When the ladies had cried themselves out, Kirkland released them and took a step back so he could see them clearly.
The young blonde lady stammered, “This is our family home. We’ve lived here for a long time. My father was tha local general store owner. He also brokered some of tha wheat, corn and lumber for tha farmers in tha area to markets down river in lower Maryland and upper Virginia. He was a very good business man, and he got his clients good prices for their crops without taking advantage of them.”
At this point, she sobbed, “A man came into town three months ago and began to force tha farmers to give their business to him. He threatened tha farmers’ lives and tha lives of their families. He brought in a gang of despicable men who raided some of tha farmers’ barns and stole their crops. These crops were sold down tha river and tha proceeds were kept by this monster. When my father and some of tha farmers when to tha office of this brute for a showdown, they shot my father when he reached in his pocket for a list of the crops stolen and accused him of reaching for a gun.”
The lady put her face in her hands again and sobbed for a moment. The two black young ladies also cried, but they kept their distance.
Kirkland patiently waited for the young blonde lady to continue. After a few moments she raised her head and said, “We have no town marshal and tha county sheriff must be in cahoots with this gang, because he doesn’t even come down here from Frederick anymore. Since tha Yankees have taken up camp in Frederick, everything has changed.”
Kirk asked, “How long ago was your father murdered?”
The young blonde lady shuttered and then answered, “Last week.”
Kirk asked, “May I ask yar name?”
“It’s Wanda Lu Rector,” she revealed and pointing at the Black ladies, she added, “And these ladies are my friends, Helena and Gracie.”
Kirkland, being a true southern gentleman took off his hat and bowed to Miss Rector. Then he bowed to Helena and Gracie. Holding his hat in his hands, he said, “My name is…..”
I immediately interrupted, “That is of no importance at tha present time. What have they done to ya and yar friends?”
Miss Rector was surprised by my statement and abruptly looked fearfully at the three of us.
To allay any of her qualms, I raised my hands palms out to her and stated, “We are not here to harm ya. We are just riding through, but we will be glad to help ya if ya will let us.”
The young lady looked at us for a long time and then turned her head to look at the two black ladies. They both gave almost imperceptive nods. So Miss Rector stammered, “We’ve been ordered to leave this house tomorrow or be thrown out on tha road.”
I asked, “Why did tha livery stable owner say yar home was a rooming house and send us here to stay tha night?”
Miss Rector frowned and looked down at the floor as if lost in thought. Then she looked up at me and said, “James Lofton, tha livery owner, was a very good friend of my father’s. He knew of our plight and must have thought ya could help.”
I nodded and said, “How many of these blackhearts are there?”
One of the black ladies spoke up, “There are eight of them and they are heavily armed.”
We three men looked at her and sort of gaped at her precise elocution.
She looked embarrassed and added, “My name is Helena Simmons.” Then she pointed to the other black lady and stated, “This is Gracie Davis.”
Miss Davis curtseyed and smiled.
I smiled at all the ladies and removed my hat. Al followed suit. Then I asked, “May we come in?”
Miss Rector gushed, “Oh by all means, please do come in.”
Al and I entered the house and Al shut the door. We laid our saddle bags and my special weapon in the foyer.
Then Miss Rector offered very formally, “Won’t ya come into tha parlor? We have some tea made and there is some sweet bread already cut. Would y’all like to join us for a very early morning meal?”
Kirkland answered, “We would love to join such wonderful company for an early morning meal.”
Miss Rector smiled coyly, which changed her whole countenance. She was a very beautiful lady.
The two black ladies gestured toward the parlor, and we all trooped to a room just a few steps down the hall on the left.