Sons of an Ancient Glory

Sons of an Ancient Glory by BJ Hoff Read Free Book Online

Book: Sons of an Ancient Glory by BJ Hoff Read Free Book Online
Authors: BJ Hoff
broken and was suspended in a dirty sling.
    Sinking down onto the hard slab that served as a bed, Tierney leaned his head back against the wall and shut his eyes. He thought it might be nine o’clock or thereabouts, although he couldn’t be sure. His watch was gone, as were all his other personal effects—confiscated for “purposes of security” by the prison officials.
    Any question about the time, or anything else for that matter, brought only taunts from the guards. Especially the one called “Boiler Bill”—so named by the prisoners for the angry-looking boils in evidence on the back and sides of his thick neck.
    â€œWhat’s time to a prison rat?” he would say, his furry broken teeth bared in an ugly laugh. “Hah, I know! I bet you’re impatient for your next fine meal, is that it?” Invariably, he and the other guards would goad the prisoners about the food, which was so foul even the rats turned up their noses at it.
    The guards defied all belief. They were like caricatures created by some drunken madman in his dreams. They seemed happiest when hammering a prisoner against the wall or putting out their smokes on the poor man’s hands. A few of them stopped short of being altogether vicious, taking only a mild satisfaction in degrading the prisoners in the cells. But most of them, like Boiler Bill, struck Tierney as altogether deranged.
    He had a broken arm and a few cracked ribs to prove him right.

    The scene of domestic tranquility in the great room at Nelson Hall should have brought contentment to Morgan Fitzgerald. His wife, Finola, and his newly adopted daughter, Annie, sat sewing for the coming babe, while Sister Louisa hovered near, inspecting their progress with a watchful eye.
    No doubt he would have reveled in such a setting under different circumstances. But there seemed to be no serenity for his soul this night, no peace for his aching heart.
    It had been three days since Evan Whittaker’s letter had arrived with the dire tidings of Little Tom’s death. Even now, the waves of shock and grief roared through Morgan with such force he could scarcely bear the pain. He had read the letter over and over again, as if he’d somehow missed a part of the story, some saving grace hidden amid the lines which, when deciphered, would reveal that it was all a mistake.
    But it was no mistake. Little Tom was dead, and Morgan felt bruised and raw with the anguish of it. It almost seemed that each time he believed he had finally come to grips with the loss of his family—that he had at last been able to store the memories away where they would no longer wound him so—another tragedy would strike. Once again, the cumulative pain of the past would wash up, overwhelming him with regret and sorrow.
    His gaze returned to the scene across the room for another moment, lingering on Finola’s golden head and Annie’s dark one, bent low over their sewing. The quiet pleasure he usually found in moments like these now eluded him. Tonight he craved only solitude. He needed to be alone with his memories.
    With one last reluctant glance at Finola, he turned and wheeled himself out of the room.

    Tierney opened his eyes as keys jangled outside in the corridor. Heavy, shuffling footsteps signaled the approach of Boiler Bill.
    Tierney tensed, waiting. After a moment, the cell door opened, and the barrel-chested guard sent a new prisoner scrambling into the cell.
    The new arrival let go a stream of invective that sounded like a foreign tongue. With one heavy-booted foot, the guard kicked the prisoner in the back and sent him sprawling against the wall.
    â€œGot some company for you, Yankee-Boy!” the guard announced to Tierney. “You’ve had the royal suite to yourself long enough.”
    Tierney glared at him, pulling in a long breath. The pain in his ribs reminded him that he was in no shape for a pounding from Boiler Bill, so he remained

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