It is my great honour to give the floor to Mystery Thriller Week author- cj petterson.
Written by author cj petterson (the pen name of Marilyn A. Johnston), “Bad Day at Round Rock” is a short story set in the real West Texas cow town of Round Rock, Texas, in 1878. It is one of six stories included in The Posse a Western anthology scheduled to launch in mid-February 2017. The short stories in The Posse are not your usual shoot-em-ups. They’re human interest tales that incorporate the myths and truths of the old West you’d expect to see in a good Western.
There are four protagonist sketches in “Bad Day at Round Rock,” all are linked to a hidden cache of $30,000 in uncirculated twenty-dollar gold coins that Sam Bass stole from the Union Pacific railroad.
Following are excerpts from the first two protagonist’s stories.
‘BAD DAY AT ROUND ROCK”
A boyish man with a broken shovel in his hands kneels in the sand, his dark mustache dripping sweat. He digs hard and fast . . . and listens for the sounds of foot falls. No one must find what he needs to hide. —–
Talley Munroe dismounted his skewbald Pinto under the sparse canopy of stubby mesquite trees at Prairie Dell. He looped the reins around a branch then tugged a Sharps rifle out of a hand-tooled leather scabbard, two prizes he’d recently claimed off an ex-Union cavalryman in a game of stud poker. He unsaddled and wiped the sweat off the animal’s back with the coarse saddle blanket, all the while checking for the telltale dust clouds of company he wouldn’t welcome. Waves of heat writhed skyward and dust devils whirled in the distance. Talley pulled off his blue Stetson, ashy with caliche dust, and swept a shirtsleeve across his wet brow before resettling the rumpled hat over the few strands of gray hair still clinging to his head. He scanned the horizon again then unfolded a thin sheet of yellowed newsprint he dug out of his hip pocket. No one ever taught him to read, but he knew his numbers and had heard the story about the Union Pacific Train robbery. It wasn’t hard to put two and two together when his eyes fixated on the $30,000 in the headline: $30,000 Still Missing From Train Robbery.
Seventeen-year-old Lilly Malmstrom thought morning calm was the best time of any day—before the sun burned away the cool of the night, before hot winds drove the fine West Texas sand under the windowsills, before the town of Round Rock fully awakened. By seven a.m., when she stood on tiptoe to twist the key in the wall clock to wind it, she had the doctor’s instruments scalded and air-drying on the table and fresh-washed huck towels hanging on the line behind the building. To mark the end of the work week, she drew an “X” through the date on the calendar with the stub of a lead pencil and sighed.
“July 19, 1878,” she said, pronouncing the month as ‘yulie’. “One year. One whole year.”
It’d been exactly a year since she’d left Sweden, but her new life hadn’t turned out exactly as she’d planned. Now she had a new plan: Once she’d worked off the debt, she’d be free to start anew. She blinked back the tears that filled her blue eyes, grabbed the corn-straw broom, and attacked yesterday’s dirty floor with a flourish.
Out on the boardwalk, Lilly twisted a strand of black hair around her finger and poked it into the bun at the back of her neck then draped her palms over the top of the broom handle and rested her chin on her hands. She watched the town begin to stir. A wire-haired dog, nose to the ground, made his way to the back door of the café. An old woman, her white hair mostly hidden by a black bonnet, flicked a whip at the rumps of two mules as her buckboard rattled up the dusty road. Two Texas Rangers walked down the hotel steps and crossed over toward the New Town Café.
Startled by a horse’s snort, she turned to see Shorty vanDyne slide off his roan. He wrapped the reins around the hitching rail and strutted toward her, chaps flapping and the silver rowels on his Mexican spurs jangling.
Lilly felt her eyebrows knit together. “I say the same thing as before, Mr. vanDyne. Go away.”
Amazon Central Author Page: http://amzn.to/1NIDKC0
blog at: www.lyricalpens.com
Coming in mid-February 2017—“Bad Day at Round Rock” a short story in The Posse, a Western anthology of tales of action, romance, myth and truth.
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