He rode silently under the cover of darkness, dressed completely in black. He listened carefully for any sounds that would warn him of impending disaster. He was taking a huge risk. If he was caught he would be at best imprisoned at worse executed. He reigned in his horse and lowered himself quietly to the ground getting down on his knees in the thick bush as two grey clad soldiers rode by him. When he was sure they had passed he heaved a relieved sigh. Swinging himself daintily back into his saddle he continued his way south.
The clash of infantrymen was deafening, shots blasting from rifles that were fixed with bayonets, snuffing out the lives of men young and old. The tall grey clad lieutenant was brought down, as his horse was shot from under him, barely managing to drag himself clear before he was fighting for his life. He fired his pistol into the chest of the union soldier that was wrestling with him on the mud-covered ground. Scrambling to his feet he discharged his gun once more into the back of a blue clad man who was on the verge of killing his cousin. Lance flashed a smile at Justin in thanks and continued to fight. Justin fired his gun once more … Nothing … he cocked and fired again, again it miss-fired. Throwing it from him in disgust he drew his sabre, slicing down the unionist that had gotten the same idea. His vision was no more than a sea of blue and grey, screams of the injured and dying assaulted his ears. He lost sight of Lance but had no time to worry about him as his sword ran through yet another enemy. Blood splattered over his face, unsure if it was his own or someone else’s he carried on, taking down three more northerners. He spun round feeling someone advancing on him from behind. Freezing as his eyes met with dark brown. Both men, one in the grey of the south and the other in union blue stared at each other for mere seconds before fighting away from each other in opposite directions. The incident was forgotten as a bullet ripped through Justin’s shoulder, spinning him round and knocking him to the mud, it became increasingly dark round him, black, blacker, blackest …..
The battle was over. Blue had won this time, but at what cost, all round was littered with dead and dying, blue and grey. A young union soldier his uniform torn and slick with blood was gathering up all the discarded firearms, while surgeons sifted through the bodies looking for someone they could save. Chris Kirkpatrick turned over one grey clad body after another, each time relieved when it wasn’t the face of his friend. He rolled over another body tears filling his eyes as blond curls caked in mud caught his eye. Scrambling over the carnage he dropped to the soldiers side cradling him up into his arms. A soft moan escaped from the parched lips.
“Medic.” He screamed. He ripped the grey fabric from the wound as Joey reached his side.
“Sweet Jesus!” Joey dropped to his knees and examined the wound. “It went right through. Help me carry him.” The two friends lifted Justin between them and carried him from the battlefield.
“Is he goin’ make it Joe?”
“He’s lost a lot of blood but yeah.” Joey washed and dressed the bullet hole as Chris paced back and forth.
”Well that’s one rebel that will be sitting out the rest of this war.”
“Sir General sir.” Chris and Joey stood up straight saluting their commanding officer.
“At ease soldiers.” Both men relaxed and Joey went back to treating Justin. “As soon as he is stable ship him out.”
“Yes sir.” Joey and Chris responded.
As soon as the general had moved on Joey whispered, “He won’t survive in a prison.”
“What do you suggest we do?”
Joey whispered back. “I don’t know yet but I’ll think of something.”
“We could be shot as traitors.” Chris pointed out.
“Then we hadn’t better get caught then had we.” Joey grinned and wiggled his eyebrows.
The plantation looked deserted as he rode up the long drive, the fields had all been empty and over grown, the small garden in front of the house still seemed well kept though so someone was still here. JC dismounted and started up the steps to the house. The front door opened and a rifle was levelled at his chest.
“A’n’t nuthin here for you Mister, leave while you still can.”
JC opened his arms wide and backed slowly away. “I’m looking for Master Justin or Miss Lynn, are they home?”
The little coloured boy cocked the rifle. “I done told you Mister, this here is Private property now git on your horse and go.”
“Who is it Leroy?” The sweet feminine voice asked.
JC’s heart leapt. “Miss Lynn, It’s me Jace, JC.”
“Joshua? The door opened all the way and Mrs Randall stepped out into the sunlight. “Oh my lord it’s you.” Forgetting herself she ran down the steps and flung herself into the former slaves arms. “Joshua, on my sweet Joshua, I’ve been so frightened.”
She wiped her tears of joy “Leroy hide Mr Chasez’ s horse, see that it is wiped down and fed would you.”
The young boy lead away the dark brown stallion as Lynn pulled her guest up the steps and into the house.
The house was dark and smelt of musk. “I only use three downstairs rooms.” She explained “Its too much to keep alone.”
“Miss Lynn why are you alone? Where are your slaves?”
“I let them go, I thought it best I could no longer find food enough to feed them. Leroy, Carrie and Momma Fee elected to stay with me, I owe them a great deal.”
“What of Justin?” JC had to ask, not knowing had ripped him apart and had made up his mind to return south.
“I haven’t heard from him or Lance in six months. The last I heard they were both posted to the same company, they were both so excited about being together again.”
Joshua dropped his head into his hands. “I.. I hoped that maybe Justin was here.”
“Why did you come back JC? You know Justin wanted to be safe in the north.”
“Joey and Chris were both drafted, I was left to run Chris’ business, but I hated being alone, no one there knows that I have black blood but I was still an outcaste because of my southern accent, I was watched with suspicion and distrust. It wasn’t so bad while Joe and Chris were there to watch my back, but when they left I had a hard time justifying myself, I got sick of being questioned as to why I was north and being told to get my ass back south where I belonged. So I packed up a few belongings and here I am.”
He brushed an imagined thread from his pants leg. “Miss Lynn can I stay here? I have nowhere else to go.”
Lynn got up from her seat and hugged the ultra thin man. “It would be my pleasure honey.” JC smiled, his grin splitting his face as he showed his straight white teeth.
“I guess I’d better get changed and start earning my supper then.” He said teasingly.
Lynn hugged him again. “”It’s served at seven.”