Reign of Valor

Reign of Valor – is a TIME TRAVEL NOVEL that leads the way back to Texas’ fight for Independence against Mexico in 1836.

An old raggedy clothed  old man  named Martin mysteriously shows  up unannounced in a modern day  literary agent Ralph Langley’s  office. The tale he soon shares at first is not believed by the agent, but the awesome truth is present etched in Martin’s eyes.

He has written a novel about his experience of when  as a little boy in 1928 he led a silent movie crew back to the Alamo right before the siege began. The reason for their going was to proclaim the valor of those who died at the Alamo. Some before they traveled back in time, the Alamo had been forgotten.

Hearing Martin’s tale, Langley is intrigued. After Martin disappears as suddenly as he appeared from his office, the agent sets off to Texas to learn if anything Martin told could possibly be true.

The novel then sets off from three  specific years, 1836, 1928, and today. All stories from each year converge as there is a race  against time to complete a task.

In  1836, the movie crew arrives in Texas to film the battle of Alamo on location only to find themselves trapped in the real Alamo.

In 1928 there’s a   former Texas Governor. Learning about the possibility of time travel, he wants to go back in time to save the Alamo.

In modern day New York, the literary agent searches out clues about the disappearance of the movie crew, and what connections the ex-governor had with making the movie. Then, he learns of a journalist from the early days of Texas  who fought hard to keep the memory of the Alamo alive – a man named Ben Talbot. The question arises just who is Ben Talbot.

Clicking the photo of my novel “Reign of Valor”, you will be taken to Amazon books to view a few pages.canstockphoto14077698 - Copy3The        following is the first chapter of Reign of Valor:

Reign of Valor ©

Chapter 1 – Another Time

His name was Martin. He looked to be at least eighty years old. Upon seeing him just sitting across from me in my office, I had to do a double take. When realization finally sat in that I was not alone, my anger flashed. “How did you get in? What are you doing here?” I asked demandingly in a manner not conducive or caring for a reply.

He answered, “Simply to see me.”

I shot back, “Why?”

His reply nearly knocked me off my chair. The words he chose for a reply were odd and delivered quite confidently if not downright bold. He sat there and calmly said I was the man that was to help him, or otherwise he would not be in my office.

My name is Ralph Langley. I am a New York City literary agent.
Supposedly, on the morning of February 6, 1978, I was among the many sane minds of this world. Yet, with the coming of that afternoon, my conception of what was reality and what was fantasy would never be the same.

With the coming of the afternoon, I found the play world of my youth. After so many years, I had completed a full circle to realize my daydreams of youth were more than just play. For all concerned it might have been better if I had not come into work that day. Instead, I should have immediately set off on a much-needed vacation and maybe my meeting with Martin may have never taken place.

The original plan was for all play and no work for two solid weeks. I would accept no phone calls, or telegrams. To insure my freedom, Ruth, my secretary swore to secrecy not to divulge my whereabouts.

That morning, I had come into the office earlier than usual to finish a few miscellaneous items and my business slate would have been clear for two solid weeks. With a little luck and no interruptions, I would have started out on my planned vacation shortly past nine.

Frankly stated, luck had nothing to do with my vacation, with me, or for that matter my stranger’s sudden appearance. Evidently, my guest was somehow special and so was his quest. For some reason, known only by fate, he came to my office to seek my assistance. Any way I look at it now there was no recourse open to me. You could have called me a prisoner in my own office. I was compelled to listen.

Gazing upon the odd-looking man, I could not quiet the feeling of urgency that continued to build within me. For some purpose, fate had played its hand in leading him to my office. As I knew our paths had never crossed before, I felt certain my life would ever be the same again. I could have easily had him tossed from my office. However, I felt a strange tugging at my very soul to listen to whatever reason brought him to me that day.

I began to wonder if I truly had a choice of whether or not to come in to work that morning. Truthfully, I should not have even bothered to come in. Ruth, my normally vigilant secretary, could have easily taken care of what had to be completed. When I say normally vigilant secretary, I mean besides that morning Ruth never let me down.

The order of the day was to tell everyone who asked for me I had gone on vacation. Absolutely no one was to know I was in the office. I should have been alone and I believed I was. I only got up from my chair to turn away for a brief moment. When I turned back, there he was. He was sitting in a black leather armchair on the other side of my desk. It was as if he had been there all along, waiting for me to acknowledge him. Where he came from or how he happened to gain entrance to my office leads to many unanswered questions.

Ruth was at a loss for words to explain our visitor’s sudden appearance. She kept insisting no one had entered the outer office. She even swore she had not even gotten up from her desk.

Yet, there he was. He was a sorrowful, if not an eerie sight to behold. The hairs of his whiskers and the hairs on his head were pure white. Each strand of hair was short, thick, and bristled, nearly sticking straight out from the curvature of the skin that sparsely covered the scalp and face. The clothes he wore were old, tattered, and dirty. However, his eyes spoke of his true predicament. There was a strange mixture of emotions present within those eyes. A better description would be utter chaos that swirled in every direction. Yet, strangely, there was also sort of an enjoyment and awe present.

For some unearthly reason I had consented to listen and become involved with this man’s tale. I was intrigued. I had to find out the reason for what was in those eyes, as well as for the lengths fate itself had gone to set up our meeting.

Then there were all those others questions. For one, even at that hour how did Martin dressed as he was allowed through the revolving doors downstairs without shortly thereafter being escorted out of the lobby by the security guards. Even if by chance he had somehow slipped past the guards, there should have been no way possible for him to get past Marge the lobby receptionist without an appointment.

There was also Ruth my secretary. She emphatically swore no one got past by her.

Yet there was Martin seated across from me in the leather armchair. The reason why I did not have him immediately removed from my office as well as from the building was inconceivable for any other time except for that morning.

My story, although special to me, has no real place in these writings. The part I will play in this story will be minimal, limited to verifying certain accounts and relying findings. Instead, Martin’s tale is the real story.

Listening to him, at first, I wondered if the entire matter was not just a crazed man’s babbling. Yet, as he continued speaking, I could not escape the strange mixture of awesome anguish and wonderment etched within his eyes. To hear him tell of his youth, spending endless hours on some western ruins caused my imagination to soar. I might have gone on listening for hours, but suddenly I began to believe the man’s mind had slipped. In fact, what he began to share soon caused me to turn away in utter disbelief.

Of course, anyone can understand how a young boy can dream of a battle that took place long before he was born. Every human being, no matter who they are, or where they are from, must have experienced some sort of fantasy at least one time in their life.

Listening to his tale, his words even enabled me to reach back and recall my very own boyhood play dreams. I began to feel the actual excitement of playing make-believe on the very spot where heroes fought and died. I was a boy again playing on the same ground he played on.

Then for him, a man who was actually in his late fifties, to tell me he had been a part of a battle that took place before he was even born shook me back to reality. As if some spell had been broken, or veil lifted from my eyes, I no longer wanted to listen. I ordered him from my office as if I was some spoiled brat.

I had asked Ruth to hold off alerting security, but now she was gladly calling for assistance. Her voice shook with anger as well as apprehension in having Martin so near to her.

As for me, I tried to shrug off the tales as if they were utter nonsense. After all, they appeared to be coming from an illiterate and crazed grubby man. Yet, seeing how far fate had gone in arranging our meeting, I realized this was no normal visit. I was also certain Martin was no threat to anyone.

Once more, alone in my office, I attempted to turn my attention back to a more serious endeavor. There were still a few small bits of work to finish. In any case, I had wasted far too much time on him. My scheduled flight out of La Guardia was set for nine o’clock. It was already nearly seven. I knew I had to hurry if I wanted to make my flight.

Even though I was anxious to start my vacation, I found myself nudged by a beckoning spirit that would not leave me alone to concentrate on my work.

Despite the fact, Martin was no longer in my office the thought of his still face and tormented eyes haunted me. The more I thought of him the more I wondered why I had not noticed his emotionless expression while he had been in my office. Finally, I realized the overpowering effects of his eyes had hidden his stone-like facial features. It was as if the man’s body and soul was a prisoner by what had brought him to me.

The old man was lost in a stupor, trapped in some sort of a daydream. His face was stone cold and as hard as any sculptor’s work. It seemed to exist merely as a host for the eyes to serve as a doorway to another world.

I could not calm my nerves. The thought of his lifeless eyes, turning dark and piercing, stuck fast within my mind. To picture him turning to look at me as if I had just entered the room caused shivers to rise and race throughout my entire body and soul.

I had to stop what I was doing. As if compelled to give in, I stepped into the outer office. Just as my mind’s eye had envisioned him doing, he turned my way. An icy-gleam showed within his eyes as if he was readying the words to say. That is when security arrived, and I sent them away without Martin.

Time holds many secrets, but those existing can unlock the answers to time if they are willing to surrender the current acceptable reality.
It would appear Martin had made a conscious choice, and he suffered greatly for his decision. Of course, there is always a price for being different. Normally the trade-off becomes more rewarding by the level of belief displayed. In Martin’s case, the cost was too great.

When Martin resumed sharing his tale, he led me on a strange path. As I continued to stare at him, I became utterly captivated. He moved me by the tears he shed as he recalled friends and moments he experienced. He was also succeeding in convincing me his story was somehow true.

In his own words, he explained, “Every moment, no matter how great or mundane remains forever at the exact point where it takes place.” Like pages in a book, he said, “Moments in time are collected one on another. When finished, they are simply turned back and laid upon the last.”

Furthermore, he went on to ask, “When a moment passes, have you ever wondered where the moment goes? Is it lost forever, or does it still exist as a record and proof of our existence and deeds?”

Age alone had not caused Martin’s withered face and discolored hair. His shaking fear ridden hands were not those of a weak man. All he knew and what he was about to share had
taken a great toll on his life.

Some might never understand how Martin found his way up to seventh floor that day. Yet, to me, what was even more incredible was the fact he choose to come into my office. For the sake of my and everyone else’s sanity reading this account, the question has to be asked whether or not it would have been better if he had been barred from ever entering the building.

Ever since that day, every bit of information he shared with me has proven true. However, allow me to change my original view of who actually is the author of this tale.

Although it is true Martin brought the truth to light, the tale is not his alone. This story is a vital part of us all. Maybe it is an explanation for the strange feelings of long departed loved ones felt at our side. This story is also a legacy of all the lives that ever were, many of them heroes that have passed on and yet are still a part of this world.

Martin’s story began on that very date in 1928. Maybe I should say the saga was about to take place nearly one hundred years after the event we now know took place.

In the southern part of Texas, in a secluded location, miles from San Antonio, the once planned movie location waited for the arrival of the last remaining silent movie crew of Hollywood.

However, unbeknownst to everyone involved the intended film location had become a link to the past. Under fate’s direction, the set was to act as a doorway for the movie crew to be unwittingly drawn to the actual place and time where history was about to occur.

Only moments before the fort appeared partly lost amongst the dust and rubble. Now, it silently waited appearing in the same condition it had been some ninety years before. A few hundred yards away, Martin and his mother were also about to become acquainted with the very same phenomenon that was to shake the movie crew’s world. It was February 6, 1928.

February 6, 1928
With the coming of the new dawn, Esther could hardly have been ready to deal with the events of the new day. The playground that had served as a playmate for her son now intended to include her in its madness.

The day began as any other day. Esther was already up long before sunrise. She figured the daily chores, as usual, would take most of the day to complete.

Life on a small dirt farm was never easy. For Esther, life without a man around to share the day-to-day living as well as the chores had become unbearable. Yet, each day she gladly gave all her strength just to hold onto the farm for her son. In fact, Martin was Esther’s sole reason for existing. Her love for her son provided strength to carry her through each day, and on and on it went. At the end of each day, what remained of that strength belonged to him alone.

With Martin having never gone to school, Esther first made certain he had some learning. Her personal tool by choice was the Holy Bible. With the use of the stories from the Bible, she taught him how to read and gave him reasons to respect that which is good. She believed anyone could live to the fullest just by following what is written in the good book. By her teaching these important lessons, Esther felt certain no matter where he would eventually wind up he would always have a guide to follow.

Even though Esther knew learning was important, she understood there was still one more vital element necessary in raising a healthy and mentally sound child. She realized she also had to provide loving childhood memories for Martin that would last him a lifetime. She knew and understood how and why times of laughter and play together with her son were keys to a more rounded existence. Often she would read to him a tale or two from the Arabian Nights, which was Martin’s favorite book. On rare occasions, they might even travel miles to the nearest town to take in a silent movie.

That night would be no exception. Nothing could dampen her spirits, not even their meager earnings, or the long hard hours of chores. That day just happened to be Martin’s birthday.

With anticipation of the coming evening, Esther flowed through her chores as if she was moving on some heavenly cloud. Even the cruel, harsh-chilled wind that rose from time to time could not bother her that day. The thoughts of the coming evening’s festivities captivated her entire being.

Yet, as it often is with human nature, while hanging clothes on the line to dry, Esther began to doubt the merits of the gift she had gotten him. Her expression turned sad as she wondered if a trip to town might be something he would like better.

Her thoughts shifted drastically as she wondered what Martin’s father would have chosen for his son’s gift. Even though she tried to give Martin everything she could, Esther also realized a growing boy needed a male influence. What’s more, she truly believed that a father for her son might also bring an end to his dreaming.

“Oh, another man,” she whispered, idealizing. “What I wouldn’t give for another man.”

Luther, Esther’s husband was not much to look at and he surely was not anyone’s prize. Twenty years her senior, he always drank to excess and somehow found ways to squander what little money she managed to save.

Still, sadly, one day he was gone. He had vanished without a trace and without as much as a goodbye or an explanation for his leaving.
Esther heard rumors he had been seen in Dallas. Of course, she knew differently. She recalled the dreams he never dared when sober to share, tales of lost cities of gold no one except him could find.

She would count herself blessed to have her Luther back. Gold or no gold, she would be thankful just to have him back.

Sadly, she recalled he was not a bad man. He simply could not handle not being able to give her what he felt she deserved. In time, Luther’s emotions became uncontrollable when they learned Martin was on the way. With each passing day, he slipped further away from Esther until he was gone.

Now, with it closing in on eleven years since he disappeared, she was finally beginning to give up hope of him ever returning from some city of gold. What was far more damaging to Esther than her giving up on her husband was the fact she was also giving up on herself. As little as some dreams exist, they survive so life will have hope.

The truth was Esther was not particularly pretty. Even in her teens, she was never the type to catch a young man’s fancy. Yet, some say in the world there is someone for everyone. As for Esther, she felt her someone was gone forever.

Even though, Esther was only in her early thirties she had resigned herself to merely keeping the farm and raising Martin. She held little hope and seldom if ever dreamed of the day when she would meet another man and fall in love.

The facts were quite evident to Esther. She was awkward in both her actions and her manners toward everyone except Martin. Even when younger, besides Luther, whether it was through shyness or the lack of social graces she seldom let anyone close to her.

That morning Esther had become so enthralled in her daydreaming she was unaware she had entered an actual dream realm.

Only a moment before large puffy clouds rolled quickly across the tall Texas sky. Now a clear blue was visible for miles. The cool breeze that had gently flapped the clothes on the line from time to time vanished within an instant leaving only the still air. In the brief moment that followed, the sun’s rays warmed the calm air more than Esther could have normally thought possible in such a short span of time.

She had only coarse words to offer herself as she snapped out of her daydream. “What’s wrong with you girl. Wake up. Stop daydreaming!” Still, she thought how wonderful it would be to turn and see her husband standing behind her.

Esther too could dream if she allowed herself the chance. What better time could there ever be to allow the mind to wander than when alone and doing some mundane chore? Soon, she allowed her senses to run free as she entered the dream world once more.

Before she knew it, she could almost sense some presence standing right behind her. Esther’s eyes slowly closed as she had the awareness of him reaching out to embrace her. She smiled broadly as if she could actually feel the touch of ten long and slender fingers tenderly pressed about her hips. Aided by what she considered as only the sun’s rays the touch became all too real.

Thankfully, reason quickly took hold awakening her from the trance-like spell. As fright swelled within her, a warm sickening tingling wave began to race through her body. What she first believed to be only her mind and the sun playing silly games was in reality someone or something standing right behind her. Esther was unwilling or unable to turn to view the visitor. Instead, she slowly began to draw away from the touch. Trembling, crying in fear, her voice quivered as she called out, “Martin…”

Martin, cleaning a stall within the barn, suspected nothing when he first heard his mother call out his name. It was not until he ran out into the yard that he came to grips with her plight. Instantly, he stopped dead his tracks. His eyes stretched open wide as he stared at the figure behind his mother.

Seeing Martin, Esther’s main concern became the welfare of her son. “Martin,” she said nervously, demanding his full attention with a low but firm tone. “Go to the house…”

At first, Martin ignored his mother’s wishes. He was intrigued by what he saw, and did not sense the danger. Turning to look at his mother, he did not know what to think. The fear that racked his mother’s face quickly began to chase the thrill out of Martin. What remained was only an emptiness that soon caused him to make a hasty retreat toward the house.

As her son was nearing safety, Esther began running as well. Halfway to the house the two met. Grasping hands, together, they hurriedly climbed onto the rickety old porch. They would waste little precious time in bothering to close the screen door behind them. They were more concerned with the main door. No sooner had they crossed the threshold, the door was slammed shut and securely locked.

Sounds echoed into the yard as hysteria rose from within the small house. As if preparing for some fast approaching storm every window slammed shut with a “bang,” and locked in quick sequence with a “crack.” As if in an attempt to shut out the world shades quickly lowered with a “rip” and another “crack.”

Martin, go to your room and hide,” ordered Esther. “And, don’t come out until I tell you to!”

“But ma,” Martin cried, pleading.

“Don’t argue with me,” screeched Esther. “Just do it!”

Martin, angry, scampered into his bedroom and quickly slammed the door shut behind him.

“And, don’t let me catch you down at that place again,” she warned, as the tears began to stream down her face. “Do you hear me?” Not knowing what she should do and fearing the worst her tears fell uncontrollably.

The next few seconds moved painfully slow, and strangely, nothing happened. Esther did not know what to think. She was certain someone or something had touched her. Where was he now? Outside there was only silence. She had to find out what, if not anyone or anything remained outside the house.

Moving carefully and as quietly as possible, Esther crept over to the side of a front window. Her muscles tightened, making her body shake as she slowly reached out her right hand to draw back one corner of the shade.

Peering out through the small crack, Esther was able to see one lone rider mounted on a horse. If she was not imagining, she believed the man on horseback was staring back at her through the very same opening.

After gently laying back the corner of the shade, Esther slowly removed her trembling hand. Turning, once again unable to control her tears, she leaned back against the wall and gradually slipped down to the floor.

Outside, for the moment, both rider and steed remained motionless. Together, they made an ominous sight. The rider with his still countenance, void of all emotion, stared blankly toward the house. His eyes, gray, clouded, were as if actually viewing this scene from somewhere beyond this world. The horse, a palomino, was calm and content. As if knowingly poised for some appointed time he waited faithfully to move along time’s natural course.

The rider held his position as he pondered the fact the setting appeared all too familiar to him. He had even foreseen the reaction of the young woman and her son. Strangely, somehow he knew what the next moment would bring.

To Esther, inside the house, the entire episode had caused an indescribable anguish to rise within her. There was no possible relief or place safe enough for her or Martin to hide within the house.
What was more terrifying than the lone rider’s sudden appearance was his clothing, dressed in what can be best described as an old cavalry uniform he resembled someone from another time.

Together with his gallant steed, the two appeared as if immortal. They were like heroes from history. Composed as some statue in a park they appeared unyielding. Their eyes were set strained as if the sculptor arranged them to maintain a thoughtful pose on some event in history.

With a sudden hitch of the horse, a glare shot out from the soldier’s side. The source of the shine was the sun’s rays striking a metal sword sheath hanging down from the man’s waist.

Slowly, the soldier started to edge his horse toward the small ranch house. The muffled landings of the animal’s hooves in the dust and the clinking of the sword knocking within its sheath made an eerie mix of sounds. As the sounds merged, their echoing quickly became maddening to Esther within the house.

Remaining on the floor, Esther held her eyes tightly shut in hopes this was only some nightmare and she would soon awake. “Go away, go away,” she whimpered. “Please, please, go away.”

The soldier brought his mount to a stop near the front porch. The sound of his dismount rang throughout the house.

From the instant, one of his boots landed heavily upon the ground every step that followed caused the echoing to grow louder. Even the wooden planks of the old front porch made terrifying creaks that echoed for a time as he moved ever nearer to the front door.

The beating of Esther’s heart quickened with each passing second. She began to feel certain if the awful sounds did not soon end, she would either go insane or die from sheer terror.

Suddenly, there was only silence coming from the porch. Even the echoing had mercifully stopped. Seconds passed and still there was only silence coming from outside.

It would seem for Esther’s sake the ordeal had reached an end. However, it had only begun. The soldier having stood motionless upon the porch finally decided to give a hard rap on the main door.

Esther did not dare move, or to utter a word, or make a single sound that might acknowledge the caller. Instead, she prayed Martin had not heard the knock and would remain silent and safe within his room.

Through another eerie and frightening pause silence reigned supreme outside the house.

As if thinking to be more considerate the soldier tried once more to get someone to answer the door. This time, he knocked lightly three times on the frame.

Carefully, not wanting to make a sound, Esther slowly got up from the floor. Inching away from the wall, she soon positioned herself to be able to get a better look at the door’s drawn down shade and the shadow cast from outside onto its thin discolored paper.

Martin’s bedroom door began to open, making a low creaking tone. First, one eye and then both cautiously peered out to see what was going on.

Catching a glimpse of her son out of the corner of her eye, Esther was beside herself. As she ordered him back into his room, she made certain her facial expression greatly outweighed the level of her voice, which she dared not raise above a whisper.

Discerning his mother’s mood, Martin wasted little time in complying. Of course, less than a moment later, when he felt certain his mother’s attention had turned back to the visitor the bedroom door slowly began to reopen. When it was open barely enough, Martin slowly slipped his head out the opening to watch his mother’s movements. He was also able to see the shadow on the shade.

Having turned her attention totally from her son, Esther began to make out the silhouette of what appeared to be of a young man on the drawn down shade. She could see he was wearing a short brimmed hat that appeared squashed down upon his head.

It was at that precise moment the young soldier at the door chose to speak softly in a thick southern drawl. “Sorry, ma’am, I didn’t mean to frighten you and your little boy…I’m from across the way.” He became silent for a moment as if genuinely reflecting on his actions up to that point. Finally, after a light sigh, he continued with only the most stalwart conviction. “Ma’am, set yourself at ease…I vow with a solemn oath if need be I and my compatriots will afford you and your boy only the utmost care and protection. Good day.”

As the silhouette of the soldier slowly faded from off the shade, Esther wondered aloud, “…only the utmost care and protection…from what?” Confused and dumfounded, she did not know what to make of his parting words.

Feeling more intrigued than threatened, Esther flung open the front door and hurried outside onto the porch in hopes of catching a glimpse of the young man before he move too far away. Unable to see him from the porch, she became frantic and raced into the open.

The young man was gone. He had vanished as if he had never existed. Only his final words remained and they were weighing heavily upon Esther’s sanity.

Although she tried to excuse the entire episode as a touch of too much sun, or an over-active imagination, she could not avoid the fact someone had been at her front door. For there, pressed deep into the dirt were the hoof prints of the young soldier’s horse.

Martin fearful for his mother’s welfare came to stand on the front porch. Hugging one of the porch supports, he stared out to her.

As Esther turned and saw Martin standing on the porch, she immediately became furious with him. “Get back in that house, this instant…before you get the tanning of your life!”

“But ma,” cried Martin about to argue.

“You heard me,” Esther yelled, screaming as she fought back the tears.

Bolting back into the house, Martin’s temper flared. Both, the screen and the front door slammed shut as he went.

Left alone outside, Esther’s remaining strength deserted her. Collapsing to the ground, her tears flowed unrestrained. If she had not lost her mind, there was only one explanation for what had just happened. She had just confronted an image called forth by her very own desires. Esther had the gift like Martin and her husband had. She could dream and actually bring the people in her dreams to life. Esther did not know what to do, or where to turn. She did not find solace in the thought the nightmare was over. She knew all too well this was only the beginning. She had reached into another realm. The accepted tone of reason was gone, as their stage of life had changed forever.

Esther understood it was only a matter of time before the soldier would return. She had also resigned herself to the fact there was nowhere for them to run. This was their home, and their only refuge. There was also no one to turn to for help. Even if there were someone, how could she explain their plight? Instead, they would have to wait to see what would take form.

Thankfully, the next hours passed quickly and without any further visitations. Yet, even as evening fell, the events of the morning stayed fresh within Esther’s mind.

The uneasiness she felt made it impossible for her to eat supper. As each moment went by Esther expected to hear a hard rap at the door or some image to appear in their home. While waiting, she needed to do something to occupy her mind. Washing the dishes was a start.

However, that had an end. Soon, Esther realized she had to let her defenses down a little bit if only for Martin’s sake. It was after all still his birthday, and it was time for the festivities.

With Martin’s eyes all aglow, Esther placed a single candle upon the cake and lit the wick. As an uneasy smile broke out across her face, she told her son, “Make a wish and blow out the candle.”

Martin’s eyes glowed as he stared down at what most would only consider a simple cake at best. To him, the cake’s size or the designs did not matter. Martin knew his mother loved him and that was what mattered. Martin was quite accustomed to simple gifts and warm tokens of love. He expected and needed little else.

Esther once more told Martin to make a wish and to blow out the candle. Her smile brightened by the second as her son’s happy refrain grew.

All of a sudden, Esther turned in fright as sounds of jovial laughter came through the closed living room window. She rushed over to the window where the chortling came from to make certain the latch was secure and the shade was fully drawn. With little else open to her, she said a small prayer of deliverance.

She knew all too well their world had changed. Her prayer’s intent was if the nightmare did not end soon, they would remain safe and protected from harm within their small home.

Not hearing the laughter Martin wondered about his mother’s peculiar actions.

Esther saw her son’s quizzical look and tried to make an excuse as she moved back to his side. “It’s getting a might chilly in here,” she told him with a quivering smile. In an attempt to turn his attention back to the party, Esther failed to disguise her fear. “Martin, honey,” her voice cracked. “Make a wish and blow out the candle.”

Sounds never heard where they lived began to rise all about their house. Where only silence should prevail for miles, laughter and loud carryings-on were coming from all directions.

Martin’s head bobbed up with surprise in hearing the commotion. “Mother, what’s that.”

With pure delight, Martin’s senses soared unrestrained. Jumping from his chair, he knocked it to the floor with a “bang.” Nearly flying, he could not wait to open the front door.

Esther in shock was unable to move. She could only whimper as she weakly tried to warn

Martin. “No, honey…don’t open the door.”

It was too late. The door was open, and Martin was staring up at a very tall thin young man standing in the doorway. He could not move or even utter a single sound. All that he could do was stare, mouth hung open.

Martin’s eyes soon began to scan down the uniform of the New Orleans Greys the man was wearing. He smiled when noticing the sword sheath that hung from the man’s waist. He realized he was the man who had come to the door earlier that morning. Even the hat he had seen as a silhouette cast upon the shade sat squashed flat on the man’s head.

The soldier’s face shined brightly as he gazed down at Martin. “Howdy son,” he said warmly, before breaking into a wide grin.

Martin still was not able to speak but he did manage a nervous smile in return. He was totally in awe of the figure standing in front of him. His eyes were open wide in amazement.

Slowly lifting his eyes, the soldier began to stare at Esther. Removing his hat ever so gently from his head so as not to alarm his hosts with any sudden moves, he began to address her with the gentlest of tone imaginable. “Good evening, ma’am.” He said, before breaking into a gentle grin. “I hope that I’m not disturbing anything.”