Circle Gold

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Bear Love

CIRCLE GOLD – EDITED

[An Account from the PRISM Chronicles]

Chapter 1

The Rider

Anyone out near the small, dusty trail that passed through an equally small, dusty town in the southern part of Tennessee would have seen the man as he rode an appaloosa slowly through the settlement that morning. Life was hard scrabble in 1874; the ravages of the war-that-never-should-been-but could-not-possibly-have-been-avoided were still evident. Blasted woodlands, once the target of artillery rounds, were finally starting to re-grow. Bullet holes still pocked the structures that had stood during the Civil War.

The Confederate gray of wool and cotton uniform trousers still hung on clotheslines behind wooden houses and a few shops had re-opened with such names as “Johnny Reb’s Stable,” “Lee’s General Store,” and “Beauregard Blacksmith and Farrier.”

The man never changed his expression but a careful observer would have noted that his eyes beneath the black and dusty, flat-crown hat, known on the Natchez Trace as a card-player Stetson, never ceased moving back and forth, observing everything around him. He wore a long-sleeve faded gray shirt, worn and belted dark trousers over well-used boots, and a leather handgun belt about his waist.

Likewise, this same knowledgeable watcher would have taken in the .44 caliber Remington New Model revolver and the few .44-40 metallic cartridges in his belt loops. Few people could have afforded such a weapon in that day; it had cost him $14 at the store out in Arkansas. Winchester had begun making the cartridge only the year before.

There was also the Winchester lever-action rifle in its scabbard just behind his right leg over the horse’s haunch. Though built just the year before for the same powerful cartridge, its stock like that of the revolver’s grips showed the dents and scratches of hard use.

Something about the rider discouraged long, direct stares. There was an aura around him, some invisible thing that told observers danger was riding through their midst and they didn’t really want to get close to it. He never stopped in his slow passage through town, never changed his expression. He might have watered the powerful, well-kept horse, but he made no attempt to do so. Something also implied a sense of purpose, but the wise didn’t even need to consider being interested.

As is often the case, the casual observer that day let well enough alone; someone else didn’t.

The quiet, dangerous rider continued out of sight, down the road for several miles. He knew exactly what he was looking for, on the left the small oak with the twisted trunk across from a low rock outcrop on the right side of the trail. He would turn off the trail and move into the woods. He was aware of the man who trailed him out of town; he was about two hundred yards behind and staying almost out of sight. But the rider’s horse had kicked up dust, the breeze had hiked the small cloud out into the open around the bend in the trail, and the watcher ahead read it for what it was. He already had a plan.

From the road he pressed on deeper into the woods until he reached an outcropping of rock that reached up above the unmarked pathway he followed. He pulled the appaloosa behind the rock sentry, tied the halter to a low branch, stroked his horse’s muzzle, then climbed up the back side of the rocky mass, lay flat and waited. A long, slender-blade knife he held in his left hand. The wind sighed through the pines overhead and he breathed in the scent of pine sap mixed with honeysuckle.

His tracker appeared, moving slowly on his horse, searching for the man he’d followed. With things as difficult as they after the War Between the States, this strange intruder might have something valuable on him. Ransom Caldwell could relieve him of that problem, especially that revolver and rifle. He wasn’t paying attention to his surroundings, taken up as he was with thoughts of stealing from the stranger. Then he’d kill him. Nobody would know.

As he rode beneath the overhanging rock, the man atop it launched himself out and onto his tracker below, catching him by the shoulders and riding him to the ground. The knife worked flawlessly, as it had on the Mississippi at Natchez-Under-the-Hill. The stranger slit his throat, then quickly rammed his face and shoulders into the leaves, avoiding spurting arterial blood and a cleanup problem.

Finally, when his quarry ceased all movement, he retrieved the other horse, hefted the body over its saddle, untiled his appaloosa and rode on quietly into the woods. This wasn’t the first fool he’d had to kill; it probably wouldn’t be the last. He wasn’t exactly a member of this strange group, the Knights of the Golden Circle, which had been formed shortly before General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Court House. More like a contractor.

From what he gathered as he listened a lot and talked minimally, the group was quite serious izmir escort about maintaining an armed resistance against the Union. He’d learned that the organization actually spread across the former Confederate States and out of the country to some locations in the Caribbean Sea; the overall shape of the locations where it was represented was a large circle, hence its name. They kept their money in a variety of locations in the southern states to pay their guerillas there. He was a paymaster, one of those who carried the gold and silver that compensated the secret force. He had performed this same task for that band of ghouls and cutthroats known as Quantrill’s Raiders, after its leader, Confederate Colonel William Quantrill.

He did his work, but he hated that garbage with a passion. The stranger had barely avoided an incident with one of Quantrill’s men who persisted in badgering him about not being a member of the band. A fight was imminent, and the stranger had every intention of killing the man quickly, but Quantrill, understanding priorities, stopped it. Better to have a completely reliable paymaster than a reluctant member of the Raiders.

The stranger didn’t know who was above him in the group and didn’t want to. That could get a man killed, and despite these dangerous times during the hated Reconstruction inflicted upon the former Confederate States, he had every intention of remaining alive and healthy.

He did know that some of the money flowing through the KGC came from bank and train robberies by the James gang out in Missouri. They were members of Quantrill’s mob. They’d had a good thing going with robbing trains, being the first to pull off this sort of theft, and the railroads seemed powerless to grasp just how great a problem they had. He admired them for their imagination, but he knew that eventually Jesse and brother Frank would kick the wrong dog, and they’d get caught, probably killed. Still, the money kept flowing to the KGC, and he was one of their most trusted paymasters.

He admired the detailed setup of the KGC, but he firmly believed that they would fail.

That was his task now, another delivery of money. He led the dead man’s horse with the body deeper into the woods until they reached a small stream, banked on the far side by a low and long rocky bluff with oddly-flat walls. On the near side there were oaks and pines. His task was beneath one of those oaks, the one with the weathered diagonal slash across one of its lower limbs. He tied off both horses, removed two glass jars with sealed lead tops from his saddlebag, withdrew a small shovel from under his bedroll behind the saddle, and began digging a hole three feet out from the base of the oak.

Into the hole he carefully placed the jars, full of gold coins in one and silver in the other, buffering them from each other with dirt. Whoever would come after him knew of this place, and they would distribute the payments to those who fought on after the war was over; for them, it would never be over. The gold and silver gleamed dully, its beautiful color testing his resistance to taking it for himself. But he was stronger than that and held the long view: he wanted to stay alive, and so he had become trustworthy in a time when almost no one was.

He re-covered the hole, smoothed leaves, pine straw and twigs over it until no one could distinguish it from the rest of the forest floor. He crossed the stream to examine the peculiar markings in the stone of the slab wall. There were circles that interlocked, a star with a line beneath it, several arrows that didn’t point to anything so much as they seemed to signal something, a series of random numbers, and three wavy lines beneath the entire design. The markings could hardly be seen because they had weathered.

The quiet man mounted his horse and rode along the stream for another hundred yards before he stopped. This time he took the shovel and lengthened a hole below another rock formation. He worked for nearly an hour before it was large enough to contain the body. Then he dumped it in, clothes, hat, saddle blanket and the man’s gun. He carefully replaced the dirt, knowing that it could hump up which he didn’t want. Finally, he collapsed part of the crumbling rock onto the grave and reconstructed the forest floor until no one could tell anyone had been there.

Farther on, he dug another hole and buried the saddle. Nothing of his would-be robber would ever be seen again. He checked the horse for a brand, found nothing, and decided to trail the horse until he could sell it or, more likely, give it away to someone in this desperate, war-ravaged land.

He returned to the main trail, stopped just inside the tree line to check for anyone on it, and seeing nothing he moved out onto it. His conscience was at ease; he had completed another job; now there was one final task one week later in this area. With the damage the Union Army had done to southern Tennessee, apparently there were alsancak escort a lot of soldiers for the KGC who would be paid from the money he would be given in the week ahead.

He rode into and out of the small settlement seven days hence. Everyone knew he was there, but no one actually ‘saw’ him ride through. The moron who had trailed him into the woods several days ago and died for it had apparently been forgotten as part of the litter of war. He moved carefully to another site farther down the narrow road and once more buried his cache in the prescribed location near other peculiar symbols cut into a flat rock. What he left this time was much larger and included a weapon, several law enforcement items and, of course, the gold.

No one there ever saw him again.

The woods behind him lay silent and undisturbed for more than a hundred years.

Chapter 2

The Cabin

There really isn’t any quick-and-dirty way to get into the Tennessee land near the Alabama state line north and slightly east of the Tri-Cities area of Florence, Tuscumbia and Muscle Shoals. Mark had been driving for hours from Atlanta and he was frankly exhausted, though he really enjoyed both daytime and nighttime driving. Finally he arrived at the one hundred-acre plot of land he had just bought from an old friend from his oil rig days. Carey Amberville had approached him not long before he succumbed to the lung cancer that his chain-smoking had courted for years.

He wanted desperately to sell the land and his cabin on it in order to pass the proceeds to his wife and son. There was one aspect that his wife didn’t know that he had mentioned to Mark after the sale; there was a legend that there might be buried treasure on the property, he didn’t know where exactly, but a little research had given Carey a firm belief that this was no mere legend…it was very likely true.

He knew that Mark, as part of the PRISM Designs treasure salvaging team, was far better equipped to make the find than he would be. All he wanted was for Mark to set aside a third of whatever he found for his wife and son. He did know that with a private sale of the land to Mark it would be a personal matter between them: Mark’s company would never be involved, and that would ensure that the money he had designated went to his family after Mark took his cut. Carey trusted his old friend implicitly.

Mark agreed, made it a cash sale for Carey’s sake, and bought himself a log cabin in the Tennessee woods. He and Lauren Campbell, the company’s executive officer, his mother, lover and closest friend had saddled up for a trip to the Tennessee wilderness and made the long but enjoyable trip to check out his purchase. Now as the two stood on the front porch of the home in the woods, he was thankful that he’d made the buy.

The place was beautiful and the small house was in fine condition. He undid the two flat clips that bound his great fall of thick, black waist-length hair. The summer breeze flipped the beautiful wavy mass about, enhancing the sensation of its great weight. Lauren, standing quietly beside her son, reached into her handbag, drew out her brush and began a work of loving sensuality on him. She brushed away quietly until the deep wave once more covered the right side of his face. This action had aroused him since his teens and his parents had allowed him to cease cutting his hair.

“Angel, what do you think of it all, now that we are on-the-spot?”

“Marcus,” the term his mother always used when she desired intimacy, seriousness or both, “I have learned over the years that you rarely make a decision and a buy unless it is something truly valuable. This place is incredibly lovely, it’s hidden, it’s even mysterious in a way. There is a feel about it that I sense but can’t express. Something happened here, probably long ago. And if I know the man I love, you are going to find it.”

She faced her son and stared at him, a collage of expressions moving over her face, her giant fan of crinkly, silver-gray hair an erotic backdrop to her beautiful eyes, nose and mouth. Her sensuality had always arrested him; the fact that she had removed her light sweater two hours back at the service plaza and was topless was an additional distraction. Her heavy breasts swayed gently with her movement. Chief Executive Officer of PRISM Designs though she was, Lauren rarely missed an opportunity to expose herself in some seemingly casual manner that had a way of becoming an historically significant event for whoever saw her, and it was usually in a public location.

As a broad smile slowly tracked across his face, he reached for her, drew her close and enfolded her with his strong arms, momentarily causing her to expel her breath. He felt her breasts crushed against his chest as she gasped with pleasure and then whispered, “Oh, my precious love, every time you do that you weld me into your body once more. I realize just how much we are truly buca escort one. I love you, my Marcus Campbell! Oh, God, how I love you, Baby.”

“I love you even more, gorgeous woman. You possess me constantly. Your lovely face is before me wherever I am. Our sexual unions are so deep in my body and soul that I sense you everywhere. I feel you, Mother of mine, I can caress you and kiss you even when we are apart.”

He pressed her away momentarily, holding her shoulders tightly as he returned her stare, and asked, “What does that mean, Lauren, that I can almost literally see and caress and smell you, even when I’m by myself?”

Tears misted her eyes and she whispered, “Mark, it means that you and I are truly one. We’ll never be apart, what we have cannot be duplicated by anyone we know, not even with your precious fiancée Parker. You are my son, I adored you from the day your father filled me with his cream. You came out of my body. I grew to love you willingly. You literally own me and I would do anything for you. That sort of human adoration has tangible aspects, and one of those is that you feel your mate from a distance.

“Mark, I am so desperately in love with you. During this time together, let’s share things of our hearts, please, things we may not usually tell each other. I just need to open my heart to you.”

He turned her about, holding her close, putting his mouth beside her ear, and enfolding her breasts. “Look at all of this, Lauren. It is quiet. It draws emotion and desire from both of us. It forces us to open our souls, and I’ll do what you asked.”

He fondled her warm breasts, relishing their weight and fingering their fat, hard nipples until they resembled firm hills at the tips of her creamy, mountainous chest. ‘She is so wonderfully big,’ he thought. ‘From the first time I saw you as a teenager, I was stunned at how big yet firm you were…and are.’

“Do you know, Lauren, that I used to regularly caress myself until I came just thinking about your gorgeous breasts? I fantasized about you at school, during tests, once even during a karate tournament when you and Dad were faithfully there to cheer me on. You were wearing a low-cut summer dress and you two were sitting on the second row of bleacher seats. You had your elbows on your knees, watching me, and since you almost never wore a bra your boobs were completely visible. You weren’t trying to show off, but I was so busy staring down your dress that I got my bell rung by Brad Carter with a reverse spinning heel kick. He just about planted me right there! And all because of your perfectly beautiful big tits.”

“Son, did you really look at me that way even when your father was still alive?”

“Yeah, I did. Something had been building inside me for a long time, Mother. I could never see enough of you, and for some time it had gone past just watching your breasts. I wanted things, things I knew I could never have. I love Dad for loving and being so faithful to you, and I loved you for being faithful to him. But I wanted you…good Lord, how I wanted you. At night it used to burn me up; I wanted to be in bed with you and possess you more than I can express.”

“You see, Angel, you’ve already opened up your life to me…I didn’t know that. I realized even before Larry’s death that I was also in love with you, my ‘second man.’ When I sat naked by the pool, or wore some kind of sexy clothing I would fantasize about us sitting in a café or at dinner, and you would reach out to fondle my breasts right in front of everybody.

“When we had guests to our home for parties or dinner I wanted you to put your arm around me and make my breasts rise out of my top. I would stare at everybody watching, and then kiss you. And you’ll never know how many times I had nothing on under my dresses and wanted you to slide your hand up between my legs to put your fingers inside me.”

“I had no idea that you wanted those things, Lauren.”

“Hah! Want them? I would get so hot that I had orgasms right during dinners or when I was talking to our friends. Mark, I became an expert at invisibly gritting my teeth and hiding the thunder-and-lightning times you brought on me when I couldn’t show it because of people nearby. And that made them even more delicious. There I was with stickiness running down my thighs while I was talking to a city councilman or one of your father’s NASA supervisors. Or my best friend, Jessica Wallingford.”

Crickets chirped in the high grass of the tree line. They lost track of time as they quietly soaked in the aromas and aura of the created beauty around them. The sun kissed her with its toasty caress as he tugged her nipples and flicked his tongue inside the delicate shell of her left ear. He felt tension flow from her as she shivered then relaxed against him, eyes closed, mouth whispering tiny, erotic little woman-things about her secret longings.

“Lover,’ Lauren whispered, “I know there is much to do, and we need to get started. Remember your promise to me about this time together. I have given you everything of me. I want to give you even more, if such a thing is possible.”

“Look at me, Mother. Remember, you own me as well. I’m not just mine…I am yours, your property, your man, your mate. We’ll do all that we’ve promised with each other.”

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