MONTANA BOUNTY HUNTERS: Authentic Men… Real Adventures…
Former Marine “Wolf” Patterson is working with a team of MBH bounty hunters in the densely forested Kootenai Forest to bring in one Reese Tobin, a man wanted for arson, who escaped from jail just before his trial. When Wolf catches up to him, Tobin draws a gun, telling Wolf he can’t return to lock-up or he’s a dead man. Just as one of his teammates is about to lunge toward Tobin to take him down, a shot rings out, and Reese is dead.
Former Army Military Police Officer, now Deputy, Meg Henry, was the officer who arrested Tobin, and nothing about that night sat right since. After hearing he was killed, she heads to Kootenai, hoping to talk to the men who were with him last, hoping Tobin told them something that might help her figure out the mystery surrounding him. Because handsome bounty hunter, Wolf, was the last to talk to Tobin, Meg offers Wolf a ride back to the sheriff’s department. They barely begin their conversation when they find themselves running for their lives. Meg doesn’t know who to trust, but she instinctively trusts the tall, intensely attractive Wolf. Together, they work to unravel the mystery while staying one step ahead of someone who wants them both dead.
Read an Excerpt
It was noon on day two after guards at the Kalispell Detention Center noted that one of their inmates was missing. While an alphabet soup of law enforcement agencies combed Kalispell and the surrounding area, the bounty hunters of Montana Bounty Hunters were deep in the Koontenai National Forest.
With a hundred-thousand-dollar reward on the line, Wolf Patterson’s boss, Fetch Winter, the owner of the small bounty hunting agency, wasn’t leaving anything to chance. Every hunter in the Kalispell office had been scrambled to bring in Reese Tobin, an arsonist who’d managed to escape days before his trial.
The previous afternoon, a stolen truck left beside the highway was their first big break. The team’s new tracking dog, Taco, alerted, confirming Tobin had been there, and the chase was on.
After setting up camp the previous night, they’d slept wrapped in space blankets to await daybreak then continued to follow the experienced survivalist’s trail. With the aid of the team’s dog, they followed him north through rugged, hilly, and heavily forested terrain. They no longer had any doubts concerning Tobin’s intentions. He was making a run for the border.
Wolf knelt to study a smudge on a stone darker than the surrounding rock and sandy grit littering the trail. He touched the stone to his tongue and noted the faint, coppery taste of blood. Didn’t mean a thing unless he found more. When he rose, he looked for more clues that Tobin might be hurt.
Twenty-five paces farther, he found another smudge. This one larger. Without droplets on leaves or the tips of grass, he guessed Tobin’s feet were badly blistered, due no doubt to the flimsy jailhouse slip-ons he still wore. Shouldering his weapon, Wolf moved faster, catching up with Mace, Taco’s handler, who’d halted at the top of a deep ravine.
“His feet are bleeding,” Wolf said.
Mace nodded. “Taco’s nose hasn’t lifted once in the past twenty minutes. Scent’s stronger. We’re close.”
Scrapes sounded behind them, and they turned to watch Fetch and the newest hunter, Bennie Jacobs, approach.
Fetch frowned. “We’re stopped.”
Wolf suppressed a smile. Fetch spoke in few syllables, but still managed to convey a wealth of irritation. Not that he needed words. His salt-and-pepper hair, dark eyebrows, and piercing silver gaze, added to the fact he stood six-feet-six in his socks, were arresting in themselves, but his voice, a deep sandpaper rasp, sent shivers down most people’s spines.
“Tobin’s slowing down,” Mace said. “Wolf says he’s bleeding, and my dog needs a rest.”
“Well, hell.” Fetch glanced up at the thick, gray clouds visible through the green canopy of cottonwood, aspen, and paper birch trees.
Mace dropped to a knee beside his German Shepherd. He pulled a high-protein snack from a pouch on his web belt, fed it to the dog then filled his canteen cup with water. While Taco drank, Mace checked his paws, one at a time, finishing with a pat against his hindquarters.
The rest of the team chowed down on energy bars as Fetch rechecked the map. “Skinny runt’ll make it to the border if we don’t grab him in the next couple of hours.”
Something Sheriff Hatchett had worried about once he’d completed his search of the jail. Tobin had crawled through a ventilation shaft, and then rifled the guards’ locker room for clothing and keys. His absence hadn’t been noted immediately, which told the sheriff Tobin might have had help from someone on the inside. His first call after notifying state troopers had been to Fetch, because he knew his hunters could go places and do things law enforcement couldn’t.
“We’re burnin’ daylight,” Fetch muttered.
Once again, Mace took the lead. He held a baggie containing Tobin’s discarded socks, found in his jail cell, beneath the dog’s nose to refresh the scent, and then pointed toward the trail. “Such!” he said, giving the German command to search.
Taco’s tail wagged, and he moved his snout side to side until he found the trail again, and then he took off like a bullet, scrambling down the side of the ravine, his handler sliding sideways as he gave the dog more leash.
The rest of the team followed, their gazes scanning their surroundings. The guard whose pickup had been stolen reported he’d kept a handgun and a box of bullets in the glove box. A violation that would likely get him fired, since he’d parked in the jail’s parking lot. The weapon hadn’t been recovered when the vehicle was found. Wolf took his shotgun from his shoulder and held it in front of him, ready should the need arise.
They followed the bottom of the ravine for about half a mile, moving swiftly over boulders and fallen tree limbs. A trickle of a stream flowed down the carved-out center of the wash. Not enough to slow them down, but Wolf hoped Tobin had managed to sink his prison slip-ons often enough to give him further discomfort—anything to slow his desperate flight.
Wolf shook his head. While state police, U.S. Marshalls, and FBI agents had begun their efforts hours after Fetch’s men had, law enforcement had the advantage of helicopters and greater manpower to put on Tobin’s trail. The fact no one else was following this particular lead was curious, to say the least. The size of the reward for his capture was also suspect. All that money for a petty arsonist?
Wolf didn’t voice his unease. Fetch wouldn’t want to hear it. He probably had his own list of concerns, but paramount was that reward. Fetch had offered each team member an equal cut of the proceeds.
Taco ran partway up one side of the ravine then hunkered down, his tail held straight behind him, the fur on the ridge of his spine rising.
Wolf, along with every team member, crouched and scanned the ridgeline. Above, in the distance, they heard ragged breathing edged with low whimpers.
Fetch raised one hand and pointed to Wolf, indicating he would be first up the embankment.
Wolf shouldered his weapon, and leaning deep into the steep rise, sought handholds—knotty, exposed tree roots, sharp-edged stones—until he crawled over the edge. With his weapon held in front again, he ran, bent low, toward a thickly branched juniper then went still, listening to the sounds around him.
Only silence surrounded him. Even the birds and insects had stopped their chirps and hums. Then he heard the crackle of pine needles from behind him. He hit the ground, rolled and came up on a knee, with his weapon pointing in the direction the sound had come.
Reese Tobin looked even worse than his mugshot. His greasy brown hair stuck up around his head. His face and clothing were smeared with mud. He’d lost an orange sandal along the way somewhere, and his muddy sock was torn, exposing his bloody toes. All those details registered in Wolf’s mind, but faded in significance to the revolver Tobin held, pointed straight at him.
“Reese,” Wolf said, keeping his voice low and even and his own weapon trained on Tobin’s chest, “you’d better lower that weapon. I’m not alone, and my team’s not going to let you walk out of here, especially if you pull that trigger.”
Wolf heard the crackle of feet moving around the forest floor. They were surrounded. At any moment now, someone was going to drop Tobin in his tracks. Unlike most bounties that required a “live” prisoner be delivered, this reward wasn’t that particular.
Another crackle, and Reese’s wide gaze darted away. Wolf had a shot, but he really didn’t want to hump back all those miles through wilderness, carrying an injured man. So, he waved his shotgun, getting Tobin’s attention back on him, then slowly lay his weapon on the ground and held up his hands. “You’re surrounded, and you’re hurt. We can help you out of here, but you have to lower the gun.”
Tobin’s eyes filled with tears, and he sniffed. “I cain’t go back. I’m a dead man if I do.”
Fetch’s face appeared in a bush behind Tobin.
“Why’s that, Reese?” Wolf said, raising his voice to make sure the man’s attention stayed on him.
“Cain’t tell. I was a dead man if I’d stayed in lockup. Only reason I ran.”
Wolf didn’t like the fact Tobin’s entire body was beginning to shake. “Burning down an abandoned building is a far cry from murder. I don’t think you want to kill me, do you, Reese?”
Reese shook his head.
“I know you feel better holding that gun, but could you take your finger off the trigger?” He offered him a small smile. “Makes me a bit nervous.”
Reese looked around. “I will…if you come closer. We’re gonna take a walk. I promise you won’t be hurt, but I have to get across that border, man.”
Wolf nodded and slowly stood. He took two steps closer then looked down at Reese’s hand. His finger slid from the trigger to stretch alongside the side of the cylinder.
Seeing Fetch begin to emerge from behind a tree, Wolf gave an exaggerated sigh. “So, you want to take a walk…”
Fetch sprang toward Reese’s back as Wolf flung himself to the side. A shot rang out before Fetch and Reese fell to the ground.
The report echoed through Wolf’s body. What the hell just happened?
The rest of the team sped into the clearing, weapons drawn.
Wolf pushed up and rushed toward Fetch, who was sliding off Tobin and turning him over.
A bullet hole sat square in the middle of Reese Tobin’s forehead.
“Not my gun,” Fetch bit out, still bent over Tobin’s body. “Not his. This is a small caliber round.”
Realization sobered every man in an instant. They turned to face outward, scanning the forest.
“I’m pretty sure the shot came from the direction we just came,” Bennie said, his voice tight.
Mace glanced at Fetch, who gave him a nod. He unclipped the leash attached to his dog’s collar. “Taco, voraus!” Mace said, his arm extending in the direction of the ravine. The dog streaked forward, his nose raised, scenting the air. Mace followed.
Fetch pushed up from the ground. “Bennie, pull his body into the trees and keep watch.”
Wolf followed on fetch’s heels, and they crashed through the forest, following the dog. Taco came to the ravine again, and then ran along the edge, nose to the ground, searching left and right, but finding no trail.
Fetch let out a low string of curses.
Obviously, whoever had fired, wasn’t in it for the reward, and they hadn’t hung around. They’d done the job. Ended Tobin’s life. Wolf recalled the firebug’s words. He’d been afraid even before he’d escaped.
“Mace, call off your dog. Shooter’s long gone. We better get back to Bennie,” Fetch said. “Gonna have to radio the sheriff and have him call in a chopper to airlift the body.”
Wolf’s fists curled at his sides. Reese Tobin hadn’t deserved to die like that. “About what he said…”
Fetch’s mouth tightened. “We’ll make our statements. It’s not our job to find out what the hell spooked him.” He unhooked his satellite phone from the harness of his web gear and walked away to make the call.
Back in the small clearing, Mace, Benny and Wolf set up a perimeter, facing outward in case the shooter returned, although Wolf highly doubted that would happen. This wasn’t random. Not someone killing for the thrill of it. The shot was too good.
Twenty minutes later, the whomp-whomp of a helicopter could be heard. Walking downwind, Wolf popped a smoke canister and set it on the ground. The yellow smoke would lead the pilot to their location. When it hovered above them, a basket was dropped. Tobin’s body rose slowly to the helicopter.
Fetch gave the crew above a wave then turned to his men. “Damn shame about Tobin, but we’ve got a long hike back, boys. No letting down our guard now. There’s a shooter in these woods.”