Valley of the Gun (9781101607480)

BOOK: Valley of the Gun (9781101607480)
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LOUDER THAN WORDS

Sam reached down, brushed Hornady's bloody hand aside and jerked a custom Simpson-Barre revolver from a belly rig. He looked it over, admiring the ornate engraving covering its entire barrel and frame. Evening sunlight glinted soft on the gun's ivory grips.

“Some gun,” Sam said quietly. He shoved the adorned revolver into his gun belt, then drew his long-barreled revolver from its holster and let it hang from his left hand. He stared down at the bleeding gunman as townsfolk began easing back into sight and gathering a few safe yards away.

“We—we were still talking,” Hornady said in a strained voice. He stared up at Sam in disbelief.

“You were,” Sam said quietly. “I was all through.”

VALLEY OF THE GUN

Ralph Cotton

A SIGNET BOOK

SIGNET

Published by New American Library, a division of

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,

New York, New York 10014, USA

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)

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Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)

Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:

80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

First Printing, November 2012

Copyright © Ralph Cotton, 2012

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA

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.

For Mary Lynn . . . of course

PART 1

Chapter 1

Whiskey Bend
The Badlands, Arizona Territory

Afternoon shadows stretched long across the rocky land as Arizona Ranger Sam Burrack walked into Whiskey Bend from the south, dust-covered, leading his copper black-point dun by its slack reins. When he saw the tall figure wearing a black duster step out into the empty street forty yards in front of him, he knew what to expect. He stopped for only a second, long enough to flip the reins up over the dun's saddle and give the tired horse a push, sending it out of the way.

Staring straight ahead, he slowly drew his big Colt from its holster and walked on, his thumb over the gun's hammer. He didn't stop again until he stood thirty feet from the gunman, facing him. He took note of the man's riding duster gathered back behind the long custom-made Simpson-Barre .45-caliber pistol holstered on his right hip.

The gunman, Lightning Wade Hornady, had stayed behind while the other five riders left Whiskey Bend only a moment earlier. The dust of the five riders still loomed in the air on the far end of the wide street. Seeing the gunman reach for something in his vest pocket, Sam tightened his thumb over the gun hammer, ready to cock it on the upswing. Yet he held back, seeing the man raise a gold watch by its braided horsehair fob and hold it in his right hand.

“Pardon me, young man, whilst I wind my watch,” Hornady said, cool, confident, opening the lid on the shiny timepiece and glancing down at it. “If I don't wind it while I'm thinking about it, I fear I'll spend the entire evening under an air of uncertainty.” He grinned around a long cigar clamped between his teeth. Smoke wafted from beneath his thick mustache. “I hope you don't mind,
Marshal
?”

“I'm in no hurry,” the Ranger said flatly. If this cordial manner was the way Lightning Hornady wanted to play it, he would accommodate him.
But only up to a point,
Sam cautioned himself. Correcting the gunman he said, “It's
Ranger . . .
Arizona Territory Ranger Samuel Burrack.”

The gunman looked bemused; he stopped winding the watch, his left thumb and finger still clutching its stem.

“Oh, I see,” he said. “Then you would be the young fellow who caused such a stir, killing Junior Lake and his whole gang back in—”

“I would be,” Sam said, cutting Hornady short, staring into his eyes, yet managing to pay attention to the gunman's hands.

“I have to say, I am taken aback, Ranger,” Hornady said, his left hand taking the watch now, his right hand dropping easily down his side, hanging near the big custom Simpson-Barre revolver. “When they asked me to stay behind and kill you, I didn't realize what an important fellow you are.”

Sam didn't reply right away. Instead, he watched the gunman's left hand closely as it slipped the watch back into his vest and lingered there. The Ranger found it interesting that the gunman had held the watch in his right hand and used his left hand to wind it.

Wade Hornady opened and closed his right fingers near his gun butt, his left hand clasping the lapel on his duster. He chuckled behind his long cigar.

“Why have you been dogging our trail so fiercely, Ranger?” he asked. “Don't you have plenty of other innocent citizens to harass and aggravate?”

“You and your pals robbed the bank in Goble day before yesterday,” said the Ranger. “That's why I'm dogging you.”

Hornady's right hand appeared ready to grab for his holstered revolver. But Sam had already seen enough to know the move wasn't coming from the right hand. Lightning Hornady was only drawing his attention to the custom revolver.

Watch for the left,
Sam cautioned himself.

Hornady shrugged, gave his confident grin.

“It was only a small pissant of a bank, nothing worth getting excited over—certainly not worth getting yourself killed over, is it?”

This journeyman gunman played his part well, Sam noted, so well that the Ranger decided if he waited long enough and gave this gunman enough room, the odds were good that Lightning
Hornady might get an edge and kill him right here where he stood.

Sam continued to stare at him, revealing nothing.

“Well,
is it
?”
Hornady asked again.

Without reply, without warning, the Ranger cocked the big Colt on the upswing, just as he'd planned to all along, and put a bullet through the unprepared gunman's chest. The Colt bucked in the Ranger's hand; the single explosion resounded along the street and out across the hill line.

Wade Hornady flew backward, his cigar abandoned in midair, appearing suspended there for a moment as he slid on the rough dirt street behind a settling mist of blood. As the cigar fell to the ground and the downed gunslinger came to a halt, Sam turned from side to side, crouched, fanning the smoking Colt toward any window or darkened doorway that could offer cover for any of Hornady's cohorts.

Once satisfied that Hornady had truly been left alone to kill him, Sam lowered the big Colt an inch and walked forward toward the prone gunman. Hornady struggled for the belly gun inside his duster as his bootheels scooted him backward in the blood-splattered dirt. He stopped and stared up as Sam loomed over him.

Sam reached down, brushed Hornady's bloody hand aside and jerked a smaller custom Simpson-Barre revolver from a belly rig. He looked it over, admiring the ornate engraving covering its entire barrel and frame. Evening sunlight glinted soft on the gun's ivory grips.

“Some gun,” Sam said quietly. He shoved the adorned revolver into his gun belt, then drew his long-barreled revolver from its holster and let it hang from his left hand. He stared down at the bleeding gunman as townsfolk began easing back into sight and gathering a few safe yards away.

“We—we were still talking,” Hornady said in a strained voice. He stared up at Sam in disbelief.

“You were,” Sam said quietly. “I was all through.”

Hornady looked at the gaping hole in his chest; blood surged.

“You shoot a man down . . . just like that?” Hornady rasped in an air of moral outrage, a stunned expression on his pale, tortured face.

“Yep, just like that,” Sam said matter-of-factly. He stooped beside the bleeding gunman and studied the wound closely. “Dad Orwick must think highly of you, leaving you all by yourself here.”

“I always work . . . better alone,” the outlaw said, gasping for breath. “Until now, that is,” he added, looking down at his bloody wound. “Looks like you've done me in.”

“My bullet missed your heart, Lightning,” Sam said. “You've got a good chance of living through this.”

Hornady looked surprised at hearing the Ranger call him by his trail name.

“You—you know who I am?” he said.

“Yep, everybody's heard of Lightning Wade Hornady,” Sam replied.

“Let me get this straight,” Hornady rasped, and coughed, raising a bloody finger. “You know who I am, and still, you just . . . walk up and shoot me?” He appeared to have a hard time making sense of it.

“You want a doctor?” Sam asked without replying. “There's a good one here, if we can catch him sober this hour of the day.” He untied a bandanna from around Hornady's neck, wadded it, laid it on his bloody chest and placed the gunman's hand on it.

“Catch him
sober
?”
Hornady coughed and shook his head. “No, thanks. If the drunken son of a bitch don't kill me . . . I'll go off to rot in Yuma Prison.
Huh-uh . . .
not for me.”

“Suit yourself,” said the Ranger. “Thought I'd ask.” He reached into Hornady's boot well and pulled out a large knife in a rawhide sheath, with knuckle dusters shielding its handle. He looked the knife over, shook his head and shoved both it and Hornady's big custom revolver down in his gun belt beside the gunslinger's smaller revolver before turning to walk away.

Hornady glowered, looking at his two custom revolvers and his big boot knife wedged behind the Ranger's gun belt.

“Wait. . . . I changed my mind,” he said, seeing the gathered townsfolk moving in closer. “I do want a doctor . . . drunk or sober. I don't want to die . . . not until I see you lying dead somewhere, Ranger . . . buzzards scooping out your brains.” His words ended in a bloody cough.

“That's the spirit,” Sam said flatly. He turned to an older man wearing a long gray beard who had walked up and looked down at Hornady's wound. Seeing a tin star on the bearded man's chest, Sam asked, “Are you the sheriff?”

“Yes, I am,” the man said, turning a glance at the Ranger, then back to the wounded gunman. “I'm Grayson DeShay, volunteer sheriff, for the time being anyway.” He shook his head slowly and added, “And I know who the two of you are. This one with his belly bleeding is Lightning Wade Hornady. You're Samuel Burrack, the Ranger who passes through here now and again, I'm told.”

“You're right on both counts,” Sam said. “I apologize for not coming to find you first, Sheriff. But this man was gunning for me as soon as I walked into town.”

“I understand, Ranger,” said Sherrif DeShay. “Anyway, I wasn't sheriff here your last time through. I decided it wise to hang back out of the way, for fear of you shooting me, thinking I was one of his pards.”

“I understand, Sheriff,” Sam said. “That was wise thinking.”

Hornady gave a sour expression.

“Well, ain't this just wonderful? The two of you
understand
each other so well,” he said in his cynical, pain-filled voice.

“Lightning here wants a doctor,” Sam said to the sheriff, ignoring the bitter wounded outlaw's remark.

“An undertaker might serve him better,” the volunteer sheriff replied. “What do you want me to do with him if he lives?” he asked. “What'd he do anyhow?”

“Bank robbery,” Sam said.

“Him and the bunch he rode in with?” DeShay asked.

“Yep,” said the Ranger. “He's with Fannin Orwick's Redemption Riders. Ever heard of them?”

“Dad
Orwick? You bet I have,” said Deshay. “I saw him once in Carson. That was years ago, though. The old bull's got more wives and kids scattered across these badland hills than you could squeeze into two freight cars. Calls his whole brood the Family of the Lord—which reveals how highly he thinks of himself, I expect.”

“That's him all right,” Sam said. “He robs banks to support his
family
. I need to get on their trail while it's still warm. I'd like you to hold him until a posse gets here from Goble. If the posse doesn't make it, turn him over to the circuit jail wagon when it makes its rounds.”

“I'll do that, Ranger,” said DeShay, “only I didn't see Dad Orwick riding with the bunch who came through here.”

“You wouldn't if Orwick played it right,” Sam said. “I saw where three horses split off the trail a mile out. I expect he and a couple of his gunmen circled town. They'll take up with the others farther along.” He nodded toward a line of hills in the distance.

“Shit,” Hornady grumbled to himself with contempt. “These two pecker heads wouldn't recognize
Dad
if he walked up and kicked them in the sack.”

DeShay ignored Hornady's grumbling and gazed out with the Ranger.

“It makes sense he'd do that,” he replied.

Sam turned to DeShay, lifted the two Simpson-Barre revolvers from behind his gun belt and handed them to him. “You can sell these guns to help pay for this one's keep here.”

“You can't sell my guns,” Hornady shouted in spite of his pain. “I've got money . . . I'll pay for my jailing . . . I can afford my keep.”

“Do what best suits you, Sheriff,” Sam said. “Any money he has on him is most likely stolen.”

“Obliged, Ranger,” said DeShay. He hefted the two custom-made revolvers in his hands and looked them over closely. “I might want to keep these for myself.” He gave Hornady a flat grin.

“What about my knife, Ranger?” Hornady asked with a scornful tone. “I expect you thieving sons a' bitches will steal it too, huh?”

“Shut up,” Sheriff DeShay warned, giving Hornady a stiff kick in his side. Hornady let out a deep, painful moan and grasped his chest.

Sam pulled Hornady's knife and its rawhide sheath from behind his belt and handed it to the sheriff.

“If you'd waited a second longer, you'd have seen me give it to him and saved yourself a kick in the ribs,” Sam said.

“I'll see you in hell, Ranger—
in hell,
I tell you!”

“Another word out of you and I'll tell Dr. Lanahan to stitch your mouth shut,” DeShay said down to Hornady. “If he's drunk enough, he'll likely do it and have himself a good laugh about it.”

Hornady coughed blood and closed his eyes as the Ranger walked away. When Sam picked up the reins to the black-point dun, he turned to the sheriff and said, “If you need me, I'll be at the livery barn getting this dun fed and tended before I move on.”

“Obliged, Ranger,” said DeShay. “I'll be along and let you know how he's doing, if Doc don't miss a lick and cut him in half.” He grinned fiercely down at Hornady, then turned to two townsmen standing nearby and gestured down at the hapless outlaw. “You fellows get him up and carry him over to Doc Lanahan's for me.” He turned to another townsman and said, “Gainer, go fetch the doc from the saloon. Tell him to set his bottle down. He's got a patient needing him.”

“This is his drinking time. What if he won't come?” asked Ted Gainer, a tall, serious-looking man with a thick, wide mustache and watery eyes.

“He'll come. He heard the gunshot,” DeShay said confidently. “He always comes, even if his path ain't always in a straight line.”

Ted Gainer turned toward the saloon a block away, where a crowd of onlookers jammed the open batwing doors, some of the more curious of them already stepping down from the boardwalk and walking forward.

BOOK: Valley of the Gun (9781101607480)
4.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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