A Sheriff Against a Renegade Outlaw – Extended Epilogue

Evan Davis shook his head, a smile cracking across his face. “So the day has finally come. I didn’t think I’d live to see it.”

“Keep smiling,” Jann Wagner said. “They’ll be burying you before they’re marrying me.”

The two shared a little chuckle. “Don’t let your cousin hear you joking like that,” Evan said. “She’s a loving and dutiful wife.”

“And you’re a lucky man.”

“I am, for a fact,” Evan said, watching as Jann wrestled with his cravat. Finally, he  brushed Jann’s hands away and tied the tie himself, a fine bow to punctuate Jann’s tailored suit. Evan stepped back and looked him over. “The Stealin’ Swede? The stylish Swede, I say.”

“No more of that old moniker,” Jann said, his voice still tinged with the accent of his homeland. “It’s been over a year since that fellow raised his head, and it won’t happen again.”

“There’s hardly a need,” Evan said, the two men nearly filling the little room in the back of the church. “You’ve been a fine deputy, Jann. I hope the wages are adequate for a new family.”

“After the raise you’ve arranged? Anyway, there’s always enough if one lives life that way. If I had any more, I suppose I’d be destined to have it stolen from me in a stroke of poetic justice!”

“So long as the goods were given over to the poor.”

Another little chuckle passed between the two men, but it didn’t last long. “I have to wonder, though,” Jann said, blue eyes staring off. “Did I ever really help anyone? Did I do more harm than good?”

“There’s no way to know all that looking back,” Evan said. “What matters is that you had good intentions. Your methods were a bit … extreme, I’ve never argued that. But the people you donated that money to needed it and they made good use of it. You know that pastor, he’s an honest man. You fed the hungry, you made it possible for them to clothe and feed themselves. And the people you stole from? That was unfortunate, yes. But you’ve changed those ways, more than made up for it by standing proudly behind the badge.” Evan clapped his hand on Jann’s shoulder. “You’re a good man, Jann… Deputy Wagner. I’m proud to serve alongside you.”

Jann returned the smile and nodded. “This last year here in Fairweather has been the happiest of my life.”

Evan couldn’t help chuckle. “With all the ladies flocking around you? I don’t doubt it. Are you sure you’re ready to settle down?”

“More than ready,” Jann said, looking at himself in the full-body mirror brought in by the tailor. “Not that the ladies of Fairweather haven’t been perfectly pleasant company, mind you.”

“I’d hardly think otherwise,” Evan answered.

“But my Clara, she is truly something special.”

“She truly is, Jann.”

“So loving and sweet, caring of others.”

“Amelia is fond of her too,” Evan said. “I know we’ll all get along famously.”

“We will do that,” Jann said, a serious timbre taking the little room as blue eyes met brown. “Thank you again, Evan, for all you’ve done.” 

Evan cracked a little smile and gave his best friend a little nod. “I’m happy for you, Jann.”

“Jann Wagner,” a third voice said, unknown to Evan. 

Both he and Jann turned to see a man Evan did not recognize, a graying fellow with bushy sideburns on his face and a Colt pistol in his hand. 

“The Stealin’ Swede.”

Evan knew the shot of caution shooting through him. He’d faced armed and angry men before, but he was instantly intent on avoiding any bloodshed on that blessed day.

“This man is not the Stealin’ Swede,” he said. “You’ve no right to burst in on us like this.”

“But I do, Sheriff Davis, I do indeed. This man held me up in a carriage not far from St. Louis. I know his eyes; I’ll never forget them. And once I heard the stories of the Stealin’ Swede retiring here in Fairweather, well, I decided to come back and retrieve what is mine!”

“And what would that be,” Evan said, “a few lost trinkets? A watch or a few dollar bills? Even were this man the guilty party, you’ve no legal right to kill him for that.”

“You call yourself a sheriff?”

“I do,” he said. “And I say I’m the man who will bring you to trial and watch you hang for murder if you go on with this misguided mission.”

Jann asked, “What’s your name, friend?”

“Jedson,” the man barked, “Cornelius Jedson. Remember that name when you’re rotting in hell!”

“Very well, Cornelius Jedson,” Jann said. “How much did you lose at the hands of this… this Robbing Rapscallion?”

“The Stealin’ Swede,” Jedson corrected him, “as you know very well.”

“Whatever the name,” Jann went on. “What was the value of your losses?”

The stout fellow seemed a big beguiled, eyes shifting as he clearly considered the facts. “Perhaps… a hundred dollars or more, not a small figure!”

“It’s a considerable loss,” Evan said. “But nothing compared to losing your liberty… or your life.”

“With two men dead,” Jedson said, “there will be no arrest, no hanging—only justice.”

Evan and Jann traded a glance. Only Evan was armed, but he could hardly outdraw a man with a pistol already aimed at his heart. To do so would be to give the man cause for a plea of self-defense. And with Jann’s dubious past, it was easy for Evan to foresee the man walking away clear of any charges. It was too easy to look back on their sad interactions with rancher Marcus Halloran only a year before. Wealthy and powerful men expected exceptional treatment from the law, from everyone. More often than not, they got what they wanted.

But Evan had stood up to Marcus and he would not back down from any of the man’s contemporaries, whatever their grievance.

“There’s a wedding party in the church,” Evan said. “They’ll hear the gunshots, come running.”

“You let me worry about that,” Jedson said. “Unless you’d like to … supplement your meager sheriff’s earnings with a fine little reward for your cooperation.”

“I would not,” Evan said. “And attempting to bribe an officer of the law is another offense to add to the list.”

“So much more the pity,” Jedson said. “But there will be no list. Adios, you two partners in crime.”

The door opened behind him and Amelia Davis herself stepped in. “Evan? The pastor’s ready—”

Jedson turned, clearly surprised and even more clearly ready to shoot the very next person he saw. Evan made his move, drawing on his years of experience and expertise. He knew in that instant that he didn’t dare draw on the man, lest he miss and shoot his beloved wife. His hands moved in a flash, almost beyond his control or even his awareness.

Evan grabbed the man’s right arm, moving the gun upward in a harmless direction just before the pistol went off. A few specks of wood fell from the new hole in the ceiling above them. But the bullet was errant, hurting nobody, as Evan pulled Jedson back. Jann grabbed the man’s gun and the other Colt from his gun belt, turning both weapons on the man.

“You’d kill me on my wedding day,” Jann said.

“Jann,” Evan cautioned him, “take it easy.”

“Cowardly,” Jann went on, “from ambush, like a wild animal!”

“You’re the better man,” Evan said to his old friend. “Remember that.”

Jann asked, “Isn’t this self-defense? Shall I wait until the dog returns with his pack, to attack my new bride?”

Amelia said, “Don’t do it, cousin! My husband stands just behind the man!”

“The only thing staying my hand,” Jann said. “I will not fell my best friend in the service of exterminating this … this vermin!”

“He’s no vermin,” Evan said, wrestling to hold the man securely. “He’s just a man. Like many, he’s been wronged.” Jann and Amelia looked on as Evan pushed Jedson against the wall and pulled his wrists back behind him. 

“But like a lot of men who have been wronged,” Evan went on, “he’s decided to take the law into his own hands. Now you’re under arrest.”

“For what? I’ve hurt nobody!”

“Attempted murder,” Evan said. “Two counts. You won’t be allowed to maraud innocent people any longer, Mr. Jedson.”

Jedson just cracked a bitter smile and shook his head. “You can’t arrest me! I own more than five hundred head of cattle! I know what you did to Marcus Halloran, but I’ve twice the holdings he had!”

“And they’ll do you no more good than Halloran’s holding did for him. He faced justice… and so will you.”

“They hanged Halloran,” Jedson went on. 

“That was up to the judge, to the jury, to the law. You’ll have the same advantages.”

“And I’ll make the most of them,” Jedson said, “you can rest assured. I’ll bring this whole town to its knees.”

“Marcus Halloran said more or less the very same thing,” Evan said. He turned to Jann. “I’ll lock him up myself.”

Jann asked, “But… the wedding? You’re my best man!”

“Send Buddy to the office behind me to guard him, I’ll be back in about fifteen minutes.” Evan asked Amelia, “You think the pastor will grant me a brief extension for… professional reasons?”

“I’m certain he will,” Amelia said. “If not, I will convince him.”

Evan already knew how persuasive his new wife could be. So it was only a matter of escorting the newly captured prisoner down the street to the cell in the sheriff’s office. It was a fine brick building with iron bars installed during construction. 

Buddy Mason was a good deputy, and he would stand guard while the rest of Fairweather celebrated the wedding of the man many still believed was once known as the Stealin’ Swede. Nobody could ever be truly sure, however. Some preferred to think one way, others leaned in the other direction. But it would not change the fact that the man everybody knew as Jann Wagner was now a well-respected deputy of Fairweather, Missouri, and was about to become its happiest citizen.

***

Thirty minutes later, they stood before Father Roy Shaw, the pews of the First Baptist Church of Fairweather packed with tearful women and respectful men, observing the union of Jann Wagner and pretty Clara Long. Her family stood proud, accepting of Jann’s past as well as embracing his future as a part of their family. 

Evan looked on from his position next to Jann, glancing at Amelia, who stood among Clara’s bridesmaids. He could hardly avoid the memories of his own marriage, a union that had made his life complete. Jann had brought Amelia to him, there was little denying, and Evan was more than happy to return the favor with friendship and fraternity. 

The friendship between the two couples would only strengthen with time; their children would grow up friends and collaborators. They would carry forth the notions of law and order that Evan and even Jann had always embraced. Though they had come at the problem from different positions, they were allied and aligned, and nothing would change that. Future generations would celebrate their name and their memories, and they would follow in their good example. They would be the very best years in the lives of Evan and Amelia and the others, hard won and well earned.

After the wedding, there was another grand celebration, one to match or even better Evan and Amelia’s wedding from the year before. The joy of the occasion was only heightened by the stories of a frightful encounter just minutes before the wedding. Once again, the heroism of Sheriff Evan Davis was proven, his untouchable honesty and immunity to corruption. The day became as much a celebration of him, of the town they all shared, of the liberty they enjoyed in the new and burgeoning United States of America.

THE END


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