Josh and I approached the blacksmith. As one would expect the man was huge and he was stripped to the waist, and rivulets of sweat rolled off his shoulders and forehead as he pounded the orange colored iron held before him on a huge anvil where he was working. As we stepped into the working area, he put the iron that he was working back into the fire, and turned to me, " What kind I do for yuh , Sir?"
I replied, " My young friend here mentioned to you about a badly bent metal trace buckle. It is badly cracked in a couple of places as well. Can you reproduce such a piece of hardware?"
The blacksmith turned away to a wooden chest sitting on a side stool not far from the anvil. He flipped up the chest lid and reached inside. He drew out three buckles which resembled our badly bent buckle. He grinned and said, "I reckon," handing the buckles to me. I looked them over and could see that the workmanship was excellent.
"These look very nice, " I said, and handed the buckles back to him. "How much will it cost to remake this buckle?" fishing in my pocket for the damage buckle and handing the damaged item to him.
The blacksmith looked at the damaged piece and said, "If you want the brass buckle restored that will take some time, and cost a lot more. If you want the buckle made from iron, then I can have it done for you within the hour."
"Well," I replied, " Let's make it out of iron, since we will need to get on down the road as soon as my customers are taken care of."
The blacksmith nodded his head, and for the life of me, I could not detect any indication of guilt or participation in the breaking of the buckle. I was sure , however, that the answer would be revealed before we left Aquia, if we were allowed to leave. To the blacksmith I said, "Well then, I will leave you to it and I will get back to the wagon. Is it all right to leave the wagon parked where it is?"
"Oh, sure not a problem, " He said laying the broken buckle on the chest and drawing some thin square rods out of a wooden cask.
Josh and I turned away from the blacksmith and I retrieved my case with my writing materials and I headed back to the General Store. Josh gestured that he wanted to stay with the wagon and water the horses, and I said that he was welcome to stay as he wished.
For my part I made my way back to the General Store, and saw Cass behind the counter again. I asked him, "Can I use your Poker Room to take care of any customers that are coming down?"
"Be my guest, You will find some people in there already waiting for you."
"Okay!! That's great," I said, and I immediately headed for the Poker Room. Arriving at the door, it stood ajar, and there were at least ten people in the room. I greeted my customers, put my case on the table and opened it. I sat down and asked around the room, "All right now, who is first, and then why don't you all figure out some kind priority list about who is next." Looking at the tall gentleman who stepped forward, I asked, " What can I do for you, Sir." The gentleman sat down and within a short minute we were in a deep conversation about the rewriting of a contract. The rest of the day went by quickly, and when the last person had her letter in hand, Ian had the idea that he didn't have a long time to wait for his answer. He was correct, almost immediately Charlie and Cass came through the door with the two other men that Ian had met that morning. Charlie immediately took a chair at the table and waved the others to chairs sitting around the room.
Charlie said, " I am glad that you are still here. "
I replied, "Well, I wasn't going anywhere with the broken buckle that somebody arranged this morning. Was that you?"
Charlie slowly nodded his head, "We had to detain you here until some business was undertaken."
"Okay, here I am, and I am not going anywhere until the new buckle is made by the blacksmith, and I find out what this problem is." I looked around at the men seated and hoped that I was not being too abrasive. This was getting close to the mission and I was not very excited about that idea.
Charlie spoke up, "It must have been pretty obvious this morning that the letter that you read for us, was somewhat of a shock It was obvious that we have a bad hole in our organization. As I had mentioned this morning I had served in the militia during the Mexican War. I remember very well the way we cheered Col. Lee but nobody here has any skill or knowledge at this area of military expertise. What did you say your specialty was?"
I replied, "I didn't, but my specialties were River Clearance, Bridging , and Canal Design and Construction. Just what do those specialties have to do with my being detained?
Charlie looked around the room and all his friends nodded their heads. Charlie looked back at me, took a big breath, and said, " We would like you to join the Aquia Militia, and be our engineer!!!!"