Riches to Rags Copyright © 2010 by Terry Wright
All rights reserved. No part of this story (eBook) may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or book reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidences are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, events, or locals is entirely coincidental.
Published by TWB Press Edited by Bobette Ames For more information visit www.terrywrightbooks.com
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Riches to Rags Justin Graves Series, Book 4
By Terry Wright
A new kind of justice is coming.
Texas Ranger Justin Graves and his juvenile-delinquent daughter, Christy, are dead, both murdered by her drug-dealer boyfriend, Billy Denton. Justin blames himself for her life of drugs and prostitution, so he makes a deal with the devil to save her soul: one hundred bad guys in exchange for her pardon from hell. Now, in his rotting corpse, he returns from the grave to deliver the souls of killers who got away with murder.
Surrounded by the warm glow of the afterlife, Mrs. Templeton sat in her favorite rocker and stroked Ginger, the longhaired white cat curled in her lap. Though the light supplied everything she needed in this serene domain, her soul felt like a lump of burnt coal. She missed her husband, Wally, who’d died fifteen years ago. He’d left her a fortune, so much money she couldn’t have spent it all in ten lifetimes, even if she’d tried. As it turned out, that money had become the root of her despair. Ginger purred. Mrs. Templeton understood the rules. As long as she harbored hatred in her heart and the burning desire for revenge, she would not be allowed to cross over to everlasting peace and happiness. She could not be reunited with Wally until she let go of her hate. Let go of everything earthly. Let go of the good that her favorite charity could have done with the money. The light began to shimmer. A visitor was approaching. Her ethereal heartbeat stuttered. She was about to meet with her last chance for redemption. One man possessed the power to set her soul to rest. Justin Graves. In a dazzling display of radiance, a man materialized from the white light.
His cowboy hat shaded a clean-shaven face and chiseled good looks. A circle-star badge glistened from the left lapel of his long brown coat, and she detected the fragrance of Stetson cologne. If a saddled horse had clomped up behind him, she wouldn’t have been surprised. Smiling at the man, Mrs. Templeton offered him a chair, which appeared from the light with a sweep of her hand. “I’m so glad you could come, Justin.” “You’re looking well.” He tipped his hat and sat down facing her. A cup of steaming tea materialized, which he set in the palm of his hand. “Thank you, ma’am.” “No trouble at all.” Meow. “Ginger says hello.” Justin tipped his cowboy hat to Ginger. “How can I help you, Mrs. Templeton?” He sipped his tea, even held his little pinky up properly. Mrs. Templeton felt comfortable in the presence of this handsome man in spite of their age difference. She could have chosen to look twenty again, with flowing blond hair and the long legs of a goddess, the bronzed and blue-eyed beauty of her youth. But remembering those days, her insecurities and flightiness, how naïve she was back then, she’d opted for glimmering silver hair and pure white skin still wrinkled with the wisdom of her years. Her short stature and upright posture made her feel like royalty sitting with Justin as he sipped his tea. “Wally and I used to have tea every afternoon at four o’clock,” she said, feeling a twinge of déjà vu. Justin set his cup on his knee. “I’m a little pressed for time, ma’am. I...” “Now, Justin,” she cut in, “I know all about you. The light has told me everything. You’re in a rush to get Billy Denton’s soul for the devil.”
Justin’s good looks took on a hard edge. “I don’t want him breathing one more day than necessary.” “His time of reckoning will come.” “I’m afraid he’s going to escape that rinky-dink jail...” “Take the advice of a wise old lady.” She stroked Ginger’s fine white hair. “Let sleeping dogs lie, get a good cat, and cross over to your wife. She’s waiting.” “You should take your own advice.” “I know what you’re going through, Justin. I can’t cross over either. If it wasn’t for Ginger...” Tears shined in her eyes. “I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. That horrible, horrible man, what he did to me. I can’t shake my contempt for him.” Justin nodded. “We all have our Billy Dentons.” “Mine is Dwaine DuBois. I trusted him with my financial affairs. He stole my inheritance and left me for dead in a state-run nursing home, buried me in a pine box, in a pauper’s grave. I don’t even have a headstone, Justin.” “I’m sorry,” he said and sipped tea. “What’s worse than that...” A tissue materialized from the light. Mrs. Templeton dabbed her eyes. “He doesn’t like cats.” “Cats mean a lot to you?” “The money he stole was supposed to go to Kitty Rescue. Sarah Wells, she’s my hero. Now her organization is suffering because of that conman.” She waved her hand at the light. “See for yourself.” The glow parted and revealed a scene in the land of the living.
*** Sarah got down on her knees and scrubbed the concrete floor. Hungry cats
meowed from their cages, which she’d stacked floor to ceiling along the walls of this dingy, once-abandoned garage. She dunked the brush in the bucket of soapy water and scrubbed some more. The cats kept begging to be fed, but there wasn’t any food. Sweat trickled down her cheeks. She had a lot of work to do, and the only help she had, Linda, was late. Or maybe she wasn’t coming in at all. Normally, she was very dependable, an unusual quality for a teenage girl with boys on her mind. However, volunteer or not, she should have called and told her she wasn’t coming in. A lock of hair fell across Sarah’s left eye. She stopped scrubbing long enough to hook it behind her ear. Her twenty-five-year-old body felt achy and stiff, and her knees throbbed. She surveyed the dirty floor she hadn’t yet tackled. It might as well have been the size of a football field. Four years ago, this rundown old building was the best she could find for the money, which lately had become as scarce as a good man. Since Mrs. Templeton died, donations had dwindled. The rent was late. The food supplies were gone. Sarah’s dream of saving the lost and abandoned cats of the world was crumbling around her. Hot tears stung her eyes. The phone rang. Sarah gathered her composure. Maybe it was Linda calling. What excuse did she have for not showing up? Sarah struggled to her feet and dropped the brush into the bucket. The loose lock of hair fell again. She answered the phone. “Kitty Rescue.” A man’s voice came over the line. “My wife’s cat is missing,” he said in a rush. “Black and white with a diamond-studded collar. Name’s Missy. Would you
happen to have her there?” Sarah’s mind shuffled through her inventory of unfortunate felines. Nothing fit Missy’s description, and she’d certainly have remembered a diamond collar. “When did she turn up missing?” “Last night.” “She’ll probably return on her own.” “My wife is worried. We were just hoping...” “Perhaps you should check the pound.” “If those bastards euthanized her... Oh, God! If I’m too late, my wife will never forgive me.” “You’d better call them right away,” Sarah said. “Thanks.” “Could you send us...” The line clicked dead. “...a donation?” The door buzzer sounded. Someone had entered the front room. Sarah set down the phone and hurried out to the counter, expecting Linda, but her heart fell into her stomach when she saw Lou Ralston, her landlord. He looked mad enough to spit kitty litter. “Where’s my rent money, Sarah? I can’t wait any longer.” “I’m trying...” “You’re not trying hard enough.” “Public service is threatening to turn off my power. I have to pay them first. “You have to pay me first or I’ll throw you and all them damn cats out in the street! You got that?” Tears started to flow again. “Please, Mr. Ralston...” The buzzer went off. Sarah shifted her attention to the front door. Linda was dragging something in. A bag of dog food?
“Sorry I’m late,” she said, wheezing. “I had to stop by the pet store. My mom talked them into donating some food.” Sarah wiped a tear from her cheek. “But it’s dog chow.” “We can soak it. Mash it up. It’ll be all right.” Sarah stood flabbergasted as Linda shuffled her booty into the backroom. Mr. Ralston wagged a stiff finger at Sarah. “You can’t even afford to feed them cats?” “Things are really tight right now.” “I couldn’t care less...” The buzzer buzzed again. Both Ralston and Sarah turned to the door. Wearing summer dresses, a young woman and a little girl stood in the doorway, both red-eyed from crying. The child held a brown and white calico cat in her arms. “Oh, dear,” Sarah said. “What’s the matter?” “This is Sammy.” The little girl whimpered. “He needs a new home.” “But, honey...” “My baby sister gets sick.” The young woman stepped forward, eyes cast down as if she were ashamed to be standing there. “You see...my newborn is allergic to cats. She breaks out in hives and can’t breathe. We need you to take him. He’s really quite gentle and loves to play.” “But I can’t take any more cats.” “Please find Sammy a new home,” the little girl cried. “Don’t you see? We don’t have any more room...” Sarah’s tears rolled out again. Mother knelt to her child, and with both hands on her little shoulders, she
looked into her eyes. “I’m sorry, baby. Sammy will have to go to the pound.” “No, Mommy, no! They’ll put him to sleep.” Now the child was bawling. Sarah couldn’t stand the heartbreak any longer. “Okay. I’ll take him. I’ll take Sammy.” Now everybody was bawling, except Mr. Ralston. He looked like he was going to pop. “You have to be kidding!” “We’ll work something out.” Sarah took Sammy from the little girl. “Thank you for saving him,” she said. Mother and daughter left the building in tears. “Linda!” Sarah called out and wiped her eyes on her sleeve. Linda appeared from the backroom. “You rang?” Sarah handed her the cat. “Find a place for Sammy.” “But where...?” “Put him in with Slinky. They’ll get along fine.” “If you say so.” Linda took Sammy to join the ranks of the unwanted. “You are nuts,” Mr. Ralston bellowed. Sarah held her chin up high. “If I were rich like you, I’d have Kitty Rescue shelters all across the country.” Mr. Ralston grumped and stormed out...
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About the Author, Terry Wright There’s nothing mundane in the writing world of Terry Wright. He thrives on adrenaline. Tension, conflict and suspense propel his readers through the pages as if they were on fire. Published in Science Fiction and Supernatural, his mastery of the action thriller has won him International acclaim as an accomplished screenplay writer. A longtime member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, he runs their annual Colorado Gold Writing Contest. Terry lives near Denver with his wife, Bobette, and a Yorkie named Ginger, who is really the boss of the family. Learn more about Terryʹs books, short stories, and screenplays at terrywrightbooks.com.
Enjoy reading Terry’s other short stories and novels: The 13th Power (Gardenia Press, 2001) Trade paperback novel from TWB Press, Amazon Science Fiction Thriller Scientists are building bigger and faster particle accelerators to smash atom into smaller pieces. They are looking for the Higgs boson, The God Particle. What if they find it? The Gates of Hell ( New Line Press, 2010) Justin Graves Series, Book 1 eBook and Kindle short story Supernatural Thriller When Justin Graves and his daughter are murdered, he makes a deal with the devil to save her soul: one hundred bad guys for her pardon from hell.
Night Stalker (New Line Press, 2010) Justin Graves Series, Book 2 eBook and Kindle short story Supernatural Thriller Justin Graves goes after a night stalker who killed a young bride on her wedding night and got away with the murder.
Black Widow (New Line Press,2010) Justin Graves Series, Book 3 eBook and Kindle short story Justin Graves seeks out a beautiful woman who kills her lovers. She’s every man’s dream date, but don’t disappoint her...or else! Z‐motors, The Job from Hell (New Line Press, 2010) eBook and Kindle short story Horror In this satire on zombies in the workplace, the dark side of the auto repair business is exposed, and a mechanic’s quest to overcome unemployment leads his family down a disastrous path.
The Duplication Factor (Essential10 Publishers, 2010) eBook novel and Kindle Science Fiction Thriller Speculation has it, in scientific circles and the press, that in some secret lab somewhere, a human has already been cloned. The truth is there were two clones, a corporate tycoon and a mass murderer. The consequences were horrific.