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Authors: Len Levinson

Beginner's Luck

BOOK: Beginner's Luck
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D
UANE
B
RADDOCK WENT FROM NAIVE YOUNG ORPHAN TO THE RIP-ROARING LEGEND CALLED THE PECOS KID
... H
E DID IT WITH HELP FROM FRIENDS AND ENEMIES ALIKE
.

Lester Boggs—A wiry cowboy who loves liquor and the ladies, and vows to teach Duane everything he knows.

Clyde Butterfield—A cheroot-chewing over-the-hill gunslinger who always seems to be there for Duane, and has some mysterious link to Duane's past.

Vanessa Fontaine—The kind and lovely saloon singer who takes Duane under her wing, much to the fury of the man who loves her.

Edgar Petigru—The richest man in town, also the most hated man in town, and momentarily Duane's worst enemy.

Len Farnsworth—The cheating, heartless publisher of the local newspaper, who conjures up the story that innocent Duane is really the ruthless Pecos Kid, then lives to see it come true.

Joe Braddock—The outlaw father Duane never met, but knows is watching over him until Joe's killer is brought to justice.

Also by Len Levinson

The Rat Bastards:

Hit the Beach

Death Squad

River of Blood

Meat Grinder Hill

Down and Dirty

Green Hell

Too Mean to Die

Hot Lead and Cold Steel

Do or Die

Kill Crazy

Nightmare Alley

Go For Broke

Tough Guys Die Hard

Suicide River

Satan's Cage

Go Down Fighting

The Pecos Kid:

The Reckoning

Apache Moon

Outlaw Hell

Devil's Creek Massacre

Bad to the Bone

The Apache Wars Saga:

Desert Hawks

War Eagles

Savage Frontier

White Apache

Devil Dance

Night of the Cougar

T
H
E

P
ECOS
 K
ID

Book 1

BEGINNER'S LUCK

LEN LEVINSON

This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 1992 by Len Levinson.  All Rights Reserved.

Ebook © 2013 by AudioGO.  All Rights Reserved.

Trade eISBN: 978-1-62064-858-2

Library eISBN: 
978-1-62460-199-6

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

CHAPTER 1

T
HE OLD
C
ONCORD STAGECOACH RUMBLED
across the trail, lanterns gleaming into the night. The driver flicked his whip across the horses' haunches, as moonlight reflected upon buttes, spires, and caprock escarpments on the distant horizon.

Inside the cab, a salesman, two soldiers, a lawyer, a cowboy, and a hatless young vagabond sat with knees jammed together, enveloped in the fragrance of springtime. They'd been on the road five days, sleeping in ramshackle roadhouses, alert for Indians.

The young man was nearly eighteen years old, tall, with black hair and ill-fitting clothes. He peered out the window at a town down the road, glittering like a sprawl of diamonds across the valley. His name was Duane Braddock, he had thirteen dollars and change in
his pocket, and was on the first journey of his life.

He didn't know a soul in Titusville, and had heard that big towns were sinkholes of sin and depravity, with drunken men shooting each other at random, and scarlet women luring lovelorn males into the fires of hell. Paradoxically, he was eager to see these harrowing prospects; they provoked his youthful curiosity and sense of adventure. For better or worse, he'd lived an unusually sheltered life. Until two weeks ago, he'd been sequestered in a Benedictine monastery high in the Guadalupe Mountains. An orphan, he'd been brought there an infant, and raised by the brothers and fathers.

Duane had spent his brief life praying, studying, and singing Gregorian chant, planning to become a brother, and then possibly a priest, but it started unraveling two weeks ago. He'd been forced to leave for fighting with another acolyte, beating him rather badly with a frying pan. The old abbot had said: “If you can't live in peace with us, you'll have to go somewhere else!”

Duane had never known peace, as if he didn't quite mesh with the world. Even the tranquillity of the monastery hadn't subdued his inner demons, and often he'd doubted that he was truly called to the religious life. He'd longed to see the outside world, and he'd experienced weird stirrings concerning certain Mexican girls who'd come to the monastery to pray.

The abbot had made the decision for him, expelling Duane from the monastery in the clouds. A roof every night and three regular meals a day were things of the past. Whatever he needed now, he'd have to tear out of the world with his bare hands.

The end had come suddenly and with stunning forcefulness. An orphan bully named Jasper Jakes had learned the truth of Duane's parentage from records in the abbot's office, which revealed that Duane was the bastard son of an outlaw killed in the Pecos country, and a prostitute who'd died shortly thereafter.

Jasper Jakes had made painful remarks concerning Duane's ancestry at every opportunity. After several days of mounting anger, Duane lost control in the monastery kitchen, and attacked Jakes. Before the fight could be stopped, Duane had broken Jakes's jaw, shattered his nose, and knocked out a tooth. He himself had taken one hard shot to the forehead, but that was his total damage.

Duane shuddered as the memories flooded his mind. He would've killed Jakes, if they didn't stop him, and he knew that a dangerous beast dwelled within him, which was frightening to contemplate. But he couldn't bear the shame of his deepest embarrassment revealed to the world. Duane had felt like dirty, damaged goods, and no matter how hard he struggled, he'd never wash off that indelible stain—the devil's brand on his soul. Other boys had lost parents to wild Indians, disease, floods, and outlaw raids, but at least their parents had been married, and their fathers hadn't been killed by lawmen.

Duane had vague recollections of his father, who'd smelled of whiskey and tobacco, and wore a black mustache, but was it memory or hallucination? He had been less than a year old when his father was shot, and his mother expired soon thereafter, so how could he remember her blond curls and gentle kisses? But they couldn't've been
that
bad, he said to himself. And even
if they were, surely God would forgive them, for aren't we His Children?

His body ached, crammed in with the others, and he wanted to stretch his long legs, but across from him sprawled a sergeant in the 4th Cavalry, snoring loudly. During the trip, Duane had examined his fellow passengers, and most interesting, in his estimation, was the droll, lanky cowboy named Lester Boggs.

Boggs wore a wide-brimmed hat, a drooping, tobacco-stained sandy mustache, and a green bandanna draped around his sunburned neck, but his most arresting feature was the six-shooter gleaming evilly in his holster, slung low and tied down. To Duane, Lester Boggs represented the epitome of what a real man should be, a far cry from the monastery's solemn-faced brothers and fathers, who were always doing penance for something they considered vile.

Duane had tried to strike up a conversation with Boggs, seeking to draw stories and information out of him, but the cowboy fended off all inquiries, sipping pale amber liquid he referred to as “medicine,” out of a whiskey bottle with the label partially torn off.

Boggs was tanned, with callused hands, and moonbeams emitting from his eyes. Duane wished he could be a man of the world like Boggs, not a solitary kid of dubious parentage, and ignorant about life.

Duane would be eighteen in only three weeks, and was anxious to realize his potential, although he wasn't quite sure what it was. His education had been good and evil as interpreted by Jesus Christ, Saint Paul, Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, Saint Benedict, and all the other luminaries of Holy Mother Church. Brother Paolo, his teacher and spiritual advisor, had
told him that he could accomplish any goal, if he kept his mind pure, but Brother Paolo had once served time in a California jail for being a
bandito.

The horses plodded toward the end of their day's labor, and Duane heard the driver joking with the shotgun guard atop the coach. The buildings of Titusville loomed closer, with lights aglow in the center of town.
Crack
! went the driver's whip over the horses' flanks. “We'll have us a good steak at the Crystal Palace Saloon,” the stagecoach driver said to the shotgun guard. “And a bottle of Old Crow.”

BOOK: Beginner's Luck
12.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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