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Authors: J. Lee Butts

And Kill Them All

BOOK: And Kill Them All
Table of Contents
From the corner of my eye, I saw the little pistol flash up in the girl's hand. Immediately recognized the weapon as a New Line .32-caliber pocket pistol.
For reasons I could not have explained to God, or anyone else, afterward, the fact that Clementine Webb had the barrel of a loaded weapon pressed to the end of the dying Roscoe Pickett's nose just didn't register with me for about half a second. When it finally dawned on me what was about to occur, I made an awkward, squatting lunge at the miniature shooter just as the gun went off. Burning powder singed my fingers when they wrapped around the weapon's tiny cylinder.
The little gal's well-aimed bullet hit Roscoe right in the mouth. A searing chunk of peanut-sized lead knocked all his front teeth out, carved a tunnel through the soft tissue at the back of his throat, and blasted its way through a spot in his neck just below the skull bone . . .
“Damnation, girl,” I yelped, then flicked a glance at Roscoe Pickett's shattered teeth, blasted skull, and sagging corpse. I shook my head in total disbelief, then locked Clementine in a narrow, steely gaze and added, “You've grown a mighty thick layer of hard bark around your heart since this morning, darlin'.”
Praise for J. LEE BUTTS
“J. Lee Butts keeps his readers on the edge of their seats.”
True West
“A writer who can tell a great adventure story with authority and wit.”—John S. McCord, author of the Baynes Clan novels
“One of the top writers of Westerns working in the genre today.” —Peter Brandvold, author of
“Lawdog has it all. I couldn't put it down.”
—Jack Ballas, author of
A Town Afraid
“J. Lee Butts is one fine Western writer whose stories have a patina of humor; nonstop action . . . and a strong sense of place.”
Roundup Magazine
Berkley titles by J. Lee Butts
Published by the Penguin Group
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
A Berkley Books Book / published by arrangement with the author
Berkley edition / November 2010
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,
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375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
eISBN : 978-1-101-44481-8
Berkley Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
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For My Wife, Carol
I am daily inspired by her strength, tenacity,
determination, and will to survive.
For My Good Friend Linda McKinley
Perhaps my most enthusiastic cheerleader,
collaborator, and critic. She made me a better writer.
This is one of the few efforts I've produced
that doesn't have Linda's fingerprints on it,
along with her cat's tracks.
I will miss her more than mere words can tell.
O! My offense is rank, it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon't,
a brother's murder.
Act 3, Scene 3
The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
—Proverbs 4:18
What charm can soothe her melancholy?
What art can wash her guilt away?
The Vicar of Wakefield
Special tip of the sombrero and bow at the waist for Sandy Harding. Perhaps the most personable and amiable editor I've had the pleasure to work with. And many thanks to Faith Black for her stellar help with this particular piece of work. Muchas gracias to Roxanne Blackwell Bosserman. She helped start me down this rugged trail years ago and still shouts encouragement from the sidelines when I appear ready to falter. And, as mentioned on the previous page, especially to my friend Linda McKinley. Not sure what I'm going to do without her editorial skills, advice, and willingness to spend hours discussing my writing. We made a good team. She's gone on ahead to scout the great unknown. I miss her every time I sit down at the computer.
ATOP THE CREST of a tidal wave of unprecedented death and destruction, they poured into Texas—desperate, hard as nails, the men of blood. Men who were forged in the crucible of America's bloody Civil War and tempered to the consistency of weapons-grade steel. Their conflict-acquired skills, stock, and trade often included brutality, murder, and a penchant for vicious mayhem. The unfortunate citizens who crossed the gore-drenched paths of those war-hardened gents referred to them as gun-men, shootists, gunfighters, or pistoleers—a grouping of benignly euphemistic terms that every man, woman, and child who lived between 1865 and 1900 understood to really mean
man killers.
The frontier West's slayers of men came from every sort of background imaginable. Prior to the great war of Yankee aggression on the South, many worked the land as hardscrabble farmers. At one time or another, some pursued employment as storekeepers, dentists, barbers, and butchers. Others worked as actors, doctors, lawyers, clerks, miners, buffalo hunters, Pony Express riders, or school-teachers. More than a few had once borne the badge of law enforcement officers.
Regardless of their previous backgrounds, upon arrival in the great Lone Star State, they plied whatever trade necessary to survive. In the process, a goodly number became double-dealing, card-marking, itinerant gamblers, swindlers, thugs, pimps, stock and property thieves, footpads, train and stagecoach robbers, con men, pickpockets, tricksters, rapists, murderers, and assassins of every stripe, variety, and type imaginable.
Life for such dangerous gentlemen (for the brotherhood of audacious hired gun hands, bandits, and charlatans proved almost entirely male) could generally be described as wicked, violent, and in most cases, extremely short. Death usually came for the men of blood by way of a gun or knife. And while a miniscule number of the most infamous slaughterers managed to die in their beds as the result of natural causes, or at the end of a legally applied length of oiled Kentucky hemp, most went to the judgment of their Maker surrounded by a roiling cloud of acrid-smelling, freshly spent gunpowder accompanied by the bitter, coppery taste of spilled blood.
A short listing of some of their names literally defines the
West in that period between the Civil War and the dawn of the twentieth century. Their grisly ranks included the likes of Luke Short, Longhair Jim Courtright, Clay Allison, Henry Newton Brown, Ben Thompson, and John King Fisher. Such man killers were the ill-famed contemporaries of Dallas Stoudenmire, Henry McCarty, the James boys, the Younger brothers, Jim Reed, Harry “The Sundance Kid” Longabaugh, Tom Starr, John Sellman, Harvey “Kid Curry” Logan, Sam Bass, and John Wesley Hardin. The worst of them all was the dignified, churchgoing assassin for hire, Deacon Jim Miller—also know as Killin' Jim, a shotgun-carrying back shooter of the first water.
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