Glen Herrington spat blood from his mouth, then glared up at the Confederate guard. “I’ll see you in hell!”
Lifting his fist to hit Glen again, the guard glanced at Captain Sneed, the warden on duty. The captain’s angry smirk was all the approval the guard needed. Over and over, he swung his fist at Glen’s face, the last powerful thrust sending Glen and the chair he was tied to crashing to the dirt floor.
Captain Sneed leered down into Glen’s battered face. “Sooner or later, Major, we’re gonna find out who you’re gettin’ your information from and they’re the ones gonna see you in hell.”
The burly guard grabbed hold of Glen’s arm and yanked him and the chair upright. He rubbed the back of his knuckles and sneered. “Sir, do I need to persuade the blue belly some more?”
Peering out of swollen eyes, Glen saw Sneed about to nod his assent when sounds of a female voice drew the warden’s attention outside the solitary cell. Frowning, Sneed held up his hand and shook his head. “Throw that hood over his head, Benson and lock him back up.”
With a last menacing glance at Glen, Sneed stepped from the cell just as another guard hustled around the approaching woman and grasped her shoulder. “Ma’am, I’ve asked you to halt. You are not authorized beyond the hospital quarters.”
With an armload of folded blankets, she jerked to one side. “Unhand me, Jeeters! You know who I am and why I’m here. If it wasn’t for me and the town’s charitable donations of which your mother is a contributor, you wouldn’t be wearing those shiny boots. I’ve been throughout this prison a number of times and this day shouldn’t be any different.” She peered around the guard and through the doorway.
“I’m sorry, Ma’am, but I have orders. This cellar is for dangerous prisoners, spies, and slaves under sentence of death. You cannot — “
“Corporal Jeeters,” Sneed interrupted, “who have we here?” A forced smile hitched the corner of his mouth. “Why, Mrs. O’Malley, I see you’ve brought blankets. God knows our soldiers need them,” he said, standing directly in front of her.
“And …” she said, raising an eyebrow, “for the prisoners as well, brought to them by the Sanitary Commission.”
Jennifer stepped aside the warden to get a better look at the prisoner inside the cell. Her heart skipped a beat. Dear Lord, it was him. The rumors she’d heard repeated throughout Richmond were true after all. Another notorious Union spy had been revealed. Major Glen Herrington had been caught and incarcerated right here at Libby Prison. For a long moment, her eyes met his, direct and probing. Then the guard threw a black cloth over Glen’s head and Captain Sneed led her by the elbow down the hall.
“Mrs. O’Malley, we are grateful for all the contributions of food, clothing, and blankets that you bring, don’t get me wrong. However, you must realize for your own safety, you or any visitor cannot come through this prison without proper authority.”
Jennifer found it hard to compose herself. So shocked was she to see Glen for the first time since … since she had been a mere twenty years old … and he … in her mind’s eye, she could see an image burned into her memory of him at twenty-four, so distinguished in his West Point uniform. Nine years ago, yet it seemed like yesterday.
And now he was a war criminal, his face beaten and bloody, with a dark growth of whiskers and disheveled black hair hanging over his forehead. If it wasn’t for the rumors, she might not have recognized him. Oh, yes, you would, she chided herself. No matter how long it had been, you’d never forget those steel grey eyes. As that old familiar yearning seeped into her heart, she was thankful when the captain’s voice penetrated her thoughts.
“… and Major O’Malley would have me court-martialed if anything inappropriate happened to his wife.”
Jennifer thought better of voicing the retort that instantly came to mind. Sneed’s maltreatment of prisoners that she’d witnessed numerous times could just as well get him court-martialed. Still, not many would side with her and any complaints she brought to the attention of Libby Prison’s commanding officer would only serve to embarrass her husband. Most knew the infamous reputation of the prison but turned a jaundiced eye.
Although Jennifer was against the North’s war of aggression and understood the need for statehood rights, she did not approve of prison brutality on either side. And though she kept her personal thoughts to herself when it came to the politics of war, she wished the fighting would cease and the country could join together in peace as one whole and free nation again. In order for that to happen, the Federals would have to be victorious. Something she knew her husband, a staunch secessionist, would lay down his life to prevent.
As Captain Sneed led her up the prison stairs, she tried to shut out the mental picture of Glen’s tortured body. Union soldier though he was, she knew what she must do. With her mind made up, she would take the risk and set the necessary plans in motion.