A Bloodstained Treasure Hunt (Preview)


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Chapter One

Walla Walla, Washington Territory 1873

Springtime in the northwest always made Beau Graham pause whenever he stepped out of the cabin to gaze at the surrounding wilderness. It was life anew with vibrant greens and pastel hillsides. At twenty-four, he began a life in the settlement that sprouted around Fort Walla Walla once established in September ’56.

It was the allure of a promised land and a chance to start a new life away from east coast strife. The congestion and complications following the war made it unbearable. Since Beau’s father served as a Union Soldier for the United States, he had access to the Homestead Act. He had friends in the government surveying office that gave Rory and Henrietta Graham choice access to 160 acres on the north of the established 640 acres of timber, and hay reserves devoted to the military reserve troops of Fort Walla Walla.

Beau was seventeen-years-old when his parents had migrated west over the summer of ’66, once his father got released from military service. The trip out west took three grueling months over Indian country and inhospitable terrain. Beau’s responsibility was to look after the animals and placate his mother while the three of them had moved over mountains and prairie lands. Henrietta had spent the majority of the trip worrying about Indian attacks, rampaging wild animals, or marauders, Beau and Rory had bonded over the hardships. Over those three months, they grew close as father and son, relying on each other for survival and inspiration.

For Beau, every new day brought novel challenges. He and his father had worked out each confrontation with innovation and patience. They knew Henrietta’s worries had merit. Still, instead of allowing fear to govern their travels, Rory taught Beau the importance of maintaining vigilance and knowing when talking worked better than shooting.

They encountered the remnants of a Crow tribe on the western outskirts of Montana Territory. Rory didn’t wear the Union Soldier’s uniform, which had made a difference on the frontier. They had encountered a warrior band, four men on horseback, protecting several women and children, and elderly who had fled some unsafe place on foot. Rory had met with the lead hunter, and through some slow patient dialogue and hand gestures, he got the tribal news.

The group of twenty-nine people, as Beau counted, were all that was left of the tribe following a sickness outbreak after a fur trader had came into their midst. Beau’s father was a diplomatic man who believed everyone had a sacred right to live free. He and Henrietta gave away some of their rations, including the last of the sugar and flour. Also, Rory gave the gift of one rifle with a handful of bullets. Rory understood smallpox had likely claimed the rest of their people. The United States soldiers had displaced the remaining population away from their hunting lands.

Beau saw a change in the people immediately once they received the gifts. It happened because Rory wanted nothing in exchange for the goods, only the information about their people. It was a defining moment for Beau because he saw something of the savages that most people never understood: they only wanted what every settler wished to have a safe place to call home.

Beau remembered that significant time whenever he encountered Indians brave enough to pass through Walla Walla. His father left an endearing reminder that meant Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation should include the indigenous people of the land as well as all people held as slaves.

When they arrived in their staked territory, Beau, Rory, and Henrietta had more than enough around them on the 160 acres to sustain them, even in the harshest of winters.

The land claimed by Rory Graham was 180 miles north of Fort Walla Walla and the township surrounding the military outpost. It was a two-day ride over open-forested canyon territory. Beau learned that the area once had high water and ice over time that carved through the layers of basalt down to the granitic basement rock. The cataclysmic Ice Age floods retreated, leaving an idyllic wooded paradise with deep veins of freshwater rivers and crystal blue lakes.

Parts of the steep-walled canyons with multiple arms towered way over 400 feet or more. The outburst floods of the past eroded slashes in the granite ridges, exhuming the rich base valley landscape by taking advantage of the weaker rock faces. The leftover weathered rock cliffs allowed a wide swath of fertile land filled with flora and fauna enough to maintain the family of three for as long as needed to establish the property.

According to the Homestead Act, claimants had to improve upon the landscape by plotting out areas for dwellings and building comfortable accommodations. They had to cultivate the land and keep it as a primary residence for a consecutive five years. In the fall of ’66, they owned a piece of untouched territory with vast potential.

Rory had paid the registration fee upfront as the original filer. They gained entitlement to the pristine property with the provisional deed to the land. Rory and Beau built a log cabin, clear-cutting enough of the level property to have a stable and corral. Henrietta had everything she needed to make a house a home for the family. Beau and Rory continued to plan the layout, cut and milled timber as the built the house. They had more than enough for their family to live a hearty and wealthy life for the foreseeable future.

When they arrived on the wilderness property, Beau’s mother took a considerable time to warm up to the isolation. They had books and the sky; little else. When Rory and Beau built a large cabin around her, they included a stone hearth collected from the available flat stones in abundance on the land. It was a warm and loving environment. But what made Henrietta fall in love with the location was the view from the top of an intimidating precarious outcropping.

It was Beau who discovered the view one day exploring the area. He made notes on the prime riparian habitat that included endless acres of Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine. Atop the granite plateau, Beau surveyed the dramatic panorama of cliffs surrounding a lush valley of foliage. In the middle of the view was a spring-fed lake that looked heart-shaped. It was a treat Beau needed to share. He made sure to avoid talking about the abundant rattlesnake population he discovered along the way.

The family made a day of the trip to the top of the granite plateau, which included a picnic. Once Henrietta saw the view, with the soaring bald eagles and the beautiful lake, she accepted the trip was well worth what they had endured reaching the location.

If it wasn’t for Rory’s ingenuity and grit, Beau knew he’d have nothing when he lost his parents during the winter of ’70, four years and three months into the five-year claimant deadline for ownership. Because Rory signed the lease on the Homestead Act, Beau had no claim to the property once his parents died of cholera. Beau survived, he knew, because he didn’t share the traded venison jerky from a nearby trapper who asked permission to shoot a few mule deer on Rory’s acreage. Sometimes, kindness came at a cost. What was once the family legacy became Rory and Henrietta’s burial site. That’s when a man by the name of Emil Northup made a decision that would change Beau’s future forever.

Chapter Two

Emil Northup was a widower who came up the Oregon Trail in ’70 with his son and late wife, Elizabeth. He lost his wife at the same time Beau lost his parents. The military doctor in Fort Walla Walla didn’t know if cholera or salmonella killed his wife. Following her death, Emil learned about Beau’s parents and the voided homestead because Rory didn’t leave Beau’s will to inherit the property’s rights. Instead, he left the log cabin and its serene surroundings and moved into the settlement 180 miles south.

Northup wasn’t a shrewd man. Beau encountered a lot of unscrupulous men over the trip across the country. His father taught him about how some men killed for the sake of pleasure over necessity. Northup was a businessman first, a motivated father, and had a soft heart for Beau because he felt a kinship regarding the unexpected loss of life between them. Northup knew the area teeming with old-growth trees was a timber boon that had more potential than most people understood at the time. Northup’s visionary idea was to accumulate land, begin logging, and build an industry in a place that he knew had the potential to become a state as soon as the government finished sorting out their troubles.

Northup immediately purchased the land owned by Rory Graham for the rate of $1.25 an acre — the going rate for claimants who wanted to have a six-month occupancy instead of the five years. With the cabin, stables, and corral already established, Northup didn’t have to live at the site to own it outright with the clear-cut property lines. As an alternativeNorthup gave Beau the choice of staying on the property.

Living alone in the cabin he built with his father proved too much for Beau after the first winter alone. The following spring, he packed the few belongings he had, took the horses, and said sad, silent goodbyes to his father’s land and his mother’s favorite lake.

Beau wasn’t from a wealthy family. Rory put more blood and sweat into the land than they ever had of money. But Northup saw a lot of potential in Beau. When he arrived in Walla Walla without a direction, Northup immediately introduced Beau to a man who was in need of a dedicated apprentice. So, with the new advice for his future, Beau got a small one-room cabin that came with the blacksmith apprenticeship and learned to keep an open mind about whatever he got out of life. For him, after the death of his parents, Beau felt every day was worth waking up to, and he wanted to make the most of it.


“Good morning, Beau,” Northup said when the hammering stopped long enough for him to get attention. He had to wave at Beau to get his attention.

Beau looked up from the anvil and smiled at Northup. He removed the wool tufts from his ears to hear the conversation.

The man had a genuine quality about him that helped people gravitate to him. Rory and Henrietta liked Northup upon the few times they made the two-day journey from the homestead into Walla Walla.

The entrepreneur was a gracious host who always had the family to his sprawling ranch for dinner whenever they visited the township.

“Good morning, Mr. Northup,” Beau said. He wiped his brow with a handkerchief and stuffed it into his pocket again.

“How is Mr. Taylor treating you these days?” Northup said. “I don’t see him about too much these days.”

Peter Taylor had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time. The blacksmith came up the Columbia River after the war with metalworking skills that were highly sought after anywhere he went. Rumor had it that Taylor was a Confederate deserter, but the man never owned up to the gossip. Beau had worked for him since leaving the canyon up north and added the art of the blacksmith to his list of accomplishments. Henrietta had made sure Beau knew how to read and write. He went to school back east until he was fourteen, after which Rory needed him to help prepare for their planned cross-country trip. Rory had taught him how to be self-sufficient and practical. Beau learned working hard meant earning respect.

He took to blacksmithing like a fish to water. In very little time into his apprenticeship, Beau learned everything Taylor had to offer. He began understanding the art of manipulating metal for every purpose and need. One of the proper tests of a smithy was to create their tools from metal and wood. Beau had a vast collection of tools that surpassed even Taylor’s metalworking tackle.

“He’s here and there from time to time,” Beau mumbled.

The first thing Beau learned about Taylor once Northup introduced them was the man’s desire to be anywhere else besides the metalworking shop. Once Beau had learned the fundamentals, Taylor wanted him to learn through trial and error. Taylor was twenty years Beau’s senior, never married, loved to drink, boast, and eat. He was a portly man with arms the size of Sitka spruce trunks, with hands like iron. Taylor held the longest record in the territory for undefeated arm wrestling. He earned a lot of drinks at the saloon from unwitting challengers.

But Beau knew the man secretly agonized from severe ringing in his ears. Taylor was hard of hearing and often smiled and nodded to people instead of engaging in conversation. The man’s ailments led Beau to protect his ears while laboring in the shop. The hearing damage sustained from long hours pounding metal on metal meant Beau needed to be wise if he continued the tradition.

The more time Taylor spent away from the workshop, Beau grew more independent. He had the run of the place. Taylor had expectations when it came to payment. But Beau understood sometimes necessity came before rewards. When loggers brought damaged and broken axes or saw blades into the shop, they sometimes didn’t have the funds upfront for repairs. Taylor never did a job before he received payment. On the other hand, Beau sometimes did the job with a promise and a handshake; very few of his customers ever skimped on their obligations.

Taylor received payment without questioning Beau’s business ethics. As long as he didn’t give away free materials, Taylor didn’t care if he wasted his personal time crafting necessary parts for people.

“You look a little lean, son,” Northup commented. “Are you getting enough to eat?”

“Yes, sir,” Beau said, slightly embarrassed by the question. He decided to redirect the conversation, adding, “I got a list of requirements from the army for shoeing their horses. I think I’ve logged more hours doing that over the last few days than thinking about my next meal.”

Northup chuckled. He gave Beau a long look as if considering something before talking again. The quiet was a nice reprieve from the constant noise from the shop. Northup always wore expensive suits and a gold chain attached to a pocket watch somewhere in his vest. He had a flat crown hat that was customary for someone from the south. The gray muttonchops matched the swooping mustache. Northup never carried a sidearm, and that was one thing Beau and Rory respected about him. The man’s reputation for philanthropy meant he had many more friends than enemies. Carrying a weapon on his hip, Northup once commented when Rory had asked him about it, seemed arbitrary.

“You need to come to dinner this evening. I’m having the mayor over with his wife. They are welcoming the new teacher that is supposed to arrive today if the weather holds.” Northup removed his hat to glance at the sky from the opening to the blacksmith workshop.

Beau understood the concern about the weather. A traveling prospector once made a comment that stuck with Beau about living in Walla Walla: If it wasn’t raining at the time someone stood outside, they only had to wait a little longer.

The terrain around the army-base-turned-settlement sometimes proved too challenging for ranchers or prospectors. Most cattlemen attempting to use the land for grazing quickly learned most herds grew ornery and lean due to the lack of large swaths of grasslands. The occasional sheep farmer had better luck as long as they knew how to protect the livestock from the abundant predators that roamed the area. Bears, cougars, and bobcats preferred the dense primeval woodlands, while packs of wolves typically kept to the forest edges nearest the valley floors with fewer trees.

Northup hired skilled laborers to make the most out of the available lumber on his lands. He had a substantial and sturdy residence that saw passing dignitaries visiting the military outpost. With the abundant building materials at his disposal, the Northup Estate grew into a lavish showpiece that was unnecessary for Northup and his son, Archer. The exterior boasted a wraparound porch with vine-covered dining pergola. Inside, Northup dedicated full walls for artwork and sculptures he had purchased and had meticulously shipped by boat or train to the house. The library had volumes of countless tombs that Northup barely touched, but had collected.

The two men lived very different lives, but both stayed under the same roof. Northup entertained guests with fancy dinner parties. He talked aboutfine art, poetry, or history. Archer had little to no interest in his father’s inexhaustible tales.

People gravitated to Northup because he was a visionary who understood government philosophy regarding the need to establish statehood in the expanding United States following the war. He knew territories eventually turned into states. He knew territory constitutions were crucial for developing the areas. Northup wanted as much of the property as available for the purchase. Once the people of the region established the territory boundaries, Congress took the simple majority vote in joint resolution for statehood. He was ambitious, but no one ever said an unkind word about Northup. Beau knew people spoke kindly about the man behind his back — his son, on the other hand, was a different story altogether.

“You’re not getting out of it, young man,” Northup said sternly.

Beau took too long to agree to the invitation to dinner. It wasn’t the offer that bothered him. It had to do with Archer Northup. Whenever Beau was in his company, the nineteen-year-old made it difficult to enjoy himself outright.

“The schoolmarm needs to know people in the community appreciate her sacrifice in traveling to the area. We constructed her one of the finest schoolhouses in the northwest. She’s going to be the start of something special. You mark my words,” Northup said, shaking his hat at Beau. “Once this area becomes a state, you’ll see a mandate for public education. You appreciated a proper upbringing. You know what kind of men come from suitable schooling background. Your mama made sure you got the necessary education. You can’t deny it made you into a well-rounded adult.”

Beau coiled under the heat of embarrassment because Northup wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. Northup wasn’t scared to call out injustice or praise the righteous, whether it was good or bad about someone. He believed in equality for those who put forth the effort to make a difference.

“I’ll see what I can do, Mr. Northup,” Beau said finally. He knew the man wasn’t willing to take a simple ‘no’ for his summons.

“Any chance I can get a few pounds of nails for my crew before I leave?” Northup asked.

“Sure thing, sir,” Beau said. He stepped back into the warmth of the smithy with Northup following him.

“You’d think you’re selling gold when it comes to buying nails. You know that?”

Beau went to the locked crate where Taylor kept the carpentry nails. Wrought iron roofing nails were still hand-forged in the workshop. The hand-hammered head and tapered square shafts weren’t always perfect, but they were a necessary evil in a place full of lumber.

Unlike the false-front buildings in the south or on the plains, the territory teemed with building supplies, so people didn’t have to erect artificial façades to sell their establishments. In a place hundreds of miles from another blacksmith, people paid the hefty price for simple nails Taylor put on them because not everyone wanted log cabins with notch and groove fittings.

Beau sold nails at a discount whenever Taylor wasn’t around, only because when Beau had nothing else to keep him busy through the night, he often spent a few hours before bed making one of the bestselling items in the forge.

“You know the lieutenant came by last week and told me someone burned down Jacob’s place,” Beau said as he scooped handcrafted nails into an available burlap sack.

“Is that a fact?” Northup’s feathery eyebrows knitted together. “Didn’t the family leave the cabin and head south?”

“Yeah,” Beau said. He cinched the bag closed and handed it over to Northup with one hand.

Northup’s eyes bulged when he tried taking the sack with one hand but found it too heavy. He breathed out, holding it in his arms.

“Sorry about that, sir,” Beau said. He took back the bag, carrying it with one hand again. “I’ll take it out to your horse for you.”

“Thank you, son,” he said, wiping his hands and then the dust from the sleeves of his coat. “The Jacob’s lived out near Naches Pass Trail, didn’t they?”

“Yeah, the cavalry were on route patrol when they spotted the smoke.” Beau hooked the bag rope around the saddlebag on Northup’s horse tied to the hitching post at the corner of the shop. The horse stomped its hoof at the added weight. Beau took the opportunity to check the horse’s shoes while talking with Northup. He tested each leg. “They found two men sifting through the ash collecting the nails from the framework.”

Northup chuckled again. “Yeah, see, those things are a commodity. Taylor probably makes more money on nails than horseshoes, I imagine. I suspect the lieutenant handled the thieves accordingly.”

“That’s about right,” Beau said.

Northup tried to get into the saddle but struggled some. Without a word, Beau pressed his hands on the man’s thigh to help him up.

“Thank you,” he said humbly. “I think I got a touch of rheumatism. This damp land will probably be the death of me.” Settled in the saddle watching Beau, Northup gave him a kindly smile. “I’ll expect you around seven. The girls in the kitchen will whip up something spectacular for you and the mayor. We’ll show that schoolteacher from California that coming to the territory is the best decisionthe woman made since teaching became her given profession.”

Northup pulled on the reins and turned the horse toward Main Street. The smithy was one of the many outlining businesses necessary for a thriving community, but not the kind of place people wanted to see day to day along the boardwalks. It suited Taylor and Beau because it meant the site wasn’t in line with someone using a gun to settle an argument at one of the two saloons in town.

Beau knew most men argued over card games and women. The place had a lot more playing cards than available women. The girls upstairs of the saloons never got days off. Beau didn’t know how they managed their lifestyles. They never needed anything from the smithy, and Beau never had time to go upstairs of the saloon.

Before Northup headed out, he glanced back at Beau.

“If you’re worried at all about Archer spoiling your meal, you don’t have to,” Northup said. “He and Little Ricky took a hunting party up to Grand Coulee bear hunting. I don’t expect them back until late tomorrow. Make sure to have Taylor write me a bill of sales for the nails. I’ll have a list of supplies for the lumber workers within a few days. Now that the snow let up for the year, I’ll have crews out surveying areas to cut in about a week.”

Beau lifted his head in acknowledgment. “Thank you, Mr. Northup.”

Northup rode back to town. Beau noticed the man’s face showed some of the discomforts his body gave him as the horse took its time with the additional weight of the iron nails on its hip.

Beau returned to the forge, stoked the fire with the foot bellows he had designed to fan the flames. Taylor once had him using his hands to work the flexible bag and rigid boards. Then, Beau used strips of flattened iron rods to support the bellows in an open position. It meant minimal foot pressure, and one could work the bellows without effort and free up the hands for iron-working. It was the kind of ingenuity that made working easier for Beau in his profession.

He pressed the twisted wads of wool into his ears before getting back to work. Beau still had the rest of the day to finish making an order of hinges and horseshoes. He got into a rhythm that made working alone easier. Once Taylor taught everything he knew about blacksmithing to Beau, it was up to him to refine techniques and simplify the workflow.

His father had taught Beau to look at saving time without cutting corners or skimping on the needed work. Rory believed most jobs had the opportunity for improvements. Sometimes what worked for some people wasn’t necessarily right for everyone. Yet, Rory had quickly pointed out when people sometimes made three lefts to go right. He critiqued without criticizing. Growing up with the support of his parents helped shape Beau into the man he eventually became.

Beau didn’t like evaluating other people when it came to their upbringing or the way of raising children. He didn’t have children. For that, Beau needed a woman. He wasn’t interested in sharing the painted ladies upstairs of the taverns with other passing men. So, finding a woman in the northwest’s wilds was about as likely as deep snow in Mexico.

Beaubased his decision to accept Northup’s invitation only because the man’s son, Archer, wasn’t expected to attend the event. Beau liked Northup — everyone in the township owed a debt of gratitude to the man. But where Northup excelled in business ventures, he had failed in raising a son who earned the same respect. For some reason, beyond anything that Beau understood, Archer didn’t like Beau.

It wasn’t hard to see Northup’s shortcomings when it came to raising his son. The arrogant young man paraded around like his father’s shoulders were broad enough to support Archer entitlement. Beau had little patience for Archer, but they didn’t occupy the same circles. He didn’t have to spend a lot of time around the young man, but anyone who spent time with Archer only took him in small doses.

Someone like Little Ricky Spence had a tolerance for Archer because he was too slow to get out of his own way. Little Ricky had grown up alone; Northup had fed and sheltered the boy from the age of thirteen. He slept in one of the lumbermen sheds on Northup’s property. Generosity went as far as feeding and clothing the boy. But Northup didn’t want Little Ricky sleeping under the same roof as he and his son. Archer used Little Ricky as a kicking post. Ricky wasn’t smart enough to stand up to Archer’s indignation.

Beau had five years on Archer and no dependence on his father like many men living in the area. So when Archer attempted to bully or intimidate Beau, he had no patience for the nineteen-year-old. Beau believed a man earned a right to bear a namesake through perseverance. Rory once explained to Beau that a man like Northup earned his father’s respect because he was a legitimate businessman who wasn’t afraid to make a deal with a handshake while looking you in the eye. Northup earned a reputation by leading by example. Unlike his son, Archer, Northup didn’t coerce people to like him. It came naturally. Beau never thought much about why Northup failed in raising a better-minded son. Sometimes, people fell short of their duties when they lost sight of the importance.

“A Bloodstained Treasure Hunt” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Beau Graham is a brave man and no matter what meets him, he faces it and overpowers it. After the loss of his parents and the land where he grew up, he takes an offer to work as a blacksmith apprentice, on the advice of a kind old man, Emil Northup. Thanks to Beau’s diligence and willingness, Northup will see something in him that sets him apart from others, including his own nineteen-year-old son, Archer. When the old man dies suddenly, Beau and Archer must join forces in order to save Northup’s legacy. Ηowever, they are surprised to discover that Northup set up a riddle before his untimely death… What will Beau and Archer be willing to risk in order to solve this demanding puzzle that may not be as innocent as it first seemed?

While Beau and Archer are struggling to unravel the enigma Northup left for them, Beau will cross paths with Jessamine, a school teacher with an adventurous heart. Having recently moved to Walla Walla for work, Jessamine will soon have second thoughts about whether choosing such a career in this mysterious town was a good idea. Beau will quickly realize that there is more to the young teacher than it appears and he will ask her to join him on the perilous journey to uncover Northup’s secrets. Unfortunately for them, their troubles have just begun… With danger closing in, will they be courageous enough to take action and finally leave this hazardous quest behind?

With the passing of time, Beau and Jessamine grow a deep affection for one another but they both know that if they want to stay on course, they will need to set their happily ever after aside. How far into the darkness are they willing to go in search of the truth? Will their love ever have the chance to flourish or will the forces of lawlessness 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.

“A Bloodstained Treasure Hunt” 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!

3 thoughts on “A Bloodstained Treasure Hunt (Preview)”

    1. Fantastic story. I was born in the hill country. Broke horses. We had cattle, goats. Love the solitude of country life and we raised 3 children 19 miles west of our hometown. Thanks

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