Hunter's Rage: Book 3 of The Civil War Chronicles

Hunter's Rage: Book 3 of The Civil War Chronicles by Michael Arnold

Book: Hunter's Rage: Book 3 of The Civil War Chronicles by Michael Arnold Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michael Arnold
Foot.’
    ‘King’s men,’ Broom said.
    ‘You know the regiment, sir?’
    Broom shook his head, curled locks flapping about his shoulders like the ears of a spaniel. ‘Heard you invoke the blessed king’s name when you told these vile knaves to surrender.’
    Stryker eyed Broom warily. The man might be dressed as the archetypal Cavalier peacock, but he had long since learned that looks could be deceiving. ‘You are Royalist, sir?’
    ‘Aye, sir, I am.’ Broom patted the hilt of his sword. ‘Though I am not in His Gracious Majesty’s service, so to speak.’ He looked away, suddenly crestfallen. ‘After today I am in no one’s service, truth be known.’
    ‘Sir?’
    With that, Broom cast a miserable gaze back at the coach. ‘I am—I was , Sir Alfred’s bodyguard. His protector. Much good that did him.’
    For the first time, Stryker peered into the interior of the carriage. What he saw surprised him, for it appeared that the fellow seated inside was taking a nap. He looked to be a man of perhaps fifty, with thinning, grey hair and gigantic red nose. He was dressed in a silver doublet that made even Broom appear dowdy. His eyes were closed, and he seemed utterly peaceful, slumped back against the cushions at his shoulders. But almost immediately Stryker knew that the gentleman was not asleep, for the fuggy air in the coach still wreaked with the stench of fresh blood.
    Stryker looked back at Broom. ‘Sir Alfred?’
    ‘Cade,’ Broom replied. ‘Sir Alfred Cade. The ball went under his armpit.’
    Hence the lack of obvious wound, thought Stryker. ‘And you were his bodyguard?’
    Broom patted the wrinkles in his blue doublet. ‘Me and McCubbin there.’
    Stryker peered into the gloomy interior again, seeing the upturned boots of the dead man he had first spotted as they had reached the coach. ‘And who was he?’ he asked, nodding at the body, the upper part of which remained slumped face up on the road.
    ‘Sir Alfred’s other retainer,’ Broom replied gloomily. ‘They shot him first.’
    ‘What were they after?’
    Broom shrugged. ‘Money. Jewels. How would I know?’
    ‘You were a bit lucky,’ William Skellen, still beside Stryker, muttered sardonically. ‘Seeing as your mate, your master, and your driver all got snuffed. What was you doin’? Cowerin’ on the floor?’
    A rush of blood rose like a water fountain from Broom’s lace collar, up his slim neck and across his face. ‘How dare you!’ he spluttered, a hand dropping to his sword. ‘How dare you address me in such a manner, you insolent swine!’ He glared at Stryker, fingers slipping around his sword-hilt. ‘Will you not place this man on a charge?’
    Stryker shook his head. ‘And if you draw that,’ he flicked his grey eye down at Broom’s scabbard, ‘I’ll run you through myself. Answer the question.’
    Before Broom could reply the coach began to rock slightly, and, over the incensed bodyguard’s shoulder, Stryker caught sight of movement within. It seemed there had been a fourth person in the carriage; a person who, until now, had been concealed by the great bulk of Cade’s corpse. Apparently the venerable Sir Alfred had had a maid, or mistress, for the face that peered back at him was fresh, pale-skinned and bright-eyed.
    ‘Christ, I could light a match in them peepers,’ Sergeant William Skellen muttered.
    Stryker wondered if Skellen had acquired a talent for mind-reading, for he was thinking the same thing. Those eyes – huge green ovals, mottled with swirling specks of auburn – seemed bright as gems, though he read real sadness in their depths and wondered if the glint was the sheen of tears. Either way, she was a rare beauty. He simply stared in astonishment as the woman, who, he guessed, was in her early twenties, carefully climbed down to stand beside Broom. She briefly smoothed the folds of her saffron dress, swept a ringlet of ink-black hair from her temple, and offered a tiny curtsy. ‘Otilwell was not

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