The third Western novel in my Ames Archives series, to be titled “Gold on the Hoof”, is complete, and currently going through the alpha/beta reader process. Look for it next month, God willing. (I’ll also be republishing new e-book editions of the first two books in the series. They’re currently available in paper editions.)
As a teaser for readers who like my Western series, here’s a brief snippet from the book.
The feed barn was a different matter. The proprietor smiled unpleasantly as he said, “Prices have gone up. You owe me a lot more than that now.”
Walt stiffened. “A deal is a deal, Mr. Eslin. You entered into a contract, and took money for it. I’m holdin’ you to it.”
“Too bad! Iffen you want your oats an’ grain, you’ll pay double what’s outstandin’ on that invoice, or I’m keepin’ it all.”
Walt shot out his hand, grabbed the front of Eslin’s shirt and hauled him bodily over his own shop counter. Yelling in protest, the feed barn owner swung a wild haymaker. Walt avoided it, then landed a hard kick in the man’s groin, doubling him over and sending him gasping and wheezing to the floor. He laid hold of his collar with the hook on his left wrist and dragged him out of the feed barn, then kicked him stumbling towards where he’d seen the mayor’s office.
As they made their way down the street, people burst out of their shops and houses to goggle at what was going on. The town marshal yelled, “Hey! You! What the hell are you doin’?”
“I’m taking Mr. Eslin here to talk to the mayor.”
“But you can’t treat him like that!” The marshal’s hand sank towards his holster.
Walt stopped dead in his tracks, turning to face the lawman, his own hand ready over his gun. “If you pull that, marshal, it’ll be the last thing you ever do. Instead o’ fussin’, why not come down to the mayor’s office with me, an’ find out what’s goin’ on?”
“I… ah… Hey! Wait for me!”
Waving his hands helplessly in the air, the marshal followed as Walt kicked and shoved Eslin onto the porch of the mayor’s office and through the front door. A big, burly man sprang to his feet behind a desk.
“What the hell is this?”
Walt waited for the marshal to enter, then closed the door as Eslin collapsed into a chair, half-sobbing, panting for breath. He glanced at the nameplate on the desk. “Mayor Dowell, I’m Walt Ames. Happen you’ve heard of me.”
“Ah… yes, Mr. Ames. We heard you were coming to El Paso to buy horses.” The mayor was staring in undisguised fascination at the steel hook on Walt’s left wrist.
“Lots o’ horses.” Walt gestured towards the street outside through the office windows, the view now almost blocked by pointing, staring spectators. “Small town, this, Mr. Mayor. I’d guess you’ve got less than a hundred fifty people, right? Maybe as many again, or a few more, in the Mexican town across the Rio Grande?”
“That’s Paso del Norte. It used to be one town with this, until we beat Mexico in the 1846 War an’ the river became the boundary ’tween it an’ Texas. El Paso became a city just this year. I’m its first city mayor.”
“Uh-huh. A place this small needs business to grow. I’ve brought twenty-five men with me, and there’s a lot more comin’. I was plannin’ to spend thousands of dollars on Mexican hosses over the next three, four months, based outta the old Baker place, plus a lot more on supplies – but now this sonofabitch is trying to cheat me.” He tossed the invoice and receipt onto the desk. “My advance party paid half up front. Now Eslin’s tellin’ me I have to pay double the balance to get my goods. If that’s the way your shopkeepers are gonna treat us, I’ll take all my money, an’ all my men an’ their wages, an’ all my business, and head for Las Cruces in New Mexico. It’s a much bigger town, an’ it’s only two day’s ride from here. I reckon they’ll appreciate havin’ a few thousand dollars in their pockets, rather than yours; an’ I can arrange with the Army to do business through Fort Selden there, ’stead o’ Fort Bliss here. What d’you say, Mr. Mayor?”
“Er… ah… I’m sure this is all a simple misunderstanding, Mr. Ames.”
“Uh-huh. Suuuure it is. Tell you what. Explain to Mr. Eslin, and every other business in town, that happen there’s another ‘misunderstanding’ like this, we’ll be gone. Eslin, get my order out to the Baker place before sunset, at the original price, as agreed. Two wagonloads of oats an’ grain, best quality, in sacks – and you make damned sure there’s nothin’ been taken out o’ those sacks, an’ dirt or gravel put in its place, you hear me? If I find anything like that, I’ve got a dozen Navajo scouts. I’ll tell them you’re the reason their hosses are gonna be short of grain, then I’ll let ’em come lookin’ for you. Believe me, you won’t enjoy it when they find you.”
The town marshal stiffened, clearly alarmed. “Injuns? You’d better keep them out o’ town, mister. Folks round here had too much trouble with Comanches and Apaches, an’ they won’t stop to ask what tribe your scouts are.”
“Sorry, marshal. They’re here legally, with permission from the U.S. Government. That being the case, they’ll come into town in small groups to shop. I’ll send a couple o’ my other men with them when they do, to sort out any problems. My scouts know it’s illegal to sell whiskey to Injuns, so they won’t try to go into the saloons. You just make sure they’re treated fair, you hear me? I don’t want to hear of anyone tryin’ to make trouble for them, or my other men. You treat us right, and I’ll do the same for you, and pay the fines for any of my men who get into trouble. On t’other hand, if you give them trouble for no good reason, I’ll hear about it sooner or later, even if I’m outta town at the time. When I get back, I’ll be along to talk to you about it. You don’t want to make me do that.”
“You can’t threaten me!”
“Ain’t threatening you, marshal. I never threaten. I make promises – and I keep ’em.” Walt’s voice was cold, flat and hard.
“I’ll pass the word to everyone, Mr. Ames,” Mayor Dowell promised. “With all the business you’re bringing to town, they’ll understand.”
Walt took his wallet from his pocket, extracted a dollar bill, and tossed it on the mayor’s desk. “While you’re at it, buy a drink for the marshal and yourself, and one for Mr. Eslin too. He looks like he needs a pick-me-up. It’ll help him remember not to try to cheat me next time.”
He turned on his heel and walked out. The three men stared after him in stunned silence.
This book has been a lot of fun to research and write. (As an example, the first mayor of El Paso after it became a city in 1873 was, indeed, named Dowell, although I’ve no idea whether he was anything like the fictional character I’ve chosen to portray in the novel.) I hope you’ll enjoy it.
I’ve also almost completed a fantasy novel, from which I posted an excerpt late last year; and the sixth novel in the Maxwell Saga is running along nicely. I expect to publish three books over the next four to five months, God willing. Two more are simmering on the back burner.