Thursday teaser: Back Side of A Blue Moon

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This week’s teaser is a noir excerpt from Back Side of a Blue Moon

By Caleb Pirtle III

Photo by Hmaag via Creative Commons

Her head snapped back, and she felt the room spin. Nausea swelled in her stomach, and the room turned black, then white, and finally an ashen gray.

“Till death do us part,” he said. “That’s what the preacher said.”

Eudora tried to speak.

Her lips tasted like blood.

Her tongue was swollen.

“We’re still together, you and me,” Washburn said.

“Leave me alone.” It was a plea.

“They said I was dead,” he said. “Everybody said I was dead. You killed me, they said. They thought my tramp wife had killed me, they said. They thought death had done us part, they said.”

Washburn cocked the hammer on the shotgun.

“Maybe it will,” he said.

Eudora grabbed the bedspread, held on tight, and pulled herself off the floor.

Washburn slapped her again.

She fell.

Her face burned.

“That’s for stealing my land,” he said.

He jerked Eudora to her knees and slammed his fist into her nose.

Blood spurted.

It splattered the wall beside he like a drizzle of red rain.

“And that’s for taking another man, and I’m not dead yet.”

“You’re alive,” she whispered. “Half the land is yours.”

He jammed the barrel of the shotgun against her forehead.

“One shot,” he said, “and I’ll take it all. The land. The oil. I’ll be a rich man,” he said. “And all you’ll be is a dead bitch.”

Doc burst through the door.

No one had heard the footsteps.

No one knew he was coming.

His eyes were wide with anger.

His face was twisted with rage.

He screamed like a wild animal, uncaged and unleashed, as he charged across the bedroom floor.

He had blood in his eyes.

Washburn stepped back.

Eudora rolled to the side of the bed.

Washburn fired.

The shotgun blast tore into Doc’s stomach and knocked him back against the wall. He jerked and tumbled to his knees, clawing at the wound with both hands. Blood seeped through his shirt and puddled the floor beneath him.

Washburn calmly reached in his pocket and removed another shell.

He took his time to reload.

He was laughing now.

“Kill one,” he said.

He raised the shotgun to his shoulder.

“Kill two,” he said.

Washburn cocked the hammer.

“Don’t make any difference.”

He never saw Eudora.

He never looked her way.

He loomed over Doc and shoved the shotgun barrel against his chest.

Doc might be dead.

Might not.

God, don’t let him be dead.

One shot to make sure.

The kill shot.

Eudora grabbed Washburn’s double barrel shotgun and ripped it from beneath the bed.

She sat up.

Washburn stood above her.

She saw the look in his eyes.

She saw how crazy a crazy man could look if he were crazy.

She heard the laughing.

She heard how crazy a crazy laugh could sound if it was uttered by a man whose mind had been twisted like strands of barbed wire.

The laugh grew louder.

She couldn’t miss.

She knew it.

Eudora pulled both triggers at the same time.

At least she tried.

At least she thought she did.

 

Thunder rocked the bedroom. Thunder reverberated from one wall to the next. Thunder shook the floor. Thunder roared from the bosom of an unrepentant earth. Thunder rolled across the landscape like a freight train on a downhill run. Thunder seared deep into her soul.

Lightning flashed.

It sizzled.

It scarred everything it touched.

Eudora crumpled to the floor.

She fought back the fog and expected the rain.

She stared through an open window.

A hot wind touched her face.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

There was only the moon.

It was no longer blue.

Back Side of a Blue Moon

Times are hard along the Sabine River, and the little East Texas town of Ashland is crumbling under the weight of the Great Depression. Families are broke and hungry. For many, their last meal may well have been their last meal. Families are giving up and leaving town. Everyone knows the fate that awaits the scattered farms. No one can save Ashland. It is as isolated as the back side of a blue moon.

Into town comes Doc Bannister wearing a straw boater and a white suit. He is the miracle man. He has a homemade doodlebug machine that, he says, can find oil and make them all rich. Oil, he swears, lies beneath the blistered farmstead of Eudora Durant. She thinks Doc is a flim flam man. The Sheriff believes he is a con artist. Both are convinced that Doc has come to town to swindle every dime he can get before hitting the road again. Ashland knows Doc may be crooked, but he has brought hope to a town that had no hope.

Eudora has everything Doc wants. She is a beautiful woman who owns cheap land. In Ashland, she is known as the scarlet woman. Whispers say she murdered her husband. No one has seen him since the night they heard a shotgun blast on her farm. The town wants oil. Doc wants Eudora. But Eudora is too independent and stubborn to fall for the charms of a silver-tongued charlatan.

She holds the fate of Ashland in her hands. Will she let Doc drill? Is there really oil lying deep beneath her sunbaked land? Can Doc find it? Or is he more interested in finding love than oil? What happens when a man with a checkered past comes face to face with a woman whose past is as mysterious as his?

Caleb Pirtle III

is the author of more than seventy books, including the Ambrose Lincoln series.

Pirtle is a graduate of The University of Texas in Austin and became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. Several of his books and his magazine writing have received national and regional awards.

Pirtle has written three teleplays, and wrote two novels for Berkeley based on the Gambler series: Dead Man’s Hand and Jokers Are Wild.

Pirtle’s narrative nonfiction, Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk is a true-life book about the fights and feuds during the founding of the controversial Giddings oilfield and From the Dark Side of the Rainbow, the story of a woman’s escape from the Nazis in Poland during World War II. His coffee-table quality book, XIT: The American Cowboy, became the publishing industry’s third best selling art book of all time.

Learn more about Caleb on his:

And follow him on Twitter @CalebPirtle.

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