Despite his confidence, he bled out all the same.
Major Karl Schiller had emigrated to the United States when he was seventeen, and he had promptly enlisted in the United States Army. I had met him once or twice, and I had not been impressed. He had a knack, however, of saying the right things to the right officers, and he quickly rose through the ranks.
The older he became, and the more powerful his position, his confidence in his own abilities increased exponentially, despite all evidence to the contrary.
In 1860, he was on a tour of New England and somehow managed to find his way to Cross. When he stepped off the train from Boston, I was in the station, and he recognized me, though he thought I was a relative. I had not aged in the fifteen years since we had last met, and so it was understandable.
He asked if I was related to myself, and I answered that I was, and he inquired as to whether I was in town. I assured him that I was not.
I watched him exit the station and turn towards the livery. In a short time, he was on horseback and trotting out of town. I hoped he would go about whatever business he had and then leave.
My hopes were not to be realized.
I was enjoying a cup of coffee about an hour later when the horse Schiller had ridden out on came thundering back toward the livery. Spittle frothed around the animal’s mouth, and its eyes rolled madly about their sockets. The liveryman managed to get the animal under control, and I hurried over. There was blood on the saddle and the horse’s flanks, but it was not wounded.
A moment later, young Richard Coffin came racing into town astride an unsaddled stallion, the boy clinging to the horse by its black mane. When Richard laid eyes on me, he told me that Karl had vanished on Honor’s path.
In a short time, I was at Coffin Farm. Armed and prepared, I entered the forest and followed the path.
I didn’t have to go far.
Karl’s intestines had been strung across the trail, and his clothes, blood-soaked and torn, were hung as if to dry. In the center of the path, his finger bones were arrayed to form the word, Hello.
“Hello yourself,” I muttered, and left the clothes to dry.