The Edisto Enigma
by Mike Bailey
Copyright © 1990, 2002 by Michael T. Bailey Sr., Marietta,
Georgia. All rights reserved. Reproduction, adaptation, or
translation without prior written permission is prohibited, except
as allowed under copyright laws.
Mud! Boot-stealing, wagon-grabbing, slipping mud! After three solid weeks of bone-chilling rain or
just annoying drizzle, the small army camp looked like one of the many swamps found in the low
country around Charleston, South Carolina. Everything was either soaking wet, damp, or in the final
stages of eternal rot. The smell of mildew was everywhere -- it's distinct odor constantly pulling at
the minds of the men who were stationed at the camp. It was as if some evil plague had a death grip
on everything and was determined to drag all who wore its mark into the pits of hell.
The Major stood there on the leaking porch to his quarters cursing every drop of rain that fell,
especially those that fell from the leaky roof onto his balding head. Dressed in his cleanest
uniform, he patiently awaited the arrival of his sergeant, the man who made life miserable for the
men the Major commanded. The Major's heavy topcoat proudly displayed the rank of Major, United
States Cavalry, "The finest damn outfit in the entire US Army," he would tell anyone at the drop
of a hat.
Standing there looking down at his boots, he again cursed the weather, the camp, and the ever
present mud. I just spent an hour cleaning them, he angrily thought, and look at them -- already
covered in this filthy crap! One of his constant sources of irritation ever since he had arrived at
the camp, was the mud, especially the mud on his boots. He had always felt that you could tell the
caliber of an officer by how clean he kept his boots. "Shitty boots, Shitty officer!" was one of his
standing proclamations he issued whenever the occasion arose.
During his first week at camp, he discovered that there was something very different about the
mud around here. It seemed to form a glue or permanent bond to everything it touched. He had
never seen anything like it before in his life. Rumor had it, that some of the locals referred to the
mud as the "de death grip' or "de devil's hand." He saw a wagon one day, come to a grinding stop
because the mud had caked up so hard around the axles, the wheels just quit moving -- caught in
the merciless grip of de devil, he mockingly quipped to his sergeant at the time.
As he pulled the collar of his topcoat tighter around his neck, he thought if my assignment here
wasn't just about over, I'd leave this God forsaken place in a minute! I'm getting old, my leg hurts,
I miss my family -- I just don't need all this shit! -- he mournfully thought.
While surveying the camp and all the mud around him, his thoughts drifted back to a time very
similar to this) the infamous Mud March he had suffered through under General Burnside near
Fredericksburg back in '63. God, that was bad he recalled -- all that mud, depression, the
desertion of hundreds of troops! -- it's a wonder half the men here haven't deserted!
Life in the army was bad enough, but getting assigned to this place was just about one step away
from hell, the Major had told himself over and over. Three months ago, when he had been personally
summoned to see the President of the United States, he had been certain his career was about to
take off. He had fought long and hard for the Union -- wounded four times. Hell, twice in one day
at Gettysburg! Surely the President was about to reward him with an assignment to match his
deeds of honor.
Thinking back on that fateful day, he remembered the anger that filled his mind like a raging bull
when he realized that a just reward was not in the making. Even now he could summon up the
feelings that nearly made him resign his commission right there on the spot. Did I get my
appointment to teach at West Point? No! Did I get the assignment my old buddy from Boston got --
special military advisor to the Court of Saint James? No! I got some hell hole in South Carolina.
Edisto! Who in the hell ever named this place anyway? he thought.
Shifting his weight to relieve the pain growing in his left leg, he vividly recalled every single detail
of his bizarre meeting with the President.
The Major stood in front of the President's desk at rigid attention, listening to the strangest story
he had ever heard. The longer he stood, the greater his anger welled up inside of him. I can not
believe this, he thought. Sitting just ten feet away from me is my father -- the eminent professor
-- special military advisor to the President of the United States, and he is not doing one damn thing
to save my ass from being assigned into oblivion!
Is he in on this bizarre story, this incredible mission the President was assigning him? Probably,
he thought. His father had always seemed to know things or to be summoned to the White House at
the strangest of times and then to just disappear for weeks on end.
Several times, the President turned and looked at the Major's father, like he needed confirmation
of what he was saying. A nod here, a slight shake of his head there, all indicators to the President
that he was either on course or was drifting off a little bit. The more of this the Major observed,
the more he was convinced that his father was in on the whole rotten mess.
The Major watched the President's face as he talked. After a while, he noticed that the eyes were
also telling him something that the voice was not. The eyes were consumed with both excitement
and fear -- signals to the Major that were starting to make him feel uneasy about this whole ordeal.
This is just a big joke my father and the President are trying to pull over on me, the Major
hopefully thought. Just any moment now, the President is going to break out in a smile and tell me
he was just having a bit of fun before he gives me the good news, he thought, as he noticed his
father get up and approach the President's desk.
As the story went on, however, the Major began to realize that this was no joke -- the President
was deadly serious.
"Major, do you fully understand what I have just told you?"
"Yes Sir, Mr. President."
"It is of vital importance that you get to that camp as soon as possible and carry out your mission.
I can not tell you at this time why your orders must be carried out without question, only that they
must be! Upon your return to Washington, all of your questions will be answered, I assure you. Also,
a gentleman who you have not met yet, a Dr. Von Brunek, will fill you in on all of the technical details.
In fact, he is accompanying you to the camp and the two of you will have ample time to sort out a lot
of the details before you get there."
Washington was beautiful in the fall. Old friends, great places to dine, and beautiful women. I can
not believe I'm here, the Major thought, listening to my father and the President of the United
States crank out the most outrageous tale I have ever heard. I should be over at O'Malley's
toasting the good times, he thought grudgingly.
"Remember, it is absolutely imperative that you treat this with the utmost secrecy. No one, and I
mean no one outside the three of us and Von Brunek, should know the complete details of what I
have told you." The President had spoken those words as if he was being watched himself by some
unseen presence in the room.
"Yes Sir, Mr. President, I understand perfectly."
Reaching into his desk, the President pulled out a large briefcase. Opening it with a key, he pulled
out a large folder about an inch thick and handed it to the Major.
"Everything I've told you is recorded in these papers -- guard them with your life -- that
The papers, as the President had called them, were really something to see. As the Major thumbed
through the papers, he saw that there were dozens of detailed drawings, most of which were
colored like some of the beautiful detailed maps he had seen years ago when he was touring the
great museums in Europe. There were also pages and pages of detailed notes; some neatly inked,
others that were obviously scratched out in a hurry. Even with his background in military science
and construction engineering, he quickly realized that what he held in his hands was beyond his
grasp it was an enigma of words and reality!
"Now son," his father said firmly, "only a few people alive in the whole United States knows what is
in those papers. General Wittenburg, the President, Dr. Von Brunek with the National Academy of
Science, the mission team that just got back, you and I.
As he handed the papers back to the President, the Major felt the pit of his stomach start turning
over when his father made that little declaration -- God can all of this be true? he thought with a
"Mr. President, what about the commanding officer at the camp -- does he know anything about
this?" the Major asked,
'Hell no! General Wittenburg and I picked the most incompetent man we could find to set up the
camp down there. Wittenburg even arranged for most of the troops that were sent with him. That
dumb-ass Colonel thinks he's down there on some kind of a special training exercise!' the President
said with a smirk on his face.
"Hell," the President continued, "Von Brunek's team that just got back was there six months before
the Colonel realized they weren't even in the camp most of the time. When the Colonel finally asked
Von Brunek about what was going on, the Doctor told him they were out in the countryside -- talking
with the locals," the President said with a grin.
Both the Major's father and the President broke out in smiles and laughter. The Major stood quiet
-- he didn't get it.
"You see, Major," the President said, I had also told the Colonel that he was to help resolve some
local problems the State was having with relocating some of the Negroes that arrived there eight
months ago from Georgia. He just figured that Von Brunek was working on that problem and was
glad he didn't have to deal with it himself.'
"You mean, he hasn't even seen the site, or even what's there?"
"Like I told you Major, he doesn't know anything. He'll be getting a wire in a couple hours saying
you and the good Doctor are coming down -- thinks you two are coming to test out some new
methods of rapid-cannon fire. He hates big guns with a passion and I'm sure he'll stay well clear
of you. Besides, I know for a fact he's quite a ladies man and he's probably over in Charleston most
of the time anyway. I doubt if you even see him -- should have fired that son of a bitch years ago
when I had the chance!" exclaimed the President with a look of some long past feud raging in
By now, the Major was really beginning to doubt a lot of what was happening or what he was
hearing. Being a cavalry officer, he was accustomed to being out front, in full view of his men and
the enemy. All this crap about secrets, saying one thing and doing something else was starting to
eat at him. Even the fact that his father was here didn't help -- it only made everything seem
"Here are my written orders to you for your mission," the President said as he handed the Major a
leather binder, "and here are your orders for everyone else's eyes."
Leafing through his mission orders, the Major realized that the President had only signed his name
to them. They were far too complex, too engineeringly detailed for his simple background. A simple
man; one who loved gardening and music, and was at the right place at the right time when the
convention in deadlock, threw his name into the pot for president.
"Every authorization you will need, including access to the trains, are in your mission orders. The
individual authorization orders are either signed by me or General Wittenburg. The heavy
equipment that you will need is being shipped by rail right now from Fort Lee -- should get there
about the same time as you." The President was pacing back and forth as he talked, almost as if he
had rehearsed this speech a dozen times.
"Sir, this General out west where I'm supposed to send the crates once they are packed, is he
expecting the shipment?"
"Yes. He is under instructions to receive the shipment and to secure it immediately in one of the
underground vaults there. Everyone there, including him, thinks the shipment is coming from
Washington. I've known him all of his life and he will carry out my instructions to the letter
without question," the President said with an air of confidence as if the general out west was his
This is beginning to be too much, the Major thought hesitantly. All this cloak and dagger stuff --
damn, I'm just a good cavalry officer! Why did he pick me for this job? Why did....
"Major?" the President asked. "Major!"
"Sorry sir, I was engrossed in reading your orders," the Major lied to the President of the United
States. "You were saying?"
"One more thing Major. You are the only one who is to know the full story. The men you pick must
only be told what is necessary for them to do their part of the job and nothing else." With that last
detail of his orders completed, the President placed the folder back in the briefcase, locked it, and
handed both the key and the briefcase to the Major.
When the President had finished his official instructions to him, he came around from behind his
desk and offered his hand in friendship. "God's speed, young man and good luck. Wire me
immediately when your mission is completed."
"Thank you sir, I will do my best."
"Sir, might I have a few moments with my father before I leave?' the Major hesitantly asked
"Certainly, Major," he quickly answered. Walking towards the side door to leave, he turned and
said "Professor, please see me before you leave, I have some more questions I need to confer with
you about before I talk to that pushy Senator we discussed earlier."
"Yes Sir, Mr. President," the professor dutifully replied as he watched the President disappear
from the room.
"Father!" the Major almost shouted. "How in the hell could you just sit here and watch my career
go down the toilet. After all I've done, all I've given … how … how could you be apart of this
"Listen son, I know right now you think the worst, I'm asking you to trust me. I personally
recommended you for this job. There was no one else. I have been preparing you all your life for
this assignment or one like it."
"Jesus, father, what are you saying?"
"Like the President said, when you return from this mission, all will be explained. Until then, you
have got to trust me, do you understand?"
The Major silently stood there for a long time and finally said, "Yes Sir, I understand."
"Good," the father said as he firmly grasped his son's hand. "This mission will be more than you've
ever dreamed of son. Take care of yourself and good luck."
As the Major watched his father leave by the same side door as the President had taken, he
couldn't help but wonder what in the name of hell he had gotten himself into.
The sound of the rain picking back up brought the Major back to reality -- wet, cold, and still
standing on a leaky porch on Edisto. "Come on sergeant, where in the hell are you?" said the Major
to no one in general, "you're late!" Kicking the post next to him, he quietly exclaimed "seems like
I've spent my entire life waiting on somebody!"
The rain started coming down with a vengeful force. Brilliant flashes of lightning scorched the
darkening sky and each bolt of fury was followed by tremendous rumblings of thunder which
seemed to roll to the edges of the earth. Backing up further on the porch to escape the rain, the
Major tightened his topcoat around him to ward off the clammy cold that was starting to cover him
like a wet blanket. Rubbing his hands to at least make them feel like a part of his body again, his
thoughts drifted back to his arrival at the camp.
Just 48 hours after he had met with the President and said good bye to his father, he and
Von Brunek had stepped off a train in the middle of nowhere. Adams Run, the name board had said.
Three hours later, his back hurting from the long coach ride, he found himself looking at the gates
of hell -- a small army camp in the middle of a wet, foul smelling mosquito-infested island.
At first, he dreaded every minute of his time at the camp. It took him over a week to select the 16
men he would need for his mission. Dr. Von Brunek had insisted on being with him as he selected
each man. The doctor's appearance, frumpy and foreign looking, seemed to scare the men off --
they didn't want anything to do with him. Finally, seeing that the good doctor was scaring off all of
his possible prospects, the Major asked him too leave the selection process to him. Protesting his
dismissal to the hilt, the Doctor reluctantly agreed and spent the rest of his time pouring over all
of his new drawings. He had made it quite clear on the train that the drawings in the Major's folder
were his -- his drawings! He had said it a dozen times -- and he used his new drawings now to occupy
his time and to stay out of the Major's way.
After getting Von Brunek out of his hair, the Major suddenly found that he had other things to
occupy his time. The Colonel had introduced him to several of his girl friends over in Charleston
and he had to admit, that some nights weren't too bad -- especially when he sneaked one of his
newfound friends over to the camp in his coach.
Most of his time, however, was spent down at the Indian mound. The days there were long and hard
but the Major grew to appreciate them -- he was starting to see the real significance of what was
there -- not at all what Von Brunek thought it was. The real truth was challenging to him -- it was
starting to give new meaning to his purpose in life -- it was solving the enigma!
As time went by, a visible change started to come over the Major -- even the mess sergeant noticed
it. "Major, try another one of these pancakes. Hell, I ain't never seen anyone take to this here
place like you have in the past several weeks -- either you're coming down with something or you're
going crazy," grinned the sergeant.
If you only knew, the Major had thought to himself, if you only knew.
A gigantic flash of lightning and an instantaneous explosion of thunder brought the Major out of his
deep thoughts. The lightning strike must have been only a few feet away, thought the Major, as he
screamed, "Jesus! Take me away from here!" with a shaken voice. "God, I hate this place!"
Within a few minutes, the peak of the storm had passed and almost as quickly as the storm had
intensified, it dropped off to a typical whimper -- a slow, drizzling rain that just added more water
to the maddening mud that seemed to increase every day at the camp.
Sounds of the evening were starting to surround the camp. "God, every bug in the world that makes
noise must live here!" he said quietly to himself. From everywhere, men were darting from their
rain-soaked tents and making their way across the flooded parade ground to the mess tent.
"Evening Major," said a young recruit raising his hand in a halfhearted salute as he made his way
towards the mess tent.
Returning the young soldier's salute, he wondered how in the hell the enlisted men around here
survived on the crap they were fed. If that crazy mess sergeant made something just one time with
water that was half-clean, the camp doctor could probably retire, he thought, recalling the camp
festival special that was served up last weekend and the chaos that followed. It was kind of funny
though, he remembered. Seventy men fighting tooth and nail over three seats in the outhouse!
God, if only the President knew how thankful I am now that he sent me here on this crazy mission,
thought the Major with a grin on his face. The old fool doesn't even begin to realize the importance
of why I'm here -- hell, I doubt if he has even seen the stuff I came down here to handle for him.
I'd bet my last dollar that damn smart-ass General Wittenburg and his friend, the scientist, never
even came close to figuring out what the hell all this stuff really is or what it could be used for!
Well gentlemen, I have, the Major smugly said to himself -- you bet your sweet ass I have! I might
be just an old cavalry officer, but my daddy didn't raise no dummy. Growing up in a house with a
professor of mathematics and engineering does have its rewards, the Major suddenly realized.
Recalling what his father had said to him in Washington about preparing him for this mission hit the
Major like a thunder bolt -- his father knew he would discover the truth and would know what to do
with it when the time came. A few more hours, father, and I'm gone, he thought, no one can stop
The rain was now trailing off to one of those depressing misty drizzles that seemed to last for
days around here in the winter time. Across the parade ground, he could see Sergeant Heely coming
towards his quarters, his head bent low to shield his face from the drizzle.
"Major." Heely saluted. "I have the final details on the assignment."
"Very well, Sergeant, come on in. I had just about given up on you -- you're late and I do not like
being kept waiting!"
"Sorry, Sir," the sergeant quickly responded. 'The rain, Sir .... all the lightning, Sir … scares the
living hell out of me, Sir."
'Forget it Sergeant,' said the Major as he remembered his own fright just a short while ago.
"Scares the hell out of me too." Closing the door behind him, the Major motioned the sergeant to a
chair over by the fireplace. Thank God for these fireplaces, he thought as he pulled up a chair by
the fire. Two of his war wounds were in his left leg and in the winter time, the damp cold made his
leg feel like it was constantly being ripped from his body.
"Sir, the final shipment is in place as you ordered." Heely was getting old. He was 40 when the war
broke out -- walked 30 miles to enlist at an army fort in western New York. Rumor had it, that the
commanding office there was so impressed with Heely's determination, he had made him a sergeant
on the spot. Heely also hated the winters, for the cold clawed at his old wounds and just old age
"Are you sure the men can still be trusted?" the Major asked quietly as if he were afraid someone
might over hear their conversation.
"Yes, Sir, known most of them half my life. Ain't a man amongst them that I wouldn't trust with my
life," Heely proudly exclaimed.
"Are all the crates loaded?"
"Yes, Sir, watched every one of them loaded on that there train for Savannah."
"Was anyone, and I mean anyone else around while the crates were being loaded on the train?"
snapped the Major.
"No, Sir! Like I said, Major, there was no one around. Before we even started, I had Corporal
Brown and two other men scour the woods for well over a mile. Hell, Major, we even made those
damn mosquitoes close their eyes -- nobody saw anything!" exclaimed Heely with a big grin.
Getting up to fix himself a drink, the Major began to quietly smile inside. All the weeks of
preparation was about to pay off. "Sergeant, care for a drink?"
"Don't mind if I do," he said with the enthusiasm of an old hand at knocking back a few on payday.
The talk around the camp was that the old sergeant could drink away his pay check and anybody
else's that was fool enough to lend him the money.
Walking back towards the fireplace, the Major finished his drink and threw his empty glass into the
roaring fire. The shattering glass forced the sergeant to spin around, his eyes wild with the
uncertainty of the noise but ready for whatever the cause.
"No need for alarm Sergeant, just an old officer tradition." He could see the muscles start to relax
in the huge arms and shoulders of the old sergeant. Wise choice, he thought to himself. The
sergeant might be old, but he could still take five men down with him any time someone thought it
might be easy to mess around with an old sergeant with too many years and stories to count.
It was the sergeant's strength and the men's fear of him that got them through a few anxious
moments when they were working down around the old Indian mound, the Major vividly recalled.
When the sergeant first told them they had to dig into the mound, they refused. "Spirits my ass!",
he had shouted at them. "You'll see spirits all right, when you feel the toe of my boot up your ass
now dig!" Dirt flew that day!
The Major recalled that at the time, he wasn't too fond of the idea of digging into that burial
ground either -- seemed wrong somehow -- but it had to be done.
At any given time, thirty of the camp's regular troops were in a wide circle of guard duty, strung
throughout the marshes and woods to prevent anyone from coming anywhere near where the Major
and his men were working. Occasionally, they would hear the sound of cannon fire from within their
circle -- evidence they wrongly surmised -- of the secret work the Major and his men were doing
for the good of the Army. What the guards heard was a planned ruse by the Major's men within
Each day, the sergeant picked one man whose job for the day was to fire at random, one or more of
the eight cannons they had laboriously drug to the mound site. One day, a quick thinking young
trooper pulled all of the cannons into a tight circle with each barrel pointing to one of the eight
points of the compass. After priming the cannons, he took his torch and spun around in a fast circle.
The speeding torch lit each fuse in quick succession as the flame sped by.
The effect was outstanding -- boom!, boom!, boom! -- everyone at the site jumped in startled fright.
After the smoke had cleared, all of the men let out a cheer and then started laughing at the
spectacle in the middle of the still smoking cannons. Standing there proud as hell, was the now deaf
young trooper, his face covered with gun powder residue and a smile as big all get out!
Out on the picket line, the guards also let out a yell -- God, they thought, they must really be on to
something in there. "Did you hear that?" they shouted to each other with pride. Needless to say,
their usual day of boring guard duty was resoundingly broken by what they had just heard.
Usually, they spent their time on duty cleaning their rifles, or mending pieces of their clothing --
doing anything to kill time until their watch ended. Occasionally, their routine was broken by
someone wandering into the area. More than once, they had to escort a furious landowner or one of
the Negroes away from the area. "Damn Yankee!" was usually the intruder's first response,
followed soon afterwards by such insults as "What da hell y'all doing here anyway? They ain't no
chickens left around here to steal!"
The Major fondly remembered that on some days before all the damn rain started, he'd break away
from the work at the mound and ride his horse down to the beach. He doubted that any of the
camp's regular troops had seen the beach yet; they were either too tired or had to much work
The beach was beautiful, he recalled -- so peaceful and tranquil. He had only seen the ocean once
before in his life, but the childhood memory of the pounding surf had always been special to him. It
represented awesome strength and beauty at the same time -- a thought that had always intrigued
him. He even told himself that one day when this was all over, he'd like to come back. He kept all of
these feelings to himself, to the rest of the troops, Edisto was the gates to hell!
"Now Sergeant, here's what I want you to do," said the Major as he emerged from deep thought. "
At 9 p.m. sharp, I want you and the rest of your men to meet me down at the powder room. Make
absolutely certain that no one, and I mean no one, knows were you and your men are going. Also, I
want you to go by Von Brunek's quarters and make sure he gets his sniveling ass down there on time.
I want to come down and personally thank all of the men for a job well done. I know these past few
weeks have been very hard on everyone, especially with all the secrecy surrounding everything we
have been doing."
"Yes sir, Major, we'll be there -- you can count on that!" grinned Heely as he saluted the Major and
then opened the door to leave. Outside, he buttoned up his coat and stepped off the porch and into
the drizzling rain. Just a few more days of this crap he told himself, then he and his men would also
leave this hell hole. Washington, the Major had said, even the President wanted to meet them.
The Major watched the sergeant walk across the parade field and thought about the things he had
to do before he left tonight. Closing the door, he went back inside to complete his final
preparations for departure. Pulling on the cord by the fireplace, he awaited his aide's arrival at his
"Major?" said a voice a minute later at the back door. Opening the door, the Major looked down at
a young corporal, standing there in the drizzle with his hand at a rigid salute. God, where do they
find these kids, he wondered. He's barely 16 years old, just about my son's age.
"Come on in son." The Major walked back to the fireplace and finished throwing some more papers
into the fire. He had spent hours over the last few weeks meticulously copying the drawings that
were in the briefcase given to him by the President. He was now burning all those that he had
copied wrong -- those that were originally drawn wrong by Von Brunek. Damn fool, the Major
thought, had the real thing right there in front of him and he couldn't even draw what he was
looking at! Thank God I came here myself, he thought as he carefully put aside all the corrected
drawings he had made.
"Everything ready for tonight?" asked the Major as he threw the last of the useless papers into
"8:50 p.m., Sir, just like you ordered. I've got your equipment trunk loaded in the coach and I've
got two of the finest horses already hitched up to it." The young corporal glowed with
accomplishment as he spilled out all of the completed details for the Major's departure.
"Does the Colonel know I'm leaving tonight and not tomorrow like originally planned?"
"Yes, sir. I wired him myself this morning over in Charleston. He won't be back until noon tomorrow
and was sorry he could not see you before you left. I told him what you said, you know, about the
wire you got from the President, and he said he understood."
"Thank you Corporal.'
"Yes, what else?"
"The Colonel said don't forget him when you meet the President and report on your mission here."
"You can tell the Colonel I won't forget. Now, I've got to finish with a few more things here and
you've got to finish a few things yourself."
"Yes, Sir," snapped the corporal as he saluted the Major. "Sir, that small trunk by your bed -- you
want me to load it now?"
"No, I'll take care of that myself."
Opening the back door, the corporal stepped outside and disappeared into the already
The Major finished packing a few last things and looked at his pocket watch -- 7:30. Excellent, he
thought, I've got just enough time to complete the most important part of my mission before I
leave this place for good. Carefully closing the cover to his watch, he started pacing back and forth
in the small room. With each step, he let his mind examine every detail of what was required to
complete his mission. After a few minutes, he stopped in front of the fireplace to rub the warmth
of the fire into his aching left leg. As he stared into the fire and watched the flames consume all
that they touched, he realized that his plan was now complete. Success was just an hour or so away,
he thought, nothing can stop me now!
He went over to a small trunk by his bed and knelt down to unlock the trunk with a key he removed
from his watch pocket. Reaching down inside, he carefully grasped a heavy package that was tightly
wrapped in an oil cloth. Very gently, he lifted the package out and placed it on the table beside him.
After re-locking the trunk, he stood back up -- the effort clearly showing on his weather
After checking his watch again, he realized that he had to hurry. He walked over to a broken down
old desk in the corner and opened the top drawer. Removing the pistol from the drawer, he slammed
the drawer shut as if to close it forever. Holding the pistol firmly in his hand, he stared at his most
prized possession -- an old Navy Colt .45 his father had given him when he turned 18 years old.
Satisfied that all was in order as he spun the cylinder around several times, he proudly placed the
pistol in his holster. After putting his heavy topcoat on, he carefully lifted the package off the
table and cradled it snugly against him with his left arm. Slowly opening the door with his right
hand, he peeked outside. Seeing or hearing no one about, he walked out onto the porch and quietly
closed the door behind him. Dark, drizzling rain -- perfect cover he thought, as he stepped off the
porch and disappeared into the night.
An hour later, the Major was back in his quarters -- the last act in his mission completed. If that
bastard over in Charleston hasn't lied to me about his new timed-fuse invention, he thought, my
little package should make my mission a complete success,
"Major," the corporal said as he knocked on the Major's back door. "It is 8:48, Sir, time to leave."
"Come on in, I'm just about ready."
The corporal open the door and saw the Major standing by the fire, slightly bent over and rubbing
the warmth of the fire into his left leg.
"Get those two bags and my briefcase over there and we're off." The two men quietly went out the
back door to the awaiting coach. After opening the door for the Major, the corporal placed the
bags and the briefcase on the front seat of the coach. The Major climbed in and seated himself on
the rear seat after placing the now empty trunk on the floor beside him.
"What time do you have Corporal? asked the Major as he peeked out the coach.
"Let's go," said the Major with an urgency in his voice that even the corporal could detect.
Climbing up onto the drivers seat after he had closed the door to the coach, the corporal picked up
the reigns and popped them across the backs of the team. Immediately they started moving out --
the assignment was almost over.
At the gate, the coach slowed for the guards posted there. Seeing that it was the Major's driver,
they saluted and waved them through. They were supposed to look inside of every wagon or coach
that left the camp, but past experiences had proven it was simpler, and wiser, not to look into the
Major's coach or the Colonel's coach.
As the coach disappeared into the night, the guards started betting on which woman the Major was
returning to Charleston. Two voted for the redhead they had seen several times before and two
said they bet it was the blond because she didn't like the sun and always traveled by night.
As they made their way down the dark road leading from the camp, the Major struck a match and
looked at his pocket watch -- 9:02. Damn, he thought, something has none wrong. No sooner had the
words drifted across his mind when the night sky lit up like the dawn of day.
A few seconds later the sound thundered pass them, the coach jerking as the horses bolted from
fright. The corporal was having a terrible time calming them down but finally, he got the coach to
come to a halt. Bursting open the door, the Major jumped out of the coach.
"Jesus, what the hell was that?" screamed the Major in mock horror.
"The powder room, Sir … the whole thing just went up!" shouted a stunned corporal as he struggled
to keep the horses under control.
"Damn! I haven't seen anything like that since Fredericksburg. What in the hell do you suppose
could have caused that?"
"It was probably some of those crazy old troopers sir -- they sneak down there at night and drink.
It's the driest place in the camp and they also know the old man is afraid of that place and won't
go down there to check on them. My guess is that one of them drank to much and probably lit up a
cigar or something."
Getting back into the coach, the Major said, "What a tragedy, all those good men."
"Shouldn't we go back, Sir?" shouted the corporal.
"No! There's nothing we can do for them now. I've got to catch that train out of Adams Run at
2 a.m., so lets move it."
"Yes, Sir!" shouted the corporal as he popped the reins and the coach started moving out.
Settling back in his seat, the Major looked back at the raging fire in the distance. The entire camp
was in complete chaos; men were running in all directions, the horses were bolting madly in the
corral, and the screams of men could be heard for miles as they watched in sickening horror, the
bloody pieces of their fellow troopers raining down on them like death from above.
As he looked, a smile came across his face. All those good men, he thought, gone, and all of their
secrets with them.
|Secrets Still Hidden -- Two weeks ago
Andrew Tiller had no way of knowing that he would be dead in less than three seconds.
When the heavy, metallic looking doors buried ten feet under the base of the old Indian mound in
the State Park gave way, he fell through the opening and was soon falling at a terminal velocity of
approximately 120 miles per hour -- about the same as a skydiver with his arms and legs stretched
out just before he pulls his parachute cord.
Andrew's mind was screaming that it was impossible for such a large, deep cavity to be here in the
marsh at Edisto -- that this must all be a dream -- that he would wake up when he stopped falling.
Andrew was wrong. Thinking that he would soon wake up, the last thought on his mind before he
slammed into the polished floor 500 feet below him was that he had forgotten to take the trash
out that morning and Alice was going to be pissed at him again.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, & incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used
fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.