Gold and Death in Mexico (Preview)

Chapter One

It was early morning and two of the few customers at the saloon were Ben Dunlop and Jake Morgan. Both had huge smiles on their faces, reflecting their cheery mood.

Despite the relatively early hour, both were wide awake and swapped jokes. They told tales of a trail drive just finished and laughed at the misadventures of the drovers, themselves, and, occasionally, the cattle that got themselves stuck in precarious positions.

“You ought to have a little fun with that money, Ben,” Morgan said. “And instead of going out and enjoying the town, you already have it invested in the bank.”

Dunlop sipped his drink and nodded. “All but about fifty dollars. Jake, you’re still a bit young. You’re not thinking of the future. I am. I want to own something. A ranch, a farm, a business. Or invest in something. And all the money I make goes toward that goal. I want to have a piece of land that I can claim as mine. I don’t always want to be a hired hand.”

“A noble ambition, my friend. But I’m not there yet. I still have hankering to spend every penny I make and have a good time.”

Dunlop smiled. At twenty-eight, he had seen many trail drives and odd jobs, but his bank account was in five figures now after years of working and putting almost every penny he earned in it. He was a tall, broad-shouldered man with a rugged, yet handsome face and a few premature gray hairs on his head. The drovers told him the gray made him look distinguished. He smiled but wondered if they meant old. But the few strands matched his gray eyes. He had something of a crooked smile but, from what Morgan said, most women thought it was attractive. Dunlop also wore a black patch over his left eye, a reminder of a fall he had taken when a renegade steer charged into his horse. The two doctors he consulted said there was a chance the sight would recover, either gradually or all at once. But he was still waiting for that day.

His smiling friend was almost always in a good mood, which accounted for his nickname Smiling Jake. Smiling Jack was almost always in a good mood, a fact demonstrated by his booming laugh, which often had everyone in a saloon turning toward him when he thought something was funny. The two had struck up a strong friendship on a trail drive. Dunlop had a tendency to become too serious, a flaw remedied by Morgan’s laughter. And because of his friendship with Dunlop, Morgan realized there were times he was too frivolous. He thought trail driving was tough but there was excitement on the trail. But for the first time, he realized he needed to make long-term plans. He could not go on trail drives when he was fifty. He had seen men killed during cattle drives, and one time it had been an older man, who he thought shouldn’t be driving.

But the older man had said, “You have to make a living.” It helped that he had been driving cattle for most of his life. His name was Bill Oates and Morgan had seen him fall from his horse during a stampede. Morgan would never forget that sight.

He had also taken to heart Dunlop’s advice. He planned to go over to the bank and open an account and put some of his wages into it. He was a friendly, joking individual and had steered clear of maturity, but now he knew he could be friendly and funny and enjoy life while accepting maturity too.

Dunlop raised his glass. “To another successful trail drive.”

Morgan clicked Dunlop’s glass with his. “And to the next successful drive, unless we find something better.”

They sat facing the saloon’s swinging doors, so they saw the tall, impressive redhead walk in wearing a plaid shirt and jeans and carrying a riding crop.  She looked stern and determined, Dunlop thought. Before she entered, murmurs of conversation could be heard. But after she walked in, the saloon was quiet as a funeral. Ladies were not generally seen in saloons, so all the men eyed her with surprise.

No one said a word as she walked to the table where Dunlop and Morgan sat. They sat with their mouths open, too. Morgan had brought his drink halfway to his mouth. His hand stayed in mid-air as she walked over. There was an extra chair at the table but, for a moment, she just stood at the edge of the table and looked at the two men.

“Hello, gentlemen,” she said.

“Good morning, ma’am,” Dunlop said, swallowing his drink.

“I hope you don’t think I’m being forward, but I would like to talk to you two. It’s about a job.”

“You’ve come at a good time, ma’am. We just finished one and we’re looking for another,” Morgan said. “But we do have one caveat. We do want to get paid for the job.”

The redhead flashed a smile and laughed. “And so, you will. Believe me, if successful, that’s one thing you won’t have to worry about. I’ve asked several people about you, and they were highly complementary.”

Dunlop looked at his friend. “I didn’t know Mom was town.”

“She wasn’t. But I’m sure she would have said wonderful things about you if I had asked her.”

“Knowing Mom, I’m not so sure about that.”

The lady laughed. “Perhaps I should tell you my name.” She stuck out her hand. “I’m Delta Delaplaine. As you can probably tell, I am outgoing, vivacious, adventurous and as snappy with jokes as you are, Mr. Dunlop.”

“Call me Ben,” he said. “If that’s the case then we should get along.”

Delta sat down and laid the riding crop on the table. She signaled the bartender. “I will buy the next round. You will need a second drink too if you want to listen to the terms of my job for you.”

“I’m getting more and more curious,” Dunlop said.

“So am I,” said Morgan. “Somehow I get the impression this is not just another routine cattle drive.”

“It isn’t.”

When the bartender came over, she ordered three more drinks.

“And perhaps you should just leave the bottle,” she said.

“I can bring you a fresh new one,” he said.

“Yes, that would be good. It’s on me. Keep the tip,” she said, as she handed him a note.

“Yes, ma’am!” he said.

Morgan smiled. “Well, you’re outgoing, vivacious, adventurous, and generous too. A very good combination.”

She grabbed the bottle and refreshed their drinks and poured one for herself. In a second, she seemed to change slightly. The blue eyes turned a darker blue and her stare could have stopped a rampaging bear in its tracks. Dunlop sensed the strength and courage in her. He also sensed the woman had a high and keen intelligence.

Delta poured herself a drunk and sipped the liquor.

“When I laugh, which is most of the time, I laugh. When I get serious, I get serious, and now is the time to get serious. If you agree to this job, it will gain you enormous amounts of money. It would take you years to count it. But it is also dangerous. You will have fight for the treasure. Guns, blood, and death will be a part of our journey.”

Dunlop sipped his drink and stared at the women. “May I call you Delta?”

“Please do. You too, Mr. Morgan.”

“Call me Ben. Let’s just continue on a first-name basis.”

She nodded. “That’s fine.”

“If anyone else besides you, Delta, told me your story, I would have a degree of skepticism,” Morgan said. “But I lean toward believing you. But now, you should give us some specifics. Since there are blood and death involved, don’t leave out any details.”

“I won’t.” She drank half of her drink, then started at them with the deep blue eyes.

“My father was Dr. Elihu Delaplaine. You may not know him here, but he was well-respected and well-liked in academic fields. He was a historian and archeologist. He had degrees in both fields. His particular field of expertise was early exploration period of the Spanish explorers. He was a world expert on the Aztecs and on Western culture around that time period. I gather you are two intelligent men.”

“Ben, mostly,” Morgan said. “He can be caught reading a book even during trail drives. Most cowboys might hang around saloons. He hangs around libraries, too.”

“A good trait,” Delta said. “Then as Ben may know, Cortez and the rest of the Spanish conquistadors looted the Aztec empire and took most of the gold back to Spain. The value of the gold, silver, diamonds, and other treasure were enormous. It could be estimated in the hundreds of millions. But my father believed that when the Aztecs saw the greed of the invaders, some chiefs hid the rich metals and precious gems. They remain buried in Mexico because no one knows where they were. No one until now that is.”

“Until now?” Dunlop said.

“My father spent almost forty years in Mexico investigating Aztec life and the Spanish conquerors. He has two maps, maps that he believed show the location of the hiding places of unimagined riches. By the time he put all the clues together, he was too old to hunt for them. He died not long ago but he left the maps to me. If this seems unimaginable, I was with him on several of his later forays into Mexico and into what was once Aztec land. They were an unimaginably savage, cruel people. Perhaps evil would be the best word to describe them. Have you heard stories about them?”

Morgan nodded. “One time, they killed twenty-five thousand human beings in a single day, as a sacrifice to their gods. Didn’t seem to pacify their gods though. The Aztecs kept sacrificing. But I see what you mean by them being evil.”

He reached for the bottle and refilled his drink. “But they did collect a lot of gold, silver and diamonds.”

“But down there, they had nothing to buy. Nothing to spend it on,” Morgan said. “But up here, we do. And your father believe the Aztecs managed to hide some of their riches.”

Delta nodded. “Hid in various places. The Spanish had the better weapons, and the help of tribes who the Aztecs held in servitude, but there was ample gold on the service. They didn’t have to hunt for it. And some gold was buried by warriors so the Spanish would not steal it and take it back to Spain.”

“And you have the maps?”

“I do. They are old and difficult to read. Not everything is clear by any means. But if we can decipher them, their hiding places are bound to be full of more gold than we can imagine, and more gold than perhaps any man has ever seen.” She took another sip of her drink. “Interested in the job?”

“Yes, ma’am, we are,” Dunlop said.

“Definitely,” said Morgan. “But you mention blood and death – which is nothing to be sneezed at, but won’t stop us – what is dangerous about finding a hole with gold in it?”

Delta sipped her drink again. “Because the Aztecs are supposed to be an extinct race, but my father, due to his extensive investigations, thought that not all of them were in the grave. Some withdrew from society and hid underground, where they would stay until the Aztec culture rose again. That timeline is flexible, no one knew when that was supposed to happen, but my father believed there may still be Aztecs protecting those cities. I’m calling them cities, and there may be cities underground. But above ground or below ground, the gold may have some defenders. So, the gold has warriors who will kill to protect it. And the Aztecs were, and I assume are, totally ruthless.”

The two cowboys looked at each other. Neither was impressed by theories.

“Ma’am, me and Jake deal in reality. I fought in the Civil War and we both have exchanged bullets with Indians. And we have both driven cattle with all the dangers and discomforts. Until proven differently, the Aztecs are gone, extinct. Although I do appreciate them storing up their gold for us. The slim chance that there are still some around won’t bother us.”

She signed and swallowed the rest of her drink. “There is something else I suspect but have seen no proof of yet. There may be another group heading down to Mexico looking for Aztec gold. I’m sure they have many men with guns with them. And I don’t think they want to share. They want all the gold. They may be – and I’m guessing here – a group of Comancheros – under the leadership of a few people who have told them the story of buried gold.

“I do know this. My father had the two maps, both leading to a place of riches. He had some very trusted friends duplicate one map. He showed that second map to a dear friend at the University of Texas, a Dr. Ernest Rodriquez, who also did research on the exploration period and Aztec culture. They often talked with one another. But after he left the university to continue his research, Dr. Rodriquez was killed, murdered in his home, and his house was searched. To be more precise, his house was almost ripped apart. The map is now missing, and I have yet no idea who killed Dr. Rodriquez and who might have stolen the map. It might be that second group, or it might another third group whose leader somehow found out that Dr. Rodriquez had an extremely valuable map. For whatever reason, I tend to favor the second theory, that there is a third group. I’m guessing someone at the university found out about my father’s discussions with his friend and became very greedy when he thought of how much money was at stake. “

Dunlop poured another drink and refilled Morgan’s glass, too.

“Like a refill, ma’am?”

She offered her glass. “Most women don’t drink whiskey,” he said.

“As you can see, Ben, I’m not like most women.”

He poured the whiskey, tapping the neck of the bottle on the glass.

“I want that sound to be at my funeral,” Dunlop said. “The tapping of bottles on glasses. I want people to have a good time when I get my send-off.”

Delta laughed. She sipped her drink. “I think you two are exactly how you were described to me. And just the type of men I need.”

Dunlop stared at her for a moment. “I don’t mean to be skeptical, ma’am, but how sure are you of the…shall we call it the ‘underground city of gold’ theory?  In my time, I’ve heard many rumors of gold and treasure and all of them blew away with the wind. If I’m going to risk my life, I want to be sure there’s gold at the end of this Aztec rainbow.”

“Any intelligent man would be skeptical of this quest. I’m glad you are intelligent.”

“Count me in that one too, ma’am,” Morgan said.

She laughed. “I’m glad both of you are intelligent. You two can come to my ranch and I can prove one part of the story.” She sipped her drink. “I can show you evidence the story is real. It’s not absolute proof. But I have a gold bar. The man who gave it to me is dead, or at least I haven’t heard from him for a while. He claimed he had found the hidden underground city, and he took the gold from it. I only have his word that the bar came from there. He left to go back, and I never saw him again. But I kept the gold bar in my house.”

“He went back to Mexico?”

“Yes.”

“How long ago?”

“Three months.”

Morgan shook his head. “Mexico isn’t that far away. Think he might be back by now. If he’s alive.”

“That crossed my mind. Gold can do strange things to people. I suppose greed can, too.”

Dunlop nodded “We are hard-bitten trail cowboys. I appreciate money but I’m not greedy. If we find the gold, I will be elated but I’m not going to let greed change me. I guess most men would say that, but it’s true with me.”

“He’s right, ma’am,” Morgan said. “Ben has a code. A code many men in the West have. A code of honor. And he doesn’t violate it. A hundred million in gold bars wouldn’t make him violate it. He helps old ladies across the street and is kind to animals. And has a soft spot for dogs and horses.”

Delta smiled. “Is that right?”

“Absolutely,” Morgan said. “You know animals can sense things about men. Dogs will love almost anyone. They give their love away. Horses are choosier. They don’t love just anyone. Very picky animals. But both dogs and horses love Ben. It’s an indication of character.”

“Yes, it is.”

Dunlop gave quick smile. “Well, actually, dogs do like me, but I met one or two horses who were snippy.”

“But that was their fault, not Ben’s,” Morgan said. He took another sip of the drink.

“So, are you two up to the job? I won’t lie and pretend it will be easy. It will be difficult and dangerous. The trail leads through Yanqui Indian territory, and they do not like whites – or Mexicans for that matter. Well, they don’t like anyone except other Yanquis.”

“But the trip will be worth it,” Morgan said. He looked at his partner. “I think we’re both in.”

Dunlop nodded too. “I’ve been saving to build a ranch. A place to call my own. My own house, my own land. When you’ve been herding other people’s cattle, you get a hankering to get a deed and says this ground legally belongs to you. I figure it would take me a while, but with a little bit of luck, I can make one trip and have the money I need. I’m in, too.”

“Thank you, Ben. But I must tell you that luck is not in abundance south of the Mexican border,” she said.

“Then we have to make our own luck.”

Delta laughed. “Then I would like to continue this conversation but not in public. I have a ranch that is about five miles from town. Would you two stop by tonight for dinner? After we eat, we can make some plans. We do need some more men. I would guess we need six or seven. I have one man I trust. His name is Buster Crocker. Known him for years. He’s slightly older than you two, but solid, and a good shot. Also have a scout that knows Mexico named Alex Montoya. He’s also trustworthy.”

“Very good,” Dunlop said. “I’m sure we could find two or three more.”

Delta stood up. “Just take the south road from town. Five miles south you will see the Circle D Ranch. Don’t worry about coming back tonight. I have extra rooms where you can stay. We might just make the ranch our headquarters.” She gave sly smile. “By the way, is everything that has been said about you true?”

Morgan smiled. “The story that I took out a dozen Apache single-handedly is slightly exaggerated. But the rest is true.”

Delta threw back her head and laughed.

“I think I picked the right men,” she said.

She gave a half-salute with the riding crop and walked out of the saloon. Dunlop noticed the glares of many of the men in the saloon followed Delta as she walked through the swinging doors. The two men sat silently for a minute.

“Never seen a woman quite like that one,” Dunlop said.

“Me either. She is not only attractive, but also intelligent and, I’m thinking, has plenty of gumption. Gumption, you need that in the West,” Morgan said.

“I’ll imagine we’ll need it in Mexico, too.”

“You believe her story?”

Dunlop slowly nodded his head. He lifted a cigar from his pocket, stuck it in his mouth, and lit a match. He slowly brought the flame to the tobacco. He puffed out gray smoke.

“I believe every syllable she told us was the truth. But that doesn’t mean there is Mexican gold at the end of our journey. She may be legitimately mistaken. There are a lot of stories of gold, both in the West and in Mexico. The skeletons of more than a few men are in a Mexican desert. They were looking for gold. There are more than a few men too with arrows in their backs who sought gold down that way. I also like her because she didn’t oversell it. She was upfront about the dangers. That still doesn’t mean her father was wrong. There may be nothing at the x-mark spots on her map. But I think it’s worth taking a risk for.”

“So do I,” said Morgan. “And if it is true, when we come back, we can buy huge patches of Texas and build fine homes.”

Dunlop raised his glass. “To wealth.”

Morgan clicked his glass on Dunlop’s. “To gold and dead Aztecs. I don’t want to meet any live ones.”

Chapter Two

Dunlop and Morgan shaved, bathed, and put on their best duds before climbing on their horses and heading south to the Circle D Ranch. This part of Texas was alive with forests and greenery. They smiled as a rabbit and a squirrel ran across the road. Other squirrels chattered in the trees. A brisk wind kept the temperature at a bearable level. A hawk lazily circled the road, perhaps looking for other squirrels who would try to dart across the road.

They passed a ranch with a half-dozen horses roaming around inside the fence. Something scared them and they all galloped toward the road. The ground seemed to shake with the sound of the hooves. The sound of stampeding horses could rattle mountains, if there are any around. Once when he was driving a herd of horses instead of cattle, Morgan heard his boss used the phrase “thundering herd” and thought it was uncannily accurate. Horses galloping together did sound like thunder rolling across the sky. Heck, it was literally thunder on earth. And no man wanted to get caught in front of them or he would be stomped into the dirt. There might not be enough of him left to bury.

“Thinking of gold?” Morgan asked his friend.

“Thinking of all we have to do to find the gold, if it exists,” Dunlop said. “If we do find it, we’re going to have to work for it.”

Morgan smiled. “That’s all right. We have worked for lesser money. The gold of the Aztecs. That’s worth working for. However, good buddy, if we do find it, how do we get it out of Mexico and stay alive?”

Dunlop raised his finger and pointed it at his partner. “A very good question. It shows you are thinking ahead, Jake. And you have made a very good point. I don’t know how much a gold bar weights. But I’m thinking maybe between five and ten pounds. If we are lucky enough to find, say, fifty gold bars, our treasure would weight five hundred pounds. We can’t carry that much in a saddle bag.”

“And what if there were even more gold than fifty gold bars. Say there were a hundred, even two hundred. What do we do then?”

“A good point,” Dunlop said. “What if we had a wagon and six horses pulling it. We would have to get that wagon out of Mexico and into Texas and back to this ranch. But we might be sitting ducks dragging a gold wagon through dangerous country.”

“But this assumes we actually find the gold,” Morgan said. He gave several puffs on a cigarette. He lifted it from his lips and tapped the ashes down toward the road. “But Ben, we have to plan as if we will find the gold. If we walk into a stash of gold, we have to figure out the best and safest way to get it back to Texas and back to this ranch. We can’t travel to Mexico and just assume we won’t find anything. But we don’t want to be too obvious either.”

“No, we don’t.”

Morgan puffed again on his cigarette, then tossed it away. “When we first heard of this, I dreamed of going down and finding the gold, then yelling ‘Yahoo!’ and then I thought of me sitting in a two-story ranch house with two thousand acres of land around me, with a lot of people working for me, and I would read my bank statement every day, just for fun.”

“I guess that’s the typical reaction.”

“But now I’m seeing there is a lot of work between that fantasy of finding gold and sitting behind a big desk in my big house on two thousand acres.”

Dunlop laughed. “That’s reality for you. You always have to deal with it. But I think I know of a way to get the gold transported, or at least the easiest way.”

“Tell me. I’m curious.”

Dunlop paused his horse and picked up his canteen. He unscrewed the top and drank some of the water. “This assumes we find the gold. If we don’t, there is no need for a wagon. We look at the man Miss Delaplaine has and then figure out what is the nearest town. We go to that town and buy a wagon, but we leave it at the town. And buy the horses that go with it. If we find the gold, we dispatch two riders to go back and bring the wagon. And then we fill it up. If we don’t find any gold, we lose the money but it’s worth it to have the wagon ready to go when we need it.”

Morgan thought for a moment and then nodded. “Yes, it is.” He slapped his partner on the back. “That’s why you’re the brains of this outfit, Ben. You think ahead.”

Morgan laughed and spurred his horse. “Now let’s hope that we actually find the gold.”

“And the silver and the jewels. Did the Aztecs have any jewels?”

“I think so. The Spanish not only shipped back gold to the home country, but also a lot of silver and jewels, too.”

“How do you know that?”

“I read a lot. I read a lot of history.”

“Darn. Well, that’s the other reason you’re the brains of this outfit.”

They rode on but saw no other riders on the road. The cool breeze blew dust across the road. The hawk shadowing them had found an updraft and let the wind carry him to a higher altitude.

Morgan looked up. “Looks like we have a hawk shadowing us. Wouldn’t it be nice to fly?”

“Sure would. Maybe one day we will.”

“Fly? Impossible.”

“Maybe not,” Dunlop said. “Look at our ships today. They are a lot faster and better than the ships of even fifty years ago. No one imagined such ships a century ago.”

“But men have always built boats. But flying is different.”

“Maybe not. Do you know that one of Michelangelo’s sketches is of a flying machine? If he could dream of it… You know what the Bible says in Genesis, when the people of Babel started building their tower? The scriptures records God as saying, ‘They have all one language and this they begin to do and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do’.”

“Dang, you have read a lot.”

“Yes, Mother used to read the Bible to us kids every night. She used it for reading lessons, too. But think about that phrase, ‘Nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.’ That means if we can get someone to decipher Michelangelo’s sketches, we can fly.”

“I’ll believe that when I see it.”

“But that also means we can devise a plan to get the gold from Mexico to Texas.”

“Oh, that I like. That is what I imagine doing.”

Dunlop smiled. “Then let’s get it done. But the way, I’m thinking about the men we need. We have to get men we respect and trust. We don’t want bad guys shooting us in the back to get the gold.”

“True enough. You have someone in mind.”

“I do. I sent a telegram to Jack Preacher. He’d be a good man to have at our side.”

Morgan smiled, then shook his head. “In one sense, Preacher is a good name for him. In another sense…”

“He’s a good man, good with a gun, and he stands by his word. Plus, as the name implies, he has a streak of decency a mile wide. I don’t think we could get anyone better than Preacher.”

“Well, that’s true. He’s a man you can depend upon. He definitely won’t be shooting us in the back. Did he reply to your telegram?”

“Yes. Preacher is always punctual.  His telegram said he would travel over so he could get more details. He should be here in two days.”

“Have anybody else in mind? If we want eight men, counting us three – and including Miss Delta in the county – and Preacher and the one man she has hired, we still need about three men.”

“We can talk about that tonight.”

They spied a brown road sign with some black letters scrawled on it. Circle D Ranch, 1 mile.

“Almost there,” Morgan said.

“Hope she has a good cook. I’m hungry,” Dunlop said. “And as yet, man still can’t fly. It would be nice if we could, but we still use horses for transportation.”

“But we don’t know what the future holds.”


“Gold and Death in Mexico” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Jake Morgan and Ben Dunlop have a strong friendship and a shared dream; to buy a ranch together. In between working hard and saving money, nothing raises their spirits quite like an evening at the saloon. On one fateful night, though, a striking woman walks up to their table and presents them with an opportunity too good to turn down. A fortune is at stake, but death might also be the price…

Are they prepared to put their lives on hold for the sake of a thrilling chase for gold?

Towards the end of his life, Delta Delaplaine’s father drew a map leading to an ancient Aztec treasure. An enticing, yet deadly hunt to find it could be the ticket to escape not only poverty but also her mourning. All she needs now is a fierce group willing to risk everything alongside her.

She owes it to her father to bring his dream to life…

Jake, Ben, and Delta travel to Mexico knowing they will either live and prosper or die. Among the challenges they will face on their way are a ruthless gang, as well as remnants of the Aztecs waiting for a chance to rise once again. In the wake of gunfire and blood, will their joined forces be enough to survive tragedy?

“Gold and Death in Mexico” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.

Get your copy from Amazon!

7 thoughts on “Gold and Death in Mexico (Preview)”

  1. The story is interesting but needs better editing. You had Smiling Jake as one of the characters and his name changed to Smiling Jack in the next sentence.

  2. No telling how this will go. They may finnnd a lot of gold etc. or they may be glad to get away with there lives.

    I will be watching for it.

  3. I enjoyed the sneak peek I need to get my copy when it’s released, thank you for the teaser, also going to check out your other books, thank you Mr Burns

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