Brazos barely manages to avoid a hanging, but when he falls for one of the Neece girls he decides he can’t just leave without finding out who really killed Allen and what’s at the bottom of this war over the ranch. As he starts to champion the Neece family, all hell breaks loose and Brazos comes across one violent encounter after another. Brazos becomes an instrument of vengeance, furiously shooting his way through the web of lies and greed that now hangs over Twin Sombreros Ranch.
Zane Grey returns with another grand story of action and romance. First published in 1940, Twin Sombreros is a tale from the true master of the Western about a good man doing what he can to right a wrong.
Skyhorse Publishing is proud to publish a broad range of books for readers interested in fiction that takes place in the old West. Westernsbooks about outlaws, sheriffs, chiefs and warriors, cowboys and Indiansare a genre in which we publish regularly. Our list includes international bestselling authors like Zane Gray and Louis L’Amour, and many more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller or a national bestseller, we are committed to books on subjects that are sometimes overlooked and to authors whose work might not otherwise find a home.
|Sold by:||SIMON & SCHUSTER|
|File size:||940 KB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
A Western Story
By Zane Grey
Skyhorse PublishingCopyright © 1940 Zane Grey, Inc.
All rights reserved.
THE sun hung gold and red above the saw-toothed, snow-tipped ramparts of the Colorado Rockies. On a bluff across the sunset-flushed Purgatory River a group of Indians sat their mustangs watching the slow, winding course of a railroad train climbing toward the foothills. Five years had passed since first the iron trail and smoke devil had crossed out of Kansas to the slopes of Colorado; and still the Indians watched and wondered, doubtful of the future, fearful of this clattering whistling monster on wheels that might spell doom to the red man. Had they not seen train after train loaded with buffalo hides steam eastward across the plains?
A lithe rider, dusty and worn, mounted on a superb bay horse, halted on the south side of the river to watch the Indians.
"Utes, I reckon," he said, answering to the habit of soliloquy that loneliness had fostered in him. "Like the Kiowas they shore die hard. Doggone me if I don't feel sorry for them! The beaver an' the buffalo aboot gone! The white man rangin' with his cattle wherever grass grows! ... Wal, Reddies, if yu air wise, yu'll go way back in some mountain valley an' stay there."
The rumble of the railroad train died away and the black snakelike string of cars wound out of sight between bold gray bluffs. A moment longer the Indians lingered, their lean and wild shapes silhouetted against the sky, then they wheeled their ragged mustangs and disappeared in red dust clouds over the ridge.
"Wal, come to to think aboot it," mused the lone rider, "they're not so bad off as me. ... No money. No job. No home. ... Ridin' a grub line, an' half starved. Nothin' but a hawse an' a gun."
Brazos Keene's usual cool and reckless insouciance had suffered a blight. The outcast state he had bitterly avowed was far from new to him. It had been his fate for years to ride the trails from cow camp to ranch, from one cattle town to another. He could not stay long in one place. Always he had been driven. Wherefore the sadness of the hour scarcely had its source in this cowboy wandering. He put a slow hand inside his open vest to draw forth a thick letter, its fresh whiteness marred by fingerprints and sundry soiled spots. He had wept over that letter. Marveling again, with a ghost of the shock which had first attended sight of that beautiful handwriting, he reread the postmark and the address. Lincoln, New Mexico, May 3, 1880. Mr. Brazos Keene, Latimer, Colorado, % Two-bar X Ranch. The Latimer postmark read a day later.
"My Gawd, but this heah railroad can fetch a man trouble pronto," he complained, and swallowing a lump in his throat he stuck the letter back. "What in the hell made me go into thet post office for? Old cowboy habit! Always lookin' for letters thet never came. I wish to Gawd this one had been like all the others. ... But aw no! ... Holly Ripple remembers me — has still the old faith in me ... An' she named her boy Brazos — after me. Aw! thet hurts somethin' sweet an' turrible! Shore as I'm forkin' this hawse heah thet'll be bad for me ... or mebbe good!"
Lost in memory Brazos saw the green river brawling between its gray banks where the willows had a reddish tinge not all from the sunset. A brace of wild ducks winged swift flight over the water; coyotes watched the rider from the slope opposite; the willows shook with the movement of deer or cattle working down to the river; far across the valley on a rising slope black horses showed against the gray. The cold keen air, the fresh odor of the swollen river, the faint color along the brush-lined banks told that the time was early spring. Beyond the Purgatory the land climbed in level benches row on row, always higher and rougher, leading to the gray-ledged ridges, and these in turn to the shaggy foothills that ended abruptly in the mountain wall of slate cliffs and russet slopes and black belts above which the snow crown gleamed white and rose.
"Only five years!" mused the rider, with unseeing eyes on the west. "Five years since I rode along heah down the old trail from Don Carlos' Rancho ... An' what have I done with my life?"
A savage shake of his head was Brazos' answer to that disturbing query as also it was a passionate repudiation of memory. It had been his wont in dark hours like this to seek oblivion in the bottle. But with that letter heavy against his heart, with the past vivid and stingingly sweet on him, with the indisputable proof that Holly Ripple's faith in him would never die, he could not be so base, so treacherous. Not in the hour of his remorse and shame! If he could destroy the letter and forget ... but that was vain and futile.
Brazos rode on down the river trail toward Las Animas. He did not know how far it was in to town. His horse was lame and weary. This stretch along the Purgatory was not prolific of cow camps; nevertheless, Brazos hoped to run into one before nightfall.
The sun set, a nipping wind blew down from the heights, the winding river lost its glow of rose to shade dark and steely under the high banks opposite. A coyote wailed out its piercing mournful cry.
"Purgatory, huh?" muttered Brazos, somberly. "Wal, the son-of-a-gun Spaniard thet named this heah creek shore hit it plumb center. Purgatory? River of Lost Souls! ... Doggone if thet doesn't fit me proper. I'm shore a ridin' fool — a gone goslin' — a lost soul!"
The trail worked up from the river to an intersection with a road. In the gathering darkness, Brazos' quick eye caught sight of three horsemen riding out from a clump of dead trees which only partly obscured a dark cabin. The riders wheeled back apparently thinking Brazos had not seen them.
"Ump-um," muttered Brazos to himself. "Yu gotta be cuter'n thet, my bocos. ... Now, I just wonder what'n hell kind of a move yu call thet."
All the instincts and faculties of a range rider had been remarkably magnified in Brazos Keene. He reined his horse some rods before passing in front of that clump of trees.
Brazos heard a sibilant hissing "hold thar!" and a sound that seemed like a gloved hand slapped on metal. A hoarse voice, thick tongued from liquor, rasped low. Then came a young high-pitched answer: "But Bard, I'm not risking...." The violent gloved hand cut that speech short. To Brazos the name that had been mentioned sounded like Bard, but it might have been Bart or even Brad.
"Hey, riders," called Brazos, curtly. "I seen yu before yu seen me."
After a moment of silence, Brazos heard the word "Texan" whispered significantly. Then one of the three rode out.
"What if you did, stranger?" he asked.
"Nothin'. I just wanted yu to know all riders ain't blind an' deaf."
Brazos' interrogator halted just so far away that his features were indistinguishable. But Brazos registered the deep matured voice, the sloping shoulders, the bull neck.
"Thar's been some holdups along hyar lately," he said.
"Ahuh. An' thet's why yu acted so queer?"
"Shore. I said queer."
"Playin' safe, stranger."
"Yeah? — Wal, if yu took me for a bandit yu're way off."
"Glad to hear thet. — An' who might you be?"
"I'm a grub-line ridin' cowboy. I'm tired an' hungry, an' my hawse is lame."
"Whar you from?"
"Hell! A deaf man could tell thet. Whar you ridin' from?"
"Montana. Straight as a crow flies."
"An' whar you makin' for?"
"Mister, if I wasn't hungry an' tired I wouldn't like yore pert questions. I'm not goin' anywhere in particular. How far to Las Animas?"
"All night drill fer a tired hoss."
"Any cow camp near?"
"Nope. Nearest ranch is Twin Sombreros, three miles from town."
"Excuse me for askin'," went on Brazos, with sarcasm, "but do yu fellars belong to an ootfit thet'll feed a hungry cowpuncher?"
"My boss hasn't any use fer grub-line riders."
"Yu don't say. Wal, I reckon I don't eat. Small matter. But would yu tell me if there's any grass heahaboots for my hawse?"
"Good grass right hyar, stranger. An' you can bunk in the old cabin thar."
"Thanks," returned Brazos, dryly.
The burly rider turned to his silent companions, just discernible in the gloom. "Come on, men. If we're makin' Lamar tonight we got to rustle."
The couple joined him and they rode by Brazos too swiftly for him to distinguish anything. They took to the north, soon passing out of sight. Brazos kept staring in the direction they had gone. The thing that struck him on the moment was the fact of his insatiable curiosity. These three riders had not acted out of order, considering the time and place. They had a perfect right to be suspicious of him, as he likewise had of them. But there had been something wrong about them, something insincere, something hidden. A meeting with strangers on the ranges was nothing unusual for Brazos Keene. He had an uncanny instinct for recognizing dishonest men. That was one reason why he rode so many grub-line trails. He was honest himself, flaming of spirit, bitter toward the outlaws, the rustlers, and crooked cowmen who dominated the ranges from the Little Big Horn to the Rio Grande.
"Surly hombre," soliloquized Brazos, ponderingly. "He wanted to be shore I was a stranger. Now I wonder why? An' if he didn't stop one of them from takin' a pot shot at me, I'll eat my sombrero. ... An' thet one I heahed clear an' shore. ... 'Bard, I'm not risking!' Thet's a stumper. Thet hombre was goin' to bore me. What wasn't he riskin'? Why shore it was my ridin' in on them. Doggone queer! But he had been hittin' the bottle. I heahed liquor in his voice. An' it's no use tryin' to figger oot any deal thet has to do with red-eye."
Brazos dismissed the incident from mind. Dismounting, he led his horse off the road to the clump of trees. Long bleached grass of last year's growth appeared to be plentiful, and this fact relieved Brazos from worry about feed for his animal. The cabin proved to be close at hand. Brazos peeped in the open door. It was pitch dark inside and smelled dry. He removed saddle and bridle from the bay and turned him loose. Brazos carried his paraphernalia inside and deposited it upon the floor. He felt in his pockets for matches. He had none. Then he groped around, hands outstretched, until he bumped into a bench made of boughs. This, with his saddle blankets, would furnish a better bed than many to which he had of late been accustomed. Lastly, he went to the door to look out.
Bay was cropping the grass near by. The sky had become overcast with dark clouds and the cold air had moderated. Brazos felt rain or snow in it. Coyotes were wailing. A few dead leaves rustled on the trees. The black melancholy range seemed to envelop the cabin. Brazos did not like the place, the night, the nameless oppression. But how many times had that very mood weighed upon him? He groped his way back to the bench where, heartsick and hungry, too bitter to care what happened, too weary to think longer, he lay down and fell asleep.
Some time in the night he awoke. At first he imagined he had awakened from a vague grotesque dream, details of which he could not remember. Usually a light sleeper, he thought nothing of being aroused. But after a moment he felt that this was different. And he attended to outside sensations.
He heard a drip, drip, drip of rain on the floor. Evidently the roof of this shack leaked. A low moaning wind swept by under the cabin eaves. The night was so black that he could not locate either door or window. Mice rustled the rubbish in a corner. The dry musty smell of the cabin appeared to have been permeated with a damp odor, which, of course, came from the rain. Drip — drip-drip — slowly the dropping sounds faded in his consciousness.
From that hour on he slept fitfully, restlessly, harassed by strange dreams. One by one these increased in their morbid vagaries until finally a ghastly climax brought him awake, wet with cold sweat.
Dawn was at hand. Through the window he discerned a faint blue of sky. Apparently the weather had cleared. But all of a sudden — drip — drip — drip. The drops of rain water were slow and heavy. They spattered on the earthen floor. It was now light enough in the cabin to make out a ladder leading up to a loft. The old yellowstone chimney and fireplace had crumbled out of shape. How gloomy and still this square within its four log walls! Brazos wondered what had happened there. But for that matter, no log cabin in the West could be without its history, much of which was dark, violent and bloody.
All at once a cold chill crept over his skin. That dank odor, dominating the pungent dry smell of the cabin, assailed his nostrils. Drip — drip — drip! Brazos was wide awake now, on the verge of being startled by he knew not what. Like his sight and hearing his olfactory sense had been abnormally developed by an outdoor life. Drip — drip! The odor he had connected with this sound did not come from dropping rain water. It was blood. Fresh blood! Brazos seemed suddenly transfixed with a sickening icy clutch at his vitals. He had smelled human blood far too often ever to mistake it.
In a single action, he slid upright off the bench. That drip came from the loft just about the center of the cabin. Brazos could not see the drops, but by their sound, he located them — stretched out his upturned palm. Spat! Despite his steely nerve the heavy wet contact on his hand gave him a shock. He strode to the light of the doorway, there to confirm his suspicion.
"Blood!" he ejaculated, his eyes fixed on the red splotch in his palm. "Cold an' thick. ... There's a daid man up in thet loft. ... Aha! them three hombres last night! ... Brazos, I reckon yu better be rustlin' oot of heah pronto."
Hurrying back to the bench, Brazos wiped the blood on his saddle blankets, and carried these with his saddle to the door. Dawn had given way to daylight with a ruddy tinge in the eastern sky. And at that moment a clattering roar of hoofs swept up like a storm before the wind, and a group of riders pulled their horses to a sliding halt before the cabin.
"Ahuh. Jig aboot up! I savvy," muttered Brazos, and stepping out of the door he flung down the saddle and blankets to stand at attention. He needed not to see the rifles to grasp that this was a posse and that he was the object of their onslaught upon the cabin.
"Hands up, cowboy!" came a harsh command.
"They're up," replied Brazos, laconically, suiting action to words. The leveled guns and grim visages of this outfit showed that they meant business. Brazos had seen many posses and had been a member of not a few. Most of these riders had the cowboy stripe, but some of them, particularly the harsh-voiced, hard-faced leader, appeared to be matured men.
"Pile off, Stuke, an' you, Segel," ordered this leader. Whereupon two riders flung themselves out of their saddles to rush at Brazos from each side. "Grab his guns! Search him ... Take everythin'."
"Heah!" flashed Brazos, hotly. "Don't take thet letter!"
"Careful, cowboy, or we'll bore you. ... Search the cabin. ... Jim, rustle up his hoss."
Brazos' rage had burst from his cool mien owing to the rude theft of his precious letter. But he was quick to recognize real peril and on the instant became his old self. He surveyed the group of horsemen to ascertain that they were all strangers to him and no different from any hard determined outfit of Westerners. In a moment, he made certain that not one of them had ever seen him. He had not been in that vicinity for six years, which was a long time on the range.
"Bodkin," called a rider from within the cabin, his voice queer.
"What! You found him?" queried the leader, sharply.
"Yes. Up in the loft. Send someone in to help us let him down."
Brazos listened with strained ears to the sounds and husky voices inside the cabin. Murder had been perpetrated. And he was to be held for it. The situation was critical and his life depended upon his nerve and wit. Presently three of the posse came out of the cabin, carrying the body, which they deposited upon the grass. Brazos' startled gaze bent down upon a handsome youth scarcely twenty years old, evidently a cowboy from his garb, dark-haired and dark-skinned. He had been shot through the back. All his pockets were turned inside out.
"Allen Neece," burst out Bodkin, in surprise. He had not expected to see the owner of that name.
"Shot in the back."
"Purty cold-blooded, I'd say."
"Bod, I reckon we might jest as wal string this hombre up."
These and various other comments greeted Brazos' ears, and drew from Bodkin the harsh decree:
"Cowboy, you're under arrest."
"Hell! I'm not blind or deaf," retorted Brazos, sarcastically. "May I ask who yu air?"
"I'm Deputy Sheriff Bodkin of Las Animas, actin' under Kiskadden's orders."
"An' what's yore charge?"
Excerpted from Twin Sombreros by Zane Grey. Copyright © 1940 Zane Grey, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.