Under His Shirt - Max Brand - ebook

Under His Shirt ebook

Max Brand



If you enjoy a fast moving Western dealing with vengeance and well-deserved payback, you’ll like "Under His Shirt" by Max Brand (1923). Fascinating characters, action-packed adventure, skillful literary description, and a plot that keeps you guessing - Max Brand’s "Under His Shirt" offers something to appeal to every reader, whether you’re a confirmed fan of the genre or someone who is dipping into Western for the first time. Faust wrote more than 500 novels and over 400 short stories & novellas using twenty pseudonyms, including George Owen Baxter, George Challis, Evan Evans, John Frederick, Frederick Frost, David Manning & Peter Morland.

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Liczba stron: 111

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IT was a battered rectangle of steel with the corners chipped off. Undoubtedly it had been enameled, but the enameled surface had been covered with a scroll work, and the uncounted generations in their passing had left it with a strange, half-molded, appearance. Underneath it was a placard which read:

“A Bullet-proof Breastplate of Finest Steel.”

Joe Daly passed on to the next object, a stack of murderous halberds and cruel-headed spears, but his eyes were cloyed with seeing, and he closed them. Far away beyond the walls of the museum he heard the murmur of the traffic of New York. He had not been able to escape from that sound since he arrived in Manhattan, and his only true happiness came to him at night in sleep; when he dreamed of the mountain silences which he had left.

He opened his eyes again, and the oppressive load of ancient armor sickened him. The more he saw the more bitterly he longed to be back there, to be out of this thick air, this stifling heat, and in exchange to feel the clean and honest burning of the Western sun!

“Taslet, Chased In Gold. Part of Gold-wrought Suit of Armor Probably Belonging To–” He turned away, shaking his head, and went back to the doors of the great museum and stared out into the street. But when he saw the scurrying drift of automobiles and buses which roared up Fifth Avenue, his heart sank again. Better this retired gloom of the distant ages and their relics, better the strange-smelling atmosphere of the museum and its sense of death than to mingle in a crowd of which he was not a part. A lump grew in his throat. He set his teeth to keep the tears out of his eyes. Self-pity was beginning to unnerve him.

But when he thought of going back to that West for which he yearned, the compelling fear of death stepped in between and warned him back. He saw again the squat and ungraceful form of Pete Burnside, with the long arms hanging at his side. He heard the voice of Pete ringing at his very ear, with a threat of dire things that would happen if he ever came back.

For six mortal months he had remained away. If he returned he must face Pete Burnside. If he wished to be able to hold up his head among his own gang of chosen reprobates, with whom he had plundered society for three years, he must face Pete Burnside, the deputy sheriff, who had crushed him.

He touched his shoulder and winced. The wound had long since healed. It was not the memory of the pain which troubled him; it was the recollection of the magic by which Burnside had conjured his revolver out of its holster–the terrible and uncanny speed with which he had produced and leveled his weapon. How it had been done, Joe Daly could not understand. But he was at least sure that it would never be in his power to rival that speed and accuracy. So far as he was concerned, Burnside was sure death. As long as he was susceptible to wounds–

Here his thoughts came to a sudden and jarring halt. For there had risen in his mind another vision of what he had seen but a few moments before: “Bullet-proof Breastplate of Finest Steel.”

“Bullet-proof breastplate!”

And then the fire died out of his eyes. He snapped his fingers and shrugged his shoulders in disgust. Of course this bit of old armor had been bullet proof only in the days when unrifled muskets had belched forth great, blunt bullets, which would thud against armor more like putty out of a sling than a bullet carrying death in its touch.

However he went back to look at it again. It had become fascinating, and he was profoundly grateful, now that the great chamber in which it hung was practically deserted. That loneliness had been driving him distracted a short time before, but now it was a blessing.

Was he alone? He began to perceive a hundred muted little whispers and stifled voices. And yonder was an old, old man, with white hair flowing down to his shoulders. He was bent over before a glass case, either copying inscriptions on the armor exposed there, or else writing a detailed description.

Joe Daly scowled and stepped closer to the plate of armor and touched it between thumb and forefinger. Then a thrill went crawling up his spine and into his vitals. For the steel was thick–very thick! There was a padding of time-eaten velvet on the back of it, but even without the velvet the steel was very thick.

Now, with a heart thumping in his breast, he turned carelessly away and traversed the gallery in some haste. At the farther end he turned and began to retrace his way with even greater speed, pausing now and then, for a last sight of particular relics here and there. When he arrived at the breastplate he did not even look around him, on the theory that there is nothing which calls attention so quickly as the furtive glance of a guilty eye. He picked the breastplate from its peg and dropped it inside his coat, so that the lower part of it touched the upper band of his trousers and was supported there. Then he went on again, with his hands in his pockets, and his thumbs raised to support the weight of the steel.

He had not dreamed that the stuff could be so ponderous. If a little specimen such as this weighed so much, how could a poor devil entirely encased in metal have navigated–how could he ever have got upon a horse, unless a friendly derrick and windlass were used to hoist him?

At the thought Joe Daly smiled and continued down the gallery. Not that he left directly, or in haste. No, he paused from time to time, still examining curiosities. When he reached the farther end he saw a uniformed attendant stride up to the place from which he had taken the breastplate.

Joe waited for no more. He did not pause to learn if the guard had discovered the theft. Instead, one long leap to the side carried him away from the aisle and into a side turning. Here he hastened on briskly. Some one was calling in the great gallery behind him; and he heard the noise of running feet. Joe, turning to the left and then to the right, was presently lost in a maze from which he issued out into the first and main hall of the museum.

It seemed an interminable space to the revolving doors. Presently he stood outside at the head of the long flight of steps. Now he hurried down and stood on the pavement. There were taxicabs nearby. But in the magazine which had diverted him the night before, he had read how criminals are often traced by the taxicabs in which they had ridden. Such a fate should not fall to Joe Daly.

Quickly he turned and started briskly down the avenue, climbed onto a plebeian bus at the next stop, and presently was rocking along on the way downtown to his hotel. In spite of himself he could not help but glance back over his shoulder and down the street. He saw, from time to time, half a dozen automobiles, recklessly violating the speed laws and nosing swiftly through the traffic. Any one of these might be filled with the uniformed men from the museum. How many such men–stuffy and antiquated figures–would be required to capture Joe Daly?

He pondered that question with some pride and a stiffening of his lower jaw. In due time he was back at the hotel. Instantly he snatched the breastplate from beneath his coat and flung it on the bed. It was a thick slab, to be sure, and if it were of a particular quality–He did not pursue this thought. The plate must be tested. There was a loud explosion in the street–a back fire. That gave him his next idea. Instantly he propped the breastplate against the wall on the farther side of the room, with a well-wadded pillow behind it. A breastplate on a human body would not proffer the rigid resistance of a wall. Then he took his stand near the window, so that the sound would not echo through the house, but pass freely into the open air. He drew the revolver which was always with him, leveled it quickly, and fired.

The breastplate shuddered and drew back, as the great forty-five slug struck home. It was a snap shot, but beautifully planted. It had landed in the exact center of the armor. Now he ran forward to see the results of the shot, quivering with anticipation. This was the great moment!

Behold, when he raised the armor, a cruel abrasion in the surface exactly in the center, but the hole did not cut clear through. There was still a solid sheet of steel behind.

Hastily he concealed gun and breastplate, but no one came with inquiries. No doubt those who were near and heard thought it simply another back fire in the street.

“What a cinch,” said Joe Daly, “to bump off a gent in this here town and get away with it!”

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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.