On the Trail of a Vicious Killer (Preview)


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

Chapter One

June 1893

Long before daylight, Laura Allsop squeezed the juice from the oranges the mercantile had purchased from California just a few days ago. She laid a plate of eggs and two large slices of her fragrant homemade bread in front of her brother, Andrew, along with the juice, then poured him a cup of coffee and set the pot on the table.

After grabbing an orange from the fruit bowl, she poured herself a cup of coffee into an enameled tin cup.

She eyed Andrew in silence for a bit, then asked, “Do you absolutely have to go to the mine today?”

“I do every day. Why would this day be different than any other?” He looked at her curiously as he wiped his mouth with his napkin, carefully avoiding his thick handlebar mustache.

She shrugged, but the truth was that she felt uneasy. She’d awakened with the impression of ground moving beneath the house, ever so gently. She had felt the same thing in San Francisco once or twice, but nothing had ever come of it. Was it just the waking end of a dream?

“I don’t know,” she replied. “Mr. Harrison doesn’t go into the mine at all. He struts around on the surface, but he wouldn’t be caught dead going underground.”

Andrew snorted at his sister’s characterization of Harrison’s strutting. “Be nice, now. He’s been inside the mine.”

Laura couldn’t bare her unease to Andrew. He always made fun of her for what he described as her “prophetic drama.”

“But isn’t that Mr. Fredrickson’s job?”

“It is, but perhaps that’s why I feel it my duty to take up where Harrison is lacking. We’re running two shifts, and Fredrickson’s only one man. Since I’m on first shift, he sees to the beginning of the second shift and stays through the beginning of the next one. I feel like I’m giving the man some time to rest.”

Laura couldn’t fault that. “I understand,” she said.

“At least until we can hire or promote a second ground supervisor,” he went on. “But I’ll still want to be there a lot. I have to protect our investment,” he added, winking at her as he left the table.

Soon, he came back out of his room dressed in his broadcloth pants and jacket, ready to throw his miner’s gear over it. She grabbed her warmest sweater, then removed the kettle from the stove and poured out the remainder of her cup of coffee. They walked out together, he to the mine, and Laura to her bakery, where she would do the final proofing of her loaves before she began baking. She glanced at the clock on the mantel. It was 3:30, and she was a bit behind. But she enjoyed her morning conversations with Andrew, especially this morning.

He brought the carriage around from the livery, and she climbed in.

Andrew pulled up in front of the bakery to let her off. She reached for his sleeve. She felt like her heart was being compressed, and, for a second, as though she couldn’t breathe. She wanted to beg him to go back home, but she knew he would just laugh.


Marshal Jack Wilson was awake and up before the birds. He dressed in his jeans and a crisp, starched, white shirt while yesterday’s leftover coffee heated on the wood stove. He pulled a brush across his chestnut hair, tossing it back before he jammed his Stetson on top of it and pulled on his boots. Though it was mid-June, early mornings in Griswold were almost frosty thanks to the altitude. He slipped his coat over his shoulders, poured a cup of coffee, and stepped out onto his balcony.

Settling into the rocking chair, Jack was in position to enjoy the rising of the sun, same as he did every morning. It’s not so bad, living over the jail, he thought. Not when I get to enjoy a bird’s-eye view like this.

The jail was nearly empty, for now, so he could take his time about going down to his office. End of the month, when the miners got paid, was when a little hellraising would take place, and the cell would often hit full occupancy and then some. He smiled, thinking of how sometimes, he’d have to stack the drunks like cord wood in that cell, but once they’d passed out and slept off their celebratory mood—wherever they could find a flat surface—he’d release them to make room for others. But not before collecting a fine. Taking a small chunk of their earnings was a good way to tamp down on the repeat offenders, not to mention supplementing the jail’s meager budget.

The coffee was horrible. Jack flung the contents over the railing, squinting at the grounds lining the bottom of his cup. He leaned forward and looked down Main Street, toward the Dog’s Head Saloon. The lights were already on inside as preparations for breakfast had begun. He decided he’d get a good cup of coffee at the saloon when he made his morning rounds.

He grabbed his leather vest with his Marshal’s star pinned to it, descended the outside steps, and unlocked the back door of the jail. He needed to check on his prisoner before making his rounds. David Kuhn laid prone on the mattress, but stirred as the marshal fastened the bolt on the back door once he was inside.

“Morning, Sheriff,” he yawned, wiping his eyes as he sat up.

“Marshal,” Jack corrected.

“Yeah, sorry, Marshal Wilson,” Kuhn echoed. “What time is it?”

“Time to get up and face the day,” Jack told him. “And you’re gonna wash up today, too. It smells like a barn in here.”

“Yes, sir,” agreed Kuhn. “Say, how much longer am I gonna be in here, anyway?”

“Long as it takes to for you to stop beating on that woman of yours,” Jack replied, buckling up his gun belt.

Kuhn nodded. “You know, I ain’t proud of what I done, Marshal, but you don’t know what it’s like living with that gal. I swear, she knows just how to get under my skin sometimes. Besides, she’s just an Indian, you know.”

Jack didn’t say anything until he was finished checking his pistol. Sliding it in the holster, he turned toward Kuhn. “She’s still a human being. And when you slap her around in my town, you go to jail. Maybe on the reservation, that’s handled differently, I don’t know. What I do know is that, around here, we call that assault.”

Kuhn shook his head. “Hell, she’s probably gone back to her folks, you know? Why should I stay locked up? We ain’t even married.”

Picking up the keys, Jack headed to the front door. “Well, if I hear anything about her whereabouts, I’ll factor that in. But as long as she’s living in town with you, I need to make sure that she’s safe—which means you’ll remain my guest until the magistrate passes this way. And he’s not scheduled to arrive any time soon, far as I know.”

As Jack opened the door, Kuhn called out. “Say, Marshal, if you’re stopping by the Dog’s Head for breakfast, would it be possible to bring back some decent coffee? I mean, yours is better than nothing, but… no offense, you understand?”

“None taken,” Jack said. “I’ll see what I can do.” He closed the door and turned the key. That was the question every morning. Was he going to get coffee at the Dog’s Head from Salome, or from Laura at the bakery? He had a longstanding agreement with the Dog’s Head to provide breakfast for his prisoners. That had been the most convenient, because that was where he got his own breakfast.

But now there was competition. The new half-owner of the mine had brought his sister, Laura, to town with him, and just two months ago, she had set up a bakery in a cleaned-out shed next to the feed store, farther down from the Dog’s Head and on the opposite side of the street. He never wanted to disappoint either of them, Salome nor Laura, because that was the kind of person Jack was.

Salome, of course, provided a full breakfast while Laura only provided breads, pastries and coffee at this hour of the morning. Truthfully, though, her coffee was better, so often, he went there first for a cup of coffee, and caught breakfast at the Dog’s Head on his way back.

The jail was situated in the center of Griswold’s Main Street. Turning south, Jack walked past the shops, most of which were still shuttered, but the proprietor of Potter’s store was already out front, setting up a display of garden implements.

“Morning, Henry,” Jack greeted cheerfully, nodding at the gleaming shovels and hoes. “Those for them that haven’t done their planting yet?”

“Oh, you’d be surprised, Marshal.” Potter smiled. “A lot of folks have just now crawled out of their caves after that long winter we’ve had. How about you, Jack? You gonna plant some tomatoes out back of the jail? Once they start coming up, you’ll have a bushel ‘fore you know it. Nothing like a juicy tomato on a hot day!”

“Well, out back is where I dump the piss pots, Henry, so no, I don’t think a garden back there would be particularly… fruitful.”

Potter chuckled, but had already turned to adjust the space between the implements lined up against the wall. “Actually,” Potter said, “that kind of treatment makes for some rich soil.”

Jack tsked. “You may be right, but the idea just seems pretty… unsavory, to me.” What was Potter thinking, Jack wondered, as he nodded and moved on up the street.

As he continued, Jack spied Miss Salome on the balcony of the Dog’s Head. She waved to him, allowing her silken robe to pull open precariously. Quickly, she gathered it together, smiling modestly, as she stepped back into her room. He knew she’d soon run downstairs to hand-deliver a basket filled with breakfast items for him and his prisoner. She seemed to have caught on that he was stopping first at the bakery these days, so she would bring out the basket when she saw him coming back up the street. Dog’s Head coffee was just fine for Kuhn, so he’d hand her his flask to fill.

He passed the bank, which also housed the post office and telegraph office, making sure the door was still locked. Rustling sounds from the feed store suggested Mr. and Mrs. White were preparing to open. Hearing his steps on the boardwalk, they looked up and waved. Jack waved back as he stepped down into the street.

He stood for a moment to admire the way the sun fell upon the stately houses nestled into the hills. The more prosperous denizens of Griswold lived in those houses: Calvin Allred, the banker; Emmett Emerson, who owned the Dog’s Head; and the mine owners, including his sister, Verline, and her husband, John Harrison, as well as the Allsops, Andrew and Laura.

Beneath those grand residences, in the shadow of their affluence, lay the humble homes of the shopkeepers, citizens, and miners with families. The forest buffeted the southern end of Griswold.

While Jack was admiring the sunrise, Laura Allsop stepped out of her little shop to sweep the stoop in front of the bakery. She brushed her hands together and swept them downward, across her front, sending little puffs of flour into the air. Her modest dress differed greatly from Salome’s silken attire. Laura’s clothing made sense for a baker—a long, blue-and-white striped poplin dress, topped with a bibbed apron. Her honey-colored hair was pulled back and fastened with a barrette at the nape of her neck.

But he also knew what she looked like outside bakery life. He had seen Laura and his sister, Verline, riding horses together one morning. It had been a study in contrasts. Laura wore trousers with Justin boots, a pretty china-blue and white gingham shirt, and a white felt slouch hat. She sat astride her bay pinto as though she were born to it.

In contrast, Verline had been wearing a black velvet riding habit with high button boots, and a pork pie hat with a veil that hung down her back. Verline rode her blue roan sidesaddle, just as she had been taught in those equestrian schools he had attended with her back east. One would never know that the siblings had both been raised on a ranch outside of Colorado Springs. Yet it was as fitting for the stately woman and socialite wife of John Harrison as Laura’s garb was for her.

“Good morning, Marshal,” Laura called out in a lilting voice. “Are you coming in for coffee?”

“Wouldn’t miss it,” he responded.

She propped her broom against the wall and held the door for him. As he entered, he noticed that she left her window sign reading “Closed.”

The smells that greeted him as he stepped through the door made his stomach growl. Not only the good coffee and her sourdough bread, but a plethora of sweet and savory spices emanated from the kitchen. Everything was in rotation, covered pans with rising bread, waiting to be baked, pans of pastries baking, and the finished goods she had just removed from the oven.

“Here,” she said, excitedly, “I perfected my cardamom bun recipe even more. Have one on the house.” With a pie server, she deftly removed the bun from the pan, then plated it and set it in front of Jack along with a fork and a napkin.

Although he knew he should be moving along on his morning rounds, he didn’t protest. To his mind, there was no gastronomical delight in the world better than Laura’s pastries. And that included the pastries he’d had at little sidewalk cafes all over Europe. But they didn’t have the one special ingredient that Laura’s baking had, and that ingredient was Laura herself. She seemed to put her entire being into her work, such that everything that came out of her oven had her unique signature baked right into it.

“Have you heard?” she wanted to know. “Since the demand for my wares is growing, I’m going to put a little counter in here, as well as put up tents in the alley around back so that I can serve more people. I’m expanding the menu to include lunch items, and hopefully then the miners won’t feel so self-conscious about coming here to eat in the middle of the day when they haven’t had a chance to clean up.”

Jack smiled at her enthusiasm. Laura Allsop’s little bakery had made quite a stir when she’d first set up shop in Griswold. The married miner’s shacks were equipped with wood heating stoves suited only to a single pot and a kettle, so the opportunity to get fresh bread from Laura every day was a service for which the townspeople showed their gratitude by keeping her busy.

She baked upwards of a hundred loaves a day. It likely would have been more, but the single men weren’t allowed to have food in the barracks due to animals and vermin. She made smaller sourdough rolls that a lot of them carried in their lunches to augment the food that came out of the mess hall. Folks could buy two rolls for a penny from her, and a whole loaf for two cents. When some had encouraged her to raise her prices, including her brother, she had declared that she wasn’t doing it to make money, just to do what she loved while making others happy. Sounded like a great formula for success to Jack.

He made quick work of the bun. He remembered how the first one he’d had—he had expected it to be heavy, like a lot of cinnamon rolls were, but it was light and flaky, and the fine sugar with the exotic, sweet, piney taste of the cardamom made it superb. Jack couldn’t imagine where she got or how she kept all the butter and sugar it must take to make the buns, but they wouldn’t have been the same without it. That was also why the buns cost two-and-a-half times what a whole loaf of bread did. And yet he’d seen even wide-eyed kids come in to buy one from her, taking the prized bun in one hand and laying their nickel on the counter with the other.

He didn’t want to leave. It was warm and fragrant, and he found himself just wanting to bask in the warmth that radiated from Laura. But duty called. Jack stood up from the wooden stool on which he had perched and reached for his pocket.

“Ah, I believe I said that was on the house,” Laura reminded him. “In fact, why don’t you take some to your deputy and whoever your charges are there today?”

“That’s very kind of you, but I won’t see Cletus today, and that… that…” He fought back the deprecating words he had for Kuhn. She raised her eyebrows, but all he did was smile and say, “Thanks, but I won’t need any today. I’ll be sure to tell everyone I see about them, though.”

“Do you have your flask? I can fill it with coffee for you.”

Now, he was embarrassed. “Aw, that’s nice of you, but the Dog’s Head always has coffee waiting when I get there. I have to keep all my constituents happy, you know.” He could have bitten his tongue the second the words were out of his mouth. Laura would know that it was Salome who would fill the flask.

He stood there, flushing, as though she could read his thoughts. What was the big deal? Why was he making an issue out of it in his head? Never mind. He wasn’t ready to explore the reason for that right now. She just flashed him a beautiful smile. He tipped his hat and flipped the sign from “Closed” to “Open.” When he opened the door, there were already women lined up on the boardwalk to buy their morning loaves.

He grinned and tipped his hat to all of them. “Morning, ladies.”

As he crossed the street and walked north, he could see the bare, scarred mountain housing the Arapaho Mine. It had been the intention of the mining company to have the residences of the townsfolk as far from the mine operations as was practical, if for nothing more than aesthetic reasons to keep the citizens happy.

The wagon that transported the married miners to their shift was wheeling toward him, and he nodded to the driver.

Miss Salome was waiting for Jack as he approached the Dog’s Head. Her dark hair was swept up in a loose bun and she wasn’t wearing any make-up, but she really didn’t need any. If she looked this good when she’d just rolled out of bed, Jack could only imagine her beauty after she’d put some effort into it. Since he only entered the saloon in the line of duty, Jack’s imagination would have to suffice.

“Good morning, Marshal.” She smiled. “I’ve got some goodies for you. Would you like to see?” A wicked gleam lit her green eyes.

“I assume you’re referring to the basket,” he quipped, and they both laughed. This flirtatious banter was something they indulged in each morning. Harmless fun, it was. Miss Salome knew that her charms were unlikely to ever tempt the marshal, straight arrow that he was. And the marshal was no more judgmental of her than he would be any of the other businesspeople in town. She was, after all, a part-owner of the Dog’s Head, and he respected anyone who succeeded in providing a service to the community.

“One breakfast for one prisoner, and one for my favorite marshal,” Miss Salome cooed. “Oh, it must be rough being locked up in a room with no company, unable to partake of life’s little pleasures.” She gave Jack a mischievous wink. “And I feel bad for your prisoner, as well.”

He tipped his hat as he stepped away. “I’ll be sure to pass your sentiments on to Mr. Kuhn.”

“Don’t you bother,” she replied, her tone losing its earlier lilt. “A man that hits a woman isn’t a man at all. He’s not welcome here.”

Jack nodded and crossed the street, heading back toward the jail. His face stung as he recalled Miss Salome’s comment about his missing out on life’s pleasures. No one was more aware of Jack’s loneliness than he. Still, as he told himself over and over, there were more important things in life. But as he carried the food basket into the jail like some kind of waiter, his attempt to reconcile the life he was living felt unconvincing.

Chapter Two

After breakfast in the mess tent, the men lined up at the entrance of the mine, awaiting the arrival of Karl Fredrickson, the foreman. No one entered the mine until Fredrickson gave the okay.

Holt Reinhardt, like most of the men, had filled his canteen cup with hot coffee to drink while they lined up. Some of the men gabbed as they assembled, but Holt didn’t speak to anyone. He blew into the coffee to cool it as he raised the mug to his lips. Someone bumped him from behind, and the hot liquid splashed on his face.

“Hey, be careful there, boy,” a man snarled. Sputtering from the scalding coffee, Holt didn’t even have to look up. He knew the voice of the man who bumped into him—it was Victor Hutson.

“Well?” Hutson drawled. “I ain’t heard you apologize yet.” He planted his six-foot-four frame directly in front of Holt, daring him to say something. Holt had to look up to see his eyes, but focused on the unruly, dark beard instead. Staring into the tangled hairs, he could determine everything Hutson had eaten for the last two days.

“I didn’t bump you,” Holt mumbled, looking down at his shoes. “You bumped me.”

Hutson stepped in closer, planting his big boot heel on Holt’s foot. “I said, apologize!” he hissed.

The pain was excruciating, and Holt knew that Hutson would keep adding his weight and grinding his boot until bones cracked. “I’m sorry I bumped into you,” he muttered through clenched teeth.

Hutson gave a quick pivot into Holt’s foot as he stepped away. “Apology accepted, idiot. And thanks for holding my spot in line.”

An older man behind Holt spoke up. “Hey, Hutson, why you gotta cut the line? You in a hurry to go into that hell hole?”

Hutson glanced back over his shoulder. “I was here earlier, old man, but you’re too fucking blind to have seen.”

“That’s bullshit,” the man retorted.

“Now, Maynard, don’t get uppity on me. You’re never too old to get your ass beaten.” When the old man held his tongue, Hutson smiled. “Yeah, you were still in the mess hall scratchin’ your nuts with your fork when I first lined up. I wanna make sure they don’t run out of those lunches before I get one.”

The older man laughed. “They never run out, you fool. If they do, they’ll just shit out more.”

“I heard that,” Chuck Williams interrupted. “You know, if you don’t like my cookin’, maybe you can do better yourself. Take a can of corn into the mine, see how you like that.”

The men laughed. After his comeuppance from Hutson, Maynard welcomed a chance to shift the focus toward someone else.

“All I want to know is what do you call that meat you slap on our plates? You know, that gray stuff? Ain’t come off no animal what I recognize!”

Others joined in.

“I know you learned your trade during the war, Chuck. Which side was it again?”

“It sure wasn’t the Union. If the Yanks didn’t kill the Rebs, Chuck’s ptomaine surely would.”

“Careful. You’ll reveal his secret seasonings. That, and some rat shit on the side!”

A voice the men instantly recognized called out, causing them to cease their teasing.

“Gentlemen, the company provides you with meals that are healthy, inexpensive, and, whenever possible, flavorful. And, as Chuck Williams stated, you’re always free to explore alternatives.”

Maynard turned toward the man. “Aw, Mr. Allsop, we were just having some fun with old Chuckles. Why, he’s the best cook in the camp!”

Chuck scoffed and walked away. The men settled down as the foreman joined Allsop. “I count twenty-four heads,” Fredrickson said.

“Then let’s get the day started,” Allsop replied. He was dressed in the same overalls and boots as the other men, and he always brought up the rear in the line. Most of the men respected him for that.

“All right,” Fredrickson hollered, lighting his lantern as he prepared to lead the men into the mine. “Grab your grub, them’s that wants it. Like the man said, you’re free to choose. Now, let’s get in there and give him an honest day’s work. What do ya say?”

The men grunted their assent and followed their leader, grabbing the tins handed to them. The food would be cold by lunchtime, but by the middle of their shift, it was always welcome. Following behind the men, Henrietta, the mule, towed four empty mine carts. Once the carts were in place, Henrietta would be hitched on the opposite end of the carts to haul away the day’s diggings, each cart holding three-quarters of a ton.


“Let’s get going,” Hutson barked, rapping Holt’s helmet hard with his knuckle. “Hold that stake steady, now. Wouldn’t want to miss it, would I?”

Holt winced as his left hand held the 14-inch chisel against the limestone wall. He’d taken to wrapping his hands with rags under his gloves to further cushion them from Hutson’s twelve-pound hammer blows, but invariably ended every shift with swollen, bleeding hands, which he would remedy by soaking in hot water for hours in the evening. He accepted that there were bound to be times when the hammer would miss its mark and strike his flesh, but he knew that Hutson’s misses were, more often than not, deliberate.

The clang of hammer on stake deafened his left ear, leaving only a faint ringing. Before the ringing tone had faded, another blow rang out, its chime burrowing into his skull as surely as the stake inched into the wall.

“Twist that stake, you little runt,” Hutson snarled, “or you’ll be the one to yank it out when it gets stuck!”

Holt complied, twisting the probe clockwise to widen the indentation. Despite the dim candlelight, he could make out limestone crumbs falling from the hole. Holt was quick to steady the chisel’s tip as another blow struck, but the hammer was off-center and the head grazed his gloved fingers.

“Christ, Hutson, mind your aim,” he yelped.

“Quit your crying, baby face,” Hutson warned. “Or do you think you could do better?”

“I wouldn’t mind trying,” Holt replied.

“Forget it,” Hutson snapped. “Ten swings and you’d be done. You’ve gotta have strength for this job, which is why you’re on that end. Now, twist that stake and ready yourself for another blow from Thor’s hammer!”

“Mind your partner,” Allsop reminded him, taking up a position two feet from Holt. Holding a chisel against the wall with his right hand, he nodded to his partner to deliver a blow.

Maybe I’ll drive your privileged skull into that wall, Mr. Gentleman Miner, Hutson fumed. He could never understand why Allsop worked alongside the real miners. Either he was a financier, or he was a miner. The two didn’t mix. Evidently, he had some money, but it wasn’t sufficient to hire a full crew. Slumming, he was. Neither fish nor fowl.

“How many charges are we setting, sir?” he asked, between blows.

“I’m sure that Mr. Fredrickson briefed you,” Allsop replied through clenched teeth as he twisted his stake. “But, in case you weren’t paying attention, we expect ten or a dozen will do the trick. We don’t want to overdo it on this new wall. Once we see the results, we’ll know if we need to keep blasting.”

Hutson grunted an acknowledgement. If another worker had spoken to him like that, he’d have been flat on his back before he’d finished the sentence. Hutson raised his hammer with both hands and struck the stake with a force that nearly sent it flying from Holt’s grip. Satisfied at expelling his anger, he snorted, bringing up a gob of dirt-filled phlegm which he spat out on Holt’s boot.

It was then that he saw the rats racing toward the mine entrance.

Hutson had worked the mines long enough to know that when the roaches and rats scrambled, it was because they sensed vibrations in the earth that humans couldn’t perceive. While the others labored, Hutson inched toward the plywood bracing an arm’s distance away. The fir and pine bracing had been erected snugly into the wall the miners worked on, not to provide protection but as an early warning system. When the weight of their surroundings shifted in the slightest, the planks would creak and groan, as they did now.

Amidst the hammering and coughing filled the air, only Hutson heard the warning. Instinctively, he backed up under the bracing. Henrietta bolted, dragging the carts behind her as she galloped toward the entrance of the mine.

A low rumbling coursed beneath the miners’ feet, and though they ceased their hammering and hacking to listen, by then, it was too late. Before anyone could shout out a warning, the roof of the mine came crashing down upon them.


Fredrickson had left the mine to sort out the charges they’d need from the quartermaster, figuring it wouldn’t be long before they were ready to use them. On his way back, he’d been waylaid by John Harrison.

“Looks like you’re ready to raise a ruckus,” Harrison noted. His tone was a little too jovial. Fredrickson didn’t have anything against the man, but he interacted with him only when necessary.

“Yes, sir. That’s right. The men are hammering away. Shouldn’t be long.”

“Wonderful.” Harrison smiled. “You know, we’re really excited about that new vein. The samples look very promising. Very promising, indeed.”

Fredrickson nodded, wanting to extricate himself from this awkward exchange without appearing rude. The sound of the cave-in provided that escape.

Fredrickson jammed the dynamite sticks into Harrison’s arms and took off, not noticing how wide Harrison’s eyes grew as he involuntarily cradled the explosives. A terrible, metallic screeching met Fredrickson head-on as Henrietta emerged from the mine at full speed. In her haste, she veered off the tracks and the carts skidded and leaped behind her, banging together till they came to a halt.

When the dust cleared, Fredrickson grabbed a lantern, shooing away the others. No one would enter until he’d surveyed the damage. The dust inside was so thick, he nearly walked into a timber post. There, before him, where the tracks should have gone on for another two hundred feet, was a wall of dirt and rocks, top to bottom.


After Laura had finished cleaning up from the first wave of customers, she restocked the bread shelves, removed the last pastries from the oven, and got ready to feed her sourdough starter. She was heading up the back stairs to bring down a new bucket of wheat berries when she felt it. She fell back a couple of steps before she caught herself on the hand-railing. The unstable feeling beneath her repeated itself, a little stronger this time, and then she heard what sounded somewhat like an explosion.

Laura knew they used dynamite in the mine, and though she’d heard it before, she’d never heard or felt it this intensely. And yet, it seemed like a different kind of sound than the usual blasting.

She got to the top of the stairs, quickly hoisted the bucket, and returned to the main floor. But people were shouting and running past her shop window, so she put down the bucket and ran to see what the commotion was about.


The same earth-shifting rumble that Laura had heard shook the jail to its foundations. Jack jumped out of his chair, and in one bound, he was to the door and on the street with Kuhn hollering behind him. “Marshal! What’s happening? Don’t leave me locked up in here if the whole world’s comin’ down.”

Jack ignored him. He looked up at the mine on the rockface and saw men shouting and gesturing.

“Oh, god, no,” he muttered, taking off for the livery, where he bridled his horse. Leaving his saddle behind, he loped up to the mine entrance and dismounted. He encountered John Harrison first. The man was standing with a stunned look on his face and a bundle of dynamite in his arms.

“Jesus!” Jack said. “Let me take that from you.”

Harrison numbly relinquished the bundle, and Jack took it out of harm’s way.

“The mine,” he said when Jack returned, “there’s been some kind of collapse.”

Fredrickson came back out of the mine. “Floor-to-ceiling collapse of rock about five-hundred feet from the entrance,” he announced. “I don’t see or hear anybody.”

He looked around for the water boy. “Snap to, son. Go get anybody who’s still in the mess tent, and rouse anybody who’s already gone to bed. We’re going to need a clearing crew.”

“I’ll see if any of ‘em have gone to the Dog’s Head for breakfast,” Jack agreed.

“And Jack,” added Harrison, coming out of his stupor. “Let Verline know what’s happened. And Laura Allsop, her brother’s still in there.”

Jack snapped a nod and was down the trail back toward town.


The uneasy feeling Laura had all morning intensified. She, too, looked up the rockface toward the mine and saw men running and gesturing. The street had cleared out. It seemed at first that everyone had gone up to the mine. But then she realized that she wasn’t alone. All of the business proprietors along Main Street were all out, having run to her side of the street so they could all look up to the mine.

Staring up intently, trying to distinguish any one of the people who could be seen, she was startled when Jack approached. She hadn’t heard him coming.

“Laura, there’s been a cave-in at the mine. Nobody knows the extent of it yet—in fact, Mr. Fredrickson and the second crew are just organizing the dig now.”

Laura felt her heart drop into her stomach. “Andrew?” she queried. “Do you know whether he was topside when it happened?”

Jack hesitated, not wishing to add to this woman’s anxiety, but knowing he couldn’t really keep it from her, either.

“In the chaos, nobody’s sure who’s in or who’s out, but the roster shows your brother going in with the first shift.”

She wrung her hands low in front of her and heaved a sigh, trying to dispel the alarm she was feeling.

“Is it better for me to be up there, or to stay away?” she asked.

“Right now, I think it’s better that you just stay here. John asked me to let my sister know what’s happening, so I’m going to trot up to her house, then I’ll go back to the mine to see if I can be of any service with the rescue.”

“If there’s anything I can do…” Laura said, her voice trailing off.

“I know,” Jack assured her. “I’ll keep you apprised of what’s happening.” With another tip of his hat, he was gone.

“On the Trail of a Vicious Killer” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Jack Wilson is the fearless sheriff of Griswold, a calm city in Colorado. When the Arapaho mine collapses, a series of tragic events are to follow: murdered bodies of locals are identified in the woods, as well as downtown. Jack will attempt to solve the riddle of the sudden deaths, while he’ll be confronted with an impossible dilemma: Is it a creature that should be blamed for the mysterious losses, or is there another evil force that is threatening the town?

Laura Allsop had just moved to Griswold along with her husband, when he tragically died in the mine cave-in. Although they got married for companionship and she was never genuinely enamoured with him, Laura is deeply traumatized by his bitter end. Despite the fatal start of her new life in Griswold, she will not give up. She is determined to stay, and run a small kitchen in order to make her living. Will she finally manage to overcome the sorrowful events of the past and build a better future?

A thrilling story full of adventure, mystery and romance, where the expected becomes the unexpected. How will Jack and Laura trace the dangerous menace, so that the cursed town doesn’t face another horrific loss?

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

“On the Trail of a Vicious Killer” 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 “On the Trail of a Vicious Killer (Preview)”

Leave a Reply

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