Lassiter and the Renegades of Sunk Mesa (Sample)

Short Description

The story follows Lassiter, a character introduced in Dinosaurs of the Unwinnable West. With the bundle of Jefferson League papers, Dinosaur Territory’s most notorious bounty hunter has what he needs to avenge his sister’s death. But a chance run-in with a pack of outlaws throws his plans off course.

Below is a sample from the middle of the story.

Lassiter jerked from sleep as the blare of a hadrosaur call sounded in the distance. He scrambled up and began searching for his dino. He could have tied a hobble to the creature’s legs to keep him nearby, but he didn’t—figuring the dino was hobbled enough by the arrow wound. Now Bullet had wandered off. Another mistake.

A dim twilight surrounded him. Bullet was nowhere to be found. Another hadrosaur called. Lassiter got the sense that he was surrounded. The renegades must still be about.

He surveyed the jungle’s edge and didn’t spot any renegades. He moved westward across the darkening plain, from shadow to shadow. When the light was at its dimmest, he found a fresh pachysaur track in a muddy dip in the ground.

He struck a match. In the orange light, he saw the clawprints were jumbled together with dozens of other sharp-toed prints. Lassiter could see that Bullet was being harassed by this pack of smaller creatures. They must have smelled the blood from his wound.

The jumble of prints pointed westward, from what the gunman could judge. He let the match sizzle in the mud and then followed the prints westward.

The hadrosaur calls grew fainter as darkness took over everything. A quarter moon gave him enough light to keep from stumbling. An occasional glint from light on a muddy print also showed him he was headed in the right direction.

A dark thought struck him as he walked—the bundle. It was strapped to the pachysaur…

Against his usual instinct, the gunman set off at a dead run. He headed roughly in the direction pointed by the dino tracks. He stumbled through the dark, occasionally scrambling along the ground to keep his frantic, foolish pace.

He cussed at himself.

Gone was his cool, controlled manner. It was that coolness that had kept him alive as he went through the Territory searching for revenge. Now that the end of his search was near—he had the name of the murderer and knew where to find him!—his mind was overheated. Because of this, he guessed, he was prone to mistakes like never before.

Would he get his revenge? Could he, if continued in this way?

His feet dropped from beneath him, and he slipped down a short bluff that was hidden by the darkness. He stood and rubbed his ankles, which had twisted in his boots.

Then he paused to let his body recover and tried to catch his wits.

He caught a faint animal noise on the wind. It was a rapid series of sounds—like two bobcats fighting it out. He crept toward the sounds. After a long mournful note joined the noises, Lassiter guessed their source.

He rushed again through the darkness and readied both pistols.

The noises grew louder. A cloud covered the moon and thickened the darkness. He’d have to rely on his ears.

Despite the darkness, he could tell it was a pack of five, maybe six little raptors. They scampered a small distance in front of him. He sniffed and caught the scent of his pachysaur’s blood in the air.

If he could kill one of the little raptors, the rest would flee.

Bullet moaned again. The big creature fell to the ground with a thump.

The cloud moved, and moonlight shined down. Lassiter could see the vicious little scavengers jumping and crawling all over the wounded dino. They were about knee height and shaggy with dark feathers.

He couldn’t fire on them—he’d risk hitting Bullet. So he blasted at the air to startle the animals. Then he jumped into the fray. Swinging the butt-end of his pistols, he cracked one on the skull. It flattened against the ground, motionless.

The other raptors squawked angrily and, then, snapping their sharp teeth, they each backed away from Lassiter and the pachysaur.

The gunman moved toward Bullet. The creature was slumped in the mud, wheezing. Lassiter reached down to the pachysaur. Grabbing first one foreclaw and then the other, the gunman crouched down such that his back was under Bullet. With a painful lurch, he hefted Bullet up to his feet. They staggered westward together, with Lassiter supporting most of Bullet’s weight on his back.

Orange light from a town glowed in the distance. Lassiter struggled over what seemed like an impossible length to reach the glow. He made it to the outskirts. He thought he had spent all night helping the pachysaur over the plain, but—judging from the sounds of carousing and revelry coming from the nearby buildings—the night was still young….

Learn what happens next!