Mckeag’s Mountain by L. J. Martin Excerpt

mckeags mountain

An Excerpt from McKeag’s Mountain by L. J. Martin

“So old man Prager’s got his claws in you too?” McKeag asked accusingly, before accepting the extended handshake. But Silas didn’t answer, and his silence was answer enough.

For old times sake, Dan went ahead and took the banker’s slim hand and shook. But he wasn’t about to let the subject lay, so he pressed.

“Exactly what problem would I have, Silas?”

“You know what problem.”

“You say it. You’re turning me down…so you say it.”

The banker cut his eyes away, then collapsed and leaned way back in his chair. “Dan, there are a half dozen rough cut men in Helena–“

“Seven, I’ve heard.”

“Seven then. Men unknown to us townfolk. Outsiders. Rumor is…they’re here to kill you.”

Dan McKeag chuckled. “They don’t have that kind of bark on them, Silas. You know damned well, it’s been tried by many. Many rougher than any the Bar X can hire.” Dan McKeag hunkered forward, leaning both ham-size scarred fists on the oak desk, and his voice became low and gravely. “Many rough and tumble old boys have tried to shoot me down, and before that my old man, and before him, old Sean McKeag. McKeags seem to take a lot of killing. That’s only one of the reasons we’ve always been a good credit risk.”

Silas seemed to redden a little, then cleared his throat before he responded. “I’d suggest you find a quiet way out, Dan. The back way, if you would. We don’t want that kind of trouble here at the bank.”

McKeag chuckled sardonically, his eyes, warm blue, flattened, unreadable. “Well, Silas old friend, why don’t you just reach in that bottom drawer of yours and strap on that hogleg you keep there. Then you and me’ll walk over to Cutter’s Saloon or the Montana Club, and I’ll buy you a drink…just to show you there’s no hard feelings.”

Again, the banker reddened, then picked up some papers and began to shuffle them into a square stack. “I’ve got enough work here to last me a–“

“Turning down old friends is damned hard work, I imagine. Hope you sleep well, Silas.” With that, McKeag turned and started for the door. But he stopped short, someone blocking his way.

The man in front of him, a head shorter than the cattleman but just as broad in the shoulders, was well known to Dan McKeag, in fact related if marriage counted. But they hadn’t spoken in eight years. Dan had walked right by him at the bank’s door on the way in, as they’d passed many times before in years past…hadn’t spoken since the day Dan had
taken Erin Dundee, the man’s sister, in matrimony against the wishes of her brother, Padraig. The shorter man wore a brass badge and carried a sawed off double-barreled shotgun casually in the crook of his thick arm. He wore a revolver low on his right side, butt forward.

“Dan,” Padraig Dundee said, as if they had just had a pleasant dinner the night before, like the eight strained years had never happened.

McKeag pulled up short, and eyed the shorter man for a long moment before he spoke. “Pad,…you decide to bury the hatchet?”

“If it was up to me Dan old boy, I’d bury one in yer ugly noggin, but I’d never have a peaceful moment if’n I did.” Paddy laughed—the crooked smile hadn’t changed—then turned serious. “Thought you might need some company today. Looks like it might storm outside.”

“It’s clear as a mountain stream out there, Pad. I can handle the weather.”

Pad Dundee snickered again, and he reached up with his free hand and tugged on a cauliflowered earlobe. “It would pain me little sister, Danny me boy, should you get swept away by a stiff wind, or high water, or a load of buckshot, so I believe I’ll just limp along.”

The banker rose again, glowering. “You’re on duty, Dundee. You’ve got business right here.”

Pad Dundee had been a bank guard at the Helena Merchants and Miners for over a year, the only job he could find after taking a .45/.70 to the leg while riding shotgun for the express company, but he dismissed the banker with a wave of his hand as if it was nothing. “Then I believe I quit, Mr. Bingham. I’ll be walking my brother-in-law over to have a mug.”

For the third time that afternoon, the banker’s face reddened. “There won’t be any coming back, Dundee. You leave your duty–“

Paddy Dundee counted on his fingers as Bingham spoke, then interrupted, “I’ll be having the eight dollars you owe me, if that’s the case. I was thinkin’ about quitin’ yesterday…when I saw you kowtowin’ to old man Prager.”

Silas Bingham puffed up like a tabby cat facing a coyote, but said nothing, only spun on his heel.

Dundee and McKeag stood in silence as the banker stalked over into a teller’s cage, drew the money, returned, then handed it to the bank guard, who removed his badge and stuffed the brass implement into the banker’s waistcoat watch pocket.

Then Pad Dundee tipped his hat to Bingham, “It’s been a pleasure guardin’ your money, Mr. Bingham,” then turned to Dan McKeag.

“This’ll be enough to buy us a thick steak and all the trimmin’s, and a good deal to spare…should we live till supper time.”

“You don’t need to do this, Pad.”

“Yes, Dan, I do. I’ve been studyin’ on this since yesterday, and I’m comin’ along, you like it or not. …Let’s go see what the dogs dragged in.”

McKeag’s Mountain by L. J. Martin is available in the Kindle format as a 2 for 1 ebook along with Wolf Mountain. For more info see Wolf Mountain / McKeag’s Mountain by L. J. Martin