A Battle Against Traitors (Preview)

Anna Hanover picked up the last book from atop her desk. She was finally leaving. She never thought it would happen. The last four years felt like the longest of her life, but she was grateful for the experience nonetheless.

Since the age of eighteen till now, at twenty-two, Anna had been working as a teacher for the prestigious girl’s school in Bonafort, Connecticut. She’d gotten the job after attending the school herself for four years of finishing classes. 

Anna wasn’t sad to be going. She was anxious to go where the atmosphere seemed more…livable…more comfortable. She was tired of the prim and proper life of the St. Mary’s Girl’s Finishing Academy. She’d been craving something different for the last year at least. 

Her eyes moved to the letter sitting beside the box where she was packing her belongings. Her heart did a little jump of anticipation. Adrenaline raced through her, leaving a pleasant tingle behind. With that letter, she was on her way to a new journey in life, adventures she could never have dreamed of before. She was sure of it. Gone would be the humdrum days of teaching girls the proper way to say a word and putting up with their sarcastic remarks and sneering. 

If it hadn’t been for the extra education she’d gotten while teaching, she wouldn’t have stayed as long as she did. But now that she had the offer from Sugar Hill, she was determined to take it and change the course of her life forever. 

She turned around and leaned back to sit on the very edge of the desk, holding the letter in front of her. She unfolded it and read the words, scrawled in loopy handwriting and suggested a high-spirited personality. 

Her qualifications had somehow made it to the good sheriff of Sugar Hill, a man named Goodman Oddfellow, which was the strangest name Anna had ever heard and was sure she would never forget. 

He sounded like a fun individual from the way he worded the letter, which praised her for being so accomplished and having such a brilliant mind. He said his little town wasn’t worthy of her efforts, but if she was kind enough to give them a try, they would make sure to pay her well in not just money but also kindness and generosity. She would be welcome at all dinner tables any night of the week. 

It was a little town in Arizona that she’d never heard of. No one she’d asked had ever heard of it either. 

That made up her mind for her. If no one knew where it was, that’s where she wanted to go. She was more than qualified to teach the basic knowledge to children of all ages. Clearly, this Sheriff Oddfellow knew that. What he couldn’t have known was how much she was looking forward to getting out of Connecticut.

All the arrangements had been made. Anna’s ticket to freedom had been purchased with the advance sent by the residents of Sugar Hill. Her bags were packed, and this was the last day she would spend in this state. Her train left at the early hour of three am. 

She couldn’t deny how excited she was to be getting away from the life she’d led for so long. Left an orphan at the age of seventeen, her mother’s sister, Laura, had sent her to the academy, mostly to get her out of everyone’s hair. That was how Anna felt about it anyway, even if that may not have been the real reason.

She wanted to believe Aunt Laura had sent her there so she could broaden her horizons and learn more about life as a woman of substance. When her ability to absorb knowledge came to the attention of the faculty of the academy, they groomed her to be the excellent teacher she knew she could be. She had the natural ability to break things down and make them easy for young people to understand. What made her stand out was the fact that she could take anyone of any reasonable mental capacity and at any sensible age and find a way to teach them something they’d been struggling to learn.

She’d had many offers for a new position at higher-paying schools around Connecticut, New York, Virginia, and South Carolina. But that wasn’t what Anna wanted anymore. She wanted the west, where things would be completely different, including the people, the lifestyle, even the weather.

Her eyes ran down the page once more before she folded the letter up and stood while sliding it into the envelope it came in. She tossed it in with the books and other items in the box. 

Anna took one more look around the classroom, picturing the girls that had sat there over the years, remembering several of them who had stood out to her for one reason or another. She didn’t regret leaving. It was time. 

Anna turned to the door and saw a young woman staring at her. Her mind was flooded with memories of tutoring this girl for a history exam that was very important to her. 

“Elaine,” she said with a smile. “Are you all right?”

“I wish you weren’t going, Miss Hanover,” Elaine replied, stepping into the room. Her shoulders were hunched over and her head was hanging slightly. She had a desperate look in her eyes as she gazed at Anna.

Anna’s chest tightened with affection. She set the box back down on the desk and held out her arms, beckoning the girl to come into a warm hug. She patted Elaine on the back when the girl did just that. 

“It’s going to be all right, Elaine. You are going to be all right. It’s time I left this place. It was beginning to feel a little stale to me.”

“But we need you here, don’t you know that?” Elaine stepped back and sniffed hard. 

“You are leaving here in a few months yourself!” Anna responded, laughing softly and patting Elaine on the shoulder while holding onto her other arm. “You won’t even think about me after that.”

“Oh yes, I will. I’ll always remember you, Miss Hanover. You helped me when no one else would. I’ll always be thankful for that.”

Anna nodded, putting one hand over her heart. “Oh, that means so much to me, my dear. Thank you for telling me that before I left. I don’t want you to be sad. Just remember that I’m going on adventures I never would have had if I had stayed here. You’re well on your way to having adventures of your own! Who knows? Maybe I’ll be married the next time I visit!”

Elaine’s eyes opened wide as saucers. She was suddenly excited, clapping her hands together lightly. “That would be wonderful for you. Oh, I am going to miss you. But I really hope you are happy where you’re going. That would mean everything to us kids you’ve been teaching.” She leaned closer and cupped her mouth with one hand. “Even the ones like Leslie who are always talking back.”

Anna laughed. “Thank you for sharing that with me. You know I think you’re a wonderful girl. And you’re going places, my dear. You are definitely going to stand out from all the others.”

Chapter One

William Becker left the cottage that morning with every intention of going back. The further he got, the more he wanted to never return. 

He had to. He knew that. As the leader of a gang of robbers who called themselves The Gravediggers, William knew it would be difficult to leave that life behind, no matter how much he wanted to. 

He grunted in frustration as he rode along. 

William and the gang of men he traveled with had moved to the little cottage outside the town of Sugar Hill six months ago. He’d already been thinking about ways to get out of this life by that time, but so far, he had no idea what he would do if he wasn’t planning and executing crime with his men. How would he get by? He didn’t own land and couldn’t be a farmer or run a ranch. What was he supposed to do? Go work as a ranch hand? He wasn’t about to lower himself to that level. He’d always hated the idea of being at the mercy of a boss. He’d had enough of that with Jack, the man who ran things in the gang. 

He could see the outline of the buildings in the distance. There were houses spread all across the county land, but right there in the middle of town square, all the buildings had been built side by side, with just a narrow alley between them. A few other roads had been created so that entrance was available from three different directions. 

He had skirted around the countryside so that he could come out nearer to the church and schoolhouse. If he’d taken a different route, he would have come up on the saloon and the supply store. The third route was mostly smaller shops, like the dress shop, the hat store, and the saddle shop.

William liked Sugar Hill and he liked the people that lived there. They had been nothing but kind to him. He hadn’t told anyone who he really was but that was a given. He wasn’t about to reveal he and his men had stolen the money to purchase the cottage or that they were at that very moment thinking up another scheme to rob a coach or a train. 

The landscaping around the town was obviously done to bring some beauty to the otherwise drab land. There wasn’t much green there naturally, so the townspeople had planted rose bushes, trees, and other foliage wherever it might look good. William could smell the freshness in the air whenever he passed through.

His chest tightened with anxiety. He was so tired of running. That was the only reason he’d pushed so hard with Jack to get it. The cottage was in William’s name. He was glad he’d been able to convince Jack to let him do that and even contribute some of his own money to buying the place. He was amazed he’d been able to pull that off. He’d thought of an excuse out of the blue that Jack agreed with—Jack wouldn’t want to be tied to any real property, would he? Lawmen would surely find him. 

Little did Jack and the other men know he had the power, the deed in his name, and a hefty savings account he’d started so he would have money to live on if he ever got away from them. 

William knew he was in a position where he would have to get rid of Jack and the men rather than leave them behind. He had no intention of leaving the cottage, so they were the ones who would have to go. 

They weren’t going to go easily. William had yet to come up with a plan to make it happen.

For the time being, he would have to deal with them. 

He passed the town limit sign and looked off into the distance some one-hundred yards to where the church steeple rose high in the sky, the enormous clock at the top showing it was nearly one in the afternoon.

People passed by, smiling and waving at him, even if he’d never seen them before. He returned their greeting, moving his horse slowly down the dirt road, taking in the different places to purchase goods, the postmaster’s office, the saloon, and the restaurant. He didn’t leave his eyes on the saloon long. He’d seen it enough in the time they’d been there. He and the men were frequently there. 

William dismounted once he reached the church, tying the horse’s reins to a hitching rail in front of the building. As he walked to the entrance doors, he felt inside his vest pocket to make sure the envelope was still there. Satisfied when his hands touched the paper, he opened the doors and went in.

The church was nothing much to speak of. It was larger than many William had seen before. He hadn’t been in many. He wasn’t sure if there was a God and if there was, why He would make the world such a tough place to live in. He hadn’t read one scripture in the Bible. His parents had taught him nothing when it came to faith. 

The pastor was seated in the first pew, his head bowed. William walked silently up the middle aisle and sat in the pew behind him. Pastor Philip Reynolds was a man in his fifties, his hair white as snow but he had a full head of it, and it swept back from his forehead smooth as silk. When William had visited before, he’d noticed—like everyone else must have—that Pastor Philip’s eyes weren’t just sharp, they were the brightest blue William had ever seen. 

William enjoyed speaking with the pastor on the few occasions he’d come into the church. Pastor Philip wasn’t overly preachy – as William would call it—and when he did touch on the subject of faith, he made William feel comfortable listening and talking about it. The pastor knew William was not a religious man and only held the vaguest of faith that there might be a supreme being. Even if there was, William reasoned, he wasn’t going to be noticed by Him. He was just a man trying to get through life. God wasn’t interested in him.

When Pastor Philip lifted his head and looked at the large cross behind the podium on the stage, which was only two steps higher than the rest of the congregation, William cleared his throat softly.

The pastor twisted around to look at him but there was no expression of surprise on his face. He smiled when he saw who it was.

“William Becker! How nice to have you in my church again. Have you come for another discussion?”

“No time today, Padre,” William replied. “I appreciate the offer, though, sincerely. I brought something for you and your flock.” He reached in his vest pocket, leaving his eyes on the man across from him. The pastor’s eyes followed William’s hand but there was no look of suspicion on his face. William had come to expect the look. Most people thought he was going for a weapon. 

He knew it was because he looked like what he was—a criminal. He didn’t have to admit it for people to know it. The pastor didn’t seem to mind, though, and wasn’t afraid of him. He hadn’t shown signs of fear on any of the occasions William had come to the church.

William pulled out the envelope and handed it over to the man.

“I hope this will help out with whatever repairs or anything you need it for.”

Pastor Philip opened the envelope and pulled out the paper money, sliding it so he could see there were quite a few dollars there. His eyebrows shot up and he glanced up at William. 

“Are you sure you want to do this? This is quite a large donation. You haven’t even been in town for very long and I never see you on Sundays.”

William nodded. “I want to do it. As long as you’re not askin’ where the money came from. I honestly couldn’t tell ya. I’ve been saving up for a long time and I thought it might be helpful, so here you are.”

“We can use this, son,” Pastor Philip replied, his voice soft. He pushed the money back in the envelope and shook it at him. “I appreciate the effort. God will look well on you for this kind of contribution. Even if it is ill-gotten gains, it will be put to good use in His name.”

William nodded. “I thought you might see it like that.”

“We can always use another parishioner on Sundays, you know. We’d love to see you and all of your men here. You’re always welcome.”

William scoffed but maintained a respectful look on his face. “Not likely to see any of them in here, I’m afraid. But I’ll think about it, Padre. I’m kind of interested in this stuff. I don’t know much about it. Sounds pretty farfetched to me. But still…interesting. I’ve enjoyed our talks.”

“There can always be more,” Pastor Philip said with a smile. “My door is always open to you. And I never mind talking about my favorite subject.” He pointed to the sky. William had to laugh. 

“Well, all right, then. I’ll see what I can do. Got some errands to run and things to do today, though.” In the back of his mind, William was thinking about what he had to do. He had to keep an eye on the men. No telling what they would get into if he wasn’t there. He also planned to pick up some bottles of liquor to take back with him. He’d found that when he kept the men drunk, they weren’t able to plan out their next robbery. It didn’t always work. But it did often enough for him to keep trying it. And he’d been doing it right under Jack’s nose. 

Pastor Philip held out his hand for William to shake. “Thank you again for this offering, William. May God bless you and look highly upon all your endeavors. I will keep you in my prayers.”

William nodded. “Please do, Pastor. I can use them.”

Chapter Two

After leaving the church, William headed to the restaurant. They were a friendly lot there, as well. He had donated to them twice in the last six months when he saw things that needed to be repaired or replaced. When he first arrived in town, they’d had shabby tables that didn’t match, not to mention the chairs with their wobbly legs and cracks that put splinters into the skirts and pants of the people who sat there. Now they had all new items they had commissioned from the local furniture maker, Donald Wilson.

He pushed open the door and went into the restaurant, looking around to see who was working that day. It would either be Abigail Breedon, who was a fine woman with a curvy body and a bright smile that endeared her to her customers, or her daughter Caroline, who was amazingly the spitting image of her mother. 

Abigail always struck William as the type that would probably give good hugs. He hadn’t had one of those since he left his mother behind ten years ago at the age of eighteen, off to venture into the world and make his own way.

The thought made him snort. 

Look where he’d ended up. He never should have left his mother’s bosom.

Abigail was cleaning off the top of the tables with a cloth while Caroline rang up a customer at the counter. She was using the huge counting machine. It was a type of register that didn’t need to be written in. It calculated items by itself. William was fascinated by it. 

Abigail turned around to see who’d entered, hearing the bell ringing above the door. William smiled at her and she returned it.

“Mr. Becker!” Abigail hurried around the table she’d been bent over moments before and approached him, her hand held out. He shook it when she was by his side. 

“Mrs. Breedon. Nice to see you. I have a favor to ask.”

“Anything you need. We’ll do our best to accommodate you.”

“I need four meals packed to go with me.”

Abigail looked thoughtful, turning her eyes toward the kitchen door. “Four meals to go. Our daily lunch special?”

“Yes, that will be fine. I know you don’t hear this request often but I thought it better to…take the food to the men this time.”

He didn’t want to bring up the fact that last time they’d come into the restaurant, two of his crew had been overtly rude to Caroline, making unwanted advances toward her. The very act had disgusted William but he wasn’t really able to stop them, not without giving away that he was done with his criminal life and wanted no part of their unruly behavior anymore. Besides, Jack had gone along with it and questioning his authority as leader wasn’t something William was wanting to do.

He hoped he’d never been the cause of the kind of look Caroline had on her face when the men were teasing her. She’d looked hurt and devastated. William was shocked the mother and daughter let him back in their establishment after that.

But they’d been most forgiving and he had sincerely apologized to them. They’d been kind to him ever since. 

“I think that might be best,” Abigail agreed with him, grinning wide. She was remembering, too. He was glad she remembered it with a smile instead of getting angry with him all over again.

“Wait here. I’ll go get it all packed up for you.”

“I’d really like to help if I could. I’ve got a couple sacks. I thought maybe you could put some potatoes in them? We can heat them up in the oven when I get back.”

“You’re not going to stay and eat?” 

William had the sudden urge to do just that. He sighed. The men were already hungry. The longer he took, the more aggravated they would be once he did return. He didn’t want to listen to their mouths. 

He shook his head. “I’m afraid not, Mrs. Breedon. I’ve got to get back before those men eat each other alive.”

“Oh, how gruesome!” Abigail said, one hand flying up to cover her mouth.

“I’m teasing. Don’t worry. Those boys just get ornery when they’re hungry.”

Abigail nodded, her smile returning. “Like most people on earth, I think.”

“Yes, that’s true.”

“Wait here.” Abigail turned away from him, scurrying off to the kitchen door and disappearing behind it. 

William realized he’d told her about the bags but hadn’t brought them in with him. He went back outside and retrieved them from his right saddlebag. He hurried back in and crossed to the kitchen door. He hesitated only a moment there before he heard Caroline say from the front counter, “Go ahead. She won’t mind.”

William glanced over his shoulder to give Caroline an appreciative nod before pushing the door open and going inside. Abigail had found a large wooden crate and was packing plates filled with slices of turkey. She saw him with the bags and held her hand out to them without a word. William could tell she was thinking hard. 

She put several carrots, potatoes, onions, and leafy greens in the bags he’d given her. He watched her move around the room, retrieving different food items and putting them in the bags or in the box with the turkey. She even put a small container of salt in the box.

“Is there anything else you need?”

William thought about it for a moment. “I reckon we could use some bread if you’ve got a loaf or two.”

“We do, yes. I’m glad you came to me, Mr. Becker. We don’t want any of you starving to death out there.”

“We won’t starve.” William grinned. Not because she was amusing but because she was so kind to men who wouldn’t hesitate to rob her blind if they thought she had anything of value on her when they crossed her path. “But you are very nice to be concerned for our welfare.”

The only line his men hadn’t crossed was actually shooting or killing an innocent. They’d shot several lawmen, including bounty hunters but none of them died, and the gang had always managed to flee in time and avoid actually killing someone. 

“It really is my pleasure.”

He waited while she continued to put things together. When she was done, he looked at the box, the two bags, and the two loaves of bread wrapped in brown paper. 

“I’m on a horse,” he said bluntly. 

Abigail looked at the pile and laughed softly. “You can’t get these back on a horse. I’ll tell you what. We’ll strap your horse to one of our buggies and you can just bring it back whenever you want.”

He gazed at her, amazed by her generosity. 

“Anytime I want? But that could be never.”

“Within reason,” Abigail added in an amused voice.

He grinned at her. His face felt strange to him whenever that happened. He didn’t often smile genuinely. It was always forced so no one would know what he was really thinking, what he was really feeling. “I won’t steal your buggy. I appreciate that a lot. I don’t know what I was thinking not bringing the wagon with me today. I knew what I was going to do.” He shook his head, chiding himself for being so thoughtless. 

“It really is okay, don’t come down on yourself too much. We all make mistakes, and on the scale of things, I’d say forgetting you needed the wagon is very low on that scale.”

“You’re a kind woman, Mrs. Breedon. You made me feel better. Thank you.”

She nodded, her smile remaining steadfast. As she passed by, he caught the faint scent of lilacs. 

She put her head out into the lobby and called to Caroline, telling her to take William’s horse around to the buggies and that they’d be right out there.

After Abigail helped him load the buggy, he gave her a paper bill and turned to pull himself up into the buggy’s driver’s seat.

“Mr. Becker!” Abigail exclaimed breathlessly. “This is a one-hundred-dollar bill!”

“Consider it a bonus for being so nice,” William said, heading off as quickly as he could.

Five minutes later, William was in the saloon, purchasing some bottles of liquor to take back. This was the place he and his men had been most of the time and they’d gotten to know the bartender and owner of the place quite well. He was a tolerant man but not enough to have his property destroyed in a brawl. Before anything could happen, he pulled out his rifle from behind the counter and threatened them all with death if any arguing continued. No one messed with him.

He was a large man in his own right anyway, a bit on the intimidating side, William would say. His name was Patrick O’Neal. He was a true Irishman with the reddish-brown hair, sparkling green eyes, and a smattering of freckles on his cheeks and over his nose that he dared anyone to make fun of. 

Patrick was also a smart businessman and knew how to run his establishment in a way that made him money hand over fist. He always bragged about not having to break the law or water down his liquor to make more money. William had never been sure if that was a jab at him and his men or if it was just something Patrick was prone to bragging about.

Patrick saw him and lifted his chin in acknowledgment. 

“William.” The man looked past him over his shoulder, presumably to check for anyone else in the crew to come in. “You alone?” He sounded surprised.

“Yeah. Just trying to get some liquor to take back to the men.”

“I reckon you came to the right place. How much you lookin’ to buy?”

William shrugged, sliding into the seat. “I’ll take a shot of whiskey for now and let me take four of your bottles. Two rum, two whiskey. That oughta do the deed. Just want the men to get some good sleep.”

“Well, I hope you ain’t plannin’ on gettin’ into anything you can’t handle.”

William shook his head, wondering why, once again, another member of Sugar Hill was worried about his welfare and seemed concerned for him. 

It was nice. It was just something he wasn’t used to. What concerned him was when the townsfolk found out who he really was. That would ruin everything.

He didn’t want that to happen. He was finally feeling a little happier.

“A Battle Against Traitors” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

William Becker has grown tired of his life as a member of the Gravediggers, a group of bank-robbing bandits. He is determined to improve his life choices, but it’s a tough road out of such a close-knit gang without being killed. Robbing banks and stagecoaches seems relatively harmless until someone dies…He ponders different ways to tell the men he wants to settle down but he still knows that leaving this dangerous lifestyle behind will not be easy. When their last robbery goes horribly wrong, William finds himself facing a new crisis – one that could take away his freedom forever… Can William’s quick thinking and determination help him survive his greatest challenge yet?

When he meets Anna, William immediately starts dreaming of a future with her. Caught between two worlds, he soon finds solace in Anna’s affection. When he gets to know her better, it only reveals she has even more layers than he thought at first. Unfortunately for him, his troubles have only just begun. In a deadly game of dangerous outlaws and secret schemes, William must find a way to see justice prevail. Unexpected alliances are formed that will lead William to change his life once and for all. For a man who spent his life fighting, can there ever be peace?

William knows that there’s no safe way out for him, but he isn’t going to go down without a fight. Opposites in every way, William and Anna will see their friendship grow into a strong connection… As he battles not just his enemies but the internal fight for the freedom of his soul, will he put his trust in her to pave the way to the happiness they both deserve?

“A Battle Against Traitors” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.

Get your copy from Amazon!

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