The Call of a Bloody Past (Preview)

Prologue

Oscar climbed the hill with ease, his hunting rifle in one hand and his kill slung over his other shoulder, clutched in the strong grip of a proud sixteen-year-old. His hazel eyes blinked in the sunlight when he came out of the woods into a wide clearing. It looked like there had once been travelers on that road, which Oscar wouldn’t be surprised by. It was overgrown now, but some twenty or thirty years ago, in the mid-1800s, travelers coming from the east to the west had passed through that particular part of Kansas because it was flatter than most other routes. 

Oscar’s teacher made sure to tell the same story at the beginning of each school year, mixing it in with facts about the origin of the name of their hometown—Red River. The sulfur under the ground made the water appear red sometimes and it was always a sight to behold.

He crossed the first half of the clearing with ease, enjoying his morning of hunting. He couldn’t wait to show his family the three rabbits and two squirrels he’d shot. He liked rabbit meat more than squirrel meat, but just shooting the fast little critters was an accomplishment. His pa would be proud.

He was just over the halfway mark, which he’d always signified in his mind as the lone tree in the middle of the clearing even though it was more than halfway across, when he noticed a peculiar smell in the air. He lifted his chin and sniffed. His brain searched for the source of that smell. When it came to his mind, he didn’t know whether to feel fear or just confusion. 

Someone was burning wood.

It seemed to be coming from right in front of him. In the direction of the home he shared with his ma, pa, and two little brothers. Oscar hurried his steps and then broke into a run, still grasping onto his rifle and kill, though with a much tighter grip. 

His eyes jumped up to the sky when he saw black curls of smoke rising from above the trees in front of him. There was a fire out there. And it was a big one.

His heart thumped hard as he ran. He pictured his family in his mind, fighting the fire without him. He had to get there as fast as he could. He didn’t know of any other farms or ranches near enough to his home for the smoke to be coming from there. 

Oscar tried to calm himself. His father often set bonfires in front of the house, burning trash and debris from storms. That could always be the explanation for the smoke Oscar had seen. 

But it seemed unlikely. There had never been a plume of black smoke that looked like this one. It looked and smelled like normal smoke when his father burned debris. And if there was trash in the mix, it would smell like dead carcass or rotten meat, which was extremely unpleasant for all.

This just smelled like burning wood and fabric. That meant just one thing to Oscar. Their farm was on fire. 

When Oscar finally got to the trail that would take him down that side of the mountain to his home, he could see where the smoke was coming from. It was as he’d suspected. 

His home, where he’d grown from a child into a man—it was on fire. 

Where was his family?

As he broke into another run, this time carefully traversing the rocky path down to the farmhouse, he consoled himself that he was coming from behind the house. His family would be out front, either watching the house burn or trying to fight it somehow. 

He surveyed the scene as he got closer. The way the fire made a circle all the way around the house seemed like it had been done on purpose. As if someone had made a circle, lighting the bushes, grass, and everything else that was flammable on fire with a torch.

But why? Why would his family be targeted? They’d never done anything to anyone. 

He slowed as he got closer. There was nothing he could do to help fight the fire. It was out of control. The house was basically already gone, though it was still standing tall for now. 

Oscar’s next thought was to question whether the men who had done this were still around. Surely not. Surely they would have left the family to deal with the fire. 

Or not left any family to deal with it. Strangers wouldn’t have known Oscar lived there but had been out hunting. 

He didn’t dare call to his family. Just in case the bandits were still there. 

He came around to the front of the house and stopped, his eyes on the ground in front of the porch steps. 

Whoever had killed them, whoever had done this terrible deed had piled his family on top of each other like cattle and left them there, blackened by soot, their eyes closed, unmoving.

Oscar made his way to them slowly. He kept his eyes on his father’s face, which was bloody from being beaten but was the only face he could look at without breaking down right then and there. 

“Pa,” he whispered. “Pa.”

He dropped to his knees, setting his rifle on the ground and pulling his kill forward slightly. 

“Look what I got today, Pa,” he murmured. “Something for everyone in the family. Three rab-rabbits and… and two squirrels. Brian and Timmy can… have the squirrels. You-you know I don’t-don’t like them.”

He couldn’t continue. He dropped his chin to his chest and sobbed, his heart broken.

Chapter One

Oscar watched his best friend, Sid Bancroft, lean over the bar and say something to the short, stout bartender. The older man nodded and turned to get the drinks Sid had requested, two beers. Oscar kept his eyes on Sid’s back, admiring his friend for the tall, lanky, zany clown that he was. Sid was good for a laugh and that was what Oscar liked the most about him. Probably what had attracted him to being Sid’s friend in the first place. 

Sid returned to the table, setting the beer down in front of Oscar dramatically. “Your beer, Mr. Bennet. Don’t finish it in the next minute or two. I think the bartender is about to get in a fight.”

Oscar’s eyes darted to the bar, narrowing when he saw another short, stout man snapping his words at the one behind the counter. They looked too much alike not to be brothers.

“Oh, I see.”

“Yeah, so it’s like this,” Sid leaned forward, his eyes directly on Oscar as usual. The way his friend’s eyes rarely moved when he was telling a story or giving a lecture of some kind didn’t make Oscar feel uncomfortable. He didn’t know anyone who was made uncomfortable by Sid’s direct approach.

It didn’t take but a few minutes for even a stranger to talk to Sid and come to the conclusion he was not a man who lied, cheated, or manipulated. He was trustworthy. That was the simple truth of it.

“Hey, are you listening?” Sid snapped his fingers in front of Oscar’s eyes, drawing him out of his thoughts. He laughed.

“Yeah, yeah, I was just thinkin’ is all.”

“Well, clear your mind because I’ve got to tell you this story and you’re gonna love it, I promise.”

Oscar just smiled. If it wasn’t a wild and crazy story, Sid would tell it in a way that made it seem so. 

He leaned forward again and used his long index finger to point subtly in the direction of the bar.

“You see the one arguing with the bartender—who, by the way, is named Sal—over there?”

“Yeah, I see him. We’ve been through Burnt Ridge before. What about him? The one across the bar from him, that his brother or something?”

“You got a good eye, friend. That’s not his brother, it’s his uncle.”

Oscar didn’t think the customer looked old enough to be the bartender’s cousin but what did he know about it? “Okay, so what’s going on?”

“Sal, he and this other fella, that’s Wayne. They had a fallin’ out years ago and now the uncle is back to tell the bartender, Sal, that his pa and his two brothers were killed in the war.”

Oscar blanched, his eyes darting to Sid. “And he didn’t know? No one told him? Why wasn’t he in the war himself? He should have been with them.”

Sid blinked rapidly, his eyes still focused on Oscar. “You gonna ask a million questions or are ya gonna let me finish?”

“Sorry,” Oscar said quickly, smiling. 

“I don’t know the answer to your questions. But I do know what I overheard. You remember that time when we rode into, where was it, Liberty? Yeah, Liberty. In Tennessee, you remember?”

As Sid recounted the story, Oscar remembered it, impressed that Sid could so closely detail something that had happened several years before. 

“When you shot that man down before he could reach the girl, I really thought you were gonna be sainted on the spot.”

Oscar chuckled, staring into the depths of the dark beer he was drinking, his mind back three years ago when they rode through Liberty right in time to catch the gang trying to rob the bank. Oscar could say “trying” because they hadn’t been successful. Even before Oscar and Sid had ridden into town, they had been fist fighting in the street outside the bank, paper money flying all over, coins scattering and being tossed about. The men were all yelling.

Oscar and Sid had entered the fray at their own risk. They didn’t mind getting in a fight every now and then and, as Sid so eloquently pointed out, the gang was “nothing but a bunch of misfits” who’d had the bright idea to try and take other people’s money. 

They’d both suffered minor injuries when Oscar turned and got smacked in the eye by a wayward fist and Sid accidentally opened his hand at the wrong moment only to have one finger bent back too far. It was painful but not broken, thank the Lord.

Oscar gave Sid a singular look. “I fail to see how the bartender losing his family made you think of that botched bank robbery attempt.”

Sid blinked and a look of discovery came to his face. “Oh! Yeah! The reason… I’d actually forgotten what I’d started the conversation with anyway. The reason it reminded me was because of the nature of their deaths. Even though it was wartime, they were killed in a stagecoach while they were being transported to the front lines. They were killed in a robbery while fighting a war.”

Sid shook his head. “I don’t mean to make light of it, buddy, I really don’t. Can’t be sure why that reminded me of Liberty and that dumb gang. Maybe it’s because they weren’t very good at what they were doing, and the coach with the soldiers ended up going over a ledge, pulling the four horses down with it.”

Oscar felt a pull on his heart. “Poor animals,” he said regretfully, picturing them plummeting to their deaths.

“Yeah, that’s what I said,” Sid replied, lifting the glass to his lips. He leaned forward after taking a drink and murmured, “So, tell me what you’re thinking where the sale is concerned.”

Oscar had been avoiding the topic and his best friend knew it. He didn’t really want to return to Red River. He didn’t have any fond memories of the place anymore. After the death of his family, which he’d taken harder than he’d admitted, he was subjected to ridicule and suspicion by others in the town. Either he should have been there or he was gone because he knew something was going to happen. It didn’t matter that he was sixteen and had been hunting, just like he did every Monday. It was why he didn’t go to school that day. It was always his hunting day.

No one seemed to care about that. They had all jumped to their own conclusions. The only person who seemed to agree with him and believe him was Sheriff Rick Taylor. The man had told everyone in town that it was a gang of Indians from the nearby Comanche tribe that had done the deed. 

Sheriff Taylor had stirred up a lot of emotions and anger in the residents of Red River that year. It wasn’t just the killings of Oscar’s family members—any crime that was committed in Red River was said to be the work of the Comanche tribe. 

Sheriff Taylor didn’t like them, it was perfectly clear.

Chapter Two

The sound of glass breaking got Oscar’s attention briefly. Both men turned to see the bartender’s uncle had climbed on a stool and was soon up on the countertop, his small, thick hands wrapped around his nephew’s throat. 

“Wow,” Oscar murmured, his eyes darting to Sid and back to the fray. “You seeing this?”

“I am,” Sid replied, standing up. 

Sid was six-foot-six and though he was slender, he was nothing but muscle and bone. He strode across the room and plucked the uncle from the bartender, setting him back on the stool with great force. Oscar stayed back a few feet, only there if Sid should need him, which he doubted but wasn’t taking any chances.

“You two are blood relatives, aren’t you?” Sid asked. The men looked at each other, but he didn’t wait for them to respond. “This is no way to behave. What happened to respect? You two show each other some respect and get back on track here. You’re family. Act like it.”

“He’s not my family,” the uncle sneered, spitting at the floor.

“Don’t spit in my restaurant!” the bartender yelled, leaping up as if he was about to go over the counter and grab the other man. 

“Whoa, whoa!” Sid called out, putting both long arms out between the two men, keeping them separated. He pushed the bartender back so the man was standing on his feet again. “That’s enough. This is a nice establishment you have here. What is the problem? You’re supposed to be fighting others, not each other.”

“I ain’t fightin’ him,” the uncle sneered. “He ain’t worth it. So much for tryin’ to work somethin’ out with mah kin!”

“You ain’t my kin!” the bartender snapped back. “Just cuz the same blood runs through these veins don’t mean I gotta accept you as my kin. All you want is money. Money, money, money, every time I see ya. The well has run dry, buddy. You ain’t worth my time anymor’n yer worth a plug nickel!”

“You insulting pig of a man!” 

With astonishing flexibility, the bartender leaped up on the counter and vaulted himself in his uncle’s direction. 

Oscar stepped forward just in time to catch the uncle by his arms and pull him back away from the bartender, who Sid was pushing away with both his hands. 

“That’s enough! That’s enough!” Sid yelled in his authoritative voice. “You men gotta stop this. Now!”

“Get outta my way!” the bartender hollered at Sid. “This is my place and I’ll fight if I wanna.”

Sid lifted one eyebrow, staring at the bartender. Oscar watched to see what would happen so he would know how to react. 

Sid shrugged, and the moment he let go and stepped away from the bartender, Oscar released the uncle and took a few steps back. He lifted his arms and grimaced when the two short, stocky men attacked each other. They were almost immediately on the ground, wrestling, punching, kicking, and yelling.

Sid made a wide circle around them, stepping lightly to where Oscar was standing. The two watched the bartender and his uncle fight for about two or three minutes before they gingerly returned to their table, finished their beers, and headed out the door. 

“Ya never told me what you thought of going back to your hometown,” Sid said, as the bright sunlight hit both men in the face. Sid squinted his bright blue eyes and plopped his hat on his head so the rim would block out the sun. “You’re happy? Sad? Angry? How do you feel?”

Oscar pulled his eyebrows together, giving Sid a cynical look. “Why you askin’ how I feel? Who got that into your head? Why would I wanna talk about how I feel?”

Sid reached for the reins of his horse when they were a foot or so away from them. “I dunno. I thought it might help you to talk to me about it. That’s what it said in the little pamphlet I got from Mrs. Hickens. She’s a real saint, ya know. A real Godly woman.”

Oscar grumbled under his breath. He didn’t have time for religion and God and all that. He had enough going on.

Or at least, he did have, at one point. He’d had a reason for living. No matter what he did, he’d always known that to be the case. He was still searching, but the reason would come to him sooner or later, in one form or another.

“Well, I reckon I can give it a try,” he said noncommittally. “If you think it will help me. I mean, I want to return, of course, but it’s not going to be the same. I left the house and the property in the care of Calvin Brown—you know who he is.”

Sid nodded. Everyone knew who Calvin was. He had brown hair and brown eyes like many of the men in Red River. Like many men everywhere. But the difference was that Calvin was born a dwarf. He’d worked hard to get a good reputation in Red River as helpful, compliant, and compassionate. He was everyone’s friend. 

“Calvin has a team of men working for him that can work over my ranch and then trot back to his and finish up over there. They’ve been real good to me in the last few years. Keeping up with the maintenance, working the garden, clearing the place where the house used to be. It’s prime property. Everyone knows it is.”

“So maybe you don’t want to sell, then?” 

Sid was fishing for an answer, and the only reason he was doing it was that he cared. He didn’t want Oscar to lose out on the huge benefit of having the land. He could always live there. He hadn’t had a real home since he left Red River those years ago. 

But Oscar didn’t want to live there, even if he did rebuild. He’d been leading a nomadic life and had gotten used to it.

“No, I want to sell,” he insisted. “I think Calvin is selling his because I’m selling mine. I don’t know where he plans to go, but he told me in his last letter that’s what he wants to do. He said the buyer is a man named Holbrook, not the nicest guy in the world, might or might not be on the right side of the law.”

“So sell, then,” Sid returned. “You don’t have to be here. You’ve got a new life, a life where you don’t have to be settled down. You can just lead the same kind of existence you’ve had for these last eight years. That will make you happy?”

“Is that a question?” Oscar asked, raising his eyebrows as he lifted up into his saddle. He settled in, his eyes still on his friend. “Because if it is, then no, I don’t think it will make me happy. As much as I love wandering the earth with you, best friend, I think there comes a time when everyone needs to settle down. I’m one of them. You might be, too. Think about it, you find the right woman and I bet you’d settle down, too.”

Sid tilted his head to the side. “For the right woman, a man will do anything. Even get married.”


“The Call of a Bloody Past” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Oscar Bennet’s innocent childhood was brutally sunk into chaos when he witnessed his home burning to the ground and his family’s murder by unknown assailants. Ever since, he left Red River for good, wandering into the wilderness with a newfound fellow. Yet, fate strikes again when he learns that someone wants to buy his land. Determined to see his birthplace one last time, he will come across people and secrets that need to be revealed.

The wild call of the past has its roots in a bloody conflict…

For eight years, Lisa Lourdes has remained unmarried and never forgot the young man she’d held a candle for as a young girl. When Oscar unexpectedly appears in her general store, she is taken by complete surprise. After finding out he plans to sell his family land, memories of old times start to fill her heart, along with suspicions of what really happened the day Oscar lost everything.

Will Lisa find a way to help Oscar fight against the ghosts of the past?

Deception and corruption quickly rear their ugly heads when Oscar discovers that six acres of land currently occupied by a nearby Comanche tribe is attached to his land. As he and Lisa investigate how the land came into his possession, Oscar will find out the ulterior motives of the potential buyer. Will he be able to protect the Indian tribe and take revenge? Will Oscar finally find peace in the face of a bloody past, as well as a new family?

“The Call of a Bloody Past” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.

Get your copy from Amazon!

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