The Rugged Trail of Vengeance – Extended Epilogue

Vic Villiers rode slowly across the land he hadn’t seen for a few years. It hadn’t changed much. There were a few more houses and the towns were a bit bigger, having added a few more stores and homes, but it all looked mostly the same.

But that was good, he thought. He wasn’t sure he liked change. Although he had prospered tremendously from a major change in his life about five years ago, perhaps almost six now. He was married to a lady he considered much too good for him. However, Esther disagreed and considered herself a perfect companion for the former bounty hunter. Marrying Esther, he thought, was the best decision he had ever made, even second to the decision that had brought him a four-thousand dollar reward for capturing a few outlaws who were stupid enough to believe they could steal thousands of dollars from Wells Fargo.

He looked up and appreciated the looming gray clouds full of rain. The clouds had dropped the temperature about twenty degrees, which made riding easier and cooler. He rummaged in his saddlebag for his binoculars and lifted them free. He put them to his eyes and the dim figures in the distance came into focus.

The young boy was in a corral, on the back of a brown and white Shetland pony. He had his small hands on the reins, but he was being led by his mother around the corral. He yelled with excitement. The young man had a huge smile on his face and even from here, Villiers could make out the resemblance to Hal Alcott. The tyke did look like his father. He moved the binoculars and focused on the face of the boy’s mother. Jane hadn’t changed much, if any, during the previous years. She had a bright smile on her face as she walked the Shetland.

Suddenly, she stopped and pointed to the reins, and touched them. The child was excited, but he managed to flip the rains. He was saying something or yelling something but Villiers was too far away to hear what the child said. But he saw the boy’s mother laughing.

The reins slapped the pony softly but, amazingly, he took a few steps, which delighted the child and made his mother laugh again. It was then Villiers noticed the black-haired girl, smaller than the boy, who was standing by the fence, back a few steps as if she wasn’t sure she trusted the pony.

He scanned the house and landscape, seeking a glance at Hal Allcott, but didn’t see him. He might be out on the range, Villiers thought.

It was such a peaceful scene, he wondered for a moment if the family were ever bothered by reporters, the lowlife scum that inhabited every city and town. Wherever he went, some scribbler would ask him about the Wells Fargo gold shipment and he and his friends had saved. He was tired of talking about it.

He shrugged. He would be connected to it until he died. It was a part of history, he guessed, but he had already said everything he had to say about the historical event. He had nothing more to talk about. He shook his head and gave an ironic smile, putting the binoculars back into his saddlebag. He spurred his horse.

As he rode closer, Jane noticed a rider and unlocked the corral to walk out. When she could make out his face, she yelled in surprise, pleasant surprise. She pointed at him.

“Vic Villiers! How are you!”

He climbed down from his horse. She rushed up and hugged him as he lifted her from the ground.

“It’s been… been… years,” she said.

“And, thank goodness, we both stopped shooting outlaws and moved on to better things.”

“Yes!” She took his head. “Let me introduce you to my children. Hal should be back soon. How long can you stay?”

“Oh, just about an hour,” he said. “I am officially working.”

“What are you doing?”

“I’m an officer—vice-president, in fact—of the Blue Mountain Cattle Company. I’m also an investor in the company. We like to brag that we feed Colorado and many other states, too.”

“And I’m sure you do,” she said. She tapped the boy on the shoulder, “This is Hal Junior. Son, say hello to one of your mom and dad’s closest friends. We fought outlaws together.”

Hal Junior’s eyes almost bulged out of their sockets. “Hello, sir. Did you really fight outlaws with mom and dad?”

“Yes, I did, son. We were a good team.” Villiers gave a wide smile. “But what your mother said could be misinterpreted. This wasn’t a routine thing with us. Let’s say we fought outlaws once and came out on the winning side, and we made a little money doing it.”

She laughed and took the hand of her little girl. “And this is my daughter, Holly. She’s three.”

“She looks like her mother—beautiful,” Villiers said. “Esther and I have a son, Jackson, and he’s three, too.”

“You’re married! I didn’t even know that. You’d better have a picture of her in your wallet. Your son, too.”

He smiled. “I do. I can show you both.”

“Well, let’s go on inside. I have a stew on the stove, and I can feed you lunch. The kids usually doze in the afternoon a bit and we’ll have time to talk.”

The lunch, Villiers assured his host, was excellent. “Haven’t had such a good meal since Esther cooked last time I was home.”

“How long are you going to be on the road?”

“I have to go down about thirty miles from here to check out some beeves on a ranch and report back to the company, and then I go home. Most of the time, nowadays, I stay in an office—it’s nice to get out once in a while and get back in the fresh air. I can take only an office for so long.”

“I can believe it,” Jane said. “You don’t seem like an office-type guy.”

“No, I’m not.”

***

Ten minutes later, with both children napping, they sat in the living room. Villiers pulled out a cigar. “Mind if I smoke?”

“Not at all,” she said. “Hal smokes a cigar once in a while. Light up. It’s fine. And tell me how you became a vice-president.”

He smiled. “Well, after we collected the reward, I married Esther. I had told her before that I would marry her, but I doubt she ever believed me. I was just a random cowboy who brought in random outlaws. But when I collected the money and knew I could support her in style, I proposed. And to be honest, I was a bit surprised when she said yes. We had a fancy wedding.”

“Well, that’s good. It should be a day to remember.”

Villiers puffed on his cigar. “And it was. We’ve been together almost five years and we’re very happy. Marrying her was the best thing that has ever happened it me. I made some money, but she knows how to spend it. She is shrewd in many ways, including financial things. She suggested a number of our investments and they always paid off.”

“So how did the job come about?”

“Well, before I turned bounty hunter, I was a drover on a couple of cattle drives and got to know a lot about cattle. And after my marriage, I got to know Walter Demeter, who was an official with the Blue Mountain Company. A little bit later, when the company needed to hire a few people, Walter suggested me. Frankly, I was staying home a lot of the time and think I was getting on Esther’s nerves a bit.”

Jane laughed and shook her head. “I’m sure that’s not true, but continue…”

“So, I took the job, and I was a field man for a few years, checking out stock and fixing any problems in the company. We’ve got several plants and locations across the state. I was on the road a bit, then moved into our main office in Denver. I still go out on the road from time to time. I’m out now because one of our people said the beef at this place is the finest he has ever seen. Our executives wanted to check that out, so I’m going out to take a look. If the story is true, the company is thinking of buying the place. Instead of buying beef, we can grow our own, so to speak.”

Jane nodded. “Hope you have a successful trip.”

“Thank you. So, what is Hal doing nowadays?”

“He runs the ranch. We have expanded it. It’s about five times its size when we married. We have added on, both in sons and daughters and in land. We’ve been very successful, and I’m so happy with the children. They are wonderful.” She nodded. “I’ve got a great life.”

“Yes, you do. And so do I. Back five years, I never dreamed I’d be leaving so well, or so contented. I wasn’t unhappy back then, but now I do greet each day with a smile. And I’m glad you and Hal are doing so well, too. That’s wonderful.”

She nodded. “But once or twice, five years ago, I wondered if we were going to make it out alive. We did make history with that Wells Fargo situation.”

“I still am asked about it,” Villiers said. “And I don’t have anything new to say.”

“Yes… I still remember being held in front of Sullivan with a pistol to my head and him saying he would kill me if the security people didn’t open the train car. I’m sorry Sullivan turned bad, but I am eternally grateful he didn’t shoot. He had killed other people and you can only get hung once, so he had nothing to lose by pulling the trigger. But he didn’t. I always felt I had a second chance at life. And I haven’t wasted it.”

Villiers puffed on his cigar. “Yes, he was an interesting man. There was a spot of decency left in him. But the real heroes of that event weren’t us, although we got some credit for it. Those two guys in the car were the heroes. They weren’t going to open it, even if they died.”

“Yes, I’ve thought about them often during the past five years. Wells Fargo may have hired some bad men who were tempted into crime, but they hired some good ones, too.”

“I know the company did a thorough investigation after the incident. They questioned everybody about everything. Did they ever find out why the Lumberton sheriff wanted you dead?”

“Not really.” She stood up and walked to the kitchen. “Would you like a spot of tea, Vic? I’m going to have a cup. I like a cup of tea after lunch and dinner.”

“No, go ahead.”

She found a cup, lifted the kettle, and poured tea into it. She found a spoon, dug into sugar in a cup and dropped it into her cup. After tasting it and finding it satisfactory, she walked back to her chair.

“There may always be a mystery about that. About two months after we may it back to Lumberton, an agent came by to give me a report but admitted their people still didn’t have all the details.”

Both Villiers and Jane looked up when they heard hoofbeats.

“It has to be Hal,” she said. She set the tea down and walked to the door. She opened it and yelled, “Honey, come in and see who’s here!”

Allcott looked puzzled when he walked in but showed a big smile when he saw Villiers.

“Well, look what the cat dragged in. Vic! How have you been? It’s great to see you!”

They shook hands.

“You look fine, Hal,” Villiers said. “And in addition to having a lovely wife, you have a handsome son and daughter who looks like her mother. You can’t do better than that.”

“No, you can’t. You are looking good, too. And I heard you were married.”

“Yes, to a wonderful woman and I have a three-year-old son.”

Both men sat down, as did Jane.

“Vic was just asking about the sheriff and why he wanted me dead five years ago,” Jane said.

“The last mystery of that historical incident.”

“And it’s still a mystery. At least, to a degree. We’re guessing about the real reasons.”

“Well, I’m getting curious. What are your guesses?”

Jane sipped her tea. “The Wells Fargo investigator was named Don Evers, and he had been with the company for seventeen years. He said this was the strangest case he had ever seen. There was a slight tangential thread to Redmun. Apparently, although Redmun was a despicable man, he did have a few contacts with several corrupt sheriffs in the region. And it was rumored that the Lumbeton sheriff was one of them. That is a possibility. It might have made it easier for Redmun to intrude into the county and kidnap Emma. If somehow, something had gone wrong and Hal went to the sheriff and got a posse, the sheriff would deliberately lead the posse in the wrong direction.”

“Yes, I can see that. If you’re an outlaw, there’s a great advantage if you have a sheriff on your side.”

“But Wells Fargo also suspected the sheriff was involved in one or two other illicit schemes and maybe was blackmailing a banker in the community. Evers said he also heard a rumor that had a degree of credibility that the blackmail was true. But, again, how that relates to the sheriff sending three killers against me wasn’t made clear.”

“Well, they just didn’t know,” Hal said. “They just couldn’t piece everything together.”

Jane sipped her tea again.

“Evers said the theory most of the Wells Fargo agents thought held the most water was that Jane saw something one day that she wasn’t supposed to see. She may not have known how important it was. There are a number of scenic paths in and near the town, paths that you can stop and talk on. But the walks are used mostly early in the morning and later in the evening, not the middle of the day.

“I talked with him when the agency was doing its investigation and he asked me about the paths. I said I often walked there because it was a pleasant walk and very scenic. Wells Fargo wondered if the sheriff was talking to one of his criminal friends when Jane walked by. She probably ignored the men but whoever the second man was, he and the sheriff should not have been seen together. If they had been, that would have tipped-off investigators that they were planning something or had already pulled off some time of crime. Jane may not have noticed them, but they saw her and that was what counted. They had to eliminate her as a witness.”

“Well, that’s plausible,” Villiers said. “I’ve known of cases where individuals are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and got caught in some trouble. If it was like that, even if they weren’t sure that she saw the two men, or the three men maybe, they couldn’t take the chance. They had to get rid of her, and the sheriff certainly tried.”

Jane drained the mug of tea. “Yes, I think that theory is possible. I like to be complimented for my ability with guns, but I don’t think those three men were first-rate gunmen. They thought they had an easy assignment. I suspect they were going to try to have a little fun with me before they killed me. Well, they got the surprise of their lives. The encounter became their death. But I never believed they were first rate, for which I’m entirely thankful.”

“Who’s the sheriff now?” Villiers asked.

“A man named Eric Longmont,” Allcott said. “And he is very good. A deacon at the church, which is where he’s at every Sunday, and he’s an honorable man the rest of the week, too.”

“And what happened to the boy you had here?”

“Charlie is back east, visiting his mother. He’s been there every summer since Emma went back. Charlie says he loves the West and wants to stay here, but he also wants a relationship with his mother. He said in a few years, he will get a house and a job and see if she wants to return to Lumberton. But I think Emma may just stay in the East. She’s been happy there,” Allcott said.

“Well, everything seems to have gone very nicely for the past few years.”

“I’m certainly not complaining,” Allcott said. “The ranch has grown and so has our bank account. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to go again through what we went through five years ago. There was a lot of trouble and trials, but at least it had a happy ending.”

“Yes, it did. Although at times the odds were against it, we did have a happy ending to the tale.”

THE END


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14 thoughts on “The Rugged Trail of Vengeance – Extended Epilogue”

    1. I really enjoyed the story. The strong willed gun carry teacher made the story that much livelier.

      The only distraction we’re all the grammar and misspelled words. It still was very enjoyable reading.

  1. I liked the book a lot. It moved a lot and had plenty of exciting places along the way and you just want to keep reading. Thank you

  2. Derek, you are a wonderful storyteller. It’s a gift to be able to spin a yarn in such a way that the reader is drawn into the story and owns it. As a retired clergy and former Vietnam era medic I find it important that the story is real and the characters come across as genuine. I think some series writers must get bored with storyline and characters as they begin to read more like comic books. You seem to do a good job of resisting this.

  3. I really enjoyed your story and you had great characters, but so many grammar and
    Spelling mistakes is distracting. Don`t authors
    have proofreaders anymore?
    Also, I would prefer that author`s just write the whole story,instead of using the Extended
    Epilogue. So many times, I can not download the ending, which is terrible.

  4. Awesome read with a lot of action. A well written story with great characters. Loved the woman’s roll in the old west with great shooting and still loving her feminine roles.

  5. Derek, another fine story. You had so many twists and turns in this one, I didn’t think you could straighten them all out. Thanks again for a great Western tale.

  6. The spelling and grammar errors were quite something else. Most computers automatically correct such things. Enjoyed the story.

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