Reenactment: A Modern Civil War Mystery [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Marjorie Doughty
eBook Category: Mystery/Crime
eBook Description: A wandering spirit from the civil war posesses the bodies of the living. A modern Civil-War mystery that strays into the paranormal. Doughty always delivers a good read. Set in modern times, against the backdrop of Civil War Reenactment meetings, the story unfolds when a spirit possesses the weak and the vulnerable to wreak revenge on the unsuspecting descendants of his enemies. Thought-provoking, and an eerie, colorfully written book set against the backdrop of re-enactments of Civil War battles. 215 pages. Violence. Adult language.
eBook Publisher: ebooksonthe.net, Published: 2000
Fictionwise Release Date: August 2005
2 Reader Ratings:
It was an unusual place to die, on the open field in daylight, able to see from only one eye. Pine trees blurred by heavy white smoke from cannons and muskets lined each side of the open area. The sound of artillery roared into his ears. Above him the sun appeared, gave brief sullen light before dirty clouds closed in and dumped more thin chilling rain on the sandy soil. He didn't feel the cold or wet.
Men in gray uniforms fired reloaded and surged around him and other fallen comrades, down the field toward the enemy in blue. He became faintly aware of sticky fluid inching down the side of his face. I'm going to be 21 on Saturday.
Then he thought how his grandfather and father would be so disappointed in him, because they had been successful reenactors of the South. He gave a great sigh of bewilderment and died.
College student, Alice Benton, looked around the basement of the Victorian house where she had been born and raised. She had been cleaning for hours. There was something different in the old basement she couldn't identify, but it was not threatening. Curious. She stood motionless under the uneven light leaking from three seventy-five watt bulbs hanging haphazardly on sagging black wire that made small inroads into the gloom. The Beatles had finished singing "Hey, Jude" from a small cassette player she had placed on the high windowsill beneath a tiny window. But she didn't bother to turn the tape over. Instead, she leaned on the broom, wondering about the urgency that drove her to the basement this morning. This feeling of something waiting for her. Something she sensed just out of her reach but silently calling.
The place hadn't been touched since her mother and father's deaths three years ago. She had worked all day. Finished with the final sweeping of the cement floor, Alice looked at the shadowed corner of the basement that held all that remained of her parents' lives. The old huge seagoing chest contained their precious memories. To Alice, that part of the basement was hallowed ground.
Approaching exhaustion, but satisfied with her work, she placed the broom against one of the filled black plastic trash bags. There was one more task to take care of and then she was finished. She glanced around and again felt something different.
"Probably just my imagination," she said to herself.
"Too much imagination," her parents had often told her. They had worried about her when she was a child, the fact that she never wanted friends. She tried to make them understand. But that only worried them more. After school she would go straight home to her room and study, or let her mind drift into her own imaginary adventures, adventures she always shared with her twin, Alex, who understood how she felt. He, too, wanted only to be with her. They never felt the need to include outsiders in their play. She smiled as she thought of Alex. She was sorry he had gone to another school when they were younger, but for some reason her parents had felt it was necessary. Now they could be together whenever they wanted to. Soon he would be coming back from a Civil War reenactment in Andersonville and they would talk and talk.
Alice knelt down on the cold cement floor and opened the lid of the remaining chest. She had meant to check it out long before this, but something always interfered. Now she felt the need to know.
It was some kind of dark wood, slightly splintered on the edges, held together with tarnished metal bands. It had belonged to her Aunt Jessie, who was part of a traveling troupe of actors around the turn of the century. As she reached in, a small shiny black spider landed on her hand. She brushed the body to the floor before it could bite, stood up and grabbed the broom, smashing it down on the spider as it tried to run away. The spider's body flipped over and she saw the red markings on the belly. A black widow. She grabbed the dustpan and swept the dead spider into it. Then she dumped the contents of the dustpan into one of the trash-filled bags. After rubbing the palms of her hands against her dirty jeans, Alice looked into the chest to see if there were any more spiders lurking, but she couldn't see clearly. She closed her eyes and waited for the red spot before her eyes to clear.
After a few minutes, she reached in again. Alice lifted out each costume, shaking it vigorously before spreading it on the floor. The musty smell from the inside of the trunk tickled her nostrils, making her sneeze. She remembered stories her aunt had shared with her of wearing these very costumes back when she was still "treading the boards" as she put it.
A mild envy filled Alice. She sat back on her heels for a moment, holding a long red ruffled dress in her hand, something she could never successfully wear with her tall straight body and barely noticeable breasts. This was a dress that needed filling out, she told herself. She was built too much like her brother, Alex. She knew her parents had wanted only boys. She had lived in Alex's shadow when they were alive. In fact, sometimes Alice felt as if her whole life had been a sort of shadow existence. But she didn't blame Alex. He was perfect. She loved him too much to ever do that. It was the fault of the world into which she was born.
Alice lifted out the last piece of clothing and placed it on top of the others, smoothing out the material. It was the uniform jacket of a Union soldier, a lieutenant. For a moment she felt a surge of excitement that quickly died. It was only part of a Civil War uniform used on stage . She glanced at the trunk. The only thing left was a small object wrapped in a piece of age-yellowed linen. When she touched it, it felt like a book. It slipped from her tired fingers onto the floor and a small leather-bound volume fell out. She gingerly picked it up. There were smudges on the outside of the book, but no title or identification of any kind.
Intrigued, she sat down, resting her back against the trunk. The leather cover was cracked in places so she opened it slowly and stared at the date on the inside cover. 1861. Her long, bony fingers carefully turned the brittle pages of the book containing handwritten entries. It was a journal of some kind. She read a few sentences and sat enthralled. The faded writing was difficult to make out, the closely penned letters cramped and some of it had faded. The first entry was legible if she went slowly.
"My name is George Blakely and today I have joined the Union Army. The arrogant, self-serving men who drain the very lifeblood of others have left me no other choice. My destiny has been made known to me. I must restore dignity to those stripped of it."
Her breathing became rapid. What she had here was a treasure. This truly was the diary of a Union officer during the Civil War. Alice's gaze riveted on the page with its old-fashioned writing, her fatigue forgotten.
"I am but seventeen years of age but I look and act older. I am tall, over six feet in height. My father and mother are school teachers and I am well educated. That is why the recruiters made me a commissioned officer. But first I must record why and when this came about. Yesterday, a neighbor, Selmer Johnson, rushed to where my father and I were laboring in the cornfield, getting the soil ready for planting. 'Fort Sumter is lost' he shouted as he gasped for breath from his long run to where we waited. My father grasped him by the shoulders. 'Out with it man, what happened?' "Mr. Johnson spaced each word between a breath. 'They fired on Fort Sumter at 4:30 Thursday morning. A mortar shell burst exactly in the center of the fort. We have just received word of the attack.' "My father patted Mr. Johnson's shoulder. 'No need to worry, my good friend. It will be all right. President Lincoln has promised he will take care of everything. He is aware of the possibility of war and is prepared to do what is necessary. We must rely on his judgment.' "But I knew my father had erred. He is a good man and does not understand the world is full of evil men. Men who live only to indulge themselves and satisfy their greed. Men who make slaves of others, who destroy their dignity until they are drained of hope. Men who beat others with words and whips until nothing remains but the empty shell. I know. I have sometimes seen the permanently injured after they escaped from their inhuman masters in the south. I have listened to their tales of torture, of agony, of degradation, of life lived without hope. Those who are seeking freedom and justice."
Alice exhaled and slumped against the side of the trunk. She had been holding her breath for so long her ribs hurt. The ghost of Lt. George Blakely stood beside her in the basement. She held the diary on her knees as she considered. Something was nagging at her mind and wouldn't let go. She frowned as she tried to pinpoint what it was. Her breathing quickened. Of course, the diary entry could have been written by Alex. Alex, her twin whom she had idolized all her life. Alex, the dreamer of conquering evil. Alex, the triumphant redeemer. Soon he would be home and she could share with him this fantastic revelation. Then he would explain much to her. Her mouth went dry. Realization staggered a path through her mind. Alice felt as though she were thinking with a part of her brain she had never used before, had never even known existed. This was Alex in another life, another time. She was reading what Alex had done when he was a lieutenant in the Union Army during the Civil War. It was fated that she should find this diary.
Luminous rays sent up fingers from the pages of the journal, caressed her colorless skin, warmed her pale eyes. Burning with a need to know what Alex had done when he was Lt. George Blakely, she started reading again. With each word the basement faded. She was wrapped in a cocoon of discovery.
"I have been given a vision. I must follow my own call. Who knows when this war will end? I have no burning desire for adventure or glory. I know only that I have been chosen to make right that which is evil. I must abolish the enslavement of people by those who would possess their bodies and souls. I must forge ahead in the quest of liberty for all. I have no complex political goals or unclear visions of reasons for this war. I know only that I must go where led. I have been shown my destiny."
Alice clutched the diary tighter in her fingers. "Oh, Alex," she whispered into the stillness of the room.
"My father protested against my going, saying I was their only son. But I persisted. It was a difficult leave-taking. My mother wept and clung to me. My father looked older when he realized I was really going. I could not explain that I have been given an ancient wisdom that transcends all. My beloved parents are afraid I will die. This will not happen until I have fulfilled when I have been chosen to do. This is the first step in my odyssey."
She was feverish as she finished the first diary entry.
"What an exciting life you lived back then, Alex, and you will again if I can help you."
She understood clearly that the Alex of today still carried that consuming need to reach out and save those who were victims of injustice. How many times had he told her he felt he was called. When she was young she had told her parents that Alex needed her, that she should go to school where he was in Atlanta. But they said she must forget about Alex and concentrate on her own life. They told her quietly but firmly that Alex should be allowed to take care of himself. She must remain at home and learn to take care of herself. If only she could talk to her parents. But all she had left of them was locked in the sea chest in one corner of the basement.
Carrying the diary carefully, Alice started back up the stairs. She had many preparations to make before her brother's return.