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One Bitter And Deadly Harvest - Cover
© Cover Copyright 2001, Trace Edward Zaber

“These people, so fervently demanding war, want to gather a crop of fame
when they have hardly begun to sow the seed. And once the yield is realized,
it will certainly be one bitter and deadly harvest.”

The first novel in the seven-part series The Culpeper Chronicles.
Available Soon From Amber Quill Press
ISBN 1-59279-040-2


Desperate Times, Desperate Measures
May 1860
Tayte Kingsbury

He crept on all fours from his hiding place, razor-sharp knife clenched between his teeth, weaving his way through the tangle of twisted black limbs. Hatred prodded him forward with a scalding, determined hand. Twigs snapped under his knees; his heartbeat pounded in his ears. Nary a breeze stirred the tree-strangled countryside as perspiration clung to his brow like grease.

He inched his way to the break in the wall of chinquipins and pines. A sickle moon dusted the clearing in a wan light. Sharp-edged stars pierced the midnight blackness. He dug the flask from his pocket, guzzled another mouthful of mettle-bolstering whiskey, and eyed his hated foe.

The two interlopers had set up camp just east of the slumbering village of Griffinsburg--“The Box,” as it was generally called--on a bare hummock near a gurgling stream. Two mud-stained tents stood off to one side; a moth-haunted lantern flickered on its pole between them. One set of canvas flaps had been pulled shut, while the other stood open like a yawning chasm.

A few feet away, the woodfire sputtered its dying breath to reveal one enemy in repose, his head pillowed on a carpetbag, an empty whiskey bottle cradled in his arm. A screech owl split the night with a plaintive shriek; insects harped in the darkness; neither modulated the steady rasp of the snoring adversary.

Tayte Jarrett Kingsbury smirked.

Patience had never been one of his virtues. Actually, he was quite proud of himself for overcoming the urge to pounce into the clearing when these diabolic bastards plotted their upcoming escapades. Yes, he had heard their drunken banter, all too clearly, before one of them lumbered into a tent and left his companion to bask beside the fire. Planting their seed in the bellies of local whores was one thing, but to boast about the propagandinist drivel they schemed to plant in the minds of the locals was another.

After all, Culpeper County, Virginia, was still reeling over the actions of the maniacal, cantankerous John Brown. The constant fear of slave uprisings, a repeat of the horrendous and bloody rebellions of yore, was forever in the minds of the locals. Though the people in Griffinsburg, located in the hilly and piney western region of the county, were neither rich nor smart enough to possess slaves, Tayte felt it the duty of any red-blooded male, with an iota of patriotism for his beloved country, to take it upon himself to protect the masses. Indeed, had he not spent the evening indulging in lascivious frolic with his favorite local gal, these hell-sent strangers might have escaped to corrupt others throughout the Old Dominion, throughout the entire South, in their madcap plot.

Tayte couldn’t allow that to happen, not when a breath remained in his body.

And enough was enough.

Even as he abandoned the cozy bed and warm arms of his chosen whore, her tattling whispers regarding the strangers shattering the afterglow of their lovemaking, Tayte told himself he would have to quitclaim his impetuous urges to gain a sure victory. So, for several hours, as voracious insects pestered him and the lingering stink of a polecat imbued the forest, he had huddled in the blackness, waiting for the choice opportunity to make his mark, a mark in which his county, his Virginia, his father, would be proud.

Now he finally found it.

With hostile conviction, he stalked into the clearing. Never before had he resorted to such action, but the spirits he had guzzled provided the gallantry, the words of his gal had kindled the fire of indignation, and notions of parade-worthy celebrations in his honor trumpeted through his head and coerced him toward the snoring Lucifer.

For a moment, he loomed over his fire-lit prey, now babbling in somnolent, inebriated delirium. Instead of listening to the hellish gibberish, Tayte allowed his enemy’s earlier words to repeat in his head before fastidiously selecting his blunt rebuttal.

He snatched the knife from between his teeth and dropped to his knees. After positioning the blade over the exposed Adam’s apple, he pulled a deep, calming breath. With merciless elegance, Tayte bravely performed his God-given duty.

Devil’s blood spattered his face and clothing, trickled over his thin mustache to his lips. He unwittingly tasted the liquid, more satisfying, he decided, than the finest imported burgundy. A feeling akin to the sexual climax he had experienced hours before imbued his entire soul. He shivered in rapture, in conquest.

Some might have called it murder; Tayte called it justice.

Once the horrid, insufferable gurgling ceased, Tayte tore open his foe’s blood-soaked shirt. Then, with focussed accuracy, he began to carve his mark--his scathing rebuttal to the enervating and fiendish Abolitionist propaganda--into his victim’s deathly pale chest.

© 1999, 2000, 2001 Trace Edward Zaber

The first novel in the seven-part series The Culpeper Chronicles.
Available Soon From Amber Quill Press
ISBN 1-59279-040-2

Chapter 1

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