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Authors: J. R. Roberts

The Gunsmith 385

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Stalking Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery . . .

“Why have you been following me all this time?” Clint asked.

The young man shrugged, shoveled bacon and beans into his mouth.

“It seemed like a good way to get to know you,” he said. “Just watchin' you.”

“If you wanted to get to know me, why not just ask?”

“I got a question for you.”

“Why'd you let me follow you all that time?”

“I doubled back on you a few times, tried to catch you,” Clint said. “You were too good.”

“Was I?”

“Where did you learn that?”

“From an old Indian.”

The young man drank some coffee. “But you never tried to lose me?”

“I figured you must have a reason for what you were doing,” Clint said.

“I did,” he said. “I do.”

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) LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

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penguin.com

A Penguin Random House Company

THE SILENT DEPUTY

A Jove Book / published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2013 by Robert J. Randisi.

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for having an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

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

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

For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

ISBN: 978-0-515-15442-9

eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-63507-0

PUBLISHING HISTORY

Jove mass-market edition / January 2014

Cover illustration by Sergio Giovine.

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.

Version_1

CONTENTS

All-Action Series

Title Page

Copyright

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

SIX

SEVEN

EIGHT

NINE

TEN

ELEVEN

TWELVE

THIRTEEN

FOURTEEN

FIFTEEN

SIXTEEN

SEVENTEEN

EIGHTEEN

NINETEEN

TWENTY

TWENTY-ONE

TWENTY-TWO

TWENTY-THREE

TWENTY-FOUR

TWENTY-FIVE

TWENTY-SIX

TWENTY-SEVEN

TWENTY-EIGHT

TWENTY-NINE

THIRTY

THIRTY-ONE

THIRTY-TWO

THIRTY-THREE

THIRTY-FOUR

THIRTY-FIVE

THIRTY-SIX

THIRTY-SEVEN

THIRTY-EIGHT

THIRTY-NINE

FORTY

FORTY-ONE

FORTY-TWO

FORTY-THREE

FORTY-FOUR

FORTY-FIVE

FORTY-SIX

FORTY-SEVEN

ONE

The Stalker was still there.

It had been months since Clint had first seen the rider on his trail, and he had still not been able to get a good look at the man. In Louisiana, several weeks ago, he believed the man had saved him from a flood by providing a boat. But since he'd left Louisiana, the man was still there and had gotten no closer. He'd tried several times to circle around him, or lie in wait for him, but in each case he'd failed. He was actually looking forward to meeting the man, but it was clear that would have to happen when the Stalker was ready.

He didn't think the man wanted to kill him. He'd had too many opportunities to do that—the least of all being when he could have simply left Clint to drown. So what he had to do was wait—wait for the man to make up his mind if and when he wanted them to meet.

Clint was actually looking forward to meeting the man because he was so good at what he was doing.

 * * * 

The Stalker knew it was time. This had gone on long enough. He'd observed the Gunsmith for a long time, thought he knew what kind of man he was.

It was time for him to find out if he was right.

 * * * 

Clint camped, built a fire after seeing to Eclipse's need, and put on a pot of coffee before laying some strips of bacon in his frying pan. After a while he added the beans. He was eating when Eclipse shifted nervously, but Clint had already heard the movements out in the dark.

“I know you're out there!” he called. “I've got enough coffee, bacon, and beans for two.”

He waited to see if there'd be a response, then he heard the movement again—a man walking a horse. Before long, they came into the light.

“Come ahead,” Clint said. “You've been on my trail so long I feel like we're friends.”

The man approached and Clint was surprised at how young he was. He was fairly accomplished for someone of his age.

“See to your horse,” Clint said. “I'll pour you some coffee.”

The young man nodded, walked his horse over to where Clint had picketed Eclipse. When he returned to the fire, Clint handed him a plate and a cup of coffee. The young man sat across the fire from him.

“That was you, wasn't it?” he asked. “In Louisiana? You left the boat outside the house?”

“Yes.”

“How did you escape the flood?”

“There was a canoe with the boat,” he said. “I took that.”

“You saved my life.”

“So I did.”

“Why?”

“Didn't see any point in lettin' you die.”

“Why have you been following me all this time?” Clint asked.

The young man shrugged, shoveled bacon and beans into his mouth.

“It seemed like a good way to get to know you,” he said. “Just watchin' you.”

“If you wanted to get to know me, why not just ask?”

“I got a question for you.”

“What?”

“Why'd you let me follow you all that time?”

“I doubled back on you a few times, tried to catch you,” Clint said. “You were too good.”

“Was I?”

“Where'd you learn that?”

“From an old Indian.”

The young man drank some coffee. “But you never tried to lose me?”

“I figured you must have a reason for what you were doing,” Clint said.

“I did,” he said. “I do.”

“What are they?”

The young man shook his head.

“Not yet,” he said.

“Why come walking into my camp now?” Clint asked.

The man looked at Clint, chewing, and said, “Guess I was hungry.”

“Do I get to know your name?”

The young man seemed to consider that question for a few moments, then said, “Travis. Can I have some more coffee?”

He held his cup out and Clint filled it.

“Travis,” he said.

“Uh-huh.”

“Is that your real name?”

Travis just looked at him.

“Okay,” Clint said. “For now, you're Travis.”

“Can I call you Clint?'

“Why not?” Clint asked. “After all, we've known each other all this time.”

TWO

They sat at the fire and drank coffee in silence for a few minutes.

“Look,” Clint said finally, “you're kind of young for us to have a history that I don't remember. Is there somebody else in your family I might know? Is that what this is about?”

“Not really.”

Clint studied the gun on the young man's hip. It was not new, but also not well worn. It looked like the kind of gun someone might have gotten as a present, or something he might have inherited. It was not a gunman's gun.

But the young man had talents. From an old Indian? Or inherited from someone?

“So what now?” Clint asked. “Tomorrow you go back to trailing me?”

“No,” Travis said, “I thought maybe I'd ride along with you for a change.”

“That would be a change,” Clint agreed, “but why should I agree?”

“Curiosity.”

“That's all?”

“If there's one thing I've learned from watchin' you,” Travis said, “it's that you're a curious man.”

“Is that all you've learned?”

“No,” Travis said, “there's a lot of other things, but that's all I wanna talk about tonight.”

“How safe am I supposed to feel going to sleep with you in camp?” Clint asked.

“Don't you think if I wanted to kill you, I would have tried by now?” Travis asked. “Maybe even succeeded by now?”

“Well,” Clint said, “tried anyway.”

Travis actually laughed, handed his empty plate across to Clint.

“More?” Clint asked.

“No,” Travis said, “you're not that good a cook. And that coffee could be used for a lot of other things—like horse liniment.”

“I like my coffee,” Clint said. “That's why I make it that way.” He stood up. “Well, now, the least you can do to earn your keep is do the dishes.”

“Okay,” Travis said.

While Travis used dirt to clean the dishes, Clint studied him. He was looking for some resemblance to . . . well, anyone. This had to be somebody's son who had come looking for him. If he was the son of an enemy, why hadn't he tried to kill him? And if he was the son of a friend, why not say so?

They slept on opposite sides of the fire, rolled up in their bedrolls. Clint slept fitfully, so he was surprised when he awoke the next morning to find daylight.

He sat up, annoyed with himself. The kid could have killed him in his sleep with no problem. And what annoyed him further was that Travis was gone.

Clint stood up. Travis's horse was gone. The young man had probably walked the horse out of camp before saddling him, and riding off. Was Clint supposed to be impressed? He might have been if he wasn't so angry with himself.

He made himself some coffee and brooded while he drank it. He had no appetite, so he doused the fire, saddled Eclipse, and rode out. Initially, he tried to find Travis's tracks, thinking maybe he could follow him, but that old Indian—or whoever it was—had taught the young man well. There were no tracks.

Clint rode along for a while, then stopped and turned in his saddle. Was Travis behind him again? What was the point of coming into camp? Just to prove he could?

In the light from the fire, Travis had looked to be about twenty-two or so to Clint. He wondered how close he was in his estimation. This twenty-two-year-old was certainly playing with his head. If he was back to following Clint, he was keeping out of sight this time, where in the past he was not shy about being seen.

Clint decided not to worry about it. He had at least been given further proof that the young man—whatever his real name—was not looking to kill him. But he did have something on his mind, and he would probably reveal it when he felt the time was right.

Clint continued to ride in the direction of Labyrinth, Texas, where he figured he'd relax and spend some time in his friend Rick Hartman's saloon, Rick's Place. Let young Travis follow him there. Maybe the friendly atmosphere of Labyrinth would rub off on him and loosen his tongue.

 * * * 

Travis felt he had accomplished his goal. He'd gotten a good, close-up look at Clint Adams, learned a bit more about the man, and then made his point by leaving camp without waking the Gunsmith.

Now he'd follow him for a while without letting Adams see him. Let the man wonder about it for a while. Things were pretty much going the way “Travis” had planned.

BOOK: The Gunsmith 385
6.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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