Title: Big Town
Entry Nick Name: What's Luck Gotta Do With It?
Word Count: 77,000
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Lena Huertas grew up hearing only the dead were welcome in Big Town, but it’s the only place she believes could save her life.
After her father is murdered by the Forty-Niners who claimed California, she becomes desperate to trade streets consumed by violence, and starving folk, for security among the modern royalty of the most successful boomtown in 1879. It doesn’t matter that the city lies hidden in the Sierra Nevada, or that the borders are protected from outsiders by a marksman of legendary skill. Bodies from the poorest regions of the West are shipped to Big Town for an unknown purpose, and Lena aims to follow to ensure her pa gets a proper burial and to seize a brighter future for herself.
She boosts her chances with the charity of Rolando Tavares, Big Town’s one-eyed, possibly two-faced, sheriff – along with the power of a mysterious pair of golden dice capable of granting favor to those who need it most.
But what she doesn’t know is that Rolando’s false eye allows him to enter minds, and that within the home she’s always dreamed of awaits outlaws and lawmen who desire corpses and are willing to kill for the magic luck she possesses. Because to a populace who take their wealth for granted, control over the future is worth more than gold, and neither the living nor the dead are welcome to leave.
Three coffins rested near the railroad beneath a sky as gray as a weathered barn. Sealed with rusty nails, the wooden boxes were reused anytime someone from Skidmore dropped dead, or was murdered, and had no kin to give them proper burial.
Or for those who, like Lena Huertas, had nary a penny in their pocket.
The young woman’s dry hair was bunched under her father’s Stetson. She sat in a ticket booth that was boarded up on one side and gutted open on the other, and watched a beetle scuttle between her boots across a cracked stone platform. The bandana covering her face helped shield her from the dirt and mud swallowing everything else, including most of the sign welcoming would-be passengers of Skiddy’s Wagon to her quaint mining town.
She folded her arms on her knees and ignored the mosquito bites begging for a scratch. A wind cut through the ticket booth, making her shiver and hug her knees tighter. The pale afterglow of the sun peeking up over the walls of the Sierra Nevada was fading, but she’d yet to find the courage to step closer to the railroad, put her hand on her pa’s box, and bid a last farewell.
She was surprised and grateful no one ever tampered with the coffins. They were usually left on the platform for days awaiting their journey. She supposed superstitions got the better of folk. No chance it was out of respect.