The Blazing Guns of Revenge (Preview)

Chapter One

Texas, 1899

“Got to be ready, kid, that’s what he always says.” Albie clicked his tongue and looked down at his holster. The two guns were ready, the metal grips mere inches from his fingers, and the dagger he always carried in his belt would be easy to grab, with the hilt flexed upward. “I’m ready.”

His father’s words kept repeating in his head as he walked toward the door of the saloon. It was a dark night, with clouds covering the moon and the stars. The only light in the street filtered out from the saloon and the adjoining houses. So many candles had been lit, flames swaying in the breeze, that it was as if the stars had fallen and danced around the street. Albie scanned the faces in the crowd, checking each one that was lit by candlelight, searching for one face in particular.

He’ll be here. Somewhere…

Flapping his long coat around his hips, he hid the holster and the guns as he reached for the saloon door and swung it wide. The moment he stepped in, the sound was cacophonous. One voice competed with another, trying to be heard, and some rapped their empty glasses down on small wooden tables in front of them, deciding to capture attention through general noise rather than use their voices.

Albie’s eyes darted over the groups, hunting for one man. At the far end of the saloon, the girls were doing their rounds. Some wore corsets so tight they had to be uncomfortable, making their breasts billow over their necklines. Others tried to skulk into the background behind the bar, perhaps not so comfortable with the drunken men found in a place like this. On the other side of the saloon were the gamblers and drinkers. Each man was bent over a table, either with his lips balancing on the edge of a glass or with his nose a mere hair’s breadth away from the cards in his hands.

“You heard me,” one man bellowed to the dealer, tapping his cracked knuckles repeatedly on the wooden table in front of him. “Deal again.” The face was crooked, with a lopsided smile and a scar that traveled from the corner of his eye down to his chin.

I know that scar.

Albie had committed it to memory in the last few days, from the moment the local sheriff had thrust the wanted poster under his nose, asking for Albie to bring the conman to justice. It had taken a few days to track the man, but his latest tip-off had clearly been good information. Here he was, watching his target from across the room.

Leaning against the nearest wall, Albie observed for a moment. One of the saloon girls came toward him, thinking him easy pickings for a night’s worth of money, but he waved her away, keeping his eyes on the con artist.

When the man thought none of the other card players were watching, he coughed and rearranged the cards in his own hand. His low-slung sleeve was gaping, revealing the glimmer of another card in the candlelight. Albie only saw the sleight of hand as he was watching for it. It was slick, well-practiced, and most punters would have easily missed it. The conman swapped one of his cards for the one hidden up his sleeve.

Albie didn’t waste any more time. Ignoring the catcalls and jeers for more bourbon from the drinkers, he crossed the room and stopped behind the conman, who didn’t appear to notice he was there.

“Well, fellas, looks like tonight is my lucky night,” the man said, his lips smacking the dregs of a glass of scotch before he banged the glass on the table and tossed down his cards, revealing his hand. “You’d think you’d all have learned not to bet against me by now.”

The moment the man reached forward to take his winnings, Albie laid a hand on his shoulder. The movement was sudden and sharp, making all of those at the table look up through the cloud of cigar smoke that surrounded them.

“What you want with me, stranger?” the conman asked, tilting his head high to look at Albie standing behind him.

“There’s a bounty on your head, hustler.” Albie’s voice was deep. Had the tone alone not been enough to capture the attention of everyone at the table, the words certainly did. They all sat straight, then reached for their money in the center of the table.

“I won this hand, fair and—”

Before the conman could say any more words, Albie shook out his sleeve, grabbing the man’s wrist firmly to stop him from leaving. More cards fell onto the table, and the others began throwing curses on his head.

“Take him away, bounty hunter,” one said, casting a quick glance Albie’s way. His face was old, so ancient that there was not a patch of his face that wasn’t wrinkled, especially his hooked nose. “Don’t I know you?”

“I don’t think so.” Albie shook his head at the old man. “On your feet, hustler.”

The conman sighed deeply and hung his head, as if accepting his fate.

“Guess you got me beat. Not my lucky night after all.”

For a change, it seemed one of Albie’s charges was going to come slowly. As the hustler slowly got to his feet, Albie moved beside him, ready to grab his wrists when the man bent forward and kicked back.

The table bearing the money and cards was sent flying as he lashed out with his boot and jangling spurs, straight in Albie’s direction. Albie dodged the blow quickly.

Stay on your toes, that’s what my father said.

He was always ready for the fight. It was how he had been taught.

The conman swung around with a pistol in his hand.

“He’s got a gun!” someone cried. Men dove beneath tables and saloon girls shrieked, yet the gun didn’t go off. Albie threw himself at the weapon with his hand outstretched. Grabbing hold of the conman’s wrist, he bent it back so far there was an audible crack of the bone.

“Arghh!” The conman wailed in pain as the pistol dropped to the wooden floor.

“Don’t move, or I break the other one,” Albie warned.

The conman went limp, allowing Albie to swing the man’s body around and wrap a loop of rope across his wrists. He smiled a little as he knotted the rope; he hadn’t even had to pull his own weapons to achieve the arrest today.

“You can come out from hiding now,” he called to those cowering under the table.

The three men that had been playing with the hustler peered out from behind the fallen table. One reached for the pistol, but Albie stood upon it, stopping him, before reaching down and pocketing it.

“I know you from somewhere,” the older of the three said again as others in the saloon sighed with relief and gossip spread.

“Who’s he arresting?”

“What did he do?”

“He had a gun… was he going to shoot us all?”

The questions continued, though Albie didn’t answer any of them. He stared back at the old man, who was looking his way with that hooked nose turned upward.

“I know who you remind me of,” the man declared, standing to his feet. “Bounty hunter, aye?”

“Yes, sir.” Albie nodded, thrusting the conman forward so that his back was at an angle.

“Ah! You’ll break my hand off, hunter.”

“Might be a just punishment for a card shark,” Albie said with a chuckle. He marched the conman forward, through the crowd that was now gawking at him. It was hard to discern one whisper from another, but eventually, he caught one on the air. It was the old man, muttering to his friend beside him.

“I know who that was,” he said, increasingly loudly. “The bounty hunter. He’s the son of what’s his name… you know, the one they fear round these parts.”

“Who are you talking about? Calm yourself. You’ll give yourself heart trouble with all your bouncing.”

“Don’t you know? The hunter… the one that retired. Oh, what’s his name!” the man said pleadingly.

Albie didn’t stop as he pushed the conman out of the door, who moaned and wriggled, trying to be free.

“I know his name.” Another voice joined the others, calling close to Albie’s back. “Stonewall, they call him. Rex Stonewall. That there must be his son. Chip off the old block.”

Albie let the door close behind him, not wanting to hear the whispers anymore.

“Let me go, please,” the conman begged. “You want money? I’ve plenty. Check my pockets, take what you like.”

“I’m a bounty hunter, not a thief like you,” Albie scoffed at the man beside him. “I do this because it’s right you’re locked up for your crimes. I don’t do it for the money.”

“Pah! What bounty hunter doesn’t do this for money? You must have another reason…” The conman niggled him, practically spitting in Albie’s face in desperation to plead with him. “Come on, what will it cost?”

Albie held his tongue. There was another reason he did this job, though money was not a factor. It was for the man those in the saloon had talked of, his father, Rex Stonewall.

“You can’t buy me off, hustler.” He thrust the conman in the direction of the sheriff’s office, putting an end to their discussion.

***

“Will you show us now?”

“Aye, if you stop asking me.” Rex turned to face the sun that was growing over the edge of the horizon, bathing the farmland in the orange morning light. Distant trees swayed in the breeze, their green leaves appearing golden, and the cattle that were far off seemed like nothing but specks of dust. “Let’s take a target. I don’t fancy scaring off our cattle and our livelihood with it.”

He went inside the nearest barn and pulled out an old crate. Standing on one end, he broke off the lid so there was a square of planked wood in his hand, then he crossed the open land, preparing to lay it out as a target. Behind him, Benjie and Casper followed.

Rex chuckled as he looked back at the two of them. At his age, Casper should have grown out of following so closely by now. He was eighteen but seemed to have a habit of doing whatever his brother did. Benjie, on the other hand, was still in that eager phase, happy to go wherever he was told.

Another year and he’ll be a sullen young’un, like many his age.

Rex smiled at the thought and laid down the target, propping it up so that it stood on its own with stones and a pillar of wood to support it.

“You see this? The first one to hit the middle of the target gets an extra piece of beef tonight. Come, follow me.” He tapped Benjie on the head as he walked back twenty paces, urging his sons to keep pace.

As he walked, he pulled the gun out of his holster. He so rarely needed to use the weapon these days—only once in a blue moon to scare cattle thieves off his land—he feared he wouldn’t be a good shot anymore. He’d need the practice.

When they were a good distance away, he lifted the Colt in both hands, and, without much hesitation, he stared down the barrel of the gun with one gray eye open. He fired. The shot echoed around the air and the wooden target splintered far ahead. In the distance, the chickens clucked, panicking and running away into their coop, mistaking it for a much closer shot.

“Woah…” Casper stepped forward, angling his head to the side as he looked at the target. “That wasn’t far off the center. Look at that! You could kill a man, Pa.”

“Hmm.” Rex wasn’t going to tell them that it was sometimes the idea. A man’s life could depend on his shot hitting the right spot. “Now, you try. Remember what I said last time.” He handed the gun to Casper and walked around him to stand behind his son. “Take your time, peer down the barrel, and don’t rush yourself. Only take the shot when you are ready and squeeze the trigger. Don’t let me catch you tugging on that thing.”

Casper’s fair hair, which was very like Rex’s own, bristled in the breeze. Then, it jerked back with Casper’s head as the gun went off, recoiling in his hands.

“Damn,” Casper muttered, handing the gun back. “I missed.”

“Well, at least you shot in the right direction this time. Albie was much the same when he first started.” Rex checked there was another bullet loaded before he passed the weapon to his younger son. Benjie hadn’t yet reached his fifteenth year, so Rex wasn’t so willing to release the weapon completely. He took hold of Benjie’s hands, showing him how to raise the gun. “Never, ever point it at yourself or anyone else. Understand?”

“I’m not an idiot.”

“You’d be surprised how many make that mistake.” Rex brushed a hand through his short hair. The fair wisps were graying now that he was getting older. “Albie pointed it at himself the first time.”

“Really?” Benjie asked as Casper laughed behind him.

“Aye, he did.” Rex chuckled with them. These moments were the ones he prized most, being with his family. These days, the gun had become a tool to use to teach his children something. It was no longer used to keep death at his cold door.

“Pa? Pa!” a lighter voice called him. Before Benjie could shoot a little too wildly, Rex took the gun out of his hand and made it safe. Behind them, two faces appeared, running out of the farmhouse, their dresses billowing in the breeze they created just by running.

“What’s all this shouting for?” Rex asked, looking between his daughters. Emma, the eldest, walked a little slower, rolling her eyes.

“Faye’s the one shouting, not I,” she reminded him.

Faye was more like her mother than the rest of the children, with dark brown hair and bright blue eyes, but there was something of Rex in her high cheekbones. She stopped at his side now, bouncing on her toes. The youngest of his brood, just twelve years of age, she had a habit of always being excited.

“Would you teach us to shoot?” she asked.

“Girls don’t shoot.” Benjie’s words earned harsh glares from both Faye and Emma.

“Want to bet?” Emma challenged. “I could find something to use as target practice.” Benjie poked his tongue out at her, apparently his only form of defense,

“We’ll see. First, I want to see Benjie take his shot. Stand back now.” Rex made them all stand in a line, far behind Benjie, as he passed the pistol back to his son. “Remember what I said, take it steady now…”

Only Benjie didn’t. He fired too quickly at the target and missed by so much that the chickens in the coop had good cause to flap their wings and scatter this time.

“Remind me to let you try again when we want chicken for dinner.” Rex took the pistol back.

Another shot rang out, only it wasn’t fired by Rex. The shot landed in the target—in the corner, but close enough, urging Rex to look round.

“Albie!” Rex snapped as his eldest son rode down the drive of the ranch toward them.

“No need to panic. I had a clear shot,” Albie insisted.

As he brought his stallion to a stop, the children went to greet him. Faye complained he’d been away too long, and Emma laughed, saying she could have borne his absence for longer yet. Benjie and Casper merely wanted to hear of his hunt.

“So? How did it go?”

“Did you catch the conman?”

“I did.” Albie smiled with the words just as Rex approached them all, putting the pistol away in his holster. Albie was practically the spitting image of Rex, only a younger version. His cheekbones were a little more like his mother’s, but he had his father’s fair hair, gray eyes—though they were a tad lighter—and he was of a similar build. Tall and lithe, hard to fight against, for he could move so fast.

I knew he’d make a good bounty hunter someday.

As Albie finished telling the tale of catching the conman, the children gasped appropriately.

“The best job is yet to come though.” Albie stepped toward Rex and the two clasped hands in greeting. “The sheriff must be pleased with me, Pa. He’s giving me a job going after a people smuggler.”

“A people smuggler?” Rex was nervous at the words and dropped Albie’s hand. “Dangerous, Albie. Dangerous indeed.”

“Yes, but…” Albie’s smile faltered a little. “I can handle it, can’t I?”

“You’ll just have to be careful.”

At Rex’s words, there was something strange in his son’s face, though he couldn’t figure out what it was. When Albie was a child, it had been easy to read his expressions, but not these days. He was a man at the age of twenty-four and had learned to mask his feelings well at times.

Is something bothering him?

“Just take care with a job like this, kid,” Rex said warningly. “People smugglers… they have resources and lots of men. It’s not like going after one lone thief or conman.”

“I know.” Albie’s tone was firm. “I can do it, though. I know I can. Hey, I’m a fair shot these days, aren’t I?” he asked, gesturing to the target.

“You could be better. Speaking of which. Emma, you want to learn?” Rex said, taking the gun out of his holster.

“Yes, please.” As the children ran forward to learn, Rex noticed that Albie didn’t follow, as he usually would. For a change, he took the horse to the stable and retreated to the house.

Rex stared after him.

Chapter Two

“Rex? You should talk to him.”

Rex looked up from where he was sitting at his dining table, whittling away at a piece of wood. Faye had been talking about horses for so long now, wanting one of her own, that he had a plan to whittle a small wooden horse toy for her. His focus had been so purely on the wood that as Minnie talked to him, he came out of a daze.

“Interrupting your thoughts, am I?” his wife teased him and took hold of the block of wood in his hands, laying it quickly on the table.

“Perhaps a little.” Rex checked the kitchen. It was empty except for the two of them.

The lace curtains were pulled closed now, as sunset wasn’t far off, and the wooden tables he’d built years ago were starting to look tired, not that Minnie ever complained. She’d filled this room with hundreds of great meals and their meaty scents over the years. This evening was no different, with the smell of beef hovering in the air.

“What did I miss?” he asked, reaching for his wife.

With the children not there, he felt at liberty to sit tall in his seat and wrap his arm around his wife’s waist, drawing her to his side. She smiled at once, the skin around her blue eyes crinkling a little.

“Do not distract me,” she whispered playfully, tapping him on the hand, though she willingly went into his arms regardless. “I was trying to tell you that you have to speak to him.”

“Who?”

“Albie, of course!” She gestured to the closed door of the dining room, as if their son was standing right there. “This job…” Her smile faded, and a muscle twitched in her cheeks. “It’s different from his other jobs. This is bigger.”

“I agree.” Rex nodded slowly. “People smugglers, they’re notoriously difficult to hunt. They’re ruthless, you see? They don’t value human life very much.”

He tried to use a soft tone, but Minnie audibly gulped, nevertheless. Her brown hair, which she kept cut short these days, was pushed behind her ears. It was a nervous habit of hers, one she could never quite stop.

Rex soothingly rubbed his hand up and down her waist as she leaned into him. “Albie will be fine. He knows what he’s doing.”

“Maybe you could give him some tips,” she said hastily.

Rex stopped rubbing, thinking hard as his head tipped back. “I taught Albie everything, Minnie. He’s prepared.”

“Is he? I’m not so sure.” Minnie shook her head. “You have hunted people smugglers before, have you not? When we were young and first married?”

“Yes, and you remember that I came home each time.” Rex shrugged, trying to show her it was no great matter.

His foot, hidden under the table, was beginning to tap the floor now, a small sign of anxiety creeping in. He was no fool. He’d seen before how difficult hunts could be, and the thought of seeing Albie go off alone to hunt a people smuggler was worrying.

He’s capable. I can’t keep him locked up here just to see him safe.

“He’s a man, Minnie, not our little boy anymore,” he reminded his wife with a soft laugh.

“That’s the problem.” She sighed. “I still see him as the little boy who would crawl around this kitchen on his knees, then pull on your trouser leg when he wanted attention. He’s my boy.”

The words conjured an image in Rex’s mind. He could remember Albie doing such a thing. He hadn’t yet reached his first year, but he was moving fast around the kitchen, trying his best to explore. Albie had always been that way, from the moment he could crawl, determined and curious.

When Albie had nearly ended up in the fire grate, reaching out a tiny chubby hand with curiosity, Minnie had screamed, yet Rex had been there in time, lifting the boy high in the air. Albie had wailed and wriggled madly, angered to have had his fun spoiled. The boy hadn’t understood what danger he was putting himself in.

“He’s our boy,” Rex agreed, his voice deep. “But he’s a man, too. He’s capable enough for this job.”

“Just give him a few tips,” Minnie pleaded again, tapping him on the shoulder. “You must remember what this kind of thing is like.” She released herself from his arm and hurried to the fireplace, where potatoes boiling in water were beginning to overflow. She fussed, trying to calm the pot as the water sizzled and hot drops fell to the fire, creating a jet of steam in the air.

I remember.

Rex said nothing as he considered one of the times he’d been after a people smuggler. That tale was one of the ones that haunted him in the depths of night, those ghosts returning sometimes as nightmares.

He’d been on a smuggler’s tail for months when he’d finally caught up with the man. The smuggler had been hiding in what had appeared to be an abandoned town. When discovered, the smuggler had acted like a cornered animal, lashing out and prepared to kill. With shots flying through the air so fast, it was a wonder Rex had survived that day.

Now, he rubbed a sore spot on his ribs, remembering where one of those shots had grazed him. He didn’t like the thought of his son bearing as many scars as he did, but Albie had made his choice.

“He wouldn’t accept the hunt if he didn’t think he could do it.” Rex eventually broke the silence between them, earning a glare from his wife. “Don’t look at me like that, Minnie.”

“Pfft!” She huffed and turned her back on him. “I still think you should say something. I don’t want Albie to struggle to sleep at night, someday, and have to take a bottle of scotch with him just to find that sleep.”

Rex stopped rubbing the sore spot on his ribs, his eyes wide as he stared at Minnie.

“Did you think I hadn’t noticed how quickly that scotch bottle disappears?” she asked with a smile on her face, stirring one of the pots over the fire.

“It helps.”

She was the only one Rex would ever confess that to. Yes, the nightmares were hard at times, reliving the fights and the dangers that he’d faced in the past. Occasionally, if the ghosts came too near at night, the scotch helped to dull them a little.

“I don’t want that for Albie,” she muttered quietly.

It’s not within our control. It’s his choice.

Rex sighed deeply, about to say something to this effect when the door opened, and their children hurried into the room. Faye was first, running over to Rex and trying to pick up the block of wood he was whittling for her. She openly complained it didn’t look much like a horse yet, and he assured her it would in time. Emma assisted her mother with the cooking, while Benjie and Casper took their places at the table, setting up bowls and cutlery.

Lastly, Albie entered the room with a pack on his shoulder, weapons at his hips, and the familiar hat on his head that Rex knew so well. It was a hat Rex had given him a few years ago, one of his own. That hat had now been on more bounty hunts than Rex.

“Are you all packed?” Minnie asked, forcing a happy smile, though Rex suspected he was the only one who could see it was forced.

“I am.” Albie put down the pack and opened his arms, offering an embrace to his mother. Minnie fell into those arms, looking quite small compared to her son. There was a time when Minnie could keep Albie safe, for he was just a bundle wrapped up in sheets. Now, he was the one who could keep her safe.

Rex smiled a little to see them together, before he noted the anxious way Minnie brushed her hair behind her ears as she released Albie. She was more nervous this time than when he usually left.

“We’ll be going, then,” Rex said, standing to his feet and putting the whittled wood on a sideboard. “I’ll see you to the train station.”

“Thanks, Pa.” Albie nodded in his direction, still with an air of restraint lurking there. It had been the same ever since Albie had returned, and Rex couldn’t understand why.

“I’m surprised you’re leaving again so soon,” Casper piped up, pausing while setting the table. “I hear Lorelai is in town again.”

Albie’s head jerked round at this news.

“Lorelai?” Rex and Minnie said together. Albie shrugged, as if the name meant nothing to him.

“Don’t you remember her?” Emma asked from her place by the fire, bent over the pots she was stirring. “She works up at the seamstress’ in town, and she’s just returned from seeing family.”

“I’m surprised Albie hasn’t been there already,” Casper teased, prompting a snigger from Benjie behind him.

“What’s going on?” Rex asked, elbowing Benjie to stop him.

“Albie? Do you have a sweetheart?” Minnie said excitedly.

“What? No.” Albie hurriedly shook his head. “Ignore them, Ma. They’re just causing mischief.”

Rex watched as Casper and Benjie exchanged mischievous looks, and they both sniggered again. When he raised his eyebrows at them, they fell silent.

At once, Albie busied himself collecting his pack, not making another comment on the matter. Rex tried to think if he’d seen this Lorelai in town, and an image appeared in his mind. She was young, close to Albie’s age, but tall and willowy with honey-colored hair. The last time he’d seen her, she was talking to Albie, and he’d seemed quite enthusiastic to be there.

“You could see this girl before you leave,” Rex offered, watching as Albie fidgeted with the hat on his head.

“No,” Albie answered swiftly. His face was turned away, but Rex caught the glimmer of a blush on his cheeks. The boys sniggered again. This time, Rex tapped them on the shoulders in reprimand and they fell silent. “I need to be going.”

At Albie’s declaration, his sisters hurried forward and hugged him goodbye. Faye was especially reluctant to let go and clung onto him so that Albie had to drag her all the way to the door.

“Come back soon!” Casper called as Albie stepped through the door, and Rex followed. “You never know, Lorelai might want to see you, too.”

“Hold your tongue, Casper,” Albie muttered, but he was already out the door and didn’t look back. Rex glanced between his boys before he followed Albie out and headed for the wagon that stood outside of their barn.

The journey to the train station was quiet. Every now and then, Rex asked if Albie had packed everything, and Albie would reply with one-word answers. There was a distance there, one that was making Rex’s foot fidget and twitch on the wooden board of the wagon.

As they reached town, Rex slowed the wagon a little. The sun was slipping further down beyond the horizon, streaking the wooden buildings and their painted signs in stripes of purple and yellow light. Albie seemed distracted, his head turning as if to look for someone in the street.

“We have a few minutes,” Rex said, glancing Albie’s way. “We could stop, and you could see your girl—”

“What? No.” Albie jerked back around in his seat. “That was just Casper causing mischief. I have no girl in town.”

“Hmm.” Yet Rex was certain his son had been looking in the direction of the seamstress’ shop. He glanced toward the shop and the open windows, but there was no figure there, no young woman waving goodbye.


“The Blazing Guns of Revenge” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Rex has been living a peaceful life, far away from his days as a bounty hunter. When his beloved son, Albie, goes missing , Rex has only one choice left; to set off on a desperate quest to find him, even at the risk of his life.

It’s a race against time…

Albie is desperate to make his father proud. However, when he undertakes his most dangerous job, hunting Grady Kirk, a dangerous people smuggler, he finds himself in over his head. With no way out, Albie must fight for his life, risk being sold into slavery, or worse, end up dead. Will he be able to find a way to escape and win his father’s admiration?

He wasn’t prepared for the difficulties that came with growing up…

A tale of family, courage and sacrifice, Rex and Albie’s emotive journey takes you through gunfights, brawls and the dangerous world of the Wild West. Join them as they fight for their freedom, and discover if their bond is strong enough to survive a torrent of violence!

“The Blazing Guns of Revenge” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.

Get your copy from Amazon!

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