Daphne’s eyes bulged and her mouth gaped open. “Wha, what are ya doing?” she stammered.
“I’m sending y’all on yar way as bait, and I’m staying behind to help get rid of this killer,” I pronounced.
Her eyes widened as she tried to comprehend what I said.
I glanced at the other ladies. Mrs. Douglas had the same baffled look as Daphne. Hattie was staring at me with a fixed gaze. “What’s changed?” she asked.
“We got him in our sights,” I answered. “Well, at least I got him in my sights,” I corrected. “We’re gonna get him when he tries to follow y’all, but it will be in Harpers Ferry and not out in the woods somewhere,” I stated.
Daphne probed, “Ya mean, ya’ve seen him?
“Yes. He’s up on Maryland Heights. Once y’all take off toward Halltown, he’s gonna follow, and once he’s across the Potomac Bridge, we’ll get him,” I vowed.
“Oh!” she said. Then in a sarcastic voice she asked, “What if he doesn’t fall for your trap and meets us on the road to Shepherdstown?”
“Yar not going to Shepherdstown. Yar only going out of sight of Maryland Heights and then yar coming back here,” I answered.
“Oh, ah, alright,” she mumbled.
I turned to the trooper who had donned my clothes and said, “Private Hays is gonna go with y’all dressed in my clothes and with his horse tied to the back of the carriage. That should make the killer think that I’m riding with ya,” I acknowledged.
Everyone except Hattie was still trying to get their mind around the new plan. She looked as if she understood what was going to happen. I could tell that she wanted to ask a question, but didn’t want to frighten Daphne.
“So, let’s go,” I prompted.
Everyone got up, went out the door, and got in the carriage, except Daphne. She came forward and hugged me ferociously. She was just too emotionally drained to cry and too tired to care anymore. I gently escorted her to the door and told the private to take her to the coach.
John Lee already had the horses harnessed and in front of the outpost. Once the private had placed Daphne in her seat facing the ladies, he tied his horse to the back of the carriage and got in next to Daphne.
John Lee flicked the team’s reins and they were off. He headed the horses down toward the Halltown Road. All of us privates standing on the outpost porch saluted and then entered the outpost front door.
I immediately went through the building and out the back door, where Stonewall was waiting. I knew he could sense my urgency because he began stomping the ground to beat the band. I finally had to say, “Easy, easy, we can’t let on we have to get down to Harper Ferry quickly.”
He began to let out deep breaths, whinnied real loud one time and took on the look of a slow witted cayuse. I laughed in amazement at his method of attaining a claim exterior.
I climbed up in the saddle and we walked around the building and entered the first street that flowed down to the main area of Harpers Ferry. Once we were hidden by the buildings from being viewed from Maryland Heights, I said, “You can do a little faster.”
Stonewall picked up speed, but the road we were traversing was so steep, he had to take it easy less he hurt his knee joints. As the street flattened out, I nudge him with my knees and he took off like a cannon shot. As usual I held on for dear life.
We were lucky in that the street we were on was Washington Street, which was one of the main roads leading toward the Potomac Bridge, but it was a busy thoroughfare. Stonewall acted like a slithering eel. Dodging pedestrians, wagons, carriages and other horsemen, we made our way toward the lower town.
Washington Street divides into High Street and Clay Street with High Street dead-ending into Shenandoah Street just a few blocks from where the Winchester & Potomac Railroad Bridge and the pedestrian bridge empties into Potomac Street from the Maryland shore.
I was hoping against hope that the assassin had already left his roost and hadn’t seen our wild ride. I brought Stonewall to a halt with a gentle pull back on the reins and a low uttered, “Whoa.” Stonewall transitioned from a gallop to a trot and finally to a stop in just a matter of yards facing the Potomac Bridge.
I looked around for Mosby’s men, but couldn’t identify any of them in my brief scan of the crowd.
I turned back to the bridge and a glint of the sun off metal caught my eye. That’s went I saw him on a black stallion. The sun glinted again off what appeared to be the horseman’s hat band.
Hattie’s description suddenly jumped into my mind, “The winner of the shooting contest had a silver hat band.”