An Ostrich Plume Hat
The following represents a continuation of the preview of the draft of Gayle Brennan Spencer's first novel about Hedda Burgemeister and Otto Koehler.
Hedda Burgemeister, January 1915
Returning again and again and again, the nightmare is unbearable. Seared deep in her mind, the vivid images haunt her even in daylight.
Leon Johnson continues to stare at her. But when Sheriff Tobin slips down the black hood, it is Hedda who is plunged into claustrophobic darkness. She senses hundreds of eyes trained upon her as he tightens the rope around her neck.
Dr. Herff says the condemned young man gripped a cross in his right hand and thanked everyone for giving him a fair trial. Hedda, though, finds herself teetering on the trap door with no cross in her hand and no thanks to offer.
As before, the instant the sheriff reaches for the lever, she jerks awake. She trembles and perspires at the possibility of dangling from the rope, strangling as a vindictive crowd cheers her death.
As the hack slows, Hedda asks the driver to wait at the entrance to the lane. She directs her gaze toward the arched entryway of Mission Cemetery. She feels compelled onward, yet repulsed at the thought of visiting his final resting place. After all she has been through in the past three months, she still cannot comprehend she killed Otto Koehler. She must see the grave.
A few steps through the cemetery gates, she spies it. The obelisk soaring up out of the ground halts her in her tracks. It towers over every marker in the vicinity, just as his house and his brewery are larger and grander than any others in San Antonio.
Emma Daschel is right. Hedda has no chance of a fair trial in this city.
The crude, anonymous note tacked on her door last night claims she will receive no trial at all. No opportunity to defend herself.
Surely they cannot lock her up as the royals of Saxony threatened to do to Madame Toselli. This is America.
But here, beer is king. And the beer baron’s widow wants the story to disappear from page one.
Just as the note threatens, Hedda could be condemned to the insane asylum. Silenced. Forever.
Hedda turns and runs back to the hack, determined to keep running somewhere. Anywhere.
Maybe home. Maybe home to Germany. Back to doing what she is trained to do. Back to saving lives.
War always generates work for nurses.
Bleeding soldiers never ask for references.
Copyright Gayle Brennan Spencer, 2007