Read Goodnight's Dream (A Floating Outfit Western Book 4) Online

Authors: J.T. Edson

Tags: #cattle drives, #western book, #western frontier fiction, #western and american frontier fiction, #western and cowboy story, #western action adventure, #jtedson, #western action and adventure, #john chishum, #the floating outifit

Goodnight's Dream (A Floating Outfit Western Book 4)

BOOK: Goodnight's Dream (A Floating Outfit Western Book 4)
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The cities of the eastern States were hungry
for beef. The problem was how to get it to them. Colonel Charles
Goodnight had a plan that might work—if he had all the luck he
needed. Things seemed to be going well, especially with the
Floating Outfit on his side—Mark Counter, the Ysabel Kid and Dusty
Fog, the small Texan who walked tall. But what Goodnight didn’t
need was an enemy like John Chisum ...

 

GOODNIGHT’S
DREAM

THE FLOATING
OUTFIT 4

By J. T.
Edson

First published
by Transworld Publishers in 1969

Copyright
©
1969, 2016 by J. T.
Edson

First
Smashwords Edition: February 2016

Names,
characters and incidents in this book are fictional, and any
resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons
living or dead is purely coincidental.

All rights
reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in
any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including
photocopying, recording or by any information or storage and
retrieval system, without the written permission of the author,
except where permitted by law.

This is a
Piccadilly Publishing Book

Series Editor:
Ben Bridges

Text ©
Piccadilly Publishing

Published by
Arrangement with the Author’s Agent.

 

 

 

For ‘Boot-Neck’ George Meadows

Chapter One
Give ’Em A Texas-Sized Gutful

 

 

Towards noon the three riders passed down the
eastern rim, waded their horses across the Pecos River and turned
downstream, heading southwards. They were tall men dressed in
travel-stained range clothing, with Army Colts holstered on their
belts and rifles in their saddle boots. Despite their apparently
relaxed air, they were alertly cautious as became travelers in a
potentially hostile land. The man closest to the river led a pack
mule that carried their bedrolls and supplies. Of the three, he
showed the greatest signs of watchfulness. Eyes constantly scanning
the sloping, bush-dotted, rock-speckled land to the west, he tugged
at the mule’s lead rope and broke the trio’s silence with a
comment.


Colonel Charlie allowed we should only
ride at night, boss.’


That was only if there’re Indians
about,’ answered the man in the center of the group. Tanned like
his companions and no better dressed, he bore himself with an air
of one used to leadership. He was Oliver Loving, pioneer cattleman
from Texas and part owner of a trail herd some thirty miles behind
him. ‘We haven’t seen a sign of them and time’s running short. The
Army’re letting out their beef contracts at Ford Sumner and I want
to be on hand when they start.’


Figure it’ll be worth us getting it,
boss?’ inquired the second cowhand. ‘The beef contract from the
Yankees, I mean.’


It’ll be worth getting,’ Loving
confirmed. ‘Like Chad—’


Boss!’ interrupted the first speaker,
reining in his horse and pointing.

Some thirty or more figures
appeared on the skyline about two hundred yards ahead of the
Texans. Stocky, thickset men wearing clothing made mainly from the
hides of pronghorn antelope and sitting their horses with an almost
effortless
casual grace. Swiftly Loving studied the newcomers, noting
the lack of eagle feather headdresses, that all of them had the
appearance of youth and only six at most carried
firearms.

Young or not, one of the six acted with speed
and decision. Dropping from his wiry horse, he lit down kneeling
and cradled the butt of a tack-decorated Sharps rifle against his
right shoulder. He landed on the ground, took aim and fired all in
a single flowing movement to make a mighty unlucky hit from
Loving’s point of view: lead plowed into the rancher’s horse.
Feeling the impact and his mount beginning to go down, Loving
showed that he too was capable of rapid movement. Kicking his feet
free of the stirrup irons, he thrust himself clear of the
collapsing animal. On landing, he slid the Henry rifle from its
saddle boot and barked out his orders.

A skilled fighting man and well versed in
Indian warfare, the rancher assessed the situation fast and knew
what must be done even before the Henry’s barrel slid clear of the
boot. There was no hope of escaping the fleet-footed Indian horses
riding double or leading the pack-mule. So he sought for and found
a solution. Across the river a short way from where he stood, he
saw the mouth of a cave in the wall of the rim. From it he could
make a stand and hope to hold off the Indians until help
arrived.


Leave the mule and go get Colonel
Charlie!’ Loving ordered.


Like hell!’ replied the man with the
mule, guessing what his boss had in mind. ‘I’m sticking with you.
Take off, Spat. We’ll try to hold ’em off you.’

Much as he hated the thought of leaving the
other two, the man called Spat knew it to be their only hope of
salvation. All of them could not escape but a lone, well-mounted
man might out-ride the Indians and fetch help. So he whirled his
horse around and started it running.

On the heels of the first shot,
the Indians sent their horses leaping forward. Six of them cut away
at an angle in pursuit of the fleeting Spat, but the rest made for
the dismounted Loving. Whipping the Henry to his shoulder, the
rancher saw no wavering among the Indians to its threat. He fired,
flicked down the loading lever and touched off another shot. The
leading brave slid from his horse’s back and a second
warrior
slewed his mount around violently as a bullet sliced into
his shoulder.


Head for the cave, Sid!’ Loving
snapped, altering his aim and firing again. ‘I’ll be right after
you.’


Yo!’ the cowhand answered, turning his
horse in the required direction and throwing a malevolent scowl at
the mule. ‘Don’t fuss me, you blasted knob-head, or I’ll gut you
and leave you for the buzzards.’

Either the threat worked, or
the mule was in a complacent mood, for it followed Sid with none of
its usual ornery balkiness. Riding through the water, he heard the
continuing crackle of Henry’s fire and wondered what the attackers
made of it. With Texas left impoverished by the end of the War
Between the States, few Henry or Spencer rifles had so far made
their appearance.
So
the Indians would not be accustomed to a rifle capable of
sustained fire without reloading. Maybe the effect would be
sufficient to make them believe their war-medicine had gone sour
and they would call off the attack. Knowing the band and nation to
which they belonged, Sid doubted if his ‘maybe’ would bear fruit.
Certainly he could hear no abating of the attack as the horse and
mule splashed through the water. Riding on, he urged the animals
into the mouth of the cave, dropped the horse’s reins as a means of
preventing it from straying and leapt from the saddle. Jerking his
Sharps carbine from its saddle boot, he darted to the cave’s
entrance to support his boss.

Maybe the Indians had never
seen a repeating rifle, but they knew about double-barreled weapons
and of six-shooting revolvers. So at first they showed no great
concern when Loving continued to shoot. Not until a fourth buck was
knocked from his horse and eight shots had been fired without the
ride-plenty
i
showing signs of
having to reload did the implications begin to strike
them.

With a couple of bullets hissing by his head,
Loving backed towards the river. None of the other firearms-toting
bucks showed the first’s skill and he was still on the rim
reloading his weapon. Nor, with over a hundred yards between them,
did the remainder of the Indians try to use their bows. Up closer
the short, powerful weapons would be more deadly than the rifles,
in hands trained from early childhood in their use.

Three more times, as fast as he could work
the lever, Loving fired and counted the rounds expended. Then he
saw the braves whirling their horses around with superb riding
skill, to dash back the way they had come. Wasting no time in
self-congratulation, the rancher turned and waded at all speed
across the Pecos. A bullet ripped the Stetson from his head as he
sprinted over the sand. From the mouth of the cave, Sid’s carbine
spat in reply. As Loving entered, the cowhand gave him a grin and
nodded towards the other side of the river.


That’s give ’em a Texas-sized gutful,
boss,’ he commented with satisfaction. ‘I wish I’d got that jasper
with the rifle. He shoots real good for an Injun.’


Sure,’ Loving agreed.
‘If they was anything but
Kweharenuh
I’d say we’d done enough to scare ’em off.
Not Antelope-band Comanches, though. Losing them four’ll just make
the others more eager to get us.’


Ain’t so many of ’em left,’ Sid
remarked.


They’ll soon enough call up help and
be back,’ the rancher replied.

Even as Loving spoke, he saw two of the
braves disappear beyond the rim. The rest of the party gathered
around the man with the Sharps and began to talk. That figured to
anybody who knew Indians; they would be planning their next move.
Which meant the defense must be organized and fast.

Loving looked around him. While larger than
the entrance suggested, the cave offered only one way out. Not a
serious consideration under the circumstances, as they could only
leave after the Comanches departed. In addition to food and
ammunition on the pack-mule, they had two large canteens filled
with water. So they had the means to hold out until help
arrived—assuming that Spat evaded his pursuers and reached the
trail herd.


What’re they doing, Sid?’ Loving
inquired as he went to the waiting animals.


Still sat talking. Must be more of ’em
around, there’s smoke coming up back of the rim.’

Swinging around, Loving saw the smoke rising.
It went up in regulated puffs, not as a single, natural column. If
the braves expected reinforcements, they would be unlikely to
attack before the others came.


Watch ’em while I tend to the packs,
Sid,’ Loving said. ‘Especially that bastard who shot my horse. He
can handle a rifle real good.’


That’s for—’ Sid began, giving his
attention to the Indians. ‘Damn it! He’s not among the rest of
’em—’

At which point the brave with the Sharps once
more made his presence felt. From behind a clump of black chaparral
that looked hardly large enough to hide a jackrabbit, the rifle
banged. Once again the Comanche’s bullet found horseflesh instead
of human tissue. Screaming in pain, Sid’s horse went down kicking
and the mule reared on its hind legs in an attempt to tear free
from the stricken animal.

Grabbing the mule’s lead rope with his left
hand, Loving tried to restrain it. Knowing the consequences should
the animal escape, Sid prepared to assist his boss. Before he could
do so, he found other matters to hold his attention.


They’re coming again!’ the cowhand
yelled, exchanging his Sharps in favor of the 1860 Army Colt’s
six-shot capacity.

Discarding the mule, or leaving it
temporarily to its own devices, Loving bounded to the entrance.
Once again the Henry started to crack, although its user was
painfully aware of its rapidly emptying magazine. However, the
Comanche had already been given a taste of repeating fire and
learned their lesson. Seeing that their strategy had failed, they
spun their horses in rump-scraping circles and galloped back up the
rim.

BOOK: Goodnight's Dream (A Floating Outfit Western Book 4)
13.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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