In Search of Vindication (Preview)


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Chapter One

U.S. Deputy Marshal Lee Palmer, paced back and forth a short distance on the boardwalk, waiting for the telegraph office to clear out. Finally, the last man stepped out the door, and Lee entered.

“Lee Palmer,” he announced. “You got a telegram for me?” 

The telegrapher nodded and handed it through the window.

Lee read it. He realized he had been holding his breath but exhaled with relief when he had finished.

The message came back: “Too hard to find good men. Keep your badge. See to your brother.” 

Ten days ago, he had written to the Marshal’s office in Dodge City tendering his resignation from his Palmervilleville post due to his need to track down his brother. He had asked them to send an acknowledgment via telegram.

He hadn’t felt released to go until he heard from them. But there it was. Go, with their blessing. Even though he hadn’t been sure of their response, he had his packs full and ready to go at a moment’s notice. He’d wait till morning to leave, so he might as well have a draw with the boys and say goodbye. 

He went into the Hard Star saloon. The bartender drew him a beer, and he sat down at a table. He and his buddies always met on Thursday nights to play cards, but Lee was early today.

He sat, slouched forward with his elbows on the table. He and his brother Tommy hadn’t written much after Tommy left home five years ago. But, miraculously, Tommy had begun corresponding with Lee over the last year. Lee had felt better when he read his letters. Tommy had always been a bit of a screw-up and had gotten himself into more than a few scrapes ever since grade school, always picking fights and pulling tricks. Lee had been worried that when Tommy went out into the world, he’d pick a fight with the wrong man. 

Lee had been excited to hear that he had drifted into a little town in Texas a couple of years ago and seemed to be doing well for himself. He had started out by mucking out stalls in the livery stable, then moved up to liveryman, and then wrangled himself a position as a ranch hand at the Double Q ranch.

Doyle Garret, the ranch owner, was a great man to work for, Tommy had told him. Garret rewarded Tommy with a calf now and then for doing a particularly good job at something, and allowed him to keep any mavericks Tommy brought in. Tommy had created his own brand, the T bar C, so Tommy branded his calves and mavs, and they ran among Garret’s herd. 

Even though Tom had always been a starry-eyed dreamer, Lee hoped that Tom could have a steadier life for himself if he could stick with Garret. Tom’s desire was to become ranch manager and Garret’s right-hand man. Lee had a bit of trouble imagining Tommy as the settled, responsible type, but perhaps the world had changed him.

When the letters stopped coming regularly and then stopped all together for three months, Lee got worried. Tommy’s last letter had been troubling.

He had said that folks back east were beginning to get the fact that when cattle were unloaded at the Chicago Stockyards they were having to pay top dollar for them. If they could control both ends of the deal, it would be much more lucrative. So eastern as well as European investors began buying up Texas land in huge blocks and turning individual ranches into companies controlled by large conglomerates. Many ranchers were happy with the investments. They sold their cattle without having to drive them to market, and often got more for the land than they might have selling it independently. 

But it created a problem for the ranch hands, who were no longer looked at as valued employees, but demoted to being just “cowboys.” The mavs were now company property, and nobody was paid in calves anymore. If they still wanted to work, they stayed on, but their wages were drastically reduced, and the work became more dangerous, running the risk of being gored or trampled. Many of them had no other skills, so they felt they had little choice in the matter—it was stay and work too hard for too little pay or turn to a life of crime.

Cowboys became a class that people looked down on, and that was hard to take. They were shuffled around, let go, and then hired again elsewhere, sometimes not knowing where their next meal would come from.

While deep in his reverie, the Jones brothers, Ray and Roy, came through the door and sat down with Lee. In a few minutes, the pharmacist, John McLaren, and “Digger” McGee, the Montgomery County coroner, joined them. McGee had been a grave digger before he got the credentials to become the coroner, and the name had stuck.

The barmaid, Polly Ann, brought a round of beers to the table. Lee raised a bill toward her and said, “This round’s on me.”

“Nonsense,” Digger said, knocking his arm away. “This is your goddamned farewell doin’s. You’re not paying for nothin’.”

“So, what did Dodge City say?” McLaren asked.

“Gave me their blessing and told me to keep my badge.”

A couple of them laughed. “They want to make sure you come back.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s true, but I honestly don’t know. I’ve been here for 27 out of the last 29 years. Maybe it’s time to see other things. I’m the third generation of Palmers here. If something has happened to spoil Tommy’s plans, we may just do some sightseein’ for a while.

“This was a good town to grow up in,” Lee continued, “but the number of murders, robberies, and what-not, has gone up exponentially, even with two deputies here trying to keep the peace. With all the desperate drifters that come in now, it’s nigh on to impossible to stanch the flow. And after taking seven bullets in the last five years, I think I’d like to find someplace a little quieter to raise a family. Not to mention the goddamned paperwork it takes to arrest these men, feed ’em, house ’em, and attend their court hearin’s. God, I don’t even want to think about it anymore.”

“Raise a family! Hell, you’re almost an old man,” Roy Jones said, slapping him on the back. “Who’s gonna want your ugly mug now? How old are ya?”

Lee’s eyes crinkled in amusement. “I am almost an old man. I’ll be thirty in December.” 

“Apparently this one doesn’t mind,” Ray said.

They all looked up to see Miss Dora sashaying toward them in beautiful, peach-colored silk. She immediately climbed into Lee’s lap and threw her arms around his neck. 

“What is this I hear? You’re leavin’ us? You’re havin’ a send-off, and I didn’t even have a chance to get you a present.”

“Don’t need presents. Can’t carry ’em with me anyway.”

“Well, maybe,” she said, cozying up close to him, fingering the buttons on his shirt. “If you stay with me tonight,” she whispered into his ear, “I’ll give you a really nice present.”

Lee’s face flushed a deep red, but he came right back. “Why, thanks, Miss Dora. You know I would, but I’d be afraid you’d tire me out so I wouldn’t be able to get on my way in the mornin’.”

“Oh, that I would, puddin’,” she said.

“See? I mustn’t let anything stop me from leaving directly.”

“Fine, then,” she said. “I’m just gonna pull me up a chair right here, and join the festivities. Anybody object?”

“Hell, no, Dora,” Ray Jones said. Looks all around showed that nobody minded.

The boys started playing cards, and Dora called for another round at the table. Once it was passed around, she kissed Lee on the lips, then removed her shoes and flung her legs into Lee’s lap. He ignored her while he played. 

After a while, she sat up, feet on the floor, and put her hand on his leg. She moved it up, surreptitiously, until she found her prize. It made him uncomfortable, but he didn’t hasten to remove her hand lest it be obvious to the rest.

Despite the distraction, he was playing cards pretty well. He won some, lost some, but managed to come out a little ahead in the end.

After a while, Dora went back to the bar, sending Polly Ann to clear the table, and the men all lit their smokes: cigarettes, cigars, pipes, whatever suited. They talked quietly for a while. Lee was telling them of Tom’s dilemma. He’d told them a few details before but not all. 

“D’ya think somethin’s really happened?” one of the Jones brothers asked. “Maybe he’s just too busy t’ write. Maybe he got that manager job.”

Lee shook his head. “Maybe. I don’t know what to think. He’s gotten himself into more than a few scrapes.”

“How do you know that if you ain’t seen him in six years?”

“When we’re both Palmers from Palmerville, and I’m the Deputy Marshal, news carries fast. Let’s see, there was the one time he got himself into trouble messin’ around and tryin’ to run off with a little Osage gal. Turned out to be the chief’s daughter. He’s lucky he’s alive after that one. Then he got himself in with a really bad crowd over around Fort Worth somewhere. The gang was robbin’ banks. I don’t think he’d ever go that far, but who knows? So, I’m just worried that something’s gone wrong at the ranch, and that he’s taken off and fallen in with thieves and horse traders again.

“Whatever it is, I’m committed to goin’ now,” Lee said. “It’s a damned shame I haven’t seen him for over six years. He left home just as soon as he could, after he’d finished school and an obligatory period of helping our pa. My ma died givin’ birth to Tommy, leavin’ my dad and me to raise him. We had some help from a Kiowa woman when he was small, but she, too, died a few years later. By then, Tommy was old enough that the three of us just fended for ourselves.”

“By gum, Lee,” John McLaren said. “If we’d a knowed that before, one of us would have arranged to come with you.”

“Naw,” Lee said. “This is somethin’ I gotta do on my own.”

Dora returned to the table and put her hands on Lee’s shoulder. “Anything else I can get you fellas?” she wanted to know.

The men drank down the last bit of beer and stood. “Don’t think so, I think it’s about time we get on home and let Lee get some sleep before he lights out in the morning.”

Lee stood, too, but Dora pulled him toward her, twisting her hands behind his neck. He bent his head, his mouth parting to press her little cupid’s bow of a mouth. 

The men stopped before they went out the door and looked back. 

“If he makes it home tonight, I’ll miss my guess,” Digger said, and the other three chuckled. “He sure does have a weak spot for the ladies.”

“Yeah, but it’s different than we think. He always feels like he can help them somehow. He’d just as soon pay them, talk to them, and walk away without any other services,” McLaren said.

“Then I guess that’s an iron-clad will instead of a soft spot.”

“I always feel like I can help the ladies, too, with my iron rod, but they don’t fuss over me like they do him,” Ray said, bringing guffaws from the rest.

Dora stood on her tiptoes and whispered to Lee. “I promise I won’t make you weak. I’ll take your mind off things and,” tracing his eyebrow with her thumb, “take some of the tension out of those bones. I gather it’s gonna be a long ride.”

He closed his eyes and nodded.

What the Hell? Why should he care what anybody else thought?

 “C’mon,” she said. She took his wrist and led him up the stairs. 

When they got into her room, he tossed his slouch hat onto a chair post. He wanted just to sit down and pull her onto his lap, but he saw her breathing hard and her bosoms moving along the same rhythm, and he knew he dare not. He could feel himself getting hard and felt carried away by his need.

Chapter Two

Dora pressed herself up against him, running one hand through his stark, black hair, the other down his front to his groin. He inhaled audibly when she touched him. She had looked forward to this moment for a long time. She stroked his handsome, triangular face, ran her fingers across his hooded blue eyes, and tugged at his overgrown chevron mustache. 

She took his hand and placed it inside her dress against her breast, kissed him deeply, and then withdrew. She unfastened his shirt and pushed it back from his shoulders, admiring his sculpted muscles. She pointed to the bed and indicated that he should lay down. He removed his jacket and vest and pulled down his suspenders. 

He closed his eyes, feeling dizzy with beer and lust. But just as he prepared to lie down, there came to his ears a ruckus of some sort in the street below. He stepped to the window just in time to hear a man on horseback call to someone inside the saloon and aim his shotgun toward the door.

Lee threw open the window and hollered down, “Stop in the name of the law!”

The man looked up toward Lee and took a shot that landed just above the window. As Lee got his suspenders and jacket back on, grabbing his hat, he heard a second blast. He fairly leapt from the room, taking the steps two at a time until he reached the front of the saloon.

There lay Harvey Minsch, a known troublemaker in the area, but Lee had never been able to catch him with any real evidence. He looked up just as the horseman rode away. Lee’s horse was in the livery, so he grabbed the nearest horse on the hitching post, mounted, and took off. 

They rode hard. Lee chased, and the man ran like prey. Just as Lee was coming alongside, he realized he had left his pistol on Dora’s nightstand. 

He reached for his shotgun but realized it was with his own horse in the livery. Jeez. Had he fallen this far? He had only a few paces, and he would be upon the man. Luckily, the man had holstered his shotgun and was holding fast to the reins with both hands, concentrating on outrunning Lee.

Lee began to curse himself. How could he have let his guard down so fully, just because this was his last night in town? 

He rode alongside and jumped from the horse he was riding onto the rump of the other man’s horse. Using both hands as one fist, he knocked the rider off of the horse, grabbing the man’s own shotgun on the way down. Lee reined the horse and jumped down, holding the shotgun on the man.

Lee heard clattering hooves behind him, and, turning, saw the other Deputy Marshal, Buddy O’Brien.

“Who is this?” Lee asked. “Do ya know?”

“Yep, it’s Darrel Stockton. He and Minsch are usually in cahoots over something, but this time, Minsch musta double-crossed him.”

“That dirty …” Stockton started to say.

“Save it. You’ll get to talk about the whole thing to the judge in the morning.”

Lee pulled Stockton up, and he and O’Brien lashed Stockton to his horse. 

“I’ll take care of it all,” O’Brien said. “You go on.”

When Lee returned to the saloon, Digger was standing over Minsch, but he had him propped up against the door casing. 

“This is one lucky cuss. Apparently, he’s too ornery to die. The bullet went through the side of his neck. He’ll be all right, eventually, but he ain’t gonna be able to talk for a while.”

“Well, he might not be talkin’,” said Lee, “but he won’t be lyin’ neither.”

“What do you need me to do?” Lee asked Digger.

“Nothin’. Go back to what you was doin’. I’ll have a couple of these men transport him over to my office.”

“But what about …?”

“The other deputy, the one who will handle everything once you’re gone, is already on it. Seriously, Lee, just get outta here.”

He certainly felt better that the man would be all right, troublemaker though he was, but he might have been more johnny-on-the-spot if he hadn’t been dilly-dallying with Dora. 

He stood outside and looked into the saloon. He felt cold and then hot. He looked up to the upstairs windows, and there stood Dora looking out at him. Seeing her was like electricity running through him.

He went in, taking the back stairs up to her room, and knocked.

She told him to come in. He exhaled. What would it be? Was she going to be lying there naked when he went into the room?

He opened the door, and his eye fell immediately onto the nightstand and saw his pistol wasn’t on it. He looked up, only to see Dora standing there, pointing his own gun at him. 

His blood was still pounding through his veins from his little entanglement on the road.

“Uh, that’s loaded, you know.”

“Yes. I checked.”

They both stood stock still, staring at each other for several seconds. She broke the gaze first, laughing, and tossed the gun gently onto the bed. 

“Why, I oughtta …” he said, grabbing a hold of her.

“Spank me?”

“I’ll turn you over my knee right now,” he said.

Lee twisted her wrist hard, wrestling her down across his legs. He lifted her skirt up and smacked her bottom three times, but seeing the lacy drawers she was wearing, made his blood even hotter.

She sat up and maneuvered herself, pulling up the folds of her skirt until she was straddling him. 

“Let’s try this again,” she whispered as she pulled down his suspenders.

It was his chest that was heaving this time. He stood, catching her legs around his waist. He took two steps, reached across the bed, holstered his gun, relishing the feel of her in his arms, her scent of violet along with her own scent. He placed her on the bed, pinning her down with his knees on either side of her.

She pushed him, unbalancing him until he was on his back. “Just lie still,” she said. “This is my treat.” 

“Oh, God,” he said, “I suspect it will also be mine.”

The next morning, after settling his packs onto his horse, he shut up his little cabin and turned back to look at it. Who knew what kind of invading critters would take over once he left? A shame, really, but he couldn’t be sure whether he would need it again.

With all the long brown prairie grass surrounding it, it would burn up in a heartbeat if there were a prairie fire. But no regrets. Time to go.

“In Search of Vindication” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Lee Palmer has been working as a U.S. Deputy Marshal in Kansas for a great deal of his life. As soon as his brother Tommy stops answering his letters, he gets extremely alarmed and decides to take matters into his own hands. When he puts a plan in place to travel to Texas, little does he know that a shattering surprise awaits him there; his brother has been found dead, next to the body of one of the most powerful ranchers in town. Will Lee manage to unravel the truth behind these enigmatic and shocking deaths?

While Lee is still aghast, the local sheriff declares Tommy’s death a suicide, and also accuses him of attempting robbery and murder. On the spur of the moment, the case is considered closed, which makes Lee highly suspicious. Feeling that they drag Tommy’s name through the mud, he decides to defy the law and seek vindication. Will he succeed in this lonesome yet risky mission? How will he solve this demanding riddle and clear his brother’s name?

Lee’s hazardous quest begins, having Susan Marsh and Ki’Somma, a young Cherokee medicine man, on his side. Doubts, lies, deceits, serious injuries as well as many other roadblocks will derange their endless undertaking. Will they manage to join forces triumphantly and complete this challenging mission ? Or will Tommy always be remembered as a ruthless criminal?

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

“In Search of Vindication” 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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