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A TOWN CALLED FURY HARD COUNTRY
By William W. Johnstone J. A. Johnstone
PINNACLE BOOKSCopyright © 2007 William W. Johnstone
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWith only a slight limp as a reminder that he had taken an Apache arrow in his left thigh only a few weeks earlier, Jason Fury walked to the door of his newly constructed office and leaned a shoulder against the jamb. He thumbed his hat back on his thick blond hair, then stood there and looked out at the town.
Whether he wanted it or not.
Pinned to the breast of the buckskin shirt over Jason's broad chest was a badge that his friend Saul Cohen had fashioned out of tin. The word MARSHAL had been etched into the metal, the letters running in a slight arch across the top half of the badge. Below it, in smaller letters, were the words FURY, ARIZONA TERRITORY.
Jason hadn't asked for the badge. He hadn't asked for the job either, but like the tin star, it had been sort of forced on him by his friends. Right after the battle with the Apaches that had left him skewered by a couple of arrows, one in his right thigh and the other in his left shoulder, Saul, Salmon Kendall, Dr. Morelli, and some of the other townspeople had come to the room in Nordstrom's Mercantile where Jason was recuperating and announced that if Fury was going to be a proper town, it had to have law and order. They had elected Jason to be the sheriff and Salmon as the mayor. And they wouldn't take no for an answer, even though they knew that Jason's plan called for him to ride on to California, where he hoped to seek higher education and his fortune in San Francisco.
It had taken a lot of resolve on Jason's part to leave the settlement, because beautiful, redheaded Megan MacDonald, the girl he had fallen in love with during the wagon train journey, was here and riding out meant never seeing her again. But he had managed to do it, giving her a last kiss and saying good-bye to her forever.
Then fate had intervened, in the form of a band of bloodthirsty Apaches, and Jason had found himself racing back to help defend the town. He had been wounded, laid up, and then elected sheriff before he could do anything about it.
Somebody had realized sheriff was a countywide office, and since they didn't know what county they were in, or if Arizona Territory even had counties yet, Jason's job title had been changed to that of Marshal of Fury. The words didn't mean all that much, he thought now as he looked down at the badge pinned to his shirt.
Whatever you called it, he was still stuck here where he didn't really want to be.
But if you want to leave that bad, nobody's stopping you, he reminded himself. He could go down to the livery stable, saddle up Cleo, his palomino mare, and ride out of Fury once and for all. Some folks, like Matt MacDonald, would even be glad to see him go-despite the fact that Jason had saved the ungrateful Matt's life more than once on the trip out here.
"Morning, Marshal," a voice said from his right. "How are you this fine day?"
Jason looked around to see Saul Cohen walking toward him. The wiry man in his thirties was probably Jason's best friend in Fury. Saul was smart and had exhibited plenty of courage during the wagon train journey. He and his wife ran the local hardware store and were raising three fine boys. As far as Jason was concerned, Saul was one of Fury's leading citizens, and he didn't give a damn how the Reverend Mr. Milcher felt about Jews.
Jason nodded a friendly hello, then twisting his torso slightly as if testing it, said, "Still a mite stiff from that arrow wound, but it's getting better. I reckon I'm fine."
"Another wagonload of settlers rolled in a little while ago," Saul said. "This new family brings the population of Fury to one hundred and twelve souls. Your father would be proud, Jason."
Jason supposed Saul was right. Jedediah Fury had taken pride in the number of immigrants he had taken west during a two-decade-long career as a wagon master. Chances are that Jedediah would have advised against settling here in Arizona, and told Saul and the others that they ought to go on to California as they had planned when they left Kansas City, but none of them would ever know for sure.
Jedediah Fury had been killed by the Comanches back in Indian Territory and was laid to rest there, only partway through his final trip as wagon master. The task of leading the wagon train on to its destination had fallen to Jedediah's son Jason.
The settlers had made it this far, to the broad, somewhat fertile valley known as El Despoblado-Spanish for "the uninhabited place"-with its cottonwood-lined creeks and arable soil, before deciding to change their plans and stop to build a new town ... a town they would name in honor of Jedediah Fury.
And whether Jason liked it or not, he had to admit that in the weeks since the Indian attack, this town called Fury had been growing by leaps and bounds. The settlers all banded together to put up each building in turn. One of the structures that had risen in a hurry was the adobe building that housed the marshal's office. Directly behind it, and connected to it, was a small jail constructed of thick, heavy cottonwood beams. It would be more difficult to break out of than an adobe jail would have been. So far, the lockup hadn't been used, but Jason knew it was only a matter of time before he had to arrest somebody.
One of the first things Saul had done, even before getting his hardware store open, was to dig a well for the town. The creeks were flowing right now, but that wouldn't always be the case. Arizona Territory was known for its arid weather. The hope was that the well put in by Saul and several of the other men would never run dry. It sat in the very center of the settlement, its location proclaiming its importance to these hardy pioneers. A covered patio had been erected around and above it, to give shade from the merciless sun and to provide a framework for the mechanism by which water could be lifted from underground.
Surrounding that central plaza were several dozen buildings. Fury already had a look of permanence about it. The town was here to stay.
And so, Jason reckoned, was he. His feelings for Megan MacDonald would see to that, not to mention the responsibility he felt for Saul, Salmon Kendall, and the other settlers. Also, his younger sister Jenny was here and wasn't likely to be leaving any time soon. She had fallen hard for Matt Mac-Donald, Megan's older brother.
Jason just wished that Matt was more like Megan. Instead, Matt was an arrogant, headstrong bully, and he and Jason had disliked each other ever since they met in Kansas City, when Jason stepped in to stop Matt from beating up on a younger, smaller boy. Jenny was normally a smart girl-shoot, she had even made it all the way through eighth grade and liked to read-and what she saw in Matt MacDonald was just flat out beyond Jason's comprehension.
"You brood too much, my friend," Saul said, breaking into Jason's reverie. "It's enjoying life you should be doing. The town is booming, the Apaches have not returned, and your wounds are almost healed."
"Something else will come along," Jason said. "Some sort of trouble."
Saul shrugged. "More than likely. Man is born to trouble, as your Scriptures say. But we persevere."
Jason nodded, hoping that his friend was right.
Saul took a turnip watch from his vest pocket, flipped it open, and checked the time. "I'd best get back and open up," he said, referring to his hardware store. It occupied the first floor of one of the buildings, and the living quarters for Saul, his wife Rachael, and their sons David, Jacob, and Abraham were on the second floor above it. Saul lifted a hand in a farewell wave as he turned and walked back along the street.
Might as well make his morning rounds, Jason decided. Not that much was going on early in the day like this. The handful of businesses were just opening for the day. Not many people were on the street.
Jason tried not to limp as he walked. His leg was getting stronger every day, and he didn't like to give in to any weakness. As he strolled along, he looked past the end of town toward the cottonwood-lined creek, and paused as he noticed that three men on horseback had stopped beside the stream to let their mounts drink. At this distance it was difficult to be sure, but Jason didn't think that he recognized any of the men.
Well, it wasn't that unusual for strangers to pass through the area, he told himself. The wagon trail ran very near the settlement, and not only wagons used it. Men who were headed for California also rode through. Maybe those three were just drifters on their way somewhere else. They might water their horses and move on.
Instead, pulling back on the reins before the horses drank too much, the men turned their mounts and rode into Fury at a slow, deliberate pace.
Jason's eyes narrowed as he watched them. A family of settlers in a wagon was one thing; men on horseback were another. It could be assumed that most immigrants weren't looking for trouble. Jason had no way of knowing why this trio of strangers had come to Fury, though.
The men reined to a halt in front of an adobe building at the edge of town. They seemed to know where they were going. Jason wasn't surprised by that. Word got around. Even though there was no sign in front of the building, those men knew where to go to get a drink.
Abigail Krimp owned the place. She had been working as a saloon girl in Kansas City when she and her paramour, gambler Rome Lefebrve, had decided to join the wagon train heading west. Jedediah hadn't wanted them along and had said so in no uncertain terms. But the two of them had followed along anyway in their buggy, and eventually Jedediah had relented and let them join up.
Rome had been killed in the same clash with the Comanches that had taken Jedediah's life. Abigail hadn't seemed too broken up about losing him. Jason had a feeling that Rome hadn't treated Abigail very well. From there on out Abigail had been a fairly dependable member of the party and hadn't caused any trouble, although the womenfolk disapproved of her because of her former profession and she made Jason a mite uncomfortable with her open admiration of him. She was around thirty, with a lot of red hair piled high on her head, and was still attractive in a shopworn way.
Abigail hadn't talked about her plans. Jason had hoped she intended to open a dressmaking shop or something like that. But once her building was constructed, she had set up a bar and opened for business. Jason hadn't even known she had any liquor along. She must have bought it while the wagon train was stopped in Tucson, he decided, and hidden the kegs in the spare wagon she'd been driving since abandoning the buggy.
Reverend Milcher and his wife Lavinia were scandalized by this development, of course. Since Milcher was the one who had put the wagon train together in the first place, in some ways he regarded Fury as his town. Some of the other folks didn't like the idea of having a saloon in the settlement either. Jason wasn't sure what else went on at Abigail's place, especially in the back room, and to tell the truth, he didn't want to know.
Even though it was mighty early in the day, that didn't matter to some people, Jason thought as he watched the men disappear through the open door of the adobe building. Somebody always wanted a drink no matter what time it was.
With a shake of his head, he turned and walked back toward his office.
He hadn't quite gotten there when a shot rang out somewhere behind him.
Chapter TwoMatt MacDonald cuffed his hat back and sleeved sweat from his forehead. Once the sun was up, it got hot in a hurry here in Arizona Territory. He had already taken his shirt off, revealing a powerful, well-muscled torso, but he kept his hat on to shade his head as he and Ward Wanamaker used a two-handed saw to cut rough planks from the felled trunks of cottonwood trees.
Wash Keough, an old friend of Jedediah Fury who had spent time as a mountain man and had joined the wagon train in Santa Fe, had warned them that cottonwood had a habit of sprouting new growth, even when it was cut down and worked into fence posts or planks. But what the hell else were they going to use for lumber out here where no other trees were visible for miles around? Even the cottonwoods were found only along creek banks. Other than that, the vegetation in the area consisted of grass and low, scrubby bushes.
"We can take a break if you want to, Matt," Ward said. He was one of the men Jedediah had hired back in Kansas City to come along on the journey as workers, and he had decided to stay and settle in Fury. One of his fellow hired men, Gil Collins, had been the first one to sign on with Matt as a ranch hand, but Gil had been killed by an Apache arrow. Ward had taken his place, but only until Matt got the new spread going. He hadn't committed to staying on full time. In fact, Matt suspected that Ward didn't like him much.
That was all right. Matt didn't care about having friends, as long as he had workers he could depend on.
Anyway, Jenny Fury liked him. Jenny liked him a lot. Enough so that she hadn't put up a fuss when Matt kissed her.
He planned to do more than that with Jenny, who was built mighty nice for a girl of sixteen. He knew that because he had seen her climb out of a rain-swollen creek in only her underwear, after she had jumped in to rescue a mutt that had gotten washed away by the flood. The thin garments had been next to invisible once they were soaked, and the image of Jenny standing there like that with every curve of her body revealed and her long blond hair plastered to her head by the water was burned into Matt's brain.
He had decided, right then and there, that he was going to marry up with Jenny Fury one of these days, and nothing had happened since then to change his mind. The only thing that gave him pause was the fact that Jenny's brother was that high-and-mighty bastard Jason Fury, who thought he was better than everybody else just because his pa had been the wagon master. Now those fools in the settlement had gone and made Jason their lawman. They would come to regret that decision, Matt was sure of it. They should have let him go on to California like he wanted.
With his jaw tightening as he thought about Jason Fury, Matt shook his head and said to Ward, "No, let's get this lumber cut. I want to get that barn up as soon as I can."
The house Matt had started building with Gil Collins's help was pretty much finished now, although some work remained to do on the inside. But it was snug enough for Matt and Ward to sleep in at night, so they had moved on to building the barn where Matt's cattle and the fine Morgan horses that had belonged to his father would be housed. Hamish MacDonald had valued those horses over almost everything else. More than once, Matt had felt like his father loved the Morgans more than he did his own son.
Hamish was gone now, killed when his wagon toppled over the edge of a high mountain trail in the Sangre de Cristos, over in New Mexico Territory. Matt blamed Jason Fury for his father's death. Jason hadn't wanted to take that upper trail, but he had maneuvered things so that Hamish practically had to if he wanted to maintain any shred of his pride and dignity. Because of that, Hamish had died.
Matt had made another vow to himself where the Fury family was concerned, besides planning to marry Jenny.
One of these days he was going to kill her older brother.
If it had been up to Ward Wanamaker, he would have built the barn before the house, so that the stock would be protected. Seemed like the animals ought to come first over Matt's comfort.
But of course it wasn't up to him. They were Matt's horses and cattle, and this was Matt's place. Ward was just a hired hand, as he had been all his life. He took orders, worked hard, and stayed out of trouble.
Trouble was his first thought as he glanced past Matt while they worked the two-handed saw back and forth. Ward saw a plume of dust rising in the distance. He stopped sawing so suddenly that Matt was thrown off balance for a second.
"What the hell did you do that for?" Matt complained.
Ward nodded toward the dust. "Riders comin'."
Matt turned to look, his body stiffening with tension as he did so. Out here, a cloud of dust like that could mean several different things, but few of them were good. Matt reached for his shirt and began tugging it on in a hurry. Ward picked up the Henry rifle he had leaned against the wall of the house when they started sawing.
"Reckon we should go in the house?" Matt asked as he finished buttoning his shirt.
"Time enough for that when we see who they are," Ward answered. "Might not be Apaches."
Excerpted from A TOWN CALLED FURY HARD COUNTRY by William W. Johnstone J. A. Johnstone Copyright © 2007 by William W. Johnstone. Excerpted by permission.
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