The Deadly Trail of Gold - by James Stoness

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Book One of the Sykes Saga

The Deadly Trail of Gold Novel Cover

The real southwest comes alive beneath the creative hands of one of North America’s newest writers. James Stoness brings you the romance and excitement as could only have existed in the 1800’s.

Begin your experience with the first of the series in which Mathew Sykes builds a life in the wilds of the west. Ride with Matt in this exciting tale of danger and romance in the untamed lands of the southwest. See the beauty of the desert through Matt’s eyes when the early sun flames the ramparts.

Mathew Sykes stumbles upon a dying prospector and learns of a treasure in gold hidden in the wilderness. While waiting in Santa Fe to meet his trapping partner, Matt becomes entangled with a beautiful woman and her uncle. Unfortunately the fur flies every time they get together and Matt is relieved to hit the trail for the gold.

Unfortunately for Matt and his partner, a ruthless gang in on their trail. Having killed the prospector, they figure that Matt has a map to the gold. The girl of his dreams and her uncle have taken up with a blackguard crook who promised them a ranch, but only wants the uncle’s money.

With two outlaw gangs seeking his demise, an early winter blizzard doesn’t increase his chance of survival.

From The Book:

Sweat beaded on his brow as he looked at the golden object in the old man’s hand. He had dreamed of gold.... but never in his wildest nightmares had he imagined anything like this. It was more like a large chunk of rock than a nugget of fine gold.

Reaching out, Matt took it from the trembling hand that held it out to him. He turned it over, reflecting upon its smoothness, and its weight. There was a lot of money in that innocent gleaming piece of metal... and perhaps a lot of danger.

Matt turned back to the man who lay on a blanket, his head propped up with a blanket roll. The man was thin, too thin to still be alive, he thought. He was bearded and unbelievably dirty. His clothes had been weathered until they were almost white. And now they were badly torn and coloured with his own dried blood.

It didn’t really matter about the clothes or the dirt. The clothes would not be needed for very much longer and the dirt was not going to hurt this man. He had only a short time to live.

Matthew Sykes stood watching him, thinking about how he had found the old prospector. He reflected back to yesterday. That afternoon he had been following Beaver Creek, a small, mostly dry stream bed running down from the Continental Divide, when he had heard shots in the distance.

Concealing his horse, he stole carefully along the creek bed trying to determine where the shots were coming from. This was particularly difficult in this cut up canyon land where the echoes often distorted the direction of the sound.

At a broken section of the cliff he climbed out of the canyon, his hands and feet scrabbling for support on the crumbling sandstone. As he neared the top, he removed his hat and peeked over the rim. Seeing nothing, he moved forward toward what he thought seemed to be the direction of the shooting. Suddenly, the noise became louder and he observed that he had come upon another smaller canyon running into Beaver Creek. The shooting was coming from in there.

Squatting beside a pile of boulders near the rim he gazed down into the canyon and saw a man crouching behind the trunk of a fallen cottonwood tree and two men were shooting at him. It appeared to Matt that the man was wounded and he was slow to return the fire. Even as he watched the man was struck again, and the attackers began to move in.

Disregarding the danger, Matt moved to the edge of the cliff and shouted for them to drop their weapons. Almost before he could think, their two guns were turned in his direction and bullets pinged off the rocks on either side of him showering him with dirt and rock fragments.

No doubt about it, these men were good, and it was fortunate for him that his sudden appearance had not given them a chance to aim accurately or it would have been all over almost before it had begun.

He dropped below the edge of the canyon rim and moved to better cover near the pile of boulders. Again he peered over the edge, his rifle pushed ahead of him. Below, the two attackers had begun to move toward the wounded man behind the tree. Carefully he sighted on the nearest of them and squeezed off a shot. The man threw up his arms and fell forward onto his face.

The second man hastily turned to run, and Matt threw several quickly aimed rounds after him, to be rewarded by seeing the man drop his rifle and grab his arm. By this time he was disappearing around a bend in the canyon and further action was impossible. Matt quickly looked for a way to get down to the wounded man. The canyon walls at this point were steep and it was necessary to move upstream some distance before he found a crumbled section of the cliff which gave access to the bottom. Even then it was a difficult scramble and it was some time before he reached the dry stream bed and began to work his way among the boulders down to where the wounded stranger lay.

All this time he was alert for danger from the man he had wounded or from another of his gang. He was reasonably sure that there was nobody else because they would have assumed that they were the only ones in this isolated canyon and would have attacked in force against the man pinned down beside the cottonwood tree.

The man lay still as he approached, and Matt expected the worst as he reached for the man’s wrist. He was surprised to find a weak pulse, and reached under the man to lift him into a seated position.

He found two wounds, one on the man’s shoulder, which looked as if it had bled a lot, and another low down on his chest. Stanching the flow of blood with his bandanna, Matt picked the man up and moved him down the stream toward Beaver Creek. He hoped to find a shelter that would offer more protection to them and also water for cleansing the man’s wounds.

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