Craig Johnson, author of the top-notch Wyoming mystery series starring Sheriff Walt Longmire, has a great holiday tradition. Every year, he e-mails his fans a brand-new, unpublished short story. This year, he cut it a little bit closer to Christmas Eve than usual, and so I was away on vacation by the time it arrived. Now that I’m back, however, I e-mailed Johnson to ask whether I could share his story with readers of Likely Stories. “ABSOLUTELY!” came the reply (from Bordeaux, where the author is having a “blast” . . . who said that crime [fiction] doesn’t pay?).
In “Unbalanced,” it’s a bitterly cold night and Walt is headed for the airport in Billings, Montana, to pick up his daughter, Cady. He stops for gas (keeping the engine running, naturally) and picks up an unusual passenger. I love the way these stories fit with the Longmire books while still being something a bit different; they have a bittersweet, reflective tone that still fits the holiday season without banging readers over the head with a Christmas tree.
By Craig Johnson
She was waiting on the bench outside the Conoco service station/museum/post office in Garryowen, Montana, and the only part of her clothing that was showing were the black combat boots cuffed with a pair of mismatched green socks. When I first saw her; it was close to eleven at night and, if you’d tapped the frozen Mail Pouch thermometer above her head, it would’ve told you that it was twelve degrees below zero.
The Little Bighorn country is a beautiful swale echoing the Bighorn Mountains and the rolling hills of the Mission Buttes–a place of change that defies definition. Just when you think you know it, it teaches you a lesson–just ask the seventh cavalry.
Download the PDF and read the rest of “Unbalanced“!