Here’s the final Chapter in our Short Story Series, “The Third of July-Chapter 3”

Chapter 3

      Evening approached and the sunlight ebbed away beyond the Western horizon. The sky was clear and no clouds were present. It would be a great day for fireworks. The almost full moon was already in the rusty sky waiting to shine, to let its truth be known. The Eight o’clock chimes echoed throughout the city as a small cloud formation blew in from the east. By nine o’clock, the formation covered the Concord sky.

In the distant Forest a couple of shadowy figures skulk toward the edge of town, calculating every step. Suddenly the figures stopped and held their position. A soft bird call was tweeted out by the first shadowy figure…then a reply whistle responded. The second shadow burst from the edge of the woods. Slinking along building next to the church, he met three more shadows.  The first shadow melted away and disappeared into the night. The other four shadows hurried down the back alley and arrived at Wright’s tavern. The barkeeper allowed the newly freed slaves to replenish their vitality in his tavern.  This was one of the key stops in the Concord sect of the Underground Railroad.

A gentle fist rapped three then two times at the back entrance. The barkeeper excused himself from the bar without causing a suspicion by the patrons, only Frederick noticed. This caused him to be distracted during the rest of the conversation.

“…But scientifically speaking, Negroes are inferior in intelligence and physical make-up…” Ralph pleaded his case with dated logic. This regained Frederick’s attention.  Henry could only wince at the thought the verbal beating that Frederick was going to lay down.

“Are you published? Well-dressed? Well-educated? Married? Paid Orator? ARE YOU A MAN?” Frederick almost screamed at Ralph.

“Yes!” He replied.

“SO AM I! SO AM I! THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN US…NONE! And as far as the physical make up…Ralph you would be hard pressed to make it through on day of slavery…your transcendence without action or violence would lead to death or despair…which would lead to death!” Frederick stated and excused himself from the table. He disappeared toward the bathroom but went into the kitchen instead.  There he found the hidden room right above the kitchen storage. The four shadows were stowed safely eating whatever the barkeeper could find without causing a stir.

“What is your name son?” Frederick asked the shivering boy.

“Anthony sir, but you can call me Tony1…you, Mr. Douglass are a hero to us all. We all hope that one day we will make it to freedom like you and that we can help others too.” Young Tony was devouring the salty pork by the handfuls and washing it down with warm stale water…the sweetest tasting water in the world. He smiled after a long drink of tepid freedom.

“We’ll take good care of him tonight.” The Barkeeper said patting Tony on the back.

Frederick rose to his feet,” I need to get back to my company.”

When Frederick reappeared Henry and Ralph were gathering their things and preparing to retire to somewhere else.

“What took you so long?” Henry asked.

“Oh, I met the Barkeeper on my way back from the restroom and told him to put the tab on me…I’ll pick up the check.” Frederick said hoping to stymie their attempt at further probing his long disappearance.

There arose a great commotion outside the door; cursing, screaming and shouting. The three men, along with other patrons in the tavern went to look out the window and saw the barkeeper outside. He tried to prevent an angry mob from storming his place.

“How did he get out there?” Henry asked. The mob pushed the barkeeper backward and inched closer to the door.

“GIVE ME MY NEGRO OLD MAN OR I’LL BEAT YOU LIKE I AM GOING TO BEAT HIM!” The angry man SHOUTED with a very distinctive southern drawl. He held up his torch. He stood in the front of the pack and edged closer to the Barkeeper’s face. “IT’S THE LAW YOU SNIVELING LITTLE MAGGOT! GIVE ME MY NEGRO OR WILL BURN THE WHOLE DAMN TOWN TO THE GROUND!”

“I have no idea what you are talking about…PLEASE LEAVE…I have nothing you want!” The Barkeeper pleaded with the man.

“I GUESS YOU AINT A ‘GOOD CITIZEN’,” said the man,” YOU PROBABLY AINT WORTH KEEPIN’ ALIVE!” A unanimous crescendo of cheers rose from the impatient mob behind him. Even the most casual observer noticed the mob was poorly equipped. They were armed with ropes, clubs, a few rifles, and two or three pistols, but most of the men were carrying a clubs.

Ralph drew back from the window while he clutched his Club.  A few of the mobsters spotted him and began to shout and heckle. His knuckles turned white from his relentless grip. He then looked over at Henry and Frederick to assess their mood. Frederick was headed for the door and David was close on his heels.

“Have you gone completely mad? They will tear you apart!” Ralph screamed at Frederick as he prepared to turn the knob. “They don’t even know who you are!”

Frederick turned and gave a simple reply, “They soon will!” And with that he disappeared. Frederick had not planned on fighting the mob. His only goal was to grab the Barkeeper and drag him back inside, but would prove be a mistake. He would have to fight for his life. The door swung open and the mob’s attention turned to the large Black Man who bursting forth.  The sight on an enraged Negro and his angry face ignited the mob. They advanced hard, pushing forward and knocked Frederick and the Barkeeper into each other. The unlikely duo fell head first into the fray.  They tried to fight but it was quickly known that they would not rise again.

Henry wasted no time to aid the Men. He sprinted to the front of the mob. He tackled two men at one time, and then tried to pull the others off of Frederick and the barkeeper. Ralph continued to watch in horror at the beating they were taking.  His fingers again clutched the club. Ralph stood still for only a moment more, then he leapt through the open door. He swung his club with all his might and connected on the skull of one of the men. Ralph’s mouth opened and shock as the man fell to the ground. Instinct took over and he began to wield his club like a lunatic; he jousted and whacked with reckless abandon.

Henry and Ralph continued to fight in vain as they could not reach their bloodied comrades. They themselves were being overtaken.  A shadow rose of Ralph’s face, Henry caught a glance and screamed, “RALPH….NNOOOO!” A club wielding goon smacked Ralph in the back so hard the club it nearly broke the club in half. Ralph fell to the ground like a rag doll. The mobster’s second blow crushed Ralph’s walking stick into pieces and it lay broken as well. Henry struggled to his feet got but got tackled from behind and was wrestled to the ground. He and the mobster crashed down into the center of the brawl.

Henry managed to work himself free and crawled away on his hands and knees.  His shuffling hand stumbled upon a pistol that had been knocked loose during the ordeal. He looked in direction of Frederick and the barkeeper, theywere being dragged toward the train tracks. He knew he could not save them, not by himself. Then he turned towards Ralph and saw the mobster stand over him prepared for a fatal blow.

Henry struggled to his feet and ran towards his friend. Ralph coughed and wheezed; he pulled himself to his knees. The mobster he smiled as he held the jagged and splintered club over his head.   The dazed Ralph was helpless and unaware of his coming demise.  Flashes of Walden Pond, Deep Conversations during their Walks, and the loss of a good friend; it could all end right here.

The mobster lurched forward. Henry was now in a full sprint, and feared he would not make it in time.  Just then the realization of cold steel in his hand hit him.  He raised the pistol, cocked the hammer back…he pulled the trigger…and…silence.

The musket ball hurled through the filthy air toward the man, his face exploded.  It was an explosion of blood, bone and brain fragments.  At that exact moment the town clock struck midnight, “BLAAMM!” Henry’s head snaps back as the hot blood and brains particles spew over his face. Henry fell to his knees and the smoking gun willing slid to the polluted soil, and lay next to the dead man.

The gunshot stopped the ruckus. The night was eerily quiet and dark, almost as if the shot had blown out the torches and the rage of the mob. The fists hung in frozen the air and all eyes fell on the Man with the gun1.

Young Tony appeared in the Tavern doorway crying and wailing. He expressed no spoken words only heartbreak as he tramples across the blood soaked battlefield.  The slave owner bound him up and dragged him away to certain almost imminent death. Henry unmoved from his position just knelt there and remained listless.

After some time he reached out his hand and touched Ralph’s face. His face regained color when he felt the breath of life still in him and his heart beat for the first time in what seemed like minutes. He crawled on his hands and knees toward Frederick and the Barkeeper.  He leaned over the bloodied and bruised body of Frederick, and cried hot, scalding tears.  They dripped upon Frederick’s face, cleansing a little of the blood and dirt away. Frederick moved! His swollen hand grabbed and squeezed Henry’s shaking arm.

At that moment, Henry knew that he had taken only a few steps down the path of slavery. He vowed to take many more steps, even if it takes him to the gates of Hell1! Until then, he would sit there with his friends.

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