Creed's Law (The Texas Anthem Series)

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9780312981280: Creed's Law (The Texas Anthem Series)
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Billy Anthem is a long way from Texas when he comes to the Pacific Coast town of Calamity Bay. On his way north, Billy survives a bushwhacking and ends up deputized by a sheriff who needs someone to trust. For a decade, Calamity Bay has been in the grip of one man. Following a brutal murder, Noah Creed and his sons want a murder suspect hanged--no matter what the evidence shows, no matter what the law says.

Bound by a promise, and more than a little interested in a woman, Billy knows this is no time to be moving on. But he doesn't know how explosive the truth is, or how desperate the Creeds really are. Now, for a Texan a long way from, there's only one choice: to be armed and ready for anything--in a place where he belongs...

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About the Author:

KERRY NEWCOMB was born in Milford, Connecticut, but had the good fortune to be raised in Texas. He has served in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and taught at the St. Labre Mission School on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana. Mr. Newcomb has written plays, film scripts, commercials, liturgical dramas, and over thirty novels under both his own name and a variety of pseudonyms. He lives with his family in Ft. Worth, Texas.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1
The bullet whipped past Billy’s ear and fanned his cheek. A cat couldn’t have reacted any faster. His right foot slid out of the stirrup before Rosie could shy. His right had jerked the Winchester ’73 from its saddle holster. Billy dropped the reins and launched himself to the left in a fluid movement that pushed his horse to the right and sent the animal galloping down the trail.A half-second later, a second slug tore through the empty space six inches above the saddle. A third bullet richocheted off a moss-covered boulder. The shrill scream of the deformed slug stopped abruptly when it slammed into a tree. There was no fourth because there was no target. Only the empty, soggy landscape somewhere on the northern slope of Hurricane Ridge.The world was green and brown, moss and mud. Billy shook his head, spit out a mouthful of dirt, and wiped his sleeve across his nose and mouth. The firing had stopped. An uneasy stillness lay over the sun-drenched land. Steam rose from the earth, making judging distances all the more uncertain. Billy’s senses gradually returned to normal. His heartbeat and breathing slowed. He became aware of a sharp pain in his side where, he guessed, he’d landed on his rifle butt. The only sound was the drip-drip-drip of water trickling off the overhanging boulder that shielded him from his attacker. The droplets landed in the rapidly filling shallow hole he’d dug with his face. It was one hell of a way to dismount.“If there’s no time to think, act,” Big John Anthem had preached. “There’s a time to consider the possibles and a time to haul leather and let the devil take the hindmost.”The lesson had been drilled in since he was a child, and Billy had taken heed. He’d seen his father act with all the temper and patience of a hunter. And remembered, too, the moments when Big John rode wild-eyed, guns blazing into the situation. Now, his mind racing, Billy assessed the situation. A dozen or so yards down the gently sloping valley they’d been descending, Rosie grazed contentedly on a patch of grass.Unlike the hills around Luminaria or the mountains of Mexico, where the echoes from a gunshot often disguised its source, the green forests of Washington Territory soaked up echoes. From the undistorted sound, the shots had come from his left-rear quarter, from somewhere on the steep slope that bound the narrow valley. The slope, more like a cliff, was high enough that the shots couldn’t have come from its top; the angle was wrong. So the would-be assailant had to be below the rim. All Billy had to do was work his way to the top of the ridge and take the offensive.Strange, the way a man’s mind works in the brief lull, the one or two seconds in which he collects himself before taking action. As if he’d had an hour to study them, Billy noted the clear blue sky and the bright sun, the first he’d seen in a month. On either side, the astonishingly varied greens of the forest dazzled him. To his right, an ancient cedar felled by lightning or a slide lay rotting and covered with a bright, bottle-green moss punctuated by equally bright yellow-and-black fungus that looked like tiny hooded caps. And right in front of his nose, he saw what looked like the face of a bear outlined in the moss that grew on the boulder. But then, he’d always been the reflective son, the watcher. Brother Cole and Rachel, too, were always on the prod, ready to erupt in a dozen different directions.Now it’s my time to cut loose, Billy thought, and he sighed inwardly. He hated to leave the shadow of the boulder that had saved his life—but he crouched, gave himself a mental kick in the seat of the pants, and dived for the uncertain safety of the fallen cedar.A shot snapped over his head, another thudded into the cedar. Billy cradled the Winchester in the crooks of his arms and dragged himself by his elbows to the end of the trunk.“You ain’t gonna make it, you back shooting bastard!”The voice rang out loud and clear, deep and strong, like a weathered bell. Billy froze momentarily and searched for the direction.“But come on and try. I’ll take you any day. Back-shot or not, I’m still more’n a match for you and your kind.” The voice drifted downslope, runted by the moisture in the air.Back-shot?“What the hell have I ridden into?” Billy muttered. He had entered the little valley no more than five minutes earlier, and the way the mountains and trees and soggy ground soaked up sound, a pair of armies could have waged a battle a mile away and he’d have been none the wiser. He must have missed the opening round in this confrontation.Someone had back-shot someone else. The wounded man had lived and was now convinced he’d drawn a bead on his assailant. Now Billy would have to find this wounded rifleman and read him from the book.A good ten yards of open space faced him. The rifle above sounded like another Winchester. So his attacker probably had plenty of lead to spare. Might as well make him use some. Billy jumped out as if to run, then dived back. Sure enough another shot, and a telltale puff of smoke. Immediately, Billy snapped off a round and was up and running, far ahead of the single shot that followed.“Gotcha!” He grinned, landing on his feet in a narrow gully worn into the face of the steep slope by years of torrential winter rains. “And now, my friend, let’s see just who you are.”The climb was steep, but easy for one who’d grown up in the dry Southwest, where every twig cracked and every pebble rolled and rattled and gave a man away.From rock to root, now crawling and now running crouched over in order not to expose himself, Billy scrambled to the top of what he’d thought was a ridge but was in reality a wide terrace cut in the face of the mountain. And along that lay a logging road.A road meant people, so Billy took his time. Flat on his belly, his head barely sticking above the flat ground, he inspected the open area and found nothing more menacing than a huge gray jack mule standing about fifty yards to his left. At last, keeping an eye peeled, he ventured out and, at a crouched run, headed for the mule.The animal gave him a baleful glance and went about its business of demolishing a clump of grass. Sure enough, a few yards farther on, Billy found a groove in the mud and a broken sapling where a man had gone over the edge.Going down wasn’t as easy as going up had been. The ground was slippery, the angle more like a cliff than a slope. Billy moved silently from tree to tree, digging in his heels to avoid dislodging any rocks or starting even the semblance of a slide. He worked his way downhill, and at last spotted a pair of boots. Slowing, then, he took his time picking the quietest path to a huge boulder, and then, after checking his back-trail one last time, he stepped out with rifle at the ready.The man was lying on his stomach twenty feet away on a ledge no bigger than a bunkhouse table. His left shoulder, evident even under the heavy wool fabric of his coat, was humped awkwardly and his left arm lay straight along his body. His right arm held a rifle propped on a broken branch and still aiming downhill. His right leg was bent at a grotesque angle. He was bareheaded, his hat lying some yards upslope, and his shoulder-length, salt-and-pepper hair was matted with mud and pine needles. His black wool clothes were soaked and stained with mud.Billy studied the man and after a moment’s scrutiny realized that what he’d taken for a tear in the coat was a bullet hole, and that the color around it was the dull, ugly red of blood mixed with mud.Billy shouldered his rifle and sighted on the rifleman below. He thumbed back the hammer on his rifle. The audible click, though muted, was as effective as a shout. The rifleman in front of Billy jerked as if shot, and tensed, waiting for the shock of a slug tearing into his back.“If you’re thinking that I could possibly miss,” Billy said laconically, “think again, friend.”“What do I have to lose?” the man asked, his voice hoarse and bitter. “You back-shot me once and I don’t doubt you’d slither like a snake to do it again. Least I can do is take you with me, you son of a bitch, so make—”The older man might have been fast, at another time, but not under those conditions. His head rose and he tried to roll onto his back, but a dull popping sound in his shoulder brought him up short before he could move more than a few inches. Without a shot fired, he groaned once as his rifle dropped out of his hand. He collapsed in a dead faint.Billy sighed, shook his head in wonder at the courage, and foolhardiness, of the man. “Well, you got my vote, mister,” he softly said, and eased down to the fallen man. Wary of a trick, Billy drew his Colt .45, cocked it, then set aside his Winchester and kicked his assailant’s rifle out of reach.“You playin’ possum, friend?” he asked, nudging the man’s ribs near the bloodstained bullet hole with his toe.Not a wiggle, not a move. He was out like a candle in a sandstorm. Reassured, Billy eased the hammer off cock, holstered his pistol, and set to work. Whoever the man was, he’d come prepared. Billy removed a revolver like his own from the man’s holster. One boot held an over-and-under .25 derringer, the other a sheathed double-bladed throwing knife.“Okay, pardner,” he said at last, taking the unconscious man by the shoulder and belt. “Over we go, and let’s see what a feller with so much salt looks like.”He was forty, maybe fifty. His mud-streaked face tended to roundness, but the strength and determination and grit written in its lines dispelled any notion of softness, even in his unconscious state. He wore a thick mustache that sloped down almost to his chin and was, unlike his hair, almost totally gray. His shoulders and chest were burly and broad in the extreme, and sloped to slim hips and spindly legs, as if he’d been cast together from two different molds.Billy stepped back from the man and softly whistled. “What the hell,” he growled, more perplexed than ever before.The man’s coat had fallen open to reveal a gray flannel shirt and, pinned to the pocket, a five-pointed star, mud-streaked but gleaming in the sun. Anthem read the engraving aloud.“Town Marshal, Calamity Bay.” Billy Anthem’s would-be killer was a man of the law.Copyright © 1988 by James Reno. “Just a Note from the Author” copyright © 2001 by Kerry Newcomb.

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