Apache gunhawk, p.15
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       Apache Gunhawk, p.15

           Monogram Press
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“Pa,” Elly said as Silas Kemp came through the front door. She saw the worried look on his face first, then she saw the figure of a man behind him, pushing him through the doorway. The old man stumbled and fell forward, bracing himself against the sink counter. Elly stepped back with surprise, bumping into the wall behind her.

  “Well, well, well,” Little Bill said gleefully, pushing back the hood of his slicker and revealing his young smiling face. “Look what we have here. Ain’t you the pretty one, though?”

  “You leave my daughter alone,” her father sputtered.

  “There’s nothing to be afraid of, Missy,” Little Bill continued in a soft, low voice.

  Elly swallowed hard. She glanced from Little Bill to her father and back to Little Bill, trying to make up her mind if she should be afraid. After all, this young man did have a nice face. And she could feel the charm, he had a way of exuding when he wanted to.

  “Tell her, she has nothing to fear, Mister Kemp,” the outlaw said without taking his eyes off the girl and keeping his smile steady.

  “That’s right, Elly,” Kemp stuttered. “He’s just getting in out of the storm.”

  Elly straightened herself and forced a little smile.

  “So Elly, it is?” Little Bill said. “Now that’s a right pretty name. Just right for a nice pretty little filly like you.”

  She flushed, liking the sweet talk. Living way out here in the valley, seldom going into town and never having gone to school, Elly rarely saw any young men and this one was very handsome and there was something about him that made him dangerous and exciting.

  “My name’s Bill,” the outlaw said taking off his wet slicker and hanging it up on a coat rack on the wall. “Most folks call me Little Bill.”

  Elly’s eyes traveled the length of his body, from head to toe. Handsome all over she told herself.

  “Not because I’m so little, because I’m not. You see my pa’s name is Bill too, so every one called me Little Bill. But, I grew up bigger than my pa and actually he’s littler than me, even though he’s says I’ll never be as big a man as him.” He chuckled and Elly laughed, scrunching up her shoulders.

  Little Bill’s smile suddenly disappeared and his eyes darted back and forth as he ears seemed to prick up. “Listen,” he said, almost a whisper, holding a finger to his lips, as if warning the others to be quiet. The wind was still whining and rain still pounded against the roof, but occasionally another sound leaked through. The outlaw whirled to the window and pushed the bottom corner of the curtain aside. A dark shape was moving steadily toward the house. A horse and rider. He let the curtain drop, turned and snapped at the old man. “You expecting anyone?”

  “N..no, n..no,” Kemp stammered. “We hardly ever get visitors, way out here.”

  “Well you got one now.”

  “Probably just looking for a place to get out of the storm,” the old man suggested.

  A wrapping sounded at the plank door. Little Bill grabbed the girl by the arm and pulled her toward him. She almost gasped with surprise. “Don’t you worry, pretty lady,” he said drawing his pistol and practically dragging her with him to stand next to the door, where it would open concealing them behind it. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”

  She leaned back against him as he held her firmly in front of him. She smiled up at him, feeling the heat of his body against hers.

  The pounding on the door was louder this time and more prolonged. “Get rid of him and don’t let him in the barn.”

  The old man nodded and shuffled to the door. The knocking sounded again and he pulled the door open partway. A big man stood there, holding the reins of his horse behind him. Rain was dripping off his hat brim and his dark slicker was shiny with rivulets of water. The man had unbuttoned his slicker and pushed the tails back so the star on his massive chest could be seen.

  “I’m Deputy United States Marshal Brace Coburn,” the man said with an official tone of authority. “I’m looking for a place to get in out of the rain for a while.”

  “I’m afraid I can’t help you,” Kemp said nervously. “You see, my wife’s sick. It might be contagious. You understand? I..I’d like to help you, Marshal, but I just can’t.”

  Coburn noticed the wet slicker, the old man was still wearing. Kemp followed the lawman’s gaze and explained. “Just been out checking on the stock in the barn. Haven’t had time to get out of this thing.” He started to unbutton it.

  Coburn had knocked several times. The man should have had enough time to get out of the coat. “Well, maybe I could just sleep in the barn,” he suggested.

  The farmer’s eyes widened and he glanced to his right where Little Bill stood. The outlaw shook his head from side to side, then nodded to his left, his silent lips forming the words, “Let him in.”

  “No. No. I couldn’t let you do that. I mean, you wouldn’t like it. Why don’t you come in. My wife’s in the other room. Maybe it’ll be all right.”

  Alarms were going off like crazy in the big lawman’s brain. Obviously the man was frightened and Coburn noticed a movement behind the door as he could see through the sliver of an opening near the hinges.

  The lawman forced a broad smile. “Well now, I ‘d sure be obliged, Mister…?”

  “Kemp,” the farmer supplied. “Silas Kemp.”

  “Thank you, Mister Kemp. If you don’t mind, I’ll just put my horse away in your barn and I’ll be right back.”

  “No. No,” Kemp started almost in panic. “I..I mean, I’ll be glad to put your horse away for you. Please come in. I’ve kept you out in the rain long enough.” He glanced again toward Little Bill and saw the outlaw nod his approval. He stepped back to usher the Marshal in.

  Silas Kemp was certainly insistent that he didn’t go to the barn, Coburn thought, but he tried not to show his suspicions and stepped through the doorway. He glanced out of the corner of his left eye, expecting the movement of the shadows he had seen behind the door. He whirled just as the door slammed shut behind him and saw the outlaw shove the girl aside and arc his gun arm downward to pistol whip him.

  Coburn’s left came up sharply, grabbed his assailant’s wrist, and lunged forward, pushing Little Bill’s back up against the wall and slamming his gun hand against the blunt end of a peg on the coat rack. Little Bill’s face twisted in pain and his fingers loosened on the weapon and it clattered to the floor.

  The marshal released his grip on Little Bill’s wrist and then his fingers curled inside the front of the outlaw’s collar, he whipped him around and slammed his back up against the wall once more. Little Bill felt the whoosh of air being expelled from his lungs and his eyes were hazed over with pain, but out of sheer desperation he was able to pull himself together enough to ball his right fist and with such close proximity, he shot it forward and buried it deep into the lawman’s ample mid section.

  Coburn grunted in pain and surprise. He staggered back a step, doubling over and grasping his stomach with both hands. Little Bill, still in attack mode, lunged away from the wall and clasping both hands together in front of him, brought them down on the Marshal’s broad back, sending him crumpling to the floor.

  Little Bill stepped to the side and dove for the pistol lying on the floor. His fingers were inches away, when Coburn lunged to his feet, and stepped on his wrist, pinning his hand to the floor. Little Bill twisted sideways, grasping at the flopping tails of the marshal’s slicker. His hands slipped on the wet surface, unable to get a firm hold. The marshal reached across his middle and pulled his revolver from its holster, bringing the nine inch barrel down sharply and striking his adversary solidly across the forehead.

  Little Bill’s pupils shrank to dots and he fell limply flat on the floor. Darkness closed in around him and he sank deep into unconsciousness with Elly’s scream of protest ringing in his ears.

  When Little Bill came to, he found himself lying on his side in the kitchen. His head throbbed and his vision slowly crept back. His hands and feet were tied and he had been stretched out enc
ircling the big pot bellied wood stove as if he were hugging it. A rope ran from his wrists around the big iron monster to meet his ankles on the other side and anchored him to it.

  “You’ better get some sleep, Mr. Kemp,” he heard Marshal Coburn’s deep voice. “I’ll be bedding down on the floor out here, and I’m a light sleeper. If any one comes up from the barn, I’ll hear them. Whatever you hear, stay put. Don’t come out of your room until I tell you. Got that?”

  After rendering Little Bill unconscious, Brace Coburn had tied him securely to the stove. He had put his horse away in the adjacent wood shed, out of the storm and out of sight. There had been a few bags of grain stored in there and the marshal had fed the black enough to hold him over.

  Silas’s wife had heard the commotion when the marshal had arrived and had called to her husband to find out what was going on. Coburn had introduced himself and assured her, she had nothing to worry about. Silas and Coburn returned to the living room to talk.

  Silas Kemp had told the marshal that the outlaw had been sent to watch over him and his family through the night. The lawman surmised that the rest of the gang preferred to stay in the barn and had no intention of coming to the house. If this were the case, he could wait until morning to deal with the outlaws. Too much would be against him tonight in the darkness and storm, to try to take them. Hopefully the storm would subside by daylight and he could make his play then. Besides, he was tired and needed sleep before taking any prisoners. It would be a long way back to Dry Springs and he’d have to stay awake until he got them there. He would need all the rest he could get, before he made his play.

  “Did you have to hit him so hard?” Elly Kemp said bitterly, directing it to the big marshal, as she swabbed the outlaw’s forehead. She was sitting on the kitchen floor next to Little Bill. For the first time since opening his eyes, he realized she was there. He rolled his eyes, painfully, upward to look at her. He smiled. “Well hello there little darlin’,” he said. “If you’re an angel, I’m glad I’m dead.”

  “You’re not dead yet,” she said. “No thanks to him, you’re not.” She glared at Coburn.

  “Come on, girl,” her father scolded. It’d be best that you get away from that polecat. Now. Go on. Off to bed with you.”

  “No, I want to stay with Bill,” she pouted, stroking his damp and sticky hair.

  “You heard your father,” the marshal said, standing up, towering over her. “Get to bed! Now!”

  “You goanna pistol whip me too, Marshal?” She said insolently and arose to her feet. She tossed Little Bill a smile and headed for her room.

  “Sweet dreams, darlin’,” he called after her.

  Coburn pulled a bandanna from his back pocket and squatted. “You talk too much, Mister,” he said rolling the bandanna lengthwise, stuffing it in the outlaw’s mouth and tying it behind his head. “This ought to shut you up for the night.”

  Then standing and turning toward the old farmer, Brace said, “You’d better get off to bed too. We all need to get some sleep. Morning will come soon enough.”

  The old man shuffled off to his room. Coburn spread a blanket on the floor, then put the lights out. He didn’t bother to remove his boots. He just lay down as he was, holding his pistol across his chest and drifted off to sleep.


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