A Fierce Gang of Misfits (Preview)

Prologue

Alex Michaels ducked down, his heart pounding with fear. He was trapped and he knew it. There were only three men out there, but there was enough distance between them that he didn’t have a chance of moving his gun fast enough to shoot all three before he was shot. And he knew those men personally. If they had him in their sights, they wouldn’t miss. And it would be a kill shot.

He turned his back to the pile of wood and pressed himself against it, wishing he could meld in with the logs just long enough to disappear from the sights of his enemies. He had no idea what he was going to do.

When he heard the sound of approaching hooves, he didn’t know what to think. It could be another bandit from the gang he was deserting in favor of a life on the right side of the law. Or it could be a friend.

But how many friends did Alex really have?

One. And he and Erik had been talking about leaving the Renegades for some time now. It was time.

The only way he’d know if that was Erik was if he stuck his head out one side or the other. Doing so would risk his being seen by one of the men shooting at him. If they weren’t expecting a fourth party, they would be distracted. But he couldn’t know if that was the case until he looked out for himself.

Sighing and shaking his head, he pulled his lips down in frustration, sucked in a sharp breath, and stuck his head out around the corner of the pile of logs. He looked up the road toward the sound.

He couldn’t help the grin that came to his face when he saw it was, in fact, his friend Erik, his white pearl-handled Colt .45 aimed into the woods.

He shot twice, then continued up the road toward Alex without hindrance. Alex took a tentative step out from behind the logs, his eyes on the wooded areas around him. He wasn’t being shot at anymore.

“Did you come here just to show off?” Alex teased, raising one hand as Erik rode up to him. His friend leaned down in the saddle, pulling his horse to a stop and clapping a hand into Alex’s.

“You know I did. Why else would I be here?” Erik quipped. “Come on, there’s more behind me. We can’t stand here and get reacquainted.”

Alex laughed, holding onto Erik’s hand and vaulting himself up behind his friend when Erik took his foot out of the stirrup so he could use it. “I just saw you two hours ago,” he said.

“Where’s your horse? Don’t tell me he up and ran off on you. I told you that horse was unreliable. Unreliable as all get out, I’m tellin’ ya.”

“He’s up ahead, grazin’ in a pasture, you watch. He’s just waitin’ for me. He ain’t gonna run far. He knows where he gets his carrots from.”

Both men laughed. Alex held on to his friend’s shoulders, utterly relieved, and they took off down the road. Just as he’d predicted, the black and white palomino he rode was standing casually in a field, grazing on the same grass as the nearby goats, who looked unperturbed at having a newcomer in their midst.

Alex slid off Erik’s horse and jogged over to his own, mounting it and clicking his teeth to get the animal moving. He caught up with Erik and they continued on, looking forward to their new lives.

“You think we’re gonna be all right, leaving the Renegades like that? Clyde’s not gonna be a happy man.” Alex had been with the gang for five years, nearer to six, having joined up at the tender age of seventeen. By twenty-two, he’d done enough raiding and looting and stealing for a lifetime. The Renegades had stopped caring who they hurt and once it had gotten too violent for Alex’s tastes, he’d started looking for a way out.

He hated to use stolen money to fund his escape, but that was just what he’d done. He’d bought a ticket to California, where gold mines were sprouting up everywhere. He could work in one and maybe he would eventually own a mine of his own. While he didn’t know anything about the industry, he planned to learn as much as he possibly could.

He and Erik had discussed leaving. Erik was four years older and had been with the Renegades since he was seventeen, as well. Clyde Roberts, the leader from the very beginning, wasn’t tough on his men. He demanded loyalty but otherwise, he was just another bandit who’d taken on the responsibility of running an entire crew of men. Most of his men looked up to Clyde and his son, Brad.

Still, Alex and Erik agreed the methods used were going in the wrong direction to suit their comfort. They were tired of the bandit life. Both wanted to settle down and find a woman to love, maybe have a couple children, buy some land, and become farmers or ranchers or something along those lines.

Clyde had taken the news of their departure worse than Alex had expected, though, sending men after them.

But Alex and Erik had two tickets to California. Nothing and no one would stop them from pursuing their dream of becoming free men and living their lives on the right side of the law.

Chapter One

Erik watched Alex swipe a cloth over the bar, making it look shiny for a few moments before it went dull again. It was clean, though, and that was all that mattered. He reached for his beer mug and wrapped his dark hand around it. His skin was blackened from working in the mine. As much as he scrubbed, he couldn’t seem to get the skin on his hands to go back to its normal color. They always looked dirty.

Alex had had enough money left over when they arrived in town to buy a small saloon and get it up and running. Erik had squirreled away what he had left and was still sitting on it two years later. He was working in the gold mine under Saginaw Mountain and had his own house. Alex lived on the second floor of his saloon in a small apartment he’d made perfect for himself.

Erik’s eyes swept from one side to the other as he continued to watch Alex clean off the bar.

“You expecting some rich people in here tonight?” he asked, knowing his words were coming out slightly slurred. It wasn’t because he was drunk; he was just exhausted. He’d been up for a long time and it was definitely time for a nap.

He couldn’t sleep, though. Even though his body was drained of all energy, his mind just wanted to stay up, talk to him, bug him with things that were out of his control. What good did it do to worry about the weather when there was no way to determine what was coming their way? Why should he care if his team didn’t meet their quota by the end of the month, keeping them from receiving their promised bonus? And why did the question even come to his mind in the middle of the night, preventing him from sleeping like he should?

“Nah, no rich people in here tonight,” Alex replied, leaning on the bar and gazing at Erik. “You need to go home and rest. You look like you’re about to pass out on my bar and you ain’t even finished one beer.”

“I ain’t sleepy,” Erik responded. “I’m tired. Worked hard today. Maybe I’ll sleep tonight, but I ain’t gonna for another couple hours.”

Alex nodded. “I gotta tell ya, buddy, I’m glad I bought this place and stayed outta the mine. Kinda funny you ended up workin’ there when it was my idea to begin with.”

Erik shrugged, tilting his head to the side. “Yer not the underground type, friend. You like to be above ground servin’ drinks to anyone who happens to stop into your establishment.”

“Yer right,” Alex replied. His eyes averted to the doors that swung open as two men entered. He grinned at them, glancing back at Erik. “Back to work I go.”

Erik left his eyes on Alex as his friend went to serve the men who’d entered. He sure did love his job. Erik didn’t care for mining much but it put money in his pocket. He liked to think of it as an adventure every day he got to work. It was a treasure hunt where a shiny vein could be discovered at any moment in time. That’s what kept him motivated.

After he served the two men who entered, Alex came back to the bar where Erik was and propped himself up on the stool next to his friend. “How you doin’, anyway?” he asked.

Erik was surprised by the question. “What are you talkin’ about, how am I doin’?” he inquired, raising one eyebrow. “I ain’t different than I was yesterday.”

“Yeah, I know but… well, are ya happy?”

Erik let out a sharp chuckle, giving his friend another odd look. “You’re talkin’ strange words, buddy.”

Alex laughed softly. “The reason why I ask is because you’ve been looking… pale. Drawn out. Unhappy. And that’s not the Erik I know. I just want to make sure you’re happy because if you’re not, we gotta do somethin’ to change that.”

Erik blinked at him, wondering what would make his friend wax poetic. He’d never heard Alex talking about emotions and how he felt before. He looked at it from Alex’s point of view. It was true he was the one who brought the jokes to the table whenever he could. It made him feel appreciated to know Alex noticed a difference when he was less optimistic.

“I reckon I could do with a break from the mine, Alex,” he said in a serious tone, dropping his volume so no one around them could hear him.

“You wanna come work for me for a while?” Alex asked. “I could always use another hand behind the bar. Give you some time to work that black soot off your hands. Make ‘em look like the rest of ya again.”

Erik chuckled, dropping his gaze to his stained hands. “You’re right. That would do it. I’ll think about it. I gotta work the week out, but then I might talk to Calvin about takin’ some time off. I could use the fresh air. You remember when we’d go on them raids at night and I’d sit back and count the stars?”

“Sit back?” Alex chuckled, getting up and walking around the bar to the other side. He slid Erik’s nearly empty mug back toward himself and took it in hand. He turned and filled it up from the barrel spigot behind him.

Erik watched, wondering if he really wanted a second one. The first had already made his head spin. Maybe he did need to get some sleep after all.

“Stick around this evenin’ and help me close the place,” Alex said. “I’m closin’ early tonight and you can wear yourself out doin’ my chores. It’ll give you a little dose of what you’d be doin’ if you were workin’ for me. You’re bigger than me so I’d get you to do all the heavy lifting.”

Erik had to laugh at that. He always enjoyed when his friend made him feel like the big man in town. He was six-foot-three, taller than most of the men he knew, and his shoulders were broad. His muscles were big and he was able to whip the gun out of its holster faster than nearly any man in lower Nevada, where he’d proven his skills in tournaments and competitions over the years.

Erik hadn’t had the need or the desire to show off his skills since they left the Renegades two years ago. He was a little afraid if he tried to compete and won like he always did, it would draw attention to him. He didn’t want the remaining Renegades to know where he had set his hat.

“All right, all right. I’ll stick around. Where else was I gonna go?”

Chapter Two

Alex was glad to have Erik around. Toward the end of the night, things got a little rough. His friend perked up around dinnertime, eating some of the pot roast Alex’s cook made up in the kitchen. She always made enough for an army of men, and it was a good thing. Her food was tasty enough for the most particular of tastes. Alex had never met a man who turned down a bowl full of her pot roast.

It was only served on Friday nights because that was payday and most of the men coming from the mines spent all their money in Alex’s Lone Branch Saloon.

It was a dispute over a card game that started it all. The piano was playing, the girls were dancing around the tables serving the drinks, and the men were talking, laughing, and smoking. It seemed like a normal night—until one of the men at a table threw a drink directly on another.

The victim of the drink splash sat, frozen and stunned, for just a millisecond.

Alex had seen what happened with his own eyes. He’d just happened to be looking at the group of men, thinking they were getting a bit loud, even for a Friday night, and witnessed Barney toss the drink right in his second cousin Bo’s face. Bo reacted like any second cousin might. He threw the first punch.

That was all it took for the entire table to take sides and start fighting. Erik and several other large men were quick to jump into the fray, scrambling to grab the arms of the cousins and pull them apart.

“What are you doing in my bar?” Alex barked at the men furiously, throwing his arms up in the air and stomping over to where they’d made a complete mess.

Both cousins looked sheepish, dropping their eyes to the ground, their shoulders slumping.

“Get out of my saloon and don’t come back until you can conduct yourselves like gentlemen!”

“We didn’t mean nothin’ by it, Alex,” Bo said, regret in his deep voice.

“Yeah, we didn’t,” Barney followed up, his eager eyes on Alex. “We won’t act up anymore. Please don’t make us leave, I can’t go home just yet. Henrietta will skin me alive. I gotta wait till she’s asleep.”

Alex was immediately hit with the image of the five-foot-three, one-hundred-pound Henrietta Atkins, the wife of the much taller, much larger Barney Atkins, shaking her finger and crabbing at her husband. To Barney, that probably did seem like being skinned alive.

He kept his temper to himself and sighed heavily through his nose. “All right, you’ve got another chance. But next time you act up, you’re gonna be banned from here for good. You got that?”

“We won’t act up again,” Barney said, anxiously dropping into his seat. He looked at Bo, who was surveying the scene with the eyes of someone who had just been hit by an alcohol haze. “Sit down, Bo. We got a game to finish. I won’t waste my drink on your ugly mug again.”

Alex watched the two cousins sit down across from each other while the others in their group nervously took to their chairs again, their eyes darting between the two men. He turned away from them when it looked like they were going to be calm. His eyes fell on Erik, who was standing back, trading barbs with one of the other large men who’d helped them, a fellow named Derek Branderton. He was a lumberjack for the mill and Alex was pretty sure he’d just come from the mountain.

Erik caught Alex looking at him and waved him over.

“You hear this story?” Erik asked, jutting one thumb in Derek’s direction.

Alex raised his eyebrows. “Story? What are you talking about?”

“You remember Henry? That big guy when we were back in that… when we were in Nevada. You remember?”

Alex reached back into his memory, something he didn’t do often. What was there to remember that was so interesting? He was living in the now. But when Erik mentioned Henry, he didn’t have to search long to know who his friend was talking about. He nodded, picturing the tall man with red hair and green eyes in his mind.

“Yeah, I remember him,” he said, passing them by to go to his bar. They followed along when he gestured with his head in the direction he was going. “Why?”

“He was here with a travelin’ group of men that went up on the mountain, workin’ with Derek and his crew. Ended up fallin’ out of a tree and breakin’ both legs.”

Alex lifted his eyebrows as he walked around the bar, noticing the scent of the pot roast was stronger back there. He breathed it in, enjoying the smell even though he wasn’t hungry. He’d already had his fill and would have eaten more if there had been room in his stomach.

He turned around, giving Derek a look that made the man shake his head and lift the nearly full glass of beer in his hand. Alex nodded and made himself a drink, too. It was nearing closing time and he didn’t mind partaking of his own goods at that time of night.

“And that’s not all that happened,” Derek remarked, gesturing with his beer again in a way that suggested he had enjoyed more than just the one in his hand. His eyes were half-shut, too, as he swayed gently on his feet. He knocked his knuckles into Erik’s chest. “Tell him the rest. Tell him.”

Alex was interested then, looking at Erik closely.

Erik leaned on the counter with one arm. “When he was in the hospital, he got confused and tried to get out of bed and walk around. He hit his head and cracked it open. Bled out the back of his head until he died.”

“Good God,” Alex remarked. “That’s awful.”

“Yeah, that’s what I said. He was a lonely man, no family to speak of, so everyone on the lumberjack crew and the group he was traveling with put in some money and gave him a good coffin and a decent burial. They all showed up with their hats in hand at his grave when he was put down in the ground.”

Alex was touched. What a grand gesture for those men to make.

The two men continued talking, turning toward each other, while Alex’s mind wandered. What would happen when he died? Who would be at his funeral besides Erik? He guessed most of the town of Indian Springs would show up for him.

Or would they? Did it really matter? Alex was basically alone. He didn’t have any parents or siblings. His eyes unwillingly darted to the Atkins cousins. He didn’t even have anyone to fight with over a card game and be able to just sit back down to play again and not get shot on the spot.

A change was coming. He could feel it. It didn’t make him nervous, though. He was looking forward to finding out what was going to happen.

Chapter Three

It was almost two in the morning when Alex finally drifted off that night. He normally closed his bar at midnight, even on a Friday. It was just a small place and he had his regulars but he couldn’t afford to pay a lot of employees. He had the perfect number of people coming every night and his weekends paid for his supply and upkeep.

He went to sleep happy. His dreams were filled with the most beautiful woman in Indian Springs, Emily Branson. Her blue eyes sparkled at him, her smile beaming at him, looking like an angel no matter what she was doing. She could have been running his shorts over a washboard, her blond hair dangling around her face, and she still would have been the most striking woman he’d ever seen.

The room was dark when something woke him up. His window was open slightly and his light curtains waved like they were saying hello, lifted by a gentle breeze. The moon was bright enough coming through the glass to let him see as soon as he opened his eyes.

He wondered why he was awake. What had brought him back to reality? He distinctly remembered being in the presence of the lovely Emily, her perfect eyes resting on him like he was something special.

Alex turned over in the bed, punching his pillow to get it fluffier, settling on his left side. He closed his eyes. He was about to enter a new dream when he heard something down in his bar smash to the ground.

His eyes snapped open and he shoved the covers off his body. He was out of the bed like a shot, grabbing the robe that hung from the hook on his door. He pulled it around his shoulders, pushing his arms into the sleeves as he went through his doorway and headed for the stairwell.

He was down on the landing when he spotted two figures lurking through the dining area.

Alex leaped over the landing onto the ground floor, vaulting himself toward the back of his bar. There was no way the two men didn’t see him so all he could do was count on getting to his rifle before they could draw on him.

He rolled on the floor, reaching out and grabbing the weapon from the bottom shelf of the bar. He had both hands on it when he saw a form descending upon him from the other side of the bar. One of the bandits had jumped over it and was about to land right on top of him.

Alex held up the rifle, clutching both sides with his hands and holding it like a bar between them. When the bandit landed on it, he lowered it and pushed up as hard as he could, knocking the man off him. In fact, the man went flying backward and landed hard on his back. He let out a loud “Oooofffff!” but was on his feet again just a moment later.

Alex wished he could see in the bar as well as he’d been able to see upstairs. The bandit he’d knocked off was on him again, pummeling his sides with both fists. Alex moved with the hits so they didn’t have as much of an impact.

He lowered one side of the rifle and brought it back up, slamming it into the face of the man on top of him. He tried to get a good look but could only see shadows where the eyes were and a long sharp nose when the dim light from the windows caught it at an angle.

“What do you want?” Alex yelled. “Get out of my bar.”

He turned the rifle around when he was able to leap to his feet and aimed it at the man in front of him. He didn’t think first before he pulled the trigger.

The sound was like an explosion. He cocked the gun again, swinging it in the direction the man was running, which was toward the front door.

“Get out of my bar!” Alex repeated, letting off another blast from his rifle, aiming it at the front door. Both men were running but one of them yelled out and jumped forward, his arms reaching out to grab the other for support.

To Alex’s surprise, the one who was in front shrugged off the other man and spun around. Alex didn’t have time to reload his rifle before the man vaulted into the air and came down on top of him. It was the same man who had attacked him behind the bar. He knew because the punches felt the same.

“What do you want?” he yelled.

When the second man realized the first bandit was distracting Alex and his rifle, he stumbled for the front door, suggesting he had a leg wound. He turned around when he was at the door. Alex, though he was now wrestling on the ground with his attacker, saw the shine of a gun in the man’s hand. He forced the bandit who had a grip on him to switch positions with him, turning him into a human shield.

“Get out of my saloon!” Alex roared, pulling his fist back and pounding it into the face of the man in front of him. His attacker shrieked in pain and anger.

Alex knew what he had coming if he didn’t get rid of this man. He wasn’t in time to stop the three hits that came his way back to back in quick succession, but he was able to duck out from under the man’s grip, grab the rifle that had gotten out of his hands, and swing it like a sword.

It came in contact with the side of the man’s head. The bandit screamed in agony and stumbled toward the door, where the other man grabbed him, coming closer a few steps and reaching out to his companion.

He kept the gun on Alex, who knew if he continued to pursue either man, there was an excellent chance he would get shot.

“Get out! Get out! Get out!” He lifted the gun and swung it in the air above his head like he would do to chase off a bear in the woods. The bandit with the gun just kept it aimed at him as they shuffled out, supporting each other. They didn’t shoot him and he didn’t know why, but he took no chances and stayed where he was.

Chapter Four

Erik heard the sound of a rifle blast, followed almost immediately by a second. He sat up in bed and tossed the covers from his legs. It didn’t really matter where the shots had come from. It was odd in a town like Indian Springs, of 304 people. It was almost always peaceful.

His sense of danger tingled. For some reason, Alex came to mind. It sounded like his rifle. They’d been friends for years and he’d heard Alex’s rifle many times.

He was out of bed in a second, pulling his pants on as he hopped across the room. He continued to hop to put on his socks and boots, his shirt hanging loosely around him until he buttoned it over his undershirt.

He grabbed his jacket, gun, and holster, along with his hat, and ran out the door in the direction of Alex’s bar. It was just down the road. They’d tried to purchase land as close together as possible, though they hadn’t been able to find a plot big enough for them to share.

Plus, Erik had had his doubts about building his house next to a saloon. Down the street was close enough for him.

He saw movement in the darkness, two figures emerging from the dark saloon into the dim light of the tall lamps placed every twenty feet on either side of the road. One of them turned to look at him, his hat tilted in just the right way for his face to light up.

A chill ran up Erik’s spine. Was that Doug? From Clyde’s gang? He didn’t want to believe that was possible.

He was supporting the other man, whom he hauled to a horse and hefted over the saddle.

Erik ran after them both but he didn’t get there in time to stop the men from riding off, neither looking behind them. Clearly, the gunshots had come from Alex’s rifle and he’d managed to hit one of them in the leg.

Erik’s mind whirled with confusion and anger. What was Clyde’s gang doing in Indian Springs, if that was him? Why were they attacking Alex’s saloon? Had they intended to hit his house next? Had they simply stumbled on the saloon and recognized Alex?

It couldn’t have been who he thought it was. Clyde wasn’t that kind of leader.

The questions boggled his mind and he shook his head to clear it, hoping both shots he’d heard had come from Alex’s rifle. He didn’t want to go in there and find his best friend dead in a pool of blood, having been shot by one of their old gang friends. If they could be called friends.

He wasn’t so concerned that his friend had shot one of the men they used to travel with. Enemies broke into buildings where they weren’t welcome. Maybe he hadn’t seen the face clearly enough to really see who it was.

He was about to barrel in through the entrance when Alex’s form filled the doorway and his friend stepped out into the dim light, unharmed. Erik breathed a silent sigh of relief and took the steps up to the deck of the saloon two at a time.

“Glad to see you’re okay,” he said, glancing up and down the road for anyone else who’d come out to see where the gunshots came from. He was a little surprised no one was showing up, not even the deputies on patrol during the night. There were two that he knew of, but they were nowhere to be seen.

“Yeah, they could have shot me dead but it seemed they didn’t want to.”

“You get a look at either of them?”

“Not clearly, no,” Alex responded in a gruff voice.

Erik could hear and see the rage building in his friend, puffing the shorter man’s chest out. Erik was bigger physically but when Alex was furious, he seemed to grow several inches taller and wider.


“A Fierce Gang of Misfits” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Erik Flakes is a former outlaw who has finally found peace in Indian Springs, Nevada, after years of running with the Brighton Renegades gang. He’s left his violent past behind and now runs a successful saloon with his best friend. For Erik, this quiet life is everything he’s ever wanted. However, when their saloon is robbed and his friend is brutally attacked, Erik knows that they can no longer ignore their history.

Ghosts won’t stay buried forever…

Alex Michaels, a former member of the Brighton Renegades, enjoys the peaceful life with his friend Erik until he’s violently attacked. As they set out to bring the culprits to justice, Alex must confront the darker aspects of his former life. The memories of his criminal activities are not easy to forget, and with a shadowy figure following them, Alex faces a dark prospect…

Will he be able to overcome his inner demons?

As they pursue justice for the innocent victim, Erik and Alex must confront their painful memories. With a dark presence following them, they face the prospect of being caught by a malicious gang. Will they be able to put an end to violence? Or will they confront their own mortality in a final showdown with the dangerous gang?

“A Fierce Gang of Misfits” 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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