When the Innocent Avenge (Preview)


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Chapter One

Duncan Hale rode his speckled stallion Fargo over the Augusta mountains and downward toward the plain. The crags gave them some cover, elm and fir trees sprouting out of the mountainside. It was the perfect spot for an ambush, just another facet of the raid which gave Duncan pause.

It had been a hard season with Calvin “Cal” Travertine’s gang, called the Nevada Nine, though the numbers rose and fell as the months and the raids came and went. Duncan had been riding with them for almost three months, but he knew he’d had enough. This would be his last raid with them, either way things shook out.

The unwitting victims lay below, snaking along the trail across the Shoshone mountains and westward toward California, in its twentieth year of statehood. They were all men, a fact that disgruntled a lot of the gang but relieved Duncan. He didn’t mind killing a man if that was the way things had to be, but killing a woman was something he’d never done and never would do. He’d been lucky that none of their raids had included female hostages. He knew what would come of them, the horror they’d face at the hands of their captors, amid other points of disinterest. His own mother had suffered such torturous degradation and he wasn’t about to participate or even watch it happen.

He knew his time was running out. Those maniacs were bound to stumble upon some poor wayward girl, and heaven would have to help her when they did. She’d be better off dead, and would likely even be denied that merciful fate. Instead, just about any woman who fell under such an attack by men like those he rode with would be misused to the point of near-death, then sold or traded or bartered to the nearest passing trapper, miner, or mountain man looking for a breeder.

The gang snaked down the hill, crags still helping them blend into their surroundings until they were close enough to break and charge at them. They were still a bit too far off, so Cal held the men back. But they were also trapped against the side of the mountain, risking being seen.

It wasn’t a perfect ambush, after all; another fact that would act against them.

Good, Duncan thought. Let them open fire on us, cut these wild bastards down. I’d do it myself if I didn’t stand such a good chance of being killed. But of all the bloodthirsty goons I’ve ridden with, these are the worst by far. Even Satan wouldn’t have them.

But until then, there was still work to be done. There were six armed men, saddlebags filled with what was rumored to be gold from the mountains. By the look of the bags slung over the horses’ haunches, it was easy for Duncan to believe.

Well, Duncan thought, anyone fool enough to have kind of money on him way out here is going to bring in unwanted interest, that’s a simple fact. Out here, we all take our chances. A man’s game carries a man’s risk and pays out in a man’s coin, forged more often in lead than in gold.

And the nation had proven itself to be filled with cutthroats and conmen, bastards and rascals of every stripe. Even those who called themselves good or law-abiding men would still cut a throat for five dollars or a hot bath. In a world of kill or be killed, Duncan had long determined not to be killed.

And the men around him were just the sort of men he could kill and still sleep the sleep of the righteous. They were men who had traded their souls for the privilege of murder and rape, and those were men who needed killing more often than not.

Duncan never liked raiding, knowing that death was riding alongside him, that somebody would not live to see the sunset, perhaps many more than just one. But it had become a rugged and untamed country. Its laws had proven to be tenuous, the entire experiment nearly brought down by the recent war. It had revealed the terrible truth of the country’s actual nature, the divisive facts of right and wrong and love of thy neighbor, which could still tear the floundering United States apart. In eighteen-hundred-and-seventy, there was still as much struggle and strife as there had been during the war or in the years before it.

Duncan had to wonder, more than once, if the county was meant to be a place of peace, of if it didn’t deliberately forge men like himself, men like the others, to put one another to the test and render a community of only the strongest, only the smartest. Like the oceans, the country had become a world of gliding monsters, where only the sharpest teeth would survive. Whether it would always be that way, Duncan could not and did not want to say.

They paused in those crags, waiting for their prey to get close enough for a strike.

Duncan had to wonder if they had any family, those men who were about to have to fight for their gold and for their lives. Do they have wives, Duncan’s voice asked to no answer, children anxious to throw their little arms around the necks of their fathers upon the long-awaited return, throwing their little selves into those strong, loving arms? Instead, Duncan was left to imagine the children waiting by the windows of their little houses, waiting for the first sight of a man who would never return.

Duncan could remember his own hours by a window; the days, the weeks, the years.

It was a tragic truth of life in the modern era, that survival was a struggle—against the forces of nature, against the will of other men and even women, even against the will of the self. No matter where a man turned, he faced a battle, and the stakes were always the same: his life, and his mortal soul.

Duncan hunkered down with the others, knowing that every second could reveal them, a glint of sunlight against the buckle of a saddle would be all that would be required to show their position, their number, draw fire before they could snake down the mountain and charge.

Duncan reassured himself, Who knows how vicious those men are to their sons, their wives, other women who are neither their wives nor children? For all I know, they could be devils incarnate, on their way to untold horrors inflicted on the innocent.

Kill them all; let God sort them out.

Cal gave the cue, sucking on his teeth loud and sharp, and the train of men began snaking down the sharp crags to the foothills and then to storm the riders at just the right moment. Duncan surveyed the other men as they readied for the attack.

Gimpy rode with his head low, boyish face grimacing in the glare. On horseback, his clubfoot was hardly a detriment. He stood just as tall as the other men and was just as deadly as anyone. Behind him, Buffalo Joe Wilks’ curly red hair and beard and beefy size told anybody at a glance how he got his moniker.

Handsome “Pennsylvania” Pete Boone rode his brown paint with an arrogant, cocky air that followed the heartbreaking outlaw wherever he went. Behind Penn, as he was often called for short, rode Ox, massive and widely thought to be damaged in the head. Nobody knew if he’d been kicked in the head by a horse, perhaps beaten into raw stupidity by an angry father, or if too much liquor in the old man’s system had fathered a natural-born idiot. It hardly mattered, and nothing was going to change the fact. But nobody dared mention it to him directly or even in his hearing.

The other men followed behind and around the core of the gang, Cal at the front. His long blond hair was pulled back, bushy sideburns stretching out from his cheeks. He rode with his second in command, Herb Franks, brown handlebar mustache giving him the look of a perpetual frown. It was no illusion.

They snaked down, the horses huffing as they seemed to sense the growing urgency, the rise in tension around them. Cal finally reached the flatter foothills, waiting as the other men gathered around him. The Nevada Nine—ten strong on that particular ride—rode out together in an explosive burst of speed and energy, deadly intent and bloodthirsty experience propelling them toward their prey, and for some, to their deaths.

Chapter Two

The men of the Nevada Nine hit the foothills hard and rode fast, hooves thundering beneath them. Duncan’s speckled stallion pulsed beneath him, the quickest and smartest animal he’d ever known. The horse had taken him across the known continent and some, way back before his time with Cal Travertine. Since then, even the beast seemed to know they were on the wrong path. He was loyal, dutiful, but still seemed to know more about right and wrong than the men of Cal’s gang.

They rode up on the six riders, who saw them coming and opened fire. The men scrambled as the Nevada Nine approached. The earth seemed to tremble beneath them as the gang bore down on the riders, their own guns drawn and blazing.

The crackle of gunfire was loud and furious, echoing like thunder overhead. Bullets flew unseen, no way to know from one moment to the next which would be a man’s last. Badly as Duncan felt about the paths which destiny had set for them all, certain to intersect at that very moment in time, the men were firing on him and that meant Duncan had no recourse. He was going to blast his way through his enemies before any of them could kill him first. That was the law of the land, the way of the world.

The stallion Fargo carried Duncan through the swirl of galloping horses and defenders, aiming and firing from pistol and rifle in every direction. The Nevada Nine formed a circle around them, a tactic adapted from the Indians to limit their chance of escape and cut down their numbers little by little.

Bang, bang-bang!

One of the defenders fell, his horse running out from under him. From the corner of his eye, Duncan watched One-Eye Willie run the horse down, blasting it in the flanks. The beast fell with a terrible cry.

But none of the horses could be allowed to escape, since they each had a possible fortune in gold strapped to it.

Bang-bang, bang, bang-bang!

One of the defenders had been attracted to the bloody assault, and he raised his Winchester on Willie and shot. Willie snapped forward and fell off his own horse, which nobody cared to pursue.

And while Willie’s murderer was savoring his victory, Duncan lined up his shot. Poor, dumb bastard, he thought as he lined up the sights. Adios.


The man snapped to the side, his horse running off, spooked. Duncan knew the man would be no further threat and he turned his attention to the others, to the struggle against the riders.


The riders were brave, but they were no match. The Nevada Nine had them outgunned, outmanned, and the speed of the attack and their superior tactics had been too much. The ground was soon littered with the bodies of presumably innocent men and their horses. All six of the beasts lay dead. One of them was still pinning its rider beneath its fallen body, leg stuck between the saddle and the hard ground. A figure behind him with long, black hair was pulling at the rider, clearly a man by his beefy build. But the other, behind him, looked up to reveal that, while the face was darker than a white, it was no Indian. She had the Asian features that were instantly recognizable: eyes turned downward, flat nose, thin lips.

“It’s a Chinawoman,” Buffalo Joe shouted.

The man seemed unarmed, grunting as he tried to pull himself free of his fallen mount, writhing in pain.

Duncan looked on in silent horror as Cal Travertine himself drew his Colt pistol, took careful aim, and shot the man dead, twice in the chest. He flinched and then lay still, the woman screaming and sobbing behind him.

“All right,” Cal said to Ox. “Collect the woman, we’ll bring her back.”

“A celestial?” Pennsylvania Pete winced in disgust. “Not me, brother. I hear they give you the plague.”

“She’ll be a good worker,” Cal said. “Grab her, Pete.” The Chinese woman let out a panicked gasp as Ox climbed down from his horse. Cal added, “Penn, Joe, go help him out.”

“For one little China?”

Cal and Penn stared each other down, a contest of wills. “She might know some them fancy fightin’ tricks. Now, do as I say.” A tense moment passed before Penn climbed down off his horse, Duncan looking on.

The three men circled the scrambling Chinese woman, desperate to run off in any direction but finding herself blocked at every turn. They were laughing like jackals, clearly enjoying her terror. It would only the be the start of their amusement and her misery.

Duncan looked at Cal, at the others, knowing the moment of truth had come at last. Duncan knew he hadn’t always lived the best life, whoever was truly to blame. But this was the line he dared not cross; beyond it was a man he did not want to be, and there was no going back.

Duncan said, “Hey, Cal, why not let her go?”

Cal said, “Hey, Duncan, why not shut your mouth?”

The three finally closed in on the poor Chinese woman, grabbing her arms and legs and dragging her back toward Cal and the others.

“I hear they can cast spells,” Duncan said, “curses and the like.”

“That true?” Buffalo Joe looked at Cal with new worry on his massive face. “Boss, that true?”

“What do you think, you dumb lummox?” Cal turned to Duncan. “What’s your play here, Duncan? What do you care about some China?”

“More trouble’n she’s worth, I say. We got all the horses, whatever gold they’ve got. Cut her loose, she won’t make it three days in the desert anyway.”

“Then why don’t I just shoot her now and leave her here?”

Duncan looked around, aware he’d attracted the attention of every member of the gang, on their horses or on the ground. And that didn’t seem to have escaped the Chinese woman’s attention, either. She seized on the moment, grabbing a pistol from Buffalo Joe’s holster and turning it to shoot Joe straight into the gut. He screamed and lurched forward, legs giving out as his tiny assassin prepared to turn the gun on Penn.

But Cal was faster, and his shooting as precise as always. One shot sent the Chinese woman stumbling back, dropping the pistol, and a second shot put her on the ground, motionless.

Cal shook his head and turned to Duncan. “You see the problem your big mouth has caused?”

Cal got off his mount, others doing the same, but not all. Cal walked up to Buffalo Joe, holding his bleeding guts, squirming in the dirt. “Help me up, Cal,” he barely managed to say. “God, it hurts.”

“Sure, Joe,” Cal said, “I’ll help ya up.” He aimed his pistol straight at Joe’s head. “Straight up to heaven. Good ride, brother.”

“No, please, Cal, don’t—!”


The big red gunslinger snapped and rolled and lay still in the dirt. Duncan wasn’t surprised. An injured man was worse than a liability. In many ways, it was the merciful thing. And a man thought to be weak was even worse than an injured man and was even more of a liability. Ox was suddenly at Duncan’s side, pulling him down off Fargo, who huffed and clopped out of the way. Ox and Penn grabbed Cal’s guns and tossed them aside, holding his arms as he struggled in the dirt.

“Hey, what’s going on?”

“You took sides against the gang,” Cal said. “Challenged my word of command. That got Buffalo Joe killed.”

“A woman,” Duncan said, “not even a white! You’d all stoop to that?”

Cal said, “Show him how the Nevada Nine treats turncoats and cowards, boys.”

Duncan surveyed the others as they closed in on him, unable to escape as they stepped up to within arm’s reach. “Today it’s me, next time it’ll be you, or you, or all of you!”

The first punches came fast, cracking across his face. Duncan’s brain reverberated in his skull, ringing with pain as the fists kept coming—the face, his ribs and belly. The breath was driven from his lungs, hard boots crashing into his skull, his back; hateful blows surrounded him, raining down from all sides.

Beyond the thuds of the leather boots, he heard the crunches and cracks of his own body as they mutilated it. Cal called, “Keep it up ‘til he’s dead, boys. Y’others find that gold?”

“Ain’t any, just… bedrolls and pots and pans, ain’t nothin’ any good, Cal!”

Duncan looked up to see Cal between the others, beyond their feet as they pounded into him from every direction. Cal took off his hat, swatted it against his leg, and surveyed the area. “Damnit, four good men, fer nothin’!”

Gimp said, “What about this’n?”

The kicking and pounding kept coming, and Cal said, “One o’ you put him out of his misery.”

Duncan knew then that he was going to die. It was not a surprise that violence would be his end, as it had been the end for so many others by his own hand. He knew that to live by the sword was to die by it, too.

Duncan flashed on the face of every man he’d had to kill. He could remember every fall from every horse, every twitch and flail as his victims met their match and their Maker. He could hear every gunshot echoing in the back of his brain, and he knew they might as well be firing directly at him; a celestial firing squad comprised of every man his own guns had taken down. They’d risen up like demons, like rotting corpses, to take their revenge.

So be it, Duncan thought, I’ve earned my portion. I’ll take my fill and pay my fare.

The bear’s roar came out of nowhere, loud and shocking. The men screamed and ran, the kicking quickly ceasing around him. But Duncan could not move, pain throbbing in every corner and pulsing through every fiber of his being.

A few gunshots rang out, the bear still roaring, and the horses ran and huffed.

“It’s the Chinawoman, the curse!”

“She’s come back as a bear!”

“Stop, men!”

“C’mon, boys!” Horses’ hooves hit the ground, vibrating into Duncan’s ear, pressed flat against the ground. It was loud and sudden but getting softer fast as they rode off in a blaze, the bear’s roar victorious as it thundered over the foothills.

Duncan was helpless, legs pulled up and arms over his head. The bear approached, sniffed around his bloodied head and body, grunting and growling as if preparing to feast.

“When the Innocent Avenge” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Duncan Hale leads a hazardous life, riding with The Nevada Nine, a merciless gang of robbers. When they partake in a nasty crime, he refuses to participate, a decision that will almost cost him his life. Under the frightful rein of the gang’s leader who orders his murder, Duncan will be tortured and left for dead. Luckily for him, a fearless man named Gus will come to his rescue. Together they will join forces on a risky mission of revenge, determined to deal with the endless challenges they encounter. As their pursuit takes them on many adventures, what are they willing to risk in order to put every last one of the gang members behind bars?

While Duncan and Gus are planning their payback, a beautiful woman, Yvonne Mahler, gets captured by the gang, and the two men vow to free her no matter what. However, Duncan quickly realizes that there is more to the feisty redhead than it appears, as she tricks the leader with her brilliant intellect. In an unexpected turn of events, she and Duncan finally meet and he can’t help but wonder whether they can partner up against the evil criminals. With her intentions finally revealed, will they manage to combine their excellent skills victoriously in a game of cat and mouse where anybody could come out as a winner?

Even though Duncan and Yvonne meet under the worst variety of circumstances, their lifetime adventure brings them closer together. However, as long as the gang continues to spread chaos, their love cannot flourish. Will they accomplish their goal and ultimately take the revenge they’ve been seeking? Or will they be both doomed to a dreadful fate?

An action-packed story, featuring complex and fascinating characters, and twists and turns that will take your breath away. A must-read for fans of Western action and romance.

“When the Innocent Avenge” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.

Get your copy from Amazon!


Grab my new series, "Legends of the Lawless Frontier", and get 2 FREE novels as a gift! Have a look here!

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