Blood Money and Other Stories – five hard nosed Western stories by Gunnison Steele about killers, gamblers, bounty hunters, and revenge. Gunnison Steele was the pseudonym for Benny W. Gardner.
The Meanest Man (1947) – Sam Radd didn’t know which was worse-killing the banker or telling the sheriff that his own partner had done it.
Showdown (1946) – It didn’t seem possible that Sid Jarret would be able to beat Tuck’s four kings-but whether Jarret could or not, Tuck had still lost too much to be able to cover Jarret’s bets.
Claws of Perdition (1945) – Seeking hidden gold, Sonora Drake held Adam Boone helpless!
The Ironclad Alibi (1945) – Nick Ryan could prove he wasn’t the murderer being sought for-prove it with the finality of the grave.
Blood Money (1934) – It was a grim joke to Kerrigan. Here they were on the arid wastes of the desert, sun-scorched, dried, waterless. And he was worth five thousand dollars to Fallon, if Fallon could get him to Three Pines—alive. And it looked as if the desert would be the ultimate victor.
Blood Money and Other Stories has 9 illustrations.
ATOMIC specks in that seemingly infinite world of blistered rocks and sun-scorched sandhills, they rode on and on.
Kerrigan was out in front. He had lost all sense of time. His thirst was a thing alive, merciless, flaying; his lips were cracked, his tongue felt like a wad of cotton in his mouth. Looking back, he saw the gaunt figure of Fallon riding slowly in a white cloud of alkali dust. His stopped his weary mount and waited for Fallon to come up with him. Fallon came alongside, peering suspiciously from red-slitted eyes, gun in hand.
Kerrigan grinned painfully. “I got to thinkin’, Fallon, what a joke this is gonna be on you. Think of it—five thousand dollars! That’s a wad of money, ain’t it? And it’s all yours— only you won’t ever get your claws on it. After all this trouble and misery, too. Funny, ain’t it?”
“Keep your blasted mouth shut!” Fallon said viciously. “Yeah, it’s a lot of money, and I’ll get it too.”
“And that ain’t all, Fallon,” Kerrigan chuckled in grim humor. “You not only lose the five thousand—you lose your life at the same time! But I don’t lose anything. I may shrivel up and die here in this desert, but what’s the difference? If I go back to Three Pines with you I’ll hang for somethin’ I didn’t do.”
“You ain’t goin’ to die, not out here,” the gaunt man said doggedly. “You’re worth five thousand dollars to me—alive. I’m takin’ you back to Three Pines.”
“But it ain’t worth it. I’d just as soon starve to death as hang, maybe a little rather. But why argue? We’re both goin’ to die here in this pot of heat. Can’t you see the joke, Fallon?”
“It ain’t funny to me,” Fallon croaked hoarsely, “and it won’t be funny to you by the time I’m through with you. Move on, now!”
They rode on again, headed toward the purple line of mountains that rose abruptly out of the desert to the south.
After a while it got so Kerrigan didn’t mind the hot sun, nor the jolting of the horse. For the first time in what seemed like ages he wasn’t afraid to sleep. That was another joke on Fallon, he thought just before he dozed off; now it was Fallon’s time to stay awake and worry.
“I didn’t shoot that knife-stickin’ snake in the back,” Kerrigan was muttering in his worried sleep. “Can’t you see that? Well, why not give me a drink of water, to square the way you’ve treated me? “Why not—?”
When he awoke his misery had increased. The purple line of peaks seemed no nearer. Fallon still rode doggedly behind him, head tucked against the searing wind that blew in fitful puffs across the desert, floppy old hat concealing his hawkish, predatory features. Concealing, too, the greedy flame in his cold, close-set eyes, and the cruel cast of his thin lips beneath the yellowish mustache that curled downward over massive, rock-ribbed jaws. Fallon was a deputy sheriff back in the cowtown of Three Pines, but he was a hard man, a bulldog sort of man who’d do what he set out to do, one way or another, regardless of what happened to those who stood in his way.
The three preceding days proved that, Kerrigan thought, and reviewed them in his mind. Three days ago he had broken from the Three Pines jail, had stolen a horse and struck into the desert, without even time to stock-up on water, a regrettable but unavoidable mistake. Along toward that first night he had swallowed the last of his water—and had discovered the presence of Fallon on his back-trail.
He might have beaten most men, but he couldn’t beat Fallon and the desert combined. Two tortuous days and nights the lanky lawman had trailed him tenaciously across the burning, waterless desert and badlands. Always playing a wary, waiting game; for Kerrigan had a gun, and Fallon respected his deadliness with it. Always he had clung just a little out of gun range, not trying to come up with the man he was trailing. Waiting. He knew Kerrigan had no water, and he knew thirst in the desert was a more potent weapon than a gun. So he resorted to an old desert manhunter’s ruse, that of torturing a victim with his own thirst till the starving fugitive surrendered in the expectation of getting a drink of water.
But young Kent Kerrigan was a desert man. Six feet of brawn, the strength and endurance of the red-haired buckaroo was equal to that of Fallon. Tortured with almost unbearable thirst and lack of sleep, two days and nights he had watched that mocking figure behind him. Time and again he had watched in a frenzy of longing as Fallon lifted a canteen to his lips and obviously swigged long and deeply.
Sweet, pure water—while he, Kerrigan, was slowly dying of thirst. Cursing in helpless rage, he’d decided not to look; but always, fascinated, he watched when Fallon lifted the canteen. Finally he decided to surrender. He’d drink all the water he wanted— then there’d be plenty of time to think about getting the best of Fallon, of escaping again. So he had thrown away his gun and held up his hands, to show Fallon he was ready to swap his freedom for a drink of water.
But Fallon’s ruse had been a grim one. He was thirsty as Kerrigan; he had no water. Sometime during the first night, he told Kerrigan, his horse had stumbled on the side of a rocky gully, springing leaks in both canteens. He’d lost what water he couldn’t swallow hurriedly. His swigging from the empty cans had been a trick, to make Kerrigan think he had plenty of water.”
Excerpt From: Gunnison Steele. “Blood Money and Other Stories.”
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