Young Matt Bodine and Sam Two Wolves became blood brothers on the day the rancher’s son saved the halfbreed’s life, forging a bond no one could ever break. As years passed, a legend grew of the breed and the white man who rode together—and who could jerk killing iron with the best of them…
SAN ANGELO SHOWDOWN
Trigger-happy outlaws are giving the Texas Rangers a lot more trouble lately than they can handle, leaving most of Texas in a heap of trouble. So when Bodine and Two Wolves drift into the sleepy cattle town of San Angelo, Ranger Josiah Finch—knowing their reputation with the killing iron—convinces them to pin on badges and put their talents to work for his side of the law. But the Rangers are caught off guard when a ruthless band of cattle thieves levels the town with dynamite. The thieves a big mistake, though, when they run for the Mexican border because now it’s Sam and Matt’s kind of fight, and they’re going to see to it that the outlaws get what they’re due . . . on this side of the Rio Grande.
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
Dingo Whaley was the first to spot the vehicle in the distance. He had to squint a little in the bright Texas sunshine and still could not be sure if it was a wagon or carriage.
"What is it, boss? Buffalo?"
"Shut up for a minute, Murdock, and let me think."
Pierce watched the scene from several feet away. He knew that Mel Murdock was not the brightest individual in Texas and would probably not listen to Dingo's command. Pierce didn't like Murdock — almost nobody in the gang did — so he sat back to watch the show. Murdock didn't disappoint him.
Murdock spit a stream of tobacco juice and continued, "Hell, I'm so sick of seeing the rump end of those shaggy beasts, I'd sure like to get the tail end of something a sight prettier! When are we going to hit some town —"
Without a second's hesitation, Dingo reached out and hit Murdock with a solid backhanded slap. Dingo didn't even use his full force, but it knocked the other man out of his saddle. He landed on his feet, started to reach for the gun at his side. Pierce scratched the stubble on his face, laughed softly. Murdock glanced at Pierce, then at Dingo, who was apparently ignoring him. Murdock took his hand away from the gun.
Though both men were over six feet tall and had the well-worn look of buffalo hunters, Dingo was the bulkier of the two. He weighed in at over three hundred pounds of bone and muscle. He was said to be the best fighter and one of the fastest shots in the West. Murdock and other members of his gang knew he was also mean as sin. He was a bad man to tangle with.
"I thought I said to be quiet."
"Sure, boss. I didn't mean to —"
"Just shut up."
Pierce laughed as Murdock got back on his horse and rode off. Pierce had no sympathy for the other man.
Dingo continued to watch the dust in the distance. He finally made out details of a single coach followed by a single rider. If it was another sodbuster, a raid would hardly be worth the effort. A more fancy rig could mean a merchant with a hidden cash box or some merchandise that could come in handy. In any case, Murdock did have a point. Dingo and his men had seen too many damned buffalo. The last big hunt had been just a few days before. It was good money — real good money. But the work was hard and tiring. Now it was time for a different kind of sport and maybe some easier money.
Another member of the gang rode up and stopped beside Pierce. He looked almost frail compared to the larger men, though he was not a small man and closer inspection revealed that he also had been hardened by years of living in the open country.
"What's cooking?" the third man asked quietly.
"Boss is in a cranky mood, Jessup. Wouldn't rile him, if I were you. Murdock made that mistake."
"Again?" He laughed. "You think he'd learn sooner or later."
"I know I don't plan on pissing off Dingo. I value my hide too much."
"Me too. Crossing Dingo Whaley is one thing nobody in their right mind would ever do."
Dingo turned his horse and rode the few feet back to the other two men.
"Jessup, you're familiar with this country. How close would you say we are to the nearest town?"
"There's a settlement or two within a half-day's ride of here." Jessup absently scratched himself as he thought. "The nearest town of any size is San Angelo. Only thing much there is Fort Concho, which means you can buy beer and women."
"I'm more concerned about the law."
"Hell, there may be a Ranger or two. Can't get away from those bastards these days. But the soldiers? The damned fort ain't big enough to have very many, and I'll wager most of those are new recruits who couldn't find their way home with a map. Rangers and soldiers are pretty busy with the Indians and Mexicans, anyway."
"Sounds good to me. Pierce, get the rest of the boys together. We're going to pay us a visit to those pilgrims down yonder."
* * *
Sam Two-Wolves shook his head slightly as his horse made its way through rotting corpses at the site of a recent buffalo hunt. The horse was skittish, and the smell was terrible, but Sam's firm hand kept the horse steady.
From several hundred feet away, Matt Bodine sat on his own horse. For once, he made no wisecracks, for he knew the ache that such a sight produced in Sam. He had a similar feeling in his own heart since they shared a common cultural heritage, as blood brothers. For many Indians, the buffalo was the source of life itself, and with the killing of the buffalo their life was also disappearing.
Sam was the son of a great and highly respected chief of the Cheyenne, his mother a beautiful and highly educated white woman from the East who had fallen in love with the handsome chief and married him in a Christian ceremony. As an Indian, Sam was deeply aware of the bond between men and nature, between Indian and buffalo.
Matt was the son of a rancher and met Sam when they were both just kids. The two quickly became friends, with Matt spending as much time in the Cheyenne camp as he was on the ranch at home. They grew up together, and Matt was adopted into the tribe as a True Human Being, according to Cheyenne belief. Matt and Sam were joined by a ritual of knife and fire. Though Matt's background was different than Sam's, he understood his blood brother's feelings better than most.
Their relationship was an easy one, often filled with good-natured kidding, but they could prove to be a terrible foe. On such occasions, Sam's obsidian eyes grew cold and Matt's temper could take hold. Both were young, in their mid-twenties, handsome and muscular, over six feet tall and weighing over two hundred pounds, though Sam's hair was black and Matt's was brown. They worked together individually and as a team, after having survived dozens of fights and shoot-outs in their travels across the West in which they were now earning the reputation of gunfighters.
They came by their fighting ability honestly. Sam's father, Medicine Horse, had been killed during the Battle of the Little Big Horn after he charged Custer, alone, unarmed except for a coup stick. Realizing the inevitability of war, the chief had ordered Sam from the Indian encampment before the battle, to adopt the white man's ways and to forever forget his Cheyenne blood. That was a promise that Sam had a difficult time keeping.
Matt and Sam had witnessed the subsequent slaughter at the Little Big Horn, though that was a secret only they shared. During the time following the death of Sam's father, Sam and Matt decided to drift for a time in an effort to erase the terrible memory of the battle. Though they were often mistaken for out-of-work drifters, in truth the two men were well-educated and wealthy. Sam Two-Wolves was college-educated, while Matt had been educated at home by his mother, a trained schoolteacher. Sam's mother had come from a rich Eastern family and left him with many resources. Matt had earned his fortune through hard work and smart business moves. He rode shotgun for gold shipments and as an army scout, then invested his money in land. Matt and Sam now owned profitable cattle and horse ranches along the Wyoming-Montana border.
"You can't do anything about this now," Matt called out to Sam. "Let's move on."
"I know," Sam answered. "But this is such a waste. I'd like to get my hands on the men that did this."
"Yeah. So would I. But it's all legal, sanctioned and encouraged by the government."
Sam urged his horse down the road at a faster pace. He said, "Let's get out of here before I get sick."
Matt looked around, shook his head, then hurried to catch up. He would give Sam a few miles to regain his natural good humor. Sometimes it was better not to push, and this was one of those times.
* * *
Peter Easton shuffled some papers around on the makeshift desk in front of him. His ample stomach made the maneuver difficult. Carl Holz, Easton's assistant, knowing Easton's sensitivity to his weight, said nothing. The carriage shifted on the rocky ground, tossing the papers into the air. Easton tried to grab them, as did Holz.
"Damn! How's a man supposed to get any work done in these conditions!"
"I suggest again, sir, that you might be better off postponing work until you reach Fort Concho," Holz said. "All the pertinent information is in the summary I prepared for you."
Holz was much slimmer than Easton, though his hair was also slicked back and both wore expensive suits. Holz picked up a slip of paper from beneath another stack and handed it to his superior. Easton repositioned his glasses and again read through the report.
"Damn these Mexicans anyway," he said. "They can't control their own bandits and they get upset because one or two of our men cross the border in pursuit. Harumph!"
"One man in particular," Holz corrected. "A Texas Ranger named Josiah Finch." He reached into the stack and pulled out another slip of paper, glanced down a list. "I might point out that the complaints aren't limited to just Mexican authorities. The Department has received complaints from Indian Territory, New Mexico ..."
"I get the idea. This Ranger doesn't understand limits — though I understand that all these Texans think they're too good to follow the rules. I'll conduct my investigation, make my recommendations, and get back to Washington as soon as possible." He looked out the window at the dry countryside. "I'd just as soon be back there now. Damn, I wish I had left that senator's wife alone ..."
A gunshot that sounded like a cannon suddenly filled the air and a hole exploded in the side of the wagon, filling the inside with splintered wood. This time the papers scattered and nobody bothered to pick them up as the horses spooked and started to run down the road. Easton and Holz hit the floor as another shot made a second hole in the side.
Outside, Dingo Whaley and his men were quickly overtaking the vehicle. The escort on horseback squeezed off a shot at the attackers, who returned the fire. A half-dozen bullets hit him at the same time and he fell to the ground. The driver, not willing to be a hero and be shot for his efforts like the escort had been, tried unsuccessfully to stop the team. Dingo solved that problem by aiming his big buffalo gun at the lead horse and squeezing off a shot. It dropped in its tracks, causing the remaining frightened horses to stumble and fall. The driver flew through the air like a rag doll. Dingo started to take aim, tracking the body as he might a flying duck, then lowered the gun and turned his attention back to the wagon.
The hitch broke and the wagon overturned in a cloud of dust and noise.
* * *
It had been many miles since Matt and Sam had left the buffalo carcasses, but Sam was still quiet.
"I could sure go for a hot meal and a cold beer," Matt said. "I'm sick and tired of this trail grub. Why, that breakfast we had this morning was —"
"You cooked breakfast," Sam answered.
"Oh. Right. Well, what about that dinner yesterday ..."
"You cooked dinner yesterday," Sam answered.
"Damn right! Maybe it's time you did some of the cooking!"
"What? And listen to your griping?"
But Sam smiled, and Matt grinned in return.
"That's more like it," Matt said. "You're mighty poor company when you're in one of your moods."
"My moods! Hell, even at my worst, I'm better than you are when you get all goggle-eyed over some saloon singer ..."
Matt shook his head. "Well, now I've done it! You're back to normal. Me and my big mouth! All you need now is a good fight to put you in a really fine mood!"
The shot of a buffalo gun roared in the distance.
"As you were saying, brother, my mood's rapidly improving!" Sam said, as he turned his horse and raced toward the sound.
Matt rolled his eyes toward the sky. "Me and my big mouth!"CHAPTER 2
Carl Holz touched his forehead and felt wet. He pulled back his hand and saw blood. When he volunteered to assist Easton in his department investigation, as a "favor" to an influential senator, Holz had hoped to make some points for himself to further his career. He had not planned on getting shot at. What had happened? He blinked, and found himself looking into the barrel of a Colt revolver held by one of the biggest men he had ever seen. Others had their guns pointed at Easton.
"Come on out, nice and easy," one of the men said. "I haven't decided whether or not to shoot you. If you cooperate, we might let you walk away."
Holz groaned and pulled himself out of the carriage. Easton was trying to take control, though west Texas and a gang of outlaws were much different than the Washington, D.C., society that he was familiar with. At least a dozen men, all wearing masks, held guns on them.
"Who are you? And what do you want?"
"Names aren't no matter," Dingo replied. "And what I want is your watches. Your money. Anything that you might have stashed in that fancy wagon of yours."
"Outlaws!" Holz said.
"I'll handle this," Easton hissed.
"Think you're hot stuff, do you?" another outlaw asked. "Then handle this!" His massive fist snaked out and hit Easton, who fell backward in a daze. Easton kept his eye on him, trying to clear his head.
"Murdock, cut it out," the first outlaw said. "Pierce, you take some of the boys and take this fancy rig apart. The rest of you boys take whatever valuables you can find off these yahoos."
"Can I beat up on them some, too?" Murdock asked.
"Just do what you're told."
Holz was amazed to see Pierce and three others manually set the carriage upright again. Some of the papers that Easton had been working on fluttered to the ground through the open door.
"What's this?" Dingo demanded, kicking one of the sheets with a dirty boot. "You some kind of lawyers or something?"
"We're with the government," Easton said. He was still on the ground, rubbing his chin, trying to stand.
"Really, now." Dingo motioned to a smaller man. "Jessup, gather together some of these papers. It might prove interesting reading on some cold night." He laughed and pounded his fist on his knee.
"You can't do that! It's government property ..."
Murdock ripped the watch from Easton's pocket and pushed him back to the ground. He pulled his gun and aimed it at Easton's head.
"Aren't we citizens?" Jessup asked calmly.
"Ah, well ... convicted felons do lose certain rights ..."
Jessup walked over and grabbed Easton's shirt collar. "What makes you think we're felons?"
"Ah, well ..."
"Maybe you should apologize?"
"Of course. My mistake."
"... and citizens with every right!" Holz finished.
From inside the carriage came a whoop, and one of the men came out holding a heavy bag. It clinked as he walked.
"We struck paydirt, boss!" the outlaw called out. "Looks like gold coin!"
Holz sighed. It had been his idea to bring along the gold to help with expenses. In the West, he knew, government IOUs weren't always considered acceptable currency. The loss of the gold could be a mark against him. Even so, he wasn't going to get himself killed over it, though he should at least make an effort.
"Anything else?" the leader of the band asked.
"You realize that this is a federal offense?" Holz asked.
"It makes me shiver in my boots!" Dingo laughed again. Holz said nothing more. "Now answer my question. Anything else of value here?"
"Nothing. You've cleaned us out."
"What about these yahoos? Should we shoot them?"
"Why waste bullets? We're miles from anywhere. These tenderfoots won't last a day ..."
Dingo stopped in midsentence as he seemed to listen to the air. Some said he could hear, see, and smell buffalo — and men — miles away. It made him one of the more dangerous buffalo hunters, and outlaws, working in that part of Texas.
"We're getting company," he announced. "I don't know how many, but I think we've had enough fun for one day. Let's get out of here."
Murdock laughed and added, "You're right, Dingo! Let these greenhorns stew in their own fat!"
The others also guffawed as they quickly mounted and started to ride.
Holz knew Easton was sensitive about his weight, but was still surprised to see Easton unexpectedly stand and jump at the outlaw who made the comment about him being fat. He grabbed the outlaw's legs and tried to drag him from the saddle. The outlaw was apparently even more surprised. He looked down at his attacker, kicked, and lost his balance. He hit the ground with a thud. The other members of the gang didn't even bother to look back as they rode away.
"Now you've done it," the outlaw said. "I've had enough. I don't care what anybody says. I'm going to kill you."
His threat was interrupted by two bullets whizzing past him. One came from behind a rock — the driver who had been hurled from the vehicle. The other shot was from a tall man riding toward him on a fast horse.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "San Angelo Showdown"
Copyright © 1994 William W. Johnstone.
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.
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