Three bloody holes quickly soaked the blue uniform of the fallen union soldier and spilled onto the hay covered floor. It was an unexpected end to his life. Not on a battlefield, but in an abandoned barn.
“Papa, is he really dead?” Eleven-year-old Jane asked her father.
Instead of answering her, Luther turned to his older daughter, who was fifteen and urgently whispered, “Diana, take your sister back to camp.”
Traumatized and disheveled, Diana could not move a muscle. She just stood there staring at the bloody body. Luther needed to work quickly because he knew that someone would soon be looking for this white man. The only way he and his family could survive was if he made the body disappear. But he couldn’t do it in front of his little girls. They had already seen too much.
“Diana!” Luther snapped. “Go now!”
Diana suddenly came back to attention, grabbed her sister by the hand and the two rushed out into the dewy morning. Luther waited until his daughters were out of sight before he grabbed the dead man by his feet, which were covered with worn and holey shoes, and dragged him out of the barn towards the marsh several yards away. He selected a spot beneath a grove of Palmetto trees near the creek. Luther stared at the body for a moment with contempt. His whole life he encountered people who thought that everything belonged to them. His freedom. His father’s land. His daughter’s virtue. This man was no different. Today, for a change, something was taken from him. His life.
Luther snapped out of his reverie and got to work. Luther hurried back to the barn to grab a shovel and the pitchfork to take back to the grove of palmetto trees. Once back at the body, Luther dug up the sandy soil of the makeshift burial site. After digging for almost an hour, the hole was finally deep enough. Luther dragged the corpse to the grave and dumped it in. The dead man hit the earth with a solid thud. After covering the hole, Luther took the incriminating pitchfork that served as the murder weapon and tossed it into the marsh. Then he took the palmetto leaves from a nearby tree and used it to wipe away his and the girls’ footprints, as well as the drag marks. Hearing the rustling movement of the underbrush, Luther sensed that his time was up. He needed to get his family out of there immediately. The consequences of being caught were too frightening to think about.