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Dixon's Edge

Dixon's Edge

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Dixon's Edge

Longueur:
368 pages
6 heures
Sortie:
Jan 18, 2016
ISBN:
9781682139806
Format:
Livre

Description

In the late 1800’s, aging Texas Ranger Billy Dixon decides it’s time to turn in his badge and settle down with the Widow Tucker. On his last hunt, he rescues young Colt Patterson, an innocent victim from certain death. Billy takes him under his wing and teaches him how to survive in the harsh and brutal desert. The Apache tribe is crowded into the hellhole the white men called Bosque Redondo, where they are starved and treated like animals. Charley Tree, who has been adopted by the Apache Tribe, escapes and declares a one-man war against the entire white race. Billy and Colt are pitted against the horrific but compelling Charley. When they meet, only one can live. “In Dixson’s Edge, author Dennis O’Keefe paints a vivid portrait of the Old West, rich in authentic detail. He draws skillful contrasts between the harshness of his characters’ lives and their surprising moments of poignant grace and humor.” Jill Baer, writer for the Love Boat “Dixson’s Edge is a riveting saga that brings to life the Old West. Dennis O’Keefe is a gifted story-teller creating vivid original characters clashing with each other as they set forth on a dangerous path.” Golda David, Writer/Producer “It will have you on the edge of your chair.” Alan Caruba, Bookviews “O’Keefe’s novel is not the stereotypical western with bad guys versus the good guys. “Dixons Edge” is a story of psychological complexity about the connections between various individuals.” Henry Berry, Small Press Book Review “I highly recommend this book! 4.5 star rating!” Jennifer Leese, Storyweaver-Book Review Finalist in the 2000 International Writer's Network competition Winner Best Fiction, National Publishers Freedom Awards 2000

Sortie:
Jan 18, 2016
ISBN:
9781682139806
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur


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Aperçu du livre

Dixon's Edge - Dennis O'Keefe

Dixon’s

Edge

Dennis OKeefe

Copyright © 2015 Dennis OKeefe

All rights reserved

First Edition

PAGE PUBLISHING, INC.

New York, NY

First originally published by Page Publishing, Inc. 2015

ISBN 978-1-68213-979-0 (pbk)

ISBN 978-1-68213-980-6 (digital)

Printed in the United States of America

Table of Contents

Dixon’sEdge

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Two Hearts

Two Hearts

About the Author

Chapter One

Patrick Pappy Patterson sat on the wooden stoop of the clapboard two-bedroom house. The lump in his throat was so large it was like he had swallowed one of his five- hundred head of cattle that were being slaughtered. The gunshots had been going on continuously since midafternoon.

He could hear the pitiful moaning and bellowing of the panicked cattle. Even with their dim brains, they sounded as if they knew what was going on. Pappy was trying hard to hold back the tears as he watched his oldest son, Colt, who stood with both fists shoved deep into the pockets of his bib coveralls.

Colt stared out across the fields looking through the dust stirred up by the milling and running cattle.

The evening sky looked red through the dust. The sun had almost disappeared below the low-lying dunes of sage and mesquite when the shooting finally stopped.

The county sheriff, followed by the stranger from Austin, walked up.

Pappy could see the grim look on both their faces. Sheriff Grimes looked like he had just completed the worst duty of his life.

As he walked up to where Pappy was sitting, the sheriff took off his white Stetson and wiped his face with his neckerchief for a moment before speaking.

Mr. Patterson, I can’t tell you and your family how sorry I am about all this. I know how many years you worked building up this ranch and to have to destroy your herd this way, well dammit, it just doesn’t seem right. Hell, I never even heard of anthrax before last week. Not until all those cows out at Miller’s place started dying.

He motioned to his grim companion and continued, Mr. Stallings here says that we have to burn the carcasses and the fields where you had those cows. Mr. Stallings says that it’s possible that the anthrax could infect you, your family, and all your other critters. I hate to pile worse news on bad news, but I guess we have to get rid of your other livestock too.

Pappy just nodded his head.

The sheriff couldn’t bring himself to look at Pappy. He stood making a senseless circle in the dust with the toe of his boot and kneading his hat with both his hands.

Finally the sheriff looked up at Pappy and said with a slight catch to his voice, Ah shit, Mr. Patterson, I’m sorry.

He turned and yelled to one of his deputies, OK, Carl, round up all the other stock, including the horse, and drive them into the corral. Keep your own horses out of that field. Saddle up Mr. Patterson’s horses, and let’s drag those carcasses into a pile. When you’re done, shoot the horses and burn them too.

Colt couldn’t watch anymore. He rubbed the tears from both eyes using his dust-covered forearm and walked back into the house. He saw his father sitting on the stoop, staring straight ahead. Pappy and Colt were the only ones staying in the small house.

Pappy had sent Colt’s mother, Edna, and his twelve-year-old brother over to Hunt’s to stay. Pappy didn’t want them to be there to watch the destruction of twenty years of their life and all their dreams.

Colt had never heard of anthrax, but according to the sheriff, it must have come in with some Mexican cattle that his daddy and Mr. Miller both had bought.

The sheriff said the disease could actually get into the ground and could infect any livestock that even walked on it.

The man that the government had sent down, Mr. Stallings, said their only hope of avoiding an epidemic was to slaughter all the livestock and burn them.

They’d also have to burn the grass where any of the stock had been.

Colt thought, Hell, that was damn near the whole thousand acres. There was so little grass that the cows had to be rotated, using all the fields. Colt sat just inside the dark interior of the house looking out the front door. He couldn’t see Pappy anymore. He must have gone to talk to the sheriff.

* * *

Pappy watched Colt walk by. The boy was obviously trying to hold back his emotions. This was just too much for Pappy to bear. He and Colt had worked so hard. Every posthole, every stump cleared, and every strand of fence was dug and strung by his and Colt’s hands. Even the house and barn had been built by them. He was so proud of his son. He was proud of the rest of his family too, but there was something special about a man and his son, especially his first-born, building something together. Now, in just a few days since they got the news, it was all over. Pappy stood and walked the hundred feet to the barn.

* * *

Colt sat staring at the shadows. The shooting had stopped for a couple of hours while the sheriff and his people apparently dragged the cattle into a pile. A few more shots rang out. Colt knew that would be the horses. He could hear men talking, but they were too far away to make out what they were saying.

It was dark now, and Colt sat still looking out the door. He could smell the evening dust, and for some reason it smelled good. He could smell the house that had the fine scents of cooking, lye, and leather. He could pick out the other smells that were typical, yet unique in their own way, of every well-maintained house. It seemed to Colt that the personality of each member could be picked out just by the smell.

The night air soon carried the sharp acrid odor of kerosene. The smell soon became overwhelming. It wasn’t long before the fires of the burning carcasses lit up the night. Revulsion swept over Colt. He was drawn to the door where he looked out at the carnage. A huge fire was engulfing the cattle. A second fire was in the corral, burning their now dead horses. He could see smaller fires springing up all over the ranch. They were burning the fields. Colt went back into the house.

He walked into the bedroom and flung himself across his bed. He pulled the blanket over his head to keep out the kerosene smell and to stifle his sobs. Colt had no idea how long that he lay there. It could have been minutes or hours because he began to doze. He awoke with a start. The smoke had increased to the point he could barely breathe, and the heat was intolerable. The wind had picked up and was blowing toward the house stronger than it had been. He removed the covers from his head. The light from the window was a bright red from the fire and was lighting up the darkened room. The smoke was like a bright, heavy fog. He got up and went to the door.

The flames were leaping twenty to thirty feet in the air. It was preheating the grass in front of the main fire until it reached its combustion point. The fire would leap forward as the grass before it exploded. The ranch house was being threatened by the southeastern winds.

He ran outside looking for Pappy. Sparks and embers were flying everywhere. The thermal wind created by the fire was almost at hurricane force Pap! Pap! Where are you? He couldn’t see his father. Pap, I think the house is gonna go!

The roar of the fire was so loud that he doubted if Pap could hear him. He found a blanket and wrapped it around his nose and face. He again looked around for Pappy, but he was nowhere in sight. Colt ran through the smoke to the barn.

He went inside and froze. Through the smoke and light of the fire he saw Pap gently swinging. A sawhorse was turned over nearby, and the rope around Pap’s neck was drawn tight by his weight. His neck had stretched to twice its normal length and was bent at an angle.

Colt screamed. Pap! Oh no! Oh no! He ran to his father and cut him down. Pap was already stiffening up, and Colt knew that he was dead. Colt knelt by his father, cradling his head in his arms. This time he didn’t try to hide his anguish. He held his father and rocked back and forth, crying as he had never cried before. Slowly he came back to himself and lay his father’s head down. He noticed a folded sheet of paper protruding from his father’s pocket. He opened it and by the light of the raging inferno, he read:

Edina, Colt and Douglas

Please forgive me.

Pap

Colt crumpled the paper and shoved it in his pocket. He leaned over and again cradled his father.

Why now, Pap? Why now?

The crackling of the flames grew louder. The haystack outside the barn was burning, and it would be only seconds before the barn was engulfed. Colt picked up his father and carried him back to the house, oblivious to the heat and smoke created by the hell surrounding him.

He sat all night, watching his father. There was no doubt that the house would go next. Somehow he just didn’t care.

Colt dozed and when he awoke, it was daylight. The stench of burned grass, lumber, and cattle was heavy in the air, but the fire was out. He stood and walked to the door. He saw that the barn, chicken house, and corrals were only ashes. The fields were black as far as he could see. The charred remains of their cattle and horses could be seen scattered throughout the fields of blackened ashes. Smoke was still wafting into the still morning air.

Colt looked at his father. Pap, what am I gonna tell Ma and Douglas? That you hung yourself? You know you’ve killed her too by doing this. Pap, if we ever needed you before, we really need you now. What the hell am I gonna tell Ma?

Colt left the house and walked to what was left of the barn and toolshed. He rummaged through the ashes until he found the remains of a shovel, a hammer, and saw. He found that the ashes from the wooden nail keg had burned away, leaving only the nails mostly welded together.

He managed to scoot A few loose nails, shovel, and saw to an area that wasn’t burned too badly and allowed them to cool. He then walked back to the house and began pulling up boards from the front porch. He worked for over an hour before he started to feel faint.

He had no appetite, but he hadn’t eaten since the morning of the day before. He went into the house and, using a dipper, poured water from a bucket over his head. He found some cold cornbread in the cupboard and some cold beans, still in the pot, sitting on the stove. He ate the beans right from the pot.

* * *

Colt managed to build a crude coffin and laid Pap in it. For some reason, his father wasn’t stiff anymore. He dug a hole to what he guessed was six feet and laid his father to rest. He covered the grave with as many rocks as he could find. He took another board for a headstone and wondered what he would carve. He hadn’t had much religion and didn’t know what to say. He finally settled on:

HERE LIES

PATRICK (PAP) PATTERSON

BORN ABOUT 1818

DIED JUNE 12, 1867

He wanted to say more, but there were no words to express how he felt. He looked up at the sky, again knowing he should say something. God, you knew him better than most, but no one loved him more than his family. Dammit, God, ask him why he had to do it. Amen.

Colt went back in the house and began gathering the few things he would need for the long walk to Hunt’s. It was almost midafternoon, and he knew it would be after dark before he got there. He grabbed a long butcher knife from the kitchen, Pap’s gold watch, and the .56-50 Spencer from the mantel. He gathered a little food and a fresh shirt, rolled them in the blankets, and tied them with a piece of hemp twine. He removed a loose rock from the fireplace and withdrew a small bag of coins and some bank notes.

Colt poured the money into his hand and found twelve double eagles and eighty-five dollars in banknote. It was his father’s life savings He strapped on Pap’s Savage .36 caliber percussion pistol and two blankets from the bed. When he left, he didn’t bother even closing the door.

Chapter Two

Billy Dixon thoughtfully chewed on a matchstick as he tied his grulla and packhorse to the hitching rail. He had a lot on his mind and chasing fugitives played no part in his thoughts.

The duties and the dangers of being a Texas ranger didn’t lend itself to raising a family.

Being almost sixty, he sure as hell didn’t want to. Yet the recurring thought of settling down was becoming more and more frequent. He loosened the cinches of his two horses and tried to put the thought out of his mind. He shook the dust off his hat and stepped inside Captain Corbett’s office.

Captain Corbett smiled and looked up as Billy walked in. Even though he was Billy’s superior, he couldn’t help the feeling of awe. Billy Dixon was a minor legend throughout the ranger force and even those that disliked him held grudging respect for his courage and fair play. Rumor had it that a young ranger had remarked to Billy that, considering the many times that he’d been shot, he ought to weigh more than the one hundred and sixty or so pounds. Billy had retorted that the young ranger was right, but every time he picked up an ounce or two some asshole always came along and cut a piece off. Corbett handed Billy several fugitive warrants and asked, Billy, where the hell is your badge?

Billy took the warrants and said, In my pocket.

That’s a hell of a place for it. Put it on.

Billy said, I’d rather keep it in my pocket, if it’s all the same to you.

Just why the hell would any ranger want to carry his badge in his pocket?

Billy was studying the warrants and answered absentmindedly, Well, Captain, if I get lucky enough to find any of these characters, if I ain’t wearing no damn badge, I just might sneak up close enough to snag their ass. It gives me a little edge that way.

Suit yourself, Billy. You’ve been doing this longer than anybody I know. Any idea where any of those fellows are?

Billy chewed on his matchstick and said, Yep. Probably in Mexico by now.

Corbett dropped his feet from his desk and said, Now, Billy, I’m telling you straight out. Don’t go into Mexico!

He shook his finger at Billy and said, Now that’s an order! The last time you got caught down there, the governor was on me like stink on dog shit. Now I mean it. Stay out of Mexico!

Billy smiled and nodded as he stuffed the warrants in his pocket. Right, Captain. Stay out of Mexico.

Corbett followed Billy out to the boardwalk and said, I don’t want to see anymore heads in any pickle barrels either.

Billy unhitched his horses and mounted the grulla. He looked at Corbett and said, Right, Captain. No more pickle barrels.

As Billy turned his horses away, Corbett saw what appeared to be a pickle barrel tied to the packhorse.

He yelled after Billy, Dammit to hell! That’s a pickle barrel!

Billy turned in the saddle and said, No it ain’t, Captain. There’s not a pickle in it.

* * *

The cracking of a whip punctuated the still New Mexico morning as a mixed group of Indians watched in grim silence as one of their own received the lashes. Their only emotion was reflected in the empty sadness of their eyes. Charley Tree grimaced every time he heard the crack of the whip as it cut into the back of his foster father, Alchisay.

He knew that each blow should have been his, for it was he that had stolen the chickens and was so careless as to pluck them outside their wickiup. He watched his father’s body jerk with each lash. That was six, but so far his father hadn’t uttered a sound.

A steely-eyed sergeant, mounted on a horse, counted each blow. Finally Charley could stand the unfair punishment no longer.

He yelled at the soldiers, Stop! I stole the chickens! My father’s not to blame!

The soldier with the whip stopped and looked at the sergeant.

The sergeant looked at Charley and nodded. He said, I thought it was you, you little bastard. You could’ve saved us a lot of trouble and your pappy a lot of pain if you’d said so sooner.

The sergeant looked at the soldier welding the whip and said, Sorry, Corporal, but I guess we have to start over. Cut the old man down and strap this little bastard up. Give him five for each chicken.

The corporal looked at Charley with pity in his eyes. He turned to his sergeant and said, Begging the sergeant’s pardon, but that’s an awful lot for a kid. Ain’t his pap suffered enough for them chickens?

The sergeant studied the corporal coldly. He said, Make that twelve, Corporal. Another word out of you, and it will be twenty.

The corporal said, Yes, Sarge.

The sergeant said, "I want to see twelve solid strikes, Corporal. If I think that you held back on even one, you’ll be tied up right along with him.

The corporal snapped his heels together and said, As you say, sir!

They cut Alchesay down and left him bleeding in the dirt.

Charley felt rough hands on him as two soldiers lashed him to the wagon.

He looked down at his father who appeared unconscious. He was terrified. If six lashes had done that to his father, how was he to survive twice that? The thought had no more than occurred to him when he felt an incredible white-hot pain across his buttocks. The pain was so unexpected and intense that he screamed and wet his pants.

He heard the sergeant order, Higher, Corporal. He’s not being spanked, he’s being whipped!

The next blow was higher and even more shocking. He bit his lip so hard that it bled. He was determined not to cry out again. The fourth blow came. On the fifth blow he screamed. He screamed again on the sixth and seventh. He was unconscious when the eighth blow struck him.

* * *

Colt walked with a heavy heart, his moccasins making soft whistling noise in the sandy South Texas soil. The moon was high, and the white sand made it almost bright as day. He walked briskly, head down, listening to the slight breeze as it dusted the light powdery sand across the desert.

He walked until midnight, then rested and ate the cornbread and beans. Colt started no fire. He would only be there for a few minutes, and he knew that a fire could be seen for miles. The Lipan Apache hadn’t caused much trouble lately, but one could never tell. He heard the high-pitched barking of a coyote and felt even more alone.

He dreaded the task of telling his mother and little brother about Pap. He’d been thinking about the problem for hours. He decided that he would tell her only that Pap’s heart stopped. That was true. The fact that his heart stopped is what killed him. The hanging was only the way he made it stop.

Ma could always tell when he was avoiding the truth. Colt tried really hard not to ever tell a hard lie, but he’d tried to reshape the truth a few times, and Ma always seemed to know. Maybe he ought to just tell her what happened. Well, he’d decide when he saw her. Colt could tell by the stars that it was after midnight, and he calculated that he still had four or five more miles to go.

He shouldered his pack, picked up his rifle, and left.

* * *

Colt reached Hunt’s ranch about two o’clock in the morning.

Hunt’s two mongrel dogs came running out barking up a storm. The dogs didn’t know him, and he was afraid they would bite him.

A voice called out. Who’s there?

It’s Colt Patterson, Mr. Hunt. Call off your dogs!

Hunt called, Skeeter, Blue, get back here!

The dogs reluctantly turned back. Colt walked up to the house. He saw a lantern light and Orville Hunt on the front porch with his shotgun.

Hunt raised the lantern to get a good look at Colt’s face. What the hell are you doing here this time of night?

Another voice asked, Who is it, Pa?

It’s Colt Patterson. What’s wrong, Colt?

Pap’s dead, Mr. Hunt. I have to talk to Ma.

Mr. Hunt’s eyes widened. "Oh my Lord, how’d that happen? Myrtle!

Better wake up Edina! Come in, Colt. Come in. What the hell happened? Lordy, when it rains, it pours. Myrtle, I said wake up Edina and put on some coffee!"

Edina shouted, I’m awake, what’s wrong?

Colt’s here. You’d better come into the kitchen.

Colt and Hunt walked into the kitchen where Hunt put the lantern on the table.

Edina stood in the bedroom doorway looking at Colt, absentmindedly fumbling with the tight-fitting collar of her nightgown.

She looked directly at Colt, and her voice dropped to almost a whisper.

What’s wrong, Colt?

Colt had decided to tell her only that Pap’s heart had stopped, but blurted out, Pap’s dead, Ma, I guess he couldn’t stand what happened. He hung himself, Ma.

Edina stood for what seemed the longest time, not saying anything. Then she slowly turned and took halting steps back into the bedroom. Myrtle Hunt hurriedly followed her and closed the door.

Colt and Mr. Hunt stood in the kitchen. Colt was unable to speak, and Hunt didn’t know what to say, so they stood in silence. There was quiet mumbling behind the closed door and then a scream and wail that tore Colt’s heart out.

He started to go to his mother, but Hunt laid a hand on his shoulder and said, It might be best if Myrtle stayed with her. I have some laudanum. I’ll make some tea and put some in it. Maybe it’ll help.

The moaning and wailing woke Douglas and Mr. Hunt’s two teenage boys.

Douglas, wide-eyed, came into the room and asked, What’s wrong, is Ma crying? Is that Ma?

Colt reached out and took his brother in his arms and softly said, Douglas, Pap’s dead.

Douglas just stared at Colt. You’re lying! Pap’s not dead, why are you lying?

I’m not lying, Douglas. Pap’s dead.

Tears flowed from Douglas’s eyes and his face contorted. What happened, Colt? Why?

Colt looked at his little brother and said, I guess losing the cattle and all was too much, and his heart stopped.

Mr. Hunt handed a cup of the tea laced with laudanum to Colt and motioned with his eyes that maybe Douglas could use some too.

Colt took the cup and handed it to Douglas. Here, drink this.

Douglas pushed the tea away. I don’t want it! I want Pap.

Colt said, Douglas, you have to drink this. Please.

Douglas took the tea, drank it between sobs, and soon began hiccupping.

Mr. Hunt had quietly gone into the bedroom with Myrtle and Edina. Soon the crying and wailing stopped, and Douglas was asleep on the floor by the fireplace.

Myrtle came in from the bedroom. Edina is asleep now. What on earth can we do?

Colt just shook his head. He turned and stepped out the door. He went about fifty yards from the house and sat in the darkness. All he wanted was for the night to end.

* * *

The next day, Mr. Hunt called Colt aside. Son, I know your daddy borrowed a lot of money to buy them cows.

Colt hadn’t even thought about that. Yeah, Mr. Hunt, I think he put up the ranch and borrowed a little over two thousand dollars. I don’t see any way that we can pay it back.

Orville Hunt placed a fatherly hand on Colt’s shoulder. Son, when your mamma gets to feeling better, why don’t we talk? Maybe there’s something I can do.

Colt looked at him with surprise. What can you do, Mr. Hunt?

Well, it’s probably not a good time to talk about it, but you folks are gonna need something to get you on your way. Hell, I’ve always admired your property. It’s backed right up to the Nueces River and has good water. Maybe I could cover the bank loan for you and give your Ma a little extra.

Colt looked at Mr. Hunt, gratitude showing in his eyes. They’d already imposed on this family enough, and here he was not only willing to buy a ranch with tainted ground but was offering them a little extra.

He looked at his father’s friend and said, Mr. Hunt, I don’t know what to say. I reckon we’re gonna lose it for sure, so if you want it you might as well take it. Anything extra you want to pay would sure help.

Son, your daddy was a good friend and a good neighbor. I just can’t stand what’s happened to you folks. How about I take care of the bank and give you folks five hundred dollars? Have you got any kinfolks you can stay with for a while?

Yes, Mr. Hunt, Ma’s got a brother in Fort Worth. I guess Ma and Douglas could go there for a while. Maybe I could find a job in San Antonio for myself.

Colt looked at the man and said, Mr. Hunt, are you sure you want to do this? I mean, isn’t that ground tainted with that anthrax thing?

Hunt lit his pipe and took a deep puff. Well, after I heard about the problem with you folks and Mr. Miller, I talked to that man Stallings. He said that the fire ought to kill it, and somebody could put a few cows on it in the spring. I figure I could do that.

Just what is anthrax, Mr. Hunt?

Hunt puffed his pipe thoughtfully. "It’s some kind of thing like the plague.

Hits livestock real bad and sometimes, according to Mr. Stallings, it hits humans too. He said some people call it blackleg. I’m not sure myself, but it’s some real bad stuff."

Chapter Three

Frank Stallings had ridden all day following the events at the Patterson and Miller ranch. It was way past dark when he quietly rode into the light of the campfire near where the Cotulla and Annarose Road crossed the Nueces River.

The lone man sitting at the camp fire said, Get down and sit. I have some coffee.

Stallings remained mounted. No, thanks, I won’t be visiting. Do you have something for me?

If you’re Stallings, I do. The man at the fire got up and withdrew a small leather bag from his bedroll and walked over to Stallings. Stallings took the bag and opened it. He counted twenty-five Double Eagles. He put the money back in the bag, drew the drawstrings tight, and placed it in his pocket.

He asked the man, Why’d you want to burn the grass? You people knew those cows didn’t have anthrax.

The man said, The boss said to burn it because even if those boys figured out a way to pay off their loans and bought more cows, they’d not be able to afford to buy enough hay to feed them. He said he didn’t want them having any grass of their own. Besides, the boss said that the ashes give them nutrients or something like that. Are you sure that you don’t want any coffee?

No thanks. I have to go. Stallings quickly rode off into the night. He didn’t like what he had done. When he’d been approached, it had seemed a simple matter, and he needed the money. He had no idea that he would be involved in something that would destroy so many people. It was too late now.

What was done was done. He would have to stick with the anthrax story.

* * *

The next day Mr. Hunt and Colt drove Hunt’s buggy to Cotulla. Colt told the sheriff about Pappy and showed him the note. The sheriff’s face tightened. I just don’t know what to say, son. I feel like somehow I caused all this, but I had no choice in the matter. According to Mr. Stallings, an anthrax outbreak here not only threatened every rancher in the area but also could kill half the people within a hundred square miles. Hell, it was all I could do to talk him out of putting you folks and the Miller family in quarantine. I’m sure sorry, Colt.

Colt only nodded. He took a deep breath and walked outside. Hunt had stepped out the door and was waiting on the boardwalk. Well, Mr. Hunt, we might as well go to the bank and straighten out this mess.

* * *

Elroy Peoples, aka Sam Pritchett aka Doc Pritchett

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