The Sheriff’s Glorious Return (Preview)


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Chapter One

Paige Lewis overlooked the yard, the Illinois sky stretching out above and a red-tailed hawk circling free and unconcerned. Glancing up, she wondered why the bird would linger there, of all places. What did it have to gain, circling over the women’s section of the Joliet State Prison? It only made her question what she was doing there herself.

Paige sighed, looking back down over the yard. The increasingly large population of female convicts played baseball, while some walked around the track in long, languid laps to make the most of the better part of the day.

It was strange to see so many women there, new convicts being added all the time. It hadn’t been so long before, in her father’s prime, that there were none at all. The occasional woman had transgressed, of course—one had been found guilty of conspiring to kill President Abraham Lincoln. It hadn’t been long before she’d taken the deadly drop, no mercy for her petticoats.

Otherwise, crime seemed to be the province of men, along with business and politics. Even with less than ten years before the dawn of the Twentieth century, life seemed to have gone on as it had before, and as it seemed it always would.

But Paige couldn’t help but think that the future she was looking at was just as she’d always hoped it wouldn’t be.

She could still remember the conversation she’d had with her father, who’d worked as a guard in the prison proper, where the male prisoners were housed.

“It pays well,” she’d said, brushing her blonde hair back. “We could use the money. And we won’t be far from each other.”

“You wouldn’t rather marry?”

“You know the answer to that, Father.”

“Paige, really, it was… it was tragic, what happened to Lester, but… you can’t let it ruin your life. Find another man.”

“Perhaps I should find another way, instead,” Paige had said with a shrug of her shoulder. “Father, the old ways are changing, after that terrible war… things are going to be different now. The negroes are free, and that means changes for everyone else, too!”

“All it really means is that the negro has all the same pressures of trying to survive in society,” Jonathan Lewis had said, his massive body seemingly helpless before his willful daughter, half his weight. “They’re free, all right… free to be lynched, to be hunted, free to be massacred.”

“Free to find work,” Paige had countered, “to raise families.”

“They could do that before,” Jonathan had said. “They’ll have a harder time of it now, you mark my words.”

Paige had seen her father’s words come to fruition in the pages of the Chicago Sun newspaper. Killings were common, clusters of negros gathered together on the outskirts of the city in the slums and tenements if they could get there alive, and to stray from safe streets was to lay down one’s life to ruffians and thugs dedicated to the old ways.

But it had only strengthened her resolve to take the matron job those five years before, against her father’s better judgment.

“These women,” he’d said, “they’re hardened criminals, Paige. They’d cut your throat if they could; many have, and throats a lot tougher than yours!”

“Good thing, then, that my own father’s the toughest prison guard at Joliet! Good thing he taught me everything he knows about self-defense.”

“I taught you everything you know, not everything I know.”

“And you’ll have plenty of chances to teach me more.” She’d given him a kiss on the cheek and gone off and taken the job. And he’d seemed proud, at least for those few years before his heart gave out and he went to join his beloved Jessica in presence of the Lord.

“Penny for your thoughts.”

Paige turned to see Margaret Tanner approach. Margaret had been Paige’s best friend since she took the job of matron, basically a female guard for the female prisoners, just five years before.

“They’d hardly be worth it,” Paige retorted. “How’re you feeling?”

“Fine,” Margaret said, her red hair pulled back into a tight bun. “Doc said I won’t feel much for a little while yet, in terms of morning sickness and the like.” She shook her head and scanned the yard. “I’ll be long gone outta here by then, thank God.”

Paige understood Margaret’s position. Both were young women spending their lives in a prison, without having committed any crimes. The only real differences between them and the convicts was that they slept at home and could quit if they wanted to, as Margaret was doing.

“I’m guessing your Zane is glad to see you get out without a scratch.”

“Now more than ever. He wouldn’t have let me do it at all but for we needed the money. But he says come hell or high water, his boy ain’t having any prison matron for a mamma. And honestly, I think he’s right.”

The two women surveyed the yard, the female convicts quietly intermingling without a seeming problem. The red-tailed hawk cried out above, a wordless warning.

“How about you, Paige? You ever think of turning in your dance card? Now that your daddy’s gone…”

Paige sighed. “Yeah, I know, I… I’d hoped to prove some kind of point, I guess.”

“And you did. And you got a little savings laid by, right?”

“Some, less since my father died.”

“And you’ll only have less and less. Lord knows they’re not gonna pay you any more’n yer getting’ now. If they had their druthers, they’d throw these women in with the men, and you know how that would turn out.”

Paige did, all too well. The risk of a man infiltrating a women’s cell block was a constant danger. Some women had been found in the mornings with their throats cut, some smothered with their own pillows, their bodies ravaged.

In truth, Paige knew herself to be in peril, too. With her father as one of the most feared guards in the prison, none of the other guards would dare come near her, nor the convicts. They knew what the results would be for them. But since losing her protector, Paige had felt the stares and glares of the guards lingering over her firm thighs, her young, proud bosom. She heard their snickers. And she knew the male convicts were reading their guards and would follow in their terrible example. More and more, Paige had to think that it wasn’t a matter of what, but when and by whom.

She hadn’t been asked to work the night shift during her father’s tenure or even since his death, as a mark of respect to a man who had given his best years in service to the state. Every day shift that went by was a relief.

Two of the convicts started shouting at each other on the track field. Paige couldn’t hear what they were saying, but it hardly mattered—the tone was troublesome enough. Paige and Margaret shared a glance, not needing to tell one another what they had to do. They rushed toward the track, Paige already blowing the whistle that hung around her neck. It was a signal to the other guards for support, and a warning to the convicts that support was coming.

But there weren’t that many matrons on shift in the female section of the prison, and the male guards were too far off to get there in time. The female convicts knew that as well as their guards did.

It didn’t matter at that time, anyway. What was important was to break up the argument before it exploded into a fight and then a full-blown riot.

As they got closer, Paige recognized the two at the center of the conflict, a crowd of other women already gathering around them to watch the inevitable fight, and maybe even join in. One of the two was Big Jenny Gale, convicted of killing her lover while defending her husband. Her infidelity had won her the conviction, and her siding with her husband had kept her from the noose. The other was Angela Dunn, a spindly prostitute who’d swindled the wrong Pinkerton detective and was also lucky to be alive.

But neither had very much to lose.

The two women were shoving at each other as Paige and Margaret arrived. Paige muttered, “Stay back,” to Margaret, in deference to her being in the family way. Paige pushed through the thickening crowd of women to the center of the circle, where Jenny and Angela were about to come to blows.

“Stop it, ladies,” Paige warned, her black rubber baton in her hand, her only weapon. “Stop it, or I’ll give you both a throttlin’!”

Little Angela pointed at her bigger adversary. “She’s chasin’ me ‘round the track!”

“I’m just walkin’,” Jenny said with a smile and a shake of her big head, “that’s all.”

“I know what yer thinkin’,” little Angela said, her angry finger quivering, “I know yer mind, an’ what you got in mind fer me! I heard the talk around the mess hall! But I’ll gut you like the big, fat whale you are, Jenny Gale!”

“Bring it to me, little mouse, I’ll stomp you flat. One way or the other, little sister, yer mine.”

“Shut up, the two of you,” Paige said. “We run a peaceable place here, that’s the way it’s gonna stay. If you two don’t wanna spend a week in the pit, you’ll stand down!”

Big Jenny turned to Paige, looking her up and down. “Who’re you to threaten us with the pit? Word’s out on you too, little miss.”

Paige glanced at Margaret, also surrounded by female guards glaring at her with predatory grins.

Turning back to Jenny and Angela, Paige could feel the hostility growing around them, against them. It even occurred to her that the supposed dispute between Angela and Jenny hadn’t been a ruse to draw Paige and Margaret onto the yard.

“Big daddy ain’t around no more,” Jenny said, “ain’t nobody like you no more.”

“That’s right,” another convict said, one facing Margaret only a few feet away. “We all know about you too, new mamma.”

“Yeah, how come you get t’have a baby and we gotta sit here like a bunch of nothin’?”

The other women threw up their grunted agreement. Margaret looked back at Paige, real fear in her eyes. It was fear Paige well understood; too well.

Paige blew into her whistle again. “Disperse this riotous assembly,” she commanded, raising her baton.

“Or what,” Angela said, “yer gonna do somethin’ ‘bout it?” She looked around and grinned, gaps in her rotting teeth. “Look ‘round, you got no chance!”

Paige knew it was time to act. Her only fear was that the ensuing violence would damage Margaret’s newly blossoming pregnancy. If she could stall the events until support came, the situation could still be settled peacefully.

But reinforcements didn’t seem to be coming. In a flash, Paige felt certain of what had happened. She had always been considered a daddy’s girl among the other matrons as much as the male guards and the prisoners. Everyone knew her father, her reliance upon his protection. She’d chosen to stay on after his death as a matter of principle and of necessity. She needed the money, and she wasn’t about to marry one of the male guards who came courting after her father’s death. It didn’t take long for them to decide she was not one of them, an object of derision and perhaps a target for other things.

The matrons were no different. They’d resented her youth and beauty, as many of them were older, bigger, quite masculine. And they didn’t like Margaret for the same reason. Younger and prettier, married and now pregnant; none of the matrons were amused by that. Some of them would just as soon see both Paige and Margaret, often associated because of their friendship, disappear from Joliet, one way or the other.

Either way, they weren’t about to come to their rescue until needs be, and it struck Paige then that if the fight was a ruse, the guards might have known about it ahead of time and were deliberately staying away until it was too late to save them.

The stares and grins of the women told Paige that they were thinking the same thing.

She turned to Angela. “You want this fight to happen?”

Angela shrugged. “Life is just one long fight, missy. I’m just ready to take the first swing.”

“It won’t help you,” Margaret said, turning to address the others. “This won’t help any of you! It won’t win you your freedom, and you’ll lose your privileges. Is that what you want?”

The crowd of convicts around Margaret got tighter. “Get back,” she said, “I’m warning you!”

“Run away, Margaret,” Paige shouted, “get help!”

Margaret tried, but she was encircled. “I… I can’t!” She turned her attention to the women around her. “Get away from me!” But that only made them move in closer, and that aggression did what they and what Paige knew would happen.

Margaret raised her baton and drew it down swiftly, hitting one of the convicts on the forehead, Ingrid Mott. She snapped back, but the other convicts fell upon Margaret, some grabbing her arms and pulling them back, one grabbing the baton to disarm her, the others gathering in front.

Paige’s training and instincts went right into action. She wielded her own baton just as her father had trained her. She listened for the clack of the strike against the skull, knowing it was enough to put almost anybody on the ground. Her first target was Big Jenny, and that black rubber, encased in leather, struck her round head just above the eyes.

She fell back with a grunt, giving Paige enough time to turn her focus to little Angela Dunn. The spindly creature was already lunging at her, but it was an easy enough matter to turn her own energy against her in the manner Paige’s father had learned from his Chinese friends. The men had given him other skills white men lacked, and he’d taught Paige as much of them as he could.

So Paige was able to throw Angela into a crowd of the other female convicts just as they charged her, as well. A few broad strokes sent just as many convicts tumbling back, the others retreating of their own accord. One woman charged Paige from behind, but instincts sent her legs pushing her up in a long, high jump. She flipped backward in midair as her attacker raced back beneath her. Paige landed on the ground just behind the other woman. A quick swipe with the baton sent the convict snapping to the side just as Paige turned for another attack.

She felt consumed by some power which came from deep down inside her. It was almost as if she was imbued with the spirit and strength of her father, risen again to do what he did best: protect his daughter and society from those unworthy of either one.

Paige was a whirlwind of strikes and blows, the crowd of convicts quickly thinning to a cluster of injured women, writhing and moaning and holding their bleeding wounds. The group turned from aggressive to defensive with the same mob mentality they’d used for their insurrection. Paige swatted and struck until they seemed to realize their only recourse was to surrender.

Her heart was pounding in her chest, teeth gritted between locked jaws. A strand of her blonde hair hung over her face as she read the expressions of the inmates. She took a broad swing and they backed up en masse. Another swipe sent them scuttling away, the crowd disbanding to leave the most courageous among them bleeding on the yard.

Chapter Two

Sam Rogers smiled to see his sister’s house coming up at the end of the long, dry road. The place was isolated, but new houses were being constructed nearby as the years went on. The progress that was overtaking the rest of the country hadn’t missed Missouri, and Jefferson City had become a hectic place, well worth getting away from. Hannibal was further removed, quieter. Sam wondered if he shouldn’t just move there and be done with Jefferson City for good.

But Lorraine was buried in Jefferson City; the house they’d built together was there, his daughter’s home. Though a glance at Emily’s young, smiling face reminded Sam that Hannibal had its benefits, not the least of which was family.

Jackson O’Leary glanced around from Emily’s other side at the helm of the cart, Winchester shotgun in his hand. “You looking forward to another few weeks with your aunt and uncle?”

Emily nodded. “Auntie Sue and Uncle Mike are so great, I love ‘em so much.”

“And they love you,” Sam was gratified to say. “Poor couple can’t have children of their own. Not that you’re not worth lovin’, all on your own.”

Emily smiled, pale skin and freckles making her the very picture of her late mother.

“It’s God’s will,” Jackson said, brushing a lock of his long brown hair from his youthful, handsome face.

“No less for them than us,” Sam said. And he was speaking more to their upcoming errand than the mutual misery of their past. Having endured his own challenges, Jackson cast a watchful eye around the foothills. He knew the dark places a man’s mind could roam, and he was protective of Emily and of Sam as if they were his own family. Sam was grateful and gratified to have taken the lad under his wing. It had been three good years, and Sam felt as if he’d done more than lose a wife—he’d found a son.

Emily asked Sam, “How long will you be away this time, Daddy?”

“S’hard to say, Em. It’s a good way to Chicago, and from there we have to get all the way to Wyoming, and then back here. I’d say you should just be patient, enjoy your time with your aunt and uncle.”

It was a version of the same answer he gave her every time she asked the same question. Sam couldn’t bear to tell her the truth, even when she asked for more details about what he and Jackson did on their frequent journeys. He didn’t want to worry her with the truth, that there was always a chance that they wouldn’t make it back at all. Still, transport and other work was better than being the sheriff of Jefferson City, as far as Sam was concerned. It had become a life of constant strife and a danger to his daughter. Anybody close to the sheriff was not only vulnerable but a vulnerability, as Lorraine’s violent end proved all too clearly. And the work wasn’t usually terrifically treacherous. Jackson was an able second, trustworthy and pleasant company. The money was sufficient, and the life allowed him ample time to reflect and enjoy the quiet of his retirement.

Suzanne and Michael Hutchinson stepped out of their house to welcome the cart, Patches the paint pulling it reliably up the long, gravel road to the house. They clung to one another and waved the cart in, smiling and loving, almost glowing in their domestic bliss. Suzanne looked much like their mother, with black hair and blue eyes. Her husband was losing his own light brown hair, but Suzanne didn’t seem to mind.

To see them was to see a picture of what life could have been like for Sam. But fate and the Lord had other ideas.

They rode up and stopped the cart, Patches huffing as Jackson helped Emily off the cart. She ran, excited, into her aunt’s arms.

“Look at how big you’re getting,” Suzanne said with a bright smile. “Such a young lady!”

Sam and Jackson stepped down and approached, both extending their hands to the man of the house.

Michael said, “Sam, Jackson, nice to see you again. Off on another misadventure, are you?”

“Duty calls,” Sam said.

“Then you’ll need a hearty meal,” Suzanne said, “and a long rest. You’ll leave in the morning.”

Sam and Jackson shared a glance. Both were ready for a rest, and while the day’s travel from Jefferson City had been long, the trip to Chicago would be a lot longer. They shrugged and left Patches to watch the cart while they kicked the dust of their boots and followed Suzanne, Michael, and Emily into the Hutchinson home.

It was nice to be back, and as Sam walked into that house, he could only reflect back on his own happier times, when he and Lorraine could give little Emily a proper home, a proper family. Sam could sense the love in the house, the warmth. It was the kind of a home a child like Emily deserved.

His greatest fear was that she would come to live like him, isolated and alone. He wanted her to have a happier life, to live like most people did, with homes and families and occupations they could be proud of. She’d marry a shopkeeper if Sam had his druthers, or a doctor, something honorable and peaceable. Sam would keep the violence of his life as far from her and from his sister and brother-in-law as he could.

The lamb stew was flavorful, with a thick brown broth, carrots and potatoes and onions colorful and firm. The sourdough bread was freshly baked, the crust chewy and tangy. Emily ate with eager relish, though Sam was gratified to see that she was using the best table manners, as her late mother had instructed her. Emily was growing into a fine young woman, the person who brought Sam the most pleasure in the world.

She seemed to bring almost as much pleasure to Suzanne and Michael, who often looked at her with a kind of pride and affection Sam knew they would have saved for their own natural-born children. Their melancholy struck Sam as lingering just below the surface. He knew it by its familiarity in his own life, his own soul.

Must we all suffer quietly? Sam had to ask himself, hoping his worry wasn’t showing. Is there no place where the sorrow will leave us alone?

Suzanne asked Jackson, “How do you find Jefferson City, Jackson?”

“It’s nice enough,” he said, wiping some gravy from his lips. “It’s nice to have a place to go. Just to be able to come and go as I please is a blessing.”

“It’s a right,” Sam said, “and you’ve earned it. We all make mistakes in our youth, Jackson. If the Lord forgives you, doesn’t it seem reasonable that you should do the same?”

Jackson cracked a little smile, turning to Emily. “Nice to have such a forgiving figure leading us, eh?” Emily nodded and took a sip of her lemonade.

“I’m not so forgiving,” Sam said, the flavor of the lamb still on his tongue. “Not on the trail.”

Jackson turned to Suzanne and Michael. “And it’s a good thing! The trail itself isn’t so forgiving either.”

Sam glared at Jackson to quiet him, and Jackson glanced at Emily and seemed to understand the reason for the reprimand.

Michael and Suzanne clearly picked up on the instant tension and, being adult about such things, knew enough to change the subject.

Michael asked, “How long will we be hosting our young niece this time?” After a glare from Emily, Michael cleared his throat. “Our niece, the young lady,” he corrected himself to her smiling satisfaction.

“A few weeks at the least,” Jackson said. “We’ll come back directly.”

Suzanne asked, “Is there anybody you’re hurrying back for?”

Sam knew what she meant, and Jackson seemed to, as well. Sam was just glad his sister had asked Jackson instead of asking himself.

But Jackson answered, “There might be one… or more.”

Suzanne said, “Jackson!”

“I don’t mean to set a bad example,” he added.

“Then don’t,” Sam said, a tense quiet taking the table.

The two men looked at each other from across the table. Jackson knew enough not to speak of certain things, so he returned his attention to his meal.

Michael and Suzanne shared a glance, and Sam knew they were worried for him, for his reactions to certain things. But he was Emily’s father, first and foremost, more even than he was his own man… or any woman’s lover. It had been well-established, and it was well-known. Only Emily seemed innocent enough not to know, but she was getting older fast, and she was already asking Sam about remarrying. He couldn’t be as stern with her as with others, but he’d escaped the topic with some skill and a lot of reticence. As she got older, she would ask more and more often.

Sam looked at Suzanne and Michael, so at home with one another, and Emily clearly so at home with them. The girl deserves a mother, Sam had to tell himself, and not for the first time. Am I being selfish and childish, to refuse a bride? But nobody will ever capture my heart the way Lorraine did. And what kind of woman would marry a man who does what I do, riding prisoners and hunting bounties? That’s no proper profession for a family man. But… what else can I do? The badge is too dangerous, I won’t be responsible for another innocent life! No, Emily will just have to go without. She’s very nearly a woman, she’ll have a husband of her own after not too long. Then my job will be done, then I’ll… I’ll…

But Sam could conjure no vision of that future, of what would happen after Emily married and started a family of her own. He was looking forward to being a grandfather in time, if the dangers of his occupation allowed it. But Sam was struck with an odd certainty that his next job was going to change all that, and only for the worse. Riding out of Hannibal the next morning, Sam knew he was not likely to be riding back.

He looked at his sister Suzanne and her husband, Michael, as they glanced at each other and at Emily. They’ll make good parents to Emily, if that’s how things happen. They deserve a child, and Emily deserves good, loving parents such as they could have been. He looked at Emily, happily eating and seeming to be oblivious to the danger around her. Good, let her not know. Of all of us, let her be happy. 

It’s too late for me.

“The Sheriff’s Glorious Return” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Sam Rogers is a fearless man who has always yearned for adventure. After the devastating loss of his beloved wife, he decides to leave the perilous job as a sheriff behind and make a fresh start. Driven by the love of his only daughter whom he desperately wants to protect, he will choose another line of work where his deadly skills and high moral ground are more than needed. Little did he know that making a living as a bounty hunter and transporting prisoners would soon turn into an undertaking without end. When he and his young ward take over the escorting of a woman prisoner to another jail, a new series of dangerous events awaits him. Will Sam’s experience and wit help him avoid getting killed and finally return to his quiet life?

While Sam is planning the transport of the woman from one prison to another, he will meet Paige, a beautiful, tough woman who works as a guard matron. Trained with fighting and shooting skills from a young age, she immediately captivates Sam who realizes that she is everything he has been looking for. However, romance is not in the cards unless they deal with the endless challenges that block their way. Time is running short and unfortunately for them, their journey, as well as their troubles, have only just begun. Will Sam and Paige manage to join forces effectively for the greater good and stand as a unity? Or will the fear of trust overtake them at long last?

Tensions mount and chaos is spread when a kidnapping takes place, paralyzing the lionhearted duo. Although fate seems determined to put them in an early grave, will their excellent gun skills help them survive without leaving a trail of blood behind them? Will Sam triumph over evil, or will he fail to carry through one of the most important tasks of his career?

“The Sheriff’s Glorious Return” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.

Get your copy from Amazon!


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

5 thoughts on “The Sheriff’s Glorious Return (Preview)”

  1. Wow! I love this story! Is Margaret & her baby okay? Did she retire as matron? I can’t wait to read the rest!

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