Authors: J. R. Roberts
Sure ShotÂ .Â .Â .
Clint checked the bodies to make sure they were dead. Then he checked the man he had hitâKemperâand was surprised to find two bullets in his chest. He wondered about that until he realized from the position the body was in, given where Bridget had been lying on the floor when she was shooting, it had to be she who had shot and killed him.
He wasn't sure whether he was going to tell her that or not.
The bartender came over to him and said, “These fellers were sayin' you probably killed the Lane brothers. Is that true?”
“Well then, friend,” the barman said, “you just did Council Bluffs a service.”
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TRAIL TO SHASTA
A Jove Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright Â© 2013 by Robert J. Randisi.
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.
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For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
Jove mass-market edition / April 2013
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. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
In 1853, a local Shasta County newspaper reported there wasn't a river, creek, gulch, or ravine in Shasta County that didn't contain gold. Since that time, gold was being taken out of Mad Mule Valley in seemingly unending proportionsÂ .Â .Â .
*Â *Â *Â
Ed O'Neil finished writing the letter, reread the two pages, and nodded. Satisfied that the letter said what he wanted it to say, he folded it and put it in an envelope. He sealed it, and then addressed it. At that moment the door opened and Danny Lyons came in, stamping his feet to get some of the mud off them.
“You wanted to see me, boss?”
“That's right,” O'Neil said. “I got a job for you, Danny.”
“Whatever you want, boss,” Danny said. “You know that.”
“I want you to deliver this personally.”
Lyons walked up to his boss's desk and took the letter from him. He read the name on the envelope and his eyes widened. Then he read the address.
“B-ButÂ .Â .Â . you could mail it.”
“It would take too long.”
“Naw, they're real good these daysâ”
“I don't trust them,” O'Neil said. “I trust you, Danny.”
“What about a telegram?”
“Not enough room.”
“ButÂ .Â .Â . I'd have to ride for daysÂ .Â .Â .”
“I've arranged for you to ride in shifts,” O'Neil said. “Horses will be waiting for you at certain stations along the way.”
“You meanÂ .Â .Â . like the Pony Express?”
“Just like the Pony Express.”
“BossÂ .Â .Â . some of those guys died.”
“You won't die.”
Lyons, who was twenty-eight, said, “Boss, them riders, they was kids. I ain't no kid.”
“You're young enough,” O'Neil said. “And I'm payin' you this.”
He handed Lyons another envelope. This time the younger man looked inside. His eyes widened again, and his eyebrows shot up.
“All of this?”
“You're givin' this to me now?”
“ButÂ .Â .Â . what if I just leave and keep goin', and never deliver the letter?”
“You won't,” O'Neil said. “I trust you, son.”
“I don't know what to say,” Lyons answered.
“Just say you'll do it.”
“This'll take days.”
“I know it will,” Ed O'Neil said. “After you're done, you can take the train backâthat is, if you want to come back.”
Lyons put the two envelopes together in his hands.
“I'll come back, boss,” he said. “You need me.”
“You're right, son,” O'Neil said. “I do.” He stopped, and put his hand out. Lyons stepped forward and shook the older man's hand.
“I'll get it done, boss,” Danny Lyons said. “I promise.”
“I know you will, Danny,” Ed O'Neil said. “I know you will.”
*Â *Â *Â
“You know what your problem is?” Rick Hartman asked Clint Adams.
“What's my problem?”
“You've done everything,” Rick said. “You've been all over the country, you've been out of the country, you've owned saloons and gambling halls, gold mines, hell, you've even run for political office. Jesus, what's left?”
my problem, then,” Clint said.
“I need to decide what to do next,” Clint said. “What haven't I done yet?”
“Well,” Rick said, giving it some thought, “you haven't been to China or Japan.”
“I don't want to go to China or Japan,” Clint said.
“Too far,” Clint said. “It would take too long.”
“I guess you're right.”
They were sitting at a table in Rick's Place, the saloon/gambling palace owned by Rick in Labyrinth, Texas. Clint had been in Labyrinth a week, and was itching to move on. But to go where, and do what? Those were the questions.
He and Rick were discussing it over a few mugs of beer. Around them, Rick's Place was doing its usual brisk business. The tables were busy, and the girls were, too, carrying drinks to gamblers, spectators, and men who were there just to drink.
“How do you do it?” Clint asked Rick.
“How do I do what?”
“You never leave here,” Clint said. “You never leave Labyrinth.”
“I have, too.”
“What, twice in the last ten years?”
“That means I've left.”
“Okay,” Clint said, “then how do you leave only once every five years? I'd go crazy.”
“That's because you don't own anything.”
“I do, too,” Clint said. “I've got pieces of saloons, and mines, as you pointed outâ”
“Around the country, yeah,” Rick said, “but no place you call home. Not really.”
“Home,” Clint said, staring at his half-empty mug.
“This place is my home,” Rick said. “I love it. I don't want to leave.”
“I guess I can't blame you for that,” Clint said. He lifted his mug and finished the contents. “It's just a little late in life for me to try putting down roots.”
“And I can understand that,” Rick said. “But you know, there is something you haven't done yet.”
“You haven't gotten married.”
Clint stared at his friend, then said, “I think I need a shot of whiskey after that.”
Rick raised his hand to attract the attention of one of the girls.