The Greatest Western Writer Of The 21st Century
They called him Flintlock. A bounty hunter with an ancient Hawken muzzle loader and his own way of doing business on the frontier. A loner who has brought down the most vicious killers in the West, Flintlock is a towering, daring hero in William and J.A. Johnstone's electrifying new saga.
Drawn To A Killing Ground. . .
$10,000. That's bounty on the head of the most hated man in Texasthe man that Flintlock has been hired to guard. The crime was the brutal murder of a young school-teacher. The verdict was not guilty for lack of evidence. And the suspected killer's first guard was murdered by a shotgun blast. What makes Flintlock believe in this man's innocence? Call it a gut instinct. Or call maybe just a hankering for a fight. Because Flintlock knows that some very powerful and dangerous people are trying to make a man look guilty as sin. The only way for Flintlock to get the truth now is to go gunning for iton a bad man's blood-soaked killing ground. . .
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 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
By William W. Johnstone, J. A. Johnstone
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 J. A. Johnstone
All rights reserved.
Sam Flintlock smiled and figured the living was easy.
He'd made up a bed of soft pine needles where he could later spread his blankets, the fire burned well, bacon sizzled and the coffee was on the bile.
Then demented Dave Glover called to him out of the darkness and spoiled everything.
"Git up slow, like you got the rheumatisms, and keep your hands where I can see 'em," the old man yelled.
Flintlock got to his feet, his hands away from his sides.
"Turn into the firelight so I can see you," Glover said. "Show yourself now. I can't abide a bashful man."
Then, after a few moments passed, "Hell, you're Sam'l Flintlock."
"Of course I'm Sam Flintlock."
"I heard you'd been hung or shot or some such."
"Who the hell are you?" Flintlock said.
"Dave Glover, standing right here as plain as could ever be."
"Now I know who you are, state your intentions."
"If you're the ranny who stole my sawn lumber, my intentions are to shoot you down quicker'n scat and take it back."
"Dave, you're still the crazy old loon I recollect from the old days."
"Crazy is as crazy does, Sam'l. And remember that this here Henry is both wife and child to me and she's ready to do my talkin'. If sich is necessary, like."
"I didn't take your damned lumber. I got no need for it. Ah, hell, look what you've done. Now my bacon's burning."
"You're low-down, Sam'l, everybody knows that for a natural fact. Are you a thief as well as a hoodlum?"
"Never in my life wanted anything bad enough to steal it, Dave."
"It's a low-down thing to lift a man's lumber, especially from a ranny you know."
"Dave, I heard you was shot dead by Banjo Tom Lister in a saloon up Denver way. "
"Maybe I was."
"So why would I steal a dead man's sawn lumber?"
"You tell me."
"Well, I wouldn't, that's all."
"You heard wrong about Banjo Tom, Sammy. He couldn't shade me on his best day. I put a bullet in his brisket an' that served him right. I'm coming in. You stay right where you're at."
"The bacon will burn."
"Then take it off the fire, boy. I'm sharp set."
Dave Glover, leading a Missouri mule, parted the darkness like a sable curtain and stepped into the orange glow of the campfire, his Henry in his gun hand.
"Damn you, Dave," Flintlock said. "If my bacon had burned I'd have plugged you fer sure."
"Big talk, Sam'l. Take a heap of doin' though."
Flintlock shook his head. "Everybody's right. You are a demented old coot."
"That's a lot of noise comin' from a feller who carries an old Hawken squirrel gun, hunts for his long-lost mama so she can give him a name, talks to the ghost of his mean ol' grandpappy and has a big bird tattooed across his throat."
For a few moments Glover watched Flintlock salvage the bacon, then he said, "Wagon tracks go right past your camp. I seen that."
"They were there when I got here," Flintlock said.
"Is that a fer sure?"
"Yeah, it's a fer sure. I figured it was a supply wagon headed for town."
"Town is that way," Glover said, pointing east. "The tracks are headed that way," he added, pointing west. "Didn't old Barnabas teach you how to read sign?"
"How are you so damned certain?" Flintlock said, irritated.
"Because the hoss goes in front of the wagon and not vice versa. At least that's how it's done around these parts. And the hoss's tracks are headed west, as any damned fool with half an eye can see."
"Hell, you're starting to sound like old Barnabas," Flintlock said.
"Sam. He should've taken a stick to you when you were a younker," Glover said. "I'd say that much is real obvious."
"He did, plenty of times."
"You deserved it."
"Then after I got big enough and mean enough to kick his ass, I guess Barnabas decided I didn't deserve it no more."
"Well, it happened," Flintlock said. "Just like I said it did."
"I never trusted a mountain man to be out of the fight until after I skun him and tanned his hide for a shirt."
"I just showed Barnabas the error of his ways."
"So you say," Glover said.
He was a skinny old man with a gray beard and an eagle feather in his hat. He wore beaded buckskins that were new when Davy Crockett was a younker and Nez Perce moccasins.
Flintlock let his annoyance simmer for a while then said in a reasonable enough tone, "Tether your mule over yonder by my buckskin then set an' eat."
* * *
"I always say that there's no better grub than sowbelly bacon atween two slices of fried sourdough bread," Glover said, wiping grease off his mouth with the back of his hand.
"That's what you always say, huh?" Flintlock said.
Glover accepted the makings from the younger man and began to build a cigarette.
Then, without looking up, he said, "I don't think you stole my lumber. "
"Well, that's good to know," Flintlock said. "Kind of makes a man feel good all over. Don't it?"
The old man tossed the makings back to Flintlock.
"I'm building a house, Sam'l," he said.
"What kind of house?"
"Two stories tall with a parlor and maybe three bedrooms."
Flintlock used a brand from the fire to light his cigarette.
"That's how come your sawn lumber got stole."
Glover nodded. "That's a real brilliant deduction, Sammy. Yup, stole from right under my nose up on Rock Creek yonder, south of the Sans Bois."
"You're a crazy old coot, Dave, letting folks steal your lumber for a house you shouldn't be building in the first place."
"How come that, Sammy?"
"Why are you building a house where there never was a house afore and probably never will be again?"
"Except for mine," Glover said, behind a blue coil of cigarette smoke.
"I know I'm going to regret this, but tell me why," Flintlock said.
"The reason you're building a big house in a damned wilderness."
"All righty then, Sammy, but first let me say something," Glover said. "An' I don't want to hurt your feelings, mind, but you ain't gonna like this, you being so sensitive an' all."
"I don't get hurt easily."
The old man sighed, as though he was real sad about what he had to say.
"Well, see, you just ain't attractive to women, so there are some things you just don't understand. I'm sorry, but that's the way of it with you. I mean, you got that great big beak of a nose and a mustache hanging under it like a dead rat an'—"
"I catch your drift," Flintlock said, testy as hell.
"Glad you do."
"Why are you building a house? My question in the first damn place."
"Me, I'm a handsome feller, Sam'l, an' when I cut a dash the ladies go wild. The thing is though, I'm plumb tired of fighting them off, so I plan to settle down with just one woman, a nice fat gal who'll take good care of me and be the queen of my ... castle on the creek."
Glover stared at Flintlock, his eyes glittering in the firelight.
"That's how it's gonna be, Sammy."
"Dave, how old are you? Seventy? Eighty?"
"I don't rightly know."
"Well, you're too old a tomcat to be playing around with kittlins."
"Miss Maybelline Bell don't think so."
"Who the hell is she?"
"Lady I got all picked out already and she's more'n willin'. Miss Maybelline was happy to take my gage I'amour, a nice silver ring with a blue stone on it."
"How old is she, this gal who's tetched enough in the head to accept a love token from a loco old coot like you?"
"Oh, seventeen I guess, and as pretty as a fresh-painted Studebaker wagon."
"You said she's fat. How fat?" Flintlock said.
"Oh, I guess she'd dress out around three hundred."
"She'll crush your poor old bones to a powder, Dave."
"Way to go though, huh?"
Flintlock poured himself coffee and when he'd raised the cup to his lips. Glover said, "D'ye mind Black John Miles, Sammy?"
Suddenly Flintlock was wary.
"Yeah, I recollect him," he said. His voice was slow as he took time to think.
"I shot him off'n you that time. Now where was that?"
"In the New Mexico Territory down in the Twin Butte country," Flintlock said.
"Is that right? So that's where it was."
"You mind fine where it was. At the time we were runnin' with Billy Bonney and that hard Lincoln County crowd and you haven't forgotten that."
"Black John would've cut your suspenders fer sure that day. Had you on your back with a Green River pigsticker at your throat."
"I could have handled him."
"Hell, you was drunk."
"So was Black John."
"Your old Hawken was back at camp and you fell on your Colt and couldn't get the damned thing shucked. You mind that? You squealin' like a piglet caught under a gate, a-tuggin' an' a-haulin' at your iron an' Black John standin' over you like the very wrath of God."
Flintlock opened his mouth to speak, but Glover's laugh cut across his bow.
"I recollect Black John told you he was gonna cut you to collops then carve the big bird off your throat and get it tanned to use as a hatband."
"He dreamed big, did John."
"He was a thumper an' a moonlight howler, warn't he?"
"Most folks said that. I didn't."
"Anyhoo, when he threatened the cuttin' an' you lying there all scared an' big-eyed, like ---"
"Black John didn't scare me, old man. Then or ever."
"I upped my Henry and scattered his brains all over creation. I was fearin' for your life, like." Glover cackled and slapped his thigh. "Good times, Sam'l, huh?"
"Yeah, well, I don't know about that. After all was said and done and the gunsmoke cleared, Billy was dead and so were Tom O'Folliard, John Tunstall and Alexander McSween, all fellers I liked."
He stared bleakly at Glover. "We sure picked the wrong side in that fight."
"Billy teached you what gunfightin' was all about, though, Sammy," the old man said. "It was what schoolmarms call a learnin' experience."
He motioned for the makings again. "I mean, that's why you're such a success in your chosen profession."
"Bounty hunting isn't a profession," Flintlock said. "It's like cow punching, a job a man does when he can't do anything else."
Glover's hair was as long and luxuriant as Wild Bill Hickok's, but gray as a badger. Now, before he spoke again, he tied it back with a rawhide string so it hung down his back like a horse's tail.
"You owe me, Sam," he said, his voice a whisper. Another sigh, deeper this time. "But then, these days a man doesn't recollect what other folks have done fer him in the past. That's progress, I guess."
"You're calling in the favor, huh?" Flintlock said, frowning.
"I don't want to push it, Sammy," the old man. "It ain't polite."
Flintlock let out his own dramatic sigh. "All right, you read the tracks. How many of them?"
"Three. One of them could be Jake Ruskin. I ain't saying it's so, but it could be."
"Ruskin never leaves the Brazos River country and nothing can budge him," Flintlock said. "And he ain't one to steal a load of timber either, not while he can earn gun wages, he ain't."
"He's got kin here in the Oklahoma Territory," Glover said. "Ol' Jake might be visiting and doing them a kindness, like."
"Well, if you say some fellers stole your building wood, and I guess they did, one of them wasn't Jake Ruskin."
"You don't reckon so?"
"No, I don't. So forget the idea."
"Well, if it is Jake, I'll deal with him," Glover said. "I got my hair all tied back fer gunfightin' and he'll know it."
"You can't shade Ruskin in a straight-up gunfight," Flintlock said.
"I reckon not. Kin you?"
"I sure don't want to make a trial of it."
The old man rose to his feet, tall, grim and sinewy in the fire glow.
"Good, then we're agreed that we're both afeared of Jake Ruskin. So let's go get 'er done, Sammy."
"If it is Ruskin, you could get us both killed," Flintlock said. "He ain't much of a one for taking prisoners."
"I ain't reckoning on that," Glover said. He thumped his chest with the palm of his hand. "Hell, I got a house to build and a fat young filly to bed."CHAPTER 2
Moonlight lay among the pines like winter frost as Sam Flintlock and Dave Glover followed the wagon tracks west across rolling hill country. For an hour the only sound was the creak of saddle leather and the steady thud of their mounts' hooves on grama grass.
Then Glover said, "Tracks swinging south."
"I see them," Flintlock said.
"A couple of settlements that way. They plan to sell my lumber, the damned rogues."
"How much is it worth?" Flintlock said, already missing his soft bed of pine needles.
Chasing after three small-time thieves was a diversion he didn't need, not when he was on his way to a good-paying job.
"To me, a whole lot," Glover said. "On the open market, fifty or sixty dollars. Call it sixty because they stole a keg of tenpenny nails besides."
"Split three ways, that's twenty dollars each," Flintlock said. "Them boys are sure going to a lot of trouble for twenty dollars."
"The hoss and wagon was mine as well," Glover said.
All at once Flintlock's mood got a lot grumpier.
"They stole your hoss and wagon? What the hell were you doing when all this was going on?"
"Sleepin' off a drunk."
"Damn it, you know you can't drink whiskey."
"It was gin. I made myself up a batch of gin punch with hot water and lemons. Celebrating my upcoming nuptials by wetting the bride's head, like."
"She was with you?"
"Yeah. And that little gal snores when she's been drinkin'."
Glover abruptly drew rein and his mule tossed its head in annoyance.
"Smell the smoke?" he said.
Flintlock turned, lifted his head and his great beak of a nose tested the wind.
"I sure do," he said. "And it's close. We'll go the rest of the way on foot."
The old man's store-bought teeth gleamed in the darkness.
"Bringing your Hawken?"
"Hell no. I only shoot her on Sundays."
"This is Sunday."
"Then it's every other Sunday."
Flintlock swung out of the saddle and slid his Winchester from the boot.
"This is your kind of business, Sammy," Glover said. "How do we play it?"
"Take them alive if we can, kill them if we can't."
"You ain't a man who gives out too many options, Sam."
"No, I ain't." Then, suddenly irritable, "Let's get the damned thing over with. Shooting scrapes in the middle of the night don't set well with me."
Flintlock and Glover made their way through the pines, following the orange glimmer of the robbers' campfire.
The moon had drawn a veil of gray cloud across its face like a mournful ghost and in the distance a hunting pair of coyotes called to each other. The air was cool and thin and smelled of dust. Lime green frogs plopped into a nearby rain pond and old Glover jumped and swung his rifle on them. Then he muttered to himself and walked on.
When Flintlock was close enough to the camp to make out three men lying close to the fire under blankets, he motioned Glover to separate from him. When the old man got ten yards away he held up a hand and stopped him.
Flintlock had no worries about the old-timer holding up his end of the bargain. He'd stand firm and get his work in and he'd killed more than his share back in the olden days when Billy was still above ground.
Gun-savvy geezers like Dave Glover were always dangerous men in a fight. They knew they were too old for a knock-down-drag-out, so they just killed you.
Straightening from his crouch, Flintlock waved Glover forward and walked into the camp, a fire-splashed clearing in the trees where a nearby stream babbled as it bubbled over a pebbled bottom. Somewhere a startled owl questioned the night and rustled a tree branch with restless wings.
"On yer feet, you thieving scum!" Glover yelled, his rifle at the ready.
Flintlock swore. It was a way, but it wasn't his way. He'd planned on getting closer to give the robbers no chance of drawing iron. But Glover had gifted them a margin and the three men took advantage of it.
All at once all hell broke loose.
As men who live their lives on the scout do, the thieves woke instantly. They tangled out of their blankets and jumped to their feet, cursing, guns in hand. But there was a split second delay as the outlaws sought targets in the amber gloom.
It was enough time when killing was to be done.
Flintlock's and Glover's rifles roared at the same time, shots aimed from the shoulder.
Excerpted from FLINTLOCK by William W. Johnstone, J. A. Johnstone. Copyright © 2014 J. A. Johnstone. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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