Wanted for a Heinous Crime (Preview)

Chapter One

“The old man deserved it. He should have been killed long ago,” said Henry Hogan. “He was a no-good bushwhacker and thief to boot. I did decent people a favor by shooting Manshaw. And I did the law a favor by shooting him. Some sheriff doesn’t have to track him down now. And the taxpayers don’t have to go to the expense of building a gallows. I saved them some money. Listen, Manshaw knew I hunted men occasionally, so he got jumpy when he saw me. He was so jumpy he pulled his gun and shot at me first, but also so jumpy he missed. I shot back and didn’t.”

“That’s not what the poster says, Henry.”

“The poster is wrong. It has me wanted for murder. But the man drew first. And anybody who knows Manshaw’s reputation will tell you what type of man he was. He usually was careful, so he didn’t get on any poster before this. This time he made a mistake and shot an unarmed man. So the law was after him.”

Victor “Vic” Grant nodded, thinking if Hogan were as skilled as an outlaw as he was at talking, he would probably still be running free. The man had been talking since Grant slapped the cuffs on him.  Grant wasn’t a talkative man but didn’t mind Hogan’s running commentary on life and the justice system.

“If you get testimony to that fact, you can go free.”

“That’s what I plan to do. I don’t know how that poster ever got printed. Because it was a fair fight. He wasn’t shot in the back,” Hogan said, shaking his head.  “Our legal system just has too many holes in it. Too many mistakes are made. We need to fix that somehow.”

“Not until I get the money for bringing you in,” Grant said, climbing down from his horse.

A few townsfolk had watched the two men ride into town, Grant in front and Hogan behind with his hands cuffed before him. One or two of the town pedestrians pointed at the two men.

“Why are you wasting your time, Vic?  No jury is going to convict me. Everybody in the territory knows Manshaw was a no-good, yellow-belly snake. He would put a bullet in you as quickly as look at you.”

“Whether the jury convicts you or not is the jury’s business. Mine is collecting the reward money.” He smiled at his prisoner. “I will say this for you, Henry. You have been a pleasant conversationalist for the entire trip. You kept me entertained the whole way. You can’t usually say that about a prisoner you’re bringing in.”

Grant turned left and saw the Pine Tree City Sheriff’s Office. He rode up to it, eased off his horse, walked over to his prisoner, and unlocked the man’s handcuffs.

“No jury will convict.  They will know it was a fair fight.”

“Well, if you get some of those men on the jury, they may rule ‘not guilty,’ and you can walk out a free man.  But as of now, your face is on a poster that offers five hundred dollars for your arrest. It was a deal I couldn’t pass up,” Grant said, smiling.  “Five hundred dollars is a good bit of money. But I hope you get a good jury. Climb down.”

Hogan climbed down from the horse and stepped toward the sheriff’s office. Grant walked behind his prisoner. If he ever enjoyed bringing in a prisoner, it was Hudson. He didn’t usually worry about the guilt or innocence of his prisoners, but now he thought Hudson had made a good case and the jury would believe it. He hoped so because he was beginning to like Hudson.

None of his prisoners had ever escaped, and he had a reputation for bringing in prisoners alive, although there were one or two when a thought went through his mind to take the easy way out. Especially when he brought in the obviously guilty one. Two or three of his prisoners bragged about their crimes, and they were killers and killed in cold blood. During those times, he was tempted to break his code of bringing prisoners in alive. But despite everything, the men were breathing when they walked into the sheriff’s office.

And unlike Hogan, those men did not have a big smile when they walked through the sheriff’s door. Hogan kept his big smile when he said hello to the sheriff and his deputy.

“Howdy, boys,” he said. “Hope you have a nice room available. But I shouldn’t be staying long. Think the jury will let me go.”

Sheriff Ben Hurr looked up and blinked when he recognized the outlaw from one of the posters in his office.  Then he directed his gaze at Grant.

“Good to see you again too, Vic.”

“Thank you, Sheriff. Thought you might like to have Mr. Hogan in your jail.  I heard you didn’t like Mr. Manshaw. In fact, I hear most people didn’t like Mr. Manshaw. Don’t think the funeral parlor will need a big room to say the final goodbye. I hear Manshaw didn’t like Coyote County, so the feeling was mutual.”

“No, they won’t,” the sheriff said.  “The funeral director pays men off the street to assure any, er, honored guest gets at least two mourners when the minister blesses the deceased. They get two dollars each for pretending to be mourners. Figure Manshaw will only get the two mourners at his service and no one else.  He’s going to cost the funeral home four dollars.”

“That’s probably more than Manshaw is worth,” Grant said.

Hogan peered at the jail. “The accommodations don’t look too bad. You have a good cook in the city, Sheriff? I hate eating bad food when I’m in jail.”

Sheriff Hurr chuckled.  “We hire a pretty good cook. The county doesn’t want to pay much for prisoners’ food, but she does the best with what she has.”

“I won’t be here long. The jury ought to give me a medal for killing that lizard,” Hogan said. “You guys have been looking for him for about eight months. You didn’t find him, so I helped. If you want to find him now, all you have to do is walk to the nearest cemetery.”

Sheriff Hurr opened his desk and pulled out a sheet of paper. “Vic, I need you to sign this stating you brought Hogan in and received five hundred dollars.” The sheriff plopped the money onto the desk, and Grant picked it up. “Thank you. I enjoy doing business with you, Sheriff.” He looked at the stack of bills. “And you already have the money?  Very efficient.”

“Well, you telegrammed me and told me you were bringing Hogan in. I’ve never known you to lie before, so I figured Hogan would be here soon, and I would be ready.”

“I appreciate that. Need to get to a local bank now.”

Grant noticed the sheriff didn’t look happy. In fact, he looked a bit grim. He thought that was curious since he had just brought in a prisoner. The sheriff sat at his desk, and his leg pushed back a chair across from him. “I need you to sit down a minute, Grant. I’ve got some puzzling news and, frankly, bad news, and it involves you.”

“Me?”

The sheriff nodded. “Yes, some additional business with you, Grant, and I don’t think you will enjoy this. You have my regrets.”

Grant gave him a puzzled look. “What are you talking about?”

“I have to hold you for murder. I have a warrant for your arrest. It came in earlier today. I didn’t believe it at first. I wired back to make sure the telegram was correct. And it was.”

“What? Sheriff, you must be joking.”

At first, Grant didn’t know whether to laugh or give an indignant yell. He settled for an indignant laugh.

“Sheriff, I haven’t killed anyone. Heck, you know my reputation. I am one of the few bounty hunters who does his best to bring wanted men in alive.”

Hurr nodded. “I’m aware of that, but I still have a warrant out for your arrest.”

“Who am I supposed to have killed?”

The sheriff unfolded the paper and looked at the warrant. “A man named Clyde Barker.” He flicked the page with his forefinger. “It doesn’t give many details about the late Mr. Barker, but you are wanted for his murder. Man was shot to death.”

“And where was this supposed to have happened?”

“Over near Goldboro. That’s about twenty miles from here. The warrant doesn’t say why he was allegedly killed. It mentions he was wanted. It also says anyone who brings you in gets five hundred dollars.” He lifted a poster from his desk. “And somebody already made a poster and put your picture on it. To be honest, it is something of a good image of you.”

“What!?”

The sheriff handed the warrant to Grant, who looked at it with a shocked stare. “There is something wrong here, Sheriff. I didn’t kill anyone. I didn’t hurt one hair of Mr. Barker’s head. Who named me as the killer? And, in fact, I’ve never even heard his name.”

“Again, the warrant doesn’t say, and I have no knowledge of the crime. I have enough problems just keeping track of crimes in this county. I have to hold you for the sheriff or anyone he sends over to escort you back to Goldboro.”

“Mind if I look at that warrant?”

“No, not at all.” The sheriff handed it to Grant, who read it quickly. He shook away his shock and anger, took a deep breath, and then a second deep breath. This was a two-breath morning. He didn’t like those. They were always trouble. He held up the warrant with one hand and tapped it with his finger.

“Ben, this says Mr. Barker was killed over in Hampton County about a week ago. That means I could not be guilty. I’ve been out chasing Hogan here for about ten days, and he was out near Deerland, which is almost a hundred miles from Hampton County. I could not have been capturing Hudson there if I was over in Deerland shooting Barker. It’s impossible. There is some mistake.”

He returned the warrant to the sheriff, who studied it for a moment. He gritted his teeth.

“Grant, if what you say is true, you couldn’t be in two places at once.” He turned and looked at Hudson, who had not yet gone back to his cell. “Mr. Hudson, was Grant here the man who captured you? Or were you captured by someone else and then turned over to him?”

“No, Grant tracked me and captured me. That was a few days ago. He has enjoyed my conversation ever since. And as bounty hunters go, he’s been real nice.”

Grant showed a good-natured smile. “As outlaws go, Henry has been one of the more good-natured ones. Although he can get a bit talkative from time to time.”

The sheriff shook his head. “Then he could not have killed Barker. You’re right about that, Grant. But I still have a warrant with your name on it. I can’t arbitrarily throw it away. The judge will have to do that, and he won’t be in until tomorrow morning.”

“You gonna keep me in jail?”

“I have to. There’s no bail for murder. But we do have a space for you. We have a cell right next to the one we have open for Mr. Hogan.”

Hogan gave a big smile. “Well, isn’t that nice? We’ll get to chat some more.”

“Good grief, he will talk me to death,” Grant said.  “And if I’m in jail, I won’t be able to get a lawyer.”

“We’ll have a lawyer come over to talk to you. When I tell him you have five hundred dollars, he will run down the street to get to represent you. Know which one you want?”

“The best one you have.”

“That would be Dirk Sullivan, who is a very fine attorney. Expensive too, but you do have the money to pay for him.” The sheriff looked a little uneasy for a minute. “But Grant, the judge may not give you your freedom. He may want me to double-check that warrant. Maybe it’s a mistake, but someone may have put in the wrong county, or the wrong time. I’ve seen things like that happen before.”

“OK, in addition to the lawyer, I need freedom so I can find out what is going on. You think Mr. Sullivan can help me there?”

“If it can be done, Sullivan can do it. He might even be able to get you out on bail.”

“Then, by all means, please get him over here because I need to talk to him. The sooner I get out, the sooner I can find the real killer.”

Sheriff Hurr nodded. “And I must ask you for your gun. We’ll keep it for you and pick up your rifle from your house. And take your horse to the livery stable and pay for his board.”

Grant undid his gun belt and dropped it on the sheriff’s desk. He pulled out his wallet and a ten-dollar bill. “Don’t know how long I’ll be in here, but give this, if you would, to the manager of the stable. I want my horse to get good food and regular rubdowns and fine treatment.”

The sheriff nodded. “I’ll tell him. He won’t cheat you. Vin is a good man, and he loves horses. He won’t mistreat any horse. You don’t have to worry about your mount.”

“That’s one load off my mind. How long will it take to get Mr. Sullivan to my cell?”

“It shouldn’t take long at all. The question is how long before we can get a hearing. Judge Langston is usually very amicable to legitimate requests. He is also a friend of Dirk Sullivan’s when he’s off the bench, so I’d say the chances are in your favor.”

Grant had a wry grin as he was escorted to a cell. He had not expected the day to turn out this way. Life is strange, he thought. He was still a bit more puzzled and shocked than angry. He shook his head as he stepped into the cell, heard it slam behind him, sighed, and eased down on the bed.

He saw Hogan in the next cell.

“Now you know what being an innocent man in jail feels like,” Hogan said.

“Yeah. But I guess it’s better than being a guilty man in jail.”

Hogan chuckled. “Well, based on my experience with the law, I would say innocence is a very good defense if you can get a jury to believe it. The next best defense is to claim the victim was a no-good scoundrel who deserved to die. That is not really a legal defense, but sometimes juries buy it.”

“By the way, do you know a man named Clyde Barker?”

“Nope, can’t say I do.”

“Shucks, I was hoping you might tell me who he was.”

A deputy walked back into the jail and came to Grant’s cell.

“You have some good news, I hope?” Grant said.

“To a degree. Mr. Sullivan was in his office but didn’t have any clients. I told him what had happened, and he said he would be right over. So you may be out of here in no time at all.”

“Hope you’re right.”

Sullivan was true to his word. Three minutes later, he was talking with Grant privately in the jail’s interrogation room. Sheriff Hurr gave the prisoner a little leeway and privacy while talking to his lawyer. Grant was impressed with Sullivan. He dressed well, but he also seemed to be 100 percent efficient. When he asked for the wanted poster, Grant gave it to him. Sullivan scanned it and smiled. “I think this was written in a hurry, and think I can get you out, at least on bail. Sometimes with wanted persons, especially for murders, not all the t’s are crossed or the i’s dotted. You didn’t know anything about this until you got to town?”

“No, I was bringing in a prisoner and was told I was on a wanted poster and was under arrest. That’s the first I heard of it.”

“Judge Langston is a fair man. I think I may be able to spring you from your cell.”

“I would appreciate that. I need to get out to find the real killer, something I can’t do if I’m in jail. I don’t even know who accused me.”

“I will take that up with the judge. That doesn’t seem to be fair. Or legal. But the laws regulating wanted posters can be a bit flexible,” Sullivan said, “and that can be to our benefit. If the laws are flexible, we might bend them a little more. In a sense, they are a bit slipshod. But I need to ask you a few questions.”

“Go ahead.”

“The man you are supposed to have killed. Did you know him?”

“Nope, never heard the name before. I have no idea who he is or was. He’s just a name to me, like John Smith or Bill Jones. But I didn’t know the man.”

“Then you can’t have a motive for killing him.”

“No.”

“How long have you been a bounty hunter?”

“Three years, but I’m thinking of changing profession. I’m getting tired of it, and I’m ready for another job.”

“You worked with this sheriff before?”

Grant nodded. “I think I brought in three prisoners to Sheriff Hurr.”

“Were they all sent to prison?”

“Yes, two were wanted for murder, but the juries gave them life, not the death penalty. The other man had robbed a bank and … a stagecoach if I remember correctly. All are them are still in prison.”

“Good, that speaks to your record. Ever killed anyone?”

“No, I don’t like killing folks, even wanted criminals. I have brought all my prisoners in alive. Any sheriff who knows me can tell you that.”

Sullivan nodded. “OK, I think we have a good case here. May not be able to get you freed, but we should have a chance for bail. I need the judge to give you the option of roaming freely so you can find the real killer.”

“Thank you. When can you get the hearing scheduled?”

“I can’t get to the judge today. He’s out of town. If I’m lucky, we can get the hearing tomorrow morning, and if all goes well, you will be riding out of here tomorrow afternoon.”

“I appreciate it.”

“Don’t go overflowing with gratitude. You haven’t seen my bill yet. I do charge high.”

“If you can get me out of here, you’re worth it.”

“That’s what most of my clients have said. Just sit tight, Mr. Grant.”

“As if I could do anything else.”

Sullivan nodded. “Right. You can’t do much else tonight. But be ready tomorrow. He likes to get the minor hearings out of the way first if he has any major cases. So we might have the first case on the docket.”

Grant sighed “I have to get out of here. I can’t find the real killer if I’m in jail. And nobody is going to go out and catch a murderer for me. I’ll have to do this by myself.”

“I assume you’re right about that.”

“Do you know anything about this man Barker?”

Sullivan shook his head. “Sorry, Vic. The two words are only a name to me and a name I’m not familiar with.” He smiled and almost laughed. “Due to my profession, I know a lot of criminals, or rather accused criminals until I get a ‘Not Guilty’ verdict from a jury, but I don’t know and have never defended a Clyde Barker. Maybe he was a minor criminal. Usually, I take major cases.” Suddenly, the lawyer gave a smile so sunny the jail almost lit up. “Oh, I just remembered, we have not discussed my fee.”

Grant snorted. “I figured you were doing this out of the goodness of your heart.”

“I’m a lawyer; we don’t do anything out of the goodness of our hearts. Hey, even some of my clients have looked at lawyers and said, ‘Darn, those people are sneaky.”

“OK, what is your fee?”

“Something that is not out of your line of work. I bailed out a client about two weeks ago. He promised he would show up when the trial was held, but he didn’t, and I spent six hundred dollars on his bail. I would like the money back, so I would like you to find him after you deal with your problem.”

“What was he accused of?”

“Fraud, extortion, theft. To be honest, I’ve been so busy I haven’t gotten all the details yet. But right now, that doesn’t matter. I just want my six hundred dollars back. OK, but I have to get the fugitive back here. His name is Stack Warren.”

“Can you tell me anything about the crime?”

“Yes. Relax, there was no violence in this case. Warren was a vice-president of the Silver River Bank over in Sebastian. The bank is not huge, but it is fair-sized. He was accused of embezzling twenty-five thousand dollars. As I said, I don’t know the exact details of the crime. Walker and I had not yet had a chance to do a long interview. He just told me he didn’t do it and was being framed. The guy seemed honest to me. Believe me, I’ve represented a lot of liars and cheats, so I usually can spot one, even those who can fool most people. But Warren seemed honest to me. I gave a bit of credence to his story, which is why I paid his bail.” He shook his head. “That only goes to show that even experienced lawyers can be fooled.”

“Understood. As soon as you get me out of here, I’ll get on the man’s trail.”

“Thank you. I’ll see you tomorrow morning. Don’t expect a long hearing. Judge Langston likes to move things along.”

Chapter Two

Grant was impatient as he sat at the defendant’s table the next morning. Two minutes after eight, Judge Langston walked to the bench in his black robe. Sullivan sat beside Grant and the prosecutor, a man named Howard Roake, who sat at the prosecution’s table. There were two other people in the courtroom, but Grant didn’t recognize them. He assumed they wanted to watch the next hearing, not his, since he didn’t know either the man or the woman. Judge Langston raised his gavel and banged it on the table.

“This session of the Coyote County Court is now in session. “Mr. Sullivan, are you ready to make your case?”

Sullivan stood up. “Yes, I am, your honor.”

“OK, the court is listening.”

“Your honor, my client is a man named Victor Grant. He is currently working as a bounty hunter, but when he brought in a suspect, he was arrested as well, because a wanted poster had been wrongly posted on him, accusing him of murdering a man he didn’t even know. A man named Clyde Barker in another county, Tumbleweed County had been killed, and somehow, the wanted poster was printed with my client’s picture on it. He had nothing to do with the crime. We ask the court to declare those posters null and void and have lawmen take them down whenever they are seen. The posters proclaim, ‘Dead or Alive’ on them, so they put the life of Mr. Grant in danger.”

A copy of a poster had been given to the judge, and he looked at it and then stared at Grant.

“If that’s the case, Mr. Sullivan, it’s unfortunate, but the picture on this poster does look remarkably like the defendant,” the judge said.

“Yes, it does, your honor, and the defense cannot explain that, but I believe we can prove Mr. Grant did not kill the deceased. But I would need to ask several law enforcement officers how that could have happened.” He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a letter. He opened it, then looked at the judge.

“Your honor, this is a letter from Sheriff Ebbit Dodge over in Cactus County, and he states Mr. Grant was in his office on September 11th of this month. The date on the poster stating when the murder occurred was September 13th of this month. And the poster states the man was killed in Fremont County. I don’t have to remind your honor that Texas is a big state. The two counties are about four hundred miles apart. It would be impossible for my client to be in Cactus County on the 13th of the month and then be in Fremont County two days later unless he had the fastest horse in the state, and even if he did, the horse would still come up a few miles short.”

Sullivan walked up to the bench and gave the letters to the judge. Judge Langston gave a close reading to each letter. Like many judges, he showed little emotion as he read the lines and looked up.

“Mr. Prosecutor, do you have an opinion on this matter.”

“No, your honor, I have not seen the letters.”

The defense attorney quickly said, “Your honor, I have not had a chance to share my finding with the prosecutor yet. But he is happy to look at all the evidence I have presented.”

The judged gestured to the prosecutor and gave him several minutes to look at the materials Sullivan had given to the court.

Roake read the documents but did so slowly. After he read the papers, he didn’t immediately say anything.

“Your response, Mr. Roake?”

“Your honor, I’ve had no opportunity to check out the validity of this information. But if the defense attorney swears before the court that this information is valid, I will accept it into evidence,” the prosecutor said.

“Thank you,” the judge said, banging his gavel again. “Does either attorney have anything more to say pertaining to this evidence?” Both attorneys shook their heads.

“Then you may sum up your case, Mr. Sullivan.”

“Yes, your honor. It is the defense’s contention that the evidence that we have shown here was, to be diplomatic, a huge mistake that put my client’s name on a wanted poster. The standard of the law is a man is innocent until proven guilty. Since this poster states the reward is for my client to be dead or alive, this is akin to having an execution without a trial. And if there was a trial, there is no evidence my client has committed any crime. This is a huge miscarriage of justice, and the warrant should be discarded, and my client be freed from jail.”

“Any response, Mr. Roake?”

“No, your honor. In what may be a first in this courtroom, I actually agree with the defense attorney. As a prosecutor, I am somewhat familiar with the defendant Mr. Grant. In fact, several times, my office has prosecuted criminals he has brought in. In this case, I would agree with the defense attorney that somewhere a huge mistake has been made, the Wanted Poster should be withdrawn and destroyed, and all sheriffs in the state should be informed.”

Judge Langston nodded. “I agree. At times, even in the legal system, mistakes are made. When that happens, the best we can do is correct the mistake as quickly as possible. The Wanted Poster on Mr. Grant is hereby declared null and void, and telegrams will be sent to all sheriffs in the area stating that fact. Mr. Grant, the court apologizes for what has happened. You are free to go.”

The judge banged his gavel.

Grant shook his attorney’s hand as they walked out of the courtroom.

“Thanks, Mr. Sullivan. I appreciate it.”

“Glad to help. Especially since you are now going to help me track my runaway client. But you better check on just how that happened to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

“That’s what I had planned to do,” Grant said. “If it can happen once …”

*

He returned to the sheriff’s office and picked up his guns.

“Sorry for the inconvenience, Vic, but I had to arrest you,” the sheriff said.

“I understand. Officially, it looked like I was guilty. It’s not your fault.” He smiled. “And may I say, you run a very nice jail, Sheriff. The food wasn’t half-bad.”

“We aim to please.”

The sheriff pulled Grant’s guns from his desk and handled them over. Grant wrapped the holster around his waist.

“Picked up another bounty yet?”

“No, not yet. I’m going over to Fremont County to make sure this is straightened out. I don’t want to be misidentified again. I want to find out just how this happened, so it won’t happen a second time.”

“I understand.” The sheriff paused for a moment and lit a cigar. “Frankly, it’s a little odd. Fremont County is a fair ways from here, but I have met the sheriff over there, Don Sykes, and he struck me as a fine fellow. He doesn’t bust people on the head and lock them up for no reason at all. I don’t think he’s to blame for this. For all I know, he’s a good man. Very meticulous and goes by the book.”

“Even more reason to find out what’s going on. But I have to check with my attorney first. He has a job that will pay off my fee. Speaking of that, I assume you will release the reward to me.”

The sheriff handed him an envelope. Grant opened it and saw it stuffed with cash. He took the money out and dropped the enveloped on the sheriff’s desk.

“Thanks for the hospitality,” he said smiling.


“Wanted for a Heinous Crime” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Vic Grant is a bounty hunter with a code of honor that he lives by; always bringing in his prisoners alive, if possible. However, his latest bounty takes an unthinkable turn when he is unexpectedly arrested for a bank robbery. The plot thickens when he gazes upon his own face on the wanted poster….

Will he make it out alive or will he be doomed to die in this treacherous maze?

Falsely accused of a heinous crime, Vic’s only hope of proving his innocence lies in the hands of Father Alvarez, a priest who knows the truth. When Father Alvarez discloses an ancient Aztec hoard of gold that must be conveyed to the bank, Vic is thrust into a much greater battle. With deathly peril at every turn, he embarks on a thrilling race against the clock to ensure that justice is served and the truth is revealed.

He must battle for his survival…

Vic is about to embark on an epic adventure of courage and determination, as he bravely battles against death, violence, and greed. It will be a journey across centuries, loaded with unexpected surprises!

“Wanted for a Heinous Crime” 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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