Johnstone Justice. What America Needs Now.
The Kerrigans have fought long and hard to carve out their own piece of heaven on the Texas frontier. And when evil comes knocking at their door, with guns blazing, there’ll be hell to pay . . .
NO SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL
It begins with a simple act of kindness—and ends in a shocking night of violence. A homeless family shows up on Kate Kerrigan’s doorstep, seeking refuge from a vengeful rancher’s wrath. Seeing their desperation—and fear—the West Texas matriarch welcomes the family into her home. But her charity turns out to be an invitation to disaster. First, the rancher and his henchmen come gunning for her houseguests. They break into Kate’s mansion. They shoot her butler, brutalize her staff, and try to force themselves on Kate. Then the real slaughter begins. When the smoke clears, Kate vows to send these murderous bastards straight to hell. Even if she has to dance with the devil himself . . .
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 email@example.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
Don't you hate it when a bullet splits the air an inch from your head and spoils an interesting conversation? Well, Kerrigan ranch hand Chas Minor sure did.
He'd had been out for four days checking on the state of the early fall range, and in that time, he hadn't seen another traveler, not even a drifting cowhand looking for a winter berth. As lonely riders often do, Minor spoke to his horse, not that the little dun paid any attention to his chatter apart from the occasional flick of his ears and ill-tempered snort. Behind them, the pack mule took no interest in anything, least of all the ramblings of the puncher breed, for whom it harbored an undying hatred.
"We'll camp in the timber tonight, hoss," the young puncher said. "Stake you and the mule out on some good grass while I belly up to some salt pork and pan bread." Minor leaned from the saddle and stared into the dun's mean right eye. Its left was twice as mean but out of sight. "How does that set with you, little feller, huh?"
Tired and irritated by the constant tug of the rising wind, the horse tossed his head, jangling the bit.
Minor took that as a sign of approval. "Good, then it's a plan." He looked ahead of him at the tree line. "I reckon we're right close to the New Mexico Territory border." The puncher nodded. "Yup, seems like fer sure."
It's possible that man and mount would have kept up this one-sided conversation for quite some time had not the bullet cracked close to Minor's head followed by another that kicked up a startled exclamation point of dirt a few feet in front of him.
Chas Minor was a gun hand, fast on the draw and shoot, as game as they come, and nobody ever considered him a bargain. But the dun was green, already jumpy from the wind, and he wanted no part of the earsplitting bangs that had shattered the afternoon quiet.
As a result two events happened very fast. The mule, full of deviltry and spitefulness, took the opportunity to turn and bolt, tearing the lead rope from Minor's hand. At the same time the dun bucked and all four hooves left the ground at the same time in a move worthy of the most homicidal rodeo bronc. Minor, in the act of shucking iron, was thrown and landed hard on his back, his Colt spinning several feet away. As a bullet thudded into the high heel of his left boot, the puncher rolled to his right and grabbed his fallen revolver. He caught a fleeting glimpse of smoke drifting from the tree line, thumbed off a fast shot, and then dusted a couple more into the timber. Minor was rewarded by a shout of pain.
A man's voice yelled, "We're done! Don't shoot no more!"
Tree branches shook and running feet rustled through brush.
A moment later a woman cried out, "Pa! Over here! Jed's been shot again."
Chas Minor, his eyes never leaving the trees, took the opportunity to eject the empties from his Colt and load three fresh shells. Uncomfortably aware that he was out in the open without cover, he hardened his voice and said, "You in there. Git the hell out here where I can see you. I got faith in this here six-gun and right about now I'm good and mad."
Minor was tense. Any number of gunmen could be hidden in the trees. This far out on the Kerrigan range was a lawless place where bad men continually came and went, some headed south, fleeing the law in the New Mexico Territory, others riding north, away from the Texas Rangers who weren't too fussy about bringing wanted outlaws back alive. In dangerous country, the man who shot first was the one who'd live to drink coffee the following morning.
Only a few months before and not far from where Minor stood, the Rangers had tracked down and gunned Indian Bob Henman, a rapist and murderer who had a pistol reputation going back to his time as a cow-town lawman in Kansas. "Killed while trying to escape," was the official line, but everybody knew that taking a hard-to-handle prisoner like Indian Bob back to El Paso for trial was never on the cards. It was rumored later that the outlaw had his mitts in the air when he took a baker's dozen bullets to the chest and most folks figured it was a natural fact.
So, Chas Minor had every right to be wary. A hundred different kinds of hell could walk out of the trees and land in his lap. The young puncher adjusted his thinking for a gunfight and then adjusted it again for no gunfight.
"We're coming out," a man yelled from the trees. "Give us time. My son is shot through and through."
Minor decided to take a tough stand. "You either show yourselves in five minutes or I'm coming in after you. Mister, seems like you got a decision to make."
"You're a hard and demanding man."
"Yup, I sure am," Minor said.
"Be patient. Give us time."
"Well, right now I'm running out of patience and I didn't have much to begin with."
Then, something unexpected came from the man in the trees. "You hunting us? Did Blade Koenig send you?"
After his initial surprise, the young puncher said, "Never heard of the man. Name's Chas Minor. I ride for the KK ranch, and, Pilgrim, right now you're trespassing on it. You're down to four minutes to git the hell out of there and be sociable."
A couple minutes of silence followed, the only sound the rustle of the gusting south wind through the pines and wild oak. To the north the sky had turned a gloomy purple black over the Caprock, and Minor figured by dark he'd need his slicker. His patience wearing thin, he studied the tree line and decided he had to bring this ... whatever it was ... standoff, to a close that was agreeable to all parties.
Colt in hand, his chin set and bunched, Minor stepped toward the timber then stopped in his tracks as a team of skinny Morgans hauling a wagon appeared from a clearing to his left. A pair of women were up on the seat, the reins held by the older of the two. Thin and shabby, her face was hidden by a blue poke bonnet. Her companion was bareheaded and the front of her dress was partially unbuttoned as she held a baby to a swollen breast. In the back of the wagon an undersized young boy stared at Minor with round, brown eyes that were curious but unafraid. After the wagon pulled out of the trees, the older woman drew rein and then turned her head, revealing a pleasant but weatherworn face. She ignored Minor and looked behind her. Two men emerged from the timber, one with his arm around the other's waist, helping him stagger forward on dragging, unsteady legs.
Chas Minor thumbed back the hammer of his Colt, its triple click loud in the quiet. "I don't want to see any fancy moves. I'm almighty sudden with this here iron."
The older man said, "Damn you, mister, look at the blood on my son's shirt, front and back. He's sore wounded and like to die. We're not gunmen. Hell, boy, you taught us that lesson."
"Sometimes the best lessons are learned the hard way," Minor said. "Set him down on the grass and I'll have a look at him."
"You a doctor?" the older man said. One of Minor's bullets had grazed his left cheek, leaving an angry red welt. He was tall and gaunt, his black beard threaded with gray, and his shoulders were narrow, stooped; he was a tired man with no fight left in him.
"I'm not a doctor," Minor said, "but I've seen a passel of bullet wounds in my time."
His voice bitter, the man said, "And I've no doubt that half of them you caused your ownself."
Minor nodded. "Seems about right. Now lay that feller down before he bleeds to death."
The wagon creaked as the woman in the poke bonnet climbed down and stepped quickly to her menfolk. She helped lay the wounded man on his back as the younger woman buttoned her dress and, with her baby in her arms, hurried to the man's side.
Still wary, his eyes everywhere at once, Minor lowered the hammer of his Colt and slid the revolver back into the leather. He took a knee beside the wounded man. He was young, somewhere in his late twenties, and as tall and gaunt as his father, with a shock of black hair and an untrimmed chin beard. He was still conscious, his brown eyes wide, frightened, betraying obvious pain. He didn't have a fighter's face — a farmer's face maybe, and one raised on scripture and prune juice.
No one ever mistook Chas Minor for a nurse, and he made that clear as he tore open the man's shirt and examined his wound. After a while he said, "It's a high chest wound and it's bad. My bullet drilled him all the way through and probably broke his shoulder on the way out." He looked up at the older man. "He'll live if we can get him to a doctor before an infection sets in." He frowned. "Who the hell are you people? Bushwhacking folks sure don't fit your pistol."
"I told you, we pegged you as one of Blade Koenig's hired guns, and we was mistaken," the older man said. "My name is Poter Tillett, and this here a- bleedin' on the ground is my son Jed." He nodded to the slack-breasted woman in the blue poke bonnet. "My wife, Phoebe, and over there holding the young'un is Jed's wife, Edna. The youngster over yonder looking at you like you just grew horns is Miles, my other son."
"Name's Chas Minor. Where are you from and what the hell are you rubes doing in Texas?"
Phoebe Tillett, her anger rising, answered. "We're from the New Mexico Territory, up Luna County way, and what we're doing in Texas is running — running from Blade Koenig and his killers."
The Tillett clan had a story to tell, but as the day shaded into dusk, Chas Minor decided it wasn't the time to hear it. The Tilletts had tried to kill him, so he had reason enough to dislike them, but there was something about them that he could not figure. Maybe the fact that they were ... pathetic. It was not a good-looking family. The men were not handsome, the women plain without any trace of prettiness, and all of them seemed dull and unintelligent. Even Miles, the youngest, stared vacantly out on the world with eyes that showed no spark of life or interest, as though he watched whitewash drying on a fence. Withal, the Tilletts were an unattractive bunch, mired in the mud of mediocrity as though they couldn't help it.
But then Poter showed some spark. "We don't blame you none for what happened. We brought it on ourselves. Me and Jed, we was pretty much firing blind. I guess we should have done some asking before shooting."
"Maybe you should have at that," Minor said. "Look before you shoot is generally how it's done in this part of Texas. You got horses back in the trees, Tillett?"
"Yes, a couple."
"Then bring one of them out here. I need to round up my dun and pack mule. After he's done that, you women help him carry Jed into shelter."
"Will my husband live, Mr. Minor?" Edna Tillett said. She was a homely young woman with unkempt hair and leathery skin scarred by smallpox, then a frontier scourge.
Chas Minor made up his mind. "He needs a doctor. I'll take all of you back to the Kerrigan ranch, where he can be treated."
"But will he live?" the woman said, pleading for the kind of reassurance that a young, gun-handy puncher could not give her.
"I don't know if he'll live or not."
"When he's well, Jed is a strong man. He can lift an anvil."
"Guess all that depends on the size of the anvil."
"He's my man. I don't want him to die."
"If the wound doesn't become infected he'll probably be all right," Minor said. "We can make the ranch in a couple days, so he'll have a chance."
"Why are you doing this for us, Mr. Minor, after ... after ... what happened?" Phoebe said.
Minor shook his head. "Lady, the hell if I know."CHAPTER 2
Kate Kerrigan woke with a start. Her heart pounded in her chest and remembered fear spiked at her. Oh, dear God, she'd been dreaming of Queen Victoria and foggy London town again.
The faint gray light of the clean Texas dawn filtered through the lace curtains of her bedroom window and from outside she heard a cussing puncher turn the air blue as he tried to throw his saddle on a paint mare the hands had named Rat's Ass because of her somewhat less than friendly disposition. Marco Salas, the ranch blacksmith, was already at work, and the steady clang of hammer on anvil dropped into the new-aborning morning like the pealing of a church bell.
Kate turned her head, her red hair spreading across the pillow like scarlet silk, and her eyes moved to the far wall, where the frowning portrait of the old queen hung beside the equally scowling visage of Hiram I. Clay, the mustachioed president of the West Texas Cattleman's Association and Kate's most ardent suitor.
For long moments she stared into the cold, intolerant eyes of Queen Vic, by God's Grace Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India. Good heavens, had it really been a three-month since those same eyes stared at her across a table set for afternoon tea in the monarch's parlor in Buckingham Palace?
* * *
"We are most pleased that you accepted our invitation to tea, Mrs. Kerrigan," Queen Victoria said, still wearing black mourning weeds for her late husband, Prince Albert, dead these twenty years and more. "Our most loyal subject His Grace the Duke of Argyll speaks very highly of you." The queen allowed herself a rare smile, pouring Kate's tea with her own hand. "How fares that stalwart Mr. William Cody, who recently entertained us with his tales of your adventurous derring-do among the wild natives who assail Christians with their dreaded tom-a-hawks? Milk and sugar?"
"Please, milk and no sugar, Your Majesty," Kate said. "As for the Indians, I was never in any danger. The ones I encountered were just a part of Bill's Wild West Show."
"Well when we visited the show and beheld the bloodthirsty savages so close we were much affrighted," the queen said. "Thank goodness a troop of our Inniskilling Dragoons was close at hand to protect our royal person."
Victorian women in mourning were expected to be miserly with their smiles, and Victoria frugally spent one of hers. "We're so happy that you were not in any danger, Mrs. Kerrigan." She lightly touched the back of Kate's hand. "But we fear that we must take you to task." The queen frowned. "No sugar, Mrs. Kerrigan? We hope that does not mean that you won't make a trial of our sponge cake, of which we are exceedingly proud. Justifiably, we think."
"Oh, I'm most anxious to try it, Your Majesty," Kate said. "I bake a very fine sponge cake myself, using your own recipe."
The queen arched a plucked eyebrow. "Indeed? Then we trust you use the finest quality flour and jam for the filling. Raspberry jam of course, Mrs. Kerrigan. Accept no substitute."
"Indeed, raspberry is what I use. I wouldn't dream of using anything else."
Victoria leaned across the table and tapped the side of her nose with a forefinger. "And we add a secret ingredient. Would you like to know what it is?"
"Very much so, Your Majesty," Kate said, smiling.
"Can you keep a secret, Mrs. Kerrigan?"
"Oh yes, Your Majesty. Back home in Texas I'm quite famous for keeping secrets."
The queen again raised a snobbish eyebrow. "Oh, really? One would think that the wild Texans don't have any secrets."
"They have some, mostly concerning affairs of the heart," Kate said.
"Ah, then you must tell us some of those one day."
"But then they wouldn't be secrets."
"Just so. Then we will tell you ours, Mrs. Kerrigan, and this is just between you and me, understand?"
"Oh, of course. I wouldn't dream of giving away your secret," Kate said.
The queen sat back in her chair and declared with an air of triumph, "Rosewater! There, we've said it. At long last the secret is out."
"Rosewater, Your Majesty?"
"Rosewater! Just a few drops added to the cake batter to taste." Victoria smiled. "It adds ... what do the French say? ... a piquancy to the flavor. There, we've given away a state secret at last."
"And I can't wait to try it," Kate said.
"And we, dear lady, can't wait to serve it."
Victoria gave Kate a large wedge of cake and cut a similar portion for herself. As the monarch chewed, Kate was surprised that the ruler of the greatest empire the world had ever seen had crumbs in both corners of her mouth. Now and again that happened to her, but she didn't think it ever happened to queens.
"The cake is excellent, Your Majesty," Kate said. Then, a small fib. "Much better than mine, I do declare."
"We are so glad you like it," Victoria said. "Rosewater! That's the key." She sipped her tea then laid the cup carefully back in the saucer. "We are assured that it takes a remarkable and courageous woman to run the biggest ranch in the American West."
Kate nodded, accepting the compliment. "And an even more remarkable and courageous woman to run an empire."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Devil To Pay"
Copyright © 2018 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.