“I killed my father—how’s that for starters. It was premeditated—planned over years—and I left him to be eaten by whatever animal wanted him, and he wasn’t quite dead when I left him.”
“What?” William was stunned as the others gathered round.
“It was the third year of the war, and I took a bounty and got kicked out for drunkenness and sexual deviancy,” Kenyon said, looking into the fire and then at the group of young men. “And then my mother confessed in town what I had done to the bastard, my father, and off I went to prison and nearly died of sickness and fighting.
“A corrupt guard made a deal, and me and another sick man escaped. For three years I stole and ran an immoral business and lured others in too. My sister found me in a poorhouse after I was too sick and melancholy to care for myself, and she took me home though I begged her not to.
“Her husband died on the ship that sank at war’s end, and she lived with my nephew in an old slave quarters no one cared about. My sister told me she forgave me. I wanted that peace she had and she told me how to get it—through Christ. So I know things a little better than all you piss-ants with all your bravado and false camaraderie. I can say I’ve been to hell, and you boys are on the road to it.”
Fahy looked around at his comrades, their shocked faces lit by the fire, and laughed. “So you expect us to respect you because you’re under a delusion that you’re a new man just because you say so? Sounds like you have no right to say a damned thing to those Indians who beat their wives and worship false gods. I don’t think my superiors would want you here if they knew what we know now!”
“Your superiors wouldn’t be happy with what you’re up to either,” Kenyon said.
“Hey, you give me a great idea,” Fahy said. “Let’s be Christian and not judge each other and ask for forgiveness and all and call it a night.”
“When you experience God’s glory you want to turn away from sin,” Kenyon said.
“So now you’ve seen visions and seen glory?” Fahy said. “You remind me of the little old ladies back in Dublin wasting their time on rosaries and seeing a miracle in every healthy bowel movement. You can take all this talk and shove it up your arse. I always thought there was something weird about you. Now please leave us lost sheep to ourselves.”
“William, will you come away from these children?” Kenyon asked his voice shaking. “William?”
William got his feet under him again, replying, “No, I’m not ready to go.”
The missionary grabbed his cheap hat and old lantern and stalked off to his tent.
“Damn, Bill, I’ve saved you from a real bum. I never liked the fellow, but crikey, if he doesn’t take the cake for problems,” Fahy said.
William had been duped again—Kenyon should have confessed earlier. He wondered if the other missionaries were murderers and thieves. He was glad to be on his own again and took another drink.
Buck unbuttoned his coat at the neck. “Say, lieutenant, you’re not cheating the Indians, are you?”
Fahy and the others heard him this time. Fahy said, “Come now, little brother, now’s not the time—you don’t know the ways of the real army.”
“So you are stealing, then,” Buck said.
“Hey, are you going to believe Bill and his perverted friend or me, cadet?”
Buck glanced at William, wild-eyed with drink now. “I don’t know.”
“You should mind your own damned business, Buck. The Indians waste half they get and so we all skim—from the government, really—those scoundrels in Washington. You think I’m the only one doing it?”
“So Thankful’s ring—that’s how you came to afford it?”
“So are you a god-damned jeweler?” Fahy asked taking a gulp of whiskey. “That ring is all the way from Ireland, you shit, and how would it be now for your sister if you went off and ratted on me—over such a trifling thing?”
“I don’t rat, and I don’t want my sister in any more trouble than she already is.”
“Good. For Christ’s sake, this was supposed to be a jolly night.” Fahy turned and saw William opening another expensive bottle. “Hey there, Bill, that’s enough. Save some for the rest of us.”
“Go to hell,” William said, waving his free arm.
“I’ll see you there.” Fahy walked over and grabbed the bottle away.
“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”