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Bullets & Lies-Robert Randisi.

Bullets & Lies-Robert Randisi. Электронная библиотека, книги всех жанров

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      A Mysterious Client

      “Sir, I’m here to hand you a check and ask you to come back to West Virginia with me…To meet with my client.”

      “And the check?”

      “It is yours, whether you come or not.” To illustrate, Harwick took a brown envelope from his pocket and set it on Roper’s desk.

      “What does your client want with me?” he asked.

      “He will tell you that in West Virginia.”

      “Why me? I’m sure there are private detectives in West Virginia—or, at least, closer than Denver.”

      “I’ve done research on you, sir,” Harwick said. “You worked with Allan Pinkerton during and after the war, struck out on your own some years ago. As of today, you are generally considered to be the best private detective in the country.”

      “Well, that’s nice to hear, but—”

      “If you come back with me, there will be considerably more money than what’s in that envelope.”

      “Well,” Roper said, “I’m not usually that impressed by money, Mr. Harwick.” Roper slid the check out of the envelope, looked at the amount written on it. Then he slid the check back in.

      “When do we leave?” he asked.

      BULLETS AND LIES

      A Talbot Roper Novel

      ROBERT J. RANDISI

      

      BERKLEY BOOKS, NEW YORK

      Prologue

      The heydays of Dodge City were long gone by the time Talbot Roper rode into town. When the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad came to Dodge in 1872, the town boomed. Many railroad cars a day filled with buffalo hides and meat left there, and just as many arrived carrying supplies. The streets—both Front Streets, one on each side of the railroad tracks—were lined with wagons and filled with people. But by 1880, when the Santa Fe railroad was completed, the good times were over and people started to leave. Now, almost six years later, the town was quiet, almost dead.

      These days Roper was a private investigator working out of Denver. His job took him to big cities, ghost towns, and everything in between. And he adapted to his surroundings with equal comfort.

      In Denver, New York, San Francisco, he wore a fancy suit with a matching hat, carried a short-barreled .32 in a shoulder rig, a derringer in his vest pocket, and a straight razor in his boot because it was more comfortable than a knife.

      Out on the trail throughout the West, in towns or the Territories, he wore trail clothes and a worn Stetson, nothing that would make him stand out. He carried a Peacemaker in his holster, a second one in a holster affixed to the leather of his saddle with needle and heavy thread. The razor was still in his left boot, the derringer in his right, and a Winchester rifle in a scabbard on his saddle. He had a third Peacemaker in his saddlebag. No matter what environment he was in, he was ready for action.

      He had proven himself many times over during his tenure with the Union during the Civil War. After acquitting himself well in a half-dozen battles, he had been recommended for transfer to the Union Intelligence Service to serve under Major E. A. Allan—otherwise known as Allan Pinkerton. There, working mostly undercover, he learned investigative techniques from Pinkerton, successfully rounding himself into a man of action and intelligence.

      This case had started right there in his home city of Denver and had taken him across the plains to Dodge City, with a lot of bloodshed in between. It seemed fitting that it should end here, where the blood of legends had soaked into the soil many years ago, and still resided there.

      Roper followed the trail he’d been tracking for miles right to the edge of Dodge City. There the trail mixed with others, but he was still able to make out a distinction he’d found in the right hind. The tracks led right into town and seemed fairly fresh.

      Roper directed his horse to the livery, which was still where it had always been. He dismounted and collected his belongings before turning the animal over to the livery man. It had been so long since he’d been there—or had paid any attention to the goings-on in Dodge—that he did not know who was presently the law in town.

      “Any strangers come to town in the past hour or so?” Roper asked the man.

      “Not that I seen.”

      “Who’s the law in Dodge these days?”

      The livery man stroked the horse’s damp neck as he said, “The sheriff is Pat Sughrue, the marshal is Bill Tilghman.”

      “Tilghman is here?” Roper asked.

      “Yessir, been the marshal here for over two years,” the man said.

      “Well, that’s good news,” Roper said.

      “You know the marshal?”

      “I do, indeed. Thanks.”

      Roper carried his gear and went in search of a hotel. Most of the ones he remembered were gone, but when he came to the Dodge House, he was happy to see that it was still operating.

      “I’d like a room,” he said to the bored desk clerk.

      “Take your pick,” the clerk said. “We got plenty.”

      “Just one overlooking the street would be good.”

      “Take four,” the clerk said, handing him the key. “Stay as long as you like.”

      Roper went to his room, dropped his saddlebags on the bed, leaned his rifle against the wall, and went to the window. In the old days the street would have been teeming with wagons and horses and people. On this day he saw a couple of small boys chasing a wagon wheel down the street and that was it.

      He decided not to waste any time. He collected his rifle, left the room, and headed for the marshal’s office.

      Bill Tilghman looked up from his desk as the door to his office opened. He frowned, seeming confused for a moment, the way you are when you see someone someplace you don’t expect to.

      “As I live and shit, Talbot Roper,” he said, “what the hell…”

      “Bill,” Roper said. “Busy?”

      The marshal stood up, his hand outstretched, but did not come out from behind the desk. Roper noticed that the experienced lawman was wearing an empty holster. That was unlike him.

      “It’s good to see you,” Tilghman said, pumping Roper’s hand.

      “You, too, Bill,” Roper said, studying his friend’s face closely.

      The office had changed very little over the years. Just a desk, an extra chair and a stove, some file cabinets and gun racks. But it somehow felt different.

      “What brings you to Dodge City?” Tilghman said, waving to the empty chair. “Coffee?”

      “I could use a stiff drink,” Roper said, “but coffee will do—for now.”

      Tilghman smiled and said, “I’ve got that.”

      He sat, opened a drawer, and pulled out a bottle of whiskey and two mugs. After pouring a generous dollop into each mug, he handed one to Roper.

      “Thanks.” The detective took a huge swallow. The heat warmed him. Tilghman sipped, regarded Roper over the rim of his mug.

      “That

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