"Boggs is unparalleled in evoking the gritty reality of the Old West" -The ShootistJohnny D. Boggs is one of America's great Western writers-mixing adventure and realism with a torrid storytelling style all his own. In 1880's Arizona Territory a good man goes bad-but for the best of all reasons...He's Got One Chance To Live...And A Hundred Ways To DieDeputy U.S. Marshal Reilly McGilvern is hauling criminals to Yuma when his prison wagon is attacked and McGilvern is left locked inside to die. When another outlaw gang comes upon the scene Reilly McGilvern thinks he's lived to see another day...but his problems are just beginning.Bloody Jim Pardo wants to avenge the Civil War-and to steal the kind of weapons that will let him do it. Riding with his mother his trusted killers and two hostages Pardo thinks McGilvern is a fearsome criminal. Now to stop Jim Pardo's bloody madness McGilvern needs to play his part perfectly. And when the time comes make every shot a killing shot..."Johnny Boggs has produced another instant page-turner...don't put down the book until you finish it."-Tony Hillerman on Killstraight"Boggs is among the best western writers at work today." -Booklist
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September 30, 2010
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Excerpt from The Killing Shot by Johnny D. Boggs
That morning found him bleeding more than usual. "You gotta keep your head back, Jimmy," Three- Fingers Lacy coaxed him in her nasal, whiskey-rotted drawl. "Keep your head back, honey, till the bleedin' stops."
"I keep looking into that sun," he told her, "I'll go blind."
"Close your eyes, sweetie," she said, and pressed the dirty, blood-soaked handkerchief tighter against his nose. "Close 'em tight."
Reluctantly, Jim Pardo obeyed, but it didn't help. Ten in the morning, and the sun blasted like a furnace. Of course, she could have suggested that they turn around, so they weren't facing the sun, but Lacy didn't have the brains to figure that out. It didn't matter. His neck hurt. Keep this up, and he'd get a crick. Blind, with a bent neck, and a bitch of a nosebleed. Wouldn't Wade Chaucer and the other members of his gang love that? He'd be deader than dirt.
"I'm gonna need another rag or somethin'," Three- Fingers Lacy said. "This one's soaked through." She pulled the handkerchief away. Her tone changed. "I'm worried about you, Jimmy. It ain't never bled this much before."
She reached for him, but he shoved her arm away and slid off the boulder.
"Shut up," he told her. "Where's Ma?"
He pinched his nose, looked at the blood on his fingertips, then wiped them on his vest. Three-Fingers Lacy dropped the bloody rag onto the dirt. The ants would love that. He scratched the palm of his hand against the hammer of his holstered Colt, looked around, tasting the blood as it dripped over his lips. He cursed his nose, loosened his bandana, and saw how his words had hurt Lacy.
Hell of a thing, he thought, softening, and gave her a reassuring grin. "Don't fret over me, Lacy," he told her. "Nosebleed ain't going to bury Bloody Jim Pardo. Thanks for looking after me."
"It wasn't nothin', Jimmy. Ain't that what wives is supposed to do?"
His smile turned crooked. Wife. Concubine. Whore. Whatever she was. He rolled up the bandana and placed it under his nose, holding it there with his left hand, keeping his right near the Colt.
"Where's Ma?" he asked again.
"Up yonder with The Greek." She pointed. He had to tilt his head back again, but the flow of blood seemed to be slowing. It wasn't fair. Pardo never knew when his nose would start acting up. He had stopped six or seven bullets, plus a load of buckshot. He didn't recollect how many men he had killed, and there were prices on his head here in Arizona Territory, plus in New Mexico Territory, Texas, Missouri, Kansas, even California. He led a gang of the toughest black-hearts he had ever known. Seven men, plus his mother and Lacy, not including Bloody Jim Pardo himself. But his nose, and those cursed weak veins, could stop him cold, damned near put him under.
He checked his watch.
"Running late," he said, and swore.
"What if it don't come?" Lacy asked. "What if there was some accident?"
"It'll come," he said. "The accident won't happen."
With a wry chuckle, he pointed. "Till right there."
"Why don't you pour yourself a bracer?"
"It's nine in the morn, Jimmy. That ain't proper."
The smile and friendliness vanished. "What the hell do you know about proper?" He walked down the hill toward the Southern Pacific tracks.
They had never tried robbing a train. Banks, stagecoaches, mines, Army paymasters, regular citizens,
and wagon caravans, sure--so many times, Pardo had lost count--but never a locomotive, yet Ritcher had told Pardo about the payload, even suggested the place to pull off the robbery, and the Army major had never led them astray yet. Number 18 would be hauling passengers and an express car loaded with greenbacks for the soldier boys stationed at Bowie, Lowell, Huachuca, and every other post that stank of Yankee fools in the Sonoran Desert.
She would come charging around that blind curve, and the boys would jerk the rail loose, sending the locomotive and her cars crashing down the embankment, likely killing everyone on board, and thus making it easy for Ma and the boys to collect the strongboxes full of money. They could take anything of value off the dead passengers and be back in their hideout in the Dragoons before the blue-bellies knew they wouldn't be collecting their fifteen dollars that month and those fools waiting at the Tucson depot realized their loved ones were feeding buzzards.
With dead eyes, Wade Chaucer watched Pardo slide down the hill. Despite the heat, Chaucer wore a coat of black wool, a fine silk shirt, and red necktie accented with a fancy diamond stickpin. The coat remained unbuttoned, and the slim fingers of his right hand drummed a tune on the holster he kept below his stomach. His left hand emptied a cup of coffee by his black boots, and slowly pushed back his widebrimmed gray hat.
"How's your nose, Pardo?" he said easily.
Smiling, Pardo slung the bloodstained bandana over his neck, but didn't bother to tie the ends into a knot.
That would take two hands, and Pardo wasn't foolish enough to give Chaucer any notions, or chances. "I'll live," he said.
Chaucer grinned back. "For how long?"
"Longer than you."
With a shrug and a bow, Chaucer said in Spanish, "Vamos a ver."
They were opposites, and Pardo hated Chaucer for it. Wade Chaucer was tall, handsome, knew about good wines and champagne, wore a nickel-plated Remington, and could speak, when he wanted to, like an educated man. Pardo had even heard him talk in some fancy language. Latin, Chaucer had told him. Ma had never got around to teaching Jim Pardo how to read, probably because she couldn't read or write herself, though she often pretended to. Pardo couldn't make five-foot-four with two-inch heels on his boots, and he dressed like some saddle tramp with an old Colt that was beaten and scarred, but well-used. So Chaucer and Pardo despised each other but needed each other.
At least, for now.
Pardo pointed a short finger at the small fire a few yards away underneath a outcropping of rock, a blackened coffeepot on the coals. "Your idea?" Chaucer's reply came as a shrug, but the gangly man with the rough beard squatting next to the fire answered for him. "We rode hard, boss man. Ain't et nothin' since day 'fore yesterday. We figured coffee would put somethin' in our guts."
Pardo's right hand gripped the Colt, and he glared. "I'll put something in your gut right now, Duke, if you don't put that fire out. If that engineer spots our smoke . . ."
"The fire's small, boss man, and we built it under--" Pardo drew the Colt, but Duke started furiously kicking sand over the fire, spraying the pot and cups while he pleaded with Pardo that he was doing it, he was doing it, the fire was out, no harm had been done.
Glancing back at Chaucer, Pardo kept the Colt level. The black-clad gunman merely smiled and rose easily.
"Train isn't here, Pardo."
"It'll be here. Major Ritcher said--"
"What if it doesn't come?"
"Then you can help Duke build another fire and make another pot of coffee."
"Where's Lacy?" Chaucer looked up the hill. Pardo shoved the short-barreled .44-40 into the holster. "That's Missus Pardo to you, pal." "So you keep reminding me."
The flash of white light caught his eye, and Pardo was moving past Chaucer and Duke, stepping up a series of rocks. He saw the sunlight reflecting off his mother's Winchester.
"Train's coming, boys," Pardo said, his smile widening again, and he whipped off his sweat-stained hat, and waved it at the lookouts, turning, moving quickly.
"Duke, you sure those ropes are tied good?"
"Yes, boss man!"
"They'd better be. Soledad!"
Two wiry Mexicans in buckskins, appearing out of nowhere, suddenly slid down the hill. "You and your brother know what to do, amigo ?" Pardo asked.
"So," the older one, with the salt-and-pepper mustache and goatee, answered.
"Then do it. Come on, Chaucer."
Running now, sniffing, Pardo climbed back up the hill, kicking dust and gravel at Chaucer, who was coming up right behind him. Three-Fingers Lacy had found a bottle where he had left her, but she quickly corked it and dropped the rye in the brush beside her.
"The train?" she managed.
"Get to the horses," Pardo barked. "When that train goes over, it's going to sound like the world's coming to an end, and if those horses spook, leave us afoot, we're all dead. But you'll be the first to reach hell, girl. Phil?"