The Chuckwagon Trail

The Chuckwagon Trail

by William W. Johnstone, J. A. Johnstone

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Reissue)

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Overview

Johnstone Country.  Frontier Spirit Lives Here.

  National bestselling authors William W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone spin a breakneck tale about a heroic chuckwagon cook who knows just what to do when cowboys get hungry—for revenge . . .
 
THE CHUCKWAGON TRAIL
 
Framed for murder, Dewey “Mac” McKenzie is running for his life. Though Mac’s never even made a pot of coffee, he talks his way onto a cattle drive heading west—as a chuckwagon cook. Turns out he has a natural talent for turning salt pork and dried beans into culinary gold. He’s as good with a pot and pan as he is with a gun—which comes in handy on a dangerous trail drive beset with rustlers, hostile Indians, ornery weather, and deadly stampedes. Mac can hold his own with any cowboy twice his age. At least until the real showdown begins. . . .
 
Trail hand, Deke Northrup, is one mean spit in the eye. Before long, he’s made enemies of all his men. When Mac learns that Northrup is planning to double-cross the herd’s owner, he stands up to the trail boss and his henchman. He might be outgunned and outnumbered, but Mac’s ready to serve up some blazing frontier justice—with a healthy helping of vengeance. . . .

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786040445
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 04/24/2018
Series: A Chuckwagon Trail Western Series , #1
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 95,232
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

William W. Johnstone is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over 300 books, including the series THE MOUNTAIN MAN; PREACHER, THE FIRST MOUNTAIN MAN; MACCALLISTER; LUKE JENSEN, BOUNTY HUNTER; FLINTLOCK; THOSE JENSEN BOYS; THE FRONTIERSMAN; SAVAGE TEXAS; THE KERRIGANS; and WILL TANNER: DEPUTY U.S. MARSHAL. His thrillers include BLACK FRIDAY, TYRANNY, STAND YOUR GROUND, and THE DOOMSDAY BUNKER. Visit his website at www.williamjohnstone.net or email him at dogcia2006@aol.com.
 
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

CHAPTER 1

Dewey Mackenzie shivered as he pressed against the wet stone wall and blinked moisture from his eyes. Whether it came from the chilly rain that had fallen in New Orleans earlier this evening or from his own fear-fueled sweat — or both — he didn't know. He supposed it didn't matter.

Right now, he just wanted to avoid the two men standing guard across the street. Both were twice his size, and one had the battered look of a boxer. Even in the dim light cast by the gas lamp far down Royal Street, Mac saw the flattened nose, the cauliflower ears, and the way the man continually ducked and dodged imaginary punches.

At some time in the past, those punches hadn't been imaginary, and there had been a lot of them.

A medium-sized young man with longish dark hair and what had been described by more than one young woman as a roguish smile, Mac rubbed his hands against the sides of his fancy dress trousers and settled his Sunday go-to-meeting coat around his shoulders.

Carrying a gun on an errand like this was out of the question, but he missed the comforting feel of his Smith & Wesson Model 3 resting on his hip. He closed his eyes, licked his lips, and then sidled back along the wall until he reached the cross street. Like a cat, he slid around the corner to safety and heaved a huge sigh.

Getting in to see Evangeline Holdstock was always a chore, but after her pa had threatened him with death — or worse — if he caught him nosing around their mansion again, Mac had come to the only possible conclusion. He had been seeing Evangeline on the sly for more than two months, reveling in the stolen moments they shared. Even, if he cared to admit it to himself, enjoying the risks he was running.

He was little more than a drifter in the eyes of Micah Holdstock, owner of the second biggest bank in New Orleans. Holdstock measured his wealth in millions. The best the twenty-one-year-old could come up with was a bright, shiny silver cartwheel and a sweat-stained wad of Union greenbacks, but he had earned the money honestly at a restaurant in the French Quarter.

Mac held his hands in front of him and balled them into fists. He had worked as a farmhand and a half dozen jobs on riverboats before he washed ashore in the Crescent City three months earlier. Every bit of that work was honest, even if it didn't pay as well as sitting behind a bank desk and denying people loans.

He tried to erase such thoughts from his mind. Holdstock's bank served a purpose, and the man made his money honestly, too. It just wasn't the way Mac earned his. It wasn't the way anyone else he'd ever known in his young life had earned their money, either.

If he wanted to carry out his mission tonight, he had to concentrate on that. He had gotten himself cleaned up for a simple reason.

Looking his best was a necessity when he asked Evie to marry him.

"Mrs. Dewey Mackenzie," he said softly. He liked the sound of that. "My wife. Mrs. Evangeline Mackenzie."

A quick peek around the corner down Royal Street dampened his spirits a mite. The two guards still stood in front of the door leading into the Holdstock house. Shifting his eyes from the street to the second story revealed a better way to get in without being caught and given a thrashing.

More than likely, Evie's pa had told those bruisers they could toss him into the river if they caught him snooping around. This time of year, the Mississippi River roiled with undertow and mysterious currents known only to the best of the riverboat pilots. It wasn't safe to swim anywhere near the port.

"Besides," he said softly to himself, "I don't want to muddy up my fancy duds." He smoothed wrinkles out of his coat, then boldly walked across the street without so much as a glance in the guards' direction.

He stopped and looked up when he was hidden by the wall. A black iron decoration drooped down from the railing around the second-story veranda just enough for him to grab. He stepped back a couple paces, got a running start, and made a grand leap. His fingers closed on the ornate wrought iron. With a powerful heave, he pulled himself up and got a leg over the railing.

Moving carefully to keep from tearing his trousers or getting his coat dirty, he dropped to the balcony floor and looked down to see if he had drawn any unwanted attention. Mac caught his breath when the guard who must have been a boxer came around the corner, scratched his head, and looked down the street. Moving quickly, Mac leaned back out of sight before the man looked up.

Senses acute with fear, he heard the guard shuffle away, heading back toward the door where his partner waited. Mac sank into a chair and used a handkerchief to wipe sweat from his forehead.

If this had been a couple of months later, he would have been drenched in sweat and for a good reason. Summer in New Orleans wore a man down with stifling heat and oppressive humidity, but now, late April, the sweat came from a different cause.

"Buck up," he whispered to himself. "Her pa can't stop you. You're going to marry the most wonderful girl in all New Orleans, and tonight's the night you ask for her hand."

Mac knew he had things backward, but considering how Mr. Holdstock acted, he wanted to be sure Evie loved him as much as he did her. Best to find out if she would marry him, then ask her pa for her hand in marriage. If Evie agreed, then to hell with whatever her pa thought.

He took a deep breath, reflecting on what she would be giving up. She claimed not to like the social whirl of a young debutante, but he had to wonder if some part of her didn't enjoy the endless attention, the fancy clothing, the rush of a cotillion followed by a soirée and whatever else they called a good old hoedown in New Orleans society.

A quick look over the railing convinced him the guard had returned to his post. Stepping carefully, knowing from prior experience where every creaky board was, he made his way along the balcony to a closed window. The curtains had been pulled. He pressed his hand against the window pane, then peered into Evie's bedroom. Squinting, he tried to make out if she stood in the shadows. The coal-oil lamp had been extinguished, but if she was expecting him, she wouldn't advertise her presence.

He tried the door handle. Locked. Using his knife blade, he slipped it between the French doors and lifted slowly. When he felt resistance, he applied a bit more pressure. The latch opened to him, as it had so many times before. Evie liked to playact that he was a burglar come to rob her of her jewels, then ravish her.

The thought of that made him blush because he enjoyed it as much as she did. More than once, he had sneaked into her room and gone through the elaborate ritual of demanding her jewels, then forcing her to disrobe slowly to prove she had not hidden anything on her body. Both of them got too excited to ever carry on with the charade for more than a few minutes. He went to the bed now and pressed down on it with his fingers, remembering the times they had made love here.

Mac swung around and sat, wondering how long he should wait before he went hunting for her.

For all he knew, her ma and pa were out for the night. Their social life mingled with Holdstock's banking business and caused them to attend parties and meetings throughout the week to maintain their standing in the community. Mac got antsy after less than a minute and went to the bedroom door. Carefully opening it, he looked down the hallway. Evie's room was at the back of the house, while her parents had the room at the front, at the far end of the hallway lined with fancy paintings and marble sculptures. The Persian rug muffled his footfalls as he made his way to the head of the stairs.

The broad fan of steps swept down to the foyer. He ducked back when he heard Holdstock speaking with someone at the door. From the guest's accent, he was French. That meant little in a town filled with Frenchmen and Acadians. French Creole was almost as widely spoken as English or Spanish.

"I am glad we could meet, Monsieur Leclerc. Come into the study. I have a fine cigar from Cuba that you will find delightful."

"Bon, good, Mr. Holdstock. And brandy?"

"Only the finest French brandy."

The two laughed and disappeared from sight. Mac cursed his bad luck. It would have been better if Holdstock were out of the house rather than entertaining — or conducting business, judging by the formality the two showed one another. Some high-powered deal was being struck not fifty feet away. That deal would undoubtedly make the banker rich. Or richer than he already was.

But Mac didn't care about that. His riches were wrapped in crinoline and lace, with flowing blond hair and eyes as green as jade. He stepped back and wondered where she might be.

Then he heard her soft voice below as she greeted Monsieur Leclerc and exchanged a few mumbled pleasantries. The sound of her slippers moving against the foyer floor set his heart racing. He hastily retreated to her bedroom and closed the door behind him. From past times here, he knew the exact spot to stand.

Beside her wardrobe, hidden in shadow when she lit the oil lamp, he could cherish her for a few seconds before she realized she was not alone. Mac pressed into the niche just as the door opened. He closed his eyes and took a deep whiff. Jasmine perfume made his nostrils flare. This was her favorite perfume, but he told her often she did not need it, not with him. Just being around her intoxicated his senses more than enough.

He opened his eyes and squinted as he stared directly into the burning wick of Evie's bedside lamp. She bent over slightly, hands on the bed, her bustle wiggling delightfully.

"I have never seen any woman so lovely," he said. "If I live to be a thousand, I never will forget this moment, this sight, this beautiful —"

She straightened and spun. Her eyes went wide. His heart almost skipped a beat when he realized it wasn't surprise that caused her face to contort. It was fear.

"What's wrong, my dear?" He went to her, but she pushed him back.

"Go, Mac. Get out of here now. Please. Don't slow down. He knows we've been seeing each other."

"I don't care. I love you. Do you love me?"

"Yes, yes," she said, flustered. She brushed back a wayward strand of lustrous, honey blond hair and looked up at him. True fear twisted her face. "I love you with all my heart and soul, Mac. That's why you have to leave."

"Then let's go together. Let's elope. We can find a justice of the peace. We don't have to get married in the St. Louis Basilica."

"Mac, you don't understand. I —"

"I can't give you a fancy house or fine clothing or jewelry like this." He touched the pearl necklace around her slender throat, then moved to caress her cheek. "Not now. Someday I will. Together we can —"

"You have to go before he catches you!"

"I'll go down and beard the old lion in his den. We'll have it out, man to man. I won't let him chase me off from the love of my life." He moved her around so he could go to the door.

Before he could get there, the door slammed open, reverberating as it smashed into the wall. Silhouetted against the light from downstairs, Micah Holdstock filled the frame.

"I should have known you would come, especially on a night like this!"

Mac began, "Mr. Holdstock, I —"

"Papa, please, you can't do this. Don't hurt him." Evie tried to interpose herself between the men, but Mac wouldn't have it. No woman he loved sacrificed herself for him, especially with her father.

"Evie and I love each other, sir. We're getting married!"

Micah Holdstock let out a roar like a charging bull. The attack took Mac by surprise. Strong arms encircled his body and lifted him off his feet. He tried to get his arms free but couldn't with them pinned at his sides. Still roaring, Holdstock went directly for the French doors and smashed through them. Shards of glass sprayed in the air and tumbled to the balcony as he used Mac as a battering ram.

The collision robbed Mac of breath. He went limp in the man's death grip. This saved him from being driven against the iron railing and having his back broken. He dropped to his knees as Holdstock crashed into the wrought-iron railing and fought to keep from tumbling into the street below.

"Papa," he heard Evie pleading, trying to stop the attack.

Mac got to shaky feet to face her pa.

"This is no way for future in-laws to act," he gasped out. "My intentions are honorable."

"She's betrothed. As of this very evening!" Again Holdstock charged.

Mac saw the expression of resignation on Evie's face an instant before her father's hard fist caught him on the side of the head and sent him reeling. He grabbed the iron railing and went over, dangled a moment, then fell heavily to the cobblestone street and sprawled onto his back. He stared up to see Evie sobbing bitterly as her father grabbed her by the arm and pulled her out of sight.

"You can't do this. I won't let you!" He got to his feet in time to see the two guards round the corner. From the way they were hurrying, he knew what they had been ordered to do.

Shameful though it might be, he turned and ran.

The guards' bulk meant they were slower on their feet than Mac was. Three blocks later, he finally evaded them by ducking into a saloon in Pirate's Alley. He leaned against the wall for a moment, catching his breath. The smoke in the dive formed a fog so thick it wasn't possible to see more than a few feet. He coughed, then went to the bar and collapsed against it.

"I say this to damned near ever'body what comes into this place," the barkeep said, "but in your case I mean it. You look like you could use

CHAPTER 2

The bartender poured a shot of whiskey.

Mac knocked it back, and it almost knocked him down. He wasn't much of a drinker, but this had to be the most potent popskull he had ever encountered. He choked, swallowed, then said, "Another."

"The first was on the house. The next one you pay for."

"I just had a run-in with my lady friend's pa." He sucked in a breath and endured the pain in his ribs. Micah Holdstock had a grip like a bear. The powerful liquor went a ways toward easing the pain. He fumbled out a greenback for another drink. He needed all the deadening he could pour down his gullet.

The bartender picked up the bill, examined it, and tucked it away. "Don't usually take Yankee bills, but seeing's as how you're in pain, I will this time." He splashed more whiskey into Mac's empty glass.

Mac started to protest at not getting change. As the second shot hit his gut and set his head spinning, he forgot about it. What difference did it make anyway? He had to find a way to sneak Evie out of the house and get her to a judge for a proper marrying.

"Do tell."

Mac blinked and frowned. He hadn't realized he had been talking out loud, but obviously the bartender knew what he'd been thinking. He ran a shaky finger around the rim of his empty shot glass and captured the last amber drop. He licked it off his fingertip. The astringent burn on his tongue warned him that another drink might make him pass out.

"I'll find a way," he said, with more assurance than he felt. He needed both hands on the bar to support himself.

As he considered a third drink, he noticed how the sound in the saloon went away. All he heard was the pounding of his pulse in his ears. Thinking the drink had turned him deaf, he started to shout out for another, then saw the frightened expression on the barkeep's face. Looking over his shoulder, he saw the reason.

The two guards who had been stationed outside Micah Holdstock's front door now stood just inside the saloon, arms crossed over their chests. Those arms bulged with muscles. The men fixed steely gazes on him. Out of habit — or maybe desperation — Mac patted his right hip but found no revolver hanging there. He had dressed up for the occasion of asking Evie to marry him. There hadn't been any call for him to go armed.

He knew now that was a big mistake. He turned and had to brace himself against the bar with both elbows. He blinked hard, as much from the smoke as the tarantula juice he had swilled. Hoping he saw double and only one guard faced him, he quickly realized how wrong that was. There were two of them, and they had blood in their eyes.

"You gonna stand there all night or you gonna come for me?" He tried to hold back the taunt but failed. The liquor had loosened his tongue and done away with his common sense. Somewhere deep down in his brain, he knew he was inviting them to kill him, but he couldn't stop himself. "Well? Come on!" He balanced precariously, one foot in front of the other, fists balled and raised.

The one who looked like a boxer stirred, but the other held him back.

"Waiting for the bell to ring? Come on. Let's mix it up." He took a couple of tentative punches at thin air.

"Mister, that's Hiram Higgins," the bartender said, reaching across the bar to tug at his sleeve. "He lost to Gypsy Jem Mace over in Kennerville."

"So that just means he can lose to me just east of Jackson Square."

"Mister, Gypsy Jem whupped Tom Allen the next day for the heavyweight championship."

"So? You said this man Higgins lost."

"He lost after eighteen rounds. Ain't nobody stayed with the Gypsy longer 'n that. The man's a killer with those fists."

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "The Chuckwagon Trail"
by .
Copyright © 2017 J. A. 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Chuckwagon Trail 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous 4 months ago
read+1+and+2%2C+looking+forward+to+3+in+2020.+plot+does+not+disappoint+it+or+lag.+lots+of+action.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Clever inclusion of a wide variety of life situations a young man might have found himself in those days. The young man's honesty, work ethic, willingness to learn from his mistakes, and make them right... and how to live with the consequences when nothing can make it right... how using his head, learning new skills, learning from others to accomplish tasks he never would have thought possible before.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the Chuck wagon reads! Fun to read, & it gives you an idea of how the cowboys lived.
insanepoet65 More than 1 year ago
TITLE: The Chuckwagon Trail AUTHOR: William W. Johnstone & J.A. Johnstone GENRE: Western PAGES: 273 One of the things I love about westerns is nine times out of ten you get a good revenge tale. I love the story where someone does someone really wrong and justice must be served, wither by the end of a rope or the end of a gun. The Chuckwagon Trail is just such a book. Dewey “Mac” Mackenzie is on the run after being framed for murder. He runs from New Orleans and eventually finds himself in Waco, TX, flat broke and almost no job prospects on the horizon. Then he meets the trail boss who needs a cook. Dewey can barely make a pot of coffee, but he is willing to learn, and learn he does. While on the trail, one of the trail hands decides to turn the crew against the rancher and his trail boss and take the cattle for themselves. Dewey cannot let this slide, and even though the numbers are against him, he has to do something. It is a good thing he learned to shoot as he learned to cook! This book has all of the benchmarks you look for in a western. Setting, action, gunfights, and revenge. The characters are relatable. The book moves at a fast pace. When you are done reading it, you will feel satisfied as if you just chowed down on country friend steak and potatoes! 4 out of 5 bookmarks.
insanepoet65 More than 1 year ago
TITLE: The Chuckwagon Trail AUTHOR: William W. Johnstone & J.A. Johnstone GENRE: Western PAGES: 273 One of the things I love about westerns is nine times out of ten you get a good revenge tale. I love the story where someone does someone really wrong and justice must be served, wither by the end of a rope or the end of a gun. The Chuckwagon Trail is just such a book. Dewey “Mac” Mackenzie is on the run after being framed for murder. He runs from New Orleans and eventually finds himself in Waco, TX, flat broke and almost no job prospects on the horizon. Then he meets the trail boss who needs a cook. Dewey can barely make a pot of coffee, but he is willing to learn, and learn he does. While on the trail, one of the trail hands decides to turn the crew against the rancher and his trail boss and take the cattle for themselves. Dewey cannot let this slide, and even though the numbers are against him, he has to do something. It is a good thing he learned to shoot as he learned to cook! This book has all of the benchmarks you look for in a western. Setting, action, gunfights, and revenge. The characters are relatable. The book moves at a fast pace. When you are done reading it, you will feel satisfied as if you just chowed down on country friend steak and potatoes! 4 out of 5 bookmarks.