Trailsman #360 : Texas Lead Slingers (9781101544860)

BOOK: Trailsman #360 : Texas Lead Slingers (9781101544860)
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Table of Contents
 
 
THE NAME GAME
At the blast Ranson cried out and staggered. Colliding with the wall, he clutched his stomach. Blood pumped between his splayed fingers. He looked down, aghast, and said breathlessly, “No.”
Fargo leveled the Colt. “I want a name.”
Ranson oozed to the ground, his legs too weak to support him. “What?” he said, still staring at the wound and the blood.
“The name of whoever hired you and your pard, and why they want me dead.”
“Bastard,” Ranson said.
“The name or I'll shoot you again.”
Ranson had dropped the Starr. He saw it and gritted his teeth and lunged.
Fargo kicked it away.
“Bastard, bastard, bastard,” Ranson hissed. Shutting his eyes, he groaned.
“The name.”
“Go to hell.”
“You first.” Fargo extended the Colt and thumbed back at the hammer. . . .
SIGNET
Published by New American Library, a division of
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:
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First published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
 
First Printing, October 2011
 
The first chapter of this book previously appeared in
Platte River Gauntlet
, the three hundred fifty-ninth volume in this series.
 
Copyright © Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2011
All rights reserved
 
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
 
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
 
PUBLISHER'S NOTE
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 Web sites or their content.
 
ISBN : 978-1-101-54486-0
 
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The Trailsman
Beginnings . . . they bend the tree and they mark the man. Skye Fargo was born when he was eighteen. Terror was his midwife, vengeance his first cry. Killing spawned Skye Fargo, ruthless, cold-blooded murder. Out of the acrid smoke of gunpowder still hanging in the air, he rose, cried out a promise never forgotten.
The Trailsman they began to call him all across the West: searcher, scout, hunter, the man who could see where others only looked, his skills for hire but not his soul, the man who lived each day to the fullest, yet trailed each tomorrow. Skye Fargo, the Trailsman, the seeker who could take the wildness of a land and the wanting of a woman and make them his own.
The Gulf Coast of Texas, 1861—
where a high-stakes poker tournament
leads to deceit and death.
1
The two men latched on to Skye Fargo when he stopped at the saloon. He'd been on the trail for three days and wanted to wash the dust down before he went out to the mansion. Over a dozen of the top poker players in the country had been invited to take part in Senator Deerforth's annual high-stakes game, and he was on the list.
The sun had set and lights were coming on the length of Deerforth's main street. Named after the man who invited him, the Gulf town was booming. Silver was the reason; the largest deposit in south Texas.
The bar was three deep.
Fargo shouldered through and pounded on it to get the barkeep's attention. He hankered after a bottle but settled for a glass. Wiping his mouth with the sleeve of his buckskin shirt, he sauntered back out and was unwrapping the Ovaro's reins from the hitch rail when he became aware of a pair of hard-eyed men leaning against the wall. Their clothes marked them as sailors.
Fargo didn't think much of it and led the stallion down Main Street. When he glanced back the two men were following him. They tried not to be obvious but they might as well wear signs.
He didn't know what to make of it.
The next junction was Cutter Street. He turned right. Cutter ran down to the docks. A schooner was raising sail. Other ships were at anchor, some being loaded, others unloaded.
Fargo made for a broad patch of shadow cast by a clipper. A lantern glowed on board but no one was moving about. Letting the reins drop, he crouched and circled to a stack of crates.
The pair stopped about thirty feet away and gazed out to sea. The taller scratched under an arm and sniffed his fingers. The other fingered the hilt of a knife. They kept glancing at the Ovaro.
“What's he doing, Ranson?” asked the man with the knife. He had a chin that came to a point, and buckteeth.
“I can't tell much,” the tall man replied. “I can see the horse but I can't see him.”
“Do we do it or not?”
“We took half in advance, Jules.”
“Then let's get it over with.”
Ranson slid a dagger from his left sleeve. “We have to be careful. He's supposed to be tough.”
“Tough, hell,” Jules said. “You distract him and I'll earn us the rest.”
“Nice of him to come to the docks,” Ranson said. “Not many around at this time of day to notice.”
“Damned nice,” Jules agreed.
They moved toward the Ovaro.
By then Fargo had his Colt in his hand. He glided from behind the crates and smashed the barrel against Jules's head, pulping Jules's ear and felling him like a shot hog.
Ranson spun, his dagger glinting in the starlight. “What the hell,” he blurted.
Fargo leveled his six-gun and thumbed back the hammer. “I wouldn't,” he warned. “Not unless you want your brains splattered all over your pard.”
Ranson straightened and dropped his dagger. “If this is a robbery we don't have much money, mister.”
“Who paid you to kill me?”
“I don't know what in hell you're talking about,” Ranson said.
“I heard you.”
“You didn't hear us say nothing about killing. And since when is talk against the law, anyhow?”
“Do you see a badge?” Fargo said.
“If you were you might have some excuse for this but since you're not, you must be a footpad.”
“The bluff won't wash.”
“Then take us to the marshal and we'll see what he has to say.”
Fargo had no proof the pair were plotting to assassinate him. It'd be their word against his.
“Well?” Ranson prodded.
Fargo could shoot them but one was unconscious and the other was unarmed.
“Are you going to stand there pointing that thing at me all night?”
“No,” Fargo said, and slammed the Colt against Ranson's temple. The tall sailor joined his companion in a sprawled heap.
Twirling the Colt into his holster, Fargo climbed on the Ovaro. He hoped he wasn't making a mistake letting those two live.
Time would tell.
2
Senator Marion Deerforth was one of the richest men in the state, what with the family's shipping concerns and their plantation. He'd entered politics young and risen to prominence, and was well respected. His annual poker game brought in the cream of the professional fraternity.
Deerforth always reminded Fargo of a butterball. The man had three chins and folds of fat not even tailored suits could hide; he jiggled when he walked.
“Skye Fargo, as I live and breathe!” Deerforth exclaimed as he came down the marble steps. His hair was as white as snow, his face seamed with lines. “How are you doin', son?” he asked in his distinct drawl, and clapped Fargo on the arms. “I never know if you'll be able to make these poker shindys of mine.”
BOOK: Trailsman #360 : Texas Lead Slingers (9781101544860)
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