Excerpt: Brothers, Blasphemers, and Bullets

Here’s an excerpt of a novella (roughly 17,000 words) that I am currently working on. If you read my short story Cold Justice you’ll recognize a lot of the characters. It still needs a little tightening up but  I hope you enjoy it!

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Sheriff Sean Callahan wove his way through the picnicking families and frolicking children that filled the grounds of Mica Park. After a frigid winter in the Colorado Rockies everyone in the town of Silvervale and the surrounding valley had come to celebrate Founder’s Day, the unofficial first day of Spring. A quartet of musicians performed the song ‘Lilly Dale’ and a handful of folks took part in a Contra dance amongst the Indian Paint Brushes and Columbines.
Sean took shelter from the blazing sun under one of the enormous Cottonwoods that grew along the banks of Lonesome Creek. Sweat trickled down his leathery face and soaked through his grey bib shirt. He wiped the sweat from his brow with a calloused hand and took a swig of water from his wood cantine. The ice cold water was salve easing the scratchy sensation of his parched throat. He took another swig and then removed his grey Slouch hat and poured a bit of water on his head. The sensation of the frigid water running down his head sent goosebumps racing across his flesh and a tremor of relief down his spine. Once he was cooled off he slung the cantine around his broad shoulder and took a deep breath. The aroma of freshly blossomed wildflowers and the musky scent of horse flesh lingered in the air. He savored it like a half-starved dog in a butcher’s shop.
Peels of laughter caught his ear and he turned his attention to the crowd, searching for any signs of unruly revelers. It was an ideal day one which would cause most men would let down their guard, but Sean wasn’t one of those men. Despite the pleasure he felt he remained vigilant. Yet he had to admit it seemed like it would be a serene start to Spring. But a fearful scream shattered the serenity of the day.
Amelia Larkspur, the youngest daughter of Silvervale’s blacksmith, stood on the creek bank a dozen yards away. She screamed again and her voice cracked with terror. Tears streamed down the eight year old’s face and her lower lip trembled. Sean almost dismissed it as a tantrum until he saw a man’s foot sticking out of some scrub brush behind her. Amelia’s mother rushed passed him as he approached the girl. Frantic words flew from her mouth and her face was twisted by fear. She swept Amelia into her arms and comforted her daughter.
Sean approached them while keeping his eyes on the man under the brush. “Is she okay?”
Mrs. Larkspur glared at him while wiping her daughter’s tears away. “She’s fine, no thanks to you and that negro deputy of your’s. You two are suppose to be protecting us. What if that man under there had a weapon and tried to harm my baby?”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Larkspur. We checked the area this morning but you’re right we should be patroling more.”
“You may’ve been a hero during Mr. Lincoln’s War but that was all said and done five years ago, maybe you ain’t as sharp as you were back then.”
Sean grimaced. “Why don’t you take your daughter back to your family and let me handle this.”
Mrs. Larkspur shot a heat glance at him before walking off. “See that you do, Sheriff.”
Sean cursed himself for letting down his guard. He knew Mrs. Larkspur was right, they should’ve found this man before any citizen did. He wondered how this man had got passed them. Sean shook the thoughts from his head and parted the branches of the brush. A middle-aged man in a tattered monk’s robe lay on his back. His left hand clutched a filthy carpet bag. Sean grabbed the man’s leg and shook it. Most likely it was some drunk that had wandered down from one of the mines. But the man didn’t stir even when Sean shook ino matter how hard he was shook.
Sean saw no sign of wounds on the man, but it wasn’t uncommon for a prospector or homesteader to get washed away by Lonesome creek’s swift current and wash up on the bank. Maybe he’d crawled up here last night and died. The park was a popular place for fishing so someone would’ve spotted him before today if he’d washed up earlier in the week. Yet this man’s clothes were dry. Had he followed the creek and collapsed?
A scrawny old man in a black sack suit and weathered top hat approached Sean. “Let me guess, Rufus passed out again from one too many bottles of bug juice, again?”
“No,” Sean said. “I don’t know who he is, but he might need your help.”
The old man blanched.
“What is it, Dr. Schwartz?”
“I-I don’t believe it! Ezekiel? Is that you? Is that really you?”
Sean’s brow furrowed. “Who?”
Dr. Schwartz pushed Sean aside and knelt down beside the man and pressed his bony index finger against the man’s neck to check his pulse. “H-he’s my brother! We-we got to get him back – back to my office! I-I have to examine-examine him!”
“Brother? You’ve never mentioned you had a brother before or that he was a monk.”
“I-It has been y-years since I have seen him. Now please! You’ve got to help me get him back! His pulse is very weak.”
“Get your wagon and I’ll help load him.”

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