Kraemer Diggs sat at his corner table and splashed
whisky down his throat as he considered the spectacle of what
he'd just seen. A boy, actually a man probably close to twenty,
had just walked into the bar and picked a fight with the toughest
group of men in the room. The men took his challenge willingly.
When they drew first, the boy jumped in the midst of it, guns
blazing. When his bullets were done he'd used his fists. Now men
lay scattered in all directions. The boy had walked to the bar
and ordered a drink as if nothing happened.
Kraemer watched the man-boy intently. Gradually
Kraemer noticed the man stiffening. Kraemer was sure the boy had
just realized he was being watched. When the stranger at the bar
turned to face him, Kraemer met his gaze head on. Those dark eyes
held pain and anger, things Kraemer easily identified with. The
boy man moved forward carefully with a smooth catlike grace.
Kraemer studied him as he came closer. His broad
shoulders were muscular as if he'd been no stranger to hard work.
His stomach was lean, almost too lean as if he'd spent too much
time on the run. His face was weary and haggard, but he carried
such innocence. Men grew up hard and young. At his age he should
be considered a man, yet the innocent look on his face made him
appear that much younger. Not to be ignored was the almost
animalist aura of rage around him.
The boy stopped in front of him. "Mind if I sit
down?" he asked in a soft rasp.
"No, but just so you know I don't want any trouble."
Kraemer replied evenly and locked eyes with the boy. The boy met
his gaze and then finally dropped his head.
"I wasn't offering any." He sat down opposite
Roche Barret wasn't stupid. He had beat down everyone
in the bar, but one look at the man in the corner easily told him
he didn't want a fight with him. The man had startling blue eyes
and a classically formed tan face. He was a big man, probably as
tall as Roche himself. And he was a gunslinger. He was dressed in
black pants, a spotless white shirt, and a black coat. His had
sat on the table next to his elbow. Two white handled guns were
tied down to his thighs.
Normally Roche wouldn't have let the man's appearance
bother him. He'd encountered a lot of gunslingers that dressed
fancy. They'd been easy enough to handle. Roche, however, took
one look at the totally shuttered expression of the man in front
of him and knew this man was a professional. Roche wasn't about
to try his hand with him.
"If you're not offering trouble, son, what are you
"I'm not offering anything. Actually I'm looking for
One light eyebrow flashed up in surprise. "And why
might you be looking for him?"
"My father told me to find him."
"Well, in that case you've found him. No who is your
"Kells Barret. My father was Kells Barret."
"And he isn't anymore?"
"He isn't anything anymore. My father requested on
his death bed that I search you out."
Kraemer stared intently at the boy. No wonder he
looked familiar. The boy's smooth movements were obviously
inherited from his father. But Kells Barret dead? Kraemer
couldn't believe it. He and Kells had been boyhood playmates,
teenage rivals, and adult friends.
"Why were you to seek me?"
"He thought perhaps you could stop me."
"Stop you from what?"
"Stop me from chasing down his killers."
Kraemer thought about this for a moment. Kells had
been murdered, and he had sent Kraemer this boy on his deathbed.
Kraemer laughed. He saw a deep anger light the boys eyes, and he
knew there was going to be trouble. They boy wanted to take
offense at everything. "Did your father tell you he wanted me to
"No, but my father was a peaceful man. I can think of
no other reason why he'd want me to see you."
Kraemer, awestruck, stared at the boy. "How well did
you know your father?" Kraemer couldn't imagine anyone describing
Kells Barret as a peaceful man.
"Well, I knew him occasionally off and on for the
first 15 years of my life, and then he was with us for the last 5
"And you say he was peaceful? He never carried a
"No. I never saw him carry one in the past 5 years.
By the time I was 15, I had developed a tolerable interest in
them, but he caught me practicing one day and tanned my hide. He
said he hated guns."
So Kells had hung up his guns, but why did Kells send
the boy to him? "He told you nothing about guns? I find that hard
to believe. You handled them well in here."
"My father said the same thing. What child who
practiced day and night wouldn't be? He said I wasn't to touch a
gun, but by the time he stayed around long enough my habits were
well formed. As you can see I didn't give them up. After all,
what did he know about guns? I think he knew the way I felt, but
he said nothing."
Didn't this kid know who his father was? Kells Barret
was the best bounty hunger and gunfighter that ever walked the
face of the earth. "What'd he say to do once you found me?"
"He gave me a box to give to you."
"A box? What kind of box?" Kraemer asked sharply.
"A wooden one with two intertwined rams locking horns
on the front. There are two weird stones for the eyes and…it's
Kraemer sucked in his breath. "Your father didn't
want me to stop you. He wanted me to help you." Kraemer studied
the boy's big frame. "Well, are you hungry? My ranch is just
outside of town. Personally I don't want to be here when the
Sheriff comes crawling in either."
They both exited the saloon. Kramer stared at the bay
horse that stood at the railing. Two diamonds were branded on its
hindquarters. "He's a sorry looking animal because I've ridden
him so hard. He'll be glad of the rest. He's the only one the men
Kraemer swore under his breath. Whoever had killed
Kells Barret knew him well. They knew Kraemer too well also. The
horse proved it. The old bay gelding was well into his twenties.
He was the horse that Kells had ridden during his years as a
bounty hunter. Kraemer was amazed that the horse was still alive,
but he knew Kells had loved that horse. Someone remembered that
horse besides Kraemer and was making sure it made it back to
Kraemer, but who?
They rode out of town together careful of anyone
following them. No one did. Kraemer seriously doubted that anyone
Roche stared at the sign above the ranch gate. It
held two connecting diamonds that looked exactly like the brand
on his horse's hip. "This is your ranch?" Roche questioned.
Kraemer read the uncertainty in the boy's face.
Someone was going to have to teach him to hide those emotions
especially if he was going after Kells' killers. He would need
lots of help. Kraemer reminded himself to have the boy give him
the details. If Kells sent the boy to him Kells had to have known
the killers were professionals.