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Chapter 11: Lessons in Betrayal

If I knew then what I know now, I would have spit in his face.


Things seemed to move at a lightning pace after that night. In truth, it was hardly a day before the police came calling upon the Parsons, only to find me there instead. The Parsons, knowing what all this dreadful business entailed, left town with the kids, leaving me to mind the house in their absence. I thought about leaving the house to collect my things from Mr. Seliger’s, but I thought better of it, as I didn’t know what I was likely to find there. So when the police arrived, and they didn’t find the Parsons, they hardly paid me any mind at all.

Two weeks later, after the cupboards had grown bare, I couldn’t forestall the inevitable any longer. Louie had to know where I was, and he’d not come for me. I should have never come to this country. I took some of the money Mr. Parsons had left me, and went to get some groceries and to inquire about a job somewhere. I found a seamstress willing to take me on, and I was gathering groceries, when I locked eyes with a man who I recognized, both of us stiffening in discomfort.

Mr. Seliger was also at the market, seemingly no worse for the wear from the events recently. He approached me, and we found a small bistro to grab lunch and catch up. It wasn’t long into the conversation that he told me that on the night of the bombing, the police came to his house looking for Louie. He wasn’t there, but the police confiscated all his things, and took Mr. Seliger in for questioning as well. While in custody, he explained, he flipped and told them everything in exchange for a light sentence. He said Louie and the others were looking at life in prison! When I inquired about Louie’s whereabouts, Mr. Seliger said he’d just been caught yesterday, at Mrs. Klein’s house. He had fought, but was taken in alive. After he told me where Louie was locked up, he offered to take me over to his place to gather my things.

The following day, I summoned my courage, and visited Louie’s prison. The visitation process took hours, but I was eventually admitted. In the hall, as I passed cell after cell, I saw someone emerging from Louie’s cell. His…Liebste. She seemed beside herself, and didn’t even seem to register my presence as I passed her.

Louie was a shadow of his former self. The young man he was when we left Germany, the man I looked up to, was replaced with a sullen entity. I made several attempts to broach topics with him, but he merely returned my entreaties with one word answers. Unable to think of anything else to say, we sat in silence for what felt like hours. A rage built inside me, and I could only think to express it in one way. Choking back tears, I rasped out a “Why? Why did you take me to this country, only to abandon me to your cause?” He looked at me with dead eyes, and responded in a bitter voice, “Hoch die anarchie!”

I recoiled. He was so consumed by his cause, any familial bond we shared was meaningless. After a moment to compose myself, I called for the guard to let me out.

Once in the hallway, I quickly left, not looking back. I nearly made it to the exit, only being stopped in the lobby. A man stood from a chair, and stood in my path, extending his hand to shake. He introduced himself as Julius Grinnell.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have spit in his face. 

           He spoke to me in my native German, which immediately led me to trust him. He explained the troubles that my brother was in, and the potential trouble I could be in, as an accomplice. He said he wanted the best for my brother and I, and thought that the best course of action for us would be deportation. After the trials we’d undergone in America, my heart leapt into my chest. I could only dream of returning home again.

All I had to do, he said, to guarantee our safety, was give my testimony to him, as well as allow a court transcriber to write down my words, and then to sign them. Mr. Grinnell presented the agreement, for which he apologized, and said it must be in English for court records, but he assured me that it was as he said. I hardly scanned the paper with my scant English literacy, before elatedly signing it, eager to return home with Louie to our family.

A few days later, we arranged a meeting at the courthouse, and I gave him an accurate accounting of what I knew of Louie’s activities, both at the union flats, and at Mr. Seliger’s apartment. When I inquired about Mr. Seliger, not wanting to harm him with my retelling, he assured me that Mr. Seliger was being similarly cared for.

In the ensuing month and a half between the fateful day of the attack and the beginning of the trial, I mostly kept myself busy at the seamstress job. I wanted to visit my brother, I truly did, but every time I considered requesting time away to visit him; I remembered that hollow stare he gave. This country, this cause he affiliated with, this…anarchy. It has poisoned him, and soon, very soon now, we would be free. Free to leave this awful place.

I was called to the stand on the 8th day of the trial. I decided not to attend any day beyond that. Partially because they expected the trial was to last for at least a month, and also because the trial was to be conducted in English. While I could speak English fairly well at this point, enough to hold a conversation at least, I was lost in the courtroom. Because of that, when I was called to verify my testimony was accurate, Julius had to repeat himself three times for me to understand. However, when I reviewed the document before me, I was able to read enough of the words to get the gist. This was indeed the document transcribed by my testimony. I first nodded in assent, and when he repeated he would need a verbal answer, I gave him the affirmative.

I didn’t stay afterwards, but as I got off the stand and Julius began to read from the document, my heart dropped. I looked for Louie in the crowd behind the defendant’s desk, and met eyes with him. I smiled, in both relief and reassurance, but he merely looked shocked and betrayed. I didn’t have time to process what his face might have meant.

No one came to visit during the trial. I heard bits and pieces that the Parsons were back in town, but they never came back home while I was there. Apparently, the other anarchists with Louie were being destroyed by the prosecutor, their plots uncovered, and it seemed like justice was imminent. At the time, I felt blessed I’d met Julius, and secured safe passage back home.

The day of the trial’s conclusion was imminent, when a man knocked on the door of the Parson’s home. He said he was an associate of Mr. Grinnell, and that I was to gather my things, as I was leaving today. I did as he said, asking questions as he helped me into a carriage. He answered, curtly and with very little elaboration, that I would meet my brother on the ship that was returning home. His portion of the trial had concluded, and as he was facing deportation, he had no reason to stay to its conclusion.

I’m uncertain how long we travelled, as I fell asleep during the journey. We arrived at a dockyard, and I was led to the gangplank of a large, steam-powered passenger ship, similar to the one we’d arrived on several years ago. My escort spoke to a man on deck, quickly and in English, and he scurried off. When I inquired as to where my brother was, the man said that my brother was confined to quarters until the ship departed, but that the man he just spoke with was finding our room. Surely enough, he came back, with another, larger man in tow, and my escort shook my hand, and said “Best of luck to you both” before departing.

I was led into the interior of the ship, down narrow hallways in the passenger portion, before we reached a room. The man, who had taken my belongings, entered the room first, dropping off my things. I followed him inside, looking for Louie with giddy anticipation. I scarcely noticed how he brushed past me, nearly knocking me to the ground on his way out. What I did notice, however, was a couple of things. One, Louie wasn’t in the small room I’d been furnished. Two, a distinctive click of a lock on the entry door, leaving me locked in the room, from the outside.

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