Terrified, Leni clutched the woolen shawl about her nine-year-old body
as she fled through the cobblestoned streets of the village—now
deserted. She searched for a place to hide as yellow flames licked
skyward from shuttered windows of the brick-and-stucco houses along
the strasse. Red tiles burst from the rooftops. Leni screamed
and pulled the shawl over her head as red-hot shards pelted her. In
the distance, she heard the pop of gunfire and felt the street shudder
from nearby explosions.
When she rounded a corner,
the old stone church came into view. She raced toward it, jerked open
the black wrought-iron gate, and scanned the courtyard. A tall hedge
in a corner caught her attention. She ran across the courtyard and
pressed herself behind the bush against the stone wall. The branches
scratched her face and arms as she slid her body into a squatting
position, wrapped her arms tightly around her knees, and tried to stop
shaking. Her dark eyes darted through the branches around the area.
She prayed to God that no one would find her here. When she looked up,
her breath caught in her throat. She stood without thinking and
reached out to touch something above her.
“Hier ist ein weiteres
Kind!, Here’s another kid!” a harsh male voice called out.
Startled, Leni screamed
and moved farther into the dark corner. Trapped, she looked upward and
pleaded for help. “Bitte helfen Sie mir!”
The tall, gray-uniformed
Unterfeldwebel opened the gate as Leni’s cries for help echoed
off the stone. Slowly, the soldier walked toward the small Jewess, his
face hardened in a mask of hatred. He spread his arms, ready to grab
Leni if she bolted.
“Nein!” the child
cried as large hands reached down to grab her.
“No!” Agatha banged her
fist on the armrest. She was determined not to let the dream invade
her waking hours.
Sandy, intent on the
pre-auction bustle of activity, turned toward her mother-in-law. “Did
you say something?”
“I’m…I’m sorry, dear. I…I
was just thinking out loud.” Agatha wasn’t ready to tell anyone about
the nightmare that had plagued her sleep for the past two weeks. Now,
it had worked its way into her daytime thoughts as well.
Sandy touched Agatha’s
arm. “Your face is flushed. Are you sure you’re all right?”
Agatha breathed deeply and
forced a smile, which didn’t quite reach her midnight-blue eyes. She
pushed her short, gray-streaked auburn hair away from her face and
patted her daughter-in-law’s hand. “Of course. I’m fine.”
Minutes later, as the
auction started, Sandy leaned close. Her shiny, chestnut hair brushed
her shoulder. “Look at that
Waterford crystal bowl.
Wouldn’t it be stunning on your dining room table?”
Agatha shook her head.
“No, dear,” she whispered. “No more dust collectors. Anyway, there’s
no point now that Clayton’s gone. I don’t have the least desire to buy
anything else for the house.” She sighed, settled into her cushioned
chair, and halfheartedly listened to the auctioneer¾dressed
in a gray morning suit¾drone
on about antique crystal from the Winthrop Collection. She opened her
catalog, dated March 16, 1982, and absently reviewed the items listed
The collection, so it
appeared to her, had attracted buyers from all over the country to
Boston’s newly renovated wood-and-glass auction gallery. Agatha
shifted in her seat. She scanned the crowd and noticed an older,
elegantly dressed couple who quietly discussed items listed in the
brochure. Envious of the couple’s apparent closeness, Agatha told
herself that she and Clayton could have attended the auction together
if he were still alive.
Sandy glanced over to see
what had caught Agatha’s attention. Worry clouded her sea-green eyes.
She sighed and whispered, “You’ve still got a life to live even if
Clayton’s gone. Today’s the first time you’ve been out of the house in
“I know.” Agatha nodded.
“I just need time.” She understood
good intentions. “You and Mark have your own lives, so don’t feel you
have to babysit me.”
which came from Europe.”
Agatha straightened in her
chair. She stared at the window that rested on an easel beside the
stained-glass portrait of an angel. She tried to speak, but the words
stuck in her throat.
“The window was supposed
to have a history card with it.” The auctioneer looked around the
podium. “It appears the card has been misplaced. Uh…. I don’t have the
exact year the window was constructed, but notice the exquisite detail
of the fair-haired angel holding a white lamb. The sunburst that makes
up the background is formed in purest shades of yellow, blue, and
violet and gives the window a two-dimensional quality. Let’s start the
bidding at five hundred, shall we?”
Agatha grabbed Sandy’s
Sandy turned to look at
her mother-in-law. “Good Lord! You’re as pale as a¾”
“I’ve seen that window
before,” Agatha whispered.
“How could you? You’ve
never been to Europe,” Sandy
“I can’t remember where
I’ve seen it, but I have…and it’s important.” Agatha couldn’t take her
eyes off the window. She watched as three bidders signaled the
“Twenty-five hundred is my
bid.” The auctioneer paused. “Going once, going twice.”
Agatha jumped to her feet.
“What are you doing?”
Sandy pulled on Agatha’s sleeve. “Please sit down! People are
Agatha sat on the edge of
her chair, but ignored Sandy.
“Going once! Going twice!
Sold!” the auctioneer said.
Agatha watched the
auctioneer slam his gavel on the podium¾as
if in slow motion¾with
a sound that reverberated throughout the hall. When she turned, she
noticed that the two hundred or so people who sat around her also
appeared to talk, gesture, and move in slow motion. She closed her
eyes, suddenly lightheaded.
“What’s come over you?”
Sandy said, her voice sounding as if coming from a tunnel.
Agatha shook her head in
an attempt to clear her brain. “I’ll be back.” She grabbed her
handbag, stood, and threaded her way along the row of bidders’
handbags and feet.
Sandy trailed behind,
bewilderment evident on her face. When she caught up with her
mother-in-law, she was at the cashier’s desk.
Agatha provided delivery
instructions to the cashier along with a check for the window. She
turned to leave but stopped in mid-stride and turned back to the
cashier. “Excuse me, can you tell me the name of the buyer for the
“Of course.” The young
blonde cashier smiled. “Mr. Johnstone bought this shipment.”
“I see,” Agatha pulled out
her address book and pen. “Do you have an address or telephone number
where I might reach him?”
“That won’t be necessary.
He’s in the gallery today.” The cashier stretched to look around
Agatha and Sandy. “I saw him a few minutes ago. Ah…yes. There he is.
He’s standing beside that antique birdcage. The man with a red rose in
Agatha thanked the cashier
and walked toward the plump man with a complexion that matched his
Sandy followed closely
behind but said nothing.
“Mr. Johnstone?” Agatha
approached the man.
“Yes. May I help you?”
Johnstone peered at Agatha over half glasses, as if appraising an
objet d’art, then flipped through the papers on his clipboard.
“I’m Agatha Windham.” She
extended her hand, which he touched briefly and nodded. “I bought the
stained-glass window you brought into the gallery. Can you tell me
anything about it?”
He gave her a cursory
smile as he looked down at her. “Congratulations on the winning bid,
“Windham. Agatha Windham.”
Impatient with his condescending tone, but unwilling to acknowledge
it, she shifted her handbag strap from one shoulder to the other.
“Mrs. Windham. Yes. Well
we’ve apparently lost the history card, as the auctioneer said.”
Johnstone ran his finger down a list on the first sheet on his
clipboard. “According to this I bought the window at a shop in Berlin
during my winter trip.”
“I understand that,
but....” Agatha touched his arm.
Johnstone cut his eyes
down at her hand, which she quickly withdrew.
“I know I’ve seen the
window before, but I can’t remember where.” Agatha said. “I need to
know where it came from. Is there a possibility it might have come
from a church somewhere on the east coast rather than from Germany?”
“I told you all I know
about the window,” Johnstone said. “It was shipped from Germany.”
“But, I’ve never been to¾”
Johnstone’s face turned a
deeper shade of florid. “Madam, are you questioning the authenticity
of the window?”
Startled, Agatha said, “Of
Johnstone dropped his
hands to his side, obviously irritated. “You can see there’s an
auction going on, and I’m quite busy. I assume you gave the cashier
your name and address?”
“Yes, of course—”
“Good. If I come across
the history card, I’ll send it to you straightaway. Is that
Disappointed, Agatha said,
“I suppose so.”
“Good day.” Johnstone
curtly nodded to Agatha and Sandy and then turned to leave. Under his
breath, he said, “And, good riddance.”
“What did you say?” Agatha
asked, two steps behind Johnstone.
He stopped and turned. “I
beg your pardon?”
“What did you say about
A shadow passed over
Johnstone’s face. “Nothing. I must ask you to excuse me.”
Before he got away, Agatha
said, “If I have other questions about the window, where can I reach
He sighed, fished inside
his jacket, and produced a white card, which he handed to Agatha. “I’m
leaving for my London office soon, so I’m afraid I won’t be able to
help you further. Good day.” He moved quickly away and down a hallway.
Sandy turned to her
mother-in-law, hands on her hips. A frown creased her brow. “I can’t
believe how rude that man was! You ought to speak to the manager of
“Nevermind.” Agatha waved
her hand in dismissal. “It’s not important.” She stuffed the business
card into her address book.
“What on earth are you
going to do with a six-foot-tall stained-glass window?” Sandy said.
Agatha looked up at her
daughter-in-law, who was five inches taller than her
five-foot-four-inch height. “This window is important to me, and it’s
something I want.” Thoughtful for a moment, she continued, a twinkle
in her blue eyes. “Although in retrospect, I wish I’d only bid
“Do you see anything you would like to
bid on, or are you ready to leave?” Agatha asked.
“No and yes,” Sandy said.
“I think I need to get you out of here. For someone who didn’t want to
buy anything else for her house, you certainly jumped right into the
middle of the bidding. Couldn’t you have bought something a little
Agatha bit her tongue to
avoid an argument. Whose money were they talking about anyway?
“Probably. Would you like some lunch before we head back to the
“No, thanks.” Sandy held
out her hands. “Can you understand that I’m only trying to look out
for you? You’ve been through a rough year, and I don’t want you doing
something you’ll regret after you’ve thought it through.”
“I appreciate your
concern,” Agatha said idly looking for an exit. “Let’s see if we can
get out of here.” She maneuvered her way through the crowd of people
who inspected items to be presented for bid.
Once out on the sidewalk,
Sandy continued. “Where are you going to put the window?”
“I’m not sure.” Agatha
looped her arm through Sandy’s. “Let’s forget about the window for
now.” They strolled along Newbury Street toward the parking lot
looking in the windows of the smart shops set in quaint Victorian
brick row houses. Agatha remembered when the area was strictly
residential. “I didn’t realize how much I missed Boston¾the
activity, the people.”
Sandy gave Agatha a wry
smile and squeezed her hand.
“Thanks for inviting me
today,” Agatha said. She lifted her face and enjoyed the warmth of the
sun on her skin and the light breeze that ruffled her hair. “It’s good
to be out on such a glorious spring day.”
Sandy laughed and appeared
to relax. “I’m glad to see you’re enjoying yourself. You’re overdue.”
After they were in the
Wrangler, Sandy drove out into the stream of heavy traffic.
“I know I’ve been
unbearable since Clayton died,” Agatha said when they stopped at a red
light on Arlington next to Boston
Public Gardens. “I’ve neglected
you and Mark, and especially Polly.”
Sandy glanced over at her
mother-in-law. “Polly really misses her time with you. She’s always
asking when she can sleep over at Gran’s.”
Agatha smiled. “We’ll have
to do that soon. I’ve really let too many things go, especially the
house. You could write the ‘Gettysburg Address’ in the dust on my
Sandy grinned. “A little
furniture polish will take care of that.”
Silent for a moment,
Agatha said, “About the window, I know you think I’m being impulsive
to pay so much for it, but buying it is exciting for me. I can’t quite
explain the feeling¾it’s
like now I’ve got something to look forward to.”
“I’m sorry to be so
negative.” Sandy pushed her hair out of her eyes. “It’s good to see a
smile on your face again. I know I come on strong, but I worry about
you. You only have Mark and me to look after you now.”
Agatha chuckled. “I’m not
that old yet. I should be able to take care of myself for at least one
or two more years.”
“You know what I mean. If
something were to happen to you…. Suppose you got sick or had an
accident? I’m trying to say we love you and care about you. We’ve
missed spending time with you.” She paused. “Even David misses you.”
Agatha rolled her eyes.
“What’s he doing these days?”
“Number-two son is still
wheeling and dealing the Cape real estate, as usual, so we don’t see
much of him, which is fine with me. I don’t want Mark getting sucked
into any more of David’s sure-fire-can’t-miss-gonna-make-a-bundle
“I’ve never understood why
Mark is levelheaded like Clayton, but David took after Clayton’s Uncle
Earl.” Agatha shook her head. “I make it a rule to keep my checkbook
tucked safely inside my desk when I see David drive up.”
“Maybe David will meet a
really nice woman one of these days and change his ways,” Sandy said.
Agatha shrugged. “Maybe.”
She knew that unless David changed, no self-respecting woman would
ever put up with him. Did she and Clayton fail him in some way or
spoil him too much because he was the youngest?
Sandy took a deep breath.
“I’d like to make one more comment about the window, and then I’ll
drop the subject.”
Agatha stifled a heavy
sigh. “If you have to.”
“It’s not so much the
money you spent today. I know you can afford it. But, you bought the
window on a whim, which is not like you. I hope you aren’t going to
make a habit of spending so much so easily.”
“Point well taken.” Agatha
could almost see the wheels turn in Sandy’s brain. A psychology major
at William and Mary, she probably thought Agatha’s impulsive behavior
was a manifestation of her depression and, unless controlled, Agatha
would squander her life savings. But, she had no intention of doing
When they reached Route Six on their way to Shipton, Agatha watched
the gusty Cape breeze send ripples through the flaxen beach grass in
the marshes. She noticed that a pale-green haze covered the scrub oak
and heather that clung to the rolling moors. Spring was literally
bursting out on Cape Cod.
With a start, Agatha
realized she hadn’t thought about her recurrent nightmare for the last
hour. She had agreed to attend the auction today with Sandy in hopes
that the outing would help her forget the horrible dreams. For two
weeks, the nightmares had plagued her sleep and now had invaded her
waking hours as well. But, she had told no one about them. She
wouldn’t dare tell Sandy because she’d probably quote chapter and
verse from one of her textbooks, promptly diagnose Agatha as paranoid
or delusional, and pack her off to a clinic for evaluation.
Agatha leaned her head on
the back of the seat and closed her eyes to rest for a few minutes. As
her body relaxed, the vivid images of the nightmare returned. She
could plainly see the large hands of the German soldier reach for the
child. Her body jerked to avoid falling asleep.
Sandy hit the brakes and
turned toward Agatha. “Are you okay?”
Horns honked. Tires
Agatha looked over at her
daughter-in-law. “I’m fine…really.”