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The wanted poster says Dead or Alive, but what do you do when the man you are tracking is the man who taught you everything you know about being a lawman? Former U.S. Marshal Bill Shackley has murdered the man who raped and killed his wife. It’s up to Deputy U.S. Marshal Sam Clayborn to bring him in. The job is made harder by the fact that Shackley is Clayborn’s foster father, having raised him from a small boy after Sam’s real father was killed in the line of duty. But that’s not the only problem. An old political enemy has hired Mas Lodi, the most dangerous bounty hunter in South Texas. to go after Shackley and bring him back … dead. The chase is on, and the Lord only knows who will live and who will die somewhere along The Goodbye Trail.
He rode easy in the saddle like he was born to it. He was tall and slender, though his robust upper body had shrunk some over the years and his skin had grown as dark brown as the worn-out leather of his high-pommeled, high-cantled ranch saddle. At sixty-two, former U.S. Marshal Bill Shackley knew he was pretty much past his prime; but his pride wouldn’t let him acknowledge that, except on those melancholy nights when he was bone cold, and all alone.
He hunched his shoulders forward against the cold rain that splattered hard against his poncho and dripped steadily from the edge of his wide-brimmed white Stetson hat. He kept his head bent forward enough to keep the rain off the tightly rolled cigarette that dangled loosely from his parched lips. The night was dark enough that Shackley could see the red glow at the tip of his cigarette flare up every so often, reflected by the underside of his hat brim. His tobacco was raw, loaded with small stems that burned brighter than the cut leaves he had wrapped inside the paper, and that caused an occasional flare to rise up, accompanied by a wisp of blue smoke that shot out from the tip of the cigarette like a tiny Indian smoke signal. Bone weary, Shackley kept his eyes cast downward, letting the black-as-night stud under him slough his way along in the mud. He didn’t have to lead the horse; Ol’ Roger knew the way to town by heart.
Lightening bolts ripped across the sky in continually overlapping patterns, followed by huge cannon blasts of loud, booming thunder. Streaks of lightning illuminated the gray-colored buildings littering the one-street town of Lone Tree. This way-station town in the lower marsh-covered area of the Texas Gulf Coast had sprung up around a tiny watering hole that travelers had christened Lone Tree Wells. The valley drovers who passed over the Eastern Trail on their way up to the railhead at Fort Worth had made Lone Tree a regular stopping point. Enterprising saloon owners, a grocery store owner, and a one-eyed drunken preacher had each taken up residence in Lone Tree. Along with them, a family of German farmers and an assortment of other folks who had come west to seek their fortunes had set up homesteads and grubbed out a living in the black gumbo mud that covered the area. All any of them ever found in Lone Tree was proof that misery loved company.
Shackley reached the edge of town just as the rain stopped its bitter downpour. He nudged Ol’ Roger through the muddy street and up to a hitching rail. He slid out of the saddle, still holding the reins in his left hand. Shackley landed with a squishing sound nearly ankle deep in the mud that covered the street. Holding on to the saddle’s hobble strap, he dropped down to flex his knees and get some feeling back in his legs before he stepped inside the Rose Belle saloon.
Book Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
No. of Pages: 186
Paper Weight (lb): 8.0
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