Read Stop Angel! (A Frank Angel Western Book 8) Online

Authors: Frederick H. Christian

Tags: #wild west, #lawmen, #piccadilly publishing, #frederick h christian, #sudden, #frank angel, #western pulp fiction, #old west fiction, #frederick h nolan, #us west

Stop Angel! (A Frank Angel Western Book 8)

BOOK: Stop Angel! (A Frank Angel Western Book 8)
3.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Nix was a gunrunner and a killer. He turned
Angel’s sidekick loose—naked and unharmed—into the Valley of Death.
Nix promised to come after him some time.

Angel’s mission was to find his friend’s
killer—but history repeated itself, and it was Angel who was alone
in the desert. The hunter became the hunted.


Another mile.

Ernie Hecatt raised a hand to
shield his eyes while he squinted up at the sun, cursing its
blinding light. Two, maybe three o
’clock, he thought. Steadily and
monotonously and without any real awareness of what he was
saying—or indeed, the fact that he was saying anything—Hecatt
cursed the relentless sun, the pitiless desert, his blistered feet,
and his burned and wounded body. The effort of doing so was an
extra his depleted frame could not afford, and he slumped down on
the burning sand, crying—without tears, for his body was already
well into the terminal stages of dehydration—in futile rage at his
own weakness. Then he thought of the man who had reduced him to
this, and as the name formed in his mind, he spat it out as a

he coughed, getting to his knees. ‘Frank Angel!’ he croaked,
staggering upright. As if the very movement itself released some
further strength from a reservoir his body did not know it
possessed, Hecatt stumbled forward. Using everything that he had
left, he headed for the white scar on the land which he could
vaguely see up ahead. His vision was already blurring, and he knew
he had no margin for error left. What he saw might be an arroyo. It
might be a swathe of gypsum sand. It might be nothing more than an
outcropping of mica. Or it might—just might—be a trail.

With shaking legs and reaching hands,
Ernie Hecatt stumbled toward his goal. A mumble came from his
frayed lips. It would have been meaningless to anyone listening,
had there been anyone in the empty wilderness. But there were only
the patient buzzards high in the brazen sky above the lurching
figure. To Hecatt, however, the mumble was words, and the words
were a goad that spurred him on. It was the name that he had spoken

Angel!’ he muttered. ‘God damn your soul to Hell!’

Two years earlier, Ernie Hecatt
had been one of the richest men in the state of Texas. Although he
rarely left it, he was known throughout the United States.
politicians and moneymen found it well worthwhile to journey to his
palatially sprawling ranch thirty miles outside Uvalde, or to the
oak-paneled offices on Texas Street in town. It was said that
Hecatt had no more respect for the law than he had to have, and
that wasn’t a hell of a lot. But nobody had ever caught him with
his pants down. He was known as ‘the man with the Midas touch.’ He
knew everybody who was anybody, or seemed to, and what was even
more awesome was that he also seemed to know exactly what they were
up to, what deals they were into, how thinly their resources were
spread, and who was in what with whom. He could break his rivals
and he sometimes did, not only financially but physically. He was a
liar and a thief and everyone knew it, but nobody had ever told him
so, any more than anyone had ever said out loud that Hecatt made a
lot of his money ferrying repeating rifles to the
who in turn sold
them to the marauding Comanch’ and Kiowa. Nobody talked up because
Ernie Hecatt was also a cold-blooded killer, one of the mean-streak
kind who liked to gut-shoot his victims. They said he was faster
with a gun than even Wes Hardin. That might have been an
exaggeration, of course, because it was doubtful if the man ever
walked the face of the earth who could have outdrawn John Wesley
Hardin in his prime. But if it was an exaggeration, it wasn’t much
of one, and certainly nothing like enough of one to make many men
want to put it to the test. Ernie Hecatt had killed upward of half
a dozen who’d tried. He even paid the cost of burying them
decently. It was one of his vanities. He said the very least you
could do for a man you’d sent to the Pearly Gates was to make sure
someone dug a hole and put him in it. Besides, Hecatt would say
with the grin of a hunting wolf, corpses tend to lower the tone of
a town if they’re left lying around. Macabre, maybe. But damned
effective, as Hecatt knew.

There were three things he
’t let
anyone mess with—his possessions, his reputation, and his money.
Until Frank Angel turned up in Uvalde nobody had ever dared, but by
the time Angel was through—and it didn’t take him long—Hecatt was
busted wide open. Angel found weak points nobody had ever dreamed
could be there and leaned on them. He not only challenged Hecatt’s
domination of the area, he destroyed it. He exposed the trick that
held Hecatt’s finances together and wiped him out, everything.
Angel faced Hecatt down on every front because he knew that at
heart Hecatt was a fraud. He out-thought him, out-maneuvered him,
out-foxed him, and finally exposed him. Tempted him into a fool’s
play, and when Hecatt fell for it, Angel busted him mercilessly.
With a United States Marshal and a posse along as witnesses, Angel
arrested Hecatt while Hecatt was personally handing over cases of
Winchester ’66 repeaters to Leon Alevantal, the
whose business was trading arms
and armor with the Comanch’. With no place left on earth to go,
Hecatt then did the dumbest thing he’d ever done: he went for the
gun at his side. In front of all of them: Alevantal and his
brigands, the U.S. Marshal, all of them. And Angel let

Angel let him get good and
started before he even moved his hand. Hecatt had had bad dreams
about that
moment ever since. He played and replayed it over and over
in his mind, tasting the same sick fear as he remembered Angel’s
hand blurring faster than he could see, coming up so fast with the
gun that he, Hecatt, had simply frozen with fear, his own Remington
still only halfway out of the holster. Pride had told him to pull
the gun anyway, and die with his head up. The green thing in his
belly had made him let go of the revolver butt as if it were

From that moment he was through
and he knew it. He put up no further fight, and they took him in.
The trial, the weeks of humiliation as the law stripped him one by
one of all his possessions dissolved into a half-remembered blur.
They sentenced him to ten year
’s hard labor at Huntsville. It was equivalent to
a death sentence and everyone knew it: there was a shocked silence
even in that hardened courtroom. Hecatt had gone like a lamb, only
half hearing the jeers of men who not six weeks earlier would have
curried his slightest favor, indulged his pettiest whim. They took
him in a wagon to Huntsville, and there, rolling about in that
gritty wagon-bed beneath the basilisk stare of the shotgun-armed
deputy-marshals, he had vowed to have his vengeance, to repay every
slight, every jeer, every insult tenfold. And most of all, to very
slowly kill Frank Angel, Special Investigator of the Department of
Justice, the man who had brought him down.

Hecatt was a model prisoner
during his first year, and eventually, in keeping with the
then-current practice, he was hired out as one of a gang of
prisoners who worked as laborers for a subcontractor who was
building a stretch of road between Galveston and Nacogdoches. One
day, Hecatt
pickaxe smashed in the skull of the dozing guard nearest him, and
he had the fallen rifle before it hit the dirt. He dropped the
second guard before that man truly realized what had happened, and
then he lit out. He shot the leg irons off and headed for open
country, making the long march back.

If they came after him, he never
heard them. He was hardened by his time in prison and powered by
revenge. He lived off the land like a hunting wolf, working across
the wide flat emptiness of Edwards Plateau toward his own
and making good time
until he ran into the trio of Comanch’. They ran off his horse and
kept him pinned down in a buffalo wallow until most of his
ammunition and all of his water was gone. In the course of that
long, seemingly endless day and night, he killed one of the Indians
and wounded another, which in any circumstances except Ernie
Hecatt’s might have been fair exchange for the hole in his left arm
the third Comanche had put there with his smoothbore. When the
brassy blue Texas morning pushed back the shadows, the Indians were
gone, leaving Hecatt alone in the emptiness, without a horse or
water, his left arm shot to pieces just above the wrist, and no
place to head except out. He had been walking ever

Now he saw that the whitish-gray scar
he had picked out was indeed a track, and he gave a croak of relief
as he stumbled out of the clawing chaparral into the open. It was
just a rutted wagon track, but in this wide wilderness it was like
a huge sign advertising that help was not far away. If there was a
track it led somewhere, came from somewhere else. It could be ten,
twenty, thirty miles, but at either end there would be people,
water, surcease from the punishment of the merciless

He stood teetering on the edge of the
track. Which way? Right, left, which would bring him soonest to

Ernie Hecatt decided to go left,
and started staggering along the rutted road. He managed maybe a
mile, looking for all the world like some weird animated
scarecrow that
occasionally laughed, weakly and insanely. But he had been on
borrowed time before he even saw the trail, and now his legs would
carry him no further. He sagged, tottered, and fell again. The
world spun in front of his eyes, and a red curtain misted out his
foreshortened view of the clump of prickly pear a foot from his
face. This time not even the name of the man he hated most in all
the world, the man he had sworn to kill, could animate his wasted

he croaked once.

Then the curtain in front of his eyes
turned from red to black. He was still lying there, nine-tenths
dead, when Victoria Stacey found him four hours later.


said the Attorney-General. ‘And that’s final.’

Give me
one good reason.’ Angel said.

don’t have to,’ his boss replied with a faint smile.
‘That’s one of the nicer things about being

right,’ Angel said. ‘You don’t have to. But give me one anyway.
That’s the least you could do.’

be somewhat surprised at what the least I can do actually is,’ the
older man grinned. He was enjoying this tennis match of words, and
his normally austere face was set in an untypically smiling
expression this fall day. Outside his windows the drizzle fell
relentlessly down upon the muddy mess of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Whatever the grand vision of Pierre Charles L’Enfant, architect of
the capital city, had been, Angel thought sourly, it had certainly
not been the gray and uninspiring view that stretched away toward
Union Station from the rickety old building that housed the
Department of Justice.

However,’ the Attorney-General said, reaching for a cigar,
‘I’ll give you a reason. You’re still not fit.’

fine!’ Angel expostulated, as the man behind the big desk lit the
long black cigar and puffed huge clouds of smoke upward, patiently
relishing the pungent odor. It smelled as if someone was burning a
Sumo wrestler’s loincloth, but Angel knew better than to voice his
opinion of the Old Man’s cigars. The Attorney-General thought that
they were indubitably the best that money could buy—a little strong
for some palates, perhaps—and did not know (or perhaps pretended
not to know) that there was a mock reward poster stuck on a wall in
the basement outside the Armory which offered a thousand dollars to
the man who could find the Attorney-General’s cigar maker—and stop
him from making any more.

BOOK: Stop Angel! (A Frank Angel Western Book 8)
3.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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