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By tomhowell in Meta-Steampunk

In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker at Amazon.comMy heart was broken when I heard the news that Kage Baker had died of cancer in January. She was a true steampunk author before steampunk had its name. Her tales of The Company and their time-traveling cyborgs brought technology into the steampunk age with a better explanation than most.

Here is the complete list of The Company books in order:

May Kage Baker live on every time we read one of her inventive stories.

By Laura Moncur in The Disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde

Ken Burns: National Parks - America's Best Idea at Amazon.comI first heard about Glen and Bessie Hyde while watching the Ken Burns PBS Special, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” I loved that series so much that I bought it at Amazon: Ken Burns: National Parks – America’s Best Idea at

I didn’t like the unfinished ending to the story, so I decided that I would rewrite the ending to my own liking.

What Is Truth?

Glen and Bessie Hyde did go missing along the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park in 1928. You can read about their story here:

Georgie White Clark was a real river pioneer and came to the Grand Canyon in 1945 after the death of her daughter. You can read about her story here:

Here is a video of Georgie White:

Georgie appeared on The Tonight Show and was featured in the August 4, 1961 Life Magazine. You can see the Life Magazine that Bessie talks about here:

The University of Nevada, Reno was healthy and strong in 1928 and had just received its first radio license. You can find out more info here:

Copper was mined in Orphan Mine at the edge of the Grand Canyon from 1906 to 1953. In the mid-Fifties, uranium was discovered and it was mined until 1972. You can read more about it here:

Ralph H. Cameron might have been a claim squatter, but he wasn’t nearly as vicious as portrayed in my story. You can read all about him here:

What Is Fiction?

Bessie’s penance in Reno to gain residence and the right to divorce her first husband is only partially true. Bessie did marry Glen the day after her divorce to her first husband became final, but as far as we know, she didn’t have to gain residence in Reno to do it. Nevada’s lax divorce laws provided women with a way to get a divorce, but those laws weren’t passed until 1931. I took a little liberties in order to give Bessie some time being bored enough to invent the Wondrous Water Breathers. Here is more information about Reno and its status as a divorce city.

The real Glen Hyde was an expert boat builder, but Bessie’s Wondrous Water Breathers were pure fiction. Surface supplied diving was around LONG before Glen and Bessie Hyde went on their trip, but SCUBA diving wasn’t invented until 1943.

The actual inventor of the aqua-lung was Jacques Cousteau, of “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” fame.

Jacques gets a brief mention in this story as the mysterious French buyer for Bessie’s invention, but that is pure fiction.

Glen and Bessie Hyde’s wedding certificate was found in Georgie White’s personal effects, but it has never been verified that she and Bessie are the same person.

I fudged quite a bit with the dates of things. Georgie’s daughter died in a hit and run accident in 1945, but Ralph Cameron didn’t die until 1953. I inferred in my story that Cameron died first in order to show how happy and comfortable Bessie had become living Georgie’s life.

Writing The Story

I fully intended The Disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde to be a quick story with as few as five or six parts. In fact, I had written it that short, but that version of the story was more telling the story instead of SHOWING the story unfold. I went back and fleshed out the murder of Rupert, the bonding of Bessie and Rosie and even the fateful trip down the Colorado River got an extra entry.

I feel a little like a evil historian writing a fiction about true people, but the legend of Bessie Hyde and Georgie White has been floating down the Colorado for years. I decided to write the legend anyway and even gave my heroine the spunk and strength of my grandmother when she raised three boys all on her own during the same time as Georgie would have raised Rosie.

In the movie, The Blue Bird, Shirley Temple wanders all over the past and the future and even comes across her dead grandparents. We learn that the dead are only truly dead when they are forgotten. When people remember them, they come alive again in this strange afterlife. Sometimes I like to pretend that is true. When I write stories about Bessie Hyde and Georgie White, people remember them and they can live on in that Kodachrome afterlife. Glen, Rosie and even Frank McDonough Jr. may find themselves springing to life because of my stories, even if I told some tall tales about them.

Maybe when I die, I’ll see them there and they’ll be grateful for the extra life I gave them, despite my lies and fantasies. Maybe I’ll even live on because of my own words. It’s the only chance at immortality I’ve got.

By Laura Moncur in The Disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde

When I found myself back in the Grand Canyon, scouring the edges of the Colorado River for the point on the planet when I lost my true love, my vision from so long ago returned to me. Glen was long ago lost on these waters, but as long as I ran the river, I would never be without him. I could feel his gentle eyes and Rosie’s calm strength watching over me, guiding my Navy surplus inflatable boat along the water.

At that moment, I became Georgie of the River.

The Disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde by LauraMoncur from Flickr

The inventor within me resurfaced, edgy and angry at her imprisonment behind the facade of mother. My whole childhood, I had played with the cast offs from the Navy, but that summer, I invented something far more than a new kind of boat. I invented an entirely new sport: river rafting.

Despite my long absence, tour guides and adventurists were still running the river on wooden boats, just like the one Glen made me for our honeymoon. It was as if time had stood still on the Colorado River. Until I brought my monstrosity to the water, there had been no innovation.

“You gonna die in that thing.” The tour guide had pulled me aside on the Brightwood Trail to give me some advice. “You gotta be careful, girl. People drown theyselves every year on this river.” He pointed at my military-grade life raft. “That thing’ll kill you.” I smiled at him. It felt like I had never left Arizona. I fully expected him to tell me a tall tale about a congressman who was dealing in white slavery next.

“They was a couple back in the Twenties that drown theyselves in this very river. They were goin’ down the Colorado for their honeymoon and they was never heard from again.” He leaned in close to me and whispered. “They say she stabbed him and ran away, but I know it was the river that got ’em.” He nodded as if he had given me a pearl of knowledge and, strangely, I agreed. It WAS the river that got us. Glen died here and I fully intended to do the same. I didn’t care if my raft killed me. I lost Glen and I lost Rosie. I had no more for the water to take away from me.

The Disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde by LauraMoncur from FlickrWhen my fame and fortune finally came to me, the Life Magazine photographer had a modern camera. I didn’t make the cover, but I was perfectly willing to abdicate to John F. Kennedy. He was our beloved president, after all. Ironically, the article right before mine covered the deepest SCUBA dive that had ever been achieved.

SCUBA, it was a word that grated on every nerve in my body. That Frenchman hadn’t an inventive cell in his brain. When he changed the name of my invention, he literally changed their perception. Instead of a wondrous device, they were a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. Sure, the name was descriptive, but my Wondrous Water Breathers lost all of their magic when that man renamed them.

The Disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde by LauraMoncur from FlickrStill, I felt the glow of success at every deep dive they achieved. I might not have felt the pecuniary effects of their wide-spread popularity, but I had the pride of knowing they were my invention, even if no one else knew I was the inventor.

Besides, I had more than enough money and fame from running the river and the boats that I had invented. A scientist is not the invention she creates. Science is a lifestyle and a mindset. Science is something that you cannot sell or give away. It lies within you and you will never lose it for as long as you still have your senses.

By Laura Moncur in The Disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde

When I read that Cameron had died in the newspaper, I felt a wave of relief. My parents had passed the previous year, never knowing that I was alive. I had send them a letter from the Grand Canyon telling them how much I loved them, but I backdated it to before my “disappearance” so that they would have solace, but I would be safe from a murder conviction.

At that point, Rosie and I could have come out of hiding. I could have claimed my true name, but doing so would have renounced my newfound daughter. Her nightmares had finally subsided and even her memories of our “vacation” to the Grand Canyon had been softened by years and false reminiscences. To her, I was Georgie White and I so wanted to be her mother that I never considered returning to my life as Bessie Hyde.

And then I found myself utterly alone.

Walk to the library by LauraMoncur from FlickrWe were walking to the lending library. Rosie had grown to become a fine young woman and I was proud of her. My Wondrous Water Breathers had earned us enough independence that I would be able to pay her tuition at the finest women’s colleges in the United States (not quite enough for Europe, however). As we walked together, laughing about the silly name the Frenchman had given my invention, Rosie was struck by a car.

One second, she was at my side. The next, I found myself standing alone at the side of the street. She had been thrown twenty yards in front of me, splayed out awkwardly and unconscious. The car never even slowed down. It was as if they couldn’t see her or our life together or how very important she was. I ran to her, clinging to the hope that she was still alive.

When I came near, I saw her ribs sticking out of her skin and clothing. She was gasping for breath. I flew to the ground at her side, but the pain had taken away her senses. “Mommy,” she cried. “Mommy…” I held in my grief, but it was spilling out of my eyes, blurring my vision. “Remember the time you took me to see Daddy?” she asked me.

I burst into tears. The room, smelling of tomatoes and zucchini filled my mind and her innocent laughter when I told her so long ago that I didn’t remember. “Of course I do, dearest. Daddy was going to take you to the fair.” She looked at me with tear-filled eyes and grimaced with the pain. “Daddy asked you to go, but you didn’t want to go.” I could see her tiny hands cutting the vegetables while I grilled the onions with the last bit of butter.

“But I DID go and Daddy won you a teddy bear.” She smiled through the pain and I looked down at my clothing and hands. They were covered in blood and I remembered when I had held another knife in my hands, but I wasn’t cutting vegetables. “Daddy won me a teddy bear.” Rosie breathed out a painful gasp and died with the memory of an absent father on her lips.

I buried her in a beautiful grave that cost less than two months of tuition at Vassar College. I remember writing the check and signing with Georgie’s name but paying with my money. I tried to convince myself that I was signing for tuition and that I was losing Rosie to college and a life of intellect, but the sum was so paltry that I couldn’t make the deception complete.

I found myself so completely lost and abandoned that I returned to what passed for my husband’s grave: the Grand Canyon.

By Laura Moncur in The Disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde

When were unable to find Rosie’s family, I was tempted to go back to West Virginia and my beloved Ohio River, but returning to my family would have been a mistake. I had killed a man. The papers plastered my photo all over the Arizona papers with no mention of Cameron or Rupert, the man I had savagely stabbed to death in a vain effort to save Glen. I knew that if I resurfaced as Bessie Hyde, Cameron would have no qualms identifying me as the woman who had murdered his man. There were even rumors that I had killed Glen, even though they never found his body. No, Bessie Hyde died that day on the side of the river where I left Glen’s lifeless form.

Instead, I put on the skin of a murdered woman and raised her daughter as if she were my own. Rosie never forgot the grisly end of Rupert at my hand, despite my vain hope that she would. At times, she acted as if I had always been her mother. She would try to reminisce with me about past times that I had never experienced.

“Remember when you took me to see Daddy?” I so desperately WANTED to remember this event that had never happened to me. “No, what happened?” Rosie was cutting the tomatoes and zucchini for the ratatouille. We didn’t have enough money for meat, but my strong and oil-stained hands made us enough to eat every day. “You remember.” She laughed, thinking that I was pretending not to know. “Tell me anyway,” I replied.

“Daddy was going to take me to the fair and he asked you if you wanted to go, too. You didn’t wanna go, but you went anyway.” I stopped her story to correct her pronunciation. “I didn’t WANT to go. Slow down so you can speak correctly.” She sighed and continued, “You didn’t WANT to go, but you went anyway.” She pushed out the words with exasperation. “Daddy won me a teddy bear. Remember?” I smiled at her and nodded, even though I had never been able to find her father, much less go to the fair with him.

The next time she would ask me, “Remember when you took me to see Daddy?” I WOULD remember. I would be able to reminisce with her, even though she was reminiscing about the fair and I was reminiscing about the evening when we made ratatouille and our tummies were full because I had finally truly learned how to rebuild a carburetor.

Poverty was a constant mar in our existence. The Great Depression was a terrifyingly difficult to survive. I struggled every day to put food in Rosie’s thin body. I tried selling my Wondrous Water Breathers, but no one would pay me what I knew they were worth. There wasn’t a company in America that was willing to spend money on innovation at the time and the military took one look at my chest and rejected my beautiful invention.

The day I was approached by a mysterious French man, however, changed all of that. “We are hearing that you have made an invention that makes a man a fish.” He was thin and wiry with a large nose. Rosie and I were boarding at the home of kindly woman who was mercifully deaf and nearly blind. Rosie’s nightmares never disturbed her sleep and my rough and oil-encrusted hands were invisible to her gaze. “They don’t make a man a fish so much as bring a supply of air along for the dive.”

I let the Frenchman into my room, but kept our door open so that my landlady wouldn’t think anything untoward. He swaggered into the room as only a European could. Our financial downfall had made The States the perfect vacation spot for the idle rich of Europe. This man was no different than those who bought cars just for their trip to America and became indignant when they learned that they would have to put oil and gasoline in them to keep them running.

Diving Mask“They are called Wondrous Water Breathers.” I brought out my dear inventions and showed them to the man. He looked at me with a question in his eyes. “Wondrous Water Breathers,” I repeated, but his face was still a question mark without an answer. I held the tank up and pointed, “This is a compressed air tank. It has enough air for a fifteen minute dive.” I lifted the tubing and held the regulator to my mouth. “The air comes through this tube and you breath in through the mouth, out through your nose.”

“It’s for underwater, no?” This was the first time anyone had shown an interest in my invention, much less understood. “Yes! It’s for breathing underwater.” He held up the tube above my head. “To the boat?” He thought that the air came from a pump on the boat like all the surface supplied diving that had been around for generations. “No, not to the boat.” I held up the tank. “Air.” Then I put the tank on my back and put the tube in my mouth, running the tube over my shoulder.

Old Snorkeling GearThe man’s eyes grew wide and the excitement was bursting from every pore of his body. “WATER!” He exclaimed at me, eager to test my Wondrous Water Breathers. I grabbed Rosie and the Wondrous Water Breathers. “Let’s go swimming, Sweetiepie!” and I took the man to our nearest lake in my Model A that I had built from leftover parts at the shop.

Rosie was eager to show her underwater swimming abilities. She had reminded me of myself as a child, holding my breath in the Ohio River until it felt like my ears would burst through my eyes. She put on her child-sized version of my invention that I had created for her small frame and motioned for him to follow along. He was struck with wonder at Rosie’s comfort with my inventions, never knowing that the two of us were only alive today because of them.

We all suited up and I tried my best to explain to him how to hold the regulator in his mouth. When we dove, Rose took the lead and showed him all her favorite spots in the lake. The carp swam up to us, eager for the dog food in my bag. He was awestruck as they approached us. I didn’t tell him how many times we had eaten the garbage fish in our hungry desperation.

When we surfaced, the desire in his eyes was stronger than I had ever seen in a man. He paid me handsomely for my Wondrous Water Breathers, but not nearly as much as they were worth. I was so desperate to find a comfortable life for Rosie and me, that I was glad to sell them in exchange for a quiet existence of independent wealth.

By Laura Moncur in The Disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde

“My name’s Georgie White. This here’s Rosie. You got any work?” The ruddy skin of the woman considered the two of us. “You look like one’a Cameron’s girls. Don’t want no trouble from ‘im.” She closed the back door of the small hotel that housed tired and hungry tourists.

I had no money and no identification, other than the wedding certificate that Glen had handed me with his last breath. My name and photo was all over the papers. Our boat had been found, but everyone was searching for young honeymooners, not a mother and child. All I had was the name of a dead woman to appropriate as my own.

“My name’s Georgie White. This here’s Rosie. You got any work?” I tried to sound like one of the locals instead of the daughter of a Naval officer. The hulking man was dripping with sweat. He looked as if he needed help getting the bolt off the engine mount. “Don’t need a wife. Don’t need a nurse maid.” He reminded me of my gruff and strong father. “Do you need someone who can rebuild a carburetor?”

Engine Repair by LauraMoncur from FlickrThe man stopped straining against the bolt. He didn’t look at me. He just stopped exerting his sinewy muscles against the machinery. “You don’t know what you’re talkin’ ’bout.” Within me, the young sister of Navy brothers giggled with excitement at the challenge. “Maybe not, but I sure know that you ain’t gonna git that bolt off with a wrench. Looks like the nut on the other side got welded shut.”

The modern day smithy twisted his head to the other side of the bolt and examined the nut that was in my view. A smile spread across his face. “Sure is.” He looked at me with new eyes. They paused uncomfortably on my unendowed chest, but he quickly recovered his senses. “You really can rebuild a carburetor?” Rosie squirmed uncomfortably behind me, unwilling to be seen by the large man. “You got one for me to rebuild?”

The man’s eyes crinkled in joy. “No, but I gotta shitloada tires that need patched.” I could see our escape within my grasp. “How much you pay me for each?” He named his price and I could see our passage out of the Grand Canyon and safe from Cameron’s grasp within my own.

Something about my voice, or maybe it was my appearance made the women reject me for work in the kitchens. It was probably the same thing that convinced the mechanics and farm hands to let me fix their machines. Whatever it was that made me able to do man’s work was the same thing that made me unable to obtain women’s work.

During the day, I coaxed life back into rusting and extinct engines while Rosie hovered near me like a fearful dog. At night, I taught Rosie to read and do figures. While we slept, however, is when Rupert would return to haunt both of our dreams.

My nightmares were just a replay of that fateful day. Rupert was choking the life out of my beloved husband. I came at him with Cameron’s knife, but this time, I was unsuccessful. The blade didn’t sink between his ribs and along his throat. It bounced off him harmlessly. He dropped Glen, dead and lifeless with a bullet hole in his gut, leaking excrement, and turned to swat me away. Rosie’s nightmares, however, were far more disturbing.

“Get ‘im off me!” Her eyes were open wide, but it was clear to me that she was still trapped within her nightmare. I tried to wake her. “Rosie, it’s me. Wake up. He can’t hurt you anymore.” We were in a small boarding house on the way to New York. It was the last place Rosie had known family and we headed there in the hopes of finding her grandparents or other family who could take care of her. I longed to return to the Ohio River and it’s safe waters. She looked into my eyes. “Mommy, is he hurting you?” She was having a conversation with a ghost. I did my best to rouse her. “Don’t let ‘im hurt me too.”

All the guilt that I had for killing Rupert washed away from me after I decoded the meaning of Georgie’s admonishment that he was sweet on the girls. I couldn’t feel anger at Georgie for whoring her daughter out to him. The beatings and the hard labor would have been just as damaging to poor Rosie’s body, except the scars would have been far more visible.

There was a knock on our door. It was the woman in charge of the boarding house. “This is yer last night here. I tol’ you that we couldn’t be dealin’ with a noisy kid at night. These men are hard workin’ and need their sleep.” I looked at the woman and the fact that I worked just as hard as those men every day did not occur to her. All she knew was that Rosie’s nightmares were bothering the men on the other side of the house. “We’ll be out tomorrow.”

I returned to Rosie’s bedside. “Mommy?” Was she still dreaming? “No, it’s me.” She looked at me with clear eyes and grabbed my face in her hands. “It was time to leave anyway, Mommy.” The sound of her calling me her mother filled the empty spot where my heart used to be.

By Laura Moncur in The Disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde

I’d like to say that I lovingly buried Glen in a marked grave somewhere I could revisit. I wish I could say that I even knew WHERE we left his body, but there wasn’t even time to cut a mark in a tree.

I could feel Rosie pulling at my clothing. Wet and shivering, she yanked at my arm, her eyes, wide with fear. “We gotta go.” The river had washed away the blood from my hands, face and hair, but my clothing was still stained with my sin. I had killed the man who was trying to choke the life out of my husband, but the man who actually killed him was still out there. I grabbed the Wondrous Water Breather that Glen and I had shared on our escape out of the river and strapped it on my back, intent on a revengeful return to the underground cave.

Rosie stopped me. I could tell that she was scared of me, but she was obviously more fearful of the man who had killed her mother. “We gotta go,” she repeated. Her Wondrous Water Breather was still strapped to her back, but it was larger than her thin frame, peeking out around her tiny waist and hanging below her shivering bottom. I took a last look at Glen, grabbed Rosie’s hand and started to run.

Bessie and Glen Hyde by LauraMoncur from FlickrRosie and I headed back to the boat. The Wondrous Water Breathers, which had been so helpful underwater now weighed us down. I considered leaving them in the canyon, but I knew we would get to the boat soon. Before we reached mile 225, however, I heard the voices of men. I turned to Rosie, raising my finger to my lips to signal quiet, but her eyes told me all too clearly that she recognized the voices.

“Don’t touch that!” I could hear Cameron’s voice, clear as day, and my blood boiled for revenge. It was everything I could do to keep myself from rushing at the beast. Then I heard my name, “Glen and Bessie Hyde. That’s their names.” I peeked through the brush. Cameron had our papers and my journal. “First woman to ride the Grand Canyon, huh…” His voice mocked my precious dream, shattering it into a million pieces in my heart. We quietly inched away from the boat that was supposed to propel me to fame and fortune and I took one giant leap away from my life as Bessie Hyde.

By Laura Moncur in The Disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde

Glen stopped me from plunging Ralph Cameron’s own knife into his belly and throat, urging us to leave this ill-fated mine. Rosie was weeping and terrified at her dead mother’s body, trying to awaken her from that complete slumber that Cameron had inflicted upon her. I scooped the child into my bloody arms and started running.

“Where do we go?” I hoped that Glen knew more of the terrain of the mine than I did, but he was no help. Since I had found him, he had hoped the same from me. But I had not found him, Georgie had navigated the labyrinth of mine shafts for me. As we ran, Rosie tried to squirm out of my slippery and bloody grip. I glanced down at her. Rupert’s blood mingled with her mother’s blood and covered her emaciated body as well as mine.

“You’re not safe here, Rosie. You need to come with us.” She continued to wiggle in an effort to break my grip. I stopped and looked at her. “As bad as you think I am, I’ve got to be better than the guy who killed your ma! Now tell me how to get to the water.” Her eyes grew to the size of milk jug caps and filled with tears. I gave her a bit of a shake. “Which way to the underground water!”

Rosie recovered. “Set me down and I’ll show ya.” I put her down and she started to run. Glen and I followed her. I hoped against everything that she wasn’t leading us to any more of Cameron’s thugs, but before a half dozen turns, she brought us to the underground beach. I sighed with relief when I saw our Wondrous Water Breathers untouched in the alcove where Glen and I had placed them.

Diving MaskI grabbed my Wondrous Water Breather and started plastering it onto Rosie’s face, tightening the straps. “You and me’ll have to share, Glen.” Then I spoke to Rosie, explaining to her as quickly as I could how to breathe with my curious invention. I strapped on the tank to her back, but before I could explain how to share the tank with Glen, I heard the gunshot. I threw on the tank onto my back before Cameron could get any closer to us. I pushed Rosie into the water, screaming, “Stay close to me, kid.”

I grabbed Glen by the shirt when I finally realized that he had been shot in the leg. Cameron was unsteady and disoriented from the blow to the head, but he was aiming to shoot again. I shoved Glen into the water and the three of us were submerged. I had assumed that the cover of water would hide us, but Cameron kept shooting into the water, Glen and I followed Rosie toward the opening of the underwater cave, sharing the air.

Once we got to the still and cool sunshine streaming through the river water, my lungs were burning. The years of holding my breath below the Ohio river came back to me in a flash and I gave Glen more than his fair share of the compressed air. Rosie adeptly swam ahead of us, taking to the Wondrous Water Breather as if it were an appendage of her own body, but Glen slowed. I pulled and yanked him to the shore with a ribbon of blood following us.

That’s when I noticed the second wound. One of Cameron’s random shots into the water had hit home in Glen’s gut. It was oozing blood and the stench of feces hit me once I got him out of the water. Rosie pulled off her Wondrous Water Breather and said, “Can we do that again?” I held in a yowl of agony when I realized that I was losing Glen fast.

I held his face in my hands and cried with grief. There was no way I’d be able to get him out of the canyon in time to save him. He was barely conscious and struggled to speak, “Bessie… git my wallet.” I didn’t care about his wallet. All I wanted was to kiss him and tell him I loved him, but he insisted.

I reached into his wet clothes and pulled out the leather billfold. He took it from my hands and opened it up. His hands were shaking as he gingerly pulled out a paper. “I keep it with me wherever we go. It was so hard for me to git it.” He unfolded the paper and handed me our soggy marriage certificate. “Sorry I couldn’t stay longer.”

The sound of agony coming from me embarrasses me to this day. You would have thought that I was dying. You would have assumed that it was my entrails that were leaking from my abdomen. Glen never cried out. He just kissed me and left me with a bloody marriage certificate in my hands.

By Laura Moncur in The Disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde

Blood on StoneI never slaughtered an animal. I lived such a sheltered life that I never had to kill my own food. In fact, the only blood I had ever seen was my own, thick and clotted every month. I never expected it to be as watery as it was. I knew blood was going to spill, and choosing which blood made the rocky floor of the mine slippery took less than a second.

Cameron was taking Georgie by the hair and smashing her head against the rocks. Rupert was constricting my husband’s throat with the crook of his arm. After seeing both, it took me only a moment to bound across the mine and onto Rupert’s back. Cameron’s knife was still in my hand and I thrust and slashed like a scarecrow in the wind. Nothing could stop my arms, even though they felt as if they were filled with lifeless straw. I didn’t stop stabbing even though the hilt of the knife cut into the palm of my hand when it hit bone. I didn’t even stop when the body under me stopped moving and released Glen.

I stopped when I heard the sickeningly final crack of Georgie’s head on the rocks. I looked up from the red and wet beast below me. Cameron was finished with Georgie, but one look at me and he shrunk away. He looked around him for any weapon. For one gut wrenching second, Rosie and I locked eyes. She shrank away from me in disgust as Cameron grabbed her. “I’ll snap her neck!”

I advanced toward him. “You just killed the last person who cared.” The blood of the man I had slaughtered covered me. I roused Glen, hoping I had gotten to him before Rupert crushed his windpipe. Glen recovered and his eyes were filled with horror at my appearance. Cameron inched down the mine shaft, holding Rosie in front of himself like a shield.

Once I realized Glen was fine, I ran toward Cameron like a red streak of gore. He dropped Rosie in an effort to ward off my blows. Glen quickly overtook me and landed a blow to Cameron’s head with a rock. The man was unconscious and I was willing to finish him right there, but Glen stopped me. “We need to get out of here.”

By Laura Moncur in The Disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde

Underwater CaveI had never seen an underwater cave in the Ohio River. I explored that area far more than any child should have and certainly more than my mother was comfortable with, but I never found anything like what I found in the Colorado River back in 1928.

As dangerous as diving with my Wondrous Water Breathers was, I never considered how exponentially more dangerous exploring that underwater cave would be. Aside from risks of becoming trapped under layers of rock, what we found in that cave would have appalled the locals of the Grand Canyon area. I had no thought of any of those risks. Despite the exhaustion from the rafting down the river, I was enthralled and eager to explore the cave.

And Glen followed me in.

Imagine our surprise when we found an underground beach, carved out by human hands. We dropped the Wondrous Water Breathers near the water and waddled onto the artificial shore. As we ventured deeper into the cave, struck with awe and excitement, we were struck by something else: rifle butts.

“There, there, girl. You gotta mighty big bump on that head. Lucky you it was Rupert who hitchya. He’s kinda soft on the girls.” The woman treated me like I was a child, but she couldn’t have been much older than I was. Her rough hands left my head and touched the young girl hovering over me. “Get ‘er a wet cloth, Rosie.” The child rushed off and I looked around me, trying to figure out where I was. Then I remembered everything.

“Glen…” My voice felt like a sledgehammer in my head. My new companion shook her head. “They take the boys to Orphan Mine. We’re stuck here. What’s your name, girl?” I tried to sit up as the little girl placed a wet rag on my forehead. The cool of it stirred the pain into a frothy haze. “Bessie. My name’s Bessie Hyde.”

“My name’s Georgie and this is my daughter, Sommona Rose, but we just call ‘er Rosie.” I tried to place their names into my bruised brain, but the facts kept spilling over me. “Gotta get on Rupert’s good side, Bessie. If you do, it’ll be lots easier for you here.” I looked around at the cave walls around us.

“Are we still under water?” Georgie looked at me with a strange grin. It was like looking at a sister with a larger nose. I had only looked at my face on brothers, so seeing a woman who looked so close to my appearance was an odd feeling to me. “We ain’t under water. We’re in a mine. This one didn’t do nobody good ‘cept for Cameron, ’cause he can hide us here.”

The name rang a bell. “The politician?” Georgie nodded with a sense of awe. “He’s been minin’ the Grand Canyon for near on twenty years now. He ain’t gonna stop, no matter what Teddy Roosevelt tells ‘im. Now, listen, Bessie. It’s mighty important that you git on Rupert’s good side.”

“I’m not staying that long. Where did you say they take the men?” Georgie shook her head at me. “Ain’t no way you can git to ‘im. They probably took ‘im to Old Orphan by now.” I shot up and headed away from Georgie. She and Rosie followed after me, shaking with fear. “You can’t leave. Rupert’ll be real mad at me.”

I wandered while Georgie tried to pull me back. I pushed her aside and kept searching until she finally gave up. “This way. Maybe they’ll let you say goodbye.” I could tell that she didn’t believe her own words, but she led me to my beloved anyway.

There were two men, herding Glen onto an old truck. Without thought of my own safety or even a plan of escape, I started throwing rocks at their heads. Years of brotherly love and wrestling never prepared me for the assault that advanced toward me. Georgie huddled away from us, distancing herself from the violence, but I fought as best I could.

Glen’s wiry frame attacked the big one from behind while the smaller man pulled a knife out of his waistband. “Georgie! I’m gonna gut you like a pig when I’m done with these two!” Georgie called out to him while I threw another rock at the small man’s head. It missed, but knocked him in the shoulder pretty hard. “It wasn’t my fault, Mr. Cameron! I couldn’t git her to stay put!” I started aiming the rocks at Cameron’s nether regions, but he dodged them easily, injuring only his hips and thighs.

I was so busy fighting off Cameron, that I couldn’t see Glen fighting off Rupert. It was a quiet fight of grunting that barely registered in my crazed and terrified mind. Finally, one of my rocks hit home, skittering the knife out of Cameron’s hand. I lunged toward it, snaking it away from him. I fully expected Cameron to attack me and reclaim it, but he backed away in cowardice. Instead, he unleashed his wrath on Georgie.

I started toward her to keep Cameron from her, but at that moment, Glen squealed in pain. Rupert had his meaty arms around Glen’s throat. I had to choose between saving an innocent woman who was in harm’s way because of my actions and my beloved.

I’m sure you have no question in your mind who I chose.