Chapter One

Picture the ground rising on the east side of the pasture with scrub trees thick on the slope and pines higher up. This is where everybody was. Not all in one place but scattered in small groups, about a dozen men in the scrub, the front line, the shooters who couldn’t just stand around. They’d fire at the shack when they felt like it, or when Mr. Tanner passed the word, they would all fire at once.

Others were up in the pines and on the road that ran along the crest of the hill, some three hundred yards from the shack across the pasture. Those watching made bets whether the man in the shack would give himself up or get shot first.

It was Saturday and that’s why everybody had the time. They would arrive in Lanoria, hear about what happened, and shortly after, head out to the cattle company pasture. Most of the men went out alone, leaving their families in town, though there were a few women who came. The other women waited. And the people who had business in town and couldn’t leave waited. Now and then a few would come back from the pasture to have a drink or their dinner and would tell what was going on. No, they hadn’t got him yet. Still inside the line shack and not showing his face. But they’d get him. A few more would go out from town when they heard this. Also a wagon from De Spain’s went out with whiskey. That’s how the saloon was set up in the pines overlooking the pasture. Somebody said it was like the goddam Fourth of July.

Barely a mile from town those going out would hear the gunfire’like a skirmish way over the other side of the woods, thin specks of sound’and this would hurry them. They were careful though, topping the slope, looking across the pasture, getting their bearings, then peering around to see who was there. They would see a friend and ask about this Mr. Tanner, and the friend would point him out.

The man there in the dark suit: thin and bony, not big especially, but looking like he was made of gristle and hard to kill, with a moustache and a thin nose and a dark dusty hat worn over his eyes. That was him. They had heard about Frank Tanner, but not many had ever seen him. He had a place south in the foothills of the Santa Ritas and almost to the border. They said he had an army riding for him, Americans and Mexicans, and that his place was like a barracks except for the women. They said he traded horses and cattle and guns across into Mexico to the revolutionary forces and he had all the riders in case the Federales came down on him; also in case his customers ever decided not to pay. Sure he had at least twenty-five men and he didn’t graze a head of beef himself. Where were they? somebody wanted to know. Driving a herd south. That’s what he had come here for, cattle; bought them from Maricopa.

Somebody else said he had brought his wife along—“Goddam, a good-looking young woman, I’ll tell you, some years younger than he is”—and she was waiting for him at the Republic Hotel right now, staying up in his room, and not many people had seen her.

They would look at Mr. Tanner, then across the cattle pasture to the line shack three hundred yards away. It was a little bake-oven of a hut, wood framed and made of sod and built against a rise where there were pines so the hut would be in shade part of the day. There were no windows in the hut, no gear lyng around to show anybody lived there. The hut stood in the sun now with its door closed, the door chipped and splintered by all the bullets that had poured into it and through it.

Off to the right where the pine shapes against the sky rounded and became willows, there in the trees by the creek bed, was the man’s wagon and team. In the wagon were the supplies he’d bought that morning in Lanoria before Mr. Tanner spotted him.

Out in front of the hut about ten or fifteen feet there was something on the ground. From the slope three hundred yards away nobody could tell what it was until a man came who had field glasses. He looked up and said, frowning, it was a doll: one made of cloth scraps, a stuffed doll with buttons for eyes.

“The woman must have dropped it,” somebody said.

“The woman?” the man with the field glasses said.

A Lipan Apache woman who was his wife or his woman or just with him. Mr. Tanner hadn’t been clear about that. All they knew was that there was a woman in the hut with him and if the man wanted her to stay and get shot that was his business.

A Mr. Beaudry, the government land agent for the county, was there. Also Mr. Malson, manager of the Maricopa Cattle Company, and a horsebreaker by the name of Diego Luz, who was big for a Mexican but never offensive and who drank pretty well.

Mr. Beaudry, nodding and also squinting so he could picture the man inside the line shack, said, “There was something peculiar about him. I mean having a name like Orlando Rincón.”

“He worked for me,” Mr. Malson said. He was looking at Mr. Tanner. “I mistrusted him and I believe that was part of it, his name being Orlando Rincón.”

“Johnson,” Mr. Tanner said.

“I hired him two, three times,” Mr. Malson said. “For heavy work. When I had work you couldn’t pay a white man to do.”

“His name is Johnson,” Mr….

Valdez is Coming

Publisher: New York : Fawcett, 1970
Edition: First Edition
Format: Paperback Original
Pages: 160 pages
Original Price: 60¢
Genre: Western

Special Notes: Filmed as Valdez is Coming (1971)

The shotgun went off aimed at the wrong man, held in the wrong man’s hands. A crowd had gathered to drink and laugh and shoot down at the old shack where a supposed killer was hiding out. Then Bob Valdez, humble town constable and stage-line shotgun rider, walked down to the shack. Moments later Valdez had killed an innocent man, and the crowd, sapped of its bloodlust, wandered off. But for Bob Valdez it was far from over. He wanted the wealthy landowner who had enginnered the scene to give the dead man’s woman money for a wrongful death. They laughed at Bob Valdez. They taunted him and beat him until Valdez had no choice but to come back to them again. Only this time Valdez was coming with three guns—three guns and the will to teach a rich man’s army how costly atonement can get.