Thomas and I were sitting together, and I was expressing my concern for the man’s health. He was thinner than he should have been, and his hair had gone stark white in a matter of days earlier in April following the death of his wife and their youngest daughter. While I spoke with him, the door to the studio opened, despite it being locked and the blinds drawn.
An older man strode in wearing the medals and accouterments of the War of the Rebellion. He smiled at us both, and neither Thomas nor I moved.
“Gentleman, I have come to request a portrait to hang with those of my siblings. I regret that I must be so impolite as to force the issue. I have only a few days in which to travel to my destination, and to complete a rather large task.” His voice was calm, his tone commanding.
Without a word, Thomas rose from his seat and prepared the subject for his portrait. As this was taking place, the reaper nodded to me.
“Duncan Blood,” the reaper said. “I have seen you a great many times in battle.”
He nodded and winked. “I was there, you know, when you attacked Quebec. Your marksmanship has always been impressive. Did you know that you accounted for thirty-eight that day?”
I shook my head. It was a strange sensation to be complimented by a reaper.
Thomas interrupted our conversation, took the photograph, and asked a single question.
“Where are you headed, sir?”
“To a town in Pennsylvania. It is an interesting place. Quite close to a dam. I trust you’ll hear of it soon enough. I will leave you with this thought, be ready to send coffins.”
Thomas and I watched him leave.
A few short days later, we learned of the flood at Johnstown, and the carnage wrought there.
Cross sent coffins.
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