The Loner: Brutal Vengeance

( 17 )

Overview

In a land of legends The Loner has nothing to prove. That's usually when violence finds its way to him. . .

Vengeance Will Be Mine

For a posse chasing a murderous band of outlaws, a quiet kid with a lightning fast gun is good company. And when the outlaws turn around and attack the posse, The Loner doesn't have a choice: he's now caught up in a running gun battle across West Texas. The Loner knows the men he's fighting are bad to the bone—led ...

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Overview

In a land of legends The Loner has nothing to prove. That's usually when violence finds its way to him. . .

Vengeance Will Be Mine

For a posse chasing a murderous band of outlaws, a quiet kid with a lightning fast gun is good company. And when the outlaws turn around and attack the posse, The Loner doesn't have a choice: he's now caught up in a running gun battle across West Texas. The Loner knows the men he's fighting are bad to the bone—led by a merciless killer named Warren Latch. But what about the guys on his side? As men on both sides of the fight bite the dust, the Loner has fewer allies and no way out. That's when a beautiful bounty hunter appears on the scene—to lead the way into another vendetta, another betrayal, and one final, bloody fight to the death. . .

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786028511
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 4/1/2012
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 395,777
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Read an Excerpt

The Loner: BRUTAL VENGEANCE


By J. A. Johnstone

PINNACLE BOOKS

Copyright © 2012 J. A. Johnstone
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7860-2851-1


Chapter One

Dusk was settling down over the West Texas town of Fire Hill as Vint Reilly walked home from the stage station.

The day had been blistering hot, as usual, but now that the sun was down the dry air was beginning to cool. The faint breeze felt good on his face as he glanced toward the knob west of town.

The founder of Fire Hill, old Marcus Burton, had come to these parts forty years earlier, not long before the Civil War, to start a ranch. He'd figured he wanted a town as well, to supply the needs of that ranch. The spot on the stream that came to be known as Burton Creek had been a good choice for the settlement.

According to legend, Marcus Burton had stood at that spot and looked toward the knob just as the sun was setting behind it. The red glare made it look like a giant fire was burning on top of the hill. It had impressed Burton a lot, so he'd dubbed the new town Fire Hill, Texas.

The citizens still knew it by that name.

Old Marcus was still around. His M-B Connected ranch was the largest in that part of the state.

Reilly had a lot on his mind because of Marcus Burton. The old man had had a sizable amount of cash shipped in. Since the closest railroad station was sixty-five miles south of Fire Hill, the money had arrived on the three-times-weekly stage.

Reilly had been running the stage station for five years. The satchel full of bound bundles of greenbacks was now locked in the safe in his office. It was the most money he'd ever had in that old safe.

It made him nervous. He didn't know why in blazes Burton couldn't have had somebody meet the stage and take the cash back out to the ranch.

Reilly had asked Burton that question when he came into town to arrange the shipment.

"I do things in my own time," the crotchety old cattleman had insisted. "My men are busy, can't just take off to run around willy-nilly. I'll have somebody here to pick it up in three or four days."

In the meantime Reilly was stuck with the responsibility of making sure the money stayed safe. Burton didn't seem to understand that ... or more likely, just didn't care.

Reilly had hired Tom Rodman and Peter Donahue to stand guard over the money at night. Donahue was young but pretty tough, a part-time deputy for town marshal Alonzo Hyde. Rodman was getting up in years, but had worked for the stage line as a shotgun guard for a long time before the bouncing of those Concord coaches had gotten to be too much for his aching bones. Reilly had confidence in both men.

But he still wished that money was somewhere else besides his safe.

He would walk back down to the office after supper and check on the guards, he decided. His wife Delores was fixing pot roast—one of his favorites—and he wasn't going to miss out on it because of some stubborn old man.

Turning in at the gate in the fence around his front yard, he could already smell the delicious aroma of the meat drifting from his house. A smile tugged at his mouth.

He glanced again at the hill that had given the settlement its name. For some reason he couldn't fathom, his smile disappeared and a worried frown creased his forehead.

Damn Marcus Burton anyway, Vint Reilly thought.

On top of the hill overlooking the town sat forty men on horseback. Their leader, Warren Latch, was at the edge of the slope, slightly in front of the other men.

He was hatless, and the wind stirred his long brown hair. The jutting beard he wore was the same shade. A Mexican serape rested on his shoulders and draped down over his chest and back. Under it were crossed bandoliers of 7.63mm ammunition for the matched pair of Mauser C96 semi-automatic pistols he wore in flap holsters at his waist.

He had ordered the pistols 'specially from Germany. Being able to kill swiftly and efficiently was very important to Warren Latch, and the Mausers gave him a deadly edge that not many men possessed.

One of the other men edged his horse up alongside Latch's mount. "It's getting to be along toward time, Warren."

"Not yet," Latch said. "I want it to be good and dark before we go down there. In the time those pathetic fools have left, I want them to shiver in fear of the horrors that descend on man out of the endless night. I want to be their worst nightmare, Duval, the kind that sends them screaming out of sleep ... and out of this life!"

Slim Duval shrugged. He didn't care about any of that. He only cared about the big pile of Marcus Burton's money sitting in that stage station's cracker-box safe.

Fortunately, Latch cared about that, too, no matter how much he liked to rant about other things. In the end, he would see to it they got the money and everything else they could loot from the town of Fire Hill. That was all that mattered.

As his name implied, Slim Duval was a slender man. He was something of a dandy as well, always dapperly dressed in a black suit and Stetson, with a diamond stickpin holding down his silk cravat. He was a Cajun, though he'd long since lost the accent.

He'd been a gambler in New Orleans and on the Mississippi riverboats before those halcyon days had drawn to a close. When they did, he had drifted west and fallen in with Warren Latch, discovering he was equally talented as a desperado as he was with a deck of cards.

Duval had been Latch's second-in-command for a while, the only member of the gang who was close to the long-haired boss outlaw. "You sure the money's there?"

Latch jerked his head sharply toward his lieutenant. "If it's not, Jed Miller will die slowly and very painfully for lying to me."

Miller was the clerk who worked in the railroad shipping office and fed information to Latch about the best targets for the gang's robberies.

"Miller might not have lied," Duval pointed out. "But he could have made a mistake."

"Then he'll die for making a mistake," Latch snapped. "But whether the money's there or not, by morning the town will be nothing more than smoldering heaps of rubble."

"Fine," Duval said under his breath. He knew good and well that Latch was loco. The man lived for death and destruction.

But riding with him sure paid well.

As the last of the light from the sunset faded out of the sky, Latch peered down hungrily at the settlement. To himself as much to anyone else, he said, "Soon. Very soon."

Vint Reilly stood up and went around the table to rest his hands on the shoulders of his pretty, olive-skinned wife. Delores turned her head to smile up at him. "Good?"

"Muy bueno," he told her in the language of her people.

She laughed. "You don't have to speak Spanish to me. You know that, Vint."

"I like to. The words are beautiful. You're beautiful. And it's a beautiful evening."

"Which you're going to spoil by going back down to the station to sit there with Tom and Peter when you could be spending time here with your loving wife."

Reilly groaned. "You're tormenting me, woman. It's not like I'd rather be there. I'm just worried about that money."

"Why should you be?" Delores asked. "Obviously, Marcus Burton isn't, or he would have had some of his men in town to pick it up when the stage came in."

"I told him the same thing," Reilly said, "but you know how he is."

Delores sniffed. "Stubborn as an old mule?"

"That's about the size of it." Reilly smiled. He leaned over farther, rubbed his cheek against his wife's velvety cheek, and kissed the glossy black curls on her head. "I won't be gone long. Once I've seen for myself that Tom and Pete have everything under control, I'm sure my nerves will settle down, and then I'll come on home."

"Those nerves of yours had better not take too long." Passionate lights twinkled in Delores's dark eyes. "If they do, I'm liable to be asleep when you get back."

"Wouldn't want that." Reilly chuckled as he straightened.

He went to the front door as Delores got up and started clearing the table. Reilly took down the Winchester hanging on the wall and snagged his flat-crowned hat from its hook. He settled it on his tightly curled brown hair and smiled at his wife. "See you later."

"Don't be long," she warned again as she carried empty plates into the kitchen.

Reilly sighed as he left the house. He had taken reasonable precautions to protect Marcus Burton's money. Most men would have said the hell with it. If anything happened, it would be Burton's fault, not his.

The rancher wouldn't see it that way, though, and likely Reilly's employers at the stage line wouldn't, either. He tucked the Winchester under his arm, opened the gate, and headed for the station.

It was too dark now to see the hill west of town.

Chapter Two

Kid Morgan reined his buckskin to a halt, and the pack horse he was leading stopped, too. He had ridden longer than he'd intended to, until after dark. He'd had some trouble finding a spot to camp that suited him.

The gravelly shelf alongside a narrow stream would have to do. A little bluff backed up to it, but the terrain on the other side of the creek leveled off into a flat stretching for miles. The Kid wouldn't have to worry about flash floods, although such occurrences were rare in West Texas.

He swung down from his saddle and picketed both animals so they could reach the water, then took the saddle off the buckskin and untied the packs from the other horse. The moon wasn't up yet, but the millions of stars overhead provided enough light for him to see what he was doing.

There was plenty of dry brush around to provide fuel for a small fire, but maybe it would be a better idea to make a cold camp, The Kid thought. Lighting any sort of fire in the vast plains would announce his presence, and he wasn't sure he wanted to do that.

It hadn't been very long since he'd clashed with some renegade Apaches who had come up over the border from Mexico to raid. One dustup like that was enough.

The Kid spread his bedroll and positioned his saddle to serve as a pillow. Taking a coiled hair rope from his gear, he laid it out in a circle around the place he would sleep. That would keep any curious rattlesnakes from trying to crawl into his blankets with him. His father had taught him that trick.

Frank Morgan, the notorious gunfighter known as The Drifter, had taught The Kid a lot of things, but not how to use the Colt that rode holstered on his hip. That skill had come to him naturally. Likely he had possessed it all along, although he might not have ever discovered it if his wife had not been murdered and if he hadn't set out on the vengeance trail.

Those days were long gone now. Tragedy had dogged The Kid's steps again and again, until finally, he had put everything from his previous existence behind him. From here on out, he rode alone.

That was the plan, anyway.

Fate always seemed to have other ideas.

He dug some jerky out of his packs, along with a couple biscuits left over from his breakfast that morning. It was a pretty sparse supper, and a far cry from the gourmet fare he had once enjoyed as a rich, spoiled young man.

But it would fill his belly, at least partially, and that was all The Kid cared about right then. He sat down cross-legged on his bedroll, set his hat beside his saddle, and pulled off his boots. Then he ate his meager meal as he listened to the tiny noises of small animals moving around in the brush. The night was so quiet he was able to hear the swish of wings as an owl swooped down, then the squeal of fear and pain as the predator plucked up a desert mouse for its supper.

Always death, The Kid thought as he slowly chewed a piece of jerky. Even in the middle of all this peace and quiet, always death.

Peter Donahue was tall and gawky, with a shock of blond hair and buck teeth. His nose had been broken somewhere along the way and had healed crookedly. He was a part-time deputy with a quick, charming smile. When a fight broke out in the Swingin' Door Saloon, he could usually calm down the troublemakers just by talking to them.

But when he had to, he could wallop somebody with his big, knobby fists, and he was a fair hand with a gun, too.

Tom Rodman was a head shorter than his fellow guard and seemingly an ax handle wider, although that was just an illusion because Rodman was so stockily built. His hair was almost completely gray and his jowls had started to sag a little, giving him the appearance of a bulldog.

However, no bulldog had ever been able to handle a double-barreled Greener like Rodman. During his years as a stagecoach guard, he had blasted half a dozen road agents out of their saddles.

Through one of the station's front windows, Vint Reilly saw the two men sitting at a table, playing dominos. He rapped on the glass to get their attention so they wouldn't be spooked when he unlocked the door and went in. Rodman looked up, saw him, and nodded a greeting. Donahue grinned.

"Everything quiet?" Reilly asked as he stepped into the station.

"As a church mouse," Donahue replied with his customary grin.

"Didn't expect to see you back tonight, Vint," Rodman drawled as he shuffled the dominos. "That's why you hired Pete and me to look after the place."

"Yeah, if I had me a pretty little wife like Vint does, I'd be home sparkin' her right now," Donahue added.

"If you think I'd rather be here with you two pelicans than home with Delores, you're loco. I just got to worrying and thought I'd see how you were doing. I won't stay long."

"No need for you to stay at all." Rodman pushed the dominos toward Donahue, his movements curt and impatient. He seemed to think that Reilly was questioning his and Donahue's ability to guard Marcus Burton's money. "Half the town's asleep already, and except for a few folks down at the Swingin' Door, the other half soon will be."

"I'm not worried about the people here in Fire Hill," Reilly said.

"You shouldn't be worried at all," Donahue said. "Nobody knows about the money, do they?"

"Nobody's supposed to know about the money. That's not quite the same thing."

Reilly was right about that. The officials at the railroad and the stage line had tried to keep the details of the shipment quiet, he knew, but when large amounts of money were involved, news had a way of leaking out.

"You gonna get your dominos or not?" Rodman asked Donahue.

"I'm gettin' 'em, I'm gettin' 'em," the younger man said as he drew nine of the rectangular pieces toward him. "Hold your horses, Gran'pa."

Rodman snorted.

Donahue grinned. "You reckon I'll get any count this time? You been givin' me bad dominos all night."

"Bad dominos, my hind foot! You've had double-five every time. It's your turn to down."

Donahue set his dominos up so he could see them. He paused, picked one up, and placed it faceup in the center of the table. "Wouldn't want to break tradition," he said as he moved the peg in his little scorekeeping board.

Rodman grunted and shook his head. He said something about dumb luck under his breath, but that just made Donahue's grin grow wider.

They weren't worried, Reilly told himself. There was no reason he should be. Donahue was right. He should be home with Delores. "Looks like you boys have got everything squared away here."

"Darn right we do." Rodman placed a domino on the table. "Let's see you make something out of that."

"It just so happens I can make fifteen." Donahue gleefully swooped a hand in to place a domino of his own. "You shouldn't have forgot that double-five's the spinner, Tom."

Rodman groaned.

Chuckling, Reilly let himself out of the office. He paused on the boardwalk to listen to the night instead of turning back immediately to lock the door behind him.

At first the only sound he heard was the faint tinkle of player piano music coming from the saloon at the other end of the street.

Then something else intruded on the peacefulness. A low rumble, like thunder over the mountains or the sound of distant drums.

Reilly stepped to the edge of the porch and looked up at the sky, thinking a storm might be brewing. The region was mostly arid, but sometimes a summer thunderstorm could blow up seemingly out of nowhere.

Not tonight, Reilly decided. From horizon to horizon, the sky was clear. Everywhere he looked, more stars than he could hope to count in a lifetime sparkled against the sable backdrop of the heavens.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Loner: BRUTAL VENGEANCE by J. A. Johnstone Copyright © 2012 by J. A. Johnstone. Excerpted by permission of PINNACLE BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 17 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 37 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 14, 2012

    Very good read

    Easy and interesting,

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 6, 2012

    Kinda Sorta L'Amour -- but worth the money

    Nearly a half century ago, I discovered Louis L'Amour via my father in law who was a great fan. J. A Johnstone kinda, sorta writes the same way. Perhaps a little more male/female interaction but probably not PG 13. A lot more descriptive violence. The "Good Guy" wins in spite of at times stereotypical dialog. I carried an entire L'Amour library with me in my war chest during the second 'Nam tour. The Johnstone violence probably would have affected me more then than it does now. Times have changed and this is a good read and worth the money.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2014

    Juvenile and laughable

    This book was written by someone with very little knowledge of the old West, its culture and its people, and it showed through in every poorly written, labored line. The western lingo was laughable, the characters were one dimesnsional and unbelievable, and what plot there was, was very juvenile and overly predictable. I definitely won't be reading the rest of the series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2012

    Fang

    Yup.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2012

    Saph

    Lol

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2012

    Michiu

    Ehh soreeh i passed out

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2012

    Dani

    Eh.....that was fun.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2012

    HELP! OUR RP IS FALLING APART

    Plz rp a transformer at fortress all results! Plz b active! ~Nightbird

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2012

    Frost

    She smiled "I'd be honored"

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2012

    Shadow

    Ok

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2012

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2012

    Carmen

    Im so tried.. nite.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2012

    Kiwv

    Hmm

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2012

    =----=>

    Boo!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2012

    Emmie

    Wow awesome my mom is african american...i was adopted

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2012

    Orba

    "Thats cool Emmie. I love African-Americans. The women always are so pretty.alot of my fav singers are African-American. Wish I was one."

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2012

    The Loner

    Great frist book,for a great new western by W.W. & J.A.Johnstone.Plan to read the other nook books in this series

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2012

    Graykit

    Goes back t camp his eyes filled with tears

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2012

    Novaclaw

    This is the third time in a few weeks wow just wow

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2012

    Gingerstar ro all

    We are movong camps to truth because ll the reults are mostly the same.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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