Thomas Owen Black.
Like Willow May Jennings, Thomas is a blind writer.
LTB won’t try to pull your legs, Willow May and Thomas are one in the same writers.
It was decided that as long as romantic novels were being written, Willow May would do the writing.
Thomas has come out from behind Willow May’s shadow with his first debut in the historical fiction genre. Don’t worry, there are still elements of romance and heavy breathing. Readers won’t be disappointed to read of more action, suspense, and intrigue.
The story is interesting and full of historical facts. However, now is as good a time to disclaim as any.
The author wishes to say that he has tweeked dates and events to help the flow of his story. He tried to keep as close to the facts as the story allowed. Most details are accurate up to a point. The author feels that the reader won’t notice and still be able to enjoy the adventure. He has written a small blurb and has included the first chapter.
The publication of Paradise: Lost and Found will be out at the beginning of Feburary. God willing. LTB has uploaded the books cover. As always the author would appreciate any comments via his e-mail address, Leapingtiger@knology.net
Paradise: Lost and Found is a story about a soldier disillusioned by a war; only to discover his way of life no longer existed. Through the journals of his father, Elijah Dalton leaves what remains of a former life and along with his neighbors seeks a new life in the wilderness west of the Mississippi River.
The people of Dalton are chased by a renegade of ex-Union soldiers financed by a vengeful carpetbagger.
In hopes of finding Paradise in the Indian Nation, Elijah realized Paradise can be the Land of the Damn. Chased out of the valley by Indian ghost warriors, the people gathered a new life while half-civilized Indians steal Elijah’s heart while the United States Cavalry futilely tries to erase the Native Americans’ out of existence.
More by accident, the Southerners stumble on a new country. Thinking they found Eden, they learn Paradise was found within each other.
The starry night was dimmed by the harvest moon shining like freshly churned butter canvassing the surrounding forest with light of a ghostly hue. The way was little more than a game trail. The overhanging forest allowed very little moonshine to light the way, but the stallion did not hesitate as its hooves churned up the forest loam.
The cloaked rider reined in the black stallion at a fork in the trail. The rider pushed back the hood to hear better. Something nagged at the back of the rider’s mind. Intuition warned the rider of danger on their back trail.
Goose bumps pricked the rider’s neck hairs as the constant pounding rhythm of galloping hooves drew closer. The fast approaching pursuit sounded even more ominous in the eerily quiet forest.
The hunter had picked up their trail minutes outside Richmond. The rider paid little attention to the pursuit, confident of the stallion’s ability to outpace any contenders.
Now there was some doubt as to whether or not the rider could get away. Panic quickly replaced doubts, as the realization the stallion’s abilities would not be enough in the close environs of this forest.
Feeling vulnerable and alone in the hilly woodlands, the hunted prayed to the ancestors in a whisper sent heavenward. Confident of prayers answered, the rider breathed easier. Fears of the hunted were set aside to coax the animal into a gallop.
Virginia’s night air felt crisp and bracing against the rider’s cheeks as the shadowy fugitives flickered in and out of the dappled moonlight. Not so far ahead, a familiar noise pricked the rider’s perception. The distant sound of pursuit gradually faded as the new noise dominated the rider’s senses.
Finally, the noise materialized into a fast flowing stream rushing over rocks. Now with focused attention, the hunter’s approach reverberated louder and closer.
The geography of the terrain could deceive the listener with echoes rebounding off its stony ravines and cavernous hollows. The sounds deceived the rider and panic quickly returned. The stallion was encouraged into a faster pace until the stream crossed their path. Moonlight glittered off the water as if jewelry was carelessly scattered across it’s streambed.
Fear reared its ugly head again with the idea of capture, but hope clamped down the anxiety. Heart-felt prayers of thanks ascended heavenward for revealing the way.
Nevertheless, the fear of capture made the choice easier. The animal hesitated stepping into the icy waters. Despite the freezing temperatures, the river offered to hide their tracks and muffle their passage. The stallion’s entire body shivered as he stepped into the frigid water. Without hesitation, they splashed upstream.
Fear and doubt continued to gnaw at the edges of the rider’s confidence. The stallion’s pace slowed as he picked his way through the rocky streambed. Helpless anxieties fluttered through the rider’s stomach as worry frayed the spy’s control.
It made sense for the Confederates to dispatch a posse to keep their plot a secret. There was some satisfaction that the conspiracy was legitimate. Why else would they continue to dog the spy’s trail?
Another thought plagued the spy’s overwrought imagination. Would the hunter think to pursue the hunted, up or downstream?
Was the rushing water over the rocky riverbed masking the sound of pursuit, or was it the spy’s panicking perception? The pursuers would cross the river at any moment just when the silhouette of a fleeing fugitive would stand out in the moonlight. Anxieties redoubled its efforts to churn the rider’s stomach into froth when the high riverbanks offered no help of escape. The Stallion felt the apprehension and quicken his pace. The rider had only moments before teetering into a full-blown blind panic, when divine intervention shown a way out.
A moonbeam lit the convergence of another stream entering the main channel. The rider urged the stallion into the side channel, but the animal balked to enter the overgrown stream. The sounds of pursuit splashed closer forcing the panic to return in earnest.
The idea of capture threatened to liquidate the rider’s stomach if this stubborn stallion did not comply. The rider kicked the horse’s flanks, whipped the reins, and hopped up and down on the saddle. Despite her sugarcoated urgings, the stallion shook his mane in defiance. Frustration growled deep inside her throat as she slid off the saddle.
The shock of the freezing water seized the girl’s breath.
She stared with disbelief into the moon lit surface and doe like eyes stared back. Midnight-colored hair framed the small brown face. Her features favored her father with his narrow nose and thin lips. Ripples in the stream blurred the image and broke the spell.
The Indian girl took the reins and led the horse through the overhanging brush. It was no wonder the stallion resisted going through the foliage. The limbs and branches whipped and poked them both.
Finally, they merged into a quiet glade surrounded by leafy boughs not yet dropped in the fall’s frosty season.
They stood stock still, or at least as best they could, while shaking with cold and fear. The heavy underbrush and the surrounding woodlands afforded them a few moments of safety from pursuit. Minutes passed painfully slow. The girl imagined she heard splashing noises and feared capture in their own hiding place.
However, the freezing water forced the girl and her horse to struggle out of the water. The foliage on the riverbank enfolded them into a leafy cocoon.
“I think we’re safe for now,” she whispered in the stallion’s ear. The animal nodded his agreement.
The girl could not stay put for her leggings were soaked and would freeze solid if she did not move. Besides, she had problems standing still without knowing where her pursuer stood. Remembering the lessons her father taught his only child, Morning Star crept through the forest as quietly as a falling leaf. Despite the paralyzing cold clamped around her thighs, the young Indian woman paused to listen before placing another foot down. She had an advantage over her pursuer; they had to contend with the noisy river. She imagined a heard of buffalo could pass without notice.
Morning Star began to shiver in her wet clothing as she squatted behind a leafy bush. She tried to ignore her discomforts, closed her eyes, and opened her mouth to listen for the hunter. She felt if she could keep her mouth open, her teeth would not chatter and she could hear over her harsh breathing.
All she could detect, besides her thunderous heartbeats, was the quiet mutterings of running water. She had to be sure. She inhaled a lungful of cold air as she parted a limb. There was nothing. Relief washed over her and she released the remaining air in her lungs. Tension eased out following the baited breath.
However, Morning Star could not sit still not knowing. Where was her pursuer? Had they quit the chase? She did not think she was that lucky. She strained her hearing for any splashing. Were they laying in wait for their prey to spring out of hiding?
The surrounding forest remained quiet. Not knowing what her pursuit was doing returned her aggravations and she began to chew on a fingernail. Time was slipping away while the Confederates were already advancing their mission. Squatting on her heels, she bounced up and down to keep her body warm and bleed off the nervous energy of waiting. Nerves, she thought to herself. She smiled at what her father would say.
“Patience is something you have to work at.”
He constantly complained about his daughter’s inability to sit still. He would insist she repeat the mantra, Patience is a Virtue. She knew he was right, but she also knew he hated the notion that he, himself, needed patience of a monk to raise a girl child.
Morning Star had a sudden need to be in her father’s comforting arms. Whenever she was a little girl and had a nightmare, she would run to her father. He would gather her into his strong arms and whisper reassurances into her ear. He reasoned out her fears so she could return to sleep.
Morning Star forced herself back to the moment by rubbing her cold cheeks with the palms of her callused hands. If she did not know where her pursuer stood, she reasoned, they did not know where she hid. The thought calmed her a little. While being held in place, the urgency of her mission went slipping past. She wrapped her cloak around her knees and lowered her head to rest her thoughts. Her mind refused to sit still and it returned to the events she recently played out like a Shakespearean plot.
President Jefferson Davis resided at the gray mansion on the crest of Shockoe Hill. Not only did the mansion on Clay Street serve as a shining example of Southern gentility, but it also allowed President Davis to conduct the business of war.
The household servants gossiped about him moving from the Spotswood Hotel. Some speculated the move afforded him better opportunity for escape should the Yankees overrun the city. The townspeople all agreed it was shameful when he shipped his family off to Canada.
At least, that was what Emerson overheard while cooling his heels in the manor’s drawing room.
The minute Captain Emerson Dalton resigned his commission in the United States Army; an urgent message requested his presence at 16 Clay Street.
The summons was set for 6 PM the following day, but Emerson was nervous and arrived thirty minutes earlier.
Not long after his arrival, Emerson met Albert Pike.
The man’s appearance said he was either a lawyer or a politician. After shaking the man’s hand, Emerson knew him to be a lawyer; his soft hands revealed no physical labor.
Polite conversation ended when President Davis’s servant announced supper.
“Gentlemen,” President Davis said as he waved away the smoke of a freshly lit cigar from his face. “I hope the Smithfield ham was to your satisfaction?”
The man from Kentucky pretended to pay little attention to his guests’ compliments as he swirled his snifter of brandy. He felt a twinge of guilt for serving Virginia ham, freshly picked butter beans, biscuits, and real coffee, when Confederate soldiers were doing without. Since the Union had half of Richmond surrounded, foodstuff was not as scarce as they were expensive. He was afraid of what his guests would think with such a decadent meal. The thought was quickly lost as he studied the golden brown liquor before returning his attention back to his guests.
“I have asked you here tonight to work out the details of a plan that ultimately will help isolate Union forces west of the Mississippi River and insure the South continues to receive materials for the war effort.” The Confederate president paused as the Indian servant cleared the dishes.
Jeff Davis’s guests were a prosperous landowner and lawyer from Arkansas. His other guest was a Cavalry officer. He pretended to be oblivious to the Indian servant’s presence, as he continued with his discussion.
“The success of the mission rests mainly on your shoulders, Major Dalton,” Davis said as he stared at the Army officer. “General Pike has already met with John Ross, the principle chief of the Cherokee people, and has informed me the man has not changed his mind in regards to our cause.” He paused in his long-winded narration to finish off his brandy and sighed with contentment. He looked intently at the tip of his cigar as he continued. “John Ross has a large number of slaves working his plantation. Major, your job will be to push Ross off his fence. He must be made to understand that if the North wins this war; his slaves will be set free.”
President Davis showed little annoyance with the Major paying him little attention. He observed Emerson and his serving woman exchange furtive glances. President Davis had to admit she was a beautiful Indian. He could see her pretense of being oblivious to Emerson’s attentions as she cleared his dishes. He knew she played her part as the shy Indian servant. He saw the fire of desire in both of their eyes.
Suddenly, the dishes in her hands clattered onto the tray, breaking the spell. She hurriedly gathered the remaining dishes as she mumbled her apologies. She carried the tray of dirty dishes to the sideboard and stole a glance over her shoulder.
Major Emerson Dalton lounged in a six-foot frame topped with blonde curls. Jeff Davis was envious of the major’s physique. His sky blue eyes had tracked Morning Star’s every movement the entire evening. President Davis caught himself gnashing his teeth. Was he jealous? No, he would never lower himself to such a base emotion. However, he was upset with Major Dalton for not paying proper attention to their discussion. The President was so irritated with the Major, he failed to hear Pike’s question.
“Excuse me, Mister President? Shouldn’t we dismiss the serving girl before further discussion?” Albert Pike asked as he jerked his head towards Morning Star.
With a slight shake of his head, President Davis winked at Pike. Silence filled the room as the serving girl wiped the black walnut table clean. The men’s stares followed every movement as she hefted the overburden tray and left the room.
Morning Star paused just outside the doorway, hoping for further conversation. A sickening feeling gnawed on her confidence. Did they know she was a spy? Fear pricked her skin as cold sweat coated her brow. She felt like a rat discovering the cheese, only to uncover a trap. What if this treachery was only a ruse to smoke out the rat? She battled with indecision.
On the other hand, Morning Star vacillated, what if it was true. She could not allow these Confederates to ill-use her people and if it was all a lie, then months of worming her way into Jeff Davis’ household would be all for nothing. Well, she could not linger out here in the hall.
Morning Star entered the kitchen and eased the tray down next to the sink with a sigh.
Miss Dorothy was the cook and supervisor of the house slaves. She held court in the stifling kitchen like the Queen mother wielding her scepter.
“You know, young lady, I think that young army officer is sweet on you,” the old woman said knowingly as she eyeballed Morning Star through the smoke of her corncob pipe. ”The gristmill has grounded out rumors that your beau is a widower with a ready-made family. His people have a plantation down in the Carolinas.”
“Miss Dorothy.” Morning Star forced herself not to sound exasperated with the old gossip. Instead, she wiped her hands off on her apron as she thought hard on how to respond.
Miss Dorothy was a stout widow of middle years. She turned to Morning Star with a knowing look and winked. Her straw colored hair set under a cap like a mop.
“Now, if I was ten years younger, I would give that man a run for his money,” the cook cackled. Morning Star felt herself blushing. She could not help it. The kitchen felt like a sweat lodge to Morning Star as she wiped her forehead with the apron. The stove boiled water to wash the dinner dishes and the late summer heat, coupled with the humidity, made the kitchen unbearable.
“He’s not my beau,” Morning Star said defensively. She excused herself to escape the heat and Miss Dorothy’s scrutiny. She had a mission and she needed to alert her father.
Her father was Major E. G. Allen, military adviser to the President of the United States. Major Allen, better known as Allen Pinkerton, was her spymaster. He had loved the daughter of a Cherokee chief, Morning Star’s mother. Neither one of her parents had any more control over their hearts than Romeo and Juliet.
Pinkerton worked to uncover a conspiracy as their love blossomed.
Not long after stopping an attempt to assassinate the President, Pinkerton was not able to stop Morning Star’s mother from the white man’s pox.
Allan would not show his grief publicly. Naturally, father and daughter turned to each other for solace. He focused his attention in teaching her the white man’s ways. She learned to read, write, and to appreciate English poetry.
President Lincoln did not feel he needed bodyguards despite the recent attempt on his life. The detective from Chicago debrief the president as to just how close he came to getting killed, and if he still refused the protection, the detective threatened to tell the First Lady. To avoid bruising egos and raising suspicions, Pinkerton quietly transferred his intelligence operations from General McClellan’s staff and discretely set up shop in the White House. Despite the many attempts to suppress the rumors of Pinkerton’s heroic sleuthing, her father’s promotion did not propel them socially.
Washington society shunned them both, but this snobbery towards Morning Star’s bi-racial birth did not bother the Major as much as it did Morning Star. Her refusal to comply with the layers of petticoats and the war paint society women wore, was only an excuse to shun the elite. Therefore, when an opportunity to become a spy for her adopted country had presented itself, she did not hesitate to become a patriot.
President Davis’ conspiracy rewarded Morning Star for her months of servitude. Her treatment as a house servant was barely discernible from that of a house slave. This behavior of man’s inhumanity to man tempted her to sever the head of the serpent, but that action would have only lowered her standards to that of the Confederates. Fortunately, her diligence uncovered his conspiracy conceived to serve the white man’s machinations.
Morning Star had enough information to take to her father, but she was tempted to listen out for more. She knew if she was caught eavesdropping on the gentlemen, she could be hung as a spy.
Despite the risks, she wanted another look at the handsome cavalry officer. Going against her better sense, she tiptoed back to the dining room door and overheard President Davis.
“Major? You will set out immediately. You must supply the Cherokees with guns, ammo, uniforms, and food stuff.”
The spy slipped back to her room. There was no time for her own desires. The fate of the Union rested on her and she had to get the word to her father.
She slipped into her closet-like room and quietly closed the door. She hurriedly scribbled a coded message. It will travel through her father’s network of couriers. A necessary precaution in case she failed to cross enemy lines.
Morning Star changed into her leggings and her favorite moccasins. She retrieved a saddlebag from underneath her cot.
Keeping to the shadows the cloaked figure slipped into the stables and saddled President Davis’s favorite horse, Zeus. She led the stallion out of the stables and had one foot in the stirrup when she saw Major Dalton leaning casually against the back door.
Their eyes met. The spy’s skin flushed with heat of realization of her cover blown. Yet, he did not move. The sickening fear of hanging for espionage melted away and replaced with a tingling sensation of pleasure from the way he stared at her. At that moment, she knew exactly how her mother must have felt toward her own young officer.
The Major stepped out into the yard as Morning Star pulled herself into the saddle without breaking eye contact. What did break the spell was a sentry with a rifle. The spy spurred the stallion into motion disappearing into the night without a backward glance. She heard a shot sail high overhead. She breathed out the nervous tension. Morning Star promised herself she and her officer would meet again.
A sudden and very close noise brought Morning Star back to the present. For a heartbeat, she felt disoriented as if she had suddenly awakened from sleep. She had momentarily forgotten where she was when the splashing noise sounded again.
Instinctively, her hand reached for the bone-handle knife sheathed at her waist. Only after she pushed aside her fear could she feel the hunter’s presence.
Ever so gently, she parted the limbs with her other hand. A cry of alarm lodged in her throat as the shadow loomed not more than an arm’s length away.
The shape of the man’s head sat level to Morning Star’s gaze. She stopped breathing. Slowly, the shadow turned to stare directly into Morning Star’s soul.