William W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone are the USA Today bestselling authors whose Western sagas have won a legion of devoted fans. Now, they take up the tale of a legendary outlaw who tore up Texas, and left behind a legacy of terror.
Live Wild, Draw Fast, Die Hard
Born and bred in the Texas Pandhandle town of Comanche Crossing, William "Wild Bill" Longley gunned down a dozen of its men in cold blood before he got around to the sheriff and deputyso he could take over the job himself. Then he found the perfect sidekick in a vicious career criminal named Booker Tate. With his remorseless heart set on a beautiful young woman, Wild Bill and Booker take the whole town hostage until the young lady agrees to marry a man she despises.
That's when a cold-eyed stranger comes to town with a dead man strapped to his saddle. In a town where violence and murder rule the day, a terrifying battle is about to explodebetween ruthless Wild Bill Longley and a bounty hunter named Tam Sullivan, who's done a whole lot of killing of his own. . .
About the Author
William W. Johnstone is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling author of over 300 books, including Preacher, The Last Mountain Man, Luke Jensen Bounty Hunter, Flintlock, Savage Texas, Matt Jensen, The Last Mountain Man; The Family Jensen, Sidewinders, and Shawn O'Brien Town Tamer . His thrillers include Phoenix Rising, Home Invasion, The Blood of Patriots, The Bleeding Edge, and Suicide Mission. Visit his website at www.williamjohnstone.net or by email at email@example.com.
Being the all-around assistant, typist, researcher, and fact checker to one of the most popular western authors of all time, J.A. Johnstone learned from the master, Uncle William W. Johnstone.
He began tutoring J.A. at an early age. After-school hours were often spent retyping manuscripts or researching his massive American Western history library as well as the more modern wars and conflicts. J.A. worked hard—and learned.
"Every day with Bill was an adventure story in itself. Bill taught me all he could about the art of storytelling. ‘Keep the historical facts accurate,' he would say. ‘Remember the readers, and as your grandfather once told me, I am telling you now: be the best J.A. Johnstone you can be.'"
Read an Excerpt
A Dangerous Man
By William W. Johnstone
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 J. A. Johnstone
All rights reserved.
Scar of the Noose
Two men rode through the freezing night, revolvers in their holsters and evil on their minds. Behind them lay a dead man, murdered for the few dollars in his pocket, his gun, horse, and new boots.
Wild Bill Longley had not known who the man was, nor did he care.
He needed boots, the man had them, so he shot him. Gut shot him, just to watch him die slowly and in agony, as was Longley's way in such matters.
As snow flurried in the icy wind and settled among the pines like streaks of wan moonlight, Longley drew rein and kicked away the dead man's ten-dollar horse as it pulled alongside him. "Damn it, Booker, you sure there's a town at the end of this trail? I'm freezing my nuts off here."
Booker Tate nodded. An uncurried, dangerous brute, his red beard spread to the middle button of his mackinaw and long hair fell over his shoulders in greasy tangles. "Comanche Crossing is there all right, Bill, and it's ours for the taking. Man, I've been there afore, and it's prime."
"What about the town sheriff?" Longley asked. "Is he a gun?"
"Hell, no. The sheriff is elected, Bill. Fat feller by the name of Frank Harm. We can take him, real easy."
"Maybe so, but I don't want no slipups on this venture, Booker. I mean, I don't want to come up against no big name draw-fighting lawman aiming to mess things up."
"Hell, Bill, there ain't a named draw fighter within two hundred miles of the Crossing," Tate said, grinning. "The only one I can think of is Con Collins and he never leaves the San Juan River country. Like I said, the town is there for them as wants it. Come the spring melt, we can ride out rich men."
"A hick town in the middle of nowhere ain't going to make us rich. And that's a natural fact."
"Yeah, maybe so, but we'll have enough to keep us in whiskey and women fer a year," Tate said.
"Well, that's always something, ain't it?" "Damn right it is."
Longley lifted a whiskey flask from the pocket of his sheepskin and took a swig, then a second. He passed the flask to Tate.
Unlike his muscular simian companion, Bill Longley was a tall, dark, and handsome man. He sported a trimmed imperial that set female hearts aflutter and usually affected the dress and languid, Southern manner of the riverboat gambler, though he possessed none of those gentlemanly traits.
The eyes he turned to Tate were a spectacular blue, but cold as floe ice, tinged with a lurking insanity.
"I say Bill, that time you was hung when you ran with Tom Johnson an' them, how did it feel?" Tate said. "I was always meaning to ask."
"Why do you ask me such a question, at this place and time? And you a man who has been my acquaintance only for two weeks?" The gunman's voice was flat, toneless, like lead coins dropping onto the trunk of a dead tree.
Tate heard that dead voice, accepted its warning, and stepped carefully. He smiled, or tried to. "Well, I figure when it's time to finally turn up my toes I'll be shot or hung. I know what getting shot feels like, but I ain't never been hung afore."
Longley undid the top button of his sheepskin, pulled the collar away, and craned his neck. "Take a good look. This is what it's like." A dull red scar about an inch deep, banded with distorted white tissue, circled his neck.
The terrible scar still bore its scarlet anger, but the vertical bands were white as bone and looked like small, writhing snakes.
It took a great deal to shock Booker Tate, but the livid legacy of a hemp rope did. "My God, Bill, an' you was only half hung," he said, wonder in his small, black eyes.
Longley adjusted his collar. "The posse as done it didn't stay around. They should've lingered awhile and made sure the hanging took."
"What happened to Johnson?"
"His neck broke like a dry twig. I heard it snap."
"You was lucky, Bill, an' no mistake."
Longley shrugged, his hard face empty. "If the vigilantes hadn't bungled it, I would have swapped one hell for another just a tad before my time. Luck don't even come into it."
"You're a rum one, Bill," Tate said. "An' no mistake."
"No, I'm a man who should be dead on a hell-firing trail to nowhere."
Tate smiled. "Comanche Crossing ain't nowhere. It's somewhere. Any place you can sleep in a bed is somewhere."
"Every town is nowhere to me." Longley smirked. "And Comanche Crossing will be nowhere after I get through with it."CHAPTER 2
The Man Hunter
Tam Sullivan sat across the table from a man he'd just met. The raging snow and wind had forced him to look for shelter and the rancher had graciously obliged.
"It's a dugout saloon and hog farm, owned by a man name of Rufus Brooks, and he's a real bad 'un," the rancher told him. "Hell, boy, you can't miss it. Well, you can, but follow my directions and they'll take you right to the front door."
The man raised a lascivious eyebrow and smiled.
"Huntin' fer a woman, are ye? Young buck like you."
"Nope," Sullivan said. "I'm hunting a man. Feller by the name of Crow Wallace. You heard tell of him?"
"Who ain't heard tell of him? He's another bad 'un like Brooks, maybe worse. Stranger passin' through tole me Crow killed a man in San Antone real recent, then badly cut up another in a saloon down El Paso way."
Sullivan nodded. "The stranger said it right. But two weeks ago Crow made the mistake of robbing a Butterfield stage. He shot-gunned the guard and got away with ten thousand dollars and a passenger's gold watch."
The rancher pushed the bottle of whiskey across his kitchen table, closer to Sullivan. "Ye don't say?"
Sullivan was not, by inclination, a talking man, but the rancher was a widower and lonely. That, the whiskey, and a reluctance to again brace the wild weather outside loosened his tongue a little. "Seems like the passenger set store by the watch and added five hundred dollars to Crow's bounty."
"How much is he worth?" the rancher asked, a gleam of avarice in his eyes.
"Right now, two thousand five hundred dollars and ten per cent of all monies recovered."
"And you mean to collect?"
"Well, I'd like to help you, but—"
"I don't need any help," Sullivan said. "I'm a man who works alone."
"You said you tracked Crow this far?"
"Yeah." Sullivan waved a hand in the direction of the window. "Then this winter weather cracked down hard and I lost him."
"Well, if'n he ain't already skipped out of the New Mexico Territory, Brooks' dugout is the only place he could be."
"No towns farther north?"
"One. A burg called Comanche Crossing maybe twenty miles south of Grulla Ridge, but nobody goes there. It's a straitlaced town if you know what I mean. Well, except for Montana Maine, that is. She's the big attraction, but they say she's mighty choosy about who she keeps company with." The rancher leaned back in his chair, like a man ready to state an undeniable case.
"No, if a man's looking fer shelter an' a willing women and whiskey to go along with it, he takes his life in his hands and heads fer Rufus Brooks' hog ranch."
Sullivan nodded again. "Crow Wallace isn't a man who's easy to kill. If he's at the Brooks place, he'll be the toughest, baddest hombre there." He smiled. "That is, until I arrive."
Through snow flurries that bladed horizontally in a keening wind, Sullivan made out the glow of oil lamps in the distant darkness. He reckoned that was the place, unless the rancher had no liking for bounty hunters and had steered him wrong.
Well, he'd soon find out.
He urged his tired horse in the direction of the lights, then picked up an eyebrow of trail that led to an undercut limestone shelf about as high as a tall pine.
Under the torn sky, the area seemed a bleak, lonely, and dark place for a saloon and cathouse, but as Sullivan drew rein and looked around him, he decided that its isolation was probably one of its attractions. To an outlaw on the scout, a man who avoided the settlements and johnny law, it would be a haven of rest and plenty indeed.
Sullivan let his mount pick its way through a stand of Ponderosa pine then crossed a brush flat where a few struggling Gambel oaks rustled in the raw north wind. He came upon a well-marked trail, a wagon road that ran parallel to the base of the ridge then followed a gradual ramp to a broad shelf of rock.
Across a hundred yards of flat, a second ridge ascended like a gigantic step, its top thick with pine.
Most of Rufus Brooks' place, a saloon and adjoining structure, had been cut out of the rise, but they were fronted by a mud brick fayade that gave them a Spanish flair.
To the left of the saloon's timber door, where Sullivan dismounted, was a painted blue coyote tall as a man. Its howling head was turned to the moon represented by a chipped white platter fastened to the wall.
The effect was quite artistic and he wondered if it was Brooks' work or that of a bored saloon girl.
If he were a betting man, his money would be on the girl.
The door swung open just as he slid his Henry from the saddle boot. He left the muzzle drop when he saw that it was a boy, a small, underfed Mexican with a mop of black hair and huge eyes.
"Take care of your horse, mister?" the boy asked.
"Seems like you ain't tall enough to rub him down," Sullivan said.
"I stand on a box. Brush him good."
It was only then that the bounty hunter noticed a barn set in a clump of oaks, most of its front obscured by a massive limestone rock that had tumbled from the ridge during some ancient earthshake. "You got hay and oats in there?"
His question was answered by a thin man who stood framed in the doorway. "Hay with a scoop of oats, seventy-five cents."
Sullivan frowned. "A shade high, ain't it?"
As though he hadn't heard, the man continued. "Beer, ten cents. Whiskey, a dollar. The stew in the pot is a dollar a bowl if you provide your own eatin' iron."
Then, like a man who'd recited it many times before, "One hour, two dollars. All-nighter with bed, six dollars, and the young lady will expect champagne at ten dollars a bottle."
"What do you call this place?" Sullivan asked.
"Call it what you want to call it," the thin man said.
"Judging by your prices, I'd call it the Savoy."
"Take it or leave it,"
Sullivan tossed the reins of his sorrel to the Mexican boy. "Brush him down good and feed him hay and oats, and don't skimp on the oats."
"Nice looking hoss," the thin man said as the boy led the sorrel away. "How much you pay for a big American stud like that."
"Too much." Sullivan unbuttoned his sourdough, a tan-colored canvas coat with a heavy blanket lining that reached to his lean hips. His .44 Army Colt was holstered high in the horseman fashion.
He had killed four men with the graceful revolver, all of them fugitives with dead or alive bounties on their heads. His conscience didn't keep him awake nights.
"I'm looking for a man goes by the name of Crow Wallace. Is he inside?"
The thin man shook his head. "I never ask a man his name. If he don't give it out, then it ain't none of my business. But mine's Rufus Brooks. Well known in these parts for my sweet, generous nature." He had the quick eyes of a bird of prey and his tall scrawniness did not suggest physical weakness, but rather a lean, latent force that could move fast when called on to do so. Like a rapier blade.
"I don't doubt it," Sullivan said. "Now if you'll give me the road."
The inside of the saloon was pretty much what he expected. From the Mexican border to the Missouri Breaks, he'd been in a hundred just like it—dark, dingy dens where the oil lamps cast shadows and men with closed mouths and careful eyes stood still in the gloom. Every dugout shared in common the same stink, a raw mix of whiskey, spilled beer, sweat, vomit, and cheap perfume.
The bar was a couple of timber boards laid across barrels, a few bottles displayed on an old bookshelf behind, and above the bottles an embroidered sign.
Have You Written to MOTHER?
"What will it be, stranger?" Brooks asked.
Sullivan had already taken stock. Two shaggy men in bearskin coats sprawled on an overstuffed sofa that was spilling its guts. A young Mexican girl in a state of considerable undress sat between them. The dugout behind the bar, a half-dome cut out of living limestone rock, was wide enough to accommodate two tables and some chairs. Three men holding greasy cards sat at a table sharing a bottle of whiskey.
One of the men, a breed with lank, black hair that fell over his back and ended at the top of his gun belt, looked up from his cards and saw Sullivan. "The game is poker, mister. Table stakes."
Sullivan took time to order a rye, then said, "I reckon not."
"Then go to hell," the breed said.
Sullivan smiled and said to Brooks, "Friendly folks."
The man shrugged. "He gave you an invite. That's neighborly."
"Man shouldn't refuse an invite," one of the bearskin coats said. "I mean, it ain't genteel."
"True words as ever was spoke, Clyde," his companion said. "I wonder what he'd say if old Queen Vic offered him a chair at her poker game."
The Mexican girl giggled. "That is silly." Her naked breasts were brown and small.
Sullivan ignored the comments. There was no profit in doing otherwise. He took off his gloves and reached into the inside pocket of his coat. He produced two things, a slender, silver cigar case and a piece of paper folded into a rectangle.
He chose a cheroot, lit it, then unfolded the paper and smoothed it out on the bar. "Another rye." He turned toward the table. "Crow, your likeness don't do you justice. Makes you look almost human." He held up the wanted dodger to the breed and the men sitting with him.
"Can you read, Crow?" Sullivan asked. "Them big words where my finger is say Wanted Dead or Alive."
Crow Wallace rose slowly to his feet, the chair screeching away from him along the stone floor. His right hand clawed over the handle of his Colt. "That ain't a dodger, mister. It's your death warrant." He had a strange way of talking, a lisp so pronounced that mister came out "mithter. "
Sullivan could see his thick tongue move. Wallace was a skinny little runt with buckteeth that gave him the look of a malignant teenager—which he was.
According to the dodger, Wallace was nineteen years old that winter, one of the new breed of draw fighters Texas had spawned by the hundreds after the War Between the States.
But young though he was, Wallace was a killer, fast and dangerous as a striking rattler.
"Here's how I see it, Crow," Sullivan said. "Unbuckle and drop the iron and bring them saddlebags over to me. Then we both walk out of here alive. See, that word right there says Alive."
Wallace smiled, a twisted, vicious grimace. "Then read this, bounty hunter." He drew.
He was fast. Real fast. Smooth as silk.
Wallace fired, fired again. One shot tugged at Sullivan's sleeve, the second split the air less than an inch from his ear.
Tam Sullivan jerked his gun and then adopted the duelist position, revolver extended in front of him with a straight arm, the inside of his left foot against the heel of his right. He thumbed back the Colt's hammer and fired.
Wallace took that shot smack in the middle of his forehead.
Already a dead man, Crow triggered his Colt dry and .36 caliber balls ricocheted off the floor then spaaanged! from wall to wall, precipitating a hasty stampede from the card table.
Sullivan shifted aim and centered on the chest of one of Wallace's companions. "You in? State your intentions."
"Hell, no, I'm not in," the man said. "I was only playing poker."
The older man hurrying behind him yelled, "I'm out of it. Don't shoot."
A movement flickered at the corner of Sullivan's eye.
Rufus Brooks eared back the hammers of a scattergun and flung the butt to his shoulder.
Sullivan fired by instinct.
The big .44 ball struck the side plate of the Greener. Badly mangled, it ranged upward into Brooks' throat just under his chin. By some strange quirk of velocity and energy, the ball continued its upward momentum and exited in an exclamation point of blood, brain, and bone from the top of the man's head.
Brooks stumbled back and the shotgun fell from his hands. He crashed against the bookshelf that toppled over and the Have You Written to MOTHER? sign fell across his chest.
Sullivan glanced at the dead man. "She must be mighty proud o' you."
Both bearskin coats were on their feet and the young Mexican girl had vanished.
"You taking a hand in this?" Sullivan asked.
As the sound of hooves receded outside, the man called Clyde, a tinpan by the cut of his jib, shook his bearded head. "No we ain't, mister. Just don't expect no polite invites from me an' Jules here."
"He means to a fiddle soiree and such," Jules said with a French-tinged accent.
Excerpted from A Dangerous Man by William W. Johnstone. Copyright © 2014 J. A. Johnstone. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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