by Alfred Stifsim
GENRE: Historical Fiction
Johnson is accused of assaulting a white
woman, a deadly charge for a black man in 1876. Knowing he’ll be lynched if he
stays in St. Andrews, Indiana, Johnson flees to the grassy plains of Kansas
looking for the freedom unavailable to him back East. What Johnson doesn’t know
is that the woman’s father is a powerful businessman determined to track him
down. For a man on the run, the West seems like the perfect place for someone
withdrawn like Johnson to become a new person, until a top Pinkerton agent
named Cole Charles comes into town hunting outlaws.
When Cole Charles discovers Johnson is a wanted man, Johnson has no choice but to flee again. This time he escapes to Fort Worth, Texas, where he meets a rowdy woman named Eddie who is quick with a joke and even quicker with her pistol. Despite his lack of experience, Eddie hires Johnson to be a wrangler on a cattle drive made up of other black cowboys headed to Wyoming. With Cole Charles on his trail, the cattle drive will take Johnson further than he ever imagined and force him to confront his greatest fear when he comes face to face with Cole Charles himself.
The front of the jail building was covered with wanted posters, some of them so faded it was hard to discern who was wanted and why. As Johnson pulled up with Rex sitting beside him in the driver’s seat, the picture of Jester Wells glared at them. There was a deep scar on his cheek and his arrogant smirk dared them to chase after the $250 reward. The grey clouds still hung low in the sky, threatening the return of rain at any moment. The wind picked up, blowing cool air through the town. The front door of the jail opened as Cole Charles and the marshal exited the building, rifles in hand.
“We better make this quick!” Burt yelled out the window of the coach, “I’m sure Bradley is in a hurry to get back to his cards.” To his surprise the marshal didn’t respond, opening the door to the coach and taking the furthest window seat at the back. He stared out as if he were riding off to his doom.
“What’s got into him?” Burt asked, gesturing to the marshal as Cole Charles walked past.
“I couldn’t tell you. Marshal Bradley has been real quiet ever since we got back,” he replied. He turned and walked to the driver’s seat to address Johnson, “The plan is simple. Drive east along the road, hopefully we pose an easy enough target, drawing Wells’ attention. Not too fast, the idea is to make them think you’re surrendering. We’ll be in the back lying in wait.” He turned to Rex. “Mr. Bowen you’re with us,” Cole Charles said, signaling for him to join the other men in the coach. “Remember Mr. Johnson, if things go badly, you’re on your own.” His cold eyes burned into Johnson as he said it, almost as if he wished it to happen. Then he turned and climbed into the coach.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Alfred Stifsim is a member of Western Writers of America and has published several short stories about the American West. “The Bastard of the Black Hills,” won second prize in ropeandwire.com’s 2019 short story contest, and “Max and Sherri” was included in Cowboy Jamboree Magazine’s Fall 2020 issue. His short story about Eddie, “A Night Out with the Cowboys,” was published by Close to the Bone (UK) in August 2021.
Alfred Stifsim graduated from IUPUI with a bachelor’s in American History (2014, Indianapolis). From there he worked as an interpretive naturalist for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources before transitioning to park maintenance. He is currently an electrician with IBEW 481 in Indianapolis.
You can find more information at alfredstifsim.com, on Twitter @AStifsim, or Instagram and Facebook @alfredatifsim_author.
Stifsim will be awarding a $30 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly
drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
a Rafflecopter giveaway