Joshua Love teams up with "Chewy" Bill Roberts to rustle cattle outside of Dallas, but neither of them realizes how deeply into the dangerous underworld that road will lead them, or how hard it will be to escape it.
Outlaw Starr Bookstore
Outlaw Starr: An Anthology of Fiction by Kai Starr
This is the first novel in the Desperado Western series. Rated PG-13 for language and violence.
Easy money--or a quick death!
Joshua Love, the crazy kid with a dark secret, has seen the likes of Chewy Bill Roberts before. Rustling cattle is easy money-until they get caught. And Josh is sure Chewy Bill will end up just like all the others, with terror in his eyes and a hole in his head.
Robbing stagecoaches turns out to be even more deadly. When the blood starts flowing, Josh and Bill are branded as outlaws, forever, true members of the Amarillas Gang, a ruthless bunch of cold-blooded killers.
Josh has other things to worry about: a gunfight over a scheming girl named Jenny, the price tag of a banjo-and a wanted poster with his face on it!
But if the law wants Joshua Love, they're gonna have to get to him before the Amarillas, who now want him dead.
"Chewy" Bill Roberts, Jenny Sue Carter and Joshua Love
Chewy Bill Roberts led Joshua Love into the small log cabin and lit the oil lamp. Josh looked the place over, noticed the iron-railed bed at the far end of the room, two rocking chairs in the opposite corner, and a whiskey barrel that sat between the chairs and served for a table. The fireplace was a tiny hole in the wall with a few rocks slapped up around it, and it had a small dutch oven hanging from a hook over the pile of ashes.
"It ain't but a little place, but it's free," said Bill, hanging his hat on one of the nails on the wall. "Won't nobody bother us, neither."
Josh walked to the center of the room and eyed everything in it, again. "So when you gonna tell me about this plan of your'n, Bill? Or is the plan to sit in this cabin all damn winter and yak about nothin'?"
"Joshua, can you quit bein' smartassed, for just a minute?" Bill scowled at him. "One minute, you all happy and smilin', and the next minute, you act like you ready to kill somebody."
"You been pesterin' me fer a damn month, Bill," Josh said, walking closer to glare into his eyes. "I done waited long enough to hear your genius plan."
"All right, all right!" Bill threw his hands up in front of him, as if to urge Josh into backing off. The boy was two or three inches taller than he was, and his antagonistic attitude made his height threatening, in spite of the fact that Joshua was a skinny whip of a boy. "The thing is, you and me's gonna get us some beeves to sell."
Joshua's eyes went hard, again. "You brung me here to get me to rustle cows?"
"If you want to call it that," Bill said, looking offended. "I call it raisin' our own brand by borryin' a few mavericks to start us off."
"Rustlin'," Josh insisted. "Why don't you just say that's what you want me to do? I done told you I ain't no damn fool. Ain't no use in you talkin' a jig around what you mean."
Bill scowled, again. "All right, it's rustlin'. I figure we can pick up a few of ol' man Gooding's wanderers, real easy. Put the runnin' iron to 'em to match the brand I done registered fer us, and sell 'em at a clear profit."
Josh's head was fiercely shaking, the minute he heard Gooding's name. "Naw, now, I ain't gonna steal nothin' from Mister Gooding. He ain't done nothin' but right by me." He squinted his right eye and wrinkled his nose up with it. "And I ain't lettin' you steal from him, neither."
"Damn it, Little Josh! What the hell you think I hired on there, for? It was to tell the size of the herd, and to see how the outfit runs and where'd be the best place to hit him!" Bill moved right into Joshua's face, scowling and nearly sneering at him. "I picked you out of the bunch 'cause you can cut and rope like nobody's business. You got courage and smarts and heat in you. Got your own horse and a good gun, everthing a rustler needs. You ain't gonna let me down, neither. Don't bother with that preachin' at me over what's right, 'cause I know that ain't what's drivin' your fire!"
Josh pressed back against him, his crazy blue eyes blazing with a fire that was echoed in his voice. "Don't you call me 'Little Josh' no more. You done lost that privilege with gettin' all in my face. And you might's well shut the hell up, 'cause you don't know a damn thing about what drives me."
The heat blasting out from Joshua's anger made Bill take a half step backward. "What do you care, if ol' Gooding was to lose a few beeves? Ain't like he can't afford it."
Josh followed him. "I care because the man done right by me, and he didn't have to. Now, if he'd cheated me or somethin', maybe I'd see your way. But he done me right, and he done you right, too."
Bill gritted his teeth in fury. "I can see this ain't goin' nowhere but to hell. You ain't gonna stand in my way, Joshua. I ain't gonna let you." He shoved his hand into his coat, grabbing for his gun.
But Joshua got his revolver out first and pointed it right in Chewy Bill's face. Bill froze, looked along that long black barrel and up into Joshua's rattlesnake eyes, but he couldn't read anything, there. They were as cold and empty as a snake's. In spite of that, Bill finally smiled, a smug little grimace of a smile, and started his hand toward his gun, again. "You ain't gonna shoot me, kid."
Joshua clicked back the hammer on his Navy Colt, and Bill's hand stopped, again. "Don't you make me shoot you, Bill Roberts," Josh hissed. "I sure as hell will. I done shot one man, and that one was a hell of a lot more to me than you are."
Bill found he couldn't move, caught in the terrible snare of those rattlesnake blue eyes. For all his rough talk, he'd never actually killed a man, and it unsettled his mind to think that goofy little sixteen-year-old Josh had killed one. Yet goofy little sixteen-year-old Josh, seven years his junior and already far more of a bad man than Bill had ever dared to be, still balked at harming someone who had been good to him.
Bill eased his hand back out of his coat, making sure Josh could see it was empty. "You ain't gonna have to shoot me. But maybe you think you got a better plan than mine? You want to hit some ranch we don't know nothin' about? Maybe get our heads blowed off or our necks broke?"
Josh kept his gun cocked, not ready to trust Bill, yet. "What's so damn good about a plan that has us stealin' from an outfit where the hands know us by sight?"
"Well, the general ideer is that you don't do it where nobody can see you."
"We ain't takin' no Q Bar animals." Josh eased the gun back. "You want me to catch cows fer ya, well, that's fine. I'll do it. Just ain't gonna rope no Q Bar brands. Any but them is fine by me."
"You are God damn crazy, boy." Bill shook his head and sighed. "Laid out, easy money, and you spittin' on it!"
"No, I ain't. I know how things is. You do that to somebody what ain't done nothin' but right by you, and you can be damn sure it'll come back around to bite hell out'n your ass. I don't know about you, but I don't like havin' my ass bit." Josh put the gun away, but his expression was still stony. "So you want me fer a rustler, or not?"
Bill tightened his lips, but nodded his head. "Yeah. Yeah, Josh, I want you. You gonna be one bad son of a bitch, someday. You know that?"
"I already am, Bill." He let his eyes sink to the floor. "My soul's been gone more'n a year, now. Ain't likely to ever get it back." He looked up, again, and smiled his crooked grin. "But I guess that means I might's well make the best of it. If I's to get shot dead or strung up fer rustlin', well, it wouldn't be no loss, would it?"
That brought a grin back to Chewy Bill's face. "Now that's the kind of attitude that'll put a fire in your hat and make you a rich man! Make us both rich men."