Jesse’s eyes kept flickering to Jenny. He couldn’t help worrying about her. She was so young, and though she was a wise woman beneath, she could also be careless.
All three knew well which tent would hold the plans. The General. And that just twisted Jesse’s stomach.
There were at least a hundred men there, give or take a few, but their town was small and the numbers would be uneven. They would need good strategies to defeat them.
They snuck around to the General’s tent. There were lights on inside. Though in most tents the soldiers were sleeping. After a moment Jesse heard talking and all three of them kneeled down to listen.
“We’ll rest in the next town for a few days then head on. There will be no fighting, no killing, no burning houses. These are good people and I won’t have them bothered. I’ll go with a group of men and explain. If we all go together they’ll try to kill us. Trust me, these people are protective over their lands and their families.”
Jenny looked at Danny with big eyes, and he looked back at her with the same surprised expression. Jesse watched as the two of them had a conversation with their eyes and expressions and hands. He didn’t understand most of it, but at the end he understood that Jenny was asking Danny if she should go into the tent. And saw Danny nod.
He grabbed Jenny’s arm, and she pulled Jesse up with her. “It’s alright.” she whispered. “Danny, you might as well come with us. We have some answer’s to get.”
“What are you doing?” Jesse hissed.
“It’s alright, Jesse.” Danny whispered. “They won’t hurt her. She’ll be fine. We all will.”
“How could you know-“
“Jesse, just trust us.” Danny said, soundng so sure.
“C’mon Jesse, we’ll need you.” Jenny said and pulled him toward the tent, with Danny following right behind them. And she walked right into the tent with no fear in her eyes, her shotgun firm in her hands.
But she didn’t attempt to raise it. Danny came into the tent and she looked directly at the man with the general’s stars on his shoulder. “You have some explaining to do.” she explained with acid thick in her voice.
“Jenny,” he whispered. “Danny. What are the two of you doing here?”
“Might ask you the same thing.” Jenny said and eyed his Yankee uniform.
He stepped toward Jenny and Jesse pulled her behind him and drew his gun. The General drew his gun almost as quickly and narrowed his eyes. “Who is this?”
“It’s nobody, Pa.” Jenny replied and shoved Jesse’s hand down then stepped in front of him to confront the man. “I thought you were dead.”
And now Jesse understood, but felt the shock rip through him. “Pa?” he asked. He was staring at his father-in-law?
“Yeah, this is my Pa. Or his ghost.” she replied and Jesse saw her grip tighten on the shotgun.
Two more men suddenly entered the tent, guns drawn. “General, is everything alright in here?” One of them asked. Jesse saw they both looked like Jenny.
“Well, it look’s like there’s three ghosts haunting this army. Oh and look, they’re both Captains, Danny. Although I remember quite clearly that when they left town they were fighting for the Rebels.” Jenny said, the acid only growing in her voice.
They both turned and stared at her, their eyes wide. “Jenny?” they asked in unison.
“I am glad I don’t carry the Land name anymore. It’s been poisoned and I would be ashamed to have it.” she spat. “My own family, traitors.”
Despite her words, both of the men wrapped their arms around Jenny until she shoved them away using her gun. Jesse then took the gun before she got the nerve to shoot her own kin. Jenny was too busy glaring at her family to turn and glare at her husband.
Danny put a hand on her shoulder. “Jenny, maybe we should just go home. You’ve got crops to take care of and you know Jeff and Lucy are probably worried sick about you.”
Jenny realized Danny was giving her a way out if she wanted it. But she still had something to say. “You’re right, Danny. But before we do I just want to tell the three of you that I hope you go to-“
“Jenny.” Jesse snapped. “Watch your mouth.”
Jenny huffed out a breath. “Well, you’ve got the idea. Now we can go, Danny. Now Jesse, as I was saying the other day, I’ve tried irrigating the crops but they’re not wanting to take in the water. I think the soil is too dry and the water is just falling straight through...”
Jesse let her talk, answered fluidly, and knew they were being followed outside the tent and outside the camp. When they reached just outside the boundaries of the camp Jenny spun around. “I won’t be staying with you.” she snapped. “I have to get home. As you’ve heard the crops are failing and drying out. You can just go back to your new friends.” she hissed.
“Jenny Land, you’ll not-“ The General started.
“It’s Thomas now.” Jenny interrupted. “Didn’t you hear me? I said I don’t carry the Land name anymore. And I’m damn glad I don’t.” she said and ignored Jesse’s glare. “Danny, Jesse, and I will be on our way.”
“Why did you come if you didn’t know we were here?” one of her brothers asked.
“A few reasons. Revenge. I thought the Yanks had killed you a while back. I wasn’t supposed to come. I had to follow Jesse and Danny. And when they knew they couldn’t send me back, to be a spy.
We had a town meeting last night and it was decided that Jesse and Danny would ride out just to find out the numbers. I came along then they discovered me about an hour after. When we discovered that the army was so close we thought you were planning an attack so we devised a plan to sneak into your tent and try to find out the plans.
A good one. Then we were listening and Danny and I recognized your voice. Now you know the story. And one more thing.” she looked at the three of them.
“You’d better keep those men under control. If anyone get’s hurt, killed, or raped, there will be war. And I’ll be in the front lines ready to kill whoever gets in my way. Get in and get out.”
“I am your father, Jenny. You will not speak to me that way.” he snapped and grabbed her arm and gave her a good smack on the face.
Jesse pulled out his gun and held it out steady toward his face. “And I’m her husband. I’ll have to ask you to get your hands off my wife.” he said, his voice hard and very dark.
The General let go and Jesse pulled her behind him and Danny stood beside him, glancing between the General and Jesse, picking a side. He sighed and stood his ground beside Jesse. “Mark, I’m gonna have to side with Jenny. I’ve heard some bad things about your army and if anything happens to my wife or someone I care about I’m gonna fight with my town.”
He nodded. “My men will be kept under control.”
“Murderer.” Jenny hissed under her breath as Jesse sheathed his gun.
He sent her a hard look over his shoulder. “Remember what I told you about keeping your mouth shut Jenny? Well, just because this happened doesn’t mean that I don’t still mean it. Shut up."
Jenny pressed her lips together and crossed her arms in annoyance. But she kept quiet.
Jesse looked back at the General and his two sons and saw the surprise on their faces. Could no one control the girl? Not even her father? Was Jesse really the first? Well, he didn’t know whether to feel proud or like an ass.
“We’ll be going. I think Jenny’s ready to get home. I’ll let the others know about your coming through when we get back so no one will attack any of you. I understand that the house is yours so Jenny and I will stay with my sister and her husband.”
The General held up a hand. “The two of you are welcome to stay where you are.”
Jesse nodded. “Thank you. But I think we’ll be more comfortable staying with my sister.”
Danny and Jenny’s family looked at her, expecting her to run her mouth and yell and scream that a man was deciding for her. But she remained silent as Jesse trusted she would. Though he could feel her agitation.
“We’ll be on our way.” Jesse said.
“The three of you are welcome to stay in a tent for the night. If you’re too tired to ride out-“
“No thank you.” Danny interrupted. “I have to be getting home to Sherry.”
The General nodded and the three of them turned to get their horses. “Jenny,” the General said and she stopped, but didn’t turn back to him. “Please, stay. We need to talk.”
She shook her head. “You heard my husband. He said we’re leaving, so we’re leaving.” she said and began walking again, cutting in front of Danny and Jesse, walking faster than the two of them had intended to.
The three of them swung up onto their horses. They rode back to the cave and as Jesse and Danny slid off their horses, Jenny slumped down in her seat then covered her face with her hands.
Danny glanced at Jesse warily and Jesse signaled for him to go on. Danny nodded and went into the cave. Jesse walked to Jenny and grabbed her by the hips and pulled her off her horse.
She leaned on him and he wrapped his arms around her in comfort. She let her head fall onto his shoulder then began sobbing. “They’re traitors, and tomorrow every one will know what they are.” she whispered.
Jesse didn’t know what to say, so he just held her.