A return to Flash Fiction … 500 words this time.
Death on a Moonless Night.
It was a dark, moonless night. The humid air lay heavy, almost suffocating those trying to sleep after the day’s long battle. A lone Union sentry, posted about twenty yards from the general’s tent, shifted his tired feet. He glanced nervously around. He could feel it … an unconscious foreboding nagging at his conscious mind. There was a sense of death on the night air. His post was deep within the Union encampment. A safe enough post. The sentry listened … hearing only the buzz of mosquitoes and the constant chirping of crickets.
In the tent, a mosquito buzzed the general’s ear. He swatted at it futilely, then rolled over on his cot. Despite the heat, he pulled the wool blanket up over his head … protection against the buzzing insects. Grant was exhausted. Today, he’d sent three divisions to push the Confederates from Big Black River Bridge. They’d captured over 1,800 enemy soldiers. Tomorrow, he would lay siege to Vicksburg. Grant’s mind kept churning over the many important preparations for tomorrow’s action.
Damn Mississippi. Nothing but swamps, rebels, and mosquitos, he thought to himself. Gradually, the physical need for rest overpowered the general’s brain, and he drifted off into a fitful sleep.
Saitō was the night. He was invisible, a lethal force hidden in the darkness; unstoppable. The sentry died. A small shuriken, its points dipped in deadly toxin distilled from chrysanthemums, nicked his neck. The poison did its work. Saitō caught the sentry as he fell, dragging him into the tree line. Saitō crept up to the tent where Grant lay sleeping. Concealed in the shadows, he listened to the snoring emanating from the other side of the canvas. His target slept. Time to complete his task.
Saitō scanned the encampment. All was still quiet. A living shadow, Saitō moved stealthily toward the front flap of the tent. An imperceptible movement of the flap and he was inside. Saitō rose silently from the plank floor of the tent platform, sliding a tanto from the scabbard in the small of his back. He approached the cot where the general lay sleeping. The tanto was poised, ready to stab downward. Grant’s death would breathe new life into the Confederacy. It was why he’d been paid.
“I wouldn’t,” a voice spoke from a corner of the tent. Even in the dark, Saitō could make out the seated figure of a man, his feet propped up on a wooden whiskey keg. The man’s hand rested on his right thigh inches from his holstered .45 Colt Peacemaker. Moving like the wind, Saitō whirled, changing his grip on the tanto, ready to kill the impertinent fool interrupting his work. The man’s hand flashed. The colt barked, a bullet stuck Saitō, centered between his two black eyes.
Grant sat up in his cot.
“What the … ?”
“It’s alright, Sir. I’m Agent Jim West of the U.S. Secret Service. President Lincoln assigned me to keep an eye on you. You’re safe now. Better get some more rest. You’ve a big day tomorrow.”
Memorial Day Giveaway Reminder
My Memorial Day Kindle giveaway of Serpents Underfoot has been a huge success so far. Over 150 fans have downloaded Kindle versions of the book. A few hours remain … click here get your copy now while they are free. There are no gimmicks or requirements. I am simply holding this giveaway in honor of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to keep our country free.