A Wild Chase in Arizona – Extended Epilogue

Three Years Later

“Emily, be careful,” John pleaded, standing on the fence beside her.

“Is this what someone said in your ear the last time we had a bear on the ranch?” she asked with a humored smirk, looking up from the pistol in her hands.

“No. I had Mayhew in my ear pleading for me to give them all a raise. He couldn’t have cared less about a bear.”

“I wasn’t that bad!” 

Mayhew’s words urged them both to look around.

He stood a short distance away with the other ranchers, who laughed. Yates was at the front of the group, with Lenny and Mayhew on either side of him. Behind them were the other two ranchers they’d hired over the last few years, Arthur and Hank. The two were eager, young, and one of them had come at the recommendation of Sam.

At first, John had been reluctant to take on Arthur, who had once been a thief, but Sam’s recommendation stood for a lot and John had given him a chance. He was young, impetuous, even impulsive, but a hard worker, too. He’d dedicated himself to the ranch and was grateful for the second chance he’d been given in life.

Sam was right about the kid. I’ll have to tell him when he comes by later.

John glanced away to the track, checking that Sam and his men weren’t traveling down the track now. They were due that morning but still hadn’t arrived. John checked the pocket watch in his waistcoat.

Why are they late?

“God, it keeps moving,” Emily muttered, drawing John’s attention back to the bear.

It had been years since they’d had one come this far onto the land searching for cattle, and it was a testament to the hot weather they’d been suffering. Hungry, the bear needed something. It swatted at the calves in the enclosure, clearly eager for the kill.

“Hold still,” John urged. “Remember what Sam said.”

“I remember.” Emily smiled.

John noticed that smile lasted a beat longer this time. It seemed to always be the same these days, whenever Sam came to visit the ranch. Emily would never stop smiling in his company. Sam had quickly become a mentor to her after the kidnap. He’d taught her how to defend herself in a physical fight, how to shoot, and much more. 

John had seen the pair of them once scuffle outside in a play fight. Sam had taught her expertly how to fight with a knife and she had even managed to flip Sam onto his back, finishing the fight by standing over him with the blade. From the smile on Sam’s own face, John suspected he might have helped to trip himself over.

“Shoot straight, don’t pull to the side,” John continued on.

“Father, I can do it.”

“I know you can.”

“So why are you badgering in my ear?” she asked with a laugh. “I’m just waiting for the right moment.”

“That’s good, good,” he muttered hurriedly. The bear swiped out again, catching one of the calves on the rump. The calf made a strange noise, something akin to the braying of a donkey, and lumbered off. His fast lope meant other cows scarpered, making the shot more difficult than before, with the cattle between them and the bear. “Try to get him before he kills all the calves, Em.”

“What do you think I’m doing? Waiting for him to die of natural causes?”

“The thought may have crossed my mind,” John said with a laugh. Emily momentarily put down the gun and swiped him on the arm in reprimand. He continued to chuckle as she returned her focus to the gun.

The cows settled, spreading across the clearing one more, but the bear was angry now. He swung his head from side to side, a roar escaping his spittle-covered jaws. His front paws thudded down on the ground and he ran, heading straight toward another of the calves.

“Come on, Em.”

“I can’t do it with you in my ear. Shh, Father.”

“I’ll do it.” John snatched up the gun from his holster.

“I don’t need you to. I can do it.” Emily had insisted on being the one to shoot the bear. 

“He’s going to kill the calf!”

“You have many.”

“Em!”

“I know, I know,” she muttered. 

The gunshot echoed around them as Emily pulled the trigger. The bullet struck its target. It landed in the rump of the bear, who roared another time, turning his jowls up to the sky. He bent further down on his front paws, lifting one of its hind legs.

“There. Got it,” Emily said with satisfaction, lowering the smoking gun.

“Well done.” John clapped her on the back as the ranch hands applauded behind them.

“Why can’t I shoot like that?” Lenny asked out loud.

“Good teacher,” Arthur answered.

The bear loped forward once more, and John’s smile faded. His clapping on Emily’s back halted as he stared at the bear. 

“Oh,” she murmured. “Maybe I should have gone for the head.”

“Or the heart,” John mumbled fast. 

The bear ran toward them. The blood trickled behind it, creating a red line across the dusty earth as he sprinted toward the pair of them.

“Time to run. Get down, everyone!” John called to his ranch hands. They scattered as John turned around on the fence and lifted his gun. He and Emily both pointed their weapons at the animal, ready to fire, when a gunshot echoed.

John looked down at the weapon in his hand, but it hadn’t gone off. Emily did the same and looked at him.

“That wasn’t…”

“I know.”

They both halted as the bear dropped down in the dust in front of them, its nose coming near to the edge of the fence. Shot in the head, it had gone down like a sack of spuds, with scarcely a hesitation.

The dust cloud billowed above it, the flies darting away as the calves mooed in the distance and hurried to the other side of the field, trying to get as much distance as possible between them and the dead bear.

“Well, that will kill it,” John muttered as he looked down at the bear.

“But who did it…” Emily trailed off, turning on the fence. “Oh.”

John caught sight of her smile before he saw who it was. From her expression alone, he could take a reliable guess.

Jumping down from the fence, he turned his focus to the track road. Far down the road was Sam, a smoking gun in his hand. Behind him, the three men that traveled with him these days, all honorable guns for hire, fell into step on their own horses.

Sam kept himself neater these days. The black beard was cropped around his jaw, his clothes not as dirty or dusty as they had once been. The hat on his head bore a suspicious-looking bullet hole, but the man was alive and well.

“I’d have thought you two could shoot bears by now,” he said as he put the gun back into his holster.

“Sam!” Emily leaped down from the fence beside John and ran past him to reach Sam.

John laughed, shaking his head as Yates moved to his side.

“You do realize something, don’t you?” Yates said, elbowing him and muttering under his breath. “About those two.”

“I know, I know.” John tried to control his laughter as he watched Sam embrace his daughter. They held onto one another tight then stepped back a little, but neither one of them released their touch. Sam’s hands rested on her arms as hers did his shoulders. “Probably no better man to lose her to, is there?” he whispered, for Yates’ ears only. Slowly, Yates nodded.

John strode forward, leaving Yates to deal with the dead bear as he crossed to Emily and Sam together, listening in to their conversation.

“What is this?” Emily said with panic, pointing straight at the bullet hole in Sam’s hat.

“Ah, yeah. That.” Sam grimaced as they released one another.

“That was going to be my question,” John said as he reached the pair of them. “And where have you been? You were due this morning.” He outstretched his hand to Sam who shook it firmly in greeting, as he smiled broadly.

“We ran into a little trouble.” Sam glanced back at one of his men. One of the eldest of the group and the most experienced, Paddy offered a smile and a rather uncertain wave of his hand.

“It wasn’t that bad,” Paddy said slowly. “Someone wanted revenge and came shooting. But we got them. They didn’t get us.”

“It looks like they nearly did.” John pointed to the hat on Sam’s head.

“I wasn’t wearing the hat at the time,” Sam said with a deep laugh. 

“Thank God for that.” John clapped him on the shoulder. “Come on, let’s get you a drink. You three,” he paused and looked at the other gunslingers, “the cook has something for you out the back of the house. Just follow the scent of cooked meat.”

The three gunslingers dropped off their horses and hurried around the house, with the ranch hands in tow. Having seen one another often enough over the last few years, friendships had formed, and they easily fell into step with one another, catching up.

“Business is doing well, I see,” Sam said, nodding at the ranch, though he winced when he saw the dead bear. “Mostly.”

“Only trouble we’ve had in months,” Emily explained quickly.

“It’s true.” John took Sam’s shoulder and steered him toward the house, too. “Thanks to your teachings, we’ve even been able to keep away cattle thieves. Though thank Emily for that. She shot one of them.”

“You shot him?” Sam said on a laugh.

“Only injured him. He’ll live.” Emily shrugged, as if it didn’t matter.

John laughed as he followed the pair of them around the house. 

It was somewhere in the midst of the meal and the drinking that John noticed again how close Emily and Sam sat together. John moved toward them, asking Sam about his success with the other gunslingers.

“It’s been good.” Sam nodded. “Three murderers behind bars in as many months.” He smiled so broadly that as John sat down beside him on one of the logs they’d set up as seats, he realized he couldn’t remember seeing Sam so happy.

It appeared that Sam finally had what he wanted in life. He was repaying what he saw was his debt to society, putting criminals behind bars. 

“Each man is like me,” Sam lowered his voice to a whisper, so only Emily and John could hear him as he pointed around the group. He pointed at Paddy first and went on to the other two gunslingers who rode with him. “They’re all looking to do what’s right, for one reason or another.”

“You’re where you want to be then, kid?” John asked.

“Mostly, yes.” When Sam looked at Emily, she didn’t appear to notice, for she was too busy eating from her bowl.

John did, though, and when Sam realized that he’d been caught looking, John winked. What he’d said before to Yates was right. Sam was the best man he knew, and if Emily decided someday to marry, there was no better person, nor a safer man, she could be with.

“Now, do we need another shooting lesson if you two can’t shoot a bear?” Sam said, prompting them both to laugh.

“We can shoot a bear!” Emily insisted.

“Well, we sort of can,” John said with honesty. “Apparently, we still need a little more practice.”

“I’m here if you need the lesson,” Sam said swiftly.

“I know, kid. I know.” John smiled, knowing Sam had every intention of being there to help. 

THE END


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23 thoughts on “A Wild Chase in Arizona – Extended Epilogue”

    1. Loved the book as always.
      Lots of action and twists and character development.
      I’ll review the book. If the kindle gives me a chance.

    2. Loved the adventure-awesome characters-exciting plots-thanks for time well spent reading. Looking forward to my next read of your work. PS: loved loved Sam

    3. I am hooked on your writings, Derek. Thank you for helping to make my remaining days fun. At 79 years, it is not certain how many more remain. But, I look for your books to keep me company always.

      Thank You, Sir!

  1. Great book you just never know what Derek has in store for you. This was a very good story. Kept you on the edge of your seat.

    1. Great book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
      I’d love to see a sequel with Emily and Sam.

      Maybe they could go to a big toes and become private detectives. It would be interesting to see how Emily balances motherhood to her twins (a boy and a girl) with her detective job.

      Just a random thought.

  2. I liked the story. It had lots of action in it, not all of it just conversation. I found one grammatical error where John found Emily. She lifted her head when John came down into the basement. I read it several times and it didn’t make sense to me. You used the word he and it should have been she. But that’s the only error I found. Thanks for a good read.

  3. Well, Derek, I truly enjoyed the story. I just knew the culprit had to be someone on the ranch but I trouble with the who and the why. Such a sick man. I loved the character, Sam and like others would like to see a story with the two of them together, soon, maybe?? I do love Westerns and mysteries. Romance doesn’t hurt a thing. Thanks & good writing.

  4. Enjoyed the book; didn’t want to put it done. Lots of action with intrigue mixed in. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading.

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