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8th floor studio
Release Date: 24 June, 2016
THE PINKERTON MAN SERIES
BOOK ONE: THE PINKERTON MAN
Stiles Langberry leaves England under the dark cloud of blackmail.
He resettles in America with a new name, becoming a Pinkerton Agent.
His new employer sends him undercover to a brothel that serves homosexual men, where prostitutes are being murdered. In the course of his investigation, he becomes involved with Paul, one of the prostitutes. Complicating matters, one of the suspects draws Stiles like no man before him. Stiles knows he must stop the killer before he strikes again.
BOOK TWO: HOME ON THE RANGE
Pinkerton Agent Stiles Long is sent to the Circle W Ranch to uncover who is killing the ranch’s cattle. In order to discover the truth about the goings on at the ranch, Stiles has to prove to the ranchers he’s more than a good-looking city slicker.
Savage Beare, the head ranch foreman, is far from happy that Stiles is there to check things out. He has secrets of his own.
Stiles finds Savage incredibly good-looking, but cold and aloof.
He’s also a suspect. One of many.
When Stiles’ best friend and partner, Lizzie Ferguson, is kidnapped things begin to shake apart.
Stiles doesn’t trust anyone and he needs to find Lizzie before it’s too late.
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BOOK ONE: THE PINKERTON MAN
STILES LANGBERRY HAD thought his world was perfect. He was considered handsome by most women and men. His father had graciously left him a very tidy sum upon his death, to do with as he pleased. His position of constable at Scotland Yard was one he enjoyed, mostly because he didn’t have to work for a living. And most importantly of all, he had the perfect discreet lover in the winsome Viscount Harold Crosby. Life was good, until…
Several months ago, the first letter had come. A blackmailer’s letter. It was descriptive, citing times and places he and Harry had enjoyed each other’s company. He ignored it. He told Harry to ignore the one he received as well. But Viscount Crosby turned out to be a coward wrapped up in a beautiful package.
Harry paid the requested amount and, by doing so, admitted his relationship with Stiles and opened the door to more letters. They came more frequently, demanding larger and larger sums of money.
Stiles refused to pay the demands and, since Harry was filling the filthy blackmailer’s pockets, the fiend had left him somewhat alone. That is, until poor Harry offed himself and the vile beast’s money stream dried up.
He still refused to pay, and shortly the letters stopped as suddenly as they had begun. Stiles hoped that whoever the blackmailer was, he’d given up or, more than likely, switched to some other poor sod for his pennies. He soon found out that wasn’t the case.
UPON ENTERING THE doors to Scotland Yard one morning, he received a note requesting his presence in front of his superior, Sergeant Dale O’Conner. It was exactly three months to the day since Stiles had received the first blackmail letter.
Sergeant O’Conner was a large man. He had clearly been behind a desk for some time, because anyone who walked the streets the way a constable did would not be that large. He wore a mustache that was large as well. Stiles had often wondered what one might find in such a huge amount of hair on one’s face. O’Conner was generally a jovial chap, but today that was not forthcoming.
“Sit down, Stiles.” O’Conner’s use of his Christian name was not customary and made Stiles uneasy. He sat.
“We have a problem,” O’Conner said, sliding a folded note across the desk.
Stiles recognized the stationery but didn’t reach for it. He was sure he already knew who the note was from. What he didn’t know was why he wasn’t already under arrest or locked away.
“I see you recognize it.” Stiles had no words for a response.
The older man sat quietly watching Stiles; then he reached for the note. He tore it into several small pieces, dropping them into the ashtray on his desk. A cigar that had gone out was also in the bowl. O’Conner relit the cigar, puffed on it slowly, and when the tip glowed red, he used it to set the pieces of the note ablaze.
Amazed, Stiles watched as his superior leaned back in his chair. Taking a deep drag on the cigar and puffing out the strong-smelling smoke, he regarded Stiles for long moments before he spoke again.
“I don’t care a horse’s arse what you do when you aren’t on duty. You’re a good constable, and you could have had a great career here.”
Stiles didn’t miss the words could have, and shivered at what he was sure was coming.
“I like you, Stiles. I always have. So I’m going to give you a free piece of advice. What you do with it is entirely up to you, son.”
The endearment the big, burly man used made Stiles smile and eased his fears.
“Resign your post today. Say you’re tired of playing at coppers. Take the snooty high road. You certainly have the funds, and no one would think anything other than what you say. Travel. Don’t go to Spain, though, Spaniards are a bunch of heathens. Go to France. Go anywhere, but don’t stay in England. Change your name. Start over someplace new.”
To say Stiles was stunned would have been misleading. He was damn well floored. He wasn’t being arrested, and O’Conner wasn’t judging him for what he knew him to be. What did he really have here in England that meant so much to him? Travel? See the world? He’d never thought of it until his superior’s suggestion. And now it seemed like the most wonderful idea imaginable. He rose from his chair and offered his hand across the desk to Sergeant O’Conner.
“You have my resignation, sir, and I believe I will be traveling in the very near future.”
O’Conner shook his hand vigorously and smiled behind the whiskers of that huge mustache.
“The very best to you, Stiles, and safe travel in your adventures.”
BOOK TWO: HOME ON THE RANGE
THE TRAIN WHISTLE’S shrill blast startled Stiles from his dreams. He sat up straight in his uncomfortable seat and gazed out the window beside him. There was nothing to see. Nothing but acres and acres of knee-deep grass. It had been that way since he’d left Kansas City.
He only had a few more days and he’d be at the Circle W Ranch. Removing a notebook and pen from his valise, he began to go over his notes once again. There really wasn’t much information in the files that Commander James McCullough had given him and Lizzie at their last meeting. A few details on the men living at the ranch and that was about it. He didn’t like walking into a case with so little knowledge of the characters with whom he was about to mix.
A smile crossed his face as he recollected the last year of his life. What a year it had been. Departing England hadn’t been as difficult as one might expect. He had crossed the Atlantic, leaving a blackmailer and his old life behind. The sea voyage had been interesting and fruitful. He made an incredible new friend in Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Ferguson, whom he’d met on the voyage. It was through Lizzie and her father that he had first heard about the Pinkerton Agency. Now, Lizzie and Stiles were agents working together. He reached up and rubbed the spot where his badge was hidden on the underside of his coat lapel. He had only one regret. Stiles’ mind wandered back to Paul and the case that was never solved.
The murderer who killed the young men working as prostitutes at the Velvet Rope brothel. The murderer who killed Paul. He had sworn he would find the real person responsible, no matter how long it took. Stiles believed he and the killer would cross paths again, someday. Until then, he would continue to work alongside Lizzie. Lizzie had become one of the agency’s first female agents, making it possible for them to go places where they couldn’t have gone before. She was an amazing asset to the agency. They could pose as brother and sister, cousins, or even a married couple if there was a need. But on this assignment, they would have very different roles. They would be working different sides of the coin so to speak. She as housekeeper in the main ranch house, and he a prospective buyer for the ranch. Lizzie had already been there a month. She had been able to send one telegraph back to the agency and it was only to let them know she was in place. That was the signal that he could leave St. Louis to join her. Lizzie knew to expect him two to three weeks after she sent the telegraph. His arrival would be a surprise for the others at the ranch.
A deep voice coughed at his side. Stiles looked up to see an incredible pair of green eyes fixed on him. A feeling stirred in Stiles and he tested the waters by grinning at the gentleman to his left. He smiled back: a wide jubilant expression.
“Hello. Is that seat taken?” he asked, pointing at the seat across from Stiles.
Stiles waved his hand in a ‘have a seat’ motion and the man sat gracefully, facing him. Removing his hat, his eyes sparkled as he looked Stiles over. There was no doubt that he liked what he saw.
“Patrick O’Donnell.” He offered his hand to Stiles.
Taking the hand firmly in his own, Stiles felt the warmth and smoothness of the man’s skin. He was definitely not a rancher. Stiles doubted he’d ever done a hard day’s work in his life. Their hands lingered, entwined longer than polite society would approve. One more clue that he was as inclined as Stiles was for the company of another virile man.
“Stiles Long,” he said as their hands separated and they reclined in their respective seats, each observing the other.
“Where would you be traveling to, Mr. Long?”
“I’m headed for Mercer, Wyoming on business.”
“Business in Mercer.” He laughed. The sound was deep—smooth like the skin on his hand—and made the hairs on Stiles’ body stand to attention.
“Do you know the area? I’m looking at buying a ranch there.”
“Actually, I’m headed home to Mercer myself. I own the hotel and saloon in town. Patty’s Place. Will you be staying with me?” One corner of his lips turned up, giving his face the appearance of a one-sided grin. It caused Stiles to return the same.
“It seems I will be for a night. Though, I will need to hire a coach to take me to the Circle W Ranch as soon as possible.”
A shadow fell across O’Donnell’s face and a scowl reached the corners of those green eyes, which were now dark and stormy. “You’re looking at the Circle W to buy.” It was not really a question. It was more accusatory in meaning.
“Possibly.” Stiles decided it would be better to tread carefully until he knew more about Mr. Patrick O’Donnell. The man stayed a moment longer, then made an excuse that he needed to see someone else on the train. Stiles watched after him as he went and felt a little dumbfounded. What had just happened?
The train pulled into Cheyenne several hours later. Stiles collected his bags and departed the train, going in search of the stagecoach office and his accommodations for the night. After purchasing the last ticket on the stagecoach leaving at seven the very next morning, he checked into the hotel a few doors down.
The hotel, the Grand—which it wasn’t—was old but appeared to be clean. Stiles paid for one night, retrieved the key, and made his way to his room on the second floor. Dinner was being served in the dining room for another hour and there was no saloon in this facility, so he would get a restful night’s sleep. Stiles was looking forward to sleeping in a bed that didn’t rock back and forth. All those nights trying to sleep on the train had left him restless and achy. He’d never understand those people who said they slept like a babe on a rocking train.
He freshened up, then made his way back downstairs to a seat in the dining room. A very round woman with a warm smile approached him with a steaming cup of something.
“Coffee?” she asked as she placed the cup in front of Stiles.
Stiles took a careful sip.
“We have fried chicken or jack rabbit tonight, with potatoes and greens,” she offered as Stiles continued to sip at the coffee.
“This is delicious and very welcome,” he said. “If the rest of the meal is as well prepared, it should be amazing. I’ll have the chicken….” Stiles waited for the lady’s name.
“Mazy, sir. Chicken it is, and I’ll be sure you get some fresh biscuits and butter too!” Her cheeks had turned a rosy pink before she left Stiles to enjoy his coffee.
Patrick O’Donnell strolled into the room and crossed to where Stiles sat. He pulled the additional chair out. “Like some company?”
“Certainly, if you’d care to join me.”
O’Donnell’s mood seemed to have reverted to the friendly chap who first introduced himself on the train. The mood change made Stiles suspicious. Mazy returned from the kitchen with a basket of what Stiles assumed were the promised biscuits. She placed them on the table, along with a bowl of butter.
“What can I get for you, sir?” she asked O’Donnell; although, Stiles noticed she didn’t smile at him.
“I’ll have whatever he’s having.” O’Donnell pointed at Stiles and Mazy walked away.
“Not a very friendly woman, is she?”
“I thought she was quite nice actually.” Stiles placed his coffee cup on the table.
O’Donnell stretched his legs out from under the table and crossed them at his ankles. He openly studied Stiles, not hiding his interest. The question was what kind of interest was it?
“So, have you ever been to a cattle ranch before?”
Apparently, it was his being a buyer that interested the man. Time to put on his persona for the assignment and see what O’Donnell wanted.
“I’ve never been to a ranch in Wyoming, but I have visited a few in my line of work.” Stiles offered the bait. He didn’t have to wait long for O’Donnell to bite.
“Line of work? I thought you were looking to buy the Circle W?” O’Donnell sat up straighter in his chair and leaned his elbows on the table. He picked at some lose thread in the table covering as he glanced at Stiles.
“I actually represent the person who is interested in purchasing the ranch… if it achieves my approval that is.” Stiles retrieved his cup, continuing to enjoy the robust brew.
Mazy came through the door from the kitchen carrying a tray overflowing with plates and approached their table. The aroma was mouthwatering, but Stiles’ focus was on the man across from him. Patrick barely acknowledged the food on his plate. His eyes never left Stiles’ face. They darkened, and he wet his lower lip with his tongue. Finally, he lifted his fork to his mouth and slowly took a bite of… something. Stiles wasn’t sure what and it made little difference. The room had begun to feel very warm and Stiles loosened his collar with his fingers. Somehow, he managed to eat some of the food on his plate, though his hands trembled slightly as he did. He had to break eye contact with Patrick to get that far.
Stiles was finished with his meal when he looked up to see O’Donnell staring at him again. The man had not said a word during the meal. Only gazed at Stiles with that penetrating stare.
“Would you like to go for a drink before retiring? There’s a saloon across the street and I could use one myself.”
Stiles wasn’t sure what the man hoped to achieve, but a drink did sound good and would make sleeping easier.
“Sounds lovely,” Stiles said. He stood and pushed away from the table. “Shall we.”
One drink led to two, and before Stiles knew it, he was feeling slightly light-headed. O’Donnell had asked for a specific brand of whiskey and told the barkeep to leave the bottle. If he was going to make the stagecoach at seven the next morning, Stiles needed to call it a night. It also became clear as they drank and talked, O’Donnell was only interested in his employer, not in any type of liaison between the two of them. He offered his hand to O’Donnell and made to leave the saloon alone.
Crossing the street to the hotel, Stiles was not so drunk that he couldn’t tell someone was following him. He was pretty sure it was O’Donnell, but he didn’t know why the man didn’t make himself known. At the front desk of the hotel, Stiles stopped to tell the night man to wake him at six. That would give him time to dress, eat a bite, and be at the stagecoach office on time. He bid the man good night and took the stairs to his room. As he turned the key in the lock, a hard body pressed against him, forcing him flat against the door.
Whiskey-scented breath wafted across his cheek and O’Donnell’s deep voice whispered in his ear, “I believe we have one more thing to discuss, Mr. Long.”
To view the Book Trailer, click HERE