A Brave Outlaw’s Burden – Extended Epilogue

Months had passed since the confrontation with Hank and his gang. The air was crisp and a chill settled over the Beaumont ranch as winter tightened its icy grip. But the frost and biting wind could not cool the warmth within the heart of the ranch – Aaron and his daughter, Betty, were safe and together. The menacing presence of Hank and his cohorts was now just a chilling memory. In the solace of the ranch, there was peace and contentment.

One frosty morning, with the first rays of the sun piercing through the thin, wintery clouds, Aaron rode out with Sheriff Dalton. Their mission: fulfill the last part of Aaron’s plea agreement. Aaron was to lead the sheriff to the hidden stash of the remaining Civil War gold. Both men were bundled up against the cold, their breath misting in the chilled air. It was a long ride, a couple of days’ journey to the rocky outcrop where the gold lay hidden.

Aaron, astride his trusty steed, felt an odd mix of relief and dread. He was glad to finally rid himself of the dangerous secret of the gold’s location. Yet, he couldn’t shake off an instinctual foreboding, a lingering unease. It was the kind of feeling he’d learned not to ignore in his years on the frontier.

“That’s the spot,” Aaron pointed, squinting into the cold winter sun. The rocky outcrop loomed ahead, a giant, jagged silhouette against the bright sky.

Sheriff Dalton nodded, pulling his coat tighter around him. “Let’s make this quick, Beaumont. The quicker we’re done here, the sooner we can head back. Can’t say I’m a fan of sleeping under the stars in this biting cold.”

Just as they neared the rocky formation, Aaron’s horse whinnied, its ears flicking back nervously. His gaze darted around, scanning the surrounding terrain. His heart skipped a beat as he noticed figures moving stealthily amongst the rocks.

“Dalton, we’ve got company,” he muttered, nudging his horse to a halt. His hand instinctively moved to the gun holstered at his side. His years in the west had taught him one thing – trouble often lurked where it was least expected.

The next few moments unfolded in a blur of motion and noise. Outlaws sprung from their hiding places, guns blazing. Aaron and Dalton ducked, taking cover behind a large boulder. The deadly dance of a shootout had begun.

Sheriff Dalton’s men, initially taken aback, quickly rallied, returning fire. The echo of gunfire filled the air, punctuated by the dull thuds of bullets embedding in the rocky outcrop.

In the midst of the chaotic gunfight, Aaron found an odd sense of calm. He had faced this kind of danger before, and come out the other side. He took aim, and began to fight back. The bandits, he figured, were likely drawn by the rumors of hidden gold, just as Hank and his men had been.

The arid desert air was punctuated with the sharp report of gunshots and the dull thud of bullet-ridden bodies falling lifelessly onto the cold sand. But Aaron, his face streaked with sweat and dust, did not falter. He stood resolute, his steely gaze fixed on the outlaws, his hands steady on his pistol.

Beside him, Sheriff Dalton fought with a similar determination. The man was relentless, his aim true. Aaron could see why he’d earned his reputation as the best lawman in the county. They were outnumbered, yes, but not outmatched.

“What’s the plan, Sheriff?” Aaron shouted over the noise of the continuing gunfire. Dalton didn’t reply at first, his brow furrowed in deep thought, his lips pressed into a grim line.

Then, with a sharp nod, he turned to Aaron. “We hold them off until reinforcements arrive. I sent a rider back to town before we left. If we can stall them long enough…”

“We’ll have an army at our backs,” Aaron finished, understanding the Sheriff’s strategy.

Hours passed like minutes in the adrenaline-fueled standoff. Aaron’s muscles ached from the strain, his hands were sore from the constant grip on his gun, but he didn’t let up.

It wasn’t until the first light of dawn began to seep into the sky that they heard the distant thunder of hooves. Aaron’s heart pounded in his chest as the sound grew louder, a sure sign of the approaching cavalry.

When they finally crested the horizon, the sight was enough to still the hearts of the remaining outlaws. Dozens of men, armed and ready, bore down upon the beleaguered bandits. The sight of the uniformed cavalry was a stark contrast to the ragged band of criminals.

The bandits, realizing the odds were no longer in their favor, began to scatter like roaches when a lantern is lit. But the lawmen pursued, and one by one, the bandits were caught and disarmed.

By the time the sun was fully above the horizon, the last shot had been fired. Aaron and Dalton, standing side by side, surveyed the scene. Around them lay the detritus of the night’s battle: discarded weapons, spent shells, and the groaning wounded awaiting their fate.

The soldiers began to secure the area, rounding up the captured outlaws. Aaron found himself looking towards the rocky outcrop, the gold still hidden within. He was now free to fulfill his end of the plea deal, without any further threat. The battle had been won, but as Aaron knew too well, the west was an unpredictable place. As he led Dalton towards the hidden treasure, he couldn’t help but wonder what was next.

“Right here,” Aaron said, toeing a nondescript patch of earth at the base of the rocky outcrop. Dalton eyed him skeptically, a spark of suspicion in his gaze. “I promise you, Sheriff. It’s there.”

With a reluctant nod, Dalton gestured for two of his men to start digging. The air grew tense as the soldiers’ shovels bit into the dirt, every eye on the steadily growing hole. Aaron couldn’t help the dryness in his throat, the clenching of his gut. That gold had been his ticket to a better life, a safety net in uncertain times. Now, he was giving it up.

The sound of metal striking metal echoed around them, causing an immediate silence to fall. The digging had stopped. Slowly, the two soldiers retreated, revealing a weathered chest half-buried in the dirt. The air was electric, the promise of gold tangible.

With a nod from Dalton, the chest was unearthed and brought to the surface. Its lock gave easily under the careful touch of one of the soldiers, revealing a gleam of gold that stole everyone’s breath away. The soft light of the rising sun reflected off the surface of the gold bars, creating an ethereal glow that lit up the faces of the men around it.

“Looks like you were telling the truth, Beaumont,” Dalton said, his voice heavy with both relief and a hint of admiration. Aaron merely shrugged, trying to keep his emotions under control. He was no hero. He was just a man trying to do right by his family, his home.

In the following hours, the gold was carefully extracted and loaded onto wagons. Soldiers, under Dalton’s watchful eye, counted each bar, documenting the substantial find. It was a tedious process, but necessary. This was, after all, a part of the plea deal. Aaron had to make sure everything went according to plan.

As the last bar was stowed away and the wagon prepared for the journey back to town, Aaron could feel the weight lifting off his shoulders. This was it. The end of one chapter and the beginning of another. He watched as the wagon, escorted by a contingent of soldiers, pulled away from the site, leaving behind a gaping hole in the ground and a curious sense of emptiness in Aaron.

He was about to mount his horse when Dalton approached him, his gaze thoughtful. “You did good, Beaumont. Not a lot of men would’ve done what you did. It’s been an honor.”

Aaron simply nodded, not trusting himself to speak. He swung himself onto his horse, his gaze lingering on the retreating wagon. Then, with a final nod at Dalton, he turned his horse around and began the journey back home.

As the dust of the departing convoy settled, Aaron couldn’t help but think about the adventure he had just lived through. He’d lost his gold, yes, but he had gained so much more. Respect. Freedom. A chance for a fresh start. Yet, the tales of lost civil war gold continued to persist, giving the land an air of mystery, an allure that was as irresistible as it was dangerous.

***

Aaron Beaumont didn’t look back as he left the excavation site. He’d made his choice, and he intended to stick to it. The ride back to the ranch was a long one, filled with introspection and plans for the future. His mind wandered back to Betty, his girl, waiting for him. He thought about their land, their home, and the life they could now live, free from the looming shadows of the past.

As the familiar outlines of Beaumont Ranch appeared on the horizon, Aaron couldn’t help but smile. This was his home, his sanctuary. The sight of the barbed wire fence, stretching as far as the eye could see, brought with it a sense of comfort and familiarity that warmed his heart. The once desolate cabin now stood tall and proud, a beacon in the vast emptiness of the Texas landscape.

His arrival didn’t go unnoticed. A bundle of energy in the form of a young girl came bounding out of the house, trailed by a mangy mutt. “Pa!” she yelled, flinging herself at him as he dismounted. Aaron scooped Betty up, laughing as the dog circled around them, barking joyously.

“Betty Beaumont,” he chided her gently. “I’ve told you not to run like that.”

She grinned at him, her eyes sparkling with mischievous delight. “But, Pa, I missed you.”

He ruffled her hair, his heart swelling with love for this spirited young girl who was his whole world. “And I you, my little wildcat.”

Later that evening, after supper, Aaron sat on the porch, his gaze trained on the vast expanse of the Texas sky. The stars seemed brighter than ever before, their light a reminder of the gunfight, of the gold, and of the choice he’d made. Betty came to sit beside him, her small frame snuggling into his side.

“Pa,” she started, her voice quiet in the stillness of the night. “Is the gold gone?”

Aaron nodded, looking down at her. “Yes, Betty, it’s gone. But remember, gold ain’t everything. We’ve got each other, and this land. That’s more valuable than any gold.”

She considered this, her brow furrowed in thought. “Does this mean the stories will stop?”

He chuckled softly. “No, darling. Stories never really stop. They just change. We’ve done our part. Now, it’s time for us to make new stories, right here on our ranch.”

As they sat there under the twinkling canopy of stars, Aaron couldn’t help but feel a sense of peace. This was his happily ever after: a life on the ranch, with his daughter by his side, living honest and free. The stories of lost civil war gold would persist, becoming the stuff of legends and campfire tales. But for Aaron Beaumont, the gold was a chapter in his past. His future was right here, under the vast Texas sky, amidst the mesquite and creosote, on the land he called home.

THE END


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23 thoughts on “A Brave Outlaw’s Burden – Extended Epilogue”

    1. I loved every word , The bond between father and daughter was unbreakable.
      One thing though, they didn’t get a puppy

    2. The epilogue didnt have the same writing style, perhaps because it was a lot different from the ending of the book,buy I think not, if your editor or a ghost writer wrote that dont allow it to continue. Let you own style show. You have a lot of understanding about human nature and how respiration can force us into things.

  1. Good book. I was hoping Aaron and Betty would get to keep a little gold to make their lives easier but didn’t happen.

  2. I love to read and this book really was so enjoyable! The action was great and it was as interesting to the very end! Great job, Mr. Levine!!

  3. This was a very good western and I especially enjoyed the spunky Betty. I to thought that they deserved a little of the treasure for all that he had to go through.

  4. This, like all the other stories of yours, Derek, was an enjoyable interlude for me. A chance to forget a world otherwise cluttered in everyday chaos. So well envisioned and written that it lifted me away from all that for a time. Albeit, briefly. I am glad you appeared. I will continue to read your books which always lift me. Thank you.

    1. Excellent book and great read. Thank you for the effort towards satisfying your readers with a great story tied to the Civil war era.plus the new dog in the epilogue.

  5. This book was absolutely fantastic, I loved it! I couldn’t put it down, so I didn’t! I’m writing this on Christmas day, so you know your books are hard to down once you start this Author books! Full of action packed scenes, lots of drama throughout this book, lots of mysteries solved and lots of things happen to keeps you turning those pages! This Author has you captured from the first paragraph, in the book, so don’t miss this one, but don’t listen to me, read the book and Merry Christmas, Derek keep those books coming! 🌬🤠📚🎭🐝🎶

  6. Amazing story line…imagine no smut, bad words and a man’s reputation is valued. A glimpse of the horrible conditions during the Civil War explained how cruel the conditions were for the participant.

  7. I did enjoy this book. I will continue reading your books. I read for hours every night. It’s always great when I find an author that I enjoy so much.

  8. The book was good. Hard to read sometimes with all the inter introspection. But the extended epilogue, seemed written by someone else.
    All of a sudden, there’s a different sheriff _ what happened to Robert’s ?
    Sheriff’s don’t ride with “soldiers”. They have deputies.
    Was the new Sheriff actually a military officer, thus there could be soldiers.
    Aaron’s ranch house was “blown up “ !
    So, did the town folks and neighbors come rebuild the ranch house for them ?
    Again , the book was ok, but the epilogue left a lot to be desired !

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