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Western Fiction Drama

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

 Williams Daily Star 

May 29th, 1893


Campbell Creek Saloon Robbed at Gunpoint, Two Dead

By Glenn Jefferson


Campbell Creek, New Mexico

The Campbell Creek Saloon was robbed at gunpoint late Saturday night, leaving proprietor Wayne Duffy and an unidentified local dead.

The perpetrators, numbering six, entered the near-empty bar with guns loaded and at the ready, instructing patrons to put their hands in the air.

One patron testified to law enforcement that the aforementioned bartender attempted to draw a gun from behind the bar to thwart the robbery. One of the gang members, wearing a face covering, then twice discharged a rifle into Duffy’s chest, killing him.

Following Duffy’s murder, the second victim attempted to intervene. He was shot point-blank with a shotgun by another masked gang member. The double murder dissuaded any further attempts at heroics.

The robbery is believed to have been committed by the Joyce Gang, led by one Douglas Joyce…


* * *

June 1st, 1893


Sheriff Sydney Raymond say in his saddle and rode with a lantern in his hand and wondered whether or not he was riding to his death. 

Earlier that day, a little girl he didn’t recognize in town walked up to him and tugged at his jacket to give him a letter before scampering off somewhere.

The letter (poorly written) read that the author had information on the whereabouts of the Joyce Gang. It requested that the Sheriff go alone around midnight to where the road to Campbell Creek and the old mill road met.

It was a long shot, and Sydney didn’t like the idea of putting himself in danger for what could be a false lead, but he was desperate. The Joyce Gang had been wreaking havoc for nearly seven years and needed to be brought to justice. 

They would disappear for months at a time, and just when he thought they had left the territory, they would pop back up and rob stagecoaches or rustle cattle. Lately, they had grown bolder, and the public was getting restless and angry, disappointed with Sydney’s inability to bring them in. 

Meeting the mystery informant was a gamble, but Sydney felt that he needed to see it through.

He and two deputies had set up camp a few miles from the meeting spot. He had told them that if he wasn’t back in two hours, come looking for him.

The ride had been cool and peaceful. As he made his way down the trail, the river grew louder and soon it drowned out all the other pleasant sounds of the night. 

Up ahead in the moonlight, he could make out the crest of a hill. The old mill road intersected with the road to Campbell Creek just on the other side. He figured he would be at the intersection in five or ten minutes.

He heard a steely tchk-tchk in the bushes and he went cold. His horse startled and he quickly tried to soothe her. It was a trap, he thought.

“Sheriff” came a voice from the dark. Sydney started to reach for his revolver. “I wouldn’t do that,” the voice said. Sydney stopped, a cold sweat breaking out all over his body. “Do us both a favour and don’t give me a reason to shoot ya,” the voice said. It was coming from the brush near the river.

“Git off yer horse and tie it to that tree on yer left,” the voice instructed. “When yer done, raise yer hands above yer head, bring yer lantern, and walk backwards toward the river until I say stop. Slowly. One bad move and I’ll send ya to St. Peter’s gate.” 

Sydney complied. “Stop,” the voice said once he reached the middle of the trail. Sydney did so. He heard branches breaking behind him, and then boots on soft dirt. 

A man with a rifle raised to his shoulder came into view. Sydney’s eyes grew wide. It was Lonnie Gilbert, one of Douglas Joyce’s gang. Sydney had known him when the gang was just starting to make trouble. He had looked dangerous and virile then, but now he looked tired and ragged. 

 “Looks like ya got my letter. Wise of ya to come alone as I asked. We’re gonna go for a little walk and then have a little talk,” Lonnie said. “Start walking up the trail.”

“You don’t have to do this, Lonnie,” Sydney said. “Nobody has to die tonight.”

“Nobody’s gonna die unless they do somethin’ foolish. And yer not gonna do that, are ya, Sheriff?” Lonnie said. Sydney just swallowed. “Good. Start walkin’.”

Sydney started up the trail. Lonnie gave him a wide berth when he walked by and never lowered the rifle. They walked in silence over the crest of the hill, Sydney’s lantern lighting their way. On the other side, he could see Lonnie’s horse tied off. How could I have been so stupid? Sydney thought. Of course, whoever wrote the letter would’ve headed him off.

“That’s far enough,” Lonnie said. Sydney stopped. Lonnie walked around him and stopped ten paces away before lowering the rifle. “Sorry for the dramatics, Sheriff, but ya can’t blame a feller for being too careful these days,” he said.

“Spare me your wit. Just kill me quick because if I’m not accounted for in two hours, my deputies will come looking.” Sydney said with false bravery.

“This won’t take long,” Lonnie said. “And I don’t want ya dead. I want to strike a deal if we can.”

“I’m not interested in dealing with the likes of you.”

“Maybe ya’d better hear my offer first, Sheriff. I’m willing to give up the hiding place of Doug and the rest if ya meet my two conditions.”

Sydney stayed straight-faced. He didn’t believe him. “And what conditions are those?” he asked.

“Ya raid them first thing in the mornin’ and ya tell everybody I’m dead,” Lonnie responded.

Sydney scoffed. “How would I know you’re telling the truth?”

“Because I’ve got a lot more to lose than to gain by lyin’ to ya.”

“What’s the matter? Doug ain’t very good at sharing the wealth?”

Lonnie sighed. When all of his breath was gone, he looked like an old man.

“Sheriff,” Lonnie said. “I’m gettin’ old. Too old for going days without a proper meal and sleepin’ on the ground. My bones ache and my brains ache. The whisky’s bitter and I can’t stomach the sight of blood. I don’t wanna die on the back of my horse and be buried in a shallow grave. That was the wish of a younger man, but now that younger man has seen too much. I want to die old and grey and in the comfort of a feather bed.”

Sydney nodded. "If you leave, they’ll hunt you down and kill you like a dog,” he said. “You want them out of the way so you can ride off into the sunset.”

“I wouldn’t be here if I weren’t desperate, Sheriff.”

“Why now? Why not before you robbed the Saloon?”

““I’ve been thinkin’ about leavin’ a long time, but robbin' that saloon was the last straw. I ain’t been able to sleep since I blew that kid’s face off,” Lonnie said. "That’s what did it. I don’t want this life no more. If I could do it again, I’d do it different. Livin’ on the run ain’t livin’.”

“What if I say no?” Sydney said. “Or what if I don’t hold up my end of the deal and tell everybody you’re dead?”

“Either way, Douglas will be cold and buried. My only problem will be the likes of you, and I like my odds. I’ve kept the law off my back since yer mustache was black.”

Sydney laughed. “Everybody runs out of luck someday, son.”

“I’m willing to keep rolling the dice.”

Sydney smiled. Lonnie may be going grey, but he was just as cocky as a kid. “I’m not one to make deals with the Devil,” Sydney said.

“It’s a win for both of us, Sheriff. Ya get Douglas and I disappear like a ghost. Ya won’t so much as dream about me, I’ll be so far gone.”

Sydney felt dirty considering the deal. Did he let one guilty man go free to bring five others to justice?

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I accept. Joyce and the rest need to go down and I believe that you want out. Why else would you be here?”

Lonnie sighed. “Thanks, Sheriff.”

“You have to promise that you won’t tell a soul,” Sydney said. “If anybody finds out about this, I’ll be lynched.”

“Sheriff, my lips are sealed…”


* * *


Williams Daily Star

June 2nd, 1893


Joyce Gang Captured!

By Glenn Jefferson


Williams, New Mexico

Michael Pearson’s farm, near Campbell Creek, was the site of a historic arrest yesterday morning. Local law enforcement, headed by Sheriff Sydney Raymond, ambushed and captured five members of the Joyce Gang, including infamous outlaw Douglas Joyce himself. 

An anonymous informant alerted Raymond to the whereabouts of the gang, who were hiding out in Pearson’s barn after their daring robbery of the Campbell Creek Saloon this past Saturday night.

Douglas Joyce, 37, Bernard Smith, age unknown, Daniel Ross, 25, and Ned Jasper, 19, were all captured and are set to be publicly hanged this Saturday, June 3rd along with Michael Pearson, 31, and his wife.

Not among those sentenced to death is feared gang member Lonnie Gilbert, who is believed to have perished in the barn when it was set ablaze…


* * *


From a letter addressed to Florence Jasper from Abigail Jasper


June 3rd, 1893


Dear Mother,


It is with heavy hand and heart that I write this to you. I have terrible news that I’m not sure you will hear so far east.

Neddy is dead. You’ll remember in my last letter that he had run off with some outlaws known as the Joyce Gang whom we had met while working in a logging camp. This past Thursday, they were captured. They were all hanged this afternoon, including Neddy. 

It was awful to watch Mother. All of the men were yelling and insisting that a deceased gang member named Lonnie Gilbert was not dead, right up until the platform dropped away. But not Neddy. He was crying like a child and his last words were, “I’m sorry Mama.” I hope that that brings you some amount of comfort…


* * *


Ten years later…


Weeks had gone by. Weeks of doing awful things with foul men, in hopes that he would walk in again. And there he was, sitting at the bar with a glass of whisky in front of him, leering at the women as they walked by. He was older, and greyer, his once lean body softened with age, but it was him.

Abigail’s heart thudded in her chest. The day after she had seen him walk in here, she had marched in and asked for a job. She started work that night, waiting for her chance. And here it was. 

She walked up and leaned seductively on the bar next to him.

He looked over at her and smiled. She smiled back.

“You’ve killed somebody before, haven’t you?” she said. The smile fell away from his face. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell. But I can see it in those blue eyes that you have. Some men are just dangerous,” she said before leaning in close and whispering in his ear, “I like dangerous men,” she said before she leaned back.

He smiled again. “Darlin’, it ain’t polite to talk details, but I have seen and done some dark things.”

“I knew it,” she said. “Dangerous men make the best lovers. Much better than the average scamp. And it’s hard to resist a man with a beard. I like the way they tickle,” she added, tugging playfully at his beard. “Would you like to come upstairs and tickle me tonight?” 

“What’s your name darlin’?”

“Daisy. What’s yours?” Abigail said.

“Jacob. Well, Daisy, you make a tempting offer. What kind of man would I be if I turned down an offer like that to bed a red-haired woman?” he said before tossing back the rest of his drink.

“Follow me,” she said, grabbing him by the hand. They started heading up the stairs. She led him to the door of an unoccupied room.

“Let me get that, darlin’,” he said, reaching for the handle.

“A dangerous gentleman,” she said, walking through. “Even better.”

He walked in behind her and turned to close and lock the door.

“Now Daisy, I better warn ya that it might take an old feller like me a minute to get goin’, but when I get there I’m gon-” 


Click-click


He stopped talking when she put the barrel of a revolver against the back of his head and pulled the hammer back. They stood silent and still for a moment.

Finally, he spoke. “Now darlin’, I’m not stupid. you and I both know you ain't gonna pull that trigger.”

She hmphed. “You’re right, Lonnie,” she said.

“What did you ca-” he started to ask before she brought the butt of the revolver down hard against his skull. There was a sickening crack and he collapsed on the floor, a small trickle of blood trailing from the back of his head.


* * *


Lonnie came to when Abigail dumped a full bowl of water on his face. He was laying on the feather bed, tied and bound with a foul-tasting handkerchief in his mouth. He coughed and wheezed around the handkerchief as she stared down at him dispassionately. His head ached from her assault earlier. 

She was dressed like a cowboy and she had taken off her red wig to reveal bobbed blond hair. She put her leg up next to him and drew a long bowie knife from her boot. His whimpers were muffled by the handkerchief.

“I’ve known you were alive for a long time,” she said. “Joyce screamed right up until they hanged him that you were. And then I saw you getting on a train in Texas a few years after that. I almost didn’t recognize you, but then you turned and the sun hit your face just right and I knew. I hoped and prayed to the good Lord that our paths would cross, and he’s answered those prayers in kind.”

He just stared up at her, breathing heavily. “You don’t remember me do you?” she asked. He shook his head. “I didn’t think you would. But I bet you remember Neddy don’t you?”

Slow recognition formed through the haze in his brain. He did recognize her. She must’ve only been sixteen then, but it was her all right. Ned’s younger sister.

“Abigail,” she said, knowing he was searching for her name. “I begged him not to go, but he went anyway. Y’all promised him fortune and glory and adventure and he believed you, dammit,” she said, growing angry. “He was a dreamer and he believed you and you let him take your place on the gallows so you could walk away,” tears were trickling down her cheeks now. “He never even fired that revolver you gave him once did he? Did he?!” He shook his head again.

“Neddy wasn’t innocent in running with you, I know that, but that rope should’ve been around your neck, not his. I wrote my mother about and it broke her heart to read it. You sold him and the rest out and thought you were never gonna pay for the things you done.”

She wiped her tears away before placing the knife on his chest above his heart and starting to add pressure. The blade crept slowly into his flesh, and a little stain of blood began to grow below it.

“You thought you weren’t gonna pay for the things you did. You didn’t count on me finding you. But I did. I’m your judge, jury, and executioner. And tonight, you’re gonna pay,” she said. Tears were streaming down his face as she spoke and he was struggling and whimpering beneath her. 

She took a deep breath and forced the knife into his chest as hard as she could. His scream was muffled by the handkerchief. His eyes and veins bulged as blood spurted in dark fountains around the knife and onto the bed and floor around him.

She stepped back and watched as he writhed and twisted until he became still…


* * *


The Whitewater Times

December 5th 1903


Forgotten Outlaw Found Dead!

By Albert O’Keefe


Whitewater, Colorado

Law enforcement was called to the Champagne Parlour, a long-suspected cathouse, this morning when a body was discovered in one of the rooms, stabbed through the heart with a large knife. A note was left behind at the grisly scene, explaining that the deceased was none other than Lonnie Gilbert, a member of the notorious Joyce Gang, long thought dead. 

The only suspect in the murder is a young red-headed woman known only as “Daisy”, thought to be an alias. She was working that night and has since disappeared. If you have any information about “Daisy” please contact The Marshal’s Office.

The Joyce Gang was captured by famous Sheriff Sydney Raymond, now deceased, outside of Campbell Creek, New Mexico some ten years ago.

It was reported then that Raymond was alerted to the whereabouts of the gang by an unidentified informant and that Gilbert had perished in a fire during the arrest.

If the body is that of Gilbert, Raymond’s legacy may be called into question as U.S. Marshal Timothy Mann believes Gilbert may be the informant and that he and Raymond had struck a deal…


June 02, 2023 00:34

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6 comments

S N
16:31 Jun 06, 2023

I was truly worried this man was going to get away Scott free. Can't say I am mad at how he met his end, good on her!

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00:14 Jun 05, 2023

I like that when Lonnie wants out you sympathize with him without thinking of the other consequences, but then later his murder seems like just desserts.

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C. Charles
00:23 Jun 05, 2023

That’s the experience I was going for! Glad it came across. Thanks!

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Mary Bendickson
02:26 Jun 02, 2023

Always appreciate a good western.

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C. Charles
02:48 Jun 02, 2023

Thank you!

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C. Charles
09:46 Jul 13, 2023

For anyone interested, I wrote another story in the same universe (don’t know if it qualifies as a prequel) called “Before You Meet the Devil” that’s on my profile.

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