Guns of Destiny by William Heuman
Guns of Destiny – two novelettes about the expansion of the West, up the Missouri River by paddlewheel to the gold fields, and out along the Santa Fe Trail in a wagon train.
Guns of Destiny – two stories about the expansion of the West, up the Missouri River by paddlewheel to the gold fields, and out along the Santa Fe Trail in a wagon train.
Big Muddy Freeze-Out! (1947) – Down that wilderness waterway of the damned, steamed the packet Judy Greene, carrying a king’s ransom in golden dust and five score buckskin men toward a rendezvous at Graveyard Bend. . . . There, a double-crossed river captain, with a Smith & Wesson in his back, must smash his own proud boat on the rocks of the Big Muddy’s watery Boothill. . . .
Chapter One – Moon of the Big Freeze
Chapter Two – Ambush at Red Bluffs
Chapter Three – Army Renegade
Chapter Four – Blood in the Empire
Chapter Five – Pirate Combine
Chapter Six – Graveyard Bend
Guns Of Destiny (1945) – The fate of a nation depended upon the delivery or non-delivery of those weapons to the enemy that threatened the Southwest. And most of the load of preventing that delivery rested on the shoulders of freighter Bart Chaffee — whose chief equipment for fighting the enemy was guts, shrewdness—and a trick!
Chapter II – Battle Brewed
Chapter III – Grim Guns
Chapter IV – Mexican Menace
Chapter V – Float a War Away
Chapter VI – Siege In Water
Chapter VII – Gun Gamble
William Heuman (1912–1971) was born in Brooklyn, New York. He began writing westerns for the pulp magazines about 1944, but as they began to die out, he turned to writing direct-to-paperback for Gold Medal, Ace and Avon.
Heuman also screenwrote for television. In 1952 he wrote for The Chevron Theatre, in 1956 he wrote for The Ford Television Theatre, and in 1957 he wrote for Tales of Wells Fargo.
Heuman also wrote a number of sports stories and is probably best remembered for his Horace Higby series of juvenile sports stories.
Guns Of Destiny contains 10 illustrations.
Excerpt: Guns of Destiny
CHAFFEE came down from the texas deck where he’d been looking at the moon and letting the bitterness seep through him like a slow-working poison. He went down another flight of stairs to the boiler deck of the ornate Silver Belle, fastest side-wheeler on the Missouri, and from here he could look down over the main deck where the poorer passengers were already curled up for the night.
Bart Chaffee lit a brown Mexican cigarette, pulled his flat-crowned hat tight over his forehead, and shoved two powerful hands into his pockets. He was big— well over two hundred pounds, with the weight in the shoulders and the legs. He wore a black frock coat of broadcloth, with a flower-spangled vest and ruffled shirt. Back in Illinois he’d sported a high beaver hat, but he’d gotten rid of that when coming aboard ship. The flat-crowned sombrero would be more appropriate when he hit the Santa Fe trail with his dozen Chaffee “Specials.”
Below on the main deck were two new Pittsburgh wagons he’d purchased in St. Louis after that disastrous visit back home. The Pittsburghs, huge affairs with red wheels and blue-painted bottoms, would make it appear as if the trip east had been partly a business affair, and it would take some of the sting out of the disappointment. In Westport he might even pretend that he’d gone east primarily to purchase new wagons, but then there was the matter of the new house. A single man didn’t purchase a house for himself.
“I am very sorry, Bart,” Elsa’s mother had told him. “I’m afraid she has made a poor match for herself.”
Stunned, the big man had listened. He’d thought he was engaged to the girl. They’d gone out together and he’d spent many evenings in the Mason home; he’d played cards with Elsa’s father, and both parents liked him.
“Mr. Edwards came here last fall,” Mrs. Mason explained, “and he saw quite a lot of Elsa. I thought she had told you they were to be married.”
“She hadn’t told me,” Bart Chaffee stated plainly. Some of the life had gone out of hie gray eyes, and his heavy jaw was slack. He’d worked for two years in Westport, building up his trade till he was reputed one of the richest traders on the Trail. Each spring he sent his dozen Conestogas down the trail with five thousand pounds of trade goods for the New Mexicans in Santa Fe. He’d bought the big house on the outskirts of town as a surprise for Elsa; he was dickering for the purchase of a beautifui little gig in which Elsa could do her shopping in town.
“I suppose,” Mrs. Mason explained, “Elsa intended to write you after they reached New York. Mr. Edwards has a position with the railroad.”
“Railroad man,” Chaffee muttered. “I hope she’s happy.” He’d stumbled out of the house after that because there wasn’t much more to say. He hadn’t received any letters from Elsa in two months, but mail was very slow on the Missouri and he hadn’t thought anything of it. She’d been going with Edwards, the railroad man, all the time.
BART CHAFFEE listened now to the muffled talk from the passengers below, and the music drifting out through the open door of the Silver Belle’s vast saloon. They were dancing inside, young couples, many of them going upriver for the ride, with the intention of returning on the down-river trip. These people below on the main deck had come to stay. They’d brought their baggage with them and it was piled up around his two Pittsburghs, cases, bales, crates by the dozen.
There were lank Missourian teamsters here, anxious to sign up with the Santa Fe traders and take the long trip to Santa Fe. There were hunters and mountain men, going back to their proper environment after a look at the East.
Standing the shadows at the far end of the boiler deck, Chaffee heard one of the saloon doors open. Turning his head slightly, he saw a couple step out, the girl in a dark cloak. He caught a glimpse of their faces, and he recognized them, having seen these two together since the start of the trip.
The girl was slender, dark-eyed, dark-haired, a different kind of beauty compared with Elsa Mason’s golden hair and laughing blue eyes. The first day Chaffee had seen these two together he’d been struck by the singular watchful expression on the dark-haired girl’s face. She laughed and she spoke vivaciously, but deep in her eyes, as he’d watched her in the saloon, was that attitude of vigilance as if she had another motive aside from that of friendliness.
Several times Bart Chaffee had seen her in the company of a slim, sallow-faced man with burning black eyes. There was a definite resemblance between these two, and Chaffee mentally designated them as brother and sister. He’d had a drink with the brother at the ship’s bar and had caught the name, “Mr. Henderson,” but he’d seen little of the young man after that.
The girl’s partner was the strapping Floyd Garrison, Bart’s own size, golden-haired, smooth-shaven, with a deep cleft in his massive chin. He had odd-colored, cat’s-green eyes, and a booming laugh.
Floyd Garrison was tremendously popular among the men aboard ship, as well as the women. Many times Bart Chaffee watched him saunter through the card rooms, a big diamond flashing on his finger and in his gray silk cravat. Garrison lost money in some of these games, and he lost it cheerfully, always insisting upon buying the drinks for his victors.
The big man with the golden mane had shown definite interest when he’d learned that Chaffee was a Santa Fe trader, and Bart had wondered at that.
“Possibly, Mr. Chaffee,” Garrison had said, smiling, “we can do business in Westport.”
“At your service,” Chaffee told him. He didn’t particularly need business, because his wagons were always filled with his own trade goods; but on occasions, as a favor, he took a small cargo down the Trail for a friend.
Garrison and the Henderson girl passed within three yards of Bart as he stood against the railing, but they did not see him. He heard Garrison’s deep, soft laugh, and he wasn’t sure whether he envied this man or not. Bart had had his own romantic disappointment, and he had the feeling that a man was hit just once like that. After that, like a horse which had been whipped badly, he shied away.
As the couple passed beneath the stairway leading to the hurricane deck, Bart saw a shadow slip out from the saloon outer wall, and then another. They disappeared around the bow of the boat, hurrying after Garrison and the girl.
QUICKLY, Bart Chaffee threw away the half smoked cigarette, and started after them. During the past few nights there had been talk of footpads on board ship. They came up from the motley collection of passengers on the main deck, knocked down their victim with a club, stripped him of wallet and jewelry, and then fled to the lower deck again. Captain Smith of the Silver Belle had warned all passengers to be careful at night, and Bart Chaffee remembered those diamonds Garrison flashed openly.
He caught a glimpse of the couple a short distance ahead, walking along the guard, Garrison’s head up, seeming to be laughing at the moon. The two footpads were still slinking along the saloon wall, getting up closer to their victim.
Chaffee went after them silently, coming up just as the man in the lead was getting ready to spring on Garrison’s back. He had his right hand raised when Chaffee grasped him by the back of the collar, yanking him around.
The big Santa Fe trader smashed a fist into this man’s face and then let him drop. The second robber had let out a short cry of warning, and was turning to run when Chaffee caught him by the arm, powerful fingers tightening like steel bands.
Excerpt From: William Heuman. “Guns of Destiny.”
More by William Heuman