Cold Glory: New Excerpt

Cold Glory by B. Kent Anderson
Cold Glory by B. Kent Anderson

When the first page of a shocking Civil War-era document is unearthed in Oklahoma, history professor Nick Journey is called in to evaluate the find—and is promptly attacked by two men armed with Special Forces weapons.

Federal agent Meg Tolman’s investigation into Journey’s attack uncovers more troubling questions than answers. She soon finds herself joining Journey’s cross-country quest to recover and protect the missing pages.

A shadowy group, the Glory Warriors, have been desperately searching for this explosive document to legitimize what is nothing less than a military coup. After their first attempt to steal it from Journey fails, they follow him, knowing that he holds the key to uncovering the long-lost papers.

They also set their plan into motion and begin assassinating key political figures. As the country plunges into chaos, Journey and Tolman search frantically for the remaining pages. And the Glory Warrior operatives are hot on their trail….  

 

Prologue

April 9, 1865

Appomattox Court House, Virginia

His name wasn’t Edward Hiram, but it amused him to call himself that. Edward was Robert E. Lee’s middle name, and Hiram was the real first name of Ulysses Grant.

He appreciated the humor and the irony. There was a shortage of humor in these last days of the war. No one cracked jokes anymore. The Union boys didn’t act victorious, only tired. The Confederates still acted defiant, not defeated. As for the irony, that was his alone. He carried it with him like another saddlebag, just as he had been traveling at night, skirting picket lines and carrying messages for months.

It was Palm Sunday, and the dispatches had been moving between Grant and Lee since Friday. Richmond had fallen, Lee’s troops were hungry, and no supplies would be forthcoming. The Army of Northern Virginia would surrender this day, within the hour.

For half a year, Hiram had traveled between the two armies. No one knew who he was. No one trusted him, for he wore neither blue nor gray. In fact, no record of him existed. There were no pay warrants, no records of assignment to a company or regiment or battalion. He was a civilian in this war, yet he moved in and out of the armies’ picket lines as easily as if he were at a church social. No one trusted him, no one knew his name, but they all let him pass.

Hiram fingered the gold pin just inside his lapel. He’d first put it on less than a week ago, when it became clear that the end was coming quickly. It was solid gold and engraved with the ornate letters G.W.

Glory Warriors.

Only a handful of the pins existed. But others were already being made, and many more would come soon, when the war was officially over.

Hiram rode on toward the village of Appomattox Court House. The meeting was to take place at the home of Wilmer McLean, and there the bloody conflict would end. It was a safe location and easily accessible to both generals and their staffs. A rambling two-story house, dark with white trim, it had a magnificent Southern-style front porch that ran the length of the place. Officers and horses milled about the front dooryard. Someone was singing one of Stephen Foster’s popular songs in a fine Southern tenor voice. Hiram stopped to listen for a moment: “ ’Tis the song, the sigh of the weary, hardtimes, hard times, come again no more. . . .

They believe the hard times will end with the war, Hiram thought. In reality, they may be just beginning.

He rode around to the back of the house, unnoticed. My greatest talent, he thought. No staff waited there. Lee had told them all to wait in front of the house until he called them in to witness the surrender. The McLeans had left the home, aware of the momentous business that was about to transpire. Lee’s famed horse, Traveler, was tethered to a fence post.

Hiram entered through the kitchen and, silent as dewfall, moved to the sitting room at the front of the home. The dark velvet curtains were drawn. Lee sat at a little oval table near the front window, one elbow resting on it. Even with the expression of drawn exhaustion on his face, Lee sat erect in his spotless gray uniform. His sword, jewels encrusted in the hilt, lay at his side. In an army where many of the men had no shoes at all, Lee’s boots were new, stitched with red silk. His silver hair and beard were perfectly groomed. He looked like a man about to take high tea, not one about to surrender a cause for which many of his countrymen had bled and died over the last four years.

Hiram cleared his throat. “General,” he said. Lee did not look at him. “Is it ready?”

“It is,” Hiram said.

Then Lee did look up, his face clouded.

“Sir,” Hiram added. He rarely bothered with formalities. He was no longer a military man, after all, and even when he had been years ago, his work had been rather less formal than that of the Army regulars. Still, Robert E. Lee commanded a respect not due to many others, in or out of uniform.

“May I see it?” Lee asked, his voice ever soft, ever studied.

Hiram opened his saddlebag and withdrew the papers. There were three pages, the last one blank. Lee read them quickly, running his hand over the raised seal at the top of the first page.

Both turned as the front door opened and Ulysses S. Grant stomped in. Sixteen years younger than Lee, four inches shorter, slightly stoop-shouldered, he wore a uniform and boots spattered by mud. Aside from a pair of shoulder straps, he wore no indication of his rank, and his shirt and coat were those of a private soldier. He nodded to Lee, then to Hiram. “We haven’t much time. The staff will need to be admitted in a few minutes.”

Hiram pointed at the table. Lee held the papers out to him. Grant crossed to him and took the pages, rattling them in his hands. He looked up at Hiram. “You understand that it could not be in my handwriting, or General Lee’s. The body of the statement itself, I mean.”

“I don’t concern myself with such things, General,” Hiram said. He looked at both generals. “I have simply done my small part.”

“Not yet, you haven’t,” Grant said.

He took a pen from his waistcoat and shuffled the papers, the blank page coming to the top. He scrawled his signature across it and handed it to Lee. The older man hesitated.

“General Lee?” Grant said.

“Yes,” Lee said. “Yes. General, I would like to pray.”

Impatient, Grant took off his hat. Hiram knew Grant had never been religious, and Lee was famously pious. There was a breath-filled silence while Lee bowed his head, eyes closed. After a moment, he looked up and signed the page, his signature just below Grant’s. His hand shook a little. Hiram was startled. It was the closest thing toweakness he had ever seen from Robert E. Lee.

“General,” Grant said, “the coming years will be difficult. You and I know this better than any others.”

Lee waited a moment, then nodded. “The peace may well be more violent than the war.” He looked at Hiram, then at Grant. “We must protect the people. All the people, North and South. As soldiers, it is our sworn duty.”

“A precaution,” Hiram said. “The nation—if indeed we are to again become one nation—will be volatile.”

Both generals stared at him as if he’d spoken out of turn. Hiram felt a rising tide of annoyance at this silent rebuke from two men who’d been afraid to have the device in their own handwriting, and yet they had just affixed their signatures. Perhaps they were, after all, no better than politicians themselves.

Hiram took the pen from Lee, added the date and the time below the two signatures, and beneath that wrote, Appomattox Court House, VA.

“Go,” Lee said. “Ride hard. The Glory Warriors await news of what we do here.” “The guardians are in place?” Hiram said, looking at both generals.

Grant rubbed his beard, looking at Lee, then glanced back to Hiram. “Yes, and a guide will be waiting for you to take you the last few miles.”

“A guide?”

“The roads are not reliable in the area, especially when the rivers flood. One of the local Indians will show you the best route. I understand the man is quite respected in the Territory.”

No one spoke for a long moment. “We are growing by the day,” Hiram finally said.

Grant waved a hand at him, then sat down. “You heard General Lee. Go.” He turned to Lee. “And on to the public business we have here.”

Hiram folded the papers back into his saddlebag and left without another word. He ran his hand over the G.W. pin again.

The Glory Warriors.

They didn’t trust him. Even after all of this, they didn’t trust him. But he would be protected.

I don’t trust them, either, Hiram thought as he mounted. They have done what they must, and so will I.

Within a few minutes, Grant was writing out the terms of Lee’s surrender, while blue and gray stood close to each other, witnessing the end of four years of hell that had been unleashed upon the land. Hiram spurred his horse away from the house. He had a long journey ahead of him.

Three Weeks Later

Near Fort Washita, Indian Territory

The Indian was waiting on the muddy road a few miles north of the Red River, where it divided the Territory from Texas, when Hiram met him. The old Chickasaw sat astride a magnificent horse, solid black with a white star on its forehead. The Indian was older than Hiram had expected. He had to be at least sixty, perhaps seventy. It was hard to tell with the Indians.

Hiram had traveled hard, but he hadn’t come directly from Virginia to the Territory. He’d made a long detour, but one that would protect him. One that would protect the Glory Warriors from impulsiveness and stupidity, qualities Hiram found in abundance wherever he stopped.

He hadn’t even made it to his first stop when the news reached him about Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. And so it begins, he thought, much sooner than any of us expected.

He’d waited three days for more news—it would dictate what he did next. But there were no other killings in Washington. Not yet. He moved on. He saw Yankees and Rebs taking meals together as if the past four years were a grand illusion. He saw freed slaves working fields alongside poor whites. But he also saw revenge killings—North on South, South on North. He saw two starving farm women in Arkansas fighting each other over a single bushel of corn.

The peace may well be more violent than the war, Lee had said.

He nodded to the old Indian, then turned the collar of his jacket out, showing the G.W. pin.

Without moving, the Indian said, “I am Jeremiah Colbert. I was told to wait here at noon each day. You have money? Northern money, no Confederate bills.”

“Colbert? What kind of Indian name is Jeremiah Colbert? You don’t trust me for the money? You think I speak with a forked tongue?”

“Don’t mock me, white man,” Colbert said. “I speak better English than you do. Most of my people have English names. But if it matters, I am also called Onnaroketay. And remember, our government didn’t go to war with itself. My nation is more civilized than yours.”

Hiram reached into his bag—not the one with the Virginia papers—and took out a wad of bills. Without any movement from Colbert that Hiram could perceive, the Chickasaw’s horse moved forward. He took the bills from Hiram.

“How far?” Hiram asked.

“Ten miles,” Colbert said. He turned his horse around in the road and trotted away. After a moment, Hiram followed him.

Fort Washita had been built more than twenty years earlier, and at the time of its construction was the U.S. Army’s most remote outpost in the West. Built to protect the“civilized tribes” of the area—the Chickasaw and Choctaw, specifically—from marauding Plains bands like the Kiowa and Comanche, it was abandoned when the war began, then occupied and held by the Confederates through most of the war. It wasn’t large—guardhouse, a few barracks, officers’ quarters, hospital, and parade ground. Th e word ramshackle came to Hiram’s mind as he and Colbert rode up to the guardhouse.

Hiram turned and looked at Colbert. “You can go,” he said. “You’ve earned your money.”

Colbert shrugged, turned the black horse, and trotted down the road. Hiram rode through the front gate into an overpowering silence. Just inside the gate, he stopped and dismounted, tying his horse to a tree.

The two men came from the far side of the guardhouse. One wore blue, one a threadbare gray uniform, but otherwise their similarity was striking—corn silk hair, blue eyes, drooping mustaches. The one in blue wore an infantry cap; the gray one was hatless, his hair matted and dirty. Both carried pistols on their belts.

Hiram showed them the G.W. pin without speaking. They each turned back their own jackets to show identical pins. One of the men Hiram had recruited to the Glory Warriors was a Union captain who in civilian life was a New York jeweler. He’d begun casting and engraving the pins and was awaiting Hiram’s word even now to know how many more to produce.

“What’s your name?” said the one in gray.

“I have no name,” Hiram said.

The blue one shrugged. “Micah Garrity.”

“Jonah Garrity,” said the gray.

“What state?” Hiram asked.

“Missouri,” Micah Garrity said.

Hiram nodded. There was a certain poignancy to it: Brothers from border states often wound up on opposite sides of this war. “It’s all over,” Hiram said. “Lee surrendered. The rest will follow, even here in the West.”

Jonah Garrity nodded. “We’ve heard tell.”

Micah Garrity scratched his stubbled face. A long mass of scar tissue ran from his left ear down the jawline to his chin. “Don’t have to ask what’s next, else you wouldn’t be here.”

“You have everything in place?” Hiram said.

Both men nodded.

Hiram opened his saddlebag. He withdrew a single sheet of paper, folded and tucked it into an envelope. With great deliberation, he sealed it.

“We don’t get to look at it?” Jonah Garrity said, his voice low.

“Can you read?” Hiram said a little too quickly.

Both men glared at him, blue eyes hardening.

“Then don’t waste my time,” Hiram said. “What’s inside there is for others to read. You have your part, I have mine, and they will have theirs, when the situation warrants.” He handed the envelope to Micah Garrity. “You know what to do with it?”

“Dammit, we ain’t fools,” Micah Garrity snapped.

Hiram said nothing.

“You seen ’em?” Micah said. “Both Lee and Grant?”

“Of course,” Hiram said. “Who do you think sent me?”

“Of course,” Micah said.

Hiram looked at the man to rebuke him for his tone, and he missed the movement. Jonah Garrity’s pistol was in his hand, and before Hiram could even turn to get his own, the big gun had sounded twice.

Hiram stumbled back against his horse. One hand went to his chest. He felt the warmth of his blood and thought, Damn them. Damn them all.

“It’s not over,” he whispered, clawing at his saddlebag.

Micah Garrity kicked Hiram’s legs out from under him and stood watching as the man bled out. “It is for you,” he said. He bent down and pulled the G.W. pin from Hiram’s coat, tearing o? a bit of the fabric with it.

“We don’t want him to die in here,” Jonah Garrity said. “Take him outside.” He and his brother each took one of Hiram’s arms and pulled. They dragged him along the path, through the gate, and into the mud in front of the fort.

“He had a nice horse, at least,” Micah said. “That’ll help.”

A mist had begun, and the late-afternoon light was fading. Jonah and Micah Garrity walked away from Hiram, leaving him inthe middle of the road to die.

Hiram didn’t know how long he lay there. He floated weightlessabove himself in the rain, then felt as if he were being dragged back down into the mud. Nothing flashed before his eyes, as he’d heard happened with dying men. He just felt the floating sensation, then the dragging, over and over again. He rolled onto his back. Th e entire front of his white shirt was red. He saw the old Indian and for a moment thought, Are you God? Are you to pass judgment on me?

But Jeremiah Colbert—Onnaroketay—dismounted and looked at him without speaking. He lifted Hiram as if he weighed nothing at all and draped him across the saddle of the beautiful black horse.

Colbert still said nothing, but Hiram felt the horse moving. He was no longer floating, but his head felt incredibly light.

It’s not over, Hiram thought. Then he closed his eyes, floating again, and this time he wasn’t dragged back down.

 

Chapter 1

Present Day

They first found out about the discovery at the same time and in the same manner as the rest of the world—via television. The Judge was watching one of his own networks, Heritage News Channel, in the middle of the afternoon, when the cable network inserted one of its fluff “feature stories.” It was something the Judge might have missed, as he usually ignored such nonsense. Then again, even if he had missed it the first time, he was certain he would have been informed in fairly short order. One of the others would have picked up the significance and relayed it to him.The graphic at the bottom of the screen read historical find in oklahoma. The video was of an earthmover breaking ground in an open field. The reporter, male and young, spoke in voice-over. “I’m Dan Manning at the Fort Washita Historical Site, between Madilland Durant in far southern Oklahoma. A huge cache of Civil War–era weapons was found buried here, as ground was being broken for a new museum dedicated to the 1840s-era frontier fort.”

The Judge leaned across his huge walnut desk, eyes riveted to the plasma screen TV. The video shifted to a long table, on which were piled rusting long rifles, their wooden stocks weathered, barrels encrusted with nearly a century and a half of grit. “This is only a portion of the weapons found. The Oklahoma Historical Society, which owns Fort Washita and the property adjacent to it, has turned the artifacts over to historian Nick Journey at nearby South Central College of Oklahoma. He estimates more than five thousand rifles”—the reporter came down hard on the word thousand—“were buried here. And that doesn’t take into account dozens of disassembled artillery weapons. Some still bear the insignia of Civil War regiments. Interestingly enough, the heavier weapons seem to have come from both Northern and Southern units, yet they were buried here together.”

The Judge grabbed a pen and pad and began to write, his heartpounding. The video cut to a middle-aged white man whose dark reddish brown hair was shot through with gray. He was of average height, slightly thick around the middle, lined face and calm brown eyes, thoughtful demeanor. He was wearing a blue denim shirt. The graphic identified him as Nick Journey, Ph.D., Civil War Historian.

“We’re just starting the process of analyzing the artifacts,” Journey said into the microphone. “It’ll take a while to sort it all out.”

“Any theories?” the reporter asked.

The Judge held his breath. “No,” Journey said. The historian dropped his eyes away from the camera. “No theories. Not yet.”

The video ran to an exterior shot of the Fort Washita guardhouse as it overlooked a narrow two-lane highway, then back to another table, on which rested a rusting metal strongbox, the kind that had once been made to transport gold and other valuables. The camera zoomed in for a tight shot of a gold pin that rested beside the box. The reporter, blond and fair-skinned with the well-scrubbed but unremarkable looks that permeated TV news, stepped into the shot and picked up the pin. “Adding further to the intrigue, this metal box was found buried at one end of the pit that held the weapons. Professor Journey tells us some documents were also in the box, but they haven’t been released to the public as of yet.”

The shot returned to Nick Journey. “The Oklahoma Historical Society has granted me custody of all these materials, and I’ll be working to determine just how they came to be here at Fort Washita.”

“What can you tell us about the papers that were found in the box?”

“Nothing at this time. But the documents will be secure.”

“What is the condition of the papers?”

“Very good, from what we can tell. The box is made of tin and coated with copper. Someone was very serious about preserving the contents of this box. Our document conservators at the college are working on the papers now, to make sure we are physically able to handle them. After that, I’ll start analyzing them for content to see if we can figure out where they came from and who buried them here. Believe me these items aren’t going to be very far away from me for the foreseeable future. We have very specific chain of custody procedures for historic artifacts.”

“Do you think you’ll get to the bottom of this?”

“That’s my job, Dan.”

The camera cut back to the reporter, who walked to the table and picked up the gold pin. “This little bit of jewelry has been cleaned up, and it appears to be made of solid gold.” He turned it toward the camera and ran his fingers over the letters. “Who was G.W.? Per­haps when we know that, we’ll know more about this very curious discovery at this off-the-beaten-path historical site. Historian Nick Journey will be trying to find out just what all of this means. For now, though, it’s a bona fide historical mystery. I’m Dan Manning for HNC, in Bryan County, Oklahoma.”

The piece ended and the anchors in Washington were back on screen. The Judge muted the TV’s sound and sat back in his leather chair. He folded his hands together as if praying, then unfolded them several times. He swiveled in his chair, facing the picture window that looked across the green West Virginia hills. The Judge had come here years ago, settling in this state that had been born out of the Civil War. It was a symbol of his commitment to the cause. He had spent most of his life searching, looking for what a random construction project had just turned up in Oklahoma, of all places. Not the old weapons, of course. But the “documents” buried with them—he needed the documents.

He and the others had waited. The names and faces came and went. The old ones died off and young ones were carefully recruited. Thousands of them waited now, in secret bases across the country—they came from the military, the intelligence services, law enforcement, even from the business, technology, and academia sectors. All waited for their opportunity to move into action. For many of them, their trails were obscured, their lives reshaped, just as he had reshaped his own life. The media, even his own employees,liked to call him “reclusive.” And he was, since he had turned the day-to-day operation of his companies over to subordinates, MBA types who knew nothing of his real purpose. To them, he was just a rich old man who had once been well known and was now content to sit back at his home in the hills and make his money. Newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations, cable networks, Internet portals . . . he owned them all, but they were only the means for achieving his true life’s work—work that was closer to reality today than it had ever been. The Judge turned back to his desk. He had scrawled Nick Journey, South Central College of Oklahoma on the legal pad. Hepicked up his phone, waited a moment, then said, “Have you heard?”

“Just now,” said the man on the other end of the line. “Did you see it?”

“Yes,” the Judge said. “What this man has found will fill in all the holes. It’s the actual document. Did you see the pin?”

“Of course.”

“Yes. We must have the document in our hands. Start working on the man, this college professor, Journey.”

His mind shifting, racing, turning like an undammed river,the plans that had consumed him for so long—just as they had ruled the lives of his father and grandfather before him—began to come into focus. After hanging up the phone, the Judge unlocked his desk drawer and withdrew the ancient pages. He read the ornate writing, ran his hands across the words. Then he pulled out another page and felt the raised seal: two swords, crossed at their points, with USA and CSA on their respective hilts, a single silver star occupying the space between the two points, and below that, between the hilts of the swords, a bloodred American eagle. This was all they knew for so many years. Now the other pieces would fit together. Now they would be complete.

The Judge turned the lapel of his jacket inside out and touched the gold pin there, a round piece of jewelry with the letters G.W. engraved on it.

 

Chapter 2

On any given day, tired was the only word Nick Journey could think of to describe his life. One of his colleagues in South Central College of Oklahoma’s Department of History was on sabbatical, so he’d had an extra undergraduate course added to his teaching load. His manuscript for a journal article had lain untouched since the spring semester ended, and his coauthor was constantly on his case about it. Then there was Andrew, whose needs were changing, seemingly by the day, and caring for a twelve-year-old with a profound disability was by definition a case study in exhaustion. Then there was “the gun thing,” as his students were calling it, and dealing with the aftermath of the Fort Washita discovery simply added another layer. Journey had little interest in the guns themselves,and having secured a couple of them for the tiny SCCO history museum, gave the rest of them back to the Oklahoma Historical Society. They’d sent three trucks from Oklahoma City to pick up the old ordnance. But Journey held on to the little strongbox and its contents. So he put in his time as SCCO’s resident celebrity. The college sat along the edge of Lake Texoma, the huge man-made lake that was fed by the Red River and divided Oklahoma from Texas. The town of Carpenter Center, with a year-round population of ten thousand, was equal parts lakeside resort and small college town, infused with the quintessential Oklahoma elements of Old West cattle culture, the oil industry, and Native American influence.

His office in Cullen Hall was cramped. With a decade on the faculty, he was a tenured associate professor, but office space at SCCO was notoriously tiny. Th e office was disorganized, the books and journals and student works piled around his laptop. The only adornment on the wall was his doctorate from the University of Virginia. A few pictures of Andrew fanned out on the desk. Physically, the boy was a carbon copy of his mother, with the pecan-colored hair and the gray-green eyes and high cheekbones. Andrew smiled in only one of the pictures, the one from when he was three years old, before his autism had become clear. In the others, his look ranged from frightened to completely vacant.

With his morning class over and no office hours scheduled today, Journey opened his window—the best thing about the office was that it looked out onto the tree-lined common—and unlocked his desk drawer.

He’d received the papers back from the document conservators, who had applied a humidification process to make the paper less brittle. Still, they’d encased the pages in a plastic sleeve for handling. Journey took out the sleeve and centered it on his laptop—it was the only place on the desk he could put it. He tapped a fingernail on the desk three times. It was a gesture that never failed to irritate students, colleagues, and his ex-wife—always the left index finger, always three times.

He looked at the thick, somewhat yellowed parchment, feeling the embossed seal of swords, star, and eagle through the plastic. The handwriting beneath the seal was flowing yet masculine. An educated man had written the words.

Whereas the late War Between the States has been ended, on this date and in this place; And whereas the conditions of the American continent in the conflict’s aftermath bring to bear great uncertainty; And whereas Americans, both North and South, possess an interest in the general order and well-being of the continent; This clause is added to the terms ending the aforementioned conflict. As such, it possesses the power of treaty and the import of law, to supersede all others, in accordance with General Order No. 100, “Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field,” Section I, Article 3.

This clause shall be enacted into law if three provisions of the American Federal Government are present. If the leaders of the three branches of Government are removed in short order from their offices—to wit, the Speaker of the Legislative Branch, the chief justice of the Judicial Branch, and the president of the Executive Branch—and if said removal is accomplished by conspiratorial means to destabilize the American Federal Government, this clause shall be activated, and will supersede all other areas of law and treaty until such time as the Government may once again become stabilized. This clause shall not be enacted unless all portions of this document may be authenticated, inclusive of our signatures following.

A long black line of ink stretched across the page, and at the bottom, in a slightly more hurried hand, was written: The Poet’s Penn makes the waters fall and causes the strong to bend.

Journey had read the page at least fifty times by now, putting himself into the time when it was written. The Civil War era, Reconstruction, and the Gilded Age that followed were rife with conspiracies, most of which turned out to be nothing more than a fanatic or two planning here or there to do something to promote their cause.

Never, to Journey’s knowledge, had there ever been a plot to remove the highest officials of all three branches of the government. That would have meant widespread panic, a descent into chaos, anarchy. In the 1860s, perhaps even a resumption of hostilities between North and South. But such a thing could never have been accomplished. The planning would have to be too precise. A thousand things would go wrong. They always did.

Journey tapped his finger again. But someone was thinking about such a conspiracy in the war years. Clearly referring to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, the writer of this page had envisioned just such a conspiracy, and a “clause” to deal with its aftermath. The writing didn’t belong to either Lee or Grant—both men had left enough writings behind to be preserved in many di?erent archives. It had taken Journey all of fifteen minutes online to see that neither man wrote the words on this page.

He went back to his computer and typed General Order No. 100 in the search engine. When the results settled onto the screen, he nodded to himself. He’d run across it in his research before, but usually under its more common name, the Lieber Code, after the law professor who drafted most of it. General Order No. 100 was an executive order issued by President Lincoln in 1863 to direct the conduct of the armies during the war. It was often cited as one of the precursors to the Hague Conventions that still governed modern warfare.

Journey scrolled down to Article 3 of the first section and read:

Martial law in a hostile country consists in the suspension by the occupying military authority of the criminal and civil law, and of the domestic administration and government in the occupied place or territory, and in the substitution of military rule and force for the same, as well as in the dictation of general laws, as far as military necessity requires this suspension, substitution, or dictation.

A chill went down Journey’s spine.

Hostile country.

Martial law.

What did the Lieber Code have to do with Fort Washita? What “conspiratorial means” was the author of this page talking about?

Journey returned to the old paper. There was no second page, no signatures as referenced in the writing. And the cryptic note at the end made no sense. The document was so precise in its language, so deliberate—the misspelling of penn leapt off the page.

The Poet’s Penn makes the waters fall and causes the strong to bend.

“What is this?” Journey said, not realizing he’d said it aloud.

“Nick?”

Journey jumped and knocked papers off the desk.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you.” The voice belonged to Sandra Kelly, one of the new young assistant professors, in her third year and not yet tenured. Her specialty was the history of third-party political movements and extremism in American politics. She was fully six feet tall with a mane of brilliant red hair and blazing Irish green eyes. Shew as fond of wearing loose-fitting tie-dye dresses. A small, simple silver cross hung around her neck. “Working on the gun thing?”

Journey made a face at her. “Stop calling it that. It’s bad enough that TV reporters and bloggers with nothing better to do call it that. It’s not about the guns.”

She grinned. “Want to grab some lunch?”

“I suppose so.” Journey was vaguely uncomfortable with Sandra Kelly, often sensing she was looking for something other than a professional relationship. She was a good dozen years younger than he, and had never said or done anything overt, but his gut told him otherwise. Even so, he and Amelia had been divorced for only three years. He suspected Sandra—or almost any other woman, for that matter—would be scared off by Andrew’s disability. So he told himself with great regularity.

“Don’t sound so enthusiastic.”

“Sorry. I guess I’m distracted. You want to get Uncle Charley’s? Today is the cheeseburger basket special.”

“Very funny.” Sandra was a strict vegetarian.

“Right. I’ll eat your burger, and you can have a salad.”

Journey dropped the gold pin into a plastic Ziploc bag and tucked the bag into the pocket of his tan chinos. Taking care not to fold or crinkle the sleeve, he picked up the paper and slipped it into the battered green backpack he used as a briefcase. Journey was notorious among the faculty for taking documents with him wherever he went, whether they were major discoveries or not. He worked on them at home, in coffee shops, sitting in traffc, anywhere he could snatch a minute to consider and analyze a new historical find. The pin was another question without an answer. Who was G.W.? On some vague level, Journey felt that he should know the answer already, and that if he found G.W., he found the rest of this strange little enigma.

Nick Journey and Sandra Kelly walked down the stairs and out of Cullen Hall into the bright September sunshine. As they did, a tall young man with a blond buzzcut, sitting in an armchair in the lounge area on the first floor pulled out a cell phone. He spoke quietly to his counterpart, who was leaning against an elm thirty feet from the front steps. The man outside watched the two professors as they passed, then snapped his own phone closed.

Journey and Kelly cleared the common, with its towering oaks and elms and its “memory garden” of wildflowers. Uncle Charley’s, a campus institution that had been serving burgers and beer for half a century, sat diagonally across Whitesell Boulevard from the main gates of the college. One minute later, they were ordering lunch. Across the street, at a metered parking space, a man in the driver’s seat of a navy blue Chevy Suburban spoke into a cell phone. “He’s now off campus. Move in.”

The young man in the lobby of Cullen Hall closed his phone, stood up, and headed to the stairs. Half a minute later, the one from outside joined him. Less than ninety seconds after the man in the Suburban had spoken, the other two were inside Nick Journey’s office.

In three minutes, they called the man in the Suburban. “It’s not here,” said the one who’d been stationed outside. “He must have it with him.”

“Acknowledged. Were you seen?”

“Negative. The hallway’s empty.”

“Good. Get out of there. They went to the diner across the street. I’ll establish surveillance there.”

The man in the car was a little older than the other two, wearing jeans, a polo shirt, and sneakers. He left the Suburban, turned the corner, and walked into Uncle Charley’s. He spotted Journey and the red-haired woman three booths back from the counter. A waitress had just brought their food—an enormous cheeseburger with aside order of grilled jalapeño peppers for Journey, an equally substantial salad for the woman. The man glanced at their table once as he passed. The plastic sleeve rested on the table, Journey’s right hand on top of it, as if he expected it to try to escape.

He went to the counter and ordered a cheeseburger to go. When it arrived, he took the white foam container and walked past the two professors again. They were eating, Journey’s elbow resting on the page. Journey looked up as the man passed and for an instant their eyes met. The man from the Suburban shifted his eyes away to the sleeve. He saw the faded seal—the swords, the star, the eagle embossed in deep red.

Journey moved around a little, covering the page with his arm. The man from the Suburban walked outside and returned to his vehicle. His two associates were waiting for him.

“He’s keeping it with him,” the man said. “Let’s go back over his schedule.” He looked at the other two. “We’re going to go operational. We have to take it from him.”

“He’s not going to want to give it to us,” said one of the others.

“Our orders are clear. We do whatever it takes.”

 

Chapter 3

Journey lingered over his burger, Sandra picked at her salad, and the two of them talked about their colleague who was on sabbatical in England, about students who annoyed them, students they liked. Sandra didn’t press him about the document, for which he was grateful. It was a welcome respite from all the hype surrounding it, and he sensed she knew it. It was almost two o’clock when they left Uncle Charley’s. Journey didn’t have another class until evening, so he picked Andrew up from school and headed to his home, a brick 1930s Tudor sixb locks from campus. Andrew wasn’t especially vocal today, which was good—he’d been screaming a lot lately. He was also likely to break into hysterical laughter at any moment, and it was far different from his genuine, happy laughter. Today’s sound, though, was whistling, the same three notes in the same pattern over and over again. Repetitive behaviors were one of the hallmarks of Andrew’s autism. Journey thought of his finger taps—always the left index finger, always three times. Maybe he shared more with his child than he thought he did.The idea gave him a little comfort. Many times a day, he felt he never reached Andrew at all, that nothing he did made the least difference, so he took his common ground wherever he could find it.

He changed Andrew’s diaper. Changing diapers on a boy who was five feet six presented its own set of challenges, but it had become so routine to Journey that he occasionally let himself forget that parents of other twelve-year-olds didn’t have to do this several times a day. He rolled a ball back and forth with the boy for a few minutes; then Andrew grew tired of that and wandered off in search of a straw and a pencil, which he would beat together in rhythm for hours on end, if left to do so.

Journey checked e-mail, thought about working on his journal article, and didn’t have the heart for it. He looked at the Fort Washita document again. What did it mean? Some 1865-vintage lunatic fringe stockpiling weapons to assassinate the president, the Speaker of the House, and the chief justice of the Supreme Court?

The line at the bottom, scrawled more hastily but in the same handwriting, was nonsense. The Poet’s Penn. Penn with the double n. A reference to Pennsylvania? William Penn? Journey could think of nothing that coincided with the Civil War references.

Before he knew it, two hours had slipped away and he needed to get ready for class. The sitter, a special education major from the college, was on time and Journey said good-bye to Andrew. As usual,he had to say the boy’s name several times to get a fleeting second’s eye contact, and then Andrew pushed his flat hand forward in a sharp, jerky movement, his version of a good-bye wave.

He was almost late for class, which wasn’t unusual. The class ran from five thirty until nine o’clock, an upper-division course called Congress in the Civil War. He had only eight students, and the discussions were lively and challenging. He hated the scheduling of it, but intellectually it was the high point of his week.

At a few minutes after nine, he walked upstairs to his office, intending to check e-mail and phone messages before leaving campus for the night. He pulled up short, three steps from his door.

It was slightly ajar.

Journey looked up and down the hall. He was alone. No other office doors were open. His was the only class that met in the building this evening.

He stepped into the office. His laptop was on the floor, the screenshattered. His desk was clear—all the papers had been swept onto the floor. The single drawer of his desk was pulled open. His file folders had all been opened. Student assignments covered his chair. Books had been ripped from the tiny shelf. His pictures of Andrew were all askew. The one of a smiling three-year-old Andrew, in a gold oval frame, was cracked. The fissure in the glass slashed directly across the boy’s face.

He heard a footstep somewhere down the hall.

Journey turned halfway around, as abruptly as if someone had pulled him by the shoulder.

Another step. Cullen Hall was an old building with tile flooring in all the offices and hallways. Footsteps were always magnified, and there was a standing departmental joke that one person walking down the hall sounding like the entire student body stampeding.

Journey reached for his phone and punched 2- 3- 4- 5, campus security. “This is Nick Journey, history department. My office . . . someone broke into my office.”

The young male voice said, “What room, Dr. Journey?”

“Cullen Hall. Two-oh-three.”

“We’ll be right there.”

Journey stepped into the hallway. It seemed darker, the walls closer, the air stifling. “Hello?” he said to the walls.

There was the noise again, from the direction of the stairs. Three offices were between here and there, plus restrooms at the top of the stairway. He took a few more steps, a fast walk, then almost a jog.

He turned back toward the hall. It was empty, dark. He’d never realized what an isolated cave of a place Cullen Hall was at nightafter classes were over.

Journey tightened his grip on his backpack strap, flexed his hands,and put a foot on the top stair.

The three field operatives had moved from their base in Dallasinto Carpenter Center, armed with a thorough dossier on Nick Allen Journey, Ph.D. The young man who had watched from the commonas the target and Sandra Kelly walked to lunch eight hours ago was in an alcove just off the stairs at the opposite end of the building from Journey. His code name was Silver, and his backpack lay at his feet. He withdrew a Heckler & Koch MK 23 Mod 0, the pistol adopted by the United States Army Special Operations Command for Special Forces use in the 1990s. It came with a suppressor, which was already in place. Silver’s field counterpart, code name Gold, was positioned outside, armed with an identical weapon.

The Judge’s orders were very specific. The document was of paramount importance. Nick Journey was not deemed automatically expendable, but if the situation warranted, extreme measures were authorized, if it meant acquiring the document.

Silver peeked from his alcove. Journey had started tentatively down the opposite stairs. He held his gun in front of him, arms extended, elbows tucked in, ready to fire, and started down the stairs.

Where the hell are the cops?

SCCO was a small college in a small town, and real crime was rare, especially on campus. Journey wasn’t certain they would even have procedures in place for dealing with breaking and entering.

He paused halfway down the stairs, listening. Now the acoustics of this old building were playing tricks on him. The noise seemed to come from somewhere else. His hands closed on the plastic bag. He jogged down the rest of the steps and half turned toward the opposite end of the building.

A man not much older than some of his students, in nondescript jeans and polo shirt, had just stepped onto the floor at the other side. His hands moved strangely, and Journey followed the motion. He saw the gun. He spun toward the front of the building and ran.

Silver adjusted the ultraslim headset that curled around his rightear and down to his mouth, then spoke into the little microphone.“Moving as expected. He’s heading toward the front door. Stay in position.”

He started to run in long, loping strides. Ahead, he saw the overweight middle-aged professor disappear around the corner of the wall that ran toward the front of Cullen Hall.

Silver smiled.

Think! Journey screamed inwardly.

There was a man with a gun in the building, coming for him. Coming for the document he carried in his backpack—this was no random campus break-in. He still didn’t understand the significance of what he carried, but it was the only explanation that made sense.

But it doesn’t make sense at all. Cryptic words about the Civil War and “clauses” and heads of government being removed by “conspiratorial means” and nonsense words about water falling and the strong bending. It was incomplete—there had to be more to it. . . .

They may think I have more than I do. Whoever they are.

The man with the gun moved closer, and Journey was already out of breath. Fifteen years removed from his days as a minor leaguebaseball player—and not a very good one at that—and his idea of exercise now was chasing Andrew to make sure the boy didn’t run into trap.

Andrew.

Journey blinked. Part of having a child with special needs, especially a child who was nonverbal, was anticipating what he was about to do, to figure out if he was about to hurt himself or someone else. It was like chess, always thinking one and two and three moves ahead as to what Andrew was going to do.

The man with the gun was herding him outside. The campus would be almost deserted by now. If he had come for the Fort Washita documents, he wouldn’t be alone. He would have another man stationed somewhere else.

Right outside the front door.

As he laid his hand on the glass front door of Cullen Hall, Journey turned away from it just as quickly. Three feet from him was a dark opening that led down a long wheelchair ramp and out a side entrance. Several students had complained about the poor lighting.

Journey was thankful that maintenance hadn’t yet gotten around to replacing the lights.

He dodged into the hallway.

Gold waited at the foot of the rock steps that led outward from Cullen Hall. He also held a backpack, one hand wrapped around its strap,the other hand buried inside, grasping his own H&K pistol.

He was on full alert following Silver’s transmission. He caught movement ahead of him, inside the building, but just a flash, a small glint in the lobby lights, and then nothing. Seconds later, Silver swung open the glass door at the top of the steps and shouted, “Where is he?”

Gold dropped the backpack, the pistol coming up in his hand. “He didn’t come out!”

“Shit,” Silver muttered. “He must have turned at the last second and I didn’t see him. He has to be . . .”

Both men turned, their highly trained senses hearing the sound at the same time. Gold pointed with his gun, around the side of the building. They broke into an instant run.

Journey skidded at the foot of the ramp, just long enough to slap the blue and white wheelchair symbol with the palm of his hand. It took three excruciating seconds for the door to begin swinging outward, the mechanism grinding slowly.

Now I know why the students in wheelchairs get upset, he thought.The door opened a few inches. He got his fingers around the edge and put his shoulder against the glass. It opened a little more, inch by maddening inch. Journey put his entire body into it and slammed against the door.

The opening widened, but then as if in rebellion against unwanted attention, swung back a few inches. Journey kicked at the bottom and twisted his body through the opening into the warm night air.

A wide sidewalk bisected two lines of grass on this side of the building. On the far side of the second strip of green was Howell Hall, the science building, with an identical door and wheelchair ramp. Journey looked right. The sidewalk ran between Cullen and Howell and emptied into a parking lot. Diagonally across the lot was the field house.

Yes, Journey thought. Phys ed students, not to mention some of the varsity athletes, often worked out late into the evenings. Staff was in the building until midnight, and security was nearby.

He ran toward the lights of the parking lot.

 

Copyright © 2011  by  B. Kent Anderson


B. Kent Anderson is a journalist and broadcaster. A graduate of the University of Central Oklahoma, he is currently a features writer for the Southwestern Publishing group of magazines. He lives with his three sons in Oklahoma City.

 

Comments

  1. Nancy Moore

    Super exciting opening!! I’m anxious to get the rest of the story.

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