Kirkland and I both jumped when Caleb barged through the front door of the schoolhouse.
I came out of my chair into a crouch with a Colt in my right hand. The Lieutenant tried to get out of his confining desk, but was ensconced so completely that he finally stopped struggling and looked to see who had entered.
Caleb halted his forward progress when he saw what his entrance had caused and raised his hands.
I stood up, put away my pistol and said, “Hello, Caleb. Sorry for tha fearsome welcome.”
He grinned and lowered his hands.
I pointed at Lt. Kirkland and said, “Meet Lieutenant Richard Kirkland.”
I turned to Lt. Kirkland and said, “Meet Caleb Throckmorton.”
Kirkland was finally able to extricate himself from the school desk, walk over to Caleb and shake his hand.
I walked to Caleb and remarked, “I guess ya heard about yar uncle?”
Caleb looked at the floor and nodded.
I added, “I’m sorry it had to be me to discover his spying activity.”
Caleb looked up and said, “I’m glad it was ya that uncovered his treason. He caused ya enough trouble to last a lifetime, plus he was indirectly responsible for my father’s death. Momma was shocked when we heard tha news, but once she got to thinking about it, she remembered a few incidences over tha last few years that seemed really odd. I don’t know if ya knew it or not, but Dad and he were never really close.”
I nodded and remarked, “He’s in custody at tha Martinsburg Garrison. I dare say that he’ll be transferred to Harpers Ferry in tha near future for trial by tha military. To be truthful, I believe he will be found guilty, and either hung or shot by firing squad.”
Caleb nodded and said in a low voice, “I expected as much.”
To break the somber mood, I said, “Why don’t we sit down? I want to talk to y’all about a mission.”
I brought my chair closer to the fireplace and motioned to Kirkland that he should sit there. I took over Kirkland’s desk, and Caleb pulled up a desk for himself.
Once we were all seated in a semi-circle in front of the fireplace, I sat in the middle with my head bowed. Finally after about thirty seconds, I looked up and said, “I really don’t know where to start.”
The men looked at me apprehensively, but didn’t say a word. So I began, “This is a very secret mission. In fact, most of tha chief military leaders don’t know anything about it.”
The men gave me looks of shock and confusion.
I hurried on, “I need to tell ya that this mission could end up being a complete failure and getting all of us killed. Or, it could be successful and mean tha end of tha War and our Country’s Liberty. Those are tha two extremes with a lot of variable results that could also occur based upon random circumstances. I have gathered y’all together because I trust ya. But I have to know if ya will volunteer without me going any farther in explanation, because tha specific facts can’t be disclosed without yar agreeing to participate in tha mission.”
I quit talking and waited for their responses.