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.”

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