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"​Mysterious Murder In Sugar Creek"

a Western Historical Romance Novel,
by Evelyn Boyett

Blurb


Nicholas Connor was a friendly, sociable man in the early 1900’s Utah. When he is senselessly gunned down too early in his life, his identical twin brother Nelson goes in search of his killer with only one thing on his mind – revenge. 

He leaves his beloved, Samantha, behind in their hometown and follows the trail of Vincent Cross, a wealthy landowner who finds delight in robbing and scamming the less fortunate.

Unbeknownst to Nelson, Samantha and Nick’s best friend, Aaron, decided to follow his trail to ensure his safety. Both Nelson and Samantha run into harsh, at times devastating obstacles on their trek to find Vincent. 

Meanwhile, the murderer knows the brother of the man he shot is on his trail and makes plans of his own. Will Samantha and Nelson find their way back together safe and sound? Or will they lose everything in their quest for vengeance?

If you like fast-paced clean romance and action-packed stories, you won't be able to put down this addictive Novel by Evelyn Boyett.

"Mysterious Murder In Sugar Creek" is a stand-alone Western Historical Romance Novel of approximately 400 pages.

Get this Book FREE With Kindle Unlimited!

Prologue

“He’s heading for that schoolhouse, Nick!” Nelson Connor yelled out, leaning forward in the saddle as his horse galloped over the rocks and sand. “Gotta go faster!”

Nelson’s twin brother, Nick, was situated the same in his saddle, his hat flying behind his head, the cord around his neck held taut. He glanced at Nelson and nodded. 

His horse edged out in front, and Nelson veered off to the right, pursuing the second bandit they were chasing. 

He didn't have time to watch for his brother. His target was in front of him, and he was closing in fast. 

He narrowed his eyes when the man he was chasing yanked his gun from its holster. When the fool twisted in the saddle and shot over his shoulder, Nelson was expecting it. He made sure he was nowhere near where the bullet was sure to go at that angle. He didn’t even hear it fly past him, it was so far off target. He pulled out his own gun and held it up but pulled back almost immediately. 

Any bullet he sent flying would go in the direction of the schoolhouse. He could see the teacher hurriedly gathering the children inside, but both bandits were almost there. His eyes darted to his left to see the man Nick was chasing throw himself out of his saddle and fall to his knees in the dirt. He pushed himself up and ran toward the doors of the schoolhouse.  

There were still a few children outside, and the teacher was screaming for them to get inside. They were scrambling around one another, making it difficult for anyone to get inside. The teacher reached out and grabbed the middle child by his vest and yanked him through the door.  

The other two children went swiftly around her legs, and she reached out to pull the door closed. 

The bandit got there just in time to put his hand out and stop the momentum of the door. 

Nelson could see the terror on the teacher’s face as she stared up at the dirty, dangerous man. Nelson watched, his heart thumping hard, as the man put out his other hand, placed it directly in the middle of the woman’s chest, just under her throat and shoved her as hard as he could. 

Nelson saw the woman’s skirts fly back as she fell into the room behind her. He could hear the outcry of the children inside.

Alarm rang out in his mind. He looked at Nick one more time, who was already out of his saddle and pounding up the steps to the schoolhouse door. He was only a few feet away from the man, who turned to him just as he tackled him.

Nelson turned his eyes back to the man he was chasing. He had made it to the back side of the school, had dismounted and was pounding up the outside steps that led to the bell tower on the roof. He ran his horse up to the steps themselves, grabbed the railing and pulled himself over, landing on the first set of steps. They curved twice before reaching the bell tower. 

A loud crack made Nelson move. He jumped toward the first landing, hearing the bullet smash a hole through one of the steps just below his feet. He looked up, lifted his gun and shot twice. He heard a grunt, but the man didn't stop ascending the stairs. 

Nelson grabbed the railing and propelled himself up, keeping his other hand free to shoot if he saw a good opportunity. 

“You can’t get away now, Ray!” Nelson yelled out. “You might as well give up! You know we ain’t gonna let you take these school children hostage or hurt them.”

“You ain’t a lawman!” Ray shouted from above him. Nelson saw him aiming down again and jumped out of the way. Another bullet spun a hole in a stair above him and one below, embedding itself in the earth.

"I was sent to get you, and that's what I'm going to do!" Nelson took the rest of the stairs two at a time, risking another, more accurate shot, from Ray. 

He came around the last section and threw himself toward Ray, who was holding his gun out but didn’t pull the trigger again. Nelson could see how scared he was. His face was utterly terrified.

But Nelson didn’t care. He was on the side of the law. He didn’t have to care.

He reached out and grabbed Ray's arm, the one holding the gun. He twisted it around, causing Ray to shriek in pain. Nelson heard a satisfying snap. The gun fell from Ray's arm. He released it, and it fell to Ray's side. Ray was crying and moaning, holding his broken arm with the other hand. 

“You broke my arm!” Ray shouted. “You didn’t have to break my arm!”

"I'm gonna break your head for running into a schoolhouse!" Nelson yelled out. He grabbed Ray by his broken arm and yanked him back toward the steps. "You don't go down them steps, or I'll gladly put a bullet in your head. You understand me?" 

He pushed Ray as they went down the stairs. The man stumbled several times but managed to catch himself all but once. That one time, he sprawled out on the landing, bumping his head several times on the last few steps. He was a mess of sweat and tears, dirt streaks on his face indicating where the tears had cleaned him up a little. 

At the bottom of the steps, Nelson grabbed Ray by the back of his vest and shoved him toward his horse. There were lengths of rope he kept just for this purpose. 

He held his gun on Ray long enough to get the rope out. 

“Now, you’re either gonna stand here and not get shot. Or you’re gonna try to run and get shot. Which one is it?”

“I’m not gonna run,” Ray grumbled, tears still rolling down his pained face. He was staring at the ground.

Nelson holstered his pistol and made a noose on the end of a length of rope. He put the noose around Ray’s neck and pulled it tight. He looped the other end of the rope around a nearby branch high enough where Ray would not be able to reach it to untie it without both hands.

He adjusted the knot at the back of Ray’s neck and pushed down on the man’s injured shoulder. “Sit down,” he said. The force from his push made Ray cry out in pain. “You stay here.” 

Nelson looked back only once, but Ray was sitting on the ground Indian style, his head hanging down. He wasn't going to try to escape. He was in too much pain to think about anything but his arm. 

He heard a gunshot from in the schoolhouse and heard children screaming. He raced up the steps and swung open the door. Nick had one arm wrapped around the man’s neck and was practically sitting on his back.

“You got him, Nick?” Nelson asked, leaning against the wall next to him. He folded his arms over his chest and watched, his eyes narrow. Nick looked up at him. 

“Yeah,” he said breathlessly, his body jerking back and forth as the man struggled against him. “Why don’t you make yourself useful and make sure all the children are safe and tell the teacher.”

Nelson looked around the empty room. “Where’d they go?”

“Cellar. Teacher… had them go down… in the cellar.”

“I just heard them screaming.”

"I'm sure the gunshot scared them, Nel," Nick said, sounding frustrated with him. "Go on down. Door's over there." He gestured with his head. The man suddenly went limp, and Nick almost fell on top of him when he crumpled to the floor.  

Nick hopped back, so he was squatting next to the unconscious man. He reached back and pulled on his hat, bringing around so he could wave it in his face. He closed his eyes, his sweaty dark hair flipping slightly in the breeze.  

"I am hot as all get-out, brother," he said, shaking his head violently, so the sweat sprayed off him. The next moment, he plopped the hat back on his head. He looked up at Nelson. 

“Where’s the other guy?”

“He’s outside, tied up. He ain’t going anywhere.” Nelson took on a look of pride. One side of his mouth lifted in a grin.

Nick gazed at him questioningly.

Nelson raised his eyebrows. “What?”

“So you left him alive?”

Nelson frowned. “Of course he’s alive.”

Nick pushed himself to his feet, shaking his head. “Sorry. I just never know when you’re going to go overboard and actually kill someone. You know, you’re a little reckless, Nel. You’re telling me Ray is out there tied up and uninjured?”

Nelson tried to make his face look neutral. “I didn’t say he wasn’t injured,” he said in a hurt voice. “You didn’t ask me if he was injured. You asked if he was alive.”

Nick closed his eyes and pressed his fingers into his lids frustrated. “What did you do to him, Nel?”

Nelson grunted. “He’s got a broken arm. That’s all! I had to get the gun away from him, didn’t I? He might have shot a little kid.”

Nick began to tie up the big man at his feet. “Not when they’re down in the cellar. You’re getting too violent. Maybe you need to take a break from hunting these outlaws.”

Nelson’s frustration grew into anger. “I’m not giving up just because you’re getting soft, Nick.”

Nick’s eyes darted to his brother, his eyebrows raised. “I didn’t say anything about giving up the job. I know you like the thrill of it. But you need to be careful before you get us both killed.”

Nelson pulled back his anger. Nick was probably right. 

He looked down at the man he was tying up. 

Nick was always right.

Chapter 1

Nelson stepped out on the porch, his eyes settling Nick’s stiff back. Nick was leaned against the pole that held up the roof of the porch, his hands pushed down in the pockets of his trousers.

He turned his head and looked over his shoulder when Nelson came through the door.

“Hello, brother,” he said. “It’s a fine day for breaking in new horses, don’t you think?”

Nelson assumed a position similar to his brother’s, leaning against the pole on the opposite side of the entryway just before the steps.

He looked up at the bright, blue sky, noting the few clouds in the distance. He was willing to bet they wouldn't be seeing rain today, though. He nodded approvingly. 

“Yeah, it’s a good day for the horses. Nothing in the weather to get them riled up.”

Nick leaned forward and spat into the spittoon at the bottom of the stairs, hitting it right on the mark. He grinned at Nelson. 

Nelson rolled his eyes. “Can’t believe you’re still using that tobacco, Nick. It’s disgusting.”

Nick shrugged, his thin shoulders lifting high up to his ears. “We all got our own opinions, Nel. So let’s go get these horses then.”

“I need to go into Sugar Creek for some supplies,” Nelson said. “You want to come along?”

Nick nodded. As he went down the steps to his horse, who was standing by the hitching post and patiently waiting, he plopped his large brimmed cowboy hat on his head. “Yeah, I don’t see why not. I’m supposed to be helping you with whatever you need me for this whole week, while Pa is out of town.”

Nelson knew that was true, but he didn't want Nick to feel like he was inferior to him or had to answer to him. The only reason their pa put it in those terms was that Nelson typically did more chores than Nick. He felt like since he had never married or given the family an heir to the name, chores were the least he could do to give back.  

Nick didn’t seem to think that way. He was carefree, just like he’d been when he was twenty and he acted that way. He wasn’t bothered by the passing of time or how old he was getting. It was like he was forever young. 

“I’ve still got time,” he used to say. “So do you! We ain’t old yet. you worry too much.”

He and Nelson were identical twins. Looking at his brother had always been like looking into a mirror… until about five years ago.  

Nelson started to notice he had more lines on his face than Nick did. The men weren’t aging at the rate. They looked enough alike that if the townspeople hadn’t already known them, they might have mistaken Nelson for an older brother by years instead of minutes. 

The age difference was subtle, but it was something Nelson noticed.  

He couldn’t help it. 

Nick rode his horse slowly to the stables, ambling along, so they didn't get too far ahead of Nelson, who was walking. 

"I reckon you want to go to town around 11:30, see if we run across any pretty faces," Nick said. Nelson heard the teasing in his brother's voice and smiled up at Nick.

“You know me, my brother, 11:30 sounds perfect to me.”

Both men laughed. 

"I'd like to have lunch with Holly. I wonder if she'll be in the restaurant by any chance?" Nick's eyes twinkled with laughter when he talked about Holly. Nelson knew there was always a chance Holly and Samantha might be lunching together, but it was doubtful. 

He shrugged. “I’m sure they’ll both be in town. We’ll see them if we go around then. We always do.”

"You think they're looking for us?" Nick's voice dropped a bit, and he eyed his brother curiously. Nelson was taken aback by the question. To him, it was obvious the women were interested in them. It was almost as if Nick thought there was doubt. 

He snorted and replied in a dry voice. "Nick. Of course, they're looking for us. Don't tell me you're doubting' how Holly feels about ya. That would be… I don't know, dumb, I guess. Don't think like that. You know you're all she thinks about, all of the time." 

Nick grinned. Nelson could tell he'd made his brother feel better. Why he'd need reassurance, however, was beyond Nelson. They were both handsome men, with the traits differing between them so subtle that only their closest friends and family could spot them. They were friendly, smart, strong. The only thing they were lacking was marriage and children.

Nick shouldn’t need to be reassured.

"That's nice to hear sometimes," Nick said. "I guess we'll both be a little late, but we'll give Ma and Pa the grandkids they want so bad. Won't we?" 

Nelson nodded, though the thought of settling down with Samantha scared him. As confident in himself as he was, he wasn’t sure he deserved a woman like her. Opinionated and strong, Samantha wasn’t afraid to tell you what was on her mind.

She'd grown up in a home where her father was the head of the household. Her mother died when she was a small child, and she had four older brothers. She grew up knowing how to speak up for herself. Nelson enjoyed the ball of fire she became as a grown woman but was also intimidated by her in a way.  

That was something he would never admit to her. 

He pulled himself up into the saddle and turned his horse, so he was riding alongside Nick. "I don't know if I'll ever get married, Nick." 

Nick grunted. "Don't be ridiculous. Of course, you will. And so will I. I've got Holly. You've got Samantha. There's no other women in Sugar Creek or the surrounding counties that's worth even half of the women we've got, the quality, you know. I'm telling you, Nel…" Nick shook his head. "You telling me to think positive but listen to what you're saying." 

Nelson waited until Nick stopped speaking before he cut in. "I didn't say anything about you, Nick. I know you wanna marry Holly. And that's good. But there's something about marrying… about marriage that makes me say ‘wait a minute.' It's like a final step." 

Nick’s eyebrows shot up. “A final step? Toward what? You make it sound terrible.”

Nelson nodded. “I guess I do. I always thought you and Holly should get married. You can take the west wing on the ranch and raise your kids right there where you grew up.”

Nelson noticed Nick's eyes become shifty as if he suddenly had a thought he couldn't share with his brother. Nelson recognized the look because it's the same one he got on his face when he felt that way. 

“Hey,” he said, snapping his fingers in front of Nick’s face. “You trying to keep from telling me something? Come on, Nick, I can see you’re hiding something.”

Nick turned his face away, and Nelson stopped snapping his fingers. When Nick looked back, his face showed he wasn't upset. He was happy. His smile was spread from ear to ear. 

"What are you hiding?" He asked again. This time, Nelson was also smiling. 

“I’ll tell you tomorrow. I don’t wanna jinx it.”

That irritated Nelson the whole day. He hated it when Nick hid things from him because he felt the curiosity so intensely. 

He went to lunch with Samantha, Nick, and Holly with the specific purpose of getting the secret out of his little brother. He’d insisted as they were growing up that those two and half minutes made him the stronger, bigger brother, he might as well assert his authority now while he still could.

He pulled out the chair for Samantha and, with his eyebrows raised, for Holly, as well, who was alone. He looked behind him at the doors before circling the table to take his own chair. He pulled his chair closer, his eyes focused on the glass doors and what he could see on the other side.

Nick was talking to someone, a man dressed in a black vest, black shirt, white tie and black pants with his guns strapped to his sides, just beyond the glass. The man looked somewhat familiar, but Nelson couldn't quite place him. He was sure to have been in Sugar Creek before, but he wasn't a resident. 

Nelson knew everyone who lived in Sugar Creek personally. 

"Who is that Nick is talking to?" Nelson asked, leaning forward so he could keep his voice low as he questioned Holly. If anyone knew what Nick was doing, it would be her. She glanced over her shoulder at him. 

"I'm not really sure," Holly said, looking back at Nelson with wide, innocent blue eyes. "I've seen that man around before, but I don't know who he is." 

Nelson shook his head. “I had the same thought. Can’t place a name for the fellow.”

“We’ll just have to ask Nick when he comes in,” Holly said, smiling softly. Nelson could see why Nick was so fascinated with the girl. She had a very gentle nature. 

It wasn't long before Nick did just that. He came in and removed his hat from his head, bowing to the women. He held his hand out to Nelson as if he hadn't seen his twin brother in years.  

“Sit, Nick, please,” Nelson said, gesturing to the only free chair at the table. Nick took it, leaning forward to tap Holly’s chin with two fingers. 

"Hello, beautiful lady," he said, lovingly. Her eyes softened, and she sighed. 

“Hello, Nick. I’m glad you came inside. I was hoping to see you.”

Nelson looked from one to the other. Neither was paying him any mind. He turned to see Samantha gazing at him.  

"Hello, stranger," she said, standing and sliding into the chair with him so that he had to hang off the very edge. "Do you think this seat has enough room for us both?" 

Nelson laughed. “I think it’s going to have to.”

He would hang on to the last six inches of the seat if it meant she was sitting so close to him. 

Samantha giggled, a sound that made Nelson feel warm inside. He turned his smile toward her. 

"I'm going to have Marybeth bring me a cup of that new drink. I have only tried it once, and it's… it's so strange… I want to try it again." 

“You’re talking about Coca-Cola?” Nelson asked with a grin. Her excitement was catching. 

“I am. I liked it last time. I just thought it was strange. Do you want to share one with me?”

Nelson nodded. He liked the new drink. 

“I’ll try it again. I liked it last time, too.”

There was a lull in the conversation, and Nelson looked over just as Holly asked, "So, Nick, who was that man you were talking to out there?" 

Nick’s grin spread across his face faster than a wildfire catches on. He turned his eyes from his brother to his girlfriend to Samantha. 

"I know you much you want me to settle on the ranch, Nel," he said to Nelson, allowing his gaze to rest on his brother for a moment. "And I plan to do that. But I also want something that's just for Holly and me. I want to get away on vacation to our own little spot."

“Oh, Nick!” Holly’s hands covered her smiling lips.

Nick smiled at her. “Tomorrow, I’m going to look at the land and sign the papers. I’ve got enough to put down as a deposit and soon the whole place will be ours. Yours and mine, Holly, think about it.”

Holly laughed, and Nelson joined her. Samantha chimed in with her own giggles. 

Nelson watched them, unaware that their happiness would end all too soon, taken from them by a well-placed bullet.

Chapter 2

Nelson rode slowly into town, enjoying the late summer sun. 

Things were normal until lunchtime, when he was to meet Nick, Holly, and Samantha, as usual. Just the night before, he’d spent a good hour grilling Nick on the land he intended to purchase; where it was, how much he was paying, everything he thought might help his brother decide if it was a good deal or not.

But Nick's mind had been made up, and Nelson hadn’t thought it was a bad deal either, according to what Nick had told him. So he had watched Nick ride off that morning to seal the deal and was excited to know what happened.  

He got to the restaurant to find Holly crying and Samantha trying to console her. They both shot to their feet when he entered and hurried toward him. Holly was holding a handkerchief in front of her face, but Nelson could see enough of it to know she was sobbing. 

He frowned, holding out his arms to Samantha. “What’s going on?”

“It’s Nick,” Samantha said, her voice edgy. “He didn’t come back from meeting that man. Holly is scared.”

Nelson felt a grinding pain in his chest as it tightened. “He didn’t come back? Do you know where the land was?”

Holly nodded, sniffing several times as she fished a folded piece of paper from her long dress sleeve. “N… Nick drew this… this map before he left this morning. He… he drew one for me and one… for himself so he’d have a copy if he… lost it… oh, Nelson, where is he?”

“We’ll have to go find him,” Nelson said in a firm voice. He looked pointedly at the young woman, who had not stopped crying. “If you come, Holly, you must be strong. You can’t keep crying. You need to have your wits about you. Can you do that?”

Holly nodded, mopping up her tears with the handkerchief. Samantha was rubbing her back, giving her a sympathetic look. When she turned her multicolored eyes to Nelson, they turned into two pools of worry. 

Nelson tried not to feel the way Samantha looked. He'd had a feeling something was off all morning, but he would never have guessed something had happened to Nick.  

He immediately took the two women out to where Samantha always parked her carriage. There was enough room for four people, so the group set out, following the map to the land where Nick went to meet the real estate broker.

The sun was directly overhead, and they were beginning to feel the heat of the day. Nelson removed his hat and waved it in front of his face for some relief.  

“Oh my, it is hot out here,” Samantha said, looking at the fields around her. “I don’t know how a body can stand working in it.”

“You get used to it,” Nelson said. “If that’s what you gotta do to survive, you’ll do it.”

Samantha nodded. She was such an understanding woman. Nelson tried to think about her and all her gifts and qualities, but his mind kept turning back to worry for his brother. They followed the map exactly and were close to where their destination would be when Holly cried out. 

“Look! There’s Sir Lance!” She pointed frantically to the right. Nelson peered into the sparse forest and spotted his brother’s horse. 

“I see him,” he said, in a voice that barely hid his dismay. Nick wouldn’t leave his horse to wander that way. 

They came to a clearing that made a huge circle around them, enough space for a new home to be built. 

Nelson's eyes fell on the scene before him. He pulled the horses to a halt, stunned into a frozen silence.  

Holly broke that silence with her scream. She scrambled over Samantha, who was in the passenger seat of the carriage and jumped out, landing on the ground in a puff of dust. She dashed across the clearing and fell to the ground next to the body of Nicholas Connor.

Nelson didn’t want to believe it. In that moment, he understood that no matter how much time passed, it would always seem surreal.

To look down on the body of his brother, who had done such good in his life, shot down for a bag of money – a few thousand dollars. It was almost too much to be born.

Holly turned Nick over so that he was facing the sky. She sobbed overtop of him, holding him close to her, not caring that some of his blood transferred to her dress, soaking into the white fabric.

“No!” she screamed, lifting her head to the sky and then dropping it to hang brokenhearted. “No, no, no!”

Samantha crouched down behind her, putting both hands on her shoulders and lowering her head to cry her own tears. 

Nelson walked up on the other side and took a knee next to his brother. He scanned Nick’s body for the bullet holes and noticed three in the chest and torso and one more in his head. 

Nick was holding his gun. Nelson reached over and gently took it from his brother’s fingers. After examining it, he said, “He got a shot off. I wonder if he hit the guy?”

He lowered the gun and peered around him. He spotted a dark spot in the dirt and went to examine it. He knelt down and touched it, bringing back some of the moist dirt to look at it closely. “This looks like blood. Willing’ to bet it ain’t Nick’s.”

The words coming out of his mouth seemed pointless. Nick was gone. His twin brother was gone. There was a massive hole in his heart he would have to live with for the rest of his life. Nothing felt real. He fought the urge to zone out into a daze of hopelessness.

“Who cares, Nelson?” Holly was wailing. “Who cares? He’s gone! My Nick! Oh no, no, no!” 

Nelson looked over his shoulder at the distraught woman. He knew how upsetting it was. But he also knew that there was only one thing he could do. He would find the real estate man. 

“What is his name?” he asked, going back over to his slain brother and the woman who loved him. Holly looked up at him, anger in her eyes.

“Who? Who are you talking about?”

Nelson frowned. How could she not know? How could she not see?

“The man he met, Holly. The man he met about buying this land. The man he was giving the money to. What’s his name?”

Holly looked flabbergasted. Her eyes moved rapidly around the area, falling on Nick once more, only to make her burst out in fresh tears.

“Holly!” Nelson barked her name. “I don’t have much time. If he is wounded, he might try to get help in Sugar Creek, thinking he hasn’t been discovered yet. What is his name?”

Holly shook her head. “I don’t know his name. Something… something Cross. I think N… Nick called him Mr. Cross. But if you describe him to Doc, he’d know him. You saw him yesterday. People know him.”

Nelson nodded. Fighting the agony ripping through him, he stomped back to stand on the other side of his brother, bent over and picked Nick up. Holly walked beside him so close she repeatedly bumped into him. Her hands were hovering over various parts of Nick’s face and shoulders as she attempted to touch him one last time.

She kept saying his name as if he would answer her back. Nelson's heart pounded and ached all at once as he gently put his brother in the back seat of the carriage. Holly got in before him, and Nelson laid his brother's head on the woman's lap.  

The sobbing from the back seat didn’t help ease the pain Nelson was feeling. He hurried the horses along but not too quickly. He didn’t want to go tearing into Sugar Creek and making a scene. Everyone would be talking enough as it was when they found out what happened to Nick. 

He planned to quietly take Nick to the undertaker and get him prepared for burial. He would leave the ladies there and get his horse. From there he would go to the doctor and see if he'd seen the stranger. 

If he hadn’t seen the stranger, Nelson’s only recourse was to spread the news that the man had shot Nick in cold blood, just for a bag of money, and that he needed to know the last time he was seen so he could track him down.

He would bring justice to his brother’s death, one way or another.

The carriage seemed to go much slower than usual. Nelson found himself trapped in his own mind. He saw Nick as a young man, he saw him as a boy. He saw him slipping in the snow, earning himself a bruise on his forehead that had allowed everyone to tell the difference between the two of them for its duration.

He remembered the time they’d gone shooting together for the first time with their father. They were seven years old and having the time of their lives. When Nick realized his father was going to shoot a bird, he stopped the whole thing, declaring he would never shoot a bird. 

The funny thing was, he had been willing to shoot deer, squirrel, and other edible animals. But he had been unwilling to shoot a bird or to allow one to be shot. 

No more quirky hunting rules, Nelson thought, feeling like a knife twisted in his heart when the words passed through his mind. He couldn't help himself when he turned in the seat and looked back at his brother. He might as well have been sleeping. He would have looked like it if he wasn't covered in blood.  

Holly had attempted to clean him up some but only ended up smearing quite a lot of the blood and soaking the handkerchief she was still using to wipe her tears.

She now had subtle streaks of Nick’s blood on both cheeks. 

Nelson didn’t say anything. She probably wouldn’t have minded if she knew. She was too busy moaning, repeating Nick’s name over and over until Nelson wanted to scream.

He wanted to say his brother’s name, too. He didn’t know how to handle the aching chasm that had suddenly opened in his chest. 

His brother was gone. He would never hear Nick’s laugh again, taste his delicious meals, listen to his strange thoughts about life and the way the world was supposed to work. 

Nelson felt bad for Holly. But for once in his life, he felt bad for himself. He’d lost his reflection, his mirror image, the only person on earth who truly understood everything about him.

He’d lost his twin brother.

Chapter 3

Nelson stepped up into the Doc’s lobby, scanning the few people sitting along the walls of the waiting room. He ran his eyes over the floor but saw no fresh blood drops. When he pulled his eyes up, he was looking straight at the secretary, who was smiling at him, uncomfortably.

“Can I help you?”

“Have you had any strangers come in today? Strangers to this town specifically, I mean?”

The girl looked up at the ceiling, scanning it as if searching her memory.

“I… uh… no, I don’t really think so. We’ve had just the few who had appointments today. Are you looking for someone?”

“Yeah,” Nelson nodded. “If you see a man come in with this description, let me know. Or get in touch with my fiancé. That’s her right there.” He pointed to Samantha’s name at the bottom of the flyer they had drawn up. Samantha was an amazing artist and drew the face of the man just from memory.

The girl looked down at the poster. Nelson saw her eyes widen and knew she recognized the man. 

“Does he look familiar?” he asked in a stern voice. The girl looked up at him, her brown eyes still wide and staring. Her face had gone white. He took a step closer. “Tell me what you know, please. It’s important.”

“I… I haven’t seen him this morning, sir.” the young woman said. The hand holding the poster was shaking. She rested in on the surface of her desk so it wouldn’t be so noticeable. 

“But he came in a few days ago with a snake bite.”

“Oh?” Nelson tried to wrap his mind around that. “Okay, go on.”

“And he was… very charming.” The girl looked down, her cheeks flushing. Nelson couldn’t help frowning in confusion. When he’d seen the man, he hadn’t thought of him as looking particularly charming. He looked somewhat like a weasel to Nelson.

“What was his name?” Nelson didn’t need to know if the girl thought the man was charming.

“Oh… uh…” the girl stammered, looking down at her desk. She thumbed through a stack of papers to her right until she came to one with a certain time stamp on it. She pulled it out.

"Snakebite. Yes, treated three days ago four hours and…" 

"Patricia!" Nelson encouraged gently, glancing at the name stamped on a small piece of wood sitting on the edge of her desk. "I guess that's your name, isn't it?" He fought to keep calm, but he was feeling more and more agitated as the moments passed.  

Patricia nodded. “Yes, sir.”

“I need to know his name and if he left any kind of address. It’s important. Please tell me what I need to know.”

Patricia nodded again. She pulled out a small piece of paper and wrote down a name and an address. When she was finished, she used just the tips of her fingers to slide the paper toward Nelson.

"There you go, sir," she said. "I hope I've helped some." 

Nelson looked down at the name and address. 

“And you’re sure you haven’t seen him this morning or last night?” he asked for confirmation. She shook her head. 

“No. I would have remembered him. As I said, he was very charming. Or at least he thought he was.”

That was the kind of thing Nelson expected to hear. He lifted the paper and saluted her with it. 

“Thanks for this. It’s gonna help me a lot.”

Patricia nodded. He could feel her eyes on him as he left the place behind. It happened sometimes. Samantha knew she had his heart. Or at least, he hoped she knew.

Nelson backed out of the lobby, turning only when he reached the door. He didn’t expect anyone to come out of the woodwork, gunning for him. But it was always better to be safe than sorry. 

He left the doctor’s house behind and went riding back to his ranch. 

There was only pa to tell. Ma went to be in Heaven when the boys were young. Influenza took her over and made it impossible to breathe. Pa said they were damn lucky they didn’t all get it and die. 

Every year, they celebrated their ma’s birthday and remembered her on the day of her death.

Now, they would be doing that for Nick, too. 

Nelson pulled up to the ranch and was flooded over with memories. He saw his brother everywhere he looked, heard his voice on the breeze, smelled the familiar cologne he liked to wear to impress the ladies.

“Pa?” he called out. “You in here?”

“I’m back here, Nelson,” he heard his father’s voice come back from the study. He marched toward it, determined to be solid as a rock. He had a plan in mind. The more he thought about his plan, the less he thought about his loss.

He turned the corner and went through the doorway into his father’s study. Mr. Connor, a healthy man of sixty-five, had not married until he was in his thirties. It was no surprise to him that his sons were taking the same route as he.

He looked up from the papers strewn across his desk. The look on Nelson’s face must have alarmed him because he stood up slowly.

“Nelson? What’s wrong, son? What’s happened?” Instinctively, their father’s eyes flicked to the door. His tone lowered when he asked. “Nelson, where is Nick? Where is Nick?”

Nelson realized he was holding his breath. His eyes were bulging, and he was barely holding back the tears. He couldn't avoid his father's eyes. When they met, Nelson broke down, sobbing, telling his father what happened to his brother. 

The older man managed not to lose himself in his grief. He was devastated and agreed with his son's plan of seeking justice, much to Nelson's surprise. 

His pa shook his head when Nelson expressed that surprise.

“You must understand, Nelson, there was something special about Nick that… well, it wasn’t just his mother’s delusions that made the boy special. We didn’t know he was coming, you see, we only knew about you. She called him the bonus baby.”

Nelson smiled. He knew the story from what he’d heard from his mother. But he’d never heard it from his father’s point of view. 

“Your mother always told me that she wouldn’t have her bonus baby for long because he was too special to be here.”

Nelson collapsed in a new batch of tears. 

“I’m going to have a hard time getting by without my twin, pa,” Nelson said, feeling and sounding like a child again. His father moved close to him and put his arms around Nelson’s broad shoulders. 

“You’re gonna make it, Nelson. Your brother is gonna be proud of you. Especially when you get married and have kids. He always wanted that. I know you did too. It’s gonna happen.”

Nelson didn't know how the conversation went from missing his brother to getting married, but he wanted it to go back to the previous topic. 

Mr. Connor patted his son on the back. Nelson knew he was hiding his grief and that it would come out in other ways. Privately. The same way he had grieved for their mother.

“I’m going to find the man who did this and make him pay, Pa,” Nelson said in a challenging voice. His father shook his head.

“I’m not going to stop you, Nelson. I know you feel it’s something you have to do. I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same if I had the energy to go on a mission like that. But you… well, I wish you Godspeed, son. You know you’ll have Him on your side.”

Nelson was glad he didn’t have to argue with his father about hunting down Vincent Cross. He had his hands full enough when it came to Samantha.

He planned to cross to the next town to the east, taking his chances that's where Vincent would go because it was closest to Sugar Creek. It would only take a few hours, and he would hopefully catch sight of the man or find out from someone where he went.  

Nelson could only hope he was still using the same real estate scheme. It made him stand out in the crowd. If he was smart, he would try to blend in.

Nelson was really hoping Vincent Cross wasn’t smart. 

After informing his father of the events and what he planned to do, he went around the main house to the wing he occupied on the west side. In front of the entrance, a long line of tall shrubs made a pretty walkway. He came around the tall shrubs and almost ran into Samantha.

“Oh!” she exclaimed, putting up both hands in her own defense.

Nelson stopped himself just in time before bowling her over. 

“Samantha!” he said. “I’m sorry, Sam, I didn’t see you there.”

Samantha nodded. He could see the mixed emotions in her eyes. He had no idea how to react to her. 

“I know you’re going to find the man that shot Nick, Nelson,” she said in a low, breathless voice. “But I don’t want you to go. He didn’t have any problem shooting him, why would you be any different?”

Nelson took her hands in his and kissed her fingertips. Her stance softened. He blinked at her and tried to use the most comforting voice he had. “Sam. Nick wasn’t looked for a fight. He never was. He didn’t know what to expect from this evil man. I do. I know ahead of time. I’m holding all the cards.”

Samantha frowned and looked down at her hands. “I’m still afraid, Nelson. I don’t want to lose you. I can only imagine what that would do to your father…”

"Don't do that, Sam," Nelson's voice dropped in frustration. She looked up at him. He tried not to let the anger override his love for the woman he was speaking to. "Don't use my pa as something to make me feel guilty so I won't go. Don't do that. I've already talked to him, and he agrees it's something I have to do." 

“So you talked to him?” Samantha asked, her voice betraying how hurt and angry she was.

Nelson nodded.

“And he said you should go?”

"He said he wasn't going to stop me." 

He gazed at her face. He had to stay in control of himself. Nick would be furious if he took his aggression out on Samantha when she only wanted him to be safe, and to be with her. He wanted to be with her.  

All the same, he intended to hunt down and kill the man who killed his brother. He would rip him to shreds with his bare hands.

“Well, will you at least consider one thing for me?” Nelson looked down at her. She spoke in a gruff, angry tone.

“What is it?”

“I want to come with you. I can help! I’m a good shot! Good enough, anyway. I won’t get in the way, I…”

Nelson was taken aback by the question. Not even for a moment had he considered taking her with him to hunt Vincent down. He shook his head vigorously. 

“I can’t do that, Sam. I’m supposed to protect you, not put you in harm’s way. Your pa and your brothers would kill me.”

“I want to go, Nelson. You need to let me come with you! Aaron has been helping me with shooting and I…”

Nelson turned his eyes to look at hers. “How is Aaron. Did you tell him?”

Samantha shook her head. “I haven’t been able to tell anyone, Nelson. I’ve been here. Right here. With you. I want you to take me with you.”

Nelson dropped his head. "Someone will have to tell Aaron." Aaron Moses was Nick's best friend. They did everything together and always had a good time. Nelson had the chance to spend a few fun-filled evenings with Aaron and Nick, and they were nights he would not ever forget. He turned his head away from her.  

“You aren’t going, Sam. That’s the end of it. Don’t ask again.” He hardened his heart to the pain he knew he was causing her. She would just have to understand that he would have his vengeance for the loss of his twin.

Samantha sighed, resignedly. 

“I’ll tell Aaron. I wish you’d reconsider taking me, Nelson. I could really help…”

Nelson shook his head, interrupting her. “I have to do this, Sam. And I’m not going to let you get hurt because of something that’s my duty, my task. Do you understand?”

She swallowed, looking up at him with tears in her eyes. “I… I understand, Nelson.”

“Tell me you aren’t going to follow me.”

Samantha hesitated, staring at him. He narrowed his eyes and glared at her.

“Promise me, Sam!” he barked. 

She jumped a little and nodded. “I promise, Nelson. I promise.”

He put his arms around her and pulled her into a hug. “Good. Just let me do this. I need to do this alone. I love you. I don’t want to lose you like I lost Nick.”

Chapter 4

Thank you for reading the first 4 Chapters of my Best Selling Novel "Mysterious Murder In Sugar Creek"! Loved what you've read? Read my full novel on Amazon!

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