Bloodbath At Picture Rock

by Pete Peterson

In Oregon of 1875, Trace Savage, having gained a reputation as a manhunter, is commissioned by the Governor to break up a ruthless robber band of killers, vicious remnants of Quantrell's raiders, harassing the trade routes and gold camps. Operating from the tiny town of Picture Rock, Savage and his crusty, wisecracking partner, Grizz Hawker, find themselves pitted as well against a mad butcher who is systematically murdering the town's citizens. Savage unravels the absorbing mystery in Picture Rock, and faces the blazing outlaw guns of the Castle gang.

Sprinkled with refreshing humor and peppered with love scenes, this is a spellbinding tale of taut drama and explosive action.


Chapter One


Buzzards hovered in tightening downward spirals above the cemetery two miles north of town, signaling to the dirty little settlement of Picture Rock that there had been yet another killing. The sinister silhouettes swooped silently through a shimmering haze to keep their pact with death, while a milling and frightened knot of onlookers gathered in the dusty street to try and determine which of them was missing.

"Another killing! Sheriff, ain't you going out

Ivor Campbell wheeled to face the speaker. His six foot frame carried half a hundred pounds too many, most of the excess evident in the prodigious paunch that strained at the once-white apron at his waist. The big, rumpled Scotsman's unmanageable shock of sandy hair, now matted with sweat and dust, bounced crazily in springy spirals as he moved. His sun-peeled button of a nose seemed too small to fit the red slab of his face. His eyes were a deeper blue than the cloudless, sun-bleached sky. Florid cheeks, cobwebbed with tiny purple veins, trembled as he spoke.

“Blast it, Hester. Quit callin' me 'Sheriff'. I'm a storekeep, not a lawman. And no, I'll not go out there. Not by myself, I won't.”

Hester Biggers' face, reddened by the oppressive heat, took on an even deeper, vermilion cast. She stuck out her lower lip to send a blast of air chasing an errant tendril of graying hair from her eyes. A large, matronly woman, Hes­ter placed a work-callused palm across her brow to shield her eyes from the insistent rays of the sun, squint­ing again at the circling vultures.

“We did appoint you Sheriff, Ivor...after a fashion.” It was Honeycutt, the banker. Already half-soused at mid-morning.

Campbell glared at the sagging little man in the rumpled, three-piece suit and saw him shrink visibly under his steady gaze. Honeycutt's yellowed, red-rimmed eyes watered continuously, reminding the big Scotsman of a stray dog that had haunted the gates of the fort where he had been mustered out.

Ivor Campbell wiped a stream of salty sweat from his eyes with a furry forearm as big as a lamppost. He wondered whose body lay out there, attracting the ghoulish squadron of scavengers in the steely, heat-bleached sky. Hester and Honeycutt were right here, of course, as were pretty Molly Ashton, Hester's hired girl, Floyd Longtree, the sallow-faced gunsmith with the pained eyes, and Jimmy Washburn, the strapping young man whose body had outgrown his mind. Who all did that leave? Ivor's son, Con, who he thought was in the saloon. Ruta Pinder, the gorgeous saloon owner. Tempest and Lorene, the young women who worked for Ruta. Cobb, the big, good-natured colored man who tended bar at the Klamath Nugget. Old Emily Foley, probably laid up in her home with the vapors. And Rink Latigo, the card sharp. Only stranger in town was the boarder at Hester's rooming house. Hawker, his name was. Big bearded galoot wearing buckskins.


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