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The Widow in the Woods: Part 10

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If you missed the first part of The Widow in the Woods, you can find it here.

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Grace awoke with far too little sleep to the enthusiastic morning songs of the birds. When she reluctantly opened her eyes, she saw that it was fully daylight. Stifling a groan, she sat up painfully to find that Lexie was already awake.

“Good morning, sweet girl,” Grace greeted her.

Lexie gave a small smile. She still hadn’t spoken a word, and Grace wasn’t about to push her. They communicated just fine.

Grace said, “When I go off with Beth this morning, I don’t want you coming with me.”

Lexie adamantly shook her head in protest, and Grace held up her hand to stop her. “Lexie, you have seen so much. Please let me spare you this. Please. Besides, it’ll help cover my absence if you’re making breakfast.”

Lexie looked conflicted but finally nodded her agreement.

When they made their way to the kitchen, Grace selected a sturdy walking cane from the stand in the hallway. She didn’t actually need a cane, but it would reinforce the belief that she was old and feeble. It could also be used as a weapon if worst came to worst, but she wasn’t very confident in her ability to swing it hard with just one hand. She couldn’t risk the sound of a gunshot, though, so at least this would be something silent.

Lexie and Grace shared a quick breakfast jam with toast, then went their separate ways.

When Beth woke up, she stretched like a cat. A small smile was on her lips as she thought about how she was going to double-cross the old lady. She’d take her treasure and weapons, then kill her.

Then she’d leave and go someplace where she’d be more appreciated…more worshipped. While she wished she could go back to the house and kill everyone, she didn’t dare risk it. Even though Christopher wasn’t worthy of her love anymore, her survival instincts overrode her urge for instant justice. He would be just as likely to kill her. And she knew how sadistic he was – he’d enjoy doing it.

She deserved adulation, not to be cast aside by the likes of Christopher Hill. They could have been so much together. One day, she assuaged herself, she’d find him, and she would have her revenge then.

She was confident it would happen.

Beth dressed in jeans and a tee-shirt, then ran a brush through her red hair and quickly put it into a braid. Then, she began loading her backpack with the few possessions she’d managed to keep since the world turned upside down.

By the time Beth made her way out to the garden, Grace had been weeding for the better part of an hour. She was lost in the pleasant sensation of having her hand in the dirt when she heard footsteps behind her.

Beth had fixed a soft, vulnerable look on her face, but it was impossible for her to hide the calculating coldness in her eyes. Grace pretended to ignore it. Beth had arrived with a backpack stuffed full of her belongings and had a water canteen slung around her neck. She was ready to leave.

Grace looked around to be sure they weren’t being watched, then picked up her cane and hobbled off after a “come with me” gesture.

She led Beth to the place where branches covered the path to the old root cellar. After pushing the branches out of the way, the women climbed up the same path that she and Lexie had traversed before. Once they were out of earshot of the house, she told Beth, “First, I’m going to take you to my savings, then I’ll take you to where I have some guns and ammunition stashed.”

“What kind of savings is it?” Beth asked casually.

“Gold and silver coins, some jewelry that I hid when things went bad. I’m going to give you part of the coins, but the jewelry is sentimental, you understand.”

“Of course,” Beth agreed with a false smile. “I wouldn’t dream of taking your sentimental items.”

Slowly, Grace picked her way up the path she had traversed hundreds of times. It was essential to her plan that Beth be confident Grace was weak and infirm.

When they finally arrived at the root cellar doors, Grace leaned against the wall and let Beth slide the bolt to open them. Grace reached in and got the flashlight, turning it on to illuminate the room.

“What’s that smell?” asked Beth, wrinkling her nose in distaste.

“It’s just some chemicals I put in to keep the rodents away,” Grace fabricated the lie.

Beth was a city girl, not a farm girl, and she had underestimated her opponent, so she took Grace at her word.

“I need to rest for a minute,” Grace panted, leaning heavily on her cane. “The gold and silver are in the trunk behind those shelves. Unlatch it and look under the straw. It’s at the very bottom. You can have half of the silver and the gold. Then we’ll go get you a weapon.”

Beth thought about attacking the old lady right away, but she really needed a weapon. The instant she got it, she thought, she’d end that old woman with one to the head. She hurried to the back, intent on securing her treasure. She opened the trunk and began pawing through the straw, oblivious to anything but the precious items that awaited her.

Grace pushed over the first bucket that she had propped up on a wooden block for ease, letting the bleach stream onto the floor. Then she knocked over the second one, which was filled with ammonia. The blocks they had been propped up on made the act easy, even for an older woman with just one good arm.

The odor of the combination of fluids began to fill the shipping container. Grace coughed and quickly slipped out the door before she was overcome and before Beth noticed. She had quietly closed the doors, glad she had oiled them. By the time the fumes fully reached the back of the container where Beth was, Grace had slid the bolt home that locked the container from the outside and waited.

She didn’t have to wait long.

Beth began banging on the door, coughing relentlessly, pounding furiously. “Let me out, you old hag!” she raged. “You bitch! I’ll kill you!”

Grace was thankful they were far enough away from the house that only she could hear Beth’s cries. The woman unleashed wave after wave of profanity between coughs and gasps, her voice becoming increasingly raspy, until finally she could curse and swear no more.

It was so strange, Grace mused, to be standing in the beautiful forest, the sun streaming through the trees. The setting was like a storybook place of magic where you might catch a glimpse of dancing fairies. The birds were singing joyfully. Meanwhile, something horrifying was happening simultaneously.

Finally, the coughing had ceased. It took longer than Grace had expected, and even though she had despised Beth, listening to someone die from chloramine gas would truly haunt her for a long time to come. The grim act was totally at odds with Grace’s perception of herself as a healer.

But it was the only way she could save Lexie. And she was just getting started.

When all had been quiet for a while, Grace solemnly made her way back down the steep path and slipped into the gated garden for a few ingredients.

When Grace emerged, pockets stuffed, she found that Jon was helping Rick to the outhouse. The teenager looked like he might have overestimated his capabilities in walking that far, but he appeared determined to get there.

She nodded a greeting and entered the house.

Lexie was in the hallway, studying the embroidered samplers. She looked at Grace with questions in her eyes. Grace nodded. “It’s done,” she whispered as she brushed past the girl to go to the kitchen. Lexie followed closely on her heels.

Grace pulled the bottle marked “Solanacae” off the shelf, then her mortar and pestle. Smooth black berries were plucked from their stems, and she held the bowl still by pinning it between her injured arm and her stomach. As she crushed the new berries, Lexie watched with interest.

Next, Grace added some raspberries from the edible garden and combined the two. Topping the bottle with a funnel, she asked Lexie to scrape the contents of the bowl into the bottle using a metal spoon.

Next, Grace filled the jar all the way to the top with honey. It had the appearance of a fruity syrup and would taste just as sweet.

She would let it sit for one more day.

Meanwhile, she needed to make sure Rick continued to give the appearance of improvement.  She took some sweetened coca leaves and laudanum tea with her as she went to check on his apparent progress. The sida tincture she had given him had slowed the infection enough that he would look like he had improved. If she continued to give him that treatment, he would, in fact, recover.

But she wasn’t practicing medicine these days. Grace had to use her knowledge for different purposes if she and Lexie were to survive.

Afterward, Lexie returned to the hallway, searching for the berries. She found them on a black sampler. The sampler had dark berries, purple flowers, red berries, and bees buzzing around them.

She was certain that this was what Grace had just made and that she was about to find out what the black samplers meant.

About Daisy

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.

Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand You can find her on FacebookPinterestGabMeWeParlerInstagram, and Twitter.

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