In the parlance of my 21st Century jargon, Stonewall had arrived.
The highwayman’s horse landed on its left side, throwing the rider out of his saddle. The desperado actually arced away from his cayuse for a while, until the stirrup holding his right leg snapped him back to Mother Earth in a whiplash. He landed with a crunch that must have broken multiple bones in his body. His mount slowly rose, and once it had regained its footing, began to trot off to the north, which was opposite to the way we were going. The rider, whose right leg remained trapped in the stirrup, was dragged along like a rag doll.
I turned to see Stonewall standing in the middle of the pike looking at the horse and rider receding in the moonlight. I walked up to him and began to examine him for any injuries. He was still heaving from his exertion, but didn’t seem to be any the worst for wear, except for a small area of swelling on his chest where he had collided with the highwayman’s mount. Taking his head in my hands and pulling it down to my chest, I began massaging his jaws. He immediately went into what I like to call his meditative state.
After a few seconds with tears in my eyes, I murmured, “Well, old pal, ya saved my bacon again. I don’t know how I can ever repay ya. Daphne’s love and your friendship are tha most prized possessions I have. I love ya old friend.”
He nuzzled me and gave me one of his famous snorts. I moved around to his side and hugged his neck.
By this time Ahab had disembarked from the carriage’s driver seat and was helping the ladies exit the carriage. I could see they were shaken but physically fine.
As I walked toward the carriage with Stonewall following, I approached the face-down lifeless body of the highwayman that had been trampled by our team and turned him over. I couldn’t make out his features, but searching in my coat pocket for a small box of Lucifers (matches), I pulled one out and lit it with a thumbnail. In the initial light from the flare, I recognized Marshal Gill’s deputy from Harpers Ferry.
I made a vow that there was going to be recompense for what had occurred here and for the attempted assassination of Major Mosby. I now had evidence that could be the basis for a number of actions once we got to Harpers Ferry.
Looking at Ahab and the ladies, I asked, “Could y’all please come forward and help identify this killer?”
As the ladies moved reluctantly toward me with Ahab in tow, I changed out the spent Colt cylinders and replaced them with loaded ones. It didn’t take any time at all to complete the task, and once finished, I put the pistols back in my belt.
When the ladies and Ahab had gathered round the body, I lit another match near the dead man’s face and heard a gasp from Daphne followed by a grunt from Ahab. Bessie didn’t utter a sound.
I looked at the group and asked, “Do y’all recognize this man?”
Daphne nodded and said, “Its tha deputy marshal from Harpers Ferry.”
I looked at Ahab and he returned my stare. We glared at each other for a few seconds. Then he looked down at the body and acknowledged, “Yep, that’s him alright.”
Raising his gaze to me he declared, “Ya didn’t give ‘em much chance.
I returned to that quiet place that had surfaced since I had entered this universe. My eyes narrowed to slits and I retorted, “They didn’t deserve a chance for what they were gonna do to me, the ladies and you. They didn’t wear any masks, which meant they were gonna kill all of us because we could recognize ‘em.”
This took Ahab by surprise. He looked at me with his mouth agape for a brief few seconds, but soon receded back into his gruff mien. Daphne gasped and put her hands over her heart. Bessie’s head jerked to look at me with a concerned expression, but she didn’t make a sound.
I looked at Ahab and ordered, “Help me put this body over Stonewall’s saddle. We’ll need it for evidence.”