Trouble at Timber Ridge
An old friend sends a message to Harlan Shea asking for help. In spite of secrets he'd rather forget, the big man rides back to Timber Ridge. Possible rustlers, an unusual telegraph clerk, and several old enemies lead to more than one shooting before Harlan begins to figure out what is happening. Then the trouble gets downright serious when Shea meets a beautiful woman with her own secrets. More
Harlan Shea receives a message asking for help from an old friend. In spite of secrets from the past he'd sooner forget, the big man rides back to Timber Ridge. Possible rustlers, an unusual telegraph clerk, and a few old enemies lead to several questions and more than one shooting before Harlan begins to figure out what is happening. Then the trouble gets downright serious when Shea meets a beautiful woman with secrets of her own.
Excerpt from Chapter 1:
"So, you gonna tell me why you sent for me?" Shea asked.
"That's how I remember you, Harlan. Right to the point." Haxton refilled his glass of liquor and slammed down another gulp. "I'm damn near broke. Haven't sold any cattle for months. But that's not what the buyers say. According to them, they've received a shipment from me by rail as recently as a few weeks back. I think someone is selling cattle in my name.
"I remember how you handled those Heinz twins back when they was rustlin' me and you were foreman here. These new boys, Harlan, they're hardly the type to take on outlaws. Time was when a cowboy on this range took the law into his own hands. Now, we got Sheriff Reddington in town; law and order reign, and we're powerless to defend our interests.
"Business is changing 'round here too. I can't make heads nor tails of any of it. When I was a young pup, long drives and Indian fighting made a man a man. When you did business, you did it face to face. Put your cards all down on the table where the other guy could see them. But today, the cattle business is all telegrams and rail cars."
"I thought I saw telegraph poles in the distance as I rode up."
"Did you come up through town?"
"No, I came the other way, from the mountains."
"Hmm..." Haxton paused a moment to wipe his mouth with his napkin. "Damned eyesores. Wasn't so many years ago this was all free range, remember? Why, you were here when the Y Bar O started building its first fence.
"Well, as far as Johnson can tell, not a cow's been stolen from my herds. But a couple months back, the buyers stopped replying to my telegrams. I haven't made any deliveries, and money's getting tight. Those boys out there are getting antsy; they haven't been paid for long enough, I reckon a few are thinking of leaving. I've got one or two empty bunks down there as it is.
"I sent Johnson to see Fairbault and find out why the buyers stopped contacting me. Johnson told me his conversation with Fairbault was downright strange. Fairbault seemed to have no idea anything was irregular. And he gave Johnson this." Haxton pulled a telegram out of his vest and slid it down the table to Shea.
PAYMENT FOR ALL SHIPMENTS DIRECT TO TIMBER RIDGE BANK STOP FB HAXTON FULL STOP
"I take it you never sent this telegram," Shea said.
"No, I didn't."
"So somebody's forging telegrams. And unless you're considerably changed from the man I knew, you still keep your funds in mattresses, hollowed out trees and under floor boards – never in bank accounts."
"Damned if you could even guess how many stashes I've got! Some old habits die hard," Haxton grunted. "Fairbault showed Johnson a lot full of my brand, but Johnson said the brands looked sorta blurry."