Absaroka Valley by Lauran Paine

Absaroka Valley by Lauran Paine

Author:Lauran Paine
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Published: 2019-04-13T16:00:00+00:00


Chapter Ten

“I wish,” said Slattery when Jess was close, “the other ranchers could see you now, ridin’ out of that squatter camp.”

Jess made no reply. He reined up, as did Hugh Shannon.

Slattery put his sulfur gaze upon Shannon. His mouth curved in scorn.

“You too?” he said.

“Yeah,” Shannon snarled back. “And with good reason. We came here to avoid trouble if we could. To get those folks to move on.”

Slattery said a savage word, then returned his glare to Jess. “You can’t avoid trouble … either of you. Neither can those damned squatters. Look behind me. There are enough guns back there to clean you two out, and that nest of scum, too.”

“I wouldn’t bet on that,” said Jess. “And if you’re smart you won’t push it, Mike. There are close to twenty mountaineers in that aspen grove, all armed and waiting.”

Slattery contemptuously shot an onward glance toward the squatter camp. “Fifty,” he ultimately said, “and I’d still ride over ’em.”

“I don’t think so,” muttered Hugh Shannon. “These aren’t the same breed of cats as most squatters, Mike.”

Slattery swung his gaze back. “You’ve turned squatter lover too, I see,” he said to Shannon. “Well, you backed the wrong horse, Hugh. You’ll live to regret it.”

“Like Blaine Richards lived to regret it?” asked Jess. “Mike, I’ll ask you for the last time … back off. You’re in enough trouble as it is. Killing squatters here at Castle Rock isn’t going to do you any good at all.”

Slattery’s fierce gaze burned against Jess. “Blaine Richards had that comin’. He’s been getting’ between me and squatters for a long time. No man, not even you, Jess Bennett, crosses me and lives.”

Jess twisted to put a resigned look upon Hugh. Shannon saw and understood this look, and he shrugged at Mike Slattery without speaking but with unmistakable meaning. Whatever ensued next was squarely upon Slattery’s shoulders.

Slattery viewed those two in front of him for a halting moment, then he raised a hand. Instantly, one of those riders back a ways kneed his animal forward. The other rider did not move, but he did drop a hand casually to his hip holster and keep his eyes fully forward.

“I’ll give you both a chance,” said Mike Slattery, his face smoothing out, becoming still and inward. “Two to two. You and Hugh against me an’ Asa here.”

Jess looked at the rider called Asa. He became sardonic. He had never before seen this other man, but he’d seen a dozen just like him. Gunman. His profession was obvious in each move the stranger made after he halted his animal some six or eight feet from Slattery. He was a hawk-faced, thin-featured man with small round eyes that scarcely blinked. He sat easy now, on his horse, watching Jess and Hugh. He had recently removed a pair of gloves that now hung from his belt.

Mike Slattery looked triumphantly at Jess. He was savoring this moment. He was near to smiling.

“Big B,” he said softly, contemptuously. “The biggest cow outfit in the valley.



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