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Few historical frontier sagas have captured the pioneer spirit as boldly and brilliantly as the acclaimed Wagons West series by Dana Fuller Ross. Now readers can rediscover America—in the sprawling epic journey that forged a nation’s destiny…
It’s the wild lawless region beyond the River of No Return. Overrun with gold-crazed prospectors, money-hungry outlaws, and bloodthirsty tribes of Shoshoni and Nez Perce, the Idaho Territory is no place for a family to settle down. Which is why two battalions of cavalry troops are enlisted by the U.S. government to bring law and order to this untamed land. Led by Toby Holt, son of legendary wagonmaster Whip Holt, and his friend Rob Martin, a new generation of brave men and women are prepared to face whatever dangers lie ahead: Hardened criminals overunning the saloons and bordellos of Boise. Maurauding tribes spreading murder and mayhem across the mountains. And deadliest of all, an enemy from Toby’s past seeking ruthless revenge. Nothing can stand in the way of a pioneer’s spirit, a nation’s dream, or America’s future…
By the late summer of 1869, people who lived within
sight of the railroad tracks that now spanned America,
from the cities on the Atlantic Seaboard to those on
the Pacific Coast, had grown sufficiently accustomed
to the trains rushing past that they no longer raced
outside to watch them. These Americans now took it
for granted that people or goods could cross the continent,
not in three or four months as before, but in
less than a week.
Certainly the curiosity of these people would have
been aroused if they had realized that attached to the
rear of one train making its way westward through the
Rocky Mountains was a private railroad car. Such cars
were as new as the transcontinental railroad itself
and were reserved for the very well-to-do. This particular
car was sumptuously furnished, with a bedroom
at either end, two full baths, and a handsome sitting
room, as well as its own dining room and kitchen. It
was paneled with heavy, dark wood; there were glittering brass sconces on the walls; and thick, ruby-red
carpeting imported from Persia covered the floors. A
railroad porter was provided to make and serve the
The car had been rented in New York for an indefinite
period by Edward Blackstone, a debonair,
polished young English gentleman, who had acquired
it quietly, without fanfare. That was the way
he liked to operate.
A lean and hard man, with dark hair and a pencil-
thin mustache, Blackstone was quite wealthy. He had
inherited a fortune, which he had multiplied several
times by investing wisely and shrewdly. He was endowed
with a quick, charismatic smile that caused
men to like him and women to regard him as exceptionally
Always a realist, Edward had not rented the car to
bolster a sense of self-importance but rather to become
acquainted with the United States, where he
had recently made some major investments. He found
the railroad the fastest and most comfortable mode
of travel and preferred renting a car for the sake of
privacy. He was traveling now to Ogden, Utah, to pay
a visit to his cousins, a Baltimore veteran of the Civil
War, Jim Randall, and the dark-haired Millicent Randall,
a flutist to whom music meant almost everything.
Accompanying Edward on the journey and occupying
the second bedroom of the private car was his
next-door neighbor in rural Sussex, Pamela Drake, an
independent, free-spirited, and proud young woman.
Most young ladies of the era would have scrupulously
avoided traveling on such an intimate basis with a
man for fear of compromising their reputations. But Pamela was indifferent to what people said about
Pamela, a beautiful young woman with wheat-
blond hair, shared Edward’s restlessness and love of
adventure. She was accompanying him on his journey
because it provided her with a fresh sense of excitement
and a life very different from the stultifying
existence she led as daughter of a very wealthy and
elderly industrialist who had retired to his lavish estate
in the English countryside. She had been courted
by any number of boring young English gentlemen,
but her chief desire was to have fun, not to settle
down with a man.
Actually, she and Edward had indulged in a brief
affair several years earlier but had discovered that
they had no sexual appeal for each other, although
both of them were enormously attractive. Since that
time, they had been content to enjoy a friendship
that was far less personal.
Edward had completed his morning toilet and
now sat in a horsehair-stuffed easy chair in his bedroom,
looking out an oversized window at the magnificent
panorama of Utah that unfolded before
him. The sky overhead was a bright, dazzling blue, a
color peculiar to the vast American West. In the distance,
majestic, white-capped mountains rose to meet
the sky, and nearby were endless, rolling hills. Here
and there herds of wild horses or bison could be
seen grazing, but there was no sign of human habitation
in these endless acres.
Suddenly, for no discernible reason, the train
began to move more slowly. Finally it ground to a jarring
Flicking the lace cuffs that hung down over his
hands, Edward adjusted the silk cravat at his throat,
then stood and absently tightened the fringed tie of
his velvet smoking jacket. Walking quickly to the bedchamber
at the opposite end of the private car, he
tapped politely at the door.
“Pamela,” he called, “I’m going to find out why
we’ve stopped. Do you want to come with me?”
“Of course!” she replied in her clear, English soprano.
“I’ll be with you in just a moment.”
The door opened, and a smiling Pamela Drake
emerged into the open. A critic would have said that
her use of cosmetics was a trifle too lavish, that she
used more rouge on her lips and cheeks and more
kohl on her eyes than befitted a lady. Her dress of
red and green silk fitted her a little too snugly, and its
neckline was just a bit too low for good taste. Regardless,
she radiated a clear, wholesome beauty.
As they walked together to the exit, Pamela asked,
“Where are we?”
Edward chuckled. “As nearly as I can tell, my dear,”
he said, “we’re in the middle of nowhere.” He descended
the train’s steps, then turned and assisted her.
Pamela took his arm, and together they strolled up
the track toward the front of the train. There, near
the engine, they saw a knot of men conferring and
recognized the train’s passenger conductor. Talking
with him and gesticulating wildly were several men in
flannel shirts and heavy work pants, who carried
long picks or shovels. They appeared to be laborers
employed by the railroad line. As the couple drew
nearer, it was plain to them that a heated altercation
was in process.
“What seems to be the trouble, Mr. White?” Ed
ward asked the conductor during a pause in the argument.
The man’s voice shook with rage as he replied,
“It’s this work crew, Mr. Blackstone. They’re supposed
to be working for the railroad in the town of Ogden,
but here they are, blackmailing us. They’re demanding
that we pay them a hundred dollars in cash, or
they’re threatening to tear up the line in front of the
train and stop our journey right here and now.”
“Oh, I say,” Edward murmured. “Such conduct is
strictly against the law, isn’t it?”
The leader of the crew, a burly man with a barrel
chest and hamlike hands, looked at the Englishman
contemptuously. “Oh, I say,” he declared, mimicking
Edward’s speech. “These naughty chaps are breaking
the law, aren’t they? I shall have to slap their wrists.”
Suddenly his tone changed, and his manner became
menacing. “Go about your own business, mister, if
you know what’s good for you.”
Edward’s lips parted in a forced smile, revealing
two rows of even, white teeth. But he made no move.
“Do something useful,” the man snarled. “Take
your doxy to bed and bounce her on the sheets, if
you’re able. If not, I’ll take care of her myself as soon
as I’ve settled my business with the engineer and conductor
of this here train.”
An ominous look crossed Edward’s face. The wretch
had insulted Pamela, which was going too far.
Enjoying himself, the other man addressed Pamela
directly. “You look like you could tolerate some loving
by a real man, honey.”
Edward, his dark eyes fixed intently on the man,
removed his smoking jacket and, after folding it with
great care, handed it to Pamela. “I thank you for
looking after this for me, my dear,” he said, and then
he removed his silk cravat, which he also folded and
gave to her. As though he had all the time in the
world at his disposal, he removed his gold cuff links,
put them in his pocket, then carefully rolled up his
sleeves above his elbows.
Watching him, the members of the work crew chuckled.
But their laughter died in their throats when he
suddenly whirled about, becoming a dynamo. His left
fist abruptly lashed out, snapping the crew leader’s
head upward, and then his right crashed into the man’s
nose, causing it to bleed profusely. The man roared in
pain and anger and then waddled forward, his
movements bearlike as his arms flailed. Edward
stepped nimbly inside his opponent’s loose guard
and struck two more blows, the first to the pit of his
stomach, which doubled the man over, and the second
to his chin, which straightened him again and
caused him to lose his balance.
The bigger man was frantic, as well as furiously
angry, and his arms were swinging wildly in roundhouse
punches. Had one of his punches connected
with Edward’s chin, the fight would have ended then
But the Englishman avoided the lethal blows and
continued to pepper his foe with devastating punches
of his own. Dancing effortlessly on the balls of his feet,
he moved in and out, his fists flying so rapidly that it
was impossible to follow them.
Blood began to trickle from a gash on the burly
man’s cheekbone, and one of his eyes became swollen
shut. The man’s blows became wilder but more feeble.
It was clear that he was getting the worst of the
Edward sensed precisely the right moment to end
the fight. He moved in swiftly and launched a series
of short, sharp jabs that rocked his opponent back
and forth and finally sent him crashing to the
ground, where he lay unconscious, blood streaming
from his face.
Sighing gently, Edward took several backward steps,
lowered his sleeves with meticulous care, and fastened
them at his wrists with the gold cuff links. He took his
clothing from Pamela and smiled at her after donning
his jacket and adjusting his cravat.
The woman returned his smile warmly. She showed
no surprise over the development; she had obviously
expected no other outcome of the fight.
Edward turned to the other line workers, who
were staring at him openmouthed as he nudged
their unconscious leader with the tip of one boot.
“You may remove this person’s body,” he said, “and
then please do clear the tracks. Mr. White, I would
also appreciate your requesting the engineer to proceed.
We’re now behind schedule.” Offering his arm
to Pamela, he walked with her to the private car,
helped her aboard, and then disappeared into it.
As was his custom, Ah-Sing, the Chinese man who
for years had been the cook for Ralph Granger’s
ranch, had prepared a meal far too large for two
people to eat. Granger, his former employer—from
whose estate the cousins Millicent and Jim Randall had
purchased the vast property—had always insisted on
a variety of dishes. Ah-Sing had found it difficult to
limit his meal preparations when the Randalls had
purchased and taken charge of the ranch immediately after Granger’s self-inflicted death nearly half a
Standing in the doorway of the dining room, Millicent
Randall looked with dismay at the platters and
bowls of food that comprised the noon meal and absently
tucked a wisp of dark hair into the mass at the
crown of her neat head. She hated waste, and AhSing’s
bounty disturbed her sense of propriety. Not
that the food would really be wasted, of course; the
ranch hands employed by her cousin, Jim, would be
delighted to eat the roast beef, the browned potatoes,
the four or five vegetables, and the enormous
salad, not to mention the Chinese cook’s generous
dessert, which usually consisted of pie and ice cream.
“Oh, dear,” she murmured.
A suntanned Jim Randall, who wore a patch over
one eye, had spent the morning riding the range and
now, having washed up outside, came into the house
for the noon meal. He heard his cousin sigh, and coming
up behind her, he demanded jovially, “What’s
The woman sighed again. “Ah-Sing is just too
much,” she told him. “He insists on preparing meals
for an army.”
“The hired hands here eat better than the employees
of any other ranch between Ogden and Salt
Lake City,” he replied, laughing.
Millicent stared at him indignantly. “It’s no laughing
matter!” she protested. “The expense—”
“Hang the expense,” he told her. “Let’s eat.”
As Millicent took her place at the table opposite
him, she knew she had no real cause for complaint.
Never had she known anyone to adjust so well and so
quickly to a completely new life, as Jim had. Instead
of being a disgruntled, disabled veteran of the Civil
War, living in idleness in their native Baltimore, Jim
had become a self-confident, successful rancher,
who, despite the loss of an eye, was proving to be
good at his chosen vocation.
Jim began to carve the roast, while Millicent ladled
potatoes and vegetables onto their plates and
then served the salad. At that moment they heard
the hoofbeats of an approaching horse, which halted
near the hitching posts outside the front door. Millicent
looked at her cousin and raised an eyebrow, but
Jim shrugged and continued to carve the meat.
A few minutes later Ah-Sing came into the room,
treading softly in his felt-soled slippers. “Mr. Burns
come to see you,” he said.
The cousins looked at each other blankly.
“He work for Judge Brennan,” Ah-Sing explained.
Jim Randall’s face cleared. “Of course.” U.S. Circuit
Court Judge J.B. Brennan, who visited Ogden
frequently, had a young law clerk named Burns.
“Show him in, Ah-Sing.”
Moments later the young law clerk came into the
room, full of apologies for disturbing them at a meal.
The cousins would not acknowledge his arrival as a
disturbance, though, and Jim insisted he join them
for dinner, which pleased Millicent, for less of the
abundant meal would be going to waste.
They heaped the young law clerk’s plate high, but
their generosity seemed only to add to his discomfort.
“I—I have some bad news, and I don’t quite
know how to break it to you,” he said.
Jim nodded complacently as he skewered a choice
bit of beef with his fork.
“Old Ralph Granger,” Burns said uncomfortably, “killed himself too soon when he heard that his
nephew was killed in that stagecoach ambush, because
Paul Granger—the young fellow who graduated
last spring from Yale College—turned up at the
judge’s office today, and he’s very much alive.”
Jim lowered his fork to his plate, the beef on it untouched.
“You say that Paul Granger is alive?” he
“Yes, sir,” Burns said. “It seems that young Granger’s
name was mistakenly put on the list of passengers, and
of course after the Indians got through with their
massacre of those on the stagecoach, there was no
way to identify any of the bodies. No, the fact is
young Granger was delayed back East and came out
on a later stage, and he showed up today. Now he
wants to know what he has to do to get hold of this
property, which his uncle left him under the terms of
Jim grasped the edge of the table with both hands,
his knuckles white beneath his tan. “Paul Granger
won’t have to go to court for any property that’s
rightfully his,” he said hoarsely. “All I want in return
for this ranch is the money that we put into it, plus
the extras we spent since we’ve acquired it.”
The law clerk was greatly relieved. “Judge Brennan
was sure you would feel that way,” he said. “He told
Granger that if ever there has been a gentleman in
Utah, you’re it, Mr. Randall!”
A scant two hours later the cousins were seated in
the chambers of a sympathetic Judge Brennan. Jim
Randall was grim-faced and tense, while Millicent
succeeded only in showing utter bewilderment.
“Paul Granger,” the judge said, “is every bit a gentleman,
just as you are, Jim. I conveyed your offer to him,
and he accepted it with thanks. Just let me know what
he owes you for improvements and such, and he’ll
write you a bank check immediately from his uncle’s
estate, which I’ll then validate as a trustee. Of course,
the money you paid initially for the property will be
refunded to you by the territory of Utah, which was
administering Granger’s estate.”
Jim wearily took a sheet of paper from an inner
pocket and unfolded it. “Here,” he said, pointing, “is
what we paid for the ranch, as you will have down in
your own records. And here is what we laid out for
the herds and for the improvement of the house. All
we want is to get our money back. Well,” he added,
looking sadly at Millicent, “there go our dreams.”
“These figures are correct and fair,” the judge
replied. “I neither question nor dispute them in any
“I’d like to make one thing very clear, Your Honor,”
Jim said. “This has been a severe blow to us, as you
well know, but Millicent and I are determined to buy
another ranch, whether in this area or elsewhere in
the West, we don’t yet know. That will depend on
The judge nodded.