CopyrightÂ© 2006 by R. Michael Lowe aka The Scot. All rights reserved
Back in Washington General Scott looked up from his desk and greeted Dwight Bowman who was standing in the doorway. The General had been temporarily assigned an office in the FBI building while Project Gunslinger was still on the active board. “Any word yet, Dwight?”
“No, and I don’t really expect any for a while. I do have something interesting to show you, though.”
“Okay. Where are we going?”
“Just down the hall to one of the conference rooms.”
“No problem. Just lead the way.”
Moments later, they entered a small conference room that contained a large screen, high definition TV.
“Dwight, does that have something to do with that Redskin’s game yesterday.”
“No, I was watching some video from when Rick Hansen and Kevin were in Texas. I want you to see this.”
Dwight hit the play button on the DVD, and they watched Kevin go though a reaction course. Part of the rules were Kevin was to re-holster his gun between each target.
Puzzled, General Scott remarked, “It looks just like it did when we first saw him shoot.”
“Just be patient with me a moment. I think it’ll be worth your while.” On this next segment Rick tries to pull a fast one and activates a new target while Kevin wasn’t ready.”
Dwight resumed play and the TV showed Kevin draw and shoot a target with his right hand. Then, as he was putting that gun in the holster the other target popped up. Their eyes had hardly blinked when the cross draw gun was in Kevin’s left hand and he nailed that target.
“I agree, Dwight. That’s amazing, but something tells me this is leading somewhere.”
“It is. I was so impressed when I first watched the scene on my computer I brought it in here to see in on the large screen. The thing that caught my interest was a blur on the screen. So I slowed it down, and this is what I saw.” Dwight ran the same scene at half speed. Though it was slow motion there was still an unexplained blur on the screen.
“Okay, now you’ve tweaked my interest. There’s no way there should still be a blur on the screen at the slower speed.”
“Good. We’re on the same page. Now watch and tell me what you see when I freeze the frame.” Dwight replayed the scene, but this time froze the replay at the exact moment of the blur.
“Dwight, that gun is moving to meet his hand. That’s impossible.”
“Think so? Watch this scene from the famous football game.”
Though the picture wasn’t as clear as the other it still showed up well on the big screen. In slow motion Kevin dropped back to pass. The Dothan safety was blitzing from Kevin’s blind side and there were no blockers to protect the quarterback. Then, at the last moment, Kevin side stepped the lunging safety, who went sprawling across the grass.
“Incredible. It looked like he knew the safety was there.”
“I know, and I’m coming to believe he did know, as I saw something similar on some of his passes. He hit a receiver he never even looked at. His eyes were focused elsewhere. Now I’ve one more scene for you to see.”
In this scene it was third and a long eight. When Kevin dropped back to pass one of the defensive lineman broke free. Rushing at Kevin with his arms up, Kevin pulled his arm down and threw the ball underhanded and underneath the lineman’s outstretched arms. He hit the receiver for a twelve yard gain and a first down. “Yeah, I remember that play. I thought it was one of the most outstanding adlibs I’ve ever seen in a football game.”
“Well, I think you will be more amazed when you see it again at an even slower speed. Only this time, ignore everything else and keep your eyes focused on the ball.”
Dwight made some adjustments and the scene started again just as Kevin released the ball. In slow motion they saw it move toward the intended receiver. When the ball was about four feet from the receiver’s hands it was obvious to the men the pass wouldn’t be caught. Then, in the blink of an eye, the ball moved sideways six inches and fell into the receivers outstretched hands. A stunned General Scott asked, “Dwight, has anyone else seen this?”
“No, and I’m not sure if anyone should see it.”
“I agree on that. Besides, what can they do now?”
“I don’t know, but I don’t want to give them an option. Do you think he knows what he’s doing.”
“For some reason, I don’t think he did during the game. Otherwise he could’ve turned the game into a rout. I think it began to increase after the concussion and all the emotional trauma. I’m pretty sure he, at least, had some suspicions by the time he went back.”
“I don’t believe it. We had the real proof ESP exists right in our hands, and we never saw it.”
“I’m glad we didn’t know it at the time. He’s the perfect person to stop this assassination, but what will he do afterwards?”
“If they don’t burn him at the stake for being a witch, then I’d say he can do anything he wants.”
On the way into town, Bart and Bonnie discussed the various needs and how to handle them. One thing Bart was vehement about was Bonnie staying in town until her house was repaired or rebuilt. Though he didn’t explain the reason he told her he’d have to make a trip in a few days. What frustrated her the most though was he wasn’t sure how long he’d be gone. “But, if I stay in town what will happen to my stock.”
“Bonnie, what stock do you have?”
“The mule, a couple of goats and some chickens.”
“If he’s worth it, we can bring the mule into town and board him at the stable. Otherwise we can just turn him out to pasture. With plenty of grass and water he’d be fine. I’d do the same thing with the goats. As for the chickens, see if there is a needy family that can use them. We’ll start over when we’re ready.”
“I guess we can probably do that with all of the stock. I’ve just had to scrape to get by for so long, I don’t know no other way to live.”
Bart looked up, and could tell Zeke was listening so he asked, “Zeke, tell me about this area’s economy.”
“I’m not sure what you’re asking.”
“What kind of jobs are here? Are there more jobs than people, or more people than jobs? And finally, what’s the pay like?”
“I rec’n I understand. Before the war most of those in this here area were small farmers selling what little surplus they had to those in town. Now days most of the men folk who’d be working those farms are victims of the war. Miss Bonnie isn’t the only one ‘bout to lose their place.
“As for jobs, they’s some coal mines off to the east. ‘Cause of the cave-ins only the foolish or desperate will take those jobs. Also, though no one will fess up to it, a bunch are into smuggling. The problem is we’ve more people need’n jobs than there be jobs, and that keeps wages near nothing. What you’ve already paid me is more than I make a month as a deputy.”
Bart thought about this situation for a moment. He’d earlier sensed this man could be a bully, and Bonnie had confirmed it. Yet, Bart could also sense compassion in the man from the way he talked about the women losing their farms. Adding to that the caring way the deputy had addressed Bonnie, Bart decided he was willing to gamble on this man.
“Zeke, how’d you like to make twelve dollars a month, plus food, shelter, and needed supplies?”
“Who do I need to kill?”
“Hopefully, no one. My second question is, could you take orders from a woman?”
“And maybe some others.”
“For what you’re offering, I’d take orders from Colin O’Brian.”
“Speaking of Mister O’Brian, could you stand up to him if you had to?”
“I can’t out gun him, but get me one of those new Henry’s and I’ll take him out, one way or the other.”
Bonnie could not believe her ears. This man had been a bully for most of his life. Plus he’d worked hard to make her husband’s life miserable. Now, Bart was talking about hiring Zeke and having him take orders from her. Earlier she’d really respected Bart, but now she was afraid she’d made another mistake. Had she ended up with another cruel master?
Bart responded, “Zeke, I don’t have a problem with getting you a Henry Rifle, but I want you to defend Miss Bonnie and my property, not murder the man.”
Bonnie’s confusion and insecurity suddenly flashed forth in anger, and she snarled, “Are you considering me your property?”
“No, Bonnie. That’s why I separated them in the sentence. Land, buildings and livestock are property. People are not property, not even wives to their husbands. I’m talking about freedom from fear, not a new form of slavery. It amazes me you people of the North would send thousands of young men to die to free men who are made slaves because of the color of their skin, while it’s perfectly alright to make someone else a slave just because of their sex. It sounds rather hypocritical to me.” Bart could see the anger drain away from Bonnie’s face, but at the same time he saw Zeke stiffen and the back of his neck turned red.
“Do you have a problem with that, Zeke?”
“Only from being embarrassed it took someone from another country to point it out to me. The problem for most of us is that’s just the way things’ve always been. We never questioned if’n it was right or wrong.”
“Don’t you think those you call Johnny Rebs felt the same thing about slavery? Remember, there have been slaves in this country, especially in the South, for more than a hundred years before this nation rebelled against England. For them it was just the way things were. Now, back to my question, can you defend Miss Bonnie against Mister O’Brian?”
“I’m not sure it’ll matter, but I’ll do my best. Can I get some help?”
“Most likely. I plan on hiring several men to help, but they’ll not receive as much pay as you. I’m looking for you to be the foreman, so you’ll have more responsibility, and a pay rate that goes along with it. Now, what did you mean when you said, it probably doesn’t matter?”
“Colin is in town, drinking and gambling. I figure by now he’s heard that you’ve bought Miss Bonnie’s place and will be madder than a wet hen.”
“And you were going to let me go into town unsuspecting and get myself shot?”
“No, Sir. I just wasn’t sure when and how to tell you. They’s two reasons to know I’m supporting you in this. First, by coming back to drive you to town Colin will know I was taking your side in this fight. Second, I wouldn’t have promised to work for you and Miss Bonnie if I thought you’d be dead, tomorrow.”
Bart relaxed and rubbed his chin in thought. For a moment he became distracted when he felt the small imperial beard that was placed vertically below his lower lip. That beard and a mustache were part of the identity he and those in Washington came up with, but it hadn’t had time to be fully developed. Therefore, what he had, at the moment, was enhanced by theatrical make-up. “Okay, Zeke. I’ll accept that. Bonnie, do you have any problems with this?”
“I was fearful at first, as Zeke was always goading my husband. Now, I understand what you’re trying to do, and I’m willing to give him a chance.”
Cautious about expressing too much of his real feelings Zeke replied, “Miss Bonnie. I despised your late husband for a lot of reasons. I put those away when you married, but later it angered me ‘cause of how he treated you. I’m not saying that it should be me, but you deserve better, maybe someone like Mister Simpson here.”
This statement stunned and confused Bonnie, but it pleased Bart very much. What was more important, it confirmed his judgment of the man. Zeke would definitely fit into Bart’s long-range plans. Therefore, satisfied with the way things were progressing Bart pulled a three-fold wallet from the inside of his black town coat and removed four one hundred dollar bills.
“Bonnie, I want you to take this and pay off your loan and the taxes. Make sure you get receipts. Then, get a deed prepared and recorded in my name. Here’s one of my cards to help get the deed properly prepared. When you finish get us two rooms at the hotel, and then go shopping for some new dresses and such. Also, if you can find one, get Zeke a Henry rifle as well as ammunition. If they have enough, get three Henry rifles.” As Bonnie stared at more money than she could’ve ever imagined, Bart said, “Zeke, you need to resign at the Sheriff’s office, and from that point on stay close to Bonnie. I’m depending on you to protect her, as well as my money.”
“I’ll do my best.”
Pleased, Bart replied, “That’s all I can ask.”
Bonnie asked, “And what are your plans?”
“I’m going to the saloon and observe Mister O’Brian. I might even play a little poker.”
Frightened for her new friend, she cried, “But he’ll try to call you a cheat and draw on you.”
“I hope so, Bonnie! Oh, I hope so!”
It was late afternoon in the town of Fairhope, Ohio. In the General Store several ladies were trying to finish their shopping so they could return home and begin the evening meal. At the livery stable the blacksmith was haggling with a man who was trying to sell him a small herd of horses with Confederate brands. In their separate offices at the Sheriff’s office and the bank the Sheriff and the bank president were anxiously awaiting the arrival of the man who’d purchased the MacLean place. Neither man had really wanted to foreclose on the property, but the debt was delinquent and young Bonnie didn’t seem to be able to earn enough from her place to pay off her debts. Getting the delinquency off their books would relieve a lot of financial stress.
In the saloon, there were a couple of men at the bar, but most were watching the five men at the poker table. Colin O’Brian was winning for a change, so was the stranger who sat across from him. As a result, Colin was in a pretty good mood. That was until he heard someone mention Bonnie MacLean. “Jed,” Colin shouted, “what were you saying about Bonnie MacLean?”
“Zeke brought back two prospective buyers and told the Sheriff and Willard at the bank someone had purchased the place. He also said Bonnie and the new owner were bringing in the money this afternoon to pay off her debts.”
“And where is Zeke?”
“I don’t know for sure. Right after he informed the Sheriff and the bank of what happened he rented a surrey at the livery stable and drove off. No one’s seen him since.”
A fuming Colin announced, “Well, ain’t this just grand. I’m having a good day, and something like this happens. I guess I’ll just have to convince this interloper she and that land are mine.”
When the surrey reached town Bart had Zeke stop a few doors from the saloon to let him out, and instructed Zeke to bypass the saloon to go directly to the Sheriff’s office. From there getting to the bank would be easy, as it was just across the street from the Sheriff.
After carefully exiting the surrey Bart used his cane to work his way up the sidewalk toward the saloon. He also took a moment and took the safety thongs off his pistols. Then, taking a deep breath to calm himself Bart entered the saloon. He took a brief look around and walked to an empty table near the one where five men were playing poker. He’d hardly sat down when he was approached by the bartender. It must’ve been too early for the women who typically worked in such places hustling drinks, as well as other things.
“What can I get you stranger?”
Pointing to the bar Bart asked, “You got any real Kentucky Bourbon back there?”
“You’re not some Reb are you?”
“Actually, I’m from Canada, but believe it or not, my Scottish father loves Kentucky Bourbon. I guess I learned the pleasurable taste from him.”
“Well, not many people can afford it around here right now. It’s a dollar a glass, while whiskey is only ten cents.” Pulling a gold dollar from his coat pocket, Bart laid it on the table. Smiling, the bartender said, “I’ll be right back.”
“That’s fine, but just remember, I know what good Kentucky Bourbon tastes like.”
The bartender headed for the back room and brought out a bottle covered in dust. He wiped it off and poured a drink in a small shot glass. He carefully put the bottle under the bar and brought the glass to Bart. After sniffing and then tasting the golden liquid in the glass, Bart smiled and said, “You did good. Please pour any of my future drinks from that same bottle.”
Realizing he was going to finally sell the stuff the bartender said, “I’ll do that.”