Title: Double or Nothing
Author: Clabe Polk
Genre: Historical Fiction
Because it looped in the Gulf of Mexico hitting Cuba twice, doing untold damage and killing many Cubans, some said the Great Cuban Hurricane of 1910 was the work of the Devil.
Some of the older people in the Cuban mountains say that the Devil drove teams of demons with whips clearing paths through the mountains wherever they went.
But eyewitnesses in Florida swear that the Devil, or at least his minions, was elsewhere that night.
“It'll be back before morning,” Jake said. “What kind of fools wouldn't leave anyway?” Pointing at the bottles on the shelf along the rear wall, he continued, “The water's likely to be up to there in this bar when it comes back in.”
“Same fools that ain't lived through a hurricane, I reckon. Folks like you I guess...you and our other guest,” replied the bartender. “You've probably heard of him, Amos Puckett...the Reverend Amos Puckett that is.
“We should have ridden out hours ago,” Jake muttered to Bart. Turning to the bartender, he asked, “Who the hell is Amos Puckett? Why would I have heard of him?”
A small smile creased the bartender’s face. “Speak of the devil and look who appears,” he said nodding toward the stairs.
Twisting toward the stairs, Bart and Jake watched a tall man of middle age wearing a long black coat amble regally down the stairs.
“Reverend Puckett in the flesh,” muttered the bartender under his breath.
Puckett nodded to the cowboys without expression and followed it with a hard stare fixed on the bartender.
“I see your den of iniquity is open for business,” he growled.
“Every day sir, storms or no. Tryin’ to feed my young’uns.”
Puckett leaned on the counter turning to face the two cowboys. “You gentlemen would do well to consider your immortal souls before you drink that stuff. Demon rum will damn your soul to Hell just as surely as those ladies of the night in whose company you’ve doubtless been.” The wind gusted violently whistling loudly around the corner of the building, slamming the loose shutter violently with a sudden bang.
Bart tensed at the sound, his eyes moving frenetically around the room for signs of danger. Seeing none, he raised a slightly unsteady hand holding his glass in a mock salute to Puckett; then drank it down.
“My immortal soul is doing quite well, thank you, sir. I doubt it needs any help from you,” drawled Jake.
“Are you not acquainted with the evil effects of strong drink, sir?”
“Yeah…yeah, I am,” Jake replied. “The next morning gets pretty evil sometimes.” Bart laughed out loud.
“Please sir, allow me to introduce myself,” Puckett said. “I'm the Reverend Amos Puckett, traveling from Tampa to Cuba where I have founded a mission where the Lord has favored me to be an instrument to save some of the lost souls in Cuba.”
Still laughing, Bart said, “No disrespect intended my friend, but I'm sure the Cubans will be as thankful as we will when you return to Cuba.”
Silence reigned while Puckett digested the bile rising in his stomach from Bart’s insult. He was not armed and he was a man of God; there was nothing he could do but take it. He turned to the window where the wind’s howl was stronger rattling the pane. The whole building shook; the loose shutter banged…
And the outside door crashed open against the wall as though kicked open by a herd of stampeding cows. Whirling, everyone stared at the door.
Two men stood there; cascades of water shed from their clothes and hats collecting in pools on the floor. They were dressed alike; pitch-black pants, shirts, coats, and hats. Shiny black boots now dripping mud on the barroom floor completed their extraordinary look.
“Damned weather! Why is it always like this?” the taller of the two said hanging his coat on a coat tree and walking to the bar dripping water as he went. The second man stayed by the door.
Nodding a greeting to the tall man, the bartender said, “Come on in, partner! Nasty weather out there. Come in and get out of it.”
“Lookin' for somebody. Anybody else stop in here tonight?”
“Just us chickens. No roosters if that's what you mean. No hens either, come to think of it. You got a name?”
“Me? Or who I’m lookin’ for?”
“You’ll do…seein’ as you’re the one here.”
“Strickland…yeah, Strickland will work for tonight.”
“Get you a drink, Mr. Strickland?”
“Maybe later. Now, we'll wait.” Crossing the room, he sat down at a table. “Hear that Kincaid? They ain't here yet.”
Kincaid took off his coat, hung it on the coat tree and joined Strickland. “Yeah, that's good. That's real good.” Turning toward the bar he asked, “Got any whiskey? This weather calls for a drink.”
“Whoa, my good man!” Puckett injected. ”Have you ever considered that strong drink can damn your mortal soul?”
Kincaid looked Puckett squarely in the eyes asking, “who might you be?”
“I'll tell you who he is.” Strickland studied Puckett head to toe like a bird might examine a worm before gobbling it down. “He's the Reverend Mr. Amos Puckett...soul saver extraordinaire. Cuba rejoices when Mr. Puckett comes home...almost as much as they party while he's away! When Puckett's away the Devil will play...and the people will pay come judgment day!”
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Lovers of historical fiction and Christian fantasy will love the suspense that comes from the fates o hundreds of souls hanging on the turn of a card…not to mention the soul of a man with no clue with whom he’s gambling.
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Runs August 1 – 31.
Drawing will be held on September 1.
CLABE POLK is a multi-genre author of several novels, novellas, and short stories. Originally trained in biology and natural sciences, he is a life-long reader with a curious mind, who is retired from more than thirty years in professional environmental protection and law enforcement and who has too many interests to list.
He lives in Powder Springs, Georgia with his wife, two daughters, and the family’s Cockapoo named Annie.
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Author website: http://clabepolkmysteryadve.ipage.com/index.html
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