The Devil's Justiceby Chad Cull / Historical Fiction / Western
THE DEVIL’S JUSTICE
The Devil’s Justice
Copyright © 2012 by Franklin D. Lincoln
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
The gambler’s placid face relaxed and a hint of sparkle appeared in his dark eyes for the first time since the game began three hours ago. It was a lean dark face and crows feet began to crinkle on the sides of his slitted eyes. “Call and raise you another hundred.” He tossed a sheaf of bills into the center of the table. The dim light of the overhead lamp shed a cone of orangey glow on the disheveled pot of bills and coins littering the center of the battle scarred wooden table. Wisps of smoke danced in the cone of light.
Three other men sat around the table. The two on each side of the gambler had already tossed in their hands and looked on dejectedly with curious expectations. Only low murmurs of the drinkers at the bar and other tables could be heard in the background.
The young man directly across from the gambler looked up from under dark brooding eyes, his angular jaw, covered with black stubble, set firm and his thin lips pursed with frustration. His drooping eyelids lowered to the empty space on the table infront of him where his pile had once been. Dang the luck! He cursed to himself. Finally, a winning hand and he was out of cash. Once again he checked the cards in his hand and grimaced.
“Well?” The gambler prodded, a hint of taunting victory in his deep voice.
Gar Plummer’s head jerked upward, eyes flashing with anger beneath the shock of dirty black hair that protruded from beneath his battered hat and splayed out across his low forehead. “Don’t rush me,” he snarled.
“Take your time, boy,” the gambler chided. “When you’re ready, just tell me what you’re going to do.”
“He’s cashin’ in.” A sharp, pitched voice with a Texas drawl, boomed behind Plummmer.
The men at the table looked up as Plummer twisted around in his chair and saw the man standing behind him. Gar glanced casually at the man and determining that he did not know him, dismissed the man as a kibitzer and turned immediately back to his cards and the game at hand. He glared at the gambler.
“I said, you’re cashin’ in, Gar.” The voice repeated. There was a hard edge and an icy coldness in the words. The sound of determination and the threat of deadly purpose echoed across the dark barroom. Complete silence took over as the patrons put down their drinks and cringed away, waiting and watching what was shaping up as trouble.
“Go away, Kid,” Gar said with irritation as he glanced once more at the man behind him, and once again turned back to the game.
The man stepped forward behind Plummer, reached over his shoulder and snatched the cards from his hand and tossed them face up in the middle of the table. Aces and Queens.
Enraged, Plummer twisted in his chair and lurching to his feet, his right hand stretching toward the pistol butt protruding from its well worn holster, and froze in mid motion as he stared into the cold black eyes of the man before him. They were brooding eyes. Dangerous, menacing eyes.
“Don’t you recognize me, Gar?” The man said though clenched teeth. His jaw set hard. “Take a good look,” he demanded, practically growling between his teeth.
The man was not a large man. He stood just over five and a half feet tall, but his shoulders were broad and his body was hard with muscle. At first glance, the man would have been taken as a kid, with his round, ruddy face and apple cheeks. But, looking closer, Gar could see that this man was no kid. This was a man in his mid thirties and he had a seasoned air of confidence. A pistol rode high on his right hip in a well oiled brown holster and his fingers lingered outstretched above the walnut handle.
“Maybe you remember me better from behind and face down in the mud, with rain pelting me and washing away the blood from the hole in my back that you put there.”
Plummer sucked in a lung full of air. He gasped, icy shards creeping up and down his spine and hackles bristling along the back of his swarthy neck. “Carlin?” It was almost a whisper.
Jace Carlin nodded, his grim expression remaining fixed. In his eyes were the memories of that dark rainy night a year and a half ago. The flames of his burning house reflecting in his pupils. The screams of his wife and son screeching in his ears as the raging fire engulfed them. The memory of his brother lying dead beside him. Thunder and lightning crashing and flashing, briefly revealing the cruel, laughing faces of the five men that had attacked them by surprise that fateful night.
“That’s right,” Carlin said.
Plummer’s body began to shake. Suddenly, it all came back to him. “I..I thought you were…..”
“Dead?” Carlin finished for him. “I guess I am,” he said levelly. “Now you’re going to join me.” His fingers crept closer to his pistol butt.
Plummer moved quickly, twisting away from the chair and hurling it toward Jace Carlin as he clawed for his own sixshooter.
Carlin dodged away as the chair crashed into his left shoulder and bounced off. He half fell unsteadily to his right, his right shoulder drooping as his fingers snagged the pistol handle and dragged the weapon from its sheath. Searing hot pain burned across the side of his neck as Plummer’s gun belched flame and smoke; blood oozing in a stream inside his collar.
Carlin’s own weapon had cleared leather as he fell sideways thumbing the hammer and squeezing the trigger, twice in succession, before his shoulder struck the planking beneath him. Gar Plummer loomed above him, blood covering his entire chest and swaying side to side on rubbery legs and pointing his pistol at Carlin’s head, earing the hammer back once more. Carlin raised his pistol and fired again. The impact of the slug drove Plummer backward against the wall, his arms splayed upward and his eyes empty of light. He was already dead as his body slid down the blood streaked wall. Carlin had risen to one knee and fired again at the lifeless body. He squeezed off two more rounds before Plummer landed in a heap on the floor.
Carlin stared blankly at his handiwork. Bile rose in his throat and he suddenly felt sick. His outstretched arm shook violently and he almost dropped his weapon. His jaw began to quiver and he fought back to keep from crying. He had never killed anyone before and he knew this wouldn’t be the last for out there, somewhere, were four more of Plummer’s compadres.. He would track them all down and kill them all.
He rose slowly to his feet, unaware of the onlookers, who stood back in awe. He stepped close to Gar Plummer’s body and gazed down on it. Strangely, he felt no satisfaction. The same raging hate burned within him. Somehow, even more so. Perhaps the satisfaction would not come until he had wreaked his vengeance on the remaining four.
Ben Slater leaned over the neck of his line back dun as he urged him forward at a continued gallop; slapping him hard with the reins and digging his sharp spurs into the animal’s sides, raking them viciously, drawing blood that mixed with the heavy lather already covering the dun’s worn out body. Adrenaline flowed rapidly through Slater’s veins and sweat from the heat of the New Mexico summer sky dripped into his eyes.
Twice Jace Carlin had crossed his path in the last few months. Once in Tucson and once in Nogales. Slater had heard of Carlin’s shooting of Gar Plummer and when Carlin showed up in Tucson, it didn’t take much figuring for Slater to assume Carlin was after him, for he had been with Plummer and the others that night they raided the Carlin ranch just north of the Tularosas. He had kept out of sight by day and by night he waited from a dark alley to catch Carlin alone and by surprise. He had botched the ambush and Carlin had escaped unscathed. Slater had fled from town with Carlin on his tail. It was in Nogales where Carlin caught up with his prey. Slater had escaped once again, but this time a rifle slug from Carlin’s Winchester had burned a hole in his side as he fled into the desert. The wound was not serious, but it plagued him with pain and fatigue, constantly slowing him down and allowing Carlin to gain on him.
Jace Carlin, with relentless determination, had followed him for days, across the burning desert and into the jagged Mogollon mountains. Even, here, in the tangled trails and winding canyons, he had not been able to shake his unrelenting pursuer. He had glimpsed Carlin on his back trail twice in the last half hour. His pursuer was gaining steadily on him as Slater’s horse faltered. Now as he forced his weary mount up the steep canyon trail, the line back’s front hoofs slipped in the loose shale, sliding under his belly and practically sitting back on his rear haunches. The animal bellowed in torturous pain. Slater’s boots slid out of the stirrups and dragged in the loose rock and dirt as horse and rider slid backward, down the bank. The dun shrieked again and his body rolled sideways. Slater leaped from the saddle, fell to the ground, and rolled away from the horse’s body as it slid on its side down the embankment, coming to a halt in a pile of shale; his sides expanding and contracting as the animal gasped with hard, labored breaths in the throes of agonizing death.
Slater was momentarily stunned as he lay there, prostrate on the ground, his bearded cheeks half buried in loose rock. His wound was throbbing and his heart pounded in his head. He didn’t hear the steady clip clops of approaching hoofs, at first, but he sensed the impending danger and when he rolled over onto his back he saw the shape of horse and rider looming above him. His eyes squinted, trying to bring the sight into focus and as the blurredness diminished, he saw the menacing stare of Jace Carlin as he sat there, calmly, on his gray mare. Carlin’s face was stiff and expressionless. His eyes burned with hate. His lips twisted in a snarl, but no words exuded. He carried his Winchester in his right hand like a pistol and held high. With deliberate coldness, he lowered the barrel.
Slater cringed, digging his back into the shale beneath him. His body shook, anticipating his impending death. Then with desperate resolve, he reached for his six gun as Carlin’s rifle exploded. The shot echoed across the canyon and the thrashing line back dun went still and silent with a rifle bullet in its head, putting him out of his misery.
Just as Ben Slater had misread Carlin’s action, thinking he was deliberately shooting him without a chance, Jace saw Slater claw for his weapon, and as the recoil of the Winchester subsided, he swung the barrel toward the downed man and fired point blank into his face, splattering blood onto the rocks about him. He lay inert like a pile of dung.
Carlin moved his horse forward, gazing coldly, down at the mass beneath him. This time he did not feel sick as he had with Gar Plummer. In fact, he felt nothing. Not elation, not victory, not regret. Killing was getting easier. But still, satisfaction was absent. Three more he told himself. Then he would be satisfied.
The autumn winds blew cold across the open Kansas prairie. Much too cold for November. Leaves and dust whirled violently about the three riders and their buffalo hide ladened pack mules, as they rode toward the lonely road house that seemed to have been built west of nowhere and still miles from Ellsworth or Wichita.
The sign outside the ramshackle establishment proclaimed ‘Belchers Station- Last stop for food and likker east of Dodge’. The three men, all dressed in thick buffalo hide coats, dismounted and tied their livestock up to the makeshift hitch rail in front of the store and clambered inside.
The place was small and dark inside. Light and wind filtered through the board wall. A heavy plank board had been draped across two barrels, spaced apart to form a make shift bar. The grizzled old store keeper was slumped in a battered wooden chair; one leg shorter than the other three; against the wall at the far end of the bar. He only noted the newcomers with passing interest and remained silent as they sauntered up to the plank, pulling their tattered gloves from their fingers.
“How about some service, here, old man,” Dink Marley, the larger of the three men demanded as he pounded on the plank.
“Hold your horses, there, fella,” the old man croaked with irritation as he reluctantly got out of his chair and shuffled behind the bar. He retrieved a dusty jug from the shelf and lazily, slammed it on the plank with a thud.
“We don’t want any of that slop,” Marley boomed. “Ain’t you got no good whiskey.”
“All I got,” the old man said unrattled. “Take it or leave it.”
Marley glared at the old man. Then without a word, he lifted the jug, pulled the cork with his teeth, spit it out on the plank, and began to guzzle straight from the jug.
“Hey. Wait a minute, there, Dink,” one of his companion, Ike Soames complained. “Save some for us.” He placed both hands around the jug and jerked it away from Marley. “Ain’t you got no manners?”
Marley wiped the excess liquid that dripped from his full beard with the sleeve of his coat. “Well don’t you two go drinkin’ it all,” he complained.
Soames had chugged several large gulps before the third man snatched the jug away and attacked it hungrily. “Save enough for me. I need another shot.”
“I’ll oblige you with another shot,” a level voice sounded behind them. Cold wind had rushed through the store as the shadowed figure of a man stepped into the open doorway; the light of day backlighting him. He stepped forward slowly and the glancing light filtering between loose boards of the wall half revealed the man’s face.
Marley froze as if in a trance. Even in the dim light, he recognized Jace Carlin. He had heard what had happened to Gar Plummer and Ben Slater. Jace Carlin had been garnering a huge reputation and his skill with a gun was becoming well known. Word had spread across the frontier of Carlin’s quest for vengeance against the men that had
killed his family. Marley took a deep breath and held it. Then let it out slowly, accepting the fact that Carlin had finally found him. “I’m not gonna let this be easy for you,Carlin,” he said, pushing the right side of his coat tail back, exposing the big navy revolver in his holster.
“Doesn’t matter much to me,” Carlin said evenly; his fingers curled above his pistol handle.
“You’ll have to take me too, Mister,” Soames warned, stepping away from Marley and pushing his coat aside to reveal a battered ball and cap pistol snugged in a left sided holster in a right hand cross draw position.
“I’m not here for you, Mister,” Carlin warned. “Best you don’t mix in to somethin’ that don’t concern you.” He had hardly said the words, when both men went for their guns.
Calmly, swiftly, and surely, Jace Carlin pulled his revolver, thumbing back the hammer as he drew. The weapon belched and the first slug caught Marley squarely in the chest, where his open coat had revealed his dirty shirt. Marley’s eyes bulged with surprise. His pistol was only half out of its holster and he bent forward in stiffening pain.
Carlin shifted the gun muzzle slightly to the left and the weapon sounded again; a deafening roar in the confines of the wooden structure, even before the thunder of the first shot had died away. Soames felt the slug tear into his middle and fell back against the plank bar.
His first shot at Marley had been a bit hasty, as he needed to answer the other man drawing against him. Carlin, then, swung his pistol barrel back toward Marley and shot him two more times as his body slumped to the floor. In the same split second he aimed back to the other man and fired again as he was still falling.
The third man with Marley and Soames, had stepped back away from his two companions. He was cringing with fear and both of his arms were held high in the air. “Please, Mister,” he begged. “I don’t want any part of this.”
“Too bad that other fella wasn’t as smart,” Carlin said striding forward and examining the bodies. “My quarrel was with Marley, not him.” He holstered his pistol, turned and walked out into the cold prairie wind.
The Montana snow had hit early and hard this year. The winds blew with a fierceness off the Tetons and the bitter cold chilled man and beast to the bone. Anyone with any sense would find a place to hole up until the weather broke. But Al Drago was scared. When Jace Carlin rode into Billings the day before, Drago knew what he was there for. He had heard about the deaths of three former companions and knew that he, Drago, was the next target of the avenging manhunter.
He had retrieved his horse from the livery in the middle of the night and had ridden out into the harsh winter with no place to go except away from Carlin’s wrath. Drago had headed into the mountains, hoping to get through the passes before they piled too high with snow. With any luck, he would make it through leaving Carlin snowed in behind him.
The wind whipped through his sheepskin coat as if it was paper and his hat was tied down under his chin with his scarf, to keep it in place and cover his ears. Snow and ice spicules pelted his eyes fiercely, forcing them to squint almost shut, as he trudged onward into the night.
His horse kept bogging down to his haunches in the drifting snow and from time to time, Drago would have to dismount and try to lead the horse forward. He had been traveling for several hours, now. Dawn should be coming soon, but in the midst of blizzard, no sign of morning light could be discerned.
He had been leading the horse for quite sometime now and with every step they took, they both sank deeper and deeper in the piling white stuff. Every step became a bigger challenge. Each step took greater effort and man and beast both sucked cold air into their lungs. Deeper and deeper the snow drifted until it seemed as if the next step would bury them. It was no use to continue with the horse. Drago dropped the reins and crawled forward through the snow until exhaustion over came him. He finally let himself sink into the snow and lay quiet, save for his laboring breath. He was giving up, knowing that to do so would mean freezing to death.
The snow began to pile over him and he drifted off to sleep.
Dawn crept over the mountains and the wind quieted. The blizzard was subsiding and the darkness became a pale gray. The snow had drifted over Al Drago and had insulated him from the cold wind. By some strange miracle, he had not yet frozen to death. He began to awaken and stirred, snow falling from his covered body, as he forced himself to rise and roll over.
Even the pale light of early morning, seemed bright to him, after a night of almost total darkness. Elation began to sweep over him as he realized he was still alive. But that sudden excitement faded as fast as it had arrived as he looked up into the menacing eyes of a man, wearing snow shoes, standing above him. Jace Carlin pointed the muzzle of his Winchester directly at Drago’s chest. Drago tried to speak. To plead for his life, but his throat was too tight to make a sound.
Carlin had not a word to utter. His face was as cold as the Montana winter. Expressionless, and void of any emotion. Drago stared blankly up at the man and thought he should be trembling; wondering why he wasn’t. The realization that he was going to die on this godforsaken mountain, whether by a bullet or freezing out there in the wilderness, swept over him and he accepted it with serene resolve. His snow covered eyelids drooped in defeat for a moment, then in a split second of reckless abandonment, he rolled to his side, grasping for the pistol on his hip beneath his coat.
Carlin saw the movement, and without hesitation or remorse, he squeezed the trigger of his rifle. The bullet drilled through Drago’s right hand and tore into his thick coat. Drago’s body fell back into the snow; his chest blossoming in crimson liquid, that dripped into the pure white snow beneath him.
Carlin ejected the shell from his rifle and strode away without looking back.
The little town of Clairmont was unusually busy for a weekday. With the coming of spring, farmers and homesteader had come to town to gather the necessary supplies and seed needed for the planting season.
Kurt Egstrom was a big man of thirty. Tall and thick, yet not an ounce of fat on him. He had neatly trimmed blond hair and blue eyes. Everything about him proclaimed his Swedish decent except for his speech, which was very clear without a hint of accent.
His powerful shoulders carried the sacks of seed easily as he loaded his wagon in front of the general store.
“That’s the lot of them, Aggie,” he said to his wife as he stacked the last sack in place, filling up the wagon bed. “I’ll have a lot of planting to do.” He glanced up at the early spring sky.
“Can I help, this year, Pa?” The ten year old boy beside him said.
“Sure you can, Billy. It’s time you started learning to do a man’s work.” He tossled the boy’s light hair with his calloused, rough fingers; smiling with pride at his boy. He was feeling good, happy with his wife and son and looking forward to the prospect of a new year’s crop.
“Oh, Kurt,” Aggie said. “Can’t you let him be a little boy, just a while longer?”
“I don’t want to be a little boy, no more, Ma,” Billy protested.
“The boy’s right, Aggie,” Kurt said. “It’s about time that……” His words trailed off. The smile on his lips faded and his face paled as he looked down the street and saw the man walking in the middle of it; coming his way.
Kurt swallowed hard and felt a lump in his throat. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up and a cold chill ran down his spine. Somehow, he had told himself, that this day would never come. He never believed he had been responsible for what had happened, so long ago. He had merely been with the other men. He hadn’t been a part of it, but yes, he knew he was guilty. Guilty of allowing it to happen. Yet he told himself, he was only one man and there were four others. How could he have stopped them? He couldn’t he told himself, but he knew he should have tried.
“What is it, Kurt,” Aggie asked, suddenly pulling Billy close to her. “Do you know that man?”
“Take Billy and go back inside the store, Aggie,” he ordered flatly without answering her question and not taking his eyes off the approaching man. She hesitated. Wanted to say something, but Kurt added without looking at her or Billy. “Go on. Do as I say.”
Egstrom moved slowly and deliberately to the front of his wagon, reached under the seat, and retrieved an old Remington long barreled revolver. He stepped away from the rig, into the middle of the street; his right arm hanging heavily, straight down, holding the big weapon tightly in his fist. He spread his legs shoulder width apart and waited for Carlin to come closer, within earshot. Eternally long moments ticked by. Carlin strode steadily closer. Close enough now.
“I’m sorry about your family,” Egstrom shouted. There was a trace of tremble in his voice. “I didn’t want it to happen. It was the others.”
Carlin halted a moment. “You were there.” Carlin proclaimed coldly, then continued forward.
“Yes. I…I was,” Kurt answered. “I couldn’t stop them. What else could I do?” He didn’t expect a reply nor did the approaching gunman one offer one. He just kept coming.
His legs felt numb and his massive body trembled. He raised his Remington to shoulder level, his arm outstretched and his sighted the weapon straight at Carlin. Carlin never altered nor slackened his step; just kept advancing.
“Carlin!” A deep voice boomed from behind Carlin and off to his right. Jace halted, glancing furtively toward the warning voice; but still keepingEgstrom in view.
A lean figure stepped of the plank sidewalk into the street. A pistol was in hand and it was aimed directly at Carlin. The man was a bit stooped with age, but he had probably been tall in his younger years. Gray temples protruded beneath a Derby black hat that matched his black linen suit. A star proclaiming him town marshal was pinned to his lapel.
“I’ll have none of this in my town, Carlin,” the Marshal warned. “You too, Kurt,” he added. “Put your weapon away.”
Jace turned his attention back to Egstrom. Off to the left, in the doorway of the general store, he could see Egstrom’s wife holding her son close and watching.
Kurt maintained his stance; pistol still aimed at Carlin. “Sorry, Asa,” was his answer to the town marshal. “Can’t let it go.” He eared back the hammer and tightened his finger on the trigger, taking up slack.
“Don’t be a fool, Kurt,” Asa warned. “You’re no gunfighter. He’ll kill you.”
Sweat was beading on Kurt’s forehead and his palms were moist, throat dry.
“Put the gun away, Kurt,” the Marshal pleaded.
“If you don’t fight,there’snothing he can do short of murder. He won’t dothat.”
“Don’t count on it law dog,” Carlin warned coldly, without taking his eyes off theSwede.
“Listen to Asa, Kurt,” Aggie called from behind. Kurt stiffened, feeling her fear. “Sorry, Aggie,” Kurt answered. He wanted to turn and look at her one last time,
but he couldn’t take his eyes off Carlin. “If I don’t face him now, he’ll only follow us home. Asa has no jurisdiction there. He can’t help us. No. I’d rather do it here and now where everyone can see it.”
“Why, Kurt? Why is he after you? What could you have possibly done to him?” Aggie sobbed.
“I’m afraid it’s what I didn’t do,” Kurt answered with resolve, then stepped forward toward Carlin, pushing the weapon straight out ahead of him as he walked.
“No Kurt,” Asa warned sharply.
“Keep out of it, Asa!” Kurt answered. “I’ve got to do this.” Then without breaking stride, he squeezed the trigger. Jace Carlin felt the sting as the slug tore a chip out of the top of his left ear and he flinched, but the cold expression on his face never changed. He kept his eyes on Egstrom, watching the big man come closer and cocking his pistol to fire again. Carlin casually lifted his hand and felt the gash. Warm blood trickled onto his finger tips.
Egstrom’s weapon boomed again. This time the bullet ripped Carlin’s upper right arm and burned a scratch across the meaty part of his muscle. Again the gunman flinched, but didn’t move.
Egstrom kept coming, thumbing back the hammer again. He was close enough now that Carlin could hear it click to full cock.
This time Jace Carlin didn’t let the big Swede fire again. Effortlessly, he slid his own six shooter from its holster and fired.
Kurt Egstrom stiffened; his eyes wide in surprise. He bent at the waist and started to fall. Carlin fired again, catching the big man in the chest, straightening him upward and throwing him back under the impact of the .45 calibre slug. He landed hard on his back. Dust from the street beneath him billowed up around him and drifted down over his lifeless body.
“Noooooooo!” Aggie screamed, running into the street and dropping to her knees next to her fallen husband. Billy ran after her, big tears streaming down his round cheeks.
Carlin sheathed his weapon, watching the scene before him. The hysterical woman cradling her husband’s head in her arms, rocking back and forth, sobbing. The little boy clinging to his mother, arms wrapped about her neck from behind. His face buried in the softness of her hair, soaking it with tears. His mother, so consumed with grief, seemed not to notice. The boy, feeling alone and abandoned lifted his head and glared at Jace Carlin through his streaming tears.
“I hate you!” He shouted angrily. “You’ve killed my pa. You’re a bad man. I hate you. You hear me? I hate you. When I grow up, I’m gonna find you and I’m gonna kill you just like you did my pa.” He buried his face back into his mother’s hair.
For the first time in a long time, the coldness in Jace Carlin seemed to thaw. He felt something he had forgotten for a long time. The haunting strains of regret. Remorse? No. It can’t be. He remembered his own grief and tried not to wonder if this was what Egstrom’s family was feeling. He remembered his own hate and could see it in this enraged, confused little boy. The boy, who reminded him so much of his own boy. His son, who he would never see grow up. His anger returned and he told himself he had done what he had to do. He had set out for satisfaction and now he had found it. He had tracked them all down, now. He had avenged his family. Yes, he was satisfied, he told himself. But, why did he feel so empty? So wrong?
The town marshal stepped up beside Carlin. His gun was still in his hand.
“He fired first, Marshal,” Jace said, still watching Egstrom’s family. “You saw it.” “Yes, I saw it,” the Marshal said with a sigh. His voice was gravelly. “There’s
nothing I can hold you for, so best you mount up and ride out of town before I can think of something.”
Carlin eyed him levelly. “No problem. I got what I came for.” He started to turn and walk away.
“And what did you come for?” Asa asked. “Vengeance?”
Jace halted and turned. “No, Marshal,” he said flatly. “I came for justice.”
“Justice?” Asa said, nodding toward the Egstrom’s. “I’ve heard about you and your so called justice. Call it what you want, but I call it vengeance. And vengeance is the devil’s justice. Remember that. And I hope you’re satisfied.”
Carlin looked him straight in the eye. “I’m satisfied,” he said. Then he turned and walked away.