These moonshiners trade in firewater…and death!
One good lawman has already been murdered in pursuit of Missouri moonshiners who could care less if their rotgut leaves a person blind—or even dead. Now it’s Deputy U.S. Marshal Custis Long’s turn to search out their stills and make sure these moonshiners don’t see the light of day.
But as Longarm explores the back country, he learns there’s far more at stake than selling bad hooch to the locals. Intoxicated by greed, one man is behind an ambitious whiskey-running operation to sell firewater—and firearms—to the Indians. It’s up to Longarm to give this liquor-lugging lunatic a shot and a chaser of a little something called justice…
About the Author
Tabor Evans is the author of the long-running Longarm western series, featuring the adventures of Deputy U.S. Marshal Custis Long.
Read an Excerpt
“You took your sweet time at lunch, Long,” the boss complained when the tall man known as Longarm—as in “the long arm of the law” . . . and other meanings—entered the office of the United States marshal for the Denver District.
“Henry said there wasn’t much happenin’, Billy,” Longarm said to Marshal Billy Vail as Longarm draped his flat-crowned, snuff brown Stetson onto one of the arms of the hat rack that stood beside the door to the boss’s private office.
“When you left, I suppose there wasn’t,” Vail conceded, “but we’ve gotten the mail since then. Something came up.”
“Oh?” Deputy Marshal Custis Long glanced across the room at Vail’s clerk, Henry, giving the bespectacled and overworked clerk a suspicious look as if the incomplete information were somehow Henry’s fault. “An’ what would that be? Not more papers t’ serve, I hope. I am heartily sick o’ serving warrants.”
“No, no papers to serve. Come into my office. We’ll talk about it.” Vail motioned Longarm ahead of him into the office on the first floor of Denver’s Federal Building on Colfax Avenue.
Longarm passed through the doorway, a big man, over six feet in height with brown hair and a huge sweep of seal brown handlebar mustache. He had golden brown eyes that could on occasion turn cold as ice, chiseled features that women tended to find attractive, and a horseman’s lean build.
He wore a brown tweed coat, checkered black-and-white trousers, a calfskin vest, and black calf-high cavalry boots. Matching that black leather was a gun belt with a double-action .45 caliber Colt revolver carried high and to the left of his belt buckle in a cross-draw rig. In the watch pocket in his vest, Longarm carried a .41 caliber derringer pistol.
By long habit he took a seat in one of the chairs set facing Billy Vail’s broad, gleamingly polished desk.
Vail came around to the other side of the desk and seated himself in his comfortable swivel chair. Billy leaned back, the springs under the chair creaking loudly, and paused for a moment, steepling his hands beneath his chin.
The boss had a round face, red complexion, and was bald as the proverbial boiled egg. He looked like a man who had spent his life pushing papers around the top of a desk. In fact, Billy Vail was salty. A former Texas Ranger, he had smelled more than his share of gun smoke. There was not a thing he could ask one of his deputies to do that he would not have been perfectly capable of handling himself.
His cadre of deputies knew that, respected the man, and would have followed him through fire—barefoot—if he’d asked it of them.
Now Custis Long crossed his legs, folded his hands in his lap, and waited for the boss to say what was on his mind.
After a longer than normal pause, Vail said, “I don’t know if you’re the man for this job, Custis, but you are the one I intend to send. And before you ask, my reluctance is not that I doubt your abilities. I hope you know better than that by now. Rather, this assignment might take some time, and I hate to give you up for that long.”
Longarm’s eyebrows shot up, but he kept his mouth shut.
“I received a letter from Jace Bartlett. Do you know him?”
“No, sir. I don’t call him to mind,” Longarm said.
“Jace is the marshal assigned to the Missouri-Arkansas District.”
Longarm grunted. “All right. That’s where I heard the name before. Political hack, ain’t he.”
Billy coughed into his fist. “That is not the way we might want to put that, Custis.”
“Yes, sir. Sorry.” He was not at all sorry, but saying so seemed the right thing to do here.
“Jace is having problems with non-tax-paid whiskey.”
“Moonshine,” Longarm prompted.
“Non-tax-paid,” Billy corrected.
“Yes, sir. Sorry.” Longarm reached into his coat pocket and brought out a cheroot. He bit the twist off the end and stuck the slim cigar between his teeth.
“Are you listening, Longarm?”
“Yes, sir. Absolutely.”
“What? You’re not going to say you’re sorry this time?” Billy said sarcastically.
“I hadn’t intended to, boss, but I will if you like.”
“I . . . forget it. The thing is, I want you to go to Springfield. Contact Jace. See what he wants you to do.”
“Yes, sir. Springfield. That would be Missouri? Or Massachusetts?”
“Has anyone ever mentioned, Custis, that you can be a smart-ass?”
“Oh, yes, sir. Many times.”
“Well, I can certainly believe that.” Billy sighed. Heavily. Then he said, “See Henry on your way out. He has travel vouchers and whatnot for you.”
“Yes, sir. May I ask something, sir?”
“Can I leave in the morning? I, uh, I have a bit of an engagement this evening.”
“I suppose so, considering how late you were getting back from lunch. Same lady?”
Longarm grinned. “No, sir. Different one tonight.”
“Lord, I am glad I’m no longer a bachelor. All that would kill me at my age.”
“Yes, sir, it likely would,” Longarm said, still grinning.
Longarm turned and got the hell out of there before Billy heaved something at him.
The hansom cab pulled to a stop outside the hotel. Longarm dismounted first then helped Elizabeth to the sidewalk. He looked up at the cabbie, perched high in the driving box, and said, “Wait here. I won’t be but a few minutes.”
Longarm handed the man a silver dollar to make sure he would be there when Longarm came back out, then he offered his arm to Elizabeth and squired her inside.
She collected her room key, and he walked with her to the foot of the stairs.
“Will you come up?” she asked.
Longarm gave her a gentle smile and said, “I think not. It has been a lovely evening, but our first. The first of many, I hope. Perhaps the next time your troupe plays Denver.” He took her hand, bowed over it, and kissed the air a fraction of an inch above the back of her hand.
“Goodness, I . . . Thank you, Custis. It was lovely.”
“Sleep well, dear. Good night now.” He turned and headed back out to the cab, quite pleased with himself.
Playing the gentleman had its advantages, he had found. For one thing it confused a lady to have a man voluntarily do without a wrestling match. And confusing a woman was always a good idea.
Moreover, it would intrigue her. And perhaps worry her. Was there something wrong with her appearance? Did she have a body odor that turned the gentleman away?
Longarm would let her stew on that tonight. And the next time she hit Denver, he would be certain to have her for the night.
As for now . . .
He went back out to the waiting cab and gave the driver another address.
By his calculations, Jessica should be finishing her last performance just about now. If he hurried, he would get to the backstage door at approximately the same time that she was refreshed, dressed, and ready for an evening on the town.
As for himself, Longarm figured he could sleep on the train.
He leaned out the window and called up to the cabbie, “Hurry, please, driver.”
The hansom rocked to a stop in front of a small house close in to Denver’s business district. Longarm climbed down from the coach, and the driver called out, “Do I wait, sir?”
Longarm grinned up at the man with the top hat and whip and said, “Not this time, friend.” He handed the driver another dollar and bade him a good night.
While the cab clip-clopped away into the night, Longarm walked up the narrow flagstone path to the front porch. As soon as his footsteps sounded on the boards, the door was flung open and a young woman motioned for him to come inside.
When he did so, she threw herself into his arms and did her level best to lick his tonsils.
“Yeah,” he said when the two of them came up for air, “but are y’ glad to see me.”
Laughing, she took him by the arm and led him into the parlor. “One drink,” she said, “two at the most, then it’s up to bed we go.”
“What’s this?” Longarm demanded. “D’you have designs on my body, madam?”
“Sir, I not only have designs on you, I intend to fuck you into the ground.”
Longarm kissed her again, then took a step backward so he could look at her. And nice she was to look at, too.
Janeth Peterson was perhaps in her upper twenties or early thirties—he had never asked—tall, slim, with hair the color of honey. She had sparkling brown eyes, lush full lips, and a healthy swell of breast. She was wearing a silk robe . . . and nothing underneath it, as was delightfully evident.
Longarm reached forward and plucked the bow that tied her robe closed. Once free of that constraint, the robe fell partially open, displaying Janeth’s body. And dark vee of pubic hair below a soft, pale bulge of belly.
“Forget the drinks,” Longarm said. “I can get that anyplace.”
She came into his arms again and reached up to kiss him. Then dropping her arms, she shrugged the robe off her shoulders. The silken material slithered to the floor. Longarm picked her up and carried her to the sofa. He sat, keeping Janeth in his arms, and most thoroughly kissed the lady.
“I want you,” she whispered. “I’ve been waiting all evening to see you.” She giggled. “I blew my lines twice during the second act. I was thinking about you instead of what I was doing up there.”
“Aye, an’ now I’m here, ready t’ play,” he said, smiling, running his hands over her body, caressing and teasing and pleasing her. He fingered her pussy, and she quickly reacted with a shuddering climax that left her breathless and flushed.
Janeth recovered her breath and shivered, then slid off his lap to kneel on the floor at his feet. She unbuttoned Longarm’s trousers and reached inside to take hold of his cock and bring it out where she could see it. And taste it.
Peeling his foreskin back, she ran her tongue around and around the red, engorged bulb of the head of his massive dick, then up and down the length of it.
“So pretty,” she murmured, taking it into her mouth. She pulled away for a moment to ask, “Do you want to cum in my mouth, Custis?”
“Want to, yes. Going to, no. I want your body the first time.” He smiled. “After that we’ll just have t’ see what happens.”
Janeth stood and took his hand. She pulled him off the couch and led him up a flight of stairs to her bedroom and to the big canopy bed. She helped pull his clothes off and, when he was naked, drew him down onto the feather mattress beside her.
Longarm fondled the girl, kissing and touching her, holding her close.
He pulled her legs apart and lay on top of her. Janeth guided his cock into the hot, wet depths of her pussy. Her flesh surrounded him as he sank into her, filled her. Pleased her.
Slowly he began to stroke in and out. Janeth responded, her hips moving in rhythm with his strokes. Quicker. Harder. Deeper. Until he was plunging himself in and out, their bellies slapping together, their breathing rapid.
Janeth cried out as she reached her climax moments before Longarm came, his jism spurting deep into her body.
She wrapped her arms and legs tightly around him and held him there for long minutes, keeping him from withdrawing until both of them became calm again.
“Nice,” she whispered.
Longarm grinned. “For openers. Now let’s see what else we can do here.” And once again he began to stroke slowly in and out, Janeth’s hips responding.
There were two ways to get to Missouri. One would be to take the Denver & Rio Grande south to Pueblo, then the Santa Fe east into Missouri, and a stagecoach south to finish off the trip. The other would be to take the Union Pacific east to Omaha and a paddlewheeler south to Saint Louis and finally a stagecoach back west again to reach Springfield.
Longarm, not surprisingly, chose to head for Omaha and the plush pleasures of the 140-foot sidewheeler, the Boudica.
His badge was all he needed for passage on the railroad, but he had to spend one of the travel vouchers Henry had given him in order to get his ticket on the first boat moving south. That happened to be the Boudica, captained by Master Seaman James Harrison and populated with some of the best-looking casino shills Longarm had seen in a long time.
As soon as he had his carpetbag aboard, he headed for the lounge. And the array of gaming tables, each attended by a stunningly beautiful woman in an evening gown and tiara.
It seemed a little early in the day for such finery, but what did he know about the boat or her requirements? All he really cared about was that the passengers need not be in formal attire.
He played a little chuck-a-luck, long enough to decide that he would not be making any fortunes that way, then drifted over to one of the poker tables. He spent the rest of the day there, enjoying the low-stakes play and the quality of the rye whiskey the Boudica stocked.
Late in the afternoon he gathered his money and pushed back from the table.
“Thank you, gentlemen,” he said with a tip of his Stetson. “It’s been pleasant, but hunger calls.”
“Come back after you’ve et,” one of the players invited. “We’ll be here.”
Longarm did not see the young woman who had been waiting on him during the afternoon so he ambled across the casino floor to the bar built in between two staircases leading to staterooms on the upper deck. He wanted to tip the waitress and the bartender.
When he was half a dozen steps from the bar, he heard a voice rising loud and shrill. “You black son of a bitch! Don’t you backtalk me. Don’t you never talk that way to a white man.”
The voice was followed by the sound of a hard slap and a whimper.
A man wearing a silk shirt with ruffled cuffs was the complaining party. An elderly Negro stood behind the bar, his expression calm, his eyes down, avoiding looking at the passenger who had just slapped him.
“Nigger,” the passenger snarled.
Longarm took the few steps to the bar. He was smiling but there was no mirth in the expression. “Whoa up there, neighbor. There’s no need t’ get all het up here. Calm down an’ leave be, why don’t you?”
“Why don’t you mind your own fucking business,” the passenger barked.
Longarm’s smile just got bigger. “’Cause I don’t damn well feel like it,” he said. “You’ve just gone an’ hit my father. Now surely you don’t think I oughta let go o’ that without offering a word o’ advice to you.”
“When I want your advice, I’ll ask for it. And don’t tell me this man is your papa. Shit, man, you’re white as I am.”
“Well, you see, he’s like a father to me,” Longarm explained, still smiling. “An’ besides, if you don’t apologize to the gentleman right this minute, I am gonna beat you within a inch o’ your useless life.”
The smile remained fixed firmly in place throughout.
“In a heartbeat,” Longarm said.
“Fuck you, mister.”
Longarm stepped forward, took hold of the man’s hand. Except he took it in the standard police grip that squeezed the bones of the hand in such a way as to cause excruciating pain.
The passenger went to his knees, his face suddenly drained of all color by the agony he was experiencing. “All right. All right. I give.”
“Fine,” Longarm said. “Now apologize.”
“That’s a mighty thin apology. ’Bout ten more seconds an’ I break some bones.” Longarm was no longer smiling.
“You can’t be seri— Ow, oh, Jesus. All right, mister. Let up, will you!”
“Be glad to. Soon as you apologize,” Longarm said calmly.
“I . . . shit. I’m, uh, sorry.”
“I said I’m sorry.”
“Say it again. But real loud this time. I want to hear that you mean it.”
“All right, damnit, I’m sorry, really and truly sorry.”
“Now see, that wasn’t all that difficult, was it?” Longarm let go of the man’s hand. The fellow snatched it to his chest and cradled it there.
Ignoring the asshole, Longarm stepped forward to the bar. He dropped a silver peso, as good as a dollar anywhere, into the tip jar and skidded another just like it across the bar to the black bartender. “Here you go,” Longarm said, raising a finger to the brim of his Stetson.
The old man nodded and mumbled something Longarm could not hear. No matter, he thought.
He was hungry and his thoughts quickly turned to the dining room and what he might find there. He paid no further attention to the unhappy passenger.
Dining room? Or salon? Longarm wondered which it was called. He was not very adept with nautical terminology. Not that it made any difference. Whatever one chose to call it, the dining room was every bit as elegant as the casino. It was awash in white linen and teardrop crystal, and liveried waiters attended to every whim.
Most important to his mind was that the food was extraordinary. He had baked passenger pigeon, a potato puff, steamed asparagus, and the best coffee he could ever remember tasting.
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