Issue #1
Issue #2
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Installment Three

Faux DC presents "Loyalties"

by David Marshall

 



"Ollie, it's a trap!" Black Canary warned.

Oliver Queen was a hard man. Canary knew it would take more than her word to convince him. He pushed her away. "Sorry Pretty Bird, but I have nearly a hundred men looking to me to lead them out of this hellhole! We made our chance and we're taking it!"

"You didn't make shit!" Canary protested. "Are you too damn thickheaded to see you've been set up? Think about it Ollie! I saw the telegram with my own eyes!"

The two former lovers fought their way through the rioting prison yard. As they quarreled, the Union prison known as "Batson's Hell" burned around them. The thick, wet aroma of poplar ash hung in the air and Canary may have enjoyed the smell if it weren't for the violence around her. Everywhere she looked, men beat, pummeled, stabbed, and shot one another to death. She fretted when she lost sight of Ollie for a moment and cursed him for eluding her in the fracas. Then she saw a Union soldier clutch his gut as a well-placed arrow ripped into his abdomen and pinned him to the western wall of General Batson's office. He struggled in vain against the arrow, trying to pry it loose from his midsection with his shaking arms while his heels dug into the cindering wood beneath them. He looked to be in his early twenties, a good-looking young man with a strong chin and the whitest teeth Canary ever saw. The teeth she noticed because his fear and pain twisted his handsome face into an anguished mass of twitching muscle that exposed his pearly whites. He squealed like a child with a skinned knee, but he couldn't run to his mamma. Not this time. Canary knew he would die here, pinned to the log wall like a butterfly on a collector's board. She wasn't an overly-religious woman, but she whispered a quick prayer for his soul like she learned as a young girl.

Canary followed the arrow's trajectory back through the fray and spotted Ollie. She forced her way through the crowd to him. "What the hell are you doing? Since when does the Green Arrow kill?"

Ollie grabbed his former girlfriend by the throat and squeezed tight enough to get her attention. "Listen to me, god dammit! This is war! Some men die and others do things they never dreamed they would do! And do you know why?" Ollie pulled her so close to his face that she could feel his hot breath on her cool skin. "To stay alive, dammit! You may be a Union whore, or a spy, or whatever these days, but I'm a Confederate prisoner of war! I'll kill whoever gets in my way to get out of this hell! Do you understand me? Do you?" he screamed as he shook her.

Canary raked her fingernails across Ollie's eyes, forcing him to release his grip on her throat. In all their adventures together she never saw him like this. "Don't you ever touch me again, you bastard! You run off and lead these men to their graves! I just hope there's a special place in hell reserved for you and I hope you rot there! But these men deserve better!"

While Ollie pawed at his eyes, Canary used the time to slip away from the riot. No one gave much notice to a woman in their midst and let her pass freely. She made her way to the stables and found a horse. Maybe there was still a chance.

Rafe Cafferty's Office, Later the Same Night

Rafe Cafferty poured his guest a glass of red wine. Batson went through hell to reach him, as evidenced by the black eye and sling on his wounded shoulder. But none of that mattered. It took several months to set up their elaborate scheme and a few distinguishing injuries on the General only made it easier to convince his superiors of his involvement in quelling the riot. Both men stood to benefit highly from their arrangement. Batson would surely gain another star and Cafferty could almost taste the Governorship. He reached the glass to General Batson. "Everything is going as planned, General?"

"For the most part," General Batson answered. He took the wine from Cafferty and sat in an intricately-carved oak chair across from the robust man's writing desk. "The breakout's underway. Them southern sons-of-bitches will soon be dead and all of Missouri will know that you uncovered the plot to compromise the state's neutrality."

Cafferty eyed the General carefully. "For the most part? What does that supposed to mean?"

The General shifted nervously in his seat. "Dinah Lance is on to us."

"She didn't go for the telegram?"

Batson shook his head. "She's a smart one."

"I take it she's not dead yet either?" Cafferty asked.

"No sir, not yet. But you can rest assured she won't live past tonight," Batson answered. "I've seen to that detail."

"And our inside operative?"

Batson smiled. "He's playing his part perfectly."

The Middle of Nowhere

Canary dismounted her horse and made her way to the telegraph pole. She had to get a message through to Oracle. She knew Baston would post a guard at the prison's telegraph office even in the midst of the riot. She sized up the pole and sighed. The thought of scampering up it with her gimpy foot made her hesitant but she knew there was no other way. She reached into her brasserie and pulled out the special tool Oracle sent her to tap into telegraph lines.

"I'd stop right there if I were you, Ms. Lance!"

Dinah immediately lifted her arms into the air. "No need to get trigger happy, friend. My hands are where you can see them."

"That's right. Now turn around nice and slow," the voice instructed.

Canary turned and saw three Union soldiers with a bead on her. "I do hope you boys are following orders."

"You let us worry about our orders," answered the soldier giving the instructions.

Canary smiled. "The blind follow the blind and they both end up in the ditch."

"What are you talking about woman?" another soldier asked.

"Gentlemen, this body has done more to break the Confederacy than Batson ever will with his armies. So why would he want me out of the way?" Canary asked. The men looked at her dumbly. She hated spelling things out for those too dense to follow. She hoped they could put two and two together. "You know something you're not supposed to." said the third soldier. "Tell us more."

"What the hell you doing, soldier?" the first soldier asked. "Our orders..."

"My orders come down from President Lincoln, sir! They tell me to preserve the Union and I'll do whatever it takes to carry them out! This woman risked her life to pull one of my brothers off the battlefield in South Carolina after he was wounded. He died the next day, but if she knows something we don't, then we'll damned well listen."

"If you boys lower your guns, I promise not to run," Canary added, her eyes drawing attention to her wounded foot. The soldiers complied and she told them of Cafferty's plot and their General's involvement and of the Rebel prisoners led to slaughter.

After a long pause, one of the soldiers finally spoke. "Ms. Lance, I hate a Rebel as much as any other good man, but what you've told us curdles my blood like week-old milk on a cow's teet. A soldier is a soldier. We're supposed to kill each other. That's what we do, but no politician sitting on his fat ass is gonna use me to make him a war hero."

"Then let me climb that pole," said Dinah.

"Will it save them?" asked the first soldier.

Dinah shook her head. "No, but at least it gives us a chance to expose Cafferty.."

The soldier nodded. "Ok, then climb."

Dinah wrapped her legs around the thick, wooden pole and inched her way up it while clinching the telegraph tool in her teeth. When she reached the lines at the top, she tapped into them and prayed Oracle would get the message in time.

Southeast Missouri, Near Traveler's Gulch

Tom Fite was excited and scared. He was free from the daily tortures of "Batson's Hell". Along with a haggard band of rioters, he was headed for Tennessee and then back to his family in Alabama. He crossed his fingers and hoped the riot bought them some time. With a little luck, they would cross the border into Tennessee before the Union got on their tails. Still, he would feel a lot better if he had a gun.

"Not much further men," said Oliver Queen, prodding them on.

"Are you sure the guns will be there, Queen?" a soldier asked.

Queen stopped. "God dammit, if I wasn't sure I wouldn't be here myself! Maybe you'd enjoy another night of luxury accommodations in Hell, soldier?"

The soldier backed down. "No, I didn't mean it that way, Archer. I just don't like hiking through the Missouri countryside without a gun. We may as well paint targets on our backs."

Queen nodded. "Understood, soldier. We're all on edge. But don't worry, I'll get us through this. I've been in worse and I do have my bow."

Tom was just glad to be free of Batson's Hell. Besides, he was with Oliver Queen, the Archer. Queen was one of the Confederacy's top commissioned scouts. When he said he'd been through worse everyone knew he meant it. But still the soldier was right. The meadow they were crossing offered little protection from pursuit. Queen was leading them to Miller's Pass. Its high hills offered welcome refuge from prying eyes. From there, it was a straight shot southeast into Tennessee.

"Ok boys, we're sitting ducks once we head into the pass. Everyone lay low here while I scout the canyon walls. The last thing we need is them damned boys in blue on the canyon rim picking us off," said Queen. "Give me an hour and I'll give the signal if all's clear."

"Wait a damn minute, Queen!" said a disheveled-looking Private. "I thought we was supposed to get guns before we headed into the pass!"

Queen sighed. "I did too, boys. Something's not right here. That's why I want you to sit tight and let me look around. Any objections?"

The Private backed down.

Queen's eyes narrowed to two determined slits as he looked around for someone to challenge him. "Good! One hour, then. If you hear no signal, head west into Arkansas. The trip's rougher but at least you'll be safe. Under no circumstance do you play hero and come after me. Understood?"

The men reluctantly nodded as one.

Queen said nothing else and disappeared into the Missouri night.

The men looked at one another and settled into the meadow brush. "You think he'll make it back?" someone asked from the cover of night.

"Maybe we should bolt for Arkansas now and forget this shit," someone else replied. "At least back in Hell we had a bedroll to sleep on and didn't have to worry about dying in the middle of nowhere."

Listening to the doubt in the men's voices made Tom think of a Bible verse he learned in Sunday school as a child. "'Could you not watch and pray for one hour?'" Ordinarily he wasn't one to speak out but he heard enough. "He's Oliver Queen for God's sake! Give him a chance. What difference will one hour make? As long as we lay low no one's gonna find us 'til morning!"

"Fite, that you?" asked a deep baritone Tom recognized as his friend Nat Rogers. Nat was older than most of the soldiers but took a liking to the younger man's work ethic.

"Yeah, Natty. It's me," Tom answered.

"The kid's right," Nat scolded. "All the Archer asked for is sixty minutes. Now let's keep quiet before the damned Yanks find us."

Everyone took the older man's advice. Tom lay face down in the meadow and waited. He was tempted to close his eyes and sleep but wanted to remain alert for the Archer's signal. After about fifteen minutes, there was a stir in the brush.

"I know you're there somewhere!" a woman's voice called. "Ollie! Dammit! Where are you?"

"It's that looker Queen was talking to earlier. What do we do?" someone whispered.

"She and the Archer seemed to know one another. Maybe she ran into trouble and decided to take him up on the invite. Besides, she's welcome to snuggle that warm body down beside this lonely soldier anytime," another answered.

A few hushed chuckles broke the silence. Then someone else added, "She might do that too, soldier, if she wants crabs!"

Tom's laughter joined with the snickers around him.

"You're obviously jailbreak virgins," said Canary stunning the men. "I could follow your trail if I were deaf and blind."

The men raised up to their knees. "You alone, lady?"

"Yes I am," Canary answered. "Where's Queen?"

"He went ahead to scout Miller's Pass. The weapons weren't here like they were supposed to be," answered the same disgruntled soldier who gave Queen such a hard time about the gun situation.

"That hard-headed son-of-a-bitch!" Canary whispered through clenched teeth.

"Don't worry about him lady," said Tom. "He's the Archer."

The Black Canary dismissed Tom's faith with a roll of her eyes. "Which way to Miller's Pass?" she asked.

A few men pointed to the direction in which Queen disappeared.

"I wouldn't follow if I were you, Miss. He said he'd signal within the hour," Tom explained. "And he told us not to play hero and come looking for him."

Canary looked down at Tom. "I don't play hero, soldier. I am one." And with that, she too disappeared into the Missouri night.

Office of Telegraphy, Washington, D.C.

Barbara Gordon entered the Office of Telegraphy and rolled her wheelchair across the room while her father stood in the doorway. "It's over here somewhere," she said.

"Really Barbara, I believe you," Jim Gordon answered and watched the silhouetted form of his daughter as she shuffled through paperwork on her desk.

Barabara lit an oil lamp. "Of course you do, Daddy. I just want you to see it. I'm quite proud of it myself."

"I don't blame you," Jim replied. "It's not everyday someone gets a commendation from the President himself. That's my girl!"

Barbara smiled.

Jim was proud of his daughter. He hoped she would follow him into police work but those dreams crashed to the ground a few years ago when Barbara lost the use of her legs. He was so afraid then, worrying how to care for a crippled daughter while working on the force. He should have known better. There was too much Gordon blood in her veins to slow her down. He was never more proud than when she announced that she had taken a job in Washington D.C.

"What's this?" she asked.

Jim walked toward her desk. "What sweetheart?"

"There's a message on the telegraph," she said as she wheeled herself to the machine in the corner. "Oh my God! Canary's in trouble! I'm sorry Daddy but I've work to do!"

Jim Gordon stepped back and smiled. He missed many birthdays and holidays over the years to serve a mistress named Duty. He understood. "I'll be at my hotel when you finish, Honey."

Miller's Pass

It was no trouble following Ollie's trail. Either he was losing his touch or he left it behind on purpose to make it easier for his men to follow. Canary decided it had to be the latter. Ollie was a bastard, but he was still a professional bastard.

Why did she let him get to her? What was it about him that made it impossible for her to forget him? Sure, he was a man's man and the best lover she had ever known, but it was more. There was a connection between the two of them that ran deeper than sex. Deeper than love. Deeper even than this damned war.

Canary followed Ollie's path through the meadow and into the mountainous region known as Miller's Pass. The change in landscape was startling but she moved on. It would make it harder to find Ollie though. She entered a small canyon and wound through a series of twists and turns.

"Wheooow! Wheeooow!" Canary heard a bird-like noise from ahead she assumed was a signal from Ollie to his men. Despite her injury she picked up her pace, but was afraid to rush ahead because she didn't want to lose the trail.

Soon, she reached an area that was prime territory for an ambush. High canyon walls rose up from the rocky floor and offered little protection to someone on the ground being fired upon from above. Canary shuddered at the lengths some men would go to forfeit their souls for gain. She walked a little further then froze in her tracks. She heard voices ahead. She couldn't understand what they were saying, but she clearly recognized one of the voices as Ollie's. She flattened her back against the shadowy canyon walls and inched closer.

"Damn fine work, Queen!" said one of the voices.

"Just give me what you owe me Cafferty and get out of my face before I develop a conscience again," Ollie answered with venom in his voice. "They should be through the pass in another twenty-five minutes or so."

One of the men threw Ollie a bank bag. He laid it on the ground and opened it. Carefully, he inspected the contents before nodding his head and closing it.

Canary couldn't believe what she was seeing. Ollie, a traitor? The thought made her ill. Who was this stranger masquerading in Ollie's skin? He was no Green Arrow, that was for sure.

"You breathe one word of this to anyone Queen and you're finished. You understand me?" Cafferty bragged. "I would be careful with my threats too if I were you." He turned to leave but paused.. "Care to watch the slaughter?"

"Go to hell, Cafferty," Ollie barked. He fingered the bow resting across his back.

Cafferty laughed. "I just thought you may want to see what your soul will buy these days."

Canary waited until Cafferty and his lackeys were out of sight before she relaxed. There was no time to turn back to discourage the men from heading into the pass. They would follow Ollie to their deaths. Such blind loyalty among men. She would have to act fast. Despite the pain in her foot, she charged Ollie. If she wanted to stop the slaughter it was imperative she command the element of surprise.

Ollie turned but couldn't react fast enough. Canary threw herself at him when she got close enough. She hit him with such force that it jarred her teeth. "Dirty, low-life son-of-a-bitch! How could you?"

She heard the air rush out of her ex-lover's lungs when he hit the ground. The bank bag flew open, sending money into the brisk, night air while Canary landed a series of hard blows to Ollie's face.

It took Ollie only a moment to gain his composure and fight back. He finally gulped oxygen into his lungs and managed to speak. "Canary? What the hell are you doing here?"

"Watching you sell your soul to the Devil!" Canary answered through clenched teeth. She struck Ollie above the eye socket with her fist. Could she actually take him out? She felt good about the way the fight was going. "Ungghh!!!!" she grunted as pain flared between her shoulder blades. Ollie's knee sent her tumbling forward. Her chin struck a small boulder, slamming her teeth together. She instinctively rolled with the impact. Ollie stood over her with his bow drawn.

"Stand down Pretty Bird, or I'll kill you too!" he shouted.

Canary wasn't sure what the arrow aimed at her would do. Who knew with Ollie? It could contain poisonous gas. Or maybe an explosive. Or maybe it would trap her in a now-hidden net that would envelope her as the arrow sailed through the air. Or it could be an old-fashioned arrow, sharpened to razor-precision and designed to slice through human flesh. Either way it wouldn't be pleasant. "What's wrong with you, Ollie? Where's the man I loved?"

"Casualty of war," Ollie grunted.

"Bullshit!" Canary replied. "He's alive in there somewhere! I heard it in your voice while you were talking to Cafferty. Men like that sicken you, Ollie. Remember?"

"Dammit Bird, now I'm gonna have to kill you. Why did you have to follow me?" Ollie asked.

"Because I thought you were being the same stubborn donkey's ass I've known for years," Canary answered.

Ollie studied her carefully and then slackened his bowstring. "You could join me, Pretty Bird. I've got a lot of money here to spend. It'll be like the old days, just you and me, before you got hooked up with that damned Oracle."

Whatever shred of hope Canary felt when Ollie dropped his bow quickly faded. "Hell no!" Canary answered. "I'd rather die than to spend your blood money!"

Ollie shrugged and raised his bow once more. "Your call!"

Canary knew Ollie meant it too. He was going to kill her if she didn't do something. She had to time her next move right and hope that whatever fog clouding Ollie's mind affected his aim as well. But could even her reflexes make Ollie miss? He pulled the bowstring tight while she watched his release hand carefully. She waited, and moved as soon as she saw his fingers twitch. She rolled to her right, but the arrow still ripped into her right hand between her pinky and ring finger. She screamed but continued moving, as the arrow ripped through the thin flesh between her fingers. Blood spewed from the wound but she once more had the drop on Ollie who was shocked he missed. Dinah thanked God for her training. She rolled toward Ollie and planted her good foot squarely in his groin. She kicked so hard she could feel his pelvic bone crack.

Ollie dropped his bow and lurched forward to grab his manhood. When he fell to his knees, Canary kicked him in the back of the head at the base of his skull. She was spent. Ollie turned to her and reached for his quiver then dropped to the ground. He was out, or dead. She didn't care which.

"What's going on here?" someone asked.

Canary turned. She hoped the approaching voice belonged to a friend. She didn't have enough stamina left to defend herself. She was relieved to see the band of soldiers who followed Ollie into their death trap.

"Queen sold you out!" said Canary between heaving breaths. "There are Union positions planted along the rim of the canyon waiting to pick you off."

A shot rang out! Then another! And another! One of the soldiers fell to the ground in a puddle of his own blood.

"They're on us now! Every man for himself!"

Canary wasn't sure who sounded the cry but the unarmed men scurried along the canyon floor like wild buffalo in a stampede as shots reined down on them from both sides of the canyon walls. She hoped her fight with Ollie didn't alert the Union soldiers to their position. She looked for a means of escape but unfortunately there was none. The Union army had them blocked. If only they could be rid of the soldiers on one side of the canyon, they could seek shelter underneath the craggy overhangs carved into the earth by some long-dry river. Meanwhile, Rebels fell to the earth like raindrops of blood from heaven.

"Look out lady!" cried a soldier as he leaped toward her. It was the last words he spoke before a bullet tore through his neck. He fell dead at Canary's feet. They needed a miracle.

KABOOOOOM!!!!

The earth shook from the force of the unexplained explosion. Canary looked to the rim of the rocky canyon for an answer. A large section of the rocky crag gave way, sending a group of unfortunate Union soldiers to their deaths on the floor below. What the?

KABOOOOM!!!

Again the ground shook violently. The Union army gathered on the northern rim looked confused. However, the explosions also confused the Rebel prisoners as well. What the hell was happening?

Then Canary saw him. A broken Oliver Queen lay on the canyon floor silhouetted in pale moonlight. He quickly reloaded his bow. "Don't worry boys! I've gotcha covered!" Ollie swore. Even under the faint glow of moonlight it was obvious he suffered quite a beating at Canary's hand. His face was swollen and bleeding badly. He crawled along the ground gingerly but his hand was steady as ever on his bow. He let another arrow fly to the cliffs above.

KABOOOOM!!!

The ground shook once more.

Canary grinned. There was the man she knew. With Ollie in the fight on their side, they had a chance. It was a small one, but a chance never the less. The gunfire stopped momentarily, allowing the embattled group of Rebels to seek refuge among the rocky outcropping. If they were lucky, Ollie's attack would force the position on the north rim to retreat. Still Canary had to get Ollie out of the line of fire before the Union commanders figured out what was happening. She bolted toward him about the time the Union position on the south rim opened fire and riddled his body with bullets. She stood transfixed as his body was shred by multiple bullet wounds "No!!!" she screamed.

A pair of large arms wrapped around her waist, lifting her feet from the ground. "C'mon lady! There's nothing you can do for him now. He bought us a chance. Let's honor him by taking it."

The soldier carried Canary to a hiding place in the rocks on the now-shielded southern wall with several of the Rebel soldiers and lay her on the cool ground. She stood and brushed herself off. Ollie bought them some time but the Union forces would regroup soon. And without arms to protect themselves she and the ragtag band of Rebs were only delaying the inevitable.

With the Rebels in hiding, the shooting stopped. In fact, the eerie quiet seemed to last forever. Canary wondered what the Union troops were up to. She didn't like sitting around waiting to die. She wondered about the sides in the war. Before tonight her loyalties were clearly defined, but the current circumstances forced her to ally herself with the "enemy". She thought of the men she was in hiding with and those hunting them. Were their loyalties a matter of heart or circumstance? Or perhaps both?

"That's it sweetheart! Go! Go!" one of the soldiers whispered excitedly, breaking up the silence.

What the hell? Canary glanced over her shoulder and saw a few soldiers huddled together in a circle. Someone lit a match and she walked over to take a peek. "What's going on?" she asked

A young soldier answered without diverting his attention from the activity in the circle. "Racing lice!"

Canary managed to squeeze between two soldiers to see. A toothless man held a smooth, flat rock in his worn hands. A pair of louses moved slowly across its surface. Canary recoiled in disgust. "Put out that damn match! You may as well send the Union an RSVP!"

The soldier holding the rock let it fall to the ground. "It doesn't matter, Miss. They're going to find us by morning anyhow. We're facing death like men."

Canary cursed under her breath. No wonder most of the showgirls she knew swore off the bull-headed gender long ago.

"Hey, do you hear that?" one of the soldiers asked.

Canary cocked her ear to the night and listened. "I don't hear anything."

The soldier stood. "Everybody shut up! I hear music!"

"Hearing funeral dirges already are ye, Kilpatrick?" another soldier laughed.

"Hey, I hear it too!" someone else proclaimed.

Canary marveled at the hearing of the Rebel soldiers. It wasn't often she encountered someone with hearing more acute than her own. There! She heard it now too. She recognized the tune as "Yankee Doodle Dandy." The music was quite a distance away but moving closer. Great! The Union called in reinforcements!

Maybe the soldier was right. There was nothing to do but wait for death and hope that it was a merciful one. She stared at Ollie's corpse fifty yards away. Would her death count for anything? Or would she die in hiding like a schoolyard coward? She waited with the Rebels for nearly an hour more before Union soldiers appeared on the canyon floor.

"Miss Lance?" called a Union officer riding a magnificent horse. "You can come out of hiding now! Your friend in Washington got your telegram! Lincoln himself ordered us here to stop this massacre!"

Canary heaved a sigh of relief. She moved to the edge of the outcropping and looked back over her shoulder at the Rebels still huddled behind her. "C'mon boys. There's our ticket out of here!"

"For you maybe," a soldier answered.

Canary knew he was probably right. "What about the men with me?" she called out.

"We have orders to escort them to the Tennessee line. What they do from there is their own business."

Canary smiled. Maybe there was still some good left in the hearts of men. She exited the rocky overhang and ran to Ollie's bullet-ridden body and cradled it in her arms. He was her lover. Her friend. And in death, her hero.

EPILOGUE:

Barbara Gordon rolled into her kitchen and started breakfast. She cracked two eggs and poured them into an iron skillet. Wheeling herself to her kitchen door, she found the Washington Democrat-Gazette stashed neatly against the threshold. It paid to tip one's newsboy well. She picked up the paper and scanned the headlines.

MISSOURI POLITICIAN EXPOSED IN MURDER PLOT

Traveler's Gulch, Missouri - The political dreams of a local community leader were dashed last night when he was exposed as the ringleader of an elaborate plot to betray Southern prisoners of war to their deaths in exchange for political favors he hoped would win him the governor's mansion. If successful the plot would have seriously compromised the state's neutrality in the current aggression between the states.

Rafe Cafferty, son of the well-known...

Barbara smiled. It was what Cafferty deserved.

FAMOUS VIRGINIA HERO KILLED IN BATTLE

Miller's Pass, Missouri - Oliver Queen, the famed Virginia-born archer known to many as the "Green Arrow" was killed in the battle of Miller's Pass defending the doomed group of prisoners dubbed the "Gulch Gang" by the press. It is unclear whether or not Queen may have first played a part in the plot himself before experiencing a change of heart. The once-wealthy Virginian, who earned his fortune in tobacco, left the remainder of his once substantial holdings to his former girlfriend, Dinah Lance, better known to those north of the Mason-Dixon line as the Black Canary. Miss Lance was present when Queen was killed and was among those he protected with his final act of bravery. When asked about the events, Miss Lance declined comm....

Barbara gasped. She felt as if she knew Ollie personally from Dinah's wire gossip. She was certainly aware of his reputation as an adventurer. Barbara reminded herself to send Dinah flowers.

A third headline, in much smaller print, caught Barbara's attention. It read:

"GULCH GANG EXECUTED NEAR TENNESSEE STATE LINE"

Near the Tennessee-Missouri border - The group of Rebel prisoners dubbed the "Gulch Gang" were executed near the Tennessee border following the events of last night in Southeast Missouri. According to Union Major Travis Batson, who was charged by President Lincoln with escorting the prisoners to the Tennessee line, the prisoners staged a revolt and tried to overpower the company. The prisoners were ordered to stand down before they.....

Barbara laid the paper down. She thought of the men at the dinner party the night before who wanted to crush the South like a stinky cigar beneath their heel and pondered the cruelty of killing men so close to their freedom. She thought of mothers who lost sons, wives whose husbands would never kiss them again, and children who would never know the joy of playing at their father's feet. She reflected on these things and shed a tear for her war-torn country and wondered if it would ever know the healing salve of reconciliation.

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