For now we see through the glass, darkly, but then face to face.

I Corinthians 13:11

Chapter 1

"Murray! Edmund Kerr Murray, as I live and breathe!" The loud voice brayed through the quiet taproom of Sylvester Atherton. A half-dozen Salem citizens turned to look curiously at the thin man striding toward the quiet Indian sitting beside Daniel Boone.

Murmurs of curiosity began to swirl through the room. "You did make good on your threat to leave your old man high and dry! I wish I had been a mouse when you told him. It must have been a day to remember. He never could abide being defied."

The stranger plopped down in the chair across the table from Mingo. He grinned into the embarrassed face before him. Daniel glanced from one to the other, plainly curious. "Aren't you going to introduce us, Murray? Your friend looks like he's about to bust a gut." The rude man burst out with his own importance. "I'm Major Curtis Billows of His Majesty's Dragoons, lately of London, lastly of Williamsburg, now of Ninety-Six. Kerr and I go way back, don't we?"

At Mingo's continued silence, Curtis filled in as many details as he could squeeze into the sentences. "Yessiree, we are old friends, dear friends, brothers-in-arms so to speak. Survived the rigors of Oxford together. Rivals for the top honors, as I remember." Curtis' icy eyes glittered coldly. "Of course, I didn't have the connections Murray enjoyed. That put me at a decided disadvantage. I had to rely on my own gifts, cultivate my own mentors."

"Then Kerr refused to attend the Academy. Stubborn about it, as I recall. First of the Murrays to bypass its hallowed halls in three generations. Many times John raved about that, I am told. Very publicly on occasion, for the edification of the general audience." Curtis chuckled wickedly. "I, on the other hand, completed the courses and was commissioned into His Majesty's Forces. So here I am, on tour so to speak. And who do I meet on my first foray into the wilderness? My old friend Kerr Murray."

The British officer chortled for several seconds, obviously delighted at his own wit. Mingo sat stonily staring straight ahead. Daniel, feeling the tension between the other men, cleared his throat and tried to douse the flame of anger growing in his friend's eyes. "Pleased to meet you, Major Billows. What is your assignment here in Salem?"

Major Billows slipped his gaze from Mingo's face to the frontiersman beside him. "Excuse me, but I didn't catch your name." The words fell coldly to the tavern floor.

Daniel stared into the icy blue eyes for several seconds before replying. "I am Daniel Boone, of Boonesborough, Kentucky Territory."

"Ahhhh," Major Billows replied. "The great empire builder himself. It is the fulfillment of a dream, meeting you Mr. Boone. Though I have it on good authority that you are in open rebellion against the Crown. A bad decision, that. I shall have to recount this meeting for the edification of my superiors as well as my subordinates. Still, a pleasure Mr. Boone." The major extended his soft white hand. Daniel took it and pumped twice.

"Now I must take my leave. I trust you will not be a stranger, Murray? Come by and see me before you leave for whatever hut in the wilderness you call home. Evidently it is among some savage race or other. Did they make you a ruler, a chief or whatever you call it? I can see it all now, the educated Englishman setting up his own fiefdom in the wilds. A benevolent despot. A bit of Robinson Crusoe, eh? Priceless! Perhaps your father misjudged your predilections for power?"

With another chortle Curtis Billows stood, wheeled and strode toward the tavern door. His spotless uniform flared from his thin body. He pulled the heavy door open, turned, gave a mock salute to Mingo, then pulled the door shut. The sound of his wooden heels on the Salem sidewalk echoed for several seconds inside the quiet room.

Mingo closed his eyes and sighed heavily. After a deep breath he faced the man beside him. "I'm sorry about that confrontation Daniel. Curtis Billows is the last man I expected to see in the colonies. He and I had an uneasy acquaintance years ago. For some reason he decided to compete with me. Almost from the first day he made it clear that he considered me a rival. I had no interest in that role, but as you saw he is determined that I fulfill it anyway."

"He sounds like he's on a mission to punish you," Daniel commented.

Mingo frowned as he shook his head. "No, Daniel. He is simply fulfilling his assigned duty. He just happens to be here, and I just happen to be here. I doubt that I will ever see him again." With those words Mingo finished the final draught of his ale. Daniel did likewise. Then the two friends walked to their loaded wagon, climbed aboard and began their journey back to Boonesborough with Cincinnatus' final order of the year.