Exciting news! The first Calvin Carter team-up has arrived.
With the publication of Cash Laramie and the Sundown Express, Carter steps into a wider western universe, and he does it courtesy of one of my oldest writing friends.
David Cranmer and I emerged on the scene at roughly the same time, around 2008-2009 or so. We would see each other’s comments on the same blogs and we eventually started communicating back and forth. His first major character was Cash Laramie, the Outlaw Marshal, who starred in a series of short stories. Mine was former actor turned railroad detective, Calvin Carter. In fact, Carter’s first adventure was published on David’s Beat to a Pulp webzine.
We’ve discussed teaming up our two characters and, after a decade in development, the end result is finally available.
And it’s thrilling.
I am immensely proud of this work not only for the story itself but also because it’s the first time I’ve published a story with a co-author.
You can find the print or ebook version at Amazon.
So, without any further words from me, I present the description and the Prologue (things folks on my mailing list (sign up at my author website) received over two weeks ago--hint, hint).
Cash Laramie, The Outlaw Marshal, faces his wildest adventure yet when the Sundown Express, billed as the fastest train in the west, is seized by a ruthless gang.
The desperadoes run the train back and forth on the same stretch of open ground, eliminating any chance for lawmen to board and retake the locomotive. They deliver their demands with a corpse: Give us $100,000 before dusk or we will kill more passengers every hour until the ransom is met.
Cash has faced miscreants before and knows he can beat these guys, but how can he get on the Express hurtling down the tracks at seventy miles per hour?
Aboard the train, things are grim. Famed actress Lillie Langtry and the other captives sit frightened, wondering if they’ll be next. But not disguised railroad detective Calvin Carter. He reckons the train’s speed thwarts any chance for a boarding party to save the day, so the former actor makes sure he’s in the marauders’ spotlight, even if it means his final curtain call.
With a rescue plan that feels like a suicide mission, Cash and fellow marshal Gideon Miles must board the speeding train and take down the gang before any more innocent lives are lost.
Ashdale, Wyoming: Mid-morning
The sound arrived first. The distinctive rumble of an iron horse roaring over steel rails, carried on the wind to the ears of the people gathered at the Ashdale Station. Sheriff Roy Tanner frowned. Something was wrong. He knew it, and, based on the faces of the others lingering on the platform, they knew it, too.
A train was coming, but it was coming from the wrong direction.
Like many of the citizens of the town, Sheriff Tanner had turned out to watch the inaugural run of the trailblazing-in-design train dubbed the Sundown Express, capable of a speed topping seventy miles an hour. The crowd had stuck around, braving the sweltering August heat, to prattle on over the sight of the mighty locomotive as it sped through their small community, destined for Sioux Falls. Tanner had even taken pity on Edwin Curtis, a swarthy prisoner whose penchant for robbing trains earned him a trial date as soon as the judge returned to Ashdale. Handcuffed together, wrist to wrist, Tanner could tell Curtis also sensed something.
“I thought the paper said the track was gonna be cleared for the Express,” Curtis said.
“That’s right,” the sheriff replied. The lawman reached into a trouser pocket, removed a bandana, and began wiping the sweat from his forehead and neck.
The sound grew louder. From a distance, through the shimmering heat waves rising from the flat land, a dark shape moved.
A handful of people stepped forward to the edge of the platform, curious. Without warning, Curtis stepped forward, too, craning his neck over the heads of the onlookers and yanking on Tanner’s arm, but the lawman didn’t much care. He wanted to see as well. He recognized the distinctive outline of a train approaching. The plume of smoke rose from the stack and caromed into the wind.
Tanner glanced over his shoulder at the ticket clerk. The scrawny, short man frowned and squinted his eyes behind a pair of spectacles, absently scratching his head as he checked the schedule from his seat inside the tiny ticket booth.
“Neville,” Tanner called to the clerk, “what train is this?”
“I don’t know. There can’t be another train due from the east until the Express crosses into Dakota Territory. That’ll be hours from now.”
Curtis hmphed. “Schedule or not, that train’s almost here. And it ain’t slowing down.” He gestured with his chin. “It’s the Express again.”
Tanner gawked at the outlaw. “How do you know?”
“The speed. I ain’t never heard anything move that fast.”
“There ain’t a turnaround for at least a hundred miles,” the sheriff scoffed. “Only way for it to be the Express was if it was going backwards.”
Neville let out a panicked laugh, masking a deepening alarm. “But why would it be coming back here, going in reverse no less?”
Moments later, the caboose rocketed in, its gold-and-red paint confirming Curtis’s assertion, followed quickly by the passenger cars with “Sundown Express” emblazoned on the sides. Unlike its first pass, the train didn’t slow down this time, and, from the open doors of a boxcar, a bundle was tossed through the air. Tanner didn’t need but a glance to recognize the shape as a bound and gagged man.
Startled bystanders bounded across the platform boards in chaos, rushing out of harm’s way. When the body hit the planks, it rolled several times before smashing into the wooden ticket booth and dislodging the shocked clerk from his seat.
As the train steamed onward to Cheyenne, a stunned silence briefly fell in its wake, only to be broken when a few folks began murmuring about what they had just witnessed. Tanner, hardened by the Great Unpleasantness, stood speechless until the moaning of the victim roused him from his stupor.
The discarded man, lying on his back, raised his bloodied head a fraction then lowered it, fixed gray eyes staring upon oblivion.
Needing no prompt, the paling clerk righted himself and backed away from the corpse in an ungainly scramble.
Sheriff Tanner unlocked the handcuff from his wrist and reattached it to a porter’s cart handle. “Stay put,” he told his prisoner.
“I ain’t goin’ nowhere,” Curtis said. He stood rooted in place and gazed west at the rapidly disappearing Sundown Express, something akin to respect showing on his face.
Tanner ran to the wrecked ticket stand and lowered himself to one knee beside the portly man dressed in a brown and tan chalk-stripe suit. There was a wide patch of blood on the victim’s vest, a gut shot, which didn’t bode well. Neither did the taut leather cord tied around his throat. Tanner pressed two fingers to the side of the man’s neck.
“Is he, is he dead?” Neville asked as he steadied himself on what remained of the ticket booth.
The lawman nodded solemnly. He pulled at the leather cord, revealing an envelope tucked inside the man’s vest. It read simply: “For Senator Madison.”
“Is that a message?” Neville said.
“No,” Curtis said, his lips curling over his teeth into a wide grin. “It’s a ransom.”