Here’s a sneak peek inside James Babb’s new novel The Devil’s Trap! Historical fiction set in Arkansas and Indian Territory 1881.
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Todd stumbled over and over. Brody yanked him up each time and pulled him onward, until Todd fell and wouldn’t get up. Straining and pulling, Brody tried to drag him but was too exhausted.
Realizing he couldn’t go any farther and wouldn’t be able to see this thing coming, Brody grabbed at his shirt pocket. He found some jerky and tossed it down. Deeper in the pocket, he felt what he was looking for, the two extra matches from the night before.
After raking leaves and sticks into a pile, he placed one of the matches against the gun barrel. He pressed the tip to strike it, but it crumbled and broke apart.
The thing in the woods grunted and came closer. Straining to see the animal, Brody pointed the Henry in the direction of the noise and fired. The footfalls moved off and circled around.
With fumbling fingers, Brody tried to strike his last match. He raked it along the barrel but nothing happened. He tried again and again. Running his thumb and finger along the match, he found it was upside down. He flipped it around, struck it against the gun, and it sprang to life. Brody shoved the match against the dead leaves and the fire spread.
Todd sat up. In the flickering light, he stared at the flames with a blank expression, then crawled closer to the growing fire and curled up on the ground.
Brody tossed more wood on the fire. The ring of light spread outward. “Todd, are you all right?”
Todd didn’t move.
A gurgling sound came from close by. Shifting quickly, Brody pointed his gun toward the blackness. He was terrified of this creature, but he was desperate to stay alive.
As fast as he could, he grabbed dead limbs and sticks and threw them on the fire. Light was keeping this thing away. Light was keeping them alive. Darkness would bring death.
Knowing he had fired several times, he pulled the Henry’s lever down to check the chamber. The gun was empty. Fear coursed through him until he remembered the shell he had dropped. Frantically, he fished the last cartridge out of his pant’s pocket. Standing, he shoved his last bullet into the Henry and aimed toward the wall of darkness beyond the firelight. As the fire died back, the light shrank and Brody listened intently.
He couldn’t see past the fading firelight, nor did he hear anything else for a while, nothing but the crackling of the flames. He hoped if he hadn’t hit it, at least he had scared it away. He breathed a sigh of relief and scrounged for tinder as far into the pressing dark as he dared.
A loud crack startled him. It was still there.
A burning limb crumbled, sending up a shower of sparks before it died away to glowing embers. The ring of light halved in size. He heard soft footfalls just beyond the light.
Brody tossed more limbs on the fire and watched the light quickly grow. He caught movement of a dark shadow. The butt of the gun was on his shoulder in a second, but the monster had already moved deeper into the woods.
He lowered the rifle. There could be no more wild shots. There was only one bullet left.
Little Todd was lying next to the fire. The shocked and exhausted boy was still unconscious, defenseless.
Brody recalled the dying man by the creek. He had been gouged and scored multiple times by this strange two-clawed creature.
He tightened his jaw. As long as he was still alive, he wouldn’t let the same thing happen to Todd.
Far across the mountains, the sky lit up. Lightening danced a jagged path across the sky, and moments later deep thunder boomed. Brody waited for the sound to die away. He put the last stick into the precious fire.
Please, please… don’t let it rain.