It Takes Two to Get Revenge (Preview)

Chapter One

South Pass City, Wyoming Territory, 1874

Bruce Underwood woke to the sound of sparrows in the sagebrush outside the window. The dregs of winter had finally loosened their claws around the township, turning the last of the hard-packed snow to icy rivulets that poured from the craggy mountains surrounding South Pass City. The cabin was chilly and damp, but the bed was warm and comfortable. 

Beside him, his lovely new wife murmured in her sleep. Bruce faced the window and Kaye as she curled further into the bed. She had a particular way of conserving heat, and it kept Bruce from cuddling with her most nights. Kaye slept in a tight ball with her head tucked against her chest. Her hands under the blankets pulled the covers around her like a second skin. It worked well for Kaye but left Bruce limited in bedcovers. Still, he didn’t mind, as long as he got to wake up every day to her beautiful face. 

Well, that was the idea, anyway. At the moment, as the morning sun graced the mountainside outside the bedroom window, all Bruce saw of his bride was the tangle of auburn hair nesting against the cotton-filled pillow. Part of Kaye’s sleeping ritual meant she’d start out using the pillow, but as the nightly cold crept into the room, she drew tighter into the sustainable warmth carved out of her side of the bed against the log cabin wall.

Kaye’s sleeping ritual was something Bruce had known nothing about only eight months ago. Before their marriage in Denver, Colorado, and the long, arduous trip northwest along the well-worn trail leading to Oregon, Bruce only knew Kaye Abbott as the girl who brought fresh flowers into the bank every day in the summer. She brought warm corn muffins in the winter.

Her parents owned the general provisions store adjacent to the bank. Their courtship had consisted of daily visits, warm greetings for the rest of the staff, and Kaye giving Bruce the brightest smile that touched his heart. The visits were appreciated by his father, who encouraged Bruce and Kaye’s budding courtship. As the bank owner at Huntington Savings and Loan in downtown Denver, Bruce’s father had merit and creditability. People liked him and liked that he worked with anyone willing to do proper banking. 

Bruce learned his skills in accounting and bank management from his father. When he began to consider a future with Kaye, his father had helped him secure a future in successful banking. But if Bruce wanted to make his own name as renowned in financial futures as his father’s, he needed to find a place outside the shadow of the man he admired. 

Bruce took an interest in boomtown activities. Gold and silver deposits were as prevalent across the new frontier as lakes and ponds. He studied the gold strikes throughout the territories and picked a few areas in which to set roots and build a business within an established community. Bruce didn’t make his decisions alone. When Kaye agreed to start a future at his side, Bruce gave her the list of possible places to go where they could build a bank, and bank on the strength of their marriage to carry them into a successful and happy life together. 

Despite the options Bruce had presented to Kaye, she’d chosen another prospect entirely. It was remote and smaller than the town sites where Bruce had intended on building a bank. But after their cross-country wagon ride, they grew closer, building a home and bank in the Wyoming Territory town of South Pass City. They had traveled with other like-minded people migrating to new places, hoping to tap into the enriched cauldron of the vast wilderness. Most men thought to bring their families to dig for gold and silver, and Bruce had learned from his father that they needed places to put their riches once they made claims. His own family started with Kaye, and they hoped to have a child and share their combined belief in the good in all people one day. 

That morning was another day for Bruce to watch his wife sleep in her unique way that touched him to the core. The new experience of marriage amazed him. A surge of love came the moment Bruce opened his eyes to that beautiful soft mound of bedcovers and the auburn waves against the edge of the pillow. He could enjoy a few minutes seeing his wife cast in the morning light. When Kaye stirred, lifting her head slightly as if sensing Bruce watching her or the morning light touching her through the window, one eye blinked at him from the bundle of blankets. 

She had large eyes the color of evergreen, and her smile made her cheeks bunch up as she squinted at him. 

“Good morning,” Kaye said, her voice muffled by the layers of cotton and wool. “What are you doing?”

“Watching you wake up, my love,” Bruce said. 

“Do you think you could do that after you relight the stove? It is dreadfully cold in here.”

Kaye unfurled the blankets and turned to sit up, keeping the covers tight to her shoulders. As if to give Bruce a better example of the cold, Kaye’s teeth chattered. He laughed and rolled from the honeymoon bed. 

They lived in a modest cabin not far from the downtown collection of false-front buildings that lined the valley corridor. It was a one-bedroom place on a grassy piece of property that leaned to a view of the parallel rows of businesses that made up the core of South Pass City. 

Bruce had kindling and old telegraph papers to start their morning fires. One of the benefits of living along an established stage stop town that had grown into a mining community meant access to the telegraph lines that followed the trail across the country. It allowed Bruce immediate contact to the currency rates and any industry news shared by other bank owners. Unlike miners, ranchers, and saloons, banking wasn’t competitive in smaller towns. 

While South Pass had ‘City’ attached to its town placard at the town limits, it wasn’t much more than its stage-stop origins. It had a single bank that Bruce owned and operated. There was one saloon owned by a man named William H. Bright and his wife Julia. William was a welcoming part of the community upon Bruce’s arrival. William was a miner and a prominent member of the representative to the Wyoming Territorial Constitutional Convention. 

William’s forward thinking set precedence in the United States. He recommended and voted for the first woman in America elected as the local Justice of Peace. Esther Hobart Morris, elected in ’61, went on to prove a woman understood the laws as well as any man. Esther showed Bruce and Kaye hospitality that made them welcome and popular immediately upon their arrival. 

Bruce oversaw the building of the bank from the ground up. He’d had the foresight to understand that warm springs brought heavy rains and had insisted on the additional stone foundation that elevated the building off the rain-soaked and often muddy ground. The veranda and platform outside the bank gave people a place to gather daily. It was his way of providing extra to the community without needing to do much once the bank opened. 

The fire inside the potbelly stove roared to life and Bruce watched as Kaye crawled over to the edge of the bed, putting her thick wool socks on the floorboard. When she lifted her chin and grinned at Bruce, he knew it was going to be another glorious day. 

It took little time to heat the pot of water on the stovetop for Bruce’s daily shave and Kaye’s washing up. The couple still had their newlywed excitement, sharing space in front of the small single mirror. They giggled and kissed, and it still felt like a staggering jolt of lightning every time Bruce saw his wife enjoying the simplicity of life they shared. 

She never complained about the trip out west. The dust and rain, the deep mud, everyone had to help push—including Kaye, who remained in good spirits. They built a home from timber and stone, a cabin the size of Kaye’s family receiving room back in Colorado. Bruce wanted to make a comfortable place for the two of them to live. And they agreed that they would move on to the west coast after a few years. 

Kaye didn’t worry about the deep mud that sometimes got on her shoes and hem of her dress. She didn’t protest sharing the outhouse with the spiders and the occasional mice. And Kaye didn’t criticize Bruce for spending a good portion of their combined life savings on a safe for the bank. She pulled Bruce from remorse after the extravagant purchase of the huge and extremely heavy safe and helped him stay brave when sometimes they had little savings to purchase necessary supplies through the winter. 

***

They had made a home out of nothing, living in a tiny hamlet stuck along the bottom of a V-shaped valley surrounded by sheer cliffs. The mountain pass was the path of least resistance along the formidable barriers impossible to travel around for hundreds of miles. The trail, forged by an ancient river that once ran as deep as the highest mountaintops, was essential for those traveling through the Rocky Mountains to Oregon and California. 

Before Bruce left their humble cabin, Kaye straightened his tie and smoothed down the shoulders of his tweed suit. She sighed, looking at him. 

“What’s wrong?” he asked. Still learning Kaye’s mannerisms, he didn’t know if her sighing was a good or bad sign. 

She smiled lightly, turning her head to gaze at him. “I am a fortunate woman,” she said. “You are a smart and respectful man.”

“Thank you,” he said slowly, expecting something amended to the observation. 

“I sometimes hear other women carping about their husbands, which I don’t think is appropriate.” 

Bruce nodded but knew better than to say anything. Men wandered into the bank throughout the day, sometimes grumbling about their wives. Kaye took up regular excursions to the town gathering hall, where many local wives assembled to discuss their daily lives. Kaye had won over most of the women of the area with her wit and charm. It helped that Esther Hobart Morris and Julia Bright both took to Kaye like busy bees to honey. 

Both women were highly influential in the community. As Bruce had learned through one of the secrets of marriage, most women worked behind closed doors with their husbands. They had the ability to make significant changes or help their husbands form opinions about current events without stepping up to the podium.

“I hope never to disappoint you,” Bruce said.

She touched the tip of his nose with her index finger. “You’d better not,” Kaye said, laughing. “What would you like for lunch today?”

Bruce fished his pocket watch from the vest and glanced at it. “You can surprise me,” he said, stepping away from Kaye to put on his shoes. “I like when you do that.”

“I like surprising you too, my husband.” 

Bruce paused, tying his shoes. Kaye stood in a modest skirt and long-sleeved striped shirt. At twenty-three, Kaye was three years younger than Bruce, but he felt she had wisdom that was older than both of them combined. People gravitated to her, liked hearing what she had to say. Bruce was no exception. And every day, he fell more in love with the woman who had chosen him to marry. 

Chapter Two

It got cold in the winter. Overnight, the water in outside buckets froze solid. That morning in late April, it felt like winter clung to the ground and shaded corners of the cabin. Because of the location, snowfall matched the rainfall the rest of the year—heavy snows usually meant heavy rain afterward. 

The steppe climate fluctuated between humidity and desert weather conditions, and wind sometimes tore through the mountainous terrain, making it impossible for agricultural potential. The vegetation in the area was scrubby and grassy, not lending any soil depth for tall trees to take root. Wintertime made the southern pass the only way to leave when the mountaintops to the north sometimes jammed the valley with avalanches. But Bruce and Kaye were determined to make a loving home among the friendly people already living in the pass.

The home sat on a ledge that overlooked the north side of town. There wasn’t space enough in the area, close to the other cabins, to build a paddock for the horses that brought Bruce and Kaye to their home. Bruce got a reduced rate at the community livery stables because he agreed to do all the banking for the stable owner free of charge. 

The man seemed suspicious about the agreement. Once Bruce explained it was better to keep bank drafts instead of carrying around twenty pounds of coins in a burlap bag, Mr. Carette began feeling safer about keeping his money in the bank. 

The only modern convenience South Pass City missed out on was the expanding railroad. The deep, narrow valley made it impossible to put down track between Fort Farson, southwest of the township some fifty miles, and Atlantic City ten miles to the northeast. 

The 11th Ohio Cavalry built and guarded the telegraph station in South Pass during the War Between the States. The stage-stop town had become a boomtown in ’67, when Fort Bridger commandant Major Noyes Baldwin and Captain John F. Skelton surveyed the valley for six months, mineral prospecting. Grubstaked deposits yielded high concentrations of gold. Three years earlier, the Beaver Creek tributary to the north became one of the first mines in the region. 

Carissa Mine on the Carisso Ledge was less than a mile outside of town. When Joshua Terry and Lewis Robison built the mine, it had already yielded 1,500 lodes between ’67 and ’69, and they employed over two thousand miners in their heyday. When Bruce and Kaye arrived and built the bank, the prominent businessmen relished in profits, while the mine didn’t produce as much gold. 

Still, the men lived and worked in the city. They employed most of the families that resided in Sweetwater County. Those who didn’t work in the Carissa Mine worked for the stage-stop community. 

Bruce strolled to work along the same path every day. The footbridge over Willow Creek that separated the property from the downtown businesses was sometimes tricky business. Dampness from the creek bed soaked into the timbers used for the bridge. Moss slicked the surface wood, making Bruce’s shoes slide like skates over the planks. He minded his steps, bracing on the handrail whenever he crossed the bridge.

“Mr. Underwood,” a woman called from the slate mound at the front of her tiny cabin.

“Good morning, Mrs. Clarke,” Bruce called, waving to her. She hadn’t spoken to him when he left the cabin. Her lodge was half the size and shared the same ledge as their place. 

“Could I speak to you a moment?” she asked. 

Bruce debated briefly with himself. His neighbor liked to take up time gossiping. The mine had made Etta Clarke a widow, and Robison and Terry paid the woman a monthly stipend after her husband’s death—meaning Etta didn’t have to seek employment and didn’t have to leave the area. The owners of the mine paid several fixed incomes to the local widows. 

Many women who had lost their husbands to the dangers of the frontier often went into prostitution as a means to an end. Understanding the necessity of having an option for Kaye if something happened to Bruce was a top priority for him. She was resourceful and educated. He didn’t need to worry about her choosing an unsavory—though sometimes necessary—profession. Kaye came from a family of means, and she could go back to Colorado if needed. 

Bruce never wanted to think what would happen if he lost her. Etta Clarke had more resilience as a widow than most married women had. Death was commonplace in the mine, and Bruce never wanted to have Kaye go through the loss Etta had endured. The prospect frightened him. 

Etta was a hard as iron and just as rusty when it came to warming up to her neighbors. She had a reputation to stand up to anyone like a dammed river. Bruce had to appear interested in what she had to say whether he liked it or not. Knowing he was already late to open the bank, Bruce crossed back over the treacherous footbridge to greet his neighbor face to face.

“Mrs. Clarke, what can I do for you?” Bruce used the same cheerful tone that he had perfected standing at the teller counter in the bank. People liked seeing a smile and hearing a friendly voice when handing over significant sums of money. 

“Mr. Carette told me in passing what you did for him.” She was a weather-hardened woman who seemed more like the craggy landscape than something dainty and feminine. 

Short and sassy, Etta always wore men’s boots and her husband’s wool coat, any time of the year. She stood on the flat stone, watching Bruce like she expected him to draw a gun. 

“I’m not sure what you mean, Mrs. Clarke.” Bruce pulled a face of confusion instead of a pistol. He didn’t carry a gun, even being in the banking industry.

“You helped him with that money business,” she said hastily. “He told me you got him some paper to carry around, and it works as good as carrying coins.”

The tension lifted from Bruce’s shoulders. “Oh yes, of course, the bank drafts,” he said. 

“So, Mr. Carette showed me this nifty paper that he goes around and shows Mr. Hodges or Mr. Bright, and they make notes on their monthly accounts.” Her foot tapped on the stone. “What’s that all about?”

“Well, Mrs. Clarke, when it comes to other people’s money, I don’t discuss business with anyone else except them.”

She nodded as if satisfied. “Well, say I got a bag of money like Mr. Carette, and I wanted to do the same instead of lugging around the coins? My back ain’t what it used to be, and say I got more coins than I know what to do with,” she said. 

“Well, you can bring your coins to the bank, Mrs. Clarke. I’ll be happy to issue you bank drafts for the value of the coins. They’re made in triplicate, so you get one, I keep one here, and the bank in Salt Lake City gets the third copy.”

“What the hell do they need to know of my business for?” she asked bitterly. 

Bruce had to hold back from giggling. He cleared his throat and addressed her concerns. “God forbid, but if ever there was a bank robbery here and our ledgers got destroyed, you will have your copy of the draft, and the reputable banking firm in Salt Lake will have the same copy. There is a small fee for the services. 

“Now, if we say you intend on traveling somewhere and want to make sure you have money but don’t want to carry heavy coins around in your purse, the drafts are much easier to use. For a nominal fee, I can issue you what’s called specie for a designated amount. Say you want to travel to Atlantic City or even somewhere in Texas, California, wherever you want to go in the country, you carry the specie for a certain amount. You can take that wonderful document to the bank, and they will exchange it for the equivalent funds, in any amounts.”

Etta nodded, mulling over the wealth of new convenient ways the banking industry helped its customers. While she had the option to use the Western Union forms at the local telegraph office, Bruce didn’t want to take new business away from the bank. Etta wasn’t a current customer of the bank. Like most people in the area, she likely hid her money around the house or buried it in canning jars in the dirt. It was so commonplace that it had become tradition in many households. 

“Is there a limit to the amount you can put on those species or drafts?”

“It’s specie, Mrs. Clarke, no disrespect,” he said delicately. “And no, it will match the funds you give to the bank to hold. Monthly, you can take your payment for Hodges or Mr. Carette from the account, pay them in coins, or have them present to transfer drafts in their names. It’s most convenient for everyone and safer than carrying around large sums of coins. For a small fee, the bank can do a lot more than lock up other people’s money.” 

“You’ve mentioned fees to the bank three times, Mr. Underwood. You talk to me like I’m some ninny. I know you need to make a living holding on to other people’s money—you can’t stay in business doing things for free.”

Bruce pressed his hands to his three-piece suit. “Mrs. Clarke, my sincere apologies. I meant no disparaging remarks. I appreciate that you understand the finesse of business. Often it takes time for me to convey certain guidelines to people wanting to use our services for free.”

“It makes sense,” she said, turning from Bruce and opening the door. 

He didn’t expect a hardy ‘goodbye’ from her, but she was short on manners at the best of times. He started down the stone path away from her cabin. 

“Where are you going, Mr. Underwood?” she asked. 

“Oh, my apologies,” he said, turning on his heel, nearly slipping on the slick rocks. “I thought you were going inside.”

“I am. You need to come with me, Mr. Underwood,” Etta said and held the door open. 

The lodge smelled like warm cornbread. It was cozy, with all the necessary needs almost at the fingertip from the rocking chair by the single-sized cot. A small cooking stove kept the place warm and dry. 

Etta lit a kerosene lantern and turned up the wick so the firelight scorched the glass cover and black smoke swirled out of the top lip. 

“I got to do something,” she said. “I got to sleeping in the chair lately. The bed’s not worth a damn anymore.”

“Oh, um, I see. That’s very interesting.”

“You think you can do something with this?” Etta asked, pulling back the layers of blankets to reveal the hoarded stash.


“It Takes Two to Get Revenge” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

In an attempt to rebuild his life, Bruce moves to the untamed Wyoming Territory to build a bank in the mining town of South Pass City. Tragedy strikes though when a vicious bank robbery results in his wife’s death. Bruce will band together with two unlikely allies to see the gang behind the heinous crime brought to justice. For this to happen, he must work with the man who may be responsible for the whole calamity…

Is he willing to put his life in the hands of someone who took away everything that mattered to him?

Liza fled South Pass City as a child with her mother but she left her twin brother behind. Over the years, she did her best to stay in touch with him, but when he suddenly disappears, Liza must travel back to find him. Following the fateful robbery, Liza fears her brother is responsible for something unimaginable. When she discovers Bruce’s plan to track down the bank robbers, she is trapped in a painful dilemma…

Will her love for her brother outweigh her budding friendship with the bank owner?

Bruce embarks on the trail of killers with help from an unexpected team. From then on, there’s only one thing on their minds – justice and vengeance. The growing trust between Bruce and Liza gives them hope, but the two of them will have to deal with a lot more pain before they can fully understand what lies ahead. Can Bruce defeat the outlaws without losing his life, or is it time to give up this dangerous mission and protect the ones who are left behind?

“It Takes Two to Get Revenge” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.

Get your copy from Amazon!

2 thoughts on “It Takes Two to Get Revenge (Preview)”

  1. This Story sounds like it will be as GOOD as Your other books have been & Always are!
    Thank You For Sharing Your Great Talent With Us!
    I LOVE YOUR WESTERN BOOKS!
    Again Thanks Henry McConley!

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