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Authors: C. James Gilbert

A Deeper Sense of Loyalty

BOOK: A Deeper Sense of Loyalty
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C. James Gilbert

A Deeper Sense of Loyalty

Copyright © 2012, by C. James Gilbert.

Cover Copyright © 2012 by Lawrence von Knorr & Sunbury Press, Inc.  

NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information contact Sunbury Press, Inc., Subsidiary Rights Dept., 50-A West Main St., Mechanicsburg, PA 17055 USA or [email protected].

For information about special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact Sunbury Press, Inc. Wholesale Dept. at (717) 254-7274 or [email protected].

To request one of our authors for speaking engagements or book signings, please contact Sunbury Press, Inc. Publicity Dept. at [email protected].


Printed in the United States of America

November 2012

Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-62006-152-7
Mobipocket format (Kindle) ISBN: 978-1- 62006-153-4
ePub format (Nook) ISBN: 978-1-62006-154-1

Published by:

Sunbury Press

Mechanicsburg, PA



Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania   USA


This book is dedicated to Susanne Marie Alwine; a spirited lady who without ever knowing it, has taught me the true meaning of the word. . . courage!




I would like to express my appreciation to Lawrence Knorr and Sunbury Press, for helping to make a lifelong dream come true.

I would like to thank my editor, Jennifer Melendrez, for the splendid job she has done editing this book.

A special, "Thank You," to my wife Cyndee for her help and for listening to my dream so graciously for many years.

Finally, for their loving support, I would like to thank my children, James, Jeremy, and Sarah.





James Becomes a Man



Irony is a true enemy of those who believe they live in a perfect world because reality can bring about their undoing. It could be considered a case in point that the end of said perfect world, as young James Langdon knew it, came about on what he anticipated to be the best day of his life.

A recurring nightmare that had haunted him as a child began to play through his mind. It all started when he was seven years old. One night, long after everyone had gone to sleep, the silence was broken when several gunshots rang out from somewhere near the barn. The sounds of the gunshots were followed by a dog's frantic barking. The commotion awakened James, luring him out of bed and over to the window. He looked out and saw only darkness, but he heard what sounded like something or someone running through the lawn. About that time, he heard his father coming down the hallway. He stopped just outside James's door and James heard him say in an audible whisper, “Go back to bed, Mary, we must not wake the children.” Then he continued along the hallway and down the stairs.

When James heard the front door close, he quickly dressed himself and crept to the bedroom door. Slowly, he opened it a few inches and stood, listening. There was no sound from his parents' room or from the room his two sisters shared across the hall. Slowly, quietly, he went out into the dark hall, leaving the bedroom door ajar. On tiptoe, he made his way downstairs, fearful that his father might return and find him out of bed. When he reached the bottom of the stairs he stopped again to listen but heard nothing. Easing open the big front door, he stepped out on the veranda and pulled the door shut behind him.

It was late November and the night air was chilled and damp. Dew covered the lawn; he could see the grass glistening in the hazy moonlight. All was still quiet so he walked down the steps and headed for the barn, which stood fifty yards in the distance. As he reached the board fence that enclosed the barnyard he could hear muffled voices coming from around the back. Nearly holding his breath, he sneaked to the rear corner of the barn and stood with his back to the wall. He could see light coming from behind the barn, flickering in an eerie sort of way. As he stood there quietly, shivering slightly, he could distinguish the voice of his father, and then he recognized the voice of Farley Tabor: his father's crude, intimidating overseer; an ugly man with an eye patch whose very appearance scared James to death. They seemed to be arguing. It was difficult to make out complete sentences because they were intentionally keeping their voices low. In spite of this handicap, James was sure he heard his father say, “Never anywhere near this house.”

He desperately wanted to peek around the corner but was terrified of being caught. He also decided that he could not stand there much longer lest his father should suddenly return to the house. While the obscured sound of conversation continued, he summoned all of his courage and looked around the corner. There, maybe thirty feet away stood three men: his father, holding a lantern in his right hand; Farley Tabor, who was holding a torch; and a third man whose face James could not see. The third man also had a torch in one hand and was holding a dog by the leash with the other. They were standing beneath the spreading limbs of a huge live Oak tree. And there in the tree, right in front of James's eyes, silhouetted against the night sky, hung the body of a black man. There was a rope tied to a low branch and the other end was tied around the man's neck. James did not scream; in fact, he was so gripped by terror that he could hardly breathe. He wanted to run but his legs felt like rubber. All he could do was stand there with his back pressed to the barn and wait for his heartbeat to slow down.

After a few minutes that seemed more like a few hours, James slowly got down on his hands and knees in an attempt to make himself small, then started crawling towards the house as fast as he could go. He never looked back until he reached the veranda, and there he stopped to catch his breath. The only sound aside from the thumping of his heart was that of a night owl somewhere in the distance.

His shoes were soaked, as were his trousers to the knees. He removed the dripping footwear, climbed the steps to the front door, and went inside. Quickly, he made his way up to his room, got undressed, dumped his clothes in a heap on the floor, and got into bed.

The house was still quiet but James was sure that his pounding heart could be heard from a mile away. He was trembling as though submerged in ice water and the image of what he'd witnessed was like a photograph etched permanently in his mind's eye. If only he could turn back time and reverse the decision to go outside when he heard the noise. If only he'd stayed in bed.

As the clock on the fireplace mantle ticked away the minutes, James slowly regained enough self-control to ponder what had happened. Never in his short life had he seen anything so ghastly. Never had he seen death in human form. And second to that horrible vision was the involvement of his father. What had actually happened? Did the three of them really hang that man and if so . . . why?

James realized that tears were streaming down his face and he felt sick to his stomach. Just when he wouldn't have believed he could feel any worse, he heard the front door open; footsteps entered the house. His father was back and James could feel a new surge of fear course through his body. The footsteps ascended the stairs slowly, almost cautiously. All James could do was pray that they continued until his father had reached his own bedroom. He lay still and waited. All of his hope was in vain. The footsteps stopped in front of his door.

He rolled to his stomach and buried his face in the pillow just as the door opened. His father walked in and stood beside the bed. Then he bent over and picked up the pile of clothing James had left on the floor. Several minutes passed while he pretended to be asleep. Then a new thought struck hard: his shoes and trousers were wet. There was no doubt that his father would know that he'd been outside. What would happen now? Would his father be angry? Would he be forced to talk about this night and the whole grisly business?

Perhaps God
answering his prayer; perhaps, all things considered, his father, too, was entirely unsure of what to do because he laid the clothing back on the floor and quietly left the room.

The rest of the night was one long series of tosses and turns. Sleep would overcome from time to time, but when it did the image of what James had seen behind the barn returned as well. At times he felt like he was swimming in cold sweat; other times he felt like he was burning up.

At the moment it seemed that time had ceased and eternity had begun, he opened his eyes. Sunlight was bursting through the window and the room was so bright that it took a few minutes for his eyes to focus. At the same time, he labored to collect his thoughts.

Standing at the foot of the bed were his mother and father. Sitting in a chair near his side was old Dr. Mead. When his parents saw that he was awake, their faces broke into a mixture of smiles and tears as they explained what had happened. They told James that he had come down with a fever; he had been delirious for two days. They told him he had ranted about the most dreadful things imaginable. Dr. Mead said that when someone is in the grip of such a fever the mind can produce abnormal thought processes; things that are extremely farfetched can seem like reality.

When James told everyone he was hungry, Dr. Mead assured his parents that the boy was going to be fine. His mother told him to rest and that she would have Olivia make him something special. “I will bring it up as soon as it is ready,” she said.

Dr. Mead told him to eat hardy, and then maybe some fresh air might do him good. His father told him if he felt up to it they would take a buggy ride into Macon. Then his mother kissed him on the forehead, his father smiled affectionately, and Dr. Mead bade him goodbye. They left the room never knowing how confused but how relieved he was.

The minute the door was closed, he was out of bed and at the window, looking over towards the barn. He could see the limbs of the big live Oak tree towering above the roof. He stared for a long moment, expecting to see evidence of what he'd thought was perfectly real. Then, in his mind a voice said, “Can you believe it? It was a dream.” The entire episode had been nothing but a dream.


A large flock of geese flew over the house and their loud, intermittent honking broke James's concentration. He thought how strange it was that his mind had gone back to that fever inspired nightmare and he couldn't help wondering what had triggered it. For a year or so after that night, he had been revisited by the bad dream on occasion but he had thought by now it was gone for good. No matter, he thought. It was such a beautiful day and there were so many
things to think about.

The front door opened and his oldest sister, Ashton, came out to the veranda with Kate, the youngest, right behind her. They showered him with birthday greetings then sat down on the swing, Ashton on his right and Kate on his left. “Why, look at me,” said James. “I'm a rose between two . . . other roses.” The remark inspired laughter and lively conversation among the three of them.

“How does it feel to be eighteen, James?” asked Ashton.

“I can hardly believe it. I thought becoming an adult would feel different somehow, but I don't notice any change from yesterday. I guess you have to experience it for a while.”

“I suppose that's true.”

“I can't wait until
turn eighteen,” said Kate. “I'll stay up late and entertain boys and—”

“And get yourself in all kinds of trouble,” said Ashton.

BOOK: A Deeper Sense of Loyalty
3.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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