Seed of Evil (Wilderness Series #65)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780843964332
  • Publisher: Dorchester Publishing Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/1/2010
  • Series: Wilderness Series , #65
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 4.71 (w) x 7.17 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Wilderness #65: Seed of Evil


By David Thompson

Dorchester Publishing

Copyright © 2010 David L. Robbins
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8439-6433-2


Chapter One

The sheriff and his deputies bristled with weapons. They crept through the muggy Missouri night following a trail an informant told them about. The trail ended on a hill that overlooked a valley. The valley was a black pit with a pair of glowing eyes at its center.

The sheriff and his men huddled. The sheriff could hardly see their faces. Several worked for him full-time. The rest were volunteers who lent a hand when he needed extra help. He needed it tonight.

"From here on out, our lives aren't worth a plugged coin," the sheriff whispered. "One mistake is all it will take. I don't need to tell you how dangerous he is. I shouldn't need to remind you that the cutthroats who ride with him are a pack of rabid wolves."

"What I want to know," said John Byerly, one of the regular deputies, "is why we're going to try to take them alive."

"They're entitled to a chance to surrender."

"Hell," Byerly said.

One of the part-time deputies cleared his throat. "You know as well as we do, Sheriff, that they'll make a fight of it."

"It will be kill or be killed," said another.

"We do this as the law says to do it," the sheriff insisted. "If any man wants out, now is the time to say."

"Hell," Byerly said again. "I'm not complaining. I just don't like the notion of sticking my head in a bear's mouth and then asking the bear not to bite it off."

Several of them grinned nervously.

The sheriff fingered his shotgun. "All right. We've been through what to do. Remember the signals. Anyone gets in trouble, yell for help." He said the next pointedly. "Above all, we can't let Ranton escape."

"He's a bad one," Byerly said.

"That he is," the sheriff grimly agreed. "Wherever he goes, he sows seeds of evil. It's time to put an end to it. He has infested our state long enough." The sheriff stood. "Let's do this, men."

The trail was narrow and winding. Midway down, a deputy tripped. Everyone froze, but there was no sign their quarry had heard.

The sheriff was sweating. His mouth was dry. All his years in office, he'd never had to deal with anyone like Neil Ranton. If ever there was a man who came out of the womb born rotten through and through, Ranton was it.

The twin eyes were lights in windows. The two-story house was old, built by a settler years ago. It had been abandoned when the last of the family died. It was so far out that no one wanted the place, and it had fallen into disrepair. But the house was good enough for the use Ranton put it to.

Female laughter brought the sheriff up short. It was wrong, them sounding so happy. He whistled in imitation of a robin and his deputies spread out. They had two minutes to surround the place. Then it would commence.

The sheriff wiped his palms on his pants and thumbed back the hammers on his English-made shotgun. Both barrels were loaded with buckshot. He wasn't taking any chances. If anyone raised a gun to him, he would blow them in half.

Off in the night an owl hooted.

Without warning the front door opened and a man came out.

The sheriff crouched. He aimed the shotgun, but he didn't shoot. He couldn't give himself away until his deputies were in position. He wished he could tell who it was.

The lamplight inside briefly framed the figure. Then the front door closed and the man came down the porch steps, moving toward the outhouse.

The sheriff swore silently. He hadn't counted on this. But he was confident his deputies would take the man into custody quietly. They were well trained.

The outhouse door creaked open and shut.

By then the two minutes were up. The sheriff rose and advanced to within a dozen feet of the front porch and cupped a hand to his mouth. "This is the sheriff! We have you surrounded! Come out with your hands in the air! If you resist we will use deadly force! Come out now!"

The sheriff crouched, and it saved his life. In an upstairs window, a rifle cracked and the slug whizzed past his ear. The sheriff jerked his shotgun up and let loose with one of the twin barrels. The window exploded in a hundred shards, and a man shrieked.

Bedlam broke out. Everywhere guns blasted. Men cursed and shouted and screamed.

The front door was flung wide and out charged a heavyset man with a pistol in each hand. He fired at the sheriff as he came down the steps, and the sheriff let him have the other barrel in the chest. The buckshot lifted the man off his feet and slammed him against the porch rail hard enough for him to pitch over it.

As abruptly as it had begun, the firing stopped. A man wailed that he was hit and begged for help. A woman sobbed.

The sheriff reloaded. He was almost to the porch when Byerly rushed up.

"Deputy Hanson is dead."

"Damn," the sheriff said.

"It was the one in the outhouse. He left a knife in Hanson's chest."

"Did you get him?"

"No, he got away. But I did get a glimpse." Byerly paused. "Sheriff, I think it was Ranton."

The sheriff gripped the shotgun so hard, his knuckles hurt. "Hell in a basket. Fetch the dogs and set them on his scent." Not that it would do any good. Ranton had eluded dogs before.

"He won't stick around," Byerly predicted. "He'll go somewhere else and start over like he always does."

"God help the poor people who live there, wherever it is," the sheriff said.

Chapter Two

The mountain man was being followed.

Nate King woke at dawn, as was his habit. He kindled the embers of his fire and put the coffeepot on. He could go without food in the morning, but he refused to go without coffee. His wife liked to tease that he wouldn't need to make as many long rides to Bent's Fort if his will wasn't mush.

Nate had two addictions in life, coffee and books. He was an avid reader, everything from James Fenimore Cooper to Mary Shelley to Plato. As he waited for the coffee to perk, he opened the beaded parfleche his wife had made for him and took out his copy of Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man. He was about to open it to where he had left off when his bay raised its head, stared off to the west, and whinnied.

Nate looked up. He was well out on the prairie, amid rolling swells of grass pockmarked by wallows and split by gullies. The rising sun cast a golden glow that caused the morning dew to sparkle. He saw neither man nor animal. The bay was still staring, though, so he shoved the book back into the parfleche, picked up his Hawken, and strode a few yards from the fire.

The prairie spread to the horizon. He had the illusion he and his horse were the only living things in all that vastness. But that's all it was, an illusion. The prairie teemed with life, and not all of it was friendly. There were grizzlies and wolves and cougars. There were hostiles who would like nothing better than to count coup on a white. Sometimes there were white men who preyed on other white men for no other reason than the coins in their poke.

Nate had lived in the wilderness a good many years. He'd lasted as long as he had because he never let down his guard. So it was that when he sat back down and resumed sipping his coffee, he kept an eye on his back trail and caught the glint of the sun on metal. He didn't let on that he had seen. He finished his coffee, saddled his bay, and got under way.

Buckskins clung to Nate's big frame. His broad chest was crisscrossed by a possibles bag, an ammo pouch, and a powder horn. Around his waist was a brace of flintlocks, a bowie knife, and a tomahawk. A walking armory, some would call him.

Nate held the bay to a walk, acting as if he didn't have a care in the world. Now and again he casually looked over his shoulder. Twice more he saw the gleam. It was closer each time.

Nate came to a hillock and went around. As soon as he was on the other side, he drew rein and dismounted. Bent low, he climbed to the top. Just below the crest, he flattened so he wouldn't be silhouetted against the bright sky. He crawled until he could see over.

There were four of them, plus a packhorse. Warriors armed with bows and lances, riding in single file, smack on his back trail.

Nate tucked the Hawken's stock to his shoulder. He put his thumb to the hammer and fixed a bead on the first warrior. The man's hair hung long and loose and hid part of his face.

As they neared the hillock, Nate saw that they were Crows. Usually, the Crows were friendly. He waited until they were right below him, then stood with the Hawken leveled. In their tongue he said, "Ka-hay. Sho'o daa' chi."

The first warrior drew rein and glanced up. "Grizzly Killer!" he exclaimed in English.

"Chases Rabbits," Nate said in some surprise. It had been more than a year since he last saw the young warrior, and Chases Rabbits had done a lot of growing.

Slapping his legs against his pinto, Chases Rabbits trotted up the slope. He vaulted down, clasped Nate's arms, and cheerfully declared, "Me great happy at see you again."

"I'm glad to see you, too," Nate said, although the news he had to impart might break the younger man's heart.

"How be Evelyn?"

"She's fine," Nate said. He hesitated, then decided to get it over with. "She has a beau now."

"She have ribbon in hair?" Chases Rabbit said. "It pretty one?"

"Not that kind of bow. She's seeing someone."

"Evelyn have good eyes," Chases Rabbits declared. "She see like hawk."

Nate reminded himself that he must speak simply and plainly. "Let me put it another way. My daughter is being courted."

"Eh? She tied up? Why you do that?"

"What?" Nate laughed. "No, not cord. Not rope. She is being courted as in she is smitten with a young man and he is smitten with her."

Chases Rabbits appeared even more puzzled. He wriggled his fingers and said, "She wear fur on hands in summer?"

Now it was Nate who was confused. He held out his own hands, and it hit him. "No. Not mittens. Smitten. It means she's in love."

"Me too!"

Nate had expected the young Crow to be greatly upset. A while back Chases Rabbits had wooed Evelyn. Nothing had ever come of it, though. Evelyn liked him as a friend and nothing more.

"You're not still in love with her?"

"Her who?"

"My daughter," Nate said in mild exasperation. "Who have we been talking about?"

"Oh. No. Me in love with Raven On The Ground." Chases Rabbits beamed. "She beautiful. She nice. She sweet. She all goodness."

"Well now," Nate said, pleasantly surprised.

"Well what?"

Nate sighed. He had almost forgotten how Chases Rabbits used to make him want to pull out his hair. "I'm glad that you have someone of your own."

"She not mine yet. First me must show me brave warrior." Chases Rabbits gave a start as if an idea had occurred to him. "You help me, Grizzly Killer? You my good friend."

"Help you how?"

"Help me kill heap plenty Blackfeet."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Wilderness #65: Seed of Evil by David Thompson Copyright © 2010 by David L. Robbins. 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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