James P Hanley
Jim Hanley has had several careers: naval officer, Human Resources director, adjunct professor, mediator and writer. Jim has had over 80 short stories published in a variety of genres (literary, mystery and Western) in print and online magazines, in addition to over a dozen articles published on management topics. Beginning in 2014, and the following two years, Jim has had three novels published by 5 Prince Publishing; The Calling, An Ill Wind, and recently The Train Robbers. The Calling was a finalist in the Peacemaker Award for the best first novel.
In this third novel about the sheriff of a Kansas town, the story centers around the death of a female Pinkerton by train robbers. The pursuit by the two lawmen—Luke Atwell, the sheriff of Planting, Kansas and temporarily-appointed federal deputy marshal, and Jesse Markam, the deputy sheriff of Planting and lover of the slain Pinkerton agent —is both a quest for justice and for retribution. While tracking down each member of the divided outlaw gang, the two lawmen deal with attacks on a remote trading post, a half-breed hired to kill them, and a thwarted stagecoach theft. Deputy Markam also struggles with the loss of his love by seeking solace in a bottle.
A sense of Markam’s loss become apparent as she is the center of the story prior to leaving for her possibly last assignment before handing in her Pinkerton badge to be with the deputy.
The scattered outlaws hide out in locations where they can seek the protection of family or friends, increasing the resistance and gunplay the Planting lawmen encounter. One of the men is an Irish immigrant who hides out in an Irish community, another outlaw escape in a family cattle drive and the short-tempered third reveals his location by his gunfights. The last and leader pulls together a new gang and returns to robbery.
While waiting for word of each of the outlaws’ whereabouts, Atwell and his deputies in town deal with a judge running for the Senate who is being pursued by kin of men he ordered hanged, phony boxers setting up a gambling ruse, a murderer attacking women and a theater group involved in a bank theft. Relationships are a part of the story as each of the main characters experience change—pleasurable and heart breaking. Atwell’s wife takes in a destitute family and a second deputy is visited by a former girlfriend.
Atwell is waiting for the temporary appointment to the marshals to become permanent, a decision which will have a significant impact on his wife and adopted son. Throughout the long rides to capture or kill the train robbers, Atwell considers his motive and sacrifice in taking on the role.
In the chase for the last robber, Sheriff Atwell suffered a life-threatening injury and the race to save his life involves all the main characters.
“Got a plan yet, Luke?” Jesse asked.
“Well, we outnumber him three to one, but he has the cover of a house, so it kind of evens the odds.”
LeMoyne nodded. “I got pretty close to the front door, but then he started firing. I think he knows he’s got no place to go, so he’ll wait it out no matter how long it takes.”
“But if the place has been abandoned there’s no food or water inside,” Jesse said.
“We can’t wait forever, either,” LeMoyne said, “we should charge the house.”
“I have an idea,” Atwell said. “We need to distract him while some of us rush to the front. If one of us climbs on the roof, the noise of footsteps above will draw his attention. While he’s wondering what we’re up to the other two can run to the door.”
Jesse said, “There are a couple of problems with that idea. First, that roof may not be strong enough to hold the weight of a man. Second, what if he starts shooting at whoever is on the roof. And third, the big question, who’s going to go up there on the roof?”
LeMoyne interrupted, “I’ll go on the roof. I’m tired of chasing this hombre. We need to do something.”
The Pinkerton agent slipped around to the back of the house, never visible to the outlaw inside. First Jesse, then
Atwell, swung wide and away from the house then circled back toward the building, falling to the ground and relying on the overgrown grass for cover near the entrance. That put them in position to run at the door when the time came.
LeMoyne climbed to the roof, his gun drawn. The steep slope made walking difficult and there were several spots that were worn and the shingles missing. As Jesse predicted, Tiller fired a shot upward. Lemoyne was startled by the sound and lost his footing. The full weight of his body falling on the weak roof material caused a collapse and the Pinkerton agent went crashing through the ceiling, landing inside with a thud.
Atwell and Jesse were near the front of the house by then and smashing through the door, they ran inside, ready to shoot. It wasn’t necessary. LeMoyne had come through the roof and landed on Tiller. Atwell and Jesse stood near the door with looks of amazement over what had happened. The outlaw wasn’t badly hurt, largely stunned by a body falling from above. LeMoyne too had only minor cuts. Jesse was the first to reach Tiller and took the man’s gun. Atwell helped LeMoyne to his feet but had to suppress a smile over the image of the agent, surrounded by pieces of roofing and the wide hole above them.
Atwell’s amusement turned to concern when he saw Jesse take his knife from the sheathing and point the blade edge at Tiller.
“It ain’t worth it, Jesse. He’ll hang for what he did.”
Jesse put the knife away and roughly pushed Tiller out the front door.