In the bestselling novels of William W. Johnstone, mountain man Smoke Jensen is a legend. Now, Johnstone presents the adventures of Smoke's long-lost brother Luke, who was reported killed during the Civil War. The war is over and Luke is very much alive, his soul forged by the violence he witnessed on the battlefields. His job is now tracking down the worst outlaws--by any means necessary.
Protect The Innocent
Gloria Jennings went on the run when she was accused of murdering her wealthy husband back east. And when she's accused of killing her new rancher husband in West Texas, Luke is able to track her down. But when he does, he surprises himself by not bringing her in--and actually helping her face down rival ranchers and other threats. Getting to know her, Luke doesn't believe Gloria is a killer. But there are others that do. And when they show, Luke is going to have to go gun to gun with a pack of ruthless manhunters out for blood--and blood money. But another, even more vicious enemy is coming. A secret enemy from Gloria's past who wants her dead at all costs. And it's up to Luke and his lightning hands to make sure that doesn't happen. . .
About the Author
Being the all-around assistant, typist, researcher, and fact checker to one of the most popular western authors of all time, J.A. Johnstone learned from the master, Uncle William W. Johnstone.
He began tutoring J.A. at an early age. After-school hours were often spent retyping manuscripts or researching his massive American Western History library as well as the more modern wars and conflicts. J.A. worked hard—and learned.
“Every day with Bill was an adventure story in itself. Bill taught me all he could about the art of storytelling. ‘Keep the historical facts accurate,’ he would say. ‘Remember the readers, and as your grandfather once told me, I am telling you now: be the best J.A. Johnstone you can be.’”
Read an Excerpt
LUKE JENSEN, BOUNTY HUNTER BLOODY SUNDAY
By William W. Johnstone, J. A. Johnstone
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 J. A. Johnstone
All rights reserved.
Some people said that a bullet going close past a man's ear sounded like a hornet, but Luke Jensen knew better than that because he had heard plenty of them.
What it sounded like was a bullet coming too blasted close to blowing his brains out.
He kicked his feet free of the stirrups and left the saddle in a dive that landed him on the hard ground with a jolt he felt all through his body. He was getting too old for this, he thought as he rolled behind a rock barely big enough to give him any cover. Another slug ricocheted off the rock with a wicked whine.
Luke hadn't been expecting trouble, so he hadn't been riding with his Winchester across his saddle's pommel as he did when he knew hell might start to pop. Nor had he had time to drag it from its sheath as he was diving off the dun's back.
That meant his only weapons were the twin Remington revolvers he carried in cross-draw holsters and a sheathed knife on his left hip, just behind the gun on that side. None of them were any good for distance work.
He thought back a few seconds to the moment when he had spotted a glint of reflected sunlight on top of a sandstone bluff in front of him. That warning had barely had time to register before the bullet buzzed past his ear.
The bluff was at least a hundred yards away. The Remingtons wouldn't carry that far, not with any degree of accuracy, anyway.
Luke looked to his left. The dun had bolted off in that direction, spooked not so much by the gunfire as by Luke's reaction to it. The horse, like Luke, was accustomed to violence. In one sense, they were partners in the bounty hunting business.
Another shot rang out in the hot, still air. It hit just in front of the rock and threw up a shower of dirt and grit that spilled over into Luke's face. He lowered his head and muttered a curse as he blinked.
He had no idea who was trying to kill him or how he was going to get out of this.
A frown creased his forehead as a quick spattering of gunshots followed the latest crack of the rifle. Somebody else was horning in on this fight, which was fine with him. He could use the distraction.
He surged to his feet and ran toward the dun. No more slugs ripped the air around him. He grabbed the horn, went into the saddle in a hurry, and leaned forward over the horse's neck to make himself a smaller target as he kicked it into a gallop.
A cloud of dust boiled into the air near the bluff ahead of him. It headed to his right, telling him that a group of men on horseback were fleeing in that direction. He hauled the dun's head around and rode hard to intercept them.
The bluff hemmed them in. Luke caught sight of four or five men as their mounts raced through the chaparral along its base. More men rode along the top of the bluff and fired down at the fleeing riders.
The fugitives tried to veer away from the rise, but Luke had the angle on them from that direction. He had the dun's reins in his left hand. He used his right to draw one of the Remingtons and thumbed off a pair of shots.
He didn't hope to hit anything but rather to herd the riders back toward the bluff. So he was surprised when one of the men threw his arms in the air and pitched from the saddle in an obvious death sprawl.
Luke didn't like killing a stranger when he didn't even know the reason for it, but one of this bunch had been the rifleman who nearly put a bullet through his head, so he wasn't going to lose a lot of sleep over it. He fired again.
Without any warning, the four men who still fled abruptly disappeared. Luke didn't have any idea where they had gone until he drew closer and saw a dry wash twisting away across the West Texas landscape.
The wash gave them the cover they needed to get away from the men on top of the bluff. Those men reined in and continued firing rifles and handguns toward the arroyo, but they were shooting blind. The bluff was too steep here for them to get their horses down.
Luke thought about pursuing the men into the wash, but he decided there were too many places where they could stop and ambush him.
Instead, he turned his horse and rode toward the man he had shot, who still lay motionless on the ground where he had landed next to a scrubby mesquite bush.
As he brought the dun to a halt not far from the dead man, somebody hailed him from the top of the bluff.
"Stay right there, mister!" the man called, then disappeared as he turned his horse away from the rimrock.
Luke didn't like being told what to do, but he was curious about what had happened here and waiting for the others to join him seemed like the quickest, easiest way to find out.
As long as they didn't start taking potshots at him, too.
He swung down from the saddle and left the dun's reins hanging. The man he had shot lay on his side in a pool of blood that the thirsty ground would soon soak up. Luke could see part of the hombre's face as he approached. He slipped one of the Remingtons from its holster just in case, even though he was convinced the man wasn't playing possum.
As a bounty hunter, Luke had seen more outlaws than he liked to think about. This man fit the type. He wore rough range clothes and had a beard-stubbled face that bore marks of dissolution. As far as Luke could remember, he had never seen the man before, either in person or as a likeness on a wanted poster.
The men in the second bunch must have found a way down off the bluff. Luke heard hoofbeats and looked up to see them riding toward him. He kept the Remington in his hand but let it hang beside his leg as they approached.
This group consisted of eight men. They reined in when they were about twenty feet away and watched Luke warily. One man walked his horse forward to close the gap between them. His hand rested on the butt of the gun holstered on his right hip.
Luke understood why they were being cautious. He was a stranger to them, and a heavily armed one, at that. Dressed in black from head to foot, his hat, clothes, and boots were covered with a layer of gray trail dust that showed he'd been traveling for quite a ways. His craggy face and dark, narrow mustache gave him a somewhat sinister air. He looked like a bad man to have for an enemy.
That much was true about him, anyway.
What didn't show was the real nature of the man. Luke Jensen was a bounty hunter, a ruthless man- hunter, and a dangerous foe, no doubt about that. He was also a very well-read man who knew the classics, who enjoyed a fine cigar and a snifter of cognac, who was just as much at home in an opera house as he was in a trail town saloon. He carried the scars of a violent life on his body and the scars of a tragic past on his soul, although he wasn't the sort to brood about either.
But none of the cowboys confronting him now with their guns ready for trouble knew about any of that, so he just gave their apparent leader a noncommittal nod and said, "Howdy."
"You're on MacCrae range, mister," the man said. "Mind telling me who you are?"
"I assume you have a right to ask that question?"
The man grunted and said, "Damned right I do. I ramrod the crew. Name's Gabe Pendleton. Now, I've told you who I am, so I'd appreciate it if you'd return the favor."
Pendleton was a stocky man with a thatch of straw-like hair under his battered brown hat. His eyes were a washed-out blue, Luke noted, and at the moment were narrow with suspicion.
"I'm Luke Jensen," Luke introduced himself. He was used to people asking him if he was related to Smoke Jensen, the famous gunfighter. As a matter of fact, he and Smoke were brothers, although Luke didn't go out of his way to publicize that relationship.
He had made plenty of enemies of his own without having everybody with a grudge against his brother gunning for him, too.
"What are you doing here?"
"I was riding along minding my own business when somebody on top of that bluff started shooting at me. Whoever it was had me pinned down. Then you and your friends came along and rousted him out, and he and his friends lit a shuck. I owe you some thanks for that, by the way." Luke shrugged. "Now you know as much about this dustup as I do. More, I would guess."
Pendleton nodded toward the dead man and asked, "You know who that is?"
"I never saw him before," Luke said.
"We don't mean you any harm. How about pouching that iron?"
"I'd be glad to ... as soon as you and these other men take your hands off your guns."
Pendleton jerked his head in a command, and the other men relaxed and lifted hands from gun butts. Luke slid the Remington he held back into its holster.
Pendleton motioned to his men and said, "Take a look at that hombre and see if any of you know him."
He dismounted, and the others followed suit and gathered around the corpse while Luke and Pendleton moved to one side. One of the cowboys said, "I think I've seen him before, Gabe, maybe in one of the saloons at Painted Post, but I don't know his name."
"His name don't matter," another man said. "All that counts is that he works for Harry Elston."
Pendleton said, "We don't know that for a fact."
That brought a snort of disbelief from the man who had just spoken.
"Who else would be out here usin' a runnin' iron on our critters?" the man wanted to know.
Pendleton just grunted and didn't have any other answer for the question.
A swift, sudden rataplan of hoofbeats would have kept him from replying, anyway. The sound made all the men look around, including Luke. He saw a single rider coming toward them on a big white horse.
"That looks like the boss," one of the men said.
"Yeah," Pendleton agreed. A nervous expression appeared on his face. The owner of this ranch must have been a real fire-breather to have that effect on the tough foreman, Luke thought. From everything he had heard about Sam MacCrae, that was the case.
But the newcomer wasn't the old Scotsman, Luke realized a moment later. The rider's faded blue shirt hugged curves that were undeniably female. Luke spotted long, black hair that was pulled back and tied in a ponytail that hung down the woman's back. She wore a flat-crowned black hat with its neck strap tight under her chin.
When she reined her mount to a halt and swung down from the saddle, Luke saw that she wore a divided canvas riding skirt as well, which explained how she was able to ride astride the way she did. She led the horse toward them. She didn't walk like a man, but there was nothing mincing or affected about her stride, either.
"I saw the branding fire, Gabe," she said.
Pendleton nodded and said, "Yes, ma'am." Luke noticed that the foreman had moved so that he stood between the woman and the man on the ground.
It didn't do any good, because she asked, "Is that a dead man behind you?"
"Yes, ma'am, but you don't want to be looking at him."
"Is he one of our men, or one of the rustlers?"
"He's not one of us," Pendleton said.
"Let me have a look."
Pendleton hesitated. Clearly, he didn't want to expose her to the sight of a grisly corpse. Luke's bullet had ripped through the man's torso from side to side, and there was a lot of blood on the ground around him.
The woman wore a determined expression, though, so after a few seconds Pendleton gave a tiny shrug and stepped aside. The woman came forward a few steps to peer down at the dead man.
Her face went pale for a second under its healthy tan, but her expression remained steady and composed. She shook her head and said, "I don't know him."
"None of us do," Pendleton told her, "although Chuck said he might've seen the man in one of the saloons in Painted Post."
"That doesn't mean anything. It's the closest place for Harry Elston's men to drink."
"Yeah, that's true."
The woman turned her head to look at Luke. She said bluntly, "I don't think I know you."
"This fella is the one who downed that rustler," Pendleton explained. "The way I figure it, a couple of them were working the branding fire while two more drove our steers up. They put one man up on top of the bluff to keep a lookout and make sure they weren't disturbed. When Jensen here came along, the sentry got spooked and started shooting. The boys and I heard the shots and got here as quick as we could."
"Mr. Jensen, is it?" the woman said to Luke.
"That's right," he said. "Luke Jensen."
She wore riding gloves, but she used her left hand to pull the glove off her right and then stuck it out like a man.
"I'm Glory MacCrae," she introduced herself.
Luke shook hands with her, and as he did he thought that she had just confirmed what he already suspected. She was the woman he had come here to find.
The woman who had a price on her head for murder.CHAPTER 2
It had started a few weeks earlier in San Antonio, where Luke had brought the body of an outlaw named Joe Jack Talcott. Luke had caught up to Talcott at a road ranch between Schulenberg and San Antonio and gotten the drop on him—or so he'd thought—while the outlaw was in bed with a soiled dove named Juanita.
What Luke didn't find out until later was that Juanita's brother, who was something of a desperado himself, had been gunned down by a bounty hunter a couple of years earlier, so when Talcott, with his hands up and his long underwear down, had paused in his cussing long enough to call Luke a no-good bounty hunter, Juanita had gone loco.
Practically spitting fire, she had rolled out of the sheets with a flash of sleek, golden-brown skin and grabbed a bottle of tequila from the little table beside the bed. She flung it at Luke's head, and her aim was good. He had to throw his left arm up to block the bottle.
The next instant, Talcott crashed into him, desperation prompting the outlaw to try a diving tackle despite the fact that Luke's gun was still pointed in his general direction.
The Remington had gone off as the collision drove Luke backwards off his feet, but the bullet missed Talcott and tore through the oilcloth shade over the room's single window instead. Outside, it creased the rump of one of the horses tied at a hitch rack and set off an explosion of bucking and squealing that spooked the other mounts and made them jerk their reins loose and stampede away.
While that was going on, Luke was locked in a deadly struggle with Joe Jack Talcott. The outlaw got a hand on the barrel of Luke's gun and tried to twist the weapon around so that it pointed at its owner. Luke resisted that effort. Juanita came up and tried to kick him in the head with a bare foot. Actually, she was bare all over, which was very evident from Luke's vantage point on the floor, although he was in no position, physical or otherwise, to appreciate the view.
After jerking his head out of the way of Juanita's foot a couple of times, he grabbed her ankle with his free hand and heaved. She went over backwards and landed hard enough on her rump to knock the breath out of her and take her out of the fight for the moment. Luke balled that hand into a fist and slammed it a couple of times into the side of Talcott's head. The outlaw's eyes glazed over. He lost his grip on Luke's gun and Luke shoved him away.
Unfortunately, Talcott rolled within reach of his Colt, which rested in a holster attached to a shell belt hung over one of the posts at the foot of the bed. He regained his wits enough to make a grab for the gun, even though Luke yelled for him not to do it. The Colt slid out of leather and Talcott started to swing it up.
Luke shot him in the chest.
The Remington boomed three times and made Juanita scream and clap her hands over her ears. The first shot probably killed Talcott instantly, but Luke knew there was nothing worse than thinking some varmint was dead and then finding out that he wasn't, so he put two more slugs into the outlaw, each within a few inches of the blood-pouring hole where the first bullet had struck him. With the Colt still in his hand, Talcott sagged sideways on the floor.
Luke pushed himself onto one knee, then onto his feet and took a step back so he could cover Talcott and Juanita at the same time. Neither appeared to be a threat anymore. Talcott was dead and Juanita was curled up in a ball, sobbing in fear.
The fella who ran the place came in the door with a shotgun. He was a fat, bald-headed gent named Edwards with a long gray beard that hung down over his chest. Luke was ready to shoot him, too, if need be, but Edwards quickly pointed the shotgun at the floor and backed off.
"Take it easy, mister," he said in an urgent voice. "Just take it easy."
Excerpted from LUKE JENSEN, BOUNTY HUNTER BLOODY SUNDAY by William W. Johnstone, J. A. Johnstone. Copyright © 2014 J. A. Johnstone. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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