“Sergeant, we were told to go out, capture members of Mosby’s Rangers, bring back the partisans to Captain Cole at Warrenton, and that’s that. You order me to charge into a small farmhouse. You start shooting, killing two women and three kids; any of Mosby’s men around? No. Burning the farmhouse to the ground won’t hide what we did here.”
“Shut up, Private Bixby! Maybe you forgot who’s in charge!”
“You’re in charge; I’m just worried,” says the thin but muscularly built twenty year-old private, born and raised on a small Vermont farm. Though he is slight of build, he is of a violent temper, ready to use his fists to settle problems. “Here we are in the Virginia back country, who knows where,” says Bixby.
“Private, we are just outside of Rectors Cross Roads near Goose Creek, ok?”
“Yeah, Sarge, in the middle of Mosby’s Confederacy.” With fear in his voice, the private says, “They’ll kill us you know.”
“Listen and listen good,” says Sergeant Hennessy, a wicked character ten years Bixby’s senior. A burly man with a full beard, Hennessy thinks the Civil War is a time for a killer like him to commit his evil acts. “I charged into that place thinking there were Rangers holed up in there. Mistakes happen; this was a mistake. I’ll get us out of this fix.”
It is a dark December night in Northern Virginia, 1863. The largest snow storm in years is pounding down on the two murders. Private Bixby had charged into the small two-room farmhouse behind the sergeant, leaving when Hennessy started to shoot, deciding to stand outside with the mounts, and waiting for Sergeant Hennessy to complete his murderous deed. He was a willing accomplice to the killings, helping burn down the farmhouse in which the two families had been waiting out the cold snowy night. Their husbands, members of Mosby’s Rangers, were out capturing a Union wagon train near Aldie, Virginia. The rage of Mosby and his Rangers would befall these two Union cavalrymen, once their deed was discovered. So it was that very night, by six Rangers not on a raid, but given the task of checking the well-being of families in the area. Once the Rangers rode up to the smoking ruins of the Taylor farm containing the snow-covered charred remains of two families, Private Bixby and Sergeant Hennessy became game to be hunted down and hanged from the nearest tree. The Rangers knew the killers didn’t have much of a lead, with the hoof prints of two horses and two sets of foot prints still fresh in the snow.
“We walk our horses out, head to the Ashby Gap Turnpike, mount, and head east. Now let’s get out of here before we do get seen by Mosby.”
“Great idea, Sergeant. One problem —we can’t see three feet in front of us. The snow is up to our knees, and guess what else—we are goin’ to freeze out here.”
“Just follow me, Private, and keep your mouth shut.” No sooner does the sergeant speak these words than the sound of muffled rifle shots in the distance is heard by the two cavalrymen-turned-desperados. “Private Bixby, did you see where those shots came from?”
“No, I can’t see a thing, Sergeant.”
“Well, forget about it; just mount and we’ll try to put some distance between us, that farm, and those rebs.” The two cavalrymen mount their horses and head eastward through a thicket of pine trees. As they guide their horses deeper into the snow-covered woods, the Sergeant, leading the way, doesn’t notice that they have approached Goose Creek’s icy river embankment. The sergeant’s horse tumbles into the freezing creek, head first, immediately killing it and causing the sergeant to be thrown into the creek, breaking his left arm in the fall. The rifle fire has become more rapid and greater in magnitude. Mosby’s Rangers are rapidly closing the distance. “Private, you ain’t going to be leaving me behind!”
“Don’t worry sergeant! I think if I can get you on my horse, then we can move on.”
“Yeah, get me on your horse fast!” The private is more fearful with the nearness of the rifle fire, feeling some anguish now for his actions of that night. Private Bixby dismounts his skittish horse and helps the struggling Sergeant up. The gunfire they have been hearing is now the sound of handguns. The six determined Rangers are closing in, and Private Bixby and Sergeant Hennessy can hear and see the bullets flying around them, snow being thrown up with the impact of rifle and handgun fire, brittle branches falling from trees. “Fire back at them, Private! What are you waiting for?”
“Sergeant, I can’t shoot without my rifle; throw it to me! Quick!” Just as he says that, Bixby’s horse rears its front legs and gallops away, throwing dirty snow and ice up into the cold air, the sergeant bounding away with the private’s Spencer rifle secured to the saddle. Bixby had tripped and fallen into the partially frozen creek when the horse leaped. Now, soaking wet, he jumps up from the cold water to hear Sergeant Hennessy shout out, “You’re on your own, Private! One of us has to make it back!” Bixby is left to fend for himself with only his army colt revolver in his holster; the revolver, being wet, would never fire. If it could fire he would have killed that scoundrel sergeant, himself. With no time to think and bullets hitting tree trunks and ricocheting off rocks, he could think only of running as fast as he could in the ankle deep creek. As he starts to run he takes a quick look back and see’s all six rangers. Four he can see galloping away in the direction of Sergeant Hennessy. He quickly thinks of Hennessy, hoping those Confederates catch him and hang him from the tallest tree.
He comes to his senses realizing two of the Rangers are firing at him. As he turns to run, he feels a sharp pain in the back of his left shoulder, throwing him, again, face first into the creek. Even with the darkness and the incessant snowfall, he can see, as he lay in the creek, large amounts of his bright red blood flowing downstream. The agonizing pain he has been feeling fades away fairly fast; Bixby thinking the intense cold may have numbed the pain. He turns his head expecting those two rangers to be riding up to him, revolvers drawn. But they are nowhere to be found. Private Bixby is now alone feeling bewildered but relieved by the sudden disappearance of the rebels. They had been closing in on him as they fired in his direction, so where did they go? Bixby slowly rises up from the stream, an icy cold wind swirling around him, causing a light mist of snow to brush against his face. He believes he passed out from the gunshot wound and the rebels, leaving him for dead, then took off into the dense forest, seeking their friends in the hunt for Hennessy. As he looks around, he sees a beacon of light deep in the woods, probably a farm maybe a mile away. Knowing he is in partisan country, he fears approaching an enemy dwelling. His hope is that this will be a friendly haven; otherwise, it is sure death in these woods. Heading in the direction of the distant light, the numbness he is experiencing makes his walk through the deep snow unbearably hard, the night being so much darker without the help of a glowing moon.
He approaches the beam of light, and to his amazement, discovers a gigantic Gothic mansion. He reaches a large porch, climbs three steps, walks slowly to the large front door, and knocks several times. Then taking a step back, he admires the Gothic styling of the mansion. Having been in this part of Fauquier County with fellow troopers on raids looking for Mosby, he never noticed such a sprawling mansion. He staggers back when the giant door swings open; Bixby cocks his head to get a quick glance at who’s answering, ready to draw his still wet revolver from his holster. If the person answering the door shows any signs of hostility, fear of possibly being shot may make the occupant think twice about any violence. The thought of killing again is the last thing Bixby wants.
“Hello there, young man. Lost soldier, I take it?” Bixby feels overwhelming relief upon seeing an old man probably in his eighties, thin as a rail, wearing a black frock coat that shows signs of extreme wear and tear, pantaloons that don’t quite reach his ankles, with torn brogans covering his feet. It looks like he can barely stand, let alone put up a fight.
Bixby replies to the old man’s inquiry, “I’m just trying to get back to my unit in Warrenton before daybreak.”
“You, young man, are a long ways from Warrenton. Pray tell, you all have a mighty long trek in a storm that’s never endin.’ By the looks of that wound— well, I don’t see it happenin’. Anyways come in out of the cold. Don’t want you a thinkin’ I’m a bad host,” says the old man.
“Thank you very kindly,” Bixby responds. The thought running through Bixby’s mind is gratitude, being able to walk into a warm shelter and still being alive.
“What’s your name, boy? The folks around these parts call me Enki, Master Enki to be precise.”
“Bixby is my name. What are you? A slave owner?”
“No, no,” laughs the old man, with a shrill, unnerving laugh. “Most folks who enter my dominion are entering of their own free will, just like you. Many soldiers, lately, and I welcome them fellas,” says Enki with a big grin.
Bixby takes his first real look around and asks, “You don’t really have much furniture in this big mansion, and why are all the windows boarded?”
“You’re right,” says the old man with a grin; this is kinda like a reception area to my domain.”
“What are you talking about, old man? What domain?” With that, hundreds of repugnant black bats start flying all over the room; the smell is like burning flesh. Bixby dives to the floor to keep from getting hit by these disgusting beasts. “What’s going on here, old man?” Bixby jumps up, swatting at bats with his revolver and shouting, “Get out of my way, whoever you are!”
“Where do you think you a goin’, boy? If you were a thinkin’ of leavin’, think twice,” says Enki. “Are you a thinkin’ you just happened to find this place? Wrong. You are so wrong! You were summoned here!” shouts old man Enki. Bixby drops his revolver and runs to the door, the bats making his retreat difficult. The door won’t open, no matter how hard he tries. Bixby closes his eyes and puts his hands over his ears, trying to avoid the abhorrent sounding bats and fearful of opening his eyes, not wanting to see the old man. “Do you really think you survived that gun shot? It went through your heart, and you died a painful death in that creek!” Enki shouts, and then laughs a blood-curdling laugh. “Do you want to know what happened to your Sergeant Hennessy? You got your wish! Open your eyes and look!” Bixby tries to keep his eyes closed but hears a painfully loud wailing sound. It’s Hennessy screaming. Bixby opens his eyes to see Hennessy hanging upside down on a very tall cross in total flames, his arms flailing away in the air.
Enki laughingly shouts, “Your sergeant is finally where he belongs, don’t you think?” Bixby then looks directly at the old man who is changing before his eyes. His features are changing, no longer an old man, but a repugnantly sinister creature rising up as high as the twelve foot arched ceiling, large horns protruding from a misshapen head, with eyes that are large, yellow, and piercing, Bixby screams in complete fear and disgust when the monster’s serpent like black tongue protrudes, from a mouth with snake-like lips. Gigantic wings expand from a scaly body that starts to glimmer with what appear as bright shining diamonds. “Welcome to hell!” shouts Satan in gleeful laughter.
Bixby looks around with deep anguish and dread, watches immense flames lapping around him, hears horrible screaming and wailing coming from condemned souls of hell. Bixby, himself, begins screaming in horror, pain, and eternal remorse.