From a master storyteller of the Old West: A ferocious tale of murder, loyalty, and revenge set in a rough-and-tumble frontier town.
Tony Braden’s first sin was being an Englishman in the American West. His second was being rich enough to try and make a go of ranching.
Those two faults were enough to whet the appetites of the fine citizens of Indian Bend, who proceeded to hornswoggle, ridicule, and outright rob the uncomprehending Brit for an outrageous amount of money. Then someone decided to finish the deceptive dance with a knife straight to the gut. No one blinked an eye when Braden died in a pool of his own blood.
No one, that is, except Traf Kinnard. Braden had been like a brother to him . . . until the man stole away the woman he loved. Now she’s in danger, and to protect her, Kinnard must find his old friend’s killer—even if it means turning Indian Bend from a town into a cemetery.
Luke Short, along with such legendary authors as Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour, helped transform the stories of the American West from dime-store pulp into a respected and immensely popular literary genre. Guns of Hanging Lake is one of the grittiest and most suspenseful of his classic novels.
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About the Author
Born in Kewanee, Illinois, Glidden graduated in 1930 from the University of Missouri where he studied journalism. After working for several newspapers, he became a trapper in Canada and, later, an archaeologist’s assistant in New Mexico. His first story, “Six-Gun Lawyer,” was published in Cowboy Stories magazine in 1935 under the name F. D. Glidden. At the suggestion of his publisher, he used the pseudonym Luke Short, not realizing it was the name of a real gunman and gambler who was a friend of Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp. In addition to his prolific writing career, Glidden worked for the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. He moved to Aspen, Colorado, in 1946, and became an active member of the Aspen Town Council, where he initiated the zoning laws that helped preserve the town.
Read an Excerpt
The Guns of Hanging Lake
By Luke Short
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1968 Frederick D. Glidden
All rights reserved.
"You can see for yourself, Traf. It was done with a knife. It went in and up under the lowest rib."
"Looks like it," Traf Kinnard agreed somberly. Abe Pemberton drew the blanket up so it covered the still young face. Tom Gore, the third man, turned away first and moved toward the wide doorway that led onto the loading platform of Pemberton's Hardware Store. Traf and Pemberton came up and halted beside him in the doorway and all of them looked out into the sunny October noon.
They were as dissimilar as three men could be. Pemberton, a small harried-looking merchant of fifty, whose white shirt sleeves were held up by black sleeve guards, came barely above the shoulders of Traf Kinnard, who was tall enough so that few men could look levelly into his wide-spaced amber-colored eyes. His was a long-jawed face under straight black hair, and at the moment the lips of his wide mouth were straight and grimly set. He was dressed in worn range clothes and his tan duck jacket, rain-shrunk from past weather, had a split seam that had been unable to contain his wide shoulders. He was a year over thirty, big-boned and solid but not heavy, and he gave the impression of a man who found it hard to be patient for very long.
Tom Gore said, "You shipping the body back to England, Abe?"
"We've got to get him underground, Tom. Maybe later when we know what the family wants."
Gore only nodded. He was a lean-faced, bleach-eyed Texan, all stringy muscles and angular bone. He wore range clothes similar to Kinnard's — not new, not patched, but well used. A man of forty, his leathery face now held a look of quiet vindictiveness which was not strange, since he was the foreman of the ranch owned by the man lying dead in the dusky room behind them.
Traf looked from one man to the other and asked, "Dickey back from roundup yet?"
Pemberton said with distaste, "He's back. Back in the saloon too. I can tell you as much about it as he can. All he knows is what I told him."
"Then tell me," Traf said.
Out of habit, Pemberton tugged at his shirt sleeves, which remained firmly anchored by the sleeve guards. "To begin with, all we've got is Len Stapp's story, Traf. He was on night shift at the telegraph. Snyder came in to relieve him at six this morning. Stapp didn't go out the street door. He headed for the platform door to see if the cattle in that last train had messed up the depot platform. He almost tripped over young Braden. Dead. Him and Snyder carried Braden inside and laid him on one of the benches, then Stapp tried to find that damn deputy and couldn't."
Gore said, "Dickey had to stay until the last critter was loaded."
"Yes," Pemberton said. "Then Len Stapp came to me and I picked up the body."
Traf said impatiently, "How could Braden get knifed fifteen feet from Stapp, and Len not know it?"
"All right," Pemberton said calmly. "Just remember, this is Len's story. Braden came in around midnight and asked if he could hop one of the stock trains to New Hope. Stapp told him to take the next one and never charged him fare. Young Braden went out on the platform to wait for the next train. Stapp forgot him."
"Anybody else on the platform?"
"Not then, Stapp says. When the train come through and stopped for water, Stapp saw a man come from the caboose end. He crossed the platform toward the engine, but then the whistle blew. He turned around and started back for the caboose. Then he stopped to speak with someone on the platform."
"Braden?" Traf asked.
"Stapp reckons so, but his back was to him and he didn't even try and see."
"Did Stapp hear what the man said?" Traf asked.
"Couldn't. Not with the racket the cattle was makin'."
"What did this man look like?" Traf asked.
"Stapp didn't know him. Said he was white-haired, with a chopped-off white beard. Tall. Wore a buckskin jacket and Indian moccasins. Prospector, maybe. Wolfer, maybe, because he had a knife in his belt. Stapp figured he was ridin' the caboose, because he was in a hurry to get back to the end of the train when it started."
Gore spat out onto the platform and then asked thinly, "You find any money on Braden?"
"Plenty. I'll turn it over to you, Tom."
Traf said, "Are you saying he killed him for money and didn't have time to collect it, Tom?"
"What else makes sense? And that don't make much."
"Remember that row at roundup, Tom? Remember why Braden was takin' the train?"
Gore nodded. "To bring Sheriff Vance back here from New Hope."
"A lot of people heard him say he was going, didn't they?" Traf asked.
Gore confirmed this was so by a nod, and then Pemberton said, "What's all this?"
Traf was the one who answered. "Why, Dickey was brand referee. A lot of Dickey's calls went against Tony Braden. Finally, Braden blew his top. He said he was leaving to bring in the sheriff."
Gore said, "When I got him alone, I told Tony to telegraph Sheriff Vance. Braden said he'd reported rustling of Bar B beef before and Vance hadn't done a damn thing about it. He said he was going in and tell him face to face and bring him back. I told him to try the telegraph one more time. Just before he rode out of our camp he said he'd think about it."
"So he changed his mind about going in?" Pemberton asked.
Gore shrugged. "Don't sound like it, if he asked Stapp for a train ride."
"But to all those men that heard the row it sounded as if he was going in to bring Vance back, didn't it?" Traf said.
"Sure did," Gore agreed. "And looks like that's what he tried to do."
"So the whole damn roundup knew he was leaving."
"They sure did," Gore said.
"Then anybody rustling his beef and wanting to stop that trip could have knifed him?"
"They sure could," Gore agreed again.
They were silent a moment, considering what had been said. Traf broke the silence. "When do you bury him?"
"Tomorrow at two."
Traf nodded, turned, and went back through the storeroom into the store, walked down the nearest aisle and stepped out onto the boardwalk into bright sunshine.
The harsh light of early afternoon was anything but kind to this small cattlemen's supply point of Indian Bend. Across the dusty road was the depot where Anthony Braden's body had been found. Since the railroad stock pens were at Lime Creek Flats ten miles to the south where the roundup always took place, the depot was only useful to house the telegraph office and to shelter an occasional passenger. All of Indian Bend lay this side of the tracks, and beyond the depot was unbroken prairie that stretched to the foothills of the Gabriels to the far west.
Traf turned down the boardwalk heading for the two-story frame Stockmen's House on the corner. Even though he had seen Tony Braden dead, it was still difficult for him to accept it. Three years ago, on the death of Traf's father, he had returned from the north to take over K Cross. Anthony Braden, in Traf's absence, had bought the old Finch spread and renamed it the Bar B, paying far too many English pounds for its vast acreage. The initial overpayment for land had been a mistake that young Braden had never been able to live down. He had been taken advantage of, and the people of the Indian Bend country saw no reason why they shouldn't take advantage of him again and again. To begin with, his speech and his mannerisms were utterly foreign to them. In their eyes, he was a roistering gullible youngster who was paid to stay out of England — a remittance man.
Traf remembered their first meeting, which occurred at a ford on the River Cheat some miles below the Bar B. Traf approached the ford, and at sight of a fisherman standing just below the shallow riffles he reined in to watch. Braden had a long delicate rod and he was fly-casting expertly and often, and to no avail. From the bank Traf could see what he was after, for the dorsel fins of several big fish were poking out of the shallow riffle.
After watching for a few minutes, Traf put his horse into the shallow ford and, of course, scattered the fish. Young Braden was furious and said he was "bloody damn rude." Traf explained that the trout he was after were German Browns and were spawning at this season, so they would not even take bait, let alone fly.
That was the beginning of a real friendship. Tony Braden had turned out to be one of the most likable, well-read, hot- tempered, generous, and wild young men Traf had ever known. Over three years they had traded books, horses, opinions, and experiences until they were the firmest of friends.
And now he was dead. Murdered.CHAPTER 2
The burden of the investigation of Braden's murder was on Deputy Sheriff Russ Dickey's shoulders, and if Traf knew his man, Dickey would shrug it off. Tony, as the youngest son of a titled British family, had been envied, resented, and put upon by most of Indian Bend, and by Dickey in particular.
As Traf passed Parson's General Store, he observed the line of cow ponies and buckboards racked from there to the corner doors of the Stockmen's House. No wonder the street was empty, he thought. Everybody in the country was elebrating the finish of roundup.
Long before Traf reached the Stockmen's House bar, he could hear the babble of talk and laughter coming over and under the swing doors.
When Traf shouldered through the doors, he halted inside just clear of them. This was a big, high-ceilinged room, with a bar to the right and half a dozen round tables for cards on the left. At the moment there was a fog of tobacco smoke that hung just over the heads of the men thronging the bar. Most of the chairs around the tables were filled, and Traf threaded his way through the crowd, speaking and nodding to the men who greeted him.
As he had expected, Russ Dickey was there, seated at the rear table along with another man. Dickey was a big man of perhaps thirty-five with a heavy-jowled gross face. On his vest was the badge of the deputy sheriff of Ritchey County. Because the county seat of New Hope and its sheriff were forty miles away, Russ Dickey was in effect the only law in Indian Bend and the surrounding range. In Traf's opinion, he was a man of arrogance and monumental stupidity.
Dickey was talking to Clete Fannin, an old puncher Traf had known since childhood. Both men had glasses and bottles in front of them and were smoking cigars.
When Dickey saw Traf, the expression on his smiling face altered subtly; his glance shifted back to his companion and his smile suddenly seemed strained. He's remembering yesterday, Traf thought. When Traf halted by the table, Fannin looked up at him and said, "How are you, Traf?" in an amiable tone.
"Good, Clete. Can I take Russ away from you for a minute?"
Dickey, hearing this, said jovially, "Take a chair and tell me what's bothering you, Traf." Then he added, "Unless you want it private."
Traf hesitated only a moment, then said, "No, it isn't private, Russ."
He pulled out a chair and sat down. The racket of the talk in the crowded room made him hitch his chair closer to Dickey, who gestured toward the glasses and bottles and cigars in the middle of the table.
"Help yourself," he said.
Traf took a cigar. As he lit it he was conscious of Clete watching him with a careful curiosity.
"Just came from Pemberton's," Traf began.
Dickey nodded soberly. "Queer way to kill a man, ain't it? I mean, queer for this country."
"Well, a knife doesn't make any noise," Traf observed. Then he asked, "You send word to the family, Russ?"
"I telegraphed Sheriff Vance. He'll do it."
"You got any notion who did it?"
"Maybe. But not why."
"The why's easy enough," Traf said quietly. "Braden was aiming to bring Vance back here, and somebody didn't want him to."
Dickey's heavy face scowled. "You mean over Braden's claim yesterday at roundup? That somebody was changing his brand?"
Traf nodded. "Why else would he be hopping a freight at midnight? The whole country is rustling Bar B beef. You know it and I know it."
"Suspect it," Dickey corrected.
"Still, Braden's dead," Traf replied. His eyes remained on Dickey. "You said you've got a notion who did it, Russ. Well, who?"
As soon as Dickey began to talk, Traf knew he had talked with Len Stapp, for he told the same story about the old boy crossing the platform the night before that Pemberton had recounted. Dickey finished by saying, "Who else was around?"
"Why'd he do it?"
"I told you maybe he did it, and I said I didn't know why."
"What've you done to try and find him?"
Dickey said in sardonic anger, "Exactly nothing."
"Like always," Traf goaded.
"All right, who do I ask for by name?" Dickey challenged. "That train was a long time past New Hope before I heard about Braden. If the old boy done it, would he stay on that train? No. The first time it slowed down for a grade he likely jumped the train. Or maybe he got off at Kean's Ferry. Or New Hope. Or maybe he's still on it. How am I s'posed to know?"
"Or care," Traf said wearily.
Dickey was silent a moment. "But you care. Why? What was that sissy Englishman to you? He owe you money?"
Traf rose and said in disgust, "You wouldn't understand, Russ."
"Go ahead, tell me."
Traf looked at Clete and then his glance returned to Russ. "All right. That boy was a stranger in a strange country, and he turned out being everybody's pigeon. He got cheated in every trade he made. Everybody doubled prices on him. Even his whiskey cost him fifty cents a shot while the man next to him got a water glass full for a quarter. Like I said, the whole country lived off his beef. They were all brand-changing on him." He paused. "So now he's killed and you don't give a damn. You've stood by and watched him taken. You don't care enough to try and find out who killed him." He stopped for a moment to emphasize what he would say next. "Can I make it any plainer, Russ? The law here adds up to one incompetent son of a bitch."
Dickey came out of his barrel chair with an abruptness that tipped it over and Traf backhanded him a clout on the face that staggered him backwards until he tripped over the chair and fell flat on his back. The violence of his fall kited the gun out of his holster and sent it skidding out of reach.
As he put elbows under him to rise, Traf threw his cigar on the floor, then lifted out his own gun. He didn't point it, but only said, "Don't pick yours up, Russ," and he laid his own gun on the table.
Dickey struggled to his feet, unhurt but wild with anger at this humiliation. Kicking the chair out of the way, he charged Traf; and Traf, welcoming this at last, charged him. They met with such a body-jolting impact that each of them bounced back off the other. Dickey's Stetson flew off and he put both arms out, his legs driving in for a bear hug. This left his paunchy belly wide open and Traf buried his fist in it. The blow almost jackknifed Dickey and he brought his arms down for protection, but his churning legs drove him into Traf, and Dickey's head butted Traf savagely in the chest, slamming him back against the table.
Fannin leaped to his feet and backed away, and the men at the bar, seeing a fight, left their drinks and crowded over to watch. Already they were partisan, some yelling encouragements to Dickey, others yelling for Traf to stomp him.
Traf came away from the table, and seeing Dickey's head still bowed as he fought for breath, he reached out, grabbed a fistful of Dickey's curly red hair, shoved his head back, and then drove his fist into Dickey's contorted face. Dickey slewed sideways and caught his balance by grabbing the chair that Clete, with bottle in hand, had just vacated.
Dickey shook his head as if to clear it, and then saw Traf's gun on the table. Tossing the chair away from him, he lunged for the gun, but Traf, seeing his intent, dived for the table and with a sweep of his arm brushed the gun off into the encircling crowd of men.
Impatient to get at Dickey now, Traf skidded the table aside, and cut off Dickey's attempt to hide behind it. Patiently, implacably, Traf began to pull the tired Dickey into the corner. The men were shouting now, and two men (nobody knew who later) started swinging at each other. This fight in turn ignited others, and Traf, straining to keep Dickey off balance and backing up, was dimly aware of the change in the voices of the crowd.
When Dickey's back was jammed into the corner, Traf felt a wild exultation. Here Dickey could get no purchase for his blows, and now Traf went to work. His shoulder pinning Dickey back, he drove blow after blow into Dickey's fatty midriff and all Dickey could do was flail him with weak blows and try to claw his way past him. His face close to Dickey's head, Traf could hear the other's breath explode at each blow.
Dickey's heavy arms now lay across Traf's shoulders, and Traf knew the time had come. He backed away a step from Dickey, shrugged Dickey's arm off his own left shoulder, waited until it fell, and then, propping Dickey up with his right hand, he drove his left fist into the side of Dickey's heavy jaw. The blow drove Dickey's head against the wall, and then his body simply melted to the floor, slack as a piece of dropped cloth.
Excerpted from The Guns of Hanging Lake by Luke Short. Copyright © 1968 Frederick D. Glidden. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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