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The Widow in the Woods: Part 4

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

Part 2 is located here.

Here’s Part 3.

Lexie wasn’t feeling right. Her stomach was cramping, and she’d spent more time in the outhouse than she had in the garden. It appeared that she and Luke were taking turns in there because every time she wanted to go in, she saw him come out, pale and sweaty.

She wondered what that powder was Grace had put on her food. Had Grace poisoned her? Lexie was devastated. She thought that sweet little old lady was going to help her but now she was feeling violently ill.

Nobody can be trusted, she raged inwardly. Her eyes darkened to the color of blueberries as the filled up with tears that threatened to spill down her cheeks. Nowhere is safe.

Grace emerged from the walled part of the garden, her apron pockets stuffed with a harvest of some sort, locking the gate behind her then disappearing into the little house

She soon returned to join Lexie, bringing with her some cool spring water in a mason jar. “I know you aren’t feeling well, and I’m sorry,” she said kindly. “Drink some water, and then I’ll explain what I did.”

Lexie scowled and shook her head. She wasn’t going to consume any more of Grace’s concoctions.

Grace nodded and took a drink of the water to prove it was fine. She then handed it to Lexie, who was eyeing it covetously. As Lexie sipped the water, Grace whispered to her, “I understand why you don’t trust me right now. I can’t have only one of them being sick from my food. I promise you will feel better soon. I have a plan.”

Lexie wanted to trust the woman but then another spasm wracked her belly. She felt horrible as she hurried back to the outhouse, hoping it was vacant.

Grace watched as the slender girl rushed away.

She felt terrible. But if her plan was to work, it couldn’t be obvious. It couldn’t be only the Hills who got sick, and it couldn’t be all of them. She knew if she wasn’t careful, Christopher would execute her without hesitation. And if that happened, Lexie would be on her own again. Her survival was tantamount to the girl’s freedom.

She had dosed two plates of breakfast with an unflavored laxative powder to get the ball rolling, so to speak. The moisture of the fluffy eggs easily masked the powder, and the parmesan cheese dusted on top disguised any residual powder. If two people, one of them Lexie, were ill, she could get something else into them to “nurse them back to health.” If things went according to her plan, only Lexie would recover from this particular bout of gastrointestinal distress.

Her husband had told her about how they had been taught in the Army if they found themselves outnumbered, they were to separate the enemy. Then, the goal had been to pick them off quietly, individually, for as long as possible. The fewer threats you engaged with at one time, the better your chances would be.

Grace wasn’t in the Army, but she was certainly surrounded by enemies. She took comfort in thinking of what her husband would have advised.

When Lexie returned to the garden, she wordlessly picked up the jar of water that was sitting on a smooth-topped stump which served Grace as a table. Lexie downed the entire thing in two swallows.

“Come with me,” Grace said. “You need to lay down.”

Lexie glared, mutiny in her eyes. She refused to move immediately, then finally gave in. She really did want to lay down.

Grace had turned the small, screened porch on the side of her house into a delightful room. The two cozy sofas out there were comfy enough for sleeping on during a hot night and would work splendidly to isolate her patients from everyone else.

Once she had Lexie established on a faded floral sofa, she brought out a steaming cup. Lexie eyed it suspiciously. “It’s only peppermint and chamomile,” Grace informed her. “It will make you feel better, I promise. Do you want me to take a drink of it first?”

Lexie nodded and Grace took a drink of the concoction in the dainty porcelain cup. “See? It’s perfectly safe.”

With a sigh of resignation, Lexie took a tiny sip of tea. It tasted good—fresh and minty with a hint of something that tasted almost like apple. Before long, the cup was empty, and Lexie felt drowsy. She was worn out from all the trips to the bathroom.

She was drifting off as Grace left the screened in porch.

When Luke emerged from the outhouse for the fifth time, Grace was waiting for him.

“Are you feeling unwell?” she asked, pasting a look of concern on her face. “Perhaps it’s the richness of the food if you aren’t used to that kind of meal.”

Luke didn’t deem to respond, simply glaring pointedly so Grace would take the hint and move out of the way.

Stubbornly, she ignored his hint. “Could I make you some tea? Lexie is also feeling poorly, but she’s had herbal tea, and it seemed to help. If you’d come and lay down in the porch room, I can look after the two of you more easily.”

“Fine,” Luke replied in a peevish voice. “You’d better hope nobody else gets sick around here, old lady.”

Grace ignored his tone and led him to the screened porch, waving her arm toward the vacant sofa. She went off to the kitchen to make some tea.

After confirming she was alone in the kitchen, she surreptitiously added more of the laxative powder to the boiling water and stirred it vigorously before dropping in a tea ball filled with chamomile and mint. It was true that the chamomile and mint worked at cross-purposes with the laxative, but she’d added a potent amount of the eliminatory and was confident that Luke’s bowels would continue to be in an uproar. He had to appear to be ill before he succumbed – he couldn’t just die suddenly, or the suspicion would be on Grace.

She drizzled some honey into the tea and carried it out to him. “Drink up,” she instructed. She gestured to the sleeping girl for added encouragement. “Lexie felt better almost immediately.”

Luke blew on the tea and took a suspicious sip. It tasted good, Grace knew, and without further hesitation, he drank it down quickly.

She returned to the kitchen with his empty cup. She passed the others in the dining room, engrossed in some kind of card game.

She made some drinks from an instant iced tea mix she had on hand. There was no ice, but the drink was sweet and refreshing nonetheless. She quietly brought them to the three. They ignored her and continued with their game, so she returned to the kitchen without a word. Why bother making conversation when it could just trip her up, she thought. You can’t say the wrong thing when you say nothing at all.

Back in the kitchen, Grace got out her black mortar and pestle. The items she had harvested from the walled part of the garden needed to be processed. She pulled from her pockets a handful of glistening red berries, a dozen black ones, and some stevia leaves for sweetness and added them all to the bowl.

She mashed them up vigorously with the mortar and pestle, then transferred them to a one-pint mason jar. She covered the herbs with vodka, then rinsed out the bowl of her mortar and pestle with a splash more of the liquor, scraping the sides with a spoon to incorporate as much of the herbal content as possible. She added that to the jar and added a piece of masking tape.

She paused, trying to think what to write. She doubted that any of them read Latin, so on the tape, she wrote “Solanacae” in her beautiful script. She put the jar in her sunniest windowsill to speed up the infusing process. She would have preferred a bit more time to let things sit for weeks, but her situation warranted more flexibility.

She scrubbed the mortar and pestle thoroughly and then left them soaking in a mixture of bleach and water. That project complete for the time being, Grace went to check on her other patient.

Grace noticed it the second she entered the room. The parlor where he lay seemed different. He had worsened quickly since the last time she had checked on him. Infection had taken hold.

There was a mild scent in the air that she had smelled before. It was a strange odor, foul yet sickly sweet at the same time. A chill settled into the back of her neck, even though it was a warm day. She had never deliberately harmed a human being before and as a healer, it caused a sudden crushing wave of grief.

There was no time for it. She closed her eyes to gather herself, pushed that feeling aside, and went to check Rick’s vitals.

He was clammy, covered in a sticky sweat, and burning up. As she felt his forehead, she could feel him shivering.  He opened his eyes to peer at Grace. “I d-d-don’t feel s-s-so good.”

“I know, you poor boy,” she replied kindly as she pulled down the blanket covering him to inspect his wound. “I’m worried that your gunshot wound is infected. You were out in the woods for quite some time with it before you arrived here.”

It was as she expected. The wound was crusted and encircled by a puffy red area. Gently, she laid her fingertips on the surrounding area and confirmed it was hot to the touch. Red streaks were beginning to appear around it. There was nothing else she needed to do except let nature take its course.

She pulled the covers over the trembling young man all the way up to his chin and patted him gently.

It had to be done, she reminded herself.

Grace picked up the basket with her needlepoint project to her rocking chair on the front porch. There, she rocked, and stitched, and waited.

The afternoon was sure to be eventful.

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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