They risked their lives to make a home in the heart of West Texas. Now the Kerrigan family must face the deadliest challenges of the land they love—and the evil that men do.
COME HELL OR HIGH WATER . . .
After a two-year drought, the Kerrigan ranch is dry as a bone and as dusty as a honky-tonk bible. On the brink of ruin, Kate Kerrigan hires the rainmaker Professor Somerset Lazarus, who promises salvation—in the form of a deluge. Kate is desperate enough to try anything. But when four angry gunmen show up, ready to lynch the phony rainmaker for swindling them out of their money, the Kerrigans have to choose sides fast—before the bullets start to fly. It doesn’t take a divining rod to figure out that these unsatisfied customers want more than a refund. They have their sites set on the Kerrigan ranch. And it’s just a matter of time until it’s raining water or raining bullets. Either way, there will be blood . . .
About the Author
Being the all-round 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. Bill, as he preferred to be called, 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 and creating believable characters. ‘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.’” The Loner marked the debut of Tennessee-based J.A. Johnstone as a solo author.
Read an Excerpt
The Kerrigans A Texas Dynasty
Hate Thy Neighbor
By William W. Johnstone, J. A. Johnstone
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 J. A. Johnstone
All rights reserved.
Behind the stately façade of Kate Kerrigan's four-pillared mansion lay a household in turmoil.
The cook and the scullery maid, a rather unintelligent girl, the parlor maids, the butler, and two punchers who happened to be passing the house when the tumult began were all summoned to Kate's bedroom, where her personal maid was trying to calm her distraught mistress.
The maid stepped to the window and her hands parted, pinched forefinger and thumbs two feet apart, and studied something against the light that would have been invisible to the casual observer.
"Well?" Kate said. "Is it as we feared?"
The maid shook her head. "I'm sure I don't know, ma'am."
"You don't know! Why I have a good mind to box your ears, you silly girl. It's as obvious as ... well, as the picture on the wall over there." Kate nodded in the direction of a framed portrait of an elderly gent with a walrus mustache. Hiram Clay was the president of the local cattlemen's association and a man powerful enough to be courted. He'd given Kate the portrait as a gift and had begged her to keep it in her bedroom so that he could be close to her "ere fair face touches pillow and you drift into the sweetest dreams of your ever devoted Hiram."
Kate thought the picture hideous in the extreme and had vowed to get rid of it just as soon as a new association president was elected. But now, apart from using Hiram as a test of the maid's vision, the portrait was far from her mind.
Anxious people crowded into the bedroom where Kate's breakfast lay untouched, her coffee untasted. As each one examined the long hair in the window's morning light, Kate asked the same question. "Well?" — "Well?" — "Well?"
And each time, fearful of losing their positions, the answer from cook, maids, and butler was always the same. "Ma'am, I can't really tell." — "I can't see without my glasses." — "It could be, but I'm not at all sure."
Finally, Willie Haynes the puncher, a tough little cuss who'd ridden for Charlie Goodnight back in the early days and was anything but the soul of discretion, stared at the hair, screwed up his face, and then said, "Yup, seen it right off. It's as gray as a badger's ass, boss."
Kate was taken aback by Haynes's bluntness and after a few moments of stunned silence her icy voice matched her chilly demeanor. "Thank you, Willie, you can go now. You can all go. I want to be alone."
Haynes nodded and said, "Any time you need my opinion on a thing, Miz Kerrigan, you only have to ask." As his fellow punchers tried unsuccessfully to steer Willie toward the door, the little cowboy added, "An' I'm right sorry about the gray hair, boss, and how you're all undone by it an' all, but cheer up, you got plenty of red ones left."
Kate's smile could have turned a Louisiana swamp water pond to ice. "Thank you. And thank you all," she said. "Now I'm sure you have work that needs attending to."
The bedroom cleared rapidly as people beat a hasty retreat and Kate sat on the edge of the bed and studied the shoulders of her yellow silk robe for other treacherously ashen turncoats. There were none. She glanced at her breakfast tray, but was much too upset to eat. Well ... perhaps she'd feel better after a piece of toast.
Kate nibbled on a corner of the triangle of toast and her gaze fell on the chafing dish in the middle of the silver tray. No, she was too distressed to eat a bite, not even a crumb. But then, there was no harm in lifting the cover to take a look. She owed it to Jazmin, her wonderful cook, to at least see what she had prepared. Hmm ... a nice plump pork sausage, slightly scorched the way she liked it, crispy bacon, and a sunny-faced egg.
Well, perhaps just a bite or two. After all, she mustn't disappoint Jazmin.
* * *
The chafing dish was empty but for a morsel of bacon when Kate's butler, old Moses Rice, tapped on the door and stepped into the bedroom.
"Gennel'man to see you, Miz Kate," he said.
Kate felt slightly full, as if she'd eaten too much. "Who is he, Moses? If he's a drummer, tell him he must talk with Mr. Cobb."
"Ma'am, the gent says he'll only talk with you," Moses said. His wrinkled face took on a look of wonder. "He says he's a prince."
"Prince indeed?" Kate said. "Prince of what?"
"Of the plains, ma'am." Moses scratched the gray wool on the side of his head, remembering. "He said for me to tell you his name is William Frederick Cody, Prince of the Plains, and showman ex ... extra ..."
"Extraordinaire," Kate said.
Moses's face lit up and his smile flashed. "That was it, Miz Kate. Do you know the gennel'man?"
"I've heard of him. Show him into the parlor and offer him coffee. Tell Mr. Cody I'll join him directly."
As her lady's maid helped her change into a rococo, a pleated day dress of white cotton with a built-in corset that laced up the front, Kate tried to recall what she knew of William F. Cody, Buffalo Bill as she'd heard him called. He'd been an army scout and Indian fighter and now had his own Wild West show that contained picaresque elements of frontier life. Bill's show had crossed the ocean to perform for old Queen Victoria, or was he about to do that? No, she couldn't remember which. One thing was certain, Mr. Cody had become a very famous man, and it was said that he cut a dash with the ladies.
So why his visit to the Kerrigan ranch? Perhaps he was passing and decided to stop and pay his respects.
Kate checked herself in the full-length mirror and was pleased to see that her hair fell over her shoulders in thick ringlets of burnished red, not a traitorous gray in sight.
"How do I look, Flossie?" she said.
"Like a princess from a fairy tale," the maid said.
"Then I'm fit to meet the prince," Kate said. "Very well, I'll see Mr. Cody now."
Flossie, remembering the affair of the hair, nodded and said, "You look very young and lovely, ma'am."
"Then let us hope that Mr. Cody appreciates the efforts we've made on his behalf," Kate said.
"Oh, any fine gentleman would, ma'am," Flossie said. And then worried for a moment that she'd spoken out of turn, she whispered, "If you don't mind me saying so."
But Kate, moving with all the grace of a Celtic queen, was already opening the bedroom door and didn't hear.CHAPTER 2
When Kate Kerrigan stepped into the parlor, a tall, broad-shouldered man wearing gloriously beaded white buckskins rose to his feet. A large red bandana draped loosely around his neck, and in his hands he held a plumed, high-crowned hat with a prodigiously wide brim. He wore polished, thigh-high black boots and around his hips, as Kate noticed at once, hung a silver-studded gun belt and in the holsters a pair of ivory-handled Colts.
"Mr. Cody, I presume," Kate said, offering her hand.
Buffalo Bill made a leg and bowed with a sweeping gesture of his feathered hat that was worthy of Athos, Porthos, or Aramis and for sheer elegance and grace probably out-courtiered all three.
Bill kissed Kate's hand, and when he straightened, he said, "Your obedient servant, madam." Then, in an overly dramatic display, he raised his hat as though shielding his eyes from the sun. "By all that's holy, Mrs. Kerrigan, I'm blinded by the dazzling beauty of your person." Bill adopted a heroic pose, threw back his head, and declaimed, "Thus did King Menelaus of Sparta stand in astonished awe when he first beheld fair Helen on the massy ramparts of Troy."
Kate, well used to compliments from men, was nonetheless impressed by the frontiersman's rhetoric and knowledge of the classics. "You are very gallante, sir," she said. "Please resume your seat."
She was uncomfortably aware that Buffalo Bill Cody was a fine-looking man with a rampant masculinity that even Frank Cobb, her rugged segundo, would have trouble matching.
Kate sat and said, "Have you ..." She had trouble finding her voice, coughed, and tried again, "Have you had coffee, Mr. Cody?"
"My dear lady ... may I call you Gloriana?" Bill said.
"No. Kate will do just fine."
"Then Kate it is."
Bill placed his hand on his heart as though he was about to impart a secret of the most private kind, as indeed he was. "Kate, it has been my lot since boyhood to enjoy but one daily cup of the sable brew that sharpens the wits and invigorates the body. But after the cup that cheers, I feel drawn to partake in ... what shall we call it? Ah yes, stronger stuff."
"How remiss of me, Mr. Cody," Kate said, rising. "Would bonded bourbon be more to your liking?"
"Not a drop, dear lady." Bill made one of his heroic gestures, his right hand extended, warding off temptation. "Not so much as a taste."
Kate moved to sit again, and Bill exclaimed in some haste, "But ..."
"Yes?" Kate said.
"I could not but notice the exquisite slenderness of your hands, dear lady," Bill said. "I think three fingers of bourbon from you would be a small enough portion of the viper that resides in the bottle."
Kate smiled, moved to the drinks tray, and poured Bill a generous glass of Old Crow. After she'd settled in her chair again and Bill had begged her indulgence to smoke a cigar, they made small talk until he'd finished his second bourbon and the cigar had burned down almost two-thirds of the way. Then Kate said, "As much as I enjoy your company and your dashing tales of derring-do on the plains, Mr. Cody, I suspect that your visit to my ranch is not entirely a social call."
"And indeed it is not, dear lady," Bill said. "You have gone right to the heart of the matter. Indeed, your arrow has sped unerringly to the bulls-eye. In short, I am here to humbly beg a boon."
Now Kate was slightly wary. "What is the nature of this favor, Mr. Cody?"
Bill leaned forward in his chair and his long, silvery hair tumbled over his shoulders. "Let me precede my request by stating that that our fair land is in winter's frosty grip, torn by tempests, blasted by blizzards, snowbound, icebound, and, worst of all, homebound. In short, the weather up north is rotten and folks are staying home."
"So I've been told, Mr. Cody," Kate said. "A traveling lightning rod salesman assured me that the extent and severity of the snowstorms are most singular and the government had declared them potentially a disaster of the greatest moment."
"The drummer spoke the unvarnished truth, dear lady," Bill said. "Everywhere is as cold as a banker's heart and I am reliably informed that in Kansas boiling water freezes so fast the ice is still warm."
Kate smiled and said, "Mr. Cody, say no more. I understand your predicament, and I'd be honored to have you spend the winter on my ranch. I have twelve guest rooms and I'm sure we can find one that suits you."
"Kate, your generosity is boundless, but, alas, if it were only that simple," Bill said. "No, dear lady, there is indeed a major complication."
"Ah, you have someone else with you, a lady perhaps?"
"I have six hundred someone elses," Bill said. "And almost twice that number of horses, buffalo, and other animals."
"Six hundred people, Mr. Cody?" Kate looked shocked. "And animals? Buffalo?"
"Yes, ma'am. And cowboys, Indians, and sharpshooters. And my private train."
"Private train, Mr. Cody?"
"Yes. That is why I'm asking you if I can use your railroad spur," Bill said.
"My railroad spur, Mr. Cody?"
"Yes, dear lady, to offload my people, animals, supplies, wagons, and tents. With your gracious permission we would set up camp, and spend the winter far away from the northern tempests."
It took a while for Kate to find the words, and then she said, "How ... I mean, how much land would you need?"
"Not much, dear lady, just ten to fifteen acres, a small corner, the merest morsel of your range."
"But, Mr. Cody, the Kerrigan ranch can't feed that many people, to say nothing of the animals. Our winter graze is thin and our supply of hay limited. I do not wish to sound uncharitable, but ..."
"Fear not, dear Kate. Buffalo Bill's Wild West is self-sufficient. We have to be since we travel all over the country and around the world. We bring our own food, fodder for the stock, and even our own cooking stoves and firewood. All we need is said railroad spur and a small patch of ground amid your boundless acres."
Bill sat back in his chair, flashed his most winning smile, and said, "Now, being a businesswoman as well as a rancher, I'm sure the thought uppermost in your mind is remuneration. In short, how much will Mr. Cody pay me?"
In fact, payment was the last thing on Kate's mind, filled as it was with visions of stampeding buffalo, wild Indians, and even wilder cowboys.
"Ah," said Bill, "I see that good breeding makes you hesitate to name a figure that would be agreeable to both parties. Well, I will not beat about the bush, dear lady. Three things cannot be hidden, the sun, the moon, and the truth, and the truth is that you see before you a man in the most impecunious circumstances. The bank won't let me draw breath and as a result I'm down to my last tail feather. In a nutshell, Bill is broke."
"Mr. Cody, I'm so sorry to hear that," Kate said.
"Do not despair, dear lady, I beseech you," Bill said. "Come spring we leave on our European tour and I will soon recoup my finances. A letter from the British ambassador in Washington informs that Queen Victoria is eagerly awaiting our arrival. The lady is, Lord Barclay told me, all in a dither. As for the Kaiser, he is looking into providing buffalo sausage for his army, vittles that will be named after my humble self. The British say they'll be called Bill's Bangers, but I don't set any store by that. The British and Germans are never on very good speaking terms."
Kate glanced at the watch that hung around her neck from a silver chain and Buffalo Bill took the hint. "What I offer in remuneration, my dear Kate, is to provide a show on the day before our departure just for the Kerrigan ranch. There! What do you think of that? Is that not a handsome offer indeed?"
"A show, Mr. Cody?" Kate said.
"Indeed, madam. You will be the first to see, before even Queen Victoria or the Kaiser, such new spectacles as The First Scalp for Custer and Buffalo Bill Saves the Mexican Maiden. And you will meet our shining new star, the amazing lady sharpshooter Annie Oakley, The Texas Bluebonnet."
To Bill, the fact that Annie was born in Ohio was neither here nor there. On tour she changed birthplaces as often as she changed her dress. His face now anxious, he said, "Well, dear lady, do we have an agreement? As my old friend Wild Bill Hickok, God rest him, was wont to say, shall we make this a happy day?"
Feeling more than a little overwhelmed, it took Kate a few moments before she replied. Hesitantly, she said, "Well, I suppose so, Mr. Cody, so long as your being here doesn't interfere with the work of my ranch."
Bill beamed. "Be assured, dear lady, that our presence here will hardly be noticed, even by your cows. My people will keep to themselves, and I assure you that even the savages, those panthers of the plains who led the gallant Custer to his destruction, will remain in their teepees. In short, we'll be as quiet as church mice."
Kate rose to her feet. "Then it is settled. When do you wish to move onto a campground?"
"Today, dear lady. Instanter!" Bill said. "I have already taken the liberty of pulling my train onto the spur, but I told the engineer to keep up steam in the doleful event that you saw fit to turn me down."
It seemed to Kate that Bill Cody's powerful personality lacked neither charm nor confidence.
"I'll have Frank Cobb, my segundo, help you choose a campsite, Mr. Cody," Kate said. "He's out on the range at the moment with my sons, but I expect him to return shortly and I'll have him meet you at the spur terminal." Then, in a deliberate attempt to regain the initiative, "This winter I plan to expand my range west as far as the Rio Grande and south to the big bend of the Nueces. In the coming weeks you will see my riders coming and going, but please tell your people not to be alarmed. My men mean them no harm."
"Ha! An expanding cattle empire indeed, Mrs. Kerrigan," Bill said.
"And hard won, Mr. Cody, with many battles against man and nature still to be fought. Now, let me show you to the door. It has been indeed a pleasure talking to you. You must come again and I will bake a sponge cake to mark the occasion. My cake, with a cream and strawberry jam filling, is old Queen Vic's favorite, you know."
"And I will be sure to tell her that I ate a piece under this very roof," Bill said. "I know the old lady will be very impressed."
Excerpted from The Kerrigans A Texas Dynasty by William W. Johnstone, J. A. Johnstone. Copyright © 2017 J. A. Johnstone. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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