In honor of Halloween, a little “Skeleton” seemed appropriate!
The Skeleton Canyon Treasure
When Camille Dagneau surprises a strange man in the college machine shop she runs, she is ready for battle. Ryan MacAllister seems equally suspicious of her, but he insists he’s merely looking for his missing uncle, who has disappeared while hunting for a lost treasure. He believes Camie is the key to finding the treasure, and his uncle. But Camie – beautiful, brilliant, and prickly – isn’t about to trust this oversized geologist, or the attraction she feels.
Following the clues in the missing man’s journal will take Camie, Ryan, and the cat Tiger on a trail through New Mexico and Arizona. They’ll visit the Tombstone graveyard at night, uncover clues in museums, and ultimately wind up in Skeleton Canyon, where rumor says nineteenth-century cowboy bandits secreted their treasure in a cave. To rescue Ryan’s uncle, they’ll face steep cliffs, twisty tunnels, and worse dangers in human form, but trusting each other may be the biggest challenge. And they’re running out of time….
Excerpt: In this scene, the team discusses the legendary treasure:
Ryan held a small, leather-bound notebook, turning it over and over in his hands. “Does anyone here know anything about the Skeleton Canyon treasure?” he asked.
“I looked it up as soon as Camie told us the name,” Erin said. She grabbed a book from the coffee table and flipped through it as she spoke. “Skeleton Canyon is in southeastern Arizona, near the New Mexico border. But the treasure came from Mexico.” She frowned. “Lost treasure stories usually involve some pain and death, but this one seems excessive.”
“No honor among thieves,” Ryan said.
“Right,” Erin agreed. “It started with Mexican bandits, the Estrada gang, who looted banks and churches in Monterey, Mexico. Gold bars, diamonds, gold statues – millions in treasure according to some stories. Other researchers say no way, there’s no record of that kind of heist in Monterey. Whatever they got, the gang tried to smuggle it into the U.S. through Skeleton Canyon, loaded on mules.”
Ryan nodded. “But a gang of Arizona bandits, weird name–”
Erin glanced at the book. “The Curly Bill Brocious Gang.”
“Yep. One of them heard about the Mexican gang’s plan. They set up an ambush.”
Rebecca murmured, “I take it these weren’t good guys playing Robin Hood.”
“No way,” Erin said. “Not good guys, and not an especially good plan either. They shot the Mexicans off their horses. Horses and mules scattered. To stop the mules from running away with the treasure, the Americans shot the mules.”
“During that fiasco, some of the treasure got scattered around the canyon,” Ryan commented. “That’s probably why a few random coins have been found.”
Camie wondered if he was annoyed by Erin taking over some of the explanation. Apparently the treasure part of his story was true – or at least as true as any of these legends. If he’d planned to fudge the details, Erin’s quick research had killed that option. But if he’d planned to fake things, he’d have been better off faking the whole treasure, not using one that had been reported in books and on the Internet.
He seemed relaxed enough as he went on. “The American bandits now have the treasure, but no mules to transport it. So they bury it.”
“Most of it,” Erin corrected. “They allegedly divided up some of it and took it with them.”
“And never got around to coming back for the rest?” Sam asked.
Erin gave a sly smile. “It’s much more dramatic than that. Two members of the gang–” She glanced down at her book. “Zwing Hunt and Billy Grounds – decided to double-cross the others. They hired a Mexican who had a team of horses, went back to the canyon and moved the treasure, and then killed the Mexican.”
“Wait, so the treasure isn’t even in Skeleton Canyon anymore?” Camie asked. “Assuming it ever existed?”
“They moved it to another spot in the canyon, or at least nearby.” Ryan met her gaze and smiled. “Assuming it ever existed. Some self-proclaimed experts claim it must be within a day’s ride of the original ambush spot. Hunt and Grounds hid out in a cave in the canyon for months, but eventually they were killed by a sheriff’s posse.”
When Erin opened her mouth, Ryan held up a hand to forestall her. “Fine, one of them was killed right away and one was badly wounded, if that matters. The injured one supposedly made a map before he died.”
“Which of course disappeared, if it ever existed,” Erin said. “The treasure itself may not even be real. Or it could’ve been small enough that they divided it up at the beginning without burying anything.”
“Hunting it seems like a waste of time,” Camie said.
Ryan shrugged. “That’s not really my concern. “I’m not trying to find the treasure, I’m trying to find my uncle.”
Was he protesting too much? Something about buried treasure gave even the mildest people – of whom Ryan was certainly not one – dreams of swashbuckling adventures. For some it was the fortune, for others the idea of being the one to solve a century-old mystery. Ryan’s ambivalence was in itself suspicious.
Camie leaned forward. “So what exactly do you want from us?”
Ryan held up the notebook. “This is what my uncle sent me. It has the list of clues and notes that got me this far. I’m sharing it in a gesture of good faith. I want to follow his trail and find him.” He grimaced, as if he didn’t like what was coming. “And I need help.”
If you love suspense and romance, don’t miss this gripping adventure! The Southwest Treasure Hunters novels include The Mad Monk’s Treasure and The Dead Man’s Treasure. Each novel stands alone in this series mixing action, adventure, and romance.
“The Skeleton Canyon Treasure is a light, breezy action/adventure/romance that’s perfect for summer reading.”
“A great mystery, love story, and search for a treasure.”
Visit all the Book Hooks from #MFRWHooks – You might find your next great read!
Kris Bock writes romantic suspense novels set in dramatic Southwestern landscapes. Whispers in the Dark brings a gothic drama to an archaeology dig at ancient Southwest ruins. In What We Found, a young woman’s life swiftly changes when she finds a murder victim in the woods. In Counterfeits, an artist heads back to the children’s art camp she once knew well – but danger awaits.
The Mad Monk’s Treasure follows the hunt for a legendary treasure in the New Mexico desert. In The Dead Man’s Treasure, estranged relatives must follow a series of complex clues in a competition to locate a buried treasure. In The Skeleton Canyon Treasure, reader favorites Camie and Tiger the cat help a mysterious man track down his missing uncle. Each book stands alone, with no cliffhangers.