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Tears on the trail: Chapter One
Tears on the Trail: The Book
Tears on the trail: Chapter One
In 1875, there existed a land that was free from the law, in the United States, known as, the Indian Territory. Murderers, cutthroats, and thieves…desperadoes, prostitutes, and whiskey peddlers ruled the land and lived as they saw fit.
The Civil War had wrecked the relative peace of the five major tribes controlling the area creating a vacuum of hatred and bloody violence. The racism between Indians the murderous settlers of the region led to some of the most brutal violence in United States history.
However, in time, a court was set over the Indian Territory head up by, Judge Isaac Parker, The Hanging Judge, so-called because of his record as judge who passed up more hanging sentences than, anyone. Out of 160 people he sentenced to death, 79 of them were, hung. Fact is, on his first day behind the bench, on May 10, 1875, eighteen folks accused of murder where brought to trial before him. Of the eighteen, fifteen of them were, convicted. Of the fifteen, eight were, sentenced to hang until dead on September 3, 1875. One of them was, killed trying to escape and the other had his sentence commuted to life in prison because of his young age.
Over 5,000 people attended this unprecedented event including reporters from St. Louis, Little Rock, and Kansas City. To be, hung was three white men, two Indians and a black man. These convicted felons were, made to sit on a bench behind the gallows as each one of them had their death warrants read to them. Afterwards, they were, asked for the final words before being lined up on the scaffolding where George Maledon, the executioner, placed nooses over their heads and pulled the release causing instant death in all of them.
Attending this unusual affair was one Miss Tess Mallory. Tess was as curious and eager to see this, as were the others that had crowded around for such an event. In retrospect, she would spend the rest of her life regretting having gone. She had never seen someone die in such a barbaric and violent manner as she did that day.
Tess tried to chase the thought from her mind as; she left the place nearly as solemn like the, spectators. Only realizing that, seeing those men die must have had the same affect on most of the others, as well.
Absent-minded, she walked down the dusty street as the vision of their bodies dropping played repeatedly in her mind. Still, with being, trapped in such a deep train of thought, comes the inevitable chance of a random encounter by accident. For, as she stepped off the walk, she ran into a tall, dark, and rugged looking man. Startled she tried to jump back only to catch her heel on the plank-board sidewalk causing her to fall backwards. Without skipping a beat, the man quickly threw his arm around her to catch her before she fell, entirely.
“You alright, ma’am,” he asked her as he smiled and stared down into her wonderfully perfect, blue eyes.
“I’m fine,” she replied at a barely audible whisper. She had never felt the touch of a man before but his touch was like pure magic in that it made her forget about the horrible hangings. At least, until she snapped out of the trance his deep blue eyes held her in. She stepped back out of his arms as she rebalanced herself and told him, “I’m sorry…I’m feeling a bit distracted right now.”
“Rightfully so if you just came from the hangings,” the man replied to her. “So, what’s your name,” he asked as he grinned slyly at her.
Tess would have normally acted coy to his advances but he had already startled her and caught her completely off guard. Therefore, she took a much more open path, and asked him to get her out of there, or as she put, “I just want to put this whole mess as far behind me as I can.”
“I think I’ve had my fair share of the west, myself,” he replied. “You want to head to east,” he asked.
“Why, I don’t even know your name,” she replied as she started coming to her senses.
“I’m John Grisham…and, you are,” he asked her never once letting go his mesmerizing grin.
“Tess Mallory,” she replied as she finally found a reason to smile again, and did so in such a wonderful manner.
“Mallory,” John questioned. “You wouldn’t happen to be kin to old Barry Mallory, would you”?
“Yes, he’s my father…and he’s not that old,” she replied.
“Well, that complicates things quite a bit,” John, replied as he stopped grinning for the first time.
“How so,” Tess asked him.
“Your father offered me a job out here driving his cattle. I took the job and well, after working the drive, he is refusing to pay me. My first instinct was to lay him under but I’ll chalk it up to a lesson learned and settle for leaving here,” John explained. Something about her made him feel like he could talk to her.
“My father has never done a man wrong,” she argued.
“Well, he did me, lady,” John replied as he turned to walk away.
“Now, hold on mister,” Tess told him as she grabbed him by the shoulder. “You’re not going to say something bad about my father without proving it.”
John tugged his shoulder away from her and replied, “Why don’t you ask him…here he comes now.”
Tess looked past John to see her father, along with a couple of his hired hands, walking towards her. As he neared them, he asked John, “What are you doing with my daughter”?
“Let’s talk about the money you owe me,” John replied coldly as he relaxed his hands, down by his sides but kept them close to his peacemakers.
“I already told you I don’t owe you anything,” Mr. Mallory replied.
“Oh, you owe me for the work I did…you’re just refusing to pay up,” John replied as he kept his eyes on all three of them.
“Now is not the time,” Tess’ dad replied.
“Actually, now is the perfect time. You might be a cheat and swindler but I will not have your daughter thinking I am a liar. So, either you fess up to what you’ve done or I’m going to lay you down right where you stand…your choice,” John warned him.
“Are you threatening me,” Mr. Mallory asked as his men prepared to draw weapons.
“All you have to do is trade the truth for your life. I don’t even care about the money anymore…but, your daughter has the right to know her dear old dad just a little better,” John replied and added, “And, you might want to tell your boys to relax for their own sake…this is between us.”
“Tess, it’s time to go home…you don’t need to be around the likes of him,” Mr. Mallory told her as he tried to reach past John to grab his daughter.
In a flash, John had the barrel of his gun straight under the jaw of Mr. Mallory. “You’re trying my patience old man,” John told him in a low, angry voice.
“I’ll make sure you get your money but I think my daughter has seen enough killing this day,” Mr. Mallory told him.
“So you admit to swindling me, then,” John asked him making sure Tess was clear on her father’s true nature.
At first, the old man started to argue with John, when John shoved his gun barrel in a little harder to remind the old man that his life was still at stake. “Alright…I admit it…I should have paid you what I owed you. I’ll have some of my men bring it to you, here in town,” Mr. Mallory told him.
“Yep, and they can pick up Tess when they make a good, clean swap. If they don’t, she’ll be the first one I put down then I’m coming after you,” John warned him.
“You can’t hold my daughter,” the old man argued.
“You’re in no position to debate me, old man. Go get the money and bring it to the hotel, yourself. Anyone else shows up and that’ll be the end of them,” John promised him as he put his gun back in his holster.
Mr. Mallory reached for a derringer from beneath his vest and tried to draw on John. Normally, John would have killed any man trying that little stunt. Instead, John reached up, slapped Mr. Mallory right in the face and told him, “Go get my money.”
John stood there and kept a watchful eye on them as they walked back to their horses and rode out of town. Then he turned back to Tess and told her, “I’m sorry about that but you needed to know how he is.”
“You’re taking me hostage and I’m supposed to accept any apologies you might have to offer,” she asked him.
“Yep,” John simply replied. “Besides, I thought you were ready to leave here so let’s go.”
“Go where,” Tess, asked him.
“Anywhere far from here,” John replied as he grabbed her by the arm and started walking her to where he kept his horse tied up.
“I thought we were supposed to go to the hotel and wait for him to come back with your money,” she asked they hurried along to the stables.
“I really don’t feel like dying today…or, killing for that matter. Our best bet is to get on out of town,” John told her as he hurried her along. “Tess, you got one shot to back out of coming with me but it’s up to you.”
“Nope…you’ve already proven there’s nothing here for me,” she replied with a smile as they reached the stables.
An enormous man, covered in sweat and wearing a leather apron stepped out from the stables to greet John when he spotted Tess, and asked her, “What are you doing hanging around with this cowboy?”
“Tiny, do you have a horse I can get,” Tess asked him, as she ignored his question.
“I do,” Tiny replied. “It’s a palomino, if that suits you fair enough,” the big man replied.
“That’ll work, Tiny,” she replied with her charming grin.
“Is my horse ready,” John asked him in a more serious tone.
“Yep, I just finished up with the shoes,” Tiny replied as he headed towards the stable to fetch the horses.
“Where do you think we should head first,” Tess asked eagerly, like a giddy child.