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 For a man on the run, the West seems like the perfect place for someone withdrawn like Johnson to become a new person, until a top Pinkerton agent named Cole Charles comes into town hunting outlaws.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 clouds began to break, allowing the white light of the thick crescent moon to shine down, lighting the road. As Johnson made his way back to the jail, he mulled over Rex’s offer. His stay in Flatridge was his longest since fleeing Saint Andrews, and in that time, not a single traveler from out of town had showed any interest in him until Margret tried to get friendly. Then the next day, Cole Charles showed up, prodding around as if he were looking for more than just bandits. That didn’t sit right with him. Could Margret’s advances have been a ploy to catch him in a vulnerable state?
What if she’s trying to trick me? he wondered. What if they’re working together? Then he remembered. Cole Charles had been at the inn while he was drinking with Rex! What about Rex?
Johnson paused as he pulled up to the jail again and sat in silence for several minutes, staring out at the town before shaking his head. No, it’s been a long day. You’re letting it get to you.
The only reason Rex and Margret were still in town was because Cole Charles needed the stagecoach. Cole Charles was the only one worth worrying about. If it wasn’t for his investigation, they’d have moved on by now. They’ll both be gone by tomorrow. She’ll be gone after tomorrow.
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.
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