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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.