The Outlawed Wanderer – Extended Epilogue

Gunter Knutson knew he faced a dangerous quarry, and this was the first time he’d been leader of a posse. The young deputy marshal of Boone, Wyoming, felt confident he could succeed, though.

When Marshal Rivers had given him the assignment to arrest the wanted man, Gunter immediately began to think of who would be best suited to join the posse and help get the job done.

He settled on Clive Brown, a man who was older than him by a decade; a tough, native-born Wyomian, who knew how to track both men and horses. Clive had been a teenaged soldier in the Civil War, some twenty years prior. In his late-thirties now, with salt and pepper hair and a bit of a paunch, he was well experienced in battle.

The pair set out the day after the shooting outside the Boone courthouse, where Henry Holiman, a guard from the Dakota Penitentiary, had murdered the Bishop brothers in cold blood.

It was a hot July morning as they climbed into the saddle and rode west toward the Rocky Mountains. The Rockies were two days’ ride away, so they trailed a pack horse along, loaded with supplies and ammunition.

“Where you think Holiman’s headed?” Clive asked.

“Dat is a good question,” Gunter replied in his Norwegian accent. “Looks like it is not back to the Dakota pen.”

“No. Reckon Holiman’s job there is gone for good. If he doesn’t hang for the murders, hope he don’t end up back there a prisoner.”

“Dat would not be good for his health, I tink,” said Gunter.

He had heard that former guards who returned to their workplace as a prisoner were not treated well. Henry Holiman was known to have dealt with inmates at the pen very harshly. They would no doubt treat him the same way if he returned.

The men soon picked up the fugitive’s tracks and followed along at an unrushed pace, careful not to lose the prints or confuse them with other riders who crossed his trail.

The tracks showed a horse running at full gallop the first few miles before slowing down to a canter.

“He’s got a good head start on us,” Clive noted.

“Yes. Dis could take some days to catch up.”

After dark on the first evening, they made camp. Knutson spied the light of a campfire ahead of them to the west. The distance was hard to judge at night.

“How far away is dat fire you tink, Clive?”

“The land’s startin’ to rise now as we’re gettin’ into the foothills. I’d say it’s about ten mile or so … maybe less.”

They seemed to have gained ground on Holiman. Before the shooting, the man had been ill and drinking bottles of laudanum like a fish, using it to kill the pain of broken ribs and a blow to the head. Maybe because of the illness he’d stopped to rest more frequently than the posse.

On the second evening, well into the foothills of the Rockies now, the campfire looked only several miles ahead. Knutson decided they would close in on the fugitive’s camp early the following morning.

At the first light of dawn, they ate a cold breakfast, mounted up, and followed the tracks as soon as they were able to see them from the saddle.

After two or three miles, the trail led toward a small streamlined with pine trees. “I bet his camp is somewhere close to them pines,” said Clive.

A hundred yards from a little grove where Holiman’s tracks pointed, the men dismounted. They picketed the horses behind an outcrop of rock and walked the rest of the way, pistols in hand, trying not to make any sounds that might alert the man—if he was still there.

They had seen no smoke rising from a fire this morning, nor smelt it on the breeze. Knutson knew that pine branches worked very well to thin the smoke of a fire. Though it was unlikely, Holiman might have a small blaze lit.

At the edge of the pines, they spread further apart and crept carefully in among the trees.

A horse was the first thing Knutson saw. He pointed to it, and Clive nodded. Getting closer, he spied a figure lying under a blanket. The back of Holiman’s head was toward them, resting on his saddle for a pillow. The campfire was dead.

Knutson wondered why the man was sleeping so late. The sun would climb over the horizon within minutes.

He is sick. Sometimes we sleep late when we are sick.

“Cover me,” he whispered. “I will go wake him up.” Clive nodded and leaned against a tree to steady his aim as Knutson moved closer to their target.

Twenty feet away, he picked up a stone and tossed it at the sleeping man. It struck Holiman’s back with a soft thud, but he didn’t stir.

Dat is strange.

“Mr. Holiman?” he called.

No reaction.

“It is Deputy Knutson. You are under arrest!”

Still no movement.

He carefully began circling around, pistol aimed in case Holiman suddenly rolled over and opened fire. He might be playing possum, waiting for the right opportunity for a surprise attack.

Knutson could see his face now. It looked pale, almost gray. But the man was ill, the sun hadn’t risen, and the light was weak among the trees. “Holiman!” he shouted again. “You are under arrest.”

He walked forward quickly, hoping there wasn’t a pistol pointed at him under the blanket. Veering behind him as he got close, Knutson nudged him with the toe of his boot. The fugitive didn’t stir.

Finally, he pushed him over with a kick. The body was stiff. It rolled over like a log, revealing a ghostly gray face. Knutson recoiled at the sight of it. The eyes were closed, mouth twisted in a grimace.

“He is dead, Clive.”

There was no blood visible on the blanket. Knutson pulled it off the body with a yank and could see no blood anywhere.

Clive walked up and gazed at the corpse. “What happened, Gunter?”

“Looks like maybe dose old injuries he had killed him.”

They examined the rest of the camp but found no clues about the cause of death. Saddling Holiman’s horse, they hoisted his body onto it and tied it down, which was no easy task given how stiff the corpse was.

Clive boiled a pot of water from the stream to make coffee, and they drank a couple of cups each before climbing into the leather and heading back toward Boone.

Well, dat posse was easy, Knutson thought as they rode away.

***

Marshal Rivers wasn’t surprised to hear that Holiman had been found dead by his campfire. The man already seemed very ill before shooting the Bishop brothers.

Knutson and Clive arrived at his office in the early evening, four days after they’d left. He went outside to have a look at the body. “Jesus Murphy, he looks awful,” he said glancing at Holiman’s gray, twisted features.

“We found him like dat before dawn,” Knutson replied. “The rigor mortis already set in. He must have died over night.”

“Can you take the body to Doc Jake’s, Gunter? I want to know exactly what killed him, so we can rule out any foul play. Ask the doc to do an autopsy on him.”

“Sure ting. Come on wit me, Clive.”

As the two rode away leading Holiman’s horse on a rope behind them, Rivers saw the reporter for the Boone newspaper, Sam Olson, running at the men. He was carrying his large box camera and a tripod, shouting as he ran. “Deputy! Wait up a minute.”

Rivers could hear Olson spewing something about taking a picture of Knutson and “his prize trophy”—no doubt meaning the corpse. Sam probably thought the posse’s return would make a good headline … and a gruesome picture would help sell newspapers.

He strode up to the reporter as he was adjusting the tripod. “Why don’t you get out of here and let these men do their job, Olson?”

Sam glanced back at him with an insolent smirk. He was the young publisher, printer, and reporter of The Boone Bonanza, all rolled into one entrepreneurial package. Rivers thought he was often way too pushy in chasing a story. Sam needed to learn to keep his distance and have some respect.

“Let me do my job, Marshal! I just wanna get a quick picture for the paper, then I’ll talk to Knutson and Mr. Brown later on. It’ll be good publicity for your office.”

“We don’t need your publicity.”

“The election’s comin’ up next year, don’t you wanna get re-elected?” he said with the smirk still plastered on his face.

“Damn it, Sam, we don’t need another picture of a dead body in the paper! Get out of here with that contraption.”

The reporter lost the smirk. He folded up the tripod and walked away disappointed.

“What’re you two gawking at?” Rivers grumped at Knutson and Clive.

“Nuttink, boss,” Knutson said.

“Get over to Doc Jake’s before that vulture comes back with his camera.”

He watched them leave then turned and walked back to his office, wishing the whole ‘story’ would disappear from the news.

The sensational side of the Bonanza’s reporting never used to bother him as much in the past. But then, the murder of one of his family had never been in the news before. He was still grieving his sister Jessie’s death at the hands of Robyn Bishop, and he was grieving it hard.

I don’t want to see her name bandied around in the Bonanza anymore. I’m sick of it!

***

After a couple of days, Doc Jacobson appeared at Rivers’ office with an invoice and an autopsy report. “It was like I suspected: Holiman died of severe bleeding in the brain.” He handed over the papers.

“You suspected it, Doc?”

“Didn’t I tell you? Before the Bishop affair, Mr. Holiman came to see me. I did an examination and found he had a concussion. I warned him that he needed to take some time off or it could worse.”

Rivers nodded. “Yeah, he was a sick man. That’s for sure. Thanks, Doc.”

“No problem. How’s your lovely wife doing these days, Marshal?”

“Bess is doin’ okay, considering what she went through. She’s a strong woman.”

“That’s great to hear. All the best to you two.”

 

***

When the Bishop brothers’ case was closed, life for Rivers went back to normal as far as his job was concerned.

The roundup season ended in late summer, and there were fewer drunken cowboys staggering around Boone. For Knutson and himself, this was always a relief. It meant there were fewer inebriates to wrangle into a cell for the night to let them sleep it off.

Though Jessie’s death continued to weigh upon his heart, the passage of a month or two saw the beginning of relief from the intensity of his grieving.

He and Bess continued to enjoy an extended honeymoon, “playing house” together, as he called it. Marriage brought a new level of enjoyment in life that he’d never experienced before.

Near the beginning of September, Rivers came home from work one evening to find his wife in a very happy mood. Bess often had these playful, lighthearted moods—and he appreciated them greatly—but this one seemed even more upbeat than usual.

He came up behind her in the kitchen as she cooked supper, wrapped his arms around her waist, planted a kiss on her neck and asked her why she was so happy today.

“Well, I was just wondering about something, Arthur.”

“You were? What is it?”

“I was wondering what we should call our baby.”

He spun her around to see if she was joking. “You’re in the family way?”

“Uh-huh. I’m with child, Arthur.” She beamed happily at him.

The news took a moment to sink in, then a slow smile came to his face. “You’re not kidding?”

“No.”

He kissed her. “That’s wonderful news, darlin’!” They hugged, her head resting on his chest, and he gazed out the kitchen window into the back yard where the sun was setting, lighting up the leaves on the poplar tree. “Any names come to mind?”

“Yes.” She pulled back from the hug and looked at him. “I was thinking that if it’s a girl, how about ‘Jessie’?”

He hadn’t expected this. It caught him off guard, and his eyes began to mist up with emotion. “Yeah. I like that a lot.”

“And if it’s a boy …” She paused. “How about ‘Arthur’? You know, ‘Arthur Junior’?”

Rivers chuckled happily. “Sure. Why not?”

They hugged again, and he felt like a very lucky man.

THE END


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15 thoughts on “The Outlawed Wanderer – Extended Epilogue”

    1. Hi Johnny I have a new Western writer!! I’ve been reading them for 65 years but was running out of good ones, so thank you!!

    2. A true western story. lots of danger but also lots of love. the EE is a nice ending.
      But I did see a few errors:
      P 260 – Writing the vows – is not needed – We all know what the preacher & the groom & bride say – Just wasted space.
      P 283 – –if that –were- even him {was}
      P 334, p 336 – he was holding the pistol, using the barrel to break off the glass – then P 336 – red brick smashed through the window {what window} then pistol started to smash the glass….- parlor window frame – I was mixed up on where the windows were.
      Used God’s name in vain – pg 28, 134, 221, 253, 262, 425, EE – The Bible tells us to never use God’s name in vain. The Greek & Hebrew says it is when His name is used in a senseless manner {excited, surprised, disappointed, instead of a curse word, etc} Even though His name is used in vain on TV & Movies and a lot of people everywhere using His name in vain – does not mean it is right. — We will all stand before God on Judgement Day and will help accountable by Him.

  1. Adventure, intrique, justice system, tainted politics all Western style…twists and great ending. Need update for outcome of Jessie’s loved ones. Good job!

  2. This book did not need to contain the filthy language you used. It would have been a great book otherwise. I won’t be recommending this book.

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