The Loner: The Blood of Renegades

The Loner: The Blood of Renegades by J. A. Johnstone Read Free Book Online

Book: The Loner: The Blood of Renegades by J. A. Johnstone Read Free Book Online
Authors: J. A. Johnstone
Tags: Fiction, General
the ladder as he felt the vibration of a bullet hitting one of the rungs he was grasping. A splinter stung his cheek—but he didn’t fall. He kept moving, and a second later he reached the top and hauled himself onto the platform. A fast roll and jump put him behind the tank itself. The thick wood, and the thousands of gallons of water they held, would shield him from any more bullets.
    But a standoff wasn’t what he wanted. As he lay there he pulled fresh cartridges from the loops on his shell belt and thumbed them into the Colt, filling the cylinder again. He couldn’t afford to let the gunman pin him down. Arturo and Selena were waiting for him to return. He had to dispose of the last avenging angel so they could fill their canteens and water barrel, then wait for a train to come along or head west again, depending on what else happened.
    The gunman had stopped shooting at him. In the echoing silence, the man shouted, “Hey! You hear me, mister?”
    Conrad didn’t see what harm it would to answer. “I hear you!”
    “Where’s Kiley? How’d you get his horse and clothes?”
    “Think about it,” Conrad said. “Even a hardcase like you ought to be able to come up with the answer!”
    “You—” The man bit off whatever he’d been about to say. Evidently he took his religion seriously enough that he wasn’t going to curse, no matter how angry he was. “You shouldn’t have done that, mister.”
    “And you shouldn’t be trying to kidnap an innocent young woman!”
    “You don’t know our ways! You got no right to interfere! Elder Hissop’s a prophet, same as Joseph Smith or Brigham Young! He’s one of the anointed of God! You can’t oppose his will!” A bark of harsh laughter came from the man. “Anyway, you can’t call that shameless jezebel an innocent young woman! If that’s what you think, you’re a fool!”
    Conrad didn’t know and didn’t care what the man meant by that. He was trying to figure out some way of ending the standoff before it dragged on much longer.
    The shed was fairly close to the structure supporting the water tank. Ten feet separated them, Conrad judged. He looked at the tank itself. The pipe supplying the water ran up the side of the tank, then turned at a ninety-degree angle to go through an opening near the top. He thought he might be able to climb up that pipe, crawl over the cover on top used to keep the fierce heat of the Utah sun from evaporating the water it held, and leap down to the shed roof, which was almost flat and had only a slight slope to it.
    Would the roof hold him, or would he crash through it and break a leg . . . or his neck?
    He was fairly certain the gunman wouldn’t expect him to try such a loco stunt. And that’s what it was, no mistake about that. But if it worked, he could take the man completely by surprise and put an end to the impasse.
    Once Conrad came up with a plan, he didn’t spend a lot of time mulling it over or brooding about its chances of success. He didn’t see any other way out so he stood up and eased partway around the tank on the narrow platform until he came to the water pipe. There was just enough room between the pipe and the wall of the tank for him to get his fingers in there. He holstered the Colt, reached over his head, and grasped the pipe, hoping the braces attaching it to the tank were sturdy enough to support his weight.
    He leaned back to test the pipe. It seemed strong, without any give to it. Conrad lifted his right leg and planted the sole of his boot against the side of the tank. The thick, curving planks were rough enough to give him a little purchase. The muscles in his arms and shoulders bunched as he hauled himself upward.
    It was a hard climb, but the tank was only about ten feet tall, so it didn’t take too long. As Conrad reached the top and rolled onto the boards, the man behind the shed called out to him again.
    “What’s it gonna be, mister? I can stay here all day and keep you up there. Pretty

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