The Sanctuary Series
Welcome To The Sanctuary Series
“The Sanctuary won the Bronze Medal award from the 2021 Global Book Awards competition.”
This series introduces you to Phil Branson, hotshot troubleshooter for a large retirement community corporation headquartered in Chicago. In the initial installment Phil is assigned to a troubled facility in Billings, Montana, as he tries to unravel all the knots left by the previous administrator, including a wrongful death buried to avoid scandal and financial ruin. To make matters worse, he discovers that one of his residents is actually in the Witness Protection Program, hiding out from a
New York City crime family, bent on revenge for his damning court testimony three years earlier. But the adventure doesn’t stop there, as you follow Phil Branson in Book II to Hollywood, where is fiancée has just been nominated for a Golden Globe award. The pressure of fame and fans is more than Phil bargained for, and he is about to walk out on the love of his life until a chance intervention with one of his residents may just save his romance.
The Sanctuary Series
Book 1: The Sanctuary
The Sanctuary won the Bronze Medal award from the 2021 Global Book Awards competition.
After testifying against a New York crime family, Vincent Wallace enters the Federal Witness Protection Program, taking refuge in The Sanctuary, a large but mismanaged retirement community in Montana. Aware of its troubled history, the home office transfers Phil Branson, their best troubleshooting manager, to get the property back on its feet. But Phil quickly discovers far more than he bargained for, as he is shocked to learn that one of his residents is targeted for death by the Giovani crime family, and the clock is ticking. The searchers have finally located their target. Assassins are closing in on The Sanctuary, and death is about to knock on its door. It’s got everything you look for in a great read – danger, romance, light-hearted humor – all happening inside a large, swanky retirement community. Check it out on Amazon in both paperback and e-book versions.
The Sanctuary Ch. 4 Audio Sample
In late April, Phil peered out the window of his commuter plane as it banked north for final approach. Beneath him lay Billings, Montana, a modest community along the Yellowstone River, surrounded by an immense untamed wilderness. Despite its unassuming footprint, Billings ranked as the largest city in the state, with over three times the population as Helena, the state capital. The plane taxied to the gate as the flight attendant welcomed everyone to Montana.
“You’re kidding,” he thought, as he disembarked. He counted eight gates along the concourse – eight. “Orlando must have 80 gates,” he thought. He did appreciate the short walk to baggage claim – no trams, shuttles, or human conveyor belts. He collected his bag and headed for the exit door and the taxi stand. A lady holding a sign reading “Welcome Phil Branson” stood next to the information booth.
“I’m Phil Branson.”
“I’m Annie Belmont.”
“Are you the welcoming committee?”
“Yeah. I’m the office manager for The Sanctuary. I’m here to pick you up.” She looked to be in her late-30s, trim figure, sharply dressed, with a smile like you’d been away too long. She didn’t quite have Bette Davis eyes, but they were striking anyway. Her sandy brown hair extended to just above her shoulders, pulled back behind her ears to offer full view to her modest ear rings.
“Well, thank you. I was just getting ready to hail a taxi.” Annie looked him over.
“First things first – do you own a cowboy hat?” she asked.
“Then, we’re going shopping,” she smiled.
“We are?” Phil said. “This won’t pass inspection?”
“Not in this town. I’m not going to let you embarrass yourself on your first day.” She walked him to the Chevy Suburban in the parking lot.
“This is a company car – it will be yours as long as you’re here,” Annie said. They loaded his luggage and drove into town.
“We’ve got a manager’s apartment on the 3rd floor ready for you. End of the hallway. Two bed, two bath. Balcony. Nice view.”
They pulled into Lou Taubert Ranch Outfitters, a Billings tradition for western wear since 1919. When they walked in the door, Annie gave Luke, the store manager, a wave.
“How ya doin’, Annie?” Luke called out.
“Got a customer for ya,” she said, pointing to Phil. “You need to set him up, top to bottom – hat, shirt, wranglers, belt, and boots. Gotta make him look like a local.”
“We can do that.” He turned to Phil. “What’s your budget?” Phil shrugged his shoulders.
“Whatever it takes.”
“OK – let’s get to it.”
An hour and $1,250 later, Phil looked like a native Montanan. He wore a Stetson like Gus McCrae, in ‘Lonesome Dove’. They even aged it a bit to give it that worn look, not stiff and shiny like a city slicker. He rocked a cobalt blue western shirt, wranglers, Lucchese boots, and a corduroy blazer coat. He checked himself out in the three-way mirror.
“Now you’re talkin’,” Annie said. “You look dangerous – and I mean that in a good way,” she said with a wink. They got back in the Suburban.
“Where you from?’ Annie asked.
“Orlando,” Phil said.
“I’ve never been there,” Annie confessed.
“That’s OK. We’re even, ‘cause I’ve never been to Billings.”
“You here for the duration, or are you just the fix-it man?”
“Why do you ask?” Phil said.
“Well, you came alone, like you don’t plan on staying.”
“I’m not married.”
“Well, if you let it, this place will grow on you.”
“Are you from here?” Phil said.
“Born and raised.”
“You ever been out of Montana?”
“I lived in LA for three years.”
“Yeah – I was gonna be an actress. Waitressing by night, casting calls by day.”
“How’d it go?”
“I got my name out there. Things looked like they were starting to break my way, bit parts, you know. Directors were getting to know me, and sooner or later there’s going to be that special role and they’re gonna think of me. That’s how it works.”
“But you’re here now?” Phil said.
“Yep. LA didn’t work out. Anyway, back to business – the day shift is waiting for us. They were hoping we could have a short little meet ‘n greet,” Annie said. “Is that OK with you?”
“For sure. I’d like that,” Phil said.
They pulled into the parking lot of The Sanctuary, an impressive three-story retirement community with a large porte-cochere, extensive landscaping, and heavily wooded forest buffering the community from the open range to the rear. Phil approved.
“This looks nice,” he said. “Why would a place like this be in trouble?” he thought to himself. They parked in the administrator’s reserved parking space, the nearest slot to the front door. He shook his head as he got out of the car.
The gathering met in the central dining room in the afternoon. Everyone was in uniform, looking their best – kitchen, housekeeping, office, maintenance, activities, personal care, and marketing – about 40 in all. Phil stepped to the front.
“I want to say thank-you to everybody for the nice welcome. And I’ll tell you, I like what I see here. You all look sharp. I’m going to get to know each of you when I visit your departments. This facility is called ‘The Sanctuary’ – that’s a perfect name, a safe haven for its residents and a secure place to call home. And together we’re going to get it pointed in the right direction.” The staff gave Phil a polite round of applause. He put on his Stetson and modeled it. “How do I look?” Everyone chuckled. In self-mockery he imitated a bow-legged cowboy. The staff laughed and gave him another round of applause.
Phil decided the first order of business was to meet the outgoing administrator, Walter Angler. If anyone knew what the facility needed, he felt Walter should. He drove out to Walter’s home just before dinner. The residence was a stylish ranch style home in one of the nicer subdivisions in Billings. Phil rang the doorbell. The door opened and Walter appeared. He was lean, with thinning hair and age lines along his eyes and brow, which was certainly understandable, since he was in his late 60s. He looked tired.
“So, you’re my replacement,” Walter said cordially. “Come on in.” They got comfortable in the living room. Clara Angler, his wife, joined them to ask for drink orders.
“Can I offer you anything to drink? Water? Tea? Vodka?” she offered. Phil smiled.
“We’ll see how the conversation goes. I might need a vodka, depending on what Walter has to say.”
“Thanks, dear. I think we’re OK for now,” Walter said. His wife excused herself.
“So, this is what retirement looks like,” Phil said.
“I’m rather flattered that it took someone like you to fill my shoes. I’ve been reading about you in the company newsletter. You’re quite the golden boy right now.”
“Yeah. Well, this too shall pass.”
“You got that right. I was the golden boy once. I saw you at a company convention a few years ago when you were up and coming. I said to myself “He’s going to have your job one day.” Now just look, here you are.”
“Why’d you retire, Walter?”
“I think everybody should know when it’s time to go.”
“I don’t mean to talk out of school, but the home office thinks you tied this place into a knot then ran off.”
“There’s a lot of stuff going on here that they don’t know about. And maybe some stuff even you don’t need to know.”
“Like what?” Phil asked.
“It’s stuff you can’t fix.”
“Maybe. Maybe not.”
“For starters, why don’t you take a look at the financial statements, and compare the debt service from 2018 to 2019. That’s all I’m going to say.”
“Why? What am I going to find?”
“Just do it. And welcome to The Sanctuary.”
First thing the next morning Phil stepped out on the balcony of his manager’s apartment and smelled the crisp Montana air. He looked out at the woods just beyond the back patio and saw deer quietly grazing.
“That’s something you don’t see in Orlando.”
He stepped off the elevator on the first floor and walked to his office. Annie was already at her desk.
“Morning, Mr. Branson,” she said. He smiled.
“You’re here bright and early,” he replied. “And just call me ‘Phil’.
“Could you bring me the financial statements for 2018 and 2019?’
“Sure.” Before he could pour himself a cup of coffee from the work room, she laid them on his desk. He rolled up his sleeves and poured through them, picked up the phone and dialed Annie.
“Annie, get me the ownership file for this facility. Thanks.” He continued to sift through the financial statements, making a series of notes. Annie entered with a notebook and set it on his desk.
“Here it is.”
“Thanks. Oh, and a couple more things.” He pulled out a small note pad from his pocket. “I need a list of all the apartments and highlight the ones that are vacant.”
“Next, I need a list of everyone who is delinquent on their rents.”
“You got it.”
“Then tell the maintenance director,” he paused to check the employee roster,” Hank Reilly, tell him I’d like to see him.” Annie jotted that down.
“And one last thing. Take the administrator’s name plate off the reserved parking space out front. Have a new plate made.”
“What do you want it to say?”
“Employee of the week,” Phil said. Annie smiled.
“OK.” She excused herself as Phil studied the chain of ownership for The Sanctuary. He picked up the phone and dialed the home office in Chicago.
“United Senior Living,” said the receptionist.
“Hi, this is Phil Branson. Is Darryl Brooks in?”
“Oh, hi, Phil. Yeah, I’ll transfer you.” Phil held for a moment.
“This is Darryl.”
“Darryl, this is Phil out in Billings.”
“Well, howdy, partner. How’s the weather out there where the west commences?”
“Why didn’t you tell me you were a part owner in this place?”
“Well, you have been a busy bee, haven’t you.”
“No, you’re the one whose been busy. You sold this place from one limited partnership to another in 2019 and pocketed a million dollars, then dumped the extra debt service on the project.”
“That’s really none of your concern.”
“Oh, I think it is. That little stunt added another ten grand to the monthly mortgage payment, which means this place won’t cash flow till it hits 90%.”
“Just raise the rents, Phil. You know how it works.”
“We can’t raise rents when we’re 70% occupied.”
“Well, that’s your choice. You can cut salaries if you want. I don’t care. Just remember, your bonus doesn’t kick in till you cash flow.”
“So, it’s like that? OK, well played.”
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The Sanctuary Series
Book 2: The Sanctuary II
Phil Branson is so ready to take the next step and ask Annie to be his bride. The well-liked manager of a popular retirement community in Montana, he can’t believe he’s about to take the marital plunge a second time, after his first died in a car accident several years ago. But when his sweetheart wins a major role in a television show, he quickly sees his wedding plans going up in Hollywood flames.
Dismayed when his fiancée’s hectic schedule seems to take priority over their relationship, Phil contemplates postponing the ceremony. But when a Vietnam vet under his care shares a heartbreaking secret, solving the romantic mystery may help the disappointed groom-to-be make the most important decision of his life.
Lost and Found is the moving second book in The Sanctuary series, delivering a heart-pounding romance with memorable characters, serious twists, humor, love and trust. If you are searching for a delicious love story you can’t put down and will never forget, then you’ll simply adore Larry Richardson’s Lost and Found.
South China Sea, 1971
The bombing run successfully destroyed all of its targets. Lieutenant Commander Charlie Davis in his A4-C Skyhawk led his squadron of four back from Cambodia to the USS Enterprise, parked ninety miles off the coast of South Vietnam – code name Yankee Station. Now, if they could just make it back to the carrier on the fumes left in their tanks, they’d call it good. The distance from the carrier to the Cambodian enemy strongholds pushed the limits of their effective range, especially with all the ordinance they hauled. They figured once they dumped their load, fuel requirements would greatly diminish. The Cambodian bridges and roads served as a vital supply line for North Vietnamese troops, and had to be reduced to the Stone Age. But now, with ninety miles of ocean to fly over, their gas gauges all read empty. Lieutenant Junior Grade Lynwood broke radio silence.
“Viper One, this is Viper Three. I forgot to bring my swim trunks, so I hope we’re not going to have to make a water landing.”
“Viper Three, this is Viper One, just maintain your heading and knock off the chatter,” Lieutenant Commander Davis snapped back. At twenty-five years of age, LCDR Charlie Davis had worked his way through the ranks to become a respected Naval aviator, with keen wits, excellent pilot skills, and bulldog determination. When asked the difference between Air Force pilots and Navy pilots, he often smiled and said, “the ability to fly.”
Now, he checked his watch. At their air speed, he figured another ten minutes to reach the carrier. Nobody wanted to ditch a half-million dollars of military equipment in the South China Sea if at all possible.
“C’mon, baby, just a little further,” LCDR Davis said as he patted his fuel gauge. Within minutes the squadron arrived within range to notify the command bridge.
“Viper squadron requesting permission to land,” LCDR Davis radioed.
“Roger, Viper squadron.” The command bridge prepared to receive the squadron. It began by requesting the fuel levels of each jet, called out in 1,000 pound increments, so it could stack the jets in the proper order for landing.
“Inbound squadron, 402, say state.” LTJG Lynwood saw his chance to jump to the head of the line.
“This is 402, low state – 0.1. Like to go first.” The control tower obliged.
“402, enter the pattern. You are clear to land,” the tower said. Lynwood abruptly banked his jet into position, ahead of the others, and brought it in. LCDR Davis grit his teeth at Lynwood’s lack of consideration for the other pilots, who were just as low on fuel. The command bridge stacked the remaining three jets in an oval racetrack pattern, according to their declared fuel levels, with the lowest reading taking priority position. LCDR Davis took the last slot, circling the carrier three extra times. The other two pilots took their turn leaving the holding pattern and heading toward the stern of the ship. Davis’s fuel gauge read empty. He knew he was sucking fumes, and expected his jet engines to flame out any time now. Finally, the tower cleared him to land.
“502, enter the pattern. You are clear to land.” Immediately, Davis replied.
“502 – Roger.” Davis banked his jet into position – only seconds now from reaching the deck.
“C’mon, baby, we’re almost home,” he whispered. He knew his jet’s arresting hook had to snag one of the four wires laying across the deck. If he missed all four, he would have to take off again at full throttle and make another pass around the ship to attempt a second landing. He knew he did not have enough fuel for that, and would end up ditching into the ocean and ejecting out, which would require a helicopter rescue. He would never live that down. All those possible outcomes weighed on his mind as he approached the undulating deck, heaving up and down from ocean swells.
“Let’s go,” he coached himself. “You’ve done this a million times.” He came in snug and tight over the carrier’s stern, then slammed his landing gear onto the deck with a teeth–jarring thud. His arresting hook grabbed wire number two and his body snapped forward from the jolting stop. He throttled down, retracted his arresting hook and wing flaps, and taxied out of the landing area. “Thank you, Jesus,” he muttered.
Charlie cornered LTJG Lynwood outside the shower room.
“Lt. Lynwood, what the hell did you think you were doing up there, deciding on your own that you had to be first in line?”
“Sir, my tanks were dry, and I…” Lynwood began, but Charlie cut him off.
“We were all sucking fumes. You think you were the only one who didn’t want to ditch?”
“Did we draw straws or take a vote about landing sequence that I didn’t know about?”
“Are you in charge of the squadron?”
“Well, Lieutenant, this is not an ‘every man for himself’ Navy, and you don’t get to decide who goes first. Today, you put your safety ahead of the safety of your fellow pilots. By doing that, you pose a danger to this outfit.” Charlie paused for a moment to let those words sink in. Then he pronounced sentence. “You’re off the team.”
“Sir –” Lynwood tried to plead his case, but again Charlie cut him off.
“That’s all,” Charlie said, and he turned and walked away.
Back in his quarters, Charlie pondered his abrupt canning of LTJG Lynwood. He sat at his desk staring at his bookcase, second guessing his action, which now struck him as hasty and heavy-handed. He rubbed his eyes and felt that aching fatigue finally demanding payment. He sank into his bunk. Random thoughts strayed to his own childhood back in Billings. He remembered that day when the family went to the county fair. He was nine years old and his younger brother, Seth, was five. Their father entered one of their steers in a competition at the stockyard. While he waited for the judging, Charlie’s mother took the two boys to the midway carnival, where exciting rides beckoned kids of all ages.
Seth needed to go to the bathroom, so Charlie’s mother took them both to the public restrooms and put Seth’s care in Charlie’s hands.
“Charlie, you need to take your brother to the restroom and keep an eye on him. When he’s done, you bring him out here and stand beside this trash can and wait for me. I’m going to go over to a booth that’s selling hats and scarves to see what they have. So, if you don’t see me right away, just stay here. I’ll be right back. Do you understand?” Charlie understood perfectly. He’d just been assigned wet nurse duties with his kid brother, a task he loathed. When Seth finished his business in the restroom, the two returned to the designated trash can and stood watch, waiting for their mother. They waited and waited, as the milling throngs passed by. Little Seth began to worry.
“Where’s mom? Why isn’t she here?” Seth asked.
“I don’t know. She just told us to stay here. So, that’s what I’m doing,” Charlie grumbled.
“Maybe we should go find her?” Seth suggested. That gave Charlie a devious idea.
“Well, if you want to go look for her, go ahead, but I’m staying here.”
“Where did she go?” Seth asked. Charlie pointed to the long row of merchandise booths that lined the midway.
“She went down there somewhere.”
“Okay, I’m going to go see if I can find her,” Seth said bravely.
“Go ahead,” Charlie said. Seth turned and disappeared into the ocean of humanity. Charlie grinned with mischievous delight.
“He is going to get into so much trouble for disobeying mom,” Charlie thought. “And I’m going to be rewarded for doing what I was told. I might even get a big cotton candy.”
About ten minutes later Charlie’s mom arrived, delighted to see Charlie standing beside the trash can, as requested.
“Charlie you are such a good boy for doing what I asked. Where’s Seth?”
“He went looking for you,” Charlie said.
“He what?” Charlie’s mom gasped in horror. “And you let him go?” Suddenly Charlie’s ingenious plan self-imploded. His mom’s eyes frantically scanned the immediate area for any sign of Seth.
“How could you do that?” She said.
“I told him that you told us to stay here, but he wouldn’t listen,” Charlie said in his own defense.
“You stay here, I’m going to look for him,” his mom said. Charlie stood in the hot sun for another fifteen minutes, while his mother made a wide sweep of the fair ground. She returned with a carnival employee, describing Seth’s hair color and clothes.
“Don’t worry, ma’am, were going to find him,” the young attendant said. “You’ll need to go to the lost and found tent and wait for us. We’ll bring him there.”
The next three hours felt like a life sentence to Charlie, stuck in a cramped tent when he should be riding the Ferris wheel. He resented all the loving attention flowing to Seth, who seemed to Charlie the villain of the story. He didn’t really expect Seth to be captured by gypsies and sold into slavery, he just wanted to be rid of babysitting duties.
“Don’t you leave this tent,” his mother commanded. “I’ve got to go tell your father what’s happening.” Now Charlie knew he was in deep doo-doo for sure. His mother’s disapproval was one thing, but suffering the reproof of his father sent a stab to his heart and forced him to rethink life’s priorities. Long about dinner time mom, dad, and little Seth all returned to the lost and found tent to collect Charlie.
“I think we’ve seen enough of the county fair for one day,” his father said. “Let’s head for home.” Charlie felt the weight of ruining the day for everyone. He sat in tortured silence the entire ride home, staring out the car window in quiet agony, imagining his fate at the hands of his father once they got home. When they pulled in the driveway, Charlie’s mother took Seth inside to get him ready for bed.
“Charlie, let’s you and I sit on the front porch swing,” his father said. They got comfortable and sat still for a moment as Charlie’s father gathered his thoughts.
“You know, when I was about your age,” his father said, “I was itchin’ to be treated like a grown-up, so I could stay up late, come and go as I pleased, and not have everybody tellin’ me what to do. So, I’ll bet you probably feel the same way.” Charlie did not reply, but deep down he agreed.
“So, one day I asked my dad. I said, ‘Dad, when will I be a grown-up?’ And his answer stuck with me forever. He said, ‘You’ll know you are grown-up when you do what you’re supposed to do, even when no one is looking.’” He paused to let that concept sink in to Charlie’s head, then he continued. “You see, out here in the west, before it got overly civilized, there wasn’t anybody around to make sure you behaved. Lawmen were few, and folks who lived in the wide-open spaces had to make up their own rules to live by. Eventually those rules came to be known as the Code of the West. You ever heard of that before?”
“Yeah, I heard of it, but I never knew what they were. Was it kinda like the Ten Commandments we learned in Sunday school?” Charlie said.
“Kinda,” his dad said. “The Good Book is full of rules to live by. But the reason I bring this up is that one of the Codes of the West requires that we look after the weak among us – and that not only includes those that are older than us, but also those that are younger.” Charlie suddenly felt the full sting of his transgression. Rather than protecting his little brother, he turned him loose into the wild of humanity. “You understand what I’m sayin’?” his dad said. Charlie just lowered his head in shame and nodded.
“That’ll be all,” his dad said. “Now get yourself ready for bed.” For an instant, Charlie thought he was home free with just a mild scolding.
“Oh, and Charlie,” his dad added. “Tomorrow I want you to weed all the hedge row fences before lunch. That’ll give you time to think about the Code of the West.”
Now, lying in his Navy bunk, Charlie recalled the gentle chastening from his father compared to the harsh sentence of expulsion he imposed on his own subordinate. At the officers’ mess, Charlie spotted LTJG Lynwood in the chow line and waved him down. The two stepped into the hallway.
“Lieutenant, I’ve given some thought to my outburst in the locker room – that’s the only way I can describe it. I landed on you pretty hard and I believe I was out of line. I’m just dog-tired and bone weary. So, just forget what I said earlier. I need you on the team.” Charlie extended his hand to shake. “No hard feelings?” Lynwood smiled and shook hands.
“We’re good, Commander.”
After dinner, Charlie sat at his desk and realized he had not requested leave for over eighteen months and was due a full seven days if he chose Hawaii for R&R. He put in the request to his Commanding Officer, who cornered him in the hallway a few days later.
“Lieutenant,” the CO said, “You’ve been approved for seven days shore leave in Hawaii.”
“Thank you, sir,” Charlie said.
“There’s a C-2 Greyhound leaving the ship this afternoon for Honolulu – be on it. When you arrive, check in at Fort Derussey for your quarters. We’ll see you back here in a week.” Charlie saluted.
“I will, sir. And thank you.”
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What Readers Are Saying
“The people seemed real to me. It was suspenseful, romantic, and informative. I felt like I was standing in the Montana Retirement Community that is the center of this novel. I hope Mr. Richardson writes another novel. I cannot wait.”
“I couldn’t put it down. Great book. What a wonderful surprise. I hadn’t read anything by this author before, but I am looking forward to reading another.”
“The book was an enjoyable summer read. The characters are well thought out and the dialogue believable. I enjoyed how Mr. Richardson engages historical events into his story and the toggling between past and present was effective.”
“I absolutely loved this book. The setting is unique and the plot keeps your attention to the very end. I have enjoyed everything this author has written, but this is the best yet. Hoping for a sequel.”
Podcast Hosted by larry & Tom Richardson
Where the west commences
Western authors Larry & Tom Richardson have long shared a passion for the west that led them to write the western novel series we call “The Mason & Thorn Western Adventure Series.” From that literary effort, they went on to create a weekly show, where they gather around the kitchen table to compare their nostalgic love for the rich legacy of the American West and the profound ways it shaped our culture. With a touch of humor and a dash of reverie, they pay homage to a time that once was and still calls to that cowboy in all of us. Once a week their 30-minute episodes share their thoughts about western movies, TV, music, art, trivia, and just about anything about the west that strikes them as fun to explore. From time to time they even take their audience with them as they visit western historic sites, museums, and landmarks that celebrate the heritage of the west. So, they invite you to join them each week as they take you to “Where the West Commences.” Just click on the following link: https://.wherethewestcommences.libsyn.com or wherever you get your podcasts.