Stonewall didn’t like me very much when we tried to drape the highwayman’s body over his saddle. He tried to back up, but I said firmly, “Ya gotta take this body for us. We don’t have any room in the carriage. We need it to get Marshal Gill arrested.”
Everyone looked at me like I was crazy when I explained the situation to Stonewall. However, when he quit moving backwards and allowed Ahab and me to secure the body across his saddle with some old ropes we found under the driver’s seat, all three fellow travelers were shocked.
Ahab was truly frightened of Stonewall. Once the gruesome chore was completed, he immediately vacated the area around Stonewall and walked toward the coach with Bessie on his heels.
Daphne just shook her head, smiled and entwined her arm in mine as we walked toward our vehicle of transportation. We all took our previous positions and Ahab flicked the reins and we were off again down the pike.
A north wind picked up again, and we all bundled up in the blankets. After a few miles, we stopped and let the ladies retire to the woods to answer nature’s call. Then we were once more moving as quickly as possible toward our destination.
It seemed like a million years, but we finally reached Halltown. The small village was as quiet as a graveyard. In my universe’s vernacular, ‘the sidewalks had been rolled up at sunset’. We moved through the town, and in a few miles, we pulled off the main pike to Harpers Ferry into the entrance of the Newcomer estate.
They weren’t expecting us, but with Ahab, Bessie and Daphne assaulting the household like three hurricanes, we soon had Daphne’s family and their servants helping with the baggage and trying to find out why we were back so soon from Martinsburg. I stepped down from the carriage and walked to Stonewall. Stopping a young servant who was running to help us, I asked where the stable was. He pointed to a building that was about one hundred feet behind the main house. I thanked the servant, and taking Stonewall’s reins, I led my faithful cayuse to the stable.
Once in the stable, I found a lantern hanging from a pillar of one of the stalls. I lit it with one of my Lucifers. Being able to see the interior of the stable, I pulled Stonewall into one of the stalls. Using a small hand scythe hanging from a hook on the stall wall, I cut the ropes that secured the deputy’s body and let his corpse fall to the ground.
I guided Stonewall to another stall well away from the make-shift morgue and unsaddled him. Once I draped his blanket and saddle over the side wall of the stall, I closed the door to his room for the night and began pilfering around the stable. It didn’t take too long to find where an abundance of hay and a sack of oats were located.
I transported a goodly amount of these foodstuffs to the trough in Stonewall’s stall. He whinnied his appreciation.
Next, I went looking for a bucket, which I found in another stall.
Lastly, I went outside to find a well. I spied the 19th century water supply as soon as I walked out the back entrance to the stable. It didn’t take any time at all to fill the bucket with the elixir of life and deposit it in Stonewall’s stall for his edification.
With Stonewall crunching and slurping contentedly, I went back to the temporary morgue and covered the deputy’s body with straw.
I was exhausted from the trip and the encounter on the road as well as being in a weakened state from the saber wound. I was gonna bed down for the night in Stonewall’s stall because I didn’t know what kind of reception I would receive from the Newcomer family due to my last run-in with them.
I was just beginning to take off my coat when I heard a lot of jabbering from a multiple of voices approaching the stable.
From the stable entrance Daphne yelled, “Jim, Jim are ya in therah?”
“Yes ‘am,” I calmly answered.
“Whacha doing in therah? Come on up to the house,” she offered.
“I didn’t know if I would be welcome up there,” I declared.
“Oh pshaw. Don’t be silly. ‘Course yar welcome. They’ve prepared us a grand supper and everyone wants to hear about the raid… Ya just gotta come,” she pled.
“Alright I’ll come,” I promised.
I quickly petted Stonewall’s neck and whispered, “I have been summoned. See ya in tha morning.” He snorted and kept on munching on some oats.
I blew out the lantern and walked out the stable entrance to a gaggle of Newcomer family and servants. They all began clapping and thumping me on the back like I was some kind of long lost son.