Johnstone Country. Where Freedom Rings.
Do unto others—before they do unto you
With a brace of Colt .44s, a deadly aim, and a bullet-shredded Bible, Lazarus Cain has already made a name for himself in Texas. Bent on pilfering a herd of cattle and a team of horses, Cain makes a big mistake when he crosses Smoke Jensen beacuse Smoke’s going to blow Cain back to his maker. But not before he gives him a flaming taste of Hell—Mountain Man style . . .
Live Free. Read Hard.
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
Calvin Woods was talking to himself as he rode out to the northern section of the Sugarloaf Ranch. He and Pearlie, the foreman, had been stringing fence earlier, and Cal had forgotten to load up the extra wire and tools when it came time to head back to the ranch house. Now he was having to ride all the way back out there to pick up the tools, and was giving Pearlie first shot at the bear sign donuts Miss Sally was sure to have cooling in the kitchen.
"Darn it all, by the time I get back Pearlie'll have 'bout near all them bear sign eaten up, Dusty," Cal said bitterly to the back of his horse's head. "I'll be lucky if'n I get more'n one or two."
Cal's horse was the offspring of a cross between Joey Wells's big strawberry roan named Red and one of the Palouse mares Sally had given to him and his wife a couple of years ago. The horse, called a quicksilver gray, was actually almost pure white, differing from a true white albino by having blue eyes instead of pink. The bronc was a pale gray in front with snow-white hips, without the typical Palouse spots on its hindquarters. Cal had named him Dusty, and had formed a deep bond with the animal the first time he'd ridden him.
He found the tools where he'd left them and loaded them in a burlap sack, which he tied to the back of his saddle. As he stood next to his horse, he built himself a cigarette. He figured he'd smoke it out here, since Smoke Jensen's wife, Sally, didn't much care for him smoking. She said he was too young, and he'd have plenty of time to smoke and drink all he wanted when he got older.
Heck, he thought, I'm old enough to smoke or drink if'n I want to. I'm dang sure old enough to string ten miles of fence 'round this here pasture an' work 'til I'm sore all over.
As he puffed, he looked out over the herd of Hereford and shorthorn mixes. Smoke was really smart to get those Herefords from Mr. Chisum an' breed 'em with the shorthorns last year, he thought. They sure do throw off some good lookin' calves.
He remembered what Miss Sally had said when she proposed the crossbreeding — that the crosses would be more hardy, give more and better tasting meat, and be more resistant to disease than either of the parent breeds.
Just as he stubbed out his cigarette, he heard the sound of horses, lots of them, coming from just over a nearby ridge.
Wonder who that could be? he thought. This pasture is smack in the middle of the Sugarloaf, and there shouldn't be nobody riding across it unless they're up to no good.
He swung into the saddle and loosened the rawhide hammer thong on his Colt as he rode toward the ridge. Lately, he'd taken to imitating his hero, Smoke Jensen, and carried both a Winchester in his left saddle boot and a Greener 10- gauge double-barreled express gun in his right boot.
Cresting the ridge, he pulled the shotgun from its scabbard and eared back the hammers as he reined his horse to a halt.
Down the hill, he saw a group of about fifteen or twenty men on horseback. Several of the riders were cutting a fat steer out of the herd while the others sat in their saddles, watching.
Cal was trying to decide whether he should ride down and brace the men alone or hightail it back to the ranch house and get some help. He didn't particularly like the odds of twenty to one, but he knew if he took the time to go for backup the men might be gone by the time they got back here.
His decision was made for him when one of the rustlers looked up and saw him sitting on the ridge. He leaned over and spoke to a tall man wearing a black frock coat, who turned to stare at Cal.
"Heck," Cal mumbled to his horse, "in for a penny, in for a pound, as they say."
He spurred his bronc down the hill and rode up to the group.
"Howdy, gents," he said, speaking to the tall man who appeared to be in charge.
Up close, the galoot was even stranger looking than he had been from a distance. He appeared to be over six and a half feet tall, was skinny to the point of being gaunt, and had a scraggly goatee covering his lips and chin. His eyes had a wild, haunted look as if there was nothing behind them, and he was dressed all in black, from his coat and vest to his pants and boots. His boiled shirt was the only spot of lightness about him. As he turned in the saddle, Cal could see he wore a Colt on each hip, and a Henry Yellow Boy rifle was resting across his thighs.
All in all, he reminded Cal of the man named Ichabod Crane in the story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" Miss Sally had read to him when he was taking his schooling.
"You men are aware you're trespassin' on private property, aren't you?" Cal asked when he got no response to his greeting.
"What is your name, boy?" the man in black asked.
"My name's Cal. What's yours?"
"Lazarus. Lazarus Cain," the man answered, acting as if the name should mean something to Cal.
"Have you been saved, Cal?" Lazarus asked.
Cal snorted. The man's eyes didn't lie. He was crazy.
"Saved from what?" Cal asked, his eyebrows raised.
"Why, from hell and damnation, of course."
"What's all this got to do with the fact you men are stealin' my boss's cattle?"
"I don't like this young pup calling me a thief, boss," a young Mexican said, kicking his horse to ride up in front of Cal. He put his hand on his pistol butt and added, "Why don't I just kill him?"
Lazarus turned his head to look at Cal, his eyebrows raised, as if waiting to see how Cal would handle the challenge.
"Anytime you think you're ready, cabrón," Cal said, easing the barrel of the express gun toward the Mexican.
Cabrón being about the worst thing a Mexican could be called, the man went for his pistol.
Cal let the hammer down on his shotgun, firing from the hip, and splattered the Mexican all over the men behind him, blowing him out of the saddle to land in several pieces on the ground.
As the explosion echoed across the hilly landscape and the horses jumped and crow-hopped at the noise, Cal pulled the barrel around until it pointed at Lazarus.
"We got you outnumbered twenty to one, boy," Lazarus said, staring at Cal with an appraising stare.
Cal inclined his head toward the body on the ground. "Nineteen to one now, Mr. Cain, an' if'n any more of your men get itchy trigger fingers, you'll be the next one I kill."
"You're pretty brave sitting behind that shotgun, boy."
Cal showed his teeth, but he wasn't smiling. "Like Mr. Colt said, God created all men equal, only this here express gun makes some more equal than others." He inclined his head. "Now, I'd suggest you gentlemen ride on outta here, leavin' the beeves you've cut outta the herd behind."
As he finished speaking, Cal saw out of the corner of his eye a man start to raise a pistol.
He swiveled in his saddle and fired the second barrel of the Greener, blowing the man's right arm off at the shoulder and slamming him out of the saddle.
Before he could turn back, Lazarus drew his pistol and fired twice, one slug taking Cal in the left shoulder and the other in the right chest, shattering a rib and imbedding itself deep within his chest.
Cal was catapulted off his horse to land flat on his back, staring at a cloudless, blue sky.
Lazarus got off his mount and walked over to stand looking down at Cal.
"You got a lot of sand — I'll say that for you boy."
Cal's vision blurred, then focused in time to see Lazarus do the strangest thing ... He pulled out a Bible and held it up, spreading his hands wide toward heaven. Then he began to pray for Cal's soul in a loud, harsh voice.
As the crazy man prayed, Cal noticed blackness creeping across the sky until it became a large, dark hole which swallowed him up.
* * *
After Cal lapsed into unconsciousness, Lazarus continued to pray for a few moments. He had started to walk back toward his horse when he noticed Dusty standing a short distance away from Cal.
He pursed his lips, thinking. Then his eyes widened and a joyful expression came over his face. He walked over and picked up Dusty's reins, calming the horse with a low, soothing voice when he tried to shy away from the stranger.
Lazarus pulled the reins and led Dusty over to the group of men waiting to see what he would do next.
He grinned and pointed at the white horse with one hand, held up his Bible, and began to speak in low, sonorous tones, "So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean, Lazarus?" asked Blackie Jackson, who sat leaning forward in his saddle with his arms crossed over his saddle horn.
Lazarus cut his eyes toward Blackie. "That, Blackie, for your information, is from the Bible, the Book of Revelation, chapter six, verse eight."
"Yeah, boss, but what's it mean?" asked Curly Joe Ventrillo as he upended a small bottle of whiskey and drained it dry.
"Coming upon this young man, with his pale horse, is another sign from God that I ... that is we, are on the correct path. That we are indeed doing his bidding and will be rewarded with his blessings."
"So, you intend to take that white hoss, or what?" asked another of Lazarus's gang members — Tom "Behind the Deuces" Cartwright.
Lazarus bent and released the belly cinch on Cal's saddle and let it drop to the ground. "Yes, I intend to ride this pale horse, as the Bible said, and I will ride across a fourth of the country, like Death followed by Hades, killing and doing God's work until he calls us home."
Blackie Jackson covered a prodigious yawn with a ham-like hand. "Well, whatever the hell you're gonna do, you better hurry up and do it. Them shots are liable to bring some more punchers on the run."
"If anyone else comes, we will deal with them the same way we did this young man," Lazarus said, as he tightened down his saddle on Cal's bronc.
"I for one do not mind fighting, old chap," said Jeremy Brett, the Englishman, "but personally, I would rather save my energies for when there might be a possibility of profit in the matter."
Lazarus climbed into the saddle. "Well said, Jeremy." He put the spurs to Dusty's flanks and called out, "Let's ride!"CHAPTER 2
Smoke Jensen, legendary gunfighter, leaned against the wall of his cabin with his arms folded and watched his ranch foreman, Pearlie, devour Sally's bear sign donuts as if he hadn't eaten for months. Sally, standing next to the kitchen table, wiped flour off her nose and shook her head. As many times as she'd seen Pearlie eat, it still amazed her how much food the cowboy could put away.
Standing just under six feet tall, Pearlie weighed no more than a hundred and fifty pounds and hadn't an ounce of fat on his body. His face was brown as mahogany and wrinkled from twenty years riding in the sun, and one could usually tell what he'd had for his last meal from the crumbs that accumulated in his handlebar mustache. He was a good foreman, and his hands were intensely loyal in spite of the many practical jokes he played on them.
"Pearlie," Smoke asked, "didn't you just have breakfast a few hours ago?"
Pearlie mumbled something, but his mouth was so full Smoke couldn't understand him.
Pearlie swallowed with an audible gulp, then washed the donuts down with a tall glass of fresh cow's milk. "I said, I was runnin' late this mornin' an' I only got to eat three or four hen's eggs and a handful of bacon and three or four biscuits. Wasn't hardly enough to keep a body alive 'til noontime."
"Oh, I see what you mean," Smoke said. "I guess I'm going to have to talk to Cookie about keeping you men on starvation rations."
Pearlie nodded, then took the platter of bearsign and put them in the cabinet, out of sight. He broke off a small piece of one and placed it in the middle of the table on a plate.
"Pearlie, what are you doing?" Sally asked.
Pearlie grinned. "When Cal gets back here, all he's gonna see is that little bitty piece of bearsign, an' he's gonna think I ate 'em all up." He laughed. "Boy, is he gonna be mad."
Pearlie, like most of the Sugarloaf hired hands, thought of Cal as a little brother, and was continually teasing him about one thing or another. Cal had even complained that he was getting calluses on his back from Pearlie riding him so much.
Smoke walked out on the porch to light a cigar and finish his coffee, as Sally didn't allow smoking in the cabin. He smiled to himself, thinking back on how Pearlie had come to work for him and the changes in the young man since that day.
Pearlie had come to work for Smoke in a rather roundabout way. He was hiring his gun out to Tilden Franklin in Fontana when Franklin went crazy and tried to take over Sugarloaf, Smoke and Sally's spread. After Franklin's men raped and killed a young girl in the fracas, Pearlie had sided with Smoke and the aging gunfighters he had called in to help put an end to Franklin's reign of terror.
Pearlie was now honorary foreman of Smoke's ranch, though he was only a shade over twenty years old himself — boys grew to be men early in the mountains of Colorado.
As Smoke emptied his coffee cup, he heard a distant booming, followed by two sharp cracks which echoed off nearby mountain peaks. He jerked his head around to look toward the area the sounds came from.
"Pearlie!" he called, stepping off the porch to get a better look.
Pearlie, recognizing the urgency in Smoke's voice, came running out the door.
"I just heard what sounded like shots from the direction you and Cal were working in this morning. Is anybody else out in that section?"
"No sir," Pearlie answered, a worried look on his face. "The rest of the hands were over to the west, worming the new calves."
"What's wrong, Smoke?" Sally asked, wiping her hands on her apron as she followed Pearlie out the door.
"I don't know, but I'm afraid Cal is in some trouble. Gunshots from the pasture where he's working."
Smoke hesitated just a moment, then said to Sally, "You get a buckboard and head on out to the north pasture, where we have the Hereford crosses. Pearlie and I'll ride on ahead to see what's happening."
"All right," she said, jerking her apron off.
"And Sally, bring your medical kit and your pistol." Smoke ran to the hitching post in front of the cabin where he and Pearlie had their horses tied. He was riding a new two-year-old stud Joey Wells had sent over from Pueblo, Colorado. Joey and his wife had bought the old Rocking C Ranch after killing Murdock, the man who owned it, and Smoke and Sally gave them some Palouse mares to breed with Joey's big roan, which he called Red.
Smoke's stud was a blanket-hipped Palouse, roan-colored in the front with hips of snow white, without the usual spots of a Palouse. He'd named him Joker because of his odd coloring.
Pearlie also had one of the offspring of Red, a gray-and-white Palouse he'd named Cold. When Smoke asked him why he'd named him that, Pearlie said it was because the sucker was cold-backed in the morning and bucked for the first ten minutes every day when Pearlie saddled him up.
In spite of this, both studs were beautiful animals and had inherited their father's big size and extreme strength and endurance, along with the Palouse's legendary quickness and intelligence.
Smoke and Pearlie leaned over the necks of their mounts and rode hell-bent- for-leather toward the pasture where Cal was.
A short time later, Smoke was leaning over Cal's still body, holding a bandanna soaked in water from his canteen pressed tight against the boy's chest wound when Sally arrived in the buckboard. Pearlie's bandanna was tied as a tourniquet around Cal's arm just below the shoulder, and had slowed the bleeding there to a trickle.
Sally grabbed her medical bag from the seat next to her and jumped to the ground. After ripping Cal's shirt open to get a better look at his wound, she took a deep breath and glanced at Smoke with a worried frown on her face.
"It's a lung wound. See how the blood on his lips is frothy, and bright red?"
Smoke nodded. No stranger to gunshot wounds himself, he'd come to the same conclusion. "Do you think there's any chance?"
Sally frowned. "If we can stop the air from his lungs from coming out of the wound, it might allow his lung to re-expand and keep him alive until Doc Spalding can operate on him."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Guns Of The Mountain Man"
Copyright © 2006 Kensington Publishing Corporation.
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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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