Read an Excerpt
A Man Called Trent
By Louis L'Amour
Copyright © 2006
All right reserved.
Outside the barroom, a tall man in black trousers, black
shirt, and a worn buckskin vest walked a rangy yellow horse
down the one street of Botalla, then swung down in front of
the Trail House. The buckskin relaxed, standing tree-legged,
head hanging in weariness. The tall man loosened the cinch,
taking in the street with quick, alert eyes.
It was merely the usual double row of false fronted buildings
he saw, almost every other one a saloon. He knew that men
along the walk were looking at him, wondering about him, but
he seemed not to notice.
He could feel their eyes, though, like a tangible touch,
lifting from his low-slung, tied-down guns to his lean brown
face and green eyes. They were noting the dust in the grain
of his face, the dust on his clothing, the dust on the
long-legged buckskin. They would know he had traveled far and
fast, and that would mean he had traveled for a reason.
When he stepped up on the walk, he closed his eyes for an
instant. It was a trick he had learned that would leave his
eyes accustomed to inner dimness much more quickly than would
otherwise be the case. Then he stepped through the doors,
letting his eyes shift from left to right, taking in the room
in one swift, comprehensive glance. There was no one he knew.
No one here, he wassure, knew him.
Webb Steele, brawny and huge, strode past him through the
doors, his guns seeming small, buckled to his massive frame.
"I'll have a whiskey," the tall man said to the bartender. He
took off his flat-crowned black hat to run his fingers around
the sweaty band, then through his black curly hair. He
replaced the hat, dropped his right hand to the bar, then
Several men leaned on the bar nearby. The nearest, a man who
had walked to the bar as Steele left, was a slim, wiry young
fellow in a fringed buckskin jacket and black jeans stuffed
into cowhide boots.
The young man had gray, cold eyes. He looked hard at the
stranger. "Don't I know you?" he demanded.
The green eyes lifted in a direct expressionless look. "You
"Want a job?"
"Ain't you a cowhand?"
"I'll pay well."
"What outfit you with?"
"I'm not with any outfit," the young man said sharply. "I am
the Tumblin' R."
The young man's face flamed and a queer, white eagerness came
into his eyes. "I don't like the way you said that!" he
"Does it matter?" drawled the tall man. For an instant the
young rancher stared as if he couldn't believe his ears, and
he heard men hurriedly backing away from him. Something
turned over inside him, and with a sickening sensation in the
pit of his stomach he realized with startling clarity that he
was facing a gun battle, out in the open and alone.
An icy chill went down his spine. Always before when he had
talked, loud and free, the fact that he was Chet Lord's son
had saved him. Men knew his hard-bitten old father only too
well. Then, there had been Bonner and Swindell. Those two
men had affronted Steve Lord and later both had been found
dead in the trail, gun in hand.
Suddenly the awful realization that he must fight swept over
Steve Lord. Nothing his father might do afterward would do
any good now. He stiffened. His face was tense and white as
he stared into the cold green eyes of the stranger.
"Yeah," he snapped, "it matters, and I'll make it matter!"
His hand hovered over his gun. For an instant, the watchers
held their breaths. The tall man at the bar stared at Steve
Lord coolly, then Steve saw those hard green eyes change, and
a glint of humor and friendliness came into them.
With a shrug the stranger turned away. "Well," he drawled,
"don't kill me now. I hate to get shot on an empty stomach."
Deliberately he turned his back and looked at the bartender.
"How about another whiskey? The trail shore does make a
Everyone began talking suddenly, and Steve Lord, astonished
and relieved, dropped his hand to his side. Something had
happened to him and all he knew was that he had narrowly
escaped death from a shoot-out with a man to whom blazing guns
were not new.
The tall man at the bar lifted his eyes to the mirror in time
to see a thin-bodied fellow with close-set eyes slide quietly
from his chair and go out the side door. No one seemed to
notice him go except the tall stranger who noted the
intentness of the man's eyes, and something sly in his
The stranger swallowed his drink, turned on his heel, and
walked outside. The thin man who had left the Trail House was
talking with three men across the street in front of the Spur
Saloon. The tall man saw the eyes of the three pick him up.
Swiftly screening their faces, he strolled, on.
Idling in front of the empty stage station a few minutes
later, he saw Steve Lord coming toward him. Something about
the young man disturbed him, but although his eyes lifted from
the cigarette he was rolling, he said nothing when Steve
stopped before him.
"You could have killed me," Steve said sharply, staring at
"Yeah." The tall stranger smiled a little.
"Why didn't you? I made a fool of myself, talkin' too much."
The stranger smiled. "No use killin' a man unnecessarily.
You may be Chet Lord's son as I heard, but I think you make
your own tracks."
"Thanks. That's the first time anybody ever said that to me."
"Mebbe they should have." The stranger took a long drag, and
glanced sideward at Steve. "Knowin' you're pretty much of a
man often helps a feller be one."
"Who are you?" asked Steve Lord.
The stranger shrugged. "The name is Lance," he replied
slowly. "Is that enough for you?"
"Yeah. About that job. We'd like to have you. I may not be
gun slick but I know when a man is."
"I don't reckon I'll go to work just now," observed the man
who said his name was Lance.
"I'd rather have you on our side than the other," Steve said
honestly. "And we'll pay well."
"Mebbe I won't ride for either side."
"You got to! Those that ain't for us are against us."
Lance smoked quietly for a moment. "Tell me," he finally
said, "what kind of a scrap is this?"
"It's a three-cornered scrap actually," Steve said. "Our
outfit has about forty riders, and Webb Steele has about the
same number. We split the Live Oak country between us. By
the Live Oak, I mean the territory between the two ranges of
hills you see out east and west of here. They taper down to a
point at the border. Webb Steele and us Lords both have
started puttin' up wire, and no trouble till we get to Lost
Creek Valley, the richest piece of it all. Good grass there,
and lots of water."
"You said it was three-cornered. Who's the other corner?"
"He don't matter so much." Steve shrugged. "The real fight
is between the two big outfits. This other corner is a feller
name of Mort Davis. Squatter. He come in here about three
year ago with his family and squatted on the Wagontire water
hole. We cut his wire, and he cut ours. There she stands
Lance studied the street thoughtfully, aware that while he was
talking with Steve Lord, something was building up down there.
Something that smelled like trouble. The three men with whom
the thin man had talked had scattered. One was watching a boy
unloading some feed, one was leaning on the hitch rail,
another was studying some faded medicine show posters in a
Abruptly Lance turned away from Steve. There was something
behind this, and he intended to know what. If they wanted
him, they could have him.
Excerpted from A Man Called Trent
by Louis L'Amour
Copyright © 2006 by Louis L'Amour.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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