Authors: Lyle Brandt
Slade pumped the shotgun’s lever action, spinning back toward Naylor and his gut-shot adversary, just in time to see a bullet strike the younger marshal’s chest. Naylor lurched sideways, spilling toward the earth, while Slade lined up the wounded private in his sights and blasted him from life into oblivion.
Four down, and as he ran toward Naylor, Slade had no view left of the retreating officer in charge. Dismissing Gallagher from conscious thought, a job to handle later when he had the time, Slade knelt at Naylor’s side and found the younger marshal laboring to breathe. A punctured lung and sucking chest wound made it doubly difficult, painting the lower half of Naylor’s face with blood. A darker stain, spreading across Luke’s shirt, told Slade one of the slugs had pierced his liver.
“Guess you’ll…have to…finish…this job…on your own,” said Naylor, forcing the words out of his throat.
“Hang on,” Slade said. “I’ll get you back to town…”
Titles by Lyle Brandt
The Matt Price Gun Series
The John Slade Lawman Series
BERKLEY BOOKS, NEW YORK
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
USA / Canada / UK / Ireland / Australia / New Zealand / India / South Africa / China
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
For more information about the Penguin Group, visit penguin.com.
A Berkley Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright © 2013 by Michael Newton.
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.
Berkley Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group.
is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
The “B” design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
Berkley mass-market edition / April 2013
Cover illustration by Bruce Emmett.
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 websites or their content.
For Ben Johnson
Bill Tanner lay in knee-high grass, atop a long ridge lined with sawtooth oaks, and scanned the lower ground before him through binoculars. He had a clear view of the ranch below, its large two-story house, the barn, and other outbuildings. He was particularly interested in the barn just now, and the four wagons lined up side by side in front of it.
The glasses Tanner used were new—at least, to him—from the Bausch & Lomb Optical Company. Tanner had never owned a pair of binoculars before, and the model he pressed to his eyes now had been introduced this very year, from the factory in Rochester, New York. He liked them better than the one-eye spyglass he’d been using since he joined the U.S. Marshals Service five years earlier, for comfort and their magnifying power.
At the moment, for example, Tanner saw nine men moving around the wagons, half a mile out from his shaded vantage point. Eight of the hands were working, while the
ninth one supervised, giving directions now and then. It didn’t take much sense to load crates on a wagon, but the foreman wanted everything just so. Four crates across each wagon bed, seven in line between the driver’s seat and tailgate, making twenty-eight for one level. Stacked up three deep, that came to eighty-four per wagon, and Tanner reckoned there’d be eight or nine bottles per crate, packed in excelsior.
Tanner did the simple arithmetic in his head, coming up with a minimum 672 bottles per wagon, and maybe as many as 756. Two dollars per bottle, wholesale, meant the four wagons in front of him would earn the shipper more than twenty thousand dollars.
Tanner thought. Thirty-odd times his yearly salary, bare minimum.
“I’m in the wrong damn business,” Tanner muttered to himself, half smiling. But at least he wasn’t on his way to prison, like the men working down range.
He had been watching them load wagons for an hour, lying in the grass, shifting a little now and then to keep his legs from going numb, feeling the buckle of his gunbelt gouging him. His chestnut roan was tied well down the slope behind him, out of sight and earshot from the men he’d trailed from town, out to the ranch. Tanner was confident they hadn’t seen him, had no inkling they were under observation at that very moment by an officer intent on putting them away.
Not all at once, of course. The wagons would be heading off in different directions when they left the spread, their cargo under canvas, each one with a driver and a shotgun rider. Tanner would lose three of them in transit, but it didn’t matter. He had names for everyone involved, picked up eavesdropping and in idle conversation over six nights of
idling in saloons. He could match the names to faces, and he had no doubt that one or two of them, squeezed hard enough, would tattle on the men in charge.
And none too soon, all things considered. Tanner had no scruples about drinking—liked to pull a cork himself, in fact—and it was hard for him to work up much enthusiasm over violations of the law imposing tax on liquor, though it was his bounden duty to enforce it. But the rotgut being loaded on the wagons down below had caused no end of trouble in the territory, lately. Costing lives, in fact, and that would have to stop.