Trailsman #360 : Texas Lead Slingers (9781101544860) (16 page)

BOOK: Trailsman #360 : Texas Lead Slingers (9781101544860)
10.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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“I aim to repay the favor.”
“Why didn't you when you had the chance? You had the drop on us. You could easily have shot him.”
“I don't gun people down in cold blood.”
“But if he'd resisted, if he'd gone for his gun, you would have blown him away and not given it a second thought. Is that how it is?”
“That's exactly how it is. Now shut the hell up.”
To Fargo's relief, she did. The miles fell behind them. Evening was on the cusp of descending when he spied a point of light on the southern horizon and allowed himself a smile. “Another hour or so,” he announced.
Ginny raised her head, and trembled. “Must you do this? Why not simply let me go?”
“You're forgetting Roselyn.”
“I'm forgetting nothing. She's my daughter. I have every right to have her with me.”
“Except she doesn't want to be.”
“I know best,” Ginny declared. “She's a snip of a girl with little experience. I'll look after her, protect her. Trust me when I say she'll have the best life I can provide.”
“In South America.”
“What does it matter where so long as she has loving parents? Garvin will be a better father than Marion could ever hope to be.”
“I've seen how the senator treats her. He's a damn good father.”
“Only because he doesn't know she isn't his. Which reminds me. You told me that you didn't tell him. Why not? To spare his feelings?”
“I figured I'd leave that for you.”
“He'll throttle me. Or have me thrown behind bars. Either way, my life is over.”
“You'll get what you deserve.”
“I
deserve
to be happy. That's not too much to ask out of life, is it? Garvin makes me happy in ways Marion never could.”
“I bet he's a bull in bed.”
“Goodness, you can be crude. Our intimate moments are none of your business. I'll thank you not to bring them up.”
“The last thing I want to think about,” Fargo assured her, “is you naked.”
“You, sir, are a pig.”
“One of us is,” Fargo said.
The drum of hooves brought the posse to its feet with weapons in their hands. Fargo hailed them and rode into the circle of firelight and drew rein.
“Ginny!” Senator Deerforth exclaimed, and ran up. He dropped his rifle and reached for her, and turned to stone. “Why in the world are your hands tied?”
“She has something to tell you,” Fargo said.
Ginny glared at him. “I hate you.”
“I'll try not to lose sleep over it.”
“What's going on?” the senator asked in confusion. He helped her down and put his hand on her wrists. “Dearest, I'll have you free in a moment.”
“No,” Fargo said, dismounting. “You won't.” To Ginny he said, “Get on with it.”
Slowly, haltingly, Ginny Deerforth related her years of dalliance with the foreman, and the result of their secret union.
Everyone listened in silence. The senator and the banker were stunned. Lacey Mayhare kept snorting and shaking her head as if she thought Ginny was loco. Vin Creed sipped his flask and grinned.
Marshal Moleen grew somber. When Ginny finished and bowed her head, he was the first to speak. “So Oster still has the girl and neither of you have any notion where they got to?”
Fargo nodded.
“I'm afraid I don't,” Ginny said.
“We'll head out after them at first light,” Moleen told Fargo.
“The rain washed out their trail,” Fargo mentioned. Or he would have gone after them himself.
“We can't give up,” the lawman said. “I like that girl. She's sweet as can be.”
“Wait,” Lacey said. “What I want to know is where's my money?”
“Imagine that,” Vin Creed said, and laughed.
“Ginny has it,” Fargo said, “in a money belt around her waist.”
Ginny glanced up. “How did you know?”
Fargo knew she wouldn't entrust it to Garvin and it hadn't been in her saddlebags or hidden in her bedroll. And besides that—“It shows when you bend over.”
“Forget the damn money,” Senator Deerforth said. “How do we go about getting my daughter back?”
“Didn't you hear me?” Ginny said. “She's not yours.”
Deerforth turned. “I've raised her. I've clothed her, fed her, sat with her when she was sick. I've been a father to her. Not your precious lover.” He rubbed his eyes and said sadly, “I could forgive you for stealing the prize money, Virginia. I could even forgive you for taking up with Garvin. But I'll never forgive you for what you've put poor Roselyn through.”
“You needn't worry,” Ginny said. “Wherever Garvin is, I'm sure she's perfectly safe.”
Just then a deep voice bellowed out of the night, “I'm right here! And unless you do as I say, so help me, I'll snap the girl's neck.”
41
In the shocked silence that followed, they all heard muffled sounds, as of someone trying to speak or yell through a gag. And they could tell who it was: Roselyn.
“Garvin?” Ginny shouted. “What on earth are you doing?”
Marshal Moleen motioned for her to be quiet and stepped past them, his rifle raised. “Garvin!” he hollered. “Use your head. Come in with your hands up. I promise no harm will come to you.”
“Until I'm hung,” Garvin shouted.
“The judge won't send you to the gallows for robbery,” Marshal Moleen said, “but he will for murder. Let the girl go and surrender.”
“So long as I have her, you won't lift a finger against me.”
“We know she's your daughter.”
“And you know me, Floyd,” Oster said. “I'll do what I have to.”
“Oh, Garvin,” Ginny said.
Oster raised his voice. “Here is how it'll be. Send Ginny out with her horse and mine. She's to bring my rifle and my six-gun plus a canteen and food. We'll leave you be, and you're not to follow us.”
“I can't do that,” Marshal Moleen said.
“You can and you will.”
Senator Deerforth was peering into the darkness. “Garvin, please. I'm begging you. Let my daughter go.”
“She's not yours, Marion. She's mine. But I'll tell you what. She doesn't want anything to do with me. So I give you my word, the first town we come to, I'll let her go.”
Marshal Moleen interjected, “That's not good enough. We can't let you take her.”
“You can't stop me, Floyd.”
“Stop calling me that.”
Deerforth gripped the lawman's arm. “Listen to me. I don't care about the money.” He glanced at his wife. “I don't care about Ginny. All I want is my daughter back, safe. Give him what he wants.”
Marshal Moleen shrugged loose. “Damn it, Marion. I'm wearing the badge here.”
“It's
Roselyn
we're talking about.”
Moleen swore, then jerked his rifle down. “Oster? I'll make a deal. Give the girl to us and you can have Mrs. Deerforth and the horses and the guns. I'll give you until dawn before I come after you. That's the best I can do.”
“And the money?” Garvin yelled.
“You can have that, too.”
“Like hell he can,” Lacey Mayhare said.
“Stay out of this,” Ginny snapped. “It doesn't concern you.”
“Like hell it doesn't.” Lacey stepped over to her. “Those are my winnings. Hand over the money belt and be quick about it, bitch.”
“How dare you,” Ginny said, and backhanded Lacey across the cheek with her bound hands.
Lacey shot her. She raised a pocket pistol and pointed it at Ginny's face and fired. It knocked Ginny back, the slug smashing her nose and coring her head to burst out the back of her skull. Ginny's eyes widened and her mouth moved but it was reflex; she was dead on her feet.
Fargo reached them first. He tore the pistol from Lacey's grasp and she spun on him and clawed at his face.
“Give that back to me!”
“Damn it.” Marshal Moleen lunged and seized her arms.
Holding her fast, he bellowed at his deputies to take her from him.
“Oh, God!” the banker bleated, staring aghast at Ginny.
“Virginia?” Senator Deerforth said, holding out his hand to her as her lifeless husk melted to the ground.
“Didn't see that coming,” Vin Creed said, and tipped his flask.
Moleen dropped to one knee and pressed his fingers to Ginny Deerforth's throat.
“What in God's name are you doing, Marshal?” Creed asked. “Her brains are splattered all over my pants. They don't get any deader than that.”
Moleen rose and glowered at Lacey Mayhare. “What have you done?”
Lacey was struggling to break free of the deputies. “You heard her. I wasn't about to let her steal my winnings.”
“You killed the woman in cold blood,” Marshal Moleen rasped.
“She attacked me,” Lacey said. “All of you saw it. All I did was defend myself.”
“You murdered her,” Moleen said. “And I'll see to it that you are charged and brought to trial.”
“Go ahead,” Lacey taunted. “No jury would convict me for protecting what's mine.”
The marshal balled his fists.
“Moleen,” Fargo said quietly.
“Eh?” Moleen said, his whole attention on Lacey.
“Oster,” Fargo said.
The lawman straightened and turned and said half under his breath, “God.” He cupped a hand to his mouth. “Garvin? You saw what happened. We can still make a deal for the girl. You can still have the money belt.”
“No, he can't,” Lacey said.
“Garvin?” Moleen yelled louder. “Are you still out there? Talk to me?”
There was no answer.
42
Fargo and the lawman took torches and searched. Moleen hollered until he was nearly hoarse.
“He took her. That poor girl. There's no telling what he'll do.” Moleen kicked a clump of grass. “Damn Lacey, anyhow. If Roselyn dies on account of her, I hope she rots in prison for the rest of her life.”
“Garvin might have other ideas.”
The lawman scratched his chin. “I hadn't thought of that but it would serve her right.” He swore bitterly. “Who am I kidding? I have to protect her the same as I would anyone.”
“It must be hell sometimes, wearing that badge,” Fargo said.
“Mister, you don't know the half of it.”
They went back.
Senator Deerforth was on his knees beside his wife, clasping her hand, tears trickling down his cheeks. Benton was behind him, a hand on his shoulder. The deputies still had hold of Lacey, who had stopped resisting. Vin Creed was drinking.
“Tell them to let me go,” Lacey demanded, tugging. “You can't treat me like this.”
“Like hell we can't. You're under arrest,” Marshal Moleen informed her. He gestured. “Tie her, boys, hand and feet.”
Fargo waited until they were done and had gone to the fire. He sat, crossed his legs, and placed his elbows on his knees. “Fine mess you're in.”
“She had it coming,” Lacey said.
“That won't help you much in court.”
“I'll bat my eyes and show some cleavage and throw myself on the mercy of the judge,” Lacey said.
“It won't work if he has scruples.”
“I'm not worried. I'll send for the best lawyer in Texas. I can afford it.”
“That's what I want to talk to you about. Your money.”
“What about it?”
“I aim to trade it to Oster for Roselyn.”
Lacey cocked her head. “Are you loco? If you give it to him I'll never see it again.”
“There's the girl to think of.”
“You think of her. She's nothing to me. I feel sorry for her having that bitch for a mother but I'm not going to shed any tears.”
“I'd take it as a favor.”
Lacey snorted. “You make it sound as if I owe you. I don't. We had fun in bed once. That's it.”
“The thing is,” Fargo said, “you killing Ginny might send Oster over the edge. She kept him from killing me, and doing worse. Now that she's gone—” He shrugged.
“All I'm interested in is my money, and no, you can't have it.”
Fargo stood and adjusted his gun belt. Stepping to the fire, he held his palms to the flames. “I'm going after Oster and the girl in the morning.”
“You already told me,” Marshal Moleen reminded him.
“I'm saying it again because I'm taking the money belt.”
The lawman was about to pour coffee. He stopped, the cup in one hand, the pot in the other. “That's not your decision to make.”
“I give him the money belt, he gives us the girl,” Fargo said.
“Or you keep it for yourself,” a deputy said.
Marshal Moleen shook his head. “No. I'm sorry. I can't allow that.”
“You don't have a say,” Fargo said, and drew his Colt.
The deputies stiffened but the lawman calmly poured his coffee.
“You won't shoot us. Not in cold blood.”
“True,” Fargo said. “But if you draw on me, I will. And I'm taking that belt.”
“Do you really think Garvin will agree to a trade?”
“I have to try.”
Moleen held the cup in both hands. “Is it that she's a girl or fourteen or what?”
“She was nice to me.”
“That's all it takes?” Moleen grinned. “Hell. You're welcome to it, and be sure to bring it back when you're done.”
BOOK: Trailsman #360 : Texas Lead Slingers (9781101544860)
10.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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