Longarm #434: Longarm And The Rock Springs Reckoning by Tabor EvansLongarm #434: Longarm And The Rock Springs Reckoning by Tabor Evans

Longarm #434: Longarm And The Rock Springs Reckoning

byTabor Evans

Mass Market Paperback | December 30, 2014

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Longarm’s lost a friend, but he’s not about to lose the fight…

After saving soiled dove Lucy Potter from two attackers, Longarm takes pity on the young woman. He buys her a new dress, gets her cleaned up, and takes her out for a fancy steak dinner. Lucy’s got a good heart, and Longarm hopes his kindness might encourage the jaded prostitute to try another line of work.

But before Lucy can begin her new life, she’s killed by the same men who attacked her. Blinded by rage, Longarm can no longer see the line between justice and revenge. He turns in his badge and rides off after the killers. But as he trails them to Rock Springs, he learns the killing was premeditated—and greed was the motive…

About The Author

Tabor Evans is the author of the long-running Longarm western series, featuring the adventures of Deputy U.S. Marshal Custis Long.
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Title:Longarm #434: Longarm And The Rock Springs ReckoningFormat:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:192 pages, 6.7 × 4.2 × 0.5 inPublished:December 30, 2014Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0515154881

ISBN - 13:9780515154887

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Chapter 1United States Deputy Marshal Custis Long was strolling along Cherry Creek after a day at the office, and it felt good to be outdoors enjoying the weather. It was mid-May and the air was cool, the trees had leafed out, and there wasn’t a cloud in the deep blue Colorado sky. He was dressed in his usual brown tweed suit and vest, a blue-gray shirt with a shoestring tie, and a flat-brimmed hat that was dark brown in color. Being a handsome and tall man at six feet four inches, he always caught the attention of people . . . especially young women.“Afternoon, ma’am,” he said to each of the ladies he passed, many of whom blushed. And then to a well-dressed gentleman, “Afternoon, sir. Fine spring weather we’re having, and it looks like our lakes are going to be full again this summer because there’s so much snow up on the mountains.”“You can never have too much water,” the older man agreed as he walked arm in arm with his portly, apple-cheeked wife. “Three years ago we hardly got any snow, and the town was worried about its water supply.”“Yes, it was,” Longarm agreed, passing by.The footpath along Cherry Creek was a popular place for people to stroll and admire the rippling stream and the cottonwoods flushed with their young, pale green leaves. Two boys about thirteen years old were fishing by the bridge and Longarm called, “Catch anything yet?”One boy turned and shook his head. “They aren’t favoring worms today, Marshal.”“Well, maybe you should try some cheese or marshmallows.”“All we got is the worms we dug out of the garden this morning.”“They bite best at sundown,” Longarm called, checking his railroad pocket watch with the gold chain that was attached to a twin-barreled .44 caliber derringer. His Colt revolver bulged under his coat, and it rested butt-forward and was of the same caliber. Longarm was an expert shot, but he drew his pistol only in the most serious situations. Although he had killed a number of outlaws, murderers, thieves, and rapists in his law career, he was never eager to add to the growing list.But suddenly, about a hundred yards upstream, he heard a woman’s scream for help. Longarm drew his revolver and took off up the well-worn dirt path, running fast. The screams were coming from the heavy thickets, and Longarm burst into them ready to do battle with whoever was causing the woman such alarm.“Help!” she yelled. “Somebody please help!”Longarm fought his way through the heavy growth and came upon a young woman being attacked by two large and dirty men. The woman was on the ground with her dress pushed to her waist. One assailant was holding her arms pinned to the earth while the other was tearing off her underclothes.“Stop!” Longarm shouted, taking aim at the men and cocking back the hammer of his pistol.The pair froze and looked up at him. One said, “She’s a whore, Marshal. She came here looking for business, and we’re just about to give her some business. Ain’t no need to draw that gun.”“Get away from her,” Longarm ordered. “Do it now!”The two men released the woman and stepped back. Longarm kept one eye on the attackers and his other on the woman, whose face was dirty and whose cheeks were wet with tears. “Are you all right, miss?”“No, I’m not all right!” She climbed to her feet, pulled up her underpants, and tugged down her dress, which was covered with dirt and debris. “These bastards just tried to rape me. I want them arrested and thrown in jail!”“I was just about to do that, but I wanted to make sure you were unharmed,” Longarm said.“But I am harmed! She held up her wrists to show Longarm the bruises. “These men were going to rape and then kill me!”Longarm glanced at the pair. “What are your names?”“Pete Rafter,” the taller one said. “But she’s lyin’ to you, Marshal. We weren’t going to rape her, and we sure as hell wouldn’t have killed her.”“Not true, Pete!” the woman shrieked, her face contorted with rage. “You were both going to do me dirty!”“Lucy, it’d be damned hard to do you dirty when you were already dirty,” the second man scoffed.“What’s your name?” Longarm asked.“Willie Benton.”“Where do you and your friend live?”“In the woods, under the bridges, sometimes in stables. We don’t have much money so we sleep wherever it’s free.”“If you don’t have any money, how were you going to pay Lucy for her services?”The two attackers exchanged glances and both shrugged. Finally one said, “We was going to pay her a little something and owe her the rest.”“Owe me?” Lucy cried, wiping her cheeks dry and sneering at the pair. “You’re both a pair of liars. I wouldn’t give it to you if you paid me a hundred dollars each!”“You didn’t get a hundred dollars when someone broke your cherry when you was probably about ten years old,” Pete snapped. “And now you don’t get more’n two dollars a trick.”“I get five sometimes!” she shouted. “And I’ve gotten more.”Longarm dropped his gun to his side. He had seen this kind of thing too many times, and it had never set well with him. He was pretty sure that Lucy had agreed to come out and lie down in the bushes for these men for a few quick dollars. It was clear that she was a prostitute and of low morals. But what had happened was that when the two men had gotten her into the bushes and revealed that they had little or no money, Lucy had tried to leave and they’d not been willing to let her go before they had their pleasure.“How much money do you men have altogether?” Longarm asked.“I got two dollars,” Pete confessed. “And a good pocket knife.”“And you?” Longarm asked, turning to the other.“A dollar and change.”Longarm didn’t believe them. “Both of you pull all your pockets out and empty them.”“Marshal . . .” Pete whined.“Do it or I’m taking you to jail.”“Jail ain’t so bad if they feed you and the bunks aren’t alive with fleas and ticks,” Willie pointed out.“Empty your pockets, and give everything to me.”They both emptied their pockets and handed their money and possessions to Longarm, who said, “Looks to be about five dollars here with all the change, and that is a good knife.”“It was given to me by my father,” Pete said. “I place considerable sentimental value on that knife.”“Well,” Longarm mused. “This knife would bring about three dollars in a pawn shop or in a saloon.” He turned to Lucy. “I can throw them in jail, but then you’d get nothing. Or,” he added, “I can give you the knife and their money and we all just walk away.”“They go free?” Lucy snorted in outrage and anger.“Not free,” Longarm corrected. “If you sell the knife and add that to all their money, you’re going to make seven or eight dollars, and you didn’t have to let them inside of you.”“I got bruises!”“Then I’ll take them to jail and they’ll get a few weeks of free food and a roof over their heads.”“We’d be willing to do that,” Willie said. “But no prison.”“No prison,” Longarm agreed.“I don’t want to give her my father’s good knife, dammit!” “It isn’t up to you, Pete. What’ll it be, Lucy? Seven dollars, or they go to jail and you get nothing?”“I’ll take the money and his damned knife,” she declared, “but only ’cause I can see that it means something to him.”“I loved my pa,” Pete said bitterly. “It’s the only thing that I got left from him.”“He was probably as big an asshole as you turned out to be,” Lucy snapped, taking the knife and the money.Longarm hadn’t wanted to take Pete and Willie to jail because he knew it was already overflowing with men just like this disreputable pair and the local sheriff was on a tight budget.“We have a deal,” he said to the pair as he holstered his gun. “But I’ll tell you something . . . if I ever hear of you boys attacking a woman again . . . even a whore . . . I’ll see that you go to prison for years. Understood?”They nodded.“And I don’t want to see either one of you hanging around Cherry Creek looking for someone to roll for their money or begging. Is that also understood?”Again, they nodded.“Then get out of here! I understand that there is work up in the mountains to be had and you men are young and strong enough to handle a pick and a shovel.”“I got a bad back,” Pete whined.“I ain’t no damned miner or stable hand,” Willie growled.“Well,” Longarm told them, “you boys had better find honest work or you’ll surely end up in prison or worse. Now get out of here.”Pete shot a nasty look at Lucy. “You weren’t worth that knife . . . not if I traded it for ten pokes between your skinny legs!”“You bastard!” she yelled, balling her fists and coming at him.Longarm blocked her path and said, “It’s still a nice day, Lucy. Why don’t we go for a little walk so you can cool down and then I’ll take you out for dinner.”The anger washed out of her face. She brushed at the dirt and debris in her long black hair. “You’d do that with me . . . in public?”“Sure would.”Lucy took a deep breath. “All right, Marshal. I’d be proud to accompany you to a nice meal . . . and I do prefer my steak cooked on the rare side. And apple pie . . . fresh, you know.”“I know just the place,” he said, offering her his arm.Lucy took his arm, shot a hateful glance at Pete and Willie, and then she lifted her dress, swung her narrow butt around, and farted loudly. “That’s what I give you for seven dollars, you assholes!”“Bitch!” Pete spat.“Wormy whore,” Willie hissed.Longarm felt Lucy try to pull away and attack the pair but he held her steady. “Let it go,” he whispered. “You came out ahead and now we’re going to have a nice, pleasant dinner together.”To the two men, he said, “Get out of my sight!” Immediately, they ran down the path and disappeared from view.Lucy turned to Longarm and asked, “You married, Marshal?”“Nope.”“Sweet on some special woman?”“I like most all women.”“Even me?”“Yes, even you,” Longarm said, trying not to smile. “You may be a whore, but you’ve got spunk and I think you might have some hopes for the future.”“Not me,” she told him. “I’m going to die of the French disease or by the gun or the knife.”“You can change your life.”“How?” she asked, looking up at him.“Maybe,” Longarm said, “we can talk about just that over a couple of rare steaks and slices of apple pie.”Lucy giggled. “You can do the talking ’cause you’re the one who’s buyin’!” She bumped him hard with her hip. “And who knows what will happen later?”“Nothing will happen.”“I ain’t got the French disease yet, Marshal. I swear to you I would never give it to someone as kind as yourself.”Longarm laughed outright as they passed the boys fishing along the creek. He saw that one had just pulled a fish from the water and it was decent eating size.“They must have liked those worms of yours after all!”“Yep,” the boy said, staring at Lucy with a grimace. “Where’d you find her?”“Never you mind,” Longarm told them as he and Lucy headed into town.“Those seem like a couple of nice boys,” Lucy offered. “I had a brother that looked like the taller one. And he liked to fish all the time.”“What was his name?”“Horace.”“Horace what?”“Horace Potter.”“So you’re Lucy Potter.”“Yes, I am.”“Well, I’m Custis Long and I’d prefer you just call me Custis rather than Marshal.”“I’ll do ’er,” Lucy promised. “And since you’re bein’ so nice to me, you can call me whatever damn thing you want.”“I’ll call you Lucy.”“Good enough. Where do you live, Custis?”“Oh, I have an apartment not far from here.”“Maybe I’d like to see it after we eat.”“Don’t you have one of your own?”She rolled her eyes. “I sleep with the other girls at Maggie’s Place. But I don’t have no one telling me when I have to be there. Maggie just lets us come and go, as long as we stay sober and don’t smoke opium or try and rob the customers.”“How long have you worked at Maggie’s Place?”“Two years.”“That’s a lot of men.”“I know,” she said. “Long ago I lost count.”“Any of them ever hurt you?”“Of course. It’s part of the job.”“You need to find a different kind of a job, Lucy.”Her laugh was hard and cold. “Sure, maybe I could go to your office tomorrow and they’d hire me as a United States marshal and I’d wear a shiny badge and make good money. What do you think?”“I think you’ve got a cynical streak as wide as your shoulders and as deep as your heart.”She paused in mid-step. “The thing of it is, Custis, I don’t really have a heart anymore. Can’t afford one. When I had a heart, it always got broken. Better for a whore like me to have no heart at all.”“Let’s not talk like this anymore,” he said. “Have you ever eaten at Abner’s Steak House?”“Of course not, but I’ve walked by it a thousand times. Nice, respectable men and women go into Abner’s Steak House. Whores like me don’t even dream of entering such fine places.”Longarm studied her out of the corner of his eye. “Let’s go into that dress shop just up the street and find you a clean, pretty one. You’ll shine up a lot with a new dress.”Lucy stopped dead in her tracks, and then she covered her face and began to cry.Oh Lord, Longarm thought, Lucy still does have a heart.Chapter 2Longarm knew the woman who owned the dress shop . . . in fact, he knew her very, very well. Her name was Sarah Freeman, and she was in her early thirties and quite attractive. She had pinned her hopes last year on snagging him as a prized husband, but when Longarm had told her in no uncertain terms that he intended to remain a bachelor and a deputy marshal, Sarah moved on to other and better prospects. As far as he knew now, she was still unmarried and on the prowl. Her sights were set very high, and Longarm doubted she would ever find a man that met her impossibly high standards for a husband.“Hello, Sarah,” he said, pushing Lucy into the dress shop.She was standing behind the counter, messing with a pencil and paper, but when she heard his familiar voice, she looked up with a happy smile, which quickly faded when her eyes came to rest on Lucy.“Custis, what a pleasant surprise.”“I agree,” he said, trying not to think about how long and lovely her bare legs were. “This is Miss Lucy Potter.”Sarah stared at the dirty whore and said, “How nice to meet you, Lucy,” in a way that made it clear she was not at all pleased to have Lucy in her high-toned dress shop. “What can I do for you today?”“Lucy needs a new dress.”“So I can tell. But I’m afraid that I just don’t have anything that would . . . would do for her.”“Oh, surely you must have something,” Longarm persisted. He marched over to a rack of dresses and took one off the hook, holding it up and saying, “This looks like it would fit her.”“It won’t fit,” Sarah insisted.“I think it will,” Longarm said, going over to Lucy, who hadn’t said a word yet. “Here, hold this up against you and let me take a look.”Lucy’s eyes were downcast. She took the dress without hardly looking at it and pressed it to her body.“Do you like it?” Longarm asked.“It’s okay, I guess.”“I think it looks great on you,” Longarm said, trying to keep his tone light and cheery. “How much is the dress?”“Twelve dollars, but—”“We’ll take it.”Sarah said nothing but just glared at Longarm. The silence grew icy and uncomfortable and so he reached for his wallet, found the money, and paid for the dress by slamming the bills down on Sarah’s paperwork.“I don’t suppose you have a—”“No I don’t!” Sarah hissed. “Now I’d like you both to leave.”“We were just on our way out your door,” Longarm snapped, snatching up the dress. “Ready, Lucy?”“I am ready to leave this uppity bitch,” Lucy said, finally looking at the storekeeper. “Have a nice evening, ma’am, just like me and Custis are planning to do.”“I’m sure that I don’t care what kind of an evening you intend to have,” Sarah managed to choke out. “Custis, shame on you!”He smiled and tipped his hat before he wordlessly took Lucy’s arm and headed out the door, not bothering to close it in his wake.“I should wash up and brush my hair,” Lucy finally said as they walked along the boardwalk. “Too pretty a dress to wear when I’m so dirty.”Longarm could not deny her logic. “I know where you can take a quick bath and clean up.”“Where?”“My apartment will do.”Lucy looked up at him with a big, happy smile. “Now you’re talkin’,” she said.“But just to clean up,” he added quickly. “Nothing more.”“Sure,” she told him with that happy smile still plastered on her face. It was a face that showed some years of hard living, but it was a pretty face, or at least Longarm thought it might be when it was washed. And that black hair was dull and tangled but it was long and thick . . . it would look nice after it was washed and brushed.Lucy, he decided, was a diamond in the rough. Maybe she really can turn her life around with a little help, direction, and encouragement, he thought.*   *   *“Nice apartment,” Lucy said, pirouetting around and taking everything in. “You lived here long?”“About a year.”She studied the furniture and then walked into his small but efficient kitchen. “Got an ice box and everything, huh?”“Yeah, the iceman comes by twice a week.”Lucy opened some cabinets. “See that you don’t eat much here.”“I usually eat out,” Longarm said.“Handsome rugs and I especially like that bed of yours. Nice and big.” Before Longarm could stop her, Lucy ran into his bedroom and flopped down on the bed. “Pretty soft, too!”“Look,” Longarm said as sternly as he could, “this is my place and I don’t want you to get to thinking that it could be your place.”“Of course not!” She grinned. “I already told you that I have a room at Maggie’s Place.”“Well, fine,” he said gruffly, already beginning to think he had made a big mistake by bringing her to his apartment. “I’m going down the hall to draw you a hot bath. It won’t take long and I suggest you might start combing your hair while we wait on the hot water.”“You got brushes?”“In the bathroom.”“My underclothes aren’t too clean either,” Lucy commented as he was leaving. “Maybe I should just wear them in the bathtub and scrub ’em up while you scrub my back and wash my hair.”Longarm froze in mid-stride. “I don’t intend to scrub your back or wash your hair.”“It’d be a big favor if you did, though. I haven’t had a man take care of me even a little in longer than I can recall. It sure would be a pleasure.”Longarm headed down the hall and found the bathtub room. It was used by everyone on his floor, who were all bachelors like himself. Sometimes a man could be hired to bring up some extra hot water, but mostly the baths were at best lukewarm. He checked to make sure that no one was using the room, then he turned on the water and started filling the tub. Having running water was one of the main reasons he had rented this apartment on the ground floor.What have I done now? he wondered as the tub slowly filled. He had not wanted to say anything, but not only was Lucy dirty . . . she smelled terrible. The idea of putting her in a nice, clean dress and then taking a stinky woman to Abner’s Steak House just didn’t sit right with him, and if other patrons were as repelled by her smell as he was, it would become an issue. Better, much better to get her scrubbed up and clean first.“Is it ready for me?” Lucy yelled from his apartment door.“Yeah, bring a towel and a bar of soap and come on down.”“Where are your towels and soap?”“In my hall closet on the right.”Longarm was turning off the water when he heard a wolf whistle, and when he twisted around toward the hallway, there was Lucy just as naked as the day she was born but a lot more shapely.“Damn,” a man said, standing in the doorway. “Where did you come from, honey?”“Maggie’s Place! Stop by and see me sometime.”“How about we skip Maggie’s and you come on into my room right now!”“No thanks. I’m with Marshal Custis Long, I’ll have you know.”“Lucy!” Longarm shouted. “You . . . aww, the hell with it.”Lucy had a very nice figure. Big breasted and her legs were long and shapely. The only detraction were the many bruises he saw on her body, and he wondered if they were caused by Pete and Willie or by earlier customers.“You shouldn’t have just walked naked down the entire hallway,” Longarm complained. “That fella is going to tell everyone in the building what he saw.”“Good, maybe they’ll all come looking for me at Maggie’s Place and I’ll make a lot of money.”Lucy laughed but Longarm didn’t think it was a bit funny. “Climb in,” he ordered, closing the door.“What do you think?” Lucy asked, stepping into the bathtub and cupping her hands under her breasts then turning around slowly so he could see her at every delicious angle. “Not bad, huh? I still got my shape.”“Yes, you do have that.” Longarm picked up the bar of soap, dipped it into the tub, and began to soap up her long black hair. “How long has it been since you bathed, Lucy?”“I get a bath every three or four days. Maggie charges fifty cents and I don’t like to spend the money but some of the men who pound on me are as rough and smelly as old dogs. Ohhh, that feels nice . . . don’t stop.”Longarm had no intention of stopping. He soaped her hair thoroughly, and then despite his earlier words, he scrubbed her back while she sighed and moaned with pleasure. “You’re pretty good at this,” she told him. “I’ll bet you’ve had practice with tons of women.”“Some.”“Well,” she said, grinning. “Now you can soap up my tits, and I’ll bet if we tried, we could both get into this tub and jiggle around a little or whatever.”