Touching the Sky
of Malcolm Lowe and presume that Brandon had only come calling in order to learn about her sister’s beau. Now it seemed Justin felt the same way.
    “The two matters are completely separate issues,” Brandon assured him.
    Justin sobered. “I know you to be an honorable man, Brandon. I’m sorry if my jest offended.” He took a seat and eyed Brandon quite seriously. “I hope you’ll forgive me for making light of this situation.”
    “It’s just that I’m already concerned that when the truth is exposed, Laura will think I only asked to call on her in order to spy. I assure you that was not my intention. I find that although our acquaintance has been brief . . . I truly care for Laura Marquardt.”
    “So you love her?” Justin asked in surprise.
    Brandon nodded. “I believe I do.”
    Justin laughed and took up the papers. “Good. Perhaps that will encourage you to remain in Texas rather than leave for the cold and distant north.”
    Brandon smiled. “Perhaps.”
    “So is this all you have?” Justin asked, looking at the written report Brandon had furnished.
    “Yes. I have observed Mr. Lowe meeting with several former Confederate soldiers, as well as a man who is known to run the Confederate supporting newspaper, The Ranchero. I haven’t been able to learn what they are planning, but it would seem they support some type of conspiracy.”
    “Conspiracies seem to abound with these Southerners. Look at what is spilling out from the investigation of the president’s assassination. It seems every day we learn of new participants. John Wilkes Booth was only one of many who wanted to see Lincoln dead.”
    “Hatred is a strong unifier, and from what I can tell with Mr. Lowe and his friends, their hatred is what compels them to move forward from defeat. Lowe is not shy about sharing his views, although he does appear to temper his comments when around his fiancée’s parents. When he’s with his friends he has no such control—at least that’s what I’ve observed those times I’ve been able to get close enough to overhear.”
    “It will be that hatred that causes them to make mistakes, and when they do, you must be there to thwart their plans. Pity we can’t get them to discuss and confess to the murders from last May. That alone would put an end once and for all to whatever they are planning.”
    “It would be useful if we could find someone who could participate in their meetings—someone who might be allowed in as a conspirator. Do we have any Texans who spied on the South for us? A man who wasn’t well-known to anyone as a Northern supporter?”
    “It would be worth checking into,” Justin agreed. “If I can find such a man, however, can you arrange to get him involved with Lowe?”
    “I’m sure we can figure something out.” Brandon tried to imagine how this might all come together. “For now, I will continue to learn what I can. If you can find someone to help us, someone we can trust, I believe the rest will fall in order. It seems to me that Lowe and his friends are desperate for support. To have former Confederates come to them for companionship would be natural. Where it goes from there will be up to Lowe and his friends.”
    “I agree.” Justin leaned back in his chair. “I’ve had word from Susannah. She’s quite excited about moving out here. I still think it would be mighty fine if you were to buy some land near mine.”
    “And where exactly is your ranch to be located?”
    Justin pulled out a map and unrolled it. Placing a couple of books on one end of the map, he held the other end down with his left hand. Pointing to a place just west of Dallas, he looked up and grinned. “Right here. I happen to know that there is an available homestead about two miles from mine. I know you haven’t seen it, but I can vouch for it. There’s a creek that runs through it, watering holes for livestock, and a stretch of trees. Otherwise it’s good grazing land.”
    “What about a

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