Rain pelted my thin tee shirt. It chilled me through in five heartbeats. No sense in trying the fancy Leica field glasses. Water dripped from my eyes and obscured the lenses. The storm surprised me. Nothing to do except hunker down and pull my hat over my ears.
The Sangre de Cristo Mountains provide the backdrop for this story of murder and revenge. When the book opens, we find an unknown man in the high desert, hunted by a stranger. The ricochet from a rifle bullet cuts his cheek, and the adventure begins.
Chapter One introduces the protagonist, Jack Sloan. He’s in Vegas, on the run and on the make. He wins enough to be barred from his favorite casino and decides it’s time to move on and replant his roots. He wanders the Southwestern United States, ending up in Santa Fe where he uses gambling money to purchase a 26-acre rancho and a bar he names Sheila’s, after a Bobby Bare song.
The story flips back two and one half years and explains why Jack ran and who is after him. He had been head of a company that built and managed Indian casinos. They’d slipped into a financial hole, and were desperate for money. Jack traveled to California to make his pitch to Lonnie and his gang of consummate con artists. He believes Lonnie to be legit. He goes to Lonnie’s ranch where he meets Lonnie’s finance, Lucy. She turns out to be a prop—rented from a madam in LA, and in a drunken fog, reveals Lonnie’s perfidy to Jack.
Jack and Lucy are trapped on the ranch, and when he realizes that Lonnie intends to have his henchmen, Chris and Irvin, kill them, he acts first. After shooting Lonnie and Chris, he takes Lucy, six million dollars in bearer bonds, a hundred thousand in cash, and escapes. Jack gives her half the cash. She promises to go straight and disappears from his life. Jack returns the money to its rightful owners, and the story moves to present-day.
Jack lives in fear of pursuit by law enforcement and the surviving members of Lonnie’s crew. He’s unaware that the cops closed the books on the case, but has legitimate reasons to beware of Lonnie’s ex-girlfriend, Mattie. She and Irvin, the thug who evaded Jack at the ranch, are back in the con business and plotting to find and kill Jack Sloan.
Mattie and Irvin form a pair of unforgettable psychopaths. She swindles an eighty-seven year old woman and pushes her off a cliff just for fun. Irvin hangs out in Mexico and is quick with his knife. They both were in love with Lonnie and have sworn revenge.
Things are relatively quiet in Santa Fe. Jack and his friends—Tommy, a Ute Indian who becomes the bar manager, Deputy Sheriff Will Cowdry, and Darlene, a waitress/writer with whom Jack falls in love—form his core group. He has two friends in Durango—Abraham, the owner of the oldest hotel/bar in town, and John Thunder, a Shaman and herbalist. Franco and Consuela work for Jack and live in the casita on his rancho.
Nothing is quiet around Jack for very long. He and Tommy have a run-in with bikers who put a knife close to Jack’s kidney. John Thunder introduces Jack, Darlene, and Abraham to rare herbs that he’s cultivated in the wild. Jack’s hallucinations warn him of imminent danger from an unknown woman.
Lucy comes back into Jack’s life when she returns to prostitution and is hired by Irvin for a Santa Fe gig. She comes to Jack and Darlene’s house and warns them of Irvin’s presence. Will Cowdry uses Sheriff Department resources to track Irvin and Mattie and lets Jack know when both arrive in Santa Fe.
Both sides prepare. Jack and his friends for defense—Mattie, Irvin, and a couple of hired professionals for a final act of revenge. Lucy and Tommy are staying with Jack and Darlene, and Abraham drives down from Durango to lend a hand (and a gun).
The final act occurs near midnight at Jack’s place when Mattie and her crew launch an attack. John Thunder operates behind the lines, and his actions save the good guys. Darlene kills Abraham when he turns out to be a traitor. Mattie survives to escape to the Caymans and her stolen money.