Cowboys of the Old West Series
Sin Graves makes a promise to his dying father to give up his guns. But when he returns to find his past sweetheart, Millie Hodge in a heap of trouble, he contemplates his decision.
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Excerpt from The Gunslinger:
“Wake up, Sin! You’ve got a visitor.” The sheriff of Rattler Valley, Texas, picked up the ring of keys, shoving one into the lock of the jail cell and turning it with a rusty click.
Sinclair Emmerson Graves, known as Sin, tilted back the brim of his hat with his thumb and opened his eyes slowly. From his lounging position on the hard jail cot he could see two men in the room behind the sheriff. One was the sheriff’s overweight, balding deputy, and the other dressed all in black was the judge.
“Trial time already?” He closed his eyes just wanting to go back to sleep. This scenario was all too familiar to him. Five years ago his quick draw and short temper had landed him in this same jail cell. That was the day his mother had been killed, and also the day he’d become a gunslinger.
“Graves, I need to talk to you,” came the deep, gravelly voice of the judge. He was the man who’d set him free five years ago for accidentally shooting an unarmed young boy. He was also the father of his childhood love, Millie.
“Judge Hodge. To what do I owe this honor?” He stood up in the cell in his stocking feet since the sheriff had taken not only his gunbelts but his boots last night before he threw him in here.
“Surprised to see me, aren’t you?” the judge asked, coming up and holding onto the open cell door.
“I’m not known to like surprises,” he ground out.
“We know,” the deputy broke in. “The scuttlebutt around these parts is that most gunslingers don’t.”
“Sheriff, you have no right to keep me locked up,” spat Sin. “I didn’t shoot anybody this time.”
“You started a brawl in the saloon last night, causing lots of damage,” the sheriff pointed out. “I should have known you coming back to town after all this time would cause a shindy. Soon as I saw you gettin’ all roostered up I knew you’d be lookin’ for trouble.”
“I may have been drunk but I wasn’t purposely trying to cause trouble. I was upset. My father died in my arms last night, or have you already forgotten?”
“We haven’t forgotten,” the judge spoke up. “But it seems to me that you’ve forgotten the promise you’ve made to your father five years ago.”
Sin didn’t want to think about that day. He knew he’d let his father down, and he wasn’t proud of it.
“All right. So I had a few drinks and kicked up a row when some of your patrons started to get a little rough with the working girls. At least I didn’t pull my gun.”
“Lucky for you the judge paid for the damages, because I had every intention of lettin’ you sit here and rot before I let you loose on my town again.” The sheriff threw him his boots and they landed with a thump at his feet. Sin sat down on the bed and put them on.
“Give us a minute, will ya boys?” The judge nodded to the sheriff and the deputy.
“Take all the time you need,” said the sheriff, grabbing Sin’s gunbelts and handing them to the judge. “But I still don’t like your crazy idea.”
The sheriff and his deputy left through the front door, and Judge Hodge entered the cell and threw the gunbelts on the bed next to Sin.
Sin looked out of the corner of his eyes at his weapons and just nodded. “So you’re going to finally collect on that favor I owe you, aren’t ya?”
“Damn right I am.” The judge pulled a pipe out of his pocket and then his tobacco pouch, and filled the pipe as he spoke. “I let you go free years ago when you should have been sent to the hanging tree,” the judge reminded him. “I did it as a favor to your father, because we were friends. So now you’re going to do a favor for me in return.”
“I’m not in the habit of doing favors.” Sin stood up and strapped his gunbelts low on his waist. He wore a Colt .45 on his right side, and a Bulldog Revolver on his left. His father had taught him how to shoot accurately with either hand.
“Well, I’m not in the habit of letting criminals walk when they should be dancing on air, either.”
“That was a long time ago, Cornelius,” he said, using the man’s first name. “I was wild and reckless and made a mistake. I may have been a hard case then, but I’ve changed, I tell ya.”
“You killed a young boy because you were so cocky, trying to prove you were the fastest gun around. Faster than your father.”
Sin’s hands stilled on his belt buckle and his eyes narrowed in aggravation. How could the man be so cruel by saying that? “I think you’re forgetting a couple of the details of that night, Judge,” he said in a cool, calculated tone. “Please allow me to remind you. My father was out of town when a man came looking to pay him back a deadly favor. He killed my mother in retaliation, and in return I killed him.”
“And also one of his young sons who witnessed the whole thing and wasn’t even armed.”
Sin’s jaw clenched and so did his fists. He didn’t like to think back on the episode that put the fury in his blood and revenge in his heart. That is, the incident that changed him that day from a young man who just idolized his father’s profession, to taking over the profession himself of being a gunslinger.
“That was an accident,” he spat. “And don’t forget I witnessed my mother’s death as well. Besides, I let the kid’s brother go.” His hands went to the butts of his guns as he spoke, remembering the boy’s threat. The boy who called himself Santiago, and said when he was older he’d hunt down Sin like a dog and kill him for what he’d done to his father and brother. “I’m still regretting that decision to this very day.”
“My daughter had taken such a fancy to you, and that’s another reason I made the decision to set you free, even if you did give her the mitten.”
“Whoa, now,” he said with a chuckle. “I wasn’t the one to reject Millie. She wanted nothing to do with me after that night.” Just thinking of his childhood sweetheart, Millie, put a pain in his heart. They’d been in love up until then. But then she’d told him to choose between her or his new profession. Sin really wanted her, but he also had bloodlust flowing through his veins, and wasn’t going to let a woman plan his life for him.
“Could you really blame her?” asked the Judge. “Sin, if your father and I hadn’t been such good friends our whole life, I never would have done it. But I told you some day you’d owe me a big favor. Now that you’re back in town and your father is dead, I’m just going to lay it on the line. I’m calling in that favor. I’ve got a job for you and I don’t want you to let me down.”
Sin’s mouth formed a straight line as he slowly bent over and tied his weapons to his legs. His trigger finger itched from the judge’s words. It had been a while since he’d hired out his guns. Something about the idea made his blood stir.
“All right, Judge, I’ll do it. But then my debt to you will be paid, and I don’t ever want to be reminded of that day again.” He pulled his Colt from the holster and spun the barrel. “So tell me. What is this favor?”