Thursday, February 7, 2019

Excerpt From a Favorite Novel

All writers have favorites among their books. One of mine is Watch The Hour. It's a tale of conflict between miners and mine owners in the 1870s in Pennsylvania's anthracite coal region.
I'm offering here a short excerpt from the book. McHugh, Haley and Farrell, miners accused of ties to the Molly Maguires, have escaped from jail and jumped a train, hoping to elude pursuers:
The conductor approached and McHugh slunk deeper into the seat. He felt Haley stir beside him and Billy Farrell gave a little sigh.
"You're tickets, gents," the conductor said as he stood over them.
"We already gave 'em," Haley said.
"That's right," McHugh added. "We paid when we got on."
Up front, the engineer blasted on his whistle and the train swayed and rocked a bit as it rounded a curve somewhere along the line to Arahpot. McHugh felt the sweat beading on his forehead.  He'd told Haley it wouldn't work.
The conductor exhaled sharply as he stood braced on his big feet before them. "Gentlemen," he said, "I'm the conductor, and you have not paid me for your fare."
"Maybe it was the other one," Billy told him.
"There ain't no other one. There's just me, and you boys didn't pay me."
McHugh jumped up and seized the man by the collar. Billy stood up and took the man's arm on the other side. "Look," McHugh told him, "we don't want no trouble. We just need to catch a ride with you for a ways."
"Damned if I'll let you get away with that," the man shouted
That was when Haley grabbed the pistol out of McHugh's waistband and shoved it in the conductor's face. He snapped the trigger twice but the gun didn't go off. Frustrated, Haley smacked the man across the cheek with the revolver's barrel. The conductor's head bounced back, but he was a strong man and he struggled to free himself from McHugh and the boy.
A drummer across the aisle jumped up. When Haley turned and pointed the gun at him, the man ran out of the car, screaming for help.
"Oh, hell, we're in for it now, boys," Haley said.
The words were no sooner out of his mouth than two of the crew came into the car and strode toward them. Haley raised the gun and fired at them. This time it went off. Three times.
Bam! Bam! Bam!
The first shot passed through the coat of the brakeman. The second bullet narrowly missed the fireman and smashed a window behind him. The third tore off the man's earlobe and he stopped in his tracks, squealing with pain.
McHugh and Farrell released the conductor and made for the opposite end of the car, Freed, the conductor dove for Haley. Haley smashed him in the face with the butt of the revolver and the man fell in a heap at his feet.
"Come on, Humpty," McHugh yelled. "Let's get out of here." He and Billy went out the door and jumped off the train. Haley followed.

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