As we crested the ridge and climbed over the stonewall, the scene surrounding the field hospital was of organized chaos. Army medics went from stretcher to stretcher, identifying those that could be moved, those that needed immediate emergency care, and those that needed a priest or coroner. Army troop carriers were being loaded with wounded as soon as they stopped. The field hospital had been staffed with a number of nurses and several doctors who were already performing lifesaving surgery. Behind me, a stream of wounded continued to make its way to the hospital.
On a great black horse sat the man who had represented General Hancock, the union general in charge of the field in 1863. He directed men from the saddle, trotting his great steed from place to place. I stopped him and yelled up, “General, do we have a crisis command center?”
He looked down at me and pointed towards a small white house to the left and back a hundred yards from the top of the ridge. This had been where General Meade had set up his command center. “I would start there, Colonel,” he replied. I heard him call to arriving troops to assist men carrying stretchers over the wall.
Claire and I arrived at the Historic house. We were directed by a young corporal to the rear of the house where a large white tent had been erected as the event coordination center. Now it housed an emergency command center that teamed with officers who shouted commands at ensigns that ran in and out carrying out orders. Trying to figure out who was in charge of this mess was going to be difficult. I heard a familiar voice off to my right and turned to see Agent Cliff Rossi of Homeland Security. He yelled into his cell phone attempting to be heard through the clamor. I had met Agent Rossi through his wife, the AIC (Agent in Charge) of the FBI Boston field office during the Casey kidnapping the previous summer. Agent Francesca Rossi had played a pivotal role in helping solve the case and saving my ass in the end. We had met on social occasions a few times since and that’s how I had met Cliff.
As soon as he saw Claire and I, he disconnected his call. “Jack, were you over on that ridge?” he asked as he looked at the blood covering both Claire and I.
“Yes, but we were lucky enough to avoid the explosions. What are you doing here, is Francesca with you?”
“We’re here on vacation and then this shit happens. Francesca is over there somewhere trying to reach the closest FBI office. Homeland Security is setting up a command center to coordinate all the agencies that are going to be involved in this, but it’s going to take time. What’s with the uniform, Jack? Are you a reenactor?”
“Yeah, 20th Maine regiment, commander Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was my ancestor. Who’s in charge of the investigation?”
“The FBI eventually, but it’s going to take a while to get them involved.”
“I want to talk to Francesca and then the pyrotechnics company that worked on getting the explosions in the field ready.”
“OK, come let’s go find her.”
He led the way towards the back of the tent where an open flap let in both the sunlight and gentle warm summer breeze. As we exited, we saw Francesca walking towards the tent. Her short black hair was concealed under a Boston Red Sox cap but her dark Italian skin and prominent nose was unmistakable. She saw us and her intense eyes softened slightly then changed to a look of concern as she noticed the blood on our faces and hands.
“Claire, Jack, are you two OK?” She asked as she quickly scanned each of us for any obvious wounds.
“We’re OK,” said Claire. “We were on the ridge when the explosions started. We were lucky during the second round as we were in the field.”
“Thank God, this whole thing is a fucking nightmare. The Philadelphia office has mobilized an investigation team, but that will be hours before they arrive. The local AIC asked me to work with local officials for now.”
“Do you mind if we get involved?” I asked.
“Anything you can help with, Jack, would be great. I have the Captain of the local police and the Gettysburg National Park Service Law Enforcement Ranger meeting me here in fifteen minutes to begin what actions we can. Luckily the Army Reserves have a barracks on Fairfield Rd or we would not have enough men and ambulances to move all the casualties.”
“I want to find the pyrotechnics people that set the dummy charges. Someone set real charges in their place or alongside the dummies. I want to talk to everyone involved with setting up the field. Who would know where to find these guys?”
“The event coordinator for the park service should. She’s inside the tent or at least was.” We followed Francesca into the tent and she pointed out a middle-aged woman that appeared to be ex-military by her bearing and command of those around her, issuing a string of orders as we approached. She told us that the “Pyro people” were located in the forward barn on the far right of the ridge. They set up from the loft that gave them a superb view of the field.
I was the first to exit the front of the tent and immediately felt the intense heat of the July day. I wanted to shed the wool coat I wore over my uniform, but it was a family heirloom and I wasn’t about to leave it behind. I noticed Ellis Spear standing by the corner of the tent and tossed him the jacket, asking that he get it to my father. He just nodded in a daze; I hoped he even understood what I had asked him to do.
Claire was behind me, her hair stuck to her forehead with sweat and blood from the field. Her once cream-colored shirt was now covered in dirt and streaked with blood as well. Cliff was behind her but Rossi had stayed behind to wait for the local authorities.
I approached the open barn door, after sprinting the hundred yards from the tent, and took the stairs to the loft two at a time. The loft no longer contained hay but was a wide-open space with large double loft doors open to a spectacular view of the battlefield.
“Shit,” I said as I ran to the corner of the loft where three men lay in a pile, as if someone had just thrown them there, discarded as old clothes. I felt for a pulse on the first victim. All three were dead. The rest of the room was empty but for the pyrotechnics control panel, there was nowhere for any killers to hide.
Cliff emerged from the top of the stairs and I hollered to him. “Cliff, find out the company doing the pyrotechnics. Ask them who ran things here. We need to find out if any of them are still alive.” Cliff immediately called Francesca and asked her to find this out for him.
“Jesus, Jack. What the fuck is going on,” asked Claire as she looked over the floor. “They were shot here and dragged over there.”
“All three were head shots, one had a wound through his hand, and I guess he saw it coming. Whoever did this had it well planned.”
“You’re right, Jack,” said Cliff from behind Claire. “This isn’t some mistake, this is terrorism.”