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Mike Casto

Mike Casto, Author of Annie Oakley and the Beast of Chicago
I currently live in an RV and travel the nation to teach AGPS, which is my martial arts system. As far as I know, I am the one and only Wandering Guru.

As I write this, I’m sitting in my room in a hostel in Cuenca, Ecuador. My wife and I plan to move here after she retires.


New Title(s) from Mike Casto

Annie Oakley and the Beast of Chicago Cometh the Reaper by Mike Casto

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Annie Oakley and the Beast of Chicago by Mike Casto
Chicago, 1893: the World’s Fair brought people from all over the world. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, denied a place at the fair, rented acreage outside the fairgrounds and played to record setting crowds—the likes of which they would never see again. When Annie Oakley, performing with the Wild West, tries to help a friend, it sets her on a collision course with a serial killer who the press would later dub “The Beast of Chicago.”

Word Count: 21000
Buy at: Smashwords (all formats) ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Amazon
Price: $ 4.99

Cometh the Reaper by Mike Casto Arizona Territory, 1872: When the entire populace of Antelope Junction goes missing, a former Indian fighter is forced to team up with a Yavapai medicine man. Can these uneasy allies rescue the townsfolk from an extra-dimensional entity the likes of which neither has seen before?

Chapter Eleven features the sequel to Cometh the Reaper, Judgment Day in Antelope Junction!

Word Count: 15532
Buy at: Smashwords (all formats) ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Amazon
Price: $ 3.99


Annie Oakley and the Beast of Chicago

Chapter One
Overlooking the White City—Sunday, April 30, 1893

Annie and Cody admired the view from an observation deck overlooking the buildings of the White City, which stood in stark contrast to the grimy city of Chicago outside the fairgrounds. The pearly veneers of the neoclassical architecture gleamed in the afternoon sun, pristine and virginal, in opposition to the sooty urban blight. Like a bride, resplendent in her white gown, standing in the middle of a muddy street, she held her hem at the perfect height to keep it above the muck while still remaining modest.

“It’s amazing.”

Colonel William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody looked down at the petite woman walking next to him. Her long sleeved light brown dress complemented her dark brown eyes and long brown hair exquisitely. Cody knew, like most of her clothes, she’d made the dress with her own hands.

He’d always considered her an attractive woman, but thought of her more as a little sister or a niece than with any romantic interest. What intrigued and impressed him most, though, lay in her ability to outshoot him, or most anyone else in the world, for that matter.

“I concur, Annie. This is a fascinating sight to behold.”

The World’s Fair, dubbed the World Columbian Exposition to note the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the New World, would open the next morning. Cody’s Wild West show, denied a formal slot in the Expo, had rented a parcel of land three blocks south of the Midway Plaisance and set up shop. The show’s performers and promoters had spent the past couple of weeks preparing feverishly to perform two shows daily throughout the next six months of the Expo.

At Bill’s request, and with some fancy talking, Cody’s partner, Nate, persuaded the reluctant fair administrators to grant Cody a sneak peek at the fairgrounds before the opening. He and Annie had strolled through the grounds, admiring the grandeur.

Now, from their vantage atop the Manufactures and Liberal Arts building, the Court of Honor dominated the scene before them. Below, the Statue of the Republic overlooked the Grand Basin, which symbolized the voyage Columbus took to the New World. Waterways branched off the large pool and ran between the buildings of the Court. Cody could just make out a line of Venetian gondolas bobbing at the piers around the buildings, waiting for the throngs of fairgoers that would descend upon them soon.

Cody thought, Seeing the White City from a gondola cruising slowly along the waterways between the buildings would be incredible. Louisa would love this. Unfortunately, his wife wasn’t with him here in the White City. Nevertheless, he planned to find time for one of those cruises once the show got under way. His mind wandered to thoughts of his children. Arta, 27, still lived at home, and helped Louisa take care of the house and the precocious little ten year old Irma. Maybe I shall write to Louisa. See if she and the girls can come visit. They should see this ephemeral spectacle. God knows it won’t last.

Reluctantly, he dragged his mind back to the here and now. A brisk nip rode the air, but the sun shone brightly, and cut the chill just enough to make it pleasant. A few clouds lingered in the blue sky. Their shadows danced like specters on the surfaces of the white buildings as they glided overhead.

“You propose to shoot a playing card edge-on from ninety feet, cutting it in half, then shoot the falling half at least three more times before it hits the ground?”

“That, indeed, is what I propose. I’ve been practicing, and I can do it consistently. It’ll be a crowd pleaser.”

His bushy mustache lifted as he smiled. “I reckon it will. I know I shall be impressed. Let us adjourn to our shooting range and you can, once again, amaze me while I work out some patter for the showmanship side of things.”

As usual, Annie fluttered her eyelashes and smiled a shy little smile at the compliment. The genuine sincerity of this mannerism, and others like it, captivated Cody. Annie’s magnificent stage presence stemmed from her honesty, not her acting. This same honesty had swept Annie’s rough and tumble husband, Frank, off his feet, and had gained her the adoration of millions of fans all over the world.

Cody felt honored she’d chosen to work in his show and had stayed for so long. The previous year, she and Frank had left the show for a time and toured on their own in Europe, all because of Lillian Smith. His own blindness to Annie’s disfavor of Lillian rankled him still.

I really should have fired Lillian at the first signs of jealousy from Annie. Lillian was a fine shot, and her youth intrigued the crowds for a time. But Annie... well, she’s Little Sure Shot.

Few people could work an audience as adroitly as Annie. Fewer still could shoot half as well. Not a particularly religious man, Cody still agreed with old Sitting Bull that the Great Spirit had gifted Annie with supernatural shooting prowess.

Touching her temple lightly, Annie grimaced. “I’ve been troubled by headaches quite a bit recently. I saw a pharmacy not far from the Midway. Give me an hour or so. I need to purchase some headache powder. Then I’ll retrieve a long gun and ammunition from my tent and meet you in the field.”

Back to Annie Oakley

Cometh the Reaper

Chapter One

On May 24, 1872, Randal Lape rode into Antelope Junction, spent the night with a whore named Thelma, and continued on his way to Phoenix the next morning. A week later, he returned to find the prostitute gone, along with everyone else. The deserted town felt wrong, and it troubled him so much he passed on quickly, disturbing nothing, and rode on to Prescott.

Upon his arrival, Lape rode directly to the Marshal’s office. With hat in hand, the little ferret-faced man told the marshal his story.

Dickason, in his fourteenth year as U. S. Marshal, watched the man with a world-weary and skeptical expression.

He ran his fingers through his thinning gray hair and wondered when his pants had gotten so tight. His gaze kept drifting to the dime novel he’d been reading before this interruption.

Deputy Wade Hazen, though, listened with rapt attention. When Lape had departed, Hazen turned to Dickason. “Marshal, I gotta go to the Junction. My brother lives there and, if somethin’s happened to him, I need to find out what.”

The marshal grunted as he mentally cursed the younger man’s thick brown hair and lean frame. “You’ll do it from your own pocket then. I don’t have the budget to send anyone down there official, especially to pursue a tall tale.”

“Ain’t that what the Marshal is for?”

“Yeah. On paper. Tell you what, you petition those tightwad bastards in the legislature for more funding. Their rejection’ll hit you so fast and hard you’ll think you been kicked by a mule.”

“Well… I reckon I gotta go. Burt’s my only livin’ kin.”

“I don’t know that I can spare you ’round here.”

Wade’s brows furrowed. “Most days, all I do is get you coffee.”

“Never underestimate the value of coffee. It’s the magic juice that gets all this paperwork done and filed.”

“I think you’re joshin’ me.” The younger man grinned at his boss.

“You ain’t half as stupid as you look. Now git. Go see about your brother. I’ll hold the fort here.”

The deputy unpinned his star from his shirt and set it on the desk. “If I’m not official, I won’t need this.”

The marshal gave the badge a thoughtful look. “Tell you what. You keep that star, ride down to the Junction, see what’s what. If it turns out Lape is full of shit, like I expect, then you visit with your brother and come back. We’ll call it a vacation, and you won’t get paid for the time. On the other hand, if Lape’s story carries some water, then you investigate, and I’ll pay you your regular wages when you get back.”

“What if I run into trouble?”

“Ain’t you the hero of Adobe Walls? Saved Kit Carson’s life and all? I saw you in action myself when we rousted the Paine gang from the Granite Dells. I think you can handle yourself pretty well.”

“Sure. Against Earthly threats, but this sounds downright spooky. Like something the Injuns would call bad medicine. I don’t know how good my six guns’ll be against somethin’ like that.” Hazen lifted his hand and shook it, as if palsied, and said, “Don’t even know if I can hold my pistol, scared as I am.”

The marshal cocked an eyebrow at his deputy. “Now who’s joshin’?” With a sigh, he continued, “If it takes more steel than you got then, in a few weeks, I’ll figure you for dead and mark the Junction as off limits on all the maps.” He smirked. “I’m downright mirthful today. Seriously, if you run into a viper’s nest down there, come back up, and we’ll assemble a posse.”

Wade nodded. It was about what he’d expected. “All right, Marshal. I’ll go get squared away and head out first thing in the morning. Probably stop by Muncie’s stage station and rest up before heading on. Get into the Junction the next day.”

Dickason nodded. “Good thing you got a plan.” He picked up his book and resumed reading about the adventures of Jesse James.

The deputy donned his hat and embarked on his own adventure, far stranger than anything Jesse James would ever face.

Back to Cometh the Reaper