He couldn't tell if it was his feet beating on the ground or his heart thudding against his chest. He held his hand before him, but he could barely see it through the mist. Or was it smoke?
The wailing again. Or was it the wind? He whipped around, his heaving breaths drowning out anything else.
He wasn't sure when he'd dropped his rifle. He wasn't sure how long he'd been stumbling blindly, his lids clenched against burning tears.
Ashes floated like the snow in Boston, swirling to form a dark column looming in the mist. No, not ashes---the column of the plantation house. Had he blundered about in a circle?
The stench of scorched earth, burnt wood---of cooked flesh and hair clung to every breath he took. It always would.
The wailing again, from beyond the columns. No, not the wind.
Why hadn't they answered before, when he'd called? Before he'd touched the torch to the velvet drapes. Before the screams. Before his men had dragged him from beneath the collapsing beams.
They were still screaming, pleading, flames licking at their skirts like bright flowers. Nobody could stop him this time.
Body Found in Fire Believed Lancer
Morro Coyo, California: Charred remains believed to be those of Lt. Scott Garret Lancer, former Union officer and son of prominent local rancher Murdoch Lancer, were discovered the morning of November 1st in a bonfire for the disposal of cattle carcasses on the Lancer ranch. Lancer was last seen retiring the previous evening. According to friends of the family, exactly one year previous to this date (October 31st of last year) Lancer had been pulled from a fire while sleepwalking. It is suspected Lancer may have experienced a similar sleepwalking incident that went undiscovered until the following morning. A Boston native, Lancer was a decorated war hero, having served under General Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley campaign. He moved to California to join his father last year. The family was not available for comment.