Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Title: The Shadow of Death
June 21, 1863
“Confederate,” Ira said.
Jacob Clemmons leaned his good ear towards Ira. One hand rested on the bed to keep his balance, in the place Ira’s legs should have been.
“I said you musta’ stole it from some Reb,” Ira said. He turned the revolver over in his hands. His thumb, stained with dirt and black powder, caressed the back strap of the gun.
“Burial detail,” Jacob said.
The man Jacob had taken the gun from was older than he. By the time he crossed the field with a spade over his shoulder to separate the Union dead from the Confederates and give his men a decent burial, the man’s fingers were bloated to twice their normal size.
Jacob hadn’t pried the gun from the man’s hands. No, he separated the man’s index finger from his hand with a thrust of his shovel. Bones crunched, satisfying and loud among the moans of the not yet dead.
He was a demon dressed in blue, same as the man in gray he had stood over, on the blood soaked earth of a town called Chancellorsville. Jacob took the man’s shiny gun. He would take all he could from an enemy that wanted him dead.
The voices outside the tent grew louder. Jacob slapped himself in the head. The pain there, it didn’t go away. When he was in camp and all was quiet, his head hurt. He imagined hornets in his mind, chewing on his brain like it was a rotten apple.
“My mama,” Ira said, “it’s for my mama.”
Then he placed the revolver between his lips and pulled the trigger.
Hewitt Town, Ohio
July 4th, 1863
“Ah,” a voice said. “You’re finally awake.”
On the other side of a doorway, Gabriel Hewitt stood beside a workbench, dressed in the same dark pants Henry saw him in the night before. His feet were stained black, his dark hair brown with sawdust. He held a cigarette between the first fingers of his right hand, the scent of tobacco heavy in the air.
Gabriel drank from the tin mug that seemed permanently affixed to his right hand, and swayed a bit with exhaustion. He glanced around the workshop, as if shocked to see that the sun had risen.
“Just pull yourself together and eat something for breakfast. The Widow up the way sent biscuits and I found some berries,” Gabriel said.
“You really want me to eat, don’t you?” Henry asked.
“I can’t have you wasting away.”
“What’s the catch?”
“The Welk baby died last night,” Gabriel said, again, “and we have to go get measurements.”
“We?” Henry asked. He looked around the shop, at the stacks of wood leaned against the wall, all projects half finished.