No Time for Mercy
Falcon MacCallister roams the West, far from home, far from the memories of the peace and beauty of MacCallister’s Valley. With a destiny as wide and unsure as the open range, he is a loner. But to those who know him, he is a legend . . .
In a small New Mexico town, two young gunslicks are looking for a reputation, eager for a kill, desperate for history to write their names in blood. In a split-second hook and draw, one of them will lie dead. And once again, Falcon MacCallister will be the most wanted man in the West. Now, from the Arizona border to the shadows of the Dragoon Mountains to the burning trail of Apache rage, he must fend off a ruthless posse that has sworn vengeance. Because a man like MacCallister knows: between the final prayer and the snap of the rope there’s no time for mercy.
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Cry of Eagles
By William W. Johnstone
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 1998 William W. Johnstone
All rights reserved.
Falcon MacCallister walked his big black stud, Diablo, down dusty town streets until he came to the livery stable. "Give him a good rubdown and all the grain he wants. He's earned it," he said to the pimply-faced boy who appeared in the doorway of the barn. "And don't put him too close to any of the other horses. He's kind'a used to getting his own way."
When he left the livery, Falcon saw the Oriental Saloon just down the street. A drink would be just the thing to wash the desert sand out of my throat, he thought, walking toward the batwings.
He had just arrived in Tombstone after a long, hot ride across the desert. Though it was fall everywhere else, you couldn't tell it in Arizona. The air was hot and dry enough to suck the life right out of a man, and Falcon's face was wind and sunburned and raw from his trip.
He figured to have a couple of drinks, get a hot meal somewhere, and see if this godforsaken town had any bathtubs in it. He'd been on the road for a couple of weeks straight, and was getting mighty tired of his own cooking, and his own smell. He was so ripe even Diablo shied away when he approached him.
Falcon stepped through the batwings and hesitated for a moment, letting his eyes adjust to the gloom of the room. It was an old habit, one that had kept him alive more times than he cared to remember.
The usual noises of a bar — clinking glasses, too-loud talk, the plinking of piano keys over in the corner — died down as patrons noticed him standing there. He often had that effect on people. Standing slightly over six feet tall, he had shoulders so wide and muscular and a waist so thin that his suits had to be custom-made for him. His eyes were a pale blue under wheat-colored hair, worn short and neat. He favored black suits with crisp, ironed white shirts and black string ties when he was working at his favorite pastime, gambling. On the trail, he wore a dark, long-sleeved shirt, denim jeans tucked into knee-high black leather boots, and a gray vest with a black silk handkerchief around his neck. On his hips were a brace of .44 Colts, tied down low, and he carried an ace in the hole, a two-shot derringer, in the top of his right boot.
Once his eyes were accustomed to the low light in the saloon, he surveyed the crowd. Nothing much to worry about, he thought — several tables of punchers and cowboys, in town to spend in one night what it took them a week to earn, a couple of well-dressed Mexicans in for a night of whoring away from the hacienda and their wives, and a pair of star-packers of some sort.
From where he stood, Falcon couldn't read the badges on the mens' chests. Probably town marshals or deputy sheriffs; they looked too young and inexperienced to be U.S. Marshals.
He straightened his hat and walked straight to the bar, leaning on one elbow and standing sideways so as not to put his back to the room.
"I'll take a whiskey, with a side of water," he said to the barkeep.
"Yes, sir, right away," the man said, and pulled out a glass that had seen better days.
Before the barkeep could fill it, Falcon put his hand over the top of the glass. "How about washing that before you put my whiskey in it?"
The bartender frowned. "Wash it?"
"Yes, as in soap and water. You have heard of soap and water, haven't you?"
"No need to get ornery, mister. I just work here, I don't own the place."
Falcon took a long, thin cheroot from his vest pocket and lighted it by striking a lucifer on the hammer of his Colt. After getting a cleaner glass, he took a sip of his bourbon. It tasted great after three weeks of nothing but coffee and water on the trail. The bite of the alcohol on his tongue and the warmth as it spread out from his stomach were mighty good.
As he stood there smoking and taking an occasional sip of his drink, he reflected on what he was going to do next, where he was going to go after leaving Tombstone. Since his wife Marie had been killed by renegade Indians, Falcon had been on a continual jaunt around the country, trying to heal his heart by staying constantly on the move. Seeing new faces and different places every day kept his mind off what he'd lost when Marie was killed.
Occasionally, the cold sweats and the killing rages would still come, but the intervals between them were getting longer and longer as time passed.
Falcon snapped out of his reverie when he noticed the two star packers putting their heads together and whispering while looking in his direction He wasn't wanted for anything, as far as he knew. There had been some papers on him a couple of years back, but they'd been recalled when he convinced a judge he'd acted in self-defense.
It didn't matter; Falcon knew that look. The set face, the hard, suspicious eyes, the tensing of the neck muscles as a man makes a decision whether to put his life on the line and challenge another. He'd seen it all too many times before.
Finally, just as he'd feared, the two lawmen got to their feet, their hands hanging next to their pistols. "Hey you, there at the bar," the shorter one called. He was barely over five feet three inches, and heavy through the gut. A bad combination, Falcon thought, a short, fat man with a badge and a chip on his shoulder, needing to prove he's a big man.
Falcon slowly raised his eyes from his glass to stare at the pair. "Yes. What can I do for you?"
The taller man, who was reed thin and gawky and looked to be barely out of his teens, said, "What's yore name, mister?"
Falcon sighed. He knew what was coming. "Falcon MacCallister."
The two deputies looked at each other. "I done told you so, Jimmy. It's him, all right!" the short one said.
They squared their shoulders. "You'd better come with us, MacCallister. We got some Wanted posters on you over at the jail."
Falcon continued to smoke and drink, standing relaxed at the bar. "Gentlemen, if you'll look at the dates on those posters, you'll find they're over a year old. They've been recalled."
The younger, thin deputy frowned, a puzzled look crossing his face, but the short, fat one's lips tightened, and he stuck out his chin like a spoiled little boy. "I don't recollect no recall notice, MacCallister," he said, his fingers twitching next to the handle of his pistol. "I'm Deputy Stillwell, an' you better put them hands high."
Falcon shook his head. "Before you make the biggest mistake of your life, why don't you check with the sheriff or city marshal, deputy? I'm sure he'll remember the recall."
"Naw, cain't do that, fellah. Sheriff Behan's gone out on a posse. He left Jimmy and me here in charge 'til he gits back."
Falcon glanced over Deputy Stillwell's shoulder at the other patrons of the saloon. Their confrontation had everyone's attention.
The table of cowboys, five of them, had stopped their jawing and were openly staring at the scene, grins on their faces as if they hoped for the excitement of a gunfight.
The two Mexicans were quiet and looking away, pretending not to watch.
Then Falcon saw someone he hadn't seen on entering. Over in a far corner, sitting by himself, a well-dressed man had a deck of cards spread out on the table in front of him in a game of solitaire. He had stopped playing and was smoking a cigar and staring at Falcon, an irreverent smirk on his face.
Falcon stubbed out his cigar and finished his whiskey in one quick swallow. "All right, boys. Let's go over to the sheriff's office and I can show you those recall notices."
"We ain't goin' nowheres 'til you put them hands up, mister," Deputy Stillwell said, and he and the other deputy grabbed for their pistols.
In the flash of an eye, Falcon filled his hands with iron, and had both guns drawn, cocked, and aimed before either of the two young men even cleared leather.
One of the cowboys at the table opened his mouth in awe, the cigarette stuck there falling to the floor as he whispered, "Gawd Awmighty! Did you see that?" to his tablemates.
The two deputies slowly raised their hands, Deputy Stillwell breaking out in a sweat in spite of the coolness of the room. "What ... what're you gonna do with us, mister?" the thin one named Jimmy asked, naked fear in his eyes.
Falcon pursed his lips. "Damned if I know. I just came into town for a peaceful drink, good meal and a hot bath. I guess we can go on over to the jail, and I'll try and prove to you I'm not a wanted man."
Falcon's eyes shifted as the man in the dark suit got up from his corner table and approached them.
"Howdy, Mr. MacCallister. My name's John Henry Holliday, but everybody calls me Doc."
"Hello, Doc," Falcon said, a puzzled expression on his face. He'd heard of the infamous Doc Holliday, and wondered why he was taking a hand in this matter.
"Perhaps I maybe of some assistance here." He pointed over his shoulder with his thumb at the pair of deputies standing with their hands in the air. "Those boys are both dumber'n cow flop, but they don't mean any harm."
Falcon nodded. "As slow as they are on the draw, perhaps they should find some other means of employment."
Doc chuckled. "I'm sure those thoughts are going through their minds even as we speak."
He turned and addressed Deputy Stillwell. "If I take Mr. MacCallister over to the city marshal's office and have Wyatt check him out, will that satisfy you boys?"
Both nodded their heads rapidly. "Yes, sir, Doc," Stillwell answered.
Doc looked back at Falcon. "That suit you, MacCallister?"
"Anything, Doc, just so I get something to eat before too long," Falcon said as he holstered his Colts.
Doc smiled, "Good. Then right after we go see Wyatt and get this straightened out, I recommend Campbell and Hatch's Saloon. They got the best food in town, an' their whiskey isn't half bad, either."
One of the cowboys at the other table stood up, his face beet-red, angry at the peaceful resolution of the argument. "Hey, Doc," he yelled, "why don't you keep your nose out of other people's business?" He was dressed all in black, from his hat to his boots, and he had the look of a gunfighter.
Falcon was a little puzzled to see none of the men in the saloon were heeled.
Doc's face went flat and expressionless, and his eyes turned cold as ice. "You planning on anteing up in this hand, Curly Bill?" he said, pulling the lapels of his coat back and tucking them into the back of his belt to reveal a pistol hanging on his waist.
"We might, Doc," he answered, as the man next to him stood up. "You just give us time to go git our guns from the marshal's office and we'll be glad to accommodate you."
Doc gave a lazy smile. "Curly Bill Brocius and Johnny Ringo, two of the most butt-ugly men God ever put on the face of the earth."
He squared his shoulders and spread his feet, his hand hanging next to his pistol.
"Well, go get your pistols and make your play, boys, and I'll put a tunnel in your skulls," Doc said, a grim smile curling his lips.
Falcon stepped to Doc's side. "I've heard of you, Brocius, and you too, Ringo," he said, staring at the two gunmen. "From what I've heard you men don't usually face someone. You usually come at them from behind."
Ringo and Brocius's faces showed uncertainty. Before they were two on one. Now the odds were even, and they'd seen how snake-quick Falcon was with his guns.
Doc addressed the other men at the table. "Ike, you and Billy want to join this dance?" he asked. "I've never seen the Clanton brothers miss a good fight."
The two men sitting shook their heads and got up from the table and walked toward the batwings. "Not right now, Holliday, but you'll be seein' us later."
The one called Billy Clanton motioned to Ringo and Brocius. "Come on, boys, now's not the time or place for this." He looked around the saloon. "There's too many people in here. We got plenty of time to deal with Holliday and Earp later."
Ringo and Brocius, with looks of relief, grabbed their hats off the table and walked out of the bar with the two Clanton brothers.
Falcon sighed and relaxed his shoulders. "Nice quiet town you got here, Doc."
"It has its moments," the dapper man said, fixing his coat smiling.
"How is it none of those men were armed?" Falcon asked.
"When he became town marshal, Virgil Earp posted the town off-limits to guns."
Falcon glanced at Doc's left hip, where he wore a pistol, butt first for a cross hand draw. "How about you?"
"Oh, I'm something of a special case. Now, let's go meet Wyatt Earp and see about those recall notices, so's you can get some grub."CHAPTER 2
"What was that all about?" Falcon asked Doc as they walked toward the city marshal's office.
"The Clanton clan — Ike, Phin, Billy, and Newman, known as the Old Man — along with Frank and Tom McLaury, Curly Bill Brocius and Johnny Ringo, call themselves The Cowboys. Did you notice those red sashes they were wearing around their waists?"
Falcon nodded. "Yeah, now that you mention it."
"All the members of The Cowboys gang wear them. They're a bunch of local outlaws who've had a pretty easy time of it around here until Wyatt Earp and his brothers, Morgan and Virgil, showed up."
"What's that got to do with you? From what I've heard of you, you're not exactly a lawman."
Doc grinned. "I am a friend of Wyatt's, though. I met him over in Fort Griffin, Texas, a while back. We've kind'a been runnin' into each other off and on since then. The Clantons and McLaurys know where I stand, an' they've been tryin' to get me out of the picture so Wyatt will have one less gun backing his play."
"This certainly doesn't sound like a very healthy town," Falcon observed.
"That may be why they named it Tombstone," Doc said with a twinkle in his dark eyes. Then he grabbed a soiled handkerchief out of his pocket and placed it against his face as he bent double and gave several hacking, wet-sounding coughs. As he straightened up, Falcon could see streaks of crimson on the linen before Doc stuffed it in his pocket.
He gave a sideways smirk at Falcon. "In my case, the name of the town may be very apropos."
As they walked along the dirt streets Falcon could see the town was relatively young. It'd been founded only a few years before, on the basis of some rich silver strikes nearby. It was said the first settlers had to fight off Geronimo and his sons, Nachez and Victorio, in order to stake their claims, thus leading to the name Tombstone.
Most of the buildings were storefronts, with wooden facades in front and large canvas tents stretching out to form the main part of the building. Many of the lots between buildings had smaller tents staked out, with families living in some, and others serving as small stores, selling their goods out of the back of wagons.
They walked into the city marshal's office and found a tall man dressed in a black coat, white shirt with a string tie, and gray trousers loading a rifle in front of a gun rack on the wall.
"Wyatt," Doc called out, "I'd like you to meet Falcon MacCallister, the fastest man with a gun I've ever seen."
Wyatt raised his eyebrows. "That so?"
He stuck out his hand, and he and Falcon shook.
"Sheriff Behan's deputies, Stillwell and Jimmy, braced him over at the Oriental Saloon. Said they'd seen some paper out on him a while back."
Wyatt's smile faded. "Are you wanted, Mr. MacCallister?"
Falcon shook his head. "Not any more. A judge ruled my fight was self-defense and sent out recall notices about six months after the original posters were circulated."
Wyatt walked over to his desk and pulled a thick sheaf of papers out of the top drawer. After rummaging through them for a few minutes, he pulled one out of the stack. "You're right, Falcon. Here it is."
He passed the paper over to Falcon. "You'd better keep that while you're in town. Sheriff Behan's deputies aren't known for their intelligence."
Doc laughed. "Yeah, they'd probably have to get someone to read it to 'em if you pulled it out and stuck it in their faces."
"Well, if you're done with me, Marshal, I'm hungry and I'd like to go."
"By all means, Falcon," Wyatt said, sticking out his hand and taking Falcon's. "However, I'll have to ask you to leave your pistols here. There's a town ordinance against carrying weapons inside the city limits."
Falcon shrugged. "Okay, Marshal."
He unbuckled his gunbelt and handed the brace of Colts to Wyatt.
"Have a good stay in our town, Falcon," Wyatt said as he hung the belt over a peg on the wall. "And," he added with a wink, "if you're a gambling man, I deal the Faro table over at the Oriental Saloon starting at eight o'clock."
"Faro is a game for men who don't understand numbers," Falcon said. "I prefer poker, preferably stud."
Doc nodded. "A man after my own heart, Wyatt."
Excerpted from Cry of Eagles by William W. Johnstone. Copyright © 1998 William W. Johnstone. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
fast read, lots of action.