The Downfall of a Treacherous Enemy (Preview)

Prologue

Harvey’s eyes focused on a small shack on the side of the road. It looked so lonely. He glanced at Arthur, pondering if he should ask the obvious question. What in the world was a shack doing in the middle of nowhere? 

But Arthur, his assistant and good friend, didn’t know anything about this area of Utah either. He was just as in the dark about it so there was no point in asking. Harvey turned his eyes back to the

Harvey’s mission was to get to Carson’s Creek, grab Michael McGhee and get back to Bent Fork, where the outlaw would be transported to the courthouse upstate for trial on multiple charges. McGhee and his brothers had joined up with two other men to form a gang of vermin bent on preying on the innocent citizens of the great state of Utah. 

Harvey was dedicated to the task of bringing the outlaw gang to justice. And to capture Michael, the leader and oldest brother, would be akin to a medal pinned to his chest. He wouldn’t be satisfied till he brought the McGhee Gang down, dead or alive.

He preferred alive. The bounty was more.

He was proud of the account he held at the bank and even prouder of the stash he had hidden. It kept growing. Sooner or later, he would be able to leave behind this life on the road, a dangerous occupation that got him shot at and that required he shoot other men, for his own safety or that of innocent bystanders. 

Not that he wanted to leave it behind. Not just yet.

Harvey was completely satisfied with his life. He had no problems that he counted in the morning, instead he counted blessings. If he had a roof over his head, he was happy. If he had no roof over his head, he was happy to have food to eat. There was always something to be grateful for. Last but not least, his horse, Mabel, a beautiful black and white 16-hand animal that was more loyal than any man Harvey had ever known. He’d given her his mother’s name because if there was one woman on earth that should have been revered during her stay, it was his mother, Mabel Collins Cook. 

Harvey’s three brothers and two sisters were spread out across the United States, having left Utah one by one after their parents passed away within a year of each other. 

Harvey was already out of the house when they both took ill. His younger brother had just turned eighteen and as his siblings grew older, they would begin to leave, find love, good jobs or careers they wanted to pursue. There was regular correspondence between the six Cook children and once a year, they tried to get together for a reunion. 

It had been two years since Harvey had seen any of them. But the letters were still coming, flying back and forth across the country between all six of them. At 32, he had not lost the urge to see them, to hug them and talk to them in person. He missed them.

His life on the road could be lonely, especially after having come from such a large family. But for some reason, having had so much of one atmosphere, he was strangely satisfied to have time to experience the opposite. 

Growing up, he’d hardly had time to have a thought to himself. There seemed to always be someone making noise somewhere, arguing or laughing, things being moved about, footsteps… it was a constant dull noise. 

Now, he often heard silence, only the sound of his own thoughts echoing through his mind. 

Honestly, he didn’t mind either. He was just as comfortable in a crowd as he was completely alone. 

He’d brought Arthur on this journey, not because he was afraid of the McGhee Brothers Gang, but because he was in fact, maybe just a little afraid. He’d spent quite some time wondering whether he should go at this one alone, like he usually did. Whenever he felt he needed a partner, he always went to Arthur. He’d sought assistance in the past from other bounty hunters but Arthur was the only one he really trusted. 

He’d realized quick that most bounty hunters were rough, crude men only after the fugitive for the money. Dead or alive were the same words to those men. If the bounty for alive was more, that kind of bounty hunter would stop at nothing, including roughing the outlaw up before bringing him in. 

Harvey thought of the job as an honest career. He had high moral standards and there were some things he simply wouldn’t do just to get the money. In his 12 year career, Harvey had sent one fugitive on his way. The crime he’d committed was justified. Harvey couldn’t get past it and decided to let him go. 

Normally, he would not take on the task of judge and jury in any case. It simply wasn’t his job.

But sometimes a man had to do what was right. Not just in the eyes of the law but in the eyes of the higher law, the highest law in the land, the one who provides the internal compass. 

Harvey glanced up, his thoughts leading him to say a quick prayer that he and Arthur would safely reach Carson’s Creek and pick up Michael without incident.

“Let’s stop and give the horses some water,” Arthur was saying, bringing him out of his thoughts. 

He blinked and focused on the shack again. It was much closer now. He could see the porch and the two rocking chairs – one of them occupied – on the front deck. An old woman was sitting in the chair, one tiny foot pushing off every time it came in contact with the floor. She was very thin, with slightly hanging skin at her jowls. Her bright blue eyes gazed in their direction. She was smoking a pipe and as they approached, Harvey could smell something sweet scented in the air.

Chapter One

Penelope glanced down at the many papers scattered in front of her. She sighed heavily. It was going to be a long process scanning each and every one of these documents just for two or three important sentences. Sentences she didn’t even know were actually there. She could hear her father’s voice in her head. 

“Witnesses change their stories to fit what they want us to believe, Penny. This story is new and I need you to find where he said there were other people in the room with him. It might be difficult to find but I know it’s there in a statement, his exact words.”

The case was ongoing, even after two years of litigation. And John Marks still sat on death row with some of the most violent men ever put away. 

Penelope Church had been working for her father’s law business for four years. She’d known what she wanted to do for a living since she was twelve years old and first allowed to attend one of her father’s court hearings. 

She would never forget the way he looked, so majestic and strong, standing in front of the jury, his suit and tie immaculate. She hadn’t seen a man more handsome than her father yet. The memory of that particular day stood out as her favorite of all. 

She studied hard all through school and made good grades. Her father told her to take a break from schooling and decide if she wanted to attend college. It was rare for a woman to attend classes at the university but Abraham encouraged his daughter nonetheless, giving Penelope the feeling she could accomplish anything she wanted as long as she put her mind to it. 

And now, four years later, she had yet to go off to college. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to be a lawyer anymore. She did. But it was obvious from the way her father piled work on her that he didn’t want her to leave. He hadn’t discouraged the notion. But for at least the last two years, he hadn’t even brought up the subject of higher education. 

He treated her like a colleague, as well as his loving devoted daughter. He asked her opinion and acknowledged her answers as if he was talking to someone with as much schooling as he had.

Penelope had come to the decision that it wasn’t her father’s decision to make anyway. Why would he burden himself with something that he had no control over? If Penelope decided to go to college, she knew her father would not stand in her way. And if she decided not to go to college, he would encourage her to do whatever made her happy.

What made her happy currently was working for him. 

She dropped her wandering eyes back to the papers in front of her. Except that day. That day was going to be hell with all the papers she had to read. She wished there was an easier way to search for the two sentences.

She was about to dive into the work when the door to the law office pulled open and her best friend, Jeanie, stepped through with a big smile on her face. Jeanie was such a happy girl, it kind of made Penelope a little sick. She giggled at the thought.

She gave her friend a wry smile, wondering what shenanigans had brought Jeanie to the law office. “Look at you,” she teased. “You look like the cat that swallowed the canary.”

Jeanie rolled her eyes in an exaggerated way and sighed, dropping herself into the chair on the other side of Penelope’s desk. “Oh Penny,” she gushed. “You just don’t know how hard it is for me these days.” She made a wooshing sound through a mouth shaped like an “oh” and fanned herself with one hand as if it was hot. “I have just been running from here to there all day today.”

Penelope glanced at the clock standing near the door. “It’s not yet eleven in the morning, dear,” she replied softly. “What have you been doing with your morning hours to make you so exhausted?”

Jeanie gave her a wide-eyed look. “I just told you, I’ve been running here and there this whole time.”

Penelope shook her head. “Well, no wonder you’re exhausted. It must be hard to run here and there for nearly three hours. Can I get you some water?”

Jeanie stared at Penelope for a few silent seconds, through narrowed eyes. “I think you are teasing me, Penny, but as a matter of fact, I could use some water. If you don’t mind.”

Penelope held out one hand to the cobalt colored pitcher surrounded by small, thick, dark blue glasses that sat on the table by the window. “You can get as much as you like.”

Without hesitation, Jeanie shot to her feet and crossed to the pitcher, hurriedly pouring herself a glass. She swallowed it and poured another before returning to the chair in front of Penelope’s desk.

“So tell me what’s got you so excited now?” Penelope asked in the politest tone she could manage. She was genuinely curious to know what had Jeanie tingling. 

Jeanie leaned forward. “I heard who your father hired. You know to get the McGhee brothers.”

Penelope raised her eyebrows. “You heard? How did you hear anything from this law office that didn’t come from me?” She felt a bit of anxiety fill her chest but she pushed it away. Had she known Jeanie had an interest in the case, she would have filled her in. 

Jeanie laughed at the question. “Because I have ears and when people are talking nearby and not trying to hide their conversation, it can only mean they don’t mind if others hear.”

It was Penelope’s turn to roll her eyes. “You’re speaking in riddles. It doesn’t matter anyway. Yes, Cook is coming here with Michael McGhee soon. We expect him in the next day or two.”

Jeanie clapped her hands together. “That’s so exciting, don’t you think? Someone like Harvey Cook coming here with a wanted outlaw. I’m excited. Aren’t you?”

“I would be,” Penelope admitted. “But I’ve already met him and…”

Jeanie gasped. “You never told me you met him before! Is he as wonderful in person as he seems to be in the newspaper when he talks to them?”

Penelope chuckled. “I see he’s going to have his own fan club when he gets here.”

Jeanie shook her head, though the look on her face told Penelope she would be all in if she could be. 

“I’m not a fan. I just admire him a lot.”

Penelope had to throw back her head and let out a quick laugh. “That’s the very definition of being a fan of something or someone.” She laughed again. “Don’t worry. I won’t tell Cook when he gets here but I suggest you take caution not to offend him with your flirting.”

Jeanie gasped. “I would never. What kind of girl do you think I am? I don’t work in a brothel.”

“I didn’t say that and you know it.”

Jeanie beamed at her friend. “I know. I’m just teasing you. When is he getting here?”

Penelope dropped her lids low and frowned at her friend. “I said I didn’t know. In a day or two. Now scoot on out of here and let me do my work, all right?”

Jeanie jumped to her feet. “No.”

Penelope looked up at her friend, her eyebrows raised in surprise. “No?”

Jeanie shook her head and held out one hand. “It’s lunchtime and I’m treating, so you have to come!”

Penelope didn’t have to think long about it. She took her friend’s hand and stood up.

Chapter Two

The woman on the porch put one hand on the armrest of her chair and prepared to push herself to her feet.

Feeling a surge of empathy for the old woman, Harvey put up one hand to stop her. 

“No need to get up, ma’am. We’re just passin’ through. Thought you might have a horse trough so our horses can take a drink?”

The woman nodded, her white hair bouncing in the slight breeze her movement made, each one moving like it had a life all its own. She gestured with the pipe to the other side of the building. “Around there,” she said, her thick accent revealing how long she had spent in the country. “Yer gonna see a pitcher with some water, too. Feel free ta get a drink. Water stays on that side of the building because the sun don’t hit it but once early in tha mornin’.”

“Thank you,” both men said at the same time. 

The woman nodded.

Harvey and Arthur dismounted once their horses were drinking from the trough. They moved to the back side of the building where a long shelf held canteens, cups, pitchers and basins. They could have a refreshing drink and wash up in the same place.

Harvey tried not to think about how sanitary it might be. That wasn’t important to most folks out in the country.

He decided beggars can’t be choosers and drank just enough to satisfy his dry palate. He and Arthur didn’t say much while they were there. Regardless of the woman’s age and tiny stature, neither bounty hunter trusted other people. To the extent they didn’t talk about their personal lives or business dealings when strangers were around. That left virtually nothing to talk about except the weather.

After ten minutes of drinking in the water and the calm sun, the two men thanked the woman and headed toward Carson’s Creek again. 

Once they were a safe distance from the shack, Arthur spoke up. “So what was that all about? I would have said she was a gypsy but that shack ain’t portable.”

Harvey shook his head. “Ya never know. This might have been thriving at one point, a real town with people in it.”

“Then where did all the buildings go?” Arthur made a point of looking around him for the nonexistent remains of buildings that were never there. “And the people? She’s the only one left? How does she stay alive? I didn’t see a garden. The closest market is, what, fifteen miles in either direction? How does she survive out here all alone?”

A few possible solutions went through Harvey’s mind but he hesitated to mention them. Arthur was his friend. He wasn’t the smartest friend but he was still someone Harvey didn’t want to feel bad. Besides, it was strange that the woman was out in the middle of the Utah desert alone. 

“She seems to be handling it pretty well,” Harvey said. “I guess there’s lots of different reasons why she’s out here alone. I don’t think we need to worry about her.”

“I’m not worried,” Arthur said, glancing at his friend. “She sure can take care of herself, I’m sure. I’m more amazed that she’s doing it so well.” The tone of his voice changed and he added, “I suppose she might not be alone. For all we know, her husband is out getting supplies and will be back any minute now with a month’s supply. There might have been a kid or two inside the shack, too.”

Arthur turned a smile to his friend. “I guess we just don’t know, do we?”

Harvey shook his head. “No, we don’t. But I’m assuming you do know how long it is till we get to Carson’s Creek, don’t you?”

Arthur shrugged. “That shack ain’t on my map. Probably nobody’s map. But it had a mile marker that said 320 and we’re going to 325, so five more miles and we’ll be inside the town limits.”

Harvey nodded. “Good. I’ve got a plan. Depending on where we find him, of course. I want to flush him out, get him away from people he might threaten and take him down. I don’t want him shot unless it’s absolutely necessary and then you try to aim for a part that won’t kill him. If he’s holding a knife, shoot his arm. Like that, you understand?”

“I understand, boss,” Arthur responded with a nod. A few seconds later, he followed up with, “I been thinking about it and I just don’t get why he came here without his brothers. Without nobody in his gang. He should have brought along at least one brother.” Arthur shook his head. “It don’t seem logical to me.”

Harvey had been thinking about the same thing. It almost made him feel like it was a set-up because McGhee knew he was being sought by the law. But how would he know bounty hunters were looking for him? Why would he be in the middle of a crime spree and just run off on his own on some type of mini-vacation?

“It doesn’t make sense to me either, Artie,” Harvey said, shrugging. “All I know is the tip said he’s here and he’s planning to leave soon. I’m just hoping he hasn’t yet.”

Arthur snorted. “Yeah, me too. Me too.”

By the time they passed the town limits, Harvey was anxious to find the man. They’d been traveling for two days and he was beginning to feel the exhaustion set in. 

“Where you think he is?” Arthur asked, running his brown eyes up and down the street. Harvey did the same and didn’t see anyone standing as tall as McGhee, who was known for being 6’5, four inches taller than Harvey. 

“I’m not sure,” Harvey answered. “I doubt he’s gonna be alone, though. He can’t be that stupid.”

“Well, he left his gang behind and ventured out on his own,” Arthur responded wryly. “So he might not really be that smart after all.”

Harvey didn’t say anything to that. 

His eyes landed on a young woman coming out of a three story building, glancing over her shoulder nervously as she skittered away. Harvey got a feeling in his gut that the building was probably a brothel and she was probably running from a very scary man inside. 

Harvey was fairly certain he knew who that very scary man was.

“Come on. Let’s check this building.”

“You got a feeling?” Arthur asked, curiously.

Harvey glanced at him with a nod. “I’ve got a feeling.”

“Well, let’s go then.”

Arthur didn’t play around when Harvey had gut instinct feelings. He was one to believe in such a thing and always followed through for himself. They rode their horses calmly to the front of the building and dismounted, throwing the reins over the hitching rail that ran along the front right side of the porch. 

Harvey went up the stairs, glancing down once to see that the water in the horse trough was clear and bright. Just before he turned the knob to go in, he looked over his shoulder at Arthur.

“Do me a favor and go around back. I… I may need you to come up behind this fella if he gives me trouble.”

“Oh, he’s gonna give you trouble,” Arthur said without doubt in his voice.

Harvey nodded. “Yeah, I think so, too.”

Chapter Three

As soon as he’d stepped up onto the porch, Harvey knew the woman had come from a brothel. The way she had been dressed was a good indication what the building was used for, as well. His instinct told him there were more women inside and possibly some other men, too. He didn’t expect to see many, though, because Carson’s Creek was a small town. 

He stepped into the empty lobby and turned his head to the left and right quickly, looking for danger. He saw none and his fingers tapped gently on the grip of his gun, still in the holster at his side.

Harvey focused on each door, looking for one that might be open. There were four doors on either side of him on the bottom floor. The second had three doors on each side and one in front of him at the top of the stairs, indicating the house was longer than he’d noticed from outside. That meant there was at least one room at the back of the house for Arthur to come through before he would be in the main lobby of the brothel.

As he stood deciding what to do, a door to his right opened and an older woman came out, not as old as the woman in the shack on the side of the road but older than Harvey was. She stopped abruptly, as if she hadn’t known he was there. He immediately saw the frightened look on her face.

“C… Can I help you, sir? You’re looking for a young woman to spend some time with today?”

Harvey had met one or two madams in his life. More like a dozen. He had never met a single one that didn’t have the demeanor of a man, barking orders, smoking cigarettes, counting money. They were tough because they had to be and they knew it.

This woman did not have that demeanor. In fact, he was sure if he jumped at her and yelled “Boo”, she would come out of her skin.

“I’m looking for someone,” he said firmly. A commanding voice got him what he wanted, especially when the person he was speaking to was already intimidated. “Tall man, taller than most. Built like a bull dog with a face to match. You seen him? Name is Michael McGhee.”

The woman’s face was a dead giveaway. If McGhee wasn’t there right then, he had been recently. 

She nodded timidly and gestured, her eyes moving frantically around the room. If they had stopped on a certain door, Harvey would have known which room he was in. But the woman’s eyes darted back and forth as he approached her.

She leaned toward him and whispered quickly, “He’s in room 302 upstairs. With Molly. You should go get him out of there. He’s going to hurt her if he isn’t careful.”

Harvey frowned deep. If the madam knew Molly would be hurt, how could he let her go with the man upstairs? Then again, he’d just been observing this woman as not the strongest most aggressive female ever.

“Are you the owner of this establishment?” he asked. When she nodded, he continued, “Get as many of your girls out of here as you can while I go upstairs. Was McGhee with anyone when you let him in?”

The woman shook her head, holding out one hand to him. “Eva. Eva Astoria. He was alone. I am afraid for Molly…”

“Don’t be afraid for her,” Harvey said. “If she’s still alive, she will be fine.”

Eva’s face drained of all its blood and she gasped. “I… I hope she’s still alive!” Her hands flew to her face and tears sprung up in her eyes. “I didn’t know… I didn’t know…”

Harvey thought she looked like a frightened mouse before he told her, so how could she not have already known?

He shook his head. It didn’t make a difference now. “Go get your girls and any other men in the place and get them out. Warn them all to watch and wait. They can come back in when my partner and I leave with the outlaw.”

Eva looked around the room and then stared at him, wide-eyed. “You have a partner?”

“He’s waiting around… around back. Go on! Get your people out of here.”

Harvey made his way up to the second floor, taking the stairs slowly so Eva had time to get as many of her girls out as possible. Since he was on the second floor, he silently opened all the other doors. He saw two girls alone in separate rooms but no men. He gestured with his head that they should leave, tapping the butt of his gun in the process. Both women hopped to their feet and lit out the doors.  

He stood in front of the door McGhee was supposedly behind and watched over his shoulder as the girls ran down the stairs on light, silent feet. 

He decided not to knock.

Harvey opened the door, drawing his pistol at the same time. 

“Michael McGhee!” he yelled out. 

The man on the bed was half-dressed and taken completely by surprise. He had initially had his hands behind his head, his fingers laced. He sat forward abruptly. The young woman in the attached washroom must have been just as startled because she came into view, staring at Harvey with stunned eyes. If he’d looked longer, Harvey knew he would have seen a cry for help in those deep blue eyes.

“Get out of here,” he hissed. She surged forward toward the door just as McGhee jumped up from the bed and grabbed her from behind, wrenching her back toward him.

“Oh, you aren’t going anywhere, girlie,” McGhee snarled.

“You aren’t going to hide behind a woman, are you, McGhee?” Harvey asked in a disgusted voice. “I reckon that’s the McGhee way. The coward’s way. I should have expected it.”

McGhee’s eyes narrowed to deep brown slits. He glared at Harvey with hatred written all over his face. “What did you just say?”

“You heard me, McGhee. You and your brothers and friends.” Harvey waved his gun back and forth in front of him. “You’re all a bunch of cowards. I ain’t had to deal with the likes of you boys for years, back when I was new to all this. But maybe they wasn’t the real cowards. Maybe you are. You and your brothers.”

“We ain’t cowards!” McGhee yelled out. He took the back of the girl’s hair in his hands, balling it up in one fist. He lowered his head so his lips were touching her ears. “You get outta here, Molly. And next time I come back, you hurry up in there, you hear?”

Molly, a petite blond with tears streaming from her hazel eyes, nodded the best she could considering the grip he had on her hair. “I swear, I will, Micky,” she said.

He shoved her in the direction of the door, releasing her hair just before it yanked her back.

She slipped through quickly and Harvey could hear her running down the stairs, crying.

 


“The Downfall of a Treacherous Enemy” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Harvey Cook is a mighty bounty hunter who has made it his life’s mission to bring the outlaws to justice, no matter what it takes. He is hired along with his partner to escort the criminal Micky McGhee to prison, but his investigation leads him down a dangerous path he never expected. When a disastrous altercation with Micky will leave his partner terribly injured, Harvey will be forced to go on an epic journey that will test his mettle at every turn. While his first priority will be getting his partner to a doctor before he dies, he won’t stop until he takes Micky to the man who hired him. As the danger spirals out of control, how far will he be willing to go in order to reach justice?

When Harvey comes clean to his employer about Micky’s escape, he offers to hire a team to help him continue the search. Angry at himself, Harvey won’t tolerate failure until his mission is complete. His world turns upside down, though, when he meets Penelope, his employer’s daughter, who will captivate him instantly with her unique wit. Even though a relationship is the last thing on his mind, Harvey will soon find himself worrying about his life without Penelope but he will not give up the hunt that easily. Will Harvey manage to capture the gang members before it’s too late or will he eventually lose his only chance at love?

Harvey and Penelope will form a strong connection while they realize how much they are alike. Even though they lead completely different lives, they will find encouragement in the tentative trust that grows between them, but whether it can withstand the looming danger is far from certain. As they work together for a common cause, will the new lives they seek for themselves include love, or will justice take a back seat to evil?

“The Downfall of a Treacherous Enemy” 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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