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First pages

1

The real problem with dynamite? It doesn’t work too good when it’s wet.

Which goes a long way toward explaining why Boyce isn’t too happy right now. Boyce is the leader of our little gang of outlaws. He’s standing over by the safe, his face slowly turning red. Just inside the door of the train car is Timmons. He’s soaking wet. Head to toe.

And so’s the bundle of dynamite in his left hand. Our only dynamite.

That bad feeling in my gut gets a whole lot worse. I let my left hand drift a little closer to my other Colt .44. If there’s one thing my useless pa taught me before he ran off, it’s that two guns are always better than one.

Which he ought to know, on account of how often people shoot at him.

“What in tarnation happened?” Boyce yells.

That’s a dumb question. It’s obvious what happened. The recent rains left a sizable bog by the train tracks. When Timmons tried to cross it, he hit a soft spot and went down.

Along with the dynamite.

I’ve half a mind to shoot him myself.

“It ain’t my fault, Boyce,” Timmons whines. “It was an accident. Coulda happened to anybody.”

“But it didn’t, did it?’ Boyce growls, advancing on Timmons. He’s got his six-gun gripped in his big fist. Just like we all do. It’s a train robbery, after all, and you don’t rob a train with toothpicks. Grady and I exchange looks. I can see in his eyes he’s thinking what I’m thinking, that Timmons is about an owl’s whisker away from getting some lead in his gut.

Timmons must be thinking the same thing because he takes a step back. But he’s standing too close to the open door and when he does, one boot heel goes off the edge and he starts to fall backward, arms pinwheeling.

Real quick I take a step forward and grab his arm. Maybe the dynamite can still be saved. Maybe it’s not as wet as it looks.

Grady, who’s guarding the door leading up to the front of the train, takes that moment to speak up. “No need to get hasty, Boyce. Won’t fix nothing to shoot the boy for being clumsy.”

Grady’s a solid man, about halfway past five feet, with a thick neck and watery blue eyes. He doesn’t raise his voice much, stays pretty calm as far as I can see. I’ve only been riding with these boys a couple weeks, but I guess I got a pretty good bead on all of them. A man needs that skill, in my line of business and considering my heritage and all.

“You sure about that?” Boyce turns toward Grady and his gun turns with him, so now it’s pointing at Grady. Grady’s eyes kind of slit down a little. Most men don’t cotton to having a pistol pointed at them.

“Ever’ minute we stand here is one minute less to run from the posse,” Grady says. As if to prove his point a couple shots ring out outside the train car.

“Who’s in charge here anyway?” Boyce says in a low, dangerous voice. “You fixing to give the orders now, is that it?”

For a moment I’m not sure what Grady’s going to do. I see the muscles along his jaw tighten and I get ready to jump out the open door. Being in a gunfight in the close quarters of a train car isn’t at all something I look forward to on an ordinary day. Bullets have a way of ricocheting around and tearing holes in all the wrong people.

Grady licks his lips kinda slow and shakes his head. “Ain’t like that t’all, Boyce. You know that.”

“I’d like to know,” Boyce says loudly, “how we’re s’posed to get that payroll out of the safe now. I’m open to ideas, you might say.”

He points his gun at the safe as he says this, in case any of us forgot. It’s one heckuva safe, I gotta say that. Made by the Hammerstein Safe Company out of New York, says so in fancy gold letters right on the front. It looks about as solid as a mountain. Once again, I consider jumping out the door. Just get on my horse and ride away. This isn’t going at all like we planned.

“You got any ideas, Grady?” Grady shakes his head.

“How about you, Slow Eye?”

Slow Eye’s guarding the other door, the one that leads toward the back of the train. He’s a skinny feller with one eye that never wants to point in the right direction. His hat is a shapeless mass of sweat-stained felt, shoved down tight on his head, greasy curls of black hair jutting in every direction from under it.

“Why would I know?” he wails. “I ain’t the brains of this outfit. I’m just here to shoot those you say need shootin’.”

“Well, I know this durned fool ain’t had a good idea since he was born,” Boyce says, dismissing Timmons with a look of scorn. “That leaves you, half-breed.” He looks at me. “You got any ideas?”

Now, that riles me right off. I don’t like being called half-breed, even if it’s what I am. A man hears that term used on him poorly enough times and he starts to take offense, you know what I mean?

But, it isn’t the worst thing I’ve been called since I left the tribe and started moving amongst the white man and I’ve learned enough to know that a half-breed with a thin skin dies fast out here in the world. So I keep how I feel off my face and answer as calm as I can.

“Yeah, I have an idea.”

“What is it?” Boyce snarls. He’s not a patient man.

“We take it with us,” I say.

His face twists up just like I knew it was going to. “That’s the biggest damnfool idea I ever heard,” he snaps. “Were you planning on putting it in your pocket?”

“You didn’t let me finish.”

“Oh, good, there’s more to your brilliant plan.”

“You have a lasso don’t you?” I ask Grady. He nods. “How about you, Slow Eye?” He nods too. Timmons nods before I can ask him. I turn back to Boyce. “We drag it with the horses. Haul it up that rocky knob off to the west and push it off the cliff. That ought to bust it open.”

For a long moment Boyce just keeps up with that poison mean stare he’s got, then he nods and one corner of his mouth quirks up a little. “That just might work. Not bad, half-breed.”

Before I can stop myself, the words come out. “I told you before, Boyce. My name’s Ace. Use it.”

I know I’m probably a fool to brace Boyce like this, especially when he’s already all riled up, but I also know his type. He’s a bully, plain and simple. Every time I let him get away with treating me like that it gets harder to walk him back. I need to let him know I’m not Timmons or Slow Eye that he can run roughshod over.

Boyce takes a step toward me, his pistol pointing at my gut. I don’t step back. My finger tightens just a smidge on the trigger of the Colt in my right hand. Just a hair’s breadth more and he’s getting a quick trip to boot hill.

“I don’t see how the two of you killing each other dead’s going to help us bust open this safe,” Grady drawls.

Boyce’s eyes flick to him, then back to me. “We might have us a scrap later,” he hisses.

“I’m not hunting trouble, but I won’t run from it either,” I reply. Fists, knives or iron, I believe I can take him. Growing up Apache like I did, I’ve been fighting since I could walk.

“Let’s get this safe out of here,” Grady says, holstering his gun and heading for the door. I step aside to let him pass, still keeping my eyes on Boyce.

“You heard him,” Boyce says, turning on Timmons and Slow Eye. “Get your horses over here and shake out those ropes.” He puts his gun away and brushes past me like he never saw me at all.

We pulled down our handkerchiefs after we got in the freight car and now everyone pulls them back up before jumping out. Don’t want the passengers getting too good of a look at us. Being an outlaw gets a whole lot harder with your face plastered on wanted posters from here to Mexico.

Gimpy is climbing down out of the passenger car when we get out, a bulging gunny sack in one fist. From the other end of the car Billy and Wilson get out. Up to the front of the train, keeping a gun on the engineer, is Terry.

Boyce spots Gimpy and yells at him. “You get that marshal trussed up good?”

“Ain’t no marshal,” Gimpy yells back. “Just passengers.”

That makes me uncomfortable. There was supposed to be a marshal on this train. I start looking around, wondering if he’s drawing bead on us right now.

“Are you sure? You better damn well be sure!”

“I’m sure! I reckon I know what a marshal looks like.”

“I don’t reckon you know what your own ass looks like, less you’re holding it in your hands,” Boyce shoots back. This draws a guffaw from Slow Eye. I think that boy is simple.

Gimpy scowls and limps over to his horse, tied to a tree along with the rest a ways back from the tracks. He gets called Gimpy because one leg is shorter than the other. He doesn’t like it much, but monikers like that have a way of sticking with a man regardless.

“Did we get anything good?” Slow Eye calls to him. “Remember, I want a watch.”

“I don’t know why,” Gimpy grumbles, still mad that Slow Eye laughed at him. “You can’t tell time anyhow.”

“Y’all shut up and get over here with your horses!” Boyce yells. He’s still standing by the freight car. “You too, Gimpy!”

Billy and Wilson come up then. “Where’s the bang?” Wilson asks. “How come I didn’t hear no dynamite going off?”

“Because that fool Timmons got it wet, that’s why!”

“What’re we going to do?”

Boyce waves off to the west. We’re not far from the Rockies and you can see the sharp bluff I was talking about plain as day. “We’re going to drag the safe up there and push it off. Break it like an egg.”

Wilson is tall and lean. Real lean. Like a cadaver. His face looks like God pinched it shut when he was born. He ponders this for a moment, his face screwing up tighter than ever. “You figure that will work?”

“How in the blazes should I know?” Boyce snaps. “But what else we got?”

Wilson’s got no answer to that.

“Get in that car and get ready to tie the ropes off on the safe,” Boyce snaps. Wilson climbs into the freight car grumbling under his breath. He might be the laziest person I ever met.

In pretty short order Timmons, Slow Eye, Gimpy and Grady have their ropes on the safe and are waiting for the order from Boyce. Everyone else is mounted up and kind of milling around. Still feeling a little jumpy about the missing marshal—my grandfather would have said what I felt was a rattlesnake lying in my shadow—I’m parked on my horse, Coyote, away from the rest of them, my eyes roving over the train.

That’s how come I’m the only one who sees the door on the other freight car slide open just a hair and a rifle barrel come sliding out.

2

I don’t bother shouting. If that’s a repeater and the man holding it knows how to use it, there’ll be four men down before they can so much as squawk.

Instead, almost like my Colt’s a living thing and it knows what I want, suddenly my gun’s in my hand. In the same instant I squeeze the trigger and the gun bucks smoothly. Behind the explosion of gunpowder is the ting of metal on metal and the rifle barrel jerks to the side and goes off.

The rest of the gang starts shouting, horses trample around, ropes get tangled up in legs, someone falls off, someone else fires his gun wildly. I nudge Coyote forward and he moves fast, bringing me up to where I can get a hold of that door with my free hand and slide it open.

What do you know? I just found the marshal.

He’s just drawing leather when the door comes open and he looks right down the barrel of my gun. “Hold it right there,” I say. “No one needs to get hurt.”

He lets go of the pistol and moves his hand away.

“Why don’t you unbuckle that gun belt and just throw it on out here, nice and slow?”

He tosses his gun belt and just about then Boyce and a couple of the others get their horses under control and out of the mess and crowd around the open freight car. The marshal has his hands up in the air. He’s got a bushy gray mustache, a leathered face and eyes that have seen a lot in his days. Those eyes are wary, but not exactly scared. He’s been here before and survived.

“Someone dig out a piggin’ string and truss him up, while I keep him from getting any ideas,” I say without taking my eyes off the marshal. I’d bet a two-dollar bottle of whiskey he’s got another gun under that coat somewhere.

I don’t know if it’s the stress of the day where’s nothing’s going quite right or Boyce just hates me that much and can’t stand the idea of a half-breed giving orders, but the next thing that happens is there’s the sound of a gun real close by and a little red hole appears in the center of the marshal’s chest. He topples forward slowly and spills out of the freight car.

I spin on Boyce. “What did you go and do that for?”

“Are you questioning my judgment now, half-breed?” His voice is low and rough and now his pistol is pointed at me.

Everyone goes very still, like there’s a cougar in the room and no good route for the door. Careful to make no sudden moves, I lower my gun. He’s got me dead to rights. I just have to hope shooting one man’s enough to get it out of his system. “You said we weren’t going to kill him.”

“He’s right,” Grady puts in. “Killing a marshal does nothing but make us a whole lot hotter.”

“What’s done is done.” Boyce gives me a look full of crow so big I’m surprised he doesn’t start laughing and puts his gun back in his holster. “He could have identified us.”

“Let’s get out of here!” Slow Eye yelps, his head darting around as if the posse’s already coming for us.

I look down at the marshal’s body while they others get horses and ropes untangled. That bad feeling in my gut just grew another head and it’s got teeth. I turn and look at the passenger car. Everyone’s crowded up and pressed against the windows. For some reason my attention is caught by a stout woman on the other side of fifty, wearing a thick wool dress buttoned up under her ample chin and sporting a lacy bonnet. Her eyes are as big around as silver dollars and she has a hanky pressed up to her mouth as if to keep herself from screaming.

She’s staring straight at me.

Hell, they all are.

Right away I realize something. They all think I did it. From the angle, and the way everyone was standing, they probably couldn’t actually see Boyce pull the trigger. Is that why he killed the marshal? Did he realize they couldn’t see him?

Even if they did see him, what difference does it make? I’ve got my kerchief up over my face, but the passengers can all see my hair, straight and black as a raven’s wing and spilling down to my shoulders. They can see my skin, enough to tell I’m not white. No matter what they actually saw, in their minds it has to be the Injun that killed that lawman.

They’ll cheer at my hanging.

3

Pretty quick we’re all straightened out and headed for that rocky bluff. It’s a good thing we have four horses pulling on that safe because it’s not the kind of thing that takes much to dragging. It leaves a big furrow in the ground and digs out whole clumps of grass by their roots.

For some reason this strikes Wilson as funny and he smiles real big, which is an odd thing on that man. He never smiles, like he’s afraid his mouth will crack or something.

“Lookit that,” he says, pointing at the furrow. “You could plant crops in that. Hell, we’re leaving a trail even Slow Eye could follow!”

No one else thinks this is funny, especially Slow Eye.

“What the hell’s the matter with you, Wilson?” Boyce barks. “You want the posse to find us?”

But Wilson just goes on chuckling to himself. Boyce spits angrily to the side and when his head comes up his eyes fall on me again. That little glint comes back into his eyes, like just after he shot the marshal. “Ever seen a man hang?” he says to me. And winks.

Now I know he did it on purpose.

I turn my head away and look on up into the mountains. The Rockies are something to behold, that’s for sure. There’s still snow on the big peaks, even this far into summer. Thick green forests blanket their slopes, dark where the pines and firs stand, lighter where the aspens are. There’s streams rushing down every one of those canyons, fish to eat, deer and bear and turkeys to hunt. A man could live up there and do well.

The smart thing would be to wait till the gang is preoccupied, then take off. Get shut of them before I’m too deep to get loose.

But I’m not going to do it.

I started this and I’m going to finish it. I’m stubborn that way. Or stupid. I’m not sure which sometimes.

The deeper truth is I don’t have a lot of options these days. Not after how my last job punching cows on the Bar T Ranch ended. I didn’t have a lot of options before those cattle went missing, and I have a lot fewer now.

With my share of the money in that safe, that payroll headed to the Wells Fargo office in Denver, I’ll have options again. I can take charge of my life. I can call my own shots for a while, instead of having others call it for me.

If that sounds like a poor reason to risk my life, then so be it. It’s my life after all.

Billy rides up beside me. He’s hardly more than a kid, with a little tuft of hair on his chin he’s way too proud of and a voice that cracks at bad times when he’s nervous. He’s got on this little straw hat without a narrow brim and he takes it off and wipes the sweat off his forehead.

“How long you reckon it’ll take before they get that train moving again?” he asks me.

Billy’s not a bad sort. He’s just a little excitable and when he gets that way he has a tendency to start flinging lead around in all directions. A person just has to be careful around him.

“About an hour probably. Maybe two.” We only tore up one little section of rail and only one side at that. Every train carries tools for fixing track and they’ll make short work of this.

“Then what? About two more hours into Pueblo, you think?”

I nod. I know where he’s going with this.

“That posse is going to be after us by nightfall. We won’t get but one chance at this.”

My thoughts exactly, kid.

Within an hour we swap out and others take over the pulling. I take a couple dallies around my saddlehorn with that rope and Coyote bunches his muscles and settles in to pulling. He’s not a big horse, Coyote, but he’s tough and strong. He’s got a lot of bottom, as they say, meaning he can just go and go. Best horse I ever had.

I call him Coyote because he’s the same color as one. I don’t know what his real name is because he’s never told me, but he doesn’t seem to mind the one I’ve chosen all that much. At least he only bites me sometimes. But that might just be his idea of a joke. It’s hard to tell with horses.

About sunset we make it to the base of the of the bluff. The cliff we’re counting on looks to be better than fifty feet high. There’s a scattering of rocks at the base of the cliff too. It should be enough to crack that safe like an egg.

We splash across a broad stream that runs pretty close to the foot of the cliff. Beavers have dammed up the stream just past the cliff creating a wide, shallow pond with a thick, black, muddy bottom. I look at the cliff again and back at the beaver pond and something unpleasant occurs to me. But I just shake my head and keep it to myself. I tell myself I’m gun shy is all, not surprising after the way this day has gone. Speaking up might get me shot. It was my idea to crack the safe this way, after all.

It’s almost dark by the time we sweat the safe up to the top of that cliff and haul it over to the edge. From up here the cliff looks a whole lot higher. When the safe hits the bottom, it’s going to be moving awful fast. It’s sure to pop right open. Something is finally going to go our way.

Boyce is a lot more cheerful now. He flashes us all his crooked, half-rotted teeth. “Here’s to being rich, boys.” He takes a little bow like he’s about to launch a new ship, puts his shoulder into it and heaves. At first the safe doesn’t move, then, with a crunch of steel on stone, it slides over the edge.

It free falls about thirty feet, hits a ledge and bounces.

You wouldn’t think something that big and that hard would bounce, but it does. It bounces way out and instead of hitting the rocks at the base of the cliff it lands smack in the middle of that beaver pond.

And sinks completely out of sight.

4

For a long moment everyone just stands there stunned. The safe is completely gone. Nothing to show where it is but a little muddy water, already swirling away. Maybe a couple of bubbles. That was some soft mud.

“Son of a bitch!” Boyce shouts.

Without any warning he lunges at me, growling, his arms spread wide. He’s got two inches and thirty pounds on me. I need some room to move. I step back—

Right on a rock that rolls under my foot. My ankle buckles and I go down. Boyce lands on me like a small bear, driving the air out of my lungs. He smashes me once in the face, but before he can hit me again I recover enough to twist, kick my legs free and buck my way out from under him.

He comes to his feet faster than I thought he would and now there’s a knife in his fist. But I’ve got my feet under me now and knife fighting is something I know. We Apaches just about invented the sport.

He slashes diagonally at me. I lean back, just enough so he misses, then grab his wrist on the follow through with my right hand and pull down. That throws him off balance and falling forward into me. As he fights to regain his balance, his chin comes up and that’s what I’m waiting for.

With my left I hammer him with a short, wicked jab to the ear. It hurts, getting hit in the ear. More than you’d think.

He staggers sideways and I drop down and with a leg sweep I knock his legs out from under him. He goes down on his face. Before he can recover I leap on him, driving my elbow into his kidney. He wuffs in pain.

I grab his right arm and jerk it around behind his back, twisting it up toward his head until he yells. But I don’t care. I’m sick of his shit. I’m going to snap his arm.

“Posse!”

Everyone freezes. Billy is pointing down below. I let go of Boyce’s arm and rush over to the edge of the cliff along with everybody else. Sure enough, there’s a dust cloud coming. They’re probably about a mile away, at least a dozen men and riding hard.

One thing’s for sure, they’re not going to have any trouble tracking us.

“How’d they get here so fast?” Timmons asks no one. “We should have more time.”

Who knows? Who cares? The point is, they’re here and we need to be somewhere else. Now I really am getting shut of this gang. Maybe Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are looking for new members for the Wild Bunch.

“We can’t leave without our gold!” Gimpy howls. “It’s ours!”

“I ain’t arguing with you, kid,” Grady says. “But they damn sure will.”

A general stampede to the horses begins. I take one last look at the oncoming posse and then turn to go.

As I turn, from the corner of my eye I see Boyce, his lips twisted in a snarl. At the same instant I see the knotted tree limb he’s swinging at my head. I try to raise my arm, but it’s too late.

The limb hits me square in the side of my head and I go down for a long nap.

5

“What do we got here?”

The voice comes from very far away. I want to ignore it and go back to sleep, but it seems important somehow that I don’t. Besides, someone is kicking me in the ribs and I ought to tell them why they should stop.

I moan and try to roll away. In my defense, it is a very defiant moan. But it seems to make no difference.

“Get up, damn you!” Hands grab the front of my duster and drag me to my feet. Someone slaps my face good and hard. I open my eyes.

“Looks like the Injun decided to join us,” a leathery face says. He’s in so close I can’t really focus on his face, but for some reason I can see the deep tobacco stains that run down from the corners of his mouth to his chin. It’s like the tobacco juice has carved ruts in his flesh. Definitely not what you want to see when you first wake up.

“Good,” someone else says. “I want him awake for his hangin’.”

Even half-dazed I know what it is that happens next. I feel the rope tightening on my neck. I’m going to die here, and it’s all Boyce’s fault. Though I never cottoned much to the preachers and their white man’s god, right now I sincerely hope there is a hell and that Boyce enjoys his stay there.

“Hold on there, boys,” a deep voice says. It’s one of those voices that sounds like it’s used to people listening. Natural authority. “The prisoner is going back to Pueblo and facing justice, just like anyone else.”

A chorus of complaints greets these words. Cries of “But we know what he done,” and “The savage don’t deserve to live” ring out. Damn it all. I just knew those passengers were going to be sure I killed the marshal.

“It don’t matter what he done,” the deep voice replies. “We have laws and we have judges and this is what they’re for. Take that rope off his neck.”

More grumbling and complaining. The rope goes away. I blink hard, trying to get my vision to work right. For some reason nothing looks like it should.

Tobacco-juice face slaps me in the side of the head and I go down. It feels strangely good. I could just lie here all night. If they’d let me.

But they don’t.

“Get him on his horse,” deep voice says. “Let’s get on back to town.”

Hands grab me and drag me over to a horse. Even through my daze I realize it’s Coyote. Good old Coyote. I knew he wouldn’t desert me. If only people were more like horses.

They throw me across the saddle and a new fear hits me. No way I’m going into town strapped face down across the saddle like a corpse. If they’re going to kill me, I want my last ride to be upright.

So I fight and thrash around until I can swing one leg over the saddle and sit up. Better.

Shit.

I’m facing the wrong way.

Before I can readjust my position though, more ropes are coming out of nowhere and tying my hands to the saddlehorn, tying my feet together under Coyote’s belly.

I don’t think I’m going to enjoy this.

6

There’s lots of things I don’t understand about the white man and one of them is his strange attachment to his hat. Most of them would rather lose their pants than their hat. They’re also oddly honorable when it comes to hats. The same man who will shoot you for looking at him cross-eyed, or gut you for a pinch of gold dust, will treat your hat like it’s a sacred object.

Which is why I’m not too surprised when, just before we ride out, someone picks my hat up and jams it down on my head. I find it oddly reassuring. I’m going to be hanged, but at least I’ve got my hat.

Maybe I’m starting to catch on.

Even with my hat, the ride is miserable. For one thing, it’s humiliating. I bounce around like a sack of flour when Coyote starts trotting. I can’t get my balance. I’ve got no way to get my feet in the stirrups. And it hurts. I’m going to have bruises in places it’s not polite to mention. Part of me wishes they’d just kill me now.

Tobacco-juice face rides up close to me and grins. “I’m going to have fun watching you hang.”

That makes one of us.

“Ain’t you got nothing to say?”

So you’ll have a reason to hit me? I’m not that dumb. But I know it doesn’t matter if I reply or not. He’s going to find a reason to hit me anyway.

He slugs me in the stomach, folding me over.

“Leave him alone, Randy,” deep voice says.

Randy looks at deep voice like he’s thinking of bracing him, but then he shrugs and moves away. “Whatever you say, Wyatt.”

Wyatt’s got a handlebar mustache just starting to fleck with gray. He wears a flat-brimmed, flat-crowned black hat and I can see the gold of a watch chain running across his vest. His eyes are dark brown and penetrating. I feel the urge to tell him the truth.

“I didn’t do it. I didn’t shoot the marshal.”

He claps me on the shoulder. “I don’t care, son. That’s for others to sort out.”

I see the glint of a star when his jacket shifts. “You’re the sheriff of Pueblo then.”

“I’m the sheriff, all right. Just not of Pueblo. I’m heading back to the Arizona Territory tomorrow.”

That’s too bad. I have a feeling I’d get a fair shake from this man. I shoot a look at Randy who’s taking a pull on a tin flask he pulled out of his pocket. Wyatt follows my look.

“It may not help you much, son, but you can take comfort from one thing. Men like that usually get what’s coming to them and it usually isn’t pleasant. There’s too many people out here in the West who don’t have the patience for his kind.”

“It’s something,” I say. “But I’d rather have my hands free and a head start on my horse.”

“I’m sure you would,” he says, not unkindly. “It won’t happen while I’m around.”

I sag in the saddle. I’m trying to stay positive here, but I can’t see much light no matter which direction I look.

“What side? Your mother or your father?” Wyatt says, surprising me. I thought I’d heard the last from him. I give him a confused look, then it hits me.

“My mother.”

“That’s odd. Usually it’s the other way around. What tribe?”

“Apache. Chiricahua Apache.”

“Tough sonsabitches. How in God’s green earth did a white man bed one of their women and live to tell about it? Or did he?”

I nod. “She found him half-dead with a bullet hole in his chest. He was running from the law. She nursed him back to health.”

“How’d she get away with that?”

“Chief’s daughter. And my mother, well, when she sets her mind to something…have you ever cornered a cougar?”

Wyatt gives a low whistle. “She sounds like quite a woman. Your pa still living out there with the tribe?”

“Nope. Pa likes gambling and drinking too much. He lit out years ago. I’ve only seen him once since then.”

“Is that what brings you clear up to Colorado, running with the kind of hombres who knock you out and leave you to the law? Are you looking for your pa?”

I shrug and give him my best flat face. I don’t like this talk all of a sudden.

Wyatt moves away after a minute. I don’t look after him. The truth is I don’t know why I left the tribe. I could say it’s because I never really fit in there, but that’s no more than a piece of it. I sure don’t fit in this world either. Though I do like wearing a hat.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

I was raised on a working cattle ranch in the Arizona desert. But don't let that give you any romantic notions of Longhorns, pistols and chuck wagons. Picture instead sway-backed horses, ancient, creaky trucks and falling-down corrals. Everything was either broken, or about to break. There was always too much work and not enough time to do it. In other words, instead of rustic, think rusty.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
This story is a cross between Indiana Jones and The Mummy. I wanted to write something fun, with lots of action and danger, but light-hearted at the same time.
Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
A.
Nothing! This was the easiest book I ever wrote! I had so much fun writing it. Ace is such a great character. He gets into all kinds of trouble quite naturally and all I have to do is follow along and chronicle it.
Q. This book is part of a series, tell us about your series.
A.
The series is just going to be Ace's adventures all over the Old West. He's going to meet every historical character I can think of and get into every kind of scrape. I'll be dropping chapters on my blog as I go, so if you want to follow the story as it unfolds...

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