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Authors: James D. Best

Tags: #Fiction, #Literary, #Westerns



Also by James D. Best

The Shopkeeper

The Shut Mouth Society

Tempest at Dawn

The Digital Organization



Praise for Steve Dancy Titles

You'll find yourself lost in the book—the fast pace keeps it interesting.”—Maritza Barone,
Woman's Day

This is a fast paced tale with an interesting hero ... you’ll certainly find enough twists and turns to provide an entertaining and exciting story.”—Western Writers of America, August, 2008

The Shopkeeper is quick and fun to read, perfect for a vacation escape.”—
Diane Scearce
Nashville Examiner

A great book, I do hope that 
The Shopkeeper
 gets the readership it richly deserves.”—Simon Barrett ,
Blogger News Network

Once again, Best has penned a fine read.”—C. K. Crigger,
Roundup Magazine

I loved it! The story is told in such a classic, smooth tone--it's really fast paced throughout.”—Jonathon Lyons, Lyons Literary

I enjoy Best's style of writing, and it's a quick read.”—

I would highly recommend these two westerns to anyone with an imagination and curiosity about the history of our country. And besides, they are just excellent reading.”—Holgerson’s Book and Bookstore

The Shopkeeper brings a hint of the ‘difference’ that is being called for in westerns, and the story moves along at a fast pace that provides a most enjoyable few hours of relaxation.”—John H. Manhold, Fascinating Authors


Praise for
The Shut Mouth Society

The Shut Mouth Society is a fast-moving, well-written novel.”—David M. Kinchen, Huntington News

The author has done an excellent job of building the story. It is a good, quick read with some exciting historical teasers.”—


Praise for
Tempest at Dawn

If you want to learn about the evolution of one of the greatest documents ever created by man---the Constitution of the United States---relax in your bed, favorite chair or recliner, and enjoy Tempest At Dawn.”—Allen Ball, Beaufort Observer

The author’s ability to flesh out so many characters so effectively makes the book, which could easily have been dry and flavorless, sparkle with subtle verve and wit.”—Martin Sielaff, What Would the Founders Think?

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in our nation’s founding, the principals involved, and in great historical writing.  The research fleshes out the story and makes it informatively entertaining.”—Militant Reviews

This is an important story told in a lively fashion. Tempest at Dawn might be the ideal way of introducing the American public to the gripping story of how our Founding Fathers gave birth to our constitution.”—Jon Bruning, Attorney General, Nebraska






James D. Best


A Steve Dancy Tale


James D. Best


Published by Queen Beach

Copyright © 2007 James D. Best. All rights reserved.


Discover other titles by James D. Best at


Cover design by Wayne Best

ebook International Standard Book Number:



Print Edition published by Wheatmark

610 East Delano Street, Suite 104

Tucson, Arizona 85705 U.S.A.

International Standard Book Number: 978-1-60494-238-5

Library of Congress Control Number: 2008943382


Chapter 1



“Days or weeks?” I asked.

“Days.” Jeff Sharp squinted at the telegram as if it hid additional information. Rubbing the back of his neck, he added, “He can’t make it. It’s a six-day ride.”

“If Captain McAllen says he’ll be here in three days, we’d better have a room ready for him.”

“A bath too.” Sharp handed me the telegram. “What d’ya s’pose put such a charge under him?”

I read the telegram and absentmindedly ran my fingers through my hair. I needed a haircut. Although I had been out West for over a year, I remained vain about my sandy-colored hair. When it was neat and trimmed, I thought I looked the handsome gent, no matter how I dressed.

After a second reading, I shook my head. “Doesn’t say much. He sent it from his Denver office, but I don’t think it’s Pinkerton business.”

“Why not?”

I handed the telegram back. “He wouldn’t ask our help on a professional engagement.”

It was September of 1879 and we had lingered in Durango several days beyond the needs of our business visit. We were anxious to move on to our next destination, but now it looked like we would be delayed further. Sharp had come to Durango to hunt up mining investments in Silverton but decided against putting his money into any of the available enterprises. The gold and silver boom had driven prices far beyond what an experienced miner would pay, and Sharp lost all interest after he learned that the Denver and Rio Grande Railway had already started to incorporate the encampment into a town. Sharp preferred his investments and his beefsteaks rare, if not downright raw.

Captain Joseph McAllen was actually Sharp’s friend. McAllen was a no-nonsense sort whom I guessed to be in his late thirties or early forties. I wasn’t sure because you didn’t ask McAllen personal questions.

I had recently employed McAllen and his team of Pinkertons in Nevada, and I felt we had developed a level of respect for each other. Not right away. It had been a dangerous affair, far beyond the bodyguard work I had originally contracted. At the time, I was fresh from New York City, and McAllen didn’t appreciate my tenderfoot antics.

Dr. Dooley suddenly plopped into a seat beside us in the dining room of our boardinghouse. “I’m going.”

“Figured,” Sharp said.

Dooley was the third in our party. We had all ridden together from Nevada to southwest Colorado. Dooley was on his way to take a job at a consumption clinic in Glenwood Springs, and I had come along for the ride and to experience a new part of the frontier. I had come west to explore and make notes in my journal so I could one day return to New York City and write a rousing novel about my adventures. Exploring the West had been my profession ever since I had sold my shop in New York City on my thirtieth birthday. Most of my wandering had proved uneventful, but I had run into trouble in a mining camp called Pickhandle Gulch, and Sharp and McAllen had helped me escape alive.

Dr. Dooley was only a few years older than me, but he affected the image of a rumpled and seasoned doctor. Our friend Jeff Sharp had been to Europe and South America, worked mines, driven a stage, bossed cattle drives, and acted as an agent for a New York importer. Now, in his early fifties, he had settled on a career as a wealthy mine owner, although he dressed and acted more like a range boss.

We both knew what Dooley meant when he said he was going. Three days ago, a band of Utes had snatched a fourteen-year-old girl who had been exercising her colt in Mancos Valley, near Mesa Verde. The kidnapping had caused a stir, and newspapers demanded that the men in the community track down the renegades and recapture the girl.

Everyone in southwest Colorado was up in arms. The more reasonable citizens wanted the Utes brought to justice and publicly hanged, but most people just wanted instant punishment. A few rambunctious hotheads had already formed makeshift posses and raced into the San Juan Mountains, intent on being town heroes. One posse had taken time to provision properly, recruit a half-breed that spoke the Ute language, and get a mountain tracker to join the group. This same posse had asked Dooley to ride along with them in case the girl needed medical assistance.

“We won’t be joinin’ you,” Sharp said. “A telegram from Captain McAllen asked us to wait for him. He says he’ll be here in three days, an’ you men might be gone for weeks.”

“No matter; Grant has recruited plenty of men.”

Bob Grant had organized this posse. I didn’t know him well, but he seemed to be a take-charge man.

“How many?” I asked.

“At least a dozen. The Utes are rumored to number only about six.”

“Something’s wrong about this whole incident,” Sharp said, with a distracted tone.

“How so?” I asked.

“Utes don’t grab women, and renegades are even less likely to take on the burden of a white woman. These small bands move fast, an’ they don’t have any place to take ’em.”

“Perhaps they wanted her horse,” Dooley said.

“They’d take the horse, all right, but they woulda left her in the sage to fend for herself. The whole episode doesn’t make sense.”

None of us said anything more, so Dooley stood. “I gotta git.” He started toward the door but had a thought. “Is McAllen coming because of this girl?”

“Doubt it,” Sharp said. “No one’s mentioned Pinkertons. We think it’s personal.”

“Well, if you need me, send a rider.” Dooley charged out without waiting for a reply.

Sharp looked troubled. “What’s on your mind?” I asked.

“You talk to this Bob Grant much?”

“You don’t like him?”

“Too slick.” Sharp stepped into the kitchen to fill his coffee cup from a pot on the stove.

We were staying at a boardinghouse in Durango because we couldn’t rent private rooms in Silverton. The hotels and houses there put two or more men to a room, usually in the same bed. After a major gold or silver strike, it didn’t take long for saloons, prostitutes, and decent food to gather round the newly rich miners to siphon off a share of their wealth. In fact, Durango had grown up as a farming, ranching, and lumbering community to supply Silverton. That looked about to change. The railroad and a new smelter would make Durango the lifeblood of San Juan mining operations.

When Sharp returned, he added, “People talk about Grant like he’s a town leader, but he’s only been here a couple months, an’ no one knows a damn thing about him.”

“Seems an upright, friendly sort.”

Sharp shook his head, as though trying to dislodge an uneasy thought. “Can’t put my finger on it, but somethin’ ain’t bolted down tight with that man. An’ he took his sweet time getting this posse on the trail.”

“Jeff, one of the posses has already returned with tired horses and empty saddlebags.”

“Yep, a trek into the mountains takes plannin’, but there’s a big difference between one hour an’ three days. Grant looks to be stallin’.”

The same thought had occurred to me. I may have been a newcomer to the West, but even I knew that trails grow cold, especially trails left by Indians.

It bothered me that Grant seemed so intent on raising money. He had met with all the town businessmen and elders, one at a time and always in private. I had no idea how much money he had gathered up, but he had certainly garnered a wealth of goodwill. Everyone praised his single-minded preparations and his unwavering vow to bring the girl home.

When not raising money, Grant had spent the last three days with the child’s parents, who had fixed all their hopes on this paladin. The girl’s father was the sole preacher in town, and his handsome wife taught in the only school. They were the civilizing force in this rough mining encampment, and their plight drew sympathy, prayers, and, I suspected, healthy cash contributions.

“Did you give Grant money?” Sharp asked.

I hesitated. “I set up a two-hundred-dollar line of credit at the general store.”

Sharp laughed. “You don’t trust the son of a bitch either, do you?”

I shrugged. “I never give money to strangers.” Sharp and I were both well fixed, so I asked, “How about you?”

“Had to make a contribution, but I wasn’t as smart as you. I gave cash.”

I knew what he meant. Sharp ran the largest private mining operation in Nevada, and if he wanted to do business with the people in this town, he had to show sympathy for their troubles.

Suddenly, Dooley came bounding back into the dining room, gasping for breath. “Couple of men been asking about Steve Dancy.”

“Asking about me?” I asked. “Why?”

Dooley bent at the waist and laid a hand across his belly. “Don’t know more than that. One of the men in the posse told me they’re asking lots of questions. Didn’t sound right, so I thought you oughta know.”

“Slow down. Are these men threatening me?”

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