When Captain Quincy's company of Rangers is ordered to the Big Bend, Nate has no choice but to ride with them. It appears his odds of finding the men who murdered his family grow more distant with each passing mile. But a chance encounter with a patrol of buffalo soldiers provides the first solid lead as to the gang's whereabouts--and Captain Quincy's Rangers make a detour to find the pale-eyed demon whose gang has been responsible for so many deaths. Will Nate and his Ranger companions finally catch up with the killers? Nate's gut feeling says they will--but who will survive?
Nate Stewart lay on his bunk, staring at the ceiling of his tent. His three Texas Ranger tentmates, Hoot Harrison, who had quickly befriended Nate, Jim Kelly, and Dan Morton, were all sleeping, snoring softly. However, Nate was having trouble falling asleep.
Tomorrow, the Rangers would break camp and head for the Big Bend. That meant Nate would be riding with them, leaving behind the ranch where his father, mother, and older brother had been murdered by outlaws, and Nate himself left for dead. The men responsible were still out there somewhere, and Nate was determined to see them brought to justice. However, that would have to wait.
The Ranger company he was with had been ordered to far West Texas, and he had no choice but to go with them. Already, everything which could be packed ahead of time was bundled up, most of the supplies loaded in George Bayfield’s chuck wagon.
At first light, the men would eat a quick breakfast, the tents would be taken down, and everything loaded on pack mules. An hour after sunrise, they would be on the trail, heading west.
Nate sighed as he thought back on everything that had happened to him in the past few weeks; how unexpectedly his life had changed. He had moved with his family from a home in Wilmington, Delaware to a small ranch outside San Saba, Texas.
After the attack which left Nate an orphan, he had been found and nursed back to health by a company of Texas Rangers. With no family or friends in Texas, it appeared Nate would have to move back to Delaware, to live with his aunt, uncle, and eight cousins. However, fate had taken a hand when Jeb Rollins, the Ranger arranging for his trip home, had been confronted by a group of rustlers.
In the ensuing gunfight, Nate had saved Jeb’s life by tackling and knocking out one of the gunmen, before he could shoot the Ranger. Jeb decided Nate had enough guts, and potential, to be taken on as a camp helper for his Ranger company, despite Nate’s age of only fourteen.
I’ve learned how to use a gun since then, Nate thought, to care for and ride a horse, and how to handle myself with my fists… not to mention takin’ on someone in a knife fight. I’ll sure never forget what Hoot taught me about that.
I’ve shot a couple of men, and been shot and nearly killed myself. If I hadn’t stuffed my train tickets and the rest of my papers back in my shirt pocket, then forgotten about them, the bullet which hit me in the chest would’ve killed me. Even at that, I’m real lucky those papers man-aged to stop that slug.
I’ve tried smokin’, which I doubt I’ll try again, drunk te-quila and whiskey, learned how to play cards, and thought about huggin’ and kissin’ a girl.
He softly chuckled. He—I mean, heck, I’ve even learned how to cuss some. My ma’d sure have washed out my mouth with soap if she ever heard me doin’ that.
I helped stop a bank robbery, and made some good friends. I only wish I’d caught up with the men who killed my folks.
I’ve had two more run-ins with ’em since, even managed to put a bullet into that pale-eyed son of Satan who leads the gang, but they’re still on the loose, after killin’ some of my partners, and more innocent folks.
Nate sighed again. After all that, I’m still not certain what I’ll do when I have to come face to face with a man, over leveled six-guns. I don’t know if I’ll be able to pull the trigger under those circumstances.
And for my pards to count on me, I need to be a Ranger they can fight with.
With those thoughts, he drifted into an uneasy sleep.