Trail to Shasta (9781101622049) (2 page)

BOOK: Trail to Shasta (9781101622049)



Clint rolled over in bed and looked at the girl lying next to him. The sun coming in through the hotel window turned her skin to gold. She was lying naked on her belly, her small breasts crushed beneath her. She was blond, so there was a fine downy growth of blond hairs on her that picked up the sun, hence the glow.

She was a slender girl with a fine bottom, long legs, and smooth, pale skin. He reached out to touch her buttocks, enjoying the feel as he rubbed his hand over them.

She moaned, moved her bottom a bit, then rolled to her left to peer up at him. He saw one teacup-sized, pink-nippled breast.

“Are you tryin' to wake me up?” she asked.

“I am.”

“But you wore me out last night.”

“And I'm looking forward to wearing you out this morning, too, Hannah.”

She rolled onto her back and giggled.

“I'm kinda lookin' forward to that, too.”

He moved over her, kissed her, reached down to touch her between the legs, rubbing her gently with his fingertips until she was nice and wet and squirming. He pressed the head of his fully erect cock to her wet slit and pushed it in. She gasped, her long legs coming up and wrapping around him.

“Come on, Gunsmith,” Hannah said into his ear in a husky whisper, “ride me.”

He proceeded to do just that . . .

* * * 

The rider came into town at a gallop, the gray beneath him shiny with sweat. He slowed to locate the livery, then dismounted in front.

“Jesus, mister,” the liveryman said, coming out with a broken bridle in his hands, “you tryin' ta kill yerself or the horse?”

Gasping, the rider said, “The Gunsmith. I'm lookin' for Clint Adams. Is he in town?”

“He sure is,” the man said. “His horse is still right here.”

“I gotta find 'im,” the man said. “Where is he?”

The liveryman knew he could get into trouble giving out the name of Clint Adams's hotel, so he said, “Yer best bet is to go over to Rick's Place. He's usually there.”


The rider turned to leave, but at that moment one of his legs gave out. He stumbled, almost fell, then righted himself.

“You okay, son?” the liveryman asked.

“I been ridin' kinda hard . . . for days . . . tryin' ta get here,” the rider said.

“You mean . . . like the Pony Express?”

“Yeah,” Danny Lyons said, “exactly like the Pony Express.”

* * * 

When Lyons got to Rick's Place, he found the front door locked. That's when he realized how early it was. But he'd risked his neck riding in the dark, so a locked door wasn't about to stop him.

He started pounding his fist on it.

Inside, Rick Hartman was just sitting down to his breakfast when the pounding started on the door.

“See who that is,” he told the bartender, “and tell them to go away and come back when we're open.”

“Sure, boss,” the bartender said.

Rick started on his eggs while the bartender handled the door.

“I don't care if yer closed,” a voice shouted, “I gotta deliver this letter to the Gunsmith.”

Rick looked up as a young man pushed past the bartender and entered the saloon. He looked as if he was ready to pack it in after a long ride.

“What the hell—” Rick said.

“Sorry, boss,” the bartender said. “I'll get 'im out of here.”

“Where's the Gunsmith?” the man demanded.

“What makes you think the Gunsmith is here?” Rick asked.

“The man at the livery stable told me,” the man said. “Look, I been ridin' a long time . . .” At that moment his eyes rolled up and he started to fall. The bartender caught him, and Rick sprang from his chair to help.

“Sit him over here,” Rick said, and they took the man to his table. “Get me another cup.”

“Yeah, boss.”

The man came to almost immediately and asked, “What happened?”

“You fainted. When's the last time you ate?”

“I ain't . . . ate in a long while.”

“Well, here,” Rick said. He reached for his plate of bacon and eggs and slid it across the table to the man. He handed him a fork. “Start eatin'.”

“I gotta find Clint Adams—”

“You'll find him,” Rick said. “Eat, and have some coffee.”

The man put a piece of bacon into his mouth, then grabbed the fork and started stuffing his mouth with eggs. The barman came with another cup, and Rick filled it with coffee. The weary man grabbed it and drank it down, unmindful of how hot it was.

“Take it easy,” Rick said as the man started to cough.

The man wiped his mouth on his sleeve and then looked at Rick.

“Mister, it's real important I deliver this letter to Clint Adams. Is he here?”

“He's not,” Rick said, “but he will be by the time you finish eating. I guarantee it.”

That seemed to satisfy the man, and he went back to his eating.


Clint was down between Hannah Davis's smooth thighs, licking and sucking up as much of her nectar as he could, when there was a knock on the door.

“Go away!” he shouted.

“Oh, God,” Hannah said, squirming beneath him, “don't stop.”

The knocking didn't stop either.

“Damn it!” Clint shouted.

“Rick sent me, Mr. Adams,” a voice said. “He says it's important.”

Clint looked up at Hannah, whose beautiful eyes were closed as she bit her bottom lip.

“Don't go away,” he told her.

“What?” she asked, opening her eyes. “What are you doin'?”

“Answering the door. Somebody's banging on it,” he said, pulling on his pants. “It will only take a minute.”

“It better!” she said, eyes flashing. “You're not done here.”

He opened the door, didn't know the man standing there, but did recognize him as someone Rick used to run errands.

“What is it?”

The young man looked past him at the naked girl on the bed.

“Oh, I'm sorry—”

“Just tell me what's going on,” Clint said.

“A man rode into town, says he's got a letter for you.”

“A letter? That can't wait?”

“Rick says to tell you the man rode Pony Express style, for days, to get this letter to you.”

“Who's the letter from?”

“I dunno. I don't think Rick even knows,” the young man said.

“Where's the man who delivered it?”

“He's at Rick's. They're waitin' for you.”

“Okay,” Clint said, “okay, tell them I'll be right there.”


Clint closed the door, turned, and looked at Hannah, who was staring at him.

“Right there?” she asked.

“Well,” he said, undoing his pants, “not
there . . .”

Twenty minutes later Clint walked into Rick's Place. His friend was seated at a table with another man, who looked completely done in.

“Well, here he is,” Rick said.

“Sorry,” Clint said. “I had to . . . finish.”

“Uh-huh,” Rick said. “This fella's name is Danny, and he has a letter for you.”

The done-in man looked up at Clint and asked, “Are you Clint Adams?”

“I am,” Clint said. “Who're you?”

“Danny Lyons,” the young man said. He held out an envelope. “This is for you.”

Clint accepted the letter, thought about asking who it was from, then decided to just open it to find out.

The room was quiet as he read it. Only Rick, Danny Lyons, and the bartender were present, and it was as if they were holding their breath.

“So what is it?” Rick asked.

“It's two pages, Rick,” Clint said, “from a friend of mine in Shasta County.”


“Yep. Ed O'Neil.”

“I heard you talk about him.”

“Yeah,” Clint said. “Look, his handwriting's not easy to read. Can you get Danny here a room and a bed so he can get some rest? I'm going to sit and try to decipher this thing.”

“Yeah, sure,” Rick said. He waved at the bartender. “I'll have Harve take him over to the hotel.”

“I'll foot the bill,” Clint said.

“Suits me,” Rick said.

They both looked at Danny Lyons, who was either asleep, or had passed out again.

“Okay,” Rick said, standing up, “I better help Harve with this guy.”

“I'll be right here,” Clint said.

“Have some coffee while you're readin',” Rick said. “I'll be right back.”

Harve got Clint a cup before he and Rick left. Clint poured himself some coffee and sipped while he read.



Clint got to the dock early, before the ship had even arrived. There were others eagerly awaiting the arrival of their loved ones. Clint, on the other hand, was waiting for two women he'd never met, had never even seen. But he'd made a promise to meet them.

The two-page letter had laid out, in a handwriting that resembled ink on a chicken's feet, exactly what Ed O'Neil wanted Clint to do. And when Rick Hartman got back from sticking Danny in a hotel, he'd told him the story . . .

* * * 

“It seems,” Clint had explained, “that Ed has arranged for a woman to come over from Ireland, to marry him.”

“A mail-order bride?” Rick asked.

“Yeah, I guess that's it, only this one's bringing somebody with her. An older sister.”

“Wait,” Rick said, “isn't O'Neil . . .”

“Yep,” Clint said, “over sixty.”

“And he's gonna marry the younger sister?”

“That's the way it looks.”

“So how old are these women?”

“He doesn't say,” Clint said. “Just that they're arriving in New York next week, and he wants me to meet them there, and escort them cross-country to him.”

“Why you?” Rick asked. “Why doesn't he just hire somebody to escort them? This isn't the kind of thing you do.”

“He's asking me to do it as a favor, Rick.”

Rick rolled his eyes.

“Well, we know you do those, don't we?”

“I owe him,” Clint said.

Rick held up his hand. “You don't have to explain,” he said. “When are you leavin'?”

“Tomorrow,” Clint said. “I want to get to New York in plenty of time.”

“New York.”

“It's been a while since I was there,” Clint said.

“I guess that's as good a reason as any to go,” Rick said. “Does this guy O'Neil do what I think he does in Shasta?”

“Yes,” Clint said. “He's got a gold mine. A pretty good strike.”

“Is he payin' you for this little trip?”

“No,” Clint said. “I said it was a favor.”

“So you did. Well, I've got to wish you luck seein' two ladies across the country by . . . what? Covered wagon?”

“It's as good a way as any . . .”

* * * 

Clint watched as the huge ship arrived, barely missing the dock as it did. Whoever was piloting the big boat had a light touch.

It took a while but eventually they lowered two planks, one for passengers, and one to offload cargo. People crowded the dock as passengers began to offload. Clint watched as sweethearts, husbands, wives, and families were reunited. There were also passengers who were met by no one, who simply went their own way.

And then there were two ladies.

Since Clint knew that O'Neil was fat—the last time he saw him—and sixty, he expected the prospective bride to be sixty—and her older sister even older. These two girls were young, probably in their twenties and only a few years apart. He wouldn't have even considered them except for two things—they were standing there with their bags at their feet, looking around, and they had red hair—Irish red hair.

Clint approached them. As he came closer, one of them noticed him and nudged the other. O'Neil's letter had given him their names. Bridget and Bride Shaughnessy.

“Miss Shaughnessy?” he asked.

“Yes,” one of them said, “we are Bridget and Bride Shaughnessy. And who might you be?”

She spoke with a lovely Irish lilt that gave him pause for a moment. The other girl—Bride, he assumed, pronounced “Bridey”—stared at him. He couldn't believe that she was to be O'Neil's “bride.” She looked all of twenty.

“My name is Clint Adams,” Clint said. “Ed O'Neil sent me to pick you up.”

“And how are we to know you are who you say you are, an emissary from Mr. O'Neil?” the one who was probably Bridget asked.

“I have a letter he sent me,” Clint said. “Would you recognize his handwriting? His signature?”

“His handwriting is like chicken scratches,” she said, “and his signature is his mark.”

Clint nodded, stepped forward, and handed her O'Neil's letter. She opened it, briefly scanned it, and then handed it back.

“It looks like his writing,” she said. “Greetings, Mr. Adams. How are you related to Mr. O'Neil?”

“We're friends, ma'am.”

“Well,” she said, “we told Mr. O'Neil that we wanted to see your beautiful country before my sister would marry him. Are you able to arrange that?”

“I am, ma'am.”

“Well, this is Bride,” she said, “she is to marry Mr. O'Neil. I am her older sister, Bridget.”

“If you don't mind, ma'am,” Clint asked, “just how old are you?”

“I am twenty-four,” she said, “and Bride is twenty-two. I do not know about your country, Mr. Adams, but in our country we are considered old maids. I hope you will not hold that against us.”

Clint looked at the two beautiful Irish girls and said, “Not me, ma'am. Are these all your bags?”

“They are,” she said. “We left most of our belongings behind and took only what we could carry.”

“Just wait here, ladies,” he said, “and I'll get somebody to help us carry them.”

* * * 

Hidden among the crowd on the docks, two men watched as Clint met the two women.

“You see what I see?” one of them asked.

“Yeah,” the second said.

“We're gonna have to find out who he is.”

“How we gonna do that?”

“We're gonna follow them,” the first man said. “See where they go. Keep our ears open. We'll find out who this man is.” His name was Jack Ahern, and his partner was Phil Kemper.

“Maybe we should just grab the women,” Kemper said. “Look, he's goin' to find somebody to carry the bags. We can take them now.”

“Not without findin' out who he is first,” Ahern said. “We've gotta be careful. We mess this up, we don't get paid.”

“Yeah, okay,” Kemper said. After all, getting paid was the most important part.

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