Slocum 425: Slocum And The Redheaded Devil by Jake LoganSlocum 425: Slocum And The Redheaded Devil by Jake Logan

Slocum 425: Slocum And The Redheaded Devil

byJake Logan

Mass Market Paperback | June 24, 2014

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Slocum’s on a mission for the military—and up against a devil of a dame!

When Slocum stops in the town of Pico Alto, Nevada, a late night at the saloon leads to a brutal encounter with a trio of thieves and ends when a redheaded angel brings him home to tend to his wounds. All in all, things could have been worse—like if those thieves got ahold of the secret documents Slocum is transporting for the military.
 
But when Slocum arrives at his destination, he learns that a single page is missing from the parcel. And the officer in charge is none too pleased. Now Slocum is riding back to Pico Alto to retrieve the highly sensitive item, come hell or high water. And he’s about to discover that his redheaded angel is anything but innocent.
Jake Logan is the author of the long-running Slocum western series, featuring the adventures of gunslinger John Slocum.
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Title:Slocum 425: Slocum And The Redheaded DevilFormat:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:192 pages, 6.75 × 4.2 × 0.6 inPublished:June 24, 2014Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0515154814

ISBN - 13:9780515154818

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The smaller of the pair took a few steps forward and stopped short before putting himself within Slocum’s reach. That made Slocum’s decision clear as to who should be on the receiving end of his next swing. The larger bushwhacker was about his size, and Slocum met him with a punch that came all the way around in an arc and ended at the side of the man’s head. Ironically, Slocum’s knuckles hit the spot that their other partner should have found with the butt of his gun. Striking just behind and slightly above the other man’s ear, Slocum’s fist landed hard enough to put that fellow onto his knees. Once there, Slocum finished him off with another blow that didn’t require as much finesse. His knee swung forward to pound into the kneeling man’s face and send him sprawling onto his back.“What are you waiting fer?” the smaller attacker shouted to the larger one. “Shoot!”Slocum may have been drunk. He may have been wobbly after taking that first crack to his head. He may have even been tuckered out after spending the last day and a half playing cards in the Sunset Saloon. But none of those things was enough to make him forget about the Remington revolver holstered at his side. His hand drifted toward the pistol, lingering a scant inch above it as he locked eyes with the bigger man and said, “Yeah. Go ahead. Shoot.”1Slocum had been in Pico Alto, Nevada, for just under two weeks before he was knocked in the back of the head by the butt of a pistol. Cracking a man’s skull wasn’t as straightforward as it might seem. At least, it wasn’t if the person doing the cracking meant to put their target down in one blow. Any fool with an arm and a Colt could give someone a splitting headache. It took a bit of know-how to make that one shot count for something. When Slocum was on the receiving end of a shot like that, one was all he was going to allow.Having just left the Sunset Saloon, Slocum had been rounding the corner of First and Hyde streets. He’d had more than his share of whiskey, and his eyes stung from the haze of too many cheap cigars being smoked in that place. Although he would have liked to have a few more excuses for why the bushwhackers were able to get so close to him, Slocum knew the whiskey was the main culprit. By the time he heard heavy footsteps coming up behind him, all he could do was turn halfway around as the butt of that pistol was introduced to his head.An inch or two in any direction and the blow would have landed true. Instead, Slocum was knocked somewhere on top of his head toward the back. It rang his bell for certain, but didn’t affect his vision any worse than all the liquor he’d poured down his throat earlier that night. When he wheeled around to face his attackers, Slocum was unsteady on his feet, but the fire that swelled up in him went a long way in making up for it.There were three of them. Two wore bandannas that partially covered their faces, and the third was caked in so much dirt that he might as well have been masked. The closest man was the biggest and outweighed Slocum by a good margin. Although he was armed, he’d been the one to take the first swing, which meant he was still holding his pistol by the barrel when Slocum came at him. Despite the anger behind Slocum’s punch, his balance was still impeded by the knock he’d taken. Of course, the whiskey still didn’t help much.“Take this, you son of a b—” was all the big man got out before Slocum’s fist caught him in the mouth. As he reeled back from the punch, the big man’s two partners rushed in to try and put Slocum down.The smaller of the pair took a few steps forward and stopped short before putting himself within Slocum’s reach. That made Slocum’s decision clear as to who should be on the receiving end of his next swing. The larger bushwhacker was about his size, and Slocum met him with a punch that came all the way around in an arc and ended at the side of the man’s head. Ironically, Slocum’s knuckles hit the spot that their other partner should have found with the butt of his gun. Striking just behind and slightly above the other man’s ear, Slocum’s fist landed hard enough to bring that fellow to his knees. Once there, Slocum finished him off with another blow that didn’t require as much finesse. His knee swung forward to pound into the kneeling man’s face and send him sprawling onto his back.“What are you waiting fer?” the smaller attacker shouted to the larger one. “Shoot!”Slocum may have been drunk. He may have been wobbly after taking that first crack to his head. He may have even been tuckered out after spending the last day and a half playing cards in the Sunset Saloon. But none of those things was enough to make him forget about the Remington revolver holstered at his side. His hand drifted toward the pistol, lingering a scant inch above it as he locked eyes with the bigger man and said, “Yeah. Go ahead. Shoot.”“Shit, Cal,” the big man grunted. “This vagrant ain’t got nothin’ worth stealin’ anyhow.”The smaller man’s voice was a coarse hiss as he whispered, “Too late to worry about that. We started this. We gotta see it through.”Actually, the big man was speaking the God’s honest truth. Apart from a dollar and a quarter in his pocket, the only things Slocum carried were an old watch he’d won in the previous night’s game, the key to his hotel room, and the gun on his hip. Even so, he wasn’t about to roll over for the likes of these three. “Tell you what,” Slocum said. “You two collect your friend down there, move along, and we can go our separate ways.”“You . . . you’ll tell the law ’bout us,” the big man grunted.“What for?” Slocum asked with a shrug. “That asshole was going to hurt me,” he said while tapping the downed man with his boot, “so I hurt him. You got the drop on me, but I shouldn’t have let you get so close. Lesson learned.”“So . . . that’s it?”“No. You take any more time thinking over this generous offer and I’ll pay back the first knock you gave me with a few more of my own.”“Ummm . . . yeah . . . well . . .”The larger man’s eyes darted back and forth between Slocum and something else. Something just over Slocum’s shoulder. Slocum had lost sight of the third man, but he wasn’t about to take his eyes off the big fellow with the gun, so he took a step back to put the smaller man back into his field of vision. When his boot was halfway to where he wanted it to go, it bumped against something solid. Slocum cussed under his breath, raised his left arm, and snapped his elbow straight back.Since the smaller man had been quiet enough to get right behind Slocum, it wasn’t much of a surprise that he was also quick enough to avoid being hit by the elbow that Slocum swung in his direction. The man skittered away like the rodent he was, all but disappearing into one of the thick shadows encroaching on either side of the narrow street. It was well past midnight, which meant there was more than enough darkness to use for cover. Any little noise that was made, however, echoed like an empty tea kettle being dropped onto a wooden floor. Slocum followed the sound of the smaller man’s steps scraping against the dirt until he heard the louder crunch of much bigger boots stomping after him.Slocum took one last look and caught sight of the smaller man darting across the street toward an alley. As he turned back around to face the larger man, Slocum drew the Remington in a swift motion that was barely affected by all the whiskey flowing through his veins. Although he cleared leather, he didn’t bring the pistol’s barrel up more than an inch or so before his arm was stopped by a beefy fist that took hold of him in an iron grip. Slocum continued to turn and brought his left hand around to pound the big man’s face. It was a glancing punch that didn’t do much more than rip the bandanna away to reveal an ugly grin.Before he knew what was happening, Slocum was wrapped up in a one-armed bear hug. The big man kept hold of Slocum’s wrist while enveloping him in a mass of muscle. Once he had a hold on him, the big man lifted Slocum off his feet. Rather than waiting to be slammed down onto his ribs, neck, or back, Slocum lashed out with both legs to slam his boots into the big man’s shins. It wasn’t enough to force his hulking opponent to drop him, but the next bunch of flailing kicks sure did the trick.As soon as Slocum was on his own two feet again, he backed away from the big man. The other fellow was still growling like a wounded grizzly bear, but he hadn’t let go of Slocum’s arm. When Slocum got a few steps away from him, the big man yanked him back as if they were a pair of clumsy ballroom dancers. Slocum felt the lack of sleep and abundance of whiskey rush in on him as he was pulled toward the big man. The world teetered around him until the only thing keeping him up was the other man’s solid hold on his wrist. It took a moment for Slocum’s head to stop spinning, and when it did, he was treated to the sight of the big man’s face rushing straight at him.The head butt landed solidly, thumping against a spot just above the bridge of Slocum’s nose. Dark blobs formed in his eyes, and he staggered uneasily while the big man started to laugh.“What now, little man?” Slocum’s attacker grunted.When Slocum tried twisting his hand within the other man’s grasp to point his pistol at a real target, the grip around his wrist tightened until Slocum swore he felt bones grinding together. Before he was snapped like a dry twig, Slocum opened his hand to let the Remington fall from it. The pistol dropped for less than a second before it was caught by Slocum’s other hand. Even as he wrapped his fingers around the pistol’s grip, Slocum could feel the other man pulling him in again for another head butt or something even worse. Either way, Slocum knew he wouldn’t be able to put up much of a fight after taking whatever it was the big man intended on dishing out.Rather than taking any sort of aim, Slocum only took enough time to make sure his gun’s barrel was pointed away from him before pulling his trigger. The Remington’s single blast rolled through the air, spitting a plume of black gritty smoke while driving a piece of hot lead straight down into the big man’s foot. While the attacker’s eyes were smug in victory only a moment ago, they were now wide in surprise and pain.It didn’t take much for Slocum to pull away from the big man after drilling a hole through his boot. The first thing he did once he was free was to take a look around to make sure nobody was going to sneak up on him again. The first man to be dropped was just now pulling himself up, so Slocum put him down again with a solid uppercut to the jaw.The smallest bushwhacker was nowhere to be found, and the largest one was still managing to stay upright. Slocum walked up to him to place the barrel of his pistol against the giant’s chest.For a moment, Slocum seriously considered pulling his trigger even if it was just to send a message to the other two. Then Slocum took a moment to push through the whiskey haze still roiling in his skull and decided on another course of action. Lowering the pistol, he swept his leg straight across to tap his boot against the other man’s freshly wounded foot. That was more than enough to topple the big man like an oak that had been set upon by a swarm of lumberjacks.Even after the scuffle, the gunshot, and the impact of the big man’s back against the ground, nobody was coming around for a look at what was going on. Slocum had only been in Pico Alto for a short time and had yet to catch more than a fleeting glimpse of the town’s single lawman. The fellow was supposed to be healthy enough and a bit younger than Slocum, but spent most of his time away on business matters. Slocum didn’t know if that meant riding in a posse or sitting at a creek with a fishing pole in his hand and didn’t much care. For the moment, the only reason Slocum thought about the town’s law at all was to make certain it wasn’t charging up to give him any grief for firing his weapon in a public place. Even in a case of self-defense, a man had to answer for shooting someone. That didn’t seem to be a problem, however, since the streets were just as still now as they had been when Slocum first stepped out of the Sunset Saloon.Once his ears stopped ringing after getting knocked around, Slocum realized the street wasn’t totally quiet after all. Somewhere nearby, light panting breaths could be heard. After a few more seconds, Slocum thought he heard a woman crying.He walked forward, keeping his gun in hand but lowered at his side. The sound came from across the street. When he narrowed the source down to the alley where the third bushwhacker had escaped, he quickened his steps and brought his gun back up.“Someone there?” he asked cautiously.The sobbing was quickly choked off and a slender figure emerged from the alley. She was a woman in a thin, filmy dress that looked like it could have been a slip. When she stepped out of the shadows and into the pale glow of the stars, the simple flower pattern on her dress could more clearly be seen.“Are you all right, miss?” Slocum asked.“I am,” she replied in a voice that was stronger than he’d been expecting. She batted her eyelids, looked down the alley and sharply back at Slocum. “What about you? Are you hurt?”Slocum gingerly touched the part of his face that had been knocked the worst and felt blood on his fingers. “I been better, but I also been a whole lot worse. Were you knocked aside when that fella took off down the alley?”As she got closer to him, it became clear that the woman hadn’t been crying after all. Her cheeks were smeared with some dust that had been kicked up and glistened from sweat, but none of that was much of a surprise considering the ruckus that had taken place around her or the heat of the summer night in which it had happened. The expression on her face showed anything but fear, however. In fact, she looked excited with just a touch of nervousness thrown in. “He did shove me,” she said anxiously. “But no harm was done. He seemed to be in a real big hurry. Is he a friend of yours?”“Not hardly. Do you know where he got to?”Pointing down the alley, she replied, “That way.” Shrugging, she added, “That’s all I saw. Sorry.”“All right then.”“I should go.”“Just give those two over there a wide berth,” Slocum said as she started walking down the alley.She looked toward the two men in the street, but wasn’t ready to go anywhere near them. Holding her ground, the woman said, “Can I ask your name?”“John Slocum,” he replied absently. In the time it had taken her to ask the question, his interest had already been captured by something lying nearby. He picked it up and tucked it into his pocket. Slocum then turned to find the woman staring at the fallen bushwhackers.“I’ve . . . never really seen anything like this before,” she said in a shaky voice. “Is . . . is that man shot?”“Yes, but it’s not bad. You might want to move along before one of them wakes up, though.”Slocum’s point was made when the biggest man on the ground propped himself up and grunted as his bloody foot scraped against the dirt. The woman was quick to hop back and run away.He rushed all the way to the opposite end of the alley and found exactly what he’d been expecting: nothing. Even if he hadn’t bothered with the woman, Slocum knew there wasn’t much of a chance of catching up with the third bushwhacker. That little weasel was too damn quick on his feet and Slocum was too sluggish on his. There may have been tracks in the alley, but Slocum didn’t have a hope in hell of finding them in the inky darkness. Right now, all he wanted was to drag his sorry hide back down the street to the hotel where he was renting a room.When he stepped onto the crooked boardwalk running alongside the street, Slocum bumped his toe against the warped wooden planks.It took him a few tries to ease the Remington back into its holster after repeatedly catching the barrel on its worn leather.Sweat rolled down Slocum’s face to drip into his eyes. Or perhaps it was blood. Whatever it was, Slocum swiped at it with the back of one hand. He couldn’t get much of a look at it because his vision was still blurred. Just as he was about to stumble again, he was caught by a steadying hand.“Easy there,” the woman in the flowered dress told him as she did her best to support his weight. “Let’s get you somewhere you can sit down.”“What? I . . .”“Don’t try to talk,” she said. “Save your breath.”Slocum’s first instinct was to protest, but he couldn’t quite get the words out. It turned out she was right. He really didn’t have much breath to spare.2Slocum didn’t exactly keel over, but he was a far cry from steady on his feet. He staggered like a drunk instead of falling face first onto the street thanks to the concerted efforts of the young woman who’d quite literally taken him under her wing. Although he didn’t slip into unconsciousness, he somehow kept one foot shuffling in front of the other. Slocum felt like a tired spectator watching through the clouded windows of his own eyes. Every now and then, the sights and sounds surrounding him would dim before coming back to him in a rush.Eventually, he was lowered onto his back with something soft beneath him. Slocum had no idea where he was, but he’d stopped moving, which was enough at the moment. After remaining motionless for several breaths, the contents of his stomach finally stopped sloshing inside him and splashing up to the back of his throat.“Here,” the woman said softly. “This should help.”Cool water splashed onto Slocum’s forehead. It didn’t just feel good; it was the best damn thing he could imagine.“Is that better?” she asked.“Yes.”“I probably should have asked before dragging you away like that. It just seemed like the right thing to do. Should I have?”“Yes,” Slocum groaned. “You’re a damn angel.”“Ummm . . . well . . . thank you. I think.”He blinked a few times to clear some of the cobwebs from behind his eyes. Although Slocum still couldn’t see clearly, he could make out a bit more than he could a few seconds ago. The face looking down at him was pale and narrow. The woman had high cheekbones, a small mouth, and a nose with a distinctive upward slant. When he spoke again, Slocum could barely recognize the scratchy croak that emerged from his own mouth. “Got any more of that water?” he asked.“Of course.”Seconds later, more was dripped onto his forehead and dabbed onto his cheeks. Just as Slocum was letting out a contented sigh, he felt a wet, cold blade poke into the top of his head. “Son of a bastard!” he growled while reflexively swatting at whatever had caused that sudden jab of pain.Instead of anything resembling a weapon, the only thing Slocum found was the same rag that had brought him such bliss only moments ago. The woman pulled her hand back and recoiled after getting her wrist slapped. Slocum touched the throbbing portion of his scalp and was instantly reminded of the knock he’d taken shortly after leaving the saloon. His hand came away wet, but not from blood. Looking over, he could see the water-soaked rag dangling from her hand. “Sorry about that,” he said.She shrugged. “It’s all right. I imagine that stung a bit.”“You could say that.” He touched his tender scalp once more while asking, “Does it look bad?”“It could use some cleaning, but it’s not terrible. Usually when someone gets hit on the head, it bleeds a whole lot. You’re already healing up. Must be because you’re so strong.”“Nah,” Slocum replied. “I just take more hits to the head than most folks. Where am I, by the way?”“I brought you back to my house. It’s not far from where you were attacked. Just at the far end of Hyde Street.”Slocum had seen a few modest homes in that direction but hadn’t had cause to visit any of them. Pico Alto was a very small town but so far he’d only seen a sliver of it. In fact, he’d really only walked between his hotel, the Sunset Saloon, and one particular steak house so many times that he could have worn a rut in the ground. “I appreciate the kindness,” he said while struggling to sit up, “but I won’t impose any further. Just point me in the direction of Third Street and I can make my way back to my hotel.”“Which hotel? The One River?”“That’s it.”She shook her head so quickly that some of her hair fell across her face. “I can’t allow that,” she said while sweeping some of the longer strands behind one ear.“You can’t allow it?”“That’s too far for you to walk and you’re not about to ride.”“Ride?” Slocum snapped as he sat up. “Why would I have to ride such a short . . . way . . . ?”As things got blurry again, the only thing Slocum could see clearly was the smug grin on the woman’s face. “See?” she said. “Just like I told you. You’re not going anywhere.”Slocum pressed a hand to his head. It wasn’t enough to stop it from spinning, but at least he managed to slow it down a bit. “Guess I am still feeling shaky after taking that bump to the head.”“From the looks of it,” she said while leaning forward to get a closer look at Slocum’s scalp, “it seems like you took a lot more than a bump. Why don’t you lay back down and I’ll get your boots off?”Even though he didn’t seem capable of doing much else, Slocum acted as though he was making a concession when he stretched out and propped his feet onto the cot. Until that moment, he’d barely even taken much notice of his surroundings or where he’d been lying. It felt best when he kept his eyes shut, so he used both hands to feel the blankets beneath him. They were made from coarse wool and smelled of starch. Beneath them was nothing more than canvas stretched across a wooden frame.“Are you all right?” she asked. “You’re losing your color.”Slocum assured her that he was fine. Then he asked for her name. When she didn’t answer, he realized he’d only thought those things and hadn’t spoken a word. When he tried to sit up again, everything went black.•   •   •He awoke to a blinding light. Slocum lifted his hand to shade his eyes before opening them. At first, he couldn’t see a thing. Then the fog cleared and he could see clearer than before he’d downed his first glass of whiskey the night before.The light that had caused him to stir was merely a beam of sunlight sneaking in between the slats of shutters on the window closest to where he’d passed out. It took a few seconds to acclimate himself, but the rays were coming at such an angle that put the time at either dawn or dusk.Slocum propped himself up on his elbows and waited for the dizziness to return. When it didn’t, he started digging into his pockets. There was nothing to find in there apart from a few loose threads and thirty-five cents.“What can I get for you?”Turning toward the familiar voice, Slocum found the woman with the pale skin and upturned nose. “I . . . can’t find my watch.”“It’s not there,” she replied.“Did you take it?”She blinked. “No. I didn’t take anything from you. If you can’t find it, it must not be there. You were robbed last night. Don’t you remember?”Slocum sat up the rest of the way and swung his feet over the side of the cot. “I remember,” he said while touching the tender spot on his head. There was a hell of a lump there and a gash covered in a crust of dried blood. Other than that, the light-headedness and other effects from the blow to the head seemed to have passed. He looked up at her, noticing plenty more than he had the night before.For one thing, there was more light in the room now so he could see the smooth lines of her face. Although the woman’s features were sharp, they were still very pretty. Her hair was tied back and tucked neatly beneath a plain white kerchief. Soft green eyes stared down at him, and thin red lips curled into a smile. “You really are feeling better,” she said. “Before, you couldn’t look at me this long without falling over. I hope that wasn’t just because of how dreadful I looked when I found you.”“That’s not it at all. I was out of my head.”“And what about now?”Slocum placed his hand flat upon his forehead, slowly moved it back, and then let out a deep breath. “I’d say I’m mostly better. At least, I should be able to walk out of here on my own steam.”When he started getting up, the woman rushed forward to take hold of his arm so she could help support him. As much as Slocum wanted to refuse her assistance, he swallowed his pride and allowed her to see him to his feet.“There!” she said triumphantly. “Much better. How’s that?”“Good.” Once again focusing on her, he added, “I never did catch your name.”“You don’t recall that either?”“Recall what?”“We had a conversation about an hour or so ago,” she told him. “We introduced ourselves and you told me . . . well . . .” She smirked and looked away with mild embarrassment. “You said a few things that surprised me, but now I see you were probably just talking in your sleep.”“Yeah. I guess it was something like that. How long have I been on that cot?”“Since last night.”Slocum let out a breath, relieved that he hadn’t been out of sorts for much longer than that. He’d known of men who took knocks to the head and were on their backs for days at a stretch. “Since I don’t recall what I spouted on about before,” he said, “let’s run through the introductions again. I’m John Slocum.”She smiled. “Kelly Thompson.”“I appreciate your hospitality, Kelly, but I won’t impose on you any longer. Is there anything I can do to repay your kindness?”“Don’t worry about that. Also, you don’t exactly have the means to pay for anything.”“You’ve got me there. Still, I won’t forget about this. If there’s anything you need, just let me know.”She stepped up to him and gently tugged at his shirt collar. Instead of straightening it, she seemed more interested in finding an excuse to get as close to him as possible. “I’ll do that, John.”