The Burden of Souls (Hawker's Drift #1) by Andy Monk
Published: September 2014
Published: September 2014
Small Town, Dark Heart…
A long way from anywhere, on a road going nowhere, lays a small, unremarkable town. It seems a peaceable, prosperous little place, on the surface at least.
Away from prying eyes however, in the shadows and the forgotten corners, there is a web being weaved through the lives of its inhabitants by the town’s urbane and mysterious Mayor. A man prepared to make a deal for your heart's desire and, maybe, for your very soul…
Welcome to Hawker’s Drift, a town where nothing is quite as it seems…
The funeral of Molly McCrea’s husband was as brief and sparsely attended as their wedding had been six years earlier. It had rained then too, bitter winter rain, spat into their faces by a furious north wind as soon as they’d stepped out of the church, accompanied by only the preacher who had married them and two witnesses, whom they’d persuaded to leave a nearby bar in return for free beer.
The rain was warmer for his funeral, it was summer after all, and the view was better she supposed, out here surrounded by long swaying grass and vast turbulent skies, rather than the abattoir that had faced the church in that dirty little cattle town, whose name she had quite forgotten, where she’d married Tom McCrea.
She no more listened to Preacher Stone’s words over Tom’s grave than she had to those of the man who’d married them. At least she had the excuse that she’d been drunk then. She could recall he’d had a kind face and a soft voice, whereas Preacher Stone had neither and looked mighty inconvenienced that Tom McCrea required a burial at all.
She wished she was drunk now.
Perhaps she would march into Jack’s Saloon in her sodden, mud-splattered mourning dress, throw away her veil and drink whiskey at the bar till she cared about nothing at all anymore. Maybe after that, it wouldn’t hurt so much when they got round to killing her too.
At least it might give her the courage to tell the inhabitants of this creepy godforsaken town what she thought of them all.
She shut her eyes as the town’s gravedigger and his apprentice lowered Tom’s coffin into its muddy socket. They were showing as much care and respect as a couple of labourers dropping a sack of rotten potatoes off the back of a wagon.
Preacher Stone was muttering something about dust and ashes, but she wasn’t really listening. Perhaps they wouldn’t kill her, who was she anyway? She didn’t know anything; she wasn’t going to make a fuss. All she wanted to do was sell everything she and Tom had owned that wouldn’t fit into a suitcase and get out of town.
Maybe she’d go back east if there was anything left there, or move on west. Any point of the compass would do, so long as it took her away from Hawker’s Drift – a town that seemed to have been dumped slap bang in the middle of this endless plain, as far away from anybody else as it was possible to be, for no obvious purpose.
The land here was good as evidenced by the lush grass that would be waist high by autumn, but it was so far away from anywhere else it cost a fortune to transport grain or cattle back to civilization. Maybe if they ever got the railway going things might change, but by the time that ever happened she would be either a long way away or dead. Or maybe both.
She realised with a start that Preacher Stone had finished, and the only sound was the rain falling on the hollow wood of Tom’s coffin. They were all looking at her; Preacher Stone, Mr Furnedge, the gravedigger and his apprentice, the horse tethered to the coffin wagon. They expected her to do something.
She bent down and scooped a handful of mud from the pile next to the open grave; rivulets of rainwater were washing down the sides of the mound as if nature objected to the little manmade hill out here where everything was supposed to be flat. She should have taken her gloves off she supposed, they were soft black leather and expensive, but as they were going to burn along with everything else she didn’t care.
She should say something really. Goodbye. I love you. Rest in Peace, but nothing would come. Her mouth was as dry as her eyes. Tom McCrea had never been a bad man; feckless maybe, a dreamer for sure, too fond of his drink probably and a foul temper certainly. But he’d been good to her, in his own way. Even when he got so angry with her that his eyes bulged and the veins in his neck stood out so much she feared his head might explode, he’d never laid a finger on her. Not the once. Plenty of other people he’d laid out for no good reason, which had meant they’d had to stuff their bags and get out of a town real quick, but no, he’d never laid a finger on her.
But was that enough? Enough to follow a man for mile after thankless mile, following wherever his latest dream had led him?
It had been more than that, of course. He’d made her laugh, now and then; they’d sat and drank whiskey till neither of them could stand. He’d never let anyone bad mouth her, he’d always carried her bag and opened the door for her. He’d been a real gent like that. He made her feel safe. Made her feel like she wasn’t alone. He made her feel, for the only time in her life, that someone gave a damn about her.
But no, it hadn’t been enough, nowhere near enough, to bring her our here to a place as wrong as Hawker’s Drift.
As the handful of wet earth thumped on the coffin lid, she turned her back and walked away without a second glance.
Author Bio - Andy Monk
After a high-flying academic career and glittering success in professional sport, followed by a jet-set lifestyle of wild parties, exotic holidays and beautiful women, he settled down to write internationally acclaimed best-selling novels.
Andy Monk has a tendency to exaggerate and has an occasionally tenuous grip on reality.
He does, however, have a goldfish.