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Authors: Ralph Compton

The Dawn of Fury

BOOK: The Dawn of Fury
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Table of Contents
 
 
A LONG ROAD—AND LONGER ODDS
Nathan Stone was 19 years old. He had no home anymore, and no friends save a hound dog who wouldn't let Nathan go off without him. To get the horse and gun he desperately needed, he had to kill a man—and even though that killing was in self-defense, it was killing all the same.
 
That killing was Nathan Stone's first taste of what the future held as he sat tall in a dead man's saddle with a dead man's Colt at his hip ... from Kansas to Texas, from Arkansas to Colorado, from the streets of New Orleans to the trackless Indian Territory.
 
Each mile he covered was blood-slick with danger. Each card he turned was for deadly stakes. Each legendary outlaw he met was a different challenge. Each man he killed was one less on his list. Nathan Stone would never rest until he had done the impossible—track down seven men who struck like rattlers and fled like phantoms ... and made Nathan Stone the most feared gunfighter of the untamed West....
“Compton writes in the style of Louis L'Amour and Zane Grey.”
—Huntsville Times
 
“You won't be disappointed in the work of this very important writer.”
—-Tombstone
Epitaph
SIGNET
Published by New American Library, a division of
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,
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Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:
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First published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, December 1995
 
Copyright © Ralph Compton, 1995
All rights reserved
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
 
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
PUBLISHER'S NOTE
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.
eISBN : 978-1-101-12751-3

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Prologue
The James River Plantation, near Charlottesville, Virginia. November 15, 1865.
“Seven riders comin', suh,” said the old black man.
“Thank you, Malachi,” Joshua Stone said. “You're a free man now, and you'd best hide yourself. If they're Yankees, there could be trouble.”
Malachi left the room, taking refuge in the loft where he could observe the parlor. Neomie Stone and sixteen-year-old Rachel peered nervously out a window at the approaching riders.
“Perhaps they're Confederates and mean us no harm,” Neomie said.
“Perhaps,” said Joshua, but he knew better. The men rode good horses and none of them wore the threadbare gray of the Confederacy. They all carried saddle guns, and beneath their coats, holsters attested to the presence of sidearms. The seven looked exactly like what Joshua Stone feared they were: renegades who had probably fought on neither side, but had taken advantage of the war to pillage and murder. The lead rider, a tall man with a shock of white hair, dismounted and pounded on the door with the butt of his pistol. The rest of the riders dismounted, and Joshua eased the door open just a little.
“We're needin' grub,” said the white-haired stranger.
“We can't spare any,” Joshua said. “We have little enough for ourselves.”
Joshua tried to close the door, but the stranger was too quick for him. He kicked the door, slamming it against the wall.
“We'll have a look for ourselves,” the intruder said.
The seven surged into the parlor. One of the men seized Neomie's dress at the throat and ripped it to the waist, while a second man threw Rachel to the floor and got astraddle of her. Joshua slammed a right to the jaw of the man who was stripping Neomie, and the renegade hit the floor with a crash. Drawing his pistol, he shot Joshua Stone in the belly. Stone fell backward onto a sofa. He tried to rise, but could not. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he saw his wife and daughter stripped, violated, and brutally murdered. Their passion spent, the men looked at one another, shaken by the enormity of their crime.
“We'd best get the hell out of here,” said the white-haired renegade. “Snider, Dillard, Foster, check out the barn and be sure there's no livestock. Jenks, Tull, Withers, sack the kitchen for anything worth takin'.”
The others needed no urging, anxious to escape the grisly scene. Finding the barn empty, the trio skirted the house and mounted their horses.
“The old fool wasn't lyin',” shouted one of the renegades from the kitchen. “There ain't enough here to fool with.”
“Then take what there is,” the albino said.
The three quickly took what little food remained in the house, bounded off the front porch, and joined their mounted comrades. The man with the mane of white hair remained in the house.
“Hankins,” bawled one of the impatient renegades, “you ridin' with us or not?”
“Somebody's got to think for this outfit,” said Hankins when he finally stepped out the door. “Never leave any evidence behind.”
By the time old Malachi recovered from the shock enough to creep down from the loft, flames had gobbled up the drapes and were biting into the papered walls and the ceiling. The heavy carpet was afire in a dozen places. Malachi couldn't fight the fire, but there was one thing he could do. The Stones had been his family, and although they were dead, there was one last thing he could do for them. He could save their earthly remains from the fire and see that they had a proper burial in the family graveyard. But Malachi was old and tired, with the miseries in his back.
“Lawd God,” the old Negro prayed aloud, “gimme de strength to git 'em out of here in time.”
He took Neomie and Rachel first, gritting his teeth to avoid crying out at their ravaged bodies. When he returned for Joshua, he was startled to find a spark of life remained.
“Malachi,” Stone whispered. “Malachi.”
“De house is burnin', suh,” said Malachi. “I got to git you out.”
“I'll be ... dead ... then,” said Joshua Stone. “Malachi, Nathan will ... will be coming. Tell him ...”
“Tell him what, suh?”
“Remember ... these men,” said Joshua Stone. “Tell Nathan .. tell him to ... hunt them down ... and kill them ...to the last ... man.”
“I tell him, suh,” Malachi said. “I tell him.”
BOOK: The Dawn of Fury
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