A Job for a Ranger
While the only true series Louis L'Amour wrote in novel form was his tales of the Sackett family, he did write a series of short stories that featured Texas Ranger Chick Bowdrie. Some of the stories were published in a collection called Bowdrie. Most of them were written between 1940 and 1947 and appeared in the magazine Popular Western.
The one I've chosen for this anthology shows Bowdrie acting not only as a Ranger, but as a detective as well.
There were two bullet holes in the bank window, and there was blood on the hitching rail where the cashier had fallen while trying to get off a last shot. Lem Pullitt had died there by the rail, but not before telling how he had been shot while his hands were up.
Chick Bowdrie stood on the boardwalk, his dark, Apache-like features showing no expression. "I don't like it," he muttered. "Either the holdup man was a cold-blooded killer or somebody wanted Pullitt killed."
He glanced up the street again, his eyes searching the buildings, the walks, the horses tied at the rails. Many men kill, but killing a game man when his hands were up...it just wasn't the way things were done in Texas. And Lem had been game or he would not have stumbled out there, dying, trying for a shot.
The bandits had come into town in two groups. One man with a rifle dismounted in front of the Rancher's Rest while the others rode on to the bank. One then remained outside with the horses, and three had gone inside.
When shots sounded from inside the bank, men rushed to the street; then the man with the rifle opened fire. He covered the retreat of the four men at the bank, but what had become of the man with the rifle? He had not run the gauntlet in the street.
Henry Plank, clerk in the stage station, had stepped to the door and opened fire on the fleeing bandits. He claimed to have winged one of them. Bowdrie pushed his hat back on his head and studied the street, scowling.
A large man with a blond mustache emerged from the bank and walked over to where Bowdrie stood. His face was florid and he wore a wide, dusty Stetson.
"Are you the Ranger?"
Bowdrie turned his black eyes on the man, who felt a sudden shiver go through him. There was something in those eyes that made him feel uncomfortable.
"Name of Bowdrie. Chick, they call me. You're Bates?"
"Yes. They call me Big Jim. I am the banker. Or maybe I should say, I was the banker."
"Is it that bad?"
Bowdrie's eyes strayed up the street. That was the direction from which the bandits had come. They could not have been seen until they were right in the street, and when they left, it was in the opposite direction, which put them behind some cottonwoods within a minute or two.
On the side of the street where he stood were the bank, a livery stable, a general store, and a blacksmith shop. At the opposite end, standing out a little from the other buildings, was the Rancher's Rest. Across from the Rest were a corral, two houses, a dance hall, now closed, and the Chuck Wagon, a combination saloon and eating house. Directly across was the stage station.
"Yeah," Big Jim said, "it is that bad. I've got money out on loans. Too darned much. None of the loans are due now. A few weeks ago I loaned ten thousand to Jackson Kegley, and I was figurin' on loanin' him the ten thousand they stole."
"Kegley? He owns the Rest. Got a big cattle spread west of town. Runs eight, nine thousand head of stock. His place runs clean up to West Fork. That's where the Tom Roway place is."
"Roway's the man you think done it? Something to that effect was in the report."
Bates shrugged. "I ain't seen Tom Roway but twice in five years. He killed a couple of men in shootin' scrapes, then went to the pen for shootin' a man in the back.
"Three years ago he came back and brought Mig Barnes along. Barnes is pretty tough himself, or so they say."
"Why did you suspect Roway?"
"Bob Singer...he's a puncher around here, seen that paint horse. I guess everybody else saw it, too. The gent who used the rifle was ridin' that paint. Sorrel splash on the left hip and several dabs of color on the left shoulder."
"Did you send a posse after them?"
Bates looked embarrassed "Nobody would go. Tom Roway is mighty handy with a rifle and he's fast with a six-shooter. Bob Singer is pretty salty himself, and he wouldn't go, and after that, people just sort of backed off. Finally Kegley, Joel, an' me went out. We lost the trail in the waters of West Fork."
"My son. He's twenty-one, and a pretty good tracker."
Chick walked past the bank. There was a bullet hole in the side window of the bank, too. When they started shooting in some of these towns, they surely shot things up. He walked on to the Rancher's Rest and stepped inside.
Aside from the bartender, there were three men in the saloon. The big, handsome man standing at the bar had a pleasant face, and he turned to smile at Bowdrie as he entered.
A man at a card table playing solitaire had a tied-down gun. The third man was a lantern-jawed puncher with straw-colored hair.
"You'll be Bowdrie, I guess," the big man said. "I am Jackson Kegley. This is my place."
Chick glanced at the straw-haired puncher. He grinned with wry humor. "I'm Rip Coker. That shrinkin' violet at the card table is Bob Singer. Better keep an eye on him, Ranger, he's mighty slick with an iron, either shootin' or brandin'."
Singer glared at Coker, and his lips thinned as he looked down at his cards. Chick noticed the glance, then turned his attention to Kegley.
"You know Roway. Do you think he done it?"
"I wouldn't know. He's a damn good shot. We trailed him as far as the West Fork."
Coker leaned his forearms on the bar. His plaid shirt was faded and worn. "Roway's not so bad," he commented, "and I don't think he done it."
Singer was impatient. "Nobody could miss that paint hoss," he suggested. "Ain't another in the country like it."
Coker gave Singer a disgusted glance. "Then why would he ride it? If you was robbin' a bank, would you ride the most noticeable horse around?"
Bob Singer flushed angrily and his eyes were hard when he looked up, but he offered no comment.
"I'll look around some," Bowdrie said.
He walked outside, studying the street again. There was a suggestion of an idea in his mind, and something felt wrong about the whole affair. He went to the hotel section of the Rest and signed for a room, then strolled outside.
Something in the dust at his feet caught his eye, and he stepped down off the walk, running the dust through his fingers. He took something from the dust, placed it carefully inside a folded cigarette paper, and put it in his wallet.
Singer had come out of the saloon and was watching him. Bowdrie ignored him and strolled down to where his horse was tied. He was swinging into the saddle when Bates came to the door. "You ain't goin' after him alone, are you?"
Bowdrie shrugged. "Why not? I haven't seen any of his graveyards around."
He turned the roan into the trail. He was irritable because he was uneasy. There was something wrong here, it was too pat, too set up, and they were too ready to accuse Roway. "Personally," Bowdrie told the roan, "I agree with Coker. An outlaw using a horse everybody knew, that doesn't even make sense."
The trail was good for the first few miles, then became steadily worse. It wound higher and higher into rougher and rougher country. Skimpy trails edged around cliffs with dropoffs of several hundred feet to the bottom of dry canyons. Then, of a sudden, the trail spilled over a ridge into a green meadow, and that meadow opened into still another, each one skirted by borders of trees. At the end of the last meadow was a cabin, smoke rising from the chimney. A few cattle grazed nearby, and there were horses in the corral.
Chick Bowdrie rode up and stepped down. One of the horses in the corral was a paint with a splash of sorrel on the hip, a few smaller flecks on the shoulder. It was an unusual marking, unlikely to be duplicated.
"Lookin' for something?" The tone was harsh, and Bowdrie took care to keep his hands away from his guns.
The man stood at the door of his cabin not twenty feet away. He was a hard-visaged man with an unshaved face and cold eyes under bushy black brows. He wore a gun in a worn holster, and beyond him inside the door another man sat on a chair with a rifle across his knees.
"Are you Tom Roway?"
"And what if I am?"
Bowdrie studied him coolly for a long minute and then said, "I'm Chick Bowdrie, a Ranger. We've got to have a talk."
"I've heard of you. I've no call to like the law, but you want to talk, come on in. Coffee's on."
The man at the door put down his rifle and put a tin plate and a cup on the table. He was a stocky man with a pockmarked face. "Ain't often we have a Ranger for chow," he commented.
Roway sat down, filling three cups. "All right, Ranger, speak your piece. What business do you have with us?"
"Have you been ridin' that paint horse lately?"
"I ride that paint most of the time."
"Did you ride into Morales Monday morning an stick up the bank?"
"What kind of a question is that? No, I didn't rob no bank and I ain't been in Morales in a month! What is this? Some kind of a frame-up?"
"Five men robbed the bank at Morales Monday morning, and one of them was ridin' a paint horse, a dead ringer for that one out yonder." Bowdrie gestured toward the corral. "Where was that horse on Monday?"
"Right where he is now. He ain't been off this place in a week." He looked up, scowling. "Who identified that animal?"
"A dozen people. He was right out in plain sight. Nobody could've missed him. One who identified him was Bob Singer."
"Singer?" Roway's eyes flashed. "I'll kill him!"
"No you won't," Bowdrie said. "If there's any killin' done, I'll do it."
For a moment their eyes locked, but Roway was the first to look away. Mig Barnes had been watching, and now he spoke. "Do you reckon Tom would be so foolish as to ride to a holdup with the most known horse in the county? He'd have to be crazy!"
He gestured outside. "We've got a cavvy of broncs all colors an' kinds. He could take his pick, so why ride the one horse everybody knows?"
"I thought of that," Bowdrie agreed, "and it doesn't look like anybody with a place like this would want to steal. You boys have got yourselves a ranch!"
"Best I ever saw!" Roway said. "Grass all year around and water that never gives out. Our cattle are always fat."
"Has anybody ever tried to buy you out?" Bowdrie asked casually.
"You might say that. Jackson Kegley wanted to buy it from me, and for that matter, so did old man Bates. Then some of Kegley's boys made a pass at running me off the place a few years back. We sort of discouraged 'em, Mig an' me, we shoot too straight."
The coffee was good, so Bowdrie sat and talked awhile. The two were hard men, no doubt about that, but competent. Nobody in his right mind would try to drive them off a place situated like this. Bowdrie knew their kind. He had ridden with them, worked cattle with them. Left alone, they would be no trouble to anyone.
Neither of these men shaped up like a murderer. They would kill, but only in a fight where both sides were armed and where they believed themselves in the right.
The idea persisted that the bank cashier had been shot deliberately, and for a reason. But what reason?
Bowdrie was not taking Roway's word for it as far as the paint horse went, but he did not have to. He already had some thoughts about that, and an idea was beginning to take shape that might provide an answer.
It was a long ride back to Morales, and Bowdrie had time to think. The sun was hot, but up in the high country where he was, the breeze was pleasant. Bowdrie took his time. Riding horseback had always been conducive to thinking, and now he turned over in his mind each one of the elements. When he arrived at a point where he could overlook the town, he drew rein.
Morales, what there was of it, lay spread out below him like a map, and there are few things better than a map for getting the right perspective.
The paint horse was too obvious. Rip Coker had put that into words very quickly, but Bowdrie had been quick to see it himself. To ride such a horse in a robbery meant that a man was insane or he was trying to point a finger of suspicion at its owner.
"What I want to know, Hammerhead," he said to the roan, "is how that fifth bandit got away. More than likely, if he rode around behind the Rest an' took to the woods, he had to come this way to keep from sight. He had to know a trail leading him up to the breaks of this plateau without using the main trail."
For two hours he scouted the rim, returning to town finally with the realization that there was no way to reach the top without taking the main trail in full sight of the town.
"And if he didn't use the main trail, he just never left town at all!"
Several men were running toward the bank as he rode into the street. Dropping from the saddle, Bowdrie tied his horse and went swiftly in the direction of the others. Hearing someone coming up behind him, he turned to see Jackson Kegley. "What's happened?" Kegley asked.
"Don't know," Chick said.
When they rounded the corner of the bank, they saw a small knot of men standing at the rear of the bank. Bowdrie glanced at Kegley. His face was flushed and he was breathing harder than what a fast walk should cause. A bad heart, maybe?
Bob Singer was there, his features taut and strained. "It's Joel Bates. He's been knifed."
Chick stepped through the crowd. He looked down at the banker's son. A good-looking boy, a handsome boy, and well-made. Too young to die with a knife in the back.
"Anybody see what happened?" Chick asked.
Rip Coker was rolling a smoke. "He was investigatin' this here robbery. I reckon he got too close."
"I found him," Henry Plank said. He was a small man, bald, with a fringe of reddish hair. "I come through here a lot, going to Big Jim's barn. He was lyin' just like you see him, on his chest, head turned sidewise, and a knife in his back."
"When did you come through here last?" Bowdrie asked. "I mean, before you found the body?"
"About an hour ago. He wasn't lyin' there then. I walked right over that spot."
Chick squatted on his heels beside the body. The knife was still in the wound, an ordinary hunting knife of a kind commonly used. There probably were as many such knives in town as there were men. This one was rusty. Probably an old knife somebody had picked up. He bent closer, lifting the dead man's hand. In the grain of the flesh there were tiny bits of white. His hand looked much as it would if he had gripped a not-quite-dry paintbrush.
Bowdrie stood up, thinking. Joel Bates's body was cold, and in this weather it would not lose heat very fast. Bowdrie was guessing that Joel Bates had been dead for considerably more than an hour, but if so, where had the body been?
Big Jim, stunned by grief and shock, stood nearby. Only that morning Bowdrie had heard Bates speak with pride of his son, the son who now lay cold and dead.
Chick Bowdrie was suddenly angry. He turned to face the group.
"The man who killed this boy is in this crowd. He is the same man who engineered the bank robbery. I know why he did it and I have a very good hunch who he is, and I'm going to see him hang if it is the last thing I do!"
Turning sharply, he walked away, still angry. Perhaps he had been foolish to say what he'd said, and this was no time for anger, yet when he saw that fine-looking young man lying there...
He walked back toward the barn and entered. It was cool and quiet in there, and sunlight fell through a few cracks in the boards. There were three horses in the stalls and there were stacks of hay. At one side of the old barn was a buckboard. Chick was following a hunch now, and quickly, methodically, he began to search. His success was immediate -- a pot of white paint hidden under sacks and piled hay.
Bowdrie glanced up, a queer chill flowing through him. So engrossed had he been in his search that he had failed to hear the man enter. His carelessness angered him. It was Bob Singer.
"Yeah," Bowdrie said, "I've found something, all right."
Gingerly he lifted the pot with his left hand, turning it slowly. On one side was a clear imprint of a thumb, a thumbprint with a peculiar ropy scar across it.
"Yes, I've found something. This is the paint that was used to paint a horse to look like Roway's skewbald."
"Paint a hoss? You've got to be crazy!"
Several men had followed them into the barn and were listening.
"Somebody," Bowdrie said, "figured on stickin' Roway with this robbery. He painted a horse to look like Roway's."
"And left the paint can here?" Singer said. "It must have been young Bates himself."
"It wasn't young Bates. You see..." -- Bowdrie looked at Singer -- "I've known that horse was painted from the first. He stamped his feet and some paint fell off into the dust up in front of the Rest. Young Joel must've figured out the same thing. Either that horse was painted here or young Joel found that bucket of paint and brought it here to hide.
"The man who painted that horse followed him here and knifed him. He left him in the barn until there was nobody around, then carried him out here, because he did not want anybody nosin' around the barn."
"Hell," Singer scoffed, "that bandit is nowhere around Morales now. He got away and he's kept goin'."
"No," Chick said, the dimplelike scar under his cheekbone seeming to deepen, "that bandit never even left town."
"What?" Singer's tone was hoarse. "What d'you mean?"
"I mean, Singer," Bowdrie said, "that you were the man on that paint horse. You were the man who murdered Joel Bates. You've got a scar on the ball of your thumb, which I noticed earlier, and that thumbprint is on this can of paint!"
Singer's hand clasped his gun butt. Bowdrie's gun boomed in the close confines of the barn, and Singer's gun slipped from nerveless fingers.
"Singer!" Plank gasped. "Who would have thought it was him? But who are the others? The other four?"
"Five," Bowdrie said. "Five!"
"Five?" Bates had come into the barn again. "You mean there was another man in on this?"
"Yeah." Bowdrie's eyes shifted from face to face and back. Lingering on Bates, then moving on to Kegley and Mig Barnes, who had just come in. "There was another. There was the man who planned the whole affair."
He walked to the door, and some of the others lifted Singer's body and carried it out.
Jackson Kegley looked over at Bowdrie. "Singer was supposed to be good with a gun."
There was no expression on Bowdrie's hawklike face. "It ain't the ones like Singer a man has to watch. It's the ones who will shoot you in the back. Like the man," he added, "who killed Lem Pullitt!"
"What d'you mean by that? Pullitt was shot -- "
"Lem Pullitt was shot in the back, and not by one of the three in the bank."
It was long after dark when Bowdrie returned to the street. He had gone to his room in the Rest and had taken a brief nap. From boyhood he had slept when there was opportunity and eaten when he found time. He had taken time to shave and change his shirt, thinking all the while. The ways of dishonest men were never as clever as they assumed, and the solving of a crime was usually just a painstaking job of establishing motives and putting together odds and ends of information. Criminals suffered from two very serious faults. They believed everybody else was stupid, and the criminal himself was always optimistic as to his chances of success.
The idea that men stole because they were poor or hungry was nonsense. Men or women stole because they wanted more, and wanted it without working for it. They stole to have money to flash around, to spend on liquor, women, or clothes. They stole because they wanted more faster.
Walking into the Chuck Wagon, Bowdrie took a seal at the far end of the table where he could face the room. The killer of Pullitt was somewhere around, and he was the one who had the most to lose.
Bates was not in the Wagon, nor was Kegley, but Henry Plank was, and a number of punchers in off the range. One by one he singled out their faces, and there were one or two whom he recognized. As the thin, worn man who waited on the tables came to him to take his order, Bowdrie asked, "Who's the big man with the red beard? And the dark, heavy one with the black hair on his chest?"
"Red Hammill, who rides for Big Jim Bates. Ben Bowyer used to ride for Kegley, but he rides for Bates now. They ain't tenderfeet."
"No," Bowdrie agreed, "Hammill rode in the Lincoln County War, and Bowyer's from up in the Territory."
Rip Coker threaded his way through the tables to where Bowdrie sat. "Watch your step, Ranger. There's something cookin', and my guess is it's your scalp."
"Thanks. Where do you stand?"
"I liked Lem. He staked me to grub when I first come to town."
Without having any evidence, Bowdrie was almost positive Hammill and Bowyer had been involved in the holdup. Both men were listed as wanted in the Rangers' bible, both had been involved in such crimes before this. As wanted men they were subject to arrest in any event, but Bowdrie was concentrating on the present crime. Or crimes, for now another murder was involved.
There had been others. Was Coker one of them? He doubted it, because the man seemed sincere and also there had been obvious enmity between Coker and Singer, who had been involved.
Who was the man behind it? Who had planned and engineered the holdup? He believed he knew, but was he right?
Bates opened the door and stepped into the room. His eyes found Bowdrie and he crossed the room to him.
"I guess my bank will hold together for a while. I am selling some cattle to Kegley, and that will tide me over."
"You gettin' a good price?"
Bates winced. "Not really. He was planning to stock blooded cattle, but he's buyin' mine instead. Sort of a favor."
Chick Bowdrie got up suddenly. "Coker," he whispered, "get Bates out of here, fast!"
He thought he had caught a signal from Hammill to Bowyer, and he was sure they planned to kill him tonight. There had been an appearance of planned movement in the way they came in, the seats they chose, the moves they made. He hoped his sudden move would force a change of plan or at least throw their present plans out of kilter.
"I'm hittin' the hay," he said to Coker, speaking loud enough to be heard. He started for the door.
He stepped through the swinging doors, turned toward the Rest, then circled out into the street beyond the light from the door and windows and flattened against the wall of the stage station.
Almost at once the doors spread and Red Hammill stepped out, followed by Bowyer. "Where'd he go?" Red spoke over his shoulder. "He sure ducked out of sight mighty quick!"
"Bates is still inside," Bowyer said, "an' Rip Coker is with him."
"It's that Ranger I want," Hammill said. "I think he knew me. Maybe you, too. Let's go up to the Rest."
They started for the Rest, walking fast. Bowdrie sprinted across to the blacksmith shop. Hammill turned sharply, too late to detect the movement.
"You hear somethin'?" he asked Bowyer. "Sounded like somebody runnin'!"
"Lookin' for me, Red?" Bowdrie asked.
Red Hammill was a man of action. His pistol flashed and a slug buried itself in the water trough. Bowdrie sprinted for the next building, and both men turned at the sound.
Chick yelled at them, "Come on, you two! Let's step into the street and finish this!"
"Like that, is it?" The voice came from close on his right. Mig Barnes!
Bowdrie fired, heard a muffled curse, but it did not sound like a wounded man.
A movement from behind him turned his head. Now they had him boxed. But who was the other one? Was it Roway?
He backed against the wall. The door was locked. On tiptoes he made it to the edge of the building, holding to the deepest shadow. He saw a dim shape rise up and the gleam of a pistol barrel. Who the devil was that?
A new voice, muffled, spoke up. "You're close, Tex! Give it to him!"
The shadow with the pistol raised up, the pistol lifting, and Bowdrie fired. "You're on the wrong side, mister!" he said, and ducked down the alley between the buildings, circled the buildings on the run, and stepped to the street just as Bowyer, easily recognized from his build, started across it. Bowdrie's bullet knocked the man to his knees. Red Hammill fired in reply, and a shot burned close to Chick, who was flattened in a shallow doorway.
He started to move, and his toe touched something. A small chunk of wood. Picking it up, he tossed it against the wall of the livery stable. It landed with a thud, and three lances of flame darted. Instantly Chick fired, heard a grunt, then the sound of a falling body. A bullet stung his face with splinters and he dropped flat and wormed his way forward, then stopped, thumbed shells into his right-hand gun, and waited.
Tex was out of it, whoever he was. Bowyer had been hit, too. Chick thought he had hit Bowyer twice.
He waited, but there was no sound. He had an idea this was not to their taste, while street fighting was an old story to him. What he wished now was to know the origin of that muffled voice. There had been an effort to disguise the tone.
He was sure his guess was right. They intended to kill Bates, too. Maybe that was where...
He came to his feet and went into the saloon with a lunge. There was no shot.
The men in the room were flattened against the walls, apparently unaware of how little protection they offered. Bates, his red face gone pale, eyes wide, stood against the bar. Rip Coker stood in the corner not far away, a gun in his hand. Red Hammill stood just inside the back door and Mig Barnes was a dozen feet to the right of the door.
Why his dive into the room hadn't started the shooting, he could not guess, unless it was the alert Coker standing ready with a gun.
Hammill and Barnes were men to be reckoned with, but where was Roway?
The back door opened suddenly and Jackson Kegley came in, taking a quick glance around the room.
"Bates!" Bowdrie directed. "Walk to the front door and don't get in front of my gun. Quick!"
Hammill's hand started, then froze. Bates stumbled from the room, and Bowdrie's attention shifted to Kegley.
"Just the man we needed," Bowdrie said. "You were the one who killed Lem Pullitt. You stood in an upstairs bedroom of the Rancher's Rest and shot him when his back was to the window."
"That's a lie!"
"Why play games?" Mig Barnes said. "We got 'em dead to rights. Me, I want that long-jawed Coker myself."
"You can have him!" Coker said, and Mig Barnes went for his gun.
In an instant the room was laced with a deadly crossfire of shooting. Rip Coker opened up with both guns and Chick Bowdrie let Hammill have his first shot, knocking the big redhead back against the bar.
Kegley was working his way along the wall, trying to get behind Bowdrie. As Hammill pushed himself away from the bar, Bowdrie fired into him twice. Switching to Kegley, he fired; then his gun clicked on an empty chamber. He dropped the gun into a holster and opened up with the left-hand gun.
Kegley fired and Bowdrie felt the shock of the bullet, but he was going in fast. He swung his right fist and knocked the bigger man to the floor. He fell to his knees, then staggered up as Kegley lunged to his feet, covered with blood. Bowdrie fired again and saw the big man slide down the wall to the floor.
Bowdrie's knees were weak and he began to stagger, then fell over to the floor.
When he fought back to consciousness, Rip Coker was beside him. Rip had a red streak along the side of his face and there was blood on his shirt. Bates, Henry Plank, and Tom Roway were all there.
"We've been workin' it out just like I think you had it figured," Henry said. "Kegley wanted a loan and got Bates to have the money in the bank. He killed Lem, just like you said.
"Kegley wanted to break Bates. He wanted the bank himself, and Bates's range as well. He planned to get Tom Roway in trouble so he could take over that ranch and run Bates's cattle on it.
"Mig Barnes apparently sold out to Kegley, but Lem Pullitt guessed what was in Kegley's mind, because he could see no reason Kegley would need a loan. Kegley was afraid Lem would talk Bates out of loaning him the money. Kegley hated Lem because Lem was not afraid of him and was suspicious of his motives."
"After you was out to my place," Roway said, "I got to thinkin'. I'd seen Barnes ride off by himself a time or two and found where he'd been meetin' Tex and Bowyer. I figured out what was goin' on, so I mounted up an' came on in."
Coker helped Bowdrie to his feet. "You're in bad shape, Bowdrie. You lost some blood and you'd best lay up for a couple of days."
"Coker," Bowdrie said, "you should be a Ranger. If ever a man was built for the job, you are!"
"I am a Ranger." Coker chuckled, pleased with his comment. "Just from another company. I was trailin' Red Hammill."
Chick Bowdrie lay back on the bed and listened to the retreating footsteps of Coker, Plank, and Bates. He stared up at the ceiling, alone again. Seemed he was alone most of the time, but that was the way it had always been for him, since he was a youngster.
Now, if he could just find a place like Tom Roway had...
"A Job for a Ranger," from Bowdrie by Louis L'Amour, copyright © 1983 by Louis L'Amour Enterprises Inc. Used by permission of Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc.