II – The Commencement of Repression
Liv told Janek to board a train bound for Salem, Oregon. When he arrived at the train station it was deserted. A thick layer of dust covered the rotting wood floor. Janek’s boots stirred the dust as he walked to the crumbling ticket counter. The dim brown light seeping through the tarnished windows was suddenly extinguished. He was plunged into darkness.
Liv said, “RUN JANEK! FOR THE LOVE GOD, RUN NOW!”
His orientation was skewed in the black train station, but he turned and ran anyway. The unseen monster that dwelled within the darkness panted and scraped the floor as it pursued him. It exhaled putrid breath on the back of his neck. He was shoved to the floor with violent force. Somewhere in the darkness, a bleating voice said, “The train stopped running the day you were born! You can never go home!”
Janek sat up in bed with a start. He got up and washed his face and hands in the basin on the washstand. The mirror over the washstand reflected a healthy face. His blue eyes were bright. Whatever had been ailing him was gone. The nightmare he awakened from was the remaining residue, and it left behind an innuendo. He had to make a decision: stay in Ferndale or go to San Francisco.
He was surprised to see Niklas and Evan sitting at the table when he entered the kitchen. Their presence early in the morning gave him the impression he was being guarded.
Lise dropped the pot she was washing in the sink and frowned at Janek. “Are you sure you should be out of bed? How do you feel?”
“I feel fine,” Janek said. “I apologize for being a burden in Eureka. Thank you for your care.”
Evan dismissed it. “Abby was your nurse.”
Janek sat at the table, poured a cup of coffee, and filled his plate with eggs and toast. As he picked up his fork, two new boarders appeared in the kitchen.
Lise made the introductions. “This is Emily and Stephen Hartmann.”
Stephen Hartmann and his wife were tall, and they painted a somewhat imposing picture standing side by side. They sat at the table and helped themselves to breakfast. Stephen was a brunette with graying hair at his temples and in his mustache, which he stroked on occasion, as he explained his participation in building a new creamery. He talked on and on while his wife looked bored.
Emily Hartmann was attractive with abundant auburn hair and eyes to match. Her forty-five-year old husband was eleven years her senior. He often neglected her in favor of his many business ventures, therefore Emily sought attention elsewhere. She insinuated her intentions by wearing her necklines low and sweeping her skirts high. Many men had been lured to her bed by the enticing manner of her behavior and appearance.
Emily poured herself a cup of coffee, and then appraised the faces gathered around the table. When her eyes fell on Janek, she favored him with a lascivious stare. She licked her lips, and the corners of her mouth rose to form a vague smirk.
Evan interrupted Stephen’s monologue. “Mr. Hartmann, your stories have been fascinating. Unfortunately, I have a schooner to catch. See you all in a month.”
Much to Janek’s relief, he now had an excuse to escape Emily Hartmann’s promiscuous sneer. He walked outside with Evan. “I’ll be here when you get back.”
Evan smiled and slapped him on the shoulder. “I didn’t think you’d sneak off to San Francisco without letting me know.”
“I’ve been thinking about what you said before we went to Eureka. Maybe I have run far enough. I need to decide. I can’t go on like this.”
“A man has to have peace of mind no matter how he finds it,” Evan said.
Janek hated to see Evan leave.
Janek walked to city hall to investigate the plans for the creamery and the new port on the Salt River. City hall was a small two story building that housed the sheriff’s office, the jail, and the political comings and goings of Ferndale. He saw a clerk’s window to his right as he entered. Janek described what he wanted, and the clerk brought him two large leather bound books.
“Are you one of them investors?” the clerk said. “We get quite a few coming in asking to see public records.”
Janek shook his head. The truth was he didn’t know what he was doing or the motivation behind it. He took the books to a small table in a corner of the room.
He read that a man named J.B. Kinyon was driving the enterprise for the new port. Stephen Hartmann was one of several investors backing the new creamery. Local farmers and other investors from Sacramento were pledging funds. As he read on, an item caught his attention. There was a spacious lot for sale on Main Street. The seller was Guthrie Sullivan.
He left city hall and stopped for lunch at the Gingerbread Café. Stephen Hartmann entered the café before Janek ordered his meal. He asked Stephen to join him.
“I appreciate your hospitality Mr. Walesa,” Stephen said when he was seated.
While they waited to be served, Stephen leaned back in his chair and began his well-rehearsed rhetoric concerning his business ventures. He described The Brothers, Inc., the corporation he and his partners had formed, and their investment endeavors in Humboldt County and Northern California. Following a lengthy dissertation on his quest for wealth, he asked Janek what he did for a living.
“I’m an accountant.”
Stephen leaned forward in his chair. “Do you have experience in corporate accounting?”
“Yes. I worked for a corporate accounting firm in Salem, Oregon for two years.”
“Are you degreed?”
“In fact I have an advanced degree.”
“You don’t say? What are you doing in this one-horse town?”
Janek thought, what am I doing in this town? He said, “I provide accounting services for some of the local businesses.”
“We could use a local man to manage our accounting needs at the creamery. If you have proof of your degree and a letter of recommendation from that accounting firm in Salem, I could arrange an interview with The Brothers. Would you be interested?”
Janek was uncertain if he wanted to work for this self-absorbed and avaricious man. However,… he considered, perhaps this opportunity will move me out of the mire I find myself stuck in… He agreed to the interview.
“Good. I’ll be in touch,” Stephen said.
Janek left the café and went to Clara’s Boutique. The shopkeeper assisted him with his purchase. Then, he walked to the Sullivan house.
Abigail was sweeping leaves from the front porch when he walked up the cobblestone path to her house. The sight of him brought joy to her heart. She dropped the broom and hurried to meet him.
“Good day, Abby. I want to thank you for your care in Eureka. This is for you.”
He held a small box wrapped in pink flowered paper in the palm of his hand. Her eyes fell upon it, and she recalled his open palm awaiting the medicine for his fever. Her eyes moved to his boots then slid up his body. She beheld the physical flawlessness she saw when he was sick. All the breath left her lungs. Transcending her experiences, she saw an obscurity…an elegance. Elegance lived in the books she read not in real life, yet here it was standing in front of her. Everything about him was elegant from his dress and grooming, to the way he pronounced his words. She was spellbound.
She blinked and breathed. Janek took her hand and wrapped it around the box. His gentle hands were enchanting, and they persuaded her to take the gift. She regarded his resplendent face. His hands dropped to his side, and the spell was broken.
She opened the gift and lifted a delicate tortoise shell hair comb from the box as if it were gossamer. “It’s beautiful!”
“My mother always said that a job well done should be rewarded.”
“Thank you! I’m glad you’re feeling well.”
“Please tell Mr. Sullivan I appreciate his help. I must be going. I hope we meet again soon.”
Abigail watched Janek’s tall figure recede. She recalled her father’s words, “He’s brought something with him that’s gonna change things…” She knew the change had begun.