Western Wednesdays—CROW BAIT by Robert J. Randisi + Giveaway

I love the title of Robert J. Randisi’s latest—Crow Bait. A phrase which connotes weakness, vulnerability, feebleness, and yet as a title, these two words gain power and strength and hidden meaning. As a title, it connotes underdog, and who doesn’t love to root for the underdog?

Preview the first three chapters of Crow Bait and let us know who some of your favorite underdogs are, be they in literature, film, sports, etc. and be entered to win a copy of Crow Bait.

Happy Reading,
Allison Carroll
Dorchester Publishing

 

 

 

CROWBAIT by Robert J. Randisi

crow bait—an emaciated horse likely to become carrion and so attractive to crows.

Chapter One

The Mojave Desert, Colorado, 1888

He stared at the sky for a while.

Until he saw one buzzard joined by another, then a third.

Time to move, Lancaster. No time to die.

The problem was, he didn’t remember how he had gotten where he was—lying on his back with pain in quite a few parts of his body—especially his head.

Okay, he thought, time to sit up and take stock.

With a groan he worked himself to a seated position, looked around. Nothing but some shrubbery, a few leafless trees, and hard, cracked ground. No other people in sight. The only thing he could see was a dead horse—his horse—lying a few feet away from him. No saddle.

He looked down at himself, checking for bullet wounds. There was some blood but didn’t seem to be any holes. His head was pounding, his jaw ached, as did his ribs.

He gave some thought to trying to get to his feet, but his head started to spin so he settled back down on his butt and tried to remember what had happened to put him in this position . . .

He remembered riding through theNevadadesert on his way to . . . well, where he was going—and to do what—wouldn’t come to him. Maybe later. He could have used some water, but he looked around and there was no canteen anywhere . . .

. . . he was riding through the desert, heading somewhere, when suddenly there was a shot and his horse went down. Thinking back, he thought he’d felt the impact of the bullet on the animal beneath him. The horse barely had time to quiver before it went down and died. Luckily, he’d been quick enough to throw himself free before he could become pinned beneath the carcass.

But even as he went for his gun, he was suddenly surrounded by men with their weapons already in their hands. Three men . . .

. . . okay, now it was coming back to him. Without a word the three men attacked him. They could easily have killed him, but instead they began to kick him. All three of them, viciously inflicting pain and damage with their boots. No words, no explanation. At some point his gun had gone flying, and he mercifully lost consciousness . . .

He looked around now, but there was no sight of his pistol or his rifle. He held his head in his hands.

. . . he recalled regaining consciousness while the men were stripping his saddle from his dead horse. They then came to him and took his gun belt, and his boots . . .

His boots? He took his head out of his hands and looked at his feet. No boots, just socks. It was just getting worse.

. . . they rolled him over, went through his pockets, took whatever money was there, then kicked him a few more times for good measure . . .

 . . . he woke once more while they were talking, but for some reason he couldn’t hear them. And his vision was blurry. He saw . . . something, but couldn’t quite figure out what it was.

Then he heard . . .

“. . . kill him,” someone said. “It would be easier . . .bullet in the head . . .”

“No,” someone else said. “ . . . not the way . . .supposed to be . . .”

“ . . . desert will take care . . .

“ . . . awake . . .”

They noticed he was awake. He saw one of them step forward and knew another kick was coming, but couldn’t do anything to avoid it . . .

Somebody said, “Sweet, don’t . . .’

 . . . a kick to the head knocked him out . . . again . . .

He sat there, still trying to remember. It came to him in pieces, but the pieces wouldn’t fit together. He probed and prodded his body. His jaw hurt, but it didn’t appear broken. He couldn’t say the same for his ribs. Had to be one or two of them that were cracked. He flexed his arms and legs, found that they worked. Why hadn’t they broken one or more of his limbs? That really would have left him in bad shape.

He looked at his feet. Nothing wrong there, except for his toes peeking out of some holes in his socks.

He took a deep breath. It was finally time for him to try getting to his feet.

The first time he almost made it, but his head swam and he staggered, sat back down

Tried again, slowly.

Got to a bent over position, hands on his knees, then straightened up slowly.

Stood.

Stayed. It was a start.

Chapter Two

The three men rode up to the fourth and dismounted. One of the men—the largest—was carrying an extra saddle. Another man had extra saddlebags. And the third was carrying an extra handgun and rifle.

The man they were meeting was standing next to a buckboard. He was tall, ramrod straight even though he was in his sixties. His face was deeply chiseled with lines he had earned over a long, hard life. And though he currently was a wealthy man, his life was still hard. New lines were still forming.

The man with the saddle walked around and dropped into the bed of the buckboard.

The man with the saddlebags did the same.

The man with the gun walked to the older man and handed them to him.

“Done?” the older man asked.

“Done.”

The older man handed him an envelope with money in it, payment for all three.

“Do not ever contact me,” the older man said.

The man with the envelope looked inside, raised his eyebrows, and said, “You got it.”

All three men mounted up and rode off.

The older man with the chiseled face did not move until they were out of sight.

Chapter Three

A step . . .

. . . then a second . . .

 . . . and a third.

Good, Lancaster, you’re almost walking.

Then, when the fourth step came down on a sharp rock, he cried out and sat back down, hard.

“Goddamnit!”

He wasn’t going to get far trying to walk in his socks. After a few moments of thought, he decided he could do without the bottom parts of the legs of his jeans. He’d tear them off in strips and wrap them around his feet. That would give him some protection, though probably not as much as even a pair of moccasins.

He was thirsty and beaten up, but was not yet weak. At least, he had the strength to tear his pants legs into strips. By the time he was done, his feet were wrapped and his jeans came down to his knees.

Time to try to get to his feet again.

As he put his hands down on the ground to push himself up, he felt something next to him. He looked down and saw that it was his hat. He hadn’t noticed it before. At least he’d have that to keep the sun out of his eyes and off his head. He grabbed it and jammed it on.

He repeated the stages, getting his feet beneath him, standing with hands on his knees, and then straightening. He arched his back, winced at the pain in his ribs but did not give in to it. He looked around him. In every direction he saw nothing except an occasional Joshua tree, which was indigenous to the Mojave Desert.

Lancasterknew that the Colorado Riverwas approximately fifty miles to the east. Under normal circumstances—being on horseback—it was an easy ride. On foot it would be more difficult. On foot, with no boots, no water, and having been badly beaten, it would be nearly impossible to get there alive.

But that’s what he had to do. The nearest town he knew of was Laughlin. He remembered more now. He had actually been heading to Laughlin when his attackers set upon him. They came riding at him and, being the cautious type, he hadn’t hesitated. He’d kicked his horse into a gallop, rather than stand and draw down on them. In retrospect, he probably should have stood and fought. It’s what he would have done in the old days. The rest was still a blur, but he remembered his horse going down and throwing him. Next thing he knew he was being beaten and kicked. . . .

He took a few steps, testing his denim-wrapped feet. It was better—better than socks, certainly better than bare feet.

The sun had long since hit its zenith and was on the way down. He had a few hours of daylight, which was good. He’d last had a drink of water just before the riders came up on him. He wouldn’t have to walk in the hot sun for very long. Once it got dark he’d keep walking, make as much time as he could in the dark.

There were four-legged predators he’d have to be careful of—snakes, coyotes, and bobcats. If he ran into any of them, he’d have to be able to defend himself. He’d have to find something—a club, a rock—something he could use if and when the time came.

But he’d have to rest if he was going to make it, and that’s when he’d have to watch for insects—spiders and scorpions, mostly.

Resting was far from his mind at the moment, though. What he had to do at the moment was get moving and keep moving. The one thing that could most kill him was if he lost consciousness—and there was good chance of that. He knew he’d been kicked in the head at least a couple of times. His dizziness was not completely gone, but if he gave into it and passed out he knew he might never wake up.

So Lancaster started walking.

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4 Responses to Western Wednesdays—CROW BAIT by Robert J. Randisi + Giveaway

  1. Craig Clarke says:

    Robert J. Randisi is one of my favorite Western writers. His short chapters and great use of dialogue really keep the story moving.

  2. dbatrox21 says:

    Under dogs? Jonah Hex, the Detroit Lions, the Buffalo Bills, and any small school playing a big one. I can’t wait to read this book…it sounds great so far!!

  3. Loving it! Can’t wait to read more!

    • Allison Carroll, Editorial and Web Coordinator says:

      Congrats Miranda—you’ve been selected as the winner of the giveaway. Email me at contests@dorchesterpub.com with your shipping address and I’ll get your prize in the mail!
      Thanks for being a voice on the blog and I hope you enjoy Crow Bait.
      Happy Reading,
      Allison Carroll
      Dorchester Publishing

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