Rocky Mountain Lawman - By Rachel Lee


Buddy Jackson sat at the fancy dining table his great-grandmother had carted out here from back east almost a century ago, a table that looked out of place amidst the mostly rough-hewn surroundings of the cabin his grandfather had built and his family had added to over the years.

His wife and kids were out tending the garden as they should be. The growing season here was short, and there was no time to waste.

Across from him sat Cap MacDonald, a guy he’d met last year at a gathering of “Preppers,” as they called themselves, people who were preparing either for the collapse of society or the end of the world. All of them, of course, assumed that they would survive the cataclysm. Buddy had no doubt of it; he was living in the middle of nowhere. Little could reach him here on his mountainside.

But Cap had somewhat different ideas, and they appealed to Buddy. Cap didn’t just want to survive, he wanted to win. To be in control afterward. What’s more, he made a good argument for self-protection and keeping the parasites out after the troubles started.

Cap had even grander ideas, though. Buddy had been prepping for a long time, and sometimes he got tired of waiting for the moment that would prove the brilliance of his foresight. Cap wasn’t prepared to wait. He spoke of how it was their job to bring it all about.

That sounded okay to Buddy most of the time, and the fact that Cap was pulling together a small militia didn’t seem like a problem. If the revolution was coming anyway, what was the point of waiting for it?

But something was bothering him now.

“You heard,” he said to Cap, “about that hiker they found dead about four miles from here?”

Cap shook his head. His hands were busy cleaning the AR-15 he always carried. “What about him?”

“He was dead.”

Cap shrugged. “People die out here in the wilderness. You aren’t stupid, Buddy.”

“No.” Buddy dropped it, but he didn’t stop thinking about it. He knew Cap took his guys out to walk through the national forest that surrounded his land on three sides. Nothing wrong in that. But he also had figured out that Cap was capable of killing. That was one thing Buddy didn’t know about himself, and he’d been glad to have someone join him who wouldn’t hesitate to defend the compound if necessary.

But surely that didn’t extend to some hiker wandering around in the woods? Of course not.

After a minute or two, he finally stopped thinking about it. The revolution hadn’t begun yet, and Cap couldn’t have had any reason to hurt a hiker, one who wasn’t even prowling this property.

No reason at all. Must have just been an accident.

Chapter 1

Skylar Jamison sat near the top of a rise with a gorgeous view of a narrow river valley below and the soaring face of the Wyoming Rockies ahead of her. Fields of wildflowers in brilliant reds and yellows dotted the grassy slope where she sat, and she could see them in the valley below, as well as in patches on the mountains.

From here she beheld a vast panorama of beautiful nature mostly unmarred by human presence.

That’s why she’d come here. She needed to refresh herself, rediscover her joy in painting after a bad breakup. The pristine wilderness of the national forest around her washed away the sludge that seemed to have mired her heart and soul.

She sat on the grasses on a paint-splattered lightweight tarp. Before her was a small easel holding a canvas on which she had daubed some of the incredible colors around her. Beside her lay a box of oil paints, some rags and a small plastic bottle of citrus cleaner for her brushes. When she was done for the day, she’d wrap her brushes in a cleaner-soaked rag and plastic until she returned to her motel room and could rinse them. On the other side of her was a camera with several lenses. Painting outdoors might inspire her creativity, but the light changed swiftly, and when it was especially good she’d snap photos to capture it, so that she’d have a visual reminder for working later.

Up here, despite it being summer, the air was a bit chilly, and she had wrapped herself in an old sweater she didn’t mind ruining with paint. The quiet breeze tickled her cheeks and occasionally rustled the grasses around her, a great background to her rambling thoughts.

A fluffy cloud blocked the sun temporarily, changing the light drastically,