medications, if any. She will give you further instructions.” The sergeant looked up. “Enjoy your voyage, sir. Next!”
“Right this way, sir,” the private said.
The enlisted man led Salvatore up a gangplank, through a lobby, and down a flight of stairs. He pointed out the hall leading to the infirmary and then turned to his left. “Here’s your room, sir. If you’ll unlock the door, I’ll set your bag on the bed for you.”
Salvatore blinked as his eyes adjusted to the dim interior of the cruise ship cabin assigned to him. The room was small with two single beds separated by a four-drawer bureau. The only place to sit was on the bed. A sink in one corner to the left of the door and a toilet with a curtain around it in the other corner made his choice of beds easy. He took the one on the side of the sink. “Where do I find the ship’s purser?”
“In the lobby we passed through. Just go to the counter, and tell them you want to use your assigned lock box.” The private set the duffle bag on the bed as promised and turned to leave. “Have a safe voyage, sir.”
“Thank you, Private.”
Salvatore loaded his uniforms and underwear into the top two drawers of the bureau and tucked the duffle bag with his helmet and boots in it under the bed. With that done, instead of reporting straight to the infirmary, Salvatore removed the money belt holding the gold and his out-processing pay. Over a year’s worth of lieutenant’s pay would go a long way while he figured out where he wanted to go once he arrived in America.
He felt the weight of the gold in his hands. Hiding it while in the hospital had been difficult. That truck had held a fortune in gold stolen by the Germans. This little bit that he kept and didn’t bury would need to last until he came back to Germany to retrieve the rest from where he buried it. His first objective to that would be to purchase the farmland where he’d hid the bulk of it down a dry well. He’d lived in that abandoned farmhouse for two months before a German patrol found it and wanted to make it their temporary barracks.
Salvatore had managed to hide in the barn for two days before they’d found him. They’d accused him of being a spy because he didn’t have a uniform. They’d then had him tied up and standing against the barn wall in preparation to shoot him when the American patrol came out of the woods. Even with his hands tied behind his back, Salvatore had used the distraction to run across the fallow field in the opposite direction.
Gunfire between the Americans and Germans had erupted behind him. The doctors said the bullet they removed near his spine was from one of the German guns. The smaller .22 caliber bullet – the one the doctors left in his chest because it was buried too close to his heart – was from an unknown weapon. The small bullet worried Salvatore. The American officer who’d rolled him over and read his dog tags held a .22 caliber rifle in his hands. It wasn’t military issue. Everyone insisted it wasn’t the Captain who’d shot him in the back as Salvatore had struggled to make it over the stone property boundary fence. The first bullet had been so close to his spine that his legs wouldn’t obey his commands.
Salvatore shook off the hatred he felt for the Captain. He would never see that man again, but the bullet in his heart was like living with a ticking time bomb. The doctors promised that his body would encapsulate it with a fibrous tissue that would protect him from infection, but someday when medical procedures improved, he should consider having it removed.
He locked up the room and made his way up to the lobby. In the short time since he’d come aboard, the activity level in the lobby had doubled. His shortness worked against him as he tried to cross through the flow of men toward the purser’s counter. He kept the money belt tucked beneath his uniform blouse with his left arm curled around it. He used his right arm to keep from getting plowed under by the taller men in the chaos.
“Joe! Hey, Joe!” someone shouted.
Salvatore made it to the counter as a hand came down on his shoulder.
“Joe? Didn’t you hear me shout?”
Salvatore turned to the man who held his shoulder. Sergeant Grimaldi stood a foot taller than him. The moment their eyes met, the sergeant frowned.
“My apologies, sir. I thought you were my brother, Joe Grimaldi.”
“That’s quite all right, Sergeant Grimaldi.” Salvatore offered his right hand to shake. But instead of shaking his hand, the sergeant glared at his name tag.
“What’s going on?” Grimaldi pointed to the name Caló on Salvatore’s chest. “Where’s Joe? Why are you impersonating him?”
Salvatore was confused. How could Salvatore Caló be the same person as Joe Grimaldi? He glanced at the purser, who waited patiently behind the counter with a curious look on his face.
“Can I talk to you after I put my valuables in the safe?”
Sergeant Grimaldi stepped back. “I’ll stand right here and wait for you, sir.”
The purser led him into the ship’s vault and inserted a key into a lock box with the same number on it as Salvatore’s key. “The vault door is locked at seven in the evening and doesn’t open again until seven in the morning. If you need to access your money, do so during open hours, sir.”
“Of course.” Salvatore refolded the money belt so it would fit into the length of the lock box and lowered it carefully inside to keep the gold from making a noise. “I think I’ve kept enough cash on me to make it through the voyage. But in case I do need more, I appreciate knowing when I can access it.”
True to his word, Sergeant Grimaldi stood in the same spot as Salvatore exited the vault.
“Follow me, Sergeant. I’m due in at the infirmary, so we’ll have to talk while I retrieve my medical records from my cabin.”
Grimaldi followed and waited until they were in Salvatore’s room to close and lock the door so that they had privacy. “The last time I saw Joe, he was tagging along with Salvatore Caló to the induction center. Joe wanted to join the Army so badly, but he was too young and too short, so he offered to take Sal’s place. We grew up in the same orphanage with Caló, but he had family – a very important family who finally located him after his mother hid him amongst us orphans. He was more than willing to let Joe take his place.”
Salvatore sat on the bed and leaned against the wall. This day was wearing him down. His legs felt tingly, which meant he needed to rest. He didn’t have the energy to lie to this man. Besides, Grimaldi had just given him a challenge in trying to pass himself off as Salvatore Caló in America. The Caló family was an important Italian family, well-known among the Romani. It would do him no good to get caught posing as Salvatore if the man was still alive.
“I found your brother in Germany. He was dying after a German officer shot him while trying to escape. I avenged your brother, held him in my arms, and listened to his dying words. He died a brave man. I buried him and said the words of God over him.”
Grimaldi paced in the small space between the beds. “Why did you take his name?”
“Or rather the name of the man he substituted for?”
“The Germans were hunting for me. As an American, not a Gypsy, I had a better chance to survive.”
Grimaldi nodded. “Well then, when we get back to the states, you’ll have to be Joe.”
Salvatore pushed himself to his feet and took his medical records and medicine bag from the top drawer of the bureau. “Are you sure?”
“Joe was my only blood relative. Our father committed suicide when the stock market crashed. Our mother died from tuberculosis she caught while working double shifts at a textile mill. The hope that I would see Joe again was the only thing that kept me going through this war. I’ve lost enough family already.” Grimaldi looked directly into Salvatore’s eyes. “I don’t want to be alone. As far as I’m concerned, through the blood he shed in your arms while you listened to his dying words, you are now my brother.”
“What is your name?” Salvatore grabbed the edge of the bureau as a wave of dizziness left him unsteady on his feet.
“Sergeant Antonio Grimaldi, or Tony once we’re out of uniform.” Grimaldi’s arms caught Salvatore as his legs gave out. He lowered Salvatore back onto the bed. “Are you all right, sir?”
“I took a bullet in the back. And one into the heart. I’m just tired from standing in line, and I’m overdue for taking my pain medication.”
“You lay down. I’ll go get the nurse.”
Before Salvatore could reply, Sergeant Grimaldi left the room. He had no sooner left when another officer entered the room.
“Well, well,” the captain said. “Our fates have brought us together again.”
It was the captain with the silver bullets in his rifle.
“Captain Higgins.” Salvatore tried to sit up, but his head still spun. “I see you still have your rifle.”
Higgins leaned the rifle case against the wall between the bureau and the other bed. “I never missed a shot during the entire war with this thing.” He dropped his duffle bag on the bed. “Now I can go back to hunting real game in the Blue Ridge Mountains.”
“Did you have to shoot me in the back?”
Before Higgins could answer, Tony returned with the nurse, and the room became even more cramped. But despite the overcrowded conditions, Salvatore’s eyes focused on only one person – the nurse. She was his whole world for that moment. “Bella Mia.”
Chapter 13 will be published next week at https://www.tscpl.org/novel
About Reaona Hemmingway
Reaona Hemmingway began writing poetry in fourth grade and later took Creative Writing as an elective in high school. While attending Wichita State University, where she minored in creative writing while obtaining a degree in mathematics, she expanded her writing talents from poetry to fiction. In 2004, Reaona completed an MBA, with distinction, from Washburn University. She works in accounting, but likes to spend her free time writing, knitting, and walking with Sabrina, her yellow Labrador retriever. Reaona currently resides in Topeka, Kansas where she is a member of the Kansas Authors Club.
An Interview with Reaona Hemmingway
What is your writing background? What sort of work do you usually write? (Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, Genre?)
I started writing poetry in fourth grade, took Creative Writing in high school, and minored in Creative Writing in college. While working on the minor, I started writing fiction. The first full length novel I wrote was Mariah, which was published in 2010. I now have four novels and two short story collections published: Baseball Card Hero, September 11, Mariah, Prairie Angel, Home for Christmas, and Tillie’s Marbles & Other Stories. Baseball Card Hero is my 2007 Nanowrimo novel. I’ve participated in Nanowrimo since 2006 and have met the challenge every year.
Who are some of your favorite authors? Are there books, poems, or stories that have inspired your own writing?
Growing up I read a lot of westerns: Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey, Max Brand, Luke Short, and Owen Wister–I’ve read The Virginian four times. One of my favorite classics is The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas. I started reading romances while living in Rhode Island and enjoy Debbie Macomber, Linda Lael Miller, and Susan Wiggs.
Why did you want to participate in the Community Novel Project?
The Community Novel Project provides a means to not only try something new like collaborating with other authors, but also an opportunity to reach a new audience with my writing.
Have you ever written fiction in collaboration with other authors before?
In fourth grade, my teacher frequently assigned the class to write short stories. One assignment involved collaborating with another student to write and create a cover for a story. While not fiction, a couple of my MBA classes required teamwork on writing case studies and research projects. Each team member wrote part of the report/study and I always volunteered to merge the information together to create a flow between the individual sections to make the assignment read as though one person wrote it.
Do you usually write in a burst of inspiration, or is your work carefully outlined? Did writing for the community novel differ from the norm?
For most of my work, I start with an idea and let it flow from the first sentence. When doing Nanowrimo I try to write a short synopsis as a road map for the 30 days of writing a 50,000 word novel. With writing one of the middle chapters of the community novel, I needed to read through the previous chapters to know what happened leading up to my chapter and let the work of the other authors inspire my contribution to the whole work.
What do you like about the premise and characters of this year’s Community Novel Project? What challenges you about them?
The challenge with the characters is trying to keep straight who is who. The male lead Grimaldi not only changes names, but becomes a completely different person. Holly will be quite a heroine when she sorts it all out.
What was your first reaction when you saw the chapter before yours?
That the authors of the prior chapters certainly enjoy creating challenges for the authors in later chapters to play with.
What do you like most about the chapter that you contributed to the 2014 Community Novel?
That I was able to tie in the fact that the Salvatore/Grimaldi was enlisted in the Army under someone else’s name and introduce a connection between Holly and Pesha who becomes the Salvator/Grimaldi.
What do you hope happens or doesn’t happen in the chapters that come after yours?
That Holly will learn the truth about Grimaldi, Pesha, and Salvator. And that she will out wit Grimaldi’s ‘family’.
What sort of writing can we expect from you in future? Are you currently at work on any writing projects?
I’m currently working on editing my 2006 Nanowrimo novel and finishing a novel I started in 2008.