Disclaimer: I do not own or have any rights to Hell on Wheels, nor am I making any profit from this story.
Author's Note: This story is dedicated to CrashDisaster who encouraged me to do a Hell on Wheels story. Thanks for believing in me! And I totally have to thank my nephew for getting me hooked on the show. He showed me 2 episodes and then I was a goner, got totally obsessed. What can I say, the civil war/ western story line and that sexy southern drawl coming from a good looking guy is pretty hard for me to not love.
Though the Nebraska Territory sky was without a cloud, Cullen Bohannon could feel the coming storm on the breeze. He didn't question the need to dig the cut in the valley ahead of the storm, knew that the area, a few days from then, would be more slick mud than prairie. It was the reason the black men that made up the cut crew were out there now, ten miles ahead of the current leading edge of the rail line.
And Cullen had come along, not so much to oversee the Walking Boss, Elam, or the other black workers but because Hell on Wheels was suffocating him, though it was the very bare bones of what one could label a "town." It was still too many people, too many tents, reminded him too sharply of the war when the wind whipped through, ruffled his tent flaps, rattled the hanging pans and kettles and swayed the lanterns. He swore he could almost hear the cry of the wounded and dying again on nights like that. Men whose agony made them cotton to see a reaper more than an angel of mercy.
Inhaling for a moment more the fresh prairie wind as it blew his hair back from his face, Bohannon then put his hat on and turned to his men. And that was another revelation, to have men he called his own again. To be leading others…when he felt so lost himself. It was the oddity of command, of knowing what was best for others while figuring out his own path to take roiled inside him like a pan of stew over a fire.
Raised voices from the front of the line had him narrowing his eyes against the sun and striding to the sight of the ruckus. "What's the hold up?" he demanded, his southern draw not hidden in the sharpness of his tone as he stood on the lip of the cut and scowled down at the men arguing instead of working.
A thin black man with tight curly hair shaved close to his head looked up at the foreman towering over him, swallowed, fought to not cringe already at the blow that probably would follow his confession. "Boss, Sir, pick ain't breaking up this rock no how. No matter how hard I strike it."
Psalms, the man Cullen had seen Elam with the most, glared at the other black man, scoffed, "Apparently your master didn't work you hard enough, you's weak is what it is." And then he gave the other man a shove, raised his own pick high and swung it down where the other man's blows had landed before without much success. But strike after strike, the rock refused to give way to either the pick's point or the former slave's strength.
Ripples of snickers echoed through the gathered workers, sending Psalms into a typical fit of anger as he challenged someone to do better. And then others were scrambling forward, eager to prove themselves Psalms better, were shoving each other to get into position to tackle the rock.
Sensing that it was a situation ripe for chaos, Bohannon growled, "Ya'll move back," even as he stepped into the cut, intending to put hands on the closest troublemaker. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the burliest of the black workers haul back his pick, ready to wallop the rock. Trouble was, he was in the path of the man's backward arch. Even as he was telling himself to dodge the spiked iron aiming for his head, agony blossomed across his skull and he was falling and being doused in darkness all in one go.
Well, I hope you like it so far! Up next, Elam comes onto the scene.
Have a great day!