LOU'S STORY: She Adder or Patriot? and FIRE ON THE HORIZON: The Death of the Morro Castle are both available in Ebook AND print form at my Amazon Author page. Go to:
https://www.amazon.com/author/www.dlrogersbooks.com to purchase either. BUT, if you're not sure, read the first chapter of LOU below...
Here's the first chapter of LOU to get you started...
May 14, 1863
Lorena McCoy jerked upright from a fitful sleep. She always slept poorly when Moses was gone, and tonight was no exception. Since her husband left their eighty-acre farm north of Missouri City almost a year ago to recruit for the Confederacy, Lou slept little.
She pushed her mussed, dark hair off her face. Uncertain what had disturbed her, she sat still in the inky blackness and listened. Then she heard it—voices. She jumped out of bed, fumbled around for her shawl and inched her way out of the bedroom through the darkness.
When she got to the front door, she put her ear against it.
“What’re we waiting for?” a disembodied voice questioned from the other side.
“What do you want me to do? Break it down before we give her a chance to open it?” another voice asked.
Lou stumbled back. She pulled her wrapper tight around her shoulders. Her heart thundered with the force of a herd of stampeded cattle. Her two children and ten-year-old brother slept in the other room. Who were these men and what did they want? What should she do? What could she do in the middle of the night?
She jumped at the shouted, “Open up inside!” She hurried to the table to find the lantern and matches. Her hands shook so, it took several tries to strike the match and light the wick.
“I’m coming.” She sounded as frightened as a child. The lump in her throat made it hard to breathe. She was certain whoever waited outside could hear her heart beating.
Lou shrieked when someone pounded on the door. She clutched her shawl tighter around her slender frame.
“Open the door or I will break it down,” the man shouted from the other side.
“I’m coming.” There was nothing she could do but what they wanted. She couldn’t get to the gun Moses had hidden under the floor and a knife would do her no good.
Lou stepped up, pulled back the lock and jerked the door open. In the light from her lantern, Lou made out five soldiers in Federal blue who shoved their way into the front room. The lump in Lou’s throat swelled to twice the size it had been only moments ago, and she could barely muster enough saliva to swallow.
Inside the room the soldiers turned to face her. One man took a step forward, a sergeant, she noted from the three stripes on his uniform. Lou scooted backward until the front door rested against her back. She curled her fingers around the frame to keep from sliding to the floor in a faint.
“You, Mrs. McCoy? Mrs. Moses McCoy?” the soldier asked, his tone harsh.
“We heard your husband was nearby and we’ve come for him.” The soldier’s mouth was hard, and his dark eyes bore into her like a hot poker.
Lou dragged in a ragged breath and lifted her chin a notch. “He’s not here.” Her voice was steady, despite her lack of breath.
“Well, he’s somewhere. I want to know where—and you’re going to tell me.”
She shook her head. “I don’t know where he is.”
The sergeant stepped closer, but a voice from across the room stopped him before he spoke again.
The soldiers whirled with their guns drawn on the boy who stood in the doorway of the back bedroom.
Fear clawed the inside of Lou’s belly. She shoved past the soldiers and hurried toward, Matt, her ten-year-old brother. Lou leaned over and wrapped her arms around his shoulders when she reached him, but not before she saw unshed tears threatening to fall.
He pulled away, swiped at the offending wetness and drew up his back. Big for his age in height and stature, he looked twelve or thirteen instead of ten. Lou wanted to scream at the men whose guns were aimed at him, He’s just a little boy.
“What’s going on, Sis?” He stepped around her and they both stared at the men standing in the middle of the front room. His lips puckered and his cheeks turned pink.
Lou looked to the leader. “Let me explain why you’re here to my brother?”
The sergeant nodded to the others and all lowered their guns.
“These soldiers came to talk to me,” she said quietly.
Matt stared at the invaders with hard blue eyes. “They came in the middle of the night just to talk? I may be a kid, Lou, but I’m not dumb.” He took a step forward as though to confront them.
Lou stopped him with an arm across his chest. “Don’t.”
Anger flared in his young face. He opened his mouth, but snapped it shut when a voice from the bedroom called.
“Mama? Uncle Mattie?”
Lou bent over until she was face to face with her brother. “Go in with Carrie and James.”
“I don’t want to. I want to be in here with you.” Matt peered at the soldiers again. His eyes pinched and his nose flared. “I’m the man of the house, Lou. Uncle Moses told me so when he left…”
She put her fingers over his lips before he could say “today.”
“I know, Matt, but right now I need for you to be with the children.”
Matt glared at her. They both turned when five-year-old James called again and eighteen-month-old Carrie whimpered from the other room.
It was no time to worry about bruising Matt’s youthful pride. Lou needed his help and she needed it now. “No sass, Matt. Take care of the children as I say.”
Matt’s shoulders jerked when Carrie and James fussed louder behind him. He curled his lips in indecision and finally nodded in defeat. “All right, Sis, but I’m not happy about it.”
“Do you think I’m happy?”
Matt shook his head. “I s’pose not.” He heaved a heavy sigh, turned and shuffled back into the bedroom.
Lou stood a moment, trying to regain her composure.
She nearly jumped out of her skin when someone behind her demanded, “Where is your husband, Mrs. McCoy? Heard he was around here today. We want him.”
She whirled on the sergeant who stood not a foot away staring down his nose at her. Every inch of her body shook—even if she wanted to, she couldn’t tell him something she didn’t know.
He leaned closer and spoke as if to a child. “Where is he?”
“I…don’t…know.” Lou gritted her teeth as a feeling of helplessness wrapped around her like a blanket.
The sergeant whirled to the others. “Search the place. If he’s here—find him.”
Lou barred the way into the children’s room. “I’ve already told you. My husband is not here. How many times must I do so? Only my children and brother are here and you’re frightening them.”
The sergeant stood almost nose to nose with her. His eyes bore into her but a moment, before he shoved her out of the way and turned to the others. “Don’t forget to look under the beds,” he ordered.
Lou staggered into the back bedroom to be near the children. She grabbed Carrie from her crib and stood against the outer wall while Matt pulled James close to him and joined her. She watched with cold numbness the two men who threw pillows, tossed quilts, lifted mattresses and shoved furniture. From the rest of the house, she heard the scraping of more furniture being shoved, dishes shattering, and harsh words.
Minutes later the soldiers gathered in the front room. Lou left the children in Matt’s care again and stalked out.
“I told you he wasn’t here. No matter how many times you ask me, I still don’t know where he is.” Lou stared at the wreckage of the cherished items she and Moses had gathered to make their home and rage roared through her. Before she could stop herself, she added, “And I wouldn’t tell you if I did you damned dirty Yankees.” As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Lou wanted to drag them back.
Five faces hardened. The sergeant swung around toward the others.
“Did you hear that boys? We’re…” He turned back to Lou. “What did you call us? Damned dirty Yankees?”
“Yes! You’re damned dirty Yankees and I want you out of my house. I told you I don’t know where Moses is!”
“And as you put it so well, if you did know where your husband was, you wouldn’t tell us anyway. So…” he drawled, “these damned dirty Yankees don’t believe you.”
What had she done? She was one woman with three children against five men. Would her words make these men punish her more? Hurt the children?
The sergeant leaned forward till he was nearly nose to nose with her again. “Did you know, Mrs. McCoy, we hang men who don’t tell us what we want to know? Makes them start talking.” He paused, prolonging her torture. “And we hanged one woman.”
One of the soldiers laughed. “Strung her up and stretched her good.”
Terror tore through Lou as other soldiers nodded. She wrung her hands. What were they threatening? To kill her? If you hanged someone they died—unless he was talking about something else.
She trembled, remembering a conversation she’d overheard between Louis Vandever and Joe Hart, two of the men who rode with Moses. In whispers they’d talked about the practice of stretching a man’s neck to get information from him. A rope was thrown over a post or branch and a noose tightened around the neck. Then the person was pulled off the ground to swing about, kicking and choking, before being lowered and questioned again. If they didn’t give up the sought-after answers, the process was repeated until the information—or their soul—was wrenched from their limp body.
Fear clawed its way up Lou’s spine and she couldn’t stop herself from placing one hand against her throat. Not twenty feet away in the next room Carrie shrieked. James screamed even louder, as though to out-scream his sister. Lou could hear Matt as he tried to calm them. Something snapped inside her. Whether it was maternal instinct or just plain rage, she squared her shoulders and shouted at the sergeant standing inches away, “You all look brave enough to hang a woman!”
The man jerked backward as though he’d been slapped. The others looked from one to another.
“You gonna take a slur like that, Sarge?” one of the other men asked.
“I say let’s stretch her neck now and get it over with,” offered another.
“I don’t hold with hangin’ a woman. No way no how, ‘specially not one with young ‘uns. You can count me outta that,” the third soldier said.
“Me, too. If the army wants to hang her then let ‘em, but I don’t want no part of it.”
“Calm down, boys.” The sergeant waved. “We’re not going to do anything to her.” He turned to Lou and added, “Tonight.”
Would these men go away and leave her and the children alone? She would worry about tomorrow then. She had to get through tonight.
Finally, the sergeant stepped back. “We’ll be leaving you now, Mrs. McCoy.”
Just like that they were leaving? After scaring the wits out of her all she had to do was stand up to them to make them go? Lou wanted to slump to the floor in relief but managed to stay upright as the soldiers holstered their guns and stomped out the door. Matt stepped from the bedroom and stood beside Lou. James ran out and wrapped his arms around Lou’s leg, his eyes red and face wet from crying. Carrie shrieked from her crib that Matt must have uprighted.
As quickly as they’d come, the men were gone. Lou lifted James onto her hip, ran to the door and threw the bolt. She rubbed his back and smoothed the hair from his face, repeating over and over, “Hush sweetheart, you’re fine.” With James shuddering, but momentarily quieted, she hurried to Carrie. Tears and snot covered the little girl’s face and streamed into her mouth. Her hair was plastered against her face and neck with sweat. She hiccupped, cried louder and reached up the moment Lou stepped into the room.
“Mama,” she screamed.
Lou tried to sit James on the toussled bed, but he wouldn’t release her. Carrie screamed louder. She waved Matt over. “Let’s get the bed back together.” With James still on her hip, she and her younger brother wrestled the mattress back in place.
“It’s all right now, James. Uncle Mattie will sit with you.”
Matt tried to peel James from Lou but failed.
Tears welled up in Lou’s eyes. “Please son. Carrie’s afraid and I need to go to her.”
James’s lower lip trembled. He looked at Carrie then at Matt and released Lou.
“That’s a good boy, James. It’s over now. Everything is fine.”
James sniffed and scooted toward his uncle. “It’s over now. Everything is fine,” Matt repeated. The little boy slid under Matt’s protective arm and snuggled close to the older boy.
Lou pulled Carrie from the crib and sobbed as much as Carrie when she crushed her baby girl to her chest. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered in her ear over and over. “I didn’t mean for this to happen. Shhh, shhh, shhh,” she said over and over as the child whimpered and hiccupped.
With Carrie in her arms, Lou sat beside James. He’d been a mere babe, another woman’s child, when she’d married Moses five years ago at fifteen, but this boy was as much a part of her heart as Carrie. She noticed the tears that stood in Matt’s eyes when he looked over. She wanted to pull him close and soothe him, too, but Carrie had no intention of letting her go.
James slid away from Matt and curled up in a ball in the middle of the bed. He closed his eyes and put his thumb in his mouth—something he hadn’t done since he was three.
“It’s all right now, children. The bad men are gone.”
James jerked upright. “Will…will they come back, Mama?” he asked between hiccups.
“No, James. They won’t be back.” Lou prayed she spoke the truth.
The boy sank back into the bed. He curled his legs up to his chest, closed his eyes and put his thumb back in his mouth.
Lou rocked Carrie and sang to her for the better part of a quarter hour before the little girl calmed enough to fall asleep on her shoulder. Barely able to release her, Lou put Carrie back into her crib where she, too, popped her thumb into her mouth and sucked.
The fear for her children and brother ebbing, Lou went into the front room and checked the bolt on the door again. When she turned around Matt was standing outside the children’s room. His hands rolled in and out of fists and his eyes were fixed on Lou. He tried to speak but broke down into sobs instead. He dropped to the floor on his knees.
Lou took her brother’s hand, pulled him up and helped him sit down on the straight-backed chair beside the fireplace. She knelt beside him. “We were lucky tonight. They left.” She clutched her throat. “Those soldiers actually threatened to hang me.” She blinked her eyes in disbelief. “How can some men be so evil?” she asked absently.
“I don’t know, Sister, but we saw it tonight.” Matt’s voice still shook. “What do we do now?” he asked.
Lou’s mind raced, but she couldn’t put two thoughts together.
Matt poked her in the arm moments later when she hadn’t answered his question. “What do we do, Lou?”
She put her hand on his smooth, baby face. “You were so brave, Matt. I’m very proud of you.”
“I didn’t do nothin’ but look after Carrie and James. Moses told me I was the man of the house and I didn’t do a thing to help you except hide in the bedroom with the babies.”
Lou laid her hand on her brother’s shoulder. “Someone had to stay with them to protect them. I couldn’t. But knowing they were safe with you gave me the strength I needed to face those soldiers.”
Matt curled his lip up and shrugged. “Maybe. But what are we gonna do?” he asked for the third time.
Lou stared at the wreckage of her home. If only she could reach Moses…but no, this was for her to figure out. After a moment, she announced, “We’ll go to Mama and Papa’s in the morning. Go, gather up your belongings. We’ll leave at first light.”
“Yes ma’am.” Matt stood up, but his shoulders slumped. His feet dragged when he shuffled away as though he carried a fifty-pound weight on each foot—mirroring the weight of fear of what awaited each of them in the morning that now sat on Lou’s shoulders.
FIRE ON THE HORIZON: The Death of the Morro Castle:
In an era when most Americans struggled to keep a roof over their heads and food in their bellies, those who could still afford to spent a week of injulgence aboard the Morro Castle, a luxury liner that sailed from New York to Havana, Cuba. Aboard ship, the Depression and Prohibition wer forgotten. Food and liquor flowed freely. And the ongoing party started the moment she set sail and didn't end until seven days later when she docked back in the harbor. That was until fire ravaged her and destroyed it all.
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Go to the NEWS tab to read excerpts from my (two) short stories in KANSAS CITY STORY: From Trading Post to Cowtown to Cosmopolitan Crossroads.
KANSAS CITY STORY: From Trading Post to Cowtown to Cosmopolitan Crossroads, is an anthology written by members of and published by the Midwest Romance Writers (MRW), of which I am a member. Learn KC's history from the early 1800's through 2000 with stories written for each decade by our members. (I'm happy to say I have TWO stories in the anthology - TERROR IN RUSKIN HEIGHTS, the story of the Ruskin Heights Tornado in 1957 and TICKET LINES, PHONES AND ELTON JOHN about the opening of the Sprint Center in 2008.) If you want to take a look, here's the link: https://www.amazon.com/Kansas-City-Story-Cosmopolitan-Crossroads-ebook/dp/B07G2CR368
For information on or to purchase any of my books, go to my Amazon author page at: https://www.amazon.com/author/www.dlrogersbooks.com
The Civil War yielded many bloody battles and the Battle at Lone Jack was among the worst. Fought across a sixty-foot strip of dusty road, brothers fought brothers, neighbors fought neighbors, cousins fought cousins, and the blood of horses and men ran together in the street under the blistering August sun.
The Green family tried to keep from being caught up in the war headed for their doorstep, but their efforts were lost—even before the Yankees came to town.
In their youthful exuberance and ignorance, sixteen and fifteen year old Hank and Jesse sneak into town to watch the battle—and find more trouble than they bargained for. Pete, the oldest brother, joins the Rebels and fights to save his life—and that of his brothers. Cora, the oldest daughter on the cusp of becoming a woman, loves a boy who runs off to fight with the Federals—and breaks her heart.
Read the first two chapters here.