The Rocky Path To Redemption (Preview)

Chapter One

Butch moved his awkward hands with speed, trying with all his might to ensure that every telegram he had made that morning was in its place. He had been working since dawn, as he always did. That morning, tucked in his small office perched on the rocky hillside of Kisatchie, it had felt just like any other.

There had been messages from ships down south, from outposts out in the hills, from all across Louisiana people were speaking, all of them through Butch. He made great care to pay attention to every piece of code, to translate it into a meaningful message and pass it on to where it needed to go.

It was rare and often felt impossible, that any of these messages would be addressed for his post specifically. Out in Kisatchie, things were often quiet, and quieter still in Butch’s tiny outpost squeezed between the old rocks on the cliffside.

Everything in the small office, aside from the machinery, was old and dusty. They had fashioned the space out of an old sentry point, where the soldiers had once spent long days watching out over the hills for any sign of a fight. The window was now covered in dust and scratches. Butch could see very little but for colors and shapes, and the morning light was soft along the wooden floorboards.

Butch sat back in his chair, chewing the end of his pencil. It occurred to him that he had stopped questioning his job. The Morse code was like a second language to him, and he often thought that he spoke it better than English. Every day was like a trance and seemed to slip by him faster than ever. 

Not to say it was exciting. Aside from the machinery, there was little movement in his world, just the sound of the spring and the paper tape clicking on forever.

He had a long day still to go, and when he finished, it would already be dark. The next day, he would rise at dawn. In a town so small there was not another to take his place, and even if there were, they would surely refuse—but he could never refuse, it wasn’t Butch’s character. Out the window, through the fogged glass, Butch could still make out the faint sight of the trees blowing in the wind. 

Out there, that’s where things happen, Butch thought. He looked down at his awkwardly fashioned wooden desk and traced his finger over the grooves running through it.

Footsteps crunched the sand. Butch could feel someone approaching the door. He raised his eyes from the desk, returning his hands from his chin to the pencil, and turned as the visitor entered his office with the creaking of old wood.

A dainty-looking young woman entered, her fingers shyly wrapped around the door handle, and Butch’s heart almost leaped from his chest when he realized who it was.

“Marietta!” Butch said.

He stood, his lap lost in a flurry of loose papers. Butch’s neck burned with heat and his face instantly flushed.

“Lordy!” he stammered. “Just what have I done here?”

Butch had once again knocked his desk as he had stood, and he grasped his sweaty fingers around the stack of loose, unorganized papers, pulling them ungracefully over to an enormous pile in the corner. He would have to spend the evening sorting them once again, as always.

So lost he was in the mess he had made, Butch had almost forgotten Marietta had entered his office when she approached him, her freckled face furrowed with distress.

He took a breath. In the lamplight, her hazel eyes shone with a sign of sadness.

“Marietta?” Butch asked. “You look just miserable! What is it?”

Butch placed his hands on her shoulder, and he felt that she was sobbing slightly. Still, for a moment she said nothing, only stared at the wheel on his telegraph machine as it kept spinning.

“Tell me, Butch,” she said. “Tell me more about the Morse code, I want to keep on with my lessons.”

Something was wrong. Butch couldn’t quite place it.

He grabbed at a pile of papers on his desk.

“Can you read this one?” he asked.

She sat close to him and looked. Her brow furrowing. Again, Butch had the sense that she might burst into tears.

“I can’t, I’m no good,” Marietta said.

Butch came closer so that the two were touching. He felt his skin was swimming, standing so close to her this way. The room became quiet.

“You were doing just fine last week!” Butch said. “Just see if you can say the first word and go from there.”

Marietta smiled, and Butch could see she had begun to shake. She spelled out the first word.

“It says,” she began. “Ad-dressed to… My hus—hus…”

She ran a slow finger through her light brown hair, turning her brilliant hazel eyes onto Butch, her lips quivering. A tear spilled over her eye. Catching her gaze, Butch sprung a step back, swallowed, and fetched her a chair. 

With an exhale, Marietta sat and explained with a soft, vacant voice.

“Oh, Butch,” Marietta said. “I will tell you plainly, but know the news I’m telling you weighs on my heart something heavy. It is not good news, Butch, what I’m about to tell you may be just the worst news I’ve ever received, and to repeat it to you makes it feel all the more real…”

Butch gripped her shaky hand, pouring her a glass of water from his jug. Marietta took it from him, sinking it with a long gulp, and turned her shimmering eyes back onto him.

“It’s my Daddy, Butch…” she said finally.

“Your Daddy?” At once, Butch rose from his seat, his head shaking and his hands running through his fair hair.

He turned back to Marietta and caught her eyes, his hands trembling.

“I’m so sorry,” Butch said. “Your poor Daddy… Is he sick? Let me know what ails him and I can help wherever I can—”

“No, Butch.” Marietta shook her head, her voice trailing into a long exhale.

She gestured to the free seat beside her with the flick of her pale hand, and Butch sat. His head was spinning with questions, throbbing with concern.

Her father was old, and a stubborn man. Butch could not say he was a close friend of the man, but then again, no one else could either. He had still always tried to make his best impression.

Secretly, he would never tell her, but it was more to do with Marietta than anything else, and she seemed to think all the more of him for putting up with her father’s jeers. Whatever this was, it was serious. Butch couldn’t think quite what it would be. He thought only of Marietta before him.

She put her head to her hands in despair.

“I am to be married,” she said simply.

Butch felt a sudden drop within him like something had burst, and he numbly found his chair. He looked over to the lovely Marietta and let a limp smile spread across his face.

“Well,” Butch began. “That’s not terrible news at all. Tell me the lucky man’s name?”

“It’s not my choice, Butch,” Marietta said quietly, her voice distant. “My Daddy gave his blessing this morning, only shortly before telling me. He never even asked me yet, Jesse, I mean—”

Her eyes met his and Butch felt instantly gutted.

Jesse?” Butch said. “Jesse Tanner?”

Marietta nodded. “The very same,” she said. “Nothing more than the sheriff’s wife—that’s what I’ll be.”

Butch felt the empty feeling sink further into his bones, and he returned his eyes to the wood patterns on his desk, unable to respond.

Jesse Tanner had been Sheriff of Kisatchie for the better part of the year; he had beat Butch in the election. Now, Jesse’s first summer at the post had come to a close, Butch still felt the wound hadn’t healed. Since he had been young, all he had ever wanted to be was a man of the law. 

Throughout the war, Louisiana had spent so long under the rule of military men, as though at the end of a rifle, but Butch had always hated being treated like a criminal. He had dreamed, ever since he was old enough to dream, that he would take the place of Sheriff, and prove just how lawful the south really was. 

When he had lost to Jesse, it had been a blow, and he had pulled himself to his feet and applied for every position he could. Yet, they had rejected him at every turn, lost out for the position of deputy and even marshal. Jesse had assured him it was nothing personal, but Butch knew well that the man had little love for him. 

Since Jesse had become sheriff, things had become more turbulent for Butch than ever. He felt somewhat like he was tumbling down an old well. A fall that seemed to sting with every turn, a path all the way down to his desk at the telegraph office—the last post left in town. 

Butch had been sure that things could get no worse. Now, looking over at Marietta as tears rolled over her angelic cheek, he knew he had surely hit rock bottom.

“Marietta…” Butch began.

She looked over at him, and in the light of his lamp, he felt that there could be no more beautiful woman alive. With all his courage, he willed his lips to move, to tell Marietta of the love he felt swirling within him that had been with him for years. He knew this was his last moment. Soon, she would be beyond his reach forever—but instead, Butch swallowed and said nothing at all. Marietta’s face dropped, and she turned her attention back to her fingers on the desk.

For a moment the room was full of silence, and both of them said no word as the wind blew through the crack under the door. Then, with a howl, Marietta burst into a sudden flurry of tears, and Butch rushed to her side without a moment’s pause.

“There, there,” Butch said softly.

He held her in his arms, feeling the warmth of her cheek against his skin.

“There must be a way,” Butch said. “Tell me, Marietta,”

With a heave of his arms, he let her back to her chair, and she brought up her face to look directly at him once again.

“What can you do to break this?” Butch asked. “Let me help you, anyway I can I vow to help you be free of this betrothal.”

Her eyes burst with light and for a moment Butch felt happiness shine within her. Then, as soon as it had come, it disappeared, and she became gloomy again, dropping the grip of his hands.

“There’s no way, Butch,” Marietta said. “I can’t.”

Butch heaved his chest and spun towards the window. He wiped the fog from the glass and gazed through the scratches. Outside he could smell the pine trees, but try as he might he could not make them out with his own eyes.

“How could I?” Marietta continued. “You know my father. He’s not the kind to change mind on what has already been decided… When he feels his word has been passed, then he assures it will always be so.”

Behind Butch, the floor creaked, and he spun to see that Marietta had already stood and had gathered her coat over her shoulders.

“I wanted to let you know,” Marietta said. “I release my life to the wind, and let my broken heart begin to heal. I wanted to tell you, before you heard it somewhere else. There’s nothing to be done, Butch.”

Butch froze where he stood.

“You’re heartbroken?” he said aloud.

Marietta flashed her hazel eyes towards him, something tightening in her posture.

“Yes, Butch,” she said. “If my life was my own, then there would be another to whom I would gladly pledge my love.”

She stepped closer. Butch could feel his stomach churning.

Another? he thought. Butch felt the world around him become dark, and he cursed himself for believing he had a chance.

Marietta was close. Butch broke her gaze and turned back to the window.

“Of course,” Butch said. “A beautiful woman like you—” He let a weak smile cross his face. “He’s a lucky man, this fella that you love.”

With a loud creak, Butch found his chair and rested his hands on his knees.

Marietta stood by the door. He could feel her looking at him, but he was so dumbfounded and upset that he could not bear to turn his head.

“Butch?” Marietta began.

He turned. Her lips parted, and a shape formed, but when Marietta saw the glum look on his face they closed, and she shook her head. 

“Goodbye,” she said softly.

Butch waved his hand as her figure slipped through the door, lost in the passing breeze. Then, just as soon as she had left, the door slammed, rattling on its hinges, the wood creaking.

The entire office seemed suddenly empty, like a cloud had passed over the sun, and Butch suddenly became aware of how lonely his day was to be.

He sat for some time, his hands resting on his knees. Looking off into the wall in complete silence.

Marietta was gone. Soon, she would be forever beyond him. He had always valued her friendship, even before he fell so deeply in love with her. 

But, Butch understood the nature of things, and both of them had an exact idea of how it was to be. Soon, she would marry him, then she would become distant, and then they would be almost as strangers, faces on the street without warmth or meaning.

Butch took a breath, feeling the sadness wash over him. It wasn’t easy to have someone to feel so deeply, talk so warmly, not in this town, not for him. Yet he knew well he would have to let her go. There was nothing to be done.

He returned his eyes to the window, trying his best to glimpse the horizon through the glass.

Suddenly, with a crank of the wheel, a message came through and Butch sprung to action, receiving it and trying his best to brush his sadness to one side and do his job with all his attention.

At once, as Butch read the message, his attention was stolen. His face dropped.

He couldn’t believe what he was reading.

 

Chapter Two

 

Marietta arrived home and descended from her horse to the ground, feeling suddenly very gray. The highlight of her day was the ride to and from her work at the stables. 

For, when she was up her horse Lady, holding her reins and navigating the dirt paths back to town, she sometimes got the thrilling feeling that she may turn off the road and disappear over a hill someday.

She sighed, snaking her palm over Lady’s beautiful bay coat and turning down to her boots. She knew, deep down, that it was not possible. 

Only when she arrived home, would she remember that she was destined for the same route every day, and every day she would feel a sadness descend over her as she made her way into her squat little house on the western fringes of the township.

Marietta hoped, deep inside, that one day a time would come when she would feel some passion for her life. That she would not end up like the other people in this town—undaring and uninterested in change. Yet, a terrible feeling struck her that every day, that became a little less likely.

She squeezed the silver necklace around her neck. It was not of the finest craftsmanship, and was plain, but it featured a glittering cross. It had belonged to her grandmother, and was meant to bring her luck.

When she passed around the fence, she saw remnants of dust and dirt from the wind earlier that afternoon.

For a moment, her mind turned to Butch, out there in that old wooden shack. By the time the wind had begun to blow she was already out of town, and she had once again swallowed her feelings down.

Don’t think about Butch, she reminded herself.

Stepping forward, Marietta gasped as she looked up.

The entirety of her home was coated in thick yellow dust. The windows and doors were flapping in the breeze. Like the rest of town, the dust storm must have washed over it, and she wondered just what would await her inside.

“Father!” she called.

Marietta reined up Lady and brushed forward through the dirt towards the open door, her heart beating in her ears.

She rushed through to the main room, which was now unrecognizable.

Her father sat with his arms crossed on the wooden rocking chair, the pipe between his lips billowing smoke, one hand set on his bad leg.

Marietta rushed towards him, and he turned up his swollen red face and shook his head, his jowls wiggling at he cleared his throat.

“Are you alright?” Marietta asked. “How long have you been here sitting like this?”

She put her hands on him. With a rough motion, her father threw her arms up in the air.

“Leave me be, Marietta!” her father shouted. “That’s just about enough fussin’. I’m just fine where I am…”

Marietta looked around at the mess the wind had brought in. Her father’s place was kept always just-so, everything in its place and all things just where they were supposed to be. Now, yellow dirt covered everything and it suddenly occurred to her that her father had not tried to clean any of it up.

“Oh, Pa. Look at what all this dust has done,”

With an angry huff, her father grabbed his old cane and stood. “Leave it,” he barked.

“Pa,” Marietta called. “We can’t sit around in all this dust! It needs cleaning up.”

“Dust nothing,” he muttered. “I asked you to batten down the windows; you shoulda done what I said.”

“You know that’s not true,” Marietta said hoarsely.

Her father waved a hand at her. This was something he was prone to doing. Marietta wasn’t sure if he was being stubborn, or forgetful, but it seemed to happen more and more every day.

“You left it in such a state,” he grumbled. “I didn’t have a chance…”

Marietta suddenly felt very small, and as he waddled towards the door, she felt that she should defend herself, but a lump in her throat seemed to keep her from her words, and instead she grabbed at the broom and swept.

That morning, when her father informed her of the news of her marriage, he had done it bluntly, just as Marietta had placed breakfast on the table for him. She had left the house soon after in a fit of tears. Now, she still saw the breakfast untouched, sitting where it was, coated in the thick dust.

Her father was not so old, but since her mother’s passing, it was as though he had collapsed inside of himself. They had not had a particularly happy marriage, but it was as though her father had awakened in the months after the pneumonia. It was as though he had understood that he did not do a thing with his life, aside from bullying her mother, nothing since the war anyway. 

Now, he would rarely leave bed unless she forced him to, and that was no easy thing to do.

“When I leave,” Marietta began nervously, “to live with sheriff Tanner…”

She heard the floorboards creak in the next room. Her father was listening. Marietta gulped as she gathered the dust with long sweeps of the old broom, revealing the brown wood beneath it.

“Who will help you sweep the floors?” she asked. “In moments like this, I’ll be all the way over the hill down in the middle of town.”

Her father came close to the doorway, clearing his throat.

“What are you getting at?” he barked.

Marietta chose her words carefully. She didn’t want to push. “Only that, maybe it would be best if I remained at home a little longer…”

She winced as she said the words, listening as the walking stick rattled against the ground.

“Just to be around the house, I mean,” she added quickly. “The engagement wouldn’t be broken, only lengthened, unless you intend to make peace with the neighbors?”

Marietta almost smiled, knowing that would be impossible. Her father had a long history of going on tirades and angrily lecturing people over the fence, especially after a few whiskeys, especially when the war came up.

As her father entered the room again, Marietta saw the look of bewilderment across his face, and she knew he had not taken the bait.

“What did you just say, daughter of mine?” her father hissed. “You spend too much time off with those horses and those Billy Yanks, it’s made you soft in the head.”

Her father had fought on the rebel side, and he had refused to accept the changing of the times. Marietta shook her head. He was like the rest of the town. Men around Kisatchie had seemed to come to a standstill. Tired of work, too tired to change, unable to face up to things. 

That’s what drew her to Butch. She remembered when he had campaigned for sheriff how passionately he had spoken, how much he felt for people being stamped down, and the way he meant every word that he said. 

She smiled, thinking of his goofy way of speaking. He didn’t always do things gracefully, but it stirred her heart.

Jesse Tanner, on the other hand, was nothing but one of the same. That’s why he had won the position. People saw him as a stable return to the old ways. She felt a sudden pang of sadness, remembering that she would soon be living with him, a man without passion.

Her father had been muttering as he limped around the place, looking at the dusty cabinet where he hung his war medals.

The war had been a confusing time for the state, and her town was no different. Marietta was only a child when the fighting broke out, but she remembered the way succession was discussed in town, and how it had split people. Most of the time now, people would choose to not discuss it at all.

Her father was not like that. Marietta knew well the dislike that earned him, and the looks he got and just what they meant. Sometimes she would get them too. She hated it.

It was no wonder the neighbors didn’t want to come round. Her house was the exception in a lively social neighborhood, and he got worse with every passing day.

“Those Union troops come in here,” her father muttered, the way he often did around the house. “They come in here and they never left. All they want is to make men like me miserable, like we’re animals.”

“Those soldiers are just trying to do good.” Marietta swept the dust. She knew her father wouldn’t like her saying it, but she had to speak her mind.

“You’re way out of line!” her father shouted. As he spoke, he waved his stick close to her face, his eyes full of rage. He pointed a shaky finger at the broom in her hand. “Now put that down,” he screamed. “I told you, leave it, I don’t need you fussin’ over me now, and I won’t need you fussin’ over me tomorrow. I’m not going to be around much longer anyhow…”

Marietta felt tears welling in her eyes, and she felt great pity for her father. She rushed to him. “Oh. Life had made you so cruel, I know you don’t mean it.”

Her father met her eye, flashing with anger.

“Try as you might to wriggle your way from this marriage,” her father growled, “everything is still in place. You’re going to be happy. I set this up for you. Tomorrow morning you’ll go down to the Sheriff’s house and you’ll make him see just how happy you are, and I’ll hear no more about it.

Marietta sobbed as she turned towards the staircase and without another word, she found herself by her room with tears streaming down her face.

She wished at that moment she had the strength to do something, but she knew that she too had no bravery left in her.

This town is full of cowards, she thought. Her mind was full of faces and she cursed each of them. Her father, Tanner, and even Butch.

She didn’t feel good about this. A part of her had wanted that morning in his office to go differently when she spoke to Butch. She had fantasies that he would sweep her off her feet, and that the two would elope together. Or at least understand that she loved him. She knew, a part of him knew, but he was afraid. It made her mad—it wasn’t fair, but she felt it anyway.

Why couldn’t he be brave? she wondered. Brave enough to understand just how she felt, brave enough to save her from this terrible fate.

She whisked into the room with an outstretched hand and found her place on the bed. Wishing with all her heart that she had turned from the road on the way home and left her father’s house for good.

Marietta took a deep breath, finding her calm.

Of course, she knew, she was the biggest coward of them all. The thought brought a dangerous calm to her body and she let herself lay back into the dusty bed sheets.

Marietta closed her eyes and wished that she were anywhere but for the place that she was.

Soon, it would be too late, and she would care no more.

Suddenly, she felt the wind blowing again through the window, and she looked up to the branches waving. She imagined her life was out of control, like the path that led her home, an inevitable road.

Marietta suddenly felt a thought flicker within her. She squeezed her grandmother’s necklace again.

Maybe there was a way. 

A way to slip from the grasp of the marriage, the way she wished she could turn her horse from the path. She didn’t know how she knew, but deep in her core she knew Tanner was a coward, like the rest of them. 

If she could find a way to prove that the sheriff was not the man he said he was, then her father would have no choice but to call the marriage off.

She looked down at the dust on the floor, mulling over the idea. She smiled, feeling a power within her. It was just a far-off dream. It was impossible, a fantasy. Yet Marietta let it burn within her.

Outside, the trees were blowing again, and she kept her eye on the place where the trail ended, where Butch’s cabin stood on the end of the rock face.

There is still time, she thought, there is always still time.


“The Rocky Path To Redemption” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Butch Haddock knew just how dangerous the world could be but all he ever wanted was to be a sheriff. Locked away in his small telegraph office, his dream feels further away than ever. People might call him a fool, yet he knows he has a good heart and a killer aim. When a mysterious transmission comes through with chilling news of women taken hostage out of town, he must take action…

How far will he go to make things right again? Will he be able to give hope to a town that has given up?

Marietta Jones loves Butch, yet he doesn’t seem to understand it. When she discovers she has been promised to his sworn enemy, the town sheriff, she wants nothing more than to break it off. Apart from her feelings for Butch, she also suspects the sheriff is not quite what he seems. Can she break the bonds of a society stacked up against her?

Two unlikely heroes diving into danger, and a crime so tangled, that they may accidentally lose themselves within it…

Coming up against a bloodthirsty gang, a sheriff with a secret, and a town that has been all but defeated, Butch and Marietta will both need to be careful. For beyond the sunny disposition of the southern comfort of the small town, the water is rising. Will they solve the crime in a town that is so torn up? And when the water gets high, what will they dredge up from within it?

“The Rocky Path To Redemption” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.

Get your copy from Amazon!

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