Caught | iii

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With dawn, Nerina left Dmitri to go to ground. When she rose, there would be a trail for her to follow. That was their way. While the sun was up Dmitri and his family traveled to the next campsite or a nearby town for supplies. They never stayed longer than a day and never mingled with the locals. All who saw them knew they were gypsies and guarded their purses. The popular consensus was that all gypsies were thieves and silver-tongued charlatans. They could sell you back your own soul and make a profit.

It was late evening before they arrived at the next village on the outskirts of the main town. The unpaved streets lay mostly deserted though the sun was yet to set. Dmitri's mother, Oana, a fervent Roman Catholic reached for the golden cross hanging from a slender gold chain around her neck. The quiet strained like a thin veil covering the town as they walked through the streets looking for a shop or a tavern.

Only one tavern had its door open. Inside the owner was hastily flipping over chairs on the tables. He almost jumped over one when he turned and saw the family standing at the opening of the door. He looked at them, knew they were gypsies. His first thought had been to send them on their way but the look on his face changed to one of conflicted concern.

"We seek food," Bogdan the main patriarch of the family said without pause. The Detola's were no strangers to condemnation.

"Seek it elsewhere," the man said, turning back to flipping over the chairs. They were strangers in a village they had no sense walking about in when the sun was going down.

"Our women and children—"

"Would be safer locked away, not wondering around this godforsaken village," the man quickly added.

A stout middle-aged woman came through a door from an adjoining room. She was about to say something to the man when she stopped slack jawed looking at the family.

"Where is your manners you old loon?" she asked sternly when she gathered her own, wiping her hands in her apron. Where the man had been edgy the woman was nervous her hands slightly shaking. She went over to the family nonetheless pulling them inside, bolting the locks on the door and dropping a thick piece of board across it. Her smile faltered though she did her best to hold it in place.

"This is Henry, call me Matilda. Henry, get the windows. Drop some chairs." As she instructed him, Matilda was dropping chairs around the longest table where the entire family could sit.

"I am Bogdan, this is my family," he nodded towards the group.

"Nice to meet you." Though her voice was polite, it shook. Matilda glanced over at her husband before looking back at the group. "Soup. You look like you could use some soup. Vegetables? We have fresh vegetables I can make you all soup. Fresh bread straight from the oven this morning too."

"Night's coming Matilda." There was a tone of warning in her husband's voice.

"And our guests are hungry," she bit back.

The man's lips went thin with the dismissal. "We shouldn't be having any guests this time of night," Henry grumbled miserably, "get us all killed."

"Hush." Matilda all but threw a chair at her husband.

"Don't tell me hush woman," he said, shaking his fist.

"We do not wish to inconvenience you," Dmitri said with a polite smile for the bickering couple. There was some under currents there. The same they had felt walking through the deserted streets of the little village. For once, it had nothing to do with them.

"No, no, sit. Soup."

The woman disappeared through the door she had come through without another word. Dmitri and his family sat looking around the table at each other. The exchange had not passed them, neither had what the old man said about them all getting killed.

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