by William W. Johnstone, J. A. Johnstone

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786036073
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 06/30/2015
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 220,844
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

William W. Johnstone is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling author of over 300 books, including Preacher, The Last Mountain Man, Luke Jensen Bounty Hunter, Flintlock, Savage Texas, Matt Jensen, The Last Mountain Man; The Family Jensen, Sidewinders, and Shawn O'Brien Town Tamer . His thrillers include Phoenix Rising, Home Invasion, The Blood of Patriots, The Bleeding Edge, and Suicide Mission. Visit his website at www.williamjohnstone.net or by email 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


By William W. Johnstone, J. A. Johnstone


Copyright © 2015 J. A. Johnstone
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7860-3608-0


The bus pulled into Sierra Lobo right on schedule, five minutes before noon. It stopped at the gas station/ convenience store/fast food joint that also served as the bus depot. No one was waiting to get on and only one passenger got off, so the bus was gone in a matter of minutes.

It left behind a young man with tousled, sandy hair and blue eyes. He was slender in jeans and a T-shirt, but the muscles under the shirt were well-defined, like strands of cable. He slung the duffel bag he had carried off the bus over his shoulder and walked into the store.

Sierra Lobo wasn't a very big place. A little over 2,000 people lived in the city limits, according to the last census—although who knew how accurate that count was in this era of government manipulation of every possible statistic for the benefit of the Democratic Party. Maybe another 1,500 people lived in the immediate environs of the town, but outside the city limits.

It appeared that a good number of those citizens were packed into the fast food end of the building today. It was Saturday, and folks came to town to visit and shop and commemorate the fact that they'd made it through another week.

Some things never changed in Texas.

The young man who had gotten off the bus stayed in the convenience store part of the building, walking up and down the aisles and picking up a bag of chips, some beef jerky, and a candy bar.

Simple food for a simple man, he thought as he approached the counter.

Four men were in line at the register. The first one, a harried-looking youngster, was paying for a jug of milk and a box of diapers.

Better you than me, amigo, thought the man from the bus. Just about the last thing in the world he was cut out to be was a dad.

The second man had a cup of coffee to pay for, the third a couple of canned soft drinks. They conducted their transactions pretty quickly and departed.

That left the man right in front of the newcomer to Sierra Lobo. He wore a shirt that said he worked for the county road department, unbuttoned and untucked at the moment so the white T-shirt under it was visible.

The man had two twelve-packs of the store's least expensive beer stacked in his arms. He stepped up to the counter and set them down in front of the young, pretty Hispanic woman working the register.

"Hey, Stella," he said. "You're lookin' mighty good today. Muy bonita."

He was about forty and balding, which made him twice as old as the woman at the register, so he shouldn't have been flirting with her. Not that it was any of his business, the man from the bus told himself. He just wanted to get his food, sit on one of the public benches on the sidewalk, look at the mountains, and figure out what the hell to do with his life next.

Or to be more accurate, he mused, how could he foul up his life again? Because given his track record, that was bound to happen.

The clerk didn't respond to the customer's compliment, but when the man pulled a battered old checkbook from the pocket of his work shirt, she said, "Uh-uh, Vern, you can't write a check for that beer."

"What?" Vern exclaimed with a frown. "Who says?"

"This says." Stella tapped a red-painted fingernail on a check taped to the side of a cardboard candy display sitting on the counter. Several checks were taped there, and all of them had been stamped Insufficient Funds.

"But those aren't all my checks," Vern protested. "Just that one."

"One and done, Mr. Charlton says," Stella told him. "Mr. Charlton says if you bounce one check on him, you don't write no more."

"What? That's crazy! That ... that was just a misunderstanding. A glitch. A bank error. I got the money—"

"Mr. Charlton, he tried to put the check through three times, and it bounced every time. Sorry, Vern. I got to do what he says."

"But how am I supposed to pay for my beer?"

"Cash, credit, or debit. Preferably cash. But no checks from you. That's final."

"Well ... well, hell!"

"Don't swear at me," Stella said. "It's not my fault."

The man from the bus knew he ought to curb his impatience, but he and waiting had never gotten along well. He leaned forward and said to Vern, "Why don't you move that beer and let the young lady wait on me, and then maybe you can figure out what to do."

He thought that was a reasonable suggestion and that it was phrased politely enough.

Vern turned his head to glare and said, "Why don't you butt the hell out of what ain't your business?"

The clerk looked past him at the newcomer, frowned, and then said in surprise, "Kyle? Kyle, is that you?"

He frowned, too, because he couldn't place her. He had spent quite a bit of time in Sierra Lobo in the past, though, and there was no point in denying that he'd always had an eye for a pretty girl, so it was possible he knew her.

She saw his puzzled look and went on. "It's me, Estellita Lopez. Most people call me Stella now."

Estellita, Kyle Brannock thought. Muy bonita, Estellita ...


The name made his mind flash back to an autumn night a few years earlier. Visiting for the weekend, he had gone to a football game at the high school stadium on the edge of town, and that had led to meeting Estellita and then some frenzied, clumsy groping in the backseat of a car afterward. ...

They hadn't made any declarations of undying love. In that particular moment, neither of them had been looking for such a thing.

Instead, all they were interested in was sharing the wonderful thing they had discovered together. Although, to be honest, Kyle suspected that Estellita had stumbled upon the great secret before, with somebody else. Maybe a number of different somebody elses.

Not that he cared. He wasn't all that innocent himself, and he sure as hell wasn't a hypocrite.

"Oh," he said now as she smiled across the counter at him. "Estellita. Sure."

He wasn't lying. He actually did remember her, and fondly, at that. He also remembered that everything had gone to hell and he'd left town not long after that, without ever calling her. Some girls would hold a grudge about being treated like that, but it didn't seem like she did.

"I get it now," Vern said. "This kid is one of your old boyfriends. I'm not sure how you remember 'em all, Stella, there's been so many of them."

"Hey!" she exclaimed. "You don't have to be ugly, just 'cause you're mad about the beer."

"You were always runnin' around after boys, never had time for a real man," he sneered.

"For a real pervert, you mean! I remember the way you looked at me when I was still in high school. If you can't pay for the beer, put it back in the cooler."

"Damn it, I just want to write a check!"

"No checks from you!"

This was getting ridiculous, Kyle thought.

Not only that, he had just seen one of the local cops come into the building through the fast food entrance, stopping for lunch, no doubt. It was open between the two halves of the business, so people on the other side could hear what was going on in here.

If the cop heard Vern and Estellita—Stella—yelling at each other, he was liable to come over to see what the trouble was. Kyle didn't really want that.

He set his duffel bag down, reached past Vern, placed the items he had picked up on the counter, and took hold of the twelve-packs.

"I'll put these up for you," he told Stella.

Vern slapped a big left hand down on the top twelve-pack, put his anger-reddened face next to Kyle's, and said, "Get your hands off my beer, you lame-ass little punk."

"Hey!" Stella said. "You leave him alone, Vern. I'll call the cops."

Well, this was yet another situation that had spiraled almost out of control, thought Kyle. He wanted to end it as quickly as possible and get out of here. Under other circumstances it might have been fun catching up on old times with Stella, but he was in no mood for nostalgia today.

Instead, he turned toward Vern, moving fast without really seeming to hurry, and did a stiff-hand strike to the older man's solar plexus. The blow traveled less than a foot, but it caused Vern's eyes to bug out from their sockets and his face to turn pale under his sunburn. He hunched over the pain in his middle and leaned toward Kyle.

Taking hold of Vern's upper arms, Kyle sort of propped him against the counter. Vern's mouth opened and closed a couple of times, like a fish out of water. He stared at Kyle in confusion, as if he couldn't understand what had just happened.

"What did you do to him?" Stella asked.

"Tried to teach him he shouldn't be an asshole. I doubt if it'll do much good, though. Some people, that's just their natural state."

Kyle started to pick up the twelve-packs again.

"No, no, just leave 'em, I'll put them up," Stella said quickly. "You should go now. Lemme ring you up. ..."

She gave Kyle his total and then put the food in a plastic bag while he was getting out his wallet. He paid her, took his change, then picked up the duffel bag in one hand and the food with the other.

All the while, Vern stood there leaning helplessly against the counter, gaping and trying to catch his breath.

As Kyle turned toward the door, he glanced into the fast food half of the building. The cop was still there, putting in his order now at the counter, talking and laughing with the high school kid working the register. Kyle was glad to see that the brief confrontation in the convenience store hadn't caught the officer's attention.

He had made it halfway to the door when Stella cried, "Kyle, look out!"

He heard shoe leather slapping against the floor as he swung around. Vern was still pale and gasping for air, but somewhere he had found the strength to come lumbering after Kyle like a charging buffalo.

The store aisle wasn't big enough. Kyle didn't have room or time to get out of the way.

Vern plowed into him and the impact drove Kyle backwards. Both men crashed into a stacked-up display of two-liter plastic jugs of cola that flew everywhere as they sprawled to the floor.


The Sierra Lobo Inn was at the eastern edge of town on the state highway. The horseshoe shape in which it was built, curled around a fenced-in area with a swimming pool in it, betrayed its origins in the 1950s.

The pool hadn't had a fence around it in those more innocent, less litigious days, of course, but now, what with liability lawsuits, the insurance company demanded the enclosure. Several signs on the fence warned people that no lifeguard was on duty and they swam at their own risk.

People lived at their own risk, Barton Devlin thought as he parked the late-model sedan in front of the office and looked through the windshield at the signs on the fence. Nobody got any sort of guarantee when they woke up in the morning.

After all, nothing was certain in life except death and taxes.

Even after all this time, that corny old chestnut brought a smile to Devlin's lips.

He got out of the car, pushed his glasses up on his nose, and went into the motel office, grateful for the blast of air-conditioned coolness that greeted him.

Even though the walk had been only a few feet and the temperature really wasn't bad for West Texas, he didn't like the heat and didn't see how people could live in this hellhole. Some of them even spent their whole lives here, he reminded himself. He wouldn't be able to stand that.

There were much better uses for West Texas.

"Help you?" the man behind the counter asked. He was stocky, with graying fair hair, and wore jeans and a polo shirt. "Check-in time's not until three o'clock. Not officially, anyway. But if you need a place to stay, I've got a few units that are already cleaned and ready to go."

"I'll take one of them," Devlin said as he slid his credit card across the counter. It looked like a regular card, but actually it was issued by the federal government and billed back to Devlin's expense account. He had used it to pay for everything since he'd left Washington.

"All right, Mister ..." He read the name on the credit card. "Devlin. If you'll just fill this out ..." He gave Devlin a registration form and pen, then went on, saying, "Traveling on business?"

"What makes you think that?" Devlin asked as he began filling out the form.

"I know a rental car when I see one," the clerk said with a nod at the vehicle parked just outside the office window. "Enough of 'em come through here. I'll bet that's a corporate credit card, too. Nice suit, accent says you're from back East somewhere. ... Easy enough to make the deduction." The man gave Devlin a toothy grin. "I like to think I'm sort of a detective, you know, like the guys you see on TV"

"Is that right?" Devlin cocked his head a little to the side as he looked across the counter at the man. "Let me have a try at this. You're not Middle Eastern, so I assume you don't own the hotel, you just work here. I haven't stayed at a motel in years that wasn't owned by a Pakistani or an Iranian or a Lebanese."

The clerk said with apparent satisfaction, "Well, you're wrong right off the bat. The Sierra Lobo Inn is mine, all right, and I'm a hundred percent American, born and bred. Lou Scarborough's my name."

"All right, let me try again," Devlin said. He looked around the small lobby. "Place is clean, but not too clean. You hire illegal immigrants as maids, right? And since they're illegal, they can't afford to complain about the lousy pay or the way you get a little handsy with them sometimes. The young and pretty ones, you might even take them into a vacant unit now and then and have a little fun with them, because what can they do about it, right? And since you pay them under the table, you need to have a ready supply of cash, so when any of the guests pay you that way you tear up the registration form and put the money in your pocket and don't declare it on your taxes, because that's just the kind of guy you are. Did I figure you out right, Lou, like one of those TV detectives?"

Scarborough had stared at him, eyes getting bigger and bigger, as Devlin talked. His face had turned a dull, angry red. He put both hands on the counter and said, "I don't think I need your business after all, Mr. Devlin. You should find somewhere else to stay."

"I believe this is the only motel in Sierra Lobo."

"Then drive on. Hell, you could make it most of the way to El Paso by night."

"My business is here," Devlin insisted. "And it's a funny thing ... my business is deductions, too, just a different kind." He tapped a finger on the registration form he'd filled out. "Check what I wrote down for my employer. It says Internal Revenue Service."

The angry flush drained out of Scarborough's face like water from a bathtub, leaving his formerly beefy features washed out into a deathly pallor. He said, "The ... the ..."

"That's right, the IRS. And I'm here on official business, like you thought. But that business doesn't involve you, Mr. Scarborough, not yet anyway. So, do I get that room or not?"

Scarborough swallowed hard, reached under the counter, and brought out an old-fashioned room key attached to a red plastic fob in the shape of an elongated diamond. The number 12 was painted on the fob in gilt letters.

"Unit 12," he said in a hollow voice. He set the key on the counter. "Best one in the place."

"Thank you," Devlin said as he picked up the key. "Now, you'd better go ahead and run that credit card before you forget. Want to do everything on the up-and-up, you know. Keep a good record of everything in case somebody wants to check up on it."

"Yeah. I always do. I swear."

"None of my business," Devlin said with a smile. "This time."

He chuckled to himself a few minutes later as he went back out to his car. The look on Scarborough's face at the mention of the Internal Revenue Service ... it was just priceless. That feeling of power never got old, either.

But he was here on serious business, Devlin reminded himself as his face grew solemn again. He paused to gaze toward the mountains west of town. Even though the blue-gray peaks were twenty miles away, they looked almost close enough to reach out and touch.

Between the town of Sierra Lobo and those mountains lay the property of the man he had come to see. The man who was the last obstacle in the path of progress.

The man Barton Devlin was going to destroy.


Excerpted from Tyranny by William W. Johnstone, J. A. Johnstone. Copyright © 2015 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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Tyranny 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book has the usual format of anti government from the authors line of books with just different characters in them. However they do make for some great story telling. I enjoyed this title.