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Teaser chapter

Fargo woke up and grabbed his gun

A silhouette of a man in the tallest western hat he’d ever seen. Too bad the man wasn’t as slick as his hat. He came creaking in on cowboy boots with all the grace of an elephant turned ballerina. Always in sight thanks to the flickering sconce in the hall.

The intruder’s eyes obviously hadn’t adjusted to the darkness yet. Fargo stepped out of the gloom and slapped the barrel of his Colt across the face of the startled, blinking man. Fargo swatted the man around for a time, hitting him on the jaw, knocking the wind out of him with a punch delivered straight to his sternum. He finished by taking the man’s fancy new six-shooter from him.

He was just busy enough that his mind didn’t register the other sound in the room. By the time he started to turn, it was too late. . . .

The Trailsman

Beginnings . . . they bend the tree and they mark the man. Skye Fargo was born 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, the seeker who could take the wildness of a land and the wanting of a woman and make them his own.

Tillman, Arkansas, 1858—

A madman’s lust for sex and murder

of the most twisted kind.

1

Fargo eased his big Ovaro stallion behind a copse of pine trees and started watching the stage road with the lake-blue eyes that had seen so much in his lifetime.

He was used to bounty hunters trailing him. Fargo had helped out enough people in his days to amass a fair share of enemies. And these enemies included several crooked lawmen. Because they were afraid to face him down themselves, they put out WANTED posters and slapped some mighty big rewards on them.

So every once in a while a bounty hunter keen on earning a rep for being the one who killed the Trailsman showed up out of nowhere. Sure, the money was a factor but so was the prestige of bringing down Skye Fargo.

Such an opportunist—a gunny and sometimes bounty hunter named Jeb Adams—had been following him for three days and nights now. Fargo hadn’t paid him much attention at first. Every time he hit a town, Fargo managed to find a place to sleep where Adams couldn’t get him. Not that Fargo took stupid chances. He slept on his back, his Colt and his Henry right beside him in case Adams got lucky and came crawling into the room in the middle of the night.

But last night Adams had done something that turned Skye Fargo into a mortal enemy. He’d tried to poison Fargo’s stallion.

Only the quick thinking of the old black man who slept in the livery at night saved Fargo’s horse. The old man had awakened to the sounds of Adams—not exactly a graceful man—sneaking into the livery, then watched from the shadows as Adams mixed a powdery substance into the animal’s feed bag that was brimming with oats.

The old man knew not to take Adams on. Adams would kill him in a flash. No, the old man wisely waited until Adams left, grabbed the feed bag, then waited until Skye Fargo showed up the next morning. He told Fargo what had happened and what the late-night visitor had looked like. Anybody who knew Fargo knew what his stallion meant to him. A wandering and solitary man like Fargo had few friends. It was only natural for his horse to become the best among them.

Fargo’s first impulse was to find the sonofabitch and shoot him on the spot. The problem was, Fargo didn’t know any of the local lawmen. Even if it was a fair fight, the sheriff here might decide that Fargo should be charged anyway. For a man whose only guiding light was the sun and the stars—he could go anywhere, anytime he wanted—the thought of prison, even for a few days, was the ugliest thought of all.

So Fargo decided to meet Adams outside the jurisdiction of the small Arkansas town he found himself in.

He made himself as obvious as he could this morning, taking an early breakfast at the local cafe, and loudly greeting the day crew at the livery as they arrived for work.

Two or three times, he spotted Adams glowering at him from various positions. He could imagine Adams’s surprise and fury when he realized that the stallion was still alive.

Adams was doing everything Skye Fargo wanted him to.

It didn’t take Adams long to show up either.

About ten minutes after Fargo had taken up his hiding place behind the pines, here came his good friend Adams.

The fierce Old Testament beard, the stained buckskins, the ancient and once-white hat, the blue glass eye glaring from the right socket, Adams was a hard man to mistake for any other. And that went not just for his physical appearance but for the way he did his business, too. He was well-known for not giving his bounty any chance to go peacefully. Many times, he broke in on them during the night and shot them in cold blood. Sometimes the wife and children of the wanted man had to watch the man die right in front of them. He’d even been accused, though not convicted, of raping some of the wives after killing off their menfolk.

One hell of a nice fella was Jeb Adams.

Fargo waited in the steamy midday heat wave—the temperature was on its way to one hundred degrees— swatting away mosquitoes, flies, bees, and other flying things he wasn’t sure he’d ever laid eyes on before. Arkansas was one of the muggiest, hottest places he’d ever been.

Fargo waited until Adams passed him on the road. Then he quickly swung down from the stallion, grabbing his Sharps and stepping out onto the road so Adams could see him.

“That’s far enough, Adams. Stop right there or I’ll put three bullets in your back. The way you do with the men you hunt.”

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