Johnstone Country. Frontier Spirit Lives Here.
The bestselling masters of the American West add a deadly new twist to the epic saga of U.S. Marshal Will Tanner. This time, the hunter becomes the hunted . . .
EVIL NEVER SLEEPS
He’s the most notorious cattle rustler in all of Texas. His name—Jebediah Cotton—strikes fear into the hearts of every rancher in the territory. So it’s more than a little strange that someone would shoot Cotton’s youngest son in the back. Whoever did it is either a coward, a fool, or a crazy man. Whoever did it must die. Even if he’s a U.S. deputy marshal named Will Tanner . . .
So begins not one, but two of the deadliest manhunts in frontier history. As Will Tanner sets off into Oklahoma Territory in pursuit of godless bank robber named Parson McCoy, Jebediah Cotton sends his five remaining sons and cold-blooded brother-in-law after him. Will has no idea he’s being stalked. But when there are this many players in the game, a U.S. deputy marshal has two choices: kill them all or die trying . . .
About the Author
William W. Johnstone is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over 300 books, including the series THE MOUNTAIN MAN; PREACHER, THE FIRST MOUNTAIN MAN; MACCALLISTER; LUKE JENSEN, BOUNTY HUNTER; FLINTLOCK; THOSE JENSEN BOYS; THE FRONTIERSMAN; SAVAGE TEXAS; THE KERRIGANS; and WILL TANNER: DEPUTY U.S. MARSHAL. His thrillers include BLACK FRIDAY, TYRANNY, STAND YOUR GROUND, and THE DOOMSDAY BUNKER. Visit his website at www.williamjohnstone.net or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
"Good morning, Will," Daniel Stone, U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Arkansas, greeted his deputy cordially when Will Tanner walked into his office over the jail. "Have you been taking a little time to rest up since you brought Ben Wheeler in from Muskokee?"
Will was immediately suspicious. As a rule, Dan Stone was businesslike and took little time for idle conversation. He had a feeling he was about to be given an assignment he didn't particularly want. "I reckon," he answered. "Doin' a few chores that needed doin'. Figured I'd have to hang around for Wheeler's trial."
"I doubt they're gonna need any testimony from you," Stone said. "There were enough witnesses that saw him shoot those two fellows." He shook his head. "No, Judge Parker won't need to tie you up for that trial."
Here it comes, Will thought.
Stone continued. "I know you just got back from a long trip, but I also know how you hate sitting around with nothing to do. So I've got the very assignment you need."
"I kinda figured you might," Will responded.
"It ain't nothing bad," Stone quickly insisted. "It's an easy job, matter of fact, just transport a prisoner down to Texas and turn him over to the Texas Rangers. That's all."
"Who's the prisoner?" Will asked.
"Billy Cotton?" Will questioned. "That's the young boy Alvin Greeley brought back with those other two outlaws, ain't it? Why are you turnin' him over to the Rangers? The three of 'em robbed the store in McAlester, didn't they?"
"Well, not really," Stone answered. "It turns out that Billy Cotton just happened to be drinking with the two who done the robbery when Alvin arrested 'em. Come to find out, Billy was telling the truth when he said he wasn't with 'em when they damn near killed that fellow that owned the store."
"He wasn't?" Will replied. "Then why don't they just cut him loose and let him go home?"
"Like I said, the Texas Rangers have a warrant out for him, so we agreed to turn him over. He wasn't guilty of anything in Oklahoma, but he'd been up to something in Texas, I reckon."
"Seems to me, Greeley would be the one to take him back, since he was the one who arrested him," Will said.
Stone was well aware of the friction between Will and Alvin because of a case they had worked together when Will was still fairly new to the job. "Ah hell, Will, I know what you're thinking. To tell you the truth, I think Alvin was pretty rough on the boy, so I'd appreciate it if you'd take him back to Texas. I thought you might take advantage of the trip to check on your ranch down there. I know it's been a while since you have. We can have the Rangers pick him up in Sulphur Springs. That's a short ride from that ranch of yours, ain't it? I'll wire 'em when you go and they can meet you there. Now that's a handy arrangement, mixing business with pleasure and I'll pay your usual mileage down there. Whaddaya say?"
"But no mileage for the trip back," Will stated.
"No," Stone said, "'cause you won't be transporting a prisoner on the way back."
"All right, I'll take him. First thing in the mornin'."
"Good," Stone said. "And before you start back, wire me, in case there's some business down in that part of the Nations that needs taking care of." He grinned. "You might get your mileage paid for the ride back home if there is."
* * *
Will had a few things to do to get ready to leave in the morning. Foremost on the list was to get new shoes on Buster and the bay packhorse. While that was being done, he decided to back up his supplies for the three-day ride down to Texas with enough food to feed his prisoner and himself. Cartridges for his Winchester were getting low, also, so he would take care of that, too. And coffee — he could do without all the other things, even the cartridges, but he had to have an ample supply of coffee. After leaving the supplies he bought in the small storeroom he rented at Vern Tuttle's stable, he walked over to the blacksmith to pick up his horses and return to the stable with them. "I ain't sure how early I'll be here in the mornin' to saddle up," he told Vern. "Depends on when they turn that prisoner over to me."
"Well, you know I'm always here early," Vern assured him. "If I ain't, that feller's horse is that sorrel yonder in the back stall. His saddle's in the stall with him."
When all his preparations were completed, he stopped by the jail to let Sid Randolph know he was picking up a prisoner in the morning. "I heard," Sid informed him. "They already sent me the paperwork tellin' me to turn one Billy Cotton over to Deputy Marshal Will Tanner," he proclaimed grandly. Then he chuckled over his attempt to be clever. "What time you want him, Will?"
Will paused to consider that. He normally set out before breakfast, but maybe he should let his prisoner eat his breakfast before starting. He couldn't help thinking about also fortifying himself with a good breakfast from Ruth Bennett's table before starting out again. It was an easy decision. "I'll pick him up after he's had his breakfast," he said. "See you in the mornin'."
His chores done, he decided to stop by the Morning Glory on his way back to Bennett House. It was still a little while before supper would be ready and he decided he was in the mood for a drink of whiskey before he ate. "Well, howdy, stranger," he was greeted by Gus Johnson when he walked in the door. "I heard you were back in town." Gus was down at the end of the bar, talking to Dr. Peters. Will walked over to join them.
"Howdy, Gus, Doc," Will said, nodding to each in turn. "Just thought I'd stop by to see if you're still in business. Maybe I'm just in time to get a shot of the same medicine Doc's drinkin' there."
"No matter what ails you," Doc said, "a little drink of whiskey is the best thing I can prescribe." He tossed it back and smacked his lips, contented. Doc's fondness for alcohol was well known, but it had no effect upon his practice. Most folks around Fort Smith felt he was more proficient at his profession drunk than sober. "I haven't had occasion to patch you up lately," Doc said when Gus moved down the bar to get a glass for Will. "You're about due to get shot. It's been a while."
"I reckon," Will replied. He knew Doc was joking, but it struck a somber warning in his mind that he had paid no heed before. There was a sobering promise of tragedy awaiting all men who wore the deputy marshal's badge in Indian Territory. And the longer a man wore that badge, the more the odds went up against him. He thought of Fletcher Pride then, as he often did, and the vacuum in Ruth Bennett's life when he was killed. It's the reason I don't walk back to the boardinghouse right now and tell her daughter, Sophie, I want to marry her, he thought. He was suddenly startled when he realized it was the first time he had confessed it, even to himself. He glanced at Doc, aware that Doc was giving him a questioning look. "I'll try to see if I can give you more business from now on, so you can pay your likker bill," he said, and tossed his drink back.
"How 'bout some service to your other customers?" Alvin Greeley yelled from a table in the back corner of the room. "I need some more of that sorry coffee you sell." Will had noticed the other deputy when he came in, but had chosen to ignore him. Greeley was not a regular customer at the Morning Glory, so he had not expected to see him there. He was eating supper with Lucy Tyler sitting at the table with him, probably because there was no one else to pass the time with. She had just gotten up from her chair, heading toward the bar, when Greeley called after her. "What's the matter, Lucy? Ain't my company good enough for you?"
"Hush up, Alvin," she called back to him. "I need a drink and it don't look like you're gonna spring for it." She moved up beside Will. "You wanna buy me a drink?"
"Why, it'd be my pleasure," he said, and nodded to Gus to pour it.
"That man will talk a body to death," she complained. "I figured that if I didn't get up from there pretty soon I was gonna go crazy." She tossed her drink back, then placed her hand on Will's forearm. "When are you gonna marry me and take me outta this place?"
Will laughed. "Well, no time soon, I reckon. I've gotta take a prisoner down to Texas in the mornin', so it won't be for a while."
"If you're leavin' town in the mornin', it might make your ride go better if you stay with me tonight. I'd give you a special rate."
"I swear, that's mighty temptin'," he said, stroking his chin and pretending to consider her offer. "But I've still got some things to take care of before I go, so maybe some other time."
"Fiddle!" she scoffed. "You say that every time. I think you're true-lovin' some gal, maybe that little girl at the boardin' house."
"I promise you, that ain't the case," he said, and was about to say more to placate her when Alvin Greeley could hold his tongue no longer. Will was sorry to see him push his angular body up from his chair and walk toward them, slumped over to one side, favoring a shoulder smashed by a bullet wound that had never healed properly. In Will's first year, he had worked one job with Greeley and found that he just couldn't get along with him. He had decided to simply forget about it and do his best to avoid the man. But for some reason, Greeley had let the incident fester inside him until he developed a deep resentment toward the young deputy. After that first time, Will had worked mostly alone, and on several cases when he was forced to kill or be killed, Greeley had seen that as an opportunity to put the young deputy in a bad light. So he complained to Dan Stone, and everyone who would listen, that Will was too quick to shoot, and would always prefer to kill rather than capture. Greeley fancied himself the senior deputy, now that Fletcher Pride was gone, and he seemed to think he deserved respect from the junior deputies. Had Will known Greeley was in the saloon on this night, he would not have stopped in. Greeley's usual hangout was the Smith House Saloon. He had a room there, so Will hadn't expected to run into him in the Morning Glory.
"Dan Stone told me you was gonna transport Billy Cotton back down to Little Dixie," Greeley said.
"That's right," Will answered.
"Billy Cotton was my prisoner. I captured him, along with them other two buzzards. I told Dan I'd take him back down there when we're done with the trial. It oughta be my responsibility to transport him back to turn him over to the Rangers. I reckon Dan figured it'd be a nice easy little trip for you to pick up some mileage money."
"If you got a problem, Greeley, it ain't with me. It's with Dan. I didn't ask for the job, so you're wastin' your time complainin' to me about it."
Greeley was obviously disappointed in Will's reluctance to argue with him, so he goaded him on. "That boy ain't really such a bad one. He got his back up a little a couple of times, but I straightened him out. I'm just worried that he won't make it as far as the Poteau River before he gets a bullet in the back of his head."
"Whaddaya mean by that?" Will demanded, knowing what he was referring to and not willing to let that pass.
"You know what I mean. Everybody knows you bring in more bodies than live prisoners," Greeley charged. "That ain't no secret."
Will caught himself just before calling Greeley a liar. It was a lie, and nobody but Greeley believed Will was too quick on the trigger. It wouldn't do for two deputy marshals to have it out in a saloon, however, and he was afraid if he called Greeley a liar, it would force him to fight. It was best to just walk away, so that's what he did. "Here's for the drinks," he said to Gus. "I expect I'd best get on home."
He turned and started toward the door. He had almost reached it when he heard the scream. "Will!" Without thinking, he spun around and dropped to a crouch, just in time to avoid the pistol swung like a club at his head. He came up from his crouch with a hard right hand to Greeley's gut, doubling him over with pain. Greeley sank to his knees, holding his stomach with both arms wrapped around himself. It was only a moment before the contents of his stomach came up to deposit Mammy's fine supper on the saloon floor. Will watched him for a moment to make sure he wasn't going to get up again before looking at Lucy and nodding his thanks. He left then, feeling a little sick inside himself for the disgrace Greeley had brought to them both.
* * *
"I'll be leavin' in the mornin', be gone for a week or more," Will told Ruth Bennett when he walked in the dining room for supper.
"Oh?" Ruth replied. "I hope it's not something dangerous."
"No, ma'am, I'm just gonna transport a prisoner down to Texas, but it's right close to my ranch in Sulphur Springs, so I'll most likely stay over a couple of days just to see how things are going at the J-Bar-J."
"Well," she said, smiling at him, "maybe that will be like a little vacation for you. I mean, after you turn the prisoner over. I think it might be a good occasion to give your room a real cleaning. It's about due."
In the kitchen, Sophie paused to listen to the conversation between Will and her mother. She picked up a platter of pork chops and carried it into the dining room. "So you're gonna be gone again," she said to Will as she placed the platter down before Leonard Dickens, one of the older boarders. "You just got back. Looks like Dan Stone would give you time to catch your breath before sending you back out again."
Will shrugged, not knowing exactly how best to answer. "It's the nature of the business, I reckon. Dan had something he needed to have done and I'm the only one handy right now. Like I told your mama, it's a good chance to visit the ranch. It's been a while since I've been there and Shorty kinda likes to have me check with him now and then."
More than a little interested in the conversation between the two, Ruth had to ask, "Do you ever have any plans to give up the marshaling business and go back to the ranch?"
Will hesitated a moment. "I don't know, but I've been thinkin' about it a lot more lately." He made sure he didn't glance at Sophie when he said it.
Ruth looked at once at her daughter to see the faint smile on Sophie's face. She said nothing, but she wanted to warn her. Don't you go getting your hopes up, young lady. Getting him to settle down on a ranch would be like telling a hawk not to fly anymore. Sometimes it was all she could do to keep from screaming at her daughter in a desperate plea to stop her from traveling the same road she had. She looked at Will. "Are you going to be here for breakfast in the morning?"
"Yes, ma'am," he said. "I reckon I'll most likely be the first one at the table. I wanna get an early start, but I don't wanna miss breakfast here." He told himself that it would take some time to transfer the prisoner into his custody, anyway, so he might as well settle for a late start.
After supper, he went out on the porch while the women cleaned up the dishes to sit and talk with Leonard Dickens and Ron Sample, who had been living at the boardinghouse long before Will came. They were the eldest of Ruth's boarders and they usually sat on the porch after supper to light up their pipes and discuss the news of the day. Will often wondered how they could have any news to discuss, since it seemed they never left the boardinghouse. "Ain't gonna be many more nights before it'll be right nippy settin' out here on the porch," Leonard commented.
"I expect so," Ron agreed. "Then it'll be back to the parlor till spring." Directing his question at Will, he asked, "Gets pretty cold sleepin' out on the prairie, don't it?" When Will confirmed that it did, Ron went on. "You start puttin' some years on you and it'll get a damn sight harder to keep warm. You need you a good woman to keep you warm, and you ain't likely to find one as long as you're ridin' all over Injun Territory, lookin' for outlaws. Ain't that right, Leonard?"
"That's right," Leonard said. "And I expect he knows it. You can tell that by the way he looks at Sophie every time he thinks she ain't lookin' at him."
"You must be smokin' loco weed in that pipe," Will said, with a dismissive chuckle. But the comment gave him reason to be concerned. Had he been that obvious?
"Some lucky young man is bound to tie that little gal up before much longer," Ron said. "Garth Pearson thought he had her lassoed, but she's got too much spirit for him. You'd best step up there, if you're of a mind to. She ain't likely to wait much longer."
"Whaddaya tellin' me all this for?" Will responded. "That's Sophie's business."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Evil Never Sleeps"
Copyright © 2018 J. A. Johnstone.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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