"Don't trust women with teeth missing, my daddy said," Trude Rainy stated, leaning her thin arms on the fence that surrounded her and Bess Law from the fields beyond. Bess sniggered softly, moved up close to Trude at the fence, and peered lazily across the fields. Trude brought her hands together as if she were about to pray and hooked one of her feet up on the lower rail. She was a thin woman, about twenty-three, with hair coloured like chestnut tied tight in a ponytail at the back. She was wearing a dark-blue dress beneath an old jacket that was brown and well worn.
Bess, stocky and shorter, had skin smooth as silk, but dark as oil and hair tight and black as if it had been sown into her scalp. She wore an old off-white dress, black jacket, and shoes that were well worn at the heel.
"What's he like your daddy?" Bess asked, resting her chin on her thick arm.
"Well he had fewer teeth than any women he ever met," Trude answered with a drawl. "Had this grin that'd start at one ear and go over to the other and in between a nose like a parrot."
Bess sniggered more and dribbled on her arm. "He sounds a bundle of fun," Bess said, turning to gaze at Trude, taking in the fine features, the upturned head, the slim mouth and grey-blue eyes that could warm or freeze in seconds.
"He died about a year ago, so I heard," Trude said, her voice thin as a hair strand. "Got himself knifed in some goddamed fight. Always in a brawl he was when he drank. Mostly lost his teeth that way and his good-looks, so Ma said." Trude sniffed, spat out, and gazed beyond her. "Crazy man."
"Sorry to hear that." Bess muttered. Her large eyes moistened.
"Don't be. He was a nigga-hater and a womanizer and I'm glad the silly buzzard's gone," Trude answered, spitting again, watching the phlegm hit the grass below with a soft thud.
"Ain't nothing new in that. Met many a nigga-hater in my time. Felt their eyes searing into my back as I walked by. Heard their poisonous whispers, their open laughs. Ain't nothing new about that, Trude, and you know there ain't. Maybe your daddy was a good man apart from that and his womanizing?" Bess said, her words thick and warm suddenly, like treacle warmed over a stove.
"Don't get yourself all worked up over the likes of him, Bess Law," Trude said stiffly. She wiped her mouth on the sleeve of her jacket and stared at the fields. "He tried to worm his hate in me and Davy, but I let it flow over my head like a rough wind. I judge by people's hearts and heads not skin or creed. Bad enough that Hitler fella sprouting in that there Germany about Jews and such, without us joining in with such goddamn nonsense."
"Well sounds mighty fine, but people here about don't see any connection." Bess leaned back from the fence and walked back a few paces.
Trude turned and gazed at her. She let her grey-blue eyes flow over Bess's face and figure; let her eyes take in her deep colour; the hidden warmth; the soft under belly. She walked from the fence and taking Bess by the arm walked her to the battered black car by the side of the dusty road. "Best we were on our way, before that husband of yours gets to see you're gone and gets after you," Trude said. Bess heaved herself into the seat next to Trude, the car started with a shudder, and then moved off and up the road to some place elsewhere.
They drove for a few miles in silence, their arms hanging out of the open windows of the car either side. "My ma said, it's action and not words that matter. Lynching can take lives, can scar brains, burn hate deeper, but words, they're just little trimmings after the event, after the bloodshed and slaughter," Bess stated, shattering the silence like shards of glass.
Trude turned her to gaze at Bess, but said nothing. She took in Bess's flattened nose and the deep-set eyes, brown as toffee, hard or soft depending on her mood.
"Joe's cousin was lynched back in 1930. Joe said was a horrible sight; didn't look like his cousin," Bess said, turning and looking out of the window. "They tried to burn it afterwards, the white folks, standing around the tree like an audience at some open air concert."
"If Joe catches up with you, he's going to burn your hide," Trude said, "that husband of yours got a temper like a tormented dog."
"He won't find me. I'm going further than his fat backside will venture," Bess informed.
"We oughta got your Joe and my daddy together before he died; that would have helped us both some," Trude drawled and smiled thinly.
"Hate destroys. I've see it in Joe's eyes; seen it in my brother's eyes. Why hate spreads like wildfire I don't know," Bess said, turning her head, letting her brown eyes rest on Trude's profile.
"Hate is like a disease. One gets it and another gets it after," Trude muttered. "My daddy's lips would curl up with the words he'd say about blacks and such."
Silence returned once more. Trude gazed ahead at the endless road. Bess leaned her head back and closed her eyes. She saw Joe in her mind's eye, rushing round the shack calling for her, his arms raised upwards, kicking whatever stood in his way. He'd not bruise her heart again, nor her soft smooth flesh. She smiled. Joe faded like a bad dream and Trude's scent filtered into her and spread through her like an expanding river after a flood.
After they parked the car, they walked down the main street to the Claymont Hotel. They had with them two small bags that contained their only possessions. Bess looked up at the hotel as they stopped outside.
"You're going in here?" Bess asked.
"Sure. Gotta sleep somewhere tonight. Can't drive all night," Trude said. She walked up the broad steps to the small lobby with Bess lingering behind, her hands stuffed in the pockets of her jacket. A stocky, balding man stood behind the desk. He eyed the women as they came towards him, scanning over Bess with a critical stare.
"You gotta room for the night?" Trude asked, leaning on the desk with one arm and with the other, she leaned down and she scratched her thigh.
"Room for you, but not her," the man stated, looking Trude.
"We're sharing," Trude said, lifting her eyes to the man's immobile features.
"Not with her you ain't," he said. "We don't take coloureds. Your maid'll have to go elsewhere for the night."
Trude stood away from the desk and stared at the man as if he'd suggested something improper. "She's not my maid. She's my friend," Trude replied, bringing her thin body to its full height.
"Still not sleeping here, though," he said. "The Magshore'll take her. That's a hotel for coloureds upper a few blocks on the right."
"Why can't you take her?" Trude asked with a drawl.
"Because it's against our policy and besides we'd lose our best residents," the man said casually as if he was talking to a child.
"Come on, Trude, let's go elsewhere," Bess said, moving away from the desk and looking across the small lobby. "Ain't worth the bother. Best go to this other place. Or you stay here and I'll go find this coloured's place."
Trude grabbed Bess's jacket sleeve and halted her. "If you can't stay in this damned slum hole nor will I. We'll go find us a place that that'll take us both or sleep in the damned car," Trude said angrily.
The man moved up from the desk and lowered his hands beneath out of sight. When he brought them back into view, he had a gun in his right hand and raised it at Bess. "Don't want no trouble from you girls; just carrying out hotel's policies," he stated in a voice that contained a hint of panic.
"We're going, chubby boy," Trude said. She released Bess's sleeve and let her go. Bess trotted quickly across the lobby and out of the door. Trude looked at her go. Then, turning towards the man she glared. "Hell will freeze over you one day. Hope it cracks yer where it hurts." The man lowered the gun and nodded his head with a gesture for her to go. Trude sniffed, shook her head, and walked away from the desk, across the lobby, out of the door, and down the steps into the street outside. For a few moments, she thought she'd peeded herself, but it was perspiration soaking down between her thin thighs warm and clammy.
Bess went to the dingy window of the hotel room and peered down at the street below. They had tried four hotels, until they finally came to one that would take them both in the same room. Trude was lying on the broad bed that looked older than the hotel; her eyes were closed although she was not asleep.
"That fella downstairs never took his eyes of you one minute since the moment we entered the damned place," Bess said, wiping grime from the glass with her plump finger.
"Had piggy eyes," Trude muttered, her eyes still closed. "Don't think his nose was less piggy either."
Bess wiped her finger on her dull blue curtains hanging limply each side. "We eating here or going out?"
"Eat here's best. Can't be doing with chasing for a place that'll let us eat together. Bound to be stepping on somebody's toes if we do," Trude said.
"Unless you think we'll die of gut rot by eating here?"
Bess turned and paced leisurely to the bed and sat on the edge. "I'd eat in the Hell's backyard, I'm so hungry," Bess said. She looked back at Trude laid out on the bed with her eyes closed. "When I was a kid I was hungry so often I thought it was darn natural to have my stomach ache the way it did."
"Where are your parents now?" Trude asked, opening one eye like a cat.
"Daddy went to Chicago a few years back and took ma with him. He said they had more chance up there than in the South. Got himself a job in some car production place and an apartment that ma said was a heap of bricks thrown together by a blind man." Bess looked at Trude's one open eye and saw it close again. "They didn't reckon much on Joe; guess they were right about him. Damned pig-head," Bess muttered, her words lingering about her as if they'd forgotten their way.
"What if he catches up with yer?" Trude said, eyes still closed.
"I'll tackle that damned bridge when I come to it," Bess said.
"He could barge in here now and try to throttle yer with those big greasy hands of his," Trude said with a hint of a smile. "He coulda followed us all the way as far as we know and be right out side that door waiting to pounce in."
"And what would you do if he did? Lie there with your eyes closed and your legs crossed?" Bess said, looking down at Trude, taking in the small smile and the one eye opening again.
"He's a big fella your Joe. Not much I could do is there," Trude said. "Bar hammering him with the chamber pot under the damned bed."
"Reckon the smell of it would drop him," Bess retorted, spreading her lips in a smile and leaning over Trude and staring into her now open grey-blue eyes.
"You were wasted on him," Trude said softly.
"Not no more I ain't. He's outta my life like waste outta my ass," Bess said, her face inches from Trude's. Bess breathed in slowly, taking in each fragment of Trude's scent as she could muster in one intake. Trude embraced Bess closer and they lay staring at each other in a moment of silence. Bess felt her heart thump in a way she never knew before. Not even Joe had managed that. She felt Trude's thin arms around her and a sudden impulse to cry like a child.
"He come near you, I'll damned swing for him," Trude muttered in a breathed out whisper.
"Don't go swing for him, he ain't worth a swing off any damned rope," Bess said, fighting back the tears filling behind her brown eyes. She moved forward and their lips touched. It was like a butterfly resting on a flower petal, waiting there, it knew what pleasure, and task lay ahead; yet not rushing; taking time; taking in the sensation; the utter moment focussed and absorbed. Trude sensed something akin to an electric shock flow through her body and out to each part of her extremities.
The dull curtains stood lifeless and unmoved. The dingy glass let in less and less light as the day wound down in the room. A trapped moth rustled its wings in the folds of the old bed spread hanging down over the bed, as its springs vibrated like a chill wind through old branches of a tree.
They left the town soon after breakfast at the hotel. The piggy-eyed man followed them with his eyes until they were out of the door and along the street. They drove for miles in silence, taking in the passing views and the highway ahead of them.
"How far you wanna go, now?" Trude asked, breaking the silence.
"How far's the next town?"
"Few miles yet. Hope it's better than the last. Ain't had a gun pulled on me before," Trude said, looking around at Bess.
"Well, it was on me actually, but that don't matter none. He would have used it if thought he had to," Bess said.
"Why'd he get so uptight? Only asked about a room for us?"
"That's how some people are about here," Bess said. "Can't see what a white woman is doing with a black woman unless she's a maid or something."
"But a damned gun, that's just madness," Trude said, turning her eyes to the road again. "Maybe the next town'll be better."
"Wouldn't count on it, Trude. These people are set in their ways."
They drove on a while in silence again. Bess looked out of the window, her left arm hanging on the ledge. Trude stared ahead at the road, but conscious of Bess's presence beside her; aware of the scent of her; the breathing just to her right. She recalled the night before. Recalled the warmth and closeness; the sharing of passion with another human being in way she thought she'd never experience.
Bess looked back out of the rear window. "That car's been following us some miles, now," Bess said.
Trude stared out of her rear view mirror. "Never noticed. Are you sure?"
"Sure am. They've been there since that turning way back."
Trude put her foot down. The car behind them increased its speed too. Trude stared at the rear view mirror trying to see who was driving. Bess looked back and felt a knot in her stomach. "What they after?" she asked.
"Only one way to find out," Trude said slowing the car down to a crawl and then stopping at the side of the road.
"What if they start something?" Bess said nervously.
Trude looked in the mirror; the car stopped behind them and two men got out and paced leisurely toward the car. Bess looked ahead; her stomach tightening like someone had grabbed her and was twisting her gut. The two men came to a stop along side Trude's window and one knocked with a curled finger. Trude wound down the window and looked up at the sun-tanned face of man in his forties. Another man stood just behind him. He was about the same age, but had a beard and was balding.
"What you want?" Trude asked.
"Just wondered what you and her were doing alone on the open highway?" the man said, parting his lips to reveal a set of yellowing teeth.
"What's it to you?" Trude replied.
"Ain't a safe place just you and her over there," the other man said moving his head closer to the window.
"Why need it be unsafe?" Trude said, clutching the starter handle in her left hand out of sight. "You fellas seen anyone dangerous about?"
"Might have seen someone, might not have. Hard to tell who to trust these days," the man nearer to Trude drawled.
"What you driving with a nigga for? Can't she walk?" the other man said staring over at Bess.
"I think she oughta get her brown ass outta there and start walking, don't you, George?" said the man next to Trude's window.
"Sure do, Ray" George muttered, grabbing at the door handle suddenly and feeling something hit him across the face. He staggered back and fell into the man called Ray. Trude slammed the door closed and started up the car and took off before the men could gather their senses.
The two men ran to their car and followed Trude's car at a distance. "They'll kill us for sure," Bess said, peering behind her, anxiousness lined on her face.
Trude put her foot down as hard as she could and stared in the mirror. The car began to catch up. Trude began to swerve the car from left to right. But the car continued to gain on them. After a mile or so, the car overtook them and stopped right in front, causing Trude to swerve off the road, and up a bank where the car stalled.
The two men ran to the car; the man called Ray pulled open Trude's door, grabbed her, and dragged her to the roadside, while George opened Bess's door slowly as if he wanted to enjoy the fear spread on Bess's face.
Trude fought back, but Ray with the yellow teeth held her down. George, whose face was bleeding from his ear and cheek, where the starting handle had hit him a few miles back, dragged Bess from the car by her hair and threw her to the ground. Bess screamed as he kicked her repeatedly.
Trude fought like a cat; scratched Ray until he let go of her and stood back. "You spiteful bitch," he said angrily, rubbing his cheek. He bent down; grabbed her arm, but she bit him so hard that he released her and fell backwards. She kicked him in the place that men don't like to be kicked; he curled up like a hibernating bear. She then ran at George, who was punching at Bess as if she were some dumb animal, and kicked him behind the knee. He fell forward like a tree that had been axed; groaned when she kicked him in the groin. Bess just watched in a numbed silence as Trude kicked both men repeatedly. The two men lay slumped on the grass in what looked like a lazy snooze, but bloody and undone in the morning sun by a deserted highway.
Bess woke up to unfamiliar surroundings. There was a warm light coming through the curtains and a near by sound of a dog barking. She moved her head forward to see better, but a pain in her side and head made her lie down again.
She tried to remember what had happened to her, but it all seemed dark and distant. Her side hurt her; her mouth seemed swollen as if someone had blown it up and left it like a child's balloon. "Trude?" she muttered through her lips. A shadow moved over her. It was Trude.
"So, you're awake," Trude said. "Thought you'd never wake up. How are you?"
"Feel like I've died and no one's told me," said Bess trying to ease herself up on her pillow.
"You're not dead, but it was a close thing. Those men weren't playing around yesterday. They meant business."
Bess frowned. "That was yesterday? Where are we now?"
"My brother Davy's place. He was the nearest over the state border," Trude looked down at Bess's bruised face. "I think you've lost some teeth."
"Can't feel a damned thing. What happened? I seem to remember you and fighting, but that's all," Bess mumbled.
"They won't be bothering women for a while."
"Yes, I remember…You kicked them…Blood everywhere," Bess paused.
"Had to get them off you. They weren't messing, nor was I." Trude sat down on the edge of the bed. She brushed her right hand over Bess's brow. "You'd be dead now if I didn't go for them."
"You didn't kill them did you?" Bess asked staring at Trude through her one open eye.
"No, they were still breathing when we left. They moved a little as we drove off. Guess they learned their lesson. Hope so anyway." Trude leaned forward and kissed Bess's cheek.
"What'd your brother say when you turned up with me?" Bess closed her eye; the other was already closed.
Trude sat back. "He came out on the porch and stared like a pioneer seeing Indians. And when I got out, he said, "What yer got a nigga in the back for?" A friend, I said. She's been injured and needs a rest for a few days."
"What he say to that?" Bess muttered eyes still closed.
"Mumbled a few things. But his wife Clare came out and between us we got you up here. Doc Sprigging came out last night. Said nothing broken, but you needed rest for few days and said no more," Trude informed, staring at Bess's swollen lips.
"I feel like a broken doll."
"You'll be ok. Just rest. Clare'll be up in a moment," Trude said.
"She don't mind be being here?"
"She don't, but Davy's none too happy, but he don't have no say in it. Clare's got him sorted and out in the fields," Trude said with a small smile.
"You tell them about the men?" Bess asked softly, opening the one eye.
"Just said we had trouble with some Klansmen on the road," Trude replied.
"What they say to that?"
"Davy said nothing, but Clare said some things that I never thought I'd hear a young woman say." Trude brushed Bess's brow.
"Where we go after this?" Bess asked softly.
"Further West. Put more miles between us and Joe."
"Then what?" Bess said, looking at Trude.
"Get a job, find us a place."
"Just like that?" Bess mumbled.
It's all I can think of. We need to get away from this area."
"Can't run forever, Trude. Need to settle. Can't be always running," Bess said tearfully.
Trude touched Bess's arm. "We ain't going to run. Get where we want to be and settled there."
"Hope you right," Bess mumbled. She closed her eye. Her head reclined into the pillow and her hands touched each other over her stomach.
Trude looked at Bess and wanted to kiss her some more, but stood back and went to the window. She had never felt like this about anyone before. It was all new to her. Like learning to live all over again or learning how to walk after a whole lifetime crippled up in some odd way of living. She'd told Davy and Clare they were just friends who'd met on the road, but she knew it went deeper than that; went deeper that even she thought anything could.
The memory of the men sprawled on the grass at the roadside made her both anxious and deeply satisfied. She knew she could have killed them; knew the rage in her was capable of anything where Bess was concerned. She shook her head and turned to gaze out of the window. Sunlight was shimmering on a pail of water outside in the yard. Davy was out in the fields waving his arms like a demented scarecrow.
It took a month before Bess was well enough to leave Davy's place. And during that time, Davy only spoke to her once: to say goodbye. Clare and Trude had nursed her back to some semblance of her former self. Teeth were missing from her right jaw, but that didn't show much unless she smiled too wide and that she didn't feel like doing anyhow, at least not at that moment.
A week later, after miles had separated them from Davy and Clare, they found a room at a small boarding house out side of town, where Bess posed as Trude's maid to keep the landlady contented.
"Just travelling through," Trude had told the woman who held the room keys out to her. "My husband's gone ahead to find work, and me and my maid here, are going to find him."
"Hope he finds work; many don't. My son he went so far west he almost fell in the damned ocean." The woman laughed at her own humour and Trude joined her, but Bess just stood looking solemn her eyes downcast.
Up in the room Bess shook her head and sat on the edge of the bed. "Anything I can get you, mistress? Anything your need?" Bess said mocking her role as maid.
She assumed you were my maid, I didn't say you were," Trude said.
"You didn't say I wasn't," Bess said, looking up at Trude.
"We need the room. Had to please the damned woman or we'd have the same problem as last time," Trude drawled. She sat down next to Bess and touched her hand. "You know I don't think you're a lesser a person cause your skins darker than mine. I've never thought that, despite my father and his hatred."
"She thought I was. Lesser person. A non person almost. Fit only to be a maid or servant or some such thing," said Bess, looking at Trude's hand on hers. My ancestors were slaves. They had no rights, no freedom. Am I any better off than they were?
"You're not a slave. You're a free woman to a certain extent. And you're here with me and loved and cared for…"Trude paused. There was a knock on the door. "Who is it?" Trude asked rising the bed.
"Mrs Trapper. I think you left a bag by the front desk. Can you send your maid down for it?" the voice said from the other side of the door.
"Yeah, ok," Trude replied, rising her eyes to the ceiling and shrugging her shoulders at Bess. They listened as the footsteps went away down stairs.
"See what I mean?" Bess said. "She wants me running around after to you like some slave woman."
"I'll go get the bag," Trude said, "if it upsets you that much."
"It's the damned principle of it."
"I'll go get the damned bag, if you'll just be quiet a moment," Trude said.
"No, no, I'm the maid. I'm the black one that has to run around like a headless chicken. You just lie on the bed and rest yourself," Bess said, her eyes becoming whiter and darker at the same time.
"Go then," Trude said. "And make sure she sees you struggle and give her a big smile and show yer missing teeth."
Bess stared at Trude and got up from the bed. "I'll give her smile to send her to her grave with flowers in her hair," Bess said. Trude looked at her and pulled a face. Bess's features melted and the smile spread revealing the missing teeth. "When I get back with the damned bag, missy, you and I going to…Do things." She gave Trude a kiss on the cheek, went out the door, thumped down the stairs pretending she was Cassy from Uncle Tom's damned Cabin, and would smile even if it made her gums bleed all over the blue carpet in the small foyer of the boarding house.
The day was hot; the air seemed heavy even with the windows of the car open. Bess had her right arm hanging out of the window and her head resting against the seat rest. They had been driving since just after breakfast and were feeling the heat. Bess thought of the previous night and how she and Trude had been so close that at times it seemed as if they were one being. She gave a sideways glance at Trude; took in the chestnut hair let loose and flowing in the slight breeze coming in through the open windows. She watched the eyes focused hard on the road ahead; the way the head was tilted; the jaw line set at an angle.
"Hope you find me worth looking at," Trude said, turning her head to gaze at Bess. "Am I that good to look at?"
"Nothing special," Bess said, putting her head to one side like a bird about to seize a worm. "I mean you won't win no beauty contest or be a big film star."
"You don't reckon? Why, I'll show you girl. One day I'll have my name in lights," Trude said, letting her eyes move over Bess's features. She wanted to touch Bess's cheek, but moved her hand to feel the silkiness of Bess's left arm.
She let her fingers run down the flesh and was about to place her hand back on the steering wheel, when she sensed a shift in the movement of all around her and a sound followed that broke into her consciousness like an explosion. Another vehicle coming from the passenger's side had hit the car. Everything seemed to slow down to frame by frame click, click like an old film passing through a projector.
She looked around her and saw Bess's lips open and suddenly she screamed, and her eyes rolled, and she fell inwards. Where her right arm had been a fountain of blood erupted over the windscreen and over Bess's clothes and Trude's right arm and face. Trude felt the car turn violently and Bess hit against her ribs, blood on her face and her eyes blank like empty windows.
Then it all seemed so unreal. Bess shaking all over in shock; her left arm gone at the elbow, blood pumping from the wound and the scream mellowing to a faint moan.
The car had become stationary at the side of the road; steam bellowing from the bonnet; fumes all around and voices other than Bess's seeped in on her. Trude moved as if in some trance like state, grabbed her coat from the rear seat, and placed it over Bess's bleeding arm.
"Hold on there, Bess," she said, her voice seeming far off. But Bess just moaned, her eyes closing. "Don't sleep on me; don't go…" Her voice trailed away. The car door opened and a man appeared by her side.
"Got to get you out," the man said. "How's she?" he said nodding towards Bess.
"She injured bad; her arms half gone; blood everywhere," Trude shouted at the man trying to push him away and get out of the car. "She needs the hospital," Trude bellowed to the air and a crowd that was gathering around the two cars.
Everywhere she looked now was a sea of faces and eyes. Sounds fell in on her like a cacophany of music in different keys and tempos; dragging her off to a darkness that swallowed her up into coldness and lightness and nothingness.
Trude woke up in a hospital bed. Her head was bandaged. She looked around her and wondered how she had got into the bed and where she was. Slowly the memory came back. She sat up and a sharp pain thrust at her head and side. She lay down again.
"Steady, there," a nurse said, her head coming into Trude's view. "You're in a bad state."
"Where's Bess?" Trude asked simply.
"Bess who?" the nurse said, looking around the ward.
"My friend. She lost her arm and there was blood," Trude said, her voice strained.
"There was some coloured woman lost an arm, but she died on the way to a hospital," the nurse said.
"Died?" Trude repeated, her voice seeming faint and slow.
"Another woman died at the scene; was that her? Don't know if she was your friend," the nurse said, touching Trude's brow.
"Bess. Her name was Bess," Trude said. "Blood everywhere. Her arm gone…" Trude drifted off into the darkness again.
Another nurse came to the bed. "Some coloured named Bess was taken off to a hospital with an arm ripped off. She died on the way, I heard." The nurse looked at Trude whose head lay to one side on the pillow. "She couldn't come here; they don't take coloureds. They took her Begrimes, but it was too late." The nurse felt Trude's wrist. "No pulse. She's gone."
"She opend her eyes just now, she can't have gone," the other nurse said.
Both nurses moved over Trude's body seeking to revive her, but she was dead. The sunlight outside dimmed. A bird sang in a tree beyond the ward window. After a final check, the sheet was pulled over Trude's face like a bride's veil, a bride of death and darkness.