Read Outlaw's Reckoning Online

Authors: J. R. Roberts

Outlaw's Reckoning

Table of Contents
 
 
Wait and See
Clint leaned against a post just outside the Whitecap and watched what happened across the street. Mostly, he kept his eye on the kid to see how he would react to the men who were just about to get his attention.
If the kid was surprised, that meant he obviously wasn't expecting them.
If the kid was scared, he might take off running and give the gunmen a good laugh.
If the kid was stupid, he might just get himself killed.
The last possibility didn't set too well with Clint, but it was definitely something he had to keep in mind. Just to be on the safe side, Clint stepped over to another post so he could lean against it and watch the other side of the street from a better angle.
The kid definitely looked surprised as he turned at the sound of approaching footsteps. The wide-eyed expression on his face would have brought a smirk to Clint's if not for the glint of panic in the kid's eyes. That glint showed more than fear.
To the other two gunmen, that glint was like raw meat dangling in front of them.
Clint didn't have to wait long to see the kid do something stupid. The moment he saw Henry pull his shirt up to reveal the gun stuck under his belt, Clint was bolting across the street like a shot . . .
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Meet 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.
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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.
 
OUTLAW'S RECKONING
A Jove Book / published by arrangement with the author
 
PRINTING HISTORY
Jove edition / September 2007
 
Copyright © 2007 by Robert J. Randisi.
 
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eISBN : 978-0-515-14353-9
 
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ONE
A man with a fiddle started to play a waltz from his stool in the corner of the Whitecap Saloon. Although his playing was fairly good, his efforts weren't appreciated by the saloon's customers. As soon as the gentle tunes drifted from the fiddle player's instrument, he was met by a hearty round of boos and grunted profanities.
The fiddle player winced after he realized he truly wouldn't be able to play his song all the way through, and he reluctantly launched into a halfhearted rendition of “Camptown Races.” Much to his dismay, the fiddle player heard several grateful claps.
While that good-natured applause continued, the front door of the saloon was pulled open to reveal a young man standing outside. His light hair was tousled and his face was dirty thanks to the stiff breeze whipping through the town's streets. He had the look of the wild in him, which didn't catch many of the drinkers off their guard. The town of Birdie's Pass was a stone's throw from the mountains, after all, and many of the men who lived in Montana had a much wilder look in their eyes.
Once the drunks in the saloon got a look at the boy still standing in the doorway, they shifted on their feet and got back to their own business. The bartender took a bit more interest, however, and raised his voice after a few more seconds.
“Hey!” the bartender shouted.
That caused the young man to jump a bit and grab the edge of the door. He did his best to regain his composure by puffing out his chest and forcing a scowl onto his smooth face.
“In or out, boy!” the bartender shouted. “Folks come here to get out of that damn wind, not have it blowin' dirt into their drinks!”
Faltering a bit in his efforts to look mean, the boy took one step forward and paused. He let out a breath, dragged his other leg along into the saloon and then pushed the door shut. When the thick wood smacked against the frame, the boy flinched.
The barkeep studied the kid for another second and then turned to nod in another direction. After that, he got back to his bottles and glasses as if the boy no longer existed.
Glancing around, the boy ground his teeth and studied the mix of humanity leaning against the bar or hunched over one of the tables. Since nobody seemed to be looking at him any longer, he allowed the scowl on his face to drift away.
“Hello there, stranger,” a soft, gentle voice said from the boy's right.
When he turned to get a look at who'd crept up on him, the boy reflexively slapped his hand against a bulge under his shirt on his right hip. Fear filled his eyes, which was quickly replaced by embarrassment when he saw who'd spoken to him.
The woman was in her late twenties and had short blond hair that was cut to just shorter than shoulder length. Her cheeks were full and her eyes were smiling every bit as much as her thin, red lips. Curls of hair drooped into her eyes, which she swept away with the back of her left hand. Offering her other hand to the boy, she said, “My name's Shelly. What's yours?”
Glancing down at the hand she was offering, the boy reluctantly took his own hand from the bulge on his hip. “Henry,” he told her. “My name's Henry.”
“That's a good name for a handsome fellow like yourself,” she replied while taking his hand in a warm grip and shaking it. “What brings you to the Whitecap, Henry?”
“I . . . uhh . . . I'm looking for someone.”
She smiled knowingly while letting go of Henry's hand and running her fingers up along his arm. Shelly didn't stop until her fingers were slowly tracing a line along his back. Leaning in closer to him, she whispered, “Think you might be looking for me, Henry?”
Henry's eyes widened, and he turned to look at her directly in the eyes for the first time since she'd sidled up to him. His eyes were wide and clear as a pond. Although he looked to be in his mid-teens at first, the longer he drank in the sight of Shelly's body, the more years were shaved off of him.
Finally, Henry swallowed hard and softly replied, “I don't think so, ma'am.”
Turning her head a bit and giving him a stern look, Shelly replied, “No need to call me ma'am. You make me feel like I'm teaching you your alphabet.” When she didn't get a response from Henry, she asked, “How old are you?”
The decision of whether or not he should lie flitted across Henry's face like a moth dancing too close to a lantern. Actually, it was a bit more obvious than that. Realizing that he wasn't about to fool much of anyone, Henry replied, “Thirteen. I'll be fourteen in the winter.”
Shelly patted his shoulder and nodded approvingly. “Fourteen's a good age. A young man can learn a lot at that age.” As her hand drifted along his body, she allowed it to stray toward the bulge under his shirt. Henry flinched dramatically, so she pulled her hand back.
Almost immediately, her hand started moving to another bulge in Henry's clothes. This one, however, was a bit farther south. Shelly lowered her voice to a soothing whisper and leaned in close enough for Henry to be able to smell the lavender oil she'd put into her most recent bath.
“You here for a taste of whiskey?” she asked.
Although Henry's eyes were on the bar, he shook his head. “No.”
“Don't tell me you want to play cards. You'd be better off giving that money to me instead of handing it over to those cheats.”
Henry looked toward the card games, and his eyes narrowed to focus intently upon what was happening there.

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