Friday, October 4, 2013

"Broken Dreams" by Annie Turner (Novelette)

Genre:  Western

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:  Book 1 of the Nathaniel Porter trilogy.

Nate Porter returns from fighting in the Civil War to find his wife dead, his ranch falling apart and a rich neighbor that seems to have no qualms about calling Nate's land his own. Despite his battlefield nightmares, he realizes that his own war has only just begun...


“Don’t give up on me, Peters! Stay with me!”

The words could barely be heard over the booming of cannons and rifles. Nate tore off a huge piece of cloth from Peters’ coat, trying, in vain, to stop the massive amount of blood loss. Peters was writhing on the ground, his leg hanging together only by a few tendrils of muscle fiber.

Peters was screaming and delirious with pain. He grabbed Nate’s coat and pulled him close so Nate could hear. “Kill me, Sergeant. Kill me now.”

Nate recoiled. He had never mercy-killed a man before and had no intention of starting now. “No! You’ll make it! Just hang on and I’ll find something to—“

“No.” Peters’ eyes became lucid. He understood it was his time even if Nate did not.

Nate took the knife Peters held up with trembling fingers. Ammunition was in short supply and couldn’t be wasted. Nate would have to be quick and efficient so the poor man didn’t suffer even more.

The hand gripping Nate’s coat tightened. “Do it.”

Nate lurched awake, his face coated with sweat and his mind disoriented by the surroundings. His throbbing temples made piecing together reality a bit slower than usual. He had fallen asleep in the armchair after drinking a half bottle of whiskey. Apparently not drinking during the war had taken a toll on his alcohol tolerance.

He took a quick nip to help ease his massive headache as he considered what his next move would be. His prospects were almost hilariously grim. He had no money. Every cent had been spent on the land and buildings. Elaine’s family had not been rich and he was fairly certain that any money he had sent her had been used to buy food.

He had exactly $20 in his pocket from the last time he was paid by the Army. Somehow he was going to have to find a way to make that money cover the looming mortgage payments that would be called in soon. Elaine had written to say the banks had been willing to extend the deadlines due to the fact that he was fighting. But Nate was not fool enough to think that the generosity would last too much longer.

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