Longarm and the Sins of Laughing Lyle (9781101612101)

BOOK: Longarm and the Sins of Laughing Lyle (9781101612101)
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No More Kidding Around . . .

A pistol barked to Longarm's left, one slug tearing into the floor near Longarm's left knee, the other drilling a table leg and throwing splinters in all directions. The lawman turned to see that Kid McQuade had finally gotten his pants up and had grabbed a hogleg. He was triggering the pearl-gripped Remington as he sidestepped toward the bar, about fifteen feet away from Longarm, and screaming, his mouth and eyes wide.

The lawman rolled beneath a table. Two slugs chewed through the table and into the floor.

Longarm rolled out from under the table and triggered both his Colt and his derringer. The Colt's .44 round hammered the kid's forehead above his left eye while the derringer's .32-caliber slug drilled a neat, marble-sized hole through his right cheek, just beneath the same eye.

The kid took one more side step toward the bar, nodding his head sharply as though he agreed with something that had been said, then stopped and dropped straight down to his knees. He nodded once more, thick curly hair bouncing about his neck and shoulders, then flopped onto his back, arms spread out to both sides and flapping like wings. His spurred boots clicked madly on the wooden floor . . .

DON'T MISS THESE ALL-ACTION WESTERN SERIES FROM THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

THE GUNSMITH by J. R. Roberts

Clint Adams was a legend among lawmen, outlaws, and ladies. They called him . . . the Gunsmith.

LONGARM by Tabor Evans

The popular long-running series about Deputy U.S. Marshal Custis Long—his life, his loves, his fight for justice.

SLOCUM by Jake Logan

Today's longest-running action Western. John Slocum rides a deadly trail of hot blood and cold steel.

BUSHWHACKERS by B. J. Lanagan

An action-packed series by the creators of Longarm! The rousing adventures of the most brutal gang of cutthroats ever assembled—Quantrill's Raiders.

DIAMONDBACK by Guy Brewer

Dex Yancey is Diamondback, a Southern gentleman turned con man when his brother cheats him out of the family fortune. Ladies love him. Gamblers hate him. But nobody pulls one over on Dex . . .

WILDGUN by Jack Hanson

The blazing adventures of mountain man Will Barlow—from the creators of Longarm!

TEXAS TRACKER by Tom Calhoun

J.T. Law: the most relentless—and dangerous—manhunter in all Texas. Where sheriffs and posses fail, he's the best man to bring in the most vicious outlaws—for a price.

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England • Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.) • Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.) • Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India • Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) • Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

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.

LONGARM AND THE SINS OF LAUGHING LYLE

A Jove Book / published by arrangement with the author

PUBLISHING HISTORY

Jove edition / November 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Cover illustration by Milo Sinovcic.

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,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

ISBN: 978-1-101-61210-1

JOVE
®

Jove Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

JOVE
®
is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

The “J” design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Chapter 1

“Lyle May—well, I'll be damned,” said Deputy U.S. Marshal Case Morgan, a gob of blood oozing out between his lips to dribble down his spade-bearded chin. “We finally got him.”

“Easy, Case,” said Morgan's colleague, Custis P. Long, the lawman known far and wide as Longarm. “You rest easy.” He leaned his rifle down against a boulder and pulled his canteen off his saddle horn. He crouched beside the other lawman, about ten years Longarm's senior, and held his canteen out to him.

Morgan wrapped a gloved hand around the flask, drew it to his lips. As he drank, Longarm looked at the bloody bandage down low on the man's right side, just above his double cartridge belts. The bandage was soaked and glistening. The wound had opened again. Not good, Longarm thought. Not good at all. Morgan needed a sawbones bad.

“Never mind about that.”

Longarm lifted his gaze to Case's blue eyes regarding him shrewdly, a smile twitching at the older lawman's mustache-mantled mouth. “I'll be fine, Custis. You go in and drag them killers out here kickin' and screamin'. I wanna see 'em. Especially Laughing Lyle. After what he did in Stoneville . . .” Case shook his head. “I wanna see the look in that yellow-toothed demon's eyes when you throw the cuffs on him.”

“All right, Case.” Longarm squeezed the man's arm, reluctant to leave his friend out here in the brush and rocks. He'd been spitting up blood for several hours. That meant the bullet had done somethin' bad to his insides. Very bad . . .

“Then we'll get me tended,” Case said reassuringly. “But first things first.”

“All right.”

Longarm glanced at the bloody wound again, saw the gauntness of Morgan's withered cheeks, the red in the whites of his eyes. He should have gotten Morgan over to Albuquerque right after May's men bushwhacked them and drilled that slug into Morgan's side. But Case had insisted they continue following May while his trail was still warm.

The bushwhacking had been three days ago. Three days' worth of blood loss for Case Morgan. Those three days might have punched the older lawman's ticket, and the thought wrenched Longarm's own insides as he set the canteen down beside his friend and stood.

“All right, Case,” he said. “As soon as I clear the rats out of that little hellhole yonder, we'll get you in there, find you a bed, get you a shot of whiskey, maybe a bowl of chili.”

“How 'bout a whore? I sure could use a poke, Custis.”

“You got it. A whore, to boot!”

Morgan chuckled beneath the brim of his broad-brimmed, tan hat as he sat there against the rock, one long leg clad in dusty corduroy poking straight out in front of him, the other curled inward so that his high-topped boot touched the calf of the other leg. Morgan's chest rose and fell slowly, shallowly, behind his collarless, blue pin-striped shirt and the brown leather vest to which his deputy marshal's badge was pinned.

“Sorry, Custis.” The older lawman narrowed a sheepish eye at Longarm, who picked up his rifle and rubbed dust from the receiver before working the cocking mechanism and racking a shell into the chamber. “I led us right into that bushwhack. Damn, I must be gettin' too old for this shit.”

“Shut up, Case. May's a sneaky devil.”

“I scouted that trail, so I shoulda known. A few years ago I
would have
known. Instead, I led us both right into that nest of rifles.” Morgan punched the ground beside him, causing a feather of tan dust to rise and catch the weakening, wheat-colored rays of the late-day New Mexico sun.

“We both rode into them rifles together, hoss. Now, shut up and get some sleep.” Longarm grabbed the reins of the dusty gray he'd rented at a little unnamed outpost on the Arkansas River and slid his rifle into its saddle boot. “I'll be back shortly.”

“I know you will, Custis.”

Longarm swung into the saddle, not wanting to think about what would happen to his partner if he didn't return. He glanced once more at the older lawman slumped against the boulder, and turned the gray around and headed back south through the brush and piñon pines.

The roadhouse where Laughing Lyle May and his three partners, Richard Dix, Kid McQuade, and Charlie Embers were holed up lay to the north. Longarm and Morgan had ridden in from the south. He'd decided after scouting the roadhouse earlier on foot that he'd head back to the stage trail and follow it into the yard, like any other traveler would do, so as not to draw suspicion. Judging by the leisurely way the gang had been riding for the past two days, they no longer thought anyone was trailing them.

And, since Longarm didn't think they'd gotten a good look at him back where they'd ambushed him and Case Morgan, there was no point in skulking around the roadhouse, waiting for the four to come out. That might not happen until morning, and he needed to get Case into a bed with food and whiskey in his belly.

He'd walk into the place casual-like and try to take the four by surprise. Faster, that way. As long as they really hadn't seen him and didn't drill him as he stepped across the threshold . . .

He swung back to the stage road and headed north. A couple minutes later, the roadhouse appeared at the base of a sandstone ridge, a corral and privy flanking it. It was a broad adobe affair, weathered by time and the desert sands, and it sported a tall wooden façade that announced
WILBUR FINLAY'S.

When Longarm had scouted the place before, tramping around behind it and peering in a window, the killers and bank robbers he was stalking were playing slap and tickle with a couple of whores at a table near the bar. Besides a beefy half-breed barman, there'd been three other men inside, area cowpunchers most likely, bellying up to the bar. Their three horses were still tethered to the hitch rack to the left of the broad, stone steps, belly straps and bits hanging free.

Keeping an eye on the windows and the two front doors closed behind the batwings—it was cool at this altitude this late in the day, and a nasty wind had been blowing off and on—Longarm put the gray up to the hitch rack. He swung down from the saddle, looped the reins over the smoothly worn pine-pole crossbar, and considered sliding his Winchester from its saddle scabbard.

Deciding the long gun would invite suspicion and possibly cause things to pop prematurely, Longarm left the rifle in its boot. His double-action Frontier Colt .44 in the cross-draw holster on his left hip, and the over-and-under derringer snugged in his vest pocket, under the right flap of his brown frock coat, would have to suffice.

Eight bullets for four men should be four bullets too many.

He adjusted his snuff-brown, low-crowned, flat-brimmed Stetson and brushed dust from his brown tweed trousers stuffed into the tops of his mule-eared, low-heeled cavalry boots. Longarm was a big man, face bronzed by the frontier sun, shoulders broad, long legs dropping from a narrow waist. A longhorn mustache mantled his wide mouth, under brown eyes set deep in bony sockets. He opened the double doors and stepped into Finlay's, quickly closing the doors behind him, then turning to face the room, shaping a disarming grin and wagging his head. “Whew! Wind's pickin' up again. Gonna be a cold night, I'm afeared!”

“Sure is, mister. Come on in and get yourself warmed up.” This from the beefy bartender—a thick man with long, dark brown hair and heavy pouches under his eyes.

As before, three punchers stood at the bar, now with heads turned toward the newcomer, each with a boot hooked atop the brass foot rail. However, there were only two outlaws at the table that all four had been sitting at a half hour ago. One was stomping drunkenly up the wooden stairs at the back of the room, an arm wrapped around a whore in a pink Bordeaux corset with black neck stockings, garters, and black, high-heeled shoes. She was giggling and clutching the stair rail while her bald, broad-backed jake in a pinto vest and red-and-white striped trousers staggered and swung a bottle around with his free hand, yelling and laughing raucously.

That would be Laughing Lyle.

Two of the three other cutthroats sat at their table playing cards inside a thickly billowing cloud of tobacco smoke. A third was fucking another whore on a fainting couch near a woodstove against the room's left-side wall, behind them. This third man had his pants and red long handles down around his ankles, and he hammered away between the whore's spread legs, grunting loudly with each violent thrust. The groaning whore, legs flapping like wings, was completely naked save for the purple feathers adorning her hair. Her clothes, few as there were, lay about the floor near the couch, a pair of pink panties and a garter belt hanging from the elk horn on the wall above her and the man she was entertaining.

No one else in the saloon was paying attention to the lovers. All eyes were on Longarm, who grinned with feigned sheepishness and ran a hand across his mustache as he strolled casually toward the bar. “Well, looks like somone's havin' fun, anyways. Good night for it. I reckon we all oughta be buddyin' up.”

“I got a couple more upstairs,” the half-breed said. “They don't go on duty for another hour, though. I'd wake 'em up if you offered to pay double, but they're in better moods if you let 'em have their full beauty rest. You know women.”

“Purely I do. And that's all right,” Longarm said, noticing that the two cutthroats playing poker at the table behind him were eyeing him in the backbar mirror. “I reckon just a whiskey to cut the dust'll do me.”

The other three men, dressed in the grubby trail garb of thirty-a-month-and-found trail hands, had gone back to their own private conversation, the one in the middle putting his back to the bar so he could speak to the men on either side of him. The cutthroat fucking the whore was still grunting and causing the legs of the fainting couch to squawk against the worn floor puncheons.

“Oh Jesus, oh God,” the whore was saying, obviously bored.

When Longarm ordered a shot of whiskey, the barman popped the cork on a bottle and glanced at the pair on the far side of the room before returning his gaze to his newest customer. “Said he couldn't wait long enough to get upstairs,” the barman said, meaning the cutthroat fucking the whore. “My guess is he's too
drunk
to climb the stairs. Been goin' at it for ten minutes, now.”

“Sure does make a fuss about it,” Longarm said, sipping the whiskey and keeping an eye on the two cutthroats who in turn were keeping an eye on him as they flipped their pasteboards around. He sipped his drink and wondered how he was going to play his own hand.

He had two in one spot, another on the fainting couch, and Laughing Lyle upstairs. Longarm could still hear Lyle laughing up there, though the laughter was muffled by the ceiling. More than only his laughter had pegged him. May was built like a rain barrel, bald on the top of his head but with long, stringy blond hair falling down the sides and the back. He had a face like a bulldog.

A mean one.

A rabid one with a taste for human flesh.

The killer on the left side of the table was likely Richard Dix, with the telltale rope burn across his throat and the Buntline Special in a shoulder holster. Sitting on the left side of the table was Charlie Embers—black-haired and black-mustached, with the black, mean eyes to go with his reputation of being as agreeable as a caged rattlesnake. He had two Smith & Wesson pistols on the table before him, and he kept glancing Longarm's way and giving one of the pistols a menacing little spin.

Since Longarm had identified Laughing Lyle, Dix, and Embers, the man on the fainting couch was likely Kid McQuade, though Longarm couldn't see much of the Kid back in the shadows except his floury-white ass bouncing up and down between the whore's flopping knees.

“Hey,
you!
” one of the cutthroats shouted behind Longarm. In the back-bar mirror, he saw Charlie Embers shove his chair back and rise a little unsteadily, his mean, dark eyes riveted on Longarm's in the mirror. “Yeah,
you
—what in
holy hell
you starin' at, mister?”

He tossed his cards down, grabbed his pistol off the table, and started stomping angrily toward Longarm.

BOOK: Longarm and the Sins of Laughing Lyle (9781101612101)
5.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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