A Bounty Hunter Never Sleeps (Preview)


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Chapter One

Colorado Territory, 1870

The boy heard the shots first, a couple of rounds that seemed like they were fired inside a building. He began to run and stopped at the edge of the trees. Three strange horses were tied in front of the McDermott house.

The front door flew open and John Younger stepped behind a tree as a group of rough-looking men came outside. Puffs of smoke followed them through the door frame and begin to drift upward.

What’s all that smoke from?

From less than thirty yards away, he could hear them clearly. One of the trio, a young man of around twenty, spoke anxiously to a tall man who seemed to be their leader. “What about the girl?”

“I left her in her room and barred the door,” the taller man answered. “We can’t afford any witnesses.”

Maggie? Are they talking about Maggie?

“Damn it, Vance, we can’t let her die in a fire like that.”

“You prefer to get yourself hanged instead, Fisher? Go ahead and shoot her if you want. We’ll wait.”

John saw the young man look back at the house. The front door was closed and smoke was seeping around the edges of the frame.

“Shit. This ain’t right.”

“Never figured you for a choir boy, Fisher,” the tall man sneered.

As Fisher turned and started up the steps, Vance drew his pistol and shot him in the back at close range. He dropped like a stone, tumbling down the steps, then lay still on the ground.

“Drag his body inside the house, Matt, then let’s get out of here before that smoke starts drawin’ attention.”

Matt, an obese outlaw who looked about the same age as Fisher, took the dead man’s pistol and emptied his pockets. Then he hooked his arms under the body and dragged it backwards up the steps and into the house.

The two men mounted up and rode away, leading their dead colleague’s horse behind them on a rope. They passed within a few yards of the thirteen-year-old boy hiding in the trees, and he got a good look at them both, imprinting their faces upon his memory.

Once they had gone, John jumped up and ran quickly toward the house. When he opened the front door, a wall of smoke enveloped him. He began to cough and dropped to his hands and knees. The smoke was just as thick down at floor level, making him choke.

He turned around and scurried back out on all fours. John sat for a moment on the front steps, gulping fresh air and trying to catch his breath. Then he stood up and ran around the house toward the rear, grabbing a piece of firewood on the way. He knew where Maggie’s room was and planned to break in if needed.

Reaching the back window, he peered inside. The curtains were open and Maggie was standing stock-still in the middle of her room, her back to him.

John rapped on the glass with his knuckle. “Maggie! It’s John! Open the window.”

She slowly turned around and looked at him with a dazed, blank expression.

“Open the window, Maggie!” he shouted. “I’ll help you climb out of there.”

She stood still, as if paralyzed, then walked over and pulled at the window. It didn’t move. Her hands fell to her sides in defeat.

“Harder, Maggie—pull up harder.” John signaled with his arm.

She tried again and a crack appeared at the bottom of the window. The boy stuck his hand underneath the frame and pushed it all the way up.

Maggie McDermott, a slim twelve-year-old girl with dark brown hair, stood inside and stared at him.

What’s wrong with her?

John extended his arm toward her. “Come on, Maggie.”

She took his hand and he pulled her forward. The girl stooped down, sticking her head outside, and John grabbed her under the arms, lifting her safely to the ground.

“Where are your parents, Mag?”

“I don’t know,” she said expressionlessly.

“Are they in the house?”

She shrugged her shoulders.

“Wait here,” John said. He jumped up onto the windowsill, wriggling his way inside.

Once in the room, he could see smoke curling underneath the door. The boy opened a dresser drawer, dug around for a moment, and pulled out a thin undershirt. Holding it over his mouth and nose as a filter, John tried the doorknob. It turned, but the door wouldn’t open. It was locked.

He kicked at it with his boot with no result. John took a couple steps back, then ran at the door and rammed it with his shoulder, sending it flying open with a crash.

Smoke enveloped him as he pressed the shirt against his face and moved forward. The boy had been a frequent visitor at the McDermott house and knew the layout well. He moved toward the living room, squinting his eyes to see through the haze.

Half of the ceiling was ablaze and John could see two bodies sprawled on the floor.

Mr. and Mrs. McDermott!

He knelt beside them. Maggie’s mother had been shot through the chest and was dead. Her husband had a bullet wound to the head and was dead also.

Damn it.

Choking on the smoke even through the filter, the boy turned toward the front door and saw another body in front of it. In the shock of finding Maggie’s parents dead, he had forgotten about the outlaw murdered before his eyes.

John stepped over the body and tried the doorknob. It was searing hot to the touch, causing his arm to jerk back reflexively. He wrapped the shirt around his hand, opened the door, and stumbled down the steps, collapsing onto the ground.

He lay there a moment, struggling to breathe and immobilized by spasms of coughing. Then Maggie walked around the corner. She stopped ten feet away and stared at him with the same blank expression.

What is wrong with her?

After a minute he was able to catch his breath, and John pushed himself slowly to his feet. He took Maggie’s hand and they made their way to the stable. The boy quickly saddled a horse, then set the other two horses free into a nearby pasture in case the fire spread to the stable.

He climbed into the saddle and reached down, lifting Maggie up behind him. They could see flames blazing out of the windows as John wheeled the animal around and rode away toward his pa’s farm.


As soon as James Younger, John’s father, heard about what happened at the McDermotts’, he left immediately to gather the neighbors and see if they could put out the fire. He left Maggie in the care of his wife, Emma, who took the child under her wing and tried to comfort her.

By the time a group of men got to the site, the house was already engulfed in flames. There was nothing they could do but round up the family’s two horses and keep watch to make sure the fire didn’t spread beyond the house.

James stood a hundred yards away, the heat from the inferno warm and uncomfortable on his face. Flames shot up fifty feet into the air with a surreal glow in the darkening evening sky. He thought of the bodies of Sheriff Frank McDermott and his wife, Ida, lying inside of their house, slowly being reduced to ashes. He also thought of the body of the outlaw John had said was left on the floor inside.

What the hell happened here today? Good Lord!

He glanced around at the other three men watching the blaze. Each looked somberly on, not speaking a word.

Who would want to kill Frank and his family?

All of the men had known the McDermotts. Frank had been county sheriff for two years and was well respected by everyone in the community—or so it seemed.

Of course, James realized, every lawman sometimes made enemies of the people he put behind bars. Some of them would hate the man behind the badge just for doing his job and bringing them to justice.

But trying to kill a man and his whole family? That seemed to go beyond revenge or hatred into the realm of the darkest and most perverse evil.

James bowed his head. He was simply a grain farmer working a small spread on the eastern plains of Colorado Territory. He had never seen anything like this.

He prayed for the souls of Frank and Ida, asking God to take them home to be with Him. He prayed the men who committed this atrocious act against them would be brought to justice.

Opening his eyes, he thought of the McDermotts’ only child.

Poor thing! What’s gonna happen to Maggie now?


The following morning, James rode into town with his son. He wanted the boy to tell the deputy everything he’d seen at the McDermotts’ place.

They arrived at the sheriff’s office by nine-thirty and found Deputy Fitzpatrick at his desk, looking haggard and tired.

“I’m so sorry about what happened last night, Fitz,” James said, shaking his hand.

“Thanks,” the deputy mumbled, seeming a little dazed. “Pretty crazy shit, Jim. I can’t hardly believe it.”

“I know what you mean.”

“Thanks for roundin’ up your neighbors and doin’ what you could at the scene,” Fitzpatrick said sadly.

“I just wish we could’ve done more, Fitz. Brought our boy here today to tell ya what he saw.” James put his arm around John’s shoulder. “He was heading over to Frank and Ida’s for a visit and got a look at the men who committed the crime.”

“Heard he rescued Frank’s daughter, too,” Fitzpatrick said, looking at the boy. “Good work, young man.”

“Thank you, sir,” John replied.

“Why don’t you and your daddy pull up a chair at my desk here and you can tell me what you saw over there last night?”


James listened as his son explained what happened. When John came to the part about finding Sheriff McDermott and his wife shot dead, the pain and sorrow on the deputy’s face was obvious. Fitzpatrick had been McDermott’s deputy since day one, and it was plain to see that he was taking their death very hard.

After John finished his account and answered a couple questions, the deputy sat back in his chair and sighed. “I surely thank you for comin’ in today and tellin’ me what you saw, Johnny. That must have been a mighty difficult thing for a young man to go through yesterday.”

“Yes, sir.”

“You think of anything else you wanna tell me, just let me know. All right?”

John nodded.

“Johnny,” his father said, digging into his pocket for a coin, “why don’t you run over to the mercantile and get yourself some sweets? I’d like to speak to Deputy Fitzpatrick for a moment.”

“All right, Pa.” John took the dime from his father’s hand and went out the door.

“You and Emma have got yourself one brave lad there, Jim. I know grown men who wouldn’t have had the spine to go into a house on fire like that. It took some guts.”

“Thanks, Fitz. Yeah, Johnny’s always been a brave one. Sometimes a bit reckless, too, but he’s not afraid to put himself on the line when there’s call for it.”

“Good lad.”

“How you doin’? Gotta be a damn hard thing to lose your friend like that.”

“Yeah, I ain’t gonna lie to you, Jim—I’m shocked as hell about it. Frank and I knew that Vance Skinner was aware we were onto him about his operations in this county. We let him know that we weren’t gonna settle for that bullshit, neither; we were comin’ after him and his gang. Never thought he’d pull somethin’ like this, though.”

“I hear ya,” James replied. “It takes some kind of evil to do a thing like that.” He shook his head. “What’s gonna happen to Maggie now?”

Fitzpatrick sighed again. “Frank and Ida don’t have kinfolk in the West, so Reverend Bourke offered to write their families back East and see if any of ‘em will take the girl in. Till we hear back, the reverend and his wife will take care of her.”

“That’s good to hear. They’ve got a daughter around Maggie’s age; maybe that’ll comfort her some, help take her mind off the tragedy.”

“Hope so,” the deputy said. “She’s got a rough road ahead, any way you look at it.”

Chapter 2

After a week or so, John decided to go visit Maggie at the Bourkes’ home. She hadn’t been in school since the tragedy.

John knew his friend would surely be grieving hard over the sudden and violent loss of her parents. That kind of thing would throw anybody for a loop, he was sure of that.

Plus, he liked Maggie a lot. They had been neighbors, friends, and playmates for the past three years; ever since her ma and pa had moved to Colorado. Despite the difference of their sex, the two of them had immediately hit it off. They played at recess, went fishing together, climbed trees, sometimes even helped each other with homework at their respective houses.

Now, Maggie’s house was gone, and so were her parents. He was determined to be there for her in her time of need, just like he knew she would have been there for him.

So, on the following Monday after school, John walked to the Bourkes’ home in the town of Orr’s Station, buying an apple from the mercantile store on the way.

The reverend answered when the boy knocked on the door of their two-story framed house.

“Johnny Younger, it’s good to see you,” he said, the pipe in his teeth bouncing up and down like it always did. John wondered if any of the hot ashes from the bowl ever flew out and landed on the preacher’s bulbous nose. “I expect you’re here to see your friend Maggie?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good man. Come on in, I’m glad you stopped by. Let’s have a seat in the parlor, John. I’ll ask Louise to call her, Maggie’s up in her room right now.”

The Reverend Bourke was a portly man with a large stomach that protruded through his black broadcloth suit. He habitually wore bow ties of various colors which contrasted with his somber jackets and matching trousers. His round, clean-shaven face often bore a jovial expression. John liked him; he was friendly and easy to talk to.

When the reverend and his guest had taken a seat in the parlor, Bourke removed the pipe from his teeth. “I must tell you, John, she spends an awful lot of time in her room.” He lowered the volume of his voice. “I’m afraid the fire and the loss of her parents have had a severe effect on poor Maggie.”

“Oh?” John replied, remembering how dazed and quiet she had been on the day of the tragedy. He had hoped she would be starting to get better now.

“You must understand that she’s had a profound shock to her system, and it may take her some time to recover,” Bourke continued with a serious look. “The girl can barely get a word out. She’s very quiet and subdued—quite unlike the Maggie we were used to. But this sometimes happens to people when they suffer a sudden loss.”

“Is she going to be okay, Reverend?”

“I believe that in time she will, lad. How long it will take, only God knows. She’s also suffering some memory loss and doesn’t remember the incident at all. So, it might be best to avoid that subject when you’re talking with her. We must pray for Maggie, and above all be very patient with her as she’s going through this. Do you think you can do that?”

“Yessir, I sure will,” he replied.

“Good lad. I know you two have been friends for years. It will be good for her to see you, I think. Just remember: be patient with her. It will probably take Maggie some time to heal from this.”

As the reverend finished speaking, the girl and Mrs. Bourke came into the parlor. “Thank you again for coming to see her, John,” he said, getting to his feet. “Louise, why don’t you and I go and have a nice cup of iced tea out on the back porch?”

“Hi Mag,” John said as the Bourkes left the room.

She walked over to the other end of the couch and took a seat without replying. She looked exhausted, with dark circles under her eyes.

“I brought you something,” he said, digging into the pocket of his coat and producing the shiny red apple. “Got it from the mercantile for ya.” He stretched out his hand toward her.

Maggie looked silently at the apple.

“Go ahead, Mag. It won’t bite you.”

She pursed her lips, then took the fruit and put it down on the couch.

“Not hungry, huh?” John said. “I understand. Maybe save it for later, in case you get hungry before supper.”

She nodded, and John felt encouraged that Maggie had responded to him, if only non-verbally. They sat there in silence for a minute as he tried to think of something else to say.

“How is Mrs. Bourke’s cooking?” he asked.

She shrugged her shoulders.

“I bet it’s pretty good—I tasted one of her apple pies at the church social. It was great! You were there, too. Remember?”

Maggie stared down at her hands folded on her lap.

“Hey, remember when we raided the apple tree in Felmer’s orchard? Maybe we can do that again this summer. That would be great, wouldn’t it? Those are the best apples in Colorado Territory.”

John thought he saw a faint smile cross her face, but he wasn’t sure. “Is Suzanne bringing your homework back from school for you?”

She nodded.

“That’s good. Not that there’s any rush in getting back to your schoolwork or anything. But if you want, we can help each other with our homework again sometime. Would that be okay?”

She nodded again, looking at him this time. She had the same kind of blank look on her face that he’d seen before, John thought, but also a deep sadness seemed to be underneath it.

“Okay, great, I’d love to do that sometime,” he said. They looked in each other’s eyes. “I’m really sorry about what happened, Mag.”

“What happened?”

At first, he thought maybe she was joking. But John knew what Maggie was like when she was joking around, and this wasn’t like that. She was looking at him as if it was a real question, and she was waiting for an answer.

“It’s okay,” he said after an awkward silence. “Never mind.”

After that day, he continued to visit her a couple times a week at the Bourkes’ house. Maggie remained withdrawn and quiet. She didn’t really talk with him, just gave one-word answers, a nod or a shrug. Even when she returned to school, Maggie kept to herself and didn’t play with any of the other kids. She didn’t even play with John when he asked her to.

The boy was determined not to give up on her, though—especially as Reverend Bourke continued to tell him that his efforts and his visits were important to Maggie’s recovery, even if there were no visible results yet.


After a couple months had passed, Reverend George Bourke received the last of the replies from Maggie McDermott’s relatives. Heavy-hearted with the results, he walked several blocks through town to see the newly promoted interim-sheriff, Emmet Fitzpatrick, at his office.

Bourke took a seat and put a stack of envelopes on the lawman’s desk. “That’s the last of the letters from Maggie’s relatives, Sheriff.”

“By the look of your face, I’m guessin’ there’s no good news there, George.”

Bourke nodded, took the pipe from his mouth, and sighed. “That’s where it stands, I’m afraid. None of them want to adopt a traumatized little girl.”

Fitzpatrick shook his head. “That’s a shame.”

“Yes. I took the precaution of writing to the Methodist orphanage in Denver City, just in case it turned out this way. They said they have room for her there.”

“Thank you for all you’ve done for Maggie, Reverend. I know Frank and Ida would have appreciated it very much. You and Louise have really gone the extra mile for her.”

“I just wish we could have done better for the girl, Emmet,” Bourke said sadly. “The orphanage is clean and well run, she will be able to continue her education there, but I’d hoped and prayed she would find a place among the family somewhere. It would be better, I think.”

“I agree, but what can we do? It is what it is.”

The men stood up and shook hands. “I’ll make the travel arrangements,” Bourke said. “The church will cover the cost.”


When John Younger heard that his friend would be moving to an orphanage in Denver City, he was crushed and saddened by the news. Denver was a hundred miles away—several days’ ride by horseback—and he realized he would likely never see her again if she left.

The boy resolved to ask his parents if they would adopt Maggie. What did he have to lose? There didn’t seem any other option for her to stay in Orr’s Station.

That evening at dinner, he made his pitch as his parents and siblings sat around the table together.


“Yes?” James replied, chewing on some home-baked bread.

“Did you hear that Maggie McDermott’s gonna be moving to an orphanage in Denver City?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Reverend Bourke says he wrote to her relatives, but nobody wants to adopt her.”

“I heard about it, son, and I’m right sorry it turned out that way. I wish some of Frank and Ida’s kin would take her in, but sometimes things don’t work out. The Methodists are good folks; they’ll do their best for her in Denver.”

“Can we adopt her, Pa?” John blurted out. Everyone except James stopped eating and stared at him. “Maggie’s a good girl, she wouldn’t be no trouble at all.”

His father sawed at a pork chop with his knife. “She is a good child, I know that, John. But we’ve got enough mouths to feed around here as it is.” He looked at their five children sitting at the table.

“Please, Pa? I can’t stand the thought of Maggie goin’ off to some orphanage.”

He shook his head. “I’m sorry, John. I know it ain’t the best, the way things have turned out, but we’re living on a small family farm, and it’s not our place to step in. My decision is final.”

John looked to his mother for help. Her eyes were filled with compassion, but she said nothing. “Ma?”

“You heard your father: his decision is final. Now eat your supper.”

He stood up quickly from his chair. “I will not eat my supper! I can’t believe neither of you want to help Maggie.” He turned away angrily and started for the door. “I just can’t believe it!”

“Johnny!” his mother called after him.

“Let him be, Em,” James said. “He was sweet on the girl, that’s all.” A snicker of amusement came from a couple of the other children at the table. “And that’ll be enough out of you all. Eat your dinner.”

John stomped angrily out of the Younger house and ran across the yard. He wanted to talk with Reverend Bourke.


“Have a seat, John,” the reverend said as they walked into his study at the Bourke home a half hour later. “You look upset, what’s happened?”

The boy was near to tears as he dropped into the chair in front of the desk, but he fought them back. “I asked my ma and pa to adopt Maggie, but they won’t do it.”

“I see,” Bourke replied. “Did you ask them about that today?”

“Yep, just a while ago at supper. I don’t understand why they won’t adopt her.”

“What did your parents say?”

“Pa says we can’t afford another kid. Ma said his decision is final.”

“I see,” Bourke repeated, looking grim. “I understand why you’d be upset about that decision, John, but they are your parents and it’s their decision to make. You have to accept that.”

“It’s just not right to send her away to an orphanage, Reverend Bourke! It weren’t her fault what happened. She didn’t deserve to have her ma and pa killed.”

“I know,” he replied. “It’s not right. But that’s just the way life is sometimes, lad. I’m sorry.”

John stared at him angrily. “That’s what Pa said: ‘I’m sorry.’ Well, if folks are so sorry about Maggie, why don’t they do something about it and help her?”

Bourke looked down and clasped his hands together on the desktop. “I wish there was something else we could do for her, John. I really do. I wrote to all of her kinfolk that I could find; none of them would help.”

“What about you, Reverend Bourke? You’ve only got a couple of kids—would you and Mrs. Bourke adopt Maggie? You could afford to do that, couldn’t you?”

The man shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “Yes, I think we could afford it,” he said slowly.

“Why don’t you do it, then?” John pleaded in desperation. “Please, don’t send her away, Reverend.”

“You like Maggie, don’t you, John?” he said gently.

The boy was puzzled by the question. “Yes, sir. I do. She’s my friend.”

“I know. You two have been good friends for years. John, Maggie will be turning thirteen very soon and she’s becoming a pretty young woman.” He paused. “You’re fourteen now, is that correct?”

“Yes sir, in three weeks,” he replied, wondering where the man was going with this.

“John, could it be that your feelings for Maggie are starting to become more than just friendship? Maybe you’re starting to have some romantic feelings for her, as well.”

John was embarrassed by the question. He’d never thought of her that way before.

Me? Sweet on Maggie?

“No, sir, I ain’t in love with her. I’m just her friend, that’s all,” he said confidently.

“Are you sure?”

“Yessir. Why do you ask?” His face felt warm.

Bourke smiled reassuringly. “Well, you’re at the age now when a young man starts to take an interest in the fairer sex. It’s perfectly natural, John, nothing to be embarrassed about. Sometimes, though, it takes a while before a boy even realizes that he likes a girl; especially when he’s a very young man like you.”

“I don’t understand what you mean.”

“All I’m saying is that there may be more to your concern for Maggie than just friendship. And that’s okay. It could be making it harder for you to accept the change in her situation, however. Does that make sense?”

“I guess so,” he said doubtfully.

“Believe me, John, I don’t like it any more than you do that she has to go to an orphanage. I prayed and prayed that one of her relatives would take her in. But the Methodist home is one of the good ones. If she has to go to an orphanage, you won’t find a better institution than that.” He nodded with a confident smile, as if that settled the matter.

John stood up from his chair.

“Do you know what I mean, lad?”

“I reckon I do, Reverend Bourke. It means you and everybody else don’t give enough of a shit about Maggie to help her, doesn’t it?”

Bourke stared at him, speechless. His jaw dropped open and John thought the pipe would fall onto his desktop. Clearly, this wasn’t an answer the good reverend had expected.

John spun around and left the house without another word.

“A Bounty Hunter Never Sleeps” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

John Younger is a restless bounty hunter who catches even the most elusive criminals. However, his life has not always been a bed of roses. When was just a 12-year-old boy, he saved his best friend from a grisly death at the hands of the outlaw gang that killed her parents. As if that wasn’t enough, his friend was sent away to an orphanage in Denver City and John vowed to one day find the murderers and bring them to justice. Years go by and he works out a plan to shed some blood and take down those who stood in the way of his friend’s happiness. What will John be willing to risk in order to get the revenge he’s been waiting for his whole life?

Maggie McDermott is deeply traumatized by the events of that nightmarish night. Having lost all of her childhood memories–even those of her best friend, John, she can’t help but wonder whether she’ll find peace one day. That is until John shows up at her door many years after the haunting event that changed her life. He has become a successful bounty hunter and has a bold plan to recover her childhood memories. His plan involves Maggie joining him on a dangerous mission of vengeance, in order to capture the gang that destroyed her life. Will Maggie find the courage to follow this dangerous prescription to get her childhood memories back?

Even though John and Maggie haven’t seen each other for many years, their wild thirst for revenge will take them on a sprawling adventure with gunfire, romance, and a longing for justice. Will John be able to protect the girl from the most infamous outlaw gang in the West? Or will they be forced to abandon all hope for a better life once and for all?

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 Bounty Hunter Never Sleeps” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.

Get your copy from Amazon!


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

5 thoughts on “A Bounty Hunter Never Sleeps (Preview)”

  1. Very interesting story as usual! I certainly have to read the rest of the book,can’t wait!

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