After a year as an Arizona Ranger, young Sam Burrack has learned the harsh ways of the Old West-that when it comes down to it, people come three ways: good, bad, and dead. Hers"s on the trail of the Ganston Gang, who have rampaged across the state and killed a fellow Ranger. But the chase becomes something more when one of the gang, wounded and on the run, takes thirteen-year-old Billy Odle with him. Now, Burrack must stay ahead a posse of ruthless militia for whom murder equals justice, find the wanted man to satisfy his own sense of duty, and fight to save the life-and the soul-of a boy on the road to hellhellip;
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February 28, 2002
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Excerpt from Jurisdiction by Ralph Cotton
Ranger Sam Burrack lifted his duster collar against a blast of cold wind laced with sleet, then tugged his sombrero down tighter on his head. He knew he was too far north for this time of year, but there was nothing he could do about it. He'd been on the gang's trail too long to stop now. He couldn't just break away from the hunt and slink home like a dog with its tail between its legs. Besides, he was working alone now -- the way he liked it. Nothing against the other Rangers working under Captain Deak McCann out of the badlands outpost, but young Sam felt he always did better working by himself. He nudged the big Appaloosa stallion forward at a walk, keeping a wary eye to the distant northern horizon.
There had been two other Rangers with him at the start of this journey. Their names were Jake Early and Lawrence Wright. Now Wright was dead, the first to fall, a rifleshot lifting him from his saddle as the three of them rode down a narrow path out of the foothills. It had happened three weeks back, no sooner than they'd picked up the outlaws' trail and followed them across the badlands. Sam and Jake Early had wrapped Wright in his canvas riding duster and buried him beneath a mound of rocks near the remnants of the old Spanish mission.
"Don't worry, Lawrence," Sam had heard Jake Early say to the rocky grave. "No matter what happens, we won't stop till we bring every last one of them to justice. We both swear to it." He turned from Wright's grave and looked at Sam Burrack with steel in his eyes.
But young Sam had only nodded slightly and looked away, making no firm promises to either the living or the dead. In the past year, Sam Burrack had seen how quickly a man could play out his string in this vast, harsh wasteland. This land placed no particular value on a man's life, and it made no exceptions.
Sam stared straight ahead in spite of the stinging cold wind. This was not a land born of words and promises, and as it turned out, Jake Early should have kept his promise to himself or at least between himself and the rock pile that had once been Lawrence Wright. Jake Early was now fifty miles back, in Stanton, sweating out a rattlesnake bite that, if it didn't end up killing him slowly and painfully, would likely keep him laid up most of the coming winter.
"You'll get them. . . won't you, Sam?" Jake Early asked through chattering teeth, his tongue swollen, sweat running down his fevered blue cheeks. He'd taken a grip on Sam's forearm there in the doctor's office, and Sam had to peel his fingers back one at a time to get loose. "Promise me you'll get them, Sam!" Jake Early began to sob, the fever taking hold and screaming inside him. "For Lawrence Wright's sake?" His fingernails dug into Sam's forearm. Circumstance had turned Jake delirious, reducing his toughness to hopeless rage the way only this rugged country could do.
"I'm on their trail, Jake," was all Sam replied.
"They'll have the lines repaired before dark," the doctor called out as Sam slung his saddlebags over his shoulder on his way to the door. "You can wire for help, get a marshal and a posse sent up here."
"Thanks all the same," Sam said over his shoulder. "I best keep moving."