Table of Contents
PUT ’EM UP
Fargo waited until the man was back sitting beside his friend before he stepped into the clearing, his Colt pointed at the two.
Both of them jumped and started to reach for their guns, but Fargo said, “Too early and too cold to die.”
Both men froze, half up, half reaching for their guns.
“Sit back down now real slow and put your hands where I can see them.”
Both men did as they were told. Now the trick would be getting information out of them. . . .
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First published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, October 2008
The first chapter of this book previously appeared in
Wyoming Death Trap
, the three hundred twenty-third volume in this series.
Copyright © Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2008
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eISBN : 978-1-4406-3845-9
Beginnings . . . they bend the tree and they mark the man. Skye Fargo was born when he was eighteen. Terror was his midwife, vengeance his first cry. Killing spawned Skye Fargo, ruthless, cold-blooded murder. Out of the acrid smoke of gunpowder still hanging in the air, he rose, cried out a promise never forgotten.
The Trailsman they began to call him all across the West: searcher, scout, hunter, the man who could see where others only looked, his skills for hire but not his soul, the man who lived each day to the fullest, yet trailed each tomorrow. Skye Fargo, the Trailsman, the seeker who could take the wildness of a land and the wanting of a woman and make them his own.
California, 1861—the death of a good friend at the
hands of ruthless killers means that many will die
before the Trailsman feels that his need for vengeance
has been satisfied.
Skye Fargo eased silently from behind the tree and studied the two men crouched in the bushes ten paces from him. Both had Colts filling their hands.
Their intent was clearly the gold wagon coming down the trail toward Sacramento. And Fargo’s business was to protect it.
Fargo knew there were three more gold rustlers on the other side of the wagon road that was the supply line up to Placerville and the mines in the area. It was also the only way to get the gold down to the banks and train lines in Sacramento. . . .
Cain Parker, owner of Sharon’s Dream, one of the bigger mines in the area, had begged Fargo to come help him protect his gold between the mine and Sacramento. Cain really didn’t need to beg, since he and Fargo had known each other for years and had been back-to-back in their share of fights together. Fargo figured he owed Cain his life a few times over, so anything Cain asked, Fargo would do.
The name of the mine, Sharon’s Dream, had come from Cain’s late wife, one of the nicer women Fargo had ever met. She had always talked about she and Cain going farther west to search for gold, but it wasn’t until after she died that Cain took his son, Daniel, then a teenager, and did just that.
Fargo had arrived at the Sharon’s Dream gold mine a little after eight in the morning. The main house was a two-story wood building that looked like it would fit better just outside Boston. It was freshly painted white and stood out in the warm, morning sun against the browns and grays of the dirt and rocks around it. Three long and low unpainted buildings near the edge of the hill looked like bunkhouses, one much larger than the others. The mine opening itself was about halfway up a rock-strewn hillside above and to the right of the bunkhouses, with the mine tailings spreading out below it like a woman’s fan.
Placerville had started and gotten its name from an intense gold rush of Placer mining in the streams in the area. But as with most Placers, the gold had to come from somewhere, and soon the miners were digging into the hills, following the veins, or just digging in hopes to find a vein.
From what Fargo understood, Cain had managed to stake a claim to a really rich and long vein that so far showed no signs of playing out. He said it was taking almost thirty men to work the mine in shifts, cooks to keep them fed, and a number of hired guns to guard the place.
As Fargo rode up, Cain came running out of the house.
“Fargo, you old trail hand,” Cain said, a huge smile on his face. “You are a sight for sore eyes.”
“Didn’t know you were having eye problems as well,” Fargo said, climbing down from his big Ovaro and shaking his old friend’s firm, solid hand. He had to admit, he had missed being around Cain. The two of them just seemed to fit together. Fargo knew a lot of people around the West, but he had very few close friends like Cain.
Cain stood about a fist shorter than Fargo, and was a good ten years older. But the age was only showing on his thinning hairline and the sun wrinkles on his face that disappeared completely when he smiled. The rest of him still looked as solid as a rock.
Cain could smile and laugh with the best of them. And he had the ability to inspire loyalty from those around him. Standing there with his old friend again brought back so many good memories of so many good times.
“How long has it been?” Cain asked, finally letting go of Fargo’s hand.
“Too long. Four years, maybe five.”
Cain laughed. “Yup, too long. How about we don’t let that happen again?” He swung his arm wide, gesturing toward the spread around them. “So, what do you think of Sharon’s Dream?”
“Big and impressive,” Fargo said, telling the truth. “Sharon would have been proud.”
Cain smiled at the memory of his wife. “Yeah, she would have been, wouldn’t she?”
Cain pointed up at the hill above the huge pile of tailings. “It’s still pouring out the high-quality ore. In fact, we have a shipment headed to Sacramento today.” He pointed to a wagon being loaded.
“Guess my timing is perfect,” Fargo said.
“As always,” Cain said. “You up for going to work?”
“No better time than the present,” Fargo said.
Cain laughed. “I don’t know. Some of my memories tell me the past was a pretty good time as well.”
Cain introduced Fargo as the Trailsman to his six men that were to guard the shipment, and made it clear that Fargo was in charge of getting the ore to the refinery, even though Cain himself was riding along. Not a one of them seemed to mind. In fact, most of them had heard of Fargo and looked downright relieved he was on the job.
He just hoped he could live up to whatever they had heard about him.
Fargo could tell that four of the men were hired trail hands and were comfortable with their guns. One carried Colts on both hips, and all of them had carbines in sheaths on their horses. The other two didn’t look so trail experienced. One, Cain introduced as Hank, his mine foreman. The other was Walt, a young kid with strong-looking arms, a ready smile, and an eagerness to do anything to help.
Fargo had two of the experienced trail hands ride ahead of the wagon with carbines across their saddles, two behind, and Walt and Hank on the wagon. Cain was driving the wagon and Hank sat beside him. Walt sat on the gold boxes, riding backward to make sure no one came up behind them.
Cain said he had lost three good men so far in the last six shipments, but had managed to get the gold out every time. But the robbers had gained in numbers each time, and it seemed like the focus was on Cain’s shipments more than the other mines in the area.
Fargo didn’t much like the sound of that. Sure, Cain was doing well, but if he really was being targeted, that meant there was a lot more behind this than just a gang of robbers taking opportunities as they came down the trail.
As they pulled onto the main Placerville road from the Sharon’s Dream side road, Fargo had the wagon slow down. He wanted to give himself time to scout ahead on his big Ovaro stallion.
As the wagon moved slowly along, he was often a good distance from the road, moving along high ground to scout out what was ahead before circling back. He knew the Placerville road. He had been in the area a number of times as the gold boom exploded. With luck, he could clear this band of robbers out of the area in a few weeks, while enjoying some time with his old friend.