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Lancaster’s been in some tough situations before, but this one has to be the worst: attacked by three men and left to die in the desert — no weapons, no water, no horse. Still, he refuses to die without exacting some kind of retribution. He finds salvation in the least likely place: a horse so emaciated and pitiful it looks like it’d be good only for crow bait. And yet, ol’ Crow Bait manages to bring him to safety. And it’s Crow Bait who will help Lancaster find the trio of toughs who put him in such a tight spot...
Lancaster’s been in some tough situations before, but this one has to be the worst: attacked by three men and left to die in the desert — no weapons, no water, no horse. Still, he refuses to die without exacting some kind of retribution. He finds salvation in the least likely place: a horse so emaciated and pitiful it looks like it’d be good only for crow bait. And yet, ol’ Crow Bait manages to bring him to safety. And it’s Crow Bait who will help Lancaster find the trio of toughs who put him in such a tight spot in the first place. Even though he has only one name to go on, it describes Lancaster’s revenge perfectly — Sweet.
He stared at the sky for a while.
Until he saw one buzzard joined by another, then a third.
Time to move, Lancaster. No time to die.
The problem was, he didn't remember how he had gotten where he was-lying on his back with pain in quite a few parts of his body-especially his head.
Okay, he thought, time to sit up and take stock.
With a groan he worked himself to a seated position, looked around. Nothing but some shrubbery, a few leafless trees, and hard, cracked ground. No other people in sight. The only thing he could see was a dead horse-his horse-lying a few feet away from him. No saddle.
He looked down at himself, checking for bullet wounds. There was some blood but didn't seem to be any holes. His head was pounding, his jaw ached, as did his ribs.
He gave some thought to trying to get to his feet, but his head started to spin so he settled back down on his butt and tried to remember what had happened to put him in this position....
He remembered riding through the Nevada desert on his way to ... well, where he was going-d to do what-wouldn't come to him. Maybe later. He could have used some water, but he looked around and there was no canteen anywhere ...
... he was riding through the desert, heading somewhere, when suddenly there was a shot and his horse went down. Thinking back, he thought he'd felt the impact of the bullet on the animal beneath him. The horse barely had time to quiver before it went down and died. Luckily, he'd been quick enough to throw himself free before he could become pinned beneath the carcass.
But even as he went for his gun, he was suddenly surrounded by men with their weapons already in their hands. Three men ...
... okay, now it was coming back to him. Without a word the three men attacked him. They could easily have killed him, but instead they began to kick him. All three of them, viciously inflicting pain and damage with their boots. No words, no explanation. At some point his gun had gone flying, and he mercifully lost consciousness ...
He looked around now, but there was no sight of his pistol or his rifle. He held his head in his hands.
... he recalled regaining consciousness while the men were stripping his saddle from his dead horse. They then came to him and took his gun belt, and his boots ...
His boots? He took his head out of his hands and looked at his feet. No boots, just socks. It was just getting worse.
... they rolled him over, went through his pockets, took whatever money was there, then kicked him a few more times for good measure ...
... he woke once more while they were talking, but for some reason he couldn't hear them. And his vision was blurry. He saw ... something, but couldn't quite figure out what it was.
Then he heard ...
"... kill him," someone said. "It would be easier ... bullet in the head ..."
"No," someone else said. "... not the way ... supposed to be ..."
"... desert will take care ... "
"... awake ..."
They noticed he was awake. He saw one of them step forward and knew another kick was coming, but couldn't do anything to avoid it ...
Somebody said, "Sweet, don't ..."
... a kick to the head knocked him out ... again ...
He sat there, still trying to remember. It came to him in pieces, but the pieces wouldn't fit together. He probed and prodded his body. His jaw hurt, but it didn't appear broken. He couldn't say the same for his ribs. Had to be one or two of them that were cracked. He flexed his arms and legs, found that they worked. Why hadn't they broken one or more of his limbs? That really would have left him in bad shape.
He looked at his feet. Nothing wrong there, except for his toes peeking out of some holes in his socks.
He took a deep breath. It was finally time for him to try getting to his feet.
The first time he almost made it, but his head swam and he staggered, sat back down
Tried again, slowly.
Got to a bent-over position, hands on his knees, then straightened up slowly.
It was a start.
The man they were meeting was standing next to a buckboard. He was tall, ramrod straight even though he was in his sixties. His face was deeply chiseled with lines he had earned over a long, hard life. And though he currently was a wealthy man, his life was still hard. New lines were still forming.
The man with the saddle walked around and dropped into the bed of the buckboard.
The man with the saddlebags did the same.
The man with the gun walked to the older man and handed them to him.
"Done?" the older man asked.
The older man handed him an envelope with money in it, payment for all three.
"Do not ever contact me," the older man said.
The man with the envelope looked inside, raised his eyebrows, and said, "You got it."
All three men mounted up and rode off.
The older man with the chiseled face did not move until they were out of sight.
Excerpted from Crow Bait by Robert J. Randisi Copyright © 2010 by Robert J. Randisi. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted September 6, 2011
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