The Trailsman #389: Outlaw Trackdown

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9780451467218: The Trailsman #389: Outlaw Trackdown

Fargo is on the trail of a treacherous teen...

After Skye Fargo is tossed in the pokey for brawling in the town of Horse Creek, the last thing he expects is the marshal to ask for his help. The notorious Cotton gang—led by a fifteen-year-old terror—has robbed the bank, and they have to be stopped. But the Trailsman doesn’t know that the young killer has a very special reason for riding wild—revenge. 

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About the Author:

Jon Sharpe is the author of the long-running Trailsman western series, featuring the adventures of tracker Skye Fargo.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

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.

Wyoming, 1861—where a young killer has gone on a spree and has Fargo in his gun sights.

It isn’t every day a man starts a brawl.

Skye Fargo had no intention of starting one when he stopped at the saloon in a sleepy little town called Horse Creek. He had a full poke after being paid for a scouting hitch with the army and figured to treat himself to a bottle of Monongahela, a card game, and a willing dove, not necessarily in that order.

So when he ambled into a whiskey mill called The Tumbleweed he wasn’t looking for trouble. He was looking for a good time.

Fargo strode to the bar and smacked it for service. Not that he need have bothered. Other than an old-timer sucking down bug juice like it was the elixir of life, the only other patrons were three townsmen playing cards.

The bartender waddled over and asked, “What’ll it be, mister?”

Fargo told him and fished a coin from his poke and plunked it down. “Quiet little town you have here.”

The bartender had turned to a shelf, and grunted.

“What do you do for excitement? Watch the grass grow?”

“Haven’t heard that one before,” the bartender said.

“Had much Indian trouble hereabouts?” Fargo wondered. The Cheyenne had been acting up recently. They’d had their fill of the white invasion and were raiding homesteads and attacking stagecoaches.

“Doesn’t everybody?” was the barman’s response.

“I’m not asking everybody,” Fargo said. “I’m asking you.”

The bartender selected a glass from a pile next to a dirty cloth and picked up the dirty cloth and wiped it. “Our problem ain’t Injuns. It’s outlaws. They’ve hit three farms in the past couple of months and struck the Overland stage and got away with the money box.” He set the glass on the bar and turned and chose a bottle.

Fargo picked up the glass. “You call this clean?” He wasn’t fussy but there was . . . something . . . crusted a quarter-inch thick on the bottom, and a few brown smudges besides.

“I just wiped it. You saw me.”

“It would be cleaner if I wiped it with my ass.”

“Here now,” the barkeep said indignantly. “You’re not funny.”

“Do you see me laughing?”

The man looked at Fargo and opened his mouth to say something but seemed to think better of it and held out his hand. “Give it to me. I’ll wash it.”

Fargo watched him dip it in a bucket of dirty water and then dry it with the dirty cloth. “You’re something,” he said.

“How’s that again?”

“Forget the glass. I’ll buy a bottle. One that hasn’t been opened.”

“First you want a clean glass and now you want a bottle,” the bartender grumbled. “I wish you’d make up your mind.”

“I just did.”

Fargo’s tone caused the barman to stiffen. “I don’t want no trouble. I’m just doing my job.”

“A goat could do it better.”

Turning to a shelf lined with bottles, the barkeep muttered, “You have no call to insult me.”

“The bottle,” Fargo said. “This year.”

“Damn, you are prickly.”

Fargo snatched the bottle and opened it himself and tilted it to his mouth. The burning sensation brought a welcome warmth and he could feel himself relax.

“Happy now?”

Just then the batwings creaked and in came half a dozen cowboys. Smiling and joshing one another, they strolled to the bar.

One of them bumped Fargo with his shoulder and went on talking to his pard. About to take a swallow, Fargo felt his arm jostled a second time and whiskey spilled onto his chin.

“. . . heard that calf when we branded it,” the cow nurse was saying. “It screamed just like a female, I swear.”

“Peckerwood,” Fargo said, and jabbed the puncher with his elbow so hard, it rocked the cowboy onto his bootheels.

“What the hell was that for?” the cowboy demanded, growing red in the face.

“You know damn well.” Fargo sleeved his chin with his buckskins. “Bump me again and I’ll lay you out.”

“I’d like to see you try.”

Fargo should have let it go. That’s what anyone with a lick of common sense would do. But the cowpoke’s smug smirk was like a slap to the face. Then there was the unwritten law that you never, ever jostled a man taking a drink. “I believe I will,” he said, and swung.

Fargo nearly always held a bottle or a glass in his left hand. He liked to keep his right hand free in case he had to resort to his Colt. Or, in this instance, his fist. He caught the cowpoke flush on the chin and sent him tottering against the others.

They squawked and cursed and caught their friend as he fell, and then held him and glared while he shook his head to clear it.

“Here now,” growled a tall drink of water in a high-crowned hat. “What’s this about, Floyd?”

“He hit me,” Floyd said.

“How come?”

“Damned if I know.”

“Liar,” Fargo said.

The tall one glanced at the barkeep. “What about it, Harvey? Why’d this Daniel Boone hit Floyd?”

Harvey grinned wickedly at Fargo and said with a straight face, “He’s half-drunk and on the prod.”

“I’ll show you prod,” Fargo said, and hit the barkeep on the side of the head with the bottle. It shattered and Harvey screeched and clutched at his ear.

“Get him, boys!” the tall puncher hollered.

And just like that, Fargo was in cowboys up to his armpits. They came in a rush, cursing and swinging wildly, nearly tripping over one another in their eagerness. If they’d had the brains to surround him, the fight would have been over then and there. But they didn’t, enabling him to skip out of reach and move wide of the bar so he had plenty of room.

“I’ve got him!” a cowpoke cried, and let loose with what he must have reckoned was a haymaker.

Fargo ducked, countered with a left uppercut and a right cross, and had the satisfaction of seeing the cowhand go down like a poled ox. But there were still five left and they were plenty mad. Three pounced at once. He stopped one with a straight arm to the mouth, another with a jolt to the gut, the third by kicking him in the knee, and when the cowboy doubled over, kneed him in the face.

“He fights dirty!” one shouted.

“Pound the son of a bitch!” another urged.

Everything became a blur of fists and arms and faces furious with bloodlust.

Fargo was a tornado. Blocking, weaving, dodging, punching, he more than held his own.

A chair crashed to the floor. A table was tipped over. Two more punchers were sprawled on the floor and Fargo tilted another onto his toes and cocked an arm to stretch him out, too.

Suddenly the back of his head exploded with pain. A wave of darkness swallowed him and he was vaguely aware of the floor rushing up to meet his face.

The next thing Fargo knew, someone was whistling. He heard it as if from the end of a tunnel. A pale light appeared and he climbed toward it and grimaced when his eyes blinked open.

He was on his back on a cot in a jail cell. The cot had a musty smell and the cell was in shadow save for a shaft of sunlight split by the bars in a small window.

The whistler was over at a desk, his boots propped up, a tin star pinned to his shirt.

Fargo raised his head and gingerly felt the goose egg that had sprouted. His hat was on the floor and he slowly sat up, carefully jammed it on, and stood. For a few seconds the cell swayed. Or he did. “You didn’t have to hit me so hard.”

The man at the desk jumped as if he’d been pricked with a knife. His boots smacked down and he rose and ambled over, grinning. He wasn’t much over twenty, with hair the color of corn, and freckles, no less. “Heck, mister. It weren’t me that clubbed you. It was the marshal.”

Fargo moved to the bars. “How long have I been in here?”

“Not long at all. Wasn’t twenty minutes ago that those cowpokes from the Lazy J carted you in. The marshal made them do it and gave them a talkin’ to about disturbin’ the peace and fined them each ten dollars. They weren’t happy about that, let me tell you.”

“Why aren’t they in here with me?”

“Harvey over at the saloon told the marshal that you were the troublemaker, not them.”

“As soon as I’m out, I’ll go have a talk with Harvey,” Fargo promised himself.

“You’d best behave if you know what’s good for you.” The freckles shifted as the man smiled. “I’m Deputy Wilkins, by the way. Pleased to meet you.”

Fargo squinted and saw that he was serious. “Who is this marshal you keep jabbering about?”

“Marshal Coltraine,” Deputy Wilkins declared with considerable pride. “Luther Coltraine. Could be you’ve heard of him.”

Fargo had, in fact. Coltraine was considered one of the best. A Texan, he’d tamed the town of Brazos, the most violent nest of hard cases on the border, some said. Other towns, too. But all of them in Texas. “What is Luther Coltraine doing way up here in Wyoming Territory?” Or so some were calling it even though the legislature hadn’t gotten around to making it official yet.

“Why wouldn’t he be? Our town needs a lawman like everywhere else.”

“When do I get out?”

“That’s not up to me,” Deputy Wilkins said. “You have to ask the marshal.”

Fargo gazed at the otherwise empty office. “And where might he be?”

“Probably off visitin’ his gal.” Deputy Wilkins lowered his voice as if afraid of being overheard. “Between you and me, he’s taken a powerful likin’ to a certain young filly.”

“You don’t say.” Fargo had no hankering to stay behind bars any longer than he had to. “Why don’t you fetch him so I can pay my fine and get out of here.”

“I couldn’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“Bother the marshal when he’s courtin’? That’d hardly be po-lite.” Deputy Wilkins grinned. “Would you like somethin’ to eat instead? I have some crackers. And I’ve got prune juice to wash ’em down.”

“You are a marvel,” Fargo said. “But no, thanks.”

“The prune juice is fresh. My ma made it for me. She says that nothin’ cleans a man out like prunes.”

“Any chance I could have some whiskey?”

“You’re joshin’, right?”

“I was afraid of that.” Fargo sighed and moved to the cot and sat.

“The marshal shouldn’t be gone more than an hour or so,” Deputy Wilkins said. “He does his serious courtin’ at night and right now it’s the middle of the day.”

“Just a glass,” Fargo said. “Half full.”

“No and no. I never yet heard of a jail that gives its prisoners whiskey.”

“Too bad,” Fargo said. His head was pounding like a blacksmith’s hammer. “It would help dull the pain.”

“You’re hurtin’?”

“It wasn’t a love tap your marshal gave me,” Fargo informed him, and closed his eyes. He figured he might as well catch up on his rest since he couldn’t do anything else.

“I hate it when folks hurt,” Deputy Wilkins said. “My ma always says that when people hurt, you should help them.”

“Does she, now?” Fargo responded, wishing the deputy would go away so he could sleep.

“You know what? If I give you some, do you give me your word you won’t tell the marshal?”

From behind Deputy Wilkins came a growled, “Tell me what?”

Deputy Wilkins jumped so high, it was a wonder he didn’t hit the ceiling. Fargo almost laughed but then he got a good look at the man behind Wilkins and he sobered right quick.

Some lawmen didn’t look the part. Wilkins, for one. Once Fargo met a sheriff who resembled a plump turkey. Another time, it was a pasty pastry roll who would have been content to sit in his office day in and day out, stuffing his face with sweets.

Marshal Luther Coltraine looked the part. He was tall, even taller than Fargo, and his shoulders were just as wide. He had a powerful chest any man would envy, and a face that looked as if it had been chiseled from granite. His eyes were a striking green. On his hip was a pearl-handled Smith & Wesson. His badge was pinned to a black leather vest that matched his black hat.

“Marshal!” Deputy Wilkins bleated.

“I asked you a question,” Coltraine said with as thick a Texas drawl as Fargo ever heard. “What were you fixin’ to give the prisoner?”

Wilkins coughed and fidgeted and said barely loud enough to hear, “Whiskey.”

Coltraine’s jaw muscles twitched. “What’s my rule?”

“No liquor, ever,” Deputy Wilkins said, and went on in a rush, “But it’s for medicinal purposes. He’s got a lump on his head from that wallop you gave him.”

“And you figure to get him so drunk he won’t feel the pain?”

“No, sir,” Wilkins said quickly. “I was only goin’ to give him half a glass.”

“Not if you like your job, you’re not. Don’t ever let a prisoner talk you into doin’ somethin’ you shouldn’t.” Marshal Coltraine strode to the cell and Wilkins couldn’t skip aside fast enough. “What do you have to say for yourself, mister?”

“I want out,” Fargo said.

“I bet you do. But that’s not goin’ to happen until I say it is.”

“I’m a scout . . .” Fargo began.

“I figured as much, how you’re dressed. So what?”

“So I just came from Fort Laramie and was minding my own business when those cow nurses jumped me.”

“That’s not how they tell it, and the barkeep backs their story. Harvey says you were lookin’ for trouble from the moment you walked in.”

“Harvey will have some trouble of his own once I’m out,” Fargo vowed a second time.

“Talk like that will keep you in here for a month of Sundays.”

“Damn it, Marshal . . .”

Coltraine held up a big hand. “Cussin’ me won’t help your cause any, either. You’re too hotheaded for your own good.”

Fargo bit off a sharp retort. He might as well face the fact that unless he did as the lawman wanted, he’d be lucky to get out before Christmas.

“What’s your handle?”

Fargo told him.

The marshal looked him up and down and said, “Heard of you. They say you’re one of the best trackers alive.”

“I’ve had some practice,” Fargo said.

“I also hear tell you’ve had a lot of practice drinkin’ and playin’ cards and dallyin’ with doves.”

Fargo was sure he caught the hint of a grin, which was encouraging. “I admit I am fond of dallying.”

Coltraine chuckled. “I’ve done a bit of it my own self.”

“You’ve done what now, Marshal?” Deputy Wilkins asked.

Coltraine glanced at him as if he’d forgotten he was there. “Go to the general store and buy us some coffee. We’re plumb out.”

“Coffee? At this time of day? Usually you have it in the mornin’.”

“Our guest here will need some to clear his head.”

Deputy Wilkins scratched his. “I must have missed somethin’. When did he go...

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Book Description Signet Book, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Fargo is on the trail of a treacherous teen. After Skye Fargo is tossed in the pokey for brawling in the town of Horse Creek, the last thing he expects is the marshal to ask for his help. The notorious Cotton gang--led by a fifteen-year-old terror--has robbed the bank, and they have to be stopped. But the Trailsman doesn t know that the young killer has a very special reason for riding wild--revenge. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780451467218

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