.45-Caliber Firebrand

.45-Caliber Firebrand by Peter Brandvold Read Free Book Online

Book: .45-Caliber Firebrand by Peter Brandvold Read Free Book Online
Authors: Peter Brandvold
and murder. He had a feeling he knew where the story was heading from here, but he let the old rancher, warming his bony behind in front of the fire, continue.
    â€œI gave the rapists their wages and sent them packing on the same hosses they rode in on,” Logan Trent said, still staring gravely out the ever-darkening window at a large cottonwood in the backyard that was a mess of untrimmed rabbit brush, rocks, gnarled trees, and wheatgrass. “Henry and two other men found them a week later. They hadn’t gotten off my range. They’d been hacked to bits no bigger than one of my hands. It was their clothes that identified them.”
    â€œCan’t blame the Utes for that. Probably would have done the same myself.”
    â€œNo, you can’t blame them,” Trent agreed. “But they should have quit there.” He swung his grizzled head toward Cuno. “My range riders have been attacked on three occasions. One was killed. Two line shacks have been burned, and fifty head of my prime cattle were run off a ridge. Killed. Wolf and eagle bait.”
    â€œHave you talked to the cavalry stationed at the Rogers Outpost?”
    â€œI sent a courier. He came back the next day tied to his saddle and decked out in a Ute war lance.”
    Trent walked over to a table fronting the window and poured whiskey from a plain brown bottle into a water glass. He held the glass up to the window and studied the amber liquid against the dying light. “You see, young Massey, the girl those two cork-headed lobos raped was Chief Leaping Wolf’s youngest daughter. Wasn’t right in the head. Often ran off from the lodge to fish or swim on her own.”
    â€œHow’d you find out who she was?” Cuno asked.
    â€œOne of the chief’s sons-in-law, a white man named Noah Crawford, rode in and told me. Crawford has a couple of gold diggings on my land. I get a cut if he finds anything. Anyway, Crawford said that Chief Leaping Wolf is so blistering mad that when Crawford tried to get the old man to turn his horns in, to content himself with the fact the rapists had died slow, hideous deaths, Leaping Wolf almost killed him. Had him whipped and staked outside for two nights in spite of the chief’s daughter’s protests.”
    Trent sipped the whiskey, balling his cheeks and smacking his lips, then raised the glass again to the light. He laughed but there was no humor in it, only a sad fatalism. “Crawford ain’t goin’ back to the chief’s encampment anytime soon.”
    Cuno studied the man’s profile. Trent’s misfortune tempered his anger, but the image of Dutch Rasmussen’s arrow-bristling body was still fresh in his mind and the smoke from the burned wagon still lingered in his nostrils and lungs. “Why wasn’t I told about this, Mr. Trent?”
    â€œBecause I didn’t think you’d come. Or might not be able to find enough men to come. It’s a gut-wrenching trek through rugged country even without the Indians. You throw them in . . .”
    Trent limped back over to his chair and sat down with a squawk. He favored Cuno with an admiring, coyote-like grin. “I knew you’d try to come, given the right pay, and given your reputation for taking on jobs others might shrink from. It was your father and stepmother who were murdered—correct? And you pursued their killers—the notorious Rolf Anderson and Sammy Spoon—all the way up the Bozeman Trail.”
    Cuno’s general annoyance with the man was aggravated by his cunning, arrogant demeanor, as though he was holding a royal flush and he wanted everyone to know well in advance of his throwing down and cashing in. “Where the hell’d you hear about that?”
    â€œWord gets around one watering hole after another. Eventually even makes its way out here.” Trent took another drink, shuttered an eye, and pointed at Cuno’s chest. “That ain’t all I

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