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Authors: Frank Leslie

The Bells of El Diablo

BOOK: The Bells of El Diablo
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“Good with a gun—are you, Reb?” he said. “Let’s see how you do against a butcher knife!”

He bolted forward, and James thrust his own blade up just in time to deflect the Union lieutenant’s ten-inch blade from his own naked belly. The man, snarling and cursing like an outraged mountain lion, drove forward. The move caught James off guard, and he felt himself thrust up against the bridge’s downstream side, the rails pressing against the backs of his legs….

James felt the bridge rails gouging into his ankles, bending his knees. He was leaning too far back, and a quick glance to one side showed him the dully gleaming creek twenty feet below, opening like a dark glove.

He was going over!

Loosing a raucous Rebel yell that seemed to cut the night wide open, he gave one powerful thrust with his knife, ramming half the blade into the Union officer’s upper left chest. Then he and the blue-belly were tumbling over the rails, grunting and snarling as they continued to struggle in midair before the water came up to slap them both like a giant fist.


The Bells of El Diablo
, Frank Leslie tells a sprawling, wondrously exciting adventure that stretches from the desperate final days of the Civil War in the Deep South, to the Rocky Mountains in the boisterous West, to the most savage stretches of Old Mexico. Spiced with a colorful cast of characters, raw human emotion, and plenty of gun-blazing action, the torments and challenges faced by James Dunn, as he fights for personal redemption and a way to give the South one last chance if he can bring back a cursed treasure, are truly epic. Leslie’s writing is fast-paced yet so richly detailed that you can smell the gunsmoke and taste the dust. Not to be missed!”

—Wayne D. Dundee, author of
Hard Trail to Socorro


“Frank Leslie writes with leathery prose honed sharper than a buffalo skinner’s knife, with characters as explosive as forty-rod whiskey and a plot that slams the reader with the impact of a Winchester slug.
The Lonely Breed
is edgy, raw and simply irresistible.”

—Johnny D. Boggs, Spur Award–winning author of
The Killing Shot

“Snug down your hat and hang on. Frank Leslie kicks his story into a gallop right out of the gate…raw and gritty as the West itself.”

—Mark Henry, author of
The Hell Riders

“An enormously entertaining burst of stay-up-late, read-into-the-night, fast-moving flurry of page-turning action. Leslie spins a yarn that rivals the very best on western shelves today. Moving at breakneck speed, this novel is filled with crackling good stuff. I couldn’t put it down!”

—J. Lee Butts, author of
And Kill Them All

“Hooks you instantly with sympathetic characters and sin-soaked villains. Yakima has a heart of gold and an Arkansas toothpick. If you prefer Peckinpah to Ang Lee, this one’s for you.”

—Mike Baron, creator of
The Badger
comic book series

“Big, burly, brawling, and action-packed….A testosterone-laced winner from the word ‘go,’ and Frank Leslie is an author to watch!”

—Ellen Recknor, author of
The Legendary Kid Donovan

Also Available by Frank Leslie

The Last Ride of Jed Strange
Dead River Killer
Revenge at Hatchet Creek
Bullet for a Half-Breed
The Killers of Cimarron
The Dangerous Dawn
The Guns of Sapinero
The Savage Breed
The Wild Breed


Frank Leslie



Published by New American Library, a division of

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,

New York, New York 10014, USA

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,

Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2,

Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)

Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124,

Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)

Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park,

New Delhi – 110 017, India

Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632,

New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)

Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue,

Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:

80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

First Printing, July 2012

10   9   8   7   6   5   4   3   2   1

Copyright © Peter Brandvold, 2012

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

ISBN: 978-1-101-58709-6


Printed in the United States of America


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”



To Wayne Dundee—
good friend, terrific writer

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

About the Author

Chapter 1

He’d fashioned the bayonet himself back at his family’s Seven Oaks Plantation—ten inches of double-edged steel cut from a plow blade—and it slipped so smoothly through the Union soldier’s dark blue tunic and into his belly that for a second Lieutenant James Allen Dunn thought he’d missed his mark in the misty darkness.

But then there was a crunch of bone as he lowered the Enfield’s rear stock and drove the bayonet up beneath the federal soldier’s sternum and into the hot, thudding fist of his heart.

The Union corporal gasped.

There was a snick of steel against bone as James pulled the blade out of the soldier’s belly.

Another gasp. A strangled sigh.

James stepped out away from the tree he’d been crouched behind. He closed his broad left hand over the corporal’s nose and mouth, and the soldier dropped his Sharps carbine as James drove him back and down, until he was on his back on the spongy ground. The corporal kicked and quivered and flailed his arms, blinking horrifically up at James, who snarled savagely
as he applied more pressure to the dying man’s mouth, forcing back a possible scream that would alert his Union ilk skulking about these wooded north Georgia hills and eerie hollows on this hot, chillingly quiet late-summer eve.

James pressed a knee against the man’s expanding and contracting belly. His knee was bare, as was the rest of him, clad in nothing more than sticky, dark river clay, and he could feel the hot wetness of the man’s blood oozing out of the wound through the torn wool tunic, just above his cartridge belt.

The soldier heaved a few more times and then gradually fell still.

James straightened, glanced toward the bridge that crossed Snake Creek Gap before him. The stream was tar black as it slid down the fold between two high hills, glistening like oil under a gauzy dark sky. The bridge crossed to James’s left—a long stretch of oak timbers standing about twenty feet above the creek, the near end thrusting out from the pine-clad mountainside over James’s left shoulder and disappearing into the pines of the ridge on the gap’s other side. Not an oft-used road or bridge, anymore, but one that, according to General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s spies working behind the Union lines in Tennessee, would be used soon by a covert Union cavalry detail shipping guns and ammo to Sherman’s forces now moving on Atlanta.

James Dunn’s guerilla platoon was known as “Forrest’s Raiders,” prized by the general himself and nearly all the Confederate leaders for its proficiency at covert operations in dangerous terrain—stealthy employments that included ambush and assassination, tying knots in
supply lines, blowing up Union rails and ammunition depots, and setting fire to bridges. Leading such exploits had lofted James to legendary status amongst the Confederate troops, and earned him the complimentary monicker of “Forrest’s Rapscallion.” Over the last two bloody years, the raiders had accounted for the deaths of an uncountable number of Union officers and soldiers and had helped invaluably to complicate Lincoln’s efforts at whipping the South into final submission.

BOOK: The Bells of El Diablo
5.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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