Wes Crowley, a veteran Texas Ranger, continues to battle Comanches, falls in love, and loses pretty much everything. He finally decides to leave the Rangers to track down his lifelong friend turned traitor, Otis “Mac” McFadden, and get the answers he believes he deserves. During his search for Mac, Wes visits Mexico where he finds new friends but also a few new enemies. He is joined by a close new friend from El Paso, Ben Iverson. Come along to see what happens when Wes finally tracks down Mac in the midst of the Arizona Territory.
Search Tags: western, Old Mexico, romance, old west, Arizona Territory, New Mexico Territory, Texas Rangers
Below is an excerpt from the beginning of Leaving Amarillo.
The paperback edtition will be available before Christmas.
* * *
an excerpt from the beginning of Longing for Mexico
Someone tapped lightly on the door to Texas Ranger Otis McFadden’s room in the Amarillo Inn. The door opened slightly. “Mac? I saw the others were back. I heard what happened. You are all right?”
He recognized her voice. He swung his legs off the bed and sat up. “Come in, Marisol. I’m okay. Just be sore for awhile.” He grabbed the top of the post at the corner of the foot board of the bed to steady himself, then stood as she crossed the room.
She stopped and put her hand to her mouth. She’d heard he’d been wounded, but she hadn’t been prepared for this.
Large red and blue bruises had swollen just beneath each eye to the point that his eyes were almost closed. His left temple and the soft tissue above his left eye were swollen as well. His nose had been broken and pushed off to the left. His cheeks and forehead were bruised as well and bore scratches and scrapes. The whole thing was topped off by an off-white bandage at the front of the top of his head. It was the sort of bandage worn only by a man who had been scalped and lived to talk about it.
“Oh Mac! I’m so sorry!” She rushed to him, melted into his arms, sobbing as he cradled her head against his chest.
He held her, gently rubbing her back. “Now there’s no need for all that. I know I look like hell. That sadist of a doctor showed me a mirror.” He laughed. “But I’m fine. Really. Just a little sore.”
She leaned back, her hands on his biceps. Worry lines creased her forehead. “Well you don’t look fine.”
He laughed lightly. “I know… I know, but I am. You ought’a see the other guy.” He grinned.
“It’s not for making jokes, Mac. You were scalped! And you might have been killed!”
He gently pulled her close again, nestled her against his chest. His voice was quiet. “I know… I know. But the thing is, I wasn’t.” He paused for a moment, still holding her close, his breath warm on the top of her head. “Listen, Marisol, I need a favor.”
Against his chest, she sniffled. Quietly, she said, “Anything, Mac. You know that.”
“Here, let’s sit down.” He sat, then gently pulled her down beside him. “I’m not sure how to say this, Marisol, so I’m just gonna say it: I have to leave town for awhile.”
“What?” She leaned away, her eyes wide. “But why, Mac? You just got back, and you’re badly hurt!”
He was glad for the brief distraction of her argument. It gave him time to think.
He held up one hand. “I know… I know, but it just is what it is. This thing’s been in the planning stages for almost a year. Let me explain.”
She looked down. “Okay. It’s just….” She looked up at him. “It’s hard, Mac… you being gone and then coming back so hurt. And now you say you have to leave again.”
“I know… but it’ll be okay. And this is kind of a big deal.” He took a deep breath to lend gravity to the situation, then said, “Marisol, I’m going on a special mission for the governor.” He took her hands in his and squeezed them lightly. He dipped his head a bit to look her in the eyes. “Now understand, the other Rangers don’t know about this… not even Wes. Even the captain himself doesn’t know. In fact, they’re all gonna think I quit the Rangers.” He quickly added, “But it’s all part of the plan.”
“What’s going on, Mac?”
He released one hand and brushed a strand of hair from her forehead. “I’m sorry, but I just can’t tell you that. If you knew, you might be in danger.” From me, most likely. “But listen, that’s why I need the favor.”
She nodded. “Okay. I will help.” She frowned. “What is the favor?”
“You still have that small buggy, don’t you?”
“I need to borrow it. I’ll leave it with your brother at his place. His name’s José, right? Lives near Portales over in New Mexico Territory?”
“Yes, his home is just this side of Portales. But why—”
“Shh.” He shook his head. “No questions. I wish I could, but I really can’t tell you anything, okay?”
“Okay. Now listen. I’m gonna leave later tonight, so—”
“Tonight?” She pulled her hands away. “But Mac, you must have time to heal!”
“I already talked saw Doc about all this,” and he gestured to the bandage atop his head, “an’ he’s done everything he can. Now I’m gonna heal, Marisol. This whole thing is gonna be fine. I just have to take it easy. That’s why I need the buggy.” He grinned. “That springy seat’ll be a lot easier on me than a hard saddle.” He held up one finger, the grin still on his face. “Now don’t you go tellin’ anybody else I said that. I’d hate for anyone else to know I’m all that soft.”
She laughed. “You are not a soft man, Mac, and you know it. But no, of course I will tell nobody about the buggy with its springy seat.” She continued to grin. “Maybe.”
The grin disappeared from Mac’s face. “Marisol, you can’t say anything to anybody about this. None of it.”
“I know, Mac. I know that. I was only joking.”
But that wasn’t enough. He held up a hand and ticked off a count on his fingers. “You can’t tell the Rangers, even Wes or the captain. You can’t say anything to Doc. You can’t tell your friends. You can’t mention it to Mrs. Morgan down at the dry goods store.” He grabbed her hands and squeezed, harder this time than before, and looked her in the eyes again. “Nobody, understand? Absolutely nobody.”
She frowned and fear crept into her eyes. “Yes, of course I understand, Mac. I will tell nobody about anything from tonight.”
Mac visibly relaxed. He sighed and nodded. “All right… all right.” He released her hands and stood. He turned away, rubbed one hand over the back of his neck and squeezed, then turned back around. “Look, I’m sorry, Marisol… it’s just that this is extremely important. Now you’re the only one who knows what’s going on, other than me and the governor. Just don’t let me down, okay? I mean, I know you won’t, but just don’t.”
Again, she nodded. “You have my word, Mac, and my heart. I can give you nothing stronger.”
“Okay.” He sat beside her again. “Now when you leave here tonight, I need you to hitch your buggy to my horse and just leave it in your barn. Put my saddle and saddle bags in the back for me.” He thought for a moment. “Stick some jerky in my saddle bags if you have some, and some biscuits or tortillas or something. And some coffee, maybe some flour. Oh, and make sure my canteens are full and put them back there too. Can you do that for me?”
“Yes, Mac, of course. But—”
“Shh. No buts, now. This is just somethin’ I gotta do. For the governor, I mean. It’s gonna be a major turning point in my life. After tonight, we’ll have no more worries at all. I promise.
“Just remember, anybody comes askin’—anybody at all—you don’t know anything. In fact, you haven’t even seen me since I got back. As far as you know, I’m up in my room here resting and recovering. Okay?”
“Yes, okay. I haven’t seen you. I assume you are resting in your room and shouldn’t be disturbed.”
He took her chin in his hand. “Good. Perfect.” He leaned forward and kissed her, lingering at her lips. When he leaned back, he said, “Now, we okay?”
She flashed a tentative smile. “Yes, Mac… always… no matter what.”
“Good,” he said, then lay back and crooked a finger at her. “Now come here.”
* * * * *
Marisol had been gone for over four hours. The moon had gone down and the previous day had expired over an hour ago.
Mac was standing beside his bed in the Amarillo Inn. Everyone but Marisol thought he was resting in his room under the doctor’s orders, and he’d left instructions at the front desk that he was not to be disturbed. After all, scalping required time to heal. By the time the others figured out what he’d done and came looking for him, he’d be deep in New Mexico Territory.
He looked for a long moment at the Texas Ranger badge in his hand. It held a lot of memories. Almost eighteen years’ worth of memories, most of them good. Almost all of them included his lifelong best friend, Western Z. “Wes” Crowley.
He smiled at the thought of Wes. In their early years, Wes, a year younger, had followed Mac around like a puppy. Sometime in the past several years, those roles had reversed. They were both corporals in the Texas Rangers and Wes saw them as equals. But Mac had come to admire Wes and look up to him as a role model. I only wish I had as much honor as Wes has. I only wish I were half as brave… half as much a man.
Unfortunately, Mac had chosen a different path. He cradled the badge—his badge for all of his adult life—in his palm and caressed it a few times with his thumb. Maybe I don’t have to go. Ol’ Wes has always been there for me before. Maybe if I explain things to him he can help me. Maybe between us we can work something out.
But he knew better. Wes was still the same straight arrow Mac had been until a few weeks ago. He was still the same unflinching advocate for right in a world full of wrongs. He shook his head. I’m gonna miss you, Wes. He hefted the badge a final time, then dropped it on the bed.
He bent to pick up a large leather bag, then walked to the door and opened it. He turned and looked around the room. The place had been home for the past several years.
Finally he stepped into the hallway and, for the final time, pulled the door shut behind him. He walked down the hallway toward the rear of the hotel. At the end of the hallway, he opened the door and stepped into the cool night air. He paused for a moment on the landing, thinking again about turning around. Then he made his way down the back stairs.
At the base of the stairs he stopped, squinting, his jaw clenched against the pain. The wound was throbbing. He set his bag on a step, took off his large off-white hat and lay it on the bag.
He pressed both palms against his temples for a moment. The left one, with its bruises and swelling, was hot under his hand. Still, the pressure seemed to help a bit. Help or not, it ain’t anything you don’t deserve. After a long moment the throbbing began to abate.
He picked up his hat and, with both hands, gingerly adjusted it so no part of the sweatband was pressing against the bandage. Then he took a flask of laudanum from his coat pocket, uncorked it and took a sip. That’ll help.
He picked up his bag and made his way along the alley, then turned the corner and walked along the deserted street. Marisol’s house was situated not quite a half-mile away on the western edge of town. By the time he got there the throbbing pain in his head was almost nonexistent.
He skirted the house and made his way to the barn, then around to the back. He opened the double doors. The buggy was ready. He put his bag in the back.
Then he walked back out through the doors and to the corner of the barn. For a long moment he looked at the house. It was dark. God I hope she’s not gonna talk to anybody about all this. He thought about it for a moment and shook his head. But damnit, chances are, she will. God knows she likes to talk. Only one way to be sure. He slipped his knife from his sheath and started toward the house.
She’ll need to tell somebody, probably Wes. Then he’ll know how much of a head start I’ve got an’ where to start lookin’. He stepped onto the rough-hewn timbers that served as the back stoop and quietly turned the door knob.
He crept through the kitchen and into the short hallway that led to Marisol’s bedroom. Just outside her door, he paused to listen.
Putting pressure on the door knob, he turned it silently and opened the door a few inches. The sound of her soft breathing as she slept filtered up to him. It was a sound he knew well, a sound he enjoyed. The scent in the room, too, was perfume to him.
He opened the door wider and moved quietly to the side of her bed.
As he leaned over her inert form, she opened her eyes and a tired, lazy smile crossed her face. “Mac… had to say goodbye, eh?”
Then she saw the knife in his right hand.
He quickly jerked it behind his back, but her smile had disappeared. A profound sadness filled her eyes.
He knelt beside the bed. “Yes… just….” With his left hand, he brushed a strand of hair from her forehead. “Yes, I wanted to say goodbye.” He paused as he softly stroked her forehead. Then he moved his hand to the smooth, supple skin of her throat, lightly traced his finger across it. “Marisol, just a reminder… please, please don’t say anything to anybody.”
She shook her head but her gaze remained locked on his. “I love you, Mac. I have told you I would not say anything to anybody, and I will not. Mac….” She struggled to say words that she herself didn’t want to hear. “You know my heart belongs to you, pero… you are going away forever, verdad? You are going away, and you will not ever be back. Es verdad?”
He looked at her for a long moment. Finally he nodded. “Probably not. This trip for the governor, it’s—”
“No!” She closed her eyes for a moment and turned her head away, then looked at him again. “No more lies, por favor. It’s all right, Mac. I know there is no trip for the governor. I do not know what’s going on or why… why you are leaving, pero I know it’s something you feel you must do and… and that is enough.” She took his hand for a moment, squeezed it. “Kiss me now, Mac. Kiss me a final time,” and her gaze met his strongly, “and then do what you must do. I understand, Mac, and I love you. These are the last words I want you to hear from me en ingles: I love you, Mac.”
He looked at her. For the first time he felt the fullness of her love. He bent to kiss her, a long, passionate kiss, then straightened.
She rolled onto her left side, facing away from him. “Vaya con dios, mi corazón… y adios. Te amo, Mac.”
“Adios, Marisol, my woman.” He moved the knife from behind his back, placed his left hand on the mattress and pushed himself up. He looked at her for a long moment.
Finally he jabbed the knife hard into its sheath and walked out of the room.
He closed her bedroom door harder than he meant to, then stopped in the hallway for a moment, breathing hard. She won’t say anything. God, please don’t let her say anything. He walked through the kitchen, out the back door and back to the barn, his knife scabbard tapping against his hip as if to remind him what he’d almost become. Or what he should have done and failed.
Before he could rethink anything, he climbed aboard the buggy and shook the reins. As he turned onto the lane that led to the front gate, he glanced at the house. Jesus Christ, McFadden… Jesus Christ.
Several miles down the road he was still entertaining doubts. Maybe I should change my mind. It ain’t too late. Maybe I should stay here, stay with Marisol, own up to what I did. Running out… that’s a huge turning point. Nothing about my life will ever be the same again. It’s not too late.
But maybe it was. His only real regret was leaving Wes behind. But would even Wes understand? If I did stay, if I faced up to what I did, would we still be friends? He shook his head, chastising himself. C’mon, McFadden, you know the law’s gotta come first. How could he stand with me? He’d be going against his oath. He’s a Ranger first… like I was. He’s a man of honor. He’ll come after me when he gets back. If things were turned around, that’s sure enough what I’d do.
Perhaps his decision to leave had wavered, but he’d never slowed the pace of his horse. A few miles out of town, he turned southwest.
Just under a week later, again in the dead of night, Mac unhitched his horse from Marisol’s buggy and left the buggy next to José’s barn. The wound on his head was still aching at times, but it no longer throbbed. The bruises under and around his eyes were almost gone, and the swelling had gone down everyplace but his nose. Even there, at least he was finding it easier to breathe.
He saddled his horse, then checked his saddle bags. He had depleted most of his stores, but that was all right. He didn’t want to waste time in Portales waiting for the sun to rise. He was still too close to Amarillo. He figured even if he was lucky, he’d have only a three or four day head start on Wes. Besides, on horseback if he rode steadily, he could reach Roswell in two days. He could replenish his stores there.
He took his money from his leather travel bag and repacked it in the bottom of one saddle bag, then stuffed most of his clothes in on top. He pulled his meager stores—some beef jerky, a few hardtack biscuits, a few tortillas and some coffee—from the other saddle bag, put the remaining clothing in the bottom, then returned the food and lashed the saddle bag closed. He left the travel bag in the buggy, mounted the saddle bags on his horse behind the saddle, and slipped his carbine into the saddle scabbard.
He was three hours southwest of Portales when the sun came up.
* * * * *