A narrow carriage rumbles through the treacherous mountains of Sonora. Inside, surrounded by countless books and pieces of scientific equipment, rides Dr. Spectros—the most brilliant magician of the Old West. For years, he has pursued the fiendish sorcerer Blackschuster, who long ago stole the only woman the doctor ever loved. Spectros has now chased his nemesis to Mexico, where he discovers a town just as rotten as the conjurer who hides there.
Blackschuster has come in search of the silver he requires to keep the bride of Spectros trapped in eternal sleep. With the help of his associates, the gunslinger Ray Featherskill, the knife expert Inkada, and the hulking bruiser Montak, Spectros corners his enemy, but defeating him will take a magic more powerful than any the world has ever seen.
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Showdown at Guyamas
Spectros, Book One
By Paul Lederer
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1978 Manor Books, Inc.
All rights reserved.
The telegram from Guyamas had intercepted them at Gunnison. Inkada was certain of his information. A man called Wango had been staying at the Guyamas Hotel. Wango—one of the names used by Blackschuster's right-hand man.
Featherskill found the trail the mountain man had described to them—a winding, aspen-curtained pass leading up the mountainside, around the glacier-scoured rim, where the late snow still lay, blue in the deep shadows, and up to the Mesa Grande. Guyamas was six miles beyond the twin peaks. Featherskill moved ahead, guiding his apaloosa with a light rein. The mute, Montak, slapped his reins against the flanks of the glossy matched bays towing the enclosed black wagon.
It was cool and still in the high passes. The scent of cedar lingered fragrantly. A gray squirrel turned a startled head, then bounded up the rough trunk of a jack pine. The wheels of the wagon rolled silently over the bed of pine needles on the trail.
At noon Featherskill stopped them in a half-acre meadow carved out of the forest. A stream slithered across the tiny valley, glistening in the high sunlight. The grass turned silver before the light breeze. High in the treetops a crow swayed on the tip of a tremulous bough. Montak left the bays hitched, but drew them up in tall grass spotted with clover in flower.
Featherskill had already started the fire. Montak nodded amiably and squatted to watch the coffee boil, a blade of grass between his fleshy lips. Sitting like that, Ray Featherskill reflected, Montak looked like nothing so much as a bear. Montak was well over six feet, closer to seven in fact, and ran to nearly three hundred pounds. Of unfailing good humor, the mute was a wizard with any weapon, especially a bowie, and a man to back his friends to the hilt under any circumstances.
Featherskill did not know how Montak had come to follow the Doctor, but there had been many occasions when he was almighty glad Montak and he rode together. Featherskill tipped back his hat, the silver conchos on the band catching the sun as did those strung down his black leather vest. He studied the black, high-roofed wagon once and then walked to the back of it where the door opened above a row of steps. He rapped twice and waited.
"Yes." The Doctor's voice was weaker than usual. The journey had been a long one after following a false lead halfway back into Kansas. Featherskill opened the door and slipped into the wagon's interior.
"Doctor," Featherskill said, pulling off his hat so that his pale, straight hair fell into his face.
"You ought to have some coffee with us, sir." Ray Featherskill studied the compartment as he had a hundred times. The odor of vinegar filled the dusky interior of the room. The lantern caught the long rows of black-bound books on one wall and the jars and brass bottles on the one behind Doctor Spectros.
The twin Colts in silver-mounted holsters gleamed on the far wall. A flat-brimmed black hat hung on the same hook.
"No," Spectros replied with a quick smile. "You boys enjoy it. Rest the horses. I'll be alright."
Featherskill studied the Doctor's face with some concern. The long silver hair was immaculate, as was his dark suit and the pressed white shirt. But his face, noble with its slightly arched nose and deep gray eyes, was badly drawn, nearly pallid. Once Doctor Spectros' hand twitched, the large-stoned emerald ring he wore leaping from the arm of the plush red chair. The Doctor was embarrassed at this involuntary display and he smiled again weakly.
"Well ..." Featherskill faltered, "we'll make it a short stop, Doctor."
"As long as the horses aren't strained, Ray."
"I wonder how long he has," Featherskill said to Montak. The giant shook his head and sipped his coffee quietly. Montak hoped it was long enough. The man deserved that.
Montak had been cornered by six men—the Fuller brothers—when Doctor Spectros came by. They had laughed at the old man. Laughed. Greg Fuller's fist fell again and again on Montak's face as the others pinioned his arms and legs. Their voices still rang in Montak's memory.
"Stay away from my sister, dummy!"
"Idiot! Big hulking idiot!" Johnny Fuller kept saying with his lips all curled up. Johnny thrust out a boot and cracked three of Montak's ribs with the kick.
"He ought to be locked up," Tyler said, spitting on him. That Tyler—they said he had killed ten men before his eighteenth birthday. Two with his fists alone.
"We'll lock him up!" Greg laughed. "We'll lock him good. In the old well. Then maybe we'll plug that thing up before somebody falls in it and gets hurt."
They were going to bury Montak alive.
"I told you, dummy," Tyler snarled. "I told you to stay away from my sister. Emma won't be foolin' with a moron. I'm not havin' moron nephews in the Fuller family." They were dragging him now. Dragging him to the well.
"I think," the strange, resonant voice said from out of nowhere, "that you already have your share of morons in the family."
Montak looked up through the haze of blood, sweat and heat to see the Kid. Hat over his eyes, two silver-clad Colts at his hips. Tyler's hand trembled as he released Montak, going for his gun.
He had no chance. The stranger's guns bucked in his white hands and Tyler crumpled, clutching his leg. Greg turned to run, then changed his mind, swinging around for a shot. As he did he met a .44 slug which took him in the shoulder and passed out his back. Greg flung out his arms and flopped back into the dust.
Arnie and Mike ran for their horses. Only Johnny Fuller was still willing to fight.
"You got the drop," Johnny said. The stranger nodded and slid his pistols back into their holsters. Before the Colts had settled in their nests Johnny, a crooked snarl on his mouth, drew. The stranger's hands flickered. Only flickered, and Johnny Fuller went up on his toes, guns still pointed to the earth. Then he slumped forward, his pistols exploding into the yellow dust.
"Come on," the gunman said to Montak, "I'll take care of you till you're well. Poor fellow—you've taken a real beating. No, don't move, I'll carry you. I've got a wagon."
And he did it too. He carried Montak, all three hundred pounds of him, to the strange-smelling wagon with the bed inside. He did it effortlessly, as if the giant were a child. Then he set to work bathing the cuts and binding the wounds.
Montak would never leave the Doctor now. Never. If he had known how much it took out of the Doctor, he would have refused his help on that first day. As Montak grew stronger, the strange gunfighter, the one called Kid Soledad, became gradually weaker, growing old before Montak's eyes until he became once again the old Doctor Spectros, the man of many secrets.
"I think we'll be going," Ray Featherskill said.
Montak nodded. There was no time to waste now. The end of the long trail might finally be in sight.
Inkada was there waiting for them with new information. The man called Wango had certainly been there. Inkada would not mistake him—not with that scar which ran across Wango's face from ear to ear. And if Wango was there, Blackschuster could not be far. Blackschuster was the man Doctor Spectros was living to see die.CHAPTER 2
Inkada leaned against the livery, in the thin line of shade which ran along the west walls of all the buildings along the drowsy main street of Guyamas. A spotted dog slunk past, then bolted, surprised by the motionless tall man. Down the street three small children were playing with an apple crate and a yellow ball. A cowboy on a lazy white horse side-stepped by. Inkada saw all these things without watching them. His gaze was fixed on a certain distant point—the window opposite where a man with a scarred face moved about from time to time, restlessly smoking.
Inkada shifted his feet and adjusted the hat he wore. He still could not grow accustomed to the headwear. But a turban was not exactly the usual costume in this part of the world, and only provoked unusual interest and curiosity. Inkada supposed he appeared to be an American Indian in his tan trousers and faded red shirt. But he was unusually tall, his features too sharp, his nose especially prominent and thin. Most of the people supposed him to be an Indian, but all of them seemed to be puzzled as to which tribe it might be that he represented.
The man called Tomlinson drove past in his surrey, his two gunhands beside him. Tomlinson was the petty tyrant of Guyamas, owner of the Tripple-O ranch and partner in the silver mine. Inkada had only to see him once before he knew the man was an arrogant, possibly dangerous, overly ambitious person. But Inkada stayed well clear of Tomlinson—his business was with another man.
Tomlinson said something in passing. Inkada was only able to catch the word "breed." His gunhand, the one called Rat Peebles, laughed around the cigarette which dangled from his lips.
There had been no visible movement in the upstairs window for some time. There was a back exit, Inkada knew, but Wango had not gone out of his room for three days. Not since Inkada had first spotted him, following a hunch discovered in the hotel register. A man signing himself "Gowan" was in the hotel. The anagram for Wango instantly caught Inkada's eye.
Inkada shifted again, watching a single crow sail across the blue, waxen sky. Then suddenly the man was on him.
"Inkada!" Wango's hoarse voice rang out, but the heavy, sweating body had hit Inkada full thrust before the sound died away.
Inkada slapped at Wango's face, dodged the flash of silver which was his knife and reached frantically for his own kris. But Wango's hand pinned Inkada's to his side. Inkada spun away and kicked out with a straight leg, but the bad-man shifted his weight and clubbed Inkada's foot aside.
"I will kill you," Wango threatened. His eyes were wild. "You gave me this scar."
Inkada had his knife free now. The evil twist of the kris blade sparkled in the sunlight. Inkada's heart was beating quickly. He feared no man, but Wango was a killer, a demon with a knife. Perhaps Wango was better than Inkada himself or even Montak, whose prowess was legendary.
"Now," Wango panted, crouching and circling, dark eyes flashing as he feinted and jabbed with his twelve-inch, two-edged poniard. That knife had killed fifty men.
"I do not think so," Inkada said.
In a rage Wango came in more closely than he intended and Inkada's point took a thin slash along his shoulder. Howling like a beast, Wango jumped back, coming forward again instantly, digging at the air with his knife.
Suddenly there were other people around them.
"What's goin' on?" a big voice boomed. Inkada caught the flash of a silver star from the corner of his eye.
"This man ... attacked me."
"Yeah—and you never saw him before." The sheriff put a hand on Inkada's wrist, taking the kris from him.
"He's been hangin' around the corner all week," a man in a derby said.
"Lookin' for trouble. What was this, an ambush?"
"No, you see ..." Inkada's voice broke off. "The other man. Where is he?" Wango had slipped away somehow, fading into the crowd.
"Don't worry about him," the sheriff, a thick-chested man with a faded walrus mustache said, "worry about yourself."
"You must find him."
"I'll try," the sheriff promised Inkada. "I want to get his story too. But just now I'm gonna have to show you the inside of our little jailhouse."
"I did nothing."
"Partner, that might be so. But I can't have people standin' around the corners pokin' each other with toad-stickers. It's the law, you understand?"
Inkada nodded. Inside he was churning. Wango would vanish in minutes. He had lost the man, the only clue to Blackschuster's whereabouts. And within hours of Doctor Spectros' arrival. Inkada fell to silent cursing as the sheriff led him down the street by the elbow, a crowd of curious, hooting boys following at their heels.
Brad Tibbets was resting on the hard cot in his cell, watching the sparrow which came to pick at the breadcrumbs he left on the window ledge. The front door to the sheriff's office suddenly popped open and Sheriff Hal Emory stepped through from the dusty yellow morning outside, leading a tall, swarthy man.
"Sit down, please," the sheriff said, indicating a straight wooden chair. He shuffled through some papers, wanted posters and outstanding warrants, then opened the cabinet behind his cluttered desk and tossed in a weird knife, unlike any Brad Tibbets had ever seen. The blade curved like several "s's" end to end, and the handle appeared to be gold with intricate figures of warriors and wild beasts etched into it. The tall man sat rigidly while Sheriff Emory asked a few questions.
"I don't have anythin' on you," Sheriff Emory said, taking off his faded gray hat and tossing it toward the coatrack. "All the same, I'm holdin' you till I can find this other fellow or make sure he's left town. I don't want one of you takin' up space on boothill."
The sheriff drew the keyring from his desk drawer and pointed the way to the cell door. It closed with an iron ringing behind Inkada.
"Little cuttin', huh?"
"What?" Inkada turned to face the red-haired young man.
"Couldn't help hearin' Hal and you talkin'." Brad Tibbets stood at the window, finger tapping on the bars. "Some knife you got."
"It's very old," Inkada said with a wave of his hand. He slumped onto the cot nearest the door. He felt little like talking.
"Was that handle gold?"
"Yes," Inkada shrugged.
"Must be worth something," Brad suggested. Inkada only shrugged again.
"The sheriff is not a hard man," Inkada noted.
"Hal?" Brad Tibbets laughed, flashing white, even teeth. "No. Not at all. He's a fair man. When they let him be."
"Someone doesn't want a fair sheriff?" Inkada asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Several someones. Mr. Brant Tomlinson chiefly. That's because he wants everything to his advantage in Guyamas. Being fair can make a man a lot of enemies at times, I expect."
"Yes, I have seen this happen many times. In many places."
Brad Tibbets studied the stranger closely. Inkada's eyes were dark, hard, but soft lines surrounded them. He wore a tattoo—a crane, or some such bird—on the back of his hand. There were several old, ugly scars on his face and forearms.
"I'll bet you've been a lot of places," Brad said, more to himself than to his fellow prisoner.
The sun had grown lower, and the glare filled the cell carving a rectangle of light on the floor. Inkada stepped to the window and watched the silent woods behind the jail, the train tracks running in converging lines to the east. "And you?" he asked Brad Tibbets.
The young man spoke from behind the hat he had tipped over his eyes. "Me, I got on the wrong side of a feud. This Tomlinson I mentioned—well he's a big man. Owns most of a silver mine and plenty of good range. Trouble was, it wasn't enough. They's a girl south of here. Elisabeth Parker ...blond girl with soft eyes. Well, Tomlinson decided he wanted more. And the more was the ranch Elisabeth's daddy left her."
"You went to her assistance?"
"Yeah. I guess I did. Had to shoot two rustlers in the Painted Gorge. Slappin' a Birdcage brand over her U/No mark. They drew, you understand. But Tomlinson got some of his boys to wear I shot 'em cold." Brad sat up and shrugged, slapping his hat against his thigh. "I don't mind so much—I don't figure it'll hold up in court. But while I'm here, they're robbin' the girl blind. Terrifyin' her and such. Mister—I'd give anything to get out of this rabbit trap."
"Can't the sheriff do anything?"
"Not much. Oh, if he could catch 'em, Hal Emory would sure lock those boys up. But he can't stay out to the U/No, and by the time he hears of trouble it's too late. Tomlinson's men were all in the Red Rogue, playin' cards together. But he's warned Tomlinson plenty—that's what Tomlinson doesn't like. Him and Rat Peebles. That man's a stonecold killer, I mean he craves it, you understand?"
Inkada nodded. "I've known men like that."
"Well, this Peebles is one of 'em. Weasel-faced man with an oily smile and a way of wearin' guns that tells you what he intends 'em for."
"I believe I've seem him," Inkada said, remembering the man who had ridden by with the sour-faced older man in the dark suit.
"Well, watch him, partner, if you ever raise his hackles. He doesn't wait for hail, hello or fare-thee-well to start shootin'."
Excerpted from Showdown at Guyamas by Paul Lederer. Copyright © 1978 Manor Books, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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