On the frontier, a man’s word is his bond, and only fast guns and good friends can save your life. So when Smoke Jensen trusts his gravely injured comrade to the care of a small town doctor, the last thing he expects is an act of betrayal—and a call for revenge…
And Get Ready To Look Him In The Eye.
Somewhere in his past, Smoke crossed paths with a lowlife who has now built a little kingdom as a frontier sheriff. For the corrupt lawman, holding Smoke's friend hostage is the perfect way to lure Smoke into a deathtrap. Now there’s no choice for the mountain man. He knows how many guns are waiting up ahead. But he won't ever leave a brother behind. And this time, there won't be an enemy left standing—or a bullet left in Smoke's gun…
Over 10 Million Johnstone Books In Print!
About the Author
Just to give you a brief rundown on who William W. Johnstone is, here are the basic facts. He was born in Southern Missouri, the youngest of four kids. His father was a minister and his mother was a schoolteacher.
He quit school when he was fifteen and joined a carnival after getting kicked out of the FFL (for being underage), but he went back and finished high school in 1957. After that he worked as a deputy sheriff, did a hitch in the army, came back and went into radio broadcasting, where he worked for sixteen years.
Johnstone started writing in 1970, but he didn't get published until late 1979. He has written almost a hundred books including the best-selling Ashes series and the Mountain Man series. He began writing full-time in the early 1980s and hasn't stopped since. His first published book was THE DEVIL'S KISS and his favorite, so far, is THE LAST OF THE DOG TEAM.
Read an Excerpt
The members of the Nez Percé tribe that made their home in far northern Colorado watched as the tall, broad-shouldered man with the salt and pepper hair walked among their young Palouse studs. He stood a bit over six feet tall, shoulders as wide as an ax handle, and even the loose cut of his buckskin shirt and trousers couldn't disguise the muscles that rippled and moved under the skins.
Some of the braves whispered among themselves, for they'd often heard their fathers sit around the campfire at night and sing songs of this man, a man known to them all as the Last Mountain Man. They sang of him and of his blood brother, a man who called himself Preacher, and how they'd stood alone against the High Lonesome itself and conquered it as no white men ever had before or since.
A few of the younger braves flexed their muscles and puffed out their chests and strutted around the camp as though the presence of this man, who was a legend even among people other than his own, did not impress them overly much. A couple even muttered derogatory comments, in their own language, of course, in the neighborhood of the big man to show him they weren't at all afraid of him or of the many guns on his belt or even the big knife in his belt.
A slight smile curled the lips of Smoke Jensen as he finished his examination of the young Palouse studs he'd come up here to barter for. He spoke the language of the Nez Percé as well as the young braves, but he took no offense at their behavior, knowing it was a rite of passage among the Indians to show no fear when growing into manhood.
He ducked under the lariat rope that served the Indians as a makeshift corral and moved with long strides to stand next to the chief of the tribe, Gray Wolf.
As Smoke pulled two cigars from the breast pocket of his buckskin shirt and offered one to the chief, he said in a low voice, "You might tell Running Deer over there that even if by some miracle he was able to defeat me in battle and take my woman, she would break him over her knee as easily as I do this lucifer." Smoke demonstrated what he meant by snapping the match between his fingers after he'd lighted both their stogies.
The chief laughed, not at all embarrassed that Smoke not only overheard his braves, but that he spoke their language as well. The chief puffed out a large mouthful of smoke and said, "If I told him that, though it be true that you speak with straight tongue, for I remember your woman from last year, it would break Running Deer's spirit, which is high with the bravery of youth, my friend."
Smoke nodded, smiling, for the chief was correct; it would crush the young man to be confronted like that and be unable to defend his honor. "I know, old friend, so I'll handle it my own way," Smoke said.
He turned to face the group of young braves gathered near the fire and let his eyes seek out the one who'd said, just loudly enough for Smoke to hear, that if the chief would allow it he would whip the old man and take his woman into his teepee for the winter.
"Running Deer," Smoke called in perfect Nez Percé dialect, causing a surprised frown to appear on the young man's face and traces of fear on the faces of some of the others who had likewise spoken ill of the mountain man. "Would you show me how these young studs run? The chief tells me you are one of the best riders of green-broke horses in the tribe."
Running Deer's frown disappeared and was replaced by a chagrined smile. "Chief Gray Wolf has told the Mountain Man the truth, and all of these horses can run like the wind," he said as he handed his bow to a friend and moved toward the remuda. "But there is one who is faster by far than the others. I call him Blizzard," he said in the Nez Percé language, "because he is like the strong wind from the north in winter as it races through the mountains — unstoppable."
Smoke nodded, deciding he would name the horse Storm if he proved to be as fast as Running Deer claimed.
Cal and Pearlie, Smoke's two hands who'd accompanied him on the trip up from Smoke's ranch in southern Colorado, stood nearby, their foreheads wrinkled as they tried to follow the conversation. During the two weeks it took them to drive the mares up into the mountains, Smoke had tried to teach them as much of the Nez Percé tongue as he could, but since they'd never heard it before, it'd been slow going for the two men, though they tried hard.
Cal, barely out of his teens and not much older than the young braves near the fire, leaned his head close to Pearlie, a grizzled veteran who was almost thirty, and asked, "What did that brave call the horse ... Snowstorm?"
"Somethin' like that," Pearlie replied, being no more certain of what had been said than Cal was. "All I got was that he thinks the horse can run some."
"Let's see if he's right," Cal said, and he swung up into the saddle of his own Palouse stud, Dusty, while Pearlie climbed up onto his horse, Cold. Pearlie had named his horse Cold because he was cold-mouthed in the morning and would buck and snort and crow-hop for the first five minutes Pearlie was on his back.
Running Deer grabbed Storm's mane and swung up onto his back without bothering to put even a blanket on the mount. He kicked the horse's flanks and the stud reared up and raced across the corral, leaping up and over the lariat at the last moment.
As Cal and Pearlie spurred their broncs after the Indian, it was clear that Storm was indeed something special, for he left both Cal and Pearlie far behind as he raced at breakneck speed across the small plateau that contained the Indians' camp, weaving in and out of and through the many stands of small Ponderosa pine trees as if they weren't there.
Without even slowing down, Running Deer took Storm over the edge of the cliff and down the steep slope of the side of the plateau, and the stud never stumbled, but ran like he'd been born to do nothing else.
Cal and Pearlie, not wanting to break their necks, reined in at the edge of the cliff and watched in amazement as Running Deer and Storm made a wide sweep and raced back up the slope, just as fast as they'd gone down it. Man and horse were only slightly slower coming up the grade than they'd been going down it.
"Jimminy," Cal said, taking his hat off and sleeving sweat off his forehead with his arm. "That mount really can run like the wind."
"Wind, hell," Pearlie said, shaking his head, "more like a tornado!"
Cal waved his hat at the young brave as he raced by, and was rewarded with a show — Running Deer swung his leg up and over the horse's neck and whirled around to ride backward without the mount ever breaking stride. He gave a couple of loud yips in greeting, and then he reversed himself and was suddenly riding facing front again.
After Running Deer had returned Storm to the corral and joined Smoke and the others near the fire, Smoke grinned and shook his hand. "If you ever want a job as a wrangler, Running Deer," he said sincerely, "come on down to the Sugarloaf and you'll have a job for life."
Running Deer glanced at the chief out of the corner of his eyes and replied, "Though it would be a great honor to work with the man my people call the Last Mountain Man, I could never leave these mountains or my people, for to do so would be to make my heart small."
Cal stepped over and clapped Running Deer on the shoulder, causing the young man to frown, as if such familiarity was unheard of among his people. "Golly, Running Deer," Cal said, his eyes wide, "I ain't never seen nobody ride like you do. It's like you was a part of that bronc."
Running Deer's expression softened somewhat at the compliment. "Thank you, Mr. Cal," he said formally. "We Nez Percé are taught to ride almost before we are taught to walk. It is something all of my brothers can do."
Pearlie nodded, his eyes twinkling. "Yeah, but I'll just bet you that they ain't none of them can do it near as good as you, Running Deer."
The young man ducked his head, unwilling to seem arrogant, but the chief chuckled. "You are right, Pearlie. Running Deer is the best of the young braves on horseback. They all wish to be like him."
Smoke winked at the chief and put his hand on Running Deer's shoulder, leading him over to the small remuda of studs that Smoke had brought from the Sugarloaf. "Tell me what you think of these studs, Running Deer. I've brought them up here to trade with your people for some studs of a different bloodline so that my remuda back home doesn't get too inbred."
Running Deer nodded, his eyes on the horses. He ducked under the lariat corral and walked among them, running his hands on their necks, whispering in a low voice to them, checking a few horses' teeth or withers or hooves. After a few moments, he smiled slightly, about as much a seal of approval as he could make. "They are very fine, Mountain Man. Are they too of the Nez Percé?"
Smoke nodded. "Not these directly, Running Deer, but their fathers and mothers were all acquired from some of your brother tribes a few years back."
"I thought so, for I can tell they are of the true Palouse blood, undiluted by your American quarter horses or thoroughbreds."
He looked at the chief and gave a slight nod. "These will make very fine breeders for our mares, Chief Gray Wolf."
Gray Wolf returned the nod and turned to Smoke, holding out his hand. "It is, as you white-eyes say, a deal, Mountain Man."
After they shook hands, Gray Wolf clapped his hands together and yelled, "Now, it is time for a feast with our new friends! Have the squaws get the venison ready."
Smoke put his hand on the chief's shoulder and leaned down to whisper, "I've got a side of beef on one of those pack animals I've brought all the way up here from my ranch for you, if you'd like to have it instead of deer meat, Chief."
The chief's eyes lit up and he smiled broadly, revealing tobacco-stained teeth that were worn almost down to the gums. "It has been a long time since I've eaten beef, Mountain Man." He paused and then grinned wickedly again. "At least, beef that was freely given to us instead of that which wandered into our camp and accidentally fell upon a spear."
Smoke and Cal and Pearlie all laughed, for they had all heard many ranchers complain of the mountain Indians coming down and raiding their herds for beef to eat. Smoke sympathized with the Indians, for he remembered from his days in these same mountains how tiring a diet of only venison and moose and bear could become after several months.
Smoke nodded at Pearlie, who said, "Cal, grab that beef off the packhorse and let's eat. I'm so hungry my stomach thinks my throat's been cut!" While the beefsteaks sizzled and spit on frying pans over the open fire, Running Deer and the other braves began to show Cal and Pearlie some of the games they played. They rode past a thick tree and threw spears while at full gallop; they shot arrows from horseback at bushes; they threw tomahawks end over end and tried to make them stick in the bark of the pine trees that surrounded the Nez Percé camp.
"It is good that your braves know how to be friends with white men," Smoke said as he and the chief smoked another cigar while the squaws got the meat and vegetables cooked.
Chief Gray Wolf nodded gravely, his eyes sad. "Yes, my friend, but not all white men are friends to us as you are. We must still be careful not to approach white men on the mountain unless we are invited, for some will still shoot to kill us on sight."
"It is still that bad?" Smoke asked, having hoped that things would have gotten better in the last few years.
"It has never changed," Gray Wolf said with a sigh.
When the squaws signaled the chief the food was ready, Cal and Pearlie and the braves all gathered around the fire to eat large slabs of beefsteak and vegetables. There were no women present, as they typically ate whatever was left over later while the men all napped after their meal. After the men and Smoke and the boys had finished most of the side of beef he'd brought, Cal and Pearlie and Running Deer and some of the younger braves went back to playing the Indian games the meal had interrupted. Pearlie, of course, said now that his mind was off of food for a while, he'd be able to do a lot better in the highly competitive games.
Smoke and Chief Gray Wolf sat in the shelter of a lean-to and smoked, the chief his pipe and Smoke his cigar. Smoke had given the chief a pound of real ground coffee, and the chief had directed one of the squaws near his tent to make them a pot of it.
When he took his first sip, the chief's lips curled in a wide smile. "Much better than piñon bean coffee," he said. He smacked his lips and added, "This is much too good for the braves. I believe I'll save this for my use alone."
Smoke nodded, having tasted the bitter brew made from piñon beans in the past. "Even the white man has some good things to offer your people, Chief."
The chief slowly inclined his head in agreement. "That is true, Mountain Man, but even though my people live way up here in the High Lonesome, we have not escaped the corrupting ways of the white-eyes."
"Oh?" Smoke asked, trailing a stream of blue smoke from his nostrils.
"Yes. The yellow metal we take from the streams and mountain caves to make jewelry for our squaws is much sought after by the white-eyes from nearby towns. Some of my more ... rebellious braves have learned that they can trade the yellow metal for firewater." He shook his head sadly. "It is a terrible thing what it does to these young men. They begin to act like a horse that has eaten ..." and he gave the Nez Percé name for the bush white men called locoweed.
"I have seen the trouble that our whiskey can cause your people," Smoke agreed. "And there are some among us who think that men who trade liquor to you should be punished severely."
The chief's eyes were hard and as cold as the granite peaks of the mountains that surrounded them as he replied, "If I find out who has been doing this thing, you can be sure they will be punished"— he paused and turned his hard gaze on Smoke — "and punished to the death."
Smoke decided to change the subject before the chief became any more upset. He inclined his head toward the braves who were still playing their games off in the distant fields. "It appears that you have many fine young men in your tribe who still follow the old ways, Chief Gray Wolf."
For the first time in a while, the chief smiled. "Yes. My people are quite lucky that way. Some of the other tribes are having quite a problem keeping their young people in the mountains." He looked over at the remains of the beef they'd eaten earlier and held up his coffee cup. "Once they get a taste of the white man's food and drink, it is hard for them to live in the old manner." He grinned. "Dog just doesn't taste near as good as beef."
Smoke laughed. "You are not alone in that, my friend. Even in the land of the white man, we are having much the same problems. Our young people too are leaving the farms and ranches and heading into the big cities, tired of having to work hard from dawn to dusk and not having a whole lot to show for it at the end of the day." He shook his head. "I don't have a wrangler on my spread who is under the age of twenty-five, except for Cal. All of the boys in their teens want to go to Denver or even bigger towns to make their way in the new world."
The chief chuckled and held up his coffee cup in a toast. "To all the young ones who are not afraid to stay with the old ways, Mountain Man."
Smoke grinned and returned the toast. "I'll drink to that," he said.
Suddenly, from the distant field, Smoke heard a shout, and looked up to see Cal waving his hands in the air. It looked to Smoke like he was standing over a fallen body. "Damn!" Smoke exclaimed when he recognized the form of Pearlie lying still at Cal's feet.
When Cal pulled his pistol and fired three times in the air, Smoke knew Pearlie was in serious trouble. He jumped to his feet and bounded across the meadow, and was in his saddle and spurring his mount forward within seconds.
He jumped off his horse and ran to where Cal was bending over Pearlie, whose face was pale and waxen-looking. The young man was clearly unconscious.
Smoke knelt next to him and looked at Cal. "What happened?"
Excerpted from "Wrath of the Mountain Man"
Copyright © 2006 Kensington Publishing Corp..
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Another "Jenson" heroically tames a town. Smoke is the ideal cowboy, he compares to modern day Superman. Always a good story.
Wish I had known the people in this story!
This was a compilation of several stories. It was a good read...enjoyed it immensely.