The very reason I started writing my first book, Wants of the Heart, six years ago was because of my love for westerns. My dad seemed to always have one on the television as I was growing up. He still does as a matter of fact. I had the opportunity to visit my relatives in Texas for the first time when I was eleven years old. They’re from a town located right on the former Chisholm Trail very near where my story takes place.
“Bad Day at Round Rock” by cj petterson (no caps, no periods) is one of six short stories in THE POSSE, a Western anthology of human interest stories set and scheduled to launch February 15, 2017. This is just in time for Mystery Thriller Week.
I’m so excited. I love to read, but seem to have so little time these days. Shorts stories are way of fitting my favorite pastime into my busy schedule.
The idea for this story came from cj’s family legend about her great-grandfather who immigrated from Sweden to Georgetown, Texas, in 1877. “The story goes that great-grandpa was in Round Rock on the day that the outlaw Sam Bass was shot down in 1878.”
Everything about Sam Bass in the story is as true as newspaper reports and lore have made it. By the way, cj tells me that the myth about Sam Bass’s buried gold lives on. In 2015, a group organized a “scavenger hunt” to look for the gold they believed is buried somewhere around Denton, Texas.
In “Bad Day at Round Rock,” indentured Lilly Malmstrom dreams of finding a man who excites her while spurning Anders Olsson, until he’s accused of murder. When she commits to saving an innocent life, she discovers it is Anders who makes her heart race. Lilly’s story of servitude and freedom is entwined with the exploits of the outlaw Sam Bass and the legend of a fortune in gold from his great train robbery.
Cj gave me and my readers an excerpt from this soon-to-be-released short story.
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.”
“Whoa, now, Miz Lilly. You ain’t heard what I come all the way from Dallas to say.”
“If you come to say ‘goodbye,’ I hear you. Goodbye and good riddance to you. Now go.” She made no attempt to keep the contempt out of her voice.
Shorty chuckled. “Don’t go gettin’ all uppity on me, pretty lady. I told you I’d leave the Chisholm Trail and come for you when I got my fortune. Didn’t I tell you that? Well, I done it. I got my fortune, and I’m here to make you my wife.”
There’s going to be a Cover Reveal Party on February 15, 2017 with gifts and prizes. If you’re like me and would love to know more about the book, be sure to “like” cj’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thepossebook.1/
If you check out her blog, you’ll find an interview on yours truly: http://www.lyricalpens.com/