Table of Contents
TOO LATE, MR. EARLY!
Longarm stepped over the low stone wall and walked near to where the man was lying. He kicked the shotgun a little further away. He was amazed to see that the man with three heavy slugs in his chest was still breathing. Early said, “Wha ... Who... are ...”
Longarm said, “Does it really matter, Early, who I am? You're going fast, so I reckon you don't need to know all that bad. You just made a bad mistake. You should have shot me when you had the chance.”
He hadn't finished speaking when Early closed his eyes and stopped breathing. Longarm jumped back across the wall to retrieve his rifle. He took a moment to reload the empty chambers of the spare gun he had been using. He stuck it back inside his waistband at the small of his back. It was a position that seemed to work fairly well.
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FROM THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
THE GUNSMITH by J. R. Roberts
Clint Adams was a legend among lawmen, outlaws, and ladies. They called him... the Gunsmith.
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The popular long-running series about U.S. Deputy Marshal Longâhis life, his loves, his fight for justice.
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Today's longest-running action Western. John Slocum rides a deadly trail of hot blood and cold steel.
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An action-packed series by the creators of Longarm! The rousing adventures of the most brutal gang of cutthroats ever assembledâQuantrill's Raiders.
LONGARM AND THE COLORADO COUNTERFEITER
A Jove Book / published by arrangement with the author
Jove edition / January 1999
All rights reserved.
Copyright Â© 1999 by Jove Publications, Inc.
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without permission. For information address:
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eISBN : 978-1-101-17889-8
A JOVE BOOKÂ®
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a member of Penguin Putnam Inc.,
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Jove Publications, Inc.
Chief Marshal Billy Vail said, “Longarm, I'll tell you one thing. This is the damnedest situation I've ever run into in all my years behind the law.” He was standing at the window of his office in the Federal Building in Denver, Colorado. He looked back over his shoulder at his deputy and said, “Custis, I still don't believe it.” He turned back to the window and pointed. “But there is a man sitting in a fine home, a hundred miles from here on a mountain just outside of Silverton, Colorado, counterfeiting twenty-dollar bills, and nobody's been able to do a damned thing about it. What do you think about
Custis said, “Well, Billy, I don't know what to think about that. It don't seem possible to me either. I mean, not in these modem times. I could see where in the old days they could make a fake greenback or one of the gold bank notes, but I just can't see where anybody would have the equipment or the ability or the skill to counterfeit any kind of bills, much less a twenty-dollar bill that is going to get a good looking at.” He was seated in front of Billy Vail's desk with his boots up on a nearby chair. His full name was Custis Long and he was a deputy marshal in the Federal Marshals' Service. He had worked for Billy Vail more years than either one of them cared to count. He had the wounds to show for it, but his face, weathered as it was, still could show the care and concern of a man dedicated to his duty.
Longarm was his nickname. It came from the fact that his last name was Long, and because there was no record of any criminal ever outrunning his reach. You could run and you could hide and you could sit on a mountaintop. You could dig a hole in the ground, you could go under the water. You could find a closet in a room in the biggest city you could think of, but sooner or later, Custis Long was going to show up with his “long arm of the law” and take you to justice. The nickname was used by his friends and enemies alike. It didn't bother him. He had never particularly cared for the name Custis anyhow. Sometimes, when Billy Vail was displeased, he could make the name Custis sound like the worst cuss word a man had ever heard.
Now, sitting there, Longarm was relaxed and smoking a cigarillo. He was a little over six foot tall and a little under two hundred pounds. His face said forty, but his body, which was hard with muscle, said thirty. His age didn't really matter. He had been a lawman long enough that his body and his brain knew what to do at the right times.
Billy Vail turned from the window and came and sat back down at his desk. Longarm was grateful. Billy wasn't very tall, but when he was standing up and Longarm was sitting down, the small chief marshal seemed to tower over him. Longarm didn't care to have his boss tower over him at any time, especially when he figured a very unpleasant assignment might be heading his way. Billy Vail said, “Yes, the man is counterfeiting twenty-dollar bills, as hard as that is to believe. There's too much proof. There's been too many of them recovered. They're first-class work. I guarantee you, I could pass one off on you right now and you'd never be able to tell it.”
Longarm took his boots off the chair and dropped them to the floor with a clunk. He said, “Ha! Ha! I reckon that ain't so, Billy.”
Billy Vail looked up at him. “Oh, is that right? Have you by any chance got a hundred-dollar bill on you?”
Longarm gave him a slow look. “Yeah, I've got one on me. Just by chance, I do.”
“Where did you get it? Win it in a poker game? Or from shipping horses at government expense that you done brought back here to sell.”
Longarm said, “Now, don't start that old stuff again, Billy.”
“All right, I'll tell you what I'll do,” Billy said. He reached in his back pocket and took out his wallet. From it, he took six twenty-dollar bills. “I'll give you these six twenties for that hundred. If there's anything wrong with any of them, I'll give you your hundred back if you can show me which one. You'll be ahead whichever twenty or forty or sixty dollars that you've got. How's that for a deal?”
Longarm sat up straight and reached in his pocket, saying, “Done. I guarantee you I can spot your bogus twenty-dollar bill. You give me to understand that you're going to give me six twenties and I'm going to give you a hundred. If any of them are counterfeit, I get to keep the rest of the twenties and I get my hundred back. Is that correct?”
Billy Vail nodded. “That's right.”
“Hand them over.”
Longarm took the six twenty-dollar bills, handing his hundred to his boss, and then sat back down in the chair. One by one, he looked the bills over. Some of them were worn, some of them were fairly new, but they all looked genuine to him. After a moment, he put the bills together neatly, folded them, and then stuffed them into his pocket. “Billy,” he said, “I just made twenty bucks off of you. That may well be the first time I ever got in your pocket.”
Billy Vail looked at Longarm and chuckled quietly. He ran his hand through his thin graying hair. “So, you figure that you've got the best of it, do you? You figure that you're money ahead? Is that a fact?”
Longarm nodded. “Now, I know that you're about to tell me that I made a mistake, that two or three of these bills are counterfeit, or maybe all of them are bogus, but I'm not going to believe you. A man don't make a mistake about as big a bill as a twenty. Twenty-dollar bills are too hard to come by. Most folks I know give them a damned good looking over once they get their hands on one. No, I'll stand still on what I have.”
Billy Vail laughed out loud. He leaned back in his chair and threw his arms into the air. “Oh, boy! I've got you, Longarm. It couldn't have happened to a nicer fellow.” He leaned forward. “Three of those bills are real and three are counterfeit. You just took a forty-dollar bath is what you just did, Longarm, and I'm just happy as hell to give you the news.”
Longarm sat back comfortably and gave Billy Vail a satisfied look. He said, “Shame on you, Billy, though I have to say it's just about what I expected. You and I both know that all six of those bills are genuine. You just hate to admit that I didn't find one or two that looked peculiar to me so you could have had a big laugh at just how much I knew. Now, isn't that the case of the matter? You'll feel better for it.”
Billy Vail chuckled again. “Longarm, I got those bills from a Treasury agent that was here at the bank. He made a dot of ink in the bottom right-hand corner of three of those bills. Get them out and you'll see what I'm talking about. Those three are bogus. Not worth the paper they are printed on. And by the way, it is a hell of a grade of paper, though not as good as what Uncle Sam uses.”
Longarm gave his boss a skeptical look. “Billy, you are trying to put one over on me and I'm not going to stand for it.”
“Go on, get those bills out. Hold them up to the light and take a look at them.”
Still suspicious, Longarm took the six twenties out of his pocket. He had no trouble locating the three that had the small ink dot in the lower right-hand comer. But they didn't look or feel any different than the other three. He looked up, half smiling. “Billy, that ain't going to work. All these bills are good ones.”
“Hold them up to the light.”
Reluctantly, Longarm took one of the so-called bogus bills and one of the supposedly real ones and held them both up toward the window, looking at them. Billy Vail said, “Look real close. You can see small lines running through the real ones. That's the thread that's in the paper that the United States Government makes money out of. It's got cloth in it. Those counterfeit ones don't. They're straight paper.”
Longarm glanced first at one bill and then at the other, adjusting them so that each had more light passing through. Very dimly, he could see the small veins of threads that Billy Vail was talking about in one bill. He laid it in his lap and took up another one that was supposedly good. Again, he could see the threads. He examined the third supposedly good bill, and then the other two that had the telltale dots in the comer. There were no threads in them, or in the first ink-dotted bill.
Longarm said, “I'll be damned, Billy. You sonofabitch, you just snookered me out of forty bucks. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Taking a man's money who works as hard as I do.”
Billy Vail shook with laughter, though none came out of his mouth. His eyes were dancing and he was busy slicking back his thin hair. “I knew you'd be too sure of yourself to pass up this good thing,” he said. “Well, you just got taken, Longarm. I hope you enjoy it.”