When the party was in the post office Howards signaled his men to move in. As he approached the door he could see the clerk was handing the professor the tube. Howards nodded to him and pointed to the back. The clerk made excuses that he had to do some more in the back and headed off. When he was out of the way the captain entered.
"Officers of the Confederacy," he snapped, "stand where you are! You're under arrest!"
The two men with their quarry spun. Sawed off shotguns came from beneath their coats. The captain dove for the floor, drawing his pistol at the same time. Unfortunately one of his men was not as quick as he was, and caught a load of the buckshot. The captain began firing from the floor but the two men abandoned their captive and dove behind the counter.
"Peter," one of them screamed "destroy the plans! The traitors must not get them! Destroy them!"
One of Howards' men tried to get around the corner and get a shot at the other men. He succeeded just as the man attached something to the tube and pulled something off it. The man fell backwards towards his associate who cried out "Jesus Christ!"
There was a loud BANG and a flash, and the area behind the counter became a blazing inferno! The man who had cried out rose up, a living torch. He screamed horribly, and ran out the door. The captain's men made no efforts to impede his progress. The man threw himself into the watering trough, extinguishing the flames, climbed out, walked a few paces, collapsed and died.
"Merciful God!" one of Howards' men commented as they gathered outside.
"There is an old expression," Howards remarked, "when you play with fire..."
The men looked at the charred body before them and muttered "Yes, sir!"
One of Howards' men approached dragging the professor. "Well!" Howards muttered, "It looks like we can finish our mission."
The professor spoke. "Thank you, gentlemen! Those men were trying to steal something very valuable from me of importance to The Confederacy. It has been lost, but I can retrieve it."
"I would not be too grateful," the captain remarked. "I don't think you're going to be in a few minutes. Professor Donald McClain, you have been declared an enemy of The Confederacy, a Union spy. You are to be immediately executed!"
"What?" the man screamed, "No! I've come to help The Confederacy! I've come to give them something that will insure they win the war. It's been lost, but I can get it back. I'm your friend, I'm not your enemy!"
"Bring him!" the captain ordered. "This fence post will do nicely. Tie him to it."
"NO!" the professor kept screaming, "No! You'll loose the war without my help. No!" Three of the men tied him to the fence post as he kept screaming. When they were done Howards ordered his men to form two ranks.
"Draw your weapons!" he ordered. "First rank kneel, ready, aim, fire!"
The volley found the professor's heart. Blood gushed from the hole in his chest. He gagged and slumped over, hanging from the post.
"Cut him down!" the captain ordered.
"Odd," one of his men remarked, "he isn't decaying like the other ones."
"No," the captain agreed. "He must be different somehow. Bury him in the potter's field in unsanctified ground."
"Yes sir!" the men snapped and hurried off.
"Lieutenant!" the captain continued, "when that task is done you may dismiss the men. They may return to their regular duties. My well done! And of course they never took part in this mission, they know nothing of it. It never happened."
"Understood, sir!" the lieutenant snapped. "Pleasure serving with you, sir! My hopes we will serve together again."
"Mine, also!" the captain answered.
It was too late to report to The President that evening, so the captain waited until the next morning. President Davis listened to his report with great interest. "Well done, captain!" he praised when it was concluded. "You have no idea the service you have rendered, not only to The Confederacy, but to mankind!"
A couple of evenings later The President sat down at his table thinking about everything his guest had told him before he disappeared. He took up pen and ink and began to write. When he was done he asked a servant to send a message to the representative of The British government staying in Richmond. The representative came into his office the next morning all smiles. "The arrangements have been made for the building of your ships," the man proudly announced.
"Excellent!" President Davis praised, "Excellent! But that's not why I asked you to come here, Henry. I would ask you to take on a burden for me, something no one must ever know I've asked you to do. It must be kept a secret between your family, and, mine."
"Whatever you need, Jefferson!" his old friend answered. "The O'Donnells have been friends of The Davises for generations. If there is some service that you need, speak it! If it is within my power I will do it!"
"I have written a letter to my grandson," the President answered. "I have put the date on it when I wish it delivered. I ask you to take charge of it, and that some member of your family, on the appointed date, deliver it."