Waltz In Time


Diana Lee Johnson



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Union Encampment Near Fredericksburg, Virginia
December, 1862

"Hello, Father." Lt. Harry Carter glared at the Confederate Colonel he held prisoner. The young Union officer squared his shoulders and stood erect in his crisply tailored uniform. "I've been waiting for you." He gave a haughty tilt to his chin throwing his head back far enough to look down his nose at the taller man in gray. His hands remained tightly clasped behind his back.

"They told me you were ill." The Confederate was confused and spoke warily. "Are you better?" Then realization began to set in. "Or was this some ruse to get me into enemy camp?"

"I knew you wouldn't be bright enough to see through the messenger. I'm quite well, no thanks to you." His left eyebrow arched as his upper lip curled in a sneer. "We thought you could be useful to us. I'm sure you have a great deal of information." He circled the Confederate menacingly, his eyes fixed on his rebel father.

"My men will know that I have been captured when I fail to return in twenty-four hours as I promised." Robert Carter did not show concern for himself.

"Your men!" Harry spit the words out with contempt. "Those cut-throat, ignorant rebels you call your men couldn't find their way to the necessary without a leader. You aren't much of a leader, but you're better than nothing." His voice carried the harsh Philadelphia accent of his grandparents, instead of the warm southern drawl of his father.

"Harry, why are you doin' this?"

"Captain Perry and I are looking to be promoted." He smugly mused, still circling. "If we serve up some good intelligence about Jackson's forces, well, it's only a matter of time." He cocked his head.

"Joshua Perry?"

"The same." A tenor voice came from behind Robert. "I won't say 'at your service' for you are obviously at mine, Colonel."

"I should have known someone else was behind this. Still can't live with the fact that Beth preferred me to you, can you?" No fear sounded in the tall Confederate's voice, only contempt and a little satisfaction knowing his comment would make his enemy's blood boil.

"It was not a matter of preference. You kidnapped her and forced her into marriage. It was your fault she died, dragging her out there to Kansas, where she couldn't get competent medical attention."

"I neither dragged her, nor did she lack for medical attention. You forget it was your Philadelphia doctors who couldn't save her. I sent her home as soon as I knew she was expectin' a child. As far as force is concerned, I'm not the one who tried to rape her to make her marry me. That's the kind of low-down trick only someone like you would attempt. Just like lurin' me here, tellin' me Harry was dyin'. You bastard!"

Perry took out his saber and held it to Robert's throat. "I could kill you right here and now and say you were caught spying on us." His calculatingly cold voice seeped through clenched teeth.

Robert noted some apprehension on his son's face.

Perry raised the saber higher and stuck the tip into Robert's forehead until it bled.

"Captain, you said he wouldn't be hurt. We'd just get the information we needed and leave him tied up somewhere." Harry urgently whispered in Perry's ear.

"Losing your nerve, boy? This piece of filth should never have been your father. I should have. You owe him nothing. He never cared about you. Who was always there for your birthdays?"

"You were, Uncle Josh."

"And who taught you how to ride a horse, and shoot a gun?"

Harry didn't reply. He simply cast his vacant eyes to the camp fire.

"There, now, let's get down to the business at hand." Perry stuck a cigar in his mouth. "Tell us how many men are with Jackson, and their exact location."

"Go to hell, Perry!"

"I never thought this would be easy. In fact, I never intended it to be. I will have my sport with you, Carter. Maybe you'll talk, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll survive," Perry cast a wicked glance in the Confederate's direction, "maybe you won't. No matter," he shrugged, "I will extract a certain pleasure from watching you squirm."

"I never agreed to--" Harry broke in, putting a tentative hand on Captain Perry's arm, but Perry hoisted his revolver by the barrel without a moment's hesitation, and clubbed the young man, knocking him cold.

"Your boy is soft! He hasn't the stomach for war, or much else. He was easy to manipulate." Perry looked toward another soldier, jutting his chin toward young Carter to direct the man's attention. "Get him out of here and see he doesn't interfere."

The man saluted and enlisted the aid of another to drag Harry from the camp.

Chapter 1

Fredericksburg, Virginia
February, 1993

Virginia Berkeley rode past the old house as slowly as the light traffic would allow. She smiled to see the face being shored up. She didn't dare pull into the private drive now that the house was sold. She just went down the road a little farther and turned around to take a second look as she resumed her path toward town. When her friends first showed her the house, her remark at seeing the "For Sale" sign was, "Darn, I didn't get 'rich and famous' soon enough! I'd buy that house and fix it up!"

If Ginny were well off, she'd probably do just that.

Friends found the house quite by accident near their home. An old mansion, falling down, the porch supported by two-by-fours nailed lengthwise together to hold the high roof so it wouldn't collapse with the "For Sale" sign in front of it. Knowing her fascination for history, they took Ginny there when she visited a few months ago.

The moment she spotted it, Ginny was overjoyed. "It's at least early- to mid-nineteenth century, though it looks as if the current structure could be a re-build on the original foundation. I guarantee it was used as somebody's headquarters in the Civil War." She mumbled her observations more to herself than to them for her friends weren't quite as enthusiastic as she. They snickered at her assumption of its use. As they turned to leave the grounds, Ginny spied it. A marker!

"I knew it! I knew it!" she shouted excitedly as she cleared a vine away to read the inscription. "'Burnside's headquarters, December 11-13, 1862.' That's when the battle of Fredericksburg was fought!"

When she got home, Ginny wasted no time looking up everything she could find about the area. In one of her many Civil War volumes she found a reference to the Phillips house, the home Burnside had used as his headquarters, and later burned as he retreated. She found a drawing done from a photograph taken when the house was burning. Indeed, the house was similar in shape and size to the one her friends found, but slightly different in facade. Of course, it would be. It had been burned. There was no mention of the name of the home on the marker. Perhaps she could find out more.

Someone lived there well into modern times, as evidenced by the remnant of a swimming pool in the back yard. The last her friends told her, the house sold and someone was fixing it up, and putting in a new septic field. Ginny was glad someone would preserve the house, since there was no chance she would be rich and famous before it collapsed.

She continued the final couple of miles to the inn where she booked the last room. "Relax!" she ordered herself out loud, as if ordering could make it so.

"I wonder if Mary remembered to mail those plans . . . did I leave that note for Ken? Damn It! Forget about work! Think about . . . think about horses, carriages, rebel yells, hooped skirts, Robert E. Lee . . . his sad eyes . . . that's it. Make a mental note. Go back to Stratford Hall while I'm down here." She smiled. "If I keep talking to myself while I'm down here, I won't need a vacation, I'll be in a padded cell!"

She vowed to keep her thoughts in her head and out of her mouth as much as possible. Sometimes she found it difficult, though. Looking at something interesting for the first time, she just naturally wanted to share her enthusiasm. She wondered if Harry's ghost were in the car, coming along for the ride. He'd listen to her ramblings. Heck, she wouldn't be surprised if he donned a Confederate uniform, or a Union one, just to torment her. No, he'd never wear a Union uniform, he was a Virginia native, too, a Shenandoah Valley native. He'd wear gray and butternut!

As she chuckled at her own thoughts, Ginny admitted to herself she would now probably look sideways at any Confederate with dark hair, slightly over six feet--just in case. She looked in her rear-view mirror as she pulled away from the house. She glimpsed a scene which she then replayed in her mind to capture. A couple of men in dark clothes, uniforms perhaps . . . dragging another man in lighter clothes . . . toward a small stone building. She turned her head quickly to glance back, but there was no one stirring. No, her mind played a trick on her. She was just imagining. She shook her head, then looked in the mirror again--nothing.

A horn sounded and she realized she was sitting still. The doctors were right. She needed a rest!

"Harry, don't do this to me," she whispered aloud.

She thought about her first husband, dead now, killed in an accident several years after their divorce. He wasn't a bad man. Raised without family, he had no idea there were times when family should come first. He cultivated his friends, being at their disposal at any hour of the day or night. His biggest failing was a violent streak that, when aroused, flared without any warning.

It was no longer painful to remember him, as a matter of fact, she didn't really remember that much about their ten years together. Mercifully, only a few funny memories remained which she could call to mind. The rest was a clinical memory, like a book she once read or a story she'd been told.

There were times when strange little things happened around Virginia. Like her office door closing for no reason, or articles disappearing from one place and reappearing in another. Ginny would laugh and say Harry came back to pester her. For the door, she had no explanation, for the articles, well, Ginny wasn't the most organized person, she didn't have time to be. Her mind and her body were always going in ten different directions. That was how she functioned best.


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