They Came for Revenge (Preview)


Kansas, 1861

The blazing fire raged from the house, flaming from the windows and roof. The shouting crowd of men had to move away from it due to the heat.  Roaring flames beat back the darkness and cast light on the mob around the house.  A wagon had been hastily packed with clothes, other items, and a few blankets. The mob grabbed a beaten man, blood running down his face glistening in the light, and pulled his arms behind him. If he had not been supported by the hooligans, he would have fallen to the ground. A woman was also held roughly by the crowds, as was a young twelve-year-old boy, who looked both scared and defiant.  The mob roared for blood.

The mob brought the beaten man to Jackknife Bellows, a stout ugly man, who held a whip in his hand. He raised his finger and stuck it in the face of the man before him.

“This is Bellows’ property. It’s my land. And you’re trespassing on it!”

The prisoner could barely speak but he did choke out the words, “That’s not what the law says.”

The response elicited a loud laugh from Bellows. He turned to the six men with him. “He’s talking about law. In Kansas!

The six men roared in mocking laughter.  Several of them held touches.  Bellows turned back to the prisoner.

“The law in this part of Kansas is Bellows’ Law. There is none other. I’m the law. And I’m the judge, jury and I deal out punishments. You have trespassed on my land and I’m going to make an example of you. It will show all the other newcomers they better stay off my land.”  He turned to his men pointed to a nearby oak tree.

“Tie him to that tree. I’m going to take the skin off his back.”

His men dragged the man to the tree.  The man’s son cried and yelled epithets at the mob.

“You’re a fat coward!” the boy yelled at the man.

Bellows did not like comments about his weight. He turned to the child. “You got a big mouth, sonny, and a big mouth can get you trouble in the West, and in Bellows’ country.” He pointed to a small tree close to the oak. “Tie him to that smaller tree. We’ll teach him a lesson, too. You don’t talk back to your betters in Bellows’ country. He’s not going to talk much after we get through with him.”

The woman screamed as they dragged the boy to the tree. One man came up and slapped her so hard that she fell to the ground.

Bellows stepped a few paces and unwound his whip. He stood behind the man tied to the tree. “You’re gonna regret the day you tried to steal my land. You’re gonna remember the name Bellows for the rest of your life.”

Two riders galloped up and one blocked Bellows’ way.  Dale Lange yelled at his boss.

“Have you gone mad? You’re going to flog a boy? What’s wrong with you? Put down that whip.”

“Dale, you’ve been a good foreman, but no one tells Jackknife Bellows what to do. Get out of my way! If not, you’re fired. And I’ll kill even you.”

“I should have recognized this a long time ago, you’re as crazy as hell. Or mean as hell, I guess. I quit!”

Bellows was outraged by the comment. “I’ll kill you!” he yelled.

Lange pulled his gun in a second and fired at his former boss.  The bullet smashed into his hand. Blood spurted. He dropped the whip. Bellows’ men stood stunned. No one had ever dared challenge their boss, much less shoot him.  As Bellows groaned with pain, Lange jumped off his horse and pistol-whipped him. He groaned when he hit the ground. His men shook off the shock and started to charge Lange. But foreman jabbed Bellows in the stomach with his gun and kept the barrel near his boss’ belly button.

“Stay right where you are!” he yelled.

If the command wasn’t enough, the second rider pulled his gun and jumped off his horse. Rod Drecker walked behind Lange, but his gun was pointed at the six men.

“I’m backing you, Dale,” Drecker said, then looked toward the mob. “The first man who takes a step is dead. And all of you know I can shoot well.”

The men had been yelling threats but now they keep quiet. Lange glared at them. “Do you all know what happens when you are gut shot? It’s a terrible thing. If you were in the war, you probably have heard the screams of men when they were the medical tent. And the doctor had to dig for the bullet. The patient was in terrible pain. Even if the man survived, he was never quite the same again. So, drop your gun belts. Or this will be the last night on earth for your boss. And do it quickly.”

Bellows groaned in pain. “Do it, men. We’ll pay him back later.”

Lange smirked. “Well, you know Jackknife, that is the first time I heard a trace of fear your voice.  You know what happens to a man when he’s gut shot, don’t you? After almost dying of pain if I shot you, the vultures would have you, anyway. And you’d make a fit meal for them. You heard him, men. Drop your gun belts and do it quickly.”

The six men unbuckled their belts and let their guns drop to the ground.

“Very good. Now untie those two. And no tricks!”

“I’ll kill you for this,” Bellows said.

A man stepped away from the crowd, his hand was close to his holster. A bitter, almost savage tone came into Lange’s voice.

“Sammy, don’t be stupid. One more move and your father dies, and dies in pain. And you die with him.”

“Do it, Sam. Drop the gun. Do it. We’ll get them later.”

Sam Bellows had a look of rage on his face, but he unbuckled his gun belt and let it drop around his boots.

“Untie those men!” Lange said.

A knife sliced through the ropes that held the father and son to a tree. The son rushed over to aid his father who could only stumble on the ground. With the wife, the three climbed in the wagon.

“Wait just a minute,” Lange said. He dug into his former boss’ wallet and pulled it out of his pants. He found the money and pulled it from the wallet. He guessed there were several hundred dollars. He held the bills up.

“Rod, give this to the family. I figure Jackknife owes them at least this much.”

Drecker took the money and walked it over to the family. He gave it to the wife, who put it into her coin purse.  They had helped the husband into the wagon.

“You go on your way. The next town is about ten miles.”

The wife nodded and flicked the reins as the wagon rolled away.  Lange watched it roll out of sight. He turned to the crowd. He jabbed his former boss in his belly.

“Now my friend, Mr. Drecker here, is going to collect your guns and none of you is going to object or my finger will pull the trigger.  The closest doctor is in town and that’s about fifteen miles away.  Even if you somehow manage to kill both of us, he will die on the way to town, and by that time, he will be begging for death. So, I want no trouble. We’ll ride ways out and then allow Jackknife to ride on back to you and you can bandage him.  And we will drop your guns along the way. But I better not hear any horses behind me. If I do, you will be digging a grave for your boss. And a lot of people will come out from town to spit on it. Might even do that myself.”

“You Judas!” Bellows growled, then winced with pain.

“Very bad analogy, Jackknife.  Judas betrayed Jesus. And you are on the other side of the spiritual spectrum than He was.”

Drecker collected the gun belts and climbed onto his horse.

“Okay, one of you bring me a horse for our boss. We’ll be riding out but in about ten minutes, we will send your boss back, and I will drop your gun belts on the ground. You just still here until them and there won’t be any trouble,” Lange said.

“Do what he says, boys. There will be another day and another time. You just stay here, and I’ll be back in a few minutes. As I said, we’ll get our revenge later and they won’t forget it,” Bellows said.

When the three were on their horses, Lange looked back.

“And you all have a good night,” he said. “Perhaps we’ll meet again.”

“You can be sure of that,” Sam Bellows said.

Lange shook his head. “You took after your father, Sammy. What a shame.”

Chapter One

Ten Years Later

Ben Jackson rode slowly into the town and liked what he saw. It seemed to be a bustling community. Several people walked the streets, all of them smiling. He passed a busy saloon and a general store, turned the corner and rode past a clothing store and feed store.

He was born in Kansas and knew he wanted to come back after the Civil War. He was delayed for two years in the Bluegrass State of Kentucky because he was romancing a southern belle named Georgianna. The Bluegrass State was aptly named, he thought. There were places where the color of grass was blue-green, or at least seemed to be. And all the horses!  He liked watching the magnificent animals frolic in the pastures. It was a state that prided itself on the excellence of its horse flesh and he knew of many prize-winning stallions and mares that had hailed from Kentucky.

But the southern belle married someone else, and he decided he would return to Kansas. When he passed the Kansas border and entered a saloon, he heard a conversation that a sheriff was looking for an extra deputy in the town of Oakwater.

“That’s Jackknife Bellows’ country. Better keep away. There’s no man meaner in three states than Bellows. I bet he’s the reason the sheriff needs another deputy. The sheriff is probably preparing for war.”

Jackson smiled as he listened to the two cowboys.  One of them scratched his chin.

“If I remember, didn’t Bellows try to pull a gun on someone and got his hand shot off?”

The other cowboy shook his head. “He didn’t get his hand shot off. Only two fingers. The middle finger and the forefinger on his right hand. Has a little problem shooting now but after having his fingers blown off, he got even meaner. And he wants revenge on the sheriff. Hasn’t got it yet but believe me, Jackknife Bellows has not forgotten. He’s going to take his revenge soon. Mark my words.  That sheriff will need a lot of deputies.  Take it from me. That’s a place to stay away from.”

Jackson thought the conversation was interesting. He didn’t think he should stay away. He always liked a bit of action so, for him, it seemed like the place to go. When he saddled up again, he headed his horse toward the town of Oakwater.

It took him about three hours to get there.  When he did, after watering his horse, he knocked on the door and walked in.  The sheriff was out but Deputy Lange was in the office.

“What can I do for you?” the deputy said.

“I hear you have a job open, and I’d like to apply for it,” Jackson said, smiling.

The man had something of an infectious smile, the Jackson thought, but it was more than just infectious.  The man gave you a feeling of confidence, like a man who handle himself in a fight.  Deputy Lange pointed to the man’s gun.

“Can you use that?” he asked.

Jackson’s fast draw widened the deputy’s eyes and made him gasp.

“I can shoot good too,” Jackson said.  “I was in the war, so I know what it is to face bullets. I’ve had one shoot-out. I didn’t want it and didn’t ask for it, but the man pressed me.  He wanted it. Demanded it, really.  I had no other choice.”

“Since you’re standing here, you must have won,” the deputy said.

“I did. The other man now has a marker over his grave.”

“What’s your name?”

“Ben Jackson.”

“Mr. Jackson, you look fine to me.  Thought it would be a while before we filled this post but you’re our man.  But we have to let the Sheriff make the final decision. But I think he will like you. He should be back in just a few minutes. Can you wait around?”

“Yes. I’m a patient man.”

“Then let me pour you a cup of coffee.”

Lange poured a cup of coffee for Jackson, who sipped from the cup.  Lange then opened a bottom drawer in his desk and pulled out a bottle of whiskey.

“If you want to spice it up, I can do that too,” he said, smiling.

“I might try that,” Jackson said, offering his cup.  Lang poured some whiskey in it. “I always liked strong whiskey and weak coffee,” Lang said.

Jackson laughed. “This tastes fine. How long have you been a deputy?”

“Almost ten years now.  Since you are a deputy too now, I need to tell you how I came to be a deputy. The story involves our biggest troublemaker in the county and that’s being diplomatic.”

“Would that troublemaker be a man named Bellows?”

“It would.”

“I think he has a reputation that is even outside the county. Heard his name mentioned today in another county,” Jackson said.  “From what was said, I’m gathering that he’s not a Sunday School teacher.”

Lang raised his cup. “You can certainly say that. And he never goes within fifty yards of a church. If he walked into one, he’d probably drop dead. If the Sheriff okays you as a deputy, I will give you the background on Mr. Bellows. It will be a bit long but not many good things will be said.”

Sheriff Dan Townsend opened the door and walked in. He smiled when he saw two men.

“Sheriff, I think I have a good deputy candidate for you. A man named Ben Jackson.”

Townsend looked at the potential new deputy and liked what he said. It was so much the six-foot-two cowboy looked impressive, but the sheriff sensed the man would make a good deputy.  He guessed the man was tough, but he had an amiable smile.

“Hello, Sheriff. I’m Ben Jackson.”

“Good to meet you, Mr. Jackson. I must tell you before swearing you in that this county may be a little more exciting than a few others in Kansas. There’s been a standoff between this office and a man named Jackknife Bellows. He owns a big ranch here and he’s trying to make it bigger.  He has no regard for the law.”

“For that matter, he has no regard for decency,” Lange put in. “That’s from a man who has first-hand knowledge of Bellows.  Long time ago, I signed on as foreman for him. At that time, I didn’t realize what type of man he was.  When I did, I quit. Almost killed him that night.  There are times when I regret that I didn’t.”

The Sheriff offered his hand to the new man. Jackson shook it.

“You still want the job?”

Jackson nodded.  “I figured there wouldn’t be a lot of desk work here. But I don’t want a lot of deskwork. I’d rather be out and about.”

“You’ll get your wish,” the Sheriff said. “I’m a man who goes on instinct and my gut tells me you will be an excellent deputy.  You get fifty a month and few free meals at the local saloon. And a few free drinks. The county has that little benefit for deputies. The city council doesn’t like Bellows either, so they want to keep the sheriff’s office well-staffed.  So, they toss in a few free dinners and a few free drinks. Bellows hates the city council, although that’s not really unusual for him. He hates everybody, with the exception of his son.”

“I will have to meet him. He sounds like a unique individual.”

“Unique doesn’t really describe him. But the words that would describe him are rarely used in this office and I prefer to keep it that. Since I told you about the job, do you still want it?”

“Yes, it sounds good.”

“Okay, raise your right hand.”

The sheriff had a Bible on his desk. He lifted it and held it out for Jackson. “Put your hand on it.”

Jackson did so.

“Do you Ben Jackson swear to uphold and enforce of the laws of this city and county, without fear of favor?”

“I do.”

“Then you are now a deputy.”

The Sheriff reached in his desk again and brought out a badge. “Put the badge on. The office has a third deputy who is out keeping the county peaceful. I’ll introduce you to him when he gets back. Alex Masters has been a real good man since we hired him about a year ago. He’s young, like you. But the older I get the more I think wearing a badge is a young’s man name. Oh, you get a room at the local hotel for a week, courtesy of the county, while you find a more permanent place to stay.”

“Thank you.”

The door opened and a young man walked in with a star on his vest. He was in his early twenties, with black hair and brown eyes. He was handsome enough to be distinguished.

“Alec, I want you to meet our new deputy.  Ben Jackson, meet Alec Masters.”

The two men shook hands. Jackson liked the man immediate. He had sort of stern smile but there was friendliness in his eyes.

“Glad to meet you,” Ben said.

“Good to have another deputy. We all tend to have a feeling that an explosion may be coming soon,” Masters said.

“We told him about our most un-prominent citizen, the three-fingered Mr. Bellows.” The Sheriff scratched his head. “Actually, we didn’t tell you how he lost his two fingers, but we will.  And I guess I should have told you that the rumor is Bellows is hiring not just cowhands but gunmen.  That means he’s preparing for a showdown. He’s been surprisingly peaceful lately but, with Bellows, that peace won’t last too long.”

“Alex, why don’t you show Ben around the town and introduce our new deputy to the folks.”

“Glad to. I was just about to get some grub at the restaurant. Come with me and then we can tour the town.”

“Wait a minute,” the sheriff said. He reached into his desk again and brought out a five-dollar bill. He shoved the bill in Jackson’s pocket. “Your first dinner is on the office.”

When the two had left, Lang turned to the Sheriff. “You think Bellows is really hiring gunmen?”

“That’s what I heard, and I don’t doubt it a bit.”

Chapter Two

The stranger rode his horse toward the gate that had a sign above it that read The Bellows Ranch. The gate had two guards on each side, men on horseback with gun belts around their waist. He saw them but knew they would cause him no trouble. He stopped his horse.

“Have business here, mister?” one cowboy asked him.

‘Yes, I do. Business with Jackknife Bellows.”

“What’s your name.”

“Tom Dalton. He sent for me.”

The cowboy nodded as he looked at a piece of paper. “Your name is on the list.” He looked at his partner. “Open the gate, Otis.”  The partner unlocked the gate and swung it back.  Thomas rode through and kept on the road. He didn’t smile. He rarely smiled. That told people he was ready to do business. Most bosses were uneasy with a smiling gunman, Dalton had discovered.  They preferred he was solemn when they talked business. That was fine with him. He rarely smiled even when he wasn’t being hired.

It was two miles to the ranch house. But Dalton rode slowly. He was in no hurry. He was a tall man, six-three and medium in build. His cold gray eyes saw everything, and his draw was among the fastest in the West.  He offered his gun to the highest bidder and didn’t care what his boss wanted. As long as he was paid well, Dalton was content to hire out his gun. However, if his boss wanted some criminal act, his pay was higher.  The only distinguishing mark of Dalton was his hair was turning prematurely gray. He found the distinction benefitted him. A few opponents looked at his hair and figured he must be older, and slower, than he was. They paid for their ignorance with their death.

He rode to the large ranch house and tied his horse to the hitching rail. He walked up and knocked on the door.  A young man with piercing dark eyes answered.

“You Dalton?” he asked.

“Yes. The one and only.”

“I’ll take you to my father’s study.”

He walked toward the back of the house. Jackknife Bellows sat behind his large desk and looked up when the men walked in. He smiled when he saw Dalton. He didn’t know the man, but had heard he had silver hair.

“You must be Dalton?”

“You must be Jackknife Bellows.”

“That’s right. I’m hiring men. Gunmen.  But I want good gunmen.”

“If you hire me, you’re hiring the best.”

“I’ve got four other men hired.”

“They’re second-rate,” Dalton said.

“In what I’ve got planned, you may need help.”

“Not unless they have an army.”

When Bellows raised his hand from behind the desk, Dalton saw he was missing two fingers on his right hand. He had been told the man was missing fingers, but it still was something of a shock when he saw it for himself. Bellows raised the right hand.

“Look at this. This is what a man did to me. He’s a deputy now. I want him dead.”

“Then if you pay enough, you will get him dead.”

“And I want the Sheriff dead, too. He’s been a burr under my butt for a long time now. And there are two other deputies. Might as well shoot them two. There will be other men with you, so you won’t be outnumbered.”

Dalton gave a half-smile, as if being outnumbered was amusing to him.

“How many?”

“Five, maybe six.” He pointed to his son. “Or seven. My son wants to be a part of my revenge. I’m finally going to pay Lange back for shooting my fingers off. And take revenge on the Sheriff and anyone who backs him, and I’m hiring the men to do it.”

“Your personal grudge is your own matter, Bellows. I’m interested in money only.”

“Five hundred dollars. Is that enough?”

Dalton shook his head. “To shoot a Sheriff and his deputies, no. I don’t know how you plan to pull this off, but I imagine the Sheriff might have some help from the townspeople. That means there might be more than four men. But I’ll do it for a thousand.”

“That’s high,” Bellows said.

“That’s the cost of vengeance nowadays. Vengeance always comes high.”

“Maybe I should try it without you.”

Dalton shrugged, unconcerned. “You can go right ahead. It’s all the same to me. You pay my price, fine. If you don’t, I will fine another buyer. But the other five men you have better be good, or you’ll lose a few more fingers and maybe your life. That makes no difference to me either. It’s your call.”

“You’re a cold-blooded individual.”

“You want some men killed and you want to hire someone to kill them. That is cold-blooded so my nature shouldn’t surprise you. I’m perfectly willing to walk away.”

Bellows growled. “Are all of the things they say about you true?”

“Most of them. I’ve heard some exaggerations but not many. I’m getting tired of talking. Make up your mind.”

Bellows nodded. “I’ll pay.”

“Then we have a deal.”

“They Came for Revenge” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

After serving in the Civil War, Ben Jackson moves to Kansas and hopes to make a new start as the local Deputy Sheriff. He wants nothing more than a quiet, peaceful life in a small town when barely anything ever happens, and hopefully, to meet a fine woman and build a family on his own. Yet reality will prove to be completely different from what he had in mind. Ben will need to navigate the power dynamics and the town’s unwritten laws if he is to make it in this uncharted territory.

Unbeknownst to him, Jack has walked into another war, one just as dangerous as the last one…

Jackknife Bellows is the most powerful man in the county and he has ruled his ranch and the county as a king, or more like a dictator. There are rumors of several unmarked graves on Bellows’ land, filled with men Jackknife has killed, and numerous crimes with his name written all over. Yet it seems that nobody can touch him. When Bellows’ son is severely injured by an unidentified man, his father swears revenge.

Before long the county is perched precariously near a Civil War of its own…

The dark shadow that has been lying over the land will violently turn into a riveting saga of retribution, duty, and valor – and Ben finds himself in the middle of it all… With bullets flying and blood spreading all over Kansas, will his fast gun and determination help him survive the second biggest challenge of his life?

A pulse-pounding drama, which will make you turn the pages with bated breath until the very last word. A must-read for fans of Western action and romance.

“They Came for Revenge” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.

Get your copy from Amazon!

3 thoughts on “They Came for Revenge (Preview)”

  1. This is the fourth book of yours that have read. I really enjoy them especially the fact that there is no foul language. You need a new proofreader though as there are a lot of words that are used in the wrong way. I find myself having to reread these sentences.

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