A Pledge To Fight Injustice – Extended Epilogue

Three Years Later

“My bag! My reticule! The man stole it!” A woman’s cry went up in the market.

Jensen jerked his head to the side, listening out for where the cry had come from. On cue, the market square full of people seemed to part. Someone was carving a path through the crowd, running so fast that people either jumped out of the way or were pushed to the side.

There he is.

“Stop, thief!” Jensen called to the man. As he ran past the woman whose reticule was missing, she called loudly for help and waved her hands back and forth, nearly hitting Jensen in her franticness. He barely dived out of the way before he continued his search for the thief.

Ackerman had put Jensen onto this man’s tail. Having stolen purses across the state, the man was only getting worse, and there was no sign of him being caught. He was too good at evading capture, which was why Jensen had been brought in.

“There! That way.” Another man called out, prompting Jensen to halt in his run and look to the side.

One of the stalls had been tipped over, casting honey jars to the ground. They smashed, creating a runny stickiness that began to bleed slowly under people’s feet. More than one person tripped in the honey, their boots getting caught before they fell on their rears.

Jensen ran toward them, barely managing to jump over the spilled honey to the other side, much the complaints of people who insisted that some passing strangers helped them out. Jensen ran on as he caught sight of the thief up ahead. The man was tall and lithe, dressed rather poorly, with a hat pulled low across his head so that his face and hair were hidden.

As the man dived down a small lane, Jensen followed. It all seemed so familiar to him, for he could remember chasing another thief through these streets, though she had been able to slip through smaller gaps. This tall man left carnage in his wake, knocking over crates in the back alley and pulling open doors to get in Jensen’s way.

At the end of the round, the man dove off to the right. Knowing these streets by now, Jensen took another road, intending to cut the man off. By shaving off the corner, he appeared in front of the thief in the next lane along.

He skidded to a halt, his boots driving up soot in the air around him. With his face finally in view, Jensen could see he was a gaunt man, thinner than he should have been for a man of his age. With quick eyes, he looked back and forth, then headed back in the direction he had come from.

“Damn!” Jensen muttered and ran forward once again. He was reaching into his holster, ready to pull his gun and threaten to shoot.

Such threats usually make a man stop running.

When he rounded the corner, following the thief, he found the man hadn’t run on though and was waiting for him. Unable to stop in time, Jensen was shoved backward. He toppled over and rolled across the ground, where he found himself face down in some dirt.

“Ergh…” Jensen pushed himself up, his hands squelching in the brown goop as flies danced over his head.

Oh god, I know what this is.

His nose wrinkled at the scent of the horse manure he had fallen into. Cursing under his breath, he turned his head back and forth, looking for where the thief had gone next. Seeing the man’s boots at the end of the road before they dove round a corner, Jensen hastened to his feet. His own boots slipped in the manure beneath him before he found solid ground and ran forward again.

Within seconds, he lost track of the man. Cursing and muttering under his breath, Jensen had to slow to a walk, wandering up and down the streets for any sign of where the thief might have gone. Having fallen in the manure, he carried a scent with him, one so strong that when people passed him in the street, they backed away from him.

Jensen was just considering retracing his steps back to the market, hoping he would find some clue there, when he saw a flap of material around the corner of a lane so narrow, it was barely big enough for a man to fit down.

Jensen crept toward the lane and peered around the corner. The street was so thin that inside there were long shadows, despite the strong sunlight of the day. There was the unmistakable silhouette of the tall, lanky thief, hurrying down it. Reaching into his holster, Jensen pulled out the gun and followed the man down the lane, slowly this time, careful not to make a sound with his boots in the earth beneath him.

Gradually, he got closer to that silhouette.

“Stay still,” Jensen warned. The silhouette froze before he slowly turned around to face Jensen.

Jensen’s eyes adjusted to the darkness and he saw the man’s gaunt face again, then two other faces. From either side of the thief’s legs, two children peered around him. One was just a toddler, and the other a few years older.

“Zounds.” Jensen shoved the gun back into his holster. “What are you doing?” he snapped at the man.

The thief looked down at the bag in his grasp and reached inside, pulling out the money he had taken. “They’re hungry,” the man muttered. “What else am I supposed to do?”

Jensen snatched the woman’s reticule back, but he left the money in the man’s hands for now. One glance down at the children showed the man was not lying. The children were thin, as thin as Tillie had been when Jensen had first found her, and too small for what they should have been. These days, Tillie had grown taller, and she wasn’t so thin anymore.

“Please, don’t arrest me.” The man stepped closer toward Jensen, his tone begging. “I’m all they have. They need to eat. Or what will happen to them?”

Jensen looked between the children, then he glanced back down the road, wary of anyone having seen him.

Well, I hardly abide by the rules completely these days, do I?

Jensen was the first to acknowledge that doing what was right and what was wrong didn’t always necessarily fall in line with the letter of the law. This seemed like one of those moments.

“How much have you got there?” he asked, gesturing to the money in the thief’s hand. The man showed it to him, and Jensen reached into his pocket. “Here, take this. Get them some new clothes, too.” The man’s eyes widened, clearly dumbstruck as Jensen passed him the money. “Now go, take your kids, get out of this town, and go somewhere new. I’ll say I couldn’t find you.”

Jensen took a step away, but he was followed by the man.

“Why?”

“What?”

“Why are you doing this?” the man asked, shaking his head back and forth.

“Because it’s the right thing to do. I’m going to return this.” Jensen held up the bag for emphasis. “I don’t like what you did, and stealing is hardly going to get you ahead in life. Nor is this a way for your children to live.”

The man swallowed rather nervously and looked down at his children.

“I never meant for this to happen. This is not the life I want for them.”

“Then change it,” Jensen urged. “I’ll return the bag; you take the money and do some good with it. Take this as a warning, alright? If I find you again, then…” He grimaced, showing he might not be able to show mercy another time.

“Thank you. By ginger, thank you!” The man stepped forward and shook Jensen’s hand.

“You might not want to do that after where I fell.” Jensen’s words went unnoticed thanks to how much the man thanked him. Soon, the thief turned around and scooped his children up into his arms, then they were on their way down the street. “Find a job!” Jensen called after him.

“I’ll try!”

Jensen prayed the man was telling the truth. He didn’t like the idea of those young children living on the street. It reminded him too much of how he had first found Tillie. Cursing another time, Jensen walked out of the alley, carrying the bag in his hands. He would return it to its rightful owner, saying that he had found it discarded after the thief had stolen the cash. After that, Jensen would return home to Scottsweir.

No point chasing thieves in search of a new life.

***

Tillie peered through the kitchen window once again.

“Tillie, you have heard a watched pot never boils, haven’t you?” Laurel called from behind her. Tillie laughed as she turned round to face Laurel, who now had her head so firmly over a cooking pot that her cheeks had flushed red. “He’ll be home soon.”

“He said he’d be home yesterday.”

“Funny, when he went searching for you, he said he’d be home two days before you appeared.” Laurel lifted her head, revealing how flushed her cheeks really were. “He’ll be here,” she assured Tillie with a smile.

“Tillie? Would you help me set the table?” Melody called from where she was taking down bowls from the sideboard.

“Of course.” Tillie hurried forward to take them from her. “I thought you weren’t supposed to be lifting things.”

The words made Melody turn a playful frown upon her. “Nothing heavy. I can handle our old broken bowls,” she added with a roll of her eyes and waved for Tillie to take the bowls to the table. Tillie giggled as she hurried to the task, glancing back at Melody who placed a hand on her rounded stomach.

Since Melody had married Ackerman, she still made the effort to come back and visit for dinners more than once a week. Tillie had a feeling the visits would be less often once the baby arrived.

“On second thought, maybe I will sit down.” Melody yawned as she took a place at one of the chairs. “I could do with a rest.”

“Yes, sit, rest,” Tillie urged her. “I’ll finish things up.” She hastened to finish setting the table and made a cup of tea for Melody, too, who smiled warmly at her with gratitude before lifting the cup to her lips.

When Laurel had finished the cooking and was turning to spoon out the stew, the door opened. They all looked toward it, clearly eager to see Jensen.

“It’s only me,” Nina answered as she stepped through. “No need to look so disappointed,” she teased them then tipped back her head and laughed.

“How was the theater this evening?” Melody asked as Nina moved toward her and kissed her on the cheek.

“Busy!” Nina gushed, with such a great smile on her cheeks that it was clear she loved it. “Though we had one or two pickpockets tonight. Perhaps Jensen will have to turn his attentions to somewhere closer to home to find criminals.”

“Speaking of which, he’s here,” Laurel called from where she was peering through the window. Tillie hurried to join her at the glass and looked out, seeing Jensen pull up at the window and jump down from the horse before he hastened into the house.

The moment he stepped through the door, they all wrinkled their noses. Tillie stepped back from him and covered her mouth, dramatically waving in the air.

“Zounds, what happened to you?” she cried. “You stink!”

He shook out his arms, and wiggled his head from side to side, as if attempting to release himself from the stench.

“The thief I chased today may have pushed me into some manure,” Jensen said slowly, watching as all the sisters jumped back from him.

“Go!” Tillie warned with a wave of her hand. “There’s a tap out the back, use that.”

“Come on, I’m not that bad, am I?” He made a step toward her, prompting Tillie to run round the table and position herself behind Melody.

“Jensen!” Melody warned, her voice loud.

“Ha! I’m going, I’m going.” Jensen laughed as he hurried away.

“Open the window, would you please, Tillie?” Melody asked, still making a gagging sound. “That smell is lingering.”

Tillie quickly hurried to the task, opening all the windows she could find before she sat down at the table. By the time dinner was served and Jensen had returned, with his hair soaked and wearing fresh clothes, the stench had gone.

“So?” Tillie was excited, leaning forward in her chair. “Who did you catch today?”

“Your increasing excitement about hearing about what I do worries me,” he said, holding her gaze and narrowing his eyes at her.

“Why? It’s exciting! Who did you catch? Was there a mad chase?”

“Yes, but it was hardly glamorous. May I remind you of the stench I came in wearing?”

“Your clothes are probably ruined, too,” Laurel mumbled, still waving a hand in front of her nose.

“Who was it?” Tillie asked again, determined to have a reply. Jensen seemed to roll his eyes, humored by her excitement, before he answered her.

“It was a thief. He carved a path from here up to King’s Lynn. His target seemed to be ladies’ reticules. I thought I was just looking for a purse snatcher, but then…” He paused and ran a hand through his hair, in that old nervous gesture that Tillie had come to know so well by now.

“Then what?” Tillie encouraged him on.

“He may have reminded me of someone.” He lifted his eyes and connected their gazes. Tillie’s spine straightened and her fork fell limp in her stew.

“Me?” she asked in amazement.

“He was stealing not to feed himself, but his children. He had two of them, both young, with one barely old enough to stand on her own two feet.” Jensen shook his head as if despairing of what he saw. “It’s no way for anyone to live.”

“It happens,” Tillie said quietly.

“I know.” He sat back, pausing with his own stew. “So, I took the purse back and told him to go on his way.”

“You did what?” Laurel said, dropping her spoon in her bowl. “You let a thief go?” When Tillie shot her a look, Laurel gave an apologetic smile. “You were different, Tillie.”

“Was I?” Tillie wasn’t so convinced.

“This man was different too,” Jensen said somberly as he reached for his stew again. “I gave him some money to buy food and sent him on his way, urging him to find an honest job soon. I warned him this was his chance, and he’d better not squander it.”

“Jensen!” Melody moaned.

“What?”

“My husband is the sheriff now. You want me to go back to him and tell him you let your thief go?”

“Yes,” Jensen declared with a smile, making Melody laugh under her breath.

“Well, I look forward to that conversation.” Her words made them all chuckle, as Tillie returned her focus to Jensen. He seemed to sense her look.

“You’re too excited by my job,” he warned her, lifting his fork in her direction.

“I like to hear of it.” She sat forward in her seat. “Besides, I’ll need a job myself someday, won’t I? Maybe I could be a bounty hunter.”

Laurel choked on her stew at these words. Nina lifted a hand to clap her on the back, helping her to clear her airways once again.

“I think you startled her,” Nina said in jest as Laurel breathed clearly again.

“Tillie, you want to be a bounty hunter?” Jensen asked, smiling at her.

“Why not?”

“A thief turned bounty hunter?”

“It sounds good, doesn’t it?” She sat tall, liking her idea more and more. “As a former thief, I’ll know how they think.”

“That’s what worries me.” Jensen chuckled and shook his head. “Just do me a favor, before you run off to Ackerman and tell him you want a job—”

“Could I?”

“No!” Melody answered before anyone else could.

“Maybe someday,” Jensen said as Tillie’s spine slumped. He lifted a hand and patted her wrist in comfort. “For now, though, promise me something. Enjoy your childhood while it lasts. It’s the way life should be. Don’t think about jobs or bounty hunting until you’re much, much older.”

“Speaking of getting old,” Nine spoke up, “you’re starting to sound like an old dad, Jensen.”

“Oi.” He narrowed his eyes at her. “Speaking of which, when are you going to leave working at the theater?”

“They pay well!” she objected.

“Yes, but they are hardly as virtuous as churches, are they?”

“Yes, Dad,” Nina said in mockery, prompting Jensen to grab a crumb off his bread roll and toss it in her direction.

Tillie laughed with the rest as she settled down to her stew again. She was aware that Jensen looked at her again.

“Someday, Tillie,” he whispered to her. “Maybe I’ll show you the ropes, but not yet. Enjoy being young for now.”

“I will,” she promised, the smile growing across her cheeks. She had a home she loved, a family she adored, and a promising future. It was a long way from her life back on the streets. A

s she took the handkerchief from her pocket to wipe her chin clean of the dribbles of stew, she smiled down at the initials embroidered in the cloth.

Yes, I am very happy where I am for now.

THE END


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26 thoughts on “A Pledge To Fight Injustice – Extended Epilogue”

  1. Another great story Johnnie. Loved reading the parts of “Mr. Rabbit” and Follow and their travels. Good to see Mr. Poole and the Sheriff get their come-uppance.

  2. Enjoyed the book which was .much different for a western, I normally read. But it was enjoyable and interesting!

  3. Children need to be able to be children. This story wove family principles and justice into a heartwarming blend. Very enjoyable story.

  4. The story was absolutely wonderful, lots of drama, exciting moments and characters, the story was so great that you will love it! Definitely worth reading the extended epilogue puts you in the story, it was great!📚🤠🐝🎶

  5. I loved the characters. Jensen got more than he bargained for when he caught up to Tillie. She certainly picked the wrong person to pick pocket. I really liked the extended epilogue as well.

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