Bloodshed and Crime in the West (Preview)


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Chapter One

Mayor Albert Castle had come home tired. His little town of Phoenix, Arizona, founded not even ten years before in the year eighteen-eighty-one, was getting bigger fast. Travelers were pouring westward through the territory, more and more of them choosing to stay. It was good for the town, of course; shopkeepers and restauranteurs and hoteliers were setting up shop, miners and ranchers and farmers collecting to purchase their wares and services. The muddy streets were growing crowded with horsemen and carts and carriages, the elevated wooden sidewalks increasingly cluttered with waistcoats and parasols.

But all that new money was making life a lot more complicated, in ways that were plaguing the aging mayor’s conscience. Various people’s personal interests were beginning to conflict with his duties as a public servant. But his position as the most powerful man in Phoenix made his decisions much more difficult, and the web that seemed to have collected around him was only getting more tangled. Escape seemed impossible.

The house was dark as he climbed into bed and blew out the whale oil lamp on the table next to his bed. He sighed as he dropped his head onto the pillow, hoping that the morning and renewed sobriety would bring him some clarity.


Mayor Castle sat up in bed, a chill running up his spine. He looked around in a dead silence, his heart beating in his chest. His bedroom was dark, and he was certain it must have been his imagination.


There was no mistaking it. The mayor pulled his bedding away and stood up, creeping to his bedroom door, ajar by a few feet. He leaned forward and peeked into the darkened hallways. In truth, it could be any number of things, from roaming coyotes to the same black bear that had been marauding the town just a year before. In the springtime of the year, the beasts were just waking from hibernation with aching hunger, many of them juveniles without enough experience to avoid men with their guns.

The Winchester rifle was on the wall above the bed, given to him by the people of Phoenix in gratitude on the tenth year of his service. It was heavy in his hands. Mayor Castle was no gunman, but it would be easy enough to hit such a big target, and even the shot itself was likely to be enough to scare the beast off. Briefly, the mayor thought to stay in the room. But if the beast became emboldened, it could come straight up into the room, and then he’d be trapped. At least facing the creature downstairs would likely repel it and give him room to flee if that was necessary.

The mayor walked slowly down the hall, his footsteps cautious and quiet. The hairs on the back of his arms stood on end as he reached the stairs and looked over the banister. The house, the nicest in Phoenix, was dark and big, with lots of adjoining rooms but no evidence of any activity. He listened for the distinctive growl of the black bear, or the chattering yelps and grunts of the coyote. But silence was his only answer, luring him further from his room.

Must have moved on, he thought, having strewn my garbage through the yard, no doubt!

He walked slowly down the stairs, the rifle long and hard and intimidating, even to him. But as he reached the bottom floor of his home, Mayor Castle was ready to convince himself that the big gun wouldn’t be necessary.

He moved cautiously away from the staircase, leaning forward as he peered around. The house was dark and quiet and he was alone and relieved.

That was when the two men rushed him. Mayor Castle screamed and pulled the trigger, the rifle burping up a dry click. There was no time to reason or wonder, to bargain or to plea. Useless as a rifle, the mayor swung it as a cudgel, finding some satisfaction in the feel of the man’s arm against his weapon, a pain-filled grunt telling him he’d scored a blow.

But he already knew it wouldn’t be enough. Mayor Castle dropped the rifle, turned, and ran. He was already panting as he scrambled up the stairs. He didn’t dare look back, but the thumps of the men’s footsteps behind him told him they were chasing him, and that they were terribly close.

The mayor’s mind was racing. He had notions as to who the men were, or at least who’d sent them. He couldn’t be certain, but it hardly mattered. Mayor Castle ran down the hall toward his bedroom, pushing himself through and turning to slam the door closed behind him. He threw the lock just before the door thudded with an impact from the other side.

It had come back to him, as the mayor knew it would. Things couldn’t go on the way they were, he’d known that for a long time. But he’d managed to handle them and to handle the men around him. It was clear that his long lucky streak had finally come to an end. He looked around the bedroom as the door shook on its hinges, the men trying to force it open from the other side.

“Can’t hide, Mayor,” one of them said, a voice Mayor Castle didn’t recognize. He crossed the bedroom to the window and pulled it open, looking down at the wooden porch a full story below. He’d had it made to his own design, the finest in town. He’d be lucky to walk away from the fall with anything less than a broken leg—a broken neck more likely.

He looked around, ready to scream out for help, when his bedroom door finally flew open. Knowing it was too late, he spun around. He’d never make it out the window, and anybody who might hear him would have no time to come to his rescue.

The men rushed in, and Mayor Albert Castle stood there, arms extended and mouth gaping. His sins had come to collect their due, and he knew just what the price would be. They grabbed him, one man on each arm, and threw him onto the bed. He landed face up and the two men fell on top of him. One man lay over his legs and held his arms while the other grabbed the pillow and smashed it over the mayor’s face, leaning over to press his full weight against Albert’s head and shoulders.

The mayor’s world went black, the already dark room beyond his vision. The pillow covered his eyes, his nose, his mouth, muffling his screams and completely stopping up his breath. He could hardly believe what was happening, but also knew that it had been inevitable. His heart pounded and his lungs ached, his arms strained to rise up and try to push the men away. His legs couldn’t kick, pinned by one of the two men. He bucked and lurched as his breath ran out, heart pounding and lungs aching.

His blood seemed to rush in his veins even as his limbs grew weaker. A series of images flashed across his mind’s eye: his mother’s face, his father looking down at him, his first kiss, the birth of his child and the boy’s death from consumption, laid into the same grave as his sainted mother.

He’d be joining them in the afterlife soon enough. He strained just to draw breath, his body beginning to convulse. His brain felt like it was being stabbed by a thousand needles from every side, his chest seeming cave in upon itself. His muffled screams no longer pierced the dull ring in his ears, eyesight going black as pain wracked him from head to toe.

Then, the pain ceased, along with the struggle.

Chapter Two

Deputy Travis Conway took a sip of coffee from his tin cup, hot and oaky and bracing. It was a new day in Phoenix, though there was no telling what that day would bring. Travis knew to expect a few rowdy drunks toward the end of the night, perhaps a fight or two among the ranchers, but he could also be looking at long hours of a dull shift, drinking coffee and strolling around, doing his rounds. And that was how he wanted it.

Travis had to chuckle at his own youthful visions of what life would be like behind the badge. He’d imagined shootouts and faceoffs, rescuing beautiful damsels from wicked villains. Instead, the very real danger of going out with a posse and boxing in some rogue or cutthroat and the stink of the men he had to keep from killing each other from time to time was the life he led. But it was honest work, necessary; and increasingly so as Phoenix grew around him, around them all.

The door opened and Sheriff Horace Lund stepped into the office, an empty cell dominating the rear, two desks in front.

“Travis,” he said with a smile and a little nod of his balding head, setting his hat on the rack by the door.

“Morning, Sheriff. Sleep well?”

“A bit too well, I’m running a bit late.”

Travis shrugged and took another sip of coffee, already lukewarm. “Things are calm enough around here.”

The sheriff looked around the office. “Any sign of the mayor?”

“Mayor Castle… here?”

Horace nodded as he crossed the office to the coffee pot to pour himself a cup and refill Travis’. “Said last night he’d come by, seemed urgent.”

Travis’ interest was piqued. “He didn’t say anything about what it was?”

The sheriff shook his head. “He’d been drinking.”

That followed, according to Travis’ experiences with the man. “Still, he didn’t call you into his office?”

The sheriff shrugged and took a sip of coffee. “I’ll probably stop by, see what he wants. You can hold the fort?”

“Happy to.”

Horace took another sip of coffee. “You’re a good man, Travis, good deputy.”

“You’re the sheriff.”

“Yes,” Horace said as he seemed to fade into a reverie, “yes, I am. But things change, Travis. Take a look around; all Phoenix is changing, growing. I… I don’t know.” Seeming to read Travis’ expression, the sheriff explained, “Keep up, I mean, with the changing times. I don’t expect you to understand, really; you’re young, tall, strong, all that long, blond hair. You’re like a Viking, you’re in your prime. But me? I’m old, getting older by the day.”

“Better than the alternative,” Travis said after some thought. “Anyway, you’ve got a lot of good years, I’m sure.”

But the aging man shook his head, staring off into some sad distance. “Well, you’ll be here to take up the reins, eh?”

“Not for a good, long time.”

The sheriff gave Travis a friendly pat on the shoulder. “We’ll see.” He set down the coffee cup and turned for the door, but stopped to redirect his focus on Travis. “Speaking of all this, my daughter made mention of you the other day.”

“Dora, did she?” Travis tried to disguise his sudden thrush.

The sheriff nodded. “It was after church services, as a matter of fact. She suggested that we have you to our house for supper one Sunday.”

Travis was quick to imagine how glad he’d be to take his friend and mentor up on the invitation. Flashes of Dora’s pretty face burst in his imagination, visions of her smile, framed by her red hair and green eyes and pale skin. Envisioning himself in her company felt perfectly natural to him in every way, and had for some time. But Dora had shown no signs of a similar interest and she was his boss’ daughter, after all; the dangers of such a thing were obvious. One of them came quickly to mind.

“Well, that’s… that’s very flattering, Sheriff, but… if I’m having dinner with you and Dora, who’ll be looking after things around here? Even on Sunday evening, things could break out at any time.”

“That’s true enough, Travis, true enough. But it puts me in mind of something else.”

After a pause, Travis asked, “Sheriff?”

“I was thinking, with the town growing the way it is, well, we might consider hiring a new deputy.” He was quick to go on, “Not that you’re in any way deficient, my boy, quite the contrary; and Dora agrees, by the by. But you work too hard. You’re a man of how many years, twenty-five?”

“Twenty-six, actually.”

“And still not married. It’s as if you’re married to the badge.”

The words settled in Travis’ heart and soul. The notion wasn’t foreign to him, not at all. Loneliness seemed to creep in the shadows around him. His growing attraction to Dora and the certainty that it was improper had only accentuated that loneliness.

Horace went on, “A little more free time would allow to change your lifestyle a bit, investigate some… domesticity.”

It was an exciting thing to think about, but it was also troubling. If the romance went sour, it could damage his relationship with Horace, who was a mentor and a friend and his boss. A few whispers from his beloved daughter and Travis knew he could be looking for work somewhere else.

Her interest in the invitation was compelling, and Travis wanted to believe it could all work out. But the notion of a new deputy could be a double-edged sword. The man could just as easily be groomed as Travis’ replacement as much as his second.

There was something else troubling Travis: his old friend’s cryptic words about his future, his age. A second deputy could just as easily be a sign that Travis was being groomed to replace Horace as sheriff. But Horace Lund was a good man and a valuable public servant, and there was little reason he shouldn’t go on enjoying a vibrant life and a useful career. Unless there was some reason Travis didn’t know—that was what troubled him most.

Horace wasn’t the kind of man to discuss such things. He kept his own counsel about such matters, and Travis did, too. It was the mark of a weaker man to speak too much; Horace had always taught Travis that it meant the man was thinking too little.

So, Travis asked, “Did you have anybody in mind?”

The sheriff seemed to think about it before shaking his head. “Not off the top of my head.” He reached up and combed down his thinning hair. “I suppose that’s about all there is up there now.” The two men shared a little chuckle. “We’ll give it some thought; I’ll ask the mayor about funding.”

The sheriff turned, took his hat off the rack, and pulled the door open.

“Give His Honor my best,” Travis said.

“I always do,” the sheriff said on his way out the door, closing it behind him. Travis was left with his thoughts. Times were changing all over the country, that was clear. Since that terrible civil war between the states, the future seemed brighter than ever. The United States of America was ascending, perhaps to become the world’s leading nation. England’s time had gone, thanks in large part to the American Revolution. Spain and Rome and Egypt had all followed the same path, and years before.

It was America’s time, the coming Twentieth Century open to be led by American grit and pluck. But there was a dark side to all that promise, and Travis’ instincts were telling him that it was getting closer, the shadows getting darker. Success bred criminality and corruption, they seemed to go hand in hand.

But whatever would come, Travis would face it right there in Phoenix—where he’d spent his whole life, where he’d buried both his parents, where he hoped to raise his family… with Dora Lund.

“Bloodshed and Crime in the West” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Deputy Travis Conway is a lionhearted man who has enjoyed a peaceful life in Phoenix, in the heart of the Arizona territory. Despite his young age and inexperience, his ability with a gun is unmatched. No one could have prepared him, though, for the shocking death of the town’s mayor under mysterious circumstances. The suspicious signs of a possible murder, rather than an inevitable accident, make him determined to use all of his skills and unravel the enigma of the terrible crime. Little does he know that the main suspects have been right before his eyes all along… What is he willing to risk in order to protect the town from atrocity and corruption?

Rumors about the mayor’s murder spread in town like wildfire and Travis’s investigation leads him down an unexpected and dangerous path. After a peculiar turn of events, he will start to suspect the sheriff, as he seems too eager to cover up the whole affair and run for the empty mayoral office. As if things weren’t complicated enough, the sheriff’s daughter, Dora Lund, is willing to join forces with Travis for the greater good of the town. Will their investigation destroy her trust in her father just as it destroyed Travis’s trust in the sheriff?

Even though Travis and Dora meet under the worst variety of circumstances, they find encouragement in the strong feelings that grow between them. However, as long as the murderer is still out there, they cannot let themselves have a chance at love. Will Travis and Dora capture one of the most wanted criminals in the history of Phoenix? Or will forces of corruption overtake them at long last?

An action-packed story, featuring complex and fascinating characters, and twists and turns that will take your breath away. A must-read for fans of Western action and romance.

“Bloodshed and Crime in the West” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.

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Grab my new series, "Legends of the Lawless Frontier", and get 2 FREE novels as a gift! Have a look here!

5 thoughts on “Bloodshed and Crime in the West (Preview)”

    1. When a town starts to grow and people start to get big ideas about how they want things to go.There is trouble in the air and someone is going to get hurt.The sheriff is acting like something is going on and asking about getting another man on the job.He not to old for the job,but he may want to get his daughter married to be care for,in case something happens to him.Good read!!😊

    2. I think I will indeed love this book as I have all the other books of yours I have read when I find a really good book I follow that author like c j petit I search for his books to read as I will your books until I can read the entire book hope it is soon thank you for the pleasure of reading a portion of this book I did not mention I am 83 live in an assisted living home so really enjoy reading I have kindle on my iPad then I visit our library here often thank you Betty Warlick van buren arkansas

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