At the raw age of thirteen, Preston Diamond is ripped from the security of childhood and fighting for his life. In one black night his world is shattered forever.
He isn't a kid anymore. He is a hunter.
The last of the Diamond line is on the trail of the treasonous killers who brutally murdered his parents, Constantina and Colonel Cutler Diamond. The traitors are also hunting, for Preston's death is crucial to their survival. There is only one person he can confide in but, in the midst of a bloody civil war, how does a young lad find audience with Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant?
Life's blood dripped steadily from the dozen cuts and gashes on Cutler Diamond's body. The wounds varied from superficial to near fatal; if not soon attended, they would inevitably lead to death. Already the handsome face had lost colour, fading from a ruddy, healthy complexion to pale white, then sickly ashen. The stricken man swayed drunkenly on quaking legs, his breathing heavy, his vision blurred.
Grains of sand in the hourglass of life had almost run out for the American.
The Spaniard had humiliated the proud young army lieutenant, drawing him into a duel that the foreigner could not hope to win. Had the choice of weapons been pistols, Christobal Alcarez would be dead; however, the Spanish preference for duelling was the sword. Neither Cutler Diamond nor his heavy cavalry sabre were a match for the agility and skill of Alcarez with his vicious, lightweight smallsword. The dashing, dark Spaniard quickly wore down his blond, blue-eyed opponent, deftly shifting in, easily avoiding the clumsy parries and jabs of the novice. Alcarez's acclaim was well known throughout the nobility of Spain; a finesse swordsman, he had trained with the finest in the land. Americans, by comparison, use their awkward swords as clubs. Christobal Alcarez drew blood at every thrust. Cutler Diamond was stripped of offence, denuded in defence. The duel became a charade, a cat toying with a mouse; the mouse being devoured alive.
A tiny gallery had experienced a full range of emotions. In the beginning there were shouts and cheers for the daring Spaniard, boos and jeers for the foreigner. But as Alcarez taunted and jabbed his victim, the crowd gravitated from fervour to disgust. Among the spectators, three people prayed for the dying man: Señorita Constantina García y Ramírez ―the subject of the quarrel― her father, Eduardo García, and an American army officer, Major James Unzer, comrade of the dying lieutenant. United States President Zachary Taylor had selected a cabal of diplomats to visit Spain, hoping to purchase the Spanish colony of Cuba. Earlier in the year, the President had thwarted a filibustering expedition; now he wished to discreetly pursue the possibility of a deal with Isabella II, Queen of Spain. Cutler Diamond, a young army lieutenant who had proved his West Point worth in the Mexican-American conflict while serving under then-General Zachary Taylor, was selected to accompany the diplomats. Diamond did not question why a military officer of his rank should accompany the elite group of dignitaries.
In the two days of briefing prior to departure, Cutler soon became a favourite among the emissaries. Intelligent, witty and cheerful, the lieutenant's personality naturally attracted people, though he did nothing to purposely cultivate favour. He was a fine physical specimen of masculine youth: tall, well-made, muscular and agile. The officer was handsome with high forehead, square jaw, blond hair and intense powder-blue eyes. Diamond treated others as he preferred to be treated himself; an endearing quality in any individual.
During his tenure at the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, Cutler Diamond demonstrated particularly high potential throughout his four year training, graduating fifth overall in a class of forty-one. Along with his fellow graduates he was automatically awarded second lieutenant rank.