The Bounty Hunter’s Return – Extended Epilogue

Six Months Later 

“So much for being a ranch owner then, eh?” Mack said, standing in the doorway of the sheriff’s office. 

Slowly, Robert looked up from where he stood by the sheriff’s desk, pushing back the hat his sons had bought him as a congratulatory present for the new job. He smiled at his son, seeing Mack chuckling away.

“I could have sworn you talked for long hours at a time of wanting a quiet life,” Mack said with thick irony. “Imagine that? A man who wants nothing more than peace, quiet… no criminals. Then you go and become sheriff!” He stepped into the sheriff’s office as Robert chuckled, shrugging his shoulders.

“After what the last sheriff did, can you blame me, Mack?” Robert asked, gesturing down to the desk where he was still trying to tidy up. It had been a strange six months since Quinn had been gone. The deputy sheriff had stepped into the sheriff’s role for a few months as a full investigation was launched into all of Quinn’s affairs. 

It seemed the man had kept many secrets. Not only was a ledger found revealing all of the bribes he had taken over the years, but more people had come forward, confessing they were scared to talk of what they had witnessed: intimidation, blackmail, and bribery.

“Good riddance to the man. That’s what the town says.” Mack nodded his head in the direction of the town through the nearest window, dappled with wanted posters. 

“I agree with them.” Robert looked over the papers on his desk, tempted to throw it all away and start again, but he didn’t. There could still be something here that related to Quinn’s suspicious affairs, and he had to make sure everything was done by the book.

After a couple of months, the deputy sheriff had had enough of the investigation into Quinn. He’d claimed it was too long and arduous, but Robert knew the truth. That deputy had come to see Robert late one night, in much need of a heavy drink. He’d confessed he couldn’t handle the discovery of the caliber of a man his boss had been. It had destroyed some of his faith in life, and he needed to start afresh. With no deputy, and no sheriff, a position had become vacant.

Robert didn’t feel he could pass up the opportunity.

“You don’t mind me not being at the ranch then anymore?” Robert asked as he checked the guns in his holsters. He was glad to have them constantly at his side again, familiar with the strength and comfort they gave him.

“Eh, I don’t mind.” Mack shrugged, leaning on a wall nearby. “I have everything in hand.” Robert was glad about it. Mack seemed intent on carving out his own career on the ranch.

He’ll be safer than I ever was.

Robert sighed with relief, looking out of the window and wondering where his youngest son was.

“Where’s Woody?” he asked.

“Back at school. Don’t worry, he’s not skipping again.”

“Good.” Robert kicked his chair to the side and began to sort through some of the papers on his desk. When he and Peter had returned home, Robert put the reward money to good use. It had not only paid off his remaining debts but had set the ranch up enough with fresh ranch hands so that Woody could return to school. With Robert’s second income coming in as well, he prayed they would never need to worry about money again. “You got enough ranch hands to help you?”

“They work hard enough. We may need another man in the spring.” Mack clearly tried to hide his yawn as he spoke, but Robert caught sight of it out of the corner of his eye. He feared Mack was taking on a little too much for one so young with the ranch, yet his son seemed determined to do it. “Paying for the man shouldn’t be a problem, though.”

“Not with this job as well.”

“I was talking about your other source of income that might soon come your way.” The chuckle that followed had Robert offering a warning glare at his son. Mack merely held up his hands in a pretense of innocence. “What?” he said, maintaining a boyish look all of a sudden. “She pays for nearly everything, even when you ask her not to.”

“I know.” Robert lowered the papers on the desk and joined his son by the wall of the office, looking out into the town square through the window. Across the open square, where wagons moved back and forth and people hurried to their daily business, he caught sight of the town’s orphanage. The building had been much improved in the last six months, and even now, it had scaffolding over the wooden walls, for work was being done on the roof. “She pays for a lot.”

He smiled with the words, thinking of Olivia. She’d made her home here in town, professing a liking for it and a wish to be near those she could trust—Robert and Peter. Her parents had moved not far away, and they seemed a happy family. Olivia had only been here a week or so before she began to devote her charitable efforts to the orphanage.

Every other day, she seemed to turn up at the ranch, coming to see Robert and the boys. He’d felt that old stirring, the longing for company he had not known for some time. At first, he’d resisted the temptation of Olivia, aware of the intensity of how they had met, but Mack had encouraged him on, saying he didn’t mind if he called her ‘stepmother’ someday. In the end, Mack had won the bet he’d made with his brother. After a month of Olivia being in town, Robert had asked to court her. 

“When will the courtship become a wedding, do you think?” Mack asked, still with his mischievous smile in place.

“Not yet.” Despite his words, Robert felt a keenness,= and a longing for it to be soon. Whenever he saw Olivia, the bond between them grew deeper and stronger.

She’s a hard woman to say no to.

“What’s this then?” Mack said, pointing through the window at a sudden commotion. Robert squinted his eyes, peering as a man ran through the square, causing men to jump back and ladies to pick up their wide skirts as they hastened out of the way. It was Peter, running with long fast strides and clutching his hat as he moved so that he didn’t lose it. Reaching the porch of the sheriff’s office, he jumped up the steps and burst through the door a second later, panting heavily.

“Careful, Peter,” Robert called to him. “You’ll fall flat otherwise.”

Peter struggled to catch his breath and leaned forward, his hands on his knees. His old gunshot wound had healed long ago now, but every now and then, he’d place a hand to his side. Either it was a habit that wasn’t going to go away easily, or the soreness would remain like a scar beneath the skin reminding him of what had passed.

“Thieves….” He managed between panting breaths. “Bank.…”

“Is he making sense to you?” Mack said, folding his arms and scrunching his nose.

“Unfortunately, yes.” Robert checked the guns at his hips and moved toward the door. “Mack, go back to the ranch.”

“I’m following the sheriff’s orders now, am I?”

“Yes!” Robert called as he grabbed Peter’s shoulder and urged him out of the door. They leapt down from the porch together and reached two horses pulled up outside the sheriff’s office. “Speak quickly, Peter.”

“I can’t.” Peter was still panting as he pulled on the reins of his horse. “I’m not sure I’m cut out to be a deputy, you know. I can’t run fast enough.”

“Then you use the horse.” Robert slapped the rump of the horse, prompting him forward. Peter was forced to catch up with the horse before pulling himself into the saddle and sitting straight. Robert chuckled at the panicked look on Peter’s expression.

As soon as Robert had been offered the job of sheriff, he’d gone to Peter’s house. Meeting Mr. Elias Downey again had shaken him to the core, especially to see the man was not well. Yet, in his own way, Mr. Downey clearly knew something had occurred with his son. He had a hand on Peter’s shoulder and scarcely released him, nor did he draw breath as he talked to Peter. The man was worried for his son.

Robert had made his offer—a job as a deputy for Peter. He needed men he could trust in the role, for he didn’t want any more bad eggs like Quinn sneaking through. No man could he trust more than Peter. At first, Peter wasn’t sure. Evidently, he wished to follow in his father’s footsteps as a gun for hire, but Mr. Downey’s hand on his son’s shoulder had tightened, and he had bid him to accept.

“You’re doing the law’s work. That’s what matters.”

Peter had agreed shortly after that.

“Which way, Peter? Which bank?” Robert called.

“This way.” Peter flicked the reins of the horse and led a wild path through town. Once more, people jumped out of the way, and even wagons ended up nearly in ditches, in their effort to get out of their path. “This is the third robbery this month!” Peter called to be heard above the pounding of the horses’ hooves on the earth. “Why is this happening so much?”

“They’re testing us,” Robert called back. “New sheriff, new law. Criminals think they can take advantage. We won’t let it happen.” He knew Peter was right about the extent of the thefts that seemed to be never-ending. Robert could only hope that as he put more and more men behind bars, the criminals that thought him weak would realize this town was more protected than it had been for some time.

I won’t have this place be unprotected. It will not be corrupt like it was under Quinn.

“Around the corner,” Peter said, gesturing to the end of the road.

“Wait, stop!” Robert reached over and pulled on the reins of Peter’s horse as well as his own. It was a messy stop, and in the commotion, the horses nearly collided, but they managed to halt eventually, their hooves skidding in the dust.

“What are you doing?”

“Did they see you? Do they know the alarm has been raised?”

“No.”

“Then, they think they’re getting away with this, right?” Robert said, a smile growing on his lips. “So let them think that.” He jumped down from the saddle and directed Peter to do the same, before beckoning his deputy to follow him toward the corner of the road. Pressing his body against the nearest building, he craned his neck, peering around the corner toward the bank on the other side of the road.

From here, he could see some of what was happening through the open door and one of the vast windows. There were three men inside, each wearing bandanas of varying colors over their faces. One was pointing a gun at the bank teller behind the counter. The others seemed to be in some sort of argument.

“Did you see if anyone was hurt?” Robert asked quickly.

“Couldn’t tell.” Peter shook his head. “I was walking down the road when they fired into the air, grabbing attention. Everyone else ran off.”

Robert could see Peter was right. The street was empty, with the only sign of people in the bank.

“And their horses?” At Robert’s question, Peter shrugged, none the wiser.

Robert’s head turned back and forth before he caught sight of three horses. They were nestled close to his side of the road, all tacked up to hitching posts.

“Follow me,” Robert ordered. Peter, at first, didn’t seem to hear. He was too busy staring into the bank. Robert took his shoulder and dragged him along, urging Peter to follow. Constantly, Robert’s eyes were on the bank, but the thieves never once looked his way since they were too busy with their crime.

When he reached the horses, he urged Peter to bend down, hiding behind one of the horses.

“Pull your gun,” Robert warned. Peter pulled his weapon just as Robert did, hiding behind a second horse, then he pulled on the reins of the third and released it. The horse cantered away down the street, clearly spooked, having heard the shots earlier. 

Its escape caught the attention of the thieves. All three of them hurried out, with one clutching a bag of money. 

“What? You failed to tack up your horse?” one snapped at another.

“I thought I did—”

“I should turn this gun on you.” The argument continued, the three of them more concerned with their fight than looking around them. They hurried toward the horses, where Robert gave the signal to Peter, one silent nod.

The second the men appeared around the horses, Robert and Peter fired. Robert aimed for the ground, just as he had taught Peter to do when they were chasing criminals. The thief closest to him hopped into the air, looking at his own feet with fear, and managed to drop the bag of money. Behind him, a second thief raised his weapon, preparing to shoot Robert, but Robert was the faster shot—he fired, and the bullet struck the gun, knocking it out of the thief’s hands.

“Don’t move!” Robert barked, pointing the barrel at the two men. Hurriedly, they both raised their hands, abandoning any attempt to escape. A glance to the side showed Peter had subdued the third man and was tying up his wrists. “Hands behind your backs.” Robert waited for the men to turn before he, too, took out a rope and tied them up. 

“Wait, you’re the sheriff?” one asked in panic as Robert urged his hands higher behind his back. “We thought….”

“I know what you thought,” Robert snapped, grabbing the man’s shoulder and heaving him up to stand straight. “This town is protected now.” 

The man scoffed in answer, but the sound soon died as Robert dragged him away with the others.

***

“Go home, get some sleep, Peter.” Robert rubbed his eyes as he wrote up the paperwork for the arrests of the bank thieves. The candle beside him kept him company as Peter drifted in and out of sleep on a desk across the office.

“I’m wide awake,” Peter insisted, yawning. Robert leveled one glare at him, which urged Peter to his feet. “Well, I will be tomorrow. Good night, sir.”

“Night, Peter. Oh, and…” His words made Peter pause for a second in the doorway. “Well done today.” Peter smiled broadly and nodded his head before disappearing out into the night.

Robert couldn’t blame Peter for his tiredness. As part of his new actions as sheriff, Robert was ensuring that every arrest was properly recorded, so that there would never be a chance for someone like Quinn again to go undetected for so long. That meant sometimes working into the night to write up the paperwork.

Sitting back so far in his chair that it creaked beneath him, Robert yawned and rubbed his eyes.

“I should be sleeping too,” he murmured.

“Yes, you should.” The sudden voice made his hand drop from his eyes. In the doorway, Olivia appeared. She was leaning against the doorframe, a happy smile on her lips. As Robert looked at her, familiar warmth overtook him. It was always the same, whenever he was in her presence.

Mack is right. It cannot be long until I ask her to marry me….

“I heard quite a tale today,” Olivia said, stepping in and closing the door behind her, with the candlelight bouncing off her golden hair. “Apparently, there was something of an adventure. Our new sheriff and one of his deputies caught three bank robbers. Gunshots were fired, and not a single man was hurt!” She adopted a dramatic tone as she walked around the desk toward him. “You should hear the children at the orphanage talk of it. You’re quite the hero.”

“News travels fast.” He looped his arm around her waist as she came to stand beside him. Her look of amusement dropped away as a different smile emerged on her lips, one he judged to be contentment as she leaned into him, her hand upon his shoulder. 

“You’re smiling,” she said, nodding at him. “Was it the catch or my presence that did the trick?” He chuckled softly.

“I’ll say the latter.”

“Ha! Even if it isn’t true.” She lifted her hand and tapped his chin, urging his gaze upward. Robert realized his eyes had gone wandering, though she didn’t seem to mind too much. That mischievous look was back in her eyes. “I’ll say this. Since you have become sheriff, you smile much more.”

“I do?” His hand began to drift on her waist, traveling up and down in an affectionate way. He was distracted by how her lip curled, delighted at the movement, then he concentrated on her words once more. “I guess I am happier.”

“How come? I thought you liked your life at the ranch.”

“I did.” He nodded, quite sure of it. “Yet this….” He paused and gestured to the sheriff’s office. “This feels right. I sort of feel I am where I belong again.” He shifted his eyes back to her. “I guess I have you to thank for that.”

“Me?”

“Well, coming after you put me on this path.”

“Ha! Then thank Peter for your new life. He was the one who knocked on your door one night, calling you to this path,” she reminded him and bent down, kissing him quickly on the cheek. He sighed at the touch before deciding she was right.

“Yes. I have Peter to thank for this.” He would have to thank Peter properly sometime for leading him to this future.

“Now, you can thank me for the distraction. No more work tonight.” She shifted the papers away from in front of him and sat on the desk, blocking his view of the papers.

“I’m more than happy to be distracted, Olivia.”

THE END


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38 thoughts on “The Bounty Hunter’s Return – Extended Epilogue”

    1. Loved the book. Lots of action and evil bad guys and a great hero.
      Ill keep coming back. Thanks for the wonderful stories.

    2. I loved this story! Just enough adventure; it keep my attention until well past my bedtime. That’s a good book in my estimation! Thank you!

    3. Another awesome book Derek. Lots of action and sweet moments. But as always, bad guys done away with. Looking forward to your next book! Excellent job.

    4. I love this book and look forwad to reading moor.Iam a 78 year old vet Ilove reading your books . keep up good work, If I could rate thisbook Iwould give a 10 thank you for alow me to read.

  1. I loved this book and couldn’t put it down until I read the last word. I’m so glad you continued Peter’s training and hopefully we will see Robert and Olivia married with a baby on the way in the next book. Mack and Woody still need some adventures with Peter and their dad. Thank you for a great book

  2. Great story, lots of action, and very interesting and authentic characters. Looking forward to additional stories about Robert and Olivia! Always enjoy reading your books.

  3. Loved the book, just read the extended epilogue and it’s great. Please let me know the title of your follow on book as I can’t wait to read how Robert and Olivia get on plus the rest of the cast….. 👌👍

  4. I like your writing style, but please… PLEASE never have the good guy shoot the gun out of the bad guys hands again. That has only happened by accident a couple times in history!
    Look forward to your next book.

  5. A super enjoyable read. I like the (direct to the story) style. Easy to follow and filled with excitement. I’ll be reading more from you.

  6. I really enjoyed this book, had a had a hard time putting it down. I like the way you write and have read a few of your books. I will watch for a follow up for this one. Thanks and keep writing.

  7. Excellent book! You have a way of presenting characters and situations that make me feel I am right there with them. I am a fan.

    Thank you, Derek Levine.

    -Bob-

    1. I’m humbled, Bob!

      I’m really grateful for your support and kind feedback!

      I’m glad to hear that you enjoy my stories! Make sure to stay tuned because I have more coming!

    2. I’m humbled, Bob!

      I’m really grateful for your support and kind feedback! I’m glad to hear that you enjoy my stories! Make sure to stay tuned because I have more coming!

  8. Awesome story-great characters-exciting adventures-difficult to stop reading when life got in the way-looking forward to your next book.

  9. The extended epilogue was just the right ending and beginning of a beautiful love story or a new book#2, the book was absolutely wonderful and amazing also, so keep up with your story telling, your one of my favorite Authors! Barbara

  10. Thanks for another great tale of the old west. I can’t say that this story wasn’t action packed. You keep getting gooder and gooder! LOL 😂 Now on to the last story of this collection. Keep it up.

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