Spy Glass

Photo illustration by Pixabay.com.

Editor's Note: This is an ongoing series which runs each Thursday morning titled the Richland Chronicles Volume 5, by author Paul Lintern. It is set in the 1860s and tells the story of Richland County through the eyes of young people. This is the fifth in a series. Volume I was Amelia Changes Her Tune. Volume II was Isaac and Wolf Paw Find Their Home. Volume III was Autumn Keeps Her Secret. Volume IV was Mr. Gamble Starts a School.

The next day at school, Jacob told three friends about the stranger.

"How do you know he was a spy?" Billy asked.

"I just know," Jacob said.

"He looked, well, sinister, sneaky."

"But who is he?" Simon asked.

"Never saw him before. Shifty, dangerous."

"Would you recognize him if you saw him again?" Buck asked.

"Sure would, never forget that face, I think," Jacob said.

Did I really get a good look at him?

"I don't know. I think we should tell somebody. Sheriff Weaver or Marshall Gilkinson. Or even your father," Simon said.

"I tried to say something to my father last night, at the camp, but I didn't know how to bring it up. I didn't want him thinking I was sneaking around, looking for it."

"But that's exactly what you were doing," Simon replied.

"Yes, but I didn't want to say it that way."

"Then what do we do?" Buck asked.

"The more eyes the better. We should spread the word about the stranger but only to those we completely trust. We have to keep it quiet."

"Keep what quiet?"

Jacob knew that voice; he had shared a crib with it.

"Cassie, hi. Nothing, we were just talking, just boy stuff."

"A stranger? A spy? You won't tell Papa?"

"How long have you been listening?"

"Obviously longer than you were aware. Look, Jacob, boys, if you think something is amiss, tell someone who can do something about it."

"I guess, Cassie, but we don't even know who this spy is."

"Then count me in; I'll help."

The boys gave Jacob a shrug of agreement and Cassie nodded her head.

"Okay," she said. "Now, here is what we do."

"Wait, I thought you were going to help. Not take over," Jacob said.

Cassie paused.

"Fair enough," she said. "What do you suggest?"

"Well," Jacob replied. "I was thinking you might have an idea."

Cassie paused again.

"Sure, let me suggest that we let you tell us everything you can about what he looked like, where he was and how he acted, then we divide the town up into areas that each of us, in pairs, can patrol, looking for the man.

"If we see him, we follow him just enough to find something out that we can take to Mr. Gilkinson or Sheriff Weaver."

"I was leaning that way, too," Jacob said.

Huzzah, I am glad she is on our side!

"Let me get a few friends together who can help, and you do the same. We will meet right after school, right here by the flagpole," Cassie said.

"Sound good?"

Jacob smiled, "That's a plan."

As soon as school let out, no fewer than 20 classmates gathered around the flagpole, all 10-year-old deputy spy marshals. Cassie and Jacob had them pair up and gave each a few blocks to patrol throughout the town.

Cassie had already drawn maps of each area and Jacob went over the description of the man -- his eyes, his coat, his shoes. That was about all he remembered. 

"If you see him, keep your distance, but notice as much as you can about him and watch where he is and where he is going.

"Then come to the back of the courthouse and tell me. That's where I will be," Jacob said.

"After your piano lesson," Cassie said. "Today's Wednesday."

Jacob winced.

Why does it have to be Wednesday?

"Okay, I won't be there for at least an hour, but no later than an hour!"

The group split up. Each pair headed in one direction or another, with a slip of Cassie's handwritten paper in their hands.

Jacob and Cassie headed off together, toward Miss Cole's.

"What if we find him and he tries to run?" Cassie asked.

"I guess he'll know he's been discovered and maybe he will leave," Jacob said. "But what if he is dangerous and takes one of us, or one of our friends?"

"That's why we are in pairs, so one can go get help, and maybe he will stop before he does something like that."

"How will we know if he actually is a spy?"

"I think that is something the sheriff or marshall will figure out; we will just lead them to him."

"How do you know he's a spy?"

"I saw him. That's all I can say. I saw him."

They walked to the square then down to Fourth Street, so preoccupied that they almost forgot to look around for the spy, which is exactly what they had intended to be doing.

Both seemed a little embarrassed that they had forgotten the whole point of their mission.

"Why don't you run up for the lesson, and I will come along after I talk with Mr. Costin," Jacob suggested.

"Maybe he'll have some ideas," Cassie said.

"Don't keep Miss Cole waiting."

Up the stairs she went. Jacob watched her go then turned to walk in the store. He froze in the doorway.

Mr. Costin was talking with the stranger!

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