Darkest Journey (Krewe of Hunters #20)(5)

Jimmy laughed. “And I’m a lovely mix of sweat and makeup and mud myself. We’re both fine. Except they made me play a Yankee. That was the winning side, of course, but I doubt that mattered much to the men who died in battle, whether slowly and in pain or quickly, life snuffed out in an instant.”

“I think most of them believed in what they were fighting for, other than the ones who fought because they’d been drafted and had no choice.”

“All I know is I’m damned lucky I didn’t opt to go into the military,” Jimmy said, grimacing. “Whenever I see a reenactment, I shudder. Even when I’m part of one. I mean, those soldiers walked straight toward a line of people firing right at them. They had to know they could be hit by a bullet any minute, but they had to keep on walking.”

“Never sure myself how people managed to do that,” Charlie said. “We’re playacting when we do a reenactment. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for real. I can’t imagine what it’s like for the guys who go in the military today.”

Suddenly she found herself thinking about Ethan Delaney. She knew that he’d gone into the service out of college.

Jimmy knocked at his ear. When she looked at him curiously, he said, “Just mud—I hope.”

“No bugs,” she assured him, studying the dirt caked on him from the ground where the “troops” had lain before rising. “Just mud.”

“If only I didn’t have to play a Yankee,” he said, grinning.

“Remember the guy who played Robert E. Lee for the flashback scene?” Charlie asked. “His great-great-grandfather was a Union general. That’s the biz. Around here, history is especially near and dear to us, that’s all. Anyway, this movie is contemporary—these stupid shoes I’m running in are far too contemporary—but I love that the ghosts from both armies rise up to save the heroine from the bad guys.”

“I like it that we get some of the soldiers’ past, too. It’s really sad, what with the captain killing himself,” Jimmy said.

“The captain was fighting a terrible fever. He wasn’t in his right mind. I forget the statistics—my dad could tell you—but more soldiers died of sickness and infection than gunshot, cannon fire or bayonet.”

“I know—I’ve played a surgeon in a few reenactments.”

“Oh, yeah. Nurse Moreau, here,” Charlie said. “I think that’s why people keep coming to reenactments, because of the human side of war. I mean, the generals who fought each other were often friends—some of them had studied together at West Point—or even family. No matter how you look at it, the Civil War was probably the most heartbreaking era in this country’s history. I’m so happy we didn’t live back then.”

Jimmy grinned. “I agree, and I actually love the point Brad is making with this movie. You know, that people are people, flesh and blood, beating hearts, the same desire to find love and happiness. There may be a constant tug-of-war between environmentalists and oil companies, but I love how he doesn’t make everything black or white.”

“I love Brad’s script, too, especially the way he shows how the Confederate and Union soldiers found common ground before they died, and then their ghosts work together to save me from being killed.”

Jimmy’s grin disappeared. “Speaking of which, did you hear about the murder?”

“What murder?” Charlie said. “When?” She’d been in bed early the night before, because her call that morning had been at the crack of dawn, so they could film the just-completed scene when she’d confronted an oil exec and a state senator after discovering the oil exec had bribed the senator to let him drill where his efforts would destroy the water source for their fictional town of Mary Elizabeth. That had led to tonight’s scene, with her on the run from an oil exec and a crooked senator.

She hadn’t seen any news before bed, and she hadn’t had time to catch any that morning, either.

“They haven’t said what happened yet. Only that a man was murdered. He was from Baton Rouge, and I feel like we might know him, because he was a reenactor, too. His name was Albion Corley. A nice guy, they said on the news.”

The name sounded vaguely familiar to Charlie. She wasn’t sure why. Maybe he’d been someone she’d met through her father, who was often brought on as a consultant for the local reenactments.

“Where did it happen?” Charlie asked. “Was it anywhere near here?”

“Between here and Port Hudson. His body was found just outside an old family cemetery, poorly buried under less than a foot of earth.”

“How awful,” Charlie said, genuinely dismayed. This was a small, close-knit area. The population of St. Francisville was under two thousand. They were just over thirty miles north of Baton Rouge. Of course, the population there was growing and spreading out. Still, murder wasn’t common around here.

Ten years ago, yes, there had been a local serial killer, but he’d been crazy, plus they’d caught him. He’d killed nine people; he’d nearly killed Charlie. Ethan had saved her, and the killer had died five years ago of a stroke while still on death row.

“Is that all you know?” she asked.

“Yeah. It was major-league news this morning, but that was all they seemed to know. They did show a quick clip of a press conference, but it was just double-talk by a Detective Laurent. He basically said they can’t give out any information because the case is under investigation.”

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