The Streak - Max Brand - ebook

The Streak ebook

Max Brand

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The Streak had blasted seven vicious killers single-handedly, tamed the wildest mustangs on the range and outsmarted the sharpest dealers in Jasper Valley. The stories about the fabulous Streak were endless. BUT ... not one of them was true! The Streak was really a harmless young man named Blondy Terrance. A series of crazy coincidences had earned him a reputation for violence he never deserved. Now, the deadliest gunslingers in the territory are after him - to put him to the ultimate test of guts in a shootout! Max Brand’s action-filled stories of adventure and heroism in the American West continue to entertain readers throughout the world.

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Liczba stron: 304

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Contents

I. IN DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS

II. THE TOWN OF JASPER

III. WANTED FOR MURDER

IV. THE STREAK

V. POSSE CORDON

VI. ONE MORE MAN

VII. THE STREAK'S REPUTATION

VIII. THE SHERIFF'S PERMIT

IX. JEFFREY TENNER

X. PERRY T. BALDWIN

XI. CALICO CHARLIE

XII. BLOOD MONEY

XIII. SURPRISE FOR CALICO

XIV. CALICO'S RED FACE

XV. FOUR CARTRIDGES

XVI. BLONDY'S LIE

XVII. THE STREAK'S DEPARTURE

XVIII. BLONDY'S COURAGE

XIX. ROCKET

XX. MARY LAYDEN

XXI. BALDWIN DISAPPEARS

XXII. MARY LAYDEN, NURSE

XXIII. CALICO'S TREACHERY

XXIV. NO FEAR OF CALICO

XXV. THE STREAK'S TRIUMPH

XXVI. CONFERENCE

XXVII. AT PETE REILLY'S SALOON

XXVIII. TENNER'S SIGNAL

XXIX. PARLEY

XXX. NO ESCAPE

XXXI. NO SURRENDER

XXXII. THE MOVING FINGER WRITES

I. IN DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS

“BACK to Arkansas” was the song on the phonograph. Blondy lay on his bunk motionless, waiting for the end of the words. His stomach began to pull in; his chest rose. He stared at the dusty sunshine which streamed through the cracks in the western side of the shanty. Then he turned his head and looked through the door over the familiar flat. He knew by name and ancestry every Spanish bayonet that stuck up out of that landscape. He knew every hitch and twist in the line of fence posts that walked across the horizon.

A creaking sound from the phonograph. The “repeat” mechanism was carrying the arm of the machine back to the beginning of the record. In another moment the voice would sing:

I cannot fail to hit the trail To maw and paw in Arkansas....

The hand of Blondy moved. His fingers touched chafed leather and then roughened metal. Something more than chance had put the bolstered gun beside him.

He pulled it out and fired across his chest without aiming. A lot of little tin cans jingled together. The voice did not begin to sing.

Dust was flying up into the cracks of sunshine. Blondy sat up.

“It’s funny,” he said. “I never hit anything before. Nothing that size, I mean.”

Bill Roan lifted his three long sections from his bunk, stood, strode to the end of the room, picked up the phonograph from the box it stood on, and shook it, gently.

A thousand little tin cans jingled almost musically. They kept on jingling for a moment after the machine was put down, and Bill Roan kept his head bent, listening when there was still no sound.

Buck McGuire, who had been putting on the records, ran his fingers through his hair. One ray of sunshine set a streak of it burning like red flame. After that, he picked up the other three records and started shuffling them aimlessly.

“I could pick ‘em out in the dark, by the nicks in the edges,” said Buck.

Into the silence came the endless barking of the prairie dogs.

“It sort of built up in me,” said Blondy. “And then I didn’t know what I was doing. I guess I’d been thinking for a long time about the fellow that sang that song.”

“He just fired without aiming, and I saw him do it,” said Bill Roan. “Like one of the old two-gun deadshot boys in Grandpa’s time. Blondy, you ever hit anything before?”

“No,” said Blondy.

“It’s just one of those things, is all it is,” said Buck McGuire.

“Speaking of prairie dogs,” said Bill Roan.

“Who was speaking of prairie dogs?” asked Buck.

“Speaking of prairie dogs,” said Bill Roan, aiming a glance at Buck down the long length of his nose, “they got their voices hitched to a spring in their tails so’s they can’t jiggle their tails without barking, and they can’t bark without jiggling their tails. We got nothing to drown them out, now the machine’s gone dead on us.”

“I’ve got my guitar,” said Blondy.

Bill Roan looked again at Buck and softly caressed the jutting red triangle of his Adam’s apple.

“He says he’s got a guitar,” said Bill.

“Yeah. I heard him, too,” said Buck. They both looked earnestly at Blondy.

“How old are you?” asked Bill Roan.

“Twenty-three, Bill.”

“He says he’s twenty-three,” translated Bill Roan.

“Yeah. I heard him say so,” said Buck.

“I’m sorry,” said Blondy.

“We don’t blame you. We blame God,” answered Bill Roan. “How’re we gunna put in the time between this and bed? How’re we gunna get the sun down?”

“I’ve finished patching my overalls,” said Buck. “I could of lasted that job out for three evenings if I’d used the old bean.”

“You could take the patch off again and stitch it smaller,” suggested Blondy.

“He says you could take the patch off again and stitch it smaller,” echoed Bill Roan.

“Yeah. I heard him say it,” answered Buck.

He stood up, suddenly. He was a small man, but big with muscle when he moved.

“Do something, will you?” he asked.

“Yeah. Sure. What?” asked Blondy.

“Wait a minute!” roared Bill Roan. “Buck’s got an idea.”

“Yeah, I got an idea,” answered Buck. “We can’t be any more damn fools than staying out here to ride fence for Perry and Applethwaite. What I say is why not barge away from here. Yeah, and come back here a year from now. We’d have something new to talk about, anyway.”

“It wouldn’t make any difference,” said Blondy. “Nothing ever happens to me. You have to read books to find the adventures.”

“How many adventures could your stomach hold, kid?” asked Bill Roan. “You can’t ride; you can’t shoot; you can’t even daub a rope on a cow; all you can do is stretch wire and straighten up loose posts. You birds are gunna stay right on here with me. It’s Sunday; that is all is the matter with you.”

“I’m going west to have a drink of that mountain-blue,” said Blondy.

“I’m going south,” said Buck, “all the way to New Orleans and ship on a tramp for the South Seas.”

“What in hell are you gunna find in the South Seas except moldy bacon and no eggs?” asked Bill Roan.

“I’m gunna find some damosels, dummy,” said Buck. “Where could you go, Bill?”

“Back to the ranchhouse,” said Bill Roan, “and get hold of a couple of real men to ride fence with me.”

“That’s right,” said Buck. “Then you’ll be here when we turn up a year from now with something to talk about. You can tell us how good the fried beans have been. Hey, Blondy, you’ll come back here the end of the year? What I mean, May eleventh sure and prompt?”

“Why should I come back here?” asked Blondy.

“Well, it’s in the book,” said Buck.

“I don’t know,” considered Blondy. “When I get away to the other side of things, I suppose it’ll be just as well to come back to this side again. Sure, Buck. May eleventh.”

“It’s kind of something to do,” said Buck. “Makes me feel like a kid again.”

Sunset lifted the western mountains into great, black, ragged paws. Against the darkness Bill Roan could not see the jogging horse of Blondy, but still, to the south, he could make out the dust raised by Buck McGuire and his sorrel gelding.

Bill Roan kicked an empty tomato can into the distance. He made a cigarette and looked over his shoulder towards the darkening east. Then he went to the can and kicked it again.

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