Read The Secret of the Stones Online

Authors: Ernest Dempsey

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #International Mystery & Crime, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Financial, #Military, #Spies & Politics, #Political, #Thrillers, #Pulp

The Secret of the Stones

BOOK: The Secret of the Stones
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The greatest zeal of man is not for love or money, but for immortality”



Georgia, 1838


young Indian appeared from a patch of early morning fog,
sprinting through the undergrowth of the forest.  He recklessly
ducked and weaved his way through the trees and brush.
Twigs snapped and leaves crunched under
his moccasins with every quick step.
He was glad that he’d kept some of his old “traditional” clothing
The soft breeches and
cream-colored tunic were light and made movement considerably easier.

his excellent conditioning, John Burse was out of breath and stopped
to risk a moment of rest against a tall poplar.  He squinted his deep
brown eyes as he searched the surroundings for a route that might
help him escape.
He sucked in the
cool spring air in huge gasps; the scent of dry leaves and pine needles filled
his nostrils.

Then, his
fears were realized as he heard the sounds of the dogs drawing
closer and voices mingling with the howls of the animals.
Two hundred feet behind him,
a group of a dozen or so men with three hunting dogs came into view
through the hazy mist.

had known the dangers of what he’d been asked to do during the secret meeting
the night before.
The tribal
council had trusted him with a mission of utmost importance.
Being caught not only meant certain
death, but could also, ultimately, lead to the downfall of his Cherokee people.

a new resolve, he tightened his tan leather satchel and took off again,
glancing back occasionally as he made his way through the maze of tree
The group was still
far behind him but well within shooting distance.
Just as that thought occurred, he heard a familiar popping
sound followed by a musket ball smashing into a nearby tree; the
shot narrowly missed him by a few feet.
The close call made his pace quicken.

slender legs burned from the exertion and his lungs continued to gasp for more
and more air.
Hunting had kept him
in good shape.
Often, he and his
father would chase down deer for miles after shooting them.
Deer could manage to live a long time
even with a critical wound from a gun or bow.
But today he was the hunted, and the burden John carried
made his journey that much more difficult.

was beginning to take its toll as he crested a small ridge; suddenly, he
tumbled over the top and down into a small gulley, where he rolled to a
stop at the edge of a large creek. 

been here many times.
expanse was about forty feet across, and at the deepest point
appeared to be only about six feet deep.
He could see the soldiers and their dogs in the distance closing on him
The little river foamed and
churned as it flowed around a small bend just downstream.
The young Indian knew the
area well, probably better than even the most seasoned of soldiers.
With little hesitation, he
decided what he had to do and jumped into the icy, rushing

hunting party stopped at the same spot where their quarry had entered the
river.  A tracker busily inspected the ground near the
Footprints stopped there
with no sign of them leading anywhere else.
The dogs were restless, confused as to what happened to the
trail they had been following.
To the
animal mind, it was as if the Indian had simply disappeared.

feller,” a leather-skinned Officer muttered before spitting out a slug of
tobacco juice.
He had a few marks
of rank on his dark blue United States Army uniform and was obviously the man
in charge.  His matching cavalry hat had a few dirt streaks on it,
but the distinct golden tassel still stood out proudly.  The week-old
stubble on his face was a patchwork of gray and light brown.  He scratched
his neck while considering the next move. 

gone into the water, boys,” he said to his men in a matter of fact manner.
“Thompson, take three others and the
dogs and cross the creek.
back two hundred feet upstream along the edge to see if there is any sign he
came out.
I’ll take the rest of
the men downstream.
If he’s in the
water, he’s movin’ slow.”

minutes later, the main group from the hunting party came to a waterfall.
It was a seventy-foot drop to
the bottom, where a shallow looking pool churned with the falling liquid.
A small hill on the left dropped
sharply over the edge.
There was
no way the Indian went that direction.
The sheer cliffs meant he had to go to the right.
That way led down to the bottom
gradually by means of a faint path.
A cold spray shot up both sides of the falls all the way up to where the
men were standing.

if he went over, I doubt he survived,” a young soldier chimed in, half-hoping
their running was done for the day.

keen leader didn’t buy it.
Indian had been far too smart to come so far, and then just fall over a
“He didn’t go over,
Men, get down there and
search the area.
Someone get into
that pool and check every inch of the bottom.
Check the ground surrounding it too.
If he came out of there, I want to know
We can’t let him get away.”

soldiers took off immediately, heading down by way of the path to the
right of the falls.
Thompson’s men
and the dogs had just finished their check of the other side of the creek and
were standing across from the old officer. 

anything, Lieutenant?”

Not a thing, Colonel.”

far did you check upstream?”  The lead officer looked towards the
direction from where the water was coming.

hundred feet, sir, just to be safe.”  Thompson’s voice was firm.

Colonel frowned then turned his head and spit the other direction.
His eyes narrowed, scanning the forest
“Good man,
Get back over here
and head down there with the others.
He must have gone that direction.
Not sure if he jumped, but if he did, we should find him shortly.”


remaining men and the dogs scampered back through the icy water and made their
way down the little path.
The old
officer peered around the surrounding woods, but could find no sign of the
Deliberately, he turned
and stalked down the trail to join his soldiers at the bottom.

in the dark, the Indian waited anxiously.
The soldiers chasing him had surely not seen where he had
He must have just barely
slipped from sight before they arrived to the river.
He had moved carefully as he made his way from the water at
the lip of the cliffs to the left of the falls.  It had been a risky
maneuver to lower himself down to an almost unnoticeable rock ledge that led
behind the mist to a small cave.

his hiding place, he could barely hear the orders of the officer and
the confusion of the men below.
was difficult to understand what was being said over the rush of falling water,
but there was obvious frustration among the group.
Leaning back against the rocks, he took the chance to
catch his breath.
His only option
was to wait and make his way out of the rocks when they were
Slowly, he stretched out his
legs on the cold, moist stone and tried to relax, a difficult task
given the circumstances.  He hoped they didn’t notice the hidden ledge on
the cliff.
Unless one already knew
it was there, the narrow path was almost invisible.

hour or so had passed and the soldiers had found nothing.
The officer in charge had been barking
out orders for the last five minutes and was clearly unhappy about the Indian’s
odd disappearance.
From behind the
mist and falling water, he could make out that the blurry shapes of the
soldiers were taking off further downstream.
Apparently, they thought he had jumped over the falls and
continued on in the river.
Again, he laid his head back on the satchel and let himself
fall into an exhausted sleep, confident that the immediate threat was gone.

young brave suddenly snapped awake.
He must have been asleep for many hours.
Twilight had settled into the forest, and soon it would be
He figured night was
probably a safer time to travel.
Dogs could sense him, but men would have a much shorter field of
Before dozing off, he had
considered what to do with his precious cargo.
His mission was to keep it safe from the hands of the
The United States government
was to never learn of its whereabouts or contents.
Today, he had nearly failed.
If he were to leave his hiding place and try to make it
west, he could be caught and lose everything that generations of his people had
fought to protect.

he considered the place where he was sitting.
Only members of the tribe knew about
this little nook behind the waterfall.
Indeed, who would even consider climbing out on the slippery ledge?
Sitting quietly, he considered the
options and risks.

his eyes, he prayed a quiet prayer to the Great Spirit.
There was really only one choice.
His orders had been to take the satchel
West and do whatever it took to keep it from the United States Army.
Now, he was disobeying the council,
unsure if it was right to do so.

carefully laid the leather bag in the deepest recesses of the cave and untied
the straps.
His people had known
what the United States government wanted.
For over a decade, the Cherokee had worked to earn the trust of the
They’d adopted their way
of life, even worn clothes like the white man.
But the Cherokee chiefs had always known that, eventually,
greed would take over the hearts of the white men.
They wanted gold and would do anything to get it.
John stared at the beautiful, yellow
It seemed somewhat dull in
the darkness.  

With great
care, he removed two golden bars and placed them in a small stack
against the wall.
It was difficult
to see in the hollow rock, but, just to be safe, he scattered a few loose
stones over the bricks to conceal them.

from his refuge, he looked back inside to make certain the stash was not
visible to the casual eye.
Acceptable for now, he thought.
Hopefully, his people would only be gone for a year or two and then
could return to their ancient lands—Only then could he retrieve
the gold.
For the moment,
though, it would be safe.

tightly gripped the, now, much lighter satchel.
The burden of the gold bars had been cumbersome but what
still lay within his leather pouch was far more weighty.

that thought, he carefully shuffled out onto the cliff ledge and made his way
back up to the top of the waterfalls, backtracking towards his village.
If he hurried, he might just make it
back in time to blend in with the last migration caravan.

miles away, the search party had set up camp for the night.
Sitting alone in his tent with a candle
burning, the old officer was busy re-reading a correspondence. The letter had
been written on parchment and bore the seal of The President of the United
A younger officer,
probably no older than nineteen, stepped into the tent and cleared his
throat, awaiting recognition.  His uniform looked remarkably clean
considering the circumstances. 

to speak with you, sir?”
The young
man seemed a bit uneasy about interrupting his commander and stood rigid,
awaiting confirmation of his request.

The colonel
finished up what he was reading as if no one was even there then folded up the
letter and put his reading glasses down on a small box next to his cot.

BOOK: The Secret of the Stones
6.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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