Slocum and the Diamond City Affair (9781101612118)

BOOK: Slocum and the Diamond City Affair (9781101612118)
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No Rest for Slocum

Slocum felt like he'd only slept ten minutes when Rosa woke him. “Three men are coming.”

“Good.” He stood up and checked his Colt out of habit. He rolled the cylinder on his sleeve, looking at it in the dim light with care. Satisfied, he closed the gate and reset the empty under the hammer.

“Hold up!” Jim shouted and used a rifle shot to punctuate his order. In the confusion, the riders' horses bumped into each other and unseated one rider. Cussing filled the night.

“Get off those horses.” Slocum was there. He caught the downed man by his collar and stood him on his feet with the six-gun in his right fist.

“You sonsabitches—” His words were cut short when Slocum busted him over the shoulder with his gun butt and he crumpled to his knees, screaming in pain.

Slocum gave the man's butt a boot and sent him sprawling on his face in the dust. “Shut your mouth and stay there.”

The third man threw his hands up higher, and O'Riley jerked his six-gun out of its holster. Jim held the rifle muzzle on them.

“Where is the stolen race mare?” Slocum demanded.

The one on his feet shook his head. “How should I know?”

“Someone better know or I'm going to notch your ears until I hear the answer.” Slocum holstered his six-gun. Then the blade of his large jackknife glinted in the starlight after he opened it. “Who's first?”

DON'T MISS THESE ALL-ACTION WESTERN SERIES FROM THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

THE GUNSMITH by J. R. Roberts

Clint Adams was a legend among lawmen, outlaws, and ladies. They called him . . . the Gunsmith.

LONGARM by Tabor Evans

The popular long-running series about Deputy U.S. Marshal Custis Long—his life, his loves, his fight for justice.

SLOCUM by Jake Logan

Today's longest-running action Western. John Slocum rides a deadly trail of hot blood and cold steel.

BUSHWHACKERS by B. J. Lanagan

An action-packed series by the creators of Longarm! The rousing adventures of the most brutal gang of cutthroats ever assembled—Quantrill's Raiders.

DIAMONDBACK by Guy Brewer

Dex Yancey is Diamondback, a Southern gentleman turned con man when his brother cheats him out of the family fortune. Ladies love him. Gamblers hate him. But nobody pulls one over on Dex . . .

WILDGUN by Jack Hanson

The blazing adventures of mountain man Will Barlow—from the creators of Longarm!

TEXAS TRACKER by Tom Calhoun

J.T. Law: the most relentless—and dangerous—manhunter in all Texas. Where sheriffs and posses fail, he's the best man to bring in the most vicious outlaws—for a price.

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

Published by the Penguin Group

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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.

SLOCUM AND THE DIAMOND CITY AFFAIR

A Jove Book / published by arrangement with the author

PUBLISHING HISTORY

Jove edition / November 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Cover illustration by Sergio Giovine.

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.

ISBN: 978-1-101-61211-8

JOVE
®

Jove Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

JOVE
®
is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

The “J” design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

1

Slocum rode down to Diamond City, Arizona, from Silver City, New Mexico, on a stout, Roman-nosed bay. Dressed like an ordinary drifting cowboy, he felt ready for a bath and shave when he rode into the crossroads town in the moon lake country that straddled the New Mexico–Arizona Territory border. To the southwest rose the purple heights of the Chiricahua Mountains like the body of some sleeping Apache giant.

Diamond City contained no such precious stones. It was just covered in the light brown dust driven by stiff hot winds that swept up from Mexico. The hovels of adobe included a cantina, a small store, what could barely be called a hotel—some shabby furnished rooms with narrow cots—and a livery made up of a few crooked stick corrals that sat beside it. Three sun-bleached wooden water tank wagons were parked close by. Painted on the side of them was Water For Sale—5 Cents a Gallon.

Slocum dropped out of the saddle, and his ugly headed bay horse put his muzzle down, snorting in the dust like he'd punctuated the end of their journey. He wrapped the reins on the worn-smooth hitch rail. Out of habit, he reset his gun belt, took off his hat, and wiped his gritty face on his sleeve. His face was burned from the sun's reflective rays. He wondered if there was any escaping the blazing heat of the ovenlike winds. The batwing doors of the cantina creaked when he parted them.

The room's stale interior was dark after the brilliant midday sunshine. He let his eyes adjust to the dimmer light. A Mexican bartender nodded to him. The man had a black mustache and brown eyes that bored into this stranger in deep inspection.

“Good afternoon,” the barkeep said in Spanish.

“Yeah,” Slocum said to the man. “Send me over a glass and some whiskey.” He noticed some card players on his left who showed some mild interest in his entrance. They represented no threat as far as he could see. With a toss of his head toward a side table where he could drink with his back to the wall, he headed there. His run-over boots and spurs clunked across the hard dirt floor as he moved to his chosen site.

A slender Mexican girl delivered his liquor. Slocum thought she looked neither real pretty nor very smart. She set the unopened brown bottle of whiskey and a tumbler on the table and stuck her white palm out for payment. “Four pesos.”

“He wants all of his money now?” Slocum asked without a grin, stretching his leg out to draw some money out of his pants pocket.

She glanced back at the bartender and asked him in Spanish. “You want it all now?”

The bartender, with no hesitation, told her,
“Sí.”

Slocum slapped four silver cartwheels on the table. Then he stopped her and, between his fingers, held up another coin of the same value.

She frowned at him.

“This one is for you. For later on.”

A grin filled her full, dark lips at the glimpse of his money and his intentions for her. “That will be fine.
Muchas gracias
, señor.”

He kept the coin from her. “What's your name?”

“Rosa.”

He rose up, leaned over, and kissed her on the forehead. “Rosa, now you go find me a good supper and bring it to me. I'll pay you for that too.”

“Oh,
sí
, señor.”

He gave her the coin, which she dropped into her small cleavage, then she scooted the coins for the bottle of whiskey off the table into her hand.

“Your food will be coming—” She winked at him, seeming excited about their future date. “Me too, later.”

“Yes.” With a chuckle, he raised the brim of his hat and then straddled the chair to sit down again. He reached for the large folding knife sheathed on his gun belt and opened the razor-sharp blade to cut the tax stamp and seal holding the cork on the bottle. After returning his knife to its sheath, he used his teeth to wrestle out the cork, then poured two fingers in the glass, set the bottle down, and tossed back the first draw. The fiery liquid cut a path across his dust-clad tongue and down his throat, warming its way to his belly. It also loosened some of the slimy phlegm behind his tongue, and he cleared it to spit aside on the floor.

A short white man in a green-checked suit came over from the card game. “You a cowboy?”

“What do you need?”

“I—I don't need just a cowboy. I'm a businessman. But someone stole some valuable horses of mine.”

“Apaches?” He frowned at this man's mumbling. He must be drunk.

“No. I think they were cowboys that stole them.”

“Are you asking me to go find them? Why?”

“'Cause you look tough enough to get them back. I'd pay you fifty dollars to get my horses back.”

That wasn't enough; he didn't work that cheap. “What kinda horses were they?”

“One is a Kentucky Thoroughbred stallion. The other, a racing mare bred to him.”

“What's your name?”

“Casey O'Riley. What's yours?”

Slocum poured himself some more whiskey, then looked at the man's red freckled face. “Have a seat. They call me Slocum.”

O'Riley's green eyes stared at him hard. “Will you look for them?”

“How long have they been gone?”

“Two, three days.”

“What's the law doing about them?”

“Nothing.” In defeat, O'Riley slumped down in the chair beside Slocum and thumped his face down on the tabletop. “I'm going crazy. I have to find them. They're all I've got left.”

“You want a drink?”

“Whiskey won't solve my problems. I've tried that already.” He swept his wild reddish hair back from his face and shook his head, sitting upright in the chair once more. “I lost my wife, I lost everything. . . .”

“Aw, hell, it can't be that bad. Did you trail the thieves here?”

“I tried. I took the stage from Tucson after I found they came this direction. Yesterday I learned they headed this way from Benson. But no one's seen them here. I don't know, I'm going crazy, I tell you. Those horses are all I have left.”

Slocum sipped on the whiskey. So some men stole this man's Kentucky horses. “What happened to your wife?”

“She ran off on me with Cable Marky.” He shook his head like he was lost. “I don't know where she went either.”

“You better start way back there and tell me the whole story. How did you get to Tucson anyway? You aren't a native of that place.”

“A man named Ira Moulton in Nogales, Sonora, wanted to buy those two horses. I told him I would need a down payment to get them there. I was in Kentucky at the time. I hired Cable and his brother Nichol to be my grooms and take care of the horses for me. They were professional track trainers and handlers. We came by train to the end of the tracks over there at Deming. My wife and I drove a buggy from there. Those two brothers rode horses and led those two of mine. I knew Cable was trying his damnedest to screw my wife—I told him I'd kill him if he tried to take her away from me.

“Ha, I didn't even have a gun. He knew it and he stole my wife and buggy and drove off from Tucson one night.”

“Where did his brother go?”

O'Riley shook his head helplessly. “I never saw him again either. The next day I went to check on my horses and they said at the stable that the man I sent to pick them up had already taken them. And he gave me the letter that had my name on the bottom. It wasn't my signature, and from the description, the guy who took them wasn't the other brother. I never told anyone to steal my own horses. The sheriff in Tucson said if I could find the thief he'd arrest him. Arrest him, hell, I can't find my own ass out here in this godforsaken desert.”

“Last place you heard the rustler had ridden through was over at Benson?”

O'Riley nodded. “Yes. Benson. They were seen there.”

“But they aren't around here?”

“No.”

“Tomorrow—can you ride a horse?”

O'Riley nodded.

“Good. Go rent one or buy one and we'll go look for them. They didn't go up in smoke.”

“How—how much will you cost?”

“Five hundred dollars. When we get the horses to Nogales.”

“Oh, good.” O'Riley looked relieved and nodded thanks.

“You be at the livery at six in the morning ready to ride. Get a bedroll. We may be out in the cactus looking for them for days.”

“I'll be there.”

“Good, now go buy some clothes for the ride. Include a big straw hat or you'll be burned to a damn crisp out there in that damn sun.”

As the man walked away, Slocum poured himself another half glass of whiskey. Rosa was coming. She set a tray filled with luscious-smelling food before him. The sweet aroma of cooked peppers, onions, and beef strips filled his nose. A stack of snowy flour tortillas and a bowl of refried beans sat beside them.

With a big smile, Slocum reached out and clapped her hand. “That looks damn good, girl. What do I owe you?”

“Twenty-five cents.”

He paid her, and she leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. “I will be ready for you tonight, big man.”

He sent her a sly wink and began loading a tortilla with meat, adding some of the sliced hot peppers to the mix. Saliva flowed in his mouth at the first bite. Best thing that had happened to him since spanking a cute whore named Quin, and for that she had given him a wild night's fling in her bed up in Silver City's best brothel a week before.

The rolled-up tortilla filled with the spicy fresh ingredients settled him down. He forgot all about the blinding sun, the acrid dust that burned his eyes, and the deadhead ride from up in the mountains to these playas. His meal at last completed, he rose, corked the whiskey bottle, and started for the exit to go put up his horse.

Before he reached the door, Rosa tugged on his sleeve. “Where will you be at, señor?”

“Isn't there a scrubby hotel here?”

She nodded.

“I will be there in a room when you get off work. Slocum's my name.”


Sí
, Slocum.” She stood on her toes and kissed him on the cheek.

He put Spook in the livery, paid the unbathed swamper, and went to the hotel. He rented a room from a grizzly old man who'd neglected to shave for a week. When Slocum paid him the fifty cents for the room, the man licked his lips, then tested both coins with a hard bite.

“Can't be too sure,” he said in a rusty voice.

“Sure. There's a girl coming who'll be looking for me named Rosa. Send her to my room.”

“What's her name?” The clerk licked the lead pencil and was poised to write it down.

“Rosa.”

“R?”

“Yes, Rosa.”

“R-o-o-s-a?”

“That'll do. Which room?”

“Number three.”

“Number three, fine. You got any bathwater?”

“Out back, there is a tub.” He tossed his unkempt, greasy gray hair toward the back of his head.

“Send me some hot water.”

“Cost you two bits.”

“Gawdamnit, get the hot water.” Fed up with the man's stupidity, Slocum slammed the quarters on the counter.

The man shrank away. “Yes, yes.”

The people here in Diamond City were some of the dumbest in the world. Slocum went down the hall to the roofless bathing facilities at the back of the hotel. The adobe wall gave some privacy in a head-high pen that stank of soap and mold. He turned over the tub half-full of scummy water, which ran off and quickly soaked into the hard-packed ground. When the tub was back upright, he saw an older fat Mexican woman coming with two pails of steaming water.

“Gracias,”
he said to her as she poured the water in the tub.

Then two teenage girls brought two pails apiece. Neither one was pretty and they both looked fearfully at him, though he had never seen them before.

“We will bring six more,” the older woman said and protectively herded the younger ones out of the enclosure.

He about laughed at her actions. “I won't bite them.”

“It is not your teeth I worry about, señor,” she said and left him.

They were back shortly. They dumped the hot water in the tub and set two full pails down for his rinse. He paid the older woman a dime. Then she bowed and said,
“Gracias,”
and left with her entourage.

When they were gone, Slocum undressed and hung his gun and holster on a straight-backed chair within his reach. He used a bar of soap he brought from his bedroll. When he'd finished soaping up, he rose and poured the first pail of water over the top of his head to rinse, then he finished with the last one. That would have to do for the moment. He got out of the tub and dried off using some stiff sack towels that hung on racks nearby. Then he put on his pants and carried the rest of his clothes and his gun to room number three.

In the room, he removed his britches and put his boots under the chair on which he piled his shirt, vest, and pants, then buckled his gun belt on the post beside the bed. He lay on his back and tried to imagine that after sundown his room might cool off some. Then he questioned where his good sense had gone when he'd offered to help the Irishman recover his horses. No telling how that would work—he doubted the man could ever take a long, hard-fought trail and capture the rustlers, but Slocum might be wrong.

Then a knock came on the thin door.

“Rosa?”


Sí
, señor.”

“Come on in my oven.”

She laughed and slipped inside. “I knew you were a big tease, señor.”

When the door was closed, she flipped her shoulder-length black hair aside and put her back to the door. “You want to undress me?”

He sat up cross-legged on the bed and shook his head. There was enough of the bloody sunset's red light flooding the room for him to watch her undress. “I want to see you do it.”

“Fine.” She took the blouse off over her head. Her small pointed breasts shook when she threw the garment on the chair, then returned to her post.

BOOK: Slocum and the Diamond City Affair (9781101612118)
9.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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