My new writing venture!
I am thrilled to announce that Hale Publishing have offered me a contract for ‘Six Ways of Dying.’ Release date to be announced.
Six Ways of Dying
Angelo was on his way to Tombstone when he struck up an unusual partnership with an old man, two hard-case brothers, their four hired gunmen ... and a treasure map.
But in less time than it takes to cock a Colt the whole deal went bad. Determined to get even, Angelo set out to track down the men who'd double-crossed him. But now he was saddled with an arrogant Cavalry officer, a column of raw recruits--and a beautiful girl with whom he'd fallen hopelessly in love.
They were no match for Ulzana, the Apache renegade with whom they crossed trails. Outnumbered and exhausted, they were soon at the mercy of Ulzana's renegades hat was the thing about Angelo. He didn't give a damn about the odds. If he had to go down, he'd go down fighting.
The Badge and the Gun
“Crissakes,” Elmer yelled. “You’ve busted my front teeth, you sonofabitch!”
“Well, if you hadn’t struggled so much, they would still be intact. Now shut up and keep still,” Branigan snarled as he secured his prisoner’s hands behind his back with iron cuffs.
Sheriff Joe Branigan wasn’t in the best of moods when he finally caught up with the outlaw Elmer Judd. Elmer, better known as ‘Dutch’ back in Lake County, had given Joe the runaround for over two weeks. Now that he had Elmer in custody, all he had to do was to get him back to San Francisco to stand trial. Joe was under no misapprehension that the task ahead was going to be easy.
It was late in the afternoon when he stumbled on Elmer’s camp, deep in the redwoods of Sonoma County. The freshly killed rabbit roasting on the fire was almost done as Joe poured himself a mug of coffee. “Perfect timin’ I’d say!”
“What’s that s’posed to mean?”
Joe pushed back his hat to reveal his grey eyes as they gazed upon the rabbit. “Well, you seem to have gone to a lot of trouble cookin’ this here meal. It would be a pity to waste it.” He tore off a hind leg and began chewing on it.
“Now just a doggone minute, you’re not gonna eat it all to yourself. Are you? I mean, I did all the hard work, you could at least share it.”
Joe took a large swig of the hot coffee and studied Elmer for a moment then said, “Now, why the hell would I want to share my meal with the likes of you?”
“It’s a long way to Frisco, mister. You’ll do well to remember that,” Elmer growled.
Joe tossed the dregs from his mug onto the fire and locked his disconcerting gaze on the outlaw. “And you’ll do well to remember, it’ll be easier for me to haul a corpse back to Frisco!” With that he ripped off a piece of meat from the rabbit and threw it in Elmer’s lap.
“And how the hell am I s’posed to eat it with my hands cuffed like this?”
“Anyway you can,” Joe snarled.
There was no further talk as Joe settled down for the night. He was a cautious man and left nothing to chance. In all of his forty four years of living and breathing, he’d never come up against anyone as cold as Elmer ‘Dutch’ Judd.
Propping his prisoner against a tree and have him tethered from his neck to his waist, to some might seem a little extreme. But that didn’t bother the County Sheriff; he’d no time for niceties and didn’t give a damn what folk thought of his unconventional ways. When it came to bringing in a wanted man, he would do what he had to do to get the job done.
He rested his head on his saddle pulling the blanket over his shoulders to keep out the night chill. Glancing over at his prisoner, he wondered how Dutch, a man in his early thirties and from a wealthy, stable family background, could accumulate such a ruthless reputation. It was even rumored that in his early teens he massacred a church congregation just to steal the collection box. Others would say he did what he did just for the hell of it.
With his six-shooter in hand and undercover, Joe closed his eyes and drifted into a state of slumber.
When the sun cast its light through the treetops, the sound of a breaking twig aroused Dutch from his restless sleep. There standing before him, were two of the most pathetic individuals he’d ever laid eyes on. Both men were dressed in similar fashion, grubby wool shirts and denim pants.
The taller of the two carried an old scatter gun which he had trained on Elmer’s head. “Well lookie here, Josh,” he said with a large smile, showing off his tobacco stained buck teeth. “If’n I’m not mistaken, I think we’ve got ourselves a Dutch Judd here.”
“You sure, Silas? Are you sure it’s him?”
“Oh yes, I’m sure alright. I’ve seen his face on many a wanted poster.” Silas said jabbing Elmer with the barrel of the gun. “I also know there’s a hefty reward for this’un. Dead or alive, so they say.”
“Yeah, well, you ain’t the ones that’ll be collectin’,” Joe said firmly, slowly moving into the open from the cover of the trees. He levered his rifle and aimed it at the two men.
“Where the hell did you come from?” Josh asked grimly, lowering his pistol.
Silas swung around and pulled back the hammer of the scattergun.
“Don’t even think about it!” Joe advised, leveling the Spencer at the two strangers. “I heard you two good-for-nothin’ sonsofbitches way back there. You made enough noise to deafen the sound of thunder.”
“Is that so?” Silas said, not taking his eyes off Joe.
“Yeah, that’s so. Now I’d be obliged if you lose your hardware and state your business?”
Josh crouched, eased the hammer forward, then placed the pistol carefully on the ground while Silas kept his stance.
Joe was becoming irate as he gestured for the man to put down his gun. “I won’t tell you again, mister. If you don’t drop that smokestack, I’ll…”
Silas grinned. “You’ll what?”
Joe squeezed the trigger and quickly levered the rifle. The bullet drilled through Silas’ kneecap, blood and bone exploded into the air as he buckled under with the pain.
Josh’s’ eyes widened, beads of sweat formed on his forehead. He dove for the pistol on the ground. Joe swung round and fired the rifle, sending a bullet crashing through the man’s skull.
Silas sat rocking back and forth, holding his knee with both hands as Joe walked over and kicked the scattergun away from temptation.
“I tell you what,” Elmer grinned. “You sure have a way of makin’ friends.”
Joe looked over his shoulder and grimaced. “Take a long good look, mister. Before we get to Frisco, you might be wishin’ either one of them were you!”
Elmer watched Joe as he went about saddling the two horses.
Silas used his bandanna as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. “You just gonna ride off and leave me like this?” His words fell on deaf ears. “Do you hear me, you sonofabitch? I’m in agony!”
Elmer laughed. “If’ you wantin’ sympathy, you’ll find you’re talkin’ to the wrong man. He don’t give a hoot about anythin’.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, mister. “ Joe snarled as he tightened the girth. “I care about getting you to Frisco … dead or alive!”
“My mistake,” Elmer said. “He does have feelin’s after all!”
Silas eased the pressure on the bandanna and the blood flowed freely. “Doggone it! I’m gonna die if’n I don’t get help. Have you no pity?”
Joe stopped what he was doing and walked over to the wounded man. He looked him in the eye then shifted his gaze to the bloody knee. “In my line of work, pity can get a man killed!”
“Please, mister, I don’t have a horse and I need a doctor. The town’s way down in the valley. I’m never gonna make it!”
“You should’ve thought about that before you and your partner decided to pull a gun on me.”
Elmer sighed wearily. “This is all so damn touchin’ fellas, but I’ve been propped against this here tree for hours now, and I’m beginnin’ to go numb from head to toe.”
“That’s nothin’ compared to what a rope around your neck’s gonna do. Now stop your whinin’. We’ll be outta here soon enough.”
Joe packed up his belongings and climbed into the saddle. He sat easy as he secured the rope which was fastened around Elmer’s neck to the saddle horn. He smiled inwardly, satisfied that his prisoner was no threat to him.
Elmer looked puzzled, coughing as the rope tightened against his throat. “How the hell am I s’posed to get on my horse?
“You expect me to walk all the way to Frisco?”
“You do, don’t you, you sonofabitch?”
Joe’s expression hardened as he tugged on the rope. “Always found a prisoner better walkin’ in front of me than ridin’. This way’ll save you from gettin’ any fancy ideas about runnin’ off.”
“What about me?” Silas barked.
Joe heeled his horse into a walk then turned to look over his shoulder. “If you can find the strength to climb up on Elmer’s horse, you might just make it into town.”
“I hope you rot in hell, mister!” Silas yelled.
The going was slow as they made their way down into the valley. Weaving in and out of the trees down the steep incline, Joe opened the top two buttons on his duster and reached into his shirt pocket for his tobacco. He bit off a sizable amount and began chewing on it.
A half mile down the trail, he spotted a young woman standing beside a one-horse open buggy, waving her arms to get his attention. It was obvious she was alone and in distress, but Joe didn’t allow his guard to drop, not for a moment. For all he knew this could be a ploy to help Elmer escape. It wouldn’t be the first time a pretty face had distracted a lawman to get the jump on him. No, Joe was wise to all of the tricks villains had used over the years, but it didn’t wash with him. If this woman was genuinely in trouble, then his instincts would tell him it was so.
As he reined his horse alongside of her, she quickly moved towards him. “Thank God! I’ve been stranded here for over an hour now hoping someone would come along. I think the axle’s broken,” she said pointing to the buggy. “I don’t know how to unhitch my horse, and besides that, she’s never been ridden, so God only knows how she would react if someone were to climb up on her back.”
She was becoming a little hysterical as Joe slid from the saddle. “Just calm down ma’am,” he said, not taking his eyes off her. She appeared to be in her late twenties. Her bustle dress fit snugly around her petite frame which emphasized her shapely hips and well formed cleavage.
She brushed her long-flowing auburn hair to the side with her hand. Her big brown eyes slowly looked Joe over, and then blushed as she met his gaze. “You must think me awfully rude. I’m Ruth Fletcher.”
Ruth looked nervously at Elmer then quickly turned away.
“Pay no heed to him, ma’am. He’s just a prisoner I’m taking to Frisco. He won’t bother you none. Ain’t that right, Elmer?”
“Didn’t know we were on first name terms,” Elmer scowled. “And how about takin’ these here cuffs off of me for a while? They’re so darn tight; they’re beginnin’ to take the skin off my wrists.”
Joe wandered over to him and eased the slipknot around the outlaw’s neck a little tighter. “Get used to them, mister, cause they ain’t comin’ off until you’re safely behind bars.”
Elmer winced. “Alright, take it easy. I get the message.”
Ruth stayed close at Joe’s side as he went to work, still keeping a watchful eye on his prisoner. “Where you headed, ma’am?”
“Well, we’re headed that way too, so I don’t see any harm in you taggin’ along. You said your name was Fletcher. You wouldn’t be related to Judge Fletcher?”
“Yes, as it happens, I am. He’s my father. Why, do you know him?”
“Heard of him.”
Ruth smiled. “I’m sure he’ll be very grateful to you for helping me out like this.”
Joe frowned. “Gratitude I can live without. What I need is to get this piece of vermin on the first train to Frisco without incident.”
Ruth’s eyes widened as she glanced over Joe’s shoulder. He saw the fear in her eyes and knew there was danger coming from behind. Before he could draw his gun and swing around, everything went black!