Pursuit of the Mountain Man (Mountain Man Series #9)

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Overview

Itching for a challenge, Count Frederick von Hausen sails from Germany to hunt down Smoke Jensen. And with a party of the toughest hardcases in the West, von Hausen shadows Smoke into Wyoming's high Rockies. But Smoke Jensen is the last mountain man, and he knows the country like the back of his hand. He also knows that these doomed backtrailers couldn't have picked a prettier place to be buried.

Itching for a challenge, Count Frederick von Hausen had sailed all the ...

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Overview

Itching for a challenge, Count Frederick von Hausen sails from Germany to hunt down Smoke Jensen. And with a party of the toughest hardcases in the West, von Hausen shadows Smoke into Wyoming's high Rockies. But Smoke Jensen is the last mountain man, and he knows the country like the back of his hand. He also knows that these doomed backtrailers couldn't have picked a prettier place to be buried.

Itching for a challenge, Count Frederick von Hausen had sailed all the way from Germany to hunt down Smoke Jensen. And with a party of the toughest hardcases in the West, von Hausen shadowed Smoke into Wyoming's high Rockies. But Smoke Jensen was the last mountain man, and he knew the country like the back of his hand. Reissue.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780783892740
  • Publisher: Cengage Gale
  • Publication date: 11/28/2000
  • Series: Mountain Man Series, #9
  • Edition description: Large Print
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Read an Excerpt

PURSUIT OF THE MOUNTAIN MAN

THE FIRST MOUNTAIN MAN: BLOOD ON THE DIVIDE
By WILLIAM W. JOHNSTONE

PINNACLE BOOKS

Copyright © 2007 Kensington Publishing Corp.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7860-1305-0


Chapter One

I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception. G. Marx

The young man had been eyeballing the quiet stranger for several minutes. The young man stood at the bar, sipping whiskey. The quiet stranger sat at a table, his back to a wall, slowly eating his supper and sipping coffee. The young man couldn't understand why the stranger didn't take offense to his staring; couldn't understand why the tough-looking stranger wearing two guns didn't reply to his silent insults.

He just sat there, eating his supper and drinking coffee. The young man concluded the stranger was yellow.

"Kid," the barkeep finally said, "I'd leave that man alone. He's got bad stamped all over him."

"You know him?"

"Nope. But I know the type. Leave him be."

"He don't look like nothin' special to me."

"Your funeral," the barkeep said, and moved to the other end of the bar.

Jack Lynch looked at the barkeep and snorted in disgust. Jack had four notches cut into his gun and was considered by some-in this part of the country-to be very quick on the shoot. He was considered by others to be aloud-mouthed punk who was going to drag iron on the wrong man one day.

That day had come.

Late winter in Utah. The stoves in the saloon glowed red and the winds were cold as they buffeted the building. Four men sat playing a quiet game of penny-ante poker, a few others stood at the long bar, talking and sipping beer or whiskey or, in a couple of cases, both. A gambler sat alone at another table, playing a game of solitaire, waiting for a sucker to come in. One man was passed out, his head on the table, snoring softly.

And the stranger sat alone, finishing his supper.

Jack Lynch turned and put his back to the bar. Now he openly stared at the stranger, a sneer on his face. "You don't have much to say, do you, mister?" he called.

The stranger did not look up. He poured another cup of coffee from the pot and sugared it, slowly stirring the strong brew. Then he started in on his fresh-baked dried apple pie. It had been a long day and he wanted no more than to eat his meal in peace and get a good night's sleep at the small hotel in this Northern Utah town, not many miles from the Wyoming border.

But if this loudmouth kept pushing him ...

"Hey! I asked you a question, man," Jack raised his voice.

The stranger chewed his pie, swallowed, and took a sip of coffee. He lifted his eyes to the loudmouth. The stranger's eyes were brown and cold-looking, no emotion in them. His shoulders were wide and his arms heavily muscled, his wrists thick. His hands were big and flat-knuckled, scarred from many fights. He was a ruggedly handsome man, well over six feet tall. He wore two guns, one tied low on his right side, the other worn high and butt forward on his left side. A long-bladed knife was in a sheath behind his right-hand gun.

"Since the question was probably very forgettable, I've already forgotten it," the stranger said in a soft voice. "Is it worth repeating?"

"Huh?" Jack said.

"See? You've already forgotten it. So how important can it be?" The stranger returned to his pie and coffee.

The gambler smiled. He thought he knew the stranger's name. And if he was correct, this loudmouth was standing very close to death.

"I don't think I like you very much," Jack said.

"You're at the end of a very long list," the stranger replied. He tapped the coffeepot and looked at the barkeep. "It's empty. Would you bring another pot, please?"

"My, don't he talk po-lite, though?" Jack sneered the words. "Like a sissy."

"Jack," one of the cardplayers said. "Why don't you shut your damn mouth and leave the man alone? He ain't bothered no one."

"You want to make me?" Jack challenged the man. "Come on. Make me shut up."

"Oh, go to hell, Jack," another cardplayer said.

Another pot of coffee was placed on the stranger's table and the barkeep backed quickly away. The stranger poured and sugared and stirred and then carefully rolled a cigarette, lighting up.

"My name's Jack Lynch," the young man called to the stranger. "Everybody should know their name."

The cardplayers laughed at that. The gambler smiled and riffled the cards.

"What do you mean by that?" Jack asked.

"Boy," the stranger said, "do you push all strangers like the way you're proddin' me?"

"Just the ones who think they're tough. I usually prove they ain't."

"And how do you do that, Jack?"

"By stretchin' 'em out on the floor!"

"Did you ever stop to think that one of these days it might well be you that's stretched out on the floor?"

"That don't ever enter my mind," Jack said.

"It should."

"You think you're the man who can do that?"

"Yes," the stranger said softly.

Jack flushed deeply, the color rising to his cheeks. The only reason he hadn't called them old coots at the card table out after they laughed at him was that none of them was wearing a gun. "Stand up!" Jack shouted.

The stranger pushed back his chair and stood up.

"Big," a cardplayer said.

Jack Lynch stood with his legs spread, his hand by his gun.

The front door opened and a blast of cold air swept the saloon. The town marshal stepped in and sized up the situation in about two seconds. "Back off, Jack," he barked the words. "And I mean right now, boy."

"Marshal, I ..."

"Shut up, Jack!" the marshal hollered. "Put that hammer thong back in place and do it slow. Ahh. That's better. Now settle down." He looked at the stranger. "Been a long time."

"Five years ago. Your horse threw a shoe and you stopped in town. You're looking well."

"Feel fine."

"I recommend the apple pie," the stranger said. "It was delicious." He picked up his hat and settled it on his head.

"I'll sure have me a wedge. And some coffee, Ralph," he said to the barkeep.

"Comin' right up, Marshal."

"See you around," the stranger said.

"See you."

The front door opened and closed and the stranger was gone, walking across the still frozen street to the hotel.

"Sorry, Marshal," Jack said. "I didn't know he was a friend of yours."

The marshal sipped his coffee. "Jack, do you have any idea at all who that was?"

"Some yeller-bellied tinhorn," Jack replied.

The gambler smiled.

The marshal's eyes were bleak as he turned his head to look at the young man. "Jack, you've done some dumb things in the years that I've known you. But today took the cake. That was Smoke Jensen."

Jack swayed for a moment, grabbing at the bar for support. The gambler kicked a chair across the floor and the marshal placed it upright for Jack to sit in. Jack Lynch's eyes were dull and his face was pale. A bit of spittle oozed out of one corner of his mouth.

"I knew it was him as soon as he stood up and I seen that left-hand gun in a cross-draw," the gambler said.

"And ... you didn't say nothin' to me?" Jack mumbled the words.

"Why should I? It was your mouth that got you into it. You're a loudmouth, pushy kid. It would have served you right if Jensen had drilled you clean through."

Jack recovered his bluster and now he was embarrassed. He stood up from the chair. His legs were still a little shaky and he backed up to the bar and leaned against it. "You can't talk to me like that, gambler."

The marshal was more than a little miffed at Jack's attitude. He'd pulled him out of one situation; be damned if he'd interfere in this one. He walked over to a table and sat down.

Across the street, in his room, Smoke had taken pen and paper and was writing to his wife, Sally.

"Don't push me, kid," the gambler said. "I've lived too long for me to take much crap from the likes of you. Jensen just didn't want to kill you. He's tired of it. I haven't reached that point yet."

"You son of a ..." Jack grabbed for iron.

The gambler shook his right arm and a derringer slipped into his hand. He fired both barrels of the .41. Jack coughed and sat down on the floor.

Smoke thought he heard gunshots and paused in his writing. When no more shots were heard, he dipped the nib into an ink well and began writing.

Dear Sally,

How are you? I miss you very much but hope you are having a good time visiting family and friends back east ...

The gambler broke open the .41 derringer and reloaded. Jack's eyes were on him. The front of Jack's white shirt was spreading crimson.

"I don't want to die!" Jack cried.

"You should have thought about that before you strapped on that iron, boy," the marshal told him.

"It hurts!"

"I 'spect it does."

... Nothing seems to change here, Sally. The only place where I am reasonably assured of being left alone is on the Sugarloaf. But you know the urge to see the land is strong within me, and I shall not be tied down like a vicious yard dog. This evening, while I was having supper, another young punk tried to goad me into drawing ...

"I want you out of town on the next stage, gambler," the marshal told the man.

"Would you have told Jensen that?" the gambler asked.

The marshal met his eyes. "Yes."

The gambler nodded his head. "Yes, I think you would have. All right, marshal. I'll leave in the morning."

"Fair enough."

... I must go still further, up into Wyoming, then maybe across into Idaho, to find the bulls I'm looking for, Sally. If it were just a little bit warmer, I would sleep under the stars and not even enter towns except for provisions. But I fear this married man has grown too accustomed to comforters, feather ticks, and rugs on the floor on cold mornings. And, I must add, the nearness of you ...

"Put on my headstone that I was a gunfighter, will you, Marshal?" Jack said, his voice growing weak.

"If that's what you want, Jack."

"It don't hurt no more."

"That's good, Jack."

"I can't hear you, Marshal. Speak up. They's a roarin' in my ears. I'm a-feared, Marshal Brackton! Is there really a hell, you reckon?"

... I'm in a little town just south of the Uinta Mountains, Sally. I know the marshal here, and he intervened this evening and saved a young man from death, at least at my hands. I'm going into the high country tomorrow, Sally. Where there are no towns and hopefully, no young hellions looking to make a reputation. I shall build a lean-to for my shelter and think good thoughts of you and the children ...

"Marshal!" Jack cried. "I can't see! I'm blind. Oh, God, where's that Holy Roller. I thought he'd done come in to comfort me."

"I'm right here, son. Are you a Saint?"

"I ain't nothing," Jack whispered.

... I send all my love over the miles, Sally, and pray that I shall see you soon.

Your loving and faithful husband, Smoke.

The barkeep leaned over and looked at Jack Lynch. "Yeah. He's something, all right. He's dead!"

Chapter Two

Smoke posted his letter to Sally at the hotel and left before dawn the next morning, amid a light falling of snow. The big Appaloosa he rode was rough and shaggy-looking, with his winter coat still on. His packhorse was tough and had been patiently trained by Smoke.

Smoke rode for five miles before dismounting and building a small fire to prepare the coffee and bacon he'd resupplied back in the town. After he ate the bacon he sopped chunks of bread into the grease and finished off his meal with another cup of hot, strong coffee.

He camped for the night close to a little river, with snowcapped Marsh Peak to his east. The morning dawned pristine white, with several inches of new snow on the ground.

The country he was riding through was wild and high and beautiful, but already being touched by the hand of man. Smoke remembered when he rode through this country as a boy, years back, with the legendary mountain man, Preacher. The two of them could ride for days, sometimes weeks, without ever seeing a white man. No more.

For the most part, the Indians no longer posed any threat. Only occasionally would a few young bucks bust loose from some reservation and cause trouble. The west was slowly being tamed. The outlaw Jesse James had been killed, shot in the back by a man he'd called friend, so Smoke had heard. Jesse had given Smoke a pistol back during the war, when Smoke was just a boy, trying to hold on to a hard-scrabble farm back in Missouri, while his daddy was off in the fighting. John Wesley Hardin was still in prison down in Texas. Earp had killed Curly Bill Brocius just last year. Sam Bass was rotting in the grave, as was Clay Allison. Mysterious Dave was still around, but Smoke had no quarrel with him. As far as he knew, Mysterious Dave was still down in Dodge City.

But someone had been sticking close to his backtrail for two days now, and Smoke was getting a little curious as to who he, or they, might be.

He thought he was in Wyoming, but he wasn't sure. If he was, what was left of Fort Bridger would be off to the west some few miles. Smoke didn't know if there was anything left of the old post and wasn't that interested in checking it out.

But he would like to know who was trailing him. And why.

He was heading up toward the Green, to a little valley where a friend of his raised cattle, good cattle, and he'd written Smoke, telling him of the bulls he had for sale. The railroads had tracks all over the country now-well, almost-and getting the bulls back to his ranch would be no problem; a short drive on either end of a rail trip. Smoke could have taken the train most of the way, but with Sally gone back East to visit her family, the kids in school in Europe, Smoke had felt that old faithful tug of the High Lonesome and decided to saddle up and ride the distance.

He began seeing familiar landmarks and knew he was in the Cedar Mountains. In a couple of days, barring any difficulties, he'd cross the Blacks Fork and then pick up the Green River and follow it all the way to his friend's ranch. Only occasionally would a few young bucks bust loose from some reservation and cause trouble. The west was slowly being tamed. The outlaw Jesse James had been killed, shot in the back by a man he'd called friend, so Smoke had heard. Jesse had given Smoke a pistol back during the war, when Smoke was just a boy, trying to hold on to a hard-scrabble farm back in Missouri, while his daddy was off in the fighting. John Wesley Hardin was still in prison down in Texas. Earp had killed Curly Bill Brocius just last year. Sam Bass was rotting in the grave, as was Clay Allison. Mysterious Dave was still around, but Smoke had no quarrel with him. As far as he knew, Mysterious Dave was still down in Dodge City.

But someone had been sticking close to his backtrail for two days now, and Smoke was getting a little curious as to who he, or they, might be.

He thought he was in Wyoming, but he wasn't sure. If he was, what was left of Fort Bridger would be off to the west some few miles. Smoke didn't know if there was anything left of the old post and wasn't that interested in checking it out.

But he would like to know who was trailing him. And why.

He was heading up toward the Green, to a little valley where a friend of his raised cattle, good cattle, and he'd written Smoke, telling him of the bulls he had for sale. The railroads had tracks all over the country now-well, almost-and getting the bulls back to his ranch would be no problem; a short drive on either end of a rail trip. Smoke could have taken the train most of the way, but with Sally gone back East to visit her family, the kids in school in Europe, Smoke had felt that old faithful tug of the High Lonesome and decided to saddle up and ride the distance.

He began seeing familiar landmarks and knew he was in the Cedar Mountains. In a couple of days, barring any difficulties, he'd cross the Blacks Fork and then pick up the Green River and follow it all the way to his friend's ranch.

He found a little spring bubbling out of the earth, a spot of graze for the horses around it, and made an early camp. It was still cold, but the snow was gone-at least for the present-and Smoke had killed a couple of rabbits and needed to get them on a spit, cooking.

He stripped saddle and pack from the horses and watched them roll and snort and kick and shake, then settle down for a bit of grazing. Smoke gathered up twigs to get his fire going, then laid on heavier wood and made himself a spit. He got the rabbits cooking, filled his coffeepot with cold springwater right at the mouth and fixed his coffee in the blackened old pot.

The horses abruptly stopped grazing and lifted their heads, ears pricked up. Smoke picked up his rifle and eared the hammer back.

He heard the sounds of hooves, coming from the north. Then the call. "Halloo the fire! I'm friendly and I got my own grub so's I won't be eatin' none of yourn. The twilight gets lonesome without conversation. All right to come in?"

"Come on," Smoke called.

The man looked to be in his sixties-late sixties-but he was spry and Smoke figured him to be a man of the mountains. Just a tad too young to have been a part of the heyday of mountain men, but nevertheless a man who'd probably spent his life in the High Lonesome. Smoke had been halfway raised by mountain men, and he knew the mark it left on a man. He had it himself.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from PURSUIT OF THE MOUNTAIN MAN by WILLIAM W. JOHNSTONE Copyright © 2007 by Kensington Publishing Corp.. Excerpted by permission.
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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