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Sonny Burton was forced to retire from the Texas Rangers after taking a bullet from Bonnie Parker in a shoot-out. The bullet so damaged Sonny’s right arm that he had to have it amputated.
While Sonny struggles with recuperating and tries to get used to the idea of living a life with only one arm, Aldo Hernandez, the hospital’s janitor, asks Sonny to help find his daughter and bring her back home. She has got herself mixed up with a couple of brothers involved in a string of robberies. Sonny agrees to help, but is more concerned about a wholly different criminal in town who has taken to killing young women and leaving them in local fields for crows to feast on.
Just as Sonny is able to track down Aldo’s daughter, he comes to an uncomfortable realization about who might be responsible for the string of murders and races to nab the killer before another girl is left to the crows.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Larry D. Sweazy is the author of See Also Murder, Vengeance at Sundown, The Gila Wars, The Coyote Tracker, The Devil's Bones, The Cougar's Prey, The Badger's Revenge, The Scorpion Trail, and The Rattlesnake Season. He won the WWA Spur award for Best Short Fiction in 2005 and for Best Paperback Original in 2013, and the 2011 and 2012 Will Rogers Medallion Award for Western Fiction for the Josiah Wolfe series. He was nominated for a Derringer award in 2007, and was a finalist in the Best Books of Indiana literary competition in 2010, and won in 2011 for The Scorpion Trail. He has published over sixty nonfiction articles and short stories, which have appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine; The Adventure of the Missing Detective: And 25 of the Year's Finest Crime and Mystery Stories!; Boys' Life; Hardboiled; Amazon Shorts, and several other publications and anthologies. He is member of ITW (International Thriller Writers), WWA (Western Writers of America), and WF (Western Fictioneers).
Read an Excerpt
A Thousand Falling Crows
By Larry D. Sweazy
Prometheus BooksCopyright © 2016 Larry D. Sweazy
All rights reserved.
JUNE 11, 1933
The farm-to-market road was vacant, the day's traffic settled and tucked away as the big red sun dropped below the horizon. The hard days of summer had set in early. The few clouds that had showed promise of rain in the past month had pushed east, rushing by in a hurry like there was some place better to go, like the stink of dry Texas ground had offended them. Tender young crops succumbed to the heat and lack of water quickly, and the farmers, who'd had a bad year the year before and the year before that, knew that things were only going to get worse.
Soft pink light reached up with long fingers from the west, poking at the coming darkness like there was a victory to be won. But that was not the case. Light never won over darkness. At least at this time of day.
A lone crow sat on the telephone wire looking down at the road. Blood never escaped the eyes of a crow, but the smell of death was a vulture's quest. A kettle of six curious vultures glided down to a dead oak tree that had stood next to the road for a hundred years, its gnarly branches offering a perfect roost for the coming night. The big black birds were not attracted to the spot for rest, but by the rage, the loneliness, and the empty heart that had fulfilled nature's cycle of life and death. The smell of blood had piqued their appetite. The prospect of drought offered them abundance, reason to celebrate their way of living. There would be even more vultures this time next year.
The vultures and the crow looked at the blood without judgment. That was better left to humans and their laws, their ways of setting things straight. There was no justice to a hungry bird. There was only the now, the knowledge of hunger, and the need to fly. Blood and decaying flesh offered an opportunity, the concept of evidence and law foreign, useless. The crow was not disturbed by the vultures' presence.
The girl hadn't been there long. Her blood still pooled on top of the road and had yet to soak into the thirsty dirt. The blood glowed in the dusk, the pink fingers of the dying day reflecting off it like a mirror held up to the sky. There was no life left in the girl. She had been killed just before she was dumped from the speeding car, tossed out like an extinguished cigarette butt, left behind without worry or care. Her clothes were ripped and torn, and her face — what was visible of it — was plump with bruises and covered in blood. She was fresh. Not stiff. Flies had already found her. Joyful in the bounty, like the vultures.
Curiosity propelled the crow down to get a closer look. It didn't worry about the others. They were the least of its concerns. Coyotes would come soon. But for now the crow would claim the girl as its own. A feast to enjoy before darkness fell and the world turned black, black like itself, a twin without wings, but with far more secrets than it would ever tell.
* * *
The glass exploded out of the back window of the Chevrolet sedan like somebody had thrown a brick from the inside out. Once he saw the muzzle flash, it only took Sonny Burton half a second to realize that someone had taken a shot at him.
There was no question who was doing the shooting. Less than a year before, back in August, they'd killed a deputy in Stringtown, Oklahoma, launching a killing spree that had captured the nation's attention and made the pair as famous as the dead actor Rudolph Valentino.
Sonny had been alone, coming off duty in the small Panhandle town that had been his home for as long as he could remember. He was surprised at his luck, recognizing the two of them walking arm-in-arm to their car like they didn't have a care in the world, like nobody would know, or give two shakes, about who they were. Or maybe they just didn't give a rat's ass.
It didn't take them long to figure out that they were being followed by a Texas Ranger — the Cinco badge emblem and announcement that it was a Ranger's car was plastered across the side of the black 1932 Ford in hard-to-miss six-inch white letters. Thankfully, the duo had turned off on a nearly deserted dirt road when the shooting started.
With no way to communicate with anyone back at company headquarters about his lucky find, Sonny was on his own to bring the pair of lawless gangsters in for justice — if that was possible.
The shattering of his windshield sounded like a bomb had gone off directly next to Sonny's ear. He was pelted with stinging shards of the broken glass, and it felt like he'd fallen face-first into a hornet's nest. But that didn't stop him. His fingers tingled as he gripped the steering wheel; the thrill of the hunt never got old. The skin above his chest burned like it was going to rip open, and his heart was racing a mile a minute. Blood trickled down from his brow, but his eyes were safe, not hit, the blood not blinding him. He could still see the Chevrolet swerving in front of him, trying to get away or to get a better shot at him — one or the other, he wasn't sure.
A bullet whizzed by Sonny's right ear, just a couple of inches away from its intended target: his forehead. Luckily, he had tilted his head in the right direction. The wrong way would have put him directly in line with the shot and it would have been lights out. Game over. A Texas Ranger added to their growing collection of law enforcement kills.
It was a sobering thought, dying this close to the end of his career. Sonny wasn't sure what the future held for him, but up until a few minutes prior, he hadn't been too concerned about living to a satisfactory old age. He just wanted to finish what he had started — being a proud Texas Ranger and alive to boot.
The duo's older-model Chevrolet was no match for Sonny's newer Ford. The '32 Model B had a flathead V-8 engine and was fast off the start with sixty-five horsepower under the hood — an amazing thought considering Sonny had been born long before the invention of automobiles — when all of the Texas Rangers, including his own father, had ridden horses across the great state of Texas, pursuing the worst of the worst outlaws, like King Fisher and John Wesley Hardin. As a boy, Sonny wouldn't have been capable of imagining so much power in one vehicle. Times had changed all too quickly as far as Sonny was concerned.
He pushed the accelerator as far to the floor as it would go. His gun was loaded and in his hand almost magically, like a magnet had drawn it to his fingers. He aimed his Colt .45 Government Model automatic pistol with confidence at the busted out window of the Chevrolet and returned fire.
The Chevrolet swerved again, fishtailing on the gravel road and spraying the hood of Sonny's car with hundreds of pebbles — little pings and thuds that sounded like gunshots finding their target but posed no real threat.
A rifle poked out of the rear window, and a hot, orange flash exploded from the end of the barrel and did not stop at one. This was no riot gun or deer rifle, but a Browning automatic rifle, a fierce weapon that could empty a twenty-shot magazine in three seconds.
The noise was excruciating, metal piercing metal, ripping into the fenders, then shattering what little remained of the car's windows. Sonny could hardly take a breath or gather his wits about him. He wasn't ready to die.
The radiator exploded, sending a geyser of steam spraying upward to the heavens, clouding Sonny's vision. Bullets whizzed by his ears as he pulled the trigger of his .45, not stopping until every bullet had been fired.
He thought for certain he heard a tire explode, thought he saw a sign to his left warning that the road ahead was closed, under construction, that the bridge was out, but thoughts no longer mattered. He had been hit.
A bullet ripped into his shoulder, sending white-hot pain screaming though his body; blood sprayed out of the wound like a dam had been breached, an artery severed.
Another bullet hit him, not far from the other, and Sonny screamed with pain, with frustration and fear, as reality left him and his fingers slipped from the wheel, sending the '32 Ford careening into a ditch. He felt like he had been hit twice by a sledgehammer.
The last image Sonny saw before the car rolled and he blacked out was Bonnie Parker laughing like a maniacal child.
Excerpted from A Thousand Falling Crows by Larry D. Sweazy. Copyright © 2016 Larry D. Sweazy. Excerpted by permission of Prometheus Books.
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