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Excerpt Copyright 2014
A stiff, icy breeze lifted the loose strands of coppery hair from the shoulders of her old woolen overcoat, whipping them across her cold cheeks to remind her that she had forgotten to put her knit cap on before leaving for work at the truck stop cafe where she had just worked the late shift. Again. Not bothering to shove the strands from her eyes, she simply turned her face into the chill wind and allowed it to do the work for her. She heaved a weary sigh and tugged her thick wool scarf closer about her chin and throat as a deep moaning sound moved off the loose shingles of the old warehouse across the street.
The night felt…strange. She couldn't quite put her finger on it, but something just didn't seem right. It had been a long time since she’d had a premonition of danger. A damn long time.
The night felt heavy with it.
God, how she hated working the late shift. Of course, it was better money and late night truckers did tip better. Well, to be honest, she didn’t really hate working late. What she really hated was walking the twenty unlit blocks from the cafe to her ramshackle little house all alone.
It wasn't so bad when Ellen worked late with her, because at least she had someone to walk most of the way home with. Ellen would split off at Connor, leaving her with just a few blocks of walking alone. But she was completely alone tonight. Ellen had called in sick. It had been busy without two waitresses, but she had managed.
She didn't mind walking. It was great exercise. But it was past midnight in a town that rolled up the sidewalks at 10:30. There wasn't even a stray dog out on this particular night. It genuinely gave her the willies, and she had never thought of herself as particularly easily frightened. She almost walked back inside to ask if anyone was headed in her direction. But then, a lot of those truckers were desperately lonely and some were even sorta scary. She might end up in a worse predicament than walking home alone on a stormy night.
You didn’t need to invite disaster.
She lifted her face to the sky and frowned at the dim outline of the full moon she could barely see through the thickening layers of black storm clouds that were blowing in, and she tugged her coat tighter across her chest with a shiver.
She never worried about getting mugged walking home. Bullock was about the deadest place on earth when it came to muggings. But walking anywhere in the dark bothered her. Ever since she had been a child, she had hated the dark. Things went bump in the dark. Made weird, scary sounds—like the wind howling through the rotten shingles of old Robbie O'Reilly's house as she made the turn at the end of the street and started up the hill.
No, she wasn't worried about getting mugged or robbed.
There hadn't been a major crime in the little town of 2,500 souls since back in 1960, and that had been when Frank Ritter and his motorcycle gang rumbled into town like the black plague, and had terrorized the whole town for nearly five days, killing three people before the Marshals had gunned the six killers down in cold blood.
But that had been before she had been born.
She had no first hand knowledge like Gran did, but it had become one of those urban legends you heard in small towns. Like the one about “Gentleman” Bob Mercier, who had been shot down by the Marshals in his besieged hotel room after brutally killing three Pinkertons and robbing the Railroad office back in 1910. His ghost was supposed to be walking Main Street most nights of the full moon. She shook her head and sighed.
Ghosts were more likely to get you in Bullock than some mugger. Or maybe the Marshals, if you were doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. The most interesting part of these urban legends were those strange, wraithlike Marshals who always seemed to arrive on the heels of the bad guys, and who vanished the moment the job was done.
The next four blocks were pitch black without the moon out. Street lights were non-existent in this part of town. Wrong side of the tracks. The city council paid little heed to the needs of the poorer side of town. She wished to hell she'd thought to carry her flashlight. These damn sidewalks were full of deep, uneven cracks that could trip an unwary pedestrian in the dark. The old deteriorating sidewalk curved uphill past the old Bullock Cemetery and then back down to cross over Connor Road.
When Ellen walked with her, they would laugh about silly things that had happened during their shift, and discuss the sometimes hilarious propositions they'd gotten. It helped make her forget that the old Cemetery held some of the rottenest souls to ever go to perdition, like the Falcon brothers, who had died in a shootout with —yep—Marshals back in 1860 after they tried to rob the fledgling Bullock bank. They’d killed three townspeople before the Marshals had stopped their escape. The town had talked for months afterwards about how the Marshals had ridden into Bullock right as the Falcon brothers had shot old Hal Farrell and were mounting up to ride.
The old Cemetery was the final resting place of some pretty bad dudes—sort of the “Boot Hill” of Bullock—as well as the “potter's field” of the town. The newer Bullock City Cemetery was on the far side of town, and that was where the “nice” folks were buried. Old Bullock Cemetery was for felons and outlaws and unknown drifters and old Indians who died alone and penniless in the cold.
And Bullock had had its share of very bad boys back in the glory days of the old West. Even though she wasn't exactly superstitious, everyone was damned well aware that some pretty strange things had happened in Bullock over the full moon cycle every October...and definitely every fifty years. Every single one of those scary stories had been set during an October full moon cycle. She shivered and tugged her scarf up to warm her frozen ears.
Oh...not hot enough for you? Well, come back in a day or two for another snippet...I'll heat things up for you a bit. :)