Chapter 9: Lost or Kidnapped
Copyright© 2015 by maypop
Boyd and Loyd were camped out southeast of Saint Louis. They had just finished their Bible readings and prayers. They were packing up to leave when Bear started barking.
They were immediately on alert when a black man and woman came running into camp. They looked scared. Loyd quickly calmed Bear down.
"What can we do for you?" Boyd asked.
"Our son is lost in a cave; and we can not find him!" the man exclaimed.
"Where is the cave?" Boyd asked.
"About a quarter mile down that road," he said, pointing down a poorly kept road that had a sign that simply said Eckert Cave.
They hitched up the horses and Loyd said pointing to the sign, "Did you decide to look because you saw that sign?"
"No we came in from where this road connects to the road that runs along the Mississippi River on the other side of the cave," the woman spoke for the first time.
"You two get in and we will see if we can find him." Boyd then said.
As they started down the road, Boyd said, "My name is Boyd and this is my adopted brother, Loyd. What are your names?"
"This is Sarah, my wife; and I am Stanford Watson. Our son is Eddie," said Stanford.
"How big is Eddie?" Boyd asked.
"He is about my height, five feet ten inches," Stanford answered.
"How old is he and how long has your son been missing?" Loyd asked.
"He is fourteen and has his own tent. We went to bed last night at the same time; but, when we woke up this morning, he was missing. His lantern was still in the tent, but the one we had by the food was missing. He was so fascinated with the cave yesterday that we think he was probably too excited to sleep and may have decided to go exploring. We went in and called and called, but heard nothing!" Stanford said.
"How long have you been exploring the cave?" Boyd asked.
"We haven't explored it yet. We got here yesterday and it was too late to start. We were going to start this morning." Stanford answered.
"Boy, something stinks to high heaven! I don't think that boy just went into that cave by himself," Loyd said in Chinese.
"You are right. We will look over the camp carefully. What is your gut feeling?" Boyd answered in Spanish.
"I remember, not too long ago, reading about some young black men and some young girls, both white and black, disappearing along the Mississippi River," said Loyd in Spanish.
The two riding with them could not believe their ears. They were witnessing two men, one white and one black, talking back and fourth in two totally different languages as though they were from that country.
"Did any of you go to the cave when you got here yesterday?" Loyd asked as they pulled up into the clearing where the family tents were.
"No, we just set up camp last night. You can see the cave from here," Sarah said, pointing to the cave in the hillside.
It was easy to tell which tent belonged to Eddie because it was small enough that only Eddie could get in. Boyd got down on his knees and looked into the tent and saw a pile of clothes in the back of the tent. His bedroll was laid out and opened as though he got up and crawled out, expecting to get back in it.
"Eddie's clothes are in the tent. What was he wearing?" Boyd asked, looking up at the parents.
"That's the funny part. Eddie was very cautious about his appearance. He always wore all his clothes except while he slept. He must have gone to the cave in his pajamas!" Sarah explained.
"You said you came up to this cave from the other side. Is there a sign on the road that runs along the river?" Loyd asked.
"Yes; we were traveling down the road south from St. Louis. It was late afternoon when we saw the sign. Eddie wanted to see it; so we came up and camped for the night," Stanford said.
Boyd reached in the tent and pulled out Eddie's pants. His shoes were under his pants. Boyd reached for the shoes. He called Bear. He let Bear smell the shoes and said, "Find him, boy."
"Oh no, he is barefooted, too!" exclaimed Sarah when she saw the shoes, as Bear began sniffing around.
Bear began to move toward the spot where the food was; then he walked toward the woods with his nose to the ground. In the edge of the woods, there were signs that pointed to a possible physical altercation. The lantern was on the ground as well as a shirt pocket.
"Is this part of Eddie's pajamas?" Boyd asked, holding up the pocket.
"No, that is not Eddie's. Do you mean you think my Eddie has been abducted?" Sarah screamed.
"It looks that way. Try not to worry. We will find him," Boyd said holding the pocket to Bear's nose. "Find him, boy. Bear started off through the trees to the road and down the road toward the river.
They followed Bear about two hundred yards when he stopped and acted like he lost the scent. Boyd and Loyd looked around. They found where a horse came up the road from the river and was tied off to a tree. When the horse came up the road, the horse shoes made a deeper print going back toward the river than when it came up.
"We are going to go back and saddle two of our horses. We want you two to watch the other horses and wait for us." Loyd said, and they ran back to the horses.
They saddled Rock and Dock. Boyd said, "We will be back as quickly as we can. Don't worry; we will find Eddie. They don't have that much of a head start."
"Boyd, let us all bow down and give this to the Lord," Loyd said, getting down on his knees with Boyd and the others joining him. Loyd then prayed, "Lord, You know where Eddie is. I pray You keep him safe and lead us. Guide us and protect us by Your power. You are our Source and Light. I ask this prayer in Jesus' name and for His sake. Amen."
Sarah and Stanford looked relieved after the prayer, knowing that Loyd and Boyd were letting God lead their way.
Loyd and Boyd mounted up and headed out at a lope down the road. When they got within sight of the road that ran along the river, they stopped and tied the horses up to the trees where they could not be seen from the road or the river. They crawled up to the river's edge and peered through the brush. They noticed a riverboat anchored in a bay that was hidden from the river. It was anchored about fifty feet from the bank. There was a gangplank tied up down the side of the riverboat long enough that it would reach the riverbank.
They saw a guard walking up and down on the riverboat watching the water and bank for movement. When he got to the fantail, he turned around and headed back to the bow.
"Loyd, look. The trees protect the riverboat from being seen by someone going downstream. They have maneuvered the riverboat so it is only about thirty feet to the trees behind the paddle wheels. Let's go around to that location and see if there is a guard on the other side." said Boyd.
They backed back into the trees and worked their way around through the woods until they were directly behind the riverboat. They crawled up to the bank and peered through the bushes. There was a man guarding the other side the same way. They watched them for a few minutes.
"Boyd, look. They are both walking together. They both look at each other on the bow, and then, they are both looking at each other on the fantail. If we wait until they are halfway up toward the bow and we start directly in the middle of the paddle wheels and swim underwater, we can get to the paddle wheels without being seen. We can wait there and watch for them to start back up. We can then swim under the paddle wheels and board the walkway in front of the paddle wheels.
They waited and watched until the two men were walking away from them and slivered into the water. They swam under water until they came up at the paddle wheel and stayed still so they would not create any waves while they watched the two men look at each other and start back to the front.
They swam under the paddle wheel and climbed the rail. Loyd took the starboard side and Boyd took the port side. The two men turned the corner at the same time. One chop to the neck and both were out like a light! They used their bandanas to keep them from yelling out. They found their handcuff keys, took them from them, and then locked them to the rail together.
A door led into the boat in the middle of the fantail, but they went down the port side to the door about halfway down which opened with no sound. There was a passageway that went all the way through to a door opening to the starboard side. Another passageway ran from the door in the fantail to another door in the bow, right in the middle of the riverboat.
They could hear voices coming from the passageway on the left. Boyd was in the lead and peeked around the corner both ways. Four men were sitting around a table in an area that looked like a mess hall. Boyd motioned for Loyd to pull his guns and step out at the same time he did and cover the right passageway.
Boyd pulled his guns stepped out into the passageway and said, "Everyone put your hands on the table, and do not move a muscle!"
He saw one of the men facing him look with his eyes to his left, Boyd's right. An instant later, a gun came around the corner! But, before it fired, one shot from Boyd's gun sent the gun flying. The man who was about to fire the gun let out a blood curdling scream and stepped out, holding his bleeding hand.
This brought out two others from the passageway Loyd was watching to investigate; unfortunately, they were unarmed and were starring down Loyd's gun barrels.
Boyd shot another bullet into the table between the men and asked, "Are there any other men we should expect? I am watching all of you and will know if you are lying."
"We are all here. We don't do anything during the day to keep from getting caught." one of the men answered.
"Well I guess you should have had a plan B, because this one did not work. "You two men, come up here. Loyd, bring those two men on the fantail up here and let's put them all in a pile." Boyd said,
They took all their keys and locked them all up to a rail that ran along the starboard side. They then checked out some of the riverboat rooms and found thirteen. They found four young black boys including Eddie. They also found two black girls and seven white girls. They all ranged between the age of 12 and 18.
Loyd went to the horses and headed back to pick up Sarah and Stanford Watson. While he was gone, Boyd and the kids explored the riverboat and found a chest containing over $30,000.00 in gold coins. They found out the riverboat also had twelve stalls, eight of which had horses in them. They were surprised to find eight black men and a woman cook named Ida Wells. The men were the ones who ran the ship and were locked in a room that was barely big enough for them to turn around in, let alone sleep. Ida was locked in a room by the kitchen.
Ida looked very tired and Boyd said. "Ida, you don't have to do anything until you feel like it; or, you can leave the boat if you want."
"I will stay on board. I have no where else to go," she said.
"Men, you are now free to go if you want to; but, we would like to hire you to run the boat for us until we find out what to do. You will each have your own room; and we will pay you $10.00 a day. We need someone who knows what to do. Will you accept the offer?" Boyd asked.
"Man, I have heard that song and dance before. We were hired by these men but when we got on board, they made us slaves all over again," one of the men said.
Boyd walked over to the chest and grabbed a handful of coins and handed them to him and said. "The gangplank is down. You can walk off with that handful and never look back or stay here and earn ten times that amount!"
"Man, my name is Marcus Hanson. My friends call me Mark. You have a deal, I don't know about the others." Mark said, smiling.
"My name is Nat Turner," the next man stepped forward.
"My name is Boyd Harris," Boyd said, handing him a handful of coins.
The next six men: Henry Billings, Bill Ellison, Leo Franklin, Jeff Hudson, John Casor, Ivan Wells, Elijah Vesey, and Dred Scott all stepped forward and got their money.
"Okay. Do any of you men feel like you can be captain?" Boyd asked.
They all shook their heads no, and Boyd said, "Then you cam find any state- room except the captain's. Then, we need all the staterooms cleaned enough for someone to live in. Can you do that?"
They were amazed. They had never been asked if they could do something. They scurried off to do the task before them.
When Loyd returned, there was a tearful reunion. Boyd said, "People, we are Federal Agents and we are going to go to St. Louis and notify Washington D.C. Do any of you live anywhere around here?"
They all started to tell their story. They had been too busy exploring the riverboat to tell their stories. The three black boys and girls were brothers and sisters from Quincy, Illinois. Their parents had been killed in the abduction.
The seven white girls revealed another story. They belonged to an orphanage in St. Louis who had sold the girls to the kidnappers.
One of the kidnappers heard all this and thought he might get off if he cooperated. He spoke up, "Jeff and Elizabeth Hill that run the Orphanage are Ralph Hill's parents. He is that one you shot in the hand. They have sent twenty-five girls so far. Ralph runs the riverboat for a man who has a ship in the gulf. He takes them to South America as slaves. We are supposed to meet him in fifteen days five miles out in the gulf. We were going to pick up one more girl that we were stalking tonight. We were going to leave tomorrow." the kidnapper said.