Shooting Rampage in the West – Extended Epilogue

The autumn sun shone brightly over the town square, a vibrant patchwork of busy vendor stalls, lively games, and the chatter of eager citizens. Kate, radiant as ever, was absorbed in conversation with two mothers whose children attended her thriving school, named in honor of her late sister Wendy.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Ben, in his well-worn but polished boots and signature Stetson hat, leaned against the wooden frame of the ticket booth for the pie-eating contest. His eyes, however, were fixed on the recent stagecoach arrival—a man standing alone by the far edge of the square, his features hidden under a brimmed hat and cloak.

“Ben! Over here!” Kate’s voice broke through his contemplation. She waved from across the square, her eyes twinkling.

Shaking his head lightly as if to disperse his thoughts, he gave Kate a warm smile and walked over. “You’re quite the social butterfly today.”

“And you look like you’ve seen a ghost. What’s the matter?”

“Just keeping an eye out, darlin’. A sheriff’s duty never ends, you know,” he winked, trying to brush off the discomfort that lurked within him.

“Well, your duty for the next ten minutes is to escort your wife to the stage. They’re about to announce the start of the pie-eating contest and guess who’s introducing it?”

“I reckon it’s the most beautiful lady in this town,” Ben grinned, offering his arm to her. They sauntered over to the wooden platform, every step resonating with the unspoken bond they shared.

As they reached the stage, Ben felt a tap on his shoulder. It was his deputy, Hank. “Sheriff, a word?”

Kate sensed the shift in Ben’s demeanor. “Go ahead, I can handle this,” she whispered, giving him an assuring nod.

“What is it?” Ben stepped away from the crowd, his eyes meeting Hank’s.

“Boss, someone broke into Thompson’s Curiosities last night. Odd thing is, only a handful of trinkets were taken. Seems worthless, if you ask me, but Thompson’s rattled.”

Ben sighed. “Alright, once Kate’s done charming the crowd, we’ll head over to take a look.”

“Sure thing, Sheriff.”

Just then, Kate’s voice, filled with the excitement of community and belonging, wafted over to him. “Ladies and Gentlemen, gather around! It’s time to kick off our annual pie-eating contest! All proceeds, as you know, go to our wonderful school. So let’s have some fun!”

The crowd erupted in cheers and applause, children and adults alike. Yet, as Ben clapped along, his gaze involuntarily drifted back to the mysterious stranger, who was now conspicuously absent from the square.

His gut churned with a sense of unease. Ben had the uncanny feeling that the burglary at Thompson’s Curiosities and this stranger’s arrival were not isolated events, but rather two pieces of a much larger puzzle.

Something was afoot, and Sheriff Ben couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d need to unravel it before peace could truly return to the town he had sworn to protect.

“Ready, darling?” Kate’s voice pulled him back to the present, her eyes looking for the reassurance she always found in his.

 

“Yeah,” he said, taking her hand in his. “But I’ve got a feeling we’re in for a bit more excitement than a pie-eating contest.”

“Isn’t that always the way with us?”

Ben chuckled. “That it is, Kate. That it is.”

And so, with a swift peck on her lips, Ben donned his Stetson, bracing himself for whatever loomed ahead, ever grateful that he had Kate by his side to face it.

Ben and Kate stepped into Thompson’s Curiosities, the scent of aged wood and musty artifacts filling the air. Mr. Thompson, a stout man with a pair of thick glasses perched on his nose, wrung his hands nervously.

“Thank you for coming, Sheriff,” he stammered. “I never thought I’d see the day when my shop—my sanctuary—would be violated like this.”

“Let’s take a look at what’s missing,” Ben said, guiding Thompson toward the emptied display case.

“Just these small trinkets: a rabbit’s foot, an old locket, and a silver coin. But they were unique! Especially the coin; it had strange engravings on it. Could be worth something, I reckon.”

Ben looked over to Kate. She caught his eye and nodded ever so slightly. They both knew that sometimes the most seemingly trivial objects held the greatest significance.

As Ben examined the empty case, Hank approached, holding up a small piece of paper. “Found this wedged under the counter, Sheriff.”

Ben took the note and read aloud, “‘A gift is often a curse in disguise.’ What the devil does that mean?”

Kate’s eyes met his, a spark of curiosity lighting up her face. “A riddle, perhaps?”

“Or a warning,” Ben mused.

He thanked Mr. Thompson and assured him they would do their best to recover the stolen items. As they stepped out, Kate looped her arm through Ben’s.

“Do you think this has anything to do with the stranger you were eyeing at the square?”

“It’s a possibility. The note, the theft, and that man’s timing are all too peculiar to be coincidental.”

Just as they turned the corner, Ben’s eyes met those of the very stranger he’d been contemplating. Now unobscured by a hat, the man’s face was stern, lines of hardship etched onto his skin. He seemed to recognize Ben at the same moment and turned hastily, disappearing down an alley.

“Was that him?” Kate asked.

“Yeah, and he recognized me, too.”

“Hank can handle things at the shop. Let’s see where he’s off to.”

They hurried down the alley, only to find it empty. But as Ben glanced around, his eye caught something: a silver coin tucked into a crevice between two bricks—its engravings matching Thompson’s description. Picking it up, he felt an unusual weight to it, as if it carried a history of its own.

“What’s on the coin?” Kate asked, her eyes brimming with both excitement and apprehension.

“Looks like a map of sorts, and there’s a mark right where we found it. Think it’s leading us somewhere?”

“Only one way to find out,” Kate replied, her tone tinged with the adventurous spirit that had first brought them together.

They looked at each other for a heartbeat, each knowing that they were on the cusp of another perilous journey.

“You up for it, darlin’?”

“You really have to ask?” Kate grinned. “This is just the kind of excitement our lives have been missing lately. Plus, our little man’s safe back home.”

Kate had left their little son with Teresa, one of the school’s teachers who was now great friends with Kate.

Ben squeezed her hand. “Alright, let’s follow this breadcrumb trail, and may God help whoever’s at the end of it.”

As they set off, coin in hand, the mystery lay ahead of them like an unwritten book. Yet in that moment, the palpable sense of adventure felt like coming home.

Guided by the engravings on the silver coin, Ben and Kate found themselves at the base of a large rock formation, staring at an almost invisible opening. It was just big enough for a man to crawl through.

“This has to be it, the markings on the coin led us right here,” Ben said, shielding his eyes from the sun as he examined the map again.

Kate grinned. “Well, shall we?”

Ben returned the grin, feeling the same thrill he’d felt the first time they’d ventured into danger together. “After you, Mrs. Hardstark.”

Crawling through the opening, they found themselves in a dark cavern, the air thick with dampness and the smell of earth. Ben struck a match, revealing walls adorned with peculiar symbols, like the ones on the coin.

“Do you hear that?” Kate whispered, her eyes wide in the flickering light.

Water. The distant sound of water dripping echoed through the cave. Following the sound, they came to a small pool. Its surface shimmered in the dim light, but what caught their attention was another silver coin, identical to the one they’d found, sitting at the edge.

“Another clue?” Ben picked it up, turning it over to examine its engravings. It seemed to hint at something hidden beneath the pool.

Suddenly, a noise from behind them sent them both turning sharply. “Who’s there?” Ben called, his voice stern, hand instinctively going to his holster.

From the shadows stepped a rugged outlaw, gun in hand. “Thought you’d find treasure here, didn’t ya?”

“What’s this about?” Ben’s grip tightened around the handle of his gun.

The outlaw laughed. “Well, let’s just say I’ve been watchin’ you two. Thought you might lead me to somethin’ valuable. Looks like I was right.”

Ben and Kate exchanged a glance. “This coin is cursed,” Kate spoke with a stern voice, “Wouldn’t recommend you takin’ it.”

“A curse? Y’all must be jokin’,” the outlaw sneered.

Quick as a flash, Ben drew his gun. A shot rang out; the outlaw’s hand jerked, his own bullet embedding into the cave wall. Kate pulled a derringer from her skirts and fired. The outlaw staggered back, clutching his leg.

“Should’ve listened,” Ben growled as he moved forward to disarm the wounded man.

“We have to tie him up and take him to the sheriff,” Kate said, her eyes meeting Ben’s.

“That’s me, darlin’,” Ben grinned, but his eyes held a flicker of concern.

As they made their way out of the cave, dragging the cursing outlaw behind them, Ben couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that they’d escaped something far worse than a man with bad intentions. He looked down at the cursed coin he still held and wondered—what had it taken from them already, and what might it take in the future?

They made it back to town just as the sky turned shades of purple and pink, signaling the end of the day. They led the outlaw—whose name they’d learned was Calvin—straight to the jail. Jake was there, waiting.

“Looks like you two found more than a day’s outing,” Jake remarked as he helped Ben secure Calvin in a cell.

“You could say that,” Kate responded, her eyes catching Ben’s, both recalling the ominous cave and the unsettling mystery it still held.

After ensuring the outlaw was secure, Ben and Kate made their way back to their home. Their son, Jack, was playing on a blanket, watched over by Teresa. The moment he saw them, his face broke into a gummy smile.

Kate swept him up in her arms. “Oh, how I missed you!”

“As did I,” Ben leaned over, kissing both his wife and son.

Once Jack was asleep, and Agnes had gone home, Ben and Kate found themselves alone in their cozy kitchen. The silver coin lay on the table between them.

“Do we dare keep it?” Kate asked.

Ben sighed. “I don’t know. It led us to danger today; who’s to say it won’t again?”

“But if it’s part of a larger mystery, don’t we owe it to ourselves, and to this town, to solve it?” Kate’s eyes were full of that adventurous spirit Ben so loved.

He looked at her, her face illuminated by the soft glow of the lantern on their table, and was reminded of all they’d been through—the dangers they’d faced, the enemies they’d overcome. All of it had made their love stronger, their family unbreakable.

“Alright,” Ben nodded, “We keep it. But safely tucked away, until we decide our next move.”

Kate smiled, reaching for his hand. “Agreed.”

That night, as they lay in bed, their son asleep in his cradle and their house quiet, Ben felt that strange mix of contentment and curiosity that had become so familiar to him over the years. Kate’s hand found his in the dark, her fingers tracing the lines of his palm in a way that always soothed him.

“Who would have thought, when we first met, that we’d end up here—fighting outlaws, raising a child, and running a school?” she whispered.

He kissed the top of her head, his lips lingering on her soft hair. “I might not have guessed the details, but I knew from the moment I met you that we were meant for extraordinary things.”

“And extraordinary things we shall continue to do,” Kate promised.

As they drifted off to sleep, the cursed coin safely tucked away in a drawer and their family safe and sound, Ben couldn’t help but feel grateful. Grateful for the love that sustained him, for the life they’d built, and—even in its mysterious, often dangerous way—for the adventure that never seemed to end.

And so, in that small but vibrant town, under the wide-open sky of the historical Wild West, Ben and Kate closed their eyes, dreaming of whatever challenge or mystery would come their way next. After all, life was never dull when they were together, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

THE END


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4 thoughts on “Shooting Rampage in the West – Extended Epilogue”

  1. I thought your story was very well written and had an excellent plot. The heroes of your story were very likable and interesting. You kept me entertained and engaged in the story to the very end.

  2. Another excellent realistic old American western series of unending excitement that keeps anyone turning pages to see what occurs! No slowdowns from beginning to end, as Ben and Kate, along with their friends, fight hard for justice in their quest for justice!
    I assure everyone that loves western magic will enjoy following these dedicated heroes, as they pull no punches when it comes to defending their town. Too, the Author’s unique abilities, or his expertise in old American western folklore, will grab your undivided attention immediately and it will never wane from chapter one to final extended epilogue has been read!!!😃

  3. Another awesome story by Johnnie that keeps me looking forward to the next book. Truly enjoyed this adventurous story from start to end and wishing it never ended. Keep writing stories and I will look forward to the next one

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