AMAZON BEST SELLER SHELL GAME FREE TODAY THRU SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23

I’m blown away. Since its debut on Thursday as a Free Kindle ebook, Shell Game has hovered between 13th and 16th spot on the Best Seller list for Satire. Now before you start laughing over the Best Seller stuff, remember that it actually means thousands of books in the hands of new readers.

I’m honored and humbled.

The Free Giveaway continues thru to midnight EST Saturday, September 23rd, and is available through Amazon.com and .ca. The links are below.

Take a walk on the wild side. These cats and their humans will surprise you!

Love,

A.B.

 

BORED & HEADED FOR TROUBLE

SHELL GAME

They’ve got it coming

 

and

https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B075M1K43Z/ref=pe_386430_122413350_TE_DP

SHELL GAME blip ad FREE DAY

 

 

 

IMG_20170628_181213_editOn a sombre note, it is with great sadness that I announce the passing of Fr. Phillip, who died early this morning under the wheels of a cell phone using, sports car driving, and profoundly inattentive human. He suffered no pain. A kindly neighbor who knew him and my family notified us immediately, and thanks to their quick thinking, he was transferred into my care. I buried him in the back garden where he loved to play. I will miss this free-ranging kitty with the preacher’s signature collar. In the year we knew him, Phillip refused all attempts to lure him indoors, but enjoyed our company and early morning breakfast of kibble and cat milk every day at 5 a.m. sharp. We will miss his eccentricities, his moodiness and often hissy temper when dealing with Kobe and other visitor felines. He was a prince among ferals. Safe journey, little traveler.

–A.B. Funkhauser  09.22.17

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SAY WHAT? BEST SELLING AUTHOR CRYSSA BAZOS GRILLS FUNKHAUSER ON SHELL GAME

I’ve known A.B. Funkhauser for many years, and to say that she’s as gonzo as her characters is to get it wrong. Sure, she gravitates to larger than life characters on the page and in the public eye, but she appreciates the contemplative too. Claiming to be an “introverted extrovert” she relies on her characters to do all the heavy lifting, to do the things she’d never dream of doing in real life. Her latest work, SHELL GAME, is no exception. Here, characters stay behind closed doors, preferring to spy on one another through windows under cover of night. Interaction appears limited, but is it really? When they aren’t questioning themselves and the motivations of others, they take cues from a black cat that may or may not have real supernatural abilities. Everything is subjective, including what the omniscient narrator chooses to share when and where.

A.B., let’s talk about SHELL GAME, shall we?

 

 

Cryssa Bazos:

Since your publishing date was announced, you’ve been all over social media. Do you love it, or hate it?

 

A. B. Funkhauser:

I hear writers talking about promotions a lot; how it sparks their creative juices, how it saps their energy, how it calls them out and maybe forces them to be more “in your face” than they would normally like to be. And I agree. But promotion goes hand in glove with writing ‘The Book,’ and so it’s a must. There’s a great deal of competition in the writing world. There’s a lot of competition in anything that’s worthwhile. For me, chatting up SHELL GAME is equal parts excitement and self-interest; exciting for me because I’ve completed another project successfully and delivered it to market; self-interest because who else will know about it if I don’t say so?

 

C.B.:

I also notice you tagging yourself as a multi-genre author. What’s up with that? You turning in your gonzo badge?

 

A.B.:

No! Never. But the characters ultimately set the tone, and the people of SHELL GAME are conniving, dastardly, sympathetic and very often contrite. They can’t help it, really. That’s why they need the cats. My hero Carlos is renowned for his quiet, stolid ability to be where he needs to be, affecting certain outcomes because of it. He’s quite brilliant.

Poonam 2 w Cover for Twitter

At the same time, this piece tilts more in the direction of satire and social commentary in the sense that while the humans are behaving outside of the usual boundaries assigned western society, there is still a moral conscience at play that makes them question their actions. This makes them a little less mendacious than the characters in SCOOTER NATION, for example. They are still capable of doing harm, but this time they feel really bad about it.

 

C.B.:

Where did that come from?

 

A.B.:

An event in real time, actually. I hadn’t intended to write a cat book and I’ve gone on about that on this blog and others. I wanted to tuck into the prequel to HEUER LOST AND FOUND, which currently sits at a tantalizing 89,000 words with no end in sight. (I did figure out the ending half way through SHELL GAME, and if I can pull it off it will be quite diabolical.) But like the opening paragraphs of SHELL GAME, I did receive a snarky letter from Animal Control that specifically mentioned the street I live on. I wasn’t the only person on the street to get it—it was a blind drop—but I did take it very personally. The cat I share with a neighbor had brought so much joy into my life and the lives of my family that the faceless person(s) behind the letter threatening his freedom and my pocketbook just infuriated me. The $5,000 fine for not keeping the kitty inside was either a deterrent or tax grab—popular where I live—and the intrusion could only be answered through a ragin’ fiction that sees the cats win for a change. Of course, I can see both sides to the argument for keeping cats indoors in urban areas, and I’m happy to report that my shared kitty spends far more time indoors. But that’s owing to his age and the natural order of things, not from some crummy letter from a human in an office.

 

C.B.:

And SHELL GAME, like SCOOTER NATION, features characters from many different ethnicities. Is this your response to the current debate on cultural appropriation?

 

A.B.:

Ha! That’s a minefield and I’m not stepping into it until I have all the information. From the gonzo side of the street, my read of the issue is that writers should keep to their own pasture so as to be authentic. If that’s true, then all I can really write about are past middle-aged straight white human females and that would be a shame. It would be boring for me to write, and boring for anyone else to read.

Bronagh Character Reveal

But, research, foreknowledge, personal history and cumulative story-telling must play a big part in any writing project if the characters are to ring true and shine. To know what we’re on about—that’s our job—and that’s pretty much all I can say about this topic until I learn more.

 

C.B.:

So, what’s SHELL GAME about?

 

A.B.:

Oh, that. Lol. Well, I always say that I don’t really know for sure until some reviews come in and I get a few interviews under my belt. The best I can say right now is that it’s about a cat, a community, unwanted change, and the mechanisms employed to cope with this change that result in positive and negative resolutions. Change, I believe, cannot be stopped, but it can be messed with, and with these characters you will see activities that are silly AND life threatening. That’s the gonzo element. But there’s a love element to it as well. And of course, the cats are at the center of things, calling the plays, controlling things, just like they’ve done for millennia.

Mr know it all

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Twitter https://twitter.com/iamfunkhauser

Facebook  http://www.facebook.com/heuerlostandfound

And this website

 

 

BUY LINK AND FREE DAYS:

SHELL GAME COVER 1As a ‘thank you’ to everyone who ever  believed in my crazy plan to quit work and write full time, I’m offering SHELL GAME for FREE for the first three days of it’s release. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! ❤

A. B.

GET IT HERE

IMG_20160411_121457About the Author

Toronto born author A.B. Funkhauser is a funeral director, classic car nut and wildlife enthusiast living in Ontario, Canada. Like most funeral directors, she is governed by a strong sense of altruism fueled by the belief that life chooses us, not we it.

Her debut novel Heuer Lost and Found, released in April 2015, examines the day to day workings of a funeral home and the people who staff it. Winner of the Preditors & Editors Reader’s Poll for Best Horror 2015, and the New Apple EBook Award 2016 for Horror, Heuer Lost and Found is the first installment in Funkhauser’s Unapologetic Lives series. Her sophomore effort, Scooter Nation, released March 11, 2016 through Solstice Publishing. Winner of the New Apple Ebook Award 2016 for Humor, and Winner Best Humor Summer Indie Book Awards 2016, Scooter picks up where Heuer left off, this time with the lens on the funeral home as it falls into the hands of a woeful sybarite.

A devotee of the gonzo style pioneered by the late Hunter S. Thompson, Funkhauser attempts to shine a light on difficult subjects by aid of humorous storytelling. “In gonzo, characters operate without filters, which means they say and do the kinds of things we cannot in an ordered society. Results are often comic, but, hopefully, instructive.”

Funkhauser is currently working on THE HEUER EFFECT, the prequel to HEUER LOST AND FOUND.

 

About the Interviewer

fullsizeoutput_d9Cryssa Bazos is a member of the Romantic Novelist Association, the Historical Novel Society, the Writers’ Community of Durham Region and the Battle of Worcester Society. Her articles and short stories have been featured in various publications, both in Canada and the UK. She is a co-editor and contributor of the English Historical Fiction Authors site and blogs as the 17th Century Enthusiast. Her debut novel, Traitor’s Knot, placed 3rd in Romance for the Ages in 2016 (Ancient/Medieval/Renaissance).

 

Traitors Knot Cover“A thrilling historical adventure expertly told.” – Carol McGrath, bestselling author of The Handfasted Wife

England 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace in the year since Parliament executed King Charles I.

Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government, and to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, he takes to the road as a highwayman.

Elizabeth Seton has long been shunned for being a traitor’s daughter. In the midst of theamazon best seller new order, she risks her life by sheltering fugitives from Parliament in a garrison town. But her attempts to rebuild her life are threatened, first by her own sense of injustice, then by falling in love with the dashing Hart.

The lovers’ loyalty is tested through war, defeat and separation. James must fight his way back to the woman he loves, while Elizabeth will do anything to save him, even if it means sacrificing herself.

Traitor’s Knot is a sweeping tale of love and conflicted loyalties set against the turmoil of the English Civil War.

GET IT HERE

 

Cryssa’s Links

Amazon Author Page

Twitter

Website

 

UP NEXT:

 

FUNKHAUSER AND THE OMNISCIENT VOICE

 

FREE DAYS! SHELL GAME AVAILABLE NOW

 

FREEDOM IN SHELL GAME AND THE STRANGE THINGS THAT RESULT FROM IT

Freedom has always been a big one for me, for what am I as a gonzo if I cannot judge, poke fun, get it wrong and then slide in a rueful subtext among the laughs and guffaws?

That’s my mission, anyway, and as SHELL GAME’s release date draws near, the notion of freedom as it relates to the plot and characters who seek to keep it has grown more dear.

Imagine a world peopled with ungoverned free-spirits culturally sanctioned to say whatever they like. You wouldn’t have to go too far. Ricky Gervais showcased the concept brilliantly in the film THE INVENTION OF LYING (2009). In it, characters managed to convey whole truths without the sturm und drang of hand-wringing, hair-pulling and copious tear-filled apologies. Chaos did not ensue, at least not until the protagonist started lying through his teeth.

The same happens in SHELL GAME. There, in the humble burg of Pictontown on the Downs, gentle folk go about the business of doing a great deal of damage at little or no cost to the neighbors they try so hard to ignore. It is only when a mysterious and very beautiful black cat enters the picture that untidied things like lies, invasion of privacy, group sex and a missing spouse become important; important because with each new revelation, the freedom to do as one pleases becomes very difficult.

Misunderstandings as a vehicle to catapult the plot forward figure prominently in SHELL GAME as one’s presumed murder victim becomes another’s bratwurst sausage. Likewise, the Beautiful Boy Politician. With all his wealth, intelligence, glamor and promise, it becomes very easy to mix him up with his lackluster opponents because they all wind up saying the same blah, blah, blah to the effect that nothing and everything changes.

A Shell Game is defined as “a deceptive and evasive action or ploy, especially a political one”[1] Readers might want to let that percolate when deciding if the surviving characters are free by book’s end, for as we all know, freedom is subjective and absolutely always illusory.

SHELL GAME releases September 21 on Amazon through Solstice Publishing. As a thank you to readers and supporters, it will be offered as a FREE DOWNLOAD September 21, 22 and 23. Get it here.

Adult, unapologetic, and wholly cognizant, I am

A.B. Funkhauser

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Twitter https://twitter.com/iamfunkhauser

Facebook  http://www.facebook.com/heuerlostandfound

And this website

 

UP NEXT:

THE ULTIMATE SHELL GAME Q & A

 

BUY LINK AND FREE DAYS:

As a ‘thank you’ to everyone who ever  believed in my crazy plan to quit work and write full time, I’m offering SHELL GAME for FREE for the first three days of it’s release. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! ❤

A. B.

[1] Google dictionary, of course.

SHELL GAME: GENESIS

I didn’t plan on writing a cat book. In fact, I had every intention of devoting 2017 to THE HEUER EFFECT, the prequel to HEUER LOST AND FOUND. But I was sidetracked—drawn into a direction I had not counted on.

IMG_20151111_143637Two years ago, I met this cat. A comely fellow, he appeared at my back door with a “come hither” look that couldn’t move me. You see, I had lived my life deeply saddened by the knowledge that I was allergic to almost all things “fur and feather.” This did not dissuade him. Perhaps he knew I was susceptible—possessed of that human quality (or weakness?) of wanting that thing that I couldn’t have.

His visits went on for days, marked by chalcedony green eyes and an almost inaudible purr from cat epiglottis to my own ears. I didn’t stand a chance: he literally compelled me to open the door and let him in.

I’m so glad I did, and for so many reasons; chief among them, SHELL GAME.

Not long after our first contact, my fine visitor, along with his many free-spirited confrères, became the subject of a dedicated cat hunt spear headed by local Animal Control. According to the letter left on my door step, free-wheeling kitties and the accomplices that aided them were now subject to punitive fines / loss of liberty—theirs to roam, ours to love them on our own terms.

There’s a debate going on about whether it’s right to keep cats indoors and I can see both sides of that argument. But for the purpose of my latest fiction, let’s just say that free range kitties and the humans that aspire to similar behavior do so with the best of intentions.

Tomorrow:

FREEDOM IN SHELL GAME AND THE STRANGE THINGS THAT RESULT FROM IT

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Twitter https://twitter.com/iamfunkhauser

Facebook  http://www.facebook.com/heuerlostandfound

And this website

 

BUY LINK AND FREE DAYS:

As a ‘thank you’ to everyone who ever  believed in my crazy plan to quit work and write full time, I’m offering SHELL GAME for FREE for the first three days of it’s release. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! ❤

A. B.

A GONZO NEW RELEASE WITH A CAT’S EYE VIEW

September 11, 2017

SHELL GAME, A. B. Funkhauser’s third offering in the unapologetic lives series, launches September 21 on Amazon through Solstice Publishing. Part mystery, part social commentary, it will take a satirical look at a community fighting unwanted change through mechanisms silly and life-threatening. With insights that are both sympathetic and stinging, the novel’s hero and narrator, Carlos the Wonder Cat, will suffer overtures from an awkward feline fetishist sex cult, observe political gamesmanship that keeps going and going without apparent purpose, and assume a crucial leadership role in narrowing class divisions drawn by lines in a forest.

All with the lick of a paw.

If you believe—as many do—that cats are more than just cats, then SHELL GAME might be for you. For when has unquenchable curiosity not led to things unforgettable?

SHELL GAME

This time, the cat wins

Buy link pending

 

Tomorrow:

SHELL GAME GENESIS

 

For more information:

Twitter https://twitter.com/iamfunkhauser

Facebook  http://www.facebook.com/heuerlostandfound

And this website

BUY LINK AND FREE DAYS:

As a ‘thank you’ to everybody who believed in my crazy idea to quit work to write full-time, I’m offering SHELL GAME for FREE for the first three days of release. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU.

A.B.

STAND AND DELIVER! HISTORICAL ROMANCE AUTHOR CRYSSA BAZOS DOES IT WITH OUTSTANDING DEBUT

 

1.

You have a debut novel. How are things going?

 

I have learned that excitement fortunately doesn’t kill you, and it is possible to run on caffeine and adrenaline. I’ve had an amazing first week. I’ve managed to maintain my position on Amazon’s top 100 in my category, and even made a Hot New Release. I’ve also discovered new things about myself, specifically how competitive I am. Traitor’s Knot has been battling The Last Kingdom’s Utred son of Utred for position on the charts. “If it’s reputation you want…” Can you not hear him say that? At one point, he and the heroine on my cover were cozying up too close for my hero’s comfort, and he had a few choice warnings for the Dane. I was not best pleased with my grumbling hero when Utred pulled ahead. I’ve locked him in a water closet for now.

 

Ed. — That’s amazing! Congrats. 😀

 

2.

Tell us how you settled on 17th century England?

 

I’m not sure that I settled on the 17th century England as it settled on me. When I was mulling on what to write (the desire to write something came before what that something would be), I realized that all my favourite reads came from that era (i.e. The King’s General and The Three Musketeers). 17th century England is a time of social and political reform, civil war, advances in science and exploration! The Tudors have nothing on the  Stuarts (IMO) except a cross ginger-haired serial husband. The Stuart men were far better looking, with their dark, wavy hair, larger than life personalities, and their tragic ends. One day, HBO or Netflix will wake up to them.

 

3.

The monarch’s side is not usually favored in film and popular novels (unless it’s NETFLIX’S The Crown). Are you a monarchist generally, or specifically, as in the case of Charles?

 

That’s a good question. I wouldn’t consider myself a monarchist and yet I do find myself on the Royalist side. Here I am, waving an oak sprig. I can’t argue against what Parliament tried to accomplish in rising up against the crown. They had to deal with a stubborn king who believed in absolute monarchy which left no room for the will of Parliament. The moderates were trying to hammer home a constitutional monarchy, which happens to be  the system that we have today in Commonwealth countries. Furthermore, one of the movements that caught fire at this time were the Levellers, who lobbied for the freedom of men. If the war was only about fair representation and democracy, I’d be sporting a rosemary twig in my hat (nod to the Levellers). Unfortunately, as with all revolutionary movements, the fanatical extremists fill the void and redefine the conflict. The result was that the fanatical Independents (Puritans) in the New Model Army, with Oliver Cromwell at their head, purged the moderate elements and forced the King’s trial and execution. Cromwell sets himself up as a de facto king with a weak Parliament and no more rights for the common people.

 

4.

We’re hearing more and more about “blended genres.” Some might say that TRAITOR’S KNOT is a blend. Care to comment?

 

I do believe that Traitor’s Knot is a blending of the historical fiction genre with the romance genre in a way that the description ‘historical romance’ doesn’t entirely fit. The heart of the historical fiction genre is incorporating historical details to build a world that a reader can become immersed in. The history forms the spine of the story and propels the characters (historical or fictional) through the events. Historical romance is similar to historical fiction in that the best of the genre is well-researched and conveys a sense of place and time. But here, the romance drives the story, not the history. As a result, most historical romances are played out in the charm of a drawing room or a ballroom.

 

Traitor’s Knot puts the historical events front and centre with a central love story. Instead of allowing them to remain in the safety of a drawing room, I’ve thrown my lovers into the middle of a civil war. Their reputations are less at stake than their lives. They don’t spend the book wondering if they should or shouldn’t; James and Elizabeth instead fear that they will never see each other again. I would consider Traitor’s Knot a darker historical romance.

 

5.

Strong female characters are ‘most wanted’ these days. Gal Gadot’s Wonder WomanVikings’ Lagertha, and House of Cards’often villainous Claire Underhill. How would you classify your character Elizabeth Seton? Do you favor her over her beloved James Hart?

 

fullsizeoutput_700

 

I don’t have a favoured child, mostly. 🙂 I believe there is a strength to a woman that is not defined by her ability to run off and be badass. It comes through in the choices that she has to make and the steel in her spine when faced by those who want to take her down. In historical fiction you need to capture the sensibility of the age so it wouldn’t be credible to have sent my 17th century heroine off on a rampage. But she found other ways to show her strength, through her resistance against a hypocritical regime, protecting the weak, and defending those she loved. Not as badass as James racing along the highway, but both characters bring different strengths to the fight as well as compliment the other.

 

6.

Interesting. But how would they do in a modern context? How would they cope in our time?

 

James would be a football captain (British for soccer), and he’d give David Beckham a run for his money. James is a natural leader and inspires his men to pull together and never give up, no matter how deeply behind they are. Besides, he’d look great with his stubbly beard and shoulder length hair while rocking a red and white jersey. But he’d be pretty oblivious over his effect on his groupies.

 

fullsizeoutput_6fd

 

Without question, Elizabeth would be doctor. Probably an emergency physician. You can’t take the herbalist out of the girl no matter how many centuries pass. She always considered healing people to be her greatest calling, and she fought so hard for the right to practice her art. I can see her in a white lab coat and blue scrubs. Her dark hair would be tied back in a pony tail, and she’d be practically attached to her clipboard. Come to think of it, she’d probably be the attending physician when James is brought in over a pulled tendon.

 

7.

What are you working on now?

 

I’m working on the second book of the series, the Severed Knot. It touches on the fate of the Battle of Worcester prisoners, many who were shipped to the colonies as indentured servants. This story will focus on one of the characters from Traitor’s Knot who is captured and shipped down to Barbados. I’m not telling who though. I’m very excited about this as this is a part of history that hasn’t received very much attention.

 

8.

Have I forgotten anything?

 

If you enjoy being immersed in the past and are looking for a love story combined with action/adventure, then you’ll Traitor’s Knot should be your next read. Check it out on Goodreads and Amazon. And don’t forget to leave a review!

Ed. — Thanks, Cryssa. Let’s take a closer look at TRAITOR’S KNOT.

 

 

TRAITOR’S KNOT

Traitors Knot CoverEngland 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace in the year since Parliament executed King Charles I.

Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government, and to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, he takes to the road as a highwayman.

Elizabeth Seton has long been shunned for being a traitor’s daughter. In the midst of the new order, she risks her life by sheltering fugitives from Parliament in a garrison town. But her attempts to rebuild her life are threatened, first by her own sense of injustice, then by falling in love with the dashing Hart.

The lovers’ loyalty is tested through war, defeat and separation. James must fight his way back to the woman he loves, while Elizabeth will do anything to save him, even if it means sacrificing herself.

Traitor’s Knot is a sweeping tale of love and conflicted loyalties set against the turmoil of the English Civil War.

 

 

Praise for Traitor’s Knot

 

“A hugely satisfying read that will appeal to historical fiction fans who demand authenticity, and who enjoy a combination of suspense, action, and a very believable love story. Five stars.”

– Elizabeth St. John, bestselling author of The Lady of the Tower

 

“A thrilling historical adventure expertly told.”

– Carol McGrath, bestselling author of The Handfasted Wife

“Cryssa Bazos is equally at home writing battle scenes as writing romance, and the pace keeps the reader turning the pages.”

– Deborah Swift, bestselling author of The Gilded Lily.

 

fullsizeoutput_701

Excerpt

From nowhere, a racing black horse flashed past her window, the rider passing close to the carriage. Startled, Elizabeth craned her head, wondering at his reckless pace. Without warning, the coach veered off the road and pulled up, throwing her onto the floor. The others shrieked and braced themselves. They heard panicked shouts from the driver and the deep, jarring voice from another.

“Stand and deliver!”

Elizabeth heard the measured clopping of a single horse drawing close and the nervous shifting of their team. She crept to regain her seat. Mistress Pritchett shook with terror, and Elizabeth reached out her hand to reassure her.

“One inch more and your brains will lie in a pool at your feet.” They heard the click of a cocked pistol.

Elizabeth froze, fearful that he spoke to her. But with his next words, she knew that he still dealt with their driver.

“Toss your musket over the side.”

“You’ll have no trouble.” The driver’s voice cracked, and the carriage swayed and creaked as he scrambled down from the top seat.

“Everyone out!”

Elizabeth followed the Pritchetts, nearly stumbling on her skirts. Her foot found the first step and froze. A pair of pistols trained upon her, unwavering and baleful. Slate-grey eyes burned with equal intensity above a black scarf. Although every instinct screamed retreat, Elizabeth descended the coach.

The highwayman rode a large black horse with a white blaze on its forehead. He commanded the powerful animal by his slightest touch, moving like one, rider and horse, fluid and instinctive. The highwayman wore all black from his heavy cloak to his mud-splattered boots.

“Richard Crawford-Bowes.” The highwayman’s voice cut through the stunned silence. “Step forward. I would fain make your acquaintance.”

Sir Richard did not twitch.

Provoked by the absence of a response, he pointed his pistol at Sir Richard’s stubborn head. “Mark this well—I never repeat myself.”

“I am he,” he said and stepped forward.

The highwayman circled Sir Richard with the imposing horse. “This is a unique pleasure, my lord. Are you beating the countryside looking for desperate souls to fill your court, or have you reached your quota?”

“Now listen here,” Sir Richard sputtered. “If you persist in this venture, I vow to bring you before the assizes and see you hang!”

The highwayman shrugged. “You deserve nothing more than to share the same fate as the honest men you rob in the name of your Commonwealth. Strange idea that— common wealth. As though the wealth stolen from the King would ever be given to the common man. Deliver your coin or die.”

Sir Richard’s brow darkened. From his pocket, he withdrew a handful of shillings.

A shot fired. Elizabeth jumped and smothered a scream, pressing her hand to her mouth. Shouts and shrieks erupted from the people around her. The highwayman lowered his smoking pistol. Sir Richard remained standing, a foot back from where he had been and pale as chalk.

“My patience is nearing an end,” the brigand said, levelling his other pistol. He tucked the spent one in his belt and replaced it with a primed carbine. “A few pieces of silver. I’m sure you have more than thirty.”

Colour returned to Sir Richard, and his thin mouth pressed into a resentful line. “You will regret this.” He drew a larger pouch from his cloak and took a step forward, but the rogue’s next words stopped him.

“Take one more step and it will be your last. I care little for the honour of judges and trust their intent even less. Hand the purse to someone else.” His flinty gaze passed over the huddled couple and singled out Elizabeth. “Come forward, mistress. You’re neither fainting nor quivering.”

Startled, she considered pleading to be left alone but smothered the impulse. She would not show fear to this villain. Taking a deep breath, Elizabeth walked towards Sir Richard. A sheen of sweat beaded his forehead, and his Adam’s apple bobbed in this throat. She held out her hand and tried to keep it from trembling. Her nape prickled as if the pistol pressed against her skin. Sir Richard clutched the purse, glaring at her as though she was the villain.

“Your purse, my lord,” she whispered. “Please.”

Sir Richard hesitated for another moment before shoving it into her hands.

Greedy wretch. Elizabeth’s annoyance with Sir Richard gave her the courage to walk up to the brigand. With every step, her determination grew. She would be quite happy to hand over Sir Richard’s money.

The rogue motioned her to give him the pouch, and when she dropped it into his outstretched hand, she met his direct gaze. Elizabeth expected to see the cold eyes of a ruthless madman, but to her surprise, she did not. There was a hardness in those grey depths, but also a keen, calculating intelligence that heightened her curiosity. He stared back at her boldly, and she could not look away.

“My thanks.” His tone was an unmistakable dismissal.

Elizabeth stood puzzled. Old Nick’s small purse rested under her cloak, the sum of everything she owned. She would have been sick over parting with it but wondered why the highwayman had made no demands on her or the others.

“Was there anything more, mistress?”

She was about to shake her head and back away, but the muffled weeping behind her ended thoughts of retreat. Having reached the end of her endurance, Mistress Pritchett began to cry, soft at first and then with more violence. She would have collapsed to the ground had her husband not supported her. Elizabeth grew outraged for the hysterical woman. The audacity of the scoundrel, with all that he dared, awakened her. “Pray, what is your name, sir, so that we may know the coward who threatens us behind a scarf?”

The highwayman’s eyes narrowed. The silence unnerved Elizabeth. Beneath him, the great black shifted. “Who are you?”

“Elizabeth Seton, late of Weymouth.”

“So, Mistress Seton from Weymouth dares where others fear to tread.”

“Your words suggest you were once a King’s man,” she said, ignoring her better judgment.

“Aye, proudly so.”

“Your manner disclaims it. The Royalist soldiers I knew did not hide behind scarfs.” His expression darkened. “Times have changed,” he said in a rough voice. Instead of firing his pistol, he urged his horse closer. Its shadow cast over her. “Your people fought against these rebels?”

Elizabeth’s stomach gave a sick lurch as she realised her blunder. She prayed that Sir Richard didn’t mark the significance of her words. Being caught between a highwayman and a Roundhead justice, she should have had the wits to mind her tongue. Elizabeth’s eyes darted to Sir Richard—his entire attention seemed to be focused on the purse in the brigand’s hand.

The highwayman waited for her response, and when none came, it seemed to Elizabeth that he smiled behind his scarf. He leant forward as though they were the only two on the road. “’Tis a shame that we had not more with your bravery. We may have yet won the war.”

With a curt nod, he spurred his horse and disappeared down the road. Elizabeth released her breath in a rush, and her limbs dissolved into unset jelly.

 

 

About the Author

 

fullsizeoutput_d9Cryssa Bazos is an award winning historical fiction writer and 17th century enthusiast with a particular interest in the English Civil War. Her debut novel, Traitor’s Knot, is published by Endeavour Press and placed 3rd in 2016 Romance for the Ages (Ancient/Medieval/Renaissance). For more stories, visit her blog cryssabazos.com.

 

 

 

 

Links

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cbazos/

Twitter: @CryssaBazos

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cryssabazos/

Traitor’s Knot is available through Amazon.  http://mybook.to/TraitorsKnot