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Authors: Peter Brandvold

.45-Caliber Widow Maker

BOOK: .45-Caliber Widow Maker
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Table of Contents
 
 
Making It His Fight
As he hit the bottom of the slope and started across the valley, running and angling right toward the wagon fifty yards away, rifles whip-cracked fiercely from along the creek. The slugs chewed into the grass on either side of Cuno’s stomping boots.
He squeezed off two shots from his right hip, then, approaching the wagon with its prisoners snarling like circus lions and the marshal sitting with his back to the rear wheel, dove behind the front wheel as another slug barked into a log on the wagon’s other side.
Another sparked off the outside wheel with a sharp, ear-ringing clang.
“Hey, Junior!” one of the prisoners growled. “What the hell you think you’re doin’? This ain’t
none
of
your
affair!”
PRAISE FOR PETER BRANDVOLD AND HIS NOVELS:
“Action-packed . . . for fans of traditional Westerns.”

Booklist
 
“Make room on your shelf of favorites; Peter Brandvold will be staking out a claim there.”—Frank Roderus
 
“Recommended to anyone who loves the West as I do.”
—Jack Ballas
 
“Takes off like a shot.”—Douglas Hirt
 
“A writer to watch.”
—Jory Sherman, author of
The Savage Curse
Berkley titles by Peter Brandvold
The .45-Caliber Series
.45-CALIBER WIDOW MAKER
.45-CALIBER DEATHTRAP
.45-CALIBER MANHUNT
.45-CALIBER FURY
.45-CALIBER REVENGE
 
The Sheriff Ben Stillman Series
HELL ON WHEELS
ONCE LATE WITH A .38
ONCE UPON A DEAD MAN
ONCE A RENEGADE
ONCE HELL FREEZES OVER
ONCE A LAWMAN
ONCE MORE WITH A .44
ONCE A MARSHAL
 
 
The Rogue Lawman Series
BULLETS OVER BEDLAM
COLD CORPSE, HOT TRAIL
DEADLY PREY
ROGUE LAWMAN
 
The Bounty Hunter Lou Prophet Series
THE GRAVES AT SEVEN DEVILS
THE DEVIL’S LAIR
STARING DOWN THE DEVIL
THE DEVIL GETS HIS DUE
RIDING WITH THE DEVIL’S MISTRESS
DEALT THE DEVIL’S HAND
THE DEVIL AND LOU PROPHET
 
Other titles
BLOOD MOUNTAIN
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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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.
 
.45-CALIBER WIDOW MAKER
 
A Berkley Book / published by arrangement with the author
 
PRINTING HISTORY
Berkley edition / May 2009
 
Copyright © 2009 by Peter Brandvold.
 
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.
 
eISBN : 978-1-101-10578-8
 
BERKLEY
®
Berkley Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
BERKLEY
®
is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
The “B” design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
 
 
 

http://us.penguingroup.com

For Grandma:
Alta Brandvold
of Bottineau, North Dakota.
She will turn ninety-nine this July,
and she’s still got the bark on.
1
“WHAT’S THE MATTER, young fella? Ain’t ya never seen the devil’s hounds up close before?”
Sitting on his skewbald paint, Renegade, Cuno Massey poked his flat-brimmed plainsman back off his forehead and gazed through the bars of the jail wagon parked along the wide dusty street of Buffalo Flats, Wyoming Territory. Four men reclined inside—as owly, soulless, and deadly a quartet of unshaven, low-at-heel privy scum as the husky young man had ever seen.
As he’d ridden into town a minute ago, one of the prisoners had caught his eye—a big half-breed with a knotted scar where his left ear had been and an even bigger scar where his hair had been. A silver hoop dangled from his sole remaining ear, and a sheer, granite wall conveyed more expression than this man’s blue-green eyes.
“This hound here,” Cuno said, nodding toward the half-breed. “I saw him hauled off to jail up in Dakota. Cut a whore’s throat.”
In fact, Cuno, having heard the girl scream in the Missouri Saloon down near the Bismarck river docks, had rushed upstairs to see the half-breed stumbling around the room holding a bloody Green River blade in one hand, a bottle in the other, while the girl flopped around, bleeding her life out on the floor beside the rumpled bed.
One kick from Cuno’s boot had dislodged the knife. Stomping the drunk, raging half-breed down on the floor in the whore’s own thickening blood pool and holding him down with one boot and a spur rowel, he’d waited until a deputy town marshal had come with a sawed-off shotgun and manacles and hazed the pie-eyed half-breed off to jail.
“Wouldn’t have been in Bismarck, would it?” asked one of the two deputy U.S. marshals tending the wagon—a tall, rangy, sandy-haired gent with one wandering eye. He was mashing wheel dope into a hub of the wagon’s left rear wheel.
“It would.”
The lawman chuckled and stirred his dope stick around in the bucket on the ground near his scuffed, grease-smeared boots. “That jail didn’t hold ole Fuego here for long. That night, the town marshal’s woman found the marshal and two deputies hacked up in the jailhouse like wolf-killed antelope, and the half-breed long gone.”
The deputy federal lawman rammed the dope stick in and out of the wheel hub, sweating and panting with the effort in the hot, high-country sun. “A sheriff ran him to ground up in Standing Rock, few days back. We’re takin’ him over the mountains”—he glanced at the cool, blue, fir-clad peaks of the Mexican Mountains humping up in a near-straight line across the southwestern horizon—“to the federal pen.”
“Got a hang rope waitin’ on him and his kith in Crow Feather,” spat the second marshal—a gray-bearded, rotund gent, a hard fifty years old—adjusting the hams and collars of the two mules standing hang-headed in the wagon’s hitch.
The older lawman was smoking a short, black stogie while his high-crowned, tan sombrero shaded his craggy, gray-bearded face and sweat basted his red calico shirt to his chest and flabby belly. Wisps of salt-and-pepper hair curled down around his leathery cheeks.
He grinned and winked at Cuno. “After a proper jury trial, of course.”
“Don’t doubt it a bit.”
Cuno turned back to the half-breed, who stared through the bars at him, his eyes as expressionless as before but now with his thick, mustached upper lip lifted above his large, rot-encrusted teeth, as though he’d been half listening to the conversation and enjoying it.
Cuno pitched his hat brim to the two marshals, then nudged Renegade forward. “Good trip to you, then.”
“Oh, I s’pect we will,” the older gent chuckled mirthlessly, grunting as he adjusted a heavy harness on the off mule’s neck.
Cuno turned Renegade around the front of the mules, in the shading arbor of the Buffalo Flats Saloon next door to the general store before which the jail wagon was parked.
He intended to head into the saloon for a dust-cutting beer before laying in trail supplies and continuing his journey to Crow Feather, where he hoped to secure a freight-hauling contract for him and his freighting partner, Serenity Parker, who was waiting for him there. Cuno had convinced a banker in Sweetwater—a man who’d fought in the War Between the States with Cuno’s late father—to grant him a loan with practically no collateral.
“Say there,” said the younger deputy from over the backs of the mules. “You wear that forty-five like you know how to use it.”
Cuno put Renegade up to the hitchrack flanked by a seed-flecked water trough.
The deputy cocked his head and narrowed a speculative eye. “Care to throw in? It’s a long ride, and we could use another hand. There was supposed to be three of us, but ole Milburn Hardy’s down with the pony drip.”
“Obliged for the offer,” Cuno said, swinging down from his saddle. “I’m heading in that direction, but I’m splittin’ wind and powderin’ sage. A business partner’s waiting for me.”
“A dollar a day an’ found,” the younger deputy said, canting his head to the other side and raising his eyebrows enticingly. He let his blue-eyed gaze flick to the Colt .45 thonged low on Cuno’s right thigh clad in smoke-stained deerskin as he added, “Good as pistolero pay in these parts.”
“’Preciate it,” Cuno said with a cordial nod. “Like I said, as soon as my horse is rested, I have to raise some dust.”
After loosening Renegade’s saddle cinch and slipping the bit so the horse could draw water, Cuno hoofed it up the saloon’s three creaky steps, swiping dust from his gun belt and deerskin breeches with his hat. The whang strings of the tan buckskin tunic drawn taut across his broad, muscular chest swung to and fro as he moved, spurs ringing on the cracked boards.
Annoyance at the “pistolero” remark nipped him. It was true that he knew how to use the ivory-gripped Colt .45 he’d inherited from an old gunfighter friend, but he’d been forced to learn to use it—and to use it well—by the men who’d killed his father and stepmother . . . by the necessity of hunting those men across three territories and killing them and others who’d gotten in his way.
He’d been forced to keep in trim with the Colt by the further sundry men and unfortunate events—bounty hunters like Ruben Pacheca, and the gang that had killed his young, pregnant wife—that had dogged his heels like tin cans tied to a horse’s tail.
BOOK: .45-Caliber Widow Maker
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