I’m still working on The Earthen Corral. I thought I’d finish it by Christmas 2012, but that was before the wreck of the Fjord Queen on October 13th. The clean-up (both physical and bureaucratic) took much longer than expected and before it was complete, Barry nearly electrocuted himself. I was buying pumpkin for a Thanksgiving pie when I got the call from a deputy sheriff. Barry was in a coma for a week, but eventually made a full recovery. Other life events have conspired to keep me from finishing the book, but now I’m getting back to it. I’ve missed it.
Enjoy this short excerpt:
The Earthen Corral
Prologue July 12, 1851
Francisco Guerrero met Francois Le Bras, the man who would kill him, at the corner of First and Market. Guerrero was leading a friend’s bay horse to the mission, where he planned to spend the night. Eye witnesses said he encountered La Bras walking on the plank road and generously offered the diminutive man, who was thought to have a-little-something-wrong-in-the-head a ride on the bay.
They traveled amicably at a trot for ten blocks before the pair sped to a gallop. “It appeared”, one woman said, “that the men were racing.” Others described a sort of “scuffle” with the riders whipping each other’s horses and perhaps each other. Minutes later Guerrero slumped forward and then fell.
Le Bras rode on, and boarded the horse at a near-by stable. The next morning, when he tried to sell it, he was arrested by the San Francisco Vigilance Committee, a newly formed public-spirited group determined to clean up the city. They had hung a man the month before, for stealing a safe.
The investigation revealed considerable blood tracked along Guerrero’s path, suggesting he’d been injured before the fall. It appeared that the first blow, at the top of the hill, broke the skin. The attending physician stated that Guerrero had several injuries to the head, “probably from a club”. The coroner found that “Guerrero came to his death from blows inflicted with a deadly weapon.” These experts concluded the death was not an accident.
But the Committee did not administer their swift justice. They quickly concluded there was insufficient evidence to determine La Bras’ innocence or guilt. They turned him over to the regular authorities. He was tried for murder four months later and found not guilty. Some say the proceeding was hastily brought and poorly conducted. Neither physician – that had examined Guerrero – was called to testify. Historians believe that someone got away with murder.