My Splendid Concubine

Free My Splendid Concubine by Lloyd Lofthouse

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Authors: Lloyd Lofthouse
those wretches moving this way so we can join Patridge.” He lifted a pistol and fired at a Taiping with a sword swirling above his head. That Taiping’s chest exploded, and the man toppled in a mist of blood.
    “ You’d better move fast!” Unwyn roared. “They’re swarming like hornets. It won’t take long before they get organized.”
    “ We should all go in,” Robert said, as he joined the group. “Why stay here?”
    “ I’m not getting any closer to the Taipings,” Unwyn replied. “Going inside that stockade could turn into a trap. I did not come here to die saving these people. I came to get my share of the reward by regaining the company’s cargo.”
    His words angered Robert and he glared at Unwyn.
    “Get moving, Hart, so we can get this over. This fool’s errand was your idea so the risk is yours.”
    Robert stared at the man, then turned and forced his legs to take one step after another. Once inside the stockade, he yelled in Mandarin as best he could. “ Ni men huo jiu. Zou kuai . You to be rescued. Run fast.” He pointed.
    Startled people stared at him. Some of them were whimpe ring but most were mute with shock. Robert managed to get those closest to pay attention and thirty or forty started to move. One old grandma, stooped and bent, hobbled by Hart holding the hand of a naked toddler.
    One of the boat people, a young man, ran past just as Unwyn ’s group fired a volley. The boatman came between Unwyn’s people and Robert. He jerked as if hit and stumbled sideways knocking Robert down. Hart pushed the man off and discovered he was covered in blood. He saw more than one bullet wound. Unwyn’s men had shot him. If that boat person hadn’t been there, the bullets would’ve hit him and he’d be dead.
    Part of the stockade on the far side opened. Taipings poured in. A pre gnant woman tried to escape, but a Taiping sword slashed into her back. It happened so fast that she had not seen the man who’d stabbed her. Robert watched in horror as she tumbled forward with a stunned expression to pitch face down in the dirt, twitched, then stopped moving.
    Robert turned and stared at Unwyn and the others. He waved to get their attention. “Here,” he yelled. “I need you here to help save these people. You can’t help them from there.”
    Unwyn saw Robert and shook his head. He made an insul ting gesture with one of his hands and said something Robert couldn’t hear. His mouth looked as if he’d told Hart to go to hell.
    Twisting around to face the Taipings, Robert emptied the pistol in his hand and pulled another free after tucking the empty one under hi s belt. Any fear or doubts he harbored when this battle started were gone. He couldn’t stop thinking of Brian dying and now this innocent pregnant woman.
    Their deaths filled Robert with a level of anger and revulsion he ’d never felt before. His eyes searched for the rebel who killed the pregnant woman. When he recognized the man, he ran forward and shot him in the stomach. A gut wound was a horrible way to die, and Robert wanted this man to die slowly with much pain.
    More boat people ran past Robert toward Unwyn and the others.
    The second barrel o f his third pistol emptied. Robert threw it at the nearest Taiping. It bounced off the man’s head and knocked him flat. Robert hacked at the man’s neck opening it to the spine.
    With his last pistol held against his side, he watche d a screaming man charging toward him. The man swung a sword at his head. Robert’s cutlass blocked it. The force of the blow numbed his hand. He barely held onto the blade. His other hand, the one holding the last pistol, thrust it into the rebel’s face and Robert pulled the trigger. The man’s lower jaw vanished in a pink mist. The rebel staggered back with his arms flailing. Robert swung the cutlass at what was left.
    Robert had one shot left and there was no time to reload.
    The stockade looked almost empty. A last knot of boat people, mostly young

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