November 30, 2011 Leave a comment
It’s not often you come across a female antagonist in Westerns, but Cotton Smith’s villainous Lady Holt in Ride for Rule Cordell is a triple threat—she’s smart, mean, and ambitious to the point that she’s just about got the whole of Texas under her greedy thumb. Only the Texas Rangers stand in her way, and they’ll have to form an unlikely alliance with a notorious outlaw if they’re to break Lady Holt’s stranglehold on the great state and its people. Get in on the action with this preview of Ride for Rule Cordell by Cotton Smith.
Texas Ranger John Checker saw the two gunmen coming in the darkness before they saw him. Like a cat, he dove toward the short buffalo grass pushing against the right side of the ranch shed. He rolled until he was lying chest-down in a shallow creek fifteen feet away. His long black hair brushed along the shoulders of his Comanche tunic.
Moonlight shivered on the dark water that fed upon most of his pants. He laid his Winchester against the edge of the creek itself. Hidden from the gunmen until they got close. Swiftly, he lifted the thong from the hammer of his short-barreled Colt carried in a reverse holster on a double-rowed cartridge belt. His hand gripped the black handles, carrying an embedded elk-bone circle on each side, and drew the fine revolver.
If they saw him, the short gun would be faster to bring into action. He froze in place as they came closer. He was certain they hadn’t seen him. A shooting encounter now might prove fatal for his old friend, Emmett Gardner. The smarter move was to determine what exactly was going on and where.
He and fellow Ranger A. J. Bartlett had come as soon as they received the wire from the gray-haired rancher. The two Rangers had hit town and learned from a loose-lipped cowboy that Lady Holt riders would descend on Gardner’s ranch tonight. They stayed only long enough to get fresh horses.
Right now, Bartlet twas somewhere on the other side of the ranch yard, waiting for Checker’s signal to close in. If he wasn’t fussing with his new socks; things like that mattered greatly to his partner. He even kept a detailed journal of recipes of meals that could be prepared on the trail. Probably the result of growing up with schoolteacher parents.
So far, there had been no shooting. Most likely, this meant the old rancher and his sons had been surprised and subdued. Or it could signify something worse. A lone light in the ranch house gave no clue to what was happening inside, but Checker thought it was encouraging. He wasn’t certain how many gunmen were at the ranch, but guessed it was ten to twelve. Bartlett was uncomfortable with any estimate, especially one like that; Checker reminded him they wouldn’t know for certain until the attack was over.
The two gunmen finally stopped and stood above him on the grassy bank. Their rifles were carried casually in crossed arms. Both were looking back toward the ranch house. It appeared their only objective was to stay out of the way of others.
Checker dared not lift his head enough to see them any better. He had learned well from Stands-In-Thunder how a man could remain unseen by his enemies when actually in plain sight. No movement was the first requirement.
Courage was the second.
Third was to avoid staring directly at the person; such eye contact would often make the man realize he was being watched.
Ranger reports indicated Lady Holt had forty gunmen in her employ, including the notorious Tapan Moore and the half-breed Luke Dimitry. Were they all here? He didn’t think anything near that, but wasn’t certain. So far, his first guess of ten to twelve seemed right. Forty gunmen didn’t count all the regular cowboys who handled her vast herds. There was little in this part of Texas the English woman didn’t own—or control. There was talk of her employing the new devil’s rope to stop open grazing. Barbed wire would change everything, most agreed—and few liked the idea.
The two gunmen’s conversation was casual in the tense darkness.
“Looks like the ol’ lady’s gonna get her wish.Gardner’s spread’ll make it just about complete. The ol’ man’s got some fine water. Grazin’ land ain’t bad, neither. Sil said he’s gonna make him sign over his place—or start hangin’ his sons.”