Author’s Note: A bit more of the historical to help people decide.
“She’s not your wife.”
“Of course not. I’m not married,” Robert said, and then he frowned, wondering if he was hallucinating again. He had seen some horrible things on the front lines, and he’d seen some impossible things as well, the ones that haunted his dreams and even at times his waking hours. Shell-shock, they called it, but he dared not voice its name, not when he stood to lose so very much by the mere admission of such a malady. “What do you mean she’s not my wife?”
“She writes as though she was,” his father went on, and Robert felt himself succumb to old hatred, angry enough to hurt the other man. He did not want to do it, but he did not know that he could control himself as he once had. His father had been far too comfortable with the role of family patriarch, tending to treat the family and all their holdings as his private empire, never having much tolerance for those who would think for themselves.
“You read my mail again?”
“This letter alleges that you and she spent a rather significant amount of time together. It would seem that she believed you courted her.”
“Father, I have only recently left the hospital, and before that I was on the front line. I am not courting anyone, but even if I were, it is no affair of yours. Give me my letter.”
“You are in no place to order me about.”
“Tampering with the mail is illegal, and that includes opening my letters,” Robert said, using his good arm to snatch the papers from his father. The old man glared at him, and he wondered how long it was before another threat of disinheritance came. He would not care, not if he were in good health and mental state, but at present, he did not think that he could afford to annoy his father, not to the point he would have before he was drafted.
He sat down, reading over the words, starting over again and again, as though the script would change. Nothing altered—not a word, not a loop, not the slant of that feminine hand—and he found himself shaking his head. “Impossible.”
“Then you deny knowing this woman.”
“I already said that.” Robert shifted in his seat, placing the papers in his lap so that he could use his one arm to maneuver the one that was half-dead onto the chair where it could remain until he regained feeling in it. He had dreams sometimes of the surgeons telling someone to amputate, that the arm was gone, but then he always heard his father’s voice refusing to let it happen.
No son of his could be a cripple.
“Then explain to me how she wrote you as though she knew everything about you. These details of your childhood—”
“I do not know how she came by them, but unless I wanted to be in front of an execution squad for desertion, I would not have been able to be with this woman. You know that. I know that. Have the army send you my records if you need further proof. I am certain you have the money to get them,” Robert said, shaking his head. The part that bothered him was the reference that his father had pointed out—a story he supposed could be common to many boys with his heritage.
He had always hated bearing the same name as his father, though everyone called him RJ or Boss, and he’d gone around trying to convince everyone not to call him Robert or John or Winston for over two years before he understood how much influence his father had. Still, that could hardly be that unique of a tale.
Other boys must have given false names as a lark if nothing else.
He gathered the letter up in his hand, forcing himself out of the chair. “I will write back to her. If this is some kind of plan to trap me for money, it will not work. However, if there is someone using my name to take advantage of women, I must find him and stop him.”
His father snorted. “As if you could do anything to anyone in your condition.”
“You rather tempt me to prove otherwise, Father. I think it is best that I leave now.”