A Deceptive Homecoming

A Deceptive Homecoming by Anna Loan-Wilsey

Book: A Deceptive Homecoming by Anna Loan-Wilsey Read Free Book Online
Authors: Anna Loan-Wilsey
truth, and I’d been childish and selfish thinking I could. Frank Hayward, like George Davish, was now beyond our earthly reach. All that was left for me to do was accept the fact and get to work.
    But then why can’t I stop hearing Madame Maisonet say, “Who could it be?”
    I spent most of the day visiting the library, City Hall, and the courthouse, poring over books, newspaper clippings, and records about General Meriwether Jeff Thompson. I was pleasantly surprised how much I learned in a short time. Beyond the basics—his birth, his death, his marriage, his children, his occupations, and his places of residency—I was also able to uncover intimate details. Before the war, Thompson was a land agent and leader in developing the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad, as well as the Pony Express. But he was also the man who brought the Civil War to St. Joe. As mayor at the outbreak of the war, he led a mob to remove the U.S. flag from the post office. The act was so controversial he was forced to flee the city, eventually joining the Confederacy. There he gained the nickname the Swamp Fox by spending much of the war leading ragtag Confederate guerillas on forays through the swamps of the South. While a prisoner of war in Charleston, he took up writing poetry and, unlike anyone else, carried a white-handled bowie knife stuck out perpendicularly from his belt on the middle of his back. But the strangest detail I’d uncovered all day was that General Thompson had proudly supplied, and reclaimed afterward, the rope used to suspend John Brown from the gallows.
    Sir Arthur will be thrilled, I thought.
    Pleased with my day’s work, I emerged from the courthouse into a clear, blue sky and brilliant sunshine. I felt my spirits lift. I walked the two blocks north to 516 N. Fifth Street, General Thompson’s former residence. A maid answered the door and was able to confirm that the house had long since been sold to a family who had no connection to the Thompsons. Satisfied I’d done all that I could do, I happily forwent the streetcar and briskly made my way back toward my hotel, taking a quick detour when I spied a vendor’s wagon parked down the block (I hadn’t eaten anything all day).
    I can leave for Newport tomorrow, I thought, as I glanced down the street. I noticed the sign for Sherwood’s spice shop.
    And then I froze. A woman, less than twenty yards away, was stooped over, staring down at the ground. A gray squirrel scampered across the yellow awning above her head, scrambled down the side of the brick building, and bounded across the street. She didn’t notice. She was obviously searching for something she’d dropped in the road, but that’s not why I stopped. She was standing in the exact spot that Asa Upchurch said he found the dead body of Frank Hayward. I immediately approached her.
    â€œExcuse me, ma’am?”
    She looked up at me, her eyes blank. Graying yellow curls popped out from under her floppy straw hat with a simple gray velvet bow, sunspots marked her face, and her shoulder stayed slightly hunched over even when she stood. Her deep-set blue eyes, deeply wrinkled at the corners, couldn’t focus. Was she blind? I wondered.
    â€œAre you looking for something? May I help look?”
    â€œYes,” she said, bobbing her head as she looked about her as if for the first time. “Yes, I’m looking for my husband, Levi.”
    Taken by surprise, I almost retorted, “In the road?” But luckily I caught myself and asked instead, “Does your husband work around here? Can I take you to him?”
    â€œNo, he works at the Excelsior Wagon and Carriage Works on Lafayette.”
    â€œBut you’re on South Third and Charles Street, ma’am.” I was still under the impression that her sight was poor. Then she looked me in the eye.
    â€œI know. You see, I’ve been at my sister’s.” She hesitated as if she’d

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