THE GREATEST WESTERN WRITERS OF THE 21ST CENTURY
For generations, the Jensen family has staked their claim in the heart of the American West. Now the legacy continues as twin brothers Ace and Chance Jensen find justice . . . swinging from a hangman’s noose.
THE BAD ALSO DIE YOUNG
In a court of law, it takes twelve jurors to convict a killer. Two of them are Jensens. It all started when those Jensen boys, Ace and Chance, got roped into jury duty. It should have ended when justice was servedwith the killer dancing on the end of a rope. But no. This is just the beginning of the death sentence for Ace, Chance, and the other ten terrified jurors.
A JURY OF TWELVE MEN AND DEAD
He’s one of the most notorious outlaws in the west. He’s also the brother of the hanged killer. Now he’s here in town—and plans to slaughter the jurors, one by one. There’s just one hitch:
Ace and Chance aren’t getting ready for judgment day. They’re gunning for justice—Jensen style . . .
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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
Twelve Dead Men
Those Jensen Boys!
By William W. Johnstone, J. A. Johnstone
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 J. A. Johnstone
All rights reserved.
"Nice, peaceful-looking town," Chance Jensen commented as he and his brother approached the settlement.
"Think it'll stay that way after we ride in?" Ace Jensen asked.
"Why wouldn't it?"
"I'm just going by our history, that's all. Seems like every time we show up in a place, hell starts to pop."
Chance made a scoffing sound. "Now you're just being ... what's the word?"
"I was thinking crazy," Ace said.
The brothers drew rein in front of a livery stable at the edge of town, halting Ace's big, rangy chestnut and Chance's cream-colored gelding in front of the open double doors.
Not many people would have taken them for twin brothers, despite the truth of their birth. When they swung down from their saddles, Ace stood slightly taller than Chance and his shoulders spread a little wider. Dark hair peeked out from under his thumbed-back Stetson. The battered hat matched his well-worn range clothes and the plain, walnut-butted Colt .45 Peacemaker that stuck up from a holster on his right hip.
A flat-crowned brown hat sat on Chance's lighter, sandy-colored hair. He preferred fancier clothes than his brother, in this case a brown tweed suit and a black string tie. A .38 caliber Smith & Wesson Second Model revolver rode in a shoulder holster under the suit coat, out of sight but handy if Chance needed to use it ... which he could, with considerable speed and accuracy.
Both Jensen brothers possessed an uncanny ability to handle guns that had saved their lives — and the lives of numerous innocent people — in the past.
A tall, rawboned man in late middle age ambled out of the livery stable to meet them. He wore overalls and a hat with the brim pushed up in front. Rust-colored stubble sprouted from his lean cheeks and angular jaw, and a black patch covered his left eye. "Do you gents for somethin'?"
"Stalls and feed for our horses," Ace said.
The liveryman studied the mounts for a second and nodded in approval. "Nice-lookin' critters. Be four bits a day for the both of 'em."
Ace took two silver dollars from a pocket and handed them over. "That'll cover a few days. My brother and I don't know how long we'll be staying here in ...?"
"Lone Pine," the liveryman said. "That's the name o' this place. Leastways, that's what they call it now."
"Did it used to have another name?" Chance asked.
A grin stretched across the man's face. He chuckled and said, "When it started, they called it Buzzard's Roost."
"That sounds a little sinister," Ace said.
"Just a wide place in the trail, back in them days. Couple saloons and a store. Owlhoots all over New Mexico Territory — hell, all over the Southwest — knew you could stop at Buzzard's Roost for supplies and a drink and maybe a little time with an Injun whore, and nobody 'd ask any questions about where you'd been or where you planned to go. Folks who lived here would forget you'd ever set foot in the place, happen the law come lookin' for you."
"So it was an outlaw town," Chance said.
"And now look at it," the liveryman said with a sigh that sounded somehow disapproving. "Place is plumb respectable these days."
That appeared to be true. Lone Pine had a business district that stretched for several blocks, lined with establishments of all sorts. Saloons still operated, to be sure, but so did restaurants, mercantiles, apothecaries, a blacksmith shop, a saddle maker, lawyers, doctors, a newspaper — the Lone Pine Sentinel, LEE EMORY, ED. & PROP., according to the sign painted in the office's front window — and even a shop full of ladies' hats and dresses.
Dozens of residences sat along the tree-lined cross streets. Lone Pine appeared to be a bustling settlement in pleasant surroundings, at the base of some foothills that rose to snowcapped peaks in the west, with green rangeland lying to the east.
Ace spotted a marshal's office and jail a short distance along the main street, too. With any luck, he and Chance wouldn't see the inside of it during their stay in Lone Pine.
He planned to hold on to that hope, anyway.
"The way you talk about Buzzard's Roost makes it sound like you were here during those days," Chance said to the liveryman.
"Oh, I was. I surely was."
"But you weren't one of the owlhoots." Chance grinned.
"Nope. Didn't have nothin' but a piece of ground with a corral on it in those days, but I rented out space in it to anybody who come along, no matter which side o' the law they found theirselves on. Had to, or risk gettin' shot. Slowly but surely, things begun to settle down, and I made enough dinero to start buildin' a barn." The man jerked a knobby-knuckled thumb over his shoulder at the structure behind him.
"It looks like you've done well for yourself," Ace said. "I'm Ace Jensen, by the way. This is my brother Chance."
"Crackerjack Sawyer," the liveryman introduced himself.
"Surely Crackerjack isn't your real name," Chance said.
"Castin' doubts on a fella's name ain't too polite," Sawyer said, his eyes narrowing.
"My brother didn't mean anything by it." Ace cast a warning glance at Chance. "Sometimes he talks before he thinks."
"Well, as it happens, that ain't the name my ma called me. 'Twas Jack. But I'm from Georgia, and when I come out here back in the fifties, some folks called me a cracker. That sorta got put together with my name, and it stuck."
"We're pleased to meet you, Mr. Sawyer."
"Jensen ..." the liveryman repeated slowly, frowning. "Since you was bold enough to ask me about my name, I'll ask you boys about yours. Are you related to Smoke Jensen?" The brothers got that question fairly often, since just about everybody west of the Mississippi — and a good number of those east of the big river — had heard of the notorious gunfighter and adventurer Smoke Jensen. Those days, Smoke was a rancher in Colorado, but he hadn't exactly settled down all that much, as Ace and Chance had good reason to know.
"Don't encourage him," Chance said to Sawyer. "My brother thinks Smoke Jensen is some long-lost relative of ours."
"As a matter of fact, we've crossed trails with him several times, and his brothers Matt and Luke, too," Ace said. "They're friends of ours, but as far as we know we're not related to them."
"A long time ago — must be goin' on ten years now — Smoke come through Buzzard's Roost. Rumor had it he was on the owlhoot then, but come to find out later the charges against him weren't true. He already had a rep as a fast gun, though. Some other hombres who were here fancied themselves hardcases and tried to prove it by bracin' Smoke." Sawyer shook his head. "Almost quicker 'n you can blink, all four of 'em wound up dead in the street. Never seen the like of it, in all my borned days."
"That sounds like Smoke, all right," Chance said.
"Well, we're not looking for any trouble like that," Ace added. "We're just planning on spending a little time in a nice, peaceful town before we move on."
Sawyer snorted. "Drifters, eh?"
"Let's just say we haven't found anyplace we want to settle down in yet."
"Lone Pine's peaceful enough these days ... most of the time."
"Meaning some of the time it's not?" Chance asked.
"Bein' respectable and law-abidin' don't sit well with some people. Steer clear o' Pete McLaren and his bunch, and you'll be fine."
"Where do they usually hang out ... so we can avoid them?" Ace said.
"Harry Muller's Melodian Saloon." Sawyer pointed. "Two blocks up, on the far corner."
"Is it the biggest and best saloon in Lone Pine?" Chance wanted to know.
"Well ... I reckon most folks 'd say so."
"But there are other saloons in town," Ace said.
"Yeah, three or four."
"If we want to wet our whistles, we won't have any trouble finding someplace to do it. If you'll show us the stalls where you'll be keeping our horses, we'll take them in and unsaddle them, Mr. Sawyer."
"No need to do that. I got a couple hostlers who'll take care of it. Just get any gear you want off of 'em. We'll take good care of the critters for you."
Ace and Chance took their saddlebags off the horses and draped them over their shoulders, then pulled Winchesters from sheaths strapped under the saddle fenders.
Ace considered the state of their finances, then said, "How about a hotel? Maybe not the best in town, but decent enough to stay in."
"The Territorial House," Sawyer answered without hesitation. "Next block, this side of the street."
"We're obliged to you."
Ace and Chance walked up the street to the hotel, which turned out to be a two-story, whitewashed frame building with a balcony along the front of the second floor. They stepped up onto the boardwalk and went into a lobby with a threadbare rug on the floor and a little dust gathered in the corners. An elderly man with white hair, a bristly white mustache, and hands that trembled a little checked them in.
"Mr. Sawyer down at the livery stable recommended your place," Ace commented as he slid a silver dollar across the counter while Chance signed the registration book for them. It was actually cheaper for them to stay there than it was to keep their horses at the livery stable.
"That old Reb?" the hotel man said.
Ace didn't know if he was the owner or just a clerk.
"I'm surprised he sent any trade my way. I was a Union man." He drew himself up straighter. "Colonel in the 12th Illinois infantry. Colonel Charles Howden."
"Mr. Sawyer said he came out here to New Mexico before the war."
"Yes, and then he went off and fought in the Battle of Glorietta Pass for the Confederates. Forgot to mention that, didn't he?"
"It's been quite a while since the war ended, Mr. Howden," Chance pointed out.
"Colonel Howden, if you please."
"Of course, Colonel," Ace said. "If we could, uh, get the key to our room ..."
"Certainly." Howden took a key from the rack and handed it to Ace. "Room Twelve, on the second floor. I hope you enjoy your stay, Mister ..." He looked at the registration book and read their names upside down, a talent most people who worked in hotels acquired. "Jensen."
The name didn't seem to mean anything to him.
The brothers went upstairs, left their saddlebags and rifles in Room Twelve — which, like the lobby, showed signs of wear and was a little dusty — and then came back down and strolled out onto the boardwalk in front of the hotel.
"Reckon it's late enough in the day we could find someplace to get supper," Ace said.
"We could," Chance said, "but think how much better supper would taste if we had a drink first."
"You weren't thinking about that Melodian Saloon Mr. Sawyer mentioned, were you?"
"He said it was the biggest and best in Lone Pine," Chance replied with a smile, "and it's right over there." He pointed diagonally across the street toward the building on the far corner.
"I'm going to have a hard time talking you out of this, aren't I?"
"More than likely," Chance agreed. "Anyway, that troublemaker the old-timer mentioned — what was his name? McLaren? He's probably not even there right now."CHAPTER 2
Pete McLaren laughed. "Shoot, Dolly, you might as well stop tryin' to get away. You know I like it when you put up a little fight."
The blonde put her hands against Pete's chest and pushed as she tried to squirm off his lap. He just tightened the arm around her waist, put his other hand behind her neck, and pulled her head down to his so he could press his mouth against hers.
Dolly Redding let out a muffled squeal and tried even harder to get away for a few seconds. Then she sighed, wrapped her arms around Pete's neck, and returned the kiss with passionate urgency.
He let that continue for a minute or so and then pulled his head away and laughed raucously. "You see, fellas, I told you this little hellcat couldn't resist me for long!"
The four other men at the table in the Melodian Saloon joined in Pete McLaren's laughter. Like Pete, they were all young, in their twenties, and dressed like cowboys, although the lack of calluses on their hands indicated they hadn't had riding jobs lately. Exactly how they got the money they spent there and in other saloons was open to debate, although nobody was going to question it too much if they knew what was good for them.
Dolly pouted. "Pete, you shouldn't make sport of me. Just 'cause I work in a saloon don't mean you shouldn't treat me like a lady!"
"Nobody's ever gonna accuse you of bein' a lady, Dolly, but hell, if I wanted a lady, I'd be chasin' after that Fontana Dupree. I like my gals, well, a little on the trashy side. Like you."
That provoked more gales of laughter from Pete's friends. Dolly just looked embarrassed as a blush spread across her face. She didn't deny what Pete had said about her, though.
To tell the truth, Dolly Redding was a good-looking young woman, and she hadn't worked in saloons long enough to acquire the hard mouth and the suspicious lines around her eyes that most doves displayed. She still had a faint flush of ... well, innocence would be stretching it too far, but maybe remembered innocence would describe it.
Some of her thick, curly blond hair had fallen in front of her face while Pete was kissing her. She tossed her head to throw it back and told him, "I'm just sayin' you should treat me a little better, that's all. Maybe I ain't a lady now, but I might be someday if I work hard enough at it."
"Oh, you work hard at what you do. I'll give you credit for that," Pete said with a leer on his handsome young face.
The other men at the table thought that was hilarious, too.
The commotion in the corner drew a few disapproving frowns from the saloon's other patrons. The hour was early, not even suppertime yet, so the Melodian was only about half full.
A burly, bald man in a gray suit leaned on the bar where he stood at the far end of the hardwood. He glared at the table where Pete McLaren and his friends were working on their second bottle of whiskey since they'd come in an hour or so earlier.
A young woman with light brown hair framing a face of sultry beauty came out of a door at the end of the bar and paused beside the bald man. The silk gown she wore wasn't exactly churchgoing garb, but it was more decorous than the short, low-cut, spangled getups worn by Dolly Redding and the other girls who delivered drinks in the Melodian.
"What's wrong, Hank?" the brunette murmured.
"Ah, it's just that blasted McLaren kid and his pards again," Hank Muller said as he continued to scowl. "I hate to see Dolly gettin' mauled like that."
"It sort of comes with the territory, doesn't it?"
Muller looked sharply at her. "I make no bones about what goes on here. The girls know what's expected of 'em, and they don't kick about it. Pete McLaren's too rough about it, though. Too sure of himself. Ah, hell, Fontana, maybe I just don't like the kid and the rest of that bunch."
"You're not the only one," Fontana Dupree said. "Want me to try to distract them?"
"Well ... I don't suppose it'd hurt anything to try."
Fontana smiled and nodded. She left the bar and walked over to a piano sitting next to a small stage in the back of the barroom. At a table close by the piano, a small man with thinning fair hair sat reading a copy of the Police Gazette. An unlit store-bought cigarette hung from the corner of his mouth, bobbing slightly as he hummed to himself and studied the etchings of scantily clad women in the magazine.
Fontana put a hand on his shoulder. "Come on, Orrie. It's time to get to work."
Quickly, he closed the Police Gazette and sat up straighter. "Uh, sorry, Miss Dupree. I didn't figure we'd be starting this early —"
"It's all right," Fontana told him. "How about some Stephen Foster?"
"Sure." Orrie stood up from the table and went to a stool in front of the piano. He put his fingers on the keys and looked up at Fontana as she took her place beside the instrument. When she nodded, he began to play, and a moment after the notes began to emerge, crisp and pure, she started singing a sad, sentimental ballad in a voice even more lovely than Orrie's playing.
Chance Jensen stopped in his tracks. "I think I'm in love."
He and Ace had just pushed through the batwings and stepped through the corner entrance into the Melodian. Ace almost bumped into his brother, then moved aside so he could look past Chance. He heard the singing, and judging by Chance's intent, lovestruck expression, Ace figured he was staring at the singer.
She was worth looking at, Ace thought, slim and lovely in a dark blue gown. Creamy skin and features that compelled a man to look at them twice in appreciation. A small beauty mark near the corner of the young woman's mouth gave her character and didn't detract at all from her attractiveness.
"She sings like a ... a nightingale," Chance said.
"Just how many nightingales have you heard singing?" Ace asked.
Excerpted from Twelve Dead Men by William W. Johnstone, J. A. Johnstone. 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.
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