Copyright© 2020 by UtIdArWa
“Sergeant of the guard. Tower reporting two riders and a carriage coming in.”
Sergeant Albert Pullman came up the stairs from the guard-room below. “Whereabouts, Snyder?”
“On the main road sarge. Coming in slow. Two outriders and two more in the carriage.”
Pullman had his field glasses up and looking in that direction. “Got them.” he watched for about five minutes, then exclaimed. “Oh, cripes. Do you know who that is? that’s Clara Jackson, Obie Jackson’s wife.” Pullman ran from the tower.
He soon returned with the officer of the day, Lieutenant Frazer. He checked the approaching party for a moment. Then, without a word, he too bolted from the tower.
There soon followed, a scrambling of Troopers at the headquarters gate. They quickly formed ranks, and Lieutenant Frazer made a fast inspection. He then led the troops out and formed an honor guard at the front gate.
At the same time that the carriage arrived at the front gate, Colonel Anderson walked through the headquarters gate and stood waiting.
As the carriage entered the parade ground, Lieutenant Frazer called attention and saluted the carriage occupant. When they reached Colonel Anderson, he greeted them warmly.
“Mrs. Jackson, it’s a pleasure seeing you here. Welcome to the Hacienda. If you would come with me, I have had some refreshments set out for you. You must be parched after your journey.”
“You are most gracious, Colonel Anderson. I would be happy to join you for refreshments. But first, about my escorts?”
“No worries, Ma’am. Over to the left are comfort facilities that your men are more than welcome to use. Is there anything special needed? We have excellent medical services as well as veterinarians available. We also have excellent dining options. Say a noon snack?”
“No, I’m sure that all we required is easily available.” she turned to the carriage driver, “Paco, you and the men see to the horses. Please behave yourselves, these gentlemen are friends regardless of what my husband has to say.”
She turned back to the Colonel, who was offering her his arm. She took it, and they walked through the headquarters gate.
For a moment, Clara was stunned at the condition of the headquarters plaza. It had the appearance of a well-tended garden. Pathways led between raised flower beds. Trees provided plentiful shade. A fountain in the center of the plaza flowed a gentle rain into its pool.
“My goodness, Colonel. It reminds me so very much of the Ruis Hacienda. An oasis in this dry land.”
“Please, Mrs. Jackson, call me Joshua. I feel that the animus Obie has towards me doesn’t need to be echoed between us.”
“I agree, Joshua. You must call me Clara, also.”
Patting her hand, Joshua replied, “A pleasure, Clara.
As their conversation continued, Colonel Anderson led his guest through the front door of the headquarter building and into an interior plaza. This was a smaller version of the central plaza. Smaller and more private. In the center, a table and chairs had been set up. A pitcher of cold water with glasses stood in the center of the table. On the side table was a coffee and tea service.
When asked, Clara selected tea. Joshua poured a cup for both of them. As they settled back, Joshua asked, “So Clara, what can I do for you? I know that you didn’t make this trip, obviously against your husband’s wishes, just to say hello. Is there a service or favor you would ask of me?”
Clara took a sip of her tea and collected her thoughts. She then brought out a plain wooden box from her purse. A foul odor quickly became apparent. “Joshua, I come to you today as a mother. The mother of a child in terrible danger. I know that Billy has done some bad things. Things that he needs to answer for. Things that have hurt others. Members of your organization, in particular. But I come here today to ask you, beg you, to please set all of that aside. My son has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom. The proof of this is what is in that box. Its contents are very distressing to me. But I find it as positive evidence of the kidnappers claim.”
Without touching the box, Joshua asked, “May I look?”
“Please do. I just hope that you aren’t too disgusted.”
Joshua opened the box. The odor of decaying flesh became stronger. Inside of the box was a severed finger.
Holding a handkerchief to her nose, Clara explained, “The person who delivered that box. Stated that he required $100,000.00 for the safe return of Billy. That we had until the end of the next week to have the ransom ready. That they would contact us where and when to make the payment.”
Joshua sat for a moment. He had closed the box and set it as far away from the table as possible. “Clara, I would be happy to help you out as much as possible. Do you have any idea where they might be holding Billy?”
Clara sat with her hands clasped in her lap, and her eyes downcast. “No, no idea at all.”
“Ok, when did you get the ransom demand?”