A Town of Lawlessness (Preview)


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Louis Boucher was a long way from home—a long way from the sunshine of California, the ocean breeze, the relaxing sound of the waves, the seagulls, and the shells he’d collected as a boy. He was a long way from every sweet and good thing he’d ever known. He had only been on the job a week, and in that week he’d arrived at one undeniable conclusion regarding his new life.

He was working in Hell.

Laboring in a gold mine was almost nothing like he’d expected it would be. While en route to the Wyoming Territory, Boucher had entertained visions of vast tunnels littered from floor to ceiling with glittering nuggets. He’d imagined that he would be able to traipse through the tunnels, collecting gold the way a farmer’s wife gathers eggs in the morning.

But he’d quickly discovered the error of his thinking.

Once in a blue moon, Boucher had learned, a man might come across a nugget lying on a tunnel floor. But most of the gold was not so easily obtainable. Most of the gold was buried deep in the rock, dozens of feet under the earth’s surface. And the earth didn’t surrender her treasures to just any man. She had her own terms—her own requirements. The earth forced men to toil, to throw all their muscle and might and brains at the problem. Some men lost limbs in their pursuit of the elusive yellow substance. Some even lost their lives.

On top of the backbreaking labor, Boucher had found, the conditions in the mine were abysmal. It was hot in the tunnels, a hotter kind of heat than Boucher had ever experienced. And if the sweltering heat wasn’t bad enough, the darkness and the cramped spaces were maddening, particularly for a man accustomed to roaming about freely under the halcyon skies of California.

Boucher had also expected that he might encounter the opportunity to supplement his income, to line his pockets now and then with little pieces of overlooked ore. But the mine’s overseers required every worker to strip naked upon exiting the mine at the end of each shift. Not having the ability to steal from his employer meant one thing for Boucher: for the first time in his life, he had to exist solely on his wages. Like most men in the world, he would have to survive by the sweat of his brow.

Boucher wasn’t as handy with a pickax as the foreman would have liked, and so, on his second day, he’d been reassigned to a blast crew.

He couldn’t help but laugh inwardly when he thought of the irony of his new assignment.

“You’re real good with dynamite,” his supervisor—a thick-jowled man named Weaver—had told him. “You’re a fast learner. And you don’t seem to be afraid of the stuff, either. Lots of men are afraid to get anywhere near it.”

Boucher had shrugged off the compliment. He was no stranger to explosives. He’d picked up some skills during the war, and he’d plied those skills in very fruitful and creative ways ever since.

But on the last job, at an out-of-the-way bank north of Frisco, something had gone seriously awry. The explosion Boucher had engineered was supposed to crack open the vault so that the other boys in the gang could extract its contents. Instead, the blast had destroyed the entire bank building, while simultaneously demolishing two adjacent structures. And though the incident had occurred overnight, a few innocent bystanders were killed, including a young mother and her infant daughter.

Boucher’s gang, which had already been one of the most notorious in the entire state of California, was placed on notice. The U.S. Marshals Service had pledged to track down each member of the gang and hang him in a public square. And the Marshals Service had almost finished making good on their pledge. Over a three-month stretch, they’d succeeded in rounding up and executing every single member of the former gang, with the exception of Louis Boucher himself.

He had managed to slip out of the Golden State, right under the noses of the marshals.

Soon after arriving in Moville, Wyoming, Boucher had discovered a surprising fact. It was not altogether uncommon for men on the lam to take refuge in the bowels of the Garland Mine, joining work crews and blending in as regular joes.

A hard rock gold mine, it turned out, was an excellent place to hide out from the law.

“Solid work in there today,” Weaver said as they rode the cart up to the entrance. “Keep it up and you might work your way up to a foreman position someday.”

Boucher regarded the man, but didn’t respond. For the most part, he avoided talking to the other men. He had almost nothing in common with them. Miners were some of the hardest-working men alive. And Boucher detested hard work. He saw no point in it, given that there were far easier ways to bring in capital. His plan was to remain here, keeping up his pretense, until the heat blew over with Marshals Service. At that point, he would depart, maybe to a city along the eastern seaboard. Six months. A year, perhaps. He couldn’t imagine staying in Moville any longer than that. This was not a life he could endure forever. In fact, on many days, as he watched his fellow miners toil away, he had to scratch his head and wonder how this kind of existence was any better than life in prison.

After stripping down and rinsing his body, he wrapped himself in a towel and made his way toward the bunkhouse. He noticed that he was walking more slowly than usual. His muscles ached like never before. Even working on the blast crew involved swinging a hammer at times.

Halfway to the bunkhouse, he paused and looked up into the sky. Night had already fallen, as they’d worked an extra-long shift today. The extra work meant extra pay, they’d been told.

Boucher shook his head. The extra pay wasn’t worth it, he’d already decided. There wasn’t anything to spend money on in this town anyway, aside from liquor and a few played-out doves. Boucher had left behind a beautiful house in California, multiple horses, a collection of antique guns, and several expensive suits which were imported from Europe. He enjoyed women and drink, but he also liked things. He liked to own things, to possess them. Here, in this Godforsaken place, there was very little he’d seen that was worth possessing.

“Hey,” a voice called out softly from the darkness, interrupting Boucher’s ruminations.

He lowered his gaze, focusing his eyes on the patch of black space right in front of him. “Who’s there?” he asked.

“Come over here,” the voice beckoned. It was a man’s voice, a baritone. The voice was distinctive, mellifluous, like that of a stage actor. Boucher had only heard a handful of men speak since he’d arrived in Moville; the voice in the darkness was not familiar to him.

“Do I know you?” Boucher said.

“Don’t believe we’ve met,” answered the voice. “Come on over.”

His suspicions riled, Boucher asked, “What are you trying to pull on me, pal?”

“Not pulling anything,” the voice replied from the darkness. “There’s something over here you need to see.”

Boucher folded his arms across his bare chest. “What is it?” he asked skeptically.

“Think it might be gold. A whole pile of it. Bet you someone’s been trying to steal it—this is where they’ve been stashing it.”

Boucher assumed that the man was trying to pull a prank on him. He’d never gone in for such nonsense himself, but he knew that a few of the men in the camp were fond of such antics. On his first day on the job, someone had nailed his lunch pail to the table. The miners had enjoyed a good laugh at his expense, but he’d never quite figured out why the stunt was funny. And he surely didn’t understand the humor in pretending to stumble upon a cache of gold in the woods.

“I don’t have time for this, pal,” he said flatly. “I’m exhausted. Heading to my bunk now.”

“Get over here!” the man in the darkness ordered him. The voice was the same, but the tone had changed, had developed a sharp edge.

“Don’t think so,” Boucher said as he faced the bunkhouse and took a step forward.

“I said get over here!” the man in the woods snapped. “I need help carrying this!”

Boucher heard a few coins clink together. Coins? Why would there be gold coins out here? he wondered.

Something wasn’t right, Boucher knew. He’d always had a good nose for sensing trouble, and right now his senses were telling him to either move out of the area or prepare for a fight.

“Goodnight, pal,” he said, continuing on toward the bunkhouse.

He only made it a few steps before he noticed a flash of movement in his periphery. He paused again, and when he turned to face the woods, he saw a man coming straight at him, his right arm held high.

A knife! Boucher had time to register in his thoughts before the blade arced down across his cheek, flaying open the skin.

“Who are you?” he shouted as his attacker raised the knife for a second strike.

Boucher tried to run. He managed to fully turn his body in the direction of the bunkhouse, but before he could put any distance between himself and the stranger, he felt the blade sink into his shoulder.

He dropped to his knees, paralyzed by the pain. He tried to cry out for help but, at the moment, he found himself struggling for breath.

His attacker, standing right behind him, withdrew the blade and plunged it in again, this time near Boucher’s right kidney.

His mind began to fuzz over as his body dropped to the ground. Lying there, he looked up into his attacker’s face.

Boucher had never seen the man before in his life. But he knew one thing for sure. The knifeman was definitely no U.S. Marshal.

Rival gang member? he wondered as the pain continued to ravage his body. But how did they find me? I’m in Hell. How could they find me here in Hell?

The stranger knelt down over him, bringing his face close to the dying man’s.

“You could’ve picked anywhere else in the world to settle,” he said. Then, as a wry grin played over his lips, he added, “Bet you’re wishing that you had.”

Boucher worked his mouth, opening and closing it, but no words came forth. He tried very hard to talk to the stranger. Tried to tell him to go to Hell.

But nothing.



The stranger wasted no time retrieving his knife from the dead man’s back. After wiping the blade on the towel he’d picked up off the ground, he stood and scanned the area around him.

There was a pleasant scent in the air, which he breathed in for a second or two.

For some reason, ever since he was a very young child, he’d had an affinity for the smell of blood.

Glancing once more at the lifeless body on the ground, the stranger sheathed his knife and stalked back into the darkness from which he’d come.

Chapter One

The other passenger had sat in silence for hours, staring sullenly at the floor of the juddering stagecoach, before he finally lifted his head and looked across at Jack.

“Hello,” the man said, his voice low and rough-sounding. The traveler looked to be about forty, and his clothes looked older than that. His bearded face was hard and craggy, like a pocked stone cliff, but there was a glow of intelligence in his eyes. Wisdom. The man had undoubtedly seen some things in his time.

Looking across at the other passenger, Jack had to suppress a grin. He had greeted the man as soon as the two of them had boarded the stage back in Cheyenne. The traveler hadn’t replied then, had not even nodded or looked him in the eye. For the past day and a half, they’d ridden together in silence. Sleeping. Reading. Daydreaming while gazing out at the passing scenery. A few churlish grunts here and there, but nothing even resembling conversation.

“Now you tell me hello?” Jack asked affably. “Now that we’re less than a day away from our destination?”

“Sorry, buddy,” the man gruffed. “Had some things I needed to think through.”

Jack could no longer keep his grin contained. “Boy, I’ll say you did. You looked like you were thinking real hard there for nearly the whole ride. Even when you were asleep, you looked like you were thinking hard. Something bothering you, friend?”

The other passenger shrugged. “I guess so. I miss my wife. S’pose I’m a little blue ’bout having to leave her behind.”

“Oh,” Jack said, his grin fading. “I think I understand now.”

“You got a wife you left behind?”

“No.” Jack shook his head. “No, I don’t. I’m a bachelor. I’m sure I’ll miss my parents, my friends, my former business associates. But I’m guessing that’s nothing like missing a wife.”

The traveler glanced him up and down. “Why ain’t you got no wife, buddy? You’re a good-looking fella—as far as fellas go. What are you… twenty-six? Twenty-seven?”

“Thirty,” Jack told him. “I… almost had a wife. In fact, if things had gone the way they were supposed to, I would’ve been married by now.” He shrugged, then added, “What can I say? Sometimes we make plans and then life finds a way of smashing them to pieces.”

“What happened?” the man inquired. “Did she pass away? The girl you were set to marry, I mean.”

“No,” Jack said. “Nothing that drastic. We just discovered that we weren’t right for each other.”

“Weren’t right for each other? What’s that mean? You’re a man—she’s a woman. What else is there to it?”

Jack regarded his fellow traveler for a lingering moment, then sighed. “Never mind. It’s a long story. I’m a bachelor now, free and clear. Ready to find my fortune and start a new life.” Leaning forward in the seat, he stuck out his right hand. “Jack Mallory. Chicago. Pleased to make your acquaintance. Finally.”

The man eyed Jack’s hand for a second before grasping it. His handshake was firm, even slightly overbearing. “Marvin Gaul. Jefferson City.”

“A Missouri boy.” Jack’s eyebrows rose. “Union or Confederate?”

Marvin stared at him, but didn’t respond.

“I see,” Jack said after a moment. “That’s all right—you don’t have to answer. Why discuss politics here and now? We’re off to a new place. A whole new world, in many ways. I assume you’re going out to work in one of the mines in Moville?”

“Actually, I’m planning to stake my own claim,” Marvin told him. “I don’t do well working for others. I prefer to be self-employed.”

“I hate to have to be the one to tell you this, Mr. Gaul, but you’re not going to find any open claims. Not around Moville, at least.”

Marvin Gaul flinched back, clearly stung by the remark. “How do you know that?”

“Because I’ve been out once here already,” Jack explained. “I’ve scoped everything out. Managed to get a claim of my own. Now I’m going back to work it.”

Marvin crossed his arms. His already gruff demeanor had suddenly turned even coarser. “If you managed to get a claim, then why do you think I won’t get one? What makes you so special?”

Jack held up his hands, palms out. “I didn’t mean to offend you, Mr. Gaul. I—”

“Marvin will do.”

“I didn’t mean to offend you, Marvin. You could have gotten your own claim if you’d come out earlier. I took one of the last ones available, and that was a few months ago. That’s how I know they’re long gone. I suppose you could possibly buy a claim from some prospector—”

“Buy a claim?” Marvin barked. “With what? It took nearly all my savings just to travel out here. I’ve got a little left for equipment. If I don’t find gold, I’ll have to eat my shirt for dinner!”

Jack sighed again. He didn’t know what to say to his new acquaintance. Gold mining equipment was expensive, particularly in areas near the mines, and particularly in areas as remote as Moville. Jack had been scrimping and saving for a while now to be able to afford the essentials. He had already learned that it didn’t bode well for a man to head into mining territory half-prepared and light in the pockets.

Before he had a chance to finish forming a response, his thoughts were interrupted. The stage had come to an abrupt halt. From outside, he heard one of the horses neigh.

“What’s happening?” Marvin asked, pushing back the curtain as he peered out one of the side windows. “Why are we stopping? We’re in the middle of nowhere.”

Jack could hear the stage driver talking, but he couldn’t make out any of the words. Then, he heard a second voice. At first, he assumed that the second voice belonged to the shotgun rider, but he quickly realized that was not the case. The voice was high-pitched, somewhat whiny. When the shotgun rider had greeted Jack back at the station in Cheyenne, he’d spoken in a rich bass; his tone was commanding, not the least bit whiny.

“I think we’re being robbed,” Marvin stated matter-of-factly. Allowing the curtain to drop back into place, he sat back in his seat and looked across at Jack. “I don’t have much, but I’ll be damned if I’m letting some thief take what I do have.”

Jack watched as his new acquaintance reached his hand into a rucksack which sat on the seat beside him. When he drew his hand out, he was holding a Colt revolver.

“That from your days in the war?” Jack asked.

Marvin nodded, almost imperceptibly.

“You know how to use it, I’m assuming?”

Marvin nodded again.

“Let’s hope you won’t have to,” Jack said, turning toward the window as the whiny-voiced man drew closer to the stagecoach.

“A Town of Lawlessness” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Jack Mallory had always been dreaming of striking it rich in the gold fields of Wyoming. When he is finally ready to turn a new page in life, he shoots for the moon and moves to the town of Moville to work in mining. Feeling like he is one step closer to his dream, little did he know that the life of a miner is more fraught with peril and disappointment than he’d imagined. The moment he discovers that a vicious killer is out there, taking the lives of innocent miners for no apparent reason, he is willing to risk it all to track him down. Will Jack manage to find the answer behind the enigma of the horrible murders? Or will the truth behind them remain forever hidden, haunting the small town?

While trying to connect all dots and solve the intriguing mystery, Jack meets Charlotte Campbell, the town’s head schoolteacher. Although they get off to a rocky start, he will soon realize that he’s not alone in the battle against the town’s enemies. Together they will fight the forces that wreak havoc in Moville, a lifetime adventure that will bring them closer. Even though their attraction is impossible to deny, their affection cannot be expressed as long as a criminal is out there. Will they finally have a chance at love, or will their romance be doomed to be lost forever?

As the days go by and the murderers continue to bring chaos to what was once a thriving town, Jack feels like his dream is being shattered into a million pieces. Will his valor and wit win out in the end, leading him to the life he has been eagerly waiting for? Or will the cruel felon stop him from riding down the trail to happiness?

An action-packed story, featuring complex and fascinating characters, and twists and turns that will take your breath away. A must-read for fans of Western action and romance.

“A Town of Lawlessness” 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!

4 thoughts on “A Town of Lawlessness (Preview)”

  1. you baited the hook and reeled me in. Looks like another great story. Looking forward to continuing the adventure

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