Tag Archives: Catahoula Parish

“Buffalo Woman” is LIVE!

It took a while, but we are finally there. Book 4 of the Catahoula Series, Buffalo Woman, is now live on Amazon. This is the fourth in the series and takes our heroes forward five years to 1872 and the tour of America by Grand Duke Alexei of Russia. Ethan and Angel get sucked into his vortex and head out West to go buffalo hunting and then New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

I have posted excerpts from the book here,  here, and here, and below is another. This one finds Angel demonstrating her skills with the sling to the Grand Duke’s party. Enjoy.

*****

Alexei then remembered Angel’s claim of her prowess with the sling and that he had previously requested a demonstration. “Miss Angelique, you told me you could hit a pigeon at thirty paces with your sling. Would you be so kind as to demonstrate the weapon of King David for us?” That was followed by a few shouts of encouragement I imagine meant to express doubt that she could do what she said.

I looked at her, and she was blushing. “You bragged and now you have to back it up.”

She stepped forward and bowed to the Grand Duke, then turned and did likewise to the gathered crowd. She stepped over to Clayton, and just as he was about to take a sip of whiskey from his tin cup, she snatched it from him. After sniffing its contents in an exaggerated manner, she pinched her nose and tossed the liquid into the fire, which flared with a bright flame burning off the alcohol.

As I watched her antics, I was beginning to think that she was quite the show person. I noticed that Buffalo Bill must have also thought so. He was watching her with arms crossed and a curious expression with half smile upon his lips.

Angel continued her show. She held the cup aloft for all to see, even tossed it into the air and caught it in a most theatrical manner. Holding the cup aloft, she marched over to the woodpile for the campfire and placed it upon the top log in such a manner that the open end of the cup would face her. In the exaggerated manner of an accomplished thespian, she gestured toward her cup target then stepped off thirty long paces as the crowd counted along with her. Everyone was thoroughly enjoying her show.

Very dramatically, she took her coat off and tossed it to me. With yet more drama, she withdrew her sling from her trouser’s pocket and stretched it out and held over her head for all to see that it was only two thongs and a leather piece to hold the projectile. The audience applauded. She then withdrew a .44 caliber lead ball from her pocket and pinched between forefinger and thumb, she held it aloft for her audience to examine.

Alexei stood to the side obviously much amused by her antics, and Cody was very clearly interested in what she was doing.

Angel carefully and deliberately placed the ball into the leather pouch of the sling and went to twirling it. I had watched her use her sling on many occasions, but I had never seen her twirl it the way she did that evening. While still facing the audience, she spun it on her right side, then on her left side, then alternating sides, then overhead. That spinning sling held her audience in its hypnotic grasp. As I said, she wasn’t even facing the target, it being on her left side some thirty paces away. Suddenly, she let out a Rebel yell, spun, and stepped toward the tin cup, letting fly the ball at her target, which promptly disappeared from the woodpile with a satisfying clang. Her audience cheered and applauded. Angel threw up her arms in victory. Cody was applauding enthusiastically while shaking his head in disbelief. Alexei stepped up to Angel and took her hand and held it aloft. She then curtsied like the finest lady-in-waiting in any European court. I reckon then that she had learned something in that expensive finishing school after all.

Buffalo Bill ordered the cup retrieved and brought to him for examination. He found a deep dent almost dead center in the bottom of the cup.

After receiving her accolades, she came over and stood beside me with a broad grin on her lips.

“How did you do that?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Never did it that way before.”

“And you attempted such before an audience?”

She looked up at me with the expression of a child caught in some mischief. “Too much champagne. I think maybe I’m a little drunk.”

*****

And Book 5 is already in the works…

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Meet Theo — Excerpt from The Avenging Angel

B3 AA Cover Master1Book 3 of the Catahoula Chronicles Series is moving right along. Still planning on a summer publish date. The Avenging Angel takes place in 1866, a year after the war and during one of the most troubling periods in American history, Reconstruction.

Some old characters you haven’t seen in a while will be returning, but there will also be some new characters introduced in The Avenging Angel. In this excerpt you will meet one, Theogene Henri Leboeuf. Theo will have a profound impact on the lives of Rachel and Ethan.

*****

 Scene setup: Ethan is having a confrontational discussion with his neighbor, Melvin Norgood, and one of his sons, Owen, when they are interrupted by a third son, Billy.

“I caught him, Paw! I caught the little thief!” Billy yelled as he stopped at the bottom of the front steps. The kid he had by the arm was filthy dirty, his long hair was matted and tangled, and his clothing was mostly rags. Issuing forth from his mouth was a constant stream of curses that would make a sailor blush, mostly directed at Billy, but the old man got his share.

Norgood and Owen descended the steps, and I followed.

“Got ya this time!” yelled Norgood, who by then had lost interest in me. “I’ll teach you a lesson you’ll long remember. Billy, beat him good and make sure he never comes back here.”

I looked at Norgood. “You serious?”

“Hell yes! That kid has been a pain in my rear all summer now.” He turned back to Billy. “Beat him, I said! Beat him good and proper!”

“Wait! What did the boy do?”

Norgood turned and glared at me. “He’s a thief and ruffian. He steals from my kitchen, steals my chickens, and breaks my windows. And I’m sick of him.” He turned back to Billy. “What are you waiting for? Whip him, I told ya!”

Still holding the squirming boy with one hand, Billy unbuckled his belt with the other. And the boy wailed all the louder.

“Oh, no you don’t,” I said as I marched over and grabbed the boy and pulled him away from Billy. “You will not strike this child!”

He looked at me. “You gonna stop me?” And with that, to make his point with me, he backhanded the kid and sent him sprawling on the ground. As Billy turned back to me, I was ready and planted my fist in his face and sent him sprawling on the ground beside the boy.

The boy jumped to his feet and wiped a spot of blood from his split lip. Then he hauled back and kicked Billy in the shin.

Melvin went to draw his pistol.

“Not a good idea, Norgood,” I said as I drew my own Colt and pointed it at his head. “You aren’t fast enough to live through this.”

“And neither are you, Ethan,” said Owen with his Colt pointed at me.

I looked around at the three Norgoods. Billy was still struggling to stand, but the two other Norgoods had cocked pistols pointing in my direction. “Looks like we have a standoff, boys,” I said with a smile

“Looks like it,” said Norgood, “and I’m going to end this—for now. Ethan, I think you had better leave. And take that boy with you, and make sure he never shows up on my property again. If he does, I’ll kill him.”

Still holding my Colt on Norgood, I said to the kid, “Over by my horse, boy, and move it!”

“Yes, sir,” he replied before he stuck his tongue out at Norgood.

I pointed the pistol skyward and let the hammer down to half cock as I backed away toward Pepper and the boy. Norwood lowered his own and gestured to Owen to do the same.

Pistol holstered, I swung up into the saddle and, once situated, leaned over and extended my hand to the boy. He got the message and grabbed my arm, and I pulled him up behind me.

“You settled?”

“Yes, sir,” he replied as he put his arms around my waist to hold on.

“Good day to you, Norgood,” I said with a tip of my hat. He did not smile and made no gesture towards me.

I touched Pepper’s flanks with my heels, and we headed down Norgood’s drive for the road.

“What’s your name, boy?”

He seemed to hesitate before answering. “Theogene Henri Leboeuf, but you can just call me Theo.”

“Any relation to Corporal Antoine Leboeuf with the 1st Louisiana Brigade? From up around Jena?”

“He was my paw, and our farm was near Jena. You knew him?”

“I did. Wounded at Sharpsburg. Lost a leg and an arm as I recall.”

“That, he did. He come home that winter only half a man to find  my mother dead of pneumonia by just a week. That was a bad winter—a very bad time.”

“What happened after that?”

“He died ‘bout a year later. Kinda hard to manage a mule with only one leg and one arm. I tried to help, but it weren’t enough. The farm work finished off what the war started.”

*****

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Dispatches From The Front #8

After Action Report

We are home again and I am mostly recovered from the trip. We learned a lot; at least I did. I came away with a greater understanding of the American Civil War and how very difficult it was on those who fought it, especially the Confederates, who were not nearly as well supplied as the soldiers from the North—not that they had it easy-peasy either, but they were better equipped and supplied. Late in the war, many Confederates were shoeless and their uniforms were rags or a mixture of military and civilian clothing.

I also came away with a greater understanding of the brutality of the war and its staggering loss of life. For those who survived and returned home, it is hard to imagine most did not suffer from PTSD or “nostalgia” as they called it back then. I have seen no records on that, and likely they don’t even exist. I suspect it was the faith of many that precluded at least some of that. Which brings me to ….

I brought back only one souvenir, a book I purchased in the gift shop at the Gettysburg Battlefield, Christ in the Camp by J. Williams Jones, first published in 1886. Jones was a chaplain in the Army of Northern Virginia (ANV), and his book is about the Awakening or Great Revival that took place during the war, especially in the ANV. I devoted a whole chapter to this in An Eternity of Four Years (Chapter 16). Ethan was a man of faith, and also a man “fallen from grace” because of his loss of Rachel and the situation he found himself in (the war) that prevented his searching for her. That chapter was one of the moments he recovered his faith, at least for a while, and attempted to respond to God’s calling for him. It gives some details on this Great Awakening that took place.

Christ in the Camp is full of interesting stories from many soldiers of many denominations. I am barely through about 20% of the book and will be writing more about this in future posts. If these men in the book are examples of what Christianity is suppose to look like, then we are badly missing the mark today. Their faith pervaded everything they did. They lived what they believed. For example, General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s application of 1 Thessalonians 5:17 …pray without ceasing… was eye-opening for me. (I will explain that in a future post.) Today, we often just go through the motions of being spiritual.

Did they get everything right? No, because like us they were fallen men. They got slavery wrong, for one thing, and used Scripture to support their position. But keep in mind, not everyone then was an ardent Bible-reading/believing Christian that lived the Life of Christ through faith. Some were merely “Bible-thumpers” that used Scripture for their own ends. We sometimes have a tendency to read into Scripture what we want to see there, and I suspect a lot of that was happening in the South. It would be unfair to judge all Christians by those kinds of “Christians.”

One thing that has come out in what I have read so far is the issue of slavery is rarely if ever mentioned associated with the war. What they speak of in the many letters and comments is their desire to build a new nation free from a tyrannical government seeking to subject them through force and protect their homes and families from the invaders. For them, the fight was a “good fight.” Today, we look back and see that “good fight” tarnished by the issue of slavery, but that was not their perspective.

I hope you have enjoyed this series of Dispatches From The Front. I certainly enjoyed writing and experiencing them.

I will close with an excerpt from An Eternity of Four Years, Chapter 16 – The Awakening.

*****

Cornfield

The Cornfield

The long line of caissons and cannons, ambulances, supply wagons, and weary men crossed the Potomac and slowly plodding south away from the killing fields of Sharpsburg, Maryland. The army was both physically and mentally spent, incapable of taking the field again anytime soon. It needed to rest, to recover, rebuild and re-equip before it would again be an army.

In that September of 1862, the giddy victories of the year before had given way to the soul-numbing realities of a brutal and bloody war. Beginning with the Valley Campaign in the early spring and continuing all summer through to Sharpsburg, what had seemed glorious the year before became for all a dreaded experience that promised only more pain, suffering, and death. Those who believed this war would be over quickly came face-to-face with the sobering realization that it would likely go on for a long while and cost many more lives.

Thomas Paine once said of another war, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” When a man’s soul is tested by the worst of what life can throw at him, especially when he looks death in the face, he becomes contemplative of his mortality. Unnoticed by all but a very few, a change was taking place; an “awakening” was slowly spreading over the army. It would begin in the Army of Northern Virginia and eventually spread to all of the armies of the Confederacy. It would profoundly impact the lives of the many soldiers touched by it, and it would eventually be felt elsewhere in the nation long after the war ended.

I first became aware of its presence during our withdrawal from Maryland. I was dismounted and walking along with Blue as we led our weary mounts south. One of the Tigers from the 1st Louisiana, his face still blackened with gunpowder from biting off the ends of the paper cartridges to reload his musket, a bloody bandage around his head, shoeless, and his uniform in tatters, stepped out of the formation and approached us. “Beggin’ yer pardon, Captain, may I have a word with you?”

“Of course,” I replied. “How may I be of service?”

That is when I noticed he was weeping though he tried to hide it. “Sir, I understand you are a good man, a godly man who knows the Scriptures, an’ I need to ask ya something.”

“What is it?”

“I ain’t much for church-goin’. Preachers just seem to preach, but I‘ve seen the Lord in you. I seen you in that bloody-awful Cornfield, how you helped the wounded, protected them, and gave comfort to the survivors when we were driven back to Dunker Church. You weren’t ‘fraid a nuthin’. They was balls flying all around you, but you weren’t scart at all. But I was scart, plumb scart of dying and especially knowing I’m going to hell. An’ I don’t want to go there. I been through enough hell right here, and I reckon the one in the Bible has be a whole lot worse.” He paused to collect his thoughts. “Something happened to me in that Cornfield, and some of the boys said you were the man I need to speak to about it.”

*****

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New Cover For The Last Day of Forever

For those interested, I have a new cover. I like this older Rachel much better. It is a period photo I Photoshopped slightly to make her just a bit less plain looking, mainly her eyes and mouth.

Cover B1

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The Paperback Version of An Eternity of Four Years is now available!

Book 2 1Finally! It is done! I have been teasing you long enough.

The exciting conclusion to the two-part epic of the Legend of Rachel and Ethan, An Eternity of Four Years, is finally finished and published. Both the Kindle digital version and the paperback version are available at Amazon.

An Eternity of Four Years picks up the story four days after The Last Day of Forever ends and carries the reader through the turbulent years of the Civil War with Ethan searching for Rachel to mend what was broken between them.

If you haven’t read part 1 yet, The Last Day of Forever, you need to read it first. Either book can stand alone, but reading both in order fills in a lot of back story and detail you will find both interesting and helpful to your reading experience.

Get ’em while they are hot! And don’t forget to go back and post a review. It will help the books get visibility and credibility.

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“An Eternity of Four Years” is Published!

Book 2 1The exciting conclusion to the Legend of Rachel and Ethan, part 2 of the Catahoula Series, is up for sale at Amazon. However, this is the digital Kindle version. The paperback will be available soon, probably late next week.

The Kindle version is available for only $.99 for a limited time only. This is to allow my friends to get it at a reduced price.

You can scoop both up for only $1.98 total. Such a deal! 😉

If you don’t have a Kindle device, you can download the app for your computer, your iPad, or your phone for free. Use the device you want it on to get the app.

 

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About THAT flag — and other thoughts.

Battle_flag_of_the_Confederate_States_of_America.svgIn The Last Day of Forever, Ethan is a slaveholder, albeit by proxy; his father was the actual owner. He inherited them at Morgan’s death and promptly freed them. His underlying and unacknowledged (at the time) motive was his dislike for the “peculiar institution,” but his excuse was to save Catahoula Plantation through the coming war.

In An Eternity of Four Years, he began the war owning another slave he won in a duel, Blue, and he promptly freed him as well. But he discovered he could not distance himself from the institution of slavery with the simple stroke of a pen. He was sucked into the war on the side of the South (it was that or hang), but Blue stayed with Ethan for reasons of his own, remaining a constant reminder of the institution throughout the war.

While Ethan began the war somewhat reluctantly, he did believe he was defending hearth and home from the Yankee “host” about to invade his country and state. This was a common view of many southern soldiers, most of whom were not even slave owners. As the war dragged on, it became obvious to Ethan the war was about far more than defending his home, and he was on the wrong side of history. But the oath he took and “honor” compelled him to fight on even though his heart was not in it.

What was the war all about? If you answer the North fought to free the slaves, you would be only partially right. If you answer the South fought to keep the institution of slavery, you would be only partially right.

Initially, the North fought to save the Union, and though Lincoln wanted to free the slaves, he knew northerners would abandon the cause if he made the war about slavery. And they did once he announced his Emancipation Proclamation. Many northerners refused to join the fight after that.

The war was really about money. Isn’t it always? For the South to leave the Union, it would mean a terrific loss of tax revenues for the United States. For the South, the slaves represented a huge financial investment. It was their belief that only the black man was capable of laboring under the hot conditions found in the South. Remove that source of labor, and the southern economy would collapse.

But sooner or later, slavery had to end, or the Constitution of the United States and everything standing behind it was a farce. Someone once said of slavery, the South had a tiger by the tail; it could neither hold on forever nor let it go, lest the tiger consume it. The Civil War forced that issue, and the tiger is still feasting on the South.

Now, some 150 years after the war, we are embarking on the rewriting of history, using the excuse of political correctness as our guiding light. That, my friends, is a very slippery slope. Already, we have seen calls to ban all merchandise depicting the Confederate battle flag (AKA the Southern Cross, not the Stars and Bars), while at the same time, Nazi symbol merchandise is still available and happily sold by some of those hypocrites banning the Confederate flag merchandise. There have been calls to cease distribution of movies like Gone With The Wind—archive it forever, take down statues of Confederate officers and politicians, rename streets named for Confederates, and even rename military posts. As if these actions will change anything! They will not. The divisiveness will only get worse. Will we see book burnings next? A crystal night where southern businesses will be trashed? Anyone whose ancestors were slave owners will face persecution?

We are NOT a racist country, but we are rapidly becoming one. I was born and raised in the South, and I am here to tell you, in my lifetime, I have seen the racial attitudes of southerners dramatically change for the better. But in the last six or seven years, all that progress has been reversed. Ironically, it is being driven by those who claim, falsely, they are not racists.

God help us!

Where does it end? Short answer: It does not. The New American Taliban, focused on symbols rather than substance, will not stop until everything they view as offensive is destroyed—exactly like what we see the Taliban and Isis doing in the Middle East today—no difference!

I leave you with these comments by General U.S. Grant from his memoirs of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Consider that they were spoken by the victor after four years of a brutal war.

“I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.”

America’s slide down this slippery slope will not end well, and what is at the bottom is a monster none of us want to even think about.

Wake up, America!

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AT LAST! It is published!

Cover B1Well, almost. The digital version of The Last Day of Forever will be released for sale on Friday May 8! It is available as a preorder NOW. To order it now for delivery May 8 (digital versions) go here.

BUT, the paperbacks are available for purchase NOW. To get your copy go here.

This is what will be available:

Digital versions of The Last Day of Forever – Right now, it is only available on Amazon for Kindle devices. You can download free Kindle reader apps for other devices like iPads. There is a link for that at the Amazon page for The Last Day of Forever.

Print version of The Last Day of Forever – The link will take you to CreateSpace, a division of Amazon. (Eventually, it will be listed on the Amazon page also.) These books will be PoD (Print on Demand), meaning they will be digitally printed as they are ordered. They will be 6×9 paperbacks, but the quality is very high. Sorry, but I will not have any to sell direct, because I will not be applying for a retail sales tax license from the parish and state. If you simply must have it signed, I will be glad to do so. Contact me, and we will work something out.

Here is what you need to do:

  1. Buy a copy now.
  2. Read it and enjoy it.
  3. Go back to where you bought it and post an honest review.
  4. Tell all your friends.

What is next?

Assuming you like The Last Day of Forever, you will probably want to read An Eternity of Four Years, which continues the story. While The Last Day of Forever is mostly a coming of age love story, An Eternity of Four Years is much darker since it takes place during the Civil War, and both Ethan and Rachel are, of course, involved in it. The Last Day of Forever will probably appeal more to women; An Eternity of Four Years will probably appeal more to men. Not sure that was a good idea or not, but it is where the story went. I expect to release An Eternity of Four Years very soon.

Will there be a Book 3? Working on it. Working title is The Avenging Angel, but it has a long way to go. There may also be other stories in the Catahoula Series based on spin-off characters, like Silas Riddle, whom you will meet in An Eternity of Four Years.

Lastly, I want to thank you, my friends and relations, who have been supportive of me and patient during this process, especially my bride. I truly enjoyed telling this story, and I hope you will enjoy reading it. By all means, email me with your comments and suggestions. The nice thing about digital publishing is if something is broken, it can be fixed. I can simply correct the digital file and upload the new one. I did my best to rid the files of issues and had several beta readers review the story and edit it, but I am sure something slipped past all the eyes that were on it.

As my teachers in school used to say, “Put down your pencils and turn in your papers.” Pencils are down and the papers are turned in—warts and all.

Thank you! Enjoy!

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What I planned…

Plans

I have been making bold promises about a release date for The Last Day of Forever, which seems to be taking forever, but maybe we are getting close to the last day? (Sorry! Couldn’t pass up all the puns.)

I found the above illustration on FaceBook. It kind of explains it all.

Regarding a release date? I am about to hit the publish button.

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An Eternity of Four Years – Excerpt 1

I am moving right along on An Eternity of Four Years, Book 2 of the series. Took three days vacation from work. Since we are real close on The Last Day of Forever, I thought I might start teasing you with Book 2. This is from the first chapter titled The Duel. I also made some changes to the cover.

*****

Book 2 1The sun was just peeking over the eastern horizon. Its feeble rays stabbed fitfully through the dense morning fog to give the gray monotones of dawn an ethereal glow. The chilling mist that hid the features of the so-called “Dueling Oaks” along Bayou St John restricted my visibility to but one hundred paces or so. The oak’s massive branches, touching the ground in places, had the appearance of being overly burdened and unable to lift up to reach the sun. Spanish moss dripped from those branches like ghostly fingers probing towards the earth.

As I stood upon the Field of Honor and awaited the arrival of my opponent, my clothing was damp from the fog, and my head throbbed from the copious amounts of absinthe I had consumed the previous night and well into the morning.

My Second, Jean DuBassey, having arrived only a few moments before, seemed irritated that I had sent for him to act in that capacity. He arrived in a bit of a huff.

“Forgive me, Ethan, for I’m a bit confused. The last time I saw you was five years ago at your father’s plantation in Catahoula Parish . . .”

I interrupted him, “More or less, and the plantation is also called Catahoula.”

He shook his head, frustrated at my response. “No matter! And now, five years later, you want me to act as your second in a duel? And you do realize dueling is illegal in New Orleans?”

“As I recall, Jean, five years ago you said if I needed anything just ask, or words to that effect. Besides, you are the only person I could think of.”

“You’re drunk!”

I dismissed that accusation with a wave of my hand. “Maybe a little.”

“Maybe a lot! How do you expect to fight a duel while drunk?”

“Actually, I was hoping you might help with that. You did claim you were an accomplished duelist, did you not? And don’t you teach the use of the sword and pistol?”

“You want me to teach you how to kill someone in ten minutes?”

I nodded. “Personally, I have not found killing someone anymore complicated than that?”

“Who have you killed?”

“Just a few renegade Indians out west when I was in the Army.”

He leaned in and smelled my breath. “What have you been drinking?”

“Absinthe. Say, did you know there is a saloon on Bourbon Street—oh wait, you call them ‘coffeehouses’—and it sells mostly absinthe, and you drip water from these marvelous little marble fountains over lumps of sugar­­…?” I paused and considered what I had said. “Well, I guess you do know; you live here, don’t you?”

Jean shook his head again. He was becoming quite exasperated with me. “You dragged me from my bed, which I was sharing with a beautiful lady, by the way, to help you fight a duel? Who did you insult?”

“An arrogant fellow by the name of Toutant.”

“Emile Justin Toutant?”

“The same. Friend of yours?”

“Not hardly. There are two people in this city you do not want to get into a duel with. I am one, and he is the other. What did you say that caused him to take offense?”

“He called me a coward, so I punched him.”

“And why did he call you a coward?”

“Because I said the South is likely to lose this war.”

“And he took offense at that?”

“That—and maybe I called him a name.”

“This is like pulling teeth! What did you call him?”

“An ignorant buffoon.”

Jean sighed in resignation. “What is the choice of weapons?”

“Pistols.”

“Not ten pound mauls in five feet of water on a sandbar in the Red River?” he said sarcastically to remind me of our “almost” duel five years before.

“That worked for you because you are only just over five feet tall, but the buffoon is as tall as I am.”

Jean looked past me and said, “The buffoon here.”

I turned and saw nothing at first but heard the trod of the horses, the rattle of the harness, and rumble of the carriage wheels. It appeared like a specter drifting out of the swirling fog and came to a stop under a gnarled and sagging oak thirty paces or so from where my second and I stood.

A gaudily dressed black man of immense size drove the rig. He was well over six feet tall and weighed 250 pounds or more. He was dressed in sky-blue, silken, knee-length pantaloons and matching swallow-tailed coat, vest and cravat, with a ruffled shirt, white silk stockings and black pumps. He wore a matching blue ostrich-plumed turban on his head. Costumed so, he looked like some eunuch from the Arabian Nights. He jumped down from the driver’s seat with a grace that seemed in stark contrast to his huge size and opened the door for his master.

A man I assumed correctly to be my opponent’s second stepped out of the carriage. The surgeon followed, identified by his black bag.

Then Monsieur Toutant stepped arrogantly up to the carriage door and stood there for a moment smiling sardonically before dropping to the ground, alighting like some bird of prey. He drew a dainty, lace-trimmed handkerchief from his sleeve and dabbed his lips, and with a flourish, returned it to its place. He was handsomely dressed in a very fine, white linen suit and a ruffled shirt, a white silk brocade vest, and maroon, silk cravat. He carried a silver handle cane, using it more as an extension of his arm and part of his costume rather than for any assistance while walking.

He stabbed the ground with his cane, and with his other hand upon his hip, struck an arrogant pose. His head thrown back, he looked down his long slender nose at me and said, “Good morning, Monsieur Davis.” He took a deep breath and pursed his lips before saying, “A good day to die, is it not?”

I suppose that statement was meant to unnerve me. It did not, because I was in an absinthe-induced daze. Quite frankly I was so distressed as the result of other matters, matters of the heart that is, that I really didn’t much give a damn if I lived or died. As a result, I stood upon this so-called Field of Honor to answer my insult to this finely dressed, pompous ass, and I was totally unafraid of the outcome. In retrospect that attitude likely saved my life that morning. Events that had brought me to this state of depression were out of my control. I was, therefore, forced to place the whole miserable affair into the hands of the Lord—along with my life. As it were, He had plans for me but had not seen a need to take me into His confidence concerning them.

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