Lieutenant Kirkland looked at me for a long time and then said, “It must be dangerous.”
“Very,” I retorted.
He smiled and said, “Sounds promising.”
I didn’t smile when I remarked, “We’ll see. Ya might change yar mind once ya understand tha mission.”
The Lieutenant raised his eyebrows and stared at me intently. Then he inquired, “What are we waiting for?”
“Our third member,” I answered. Before he could interrogate me further, I added, “He should be here by late afternoon.”
The Lieutenant nodded.
“Why don’t we go down into town to wait?” I suggested.
“That sounds good.”
The Lieutenant got his horse, and we walked around the house to the stables. Once we entered the building, John Lee got up and walked toward us. He and Lt. Kirkland began to walk Kirkland’s horse to the end of the barn to procure feed and water for the animal.
I walked to Stonewall’s stall and said, “I need ya for an important mission.”
I didn’t hear a sound from the enclosure so I added, “I mean it.”
Not a sound came from the stall so I played my last card and said, “Alright, I’ll take Miss Dixie Belle instead.”
This definitely provoked a response. First a loud whinny erupted from the depths of the stall, which was followed by Stonewall butting the upper stall door open with his head. He moved to where his head was jutting out of the door opening and fixed me with what I would describe as an ears-laid back angry stare. Then he let out a disapproving snort and shook his head from side to side.
I smiled and disclosed, “I want ya in on this from tha start. We won’t be doing too much today, but we will be in tha near future.”
Stonewall nodded his head, and I administered his usual massage. He went into his meditative trance. I happened to turn and see John Lee and Lt. Kirkland standing stock still and looking at us as if we had grown two heads. They must have returned and witnessed some, if not all, my conversation with Stonewall.
There wasn’t much I could say, so I just smiled and remarked, “It isn’t what it seems.”
John Lee just shook his head and put Kirkland’s horse in a stall. Then he distributed oats and hay in a feed trough for the cayuse. Kirkland continued to watch Stonewall and me for a while. Then he said, “Y’all really have a rapport that is amazing.”
I answered, “Yes, we do. I don’t know how we connected, but we did.”
I turned to John Lee and asked, “Has Stonewall been watered and fed?”
John Lee answered, “He was watered and fed when he came back.”
I nodded and began to saddle Stonewall. While clinching the saddle, Stonewall turned his head back toward me and nipped me on my rear. I jumped and Stonewall let out what I would call a horse laugh. I put my hands on my hips and gave him a disgusted look, but this only resulted in another horse laugh. Suddenly John Lee began to laugh.
I turned to look at him and asked, “Did ya see what he did?”
John Lee nodded and kept on laughing. Finally, I caught the humor in the incident and began to laugh also. Kirkland, who was in the stall with his horse, came out to see what all the laughter was about. When he saw each of us laughing in his own way, he just shook his head and went back in the stall with Rowdy, his horse.
Once we got back to normal, Kirkland and I rode to my old schoolhouse in Shepherdstown. We dismounted, and after he tied Rowdy’s reins to a tree, we entered the old one room seat of education for this small burg. There was still some wood on the fireplace hearth, so we utilized it to make a fire in the fireplace. Thirty minutes later we had the building warm as toast.
Finally, Lt. Kirkland asked, “When are ya gonna tell me what this is all about?”
I rejoined, “As soon as our third member is here. I don’t want to repeat myself. So we’re gonna wait on him before I spill tha beans.”
Kirkland shrugged, pulled one of the desks closer to the fire, sat down and dozed off.
I smiled, sat at my old teacher’s desk, and in a few moments, I was in the Land of Nod myself.
It seemed as if just a few moments had passed before the front door of the schoolhouse opened.
Caleb Throckmorton walked in.