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Authors: J.T. Edson

Tags: #the old west, #texas rangers, #western pulp fiction, #floating outfit, #jtedson, #waxahachie smith

Slip Gun

BOOK: Slip Gun
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Folks said that Waxahachie Smith was finished
when his enemies cut off both his trigger-fingers. But he came from
a breed that did not accept defeat.

So he rode the range, ready to sell his
fighting skills to the highest bidder. Nor was he ever out of
employment when it was found he could still handle a gun with
deadly speed.

The Colt carried by Smith looked
like an ordinary Civilian Model Peacemaker. Except that it
had
no
trigger and its short smooth hammer-spur was set low on the hammer.
Internally, the trigger half of the bolt spring had been removed
and the bolt-cam on the hammer reduced in length. The barrel was
without rifling and the .45 bullets in the cylinder each held three
balls.

By converting his Colt into a slip gun, Smith
removed the need for a trigger-finger—and made it the fastest, most
deadly weapon in the West.

 

 

 

WAXAHACHIE
SMITH 2: SLIP GUN

By J. T.
Edson

First published
by Transworld Publishers in 1971

Copyright
©
1971, 2015 by J. T.
Edson

First Smashword
Edition: September 2015

Names,
characters and incidents in this book are fictional, and any
resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons
living or dead is purely coincidental.

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 or storage and
retrieval system, without the written permission of the author,
except where permitted by law.

Cover image © 2015 by
Edward
Martin

This is a
Piccadilly Publishing Book

Series Editor:
Ben Bridges

Text ©
Piccadilly Publishing

Published by
Arrangement with the Author’s Agent.

 

 

For Terry Barratt, who drives his bus like
the Kid rides Nigger

Chapter One – The
Man Who Hated Rain

Going by
the mass of dark clouds that spread
across the sky from over the Antelope Hills, there might be a storm
during the night. Even if the storm did not break, rain was sure to
fall.

Waxahachie Smith hated rainy weather.

No matter how carefully Smith
wrapped himself in his yellow oilskin
‘fish’, the water always found a way
through to run down his neck. Worse than that, rain invariably made
his trigger-fingers ache like hell. Which was mighty strange. His
trigger-fingers must have long since rotted into nothing at the
place where he had left them on the banks of the Rio
Grande.

Give that crazy son-of-a-bitch Doc Gratz his
full and rightful due, though. He had taken off the fingers as neat
as a man could ask for, leaving sufficient skin to fold as pads
over the places where they had been. Once the original pain of the
removal had ceased, the stumps only troubled Smith when it rained.
No fancy Eastern sawbones, working in a real hospital with all the
latest surgical aids, could have done a better job.

It had almost been a pity to kill Doc
Gratz.

In fact, some folks came right
out and claimed that Smith had acted a mite ungrateful by killing
him. Any qualified doctor ought to be within his rights to amputate
injured fingers, toes, arms or legs, if doing so would save his
patient
’s
life. While agreeing in principle, Smith had still put sawdust in
the doctor’s beard and made wolf-bait of him.

At the time that the amputations
had been carried out, Smith
’s forefingers were in no way endangering
his
health or life. It
was just that they could squeeze a Colt’s trigger too well for the
Fuentes brothers’ peace of mind. So perhaps in one way the removal
of his fingers could be called necessary. By causing it to be done,
the brothers had hoped to save
their
lives. When all they had wanted was to take over
the Texas border town of Flamingo. Smith and his Colt stood between
them and the citizens. Everybody had known that sooner or later a
showdown must come. Most had guessed which way it would go—against
the Fuentes boys.

Rich and unscrupulous, the
brothers might have had Smith bushwhacked; but killing a Texas
Ranger
—which
he had been at the time—ranked as real bad medicine. So they had
arranged for his food to be drugged one night. When he had regained
consciousness, no forefingers remained to press a trigger. Yet when
it rained, even though four years had passed since the operation,
the missing digits still throbbed painfully.

So Smith hated rain, for it brought back
memories he would rather forget.

Moving at an easy pace between
Smith
’s long
legs as he posted to its trot,
i
the line-backed
bayo-lobo
gelding suddenly snorted and
tossed its head. The man made no attempt to reach for a weapon,
knowing that his mount’s actions did not warn of impending danger.
Rather it had smelled its own kind ahead, their scent being carried
over the next ridge by the same wind which spread the
clouds.

Damn those clouds, with their
threat of rain to bring torment to his non-existent fingers. Smith
much preferred to work in the heat, dust and sweat of New Mexico or
Arizona, where the average rainfall was low. If the request from
Wyoming had been less urgent, or the advance payment smaller, he
might have ignored it. Trouble was, like a fool he had accepted the
money. His reputation would suffer if he failed to show up at
Widow
’s Creek
and find out what the prospective employer had to offer.

Topping the ridge, Smith found
that he had read the gelding
’s signal correctly and there was no cause for
alarm. Going by the cluster of whipsaw-plank buildings and the type
of horses roaming aimlessly in the two large pole corrals, he had
arrived at Gilpin’s stagecoach way station. Not a surprising
discovery, nor a remarkable piece of cross-country navigation,
seeing that he had been following the stagecoach trail from the
time he had left the railroad at Laramie. Even before he nudged the
gelding with his heels, he felt its pace quicken. Most likely it
had scented grain and fresh hay, so knew that the end of its day’s
work was in sight. So he guided it down the slope in the direction
of the largest of the buildings.

Attending to his chores in the big combined
stable and barn, old Dad Derham listened to the approaching horse
with an attitude of anticipation. Always a student of his fellow
men, he found that the somewhat menial post as hostler on a way
station presented many opportunities to carry out his studies.
Trouble being that each passing year saw a growing difficulty in
forming accurate conclusions.

Time was a feller could tell,
near enough, where a stranger hailed from and how he earned his
living by his clothing and
horse rigging. There had been few enough types of
work then and most of them required specialized forms of dress.
With the development and expansion of the cattle industry, cowhands
tended to mingle styles in a mighty confusing manner. Then there
was all the nesters, farmers and other settling folks coming from
back East. The Good Lord alone knew how you pegged them down to
their home range by what they wore.

The hooves stopped and leather
creaked as weight was transferred from it to the ground. Stepping
out of the empty stall he had just finished cleaning, Derham
watched Smith lead the gelding through the big double doors. A
grunt of satisfaction left the old timer. No mistaking this
traveler’s place of
origin. Most conservative and State-proud of all cowhands, a Texan
invariably clung to the traditional fashions of his home
range.

Not, Derham admitted, that the stranger was
a cowhand. Which raised the question of what he might be.

Six foot two in height, lean and
whang-leather
tough looking as a steer fed on greasewood, the stranger
wore a low-crowned, wide-brimmed, black J. B. Stetson hat as Texas
as the Lone Star flag and ‘Remember the Alamo!’. Framed with neatly
trimmed reddish-brown sideburns, the face sheltered by the hat was
too rugged to be termed handsome. Tanned by long exposure to the
sun, it had hard, grim lines and cold, watchful brown eyes. That
was the face of a man who had suffered.

Under his buttoned-up
wolf skin jacket, he
wore a neatly knotted black string tie and grey flannel shirt.
Coming from beneath the jacket, which concealed whatever kind of
gunbelt he might be wearing, Levi’s pants legs ended tucked into
flat-heeled brown Wellington half-boots.
ii
Brown leather gloves covered his
hands. Not the heavy gauntlets a man from the thorn-brush or
cold-weather countries might wear, but lighter and more flexible.
Gamblers often sported such gloves, to keep their hands soft for
manipulating a deck of cards. The man was not a professional
gambler. That tanned face had not been gained sitting all night at
a card table and sleeping most of the day.

Maybe his mount would supply a clue.

By its conformation and size,
the gelding would be better suited to long travelling than for
the
fast
twirling, rapid footwork needed when working cattle. The wide
two-ear bridle sported fancy-stitched leatherwork and the shanks of
the curb bit took the form of plump, shapely feminine buttocks and
legs. Although functional in design, the low-horned, double-girthed
saddle had decorative carving on its fork, cantle, skirt,
upper-flank skirt and fenders;
rosaderos,
iii
the man would call the latter. The
horn’s embossed top and the conchas which held the saddle-strings
had the dull, solid glint of silver. On the left side of the
saddle, pointing to the rear, the butt of a rifle showed from its
boot. A bulky bedroll and yellow fish hung behind the cantle, but
no coiled rope dangled from the fork. That kind of rig had been
born in Texas, where a feller tied fast his rope and figured to
hang on to anything he caught in its loop.

For all that, taken with the low-heeled
footwear, the absence of a coiled rope on the saddle revealed that
the stranger did not earn his living handling cattle.

Unfortunately, it did not help
Derham place the stranger. Not entirely, anyway. By removing one
possibility, it opened up another. The man walked with an economy
of motion, silent and somehow seeming as graceful as a cat. There
was an alert air about him, such as a man with many enemies always
showed. Derham had never seen a gun fighter who did not. Seeing how
he carried his gun might have furnished information, but the jacket
prevented that. If he had enemies, he
clearly did not expect to come across them
around the way station. The buttons would have been unfastened,
allowing uninterrupted access to his revolver, if he
did.

By the time Derham had drawn that
conclusion, the newcomer had almost reached him. Satisfying his
curiosity about the other could only be done indirectly. So the old
hostler elected to try a conventional opening to a conversation
which might prove instructive.


Looks
like—’ Derham began amiably.


Yeah,’
Smith interrupted. The last thing he wanted was to be reminded
about the state of the weather. ‘Can I put up my horse in
here?’

BOOK: Slip Gun
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