HAUNTED BORDER by Patrick Dearen - Excerpt

Haunted Border is based on a long-lost voice recording with a survivor of the true-life Brite Ranch Raid of 1917.

Haunted Border by Patrick Dearen

Haunted Border

On December 25, 1870, young Jake Graves faced a frightful choice: allow Comanches to carry off his sister, or shoot her. Unwilling to fire, he has been tortured ever since by the brutal end that he could have spared her.

The incident bred in him a hatred for Indians that has continued to this Christmas Day of 1917 on the Cross C Ranch on the Texas-Mexico border, a region embroiled in a Mexican revolution that has spawned lawless factions. Now Jake comes up against not only the news that his daughter Dru wants to marry Cross C foreman Nub DeJarnett—who is half Apache—but also a raid by Mexican bandits.

When the raiders threaten to carry Dru and her cousin Ruthie away, Jake faces again an impossible choice down the sights of his carbine. The real culprit is the bandit leader Rentería, a ruthless killer who may be a tlehuelpuchi—a shape-shifting agent of evil who needs human blood to survive.

With two disreputable neighbors and a Mexican youth who lost his family to the reputed tlehuelpuchi, Jake and Nub give chase on horseback. From a desert teeming with mystery to the devil’s cave, the journey takes them deep into tlehuelpuchi mythology, for Rentería is convinced that Dru is his reincarnated sister and plans to kill her at the Rio Grande where his sister became his first victim.

Haunted Border is based on a long-lost voice recording with a survivor of the true-life Brite Ranch Raid of 1917.


In the author's words . . .

I'm intrigued by historic events in West Texas, particularly those surrounding the impact of the Mexican Revolution on American interests. On Christmas Day, 1917, 45 riders attacked Brite Ranch 140 miles southeast of El Paso. This raid inspired Haunted Border. My most important source is a 1960s taped speech by Lela Weatherby, who lived through the raid as a 15-year-old. This recently discovered recording is now in the N.S. Haley Memorial Library in Midland, Texas.

Enjoy an Excerpt from

Haunted Border

He captured her in his sights, and his finger closed on the trigger.

“Shoot her!”

Down the shining barrel of his Sharp’s carbine, sixteen-year-old Jake Graves could see the front sight sway against blue calico. He could feel the walnut stock in his cheek as the butt plate pushed against his shoulder. He was strangely aware of the stock’s forward end in his supporting left hand, a position that allowed him an unburdened grip behind the breech lever and cocked hammer. But no sensation dominated like the trigger’s smooth curvature against his finger.

“You got to shoot her!”

A thousand times, Jake had shouldered the carbine and looked down the twenty-two-inch barrel, but never had seven pounds of wood trimmed with brass seemed as heavy as it did on this Christmas morning. With a mere twitch, everything would spring into motion: The hammer would snap forward, the muzzle would flash fire, and a .52-caliber slug would explode between the calico-draped shoulders of his red-haired sister.

Maybe it was something that had to be done, even to a fourteen-year-old, but the trigger stayed frozen, Jake’s forefinger refusing to obey.

“For God’s sake, do it! Do it!”

From beside him on the porch of their homestead in the live oak country of Mason County, Texas, his widowed mother continued to plead, and her cries followed Jake across forty-seven years to this Christmas dawn of 1917 at Cross C headquarters in the Chihuahuan Desert of far West Texas.

He sat on a mesquite woodpile on the hard-packed grounds near the main residence, an L-shaped adobe structure under Capote ridge’s low north end. The lofty roof hid the bare ridge’s higher summits, a dozen bony knobs rising progressively with their southward trend, but past the corner post of the covered porch he could see Capote’s two foothill cones side by side against the glowing east sky.

Jake twisted the bottom of his tin cup in his palm. The warmth felt good on this chilly morning, and the coffee’s aroma should have been inviting. But all Jake wanted to do was stare at that pre-sunrise sky, its red bands as stark as his sister’s red hair had been against calico.

She was there, all right, a haunting presence in the dawn. For decades, as Jake had cowboyed and flashed a Ranger’s badge and, for the past few years, ridden the nearby border as a U.S. Customs mounted inspector, he had sometimes managed to submerge the memories. But now, awakening aimless on his first day of forced retirement, he felt troubled as he hadn’t since he had fled Mason County at age seventeen.

If this was the way the rest of Jake’s life was to be, he wasn’t sure he cared to live it.

At least he would spend Christmas with his wife Annie, and their grown daughter, Drucilla, something that his law enforcement duties had not always let him do. Away to the north-northwest at Vieja Pass barely twenty-four hours ago, he had handed over his customs badge and struck out on horseback to meet them here at Cross C headquarters, a hard day’s ride through the high-desert valley below the Rim. Annie had arrived a couple of days before, courtesy of a standing invitation from her sister and brother-in-law, who owned the Cross C’s. They were in Arizona for the holiday, but their daughter had stayed behind with Drucilla—or “Dru,” as Jake called her—at Marfa, thirty-five miles east of headquarters.

Dru’s arrival at the ranch had been delayed by her clerking duties at the mercantile store in Marfa, a town on the Southern Pacific where she still lived with Annie—and with Jake when he was around. If Dru boarded the afternoon train to Valentine as scheduled, she and her cousin could make the ride on to the ranch in time for Christmas supper. When Jake had learned of the plans during his last stay in Marfa, he had resisted the idea of the girls traveling alone, but Colonel George T. Langhorne at Camp Marfa had assured him that the road between Valentine and the Cross C’s would be safe.

Now if Jake could only escape the memories of his sister.

End of Excerpt

Excerpt Copyright © Patrick Dearen


The Author

Author Patrick Dearen

Winner of the prestigious Spur Award of Western Writers of America, Patrick Dearen is the author of twenty-five books. His ten nonfiction works include "A Cowboy of the Pecos;" "Castle Gap and the Pecos Frontier, Revisited;" and "The Last of the Old-Time Cowboys." His research has led to fifteen novels, including his Spur Award winner, "The Big Drift." His other novels include "When Cowboys Die" (A Spur Award finalist), "Perseverance," "When the Sky Rained Dust," "The Illegal Man," "To Hell or the Pecos," "Dead Man’s Boot," and "Apache Lament."

A wilderness enthusiast and ragtime pianist, Dearen lives with his wife Mary in Texas.

Learn more at patrickdearen.com.


Genre: Western

Type: Novel

Publisher: Five Star Publishing

Publication Date: April 1, 2021

Content Rating: PG-13 (2)

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