Hell Come Sundown

Hell Come Sundown by Nancy A. Collins

Book: Hell Come Sundown by Nancy A. Collins Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nancy A. Collins
What?” Cuss snorted, startled from a light doze. “What’s wrong?”
    â€œIt’s getting closer to dawn. They’re lightening their load.” Hell said, swinging down from his saddle in order to pick up a discarded copper pan. He walked a few more steps, kicking aside the collection of cookware littering the ground. “Seems they tossed whatever was handy out the back of the wagons.”
    â€œWhat’s that?” Cuss asked, pointing at what looked to be a couple sacks of grain lying beneath a stunted yucca alongside the trail.
    Pretty Woman trotted her pony forward to investigate. As Hell moved to join her, she gave her partner a short, sad shake of her head. Although the body was sprawled belly-down on the desert floor, they could still see its face. Something had turned the dead man’s head completely around on his neck just as easy as winding a watch stem.
    â€œWhat in blue blazes is going on?” Cuss had dismounted as well and was leading the horse over to where they stood. “What’s so special about a few bags of oats tossed off the back of a—” His voice trailed off as he stared at the corpse. Cuss wiped his mouth with a clenched fist. “That’s Jimbo,” he said, his voice tight as a drumhead.
    â€œI’m sorry, Cuss.” Hell squeezed the old man’s shoulder.
    Cuss took a deep breath and turned his gaze skyward, as if searching it for respite from pain. “Why would someone do that to his body? Ain’t it enough they kilt him?”
    â€œIt prevents Sangre’s victims from coming back as dead’uns,” Hell explained. “It keeps down the competition.”
    â€œWe’ve got to bury him,” Cuss said.
    â€œThat’ll take too long.”
    â€œI don’t care!” the old man snapped in reply. “I ain’t gonna let the buzzards and coyotes scatter his bones from here to San Antonio! I owe the man that much.”
    â€œI find your loyalty admirable,” Hell said. “But he’s beyond caring now, Cuss.”
    â€œYes, but I ain’t.”
    Hell sighed and dropped his shoulders in acquiescence. “There’s no time to dig a grave. You’ll have to be satisfied with piling rocks on top of him.”
    â€œThank you, Mister Hell.”
    â€œCall me Sam.”
    Pretty Woman folded her arms and favored her partner with a half-smile. “For someone without a heartbeat, you sure are a soft touch.”
    â€œBite your tongue. Come on, let’s lend him a hand. The sooner we get finished, the sooner we can leave.”
    After twenty minutes, the three had succeeded in building a cairn over the body of the late Jimbo Tucker. As Cuss placed the last rock atop the pile, he dusted his hands on his thighs and turned to face the others.
    â€œI reckon this is as good a time as any to confess that I ain’t been honest with y’all.”
    â€œHow so?” Hell asked, raising an eyebrow.
    â€œWhat I said about Jimbo helpin’ me when I was down and out was true enough. But I lied to you about how I got my leg busted up. I weren’t a hand on the Lazy J. I was a gunrunner. I sold mostly to the Apache, or anyone else who could meet my price. Then, five years ago, I made the mistake of takin’ on a real asshole for a partner. He decided he could make out a hell of lot better without havin’ to split the profits with me. So the bastard snuck up on me while I was sleepin’ one night and broke my leg with an axe handle, then left me out in the desert to die. It was Jimbo Tucker who found me, more dead than alive, and brought me home.
    â€œHe and his wife nursed me back to health, even after I told ’em the truth about myself. I was a sinner—one of the worst ever born—yet they forgave me my trespasses and offered me a chance to live an honest life. I didn’t have no family to speak of as a young’un, so I’ve pretty much made my

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