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MacCallister The Eagles LegacyThe Killing
By William W. Johnstone J. A. Johnstone
PINNACLE BOOKSCopyright © 2012 William W. Johnstone
All right reserved.
Chapter OneOne year later
Duff Tavish MacCallister was a tall man with golden hair, wide shoulders, and muscular arms. At the moment, he was sitting in the swing on the front porch of his ranch house in the Chugwater Valley of southeastern Wyoming. This particular vantage point afforded him a view of the rolling grassland, the swiftly moving stream of Bear Creek, and steep red escarpments to the south. He had title to twelve thousand acres, but even beyond that, he had free use of tens of thousands more acres, the perimeters limited only by the sage-covered mountains whose peaks were snowcapped ten months of the year.
He had once owned a cattle ranch in Scotland, but it wasn't called a ranch; it was called a farm, and he had only 300 acres of land. He was a Highlander, meaning that he was from the Highlands of Scotland, but compared to the magnificent mountains in the American West, the Highlands were but hills.
In the corral, his horse, Sky, felt a need to exercise, and began running around the outside edge of the corral at nearly top speed. His sudden burst of energy sent a handful of chickens scurrying away in fear. High overhead, a hawk was making a series of ever-widening circles, his eyes alert for the rabbit, squirrel, or rat that would be his next meal.
"I was talking to Guthrie yesterday," Duff said. "He said if I wanted to build a machine shed, he could get the plans and all the material together for me, but I'm not so sure I need another building now. What do you think, Elmer?"
Elmer Gleason was Duff's foreman and, at the moment, he was sitting on the top level of the steps that led up to the porch. Elmer was wiry and rawboned. He had a full head of white hair and a neatly trimmed beard. He leaned over to expectorate a quid of tobacco before he replied.
"'Pears to me, Duff, like you near 'bout got ever'-thing done that needs doin' in order to get this ranch a' goin'," Elmer said, as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "I don't see no need for you to be buildin' a machine shed 'til you get yourself some cows."
"I expect you are right," Duff replied.
"I'll say this," Elmer said. "Once you get them critters here, there won't be a cow in Wyomin' livin' in a finer place than Sky Meadow."
Duff's house, which was no more than a cabin a year ago, was now as fine a structure as could be found anywhere on the Wyoming range. Made of debarked logs fit together, then chinked with mortar, it was sixty feet wide and forty feet deep, with a porch that stretched all the way across the front.
Duff's ranch was set between Bear and Little Bear Creeks, both streams year-round sources of good water. In an area where good water was scarce, the creeks were worth as much as the gold mine that was on the extreme western end of his property. Duff gazed thoughtfully across the rolling green pastureland to Bear Creek, a meandering ribbon of silver. He followed it with his eyes as far as he could see.
The insulating mountains not only made for beautiful scenery, but they tempered the winter winds, and throughout the spring and summer sent down streams of water to make the grass grow green. Over the past year, he had come to love this piece of ground, and had put in long hours each day getting it ready to become the ranch he knew it could be.
He had named his ranch Sky Meadow, not only because the elevation of the valley was at five thousand feet, but also because it kept alive the memory of Skye McGregor, the woman he would have married had she not been murdered back in Scotland.
"Where are you, Duff?" Elmer asked.
"Beg your pardon?"
"You been gazin' out over the land here for the last five minutes without sayin' a word. You been lookin' at the land, but I'll just bet you ain't a' seein' it. Your mind is some'ers else, I'm a' thinkin'."
"You're partly right and partly wrong," Duff said, his Scottish brogue causing the "r's" to roll on his tongue. "I was for seeing my land, for I find the view to my liking and soothing to my soul. But 'tis right you are that my mind was back in Scotland."
"You were thinking of your woman?" Elmer asked.
"Aye, the lass was much on my mind. 'Tis a shame I've all this, and no one to share it with me."
"You're a young man, Duff. You'll not be single all your life. I'm bettin'." Elmer chuckled. "What about the young woman who runs that dress shop in Chugwater?"
"Ye would be talking about Meghan Parker, I expect," Duff said.
"Who else would I be talkin' about? Of course I'm talking about Meghan Parker. She's all sass and spirit, with a face as brown as all outdoors, and yeller hair as bright as the sun. She's as pretty as a newborn colt and as trustin' as a loyal hound dog. Why, she could capture your heart in a minute if you would but give her the chance."
Duff laughed. "Elmer, 'tis a bit of the poet you have in that ancient soul of yours."
"I wasn't always a poor castaway creature of the desert," Elmer said.
Elmer was Duff's only ranch hand. When Duff came to take possession of his land last year, he'd heard stories of a ghost in the old, abandoned and played-out mine that was on his property. When he'd examined his mine, he had found the ghost who had kept others frightened away, and he'd also found that the mine was anything but played out. The ghost was Elmer, who was "protecting" his stake in the mine. At the time, Elmer was more wild than civilized, and had been living on bugs and rabbits when he could catch them, and such wild plants as could be eaten.
By rights and deed, the mine belonged to Duff, but he had wound up taking Elmer in as his partner in the operation of the mine, and that move was immediately vindicated when, shortly thereafter, Elmer saved Duff's life. The two men became friends then, and over the last year, Duff had seen occasional glimpses into Elmer's mysterious past.
Although Elmer had never told him the full story of his life, and seldom released more than a bit of information at a time, Duff was gradually learning about him.
He knew that Elmer had been to China as a crewman on a clipper ship.
Elmer had lived for two years with the Indians, married to an Indian woman who died while giving birth to their son. Elmer didn't know where his son, who would be ten, was now. He had left him with his wife's sister, and had not seen him since the day he was born.
And once, Elmer had even let it slip that he had ridden the outlaw trail with Jesse and Frank James.
Because of the gold mine, Elmer had money now, more money than he had ever had in his life. He could leave Wyoming and go to San Francisco to live out the rest of his life in ease and comfort, but he had no desire to do so.
"I got a roof over my head, a good friend, and all the terbaccy I can chew," Elmer said. "Why would I be a' wantin' to go anywhere else?"
Elmer stood up, stretched, and walked out to the fence line to relieve himself. Just before he did, though, he jumped back in alarm.
"Damn!" he shouted.
"What is it?" Duff called from his swing. "What is wrong?"
"There's a rattlesnake here!"
Duff got up from the swing and walked to the front of the porch. "Where is it?" he asked.
"Right over there!" Elmer said, pointing toward the gate in the fence. "Iffen I had been goin' through the gate, I would a' got bit."
"I see him," Duff said.
Duff pulled his pistol and aimed it.
"You ain't goin' to try 'n shoot it from way back there, are you?" Elmer asked.
For his answer, Duff pulled the trigger. The gun flashed and boomed, and kicked up in Duff's hand. Sixty feet away, with an explosive mist of blood, the snake's head was blasted from its body. The headless body of the snake stretched out on the ground and continued to jerk and twist.
"Sum' bitch!" Elmer said. "I been to war, sailed the seas, and seen me a goat ropin', but I ain't never seen shootin' like that."
Elmer reached down and picked up the carcass and then, laying it on the top rung of the fence, pulled out his knife and began skinning it.
"What are you doing?" Duff asked.
"I'm goin' to make us a couple of snakeskin hatbands, and we're goin' to have us some fried rattlesnake for supper," Elmer said.
* * *
After supper that evening, consisting of batterfried rattlesnake, fried potatoes and sliced onion, Duff pushed his plate away, then rubbed his stomach with a satisfied sigh.
"I never thought I would eat rattlesnake, but that was good."
"You can eat purt' nigh ever'thing if you know how to cook it," Elmer said.
"Aye, and I'm sure you do know how to cook it," Duff said.
"I et me a Tasmanian Devil oncet," Elmer said. "We put in to an island just off Australia. Tougher'n a mule, he was, and had 'im a strong stink, too. But after six weeks at sea with naught but weevily biscuits, molderin' fatback, and beans, why, it weren't all that hard to get around the stink."
The two worked together to wash the dishes and clean up the kitchen, then they went back out onto the front porch. To the west, a red sun moved heavily down through the darkening sky until it touched the tops of the Laramie Mountain Range. After the sun set, it was followed by a moon that was equally as red.
"Elmer, 'tis thinking I am that I'll be goin' back to Scotland," Duff said.
"What?" Elmer asked, surprised by the comment.
"Not to stay, mind you, but for a bit of a visit. I received a letter from Ian telling me that there are no charges against me, so there's no danger in my returning."
"When will you be leaving?"
"I'll ride to Cheyenne tomorrow, take the train the next day. I'll leave from New York two weeks from today."
"How long will you be gone?"
"Nae more than two months, I'm thinking. Then when I come back, I'll be for getting some cattle on the place."
"What is it?"
"I didn't want to say anything, you bein' the boss an' all. But I was beginnin' to wonder iffen I was goin' to have to tell you that in order to have a cattle ranch, you'll be needin' to have some cattle."
"Oh, I know we need cattle," Duff said. "That's not the question. The question is what kind of cattle we need."
"What do you mean, what kind of cattle do we need? Longhorns is the easiest. But lots of folks are raising Herefords now. Is that what you are thinkin'?"
"No, I'm thinking about introducing an entirely new breed."
"Really? What kind?"
"Black Angus. The kind that I raised back in Scotland."
"Is that why you are going back to Scotland? To get some of them black, what did you call 'em?"
"Angus. Black Angus."
"That seems kind of foolish, don't it? I mean goin' all the way back to Scotland to get some special kind of cow, when you can get Herefords here."
"That's not why I'm going back to Scotland. I'm going back in order that I might give a proper goodbye to those that I left so suddenly."
Elmer nodded. "A proper good-bye, yes, I can see that."
Scotland—Donuun in Argyllshire
Duff stood in the middle of the cemetery behind the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Donuun in Argyllshire. Holding a spray of heather in his hand, he looked down at the grave.
Skye McGreGor 1866–1886
Beloved Daughter of Ian and MarGaret
A light of love, too quickly extinguished in this world now shining ever brightly in Heaven above
Duff leaned down to place the flowers on the well-tended grave, then put his hand on the marble tombstone. Saying a silent prayer, he stood, then walked a half mile to the Whitehorse Pub.
The pub was filled with customers when Duff stepped inside, and he stood there unnoticed. Ian McGregor, the owner of the pub, had his back to the bar as he was filling a mug with ale. For just a moment, Duff had a start, for there was a young woman, the same size and with the same red hair as Skye, waiting on the customers. But the illusion was destroyed when she turned.
Ian had just handed the ale to the customer and was about to put the money into the cash register when he looked toward the door.
"Duff!" he shouted at the top of his voice.
Ian's shout alerted the others to Duff's presence, and so many swarmed toward him that he was immediately surrounded. All wanted to shake his hand or pat him on the back. Duff smiled and greeted each of them warmly as they escorted him over to one of the tables. He had just taken his seat when Ian placed a glass of Scotch in front of him.
"And would ye be for staying here now, Lad?" Ian asked.
"Nae, 'tis but a visit," Duff replied.
"For remember, 'tis no charge being placed against you. Three witnesses there were who testified that you acted in self-defense."
"Aye, 'twas explained to me in a letter," Duff said. "But I've started a ranch, I've made friends, and I've begun a new life in America."
"Then what brings you to Scotland?"
"As you recall, I had to leave very quickly," Duff said. "I had no time to say a proper good-bye to Skye. 'Tis ashamed I was that I was not here for her funeral."
"You were here, Lad," Ian said. "Maybe not in the flesh, but there wasn't a person in the church, nae, nor in the cemetery when she was lowered into the ground, that did not feel your presence."
Duff nodded. "Aye. For with all my heart and soul, I was here."
Ian had to get back to work, but for the next two hours, Duff was kept busy telling his friends about America. Finally, when the last customer had left, and the young woman, whose name was Kathleen, told the two of them good night, Duff and Ian sat together in the pub, dark now except for a single light that glowed dimly behind the bar.
"Have ye made friends, Duff?" Ian asked.
"Aye. Good friends, for all that they are new." Duff told Ian about Biff Johnson, whose wife was Scottish, and Fred Matthews and R.W. Guthrie. He told him about Elmer Gleason too.
"As odd a man as ever you might meet," Duff said, "but as loyal and true a friend as you might want."
"Have ye left anything out, Lad?" Ian asked.
"What do you mean?"
"You've made no mention of a woman. Is there no woman that has caught your fancy?"
"I don't know."
"Ye dinnae know? But how can it be that you dinnae know?"
"I have met a young woman, handsome, spirited, gritty."
"Handsome, spirited, gritty? Duff, ye could be talking about a horse. Surely there is more."
"I don't know," Duff said. "I—Skye, it's just that ..." he was unable to finish the sentence.
"Skye isn't here, Laddie," Ian said. "And if she could speak from her grave, she would tell you nae to be closing your heart on her account."
"Aye," Duff said. "I believe that is true. But Skye is in a corner of my heart, Ian, and I cannae get her out."
Ian reached across the table and put his hand on Duff's shoulder. "There is nae need for ye to get Skye out of your heart, but keep her in that corner, so ye have room to let another in."
"You're a good man, Ian McGregor. 'Tis proud I would have been to be your son-in-law."
"Duff, sure 'n you are my son-in-law, in my eyes and in the eyes of God, if not in the eyes of the law."
Chapter TwoThe next day, Duff visited Bryan Wallace. Wallace was one of the most knowledgeable men about cattle that Duff had ever met, and he was the same stock breeder who had provided him with the cattle he'd used to start his own small farm before he'd left Scotland. After a warm greeting, Duff filled him in on where he had been for the last two years.
"I've built a nice ranch, with good grazing land, water, and protection from the winter's cold blast," Duff said. "And now the time has come for me to put cattle upon the land. Most would say I should raise Longhorn, for surely they are the most common of all the cattle there, and they are easy to raise. But there are some who are raising Herefords, and 'tis said that I might try that as well."
"Aye, Herefords are a good breed, and they do well in the American West," Wallace replied.
"But I'm remembering with fondness the Black Angus I was raising here, and 'tis wondering I am if you could be for telling me a bit o' the background of the Black Angus."
Excerpted from MacCallister The Eagles Legacy by William W. Johnstone J. A. Johnstone Copyright © 2012 by William W. 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.
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