Table of Contents
“I don't know,” he snapped. “Gaiter, look out!”
Jessie turned. Her boot caught a loose board and sent her sprawling. In the smallest part of a second she saw it happen ... the enormous gray shadow sprang past Ki out of the alley. Gaiter stood frozen in the street . . . his hand snaked to his waist and three quick explosions brightened the night. The thing leaped off the ground with a snarl and slammed him in the chest. Gaiter shrieked . . . the creature tore at him, shook its great head.
“Oh, God!” Jessie's stomach turned and she quickly looked away. Gaiter's throat was completely gone. His face was twisted in horror...
Also in the LONE STAR series
LONGARM AND THE LONE STAR LEGEND
LONE STAR ON THE TREACHERY TRAIL
LONE STAR AND THE OPIUM RUSTLERS
LONE STAR AND THE BORDER BANDITS
LONE STAR AND THE UTAH KID
LONE STAR AND THE LAND GRABBERS
LONE STAR IN THE TALL TIMBER
LONE STAR AND THE SHOWDOWNERS
LONE STAR AND THE HARDROCK PAYOFF
LONE STAR AND THE RENEGADE COMANCHES
LONE STAR AND THE KANSAS WOLVES
A Jove Book / published by arrangement with
Jove edition / October 1982
Third printing / April 1983
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Copyright Â© 1982 by Jove Publications, Inc.
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eISBN : 978-1-101-16888-2
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belonging to Jove Publications, Inc.
Ki made his way back along the train toward his own compartment. Most of the cars he passed were relatively empty. The few passengers aboard kept to themselves, drowsing in the sultry afternoon or staring straight ahead. There was nothing to see outside, only shimmering waves of heat off the flat Kansas plain. The KP wasn't getting rich on this trip, which didn't surprise Ki at all. Anyone who didn't have to travel would be back home resting in the shade, instead of baking in a fine upholstered oven.
Sometimes a passenger glanced up and gave him a quick, curious look as he passed. Ki was used to that and ignored it. For the most part, he looked no different from a thousand other young men. His suit was a simple blue-gray tweed cut to fit his lean, wiry frame. He wore a twill cotton shirt the color of a pale winter sky, and a plain shoestring tie. A black Stetson and ankle-length Wellingtons completed his wardrobe.
Still, there were differences, if you cared to look for them. His hair was straight and hung to the top of his collar. In the light, it had the blue-black cast of a raven's wing, the sheen of burnished metal. The hair formed a sharp point high in the center of his brow, then swept back abruptly to show the prominent curve of his skull.
It was the eyes, though, that most often caught a stranger's attention. They were a deep, penetrating brown, and seemed to have no whites at all. A small fold of skin close to the lids lifted slightly at the corners to show his Oriental heritage. The high, sharp plane of his cheeks and the quick sweep of his jaw completed the image.
If a man bothered to notice Ki at all, he simply glanced up a moment and looked away. Women, though, let their eyes linger a little longer. Bolder young ladies studied him with open curiosity. The pretty redhead at the end of the car was one of those. She fastened on him the minute he entered the coach, and followed him all the way through. Ki returned the glance but didn't stop. He was interested, but something else had caught his attention.
Two men sat together across the aisle from the girl. Just before Ki passed the middle of the car, they stood and walked casually before him out the door to the platform between the two coaches. Ki came instantly alert. To his trained eye, they telegraphed their purpose in a dozen different ways. A swing of the arm, a slight, almost imperceptible tightening around the mouth. To Ki, their bodies betrayed them with every step they took. The lazy, indifferent manner of the pair told him something else entirelyâsomething they didn't wish him to see.
Part of this was
the subtle hint of power and purpose the samurai learned to sense in another. Part of it was something else that had no name. The enemies Ki sensed here lacked the fire and strength of fighters with honor. There was a vague hint of darkness, a twisting of the soul that told him what the pair were, what they wanted from him.
Ki left the coach and walked straight for the two. They stood between the swaying cars, blocking his way, making a show of ignoring his presence. They were stocky, hardfaced men, one slightly taller than the other. The tall one wore a Colt Peacemaker under his belt. The other was seemingly unarmed, a fact Ki noted with care.
“Excuse me,” he said politely. “I am going to the next car, gentlemen.”
The man with the Colt drew a cheroot out of his vest, then turned to Ki as if he'd suddenly appeared out of the air. “Willie, you see anyone tryin' to get by?”
Willie frowned and sniffed the air. “No. But I sure do
something.” He looked straight at Ki and grinned broadly. “By God. You know what we got here, Karl? We got us a real yellow nigger.”
Karl tried to look pained. “That's a Chinaman, son. One of your gen-yoo-wine chinks. Isn't that right, mister? They call you Ching or Chow or what?”
Willie sniggered at that, and granted Ki another grin.
“You're mistaken,” Ki said gently. “I'm not Chinese. I'm half Caucasian and half Japanese.”
“Oh, damn, I'm sorry.” Karl looked at Willie and frowned. “See now, we was wrong. He ain't a chink-chink at all. He's a Jap-chink.” Willie liked that, too.
“I would like to pass, please,” said Ki. His breathing was slow and easy, spreading calmness throughout his body. This journey was important to Jessie; he had no wish to call attention to himself or to her with a fight. The pair's insults meant nothing.
Karl's smile suddenly vanished. “You know what?” he said darkly. “I thought chinks was supposed to
railroads. I never heard nothin' about âem
on them.” His eyes flicked to his friend. “You think maybe Ching here'd be more comfortable closer to the tracks?”
“I sure think he would,” Willie agreed.
It was going too far. Ki didn't want it to go further, but he knew there wasn't a chance in hell of getting out of it without trouble. The men wanted it to end this wayâKi had known that from the beginning.
“I would like to get past,” he said once again. “Please.”
Karl liked that. “How âbout
with a little chink dance thrown in?” His fingers edged slowly toward the Colt.
For the first time, Ki answered the man's smile. “Would a Japanese step do?”
“Well, hell, yes itâ”
Ki moved. His left hand came up in a blur, fingers thrust out stiffly. The blow struck the gunman at the base of his throat, just above the collarbone. At the same time, his eyes caught the wicked flash of a blade driving straight at his gut. His right hand was already in motion in the
the knife-hand strike. A blade for a blade, thought Ki.
Willie howled and grabbed his shattered wrist. Ki whipped his hand up again and chopped him once across the temple.
The whole encounter had taken less than two seconds. Neither man was quite unconscious, but both were paralyzed with pain and would give him no trouble. They were alive only because he had used just enough force to put them out of action and avoid injury to himself.
Now, though, he had the problem of what to do with them. At any moment, someone was likely to come through the door of either car for a breath of air and find him with two men writhing in pain. He could leave them, and go about his business. Which meant they would surely trouble him again. He could call the conductor and have them locked up until the next stopâbut that, too, would call attention to Jessie and himself.
Ki knew the only logical answer was to remove them from the scene. The train was moving at high speed across the flat countrysideâwhich meant they might injure themselves or maybe even break their necks. He stoically accepted the possibility. They had initiated this encounter, and must face the consequences.
Quickly he went through their pockets, then hefted them up one by one and tossed them over the side. A few moments later he threw their weapons far out over the prairie and straightened his jacket. With any luck at all, everyone aboard would be too bored to glance out their windows and see two stout bodies tumbling by.
He opened the door to his own coach and walked to Jessie's compartment, and saw the man sitting beside her. The man said something that amused her, and Jessie laughed. Her green eyes crinkled at the corners, and she tossed a shock of strawberry blonde hair over her shoulders.
Ki disliked the man instinctively, and knew his feelings were only partly due to the stranger's easy manner with Jessie. He was a tall, striking man in his early forties, with an aristocaratic nose and and commanding blue-agate eyes. Silver patches brushed the sides of his temples, tinting a full head of curly black hair. The silver was a perfect match for his expensive, dove-gray suit and dark blue shirt.
was the word that thrust itself into Ki's mind. The man was entirely too polished, too smoothly honed, for Ki's liking.
Jessie glanced up, saw Ki, and quickly motioned him into the compartment. “Oh, KiâI'd like you to meet Mr. Torgler. He's going to Roster, same as we are.”