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"Perfect reading for fans of alternate-history adventures." Booklist
Land of Wolves finds Joseph Foster with Molly as they settle into a new-found life in the hills of Tennessee. But Abraham Lincoln's former bodyguard, the man who saved the President's life, cannot escape the Consortium as they come roaring back, killing his mother, abducting his daughterall to coerce his Congressional testimony on their behalf.
Instead, Joseph and Molly strike the Consortium in their own safe haven of New York City. In a Bonnie and Clyde-like twist, they rob from the Consortium to draw out their leaderGeneral Dorsey. But the hidden plan reveals more than they counted on, exposing the true intention to steal the Black Hills and the gold underneath from the Lakota Sioux. Land of Wolves traverses the American landscape, where only a full reconciliation with Joseph's native heritage and a cast of characters ripped from historyincluding Lincolncan bring true peace and stop General Dorsey and the evil Industrial Consortium.
About the Author
TJ Turner is a novelist, a historian, a research scientist, and a Federal Agent. He graduated from Cornell University, and as a reserve military officer, he has served three tours in Afghanistan and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal in 2013. His essay about his deployments to Afghanistan"The Power of Teddy Bears"was accepted and read on NPR's This I Believe national essay series. Turner lives in central Ohio, with his wife, Nancy, and three children. Land of Wolves is his second novel following the award-winning Lincoln’s Bodyguard .
Read an Excerpt
Land of Wolves
The Return of Lincoln's Bodyguard
By TJ Turner
Oceanview PublishingCopyright © 2017 TJ Turner
All rights reserved.
2 March 1874
Breathing deep, I forced the space before my next breath to fall longer. It gave my ears more chance against the stiffening silence. There was nothing. I willed my heart to slow, anything to better hear through the darkness. But no noise reached me — no fall of hooves, no creak from the axles of an old wagon. Each passing night made it harder to bear the delay. By any measure they were late — too late for my liking.
I leaned against the doorframe. The shaved wood still smelled of pine, and the sap was sure to stick to my clothes. Molly would lecture me again, when next it came to do wash. I had ruined many shirts while building our cabin and a few pair of pants playing with the children outside. We had been here the better part of a year, passing the winter in town while the Old Man and I worked at the cabin on the days where the wind didn't bite too hard. This country air filled our hearts — a place to heal. But it came with the price of an ever-growing mending pile I left to Molly.
Around me the sounds of night bloomed, and the moon fell in uneven fashion. In its light, the giant oak cast a shadow across a thin trail as it snaked its way through the meadow. The children had forged other paths as well. Their feet plodded the tall prairie grass, cutting deep to reveal the mud underneath, as if a giant knife had scarred the earth. The lights were out at the Old Man's cabin, where Emeline slept sound in her room. She still knew the Old Man as . Someday we would tell her the truth. She visited her mother often, buried a short distance from the oak. I pushed the recollection of that night from my mind. I would never wash the blood from my hands or the taste from my mouth. I drew consolation in keeping my promise to the dying woman. I had watched over her little girl and delivered her safe to her father.
In our cabin, Daniel slept in his small loft — the only room on the second floor. His bouncing amongst the rafters drove Molly crazy, though I regarded it a small price. He adjusted well in this place, accepting Molly and I as guardians after the loss of his family. I imagined Colonel Norris standing alongside the Great Spirit, enjoying the irony in our patchwork family. He had long fought for his Confederacy. Yet a half-bred Indian and the man he had despised most — Abraham Lincoln — were among those who raised his grandson.
Taking in the cool night air was like drinking water from a deep well. As I pulled it into my chest a call echoed amongst the hills. The locals said there had never been a wolf in the area before, at least as far back as anyone could remember. But every night she tilted her head skyward, paying homage to some ancient wildness. Her song fell upon the land, long and intense. The howl rose and fell, only to start anew. This night she seemed closer, making her way from the rolling hills to the north. No call ever answered. It seemed odd she would be so far east, or alone. The Great Spirit created these social creatures to travel in packs. They taught the first men about loyalty and family. But this wolf had lost her pack, or been forced from it.
Behind me, the loose flooring creaked. I had not finished fastening it down, focusing instead on the roof. We needed shelter from the rain and scorching sun that would come with late summer. We had been here only two months, yet with the Old Man's help we made tremendous progress. As soon as we could move into the small cabin Molly insisted we make it ours, even as I finished it from within. She tried to be quiet to surprise me, but her feet fell heavy on the rough-hewn pine planks. Without turning, I spoke before she made it to the porch.
"Thought you'd catch me with whiskey?"
Of late I had done well, though the shakes would not leave my hands. As long as I had no need of a gun or knife, I needed no whiskey.
At first Molly said nothing, wrapping her arms around me as her head buried into my back. She pulled me in, breathing deep in the crisp night.
"I worry that you don't sleep."
The remnants of slumber held her voice, muted as she pressed her face against my back. Her forehead filled the space between my shoulders, her breath warm.
"It's been too long," I said. I stared toward the tall oak. "Something happened."
Molly nodded. She abandoned any attempt at excuse. Nothing fit. She knew it as well as I. My mother's last telegram came from deep inside Georgia, five weeks earlier. She sent it after she found Aurora, the little girl I had lost so many years ago. They headed north to us. Molly and I postponed our wedding until their arrival. But the days stretched, and then the weeks turned to a month.
"What will you do?" she asked.
"They could be anywhere. I can start with the telegraph operator, but I don't know if it will be much good."
"You can't go south," Molly insisted. "They know you to be dead — as does the North. The entire country thinks Joseph Foster is long buried."
Faking my demise the year prior had been my only manner of escape. It bought our freedom from the Industrial Barons — a consortium of the rich and powerful. They had long run the country through corruption and manipulation. Years earlier, with the great Civil War about to falter and die, I had saved the Old Man from John Wilkes Booth. With that simple action I pushed the Old Man into the hands of the Barons. They used him as political power. Trapped in the White House, he enforced the Draft — a system to supply their factories with free child labor. All the while the last embers of our great Civil War held the South in a simmering conflict.
When the Old Man resigned, clearing the way for President Johnson, it invoked the wrath of the Barons. The new president worked to undo their influence while re-building the country. He supported the labor unions and sent the children home. The Barons would love to see me dead, but thus far the assumption of my death had shielded us. No one had come for me.
"What would you have me do?" I asked.
Molly's hands clutched my suspenders. Her nightgown tossed in the light breeze. I knew she longed to pull me to her, to drag me back across the threshold until I stood inside. She would be happy then. And I might be too. Essary Springs existed as a slice of perfection — deep in western Tennessee. The Old Man lived at the other end of the meadow, and the people here were a rough mountain folk. They paid little notice to the nation's politics. Instead, they elected the Old Man as their mayor without care that he had once been our president. Pure heaven would fall short in describing this place, though the thought of enjoying it eluded me. I needed Aurora — to hold my daughter once more.
No matter how patch-worked our family was, it would never be complete without her.
"I will go to town tomorrow and telegraph Pinkerton," Molly said. "He will have some advice."
I drew her near. She always knew what to do. Allan Pinkerton, the famed detective to the presidents, had employed us both.
Only his network of informants and spies reached deep enough into the South. They would be of use in finding my mother and daughter.
"Until then, I know you won't sleep," Molly continued. "I'll put on some tea."
"Lie down, Molly. I shouldn't keep us both awake."
She drew me close once more, resting one hand on the side of my face.
"My bed has been empty for far too long without you. If you insist on listening to the night and that damned wolf, then I will make us some tea. I will not go back to bed alone."
By her footfalls my mind followed her into the kitchen. The cabin had only two bedrooms, a small dining room, and a kitchen. I would build upon it later, or let this one serve as a living space while we crafted a grand house next. But I had made the kitchen extra-large — enough to fit in the cast iron stove that arrived from over the rails. It had taken four of us to haul inside. I closed my eyes and listened as Molly stoked the coals and then added a piece of wood. She placed the kettle on the top with a clank, and set about with the china. I loved the sound of her. After all we had been through — all she had seen — she desired a simple life. This place would heal us, once all the pieces of our jumbled puzzle fell into place.
I moved onto the porch and sat upon one of the rocking chairs the Old Man made for us. He intended them as wedding presents. But night after night he watched us stand upon our front porch and could bear it no longer. He gifted them early. The wood creaked, and the noise of the rockers on the rough planking killed my listening for the night. I would never hear a wagon on approach. Instead, I closed my eyes and waited for Molly. Many nights in the last month I had watched the sun rise and push away the darkness from this spot.
With my eyes closed I drifted. I floated above the night, letting the howl of the wolf course through me as I rocked. Her voice pitched again, rising then fading. She lured me toward sleep. A moment longer may have been all I needed, but in mid-song she stopped. The immediacy of it stood in jarring contrast as the night became silent. Other sounds rushed to fill the void. I started from my chair.
Their hoof falls were fast, echoing amongst the trees. At first I thought it a dream. Molly took the kettle from the stove. It steamed but hadn't boiled. She heard them, too. I stood, searching the night. They were coming up the trail and toward the clearing.
"Joseph ..." Molly called from within.
Stopping at the threshold, I reached above the doorway. I had nailed a crude rack to the wall above the door. It held my Henry rifle. Molly joined me, grabbing the shotgun next to the door.
"Do you think it's —"
"Bad news," I interrupted.
"How do you know?"
"When is good news ever in a hurry?"
"The Barons?" Molly asked.
I shook my head.
"Why not?" she pressed.
I didn't want to frighten her, though it didn't matter. She read the fear on my face, as I did on hers.
"When they come, we won't hear them."
I stepped out onto the edge of the porch and strained my vision, waiting for the riders to emerge from the dark.
"All the same," I said. "Go blow out the lamps."
I racked the rifle, cocking the hand lever under the stock. The metallic sound split the night as the bolt forced a bullet into the rifle's chamber. When Molly blew out the last of the oil lights I stepped off the porch into the night.
My advantage would lie in the darkness.CHAPTER 2
With the barrel of my rifle propped against the woodpile, I took deep breaths to steady my hands. They still shook. My mouth dried, as if my lips anticipated the flask. Liquor had always held the fear at bay, and without it, the pounding of my heart made my hands worse. I shifted until certain the moonlight did not cross my body. It concealed me amongst the shadows. My eyes narrowed — anything to gain the advantage if I had need to fire first.
The horses pulled closer. Whoever rode them forced the animals into a pitched run. From the sound, I thought there might be two. But as they emerged from the trail and into the clearing the hoof falls echoed off the great oak making it hard to tell. They slowed to a trot, and then the noise faded, save the din of their breath as a rider pushed them forward. In the moonlight a man sat atop the first horse. He held one arm outstretched behind holding the reins to a second rider-less horse.
"Sheriff Foster! Sheriff Foster!"
The voice came out winded and strained. At once I lowered my rifle and stepped from behind the cord of wood.
"Charley, I'm over here."
The horses started forward again, this time toward the sound of my voice. The form of the rider emerged from the dark. An eagle's feather stuck out from the band around the Stetson hat.
"I can't see you."
"What is it, Charley?"
He guided the horses until they stood nearby. I grabbed the reins of the one he pulled. Charley had worked both into a lather — their hides glistening under the moon.
"What's the fuss, Charley?"
"An Indian woman, she came to town an hour back. I thought of you right away."
The breath sucked out of me as his words struck hard about the gut. I tried to answer, but nothing came. Charley knew I waited for my mother — and daughter. We had talked on it plenty.
"Did you hear me, Sheriff ? She's down at Doc Herman's right now. She's in a bad way."
I turned toward the cabin. Molly stood on the porch. Her hand covered her mouth as she stared. The shotgun hung limp from her other hand.
Without saying anything I stepped forward and handed her my rifle.
"Joseph, I'll ..."
I didn't hear what she said. Turning to the empty horse, I pulled myself up and barely settled before I dug both heels into the beast.
"Stay here, Charley. I want someone with Molly and the children."
Below me the horse twisted, unused to the weight. As I took up the slack in the reins I pulled her head until she faced the end of the meadow. With a swat to her backside she reared before falling hard on her front hooves. When she gained her footing we flew past the moonlit meadow and into the darkness.
I let her find the way. She knew it as well as I, and my vision held nothing on hers in the dark. I spoke in her ear — like my mother used to do when riding bareback to escape the slave catchers. As the darkness of the trail closed around us, I leaned closer to avoid the low branches. Loosening my grip on the reins, I remembered my mother's words in her old tongue. The horse seemed to know, running at her limit through the night. Branches tore at me. My shirt ripped as they tried to pull me to the ground, but she steered me clear. I closed my eyes and spoke, feeling her gait and moving my weight as she needed.
She played her role to perfection, making the fastest descent from Big Pond Hill I had ever seen. We found our way out of the woods and into Essary Springs, then down Main Street. I only grabbed the reins to slow her as we reached the doctor's office. I didn't bother tying her as I leapt from the saddle. The town lay dark and still, and only my footfalls on the wooden boardwalk disturbed the peace. I pushed into the door of the doctor's small office.
Inside, he sat next to his exam table. A sheet laid over her, though not covering her head. Doctor Herman rose to meet me.
"Joseph. I figured you'd be by soon."
"Is she —" I didn't finish the sentence.
He shook his head. "She's resting now, though she lost a lot of blood. I gave her some opium a while back. She'll need more soon."
I started into the room, but he caught my arm.
"I couldn't stem all the bleeding, Joseph."
"I thought you said ..."
He shook his head again. "This was deliberate — to make it painful and slow. I did what I could, but we would need a real surgeon."
"Then we'll get her on the train in the morning."
"She won't make it through the night. I'm sorry. And likely she won't wake again. There's not much more I can do. I'm a country doctor. I do simple things here."
He stared into his hands before looking back to me.
"This ... this was evil. They carved on her something awful. Those who did this, they knew how to use a knife. Maybe a good surgeon could have done more, but I don't know."
Fear held me. I had killed so many with my blade. What I sowed came back to haunt me. My stomach turned as I stood over her, watching her face turn cold. I had seen it too many times. The sheet was pulled high under her chin, but left enough folded over to cover her face — in anticipation. Her arms extended to her sides, wrapped in bandages that had bled through. I stepped into the room, just a half-step forward.
"Thanks, Doc," I said.
"Sit with her. If she stirs and needs more medicine, I'll do what I can."
I nodded, and he left me alone.
I took a moment — embarrassingly long. I hadn't seen her in years, not since I went to Washington to enlist. She had kept at her work, ferrying escaped slaves to freedom despite the fighting. It had earned her an audience with the Old Man, well after I had saved him in the theater that night. She seemed smaller now, somehow shorter as she lay stretched on top of the table. Maybe the stories, the ones from the Underground Railroad, made her larger in my mind. Perhaps I stood that much smaller when I saw her last. I forced myself forward until I leaned over her.
Peace held her face. So much so that I stooped near to hear her breathe. Her chest rose and fell, in shallow breaths that arrived in unsteady intervals. More wrinkles set about her face. No one would deny that native blood flowed through her veins, despite the store-bought dress. Even my stepfather, enlightened as he was about the worth of men, referred to us as civilized savages. To him we were a force to tame.
I sat next to her. She stirred as I held her hand. It wasn't enough to wake her.
"Djòdjò," I whispered. Mother. "I'm here."
The sounds felt awkward, some long cherished memory that I finally spoke aloud. I remembered such little of her native Algonquin. She did not stir, even as I caressed her hand. Doctor Herman carried a lamp into the room. He placed it on the table by the head of the bed.
Excerpted from Land of Wolves by TJ Turner. Copyright © 2017 TJ Turner. Excerpted by permission of Oceanview Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Turner’s Land of Wolves, a sequel to Lincoln’s Bodyguard is a fast-paced, page-turning, heart-wrencher. His characters are all absolute gems and his use of a historically accurate narrative gives a certain authenticity to the novel. His portrayals of the battles for political power and the fight for the Native American’s lands are pulse-pounding, dark and play out perfectly for his story. In Turner’s own words he calls his novels “Revisionist History”, I call them masterpieces and if we knew then what we know now perhaps it could have been called facts. Bravo TJ for another amazing piece of storytelling. SUMMARY: After Joseph Foster and Molly Ferguson foil the Consortium’s plot to have Lincoln killed they along with the old man (Lincoln) and his daughter, Emeline, go to Tennessee to hide and hopefully put down roots. But its deadly clear the Consortium’s not done with them when they send Joseph a message in the form of his dying mother who tells Joseph they have his daughter Aurora. Wracked with guilt and rage Joseph needs to find Aurora and enact revenge on this political monster but Molly won’t let him go alone so together they set off on yet another dangerous journey. Hopefully they’ll find Aurora and survive to finally settle down to marry and enjoy a life they’ve so long been denied, but who knows what the Land Of Wolves has in store for them.