Red Rex

Red Rex

A Story by R J Fuller

No one knows what happened, or why. Will we ever find out? And will it truly be what we want to know?

The car slowly pulled into the gravel driveway. Once stopped, the driver turned off the motor. The young man standing in front of the dwelling stood motionless and watched, waiting to see what the stranger wanted. A young woman stepped out of the driver's side of the vehicle.
"Excuse me," she said. "I'm looking for Arker Montgomery. Would you happen to know where I might find him?"
"What for?" the young man asked.
"Well, I was wanting to inquire about an incident that happened in his family, and I understand he's the oldest living descendant. Do you know where I can find him?"
The young man sorted through some mail he had obviously just retrieved from his mailbox. "Yea, I know where you can find him, but he's not going to be much good to you."
"Can you let me decide that, Mister . . . . ?"
"No, I can decide it for you, Miss . . . . . ?"
"I'm Venala Mason, from the Historical Geneological Research Institute in Washington DC, and I'm hoping Mr. Montgomery can shed some light on the disappearance of a total of nearly one hundred slaves from approximately four plantations in this region that occurred back in the 1850s. Perhaps help determine what happened to those young men."
The fellow opened an envelope and looked at the letter within. "Oh, you're hear about Red Rex. You should have said so."
"Red Rex? What's that?"
"That's generally what we call that around here."
"Is there some way I can speak to Mr. Montgomery?"
"No, ma'm," the young fellow replied, folding up the letter and shoving it in his back pocket, "Uncle Ark is too incapacited nowadays to speak to much of anyone."
"Y-you're uncle? But I understood Arker Montgomery to be a white man."
The young fellow smiled. "He is, but my great-grand-daddy wasn't. He hooked up with Uncle Ark's sister."
"So you're his great-nephew?"
"I'm pretty much his next-of-kind, as far as you are concerned anway. Uncle Ark isn't able to speak to anyone anymore. We just let him rest."
"So there's no one who can tell me about this Red Rex?"
"Well, I think everyone around here has grown up having heard about it, what there was to tell."
"Well, can you clarify matters for me?"
"Davish. Davish Brent."
"What do you know about the disappearance of the slaves, Mr. Brent?"
"Pretty much one of our tall tales, I guess you would say, and it was from three plantations, not four. That's why we don't worry about talking about it much anymore, or bother Uncle about it. Details as best as we can tell them get so misconstrued. I've heard it as little as two plantations, but it was from three."
"Nothing but male slaves?"
"Uh-huh. Just over ninety young men mostly, couple of teens, about two guys in their late thirties or so. First bunch disappeared on a Friday in October, second bunch on the Saturday from the second plantation, one or two more from the first plantation, then everybody was fired up and ready to shoot anybody trying to take anymore slaves, or prevent any slaves from running away, but a good dozen disappeared from the third plantation that Sunday night. That was about 1852, I believe."
"Were they runaway slaves?"
"Nobody could ever determine that. Oh, the white folk said it must be. After the first night, they beat a couple of guys to tell them what happened, but they didn't know, so they couldn't say anything, no matter how much they were whipped."
"How awful."
"Well, those guys that were beaten and I think one more fellow were the ones who disappeared the second night from that first plantation, along with the second bunch from the second plantation. That really made some white people mad."
"I suppose there was retaliation in whippings and hangings?"
"Believe it or not, the white folk tried a different tactic and sought to just threaten the remaining slaves, not to leave or anything."
"Then the third night?"
"That was the last set. Not as many that time, so the white folk decided they had scared anymore slaves from running away. And that was when some slaves said they saw the person taking them and he called himself Red Rex."
"They saw him?"
"Said he was like a demon, dressed in dark brown, wearing a red hat, gloves and scarf. He told them he was going to free the slaves, but he only took about a dozen from the third plantation. He wouldn't take anymore and some of those he took, didn't want to go with him, but he didn't care. Those who willingly followed him forced those who didn't want to go to leave."
"It was like he had certain ones he wanted?"
"Speculation was he took those descended from a certain African tribe, but the specific tribe changed over the years."
Venala listened to Davish's story, then asked, "he took a white woman, too, didn't he?"
Davish laughed at that one. He tossed a sales paper to a nearby lawn chair. "No, no white women were taken. Two slave women disappeared from the first plantation, but no one could pinpoint if they disappeared the first night or when they vanished, so nobody knew if Red Rex took them. Some slaves on the third night said there was some women with Rex, but it was too dark to say who they were."
"And it was just deduced to be runaway slaves by the plantation owners?"
"Pretty much. Things got rough for the slaves around here then. Some tried to run away, some succeeded, many didn't. White people just got angrier."
"So how does your great-uncle figure into this?"
"Well, in a matter of time, the slaves were freed, the plantations went under, everybody began share-cropping and the whole routine, people just kind of avoided where those plantations had been, especially black people, but white people steered clear too, having heard it was white women who disappeared there. None of the buildings were left standing, not even the white people's homes. But years later, Uncle Arker and some friends of his went out one night to cause trouble. They were looking for a black guy to lynch."
"What? Oh, no."
"Yep. This guy had gotten Uncle Arker's older sister pregnant with a black baby."
Venala's expression went blank as she stared at Davish. He threw her a look back, then turned away to look in the distance.
"He was going to lynch your great-grandfather?"
"That's right. They got my great-grandfather, beat him up pretty good and took him out on the edge of the woods, intending to string him up, but they thought they had picked a good and obscure location when in fact they were close to the abandoned plantations."
"What? What happened?"
"One of the guys said he thought they were near where the slaves had disappeared and Uncle Arker seemed to not care. They put the rope around great-grand-daddy's neck and Uncle Arker pulled on the rope and fell backward across the ground, the noose twirling high in the air with nobody in it."
"Where was your great-grandfather?"
"As Uncle told it, great-granddad vanished, like those slaves. Some of those white guys said they saw a dark figure and it must have been Red Rex they'd heard of, so they started running away. Uncle Arker was still on the ground and struggling to get up, when he heard twigs snapping, grass rustling, getting nearer. Said he smelled something strange, too, that he'd never smelled before. Then he looked up and saw just a dark, shadowy figure. Couldn't see his face in the dark. The fellow reached out and grabbed Uncle Ark by the scruff of his neck and hauled him up and just said, "Almost, but you're not it," then the fellow turned and left."
"So Arker Montgomery is the last person to have ever heard this Red Rex speak. He didn't know what Rex meant by that? 'Almost, but you're not it'?"
"Pretty much. Uncle told the story when they found him. His sister was mad and all, but family is family."
Venala stepped back and looked around.
"So Arker can't show us where this occurred?"
"Oh, we know where it happened. Near where the plantations were situated. No one goes there anymore in that whole area. It's even been gated off."
"Can you take me there? I need to see if there is any evidence of any of this, possible undiscovered mass graves."
"I can show you. I'm not scared, just haven't had much inclination to go there. People were tired of weird stuff going on. You drive?"
"We can go in my car."
Davish got in the passenger side, while Venala got behind the wheel and cranked up the motor. The car pulled out of the yard and on to the main road. The journey didn't take long, as virtually all the surroundings was country with small houses, maybe a store or two.
The car turned off the paved road onto an older piece, complete with a pothole or two. A dark, rusty barred fence was visible on the side between overgrown, dried grass and small trees or so. The car pulled up to the main gate, a rather foreboding dark metal barred object.
Davish got out to open the gate, pushing it over dried shrub and snapping sticks. The gate all but creaked as he pushed it. He got back in the car.
"Now head on up this way. It's grassy, but you can make out the road."
Venala did as instructed, somewhat wary, but was startled when Davish said simply, "this is it. Stop right here."
The two people got out of the car and Davish walked toward the edge of the woods, nearest a standing out tree.
"This tree right here. According to Uncle Arker, great-grand-daddy disappeared right here. I've only been out here about once or twice. Momma brought me out here, but we didn't get out of the car."
"Davish," Venala started, "what's that?" She poined up.
Davish looked up.
"Never saw that before, but then I guess I was smaller."
There hanging from a tree branch, giving by all indications of being put up there by Arker Montgomery himself, still hung the noose with which he intended to commit that lynching so long ago. Davish walked up to it and looked for the end of the rope Arker must have been holding, if this was the same rope.
"The rope is all grown over in vines and branches, tangled up against the tree," Davish said. "I wonder if Momma saw that up there when she brought me here?"
Venala looked around in the cool country sunlight across all the grassy fields as the wind blew rustling branches on distant trees.
"Do you know where the plantations were, Davish?" she asked.
No reply.
Venala turned back to see no one around.
Still no answer. She stepped toward the noose where he had been to try to pinpoint where he might have gone. There was no sign of him.
Then she spied Davish standing a bit further back near another tree, going into the woods a bit.
"Davish, what are you doing?" she asked, walking toward him, only to realize it wasn't Davish at all. The figure was rather dark, very tall and wearing a dark tan coat and a dark red hat. He had his back to her.
Venala braced herself and didn't move, then simply asked, "you're going to take him, aren't you? He's who you want, isn't he?"
The figure seemed to move slowly about, moving slightly, but not turning to face her. Venala took a step back.
"I hate that I made him come here. I wish I hadn't," she said to the back of the stranger. "He's taken care of the last person you spoke to on this very spot, the one who gave you the last black man you claimed."
Venala thought she heard a heavy sigh from the figure, then slowly it moved forward into the brush, gradually making its way into the trees and leaves until he disappeared completely.
She watched for a bit more, glanced one more time at the noose in the tree, then frowned at the fate she had delivered unto poor Davish Brent; the same fate as his great-grandfather.
She turned to head back to her car and froze in her tracks upon eyeing the vehicle. There on the passenger side, looking straight ahead, was a young man, unmoving.
Venala hurried to the driver's side and opened the door and got in, closing the door behind her.
"Davish! Are you okay?" she asked as she cranked the automobile and threw it into reverse to turn around and leave this field. "Davish?"
As she slowly drove toward the gate, she reached a hand out and grasped Davish's wrist. She felt the roughness of edges and scars that did not seem to be there before.
"He wanted one more. Just one more," Davish said as Venala turned the car onto the paved road.
"He wanted one more black man, one with black blood," Venala said as she drove. "He took your great-grandfather, but he didn't take Arker Montgomery because Arker was a white man. Davish, what happened to your wrist?"
"The mark of the wanted," Davish replied, "but he couldn't take me. He can't have forgiveness."
"He can't . . . . ," Venala started, "he couldn't take you if you had cared for your great-uncle all these years, who had tried to kill your great-grandfather?"
Davish continued looking forward. "He doesn't want forgiveness. He had me," Davish said, now looking at his scarred wrists, "and he was ready to go, then you told him who I was, and who Uncle Arker was."
The car continued on into the evening sunset, back to Davish's place, where they discovered Arker Montgomery had quietly passed away in his sleep.    

© 2020 R J Fuller

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Added on June 27, 2020
Last Updated on June 27, 2020
Tags: civil war, slave, escape, history, mystery