The yipping and howling grew to a crescendo.

Facing straight ahead, Fargo came to the far side of the thicket. He was moving so fast, he didn’t see a man coming the other way until they were right on top of one another. They both halted in their tracks.

It was hard to say which one of them was more surprised, Fargo or the Apache returning to camp, his arms laden with firewood. But the Apache reacted first. Dropping the branches, he swooped forward like a bird of prey....

The Trailsman

Beginnings ... they bend the tree and they mark the man. Skye Fargo was bom when he was eighteen. Terror was his midwife, vengeance his first cry. Killing spawned Skye Fargo, ruthless, cold-blooded murder. Out of the acrid smoke of gunpowder still hanging in the air, he rose, cried out a promise never forgotten.

The Trailsman they began to call him all across the West: searcher, scout, hunter, the man who could see where others only looked, his skills for hire but not his soul, the man who lived each day to the fullest, yet trailed each tomorrow. Skye Fargo, the Trailsman, and the seeker who could take the wildness of a land and the wanting of a woman and make them his own.

1861-a baked hellhole soon to be known

as the Arizona Territory, where hatred,

greed, and bloodlust cost

countless lives....


Apaches had been stalking the big man in buckskins for half an hour.

Most men would not have realized it. For a typical townsman or settler, the day was ideal for travel. Scattered clouds floated lazily in a vivid blue sky, wafted by a warm breeze from the southwest. The same breeze stirred the grama grass so it rippled like waves on an ocean. Here and there yucca trees poked skyward like small islands.

The countryside was picturesque and peaceful but the big man on the pinto wasn’t fooled by appearance. It was too peaceful, too quiet. Birds should be singing. Rabbits and lizards, usually so plentiful, were nowhere to be seen. Except for the rustling of the grass, the only sounds were the clomp of the Ovaro’s hooves and the creak of saddle leather.

Skye Fargo shifted to scan the gently rolling country on both sides of the rutted dirt road he followed. His piercing lake blue eyes narrowed when he spotted grass that bent much further than it should. His ears pricked at the scrape of a knee on earth, a sound so faint no townsman or settler would have heard it.

Fargo’s senses were not like those of most men. Years of living in the wild had honed them to the razor edge of a bowie. His eyes were the eyes of a hawk, his ears those of a mountain lion, his nose that of a coyote. He saw and heard and smelled things not one man in a hundred would notice. It was part of the reason others called him the Trailsman, the reason why he was widely regarded as one of the best scouts alive. Put simply, his wilderness savvy was second to none.

Fargo pretended not to see the grass bend, pretended he had not heard the knee scrape. He didn’t want those who were stalking him to know he knew they were there. Acting as innocent as a newborn babe, he pretended to yawn while stretching to give them the notion he was much more tired than he was. When he lowered his right hand to his hip, he contrived to place it next to the smooth butt of the Colt strapped around his lean waist. His broad shoulders swiveled as he scoured the road ahead for the likeliest spot for the attack. The Apaches would strike soon. He was within seven or eight miles of the San Simon River and the stage station on its east bank.

Personally, Fargo would be glad to get there. The most dangerous part of his journey would be over. He had done as he promised, and once he crossed the San Simon, he could get on with his own affairs. Maybe head for San Antonio, and from there north to Denver to look up an old friend. The thought of her silken hair and lush body brought a smile to his dry lips. A smile that turned into a scowl of annoyance for letting his mind drift at the worst possible moment. He must stay alert or he would pay for his folly with his life.

Apaches rarely made mistakes. They were fierce fighters, proud and independent. Of late their attacks had grown more frequent, more savage, as they struggled to resist the white tide washing over their land.

Until five or six months ago things had been relatively quiet. Except for an occasional raid on a ranch or way station, the Apaches had been content to stay in their mountain retreats. Then all hell busted loose. Rumor had it a new leader was to blame. A young hothead who went by the name of Chipota was stirring the tribes up, saying the only way to rid their land of the hated whites was to unite. To rise up as one and drive their enemies out in the greatest blood-bath in Apache history.

Up ahead a knoll appeared. Fargo stayed in the middle of the road so he would have a split-second warning should warriors rush from either side. Not many were stalking him. The two he had pinpointed, possibly a couple more.

That the Apaches had shadowed him for so long without doing anything was somewhat surprising. Fargo had passed several likely spots for an ambush, yet they never jumped him. He reckoned they were up to one of their notorious tricks, that they had something special in mind which would guarantee success. His life depended on figuring out what that trick was.

Apaches were supremely wary by nature. They never took needless chances, never ran the risk of losing one of their own if it could be avoided. From infancy, Apache males were rigorously schooled in the Apache virtues of killing without being killed and stealing without being caught. This creed was everything to them, the code, as it were, on which their whole lives were based.

The open ground worked in Fargo’s favor. There were no boulders for Apaches to hide behind, no ravines or clefts in which to secrete themselves. The only cover was the grama grass—but that was enough where Apaches were concerned. They were masters at blending into the background, at appearing as part of any landscape. Apaches could literally hide in plain sight.

Fargo arched his back as if he had a kink in it, when really he wanted to rise a little higher so he could probe the grass bordering the knoll. The top was barren, worn by wind as well as the passage of countless horses, oxen, and mules.

The Ovaro suddenly pricked its ears and nickered. Fargo had no idea why. The road was empty, and there was nowhere on the barren knoll for Apaches to hide. He wondered if the pinto had caught the scent of a warrior lurking in the grass.

Fargo firmed his grip on the Colt but didn’t draw. Doing so would let the Apaches know he was on to them. Crazy as it sounded, Fargo wanted them to spring their ambush. He would rather they

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