Trail to Shasta (9781101622049) (8 page)

BOOK: Trail to Shasta (9781101622049)
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TWENTY-FOUR

Clint wasn't happy.

He'd hoped to get in and out of Saint Joe without anyone knowing he was there. Now not only did the sheriff know, but his part-time deputy as well. If one if them talked, the word would get around, and there was always—without exception, no matter what town he was in—always someone who wanted to try him. And as the years went by, it did not become easier. Each time he survived, his reputation got bigger, so the next time they came at him not by ones and twos, but by threes and sixes.

He lay on his bed, with his holster hanging by his head. All he needed was to get through the night, and get out of town.

Just one night.

Was that too much to ask?

* * * 

“Okay,” Denny said in the Red Garter, “we know what room he's in. Now all we gotta do is wait until he's asleep, and then go in and get him.”

“We gonna go in the back?” Fred asked.

“No,” Denny said, “we'll go right in the front.”

“What about the clerk?” Ames asked.

“He won't do anythin',” Denny said. “He won't have time. We'll go right up the stairs and get it done.”

“What about the sheriff?” Fred asked.

“What about him?” Denny asked.

“What do we tell him?” Ames asked. “He's gonna show up, you know.”

“We'll deal with him when the time comes,” Denny said. “Once the Gunsmith is dead, what's he gonna do anyway?”

“I—I dunno,” Ames said.

“Just relax,” Denny said. “Let me do the thinkin' and the talkin'.”

“So when do we go?” Fred asked.

“When I say so,” Denny said. “Fred, why don't you get us another beer?”

“Huh? Oh yeah, sure.”

After Fred went to the bar, Denny asked, “You think he'll pull the trigger?”

“Huh? Oh, sure, why not? Oh, you mean because of what he said? Naw, he's ready. Don't worry.”

“I'm not worried,” Denny said, “but if he doesn't do his part, I'll kill him right after we kill the Gunsmith.”

Ames looked over at Fred, returning with three beers, and said, “That's okay with me.”

TWENTY-FIVE

Clint was alert for the sounds of the floorboards in the hall. There was no access to his room by the window, so he didn't have to worry about that. If they made it through the night, he'd still have to worry about stepping out onto the street in the morning. If someone wanted to make a try for him, that would be the time. They'd either face him in the street, or try to ambush him.

He heard the boards creak, but he had also heard the door to Bridget and Bride's room open. Then there was a knock at his door.

He knew it was her, but still he took the gun with him when he answered it. As he opened the door, she quickly stepped in, the scent of her tickling his nostrils as she came. He closed the door and turned to face her. She was wearing a cotton nightgown that clung to her, making it clear there was nothing underneath. Her nipples were poking into the fabric.

“Bride's asleep,” she said. “Fast asleep.”

“Really?” he asked. “Even I heard your door creak open.”

“Don't worry,” she said. “She's asleep.”

“Bridget,” he said, “this may not be a good idea.”

She loosened something on her nightgown, and it fell to the floor. She was naked, and he could see that the freckles spread over her pert breasts. Her rust-colored nipples were hard. The hair between her legs was an even deeper red than the hair on her head. And the scent of her was . . . womanly.

“Do you want me to go?”

He drank in the sight of her and said, “No.”

She smiled, and approached him. She ran her hand down his arm, until it was touching his gun.

“Do we need that?”

“I hope not.”

She took the gun from him, walked to the bedpost, and slid it into the holster. Her naked butt was stunning to watch as she walked. There was not an ounce of fat on her body.

She turned, beckoned to him, and said, “Come to bed, Clint.”

He started for her, but she stopped him.

“Wait!”

“What?”

“Not with all those clothes on.”

Hurriedly, he began to remove them.

* * * 

“That's his window,” Denny said, pointing.

“His light is still burning,” Fred pointed out.

“I can see that,” Denny said. “We're gonna stand here and wait for it to go out.”

“What if it doesn't?”

“It has to go out sometime,” Ames said. “He has to go to sleep.”

“Right,” Denny said, staring at the window from across the street. “Sometime.”

* * * 

Naked, Clint crossed the room to Bridget and took her into his arms.

“I like your freckles,” he said.

“Really?” she said. “In Ireland we all have them.”

“Well, not here,” he said. He bent his head and began to kiss the freckles. When his mouth came near her nipples, he caught them in his teeth, pulled on them, sucked them into his mouth.

“Oh!” she gasped.

His hands roamed her body, over the smooth skin of her back, down to her buttocks, which he clenched in his hands. He got to his knees in front of her, kissed her belly, moved lower, slid his tongue into the red forest of her pubic thatch so he could taste her.

She gasped and jumped back from him.

“What are you doing?” she demanded.

“No one's ever done that to you before?” he asked. “I thought you said you were wild.”

“Not that wild,” she said. “That's French stuff.”

“And it's very nice,” he said.

“You do that here?” she asked. “In the West?”

“Well,” he said, “I do.” He stood up, put his hand out to her. “Come here.”

She came to him. He slid his hand down over her belly, into her crotch, where she was wet. She gasped when his fingers touched her.

“Come to bed,” he said into her ear, “and I'll show you.”

He tugged her toward the bed, turned her, and laid her down on it.

“Wait,” she said.

“Why?”

“The light,” she said. “Put the light out.”

“All right.”

He walked to the lamp on the wall by the door and turned it all the way down, plunging the room into total darkness.

* * * 

From across the street, the three men saw the light go out.

“That's it,” Denny said. “Let's go.”

TWENTY-SIX

The clerk looked up as the three men came charging into the lobby.

“What the hell—”

“Shut up!” Denny told him.

“Hey, you!” the clerk said, pointing to Ames. “You're crazy!”

Denny pointed his gun at the clerk and said, “Shut the hell up.”

“What the hell—” the clerk said again, but he shut up.

“Don't say another word,” Denny said. “Duck down behind your desk and stay there.”

“But—”

“Do it!”

The clerk ducked down.

Denny turned to Ames and Fred and said, “Okay, let's go.”

“What room?” Fred asked.

“I told you before,” Denny said. “Room 15.”

* * * 

In Room 15, Clint had joined Bridget on the bed. In the darkness he reached for her, slid his hands up her legs and thighs, then even higher to her breasts. She sighed as he palmed them, her nipples hard as pebbles against his palms.

He moved up alongside her and kissed her, sliding his hand back down her body until it was between her legs again. This time when he touched her, she started, but did not pull away.

“Oh my,” she whispered as he probed. “Oh, glory be . . .”

* * * 

In the hall the three men crept along quietly, Denny in the lead. They all had their guns in their hands. As they approached Room 15, the door to Room 14 suddenly opened. A sleepy-looking girl appeared, rubbing her eyes and saying, “Bridget?”

The three men froze. The girl saw them, and screamed . . .

* * * 

“Bride!” Bridget shouted.

Even in the dark, Clint's hand went directly to the butt of his gun. He sprang from the bed and ran to the door. Naked, he yanked the door open and stepped into the hall.

* * * 

The three men froze when the girl screamed. Denny almost pulled the trigger on her, but managed to restrain himself.

The door to Room 15 opened and a naked man sprang into the hall, gun in hand.

* * * 

Bride, who had awakened abruptly, became concerned when she didn't see Bridget in bed. She stumbled to the door, rubbing her eyes, and opened the door, calling her sister's name. When she saw the three gunmen in the hall, she couldn't help herself. She screamed.

When she saw the door across the hall open and Clint Adams sprang into the hall, naked, she screamed again . . .

* * * 

“Jesus!” Fred snapped. He turned and ran back along the hall to the stairway.

Denny and Ames saw Clint, and although stunned, each tried to bring their guns to bear.

Clint, spotting the three gunmen, saw one of them flee, and the other two turned toward him.

He fired.

Bride screamed a third time.

* * * 

As Clint's slugs struck Denny and Ames, they both pulled the triggers of their guns. Denny fired into the floor, while Ames's bullets went into the ceiling.

Both men went over backward, though, and ended up on the floor with Denny lying on top of Ames.

Both were dead.

* * * 

“Get back inside!” Clint shouted at Bride, who obeyed without question and slammed the door.

Clint went over to the fallen gunmen, kicked their guns away, and then bent to check and make sure they were both dead.

Bridget stuck her head out the door, wrapped in a sheet.

“Get dressed,” he told her. “We're going to have a lot of company.”

TWENTY-SEVEN

Clint managed to get his trousers on before the sheriff arrived. By that time other guests had crowded their way into the hall.

“Everybody back into your rooms!” Cargill shouted. “Come on, get out of the hall so can find out what happened.”

Slowly the people drifted back to their own rooms. Finally, there were only Clint and the sheriff standing in the hallway with the two bodies.

“Why doesn't this surprise me?” Cargill asked. “What happened?”

“Hey,” Clint said, “I was minding my own business in my room when I heard a woman scream. I opened my door, and these fellas were there with guns in their hands. They turned their guns on me and I had no choice.”

Cargill shook his head, then walked to the bodies to check them.

“You know them?” Clint asked.

“I know this one,” the sheriff said, nudging a man with his toe. “His name's Denny Moore. Don't know this other one.”

“There was a third,” Clint said, “but he ran off.”

The sheriff looked around.

“What's wrong?” Clint asked.

“If you worked in a hotel and there was a shootin',” Cargill asked, “what would you do?”

“I'd try and see what was happening.”

“So where's the clerk?”

Clint shrugged.

“I'm gonna get some boys to remove these bodies,” Cargill said, “and then I'm gonna find that clerk and see what he knows.”

“Let me get dressed,” Clint said, “and I'll join you.”

“Yeah.”

Clint went into his room. Bridget was seated on the bed, wearing her nightgown.

“Who were they?”

“I don't know.”

“What did they want?”

“I don't know for sure, but I can guess,” he said, pulling on his shirt. “Me.”

“And Bride saw them,” she said. “She must have awakened and was looking for me.”

“If they were coming for me, she may have saved my—and your—life. But you'll have to deal with that,” Clint said. “I'm going to join the sheriff and see what we can find out about these men. There was a third who ran away. Maybe we can find him.”

“I'll think of something to tell her,” she said. “You go on.”

Clint pulled on his boots and stood up.

“I'll talk to you later,” he said. “See if you can calm your sister down.”

“I will.”

He went out the door.

When Clint got to the lobby, the sheriff was standing at the front desk with the clerk. He'd had to step over the bodies of the two men in the hall, as the sheriff had not yet succeeded in having them removed.

“Got a few men comin' in to take those bodies out,” he said to Clint.

Clint recognized the clerk as the one who had checked him in.

“This is Roscoe,” the sheriff said. “We're havin' us a talk.”

“I tol' ya,” the clerk said. “I didn't see nothin'.”

“You were crouched down behind the desk,” the sheriff pointed out.

“That's why I didn't see nothin'.”

“But why were you crouched down?” Cargill asked. “You must have seen somethin'.”

The clerk bit his lower lip, then asked, “Are you sure they're dead?”

“Two of them are,” Clint said. “One of them ran out.”

“Right through here,” the sheriff added. “You musta seen somethin' then.”

“Look,” the clerk said, “I didn't have no choice. They pointed their guns at me.”

“Okay,” the sheriff said, “now we're gettin' somewhere. What happened?”

“These three men came into the lobby, pointed their guns at me, and told me to get behind the desk. I'm lucky they didn't kill me.”

“No, they just tried to kill one of your guests,” Cargill said. “Why didn't you come and get me?”

“They tol' me to stay behind the desk!”

“But then they went upstairs. You could've ran out then.”

“I—I was scared.”

“No shame there,” Clint said. “Having guns pointed at you would scare anybody.”

“Yeah,” Cargill said with a frown, “I guess.” He looked at the clerk. “Did you know the men?”

“I knew two of 'em,” the clerk said. “One was called Denny, and another Ames.”

“And the third one?” Cargill asked.

“I didn't know him.”

That didn't make the sheriff happy.

“But I seen him before.”

“When?”

“Earlier today,” the man said. “He came in and said there was somethin' outside I should see. I went out, and then he ran off.”

“How long were you gone?” Cargill asked.

“Minutes.”

The lawman looked at Clint.

“Enough time for somebody to run in, look at the register, and get your room number.”

“Oh, geez,” the clerk said, “I'm gonna get fired.”

“Relax, Roscoe,” Clint said, “you didn't do anything wrong.”

“I hope my boss agrees with you,” Roscoe said.

Several men entered then and the sheriff instructed them to go upstairs and collect the bodies.

As the men carried the bodies down the stairs and into the lobby, Cargill had them wait while Roscoe looked at the bodies.

“That one's Denny,” he said, “but do you recognize the other one?”

“Yeah,” Roscoe said, “that's Ames.”

“Take 'em out,” the sheriff told the men.

The clerk went back behind the desk.

Cargill looked at Clint.

“I'll ask around in the saloons, see where those boys did their drinkin'. Maybe somebody can give me the name of the third one.”

“If you find him, let me know,” Clint said. “I'd like to talk to him.”

“You still leavin' first thing?” Cargill asked.

“I intend to.”

“Okay,” the lawman said, “if I hear anythin' before you leave, I'll let you know.”

“Much obliged, Sheriff.”

“Yeah . . .” Cargill said, and left.

Clint looked at the clerk, who turned away, and then the Gunsmith went back upstairs.

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