In the post-Civil War West, the railroads are expanding, the big money men are moving in, and the politicians they are buying make it difficult for a man to stand alone on his own. So, Walt Ames moves his wife, his home and his business from Denver to Pueblo. The railroads are bringing new opportunities to Colorado Territory, and he’s going to take full advantage of them.
Ambushed on their way south, Walt and his men uncover a web of corruption and crime to rival anything in the big city. And rough justice, Western-style, sparks a private war between Walt and some of the most dangerous killers he’s ever encountered, a deadly war in which neither friends nor family are spared.
Across the mountains and valleys of the southern Rocky Mountains, Walt and his men hunt for the ruthless man at the center of the web. Retribution won’t be long delayed… and it cannot be denied.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN RETRIBUTION is the second book in The Ames Archives, the Classic Western series that began with BRINGS THE LIGHTNING. Author Peter Grant is a military veteran, a retired pastor, and the author of The Maxwell Saga and The Laredo Trilogy.
* * * * *
Walt woke from an exhausted stupor to find Isom shaking him relentlessly. “Lewis and Sandy are headin’ back, boss. They must have seen them coming.”
He shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs from his brain as he sat up. “Thanks.”
They splashed water on their faces, then made sure the spare horses were still securely picketed. When Lewis and Sandy arrived, they formed a line inside the trees on the west side of the creek, their guns ready in their hands. Walt favored his Winchester rifle and Isom his shotgun, while the other two relied on revolvers.
“What did you see?” Walt asked.
Lewis handed him his spyglass. “Thanks for lettin’ us use that, boss. There’s four of them, drivin’ our seven hosses an’ a pack horse.”
“Four? Not five?”
“We only saw four, boss.”
“I hope the other one hasn’t turned off somewhere. You sure those horses are ours?”
“No doubt about it. I recognized at least four of ’em through that spyglass. I’ve ridden most of ’em before. Will’s hoss is still carryin’ his saddle.”
“That’s good enough for me.”
They tensed as the riders and horses appeared at the top of the gentle rise, heading down to the ford. Walt said softly, “Wait until they’re all in the water. Lewis, you and I will be on this side of the road. Isom, you and Sandy cross to the other side and cover them from there. Let me do the talking. If any of them show fight or try to run, shoot them down. Remember, they killed Will, so they don’t deserve any mercy.”
“Got it.” “Sure, boss.” “Yes, suh.” The replies came in ragged unison.
“All right. Let me make the first move.”
They waited, the tension ratcheting higher as the group drew nearer. Walt patted the shoulder of his horse as it moved restlessly under him. It wasn’t scout-trained, and he didn’t want it neighing or making any other noise that might warn the men.
He watched as the four riders drove the eight horses into the water, one of them on either side of the small herd and the other two behind it. He waited until they were in the middle of the stream, their mounts splashing and stumbling over the rocky bottom, all their riders’ attention fixed on controlling them and the horses they were driving, then said sharply, “Now!”
The four thieves jerked upright in alarm as they burst out of the trees, weapons leveled. “Nobody move!” Walt barked. “If you try anything, we’ll kill you. Get your hands up! Higher, damn you!”
“What the hell is this?” growled one of the strangers as he slowly, sullenly complied.
“You know darn well what this is. You stole those horses last night.”
“Huh?” The man strove to sound convincingly nonplussed. “We didn’t steal them—we bought ’em from a freight outfit outside Colorado City.”
“Suuuure you did. I daresay you’ve got a bill of sale for them, all nice an’ legal?”
“Well… not with me, I ain’t, but I got one back in Colorado City.”
“Like hell you have! That freight outfit is mine, and you stole those horses. You killed one of my men when you took ’em, too. Sandy, Lewis, fetch our horses out of the river, then, Lewis, you hold them clear of the ford. They’re leg-weary, so I doubt they’ll run off. Sandy, soon as they’re out of the way, get back here. Isom and I will cover these bastards.”
“Yo!” “Yes, sir!”
The two teamsters led the horses away from the ford, then Sandy hurried back. “What now, boss?”
“Cover them.” Walt raised his voice. “You four, ride slowly—real slowly—out of the water and line up here in front of me. Remember, you’re under our guns, and at this distance we can’t miss. Any tricks, and you’re gonna die real fast.”
He waited until they’d obeyed, then said, “All right, get your hands high again an’ keep them there. You lower your hands for any reason and we’ll shoot. Sandy, ride around behind them, keepin’ out of the line of fire. Take their handguns from their holsters and their long guns from their saddle boots. Put them on their pack horse for now.”
It didn’t take him long to disarm them. He returned from the final trip to the pack horse asking, “What next, boss?”
Walt raised his voice. “One at a time, get off your horses, then hold your hands high again. Move real slow and easy.” He pointed with his rifle barrel. “You first. Move!”
The first thief dismounted very slowly and carefully, then raised his hands once more. Walt said, “Sandy, lead his horse clear of him. Take it to join the others with Lewis.”
“Yo!” The teamster gave the standard cavalry response as he moved forward.
The next two thieves dismounted just as carefully, and stood waiting as their horses were led away. The last man, still mounted, was growing more and more agitated. As Sandy led the third horse clear, he demanded, “What are you gonna do with us? Why take our hosses? You expectin’ us to walk wherever we’re goin’?”
Walt shook his head. “I’m going to tie your hands before I do anything else. It’ll be easier to do that with you on foot.”
“Like hell! You’re gonna kill us!” The man’s voice rose in a shrill, desperate cry as he whipped the hat off his head with his left hand and thrust his right into its crown. Instantly there came a deep, deafening boom as Isom fired one barrel of his shotgun. The man rocked back in his saddle as a hole appeared in the center of his shirt, which instantly turned a deep blood-red. He gurgled in agony, slumped forward, and toppled to the ground. As he did so, a small gun fell from his right hand. His horse jumped forward, startled.
The action was over almost before it started. The other three thieves stood rigid, their faces turning even paler than before, their hands still in the air. Walt and Isom covered them while Sandy rode after the horse, led it to Lewis, and handed him its reins.