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El Tigre

The Life and Times of El Tigre Viejo

El Tigre by John H. Manhold
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Johann Heinrich von Manfred is a young Prussian who became a Texan, a Californian and an American. A fast moving story, it chronicles the life of Johann Heinrich von Manfred from his youth as a student in a Prussian military academy through his many exciting and dangerous adventures from Spain to the Americas, from Florida to Texas, and finally, the gold laden frontier of California.

Prussian Military Academy trained von Manfred moves through numerous daring adventures in France, the Pyrenees, Spain, Florida, Georgia, Texas and Old California. He saves the leader of a gypsy band, fights for Carlos, the Pretender to the Spanish Throne, and helps Houston free Texas. He then moves on to Old California to save the life of one of the landed Dons, discovers the love of his life, participates in the Mexican War and in the turbulent days of the ’49 gold rush, earning his new name, El Tigre, along the way.
SynergEbooks; May 2009
148 pages; ISBN 9780744317220
Read online, or download in secure PDF format
Title: El Tigre
Author: John H. Manhold
He finished his meal and walked around the partition on his way out to get a look at the plotters. Both were roughly dressed and filthy. One was missing an ear. The other had a long scar running across his forehead and down what had been his nose. The pair probably belonged to one of the many traveling bands of army deserters and ex-soldiers who haunted the countryside on both sides of the mountains. They were worse than any of the ordinary felons whose profession was simply banditry. These war-hardened, heavily armed men were willing to take on any job except manual labor. In that part of France and in Spain labor was for peasants. These men were not of this class. Their livelihood depended upon other activities. For a price, they would kidnap, settle arguments, or commit murder.

Johann continued on to the door and headed to the circus. It was a small production set up in a meadow by the forest that encroached upon the town at that side. There were a number of wagons in a circle with small tents pitched in front of them. Each tent was fronted by a hawker offering different services. Some sold trinkets, some jewelry. Others offered clothing. Some offered pastries. Still another provided pots and pans. There was a knife sharpening service, and at least a half dozen fortune-tellers and various games of chance.

This was not the usual band of Gypsies. Traditionally, the Roma stuck together and avoided outsiders or gadje. The tribes distrusted non-gypsies as much as they themselves were distrusted. But this group had a tinker and a pot and pan maker, not traditional Gypsy occupations.

The center ring was typical, however. There were acrobats, rope walkers, and a group of jugglers tossing flaming batons to each other.

Johann watched all of the activity for several minutes until he became aware of a young girl moving toward him from just behind his right shoulder. As her hand and knife approached the purse that hung from his belt, he grabbed her by the hand and twisted the knife from her grasp.

“Now, just what did you think you were going to do?”

The girl tried desperately to escape from his grip but said nothing.

A middle-aged man, obviously one of the tribe, moved forward from the nearest tent. “Is something wrong, Señor?”

“This girl just tried to steal my purse. Here is her knife.”

“I must apologize, Señor. Consuela is a great problem for us. Her mother and father died when she was quite young and her training has suffered. That is why I was close when this incident occurred. Is there anything I can do to make amends with you?”

“If you will direct me to the leader of your band, I’ll forget the incident.”

“May I ask why you should want to see our rom baros?”

“The fact that I’m willing to forget the incident with my purse should be enough reason for me to be able to see your leader. However, I believe I have information for him which may save much of your money and possibly even his life.”

“I am Manuel, son of the leader of our tribe. I cannot imagine what information you might have of such a nature, but please accompany me to my father’s wagon where we can discuss it.”

With this, they headed for a small house wagon at the very edge of the clearing. As they approached, they saw two men leading an old man out the door. The men were those Johann had seen in the tavern. He broke into a run toward the group. The brigands saw him and one grabbed a pistol. Before he could get off a shot, however, Johann reacted with one of his own, catching the man who had only one ear in the throat. Four others dashed from the edge of the forest; two lifted the old man off his feet and carried him into the trees. Johann was afraid of hitting the father so withheld fire with the second pistol. The other two joined the man with the scar and all turned to face the charging twosome.

“Go after your father. I’ll take care of these.”

Johann fired his other pistol and dropped one of the bandits. He drew his sword and knife and continued. Both of the kidnappers drew pistols and fired. One had a misfire and the other missed the charging men. Both drew their swords and separated to get Johann from different angles. Johann slowed and began a circle, gradually moving nearer. The bandits suddenly realized that they had an opponent who was well versed in the use of arms. They sprang forward simultaneously with sweeping cuts. Johann repeatedly parried the fast descending cuts with both dagger and sword giving ground as they advanced.

Within a matter of minutes, the bandits began to tire. It had been some time since they had found it necessary to work this hard and long. When their attack sputtered, the young man went on the offensive. His strikes consisted of both sweeping cuts and straightforward lunges. The tiring couple found it more and more difficult to fend off the blows raining down on them. Johann parried left with his dagger and right with his sword. He then slid his sword immediately from the parry into a sideways cutting motion. The attacker’s arm still was in a partially raised position and the weapon swept half way through his body.

The other attacker, suddenly filled with fear, started running for the woods. Johann stopped, reached back for his hidden knife and calmly sent it flying into the fleeing man’s back.

Johann took a few moments. Manuel was somewhere in the woods. No one else was around. Apparently pistol shots were not unusual enough to attract attention. He cleaned his weapons, retired to the steps of the old man’s wagon entrance, sat down, and waited.

Darkness had descended before Manuel returned, alone.

“What happened, Manuel?”

“I couldn’t catch up with the kidnappers and I don’t know what has happened or what they are going to do.”

“From the conversation I overheard in the tavern, your father was to be held until you paid some Official’s gambling losses.”

“How can we do this when we don’t know who these men are or where they have taken my father?”

“I would assume that someone will communicate with you, probably in the morning. In the meantime, you can do nothing. I am going to return to the inn. If there is anything I can do to help, feel free to contact me there. I’m going to rest for a day or two before heading through the mountains.”
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