After the War, Before the Peace by Sharon Poppen

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303 838 3399

Publisher: Xlibris Corp
ISBN13: 978-1-4010-6545-4 (Trade Paperback)
ISBN: 1-4010-6545-7 (Trade Paperback)
ISBN13: 978-1-4010-6546-1 (Hardback)
ISBN: 1-4010-6546-5 (Hardback)
Subject: FICTION / Historical

On their way back to Mexico, tragedy struck. They’d suffered a driving rain for a couple of days and were now in a particularly rocky area along the banks of the Brazos River. A gravelly beach next to a flood-gorged ravine and a small copse of cottonwood trees offered shelter too good to pass up.
Jim found a little cave among the rocks and was attempting to light a fire to make some coffee and hot food. Joe and Michael were tending to the horses and bringing their bedrolls in from the rain. Thunder and lightning added to their misery. Talking was impossible in the torrent.
One of the horses had wondered off after being unloaded. Once they had secured the others and their gear, Michael set off to find the stray. She wouldn’t go far in this weather.
Jim was taking his first sip of something warm in two days and Joe was about to remove his poncho when they heard the distinctive crack.
“That wasn’t thunder!” Jim looked at Joe.
Through the driving rain, they headed in the direction Michael had taken. They crept through the trees. A horse whinnied. In unison, the brothers veered in the direction of the sound. A bolt of lightning pierced the sky and gave the brothers a clear and horrible view down into the half-filled ravine.
Michael lay sprawled face down on its muddy wall. His legs, up to his thighs, were in the running water while the top of his body was motionless in the mud. There was an ominous dark stain just below his right shoulder.
Two men on horseback were leading the stray horse down the ravine toward the river. One was wearing Michael’s poncho and hat. The other carried Michael’s rifle. The brothers raced along the ravine until they were directly above them.
Jim yelled, “Stop!” and fired a warning shot into the water directly in front of them. The men turned and shot back toward the demanding voice.
“I said stop or you’re dead.”
It was now pitch dark, neither pair could see the other, but the men in the ditch fired wildly.
“Stop or we’ll shoot to kill.” Jim warned again.
“Fuck you!” A bolt of lightning pierced the sky as shots were exchanged.
“You ok?”
“Yeah, you?” came Joe’s response.
Another bolt of lightning showed the two men laying face down, floating in the water.
“Shit. You go back to Mike while I check out these bastards.”
“Not alone you’re not.” Joe was already scrambling down the ravine wall watching for
movement from the floating bodies. He stood in the thigh deep water, grabbed one of the men’s boots and pulled him up on the muddy wall of the ravine. He touched his neck. The man was dead.
Jim pulled the other man up next to his pal. This one was gurgling, trying to speak or cough.
Abruptly, he jerked and was dead. The brothers turned and raced back to Michael.
He had not moved. They knelt on either side of him as Jim felt for a pulse. “Strong!” he
yelled to Joe over the rain. “Let’s get him back to the cave.”


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