To save an innocent family, Hawker goes hunting in the Rockies If they hadn’t come to the cabin, Lomela and her children would be dead by now. Evil men want something from Lomela’s father, and they’ll hurt his family to get it, so the young mother has taken refuge far from civilization, in a remote patch of the Rocky Mountains. She believes she’s safe. She’s wrong. The sniper focuses his scope on Lomela. He squeezes the trigger, and his crossbow bolt flies across the mountains, passing Lomela—and striking dead the man who was about to shoot her in the back. James Hawker, the most dangerous vigilante in the United States, has just saved another life. But Lomela and her children are still in danger, and Hawker will paint the Rockies with blood to keep them safe. Denver Strike is the 10th book in the Hawker series, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
About the Author
Randy Wayne White was born in Ashland, Ohio, in 1950. Best known for his series featuring retired NSA agent Doc Ford, he has published over twenty crime fiction and nonfiction adventure books. White began writing fiction while working as a fishing guide in Florida, where most of his books are set. His earlier writings include the Hawker series, which he published under the pen name Carl Ramm. White has received several awards for his fiction, and his novels have been featured on the New York Times bestseller list. He was a monthly columnist for Outside magazine and has contributed to several other publications, as well as lectured throughout the United States and travelled extensively. White currently lives on Pine Island in South Florida, and remains an active member of the community through his involvement with local civic affairs as well as the restaurant Doc Ford’s Sanibel Rum Bar and Grill.
Read an Excerpt
By Randy Wayne White
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1986 Dell Publishing Co., Inc.
All rights reserved.
James Hawker knew at a glance that the woman and her two kids were in trouble.
The three of them had been brought to this remote valley of grass and wild flowers high above Denver in the Colorado Rockies. They had been housed in the old herder's cabin by the cold trout stream that rushed through the aspens, out of the snowy peaks.
They had been told to live quietly in the cabin, to stay away from civilization until their "problem" had been resolved.
Hawker was familiar with the woman's problem: there were men who would happily torture or kill her and her children to get what they wanted from the woman's father.
Hawker also knew that the only way to resolve her problem was to eliminate those men.
Now, Hawker decided, was the time to do some eliminating.
He reached into his canvas duffel and withdrew a black alloy bow attached to an abbreviated rifle stock.
It was a Cobra crossbow, military issue. The crossbow had a killing range of nearly a half-mile, and it could send its dart-size arrows traveling through the heart of a man at a speed of a hundred yards per second. Each dart was specially made so it could be fitted with tiny weights to compensate for distance or windage. The bow itself had a 4×–7× zoom scope with a built-in self-illuminating compass.
As Hawker picked up the bow, he wondered what the Arapaho warriors who had hunted in these mountains three hundred years ago would have thought of this strange dark-red-haired man in his camouflage jump suit and black wool watch cap, holding this strangest of all bows.
They would have probably thought he was some kind of weird mountain god.
In a way, they would have been right.
Today, anyway, he was playing God. Today he would save a few lives and he would take a few lives.
It was a role he had played many times before, all across America.
Hawker used the self-cocking lever to break the bow almost double, like an air rifle. The bow locked back into place, and he fitted one of the arrows — bolts — onto the shooting track. After checking to make sure the safety pin was on, he rested his eye against the scope and used his left hand to dial to its lowest power.
The scope melted the two hundred yards between the cabin and his position on the mountainside into almost nothing. He could see the heavy logs of the cabin mortised by gray wattle, the planking of the slanted roof, smoke drifting out of the raw stone chimney, the Appaloosa mare grazing among the sheep on the hillside, and the wide door on its rusted hinges as it opened out onto the dirt path that led past the split-timber fence to the river.
He could see, too, the woman, with a towel in her hand, walking toward the river where the aspens and the willows met in a screen of yellow and white leaves, could see her using her fingers to brush her buttock-length black hair.
Hawker swung the scope back toward the cabin. Where were the two kids? There they were, two sets of big dark eyes at the window: K.D., the nine-year-old boy, and Dolores, the lovely, fawnlike seven-year-old girl.
When the vigilante was sure the children were all right, he focused the scope on the back of the woman as she swayed toward the river.
The woman's name was Lomela. Hawker guessed her to be in her early thirties; though she looked younger, she might have been older. Lomela was the illegitimate daughter of old Robert Charles Carthay, the silver prospector, and his Hispanic/Indian bunkmate, housekeeper, and (when he was mining the high basins for silver) pack mule. Lomela had the short, stout body of a Mexican and the long legs and Apache-face of an Indian. Her hair was glossy blue-black, as healthy as an animal pelt, and her eyes were a shy brown.
Hawker had never met Lomela or her two children. But he had spent the last eight hours on this mountainside watching over them.
Now he watched her closely.
Lomela knelt at the clear river and dipped her hands in, drinking. Then, with the abrupt this-way-that-way look of a deer, the woman stood and stretched herself. Crossing her hands in front of her, she stripped off her white blouse, then stepped out of her boots and jeans.
Now she wore only sheer beige panties. Hawker watched her through the scope as she threw her hair back over her shoulder and held her arms out as if to embrace the sun. Her body was more attractive than Hawker would have guessed. He would have expected her to be brown and doughy and shapeless. She was none of those things.
Her shoulders became narrower without the baggy blouse, and her chest expanded and took shape. Childbirth had flattened her heavy breasts, but the nipples, tiny on the vast dollar-size brown circles of areolas, still pointed upward. When she leaned over the river to drink again, Hawker could see the washboard steps of her ribs beneath the swinging breasts, and he could see the meaty expansion of hips and thighs beneath her panties.
Now she stripped off the panties, scratched at her pubic hair with the unconscious ease of a wild creature, and then ran into the cold water of the river.
It was bath time in the high country of the autumn Rockies.
Lomela's little boy and girl poked their heads out the door to watch.
Hawker knew that they were not the only ones who were watching.
He twisted the eyepiece of the zoom scope to full power. He began a methodical search of the dense brush below him. Finally, he saw it again: the wide fingers of a man's hand, the ugly snout of a sawed-off shotgun. This time, though, he also saw a chunk of the man's head as he leaned eagerly forward from his blind so that he might better see the naked woman.
How many more of them were there?
The vigilante had seen only this man for certain. But he had seen a glimmer of metal or glass on the hill behind the cabin, and he had seen crows flush from the aspen grove to his right, so he suspected there were more of them.
They had come into the basin more than two hours ago, and Hawker had awaited their first move.
But they seemed content to lie low until dark to strike — a sign of patience that distressed Hawker, for it showed the men to be competent, professional, and very, very dangerous.
Hawker knew he wouldn't have much of a chance against them after the sun dropped behind the mountain.
He had to sniff them out now, take them one by one, and hope to Christ he got them all.
Below, the woman was climbing out of the river, her hair hanging in a wet rope down her back, her hips swinging, her breasts bouncing, her whole body glowing with the cold. She found the towel beneath her clothes and buffed herself dry.
From the door of the cabin, the boy and girl stepped out — only to be waved back inside by their naked mother. With the sure intuition of a woman, she seemed to know there was danger nearby, and she wasn't going to let her children take any chances.
As Hawker looked at the woman, he thought about the bizarre circumstances and the strange chain of events that had brought him to these mountains. The story Jacob Montgomery Hayes had told him involved a mixture of piracy, international finance, and Old West claim-jumping. And the whole story revolved around this woman who now stood naked before him.
I've watched her move all around today, Hawker thought, and she never once struck me as being physically desirable — until now. With her clothes off, she has the sloe-eyed, big-breasted, spread-thighed broodmare look, the look of a woman who lives to be bedded and bear young....
Hawker shook the image from his mind. Voyeurism is bad enough, he thought. Combined with adolescent fantasies, it makes you into a singularly unattractive middle-aged man.
Once again, one of the children — the boy — poked his head through the door. This time, Hawker stiffened as he saw the man on the ledge beneath him stand, balance himself, then exchange the shotgun for a long-barreled rifle. Hawker recognized the rifle. It was a Remington model 700, the Mauseractioned weapon that, in its military version, had been used as a highly effective sniper rifle.
The man now lifted the rifle toward the head of the child who stood in the distant doorway.
Why would the man have waited so long only to fire now? It didn't make sense.
But Hawker didn't take time to ponder. He got noiselessly to his feet, brought the cross hairs of the Cobra to bear on the back of the man's neck, saw the reflexive stiffening of the man just before the Remington exploded, then squeezed the trigger of the crossbow.
The arrow was a momentary sliver of light between two snowy peaks, Hawker saw it flash once, then disappear into the pale hush of the aspens. The Remington made no sound.
Now it was an entirely different scene through the zoom scope. The vigilante could see that the man lay face downward while his hands clawed at the bright arrow in his neck. His feet made a random, thumping motion as they hammered at the earth. Blood splotched the pale weeds.
Beyond, the woman had thrown her clothes over her shoulder and now walked unconcerned toward the snug little cabin. She had obviously heard nothing.
Hawker was relieved. If she had not heard, the men had not heard either.
The vigilante loaded another bolt into the crossbow and began to move toward the expanse of trees where he had seen crows flush.CHAPTER 2
The snowy peaks glittered with the cold light of dusk as Hawker began to hunt along the mountainside.
Back in Florida, back in the mangrove, mosquito, and tarpon country where he had been when Hayes had wired him, it was September. But September in Florida had absolutely nothing in common with September in the Colorado Rockies.
September in Florida was desert-calm mornings on the sea, suffocating afternoons beneath a sun the size of a full moon, and still-humid nights dank with the protein odor of mud flats as hot as human viscera.
In the Colorado Rockies, though, September was a month of transition. It was a clutch month that shifted directly into autumn. Here the aspens were turning silver on the high mountain peaks. The air was as startlingly cool as skin bracer. Ski resorts were already preparing their lift gear. The mountains seemed to hush a little with the expectation of snow.
James Hawker took a deep gulp of the thin, cold air. Breathing was the biggest difference, though — trying to breathe. Climbing over the rugged hillside, the vigilante forced himself to move slowly, to take it easy. True, the sun was floating toward the mountain's crest; nightfall was coming fast. But he still had to take his time. In this oxygen-poor air, hurrying would leave his lungs burning, his legs shaking.
He had to move slowly, deliberately, if he were to succeed.
Hawker dropped down off a rock ledge and landed by the corpse of the man he had just shot. The man lay on his stomach, his hands frozen around the nub of aluminum arrow that protruded through his neck. The vigilante used his foot to roll the man over: long, hippie-length black hair, a bluish beard, a meaty, acne-scarred face, khaki pants, hunting boots, a Smith & Wesson .38 strapped to his hips, a red nylon satchel filled with ammunition for the Remington 700 and for the sawed-off shotgun that lay beside him in the grass.
The vigilante used his hands to search for identification, but he found none.
He did find, however, a pocket-size UHF transceiver in the man's jacket. Hawker took the radio and touched the transmitter button twice, hoping the static would bring some reply.
"Come back, red team. Is that you? Still waiting for your sound, red team, still waiting for your sound. Is game still in sight?"
The sound the speaker was waiting for was, of course, a rifle shot.
Hawker held the radio far from his lips. "Still waiting for clear view," Hawker said. "Standing by."
The man with the other radio had spoken just enough for the vigilante to use the antenna as a direction finder and get the general direction of the speaker's whereabouts.
He was the one who had frightened the crows nearby.
Hawker pulled the arrow from the man's neck, wiped the razor-sharp killing blade in the grass, then stuck the radio in his pocket.
He began to work his way slowly along the ridge, stopping occasionally to survey the trees ahead. Twice the radio squawked, startling him, so he finally turned it off.
When he judged that he was very near the second man, though, he halted in the brush and switched the radio back on. He touched the mike key twice, spun the volume down, and listened.
He could hear nothing from the radio, but he could hear the faint voice of a man talking nearby.
Hawker raised the scope of the Cobra crossbow to his right eye and looked.
Hidden in a pouch formed by rocks and a fallen pine were two men. They were out of the same mold as the man he had just shot: long, greasy hair, hunting clothes, shotguns at their sides, handguns in holsters. Hawker had never met them, yet he knew their type all too well. These were the modern guns-for-hire. You found them among the vicious motorcycle gangs or in the drug-trafficking or porno rings. They were sadists, and they loved their work. A high percentage of them were drug addicts, and they would do absolutely anything to make money so they could support their habits. If killing a woman and her two children paid big, then they would do it without the blink of an eye.
The vigilante lowered the crossbow, wondering just how he should go about it. How could he eliminate both of these men without making noise? There was at least one more man — but probably more — on the other side of the valley. Hawker had seen the glitter of metal earlier. If he used the Colt Commando assault rifle that he carried across his back in a sling, the noise would frighten off the rest of his quarry. And he wanted them all. He didn't want any to escape.
But if he used the crossbow, one of the men would certainly have time to cry out or to get off a couple of shots with the Winchester model 12s they carried.
Hawker decided to take a closer look.
Leaning into the mountain, he moved down the hill sideways, his hands gaining purchase from bushes, taking great care not to start any small rockslides that would give his position away.
When he was within forty yards of the men, he stopped. The biggest advantage Hawker had was the fact that the men he was hunting had absolutely no idea that they were being hunted.
That gave him an idea. No longer trying to be silent, Hawker got to his feet and walked innocently toward their hiding place. He actually began to whistle. For all the men knew, he was a tourist lost in the mountain wilderness.
Hawker kept the Cobra at his side in his right hand, cocked and ready — just as he held the Colt Commando, safety off, in his left hand. When he got close enough to see the men, he smiled mildly and, still walking toward them, said, "Hey, you guys don't know where I can find a phone booth, do you?"
Hawker expected at least a moment of uncertainty from the two men. They were startled all right — but there was nothing uncertain about them. They knew exactly what they wanted to do. Hawker saw them both lift their weapons at the same time, but he never gave them a chance to fire. He had no alternative. He raised the Cobra, fired too quickly, and the aluminum shaft buried itself in the side of the man closest to him.
The man gave a horrible scream that echoed through the mountains. But his scream was not nearly as loud as the quick burst from the Colt Commando assault rifle that Hawker used to kill the second man.
The report of the automatic weapon seemed to echo forever through the hills.
Damn it! Hawker snarled beneath his breath as he stooped over the corpses of the two men. He could practically hear the men on the other side of the valley scrambling to safety. He went through the pockets, finding cigarettes, candy bars, matches, money, and a Glad-Wrap bag full of marijuana, but no identification of any kind.
Hawker tried to get the arrow from between the ribs of the man he had shot with the Cobra. But the arrow had disappeared inside his chest cavity — another reason for Hawker to be angry at himself.
He had bungled the job — thought too slowly and shot too quickly.
Blame it on the high altitude, he thought. Your brain isn't getting enough air.
What brain, dumb shit? he railed at himself.
Hawker picked up the second radio and touched the mike key. "All teams come in; come in all teams."
Excerpted from Denver Strike by Randy Wayne White. Copyright © 1986 Dell Publishing Co., Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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