Blue-Eyed Devil

by Robert B. Parker

The Virgil Cole/Everett Hitch Series

The extraordinary new Western from the New York Times-bestselling author, featuring itinerant lawmen Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch.

Law enforcement in Appaloosa had once been Virgil Cole and me. Now there was a chief of police and twelve policemen. Our third day back in town, the chief invited us to the office for a talk.

The new chief is Amos Callico: a tall, fat man in a derby hat, wearing a star on his vest and a big pearl-handled Colt inside his coat. An ambitious man with his eye on the governorship—and perhaps the presidency—he wants Cole and Hitch on his side. But they can't be bought, which upsets him mightily.

When Callico begins shaking down local merchants for protection money, those who don't want to play along seek the help of Cole and Hitch. But the guns for hire are thorns in the side of the power-hungry chief. When they are forced to fire on the trigger-happy son of a politically connected landowner, Callico sees his dream begin to crumble. There will be a showdown—but who'll be left standing?

Reviews

"Parker's rightly known best for his mysteries. That'll happen when you create on of mystery fiction's most indelible characters—the Boston private detective Spenser...You read Parker because he could tell a story and make you care about his characters...Blue-Eyed Devil...only hones Parker's legacy as an ace storyteller, in any genre, to the end."
The Chicago Sun Times(6/13/10)

"Parker proves that, had he started a few decades earlier, he could have made Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch as popular as Spenser and Hawk. He also shows that he ranks up there with great western writers like Louis L'Amour and Larry McMurty. And here we see again what made Parker such an outstanding writer: he makes readers want to spend time with his protagonists. Parker's writing is so good, so exact, that he has you sitting on the porch in front of their Boston Saloon, eavesdropping on the conversations of Cole and Hitch and totally engaged in their situation...Parker transcends the genre here by returning again and again to the moral dilemma faced by men like Cole and Hitch. In this regard, his work reminds me of the early westerns written by the great Elmore Leonard, such as Three-Ten to Yuma...Add Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch to all the great characters that Robert B. Parker created over the decades to give us enjoyment and entertainment. In three books, we were just getting to know them. They will be missed. But Blue-Eyed Devil is a terrific western. It is the work of one of the greatest writers America America ever produced, still working at the top of his game."
BookReporter.com

"...Blue-Eyed Devil shines...a page-turner of the first order, and updated western that feels as fresh as anything out there...Virgil Cole never misses, not when it matters. Parker didn't either."
The Boston Globe

"More shifting allegiances, moral dilemmas and characters capable of change than Virgil and Everett's fans may be used to. It's a shame that this youngest of the late Parker's franchises has to end so soon."
Kirkus Reviews

"This excellent posthumous western from bestseller Parker (1932-2010) continues the saga of gun-slinging saddle pals Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch (after Brimstone) as they trade wisecracks and hot lead with back-shooting owlhoots and murderous Apaches in the town of Appaloosa...Lean, fast, and full of snappy dialogue, it's everything a series fan would expect."
Publishers Weekly

Buy the book

paperback | Putnam | 2010 | ISBN: 9780425241455

Excerpt

1

Law enforcement in Appaloosa had once been Virgil Cole and me. Now there were a chief of police and twelve policemen. Our third day back in town, the chief invited us to the office for a talk.

He was tall and very fat in a derby hat and a dark suit, with a star on his vest, and big black-handled Colt in a Huckleberry inside his coat. Standing silently around the room were four of his police officers, dressed in white shirts and dark pants, each with a Colt on his hip.

The chief gestured for us to sit. Virgil sat. I leaned my shotgun on the wall by the door and sat beside him.

"Heard 'bout both of you," he said. "Heard 'bout that thing, too. What's it fire, grapeshot?"

"It's an eight-gauge," I said. "Good for grouse."

"Or fucking hippopotamuses," the chief said.

"Them, too," I said.

"Name's Amos Callico," he said. "Thought we should have a chitchat."

Virgil nodded.

"You're Virgil Cole," Callico said.

"I am," Virgil said. "Big fella here with the eight-gauge is Everett Hitch."

"I know who he is," Callico said.

Virgil nodded again.

"What I hear 'bout you is mostly good," Callico said.

Virgil looked at me.

"Mostly," he said.

"Probably meant 'all,'" I said.

Callico paid no attention. He took a cigar from a box on his desk, didn't offer us one, trimmed it and lit it, and got it burning right. The four policemen stood silently, watching us.

"I know your reputation, Cole," he said. "And I know that you ran the town, 'fore I got here. And I want you both to understand that you don't run it now."

"That would be you," Virgil said.

"And I've got a dozen officers to back me," Callico said.

Virgil didn't say anything.

"On the other hand, none of them are like you," Callico said. "I could use couple of gun hands like you."

Virgil shook his head slowly.

"Pay you fifty a month," Callico said.

"Nope," Virgil said.

"Make you a sergeant," Callico said.

"Nope."

"You speakin' for Hitch, too?" Callico said.

"Yep."

"Why the hell not?" Callico said.

Virgil looked at me.

"You think you're important," I said to Callico. "Virgil don't think anybody's important. Bad match."

Virgil nodded.

"That right, Cole?" Callico said.

"'Tis," Virgil said.

Callico puffed on his cigar and blew some smoke past the lit end. He studied it for a moment.

"So, what are you going to do in town?" Callico said.

"Sit on my porch," Virgil said. "Drink a little whiskey. Play some cards."

"That's all?" Callico said.

"See what develops," Virgil said.

Callico smoked his cigar some more. Then he looked at me. "You boys done a nice job when you was in this office," Callico said. "Bragg and the Shelton brothers and all." Virgil nodded. Callico looked at me.

"Heard you killed Randall Bragg 'fore you left town," Callico said.

"I did," I said.

"Why?"

"Self-defense," I said.

"Heard it was over a woman," Callico said.

"I got nothing to do," I said, "with what you hear."

"Was it over a woman?"

I shook my head.

"You know why he killed Bragg?" Callico said to Virgil.

"Bragg come at him with a gun," Virgil said. "Why?" "Have to ask Bragg," Virgil said.

"Bragg's dead," Callico said.

"So he is," Virgil said. We all sat and thought about that. Callico nodded slowly. "Don't want no trouble from you boys," he said. "Don't plan to give you none," Virgil said. Callico looked at me. "Me, either," I said.

"I'll hold you to that," Callico said. Virgil stood. "Nice meeting you," he said. He looked around the room at the four policemen.

"And you fellas," Virgil said. He turned and left, and I followed him.

On the street, I said to Virgil, "We're gonna have trouble with him."

"I believe we are," Virgil said.

2

Virgil's house hadn't changed much in the time we'd been away. Allie and Laurel cleaned it up as soon as we arrived back in Appaloosa, and we moved right in. I bunked with Virgil in one bedroom, and Allie slept with Laurel in the second.

All four of us were sitting on the front porch sipping whiskey in the early evening while it was still light, when a tall, thin man with a big mustache walked up the front path. It was Stringer, the chief sheriff's deputy.

"Ev'nin," he said.

"Stringer," Virgil said.

"I'm down to pick up a prisoner, heard you folks was back in town. Thought you might be drinking whiskey."

"Sit," I said. "Have some."

Stringer adjusted his gun belt a little and sat.

"Allie," Virgil said. "You remember Deputy Stringer."

"I don't recall us meeting," Allie said.

"You was with the Shelton brothers," Virgil said. "Probably thinking 'bout other things."

Allie nodded.

"At the train," she said.

"That's me," Stringer said.

"How do you do," she said to Stringer, and made a small curtsy.

"Glad you're well," Stringer said. "Who's this young lady?"

"Her name's Laurel," Virgil said. "She don't say much. Laurel, this here is Deputy Stringer."

Laurel looked at Stringer and nodded slowly and made her small curtsy. Then she went to Virgil and whispered to him. He whispered back. She whispered again.

"Well, sure, sort of like Pony Flores," Virgil said.

"She shy?" Stringer said.

"Indian took her," Virgil said. "She had a pretty bad time till we got her back."

"Her folks are dead," Allie said. "I'm looking out for her."

"Since we got her back," I said, "won't talk to nobody 'cept Virgil."

Stringer sipped some whiskey.

"Who's Pony Flores?" Stringer said.

"Tracker," Virgil said. "Helped us get her back."

Laurel whispered again to Virgil. He listened and nodded.

"He gave her a gun," Virgil said. "She wants to show it to you."

Stringer nodded. Laurel took the derringer out of the pocket of her pinafore and held it out in the palm of her hand. Stringer looked at it carefully.

"That's a very fine derringer," he said. He looked at Virgil. "Loaded," he said.

"She knows how to use it," Virgil said. "Makes her feel safer."

Stringer nodded.

"What are you boys gonna do here?" Stringer said.

"We're posturing that," Virgil said.

"Or pondering," I said.

"Pondering," Virgil said. "That's what we're doing. Everett went to the Military Academy."

"Could speak to the sheriff for you," Stringer said.

"Foraged up some money in Brimstone," Virgil said. "We figure to take some time and look around."

"You boys good at anything but gun work?" Stringer said.

"Might be," Virgil said.

"Like what?" Stringer said.

"We're ponderin' that, too," Virgil said.

"Meet the new chief of police?" Stringer said.

His voice was neutral, but there was something in the way he said "chief of police."

"Yep," Virgil said.

"And?" Stringer said.

"Offered us a job," Virgil said.

"Which you turned down," Stringer said.

"Everett and me don't like him," Virgil said.

Stringer studied the surface of his whiskey for a moment and then drank some.

"How come?" Stringer said.

Virgil looked at me.

"He annoyed Virgil," I said. "Kinda full of himself."

Stringer nodded.

"Don't make no mistake with him," Stringer said. "He's a horse's ass, okay, but he knows what he wants. He'll do what he needs to get it. He can shoot, and he will. Got some people working for him can shoot."

"Twelve people working for him," I said.

"Town got big fast," Stringer said.

"Virgil and me ran it with two," I said. "It get six times bigger?"

"More people work for you, more power you got," Stringer said. "Callico's ambitious."

"He want to be sheriff ?" I said.

"It's the next step," Stringer said.

"To what?" Virgil said.

"Governor."

"Why's he want to be governor," Virgil said.

"Probably 'cause it's the next step to senator," Stringer said. "I don't know what Callico wants."

"What kind of lawman is he?" Virgil said.

"Tough, strict, fair enough, I think," Stringer said. "But he got no heart."

"Heart don't do you much good," Virgil said.

Stringer smiled.

"'Course it doesn't," he said. "Makes you soft."

"Get you killed," Virgil said.

Stringer said, "You think Virgil Cole got heart, Laurel."

Laurel was sitting next to Virgil with Allie on her other side. She showed no sign of having heard Stringer's question.

"She hear me?" Stringer said.

"She don't much talk with anybody but Virgil," I said.

"Hell," Stringer said.

Laurel leaned in close to Virgil and whispered to him. Virgil smiled. He looked at me for a moment, then at Stringer.

"Laurel claims I got the most heart in the world," he said.