Jim Hanley is a Human Resources professional, adjunct professor and short story writer, Jim has had over 70 stories appear in print and online publications.
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In this sequel to The Calling, Sheriff Luke Atwell and his deputies face individual and collective challenges from outlaws, gunfighters, renegade Indians, card sharps, and a thieving medicine show in a Kansas town in the 1870’s. The personal lives of the lawmen also change and nature takes its destructive toll on the town and its residents. When a black neighbor’s family is attacked and the oldest son killed, the sheriff gets the help of federal law enforcement and they chase a band of marauding ex-Confederates out to undo the changes resulting from the Civil War.
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The next day, the wind had been cleansed of the dust but was still strong. The cowardly sun hid behind the whiter clouds while dark thunderstorms moved in. The black cumulus stretched high in the air. Atwell had just left Peggy and the boy, and he looked upward. The top of the cloud spread into the shape of a blacksmith’s anvil and the rain began, pinging off the rooftops like low-caliber bullets. The sheriff went back inside and told Peggy about the coming storm and advised her to put the child in the back room, which had been added with stronger walls to hold the rows of shelving. Most of the customers had left, fearing being caught in a downpour. The sheriff sought out Jesse and Peter. He found the deputies having lunch in the hotel. “Bad storm,” the sheriff said in his usual style of few words. “Be best if we’re all out there in case it gets real bad.”
The deputies looked out the large window at the back of the hotel and saw debris begin to fly across the open field. Thunder sounded like cannons fired nearby and streaks of lighting cut across the sky with a few bolts pointed straight down like spears. When the three lawmen went outside, they saw town folks rushing indoors wherever they could. The crack of thunder rattled horses still tied to a rail. One animal broke free and ran down the street as if kicked. The rain came down in sheets. A huge cloud in the distance had a greenish-black base and the wind seemed to be pulled upward into the center of the cumulus. Atwell and his deputies stared at the single cloud which seemed to take over the sky. Air below was spinning. Soon a funnel formed, stretching down, but still well above the ground. White droplets fell out of the cloud; Sheriff Atwell knew it was hail. As the storm approached, the funnel widened and hovered just a few feet above the soil. The counter-clockwise winds snapped trees, splintering and launching wood in all directions. Laden with dirt and debris, the funnel darkened and reached down to touch the earth. A planted field just at the edge of town was a mass of swirling, newly emerging produce. By the time the twister was fully shaped and vertical, the width had reached over fifteen yards.
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