Trails Meet - B.M. Bower - ebook

Trails Meet ebook

B.M. Bower

0,0

Opis

The career of prolific writer of Westerns novels B. M. Bower was notable for several reasons. The author, who always used initials as part of her pen name, was born Bertha Muzzy and was the first female writer to make a significant mark in the genre. Secondly, many of Bower’s books were adapted for the big screen, and her characters and landscape descriptions have been indelibly stamped on the conventions of classic Western films. Our hero, Jess Robison, a cowboy with talents as an artist, turns out to have talents as a detective as well. Whether you’re a first-time reader or a long-time fan, „"Trails Meet"” will surely please fans of classic Westerns.

Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS
czytnikach certyfikowanych
przez Legimi
czytnikach Kindle™
(dla wybranych pakietów)
Windows
10
Windows
Phone

Liczba stron: 319

Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostepny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS
Oceny
0,0
0
0
0
0
0



Contents

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER NINETEEN

CHAPTER TWENTY

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

I. DEATH ON THE TRAIL

THE wind rocked the flimsy cabin. At times the gale would die, then rain that was half sleet would whip against the one small window facing the storm. Smoke that would not rise above the rock chimney when the gusts came fiercest was buffeted back down into the fireplace and out into the big room.

Jess coughed when a particularly acrid billow surged out into his face. As he turned and groped half-blinded to the door, he stopped and listened. It might have been imagination, or it could have been the far-off ululating howl of a coyote. He thought for a minute that some one shouted. Chuck, maybe.

He pulled open the door and stood there, coughing the smoke from his lungs. It couldn’t have been Chuck yelling. Chuck was either at the ranch or he was in town at that moment, and if he yelled at all it would be in the exuberance of his unexpected vacation. He wouldn’t be coming back to-night; not if he could help himself.

The door opened toward the valley and was partly sheltered from the wind. The rain and sleet drove past slantwise, silvery needles in the faint light shining through the doorway. A wild night, sure enough. Jess wished now that he had gone with Chuck. He had thought it would be good to have the cabin to himself for a night or two; privacy bought with loneliness. Not much use if this storm kept up. He was turning back into the cabin when a gun roared out somewhere along the trail.

Instinctively Jess ducked aside out of the light. No bullet whined in his ears, however, nor did he hear the thud of an impact against the wall. No one would be shooting at him, anyway; at least, not with any reason he could think of. Still–

Again that shout or call; just what it was he could not tell, with the wind roaring over the roof and the rain hissing past, but there was no mistaking the abrupt pow-w of the shot that followed. Not a hundred yards from the cabin, Jess thought; and when upon that echo of that shot there followed three more in rapid succession, he had a flash of understanding. Some one out there was in trouble, trying to call for help; down around the thicket, or the six-shooter’s flare would have shown even in the deluge of rain. A shot would of course carry farther than a shout, though the man was trying both.

Jess took his lantern off its peg and lighted it, stepped to his bunk and pulled his own gun from its holster on the belt hanging beside his pillow; and the second act was quite as natural to him as the first. Darkness made a light necessary. And trouble of which he knew absolutely nothing might need a gun for settlement. His pioneer blood told him that without a moment’s hesitation or doubt.

Yet his pioneer blood could not keep his heart from thumping a little harder than usual as he bent his head to the storm and went off down the trail, gun ready in his right hand, the lantern swinging from his left. No telling what he might be walking into. His lips twitched with a passing smile as he thought of the target he was making of himself with that lantern, but even as he thought it, he was observing too the silvery slant of the rain across the moving zone of light, the fantastic bobbing shadows, the dark, writhing blur of bushes as he passed them. He was debating upon the exact shade of lantern light in a storm. He was wondering if Chuck could by any far-fetched possibility be hurt and helpless a hundred yards from camp.

These thoughts did not shorten his stride, so presently he rounded the thicket and halted just where the light revealed a man huddled in the middle of the trail like a bundle of old clothes, one tail of his coat snapping in the wind.

Jess slid his gun into his coat pocket and set down the lantern, which immediately tilted over on its side and threatened to go out. But not before it revealed the man’s face and the cringing fear in his eyes; a look strangely at variance with his frantic calls for help.

Jess righted the lantern, turned the wick to a safer height and looked again. “What’s the matter, Mr. Parsons? How are you hurt?” He stooped, shielding the injured man as well as he could with his body.

“Rob–young Robison!” Even with the groan that followed the jerky speech, a note of relief was in the voice. “Get me–get me out of this–quick, before–” He groaned again.

“But what happened? Your horse fall with you?”

“Horse? No–they followed–I’m shot. For Godsake do some–get me in–”

“Sure.” Jess was sliding the lantern bail into the crook of his arm so that his hands would be free. He hesitated, glanced behind him and blew out the light. Foolish, maybe. If some one had shot Parsons and was following, those last signal shots would tell where he was. Still, it might be as well not to advertise the exact spot with a light. “Can you walk if I hold you up? It’s only a short way.” He fumbled for the man’s armpits as he spoke.

“Treacherous devils–” Parsons groaned. “No, I–my strength’s gone. I–I dragged myself this far–”

“Well, all right. I’ll pack you, then.” Jess knelt on one knee, fumbled for Parsons’ arms, hauled the limp burden on his back. Albert Parsons was a small man yet it was not easy to handle him, twisting and groaning, with the gale pushing and tugging with malevolent fury. Jess went tottering under his load, short steps feeling out the way. He knew every inch of that trail, he could have walked it blindfold, yet the storm confused his sense of distance and made it seem farther. He was thinking he must have passed the cabin and was headed for the corral, when his foot struck against the doorstep and almost sent him sprawling. He had a fantastic impulse to laugh when Parsons’ head butted against the cabin wall and his groans broke off in a yelp of surprise. He did not like Parsons, anyway.

For that reason perhaps he staggered across the room and let down his burden on Chuck’s bed which stood opposite his own. Chuck would raise a howl when he found out about it, but that did not worry Jess now. He wanted to see just what was wrong, how badly Parsons was hurt. It seemed somehow indecent for a grown man to do so much moaning and complaining, no matter how badly he was injured. He was not so sure Parsons couldn’t walk if he wanted to.

Nothing of this appeared in voice or manner. “Better get you into bed, hadn’t I? Then we can take a look-see. Wait a minute. I think I can scare up a little whisky–just for a bracer.”

Chuck would raise a howl about that too, Jess supposed. Chuck valued his eye-opener more than he did the breakfast which followed it, as a rule. He kept the bottle hidden behind the dish cupboard and he never produced it for the refreshment of callers. Jess very much doubted whether Chuck would have brought it forth for Parsons even in this emergency. Chuck didn’t like Albert Parsons either. No one did, so far as Jess knew.

But presently he forgot Chuck’s little idiosyncrasies, forgot even his own instinctive aversion for the resident manager of the Diamond Slash ranch. When he brought the lamp over and removed Parsons’ upper garments, he stared aghast at the hole three inches below his heart. It seemed incredible that Parsons had been able to move at all or to shout for help. Certainly he could not have crawled far. The wonder was that he was alive, Jess thought.

“Say, I’d better try and get a doctor out here,” he exclaimed. “Or I could make it to the ranch with you, and have them ‘phone–”

“No!” Parsons almost screamed the word. “Give me another–drink of that–whisky.” He swallowed the liquor with a gulping greed that curled Jess’s fine mouth with disgust. “No–here’s where I want–not the ranch, for Godsake!” He gave a groaning sigh as Jess lowered his sleek black head to Chuck’s pillow.

“Why not? You’re the big chief there. What you say goes, it seems to me. Sure, that’s the place for you, soon as this storm lets up a little so I can haul you over there.” Jess had brought hot water, a bottle of antiseptic lotion, a package of cotton. “I don’t know if it’s a good sign, but there isn’t much blood now. You bled at first, judging by your clothes, but it’s almost stopped. I’ll fix you up best I can, and then–”

“I’ll stay here,” gasped Parsons, taking short, panting breaths. “Treacherous devils–they’d finish me.” He swung his little black eyes sidewise until they rested upon Jess. “My boot–the left boot–it’s–you–I–take it–”

“All right. Don’t you worry, Mr. Parsons. I’ll fix it.” Jess slowly pulled the soft, expensive riding boots off Parsons’ feet, careful not to jerk. While he worked them down off the heels, he watched Parsons’ face, ready to ease the pull at the first sign of distress. For that reason he did not see the letter that slid out of the left bootleg and lay just under the edge of the bunk. As the second boot came off he pushed the pair back out of the way. The letter skated under Chuck’s suitcase and lay snug and unseen, Jess never suspecting its existence.

“Dirty frame-up,” Parsons was muttering. “Trying to double-cross me, too. I–know too much–more than–”

“Sure,” Jess soothed him while he washed the wound and made ready a compress. He was not thinking of the things Parsons said nor could he have repeated the words two minutes after they were spoken. He was wondering what he could use for a bandage and he was thinking how Chuck’s eyes would pop open if he should walk in and see what was going on. He didn’t like the look in Parsons’ face, either, nor a certain rattling sound in his throat when he breathed. Though Jess never had seen death take hold of a man, instinct warned him now that it was coming close to Albert Parsons.

“Wheels within wheels–I told them they couldn’t get away with it, and this is–If you can keep your mouth shut–keep quiet–“ His beady black eyes bored like twin gimlets into Jess.

“Certainly. And so must you, keep as quiet as you can.” Jess stood up, listening to the storm rather than to Parsons. It would be madness to try taking the man anywhere and if he left him here alone while he went for help–

Parsons sensed that thought. “Don’t leave me alone–I’m afraid they followed–you stay here, Jess–I’ve got to tell you–”

Jess moved away from the groping hand that wanted to get hold of him and cling. He hoped he wasn’t brutal, but he felt a distinct aversion to being clung to by Albert Parsons either dying or in health. “I ought to get help,” he covered his retreat. “You’re in a bad way, I suppose you know. I’ve done all I can do, Mr. Parsons.”

“All anybody can do,” groaned Parsons. “Stay here. I’ll tell you–something big. You can clean up–if you work it right. Sarky–little Sark–”

“You better not talk any more, Mr. Parsons. Maybe if you are quiet you’ll–” The lie stuck in his throat. Quiet or not, Parsons couldn’t last the night out.

“I want to tell you something–serve the damned fools right.”

“Just as well if you didn’t. I don’t want to know.”

“Not if there’s real money–all yours if–”

“It’s getting cold in here,” Jess parried. “I’ll have to fix the fire.”

While he rebuilt the fire and set the coffeepot close to the flames on the hearth, he revolved in his mind the problem thrust upon him. It wasn’t simple. To ride ten miles or more in that storm was an ordeal any man would shun. For one thing, there was Jumper Creek to cross before he reached the valley on his way to town. He shook his head dubiously when he thought of the steep sidling trail down along the bank to the water’s edge. Soft soap would be sticky alongside that fifty yards of clay right now, and as Chuck once had declared, it only took a bucket or two of water to send Jumper Creek on the rampage. If the rainfall chanced to be heavier up along its source, the tricky little stream would be a rushing torrent which no man in his senses would attempt to cross in the dark.

Of course, he could ride to the Diamond Slash which was not half as far away as town. He could go along the north side of the creek to the bridge just this side the ranch gate. But Parsons seemed afraid of the Diamond Slash for some reason–his own outfit!–and even if he wanted to go home it would be the deuce of a job to drive a team over that trail in the dark, there were so many twists and turns through the rocks. Even in daylight it would be rough riding for a wounded man. Moreover, there was no rig in camp except the wagon, and that was down by the corral with a load of fence rails–unless they had blown off. The wagon box was up near the cabin and it would be next to impossible for one man to lift the box on the wagon, especially at night. In a howling gale like this–Jess shook his head again and dismissed the thought as useless. Much as he hated it, Parsons would have to lie there on Chuck’s bunk for the present.

He looked at the coffee and found it almost hot, poured a cup and carried it to the bed. “Maybe a drink of this will make you feel better, Mr. Parsons–“ He stopped abruptly, set down the cup with a startled motion that spilled half its contents, and picked up the lamp for a closer look at the man. And as he moved the light toward the bed, the door was flung open, letting in a whooping gust of wind.

The flame flared up in the lamp chimney and went out, leaving the cabin black for a moment until his eyes adjusted themselves to the dull glow of the fire still eating sullenly away at the fresh wood. Two slickered forms pushing in through the door were blotted out, then became vague shapes halting uncertainly just within the room while one forced the door shut behind them.

“That you, Chuck?” The first figure stumbled toward him.

“No, this is Jess. Wait a minute. I’ll light the lamp. I’m certainly glad you blew in right now. Tom Ritchie, isn’t it?”

“Blew in is right!” grumbled the second man, giving the door a kick for good measure.

“Oh, hello, Bob.” A match flared in Jess’s fingers, throwing his face into the sharp relief of a cameo. A fine, sensitive face, sobered now and made stern by the tragic experience thrust upon him within the past hour. He tilted the lamp chimney, drew the flaming match across the hot wick, dropped the chimney into place and looked up at the two. “You’re looking for Albert Parsons, aren’t you?”

Blank silence for a startled breath or two. Tom Ritchie, foreman of the Diamond Slash, took a step forward.

“Who told you that?”

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.