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The Quest

Max Brand

  Copyright © 2009 by Golden West Literary Agency

  First Skyhorse Publishing edition published 2014 by arrangement with Golden West Literary Agency

  The name Max Brand® is a registered trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and cannot be used for any purpose without express written permission.

  “Paradise Al” by David Manning first appeared in Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine (6/4/32). Copyright © 1932 by Street & Smith Publications, Inc. Copyright © renewed 1959 by Dorothy Faust. Copyright © 2009 by Golden West Literary Agency for restored material. Acknowledgement is made to Condé Nast Publications, Inc., for their co-operation. “Paradise Al’s Confession” by David Manning first appeared in Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine (7/23/32). Copyright © 1932 by Street & Smith Publications, Inc. Copyright © renewed 1959 by Dorothy Faust. Copyright © 2009 by Golden West Literary Agency for restored material. Acknowledgement is made to Condé Nast Publications, Inc., for their co-operation.

  “The Quest” by Max Brand first appeared in West Magazine (5/33). Copyright © 1933 by Doubleday, Doran & Co. Copyright © renewed 1960 by Dorothy Faust. Copyright © 2009 by Golden West Literary Agency for restored material.

  All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without the express written consent of the publisher, except in the case of brief excerpts in critical reviews or articles. All inquiries should be addressed to Skyhorse Publishing, 307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018.

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  Skyhorse® and Skyhorse Publishing® are registered trademarks of Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.®, a Delaware corporation.

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  eISBN: 978-1-62873-896-4

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available on file.

  ISBN: 978-1-62636-210-9

  Printed in the United States of America


  Paradise Al

  Paradise Al’s Confession

  The Quest

  About the Author

  Paradise Al

  The year 1932 saw the publication of twenty-three short novels and fourteen serials by Frederick Faust. All but two of these appeared in Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine, Faust’s primary market beginning in 1921 and lasting through the mid-’Thirties. “Paradise Al”, the first of a duo of stories, appeared in the June 4th issue under the David Manning byline. In it Faust deftly wove a number of plot elements including a long-standing feud between two families, an unbroken wild horse, and an Eastern criminal on the lam who takes on a false identity.


  The first pinch of autumn was in the air that morning, and the cold filled the blue mist that lay in the hollows around Jumping Creek; all the lower flanks of the mountains were dimmed by the same exhalations, although their tops gloried in the clear upper air, far above timberline.

  Paradise Al, looking out from the blind baggage of the passenger train as it stormed up the grade toward the wide railroad yards of Jumping Creek, noted all of these features, and he saw, furthermore, how the leaves of the bushes along the hills were stained with yellows and reds and purples, some of them already brown and crisp. The wind, as he leaned out, cut sharply against his thin, handsome face and threatened to freeze his fingers to the handrail that he so firmly gripped. However, he was not perturbed by this. Legs were what counted, in the maneuver that was to follow, so he squatted half a dozen times and rose again quickly in order to make sure that his running muscles were in perfect trim. Then he slipped down the steps, clinging with both hands, his feet resting on the lowest step, and his body bent far outward in a bow, and finally let go with his right hand so that his body swung rapidly out. Just as he faced into the wind of the train’s passage, he dropped clear. His feet began to run in the empty air, swiftly, and, as he struck the grade beside the track, which seemed to be shooting backward with hurricane speed, he was sprinting with all his might.

  Even so, the forward impetus threatened to hurl him on his face. When he forced back his head and shoulders with an effort, the added weight made his knees sag, and he staggered a bit from side to side, but by the time the last car of the train had shot by, leaving a whirl of dust to curl about him, Paradise Al was in control of the situation.

  He dropped to a jog, and then to a walk. After that, he paused and dusted himself with care, took off his coat, shook it out, examined it with a minute inspection in the search for grease stains and, finding none, smiled with pleasure.

  He was half into his coat again when two men stepped out from behind a pile of ties; one of them had empty hands, but the other carried a Colt revolver of a formidable length.

  “I told you, Jay,” said the man with the gun, “that the tramp royals and all the fast boys climb off down the track a way . . . but I didn’t know that they got off clear down here. You don’t need to get all the way into that coat, brother.”

  The last was addressed to Paradise Al, and the latter made no further effort to get into the coat, the sleeves of it manacling him perfectly.

  “Fan him, Jay,” said the man of the gun.

  Jay, accordingly, went through the pockets of the tramp. The latter said: “This is an outrage. If you men pretend to represent law and order in this town . . . ”

  “Oh, can that,” said he of the gun. “Shut up and be reasonable. You’re Paradise Alley, ain’t you?”

  “Al,” corrected Jay. “Paradise Al is the moniker he wears. Always in Paradise because he never does no work. This is all that he’s got on him.” He straightened from turning the last pocket inside out. In his hands he held a wallet, a small clasp knife, a pencil, and two handkerchiefs, together with a small, well-worn notebook.

  “Is that all?” asked the man with the gun.

  “That’s all, Tucker,” said his assistant.

  The railroad detective took the plunder into his hands. “There’s four hundred and eighty-two bucks here. How you come by that much money, Paradise?” he asked.

  “Me? Work, brother,” said Paradise Al. “That’s the way to make money. Speculation lets you down in the long run. Work is what pays. Hard, hard work!”

  Harry Tucker looked down at the slender hands of the other. “What sort of work have you ever done, Paradise?” he asked.

  “Lots and lots of different kinds of jobs,” said Paradise Al. “I’ve spieled in a circus for the sideshows, and I’ve dealt cards many a month, partner.”

  “General all-around bum and crooked gambler, eh?” asked Tucker, but without heat.

  “Never crooked when the rest of the boys want to go straight.” declared the tramp. “Never, never. Now, with you and your friend, here, I could play seven-up or poker all day long, and there’d be nothing but luck and the fall of the cards to make one of us lose.”

  “Maybe,” answered Tucker. “But we’re not sitting down with you to a little game of cards just yet. We’re standing here for a little talk. Understand?”

  “So it appears,” said Paradise Al.

  “And we’re talking turkey, eh?”

  “Glad to do that,” said the tramp.

  “Where did you get all this coin? Come across, now.”

  “Dealing. And taking a slice out of the races, now and then.”



  “Working for whom?”

  “Tiger Mullins.”

  “I kno
w Tiger.”

  “He’s worth knowing.”

  “Why’d you leave Denver?”

  “I wanted a change.”

  “Why’d you leave Denver?”

  “I was tired of the town. Denver’s too far east for me, Tucker.”

  “All right. Let that go. While you were in Denver, how many times did you see Stuffy Miller?”

  “Who?” asked Paradise Al.

  “Stuffy Miller.”

  “I don’t think I know him.”

  “Come on, kid. Stuffy Miller? You don’t know him?”

  “Oh, Stuff! You mean Stuff, do you?”

  “Who else would I mean?”

  “There’s a lot of Stuffys in the world, but there’s only one Stuff. We always called him Stuff, not Stuffy.”

  “Quit playing for time. How many times did you see Miller?”

  “Oh, just now and then.”


  “He came into Mullins’s joint, now and then. I used to see him other places, too.”

  “What was he doing the last time you saw him?”

  “Saying good bye.”

  “Good bye?”


  “Where was he going?”

  “New Orleans.”

  “That’s a lie,” said Jay Winchell.

  “How come?” asked Tucker of his companion.

  “Stuff Miller never told nobody where he was going. That was never his way.”

  “I knew the fellow was lying all right. I just wanted to lead him on a while,” said Harry Tucker. “If he says that Stuffy was going to New Orleans, it probably means that Miller is up in Butte, or some place up there, by this time.” Then he shook his fist under the chin of the young man. “Are you gonna shake it up and talk?” he asked.

  “I’ve been talking,” said the tramp, his brown eyes calmly meeting the glare of the detective.

  “You’ve been talking, have you? Well, now you start in and talk on the other side of your face, will you?” demanded Harry Tucker. Suddenly drawing back his fist, he jerked it against the chin of the young man. Or, rather, it seemed that was where he drove home the punch. But the detective’s arm shot over the shoulder of the tramp, who had moved his head just enough to one side.

  “That was neat,” said Jay Winchell. “The fellow can handle himself, I guess.”

  “He’s gonna need to handle himself better than that, if he don’t loosen up and talk a little,” declared Tucker. “Now, damn you, I won’t miss you the second shot. Will you talk?”

  “I’ve been talking,” said the tramp. “Stuff Miller was barging away for New Orleans. That’s the fact. He was flush, and he was barging for New Orleans . . . he wanted to get down some of his coin on a good time. It’s a long time since he’s blown himself the way that he likes to do. He wanted me to come along.”

  “You wouldn’t go, eh?”

  “No, Stuff steps out too fast for me.”

  “Where did he get himself so flush?”

  “He ran into a big poker game right there in Denver. Everybody was wise, but Stuff was by far the wisest of the lot. He grabbed the dough.”

  Tucker, without warning, struck again, and again he missed that slightly moving but elusive target. However, he quickly crossed over his left, and this time the punch went home. The head of Paradise Al flicked back and he fell in a heap.

  “That’s kind of rough,” said Jay Winchell, yawning.

  “It ain’t any too rough,” replied the other detective, looking down curiously at the knuckles of his left hand. “Fast with his head, ain’t he?”

  “Yeah, he’s fast, all right,” said Jay Winchell.

  Tucker stirred the prostrate heap with his foot. Paradise Al rose again to his feet and, with calm, brown eyes, looked upon his tormenter.

  “Now, do you talk?” asked Tucker.

  “I’ve talked already,” calmly replied Al.

  Tucker snarled and cursed, smashing with all his might against the head again. This time Paradise Al made no attempt to dodge. The blow went home with terrific impact, the tramp spun about and pitched over on his face.

  The two detectives looked down at him.

  “Maybe you better quit,” suggested Winchell.

  “He didn’t go and move his head,” said Tucker. “Maybe I’ve cracked his skull for him. Well, that’ll be resisting arrest, eh?”

  “Sure,” said Winchell. “But lay off him a while, will you?”

  “Yeah. We’ll just take and slam him in the hoosegow. That’s all.”


  They put him in the jail of Jumping Creek, which took its name from the waterfall that leaped the cliff just north of the town and kept its voice booming heavily all through the year, except when the white winter froze the water in full leap and left it as a gigantic icicle until the spring returned.

  The limp body did not recover life until Paradise Al was stretched on the prison cot with irons on his hands.

  Both of the detectives were with him when he opened his eyes.

  “Hello, fellow,” said Harry Tucker.

  “Hello, Tucker,” said a calm but rather small voice.

  “Are you gonna talk to me now?”

  “What do you want me to talk to you about?”

  “About Stuff Miller. You know what he done, and so do we. And believe me, you’re gonna turn Stuff up for us, too.”

  “Am I?”

  “Yeah, you are.”

  “Tell me what Stuff did, then?” asked Paradise Al.

  “You don’t know? Oh, he don’t know, Jay,” said Tucker, sneering. He thrust forward his thick, muscular shoulders as he spoke. “You don’t know that Stuffy Miller stuck up the Q and R Express and cracked the safe and got a couple of hundred thousand, eh? No, I guess that’s all news to you, eh?”

  “Two hundred thousand is a lot of thousands,” said the tramp mildly.

  “Take and stand him up again, Jay,” said the elder detective. “I’m gonna make him talk or third-degree him to death, the rotten bum.”

  Jay Winchell shrugged his shoulders, as one disapproving but not greatly interested one way or another. He took the young man underneath the arms and lifted the slight body easily. For that matter, Paradise Al helped, and now stood erect before his persecutor with his head high and his eye as calm as ever.

  “Look,” said Harry Tucker, balling his fist.

  “I see your fist,” said the tramp.

  “I’m gonna beat your face to pieces, if you don’t talk,” declared Tucker.

  “No, you won’t do that,” replied the tramp.

  “Hey, won’t I?” asked the detective.

  “No, you won’t,” said the other gently.

  “You go and tell me what’ll keep me from it?” asked Tucker, furious, but inquisitive.

  “You’ll keep yourself,” answered the tramp. “You’re beginning to be afraid.”

  “Afraid? Me afraid? What am I afraid of? You?”

  “Yes, you’re afraid of me,” said Al.

  Tucker’s laughter, following hard on this reply, was more a snarl than a sound of mirth. He swayed back, balanced himself for the punch, and lurched forward to deliver it, but he stopped himself in the middle of the blow, staggered on tiptoe, righted himself.

  “I’m gonna bash your face in,” he said. “Only, first I wanna know why should I be afraid of you?”

  “You ask yourself that,” answered Al. “You know better than I do. I don’t know why you should be so afraid of me. You’re a lot bigger man than I am. Besides, you’ve got me in jail, and you’ve got the law behind you.” His way of saying the word law would be impossible to reproduce or even to describe.

  Tucker dropped his head a little and scowled. “You tryin’ to bluff me, fellow?” he asked.

  “That’s done already,” answered the tramp. “Even your friend, here, can see it. He’s not the brightest thug in the world, but he can see that you’re paralyzed with fear. He’s looking at you and laughing at you.”

ker whirled about. “You handing me the hah-hah?” he demanded of Jay Winchell.

  “Aw, shut up and don’t be a fool, Harry,” answered the other. “This here bum is just trying to get us in wrong with each other. What for would I laugh at you on account of a bum like this? Will you tell me that?”

  “You can’t kid me, Winchell, that’s all I wanna say,” Tucker replied sourly.

  “Aw, who’s kidding you?” asked Jay Winchell. “Come to life and look at things the way they are, will you?”

  “I’m gonna knock in his face,” said Tucker savagely.

  “Go on and do it, then,” answered Winchell. “I don’t care what you do to him.”

  “You do, though,” said the tramp.

  “Do I?” asked Winchell.

  “Listen at him,” said Harry Tucker, grinning. “He thinks that he’s got us hypnotized or something. Maybe Winchell, here, is afraid of you, too?”

  “Yes,” answered Paradise Al. “Neither of you will ever put a hand on me again.”

  “Now will you listen to the fool asking for it?” demanded Harry Tucker. He took a half step forward, with a swing of his body in readiness to drive home the punishing blow, but again he halted himself on tiptoes, staggering.

  Paradise Al laughed in his face very softly. “You see?” he said.

  “Why, he really believes it,” said Harry Tucker. “He thinks that he’s got me buffaloed.”

  “I have you buffaloed, you four-flushing bounder. You’re only a rat,” said Paradise Al. “You’ve dressed yourself up like a man, but I saw through you in the first moment. I ought to have taken your guns away from the pair of you, when we met, and kicked you off the railroad. I was a fool not to do that. The next time . . . ”

  “Go on,” said Tucker, blind with rage. “What’ll happen the next time?”

  “The next time will take care of itself,” said Paradise Al, and he smiled upon them gently.

  “Back up and gimme room, Jay,” requested Tucker. “Now I’m gonna let him have it.” He was swinging his arms a little to loosen his shoulder muscles.

  “Hold on a minute,” said Winchell loudly and suddenly.

  “Well, what?” asked Tucker.