African American Fiction

Sheriff Callen propped against the shady side of the building, smoking a cigar and watching the bus carrying his wife pull into the bay. A guy wearing a lightweight beige suit and white hat, his kind only seen in town during festival season, stepped off, turned and extended his hand. Slender fingers with red nail polish took it. Holding gently, she descended, her teeth showing.

Callen spat. "Wilma!"

She released her hand. "Honey, you made it on time."

The man tipped his hat and walked into the station.

"Who's he?"

"I don't know." She started towards the driver, unloading bags. "That one is mine." She nudged Callen and pointed.

He grabbed her suitcase. "The grin you wore said you did."

"I have no idea, now drop it."

They entered the station but the stranger nowhere in sight. Callen spotted him outside, pacing and talking into his phone. He didn't like the looks of him.

"Wilma, wait here?"

Callen drew closer, pausing when he heard the man say.

"I intend to stay as long as it takes to get what's mine."

Wilma poked him. "Leave him alone. You are supposed to take me home."

"I'm doing my job."

"Your anticipation of something happening in this neck of the woods is wishful thinking run amuck."

Thirty miles from a major city, people only dropped in during the fall fair. Sheriff Callen wished for excitement. Whatever form it occurred to put his beautiful town on the map.

Several hours later Callen tailed the stranger from the other side of the road after he exited the Motel. He paused, facing the Barbershop, using its glass as a mirror. The stranger entered the General Store.

He came out carrying a shopping bag, walked past the coffee shop, crossed the road and went into the bank.


Pat stopped counting, stared at the man who sounded the bell and talked to the security guard. He looked familiar. The guard pointed in her direction. He moved towards her with a serious expression.

"Good afternoon."

He tilted his head and again, a tinge of familiarity. "Good afternoon sir. How may I help you?"

"Cash advance."

He handed her a gold card. Pat didn't recognize the name Zachary H. Barnes, but couldn't shake the feeling she knew him. She ran the card. Approval flashed instantly for the sum of $500.

"How would you like the denominations?"

"Twenties. Used the last of my cash at the General Store. The clerk said a handful of establishments are equipped with card readers. I am going to change that."

Pat wanted to ask what he meant and who he was, but he didn't strike her as the type to converse with her.

At home, she mentioned the encounter to her husband. He suggested the next time she saw him inquire.


Zachary opened the worn leather satchel and carefully laid the documents across the motel bed. Every time he handled them, the reminder of their discovery in his Grandfather's dusty attic caused his throat to constrict. Months of verifying their authenticity would now come to fruition.

He arranged transportation with the motel owner, at first light, to see the land before meeting with the Mayor.

The documents ordered the way he intended to present them. He returned them to the bag. Zachary checked in with his wife and children, discussing everything he had experienced so far, including being followed and the strange look the teller gave him. Neither incident disturbed him. Being a black man seemed an anomaly, especially a confident, successful one. More than a century since his Great-Great-Grandfather started and increased his business, after being run out of this town, people continued questioning their success. Some thought it was given to them or they stole it. When he told them, wisdom, hard work and perseverance, the keys. Most remained doubtful.

His alarm chirped. Dim light peeked from the bottom of the shade. Zachary dressed in his navy suit, white shirt and red striped tie. The power ensemble his stylist assured him guaranteed results. It worked for most of his business transactions, but this one was personal.

A teenager idling a late model sedan honked, sending an echo through the quiet street, when Zachary walked out the motel.

"It's only gonna take five to get there. You could've walked but I guess it's best someone like you gets a lift." He said.

The Victorian-style house, smaller than Zachary imagined, although impressive, sat at the end of the main street, still named after his family. He observed the intricate trim work, first and second floor bay windows, when suddenly the front door opened. The man he saw at the bus station and who followed him yesterday stepped onto the porch. He waved. They waved back.

He strode towards the car. Zachary smacked the top of the front seat. "Drive."

They pulled away before the man reached them.

"Who is he?" Zachary looked out the rear window. The man stood in the street with hands on hips.

"Sheriff Callen.".

"Does he own the home?"

"You asking the wrong person."

The teenager honked after dropping Zachary in front of Town Hall. A few minutes early for the appointment he scheduled two weeks ago, Zachary perused the lobby, reading the town's declaration statement and studying portraits of its supposed founders.

The Mayor, Lucas Bell, a middle age slender man with a fake smile and moist handshake, chatted while guiding Zachary to a conference room.

Zachary sat at the table and pulled out the first document. A deed for the home he visited earlier. Followed by house plans, receipts for building supplies, furniture and a ledger showing salaries to laborers.

The Mayor looked skeptical. He even alluded to Zachary falsifying the documents. He expected this response. So he presented letters from a government officials stating the documents' authenticity along with their contact information if the Mayor wanted to confirm.

Zachary inhaled, before showing the last document, an inception of the town named Harperton. Signed by the Mayor's forefather.

He shook his head a few times and looked at the document again. "That's my Great-Great-Grandfather's signature."

"You share his name." Zachary stacked the documents. "Do you believe I forged the signature?"

"Not sure how you could."

"Sheriff Callen lives in the house. Does he have proof of ownership?"

"I don't know? I'd have to check."

The Mayor's voice quivered, asking his assistant to find out. While they waited, Zachary inquired about the men in the portraits. Lucas strutted around the room, pointing to each one, beaming as he discussed his lineage. Zachary wished he had images of the father who brought him there.

The assistant reply didn't take long. There were no records of ownership.

Zachary felt confident he would receive what he came for.


He ate dinner in the motel restaurant.

The teller, one of the many diners scrutinizing him, although her glances were different. He noticed her scans, but when he met her gaze, she diverted her eyes and whispered to her companion.

She approached Zachary as he sipped coffee.

"Excuse me, my name is Pat. I didn't want to interrupt while you ate but now you're finished, may I ask you a question."


"Are you from around these parts?"

"I plan to be."


"The news will soon spread. The property at the end of Harper Lane belongs to my family. My Great-Great-Grandfather, Oliver Harper, purchased the land and built the house, including several others in town."

The woman plopped into the chair and covered her mouth. "Harper. You resemble him. You must come home with me."


"I have information you could use."

She introduced Zachary to her husband, rush them out the restaurant and sped walked the short distance, muttering "I can't believe this."

Zachary's insides vibrated, but he sensed no threat.

Pat placed a large scrapbook in his lap. The cover cracked, and he did also, seeing the photo of a man, who shared his features, standing in front of the unfinished Victorian. A caption underneath. Oliver Harper's progress on his innovated house design.

Zachary held back tears, turning the pages depicting images and articles of his ancestor's accomplishments in the town. The articles coincided with journal entries Oliver kept.

"Where did you get this?" He sounded angrier than he meant.

"My Grandpa, reminded us of Harperton's history. His Grandfather the aspiring photographer and reporter, settled in Harperton because of the community. Although he and a few others were the minority, everyone got along. Until." Her head drooped. "The night it happened they tricked him into being out of town. My Grandfather said he never got over it. Spent the rest of his life broken."

"Can I have these photos?"

"For years I thought about giving them to the Mayor but I'd remember Grandpa saying don't let them out of your possession until a Harper comes."

In the motel room, Zachary glanced at the photos, snapping pictures of them with his phone. He forwarded the images to his wife and cloud account.

The next morning, he walked to Town Hall, wondering which of the homes he passed were designed by Oliver Harper. The Mayor was out, Zachary guessed where he would be.

Sheriff Callen and Lucas Bell stood on the lawn in deep conversation.

"Good morning Gentlemen."

The Sheriff extended his hand. "I've been waiting for something exciting to happen in this here one horse town."

Zachery shook the firm hand. "I wouldn't consider being forced out of your home exciting."

June 04, 2021 17:39

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


RBE | We made a writing app for you (photo) | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.