Outlaw Hell

Free Outlaw Hell by Len Levinson

Book: Outlaw Hell by Len Levinson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Len Levinson
    â€œAlice Markham.”
    A new wave of dizziness struck him, his vision blurred, and he saw a halo glittering ethereallyaround her head. “Are you all right?” she asked. “Here's your room.”
    He fumbled for the key. She took it out of his hand and opened the door, and they entered a small adobe cubicle with a cot, dresser, and window. “Can I do anythin'?” she asked.
    Her tone of voice was unmistakable, it was on the house, and he had to admit that he wouldn't mind, but he couldn't perform ultimate love with someone he didn't even know. “Awfully tired,” he said, dropping to the edge of the bed.
    â€œMaybe some other time.”
    He waited a few seconds after she left, locked the door, pulled aside the burlap curtain, and peered at outbuildings, privies, and piles of trash gleaming in the light of the moon. Not a soul was in sight.
    He pulled off his boots, then unfastened his gunbelt and hung it over the bedpost. He drew his gun, held it in his right hand, and lay upon the bed. His eyes closed, while his Apache hearing searched the night for dangerous sounds. He heard wind whistling over rooftops, the distant howl of a cat in heat, and a clothesline slapping a pole, as he dropped steadily into slumber.
    Maggie O'Day lay with her eyes closed in her circular wooden bathtub, a glass of whisky in one hand, a panatella in the other. The hot sudsy water drew knots out of her muscles and soothed her troubled mind. Everybody knew the brassy ex-whorewho drank and smoked like a man, but few ever saw the worried businesswoman who'd gambled her savings on the future of an out-of-the-way border town.
    She knew that outlaws couldn't maintain the local economy forever, and Escondido needed a stable population. But no serious investor would tolerate lead flying constantly through the air. The town needed law, Maggie knew, but nobody wanted to take on murderers and desperadoes and risk a bullet through the brain for a measly hundred dollars a month.
    She thought of Duane Braddock, the best prospect so far. She found him intriguing, but felt guilty for trying to convince him to become sheriff. Yet even vicious outlaws would think twice before taking on the Pecos Kid.
    Maggie was half-drunk, lazy, and lonely. She rested her head against the bathtub and entertained certain thoughts about the handsome young killer. She liked his silky blue-black beard, aquiline nose, and boyish smile. Maggie yearned for her vanished youth, when she'd slept with cute cowboys like Duane Braddock, and had even fallen in love with a few. But I'm just an old bag now, she mused, and he needs a gal his own age. Maggie knew that Duane hurt inside. Her maternal feelings swelled, and she wanted to take care of him. The poor kid didn't even know who his momma was.

    Duane was dreaming about Apaches in their mountain fastness when he heard a footfall outside his window. In an instant he was out of bed, gun in hand. He pressed his back against the wall at the sound of another scrape of boot sole, and his thumb cocked the hammer of his Colt as he sucked in his gut.
    Then, in the still of the night, the window blew out in a sudden deafening explosion. A blizzard of buckshot smashed into the bed where he'd reclined only moments before. His ears rang, and through the roar he heard footsteps in the backyard. He stuck his head outside and saw a figure running away. He aimed his Colt and fired, but the man disappeared around the corner of a building.
    The room was thick with smoke, the mattress demolished. Somebody pounded on the door. “What the hell's a-goin’ on thar!”
    Duane yanked open the door, and Bradley Metzger stood in the corridor, gun in hand. Feathers and bits of fabric fluttered about the room. “Almost got you,” Bradley said regretfully.
    Duane recalled the silver-buckled outlaw who'd escaped earlier. It must've been him, Duane thought. Then he remembered the young prostitute, Alice Markham,

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