Murder at the Rocking R
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by Catt Ford
Category: Gay Fiction/Romance
Description: When Texas Ranger Tell Hadley is sent to investigate rustling in Oklahoma Territory, he finds two dead men and signs of a survivor on the run. Were the killings lynchings or simply frontier justice? Tracking the one man left standing leads him to Noel Ivory, a tenderfoot East Coast journalist who claims his friend Jack Rogers was murdered. Neither man trusts the other, and both have secrets to keep, but if they're going to solve the murder at the Rocking R, they're going to have to let down their guards and show their hands.
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, 2012 2012
eBookwise Release Date: May 2012
4 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [63 KB]
Reading time: 39-54 min.
Tell Hadley had stopped smoking some years ago. There were rumors about that it made folks sick, could even kill them. It had almost killed him.
One time he'd just about stumbled in on a hornet's nest of killers because the habit had dulled his sense of smell. He had the scars to prove it.
When a man rode the range alone, he needed all his senses sharp to take in his surroundings. Sometimes it was more sight, sometimes smell. Taste could keep a man from drinking tainted water or eating poisonous fruit. So he'd learned his lesson the hard way and quit smoking while he was healing up from that encounter.
Right now he needed his sense of smell the most. Darkness had fallen while he was still riding up the steep, winding trail, robbing him of sight, so he had to rely on the instincts of his buckskin. She was a half-wild mustang with plenty of speed and bottom that nobody could ride but him. Tough, trail-savvy, and a fighter, she'd carried him over a lot of territory. She knew how to pick her way along a dim trail even in the dark, and a horse could follow a scent trail as well as a dog.
He could hear nothing but the hum of insects and the soft thud of her hooves in the dirt. He could see nothing but the black shapes of jagged rocks and the stars white in the sky above. But he could smell something on the air.
"Softly now, Malena," Tell whispered to the horse.
She twitched an ear at him and kept moving forward. She could smell it too.
Burning wood. A fire meant coffee, food, and water. Maybe grass for the horse.
A fire could also mean sudden death.
He had to admire whoever was up there. From no vantage point had he been able to spot the telltale orange gleam of the fire. Before the sun went down there had been no trail of smoke written in the sky. The rider had been right smart in choosing his way. If not for Malena and the occasional fresh chip on a rock, he would have lost the trail hours ago.
The rider was pretty determined not to be followed. That could mean a lot of things. Tell had no false modesty. He knew he was a good tracker, one of the best. A Navajo scout had once told him anyone could read sign on the ground provided they kept their eyes open. A good tracker learned to follow the trail of the mind. Once a man learned how his quarry thought, he could follow where there was no trail.
That was what Tell had done. The visible trail had given out five miles back. The rider he was chasing had taken to the water, doubling back in a small stream instead of coming out the other side. It had cost him two hours of patient searching through thick brush beside the overgrown stream, but he had finally found where the rider and horse had emerged.
An impatient man would have given up. A less observant man would not have noticed white dust where an iron shoe had chipped a water-rounded stone.
The hunted had walked his horse over a dry streambed full of pebbles and stones to make his trail harder to follow.
The hunter had expected that level of trail-savvy and searched for it. What he had not expected to find was the drop of dried blood.
There had been plenty of blood where he first picked up the trail, but there had also been a number of dead bodies strewn about to account for it. He had not suspected that his prey had also been wounded.
That gave Tell something to think about while he let Malena mosey her way up the trail. A cornered wolf will fight. A wounded wolf when cornered will fight to the death. He would have to take care.