Read Slocum and the Three Fugitives Online

Authors: Jake Logan

Tags: #Fiction, #Historical, #Westerns

Slocum and the Three Fugitives

BOOK: Slocum and the Three Fugitives
5.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Stopped Dead

Annabelle arched her back and braced her hands on his knees.

“This is going to be a hell of a night,” she said.

“I'll do my best.”

Then Annabelle twisted around and called out, “Who's there?”

The doorway to the bedroom was filled with a dark figure. Slocum tried to sit up, but the woman's weight held him down at the hips. He threw his arms around her and heaved with all his strength so they both tumbled from the bed and crashed onto the floor.

But as he lay on top of Annabelle, he knew he'd been too late. There'd been a sharp
pop!
an instant before. Slocum reached around her. His hand came away sticky with her blood.

She had been shot in the back. Shot dead.

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 Long—his 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 assembled—Quantrill'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 Barlow—from the creators of Longarm!

TEXAS TRACKER by Tom Calhoun

J.T. Law: the most relentless—and dangerous—manhunter in all Texas. Where sheriffs and posses fail, he's the best man to bring in the most vicious outlaws—for a price.

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

USA • Canada • UK • Ireland • Australia • New Zealand • India • South Africa • China

penguin.com

A Penguin Random House Company

SLOCUM AND THE THREE FUGITIVES

A Jove Book / published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2013 by Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for having an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

JOVE
®
is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

The “J” design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

ISBN: 978-0-515-15386-6

eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-61040-4

PUBLISHING HISTORY

Jove mass-market edition / December 2013

Cover illustration by Sergio Giovine.

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 websites or their content.

Contents

Title Page

Copyright

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

1

Gunfire echoed along the broad canyon that John Slocum was following to Taos. He drew rein and looked around. If the gunshots had come from behind him, back in the direction of Raton Pass, he would have kept riding, but the shots had come from ahead. He reached across and touched the ebony butt of his Colt Navy slung in its cross-draw holster. He didn't hunt for trouble, but it had a way of finding him.

He patted the neck of his Appaloosa stallion as much to settle his own nerves as those of the horse. The high-spirited animal reared, front hooves pawing at the air.

“Whoa, no need to get all spooked,” he said. The horse calmed. Slocum remained keyed up.

He considered simply pitching camp and letting the trouble ahead fade away—and trouble it had to be since the shots came from different guns. One had a sharp crack to it. A rifle. The replying shot came flat and hollow. A pistol. Slocum perked up when he heard a new fusillade. More rifles. At least two, maybe three. The response from the six-gun ended after four shots. Slocum imagined the man with the handgun dropping behind a rock and fumbling to reload before the others rushed him.

This was no hunting party, unless the three rifles belonged to lawmen. He had a natural inclination to avoid marshals intent on arresting outlaws since it was possible those same lawmen might have seen a wanted poster on his head. Life had been rough at times, and Slocum was anything but pure as the wind-driven snow. The first warrant for his arrest came after he killed a carpetbagger judge and his henchman back at Slocum's Stand in Calhoun, Georgia. Slocum had been recovering from a gunshot to the gut he had acquired during the war, and the judge mistook his wound for weakness.

Trumping up fake tax liens had been easy enough for the judge. It hadn't been much harder for a battle-weary, battle-hardened John Slocum to put two rounds in each man, then bury them out by his springhouse. Knowing how killing a Reconstruction judge was a crime sure to bring down the federal soldiers on his neck, he had ridden west without so much as a look back.

His life had been filled with other crimes—bank robberies, stagecoach holdups, even men gunned down. Some had produced more wanted posters while other misdeeds had gone without him being identified. Mostly, he tried to keep to a lawful existence, but it proved hard at times.

He should turn around and go back through Raton Pass into Colorado and find some other destination. Nothing in Taos drew him, other than he hadn't been to the mountain town for years and it suited him right now to spend a week or two there.

Another route would take him away from the chance he'd be riding toward a posse intent on arresting an outlaw. Any other route. He rode straight ahead.

A couple miles down the road he saw how the fight progressed. Three men with rifles were arrayed at the base of a low hill. Now and then the solitary man atop the hill popped up like a prairie dog and flung lead wildly. No matter how much ammunition he had, he was a goner. The trio below him advanced in concert. One drew his fire while the other two crept farther up the hill.

Slocum watched a few minutes and came to the conclusion that the three riflemen weren't the law. No badges glinted in the sunlight, and something deep in his gut made him feel they were outlaws looking to pull a quick robbery.

The man on the hilltop kept up a steady fire but had to realize he was fighting a losing battle. Slocum rode a bit closer and saw where the horses had been tethered, two chestnuts and a paint. All carried an X Bar X brand on their hindquarters. This changed his impression of what was happening. These might be cowboys from a spread intent on running a rustler to ground.

His gut told him something else. Three outlaws, one victim.

He trotted away from the tethered horses and saw a trail leading to the summit where the lone defender made his stand. Slocum considered how stupid his snap decision was. He could have guessed wrong at every turn, and the fight raged over something beyond his imagination. But his gut refused to accept that.

He slowed his climb and finally dismounted, not wanting to risk a stray slug finding his Appaloosa. He unlimbered his Winchester and fished out a couple boxes of ammo from his saddlebags before hiking up the trail. A lathered, nervous mare told him he was getting closer.

“I'm not with them. You in trouble?” Slocum stood stock-still where the gunman could see him. “If you want me to leave, I will.”

“Who are you?” The voice carried just a touch of shrillness, communicating the man's fear. “You're not with them 'shiners?”

“Don't know what you mean. I was riding by and heard the gunfire. I—”

Slocum brought his rifle to his shoulder, levered in a round, and fired. The slug ricocheted off the top of a boulder, sending rock fragments into the face of an attacker who had finally reached the summit. A bandanna pulled up in a mask protected his face but drove him back.

“You missed him,” came the accusation.

“I was rushed. I'm a better shot when I take aim.”

“Why'd you come up here? I don't know you.”

“I don't know you either, but three
bandidos
against one looks unfair to me.”

“You're not from town?”

“Taos? I'm headed there.”

“Get me out of this, and I'll stand you all the whiskey you can drink. I own a saloon there.”

Slocum advanced, wary of both other ambushers coming over the crest of the hill and of the man he'd befriended. He looked around the small clearing where the battle raged. Spent brass everywhere attested to the amount of ammunition expended on this side of the fight.

“They're creeping up on one side of the hill while I'm pinning them down on the other,” the man said.

Slocum looked him over. He was a young man, maybe in his mid-twenties, and sported a neatly trimmed beard. The light brown was already shot with streaks of premature gray. His hat would never do to carry water again because of the holes through both the crown and the brim. In spite of the long fight, his attitude showed he was not defeated or even much fearful. Slocum appreciated that as much as he did the steadiness of the man's gun hand.

“Name's Harris, Tom Harris,” the man said.

Slocum introduced himself and asked what the fight was about.

“Came up sideways against them 'shiners.”

“What's that mean?”

“Moonshiners. They're trying to force me to buy their version of Taos Lightning, the most vicious popskull ever distilled in New Mexico Territory.”

“Sounds like the kind of liquor you'd want to serve,” Slocum said, settling down to study the hillside. He propped his elbows on a flat rock and drew a bead at a notch in the boulders where anyone creeping up had to come. Slocum didn't have to wait but a few seconds. His round missed but drove the masked man back, scurrying for cover. “What cowboy doesn't appreciate having the top blown off his head with a single shot of liquor?”

“This stuff is deadly. Men have died drinking it. A couple cowpokes went blind. More 'n that, the 'shiners are trying to charge four times what I can get liquor for from up in Denver.” Harris took a quick shot. “Trying to get up there to sign some supply contracts. Got a pocket full of cash to seal those contracts.”

Harris looked hard at Slocum when he realized what he'd confessed.

“Don't worry. I've got enough money to keep me going. No need to hold you up,” Slocum said.

The young man's impetuosity explaining the problem pointed out how he might have gotten into other jams. He shot off his mouth without thinking.

“Free booze at the Black Hole
and
a job if you want it,” Harris promised. He rose, fired off four quick rounds.

“Get down, you fool!” Slocum shouted.

Too late. One of the men below had decoyed Harris into revealing himself. His partner took an easy shot that caught the saloon owner in the chest. Harris staggered back, then sat and looked stupidly as blood spread on his chest. Slocum swung around and fired until he worried that his barrel might melt. He ran out of rounds before that happened, but the metal smoked. The wild spray of lead failed to find a target but drove both ambushers back down the hill.

Slocum drew his Colt and got off another shot at the third man. The slug tore at the long tan canvas duster and kicked it away from the man's body. Slocum tried to get a better idea who he faced, but other than the man being slightly built and fleet of foot, he failed to see anything but the hole he had put in the canvas.

Only when he was certain they had retreated did he go to kneel beside Tom Harris. Slocum turned grim when he saw the wound. The slug should have killed Harris outright but somehow the man hung on tenaciously to life. His brown eyes flickered open, and finally focused.

“Get me back to town. I got family I want to see before I die,” Harris said.

“Keep your hand pressed down hard here,” Slocum said. He whipped off his bandanna and put it over the bullet hole. “That's the way.”

“You got an idea how to get out of here alive?”

Slocum nodded. The idea boiled up and appealed to him for its audacity. The trio of gunmen thought they held the upper hand, no matter that they had to keep attacking uphill. To him that showed their lack of experience or maybe their overconfidence.

“You need to fire now and then. Don't worry about hitting them. Just make it sound like there're still two of us up here.”

“You going to flank 'em?”

“Something like that,” Slocum said. He propped Harris up and put the rifle into his hand.

He cast a quick look back as he retreated down the hill to where he'd left his horse. The Appaloosa pawed the rocky ground, nervous over the gunfire. Slocum vaulted into the saddle and rode back down the trail, keeping an eye peeled for the ambushers. It had to occur to one of them that Slocum had found a different way to the hilltop and come hunting. But if they assaulted Harris up the steeper slope one more time, he would have time to put his plan into action.

For all the good that would do if the trio killed Harris—or he died from the chest wound. Slocum had seen plenty of wounds during the war. The only good thing to say about the one that pushed Harris increasingly into the arms of death came in that the lead had missed puncturing a lung. He hadn't been blowing pink foam, but that meant little if he caught another bullet before Slocum returned.

Slocum got to the base of the hill and circled back to the trail he had traveled before. He spotted the road agent he had almost ventilated. The duster flapped around a thin frame and dragged the ground. Slocum wished he had his rifle, because the shot was too great for a pistol. He kept riding until he reached the three tethered horses.

He quickly gathered the reins and got the three horses trailing him as he galloped away. The noise of his departure brought all three gunmen running from where they mounted their attack. They fired but the range proved too great and Slocum's speed too fast for accurate marksmanship.

Rather than keep riding back into Colorado so many miles distant, he once more found his way to the top of the hill, where Harris still propped himself up, the Winchester balanced against a rock. He looked up with dull eyes as Slocum dismounted.

“You rode fast. Where'd you get the remuda?” Harris blinked, winced, and pressed harder into his chest. “Oh, you stole their horses. You're a caution, Slocum. Wish I'd had a chance to know you better.”

“You're not dead yet,” Slocum said, helping the man to a horse. It took a bit of work, but Harris finally settled in the saddle. “I need to keep them honest, for a little while, at least.”

Slocum took the rifle and scanned the hillside for any movement. He fired methodically, aiming with all the skill he possessed. During the war he had been a sniper. Putting that expertise to work now forced the three attackers to cover. Only when he saw no movement from them did he step up onto his horse and start back down the steep road.

“You know a way to Taos that doesn't make us go back to the main road?”

“Keep going across country. This is a pretty mountain meadow, part of the Ortiz land grant. Nobody does anything here but graze cattle. The road curves around by the time we get to the far side. Manny Ortiz doesn't like gringos riding his land, but he'll never know.”

Slocum preferred to ride along without much jawing, but he saw that it kept Harris alert. When the man stopped talking, he began to wobble in the saddle. More than once, Slocum had to fall back, reach over, and grab Tom's arm to keep the man from falling. Somehow, they made it to Taos, a quaint pueblo of closely packed adobe buildings and a plaza bustling with life.

The people, seeing Slocum with Harris, fell silent. As he rode through, they parted like water and then flowed back behind. When no one ventured to help, Slocum asked, “He needs a doctor. Where can I find him?”

A Mexican looked up with wide, round brown eyes and pointed.


Allí
,” he said. “There. Down the street.”


Gracias
,” Slocum said, about exhausting his polite Spanish. He tugged on the reins of the horse Harris rode and the other two. When the crowd thought he was out of earshot, they began whispering.

Slocum knew instinctively that the gossip was less about the saloon owner being shot in the chest and brought to town than it was about the three horses. If he'd dallied, he might have overheard exactly what the people were saying, but getting Harris to the sawbones mattered more.

He saw the wood sign swinging in the stiff afternoon breeze and tied up the horses at a nearby hitching post. Harris fell from the saddle. Slocum caught him, staggered under the weight, and swung the man around, mostly dragging him into the doctor's office.

A man looking older than the hills blinked, adjusted his glasses, and studied Slocum for a moment.

“What are you bringing me today, young man?”

“You know him? He was ambushed by road agents outside town.” Slocum swung Harris around and laid him on the table in the center of the room.

BOOK: Slocum and the Three Fugitives
5.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

When Morning Comes by Avril Ashton
Caught Dead in Philadelphia by Gillian Roberts
Skeleton Key by Jeff Laferney
My Tiki Girl by Jennifer McMahon
Lord of the Hunt by Shona Husk
Test Shot by Cari Quinn
Annie's Promise by Margaret Graham
The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner