Tales of Old 11-Hearts of Ash

By: Pat Tompkins
Read by: Shawn Robertson

Period: American Civil War
Setting: New York City

Not all of the action in the Civil War happened on the battlefield. Today’s historical fiction brings us back to that time in New York of spies, saboteurs, and assassins.

Hearts of Ash

The men in the park huddled, their breath mingling in a smoky haze around their heads. In the chilly November twilight, they appeared to be gathered around a fire for warmth. Had a passerby gotten a close look, he would have seen them peering at a heap of rags. But the men were in a shallow vale, surrounded by boulders and trees, not on a stretch of lawn. They did not want to be seen.

“We’ve been humbugged by that chemist,” said Ezra. He turned his head away from the circle and spat.

Rob held up his hand, as though to signal stop while keeping his eyes on the watch in his other hand. Another thirty seconds passed before the rags burst into flame. “Ha,” Rob shouted. “Just short of six minutes,” he said as they backed away from the blaze.

“Six? Seemed like twice that,” said Ezra. He tugged a handkerchief out of his jacket pocket and blew his nose.

“That’s no humbug,” said James, punching Ezra’s shoulder. “Gives us time to get away.”

“Exactly,” Rob said.

Ezra held his hands over the fire while another of the group said, “That’s enough of that,” and poured a scoop of dirt over the rags. James added double handfuls of dirt and the two men stamped out the fire. Seven minutes had passed since they wet the rags with “Greek fire,” a mixture similar to the explosives used in hand grenades. Then the rags seemed to combust spontaneously. The test had worked. The stuff was good.

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