Menace Under the Texas Sun (Preview)


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Chapter One

The outlaw sat on his horse on the small hill and eyed the town like a hawk following a flittering sparrow that didn’t have long to live.  The outlaw, named “Knife Johnson,” looked a bit like a predator. He had a hooked nose over a sun-burnt face, the burnt skin of his jaws and cheeks contrasting with penetrating green eyes. The eyes revealed cunning but also ruthlessness.  His three men were by his side. He knew they had been grumbling under their breath because of the slim pickings lately. They would not complain openly, not to Johnson, who was quick with his gun and, for that matter, with a knife, as his name implied.

A slight wind blew red granules from the desert at them. There was little cover between the hill where they were and the town of Dawsonville.  But Johnson didn’t think any of the townsfolk would be suspicious.  Strangers probably rode in all the time.  The town was near the Mexican border, and Americans and Mexicans crossed back and forth often.

“What do you think, boss?” said ‘Mosquito’ Vargas, a half-breed Mexican who rode with the gang.

Johnson nodded. “It’s as good as any. Probably don’t see much trouble down here, so they won’t be expecting none.  But we ride in slowly. Don’t want to excite anybody. We ride in slow, but we come out fast. Then we look for better targets.”

He turned and looked at another member of the gang.

“Pecos, you know this desert. Where’s the closest water hole?”

“About ten miles from here. There’s an arroyo just across the border and a waterhole. Been a lot of rain lately, so it should be full,” said Pecos.

“We’ll head for it after our business in Dawsonville. We can water the horses there and fill our canteens. If you head into a desert, you have to plan. I don’t want to die of thirst,” Johnson said.  He shook his head. “There’s a lot of ways to die and dying without water is one of the worst. Rather die by a lawman’s bullet than by thirst. One is quick. Fast. The other draws out death.”

“Yes.  It’s a painful and slow way to die,” Pecos said, nodding. He gave a harsh laugh. “You see the bones in the desert of men who tried to cross unprepared. I think, ‘what fools.’ Don’t try to cross the desert unless you know the way and know the water holes. Some men are fools.”

“Let’s hope that doesn’t apply to us,” Quint Holister said. He was the fourth member of the gang, a Western man who didn’t say a lot. But he was totally dependable. He also had a slight streak of decency that sometimes bothered Johnson.  But on the plus side, the gang leader knew Holister would not betray him. For that trait alone, Johnson could put up with a bit of decency.

“It won’t,” Johnson said. “We know where the water holes are, or at least Pecos does.”

Pecos laughed. “That means you need to keep me alive. At least until we reach that water hole.”

Johnson looked toward the town again. There were still no riders between the gang and the town.

“OK, let’s move out. Remember, we hit the general store.  Not the bank. Banks sometimes have guards, and often the tellers have guns in their desks.  Lost a friend that way once. He told the bank teller to hand over the money, and the man pulled a gun and killed him. Besides, the general stores in these towns have a good amount of cash. The owners often don’t put their money in the banks until Friday. And this is Thursday.” He nodded toward Dawsonville.  “That general store should have a fair amount of cash. Let’s go.”

They eased the horses down the small hill and headed for the town.

Dan Landon snapped his fingers in front of his sister Caroline.

“Wake up. We have work to do. That will take your mind off, Harry,” he said, smiling.

Caroline directed an exasperated glare at him. “Dan, once in a while, normal people take time to rest a minute. You go a hundred percent all the time. And while I believe that’s admirable, may I remind you again that it is not normal.”

“It keeps the store running. We’ve got plenty to do.”

“I said it was admirable. It can also be annoying.”

Their father, John, laughed.  “Both of you are right. Dan inherited his father’s work ethic. But it can be annoying. Your mother told me that countless times. But Dan’s work and business savvy has made the store more profitable than I ever did.”

“Thank you, Dad,” Dan said. “And don’t worry, sis. Dr. Harry will be walking in soon to say hello, and his hellos often stretch for thirty minutes. He says ‘hello’ but is not good at saying ‘goodbye.”

Caroline smiled and pointed to her brother. “You see, that’s another reason you should not work all the time. It makes you grouchy.  Harry never stays long when he drops by. He has to go back to the office and check for patients.”

Dr. Harry Kodak, the town’s physician, was courting Caroline, and most of the town expected them to get married soon. He had not proposed yet, but he planned to. He wanted to clear away a few debts first. He was a fine doctor, and townspeople were happy that he had decided to stay in Dawsonville. He was happy he had chosen Dawsonville too because of Caroline. He had also become a best friend of Dan and the town deputy, Jack Ellison.

“For the safety of the town and citizens, sis, you should go over and be a volunteer nurse for Harry. He’s probably staring out the window looking at this store the way you were staring toward the doctor’s office.”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “You keep irritating me, brother, and I might. Then you would have twice the work to do.”

Dan laughed.  When the door opened, and three strangers walked in, he turned his attention to them.  At first glance, he didn’t like them. They looked rough and had to be strangers to the area. He knew everyone in town, and none of the three lived in Dawsonville.  He walked toward them.

“May I help you?” he said.

“Yes, you may,” the first man said. He drew his gun.  “You can open your safe and give us all the money in it.”

The other two men drew their guns too.  One pistol pointed at his father, and the other man pointed his gun at Caroline.

Dan rapidly raised his arms as if surrendering. “Don’t hurt them! I’ll give you the money!” He pointed to the door behind the counter.

“Good,” Johnson said. He glanced around. On the back wall was a gun rack with several rifles and ammunition.  “I see you offer guns for sale too.  You offer everything a man might need out here.”

Dan gave a slight nod.

“Mosquito, go over and collect their guns and grab some ammunition too.  We can sell those guns for a good price.  Grab anything else than looks valuable.”

“We don’t sell tombstones, although I’m sure that soon you will need one of those,” Dan said.

Johnson moved his pistol closer to Dan’s face. “Don’t get smart with me, storekeeper. You just do what I tell you, and everything will be fine. And you can do it without talking. I didn’t come in here to hear you flap your gums.”

“The money is in the safe. It’s in the office. I’ll open it.”

Johnson smiled. “Good. Let’s mosey on back. No tricks. There’s no reason anyone has to get hurt unless you start something.”-

He followed Dan into the office and watched him kneel before the safe and reach for the dial.

“We don’t have much,” Dan said. “We’re a general store, not a bank.”

“We’ll make do,” Johnson said. “The money and the guns will make this a good haul.”

Dan rolled the numbers and heard a click. “Got it right here for you.”

Dan kept a gun on the shelf. As he reached his hand in, he grabbed the pistol. He had bent down to open the safe, and it was an awkward position.  He tried to stand up swiftly and fire, but Johnson had robbed stores and an occasional bank, and he was always alert and quick during a theft. Dan was fast but not fast enough. As he turned, gun in hand, Johnson fired. The first bullet caught Dan in the shoulder, and the outlaw’s second shot penetrated his chest. As Dan fell back over the small vault, he fired. There was a yell of pain as the bullet entered and exited Johnson’s arm. Johnson gritted his teeth with pain and, angered, fired two more shots into Dan’s fallen body.

“Nothing but a danged double-crosser,” he yelled. He tossed Dan’s body to the side, looked into the safe, and put two bullets into the small strongbox. The lid flew open, and the strongbox overturned, spilling out three piles of money.  Ignoring Caroline’s screams from the front of the store, he holstered his gun and grabbed the money, stuffing it into his pockets.

Pain ran up and down his arm, and blood leaked to the floor. He cussed the dang storekeeper and ran out.

“Come on!” he shouted as he raced out the door.

“No!” cried John. He tried to grab the outlaw, but Pecos slammed his gun on the man’s head. The two outlaws followed the leader. They ran out and jumped on their horses, Holister following.

“What went wrong?” he shouted.

“Storekeeper wanted to be a hero. Now he’s a dead fool,” Johnson shouted.

“Let’s go!” Vargas said.

Several people walking down the streets were already looking at the general store. The outlaws spurred their horses and galloped down the street while several townspeople ran to the general store.  Seeing the disturbance, Dr. Harry Kodak opened the door to his office and rushed down the road too.

As he ran down the street, he didn’t realize that life in Dawsonville would never be the same again.

When he rushed into the store, several people pointed to the office. Kodak ran into it, but when he saw the body of his friend, Dan, he knew there was nothing he could do.  Dan had fallen forward, and the doctor could see the three bullet holes in his back. He also saw the intense stillness on Dan’s body. ‘Intense stillness’ was a phrase he had made up to describe the motionlessness of a dead man or woman. ‘Intense stillness’ meant death. Now he knew it applied to his friend. He put his hand on Dan’s shoulder but looked back to the men in the store. He shook his head.

He walked out, and Caroline ran into his arms.

“I’m sorry, Caroline. There was nothing I could do.”

Tears flowed down her cheeks as she nodded. “Let me check your father,” he said.

“Let’s get a posse!” yelled one man.  “The deputy is chasing rustlers. We’ll have to take care of this ourselves.”

“He’s right. Men, get your horses.  We’ll hang them,” shouted another man.

“First, if two men could carry Mr. Landon to my office,” Kodak said.

“Sure, Doc. Roy, get his feet. We’ll take him down.”

The doctor watched several men jump on their horses as he walked back to his office. He wanted to hang the robbers as much as any of them, but he wasn’t optimistic about the posse. He assumed the robbers were outlaws and that this was not the first store or bank they had robbed. They would also know all the trails and the back trails. Also, he would have had confidence in a posse headed up by his friend, Deputy Jack. But this posse was closer to a mob than professional lawmen. The former would make mistakes that would undercut their attempt to catch the robbers. The latter would not

While Caroline sat in his office, he cleaned and bandaged her father’s head wound.  The older man was breathing steadily, which was a good sign.  Harry knew head wounds were dangerous things to deal with. A man knocked out with a pistol might get up and have no repercussions besides a sore head for a day.  But he knew such wounds could also knock a splinter from a bone or cave in part of the brain needed for life. And sometimes, those consequences were not immediately apparent. He shook his head.  Still, his patient’s breathing was good, steady.  He looked at Landon’s eyes, and they were clear, which was another good sign.  He would take as many good signs as he could get.

He walked over and stuck his head out the door.

“Caroline, you can see him now. But he’s not awake.”

She rushed in. “Will he be all right?”

She walked to the head of the bed, touched her father’s shoulder but looked back toward Kodak.

“I think so, but I have to say I can’t be sure. I cleaned the wound and bandaged it.  But I must be honest and say head wounds are difficult to predict.  I don’t think there is a major injury. I think he will fully recover, but with head wounds, you can never be a hundred percent sure until the patient sits up and says hello.”

Caroline nodded.

“If you would like to stay with him …”

“I would,” she said.

He nodded.  “If you have a key, I can go down and lock up your store.  You don’t want to leave it open.”

She nodded and fumbled with her purse. She pulled out a key and gave it to him.

“You’re right.  I think the back door is locked, but this key will lock the front door. Thanks for thinking of that.”

He walked back to the general store, locked it, and then went across the street to the sheriff’s office, checked the doorknob, but it didn’t open. He nodded.  Jack was out chasing rustlers. Probably wouldn’t be back until that night. He wanted to find and hang the robbers.  He was planning to ride with Jack when the deputy went hunting for the outlaws.  Kodak had medical skills, had a medical degree, for that matter, but he was also good with a gun. He was fast and accurate. So was Jack, for that matter. They were more than a match for four robbers.

And the robbers would soon find that out.

Chapter Two

Deputy Jack Ellison rode back into the town about eight o’clock.  The trip was tiring but successful. One rustler had got away, but another one was dead, and two others were in a nearby jail. They would hang as soon as the circuit judge rode in. His bones ached, and his back hurt from the hard riding and fighting, but he wore a satisfied smile. The outlaws had been captured or killed, and the one who got away probably wouldn’t come back to the territory.

He gave a wry smile when he saw the light on in the sheriff’s office. It was probably Emmet, waiting up for him.  Emmett was a young man who wanted to wear a badge. He was a good man if slightly dim-witted. But he was loyal, supportive, and followed orders explicitly, somewhat like a loyal dog. Emmet could be depended on. When the previous sheriff left, the town council told Ellison they would give him the sheriff’s job if he did a good job. They gave him three months’ probation, and he was at the end of the second month.  If he became sheriff, he didn’t want Emmett as a deputy due to his mental slowness, but he wanted to make a place for him in the office. Perhaps the town council could put him on part-time. He was loyal, brave, and honest. Every sheriff needed a man like that on his side.

He stopped at the hitching post in front of the office and climbed down from his horse, Ben. Ben stuck his nose into the trough and drank gulps of water.  The deputy petted him.

“Another tough ride. Give me a minute, and I will take you down to the livery stable and see you get a good rubdown and some good food.” He petted the horse. “We have to take care of one another,” he said.

He opened the door expecting to see Emmett but was shocked when he saw Dr. Kodak at his desk with a cup of coffee before him.  “Harry, what are you doing here?”

“Had some trouble today, Jack. Four robbers stole some money from the general store and killed Dan.”


The doctor nodded. “So I want to talk to you. A posse went out but couldn’t find them. I figure you will head out tomorrow. I want to go with you.”

Ellison gave a quick nod. “Stay here a moment, Harry. I need all the details.  But I need to take my horse to the livery stable. He needs a rubdown and some food, especially since we’ll be on the road again tomorrow. When I come back, you can tell me all that happened today.”

“Sure. I’ll be here.”

Five minutes later, Ellison walked back in.

“First, I need some of the coffee. People who don’t live near a desert may not believe it gets cool at night, but it does.” He strode to the coffeepot and poured himself a cup.

Kodak started to get up from the chair, but Ellison waved him down.

“Just stay there. I’ll take another chair,” he said.

He sipped the coffee, grabbed a chair, and set it in front of the desk.

“So tell me what happened.”

Kodak sighed. “It was about noon, maybe a little after. Four men rode in; three went into the general store. The other man stayed out, maybe as a lookout. Inside, one took Dan into the back room where the safe was. I guess Dan opened it. Caroline told me he kept a gun in the safe. He tried to pull it out, but the outlaw shot him three times. He was killed almost immediately. The outlaws ran out. I guess their father tried to stop them but got banged on the head for his efforts.  But I checked on him about an hour ago, and he’s doing well. I want him to stay in my office tonight so I can check him again first thing in the morning. Caroline is with him. I’m hopeful he won’t have any permanent injuries.”

“Thank goodness,” Ellison said.

“I’d figured you go out after them, and I want to go with you. I have two best friends in this town. You’re one. Dan was the other. I want to find the scum who killed him and be there when they hang.”

Ellison sipped more coffee. “Well, I can always use help, and I know you can use a gun. We’ll leave tomorrow morning. May have to do some hunting. The tracks may be cold. Can you give me a description?

“I can’t, but Caroline can.”

He pulled out several papers from his coat. “I talked with her this afternoon and wrote down the descriptions of the three men.  The fourth man, the lookout, she didn’t see.” He raised the papers. “But those are detailed. She has keen eyes, and I don’t suppose this is something anyone would forget.”

He handed the papers to the deputy, who read them slowly, then nodded.  “She’s very detailed. We should be able to spot any one of those three if we see them. That’s a huge advantage.”  He folded up the papers and stuck them in his pocket.  “Let’s keep this with us. We may need to check it from time to time. I’m going to assume they didn’t identify themselves when they walked in.”

“No, unfortunately.”

Ellison looked toward the far wall.  “I’m gonna check my wanted posters very closely. One of those faces might match one of these descriptions. If so, then we’ll know who we are looking for. Might make the job a little easier.  Dan was my friend.  We’ll find them, Harry, and then we’ll hang them.” Ellison knew as a deputy he had to keep his emotions under control. If you got angry, you made a mistake, and if you made a mistake, chances were you would get killed. But his voice rose a bit in anger when he looked at the doctor.  “The law won’t allow us to skin them alive, so I can’t use my knife on them. But if …”  He stopped, drank the rest of the coffee, and rose from his chair.  “Now we better get some sleep. I’m tired, and I’m going out tomorrow at dawn. You better get some sleep too. We have a long ride ahead.”

“Menace Under the Texas Sun” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Doctor Harry Kodak wants nothing more in life than to marry his soulmate, Caroline. The last thing he expects, though, is that his hometown’s peace will be torn apart violently by an evil man, Knife Johnson. When Johnson and his gang murder Caroline’s brother while robbing the town’s general store, Harry feels compelled to bring the ruthless criminal to justice.

Will he manage to use his skills successfully to track down Johnson, and dare to shed some blood if it comes down to it?

As if Harry’s troubles weren’t enough, Johnson will soon hatch a brilliant plan to rob the town’s bank. On top of that, the gang’s newest member will spread fear and chaos throughout the town, leaving Harry with no choice but to act quickly. Time is running short but forming an alliance with the town’s deputy will finally bring hope to Harry’s never-ending mission.

Will they be able to hold on to their determination to save the town even when they are confronted with brutal violence?

Harry and Caroline’s romance has never been challenged before. However, their wild thirst for revenge forces them to put their marriage on hold and flings them into a whirlwind adventure. Will Harry’s excellent gun skills allow him to serve justice and defend the town and those he loves? Or will the merciless gang destroy any hope he has for a peaceful life?

“Menace Under the Texas Sun” 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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