The Wronged Man’s Reckoning (Preview)


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Sixteen-year-old Matthew Darcy woke with a start. His instinct was to jump out of bed and investigate, but it was a few seconds before his brain connected properly. He heard a thump and a shuffling sound outside his bedroom door. Then his sisters began screaming in the room next to his.

Matt leaped to his feet, throwing his quilt violently to the side. He almost screamed his sisters’ names but something told him not to. He went to the door of his room and, despite the chaotic noises coming from the other side, he stayed where he was for a moment or two, listening. Hearing his father’s voice, he yanked the door open and ran out into the hallway. At the railing on the other side, he looked over, down to the first floor. His father was standing by the front door, on alert, a pistol in one hand and a rifle in the other.

Matt’s brother Jonathan, younger by two years, came running from another room.

“I got it, Pa!” he said in an urgent voice.

“Good job, son. Take this.” He handed the boy the rifle. “You go to the back of the house and shoot anyone who tries to get in. But don’t let yourself get shot neither!”

“Of course, Pa.” Jonathan was gone in a second. Matthew’s father’s eyes darted up to him.

“Matt, go get your sisters. They’re crying!”

“Yes, Pa,” Matt called back, nodding. He spun to the left and ran to the door of the girls’ room.

Bursting through, the first thing Matt saw horrified him. His sister Lana was by the window, which was shattered. It only took a few seconds for Matt to realize what had happened.

He ran to her and dropped to his knees, grabbing her twin sister, Becky. The little girl was covered in blood. Matt discovered with horror that she had been shot through the throat. Blood soaked her clothes and those of her sister, who had likely grabbed her as soon as she was shot.

“She… she was… standing by… the window…” his six-year-old sister explained in short breaths through her sobs. “What… what’s… going on… Becky, Becky…”

Matt looked up at the window, understanding Lana, grief and sorrow piercing him like a hot blade.

“We can’t help her. Come on, we got to go see Pa. He’ll tell us what to do.”

“But… but… we can’t leave her. We can’t.”

“Pa will come back and get her. We’ve got to go see if we can help.”

“Who are those people, Matty? Why are they shooting at our house?”

Matt had a good feeling he knew who those people were. For at least two weeks, he’d been overhearing his father lamenting to his mother that a wealthy landowner, Barnaby Lincoln, was trying to strike a deal with a good friend of his.

Matt had heard of the Lincoln family. The father, Taylor, had built an empire from just a few acres of land. Unfortunately, he’d climbed his way to the top by stepping on as many people as he needed to, without regard for anyone but himself. Even his children didn’t rank high in Taylor’s eyes. The oldest, Barnaby, was his right hand man and the youngest, Andrew, had left home at sixteen. No one had heard from him since in four years.

That was all Matt knew about the family, but it was enough for him to be concerned that they had come to seek revenge for his father interfering and stopping the deal between his friend and Barnaby Lincoln.

He scooped Lana up and was out the door and down the stairs to his father moments later. Pa saw him as he was instructing his mother to stand guard in the kitchen, and for his other brother, Timothy, to stay with his mother.

“Matt! Matt!” His father came rushed to him, placing one hand on his shoulder. He looked directly in his eyes and lifted one finger to hold up between the two of them. “Matt, you have to be strong and brave now. I need you to get Lana out of here. We’ll be right behind you. Take your sister and go down under the house, through the door in the floor of the pantry. There’s a tunnel down there and it will lead you away from here.”

“I’m not leaving you all!” Matt snapped. “That’s ludicrous. We all have to go.”

“We will be right behind you,” his father repeated. “But right now, we’re going to create a diversion for you and Lana to get out of here.”

Matt’s breathing became erratic. His heart slammed in his chest. He was squeezing Lana so hard she squeaked and asked him to stop, pushing at him with both hands.

“I’m gonna put you down but you have to move fast, okay, Lana?”

“Be careful down there in that tunnel. There’s a bag of things you might need in the pantry near the door. Take that with you. I put it together a week ago when I thought something might happen.”

Matt tried to stay his anger. “You knew this might happen? Why didn’t you warn us?” But it wasn’t the time to be arguing with his father and he knew it. “I’m sorry, Pa,” he added immediately, shaking his head.

“Just go, Matty. We’ll be right behind you.” He cupped Matt’s cheek with one hand and his daughter’s with the other. “I love you both so very much. You stay in town, hidden near the sewing shop. There’s a barn there… We’ll be there as soon as we can get away from here.”

“Hurry, Pa. Please hurry.”

There was banging on the walls all around them. Fear stabbed at Matt when he looked at one of the windows and saw a face appear—the face of Barnaby Lincoln.

Chills covered his body. He grabbed his sister up in his arms again and ran to the pantry, which was practically another room attached to the kitchen. After he yanked up the door in the floor, but before he jumped down the stairs to go under the house, he snatched the sack in the corner tied at the top with twine, forming a loop to carry it.

He looked back one more time, listening to his father’s booming voice as he barked instructions to his brothers and mother. “I love you all,” he whispered.

With an aching heart, he slipped down under the house.

Chapter One

The heat beat down on Matt’s head, baking it under the tan hat he was wearing. He’d tied a bandana around his head just under his hat so it would soak up the sweat, keeping it from dripping into his eyes.

He was twenty-one. He’d been following Barnaby Lincoln from town to town, watching him destroy people’s lives while he tried to gain the strength and courage to confront the man. When he was sixteen, he’d had the sense to know he couldn’t take on someone like Lincoln by himself.

But Matt had quickly realized there was no one he could depend on but himself. He’d lost his entire family and the house he’d grown up in to fire, a fire set by Barnaby Lincoln and his men. He had never found out for sure, but he still believed it was retaliation for Matt’s father ending a deal Barnaby had wanted to make.

For five years, he’d felt guilty. He shouldn’t have left his family. He should have stayed and helped to fight, even though that surely would have meant his death and the death of his baby sister.

When Matt and his sister escaped the deadly rampage on their family and home, he’d left Lana at the orphanage. When he’d returned six months later, as he’d promised he would, she had been adopted out and no one would tell him where they’d sent her.

Heartbroken and angry at seventeen, his life destroyed from the way he’d known it, Matt traveled the roads with two agendas: to find his sister and get revenge on the man who’d derailed his journey on earth.

One of the things he’d discovered was the beauty and intrigue of books. He’d always had a love of reading. When he was young, it was a source of entertainment. Now, he filled his head with as much knowledge as he could get. He’d acquired his own horse and a packing mule that carried his many books.

It was a good thing mules were strong. Half of the saddlebags the mule carried were filled with notebooks. The only way Matt could really learn and remember something was by writing it down.

“Hey you!”

Matt was ripped from his thoughts when an old man on his front porch spotted him passing and decided to nearly scare him off his horse. His head whipped around and he glared at the man before relaxing his face and nodding once.

“Howdy,” he greeted him as casually as he could. “How’s it goin’ in these parts? You doin’ all right, old man?”

“I reckon so. What you doin’ around here? You got business?”

Matt was curious why the old man wanted to know. He looked around at the town he was entering. The sign he’d passed five minutes ago identified the place as Broken Branch. He’d caught sight of a newspaper in the last place he’d been in and was glad he had a reason to leave. The city had become rowdy. Lincoln’s men were there. That was why Matt had been there. Barnaby himself had never showed up, so Matt had stalked his men and eavesdropped until he’d overheard where Barnaby currently was.

“Never got business,” he responded to the old man, continuing to ride down the street. “Just lookin’ for a place to rest my head before I move on.”

“Bucky’s has some nice rooms!” the man yelled out as if it was his duty to advertise for the place. Maybe he owned it. Who knew?

Matt let himself smile and turned his head to call back, “Hey, thanks, buddy. I’ll check them out.”

When the shops started, he spotted a café on the corner of the main road and a side road, and he turned his horse to head that way. Broken Branch was smaller than the city he’d just been in, but it wasn’t the smallest town he’d visited in the last five years. This place had a jailhouse, a hotel, Bucky’s Boarding House, and several shops selling wares like hats, dresses, shoes, and saddles.

There were people walking around but none of them greeted him like the old man had. In fact, they didn’t really even look at him. At the café, he dismounted smoothly, throwing the reins over the wooden hitching rail that ran along the front of the eatery.

He went up the steps, listening to the creaking of the boards under his feet. Despite the movement of the people around him, it was surprisingly quiet. There were many external sounds, like horses and oxen neighing and snorting, clopping hooves, wagon wheels, birds, dogs, and the light breeze blowing. He even heard some cats in an alleyway fighting. But it seemed like no one was talking.

Matt looked over his shoulder. Everyone looked serious. He wondered why.

Maybe the staff in the café would know.

He passed the threshold and headed for a table near the large window in front. He liked to keep an eye on his animals. His mule, Jack, was carrying a number of valuable books, though potential thieves wouldn’t realize that and would likely dump the lot if they stole anything from him. So far, he’d never lost even one book or notebook, and Jack was never missing either. Matt had to assume thieves looked in the packs before they took anything and no one wanted his personal thoughts or the books he had.

Matt wanted to learn everything. Unfortunately, that didn’t help his quest for vengeance for his family, stolen from him in such a brutal manner. It was his life’s mission to take the Lincoln family down. But knowing how to read long words and use them, or to do equations and understand things like gravity and science, none of those things lead to a successful revenge against any of the Lincolns, much less Barnaby himself.

What was he planning to do? Outthink them to death?

Matt rolled his eyes, sliding into the chair and looking out at his mule.


He spun his head back to see the waitress had approached the table and was holding a carafe out to him.

“I can pour you some right now, if you like.”

“Thanks.” Matt turned the cup over in the saucer. “Can you tell me why everyone looks so serious? It’s quiet as a church mouse out there.”

The girl leaned forward and peered through the window, sliding her eyes from left to right. She looked sad. “That’s because the Lincolns have settled here, I think. I try to stay out of it. But that’s what I think.”

Matt didn’t respond. He looked back out the window. That was why he was here. Apparently, he wasn’t the only one who didn’t care for the Lincoln family. He was going to confront Barnaby himself. He would be armed, and he had learned several fighting moves in case his gun was taken from him.

But was he really going to kill the man?

Was he even capable of something like that?

Chapter Two

Matt spotted the object of his quest fifteen minutes later, while stuffing the last bit of a ham sandwich in his mouth. He almost choked, got himself under control, and pulled away from the window as if Barnaby Lincoln would recognize him. But as far as Barnaby knew, his whole family, including himself and Lana, were dead.

Five years had passed and Matt didn’t look like a sixteen-year-old anymore. He wasn’t a boy. He was a man. Complete with facial hair and a dogged, down-and-out look on his face. He couldn’t help that. It was the way he looked. If he shaved, he did look like that sixteen-year-old again and that drove him crazy.

Barnaby Lincoln walked into the saloon. Matt got up, tossing some coins on the table to pay for his meal and heading out the door to cross the street and go in after him.

The saloon, as opposed to the bright and cheery café, was dark and chilly, as if a fire hadn’t been lit there in months. The lamps hanging on the walls didn’t give off much heat, and Matt got a bad feeling the moment he stepped in. Something was looming. And he knew what it was.

For years, he’d been planning this moment. He would finally get a chance to catch Barnaby alone. Five long years of tracking, finding, losing, finding again, losing again, more tracking… Every time he found Barnaby, the man was not alone.

Matt had his doubts he would be able to take Barnaby on his own. He certainly wouldn’t be capable if the man was surrounded by his guards and the men in his gang.

Sometimes he wondered why Taylor Lincoln, as important and powerful as the real estate mogul was, didn’t take a firmer hand where his eldest son was concerned. Was he as corrupt as his son? In the years Matt had been following Barnaby, he’d only seen the man with his father on a handful of occasions. They’d appeared civil, but if Matt didn’t know that was Barnaby’s father, no affection shown would have clued him in to that fact. Because there was no affection shown. On either side.

Matt didn’t know anything about the rest of the family. All he knew was that Barnaby and his gang had attacked and destroyed his family home, killing everyone except him and Lana. He’d lost Lana because of Barnaby, too. For all he knew, the evil man had arranged an adoption after figuring out who Lana was.

He wouldn’t let himself think that. It hurt enough that he didn’t know how to find her. The only comfort he’d found was convincing himself his sister was safe with people who cared about her and were raising her with love.

Walking straight to the bar, Barnaby chatted with some of the men around him, slapping them on the shoulder, making it obvious he’d been drinking before he got to the saloon. Hopefully that would make it easier when Matt confronted him.

His heart slammed in his chest for the next full hour and a half while Barnaby drank and talked and laughed with the men around him. He was “hiding from the gang,” he told them, while they were all planning things back at the mansion. His family was to have a big party. Some kind of gathering for the criminal element, Matt had no doubt. He couldn’t help wondering how many criminals would be attending that gala.

His upper lip curled but he hid it by lifting the beer mug and taking a long drink, peeking over the edge at Barnaby. His heart did a jump when it looked like the man glanced at him. He turned his body slowly to make it seem he was looking the other way.

Would he recognize Matt? There had been a picture in the paper, but none of them showed him clearly and they were from when he was sixteen. His family had been featured in a memorial edition of most newspapers in the area. They’d only had the one family photograph done and it was impossible to see their faces well as it had ended up being quite blurry. Still, they’d been satisfied with the representation.

Staring at his family’s photograph in a newspaper announcing they’d all been slaughtered by unknown attackers was one of the most surreal things he’d ever done. He wasn’t dead. Lana wasn’t dead. But he could say nothing.

Not until he was satisfied he’d gotten justice for the rest of them.

Over the years, he’d tried to train himself to box, to fight, to shoot well. He’d discovered reading and delving into books to be much more entertaining and fun, while training to get revenge on the killer of his family had been work.

Finally, Barnaby stood up, a little wobbly, and excused himself from the rest of the men. He was going outside to relieve himself. Too many beers in there, he said loudly, stumbling a bit but making it to the door and yanking it open a little too hard. Matt waited only a few minutes before dropping a coin onto the counter and heading outside.

He rounded the corner and came up behind Barnaby, who was facing the wall, relieving himself on the ground in the corner. Matt waited until he was done and had turned around. He surprised Barnaby, whose eyes widened. His eyebrows shot up and he took a step back. Right into his own urine.

Barnaby turned his head and looked down at his boot, pulling it out of the wet ground and moving it to a small grassy spot nearby.

“What are you doing? Are you watching me? You disgusting—”

“I wasn’t watching you, you murdering monster,” Matt cut him off, growling his words as anger spilled through him. “You killed my family. You killed my whole family, and now I’m going to kill you.”

Barnaby looked unbothered. His face relaxed. “I’ve killed a lot of people, boy. Who are you even talking about?”

Rage made Matt tremble. Not wanting it to be mistaken for fear, Matt pulled his gun from the holster and cocked it, taking a step back and aiming it at the man. “My father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters—you killed them all when you burned down our home five years ago! I’m Matthew Darcy. You killed my family and now I’m going to kill you.”

The time had come. All he had to do was pull the trigger. He hated that his hand trembled and wobbled the gun. He hated that he had tears in his eyes and could barely see his target, who was laughing in a humiliating way.

“You ain’t gonna shoot me, little boy. Give me that!”

His anger spilled over and he cried out when Barnaby snatched the gun right out of his hands. Spinning it around, the man began to beat him on the side of the head with the butt. Pain split through his head. He leaned down and tried to protect himself with both arms.

When he bent over, Barnaby brought up one knee and slammed it into Matt’s face, just next to his nose. Left even slightly and his nose would have broken. Still, the pain was unbearable.

He groaned and dropped to the ground, feeling the impact of Barnaby’s tipped boots on various parts of his body until everything went black.

Chapter Three

Just before Matt passed out, he was sure he’d seen a group of people gathering at the entrance to the alleyway where he’d found Barnaby. When he woke, it was dark out and there was no one around. He pushed up from the ground, where he’d been lying crumpled on his right side, his cheek planted in the mud.

He hoped that mud was from the recent rain and not from Barnaby relieving himself.

His entire body was on fire when he tried to push to sit up. Tears streaked down his cheeks and when he wiped them away with the back of his hand, he figured the streak of mud and sweat and tears he saw there was probably on his cheek, too. He needed to find a well or a clean enough water trough.

Matt turned himself slightly to sit up but the pain was too much. He froze and tried to breathe through it, assessing what could have happened to his body. He likely had a split lip and a broken eye socket or cheek bone, judging by the pain coming from those two places. His left side ached when he breathed, which might be a rib or two, fractured or broken. He ran his hand along his legs, which were both pulled up close to him, and didn’t feel any broken bones.

His behind and groin were unharmed and he thanked God for that. His face was probably a destroyed mess, but his arms and legs were still working. He was still breathing, conscious, and able to think and analyze. He groaned softly and let himself rest back against the wall. He was closer to the main road than he’d been while fighting Barnaby.

He snorted, sending more pain through his body. He hadn’t been fighting Barnaby. The man had beaten him soundly. Matt hadn’t even gotten so much as a slap in.

All that work, all that time, all those years… for nothing. Nothing.

He wanted to sob like a baby. What did he have other than his life and some books and a horse and a packing mule?

Nothing. Now he’d lost all hope of ever getting justice for his family. He couldn’t find his sister when he had nothing to offer her. He wouldn’t take her away from a family that had been caring for her for so long. Would Lana even remember him? It had been such a long time.

“Hey, you.”

Matt blanched when he heard a voice near him. His eyes snapped up to two men standing at the entrance to the alley, staring at him. One of them was holding up a lantern, casting light on Matt’s face.

“You look awful.” The same man spoke, taking a step closer. “You need some help?”

Matt bit back the sarcastic response that almost came out. He wanted to say, “Of course I need help. Why would you ask that?” But these two men might be able to keep him alive. If he didn’t get medical treatment soon, he would probably pass out and not make it through the night. So he pushed the pain down to answer in a more respectable manner.

“I could use some help, yeah,” was the best he could manage. “Thanks.”

The two men approached and Matt saw that it was an older man with a man that was probably just a bit older than he was. They both looked like they’d been on the road for a while, both unshaven and somewhat dirty. Their clothes looked a little ragged, but they might have just come from work and no one wore their Sunday best to a hard job.

He lifted one hand and took the extended hand of the younger man.

“Ross Sessions,” the older man said while the younger one hefted Matt to his feet, taking most of the pressure off him as he rose.

“Thanks,” he muttered gratefully.

The younger man nodded. “David Crane. You can call me Dave.”

“Dave.” Matt nodded back at him. He turned his gaze to Ross and nodded at him, too. “Ross. The name is Matt. Matt Darcy.” He swiped the back of his hand across his bloody lip, regretting it immediately. His hand wasn’t clean. He’d smeared mud into the wound. What an idiot.

Groaning in pain and disgust, Matt slumped but was caught by both men on either side of him. David whipped out a handkerchief and dipped it in a puddle nearby, handing it to Matt, who gave him a grateful look.

“There you go, there you go,” Ross said in a fatherly way. “Let’s get you to the ranch. You need to be taken care of. Sylvia will help you. Natural nurse, our Sylvia. She’ll know just what to do.”

Once Matt was on the back of Dave’s horse, sagging against the man in front of him, he felt a little better. It was less painful when he wasn’t trying to walk. He was sure to be bruised from head to toe in the morning.

He was trying hard not to feel sorry for himself and was extremely grateful when Ross handed him a canteen filled with whiskey. That would kill his pain, even if just temporarily.

“Drink some of this, son. It’s sure to do you some good.”

“Thanks. I really appreciate it.”

“You ready to tell us how you got in this shape?” Ross asked, taking it back after Matt had taken a few swigs.

“Somebody beat me up,” he said. He was beginning to feel the effect of the alcohol. The pain was ebbing away, slowly dissolving into a warm thud in his brain.

“Clearly,” Dave said from in front of him. “You should just tell him, Ross.”

Matt heard those words and was alert once more. He narrowed his eyes at Ross. “What do you mean? What do you need to tell me?”

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Matt was screaming at himself. He’d been “saved” by men he didn’t know, men who might also want to hurt him. Maybe they were Barnaby’s men. Maybe the ranch they were taking him to was the Lincoln ranch, a huge estate with at least three homes on it, numerous barns, outbuildings for storage, two stables filled with horses and both a vegetable and flower garden that seemed to stretch on for miles.

The reason Matt knew this was because he’d spent at least three months over the last three years exploring the land, staying out of sight, watching the family members and staff on the estate, and even narrowly escaping “capture” by making up stories and pretending to work there on a few occasions. He’d considered trying to get a job there but was afraid of how he would act. He worried he would give himself away and end up getting killed.

“You want me to tell him?” Ross asked. “I don’t mind.”

“Yeah, tell him,” Dave responded, nodding.

Matt’s mind cleared enough for him to listen to what Ross said next. The man’s words made his heart soar.

“We’ve been following you, watching you for the last couple towns. About three weeks. You’re after Barnaby Lincoln, aren’t you? We are, too. You want to join us? We can help you get what you want. What do you say?”

Chapter Four

The kid looked like he was on death’s door, but once they got him in the buggy and had him resting on a big blanket, he at least looked happier. Ross helped him up into the back seat and Dave got up front, taking the reins in his hands.

“We’re gonna take you to Dave’s, okay? His family will take care of you.”

Matt moved his one good eye between the two of them. His left eye was so swollen, there was no way he could see out of it. Ross felt pain in his own face looking at the young man. That eye socket had to be broken. The kid was lucky his eye hadn’t come out.

“How old are ya?” he asked once they were on the road.

“I’m twenty-one,” Matt grunted out.

He didn’t look twenty-one. He didn’t look a day older than, say, seventeen. Maybe eighteen. Even with the facial hair. It was the eyes that did it. They were too innocent. He looked trusting, gullible, and weak.

Ross and Dave had been following him almost for that reason alone. They’d been informed that the notorious Barnaby Lincoln had bought up some land near Broken Branch, their hometown. That was two months ago.

As soon as they found out the plan, they had attended town meetings to voice their objections, which fell on deaf ears. When their pleas went unheard, they traveled to the Lincoln mansion and waited. They waited three days until Barnaby visited and started following him from that point on.

A month into their surveillance, they noticed Matt. They had discussed the boy at length and kind of figured eventually they would have to save him. He was vulnerable, obviously inexperienced and untrained. Ross was just glad they’d found him when they did, though a little sooner would have probably been better. Then the kid wouldn’t be so beat up.

Dave turned around when they were on their way to his ranch, casting compassionate eyes on Matt in the back. “So, you up for tellin’ us why you been followin’ Barnaby?”

“The Wronged Man’s Reckoning” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Beneath the vast, unyielding skies of the West, Matthew Darcy is a man pursued by the shadows of his past. His life, once tranquil and full of promise, was shattered when Barnaby Lincoln mercilessly destroyed his family. Carrying the burden of this tragedy and the loss of his young sister to an uncaring system, Matthew is driven by a relentless thirst for justice. But can a man so engulfed in the quest for revenge find a path back to peace?

Matthew’s journey for retribution could lead to his salvation or his undoing…

Ross Sessions, a seasoned marshal weathered by the trials of the West, finds himself at a crossroads. Encountering Matthew beaten and broken, Ross sees in him a reflection of his own turbulent past. As Ross contemplates aiding Matthew in his quest against the Lincolns, he grapples with the demons of his history and the fine line between upholding justice and succumbing to the lure of vengeance.

Is Ross’s wisdom enough to steer their quest toward justice without losing themselves to the darkness?

As their paths intertwine, Matthew and Ross brace for a confrontation that will echo through the annals of the West. In a land where every moment is steeped in danger, their final stand against tyranny will determine not just their fate, but their very souls.

“The Wronged Man’s Reckoning” 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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