Hellcat – Warriors of St. Antoni Chapter 7

Warriors of St. Antoni is the first of my new Portal Worlds Serials.The book is still being written and edited, so what you read today is subject to change without notice in the published version.

On St. Antoni you got tough or you died. The only defense is a gun; your security is your ability to use it. This is the story of three sisters and the choices they make to survive on St. Antoni. Bethany marries a mercenary warrior to shield her family from a predatory neighbor. To protect her sister, Iris chooses between an arranged marriage with a beloved friend and an outlaw. Jeanne and the son of her greatest enemy defy both their families to find love.

Technology to find and open gateways to alternative worlds was found on earth in the late 21st century. Those expecting to get rich off the tremendous resources on these new worlds controlled Access to them. People talk though, and it wasn’t long before the new technology became common knowledge and unregulated Portals cropped up. Illegal settlers passed through Forbidden gates looking for new places to live and find adventure and liberty.

With only the technology they could carry or build from raw materials on St. Antoni they built a new way of life.  To survive they must rely on themselves. The learned to master deadly plants and animals. On St. Antoni, Adventure was a one-way trip to a hardscrabble life and Freedom meant relying on yourself for food, a roof over your head and safety.

This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any persons living or dead is unintentional and accidental. © Gail Daley 2017 All Rights reserved. Any duplication of this work electronically or printed, except for brief publicity quotes, is forbidden without the express written permission of the author. Cover Art © by Gail Daley’s Fine Art 2017

Serial Chapters are posted on Fridays. Check in next Friday for the next chapter of Warriors of St. Antoni

Click below to Download a PDF copy and start reading Chapter 7 Hellcat  https://www.facebook.com/groups/GailDaleyWriter/

BETHANY accepted Alec’s edict of not leaving the ranch without an escort the following morning with good grace.  Jeanne was furious.  Since it had been left to Bethany to impart this good news, her father and McCaffey having retreated to the den to look at maps, Jeanne’s wrath was directed at her sister.

“Jeanne be sensible,” Bethany begged.  “It’s not forever, only until—”

She ducked as a coffee cup sailed past her head, and the rest of her argument was drowned in Jeanne’s shriek of outrage. The cup hit the wall just as McCaffey opened the door to investigate the commotion.

“Don’t you try to give me orders!  You’re not my mother!  I don’t give a damn—”

“That’s enough.” McCaffey’s voice was quiet, but that quiet voice had intimidated men who killed for hire.  Unfortunately for him, Jeanne was made of sterner stuff.

“Who are you to be giving orders?” her voice dripped venom, and her blue eyes snapped fire.

McCaffey calmly pulled off his bandana and wiped coffee off his sleeve.  He stuck the handkerchief in his pocket before he answered her.  “I’m the man who gave those orders you’re objecting to.  I am the man who will marry your sister.  I would appreciate it in the future if you would not throw things at my wife.”

“And just how do you think you can keep me from riding when and where I please?” Jeanne hissed.

McCaffey shrugged.  “I ´could lock you in your room, but since I don’t want to tie up a man to keep you from sneaking out, I figure the easiest way to keep you from riding is to spank you hard enough that you can’t sit a tricorn.”

Jeanne stared across at him.  He meant it.  She usually found that if she yelled enough, people gave in just so she would shut up.  This man was different.  Only one other man had ever stood up to her this way, and with him, she had a weapon she sensed would do her no good with her new brother-in-law. It was apparent that McCaffey was unmoved by blue eyes and honey colored curls. Oblivious to these attributes, he was continuing in a reasonable voice.

“You and your sisters would be a high card in Johnson hand.  A man who’d shoot another man in the back wouldn’t stop at kidnapping a woman.”

Jeanne tossed her head.  “I can take care of myself!”

“Under most circumstances, you probably can.  These aren’t most circumstances.”

“Oh, all right!  I guess I can stand it for a few days anyway.”  She sat down in her chair with an ill-tempered thump.

“You can also,” McCaffey continued deliberately, “apologize to your sister for throwing hot coffee at her.”

“In for a penny, in for a pound, is that it?” Jeanne inquired.  She gave Bethany a rueful smile.  “Sorry, Sis.”

Jeanne had insisted on riding into town with Bethany and McCaffey this morning when they went to see Pastor Meeker.  Since he had restricted her from going on her own, she informed Alec, he couldn’t well object to acting as escort.  They dropped her off at the general store to do her shopping on their way to the Parson’s house. She did, in fact go into the store and buy a hair ribbon, but as soon as her sister and McCaffey had disappeared around the corner, she came back outside and mounted her tricorn.

Nestled at the foot of the mountains with easy access to the river, River Crossing was a town divided.  On one side of the river was the older part of town, a general store, a blacksmith shop, a seamstress, a courthouse, a small eating-house, three churches, a schoolhouse and three saloons on the main street.

There was The Hotel, spoken of in capital letters by everyone.  The Hotel was new.  It had been built on the site of the fourth saloon with money from the silver mines up in the hills behind the town.  The Hotel had a grand dining room, a ballroom (used for the weekly dances the shrewd owner had instigated as a way of bringing in money), new finagled bathrooms on each floor and gas lighting.  The Hotel had a very elegant saloon with red velvet draperies and a mirror that ran the whole length of the bar.  The town leaders had frequenting the saloon in The Hotel, citing the rarefied atmosphere and good conversation.  Liquor was served by waiters in black velvet suits who carried weighted clubs to enforce the house rules. Ordinary miners were not allowed in The Hotel saloon.

On the other side of the river was Minerstown.  It was reached by ferryboat hence the name River Crossing.  Minerstown was wild.  Decent women didn’t come across the river.  Several long bunkhouses owned by the various mines were at the far end of town.  A railroad line ran up into the hills to the mines and made trips twice a day, taking miners to work their shifts and bringing down ore from the mines to be processed. A few of the miners had families, but most of those preferred to locate their families across the river.  There was no school, no churches, and no courthouse.  The mining companies owned several eating-houses and a general store.  The laundry was run by a Chinese emigrant named Wong who had a sharp knife and a short way with people who took liberties.  Since the mine owners knew his business was essential to the town’s operation, they protected him and the other business owners brave enough to open shop in Minerstown. Of course, in Wong’s case, this protection consisted of not prosecuting him after he cut up three miners who attempted to take liberties with his wife and daughter. Cuttings were nothing unusual in Minerstown; it was a rare evening when three or four didn’t take place.  Since the mine owners disapproved of their employees shooting each other (rendering them unable to mine silver), they enforced a strict ordinance not allowing guns to be carried on this side of the river.  The weapons of choice were knives and clubs.

The six saloons on the main street  had drinks served by waitresses who served upstairs. None of which cut into the business at the far end of town where for a price a man could find a better class of feminine companionship. The woman who ran this pleasure house used six big, tough knuckledusters to keep order, and herself carried a sharp stiletto and an equally deadly pistol.

The ferryboat was still run by the man who had started it when he slipped through the Portal fifty years ago, Old Man Grainger.  No one knew Old Man’s first name, and since he was a cross-grained codger with a sawed-off shotgun and a short temper, no real effort had ever been made to find out.  The area around the ferry was frequented by the rougher elements; ranch and farm hands who wanted to prove they were tough enough to have a good time across the river on one side, and on the other side by miners who wanted to prove they couldn’t be intimidated by the more law-abiding elements.

Just below the ferry landing on the edge of the Crossing, there was a bend in the river shaded by a huge broadleaf tree.  Jeanne tethered her tricorn where it couldn’t easily be seen and leaned against the tree, watching the river’s lazy flow.  It was deceptively peaceful here by the river.  Minerstown was quiet since most of the miners were at work or sleeping off last night’s debauchery.  The next shift change wouldn’t be for at least two hours.

A large, hard hand came across her mouth and she was dragged back against a man’s body.  Jeanne bit down hard and kicked back hard with the heel of her riding boot with its sharp spurs.  A grunt of pain was her answer as teeth and spur bit home.  Involuntarily, the man’s hold loosened, and she jerked away from him, drawing her gun.  Fast as she was, he was faster.  He had her gun hand and pinned her against him.

“Hellcat,” he remarked. “It would have served you right if I had been someone else.”

Jeanne had collapsed against him in relief.  “It was the only way I could see you,” she said.  “I was hoping I would see your tricorn in town—”

“I saw your tricorn too,” he retorted.  “That’s why I followed you down here.  I ought to blister your fanny for this stunt.  Do you know what would have happened to you if I had been someone else?”

“Samuel, will you please shut up!  I don’t know how long it’s going to take Bethany and McCaffey at the preachers.  ´He threatened to beat me too if I rode out alone anymore.  Said I was a liability—”

“Who said?  Who threatened to beat you?” Jeanne read the incipient violence in his voice and smiled.  All the Johnson men were handsome, tall and golden haired with blue eyes except Samuel.  He had the dark gold hair, but his steady eyes were brown, and a closer inspection showed an obstinate jaw.

“My new brother-in-law—at least he isn’t yet, but he’s going to be.”

Samuel Johnson drew back a little and looked at her.  “Let’s sit down and start over.  Why can’t women tell a story straight instead of always starting in the middle?”

“If I didn’t love you I’d shoot you for remarks like that.  Give me back my gun.”

He pulled her down with him on the bank and kissed her until she was breathless.  Faintly, from across the river came a woman’s scream and the sound of breaking glass.  Samuel reluctantly lifted his head.

After a moment, he said.  “This isn’t a good place, Hellcat.  Tell me about this new brother-in-law.”

“That gunfighter Dad was waiting for arrived last night.  Bethany is going to marry him.  They came into town to make wedding arrangements today.”

Samuel pulled thoughtfully at his lower lip.  “Emery sure will not like that.”

“Who cares what Emery likes?  My sister can marry anybody she wants, you know.”

“I know,” he agreed absently.  “Does this gunfighter have a name?”

“McCaffey is what Dad called him, but I don’t know if that’s his real name.”

“Alexander McCaffey?”

“I think so, but he goes by Alec.  Why?”

“Whatever else he is, Emery is my brother. We may not see eye to eye about some things just now, but I don’t want to see him killed if I can help it.”

Enemy lines. There it was, between them, just as it always was.

“Let’s go away,” said Jeanne impulsively.  “The next steamboat that comes up the river, let’s just get on it and go away.  Away from both our families.”

“It wouldn’t stop Dad,” Samuel replied honestly.  “If he thought we were together, he would still think he could use you if—if something happened.”

“You mean if my Dad and sisters were dead,” Jeanne said in a hard voice.

Samuel didn’t answer her.  He pulled her to her feet and put her on her tricorn where he stood looking up at her. “I wish it was different, Hellcat.”

Jeanne stroked his soft, dark gold hair back from his face.  “Me too.”

He stood there in the shadows, watching to make sure she got safely back to town.

The interview with the parson was not going well. Bethany studied the minister of the church she had attended since she came back to the Crossing with exasperation mixed with affection.  She could tell that Parson Meeker was unhappy about her coming marriage because he kept fidgeting in his chair and tapping his foot.  He frowned at the young couple across from him.

“I think you should consider this more carefully, Bethany,” he said.  “Marriage is a very big step.  You have just met this man.  I really think you should wait until you know each other better before making a lasting commitment.”

“I’m sorry, but we intend to be married this Sunday,” she said firmly. “Of course, there is always Margo’s priest,” Bethany added thoughtfully, throwing down the gauntlet.  “I really would rather be married in my church of course…”

Mrs. Meeker, silent until now, gave a soft shriek of consternation.  “Get married in another church?  John, what can you be thinking of? Of course, he will marry you!”

Parson Meeker pushed up his glasses with his finger and tapped his foot again.  “You always were the most obstinate, self-willed child,” he said, at last.  “Very well, Bethany, I will perform the ceremony after church on Sunday.”

He gave McCaffey a minatory look.  “If you don’t treat her right, you must answer to me, young man.”

McCaffey looked at Meeker with amused respect.  “I promise I will take good care of her.”

 

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A Warrior Comes – Warriors of St. Antoni chapter 6

Warriors of St. Antoni is the first of my new Portal Worlds Serials.The book is still being written and edited, so what you read today is subject to change without notice in the published version.

On St. Antoni you got tough or you died. The only defense is a gun; your security is your ability to use it. This is the story of three sisters and the choices they make to survive on St. Antoni. Bethany marries a mercenary warrior to shield her family from a predatory neighbor. To protect her sister, Iris chooses between an arranged marriage with a beloved friend and an outlaw. Jeanne and the son of her greatest enemy defy both their families to find love.

Technology to find and open gateways to alternative worlds was found on earth in the late 21st century. Those expecting to get rich off the tremendous resources on these new worlds controlled Access to them. People talk though, and it wasn’t long before the new technology became common knowledge and unregulated Portals cropped up. Illegal settlers passed through Forbidden gates looking for new places to live and find adventure and liberty.

With only the technology they could carry or build from raw materials on St. Antoni they built a new way of life.  To survive they must rely on themselves. The learned to master deadly plants and animals. On St. Antoni, Adventure was a one-way trip to a hardscrabble life and Freedom meant relying on yourself for food, a roof over your head and safety.

This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any persons living or dead is unintentional and accidental. © Gail Daley 2017 All Rights reserved. Any duplication of this work electronically or printed, except for brief publicity quotes, is forbidden without the express written permission of the author. Cover Art © by Gail Daley’s Fine Art 2017

Serial Chapters are posted on Fridays. Check in next Friday for the next chapter of Warriors of St. Antoni

Click below to Download a PDF copy and start reading Chapter 6 Negotiations   https://www.facebook.com/groups/GailDaleyWriter/

THE MORNING her prospective bridegroom was expected to arrive, Bethany woke early after a fitful night’s sleep. The darkened sky was just showing the first streaks of light when she got out of bed to sit on the window bench in her room. A light breeze floated in through the open shutters. She propped her chin on her hands and looked out over the ranch. From here, she could see the kitchen gardens outside the walls, and the groves of fruit and nut trees leading up to the mountains. Everything was quiet, but she knew it wouldn’t last; already she could hear Iris’s goats and Jeanne’s geese stirring around. Below a cooking pot clanged, and a door slammed as Margo Alvarez, the housekeeper started a fire in the iron stove for breakfast.

Life began early in the valley, even up here in the foothills; by three o’clock, the temperature would have reached one hundred degrees, and everyone was eager to get chores done to avoid working in the heat of the day.

The train bringing Alec to the Crossing wouldn’t arrive until noon so he couldn’t get to the ranch itself for several hours, Bethany assured herself. He would ride out from town and that was at least a two-hour ride. Although there was a railway stop about a mile away from the ranch, it wasn’t used except during roundup to load animals for the markets in the big City States. There was plenty to do to get ready for Alec’s arrival. She stood up and dressed for the day.

By lunchtime, Bethany had worn out her welcome with most of the household. She had squabbled with both her sisters, snapped at Margo and accomplished nothing the entire morning. In exasperation, her Grandmother, recognizing the ill temper for the nerves it was, thrust a broom into her hands with instructions to sweep the flagstones on the courtyard and stay out of everyone’s hair.

Both the large, arched wooden gates in the courtyard had been thrown open for the day allowing the breeze to cool the house and grounds. Bethany had barely begun her task when she discovered both Iris’s and Jeanne’s especial pets had again escaped confinement and invaded the courtyard.

King George, Iris’s irascible Billy goat, was sneaking toward her Grandmother’s prized flower bushes. He loved the taste of them, which was why he was not allowed in the courtyard when they were in bloom. Lulubelle, Jeanne’s pet goose, felt the courtyard was her property, fiercely resenting any encroachers human or animal. When she spied George, she hissed and spread her wings, attempting to drive him out of her territory. King George responded to her threat by lowering his head and stomping his feet. It was obvious battle was about to be joined.

Out of the corner of her eye, Bethany noticed the two riders dismounting just inside the gates. She ignored them and started toward the combatants, intending to use her broom to separate the pair. She was too slow. Just as she approached, King George lowered his head and charged. Lulubelle, back-winging to avoid his rush, smacked into Bethany. Furious at what she considered an attack from behind, Lulubelle hissed and honked, battering Bethany with her powerful wings and bill. Reeling backwards from the impact of the forty-pound goose, Bethany threw up her hands to protect her face and didn’t see King George charging until he butted her in the stomach. Still shielding her face from Lulubelle’s wrath, Bethany stumbled backward and landed on her rump in the raised flowerbed around the well. Lulubelle shrieked in anger. Meanwhile King George, the picture of innocence, ambled over to nibble on the forbidden flowers.

Bethany discovered the uproar had drawn an audience—the two riders, Grandmother Giselle, Iris, Jeanne and several of the stable and dairy hands had all rushed into the courtyard to see what was happening. The younger of the riders booted the indignant Lulubelle, still shrieking madly, off Bethany and knelt beside her.

“Are you hurt?” he asked.

Bethany wiped away a trickle of blood from under her nose, noticing as she did so that her hand was covered with dirt and blood. Her dress had a streak of white bird poop all down the front. She looked up into concerned dark brown eyes and blew out a breath before she answered. “No, I’m fine, thank you.” She wiped the dirt off her hand as well as she could and let him pull her to her feet.

“I’m Alec McCaffey, ma’am,” he said, still retaining her hand.

“How, do you do,” Bethany said, resigned to the ridiculous first impression she was making. “I’m Bethany St. Vyr. I’m sorry for the rude welcome. We don’t greet our guests with this kind of hullabaloo. May I present my sister Iris,” she gestured to the ethereal girl with the silver gilt hair who was detaching the goat from the flowers. “And this is my other sister, Jeanne.” He looked over at the honey-haired amazon checking for injuries on the still complaining goose whose cries had turned from wrathful to pitiful.

“That dratted goose!” Giselle came bustling up, firing off orders. “Just look at you! Bethany, go in the house and let Lisette help you clean up. Jeanne! Iris! Get those critters off my patio! Paco,” she called to one of the watching stable hands, “Come and take the gentleman’s Tricorns.”

She turned to the younger man, who had reluctantly let go of Bethany’s hand. “You must be Alec McCaffey. I’m Giselle St. Vyr. My son has told me so much about you.”

“Pleased to meet you ma’am,” he bowed over her hand. “May I present my friend and mentor, Henry Miller?”

Henry laughed. “No need, son, I remember Mike’s mother well. Nice to see you again Mrs. St. Vyr.”

“If you don’t mind, we like to see to our own Tricorns,” Alec intervened. “We’ll join you in the house as soon as that’s done.”

Giselle nodded. “I remember. Just come in that door and Paco will show you where to clean up. We’ll have tea when you join us.”

Bethany had retreated to the house where she was pounced upon by Lisette, her grandmother’s maid, and led off to change her clothes and wash her face.

“I can’t wear that,” she protested, when she saw the afternoon tea dress Lisette had picked out. “I’ll look overdressed.”

“You need to make a better impression,” Lisette retorted. “You want to get the upper hand in this marriage you use your best assets.”

“Lisette, he just saw me with a bloody nose and covered in bird poop! Nothing can change that kind of first impression!”

“He watched you all the way to the door,” Lisette retorted, undaunted. “Play your cards right and you’ll have him right where you want him.”

After washing their hands and dusting off the trail dust, Alec and Henry were led to a room on the ground floor overlooking the patio garden. Giselle St. Vyr greeted them, offering tea or coffee and a selection of small cookies and sandwiches.

“My son will join us soon,” Giselle promised. “After the shooting, he takes some time to maneuver his new transportation.”

“Rumor has it he was shot from ambush?” inquired Henry.

“Yes. We were lucky that we found him as soon as we did.”

“Who is investigating the shooting?” Alec wanted to know.

He frowned when Iris responded, “The sheriff supposedly, but since he almost never leaves town, I don’t see how he could find out anything!”

“Well, if he investigated,” Bethany added, seating herself on the sofa, “he would have to go into who had the best motive to shoot Papa, and that would lead to his biggest campaign supporter—Ira Johnson.”

She accepted the cup her grandmother handed her and passed it to Alec.

“Lulubelle suffered no injuries,” Jeanne announced from the doorway. “No thanks to you kicking her.” This last was directed at Alec with a glare. Lulubelle, he concluded, must be the goose.

“What about your sister?” he demanded indignantly. “That bird gave her a bloody nose and might have pecked out an eye!”

“She was defending herself!” Jeanne declared, “She thought she was being attacked from behind as well as by that miserable Goat!”

“Did you discover how he got out again, Iris?” Bethany interjected hoping to change the subject before the argument could continue.

“Well, there were hoof marks on the fence, so I’m thinking he must have climbed it. Goats are brilliant, you know, unlike geese,” Iris responded sweetly.

“Lulubelle’s smart—” Jeanne began.

“Ah, I see my girls are making you welcome,” Mike St. Vyr boomed out. Jeanne and Iris exchanged glares but quieted down at the sound of their father’s voice.

He rolled the chair into the room. “If that’s coffee, I’ll take a cup.”

Giselle poured it and handed it to Jeanne to take to her father, along with a small plate of sandwiches.

After tea, Michael St. Vyr and Alexander McCaffey retired to the den, while Henry went out to check on the tricorns. Iris went to examine the repairs to the goat enclosure she had ordered. Giselle and Bethany went up to her room to decide on her dress for this evening and Jeanne claimed she needed to check on Lulubelle again and disappeared.

In the den, McCaffey sat forward in the cowhide-covered chair and glared at St. Vyr. “Your letter made me curious enough to come out here, but I’m just not sure what I think it said is what you meant.”

St. Vyr rolled a brandy glass around in his huge hands. In the light from the windows, iron gray shone through what had once been a fiery head of hair. St. Vyr had been a powerful man before the rifle shot had crippled him, and immense power still showed under the blue homespun shirt he wore.  Since McCaffey knew St. Vyr owned a rich silver mine and could have afforded to wear a silk shirt had he wanted to do so, it was obvious he was more comfortable in homespun.

“You didn’t make a mistake. I will make out the papers deeding you one third of the Golden Tricorn and the Lucky Strike, the day you marry my daughter, Bethany.”

McCaffey’s face showed none of his inner turmoil. To be offered everything he and Henry had worked for years was a tremendous temptation.

He knew from the gossip they had picked up In Junction City what St. Vyr was facing. He wasn’t surprised St. Vyr wanted a gunman, but the nature of the offer had thrown McCaffey off balance.

“You’re offering an awful lot more than fighting wages, St. Vyr. Why?”

St. Vyr looked at him. “The Doc says I may not last much longer.” He lifted the brandy glass. “I like this painkiller better than laudanum.  You’re right. I could hire a bunch of gunmen and take care of Johnson and his sons. But what about after I’m gone?  Besides, anybody I hired, well if he didn’t have some stake in the pot, he might get to thinking there was only three women to keep him from taking over. If he was married to one of my girls, he’d be family.”

McCaffey snorted. “If I was that kind of coyote, St. Vyr, I don’t reckon being married would stop me.”

St. Vyr set the glass down on the desk with a bang. “Dammit!” he roared, driven to the last ditch, “I want my girls to be happy. I always wanted one of them to marry a man who could take care of things. Well, they ain’t done it.”

“Why did you pick me?”

St. Vyr smiled a little wryly.  “You recall a job up North for a man named Bill Spears?”

McCaffey was surprised. He had brought that job to a successful conclusion avoiding the usual blood bath.

“Spears is kind of my brother-in-law. My second wife Louisa was sister to his wife.  We were courting about the same time and we got to be friends. He still writes to me. Bill told me quite a lot about you.”

McCaffey got up and stood looking out the window. It was a measure of how disturbed he was that he turned his back on St. Vyr.

St. Vyr watched him in silence, trying to see him as his daughter would. The boy was well enough looking he supposed, although Bethany had never seemed impressed by good looks St. Vyr reflected, if she had been, she would have accepted the oldest Johnson boy’s proposal.  McCaffey was a little below medium height, not slim, but not fat either and he moved with the smoothness of a well-honed blade. His dark hair was clean; his wedge-shaped face clean-shaven, dark brown eyes looked out over a large, well-shaped nose. The nose had a scar across it, the obvious legacy of a knife fight.

“St. Vyr,” said McCaffey at last, over his shoulder, “what makes you think you can order a girl to marry someone? Here on St. Antoni women have rights.”

St. Vyr took another sip of his brandy. “Bethany’s a good girl. She knows her duty. You needn’t be thinking I’m going to foist an antidote on you either. She’s got her mother’s looks. ‘Course she got my hair, but on her it looks good. And she will always tell you the truth. There’s been times when I wish she wasn’t so truthful, but that’s another story,” he added hastily.

“St. Vyr,” said McCaffey grimly, trying to take control of the conversation, “let me make this real plain. I am not about to marry any girl who feels she doesn’t have a choice. The very last thing I want is a wife who resents having to marry me.”

St. Vyr chuckled.  He levered himself up out of his oversized chair with his crutches.

“I think it’s time you and my daughter got better acquainted. Let’s go to dinner.”

Exasperated, McCaffey followed his prospective father-in-law out of the room.

Bethany was nervous.  It was too early to go back downstairs, so instead she fussed with her hair which Margo had helped her sweep into a loose knot at the crown of her head. Soft red curls wafted around her face. She checked her dress again in the mirror, and decided, again, that it was perfect for a dinner at home ‘en famille’. The dress was a soft green made of thin material in deferral to the heat and in the new style. The bodice was deceptively modest, the sheer cloth descended from a high collar to the waist. Only if one stared hard, it could be seen that the sheer overblouse covered a low-cut chemise of the same color. The nipped in waist showed off Bethany’s hourglass figure to perfection and the full skirt swayed enticingly when she walked. Gran had picked out the dress, and Bethany wished for that strong presence to be in here giving her a pep talk. Bethany was sure there was no social situation, not even this one that Gran wouldn’t have been able to handle with aplomb.

I can’t do this! She thought in panic. And then that other voice, the one she had listened to all her life said, Oh, yes you can. You must. Do you want to be out in the street earning money for food on your back, like those Jones women in Copper City after the Smith clique took over?

After Momma Clara was killed, Giselle had come and taken all three girls back east to live with her. Iris had stayed with her other grandparents in Port Breakwater a lot, but Bethany and Jeanne had lived with Gran in a modest house in Copper City.

Gran had supported them with the profits from her gemstone business Until the clique war between two rival factions had destroyed her livelihood. Michael St. Vyr had come east to remove his family when he heard about the trouble, but it had taken him days to get to Copper City using the trains and stage routes. Bethany understood the only thing standing between herself, her family and poverty was the Golden Tricorn and the Lucky Strike.

When her father had explained his plan to keep them all safe to her, she had agreed.  If I am going to sell myself to save my family, she had thought grimly, it won’t be for a few dollars.  At least I’ll be a married woman so no one will call me a whore the way they did poor Priscilla Jones.

Her father had promised her he would try to find her the best man he could, but he had explained that the kind of man who could lead the firefight  to rid themselves of the threat the Johnsons posed, might not be cultured or refined.

The dinner bell chimed. Bethany opened the door to find Margo’s son Paco waiting in the hall.

“You look muy bueno, senorita!” he exclaimed.

Bethany laughed. Paco’s juvenile admiration was soothing to her nerves. “How come you’re not at dinner?” she asked.

He skipped ahead of her down the stairs. “Mama said to come and tell you how you look, so you feel better,” he chortled, and ducked into the hallway leading to the kitchen before Bethany could catch him.

Despite Margo’s suburb food, dinner could not have been called a success. Since Margo preferred for her and Paco to eat in the kitchen, Giselle, Iris, Bethany, St. Vyr, Henry and McCaffey sat down at the dining room table.  The dinner conversation about the latest campaign to notify Earth of St. Antoni’s existence was stilted.

Jeanne came in halfway through dinner and made herself disagreeable to her father, hoping to divert St. Vyr from delivering a scold because she disobeyed him and rode out alone.  The tactics succeeded, despite St. Vyr recognizing them. Clara, Jeanne’s mother had often done the same for similar reasons. Giselle and Iris fled the dining room as soon as dinner was over. Giselle claiming the privilege of old age to retire early, and Iris to help Margo in the kitchen.

Although Bethany was glad to escape to the parlor after dinner, Margo having told her not to help to clear the table tonight, she was annoyed with her youngest sister for making a difficult situation harder. So when she saw Jeanne sneaking off up the stairs, she called after her. “You had better get Margo to help you get those grass stains off your blouse, if you hope to wear it again.”

Jeanne frowned at her, trying to look at her back over her shoulder. “What grass stains?” she demanded

“You can’t see them, dear,” said Bethany sweetly. “They are all in the back.”

Jeanne opened her mouth to retaliate and then heard her father coming out of the dining room. With a gasp, she fled upstairs. Bethany stalked into the parlor and sat down with a thump in a chair.

When Paco brought in the tea tray, she gestured to him to set it on the low table in front of her. “Bed for you, young man,” she said. Paco gave her a hug before he left.

McCaffey sat his cup down on the table with a decided click. “St. Vyr, I think your daughter and I need to talk. Will you excuse us?”

“Now, see here,” St. Vyr blustered, “it’s hardly proper—”

“Papa,” Bethany interrupted him peremptorily, and added a short sentence in French.

Michael opened his mouth and then shut it again. There were some things a man just didn’t say to his female offspring, no matter what the provocation. “I’ll be in the library,” he announced, just as if that was what he had planned to say all along.

McCaffey, who had learned his French in Madame Tussaud’s House of Pleasure in the French settlement in Azure City, was not sure he had just heard his prospective well-bred, ladylike bride say what he had thought he’d heard.

“What did you say?” he demanded.

Bethany eyed him speculatively. Papa had promised he would not force her to marry a man she found repulsive and so far, she had found nothing in McCaffey to dislike. It was time for another test. Composedly, she said, “I told him that unless he planned to lie between us in the marriage bed, he would have to leave us alone sooner or later.”

McCaffey choked on a mouthful of tea and had a coughing fit.

Eyes watering, he looked at her. “Your father said you were truthful to a fault. I see now what he meant!”

“Truth is always preferable,” Bethany said. “If you always tell the truth, you don’t have to remember later what lie you told.”

McCaffey came over and sat down opposite her in the comfortable wing chair. “Since you prefer the truth, you may as well know I told your father I will not marry a woman who is being forced to marry me.”

Bethany was taken aback. It had not occurred to her that a man who hired out his gun would have scruples about marrying her. Something inside her that had been tense uncoiled at that moment. McCaffey’s attitude was something she recognized—she had seen it in her father.

“But you are a Romantic!” she exclaimed. “How extraordinary!”

“Don’t be a damn fool!” snapped McCaffey, annoyed. “I’ve seen enough marriages to know it is rough enough when both parties want to get married.  Marrying a woman who has been forced into it is a recipe for disaster.”

“No, you are right, of course,” Bethany said. Papa, she remembered did not like to be thought of as a romantic either. “Both parties in a marriage must have good reasons for entering the marriage. Papa is not forcing me to marry you, you know. He would never do that.”

“I don’t mean he would beat you. Look, being forced by circumstances isn’t much different from being forced in other ways. It isn’t right.”

It suddenly dawned on Bethany that unless she changed his mind, McCaffey would not cooperate with the plan.  She would have to be very careful she realized, if she judged wrong, he would get up and walk out.

“My mother’s grave is up there under one of the trees,” she said. “So is Iris’s mother.  My mother didn’t have to come out here with Papa to this wild land. Gran had a good house then, and she made a comfortable living supporting herself. Mama came here because she and Papa had a dream to build a home. It was the same with all Papa’s wives. I remember the day Jeanne’s mother died, you know. Margo had taken us out to pick berries. We were on our way back when we heard the shooting and saw the fires. Margo wouldn’t let Carlos, Iris and I come here until after she had made her decent. It wasn’t fit for us to see, she said.”

“Your father has done a fine job here. I understand how proud you must be of him.”

“No, you ´don’t understand,” Bethany said. “Do you know what happens to women like me, like my sisters and grandmother when they have no income? Do you know what they do to survive? Well I do. I saw what happened to some of Grans customers when the Smith Clique took over in Copper City. You are a man; you can work.  For a woman, there are very few places for women to work and stay respectable.  I can’t sew a straight line, none of us can cook, and I am a terrible teacher; you should have seen me attempting to teach Jeanne how to dance. I thought we would pull out each other’s hair! Jeanne and Iris are no better. Besides, our mothers died for this land. I will not let that awful man and his cocksure sons come and take it away from us. They shot Papa in the back! Oh, I know the sheriff said he couldn’t arrest anyone without proof. But I know who did it.”

She turned around and looked McCaffey straight in the eye. “I can’t shoot a gun well either, and I am no warrior woman that men will follow me into battle, even if I knew how to win a fight like this. But I can marry a man who can do these things.  I don’t know what you want in a wife. I don’t know that I could be other than I am. If it turns out I’m not the kind of woman you want to marry, I can’t change that. I can’t pretend either that I have been struck by a bolt of lightning and fallen in love with you.  But I will pledge to you that I will do everything I can to make a marriage between us work. But you are correct; we must both be willing for the marriage to be a good one.”

There was a long silence. McCaffey got up and went over to the open French doors. Dusk was turning the sky a faint mauve color. He wanted to believe her. He wanted it so badly in fact that he didn’t trust his own judgment. If she was telling the truth, she was offering him everything he had worked for since he had walked out of his stepfather’s house at fifteen; a home, a family, and work he could be proud of. If her words were a trick, it was a good one. Could Bethany be so good an actress? He looked at the clear gray eyes, the soft rounded chin, and the firm mouth. He simply wanted to believe what she was offering. Still, if it was a trick, he could apply a simple test.

“I guess we can go into town tomorrow and get married,” he said.

Bethany, who had been thinking bitterly that she would have to tell Papa she had failed, was stunned. “What?” she blurted out.

“I said,” he repeated, “that we can go into town tomorrow and get married.”

“Tomorrow? No, we can’t get married tomorrow. There must be an announcement in the paper, we must see the Preacher and send out invitations.”

“Tomorrow,” he said.

Bethany eyed him a little warily. She wasn’t sure what had changed his mind, but she wasn’t about to let him ride roughshod over her either. “Tomorrow,” she stated firmly. “We will go into town, put the announcement in the paper, and talk to Preacher Mayer about holding the ceremony after church on Sunday. We will also,” she added, “make arrangements to hold a reception at the hotel the following Saturday.”

She stacked the cups and saucers on the tea tray so she could take them to the kitchen. Aware that he was watching her with a slightly proprietary air, she suddenly felt shy, so to make conversation, she asked, “Did Paco tell you which room is yours?”

McCaffey took the tray from her and set it back down on the table. “No, he didn’t.”

“The first one at the head of the stairs. Your friend is next door.”

She stopped, because he had taken hold of her shoulders. She could feel the warmth of his hands through the thin material as if she were naked to his touch. After a moment, he tipped her chin up with his finger, forcing her to look at him.

“It’s going to be a long time until Sunday,” he said ruefully before he kissed her.

Bethany had been kissed before. When she had gone east a few times with Gran to see Iris’s grandparents, several men had tried. After all, she was more than passably good looking and her father owned a silver mine. She had been little impressed by the procedure.  Emery Johnson had tried, but his kiss had been brutal. This was different. McCaffey’s hold was firm, but she could have released herself if she had tried. His mouth was warm and tasted faintly of brandy and the mint tea she had served after dinner. Without realizing it, she felt herself relaxing into his arms. When he felt her response, the kiss deepened. He coaxed her lips apart with his tongue and his arms came around her, one hand slid down over her buttocks, pressing her up against him so she could feel the hard bulge of his arousal. Bethany had spent a lot of her growing up years around animals; she knew what pressed against her. She was startled to feel an answering heat between her thighs. When she felt herself lifting against him so she could feel more, she came back to herself with gasp of shock.

McCaffey let her go, smiling down at her.

“Good night,” she gasped, and fled upstairs, leaving the tea tray behind for Margo.

McCaffey stood in the doorway and watched her run up the stairs. She had felt good, he realized, and it was obvious her response to him hadn’t been planned. He whistled to himself as he gathered up the loaded tray and took it out to the kitchen.

It wasn’t until he was undressing for bed that it occurred to him the interview with Bethany had not gone as he had planned. He had intended to explain gently to her that he would accept the job, but not the marriage unless some real feelings developed between them. He scratched his head. How he had ended up engaged to her with a wedding planned for next Sunday? Furthermore, that sweet faced girl had virtually told her own father to mind his own business and Michael St. Vyr had obeyed her.

 

WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?

 

Several Years ago, I wrote a blog defining the many Art Genres. I decided to try the same with writing. I searched the internet and pulled up most of these definitions from Wikipedia, and various other internet sources who defined writing genre. It is by no means a comprehensive list, but it might help my fellow writers when asked by a publisher to define the genre of the book they have just written. There is an enormous amount of information about book genres. I limited myself to fiction. I may do a similar chart for non-fiction later though. I got the idea for the chart from a Facebook post, but I made some changes and additions to what was there. Please feel free to share or add to it.

MYSTERY

Mystery fiction is a genre usually involving a mysterious death or a crime to be solved. In a closed circle of suspects, each suspect must have a credible motive and a reasonable opportunity for committing the crime.

Noir/Hard Boiled: Noir fiction is a literary genre closely related to the hard-boiled detective genre except that the lead character is not a detective, but instead either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator. Other common characteristics include the self-destructive qualities of the lead character A typical protagonist of noir fiction is dealing with the legal, political or other system that is no less corrupt than the perpetrator by whom the protagonist is either victimized and/or must victimize others daily, leading to lose-lose situation.

Cozy Mystery: Cozy mysteries, also referred to as “cozies”, are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are played down or treated with humor and the crime and detection takes place in a small, socially intimate community. The term was first coined in the late 20th century when various writers attempted to re-create the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.

General Mystery: Mystery fiction is a genre of fiction commonly involving a mysterious death or a crime to be solved. The central character must be a police or amateur detective who eventually solves the mystery by logical deduction from facts fairly presented to the reader. Sometimes mystery books are nonfictional. “Mystery fiction” can be detective stories in which the emphasis is on the puzzle or suspense element and its logical solution such as a whodunit. Mystery fiction can be contrasted with hard-boiled detective stories, which focus on action and gritty realism.

Mystery fiction may involve a supernatural mystery where the solution does not have to be logical, and even no crime involved. This was common in the pulp magazines of the 1930s and 1940s, where titles such as Dime Mystery, Thrilling Mystery and Spicy Mystery offered what at the time were described as “weird menace” stories—supernatural horror in the vein of Grand Guignol. This contrasted with parallel titles of the same names which contained conventional hard-boiled crime fiction. The first use of “mystery” in this sense was by Dime Mystery, which started out as an ordinary crime fiction magazine but switched to “weird menace” during the latter part of 1933.

Police Procedural: The police procedural, or police crime drama, is a subgenre of detective fiction that attempts to depict the activities of a police force as they investigate crimes.  Traditional detective novels usually concentrate on a single crime.  Police procedurals frequently describe investigations into several unrelated crimes in a single story. Traditional mysteries usually adhere to the convention of having the criminal’s identity concealed until the climax (the so-called whodunit); in police procedurals, the perpetrator’s identity is often known to the audience from the outset (this is referred to as the inverted detective story). Police procedurals describe several police-related topics such as forensics, autopsies, the gathering of evidence, the use of search warrants, and interrogation.

Hobby Mystery: See Cozy Mystery. This is merely a specialized sub genre of Cozy mysteries. The story usually centers around the main character’s hobby, such as quilting or animals.

Historical Mystery: The historical mystery or historical whodunit is a subgenre of two other genres, historical fiction and mystery fiction. These works are set in a time usually before 1960 and the central plot involves the solving of a mystery or crime (usually murder). Though works combining these genres have existed since at least the early 20th century, many credit Ellis Peters’s Cadfael Chronicles (1977-1994) for making popular what would become known as the historical mystery. The increasing prevalence of this kind of fiction in succeeding decades spawned a distinct subgenre.

Paranormal Mystery:  Sometimes the things in a mystery just can’t be explained. That’s where the paranormal mystery comes into play. These books have an element of supernatural in them, that can include magic, witches, skeletons or ghosts, and it can include werewolves, vampires, and other creatures. The difference between paranormal and fantasy is Paranormal concerns events or experiences not subject to scientific explanation or outside the ability of science to measure or explain. ESP, ghosts and other phenomenon fit this definition. Fantasy is a genre using magic or other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of the plot or setting. (Think Harry Potter or Harry Dresdin).

ROMANCE

When classifying a Romance Novel for publishing, the writer is often also required to define the Heat Level in the Novel. Heat Level refers to the intensity of the romantic scenes in the novel and can be applied to all romance genres. These Heat Definitions were borrowed from the RomCon Romance Heat Scale:

None: Sensuality is not the focus of the book. There may be profanity or mild violence. (e.g., Young Adult, Family Sagas)

Sweet: The romance deals with the emotional aspects of love rather than the physical. No sex or scenes of physical intimacy except kissing. No profanity. No graphic violence. (e.g., Christian Fiction, Sweet Romance, Young Adult Romance.)

Mild: There may be mildly described scenes of intimacy. There may be mild profanity or violence.

Medium: Sometimes described as “Blush level”, it is a little more than halfway between sweet and hot with more descriptive loves scenes and profanity than mild. There may be sex scenes or the preliminary action related to it. Scenes are usually not graphic and may contain euphemisms for sexual parts of the body are common. The emphasis is very much on feeling.

Hot: There usually are detailed sex scenes, profanity and/or graphic violence.  Authors who often write at this level of sensuality include Nora Roberts, Susan Wiggs, Rebecca York, Judith Arnold, Mary Balogh, Edith Layton, and Candace Camp.

Wild Ride/Erotica: There will be graphic sex scenes, including multiple partners and or alternate lifestyles. There may be explicit adult language and/or graphic violence. (e.g., Erotic Romance, High Fantasy, Thrillers…) Within RomCon®’s website, this is referred to as Erotic Romance. Be careful here; certain subject matters are still taboo (sex with children among others) and you will need to be specific in the reasons for your rating.

Blood Thirsty: Sensuality is not the focus of the book, but there will be graphic violence, bloody scenes, or horrific scenes with frightening or intense content. (e.g., Horror, Thrillers, some High Fantasy…), here again you need to be specific for the reason you gave the rating.

Paranormal Romanceis a subgenre of both romantic fiction and speculative fiction. Paranormal romance focuses on romantic love and includes elements beyond the range of scientific explanation, blending themes from the speculative fiction genres of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Paranormal romance can range from traditional category romances with a paranormal setting to stories where the main attention is on a science fiction or fantasy-based plot with a romantic subplot included. Common devices are romantic relationships between humans and vampires, shapeshifters, ghosts, and other entities of a fantastic or otherworldly nature. Beyond more common themes concern vampires, shapeshifters, ghosts, or time travel; paranormal romances can also include characters with psychic abilities, like telekinesis or telepathy. Paranormal romance has its roots in Gothic fiction, and are one of the fastest growing in the romance genre.

Contemporary Romance: is a subgenre of romance novels generally set after 1960. Contemporary is the largest of the romance novel subgenres, These novels are set in the time when they were written, and reflect the ideas and customs of their time. Heroines in contemporary romances written prior to 1970 usually quit working when they married or had children, while those written after 1970 have and keep a career. As contemporary romance novels have grown to contain more complex plotting and more realistic characters, the line between this subgenre and the genre of women’s fiction or Chick Lit has blurred. Most contemporary romance novels contain elements that date the books, so eventually the story lines become inappropriate to more modern readers and go out of print. Some do make the transition into Historical fiction, but not many.

Historical Romance:  is a broad category of fiction where the story takes place in a setting located in the past. Settings in this category will run the gamut from 1960 back into caveman times. Walter Scott helped popularize this genre in the early 19th-century, with works such as Rob Roy and Ivanhoe.  More recently author Jean Aeul’s Caveman series have been on the best seller list. Historical romances continue to be published, and notable recent examples are Conqueror by Georgette Heyer, or the Roselynde Chronicles by Roberta Gellis.

Western Romance: These books are set in America or Australia or in a contemporary or historical western setting (western United States, Canadian prairies or Australian outback), with a female lead. Readers expect the story to include horses, cowboys and a simpler way of life (but not a simpler plot). Think Joanna Lindsay or Willa Cather. For more traditional male centered westerns consider Louis L’Amour and Luke Short. The traditional male centered westerns have more in common with straight adventure fiction than romance. Women are usually secondary characters and have little or no part of the main action. Westerns are most noted for their clear lines of good and evil.

Gothic Romance: Combines romance and horror and may involve a mystery of some type. It has a long tradition, going back to the Regency/Victorian era.   Made popular by Jane Austin and others, Gothic fiction, which is widely known by the subgenre of Gothic horror, is a genre that combines fiction and horror, death, and at times romance. Its origin is attributed to English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, subtitled (in its second edition) “A Gothic Story”. Gothic fiction creates a pleasing sense of terror; Romantic literary pleasures that were relatively new at the time of Walpole’s novel. It originated in England in the second half of the 18th century and had much success in the 19th as witnessed by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Another well known novel in this genre, dating from the late Victorian era, is Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Regency Romance: Regency romances are a distinct genre with their own plot and stylistic conventions. These derive from the 19th-century contemporary works of Georgette Heyer, who still dominates the genre. She wrote over two dozen novels set in the Regency starting in 1935 until her death in 1974. The more traditional Regencies feature a great deal of intelligent, fast-paced dialog between the leads and very little explicit sex or discussion of sex. The plot contrivances that can be found range from Marriages of convenience and false engagements to mistaken identities. Class differences are clearly defined and create barriers. (The son of the house never marries the maid for instance).

Romantic Suspense: The most plot driven of the romance genres. It generally has a strong woman as lead who is involved in dangerous situations. The male hero usually starts out looking like the bad guy but turns out to be good. The setting for these books can be anywhen from deep in the past to contemporary. Think Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt or Barbara Michaels.

THRILLERS

Thriller is a broad genre having numerous subgenres. Thrillers are characterized and defined by the mood of fear and suspense they elicit, giving viewers heightened feelings of excitement, surprise and anxiety. A thriller generally has a more villain driven plot than adventure. This list is my no means all inclusive.

Eco Thriller: Eco thrillers are normally set around a threat (natural or man-made) to the environment, and combine action, adventure with maybe a touch of mystery. They are fast-paced and usually laced with science. The lead character must find a way to negate the threat.

Supernatural Thriller: Supernatural fiction or supernaturalist fiction involves plot devices or themes that contradict Ideas and assumptions commonplace in the natural world. It is very closely aligned with Horror though usually in a more inhibited fashion. This genre brings in an otherworldly element, Often the hero and/or villain has (or at least claims) some psychic ability.

Historical Thriller: This genre differs from other thrillers in that is set in the past, usually prior to 1960. It may also contain elements of espionage, military or other genres but should not be confused with political/conspiracy thrillers which occur in a more contemporary setting.

Medical/Psychological Thrillers: I have lumped these to together because they draw from similar backgrounds. In Medical Thrillers, a doctor’s life is often threatened (because they helped a certain patient), or a mysterious (usually artificial) disease has broken out. Robin Cook and Tess Gerritsen are leaders in this subgenre. Sandra Wilkenson’s novel Death On Call is an early example. (sometimes the authors are doctors themselves.) Psychological subgenre tales build up slowly, with ever-increasing doubt and tension, until some explicit action/violence takes place, usually at the finale.

Political/Conspiracy Thriller: This genre is very similar in some ways to the Environmental Thriller. Usually the hero or heroine confronts a large, well organized company, government dept., or group. The threat posed by this group is only perceived by the protagonist. A great deal of the plot revolves around a single individual defeating the above groups while encountering disbelief from everyone around him/her. Perplexing forces pull strings in the life of the lead character — if not throughout the world. Usually the hero becomes a threat to the conspirators, and must escape their wrath. Often these stories depict the aberrations caused by secrecy, and the corrupting influence of power.

Espionage or Spy Thriller: As a genre, spy fiction is thematically related to the adventure novel and involves espionage as an important background or plot device. It emerged in the early twentieth century, inspired by rivalries and intrigues between the major powers, and the establishment of modern intelligence agencies. The genre was given new impetus by the increase of fascism and communism in the lead-up to World War II. It continued to develop during the Cold War, and received a fresh impetus from the emergence of rogue states like ISIS, international criminal organizations, global terrorist networks, maritime piracy and technological sabotage as convincing threats to Western societies.

Techno Thriller: A techno-thriller is a hybrid genre drawing plot elements from science fiction, thrillers, spy fiction, action, and war novels. They include a lopsided amount of technical details on their subject matter; only hard science fiction tends towards a comparable level of supporting detail on the technical side. The inner workings of technology and the mechanics of various practices (espionage, martial arts, politics) are thoroughly explored, and the plot often turns on the of that exploration.

Military Thriller: the focus of this genre is on the development of the crisis, and the detailing of the military action. an aggressive move by the Bad Guys forces the Good to wage large-scale combat to stop them. This can also be found on a smaller scale with many novels set in WWII or prior. However, these are cross genre novels coinciding with Historical thrillers.

Legal Thriller: the plot usually is centered around courtroom action, with a lawyer as the protagonist. This is not to be confused with a Courtroom Drama. In a courtroom drama, the reader often doesn’t know who the villain is until the climax of the story. In a legal thriller, the reader generally knows who the bad guy is from the beginning and the action focuses on whether justice is served.

SCIENCE FICTION

Science fiction or speculative fiction (often shortened to SF, sci-fi or scifi) is a genre dealing with notions such as futuristic science, technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life. Science fiction often explores the potential consequences of scientific innovations, and has been referred a “literature of ideas,” or future casting. It usually avoids the supernatural, and unlike the related genre of fantasy, science fiction stories were intended to have a grounding in science-based facts or theories prevalent at the time the story was created; a description now limited to hard science fiction.

Dystopian / Utopian: utopia and its derivative, dystopia, are genres exploring social and political structures. Utopian fiction shows a setting agreeing with the author’s ideology, and has attributes of different reality to appeal to readers. Dystopian (or dystopic) fiction (sometimes combined with, but distinct from apocalyptic literature) is the opposite. It shows a setting that completely disagrees with the author’s ideology. Many novels combine both, often as a metaphor for the different directions humanity can take, depending on its choices. Both utopias and dystopias are commonly found in science fiction and other speculative fiction genres and arguably are a type of speculative fiction. Apocalyptic Science Fiction is a sub-genre of Dystopian Science Fiction covering the end of civilization, through nuclear war, plague, or some other general disaster. The time frame may be immediately after the catastrophe, focusing on the travails or psychology of survivors, or considerably later, often including the theme that the existence of pre-catastrophe civilization has been forgotten or mythologized. Post apocalyptic stories often take place in an agrarian, non-technological future world, or a world where only scattered elements of technology remain.

Space Opera: is a subgenre of science fiction emphasizing space warfare, melodramatic adventure, interplanetary battles, risk-taking, and chivalric romance. Set mainly or entirely in outer space, it frequently involves conflict between opponents possessing advanced abilities, futuristic weapons, and other sophisticated technology. The term has no relation to music but was coined during the 1930s to indicate clichéd and formulaic stories in several genres. Space operas emerged in the 1930s and they continue to be produced in literature, film, comics, and video games. The most notable was probably produced by E.E. “Doc” Smith.

Cyberpunk: Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction taking place in a future setting. It tends to focus on society as “high tech low life” showcasing advanced technological and scientific accomplishments, such as information technology and cybernetics, creating a breakdown or radical change in the social order. Cyberpunk plots often center on conflict among artificial intelligences, hackers, and megacorporation’s in a near-future Earth. The settings are usually post-industrial dystopias but feature extraordinary cultural turmoil and the use of technology in ways never anticipated by its original inventors. Much of the genre’s atmosphere echoes film noir writers and often uses modus operandi from this genre of detective fiction.

Military Science Fiction: is a subgenre of science fiction that uses science fiction technology, mainly weapons, for military purposes. Its principal characters are generally members of a military organization involved in military activity. The action sometimes takes place in outer space or on a different planet or planets. It is found in literature, comics, film, and video games. A detailed description of the conflict, the tactics and weapons used, and the role of a military service and the individual members of that military organization generally forms the basis for a work of military science fiction. The stories often use events of actual past or current Earth conflicts, with countries being replaced by planets or galaxies of similar characteristics, battleships replaced by space battleships and certain events changed so that the author can induce what might have occurred differently.

Hard/Soft Science Fiction: is a category of science fiction marked by an emphasis on scientific accuracy. The terms were first used in print in 1957 by P. Schuyler Miller in a review of John W. Campbell, Jr.’s “Islands of Space” in Astounding Science Fiction. The complementary term Soft Science Fiction, formed by comparison to hard science fiction, first appeared in the late 1970s. It was created to emphasize the distinction between the “hard” (natural) and “soft” (social) sciences. Science fiction critic Gary Westfahl thinks that both terms are ways of describing stories that reviewers and commentators have found useful.

Alternate History: or alternative history (British English), sometimes abbreviated as AH, is a genre of stories in which one or more historical events occur differently than as history recorded them. These stories are set in a world in which history has deviated from history as it is generally known; more simply put, alternate history asks the question, “What if history had developed differently?” Most works in this genre are set in real historical contexts, yet feature social, geopolitical or industrial settings that developed differently or at a different pace from our own. This subgenre comprises fiction in which a change or point of divergence happens that causes history to diverge from our own.

Steampunk:  is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that refers to works set in an era where steam power is still widely used;19th century’s British Victorian era or American “Wild West, where steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that employs steam power in the same way. Although its literary origins are sometimes identified with the cyberpunk genre, it has marked differences. Inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne are often included. Steampunk encompasses alternate history-style elements of past technology like dirigibles or mechanical computers combined with futuristic technology like multi-function goggles, giant robots and ray guns. Steampunk may be described as neo-Victorian. It most recognizably features anachronistic technologies or retro futuristic inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them, and is likewise rooted in the era’s perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art.

Romantic Science Fiction: This genre seems to be written almost exclusively for and by women. In most cases, it is simply a love story set in the future or a distant planet, although it can be set in the past or an alternate world as well. It centers more on relationships than on science, and any futuristic or fantasy elements take second place to the relationships. Usually there is no attempt to explain why the technology works; only its actions are described. A flying car or spaceship is simply said to go places, time travel simply happens without any attempt to describe the scientific method by which this might work. Probably the two most recognizable writers of romantic science fiction are Jayne Castle’s (AKA Krenz) books on Harmony and Diana Gabaldon’s Highlander series (now a TV series). Romantic Sci-Fi includes the sub-genre of Romantic Fantasy (virtually the same except magic is used rather than technology). A fuller description of this sub genre can be found in the Romance category.

FANTASY

Fantasy is a fiction genre set in an imaginary universe, most often without any locations, events, or people from the real world. Most fantasy uses magic or other supernatural elements as a main plot element, theme, or setting. Magic and magical creatures are common in many of these imaginary worlds. Fantasy is generally distinguished from the genres of science fiction and horror by the expectation that it will steer clear of scientific and macabre themes, though there is a great deal of overlap among the three, all of which are subgenres of speculative fiction.

Urban Fantasy:   is a subgenre of fantasy defined by place; it is a fantastic narrative with an urban setting. Urban fantasy exists on one side of a spectrum opposite high fantasy, which is set in an entirely fictitious world. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times with supernatural elements. However, the stories can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods. The prerequisite is that they must be primarily set in a city.

Contemporary Fantasy:  is generally distinguished from horror fiction—which also has contemporary settings and fantastic elements—by the overall tone; emphasizing joy or wonder rather than fear or dread. These are stories set in the accepted real world in contemporary times; magic and magical creatures exist but are not commonly seen or understood; either living in the crevices of our world or leaking over from alternate worlds. It has much in common with and sometimes overlaps with secret history. A work of fantasy where the magic does not remain secret, or does not have any known relationship to known history, would not fit into this subgenre.

Traditional Fantasy:

Please see the definition of Fantasy above.

Horror: is a genre of fiction which is intended to frighten, scare, disgust, or startle their readers or viewers by inducing feelings of horror and terror. Literary historian J. A. Cuddon has defined the horror story as “a piece of fiction in prose of variable length… which shocks or even frightens the reader, or perhaps induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing”. It creates an eerie and frightening atmosphere. Horror is frequently supernatural though it can be non-supernatural. Often the central menace of a work of horror fiction can be interpreted as a metaphor for the larger fears of a society.

Historical Fantasy: This is a category of fantasy and a sub genre of historical fiction that combines fantastic elements (such as magic) into the story. There is much crossover with other subgenres of fantasy; books classed as Arthurian, Celtic, or Dark Ages could just as easily be placed in Historical Fantasy. Stories fitting this classification generally take place prior to the 20th century.

Weird Fiction: is a subgenre of speculative fiction starting in the late 19th and early 20th century. It can include ghost stories and other tales of the macabre. Weird fiction is distinguished from horror and fantasy in its blending of supernatural, mythical, and even scientific elements. British authors who have embraced this style have published their work in mainstream literary magazines. American weird fiction writers included Edgar Allan Poe, William Hope Hodgson, H. P. Lovecraft, Lord Dunsany, Arthur Machen M. R. James, and Clark Ashton Smith.

Comic Fantasy:  is a subgenre of fantasy that is primarily humorous in intent and tone. Usually set in imaginary worlds, comic fantasy can spoof and parody other works of fantasy, detective fiction or other genres. It is sometimes known as Low Fantasy in contrast to High Fantasy, which is primarily serious in intent and tone. The term “low fantasy” is used to represent other types of fantasy, however, so while comic fantasies may also correctly be classified as low fantasy, many examples of low fantasy are not comic in nature. Two of the most famous examples in this genre would be the Myth Series which successfully spoofed Fantasy and the Garrett P.I. series which did a parody of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe detective series. Other writers of comic fantasy are emerging; notably Dakota Cassidy with her werewolf/witch spoofs and Amanda M. Lee’s Wicked Witches of the Midwest series.

Slipstream: Slipstream is a kind of fantastic or non-realistic fiction that crosses the traditional genre boundaries between science fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction. Slipstream falls between speculative fiction and mainstream fiction. While some slipstream novels employ elements of science fiction or fantasy, not all do. The common unifying factor of these books is some degree of the surreal, the not-entirely real, or the markedly anti-real.

Epic / High Fantasy: High Fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy, and is defined by its setting in a fictional universe or by the epic stature of its characters, themes, and plot. The term “high fantasy” was coined by Lloyd Alexander in a 1971 essay, “High Fantasy and Heroic Romance” (originally given at the New England Round Table of Children’s Librarians in October 1969). Epic Fantasy has been described as containing three elements: it must be a trilogy or longer, its time-span must encompass years or more, and it must contain a large back-story or universe setting in which the story takes place.

ADVENTURE

Adventure fiction refers to fiction that puts the lead characters in danger, or gives the reader a sense of excitement

Traditional Western: Western fiction is a genre set in the American Old West frontier from the late eighteenth to the late nineteenth century. Well-known writers of Western fiction include Zane Grey from the early 20th century and Louis L’Amour and John McCord from the mid-20th century. A traditional western includes cowboys, Native Americans, covered wagons, and women in aprons with shotguns. The genre peaked around the early 1960s, largely due to the popularity of televised Westerns such as Bonanza. Readership began to drop off in the mid- to late 1970s and has reached a new low in the 2000s. Most bookstores, carry few Western fiction books. Nevertheless, several Western fiction series are published monthly, such as The Trailsman, Slocum, Longarm and The Gunsmith. The genre has seen the rumblings of a revival with the advent of romances in western settings by authors such as Linda Lael Miller and Joanna Lindsey.

Treasure Hunting: treasure hunting fiction has a great deal in common with both detective fiction and straight adventure fiction. The hunter must solve a series of clues to find the treasure A good treasure hunting novel delivers thrills and a rising excitement as clues are worked out and uncovered.  There is also opposition from rivals as well. And of course, the hunt has a successful conclusion, or an adequate reason is given why it does not.

MISCELLANEOUS GENRES

General: like Children’s and Youth Fiction, General Fiction can span all decades and genres. These are books that fall into the general fiction genre are often ones that straddle so many genres it’s hard to place them in any specific genre. The books in the general fiction genre can be a combination of any three or more genres of fiction that cause them to be outside the limits and rules of those specific genres. Examples of this: a science fiction, fantasy, romance that has strong elements of comedy and action and adventure. The Kite Runner, Water for Elephants, Life of Pi, The Great Gatsby, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and the Poisonwood Bible. General Fiction is that strange catch-all genre where titles no one knows how to classify end up. This section generally takes up about half a bookstore’s inventory. But even though it’s a vague term, there are some types fiction that are guaranteed to be found in this section of bookstores or libraries. Classic Literature: Stories that are representative of the time in which they were written, but because they have a universal appeal, the books lasted in print and popularity.  Drama: A novel centered on the conflict or contrast of characters. Humor:  A humorous novel has one goal:  to provide amusement and make the reader laugh.  Satire: This is category closely related to humor, but it has a more malicious edge. Its main elements are irony, sarcasm and parody. Unlike straight humor, satire is created to draw attention to social problems through wit. Satire always have a message of some kind. Realistic Fiction: All realistic fiction has these three elements 1) a setting that can be found in the real world 2) the characters will be lifelike and fully formed 3) a conflict or problem that centers on everyday issues or personal relationships that could exist in real life. Tragedy: A tragedy takes a reader through events leading to the self-destruction or catastrophe for the lead characters or those around them. It is sometimes referred to as a tear-jerker. A tragicomedy is a combination of tragedy and comedy. To qualify as this type of fiction there must be an equal mixture of both tragedy and comedy. Chick Lit or Women’s Fiction: This is fiction aimed at women and addresses a variety of subjects, i.e. from shopping to relationships. Think Sex and the City. Inspirational Fiction: this type of novel has the goal of inspiring the reader. Its lead characters overcome obstacles and it can be set in the past, present or the future provided that the setting could occur in real life. Most Christian fiction will fall under this category. Historical Fiction: we covered Historical fiction in the various genres, but there are some novels who simply don’t fit into them. The main idea would be to showcase the past in an accurate manner while making the characters and interesting. If it involves real events, they must be reported accurately and without change. The most successful historical fiction sometimes tells the story of ordinary people and how they are affected by historical events.

Youth Fiction (YA): I made this a separate category because the plots of these novels span all the genres. Young adult fiction or young adult literature (YA) is fiction for readers from 12 to 18. However, authors and readers of “young teen novels” often define it as works written for age 15 to the early 20s. The terms young adult novel, juvenile novel, teenage fiction, young adult book, etc., all refer to the works in this category.  The subject and story lines of young adult literature must be consistent with the age and experience of the main character, but this literature spans the spectrum of fiction genres. Stories that focus on the specific challenges of youth or teens are sometimes referred to as coming-of-age novels.

Children’s Fiction: is a genre all to itself. This is children’s books written especially for children from 0 to 12 years old. Like YA fiction, it includes a broad spectrum of the genres, with certain differences from YA and Adult fiction. Picture Books: Children’s books that provide a “visual experience” – tell a story with pictures. There may or may not be text with the book. The content of the book can be explained with the illustrated pictures. Picture Story Books are Children’s books that have pictures or illustrations to complement the story and usually are aimed for a trifle older audience depending on their reading ability. These are often done on a collaborative basis with the author employing an illustrator, or vice versa. Both the text and the illustrations are important to the development of the story. The pictures are the “eye-candy” that get children’s attention, but the text is needed to complete the story. Traditional Literature, includes stories passed down from generation to generation. In many ways, the fact that they do change over time is what makes them so fascinating because of the link they provide to the past. To remain meaningful in different eras, the stories while keeping much of their original flavor and content,  must evolve in subtle ways to be acceptable to current mores and culture. These are folktales, fairy tales, fables, legends and myths. Children’s Historical Fiction is stories that are written to illustrate or convey information about a specific time or historical event. Authors use historical fiction to create drama and interest based on real events in people’s lives. Children’s Modern Fantasy is probably easier to define by example or by what it isn’t. The stories are contemporary or nondescript as to time periods. They are imaginative tales requiring readers to accept story lines that clearly cannot be true. They may be based on animals that talk, facets of science fiction, supernatural or horror, or combinations of these elements. “Charlottes Web,” “Winnie the Pooh,” “Alice in Wonderland”, “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” and “The Wizard of Oz” are all examples of modern fantasy written for young readers up to 12 years old. Children’s Realistic Fiction has main characters of roughly the age (or slightly older than) the book’s intended audience. The books offer a “real-world” problem or challenge and show how a young person solves that problem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wrong Man – Warriors of St. Antoni Chapter 5

Warriors of St. Antoni is the first of my new Portal Worlds series. The book is still being written and edited, so what you read today is subject to change without notice in the published version.

On St. Antoni you got tough or you died. The only defense is a gun; your security is your ability to use it. This is the story of three sisters and the choices they make to survive on St. Antoni. Bethany marries a mercenary warrior to shield her family from a predatory neighbor. To protect her sister, Iris chooses between an arranged marriage with a beloved friend and an outlaw. Jeanne and the son of her greatest enemy defy both their families to find love.

Technology to find and open gateways to alternative worlds was found on earth in the late 21st century. Those expecting to get rich off the tremendous resources on these new worlds controlled Access to them. People talk though, and it wasn’t long before the new technology became common knowledge and unregulated Portals cropped up. Illegal settlers passed through Forbidden gates looking for new places to live and find adventure and liberty.

With only the technology they could carry or build from raw materials on St. Antoni they built a new way of life.  To survive they must rely on themselves. The learned to master deadly plants and animals. On St. Antoni, Adventure was a one-way trip to a hardscrabble life and Freedom meant relying on yourself for food, a roof over your head and safety.

This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any persons living or dead is unintentional and accidental. © Gail Daley 2017 All Rights reserved. Any duplication of this work electronically or printed, except for brief publicity quotes, is forbidden without the express written permission of the author. Cover Art © by Gail Daley’s Fine Art 2017

Serial Chapters are posted on Fridays. Check in next Friday for the next chapter of Warriors of St. Antoni

Click below to Download a PDF copy and start reading Chapter 5 – The Wrong Man  https://www.facebook.com/groups/GailDaleyWriter/

THE PROPRIETOR of the Ferry Boat Hotel in Junction City was a canny man. The railroad was coming across the desert to Ferry. And the settlement once a convenient crossing place on the Wild Mans River was the only stopping place reachable by train from the Eastern City States. There were rumors that the railroad planned to build a fancy hotel to take advantage of travelers who wanted a break before riding the on to the Western City States but that was for the future. In the meantime, Tom Clancy expected many folks who couldn’t afford a high-priced hotel would need a place to stay, and who knew, perhaps his place would one day rival Fred Harvey’s El Greco Hotel in Breakwater Port. In the interim, he had divided his Miner’s Rest Saloon in half and separated the halves with batwing doors. On one side, his regular customers could still congregate for food, liquor and cards. On the other, a man could safely bring his family for a nice meal or courting couples could enjoy a soft drink from the new soda machine.

On the Saloon side, Henry and Alec were enjoying a quiet supper before heading up to their room for the night. It was early evening.  Arriving well before the rush from the incoming train, the mixture of miners coming off shift and cowboys in town for a weekend spree, they had could choose a table against the wall dividing the two areas, providing them a good view of all the customers.

At the bar, a tall, raw-boned man with dusty clothes leaned his double-barreled shotgun against it and ordered a whiskey. “You, better check that gun Mac, the bartender reminded him. You know how Sheriff Melody is about not following the town ordnance.”

“Yeah, just as soon as I get a drink,” the man called Mac replied.

At the sound of the name, Abner Johnson looked up. Like Mac, he hadn’t turned in his tied down handgun. Pa had said to wait, but here he was with a golden opportunity to rid the family of this McCaffey. He strode to the bar and bumped the man, knocking the shotgun to the floor.

“Hey, watch it!” he said loudly, shoving Mac again.

Instead of reaching for the fallen shotgun, Mac slowly turned to face him.  “Kid, you need to settle down,” he said mildly. “Joe, set him up a drink.”

“I don’t drink with dirty Irish Micks!” Abner sneered.

“You got a big mouth, Kid,” one of the other men offered. “Maybe we ought to shut it for you.”

“Now, Tim,” Mac drawled, “he’s just a baby with a loud mouth”.

Across the room, Henry touched Alec with his hand and jerked his head towards the bar. “Trouble building,” he remarked.

Alec turned his chair to watch. “Both with guns, this could get ugly. Kid’s looking to make a rep as a gunfighter.”

Henry shook his head, “Big man’s shotgun got knocked down, and he hasn’t got a handgun; besides, he’s a blade man. He’s got a big-ass knife in his boot and another down his back under his shirt. My moneys on him.”

Abner slapped Mac across the face and stepped back so he could draw. A cowboy sitting nearby stuck out his boot and Abner tripped. He went down on his rump, accompanied by jeers and laughter from the crowd. Furious, he scrambled to his feet and jerked at his gun.  His draw was fast and sure, but before he could fire, ten inches of steel flashed across the room and speared itself into his throat sticking out the back of his collar. Abner’s bullet went into the sawdust floor.

“What’d he make me do that for?” the man called Mac complained.

“Guess he was looking to make a name,” suggested one of the bystanders.

The outside doors swung open and Ira Johnson came running in to kneel by his son.

“Who did this?” he demanded.    “It was a fair fight. He tried to pull his gun on Mac here Mister,” offered the cowboy who had tripped Abner gesturing to the tall rawboned man standing at the bar.

Sheriff Melody pushed his way past the crowd. “Anybody, see it?”

“I saw it, Sheriff,” the bartender said. “Mac here was minding his own business when the kid shoved him and then slapped him. He was looking for a fight. He tried to pull iron and Mac knifed him.”

“That’s right, Sheriff,” corroborated several witnesses.

The sheriff eyed Mac with disfavor. “Jeb Mackenzie, maybe I ought to have you check that knife and the shotgun.”

“Sheriff, my son was just a boy,” Ira protested. His son was dead and he would grieve for him later, but perhaps the situation could still be salvaged. “This man McCaffey is a known gunfighter. I say this was murder.”

“Didn’t use a gun, used a knife. And Mackenzie here is a pain in my ass but he’s no gunfighter,” the sheriff retorted. “It looks like a fair shooting to me.”

“His name’s not Alec McCaffey?” Ira asked.

“Nope. This here’s Jeb Mackenzie.”

At the back table, Alec exchanged looks with Henry. “Well now,” Henry observed. “Looks like Mike was right and you’ve bought chips in this game whether you anted up or not.”

“Yeah.  I think we better check out and take the train tonight instead of in the morning.”

 

All Our Tomorrows Made it to Amazon!

Gail Daley – All Our Tomorrows – Science Fiction Romance https://www.amazon.com/dp/1534698167/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1481926403&sr=8-3&keywords=Gail+Daley

The Handfasting is an epic tale of a family’s struggle to survive on an alien planet. Book 3, All Our Tomorrows – a warrior/priestess teams up with a Bard from another world and genetically created children to defeat a deadly enemy and save their planet from destruction.

 

NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON

IN E-BOOK AND SOFT COVER

Bad Blood – Warriors of St. Antoni – Chapter 4

Warriors of St. Antoni is the first of my new Portal Worlds series. The book is still being written and edited, so what you read today is subject to change without notice in the published version.

On St. Antoni you got tough or you died. The only defense is a gun; your security is your ability to use it. This is the story of three sisters and the choices they make to survive on St. Antoni. Bethany marries a mercenary warrior to shield her family from a predatory neighbor. To protect her sister, Iris chooses between an arranged marriage with a beloved friend and an outlaw. Jeanne and the son of her greatest enemy defy both their families to find love.

Technology to find and open gateways to alternative worlds was found on earth in the late 21st century. Those expecting to get rich off the tremendous resources on these new worlds controlled Access to them. People talk though, and it wasn’t long before the new technology became common knowledge and unregulated Portals cropped up. Illegal settlers passed through Forbidden gates looking for new places to live and find adventure and liberty.

With only the technology they could carry or build from raw materials on St. Antoni they built a new way of life.  To survive they must rely on themselves. The learned to master deadly plants and animals. On St. Antoni, Adventure was a one-way trip to a hardscrabble life and Freedom meant relying on yourself for food, a roof over your head and safety.

This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any persons living or dead is unintentional and accidental. © Gail Daley 2017 All Rights reserved. Any duplication of this work electronically or printed, except for brief publicity quotes, is forbidden without the express written permission of the author. Cover Art © by Gail Daley’s Fine Art 2017

Serial Chapters are posted on Fridays. Check in next Friday for the next chapter of Warriors of St. Antoni

Click below to Download a PDF copy and start reading Chapter 4 – Bad Blood  https://www.facebook.com/groups/GailDaleyWriter/

NESTLED FURTHER north in the same foothills above the valley, a far different family conference was taking place in the J4 ranch house. The two ranches shared a border along Gold Creek whose headwaters began in the mountains to the east. The creek, dotted with small gold claims most of whom had been sponsored by St. Vyr, rolled down the mountains to join the Black River bisecting River Crossing.

Even from the outside, the  ranch houses were very different. The Golden Tricorn was a gracious Spanish style hacienda with a tiled interior courtyard and a well in the center. The J4 ranch house, although as large as the Tricorn, was a timber-built two-story house with a breezeway between two bottom stories. The kitchens and laundry were on one side and the living and dining rooms on the other to avoid the intense summer heat.

The Johnson patriarch, Ira, was still tall and broad shouldered with bright blue eyes and a leonine shock of white hair that had once been blond. He had been a handsome man in his youth and had bequeathed his looks to his three sons. Emery, the oldest, made the most of his natural animal magnetism with the ladies.  He was quick-tempered and intolerant of opposition from both men and women and sometimes suffered from violent fits of anger. The youngest son, Abner, was the most like his father in appearance. He enjoyed his position as a member of a powerful family and his reputation as a gun hand. The middle son, Samuel, shared his brothers’ clean cut features and blue eyes, but his hair was a dark, burnt honey color and he had inherited their mother’s brown eyes and her sense of right and wrong.

The current discussion was like that on  the Golden Tricorn, except offense was the topic. Samuel was making coffee in the big tin pot. Abner was cleaning his gun at the table. Emery sat straddling a wooden chair with his arms crossed on its back. Ira turned from the window and glared at his oldest son.

“When are you going to get married to that St. Vyr gal? You’ve been sparkin’ her long enough.”

Abner giggled. “He ain’t! Not if she has anything to say about it!”

“You shut up!” Emery slapped the table with his fist so the cups on it jumped.

Ira frowned at his son. “What’s wrong there? You’re a fine looking man and you will have a share in the ranch.”

“She don’t like him,” Abner grinned and blew a kiss at his older brother. “He tried to kiss her at the last dance and she boxed his ears.”

Ira snorted. “Rushed your fences, did you? Well, you go into town, buy up a big box of chocolates, and take it out to her. You be real sweet and apologize for taking liberties.”

Samuel brought the pot to the table and poured coffee into their cups. “Might be too late for that; I heard old St. Vyr sent off for a husband for her. Some range detective out of Azure City.”

“I swear boy, you got a better spy system than anybody I know! Where did you hear that?”

Samuel shrugged. “If some of us talked less and listened more, everyone could hear what I hear.”

Ira fixed his middle son with a cold stare. That had almost sounded insolent. But Samuel was never insolent to him. He grunted.

“You hear a name with this rumor?”

“Alec McCaffey. He’s supposed to be coming in on the train from Junction City this week.”

Ira’s fingers drummed on the table for a minute. “McCaffey, ain’t he the one cleaned up that mess at the Mill Creek Mine over the mountains? As I recall, he’s got an old gunhand he runs with name of Henry Miller.”

“Why don’t we take him out before he gets here?” suggested Abner patting his handgun. “Emery would have time to make up with his lady-love.”

Ira shook his head. “If we arrange an ambush this soon after St. Vyr got shot we’ll end up with a government Marshall down here. I don’t want that. They’re getting too nosy as it is.”

“Who said anything about an ambush,” countered Abner, “I’ll meet him in Junction City and force a fight on him.”

“Don’t be so sure you can take him out,” Samuel warned his younger brother. “Word is McCaffey got his start as a gun for hire; even if Emery came with you to even the odds, Henry Miller isn’t the only one he has in his crew. There were six guys with him on the Mill Creek job.”

Samuel was talking about Emery shooting at McCaffey from behind when Abner shot from in front and they all knew it. This was the part of his family Samuel hated. Love and loyalty kept him from riding off, just as it had kept his mother from leaving when she realized the kind of man she had married. Still, he did is best to discourage actions like these. It had earned him the reputation in the family of being too cautious, but sometimes the Old Man listened to him.

Ira considered battle tactics and his cocky youngest son. True, the boy was lightning fast with that gun, but McCaffey was rumored to be fast too and he was a seasoned fighter. However, Junction City was far enough away so a killing there might not be connected to St. Vyr’s shooting. It probably wouldn’t spark an investigation by the Territorial Agents office. The situation needed to be assessed. He could decide on the killing after he got there. It didn’t occur to Ira that he would be breaking the law. When he had taken over the J4 five years ago, he had decided he wanted the Golden Tricorn. He had plans to become governor of the City State, and for that, he needed money. St. Vyr had money and holdings. Laws were for the weak. Power was survival; to survive, a man took what he wanted. He got rid of anyone or anything in his way.

“Maybe. Abner, You and I will take the train east to Junction City. I’ll decide if you fight him after I’ve seen the setup there. You,” he pointed at Emery, “get into town and buy that girl those chocolates! Samuel will stay here and run the ranch as usual.”