Tuesday Sampler: Blood Land by R. S. Guthrie

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In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Tuesday’s Sampler features an excerpt from Blood Land, a hard-boiled crime story from R. S. Guthrie.

As one reviewer said: This is a brilliant masterpiece that will keep you spinning in many directions. It will sharpen your crime senses and reveal shocking discoveries in a town begging for answers.

The Story

Crime’s an ugly constant in the big city. L.A. Chicago. New York. But when a savage murder brutalizes a small town and neighbor turns on neighbor, a tough-as-nails cop is essential to restoring order.

Blood Land is a gritty, emotional saga set in the Wyoming badlands with both greed and vengeance at its core. When billions of dollars in natural gas rights hang in the balance and the town’s top law officer’s wife is slain by her own blood, a reluctant hero is forced to battle his own demons and ultimately choose between justice, revenge, and duty.

In the tradition of Dennis Lehane, Tony Hillerman and James Lee Burke, Guthrie’s sparse, haunting storytelling compliments his talent for creating richly-drawn, unflinching law officers with human frailties and a sense of justice.

The Sampler

R. S. Guthrie
R. S. Guthrie

The Willow Saloon was a billiards parlor from the late eighteen-hundreds. Sage, Wyoming, sat eight miles northwest of Wind River, a one-horse town made up of the saloon, a post office, and a small country store. A previous owner converted the upstairs of the Willow from bordello to residence in the early nineteen-hundreds.

Pruett put his hand on the hood of Ty’s truck. It was the only vehicle in the small dirt lot. The metal had long since cooled, the engine quiet. The sheriff unholstered his revolver. He checked the cylinders and eased up the stairs, peering through the dirty glass of the saloon door, his nerves dancing expectantly.

Ty sat alone, stooped over the Springfield. A weathered Stetson and a half-empty bottle of Wild Turkey sat next to him on the bar. Pruett saw no one else. Owner and barkeep, Roland Pape, was in the wind. Or worse.

Pruett opened the door slowly. He targeted the sweaty, thinning hair on the back of Ty McIntyre’s head. The door creaked loudly, but the old cowpoke remained motionless.

“Sheriff,” Ty finally said.

“Yep,” Pruett answered, his finger steady on the trigger guard. “That rifle loaded, Ty?”

“Wouldn’t be much of a rifle if it weren’t.”

“You know where Roland is, Ty?”

Ty pointed toward the back door.

“Took a powder,” he said. “Weren’t much jaw in him. Not like usual.”

“Ty, I’m taking you in. Just two ways that happens.”

“Takin’ me in?”

“I’ve got big questions need answering,” Pruett said. Streams of sweat ran down the nape of his neck and into the middle of his back. His stomach bucked and kicked like a wild horse. His mind screamed at him, questioning, wanting to know why he didn’t put a bullet in McIntyre’s spine. The law seemed insurmountably distant from Pruett. Frail. Unworthy of such moments in a man’s life.

“I said I got to arrest you,” Pruett hissed.

Ty did not answer him but he slowly raised the bottle and guzzled from it.

Hate swirled inside Pruett, no chimney for escape. He cocked the hammer of his weapon. The loud CLACK snapped the tenuous still of the bar. Ty’s head rose up. His shoulders tensed.

“Need you to put those hands on the back of your head, Ty. Slow and easy. Like you mean it,” Pruett said.

“Or it could end right here,” Ty said. “That’s what you was thinkin’.”

“End comes in a lot of ways,” Pruett said. “It doesn’t have to go down ugly.”

The tension in Ty McIntyre’s back and shoulders suddenly gathered itself. His head tilted back and forth, neck joints popping.

Pruett braced himself. He knew Ty had deceptive, bobcat quickness. The sheriff once saw the old cowpoke punch three college-aged drunks in the face; three in a row before any of them figured the situation.

Pruett put his finger on the trigger, exerting just enough pressure to be a fraction from discharge.

“Ain’t no use no more,” Ty said, and reached for the Springfield.

When the brain gets nervous, time slows down. It’s a coping mechanism. Processing cycles. The sheriff’s world dropped into quarter speed.

Movement in the shadows near the back of the bar.

Ty’s hand curling around his weapon.

The smoothness of the Smith and Wesson’s curved trigger.

Sweat running freely.

Ty McIntyre’s skull.

Bethy.

The ache in his heart.

The avenger inside, demanding vengeance:

Him or you.

Then, at the moment he needed to react, Pruett froze.

The soldier training did not fail him. The years of law enforcement experience did not fail him. His mettle did not fail him.

It was his will to live that quit on him.

Pruett eased off the trigger.

Let the chips drop where they might.

Ty McIntyre hesitated, as if he’d read the old sheriff’s mind—and then he slid his rifle the length of the bar, raised his arms, and placed his hands on the back of his head. Roland Pape shuffled out from behind a table near the stairs to his home.

Pruett exhaled.

Sick. Shamed.

The sheriff used his left hand to put the handcuffs on Ty. He read the man his rights and escorted Ty out to the Suburban, wishing he could wash the stench of cowardice from his own skin.

 

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