I told the men to remain in the tree line. I would be back in a few minutes.
As I turned to go, Skeeter and Zeke started to go with me, but I held up my hand and said, “Y’all stay here. It won’t take me a minute to do what needs to be done.”
They looked unhappy but didn’t follow me as I eased out of the woods and rode a few hundred yards north to a thicket that hid me from site.
I stopped Stonewall and said, “Alright San Cirr Ray, I need to talk with you.”
Nothing happened. I repeated myself, but again, nothing happened. Finally, I asked, “Please, may we talk?”
At first I saw a touch of green appear about five feet in front of me. Stonewall’s ears laid back, and his head came up to where he was alert from his hooves to his ears. I could feel the tightness of his muscles and being.
She completely materialized in front of us, and once Stonewall saw her, the tenseness left his body and he resumed his same old calm demeanor. For the first time I took his reaction about her to heart. If Stonewall wasn’t afraid of her, then I guess I didn’t need to be either.
She had that same ‘come hither’ look, and as usual, she giggled.
I just shook my head and then said, “I need your help.”
She mocked me by putting her hand to her chest and giving me a shocked look, while uttering, “Really? The great hero, Jim Hager, needs help?”
With a loud sigh, I muttered, “I had that coming.”
She stated, “Yes, you did.” Then she grinned and cheerfully said, “What can I do for you?”
“I need to get my men safely back to camp. I shouldn’t be doing this, but I don’t want to lose them to some Yank patrol. They have been through a lot, and they are good men. They deserve better than a prison or a cold grave in a ground not of their choosing.”
“Are you including yourself in that group?” she queried.
“No, I’m not. I don’t care what happens to me. I just need them to get back to Adamstown in one piece,” I added.
“ ‘Greater love hath no man.’ Is that it?” she jeered.
I looked at her and said solemnly, “All I’m asking for is the safety of my men. You don’t have to include me.”
“What’s in it for me?” she asked.
“I’ll listen to the proposition you wanted to offer,” I conceded.
“With both of us present?” she urged.
“Yes, but you can’t kill the Yanks,” I pushed.
“Done! When can we meet?” she pressed.
“Well, we got to complete our mission here and get back to Virginia. I can probably get a furlough, and we can meet at your convenience,” I parleyed.
“Jim Hager, don’t try to weasel out of this. I’m taking you at your word. Dire consequences will occur if you don’t keep your word,” she warned.
I gulped and said, “I give you my word, Sandy.”
She was taken aback by the familiarity of being given a nickname. Then she smiled and spoke very carefully, “Don’t try to charm me, Jim. I don’t like to be toyed with.”
I retorted, “I gave you my word, but now you know how it feels to be toyed with.”
She looked at me with eyes that felt like they were flashing daggers. Stonewall picked up his head, and I could feel the immediate tenseness in his body. He had become the epitome of a medieval charger in just a few seconds and was just waiting for my order to run the alien down.
San Cyrr Ray slowly relaxed and then acknowledged, “Touché.”
Her gleeful, wanton air was replaced by a rock hard creature. Her malice permeated the area. It felt as if she could tear me limb from limb, or obliterate my essence at the drop of a hat.
I nodded at her and both Stonewall and I regarded her as an extremely lethal entity. I don’t think Stonewall or I would ever under estimate her again.
She said, “Go back to your tribe. There will be a disturbance that will mask your movement across the pike. You will be able to safely return to your camp.”
Then with a malevolent look of sheer menace, she added, “Don’t ever take us for granted. Your word is your oath, and if you break it, you forfeit your life and the lives of your friends.”
Then she disappeared. I took a big gulp of air and whispered, “I believe I just made the biggest mistake of my life.”
Stonewall snored his affirmation.