Tag Archives: arranged marriage

Ambush! – Warriors of St. Antoni

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!

 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/GailDaleyWriter/

 

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.

 

 

To Speak of Many Things– Warriors of Antoni

It’s Friday, so it’s time to post the next chapter in the serial the Warriors of St. Antoni.

Warriors of St. Antoni is the first of my new Portal World Tales 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 got dead. The only defense is a gun; your safety depends on 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 baby sister, Iris chooses an arranged marriage with a beloved old friend. Jeanne and the son of their 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 To Speak Of Many Things

https://www.facebook.com/groups/GailDaleyWriter/

 

To Speak Of Many Things

 

WHEN GISELLE and Iris arrived back home without Jeanne, Michael, as Giselle had predicted, had a fit.

Calmly sipping the tea Margo had brought her, Giselle waited until her son had stopped yelling, before she attempted to explain matters to him.

“Are you done?” she asked, when he paused for breath.

“Where is my daughter?” he demanded.

“Your daughter Iris is sitting over there,” she pointed to where Iris, who was making a good attempt at being invisible, was sitting. “I believe Bethany went out to the racing stable.”

He glared at her. “You know those aren’t the girls I’m referring to! I can see Iris and I had breakfast with Bethany this morning! Where is Jeanne?”

“By now she and her new husband are in Azure City setting up housekeeping on my farm there.”

“Mother, you know I had plans for Jeanne. Plans that would keep the ranch, the mine and the railroad holding safe for the family.”

Giselle set her cup down and added more tea to it. “I know you did, and I agreed with most of it. However, Jeanne didn’t want to marry the man you picked out for her, and forcing her would have been wrong. You know that.”

“I wasn’t going to force her,” he protested. “Any more than I forced Bethany or Iris. If she didn’t like the first man, we could have found another—”

“Jeanne had already found her man,” his mother told him gently.

“So why not bring him to meet me? What is wrong with him?”

“As far as I could tell, nothing is wrong with him except his family, and he gave them up to be with her.”

Michael’s eyes narrowed. “What is his name?”

“The marriage license reads Tomas Clancy.”

“Stop stalling mother.”

She took another sip of tea. “Your daughter Jeanne was married to Samuel Johnson two weeks ago in Junction City.”

What?” her son howled. “Are you out of your mind? You just handed all our holdings over to Ira Johnson!”

“No, I have not. I have—”

“Mother,” he said, carefully controlling his voice, “I see that you wanted Jeanne to be happy. I do too, but once Johnson finds out about the marriage—”

“If he finds out before matters here come to a head, I have a power of attorney, signed by Jeanne, turning all her shares in your properties over to her sisters. In the event of anything happening to any of us, she revokes any interest in the ranch, the mine and the railroad shares. I have the same signed by Samuel as her husband. His has a rider that under no circumstances is control ever to be turned over to his father or his brother.”

Michael St. Vyr made a disgusted sound. “Do you really think that is going to stop Johnson? Don’t play the fool Mother.”

She nodded. “That is why Jeanne and Samuel are going to be living under assumed names.” She shrugged, “The boy isn’t his father, Michael. Jeanne trusts Samuel, and I have never known your daughter to make a mistake judging men. I agree a few pieces of paper won’t stop Johnson, but that is why you brought in Alec and Carlos as husbands for Bethany and Iris isn’t it?”

At this, Iris sat up with a jerk. “What about Carlos? What do you mean?”

“Quit fretting girl,” her father said. “Carlos took a couple of men up into the hills to hunt claim jumpers. He’ll be back in a couple of days.”

“What?” his daughter cried. “That’s dangerous! He could get himself killed!”

Her father spared her a glance. “No, he won’t. You got a lot to learn about your husband, girl. Get your head out of those romance books. Carlos can handle himself.”

He frowned over at his mother. “You’re not telling me everything. What are you leaving out?”

“Mike Franks saw Jeanne and Samuel getting on the train in Junction City. We need to take the fight to the Johnsons soon. I had Franks sent upriver with some boatmen, but they plan to let him go at the end of their northern run. At best, we will have only a few months to remove Johnson as a threat before Franks returns and tells Johnson about the marriage.”

 

 

 

The Farmer’s Wife — Warriors of St. Antoni

It’s Friday, so it’s time to post the next chapter in the ongoing serial the Warriors of St. Antoni.

Warriors of St. Antoni is the first of my new Portal World Tales 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 got dead. The only defense is a gun; your safety depends on 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 baby sister, Iris chooses an arranged marriage with a beloved old friend. Jeanne and the son of their 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  The Farmer’s Wife

https://www.facebook.com/groups/GailDaleyWriter/

 

The Farmer’s Wife

 

JEANNE FOUND an empty seat toward the back. The seats were set up so two benches sat facing each other. The cushioned bench opposite Jeanne was empty. Samuel stored the basket of food they had brought for the journey in the open luggage carrier overhead. The trip to Azure City would take several days, and although the train had a dining car, it would be unlikely that a prosperous farmer and his wife would eat there. As Samuel stepped back from the rack, he leaned over Jeanne and stared intently out the window.

“What is it?” she asked. The Train moved, and he staggered a little before catching his balance.

“You’d better sit down before you end up in my lap,” Jeanne remarked.

“I thought I saw Max Franks out there on the platform,” Samuel said, joining her on the seat.

Jeanne’s brow wrinkled. “Who is that? The name is familiar, but I can’t recall a face to go with it.”

He reached for her hand and lifted it to his lips, brushing a kiss across her knuckles. “Max Franks is an acquaintance of my father’s,” he said. “He may have recognized me.”

“Oh. Is that going to be a problem?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “It bothers me some though, because if it was him, he was standing right behind your sister.”

“Will he tell your father we got married?” Jeanne zeroed in on the most important thing.

“If there is money in it for him, then yes, but only if he could gain something from it.”

“In that case,” Jeanne said firmly, “I think we should concentrate on plans for our new farm.”

That evening, the train stopped to pick up water for the engine at a small depot. Water tanks built along the rail lines and manned by men and women who made sure an adequate supply was always ready to refill the trains gaping water maw were stationed at each site. There wasn’t much to see; the depot consisted only of the tank on stilts holding water, a small depot office and a house for the depot attendant. The landscape along the rail line had changed as they traveled toward the coast; the dark red grass had grown shorter and coarser. The thick forest of Skinwood Trees surrounding Junction City had given way to a flatter, sandier ground with scattered, low-lying blue bushes hung with ripe yellow fruit. The blue color of the bushes had given Azure City and its surrounding country its name. The air was warmer and more humid.

The train’s steam engine ran on the steam created by heat from Bluestones mixed with water. In the early years after the Portal opened, a man tripped and spilled water on a pile of blue colored stones and they burst into flame. his partner, an engineer, had brought printouts for an old-fashioned steam engine with him when he came to St. Antoni. Immediately seeing the possibilities of using the stones as a power source, the two cast the parts for an engine from a home-made alloy of iron, carbon, copper and tin. They experimented with adapting the chemical reaction from the mixture of stones and water to create enough heat to run a steam engine. The bluestone steam engines became the basis for an industry, and the mining of these minerals kick-started St. Antoni’s economy.

During the layover, a few of the passengers got out to stretch their legs. Jeanne got up and went to the car lavatory. On her way back to her seat, she was stopped by the car attendant, a soft-eyed young man, barely over adolescence.

“Ma’am?” he asked. “Could I speak to you for a moment?”

Jeanne looked at him in surprise. “What is it?”

He swept his hat off his head and stood turning it uneasily in his hands. “Well, I’ve been watching you and your husband and you seem like good people.”

Jeanne suspected he was about to ask for money and tried not to stiffen. “Well, I hope we are,” she said. “How can I help you?”

He took a deep breath. “Do you see those two kids over there?” He cocked his head toward a bench by his Station.

Jeanne turned her head to look. The two children who sat there were alone. A boy and a girl around eight or nine. They were grubby and wearing old, worn clothes.

“What about them?”

“When I came on board for my shift yesterday, they were already here. The woman I relieved told me a man had put them on board by themselves day before yesterday. They didn’t have food with them so I’ve been feeding them. They have tickets to Azure City, but I don’t Think anyone is meeting them there.”

“Do you want me to ask them about it?” she inquired.

“Well, I’ve done that. All they will say is Jeryn sent them away to be safe. I don’t think they know anymore than that. It’s just, well, my shift is over tonight and my relief isn’t much for Kids. I would hate to see them dumped off the train with no one to look after them.”

She frowned at the attendant; he did want something from her but it wasn’t money. He wanted her and Samuel to take on the kids. Samuel, noticing her delay in returning, got up and came toward them.

“Is he bothering you, dear?” he asked, as he approached.

Jeanne smiled at him. “Not that way.” In a soft voice, she filled her husband in on the problem.

Samuel looked over at the children and a resigned look came over his face when he looked back at his wife.

“That’s a big responsibility,” he warned her. “Are you sure you want to take them on?”

“I can’t leave them on their own,” she said. “I’d never forgive myself if something happened to them.”

He nodded, then turned to the attendant. “Bring them over to us for supper. We’ll talk to them. If they agree then

they can come home with us.”

When the attendant brought them over, Jeanne handed the children a damp rag to wipe their hands. She gave them each a plate of cold meat, cheese and bread, and poured water into tin cups. Both children ate politely. Someone must have spent the time to teach them manners, Jeanne thought.

The girl’s name was Katrina, the boy was Kevin. It turned out that they weren’t brother and sister. Abandoned by parents and left on the street, they had banded together for protection.

“Who was Rufus?” Samuel asked.

“Rufus works the streets. He knew there was going to be a sweep, and he put us on the train. He said we could start over in another city,” Katrina said.

“A sweep?” Jeanne asked.

“The city doesn’t like kids living on the street. They do sweeps and put the boys in workhouses,” Kevin said.

“And the girls?”

The children exchanged looks. “We aren’t really sure,” Katrina said. “They get taken away and no one ever sees them anymore.”

“Do you have anyone to stay with when we reach Azure City?”

When the children shook their heads, she asked “Would you like to stay with us?” Jeanne asked.

“Why,” Katrina asked suspiciously. “What do you want us for?”

“Because my family would never forgive me if I didn’t help you,” Jeanne answered. “We would be adopting you. You will have to go to school, but you’ll be fed and have a place to stay. There will be chores, but nothing major and you would need to obey us the way you would a parent.”

“I’ve been watching these two,” the attendant offered. “They seem like good folks. You could do worse.”

The two children exchanged glances. “Alright,” Katrina said, “we can try it, but if it isn’t as you say we’ll leave, understand.”

“Yes, we understand,” Jeanne said, smiling.
“After all, you don’t know us.”

The young attendant left the train that evening. An older, sour-faced woman took his place. It took another two days to reach Azure City. Before bedtime, Jeanne took the children along with her to the lavatory and helped them clean up. She couldn’t do much about the state of their clothes, but clean faces and brushed hair gave them a more presentable appearance.

Azure city was a seashore town with a good port. Fishing boats sailed the waters off shore, and a brisk trade in dried and canned fish was done. She could see the wharf with ships coming into the bay from the depot. The ground underfoot was sandy. A warm breeze from the ocean wafted the smell of the canning factories to Jeanne as she stepped down from the train onto sandy soil.

“I’m going to check on our stuff, and see if I can find some transportation,” Samuel told her.

Jeanne nodded, looking around. “It’s certainly different here,” she said.

Most of the passengers had left the platform when Jeanne was approached by a tall, dark skinned man in neat work clothes. “Excuse me, Ma’am,” he said, “But are you Jeanne Clancy?”

Jeanne looked him over. “Yes, that’s my name.”

The man looked relived. “I wasn’t sure, Mother didn’t tell me you had children. I’m Larry Nguyn. My Mom Marie is Lisette’s sister. I was sent to meet you and your husband and take you to Mother’s house. Where is your husband?”

“Samuel went to find us a wagon,” Jeanne said. Just then she saw Samuel coming toward them leading the four fidgety tricorns. “There he is.”

“Every time I turn my back on you, you pick up someone,” Samuel complained, laughing. “Who is this?”

“It’s a talent,” his wife retorted. “This is Lisette’s Nephew Larry. His mother Marie sent him to help us.”

Her husband looked relived. “That’s a good thing because I just discovered we would need to store our stuff until tomorrow morning when a wagon will be available to take us out to the farm.”

“No need for that, Samuel, is it?” Larry assured him. “I brought ours. Let’s get your stuff loaded. Miss Jeanne, why don’t you and the children wait in the shade under the station porch? They have benches if you want to sit down.”

“I’ve been sitting for three days,” Jeanne told him. “But I think we will wait in the shade. Come on, Kids.”

From the depot, they drove into the main street. Dusk was beginning to settle, but most of the stores were open, and from the saloons and eating houses catering to sailors down by the wharf came the sounds of music, laughter and the occasional bang from a gun being shot off.

Marie’s family lived above a large, general merchandise store in the center of town. When they arrived at her house, Larry and Samuel took the tricorns and the loaded wagon through the alley to the back of the house where the Nguyn’s kept a small stable and a large vegetable and fruit garden.

Marie looked so much like her sister Lisette that Jeanne would have known her anywhere. Jeanne and the children were greeted with hugs and led upstairs to the large, comfortable family quarters.

“I’m so glad you got here safely,” Marie exclaimed. “I’m sure you’ll want to freshen up. I’m afraid the children will have to sleep on the trundle bed, tonight. I have a houseful tonight; Larry’s wife’s family arrived last night to be here for the birth of their child, and I Chloe is here tonight too.”

She opened the door to a large, well appointed bedroom overlooking the back of the house, and bustled away to get bedding for the trundle.

Jeanne and the children were making up the trundle bed when Samuel arrived. He made a face when he saw the sleeping arrangements.

“I can wait one more night,” he said, kissing his wife, “but when we get to the farm, they need their own rooms.”

Jeanne laughed and rubbed his scruffy chin. “You need a shave,” she remarked.

Samuel looked in the mirror. “I was thinking of growing a beard,” he said. “Would you mind?”

Reminded of their need for disguise, Jeanne frowned. “It will be okay if it’s a neat one,” she allowed. “But not if it makes you look like a berry bush.”

Downstairs, Marie made it a point to introduce the family to Chloe, a young, fresh-faced girl about sixteen.

“I thought she could stay with you for a few days and help you get things set up the way you like them,” Marie said. “When Giselle’s runner told us you were coming, we tried to set up things out there for you since I didn’t know how much household supplies you brought. There is a rack of Bluestones, the cold cellar is stocked with food and we spent yesterday cleaning it as best we could. We put a newly stuffed mattress on the bed, but you will need to bring more for the children.”

“Thank you,” Jeanne said gratefully. “I brought some household things, but Gran felt it would be easier to buy what I need here. I’m afraid the children will need clothing, and I want to get a few hens and a Drake. Back home I had an egg supply business, and I’d like to start one here.”

Marie’s eyebrows rose. “We can pick clothing for the children downstairs in the store. I have some ready-made items I think will fit them. After dinner, we will go down and see.”

“What kind of crops do we have on the farm?” Samuel asked.

“There is a good-sized kitchen garden, and a nut and fruit orchard,” Larry said. “There is room also for a few cows and goats, and a grass field that can be harvested for feed. I know of a neighbor who would sell you livestock. I saw that you brought tricorns with you, but they don’t look like they’ve spent much time on a plow.”

“What type of farming equipment do I need?”

Larry smiled. “Well it is a working farm, so it does have a plow and a few other tools. In the past, Giselle was having us pay a man to work it for her. Seasonal labor mostly, but I think I can find you a field hand to get you started.”

When Jeanne and Marie took the children downstairs after dinner, Marie took Jeanne aside. “I know I kind of sprung Chloe on you,” the older woman admitted, “but I would consider it a huge favor if you take her out of town for a while.”

“I’ll be glad of the help,” Jeanne said slowly, “But I want to know why she needs to leave town.”

“You may have noticed Chloe is very pretty. She has been helping in the store, and she attracts men like bugs to honey. She isn’t ready to settle down yet, and sometimes the man is hard to shake off and too powerful to scare away. He might decide to try to take her by force if she doesn’t go willingly.”

“Would he follow her out to our farm?”

“I don’t think so. Someone else will attract his attention soon. I think he will forget about her if she disappears for a while.”

“Alright, she can stay with us.”

They left for the farm, early the next morning. They had been met at the wagon by a thin, goose-necked man in worn work clothes.

“I’m Martin,” he told Samuel. “Larry allowed as you might be needing a hand for a few days.”

Samuel nodded. “I do. Are you interested in more permanent employment?”

“Yes, I am. Are you hiring?”

Samuel nodded. “I’m going to need a permanent worker. If you work out, I pay wages in addition to room and board. Climb up.”

The children sat on either side of Samuel on the wide wagon seat, and Martin took his place beside them. Jeanne and Chloe had elected to ride. Jeanne mounted Samuels showy red and black tricorn who danced impatiently at the delay. The other two animals were tied to the back of the wagon. Chloe showed up on a nondescript gruella striped tricorn and threw a duffel bag into the back of the wagon.

Chloe’s mount might have looked nondescript, but Jeanne’s experienced eye noted the clean lines on him.

“That’s a well-bred animal,” she told the girl.

Chloe looked startled, then eyed her with some respect. “Yes, he is. Most people just notice the color and pass him over. I was lucky to pick him up as a colt.”

The farm lay a few miles outside of the city along a well traveled road. As they moved away from the shore, the sand changed into a dark, clay-like earth that would water well.”

“Do they use the soil to make pottery here?” Jeanne asked.

“Yes,” Martin answered. “There is a pottery just outside town. The family makes all sorts of things, dishes, vases, statutes and stuff, and I hear they make good money selling it. Some of the ships take it to other coastal cities and sell it for them.”

 

Broken Shackles

It’s Friday, so it’s time  to post the next chapter in my ongoing serial for the Warriors of St. Antoni.

Warriors of St. Antoni is the first of my new Portal World Tales. 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 got dead. The only defense is a gun; your safety depends on 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 baby sister, Iris chooses an arranged marriage with a beloved old friend. Jeanne and the son of their 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 Broken Shackles

https://www.facebook.com/groups/GailDaleyWriter/

 

Max Franks woke up shackled and with a raging headache. He soon discovered he was not the only deckhand wearing chains. Tom and Jeff Bardeoux, who owned the Tumbling Gem, ‘hired’, if it could be called that, some of their crew from the jails in the towns they traded with. The practice of renting prisoners out for work saved a town the expense of housing and feeding the prisoners, and it was cheap labor for the rivermen. In return for a small fee, rivermen like the Bardeoux brothers agreed to put a town’s prisoners to work as deckhands feeding and housing them for the term of their sentence. When a prisoner’s sentence was over, the Bardeoux brothers dropped the prisoner at the city he came from on their next trip, or let him leave the ship at the next port.

Franks was an angry, unhappy man when he woke up and discovered what had been done to him, and the longer he stayed aboard the madder he got. For the past three weeks, he had been stuck on a cargo barge traveling slowly up the Black River. His chains allowed a shuffling walk around the deck but he knew if he dived into the river they would drag him under and he would drown. There were small outposts and towns along the river, but they were small oases of civilization between vast stretches of wild lands. Thick forests of Skinwood trees (so called because of their flesh colored bark) stretched up into the rugged mountains. In some places the brush and vines were so thick no boat could land even if it had been wise to do so.

The fierce Dire bear clans made their homes in the thick bushes along the river. Higher up in the mountains, striped lions hunted game in prides of two or three. Both would find an unarmed human a tasty meal. Franks had no intention of attempting to traverse the wilderness on foot.

The Tumbling Gem kept to the deeper waters in the center of the river and away from the banks the further north they traveled, because if they were hungry enough the bears and lions had been known to board a ship moored to close to the shore at night, and ocassionally during the daylight when a ship was moving.

Franks was determined to escape. He knew that while one man couldn’t handle a ship the size of the Tumbling Gem, but he was confident that if he stole a smaller steam powered boat, he could make it back down the river. The Tumbling Gem stopped at small outposts on its way upriver and usually there were a few boats docked at each hamlet. First, he had to find out where the Bardeoux brothers kept the key to the shackles. Then he needed to steal a gun and wait for the proper time.

Franks watched the brothers and the free deckhands, looking for weaknesses he could use in his escape. While he waited, and watched his captors, a deep and bitter anger toward Iris St. Vyr built. It stung his pride that the two women had trapped and drugged him. When he got back to River Crossing, that sweet-face liar would be taught something. He would teach her a lesson she wouldn’t forget.

The deck crew comprised three other chained men like himself, the two Bardeoux brothers Hank and Jim, and two free deckhands. Franks and the other three prisoners got the dirty jobs of cleaning cabins, swabbing the decks, washing dishes, and cleaning the fish caught in the nets thrown over the side each morning and evening when they dropped anchor for the night. The Bardeoux brothers steered the boat, and the other two freedmen kept the Tumbling Gem away from sandbars and other obstacles with long poles. Each evening before sunset, the Barge dropped anchor. Without lights, traveling the river at night was suicidal. If they didn’t run aground on a sandbar in the dark, they could hit a fallen log or a boulder.

When they stopped each night, one of the brothers lit a fire under a steam powered grill on the deck. Jason Bourteen usually cooked the meal and boiled the next days drinking water pulled from the river. The other freedman, Leo Miller was in supposed to keep an eye on the chained crew.

The other three prisoners had their own pecking order. It was an old story to an outlaw like Franks who had fought his way to the top of many outlaw groups. Ray Ponce was a big blond man, but Franks judged him to be too soft to give him much trouble. Of the other two men, Franks figured that only John Waters would be trouble. A medium sized, gray-haired man, he was manifestly the leader and the most dominant of the three. Jeff Bridger, the third man hung around Waters and visibly curried favor with him. The first day after Franks awoke, Waters attempted to assert dominance by making Franks move from the place he had sat down to eat.

Aware that the little scene was being watched by Ponce, Bridger, and Miller, Franks stood up and faced Waters.

“I like it here,” he said.

“I said to move. That’s my place,” Waters snarled.

Franks wasn’t interested in challenging Waters, but he knew if he ignored the man it would get worse. He set his plate down and sneered.

“Make me,” he hissed.

Waters took a swing at him, which Franks easily sidestepped, and followed it with a smashing blow to the man’s gut. Waters was out of shape. He let out a whoosh! of air and doubled over. Franks hit him a second time, this time beside the ear, and Waters went down hard.

“That’s enough of that!” Miller yelled. “You,” he pointed at Franks, “sit back down. Waters you go back where you were. Any more trouble like this and both of you will get ten lashes. Got that?”

Franks sat back down and picked up his plate. “He started it,” he told Miller.

Miller glared at him. “I don’t care who started it. It ends now.”

Franks shrugged and went back to eating.

It was several days before he was assigned to clean the cabins. Franks had already realized Miller was lax in keeping an eye on them. When he left Franks alone in Hand Bardeouxs cabin, he saw the keys for the shackles were hanging on the wall, along keys to the desk and several other items. Chuckling at the foolishness of leaving the keys out in plain sight, Franks used the desk key to open it and search for a weapon. He found an old percussion type pistol and ammunition for it in one drawer. He stuffed it down in his pants and carefully re-locked the desk. Removing the shackles key from the ring, he pocketed that too. Tomorrow they were stopping at Grayson’s Landing to take on cargo. That was where he would make his move.

They docked the next morning. Grayson’s landing was small, two or three houses set against the sheer cliffs behind them. A larger building bisected the end of the short wooden wharf built out over a sandy beach. A small cultivated field ran down to the edge of the river. Tied to the wharf were three steam powered fishing boats that could safely be handled by one or two men.

While everyone was distracted as they docked, Franks overloaded the bluestones used to make the Tumbling Gem’s steam engine run. When mixed with water, a chemical reaction caused the stones to produce heat. Enough stones and you had enough steam power to run an engine. It was tricky knowing the right amount of stones to mix with the right amount of water to get the correct controlled chemical reaction. Too little and you didn’t get enough heat; too much, and you got a nasty explosion. Franks was counting on an explosion. To make sure it would be a big one, Franks also added more water to the engine, and bent to unlock his shackles. When he spotted Waters watching him, he tossed the keys to him before he slipped over the side. He swam to the nearest boat and boarded. He was in luck, it was fully stocked with bluestones. He added water to the amount in the engine and waited for the water to produce enough steam to start the engine.

In the meantime, Waters had used the keys to unshackle the other prisoners and he and Bridger had jumped Hank Bardeoux. Jim and Leo Miller came to help while Ponce stood there watching. In the melee that followed, no one noticed Frank’s absense or that the gauge on the engine showed it was dangerously overheating.

The brothers had just realized they were short a p prisoner when Franks finally had enough steam rising to start the engine on the boat he was stealing. Looking over his shoulder as he left, he heard a massive blast and saw the great gout of flames streaking toward the sky that tore half the dock away and most of the Tumbling Gem. As everyone ran to fight the fire created by the explosion, Franks laughed as he headed back down the river.

 

It’s Friday when I post the next chapter in my serials. I also decided that Friday would be the day I choose to pay it forward to other independent authors by sharing their books on my timeline. Please keep in mind that I haven’t read most of these books. Please check them out for yourself.

Gail

The Plot Thickens – Warriors of St. Antoni Chapter 16

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. 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 16 The Plot Thickens

   https://www.facebook.com/groups/GailDaleyWriter/

MIKE FRANKS waited until the St. Vyr women had disembarked in Junction City to approach Iris. She and Jeanne were waiting while Gran negotiated with the dockworkers to take their baggage to the hotel.

“Miss Iris, what a nice surprise to find you here,” Franks said. “Can I help you ladies get your luggage to the hotel?”

“Thank you, but that won’t be necessary,” Giselle told him. “These gentlemen have already agreed to do that for us.

“Then may I find you a cab to take you there?”

“That has been arranged, but thank you,” Giselle’s voice was perfectly polite, but dismissive.

Franks scowled at her back as the three women mounted closed buggy drawn by a large brown tricorn.

“Excuse me, but you tell me where you’re taking the baggage?” Franks asked the nearest dockworker.

The man scowled over at him. “Seems to me the ladies weren’t too anxious to make your acquaintance,” he said. “You want to know so bad, you’ll just have to follow us.”

Irritated, Franks waited until the dockworkers had loaded up their wagon with luggage to take on into the town. It was doubly annoying because he discovered as he followed them on foot, that they made stops at several places along the way to drop off goods and baggage. The last stop was the Grand, an upscale hotel that boasted a café as well as rooms for rent.

He was at the front desk, trying to convince the skinny clerk to let him see the register when he saw Samuel Johnson enter the lobby. Instead of his usual cowman’s pants and boots, Johnson was dressed in a grey suit. When he saw Johnson approaching the desk, Franks ducked behind a large potted plant a few feet away.

“Tom Clancy,” Johnson told the clerk. “I believe you are holding a room for me.”

“Yes sir,” the clerk agreed. “Here is your key. The room is at the top of the stairs on the right. Do you need assistance with your luggage?”

“No thanks, I just have this.” Johnson held up a single valise. “I’m staying here overnight to meet my fiancée. We’ll be leaving tomorrow afternoon after the wedding.”

“Congratulations, Sir.”

“Thanks.” Without having seen Franks, Johnson started up the stairs.

Franks whistled to himself. Now just what was Johnson up to? And why had he given the clerk a false name?

So, one of the Johnson cubs was getting married, was he? And under a false name too. Franks knew enough about the Johnson family to think none of the sons made a move that hadn’t been sanctioned by old Ira Johnson, so this must tie in with one of Johnson’s schemes. If he found out what the Johnsons were up to, it might be worth money to keep quiet about it or if that didn’t work, then to talk to the right people. Considering matters, Franks decided to stay a while. Tracking down Iris St. Vyr could wait.

Down The Rabbit Hole – Warriors of St. Antoni Chapter 15

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. 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 15 Down The Rabbit Hole

   https://www.facebook.com/groups/GailDaleyWriter/

THE THREE men sat there on their tricorns dumfounded. Red looked back over his shoulder at the bushy forest they had just left and then back down into the fertile valley. “What is this?” he asked.

“Beats me,” Durango opined, scratching his head. “It sure doesn’t look like any outlaw hideout I ever saw.”

“Oh, and you’ve seen so many,” Red retorted.

“Well, I haven’t seen that many either,” Carlos said, “but this place looks more like a prosperous farm than a place where outlaws would go to escape a posse.”

He studied the area for a few minutes and then started his tricorn over to a stand of Indigo trees. Silently, Red and Durango followed him. Once there, Carlos swung down off the glossy red striped tricorn. He loosened the cinch and let the animal drop his head to feed. The men followed his example and then sat down to wait. Carlos opened his saddlebags and took out a pair of binoculars. The binoculars were new and a rarity on St. Antoni where the glass had to be ground and set into the polished wood by hand. Michael St. Vyr had given these to him on his last birthday, but Carlos had seldom needed to use them. He sat down with his back against the smooth bore of a tree and turned the lenses on the farmhouse and garden. After several minutes, he handed the glasses to Red. “Have a look,” he said.

Red swept the gaze of the binoculars over the house and barn and then wordlessly handed them off to Durango, who did the same. After a moment, Durango handed them back to Carlos.

“There’s a woman and kids down there,” Red said.

“Yep,” said Carlos.

“Un-huh,” Durango repeated.

“Well,” Carlos said. “I guess I’m just going to have to go down there to figure out what the set-up is.”

“Ah—maybe you should let one of us go,” Red said diffidently.

“Why,” Carlos asked sharply.

“Well, the fact is Boss, you won’t pass as a tramp drover down on his luck,” Durango said.

“Yeah,” Red agreed. “I’m sorry, Boss, but no out of work drover would have a fancy ‘corn like yours.”

“He’d have sold him for eating money,” explained Durango. “Now, Red and me, our ‘corns don’t look like anything out of the way special. If that is an outlaw hideout, one look at your ‘corn and they’ll think you’re a bounty hunter or a lawman so they won’t talk to you.”

“Either that or tell you a pack of lies,” Red added.

Carlos looked at them in frustration. What they said made sense, even if it went against the grain to let them take the risk instead of himself. “Okay,” he said, “you’ve got a point. But both of you go. I’ll sit here where I can give you cover if you have to make a run for it.”

“Watch that place where we came out too,” Durango suggested. “They might get a visitor.”

Carlos nodded and got up to move his tricorn further back into the stand of trees. Durango and Red tightened up their cinches and headed down into the valley toward the farmhouse. Carlos sat back down against the tree and raised his binoculars.

He watched as Durango and Red rode up to the farmhouse. A tall, gaunt man with reddish hair stepped out from the barn to meet them. Although he couldn’t see what was said, Carlos could tell that man was telling them to move on by his gestures. Finally, however, he pointed at a small building near the edge of the cultivated property with an undersized corral, and the two rode toward it.

It looked as if they had talked their way in. Carlos rose and stretched. He had just straightened back up when he heard a branch crack behind him.

“Don’t move, mister,” a young voice said. He felt the pressure of a gun barrel against his back as his pistol was slipped from its holster.

“Can I turn around now? I’d like to see who’s holding me up,” he said.

When he turned, he found him facing the girl he had seen through the binoculars earlier. “Let’s take a walk,” she said, motioning for him to head down toward the farmhouse. “Leave your ‘corn. I’ll come back for him.”

Sourly, Carlos allowed himself to be herded toward the farmhouse.

“What’s your name girl?”

“Karin,” she said.

“You have a last name Karin? Mine is Carlos Madonna.”

“Smith. Our last name is Smith.”

“Smith,” he repeated. “I see. Is that your father down there or your husband?”

“My husband, not that it’s any of your business.”

Since the conversation appeared dried up, he said nothing more.

The man was waiting for him as they walked up. “He was watching us through glasses,” the girl said. “I thought that was a bad idea, so I brought him down to meet you.”

Smith nodded, looking Carlos over carefully. “Well,” he said, “You’re sure no out of work puncher.”

“That’s right,” Carlos agreed. “My name is Madonna. I was trailing two outlaws, and I saw them come down here. Have you seen them?”

“You don’t look like the law, neither,” Smith continued as if Carlos hadn’t spoken.

“No, I’m not the law. I was hired to find two outlaws who held up some miners a while back.”

Smith hawked and spat. “No one like that here. There’s two drifters just came by asking for shelter for the night. I told them they could use the old farm shack out by the trees.”

“You do that often, put up strangers?”

“Sometimes. Like the good book says, I cast bread upon the waters. Someday I might need it.”

“I’d like to meet these drifters.”

Smith gave him a suspicious look. “Don’t believe me? Well, they’re right over there. Go ahead, but I’ll have no shooting started here around my family.”

“Fair enough. Your wife took my gun anyway.”

“Well, you look peaceable enough. Give him back his pistol Karin.”

“Thanks.” Carlos took his gun, rechecked the loads, a fact that did not escape Smith’s notice, and re holstered the pistol. He walked down toward the shack, watched by Smith and his wife.

Durango came to the door of the shack as he approached. “Hello, the house,” Carlos called. “May I come in?”

“Come ahead,” Durango said, just as loudly.

As soon as he got within talking distance, Carlos lowered his voice. “You were right about not passing as a down on his luck drover. The Smiths think I’m a bounty hunter.”

“Who are you supposed to be hunting?”

“I told the truth there. Said I was hunting the men who held up the miners. Smith seemed to accept it. He allowed me to come over here anyway. Did he accept your story?”

“Seems to have. I think it’s best if we stay here and then leave early in the morning.”

Carlos nodded. “I’ll tell him that you aren’t the men I’m looking for, and ask if there is another way out of the valley. You do the same in the morning and we’ll meet up when we get out of sight of the farm.”

“Sounds okay.”

“Well, thanks boys,” Carlos turned and walked back toward Smith.

“They aren’t who I was looking for. They’ve been over in Tago Crossing for the last month working roundup on the K-B spread. Lost their pay in a gambling game.”

Smith nodded. “What will you do now?”

“Start over, I guess. Is there another way out of here?”

“Nope. Just the one you came in.”

“Okay, well, I guess I’ll start back then. I’d like to clear that trail before it gets too dark to see. Thanks.”

He turned and started back up the hill to where he had tied his tricorn.

Carlos took his time before tightening the cinch and heading back into the brush tunnel. He reached the mine camp where they had spent last night just as dusk was falling. Carlos picketed the tricorn and built a small fire in the fire pit used by the miners. As a precaution, he made his bed over behind the cabin and close to the tricorn, whose alert senses would warn him if anyone approached.

Back in River Crossing, a tall skinny man named Marvin Chamber stepped onto the docks and looked around. His rifle dangling from his hand, he slung a battered warbag over one shoulder and headed for the Hotel. Seth Lindsey, the desk clerk, eyed Chamber with disfavor, but he had been given a large tip so he led Chamber up the backstairs to the Johnson suite.

Johnson dropped a gold chip into the clerk’s hand, reminding him, “You didn’t see anyone.”

“No sir,” Lindsey said as he shut the door.

“Trip out here okay?” Johnson asked.

Chamber shrugged. “It went. What’s the job?”

“I need two men taken out. I’m not to be connected with either one.”

Chamber waited patiently.

“The first one is Alec McCaffey. Be careful with him. He’s gun savvy, so don’t let him spot you. He’s son-in-law to Michael St. Vyr. You’ll find him somewhere around the Golden Tricorn Ranch, east of town.”

“You got a description?”

“About medium height, brown hair and eyes. Usually rides a gold striped tricorn. He’s worth three pounds of gold chips.”

“McCaffey. Would that be the McCaffey that runs a range detection agency over in Bitterstone?”

“Yes, that’s the man.”

“Uh, huh. I know him. He’s going to cost you.”

“Three pounds is a lot of money.”

“Yeah, but the way I hear it, he runs with Henry Miller, and Miller is a tiger-bat on wheels in a fight.”

“Four pounds.”

Chamber nodded. “Alright. Who’s the other one?”

“Another of St. Vyr’s son-in-laws. Name of Carlos Madonna. He runs the Lucky Strike Mine. Dark eyes, dark skin, black hair. About six foot. Dresses nice. Not so gun savvy as McCaffey, but the word is he’s good with a knife.”

“Thrown or hand to hand?”

“Both from what I hear.”

Chamber nodded. “Twelve pounds silver, delivered to my account in Copper City.”

“Half now and half when the jobs finished. I set you up with a room here—”

“No thanks. Too high-toned. I’ll get a room across the river.”

“Suit yourself.”

Winds of Change – Warriors of St. Antoni Chapter 14

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. 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 14 Winds of Change

   https://www.facebook.com/groups/GailDaleyWriter/

THE ENTIRE family came down to the loading docks to see Gisele and her two granddaughters off on their buying trip to Junction City. Neither Giselle or Jeanne showed any sympathy for either Carolos or for Iris this morning: Carlos appeared sullen and he winced at the loud noises the rivermen were making as they prepared the boat for the trip up river. Iris was pale and heavy eyed and she avoided looking at him or standing anywhere near Carlos.

Bethany frowned at the pair and whispered to Jeanne, “What’s wrong with them?”

“Lover’s quarrel,” Jeanne replied succinctly. “They’ll get over it.”

She flung her arms around Bethany and hugged her hard, before handing her sister a sealed letter. “Don’t read it until you’re alone, okay?”

“Why, what is it?” Bethany asked. “What’s wrong? Are you in trouble?”

Her sister gave her a kiss on the cheek. “I’m not in trouble, and I’m going to be very happy. Please believe that. I love you Sis.”

She gave her father a dutiful peck on the cheek before following her grandmother and sister up the ramp.

Michael St. Vyr rolled his chair back toward the street, stopping at the edge of the wooden walkway where his carriage waited.

“Mom convinced me the pair of you should a little time alone without all of us in your faces, so Carlos and I are going to stay in town for a couple of days,” he told Bethany and Alec.

“Mike—” began Alec.

“No, you take a little time for yourselves boy,” St. Vyr said, holding up a hand to stop him. “Those yahoos Johnson hired are still licking their wounds from being run off Ruby Canyon. We’ve got time before they start something else.”

“Thank you, Papa,” Bethany said, bending down to kiss him. She slipped her had under her husband’s arm and looked up at him. “It’s going to be fun, having just us at the ranch.”

“Henry’s got a report for us,” St. Vyr told Carlos as they watched the carriage roll away. “Let’s head over to the Hotel and find out what he’s learned.”

The found Henry sitting in a dark corner of the bar at the Hotel, sipping a whiskey.

“Better if we’re not seen keeping company,” Henry said dryly to St. Vyr. “So far no one’s noticed that I came into town with Alec, so they haven’t associated me with you and they talk to me.”

Henry took a sip of his whiskey. “Sometimes I get some mighty queer notions hanging around the bad elements in town.”

“Oh? What kind of funny notions?” inquired Carlos.

“How much do you know about a gent named Lutz?”

“Jeramiah Lutz?” demanded Michael.

“That’s the name.”

“Why, he owns the local bank,” Michael said slowly. “Kind of a fussbudget; nobody really likes him because he’s a sharp operator. I wouldn’t borrow money from him. He got rich on foreclosures. Why?”

“Well, the rumor is he got a man named Franks on the payroll.”

Max Franks?” Carlos demanded.

“Yep, I think that was his handle.”

Carlos swore. “That’s the gent who was hanging around Iris when we went to the revue, and later at the wedding reception. I told her he was un hombre malo, but she didn’t believe me.”

“Word on the streets is when he wants to foreclose on a farm or a mine claim, Lutz uses Franks to convince folks to give up on paying back a loan.”

“Well, that’s interesting,” Michael said, “but I don’t see as it’s got anything to do with what we asked you to find out.”

Henry took another sip. “Maybe nothing, but Franks doesn’t just work for Lutz. On his own time, the word is he makes spending money by robbing honest miners. This may not have anything to do with what you wanted to know either, but last night Franks spent some time at Lutz’s house and later he was having a drink with Ben Sykes.  I was too far away to hear what was said, but looked to me like he was giving him orders.”

“Sykes is a gutter rat who beats up honest men for money,” Michael stated. “If everyone wasn’t afraid to testify against him he’d have been locked up a long time ago.”

“The miners look away when I asked about Sykes,” Henry added. “I think he’s forcing them to do something. Something they don’t want to do, but they are afraid not to do what he wants.”

“He’s not smart enough to organize the high-grading,” Carlos said thoughtfully.

“Jeramiah Lutz is,” Michael said. He looked at Henry. “Can you find out more about what Sykes is making honest miners do? Without putting yourself in a hole, I mean?”

Henry nodded. “Probably. Right now, most of them think I’m just a nosy old man who used to be a hard rock miner, so they talk to me. What are you going to do?”

“Watch Franks,” Carlos said. “When he leaves town, I want to follow him. If I can locate his hideout, maybe I can find proof he’s the one running our miners off their claims. I need to pick up a couple of good trackers from the ranch; Red and maybe Durango if Alec can spare them.”

Miller shook his head. “If you’re waiting for Franks to leave town so you can follow him you’re wasting your time. He got on the same steamer your fiancée did.”

“What!” Carlos exclaimed in outrage.

The two older men exchanged an amused glance. Both of them knew Madonna was more worried about Franks paying court to Iris than whatever else he might be up to on his trip up river. Michael St. Vyr shrugged. “Relax, son. What if Franks is on the steamer? None of my girls is silly enough to fall for a slick charmer like Franks. Even if they were, Mom would send him on his way.”

After a brief struggle, Carlos agreed. “Well I think I still need those trackers. I want to look at where the three miners were robbed. Maybe we can find where Franks came from. It’s been pretty dry up in the hills, so the tracks should still be there.”

Accordingly, he rode out to the Tricorn that afternoon, intending to leave in the morning for the hills. Alec was happy for him to take the two trackers with him.

Durango was a short, thin man of Hispanic ancestry who fancied himself one of the Vaqueros he read about in the western romances smuggled through the portal. He dressed in tight pants, a loose shirt and a large sombrero. His boots carried huge roweled spurs that jingled when he walked. Despite his fancy dress, he was excellent on a trail. Red was a tall, skinny carrot top whose freckled face always showed sunburn. He had learned to track as a boy when finding game for the table because if you missed a shot you might not eat that night.

When the three men arrived at the first claim that had been raided, it was late afternoon the next day. A hand cranked dry washer still stood up the hill from where the men had worked, although it was listing badly to one side, and pieces of the broken sluice box were scattered along the shore of the bubbling creek. Most telling was a dark splotch of dirt where a body had lain. Up the hill by a rough built wooden cabin there were two freshly dug graves.

The man who had reported the attack to Carlos had taken the time to bury the two dead miners before he came into the headquarters of the Lucky Strike.

“I’m through,” he said, spitting on the floor. “It ain’t worth it Madonna. Them claim jumpers was on us before we could blink. They just up and shot Jase and Carl point blank. They’d have got me too, except I was up the hill skinning out a pronghorn I’d just shot. I had time to get undercover, but they cleaned us out of everything but this.” He dropped his own small bag of gold nuggets on Carlos’s desk.

“What will you do, Lin?” Carlos had asked him.

“I ain’t figured that out yet. But I got a daughter over to Copper City. I figure I’ll go spend some time with her and the kids.” He had signed the quitclaim papers on the mining claim and stomped out.

They dismounted and baited the tricorns before beginning a slow sweep around the camp, looking for the trail the raiders had made coming into camp. It was dusk before Red found it; a faint scrape of several tricorn hooves following each other and leading back into the canyon.

“I wouldn’t recommend following it in the dark boss,” he told Carlos. “I’d just as soon catch whatever we find in daylight.”

Carlos nodded and went to unsaddle his own mount and unload the pack tricorn. Durango was already making up a fire in the cabin’s fire pit.

The trail into the canyon the next morning was dark and spooky. It wound a serpentine path under overhanging vines that hid the sun, and sticker bushes tore at their clothes. It was impossible for more than one tricorn to travel it at a time. After flipping a round flat disc to decide who would be the trailblazer, Durango led off, followed by Carlos with Red bringing up the rear with the pack animal.

They finally came out into a shaded valley of lush green grass. A sparkling creek gurgled merrily through the center of it. At the far end of the valley, they could barely make out a cabin, a barn, and what seemed to be a fenced garden in the distance. Red had stopped when he exited the opening in the bushes, moving just enough so the others could come off the trail.