Table of Contents
Fargo slipped the Colt free of its holster, keeping it pointed beneath the table at the old man. “Put down the peashooter, mister,” he said. “Put it down and walk away, or they’re going to carry you out of here on a slab.”
The old man lunged forward, pointing the derringer at Parker’s head. “Shut up, Fargo. I’m getting out of here.” He shoved his hostage. “Get going.”
“Hold it, mister,” Fargo snapped. “Don’t make it worse than it already is.”
He noted that for a man in a life-threatening situation, Parker seemed calm.
Time for another gamble,
The old man turned back to snarl something more and Fargo shouted, “Move, Parker!”
Parker lunged out of the way, and Fargo cut loose with the Colt. The slugs took the old man in the knees, and he screamed as he fell.
Fargo jumped to his feet and aimed the Colt at the prone man, who was moaning and clutching at his legs. He put a boot down on the derringer. “See there,” Fargo said, after the shouting had died down. “I guess the kid was right. Sooner or later, everyone lays down. Guess it was your turn.”
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First published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library,
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First Printing, May 2008
The first chapter of this book previously appeared in
, the three hundred eighteenth volume in this series.
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Beginnings . . . they bend the tree and they mark the man. Skye Fargo was born when he was eighteen. Terror was his midwife, vengeance his first cry. Killing spawned Skye Fargo, ruthless, cold-blooded murder. Out of the acrid smoke of gunpowder still hanging in the air, he rose, cried out a promise never forgotten.
The Trailsman they began to call him all across the West: searcher, scout, hunter, the man who could see where others only looked, his skills for hire but not his soul, the man who lived each day to the fullest, yet trailed each tomorrow. Skye Fargo, the Trailsman, the seeker who could take the wildness of a land and the wanting of a woman and make them his own.
New Orleans, 1860—smiling faces sometimes lie, as the Trailsman learned in a city devoted to lying, larceny, and danger of every kind, including murder.
Skye Fargo wrinkled his nose at the stench of the city and ignored the cursing young man stumbling along in the wake of his Ovaro stallion. Squinting his eyes to mere slits to keep out the dust rising into the air, he put his heels to the horse and felt the rope tied to his saddle horn tighten as his prisoner tried to keep up.
Fargo’s most recent trail had been a hard one, but the bounty on the man he was bringing in would more than make up for it. Billy “Dynamite” Briggs had robbed his last train, and Fargo suspected that even if he escaped, he wouldn’t go very far. Being walked behind a strong horse and a determined man hadn’t been good for Billy’s constitution—he looked shamed and weak.
The brand-new Minneapolis and St. Louis train company had offered $2,500 to the man who could bring Billy in to stand trial—they wanted him alive—and when Fargo had heard the news, he’d saddled his horse and started tracking. There wasn’t much in the West that he hadn’t been able to track down and while Billy was a bit more canny and elusive than many others had been, three weeks after he’d started, Fargo found him hiding out in a cave three days north of St. Louis.
Spotting the sign for the train station, Fargo paused and looked back at his prisoner. He
alive, but would probably have preferred to be dead. “Almost there, boy,” Fargo said. “They might even let you sit down for a spell.”
“Go to hell,” Billy spat between breaths. “We coulda been partners, split the money and gone our separate ways. The reward isn’t worth as much as I offered you.”
Fargo laughed coldly. “Nope, it isn’t. But that’s justice, boy. It doesn’t pay as well as crime, but a feller gets to sleep better at night.”
“You’re no lawman,” Billy said, shaking his sweat-soaked, dirty blond hair out of his eyes. His hat was long since gone.
Fargo nodded. “And you’re no dangerous criminal, but they’ll pay me for you just the same.” He spurred the Ovaro once more, forcing Billy to trot in order to keep up.
The noise at the main train station and offices was almost deafening—the M&StL mostly ran cargo, with some passengers, so there was all the racket of crates and cattle being loaded, along with the calls of conductors, families trying to get organized and the general chaos of the other nearby stations adding to the racket. The Ovaro laid his ears back and huffed. Fargo patted him on the neck as he climbed out of the saddle.
“We won’t be here long, old boy,” he said. “We’ll take our reward and be on our way.”
He untied the rope from the saddle horn and shortened the length in quick loops. “Come on, Billy,” he said. “Let’s get it over with.” He gave the rope a quick tug and Billy stumbled forward.
“What’s keeping you upright, boy?” Fargo asked. “Most men would be on their knees crying for mercy by now.”
“Hate,” Billy said, spitting into the street. “My mama didn’t raise me to be a crybaby, neither. I’ll come for you, Fargo, someday when you’re sleeping peacefully because you’re a law-abiding citizen.” He spat again. “What bullshit.”
Fargo could feel the waves of hate coming off him and knew the boy meant what he said. If Billy could come after him, he would. He stared hard at the bedraggled-looking boy before him. “You’ll want to think might hard on that before you do. The railroad wanted you alive, boy, but if somehow you escape and come after me, you’ll only get one thing”—he pulled his Colt smoothly from its holster and placed it directly in Billy’s eye—“dead.”
He slid the gun back into the holster and said, “Now shut up and move along. St. Louis may be a big city now, but it’s still quick with its justice. I’d hate for you to be late to your own hanging.” Fargo jerked on the rope and walked up the steps into the train office, pulling Billy along beside him.
The inside of the train office was dusty and hot. The shades were pulled down over the open windows, letting in the noise and the dirt and a humid spring wind, but that was about all. To the left was the ticket window, manned by a balding clerk who looked like he was on the edge of heatstroke, and to the right was a single door marked STATION OFFICE. Fargo knocked on it and when a sharp voice called out, “Enter,” he did.
The man sitting behind the desk was hugely fat, with muttonchop whiskers that ran down the sides of his jowls in red wisps. He wore a full suit despite the heat and beads of perspiration lined his forehead. His face was flushed red and Fargo noted the bottle of Old Grand-dad sitting on the desktop. Heat and whiskey weren’t a good mix in Fargo’s experience.
He glanced at the nameplate on the desk. “You’re Mr. Waterstone?”
The man gave Fargo the once-over, taking in his battered trail clothes and unshaven appearance. “I am,” he said. “What do you want?”
Fargo gave the rope a quick yank, pulling Billy Briggs into the room. “The reward,” he said smoothly. “This is Billy Briggs.”
Waterstone’s eyes lit up. “That’s the best news I’ve heard all day!” he said. “What’s your name, stranger?”
“Fargo,” he said. “Skye Fargo.” He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out the crumpled flyer, tossing it onto Waterstone’s desk, then nudged Billy. “Speak up, boy.”
“He’s right,” Billy said. “I’m the one you’re looking for.”
Waterstone leaned back in his chair, took a long sip from his glass, and bawled, “Jacob! Get in here!”
Fargo listened as the old man from behind the ticket counter woke up from his heat-induced nap and scrambled across the station into the office. “Yes, sir, Mr. Waterstone?”
“Run down to the sheriff’s office and bring him. Mr. Fargo here has just brought in a wanted fugitive.”
The clerk nodded and headed off at a quick pace, moving his old legs faster than Fargo had imagined possible. He either wanted away from Waterstone, Billy Briggs, the heat, or the boredom, but in any case, he moved fast for an old codger.