Read Talons of Eagles Online

Authors: William W. Johnstone

Talons of Eagles

She gave Jamie a strange look. “You believe the South will lose this war, Jamie?”
“Yes. After several long and bloody years. The North has the manpower, the money, and the factories.”
“And the South has ... ?”
Jamie poured another glass of water. He drank it down and set the glass back carefully on the wicker table that was between him and the woman. “Slavery is wrong. No man has the right to own another human being in bondage. But the Federal government does not have the right to tell individual states what they can and cannot do. That is really what this war is all about: central control of our lives. Total control of our lives. If I obey the laws of God, and observe a moral code here on earth, the government has no business interfering in my life. That is why I choose on the side of the Gray.”
“And your sons?” she asked gently.
“Falcon is fighting for the Gray in Texas. I suspect Jamie Ian will choose the side of the blue and so will Matthew.”
“Father against son.”
“And brother against brother,” Jamie added. “This war will cut deep across the country. It will leave bitter scars that will last for many, many years, perhaps forever. But a person must always do what they think is right.”
“No matter what the consequences?”
“No matter what the consequences.”
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Copyright © 1995 William W. Johnstone
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ISBN: 978-0-7860-3753-7
ISBN-10: 0-7860-2571-9
17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10
Book One
I leave this rule for others when I'm deal,
Be always sure you're right—then go ahead.
—Davy Crockett
Jamie Ian MacCallister was just a little boy living in the wilderness of Western Ohio when the Shawnee war party killed his parents and baby sister. For reasons known only to the Shawnee, they spared Jamie and made him a slave in their village. Jamie worked hard, did what he was told, and was soon adopted into the tribe, learning the Warrior's Way of the Shawnee. He was named Man Who Is Not Afraid. Before his twelfth birthday, Jamie escaped from the village, taking with him a young woman named Hannah. The pair made their way to a small pocket of civilization in Kentucky, and Jamie was taken into the home of Sam and Sarah Montgomery, while Hannah, who was several years older, was taken in by the preacher and his wife.
But civilization did not take well to Jamie. He was wise far beyond his years, tall and strong for his age, and could hold his own in any fight, fists or blade, with boy or man. There was no back-down in Jamie MacCallister.
Then he met Kate Olmstead, the most beautiful girl Jamie had ever seen, and he fell head over moccasins in love. Kate had hair the color of wheat and eyes of blue. She wasn't very big, but with a smile and a wink she could twist Jamie right around her pretty little finger. Jamie became so smitten the first time he saw Kate, he walked right into a tree and almost knocked himself goofy.
If there ever was a love made in heaven, it was Jamie Ian MacCallister and Kate Olmstead. There was only one hitch: Kate's father and her brother hated Jamie.
But that didn't stop the two from seeing each other and holding hands whenever they could.
When Jamie was fourteen years old, he looked twenty, was well over six feet tall, and literally did not know his own strength. He wore his thick blond hair shoulder length and shunned store-bought clothes and homespuns in favor of buckskins.
Then he had to kill a man.
It was self-defense, but suddenly Jamie found himself a wanted man with a price on his head. He took to the deep woods of Western Kentucky, but would not go far because of his love for Kate. After only a few months, Jamie returned and the two of them eloped. They were married in the river town of New Madrid, Missouri, and wandered westward, finally stopping in the Big Thicket country of East Texas. There, they settled in and began to raise a family. Jamie's neighbors were a runaway slave, Moses Washington, and his wife, Liza, and their children. A few years later, several families from back in Kentucky showed up in the Thicket: Sam and Sarah Montgomery, and Hannah and her husband, Swede.
Jamie became involved with those seeking independence for Texas, and the night before the Alamo fell, he was sent out with a packet of letters from the defenders. Jamie was ambushed by one of Santa Anna's patrols and left for dead. A poor Mexican family found him, more dead than alive, and took him into their home, helping to nurse him back to health until Kate could arrive and take him back to their cabin in the Big Thicket.
In the spring of 1837, Jamie and Kate, Moses and Liza, and the families from back east decided to move westward.
They settled in a long and lovely valley in Colorado; in the coming years it would be known as MacCallister's Valley. It was there Kate and Jamie's tenth and last child, Falcon, was born in 1839. All had survived except baby Karen, who had been born in the Big Thicket country and was killed by bounty hunters at five months of age in 1829.
Jamie made friends with those Indians who would accept his friendship, and fought with the others. The name of Jamie MacCallister became legend throughout the West, as scout and gunfighter, and a man who had damn well better be left alone, just as the MacCallister children were making names for themselves as they grew into adulthood. Their oldest boy, Jamie Ian, Jr., who was born in 1827, was a man feared and respected by both whites and Indians. Jamie Ian did not begin to settle down and hang up his guns until he married Caroline Hankins and built a home in the valley.
The second set of twins, Andrew and Rosanna, showed an early interest in music and were sent back east to school. In the coming years both would become world-renowned musicians, composers, and actors.
Life was good for Jamie and Kate in the valley, and they were content to watch the town they founded grow and their kids mature and marry and have children of their own.
But Jamie MacCallister was too famous a man for the public to forget. When he was fifty years old, he received word that President Abe Lincoln wanted to see him.
“You can't go meet the president of the United States looking like you just came off a buffalo hunt, Jamie,” Kate told him.

“Hold still!” Kate said, measuring him across the shoulders. “Your good black suit will fit you, but I've got to make you some shirts.”
“What's wrong with buckskins?”
“Hush up and hold still.”
Time had touched the couple with a very light hand. Their hair was still the color of wheat, with only a very gentle dusting of gray. Kate was still petite and beautiful, and Jamie was massive. The few suits he owned had to be tailor-made because of the size of his shoulders, chest, and arms. His hands were huge and his wrists thicker than the forearms of most men. Even at middle age, Jamie still truly did not know his own strength. He had killed more than one man with just a blow from his fist. But with Kate, the kids, and those he loved, Jamie was gentle.
“What did the letter from Falcon say?” Megan, one of the triplets, asked.
Kate stepped around Jamie and looked up at him, questions in her eyes.
Falcon, the youngest of the MacCallister children, had left home when scarcely in his teens and quickly made a reputation as a gambler and gunfighter. He did not cheat at cards, although he could; he just knew the odds and played expertly. He had his father's size but not his father's easy temperament. Falcon's temper was explosive, and he was almighty quick with a pistol.
Jamie said, “He joined up with some outfit in Texas. He was scout for that bunch who attacked Fort Bliss.”
“Then the war is really happening, Pa?” Megan asked.
“I just can't believe that Falcon would fight for any side that believed in slavery,” Ellen Kathleen said.
Kate looked at her oldest daughter. Like all MacCallister children and grandchildren, Kathleen's eyes were blue and her hair golden. It was difficult for Kate to believe that Kathleen was in her mid-thirties and had children of her own that were very nearly old enough to marry. “Falcon does not hold with slavery, Ellen Kathleen,” the mother said. “I'm told the war is not really about slavery. It's about something called states' rights. Isn't that so, Jamie?”
“Damn foolishness is what it is,” Jamie said. “And if Honest Abe thinks I'm going to get mixed up in it, he has another think coming.”
“Don't speak of your president like that!” Kate said sharply. “You be respectful, now, you hear? Abe Lincoln is a fine man with a dreadful burden on his shoulders. If he needs your help, you're bound and obliged to help out—and you know it.”
“I thought you said I was too old to be traipsin' about the country, Kate?” Jamie said, with a twinkle in his eyes. He let one big hand slip down from Kate's waist to her hip.
She slapped his hand away as those kids present howled with laughter.
“You mind your hands, Jamie MacCallister!” Kate snapped playfully at him. “Time and place for everything.”
“I've got the time,” Jamie said. “If you've got the place, old woman.”
“Old woman!
” Kate yelled. “Get on with you!” she said, amid the laughter of kids and grandkids. She shoved at him, and her shoes started slipping on the smooth board floor. It was like trying to move a boulder. “Get outside, Jamie! I've got to finish these shirts. Megan, you and Ellen Kathleen get your sewing kits and help me. We can't have your father going to Washington looking like something out of the rag barrel.”
Joleen MacCallister MacKensie, who had married Pat MacKensie in 1851, came busting up onto the porch. “Pa! Will you come talk to your grandson Philip and tell him to stop bringin' home wolves. He's done it again! Now, damnit, Pa . . .”
Kate pointed a finger at the young woman. “I'll set you down and wash your mouth out with soap, young lady. You mind that vulgar tongue, you hear me?”
Joleen settled down promptly. She knew her mother would do exactly what she threatened. “Yes, Ma. But somebody's got to talk to Philip. Last year he brought home a puma cub and like to have scared us all to death when the mother showed up!”
Jamie rattled the windows with laughter at the recalling of that incident. He clapped his big hands together and said, “I recollect that morning. Pat was on his way to the outhouse with his galluses hangin' down and come nose to snout with that angry cat. I never knew the boy could move that fast.” Jamie wiped his eyes and chuckled. “He came out of his britches faster than eggs through a hen. If that puma hadn't a got all tangled up in Pat's britches and galluses, that would have been a tussle for sure. Pat never did find his pants, did he?”
It would be many a year before Pat MacKensie would live that down.
“Pa!” Joleen yelled, red in the face.
“All right, all right. I'll go talk to Philip. Calm down.”
“Get your sewing kit, Joleen,” Kate said. “We've got work to do. And bring what's left of those buttons I lent you.”
“Yes, Ma.”
Jamie stepped outside and looked up and down the street of the town. Two nearby towns, separated by only a low ridge of hills, were called Valley. Several hundred people now lived in the twin towns. They had a doctor, several churches, a block each of stores, and a large school house that served both towns.
Jamie thought about his upcoming trip east. He was to ride out in three days, crossing the prairies, then into Missouri, and then catch the train east to Washington. Jamie smiled. Tell the truth, he was sort of looking forward to it.
* * *
Jamie stayed to himself as much as possible during the train ride eastward, which was not easy since the coaches were filled with blue-uniformed soldiers of the Union army, all excited about the war. To a person, they were convinced the war would not last very long, and all were anxious to get in it before it was over—promotions came fast in a war.
Jamie was not so sure the war would be a short one. And he was even more baffled as to why the president of the United States wanted him to scout for the Union army. Jamie knew almost nothing about the country east of the Mississippi; everything had changed since he'd left that part of the country, more than thirty years ago.
Jamie looked at the fresh-faced young officers on his coach, and listened to them talk of the war, as the train whistled and clattered and rattled through the afternoon.
“Those damn ignorant hillbillies,” one young second lieutenant said. “They really must be stupid if they think they can whip the Union army.”
Those damn hillbillies, Jamie thought, can take their rifles and knock the eye out of a squirrel at three hundred yards, sonny-boy.
“The Army of Virginia is a joke,” another lieutenant said. “And Lee is nothing more than a damn traitor.”
Lee is no traitor, Jamie thought. He is a Virginian and a damn fine soldier. How could he turn his saber against the state that he loves?
“We'll whip those mush-mouthed Southerners in jig-time,” another young officer boasted.
Don't be too sure of that, Jamie thought. He stood up and walked to the rear of the car, stepping out to breathe deeply of the late spring air. The conductor had said several hours before that they would be in Washington sometime during the night.
Jamie felt strangely torn, as a myriad of emotions cut through him. His family, like so many others, had roots in both the North and the South, although his mother's side of the family had settled in South Carolina many years before the MacCallister clan came to America. Jamie had been so young when his parents and baby sister were killed and the cabin burned, he did not know his mother's maiden name.
He sensed more than heard the door open behind him and cut his eyes. The man who was stepping out smiled at him. “Mind if I join you for a smoke?”
“Not at all,” Jamie replied.
“Boastful young soldier boys in there,” the man said.
“They'll soon learn about war.”
“That they will, friend. That they will. Traveling far?”
Jamie smiled. “Not too far.” Jamie's smile had been forced, for the man had a sneaky look about him that Jamie did not care for; he took almost an instant dislike for the fellow. Jamie had learned while only a boy to trust his finely honed instincts. They had saved his life many times during the long and sometimes violent years that lay behind him.
“A sorry thing this war,” the man said, after lighting a cigar. “After the Union is successful in bringing those damned Southerners to their knees, we should put them all on reservations like we're doing with the Injuns and let the damned worthless trash die out.”
“There is right and wrong on both sides in any war, friend,” Jamie said.
A dangerous glint leaped into the man's eyes, and he moved his hand, hooking his right thumb inside his wide belt. “Not in this war, friend. No man has the right to hold another as slave.”
“You're right,” Jamie agreed, and the man seemed to relax somewhat. But his right hand stayed where it was. Hide-out gun or knife, Jamie thought. Or both. Jamie was carrying a gun and knife of his own. He carried a .36 caliber Colt Baby Dragoon in a shoulder holster, and a knife sheathed on his belt. “Slavery is wrong.”
“Southerners are filthy trash,” the man said. “You agree with that?”
The man is determined to force an argument, Jamie silently concluded. But why? And why with me? Jamie placed both hands on the iron railing and stared at the countryside as the train rolled on. Only a few minutes until dusk, Jamie noted, and the stranger's stance was aggressive. He's going to jump me! Jamie thought suddenly. But why? “No, mister. I don't agree with that.”
“Can't straddle the fence in this conflict,” the man said, a wild look in his eyes. “And now I know who you are.”
“You're a damned filthy secessionist! Our intelligence was right.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Jamie asked, irritation plain in his words.
The man's eyes were burning with a fanatical light. He moved his hand under his coat. “Long live the memory of John Brown!” he said, just as the train began moving through a shady glen. That, coupled with the fast-approaching dusk of evening, plunged the train into near darkness. The man whipped out a knife and lunged at Jamie.
But Jamie had anticipated trouble. He clamped one huge hand on the man's wrist and stopped the knife thrust. He hit the man a vicious blow to the jaw with his left fist, and the man's eyes glazed over. Jamie twisted the man's knife arm, and the pop of the bone breaking was loud even over the rumblings of the train. The assassin opened his mouth to scream in pain just as Jamie took a step backward for leverage and hurled the man from the platform of the coach. The man bounced and rolled beside the tracks and then lay still. Whether he was alive or dead, Jamie did not know, and did not care.
“Idiot,” Jamie said. The train rolled on, and he quickly lost sight of the fanatical abolitionist.
Jamie, of course, had read of the exploits of John Brown, and considered the man to be a fool.
The car in which Jamie had been riding was the last one of the hookup, so it was doubtful that anyone else had seen the brief confrontation and the man being thrown from the platform—but there was always that chance. Jamie waited for some sort of outcry, but none came.
Jamie stood for several minutes on the platform, wary now of his surroundings, but still deep in thought.
Somebody has learned of my invitation to meet with the president and doesn't want me to attend. But why? I have not committed to either side in this war, and as it stands now, I probably won't. I have no interest in this war.
But if there are any more attempts on my life, I will develop a very personal interest in the conflict.
“And take appropriate action,” he concluded aloud, just as the sun sank over the horizon and night covered the land.

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