The Riflemen [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Tony Masero
eBook Category: Historical Fiction
eBook Description: Mexico, 1868. Two men. One white, one colored. Proficient in shooting with the long arm, the greatest long-range weapon of the age. The .50 caliber Sharps rifle. The ex-sharpshooters Nick Guardeen and Thaddeus Johnston receive an invitation from the Arizona State Governor. He offers them something they've never had before: land. So, for the promise of their very own homestead, they accept a highly dangerous mission across the border into Mexico. Hounded by a merciless gang of assassins, they press on into the desert redoubt of the self-styled and ruthless General Wyatt whose crazy ambition is nothing less than reinstating the Confederacy. Their only assistance comes from the beautiful and mysterious Christine Lenoir. She risks all as a spy in the heart of the renegade fortress, driven by her hatred for the General. Nick and Thaddeus need all their skills and fighting technique to survive against Apaches, murderers and a reinstated army of rebel forces.
eBook Publisher: Solstice Publishing/Solstice Publishing
Fictionwise Release Date: April 2011
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Sighting along the business end of his custom-made Sharps, Nick Guardeen brought the distant figures into focus. Below him on the valley floor, two men on horseback herded five head of cattle. Five head that didn't belong to them.
Slowly, so as not to upset his steady posture, Guardeen slipped an eighty gram .54 caliber cartridge from the marked ammunition belt at his waist and slid it into the breech. He steadied his breathing, slowed his heartbeat and eased back the hammer on the rifle.
"They too far off, Mister Nick," Thaddeus Johnston said.
"Be quiet. I'm concentrating here." Guardeen's long-time partner and one-time body slave lay beside him on the clifftop; they'd ridden together since they were children before the War, a war in which they fought side by side, first as slave and master and then later, after Lincoln's edict giving slaves their freedom, as fellow combatants. They'd both managed to come out the other side of the conflict intact. Well, almost intact. Guardeen sported three minie ball wounds about his body and Thaddeus favored his left leg a little after a deep thrust from a Johnny Reb saber.
"Must be best part of eight hundred yards," muttered Guardeen to himself as much as to Thaddeus, while he adjusted the gate on the rifle's open ladder sight. Check that elevation, then. No wind, but the updraft here off the canyon is going to count for something. Lucky it's early, it's not hot enough to raise a ripple down there yet awhile.
"They Mexican, you think?"
"Sure as hell are. Vaqueros over the line and set to driving them Three-B cows across the border. Going to advise them of their misdemeanor momentarily."
Guardeen held the four-foot weapon securely on the saddle blanket before him. The blanket was rolled tight and laid across the rocks to cut down the recoil and save the walnut stock from damage. He steadied his breathing. He trusted his technique. He'd learned his killing skills in that long, hard, vicious and ultimately self-destructive Civil War, but the shooting had been different then. Like potting rabbit and squirrel on the home farm in Pennsylvania where he'd been raised. The boys in butternut and gray, marching in long closed-up straight lines toward him across the battlefield, had made easy pickings for him in his hide. He always picked a high spot -- hill, tree, church steeple, whatever was to hand.
This was a different affair altogether though, riding gun for the cattle ranch. He let his breath out slowly and eased the sensitive well-oiled trigger back. Five hundred yards was the given range for a breech loading Sharps and this was a mite further than that. No point hesitating. With a boom the rifle leaped up in recoil and cast its .54 caliber missile high into the ether, looping the lead in a long sliding arc away down toward the distant figures.
The sound of the shot echoed up to them from the valley below and the pair waited, barely breathing, in expectation.
The far off tiny figure sitting astride his pony suddenly straightened up and flung his arms wide, then tumbled from the saddle.
"Well, I'll be!" Guardeen said, and grinned in satisfaction.
"You got him. You surely got him."
"He's no more than stunned, I reckon. At this range that bullet won't do any more than frighten them."
"You know what? I think you're getting better over time. Hell, I've never seen anything like that since we were with the 'Sharpshooters'."
"Different times, Thaddeus. Different days."
"What they doing down there now?" Thaddeus squinted into the distance, where the remaining vaquero was circling his pony around his fallen companion's horse in an obvious state of panic as he tried to catch up the riderless animal's reins.
Guardeen slipped open the breech and slid another cartridge into the rifle.