Longarm #428: Longarm And The Death Cave by Tabor EvansLongarm #428: Longarm And The Death Cave by Tabor Evans

Longarm #428: Longarm And The Death Cave

byTabor Evans

Mass Market Paperback | June 24, 2014

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Longarm knows where the bodies are buried…

After her husband is killed in front of her, wealthy widow Frances Mayfield insists on hiring a bodyguard. And who better than the man that rescued her from the attackers—Deputy U.S. Marshal Custis Long? Of course, Longarm has a job, but when the widow makes him an offer he can’t refuse, he turns in his badge and proceeds to guard the body of the bereaved beauty and accompany her to her ranch.
There Longarm discovers a grisly surprise—seven murdered men in a mass grave, their corpses deposited in a grim death cave on Mrs. Mayfield’s vast property. Having failed to kill the rich rancher’s wife, her enemies are attempting to frame her with this tomb of slaughtered sodbusters.
But the villains should have dug a grave for themselves, because Longarm is coming for them…
Tabor Evans is the author of the long-running Longarm western series, featuring the adventures of Deputy U.S. Marshal Custis Long.
Title:Longarm #428: Longarm And The Death CaveFormat:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:192 pages, 6.75 × 4.15 × 0.5 inPublished:June 24, 2014Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0515154806

ISBN - 13:9780515154801

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Chapter 1Deputy U.S. Marshal Custis Long left the Federal Building where he worked when not out on field assignments and took a deep breath of fresh, spring air. Denver’s city streets and sidewalks were always busy with more and more people coming out to enjoy the weather after suffering through a long winter. Longarm smiled because it was Friday afternoon and he had two days off to enjoy the sights and many pleasures that the city had to offer.“Have a good weekend,” his boss, Billy Vail, called in passing. “And don’t hook up with any wild and wicked women!”Longarm waved and shook his head. Billy was not only his boss but his best friend . . . or perhaps more like an older brother. They could not have been more different, however. Billy was married, short, and serious about being the head of his U.S. marshals’ department. He had once been a deputy marshal like Longarm, but after getting married he had gravitated toward desk work and quickly proved adept at office and personnel management. Longarm, however, hated paperwork and a day at his desk seemed like a week, so he took every opportunity to go off on dangerous and exciting adventures.Longarm shoved a cigar into the corner of his mouth that he didn’t bother lighting. He descended the stone steps fronting the Federal Building and started down the crowded street just enjoying the weather and the pretty women that were so commonly seen now in downtown Denver.At a busy intersection, he stopped to wait for his turn to cross the street and that was when his eyes settled on a remarkably handsome young couple laughing over some private joke. The man was tall and well dressed in an obviously expensive tailored suit. He carried a walking stick and, if Longarm wasn’t mistaken, its head was that of an eagle . . . forged in gold.The woman was also tall and wore a lush mink or ermine stole; her hair was a burnished copper color and shone in the late-day sun. She was extremely attractive . . . so much so that Longarm had trouble tearing his eyes from her and had to be gently bumped to be reminded it was time to cross the busy intersection.“Yeah,” a young businessman walking beside Longarm said, “I was staring at her, too. You don’t see a woman that beautiful all that often . . . even here in Denver.”“They look rich as a king and queen,” Longarm said. “Do you think the head of that man’s cane is really gold?”“I can vouch for that. The man’s name is Peter Mayfield and he banks where I work. Not only that, but he owns a part interest in our bank and is our largest depositor. Mr. Mayfield and his wife own the Mayfield Cattle Ranch outside of Cheyenne and several other ranches in New Mexico, Arizona, and Oregon. Maybe you’ve heard of their ranches.”“I have,” Longarm said. “That Cheyenne outfit is one of the largest in Wyoming.”“That’s right.” The man tipped his hat. “Have a nice weekend, Marshal Long.”Longarm blinked, surprised that the stranger had known his name and that he was a lawman. But then, Longarm had had his mug photographed many times for various Denver publications and even though he was modest, there was no denying that he was a well-recognized local celebrity. Being tall and with his signature handlebar mustache and flat-brimmed hat, people who saw him once remembered him always.Longarm passed the Denver Mint walking east on West Colfax Avenue and couldn’t help but admire the gilded dome of the nearby Colorado State Capitol. At one intersection he caught a glimpse of the Colorado Rockies fifteen miles to the west and noted they were heavily crowned with deep snow that would not all melt until well into July and even August. Now and then he would catch a glimpse of the Mayfield couple and he wondered what it would be like to be extremely rich . . . not just well-to-do, but as wealthy as an Egyptian pharaoh.“Must be nice to have that much money in addition to being young and attractive,” he mused aloud.At the next intersection, a slow-moving and heavily laden freight wagon crossed in front of Longarm, and by the time it had passed he saw that the Mayfield couple were almost an entire block ahead. They were walking briskly, perhaps out to get some exercise or go to some expensive store before it closed.Suddenly, Longarm saw three large men in dark, heavy coats fall in behind the wealthy pair. The men wore gray, wide-brimmed hats that were pulled down low over their foreheads and they were rapidly closing in behind the unsuspecting Mayfield couple.Maybe they were friends or just had an important message to deliver, but there was something about their manner and movement that caused Longarm to quicken his own pace and suspect that the trio had dark and dangerous motives. Longarm was a good fifty yards behind the Mayfield couple and the sidewalk was crowded so he had to squeeze his way through the pedestrians as he closed the gap.All at once, he saw one of the dark-coated men grab the walking stick and wrench it from Peter Mayfield’s grip. And before anyone could move or even shout in alarm, the man raised the heavy stick and brought it smashing down on Peter Mayfield’s head, dropping him in his tracks as if he had been shot through the brain.Longarm reached across his waist and drew out his Colt, which faced butt-first on his left hip. “Stop!” he shouted as pedestrians parted in his path, some falling to the sidewalk, others staring openmouthed in fear.One of the attackers turned, saw Longarm, and fired a shot that missed. He then dashed into the crowd and disappeared. The third attacker had grabbed the Mrs. Mayfield and was trying to tear her purse free. Longarm saw the woman claw at her attacker’s face. The man with the gold-headed walking stick spun and slashed downward again, aiming for the woman’s head, but she was too quick and by turning her face took a glancing blow before collapsing on the sidewalk still clinging to her purse.People screamed. The man with the walking stick raised it to strike again . . . almost certainly to kill the fallen woman. Longarm skidded to a halt, took quick aim, and shot the attacker in the chest. The other thug, realizing that he wasn’t going to have time to rip the purse free, grabbed up the walking stick and took off running down Colfax. Longarm shouted for everyone to get down and then he took careful aim and sent a bullet through the running man’s spine. The man’s arms shot skyward and the stick fell and rolled. Longarm saw the thief try to crawl into an alley, and before he could do that Longarm shot him in the back of the head.“Get a doctor!” Longarm shouted as he went to help Mrs. Mayfield. “Someone find a doctor!”Longarm raced to Peter Mayfield’s side and one quick look told him that no doctor alive could save the rich young man whose skull had been caved in by the tremendous blow delivered by his own heavy walking staff. Peter Mayfield must have died instantly, but his wife was moaning and trying to inch nearer to the body of her husband.“Easy,” Longarm said, kneeling beside the woman and blocking her progress toward her husband and the spreading pool of blood under his crushed skull. “You’re going to be all right.”“Peter!” she cried, trying to get past Longarm. “How is my husband!”Longarm holstered his gun. He leaned close and cradled the woman’s beautiful face to protect it against the hard concrete sidewalk. “Everything is going to be fine, Mrs. Mayfield.”“My husband, what . . .”Longarm took a deep breath, knowing that she needed to know. “Mrs. Mayfield, I’m sorry, but your husband has died from a blow to his head.”She began to sob. Longarm squeezed in closer so that he could place her bloodied head on his lap. While a shocked crowd milled about in confusion and men shouted and cursed and women wept, Longarm began to smooth Mrs. Peter Mayfield’s bloodied, copper-colored hair.She roused for a moment and her blue eyes were intense. “Who are you?”“I’m a federal officer. My name is Custis Long.”“I recognized one of those men who attacked us.”“I managed to shoot two, but the third one ran into the crowd and I dared not take a shot at him before he vanished.”“Why!” She sobbed. “Why did they do this!”“That staff your husband had was crowned by gold, Mrs. Mayfield. That’s extremely tempting for thieves.”“They weren’t just thieves.”Longarm blinked. “What do you mean?”She was trembling now. Going into shock and when she touched her scalp and saw blood on her fingers, the wealthy woman lost consciousness.Several minutes later a doctor with his medical kit pushed through the crowd and knelt by Peter Mayfield’s side. He took the rich man’s pulse, shook his head and moved over to examine Mrs. Mayfield.“My gawd! What did they use to hit these people with!”“It was a heavy wooden walking stick,” Longarm answered. “A staff with a gold eagle capping its upper end.”“Why in the world would anyone be stupid enough to have that sort of thing out in public?”“I don’t know, but it’s gone.”“I saw two dead men over on the sidewalk. I didn’t have to stop and look at them to know they’d been shot dead.”“My work,” Longarm admitted. “I’m a United States . . .”“I know who you are, Longarm. What the hell happened here!”“Three men attacked the couple. I managed to kill two of them but the third one got away.” Longarm touched the unconscious woman’s shoulder. “What about Mrs. Mayfield? Will she recover?”“I don’t know yet.” The doctor gently lifted the woman’s eyelids and studied her pupils, then slowly turned her head back and forth looking for a blood flow from her ears. “The hemorrhaging isn’t too severe, but when someone is smashed over the head it almost always involves a severe concussion and sometimes even permanent brain damage.”“She spoke to me before she lost consciousness,” Longarm told the doctor. “She seemed coherent and in her right mind.”“That’s a very positive sign. After I bandage her head we need to get her to a hospital. After that, it’s a wait-and-see situation. Her brain may be badly bruised and there could be severe swelling. If that happens, she may go into convulsions and die.”Longarm nodded with understanding. “I need to start looking for the one that got away. Which hospital are you having her taken to?”“Denver Main.”“She and her husband are very rich.”The doctor sighed. “Sadly, the gentleman is not anything anymore, Marshal.”“Yeah.”Longarm touched the woman’s beautiful face and then he stood and headed down the street asking anyone he met if they had seen the fleeing attacker who was carrying a gold-headed staff.Several had, but after the thief had passed they had turned their full attention to the bodies on the sidewalk.As Longarm strode rapidly down Colfax Avenue he kept asking muttering to himself. “What did she mean she had recognized one of the attackers? And which one had she recognized? One of the pair that he’d killed . . . or the man on the run with a gold-headed staff? I’ll find him,” Longarm vowed to himself. “And when I do I hope he resists arrest so I can send him to hell to join his two friends.”Chapter 2Longarm had to waste an hour writing an official account of the attack and his killing of two men with the local sheriff’s department. When he finished that tedious business, he headed for one of his favorite saloons and for a beer or two and then he’d have a good dinner. He was thinking of roast beef, gravy, and mashed potatoes and then maybe he’d go watch the horse races that started at eight o’clock and make a few modest bets.But as he was leaving the sheriff’s office, one of the deputies said, “Too bad about what happened to Mr. Mayfield and his filthy rich wife.”Longarm turned. “The husband was brave, but he should have known better than to walk around with a gold-headed cane even on Colfax Avenue.”“I heard that he was clubbed so hard his brains were leaking out of both his ears.”“Not true,” Longarm said. “But it wasn’t a pretty sight.”“And the wife, I wonder if she’s going to be . . . well, you know.”“No,” Longarm said with mounting irritation. “I don’t know.”“Well,” the deputy said, “I just was wondering if she was going to become a lunatic or . . .”“I spoke to her after she was hurt and she is going to be fine,” Longarm snapped. “She took a glancing blow and will make a full recovery.”“That’s real good to hear. Given all that money she has I’d guess that even if the man had clubbed her in the face and made it look horrible, she’d still have men chasing after her. I understand that she and her husband have ten big cattle ranches. Can you imagine how rich she is?”Longarm was finished with this conversation. He didn’t know the deputy’s name and thought his comments were insensitive and revealed great ignorance. “What I can imagine, Deputy, is you getting the hell out on the streets and starting to look for the mugger that got away. I gave his description inside just now so why are you standing there making stupid comments about Mrs. Mayfield?”The deputy hadn’t been expecting such a sharp rebuke and his cheeks flamed. “Just because you’re a big name in town and a federal marshal don’t give you any right to get insulting.”Longarm shook his head and left the deputy. For as long as he could remember, the local sheriff’s office had been staffed by poorly paid and ignorant lawmen who generally either got into trouble trying to throw their weight around or else were fired for their unprofessionalism.Still angry, he headed down the street until he came to the Dublin Pub and entered the small Irish drinking establishment. They sold incredibly good Irish whiskey and dark beer, and the company inside was always congenial and most everyone who drank there knew and liked him.“Well, if it isn’t Marshal Custis Long from County Cork!” the owner and bartender Tim O’Brien roared even as he reached for a mug. “And given his heroic efforts to save Mr. and Mrs. Mayfield and keep our fair city safe, today his drinks are on the house!”“In that case,” Longarm said, “I’ll have a double shot of your special Wild Killarney Whiskey for which you always charge a fortune.”“Oh,” the bartender and owner said, faking a grimace, “you really know how to hurt a poor innkeeper.”“This isn’t an inn and you’re sure as hell not poor,” Longarm replied, pushing the mug aside and smacking his lips in anticipation. “Remember, O’Brien, a double shot.”“You’re a dangerous man,” O’Brien said. “And a thirsty one for good reason. That was a terrible thing that happened this afternoon.”“It was,” Longarm said quietly as he raised his glass and took a sip of some of the finest Irish whiskey known to mankind. “Mr. Mayfield really never had a chance. He should have just surrendered his wallet and walking stick and ordered his wife to do the same.”“And how is the poor lady?”Longarm took another sip, closed his eyes, and sighed with pleasure. “She’s going to be all right, but she was struck very hard and, as you can imagine, is grieving for her dead husband. O’Brien, do you know if they had any little children?”“Someone said that they did not. It’s my understanding that they had only been married a year or two. And some are saying on the hush that the husband was quite the lady’s man.”“Before he was married.”The big Irishman’s eyebrows raised in question and he spoke softly. “And after, I’m sad to tell you.”“I sure hope that rumor is untrue. I’d find it very hard to imagine any man cheating on such a brave and beautiful wife.”“So she was brave?”“Yes,” Longarm answered, taking another small sip. “Very. She fought like a tiger.”O’Brien shook his head. “And what kind of men would attack such a beauty as she and her husband were out on the streets of Denver in broad daylight?”“Hard and desperate men,” Longarm said. “They probably thought that they would have no resistance and robbing the couple would be quick and easy given how wealthy they were and how little the money lost would mean.”“I hear that you shot two dead as dogs but that one of the scoundrels got away untouched.”“Yes,” Longarm said. “But I clearly saw his face as did Mrs. Mayfield. I’m hoping that he can be captured and brought to trial on charges of murder.”“Maybe I’ve seen the man,” O’Brien opined. “Describe the rat.”“He is big, wears a flat gray hat and a dirty overcoat. Bearded, bad teeth and I’m pretty sure that he was missing his left ear although his hair was long and I can’t be certain.”O’Brien’s eyes squinted. “Your description, except for the missing ear, could fit any one of dozens that I serve every day. Was there anything else, Marshal, that you remember?”“Nothing. He did steal Mr. Mayfield’s walking valuable stick.”“Not a cane?”“No,” Longarm said with conviction. “It was far heavier than a cane and there was a gold eagle atop its head.”“A gold eagle did you say?”“That’s right. The eagle was about half the size of our fists.”“Hmmm,” O’Brien said, “such an unusual walking stick would immediately catch the eye. Maybe the one who ran off with it will have the eagle removed from the walking stick and then . . . if the gold is pure . . . have it beaten with a hammer or melted down until it doesn’t even look like an eagle anymore. That’s a helluva big chunk and that way, he could quickly and safely sell it just for the value of the gold.”Longarm nodded and tossed down his Irish whiskey. “O’Brien, that is a very intelligent observation. I didn’t know you were so smart.”The Irishman laughed. “I know I look like a big, dumb ox, but my dear, dead mother thought I was going to be as wise, famous, and successful as Benjamin Franklin.”“You’ve done well,” Longarm assured the man. “And I’ll bet . . . if you were tired of this business you could sell it for a small fortune.”“I could!” O’Brien agreed. “But then I’d really have to make something of myself and what more fun could I ever have than serving and talking with people as famous and interesting as you?”“You are full of blarney,” Longarm told the man. “Pour me another shot and I’ll pay for this one.”“No,” the Irishman insisted, “after what you did out there on the streets this afternoon, I can’t take your money. But tomorrow . . .”“I know. Tomorrow I’ll pay.”“That you will, my friend!”Longarm sipped his third shot and felt the whiskey relaxing his body and elevating his formerly sour mood. He watched O’Brien work the bar and keep up a constant chatter with his customers. The laughter was constant and the drinks were poured with a flourish. O’Brien was made for this place and it for him . . . but what about what the Irishman had said about beating down the golden eagle in order to sell it as just a chunk of gold? Who in this town would buy a chunk of gold that size?That was a very interesting question deserving of an answer.Longarm pondered the question for several minutes and then his thoughts were interrupted by a throaty and familiar voice. “Hello, Marshal. I understand that you added two more notches to your six-gun this afternoon and saved a rich and beautiful woman.”He turned to see Julie Moon standing at his side. “Well, hello. I haven’t seen you since you ran off with that handsome Mississippi riverboat gambler last year.”“Yes,” Julie said, “Howard was a smooth, sweet-talker and a devilishly handsome man, but his luck ran out in New Orleans when he was caught playing poker with aces up his coat sleeve.”“He was shot?”“Right through his cheatin’ heart, Custis. He died in my arms and the last thing he asked for was a kiss from my sweet, cherry lips.” Julie’s eyes dampened and her lower lip trembled slightly. “He was no good, but he was fun and we had ourselves a hell of a party while it lasted. I used the last of my money to buy poor Howard a grand funeral and burial, then I started dealing cards on the riverboats and playing with the boys.”“And I’ll bet you did well.”“You know that I did, honey. I just arrived back here in Denver and I’m settling in and making some new friends along with getting back with my old friends . . . you being my favorite.”“You flatter me.”“Maybe,” Julie said, batting her eyelashes and brushing back her shiny brown hair. “But we had some real fun together and I would never have left with poor Howard if you’d paid me just a little more of your attention.”“Julie, you’re a wise and observant woman and you know I’ve a roving eye and loose buttons. I never pretended to be anything that you should have taken seriously.”Her smile slipped. “I realize that, Custis. I figured you out from the start, but until I find a rich, marrying kind of gentleman, you’re always great fun to be around.” She reached down, picked up his shot glass, and drained it. “You had anything to eat yet this evening?”“No,” Longarm replied. “Have you?”“Uh-uh. Why don’t we find someplace nice to chat and remember the good times we’ve had and still can have? After that, I’d like to show you my new place and satin bedcover.”Longarm thought about the offer and decided that Julie Moon was just the medicine he needed to lift the melancholy. “All right, let’s go.”“Hey!” O’Brien shouted. “You two leaving already?”“That’s right!” Julie called back to the Irishman. “And you can bet your sweet green ass that we won’t be back tonight!”Julie wagged her own ass as she and Longarm strolled out of the pub and headed down the street with a wave of laughter on their wake.Chapter 3Julie Moon’s living quarters were small and, if you happened to like red and pink colors, tastefully decorated. But Longarm wasn’t complaining as he lay naked on his back and watched Julie ride him slowly; her eyes shut tight, her lips forming a circle and her large breasts damp with perspiration.“Oh, honey,” she moaned, “you sure have a nice little pony to ride.”“Just a pony? Once you said you felt like you were riding a big, wild stallion. Nothing has changed below my belt, Julie.”She laughed and bent down to kiss his lips. “You are a fine man to fuck.”Longarm tightened his grip on her hips, wanting to bury himself even deeper into her softness. Julie was like the boiler on a steam engine and as her pleasure built up she began to work his rod faster and harder and then . . . then she was shaking and bouncing like popcorn in a skillet.“Oh my gawd!” she groaned, falling forward and still thrusting her hips down tight on his manhood. “That felt so damned good!”Longarm didn’t answer. Instead, he rolled her over on her back and began thrusting until he also reached the pinnacle of his pleasure and drove his seed into her sweet wetness.They were both panting and perspiring as they lay back and stared at the ceiling. After a few minutes, Longarm yawned and lazily asked, “So are you glad to be back?”“I sure as hell am,” she told him. “I like Denver. Didn’t miss this past winter, which everyone tells me was hard . . . but from now until November, it’s a beautiful city and place to live and work.”“What are you going to do for a living here?”