An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Two

Return to Chapter One

Hedda Burgemeister, January 1915

Returning again and again and again, the nightmare is unbearable. Seared in her mind, the vivid images haunt her even in daylight.  

Leon Johnson continues to stare at her. But when Sheriff Tobin slips down the black hood, it is Hedda who is plunged into claustrophobic darkness. She senses hundreds of eyes trained upon her as he tightens the rope around her neck. 

Dr. Herff said the condemned young man gripped a cross in his right hand and thanked everyone for giving him a fair trial. Hedda, though, finds herself teetering on the trap door with no cross in her hand and no thanks to offer. 

As before, the instant the sheriff reaches for the lever, she jerks. She trembles at the possibility of dangling from the rope, strangling as a vindictive crowd cheers her death. 

As the hack slows, Hedda asks the driver to wait at the entrance to the lane. She directs her gaze toward the arched entryway of Mission Cemetery. Compelled onward, yet repulsed at the thought of visiting his final resting place.

After all she has been through in the past three months, she still cannot comprehend she killed him. She must see the actual grave of Otto Koehler. 

A few steps through the cemetery gates, she spies it. The obelisk soaring up out of the ground halts her in her tracks. It towers above every marker in the vicinity. Just as his house and his brewery are larger and grander than any others in San Antonio. 

Emmy is right. Hedda has no chance of a fair trial in this city. 

The anonymous note hurled through her window insinuates she will receive no trial at all. No opportunity to defend herself. 

They cannot lock her up as the royals of Saxony threatened to do to Madame Toselli. This is America. 

But here, beer is king. And the beer baron’s widow wants the story to disappear from page one.

Hedda could be condemned to the insane asylum. Silenced forever.

Hedda turns and runs back to the hack, determined to keep running. Somewhere. Anywhere. 

Maybe home. Maybe home to Germany. Back to doing what she is trained to do. Back to saving lives. 

War always generates work for nurses.

Bleeding soldiers never ask for references.

Footnotes

Otto Koehler is interred under an obelisk at Mission Cemetery. As Koehler was among the early residents of the relatively new cemetery, the obelisk stood out more prominently when first erected than it does today amidst a crowd of monumental markers honoring some of San Antonio’s formerly affluent denizens. According to later court testimony, Hedda Burgemeister received a threatening note following the brewmeister’s demise.

During times when divorces were regarded as scandalous, Louisa Toselli went through two. Her first husband was the Crown Prince of Saxony. While the publication of her “own story” in 1911 was ill-received by the Saxon royal family, it was a sensation elsewhere. The Hedda in this book will tell you she read the tell-all book, and possibly the autobiography truly did find its way to the real Hedda’s bookshelf.   

Of course, the Author knows Hedda sounds exactly like Scarlett O’Hara heading home to Tara. She tried to convince Hedda to alter her thinking process, but Hedda was too headstrong to pay attention. Please accept the Author’s apologies on her behalf, and the Author is fairly certain no other trite “Gone-with-the-Wind”-isms have squirmed their way into these pages.

The Author convinced herself you will welcome a lengthy flashback to a time before Otto Koehler met his maker. It is unfair to kill off a character before he is introduced properly. Beginning with the next chapter, this story unfolds chronologically.

Continue to Chapter Three

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