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The Bleeding Edge

J.A. Johnstone, William W. Johnstone

ISBN 9780786028078
Publish Date 10/2/2012
Format Paperback
Categories Western

From their towering westerns to their edgy thrillers Home Invasion and The Blood of Patriots, William W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone capture the true American spirit. In this electrifying new thriller—torn from today’s headlines—they put us on the frontlines of a new war: for the future of America itself.

The Shady Hill Mobile Home Park isn’t shady or hilly—this is West Texas after all. To military vet John Howard Stark, it’s home. And worth fighting for. A vicious Mexican drug cartel starts terrorizing the residents of Shady Hill—retirees mostly—leaving severed heads in vegetable gardens to scare them out. As usual, the Feds and the local police run for cover. The good people of Shady Hill make a stand, electing Stark as their chief of police. Once a rancher, always a Texan, Stark and his fellow patriots send the Mexican cartel into a bloodthirsty fury by daring to fight back: the bad guys start slaughtering innocent high school students. The God-fearing folks of Shady Hill are totally on their own and deep in the heart of a bloody battle that can only end in a fight for survival, liberty…or death.

Chapter One

Holding his straw Stetson tightly in one hand, John Howard Stark stepped out into the Texas heat. The glass door of the medical office hissed shut behind him on its pneumatic closer. Stark, a tall, broad-shouldered man with the sort of compelling presence that made people look at him twice, paused, standing there in the bright sunlight for a long moment.

Six decades of living had put plenty of silver in his thick, dark hair and in his mustache. But he still stood straight, an obviously powerful man despite his age.

Right now, however, something had etched furrows in his weathered cheeks. The things the doctor had told him had come as no surprise, and he had nodded stoically as he listened, but something inside him had drawn tighter.

Now he stood there looking at nothing, his gaze pointed out at the Texas town around him. Across the street from the brick complex of medical offices was an elementary school. Beyond that was the high school, the bigger buildings around it visible from where Stark stood whether he actually saw them right now or not. A block to his left, a nice Italian restaurant on the corner of the highway that also served as the town’s main drag, with its multitude of fast food joints, auto supply stores, gas stations, and big box discount stores. Traffic along the road was a never- ending hum.

Stark ignored all of it.

Then something besides his own thoughts finally caught his attention. He lowered his gaze to something more immediate, the parking lot right in front of him. He’d had to park on the outer edge of the lot when he’d gotten here an hour earlier. His pickup still sat there.

And some damn fool was trying to break into it.

Stark’s eyes narrowed. He put his hat on and stepped down off the sidewalk to cross the parking lot. The young man standing next to the pickup either didn’t see Stark coming or didn’t care. He continued trying to work the unfolded wire hanger down to the door lock. Stark’s pickup was old enough that it didn’t have electronic locks, just a little knob that had to be pulled up.

Old and out of date, just like me, Stark thought.

The would-be thief wasn’t alone. He had two companions, both dressed like he was, in baggy blue jeans and floppy shirts, with bandannas tied around their heads. One of them nudged the guy working on the lock and said, “Hurry up, Chuy. Somebody’s comin’.”

Chuy glanced over his shoulder at Stark and said, “It’s just an old man.”

Stark came to a stop near the back of the pickup and asked, “Can I help you fellas with something?”

“Go away, hombre,” Chuy snapped. “This ain’t none of your business.”

Stark laid a hand on the sidewall around the pickup’s bed.

“This is my truck, so I think that makes it my business.”

“It was your truck,” one of the other young men said. “It ain’t no more.”

Disgustedly, Chuy slid the hanger out of the tiny gap at the top of the driver’s-side window. He threw it to the pavement and said, “The hell with it. Gimme that pipe. I’m gonna smash the window.”

“What’s it matter to you, old man?” Chuy demanded. “Like Angel said, this ain’t your truck no more. It belongs to us.”

Stark shook his head.

“I don’t think so.”

“You gonna give us trouble?” Angel sneered and lifted his shirt to reveal the butt of a revolver tucked into the sagging waistband of his jeans. “You better run, man, ’fore I light you up.”

The one standing next to Chuy grinned and said, “Better run, better run,” in a singsong voice.

Stark lifted both hands, palms out.

“Take it easy, son. I’m not looking for trouble.”

Angel curled his fingers around the gun butt.

“I ain’t your son, you—”

Filth spewed from his mouth as he cursed Stark. He was so caught up in his creative obscenity that he failed to notice Stark edging closer.

When he finally noticed what was going on, he yelled, “Hey, man, don’t crowd me!” and jerked the gun from his waistband.

Before he could lift it, Stark kicked him in the balls.

It was a swift, hard kick that made Angel scream and crumple forward. Stark closed his right hand over the revolver, gripping the cylinder so tightly that even if Angel managed to pull the trigger, the gun wouldn’t fire. With his left hand he grabbed the front of Angel’s shirt and heaved him against the pickup. Angel’s head cracked against the metal.

Stark ripped the gun from Angel’s hand. He was on the passenger side, with the pickup between him and the other two thieves. As they yelled angrily and clawed under their shirts for their guns, Stark bent low and quickly circled around the front of the vehicle, putting himself behind the sturdier protection of the engine block.

As Chuy and his companion opened fire, shooting wildly in Stark’s general direction but not really coming close to him, Stark went even lower and triggered two shots under the truck. Each bullet found its mark, shattering bone and spraying blood across the pavement. Chuy and his companion went down howling in pain, each with a destroyed ankle. They would be lucky to ever walk normally again.

Still moving fast, with grace and agility that belied his years, Stark charged around the pickup and kicked away the guns Chuy and the other thief had dropped. Then he backed away so that he could see all three of the young men. Angel was on the ground, too, still stunned and senseless from having his head rammed against the pickup.

Stark reached in his pocket for his cell phone to call the police, but it wasn’t necessary. The door of the doctor’s office opened and the young woman who worked there as the receptionist rushed out, calling, “Mr. Stark! Are you all right?”

“Yeah, I’m fine, Bonita,” Stark told her.

“I saw everything that happened. I already called the cops.”

Stark heard a siren in the distance. He smiled and nodded.

“Muchas gracias,” he told the receptionist. “You better go back inside now, in case these fellas try to cause any more trouble.”

The two crippled thieves were lying on the pavement, clutching their ruined ankles and whimpering. Bonita looked at them and shook her head, saying, “I don’t think they’re going to be bothering anybody for a long time.”

“We can hope not,” Stark said.

Chuy twisted his head around to glare up at Stark. Panting breathlessly because of the pain, he said, “You’re dead, man! You’re . . . dead! You hear me?”

Stark ignored the threat. It wasn’t like he and death hadn’t been close companions for many years.

Lights flashing, a police car came around the corner off the highway, onto the side street where the medical offices were located. It squealed to a stop, and the uniformed officer inside got out hurriedly, crouching behind the open door and pointing his gun at Stark.

“Put your gun on the ground!” he yelled. “Now!”

Stark could tell the cop was young and inexperienced. Moving carefully and deliberately so there wouldn’t be any excuse to shoot, he bent over and placed the revolver on the ground at his feet, then backed away from it and held his hands up at shoulder level, in plain sight.

“Now you get on the ground, too!” the cop ordered. “Facedown!”

“Oh, stop it,” Bonita said in a scathing tone. “Don’t you know who this is? This is John Howard Stark.”

The cops eyes widened.

“One of the heroes of the Alamo?”

Stark tried not to wince. He had never thought of himself as a hero, and certainly not as a latter-day equivalent to Crockett, Bowie, Travis, and the other men who had died defending the Alamo in 1836. They were true heroes.

“That’s right,” Bonita said. She pointed at the three young men on the ground. “And he was just defending himself from those three punks who tried to steal his truck. You shouldn’t be yelling at him. You should be pinning a medal on him!”

Stark had to smile ruefully at that. With the way things were in the country now . . .

Well, the chances of anybody ever pinning a medal on the likes of him were pretty doggoned small.

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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