Stonewall must have been keeping an eye on me, because as soon as the aliens disappeared, he trotted over to me.
This prompted a massage session for my faithful cayuse, who I believe went to sleep with his head against my chest. When I finally brought the massage to an end, Stonewall opened his eyes and had to blink a few times to get his bearings.
I chuckled, and he snorted so I knew all was right with the world.
I climbed in the saddle and said, “Telegraph office.”
Stonewall took off in an easy lope and we were soon in front of the 19th Century’s answer to a phone exchange. As I dismounted, I saw Elias Throckmorton enter the bank at the corner of German and Princess Streets. He seemed to be in a hurry and didn’t see me. I wondered what our local answer to the CIA was up to now.
When I went into the telegraph office, the duty Corporal stood up and saluted. I returned his salute and he informed me, “Sir, I was just getting ready to send this message from Major Mosby to Ferry Hill.”
I said, “Thank ya Corporal. I can take it now. I possibly will need to reply immediately anyway.”
Once the Corporal handed me the message, I opened the envelope and read, “We know there are at least seven Union posts along the C&O path from about Point of Rocks to Georgetown. What are you up to?”
I grinned and told the Corporal to take the following, “Just getting together some ideas about how to plague the Yanks. I promise to get back to you with something in two days.”
The Corporal took my message and sent it post haste. In just a moment he got an answer, “Looking forward to it.”
For some reason I happened to look over my shoulder and see Throckmorton look in the window of the telegraph office as he passed by. He quickly averted his gaze and kept walking toward the north part of town and away from the bank.
I looked at the telegraph operator and asked, “Does Mr. Throckmorton utilize the telegraph very much?”
“Naw sir,” was his reply.
“Does he come in here and ask questions? I prodded.
“He did once we were up and running. He really wanted to know why tha cavalry was in charge of tha telegraph office and not tha telegraph company that use to run tha office,” he offered.
“What did ya tell ‘im?” I ventured.
“I was on duty when he first came in and asked his questions. I told him, ‘Since tha last operator was murdered and tha telegraph was destroyed, that the cavalry had to make sure the office was open at all times,’” the Corporal related.
“Has Throckmorton ever sent a telegraph since the cavalry took over?” I asked.
“Not that I know of,” the Corporal replied.
I looked at him for a long moment and then stated, “I want ya to contact yar immediate superior and tell him that I ordered that a guard to be present in this office at all times with tha telegraph operator, and I want tha telegraph operators to have a pistol on their desk and one on their person, as well as a loaded carbine next to their chair at all times.”
The Corporal’s face showed a shock and dismay all at the same time. He gulped and said, “Is something wrong, Captain?”
I nodded and retorted, “I got a bad feeling that something is about to happen. Now, I’m gonna stay in this office, but I want ya to slip out tha back door and get to a horse and ride to yar camp, and get a guard with all tha armament that I mentioned. Get back here as soon as ya can.”
The Corporal just looked at me until I finally had to say, “Get.”
My admonishment must have broken his mental logjam because he was up and out the backdoor like a shot.
I moved to the side of the window so I could look out on the street and drew my Colts.
Stonewall looked up at me, and I motioned for him to walk away from the hitching post outside the telegraph door.
He obeyed by turning and walking leisurely toward the bank.