Thursday, July 9, 2015

James River Watcher #4

>>>> James River Watcher #4 <<<< Both of the officers smiled at this last from the young Lt., just as both were well aware that such sustenance would be the only way to maintain a watcher in such a situation for a week. The Major leaned forward in his chair and raised his finger for attention. “The next item,” he said very seriously,” is the possibility of discovery. There may well be sentries posted around the old ruin and these may be hidden. There is enough brush and trees on the property to hide a platoon of sentries, so we must proceed with that firmly in mind. The second thing is the possibility of someone hidden inside the ruin for the purpose of keeping an eye on us just as we are doing to them. However, I must admit that the lights across the river that you have reported would be of greater interest that a dark road along the river.” The Major paused at this point as if arranging the rest of what he had to say in his head. He looked at the Captain seated across the room and asked,” Do you have any further ideas to add?” The Captain turn to the Lt. and just touched the handrail on his chair. His voice was deep and serious. “Son, the season is a warm one here now as you well know, and this old building might be the ideal place for an armed deserter to seek a temporary shelter. The Reb patrols along the river road don’t seem to be much of a threat to the old ruin, but a lone deserter from either side might well be.” “Excellent point,” said the Major sitting back in his chair. After a few moments of thought, he leaned forward again, “Alright, here is what we will do. I assume that the young Lt. here is volunteering for this task, as I could not order anyone to do it.” George who found himself so excited about the coming assignment he had forgotten to talk, nodded his head vigorously and managed to squeak out a low, ”Yes Sir,” to the question. Both senior officers again smiled at the young officer’s eagerness, and then settled down to the planning. The Major continued addressing George directly,” We will use your idea of an enclosed signal lamp with a red lens to transmit information to a given point at the edge of the woods. There will be a signalman there each night to receive your message, I am assuming that you know the codes?” Again George nodded in agreement. He had spent many days memorizing the signal codes, simply out of boredom. Now this effort would be put to good use. The Major continued, ”Be very sure that you have a lateral and vertical line to the edge of the woods for the signal lamp. That will not be easy to do at night. That is very important.” Again George nodded in agreement and scribbled a few words in his notebook which he had drawn from his pocket. “You will have two armed men to escort you into the ruined building and up to the third floor to assist you to find the ‘look-out room.’ When you have determined that you can safely stay in the room for seven days, the two men will return replacing any removal of blockage or debris that was in your way up, so as to hide your presence there. You will signal once an evening all your information using the red signal light to the man waiting at the edge of the woods. If there is any discovery by an enemy guard, patrol, or deserter, you are to silence them, any way that you can, and then immediately leave the ruin, join the patrol at the edge of the woods and come immediately back here. Is that fully understood?” George looked straight at the Major and said, “Yes Sir, I fully understand.” The Major, looking back at George, said,”You are the most valuable asset of the moment. You will be provided with a large signal telescope, one which can be broken down, and packed into a bag that can be attached to a packframe. This with your rations, water, notebooks, and personal gear. Remember to go over the gear that you will need carefully. Once you are in the lookout room you will have to live with what you brought with you. That is especially true of the water supply. You should be ready by tomorrow night to go with the regular road patrol along the river. We will send a gunboat upriver just before the road patrol in case there are any who may have an interest. I think a gunboat will distract any attention that might be given to you otherwise. Do you have any questions?” Both the Captain and George shook their heads. The Major stood up and said,” Good, then the Lt. is dismissed. I need to talk with the Captain about some local maps.” George got out of his chair, somewhat stiffly, and walked slowly to the door of the headquarters building, and down the wooden steps onto the stone walkway. The cool breeze off the nearby river caused him to shiver slightly, as the extent of what he had agreed to began to fill his realization. However, the excitement and challenge of such a prospect was far and away more than any idea of caution or fear that might occur to him at the moment.

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