Bestselling authors William W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone celebrate a legend of the American West—and the weapon that shaped a nation’s destiny . . .
As a teenager, John McMasters won the Medal of Honor as a sniper for the Union Army during the Civil War. Thirty years later, McMasters lives a peaceful life in the Arizona Territory, raising a family and running cattle. These days, he needs eyeglasses to hit a distant target. But that doesn’t stop his wife and four children from buying him a special present for his fiftieth birthday: a beautiful new Remington shotgun. Turns out, he’s going to need it . . .
The Butcher gang has come to town. By the time McMasters learns of their arrival, they’ve invaded his ranch and slaughtered his family, hightailing it out of the county. McMasters wants revenge, using his new shotgun to hunt down those butchers like the animals they are. But he can’t do it alone. His friend, Deputy U.S. Marshal Daniel Kirkpatrick, is hauling six of the deadliest criminals in the country to a prison in Yuma. They’re cutthroat killers, every bit as ruthless as the Butchers. But when McMasters points his Remington at their heads, they will become his killers . . .
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
J. A. Johnstone is a Tennessee-based novelist.
Al Kessel is a full-time narrator and voice actor currently living in Arizona, where he works from his professional home recording studio.
Read an Excerpt
"Hola ... hombre?"
Jerking awake, John McMasters opened his eyes and inwardly cursed himself for falling asleep. He wet his cracked lips, and glanced at his right thigh. Blood-soaked ... even though he'd tied his bandanna over the wound, secured the frayed piece of cotton to the barrel of his Colt .45-caliber Peacemaker and twisted the long barrel to tighten his makeshift tourniquet. How long had he been asleep? He wasn't certain. Sweat stung his eyes and he blinked before he turned the revolver with his left hand, loosening the bandanna, letting blood flow a little more freely.
He remembered that from what the sawbones had told him more than thirty years earlier.
* * *
"Blood has to flow, else it destroys the tissue, leads to moist gangrene." The doctor took a long pull from a bottle, shook his head, and laughed. "Problem is, you slow the blood too much, and that can lead to dry gangrene. Your sergeant, well, he don't have to worry about moist or dry. Hold 'em down, boy, as I saw off his leg."
* * *
The Mexican's voice made the image of that Union doctor vanish. "Hombre? Are you alive?"
McMasters almost laughed. Had the Mexican kept quiet, he likely could have climbed right up the ridge, planted a revolver barrel against McMasters's temple, and blown his head off.
"Yeah." His own voice was barely audible. He coughed, wiped away more sweat, tried to swallow, and attempted to speak again. "Still here."
"Bueno," the Mexican said. "Buenos tardes. We ... ah ... Negociar. Parley. Me and you. I speak for Butcher."
The name made McMasters stiffen. He fought down the bile. Moses Butcher. Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, McMasters looked down at his leg again and next tried to find the sun, but had no luck. The air turned cooler in those tree-studded hills near Bisbee, not far from the Mexican border. He looked at the blood pouring out of the hole in his woolen trousers, grimaced, and twisted the barrel of the Colt until the blood stopped flowing and his leg resumed an intense throbbing.
Straightening, he gathered his shotgun and found the bandit — more of a blur than an actual target. McMasters had lost his eyeglasses scrambling up the hill.
"Hombre?" the Mexican called once more.
What was the bandit's name? Again, John McMasters shook his head. He studied the rugged terrain, the only way out of the canyon that McMasters now guarded. The sweat hampered his view ... which did not help his lousy eyesight to begin with.
"You are alone, hombre," the Mexican said, "and have fought a good fight. But now ... we think it is best that you quit. Señor, you are foolish to have come here alone. You should have brought a posse with you."
"Yeah," McMasters said with a bitter laugh, though too softly for the bandit to hear him. "I had a posse. A posse straight out of hell." He had hired them to help him track down Moses Butcher and his killers, then, at the last moment, had turned them loose. Sent them away. Well, it wasn't like he could have stopped them anyway. Besides, he wanted to kill Moses Butcher himself. Not with the Colt, though. The .45 had a more important job — keeping McMasters from bleeding to death. And the .45 was empty.
McMasters found the strength from somewhere and managed to push himself up against the boulder he leaned against. He had to catch his breath. Blinking away more sweat, he turned his head. His left hand held the handle of the empty revolver. His right hand moved the other weapon, bracing it against the twisted branch of a dead juniper. The shotgun weighed just less than eight pounds. It felt like eight hundred.
"Yeah." He remembered the name of the bandit, or at least, the name on the wanted dodgers. "What do you want, Greaser?" Greaser. Greaser Gomez. John McMasters had never cared much for that derogatory name many Arizona whites called Mexicans. Greasers. Bean-eaters. Hell, the Mexicans had been in this country long before the white men. So had the Apaches, but most of those were long gone. Greasers. The term reviled a Wisconsin-born Yankee like him. But Greaser Gomez sickened McMasters even more. Especially now that he saw the outlaw had tied a scarf around the barrel of his Winchester repeater. He could not see the killer so distinctly, but the scarf ... that came to him clearer than his memories or his dreams. Gomez kept waving that barrel back and forth, the whiteness of the silk showing brilliantly in the sun shining from a clearing. It illuminated the killer. Mostly, it turned the silk scarf into a beacon.
John McMasters could not take his eyes off the waving cloth.
"Listen, hombre, you are tough to kill."
"I'm alive," McMasters whispered, more to himself.
"That is what Butcher says," the bandit went on. "You are tough, hombre. And I agree." The carbine stopped waving, and Gomez's right hand moved away from the holstered revolver on his hip, reached over the big sugarloaf sombrero, and began pointing. "This is what we call" — he grinned — "a Mexican standoff." He laughed at his joke ... or what he thought was a joke. "You cannot go anywhere. We cannot go anywhere." The hand returned to its perch on the pearl handle of the revolver. "There is no point."
"Isn't there?" McMasters called out. He strained, trying to guess how far away Gomez stood, while silently cursing his vision. Forty yards? Fifty? Maybe as far away as sixty. He looked at the shotgun, the barrels still perched on the dead branch, the stock braced against Gomez's right shoulder. Fifty, McMasters finally guessed. A long way for a shotgun, and pushing the accuracy of a revolver, although everyone said Greaser Gomez rarely missed. The outlaw also held that Winchester repeater in his left hand.
"We don't even know who you are ... or why you chase us."
"Don't you?" McMasters wet his lips and looked beyond Gomez.
The Mexican stepped closer.
Was that a trick? McMasters listened with intent for anything out of the ordinary — the clattering of a stone, the snapping of a branch. Nothing. No animals, not even birds, not even flies made a noise, and the wind no longer blew. The silk scarf hung limp along the barrel of Gomez's carbine.
"No, hombre. You tell us. You want money? Dinero? We might be able to work out a deal. Butcher, he has some gold, some greenbacks."
The Mexican shook his head. "But why? For what reason do you chase us? Digame. You have trailed us a long time. But even those men who were with you earlier, back in the Superstitions and at that boom town, they realized that there was no point. They left you, hombre." Beneath that ugly beard, Gomez grinned again, a vile, evil, despicable smile that did not require the eyesight of a twenty-year-old to detect. "They left you ... alone."
"Like you said, you have nowhere to go ... as long as I'm here."
"You won't be here long, hombre." The humor had left Gomez's voice, and his grips tightened on both the revolver and the Winchester. "We are many. You are one."
"You aren't as many as you were earlier."
Again, Gomez shook his head. "This parley ... it works on my throat. I have a flask in my back pocket." The right hand left the revolver, and a finger pointed behind him. "Is it all right with you, hombre, if I wet my windpipe?"
Trying to get at me, McMasters thought. Drink some tequila, or mescal, or whiskey, or even water. Water would be better. Remind me of how they have water, and my canteen is on the saddle of a dead horse out there ... in the open ... unreachable without catching lead.
"Salud," he said.
Laughing, Gomez found the flask, twisted off the cap, and brought the engraved pewter container to his lips. His Adam's apple bobbed, and the laughter returned to the killer's dark eyes.
McMasters glanced at his thigh, loosened the barrel of the Colt, let the blood flow a little more, and then tightened the bandanna again when he heard Gomez sighing with pleasure.
The flask returned to the rear pocket of the killer's denim britches. The right hand found its rest on the butt of the holstered revolver, and he stepped still closer. Closer to being able to kill John McMasters.
Yet also closer to McMasters and his shotgun.
"It is many hours before sunset, amigo," the outlaw said.
So we're friends now, McMasters thought.
"I would like to take my siesta, but I would rather take it with a puta" — he grinned once more — "in Bisbee."
"Bisbee?" McMasters said with skepticism.
The Mexican laughed. "Well, no, not Bisbee. There is law in Bisbee. You norteamericanos frown upon men of mi honestidad. But south of Bisbee. In the country where my father and mother were born. In the country where I was born. My homeland."
McMasters did not reply. He kept listening, but did not want to take his eyes off Greaser Gomez. Do that, make that one mistake, and the killer would try to kill him.
The shotgun, despite braced against the tree and partially by the boulder, felt even heavier. McMasters's leg pounded, and he wished he had not let Gomez drink from that flask, for his throat felt raw, drier than it had. His stomach began to rebel, a bullet was lodged in his thigh, and he had lost a lot of blood. He had no water. No food. Nothing but an empty .45 revolver and a double-barrel shotgun. And resolve.
The Winchester began swaying again, making the silk scarf wave.
And ... memories. McMaster's heart ached. He bit his bottom lip to keep it from quavering.
"There is something you should know, hombre," Greaser Gomez said.
"Yeah." Speaking that one syllable hurt.
"I told you that it was time for my siesta. That is an important thing in my country, with my people. But" — the Winchester stopped waving, and his right hand lifted to point in McMaster's direction — "I ... Moses Butcher ... the others ... well, we can take a little siesta. We can sleep all day. All night. But you, amigo, you must stay awake."
I was sleeping just before you started talking, you damned idiot. McMasters knew Gomez spoke the truth and did not need to explain his veiled threat.
John McMasters was alone, wounded, weak ... and growing weaker with every passing second.
He counted what he knew of Butcher's men. He had more than just Greaser Gomez. Five more. Total of seven, including Butcher and Gomez.
He shook his head. No. No, only six. The seventh lay spread-eagled near his bloating horse.
And maybe not even six. McMasters had emptied his Colt as he ran for shelter in the rocks and trees. He had heard a shot before starting the last gunfight, and knew one of Butcher's men had been wounded earlier. So maybe that man was out of commission, even dead, and maybe McMasters had killed some others.
Maybe ... If ... He sighed. Even if he had killed or wounded one or two others, there would still be too many. At some point, he would fall asleep again. His leg throbbed even worse than earlier, and he loosened the tourniquet for only a moment.
Another thought numbed him. Or I'll just bleed to death.
"So" — Greaser Gomez waved the scarf briefly — "hombre, here is our ... how do you call it? Moses, he told me. A truce. Sí. Tregua. Truce. Sí. We will ride away. I tell Moses. I say, 'Vámonos, que me muero de hambre.'" Gomez laughed at his joke. "Moses, he tells me to come up and parley with you. So this is how it will be." The smile seemed to disappear in Gomez's thick, matted, black beard. "We ride out down this trail. One at a time. If you break our tregua ... our ... um ... truce ... then we kill you. And you will not enjoy your death for it will be a long time before it comes to you, amigo. Savvy?"
A breeze kicked up, and the scarf began waving again without any help from Greaser Gomez. McMasters watched it, remembering, and did not look at the killer. Clearly, he studied that flag of truce.
"When we are gone — all gone and all alive — we leave you in peace. That is our proposal. Do you find the terms acceptable?"
Just as quickly as it had started, the wind died, and the white fabric fell again, wrapping around the Winchester's barrel.
McMasters's cold blue eyes locked on Greaser Gomez. "No," he answered flatly.
With a sigh, Gomez shook his head. "I am sorry, hombre, for I am truly hungry and wanted to leave here, and leave you alive. A man like you, so tough, so full of valor, I will not enjoy killing you. But ... now one of us, perhaps it will be me, will have to kill you."
"It won't be you," McMasters said.
Gomez's face went taut. "What —?"
McMasters cut him off. "Butcher was smart, not coming up here by himself. He sent you. You weren't smart, Gomez."
Beneath that black beard, the outlaw's darkened face seemed to pale. He stepped back, waving the carbine frantically, pointing to it with his right hand. "Señor ... hombre ... amigo ... do you not recognize this? What this means? Por Díos, it is"
"It was," McMasters corrected, not letting the killer answer. "It was a Christmas gift. Last December. I gave it to my oldest daughter, Rosalee." He tightened the shotgun's stock against his shoulder. "Before you, Butcher, and the rest of you black-hearted sons of bitches cut her down ... and the rest of my family."
The Winchester dropped. So did Gomez's right hand, and he sang out some curse, or perhaps a prayer, in Spanish. As the carbine clanged against the rocks, soiling that white piece of silk, the revolver jerked out of the Mexican's holster. McMasters did not have time to think why Gomez would go for his short gun when a carbine seemed the wiser choice.
McMasters turned his focus on aiming his shotgun. There were no hammers to cock on that model. It would be a chancy shot, especially for a fifty-year-old man who needed spectacles to see far. Greaser Gomez had been more blur than features. It was why John McMasters carried the Remington Model 1894 twelve- gauge shotgun with him.
It was why he had loaded both barrels with buckshot.
Remembering Rosalee, remembering his wife, his sons, his youngest daughter ... remembering the life he had once enjoyed ... and seeing clearly — or so it seemed — Greaser Gomez thumbing back the hammer of his pistol, John McMasters squeezed both triggers.CHAPTER 2
Nine days earlier
The colt looked up, perked its ears, and snorted.
Snorted? John McMasters figured the stubborn bay was laughing at him. Slowly, he swung down from the dun he rode and easily removed the lariat. It was July, but high up on the Mogollon Rim, the air felt cool and dark clouds threatened rain later in the afternoon. In Arizona, they called that time of year "monsoon season," and McMasters wanted to get home with the runaway colt before there came a soaking, hard, cold rain, maybe some hail. He remembered Old Jake Willis. Caught in a monsoon two summers back, he and his horse had been killed by a lightning strike.
"Easy, boy," McMasters said to the colt. He ground-reined his dun, and his boots clopped on the hard-rock surface as he approached the edge of the rim.
The colt took a step back and McMasters stopped. He had come too far to watch his colt tumble over the edge of the rim. Behind was the vast empty. Only a few pines poked above the rim, growing from the side of the hill or maybe a ridge outcropping. If the colt fell to the ridge, McMasters would have no way of getting it up — not even if he had plenty of help. If the colt missed the ridge, it was a long, long way down to nothing but more pine trees and rocks.
Two ravens flew past, fighting hard against the wind that picked up with fury. McMasters raised his left hand to pull down his hat tighter on his head. He looked back at his saddle, knowing what he would find. Nothing. Not even a bedroll. He should have brought along a slicker, but when he had discovered that James, his son, had left the corral open that morning, he didn't think he would still be looking for the runaway colt far away from his ranch and high up on the Mogollon in the afternoon.
He could smell rain. Worse, he could feel the electricity in the air.
The colt whinnied, but did not move away from the rim's edge.
McMasters took another step. Slowly. Another. He began to sing.
The Union forever! Hurrah, boys, hurrah!
The colt stared. The wind turned into a roar. McMasters raised his voice.
We are springing to the call with a million freemen more,
Excerpted from "Remington 1894"
Copyright © 2017 J. A. Johnstone.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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