Destination Hope – Book 5 – Reconciliation
A Novel By:
Charles J. Patricoff
Copyright © 2014 by Charles J. Patricoff. All rights reserved.
The mayor grabbed the carriage handrail and stooped to clear the low egress. He climbed out of his plush official transportation—near the size of an overland stagecoach. With both feet planted on the dusty street, he scanned his surroundings, straightened his suit jacket, and called over his right shoulder to his driver, “Take the horses and coach to the livery down the street and make sure the horses are well fed and watered.”
“Yes, sir,” the driver said, loud enough to be heard over the rousing piano music resonating from inside the saloon and inn located on the east side of the Harpeth River on the main road to Nashville, Tennessee. The driver gazed in the ordered direction and asked, “How long will you be, your honor?”
Tugging at his jacket and smoothing it along his upper thighs, the mayor said, “At least an hour, Mr. Boyd, maybe longer. I’ll send for you when I’m finished with my business this evening.”
“Yes, sir, your honor. Do you mind if I come in and have a drink myself, sir?”
The mayor glanced at his driver. “I suppose it will be all right. No, I don’t object, Richard.” He leveled a direct glare on his driver. “But try not to lose too much money. I’m not paying you to gamble and drink your wages away.”
A shout and laughter erupted from inside the saloon, causing both men to turn toward the frequented watering hole. “Thank you, sir,” Boyd said. I’ll behave myself, sir. I understand what’s at stake.”
The mayor took a step toward the inn’s entrance. “Sounds like the welcoming party has started. I’ll see you inside, Richard.”
Former Confederate Army captain and prisoner of war Mr. Richard Boyd slapped the reins and whistled a command to the two horses. As the coach eased forward, he called over his shoulder, “Enjoy your evening, Mr. Merritt, sir.”
The mayor waved and with a broad grin said, “I’m sure I will.”
Mayor Jason Merritt, Esquire, pushed open the swinging gate-like half doors and stepped into the cigar smoke-filled saloon. The stench of stale, home distilled, corn-mash whiskey caused his nostrils to flair. The attentive bartender’s eyes caught Jason’s. Drying a shot glass, he nudged a patron with his right elbow. When the guest raised his eyes, the keeper tilted his head in the entrance’s direction. The man swiveled and hopped off his stool shouting, “There he is.”
Jason smiled his broad, toothy grin and began shaking the hands of his new constituents and “friends.”As the greetings and false praises for accepting the appointment grew, Jason’s countenance softened. He appeared like a man who had taken his first bite of a delicious, cooked to perfection, marbled steak. He moved through the crowd of well-wishers as he made his way to the dance hall’s small stage that upheld a smiling piano player on its right side. The sweating musician tickled the keys and stomped his feet to an upbeat tune. A thin wooden podium stood in the center while two Federal soldiers guarded both ends of the stage. A new American flag stood in its proper place of honor on the left end.
As if moved by a mystical power, Mayor Merritt almost glided to the lectern. He held up both hands as if greeting the two dozen, Caucasian male audience. Most of the men sat at various wooden tables in the hall—some round, some rectangular. A few folded their arms and leaned against the parameter walls. The grumblings subsided as more lent their attention to the newest resident of their community. Mayor Merritt inhaled and shouted, “Hello, Franklin, Tennessee.”
The men responded with a respectful applause.
“I can’t thank you enough for coming here tonight and giving me such a warm welcome.”
One of the many gray and white bearded men harrumphed. “Where else would we be, Yank? You think we’d want to be home having to bear listening to our womenfolk clamor in our ears?”
The twenty-four community elders laughed. Mayor Merritt joined with them. He understood that he, being a Yankee appointed official, violated their long-held American tradition of self-governance. He stepped away from the podium and his prepared speech. He let his laughter subside to a slight chuckle and approached these proud volunteers from a different, unfamiliar, angle. He decided to tell them the truth—well, maybe partial truth. “Gentlemen, I won’t pretend to understand what it might be like to have a perfect stranger come into your town and assume all local authority.”
His driver, Mr. Richard Boyd, entered the saloon and took a standing position just to the right of the door in front of a large glass window that revealed the torch-lit thoroughfare beyond. Boyd nodded at his boss.
Encouraged by an associate’s face, Jason said, “While I’m here representing the United States Federal government, you have my word that I will do all within my power and office of Mayor to represent your interests as well.”
A few skeptical grumblings surfaced, and Jason noticed one of the scarce military service age men lean over and say something to a possible fifty-year old table companion with well-leathered features.
Jason said, “For example, the government charged me with a key objective—to restore and maintain order in this fine town, which bears the name of one of our finest founders.” He paused for affect.
Several men grunted and nodded their assent.
Jason turned toward the right side of his audience. “I’m sure you have all heard about the ragamuffin gangs roaming the woods and preying on those who travel between towns or raiding the surrounding farms.” He placed his hands on the podium and twisted his head to make a connection with those to his left. “We all know that this anarchy cannot be tolerated by an open, yet ordered society.” Now he squared his shoulders and faced forward. “As a community, we all want to see the return of civilian, rather than military, control as soon as possible.” Noticing some patrons gazing at the posted guards, he pursed his lips and blinked in rapid succession a few times as if to emphasize his last appeal.
As he let the gravity of their common objective register, he noticed a couple of men speaking to each other, as if they understood and agreed with his point. One member of the crowd shouted, “What do you propose to do, Yank?”
Jason released his practiced smile as he leaned forward over the lectern. “I confess this is where I will need the help of every man in this county who wants to re-establish self-governance.”
“Answer Johnson’s question, mister. We ain’t got no time for no double speak.”
One of the armed Yankee guards swiveled in the direction of the angry voice. Jason held up both hands in a surrendering gesture and pushed to his point. “We need to conduct a civil election for a man to serve as Williamson County Sherriff. Whoever we elect, I promise to work with that man to help organize a volunteer deputy corps with police power to bring these menacing lawless ruffians to justice. We will prove to the Federal authorities we no longer need their—” he cleared his throat— “assistance. And, that we can be trusted with the God-given gift of self-governance.”
He struck the positive note. Their ears finally heard what they wanted to hear. Their new Federal government’s appointed mayor might work out after all. They responded with an enthusiastic applause. Many cheered.
Jason said, “Well my friends, and I do expect us to become friends, I want you to enjoy this evening, and I’ve instructed our fine bartender, Mr. Walters, to grant each of you a drink on me.”
A ruckus ovation erupted. Some men headed for the bar. Jason finished, “I hope I get a chance to meet and speak with each of you tonight. Gentlemen, thank you for your attention and may God bless our town, Franklin, Tennessee.”
Another cheer burst forth, and Jason waved. He stepped from the stage. He began greeting some, while others took full advantage of his generous offer and lined up at the bar. After a few minutes, one of the Yankee guards, a sergeant, approached and came to a rigid attention right next to Jason. He said, “Sir, my Captain would like a word with you.”
Jason nodded. “If you will please excuse me, gentlemen. I apparently have some official business to attend to with our government occupiers. Hopefully, I won’t be too long.” He addressed his Yankee helper. “Lead the way, Sergeant.”
The inn owners configured one top-floor room into its finest “Franklin Suite.” It was less accommodating than Jason had grown accustomed to, but for a small town it was more than comfortable. The office area contained a desk and storage credenza under a window, which overlooked the river with a good view of the town. It also had a sitting area with a couch, a short serving table and two cushioned leather-wingback chairs useful for conducting informal conferences. Of course, the suite contained a separate private bedroom.
Again, it may not be up to the new mayor’s standards, but it served as his home for now and the foreseeable future. He had plans to have the inn add an indoor water closet like many of the larger, more modern northern cities. If he was going to drag this town forward, he would lead the way in establishing current civilized conveniences.
A Yankee Captain sat with his legs crossed in one of the leather, wingback chairs. He leaned his head against the cushioned tall back and seemed to savor his cigar.
The new mayor of Franklin sat across from him on the couch and said, “I thought the evening went very well. What’s your opinion, Sean?”
“Much smoother than I expected, sir. I am curious, how could you be so confident that you would be able to win them over?”
“It’s really quite simple, Captain. There are three, timeless rules of politics, and if you follow them with a cheerful smile on your face, you’ll succeed every time.”
“Yes, Captain O’Brien. And a maxim.” Jason grinned. “The overarching maxim is nothing in politics just happens, it’s always well planned in advance. Following this principle makes applying the rules easy. The first is, the Master Politician must know his audience—the masses are asses, easily manipulated, and incapable of governing themselves. They need strong leadership, but they don’t want to be ruled by a king. They want to believe they have a say in their future. A Master Politician will give them the illusion of participation. The second rule applies once the leader has the people believing that he is capable of meeting the first rule’s key need.”
“So, what is the second rule?”
“With the broadest, yet most sincere, friendliest smile, tell them what they want to hear. If it is an election year, those useful and useless idiots will vote for the one who resonates with the voters. Even if a friendly, smiling leader feeds them a mouthful of lies, because they’ve had their ears tickled, they won’t discern the truth. You saw how they responded to the idea of holding a special election for a new sheriff. They want to govern themselves. We will promote this illusion. Now, for this campaign we need to select our candidate before we let him run for office. If we control the message…”
“That’s why you wanted Boyd here.”
“You’ve got it. If we control the flow of information, those simpletons downstairs will elect our man.”
“Okay, so what’s the third rule?”
“If you give them something, anything, of some perceived value…”
“Like a free whiskey?”
“Yes, Captain, like free liquor. If kept intoxicated, it's easy to manipulate and control them.”
“How long do you think one drink will keep them on your side?”
“Oh, there will be other things and opportunities. Tonight softens them up to the notion of letting a Yankee into their circles. After a few more gifts,” Mayor Merritt expounded with a wink, “they’ll start following me where ever I lead them. The more you provide for them, the more they will support you with what little they have.” He grinned. “And I will need all they have to be re-elected in the ’66 election. Then, I can turn my attention to the future gubernatorial race.”
O’Brien pulled the riding glove from his right hand and raked his fingers through his hair. He shook his head slow and soft. “Hum. Boyd’s vices could become a liability. Do you have someone else in mind in case…?”
“I’m not sure yet, but this is where your, special talents will be of service.”
“You want me to find a man we can trust.”
“Take your time and make sure. Be cautious of anyone who might be too ambitious.”
Mayor Merritt laughed. After he recovered, his eyes bore into his Federal associate. “I see we have an understanding.”
Captain O’Brien nodded and took a long draw on his cigar. Exhaling the bluish smoke, he said, “Well, I don’t know about the man for the job at this point in time. However, I do have a woman who could be of valuable service to you, sir.” He gestured with his chin in the direction of the bedroom.
Jason’s smile broadened. “I see you’ve already learned the rules well, O’Brien.”