The Desperado’s Quest (Preview)


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Chapter One

It was a typical day with everyone coming out for church service in their Sunday best. Everybody filed in, with Father Jacobs there to greet each one personally. The Colorado mountains in the distance provided a majestic backdrop.

Caroline took her usual seat next to the wall. It still bothered her that her father never shared in the joy she got from going to church. Faith was the one thing in this life she could count on. It had been tested, but she maintained her belief God had a plan for everyone.

Caroline shifted in her pew. Today was a big day for her. Her father had urgent business elsewhere and wouldn’t be able to open the shop for the first time in years. He was depending on her to take over that responsibility.

Edith, the town gossip, was speaking with her husband in hushed tones. Caroline was pretty much invisible and could hear every word. She didn’t mean to listen, but it wasn’t on purpose.

“I heard he murdered five people in cold blood,” Edith whispered to her husband.

“It’s no wonder everybody is on edge. Reliable sources within the sheriff’s office told me in confidence they’re going to execute the warrant today,” her husband responded.

“I wonder who it could be. They could be sitting right beside us and we don’t even know it.”

“That’s a scary thought, my dear.” Gerald fished into his pocket, the gold coins jiggling in the palm of his hand before he handed them to Edith for the collection plate donations.

Caroline fidgeted, her fingers gripping a handful of the fabric of her dress. Nothing exciting ever happened. It was always the same old thing. Boredom was an illness and she had been suffering from this affliction for years.

“The poor bastard the sheriff is looking for is probably totally oblivious. Can you imagine having no clue the sheriff is about to arrest you? He probably thought he got away with it. It’s too bad they never realize their mistake is staying in one place for too long.” Edith dropped the coins into the collection plate as it passed by.

“I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes when they come knocking on his door. He’ll be having an ordinary day until the sheriff shows up. Do you think he has a family? Maybe the one they are going to arrest had something to do with stealing our eggs. You can’t tell me it’s a coyote. They wouldn’t have just taken the eggs.”

Caroline didn’t know what to make of the rumors, but the church was abuzz within minutes. The story had been embellished several times, turning the criminal into a wanted man with no redeeming qualities. There was no way to know what was true and what was false.

Father Brian Jacobs stood in front of his parishioners and raised a hand to quiet the masses. He had to resort to clapping loudly to be heard over the din of whispered conversations.

The sermon began, but there were those looking over their shoulders wondering if the sheriff would take that moment to bring the man to justice. He had always been a little unorthodox in his methods.

That anxious energy turned into raw anticipation. It was said to be happening today, but no time was mentioned. It put the parishioners in a tense standoff with their own self-indulgence and need to be a part of something monumental.

Nobody could sit still.

“I would like the courtesy of you listening to me. I’m talking about infidelity. It’s a serious subject and demands your full attention.” Father Jacobs sighed deeply with one hand combing through his full mane of white hair.

“On behalf of everyone here, I would like to apologize to you, Father, for being distracted. You must’ve heard there’s something big going on today,” Jack said with his callused hands gripping the pew in front of him. He was a man of many talents, but his specialty was carpentry.

“I don’t take stock in rumors and neither should any of you. It’s undignified to find pleasure in the misery of others. This is a sacred place. A house of the Lord. Show it some respect. I don’t ask much. One hour every Sunday.” Father Jacobs smacked the good book against the pulpit over and over again until they settled down.

“I can’t stop thinking about the possibility a child is about to lose a parent and will only see them behind bars. That’s the worst thing anybody can go through. The trauma of seeing the sheriff execute the warrant will haunt them for the rest of their lives.” Edith shook her head.

Gerald and Edith had two beautiful children with almost snow-white hair. Edith extended her arms over their shoulders to pull them in a little bit closer. They fussed and tried to get away but a mother’s love was too strong.

Caroline used this opportunity to spread the word about her sale. It wasn’t long before most of them forgot about the ugly business with the sheriff and whoever he was targeting.

They were now thinking about what they could buy with their hard-earned dollars. Everybody was looking for a bargain. Today was a good day to make both her mother and her father proud of her.

Caroline was grateful for everything she had, but she missed her mother terribly. She was always there with her in church. Caroline believed she was there every day, at least in spirit.

She was anxious for the sermon to end. Her hands were shaking with nervous energy as the parishioners started filing out of the church. She hurried, her legs burning by the time she reached the shop where she worked and lived with her father in an apartment on the upper floor.

It was quite cozy, but they still bumped into each other. They took turns cooking. It amazed her that her father was willing to take on some of the duties usually left to a woman.

Caroline’s hand shook when she opened the door.

Shadows loomed until, one after the other, they filled the small space. It hadn’t been that busy in months. It was going to be a banner day.

She was right about one thing. Sunday morning right after church was the sweet spot.

Caroline brushed back her dark hair with an antique comb; it was her way of advertising the product. Taking over for her father meant the world to her. She prided herself on being exceptionally courteous and willing to negotiate on good terms.

This was her inaugural sale, but it was proving to be more successful than she expected.

“How much for the comb?” Gerald inquired, coins shaking in the bag he carried.

“Everything must go to make room for new inventory coming in next week from New York. We have buyers coming in from all over. This particular piece isn’t for sale, though. I can’t see how I could part with it. It’s been in the family for years,” Caroline lied while holding onto the comb tightly.

It was all a part of the game, a tactic to make this man reach deep into his pockets. And it helped to have his wife looking over his shoulder. Edith was always looking for something unique to add to her collection.

“That is exquisite. May I take a closer look?” Edith extended her hand.

Caroline hemmed for a moment of indecision. She finally relented, knowing the silver alone would fetch a tidy profit.

“This is real silver. Something like this should be admired and used instead of collecting dust on one of your shelves. We must have this. We’ll give you this bag of coins.” Edith grabbed the coins and placed them on the counter.

Her husband didn’t say a word and allowed the transaction to go through. Caroline would miss the piece, but her father would be happy.

He didn’t look overjoyed, however, when he finally barged his way in, pushing through the throngs of people.

“This is what word-of-mouth advertising gets you. I mentioned in church about how everything must go and any reasonable price would be considered. Do you see all of these people? Are you listening to me?”

“Caroline, I don’t have time for this. If you’re looking for my approval, you have it.” He ducked under the counter, obviously looking for something he couldn’t find.

“I think we should have one of these sales every other month. It’ll be something the town looks forward to. We could even do something big for the holidays. Christmas is always a heavy spending time. We can capitalize by offering deals on certain things we’re trying to get rid of.” Caroline drew up a mock schedule with dates circled.

“Where is the jade dragon artifact? It was right here the other day in this locked box.” He grabbed her unexpectedly by the shoulders.

“It wasn’t in the lock box this morning. I sold it early this morning to an elderly gentleman just off the train. He wasn’t from around here. I think I would’ve recognized him if he was one of the locals.” She stood completely still afraid to make a move with her father’s eyes darting all around.

“We need to get it back as fast as possible. What the hell were you thinking? That was my private stash for a rainy day. You know the story about the jade dragon. My father came with nothing but that. He swore he would never sell it for any amount of money. He got in over his head and had to relinquish it—”

“He searched high and low and finally came across it in Grandma’s hands. You’ve told me the story too many times to count. I thought it was just that—a story. You have stories for everything in this place. I never know whether they’re true. Don’t be angry with me. You didn’t tell me it was off-limits.”

“I could never be angry with you. I’m just a little frazzled. I’m tired.” Her father stared past her shoulder with his eyes wide and his fingers digging into her arms.

“You’re hurting me.”

He blinked and took a step away from her. “I didn’t mean to. What the hell is wrong with me?”

The ding of the bell over the door signified somebody coming in off the street. But it wasn’t a customer. Sheriff Wainwright strolled in, accompanied by two of his loyal deputies.

Caroline stopped what she was doing to see if anybody browsing through the shelves was about to rabbit. Everybody knew the law was something to be feared and admired at the same time.

“The shop is closed until further notice. Finish what you’re doing and leave. Let’s do this in an orderly manner. I would hate for any of you to spend a single moment behind bars for obstruction of justice.” He rubbed his face with one hand and had the other poised over the handle of his gun in the holster.

“This couldn’t have waited until after the sale concluded?” Caroline had her hands on the counter to address the larger-than-life sheriff. He was intimidating with his badge and the sense of authority that followed him around.

“Little lady, I wish it could wait, but your father has some explaining to do.” He laid down a wanted poster.

“My father…what does this have to do with him?” Caroline scrutinized the image with her finger on the crude drawing.

“Do we have to do this here? My daughter doesn’t have to see this.”

“She has to learn sometimes life isn’t fair. Jackson Williams, I have a warrant for your arrest. It would be in your best interest to come quietly. The bounty makes it dangerous for you to be on the street. Come with me, nice and easy. There won’t be any collateral damage and your daughter will be safe from harm.” He snapped his fingers to alert Deputy Gregory Simmons to stand guard at the door.

Caroline stared at the photo but didn’t see her father looking back at her.

“This is ridiculous. This picture doesn’t look remotely like my father. You’ve got the wrong man.” Caroline stepped in between her father and the sheriff to make her plea.

Her whole body trembled as she pointed at the sheriff.

“There’s no mistake. Get out of the way; I’m not going to ask you again. If this is a mistake, we can sort it out at my office before the marshal arrives tomorrow morning. We’ll get to the bottom of this.” The sheriff produced the handcuffs.

Caroline had seen them used on other people but never her father. It couldn’t be possible but they seemed pretty damn sure of themselves. The accusation against him was further corroborated by the way her father hung his head.

“We can’t stand in the way of justice. Don’t worry, everything will get sorted out. Have I ever lied to you in the past?”

“No, but…”

“There are no buts. I’ve been taking care of you for the past ten years on my own, working tirelessly to give you a good life. I’m not going to stand here and explain myself when I’ve done nothing wrong.”

“It pains me to do this, but I don’t have any other choice,” the sheriff said.

The handcuffs clicked, sending a cold chill down Caroline’s spine. There was something final about the way her father was brought to task for his supposed crimes.

“I want to know the charges.” Caroline stood defiantly with her arms crossed, staring daggers at the sheriff.

“We can talk about that later. The first order of business is getting him behind bars where nobody can reach him until he can answer to the charges.” The sheriff pushed past Caroline somewhat brusquely.

“I won’t let you railroad a good man. You haven’t heard the end of this. You’ll see. This is all a misunderstanding.”

The sheriff turned to address her. “I hope for your sake they find him innocent of all charges but I wouldn’t bet on it. Reliable sources have come forward with damning evidence against him. We’re talking about eyewitness accounts.”

“They’re lying. It’s as simple as that. My father wouldn’t do anything wrong. You know him.” Caroline walked right up to the sheriff without showing any fear.

He glowered with his teeth showing. “I’m going to forget you said that. I understand this is a tough time but you can’t speak to me in that manner. We wouldn’t want you to say something you’re going to regret. Be careful about what comes out of your mouth next.”

She pointed her finger and opened her mouth but decided discretion was the better part of valor.

“You know what I taught you about respect. This man is just doing his job.”

“I can’t just do nothing.”

“There are things you can do to help me. Contact your uncle. He’ll know what to do.”

“I’ll leave tomorrow.”

“Try not to worry about me. Everything will be cleared up in no time,” her father said outside the door where she could barely hear him.

“Listen to your father. Your uncle is a well-respected lawyer in great standing with the community. Let him handle the details and stop meddling in affairs that are none of your business.” Sheriff Wainwright hitched up his pants.

She watched with her hand trembling on the curtain covering the door. It killed her to see her father being treated as a common criminal. It wasn’t in him to hurt anybody. Whatever the charges were, they would prove to be false with her uncle championing the cause.

Chapter Two

Caroline was dizzy worrying about her father. He was always willing to help his fellow man. But she couldn’t leave the shop unattended, and her father would insist the business remain open.

It was all a little strange and confusing. She shook her head in the hope she was going to wake up from a very bad dream.

She had relied on her father to come to her aid whenever she’d woken up screaming and looking for her mother. Now, they would both be gone unless she did something about it. That was where her uncle came in.

She wasn’t even aware somebody was behind her.

“I came as soon as I heard. I figured you would need a friend. It’s ghastly business.”

“Jenna, it’s not true… it can’t be. They have the wrong man. My father believes in the sanctity of the law. He taught me to respect authority figures.”

“I’m sure there’s been some confusion. We all know your father to be a good and honest man. His ties to the community are deep. It’s just that he’s been very quiet in the past few months. Nothing like him. You can’t say you haven’t noticed.”

Caroline stood up and wiped her tears away. “I don’t have time to fall apart. He’s depending on me and I don’t plan to disappoint. You’ve been a good friend, but I can’t ask you to help me. It wouldn’t be fair to put you in that position.”

“I can’t just sit around doing nothing when you’re hurting. The least I can do is help you around the shop. There’s no reason to put that burden on your shoulders.” Her offer was extremely generous.

Caroline forced a smile even though her heart broke. A few hiccups emerged as a result of her sobs and she started to hyperventilate, but she was able to control herself with a few deep breaths. It was the first episode she’d had in years. The first one was when her mother was put to rest after a bank robbery went bad.

She was on her way to make a deposit when the robber bumped into her and the gun went off. Caroline remembered the sound of the bullet even through the walls of her school.

“I know what you’re thinking.”

“I didn’t know you were clairvoyant.”

“It doesn’t take clairvoyance to know that you are thinking about your mother. She was a saint. Never had an unkind word to say to anybody. You take after her in a lot of ways but you have a short temper like your father.” Jenna helped to arrange a few shelves that had become slightly disheveled after being pawed through.

“I lost one parent and I’m not going to lose another. As God is my witness, I will exonerate my father by any means necessary. They can say whatever they want but I don’t believe a single word. Somebody is lying and I’m going to find out who’s accusing my father.” She punched her fist to alleviate some of the pent-up energy running through her veins.

“What if you don’t like what you find? Are you prepared for that? I know I wouldn’t be if my father was hiding something from me. We want to believe our parents can’t do any wrong, but they make mistakes like everybody else. It’s a painful lesson to learn.” She wiped a rag over some dusty artifacts.

“I’m not a little girl. I know the world is unfair and sometimes unjust. I’m twenty years old. Maybe my father has been keeping something from me for my own good. That would be just like him. He never wanted me and my mother to worry. This time, he needs somebody in his corner, and I’m going to be there for him,” she fumed with her fist clenched.

“Your father would be the first to tell you to keep your temper in check. Why would anyone concoct such a story against your father? I don’t know all the facts, but it doesn’t make sense for them to arrest him without proof.”

“I’m going to find out the truth.”

Caroline was kept busy with a few errant customers until closing time. Jenna stayed to help. She had to admit having Jenna’s ear to bend was almost cathartic. She wanted to believe her father’s innocence, but she needed something more than her undying belief in him. The best she could do was stand with him and show her support as any daughter would.

“I’m going to barge in there and demand answers. Please, don’t believe everything you hear about my father. He’s innocent until proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt.” She turned the sign to indicate they were closed before building up some steam on her way through town to visit her father in jail.

She had barely stepped out the door when she felt eyes burning into the back of her skull. Those she considered friends had now turned their backs on her. Some whispered as she walked briskly toward the sheriff’s office on the other side of town.

She heard some of the snide remarks but wasn’t about to deem them worthy of a retort. They could say whatever they wanted. A fire of determination bubbled up from inside.

She was going to give the sheriff a piece of her mind. She couldn’t quite wrap her head around this, but they would get through it like they did everything else.

The very thought that her father could commit a crime made her insides flip.

The whispers behind her back were the worst part. She couldn’t hear what was said but the sideways glances told her they believed her father could do what they were accusing him of.

Sitting by these people in church every Sunday like clockwork didn’t seem to mean a thing. She wanted to turn and scream in their faces but she wasn’t the type to make a scene.

Dirt collected on the hem of her light blue dress.

She wanted to reach out to her uncle, but it would mean leaving town for a few days to get word to him. It was possible that by then, everything will have been sorted out and he would be back home eating the stew left over from dinner the other night.

She recalled the way he’d reacted when he found the jade dragon missing from the shop. He was usually unflappable, but he had been disheveled. His hair was in disarray and his clothing was rumpled. He wasn’t his usual spit-and-polish self the way she remembered him to be every morning when she came down to breakfast.

It felt like forever, but it took only a few minutes for Caroline to cross to the other side of town. She was busy contemplating the notion her father was complicit. This occupied her mind and she wasn’t watching where she was going.

She bumped into Deputy Simmons outside of the sheriff’s office.

He muffled a scream with the stain of hot coffee on his shirt. The cup had landed on the ground undamaged. He cursed, then quickly apologized.

“Sorry for spilling your coffee. But I want to see my father and I’m not leaving until I do.”

“I think you should come back in the morning. He left strict instructions to be left alone.”

“I’m sure that doesn’t pertain to his daughter.”

“If it was up to me, I would give you a few minutes alone with him, but he specifically asked me in confidence to keep you out of it. He wanted me to remind you to see your uncle as soon as possible. You might want to get an early start in the morning. It’s going to take some time to get there. The train doesn’t run on Monday.”

“What would you do if this was happening to your father?”

“I would move heaven and earth to get him out, but you have to remember I’m on the side of the law. Justice will prevail in its own time. Get some rest. If you insist on leaving tomorrow morning, you’re going to have to be clearheaded. I promise nothing will happen to him on my watch. That’s my guarantee to you,” Deputy Simmons said.

“That does make me feel better, but I don’t think you can keep me from seeing him.” When Caroline started to move past him, he stopped her with an arm to block her path.

“I’m afraid I must insist. The sheriff will want to talk to you, but I can stall him until you meet with your uncle. That’s the best I can do under these circumstances.” He turned her away from the office.

“I’m not going to give up on him.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything less.”

There was no going back to the way things were. This entire situation had robbed her of her innocence. She was no longer the same little girl believing in justice for all.

They had the wrong man and she was damn well going to prove it.

She wanted to ask for help, but she didn’t know how she would take her friends outright refusing. It was better for her to go it alone. She was well aware of how they were looking at her out of the corner of their eyes when they thought she wasn’t looking.

Trusting them was a mistake and she couldn’t afford to listen to their negative comments.

Capter Three

The black horse sidestepped a boulder and Max wondered whether his steed was as tired as he was. They had been twisting and turning for miles, and he kept backtracking to make sure they were alone. Max had no idea whether he’d gotten turned around once it got dark. The directions were pretty vague, but he didn’t have any other choice.

The ominous black clouds foretold rain but not a single drop had fallen. The ground remained hard and cracked.

Max dismounted and made sure his tracks couldn’t be seen. A small machete helped to break some branches to lie down on the road. They weren’t clean cuts and could easily be mistaken for windblown debris.

He sat on a nearby rock, gathering his thoughts, with the incessant hooting of an owl hidden within the trees. Something scuttled by his feet, and a lone pair of eyes stared at him through the darkness. He didn’t want to guess what it could be and had no interest in tangling with mother nature’s unpredictable wrath.

He took an apple out of his bag and cut off sections. The sticky juice drizzled over his fingers. He took a bite with a satisfying crunch.


The mangy mutt had been traveling nonstop ever since he escaped from his angry and violent owner. He was cold and lonely but he was more hungry than anything else. The one thing he missed was having food to eat.

He sniffed the air and could smell the apple in the man’s hands.

He couldn’t remember how long it had been since she passed. Marjorie had always been there to protect him. One fateful night, a bullet changed that. He’d stayed out of some misplaced obedient loyalty until the drunken idiot made the mistake of raising his hand to him one too many times.

He thought things would be better, but out on his own fending off predators was almost worse than the abuse. He cringed and growled under his breath. The coyote he had tangled with during the early morning hunt had left an indelible mark on him.

He wasn’t much for confrontation but survival came at a premium cost. A patch of fur was missing courtesy of a claw cutting into him while they tussled. It was a spirited battle and he gave as good as he got.

The encounter had lasted a little over five minutes. He’d gotten the final laugh when he’d blinded one of the coyote’s eyes.

People gave him a wide berth whenever he ventured too close to an inhabited area. They must’ve thought he was a mad dog. He couldn’t blame them for being cautious, but he just wanted somebody to treat him with the same kindness as Marjorie.

It was by luck he caught a whiff of something in the distance cooking over an open fire.

The man doing the cooking was unconscious with an empty bottle next to him when he wandered into his camp as silently as possible.

A makeshift spit had been made over a fire pit. Remnants of a wild boar hung precariously with little meat left on the bones. He watched the man breathe deeply with his hat over his head.

It wasn’t much of a meal but it was better than nothing at all.

That was what had started him on his journey, but he had no idea what compelled him to follow the man. There was something dangerous about him, but his actions reminded him of somebody being hunted. He was constantly looking around.

Staying with him in the shadows wasn’t easy. He sensed the man knew he was there but was wary about his presence. He considered the man a kindred spirit, completely alone and rejected by society. He couldn’t shake the feeling of how they could benefit each other if only they could trust long enough to become friends.

“The Desperado’s Quest” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Caroline, burdened with her father’s unjust accusation, embarks on a daring quest through the untamed West to clear his name and expose the truth. In a land as treacherous as it is breathtaking, she rides with unwavering determination, her heart aflame with a fervor for justice. Amidst rugged mountains and sweeping plains, she becomes a beacon of resilience, defying all odds in her pursuit.

She owes it to him…

But fate weaves an unexpected alliance. Enter Max, a charismatic and enigmatic outlaw, haunted by his own secrets. Drawn to Caroline’s unwavering spirit, he joins her on this perilous journey. Together, they navigate the dangerous trails, evading a corrupt lawman’s relentless pursuit and battling a bandit clan hell-bent on revenge.

No matter how much he runs there’s no escaping the past…

In a tale woven with danger and brimming with adventure, Caroline and Max carve their destinies at the heart of the Wild West. As their journey unfolds, they face ambushes, tornadoes, and the constant threat of betrayal. Will Max’s secrets shatter their fragile alliance, or will their shared determination forge a path to redemption?

“The Desperado’s Quest” 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!

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