Ralph Compton Sixguns and Double Eagles

BOOK: Ralph Compton Sixguns and Double Eagles
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Table of Contents
 
 
DOUBLE DEATH
Each man took his position outside a door, and from beneath long coats, both removed and cocked double-barrel shotguns. Timing their moves, each slowly turned the knob of a door....
Inside their separate rooms, Wes and El Lobo waited. They wouldn't have a clear shot until the bushwackers opened the doors far enough.... Suddenly, both doors came open, and both shotguns roared at the same instant, double loads of buckshot slamming into the empty beds. Before the sound of the blasts had died away, there was the rolling thunder of two Colts, followed by groans of anguish from the hall. In almost the same breath, Monique and Louise screamed.
As though of one mind, West and El Lobo crept along the wall toward the partially open doors until they could see into the hall. As they emerged from their rooms, they were greeted by two dead men....
SIGNET
Published by New American Library, a division of
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,
Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England
First published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, January 1998
 
Copyright © Ralph Compton, 1998
All rights reserved
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
 
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
PUBLISHER'S NOTE
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.
eISBN : 978-1-101-17542-2

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“Maybe there's something to this thing called destiny. Life has a way of taking a man's measure, forcing him to ride long hard trails likely not of his choosing.”
 
—Wes Stone, New Orleans, 1884
Prologue
St. Louis. October 1, 1884.
Thunder rumbled closer and a rising wind brought the first drops of rain pattering into the dusty street.
“There's a saloon,” Wes Stone said. “Let's have a beer and wait out the storm.”
Stone and the Indian—El Lobo—reached the sheltering porch of the saloon just as the storm broke, sheets of rain rattling on the shake roof. Cautiously Wes opened the door and stepped inside, El Lobo following. Even with hanging lamps it took a moment for their eyes to become accustomed to the gloom. It seemed others had taken refuge from the storm, for there were nine men in the saloon besides the bartender. Two men sat at one of the tables and three at another, while four men stood with their backs to the bar. Silently they eyed the new arrivals. Wes Stone was barely eighteen and El Lobo was just a year or two older, but they were men in every sense of the word. Their Stetsons were new, their boots polished, and their trousers dark gray with black pin-stripes. Their boiled shirts were open at the throat and their black frock coats extended almost to the knees. But not enough to hide the twin holsters and leather thongs that tied them down. El Lobo moved first. He chose a table, hooked a chair with his boot, and sat down with his back to the wall. Wes approached the bar, making his way around the four who leaned against it. Their eyes were on El Lobo, for he had unbuttoned his coat, hooking his thumbs in his gunbelt.
“Two beers,” Wes said.
“Two beers,” said the bartender. “What's the Indian havin‘?”
“One of the two beers,” Wes said.
“We don't serve Indians,” said the bartender.
“You're serving me,” Wes said coldly. “What I do with the beer is my business.”
He dropped his money on the bar and said no more. Silently the bartender drew the two beers. Wes took them, and careful not to come between El Lobo and the four men at the bar, he made his way to the table. Carefully he placed the glasses on the table and took a chair, angling it so that his back was to the wall. For a long moment there was silence. Then one of the men at the bar spoke.
“You're Wes Stone, ain't you?”
Wes sipped his beer, saying nothing.
“Well, I'm Charlie Beckwith,” the stranger said, “and you gunned down a friend of mine in Dodge. I ain't forgot.”
Wes placed his glass on the table. “I never shot a man who wasn't trying to kill me.”
“I ain't believin' that,” said Beckwith. “You got yourself a reputation. You're a tall rooster that's made big tracks, and I aim to find out just how sharp your spurs really are.”
“I have no fight with you,” Wes said.
“The choice ain't yours,” said Beckwith. “It's mine.”
“You ain't shootin' up my place,” the bartender bawled.
One of Beckwith's companions slugged him and he went down behind the bar. Slowly, his eyes on Beckwith, Wes Stone got to his feet. El Lobo followed.
“No,
amigo,”
said Wes. “This is my fight.”
“Come on, redskin,” Beckwith said. “I don't like Injuns. Especially one that's gussied up in fancy duds, packs a gun, and walks on his hind legs like a white man.”
“Charlie,” one of his companions cautioned, “you're ...”
“Shut up, Dub,” said Beckwith.
El Lobo stood up beside Wes, and Wes spoke.
“Charlie, I regret having to shoot your friend in Dodge, but he wouldn't have it any other way. I don't want to kill you, but I will if I have to. Take a few seconds to recall the blue of the sky, the green of the grass, and the smell of the rain, because all of that will soon be lost to you. The rest of you men are welcome to buy in, if you want to die alongside Charlie. El Lobo, I'll take Charlie and Dub. The other two are yours.”

Sí
,” El Lobo said.
“If you still feel so inclined,” said Wes, “make your play.”
“Charlie,” Dub said, sleeving sweat from his face, “if you want this fight, you got it.”
Hands raised, he inched along the bar until he was near the door. Quickly he bolted through it, disregarding the pouring rain. Wordlessly Charlie's remaining companions crept away from the bar and headed for the door, leaving Charlie Beckwith alone.
“Well, Charlie,” said Wes softly, “it's your play.”
Slowly Beckwith raised his hands, sweat glistening on his palms. He sidled along the bar until he was near the door. He then ran from the saloon. Wes and El Lobo sat down and finished their drinks.
“One day,” said the now-conscious bartender, “old Charlie's whiskey talk will get him shot dead. I don't think he's ever been in Dodge in his life.”
The worst of the storm had passed when Wes and El Lobo left the saloon. Empty, the faithful hound that followed Wes crept from beneath a building across the street. The dog hated saloons.
“That was close,” Wes said. “I reckon we'll have to avoid the saloons.”
El Lobo laughed. “You tall rooster that make big tracks. Me, I just Injun that walks on hind legs like a man. Per‘ap I go back to moccasins, with blanket round my middle and feathers in my hair.”
“You'll have to overlook the white man's prejudice,” said Wes. “Up to a few years ago, the Indians in this country gave the whites hell. Most of them haven't forgotten, and old hatreds die hard.”
Washington, D.C. October 2, 1884.
“Come on,” said Bryan Silver in response to the knock on his door.
Simpkins and Taylor, from the office of the Treasury, entered. Unbidden, each man took a chair facing Silver, who sat behind a desk. A gunbelt with a Colt revolver in the holster hung from the back of Silver's chair, and the treasury men eyed it uncertainly.
“You know why you're here,” Silver said.
“Oh, God yes,” said Simpkins with a sigh. “The situation has worsened just within the past three days. Another Pinkerton man has disappeared, and the agency has sent word they are withdrawing from the case.”
“They might as well,” Silver said, “for they've accomplished nothing. Back off and I'll take over. I'm going to St. Louis for a meeting with two
hombres
who have agreed to work with us.”
“I trust they know what they're getting into,” said Taylor.
“They have some idea,” Silver said. “Do you remember Wes Stone, El Lobo, and what they accomplished south of the border? Remember the Sandlin gang?”
BOOK: Ralph Compton Sixguns and Double Eagles
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