Sunday, April 22, 2012

T. E. Story #61

"I am he," I replied, my hand still firmly engaged on my pistol butt.  "Please step down from your horse, and tell me who you are.  Night riders approaching a wagon camp are surprisingly few and far between."  Josh had taken refuge inside the wagon and out tof the corner of my eye I could see just the tip of a gun barrel at the edge of the box cabin on the back of the wagon.  Damn, I thought, that boy is a wonder!. The gentleman got down from his horse and stood before me.  He was a handsome man, tall, probably about 35 years of age, sandy hair cut close, and his clothes were clean but obviously well worn.  The horse tack was also worn but looked to have many more years of use.  He rode a tall horse, who looked big and powerful.  The man tipped his hat back and said," Well boss, I'm  "JJ".  I'm glad to make your acquaintance again, I think, " he grinned and motioned with his head toward the wagon.  He had seen the gun barrel as well. I jumped down and grabbed his hand.  "I am really glad to see you again.  How did you know where we were, and what are you doing here?"  I had met "JJ" during the war, but I had lost touch with him over the years.  The Capt. and Lt. that recommended him had also been good friends in that conflict. "I have a letter for you from Col. Abert, "JJ” said and handed me a letter.  I motioned for Josh to come down, and took the letter.  Josh got off the wagon still holding the rifle and leaned against the rear wagon wheel with the rifle on the ground butt first.  I broke the seal and Josh came forward with a match and struck it for light on the wagon seat.  The letter read: >>>>>>>>> From: Col. Abert, Commandant, U. S. Topographical Engineers To. Major (by brevet) Ian McKay, Cdr. NE Detachment of Topographical Engineers This letter will introduce Captain John Johnson ("JJ"), who will accompany you on your mission.  He is an accomplished field engineer and should be of significant assistance to your mission.  He is to assume command of the mission should anything befall you that would render you unable to continue in command. In regard to the concern we discussed before your departure, two more of the people have been arrested, and if their confessions are at all accurate the group is pretty well destroyed except for two individuals who have escaped the police net.  Unfortunately they are the leaders of this group and are described as fanatical in their support of the possible insurrection of the Southern states against the U. S. Government. Take care, my friend, and let me know as soon as you may have a way to do so, how the mission is progressing.  Your friends on the farm are all doing well and no attempt has been made on them at this time. Respectfully; Col Abert >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Josh blew the long match out, and I folded the letter and gave it to Josh.  "Please put this with my other papers, Josh," I said handing the letter to him.  He nodded and climbed back into the wagon.  I turned to “JJ”, and said, "Well, welcome to the mission.  We already have one problem which may or may not develop into importance." "What might that be?" asked “JJ” leaning against the front wagon wheel? "Hezzy was supposed to meet us here for lunch, and he is several hours overdue.  I am really worried.  I don't suppose you saw anyone on horseback on your way down?" “JJ” shook his head, "No, I came down by way of Alexandria, and came across the river on the Fox Ferry.  The Col. made arrangements for the horse and gear to be ready at the Alexandria Livery."  I waited for an hour at the Fox hotel to see if anyone followed me, but this time of night I was the only one on the ferry.  From there I asked directions to the Broad Creek church and took a road about three miles southeast to the main road and from there to the church." "Damn," I said, " somethings is wrong.  Hezzie would never be this late unless something has happened.  The problem is I have no idea where he was scouting.  He took off this morning and I haven't seen him since. Well, it’s too dark now to do anything, but if I haven’t heard something by morning, we will have to set up some kind of a search grid and go find him.” I looked around at “JJ” and Josh. Josh was almost asleep standing by the wagon wheel and “JJ” was as well. I was sure that both were pretty much played out after the day on the road. “Let’s get some shuteye for now. “JJ” you can either bunk down under the trees or under the wagon. I imagine that under the trees with the big leaf-fall over there would be more comfortable. Josh and I will bed down in the wagon, and we will make our plans early.” We all went to our bunks without any further discussion, and within minutes we were all asleep. I awoke to Josh shaking me, and when I sat up, there was Hezzie squatting at the foot of the bed. He put his finger to his lips and motioned me out of the wagon. I put on my boots and climbed down. He led me away from the wagon and over under a large oak tree where it was very dark. In low tones Hezzie told me what had happened earlier in the evening and in his view that he would have to assume a much more watchful aspect over the mission if it was to continue successfully. At first I wanted to know where the two men were that he and Dan had caught. I wanted to interrogate them as to what and who they were. Hezzie hesitated and then I realized that I probably really didn’t need to see them at all. Hezzie seemed relieved that I was satisfied with what he had told me. Based on his new view of the Mission and the danger that we were all facing, I asked him if he had any desires about changing the plans I had laid out. I told him that I would abide by any changes that he thought necessary except scrapping the mission. He assured me that his goal was the same as my own, which I, of course, knew from the beginning. He said that he would give the matter some thought and he would get back to me with any changes if he thought them necessary. I told him that midway between Broad Creek and the Ferry there was a double road and that it had been my intent to go one way with the carriage, and send “JJ” the other. However, if he felt that he could use that second stretch of road to manage our mission better and safer, I would get a copy of the map to him as soon as possible. He said that he would give that some additional thought as well. With that he said that he had to get back to Dan, and Josh and I went back to sleep. The next morning I awoke to the smell of coffee and found both “JJ” and Josh squatting around a small fire, As I climbed down from the rig, “JJ” said, “So what are your plans for today?” I replied, as I poured a cup of the dark brew, “Hezzie came in last night late, and said that we have been watched and it appeared that two men were looking to stop us and do some harm!” “JJ” said,”Holy Cow, where are these guys. We have to----!!??” I held up my hand. “It’s been taken care of, and we now know as much as they did, er do!!” I stumbled a bit and “JJ” looked at me strangely. “Ahhh, well, --- what I mean to say is that they will pay to the fullest extent of the law! HUM!!! Now, moving on to more important things, I would like you to start riding some of the roads between here and Oxen Run. Ride five miles along each road make note of all the elements along the roads and then catch up to us on this road further South. We'll meet you in Swan Creek, further down this road and wait for you there.  I expect some more people will meet us for services at that point.  Josh and I will be fine. Hezzie will be out ahead of us somewhere to the South."  I looked at Josh, and the young man smiled. I put my arm around his shoulders.  "We're a team now,’I said fondly and “JJ” grinned. After a hasty breakfast of eggs and salt pork “JJ” turned his horse northward.  Josh and I watched as he disappeared around the church building, and then we packed up all the camp gear.  A last minute check of the ground indicated that we left it, as good as we found it.  I climbed up on the wagon and said to Josh with a grin, "Let her roll."  Josh grinned back and we were off again on our adventure, a little more cautious now and still under the cloud of being in danger from more than one source..

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