DOUBLE BARRELED JOHNSTONE JUSTICE
National bestselling authors William W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone bring together two of their most legendary heroes in the first three novels of a bold new Western series. When the rugged mountain man known as Preacher and the Scottish clan rancher Jamie Ian MacCallister join forces, justice will set the record straight on the wild American frontier . . .
As the father of a young Crow tribesman, Preacher would like nothing more than to see the long-time natives and newly arrived settlers live together in peace—until the killing starts. As a family man and frontiersman, Jamie Ian MacCallister is more than happy to help the officers at Fort Kearny negotiate a peace treaty with the Crow nation—until it all goes to hell. Caught in a brutal, blood-drenched frontier war, two heroic men must fight and win for liberty and justice for all . . .
THEY CAME TO KILL
When the bigwigs in Washington decide to build a transcontinental railroad to the West Coast, they need a man who’s just as unstoppable to clear a path through Mexican territory. Jamie MacCallister knows it’s a tough job. The territory is overrun with Apaches who are gunning for a fight. Jamie knows he can’t take on the whole Apache nation by himself. He needs help. He needs back-up. He needs a non-stop force of mountain-man fury who goes by the name of Preacher . . .
WHEN ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE
It’s one of the great mysteries of the Old West. The unexplained disappearance of a hunting party of Prussian nobles who entered the American wilderness—and never returned. Now, years later, the Prussian government demands an explanation. In response, the U.S. Army hires Preacher and Jamie MacCallister to join their search party—along with a band of Prussian soldiers led by the sinister Baron Adalwolf von Kuhner. This is no rescue mission. It’s a massacre in the making. And when the hunters become the hunted, all hell breaks loose . . .
Live Free. Read Hard.
Release date: March 29, 2022
Print pages: 1088
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Preacher & MacCallister Bundle
William W. Johnstone
For a while now, he had felt a tingling on the back of his neck that told him he was being followed. Whoever was on his trail was about to be in his gunsights . . . and that wasn’t a good place to be.
Preacher had been roaming these mountains for almost forty years now, although most folks wouldn’t guess by looking at him that he was in his early fifties. His hair was still thick and dark, as was the mustache that drooped over his wide, expressive mouth. He stood straight and tall and muscular, with his broad shoulders stretching the fringed buckskin shirt he wore.
His brown canvas trousers were tucked into high-topped boots of a darker brown shade. His broad-brimmed hat was also dark brown, as were the crossed gunbelts he wore. In earlier days, from the time when Preacher had first come to the Rockies not long after the beginning of the fur-trapping era, he had carried a long-barreled flintlock rifle and a brace of flintlock pistols, but in recent years he had taken to using the. 52 caliber Sharps, and a .44 caliber Colt Dragoon revolver was holstered on each hip. Attached to one of the gunbelts was a squarish leather pouch holding a couple of already loaded extra cylinders for the Dragoons.
To someone who had spent many years using muzzle-loading weapons, the Dragoons seemed like an incredible amount of firepower to have at his disposal. Preacher had spent a lot of time practicing with the revolvers until he could handle them swiftly and skillfully. The Sharps was a single-shot weapon like his old flintlock rifle had been, but it was extremely accurate, reloaded quickly, and packed enough punch to bring down a grizzly bear or a buffalo with one shot, if placed correctly.
One thing that hadn’t changed was the heavy-bladed hunting knife Preacher carried in a sheath strapped to the gunbelt behind the left-hand Colt.
Farther back in the trees, the rangy gray stallion Preacher called Horse waited, reins tied to a sapling. Preacher had told the big wolf-like cur known as Dog to stay there with Horse until he found out who was trailing them. They were not the first Horse and Dog to travel the frontier trails with him, but as always with the animals that seemed to find their way to him, they were good companions.
He breathed easily and calmly as he sighted along the rifle’s barrel toward a cluster of boulders that filled a gap between two hogback ridges. He expected whoever was following him to emerge from the cover of those boulders momentarily. He had no way of knowing that for sure, but his instincts had seldom been wrong over the long years of surviving on the frontier ...
They weren’t wrong now, either. A huge figure in buckskins rounded one of the boulders, striding confidently into Preacher’s view. The Indian was even bigger than Preacher, with broader shoulders. He looked almost powerful enough to pick up one of those boulders and toss it around like a toy, although in reality, of course, such a thing was impossible.
The sight of the man caused Preacher to relax. A grin spread across the mountain man’s rugged face. He lowered the Sharps and was about to call out to the Indian when movement from the top of one of the boulders caught his eye. A tawny, muscular mountain lion was crouched there, tail twitching as it got ready to spring.
Instantly, Preacher snapped the rifle back to his shoulder and then fired in a continuation of the same movement. He hadn’t taken the time to aim, but instinct and keen reflexes guided his shot. The heavy slug intercepted the mountain lion in midair as it leaped from the boulder. The big cat yowled and twisted as the .52 caliber round tore through its sleekly furred body, but the momentum of its attack caused it to crash into the big Indian anyway. The man went down under the mountain lion’s weight.
Preacher lowered the Sharps and ran forward, drawing the right-hand Colt Dragoon as he approached. The mountain lion might still be alive, which meant that its intended target was still in danger.
However, as Preacher came closer, he saw that the big cat had gone limp in death. The Indian lifted the carcass and shoved it aside, then looked up at Preacher with a surprised expression on his broad, copper-hued face.
“Preacher!” he said.
“Howdy, Big Thunder,” the mountain man replied. He holstered the Dragoon and extended a hand to the Indian.
Big Thunder reached up. His ham-like hand enveloped Preacher’s and closed in a crushing grip. Instead of letting Preacher help him up, though, Big Thunder yanked and pulled Preacher down. Preacher yelled and dropped the Sharps as he sprawled on top of the Crow warrior. Big Thunder’s arms, as thick as young trees, closed around him and squeezed hard enough to make Preacher’s ribs groan.
Grimacing, Preacher got both hands under Big Thunder’s chin and shoved up, forcing the warrior’s head back. The bear hug didn’t ease, so Preacher slammed a punch against Big Thunder’s slab-like jaw. That did about as much good as punching one of those boulders would have. Preacher rammed a knee into Big Thunder’s midsection, but the Indian’s belly was hard as a rock, too.
Big Thunder’s lone weakness was his nose, Preacher recalled. He drew back his head and then butted the middle of the warrior’s face. Big Thunder grunted, and finally the terrible pressure of his arms diminished. Preacher bucked and heaved his body up, breaking Big Thunder’s grip. He shot another punch to Big Thunder’s nose to keep him paralyzed with pain for a moment, then rolled away quickly.
Chest heaving as he tried to recover the breath Big Thunder had squeezed out of him, Preacher surged to his feet. A couple of yards away, Big Thunder lumbered upright and shook his head, causing fat drops of blood to fly from his nose. He stood there swaying a little, as if undecided what to do next.
Preacher held up his left hand, palm out, and rasped, “Now just hold it right there, Big Thunder! Dang it, you’re gettin’ too old to be actin’ like this. Every time I come around, you try to fight me!”
He spoke in the Crow tongue, Big Thunder’s native language. Preacher knew that Big Thunder had learned a little English over the years, but he had the mind of a child, and if there was something important to communicate to him, it was better to use Big Thunder’s own tongue.
“But Preacher is the only one who can give Big Thunder a good fight,” the massive warrior said. He dragged the back of his hand across his face, leaving a crimson smear from his nose on the back of it. “We always do battle when you visit Big Thunder’s village.”
“You mean you try to start a ruckus. I usually manage to talk you out of it, but you took me by surprise this time.”
“Oh.” Big Thunder frowned and then flinched, as if he were thinking and the process was a little painful for him. “Big Thunder sometimes forgets things.”
“That’s all right, old son, all of us do.” Preacher picked up his hat, which had fallen off during the brief scrap, and batted it against his thigh to get the dust off. He put the hat on, then picked up the Sharps and checked to make sure dirt hadn’t fouled its action.
“You shot that cat?” asked Big Thunder as he waved a hand at the mountain lion’s carcass.
“That’s right. I spotted him just as he was about to jump you. I’m glad I was able to shoot him in time.”
“Big Thunder would have killed him if you did not.”
Big Thunder sounded mighty confident about that, but Preacher wasn’t so sure. If the mountain lion had landed on Big Thunder’s back as it intended, it probably would have been able to rip out the Indian’s throat before Big Thunder could do anything about it. Preacher figured he had just saved Big Thunder’s life . . . but that wouldn’t be the first time, and for that matter, Big Thunder had saved him on occasion, too. The two of them were old friends, even though Big Thunder’s roughhousing might have made it seem that that wasn’t the case.
Ten years had passed since Preacher had first met Big Thunder during an adventure that involved battling both a gang of ruthless fur thieves and a war party of bloodthirsty Blackfeet. Since then, Preacher had visited the Crow village where Big Thunder lived numerous times. He had a very good reason for that, in addition to renewing old friendships.
His son Hawk That Soars lived there, along with Hawk’s wife Butterfly and their children, a boy known as Eagle Feather and a girl named Bright Moon.
It had been a while since Preacher had been there, and he was looking forward to seeing Hawk and his family again.
“What are you doing out here this far from the village by yourself, Big Thunder?” he asked.
“Hunting.” Big Thunder scowled. “You have been gone for a long time, Preacher. Our hunting grounds are not as good as they used to be. We have to go out farther and farther to find enough game to feed our people. Waugghh! The white people and their houses on wheels drive away all the animals. Big Thunder wishes they would all go away and leave us alone.”
Preacher knew the warrior was talking about the wagon trains full of immigrants headed west along the Oregon Trail, which ran some miles south of where he and Big Thunder were at the moment. Over the past decade, thousands and thousands of those settlers had made the long, arduous journey, hoping that a new life in the Pacific Northwest would be better.
But to get there, they had to pass through hundreds of miles of territory where many different Indian tribes roamed, including the Crow. Naturally, there had been trouble. As Big Thunder had just indicated, the Indians didn’t like it when the whites—whom they regarded as invaders—encroached on their hunting grounds. As someone who had always been dubious of so-called civilization, Preacher understood that feeling quite well.
It was true that sometimes the immigrants killed buffalo, deer, elk, and antelope for food on the way west. They had thinned the herds to a certain extent. But those herds were vast, and Preacher thought it would be many more years before the advance of civilization had a significant effect on the Indians’ food supply.
Maybe he was wrong about that, he told himself now. Big Thunder was in a better position to know about such things than he was.
“You are going to our village?” Big Thunder asked now.
“I will come with you. Let me take this cat with us. I will use its hide, and there will be meat for the pots from it.”
Big Thunder picked up the carcass, not even grunting from the effort of lifting more than a hundred pounds, and draped it over his shoulders. He walked easily with it. When they got back to the village, the women would dress it out, then scrape the hide and stake it out to dry.
Preacher retrieved Horse and Dog from the woods, then led the stallion as he walked with Big Thunder. He had never minded traveling by himself except for his four-legged trail partners, but it was nice having a human companion on this trek through the mountains toward the river where the Crow village lay in a bend of the stream. Big Thunder was talkative, filling Preacher in on all the gossip from the village. Preacher chuckled more than once at the stories. Whites tended to believe that Indians were stoic and emotionless, but in truth they led lives just as full of romance, comedy, and tragedy as anyone else.
It was dusk before the two men reached the village. Cooking fires were already visible in the twilight as they approached. Several curs caught their scent and ran out to bark in greeting. Dog growled at them, and that sent them scurrying back toward the lodges, but the commotion had already alerted the village’s inhabitants.
A group of warriors, some with bows and quivers of arrows, others carrying tomahawks, strode forward to see who was coming. The Crow were not as warlike a people as the Blackfeet, but they were still fierce fighters and not likely to be taken unawares by enemies.
The warrior in the lead was a stern-faced, medium-sized man in his thirties. He smiled slightly, though, as he recognized the white man accompanying Big Thunder.
“Preacher!” he said. “It is good to see you again.”
“Broken Pine,” Preacher replied. The two men clasped wrists. Broken Pine had been a young warrior the first time Preacher had met this band of Crow. Now he was their chief.
“Did this one try to fight you as soon as he saw you?” Broken Pine asked with a nod toward Big Thunder.
Preacher laughed and said, “He did more than try. We had ourselves a good tussle, didn’t we, Big Thunder?”
The massive warrior lifted a hand to his nose, which had stopped bleeding. He touched it gingerly and winced.
“Big Thunder’s nose bled!” he announced. “It was a very good fight, but not long enough.”
Broken Pine sighed and shook his head, but he didn’t actually seem upset. He said, “I have spoken with you about this, Big Thunder. If you keep fighting with Preacher, he will stop coming to visit us.”
“No, he will not! Not as long as Hawk That Soars lives among us.”
That was true. Preacher might have numerous children among the various tribes in the mountains and plains; he had wintered often enough with them and had always had a woman to warm his blankets at night. But Hawk was the only one he was certain was his son, the product of a winter spent with the Absaroka woman Bird in a Tree. The Absaroka and the Crow were close cousins—some went so far as to say they were the same tribe—and the Crow in this band had not hesitated to accept Hawk as one of them, since he was married to a Crow woman, in a way, at least.
Preacher said hello to several other warriors with whom he was acquainted from previous visits, then asked, “Where is Hawk? I’m a mite surprised he wasn’t part of this greeting party.”
“He went out to hunt today, too,” Broken Pine said. The chief’s face grew even more solemn than usual. “The game is not plentiful as it once was. We have given thought to moving our hunting grounds. But where can we go?”
“There’s bound to be someplace that’s better.”
“Where?” Broken Pine waved to indicate the territory to the east and south. “The white men and their wagons come closer every year, and they are as many as the ants that swarm from a mound. Their hunters range farther out from the trail the wagons follow. And there has been talk that the soldiers will come, too. They have not ventured close to us yet, but the time will come when they do.”
Preacher didn’t say anything. He knew that Broken Pine was right. Preacher had seen for himself how the army was building forts farther and farther west. They had a ways to go before reaching the mountains, but if they kept coming in this direction, it was inevitable.
“But worrying about the future can wait for another time,” Broken Pine went on. “For now, we are glad to see you. You are always welcome among the Crow, Preacher. Would you wait in the lodge of Hawk That Soars?”
“Butterfly and the young’uns are there?”
“They are,” Broken Pine nodded.
“Then that’s where I’ll be,” Preacher told him. “It’s in the same place?”
“Yes. Big Thunder, go with him . . . but no more fighting!”
Big Thunder sighed in disappointment but agreed.
“Our men will tend to Horse and put him with our ponies,” Broken Pine went on.
“I’m obliged to you. But don’t get Horse too close to those ponies,” Preacher warned. “He can get a mite proddy and obnoxious . . . like me.”
Broken Pine smiled again and nodded.
Preacher started across the village, with Big Thunder falling in beside him. He didn’t really need the guide, but he supposed that with evening coming on and shadows gathering, Broken Pine thought he might get turned around. Instead, Preacher walked unerringly through the large village to the hide lodge where Hawk and his wife and children lived.
As he approached, he saw the woman hunkered next to a cooking fire. She was no longer the girl she had been when they first met. Instead she was a beautiful woman in the prime of life. Her long black hair was done into two braids that hung over her shoulders and down across the rounded bosom of her buckskin dress. She was stirring something in an iron pot over the flames, but she glanced up as Preacher and Big Thunder drew near, then looked again and leaped to her feet as she recognized the mountain man.
“Preacher!” she said as she flung her arms around his neck and embraced him. The two children who threw back the hide cover over the lodge’s entrance and scrambled out must have heard that exclamation. In their eagerness to greet the visitor, they ran up behind the woman, but then their natural shyness got the better of them and they stopped to hide behind her with their eyes cast down to the ground. The boy appeared to be around eight years old, the girl a couple of years younger.
Preacher returned the woman’s hug, patted her on the back, and then stepped back to rest his hands on her shoulders as he smiled at her.
“Let me look at you,” he said. “I reckon you’re as beautiful as ever . . . Caroline.”
The man riding toward the fort appeared mighty big at first glance, but anyone looking at him might think that was because he was riding a tall, very sturdy horse.
They would have been wrong. Jamie Ian MacCallister looked like that because he was mighty big.
Unlike military posts back east, Fort Kearny had no stockade fence around it; in fact, no fortifications of any kind. It consisted of a four-acre parade ground with cottonwood trees planted at regular intervals along its edges, surrounded by sod and adobe buildings, with the exception of one frame building that housed the post commander’s home and office.
This was Unorganized Territory, so called because the recent Compromise of 1850, worked out by politicians squabbling over slave and free states, hadn’t settled what to do with vast stretches of the Great Plains. A short distance to the north of the fort ran the Platte River, divided by sandbars into many channels. Some wag had once described the stream as a mile wide and an inch deep, and while that was an exaggeration, the Platte was definitely broad and shallow. It might not be navigable, but despite that it was an important waterway for the settlers headed west in their wagon trains. Fort Kearny was the last spot on the trail west where those immigrants could stock up on supplies.
The last place they could truly feel safe from Indian attack, too. Out here on the Great Plains, the Pawnee and the Cheyenne were constant dangers. Farther west, in the mountains that could be seen dimly on the horizon, the Crow, the Blackfeet, and the Shoshone lurked, ready to slaughter the settlers who just wanted a new and better life than they could have in the crowded squalor of the cities back east.
That was the way all those greenhorns saw it, anyway, Jamie Ian MacCallister mused as he rode slowly along the edge of the parade ground, past the flagpole, toward the sprawling adobe building where the sutler’s store was located.
Manifest Destiny, they called it. Some newspaper scribbler back east had come up with the term, and the politicians in Washington City had been quick to latch on to it as an excuse for their schemes to “civilize” the entire continent—and make themselves rich in the process. Maybe they weren’t all that way, but Jamie had been around enough of them to know that most were.
But regardless of their motivations, the politicians and the journalists kept filling folks’ heads with the dream of the West, and they kept streaming out here to try to capture it.
He hadn’t ought to be so damn cynical, Jamie told himself as he reined the big horse to a stop in front of the store. He had been part of that westward expansion himself, after escaping from the Shawnee raiders who had massacred his family and made him a captive and slave for several years when he was just a boy. A lot had happened since then. Jamie had roamed the West and had all sorts of adventures. He had married the beautiful Kate and sired several children. Kate and their youngsters were back in Colorado, at the ranch he had established in MacCallister’s Valley. He knew he should have been there himself, but from time to time the wanderlust seized him, and this was one of those times. He had been drifting for a while and figured that soon he would turn around and head for home, but not yet. Not just yet.
He swung down from the saddle and looped the horse’s reins around the hitch rail in front of the store, where several other horses were tied. Although some men were old by the time they reached their early forties, Jamie still appeared to be in the prime of life. He stood well over six feet, which meant he towered above many men, and had the broad shoulders to go with his height. No one would call him handsome, except maybe Kate, but his craggy face had a definite power to it. A few strands of gray ran through the thick fair hair under his broad-brimmed brown hat and could be seen in his mustache as well. He wore a faded blue shirt, a brown vest, and buckskin trousers. A heavy Walker Colt rode in a holster on his right hip.
A group of dragoons had been drilling on the parade ground as Jamie rode past, and other soldiers hurried here and there around the fort, bound on mysterious errands that kept them busy. The four soldiers on the porch of the sutler’s store must have been off duty, though, because they were taking their ease and passing a jug back and forth.
“Look here,” the man currently holding the jug said as he waved a hand toward Jamie. “It’s one of them mountain men.” He took a swig and then laughed. “Where’s your squaw, mister? Didn’t want to bring her along where decent white men could see her?”
Jamie’s eyes narrowed as he looked at the soldier, who was a big, redheaded bull of an Irishman. For a second, Jamie considered not wasting the breath it would take to respond to the man’s taunt. But then, with all the dignity he could muster, which was considerable, he said, “I’m not married to an Indian woman. I have a wife over in Colorado Territory, but she’s white. However, I’ve met some fine Indian ladies I’d be proud to be wed to, if circumstances had been different.”
The Irishman, who had a sergeant’s three stripes on the sleeve of his blue jacket, pushed his stiff-billed black cap back on his head and guffawed.
“Fine Indian ladies!” he repeated. “You mean filthy heathen squaws stinkin’ of bear grease and fit only for warmin’ a man’s belly at night, don’t ye?”
“Sergeant,” said one of the other soldiers, who looked a little nervous, “you know what the cap’n told you about fightin’. He said next time you’d wind up in the guardhouse.”
“And you know what I think about the cap’n! He can kiss my hairy Irish a—”
The sergeant stopped short as Jamie shouldered past, intending on going on into the store. Jamie needed some coffee. He’d been out of it for the past couple of days and felt the lack.
“Wait just a damn minute, squawman!” The sergeant’s hand came down hard on Jamie’s shoulder. Even though Jamie had his back to the man now, he could still smell the whiskey fumes on his breath.
Without turning around, Jamie said, “Get your hand off of me, mister.”
“You’d better call me sergeant,” the Irishman said without letting go.
“I’m not in the army.”
“Doesn’t matter. You’ll show me some respect, squawman, or I’ll—”
Jamie shrugged off the hand and said, “Respect has to be earned. You haven’t earned the time and energy it would take to spit on you.”
He took another step toward the door.
That shout from one of the other soldiers was enough warning for Jamie. He turned swiftly and leaned back so that the fist the big Irish noncom swung at him passed harmlessly in front of his face, missing by several inches. The sergeant had had too much to drink, so he wasn’t very steady on his feet and stumbled forward, thrown off balance by the blow that hadn’t landed.
That brought him within easy reach of the left fist that Jamie hooked into his midsection. The punch had so much power behind it that Jamie’s hand sank into the man’s belly to the wrist. More whiskey stink gusted from the Irishman’s mouth. Jamie hit that mouth with a straight right that made blood spurt from O’Connor’s lips and sent him flying backward off the store’s porch.
The ground was dry and dusty in front of the store. A pale cloud flew up around O’Connor when he landed hard. He rolled onto his side, retched, doubled up, and spewed out the rotgut he’d been guzzling. The smell in the air got even worse.
Jamie shook his head in disgust and turned toward the door again. The last thing he’d wanted when he rode in here was to get into a fight.
On the other hand, this hadn’t been much of a fight.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t over. He heard big feet slap the ground and started to whirl around again. Getting hit like that and then emptying his stomach of all the booze must have sobered up the sergeant, because he was moving fast now. He plowed into Jamie from the side like a runaway freight train.
The collision drove Jamie against the door. The latch splintered under the impact of the combined weight, which had to be close to five hundred pounds. The door flew open and spilled both men onto the floor just inside the store.
O’Conner yelled in fury and hammered punches against Jamie’s body. He rammed a knee at Jamie’s groin. Jamie twisted aside from that just in time to take the blow on his left thigh. It was powerful enough to make that leg go numb for a moment. Jamie would have been incapacitated completely if the sergeant’s knee had landed where it was aimed.
Jamie shoved the heel of his left hand up under O’Connor’s chin and forced the sergeant’s head back. He brought his right fist around in a pile-driver blow that caught O’Connor on the side of the head and knocked him to the side. Jamie rolled the other way to put a little distance between them and came up on one knee.
He’d been vaguely aware of shouting around them. Now he saw that the store was crowded with soldiers in light blue trousers, darker blue jackets, and black caps, as well as a number of civilians including roughly dressed bullwhackers who handled the teams of oxen hitched to freight wagons, buckskin-clad fur trappers trying to scrape a living out of that fading enterprise, and dapper gamblers in frock coats and beaver hats.
At the moment, all of them were excited about the battle that had broken out in their midst. They had drawn back to give the combatants some room. Bets began to be made back and forth, even though Jamie and O’Connor were both catching their breath.
Jamie’s hat had been knocked off when the Irishman tackled him. He pushed back the hair that threatened to fall across his eyes and said, “Let it alone, O’Connor. I don’t want to fight you.”
O’Connor had pushed himself up on an elbow. He shook his head groggily, glared at Jamie, and said, “Too late for that, squawman. I’m gonna beat you to death with me bare hands!”
He scrambled onto hands and knees and then surged to his feet. Jamie got up at the same time and barely had a chance to get his boots planted on the puncheon floor before O’Connor charged him, swinging wildly. Jamie took a step back but bumped against a barrel of flour or sugar, he wasn’t sure which. Several such barrels were lined up behind him, so he didn’t have anywhere to go.
Not that he believed in running, anyway. If O’Connor wanted a fight, then he had come to the right man, by God!
Jamie met the sergeant’s ferocious attack with one of his own. Fists flew back and forth. The thuds and cracks of flesh and bone colliding violently punctuated the chorus of shouted encouragement from the onlookers. Jamie blocked as many of O’Connor’s punches as possible, but he couldn’t turn all of them aside. With some of them, he just had to absorb the punishment they dealt out.
But he was dealing plenty of punishment himself as he and O’Connor stood toe to toe, slugging away at each other. Blood smeared O’Connor’s mouth, and the area around his left eye was starting to swell. Jamie’s jaw ached where one of the sergeant’s blows had caught him, and he tasted blood in his mouth, as well. O’Conner was a few inches shorter than Jamie but probably outweighed him by ten or fifteen pounds. Their reach was practically the same. They were about as evenly matched as two men could be.
That meant the outcome of the fight would probably come down to pure luck. One of them would slip or drop his guard just a hair too much, at just the wrong second, and that would be the end of it.
Jamie figured he just had to hold on for a little while longer. He could tell that O’Connor was tiring. O’Connor might not be drunk now, but all the whiskey he had consumed earlier was taking a toll on him anyway. Big beads of sweat rolled down his face and mixed with the blood leaking from his mouth.
O’Connor must have realized he was on the verge of being defeated and was willing to go to any lengths to prevent that. He swayed backward to avoid one of Jamie’s punches and reached out to close his right hand around an ax handle lying with a number of others in an open crate on a
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...