He came to the valley of the whispering wind a man who rode with the caution born of riding long on strange trails in a land untamed and restless with danger. Kilkenny could find no peace in the valley, for he came with a reputation for a lightning draw. Eager gunmen arose like coyotes to test him. One trigger happy victim was a Tetlow. Old man Tetlow was a hard man driven by greed to build a cattle empire. Now he would use every ruthless killer he could hire to fulfill an even more powerful urge--to destroy Kilkenny.
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December 31, 1981
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Excerpt from Kilkenny by Louis L'Amour
TO CLIFTON HOUSE on the Canadian came a lone rider on a long-legged buckskin. He was a green-eyed man wearing a flat-crowned, flat-brimmed black hat, black shirt and chaps. The Barlow & Sanderson Stage had just pulled in when the rider came out of the lava country, skirting the foothills of the Sangre de Cristos.
He was riding easy when they first saw him but his horse was dust-coated and the sweat had dried on him. The man had a tear in his shirt sleeve and a bloody bandage on his side. He rode directly to the stable and dismounted, caring first for his horse.
Only then did he turn and glance toward the House. He wore two tied-down guns. Pulling his hat lower he crossed the hard-packed earth and entered the house. "I could use some grub," he said, "a meal now and supplies to go."
"We got anything you need. We're feedin' the stage crowd now. Go on in."
He paused at the door and studied the room before going in. There were six passengers from the stage. Two women and four men, and there were a few riders from the valley roundup and three men from a trail herd crew. Face by face he studied them. Only then did he seat himself.
The tall girl from the stage lifted her eyes and looked across the table at him, her eyes alive with curiosity as she saw the bloody bandage. None of the men appeared to notice anything, and she filled her cup again and tried her coffee. It was hot, black, and strong.
Her eyes went again to the man in black. He had removed his hat when he seated himself and she noticed that his hair was black and curly. He was a lean, powerfully built man, probably larger than he looked while seated. Her eyes trailed again to the bandage.
"You... you've hurt yourself!" she exclaimed. "Your shoulder!"
Embarrassed and irritated, he glanced up. "It's a scratch," he said hastily. "It's all right."
"It looks like more than a scratch to me," she persisted. "You had better have it cared for."
"Thanks," he said, his voice a shade grim now, "I shall."
There was silence for a few minutes, and then from down the table somebody said, "Don't yuh wished yuh was scratched, Ike Mebbe the lady would fix it for yuh."
The tall man flushed slightly but said nothing, but from down the table came a new voice. "Whatever it was scratched him," the voice said, "it looks like it hit him runnin' away!"
The dead silence that followed saw the tall man turn pale and cold. He lifted his head, his green eyes going down the table to the man who had spoken. He was a tough, handsome youngster with a look of eager recklessness about him. "If you were jokin'," the tall man said, "say so."
The man beside the tall man ducked suddenly and rolled off the bench, while others drew back from the blond young man. The youngster got slowly to his feet. "I wasn't jokin'," he said, with a faint sneer. "It looks to me like you was runnin' away."
As he spoke he went for his gun, and what happened then was seen with utter, piercing clarity by all who watched. The tall man seemed deliberately to wait, to hesitate the split second it took for the blond young man's hand to strike the butt of his gun. Then he palmed his own gun and shot.
The blond man staggered, his gun, half-drawn when the shot struck him, slid back into the holster. The man backed up, sat down, and rolled over on his face, coughing blood and death.