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Battle of Wills

By Marolyn Caldwell All Rights Reserved ©

Mystery / Fantasy

Chapter 14

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Lorie woke refreshed and discovered Jeff missing. She pulled on her robe and, following the delectable odor of frying bacon, found him in the kitchen. Dressed in jeans and a pullover, still barefoot, he was standing at the stove cracking eggs into the skillet.

“Good morning, Wife,” he said. “Breakfast is almost ready.”

“What did you call me?” She asked the question very quietly, afraid she had heard him wrong.

He pulled her close to him with the one arm he wasn’t using. “Wife. Wife. Wife. I love the word. As much as I love you. More than the blue sky. More than the sunshine. More than the world itself!”

“Uh, did I miss the ceremony?”

“You said a quite proper ‘I do’ when you accepted my dear mother’s ring, Lorena Manning Preston. What need do we have for more formalities? Paper is to establish blood lines or determine property rights. I have no property to leave you. And now that I know—thanks to the computer—what that little pill was that you swallowed yesterday morning, I can only assume we won’t be having fat little babies any time soon.” He grinned at her.

Emotion welled inside her, bringing tears to her eyes. “I felt we were married the minute you put that ring on my finger. I was afraid to tell you, Jefferson Preston.”

“Never be afraid to tell me anything, love.” He leaned down and kissed her again as he turned the bacon.

“No matter what happens in the future,” Lorie said fiercely, “you will always be my beloved husband.”

“We are half souls apart,” he said very softly, “and complete only when we are together.” He moved the skillet away from the burner and pulled her tightly against him. “Husband and Wife. Forever.”

She snuggled inside the crush of his arms, warmed head to toe with the love she felt for him. If only it could last forever—and the nagging sense of foreboding would go away.

She heard the clatter of shoes on the staircase and pulled back, smiling through her tears.

Carol came sweeping into the kitchen, still in her robe. “I just heard from Randy. Mac and Harris have persuaded Mr. Taylor to talk with us. We’re meeting them in about an hour at the freeway intersection. We’ll follow them to his hiding place.” She looked at Lorie. Then at Jeff. “Oops!” she said. “I think I’m interrupting something.”

“It’s okay,” Lorie said. “Aunt Carol, Jeff and I are officially engaged.”

Carol swept Lorie up in a big hug. “I was so hoping you’d say that. I love you both to pieces. I know you just met each other, but you seem so right for each other. Like peas in a pod. My dears, I couldn’t be happier.” She turned back and called over her shoulder. “Phil honey, they discovered each other.”

Jeff grinned at Lorie and mouthed the words, “I love you.”

Carol released her hold on Lorie, turned to Jeff, put her hands at either side of his face to pull it down to hers and gave him a big kiss on the cheek. “Welcome to the family, young man. Whoever you are is fine by me. Okay,” she said decisively, “we’re out of here in an hour. Jeff, continue as you were. Lorie, it’s time to get dressed. This is going to be a big day.”

She went clattering back up the stairs.

Lorie started to giggle. She couldn’t help herself. Her spirits lifted. A glow came over her world. She went back into Jeff’s arms.

“Better get a move on, Wife,” he said, sharing her laughter. “General Carol has given her orders. And the eggs are congealing.”

“Yes, sir, Husband, sir!” She moved to obey orders.

A black unmarked police car, its small antenna jutting up from the trunk lid, was sitting at the entrance to the freeway when Phil’s Town Car arrived at the designated rendezvous point. Randy, dressed informally, stepped out of the Crown Victoria momentarily and spoke with the doctor, giving him rough directions. “Follow us as closely as you can,” he said. “But don’t make it too conspicuous.”

“Gottcha,” Phil said. He pulled onto the freeway, headed toward hill country. The black car quickly passed them and settled into a comfortable speed.

Traffic was sparse on the chosen road, so no one was in sight when the two cars turned at an unmarked crossroads and headed into closely-woven forest land on a graveled road.

Several long miles down the road the driver of the police car flicked on the turn lights, slowed, and pulled onto a dirt road that meandered through sun-dappled woodlands. Phil followed at a distance, not wanting to get swallowed up in the dust cloud. Soon Lorie saw evidence of human habitation. A substantial white rail fence had been installed along the right side of the road. It enclosed a large wooded area which eventually opened onto a meadow bordering a lake.

“Someone keeps horses here,” she said, pointing to a handsome black stallion standing beside the lake, drinking his fill. A small herd was cropping grass in the distance.

“I’m relieved to know they still exist,” Jeff said quietly. “I was afraid they had gone extinct.”

Lorie chuckled. “Not exactly.”

The house that they finally came to was built of logs. It resembled a one-story cabin from the distance, but as they approached on the long and winding private driveway Lorie realized that the house was far more extensive than the usual log cabin and much of it was concealed by trees.

The graveled parking area in front was larger than would be expected, and indeed, Lorie spotted a helicopter secreted within a relatively inconspicuous hangar tucked back into another wooded area. Lorie pointed it out to Jeff. “This must be the landing pad,” she said. His eyes widened at the sight. She could see his curiosity growing as he examined the craft.

Four men had emerged from the police car. They stood in a loose group chatting with each other. Four familiar faces. All informally dressed.

“‘Jeans Day,’” Lorie remarked with a chuckle. Everyone in their car was similarly clad.

Randy Ross and his white-haired partner, Tim Murphy, joined them as they pulled to a stop, and shook hands all around.

“Nice to see you again, Detective,” Phil Barnett said as Alan Macdonald also came forward to shake hands. Macdonald was wearing a handgun in a holster attached to his belt.

“Call me ‘Mac’.” Even in casual clothes he was unmistakably a policeman, tall, straight, well-muscled and disciplined. His high forehead gleamed in the morning sunlight and every hair on the remainder of his head was in its rightful place. He smiled warmly at Jeff as he took the extended hand. “Nice to see you looking so well, young man.”

Dean Harris, the black detective, also shook hands with everyone before turning to Jeff. “Anyone recognize you yet, son?” Harris was also armed.

Jeff shook his head. “So far only one person has blinked.”

Harris’s eyes widened. “Who was that?”

“Rolf Maratti.”

Randy spoke out. “Jon Randolph’s stepson. The Northerner. You really think he recognized you, Jeff? That’s very interesting. It kind of keeps this in the family, doesn’t it?”

“How is lawyer Purdy faring?” Carol asked the detectives.

“He’s much relieved,” Harris said. “He and his wife are at a safe house. He hasn’t told us much yet. Only that this conspiracy has been cooking for a number of years, ever since Jon Randolph came up with the idea of creating an ‘historic town.’ A few extra people have come to town since the word went out—one by one. Archibald Hood is one. Hood is the mayor now. Former president of the Chamber of Commerce.”

“Have you done a background check on him?”

“Yes. He’s a successful businessman from Atlanta. He sells office supplies. Pretty innocuous stuff. He’s never been involved in anything suspicious. His bona fides are on the up-and-up. Science degree from Georgia Tech. Nice family. Apparently the Hoods originated in Randolph City and he came back to take over his grandfather’s business when Grandpa died.”

“His arrival could be a coincidence,” Phil said. “Anything else?”

“A couple of new policemen have come on the small force,” Harris went on, looking at his notes. “They weren’t locals. Purdy doesn’t trust them.” Harris looked up at Phil. “I wouldn’t either, quite frankly. We couldn’t find that either have been qualified as cops, and in the brief time we’ve had to work on it, we haven’t been able to pin down exactly where they came from, or even if the names they go by are legit.”

“Oh-oh!” Carol said. “So Purdy is right to be worried. Whoever hired them must be a plant, too.”

“The red flag here is that the recommendations for employment of these guys included Hood’s and Judge Cragin’s names, among others. So we thought we’d better check out the judge as well. He came to town, also as a businessman, about twenty years ago. That’s when Jon Randolph started advertising for people who had expertise in historic reconstruction. Cragin had been a successful lawyer in Savannah, but he was always interested in historic homes. Since he came to Randolph City he’s done a lot of work with locals who wanted advice on how their houses could look old-fashioned but still be up-to-date, if you get what I mean. He’s one of the most respected people in town. And because he’s very good at what he does, he’s done very well for himself.”

“The Baileys used a lot of his expertise in their renovation,” Carol said. “What’s curious is why he’d want to go back into law now. What qualifications would he have to be a judge?”

“At least seven years as a qualified member of the bar,” Mac said. “And in his case, you have to know someone who’ll appoint you to the position when the elected judge gets sick. Respect goes a long way in these parts.”

Lorie said, “But what about the three guys who were hanging around him at the funeral? Johnny McDaniels, Ernest Merrill and Clint Samuels? We were told that McDaniels is an Atlanta lawyer and the other two are developers.”

Harris wrote down the names. “We’ll check them out. Thanks.”

“We’d best talk to Mr. Taylor now,” Mac reminded them. He turned to Carol. “Did you bring a copy of the will you found? Mr. Taylor asked if he could see it.”

“We did,” Carol said, indicating her briefcase. “Ewen Taylor’s name is typed below the witness line, but of course this is only a copy. Jon’s signature is the only one we have. But we can vouch for its authenticity.”

“Well,” Harris said. “Let’s find out how this guy knows Jon Randolph.”

Ewen Taylor answered the door himself. “Welcome to my hideaway.”

The term “dynamite in a bottle” suited this man. Lorie could almost see the energy radiating from him. He was no longer young, probably closer in age to Rolf Maratti, in his sixties, than to Phil Barnett, still in his early fifties. In top physical shape, he was almost as tall as Jeff. His hair was pure white and hand-combed, his skin weathered from hard outdoor use, his intelligent eyes an unusual shade of brown. His was wearing a designer white knit shirt, high quality khaki trousers and boots. He shook hands as introductions were made and paused when he met Jeff. “I’ve seen you somewhere before,” he said softly. “Don’t tell me. Let me think about where it was.” Lorie’s attention shifted to fast alert.

He invited them into his large study. It was a man’s room with leather couches and deep arm chairs, and lots of electronic equipment, its purpose obscure to Lorie. He asked everyone to have a seat and offered sweetened iced tea, which was brought to them by a quiet young man in dark clothing. “Thank you, Jaime,” he said. “Please let Clarissa know that there will be eight more for lunch.” Carol demurred, but he insisted.

“So now we know why I was being tailed,” he said when Lorie’s aunt showed him the will. He chuckled. “I’m relieved to know I wasn’t simply imagining these things. I was beginning to think I was having flashbacks to my old days in the clandestine services.” He looked up. “I always know when there’s a tail on me and I’m very skilled at shaking them off. These guys aren’t amateurs, but they’re not top professionals either. Still, it’s enough to make one very nervous. I’ve sent my entire family to our Swiss compound until we get this figured out.”

Carol glanced at Lorie, who nodded briefly. “Nervous” was a pale description of the feeling.

“Chances are good,” Mac said to him, “that since the provisions of the will are now going to be public knowledge, whoever is behind this malevolent little conspiracy will realize that silencing you is no longer a useful option. But we think you will be even safer once you have publicly testified.”

“Of course I’ll testify,” he said. “Jon was a good friend of mine. We worked together many times in parts of the world I’m unable to tell you about despite the fact that the Berlin Wall has long since fallen. I was the electronics expert on his team. We shared some pretty hairy adventures and always emerged alive, even when it wasn’t altogether certain we would. He was a good man.”

All of the policemen seemed impressed.

“Sounds like a great book in the making,” Phil Barnett said.

“Not in my lifetime.” Again he turned to examine Jeff’s face. His eyes narrowed. Lorie had seated herself beside Jeff on one of the comfortable couches. What could Taylor know, really? She slid her hand into Jeff’s and he gave it a reassuring squeeze. “I’ll remember,” Taylor said, shaking his head a little. “Old age creeping up on me. Just give me time.” He flung his arms up behind him to rest on the soft leather of the couch, leaned back and crossed his right leg over his left knee. “Now tell me, what are these brigands up to?”

“There is talk in Randolph City about dismantling Randolph House,” Carol said, “and replacing it with a Five Star hotel.”

“No!” His hands came off the couch with a snap. He sat up, both feet on the floor, totally alert.

Carol continued. “City council members are already debating options, and the town is in an uproar. Since nothing has gone to probate yet, and probate issues take time, someone is obviously stirring the pot to see what trouble can be caused.”

“Why would anyone want to destroy Randolph House?” As he spoke, Taylor’s hands moved in concert with his rapid words. He leaned toward them to emphasize what he was saying. “That house was constructed before the Civil War by free blacks as a station on the Underground Railroad. It should be on the Historic Register. I, personally, will stand in the way of its destruction!” Again he looked at Jeff, and a sudden spark livened his intense eyes. “That’s where I saw you. At Randolph House. By god, you bear a remarkable resemblance to a painting I saw there of the man who built the mansion. Who did you say you were?”

Randy spoke up quickly. “He’s suffering from amnesia, Mr. Taylor. He was shot and left for dead at one of Jon Randolph’s properties, the South Wind Suites hotel. He calls himself Jefferson Richard Preston. And we’re sure he’s a relative, although we don’t know how.”

“By god, he’s a relative all right!” Taylor shook his head. “What the hell is happening over there? At least the Chamber of Commerce should be wanting to save that old mansion. It’s a marvel of engineering. Jon showed me through it several times. He didn’t think he’d found all the secret compartments and passageways yet, although he was always looking. But the engineering in just the rooms and compartments he’d discovered so far was remarkable. That painting,” he pointed now at Jeff, and looked from one of his guests to the other, “was of a Confederate soldier who looked an awful lot like this guy here, blue eyes and all. Jon found it in a large concealed chamber just off the drawing room. He laughed when I chided him about his Confederate ancestor. He confided to me his relative wasn’t a Rebel at all, but one of the best agents the Yankees ever had. I could see how he’d been inspired by the man after I heard some of the hair-raising tales Jon’s grandmother had told him about her older brother.”

“See, what did I tell you?” Randy said forcefully, looking at Carol. “Whoever is doing this stuff to you folks has probably seen the same picture, heard the same story, and was aware Major Preston was a Yankee spy. By damaging Jeff and dropping him in your laps—presumably dead—they were warning you to lay off or meet the same fate.”

“That may be,” Jeff interjected quietly, and Lorie listened with intense interest, because she had no idea what he was planning at this point, “and my true identity may or may not play a part in their plans. But I’ve seen that picture, too, and it’s clear to me now that I lived in Randolph House at one time. These people certainly overplayed their hand when they brought me back to Marietta.”

“Wait a minute,” Taylor said, staring at him. “You were left for dead at the South Wind? You look pretty damn healthy to me.”

“I had the good fortune to meet a brilliant nurse.” He turned his smile on Lorie. “She knew what to do to keep me alive, and then the doctors took over, and here I am.”

“Damned lucky,” Taylor said. He looked at the policemen seated around the room. “Any idea what’s going on here?”

“It’s a conspiracy of long standing,” Detective Harris said. “Randolph’s lawyer, Mike Neil, was the first victim we’re aware of. Possibly his secretary. We’re not sure what the motives are, except that whoever is involved seems to want Randolph House and as many of Jon Randolph’s other properties as they can get. They stole the will, destroyed all the copies they were aware of, and tried to pretend it had never existed.”

“I’m not sure how that would benefit anyone,” Taylor mused, “because if Jon died intestate, the property would be split evenly among his heirs.

“And he has quite a few blood relatives left,” Carol said, “what with Sue and her kids, and a few relatively close cousins scattered around the country whom we are trying to find, in order to warn them, if nothing else.”

Randy pointed to Jeff. “He’s undoubtedly an heir. What happens if, god forbid, they’re all knocked off?”

“Georgia law would kick in,” Taylor answered. “I somehow doubt that developers would inherit the property, though.”

“But guess what?” Lorie’s aunt put in, with a sudden flash of clarity. “All of a sudden Jon’s stepson shows up, after many years’ absence. And he has in his possession an original will Jon wrote years ago, leaving almost everything to him.”

“Rolf! God damn! Jon would never have suspected that kind of betrayal. He really loved his stepson, despite the differences between them.”

“The developers,” Carol said, “are swarming all over Rolf Maratti.”

“One more person to investigate,” Harris said, pulling out his pad and pencil.

“He lives in New Jersey,” Carol pointed out to Harris quietly, and the detective pulled out his pen and made another note in his file. “And someone,” she added, “keeps talking about Mafia connections, although we haven’t pinned down who’s saying it.”

Jeff Preston spoke again, with such authority that everyone turned to him. “Our most important objective is to unmask the key players in this drama and determine each of their motivations.” He looked directly at Taylor. “Because Rolf Maratti also lived at Randolph House for a time, I’d like to meet with him there. Privately. With your help, Mr. Taylor.”

Taylor bent forward, listening. “Go on.”

“Maratti made sure the house was locked tight the minute Jon Randolph died. I want to find out why. We need to know where his loyalties lay. Everything we do after that hinges on this meeting.”

“I’m still listening.”

“There are guards at the house. They’re country boys, tough on the surface, but easily spooked. We can be rid of them in an instant if they think the house is haunted.”

A short sharp laugh issued from Taylor’s throat. “You need ghosts?”

“Ghosts. To scare the guards away and make people curious. Since as far as Maratti knows he’s the only one who has access, I suspect that when he hears there’s something afoot inside the house he’ll be there—the sooner the better. If he comes with a crew of roughnecks we’ll know he’s working with our enemies. If he shakes them off and comes alone, or with his lawyer, it’s another story altogether. In that case I need to talk with him.”

The expression in Taylor’s eyes hardened. “If there are guards, how the hell do we get in ourselves?”

Jeff squeezed her hand and Lorie grinned, knowing what he wanted her to say. “There’s a long, dark, spider-infested tunnel. We went in right under their noses. That’s where we found the copy of the will.”

“By god,” Taylor roared, slapping his hands on his knees and rising to his feet. “I knew there must be a tunnel. We were never able to find it. I’ll help all right.”

“I think we all want to help,” Harris said, his brown eyes alight, and his normally stoic partner Mac concurred with equal enthusiasm. Randy had been grinning the whole time, and Tim Murphy laughed out loud.

“Hold it, boys,” Carol said. “That little expedition Lorie and Jeff made scared me to death. How many of those guards have guns? People who are spooked tend to shoot first and ask questions later.”

Jeff turned to Carol. “They won’t even know we’re there, Miz Carol.” He looked back at Harris. “Any chance I can get my uniform back? I want to look as much like that portrait as I can.”

“Your uniform?” Taylor asked.

“He was dressed as a Confederate soldier,” Randy put in, “when he was shot. Very spooky stuff going on here already. And boots,” he added enthusiastically, “that are authentic Federal cavalry officers’ boots. The real McCoy. Which means,” he said, now in an intense tone, “that the people who dressed him knew the original Jefferson Preston was a Yankee spy.”

Taylor turned back to Jeff, bemused. “Are you a horseman, perchance?”

Jeff nodded. “It’s been a while.”

“What would you think … ” Lorie could visualize gears turning in Taylor’s brain. “What would you think about galloping up to the house on horseback. That old Rebel yell was pretty intimidating in its own right.”

“You are wicked,” he said to Ewen Taylor with a quick grin. “How about the black?”

“Just what I was thinking, young man. But you’d have to be a good horseman. That horse can be a devil.”

“In my recollection there was never a horse I couldn’t ride—sooner or later.”

“Let’s see about that,” Taylor said. “Come on everyone. Let’s see if this brash young man can handle Ravenwing.” He turned and strode through the house toward the back, the men following. Lorie helped Carol out of the too-soft leather man’s chair she was struggling with and they hurried along behind. The men had gone out a side door and were walking quickly across a wide yard toward a cedar-sided barn, trying to keep up with Taylor’s long strides. A shrill whistle echoed through the air. Lorie saw, in the distance, the black horse pick up its head, turn, and come at a gallop toward his master.

“My goodness,” Carol said. “I’ve never seen the like. What a beautiful animal.”

Within minutes, Ravenwing was at the fence. Taylor stroked its muzzle. The horse rubbed against his hand and took the offered treat. “How about it?” he said to Jeff.

“He’s magnificent!” Jeff climbed the fence and watched as Taylor picked up a bridle and slipped it over the black’s head.

“There’s a saddle in the barn,” he said to Jeff.

“No need.” Jeff dropped down into the barnyard, wrapped a hand in Ravenwing’s mane, and in one smooth move was on the big black’s back. The reins almost magically appeared in his hand.

“Well done, sir,” Taylor said, obviously impressed.

Jeff saluted him, and with a slight motion of his moccasin-clad feet, took the animal backwards. Lorie’s mouth dropped open. She had never once thought how Jeff’s talents would translate into the modern world. With no seeming effort he turned the horse and began to travel around the barnyard in slow loops. The tempo picked up until he was galloping slowly around the yard in ever-widening circles. Then he turned Ravenwing’s head toward the lake, let out a banshee-type yell, and man and horse went streaming across the pasture at top speed, flying like the wind.

“By god, he’s a horseman all right!” Taylor said, a big smile nearly splitting his face. Lorie saw Randy grinning ear to ear as well, leaning over the fence, waving his arms and yipping. The other men were only a little less restrained. Clearly they were all impressed. Carol and Phil were both seated on the fence, excitedly crowing about the bravura display of horsemanship on Jeff Preston’s part.

“You didn’t tell us you could do that,” Phil Barnett said when Jeff brought Ravenwing back to the fence.

“You didn’t ask,” Jeff said, laughing. He bounded to the ground as athletically as he had mounted, and handed the reins to their host.

“You must have spent some time as a cowboy,” Taylor said.

Lorie almost spoke out, wondering if Jeff’s computer exploration had even touched on the subject of cowboys, but his answer sufficed. “Don’t know about that,” he said simply. “I just know horses.”

Over a sumptuous lunch, sandwiches, salads, sweets and fruits, plans were suggested and discarded. Ideas were brought up and thrown out. “I don’t need anything too complicated,” Jeff told them as he browsed his way through a fruit salad. “I’m not as good with wires and plugs as I am with horses.”

“We need something so awesome they won’t even think of sticking around,” Mac said.

“What he did,” Harris said, pointing to Jeff. “If I saw something like that coming at me screaming like hell, I’d move out of the way real fast.”

“Wouldn’t you shoot?” Lorie asked, suddenly frightened by the idea. She set her tea glass on the table, afraid the sudden tremble in her hand would cause her to spill it.

“They won’t be shooting,” Jeff said, laughing. “Trust me.” The other gentlemen agreed.

“People moving past windows. Looking out. Then disappearing. How does that sound?” Ewen Taylor seemed to gain in enthusiasm by the moment.

“How do we do this?” Mac asked.

“Holograms!”

“I didn’t think that was real.” Carol’s eyes widened. “I thought it was just sci-fi movie stuff.”

“It’s a science in its infancy,” Taylor said, looking up and past her as if he were seeing into a different dimension. “We can have people in Civil War era clothes looking out of the darkened windows. Just flashes, nothing prolonged. We’ll have portable equipment in each of several rooms, and have it all out quickly if Maratti, or anyone else, decides to come investigate.” His eyes focused back on Carol’s and he grinned.

Officer Tim Murphy was chuckling. “I’m already getting goose-bumps,” he said enthusiastically. “Will it be easy for us to install?”

“We can make it easy for those of you who aren’t experts,” Taylor said. “But we’ll have to bring our equipment into the building and show you how to use it. How hard would that be?”

“The other day when we were at Randolph House,” Lorie said, “Sue Bailey told us that a lawn service comes out to care for the gardens.”

“Great idea,” Taylor said. “Find out which service. We’ll co-opt their trucks and bring our own equipment in, along with some technicians. How easy is it to get into the house during daylight hours?”

Lorie looked at Jeff. He grinned back at her and turned to Taylor. “We’ve discovered that the lawn equipment is stored in the summer kitchen.”

“The tunnel starts there?” Ewen Taylor put the fingers of one hand through his white hair. “Good god, we searched that place so many times!”

Jeff lifted his eyebrows and smiled his crooked little smile.

“How long do we have to prepare?” Taylor asked.

“Tomorrow,” Carol said, “we have a meeting with Judge Cragin. He’s going to take a look at both wills. And at whatever proof of authenticity we have—your testimony included, I hope—and we’ll take it from there. Sorry we can’t be more specific, but we’re kind of playing this by ear.”

“I understand. I’ll get a crew working on something preliminary this afternoon. Once we know what we’re facing, we can move forward rapidly.”

“I think,” Lorie told Jeff privately as they were driving back to Phil’s house, “that you’re right. Between you and Mr. Taylor, the conspirators have surely overplayed their hand.”

He smiled down at her sadly. “We must never under-estimate them, my darling.”

“And I will never under-estimate you again. Why didn’t you tell me you were a horseman?”

“I thought you knew.” He seemed surprised.

“How could I know?”

“The cavalry uniform?”

“Oh.” She thought about it. “Sorry,” she said. “Even if I’d been remotely aware that was a cavalry uniform, horses wouldn’t have entered my mind.”

“We have a lot of catching up to do, don’t we?” He sighed.

She took his hand to her lips and sighed also. Would they have time to catch up before their joined world came crashing down, as surely it was bound to do? Once more she was swept up in the sense of melancholy and loss.

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