Spitfire Company: “Quail Ranch” Excerpt

“Quail crawled backward across the dusty porch, trying to reach his gun before he bled out.”

When Aarin Reilly inherits her family’s old ranch house, a genuine relic of the American Wild West, she has high hopes for opening her own bed and breakfast. Ignoring rumors that a curse hangs over the place, she pushes ahead, discovering along the way that blood spilled in the house has left more than just stains. She and her first guest, a quiet, mysterious stranger, find themselves at the center of a haunting with deadly consequences.

To save herself and her family’s ranch, Aarin must learn her guest’s secret and uncover the identity of a murderous ghost, out for revenge more than a century after the killing of the notorious Lance Gang.


Quail crawled backward across the dusty porch, trying to reach his gun before he bled out. Lance lay stretched out on the ground a ways away, face down in the dirt with her blood-spattered hair stuck to her shoulders. Beside him, Kehl was slumped back in a chair, his dead eyes staring up at the cloudless sky. LaFille groaned on the steps and began to lift herself up, but a shot rang out from inside the doorway beside Quail, and LaFille spun around in a bloody mist before toppling into a water trough.

“Hey Lute, didn’t you say there was another one?” asked one of the gunman from inside the house, his spurs jingling and clanking against the wood floor.

“A little one,” replied the other. “I figure she’s ten or eleven.”

“Old enough to handle a rifle,” said the first gunman.

“You check an’ see they’re all layin’ quiet out there,” said Lute. “I’ll find the girl.”

Billy Roebuck had his moments of wisdom interspersed with long periods of poor judgment. Falling in with Lute Zusa had seemed like an intelligent decision at the time, but Lute was more hot tempered than Roebuck had figured on, and some of the chances he took were downright unwise.

Lance had a hefty price on her head, and there were certainly plenty of outlaws who would look on her killers as heroes, though not many lawmen would feel obliged to agree. Anyone who laid a hand against Lance and lived to tell about it would be a marked man. Every sheriff and ranger in the country would be out to put Roebuck and Zusa in their sights after today. They would’ve forgiven Lance eventually for what she and her gang had done, but they would never forgive her killers.

Even if Lance were just another bandit without the benefit of the law on her side, a puncher would have to be crazy to take on her gang on Quail’s own turf. Roebuck was mighty surprised he wasn’t gunned down by Quail or LaFille right off, but he and Zusa had been careful to arrive unexpectedly. Now, Roebuck was right to fear the little Quail girl and her gun, but he had neglected to entertain the notion that Quail himself or any of the others outside might still be alive.

Roebuck sauntered outside as Quail’s hand came to rest on his sixshooter. There were four rounds left in the cylinder, Quail knew since he had only managed to squeeze two shots off before Zusa put him down. That was one bullet for Roebuck and three for Lute. Roebuck, meanwhile, had an empty revolver. He had used his last slug killing LaFille. He let the empty casings drop from his gun and set about reloading, paying little attention to the dead bodies scattered about him. Had he been in one of his wiser episodes, he would have noticed that Quail was still breathing.

“You done loading?” Quail gasped, his voice barely more than a hoarse growl.

Roebuck jumped. He fumbled with his gun, trying to get the last round in a chamber. He should have shoved the cylinder back in and taken a shot. He knew that full well, but in his panic what he knew didn’t matter so much as what his hands had decided to do of their own accord. Quail’s expression was quiet and impassive as he watched the man struggle, his eyes patient though the light in them was failing as his blood trickled away from him.

“Take your time, Bill,” he said. “I aim to live at least long enough to kill you fair.”

I am so excited about this project! Quail Ranch is the first installment of the Spitfire Company series. I have been working on this horror series for a number of months now, tossing ideas around and sketching out a plot arc for the main stories. This is an ambitious project and I have very high hopes for it, so I don’t expect to be able to show immediate results for the central arc. Quail Ranch is a shorter story from the Spitfire series, which should be completed sooner, perhaps even in the next few weeks. It’s a side story, so it’s not part of the main arc, but it should be fun and spooky, anyway.

As much fun as I’m having with it, Spitfire is just one of the projects my editor and I are working on. From sci-fi to social media to indie games, we’re up to a little bit of everything.

Want a preview of the things we’re working on? Take a sneak peek at our upcoming projects at http://wp.me/p4hOe3-4u!


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three_cowboy_silhouette_by_larry_cowles(Featured Image: “Three Cowboys Silhouette” by Larry Cowles)

Schwind_Begraebnis bw(Roggen Wulf, 2014)



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