A Time to Slaughter

A Time to Slaughter by William W. Johnstone Read Free Book Online

Book: A Time to Slaughter by William W. Johnstone Read Free Book Online
Authors: William W. Johnstone
    Moss raised the silver coffeepot from the table. “More?”
    The Arab shook his head. “No thank you. American coffee is not to my taste. It’s a vile, barbaric brew.”
    â€œYou don’t drink liquor?”
    â€œMy religion forbids it,” Ali said.
    Moss leaned back in his huge, red leather chair. “How did you find out about me?”
    â€œIn San Francisco. At the Barbary Coast, I believe the place is called.”
    â€œIt is. Now go on.”
    â€œSheik Abdul-Basir Hakim’s schooner the Nawfal recently raised anchor in the Embarcadero. He already has a score of Chinese girls on board and a few blacks, but what he most desires, and what our clients pay large sums for, are white women, preferably virgins with yellow hair.”
    Moss grinned. “Not too many virgins around Santa Fe.”
    â€œSheik Hakim will sell them as virgins nonetheless.”
    â€œYou still haven’t answered my question, Ali. Why did you come to me?”
    The Arab studied Moss before he answered. The man was exactly as he’d been described, a giant standing well over six feet, broad, muscular shoulders, black hair, and piercing blue eyes. His nose looked as though it had been broken at least twice and there was a scar above his right eyebrow. Moss’s gray frockcoat was open and Ali caught a glimpse of the ivory handle of a revolver in a shoulder holster.
    It was said along the Barbary Coast that Zebulon Moss had killed two dozen men with brass knuckles, blackjacks, knives, guns, and his bare hands. He was described as the most dangerous, ruthless man in the West, and Ali believed it. Moss was also said to be very wealthy, and Ali believed that, too, judging by the red velvet and polished brass opulence of his office. It was vulgar, of course, but expensive nonetheless.
    Ali realized he’d been quiet for too long as he saw sudden blue fire in Moss’s eyes and the man’s voice sounded as though it had just been honed on a whetstone. “I asked you a question, mister.”
    â€œA thousand pardons, sir. I was gathering my thoughts.” The little bug-eyed Arab, dressed in a high-button suit, celluloid collar, and striped tie, smiled. “Your reputation along the Barbary Coast is that of a man who gets things done. We were told that when you were in San Francisco you shanghaied more sailors for the New York hell ships than any man alive, and that you once controlled so many brothels you employed two hundred women.”
    â€œHalf that number, and most of them were Chinese.” Moss shrugged. “The good thing about Chinese whores is that they’re expendable. They only last a year or two.”
    â€œYes, indeed. And white women?”
    â€œYeah, some of those, some of the time. Who told you all this?”
    â€œA tavern owner by the name of Bill Gasper, for one.”
    â€œHe’s still alive? I heard he’d been hung by vigilantes years ago.”
    â€œNo, he’s still among the living,”
    â€œHe’s a rum one is ol’ Bill. Cut your throat for a dollar.”
    â€œWas he correct, that you can you supply Sheik Hakim with white women out of Santa Fe on a regular basis?”
    â€œHow many does he need?”
    â€œAs we already agreed, five or six on this shipment, twice that number on subsequent deliveries.” Ali read the question on Moss’s face. “Mr. Moss, you have an excellent geographical situation, close to the Sonora coast of Old Mexico, and we’ve been assured you can lure women to you.”
    â€œI can. Or I’ll shanghai them. Either way your boss will have his quota.”
    â€œThen, on behalf of Sheik Hakim, I look forward to doing business with you.”
    â€œA thousand dollars a head, mind,” Moss said. “That’s my price.”
    â€œYes, but only for those who meet our standards. The rest you can sell in Mexico and still turn a profit.”
    â€œThey’ll all

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