Chapter 1

Two-Year-Old Surprises

Francis "Buck" Bucksen, formerly a soldier in the Confederate Army, was returning home.

Or, at least whatever's left of home. The lanky twenty-five year old thought to himself, who knows if home's even still standing!

Buck, the name Francis preferred, stopped his weary horse and surveyed the landscape around him. He was on the border between Louisiana and Texas and he wanted one last look at the swampy terrain that he had called home for the last four years. With a sigh, Buck turned his horse and galloped away through the trees, toward the distant Texas hills.

Buck was by nature a quiet man, noticing in detail everything around him, without offering a single comment, unless asked. The captain in charge of the regiment Buck had been in had often praised Buck for keeping his cool in the most chaotic of situations and for being the one with the best tracking abilities. Not only that, Buck was a dead shot with any kind of gun, but especially his Witworth sharp shooting rifle. He could easily hit a small target from fifteen hundred yards away. Despite all the friends that he had made and the fame he had received as a sharpshooter in the army, Buck still felt lonely.

When he was only seven years old, Buck and his parents had moved from their home in North Carolina to Central Texas, leaving behind all manner of relations. By the time Buck was nearing his twenties, no one could have even guessed that he hadn't been born in Texas. He was tanned from years out in the wilderness and his soft Texas drawl neatly accented his brown hair and pale blue eyes.

Only one year before the American Civil War had started, both of Buck's parents had gotten sick and passed away within five months of each other. This left Buck, just twenty at the time, to fend for himself in the wilds of Texas. He spent the next year improving his shooting, tracking and woodsman skills, before joining the Confederate Army in 1861.

Now, since the war was over, Buck was returning to the only home that he knew: the rolling hills of central Texas. As Buck made his way through the tall pines of east Texas, he had the strangest feeling that something was wrong. He could never say exactly what it was, until he broke through a particularly thick strand of trees and came upon what was left of a wagon train. Immediately he thought of Indians, and stayed concealed for several minutes before being reassured that there was no sign of life.

Slowly, Buck advanced upon the destroyed wagons, constantly keeping his eye out for any sign of life. Everyone was dead, at least everyone that he could see, but the strangest thing was that the bodies were untouched. If Indians had indeed pulled off this raid, the people of the wagon train would be unrecognizable.

Curious, Buck looked into the first wagon and was quite surprised to see that all of that family's possessions were untouched. He searched the other five wagons and found the same thing: all items had been left, save any and all food, money and guns. If Indians had indeed been the cause of this attack, they would have taken everything, including all the scalps of the people. Instead, the deceased owners of the wagons had been left alone after being killed.

At that point, one thing became quite clear to Buck: Indians were not responsible for this raid! But why? Why would someone have attacked a harmless wagon train and only taken food, money and guns? Who would have done that? What was the point? Whoever had done the attack, hadn't even tried to make it look as if Indians had done it.

Why?

That was the main question. Obviously, the people responsible wanted no witnesses and they didn't care who died in order for them to get the things that they so desperately wanted.

A small cry interrupted Buck's thought. He froze, trying to discern what direction the sound had come from. The cry sounded again followed closely by another, and Buck followed the sound until he reached the body of one of the dead women. Even though Buck was used to the sight of death, having been in the army, the sight of an innocent young woman lying lifeless on the ground, made his blood boil. The cry sounded once again and Buck knew that it came from underneath the young woman. Buck turned the woman over and found two small, heavily wrapped bundles that were now crying incessantly.

Shocked that even these two children were still alive, Buck hesitated before he gently picked up both bundles. It was a very young set of twins, no older than two years old. No doubt the only reason that they were alive was because their mother had protected them with her own body.

The twins looked as if they were identical. Both had green-hazel eyes and dusty blonde hair, in fact the only difference between the two was their clothes. A difference that caught Buck by surprise. One was a boy, the other a girl.

Now Buck was in turmoil. Had they both been boys, he would have been much relieved and would have gladly raised them both himself. But now a little girl was thrown into the mix and Buck didn't know what he should do. He couldn't raise this innocent girl child without a mother and he wasn't about to get married. He had to leave her with a decent, loving family so that she could grow up with everything she needed. But who could he leave her with?

Suddenly, he knew. There was a young couple he had known before the war that had no children of their own: he could leave the little girl with them, until he found their relatives, if they even had any.

"It'll be perfect!" Buck said aloud to himself, more than the children.

The twins had quieted since Buck had picked them up and he smiled at the two sleeping bundles. He stood up carefully and carried them over to his horse. He took his extra blanket from behind his saddle and wrapped the twins in it. Placing them in a safe location on the ground, he knew he couldn't leave yet; there was something he had to do first.

Later that afternoon, Buck washed his hands off in a nearby stream and looked at his finished work. A crude cairn of rocks and loose shale covered the bodies of the people of the wagon train. It wasn't a very nice burial, but Buck knew it was all he could give. He recited the Lord's Prayer quietly and turned back to his horse.

"Now we can go, Charlie." He told his chocolate-brown gelding. "I hope you don't mind carrying a little extra weight."

Buck picked up the twins from their spot on the ground and mounted his horse. Putting his horse into a smooth canter, he headed in the direction of what he hoped would be the girl's new home.