In this action-packed western from national bestselling authors William W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone, mountain man Smoke Jensen sets his sharpshooting sights on an unhinged outlaw who’s carved out his own kingdom in the West—and declared war on the United States . . .
Johnstone Country. Come visit.
He calls himself The King. Once a respected professor, he was ruined by scandal. Now, he rules his own “country”—an area of western territory where an army of outlaws enforce his laws. Any town he claims as his own must pay “taxes,” collected from bank, stagecoach, and train robberies. When he learns that President Rutherford B. Hayes and General William Tecumseh Sherman are venturing into the far west on a tour of the nation, The King devises a plan to kidnap America’s leaders and expand his empire.
But The King didn’t reckon that Smoke Jensen had already staked his claim on the frontier. Traveling with the president’s entourage, the mountain man is not about to let this bloodthirsty, evil tyrant endanger his commander-in-chief and threaten American liberty . . .
Release date: November 30, 2021
Publisher: Pinnacle Books
Print pages: 304
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Slaughter of the Mountain Man
William W. Johnstone
In the pre-dawn darkness, Smoke Jensen stared through the window at the moonlit Kansas prairie passing outside. Smoke and Sally, occupying a private roomette, were two days into their return trip from Chicago where Smoke had been investigating the commodities market, not just the price of cattle, but, specifically, the going price for registered bulls and dams. Over the last few years Smoke had gotten into raising registered cattle to be used for breeding, rather than to provide beef.
As Smoke sat there, watching the sun rise, Sally stirred in the bed.
“You awake?” Smoke asked.
“What do you mean, you aren’t awake? You just answered me.”
“I’m talking in my sleep.”
Smoke laughed. “How about breakfast?”
Sally yawned, stretched, and rolled over. “You go without me,” she mumbled.
Smoke went into the dining car where he was met by the waiter, a relatively small man, swarthy complexioned with what had once been very dark hair, though a considerable amount of gray had gathered at the temples.
“What’s for breakfast?” Smoke asked.
“Why, Mr. Jensen, I’m sure you are aware that we have a most extensive menu,” Peabody replied.
“What do you suggest? No, tell me what the engineer and fireman chose for breakfast.”
“They have not eaten, sir. They’ll do without until the next stop,” the waiter replied.
“Really? That doesn’t sound very good. All right, put together some biscuit-and-bacon sandwiches and drop them in a bag, would you?”
“Yes, sir,” Peabody replied. “You wish to take breakfast back to Mrs. Jensen, do you?”
“No, I think I’ll have breakfast with the engine crew.”
“Mr. Jensen, how do you plan to do that? Why, there is no way to reach the engine crew from here.”
“Leave that up to me,” Smoke replied. “Please, just put the biscuits and bacon in a bag.”
“Yes, sir.” Peabody smiled. “I expect that Mr. Barnes and Mr. Prouty are going to be quite surprised. Pleased, but surprised.”
A few minutes later Smoke, carrying the sack, climbed over the top of the express car then crawled across the tender and dropped down onto the platform of the locomotive.
“Here!” the fireman asked, startled by Smoke’s sudden appearance. “Who are you, and what are you doing here?”
Smoke smiled, and held out the sack. “I’m Smoke Jensen, and I’ve come to have breakfast with you,” he said.
The fireman opened the bag and looked down inside. “Hey, Clyde, what do you think? You just said you was hungry. This feller has brought us some biscuits ’n bacon.”
“They aren’t all for you, one of them is mine. I plan to eat with you,” Smoke said. “I just heard the engineer’s name. What’s yours?”
“Austin Prouty. The engineer is Clyde Barnes.”
“It’s good to meet the two of you,” Smoke said, taking a bite of his biscuit. As Smoke looked at the two men, he could see scars, like little pits on their faces and necks. He was puzzled at first, then he realized that they were actually scars made by the red-hot sparks that over the many years and miles of railroading, had found their skin.
It was hot in the engine, and Smoke saw how Clyde was dealing with it. The engineer’s arm was laid along the base of the window, the sleeve open to catch the breeze created by the twenty-five-mile-per-hour forward speed of the engine. That had the effect of causing the air to pass through the sleeve to the inside of his shirt, then circle all around his body.
“Pretty good idea,” Smoke said, pointing to the shirtsleeve.
Clyde smiled. “The feller I apprenticed under taught me this little trick,” he said. “I don’t know who taught it to him.”
As Smoke watched the two men the difference in their jobs could not be more obvious. Clyde was standing at the throttle cooled by the breeze, casually eating his breakfast, the small raft of chin whiskers that stuck forward waving up and down as he chewed.
By contrast the fireman was sweating profusely, not only from the heat of the locomotive cab, but also from the effort of his labors. He tossed a few shovels full of coal into the boiler furnace, closed the door, then checked the steam pressure gauge.
“What’s it reading, Austin?” Clyde asked.
“A hunnert forty ’n holdin’,” Austin replied.
“Good, good,” Clyde said with an approving nod of his head.
Austin sat on his bench and wiped the sweat from his face. The fire was roaring, the steam was hissing, and the rolling wheels were pounding out a thunder of steel on steel.
“What brought you up here, Mr. Jensen?” Austin asked. “I know you said it was to have breakfast with us, but what really brought you up here?”
“Curiosity, I suppose,” Smoke answered. “Also, I have an appreciation for work, and for men who know what they are doing. I’m always honored to spend some time with such men.”
“You’re the feller that owns Sugarloaf Ranch, ain’t you?” Clyde asked.
“How did you know that?”
“We’re always told when we got someone important travelin’ with us,” Clyde replied. “We was told about you.” Clyde chuckled. “Sure didn’t expect you to come crawlin’ down over the tender, though.”
Smoke laughed. “I had no idea I was considered important enough to be reported to the cab crew. But the concept is interesting. Who is the most important person you ever had on your train?”
“I’ve had two Presidents ride on my train, only there warn’t neither one of ’em President then. I drove a train durin’ the war ’n President Grant rode on it, only he was a general then. ’N President Hayes rode on my train when he was the Governor of Ohio. But I reckon the most important one would be General Custer. Fact is, the last train he ever rode on was one I was drivin’.”
“You’ve had an interesting career,” Smoke said.
“Yes, sir, I reckon I have.”
Back in the roomette, Sally was awake now and dressed, waiting for Smoke to return. When he didn’t return, she thought perhaps he was in the parlor car, but he wasn’t there either, so she went to the diner, thinking perhaps he had lingered in conversation. When he wasn’t there, she decided she would have her breakfast without him.
“Mr. Peabody, have you seen my husband this morning?” Sally asked the waiter when he approached her table.
“Yes, ma’am, Mr. Jensen was here, earlier this morning,” Peabody replied.
“Really? That’s odd, I haven’t been able to find him.”
“He’s in the engine,” Peabody said.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Mr. Jensen ordered a sack of biscuits and bacon to take up to the engine. If you can believe it, he stated that it was his intention to have breakfast with the engine crew.”
Sally laughed. “Yes, I can quite easily believe that. Such a thing would be just like him.”
At that moment, Bob Dempster came into the dining car. Dempster, who was an officer at the Bank of Big Rock, had made the trip to Chicago with them, as Smoke’s personal banker.
“Mr. Dempster, won’t you join me for breakfast?” Sally invited.
“Where is Smoke?”
“He’s driving the train,” Sally said with a little laugh.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Mr. Peabody said he took some biscuits and bacon up to the engineer and fireman.”
“My word, why would he do something like that?”
“You can ask him yourself,” Sally said. “Here he comes now.” Smoke had just stepped in through the door of the car.
“I thought you weren’t going to eat,” Smoke said as he joined them.
“And I thought you had already eaten,” Sally replied. “Mr. Peabody said you had decided to take your breakfast up in the engine cab.”
“Yes, I did. I just came back for some coffee. Hello, Bob. Did you sleep well?”
“Not particularly well,” Dempster replied. “I did nothing but run numbers through my head last night. Smoke, are you sure you want to reduce your herd? You would be giving up quite a large source of revenue.”
“We’ve been all through this, Bob. If I take five hundred head to market, I’ll do well to clear four dollars a head. That’s two thousand dollars. You may recall that I made two thousand five hundred dollars for Prince Dandy. He was sired by HRH Charles, and three of HRH Charles’s issue have given me six more bulls, all who can trace their lineage back to HRH Charles.”
“But you are forgetting one thing,” Dempster said. “Five hundred head spreads out your risk. If you lose one cow, you will lose, at most, thirty-five dollars. If you lose one registered bull, you can lose twenty-five hundred dollars, or more.”
“There are always trade-offs,” Smoke replied. “You should know that, Bob. You’re in a business that deals with money.”
“I know, I know,” Dempster replied. “I just feel that it is my job to point out every contingency to you.”
“And I appreciate that,” Smoke replied. “That’s why I asked you to go to Chicago with Sally and me.”
“Tell me, Smoke, did you show the nice men how to drive the train?” Sally asked with a smile.
“I did indeed,” Smoke replied. “I pointed to those two long strips of iron, rails I think they are called, and I said, ‘Boys, keep this train on those rails, and it’ll take us exactly where we want to go.’”
Both Sally and Dempster laughed.
Smoke and Sally were met at the Big Rock depot by Pearlie Fontaine and Cal Wood. More than employees, the two men who had shared many dangers with both Smoke and Sally were practically members of the family.
“How was your trip?” Cal asked as he put their luggage into the back of the buckboard.
“It was a good trip,” Smoke replied. “The market for registered bulls is quite good right now. Did you get the flyers printed?”
Pearlie laughed. “What’d I tell you, Cal? I told you that the first thing Smoke would say soon as he got back would be ‘Did you get the flyers printed yet?’”
“Yeah? Well that wasn’t the first thing he said. First thing he said was, ‘It was a good trip.’”
“He wasn’t saying, he was answering.”
“Which is what I would like now,” Smoke said, laughing at the argument between the two. “An answer, I mean. Did you get the flyers printed or not?”
“Here it is,” Pearlie said, unfolding the paper that he had kept in his pocket.
“Good job,” Smoke said, examining the flyer. “I’ll get these sent out to every major rancher in Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, and Texas.”
“I hope nobody wants Sir McGinnis,” Cal said.
“You mean you don’t want Smoke to make money?” Pearlie asked.
“He has to keep some back, doesn’t he? I think he should keep Sir McGinnis back.”
Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri
As Smoke, Sally, Pearlie, and Cal headed toward Sugarloaf Ranch from Big Rock, nine hundred and fifty miles east in St. Louis, Missouri, Clemente Pecorino, Doctor of Philosophy, and a professor at Washington University, was responding to the invitation of William Elliot, the chancellor. It was an invitation he had been expecting, because he was certain that he was about to be offered a “chair” at the university.
“You sent for me, sir?” Pecorino asked, sporting a confident smile.
Elliot opened the drawer of his desk, and took out the copy of a book that the university press had printed.
“Empiricism and Human Experience,” Elliot said, reading the title. “I believe this is your book, Dr. Pecorino?”
“Yes, sir, it is,” Pecorino replied, the smile of confidence changing to one of pride.
“And in this book you address the practical problems of implementing Empiricism into society? You say, and I am reading here, ‘Under the motto of love, order, and progress, organized religion will eventually be replaced by Humanism.’”
Pecorino raised his hand. “Chancellor Elliot, I realize that you, being an ordained minister, probably don’t appreciate that position, but I think my thesis is well-documented in the body of the text.”
“No, I don’t appreciate it,” Chancellor Elliot said. Reaching into his desk, he pulled out another book. “I also didn’t appreciate it when I read it in Auguste Comte’s book A General View of Positivism. But what I most don’t appreciate, Dr. Pecorino, is having our university publish a volume replete with plagiarism.”
The smile froze on Pecorino’s face.
“I . . . uh, admit that I was influenced by Comte’s work, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say I plagiarized his work.”
“Oh? It was one of your students who pointed it out to me, Dr. Pecorino. I then read the work in comparison with Comte’s own book, and I had two others read both books and give me a report. Yes, you change some of the language here and there, but more than eighty-five percent of your book, Empiricism and Human Experience, is a direct English translation of the French in Comte’s work A General View of Positivism. What do you have to say for yourself, Doctor?”
“I don’t agree with that. I will admit only to being influenced by Comte, to publish my own thoughts on the philosophy.”
“Yes, well, whether you agree or not, we are pulling back all the books we have published under your name, and we are apologizing to all the other universities and colleges who are using your book as text. We are also terminating your position with us. Please vacate your office as quickly as possible.”
“I have a class at ten,” Pecorino said.
“No, you don’t. Professor Walker has assumed all of your classes.”
Pecorino reached for the copy of his book. “If you don’t mind, I would like to keep this book as a souvenir,” he said.
“By all means,” Chancellor Elliot said. “I want no copies left here, at the school, and I’ve no doubt but that this will soon be the last such book in existence.”
Pecorino returned to his office where he saw a maintenance man already scraping his name off the frosted glass of the door. Without exchanging greetings, he went inside and began removing his belongings. When he had everything packed that he intended to take, he sat down to contemplate what had just happened to him. After the publication of his book, which had become a text in colleges all over the country, he had received several invitations to lecture, which would have provided a lucrative second income for him. There was talk of establishing a chair in his name. Now his academic career was ruined. Comte’s book had been published almost forty years ago, in France.
It had a very limited circulation in the United States and had never been translated into English. What were the chances, he wondered, of anyone making the connection between Comte’s book and his?
Pecorino picked up the book he had received from the chancellor and opened it. That was when he saw something written on the title page.
This book has been plagiarized from Auguste Comte’s book A General View of Positivism. I think Dr. Pecorino should be held to account for it. Jason Kennedy
Jason Kennedy, Pecorino thought. Yes, it would be him. Kennedy was one of his students, intelligent, but a real problem who showed him none of the respect due a man of his position. Kennedy constantly questioned his authority and challenged the information he imparted in his lectures. Those were insults and could only be regarded as insults by design.
But this was the ultimate insult, for this challenge as to the legitimate authorship of the book had cost Pecorino his career in academia.
Half an hour later, Pecorino was standing in front of the university building on Washington Avenue, holding a satchel that contained the personal belongings he had removed from what had been his office. He was waiting for one of the horse-cars to take him to his apartment on Olive.
“Going somewhere, Professor?” a young man asked, his voice clearly meant to be taunting.
“Shouldn’t you be in class, Mr. Kennedy?” Pecorino replied.
“Oh, you mean the philosophy course? I’ve still got fifteen minutes, plenty of time to make it. What about you? Aren’t you in danger of being late, as well? After all, you have to teach the class and . . . oh, wait, you can’t teach it, can you? You have been . . . what is the word they used? Terminated, yes, that’s it. You have no class, because you have been terminated.”
“Tell me, Mr. Kennedy, do you consider destroying a man’s career to be an accomplishment?”
“If that career is built upon deception, I believe destroying that career to be not only an accomplishment, but a necessity, to prevent students from being influenced by someone who operates under false colors. The book you are so proud of, the one you were using as the text for the class, was not your work. It was the work of the French philosopher, Comte.”
“Did you read Comte, Mr. Kennedy?”
“Yes, I read it.”
“Then, I have opened your eyes to the subject, haven’t I? You’ll have to excuse me now. I see the horse-car is arriving.”
“You’re a fraud, Professor Pecorino. No, wait, you aren’t a professor anymore, are you?” Kennedy added with a little laugh. “You’re a fraud, Dr. Pecorino. Wait, you probably lied and cheated to get your Ph.D., so you don’t deserve to be called Dr. Pecorino either. No doubt you will be relieved of that title, as well.”
The horse-car arrived, and with his satchel in hand, Pecorino mounted the steps, paid his fare, then moved to the back, choosing a seat by the window. “You’re a fraud, Pecorino,” Kennedy called through the open window. “You’re a fraud, and never again will you be in a position to fill vulnerable students’ minds with your lies and deceit.”
The car started down the tracks, the team of horses pulling it at a brisk pace.
“You’re a fraud, Pecorino!” Kennedy shouted again, though mercifully, his shout was dimmed by distance as the car moved quickly down the track.
The small town of Leroy was in the extreme western part of the territory. It had not even existed until the spur line was built that connected Granger, Wyoming, with Echo, Utah. Like any boomtown, it was suffering from the effects of growing too fast. Saloons, brothels, and gambling halls were being built faster than stores, schools, and churches, so that many of the town’s newly arrived residents were less-than-desirable citizens.
A recent article in the Leroy Times bemoaned that fact when the editor, Dean McClain, wrote:
When five men, Franklin, Logan, Moss, Mason, and Jenner, came riding into the town of Leroy, no one paid any particular attention to them. If they had, some of the more informed might have noticed that they were all wanted men.
Although saloons and brothels would normally be an attraction for such men, these men were here for a different reason. They were here to rob the bank.
“There it is,” Franklin said. “Logan, Mason, you stay out front with the horses. Moss, Jenner, you come in with me.”
As soon as the three men stepped into the bank, they drew their pistols.
“This is a holdup!” Franklin shouted.
There were two customers in the bank, and they looked around, shocked at the sudden intrusion.
“You two, get up against the wall!” Franklin shouted.
There was only one teller in the bank, and taking advantage of the temporary distraction, he grabbed a gun.
“The teller has a gun!” Moss shouted, shooting, even as he gave the warning. The bank employee went down.
“Now what are we going to do?” Jenner asked. “How are we goin’ to get the safe door open?”
They heard shots from outside.
“Franklin! Get out here, fast!” Logan shouted.
“Let’s go,” Franklin said.
“We ain’t got no money, yet,” Jenner complained.
“You want to wait around?”
The shooting outside grew more intense, and as the three failed robbers started toward the door, one of the two men who had been in the bank as a customer drew his own pistol. Franklin, sensing the movement, shot the would-be hero.
“Hurry, hurry!” Logan was shouting as the three rushed outside. Leaping into the saddle, the five men galloped out of town, shooting anyone who got in their way. By the time they rode out of town they had killed four, but had come away from the bank with not one dollar.
Sugarloaf Ranch, Colorado
Smoke Jensen’s Sugarloaf Ranch consisted of fifty thousand acres of titled land, with an additional one hundred thousand acres of adjacent, free-range land. With ample water and grass, a rather significant herd of cattle could be accommodated. There was little chance that the herd could wander off because it was fenced in by nature, with mountains to the east and south, and a mesa to the north and west.
When Smoke Jensen began his ranch, he raised only horses, and was, for a while, one of the principal suppliers of remounts for the U.S. Cavalry. But with a growing demand for beef in the East, and premium prices being paid for Herefords, Smoke switched to raising cattle, and his ranch, Sugarloaf, was now the biggest in Colorado, on par with some of the largest ranches in Texas.
He was still a major supplier of beef for the nation’s meat market, but he had expanded into the raising and selling of quality registered stock. And these registered animals were kept in their own personal corrals.
Smoke and Pearlie were working on the gate to one of the corrals when Cal rode up.
“I mailed out all the flyers,” Cal reported.
“To the newspapers as well as to the ranches?” Smoke asked.
“Yes, sir, just like you said.”
“Good, thank you, Cal.”
“I’d better go check on Sir McGinnis.”
“He’s fine,” Pearlie said. “I just checked on all of them.”
“Yeah, but you don’t understand, Pearlie. All the others are satisfied just to have food and water, but Sir McGinnis is different. He expects me to come talk to him ever’ day, and if I’m late, he starts looking for me, wondering where I am. So, like I say, I need to go check on him.”
Cal started toward the corral where Sir McGinnis was kept.
“Cal sure sets a lot of store by that bull,” Pearlie said.
“Yes, well, if you recall when Sir McGinnis was born, his dam had a difficult delivery, and if Cal hadn’t been there, the calf might have died. Cal’s taken a real personal interest in him, ever since,” Smoke said.
Smoke, you know Cal i. . .
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