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Stoneheart

Stoneheart

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Stoneheart

Longueur:
214 pages
3 heures
Éditeur:
Sortie:
Sep 29, 2016
ISBN:
9781370588039
Format:
Livre

Description

‘Stoneheart’, that’s what the Cheyenne called him back in the old days.
Caleb Barnes always went in hard that way, in fact the same way he had lived his whole life, on a knife-edge with the cold feel of a Colt .45 pistol and the blade of a Bowie knife not far from his reach.
But he is older now and rides into town with a simple task in mind, to make amends. Though, it proves to be something a sight more complicated than a gesture of good will. To put things right and protect those he values, Caleb has to find a whole load of cash money.
One powerful man stands in the way of his mission, so when Caleb comes up against the tyrannical Elisha Foy, the town can expect only bloody deeds to follow.
Caleb must break all the rules and become once more the person he had hoped to leave behind forever, a cold killer with a heart of stone.

Éditeur:
Sortie:
Sep 29, 2016
ISBN:
9781370588039
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur

It’s not such a big step from pictures to writing.And that’s how it started out for me. I’ve illustrated more Western book covers than I care to mention and been doing it for a long time. No hardship, I hasten to add, I love the genre and have since a kid, although originally I made my name painting the cover art for other people, now at least, I manage to create covers for my own books.A long-term closet writer, only comparatively recently, with a family grown and the availability of self-publishing have I managed to be able to write and get my stories out there.As I did when illustrating, research counts a lot and has inspired many of my Westerns and Thrillers to have a basis in historical fact or at least weave their tale around the seeds of factual content.Having such a visual background, mostly it’s a matter of describing the pictures I see in my head and translating them to the written page. I guess that’s why one of my early four-star reviewers described the book like a ‘Western movie, fast paced and full of action.’I enjoy writing them; I hope folks enjoy reading the results.

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Stoneheart - Tony Masero

STONEHEART

Tony Masero

‘Stoneheart’, that’s what the Cheyenne called him back in the old days.

Caleb Barnes always went in hard that way, in fact the same way he had lived his whole life, on a knife-edge with the cold feel of a Colt .45 pistol and the blade of a Bowie knife not far from his reach.

But he is older now and rides into town with a simple task in mind, to make amends. Though, it proves to be something a sight more complicated than a gesture of good will. To put things right and protect those he values, Caleb has to find a whole load of cash money.

One powerful man stands in the way of his mission, so when Caleb comes up against the tyrannical Elisha Foy, the town can expect only bloody deeds to follow.

Caleb must break all the rules and become once more the person he had hoped to leave behind forever, a cold killer with a heart of stone

Cover Illustration: Tony Masero

Names, characters and incidents in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations,

or persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or

mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information or storage and retrieval system, without the

written permission of the author, except where permitted by law.

Smashwords Edition

Copyright © Tony Masero 2016

Chapter One

When Caleb Barnes rode into Kessapeak Levels he caused eyes to turn.

It had been many years since anyone in the neat Ohio town had seen someone that looked like Caleb. They were a modern place and the likes of Caleb Barnes had long since disappeared along with the Conestoga wagons that used to gather at the crossroads town in the early days before tripping further West to Montana. After all, they had a railroad depot there now and the town council was even talking of a horse drawn tramway to run up Main Street. The ice works had been the first to bring posterity and employment to many, that had soon grown to include a carpentry factory and with fertile topsoil, corn was a lucrative product for shipping down the tracks. Kessapeak Levels was looking to the future and needed no reminder of earlier unrest and any wayward Frontier lifestyle.

So when a hoary looking individual with a stern eye, his hat brim pinned back to the crown and an eagle feather in the hatband rode in, it was an anomaly that brought attention.

Maybe it was the firearms that drew particular notice besides the general look of the man.

Caleb carried a buffalo robe strapped to the rear of his saddle, mostly for bedding and warmth in the high country, but wrapped inside was a ‘Big 50’, a long Sharps rifle. A Winchester was also holstered under the saddle by his right leg with the stock to the rear, mainly as Caleb reckoned it was a faster draw that way and the Colt revolver and ammunition belt he carried was hooked around the pommel for the same reason. Caleb liked it that way, with the grip being near his hand when mounted rather than strapped to his waist, besides he had little use for the saddle horn, as he was no cowman.

The only weapon Caleb carried about his person was a broad bladed ten-inch Bowie knife with a brass re-enforcing strip along the backside and he wore that in a leather sheath along the small of his back.

A drooping mustache hung over his unshaven jaw, the dark hairs on his face and head were lined with silver and his skin leathered and burnt deep brown by the sun. The creases and wrinkles told his age but also spoke of long experience in the outdoors and probably indicated a heck of a lot more besides. He wore moccasin boots, broadcloth pants that had seen better days and a buckskin jacket that had been fine in its day but was now stained and dirty with many fringes missing and only the bone needle pinholes of the intricate Indian beadwork it had once exhibited still remaining.

He rode erect and boldly unafraid, the pale blue eyes beneath the shade of his hat moving from side to side constantly as he walked his pony at an easy pace down the broad span of Main Street, unmoved and indifferent to the curious eyes that followed his passage but still he was ever watchful.

Lloyd Towell was the newly elected police officer for the town, they had even given him a military style uniform with his position and he wore the blue jacket and silver buttons with a certain amount of ostentation. At twenty-nine years of age, Lloyd had missed out on service during the War Between the States, being no more than a promise at the time, but he had served a three-year stint with the army in San Francisco in the old port defenses there and that, it was considered, qualified him for the position of town sheriff. Most folks reckoned him something of a loud mouth and not really up to the job but the city fathers had decided otherwise, a decision that might well have been swayed by the fact that Lloyd’s uncle was Kessapeak’s treasurer and tax collector.

Something of an officious ass, he took in word of Caleb’s arrival by a delivery boy sent from the grocery store and promptly put on his hat with the silver star showing boldly in front and stepped out of his office to check out the stranger.

On sight of the blue uniform standing, somewhat self-importantly on the pavement walkway, spread legged with fists on hips; Caleb angled his pony over to the policeman. He pulled up before the sheriff and resting both palms on the horn of his saddle he nodded greeting.

Lloyd looked up at the man cautiously. The morning sun was behind the figure and that put Lloyd at something of a disadvantage as the indistinct dark outline caused Lloyd to squint to define the features.

‘Good day, sir. Help you?’

Caleb cleared his throat, ‘I’m looking for the Boone place.’

Lloyd took in the array of weapons and the state of the man’s clothing before answering, ‘You staying in town long?’

Caleb shrugged, ‘You know where it is?’ he asked ignoring the policeman’s question.

‘We don’t allow no firearms in city limits,’ Lloyd tried in a firm voice that did not quite cut it. Something about the man intimidated him but he could not figure out quite what it was. Maybe it was the fellow’s stony demeanor and obvious blatant indifference to his position that was disturbing.

‘I guess,’ said Caleb. ‘Still don’t know where the Boone place is.’

Lloyd tilted his head, ‘It’s down there, past the slaughterhouse. Ain’t no more than a shotgun shack out on the Bedford road.’

‘Obliged,’ said Caleb, turning the pony with his knees and a heel in the ribs.

‘You have to hand in those weapons if you’re staying around, mister,’ persisted Lloyd.

‘Sure thing,’ Caleb threw over his shoulder as he rode away.

He had seen law officers come in all shapes and sizes during his day and he knew at first glance what manner of man Lloyd Towell was.

Caleb had started out life under the wing of a U.S. Army Topographical Engineer, named Captain John C. Staines. Whilst mapping out new territory, Staines and his party had found Caleb as the only survivor of a Ute raid that had left the small isolated settlement burned to the ground and all the inhabitants massacred. A Bible had been placed next to him in the baby’s hidden cot and written in a neat hand inside the flyleaf was the Barnes family name and date of his birth as well as a listing of many of his antecedents, in such a manner Caleb’s identity had not been lost.

The Staines family had taken him in and raised him as one of their own. But given his natural inclinations, Caleb had never truly fitted into the family of a career officer. The army life had involved much travelling from station to station and with Ma Staines having to bring up nine other siblings and with the Captain often away on exploratory mapping expeditions, Caleb’s upbringing had been a raw experience with only rough-cut regular soldiers as any parental guidance.

As a result he had grown up wild and spent his youth drinking and fist fighting, riding roughshod and fancy free, taking whatever came his way without expectation. During his checkered life his adventures had been many, at one time he had been imprisoned for killing a man in Dover City over a card game, spent time as a hunter in the Platte and Sweetwater country, had been a guide and an Indian agent. Once he had married a fine looking Cheyenne woman and that had straightened him out somewhat until she had succumbed to the tuberculosis. He had then fought in the Civil War, rising to lieutenant on the Union side and met and married a friend’s wife when the officer had met his end at Summit Point in 1864. The marriage had resulted in one child, a girl, but by then that wife too had passed. Caleb had been bereft not only by the loss of his wife, whom he loved dearly but also by the many bloody disasters he had witnessed during the war. When the war ended he had just lit out, more of a shell than a man, he had left his child in the care of a Mormon family and ridden out to wander until his spirit had been reconstituted and he felt able again to enter society. Around this time the army had called on him once more, this time to act as a scout during the Sioux wars. He had little taste for the destruction of the Plains Indians after his first marriage to the Cheyenne maiden and yet it had earned him a regular wage and enabled him to send money back to the Mormon’s to see that his child was raised properly.

There was not much left for Caleb to know about the way that things worked. He was hard and he was tough and not given overly to sentimentality but now the last remaining thing that could touch his rough heart needed his attention.

Chapter Two

Virginia Boone was hanging out washing when the rider came up the narrow path leading to her home.

Her glance over the top of the sheet she was hanging on the wash line showed her a weathered figure that could only look like trouble. He seemed to wear it about himself like a cloak as he came up the trail towards her.

She wondered who it might be and chewed her lip in consternation, praying it was not another of her husband Lafayette’s drinking partners. Those layabouts always turned up and ate everything they had in the larder before taking Lafayette off to some local dive so he could spend what little money remaining on liquor and cards.

She was thirty years old and although faded through hard work and poverty she still held some of the grace and beauty she had owned when Lafayette had first met her. A tall and slender woman with long fair hair that she kept braided and coiled up high on her neck; her one joy remaining was their son, Marcus. Fifteen years old now and his unexpected arrival had been the underlying reason for her early marriage to the Frenchman.

Lafayette had been a fine handsome man back then, with dark Cajun looks and a winning way but always a gambling man he had taken a foolish wager with some bad people that had ended in a serious debt and then both his hands being crushed in a cruel payment. The bones were so damaged that lifting anything beyond the weight of a chicken egg was beyond him now. No longer able to work it had been Virginia who had become the breadwinner and she slaved day and night to feed and clothe them all by washing and ironing for the wealthier folks in Kessapeak Levels.

She kept at the line, avoiding eye contact with the man until he pulled up before her. She looked at him then, finding something vaguely familiar in the face but not really knowing who he was.

‘Virginia Boone?’ he asked, easing his body and leaning forward in the saddle to look at her more closely.

‘I am, who wants to know?’

‘I’m your pa, Virginia.’

Her hand froze on the clothes peg she was holding and as her fist bunched around the wooden peg she drew a long shuddering breath that came from inside the depths of herself. It fitted; his features fell into place then. More aged and worn but there was still some trace of the man she remembered, though then he had been dressed in army uniform and not the worn garments he wore now.

‘And what might you be wanting here?’

‘I come to see you,’ he answered simply.

‘I reckon you have,’ hurriedly she continued hanging the sheets. ‘If you’ve come looking for a feed, we ain’t got nothing for you here. Barely able to keep our own bodies and soul together.’

She was abrupt and bitter and Caleb studied her sympathetically for a long moment.

‘No, girl,’ he said finally. ‘I ain’t come to take anything from you. Not hardly anyway, I reckon I been remiss enough as far as your affections are concerned as it is.’

She was a little thrown by his confession and stepped back from the wash line in indecision, still tightly clutching a peg in her bunched fist. She held it partly raised, dagger-like in an almost defensive pose.

Slowly, Caleb dismounted, easing his creaking back as he did so. ‘I travelled a fair way,’ he admitted.

‘Why’d you come here?’ she asked.

‘I heard you got problems.’

She laughed, a short harsh bark, ‘That it, is it? Been a few years you know, mister?’

‘Sure,’ he said softly. ‘I know it.’

‘I don’t know what you expect from me?’ she said, still dumbfounded by his arrival.

‘Maybe a cup of coffee?’

‘I suppose,’ she mumbled, weakening at the prospect of the expected social greeting for any traveller. She dropped the peg in a bucket and rubbed her hands together nervously.

He noticed, unlike her other skin that was generally smooth and healthy looking, that they were red and raw with washing and work.

‘Can I water the pony?’

She nodded in direction with a sharp jerk of her head, ‘There’s a place out back. A lean-to, the pump’s there.’

‘Obliged,’ he said, leading the pony away by the rein.

She watched him go with narrowed eyes and trying to get her emotions in balance. Did she hate him? She wondered. He had left her to fend for herself, had deserted her when she most needed him. He had never been a father to her; a stranger had fulfilled that role. The adopting Mormons had been rather dull and antiseptic people, without affection or much demonstration of love. That had been the call of the New Orleans raised Lafayette when he had arrived in her life. A darkly handsome young man full of dash and adventure and so, taking any opportunity to escape the repressive atmosphere of the Mormon home, Virginia had fallen for Lafayette in the first instant.

With compressed lips and a strained expression she turned her back on the baskets of washing and brushed inside to prepare a pot of coffee.

He came in slowly, carefully studying his surroundings. She turned from the stove and for a moment she

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