Patricia Grady Cox
The Marks House, Prescott, Arizona. Photo by Patricia Grady Cox
TO BE PUBLISHED BY FIVE STAR PUBLISHING, A DIVISION OF CENGAGE - April 2018
Hellgate. The name strikes fear throughout Arizona Territory. Mason McCabe’s nightmarish
village huddles in an extinct volcano’s crater. His business is stolen goods and stolen women.
All criminals welcome. An outlaw, Caleb Connor, is protecting the captive Rose LaBelle, but
her life is endangered when McCabe takes a personal interest in her. Rose fights the horrors
of Hellgate while her Aunt Mary Alice, at her home in Prescott, the territorial capital,
struggles with her own bondage to laudanum, alcohol, and morphine. Hellgate is a
fast-paced story filled with realistic characters and attention to historic details.
The gothic darkness of Hellgate juxtaposed with the civilized territorial capital provides
the perfect backdrop for this story of courage, redemption, and triumph over despair.
“In this land of precarious fortunes, every girl should know how to be useful . . .”
Mrs. Lydia Maria Child, author of The Girl’s Own Book
Somewhere between Phoenix and Wickenburg, Arizona Territory, November, 1879
Rose LaBelle lay where they had shoved her, sharp pebbles pressing into her cheek. The boot
poked her ribs again.
“You know how to cook?”
She closed her eyes against the image the deep southern drawl evoked—the recent memory of him hauling her from the stagecoach, a big man with big hands that had held fast against her struggles—but now her eyes shot open as bloody bandaged fingers hooked into her blouse’s collar. He pulled her up a ways from the ground, then let her drop.
“Ah said, kin you cook.”
“No!” She threw a handful of dirt at him; he swore and slapped her. Blood dripped from her lip, and her full bladder released warm wetness down her inner thigh.
There were four of them. The other three busied themselves setting up camp for the night. The tall one, called Caleb, knelt over a pile of sticks, held a match to them, and blew gently. His hair hung down on either side of his face, and she hoped it would burst into flame, but the flickering fire erupted without incident.
“Jesus, Sam!” A high-pitched voice came from behind her. “You oughta know a fine lady like her woulda had a cook.”
“Shut up, Eddie. She bit my finger half off. Since when does fine ladies do that?” His heavy boots scraped the sandy dirt, and a shadow fell across Rose as Sam passed between her and the campfire, on his way to join the others.
They’d tied the horses nearby. Steam rose from a pile of fresh manure, and scurrying beetles crawled over the droppings while the outlaws finished setting up. She guessed the one called Dodger was the leader, since he was always yelling orders. She sat up, pulled her clothing together as best she could with her bound wrists, and huddled into her cape. Images stabbed her mind, fresh and vivid and brutal. She couldn’t stop the memories that carried her back to what had happened only hours ago, when she was on that road with her arms pinned behind her and Sam’s hot breath huffing against her neck.
The driver and the guard, sprawled across the top of the stagecoach, stared with dead eyes. Dangling arms waved each time the nervous horses pulled against their harnesses. Caleb spoke soothing words and settled the team. On the road behind the stage, the bodies of the extra guards lay beneath the film of dust their fleeing horses had left behind.
A bolt of fabric unraveled in the dirt where Eddie threw it as he searched the stage’s boot for valuables. White silk for her wedding gown fluttered in the breeze like a flag of surrender.
Sam’s hold on her arms tightened when Dodger sank dirty fingers into her cheeks, and turned her head so she had to look into his jaundiced eyes framed by stringy black hair.
“You married? Ever been with a man?”
The wind shifted; she could smell them, a rotten smell. The sour stench of dried sweat and the same stinking clothes worn for a long, long time. She pulled up her legs and put her arms around them. Buried her face in her knees. It was all her fault. Her father had warned against the trip but she had insisted, and her father would not let her go without him.