Stagecoach to Hell and Back (Preview)

Prologue

Stockton, California

Felix Allen was fourteen years old when he knew exactly what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. But no one starts out at the prestige of stagecoach driver. It took courage and experience. Felix remembered the moment his life changed forever. He had grown up without a father and only hints at the man’s whereabouts or his profession. Felix’s mother never gave any indications to his father’s Christian or surname. So, following his absent father’s career wasn’t expected or encouraged by his doting mother.

His mother grew up on the cusp of the Mexican-American War and never let Felix forget that they owed their lives to the brave men who had seized California from Mexico and had made a home in one of the many mission towns north of San Diego. Felix spent his juvenile years in San Jose before his mother found work as a cook in Stockton at the Grant Hotel.

Felix’s mother had made sure he understood the value of education and paying attention. She had learned a smattering of Mexican Spanish because most people in the area were refugees seeking asylum. Felix learned both English and Spanish fluently because his friends from the school were children of war-tired parents.

Felix learned to read and write. He stayed in the school until his mother took him on that fateful trip that had changed his life forever. One day, while on his way home from school, he passed by a busy workshop he had assumed was a smithy with the clanging metal and gaggle of noisy men standing around the double doors of the two-level business on the corner of Main Street and Weber Avenue.

Most of the men eagerly enjoyed each other’s company, cherishing cigars and toasting some unknown success that didn’t include Felix. Curiosity piqued, and traveling alone instead of with the gangs of street urchins, Felix took up a post near a rain barrel on the side of the building. He stayed clear of the packs of orphans and school-aged children who ran from education instead of embracing it. Because he had loitered alone, Felix got noticed.

“Hey kid, bring me that spring bar,” a man called from inside the shop. He had shouted loud enough for the other five men in business suits standing at the mouth of the shop to take notice of Felix. One of them stared at Felix, waiting for him to run off or jump into action.

The man lay on the floor under a coach and had his hands full. Felix didn’t notice anyone until someone shouted for assistance. The man under the wagon base stared eagerly at Felix while the businessman outside the doors waited for Felix to move.

“Go on, boy, give him a hand,” the tall man said. He had a thick cigar pinched in his fingers and used it as a pointer.

Felix left the cover of the rain barrel and stepped inside the workshop. It wasn’t a forge. Felix saw several stagecoaches in various states of assembly on the work floor. He picked up the heavy curved piece of steel and dragged it to where the man lay on the floor under the belly of a new coach.

“Here, lift it up and hold it.” The laborer never offered his name, only demands.

Felix was tall and robust at fourteen, his height giving him an advantage over other boys the same age. Without hesitation, Felix climbed under the wagon with the worker. He used his back to help lift and wedge the steel spring into place while the laborer bolted the piece into place with clamps.

Once completed, Felix lingered, waiting for further orders. He saw the man with the cigar watching him while still standing in the group outside the warehouse. Every time the worker gave Felix an order, he responded. He didn’t talk unless it was a question about a tool, and he took orders without delay or interruption.

After the group of businessmen wandered off, Felix stayed behind. He worked alongside the laborer until the sun stopped showing through the open doorway.

“I need to go, sir,” Felix said finally. He had grease covering most of his arms and part of his face. His clothes stank of petroleum. He had a metallic taste in his mouth.

The man wiped his hands on a rag before offering a handshake to Felix. “You did good today,” he said. “I’m Elmer.”

“Felix, sir,” he said, still eager to help.

“Mr. Henderson will have work for you tomorrow. Be here at six in the morning. You know who Mr. Henderson is, right?” Elmer pushed his grimy fist into a pocket and brought it out again.

“Sure, I do,” Felix had said. But he didn’t know. Before that day working with Elmer, Felix had no idea what men did inside the large building he had walked by on his way back and forth to school.

Felix received two dimes from the laborer’s pocket after the handshake and the offer. It was more money than Felix had ever had. He ran the rest of the way home to show his mother the reward for hard work and listening.

“He told me to come back in the morning,” Felix had said, still fondling the coins Elmer gave him. “There’s a man named Mr. Henderson that will have work for me.”

His mother gave Felix a lingering look he knew meant she had considered his future. Receiving further education outside the mission school was a rare opportunity presented to a young man who had a lot to offer. A boy needed focus, and a career didn’t come along every day.

“You need to pay attention and do what you’re told,” his mother had said. Felix remembered her words as vivid as a new day. “If you listen, if you don’t talk back, you will succeed in anything you set your mind to do. This isn’t a game, Felix. Life’s made up of choices. Each time we make a choice, we need to live with the consequences.”

“I want to do this,” Felix had said.

At fourteen, Felix began his apprenticeship as a maker of the finest carriages on the west side of the Mississippi. Milton P. Henderson had first ventured across the wilderness country from Maine in ’52 with an inspired plan to build horse-drawn coaches rivaling the Concord stagecoach. His was the first installed shock-absorbing thoroughbraces revolutionizing the way overland stagecoaches transported people smoothly.

Inside M.P. Henderson’s office and factory warehouse, Felix learned everything there was to know about how to build the perfect carriage. Over the years of his apprenticeship, Felix knew how to construct a stagecoach from the ground up. He grew up strong and paid attention.

When the War Between the States happened and a few stagecoach builders left to fight on both sides, Felix began another apprenticeship phase. He began working in earnest with Elmer, his mentor, to modify the designs of the carriages. They began working with Mr. Henderson’s approval to build many diverse vehicle styles that had different functions.

When it wasn’t about the comfort of passengers, they modified the rails and frames for additional support. Stage working carriages transported more than people over the years. Mail services and transporting goods overland were a cost-effective way for many boomtown businesses and communities to get their supplies promptly.

When the war ended, Henderson began expanding his overland stagecoach enterprise. Felix started giving orders to up-and-coming warehouse workers instead of taking them. By eighteen, Felix had the responsibility of foreman and inspector for the newest carriages. His pay had increased substantially. He had managed to find a small house on the corner of Eldorado and Rose Streets to share with his mother. She didn’t need to work any longer with Felix’s salary.

Felix thought he’d spend the rest of his formative years manufacturing and redesigning overland carriages for Mr. Henderson. And then came the day when Milton P. Henderson and his investors decided it was time to expand their manufacturing into transporting goods and services. Over the years, they had supplied military and civilians with their carriage needs, from transporting people across hostile territories to carrying mail and supplies to growing towns all over the region.

“So, Felix, how would you like to make $100 this week?” Mr. Henderson said when he wandered into the warehouse. “I got two grand coaches that need transporting up to Copperopolis. You know how to drive a carriage, don’t you, Felix?”

“Sure, I do, sir,” Felix had said. One thing he had learned in the years since joining M.P. Henderson’s manufacturing was to pay attention. When another choice presented itself, it was time for Felix to rethink his career path.

When Mr. Henderson announced the merger with the Overland Stage Company, he contracted Cleveland McDowell. Felix learned most people called him Old Ephraim. The man carried a heavy reputation. And that’s when Felix’s life took another turn.

***

Old Ephraim rose through the ranks from shotgun messenger at fifteen to coach driver by eighteen — Felix’s age in ’66. Old Ephraim first met Felix at the warehouse when the man had arrived wearing dungarees, a deerskin jacket, and a holster that carried a whip, not a pistol.

The ornate handle stood out of the holder almost four feet. At first, Felix thought it was a saber made of wood. When the driver got closer, that’s when Felix saw the coil of strap that wound around the shaft. Old Ephraim had a squint and leathery face and hands from spending most days outside under the California sunshine.

When Mr. Henderson introduced Felix to Old Ephraim, it was an experience he’d never forget. It was the first time Felix heard a man wearing lower-class apparel call Henderson by his Christian name. No one inside the warehouse ever addressed the owner with such familiarity. As Felix listened to the ongoing conversation about the newest changes to the latest designs in carriages, he saw Old Ephraim talk to Henderson jovially, laced with foul words Felix hadn’t heard except outside the taverns around Stockton.

Instead of correcting Old Ephraim about the cussing, Henderson appeared tolerant, even amused. But the moment Henderson brought Old Ephraim to meet Felix face to face, it changed his life forever.

“If you lie to me, kid, I will see it,” Old Ephraim said upon introductions. The grizzled driver had a handshake like a bear trap that didn’t release immediately. “You ever drive a coach before?”

“Sure, I—”

The trap squeezed Felix’s hand until knuckles cracked. Henderson stood back, watching the interaction and interviewing under duress with mute fascination. Old Ephraim used muscle leverage and a dead-eye stare to strip away Felix’s pretenses and get to the root of the young man’s integrity.

“Only in and out of the warehouse, sir,” Felix answered.

“Have you ever stolen anything from here or a merchant?” Old Ephraim asked.

“No, sir,” Felix said without hesitation.

“You know how to shoot?”

“No, sir,” he said.

Felix glanced at Henderson, whose furrowing brow deepened with each question fired off.

“Can you follow directions and learn how to drive a team of horses without breaking their spirits?” Old Ephraim asked.

“I will do my best,” Felix said.

Old Ephraim released his grip. Felix rubbed the circulation back into his hand and glanced at Henderson, expecting to lose his job after the revealing truths.

“He’ll do,” Old Ephraim said. “Let’s get him down to the post office and take the Oath of Mail Contractors and Carriers.”

Chapter One

In July of Felix’s eighteenth year, he learned what it meant to do the job of a stagecoach driver. With Old Ephraim at the helm, leading two conjoined carriages with a team of eight horses, Felix got his first lessons in managing horses and education about managing people.

“A lot of uninformed people think a lawman or teamster got the hardest profession out here,” Old Ephraim said.

They left Stockton headed east to Copperopolis. Founded in ’60 by William Reed and a few investors, the Calaveras County mining town was the second largest deposit of copper on the west coast, second to the nearby township of Telegraph City. Reed sold off his rights to the mine and built a toll road between the two boomtowns. The road, dubbed Reeds Turnpike, connected the main stage road to Stockton and outlined a route to Sonora and Sacramento.

Reed got richer, charging for the use of the toll road into Copperopolis until ’65. After the end of the war, Reed opened the road and retired somewhere in the south.

The copper route to Stockton got a lot of travel from Copperopolis. The railroad had yet to move into the area, so carriage transporting was the only option to get copper to the barges that took it to San Francisco via the San Joaquin River. Copper got loaded on larger ships in the San Francisco seaport to sail around Cape Horn until the ore eventually ended up in smelters on the east coast.

All of the carriages used for transporting copper ore came from M.P. Henderson’s factory. The few wagons Felix saw headed in the opposite direction he had personally helped create. It was a gratifying experience seeing his hard work put to practical use.

It was a forty-mile trip from Stockton to Copperopolis. With the second large luxury carriage pulled behind the first, Old Ephraim wanted to keep the jarring to a minimum on the new vehicles. It was Henderson’s wish to get the coaches delivered with nominal road damage. Along the way, Old Ephraim spewed stories of his years as an expert driver.

It took a strong character and fierce dedication. It took courage and a constant vigil for bandits and a sharp eye in a hostile Indian country.

“This is one job that women can do just as good as men,” Old Ephraim said. They were approaching the third leg of their journey. They had fresh horses from a stage stop three miles behind them and a clear starry night ahead. Old Ephraim wanted to get another two miles into the trip before they stopped overnight.

“Not everyone can do this job. Yeah, I’ve seen women driving horses and carriages better than some men. They got good business sense and don’t let their lives get in the way of being great reinsmen. Ain’t but two things that will make a shitty operator,” he said. “Drinking too much and letting your pecker get in the way of your thinking.”

The Stockton route to Copperopolis traversed through old-growth forested areas and arid countryside that kicked up dust that lingered for hours. They got through the worst of the dusty area before sunset, and Felix wanted to know how Old Ephraim managed to see through the team of horses to the road ahead.

“I can smell the road,” Old Ephraim said, tapping the side of his bulbous nose with a deerskin glove, leaving a greasy mark behind. “The fact is, I know most of the routes north of El Camino Real. I drove the six hundred miles with stage stops at twenty-one Spanish missions twice in my lifetime.”

Felix listened, gripping the rail and back of the seat as the horses found a rhythmic gait that kept them moving forward without winding the animals. The roiling dust clouds kicked off the horses’ backsides and made it impossible to see the road ahead.

“You started when you were my age?” Felix asked.

“Yup, I was eighteen when I got my first whip. I got it from the man who trained me, and if you want to do this kind of work, you inherit a whip from someone who sees you got what it takes.”

“You got a whip in your holster,” Felix said. It took a few days with Old Ephraim before he brought it up.

The driver patted the handle that poked from the custom leather pouch. “I never needed a gun.”

“Has anyone ever held up the coaches?” Felix asked.

“Well, sure, lots of times,” Old Ephraim said. “But mostly highwaymen want the gold or banknotes. You hand it over, and they never give you much mind.” He looked thoughtful for a while as if remembering something. Felix tried to keep his eye on the roadway, but it proved too tricky with the horse team’s grit and dust washing over the carriage. “A few times, I’ve lost horses to Indians. I lost a few horses to Mexicans. I lost a few messengers to gunmen.” Old Ephraim winked at Felix, but he wasn’t sure if it was out of fun or because of the dirt.

“You can carry a gun, a club, or anything that will make you feel safe. But it ain’t up to you whether you live or die when it comes to bandits. It’s up to them,” Old Ephraim said.

“Have you ever been shot?” Felix asked.

“Oh sure, a few times,” he said, chuckling like it was a joke between them. “I got shot during the war on the Butterfield Overland Mail. But back then, Congress ordered its use for livestock and personnel. They changed the name to the Union-held Central Overland Trail. The contract lasted six years. I ran it for five of those years. We took it through the oxbow route below the Rocky Mountains to keep away from the winter snows.”

“Was that a long way?” Felix asked, finally more interested in the history than the path ahead.

“Yup, it takes about fifty-two days to cover one thousand four hundred and seventy-five miles,” Old Ephraim said.

“You carry the whip, but I never saw you use it on the horses,” Felix said.

“A good Jehus don’t need to use the whip on their horses.”

“Jehus?” Felix asked, never hearing the term before that moment.

“It’s after King Jehu of Israel,” Old Ephraim said, giving Felix a sideways look through the dust cloud. “Don’t you know nothing from your Bible, boy? He was a great and powerful king that led furious attacks with teams of horses and chariots.”

Old Ephraim took the whip from the holster. He showed it to Felix. “Now, a good Jehus is the captain of this vessel, and he’s sober — leastwise while driving a team of horses anyhow,” he added with a jab to Felix’s ribs. “But this whip is worth more than its weight in gold.”

Felix thought Old Ephraim meant him to touch it. But when he reached for it, the driver shoved Felix hard enough to almost topple him out of the messenger seat.

“Never touch another man’s whip, boy. That will get you killed.” He held it in a way for Felix to see the handcrafted silver ferrules on the hickory handle. “This whip is part of me, and if I die before I hand it off to the next reinsman, I expect it to be buried with me.”

It had buckskin lashes with a hickory handle that was as long as Old Ephraim’s arm. “Now, I get draft horses or stallions. I don’t want nothing else. And if you mistreat the animal too much, you’ll get an ornery horse that will slow the rest of the team. A good crack of the whip will get them moving. But if you’re whacking the horses on the ass, you’ll end up with a lot of pissed-off meat that will get infected in the sun and maybe trample you the minute they get the chance.”

Old Ephraim tucked the whip into the handmade holster again. “A good team will last you a full twenty miles without stopping. You push them too much, and you’ll lose a horse to drying out, or its heart will up and explode. You get caught out on trails not used too often, and you’ll end up losing your contracts with the mail.”

Old Ephraim shrugged. “You do that, and you might want to bite the bullet. If you’re running coaches for someone like Mr. Henderson, you take an oath to do what’s right.” He nudged Felix. “That mail carrier oath you took ain’t something to just piss away. That gives you power, that shows people you got integrity, son.”

The horses slowed, and the first set back to bank around a right corner. Old Ephraim switched the reins and shifted slightly in the seat beside Felix. He read the road ahead without needing to see it.

“Now, see how the wheels are rattling some?” Old Ephraim asked. “We’re on the hard ground right now. You can look to the sides if you need to see ahead of us. But these horses know where they’re going.”

Felix pressed the palm of his hand on the bench between them, feeling the vibrations come through the steel ring tires into the wagon wheels. He leaned to the left, trying to see beyond the brown cloud pouring over the trail from the horses’ hooves. Slightly ahead and below the driver’s seat, the front left wheel spun over the uneven ground with precision. It had perfect balance with no wobble.

“Now, if we had a lot of hills we needed to cross, we’d have a few sandbags in the rear boot,” Old Ephraim said. “You can use the burlap bags to rest on the wheels going downhill to keep the brakes from getting too hot. And you can use the sand along the stretch if you need the extra traction.”

When Felix glanced up again at the road ahead of them, a thicket of bushes on each side of the road looked like the pathway opened like a dirt track tongue waiting to consume the new carriages. Someone stood in the center of the roadway, still too far to get a good look at him. But Felix didn’t expect to see anyone on the route that far out from a stage stop.

“Um, Ephraim,” he said. “Someone is standing in the road ahead.”

Chapter Two

Felix never expected his life to turn around so much in a few short years. He had made a substantial wage from working for Mr. Henderson. He got the opportunity of a lifetime to learn a trade in building stagecoaches for one of the wealthiest men in California. And on his first time away as the helper to Old Ephraim, the new stagecoaches got held up. The best Jehus in the whole territory faced off with the masked bandit. At the same time, Felix sat rigid in the shotgun messenger seat, quivering with fear, anticipating his life to come to a sudden and violent ending.

The teams of horses drew to a stop, the first set of animals whinnied uneasily at the sight of the single man in the middle of the road. He had a shotgun slung between his arms but hadn’t pointed it at the driver’s box. Old Ephraim set the hand brake.

Since they had eight horses, the highwayman had to lean to the right to see Old Ephraim. The bandit started walking the horses’ length, approaching the driver’s box on the first of the two carriages. He lifted a gloved hand.

“Why didn’t you just drive the horses through the trail?” Felix asked in a hurried whisper. He looked around under the driver’s box. “Where’s your gun?”

“I ain’t needed a gun in all the years I drove,” Old Ephraim said and nudged Felix, using his head to motion toward the trees surrounding the roadway.

That’s when Felix saw the rifle barrels sticking out of the foliage.

“Evening,” the bandit said. He wore a water-stained flour sack over his head with eye holes cut in the fabric. On his head was a black steed derby with a red satin band. He wore a dirty flannel shirt and canvas trousers. The double-barrel shotgun cradled in his arms had both hammers pulled back.

Felix leaned back behind Old Ephraim because if the first highwayman shot the driver, he’d take his chances with the other nine men waiting in the treeline. He glanced to the other guns pointed at the carriage and horses. None of them moved except when a light breeze pushed the leaves on the branches. Felix thought he saw more flour sacks hidden by the shrubberies.

“Evening,” Old Ephraim said in return without a hint of panic. He sat unmoved and unnerved. “Can I help you?”

“You sure can,” the bandit said. “It would be good if you dropped your guns for a start and got everyone out of those coaches. I don’t want to put bullets in you to get through to you that we mean business.”

“Well, I sure want to oblige you, sir,” Old Ephraim said. “But we ain’t got any guns. And we sure don’t have any passengers. You are welcome to look.”

The bandit shifted on his feet. Felix watched over Old Ephraim’s shoulder as the masked man wandered by the driver’s box and got close enough for Felix to see a glinting of his eyes through the flour sack holes. He looked in the cubby under the driver’s compartment. After a few seconds, he wandered back to the coaches.

The horses got antsy, standing still for too long. They had another five miles to get to the next stage stop, according to Old Ephraim’s estimation. Felix wondered if he jumped off the carriage, could he make it without getting shot? The rifles in the trees twitched, but the other bandits remained hidden.

“How about you two get off that coach and come over here?” the masked man asked. He had a refined voice, like an educated man.

Old Ephraim climbed out of the driver’s box and stretched his legs like he got ready to end his shift. The masked bandit got a better view of Felix. He used the double-barrels to let Felix know that it was better to cooperate than the alternative.

“So, what’s all this about?” the bandit asked once Felix joined Old Ephraim on the ground by the carriage. “You don’t have passengers, and you’ve got two nice-looking coaches. Where are the bank boxes hidden? We don’t want to spend a lot of time looking for them. It will be dark soon, and that frustrates me when you’re not working together with me.”

“You see those carriages?” Old Ephraim said. “Those are all we got with us. There’s no money, no bank boxes. We’re delivering them up at Copperopolis to some wealthy man named—” He nudged Felix. “What’s that fellow’s name again?”

“Mr. Poole,” Felix said. “He’s expecting the stagecoaches delivered to his offices.”

The derby-wearing bandit stood very still, watching Felix and Old Ephraim. For the second time, Felix considered running at the risk of getting shot. The movements in the bushes near the front horses caused them to snort and stamp the ground.

“We ain’t got nothing on us,” Old Ephraim said. “You are welcome to search the coaches. I got the order in my pocket.” He pulled the bill of sale out of the top pocket of his shirt and handed it over.

The masked man drew closer to the coach. The gun barrel wavered in the air as he reached for the folded bill of sales.

The bandit shifted the shotgun and took the receipt. He opened it, read it, and looked up at Old Ephraim again.

“You’re headed into Copperopolis?” he asked.

“Yes, sir, we’re due there by tomorrow morning.” Felix watched as the flour sack turned in the direction they were headed and then back the other way. “Did you think we were coming back from Copperopolis? That makes sense you’re looking for passengers and money.” He shook his head. “We ain’t got nothing like that.”

Felix felt the breeze pass over his sweaty face. He wondered if dying on the side of the road meant his mother might have his body to bury. He wondered how long before the next stagecoach found them. The sun began to set, and a deep shadow crawled over the roadway. He couldn’t see the others waiting in the bushes, but Felix had no doubt they debated about spending time shooting them and taking the carriages and horses.

It was impossible to read a man wearing a flour sack and derby hat. But by shifting the man’s shotgun again, the lead bandit had made up his mind about what to do with Felix and Old Ephraim. The bandit handed back the bill of sale to Old Ephraim. And then he removed another scrap of paper and handed it directly to Felix, who took it with trembling and clammy fingers.

“So, we’ll leave you here. If you try anything after I go, my men will shoot you dead,” the bandit said. In a brash move, the flour sack turned away from them and marched back to the front of the horses. The horses bobbed their heads and snorted.

Felix saw the masked man disappear in front of the teams. He stared at the shadowy foliage where the other highwaymen waited in the dark. The tips of the rifles still protruded from the leafy cover.

“How long are we supposed to wait here?” Felix whispered. “I got to go pee now.”

“We might want to wait a little longer,” Old Ephraim said. “I think those boys aren’t too pleased they’re leaving here with nothing. They ain’t moved from the bushes.”

Felix had to press his knees together and groaned as he bent forward some, trying to hold his bladder. It lasted another ten minutes, long enough for darkness to fall over the countryside.

“I can’t wait,” he said, finally sprinting to the side of the road to relieve himself.

He half expected someone to shout at him. Maybe a few of the camouflaged gunmen would rush at him. He had forgotten about the slip of paper the bandit handed to him. If they let him get that far off the road, what was to stop him from running away? He contemplated the idea. He could run, but that meant leaving the carriages and Old Ephraim behind. After all the lecturing and the fact he took an oath made Felix decide it was better to die a noble man than run like a coward. His mother would appreciate his moral obligations.

Old Ephraim took a deep breath and began walking along the side of the horses. He patted their flanks and talked to them. Felix came out of the wooded area. He saw Old Ephraim disappear in the hazy dark at the front of the team. His heart hammered as Felix continued to sweat with fear.

When he didn’t hear anyone yelling or gunshots, Felix took deliberately slow steps toward the roadside brush.

“Ephraim, is everything alright?” Felix asked. He still didn’t see the driver. He pressed his hands on the horses’ rumps and sides as he walked, soothing them from stress and the long drive. Their skin rippled with the contact. “Ephraim, you there?” he called louder.

“Yup,” he said and hooted with a laugh. When Felix reached the horses, he saw Old Ephraim carrying a stack of black sticks and shovel handles back to the carriages. He tossed them on the side of the road and pointed. “That there is the rest of the bandits hiding in the bushes.” Old Ephraim continued laughing as he checked the horses’ straps and harnesses in the dark.

Felix walked with him back to the first carriage. Old Ephraim lit the bull’s eye railroad lantern mounted on the side of the driver’s box. The concave glass on one side of the case focused the light on spilling forward more than illuminating the coach’s sides. He continued lighting the rest of the lanterns, laughing and shaking his head.

“Get up there,” Old Ephraim said. “We need to get to the next stop and get these horses out of the yokes.”

Once back in the messenger seat, Old Ephraim led the horses over the small graded hillside and used the brake to keep the carriages slow behind the eight horses. When the trail leveled out again, Old Ephraim let the animals lead the way through the dark. He continued grinning and shaking his head like he got a joke that Felix didn’t understand.

“There weren’t any others waiting in the trees?” Felix asked.

“Nope, that son of a bitch tricked us with sticks,” Old Ephraim said. He hooted again and slapped his knee. “That there was one of the most interesting stage robberies I ever went through.” He frowned at Felix. “What was that paper he gave you?”


“Stagecoach to Hell and Back” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

From the age of fourteen, Felix Allen was sure of one thing: he wanted to drive stagecoaches. Everything he knew he had learned from a grizzled old driver with a no-nonsense approach to everything. It was a grueling, thankless job but Felix was made for it. When a clandestine assignment comes up, he reluctantly takes it. A passenger must get to Vallejo with no time to spare and a precious cargo that no one should know about. With life-or-death moments around every twist and turn of the trail, Felix’s skills will be tested like never before.

The weather is against him, danger is at his tracks and the clock is ticking…

Sally Laners had founded the Woodland stage stop, on the road to Sacramento and Vallejo. Ever since her husband abandoned her and her son, she has put all her focus on making Woodland profitable. She enjoys the job and is always happy to see the stagecoach drivers who stop by; especially Felix. She could tell that there was something special about him… When Sally gets caught in a situation that puts everything she’s worked hard to accomplish at risk, will she find the right person to place her trust on?

With her brave face on, she never loses sight of what’s most important to her…

When bandits attack the stagecoach, Felix must fight to defend his passenger and the cargo. In the middle of crossfire, an unexpected realization will make this mission even more dangerous and yet more personal to him. Felix will follow the blood trail until the end… The stakes have never been higher!

A pulse-pounding drama, which will make you turn the pages with bated breath until the very last word. A must-read for fans of Western action and romance.

“Stagecoach to Hell and Back” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 60,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.

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6 thoughts on “Stagecoach to Hell and Back (Preview)”

  1. I’m already in love with Old Ephraim. He’s a hoot in more than one way. Felix is in for lessons like he’s never had before. I can’t wait for the finished product of this book.

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