This is no day to die
In Sorrento, Texas, there is only one law: the hangman's law. Right now the condemned waits for his last meal in a cramped jail cell. But Falcon MacCallister will not go quietly to the gallows . . .
Falcon was called to Sorrento by a crusading newspaper reporter trying to expose a conspiracy of greed and corruption—with innocent men dying at the end of a court-ordered rope. As acting US Marshal, Falcon quickly makes some very dangerous enemies. Then he himself is sentenced to hang. But in twenty-four hours he'll be out of jail, out on the streets, and shooting lead against a small army of gunmen. Because he knows the three men who have taken over Sorrento. And he sentences them to death—the MacCallister brand . . .
About the Author
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
Carnage of Eagles
By William W. Johnstone J. A. Johnstone
PINNACLE BOOKSCopyright © 2012 William W. Johnstone
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTwo months earlier
Emmett Kyle, a traveling salesman from Fort Worth, had just sold an order of sewing notions to Eb Smalley, owner of Smalley's Mercantile.
"You've made some good choices, Eb," Kyle said. "Your customers are going to really love that."
Smalley laughed. "I know I've bought more than I need," he said. "You're just too good of a salesman."
"I have to be. I have a wife and two kids to feed."
"Speaking of feeding, how about dropping by the house tonight for supper? You know how Millie loves company. You can fill her in on all the gossip."
"Ha! I do pick up a lot of gossip, traveling from town to town," Kyle said. "And it comes in handy; Mrs. Smalley isn't the only one willing to trade a good supper for a little news."
"I'll see you at six tonight," Smalley said.
"Six o'clock," Kyle said as he picked up the low, round-crowned bowler hat, smoothed the little red feather, and put it on his head. "See you then."
"He's a little dandy, isn't he?" Smalley said to his clerk, Hodge Deckert, as Kyle walked out into the street.
"Yes, sir, he is."
"But you've got to say this about him. He is one Jim Dandy of a salesman."
Across the street from Smalley's mercantile, Albert Russell, Harry Toombs, Josh Peters, and Lou Hamilton were in the Long Trail saloon. The four men were sheriff's deputies, and they had been drinking since early afternoon. The other customers in the saloon tended to stay away from them as much as possible, waiting until one or more of them would pass out drunk.
"I tell you true, the day we put on these badges is the day we found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow," Russell said.
"Well now, I wouldn't exactly say that," Toombs said.
"Yeah? I know what you was doin' before you pinned that deputy's star. If I 'member right, you was shovelin' shit out of the stalls over at Kimberly's stable," Russell said.
"Well, but if you stop to think about it," Toombs said, "I was the one shovelin' the shit, I wasn't the one takin' it."
The other two deputies laughed. "He got you on that one, Al," Lou Hamilton said.
"Yeah, well, I know this is the best thing ever to happen to me. I've cowboyed for half a dozen ranchers, burned up in the summer, froze to death in the winter. Where else could you get a job where you can spend half the day in the saloon?"
"We ain't s'posed to be in here like this," Josh Peters said. "What we're s'posed to be doin' is patrollin' the streets to make sure there ain't nobody causin' any trouble."
"Ha! Ever'one in this town is so scared of Sheriff Poindexter there ain't nobody goin' to cause any trouble," Hamilton said. "And truth to tell, the only thing we're supposed to do is collect the taxes."
Russell stood up, and when he did, the chair fell over with a loud bang. It got the attention of everyone else in the saloon, and Russell and the other three deputies laughed.
"Didn't mean to scare ever'body," Russell said. He was a little unsteady and he leaned forward, quickly putting his hand down on the table to keep from falling.
"You all right there, Al?" Toombs asked.
"Yeah. I just maybe need me a breath of fresh air, is all."
Russell, who was the most inebriated of the four, walked unsteadily over to the batwing doors. He held a whiskey bottle in his left hand, and he turned it up to drain the rest of its contents, then, when it was empty, tossed it back over his shoulder without bothering to look around. It landed on a table where two other men were sitting.
"What the ...?" one of the men started to say, but the other man reached across the table quickly to stop him from getting up from his chair.
"Let it be," he said quietly.
"What do you mean, 'let it be'? He could have hit one of us in the head with that."
"You're just visiting town. Trust me, Deputy Russell isn't someone you want to mess with."
"Who does he think he is?"
"He knows who he is. He is one of Sheriff Poindexter's men."
"And that means he can do anything he wants?"
"Yes, they pretty much can, and do."
"Hey, you fellers, come over here!" Russell called from the batwing doors.
"What is it?" Toombs asked.
"Come here and look at this."
The other three men came to stand beside Russell. "Look at what?" Hamilton asked.
"Look at that funny-lookin' hat on that feller. What kind of hat would you call that?"
"That's called a bowler," Toombs said.
"It's what fancy dudes wear in the city."
"Well, what the hell is he wearin' it here for?"
"More 'n likely he come in on the stage," Hamilton suggested. "Prob'ly a salesman or something."
"Look there. He's got 'im a red feather stickin' up from the hat band," Russell said. "Ain't he the dandy, though?"
"He looks pretty dandified, all right," Toombs said.
"Maybe he wouldn't look quite so dandified iffen he didn't have that feather stickin' out of his hat." Russell pulled his pistol.
"What are you goin' to do?" Toombs asked.
"I'm goin' to undandify the little sumbitch," Russell said, slurring his words. "I'm goin' to shoot that feather offen his hat."
"You're crazy. You can't hit that feather from here."
"Five dollars says I can."
"All right, you're on."
"Maybe you ought not to try ...," Hamilton said, but before he could finish the sentence, the gun roared and smoke streamed from the barrel.
"Oh, shit," Russell said. "I think I hit the little sumbitch."
Smalley was still looking at Kyle when, to his horror, he heard a gunshot and saw a little mist of blood fly out from the side of his head. Kyle went down in a heap.
"Emmett!" Smalley shouted. He ran from his store out into the street and knelt down beside the salesman. His head was in a spreading pool of blood, his hat lying to one side. His eyes were open and unseeing, and he wasn't breathing.
"It was an accident!" Russell shouted, coming out into the street then, still holding a smoking pistol. "I didn't mean to shoot him!"
"Where were you? Over in the saloon?" Smalley asked.
"Yeah, but like I said, it was an accident."
"That's a good forty yards from here. How do you accidently shoot someone from forty yards away?"
"I don't know, I ..."
"He had his gun out, showin' it to us, and it went off," Toombs explained.
"Yeah," Russell said quickly. "Yeah, that's what happened. I was showin' 'em my gun, and it just went off."
"What the hell was so interesting about your gun that you had to show it off in a way that wound up killing a man?" Smalley demanded angrily.
"Look now, damn you, don't you go gettin' all high falutin' on me," Russell said. "I told you I didn't mean to kill the feller. I was just lookin' at that little red feather and ..."
"Good Lord, man, you didn't try to shoot that feather from way over there, did you?" Smalley asked.
"Well, I ..."
"I told you he was showing us his gun and it went off," Toombs said.
"Yeah, that's what it was," Russell said.
By now a substantial crowd of people had gathered around the salesman's body, including Sheriff Poindexter. Sheriff Poindexter was square jawed and thick set with black hair and a drooping black mustache. But what set him apart from all other men was his left eye. There was no eyelid for his left eye, and that made it bug out, almost like it was too big for the socket. The blade that had taken off his eyelid had also taken out half of the eyebrow over that eye, leaving in its stead a puffy clump of scar tissue.
"What happened here?" Sheriff Poindexter asked.
"It was an accident, Sheriff," Russell said. "I was showin' these other fellas my gun, and it went off. I didn't mean to kill this little feller."
"Anybody know who he is?"
"His name is Emmett Kyle. He's a salesman from Fort Worth," Smalley said.
"All right, Russell, since you killed him, you are responsible for him. See to it that Nunnelee gets his body all cleaned up and sent back to Fort Worth."
"All right," Russell replied.
"He got 'ny family there?" Poindexter asked Smalley.
"He's got a wife and two kids."
"Good, that means we won't have to be out any money for his buryin'."
"Is that all you're goin' to do?" Smalley asked.
"What do you mean, 'is that all'? What do you expect me to do?"
"Investigate it. Good Lord, man, there's been a killin' here."
"Nothing to investigate," Poindexter replied. "It was an accident, pure and simple."
Smalley shook his head in disgust, then walked back into his store. He didn't know Kyle all that well; he knew him only as a salesman. But Kyle had been working his store for the last three years, and almost always had dinner with him. Smalley had never met Kyle's family, but he thought of them now, back home in Fort Worth, content and comfortable with the thought that the husband and father would be coming back home to them.
"And Sheriff Poindexter isn't going to do a damn thing about it. No investigation, nothing," Smalley said to Harold Denham. Denham was not only Smalley's friend; he was also the owner and publisher of the Sorrento Advocate.
"Well, come on, Eb, you know Poindexter," Denham said. "Did you really expect him to do anything?"
"I guess not," Eb said. "But it does make me angry. I just wish there was something we could do about it."
"Right now the only thing I can do is write about it in the paper and hope I can keep the pot stirred up so that maybe, someday, the people will decide they have had enough of Poindexter."
"And don't forget Judge Dawes," Smalley said. "He not only facilitates Sheriff Poindexter, he is in league with him."
"So is Gillespie, the prosecutor."
Death in the Streets of Sorrento
Yesterday, Emmett Kyle, a salesman from Fort Worth, was shot down in the street. Mr. Kyle was well known by merchants in Sorrento and other towns as an honest man who made good on his promises, and kept his end of any bargain made. He had a wife and two children.
This fine man was cut down in the prime of life when a bullet struck him in the head. The missile was energized by a pistol that was in the hands of Deputy Albert Russell. Russell has made the totally unbelievable claim that his firearm discharged accidentally when he was showing it to Toombs, Hamilton, and Peters, who are also Sheriff's deputies. It is not surprising that the three deputies verified Russell's story. However, there were other witnesses in the saloon who tell a completely different tale.
The story as told by these witnesses is that Deputy Russell, while in a state of inebriation, attempted to shoot the feather from Mr. Kyle's hat. This was from a distance of forty yards. It would be a prodigious pistol shot from an expert when he is sober. Deputy Russell missed his mark, his bullet striking Mr. Kyle in the temple.
Unfortunately, none of these witnesses will agree to testify against the deputy, and they have given this newspaper their story, only on the promise that they remain anonymous.
How long, dear readers, I ask you, will our fair community remain under the despotic control of Judge Dawes, Prosecutor Gillespie, Sheriff Poindexter, and his evil deputies? Is it not time that we, as citizens, took some action? It is our misfortune that Texas does not have petition and recall, but we can certainly unite to elect a new judge, sheriff, and prosecuting attorney at the next election.
Chapter TwoDurango, Colorado
Johnny Pollard was standing at the end of the bar of the Bull's Head saloon. Johnny was a cowboy who rode for the Twin Peaks Ranch. Today was his twenty-first birthday, and he was trying to talk Belle LaForge into giving him a free visit.
"Johnny, if I gave you a free visit for your birthday, everyone would be wanting a free visit for their birthday," Belle replied. "You can see that, can't you?"
"How about if you give me a special deal? Like maybe fifty cents off?"
"How about if she just teaches you a few tricks, cowboy?" one of the other bar girls asked. "That way, you might learn something, then the rest of us might enjoy bedding you more."
Those within the sound of the conversation laughed, and Johnny blushed.
"I'm young," Johnny said. "I'm still learnin'."
* * *
Two blocks down the street from the Bull's Head, someone saw the gunfighter, Amos Drew, ride into town. The albino wasn't hard to pick out; his hair was white, his skin was without color, and his eyes were pink. It was said that he had killed at least ten men, though some insisted that the count was as high as twenty.
Drew didn't ride into town like any ordinary visitor. He was wearing a long duster. That in itself was not unusual, because many riders wore dusters on the trail. But Drew wore his duster pulled back and hooked over his pistol, enabling him to get to it quickly, if need be. And because he was a man who lived on the edge, he was always aware that someone might try to kill him, either to avenge one of his earlier killings, or to make a name for himself as the one who killed Amos Drew. As he rode into town, his eyes swept the top-floor windows and rooflines of every building on both sides of the street, ever watchful of potential assassins.
He stopped in front of the Bull's Head, one of the wilder saloons of the town. The Bull's Head was known for bad women and even worse whiskey. Drew took off his duster and shook the dirt from it before he draped it over his saddle. Then, slapping his hands against his shirt a few times, and raising a cloud of dust by so doing, he stepped up onto the wooden porch and pushed his way in through the batwing doors.
A piano player was grinding away in the back of the saloon, and two of the saloon girls were leaning on the piano, singing, not for the customers, but for themselves. There were nearly a dozen customers in the saloon; three of them were at the bar, the other three sharing a table. One of the men at the bar was a young cowboy, and he was talking with a pretty, but rather garishly made-up young woman.
"Whiskey," Drew said.
"Yes, sir, Mr. Drew, whatever you say," the barkeep replied nervously. "Nothing is too good for Mr. Amos Drew. With hands that were shaking so badly that he got as much whiskey out of the glass as in it, he poured Drew a drink. When he picked up the glass it began shaking again, so, quickly, he put the glass down on the bar, then pushed it across.
Johnny heard the bartender address Drew, and that got his attention. "Did you hear that?" he asked Belle.
Belle had tensed up the moment Drew came into the saloon.
"That there is Amos Drew."
"Come on upstairs with me, Johnny," Belle said. "I'll give you your birthday present now."
"Just a minute," Johnny said. "I'd like to meet him."
"Johnny, stay away from him," Belle said. "Please." She put her hand on Johnny's arm in an attempt to get him to go with her, but he paid no attention to it.
"Are you Amos Drew?" Johnny asked.
Drew made only a casual glance toward the cowboy, then, almost as if he hadn't even seen him, he took a drink of his whiskey.
"You're a famous man, Mr. Drew," the young cowboy said. "I've heard a lot about you."
Drew took another drink. "Go away. Leave your woman," he said without looking back toward the young cowboy.
Johnny got a confused look on his face. "What? What did you say?"
"It's been a while since I had me a woman. I want that one."
"Well, I—uh—that is, she ain't exactly my woman. She works here."
Frightened, the woman put her hand on the young cowboy's shoulder. "Come on, Johnny, please. Your birthday present?"
The young cowboy smiled nervously. "Well, Mr. Drew, I reckon you are goin' to have to find someone else. It seems that Belle and I have our own plans. Today is my birthday, you see."
"Find another woman to celebrate your birthday. I want this woman."
"I don't care what you want," Belle said, somehow finding the nerve to speak in a firm voice. "I'm not going with you."
"You're a whore, ain't you? You have to go with anyone who pays you," Drew said.
"I don't have to go with you, you maggot-looking son of a bitch," she said coldly.
The piano player stopped the music, and everyone in the saloon gasped at Belle's words.
The evil smile left Drew's face. "Cowboy," he said, "you had better teach your woman some manners."
Johnny laughed nervously. "Mister Drew, you obviously don't know Belle. She ain't the kind of woman you can teach anything to."
"Slap her in the face."
"What?" the young cowboy sputtered. "What do you mean 'slap her in the face'?"
"You can speak English can't you? The woman insulted me. So what I want you to do is, slap her in the face and make her apologize to me for what she said. And you might also tell her to beg me not to kill you."
Excerpted from Carnage of Eagles 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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