A Tucson Kid Western #8
The Tucson Kid battles his way out of a town run by and for outlaws. Hoping for a rest, he rides into the sleepy village of San Ignacio. There he meets an old friend, a lawman who persuades Tucson to help him transport a murderer and a shipment of gold through bandit territory.
Unknown to the lawman, Tucson is carrying a map to a silver mine worth millions of dollars. During the dangerous journey, the Kid meets Black Rose, a legendary outlaw queen, who wants that map. Their epic battle over the silver mine extends across the southwest – a battle that only one of them will survive.
A twig snapped in the darkness; boots glided furtively across the sand; suddenly, muzzle flashes turned night into day, illumining bearded faces, hard eyes and mouths stretched to grim lines. The thunder of gunfire rolled across the mesquite-covered hills as bullets tore into the bedroll thrown in the cover of a gnarled oak, shredding the blanket.
As the two gunmen stopped firing, a voice as cold and hard as steel spoke from the bushes to one side, “Are you hombres looking for me?”
Grunting with surprise, the killers spun around in the direction of the voice.
Gunfire erupted again, but this time the muzzle flashes lit up a face gaunt and hard, with grey eyes shaded to the hue of molten steel and thin lips stretched in a cruel smile. Hot slugs ripped into the killers, their bodies jerked and shuddered as a chest exploded in a spray of blood, and intestines poured in a glistening heap onto the sand. Smoking guns fell from nerveless fingers as the gunmen dropped to their knees, then crumpled forward onto their faces in the blood-drenched dirt.
Tucson moved cautiously from the cover of the brush and walked toward the bodies stretched lifeless on the sand. As he came, his fingers automatically ejected the spent cartridges and reloaded his Colt .45 with the bullets lining his gun-belt. Gliding cat-like across the clearing, his tall, lean frame etched itself against the stars, revealing eyes that blazed yellow beneath the broad brim of his black sombrero, high cheekbones, a blade of a nose and a wide, pitiless mouth. His broad shoulders and deep chest were encased in a black leather jacket cut short at the waist, and his long, horseman's legs were covered in dark serge trousers. His gun-belt was black, and the smoking Colt in his right hand had blued steel and rosewood grips—neither of which reflected the light.
The somberness of his garb and his materialization from the shadows gave the eerie impression that he was a creature of the night; that darkness itself had taken human form. The flames flickering with sinister intensity in his eyes only heightened the impression.
Halting beside the bodies, he kicked their guns into the brush, then put his boot on the side of one man's head and rolled the face toward the sky. Sightless eyes reflected the stars. Then he did the same with the other. He didn't recognize either man.
“Bushwhackers...” he muttered contemptuously, in a deep voice, “...murdering and robbing anyone they found on the trail.”
Then he spun around, his Colt up and ready, as he heard a crashing in the bushes. A vague form was running away, stumbling through the clumps of mesquite, and Tucson moved out in pursuit. With no idea how many men could be lurking in the darkness, he went cautiously, his eyes probing the shadows. Then the retreating figure crossed an open stretch of sand, and Tucson saw a tall, lean man in a grey Stetson, a checkered shirt and denim trousers with two guns strapped down to his thighs.
He was running toward three horses tied to the lower branches of an oak tree. As he reached the nearest one, he ripped the reins away from the branch and leaped into the saddle. Jerking the horse around, he kicked it into a gallop. Tucson stopped and raised his gun straight out from his shoulder, thumbed the hammer, took careful aim and pulled the trigger. The man jerked and clutched at his left arm, then he sank in the spurs and rode on into the night.
Tucson returned to the camp where the two bodies lay. Barely glancing at the corpses, both of whom were already food for ants, he went to the bedroll and looked it over. The bullets had ruined the blanket, and he tossed it aside. Once again, he reflected, his habit of sleeping away from the campfire when he was on the trail had saved his life. Climbing back to his feet, he pursed his lips and gave a soft whistle.
Instantly there was a crashing in the brush as a huge black stallion plunged into the clearing. It was a magnificent animal, massively built, with muscles that bunched and rolled like molten iron, a coat that glistened in the starlight like polished obsidian, and a long, thick mane and tail. Tucson put out his hand and stroked the stallion's arching neck affectionately.
“Easy, big fella,” he murmured, gazing into the horse's huge liquid eyes. “The fandango's over for now, but we need to make tracks before anyone else comes snooping around.”
He dragged his saddle, blanket and bridle out of the bushes, threw them on the stallion, then swung up onto its back. Then, still without glancing at the dead men, he nudged the horse in the ribs and rode out.