Sequel to Home Before Sundown
In 1861, eleven-year old Zachary Taylor Browne marches off to war as a drummer boy with the 14th Brooklyn Chasseurs under the leadership of Lieutenant Steve Marriott, whom he worships. During the Battle of Antietam, he saves his lieutenant’s life and earns the nickname Sharps. When the 14th musters out in 1864, Sharps and Marriott part ways.
Steve Marriott has always liked the boy under his care but lost track of him after the war. Marriott becomes a wagon master, and in 1869 receives word the family of an old friend needs his help in traveling to the Dakotas. On the journey there, he crosses paths once again with Sharps, now a young man, and falls hopelessly in love.
But there’s danger awaiting them on the trail as well as misunderstandings. Can they arrive safely at their destination? Will Steve’s feelings be returned? And if so, can he and Sharps find a home together in the wild territory?
Sharps turned down the alleyway that separated the laundry from the newspaper office. He could hear raucous shouts even before he emerged into the space in front of the livery stable.
Twilight was a tall stallion, and his height gave Sharps an advantage -- he was easily able to see over the heads of the men who encircled the combatants and who shouted and cheered each time a blow landed. Bets were being laid, not as to the winner, but as to how long the wagon master would remain on his feet.
Sharps assumed the man with his back to him was the wagon master. He faced off against the other two men and seemed to be holding his own, especially after he knocked one of the men flat, leaving his nose bloody.
He spun around and squared off against the second, finally giving Sharps a clear view of his face.
“Well, now.” Sharps’s heart flipped over, a feeling he hadn’t had in five years. He pulled out the pouch that held tobacco and papers and settled in to watch. Back during the War, men would wrestle and box when they had spare time, and their comrades would watch and cheer and place bets, much like now.
Only back then, they hadn’t aimed to kill each other. Sharps narrowed his eyes as a third man approached from behind, shifting a large knife from one hand to the other.
Sharps tucked the pouch into his shirt pocket, drew his Remington, and cocked the hammer. No one reacted, because the sound was drowned out by the shouts and yells that erupted as the bastard with the knife made his cautious way closer to the wagon master. Sharps shook his head, raised the gun, and fired at the knife’s blade, shattering it. The man who held it yowled, dropped the handle, and sprang backward, tripping over his feet in the process and landing on his ass in a pile of horseshit.
A sudden silence fell, and the crowd parted. “Now that I’ve got your attention ...” Sharps nudged the gray forward.
“What the hell?” the man sitting in horseshit snarled. He struggled to get to his feet but lost his balance and fell back into it.
There were snickers from the crowd.
“Yes, what the hell?” One of the townsfolk swaggered up. He wore a black broadcloth suit and a derby, and carried a walking stick topped with a chunk of black stone. “Who are you, boy, and what do you mean by interrupting something that’s no business of yours?”
“Who I am doesn’t matter.” Sharps holstered his gun and curled his knee around the saddle horn. He took the pouch from his shirt pocket and resumed rolling a cigarette. “As for me interrupting what’s been going on ... Well, let me tell you boys.” He glanced at the three men who’d been most involved. “I’m as in favor of a good fight as any man,” he drawled, “but when someone brings a knife to a fist fight, well, then I have to stick this nose of mine into it.” He reached into his vest pocket for a match, struck it against the heel of his boot, and held the flame to the tip of his cigarette.
“Do you know who I am?” the dapper man demanded.
Sharps blew out a thin stream of smoke. “Can’t say as we’ve been introduced.”
“I’m Horace Weatherford.”
“Yeah? Can’t say that means anything to me either.”