Val Darrant was four years old. It was a cold, snowy night as he was hustled away on a buckboards to be abandoned. But he did not die; he met Will Reilly. A gentleman, a gambler, and the best rifle shot in the West. Reilly was a man who knew the odds and played them. But what were the odds on taking in a frightened young boy
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April 30, 1985
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Excerpt from Reilly's Luck by Louis L'Amour
IT WAS DARK and cold, the only light coming from the crack under the ill-fitting door. The boy huddled in the bed, shivered against the cold, listening to the low mutter of voices from the adjoining room.
Outside everything was buried in snow. The window was thick with frost, shutting out what light there might have been. Once he heard boots crunch on the snow as a man walked back from the street.
Suddenly Ma's voice lifted, strident and impatient. "I've got no time for the kid! Now you get rid of him! Let one of those farmers have him. They all seem to want kids. Lord knows they have enough of them."
Then Van's voice, quiet, even-tempered as always. "Myra, you can't do that! He's your son. Your own flesh and blood."
"Don't be a fool! There's no place in my life for a kid." After a moment of silence, she added, "What kind of a life could I give him Batting around from cow town to mining camp Get rid of him, Van." Her voice rose sharply. "You get rid of him, or I'll get rid of you."
"Is that all it means, then I knew you were a hard woman, Myra, but I thought I meant more to you than that."
"You're a fool, Van. Without me, you'd be cadging for drinks around the saloons. You take him out of here right now, and get rid of him. I don't care how you do it."
The boy tried to huddle into a tighter ball, tried to shut his ears against the voices, to close out the growing terror.
"All right, Myra. I'll see to it."
There was a mutter of voices again, and then he heard Ma go out, listened to her retreating steps as she walked along the path toward the street. For a few moments there was silence, then the faint clink of glass in the next room; the door opened, letting a rectangle of light fall upon the bare plank floor.
"Val Are you awake We've got to get you dressed."
Anything was better than the cold bed, but he dreaded going out into the night, and dreaded more whatever was to come. He liked Van, and he trusted him. Sometimes when they talked Van referred to themselves as the two V's.