Terror and Mayhem in Texas (Preview)

Chapter One

The small sign in front of him by the side of the road said Entering Kenshaw County. To others, Clay Allen thought the sight might be dull, and maybe even considered ugly. It was just a few miles of open prairie, full of scrub grass and a few tumbleweeds that rolled slowly across the rough ground. 

Other people might think nothing of it, but tears welled up in Allen’s eyes and one almost flowed down his cheek. This was his home. He was born in Kenshaw County and, to him, it was still home although he had spent three years in the Civil War. He had enjoyed his childhood and still knew most of the people in the county. He was also aware that the West could be a hard land, with storms and winds, stampedes and a blazing sun. It could be a hard life and one where men shed tears of affection; but to him, it was home, and he had been gone a long three years. 

He had dreamed of this moment many times when he was bedded down in the snow with not enough blankets. The Confederate Army always seemed to lack supplies. He wondered at that time if he would ever see his home again. It had been, to be honest, a placid, and peaceful city and town, but it was his home. His father and mother were buried in the Community Church cemetery in Waco Falls, the town of his birth. It was a quick birth. Just five minutes after the doctor had arrived, Clay Breckenridge Allen came into the world, as if he was in a hurry, and he had been in a hurry ever since.

The war, as wars do, slowed him down a bit. He had seen blood and death, hope and despair; heard the agonized cries of wounded when there was no medicine for their pain; had seen arms cut off and legs amputated. He was a Confederate, but agreed with the classic line by Union General William Tecumseh Sherman: “War is Hell.”

Now, though, he bore no malice against his former enemies, and he had sworn an oath to the Union, and he meant it. Now the Stars and Stripes was his flag again.

His horse Buster scraped the ground with his hooves, a sign he was tired of standing and wanted to move on. Allen smiled and patted the horse.

“I guess it is time we head for Waco Falls. I’ll see if the sheriff remembers his job offer. Or perhaps he has already filled it. Or maybe there is even a new sheriff. Roy might have gotten fed up with the Waco Falls crowd. He had a difficult job. He might have left for greener pastures and a bigger paycheck.”

He spurred his brown stallion onward. Sheriff Roy Dickson did have a difficult job when he had left for war. A ruthless rancher named ‘Tough’ Tom Shelton had the largest ranch in the area and like to push aside or ride over the competition. Shelton created a lot of anger among the other ranchers. He also was a businessman who owned the saloon with its gambling tables. That gave him a lot of clout in the county. The atmosphere in the town was never easy, nor relaxed; it was tense—as if everyone was waiting for a stack of dynamite to explode. Perhaps because no one wanted the job, Sheriff Dickson offered a deputy’s badge to him. He refused because he was to join the army. So the Sheriff said whenever he returned to Waco Falls, the job was his.

When he heard the sound, he almost jumped and let the reins slip from his finger. He had heard the sound thousands of times in the past few years. Gunfire. Back in his home town. He had hoped the rifles and handguns would cease firing when the war ended. But it was not to be.

He looked around and saw no riders. He spurred Buster toward the sound of the shots. The gunfire became louder as he galloped down the road. As he turned a curve, he saw a man fall from his horse. A second man, wearing a dark red shirt, galloped away. But his hand held a gun and he fired one last round. Allen rode to the fallen man and jumped off his horse, rushing to the downed cowboy.

To his surprise, he recognized the man; he was a friend from the past—Alton Brickford. His shirt was stained with two bullet holes, one close to the heart. Blood oozed from his chest down to the hard ground.

“Alton!” he said.

Brickford was clearly in pain. He rolled his head over and blinked his eyes.

“Clay,” the weak man said, in a surprise voice. “Clay.”

“Yes, it’s me,” Allen said. “Who shot you?’”

“Don’t know. Didn’t see his face…surprised me.”

“Take it easy. I’ll get a doctor.”

Brickford shook his head. “Don’t bother. It’s too late.” He coughed twice. Then he gave a slight smile. “Good seeing you again, Clay.”

“I’ll get who did this, Alton. And I’ll hang him.”

Brickford opened his mouth, but no sounds came. He groaned and closed his eyes. Allen knew his friend was dead. 

That was another thing about the West: men died unexpectedly—sometimes of natural causes, and sometimes by bullet wounds.

Allen sighed. There was nothing to do but put Brickford on his horse and take him to town. He picked the man up and put him over Buster’s saddle. He grabbed the reins and headed for Waco Falls. 

Back in North Carolina, after the southern force had surrendered, he had been held briefly in an open prison facility. But he had headed to Texas with optimism. He wanted to see his home and friends again and he wanted to lay his weapons down.

He couldn’t do that now.

And he was no longer optimistic as he rode on his way. Waco Falls was not the paradise he remembered. It was still part of the West. Where killers and outlaws roamed. The world hadn’t changed, he thought. Only his location had.

Chapter Two

The town didn’t look much different to him, although a few buildings had been added so it looked a little bigger. He stopped at the sheriff’s office and dismounted to knock on the door. When it opened, Roy Dickson stepped out. He was still tall and broad, with gray eyes and perhaps more gray in his hair than when Allen had left. It took a minute for the sheriff to recognize him.

“Clay! Clay Allen! How are you?”

The two shook hands. The sheriff was elated until he saw the dead man on the horse.

“Guess we have to postpone the greetings. Who is it?”

“Alton Brickford. I got to him shortly before he died but he said he didn’t know who shot him. But the man was wearing a red cowboy shirt. Don’t think he’s wounded but he fired one shot as he rode away.”

Two men had walked out behind the sheriff, who looked at one another.

“Ed, would you take the body over to the undertaker’s and then leave the horse at the livery stable? I don’t know if he had family but if so, I will try to get word to them.”

“Sure, sheriff.”

“Come on in, Clay. Like to talk to you,” the sheriff said.

He walked in a sat down in a chair before the sheriff’s desk. As the sheriff walked behind his desk, he pointed his finger toward the streets and the town.

“As you say, things haven’t change in this town much since you left.”

“That’s kind of a disappointment. I was hoping the town might have improved. A lot of things needed to change, except the sheriff. Who are your deputies now?”

“Now, no one. They got run off.”

“Is Shelton still running things?’

‘Tough’ Tom Shelton had owned the largest ranch in the county and – although war had not been officially declared between Shelton and his fellow ranchers, most of the county acted as if there was an armed truce between other ranchers and Shelton, which at times erupted into a battle.

“No, Shelton did this county a big favor by dying not long ago. He outlasted the war, but not by much.”

“How did he go? Pure meanness clogged up his heart?”

“No, he was up on a hill and fell off. Busted a leg, an arm, and his head. I thought his head was so hard nothing could break it, but I didn’t mind being proven wrong. His son is running the place now.”

“He’s as bad as his father.”

“Not really. Wade Shelton is about as ruthless as his father. Well, maybe I’m giving him a little more credit than he deserves. Wade is almost as ruthless as his dad, but I think there are lines he won’t cross that his father would. He’s still bad enough. But while he might have the sheer drive of his father, he doesn’t have cunning or shrewdness, thank goodness. The daughter is completely different. She is a sweet woman who is in church every Sunday morning listening to Reverend Mort Greeley, who does preach a pretty good sermon.”

“A Shelton in church. That seems unusual,” Allen said. “I think the elder Shelton said once that every preacher should be shot and every church burned to the ground.”

The sheriff laughed. “Now that he’s dead maybe he is reconsidering those remarks.”

“A mite too late.”

“But—and I think this was done out of spite—Amanda didn’t like her father and he cursed the day she was born. Their personalities were completely different.”

The Sheriff chuckled, almost laughing out loud. “I don’t mean to make light of the situation, but Tom wondered—often and out loud—whether Amanda was his daughter. He thought his wife might have been roaming around on him, the same way he was doing to her. Oh, where are my manners? You’ve had a long ride. Would you like a drink?”

“I might take one,” Allen said.

Sheriff Dickson opened the bottom drawer in his desk and brought out a whiskey bottle, then grabbed two glasses. He set them on the desk and filled them with whiskey.

“We’ll toast your return,” he said.

Allen raised one glass. “And we’ll remember those who didn’t make it back.”

The sheriff nodded and sipped the whiskey, as did Allen.

“Oh, I was in the process of telling you that Tom left the saloon, with the gambling tables to his daughter, who hates gambling and saloons. I think it was some kind of ironic joke to Tom, saddling the daughter he didn’t like with the saloon.”

“From your description I can understand he thought some other man might have sired the child. I’ve heard of the black sheep of the family. But Miss Amanda appears to be the white sheep of her family.”

Sheriff Dickson nodded. “I’m sure the Almighty is having a laugh about it. And Amanda is not pretending. I’m sure there’s a few people in Reverend Greeley’s church who are there because it’s the proper thing to do in a small town. But Amanda is sincere. She’s a Christian, good and true, and I have to wonder what it was like growing up in Tom Shelton’s house. I guess she saw enough of hell in this life and wanted heaven in the next.”

“Looks like she’s going to make it. Do brother and sister get along?’

“They talk. That’s about it. But I don’t think they hate one another. Okay, maybe a strong dislike. Amanda is still deciding what to do with the saloon. Think she’s talking with the pastor about it.”

Sheriff Dickson swallowed the rest of the whiskey. “I can bring you up to date on a few other citizens but first, let’s talk business. I offered you a badge when you left. The offer is still good. I need a reliable deputy. Are you up for the job?”

Allen nodded. “If my first case is finding who killed Alton.”

“It is. I can direct you to…oh, I don’t have to. You know where the ranch is. I’m not accusing anyone, but Alton worked for Burt Douglas, one of the ranchers that have been feuding with Wade Shelton. So the Shelton ranch is a good place to start.”

“Then that is where I will start,” Allen said.

The sheriff reached into his desk again and brought out a badge. He walked around the desk and pinned it on Allen’s shirt.

“Just a minute. Need to swear you in. Stand up.”

Sheriff Dickson grabbed a Bible he kept on his desk.

“Put your hand on the Bible and raise your hand.”

Allen did so.

“Do you solemnly swear to obey and enforce the laws of Waco Falls and Kenshaw County to the best of your abilities?” 

“I do.”

Then I declare you an official deputy of the Kenshaw County Sheriff’s Office.”

Dickson smiled and offered his hand. Allen shook it.

“Now head for the Shelton ranch. If I thought there would be any real trouble, I’d go with you—but I don’t think Wade Shelton is going to shoot a deputy. We’d get the U.S. marshals after him them. And he doesn’t want any federal trouble.”

Allen gave a wry grin. “Well, he may not have any federal trouble but he’s going to get a lot of trouble from this office. It will be more trouble than he can handle.”

Chapter Three

Amanda Shelton blushed a little, which gave her cheeks a redder glow as she walked into the office of the Reverend Mort Greeley. She was a contributing member of the reverend’s Community Church in Waco Falls. Reverend Greeley realized she was a ‘contributing’ member when he saw her first offering. His eyes flew wide open and he almost shouted “Hallelujah!” Since that time, Amanda had contributed regularly and the reverend knew there would be enough money to fund the food pantry and the small clothing store he had created for the church. In the winter even Texas can get cold, and a number of local families didn’t have sufficient winter clothes for their children. They did not like to receive what they considered charity, but Reverend Greeley explained the clothes as a gift from the church and many local parents became convinced they were doing a good deed by taking the clothes, thus freeing off some space in the church.

Reverend Greeley knew his congregation—and the town—well; he seemed to know when a family’s cupboard was low, and was there to refill it.

He looked up and greeted Amanda as she walked in.

“Forgive me, pastor, for the pants. A lot of people think women should not wear pants but they’re easier to ride in. And I’m riding a lot these days,” she said.

The pastor smiled. “I don’t mind pants. I look on the inside and you have a wonderful heart, Amanda.” 

“Thank you. I wanted to ask you about a problem I have. You know my feeling about the saloon, of which I am now the sole owner. I think no Christian should own a saloon and I’m thinking I should sell it, but I wanted to get your thoughts on it. When my un-dear and now departed father own it, he watered down the drink and used every trick in the book to maximize profit. If he had a god, it was money. And he had a few decks that the house would use than were legitimate. But right now, I’ve got no offers and I don’t know when I will get any. I guess war can make a lot of people rich, but it makes even more people poor. And no investor wants to lay down big money until they see what the future might bring.”

The pastor nodded. “Investors, or at least most of them, are naturally cautious. They don’t want to throw money away so I can understand the reserve. You can only do what you’ve been doing. Keep running an honest operation, cut off men who have too much to drink, and run any poker games honestly. I admit this is an odd situation for a Christian, but we just have to handle it the best we can.”

She slapped the forearm of the chair. “But the thing is, I am actually making money, and more money than my father did with his illegal activities. Word has gotten out that The August Moon Saloon is a fair and honest place. And we are getting customers from Benson City and Rock Ridge. Both towns are about ten miles away and now I have a few customers to say they will gladly ride that far for a good drink and a fair poker game. We are full up almost every night.”

“You might be a shrewd businesswoman, Amanda. Sometimes honesty is the best policy.”

“At least it hasn’t hurt business,” Amanda said. “But it also makes the place more difficult to sell because I’m charging more for it.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Of course, I didn’t get many offers for it with the first price. Doubt I’ll get any when I hiked the price for it.”

“I understand your objections to running a saloon. I thought business would dry up when you got rid of all the…er, ladies.”

“So did I. I figure the saloon would dry up and rot, but it didn’t. Many people would like to just have a drink, enjoy friendship and conversation, and play a hand of poker. That’s why, at first, I didn’t worry about selling it. I figured it would go bankrupt and I wouldn’t have to worry about it. No such luck. I have two ladies who said they would like to give up their old profession and become just bar servers, and one can do bartending. I said fine to that. They’re just serving drinks and meals. We have expanded our kitchen. Come over for breakfast one day, pastor. I have a good chef who whips up a great omelet. And”—she slapped the chair’s armrest again—“I am even making money on breakfast. And one of those ladies got a two-dollar tip for serving a breakfast last week. I mean, two dollars! For a tip!” 

“Maybe she smiled at him real nice,” the pastor said.

“Must have. I mean, most cowhands around here get about forty dollars a month. That’s slightly more than a dollar a day. And this lady—I mean, bless her heart, I like her—she gets two dollars for serving a breakfast. If she gets twenty tips like that, she’s got a month’s pay.”

“And, hopefully, will be living well,” he said. “I know you are uncomfortable with this situation, but I still believe it’s better than to have shut it down. These are hard working men here and they do need a spot to relax and swap stories and be with their friends. And this is a spot where they don’t get swindled by the owner. They can have a good time and the bartender and others check to make sure not too much alcohol is consumed. Nothing illegal is going on there.”

“And since I eliminated the…ladies, I get more business, too. Had a bank vice president drop in the other day and chat with a few of his customers. And I’m getting vigorous discussions of what General Lee should have done at Gettysburg instead of charging that danged hill.”

The pastor laughed. “Those are the discussions that can go long into the night.”

“And have. I expect presidential politics will come up next. You know there are already rumors that General Grant will run for president a year or so from now.”

The pastor smiled. “I don’t doubt that a bit. Everyone knows his name and he’s well liked. Those are the requirements for president. I would vote for him.”

She shrugged. “You know, I guess I shouldn’t be complaining. How many business owners are upset when they are making, not losing money? Some businessmen would love to have that problem.”

“That’s very true. It is an…unusual situation. But I think you are handling it well, as good as possible.” He laughed. “This afternoon I may come over and say hello. It would be the first time I will be in a saloon for many, many years.”

Amanda laughed back. “Come on over, pastor. I’d like to see you walk through the swinging doors. Although that may shock some of the customers. Come over for lunch. I told you that I have a good cook. He will serve you the best steak you ever had. And it’s on the house.”

“Thank you, Amanda. That’s very nice,” he said.

“But you have to give a two-dollar tip.”

He laughed again. “I’ll gladly do that.”

She nodded. “This will be an event that everyone in town will remember.”

“Terror and Mayhem in Texas” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

When Clay Allen, a Civil War veteran, takes a job as deputy sheriff in Kenshaw County, Texas he doesn’t know what he is getting into. With the notorious rancher who ran the town now dead, Clay has to deal with his son, Wade, who inherited his infamous legacy. Wade hires former Confederate war veterans to build an army in order to succeed at what his father didn’t and control the county, and Clay is the only one willing to thwart his plans.

For Deputy Allen, it is becoming obvious that there is another, more dangerous war about to break out…

Amanda Shelton, Wade’s sister, wants nothing to do with her brother and father who, more out of spite than love, left her the saloon, knowing she hated the place. In a desperate attempt to get rid of the last connection she has with them, she seeks to find a buyer so that she can finally move on and never look back. Allen will see in her a wonderful, sweet woman that he starts falling in love with, but Wade swears to get revenge on her for betraying the family. Can the determined deputy protect her from her own brother and his army?

Will the clashing interests of all parties prove to be the downfall of the fearless deputy?

As more deputies arrive in town to help tackle the situation, Wade takes over the county by force and becomes a semi-dictator. Amid a hurricane of violence, blood, and death, with good and bad men lying dead in the streets, how will Clay and Amanda find the strength to persevere and let their love grow?

“Terror and Mayhem in Texas” 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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