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The Dragoons 4: Whiskey River

The Dragoons 4: Whiskey River

Автором Patrick E. Andrews

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The Dragoons 4: Whiskey River

Автором Patrick E. Andrews

Длина:
268 pages
3 hours
Издатель:
Издано:
Jul 31, 2017
ISBN:
9781370084579
Формат:
Книге

Описание

In a land as savage as the Indians who lived on its vast prairies and burning deserts, the U.S. Dragoons were the only law. Short on rations but long on courage, they were the first cavalry soldiers to ride the great western frontier and fight to keep the peace.

After thirty years of duty, Captain Darcy Hays was looking forward to a peaceful retirement—until a whiskey-soaked bunch of Sioux renegades wiped out an entire wagon caravan and took a young woman hostage. Only Chief Eagle Talons would lead Hays and his Dragoons to the gang of gunrunners who were supplying his people with the weapons and firewater that had turned the once-proud Sioux warriors into cutthroats and drunks. Rollo Kenshaw was the outlaw they were looking for. And now it was up to the trail-hardened cavalry soldiers to stop Kenshaw and his gun-toughs before they drowned the Wyoming Territory in innocent blood!

Издатель:
Издано:
Jul 31, 2017
ISBN:
9781370084579
Формат:
Книге

Об авторе

Patrick E. Andrews was born in Oklahoma in 1936 into a family of pioneers who participated in its growth from the Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory to statehood. His father's family were homesteaders and his mother's cattle ranchers. Consequently, he is among the last generation of American writers who had contacts with those people from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Patrick's wife Julie says he both speaks and writes with an Oklahoma accent.He is an ex-paratrooper, having served in the 82nd Airborne Division in the active army and the 12th Special Forces Group in the army reserves. Patrick began his writing career after leaving the army. He and his better half presently reside in southern California. He has a son Bill, who is an ex-paratrooper and a probation officer, and two grandchildren.


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The Dragoons 4 - Patrick E. Andrews

The Home of Great Western Fiction!

About Whiskey River

Dedication

Prologue

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

Fifteen

Sixteen

Seventeen

Eighteen

Nineteen

Twenty

Twenty-One

Twenty-Two

Twenty-Three

Epilogue

About the Author

Copyright

In a land as savage as the Indians who lived on its vast prairies and burning deserts, the U.S. Dragoons were the only law. Short on rations but long on courage, they were the first cavalry soldiers to ride the great western frontier and fight to keep the peace.

After thirty years of duty, Captain Darcy Hays was looking forward to a peaceful retirement—until a whiskey-soaked bunch of Sioux renegades wiped out an entire wagon caravan and took a young woman hostage. Only Chief Eagle Talons would lead Hays and his Dragoons to the gang of gunrunners who were supplying his people with the weapons and firewater that had turned the once-proud Sioux warriors into cutthroats and drunks. Rollo Kenshaw was the outlaw they were looking for. And now it was up to the trail-hardened cavalry soldiers to stop Kenshaw and his gun-toughs before they drowned the Wyoming Territory in innocent blood!

THE DRAGOONS 4: WHISKEY RIVER

By Patrick E. Andrews

First Published by Zebra Books in 1993

Copyright © 2016 by the Andrews Family Revocable Trust

First Smashwords Edition: August 2017

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.

Our cover features Never a Complaint, painted by Don Stivers.

You can check out more of Don’s work here.

This is a Piccadilly Publishing Book ~*~ Text © Piccadilly Publishing

Series Editor: Ben Bridges

Published by Arrangement with the Author’s Agent.

This book is dedicated to Shari and Elaine

Prologue

The teamster held the worn reins in his gloved hands, pulling back slightly to keep the team of mules from moving too fast. It wasn’t so much that he felt no need to hurry his journey. His show of patience came from a very serious desire to avoid making any unnecessary noise.

The vehicle the animals pulled across the pine-needle-strewn forest floor of the Black Hills was an old Conestoga wagon. It had been repaired and rebuilt so many times that the various generations of wooden and metal parts rubbed and squeaked against each other in noisy protest.

A rider, with a flintlock long gun held ready, traveled alongside the vehicle. His eyes nervously peered through the forest growth around them. He had one thumb on the hammer of the musket, ready to cock and fire it in the same motion.

Suddenly a dip in the ground caused the ancient conveyance to lurch, creating a loud clinking sound.

God damn it! the rider exclaimed, in a loud, hoarse whisper. Keep that thing under control.

You dumb bastard! the teamster shot back. You think I done that a-purpose?

Just be careful, the rider urged him. He anxiously glanced around nervously, licking his dry lips. I’ll sure be glad when we get these goods delivered.

This is the last time I’ll let you get a job for us, the teamster said.

We’re getting paid damn good, so shut yore face, his companion said.

It’s dangerous, the other complained.

O’course it’s dangerous, you jackass! the rider said. You knowed it was when we learnt we was sneaking liquor into Rollo Kenshaw’s territory.

I ain’t never gonna let you talk me into nothing again, the teamster said. You shoulda found out how noisy this here stuff was.

Well, hell! If I’d knowed the goods was in bottles ’stead o’ barrels, I’d never have taken on this damn job, the rider said.

Me either, the teamster agreed. There ain’t no way to keep them things from clinking against each other. He spat a stream of tobacco juice. But we took the money, so we’re honor-bound to get ’em where they got to be. The slow, precarious trip went on with both men watchful and silent. They had a couple of rough spots where the ground steepened, but the pair managed to get the wagon through the area without mishap, although the bottles in their cargo made enough noise to cause both men to cringe.

Another coupla hours, the rider said.

Yeah! the teamster said with a grin. And when— The bullet hit the man in the center of the chest, rolling him over into the back of the Conestoga like he’d been swatted by an invisible giant.

The rider, damning it all under his breath, yanked on the reins of his horse to make a run for it. The second shot lifted him up over the animal’s head. Hurt bad, he grabbed the mount’s neck and attempted to hold on, but he weakened too fast. The rider slipped off, hitting the ground. He only had time to say Damn it all! before dying.

The bushwhackers stepped from the cover of the underbrush. One, bushy-haired with an unkempt beard, pointed to the wagon. Make sure them mules don’t bolt, Bobby Slowfoot.

You bet, Rollo, Bobby Slowfoot replied. He went to the task, grabbing the animals’ bridles and holding on. Easy now, you long-eared sons of bitches!

Rollo Kenshaw walked over to the rider’s body and rolled him over by slipping his boot under the man and violently lifting up. This’n has give up the ghost, he announced.

A third man, up on the wagon seat, pulled the teamster’s body out of the back and dropped it to the ground. Here’s one sumbitch ain’t gone be giving us no complaints ’bout getting shot from the bushes.

To hell with him, Otto, Kenshaw said. What’s in the back there?

Otto Bolkey laughed. Just what we knowed was in there, Rollo. Whiskey!

I reckon I oughta be real riled at O’Dell for trying to move in on my territory, Kenshaw said. But at least he give me free delivery.

A half dozen more men appeared from the trees. They casually checked the cadavers and the contents of the wagon before settling down to waiting for their chief, Rollo Kenshaw, to get things moving.

Kenshaw climbed up on the vehicle and checked out the contents. He reappeared from under the canvas covering, and jumped down to the ground. Bobby Slowfoot, hitch your horse to the back o’ this rig and drive it.

You bet, Rollo, Bobby Slowfoot said. Is that good stuff in there?

Good enough liquor for our customers, Kenshaw assured him. Get your horses, boys, we got to move along. They’s thirsty Injuns just waiting to wet their whistles.

Yeah! Otto Bolkey said. And they got the pelts to pay for it, too.

Not to mention a dollar or two, now and then, Kenshaw added.

The group of men moved quickly. Within the space of a minute, they had mounted up and now rode away with the wagon of whiskey in their possession.

After they’d vacated the area, the forest returned to normal. The birds resumed singing, and a porcupine waddled out from the cover of a bush. The only extraneous items in the area were the two bodies still sprawled where they’d fallen.

One

The first rays of the early morning sun shot through the windows of L Company’s orderly room. George Aldridge, the first sergeant, took advantage of his position as the unit’s senior noncommissioned officer to enjoy a bit of leisure before beginning the day’s duties. Having to rush out to duty was the unhappy fate of lesser-ranking members of the United States Dragoons.

Aldridge poured himself a cup of coffee from the pot that sat on the small stove. In the wintertime, the wood inside the heating appliance would have been plentiful and burning brightly, making it hot enough to glow a dull red. But only a small fire was necessary to cut the chill of summer mornings at Fort Laramie, Wyoming Territory.

Aldridge walked back toward his desk to enjoy the hot brew, when the door opened. ;

Good morning, Mister Stephans, the first sergeant said over his shoulder.

It is not Mister Stephans, a gruff voice replied.

Aldridge turned to see the company commander, Captain Darcy Hays, shutting the door. What the hell are you doing here this time o’ day-—sir?

I’m taking reveille this morning, Hays replied.

You?

Me! Hays replied. He and Aldridge had been soldering together almost thirty years, and one could read the other like a book. The captain frowned, saying, Sergeant, may I take the liberty of inquiring as to what is so unusual about a company commander taking reveille of his own company?

That depends on the company commander we’re talking about, sir, Aldridge said. If that particular leader o’ men is you, then it is unusual as hell. He was thoughtful for a few moments as he searched his memory. By God, the best I can recollect is that you ain’t taken reveille in the last ten years. Most o’ the time you’re in your quarters snoozing away—if I may say so respectfully.

You may say it in any manner that pleases you, Hays said. It is simply that I am in a good mood this morning. He looked at the stove. Is that hot coffee?

It is, Aldridge replied. It’s been there steaming and inviting every morning for myself and Mister Stephans over these past ten years.

The other man he referred to was Lieutenant Tim Stephans, who was Hays’s young second-in-command. Because of his subordinate position, the mornings always found that youthful officer at the reveille formations while Hays slept off the previous night’s drunk.

However, even Sergeant Aldridge would have to admit that Hays’s habits of arising late were practiced only in garrison. When the company was on active campaigning out in the field against hostile Indians, Hays was always the first up in the morning. He would be alert, eager, cold sober, and ready to get down to the business at hand.

Hays got himself a cup from several that sat on the windowsill. He poured some coffee and took a noisy sip. Ah! Now, that’s the way to start the morning.

Does Mister Stephans know you’re taking reveille this morning? the first sergeant asked. It would be a shame for him to get up early for nothing.

Of course, Hays answered. I told him last night in the back of the sutler’s store. He referred to the room where Fort Laramie’s officers gathered for drinks, card playing, and other recreational activities.

Were you drunk or sober? Aldridge asked pointedly. I was drunk, Hays answered just as candidly.

And he believed you?

Of course, Hays said, taking another sip of coffee. He was drunk, too.

That explains it, then, Aldridge remarked.

The notes of reveille interrupted any further conversation. This was immediately followed by the sound of bellowing noncommissioned officers rousting their men out of the barracks to form up for the day’s first formation.

Aldridge glanced out the window. Our company is formed up proper, sir, he announced.

Then by all means, let’s hold reveille, good Sergeant Aldridge, Hays said. We mustn’t keep our brave dragoons waiting.

The pair of veterans marched from the orderly room. Hays went behind the company while Aldridge went to the front. He called the soldiers to attention, then announced: Section leaders, report!

First Section, two men guard, one man sick! the leader bawled out.

Second Section, all present and accounted for! the sergeant in charge of that group reported.

As Aldridge made an about-face, Captain Darcy Hays marched around the company to spot in front of him. The men’s eyes opened wide at the sight of the captain taking the formation’s report rather than the young Lieutenant Tim Stephans. Some of the newer men had never seen their company commander that early in the morning except out in the field on campaign duty.

Sir! Aldridge, saluting, shouted in Hays’s face. ‘L’ Company has two men guard, one man sick, all others present and accounted for.

Hays, wincing at the loudness, returned the salute. Take your post, Sergeant. He waited for the first sergeant to go around to the back of the formation. Stand at ease!

The company stamped into a position with feet spread shoulder-width and their hands clasped together in front of them.

Good morning, men! Hays said happily.

Good morning, sir! they replied in an orchestrated shout.

I spoke with Mister Stephans last night, and he tells me that you’re going to be cleaning carbines all day today, Hays said. I want you all to take particular care in the work. Your lives depend on your carbines, men. When hostiles are on the warpath, a dirty weapon will mean your death and the loss of your scalp. That’s as sure as shit stinks. He paused. And we all know that is true from the way the latrines smell on a hot summer’s day.

A bit of polite chuckling was exhibited by the men.

But seriously, Hays continued. I just want to let you know what a fine group of men you are. Why, I don’t think I’ve commanded a finer company in my thirty years of service in this grand old United States Army.

We thank the captain! came a disorganized chorus.

I’m just asking you to keep up the good work at everything you do from drill to patrolling, Hays said. He displayed a paternalistic smile. That’s all I wanted to say to you. He took a deep breath and yelled, First Sergeant!

Aldridge marched back around to the front and positioned himself in front of the company commander. He saluted.

Take charge of the company, Hays said. He turned and marched away.

Aldridge, with his duty roster in hand, watched the captain leave the area. He was more than a little puzzled by the unusual conduct, but had too busy a day ahead of him to give it a lot of thought at that particular time. He faced the soldiers, saying, Now! As well as the cleaning of weapons, we have to furnish some men to dig sumps on the west side of the post. As your names are called—

Hays, now out of earshot of the first sergeant, continued walking across the post until he reached headquarters. He bounded up the six steps to the porch, crossed it, and went straight inside. He rapped on the adjutant's door and stepped up to the man's desk.

The adjutant, a harried lieutenant named Hawker, was slightly annoyed at the interruption from his morning's first chore of preparing strength returns. What can I do for you, sir? he asked.

Just one thing, really, Hawker, old man, Hays said. But quite important, nevertheless. I would like the form to apply for retirement from active duty.

Hawker forgot his work. So it wasn't the whiskey talking last night, hey? You're really going to retire?

Don't you think thirty years of serving on the frontier, not counting that two-year stint down south fighting Mexicans, is sufficient service for one man? Hays asked.

If that man manages to only reach the rank of captain in all that time and turmoil, I suppose, Hawker said with a sardonic grin.

Well, now, Lieutenant, I'm sure you'll be at least a colonel, if not a general, when your anniversary of thirty years' military service comes around, Hays said. But those of us with fewer talents, and who also have a distaste for staff duty in offices, must do the best with what we’ve got.

Hawker reached in his desk and pulled out a large cardboard envelope. He searched through it and pulled out a form. Fill this out and return it to me along with a letter officially requesting retirement from the service, he said. I’ll see that it is all packaged up nicely and sent directly to the Adjutant General at the War Department to have you placed on the retired list as quickly as possible.

I shall comply with your instructions this very morning, Hays said. You should have it all on your desk before midday. I thank you most kindly, Lieutenant Hawker.

You are certainly welcome, Captain Hays, Hawker said.

Hays, grinning widely, left headquarters and took a brisk walk across the post back to his quarters. The two-room building was nestled in a line of similar structures called Officers’ Row. These were the domiciles of the officers stationed at Fort Laramie. Although this included some staff from quartermaster, ordnance, and the engineers, most of the rankers were like Captain Darcy Hays, serving in the regiment of dragoons stationed at the post.

Hays went into his quarters and tossed his cap on the table by the door. After putting the packet of papers down beside the headgear, he walked to the rocking chair and sat down. Grimacing, he rubbed his knees where the rheumatism had gotten particularly painful over the past few years.

Darcy Lafayette Hays had been born in Cumberland County, North Carolina, fifty years before. He was a member of the fourth generation of a tobacco-growing family that had prospered well since their arrival in America in 1645. Coming down from Maryland, Hays’s great-great-grandfather had literally hacked out farmland from the pine forest. His efforts were ultimately to result in a large plantation complete with a mansion, smaller houses, quarters for field hands, smokehouses, a blacksmith barn, stables, and other minor edifices so necessary in a large, prosperous organization. The captain’s great-grandfather, grandfather, and father continued the good work, each adding more riches and property. Hays’s pater took time off to fight the English in the American Revolutionary War. His military duty was sporadic during eight long years, consisting of riding with General Francis Marion— the Swamp Fox—in partisan warfare in the hinterlands of the Carolinas.

When Darcy Hays was born, he entered the full-blown life of the southern aristocracy. While such an environment consisted of many genteel and luxurious surroundings and conditions, the young gentlemen of that class were expected to be expert horsemen, hunters, marksmen, and swordsmen, and to possess other skills required for a rugged outdoor life. This included the demands to possess a great capacity to endure physical hardship and outright danger. It was not surprising that most of those scions of wealth entered young adulthood fully qualified to be damned good soldiers. Many, like Hays, were attracted to military life.

Hays’s father had no objections when the boy expressed a desire to enter the Army. With three other sons to run the family enterprise, Darcy could easily be spared to pursue another way of life, if he so desired. The newly established military academy at West Point, New York, offered a good way into the service as a commissioned officer. That was where Darcy went for his premier military training and schooling as a naive sixteen-year-old boy in 1821. Although the school had been authorized in 1802, it wasn’t until 1812 that it became a folly operative military academy. Thus, only nine years of classes had been going on when the young North Carolinian presented himself to become a cadet

Hays was no intellectual. He detested classroom work and was barely able to qualify for graduation or an army commission. He was a popular prank-playing, rule-breaking, demerit-receiving military student. The Corps of Engineers, the elite of the army officer cadre, had no place for such an individual. Thus, when Cadet Darcy Hays came off the West Point

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