The war was over. At least, that’s what they said to Captain James Conrad. There was no going back, or was there?
The war was over. At least, that’s what they said to Captain James Conrad. Good job, well done, you can go home back to your normal life. They had a sick sense of humor. There was no going back, at least, not really.
Still, he made the journey home. He should be happy, but he wasn’t. He knew he couldn’t be happy going back. What was returning, wasn’t the same man that left. Sure he still had the same body, mind, talents, and skills, but his soul was different.
While he was skeptical, he had to admit, when he landed, the scent of home did smell pleasing if nothing else. However, landing meant a new challenge… starting over.
He knew how to survive; that was easy. But, could he relearn how to live? Frankly, he didn’t care; he was paid quiet well and had built up a bit of a nest egg. Still he didn’t want to blow it all and shoot himself in the foot. He also didn’t want to stay with old soldiers who came home, who were also trying to piece themselves back together. So he went to the papers, and looked through different ads for places to rent, while he figured out what he was going to do with the life that had been returned to him.
With each place he checked out, he felt more hopeless. If the person renting it out wasn’t some crazy person, then they were some radical hippy. Maybe he should spend part of his savings, just for a spot to be left alone. It might be easier than this. This was just madness. The problem was, he was not the kind to give up on a plan, at least not one of his own design. He could rough it for a bit. It was far easier here, than in that godforsaken jungle.
It was by chance he saw the listing. It wasn’t exactly a job, and wasn’t exactly a place for rent, but he liked the name. It was a work for rent listing, and the name was one he had heard several times while in uniform, a family with a long military background. They might understand his troubles with acclimating back to civilian life.
When he called, he was happy to hear a stable voice on the other end. That fact that it was a woman seemed a bit off. Besides the nurses, he had not dealt with a woman in a long time. But new things, and new life he told himself as he started the long trek there, as buses cost money he didn’t wish to part with.
The walk didn’t bother him, he was used to walking, running, or even crawling when he needed to. As he got closer, he could see why the ad had been put out. The land was utterly overrun, almost looking like a jungle in itself.
He could see equipment lurking in the overgrowth like dinosaurs in a swamp. Judging by their age and condition, dinosaurs were what they were.
He stopped as he reached the rusted out gate. From what he saw, in its prime this place must have been a sight to behold. Perhaps the woman was old and widowed? She didn’t sound that way on the phone. At least she didn’t sound old.
He checked at his watch, then pulled out the instructions for the meeting. He had followed them exactly, yet it was past the meet time, and there was no woman. He looked around for any sign of life. To the untrained eye it would look as if the place had been abandoned for a few years at least, but he saw through it. He saw the faint signs of movement and life. Not just from animals, but from humans.
James’ ears twitched to the sound of distant movement. Instinctively, his body moved into a ready position as he pinpointed the source. Running footfalls, and coming fast, but then slowing to a walk. After a minute or so he could see the figure coming his way. A woman, breathing hard, but quietly, trying to look as if she had not just run most of the way. His heart sunk a bit seeing what she was wearing. Another dirty hippy. “Damn it” he muttered under his breath. He had such hopes for this one!
“I am sorry I kept you waiting, your name was James, right?” he heard her sweet voice say. She continued, “It would seem that I will need a new watch as well.” She sighed, opened the gate, and gestured to invite him in.
Well, he did come all this way; he might at least hear what the work was. At least she didn’t seem insane. He followed her back, looking around to get a better picture of the place. It looked utterly abandoned aside from a few animals running about. While left to roam, they looked well cared for, and very well fed.
They both approached what looked like a large manor house. This was the residence of someone with a lot of money, power, or both, back in its glory days. “Do ignore the mess; it has been a chore to keep up with it all. Please have a seat; I’ll get you something to drink. You must have been so hot waiting out there for me.”
James looked at the young woman. She looked to be in her early twenties, with long brown hair that lightly curled toward the ends. While she dressed like a ragamuffin, she smelled pleasantly of flowers, and her nails were neat. At least today would be stimulating to the senses, James thought, looking around.
He saw not only hunting trophies, but also military photos and equipment. Some looked to be from ‘Nam, Korea, even some from as far back as WWI, all arrayed with care and precision. It contrasted oddly with the lack of upkeep, and the woman dressed in castoffs from the sixties. He didn’t have much time to think as he heard her coming back. “I am sorry for the mess; it’s been a while since I’ve had any help with the place.”
“So what are you exactly looking for?” He said wanting information. He was a sponge for it.
“Well as you can see it has been a while since the estate has had a helping hand. Many things need to be fixed, and it is a lot of work, but it all doesn’t need to be done at once. The work would pay for your board here for a long while, along with food, and some cash.”
“Do not take this the wrong way ma’am, but you don’t look the type to have cash.” He said testing the waters.
“What is your name?” He hears her ask.
“James Conrad ma’am.” He said.
“What makes you think that? The fact the estate is in this state, or my choice of clothing.” She said taking him in.
“You know my father said never be completely honest with a woman, it will never end well. Well I like to live dangerously. So both, and yet not. You look like a hippie, yet you don’t smell like one, nor do you carry yourself in that way. The things that need tending, aren’t woman’s work, and it looks like you have tried your best. So why don’t you tell me what is going on?”
“It is work, do you want work or not.” She had no patients for it, but he had been the only person to apply that didn’t look completely creepy. Besides her husband had told her about him in his letters, but she doubted he knew that.
James sat for a moment. It was, and it may be better than roughing it. Besides that he was intrigued by this woman, and the land. “I’m in.”