The sergeant returned in a jiffy, ushered me into Major Murphy’s office, and left us posthaste. I removed my hat, came to attention and saluted the major.
The Major was impressed that a person of my supposed covert nature would pay him such respect. He heartily returned my salute and motioned for me to take a chair located across from his desk.
We eyeballed each other for a few seconds, and I was able to attain a first impression of the Major, based upon his physical appearance and bearing.
He was about five feet, ten inches tall and thin. His uniform fit him like a glove. He couldn’t have weighed more than 150 pounds. He had a full head of hair that was jet black, and I placed his age at twenty-nine. He sat very rigidly in his chair, and his focus on me was intense. His face showed the signs of maturity beyond his years. I guessed he might have been a West Point Cadet at one time. His hawk-like nose and deep set eyes gave me the impression of a wizard from one of my favorite sci-fi movies. His uniform had yellow piping, which indicated this was a cavalry garrison.
Finally, he spoke, “What may I do for ya, Lieutenant?”
I paused before I answered, “We’ve caught a spy in Shepherdstown and don’t have a place to put him. I wanted to have him closer than Harpers Ferry so that we could interrogate him without having to travel too far. I understand that ya have a brig, and I’m here to ask if we may use it.”
The Major looked at me like an eagle getting ready to swoop down and claw me with his talons.
I kept my eyes locked with his, but without any hostility.
Suddenly, he stood and said, “If ya would follow me Lieutenant, we will inspect tha brig.”
I stood, and he ushered me out of his office and down the hall to a back door. His sergeant followed us down the hall, but the Major said, “We will be back in a few minutes. Ya need to remain here and take care of tha office”
The Sergeant saluted and said, “Yes sah.”
The Major returned the salute, and we stepped out into the space behind his office that I decided acted as a drill field. Once outside, he pointed at a building about fifty yards ahead. He directed me behind his office and began walking toward the brig.
After about twenty paces, he said, “We’ve heard rumors about yar exploits both in Harpers Ferry, Shepherdstown, Pleasant Valley, and tha attack on Fredrick City. I understand that ya and Major Mosby have worked in close contact over tha last few months during all these combats. Why do ya still refer to yarself as a Lieutenant? I understand that yar a Captain.”
I was shocked that he knew my real rank and didn’t know how to answer for a few seconds, but then I explained, “I guess I didn’t really think I had earned it.”
The Major stopped, turned and looked at me as if I had just grown horns out of my forehead.
I stopped also and met his gaze. What I said was the truth. I had been in the wrong place at the wrong time and had survived. I wasn’t brave or courageous. I was cursed.
He just shook his head and started walking again. His whole demeanor changed after our little exchange. He didn’t have the chip on his shoulder anymore. He had let down the walls that he had erected between us.
As we came close to the brig, he said, “Well Captain, ya are welcome to use tha brig, and if there’s any way I can help ya in tha future, please let me know.”
I stopped and turned to look at the Major, and extending my hand, said, “Thank ya so much, Major, for yar cooperation. I really appreciate it.”
We shook hands as colleagues and, I might say, as friends.
We took a look at the brig, which was very clean. It consisted of two jail cells with a hall between the cells. There were no windows and each cell had one bunkbed.
As we exited the brig, I said, “Major Murphy, there’s one thing that would help me immensely. May I have one of yar sergeants assigned to me and act as liaison between our units?”
The Major clasped his hands behind his back and bent over slightly as we ambled back to his office. At length he asked, “Who do ya have in mind?”
“I was wondering if I we could have Sergeant Richard Kirkland to act as our go-between?” I replied.
The Major thought for a moment and said, “Only if ya will let me work with ya in tha area. We replaced tha company that was here and was part of yar fights in Pleasant Valley and Fredrick City. We haven’t seen any fighting, and we’re aching to see combat.”
I turned to the Major and responded, “I’d definitely appreciate yar help in combatting tha Yanks in this area. I believe Major Mosby would be inclined to include ya in any of our missions. I will talk to him about it.”
The Major smiled from ear to ear and declared, “Then ya can have Sergeant Kirkland.”