Into the West: Most Wanted
May 10, 2020
This book has proven to be much more daunting to write than the previous books. I am not sure if it is just because the story is getting more complex and I have a lot more characters I have to keep in mind now as I write or what it is with me. But the writing is now done and I am working on the first round of rough edits. I hope to get this finished up soon and off to my professional editor so I can finally get this book to you ASAP!
Until it is ready, here is a little sneak peek of the opening chapter.
Jack pulled his hat back down low over his eyes and spurred his horse on. They traveled for about another two hours by Jack’s estimate but then he decided to bed them both down for the night. He could see lightening off in the distance and didn’t want to ride into that. If they tried to go around it could add a day to their trip. It would be better to just stop and rest for the night.
Jack found a spot halfway up a ridge overlooking a stream. They had a nice wind break on one side and there were plenty of saplings around to build a decent lean-to. Jack dismounted and stretched. He had been in the saddle most of the day and he could feel it in his bones. If he was heading off to help anyone but Ike Rowlett, he would take his time trekking there.
Bucky whinnied and stomped his front foot. Jack talked to him in quiet tones as he scratched his ears and rubbed his neck. Bucky rubbed his head against him and snorted a few times. Jack patted him on the neck then tied the reins off on a tree.
“Okay, boy, I need to get us settled in for the night. I promise you will have a proper stall tomorrow,” said Jack as he unsaddled his horse.
He propped his saddle up against a fallen log and spread the blanket on it to air out. He reached down and pulled up a handful of dry grass and bend it over into a loop then used it to brush Bucky down. When he was finished, he led his horse down to the stream so they could both get a drink.
The stream was clear and cold and was a welcome relief after a full day riding. The weather was fairly nice for so late in fall. It wouldn’t be long before the trees would be completely bare and the fall showers would be turning to snow and ice. Jack hoped he could close out this warrant before that happened. He didn’t want to have to travel back home in the dead of winter if he could do anything to avoid that.
After they had both drank their fill, Jack led his horse back to the campsite and secured him to the tree again then set about building himself some cover just in case rain hit later in the night. He pulled out a small hatchet he carried with him and set about chopping down several saplings. It didn’t take him too long before he had a pretty decent lean-to built.
After he got a fire going, his mind quickly turned to food as his gut began to rumble. He started to go for the jerky in his saddle bag but then he thought better of it. He grabbed his hatchet and headed back to the stream.
Jack walked along the stream for a few yards searching the water and the banks for anything that might make for a better dinner. He saw a few fish that were more the size of bait than a good catch. With his appetite, he would need quite a few to satisfy him.
Jack kept walking until he saw what he wanted. A snapping turtle was swimming in the shallows at the edge of the stream going after a few of the tiny fish for his own dinner. Jack took a step closer to see if he could grab it by its tail and haul it out of the water before it took off but it saw him and started to head for deeper water.
For just a second, Jack considered just jumping in the shallow water and swinging his hatchet at the turtle in hopes of at least catching it in the back but just before he leapt, he thought better of it, and pulled his pistol instead.
Jack shot the turtle square in the head with one shot. If he had missed, it would have been jerky for dinner. He was still near enough to Indian territory that he would not want to let off more than one shot. One shot lets people know you are in the area; more than one can tell them where you are. That was not something he wanted to do.
While the local tribes were relatively peaceful, many Natives were not happy about settlers encroaching on their lands again with the Kansas territory being opened up to settlers. Jack didn’t have any beef with the Natives but it was always better to not test your luck if you had the choice.
Jack retrieved his dinner and headed back to camp. After eating his catch, Jack settled in for the night. It wasn’t long before the wind started kicking up and thunder rumbled in the distance. Luckily, the rain never came and he was able to get a halfway decent night’s sleep.
In the morning, Jack made quick work of breaking down his campsite and saddling up Bucky for the last push to Sharon Springs. He and his horse both took one last long drink of water before Jack mounted up and headed north.
Jack kept Bucky at a nice walk for the first half hour letting his poor old muscles warm up. While they plodded along, Jack took the telegram out his friend, Ike Rowlett, had sent him and read it again.
Ike was the sheriff over in Sharon Springs, Kansas. It was a right nice little cattle town in the south central part of the Kansas territory. While the town was doing just fine, there was some trouble in the area.
According to Ike, taxmen were being robbed after collecting taxes from some of the homesteaders in the territory. So far no one had been seriously injured but the outlaws were starting to add up quite a sum in stolen tax money. It was enough that the territory’s legislature had taken notice and offered a reward.
To make matters worse, they had caught the attention of sheriff Jones, from Douglas County, Missouri. Jack and Ike knew Jones from a few years back when they were all after the bounty for the Hanson brothers. The two were wanted for cattle rustling in Missouri. It was a mighty serious offense in those parts and the bounty that had been offered was a small fortune to a lawman.
Ike had been the first to track them down and managed to get the drop on the pair just as Jack rode up to the scene. Since Jack actually held a warrant for the brothers, Ike offered to split the reward with him if they took them in together.
The men had just agreed to the split when Jones showed up demanding the two lawmen handover the Hanson’s to him. He reasoned that since he was a sheriff in Missouri that gave him rights to the brothers. Ike suggested splitting the bounty three ways, but his offer was met with a firm refusal that was punctuated with lead.
Luckily for Ike and Jack, Jones was not a crack shot. He only managed to inflict minor injuries, but the ruckus did give the Hanson brothers the opportunity to escape. The pair haven’t been seen since. That incident solidified a new friendship for Ike and Jack and their mutual hatred of sheriff Jones.
When Ike wrote that he wanted Jack to get a federal warrant for the tax thieves and hightail it to Sharon Springs before sheriff Jones got the idea to come and try his luck tracking the outlaws, Jack was more than willing to help out his old friend. Especially if it meant they got to best Jones at anything.