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Montana Gundown: The Last Gunfighter #23

J.A. Johnstone, William W. Johnstone

ISBN 9780786028023
Publish Date 3/6/2012
Format Paperback
Categories Western, Pinnacle, The Last Gunfighter, Johnstone Series
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In William Johnstone’s bestselling The Last Gunfighter, Frank Morgan is the last of his kind—until he confronts a young gun who shares his name, skill, and maybe even his blood…

Like Father. Like Son. Like Hell.

Frank Morgan has one son he knows of—and Kid Morgan has become famous in his own right. But in Montana, Frank comes face-to-face with a young man with a deadly swagger and a stunning claim: that he’s Frank’s son, too. And he’s here to gun his old man down.

For Frank, the first thing to do is find out if Brady Morgan is truly his own flesh and blood. That means tracking down a woman he once loved, and then untangling her lies, lust and a scheme to steal prime Montana ranchland. Suddenly, Frank is in the middle of an exploding range war—and he’s standing on the opposite side from young Brady Morgan. In a clash of guns and greed, two Morgans will face each other one last time: to decide who will live and who will die …

Chapter One

It was nice to be home.

Of course, a man like him didn’t have a home in the strictest sense of the word like most folks did, Frank Morgan reflected as he and his friend, the old­timer named Salty Stevens, rode through a valley with majestic mountains looming over it.

There was a good reason Frank was known as the Drifter. Every time he had tried to put down roots in the past thirty years or so, something had happened to prevent it.

Often something tragic.

Despite that, he had grown to regard the entire American West as his home. Recently he had spent time in Alaska and Canada, and while he had to admit that those places were spectacularly beauti­ful, it was nice to be back in the sort of frontier country where he felt most comfortable. Cattle country, like the places where he had grown up in Texas, even though this particular valley was located in Montana. Frank saw stock grazing here and there on lush grass. This was his kind of terri­tory, and his kind of people lived here.

“Pretty, ain’t it?” Salty asked, as if reading Frank’s mind.

Frank nodded and said, “Yep.”

“Well, don’t get all carried away and start waxin’ poetical about it.” Frank grinned. The expression softened the rugged lines of his face . . . a little.

He was a broad­shouldered, powerfully built man who had been wandering the West for more than thirty years since coming home to Texas as a youngster after the Civil War. It was not long after that he discovered, through no fault of his own, how fast and deadly accurate with a gun he was.

Other people became aware of that natural talent of his. Some tried to use him to their advan­tage. Others just wanted to test their own skills against his in contests where the stakes were life and death. And with each man that fell to his gun, Frank Morgan’s reputation grew. He left his home in search of peace, but gun trouble followed him, and as years passed and men died, the reputation became more than that. It became a legend.

He was tagged with the nickname Drifter be­cause of his habit of never staying in one place for very long, but some folks had started calling him the Last Gunfighter. In these days when the dawn of a new century was closing in fast, most people considered the Old West to be finished.

Hell, it had been more than twenty years since Jack McCall put a bullet in the back of Wild Bill Hickok’s head in the Number 10 Saloon in Dead­wood. Wes Hardin was dead, too, also shot in the back of the head by a coward; Ben Thompson had gone under; Smoke Jensen was living the peaceful life of a rancher in Colorado; and nobody quite knew what had happened to Matt Bodine.

So it was understandable that people considered Frank Morgan to be the last of a dying breed, that of the shootist and pistolero. In truth, he wasn’t. There were still quite a number of men in the West who were quick on the draw and deadly with their guns. They just didn’t attain the notoriety such men once had. The newspaper and magazine writ­ers liked to write about how modern and civilized everything was.

Only the dime novelists still cared about the frontier. They never got all the details right, but there was some truth in the feelings they conveyed. Even Frank, who had been cast as the hero of a number of those lurid, yellow­backed, totally fic­tional tales, had come to this realization.

Clad in worn range clothes, including a faded blue bib­front shirt and a high­crowned gray Stet­son, Frank rode easy in the saddle of a leggy golden sorrel stallion he had dubbed Goldy. He was lead­ing the rangy gray known as Stormy, and a big, wolflike cur called Dog trotted alongside the horses.

Frank, Stormy, and Dog had been trail partners for a long time, and although Goldy was younger, he had fit in with them, too.

Salty wore a fringed buckskin vest over his flan­nel shirt with a battered old hat pushed down on his thatch of white hair, which matched his bristling beard. He rode a pinto pony and led a sturdy pack­horse. The packs were full of supplies given to them by Bob Coburn, an old friend of Frank’s and the owner of the Circle C ranch where they had spent the past few weeks.

Dog, Stormy, and Goldy had been watched over by a livery owner in Seattle for months while Frank was off adventuring in the Great White North. But on receiving a telegram from Frank, the man had put the animals in a livestock car and a train had delivered them to a siding near the Circle C. Frank and Salty had ridden down from Canada to pick them up at the ranch, and the reunion between Frank and his old friends had been a happy one.

For a while, Frank had been content to stay there and visit with Bob. He got a kick out of demonstrat­ing gun and rope tricks for the rancher’s ten­year­old son. Salty spent hours telling wild, hair­raising stories to the youngster, who seemed to have a knack of his own for yarn­spinning. It was a pleas­ant time.

Eventually, Frank got up one morning and knew it was time to move on. That was why he and Salty were now ambling along this valley in a generally eastward direction. Where it would take them, Frank had no idea.

He didn’t figure it really mattered all that much.

“Are we still goin’ to Mexico?” Salty asked. “We been talkin’ about it for a good long time.”

“We said we were going to spend the winter there,” Frank pointed out.

“It’s not winter anymore. It’s the middle of summer, and a beautiful one at that.”

“Yeah, but Mexico’s a long ways off. Take us a pretty good spell to get there, especially since you don’t believe in gettin’ in no hurry. I figure we should start thinkin’ about headin’ in that direc­tion.” Frank nodded slowly and said, “We can do that. Start thinking about it, I mean.”

“You’re a dadgummed deliberate cuss, you know that?”

“A man gets that way when the years start piling up on him.”

Salty snorted and said, “There’s been a heap more of ’em pile up on me than on you.”

They could have bantered like this for hours, rocking along peacefully in the saddle in the midst of this spectacularly beautiful scenery. Unfortunately, trouble reared its ugly head in the form of an outbreak of gunshots somewhere not far away.

Both men reined their mounts to a halt. Salty looked over at Frank and said, “Oh, Lord. You’re thinkin’ about gettin’ in the big middle of that ruckus, whatever it is, ain’t you?”

“I’m curious,” Frank allowed.

The shots continued to bang and roar. They were closer now. Frank’s keen eyes suddenly spot­ted movement in a line of pine trees about two hundred yards ahead.

A second later, four men on horseback burst out of the trees. They lashed at their mounts with the reins, urging every bit of speed they could out of the animals.

“They’re headed for them rocks!” Salty exclaimed.

Frank saw the clump of boulders off to the left and knew the old­timer was right. The rocks of­fered the nearest cover for those fugitives. They might not make it, because an even larger group of riders emerged from the pines about a hundred yards behind them. More than a dozen men were all throwing lead after the four fugitives.

Most of them were using handguns, and Frank knew the range was too far for such weapons. A few of the pursuers had Winchesters. The sharper crack of the repeaters mixed with the boom of the revolvers. A lucky shot might bring down one of the men fleeing toward the boulders.

“What’re you doin’?” Salty yelped as Frank reached for his own Winchester.

“Figured I’d even the odds a little.”

“We don’t know who those hombres are,” Salty argued. “Might be owlhoots, and that could be a posse after ’em.”

“That’s why I intend to aim high,” Frank said as he levered a round into the Winchester’s chamber and lifted the rifle to his shoulder.

He knew Salty was right. It wasn’t very smart to get in the middle of a fight when you didn’t know who the sides were or what stakes were involved.

But when Frank saw four men being chased by fifteen or twenty, the sense of fairness that was a deeply ingrained part of him kicked up a fuss. He just didn’t like the odds.

“Aw,shoot!”Saltymuttered.“Well,it’sbeenmore’n a month since anybody tried to kill us, so I reckon we’re overdue.”

He reached for his own Winchester and pulled it out of its sheath. Frank aimed over the heads of the pursuers, who appeared not to have noticed him or Salty, and pressed the trigger. The Winchester cracked and spat flame.

Now that the ball was open, Frank didn’t hesi­tate. He cranked off five shots as fast as he could work the Winchester’s lever. Beside him, Salty’s rifle barked several times as he joined in.

The pursuers must have heard the shots, or at least heard the bullets whistling over their heads, because they slowed suddenly and started milling around in confusion. The delay was enough to give the four fugitives a chance to reach the safety of the rocks. As they disappeared behind the boulders, the men who had been chasing them swung around to face the new threat.

They charged toward Frank and Salty.

“Uh­oh,” Salty said as he lowered his rifle. “I don’t think they’re firin’ warnin’ shots, Frank!”

Salty was right about that. He and Frank were the prey now.

About J.A. Johnstone:

Being the all around assistant, typist, researcher, and fact checker to one of the most popular western authors of all time, J.A. Johnstone learned from the master, Uncle William W. Johnstone.

Bill, as he preferred to be called, began tutoring J.A. at an early age. After-school hours were often spent retyping manuscripts or researching his massive American Western History library as well as the more modern wars and conflicts. J.A. worked hard—and learned.

“Every day with Bill was an adventure story in itself. Bill taught me all he could about the art of storytelling and creating believable characters. ‘Keep the historical facts accurate,’ he would say. ‘Remember the readers, and as your grandfather once told me, I am telling you now: be the best J.A. Johnstone you can be.’”


About William W. Johnstone:

Just to give you a brief rundown on who William W. Johnstone is, here are the basic facts. He was born in Southern Missouri, the youngest of four kids. His father was a minister and his mother was a schoolteacher.

He quit school when he was fifteen and joined a carnival after getting kicked out of the FFL (for being underage), but he went back and finished high school in 1957. After that he worked as a deputy sheriff, did a hitch in the army, came back and went into radio broadcasting, where he worked for sixteen years.

Johnstone started writing in 1970, but he didn't get published until late 1979. He has written almost a hundred books including the best-selling Ashes series and the Mountain Man series. He began writing full-time in the early 1980s and hasn't stopped since. His first published book was THE DEVIL'S KISS and his favorite, so far, is THE LAST OF THE DOG TEAM.


Ashes
Blood Bond
Code Name
Dog Team
Eagles
Family Jensen
First Mountain Man
Last Gunfighter
Last Mountain Man
Loner
Luke Jensen, Bounty Hunter
MacCallister
Matt Jensen
Phoenix Rising
Savage Texas
Sidewinders
Town Called Fury
Trail West


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