This 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. 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.
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 Ambush!
WHILE IRIS was dealing with a potential enemy in Junction City, Carlos was waiting for Red and Durango to come through the brush trail. With time to kill, he spent it exploring the Camp. Inside the miner’s lean-to, he found several sticks of dynamite, and some fuse strings. He stared, dumbfounded at the explosive sticks. He knew there was no reason Lin and the others should have needed explosives. They were supposed to be panning the stream for gold and silver. Even using a high banker, they wouldn’t have needed to blow anything up. The camp was perilously close to the trail leading into the secret canyon. Perhaps the three men had intended to use the dynamite to block the trail, but the raiders had gotten to them first.
The sky was just showing the first streaks of sunlight and Carlos had barely started coffee when Red and Durango rode out of the hole in the brush forest.
“You’re here early,” he remarked. “Did you start out in the middle of the night?”
Red shrugged. “I kind of got the feeling it wouldn’t be too smart to hang around, so yeah, we snuck out as soon as we were sure they had gone to sleep.”
“I had the same feeling,” Durango admitted. “What’s more, I think we should block up that trail.”
“Were you followed?” Carlos asked as he poured coffee grounds into the metal pot on the fire.
“Who can say? But it’s better to be safe than to be sorry.”
“True. Let’s eat and figure out the best way to close off that trail through the brush.”
As they ate a hurried breakfast of bacon and biscuits, they discussed how to block off the trail.
“I found dynamite the miners left when I got back yesterday,” Carlos said. “How big a charge do you think it will take to block the trail?”
“I don’t know anything about dynamite,” Red protested.
“Me neither,” said Durango.
Carlos sighed. “Well, I guess that makes me the nearest thing to an expert we have. I found six sticks of the stuff and some fuse line. I’ll set three charges about a hundred paces apart back along the trail with a delayed fuse. You boys gather up everything and head back down the stream at least a mile. You should be safe from the blast there in case I miscalculate the timing.”
“All right, but we’ll leave your ‘corn tied up a little ways down, so you can get out of here in a hurry,” Red said.
It took Carlos most of the morning to set the charges. Trotting back toward the furthest charge, he thought he heard voices. Smiling grimly, he lit the fuse and ran for the second charge. When he lit the last one, he barely had time to make it out of the trail before the first explosion lit up the sky.
Red Lightning was cropping grass while he waited patiently for him. At the noise, his head lifted alertly. Carlos darted over to the tricorn and leaped into the saddle without using the stirrups. Red responded to his rider’s urgency by jumping into a dead run down stream. The next explosions came at almost the same time.
He pulled up beside Red and Durango who were staring open mouthed up stream.
“Geeze, boss,” Red exclaimed. “I hope you weren’t planning on surprising folks; everybody in the country will have heard that boom!”
“You must have blown that trail to bits,” added Durango. “I guess whoever was using it will have to find another way out of that valley.”
Carlos looked back over his shoulder. The entire brush forest was smoking and a few flames were showing over the top. “I hope I haven’t started a fire that will burn everyone on this side out,” he said ruefully.
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Red replied. “That brush forest is thermite wood. It doesn’t burn well.”
“How do you know what kind of wood it is?” Durango asked suspiciously.
“I know because I worked as a packer for one of those scientist types. His specialty of was plants. If I wanted a bonus, I had to learn what kind of plants he was looking for. He paid good money if I could lead him to the plants he wanted.”
“Why did you quit if the job was so good?”
“Old Cinders got himself killed taking sides in the wrong fight. I didn’t want them hunting me, so I lit out of there after they killed him. He told me to take his notebooks to Mrs. St. Vyr if anything ever happened to him. That’s how I came to work for Mike.”
“Since we’re sure we aren’t going to burn this area to the ground, let’s start back,” Carlos said, turning Red Lightning toward home.
The three men had almost reached the tree line separating the valley from the hills when shots rang out.
Carlos cursed and jumped Red Lightning back into the thicker trees. Durango and Red did the same. Once behind the cover of a large boulder, they dismounted.
“Where did the shots came from?” Carlos asked.
“Over to the right, I think,” Durango replied.
“Watch the tricorns,” Carlos said. “I’m going to crawl up this rock to see if I can spot them.”
Carefully, he crept up the rough face of the boulder. Despite being the tallest boulder in the group, it had plenty of hand and footholds. There was a little flattened area close to the rim. Stopping to take off his hat, he peeked over the top. About fifty yards away, he could the mounts of the men who attacked them tucked away behind a stand of trees. Seven Tricorns, that meant seven men. He was betting the men were under cover near the tricorns. He waited patiently and finally he spotted movement further down the hill, not far from their tricorns.
He slid back down the rock and reported his findings. By chance, their own mounts were hidden by the boulders.
“Can you sneak up on them and fire so they have to break position, Red?”
“I reckon. What’s the plan?”
“The best shot of the three of us should wait up on top of the boulder. When they break out of hiding, they can be picked off. The other two will try to flank them.”
“Durango here is a good shot. He took the sharp shooting prize at the rodeo last year.”
“I remember,” Carlos said. “Okay, that makes me the other man on the ground. I will sneak down the hill while you go around them Red. When you fire, be sure you’re undercover so I don’t accidentally hit you.”
The three men grinned at each other. “Good hunting,” they whispered as they each went to their spot.
Carlos darted from tree to tree as he made his way down the hill. His plan was to drive the ambushers toward Durango’s position on the rock.
He barely made it to cover beside a fat Indigotree before Red started shooting. Crouching, Carlos too fired his gun in the direction he thought the men were hiding. Two of them broke for cover firing over their shoulders. They were running toward Durango’s rock, and he easily picked them off.
A barrage of shots aimed at Durango’s position rang out. Carlos fired his rife in the direction the shots had come from. There was a yelp. Either he or Red must have hit someone.
The next men who tried to escape ran down the hill. Carlos took aim and fired two shots. Both men went down, but he could see one man on the ground was still alive. His gun was empty, and he dug into his pocket for more shells.
“I call this serendipity,” drawled a familiar voice from behind him. “You lay that rifle down and stand up real slow.”
Not being a fool, Carlos did as he was told, and turned around to find Ben Sykes grinning at him.
“Hello Ben,” he said. “I might have known you were mixed up in this someway.”
“You’ve been a pain in my ass ever since you took over the Lucky Strike,” Sykes said. “I’m going to enjoy taking you out.”
“Shoot me down like a dog, Sykes? That will go over big when you tell it in the saloon. I’ll bet you clean it up though. It won’t do to tell everyone you shot me after you took my rifle because you were too much of a coward to face me with a handgun.”
“That’s a damn lie!” Sykes snapped. “I ain’t afraid of you Madonna.”
Carlos grinned at him. “Prove it.”
Angrily, Sykes switched his rifle to his other hand, grabbing for his gun as he did so.
In his rage at being called a coward, Sykes was in too much of a hurry and missed his first shot. Carlos didn’t. A bullet whipped past Carlos’s ear. He drew his own handgun and fired. Sykes’ second bullet went into the dirt when Carlos’ shot hit him dead in the heart.
Carlos removed the handgun from Sykes limp hand and picked up the rifle. He kicked Sykes with his boot to make sure he was dead. The outlaw rolled over and lay still.
Carlos’ head came up as two more shots came from Red’s position.
A tricorn broke from the stand of trees at a dead run, heading away from the fight toward the road to town. Red and Carlos fired, and the mounted man jerked in the saddle, falling limply over his steed’s neck. The Tricorn shied, and the man slipped off to the side, hitting the ground at an awkward angle.
That made six. Where was the seventh man? Although the adrenalin surge made him antsy, Carlos forced himself to remain still as he watched for movement in the area where the shots had come from.
Red called out, “This yahoo’s dead boss. Did you get yours?”
Carlos stood up and walked toward Red’s voice. “Yes, I got all three of mine. Durango?”
“Okay here boss. I reckon that accounts for all seven.”
The three men walked back to the boulders where they had hidden the tricorns.
“I think we just took out the crew that’s been doing the raiding,” Carlos told his companions with satisfaction. “One of the men I killed was Ben Sykes.”
Gathering the dead men’s tricorns, they threw the bodies over their saddles and tied them in place. Red created a pack train by running a rope through each tricorns bridle, and the three riders set off down the slope.
The hacienda was in sight when Red Lightning sighted a coiled sander and leaped up and sidewise to get away from it. The jump threw Carlos forward onto the tricorn’s neck just as a shot rang out. The shot burned Carlos across one shoulder and he fell on Red Lightning’s neck. A second shot knocked his hat off and Red Lightning took off at a dead run.
“What the Hell—” Durango yelled.
“They got the boss!” Red yelled back. “Run for the ranch!”
Red and Durango kicked their tricorns into a dead run, aiming for the wide-open doors in the wall. To move faster, Red dropped the pack train rope knowing those tricorns would follow where the others led.
When the three men thundered inside, Iris saw them from the house. Seeing Carlos slumping over Red Lightning’s neck with blood pouring off his shoulder she ran to him. “Oh, my God! You’re bleeding,” she gasped.
“Get the gates closed,” Carlos said as he slid down from the animal into her arms.
He was too heavy for her and Iris collapsed with him on top of her. Clutching Carlos to her, she screamed,” Paco! Get the gates closed! Hurry!”
Paco ran for the gates, yanking the tie back loose, he swung one side closed, just as the last of the tricorns carrying the dead men trotted into the garden. Red already had the other door swinging closed to meet him.
Red swung the heavy bar down into the slots to bar the gate and went to help Durango who had gone to close the other one.