Investigating a Shadowy Crime (Preview)


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


“Jefferson Allan Dugarall!”

He could hear his mother shrieking his name even though she was nowhere near. He should have known to stay with his parents. Quickly, he navigated the sea of adults, but the men all wore clothes similar to his businessman papa and the women wore dresses of the latest fashions, just like his mother.

For the life of him, Jefferson couldn’t remember what either of his parents were specifically wearing that day. He hadn’t really looked at them. He’d spent too much time teasing his little sister, Jeanie, as she made a fuss over her hair. It was beautiful hair, he had to admit that – but only to himself. He’d never tell his seven year old sister he thought her hair was pretty. He’d never hear the end of it with her teasing.

He knew what she was wearing. A little white dress with a solid fabric underneath a lacy one, a red sash and red collar, and she’d put her hair up in a ponytail with a red ribbon that hung down as far as her hair did, which was to the middle of her back. Jeanie was proud of her wavy hair and enjoyed swinging it back and forth, which Jefferson found incredibly annoying.

But he didn’t see any other children in the train station around him. There seemed to be more people than usual, which Jefferson understood because it was the Christmas season and people did a lot of shopping and traveling around that time of year.

He pushed through the sea of adults, finally spotting the doors to go outside. That was what he needed to do. He needed to go outside and see if the train was leaving. He had a feeling, from the whistles he’d been hearing, that it was ready to go.

And he had to get on the train before it left. His parents might think he was fooling around in another car.
That was what he deserved for getting off after they were already boarded. He’d just wanted to explore for a little bit. He’d overheard Papa telling Mama and Jeanie and his brother, Kyle, that the attendant had said it was going to be a while before they left.

But Jefferson had no idea how long it had been since then. He’d been too busy exploring, watching adults, making up stories in his head about them, pretending he knew all about them and their fantastic lives.
He was always doing that – making up stories about people in his head, strangers he’d see passing on the street. And he always lost track of time because of it.

Now, it had been at least a half hour, and that seemed like a really long time to the ten-year-old. Surely the train would have left by now. He reached the doors and swung them open, exiting the station at break-neck speed and running directly into a man decked out in fine clothing. He was carrying a cane, which he used to tap Jefferson roughly on the thigh, his gruff voice harsh as he spoke.

“What are you doing, boy? Get out of the way. You can’t just run into people like that and expect to get away with it. You should be punished. Where are your parents?”

Jefferson was about to tell him they were on the train, but his eyes darted in between the legs of the well-dressed man and the three other men who appeared to be his bodyguards, standing in an arched line behind him. The train was moving. It wasn’t a long train, only five cars, and if he didn’t hurry, he wouldn’t be able to jump on.

He had his doubts he would be able to jump on, regardless. It was already moving quite fast.

“Mr. Thornton, sir, we should leave,” one of the bodyguards mumbled to the well-dressed man. Jefferson glanced up at the men, noting the expression of haste on their faces. Why were they in such a hurry?
Maybe they were the ones who had run into him! Maybe he was the one who should be complaining.

Without another word but with a definite look of disgust, Mr. Thornton pushed past the boy. Jefferson watched him leave, his brown eyes narrow, his thick brown hair sticking out from under his top hat, his cape hanging from his muscular shoulders and whipping behind him as he hurried through the door.
Jefferson scrambled to his feet and dashed after the train.

Don’t leave me, he thought frantically. I don’t know how to take a train by myself.

He called out to the fast-moving train, sure that he wouldn’t be able to get on. He heard adults behind him, some yelling out he wouldn’t make it while others sent encouraging words his way like, “You can do it, son!” and “Run! Run faster!”

In the end, it was of no use – the train pulled away. He stumbled to a stop, his chest thumping from the exertion, his breath coming rapidly.

He leaned forward, putting his hands on his knees and gasping to catch his breath, his teary eyes looking after the retreating train.

Moments later, when the train was about sixty yards from the station, Jefferson watched as an explosion in the first car, the one where the engineer was, sent the entire train flipping off the tracks.

Jefferson screamed along with the people standing behind him, chills crawling over his entire body. Each of the four cars jumped from the track and slammed on their sides, immediately bursting into flames.

Confusion filled Jefferson. How was that possible? Why would the cars suddenly catch fire? It was as if dynamite had been placed in each car, which went off after the explosion in the engine car.

He stood, staring at the wreckage, knowing there was no way his parents or siblings could have survived such an accident. If it had been an accident. Adults began streaking past him, some of them bumping gently into his shoulders in their hurry.

But Jefferson couldn’t move. One of the women running past him grabbed him by the shoulders. His eyes darted to her face for only a moment. Hers would be the face that would haunt his dreams, telling him over and over for years and years, “By the Grace of God! That could have been you, young man! Run! Run away!”

The image of the train going up in flames and the memory of the day his family died would remain with him into adulthood. Jefferson liked it that way. It gave him motivation.

He would simply wait for the day he was old enough to finding out what happened on his own.
He would die trying.

Chapter One

Jefferson hunched over the coffee table, scanning the papers spread out in front of him. His body was exhausted from a long day at the Pinkerton Detective Agency, where he worked, but his fatigue came mostly from the boredom he’d felt all day. He’d endured meeting after meeting with government officials who were trying desperately to find some outlaws making threats.

They knew it was his specialty, and that was why they’d come to him for help. But most of the time, those politicians just wanted a simple minor threat to themselves taken off the table. Jefferson knew when the day came to register their complaints, it would be more boring than fruitful.

He hoped the next day would be better, considering the politicians had all aired their grievances and it was time to take on some more serious cases. He was sure there would be an assignment for him that would make his mind work, a task he enjoyed much more than standing around talking to men in black suits with grumpy faces.

But now, he was home, in his loft above the general store. Whenever he got a chance, Jefferson liked to continue the search for the man he felt was responsible for the death of his family fifteen years earlier. He’d been fortunate to land a career that lined up perfectly with his interest in justice. When he was still quite young, he’d become the apprentice of a man named Barnaby Alexander, one of the toughest, smartest men Jefferson had ever known. He’d started Jefferson off at the young age of eleven, when he’d spotted the boy in an orphanage line-up.

Barnaby had been the father Jefferson had never had. He’d taken Jefferson on trips with him when he was searching for an outlaw and taught him all the tricks of the trade. He always said there was something about the boy that made him look sharp. Turned out, he was right. Jefferson was sharp as a tack. He caught on to the job in less than two years, and finally surpassed Barnaby in skill.

When Jefferson turned 21, Barnaby was killed by a wealthy man named William Thornton.
That was when the case came full circle for Jefferson.

For four years, Jefferson had been tracking William Thornton – the man who had knocked Jefferson down at the train station, the day he’d lost his family.

Jefferson had never forgotten the looks on the faces of William and his men. They’d looked frantic, almost. As if they knew something was going to happen.

He’d been following that feeling and pursuing that line of thinking for years now. It had taken him a long time to find William Thornton. And when Barnaby had died at the man’s hand, Jefferson knew the outlaw had to be stopped.

It was time for William Thornton’s reign of terror to end.

The wealthy businessman worked behind the scenes. This was something Jefferson had confirmed time and again. He evaded the sheriff, the Texas Rangers, the marshals – everyone who pursued him failed to get him convicted of a crime or were unwilling to outright kill him themselves.

Jefferson, though he worked for the government agency, didn’t know if his convictions would hold if he ever had a chance to take Thornton out. The man didn’t deserve to live after the many, many lives he’d taken.

And why he had to get so personally involved in Jefferson’s life was a strange thing. He couldn’t figure out if it was coincidence. First, Thornton had killed his entire family. Then, he’d killed Barnaby, a man he loved like a father. Was Thornton out to get him personally?

Jefferson’s search for evidence and proof that Thornton was behind the train “accident” that had taken his family was spread out in paper form on the table in front of him. He had pasted several pictures and other relevant information on the walls around the small office in his loft.

He picked up a photograph his family had posed for just before boarding the train. It was wrinkled and faded, the black and white image of the family he’d lost nearly gone from being carried in his wallet through the years. As much as he tried to take care of it, it just didn’t seem to want to last.

It would be a sad day when the photograph finally fell to pieces. But he would always have the image in his mind, battling against the one of the burning train in front of his eyes.

He pushed away the familiar pain and focused on what he was doing.

William had managed to elude the law for too long. He was well into his forties now, and Jefferson could only hope that meant he was slowing down. The older he got, the more decrepit he would become. That was what Jefferson told himself. But he wasn’t exactly counting on it.

Thornton led a privileged life. He was the owner of a great deal of property all around the United States. He was well-traveled and had connections in nations across the sea. Some claimed he knew the Queen of England.

Jefferson didn’t believe that.

But he’d heard it. And how did he know it wasn’t the truth?

He had no doubt Thornton’s close ties to the elite of the United States was what kept him so well-protected. Jefferson would find a way around that. Everyone knew he was in pursuit of the killer who took his family. He knew who his friends were by whether or not they believed his story.

He was sure Thornton had planted dynamite on the train. Some kind of explosive cocktail that would blast after carrying the train away from the station.

The thought that Thornton might have been trying to kill everyone on the train and standing out on the platform had crossed his mind, too. He wouldn’t be surprised if he found out that was the truth.

Jefferson set the faded photograph down. He didn’t really need it for inspiration anymore. He was dedicated to searching for the truth and bringing Thornton to justice. The research he’d done had proven to him long ago that Thornton had something to do with the train derailing, the explosions that had caused it and, ultimately, the death of his precious family.

He pushed himself from the couch and walked the few steps to the kitchen area of his loft, going straight to the icebox in the corner. He pulled a bottle of Coca-Cola from the cold container and eyed the dark liquid with delight. Ever since the invention of this delicious beverage, he hadn’t been able to put it down. He was overjoyed when he’d discovered Milton down at the mercantile would order it for him special.

He pried off the cap and turned the cold drink up, relishing the flavor and the chill as the beverage cooled him off. He’d already taken off his hat, which he always did when he came in the loft, and usually wasn’t so hot inside. But it had been hot that day, and the night was even worse. The Texas wind was nonexistent, the stars were shining bright above, and Jefferson would do anything for a cool breeze to blow in through the open window.

He returned to his couch, dropping down and bouncing slightly. He needed a woman to share his time with. That was what he needed.

He laughed at himself. Not until after he took Thornton down. He hadn’t let the wiles of a beautiful woman slow him down yet. He didn’t plan to make any moves in that direction of his life until the current task was taken care of.

Jefferson had plenty of women in his life – none close enough to consider for courtship or marriage, but it gave him a healthy dose of feminine behaviors. He’d observed them all, trying to learn as much as he could about women for when the time came for him to find one for himself.

It was important to him to find that woman, eventually. He didn’t want his father’s name to die with him.

He needed to have a son. He might be slightly disappointed if he only had girls from a result of marriage, but God knew what He was doing. If they were all girls, he’d just have to convince one of them – as well as the husband she would marry – to keep his family name to pass along. He’d seen people hyphenate their names before, but he hadn’t understood why until now.

Jefferson’s stomach grumbled and he realized he hadn’t had anything to eat for hours. He glanced up that large clock standing almost as tall as he was, part of the inheritance he’d received when Barnaby was killed.

It was nearly one o’clock in the morning. He was up late. He would be exhausted at work tomorrow.

It made him feel like not going. And that thought made him chuckle with amusement. Of course he was going to work. He never knew when a new case would come across his desk – something interesting, intriguing, time and brain-power consuming. That was what he loved about being a detective. Something new happened every day.

He sighed, running his eyes over the wanted poster he’d had made of Thornton. It hadn’t gotten far with authorities. The posters were pulled long before they reached post offices all around Texas. Many of the authorities claimed ignorance, but Jefferson knew what had happened. They’d all been bought off by Thornton’s money. He’d gotten to them, corrupted them, and now they were in his pocket.

It was frustrating, to say the least. When one or two sheriffs opposed the capture and conviction of an evil man just because he lined their pockets with gold, the rest of them seemed to follow suit, seeing only money in their eyes, feeling only greed.

It disgusted Jefferson as much as it frustrated him.

A knock on the door made him look up in surprise. He wasn’t expecting company.

Chapter Two

Jefferson pulled the door open to look down into the big, brown eyes of his assistant at the agency. She was affectionately called “Bunny” by her friends and coworkers, but her real name was Beatrice. Someone had told her when she was very small that she looked like a baby bunny, with her button nose, curly blond hair, and plump body. The name stuck and now everyone called her that, including Jefferson, who was essentially her boss.

“Bunny? What are you doing here?” He hadn’t asked the question in a malicious way, but Bunny’s eyes opened wide as if he’d scolded her.

“I’m so sorry to disturb you at this late hour, Mr. Dugarall. I have urgent news I think you’ll be interested in.”

Jefferson knew the young woman was affectionate toward him. She was infatuated, there was no denying it. He didn’t consider himself to be overly handsome. His sandy blond hair was straight, for the most part, and he wore it short with a bit of longer hair coming down over one side of his forehead. It was a unique style that was usually hidden by the rancher’s hat he always wore.

He noticed when Bunny’s eyes flicked up to his hatless head and a look of admiration crossed her face.
“If I let you in, it will not compromise your reputation in any way, will it?” Jefferson already knew the answer. He was one of the most trusted men in town. No one would accuse him of doing anything to the seemingly helpless Bunny Arbauker.

“I’m sure it won’t, boss,” she replied bluntly, pushing past him into the loft. Jefferson was taken aback and turned to look at her, slowly closing the door behind him.

“Tell me what’s on your mind, little lady,” he said, holding out a hand to the couch where he’d been sitting. He’d taken a moment to sweep together the papers he’d been scanning and pile them up on one side of the table.

Bunny wasn’t her usual cheerful self. She was pacing back and forth in front of the table, her anxious eyes sweeping around the room. He shook his head.

“Bunny, stop pacing. You’re going to wear a path in my floor. I’ll forever refer to it as the Bunny path. Slow down and calm yourself. Tell me what’s on your mind.”

Bunny sighed, stopping where she was and giving him a look of concern. “There’s a case coming in tomorrow, boss. I think you should know about it before you hear about it then.”

Jefferson immediately thought of Thornton. Other than a few select others, Bunny was one of his most reliable, trusted sources of research and information. She’d been helping him as his assistant at the agency for three years. He knew she was infatuated with him, but her skills and worth were priceless. She had a nose for finding information. He wished he could return her affections, but it just wasn’t in his heart.
“Please, give me the information you have. Is it about Thornton?”

Bunny nodded. “Yeah. There’s a case he’s connected to coming to our desk tomorrow. You’ve got to approach Sheriff Maxwell first thing in the morning.”

“You’re talking about a few hours from now,” Jefferson said, half-complaining. “Why didn’t you tell me about this sooner?”

Bunny gave him a hurt look. “I just found out myself. I was supposed to stay late to work on some filing for some of your old papers the sheriff asked for. I found a file I maybe… maybe wasn’t supposed to see?”

“You’ve been working this late? You should go home and get some rest.” Jefferson immediately regretted the suggestion. It made it sound like he was trying to get rid of her. He hurried to add, “Not that I’m not very grateful for the information and for you stopping by to deliver it.”

Bunny nodded. “I might not have stopped, but I saw your light burning and thought you must be up. I was glad to see it, since I very well might have knocked anyway and woken you. I know how anxious you are to take on cases that might be connected with William Thornton.”

“What does this case involve?”

“Someone was killed. They think Thornton might be involved. I… I don’t know specifics because when I realized the case hadn’t been assigned, my first thought was to come and tell you about it. That way, you can jump right on it. And I don’t want to keep you up. I just wanted you to know about that before you went to work tomorrow, and stopping by when your light was on seemed like too much of a coincidence to me.”
“So, you came here just to tell me about it?”

Jefferson felt like giving the girl a hug, but he was afraid of what that might imply. She was a sweet girl. He didn’t want to compromise her. He wasn’t even sure she should be alone in his loft with him – if she was seen leaving, it might be a blow to her reputation. She was, after all, technically his employee. She called him “boss.”

He didn’t want to cause her any harm.

Bunny nodded, her dark hair bouncing on her shoulders. “Yes, I know you. You needed to know about this.”

“You’re an angel, Bunny. Thank you so much. Can’t I interest you in a cup of hot chocolate or something? I know you must be beat if you’ve been working this long. You probably want to go straight home.”

Again, Jefferson felt like he was implying he wanted to get rid of her. That wasn’t his intention, even though it was probably better if she did leave.

“I should be going. But if you would like to have a cup of hot chocolate, I’m willing to stay for a short time. You need to get to sleep soon, too. You should probably talk to the sheriff as early as possible.”

Jefferson was already headed into the kitchen when Bunny lowered herself to the couch, scanning the walls where the photographs and newspaper articles were pasted against the hard surface.

“What will you do when you capture Thornton, boss?” she asked with amusement in her voice. “You’ll have to scrape all this down, so you don’t think about it every single day for the rest of your life.”

Jefferson had turned to look at Bunny when she asked the question. The thought that ran through his mind was that he would think about it every day regardless. But he was impressed with the fact that Bunny had said “when” instead of “if you ever.”

He couldn’t help giving her an affectionate smile. “Well, I reckon I’m gonna have to scrape them off when I capture him. Got no choice, I guess.”

He made a quick cup of hot chocolate from the batch he’d made earlier and reheated it on the stove. He brought it over to her, noticing she was eyeing the stack of papers. It was amusing, since she’d put together practically half of that research. There were more boxes of papers in his small storage closet off the back of the house.

“If you take this case, you’ll be working with someone I know,” Bunny said, thanking him for the hot chocolate with the look in her eyes as she accepted the cup he held out to her.
“Is that so? What’s his name?”

Bunny shook her head. “It’s not a man; it’s a woman. Someone the agency really, really trusts. I don’t know if the sheriff does, or if he even knows about her. She works some of the undercover assignments I’ve told you about.”

“The ones you can’t help overhearing discussions about.” Jefferson grinned a little, wondering how many people were privy to the fact that Bunny was prone to eavesdropping. It was one of the skills of hers that had helped him so much over the past few years on his own private case, as well as the professional ones he was given.

“Yeah, that’s right.” Bunny nodded, smiling at him.

Jefferson was intrigued. “So, tell me her name. What’s she all about? She must be a smart cookie, to be working undercover.”

Bunny lifted her eyebrows. “Not to mention courageous. She’s real brave. Her name is Grace. Grace Ridley. You’re gonna like her, I’m sure.” Bunny paused before saying, “All the men do.”

Jefferson studied the sullen look that came over Bunny’s face. Was it jealousy that made her look like that? Or was it just because she knew he would be working with a woman who was very popular with the men?
And what did that say about Grace? Was she just a woman some detective or lawman found in a brothel that gave herself to outlaws to get information? Was she that kind of an undercover worker?

Jefferson hoped not. From the lack of disrespect on Bunny’s face, he was willing to bet she was a much classier woman than that.

“How does she operate?” It was the only way Jefferson could think of to ask the question without it sounding inappropriate. “Where does she come from? Here in Texas?”

Bunny shook her head. “No, she’s not from around here originally. She was born and raised in the South, to wealthy parents. She succeeded them in the family wealth, since she is an only child. She does have a woman, kind of like a servant or a lady-in-waiting, that goes everywhere with her. A dark-skinned woman named Meg, I believe. Sometimes, she’s been known to help out in the investigations. Some say Grace thinks she’s invaluable and won’t work a case without Meg by her side.”

Jefferson raised his eyebrows. This woman was wealthy enough to have a maid-servant? His opinion of her turned from one of distrust due to lack of integrity and respect for oneself to distrust due to possible arrogance and undeserved bravado.

“Do you know her personally?”

Bunny nodded vigorously, her eyes sparkling in the light from Jefferson’s lamp on the table.

“Oh, yes. We’ve met on several occasions. She’s such a nice woman. I know you will like her. She’s friendly and can hold a conversation with anyone right off the bat. She doesn’t blink an eye.”

“So, she has a lot of confidence, then.”

When Bunny nodded in answer, it was with as much enthusiasm as the first time. “Yes. You will benefit from her on this case, I know it. Someone was killed, I think, and you have to find out if Thornton is responsible. I know you can do it. And with Grace’s help, success is almost guaranteed!”

Jefferson thought about working with a woman who was undercover. He’d never done it before. He didn’t know of many women in law enforcement. There weren’t any females in the Texas Rangers, no marshals or sheriffs that he knew of. He’d heard of a female bounty hunter, he thought there might be one or two of those. But they still usually traveled with male companions.

To be working undercover for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, this woman had to be pretty special.
His curiosity was piqued. He didn’t think he would be tired in the morning.

“Investigating a Shadowy Crime” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Jefferson Dugarall has been known as one of the most successful Pinkerton detectives for a large part of his career. However, life hasn’t always treated him fairly; he was just an innocent boy when he witnessed the cruel death of his entire family without his will. The suspicious signs of a possible murder, rather than an inevitable accident, though, made him more determined to follow the career of a detective. Will he finally achieve to interpret the clues leading up to this traumatic event?

Grace Ridley had always been dreaming of doing more than just being a housewife. Although her choices were always limited, living miserably with her sister and two vicious men, she never gave up. Her recruitment as an undercover spy for the Pinkerton Detectives will be a risky decision, but a major milestone to her personal growth. When a heinous crime is committed, a perfect opportunity arises for her to join forces with Jefferson and fight a common enemy. Will they work together effectively and ultimately take vengeance?

A breathtaking story full of adventure, revenge and romance, where suspense is built step-by-step. Will justice be eventually served after Jefferson and Grace’s long investigation?

An action-packed story, featuring complex and fascinating characters, and twists that will leave you breathless. A must-read for fans of Western action and romance.

“Investigating a Shadowy Crime” 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!

One thought on “Investigating a Shadowy Crime (Preview)”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *