Trailsman #360 : Texas Lead Slingers (9781101544860) (7 page)

BOOK: Trailsman #360 : Texas Lead Slingers (9781101544860)
4.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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Fargo promised he would. He went downstairs and along the hall to the kitchen. Helping himself to a lamp, he went out the back door and around until he was under the girl's window. Sinking to one knee, he examined the grass. He noticed that in two spots the grass was flattened as if by a heavy weight. He could be wrong, but it looked to him as if a ladder
had
been put there. And whoever did it had wrapped pieces of cloth or burlap around the bottom so the edges wouldn't dig into the dirt.
“I'll be damned,” Fargo said.
16
The senator was in the parlor, a drink in one hand and a cigar in the other, regaling his constituents, and he didn't appear particularly happy when Fargo nudged him and said that they needed to talk in private. Deerforth excused himself and ushered Fargo to a far corner.
“Why so somber, my friend? Don't tell me there's been another attempt on your life?”
“No,” Fargo said, and explained about Roselyn and the face at her window and the flattened grass.
Deerforth tipped the glass to his mouth, and frowned. “Let me be sure I understand this. You seriously believe that one of the men who tried to murder you was spying on my daughter?”
Fargo nodded.
“To what purpose? How is she involved?”
“I wish to hell I knew.”
“On the face of it, it seems preposterous.” Deerforth gnawed his lower lip. “Then again, I can't afford to ignore it. I'll have Garvin post a man outside below her room. That should discourage whoever they are. Now if you'll excuse me.” He walked off to find the overseer.
Fargo made his way to the stairs. As his hand fell on the banister, a hand fell on his shoulder.
“Where are you off to, handsome?” Lacey Mayhare had a drink and a tipsy smile on her pretty face.
“What do you want, bitch?”
Lacey took a step back. “Here now. Is that any way to talk to someone you've shared your bed with?”
“You do remember handcuffing me to the bedpost?”
“Don't tell me you're still upset? Goodness, you hold a grudge.” Lacey laughed and smacked his arm. “Come on. I'll get you a drink.”
“No.” Fargo started up again but she snatched his sleeve. “Let go.”
“Haven't you ever heard the expression, ‘eat, drink and be merry'?”
“You played me for a sucker last night. It won't happen twice.”
“I apologize, all right? It's not as if you were hurt by it.”
Fargo placed his hand on her shoulder and looked her in the eyes. “Lacey, when I call you a bitch, I mean it. You think of yourself first and everyone else last. You lie. You cheat.”
“So?”
“So I'd be a jackass to make the same mistake twice. Go find someone else to toy with. I don't want anything more to do with you.”
“Aren't you mister high and mighty? I have half a mind to punch you.”
“But you won't.”
“Why not?”
“I'll punch back and I hit a lot harder.”
Lacey sniffed and tilted her nose into the air and marched into the parlor.
“Good riddance,” Fargo said to himself. He climbed to Roselyn's room and knocked on the door.
She asked who it was and opened it a crack. She was bundled in a robe.
“I was just about to turn in.”
Fargo told her about his find, and that her father was posting a guard.
“Thank you, Skye,” she said in obvious relief. “I can't wait to tell Garvin I was right.”
“Keep your door bolted, just in case,” Fargo advised.
Roselyn opened the door wider and reached out and squeezed his hand. “I do so like you,” she said. “You're a lot nicer than everyone says.”
“Hell.” Fargo went around the corner and along an adjoining hallway to his own room. He was ready for sleep. Tomorrow was the last day of the tournament and he needed to be sharp. He was about to open his door when someone called to him and Virginia Deerforth bustled up.
“Here you are. I wanted to talk to you in person. Marion just told me about the man at my daughter's window.”
“I don't know any more than I told him,” Fargo informed her, and thinking that was the end of it, he gripped the latch to go in.
“Wait,” Ginny said. “You can't imagine how upset I am. Roselyn is everything to me.”
“You're a good mother,” Fargo said, but she didn't seem to hear him.
“I had her late in life, as you well know. It wasn't easy, let me tell you. There were complications and for a while the doctor feared I might lose her.”
Fargo didn't want to hear this. “Ginny—”
“They had to cut me. I was near delirious from the pain and my life was in danger. They were afraid the ordeal of giving birth would kill me.”
“Ginny,” Fargo said again.
“You're a man so you have no idea what it was like. My first and only ever child. The doctor said I can never have another. And after all those years of trying. Marion and I never did find out if it was him or me. That I finally became pregnant surprised him immensely.” Ginny stopped and seemed to be gazing into far distances. Then, smiling anxiously, she said, “What was I talking about?”
“You should go lie down,” Fargo suggested.
“I can't. I have my hostess duties.” Ginny wrung her hands. “I'm sorry to be such a bother. I don't have many people I can talk to and you listen so well.” She turned to go but paused. “It's not as if we always have a choice, is it? Life forces us against our will. Given our druthers, a lot of us would live differently than we do.”
“I have no idea what you're talking about.”
Ginny smiled. “I'm sorry, again. I do tend to blather when I'm flustered. Chalk it up to an old woman's eccentricities. Good night and sweet dreams.”
Fargo watched her walk off. He shook his head in bemusement and opened the door. The bedroom was dark. He'd left the lamp lit and figured the maid had extinguished it when she tidied up. He left the door open and took a step toward the table—and an arm looped around his throat.
17
Fargo got a hand up and grabbed the arm and glimpsed the glint of steel. He seized his attacker's wrist and stopped the tip from slicing into his chest. Before he could throw the man off, a foot hooked him behind his leg and he was tripped and flung to the floor. His attacker held onto his throat. He rolled, or tried to.
“Got you this time,” the man hissed in his ear.
Fargo recognized the voice; it was Jules. He heaved upward but couldn't break free. The knife inched closer. Twisting, he rammed his elbow into Jules's ribs. It had no effect. He did it again, and a third time, and Jules grunted and his grip slackened. Not a lot but enough that Fargo sucked in a breath.
Fargo knew that Jules's face was right behind him; tucking his chin, he rammed his head straight back. Jules cried out and wet drops spattered Fargo's neck. With both hands he grabbed Jules's knife arm at the wrist and wrenched with all his strength. There was a
crack
. Again Jules cried out, and the knife fell to the floor. Jules's other arm was still around Fargo's throat but it didn't stop Fargo from twisting and smashing his elbow against Jules's jaw. Jules released him and scrambled to recover the knife.
“Not this time,” Fargo said. He drew and fired as Jules gripped the hilt, fired as Jules spun toward him, fired as Jules raised the blade. The last slug caught Jules in the forehead.
Jules's sailor's cap and a lot of hair and gore sprayed the quilt.
The body pitched over with a thud.
Fargo sat on the bed. If he hadn't gotten his hand up in time he'd be the one lying there bleeding like a stuck pig.
Shouts rose from all quarters. Feet pounded, and Senator Deerforth yelled, “Where did those shots come from?”
Someone must have told him because Deerforth filled the doorway. “My word,” he blurted. “Are you all right?”
“Never better,” Fargo said.
“Is he—?” The senator entered and pressed a finger to Jules's throat. “I should say he is. But what was he doing here?”
Fargo stared.
“No. You misunderstand,” Deerforth said. “What I really want to know is how he got into your room?”
Of more interest to Fargo was how Jules knew
which
room he was in.
“I shudder to think he just walked into my home without anyone seeing him.”
The hall was jammed. Ginny squeezed through the press, took one look, and turned away with a gasp of horror.
Garvin Oster loomed behind her, a revolver strapped around his waist. “I was out at the stable and heard shots.” He came in and stood over the body and looked at Fargo. “This makes, what, the third time he tried to kill you? You must have been born under a lucky star, mister.”
Senator Deerforth faced those peering in. “I'll have to ask all of you to go back downstairs.”
When no one moved, Garvin waded into them. “You heard the senator. Clear the hall.”
Some muttered but they went.
“We'll have to leave the body where it is for right now,” Senator Deerforth said. “I'll send for the marshal. He should be here inside of an hour and we can get to the bottom of this.”
Fargo doubted it. He began to reload.
“I must say, you're terribly calm for a man who has just taken a life.”
“I'm going to take a couple more.”
“What makes you say that?”
Fargo nodded at the body. “He had a pard. And someone put them up to it.”
“You can't just up and kill them.” Deerforth was going to say more but his wife reappeared, pale as a sheet, her fingers splayed over her bosom. “Virginia, dear, you shouldn't be in here.”
Ginny ignored him. She stepped to the dead man and touched his arm with the toe of her shoe. “Just like that,” she said.
“Come away.” Deerforth put his arm over her shoulders, only to have her shake it off. “What
is
the matter with you?”
“He's dead.”
“Yes, we can see that. He tried to murder Fargo and got his comeuppance. It's nothing to be distraught about.”
Tears welled in Ginny's eyes. “An hour ago he was a living, breathing human being.”
“Yes, well, if he wanted to go on breathing, he shouldn't go around trying to kill people.”
“He was alive,” Ginny said, “and now he's not.”
Senator Deerforth glanced at Fargo and tapped a finger to his temple. He then placed his arm around his wife again. “You're befuddled, dear. The shock has gotten to you. I insist you let me take you to your room so you can rest. I'll have tea or warm milk brought.”
Ginny looked at him, tears trickling down her cheeks. “Is this what we've come to, Marion?”
“Who, my dear? You're not making sense.”
She turned to Fargo. “I don't blame you. You were only defending yourself. We do what we have to. Isn't that right?”
“Ginny, please.” Deerforth guided her out, saying over his shoulder, “Sorry about this. Keep watch over the body, would you, until the marshal gets here?”
“It's not going anywhere,” Fargo said.
18
The marshal didn't get done with his questions and haul off the body until nearly three.
Fargo turned in but couldn't sleep. His mind wouldn't shut down. It kept trying to come up with answers but he didn't even know the right questions. Along about five he drifted off and not two hours later was awakened by a sound out in the hall.
Struggling to sit up, Fargo shook his head to clear it. He stumbled to the basin, filled it with the pitcher of water that was always kept handy, and dashed some on his face. It didn't help. He dressed and strapped on his Colt and went down to the kitchen. The cook was a plump woman by the name of Maria. She fixed him five eggs with strips of bacon and toast and put on a fresh pot of coffee.
Six cups later Fargo felt half human. He was still sluggish, though, and that could cost him at the card table. It would be nice if Deerforth was willing to postpone the tournament a day but that wouldn't happen. Another of the rules was that the games wouldn't be delayed for any reason whatsoever. He was almost done when someone came skipping and humming down the hall and grinned in delight at seeing him.
“Skye! Good morning.”
Roselyn hugged him and went over to the cook and hugged her and kissed her on the cheek. The girl wore a gorgeous white dress with a lot of bows and frills that made her look younger than she was. She had on matching white shoes. “Isn't it a beautiful morning?”
“If you say so,” Fargo said.
“My, aren't you the grumpy drawers?” Roselyn laughed. “Why aren't you more happy? Today you could win my father's tournament and have all that money.”
“You didn't hear about last night?”
Roselyn had accepted a glass of orange juice from Maria and was about to take a sip. She stopped, and lost her smile. “Oh. That's right. But you killed him. Aren't you safe now?”
“There's another one running around somewhere,” Fargo reminded her. “The one who peeked in your room.”
“Oh,” Roselyn repeated, and frowned. “Well, now you've spoiled my good mood.”
“You be careful until I can get to the bottom of this,” Fargo advised.
“Do you think you can?”
“Only a matter of time.” Fargo noticed that Virginia had come in and was listening, her face as pale as the night before. “Morning.”
“Mother!” Roselyn exclaimed, and gave Ginny a hug and a kiss, too.
BOOK: Trailsman #360 : Texas Lead Slingers (9781101544860)
4.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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