This week’s excerpt comes from tale set in the Pacific Northwest of 1860
By J.L. Oakley
Troubles with San Juan Town
Breed stood on the porch of Krill’s Mercantile and checked the double doors. Behind him, lantern light from a dozen shacks groped its way through the thickening mist. A tinny piano played a throbbing tune. Voices and laughter sounded disembodied. The only light on the porch was a candle lantern on the store’s post.
“Use this.” Collie Henderson handed him a picklock out of a leather case. Breed had to squint to see it. The sun had long since gone down, leaving the summer twilight to spread its shadows over the collection of twenty ill-formed buildings and tents that made up San Juan Town. Yet the reason he was here was urgent—the rescue of the twelve-year-old daughter of a Makah friend. He thanked the spirits for the mist softly drifting off Griffin Bay onto the main lane.
Breed jiggled the lock. “When’s the last time Billy Po saw her?”
“About a half-hour ago,” Sikhs said. He stood at the dark edge of the building holding a shotgun.
“Krill was talking about taking her out of the root cellar,” Collie said. Wanted to bring her up into one of the rooms.” Collie’s voice was taut with anger. “Shh—”
Two buildings down, a door opened and a couple of soldiers stumbled out onto the candlelit porch. One bumped into a post before weaving down the steps into the lane. They’ll be in trouble for sure, Breed thought as he pressed up against the shuttered store. Pickett had to expand the boundaries of the military post to within a few feet of San Juan Town just to keep the soldiers in line.
One of the soldiers, his corporal’s stripe nearly erased by the dying light, bent over in the middle of the street and retched. The stink mixed with the other smells of the settlement: wood pile litter, broken whiskey bottles, and barrels reeking of spoiled food and brackish water. Breed fought back the urge to retch too. They had so little time. Since he had learned of the girl’s kidnapping, Breed had been on the lookout for her for the past two days.
Krill’s place was more than a store selling civilian and soldier’s needs. Behind the Chinese glass bead curtains next to the counter, there were several rooms that stretched back to the lagoon. Krill’s boarders.
“Get on, Liam. Sarg’s goin’ to give us piss.”
“I’m pissed. A shiny dollar for that swill.” The soldier spit a final time, keeping his hand on his belly.
The two soldiers staggered off, this time off toward the high grassy hill leading back to the army post. Breed waited until they were out of range then went back to the lock on the store’s double doors. The street was deserted now, everyone seemingly indoors, staying warm from the unexpected change in the weather.
He was about to jiggle the lock when a woman screamed. Both men swung around, Collie pulling out his sword from his scabbard on his back. But then the woman’s voice changed into a squeal of pleasure and laughter. Breed almost missed the cry from the store on the other side of its doors.
“Jonas.” Collie rammed his shoulder against one of the doors.
“I heard it.” Breed signaled Sikhs to go around to the back. He gave the pick lock one more turn and they spilled into the store. Inside, the store was dark, the floor to ceiling shelves behind a thick counter displaying tins and wooden boxes like plaques in a mausoleum, but down the hall there was candle light.
A muffled cry and then someone spit out, “You little heathen.”
“There!” Breed leaped over the counter and raced down the hall, kicking in the nearest door. Collie came behind him, slashing the bead curtain with his sword into smithereens. The little beads bounced and rolled down the floor into the room where a naked man and woman were stacked up against the headboard in a state of disarray and shock. Breed was gone and into the next room before the couple gave alarm.
In Mist-chi-mas, everyone is bound to something.
Jeannie Naughton never intended to run away from her troubles, but in 1860, a woman’s reputation is everything. A scandal not of her own making forces her to flee England for an island in the Pacific Northwest, a territory jointly occupied by British and American military forces. At English Camp, Jeannie meets American Jonas Breed. Breed was once a captive and slave — a mistchimas — of the Haida, and still retains close ties to the Coast Salish Indians.
But the inhabitants of the island mistrust Breed for his friendship with the tribes. When one of Breed’s friends is murdered, he is quickly accused of a gruesome retaliation. Jeannie knows he’s innocent, and plans to go away with him, legitimizing their passionate affair with a marriage. But when she receives word that Breed has been killed in a fight, Jeannie’s world falls apart. Although she carries Jonas Breed’s child, she feels she has no choice but to accept a proposal from another man.
Twenty years later, Jeannie finds reason to believe that Breed may still be alive. She must embark on a journey to uncover the truth, unaware that she is stirring up an old and dangerous struggle for power and revenge…
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She writes award-winning historical fiction that spans the mid-19th century to WW II. Her books have been recognized with a 2013 Bellingham Mayor’s Arts Award, the 2013 Chanticleer Grand Prize, the 2014 First Place Chaucer Award, 2015 WILLA Silver Award and the 2016 Goethe Grand Prise.
In addition to historical fiction, J.L. has also written four mystery novellas set in the Hawaiian Islands, part of Toby Neal’s Lei Crime Kindle World. Her most recent historical novel, Mist-chi-mas: A Novel Of Captivity, launched in September 2017. Get to know more about Janet on her:
- BestSelling Reads author page
- Website and blog
- Amazon Author page
- Google + “All Things History”
And follow her on Twitter @JlOakley13.