THE HILLS ARE ALIVE
Something wasn’t right. Fargo slowed to a walk. He didn’t think they had seen him, but then again, all it would take was one warrior with eyes as sharp as a hawk’s to look back at just the right moment.
His skin prickling, Fargo placed his hand on his Colt. He would go on a little ways yet, and if he didn’t spot them, turn back.
The last Fargo saw of the six, they were winding between a pair of wooded hills. Both hills were about the same size and shape, and reminded him of a woman’s breasts. He grinned at the notion, and thought of Rebecca Keever, of her full bosom and winsome figure.
The next moment Fargo promptly lost his grin when the trees to his right and the trees to his left disgorged shrieking warriors brandishing lances and notching arrows to sinew strings.
He had ridden right into a trap.
The first chapter of this book previously appeared in
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.
It was like looking for a pink needle in a green and brown haystack.
Or so Skye Fargo thought as he scanned the prairie for the girl. She would be easy to spot if it weren’t for the fact there was so
North of him, not yet in sight, were the Black Hills.
Fargo didn’t like being there. He was in Sioux country, and the Sioux were not fond of whites these days. More often than not, any white they came across was treated to a quiver of arrows or had his throat slit and his hair lifted so it could hang from a coup stick in a warrior’s lodge.
Fargo was white, but it was hard to tell by looking at him. His skin was bronzed dark by the relentless sun. He had lake-blue eyes, something no Sioux ever did. He wore buckskins. A white hat, a red bandanna, and boots were the rest of his attire. A Colt with well-worn grips was strapped around his waist. In an ankle sheath nestled an Arkansas toothpick. From his saddle scabbard jutted the stock of a Henry rifle.
Rising in the stirrups, Fargo squinted against the glare of the sun and raked the grass from east to west and back again. It wasn’t flat, not this close to the Hills. A maze of gullies and washes made spotting her that much harder.
“Damn all kids, anyhow,” Fargo grumbled out loud. He gigged the Ovaro and rode on, vowing that there would be hell to pay when he got back to the party he was guiding.
A shrill whistle drew his gaze to a prairie dog. It had spotted him and was warning its friends.
Fargo swung wide of the prairie dog town. The last thing he needed was for the Ovaro to step into a hole and break a leg. He intended to keep the stallion a good long while. It was the best horse he ever rode. Often, it meant the difference between his breathing air or breathing dirt.
“Where could she have gotten to?”
Fargo had a habit of talking to himself. It came from being alone so much. He was a frontiersman, or as some would call him, a plainsman, although he spent as much time in the mountains as he did roaming the grasslands. Wide spaces, empty of people, was how he liked it.
He came to the crest of a knoll and drew rein again. Twisting from side to side, he still couldn’t spot her. Frowning, he indulged in a few choice cuss words. He began to regret ever taking this job.
About to ride on, Fargo glanced down, and froze. Hoof-prints showed he wasn’t the first on that knoll. The tracks were made by unshod horses, which meant Indians, and in this instance undoubtedly meant Sioux. There had been five of them. They passed that way several days ago. That was good. They were long gone and posed no danger to the girl.
There were a lot of other dangers, though. Bears, wolves, cougars, rattlesnakes, all called the prairie home. Most times they left people alone, but not always, and it was the not always that worried him. To a griz she would be no more than a snack. A hungry wolf might decide to try something new. As for cougars, they’d kill and eat just about anything they could catch.
“The ornery brat,” Fargo groused some more. He kept riding and was soon amid a maze of coulees.
Fargo could see the headlines now.
SENATOR’S DAUGHTER RIPPED APART
BY WILD BEAST!
HUNTING TRIP ENDS IN TRAGEDY.
FAMOUS TRAILSMAN LOSES CHILD
That last one was the likeliest. Journalists loved to write about him, often making up stories out of whole cloth. The more sensational the tale, the better. All to boost circulation. Were it up to him, he’d take every scribbler alive and throw them down a well.