· Final Episode (#16) ·
Deputy Tom Jennings and Yackel, his K-9 patrol dog, pulled into Adam and Rosannah Yoder’s driveway with the latest news. The German sheperd was in the backseat with the rear windows slightly down, his nose pressed to the vented window. Yackel von Baerenzwinger either recognized the farmstead or a familiar scent.
Two children playing in front of the house spotted the patrol car and ran inside to safety. Seconds later, their father, Adam, opened the front door as he was putting on his straw hat. He walked towards the vehicle with the sheriff’s star on the door before Jennings even considered exiting into the oppressive summer heat.
“Hello Adam, good to see you again,” greeted Jennings.
“Likewise, Officer Jennings,” said Adam, as he waited to learn if the deputy was a bearer of bad news.
“I’ve got some information to share, all good, I think.”
Rosannah approached the car, carrying her youngest.
“Hello, Rosannah,” said Jennings. “It’s been awhile.”
“Deputy Jennings was telling me he’s got some news to share with us,” said Adam.
“We always like good news,” offered Rosannah, watching Jennings’ face for a clue as to what kind of information he had for them. “Would you like a glass of water or tea? It’s been a long hot day.”
“That’s nice of you,” said Jennings, as he released his seat belt.
Yackel whimpered loudly.
Rosannah touched the scar on her cheek.
Jennings spoke to his four-legged partner. “Yackel, calm down, everything’s okay.”
Yackel scratched at the window with a paw, whimpered again, and sniffed the outside air. He stared at Rosannah holding her child.
“It will be cooler for us if we sit outside,” said Adam.
Rosannah handed over the child to Adam and walked towards the house.
Perspiring heavily, Jennings escaped his tangled seat belt but left the engine on so the air conditioning would keep Yackel safe from overheating.
“If you can chain your dog up then he’s welcome to sit outside with us. No need to keep your motor running,” said Adam. “Rosannah has had a fear of German shepherd’s ever since she was bitten by one as a child, but our children have about convinced her that we need a dog as a pet. I told them that if we have to feed a dog then the dog will have to work for his room and board.”
“Yackel sure earns his keep,” said Jennings, “although, when he finds illegal drugs for us he thinks it’s a game. He just wants to play with his ball.”
“Here she comes now,” said Adam.
“I’ll get Yackel if you’re sure it’s all right. I’d hate for him to frighten her.”
Before Jennings had moved, Rosannah arrived with glasses of tea.
“Rosannah, Deputy Jennings was about to get his dog from the car and show him to me. Is that acceptable to you?”
As Rosannah sat down she thought about the day so long ago when she had been viciously bitten in her face, leaving her with a life-long scar. “Will he be tied up?” she asked.
“I’ll have him on his leash. He’s trained to obey me,” replied Jennings. “If I tell him to sit, he’ll sit. If I tell him to stay, he’ll stay.”
“Yes, okay, I think I’m overdue on socializing with German shepherds. It’s been too long. Does he speak Pennsylvania Dutch?” asked a somewhat blushing but smiling Rosannah.
“I don’t know about your dialect but he knows basic commands in German. If he follows any of your orders, then he needs to go back to K-9 school. He’s been trained to only obey me and to only take food or treats from me.”
When Jennings returned with Yackel, the K-9 was straining on his line, pulling his handler towards the Yoders. Excitedly, he started barking.
Jennings yanked on his leash and yelled, “NEIN! Yackel, NO!”
Adam, holding his baby girl, instinctively stood up to protect her and Rosannah. His wife remained sitting, staring at the dog, holding both hands in front of her face like a shield.
Finally, Yackel responded to his handler, gradually calming down.
“SITZ!” yelled Jennings.
“Sorry about that,” Jennings apologized. “I have an idea what got into him. I’ll explain later.”
Adam remained standing. He was silent but Rosannah spoke up. “Maybe I’m not as ready as I thought I was to have another dog. He gave me a scare.
“Did you say you have good news to share?” she asked Jennings, changing the subject.
“Well, I’m not sure if this is good or bad news but I wanted you to be the first one I told outside of law enforcement. You remember my investigation a month ago when we first met?”
“Of course!” she laughed, relaxing. “Thanks for not taking me to jail! Although it would have given me a break from all the housework. Do the jailers permit knitting needles in the cells or are they considered deadly weapons?”
“I’ll check on that if and when you’re arrested,” replied Jennings as the ends of his lips displayed a soft smile. “But the day I was here, I thought I was going to have my military mustache shaved off by a gang of angry Amish,” joked Jennings. “Those black buggies just kept coming! I thought I was a gonner!”
Chuckling, both Rosannah and Adam enjoyed his exaggeration.
“Well,” continued the deputy, “Harley Beasley, the guy who called 911 about you allegedly stealing dirt from your ditch was arrested earlier today by our detectives.”
“What for?” asked Adam.
“For theft of county property.”
“What did he steal?” asked a curious Rosannah.
“County dirt, topsoil,” said Jennings, waiting for a look of bewilderment from both Rosannah and Adam.
He didn’t have to wait long before Rosannah, her head cocked, inquired, “County dirt from a county ditch?”
“Basically, yes. Apparently, awhile back his wife caught him cheating on her, hired an attorney, and filed for an emergency divorce. The attorney contacted our department with information about an ongoing criminal enterprise. Harley’s wife was aware that her husband, who drove truck for the Road and Bridge Department, had been stealing topsoil for years and using it in his landscaping business. The attorney’s offering his client’s testimony as a cooperating witness with an expectation that she won’t be charged or do any time.”
“That’s unfortunate about Mr. Beasley,” said Rosannah.
“Yes, we cannot rejoice but we can ask God to help him find his way,” said Adam.
Jennings could have guessed that the Yoders wouldn’t use his news as an opportunity to gloat or to find satisfaction with another person’s failings. Martin and Irene Schrock had already demonstrated to Tom about the Amish ability to quickly forgive others. Shawn Harris had nearly killed their children, Reuben and Rebecca, when he drove his truck into their horse-and-wagon, yet they had forgiven Harris before the dead equine could attract blow flies.
“Well, I have more news,” said Jennings. “I never thought that Harley Beasley would break the law but what I found out yesterday is just unbelievable! I’ve been reading some Amish history and I’ve learned a lot. One book is about the origins of the Amish religion and about the Anabaptists and how you believe in adult baptism, and about the history of persecution your people have encountered, beginning in Europe.
Adam and Rebecca glanced at one another. This ought to be interesting, thought Rosannah, an English deputy’s going to interpret our Amish history! Adam tried not to laugh, if he waited long enough everyone was an expert on the Amish. Amused, Adam imagined English Jennings giving the Sunday sermon while wearing his deputy uniform with a loaded gun on his belt. No, it wasn’t going to happen.
“I read about a document that was drafted,” stated Jennings. “It focused on being obedient children of God, separated from the world, and completely at peace. And the book mentioned the town of Schleitheim at the Swiss-German border.”
“Yes, Schleitheim,” repeated Adam. Surely, he hasn’t read Martyrs’ Mirror, Adam thought.
Jennings continued, “the name of the town looked familiar to me even though I’ve never been to Europe, or studied European history.”
With his pocket handkerchief, Jennings wiped perspiration from his face as he watched Rosannah and Adam. They waited for him to make his point. He also observed Yackel. The canine hadn’t taken his eyes off Rosannah. Then, catching a movement at the window of the house, Tom counted the faces of three inquisitive children.
“Yesterday morning, after working all night, I couldn’t get to sleep,” said Jennings. “Then I finally remembered where I’d heard of Schleitheim. I got up and reviewed the file I have on Yackel. That’s when I reexamined his certification papers. He was born and trained in Schleitheim!
“Amazing!” said Adam, leaning forward.
“Small world,” said Rosannah, while watching Yackel.
“I contacted the owner of the certified dog training business in Switzerland. His name is Peter Borntrager.
Knowing that Borntrager was Rosannah’s maiden name, Tom stopped and waited.
“Borntrager?” asked Rosannah, while staring at the big deputy.
“Yes,” replied Jennings.
“Adam, I thought there was no trace of any Borntragers left in Switzerland or Germany. I thought everyone had immigrated over here.”
“That’s been my understanding,” replied Adam, “at least the Amish Borntragers.”
Jennings reached into one of his deep and wide pockets on his duty pants and pulled out a folded paper. “I’ve copied off my brief correspondence with Peter for you to have in case you wish to contact him. He said his grandfather’s Amish settlement in Germany ended in 1937 and merged with a local Mennonite congregation.”
“Did he mention the name of his grandfather?” asked Rosannah.
“Let me see,” said Jennings as he studied his notes. “Here it is, John E. Borntrager.”
Rosannah let out a yelp, “Ohh!”
Yackel stood up, on guard.
“Peter trained Yackel?” she asked, seeking confirmation.
“Yes,” said Jennings, “that’s what he told me. Said his family has trained dogs going back centuries to the days when they were shepherds near the . . .” Again, Jennings examined his notes and said, “Schwarzbach river.”
“Yackel, come here boy!” said Rosannah, clapping her hands as she encouraged personal contact.
Yackel turned his head and checked with his handler.
Tom approved and dropped the leash.
“Come here Yackel!” ordered Rosannah. “Give your cousin a kiss!”
Yackel approached Rosannah cautiously, confused that he was being allowed, even encouraged, to get closer. He lifted his nose and again sniffed the air. He turned his head one more time and made eye contact with Tom. He had permission.
Rosannah got off her chair and kneeled on the ground. “Yackel, come over here and say hello!”
Finally, Yackel transformed from an on-duty police dog to an excited pup. He may have recognized the woman’s accent or tone of voice from his upbringing in Switzerland. But, most likely, he had confirmed the Borntrager family scent faster than DNA matching in a data base.
To Yackel, Peter and Rosannah were one. He hurried to the woman’s outstretched arms.
Hugging the German sheperd, Rosannah began to cry.
With a feeling of family familiarity, Yackel licked Rosannah’s scar and her cascading tears.
Rosannah closed her eyes. She bowed her head and thanked her god. Her tears of happiness had been bottled up since her childhood and now she was set free.
Until next time, happy writing and reading!