“Thank you all for taking the time to come here today and for listening to our concerns. I’m sure I’ve missed many important issues, so I would like to turn this megaphone over to Mrs. Helen Sanborn and Mrs. Susan Mills, two of the leading ladies in our march for the right to vote!”
As Marta handed the megaphone to Helen, a roar went up from the crowd accompanied by hundreds of clapping hands. Marta blinked and looked back at the audience. Surely this isn’t meant for me, she thought. Helen sensed her surprise. “Good speech,” she offered with a satisfied smile.
Lillie threw her arms around Marta. “Good. Hell, Marta, that was terrific. You had them eating out of your hand.”
As Marta stepped back to make room for Helen, she looked at the crowd once more. Her heart pumped with pleasure at her small triumph, and she wanted to memorize the moment. But when she scanned the audience, one face caught her eye. It belonged to an odd-looking, angular man, whose shabby hat and ill-fitted suit gave him the appearance of a clown. The face was scarred on one side. It was the kind of scar one might receive from a fire. Marta blinked in shock. Her eyes misted and blurred her vision. Memories roared through her mind, memories of a dangerous man who had twice held her in his grasp. Both times, she’d escaped, and both times she thought he’d died. The first incident occurred in Chinatown when he somehow saved himself from the flames of the fire destroying the city. The second time, she had watched him blown to pieces by an explosion. Except, she hadn’t actually seen him die. He’d disappeared behind a row of hedges moments before the explosion erupted, but everyone agreed it was impossible for anyone to have survived. Now, she feared he had. Somehow, he’d resurrected himself, she was certain of it, and the thought sent a dagger of fear slicing through her heart.
Marta wiped the moisture from her eyes and looked again. The man was gone. The slight breeze she’d found so welcoming in the heat now chilled the back of her neck as she frantically searched the crowd near where he’d stood. There was no sign of him. Her world was suddenly spinning so fast she had to grasp Lillie’s arm to keep her balance. Had she imagined him? Surely, she had. Or seen someone who reminded her of that terrifying man.
“Darlin’, are you okay? You’re trembling.” Lillie rubbed her arm.
“Get me out of here,” Marta whispered. “By the back steps. I can’t face anyone right now.”
They hurried down the steps behind the platform. Marta glanced around her. Other than a few men wandering away from the gathering, the area was calm. Only Helen’s voice addressing the crowd broke the silence.
“Lillie, I have to find Byron. Please give my excuses to the ladies for leaving early. Tell them it was an emergency.” She saw the worried expression on her friend’s face and the way she looked at Marta’s stomach. “It’s not the baby.” She touched Lillie’s arm to reassure her. “It’s the man who hypnotized people before the earthquake. The man who hypnotized me. I thought I saw him in the crowd.”
Lillie’s mouth flew open. “Here? Just now?”
Marta nodded and quickly looked away. She felt like a crazy woman who’d just seen a ghost, but she knew it was worse than that. If what she saw was real, she’d just looked into the face of a demon from Hell.
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