Table of Contents
A Little Taste of Hell . . .
Longarm stepped forward, thumbing the Winchester's hammer back to full cock. “Hold it there, you mushy-nutted dung beetles!”
The man behind the rain barrel twisted around toward Longarm, bringing both his pearl-gripped pistols to bear, and snarling like a frenzied wildcat. Longarm's rifle barked. The man popped off both his pistols into the dirt between his spread black boots, and slammed his head back against the rain barrel so hard that Longarm could hear the sharp crack of his skull.
The man with the whiskey bottle out in the street turned toward Longarm, dropped the bottle, and slapped his hands to the two big Remingtons bristling on his leather-clad thighs. He must have forgotten that he'd fired the bottle's wick, however. He hadn't gotten either pistol clear of its holster before the bottle exploded with a
as loud as a dragon's belch.
The bottle shattered, spraying the man from boots to knees with burning whiskey.
Longarm held fire. No point in wasting a cartridge . . .
DON'T MISS THESE ALL-ACTION WESTERN SERIES 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.
LONGARM by Tabor Evans
The popular long-running series about Deputy U.S. Marshal Custis Longâhis life, his loves, his fight for justice.
SLOCUM by Jake Logan
Today's longest-running action Western. John Slocum rides a deadly trail of hot blood and cold steel.
BUSHWHACKERS by B. J. Lanagan
An action-packed series by the creators of Longarm! The rousing adventures of the most brutal gang of cutthroats ever assembledâQuantrill's Raiders.
DIAMONDBACK by Guy Brewer
Dex Yancey is Diamondback, a Southern gentleman turned con man when his brother cheats him out of the family fortune. Ladies love him. Gamblers hate him. But nobody pulls one over on Dex . . .
WILDGUN by Jack Hanson
The blazing adventures of mountain man Will Barlowâfrom the creators of Longarm!
TEXAS TRACKER by Tom Calhoun
J.T. Law: the most relentlessâand dangerousâmanhunter in all Texas. Where sheriffs and posses fail, he's the best man to bring in the most vicious outlawsâfor a price.
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
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 0RL, England
Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)
Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhiâ110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand
(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196,
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
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.
LONGARM AND THE DOOMED BEAUTY
A Jove Book / published by arrangement with the author
Jove edition / December 2011
Copyright Â© 2011 by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
ISBN : 978-1-101-54597-3
Jove Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
The “J” design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Weary from travel, Deputy U.S. Marshal Custis P. Long, known to friend and foe far and wide as Longarm, tramped up the outside stairs of his second-story flat in a neat, frame rooming house on the poor side of Cherry Creek and froze in his boots. He stared down past the knob and lock plate of the green-painted pine door, his tired heart picking up a reluctant warning rhythm in his chest.
The half length of stove match he'd wedged between the door and the frame had fallen to the sill. It lay there on the painted oak, its red sulfur tip and ragged opposite end staring up at him in mute testament to surefire danger.
The federal lawman always wedged a matchstick in his door when he left his flat, so he'd know if anyone had come prowling around, possibly intending to lie in wait for him inside and gun him when he wandered in, weary from his latest assignment.
He'd given his landlady strict orders not to enter his flat when he was away. He did his own cleaning, which wouldn't be enough for some folks but was as much as he needed, since he was gone more often than he was homeâhis home essentially being the owlhoot trailâand he wasn't what anyone would call particular about such things, anyway.
He raised his eyes to the door panel two feet in front of him. His skin crawled with the half-conscious expectation of a sudden shotgun blast from within blowing a pumpkin-sized hole in the door and burrowing a similar hole through the dead center of his chest and painting the stair rail behind him with his own blood and shredded bits of his ticker.
He touched the end of his tongue to the underside of his upper lip, which was capped with a brushy, dark-brown mustache upswept in the longhorn style. Very slowly, he took one step back, wincing, hoping that his low-heeled cavalry stovepipes did not set a board of the staircase to squawking and giving him awayânever mind that anyone inside likely would have heard him tramping with weary heaviness up the stairs only a few seconds ago . . .
Just as slowly, holding his breath, he let the saddlebags riding his left shoulder slide down to his elbow. From there, he lowered the bags soundlessly to the floor at his feet. In his right hand, he held his sheathed Winchester Model '73 repeating rifle on his right shoulder. Pressing his tongue harder against his upper lip, and sucking a short, silent breath, he lifted the rifle off his shoulder and leaned it against the rail to his right.
The carbine was too much gun for tight quarters.
Stepping back to the right side of the door frame, and out of the way of a possible blast from inside, he reached across his washboard-flat belly clad in a blue wool shirt and brown wool vest and unsnapped the keeper thong from over the hammer of the double-action Frontier model Colt .44 holstered for the cross draw on his left hip. He slipped the gun out of the holster, and held it at waist level, aimed at the door.
He'd just started to reach for the knob to see if the door was locked when a sudden
rose from behind him. Pivoting, he gave a startled grunt and brought the Colt up, aiming over the rail and into the side yard of his landlady's house. The bird was a shadow rising amongst the poplars and maples and angling over the cinder-paved sidewalk and the sandstone street. It disappeared, but a moment later, from the direction the bird had flown, an owl cooed.
The hair along the back of the lawman's neck pricked.
An owl. The Injuns of most tribes said an owl heard at night was the darkest of omens.
“Shit,” Longarm muttered, swinging back to the door.
He reached forward, slowly turned the knob. His heart fluttered when the knob kept turning. It wasn't locked.
Which meant someone was waiting for him inside.
Crouching and tensing, shifting his feet slightly, he continued to turn the knob. It clicked. The door fell slack in its frame and a one-inch gap shone between the frame and the door. The gap shone with flickering umber lamplight.
Not only was someone inside, but they were apparently making themselves to home. At a little after midnight, no less!
He sprang off his heels, hammered the door wide with his left shoulder. Throwing himself forward and down and hitting the floor on his belly, he heard the door slam against the wall with a bang. He looked up raising the Colt, which he held tight in his right fist.
His bed was just ahead to his right. There was something on the bedâround and covered in some thin fabric. Longarm blinked, frowned, raised his head farther.
A woman's bare ass stared down at him from the edge of the bed. Not quite bare but covered in just enough of a see-through shift to make the definition only slightly negligible. It wasn't covered nearly enough to hide the fact that it was a very nice, tight, round, pale ass tapering out wonderfully from slender hips. An ass that, at that moment, moved. The pink bottoms of two bare feet that also shone at the bed's edge but about four feet down from the ass moved, too.
Longarm looked around to make sure no one else was in his small, shabbily furnished flat. Then he rose up onto his knees and stared at the black-haired beauty on the bed. She was just now twisting toward him and, groaning groggily, lifting her head. She frowned, slitting her cobalt-blue eyes framed by a delightful tangle of long, straight, indigo hair.
Longarm's voice caught in his chest. “Cynthia?”
“Custis?” She sounded like she had a burr in her throat. “What on . . . ?” She rolled onto her back and propped herself on her elbows, blinking her eyes to clear them as she looked from the kneeling lawman to the door standing half open behind him. “What on earth are you doing down there?”
Longarm lowered the pistol and rose from his knees, blinking his eyes as if to clear them but glad that the image of the naked young woman on the bed before him did not go away. She wore the sheerest of sheer black wrapsâso sheer it appeared only a shadow spread across her supple, curvaceous, full-breasted, trim-waisted, round-hipped body. It came down to mid-thigh but did nothing to hide the furred V between her legs.
“What on earth are
?” he said around the hard knot growing in his throat. “Tryin' to give a man a heart stroke one way, and then . . . another . . .”