Longhorn Empire

Free Longhorn Empire by Bradford Scott

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Authors: Bradford Scott
     angry with Brady; that later he had stalked out of the saloon, his face working with rage, his hand on the butt of his gun.
     The shooting in the street was heard a few moments later. Nobody came forward who had seen the actual killing. It was plain
     the jury considered Dawson’s story fantastic. The faces of the jurymen were set like stone when Austin Brant arose and requested
     leave to address the jury. Doc McChesney, the coroner, readily granted the request. His expression betrayed a trace of sardonic
    “Gentlemen,” Brant began informally, “I’ve a notion I’m safe in assuming that you all know considerable about guns.” He paused,
     expectant. There was a general nodding of heads.
    “So,” Brant continued, “I’d like to ask you a question. How are Colt revolvers rifled?”
    The jury looked surprised, then the foreman spoke up.
    “They’re rifled with a left-hand twist and six grooves.” The others nodded agreement.
    “And how about Smith & Wesson revolvers?” Brant asked.
    There was a stir of excitement in the crowded courtroom. Some folks were beginning to get the drift.
    “How about Smith & Wesson?” Brant repeated. Again the foreman spoke up.
    “A Smith is rifled with a right-hand twist and five grooves.”
    “All except one model, the Texan,” Brant corrected. He turned to the crowd, raising his voice.
    “Anybody want to argue with what’s been said?” he asked.
    There was a general shaking of heads.
    “Okay,” said Brant. “And I guess everybody will admit that it’s easy to spot the riflings on a bullet that’s been fired, if
     it isn’t badly smashed up.”
    Again there were only nods of agreement.
    Brant turned to the coroner. “Doctor McChesney,” he said, “will you please produce
     the bullet that killed Cullen Brady, the bullet you removed from his body in the presence of myself and John Webb? Thank you.
     Please hand it to the jury foreman, and to make it easier for him, let him use your magnifying glass.”
    The foreman accepted the bullet and the glass. The others crowded around him.
    “Well?” Brant asked as the foreman looked up.
    “Well,” said the foreman, “this slug waren’t never fired from a Smith & Wesson
     six, that’s for certain. “Looks to be a .44, but she came out of a Colt. The riflings show that, plain.”
    “Exactly,” said Brant. “Now will MarshalBrooks please produce the gun he took off Cole Dawson, the gun Dawson was holding as he bent over Cullen Brady’s body? Thank
     you, Marshal. Please pass it to the jury.”
    Cole Dawson’s old Smith & Wesson was passed from hand to hand, to an accompaniment of mutters and wagging heads. The foreman
     turned to the coroner.
    “Well, Doc, it looks like we came damn near to hangin’ the wrong man,” he said. “The Dawson feller never shot Brady with this
     hogleg. Guess he never shot Brady at all, ’less he had another gun and swallered it, which don’t sound reasonable.”
    The jury didn’t even take the trouble to retire to consider a verdict. They sat around and smoked while the foreman laboriously
     wrote it out. When he finished, it read—
    Cullen Brady came to his death at the hands of a party or parties unknown. We recommend that the marshal find out and run down
     the hellions as quickly as possible.
    There followed a typical cow country rider—
    And we further recommend that the town try to hire that smart young fellow, Austin Brant, to help him do it.
    Cole Dawson was released at once. He evinced very little relief, only glowered at Austin Brant.
    “Feller,” he said, “guess the right thing for me to do is say much obliged. Reckon I’ll have to. ButI’m gettin’ deeper and deeper in your debt all the time, and I don’t like it.”
    Old John Webb opened his mouth to speak his mind, then closed it again with nothing said. What the hell was the use!
    But that night in the hotel lobby, with Norman Kane sitting beside them, he spoke very

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