The Department of Curiosities

Today, I would like to welcome my friend Karen J. Carlisle to the blog. Our works have appeared together in three different steampunk anthologies: Denizens of Steam, Den of Antiquity, and DeadSteam: A Chilling Collection of Dreadpunk Tales. Karen has a new novel coming out tomorrow and she has agreed to share an excerpt from it. So, without further ado, I will turn the floor over to Karen.


Good morning everyone and thank you to David for allowing me to guest post on his blog.

So far on this blog tour, I’ve written about why The Department of Curiosities was written, introduced our heroine, Tillie Meriwether, and other characters and exposed some background on one of the many competing groups.I’ve chatted about mechanicals (gadgets), shared book trailers and a new short story and The Department’s Australian connection.

The Department of Curiosities is a tale of adventure, a heroine, a mad scientist, traitors and secrets. All for the good of the Empire.

Buckle up and get ready for the adventure…

Now there’s just one more day until my new book goes live on 22nd May. It’s also Tillie Meriwether’s birthday! (I chose Tillie’s birthday in the first draft – and had forgotten the date. Imagine my surprise when I realised it was the week of the intended release date. So why not make them the same day?)

To celebrate the official release, and Tillie’s birthday, here’s an excerpt… Everyone does the first chapter, so this time I’m sharing the second scene from chapter eighteen:


Of Airships, Trains and Flying Machines

The crew had assembled in Little Nessie’s lower hold. Only the pilot and boilermen remained at their posts. The General had yet to arrive, and Harrow was conspicuous by his absence. Tillie frowned, and wondered what mischief he was orchestrating.

She stood behind the troop of operatives gathered before her. She stretched up on tiptoe to observe the proceedings.

Six strapping men, some of England’s finest; each wore a harness wrapped around their torso. A life-line of thick silk rope attached them securely to the winch. They were armed with pistols, grappling hooks and devilish-looking knives. Strapped to their backs were over-sized blunderbusses: a silver ball jutted from one side surrounded by brass tubes, which coiled along the rifle’s barrel to the muzzle. A mini-grappling hook perched on top of the barrel end; its cord funnelled along a tube back to a cartridge on the other side of the rifle body.

The troops eagerly jostled each other as they circled a large hatch in the floor of the hull. They checked their equipment, donned their goggles and readied to jump into oblivion below. The hatch intrigued her, as did the large brass winch secured to the floor near its rim. Sir Avery checked the gauges on the body of the winch assembly and swallowed. The colour drained from his face, until he resembled a wide-eyed Ghostman. His moustache twitched.

<<It quivered,>> said the Orb.

<<Don’t be horrible,>> said Tillie. <<If you can’t say something nice, then don’t speak at all. Or I’ll ask the General to bring his cane.>>

The Orb shuddered. The corner of her mouth curled in satisfaction. She’d finally discovered something to curb the Orb’s increased bullying.

“Are we not joining them?” she asked Sir Avery.

He stared at the floor hatch and didn’t reply.

<<Reckless,>> said the Orb.

<<Not your choice,>> she said.

The Orb fell silent.

The door behind them clanked. The men snapped to attention.

There was a faint chuckle beside her ear.

“Yes, you are going, my dear,” said the General.

“We get to fly?” Tillie squealed with delight. “How?”

Sir Avery managed only a weak smile.

“You get these.” Harrow stepped into view, carrying a large cylindrical contraption on each arm. “Personal Flying Machines.”

“Confiscated from an Australian smuggler,” said the General.

Sir Avery relieved Harrow of one of the flying machines and held it at arm’s length.

“The cylinder contains a pressurised gas…”

His words faded as Tillie ogled the brass cylinders. So shiny. She could see her own reflection in their brilliance. She ran her hands along the pipes and grabbed the harness.

“How do I put it on?” She spun around, slipped her arms through the harness straps and pulled the contraption onto her back.

Sir Avery halted his lecture and blinked; his hands, still holding the harness straps, now encircled her waist. Her bustle nudged his arm as she snatched the ends of the straps from his hand and buckled up the harness.

He took a quick step backwards, transferring his hands to cradle the gas tanks until the straps were secure. The colour had returned to his cheeks.

Harrow handed Sir Avery the second Personal Flying Machine. Sir Avery donned the contraption and demonstrated how to adjust the pack to sit securely.

“You’re not accompanying us, Harrow?” she asked.

“I have my orders,” he replied. “I am to stay here with the General. The Personal Flying Machines are restricted to those with Lower Level clearance.”

Harrow’s face remained fixed, showing no emotion. He was up to something.

The Orb jittered. Tillie eyed Harrow out of the corner of her eye. She was not comfortable with leaving him alone with the General, in such close proximity of a gaping hole hundreds of feet above the countryside.

Harrow smiled at her. It was faint, but it was there.

<<He knows I suspect him. What should I do?>>

The Orb did not reply. She frowned; this time she wanted its opinion. She glanced at the General’s cane and frowned. Blessings could also be curses.

Sir Avery jiggled the gas canisters and tapped on the pressure gauge. Tillie relaxed her muscles, trying to look as calm as possible, and returned her attention to the Personal Flying Machine.

“How do I start it?” she asked Sir Avery.

“First we…”

He swivelled two metal pipe-handles over her head. They clicked in place. She grasped them.

“Steering?” she asked.

“Yes,” he replied. “Just apply pressure in the direction you wish to travel.”

She pushed forward. The handles moved under her guidance.

“This,” he indicated a switch at the bottom of the main body of the pack, “is the ignition switch. And this…” He indicated a large button on the right side of the pack, about elbow height. “This will get you back to the ground if you lose power.”

Tillie grinned. It seemed simple enough.

The General stepped forward.

“Miss Meriwether and Gentlemen, I will remind you this is a retrieval mission. I have direct orders from Her Majesty. We need the Inventor alive.” He turned to the troops. “And intact. Is that understood?”

The men nodded.

“Once he is retrieved, and you are clear of the train, Little Nessie will descend to facilitate your extraction.” He turned to Harrow. “There is an extra flying machine prepared for you. Stop the train if there is any danger to the passengers.”

Harrow narrowed his eyelids.

“Sir?” he said. “I thought-”

“Change of plan. We need to ensure the safety of the other passengers on board. That is your priority.”

Harrow slipped on the flying machine and clicked the harness in place.

“Miss Meriwether, you are to accompany Sir Avery to First Class to apprehend the Inventor. The rest of the men will keep the Ghostmen from interfering.”

There was a murmur of assent.

She carefully lifted her goggles over her head, hoping it would not disrupt her coiffure, and wrangled a ringlet back in place. The dirigible and the General would be safer with Harrow on the ground, though she’d have preferred to have someone accompany him, to keep an eye on him. At least he wouldn’t have a chance to warn the Inventor.

The floor vibrated beneath her feet. A loud ratcheting echoed throughout the hold. A jet of air rushed through a crack at the rim of the hatch. The crack widened slowly, as the hatch slid open in front of them. Wind roared beneath them, whistling at the edge of the gaping maw.

Harrow stepped toward the hull hatch, flicked the ignition switch and stepped into the chasm. He hovered for a second, then plummeted out of sight.

She leaned forward and watched as he turned and sped northward toward the engine as it neared the bridge.

Little Nessie was now directly above the middle carriage, almost in position to drop the rest of her human cargo.

Sir Avery closed his eyes and ignited his flying machine. He winced as it rumbled into life, then took a deep breath and edged toward the hatch.

Tillie flicked the switch on her own contraption. A dull twinge gripped her rib cage as the initial vibration knocked on her spine. She took a, not too deep, breath and struggled to relax the muscles in her torso. The vibration settled into a gentle rhythm. The twinge eased until it was only a mild irritation.

Sir Avery leaned close to her. “Are your ribs still causing discomfort, Miss Meriwether?” he whispered. “You should inform the General.”

“They are healing as expected,” she replied. “There is no need to bother the General.”

He nodded. “Very well. Then follow me, Miss Meriwether, into the heavens.” He stepped into the air, screwed his eyelids shut and lowered himself out of sight.

Tillie stepped up to the edge. Her skirts fluttered in the churning air currents.

<<Oh dear, I didn’t think this through.>> She grabbed the back of her overskirt with each hand and folded the edges forward, tugging them tight to tie a knot and tucked the ends into the harness strap, then stepped forward and descended into the void.


The Department of Curiosities will be released 22nd May, 2019.

Watch the book trailers: https://karenjcarlisle.com/books/the-department-of-curiosities/book-trailers-the-department-of-curiosities/  or on Karen’s YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/kkZKisvU1Ks

If you want to follow the rest of The Department of Curiosities book launch blog tour, check out the links on Karen’s blog post: https://karenjcarlisle.com/2019/04/14/the-department-of-curiosities-book-blog-tour-schedule/

You can pre-order your eBook copy of The Department of Curiosities (for special price of US$2.99) at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/934976

or sign up for Karen’s newsletter at: https://karenjcarlisle.com/sign-up-email-list/

Follow Karen on:

Or support Karen on Patreon (for less than a cup of coffee a month and you get cool rewards!): https://www.patreon.com/KarenJCarlisle


Karen J Carlisle is a writer and illustrator of steampunk, Victorian mysteries and fantasy. She was short-listed in Australian Literature Review’s 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition. Her first novella, Doctor Jack & Other Tales, was published in 2015 and her short stories have featured in the 2016 Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’, and the ‘Where’s Holmes’ and ‘Deadsteam’ anthologies.

Karen lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat.

She’s always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea.

www.karenjcarlisle.com

Holiday Owls

Since today is Christmas Eve, I thought it would be fitting to share a short excerpt from my novel Owl Dance. In this scene, Ramon and Fatemeh find themselves on the run with little money in San Francisco. It’s a simple moment that gets to the heart of the season. Keep reading after the segment to learn about a special event later this week.


Ramon returned to the room he shared with Fatemeh late on Christmas Eve. Fatemeh noticed he wore a new pair of glasses. Like his old pair, they were round and gave his face an owlish appearance. He held his hands behind his back. Fatemeh stood and wrapped her arms around Ramon, but was surprised when he didn’t return the embrace. “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing.” Ramon’s voice held a sly edge.

“It looks like you were successful in finding new glasses.”

 Ramon smiled.“Yes, these are even better than the old ones.” He shrugged. “The optometrist thinks my eyes have been getting a little worse.”

“That’s too bad.” Fatemeh returned to her chair.

“However, I did have enough money left over to get you something.” He brought his arms out from behind his back. In his hand was a narrow box, about eight inches long. “Merry Christmas!” Just then he pulled the box back. “Do Bahá’ís celebrate Christmas?”

“Not normally,”said Fatemeh, “but as I’ve said, we respect the teachings of Jesus. I’m happy to celebrate his birth with you, Ramon.” She held out her hand and Ramon handed her the box. She opened it and saw a necklace. Adorning it was a hand-carved wooden bead in the shape of an owl.

“I bought the necklace. I carved the owl myself, though.”

“It’s very sweet.” Fatemeh smiled and put the necklace on. She stood and kissed Ramon, but held his hands as they parted. “How is our money doing?”

“I think I can find a job, but it’s not going to pay much,” admitted Ramon. “We could stay here about six more days and I could keep looking, or we could move on.”

“I like the idea of moving on.” Fatemeh returned to her chair. “I really didn’t like the reception we had on our first day and it’s loud here, even late at night.” She looked out the window at a saloon across the street.

“Where would you like to go?”

She pulled out a map and set it on the small table between the room’s two chairs. “What do you know about Los Angeles?”

“It’s a small town. There’s some farms and some industrial work.” Ramon shrugged.

“What does Los Angeles mean?”

“It means ‘belonging to the angels,’ The name’s short for something like town of the queen of angels.”

“Sounds lovely. Can we leave tomorrow?”

Ramon laughed.“Tomorrow’s Christmas. I doubt the trains are even running. What about the next day?”

“That sounds perfect.” Fatemeh put her hand to the new necklace. “I’m afraid I didn’t get you a present. What else do people do on Christmas?”

“We sing songs.” Ramon sat in the empty chair next to Fatemeh.

“Teach me a Christmas song worthy of the angels, Ramon.”


I hope you enjoyed this little snippet of Owl Dance. On Friday this week, Lynn Moorer of KTAL Radio in Las Cruces will interview me about the fourth book of the series, Owl Riders. If you’re in Las Cruces, you can listen from 12:30-1:00pm mountain standard time by tuning in to 101.5 FM on your radio dial. If you aren’t in Las Cruces, or just don’t listen to shows on the radio, you can stream the show at  https://www.lccommunityradio.org/stream.html. I had a great time earlier this year when I spoke to Lynn about The Brazen Shark. Be sure to mark your calendars so you can catch the show live!

End Game and New Beginnings

I’m currently working on the final chapters of my collection Firebrandt’s Legacy. This book collects space pirate stories that have appeared in numerous anthologies over the years alongside several new stories. The whole collection is an arc of related stories, so the book may be read as an episodic novel. I’ve been sharing the new and revised stories with my Patreon subscribers since September 2017.

Based on my current outline, I have about three stories to go to bring events up to the beginning of my novel The Pirates of Sufiro and to bring the collection up to the length I want. I will release the first story of the final three to my Patreon subscribers on Thursday, July 26.

My approach to Patreon has been pretty simple. I only have one tier and it only costs $1.00 per month to subscribe. Of course, patrons are welcome to pay more per month if they feel sufficiently moved by my work to support me at a higher level. My first goal is to use this money to pay the costs associated with publishing Firebrandt’s Legacy. My second goal is to print new editions of the other related books including The Pirates of Sufiro, Children of the Old Stars, and Heirs of the New Earth. Patreon support has already helped me publish the new edition of The Solar Sea, which is a prequel to my Space Pirates’ Legacy series that tells the story of how humans became a space faring society. I shared a free download of the ebook with all my Patreon subscribers. Patreon support also helps support this blog and helps support my travel to conventions where I give both writing and science presentations.

For the duration of Firebrandt’s Legacy, I have been posting at least one new or revised story to the site per month along with a “Behind the Scenes” look at where the story first appeared (if it had been previously published) and what influenced me to write the story. Of course, I plan to share a free download of the complete ebook to all my Patreon subscribers when it’s complete.

Now that I’m about to finish Firebrandt’s Legacy, I’m thinking about the best way to share my progress revising The Pirates of Sufiro for a new edition. I expect that I’ll be heavily revising this novel for a number of reasons. Not the least of which is that this was my very first novel and I’ve learned a lot since I first published it. I’ve also received a lot of feedback on the novel over the years and plan to take those comments into account. Sharing “reedited chapters” may not sound like much value to anyone who has already read the book and people may wonder why they should subscribe instead of just buying a cheap used copy of the book.

My current plan is that when I start The Pirates of Sufiro, instead of doing the “Behind the Scenes” segments, I’ll share the chapter as it appeared in the most recent edition, perhaps along with some notes about the inspirations and the origins of the ideas. I’ll wait a couple of weeks, then present the revised chapter, so people can see what I’m doing with this edit. In both cases, I’m delighted for people to comment on what I’m doing as the project progresses.

To prepare for this transition, I’ve recorded a brief intro video and posted it to my Patreon site. Also, I have made two of the Firebrandt’s Legacy stories/chapters available for anyone to read whether or not they’re a patron. They’re the first chapter, “For a Job Well Done”, and Chapter Twelve, “Calamari Rodeo.” I encourage you to drop over to the site, watch the intro video and read the two free stories. If you like these characters, please sign on as a patron. My Patreon site is: http://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers

One last thing before signing off. Speaking of used copies of The Pirates of Sufiro, Children of the Old Stars, and Heirs of the New Earth, Hadrosaur Productions is running an auction at eBay for the last complete set of the LBF/Hadrosaur editions of the Old Star Saga in their stock. Drop by and place a bid at eBay!

Owl Riders Cover Reveal

This week, I have a special treat for all you patient readers. I’m proud to reveal the cover of Clockwork Legion Book Four, Owl Riders. I think Laura Givens did an outstanding job. Hope you like it as well. What’s the book about? Scroll past the cover to learn more.

When Fatemeh Karimi married Ramon Morales, she neglected to share one small detail. She was already betrothed to a merchant named Hamid Farzan. She had no interest in Hamid or an arranged marriage. She wanted to live life on her own terms. Eight years after marrying Ramon, she assumed Hamid had long forgotten about her, as she had him.

Settled in New Orleans, Ramon works as an attorney, Fatemeh owns a pharmacy, and they’re proud parents of a precocious daughter. Out west, Apaches armed with powerful battle wagons have captured Fort Bowie and threaten Tucson. Businessmen with an interest in a peaceful solution ask Ramon to come west and settle the conflict. Meanwhile Hamid arrives in New Orleans and he has not forgotten Fatemeh or her vows to him.

Now, the famed Owl Riders must assemble once again to reunite Ramon and Fatemeh so they can tame the Wild West.


The book is currently scheduled for release this spring.

While you’re waiting for the book’s release, you can read a preview of the first chapter at: http://www.davidleesummers.com/Owl-Riders-Preview.html. Enjoy!

777 Challenge

Steve Moore, author of Royal America, and fellow Denizen of the Scribbler’s Den on The Steampunk Empire challenged me to play the 777 game. In this game, we go to page seven of a work in progress, scroll down seven lines and post the next seven sentences.

777-Challenge

Since Steve is a fellow steampunk writer, I chose The Brazen Shark which has recently been handed off to the tender mercies of my editor:

    She took a sip, then dug into the hearty breakfast.

    Ramon gathered up the second plate and cup, but felt uncomfortable and lazy as he returned to the chair. Ramon had been many things including a sheriff and a ranch hand. He enjoyed working, but Captain Cisneros insisted Ramon and Fatemeh were guests and must enjoy their time together. Despite his lethargy, Ramon’s stomach rumbled. He gulped down breakfast and sopped up the leftover egg yolks and chile with a tortilla.

    “Slow down,” said Fatemeh.

As it turns out, I have two works in progress. My horror novel, The Astronomer’s Crypt is also in the hands of its editor. Here are seven lines to tease you about that novel as well!

    They progressed slowly and steadily about two miles until they came to a bridge over a place called Nana’s ravine. The car ahead hit a patch of ice and spun out of control. Mike’s mouth dropped open as the car slammed into the guardrail just beyond the bridge and toppled over the side.

    As Mike reached the bridge, he felt the wheels of his own car start to skid. He geared the engine down low and eased his foot onto the brakes. The car fishtailed across the bridge, but he maintained control. Once on the other side, he pulled up to the broken guardrail.

These challenges typically ask you to tag more people, but I like to leave these open-ended. Especially in this case I know a lot people who have already been tagged. If you’d like to play, just drop a link to your blog in comments and I’ll update the post with up to the first seven who respond.

Update: Challenge accepted! I tag:

  1. Maxwell Grantley
  2. Karen J. Carlisle
  3. Noelle Hardy, The Empress

Owl Dance Excerpt 7: Dreaming of Airships

In this final excerpt from Owl Dance, General Gorloff goes to one of the great Russian scientists, Dmitri Mendeleev. If you’ve taken a chemistry class, you likely remember Mendeleev as the creator of the Periodic Table. However, he was also interested in airships. What if he had the resources to actually build one?


General Alexander Gorloff strode down a corridor at St. Petersburg University and knocked on a door.

“Come in,” called a distracted voice on the other side.

The general opened the door and was astonished to see a desk surrounded by books, some open, others closed—all in some kind of disarray. The desk itself was covered by papers. On the wall was a black chalkboard covered in incomprehensible scribbles that—as far as the general could tell—were some combination of hieroglyphs and a foreign language. None of this astonished the general as much as the man who sat behind the desk. His head was covered with a wild mop of gray-streaked, black hair. A bushy beard hid most of the man’s face.

The general introduced himself. “You are Mendeleev?”

“Yes, yes,” said the scientist, impatiently without rising from his chair. “What can I do for you, General?”

The general turned and closed the door. “I wish to discuss a matter of some secrecy that is important to our Czar.”

At this, Mendeleev turned his attention fully to Gorloff. “Go on.”

“In my duties as military attaché to the United States of America, it has come to my attention that the young country poses a threat to the Russian Empire.”

Mendeleev scowled. “This does not surprise me. It is a country of cowboys and loose cannons who have no respect for intellectual pursuits. The country has been around for a century and I cannot name one decent university or important literary work that has come from there.”

“I have heard some critics speak highly of a novel called Moby-Dick,” ventured the general.

The scientist waved his hand as though subjected to a bad smell. “A long-winded book about a madman hunting a whale? It has no value. Poe showed some promise, but he was obviously influenced by the French.”

“Obviously,” muttered the general in agreement. He sat down and decided to steer the conversation back to the topic at hand. “While in America, I also learned that there are vast reserves of gold and oil in Alaska,” continued Gorloff.

Mendeleev’s disdainful frown turned into a smug grin–although the general had some difficulty telling that through the thick beard. “I knew it was a mistake for the Czar to sell Alaska.”

“America poses a threat to Russia and the stability of the whole world,” declared the general. “I ask you, as a patriot, will you come to the aid of our country?”

“I am loyal to the Czar, General Gorloff. He has a good heart. He showed that when he freed the serfs. Ask what you will.” Mendeleev folded his arms across his chest, his eyes intent.

“We need a way to move quickly to the United States without being stopped by their navy,” explained the general. “We also need a way to deploy troops and heavy artillery across large sections of western North America.”

Mendeleev nodded and thought for several minutes. His head fell forward and for a moment, the general thought the scientist had fallen asleep. Just as he was leaning forward to tap Mendeleev on the shoulder, the scientist leapt to his feet and erased a section of the chalkboard. He drew a large ovoid shape. Next, he added boxes with something like ship propellers attached. Underneath, he drew a bigger box. “Imagine if you will, a ship of the air,” said Mendeleev, pointing at his drawing. “We build a steel frame. Inside will be great bags that we fill with a gas that’s lighter than air—say hydrogen.” He pointed to the boxes and propellers. “It will be light enough that small steam engines can be deployed to move it through the air. Underneath, like a balloon’s gondola, is a pilothouse. Within the steel frame structure, we can place troops, artillery, whatever you like.”

The general stared at the drawing wide-eyed. “Will such a thing really work?”

“I have been working on the problem of such a craft for the past few years.” As Mendeleev spoke, he continued sketching on the board, showing the airship from underneath. “The only thing that has kept me from building it is funding. If the Czar is serious about having such a war machine, I believe I can design it and we can build a small fleet.”

“This year?” Gorloff shook his head in wonder.

“If enough resources are dedicated to the problem.” Mendeleev stepped aside. The silhouette of an owl adorned his new sketch.

“Why do you adorn your airship with an owl?”

“My ancestors are Kalmyk, General Gorloff. A story has been passed down through the generations that an owl saved Ghengis Khan’s life. To us, owls have long been talismans of great power. These ships will be like great owls, expanding the Russian empire. We will guide the Americans to a more civilized age.”

Gorloff nodded satisfied. “Begin work designing these ships. Send word to the palace and let us know what materials and personnel you need. We will make sure they are sent.” The general reached out and shook Mendeleev’s hand. “It was a delight meeting you, Professor Mendeleev.”

“The pleasure was mine.”

Back out in the hall, the general heard Legion in the back of his mind. What a fascinating individual.

“You did well.” Gorloff’s voice was barely above a whisper. He didn’t want to attract attention as he walked down the hall. “It seems Professor Mendeleev responded quite well to the visions you showed him.”

We showed Professor Mendeleev no visions.

“What?!” The general shouted, then looked around quickly to make sure that no one had heard him. “What do you mean you showed him no visions?”

We didn’t need to. Those were Mendeleev’s own ideas.


First off, a big thank you for reading the excerpts today and helping to make this launch of Owl Dance a real success. I hope you have enjoyed the excerpts. You can find out more information about the novel, or buy a copy, at the following:

Owl Dance Excerpt 6: Kid Antrim

In this excerpt, Fatemeh Karimi rides to Silver City, New Mexico along with a reporter named Luther Duncan. Ramon has been jailed unjustly in Socorro and Fatemeh and Duncan are trying to solicit the help of a deputy sheriff named Dan Tucker. While there, they meet a teenage troublemaker.


“Who’s your prisoner?” Duncan looked toward the cell.

“Calls himself Kid Antrim.” Tucker chuckled to himself. “He’s been making a real pain in the ass of himself over at Fort Grant in Arizona.” He blushed and tipped his hat at Fatemeh. “Pardon my language, ma’am. They say he keeps stealing their supplies out from under them. His mother lives here in Silver City and I finally caught him this morning.”

“You wouldn’t o’ caught me if it wasn’t for this ankle,” grumbled the kid.

Fatemeh stood and stepped over to the cell. “What happened to your ankle?”

“Sprained it, hopping onto a horse.” The kid looked as his feet, apparently embarrassed at the notion of being clumsy.

“A horse that he stole.” The deputy sheriff scratched the back of his head. “I’m taking him back to Arizona tomorrow so he can stand trial at the fort. Even if I wanted to, I’m not sure there’s anything I could do to help Búho Morales. What you need is a good attorney and a judge sympathetic to your case, not a deputy sheriff like me—no matter how much I admire his reputation.”

“Whacha really need is someone to break him outta jail,” said the kid.

Fatemeh ignored the comment and returned to her seat at Tucker’s desk.

“Is there anyone you know that could help us?” Duncan leaned forward.

Tucker dropped his feet back to the floor. “Not around here. You might try Albert Fountain in Mesilla. I hear he’s pretty good with difficult cases.”

Fatemeh looked at Duncan with narrowed eyes. He gave an apologetic shrug. She redirected her gaze to the deputy sheriff. “I’m sorry we’ve bothered you, Mr. Tucker.”

“No bother at all, ma’am.” Tucker smiled faintly. “May I ask what the bishop was going to lynch you for?”

“His brother-in-law, Randolph Dalton, accused me of running off his miners. I was a better curandera than the ones in his parish…” She began counting off items on her fingers.

Tucker held up his hand and smiled. “I get the idea. If you’ll excuse my language again, you were a pain in his ass.”

Fatemeh grinned at that. “I think that about sums it up.” She looked toward the cell. “I wonder if you would allow me to treat the young man’s sprained ankle?”

Tucker shrugged. “It would sure make getting him to Arizona a lot easier if he could walk on his own two feet.”

Fatemeh nodded, then stood and left the sheriff’s office. She tried to think if there was anything else she could say to persuade Dan Tucker to help them out. It was clear he admired Ramon’s good reputation as a lawman. However, he was right. They needed a lawyer to get Ramon out of jail, not a deputy sheriff. She approached her horse and patted it on the nose, then went to her saddlebag and retrieved a bottle and some bandages. A few minutes later, she returned to the sheriff’s office.

She took the chair from in front of Dan Tucker’s desk, placed it in front of the jail cell and sat down. “I have something to help your sprain,” she said.

“Much obliged, but these things heal themselves with time.” Kid Antrim looked at the bottle suspiciously.

“This will help. I promise.”

Kid Antrim limped over to the bars. Gingerly, he pulled off his boot, then stuck his foot through. Fatemeh uncorked the bottle and the kid quickly pulled his foot back. “What in the name of Hell is that?” he cried, wrinkling his nose.

“Horse liniment. It’s the best thing I know for sprains.”

“I ain’t no horse.”

“Stick your foot back through the bars.”

He complied and she massaged his ankle with the liniment. Then, she wrapped his ankle snugly with the bandages.

“Hey, that feels better already.”

“Sure you don’t want to help me get him over to Arizona?” asked Tucker. “He listens to you better than he listens to me.”

“I would consider it, if you could help me with my problem.” Fatemeh put the cork back in the bottle of horse liniment.

The deputy sheriff scratched the back of his head, as though giving it serious thought. “The problem is I just don’t see any way I can help you, short of breaking Morales out of jail. If I really thought he’d been wronged, I might even help you do that, but from what you tell me, he admitted he was guilty of running away from his duties. It sounds like he may be facing a bad situation in Socorro, but how do I know what you’re telling me is true?”

“You don’t.”

“If you can think of any way to help, send word to me at the Mesilla News,” offered Duncan.

“I’ll do that.” Tucker stood from the desk and showed the visitors to the door.

That evening, Fatemeh and Duncan ate dinner at the hotel. Afterwards, they planned to get some sleep and ride back to Mesilla the next day.

“So tell me, Mr. Duncan, why exactly did we ride all the way out here, when we could have just spoken to this Albert Fountain back in Mesilla?”

Duncan sighed. “Albert Fountain is a very high powered attorney. I thought his services would be more than you could afford.”

Fatemeh looked down at her plate and stirred the food around with her fork. “I suppose you’re right.” She looked back up into Duncan’s eyes. “So what exactly are we going to do?”

Just then, the hotel door flew open and the scrawny fifteen-year-old kid from the sheriff’s office appeared. He slammed the door behind him and looked around. Seeing Fatemeh and Duncan he made for the table.

“What are you doing here?” Duncan’s eyes were wide.

“My ankle felt better, so I broke out of jail.” The kid smiled. “I didn’t feel like waiting around to go back to Arizona, so I thought I’d come here and see if I could help you all.”


Owl Dance is now live at Amazon.com.