Civil War Transcendence, part 377

 

After talking with Major Mosby, I rode leisurely back to the Harpers Ferry livery stable.  Entering the stable, I heard Stonewall give me a long trumpeted whinny of a welcome. I dismounted John Lee’s horse and gave him a pat on the neck for his help. I shrugged off John Lee’s coat and hat, and grabbing an empty pail, I went to the pump outside the livery and pumped up some water for John Lee’s horse and Stonewall.

Returning to the stable I let John Lee’s horse drink some, but not too much, of the spring water and gave the rest to Stonewall, who seemed to enjoy the elixir.

I had a meditation session with Stonewall in which I told him our plan and that he would be very important in the implementation of it.

Grabbing John Lee’s coat and hat, I wormed my way back to the rear door of the hotel and, upon entering, saw John Lee standing guard in the lobby with an eye on the stairs leading up to the guest rooms.

He nodded when I came from the hotel back door into the lobby. I handed him his clothes and took back my coat and hat, which he had been wearing. After we had exchanged coats and hats to the befuddlement of the desk clerk, I said, “Let’s go see tha ladies.”

John Lee nodded, and we hit the stairs to the third floor.  Once we were in front of Mrs. Douglas and Hattie’s room, I gently knocked on the door and said in a low voice, “Daphne, it’s me and John Lee.”

I heard a “praise tha Lord” from the inside of the room, and when the door opened, a raven haired bundle of energy rushed into my arms.

Daphne buried her face into my chest and said in a muffled voice, “I am so glad yore here.”

“Me too,” I returned.

Looking over Daphne’s head at Mrs. Douglas and Hattie, I revealed, “We have a plan that is being implemented as we speak.”

Daphne jerked backwards to look at me and released the chest crushing hug she had instituted on my body. For such a small girl, she is one strong hugger.

“What plan?” she demanded.

“Well, we have outriders from the cavalry camp dressed as local men on horseback distributing themselves along the Halltown Road and the River Road, plus the Sharpsburg Road across the Potomac from Sandy Hook northward for about two miles,” I explained. I further informed them, “They’re riding out separately and then getting behind cover so they can view tha roads for any snipers. That way, they can confront any suspicious person they encounter, plus be ready to close in on a sniper that takes a potshot at us.”

“That’s crazy, Jim. Yore just asking to be shot at,” Daphne declared, which got a lot of affirmative nods from the other ladies.

“Yep, I sure am. In fact tha men are not to keep tha sniper from firing on us, but to try and capture him after he has taken his shot,” I clarified.

I stopped iterating my plan to view the reactions to its revelation so far. The ladies were regarding me as some brainless idiot that had one too many smacks to the head, and John Lee had a concerned look on his face. Once I had witnessed their reactions, I started to grin, which then led to laughter.

“Daphne cocked her eye at me and demanded, “Okay, what’s so funny?”

“I just thought yar responses were humorous,” I answered.

“Jim, I don’t want to be used as bait with the possibility of being shot,” she declared, which brought a series of amen’s from the ladies and a nodded confirmation from John Lee.

“Well, Daphne, not only are ya possibility gonna get shot at. Yore gonna get killed,” I added with finality.

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 376

“Well, at least we know he’s out there. Apparently, the ones against us have graduated from face-to-face confrontations to shooting from ambush,” I uttered in a low voice to John Lee. Looking up at him, I said, “I’m so sorry to get ya into all this.”

He looked at me for a long time and then said, “I’s wich ya. I been wich ya since tha night at Ferry Hill when ya kilt those Yankees what was beating me and gave me that Colt pistol.”

We looked at each other for a long time, and there seemed to pass an understanding between us that we would always have each other’s back.

Finally, I just nodded and he nodded back. Then I said, “How in tarnation are we gonna get these ladies back to Shepherdstown without get ‘em killed?”

“It’s gotta be at nite,” John Lee concluded.

“I know,” I agreed. “But this killer is a really good shot. If’n we don’t get ‘im now, he’ll kill us any time he wants. He can shoot from afar with a great deal of accuracy,” I added.  After a minute I continued, “We got to get him out in tha open. We got to trick ‘im to make a move here, where we have some back up,” I insisted.

“How we gwanna do that?” John Lee said.

“I’m sorta getting an idea as to how to do it, but first I need to talk with Major Mosby,” I stated. “Could we exchange hats and coats and could ya let me ride yar horse to tha cavalry camp?” I gushed.

“Yeah,” he answered with a quizzical expression on his face.

“And if’n ya could hang around downstairs and not let anyone with a silver heart on his hat band go up tha stairs to tha third floor, I would appreciate it,” I requested.

“I will,” he vowed.

“Great,” I responded and began to take off my hat and coat.

John Lee followed suit, and after he dismounted and we exchanged wardrobes, I mounted his horse much to the chagrin of Stonewall, who whinnied loudly his disapproval.

I looked at him and vowed, “This is only for this one ride, I promise.”

This brought a disgusted snort from my animal spirit guide, but I could see he acquiesced for this one venture.

I rode John Lee’s mount out of the stable at a leisurely trot, and once I had reached the edge of town, I kicked the cayuse into high gear. John Lee’s mount wasn’t as easy to ride as Stonewall, but he could really stretch out when galloping.

We made it to the cavalry camp in no time, but the guard didn’t recognize me, due to my different clothing and hat. I was stopped and made to wait before Major Mosby personally came to the guard post and ordered the guards to allow me to enter the camp.

Once we were out of earshot of the guard post, I gave him the complete information about the sniper and that he had been sighted today.

He listened with interest and then asked, “What cha have in mind?”

After I laid out my plan, he took a few minutes to consider my strategy.

Then he said, “It might work. How many do ya need?”

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 375

 

John Lee and I retired to the back of the hotel, while the ladies climbed the stairs to Mrs. Douglas and Hattie’s room.

Once at the back door, I said, “We need to get out of here without being seen by this killer. He probably knows both of us by sight, so let’s split up and go to tha livery stable separately to get our horses. Since we may be getting there at different times, why don’t ya go to tha top of Bolivar Heights and look for tha best vantage points for a sniper to cover tha road to Halltown or tha River Road? I’ll go across to tha Maryland side and check out the road from Sandy Hook north to Sharpsburg.”

John Lee nodded, and we exited the back of the hotel to an alleyway behind the buildings fronting on Shenandoah Street. John Lee went left, which was south, and I went right, which was north.

I stayed in the alley and proceeded to where it ended north of the hotel and emptied into a street angling back to the west.  Although it was out of the way, I turned and followed this new street. Keeping close to any buildings and under any porches they provided, I quickly walked about two blocks before I turned and headed south toward the livery stable.

I frequently looking over my shoulder for anyone paying close attention to me, but no one seemed to pay me any mind.  I saw John Lee leave the livery as I approached. He waved, and I waved back as he headed out for Bolivar Heights.

Stonewall must have been expecting me. His head was sticking out the top part of his stall door, and he let loose with one of his famous whinnies when I entered the livery. He could sense my mood of urgency and possible danger, for he was quivering all over while I saddled him.

The alien said he was my animal spirit guide. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I know our relationship was unique. I also know that I consider him a friend.

Once I brought him out of the stall, I swung up into his saddle. I had to rein him in because he wanted to burst out of the building like a rocket.  Keeping a firm grip on the reins, I stroked his neck and said, “Gently, my friend. We don’t want people to take any notice of us. We are just gonna meander around and go for a ride to see if we can either sight tha sniper, who wants to kill us, or find tha shooting positions he could use.”

I swear Stonewall quit his high-spirited antics and became as docile as an old mule.

I grinned from ear to ear and said, “That’s it, boy. You got tha right mood.”

Stonewall snorted, and I nudged him to proceed. He began a slow walk out of the barn, and as we maneuvered toward the bridge across the Potomac, we appeared to be just your regular local citizen on his horse heading toward Maryland.

Continuing the laissez-faire attitude, I directed Stonewall to the entrance of the railroad and wagon bridge that crosses into Maryland. However, I stopped him short of the bridge entrance, took off my hat and wiped sweat off the inside of my hat band while looking up at Maryland Heights located on the other side of the Potomac. Continuing the visible recon, I scanned the precipice from its beginning, near the bank of the Potomac, north along the narrow road to Sharpsburg. I concluded that there were, at least, twenty five places that would accommodate a great vantage point for a sniper. However, I didn’t see anyone lurking on the face of the bluff.

Finally, I put on my hat, shook my head, turned Stonewall around, and headed back to the hotel. Taking Stonewall back to the livery stable, I unsaddled him and said, “I hope John Lee had more success than we did.”

He snorted his reply.

I waited for about 30 minutes and ran out of patience. I patted Stonewall on the neck and said, “I’ll be back to feed ya.”

Turning to the opening of the livery, I began walking to the entrance, when John Lee trotted into the building from the opening on the other end.

He trotted his cayuse up to me and said, “I catched a glimpse of a man sittin on a black horse at the nawth end of Bolivar Heights. He’s a-lookin’ down at Harpers Ferry, but he seemed as still as death. If his hawse hadn’t moved once or twice, I’d figured him for a statue.”

“Sounds like our man,” I concluded. “Did he see ya?” I queried.

John Lee thought for a moment and then said, “He didn’t act like he seen me, but he must have felt me looking at ‘im, ‘cause he gently nudged his horse and rode off toward tha River Road.

“I bet he saw me looking at Maryland Heights,” I determined.

 

 

 

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 374

I looked at Hattie, who had a grim expression on her face.

“Sound familiar?” I probed.

“Yeah,” she said.  As all the eyes at the table shifted to her, she added, “Must be tha rifleman what won tha shooting prize many years ago over in Maryland.”

“And probably tha sniper that killed Marshall Wells on German Street a few months ago,” I suggested.

“What does that mean?” Mrs. Douglas said in a breathless voice.

“It means that we could be shot from ambush anywhere on tha road and never know what hit us,” I explained.

Mrs. Douglas gasped. Daphne turned white. Hattie coldly nodded in agreement, while John Lee’s eyes glazed over. He seemed to be lost in thought.

“This nefarious stranger’s presence changes things,” I stated. Getting everyone’s attention, I continued, “We have to find a way to trick this assassin because I know that he will be waiting on us between Harpers Ferry and Shepherdstown. His presence at our wedding reception indicates that he was checking out a few things.”

“What things?” Daphne asked.

“How many of us would be returning to Shepherdstown for one thing,” I discerned. “Also, how strong our family ties were, for another,” I added. “But the one thing he doesn’t know is by which road we will be traveling. He will have to be observing us when we leave this morning to get that information,” I insinuated.

“I understand what ya said except for family ties. What did ya mean by that?” Daphne inquired.

I turned to face her and answered, “Well, he found out there is some type of family division in tha Newcomer family. The full weight of the family power would not fall on anyone if you, Mrs. Douglas or I were killed.”

This seemed to shock Daphne. She looked stricken with worry and fear. Since she was sitting next to me, I took her hand in mine. She grabbed my hand in both of hers and gave me a terrified look.

I whispered, “Liebchen, don’t worry. I’ll get ‘im before he gets us.”

“But how?” she gasped.

Smiling brightly, I replied with more optimism than I really felt, “By thinking like he does and creating a plan to thwart any response on his part.”

This placated her somewhat. At least she got some color back into her features, and she didn’t look like she’d seen a ghost.

“I know one thing that I’m gonna do from now on,” I declared.

“What’s that?” Daphne queried.

“I’m gonna listen more intently to ya ladies when ya are having one of y’all’s discussions. It was just by chance that I picked up on yar very important information,” I vowed.

This brought a lighter mood to the gathering. No one laughed, but the cloud of dread seemed to lift a bit.

Looking at John Lee, I stated, “I guess we better do some reconnoitering.”

He nodded his agreement.

Turning to the ladies, I suggested, “Why don’t ya ladies retire to Mrs. Douglas and Hattie’s room and wait on us?”

They all looked at each other with a glance that transmitted a barrage of information that our gender could never decode and reached a telekinetic agreement, which prompted Daphne to say, “Okay.”

My eyes bore into Daphne’s, which made her focus solely on me. Once I had her full attention, I asked, “Do ya still have yar pistol, and are ya prepared to use it?”

She gaped at me in surprise for a moment and then began to understand what I was doing. I was bestowing on her the responsibility of protecting the ladies until I returned, and she would need to be alert and ready to mete out a deadly defense if need be. Slowly, she dug deep to resurrect that iron will of hers, and as she did, she sat up straighter and composed herself.

When the transformation was complete, she declared grimly, “Yes, I’m ready.”

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 373

 

The next morning, I heard a rap on the door to our room. I came instantly awake, and pulling a Colt from under my pillow, ventured, “John Lee?”

“Yeah, it’s me,” was the answer from the other side of the door.

“I’ll meet ya down stairs in a few minutes,” I said.

I heard John Lee’s footsteps as he made his way toward the second floor landing.

Daphne stirred and wearily asked, “It isn’t time to get up, is it?”

“Yep, it is,” I returned.

“But we just got to sleep,” she whined.

“Yep, we did,” I laughed.

She giggled and said, “Okay. I’ll get up.”

We both vacated the bed and got dressed for our journey to Shepherdstown. Going across the hall, we gingerly stepped on the window glass strewn over the floor while we accumulated our clothes and possessions. Pulling the top sheet off the bed, we dumped the glass refuse on the floor and utilized the bed to pack Daphne’s bags and boxes. Once we finished, we transferred the baggage to the room we had confiscated for the night, locked the door and went down stairs to find John Lee.

When we entered the lobby, we were flabbergasted that Mrs. Douglas and Hattie were already awake and in the lobby waiting on us with John Lee. We greeted the assembly of fellow travelers and discovered our group was the only hotel guests ready to eat breakfast.  The desk clerk told us the dining room would be open momentarily, but we would have to endure no front glass windows to shield us from the elements.  We nodded our acceptance of the consequences from the rogue tornado and stood in silence until Daphne boldly asked Mrs. Douglas, “What name did William say would be the name of our baby?”

I was so surprised by Daphne’s question that I had no time to stifle Mrs. Douglas’ reply of, “Jamie Lee.”

Hattie, John Lee and I stood with our mouths open in astonishment, while Daphne grinned from ear to ear and nodded her approval.

I gave Daphne a “there ain’t no way” look, but she just raised her eyebrows and, much to my alarm, smiled inscrutably.

At just that moment, the cook came toward us and asked, “Y’all want tha helpers’ table in tha back as usual?”

I nodded that we did.  She turned and marched toward the small room. We followed and evaluated the main dining room as we moved to the back of the building. The dining room had been cleaned of all the glass and furniture debris. However, there weren’t as many tables as normal and the front windows were missing, which allowed wind to send dust to mingle with any food stuffs on the tables.  I was grateful that we would be ensconced in a windowless room for breakfast.  Food tastes much better without a layer of grit.

Breakfast proceeded without any mishap. John Lee and I ate in silence while we were privy to stories about the guests who attended the wedding and reception. It never ceases to amaze me the conclusions that women reach from the minute nuances of individual tones of voice, facial expressions and body language.  I was amused by the whole pantheon of human frailties, vanities and dispositions that were provided for our edification.

All the amusement ended when Daphne described a man who came through the reception line with features like an eagle, holding a brown hat with a silver heart on the hat band.

I suddenly demanded, “When did he come through tha line?”

Daphne was surprised with my adamant question. “He came through when ya went in tha dining room to talk with Tom. Ya were gone for just a moment,” she explained.

“Did ya see him again?” I snapped.

“Not that I remember,” she answered in a fearful voice. “What’s wrong?” she asked as all eyes at the table became fixed on me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 372

 

When I showed up in the hotel lobby, the desk clerk fixed me with a bewildered stare. He seemed to want to ask what I was doing down here when I had this beautiful wife in a room upstairs, but was afraid to do so.

I gave him an embarrassed smile and walked out on the front porch of the hotel.  The wind had picked up, and dark clouds were beginning to gather overhead.  Suddenly, I heard what sounded like a train in the distance coming toward us.  The only thought that permeated my mind was “tornado.”

From the porch, I raced through the lobby and up the stairs to the second floor. I beat on our door until it was abruptly opened by Daphne, who was attired in what would have passed for the 19th century version of Victoria’s Secret apparel.

She must have been surprised by the ferociousness of my ardor, but still gave me a ‘come hither’ stare.

I quickly yelled, “Tornado’s coming. Get a robe on and get down stairs as quick as ya can into the cook’s pantry. I gotta get the rest from upstairs.”

I left as fast as I could and yelled down the hall, “John Lee, tornado’s a-comin’. Get Daphne downstairs.”

I turned and raced up the stairs and began to beat on all the doors on the third floor.  Because I didn’t know the room number for Hattie and Mrs. Douglas, I kept yelling, “Hattie, tornado’s a-comin’. We gotta get downstairs.”

I had proceeded down to the middle of the hall when, about two doors back toward the landing, a door opened, and Hattie stuck her head out in the hall.

“Whatcha want?” she cried.

“We gotta get downstairs. There’s a tornado comin’!” I shouted.

She immediately went back in the room, and a few seconds later, she emerged in the hall with Mrs. Douglas in tow. She made for the third floor landing and the stairs. Other hotel guests had vacated their rooms and were moving toward the stairs as well.

By the time I got to the third-floor landing, there were about ten people on the stairs leading from the third to the second floor. I leaned over the third floor banister and saw John Lee and Daphne on the stairs to the lobby. They were leading a charge of about eight other hotel guests

I was the last person to start down the stairs from the third floor. I herded the hotel guests down the stairs like a cow puncher; cajoling, cussing and praising them all the way.

When I hit the second floor landing, I could hear the freight train sound increasing as the nemesis of fair weather rampaged toward us. I increased my urgings until the last of the hotel patrons were in the lobby. All the guests had gathered in the lobby, which was a dangerous place to be.

I yelled, “Everyone follow me,” and began to head toward the kitchen and the cook’s pantry.

Once I made it to the kitchen, I began to push the guests into the kitchen and into the cook’s pantry until everyone was squashed together like commuters on a New York subway car.

The kitchen was the safest place in the building. It was on the back wall of the hotel, and there were no windows.  With the last of the guests crammed in the make-shift storm cellar, I stepped into the last remaining niche available and closed the kitchen door, just as glass from the front windows of the hotel was blown into the lobby and dining room like shrapnel from an exploding bomb.

Some of the shards of glass from the dining room front windows hit the kitchen door with such force that they penetrated the door about two inches.  Gratefully, none of them came completely through the door, or else, I would have been lacerated.

We heard roaring as the cyclone ripped through the town and headed off into the distance. Once the freight train noise had completely dissipated, I opened the door and warned the occupants of our panic room, “Be careful. Tha door is full of glass shards that’ll stick ya.”

I waited at the edge of the door in the darkness and helped everyone exit the kitchen. Finally I said, “If anyone knows where a lamp is located, please light it.”

After a few moments, a lamp was lit in the lobby, and then a few more were illuminated in quick sequence.  The hotel patrons were in shock at the destruction of the lobby. Glass shards had pierced the furniture and the front of the desk register.

As the last of the people filed out of the kitchen, Daphne appeared, and when she saw me, she ran into my arms.

I hugged her to me, and seeing John Lee behind her, I released Daphne with my right hand and shook hands with John Lee.  “Thanks,” I said. He just smiled and nodded.  I looked down and saw that Daphne had evacuated our room so swiftly that she had failed to put on any shoes, so I picked her up in my arms to prevent any foot lacerations.

We began to survey the destruction to the hotel, which wasn’t as bad as I had originally thought it would be.  Windows were blown out of the front of the hotel, and trees were down close to the Potomac, but that was about the extent of the damage. While many of the guests milled around the lobby or went to check out their rooms, I carried Daphne upstairs.

Our room window had been blown out, and glass was strewn all over the bed and floor. I set Daphne down in the hallway to prevent any foot cuts. Once I had lit the lamp in our room, which had been knocked over but not broken, I retrieved her shoes, which she quickly put on.

John Lee peeked out from his room down the hall and reported that his room hadn’t been damaged. I waived an okay. He waived back and closed his door for the night.

Daphne came into the room, closed the door and sighed dejectedly. Revealing her erotic choice of nightwear, she said, “Well, I guess we’ll never have that last night of frolic, will we?”

“Wanna bet? Wait here!” I commanded.

I ran down the stairs as swift as a thoroughbred race horse and returned with a key to an empty room across the hall. Turning the key in the lock, I picked up a giggling Daphne Hager and kicked open the door to our newly-anointed frolic room to the amazement of the meandering second floor hotel patrons.

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Civil War Transcendence, part 371

Once the dessert was wolfed down by the ladies and John Lee, I proposed that we all turn in. We would be up at the crack of dawn to begin our trek back to Shepherdstown in the morning.

Reluctantly, everyone rose from the table and ambled back upstairs to the upper landings of the hotel.  As we began the climb to the second landing, Daphne tried to get next to Mrs. Douglas, but Hattie had positioned herself at Mrs. Douglas’ elbow as if she were at the beck and call of the so-called prophetess.

Daphne and I were behind the two ladies, and they were chatting away about Mrs. Douglas’ deceased husband William.  Daphne leaned forward trying to hear the conversation, but apparently, she could only catch snatches of what was said.

At the second landing, the two ladies continued up to their room on the third floor, and we turned down the hall to go to our room. However, once we got a few steps down the hall, I turned to John Lee, who had been behind me and asked, “Could ya see tha ladies safely to their room?”

He nodded and turned back to be the body guard for Hattie and Mrs. Douglas.

I added, “Tha room down tha hall from us is still yours for tha night. We need to get up at dawn, so if ya get up before I do, please wake me.”

Again, he nodded.

Daphne and I proceeded down the hall, and I opened the door to our room. We walked in, and Daphne quickly lit the two lamps that provided adequate illumination for the meager room.

Turning abruptly she demanded, “Why didn’t ya want to know what my cousin learned from tha spirit of her husband about our baby’s name?”

I was so shunned at her outburst that I just looked at her for a few seconds to recover.  Then I answered, “’Cause I don’t believe it.”

“Why not?” she demanded.

“Because I have helped spirits that were trapped on earth move to tha Other Side, and I don’t remember them being able to appear in dreams to tha living,” I explained.

The answer made her gasp. She looked at me with a tinge of fear and stammered, “Y, y, ya’re a spiritualist?”

I took a deep breath and answered, “No, but, once I used to receive words about tha spirits of soldiers killed in battle, which I turned into poems. Some of tha poems created such an emotional burden that I employed a spiritual medium to help me find out what tha problem was. We didn’t solve my problem, but we did release soldiers stuck in an in-between realm to move to their just rewards. It was very gratifying to help them.”

As I related my spiritual experience, Daphne’s demeanor changed from one of fearfulness to one of astonishment and tenderness. She walked across the room and entwined her arms around me.

I wrapped her in a gentle embrace. I could feel her crying and ask, “What’s tha matter?”

“Nothing,” she sputtered. “It just seems that each day I get to see another part of you, and I am amazed at tha wonderful things you have experienced in one lifetime,” she added.

I was moved by her devotion, but felt guilty that she didn’t know my true identity.

Once she had stopped weeping, I could feel her body tense as she asked, “So ya don’t believe my cousin?”

I answered, “Daphne, I don’t really know. It’s just that I’ve never heard of tha departed spirits of family members appearing to tha living in their dreams. It’s up to ya, Liebchen. I would just treat it with a grain of salt.”

I could feel her body relax in my embrace. Then she gave me a mighty hug and slyly suggested, “Ya know this will probably be the last night of our honeymoon.”

“Probably,” I agreed.

“Well, don’t cha think we need to make it memorable?” she proposed.

“I certainly do,” I granted.

She moved her lips next to my right ear and whispered, “Well, why don’t ya go downstairs for just a minute and let me get into something more comfortable?”

I gulped and stammered in a love induced stupor, “I, uh, I’ll be right back.”

I turned and walked to the door. Opening it, I looked back at the women of my dreams. She had the most devilish and wanton smile for me. I knew I was in for a night of passion and wild abandon.

I suddenly felt weak in the knees. I took a very deep breath and walked out the door.

 

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 370

 

I looked at Daphne and she looked at me. We both had stunned looks on our faces.

Turning to Mrs. Douglas, we said in unison, “What baby?”

Mrs. Douglas answered in a very nonchalant voice, “Tha one that y’all will be having. She’ll be tha spitting image of Daphne. Her name will…”

I held up my hands and uttered, “Wait, wait, wait!  Where’d ya get all this information?”

“It was William. He lets me know in dreams any extraordinary events that will occur,” she purred.

I must have looked at her like a slacked-jawed imbecile because she remarked, “I know that ya don’t believe me, but he told me when ya would show up, that ya and Daphne would fall in love, and just last night, that y’all will have a baby girl.”

I turned to look at Daphne and she was as dumb-founded as I was. Finally, her expression changed from one of shock to one of curiosity and she asked her cousin, “What was tha baby’s name?”

I immediately intervened by paraphrasing from 1st John 4:1, “Darling , let’s not test the spirits too far, okay?”

Daphne looked at me and frowned. Mrs. Douglas shrugged. I looked at Hattie, who was looking at Mrs. Douglas as if she were the herald of the Second Coming. John Lee was nodding and smiling from ear to ear.

I looked back at Daphne and her expression was now one of being thwarted a very important fact that she wanted to know. I gave her a pleading look, which made her roll her eyes.

Mrs. Douglas’ bombshell sort of brought all conversation to a close. I could tell that the ladies were just waiting for a chance to get Mrs. Douglas alone and pump her for information.  I understood that I couldn’t stop it and also that I would be excluded from any and all of the pertinent spiritual palaver that had occurred between Daphne’s cousin and her deceased husband.

I sighed and turning to John Lee asked, “How long do ya think it will take us to load up tomorrow?”

He thought a moment and answered, “Probably less than an hour.”

I smiled and added, “Great. We should be in Shepherdstown by nightfall.”

The ladies never heard our exchange. All their eyes were on Mrs. Douglas, who was enjoying her sudden importance of being a messenger to the spirits.

The cook broke the silent adoration of the ladies when she entered our small dining room and asked, “Apple or blueberry pie?”

As if coming back to consciousness from a coma, the ladies blinked and began to give their dessert orders.  I opted for another cup of coffee.

Finally, Daphne asked her cousin, “Does William come to ya quite often?”

I gave her a stern expression, but she quickly stuck out her tongue and turned to wait for Mrs. Douglas’ answer. So much for being the head of the household.

Looking at Daphne, Mrs. Douglas confessed, “Not really. He only started to talk to me…” at this moment she paused in her explanation and turned her head to look at me before continuing, “just before you arrived.”

I was taken back by this revelation. My eyes opened wide at the possible characterization of my arrival being an infectious event.  All eyes were on me as I answered in an offhanded way, “Really.” Then I continued to sip my coffee.

The arrival of the pie broke the charged atmosphere of the tiny enclosed space. Everyone heartily plunged into their dessert choice, except for John Lee, who still continued to look at me with a curious expression. Reluctantly he broke his gaze and began to eat his pie.

While they continued eating, I surreptitiously analyzed all the dinner meal participants out of the corner of my eye and marveled at how each one had been instrumental in helping me to survive on this earth. They might think of me as an evil omen, but I loved each one and considered them a member of my family.

 

 

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 369

 

We galloped into town at the double quick, as we use to say in Civil War Reenactments, which seemed like a million years ago and literally in a galaxy far, far away.

I halted Stonewall in front of the hotel and jumped down out of the saddle. I saw the backs of a squad of cavalry men just turning the corner, at the far end of the street, opposite to the direction from which I had come. I guessed that Colonel Daniels had already instituted a form of Martial Law until the town could elect another town marshal.

I bounded up the stairs to the second floor and found Daphne with Hattie Gray and Mrs. Douglas, hard at work packing my new bride’s paraphernalia. John Lee stood at one end of the room with a dazed look on his face, but ready to do any manual labor required at a moment’s notice.

Daphne drew her hand across her face and fixed a strand of hair behind her right ear. She was all aglow with the process of packing and she looked adorable. If I could have gotten away with it, I would have crossed the room, pulled into an embrace, and kissed her until she yelled for mercy. However, that was not an available prerogative at the present time.

Daphne saw me, gave me a quick smile and said, “Tha clothes packing is done. We just need to get everything in tha carriage now.”

Not taking anything for granted, I turned to Hattie and Mrs. Douglas and asked, “May we go back to Shepherdstown with ya?”

The two ladies looked at each other, and Mrs. Douglas said, “Of course, John Lee will drive us in my carriage back to Shepherdstown.”

I bowed and said, “We thank ya so much.”

Mrs. Douglas smiled and so did Hattie.

I ventured, “Do ya and Hattie have a room for tha night here in tha hotel?”

“Yes, we are sharing a room on tha third floor,” she informed me.

I nodded and thought, “I betcha that makes for quite a different cohabitation, a blue nose aristocrat and a yeoman farm woman.” I was able not to show any surprise at the amazing information, which led me to mentally pat myself on the back.

“Well, ladies, ya have performed a miracle of rapid packaging, wrapping and boxing,” I uttered in admiration.

Daphne smiled and said, “If it hadn’t been for John Lee, I don’t believe we could have gotten all tha cases and boxes closed.”

I looked at John Lee, who smiled and sort of rolled his eyes. I smiled back and then said, “Well is everyone ready to eat supper?”

The ladies all looked surprised, but finally after they had shared a glance at each other that holds an enormous amount of information that we men will never understand, the consensus was favorable for supper.

It was then that I broached a taboo subject. “I hope y’all don’t mind eating in tha kitchen with Daphne, John Lee and me.”

Mrs. Douglas nearly choked. Hattie looked shunned. Daphne gave me a “I’m gonna shoot you when I get you alone” look. I didn’t even look at John Lee.  I knew he was embarrassed, but this was one part of my plan to get him away from Mrs. Douglas and in my employ.

To alleviate the situation, Daphne piped in, “Auntie, tha quarters are cramped, I admit, but we get better service and tha food is hotter.”

Mrs. Douglas sighed and said, “Alright. Let’s get to it. I’m hungry.”

With that last declaration, we all trooped down to the kitchen. The cook looked at our gaggle and just shook her head. We followed her to the employee table, and even though we were cramped, we all fit in around the table. I put John Lee between me and Daphne.

It was an awkward few moments, but momentarily I asked, “Mrs. Douglas, do ya know where Daphne and I could take up residence in Shepherdstown?”

She looked at me with a shocked expression and said, “I thought it was settled. Y’all are gonna stay with me? At least until tha baby comes.”

I nearly fell out of my chair.

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 368

The Mentor smiled and looked expectantly. The Assistant frowned and looked dubious.  I took it as an omen.

“Y’all said something about raiding Washington City?” I questioned.

They both nodded simultaneously.

“What’s yar plan?” I requested.

“We thought you might be able to provide a plan that we could enhance as needed for its successful conclusion,” the Mentor suggested.

“Uh-huh,” I responded in a sarcastic voice. “So, I gotta do all tha figuring out how to make this work?” I carped.

“Jim, we are used to enlisting local inhabitants to execute very important actions that will spawn a change in the political, cultural and social fabric of a country. We can provide the results of any action based upon the dictates of the plan. That’s why we suggest the best possible action, and you provide the plan for implementing that action. Once you give us your plan, we can plot the end results based on the myriads of information we have archived. As I stated before, the proposed action of raiding Washington can possible lead to the North suing for peace. We believe you are the only one that can direct and survive the raid successfully. We are here to help, but we definitely need your input,” the Mentor explained.

I looked at the two aliens for a long moment digesting what the Mentor said.

Finally, I said, “Sir, a long time ago I did a very hurried study of tha protecting forts around Washington City. I don’t remember any of thar positions, tha armament or tha number of soldiers in each fortification.”

As an afterthought, I added, “Also, I don’t have tha expertise to conduct a raid.”

“Jim, you displayed every attribute necessary for a great cavalry commander on the ambush of the Union force that came out of Boonsboro and the raid on Frederick City. You definitely have the qualifications, and we can supply the information in regard to the forts around Washington City,” the Mentor contended.

“Okay, what kind of deadline are we under?” I responded.

U.S. Capitol, Civil War era

“We need for the raid to be implemented in the next six weeks. After that, the action of the Union forces in Georgia and Tennessee will negate any action we would take in Virginia and Washington City,” answered the Mentor.

“Okay. I need to get to Shepherdstown and work on tha plan. Can ya provide protection for Daphne and our helpers, while we travel nawth, plus our friends when we get therah?” I asked.

“Yes, we can do that,” the Mentor promised.

“Okay, I’m going back to tha hotel and get us packed and on tha road,” I declared. “Can ya provide tha necessary information about tha forts in some kind of clandestine way,” I asked.

Both the Mentor and the Assistant nodded.

“When will I see ya again?” I asked.

“When you have the plan ready, all you have to do is say out loud that we need to meet,” he informed.

I cocked a scrutinizing eye his way and said, “How close are ya gonna monitor us?”

He raised his hands in a calming gesture and stated, “Not that close.”

I looked at the Assistant and added, “Make sure ya don’t.”

San Cirr Ray slyly smiled at me, which produced a wicked leer due to her elven facial features.

I began to feel a deep-seated anger, but before it could manifest itself, Kann Mer Ray promised, “Your family’s privacy will not be violated.”

Then he looked at his assistant with a reproachful glance. She immediately looked down at the ground and didn’t challenge his authority.

I went to Stonewall, grabbed what acted as a saddle horn and swung myself into the saddle. Once my feet were in the stirrups, I pulled my hat down to fit snuggly on my head. Then I gave a nod to Kann Mer Ray. He nodded back. I clicked at Stonewall and we took off like a shot.

San Cirr Ray watched as the Earthling rode away. Then she looked at the ageless Director of the Earthen Project and asked, “Can he be trusted?”

“I don’t know, but he is the last hope for this Earth to attain peace without more bloodshed, and we need the peace to prevent the decimation of a whole American generation,” he replied.

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