Lee (The Landon Saga Book 6)

BOOK: Lee (The Landon Saga Book 6)
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Lee

 

 

Tell Cotten

 

 

 

 

 

Also by Tell Cotten

 

(The Landon Saga books)

Confessions of a Gunfighter

Entwined Paths

Cooper

Rondo

Yancy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dedication

To Uncle Lee and Aunt Gaye

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.

Illustrator: Bill Olivas

www.billolivas.com

[email protected]

 

Cover design:
Marcy Meinke/Converse Printing & Design

www.ConversePrinting.com

[email protected]

 

Publisher’s Note:

This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and events are the work of the author’s imagination.

Any resemblance to real persons, places, or events is coincidental.

Solstice Publishing - www.solsticepublishing.com

Copyright 2015 Tell Cotten

Prologue

 

 

My name is Lee Mattingly. I’m tall, thin, and ruggedly handsome. Last time I figured it, I was in my mid-thirties.

I’m not as legendary as the Landons, but most folks still know who I am. And, almost everybody’s opinion of me is that I need to have my neck lengthened.

I’ve often been described in newspapers as a rough, mean gunfighter of the west. Sort of a sidekick, you understand, to the
really
bad outlaws. I’ve ridden with Ben Kinrich, Rondo Landon, and the Oltman brothers, and we’ve robbed stagecoaches, payrolls, banks, and even rustled a few cows.

I reckon there is some truth to all of that, but I’ve never considered myself to be quite as bad as they’ve made me out to be. I’ve always had a different set of values than most outlaws, and I’m extremely loyal.

I’ve also always had a conscience, and it’s bothered me a lot over the years. The problem is that I’ve always had a difficult time deciding what’s right and what’s wrong.

Most folks would be quick to say I’m wrong. However, I’ve never had to listen to their consciences, just
mine
.

It’s also been said that I’m mighty handy with a Colt, and there’s no denying the fact that I’ve killed a lot of men. In fact, I’ve killed some men that didn’t do anything wrong, except for maybe shoot at me. Why they were shooting at me is something we don’t need to discuss.

I think that’s one of the reasons why I fit in so well during the war. It was permitted and even encouraged to shoot folks that were shooting at me then, but folks feel a lot different about that now that the war’s over.

To me it’s never been much different, and I’ve struggled to keep it all straight. And then, soon as it’s explained to me, somebody goes and changes all the rules again.

Take the Texas police force. Governor Davis organized them when he took office, and they were supposed to fight crime and help with frontier defense. But, they were corrupt from the start, and Governor Davis used them to arrest anyone that opposed him.  

The police force was mostly ex-Yankee soldiers, and they ruled over us old Confederates with no mercy. In fact, the only honest ones in the bunch were Yancy and Cooper Landon over at Midway.

The police force was a natural enemy, and I was just figuring that out when Richard Coke defeated Governor Davis in the election of 1873. The police force was disbanded, and towns went back to electing sheriffs. There was also some talk of the Texas Rangers being reorganized, and that was bad news for men in my line of work.

I was asked once when it was that I went bad. I replied and said that I objected to the notion that I
went
bad. However, if I had to pick, I reckon it was during my youth.

I was born in Kentucky in 1841, and I was raised by Thomas and Sue Mattingly.

Not many folks know this, but there’s some mystery concerning my childhood. 

I was near ten years old when I overheard Ma say that they weren’t my natural parents. I was confused, and Pa vigorously denied it when I asked him about it. Later Pa and Ma had a big argument, and Ma never mentioned it again. Then Ma got sick and died a year later, so I figured I’d never learn the truth.

Jethro, one of Pa’s slaves, finally told me. He said he and my Pa were headed home when a big rain came, and they rode up to a draw that was flooding. They had to wait for the water to go down, and that’s when I came along. My shirt was snagged on a board, and I was floating down the draw. I got hung up in some bushes, and Jethro swam out and grabbed me. There was nobody else around, so Pa decided to take me home.

I was only two or three years old when it happened, so naturally I don’t remember any of it. I asked Jethro if he knew what had happened to my real parents, and he said he didn’t.

When I got older I poked around some, but there weren’t any answers to be found. And, I still don’t know to this day who my real parents are.

I didn’t tell Pa that I knew the truth. It would have only caused trouble, and Pa could get ugly sometimes.

My Pa was a mighty stern man. As long as he got what he wanted, he was mostly honest. He was also a crude businessman; he always came out on top.

Pa owned one of the largest tobacco plantations in Kentucky. He was well-known for his tobacco, and he sold his crops back east in all the major cities.

Running a plantation was hard work, and slaves were the cheapest form of labor. Most of the time, Pa treated his slaves decent. However, he was very firm, and he didn’t allow any nonsense.

I grew up working amongst the slaves, and they sort of accepted me as one of their own. Pa didn’t like it, me hanging around them all the time, but I did it anyway.

Pa loved that plantation, and he decided that I should love it too. By the time I was old enough to hold a hoe, Pa had one ready for me. 

A few blisters later, I figured out right quick that I didn’t care for being a tobacco farmer. There had to be an easier way to make a living, and I was determined to find it.

One thing I did love early in life was smoking cigars. Pa kept a full box on his desk, and I’d sneak in there when he was out and grab a couple. By the time I was grown, I had probably smoked more cigars than most men ever will.

As I got older, my relationship with Pa took a turn for the worse. He was determined to make me a tobacco farmer, and I was determined
not
to become a tobacco farmer. We argued a lot, and I even ran away from home a time or two.

While I hated farming, I discovered that I had a great love for the game of poker. Jethro taught me how to play, and during my childhood I became an expert poker player.

I was in my teens when I finally discovered an easier way of making a living. I had gone to town for some supplies, and there was a poker game going on in the back of the general store. Curiosity got the best of me, and I sat down and watched.

There was a lot of money in that game, and I figured out real quick that none of them were as good at poker as I was. By the time the deal had gone around a couple of times, I had already picked out all their bad habits.

I reckon I looked eager, because one of them asked if I wanted to play. I said I did, and he asked me if I had any money. I pulled out three dollars from my pocket, and he smiled and said sit down. I did, and two hours later I left with over fifty dollars.

That day changed my life. In just two hours, I made more money than I’d ever had before. It made me feel important, and I liked that feeling.  

From then on, I started going to the nearest towns and playing poker in the saloons. Pa didn’t like that, so I had to be sneaky about it.

I made a lot of money during those years. I also gained a reputation, and folks traveled from all over to play me. I never lost back then, and I never cheated either.

I was almost twenty years old when a professional gambler came to town. I was late that day, and the game had already started by the time I got there.

The game was crowded, so I sat in the back and watched.

Besides the gambler, there were five other players. Four of these players were plantation owners, and there was more money than usual on the table. 

The gambler was from Boston, and he spoke with a thick, eastern accent. He wore a town hat, a fancy vest, and had white, slick hands.

This was the first professional gambler I had ever seen, and I enjoyed watching him.

He knew what he was doing. At first he lost more than he was winning, but then he gradually got to winning. About an hour later, he was winning every hand.

A couple of the players had the sense to get out before they lost it all, but three of the plantation owners didn’t. By the time the gambler was through with them, they were lucky to have a horse to ride home on.

I reckon I was the only one who could tell that this gambler was stacking the deck and dealing off the bottom. I could have said something, but I didn’t. The way I saw it is that they were all grown men, and they could have stopped playing if’n they had wanted to. 

It was late by the time the game was over, and there were a lot of sad faces. The gambler smiled and started counting his money as everybody left.

I stayed in the back until the room had cleared out, and it was then that the gambler noticed me.

“Who are you?” He asked.

“Lee Mattingly.”

“I’ve heard of you,” he said thoughtfully. “You’re a bit younger than I expected.”

“You sure know how to handle a deck of cards,” I said.

“I’m not sure how to take that,” he smiled, and asked, “Do you want to play a few hands, just you and me?”

I didn’t reply as I stood.

Now, I don’t know when it happened, but something snapped inside of me earlier, and I already knew what I was going to do.

Without a word I drew my pistol, and the gambler’s eyes grew wide.

“What’s this?” He demanded.

“What does it look like?”

“You’re robbing me?”

“No, you already did that,” I said. “You’ve been cheating all night.”

“Say’s who?”

“I know a cardsharp when I see one,” I replied, and I cocked the hammer. “You wanna call me a liar?”

“Now hold on,” he said desperately. “We can work something out.”

“We can,” I agreed. “You walk out of here without that cash, and I won’t shoot you. I’ll also wait until tomorrow to let everyone know they were cheated. That should give you enough time to leave and never come back.”

The gambler was caught, and we both knew it. Without a word he stood and walked out, and he left all that money on the table.

At first my intention was to give the money back. But, as I thought on that, I could see the trouble it would cause. Folks would start arguing over how much money they had, and so forth. I’d also have to explain how I got the money.

I didn’t want to lie, so I decided to just keep all that money for myself. I figured that was best for everyone involved.

Everything would have worked out fine if it hadn’t been for the bartender. Seems like he saw the whole thing, and he took out for the sheriff soon as I rode out of town.

The sheriff had a young deputy by the name of Yancy Landon. Yep,
that
Yancy. They took out after the gambler, and there was a big gunfight when they caught him. The gambler killed the sheriff, but Yancy killed the gambler.

Yancy was promoted to sheriff right after that, and his brother Cooper became his deputy.

The plantation owners felt like I had cheated them somehow, and they wanted their money back. Yancy’s first assignment as sheriff was to get it.

Looking back now, I don’t blame Yancy for coming after me. After all, it was his job. And, just like everything else in life, Yancy took his job seriously.

I won’t go into all the details, but the short version is that I lost the money but still managed to escape.

From that day on I was known as an outlaw, and Yancy has had a strong dislike for me ever since. 

I still proclaim my innocence regarding the gambler. After all, I’m not the one who robbed all of those folks. How I see it is that an opportunity presented itself, and I took advantage of it.

If I had it to do all over again, I would have still done the same thing. My only regret is that I didn’t kill that bartender. I’ve never liked folks that stick their nose in other folk’s business.

I was now a wanted man, and I had to leave home. Pa was mighty ashamed of me, and he told me to never come back. He also said that I wasn’t his real son anyways. I told him I already knew that, and I also told him that I hated being a tobacco farmer. He called me ungrateful, and we left it at that. I rode out and never went back.

I drifted south, and the Civil War broke out a few months later. At the time I was in trouble with the law again, and I was sort of forced into joining up.

For the next four years, I was a loyal soldier for the South. And, even though there were some rough times, I enjoyed my time during the war. I reckon it was the first time in my life that I actually fought for something I believed in.

I met some fine folks in the army, including J.T. Tussle and Noley Landon. Noley was from Louisiana, and he was Rondo’s Pa. Rondo was only ten or so at the time, and he was back home on their small farm in Louisiana.

The first couple of years were real rough on our outfit. It seemed like we lost one captain after another, and each new captain kept getting younger and more reckless.

Our last captain was brave but not too smart. He led us into an ambush that a blind horse could have seen, and he was the first one killed.

Yancy and Cooper were fighting for the North, and Yancy was a captain. It was his bunch that jumped us, and they hit us hard. Our outfit was wiped out, and the only survivors were Tussle, Noley, and me.

Noley and Tussle were wounded and couldn’t travel. We holed up, and I did my best to cover our tracks. But I couldn’t fool Cooper, and we were captured the next day.

If it hadn’t been for Noley, we would have been sent up north to prison to sit out the war.

BOOK: Lee (The Landon Saga Book 6)
11.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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