Partners in Justice and Love (Preview)

Chapter One

Sara Bailey brushed her strawberry blonde hair out of her face as she walked down North Street on the outskirts of Baltimore. A breeze blew, pressing her skirt against her legs and offering a brief moment of relief from the sweltering heat. She nodded a cordial greeting to Mr. Jenkins, as he and his wife passed on the street. The Peterman and North Clothing Factory loomed up ahead, casting its shadow over the smaller businesses on the road. Sara took one more deep breath of fresh air before stepping inside.

Though being a seamstress had never been Sara’s idea of a perfect position, such factories kept Baltimore ticking and it had undoubtedly kept her family’s head above water. She greeted her shift manager before taking her seat at her station.

The air of the factory was thick with the fine dust that floated from the fabric. It shone in every beam of sunlight coming through the large windows high overhead. Lack of ventilation always seemed to be a problem in these large buildings, but one got used to such conditions with time.

At just twenty-four years old, Sara knew her job well. She pushed up her sleeves and put her experienced hands to work as she had done for the last ten years. After her father had fallen gravely ill and ultimately been laid off, Sara quickly found herself shouldering the weight of the family’s finances. Her brother had played his part in helping, of course, but the timing had played a cruel role. Just a few months after their father’s illness had set in, Tom had been called off to war. Still, through it all Sara had proven herself dependable, bearing the burden gracefully.

She set to work on the piles of material that were stacked all around her. Each piece was laid flat before having measurements marked out on it. Then, within a few moments, she had each section of the item in question cut to size and ready to be sewn. It was painfully repetitive, but it provided steady pay.

That evening, Sara pushed through the front door of her home with a spring in her step. Having received her weekly pay meant that she could go to the market in the morning, which was sure to please her mother. Their supplies always dwindled near the end of the week, even with just the two of them to care for. Her brother Tom had returned home after the war, but only briefly. It was not long before he had met a lovely young woman from Baltimore, marrying her and moving away. With their father already gone, that had left Sara to care for their mother and the house. That was now four years prior, and Sara had settled into the role that she foresaw as being hers for years to come.

“Mother?” she called out, surprised to find her mother’s favorite chair vacant. She continued searching through the sitting room and kitchen. “Hello there,” she smiled as she approached her mother at the dining room table, but her cheery nature soon fell solemn. The woman’s pained gaze stopped Sara in her tracks.

“What is wrong, Mother?” she asked, quickly dropping into the chair next to her. “Are you feeling poorly?”

“No, take a look.” She handed Sara the telegram she had been holding. “It is from Janie. Tom is in trouble.”

“What sort of trouble?” She quickly read over the message from her sister-in-law. “He has been arrested!”

“Yes,” she nodded, “she says he was arrested for assault, of all things. That does not sound like my son. Something seems wrong with it all. Janie is asking for your presence at Tom’s trial. You know she will need help if he is not acquitted. Do you think you can afford to go?”

“Yes, I will manage it,” she nodded as her usual sense of responsibility kicked in. “I would not think of leaving them to face this alone.”

“You haven’t got much time then. Janie said his trial is in three weeks,” her mother pointed out.

“I will make the necessary arrangements with the factory in the morning. If I pack quickly, I may be able to catch a train tomorrow. Will you be alright without me here?” Sara studied her mother, already tense at the thought of leaving her.

“I will be fine until you return. Tom needs you,” she nodded.

“Perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins could check in on you while I am away.” With her mother’s approval, Sara spent the night packing anything she thought she could need. Though she had never been as far west as Kansas, she felt as though she had experienced it. When Tom and Janie settled on a ranch there, four years ago, Janie had made sure to describe every detail of it in her letters. The wide-open plains and small settlements across the prairie sounded so foreign compared to life in the city.

Janie had spoken of snakes aplenty, along with coyotes and wildcats. Sara eyed her belongings, feeling dreadfully unprepared for such a place. But funds were tight, so she knew she must make do with what she had. Aside from her sturdiest boots, Sara packed as many of her dresses as she could reasonably manage. She had no way of knowing how long she might need to stay.

The following morning, Sara kissed her mother, promising to write as soon as she had any news of the situation. Her mother offered to drive her to the station, but Sara knew how much she hated the crowds of downtown Baltimore. Instead, Sara decided to send for a coach to pick her up.

Once her trunk was loaded, Sara stopped in at Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins’ house on the way to the train station. Having explained her dilemma, Sara breathed a bit easier knowing that they would be looking after her mother in her absence. She climbed back into the coach, asking the driver to continue on to the factory.

Sara asked the driver to wait for a short moment while she made the necessary arrangements. She feared the possibility of losing her position altogether, should she not be able to make a hasty return. Still, Sara reminded herself that she could not leave Janie and her sons to face Tom’s trial alone. Speaking to her shift manager, they managed to work out an agreement.

Finally, Sara pushed her way through the crowded train station, making her way to the ticket counter. All the while, the urgency of Janie’s telegram weighed heavily on her mind. The large open windows of the building did little to ward off the stifling August heat, causing a trickle of sweat to drip down her neck. People chatting around the congested station further blurred her thoughts as she paid the necessary fare.

Sara found a seat near one of the windows, allowing her a view of the platform. A gentle breeze blew her hair off of her face, cooling her and offering her a bit of hope in an otherwise bleak situation. Though a few years of hardship can definitely change a person, Tom was not a violent man. Even when Tom had gone off to war, it had been under compulsion. The thought that he would be standing before a judge on charges of assault baffled her. Something about the whole scenario did not sit right.

Soon enough a train roared into the station, letting out a hiss as the steam was released. Sara collected her things and began her journey to Kansas. Her journey would last seven days, if nothing delayed them. Sara disliked having to let a situation be when there was much that needed to be done. She settled into her berth in hopes of making up for the sleep she had lost the night before. Other passengers made their way down the small walking path between the berths, which were stacked three on top of each other. At least this car was reserved for female passengers, with curtains to offer a bit of privacy. Eventually, the train jolted as the locomotive roared back to life and the cars caught tension against each other. Sara pulled her blanket over her head as the train rumbled out of Baltimore.

Later that evening, as sleep eluded her, Sara anxiously paced from car to car while the train swayed on the tracks. Her thoughts spun with the pictures she had dreamt up of what Tom’s ranch might be like. His wife, Janie, had quickly befriended Sara following their wedding and had kept in better touch than even Tom had. She wrote to Sara regularly, telling of the hardships and adventures of life on the frontier.

Sara was relieved to hear an attendant pass through her car, announcing that it was mealtime. She made her way through the three passenger cars that separated her berth from the dining car. With no assigned seating, she was thankful to find an empty table near the windows. She had far too much on her mind to carry a conversation at the moment, and no desire to explain her reasons for traveling. As her plate was placed before her, the hunger pangs finally caught her up. A rushed breakfast that morning and a skipped lunch were causing her to feel lightheaded. She decided that a decent meal and a good night’s sleep would cast a better outlook on the day ahead.

That night, Sara laid in her berth with her mind drifting between anxiety and excitement. She dreaded the situation that awaited her. Janie was sure to be stressed beyond her limits, and she would be unable to see Tom before the trial. Still, she had often dreamt of visiting Kansas, or any place west of Baltimore. Her sense of responsibility toward her mother had always prevented such a journey, and she would never wish for her mother to be left alone, but that had not stopped her from yearning for it.

Seven long days later, the small town of Oakmede, Kansas, stretched before Sara’s eyes. She crowded near a window, taking in the breathtaking sights around her. The rolling hills of grain that covered the landscape outside of the town gave a clue that Sara had entered cattle country. The wide-open sky seemed to push on forever, unhindered by the buildings of any city. An attendant soon collected both her and her trunk, escorting her to the door. Once the train had stopped completely, he placed a step beneath the door and gave her a hand to the ground.

As Sara stepped off of the train, she steeled herself for Janie’s sake. However worried Sara might be about her brother, the outcome of his trial would have a far greater impact on Janie and their sons. She forced a smile and approached the familiar young woman on the far side of the platform. Her long blonde hair was tied back, as Sara had always known her to wear it, but the exhaustion in her eyes was new.

“Hello!” Sara greeted, hugging her sister-in-law. Janie gave her a weary look but quickly composed herself.

“Hello, Sara. I am glad to see you again, though I wish it were under different circumstances.” Janie stepped back and presented her sons. “I have told you so much about Charley and Carter in my letters. It is about time you got to meet them.”

Sara stooped down so she could face the boys at eye level. Their sandy hair and button noses quickly took Sara back to her childhood. They were the spitting image of their father. The boys fell into a hug without hesitation. Janie had still been expecting Charley when she and Tom had ventured to Kansas, and Carter had not come around for another eighteen months after that.

“It is so nice to meet you,” Sara said, pulling away and taking a good look at them both.

“Aunt Sara is going to be staying with us for a few weeks,” Janie explained, ushering the boys toward the wagon. Charley reached up and took Sara by the hand, deciding that any relative with that sweet of a smile must be a friend. Sara gave it a little squeeze and smiled down at him once more. She quickly enlisted the help of a steward in hauling her trunk up into the bed of Janie’s wagon. All piling in, the four of them set off for the ranch.

“So, catch me up on things,” Sara said, looking out ahead of the wagon. The vast plains stretched as far as the eye could see. Little clusters of trees dotted the horizon, clearly marking the locations of ranch houses and paths. Sara felt that this was the sort of place she would like if the situation with Tom had been different.

Janie glanced down at the boys, cluing Sara into the fact that they did not know the truth of the matter. Sara gave her a subtle nod, understanding that the subject should wait. Their carefree giggles from the bed of the wagon tugged at Sara’s heart. The idea of Tom being kept from his boys was saddening. He had always been a family man, caring for his boys and providing the best life for them that he could manage.

“The ranch has become our home; there is no doubt of that. Sometimes Baltimore seems like such a distant memory for me. I think you would do well out here, however different it may be,” Janie explained. “Until late last year, we were tending a herd of about one hundred cattle. Unfortunately, the blizzard in January hit us hard. We were preparing for a drive to the railroad in the spring, but we lost nearly a third of the profitable herd.”

“I am sorry to hear that. But I would assume that Tom has hired hands with enough experience to handle such things.”

“Yes, the hands have certainly proven themselves. There are only the two men that I wrote about in my letters. We could not afford to keep more than that. But their know-how is what has kept us afloat. The strain of it all has worn on Tom, though. He wears the stress of it in his face. We had such dreams of establishing ourselves and raising our boys with freedom from the injustices that still linger in the eastern cities from the war. But they have not come as easily as we had imagined they would.”

Sara said that she understood, and they continued down the bumpy trail outside Oakmede. Upon arriving at the outskirts of Tom and Janie’s land, they rode alongside a fenced property until the house came into view. The fence line carried on into the distance, meeting a tree line much further down the path. Janie pulled the wagon through the front gate, riding into the yard. It was a beautiful little place, sensibly laid out with the barn and corral set opposite the house. A small bunkhouse stood a distance away from the barn, where a man emerged from to greet them.

“That is the foreman, Bert Hodges,” Janie explained, stopping the horses in front of the man.

“How do you do, ma’am?” Hodges greeted, tipping his hat to the women. He helped them out of the wagon before tending to the horses. Janie urged the boys into the house, following behind with Sara.

Inside, the boys rushed off to their room, finding a couple of small toys to amuse themselves with. Janie showed Sara to a bedroom in which she could get her things settled. Afterward, she invited Sara to make herself comfortable, disappearing into the kitchen and returning with two glasses of lemonade. The women settled into small talk, avoiding the obvious topic weighing on both of their minds since there were still young ears around.

As supper time neared, Sara joined Janie in the kitchen. She welcomed a distraction from the thoughts reeling in her mind. She stood by, watching Janie and searching for an opportunity to help.

“You have a lovely place, here,” Sara said, mixing up a batch of cornbread. “You said that you and Tom built the house, is that right?”

“Yes, with a good deal of help, that is,” Janie replied, kindling the fire to cook the steaks. “That is how we met Hodges. He was looking for work, and a few people in town knew that we would be needing help in getting the place up and running. Someone was kind enough to point him in our direction. This place would not have been the same without his help.”

“How fortunate! Tom has always been talented at working with his hands. But building a house is no simple feat.”

“It certainly is not! He and I sat down and designed this ranch to be a dream come true for us. Of course, I was still expecting Charley at the time but we planned it with children in mind, eager to give them all the joys of childhood in such a place.” The steaks hissed as Janie laid them in the sizzling pan, filling the house with an aroma that made Sara’s mouth water.

“The boys do appear to have taken to the frontier,” Sara agreed, glancing into the sitting room where they played.

“That they have. They regularly help me collect eggs from the chicken coop, and they’re never far behind Hodges. It amazes me the things they’ve learned at such young ages.”

Sara nodded. “And what of the other cowhand you mentioned? Did he come along later?”

“Yes, he is a good deal younger than Hodges, barely nineteen-years-old. He is not afraid of hard work, though. Hodges recommended that we hire him, assuring us that he was as trustworthy as they come. Both the hands are wonderful with the boys, teaching them something or other at every opportunity.”

Janie soon pulled the steaks off of the heat, plating the meal and allowing the aroma to tempt the boys toward the table. Sara scooped out pieces of cornbread, and they all sat down to a relaxed meal.

After supper, Sara waited in the sitting room while Janie put the boys to bed. Though the mild night did not need added warmth, the flickering firelight cast a warm glow on the wooden rafters of the house. A gentle, albeit humid, breeze drifted through the open windows, sending the curtains floating into the air. She sipped on the cup of tea Janie had given her, noting how well her sister-in-law had done at making their new place feel like home.

Janie quietly pulled the boys’ bedroom door closed behind her as she returned to the sitting room. “Those two have not slept well since the sheriff arrested Tom,” she sighed. “They are full of questions that I do not have answers to. Their father is a good man. How do I explain the situation without breaking their belief in that?”

Sara’s shoulders drooped. The family had borne enough grief already, and the trial was sure to be nerve-wracking. Finally, able to speak freely, she asked the question that had haunted her all day. “I do not understand it. Tom has never been a violent man. How did this happen?”

Janie poured herself a cup of tea before taking her usual seat. “I don’t know.” She shook her head. “I have not had the chance to speak to him since the arrest. None of this makes sense. I will admit that Tom had been spending far too much time in the gambling saloon. But the idea of him pulling a knife on someone is outrageous!” Tears began welling up in Janie’s eyes, dripping down her cheeks. Sara moved over to the couch with her, placing an arm around her shoulders.

“The men that have accused him are known for their crooked ways, but their evidence seems sound. I don’t understand what could have come over him.”

Sara nodded thoughtfully. “At very least, he must have been provoked. You say the men are crooks?”

“Levi Moran runs the gambling saloon in Oakmede. He is a man who knows how to get what he wants. And the men who work for him make sure it happens. I have never cared for Tom spending time in their establishment, but my wishes did little to stop him. The stresses of the ranch’s faltering finances had been weighing heavily on him, there was no doubt about that. But there are far better places to seek distraction from life’s problems. Now look where it has gotten him!

“One afternoon, a friend from town came rushing to the house to tell me that Tom was in jail! They said that a brawl had broken out in the saloon between Tom and two of Moran’s men. They claimed that he assaulted them with a weapon, and the sheriff put Tom in jail. If he is found guilty, he is sure to be sentenced to prison time.” Janie’s tears began to flow once more as she crumpled onto Sara’s shoulder.

“Now, I know it looks bad, but nothing has been proven yet,” Sara reminded her. “Tom’s not the type to throw a punch, let alone pull a weapon. Surely there’s something the sheriff is missing.”

“That is what scares me the most,” Janie sobbed. “Sheriff Graves hasn’t got the backbone to stand up to Levi Moran. He has allowed him to swindle the people of Oakmede out of their livelihoods! Even if Tom is innocent, I am not sure that the sheriff would stand up for him.”

Sara stared off into the fire as she searched for any other idea. “How about a deputy sheriff? If Sheriff Graves is too afraid to stand up for justice, perhaps another lawman would.”

“He hasn’t got a deputy. The position has been open for as long as I can remember. No one seems to want it, and Moran is probably why.”

“Is there anyone else who might have witnessed the incident? Perhaps they could be of some help at the trial.”

Janie shook her head. “If there were any witnesses, they have not spoken up and are not likely to. As I said, Moran is nothing short of a criminal, and not a person you would want to cross. It is doubtful that anyone would put themselves in such a position.” She sighed and rubbed her eyes, struggling to ease the strain on them.

“I do not believe that Tom would do something like this any more than you do, but getting worked up over it tonight will not help anything,” Sara sighed. She handed Janie her teacup back and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “Something is sure to come up before the trial. There is nothing more we can do until then.”

“I suppose you are right,” Janie sighed. “But shouldering all of this alone has me completely exhausted. Whatever the outcome turns out to be, I am thankful you are here. I don’t think I could face this trial without you.”

“I would never let you do that,” Sara assured her. “Whatever comes, we will find our way through it together. And if justice prevails, I am sure that Tom will be acquitted.”

Janie agreed, and the two of them decided that they should try to get some much-needed sleep. The days to follow would be strained enough without their exhaustion intensifying the stress.

Chapter Two

Logan Payne spurred his horse along the trail, pulling the harness lead of the horse beside him. He glanced over at his prisoner, who rode along in silence. The man glared at Logan, but returned his attention elsewhere, resolving himself to his fate. The sun glistened off of Logan’s revolver, offering a constant reminder of why the prisoner would not be escaping. The rough terrain on either side of the path gave as much assurance, as a rider with hands tied behind him had little hope of navigating such a place.

Logan wiped the sweat from his face that had dripped down onto his mustache, thankful to see the little town of Harris Bend coming into view. He urged his steed on, anxious to reach the sheriff’s office and take a short break from the heat. Logan stopped in front of the office and dismounted, pulling the other man to the ground. He tied the horses near the watering trough and lugged the man inside.

“Sheriff, I have one Nathan Fowler for you.” Logan shoved the man toward the sheriff’s desk, causing the lawman to come to his feet.

“It is good to see you, Logan. How did you manage to catch up with him?” Sheriff Henderson asked, pushing the outlaw into a cell. “I have been on his trail for months!”

“I suppose you have to know where to look. Fowler was hiding out, waiting for the stage north of here. It is vulnerable there, and an easy target for an experienced robber,” Logan said. He took his hat off and smoothed his light-brown hair back into place. “Now, I believe there was a reward on his head.”

“Yes, sir, and you have earned it,” the sheriff replied. “Come with me, and we will get it sorted for you.”

“Have there been sightings of any other outlaws? Even with this money, I am still short of what I need,” Logan pushed, following the sheriff.

Sheriff Henderson handed Logan his payment, along with a stack of wanted posters. “These are the men who have been spotted close enough to warrant a search. But the regional office does not always get word through to this little place. There are a few there that have a higher price on their heads. But, of course, they tend to be the more dangerous ones.”

Logan nodded, giving the sheriff a knowing glance.

“I do not doubt that you could manage any of the men there,” the sheriff added. “But I know you stepped away from bounty hunting for a reason. It is a dangerous line of work, and if you are only looking to make a set amount of money…”

“I know what you mean,” he nodded.

“In any case, will you stay long enough for coffee?” the sheriff offered. “Wherever you go from here, it is a long time in the saddle.”

Logan accepted and decided to stay for lunch as well. As he rode out of town later that day, he counted out the two hundred dollars that the sheriff had paid as a reward for Fowler. His thoughts drifted to life in Oakmede and the scene that awaited him. When his sister, Janie, had settled on her new ranch with her husband Tom, Logan had promised to settle down with them. He had left his days of bounty hunting behind, helping tend to the herd and keep up with the handyman work. He enjoyed the chance to be around his nephews too. That was a much easier way of life, and a whole lot less dangerous.

But everything had changed a few months ago when Tom came to him in desperate search of help, and he could not turn his brother-in-law down. The rough winter had left Tom in a state of exhaustion. The brutal cold had stolen their hopes for profit in the spring, and funds were growing tight. Tom knew that they could not make ends meet without a good cattle drive, and he had searched out any means of a quick dollar. The men at Moran’s gambling saloon always had money to spare. Feeling he had no other option, Tom tried his hand at their game and it cost him dearly. By the time he sought out Logan’s help, he owed two thousand dollars to the swindlers.

Logan had warned Tom to stay away from Levi Moran. Nothing good ever came from trying to play him at his own game. But that was all irrelevant now. Tom had a debt to pay, and Moran would make sure he got his money. Tom was desperate, and Logan knew of only one way to produce that kind of money; to return to bounty hunting. He feared the outcome of breaking his promise to Janie, but Moran would stop at nothing to get his money out of Tom.

Logan had made a deal with the men. If they postponed collection on Tom’s debt, he would pay it for him within six months. Logan made Tom give his word never to tell Janie of his reasons for breaking his promise. He knew she would not forgive Tom for putting her brother back in harm’s way. And most of all, he insisted that Tom stay as far from Moran and his card sharks as possible. The last thing they needed was more trouble.

In just three months, Logan had nearly earned the required sum. Only a couple of hundred dollars more, and he would be able to put this life behind him for good. He rode along the dusty path, always keeping an eye on the tree line in the distance. Though a good many people appreciated his efforts to keep the peace, there were at least as many who wanted him out of commission. He pulled the small collection of wanted posters from his saddlebag and flipped through them, determining who might be his next best target.

Having spent four years on the ranch fixing fences and tending cattle, he felt that his tracking skills were a bit rusty. But he knew this territory well and took advantage of the fact that most thought he had retired. Settling on one criminal he was familiar with, he set off for the low country.

Crossing over into Colorado, Logan’s mind returned to the old days after the war. He had spent a few years covering this territory, ridding it of trouble and making a good living doing it. There had been no reason for him to return to Baltimore. It held little besides painful memories for him. Sure, his mother and Janie were still there at the time, but with his father dead, there was no longer a need for him to protect the women from the cruel man as he had done for most of his childhood. Somehow, freedom from the past was enough to make the dangers of the job worth it.

The wilds of the frontier had become his home for several years. It wasn’t until Janie and Tom settled in Oakmede that he actually took up residence somewhere. Before that he had lived a nomadic existence, riding from one town to the next, and living out of inns on the nights when he wanted a real bed. However, many other nights he’d found himself sleeping under the starry sky.

He clicked his heels against his horse, urging it off of the path and toward a stream. The heat was unrelenting, and the animal was beginning to slow. Stopping in a shady patch near the creek, he swung himself to the ground and let the horse drink. He scooped up a handful of the fresh, cool water and splashed it across his face. Soon, he would be able to return to the ranch and find relief from the hardships of the trail. But until then, he was content to find a place to sit and rest for a spell. He swung his leg over a low-hanging tree branch and leaned against the trunk, propping his feet up. Letting his hat tip down over his eyes, he welcomed a few minutes of much-needed rest. His horse was sure to alert him of anyone approaching, and most of the men that he had a need to be concerned with did not know he was back on their trail.

Once the heat of the day had subsided, Logan dug in his saddlebag and produced the last bit of cornbread that remained from lunch. Finally brushing the crumbs away, he took a good long drink and swung himself back into the saddle. The ride to the next town would still take several hours, and darkness would inevitably surround him by then. He checked the rifle in his saddle slot, making sure he was prepared for whatever might lurk in the night. The revolver at his hip was at the ready as well.

By the time evening fell, he had ridden deep into the low-country. The mountain range in front of him surged high into the Western sky, making darkness creep over the valley as soon as the sun dipped behind the peaks. The town of Mather’s Creek sat between him and the foot of the mountains, and a steady pace would put him there in an hour. He knew the danger that awaited him there. Philip Tucker was one of the better-known outlaws in the area. His eager gunhand had earned him a vile enough reputation that he could live in plain sight without any opposition from the law. No one cared to cross him, even for the hefty price on his head.

Logan pushed onward, determined to complete the two thousand dollars he needed. One last arrest would have him hot on the trail toward home. Nothing could take him back to Tom and Janie soon enough. And he missed Charley and Carter terribly. Soon he could leave this all behind him.

Riding into town, Logan pulled the brim of his Stetson down a bit further. His years of experience had given him an eye for spotting anyone set against the law. They carried themselves differently, and Tucker was no exception. Knowing the saloon would be the place to find him, Logan stopped his horse outside the establishment, swinging his reins around the rail out front.

Logan stepped inside, keeping a cautious eye on the card game being held in the far corner. As he had expected, the husky man with narrow eyes and a long, dark beard sat where he could see the door. He made confident eye contact with Logan, making him well-aware that he knew who he was. Logan returned the man’s glare with an air that made even him shift in his seat. Logan perched himself atop a stool at the bar, waiting for his opportunity. If only momentarily, his thoughts drifted to Janie, knowing how she would anguish over him being in such a place. He pushed the idea from his mind, knowing he had a job to complete. A tap on his shoulder quickly brought him back to the present.

“What brings you back to this area?”

Logan looked up into the face of Eli Dawson, and old friend from his bounty hunting days. “It is good to see you again, Eli,” he said, giving the man’s hand a hearty shake. “You know why I am here as well as I do.”

“Yes, but I would not bother,” Eli sighed, taking the seat next to Logan. He lowered his voice, eyeing Tucker and the card game that appeared to be heating up. “Even if you could get your hands on him, you would have to transport him back to Kansas to collect any reward on his head. The sheriff here won’t lift a finger against him.”

“I am not asking the sheriff to arrest him. He just has to put him in jail once I do the work for him,” Logan replied, ordering a drink and a bite to eat.

“I wish you the best of luck with that. I have been trying to get my hands on Tucker for six months now. It is maddening to watch the man roam in plain sight with no opposition to his crimes. The sheriff has already warned me that he will have nothing to do with it,” Eli grumbled.

“What then? He is willing to sit by and allow his town to be overrun by any criminal who puts up a fight? Some lawman he is!”

“I agree with you, but that doesn’t change anything. Even the wanted ad that has been circulated is incorrect. The reward should be much higher, as Tucker killed the last sheriff that tried to oppose him. I am not sure it is worth the risk, Logan, even for a strong gunman like yourself.”

Logan nodded, taking this new information into account. ”What am I supposed to do then? Are you expecting me to ride out of here and leave him to roam free?”

“I am suggesting that is what you do, though I don’t really expect you to listen,” Eli smirked at his old friend.

“What would you say to the idea of us going after him together? Even if I could get my hands on him by myself, you are right about the idea of hauling him back to Kansas or at least to Denver. I am not fond of the concept of traveling alone with the man.”

Eli sat back, clearly uneager to have anything to do with Tucker. “I need to think it over,” he sighed. “What I can tell you, though, is that you have no chance of laying hands on him in this saloon. He has at least a half-dozen men scattered around the room, each as fast with a gun as he is. Why don’t we go talk about this somewhere else and let the idea sit for the night? You can come to stay at my place.”

Logan could not argue with that, and the two of them left the saloon with one last glance back at the man whose reward could send Logan home. Together, they rode out of the little settlement, heading for Eli’s house and a much-needed night of sleep.

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Sara Bailey has never faltered in her responsibilities to her family. Her life in Baltimore has always been a quiet one until she suddenly discovers that her brother has found himself arrested. Sara has no other option than to travel immediately to Kansas so as to attend his trial. After witnessing him being sentenced to a 5-year prison-time for a crime he could never commit, she decides it’s her duty to take action. To her surprise, she is not the only one to rush in, willing to do anything to help him… Will the handsome former Bounty Hunter, who offers to join her mission, eventually lead them to the solution they desperately crave?

Logan Payne has spent most of his teenage years trying to protect his sister and mother from his abusive father. As an adult man, he has promised to stay away from trouble and leave his life as a Bounty Hunter behind. But when his brother-in-law is trapped in a controversial trial, he has no other choice but to jump in and help him gain his freedom back. Sara, the prisoner’s beautiful sister, will be his valuable partner to this plan. When emotions he had never experienced before start rising to the surface, will he manage to straighten things out and capture her heart, just like she captivated his?

While Sara and Logan’s hearts are growing closer, misunderstood motives and a well-kept secret are about to leave the heroes in a state of confusion and pain. Can they really prove Sara’s brother’s innocence? Or will the crime spree take a dangerous turn for the worse?

“Partners in Justice and Love” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.

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