A BRUTAL KICK in the ribs jolted him from a sound sleep and he lunged to his feet. The kicker, obviously a railroad detective, stepped back and drew a gun.
"Don't try it," he advised. "Just get off."
"Now? Are you crazy? At this speed I'd get killed."
"Tough. You either jump off or you get shot off."
Shanaghy looked at the gun. "Ah, what's the use? For two-bits I'd take that away from you and make you eat it, but I'll take the jump."
He turned and swung over the edge of the open gondola, hung for an instant to gauge the speed, then dropped from the ladder. He hit the ground knees bent and rolled head over heels down the embankment, coming to his feet in a cloud of dust to hear a fading shout.
". . . an' take your dirty duds with you!"
A bundle came flying from the train and hit the ground several hundred yards farther along. Then the train was past and he watched the caboose disappearing down the singing rails.
Shanaghy spat dust and swore at the disappearing train. "Ah, me lad!" he said bitterly. "There will come a time!"
He dug sand from his eyes and ears, muttering the while, and then he looked slowly around.
He stood on the bank beside the tracks in the midst of a vast and empty plain, nothing but grass, rippling in the wind. It reminded him of the sea when he crossed from Ireland.
He was thirsty, he was hungry, and he was mad all the way through. Moreover, he was bruised from the fall, adding to the bruises from what had gone before. He stared around again. At least, they would never find him here. He started to walk.
Suddenly he thought of the bundle thrown from the train. Dirty duds? He had no clothing but what he wore, and no possessions but the few things in his pocket. All else had been abandoned when he fled.
He had been on the dodge, unable to meet his friends for two days before he grabbed the freight train in the yards. He had not seen his enemies but he heard them coming. He was unarmed and the freight offered his only chance. He took the fast-moving train on the fly and once aboard he had fallen asleep. With daylight he awakened but, dead tired, he dropped off to sleep again while the train rumbled on its way. For most of two days and nights they had traveled, so now where was he?
He walked on until he came to the bundle. He paused, looking down at it as it lay among the weeds and brush near the foot of the slight embankment. A canvas haversack and a blanket-roll. He had never owned anything of the kind.
Shanaghy slid down the embankment and picked it up. Heavier than he expected. For a moment he considered leaving it but the blankets decided him. In a few hours darkness would be upon him and unless he was mistaken the nearest town was far, far away. Despite what the railroad bull had shouted, the blankets looked remarkably new and clean. Kneeling on the track he opened the haversack. The first thing he found was a slab of bacon wrapped in cheesecloth, then a small packet of coffee. "Some bindle-stiff's outfit," he told himself, then changed his mind. There was a packet of letters, a notebook with some loose papers tucked into it and a map.
In the compartment behind the letters was a carefully folded suit of black broadcloth, two clean shirts, a shirt-collar, cuff-links and a collar button. There was a suit of underwear, just off the shelf, a razor, soap, a shaving-brush, comb, pair of scissors and some face lotion.
What was more important, there was a .44 pistol and a box of ammunition. He checked the pistol. It was loaded.
Strapping up the bag he slung the outfit over a shoulder and started on.
The hour was early, just after daylight. He plodded on, traveling, he presumed, at a rate of about two-and-a-half miles an hour. He walked beside the track to avoid the nuisance of trying to walk the irregularly spaced ties.
He saw many rabbits, a snake, and several buzzards. There was nothing else. Not a tree, not an animal, not even a large rock. Not until the middle of the afternoon when he had walked nearly twenty miles did the country begin to change. Twice the railroad crossed ravines on trestles, and finally he came to a shallow wash that seemed to rapidly narrow until it turned a bluff. He went down the embankment and followed the wash around the bluff to where it opened into a tiny basin where there were a few willows, a cottonwood or two.
On a flat place under the trees there was grass, a circle of stones for a fireplace, already blackened by use, and much broken wood. After gathering sticks and bark he got a fire started. Then he cut slices from the slab of bacon and broiled them on a stick over the fire.
He cooked and ate as he cooked, looking around. It was a snug, comfortable place. For the moment he had food, the water was good to drink and he could rest and relax. He had no idea where he was except that he was west of New York. He had never seen a map of the United States, and since arriving from Ireland when he was eleven he had never been farther west than Philadelphia. He knew New York, and he had spent at least two weeks in Boston.
They would never find him here, but they'd be looking. Well, so let them look.
Nobody had ever said Tom Shanaghy was a nice man. From boyhood he had been a tough, iron-fisted bruiser, starting at six when he had helped his father in their blacksmith shop, shoeing horses, mending carts, sharpening plow-blades or whatever needed it.
His father, accepting a cash payment for joining up, had become a farrier . . . a horse-shoer . . . for the army and had gone out to British India. According to reports, he was killed there. Tom and his mother had emigrated to America, but she died on the way over and Tom Shanaghy landed in New York alone, without friends and without money.
He had walked off the boat into trouble. A boy about his own age, standing with a group of boys, called him "a dirty Mick," and Shanaghy replied the only way he knew. He went in swinging. His first swing dropped the boy who had yelled at him, his second swing dropped a companion, and then they were all over him.
He was alone and there were seven or eight of them. He slugged, kicked, bit and gouged, fighting with all he had because he was alone. Then suddenly another boy was beside him, a boy he had seen on the ship but had not known.
They were getting the worst of it when he heard a harsh voice. "Stop it, damn y'! Let the lads up!"
The boys who had started the fight scrambled to their feet, took one look and fled.
He was a big, burly man, almost six feet but strongly made. He wore a handlebar mustache and his nose had been broken. His knuckles were scarred with old cuts.
He took the cigar from his teeth. "What's y' name, bye?"
"Shanaghy, sir. Tom Shanaghy."
"Well, you're a fighter. A good fighter. Y' can take 'em as well as hand 'em out." The man turned sharply and looked at the other boy. "And who are you, m' lad?"
"Pendleton, sir. Richard Pendleton."
"Aye. Well, you've a way with your fists, too, and and you're a friend of Shanaghy's?"
"Not exactly, sir. We came over on the same vessel, but did not meet until now. He was in a bad fight, sir, and it seemed only fair that I should have a part of it. I do not like seeing such an unequal fight."
"Nor I . . . unless it's on my side they are. You're a strong lad. But you two be off wi' you now. It's not a good place for you."
Shanaghy wiped the blood from a cut over his eye. "Sir? It's an important man y' are, as anybody with half an eye can see. Have y' no friends that might need a strong lad? It's alone I am, for my good mother died on shipboard."
The big man took the cigar from his teeth, his eyes glinting with a cynical humor. "Ah? A smart lad, an' not above a bit o' the blarney." From a pocket he took a slip of paper, and on it wrote a few words. "Here's a street an' the number. You'll be askin' for a man name of Clancy. Tell him Morrissey sent you."
"And my friend as well?"
Morrissey started to speak but Richard Pendleton interrupted. "No, thank you. No need to speak for me. I've a place to go and people who will be meeting me. Thank you."
Morrissey walked away and the two boys looked at each other. Shanaghy was strongly built with black hair and blue eyes, a sprinkling of freckles over his nose. Pendleton was wiry and had light brown hair, somewhat the taller.
"Thanks," Shanaghy said. "You're a fine fighter and you saved me a beating."
"It was Mr. Morrissey saved us both. Did you notice? They are afraid of him. He had only to speak, and they ran."
"He's a big man."
"I think he's more than that. I think he is John Morrissey, the prizefighter and gambling man."
"Never heard of him."
"My father told me of him, among others. He is . . . or was . . . the heavyweight champion at bare-knuckle fighting."
The boys had then shaken hands and parted, Shanaghy to seek his job.
It was a restaurant and saloon. There were a dozen men in the place and he asked for Clancy. "Yonder, by the door. But speak softly, he's in a foul mood."
He crossed the room to Clancy and stopped before him. "I'm Tom Shanaghy. I've come for a job."
"You've come for a job? Beat it, boy! I've no jobs and no time for ragamuffins in off the street."
"Mr. Morrissey gave me this. It is for you." Shanaghy handed him the note, and as he glanced at it the tall, thin man beside him looked over his shoulder.
"You know Morrissey?"
"Clancy, don't argue with the lad. That's Old Smoke's fist . . . No other could write like him. You've no choice."
"All right," Clancy said irritably. "Make yourself useful." Abruptly, he walked away.
The tall man smiled. "It's all right, boy. Clancy doesn't like being told what to do, and least of all by Old Smoke. However, he'll stand by it. You've a job, then." As an afterthought, he added, "I'm his partner here . . . Henry Lochlin. You get into the kitchen and help with the dishes, clean up around. There'll be plenty to do, and don't worry about Clancy. He isn't as mean as he sounds."
That was the way of it. He washed dishes, swept floors, peeled potatoes and ran errands.
A week later Henry Lochlin stopped beside him. "You're a good lad and you're doing well. You've worked before this, I take it?"
"Aye . . . My father was a farrier, sir. We shod the horses of all the gentry, and I raced some of them."
Lochlin looked at him again. "You've ridden races?"
"Aye, on the dirt and on the turf, steeplechase as well. I rode first when I was nine, sir. That is, my first race was then. I've been up eleven times, sir."
"Good stock, those Irish horses."
"The best, sir. The very best."
"Did you win at all?"
"Three times, sir. We were in the money seven times, Mr. Lochlin."
"You're small for those big Irish horses."
"But strong, sir. I helped my father with the work. I have shod horses myself, a time or two."
Lochlin nodded. "One of these times, drop in on McCarthy. He's got a blacksmith shop down the block. He might need help."
McCarthy was a pleasant man, and a good smith. Shanaghy recognized that at once, and watched him with pleasure. His own father had been good or else they'd never have let him shoe all that racing stock, but this man was good, too.
"If a man would live he must be the best," McCarthy said, one day. "There's many a smith in New York City, and there's more than two hundred thousand horses in the town, bye. Two hundred thousand! Did you think of that? Each horse will drop twenty-five or -six pounds of manure per day, and there's a stable in near every block on Manhattan! Think of that! The day will come when they will not tolerate a stable or a kept horse in the city! You'll see!"
"But how will they get about?"
"There'll be a way. Steam cars . . . someway."
"But what of you, then?"
"Ah, lad, there be three to four thousand on Manhattan who say they shoe horses, but there's but a few to whom I'd trust a good horse." He looked sharply at Shanaghy. "Your pa was a farrier? What happened to him?"
"He went out to India with the soldiers. He was needed, they said. He turned up missing after an attack and is thought to be dead. Many were killed that time, and I am sure he was, too. With the hot weather and all, they don't let bodies lie about waiting to be identified."
"Aye, 'tis the way of war. Many go and few return, and what happens to some of them you never know." McCarthy glanced at him. "What is it you want for yourself? To be a waiter in a saloon? It isn't much, lad. Better your father's trade and to go west."
"West? Where is that?"
"Ah, lad, there's a wide land beyond us here! A far, beautiful land. They do be sayin' there's gold yonder, and silver, and all manner of things. Mostly there's land free for the taking."
"And the savages."
"Aye. They be there, but there's savages enough in the city, too." He paused, hammer in hand. "It is a rough place where you be workin', lad. There's mostly women of no account, and among the men there's thieves and worse. 'Tis no fit place for a lad."
"It is what I have, and Mr. Morrissey sees after me."
"Aye . . . when he's of a mind to, and when he's sober. I like old John, don't you forget that, but he's a rough 'un, battered his way up with two hard fists and his wits and now he walks among the swells. Some of them sneer at him behind his back, but it is behind his back. They are all afraid of him, and when election comes he can get out the votes. Why," he added grimly, "it is said that even the dead come to life and vote when he speaks, and well enough it can be true, for I've seen the names of those dead these three years, and still voting!"
Tom Shanaghy chuckled, shaking his head. "He's the canny one!"
Excerpted from The Iron Marshal by Louis L'Amour. Copyright © 1979 by Louis L'Amour. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.