Chapter 1

     A pickup truck shot out of the entrance of Harrison Landing Road, passing a sign nailed to the trunk of a loblolly pine. The homemade placard, lettered in red paint on plywood, pointed the way back to this weekend’s reenactment: Civil War ↑.
     Driving the pickup, Raleigh Fuqua, the captain of his company, chauffeured three members of the 14th Virginia Infantry in his Dodge Ram. Gordon Barrett rode shotgun. Raleigh couldn’t think less of Gordon, but with real wars going on, it was hard to fill the ranks for past wars. In the backseat, Pat McCandlish, an engineer by day, sat with Gordon’s fifteen-year-old nephew Hezekiah Shreve, the color bearer of the unit.
     Raleigh careened around a fork in the gravel road, barreling down the drive to Westover, the James River plantation of William Byrd II, the founder of Richmond.
     Gordon braced himself against the dashboard. “Slow down, Raleigh, before you kill us all.”
     Raleigh clutched the steering wheel. “We don’t have
much time. We need to get back for the dance tonight. I just wanted to check out where McClellan’s men were bombarded by Stuart.” He rumbled along the tree-lined lane another mile, kicking up dust.
     Pat moved forward in his seat and grabbed Gordon’s headrest. “Turn here.”
     Raleigh reeled left onto a bypath and followed it until ending at the edge of a soybean field. The men piled out except for Hezekiah, keeping in his seat and listening to music on his iPod.
     Pat walked toward an adjacent grove of beech trees and yelled over his shoulder, “I have to go see a man about a horse.”
     From the bed of the truck, Gordon lifted out his metal
detector and turned it on.
     “We agreed you weren’t going to use that.” Raleigh scanned the perimeter to make sure no one saw them. “This is private land. You don’t have permission to hunt here.” Raleigh’s irritated voice rose. “I’m sure the whole area has been picked clean. You’re not going to find anything. Put it back in the truck before you get us all arrested.”
     Gordon stepped away from Raleigh, and the detector beeped.
     Raleigh scoffed. “False signal, I’m sure.”
     Gordon waved the detector back and forth across the ground and received a resonating ding, ding, ding.
Raleigh’s black mustache twisted. “It’s probably a pull tab.”
     Pat cut his call of nature short and crashed out of the woods. He moved toward Gordon, fumbling to button the pants of his Confederate uniform. “Sounds like a good target.”
     Gordon worked the search coil in crossing sweeps to pinpoint the object. To mark the spot, he dug the heel of his right brogan into the ground, then turned off the detector and set it down.
     Gordon looked at Pat. “What do you think it is?”
     “Don’t know, but it seems to be big or a lot of it.”
     Raleigh sneered. “Yeah, a lot of trash.”
     Gordon boomed, “Hezekiah, bring me my shovel.” Hezekiah pulled out his earbuds.
     Gordon hollered again. “Bring me my shovel. It’s in the
back of the cab.”
     The gangly teenager jumped out of the truck and fetched the little relic shovel.
     Raleigh grabbed for the shovel as Hezekiah approached. “Let me do it.”
     Gordon snagged the spade before Raleigh could and eased it into the sandy Tidewater soil, careful not to damage what he was looking for. With the shovel halfway into the ground, he announced, “Got something.”
     Gordon tried another spot a few inches away, netting the same result. After several scoops, he’d removed enough earth to see the top of an iron box. He threw the shovel aside, and in unison, all four men dropped to their knees, feverishly clawing out the dirt with their hands. In a few minutes, they had dug around a strongbox with a padlock hanging from it. They lifted it out of the hole by its metal handles.
     “Heavy as hell.” Raleigh strained his small frame.
     Gordon gently clasped the padlock and let go. “We should try to save the lock.”
     Raleigh snatched the shovel lying on the ground and with a lightning downward thrust broke off the lock.
     “So much for saving it,” Gordon said as he released the latch and slowly lifted the lid, revealing rows of paper cylinders.
     They each grabbed one of the cylinders and opened them like rolls of Ritz Crackers to unveil gold coins.
     Pat plucked one of the coins from his roll. “Wow, it’s a
Liberty Head, 1858.”
     Raleigh pulled out a coin. “This one’s 1860.” He flipped it over to read the tail side. “United States of America, Twenty D,” he proclaimed. “I’ll be damned, twenty-dollar gold pieces.”
     Gordon closely examined a coin, holding the edges between his forefinger and thumb to prevent from damaging it. “Coronet double eagle, almost an ounce of gold.” He racked his brain trying to determine the origin of the precious medallions. “It’s the same kind of coinage taken from the Confederate treasury and put on the second to last train out of Richmond when it fell in April of 1865.” He hesitated. “It can’t be from the treasure train. All that gold was dispersed from Greensboro to Georgia."
     Hezekiah checked the dates on his coins, flipping through a roll like a mini-record bin, and reading out each date louder than the last one. “1859, 1861, 1857, 1860.” Hezekiah crescendoed. “None of them is after 1861.”
     Hearts raced, heads pounded, and limbs quaked from the excitement of the find. Above all, sweat poured as they tried to remain calm in their wool uniforms under the June sun.
     Gordon, a guy who seldom stopped talking, found it hard to speak when it dawned on him. “It must be part of the British loan to the Confederacy supposed to be buried near Berkeley Plantation, and Berkeley is right over there.” Gordon pointed in the direction they had come.
     “It doesn’t matter where it came from.” Raleigh reached for more rolls. “It’s ours now.”
     Gordon swiftly slammed the lid down on the box. “Get your hands off and give me back those coins. You didn’t even want me to pull out my detector.”
     Raleigh protested. “I didn’t know you were going to find Confederate gold. I’m sure we can work something out.”
     “Go screw yourself, Raleigh.”
     Raleigh snapped back. “Did you forget who drove you here? You going to walk back to Richmond with that chest of gold?”
     Pat stepped in between Raleigh and Gordon. “Take it easy.”
     Raleigh gaped down at the chest. “There’s probably enough gold here for all of us to retire. We can do whatever we want.”
     Gordon held a roll of gold tightly in one hand and kept a foot on the lid of the coffer. “I don’t think you’ll be retiring anytime soon, Raleigh, but I can buy that cannon I’ve always wanted. Hell, I can buy a whole battery of cannons.”
     Tears welled up in Hezekiah’s adolescent eyes. “You’re
just a bunch of hypocrites, aren’t you? All I ever hear you all talking about is saving Civil War battlefields, saving the hallowed ground. Now we have some money to save them, so why don’t we?”
     Pat put his hand on Hezekiah’s shoulder. “The boy has a point.”
     Raleigh raised his voice. “This is different. We just won the lottery. This is a once in a lifetime deal.”
     Hezekiah, normally intimidated by Raleigh, challenged him. “I thought one of the reasons we’re reenacting is to raise money to save battlefields to honor the men who fought. You keep saying all the battlefields that aren’t already gone will be gone in ten years if somebody doesn’t do something. Well, now we’re somebody who has a chance to do something.”
     Gordon shook his head in embarrassment. “Hezekiah is right. We could prevent another ‘Manasshole.’ We can leave a legacy. I don’t know how much gold is here, but we’ve got a chance to save some ground.”
     Raleigh’s face tensed up. “Gentlemen, that’s a nice, lofty idea, but I don’t think we should be too hasty. We don’t even know how much this gold is worth. There may be plenty enough to buy some battlefield land and set part of the gold aside for ourselves.”
     Pat peeled back his kepi and scratched his head. “We might as well try to donate it to a charity. We’re not going to be able to keep this gold.”
     One of Raleigh’s eyes started ticcing. “What do you mean we’re not going to be able to keep the gold?”
     “Once we remove these coins, we’ve probably broken a half-dozen laws, and when the word gets out, the federal, state, and local governments are all going to want their cut, and the landowner and the descendants of the previous landowners, plus all their ex-wives, will want a piece of it.”
     Raleigh looked around in paranoia. “We can decide what we’re going to do later. Let’s just get it out of here before somebody sees us.”
     Gordon pushed back his shoulder-length brown hair underneath his slouch hat, then stroked his orange beard with one hand and drummed his fingers on his sizable stomach with the other. “We’ll take it back to my place and count it.”
     Raleigh rubbed his eye, trying to make his tic go away. “Fine. Fill in the hole.”