John Horton Slaughter fought on the blood-soaked battlefields of the Civil War. He drove thundering cattle across a dangerous frontier, and faced the deadliest outlaws as a Texas Ranger. Now, bestselling authors William and J.A. Johnstone tell the story of this towering historical figure—the man who tamed Tombstone, Arizona.
A HERO AS BIG AND TOUGH AS TEXAS
Enticed by the richest poker tournament the West has ever seen, a horde of cheating and ruthless card players is gathering at Tombstone, Arizona. Lawman John Slaughter already has his hands full when a local Romeo takes off with a rancher’s daughter and draws the ire of her father and a blood-thirsty posse. Back in town, a murder shatters the poker tournament, with a beautiful Englishwoman as the prime suspect. John Horton Slaughter has been to hell and back as a soldier, rancher and Texas Ranger, and this just might be his toughest day yet. To set things straight he’ll need every bullet he can muster, aim straight, and shoot to kill. And kill again…
Forget keeping the peace. This is war.
Live Free. Read Hard.
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
Stonewall Jackson Howell tensed as he stood on the boardwalk in front of a hardware store and looked along the mostly darkened length of Allen Street, one of the two main thoroughfares of Tombstone, Arizona Territory. The hour was late enough that most of the businesses were closed for the night, including the one where he had stopped abruptly. The only oasis of light came from the notorious Birdcage Saloon down at the other end of the street.
His hands tightened on the short-barreled shotgun he carried as rapid footsteps thudded on the planks not far away.
When somebody hurried like that at night, it usually meant trouble.
As one of the sheriff's deputies charged with keeping the peace in the famed frontier settlement, trouble was Stonewall's business.
He was a well-built young man, not long out of his teens, with a shock of fair hair under his thumbed-back brown hat. Despite his youth, he had already taken part in several cattle drives and had worked as a cowboy on the vast ranch in the San Bernardino Valley that belonged to his brother-in-law.
He was serving as a deputy under that same brother-in-law, John Horton Slaughter, the sheriff of Cochise County. Texas John Slaughter, a lot of people called him, because he had come to Arizona from the Lone Star State.
Stonewall called him John when they were at the ranch some sixty miles east of Tombstone, since they were related by marriage; in town he called the older man "boss" or "Sheriff ."
John Slaughter didn't stand for any disrespect, for him or for the office he held.
The frantic, running footsteps came closer. Stonewall, who had been making the late night rounds and checking that the doors of various businesses were locked as they were supposed to be, leveled the shotgun at the sound. "This is the law!" he called. "Whoever that is, slow down and sing out!"
"Stonewall!" The exclamation from the shadows held both surprise and relief as the footsteps came to an abrupt halt. "Stonewall, is that you, pard?"
With a troubled frown on his face, Stonewall asked, "Dallin Williams?"
"Yeah." The man's dark shape loomed from the shadows on the boardwalk as he moved closer. "You gotta help me, Stonewall. Somebody's after me."
A look of disgust, all but invisible in the darkness, passed over Stonewall's normally open, friendly face. "Somebody's after you?" he repeated.
"Yeah. Albie Hamilton."
"This trouble of yours wouldn't have anything to do with Mrs. Hamilton, would it?"
Despite the fact that Williams was breathing hard from running, he chuckled "Well ..."
"Good Lord, Dallin!" Stonewall exploded. "When are you gonna learn that it means something when a woman's got a wedding ring on her finger?"
"I tell you what. It didn't seem to mean much to Brenda a little while ago."
Stonewall didn't have to see Williams's face in the shadows to know that the man was grinning. Even when he was up to his neck in trouble, as he usually was, a quick grin and a joke were his first line of defense.
He had cowboyed all over Arizona Territory. He was a good ranch hand, a top all-around hand, in fact, but he couldn't hold down a job. He couldn't be trusted around a man's wife and daughters.
Dallin had the uncanny knack of being able to blind any woman over the age of consent with the bright lights of lust and infatuation. He had cuckolded more husbands and outraged more fathers than anybody could count.
As far as Stonewall could see, it was only sheer luck that had kept Dallin from being tarred and feathered, shot, or marched in front of a preacher at the point of a shotgun.
Just about the only place he had ever failed to land a female he set his hook for was the Slaughter Ranch, when he'd worked there a year or so earlier. He had been mightily impressed with the sultry beauty of Viola Slaughter, Stonewall's sister and the wife of John Slaughter. It was inevitable that he would make a play for her, with every expectation for success on his part. After all, Viola was a lovely, vibrant woman, and she was also considerably younger than her husband.
What Dallin had failed to take into account was that Viola was madly, passionately in love with John Slaughter and always would be. When he made his move on her, she had laughed in his face and then grown serious, warning him to get out before she fetched a rifle.
He had taken his defeat with fairly good grace, Stonewall recalled, and left the ranch before Slaughter ever found out about what had happened.
Stonewall knew about the incident because he was working on the ranch at the time and Dallin was his friend. His sister had convinced him there was no reason to tell Slaughter and had sworn Stonewall to secrecy.
Since then, Slaughter had been elected sheriff of Cochise County, Stonewall had gone to work for him as a deputy, and Dallin Williams had drifted on to several other ranches.
Stonewall didn't really consider him a friend anymore. Stonewall was something of a ladies' man himself, or at least liked to think he was, but Dallin always carried things too far. It seemed to be a game with him. An ugly game, as far as Stonewall was concerned.
Lately, Dallin had been working on the McCabe spread, and Stonewall figured it was only a matter of time before he began trying to seduce Jessie McCabe, the pretty, brown-haired daughter of Little Ed McCabe.
Clearly, though, Dallin had decided to set his sights on Brenda Hamilton instead. Brenda's husband Albie drove a freight wagon and was gone from Tombstone quite a bit. Since they didn't have any children, that meant Brenda was home alone.
She was also blond and shapely, with daring blue eyes and a tantalizing smile like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. All that put together must have been too tempting a target for Dallin to pass up.
"What did you do now?" Stonewall asked in the same tone of voice he would have used if he had framed that rhetorical question to an egg-sucking dog.
"Well, shoot, you know ..." Dallin replied in that lazy drawl of his that seemed to have a spellbinding effect on most women. "Brenda and me just sorta spent a little time together gettin' to know one another —"
"Where is he?" a man bellowed from up the street. "Where is he, by God? I'll wring his neck!"
"Albie wasn't supposed to be back from his freight run until tomorrow." Dallin started to edge nervously past Stonewall on the boardwalk. "He got in early, though."
Dallin sighed and shook his head regretfully. "Wish I could say the same. Now, Stonewall, what I need for you to do is, when Albie comes stompin' and blowin' down here in a minute like a crazy ol' bull, you just tell him you ain't seen me and order him to settle down and go on home."
"Why should I do that?"
"Well, he's disturbin' the peace, you know. As an officer of the law, you'd be within your rights to march him right down to the hoosegow and lock him up. Come to think of it, that might not be such a bad idea."
"Forget it," Stonewall said. "I'm not gonna lie to Albie Hamilton, and I'm sure not gonna throw him in jail. I won't help you hide from him, either."
"But Stonewall"— Dallin's voice sounded like his feelings were mortally wounded —"we're pards."
"No, we're not. Maybe we used to be, a long time ago, but not anymore."
Albie Hamilton stood in the middle of the street and stopped to look around. He was a tall, brawny man with heavy shoulders and a bushy brown mustache. He lifted a fist, shook it at the sky, and bellowed, "I'll find you, Williams! I'll find you wherever you are, by God, and teach you not to mess with another man's wife!"
Stonewall couldn't see him all that well and without thinking about what he was doing, he edged back deeper into the shadows in front of the hardware store. Hamilton hadn't spotted them yet, but if he continued in that direction he probably would.
"Listen here, Stonewall," Dallin said softly. "If Albie Hamilton tries to lay his hands on me, I ain't gonna let that happen. He ain't packin' an iron, but I am. This could turn into a right messy situation."
"It won't go that far. Mr. Hamilton will listen to me if I tell him to back off."
"You sure about that? What happens if he don't? I'll tell you what happens. One of us will have to shoot him, that's what. You bein' a lawman and all, you don't want that, do you?"
Stonewall grimaced in the darkness. His teeth ground together in frustration as he thought about his options. After a moment, going against every instinct in his body, he said, "All right, blast it! Get out of here. Go down that alley. Where's your horse?"
"Tied at one of the hitch rails down by the Birdcage."
"Circle around through the alleys and stay out of sight. Get your horse and ride out. I'll try to keep Mr. Hamilton occupied and give you a chance to get out of town."
Dallin clapped a hand on Stonewall's shoulder. "Now that's bein' a good pard like I knowed you was."
"Go on. Get out of here before I change my mind and call him down here myself."
"I'm gone," Dallin said over his shoulder.
Stonewall heard him laughing as he disappeared in the darkness of the alley.
After heaving a disgusted sigh aimed as much at himself as at Dallin, Stonewall started walking toward Albie Hamilton, who was still stomping around in the street.
Hamilton saw him coming and charged toward him with fists clenched.
Stonewall swung the shotgun up. "Hold it right there, Mr. Hamilton," he ordered. "It's me, Deputy Howell. What's all the hollerin' about? It's mighty late at night to be disturbing the peace."
"Deputy!" Hamilton toned his voice down a little, but he still sounded as loud as a bull moose. "Have you seen that no-good young cowpoke Dallin Williams?"
Lying rubbed Stonewall the wrong way, but he said, "No, sir, I haven't."
"Well, if I get my hands on him, you'll never see him again, either! I'm gonna wring his neck!"
"Now wait just a minute there. You can't just go around threatening to kill folks. It ain't like the old days in Tombstone, anymore."
That was true. More than five years had passed since the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday had had their run-in with the Clanton bunch down by the photography studio and the corral. Tombstone had settled down since then ... sort of.
"It ain't a threat. It's a promise," Hamilton blustered. "I caught him messin' with my wife. I got a legal right to shoot the both of 'em!"
Suddenly, Stonewall was a little worried about Brenda Hamilton. He knew better than to think that Dallin might have lingered to make sure she was all right. No, Dallin would have lit a shuck out of there fast as he could as soon as he realized they'd been caught in the act.
"Mr. Hamilton, you didn't hurt your wife, did you?" Stonewall hadn't heard any shots, but the man could have beaten her to death. Stonewall had to know for sure.
"What?" Hamilton sounded genuinely surprised by the question. "Naw, I didn't hurt her. Of course I didn't! I got to admit, I was mad enough for a second there that I might've, but I love Brenda — God help me! — and wouldn't do nothin' to her. Anyway, I figure it ain't really her fault. That blasted scoundrel Williams has a way of gettin' women to do any damned thing he wants!"
Stonewall knew that was true. It was sort of like magic. Evil magic.
"Listen, Mr. Hamilton, I know how upset you are. Best thing you can do now is calm down, go home, and talk to your wife. I know Dallin Williams. There ain't a serious bone in his body. The last thing he wants is to steal your wife away from you permanent-like. I'll bet if you have a talk with her, you'll see that whatever happened didn't really mean anything."
Hamilton glowered at him. "You think I'm gonna take advice about my marriage from some wet-behind-the-ears kid?"
Stonewall's voice hardened a little as he replied, "My ears ain't all that wet. I've got a badge, a Colt, and a shotgun, too, so I'd say that makes me a little more than a kid."
A tense moment dragged past, then Hamilton made a disgusted noise in his throat. "All right, all right. I'll go home. But you better hope I don't run into that polecat Williams any time soon. If I do, I ain't gonna be responsible for what happens, you hear me?"
"I hear you," Stonewall said.
Hamilton started to turn away, then paused to add, "I'm surprised somebody hasn't killed that varmint before now."
"To tell you the truth, so am I."
"You're not gonna say anything to Sheriff Slaughter about this, are you?" Hamilton suddenly sounded like he was starting to regret making death threats against Dallin Williams.
"I can't think of any reason to mention it as long as you stop raising a ruckus."
"I'm goin', I'm goin'," Hamilton muttered. He stomped away.
As Hamilton walked off, Stonewall heard a faint, swift rataplan of hoofbeats at the other end of town as somebody rode away from Tombstone. He hoped the distant rider was Dallin. It was all right if his former friend just kept going and didn't ever return to Tombstone.
With a lawman's instincts Stonewall was already starting to develop despite being on the job for only a short time, he had a strong hunch that last part wouldn't turn out to be the case.
John Horton Slaughter was a precise, methodical man. At the same time, he was one who frequently relied on his instincts and played his hunches.
He had always been that way in his personal life. As a prime example, the first time he had seen the young, darkly beautiful Viola Howell over in New Mexico Territory, he had thought to himself that he was going to marry that girl.
The same held true in his professional life as a cattleman and peace officer. His instincts had told him the San Bernardino Valley was where he ought to establish his ranch, and the spread had proven to be very successful. As for being the sheriff of Cochise County ... well, right from the first time he had met Morris Upton, the Easterner who ran the Top-Notch Saloon and Gambling Establishment, he'd had to rein in the impulse to pull out a gun and shoot the man.
That would have been the simplest and easiest thing to do, but it wasn't exactly legal. As long as Slaughter wore the sheriff's badge pinned to the lapel of his coat, he had to concern himself about such things.
Upton crossed his mind only because he was thinking about gambling. Slaughter knew being a successful gambler was largely a matter of instinct ... and following your hunches. That was why he had always been good at it. He was a careful, conservative man in many respects, but he knew when to take a chance.
He laid down his hand — a full house, jacks over eights. "Beat that if you can."
The woman sitting at the end of the bed unbuttoned the man's shirt that was the only thing she was wearing, took it off, and tossed it in a corner of the hotel room. She put her cards on the sheets between them.
Slaughter didn't even look at them.
"Do I win?" Viola Slaughter asked.
"No, I do." Slaughter leaned forward, raked the cards off the bed with a sweep of his hand that sent them flying, and reached out to pull his wife into his arms.
Later, when the early morning sunshine slanting in through the gap in the curtains over the second floor window had grown brighter, Slaughter asked her, "Do you really have to go back to the ranch today?"
"You know I do," Viola answered as she snuggled warmly against his side. "No matter how much we might wish it was otherwise, the place won't run itself, you know."
"It almost does. You know we have the best crew in the whole territory."
"Well, of course we do, but someone still has to keep an eye on things."
"And I say, no one is better at that than you, my dear," Slaughter agreed. "All right. I've enjoyed your visit, but I suppose we both knew it had to end sometime."
Since Slaughter had been elected sheriff, Viola had split her time between the ranch and Tombstone. She wasn't willing to move to town full-time, and he knew better than to demand that his strong-willed wife do anything she didn't want to do.
It wasn't a perfect arrangement for either of them, but spending some time together was better than nothing. He wouldn't be sheriff forever, Slaughter reminded himself whenever he got to missing his wife.
However, Tombstone needed him.
Although things weren't as wild as they had been a few years earlier when the Earps and the wild bunch known as the Cowboys had battled to see who was going to hold sway over Tombstone and the surrounding area, life in Cochise County wasn't exactly what anybody would call tranquil. Rustlers and road agents still operated in those parts and bandits raided from across the border. It hadn't been very long, in fact, since such a raid had taken place in Tombstone and Slaughter had had to pursue the bandits into Mexico.
Excerpted from "Deadly Day in Tombstone"
Copyright © 2014 J. A. Johnstone.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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