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Authors: C. J. Cherryh

Range War (9781101559215)

BOOK: Range War (9781101559215)
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Table of Contents
The three punchers burst into the woods and one jerked his pistol up.
Fargo shot him. He aimed at the man's shoulder but the man shifted just as he squeezed the trigger and he was sure the slug hit lower. “Drop your hardware!” he bellowed at the other two.
Instead of obeying, one veered to the right and the other to the left. Fargo swung behind an oak. It wasn't much cover but he hoped it would cause them to break away and hunt cover of their own.
It didn't.
Yipping like Apaches, the two Texans closed on him, their six-guns blazing.
Slivers exploded from the oak and several stung Fargo's face. He aimed at the rider on the right, and fired. This time he didn't try for the shoulder; he shot dead-center and the man's arms flew back and his legs flew up and he tumbled over the back of his saddle.
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First published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, December 2011
The first chapter of this book previously appeared in
Utah Deadly Double
, the three hundred sixty-first volume in this series.
Copyright © Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2011
All rights reserved
ISBN : 978-1-101-55921-5
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The Trailsman
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.
The Guadalupes, New Mexico, 1859—
where lonely summits loom over a
forbidding land of the lawless.
Out of the dark mountains rose a howl that made the man by the campfire sit up and take notice. Loud and fierce, it was unlike any howl he'd ever heard. It echoed off the high peaks and was swept away by the wind into the black pitch of the night.
Broad of shoulder and narrow at the hips, Skye Fargo wore buckskins and a white hat turned brown with dust. A red bandanna, boots, and a well-used Colt at his hip completed his attire. He held his tin cup in both hands and glanced at his Ovaro. “What the hell was that?”
Fargo made his living as a scout, among other things. He'd wandered the west from Canada to Mexico and from the muddy Mississippi River to the broad Pacific Ocean. In his travels he'd heard hundreds of howling wolves and yipping coyotes and not a few wailing dogs, but he'd never, ever, heard anything like the cry that just startled him. More bray than howl, it was as savage and raw as the land around him.
Fargo settled back and sipped some coffee. Whatever it was, the thing was a ways off. He leaned on his saddle.
“In a week we'll be in Dallas. Oats and a warm stall for you and a fine filly and whiskey for me.”
The Ovaro had raised its head and pricked its ears at the howl. Now it looked at him and lowered its head to go back to dozing.
“Some company you are,” Fargo said, and chuckled. He drained the tin cup and set it down.
By the stars it was pushing midnight. Fargo intended to get a good rest and be up at the crack of dawn. He was deep in the Guadalupe Mountains, high on a stark ridge that overlooked the Hermanos Valley. A ring of boulders hid his fire from unfriendly eyes.
This was Apache country, and outlaws were as thick as fleas on an old hound.
Fargo laced his fingers on his chest and closed his eyes. He was on the cusp of slumber when a second howl brought him to his feet with his hand on his Colt.
This one was a lot closer.
The Ovaro raised its head again. It sniffed and stomped a hoof, a sure sign it had caught the animal's scent and didn't like the smell.
Fargo circled the fire to the stallion. He wasn't overly worried. Wolves rarely attacked people, and despite the strangeness of the howl, it had to be a wolf. He waited for a repeat of the cry and when more than five minutes went by and the night stayed quiet, he shrugged and returned to his blankets and the saddle.
“I'm getting jumpy,” he said to the Ovaro.
Pulling his hat brim low, Fargo made himself comfortable. He thought about the lady waiting for him in Dallas and the fine time they would have. She was an old acquaintance with a body as young and ripe as a fresh strawberry, and she loved to frolic under the sheets as much as he did. He couldn't wait.
Sleep claimed him. Fargo dreamed of Mattie and that body of hers. They were fit to bust a four-poster bed when another howl shattered his dream. Instantly awake, he was out from under his blanket with the Colt in his hand before the howl died.
The short hairs at the nape of Fargo's neck pricked. The howl had been so near, he'd swear the thing was right on top of him.
The Ovaro was staring intently at a gap between two of the boulders.
Fargo sidled toward it. Warily, he peered out and broke into gooseflesh.
A pair of eyes glared back at him. Huge eyes, like a wolf's except that no wolf ever grew as large as the thing glaring at him. In the glow of the fire they blazed red like the eyes of a hell-spawned demon.
For all of ten seconds Fargo was riveted in disbelief. Then the red eyes blinked and the thing growled, and he shook himself and thumbed back the hammer. At the
the eyes vanished; they were there and they were gone, and he thought he heard the scrape of pads on rock.
Breathless, Fargo backed to the Ovaro. The thing might be after the stallion.
As the minutes crawled on claws of tension and silence reigned, he told himself the beast must be gone.
Fargo reclaimed his seat. He added fuel to the fire and refilled his battered tin cup. He'd wait a while before turning in.
From time to time Fargo had heard tales of wild animals bigger than most. Up in the geyser country there once roamed a grizzly the size of a log cabin, or so the old trappers liked to say. The Dakotas told a story about a white buffalo twice the size of any that ever breathed. Up Canada way, several tribes claimed that deep in the woods there lived hairy giants.
Fargo never gave much credence to the accounts. Tall tales were just that, whether related by white men or red men. He didn't believe in giants and goblins. But those eyes he saw weren't made by any ordinary-sized critter.
Fargo shrugged and put them from his mind. The thing had gone. The Ovaro was safe and he should get some sleep. He put down the cup and eased back on his saddle but it was a long while before he succumbed. The slightest noise woke him with a start.
BOOK: Range War (9781101559215)
12.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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