December, 1881, Blanco, Texas
They rode in from the east in the cold dead of night, and topped a ridge
overlooking what appeared to be a horse ranch with a bunkhouse, barn and
a larger family house. They reined in their horses to a stop. They were
professional bounty hunters; without a word they knew the drill.
The Hatcher brothers stared silently into the darkness, down into the
valley below, as the cold wind blew and howled onto their upturned
faces, as if in grave anticipation of what was to come.
They saw a small gaslight lamp that hung by the entrance to the large
house just barely lighting the area. They didn't see any lights coming
from inside the house, nor the bunkhouse.
They only used hand gestures that directed each other to go here and
there. Again no words were necessary. They were assured that the
ex-Texas Ranger was living at the cabin with his wife by the Mexican
farmer who led them there. And also – according to the farmer –
there were no hired hands on the property. Thereby accomplishing
unfettered, what they were there to do.
That Mexican farmer, whose weathered face was a craggy as the landscape
had been in Emilio's cantina that night, as he overhead two
Americano’s talking about an ex - Texas Ranger who he knew was a
bounty hunter, that lived just outside of town. He was sure that was the
one to whom they were referring. So, building up enough courage he
gulped down the last of his whiskey, and after using his shirt-sleeve to
wipe it across his mouth, he approached them – ever hopeful he'll make
some money with his information.
Assuring the Americano’s he knew who they were asking about, he was
immediately hired to lead them to the cabin – after the promise of a
five dollar gold piece for his trouble.
One of the brothers, Willis Hatcher, the older of the two, a tall bulky
man with grey steely eyes, turned slightly toward his younger brother
with a hint of a smile. The brother Jerry Hatcher, a smaller version of
his brother with deep blue eyes just smiled back. They knew that tonight
was going to be easy pickings. They were unafraid, immune to fear, a
product of the war and the type of life they have set out for
These were men who had hunted and been hunted by professionals and rank
amateurs alike, and they were still alive. Both had been shot once or
twice and survived. And they bore the scars of that, as did their souls.
Everywhere they went, death and destruction were left behind as a grim
remainder. They were determined men. But that wasn't always so. After
the war, three of them, the Hatcher brothers and a cousin, named Calvin
West, came out of the Confederate Army barely alive – their minds
destroyed by all that death and war had to offer. Unable to find any
type of decent employment, they turned to the only profession worth
their salt – bounty hunting.
But life was hard in the beginning.
They were a band of twelve desperados, who made a bloody rep’ for
themselves through cunning and savage determination. They persevered to
the point that no one got in their way. If anyone interfered with them,
they were killed for their efforts. But now it was just the two
brothers, and the other members of the gang. It was Calvin West who had
been shot and killed in a card game, over a month ago – by the same
man they had been tracking, and now planning on killing tonight.
Their intended victim was a man named John Slade, who was an experienced
ex-Texas Ranger and a legend in Southern Texas. The word was that Slade
rode with Leander McNelly's Rangers down in the Nueces Strip and
crossing into Mexico getting involved in a heated gunfight where he was
seriously shot. Then later he turned to bounty hunting to make a living.
They needed to be extra careful, making sure nothing went wrong.
The night was dark, with only the moon occasionally obscured by scudding
clouds. They worked better at night, and they liked it that way. Before
them the valley was wide and spacious and level to some extent.
Dismounting, they led the horses to a clump of trees and tied them up.
Then in the distance, wolves howled loud and clear. Above the howl the
Mexican farmer, Tuco Sanchez, took it upon himself to say, "Senor, my
five pesos por favor," to the older of the two Americano’s.
The two bounty hunters stared stony eyed at the farmer al-most
forgetting he was still there. Their eyes revealed a surly confidence.
Willis Hatcher flipped back his coat, reached into his vest and pulled
out a thin gold coin and without looking at it, flipped it toward the
Mexican who failed to catch it in mid-air. He clawed the ground and
after a few seconds found it, and slipped it into his trouser pocket. He
had no horse and had rode double with one of the Americano’s, as he
now ran back the way they'd come, quickly making the sign of the cross
across his chest, while thanking La Virgen de Guadalupe, they hadn't
Once the Mexican was gone, the two brothers drew their Colt single
action peacemakers, checked the loads and without a word, started
walking down the ridge toward the cabin.
* * *
They say you can't live in the past that the future always looks
brighter since worry and rumination are the foes of the present. He'd
listened to those whose ideas at most made no sense till something
caused a dramatic change in their own lives.
He knew the feeling, and his life would never be the same.
He still clings to her vision and feels her presence just before he
wakes. And when he does, his memories of her come with a flood gate of
tears, and at the same time, of hated and revenge. They had come at
night like most wild animals do, looking for him. And they found him
alright – alongside his wife Emily.
He was always an extremely light sleeper, which saved his life once or
twice. So, the moment he knew something was wrong, was when he was woken
by the sounds of his bedroom door slowly opening – the rusty door
hinges gave them away. He saw them then, silhouetted against the light
of the full moon that shone through the bedroom's only window; two of
them with their guns drawn.
But he was too slow to react.
"Emily!" he cried out, momentarily halting, dazed, confused and taken by
surprise. His gunbelt was hanging from the bedpost on the other side of
the bed – left their just before their love making – too far for him
to reach, draw and defend Emily and himself.
Suddenly a shot rang out. "No!" Slade cried out.
The man on the right was the first to shoot as Slade tried to cover his
wife with his own body. But again, it was too late. She woke up almost
in a sitting position as the bullet entered her forehead, dead before
the impact of the slug threw her onto her back, with him on top of her.
A few seconds may have passed, or less, he had no way of knowing, when
he heard one of the two killers shout out just before he fired his gun
once again, "This is for our cousin, lawman!"
John Slade quickly glanced over at his pistols, if only I could reach my
gun's, the thought raced through his mind, and just as he tried reaching
for them over his wife's body, his tranquil bedroom was turned into a
bedlam of horror as the intruders fired their guns several times more as
John Slade's body shook with the impact of the heavy caliber bullets.
The loud deep booming of the gunshots reverberated off the walls in the
small confine of the bedroom, as slug after slug found their marks.
Then, slowly Slade's right eye opened momentarily, and through the dim
light, he saw the killers backing away out of the cabin; as he slowly
started losing consciousness and with pain shooting through his entire
body, he struggled to rise.
But the pain was too intense.
Bleeding profusely from his wounds and unable to attempt getting up on
his elbows once again, he slumped back on top of Emily, crying with his
wife's name dying on his lips as blood oozed from his mouth and nose.
With a great effort of will, he tried to focus for just a second on his
wife. Suddenly, the pain was gone, as his mind fell into that motionless
Excerpted from "Kill Slade - A John Slade Western" by Victor Alvarez. Copyright © 2018 by Victor Alvarez. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.