The Gunsmith 395: The Three Mercenaries by J. R. RobertsThe Gunsmith 395: The Three Mercenaries by J. R. Roberts

The Gunsmith 395: The Three Mercenaries

byJ. R. Roberts

Mass Market Paperback | October 28, 2014

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All Clint Adams wants is some good rest and some good food. But when he rides into Acuna, Mexico, he’s met with a hotheaded Mexican looking to start a fight with the legendary Gunsmith. Clint tries to convince Juanito that he’s messing with the wrong gringo, but the only thing that stops him is a bullet to the shoulder.

The wannabe pistolero will live, but the Montoya patriarch isn’t about to let his family’s reputation suffer for his son’s stupidity. Now, with the wrath of the entire Montoya clan bearing down on him, Clint is outnumbered. But if he can convince three local mercenaries to stand with him, the Gunsmith just might get out of Mexico alive…

J.R. Roberts is the author of the long-running Gunsmith western series, featuring the adventures of gunslinger Clint Adams.
Title:The Gunsmith 395: The Three MercenariesFormat:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:192 pages, 6.75 × 4.13 × 0.45 inPublished:October 28, 2014Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0515154989

ISBN - 13:9780515154986

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Read from the Book

“So,” Clint said, “will they be waiting outside for me?”ONEThe dead cowboy was carried into the saloon and set down on the bar.“Where’s the judge?” one of the men asked.“He’s comin’,” the bartender said. “Just leave ’im.”The three men who carried the body into the saloon looked at the bartender.“Any chance we can get a drink?” one of them asked.“Yeah, sure,” the bartender said. “One shot for each of you.”He poured three shots of red-eye, and the three men tossed them down.“Okay,” the bartender said, “now get out before the judge comes out.”“Ain’t he gonna want the body moved when he’s done?” another man asked.“Yeah, but we’ll get somebody else to do it.” He knew the three men were angling for another free drink. They slunk out of the saloon.The bartender studied the dead cowboy. He looked like he was in his thirties, had apparently been shot through the chest. His gun was still in his holster. He was about to go through the dead man’s pockets when the judge appeared.The judge was a tall man in his sixties, with white hair. He was wearing a soiled white shirt and a pair of suspenders. He had his gavel in his hand.“Judge,” the bartender said.The judge nodded at him. When the saloon became his courtroom, the bartender became his bailiff.“Go through his pockets yet?” the judge asked.“I was about to do that.”“Then do it.”As the bartender went through the pockets, the judge took out a pair of wire-framed glasses and perched them on the end of his nose. He watched as the man went into all the pockets, turned them inside out, and came out with . . .“Forty dollars,” the bartender/bailiff said. “Guess he wasn’t robbed.”The judge came closer, leaned over, and studied the wound in the man’s chest.“Somebody didn’t like him.”“I guess.”The judge looked at the forty dollars in the bartender’s hand, then examined the body again.The bartender jumped in surprise as the judge slammed his gavel down on the bar.“Forty dollars for carrying a concealed weapon.”“Him?” the bartender asked. “Concealed?”“Forty dollars.”The bartender/bailiff looked down at the money in his hands. “He just happens to have that much on him,” he said, handing the money over.“Sell his gun,” the judge said, “and have the body taken to the undertaker.”“Yes, sir.”The judge counted the money in his hands just to be sure, then slammed his gavel down again and said, “Court’s adjourned!”“Drink?” the bartender asked, now relieved of his job as bailiff.“I said court’s adjourned, didn’t I?” the judge asked peevishly. “Do I have to repeat myself?” He raised his gavel.“No sir!”The judge turned and walked away.*   *   *The judge entered his office and sat in front of his ancient roll-top desk. He took the money out of his pocket, opened the top drawer, and deposited it. The town of Langtry, Texas, did not yet have a bank. He sat back in his chair, lit a cigar, and sipped his drink.Judge Roy Bean much preferred his Jersey Lily as a saloon than a courtroom.TWOClint Adams left San Antonio, Texas, ahead of trouble. It had become obvious to him that there were several men there who were working up the nerve to try him. Eventually, they might even have decided to join forces against him. His best bet was to leave town, since he was pretty much finished with San Antonio anyway.Normally he wouldn’t leave town ahead of trouble. He wouldn’t want it to get around that Clint Adams ran away from trouble, but he didn’t consider this running. This was avoidance. But if they followed him, he’d have no choice but to deal with them.*   *   *It took Clint three days to reach Acuña, Mexico. His plan was to spend a few days there—just over the border—and then ride north. Eventually, he’d reach Labyrinth, his home away from . . . well, the only place he could call home. And yet the thing he liked about it was that while it remained the same in his absence, there were always slight changes upon his return.As he rode into Acuña, he found it a small, sleepy town—a village actually. He’d been checking his back trail religiously, and hadn’t seen any sign that he was being followed. So he felt fairly certain he’d be able to spend an easy day or two there.He took Eclipse to the livery, got his room in the small hotel. It was simple, a small bed, an old dresser, and a wooden chair. But it was remarkably clean, which was unusual for a small, dusty town like Acuña.But what he was looking forward to was some good Mexican food. He went down to the small space that could hardly be called a hotel lobby, and approached the front desk.The clerk was a Mexican in his forties, with slicked-down hair and a well-cared-for mustache.“Can I help you, señor?”“Who makes the best food in town?”“Ah, señor,” the clerk said, “you want to go across the street to Carmelita’s Cantina.”“I’m looking for good enchiladas and tacos,” Clint said.“Whatever she makes is the best in town, señor,” the clerk assured him. “You tell her Paco sent you over.”“I’ll tell her,” Clint said. “Gracias, señor.”“Por nada, señor!”Clint left the hotel and walked across the street to Carmelita’s Cantina.As he entered, he saw that the place had a small bar and four tables, and that was it. None of the tables were being used, which was not necessarily a good indication of a place’s food, but it was a small town and it was not supper time. And the smells in the air were fabulous.A small man wearing an apron came out of the kitchen and smiled broadly. Because he was so small—perhaps five feet tall—it was hard to gauge his age. He could have been thirty or fifty.“Señor, welcome to Carmelita’s.” He smiled broadly, showing a couple of gold teeth.“I heard you have the best food in town.”“Sí, señor,” the man said. “We have that honor. Would you like a table?”“If you can fit me in.”The man laughed and said, “Ah, the señor is funny.” He waved magnanimously. “You may choose any table you like.”“I’ll take that one,” Clint said, pointing to the one that was farthest from the door.“Excellent choice!”The small man led Clint to the table, then asked, “Would the señor like something to drink?”“Cerveza,” Clint said.“Sí, señor,” the man said, “I will bring the beer right away. And to eat?”“Burritos, enchiladas, tacos, and rice,” Clint said. “And anything else you can think of.”“Ah, the señor has a large appetite,” the man said happily. “I will tell Carmelita and she will begin the cooking.”“You mean there really is a Carmelita?”“Oh, sí, señor,” the man said with a broad smile. “She is the cook, and she is mi esposa.”“Well, congratulations.”“Oh, señor, we have been married a very long time,” the man said, “but gracias.”The man hurried away and quickly returned with a mug of beer. After that he kept coming back with platters of enchiladas, burritos, tacos, and lots of Spanish rice and refried beans. The last trip back and forth from the kitchen brought Clint a large pile of tortillas. He piled the food into tortillas, rolled them up, and ate happily. He didn’t know if the food was the best in town, but he couldn’t imagine there was better.“What’s your name?” he asked the waiter when he brought him another mug of beer.“Rodrigo.”“Rodrigo, tell your wife this food is delicious,” he told the man.“I will tell her, señor. She will be very, very pleased,” the man said. “Muchas gracias.”Clint nodded and waved, his mouth full, and the man ran happily back to the kitchen.*   *   *While he was eating, three men entered the cantina and went to the bar. They were all Mexican and looked over at Clint with interest, then had a conversation at the bar with Rodrigo. It was in Spanish, but Clint could tell he was the subject. If they were looking for trouble, he hoped they would wait until after he had eaten.Alas, they did not.THREEThe three men turned to look at Clint, with beer mugs in their hands. Clint was eating his last taco, and wanted to enjoy it just as much as the first.“Hey, gringo!” one of the men yelled.Clint closed his eyes. It apparently was not going to happen.“Are you talking to me?” he asked.“Am I talkin’ to you?” the man asked. He spoke very thickly accented English, which sounded like “Am I talkin’ to joo?” He laughed, exchanged glances with his two compadres, and then said, “I don’ see anybody else in here, do joo?”“No,” Clint said, “I just couldn’t believe you were talking to me, since we don’t know each other.”“Oh, I see,” the man said. “Well, we can fix dat, eh? My name is Juanito. What is jours?”Now Clint knew one of two things could happen if he gave the man his real name. He could dissuade them and send them packing, or it could encourage them to try him. They all had bandoliers across their chests, pistols in holsters, and rifles that were currently leaning against the bar.“My name is Clint.”“Cleent?” the man said. “What kind of name is Cleent?”“I don’t know,” Clint said. “What kind of name is Juanito? Isn’t that a girl’s name?”The smile disappeared from the man’s face.“What? You are calling Juanito a woman?”“Just commenting on your name,” Clint said. “Isn’t that what you were doing?”“Juanito,” Rodrigo said from behind the bar, “the señor meant no disrespect. Please, no trouble, eh?”One of the other men put his hand on Juanito’s arm, raised his other hand to Rodrigo, and said, “No, no, Rodrigo, fear not. There will be no trouble.” He was older than the other two, and for the first time Clint thought he might be looking at a father or an uncle, with two younger sons or nephews.“Please, señor,” the man said to Clint, “you must forgive my son. He has a poor way of showing his curiosity.”“No problem,” Clint said. “I’ll just finish my meal.”“Rodrigo,” the older man said, “please take the señor another cerveza, from me.”“Sí, Señor Montoya,” Rodrigo said.“Please,” Montoya said, “finish your meal in peace.”“Gracias,” Clint said, “and thank you for the beer.”“Por nada,” the older man said. He and his two younger comrades turned back to the bar, but Juanito was not happy.Rodrigo brought the second beer over to Clint, who popped the last of the taco into his mouth.“Rodrigo,” he said, “please give Carmelita my compliments.”“Would you like to tell her yourself?” Rodrigo asked. “That would please her very much.”“I would be happy to.”“Good, good,” Rodrigo said, “thank you. I will get her.”Montoya and one of his comrades kept their backs to Clint while they drank their own beer, but Juanito kept peering over his shoulder. Clint figured he wasn’t out of the woods yet as far as trouble in Acuña went. Maybe he should just move on now that he’d eaten.Rodrigo reappeared with a large, heavy woman in tow. She was easily twice his size, towering over him, but had the same wide smile on her face. They seemed to be a very happy couple.“Señor, this is my Carmelita,” Rodrigo said.“Señor,” she said. “I am happy to meet you.”“The pleasure is mine, señora,” Clint said. “Your food has brought joy to my heart—and to my stomach.”The couple laughed and she thanked him profusely. Carmelita’s skin was like smooth, light chocolate, and despite her size, she was pleasant looking, almost pretty—especially when she smiled.“I should get going—” he started, but Rodrigo took hold of his right wrist.“No,” he said, “stay for café. You will like Carmelita’s coffee.” He leaned closer and said, “Do not leave until they do.”“All right,” Clint said. “I’ll have some coffee.”“Excellent.”“I will get it!” Carmelita said, and hurried back to the kitchen as quickly as her bulk would allow her.FOURCarmelita brought the coffee out and sat with Clint while he drank it. It was excellent. Rodrigo went to the bar to see if the three men wanted another beer, but they didn’t. They paid for what they’d drunk, and left. Juanito threw one last hard look Clint’s way.Rodrigo came back to the table and sat down. He said something to Carmelita, and she rose and went back to the kitchen.“So?” Clint asked.“That was Señor Montoya and his two sons, Juanito and Pablo,” Rodrigo said.“And?”“They are bad men.”“Señor Montoya seemed to be very . . . sensible.”“That is because he knew who you were.”“Did you tell him?”“Me?” Rodrigo looked surprised. “I did not know ’til I heard him tell his sons.” He leaned forward. “Are you really the Gunsmith?”“I am.”“So,” Rodrigo said, “Señor Montoya saved Juanito’s life.”“Possibly,” Clint said, “or maybe he saved mine.”“Or mine,” Rodrigo said.“So,” Clint said, “will they be waiting outside for me?”“Juanito will want to,” Rodrigo said. “He will want to face you alone, and know that he killed the Gunsmith.”“Why don’t you do me a favor and go take a look?” Clint said.“Sí, señor.” Rodrigo headed for the door.“No,” Clint said, “don’t go to the door. Look out a window.”“Oh, sí, señor.”Rodrigo changed directions and headed for a window. He peered out, taking care not to be seen from outside.“They are not there, señor.”“What do you think that means?”Rodrigo turned from the window to look at him.“Señor Montoya probably would not allow Juanito to wait for you.”“He’s a smart man,” Clint said. “What would he do?”“He would probably wait until he had more men before he came after you.”“And why would he come after me?” Clint asked. “We never met until today.”“Well . . . you are the Gunsmith, señor,” Rodrigo said. “Is that not enough reason for most men?”Clint sighed.“Unfortunately, it is—most of the time.”Clint stood up.“You are going out there, señor?”“I am.”“But what if they are out there waiting?”“You just told me you didn’t see them.”Rodrigo shrugged.“What if I simply cannot see them from the window?”It was Clint’s turn to shrug.“I’ll just have to take my chances.”“You can use the back door, señor,” Carmelita said from the kitchen doorway.“My horse is out front.”“Rodrigo, he can bring your horse to the back.”“I appreciate the offer,” Clint said, “but I’ll just go on out the front. How’s the hotel?”“Full of fleas,” she said.He frowned.“I might have to take my chances with that, too.”“Rodrigo . . .” she said, looking at her husband.“We have rooms in the back, señor,” he said. “They are not much, but my Carmelita, she keeps them clean.”“How much?”“Fifty American cents a day.”“Make it a dollar and you have a deal.”Rodrigo smiled and said, “Done, señor!”“I’ll have to see to my horse.”“I can take your horse to the livery stable, señor,” Rodrigo said. “It is owned by my cousin.”“I appreciate the offer, Rodrigo,” Clint said, “but I have to go out the front door sometime. It might as well be now.”“Rodrigo—”Rodrigo spoke quickly to his wife, and she went back into the kitchen.“What did you tell her?” Clint asked.“To mind her own business,” Rodrigo said.“Well, I’ll go out and get my saddlebags from my horse, and put them in my room. Then I’ll take Eclipse—my horse—to your cousin’s livery. You wait here.”“Sí, señor.”Clint went to the door, lifted his gun an inch or so to make sure it would slide freely from his holster if he needed it, then dropped it back in and stepped outside.He stopped just outside the door. Eclipse stared at him, standing right where Clint had left him, with his reins on the ground. He glanced around and saw no sign of Señor Montoya and his two sons. He went to Eclipse and removed his saddlebags, took them back inside.“Here you go,” Clint said, handing them to Rodrigo.“I will take them to your room, señor.”“Which way to your cousin’s livery?”“Go out and to the left, señor. At the end of the street, turn left. It is around the corner.”“Okay,” Clint said, “I’ll be right back.”He went out and followed Rodrigo’s directions. He came to a run-down stable, the front doors wide open. Hesitating, he looked around, making sure there were no Montoyas around. Then and only then did he walk to the livery doors. As he stepped inside, he heard a movement to his right.“I knew you would have to come here, señor,” Juanito said.“Does your daddy know you’re here?”“No,” Juanito said, “he thinks I am at the trading post. I am here alone, señor. For you.”“I just rode into town today,” Clint said. “I’m not looking for any trouble.”“You should not have made fun of my name, Señor Adams.”“You’re probably right, but I guess it’s too late to do anything about that now.”“You must pay the price, señor.”“Juanito,” Clint said, “this is not a good idea.”“I am a young man, señor,” Juanito said, “and very good with a pistol. You are old.”“Well,” Clint said, “older than you anyway.”FIVE“Don’t push this, Juanito,” Clint said. “It won’t end well for you.”“You are the one it will not end well for, Señor Gunsmith,” Juanito said. “You should not have come to Acuña.”“Do you own this town?” Clint asked.“My father does.”“Really? He owns the town of Acuña?”“Everything around it.”“But not the actual town.”Juanito smirked.“He might as well own it,” he said. “The town depends on our money.”“Your money?” Clint asked. “Or your father’s?”“My father’s money is also my money.”“I wonder if he thinks the same way.”“It does not matter,” Juanito said. “What happens here is only between you and me, señor.”“No,” Clint said, “after you force me to kill you, your father and your brother—and probably other family members—will come after me. I will have to kill them, and that will be your fault.”“You will not kill anyone, señor, because you will not leave this stable alive. And if you do, yes, my family will kill you.”“How many men in your family?”“My father, my brother, my uncle, and many cousins,” Juanito said.“That figures,” Clint said, wishing he had never crossed into Mexico.Suddenly, another man appeared from inside the stable. He was unarmed, carrying only a bucket.