Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Title: The Shadow of Death
June 21, 1863
“Confederate,” Ira said. He was pale, as if all the blood had drained out of him during surgery. His legs were both gone from the knees down.
Jacob Clemmons leaned his good ear towards Ira. His heart pounded as his mouth went dry. This felt like battle: thick smoke in his eyes as the earth shook beneath his feet.
“I said, you musta’ stole it from some Reb,” Ira said. He patted Jacob on the shoulder and looked the revolver over. 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 had been 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.
“My mama,” Ira said, “it’s for my mama.”
Then he placed the revolver between his lips and pulled the trigger.
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 he wore 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 sipped from the tin mug that seemed permanently affixed to his right hand, and swayed a bit with exhaustion. He glanced around the workshop, shocked to see that the sun had risen.
“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.”
Henry looked around the shop, at the stacks of wood, all projects half finished.