Sanctuary: Finding Home 2 Ch. 08byjennyb2492©
This is an edited version of Chapter 8 -- if you read it in the first two weeks it was posted then there will be a few differences; almost all of the changes are on pages 2 and 3 if you wish to skim over the chapter to see what's different. Thanks for the patience my readers have all shown as I struggled with this. I am indebted to FA_JF for her assistance is helping me hash it out and talking me down from the ledge when I wanted to bail.
Many, many thanks to Mickeymouse113 for the suggestion that Ann's farm might be a good place for the ladies to visit. It made the story a much more interesting one than the first version I had written.
Daniel looked at Michael seated in front of him. "Palm wants a meeting. Here."
"Here?! Why? What about?"
"He wants to propose a solution to this standoff."
"So, what... he wants all the Heads here together?"
"No, just him and me. I think he sees me as the biggest threat."
"We are his biggest threat, and yet we're not enough by ourselves."
"I know. But I think it would be worth playing along and humoring him to see what we can learn. We can be very noncommittal."
"Day after tomorrow."
"Damn. That's not a lot of time to prepare."
"I think he wanted it that way. I'm willing to play his game because I think it will be worth it. I would much rather meet here than on his soil."
"We have a lot to figure out in a short time...." They started making phone calls and arrangements for the heads of various ministries to gather tomorrow to go over the latest information, and had a conference call with the Colonel of the Militia who promised to be there as soon as he could pack a bag.....
By mid-afternoon, most everything had been arranged, or was being arranged, by people who knew what they were doing.
Michael knocked on Daniel's door and handed him some papers. "We need to figure out what to do with Jenny and Liz. We can't risk having them here."
"I'm actually thinking it might be better to have all the slaves away from here -- I don't trust any of these men, and we wouldn't have to explain why Jenny and Liz are gone and the others are here."
"Do you have an idea?"
"Ann Severs' farm." Ann had been a slave at the estate a few years ago. She had extended an invitation to Master Daniel and his household to come visit if they ever wanted to. It had surprised them more than a little, considering that she had not had an easy time while at the estate.
Michael looked at him, uncertain.
"It's isolated. We send the girls out there, with couple of bodyguards, and they get to sit around for a week while Palm is here."
They chewed over the details for a while, and then Daniel called Ann.
She was delighted with the idea. Her mother and father were actually away for the week, visiting, so the house was empty. They talked logistics, and he started to give her some instructions, when she interrupted him.
"Sir," she said, "I appreciate your concerns, but you have invited yourselves to my house. My rules apply here, not yours." She held her breath, not feeling as brave as her words implied.
Daniel paused. Then smiled. "I apologize. Of course, your house, your rules. I know that I can trust you."
"And Sir, this is rugged country out here. The ladies will need regular clothes, several changes each."
"We'll arrange for that." They talked for a few more minutes and hung up, Daniel feeling reassured, and Ann feeling absolutely thrilled.
He needed to tell Jenny himself so she didn't hear about the meeting before she heard that he had plans to keep her safe.
Jenny: I was in my room practicing positions as a kind of meditation when Master Ryan came in.
"Please put on your dress. Master Daniel wants to speak to you."
Master Daniel??? He rarely spoke directly to me since that awful night I tried to leave. Wait... this couldn't be about Elias Palm, could it? Was he dead? Was I safe? Why else would he be summoning me? Hope surged in me and made me just a little impatient for Master Ryan to walk faster.
It was about Elias Palm, all right. Just not what I was hoping for.
"Thank you, Ryan, for bringing her so quickly. Jenny, I wanted you to hear this from me. Elias Palm will be here the day after tomorrow for a meeting."
I looked up from my knees, where I had been trying to demonstrate how well Master Ryan had taught me to be patient and calm.
"You invited him here? Are you out of your mind?" I gaped.
I suddenly felt my braid being none-too-gently yanked from behind.
"You do not question a Master, ever. Do you understand?" Master Ryan was really ticked off. I didn't blame him.
"I apologize, Sir! Forgive me!" My head was still being pulled way back. Suddenly he let go. Inside I sighed. I was going to pay for this later.
Master Daniel quietly watched. If he was looking for evidence of me being settled into my new life he was probably sorely disappointed. Of course the only time I really saw him was when the topic was related to Palm. No surprise that I had trouble staying calm.
I kept my head bowed as I silently vowed he would see me at my best from now on.
"Jenny, I wanted to let you know that I have decided it would be best for all the slaves to be elsewhere while he and his delegation are here. Tomorrow you will all be driven to the home of one of our former slaves to spend four days. It's actually a farm, out in the country."
And then he became my Uncle Daniel for just a minute as he reached down and took my chin in his hand.
"I'm telling you this privately because I didn't want you to hear about him coming before I could reassure you that you would be safe."
I did dare to look up at him this time, feeling a great deal of chagrin.
"I'm sorry I doubted you. Thank you," I smiled, and he leaned down and kissed me on the head.
~ + + + + + ~
Master Ryan still looked like thunder as we left. As soon as we were alone he turned to me. "Have you not learned anything in all these months?" he hissed. "You have practiced and practiced how to behave, yet the very next time you see Master Daniel you practically call him an idiot? Do you realize how not like a slave you looked right then? This is exactly what we've been trying to teach you not to do so you don't stick out! God, why am I explaining it to a supposedly intelligent human being who should be able to figure it out for herself!"
I stood there with my mouth open. I had never heard him lose his temper like this, besides the night I had my temper tantrum. But this was different. He was angry, but distracted and worried, too.
"I'm sorry, Sir." I really was.
I began to be even sorrier when he took my elbow and dragged me through the halls, past the startled looks of Jessie and Greta, and out the door to the slave house. I hadn't been back there since I moved up to the main house.
He unlocked the door and, still holding my elbow, propelled me straight down the hall to one of the small cells. He opened the door and just looked at me and I stepped in without comment. He shut the door with a bang.
"There's an emergency button next to the door." And I heard him leave the building.
I turned and looked at my new home. It didn't take long. The room was dim; there was only the light that filtered through the small window in the door. It was concrete, about five feet wide and seven feet long. A small camera up in the corner reassured me I would be safe. But no bed, no toilet, nothing else. I slumped to the floor and proceeded to read myself the riot act.
Liz came later with dinner and a blanket and pillow. At least I had those on the bare floor.
"What the heck did you do to land in here?"
"I looked Master Daniel in the face and questioned his sanity," I said morosely.
She stared at me with an open mouth. "I have never met anyone who dances so close to the flames so many times. You are lucky you weren't flayed alive."
"Yeah, I know."
"Do you want to tell me?"
"Not now, not yet."
"OK. I'm not supposed to linger, so I'll see you at breakfast."
"Oh, please take me to the bathroom!"
"Yeah, about that." And she stuck her head out the door and brought a bucket in.
"Oh, crap. He must be angry. Please tell me there is toilet paper?"
"Yes, here. He's not feeling that mean."
"Is everything OK with him?" I said quietly. I was sure he was monitoring the cameras at least out of the corner of his eye.
"I don't know. Something's up but he wouldn't tell me. He's meeting with all of us after dinner, that's all I know."
She left, and I settled in for a long and boring night.
~ + + + + + ~
I dreamed about Palm; the first time in a while that I had done that, since I started feeling more safe. It was a long night.
Ryan and Michael each leaned back in their chairs in Ryan's office and took a sip of their drinks. They were both very tired.
"Did Daniel tell Jenny?"
"Oh, yes. It was quite entertaining. She was doing so well and then he told her the news and she looked him in the eye and pretty much questioned his sanity."
Michael nearly choked on his drink. "I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall. She's still alive, I hope?"
Ryan chuckled. "I honestly can't blame her for reacting like that, but I sure couldn't tell her that. Even Daniel had to choke back a laugh. She's spending the night on the floor in one of the cells with a bucket. Which reminds me," and he turned the computer so they could see the view of Jenny on the camera.
Michael snorted. "I think you're getting soft, old boy," he teased.
Ryan was thoughtful for a moment. "Michael, I want to ask you something and you sure can tell me to go to hell."
"She doesn't notice I'm watching, but sometimes when you are around I catch her following you with her eyes as much as she dares. I didn't think much, but...... I've noticed you watching her, too. Was there something between you two before she came here?"
Michael didn't laugh out loud, which told Ryan a lot right there.
"Nothing really. The night she got here she was overwhelmed and exhausted and I think it was the first time she had to grieve for her family. She started crying and after it went on and on I went in and sat with her for a while. She asked my opinion and I told her I thought staying here was the best thing to do."
"Sat with her? Like in another chair?" Ryan was teasing him now.
"Ryan, don't be an idiot. When a beautiful woman is crying, you don't sit across from her and talk. You put your arms around her and you know that damn well."
"Was that all?" Ryan was more serious now. Things could be more complicated if they had.....
"That was all. Period." He paused. "She fell asleep."
Ryan laughed out loud.
"The next time I saw her she had given Daniel her promise and was officially a slave. I rolled her into a rug, force-fed her a peanut butter sandwich, and belted her for jumping when I touched her. Not exactly the kinds of things to base a relationship on."
"I don't know.... stranger things have happened...." He was lost in his own thoughts for a moment.
"Hey there - where did you go?" Michael had his own suspicions.
"Nothing." A pause. "So it's all set?"
"Yes. Sergeants Owens and Jones will be with you; Jones has been with the Family for years and years and I can't think of anyone I would trust more. Owens is new -- don't know if you've met him yet? You'll take the van, and it's about a two-hour trip." He smiled. "Jenny isn't the only one giving Daniel her opinion. When he was talking to Ann he started in on some rules for the girls while they were at the farm, and Ann very firmly reminded him that it was her farm and she would make the rules."
Ryan laughed, remembering Ann and how difficult it had been for her when she was at the estate -- she was the first one in years to have had her time extended, or reset, because she kept rebelling against the rules. She had been Liz's mentor and it had saved them both.
Michael got serious and stared at his drink for a minute.
"Someone took a potshot at John Freyer last night."
"What?!" Ryan bolted upright, nearly spilling his drink.
"He was leaving his ministry office building -- he was just about to get into his car and someone, using a sniper rifle no less, came within an inch of blowing his head off. His driver is ex-military and got John out of there in a heartbeat. He's fine, but no one has claimed responsibility."
No one had to. There was only one person it could be.
"Damn, this is getting serious. Is there anything new?"
"Matthew Adams is ready to throw in with us. With Elias Palm in Edwal to his south, and after the attempt on John Freyer in Werrin to the north, Idris seems mighty small and lonely in the middle."
"And temptingly rich."
"And temptingly rich. Palm has never gotten over the fact that we convinced Adams to sign a deal with us for those oil fields instead of with him. It would make the perfect excuse to invade."
"And if the Freyer Family was out of the way and the province in turmoil....."
"Palm could sneak into Idris and not worry about anyone from the north coming down to their aid."
Ryan paused. "And we are going to let that bastard in here and let his.... companions..... wander around?"
"I am NOT happy about that, believe me. It's like inviting the tiger into your parlor so he can see how best to eat you. But we still have to act like he's not the enemy, and there is a lot to learn by having him here and watching him closely. Palm's delegation is restricted to the house and immediate gardens around it. Our men will be all around the compound to patrol."
"You have checked and double-checked....."
"I walked the wall myself personally. There is no breach and all the sensors are functioning."
"Sensors are only as good as the men watching them...."
"All long-time, trusted men."
".....and the electricity to run them...."
"Backup generators checked, double-checked and functioning..... And Jerry's got some new gadget that he can sweep a room with and pick up any surveillance devices, no matter what kind. I've seen it in use and it's impressive. " He sighed. "There is no way to cover every single possible scenario, but I've tried to have so many overlapping checks that we can handle the unexpected."
"I know. You are good at your job."
"Every chief of security is good at his job until the moment he screws up and then he is not. And at that moment somebody is usually dead."
There was not much response to an observation like that.
~ + + + + + ~
The fire crackled and the men finished their drinks. Ryan stood up first.
"I'm going to call it a night. Long day tomorrow."
"Since Jenny is locked in the cell tonight you'll be sleeping...."
"On the cot in the office. If they ever realized we are suffering right along with them as they are punished....." He laughed.
"We can NEVER tell them that. EVER."
Michael headed towards his room; Ryan headed towards the slave house and the cot that awaited him. He sincerely hoped Liz had anticipated he would be sleeping there and had set it up.
~ + + + + + ~
She had, god bless her, complete with sheets, blanket, and pillows. He checked the camera. He was surprised to see Jenny kneeling on the floor, doing what looked like meditation. As he watched, she started practicing the movements she had been struggling with -- standing to knees, knees to presentation position, back to knees, to standing again. She was getting better, though she had a long way to go to be as good as Liz.
Liz.... He was going to miss her while she was gone.
~ + + + + + ~
He woke later to the sounds of Jenny having a bad dream. She had not had one in a while, Liz had told him. He couldn't blame her for having one tonight.
Jenny: I awoke feeling really tired, remnants of dreams of HIM running through my mind. I tried to calm my mind, do some of the meditation Liz was teaching me. It was the same kind I tried to do when I was being disciplined. The results were so-so, on either occasion, I thought wryly.
The door unlocked and Liz stood there smiling. "Good morning sleepy-head. I suppose you have heard the news?"
"Yes; that's why Master Daniel called me to his office last night -- he wanted to reassure me before I heard rumors. If I had just been a little more patient, I wouldn't feel exhausted and creaky this morning."
"Well, think about the fact that we'll actually be sleeping someplace else tonight!" Liz was practically jumping out of her skin.
"How long since you've been off the estate?" I wondered.
"Almost three years," she said. "I went to the hospital with Edie not too long after she arrived because she broke her arm and needed surgery. I stayed with her overnight. Not quite as much fun as this is going to be!" she almost squealed.
All of us were as excited as Liz was. I think Master Ryan was going to need a drink or three by the time he was done with us today.
He had done a good job on short notice -- by mid-morning we were all attired in sweatpants with t-shirts of various colors and styles. Spring had come really early this year, so we fortunately didn't need heavy coats and were fine with lightweight jackets instead. And tennis shoes! We had real shoes! All we needed around the estate were soft 'ballet-slipper-style' shoes, so our feet felt really big and clunky with real shoes on.
No underwear. I don't think any of the others really noticed; they hadn't worn any in so long.
We set out just after lunch, after hugs and tears from Greta. She herself had left the estate many times over the years to visit family, but I think this was the first time since she had come that she would be here while all her girls would be gone at the same time, and she was going to be really lonely, but she was needed to oversee the all-male temp-agency staff that had been hired to do the housekeeping and dining-room service. So she held in her tears and waved goodbye as the van bearing five giddy women, two stern-faced guards, and one already-exhausted trainer disappeared through the gates and down the road.
~ + + + + + ~
Master Ryan turned around in his seat to address us.
"I'm going to say just a few things, and honestly it's more to make myself feel better, than because I think they need to be said. You will be on your best behavior. You are guests and will act like guests, not like giddy teenagers away from their parents." We all chuckled a little at that one; that was exactly what we felt like. "You all have locator bracelets on and they cannot be removed -- so let me remind you that any woman trying to walk away from the farm with the idea of starting a new life on the run will be caught quickly, and returned to jail, not to the estate, with their original sentence reinstated. Do you understand?" We all nodded seriously, a little sobered by the reminder that Jessie and Edie and Claire (and me, supposedly) were convicted criminals serving terms.
"Any behavior between 'perfect' and 'trying to escape' will be dealt with by me, and will probably include an extended stay in an isolation cell." We nodded again, and I knew this really did apply to Liz and me as well, though I could never imagine what might make Liz misbehave. Me, I wasn't so sure about. I had to admit, a little freedom might go to my head; I was going to have to watch it.
"Now that I've been the ogre, let me also tell you that you are free to wander the grounds as long as Ann knows where you are in general. Both sergeants have a portable locator; if Ann can't find you she will have them immediately use it to locate you. You can stay up as late as you want, you can sleep all day if you want, and all you have to do is help Ann with any chores that she might need help with. Enjoy yourselves; you've all worked hard." He smiled, and the relaxed atmosphere returned.