BLINDED BY BLOOD
Bobby Budd rode out of Colorado with one killing behind him and dozens yet to go. From New Mexico to Indian Territory, Budd became one of a rootless army of half-crazed, half-drunk killers for hirebuilding an ugly legend as the Coyote Kid. Honest men paid the Kid to rid themselves of rustlers. Along the way, the innocent died, too.
WANTED BY THE LAW
Now, former Apache campaigner Major Gerald Bowen is bringing law to the land, hiring a few good frontier marshals and putting them on the bloody trail of the territory’s worst outlaws. John Wesley Michaels is one of those lawmenand the Kid is his quarry. But when Michaels gets to Arizona, he finds out he won’t be working alone. A stubborn woman insists on riding at Michaels’ side. Because she’s met the Kid face-to-face…and she wants to be the one to gun him down.
Dusty Richards' Servant of the Law is a classic of the Western genre, a must-read!
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 6.60(h) x 0.90(d)|
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Servant of the Law
By Dusty Richards
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2000 Dusty Richards
All rights reserved.
Two days after his shooting of Lighe Rinker, Bobby Budd still looked hard over his shoulder for the posse's pursuit. Near noon that same day, he crossed out of Colorado into the New Mexico Territory. His pounding heart ached from the urgent panic and his empty stomach roiled like a nest of snakes from the cold fear of the hangman's noose. Somewhere near Fort Union, he traded the lame buckskin to a Jacarillo Apache for a scrubby pinto. In the months that followed, word drifted back to the Springfield, Colorado, authorities that the young killer was swamping out bars in Santa Fe. They sent warrants for his arrest, but the local officials either ignored them, or they never found him.
Several monthes later, information filtered back to Colorado officials that Bobby Budd was working for the army. They sent a deputy down to Fort Wingate, but the lawman returned empty-handed. More time passed and Bobby Budd vanished like a dust devil that floated over the horizon. The wanted posters became tattered and faded; the law lost interest in his capture. His crime became history and in turn joined a portion of the outlaw legend of the frontier. Murderer Bobby Budd, like so many other felons, had managed to evade justice's grasp.
Two years later, on a hot July afternoon, seventeen-year-old Bobby Budd rode up to the Bosque Grande's main house to see the most powerful person in the New Mexico Territory, John Chisum. He'd ridden down there to ask the big man for a job. Not for an ordinary ranch-hand position, but one as an avenger.
When Chisum's black houseman came out on the porch to greet him, Bobby tried to look past him. Where was Chisum? He had expected to impress the big rancher with his appearance when he rode up. Instead, he felt degraded having to talk to a black domestic servant.
"What you want, boy?" the man asked in a deep voice, a frown of disapproval written on his dark face.
"Chisum hiring today?"
"Hiring what?" the man snorted and looked at him in dismay.
"Avengers," Bobby said and squinted his left eye hard at the man.
"Why, you ain't old enough to be no avenger." The man shook his wooly head in disbelief.
"Let me talk to the man. You ain't doing the hiring, nohow." Bobby rose in the stirrups and tried to see past him.
He heard someone of authority clear his throat, then a man came out the front door of the two-story house. Very tall, he wore a sparkling white shirt, vest, and a tie. His full mustache was trimmed and so was the goatee; his eyes were dark as coal and had a hard look.
"So you came looking for work?" John Chisum asked, as he looked Budd up and down, appraising him.
"I sure did, Mr. Chisum."
"Rhemus," Chisum said to his man. "Go get five dinner plates for this man to shoot at with that hog leg in his belt. Every one that he hits is worth a hundred dollars to him and the ones he misses cost him two hundred."
"Yes, sah, Mr. John, I'll go get them, but I's says he can't hit no bull in the butt."
"Rhemus, that's no way to talk to a top gun. By the way, what is your name?" "Bobby Budd. Up in Colorado, they call me the Coyote Kid."
"Coyote Kid, huh?" "Yeah, in Colorado."
"Why, you must know Bill Bonney, the Kid. He has a big reputation in these parts."
"Never met him. Hope folks don't get us mixed up."
"They won't," Chisum said, as if he knew they wouldn't. Standing on the porch with his arms folded on his chest, the cattle king looked much bigger than Bobby had expected him to be.
"How old are you? Not that it would matter." Chisum straightened up and moved aside for Rhemus to come by with an armful of white china plates.
"Eighteen," Bobby lied. Still trying hard to impress the man, he stepped off his pinto in a swaggering manner and drew the ancient Army model Colt out of his waistband. This better be good. Here was his chance to get a real job and never again have to mop up puke or empty another stinking old spittoon. The thought of such work made a bitter sourness rise behind his tongue.
"I want it to be perfectly clear," Chisum began. "You know that each plate you miss costs you two hundred dollars and you'll have that held out of your wages working for me?" The big man paused and looked hard at Bobby for his reply.
"And I only get a hundred bucks for them I hit, huh?"
"Not fair, is it?"
"See, Bobby, I don't need another avenger, but from the looks of you, you really need a job."
Bobby nodded. The old sumbitch drove a damn hard bargain. Still, anything beat his last job swamping in a stinking saloon. His stomach churned and he felt weak below the knees over the prospect that he might fail to meet Chisum's standards. Somehow he had to hit those plates. They looked big enough.
"Rhemus," Chisum directed. "Throw up the first plate."
Bobby cocked the hammer, aimed, and followed the plate with his eye in the arch up and then downward, until it shattered on the hard-packed ground. He silently chided himself for not shooting. He didn't know why he hadn't shot. Was he spellbound?
"That's two hundred dollars you owe me," Chisum said coolly, while streams of sweat raced down Bobby's face. His armpits felt like rivers and he quickly switched hands with the Colt to dry his palm on the front of his pants.
It was an effort for Bobby to even swallow. The knot in his throat hurt each time he tried. He carefully studied both men and strained to imagine the next trick they had up their sleeves. His hopes for getting the job were fast evaporating in the hot sun.
"He wasn't ready, Rhemus," Chisum said to his servant as if Bobby weren't even there. "This time before you toss it, you give him a shout like, now!"
"I am now." Bobby mopped his wet face on his sleeve and blinked his sweat-stinging eyes at the dazzling sunlight from under his floppy-brimmed hat. He drew a deep breath.
"Now!" Rhemus shouted.
The plate sailed high, wobbled, and Bobby shot. The cloud of blue smoke smarted his eyes, but he heard the undamaged dish hit intact on the ground and smash to pieces.
"That's four hundred you owe me. Way over a year's work as a stableboy. Want to quit?"
"You're getting expensive, you know? You've already missed two of my good china plates. Should we quit?"
"Throw the damn plate." Bobby motioned the gun barrel at Rhemus to go ahead. He'd plugged that damn Rinker in the heart both times with this Colt. Maybe his aim was off. No telling about the old pistol. He bought it for two bucks from a Mexican back in Colorado.
"Toss it up slower this time," Chisum said to his man. "At this rate the poor boy will work the rest of his life for me for free."
"Now!" Rhemus shouted.
Bobby laid his gun butt on his left forearm, took aim, and fired. This time the stiff wind swept the smoke away from his face and he watched the plate shatter in midair.
Chisum stood applauding on the porch. The clap of his hands echoed from the adobe stables beyond. "Very good."
"That makes three hundred I owe you now," Bobby said, readying himself for the next one. "Throw it."
"Now!" Rhemus said, and instead of throwing it up, he tossed the dish flat ways away from him.
Bobby wanted to scream. They were cheating on him. He took a wing shot and fragmented the plate. Rhemus looked up at his boss, then he shrugged his shoulders as if to say, "I tried to trick him."
"Not your fault, Rhemus. That boy can shoot. One more," Chisum said. "Toss this one high."
The plate soared toward the tops of the rustling cottonwoods. Bobby knelt, rested it again on his forearm, and fired. His bullet disintegrated the white circle into a thousand pieces. He stood up, blew the smoke away from the muzzle, then jammed the Colt back in his waistband.
"Not bad," Chisum said, sounding moderately impressed. "You owe me three months' wages. Put that crow-bait of yours in the corral with the other ranch horses. He is a gelding?"
"Thank heavens, I won't want a colt out of him."
"What do I do first?" Bobby asked anxiously.
"You report to Dave McClure. He's the cow boss. If and when I ever need an avenger, I'll call for you."
"Yes, sir." He forced himself to conceal his excitement. He was hired to work for the biggest man in New Mexico. And Jesus, what lucky shooting.
"Oh yes, Bobby, the first three months you'll work for your keep and to repay me."
"I can count," he said, pissed that Chisum thought he was stupid or something. He led the pinto off to the corral. Pay or no pay, he was working for the big man and some how opportunities would avail themselves. He jerked his rigging off the pony and turned him inside the pen. His kack piled on the top rail, he went off whistling to himself to find McClure.
Without money to gamble, buy drinks, or pay whores, Bobby still rode into town on Saturday night with the boys. Hanging around in the streets of Roswell, he soon met Rosa, a pretty Mexican girl close to his own age. They danced for a few hours to the tunes of a small band in a park, then she snuck him into her bedroom. There she showed him the charms of her womanhood.
Sunday morning, when the hungover ranch hands came staggering out of Maria O'Brien's whorehouse, they frowned in disbelief at the beaming face of Bobby. He held the reins with their horses all saddled and ready for the sore-headed punchers to ride back to the ranch.
"Hell, he's sober and looks fresh bred," Cooly said as he coughed and spit in the dust.
"Yeah, the only smart one in the bunch." Phillips staggered off to the corner of the adobe house to retch up his guts with the wall of stucco for support.
"You riding or walking?" Bobby asked, bringing him his horse.
"Shit, riding, man. I couldn't walk to the edge of town." Phillips managed to get aboard by groaning, moaning and more coughing.
For Bobby's good deeds, such as saddling the hands' ponies and other chores done for them, he managed to borrow powder, balls, and caps for his pistol. Any idle time he had he spent target-practicing on brown bottles set up in a dry wash back of the corrals. Soon accurate shooting became as automatic to him as walking. It was point, shoot, and bust a bottle.
The more he practiced, the better he became. He went to smaller targets, like the base of the bottle tossed in the air with his left hand. The Colt in his right blasted it to smithereens.
"Not bad, kid," Phillips said from behind his back, breaking his concentration.
Bobby turned and nodded to the older man who had slipped up unnoticed by him. Phillips was old to be a puncher; men his age usually were foreman or the boss.
"Next time you go up against the old man, load your gun with birdshot and you won't ever miss."
"Good idea, Phillips. I'll remember it." Bobby shook his head in dismay. Why hadn't he thought of that before?
Late that night, he appropriated some shotgun shells McClure used on hawks that got too curious about the ranch's loose chickens. He knew where the foreman kept the spare brass cartridges in a desk drawer. It was ammunition that fit the late-model pump twelve-gauge on the wall in the adobe hovel he called his office. All Bobby wanted was the shot out of a few shells for his own reserve, in case he ever got another chance to shoot at plates in Chisum's front yard.
Saturday night, according to their usual ritual, the hands saddled up to head for Roswell. There was to be a fandango, so Bobby had washed his clothes and wore his suit coat. The sleeves were too long, but he didn't care, and Rosa wasn't that fussy how he dressed. Using a ranch horse for his transportation, he rode out the gate with the hooraying cowboys and his own designs for a night of frolicking with his Rosa.
At the edge of town, he parted from the crew with a foolish grin that spilled his secret plans to the others. His face felt heated for a moment as he realized they knew exactly what his scheme for the evening with her would be.
He rode off down to the water course. There, under some gnarled, rustling cottonwoods, he unsaddled and turned the horse loose to graze. He had plenty of time before she came to join him. With his back to the twisted tree trunk, hat brim pulled down, he planned to take a siesta. Wind stirred the treetops and birds chirped nosily. Somewhere, a jackass brayed mournfully.
A stray dog came by, sniffed at Bobby's boots, dodged his kick and hurried off. He soon drifted into slumber. She would come for him at sundown with food and some wine. His Rosa. He visualized her smooth body, her firm breasts, and imagined making love to her.
He heard loud voices and his eyes fluttered slowly open. With great surprise, he panicked at the sight of several angry men standing above him with clubs. It was sundown, and in the canted red light he could see they were armed and angry. They had come there to do him harm. But why? What did they want? He went for his gun. Before he could draw, they threw a blanket over him and pinned him to the ground. Angry voices cried out in Spanish, harsh words that he shed like small hailstones. Then they began beating him with sticks and clubs.
Were they mad? Crazy?
Past midnight, battered and still dazed from his beating, Bobby managed to crawl to the river. Every muscle and bone in his body ached. A front tooth was broken off. He could feel the empty space with his tongue. His right eye was swollen shut and his left only allowed a narrow slit for partial vision. On the sandbar, he fainted.
He awoke shortly, spit out the grit in his mouth, and forced himself to sit up. Too groggy to clear his head, he wondered about the reason for the attack. He was a friend, an amigo, to many Mexicans. Plenty of them worked on the Chisum ranch. He always got along with them and knew enough Spanish to communicate with them.
He tried to open his aching eyes. He could only see the shimmering moonlit water of the Pecos from his left one. Had they harmed Rosa? No matter how bad he felt, he must see at once that she was safe.
After several tries, he managed to get up and stagger to his horse. Forced to use his left hand to throw the saddle on the horse's back, his right arm felt so bruised he could barely flex his gun fingers. The condition of that arm bothered him. Would he ever be able to use it again?
With all his teeth clenching effort, he managed to mount and ride into town, where he found the other Chisum horses in front of Flanagan's Saloon. He half fell out of the saddle, staggered across the porch, and lurched through the swinging doors.
"Kid, what in the hell happened to you?" Phillips shouted and jumped to his feet, upsetting a whore from his lap. He rushed over and helped settle Bobby into a chair. One of the girls brought a pan of water and a cloth to clean his cuts. Someone else shoved a glass of whiskey in his hand.
The rye burned like hell going down his throat. He drank some more and someone with a bottle refilled his glass while the puta very carefully cleansed the cuts on his face.
Word quickly went out to the others and the Chisum outfit soon filled the saloon around him. Like warriors anxious for revenge, they hung on their teammate's every word. Bobby told them the entire story, still confused about the reason for the beating. He tried to flex his right arm, but even the whiskey that eased his hurting had not helped to limber it.
Phillips took charge when he finished.
"Tootle, you and Cooly ride down there in messikin town and get a couple of them. Bring them back here and we'll get to the bottom of this mess."
The pair agreed and pulled down their hats. They waded out the batwing doors in their bullhide chaps and everyone else nodded in approval at the plan. They would soon know the truth. Bobby drank some more whiskey and tried to focus his good eye on the mirror beyond the bar. Whew, he sure looked beat up. Some good-looking young puta kept pestering him — didn't bother her how he looked.
In a short while, Tootle and Cooly returned with two sullen Mexican prisoners. They roughly shoved them inside the saloon.
"Here they are," Tootle announced. He parted the others standing around and went to the bar for a drink. The rest of the cowboys soon surrounded the prisoners.
Phillips rose from his chair, inspecting the two as he used his thumb to tip back his Stetson. "Why the hell did you beat up our pard here?" He pointed at Bobby.
The two Mexicans huddled together, obviously awed by Chisum's men. They shrugged as if they knew nothing.
"Get a lariat," Phillips said. "Maybe if we stretch their damn necks they'll remember something."
Excerpted from Servant of the Law by Dusty Richards. Copyright © 2000 Dusty Richards. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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