An Act of Vice and Malice – Extended Epilogue

Helena shined the torch in front of her, looking as far into the darkness as she could with the light it produced. “I’ll bet there’s nothing down there,” she said over her shoulder.

“You don’t know that,” Jared replied. She heard the paper as he shook the map to flatten it. “I know this cave. I’ve been through here before.”

Helena scoffed lightly. “Yeah, once.”

Jared couldn’t argue with her, and she knew it. He’d only been in the cave once before. There was no way for him to truly know what was there. And she doubted highly the treasure was inside. She didn’t think it was in a cave and had been arguing with Jared over it since they’d started their search a month ago.

“I’m telling you, that map isn’t leading us into the cave,” she said, admonishing him and turning to give him a stern look, one hand on her hip, the other holding the torch in the air. “It’s on the outside of Longmont Mountain.”

“That doesn’t make sense, though,” Jared replied, shaking his head, holding his lantern over the map. “The treasure is underground. This is underground. You don’t suppose it’s under this cave, do you?”

Helena groaned and dropped to a nearby ledge that made a nice seat for her. She had to hold her torch up high, so she scanned the damp walls of the cave, wondering if anyone had lived in that cave once upon a time.

“I don’t think it is,” Jared mumbled, talking to himself.

“Let’s go out in the sunlight and look at the map,” Helena suggested.

She’d been feeling tired lately but hadn’t mentioned anything to Jared. She was sure it was because of the energy she expended running after the children.

They’d adopted Fern and Henry the very day they saw them. The pair turned out to be exceptional, both in comprehension and friendliness. They were no trouble, didn’t whine, and accepted everything they were given with enthusiasm and gratitude.

Helena had taken to calling them her “little angels” and it was a fitting description. Their looks were just as angelic as their behavior. She found herself missing their smiles when she was gone from them for only a few hours.

Martha had offered to watch the children while Helena and Jared went on their treasure-hunting adventures. They never took more than a day to search somewhere and had gone in search about two or three times a week for the past month. So far, they had eliminated many of the possible places the map could be leading to. Without exact coordinates, they were forced to eliminate different areas where landmarks no longer stood as mentioned on the map.

“Okay, if you insist.” Jared sounded irritated but Helena knew it was because he was growing weary of the search. At least for the day. Their hearts were in the hunt but not completely, as neither of them had ever had aspirations of being rich. They were content with what they had. They didn’t need anymore.

But, since the adventure had presented itself, they were taking it. Luke sometimes came to search with them, especially now that Martha and Conrad were seeing a lot more of each other.

Helena thought about her sister-in-law as the two of them left the darkness of the cave and stepped outside into the sunlight. She lifted one hand and shielded her eyes from the glare, blinking rapidly until they were adjusted to the sudden light.

“Are you all right?” Jared asked, seeing her stumble a bit to get to a fallen tree to sit down.

She giggled. “Yes, I’m fine. I just couldn’t see there for a moment. It’s a lot brighter out here than it was in there, you know.”

He grinned and she was glad to see him back to his usual jovial self. “So it’s okay for me to laugh at you, then?”

She stuck her tongue out at him. “It’s never polite to laugh at someone when they trip, Jared Martin.”

“But what if it really is funny?”

Helena just rolled her eyes, shaking her head. She gestured at the map in his hands. “Look at the doggone map, mister. Let’s get on with this. I’m telling you, it’s not in there. And it’s not underneath it, either. It’s out here somewhere.”

“Underground.”

Helena sighed but gave him a closed-mouth grin. “Yes. I feel like… like there is a door we should be looking for. A hidden door that is just on the side of the mountain and waiting to be open. Maybe it’s overgrown so it looks like the rest of the mountain. I just… don’t think we’ll find what we’re looking for in a cave.”

Jared looked thoughtful. Helena had been giving this mystery a great deal of her time and had come to the conclusion that the mark indicated on the map wasn’t a cave. It was the first time she’d brought it up to Jared because he always wanted to search the caves. She had an idea he just liked spelunking. And she had to admit it was interesting and sometimes a little scary to go searching through the dark and damp caves at the base of the mountain.

“Do you want to keep looking or go on home for the day?” he asked. “I don’t want you getting tired out. I know you have a lot on your hands, taking care of two children all of a sudden.”

Helena laughed softly, shaking her head. “Oh, Jared, you know those children aren’t any trouble at all. That’s probably why Martha is so happy to watch them whenever she can. I really think she lives for us to go on another search so she can spend time with them.”

“Doesn’t surprise me,” Jared said, matter-of-factly. “I spend a lot of my days working out here on the ranch waiting to get back. And funny thing is, it feels just as it did the first day we got them. They are truly the best children.”

Helena nodded. “We were blessed with those little angels. Why don’t we go and have an afternoon snack with them and bring them out here with us for some night-time searching? Well, evening. It’s more fun when it’s at the break of dusk, don’t you think?”

She was gratified when he laughed heartily. “You really think so, do you? That’s interesting. I like the sound of that. Yes, let’s do that.”

“Wonderful!” Helena clapped her hands, jumping to her feet. She relished being able to do whatever she wanted with the children. She had no restrictions. Everything she wanted to do with them was encouraged by her husband. She really felt he treasured their time together as a family as much as she did.

The two of them hurried back down the mountain on horseback, pushing the animals to go a little faster than they normally would have. For one thing, Helena was about to starve to death. Secondly, she wanted to get to the children and tell them about the adventure they were going to have that night.

She was out of the saddle and jogging up the front porch steps before Jared had even come to a complete stop.

“I’ll put the horses in the barn for now,” he called after her. She could hear laughter in his voice.

She turned around and jogged backwards just a few steps, giving him a warm “thank you” smile. Then, she spun back to the door and ran through it.

“Children!” she called out. “Where are my little angels?”

She heard them jump up and the pattering of their feet as they came to the door of the parlor. She raced over to meet them. They were all smiles as she gave them both hugs and kisses.

“Look at my children!” she cried out. “So healthy and happy.”

“Did you find treasure?” Henry asked, as excited as he could be.

“Not yet,” Helena said, adding a bit of hope and positivity to the negative words, “but that’s okay. We’ll keep looking! In fact, we want to take you two with us tonight. Would you like to do that?”

“Yes!” Both of the children proceeded to jump up and down, clapping and turning in circles.

Helena laughed. “Lovely!” she said. “Just lovely! First, though, I’ve got to get something to eat. I’m about to starve and I can’t let that happen.”

“No, no. You eat!” Fern cried.

In their month together, the new parents found out Henry was a proud six-year-old boy and his sister, Fern, was about to turn four. Fern had taken a liking to directing things in the house and let Helena and Jared know that she wanted to have a cake made for her birthday. She couldn’t quite say what she wanted, so her brother helped fill in the blanks. He even knew exactly what kind of cake she wanted.

Helena was delighted by them both and followed them back into the parlor, where they’d been enjoying a word game on the floor.

“Are we learning today?” she asked, kneeling down in front of the small paper board they had on the floor. She glanced up at Martha, who had been sitting on the couch embroidering but was now watching them all with a content look on her face.

“Yes, we are learning every day,” Henry said sternly. “We want to be as smart as you and Papa.”

Chills lit up Helena’s skin. It was amazing to hear Jared being called Papa. She loved it when they called her Mama. They usually didn’t call Jared and Helena at all. She had a feeling they didn’t want to use first names but weren’t quite where they could say Mama or Papa without discomfort.

As a couple, Jared and Helena were ready to meet any challenges the children brought. They were ready and had enough love in their hearts to work through any problem.

But it didn’t look like there was going to be any problems. The children were unbelievably good.

Helena sat with them on the floor just a few more minutes before getting up. “I’m going to warm some soup on the stove,” she said, looking at Martha. “Would you care for some?”

“Yes, thank you, that would be nice.”

Helena nodded.

“I want to come with you, Mama!” Fern said, bounding to her feet. She looked down at Henry. “You stay here with Auntie. I’m going with Mama. You stay here.”

Henry gave his sister a stern look but didn’t get up. He reluctantly went back to flipping over the blocks and setting them next to each other to try to make words. Helena noticed when he got a few letters together, he would look at Martha out of the corner of his eye. She would either nod slightly or shake her head slightly. This would indicate whether or not he’d made a real word. The nods gave him a big grin. The shaking of the head made him concentrate harder.

There was nothing more adorable than seeing the look on the little boy’s face when he was concentrating. He had more confidence than Helena ever remembered having in herself as a child.

She took Fern through the foyer, nodding at Jared when he came through the door.

“We’re going to the kitchen to heat up some soup,” she said. He acknowledged he’d heard by nodding his head.

“Where’s the little man?”

“He’s in there with Martha making words.”

Jared nodded once more and went in the direction of the parlor.

“Let’s go get that soup,” Helena said, looking down at Fern, who gave her an affectionate smile that melted the new mother’s heart.

Two hours later, Helena had hold of the child’s hand once more, but this time they were going up the side of the mountain.

She had finally convinced Jared to go where she thought the hidden door might be, instead of searching the caves. He’d come to the point where he had to admit the treasure was probably not in a cave.

There was a small diagram in the journal they’d taken from the fireplace. It depicted an underground room, and was accompanied by a list. The things listed had to be the treasure. Numbers were listed, as well. Jared said that could only be dollar amounts. Or what would eventually be made into a dollar amount. It was probably gold.

“Do you think we’re going to find the treasure, Mama?” Henry asked from behind them, his voice excited.

Helena grinned wide. “I think we might, Henry, if we search really hard and we’re very diligent about it.”

“What’s digerant?” Fern asked, her eyes wide when she looked up at Helena.

Helena chuckled. “Diligent. It means we need to work hard. To look hard. Not give up.”

Fern nodded as if she completely understood, her face as determined as Helena said it should be.

“We are digerant,” she said in a confident voice.

The family moved slowly up the side of the mountain and down for a short spell and then up again. They didn’t take the steep parts to prevent the children from being hurt or becoming exhausted and wanting to be carried the rest of the way.

They came to a particularly steep area and Helena looked up at it, knowing she and Jared could take it but the children couldn’t. There was something about the place that drew her to it, though. It seemed to look a little out of place as if the earth had shifted just in that area.

“I think you should go up there and look around, Jared,” she said pointing ahead of her and directly up the side of the mountain. It was doable. Jared wouldn’t have any trouble with it.

He looked in the direction she was pointing. “You think so?”

“Yes. I do.”

Jared shrugged. He looked down at Henry. “You stay with your mother, all right?”

“Yes, Papa.”

Helena and the children watched as Jared went up the side of the mountain, pulling himself up and over certain areas by using the tree branches and roots sticking up out of the ground.

He was about fifteen yards from them when Helena saw something strange and incredible.

Jared suddenly disappeared.

She frowned, staring up to where he had been.

Henry made a worried sound in his throat and Helena looked down at him. She held out her hand and he came to stand next to her, holding on so they could both comfort each other.

“Jared?” she called out.

She still did not see him.

She took a step closer to where he’d gone up. “Jared?” she called again.

His face suddenly appeared, grinning from ear to ear.

“Oh, my darling,” he called out. “You’ll never guess what I just found.”

Excitement filled her body with adrenaline. Her blood raced and her heart jumped into overdrive. “Is it there?” she asked, almost unable to speak. “Did you find it?”

“All because of you and your intuition, my love!” Jared cried out. “Come on! You all three can make it up here. I’ll help you. Send the children first. Come on up!”

Helena couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She sent the children up and they all carefully climbed to where Jared was.

Once she was there, she realized why it had seemed like Jared disappeared. There was a flat ledge. The mountain continued about fifteen feet from where they were and it would have blended in with her vision from below. An optical illusion.

Resting against the side of the mountain was an arched doorway covered in vines. She could barely see the stone door through the overgrowth.

Her heart was in her throat as the family approached the doorway.

“We don’t have a key,” she said. “How are we going to unlock it?”

“There is a key,” Jared said. “Remember? Or maybe you didn’t read that part of the journal. I did. It’s… it’s buried… right near here…”

He dug around at the base of the door. Not wanting to be left out of the fun, the children got down with him and put their hands in the soft dirt.

“Well, let me look, too,” Helena pretended to grumble, getting down on her knees beside them.

“Is this it?” It was Henry who pulled a long, ancient-looking key from the ground.

“I don’t believe it,” Jared said, shaking his head. “You found it.” He looked at Helena. “Are you ready?”

“I’m ready.”

Helena was as nervous as she could get. She watched and waited for Jared to put in the key and turn it. He pushed the door when they heard an audible clicking sound. The door swung open.

“You’ll have to stick with me,” Jared said. “I’ll have to use my matches.”

“Maybe there will be a torch inside you can light,” Helena said. “I’m a little nervous about going in there with only matches. We might run out and not find our way back.”

Jared nodded. “That’s true. You stay out here. Let me see if there are any torches.”

To their surprise and delight, there was a torch stuck in a holder on the wall just inside the corridor made of earth.

“Let’s go get our treasure, my family,” Jared said, smiling at Helena. “You go first, Mama. Then you two. Then me.”

Helena grinned up at him as she passed by, ducking down to get in the door right after giving him a peck on the lips. “I love you,” she whispered.

“I love you, too,” he whispered back.

THE END


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60 thoughts on “An Act of Vice and Malice – Extended Epilogue”

    1. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve enjoyed a book as much as I have enjoyed reading this one! The ending was simply Fabolous!
      Jim Steele, Sr.

    2. It was so good to read about love that Jared and Helena shared. The chaos and tragedy followed by a happy ending was a very enjoyable story.

    3. I loved this story about the treasure. And all the other stories in this collection so far.
      I think the way you pull things together for the finishes to your books is really special.

    4. I enjoyed this book so much. I loved the enteraction with Jared & Helena
      Their love for each other. The characters were so perfect. I wasn’t sure who the bad guy was. Then the “Boss” who he actually turned out to be. Then one character of the bad guys turned to be a good guy.
      I’m trying not to give up anyone’s character’s . You will have to get this ebook & have a good read. You can’t go wrong with this ebook.

      1. Please write a short story about the treasure. I’m new to your stories, they have grabbed me and I can’t stop. I’m on my 4th one in a week. Great adventures. Thank you

  1. O thorougy enjoyed the Act of Violence and Malice.It was action filled and high lighted relationships. Showed that it’s right to do good. Wrong actions hurt others. Thank you for a great read!!!

  2. I really enjoyed reading your book . Good reading enjoyed the characters very much Jim Meadors

  3. Western intrigue, lots of interesting characters, loving caring family with neighbors to depend on. Great ending.. Epilogue was one of best, to point leaving one with a great story, what will this author do next feeling.

  4. I have not read the book so far I am anxious to get back to it. Love it for a clean read, nail biting action

  5. This a truly wonderful and adventurous Epic tale. It is a tangle of love and greed. I loved every minute of it.

  6. Suspenseful! Left us wondering what the treasure was. But, the real treasure was two little children finding a new home with loving parents.

  7. another clean and awesome story. Hard to put the book down once you start reading it. Just wished a little more information on the treasure they found. Maybe in another awesome story you will let everyone know.

  8. What a great read. Enjoyed every page including epilogue. Thanks for bringing these characters to life. Dave.

  9. An interesting story well written with a little bit a
    of everything kidnapping and death. Love and happiness a new family and friends. Mystery and intrigue found treasure. What of the treasure, is Martha finally going to find her happy ever after? Is Helena carrying a child? Derek will we have a sequel?

  10. I loved the book, but you need to write another one to finish telling the rest of the story. What was the treasure? What about Martha?

  11. I’ve enjoyed reading your stories. You certainly know how to
    develop wonderful plots and fall in with other western storytellers such as Petit and Rundell.

  12. Hi, No doubt you have a great story here. Well written, awesome characters, etc. I will say though the story ended too soon. Left many unanswered questions in the epilogue. Sam from N H was on the right track with his comments. I would like to know what they did with the treasure, what happened to Luke and his uncles, how did the kids turn out through their growing years. Did they actually have their own child, etc. I also agree with one of the other comments of possibly a sequel in the future. Thanks for listening.

  13. Thoroughly enjoyed this book and hope that you will write more about the life and adventures of the Martin family.

  14. I love westerns and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved all the characters and the love story between Jared) and Helena. Of course, every good book has a villain of the piece. I suspected Griff pretty much right off mostly because of his bullying ways towards young Jared at the beginning. He seemed like one of those people who are never happy with their lot in life and are jealous of what others have and work hard for. … Looking forward to reading more of your books.

  15. A tense mystery and wonderful story. I am happy with the way it turned out. Well written to boot. Keep it up Derek.

  16. Excellent read! Looking forward to the rest of the story. Is there a way to find out the name of the sequel and when it will be available?

  17. Great story, but it left lots of unanswered questions—maybe another story to answer those questions—

  18. This book kept me on the edge of my seat all the way thru. Very good . I would give it 6 stars out of five.

  19. I enjoyed this story very much. Lots of good characters and the story line was exciting. I like a clean story so thanks for that. I think this one may be my favorite of all the ones of yours I have read. But I do agree with Ralph, Sam, Martha and the others. Need more on the treasure, the new children as well as Martha’s new man in her life. Thank you

  20. This book was absolutely wonderful, from the first page to the end! So much excitement and lots of drama and mysteries solved, lots of action packed scenes that will keep you turning those pages! The story is about a beautiful love story that is magnificent. Every single person has an amazing experience and lots of drama and mysteries solved. The extended epilogue is the icing of the story! So don’t miss this one, you are in for excitement galore throughout this book, but don’t listen to me, read it yourself! 🌬📚🎭🎭🐝🎶

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