The Price You Pay (Inspired By A True Story)

He rode into the yard, his clothes dusty. He looked as if he had been on the trail for weeks, the yellow dust looked that thick. The tin star was well hidden by the dust and grime, so the ranch owner did not know that he was seeking answers. Many men had come up missing. Able bodied men. Cowboys that seem to be missed when they do not return.

One or two would not peak anyone’s interest. But fifty men, all mysteriously disappearing, is enough to alert even the least astute lawman. And it had come to the attention of the territorial governor that cowboys were coming up missing. Fifty, to be exact. Twenty of the best.

Oklahoma territory was a large one, but good men just did not disappear. Not into thin air. Not in the 1880s. Only one thing could explain it. Foul play.

***

The Governor had called his best lawman. Carter Cree. Six foot five inches of pure hell on wheels.

The Governor had frowned that day when he spoke. “Carter, we have a problem.”

Carter had shrugged, but not with apathy. “What is it Governor Johnstone?”

“We have a murderer on the loose, Carter,” came the response, “our ranchers are growing concerned because whoever is doing the killing is killing our best ranch hands. It is getting so no hands will come into the territory. Superstitious lot those cowhands.”

Carter had nodded in agreement. “Yes, and disappearances-even the usual-seems to mean somethin’ bad. But I have to agree with you. There ain’t nothing usual about twenty men disappearing over a year period of time.”

The Governor looked at his man. “The last ranch they were seen at was the Double-Bar-Kay.”

Carter snapped his head up, surprised. “But that’s Bert Kirkland’s spread!”

The Governor nodded. “And he is the only rancher not making a fuss about the missing cowboys.”

Carter’s eyebrow rose with interest. “Since Amelia’s death, he has been a bit of a loner. Not venturing far from his ranch.”

The Governor looked away. “Each cowhand that has disappeared has been sent to town by him to pick up grub stakes and supplies. A week later, they each mysteriously vanished off the face of the earth. All within a single year. And not one cowboy outside the territory has seen any of the missing cowboys.”

Carter shook his head. “And nobody has talked to Kirkland?”

The Governor shook his head. “Nope. He never leaves his spread. Kinda hard to talk with a man when he is never in town.”

Carter pursed his lips. “True.”

The Governor grabbed Carter’s arm. “Be careful, son. We don’t know what to expect.” He handed the Marshal a list of fifty names. “Here are the missing cowhands, Carter. Do what you will with the list.”

So Carter Cree rode east, then back west. He wanted to interview all the ranchers within the territory before heading to the Double-Bar-Kay. He wanted to know everything he could find about the missing men. He learned, from nearly every town, where the men had worked in that area and had ridden to meet with each rancher.

“What can you tell me about these men?” Had been his first question.

Each rancher had filled in blanks left by the others, until Carter had a nearly full history of the missing men. All except who their families were. Or where they were originally from. He continued on by finding other drifters who’d known the men.

Nothing in his investigation pointed to any reasonable need to kill any of the twenty. In fact, they had all been honest, reliable hands. Though often only short term help, they did their jobs and always picked up their pay before they left. Never had they left behind an honest week’s pay.

Carter was left scratching his head as he dug deeper into the past. In Texas, he found a rancher who could vouch for at least three men’s families. He’d had to write at least two while the hands were down sick. And one had his pay sent home to his mother. The other forty-seven were complete mysteries.

From Texas, he rode back north. Toward the Double-Bar-Kay. “Just you ‘n me kid.” He leaned forward and patted his horse. The palomino whinnied. Then blew.

Good horse. Carter’d had the palomino for four years. Not once had he ever bucked or thrown him. He patted the horse again.

He kept his eye on the ridges as he rode. One never knew where the next shot would come from. And he had made enough enemies in his days as a Marshal that he had to watch even closer than most. And the west was full of dry-gulchers.

Lord how he missed the Legends, Breeds and Jacks! But they were in Colorado or Back in Iowa and Nebraska. Old Thom had to be getting up there in age. Maybe a bit too old to be riding the trails. But Lucas Legend…there was a lawman. Fancy Marsh had ridden with him for a time, before striking back out on his own. Ah, Fancy. There was another good lawman. And quick as a rattler, too.

He’d been where Carter had begun, Fancy had taken the strapping young nineteen year old and made him into a man. Showed him how to use a gun and when. Of course, the legendary lawman with the buffalo gun had also showed him how to honor and respect the badge. And he had never strayed. Not like Strahan in Tombstone. Nor like D.M. Druspin.

***

Carter now approached the Double-Bar-Kay. His duster was covered in dirt and sand from his long ride, hiding his badge. He nearly reached up to touch it, but stopped. Kirkland stood out near the well watching his approach. Best not give himself away. He would have to take the badge off and slip it into his pocket as soon as he had some privacy.

Kirkland tried to act as if he had just noticed Carter as he rode into the yard. “Been riding long?”

Carter smiled beneath the beard and dust that covered his face. “Long enough. Know of any work in these parts?”

Kirkland smiled. “Yes, got some fence that needs mending out by the creek on the south forty of my land. You lookin’?”

Carter nodded. “Yup. Always lookin’. Every hand needs a little work from time to time.”

Kirkland looked up. “Where you from?”

Carter kept the charade going. “El Paso. And Corpus Christi. But before that, I was from Denver and points north.”

Kirkland shrugged. “Any family?”

Carter shook his head. “Nope,” he lied, “none that would miss me.”

Kirkland squinted. “Good.”

Carter turned quickly and looked at the old rancher. “What was that?”

Kirkland shook his head. “I said ‘oh.'”

Carter knew what he’d heard, and it hadn’t been oh. He knew he’d heard the old man say good. It had been as plain as day. He swallowed.

He turned away. “Mind if I ride up to the south forty and take a look at that fence?”

Kirkland glared at him. “No need. We’ll git out there soon enough. I have other things here that need a bit of mendin’ as well. Don’t go gettin’ nosy.”

Carter shrugged. “Alright, then. Whatever you say.”

The old rancher turned away. “The name’s Kirkland. and you are?…”

Carter looked the old man in the eye. “The name’s Mackey. Simon Mackey.”

The rancher pointed. “Over there’s the bunkhouse. Go put your gear away and come to the main house for a bite. The ride had to make you a bit hungry.”

***

The bunkhouse was small, but cozy. Enough for a small group of hands, but he seemed to be the only hand. Where were the others? In one corner, he saw fifty bedrolls. Beside them lay fifty dusters. The sight made him very uneasy.

He made a mental note. He would have to look in the tack house and see what surprises were hidden there. Would he find fifty saddles and bridles? And what of the horses?

He shook off the sense of dread, setting down his tack near the bunk. he rummaged through his saddle bag and found his roll of writing paper and small well of ink. He began writing down what he had found. He replaced the stopper in his well and waited for the paper to dry. Testing the ink and finding it dry, he rolled the paper back up and put it back into the saddle bag.

Putting aside the feeling he was beginning to get, he headed for the main house. On his way, he mentally counted the horses in the corral. fifty-five. Normally, a rancher had four horses. No one, unless they had a huge spread and a lot of hands, needed any more than that. But Kirkland had no hands. Not one. Yet, he had fifty horses more than was right. Unless, of course, he was a horse rancher. But Kirkland raised cattle. Had for years. and hated Horse ranchers unless he needed a horse to replace one that had gone lame or had been stolen.

One horse caught Carter’s attention. A steel blue roan. Beautiful. The same color of horse one of the hands had ridden. There was also a strawberry roan. Another missing man’s horse. An Indian boy flitted out of the shadows, stopping when he realized that Carter had seen him. He looked at the lawman. Carter motioned to him to approach.

Carter looked the boy. “Who is the law around here?”

The boy looked defiantly at him. “Cherub Frieze. Why?”

Carter smiled and patted him on the arm. “Meet me in about three hours at the bunkhouse. I want you to run a message to him. I’ll make it worth your while. If he gives you any guff, just mention the name Fancy Marsh. He’ll stop instantly.”

The boy’s eyes lit up hopefully. “Are You Mr. Fancy?”

Carter shook his head and smiled. “No, but I know him well enough to use his name as a threat. Now go stand in the shadows and wait for me. I promise I’ll bring you a biscuit and mehbe a piece or two of chicken…provided he eats chicken.”

The boy nodded eagerly. “Yes, sir.”

Carter chuckled. “You don’ have to call me sir. Carter’ll do. But not in front of Kirkland. Don’ want ‘im knowin’ who I am.”

The boy nodded. “I know. I heard the name you gave him. Mackey. Another person you know?”

Carter patted the boy on the back. “You might say somethin’ like that. Now, you better git before he notices me talkin’ to you.”

The boy nodded and disappeared in the direction he’d been directed to go and wait. Shortly after, Kirkland appeared at the door of the main house. He disappeared again as Carter got closer, leaving the door open. He entered and shut the door.

“In here,” Kirkland’s raspy voice called, “Don’t keep it a-waitin’!”

Carter followed the voice to the dining room. Three places were set, but he knew that only two people would be eating. Even more disturbing was the fact that Kirkland had made enough to feed an army. He looked at the old man.

Kirkland motioned. “Well, sit yer arse down and git ready fer grace. You do say grace, don’ you?”

Carter nodded. “Why, yes. Lessen I am on the trail. Then I just chew a piece of pemmican. No need of gittin’ down an’ huntin’ fer nothin’ on the trail.”

Kirkland ignored his answer. “You a religious man, Mackey?”

Carter looked him in the eye. “Yes. You?”

Kirkland shrugged off his reversal of the question. “Good. Hate to think you’d lie to an old man. Or be takin’ advantage.

Kirkland said grace, then allowed Carter to fill his plate. Kirkland also filled his plate. They began to eat. The silence made the room stuffy. Almost unbearable.

Carter stopped. “C’n I take some to the bunkhouse with me? I would hate to intrude any longer tonight. Not on your personal time.” He glanced up at the corner and saw something equally disturbing there. Without investigating it any further and making the old man angry, he waited for an answer.

Kirkland shrugged. “Sure. Take all you want. Ain’t no one here but me ‘n you. Don’ know why I cook so much.”

Carter thanked him and collected the rest of the biscuits and the chicken into one container and headed for the door. As he neared the door, he saw yet another disturbing sight. Fifty guns hung on the hat rack near the door with fifty hats. Without giving any clue that he was bothered by the sight, Carter exited the house.

***

He sat in the bunkhouse watching the boy eat. “You can take the rest to your family.”

The boy looked up. “Thank you, Carter. Be careful of Mr. Kirkland. He’s crazy. Pa said the old man went plum loco after his son was shot to death in a shootout in town. He killed his wife and youngest son, but his daughter escaped him and fled back east. She has not been back since.”

Carter scratched his head. That explained the mummified body he’d seen in the corner of the house. “What can you tell me of the fifty who were last seen working here?”

The boy looked up, scared. “They went out to work on fence to the south but never came back with him. But their horses did. Carter, sir, he hunts my people like coyotes. He is crazy. Leave while you can.”

Carter opened his duster and showed the boy his badge. “I am here searching for those missing men.” He held his finger to his lips. “Tell no one.”

The boy’s eyes went wide. “You’re Carter Cree!”

Carter nodded. “Yes, and I am here on the orders of the Governor. But I do not want Kirkland to know. I already have a hunch how those men disappeared. No living cowhand or drifter leaves his roll, hat or guns anywhere when he leaves. Nor his horse.”

The boy nodded. “What do you need me to take to Cherub?”

Carter removed the roll of paper from his saddle bag with his pen and inkwell and began writing a short letter. Finishing, he waited for the ink to dry and then folded it and handed it to the boy. “Tell him that Carter Cree sent you. Make sure he understands that the message needs to be sent on to the Governor.” he took a couple of silver dollars out of his money pouch and tossed them to the boy. “Now go. Before Kirkland gets suspicious. When your family is done, bring the bones back and I will put them in a corner here.”

“Yessir, Mr. Cree, Sir.” The boy rushed out the back door of the bunkhouse and into the night.

***

Cherub looked at the message the boy had handed him. “Carter Cree, eh? The Governor sent the best. Thank you, Thomas. Damn. Who knew Kirkland could be capable of such a thing? He was always such a strong pillar of this town in the past. Until Matthew came to town and got into that scrape. Amy died only days later, along with Arvel. Michelle fled. Why was never explained, nor asked. Until now.”

Cherub lived up to his name. His unusually youthful, fat face and stocky build made him appear like his namesake. His naturally easygoing personality belied his no-nonsense approach to the law. Both hid the fact that he was lightning fast and deadly accurate with his guns. Like Carter, he had ridden a while with Fancy. In fact, both had been the legendary gunman’s deputies at the same time. he had taught them both. Now, Cherub’s old friend was possibly in trouble. He had been sent by the Governor to see about some missing men, and he had landed in the nest of rattlers known as the Double-Bar-Kay. And though there was just one rattler left there, He was deadly and unpredictable.

Thomas, the boy, waited for Cherub’s reply. “Any message going back?”

Cherub scratched his head. “He wanted this to be sent to the Governor too?”

“Yes.”

Cherub looked over at Thomas. “Yes. Tell Carter that we have his back. But be careful not to become a target for Kirkland yourself.”

Thomas nodded, then left. After a few minutes, Cherub got up from behind his desk and headed for the telegraph office. He felt almost like he was calling down the thunder, sending this message to the Governor. But, if Carter wanted it sent, he had no choice but to send it. He sighed. Turning at the door of the telegraph office, he entered.

Dolph looked over from where he sat at the toggle. “Da, Cherub? May I…Hep you?”

Cherub smiled uncomfortably. “Yes, Dolph. It is a matter of life and death. But not mine.”

Dolph got up and went over to the counter where Cherub stood. He took the message and read it. He looked up surprised. “Herr Cree ist here?”

Cherub Nodded. “Yes.”

Dolph hurried back to the desk. “Then I get right on this, Da?”

Cherub chuckled, despite himself. “Yes, Dolph.”

***

Kirkland arrived at the bunkhouse and saw the pile of chicken bones laying in a pile off to the side of the door. He scowled. Vile drifters. Couldn’t even bury their own chicken bones.

Carter emerged from the bunkhouse with a shovel. He acted surprised to see Kirkland. “Oh. You’re just in time to watch me git rid of the bones from last night. The remaining chicken and biscuits made a wonderful breakfast. Best I’ve had in a long ride.”

As if he wasn’t bothered by the old man’s expression, he began digging a small hole, then scooped the bones off into it. Piling the dirt back on top of the bones, he stamped it down with his foot. Probably a sight more than Kirkland gave the drifters, Carter found himself thinking.

Kirkland’s scowl still remained. “Come. We have work to do. You gotta earn yer keep. You do want paid, don’ you?”

Carter grinned. “Of course. I don’t ‘spect to stay for free.”

He followed the old man to the tack house. Inside, he saw all fifty saddles, all fifty bridles, and fifty pairs of chaps. “Grab the harness.” Kirkland seemed impervious to the realization that he had just bragged about killing fifty good men.

Carter grabbed the harness. A shiver went down his spine. Suddenly, he got the feeling that he was in for it. Kirkland whistled and one of the horses came to the corral gate. The old man harnessed the horse.

He turned to Carter. “Well? What ya waitin’ fer?”

Cree shrugged. “Where we headed?”

Kirkland glared at him. “North end.”

Carter nodded. “OK.”

***

Speck Denvers and Ram Horne were the first two deputies to step foot in the Governor’s office. William Kidder wasn’t far behind. Will was a gambler, when not on duty. Horne spent most of his time in the local brothels. Speck was the only one who seemed not to have any vices. Hell. he didn’t even take chaw.

Speck was the leader. He looked at the Governor. “You called, Sir?”

The Governor nodded. “Yes. Your boss, Carter, went to find out what happened to those fifty drifters. I just received a message from him through Cherub Frieze. He knows who killed the missing men. he also thinks that he may be a bit out of his league. He asked me to send you to the Double-Bar-Kay. And to send Simon Mackey with you.”

“Simon Mackey?!?” All three answered at the same time, shocked.

“Why Simon, Sir?” Ram raised an eyebrow. “Carter knows that Simon can’t be trusted.”

The Governor cleared his throat. “I don’t think this has anything to do with whether Simon can be trusted or not. Carter is using Simon’s name while he is working on the Bar-Kay. He wants to actually put Simon at the scene for the sake of the case.”

Speck looked around. “But where will we be able to find ol’ Simon?”

Will grinned. “I think I know.”

***

The odd thing about Simon Mackey was that the drunker he got, the straighter he walked…and shot. And he seemed to pick up a bit of speed as well. Though he couldn’t be trusted to stay sober, he could be trusted to shoot anyone who tried to kill his friend Carter. And that was why Carter now wanted him. He was a crack shot, drunk or sober. But he was deadlier when he was on a hangover. Or on a withdrawal. And Carter wanted him on a withdrawal.

After three hours of searching every saloon in town, they finally found Simon with his whore, Serenity. She knew he would never marry her, but it didn’t matter. As long as he remained loyal to her, she would remain loyal to him.

“What the bloody hell are you three doing to me?” He protested as they dragged him down to the street, half naked, and sat him on his horse.

Speck looked at the comical sight. “Your friends need you, Simon. We’ll give you these back once you’ve sobered.” He motioned to the drunk’s pants, guns, and shirt.”

Horne chuckled. “Yeah. We don’t need to fight with ya right now.”

Will gave a lopsided smile. “I’ll lead yer horse if’n ya want me to.”

Simon frowned. “What the deuces! Hell! you’d think I was hepless.”

Speck looked over at him from atop his own horse. “Hell no, Simon. We just want to make sure you arrive where we are going. Don’t want to leave Carter all on his own, now. Do you?”

The drunk looked at his three friends. “Heeelllll no. Where’s that li’l rat?”

Horne smiled. “He’s at the Double-Bar-Kay, Simon.”

Simon hiccuped. “What in tarnations is he doin’ at that crazy hole?”

Speck shrugged. “You’ll find out soon enough.”

***

Even though it had been three days, Carter refused to let his guard down. Too much evidence made it clear that Kirkland had turned killer. Like a rabid coyote, he had killed his family, hunted down the local Indians as if they were wolves, and murdered innocent drifters who’d just stopped for a little honest work. Fifty men had come. Fifty men had been senselessly killed. But how?

He hoped that Cherub would show before he had an opportunity to find out. Or maybe his reinforcements. He could use the real Simon Mackey right now. If for nothing else, then just simple advice. But they would take days to get here. He only hoped he had days.

For days, Kirkland had done small jobs around the ranch. Nothing had been done on the south forty. The barns had been where they worked, mostly. And one in particular. And it was huge! It had to be a good 60×100 foot! And the stalls were huge! And in multitude! All with mangers! He swore that he had counted upward to three hundred stalls! Why? Had this once been a horse ranch? Certainly, Kirkland had not been the original owner!

But there was a peculiar odor in the barn. Almost as if death was there. And Carter knew the smell of death. He’d been in its presence before.
He only hoped he wouldn’t be for a while longer. No need in dying for no reason.

But something gave him the feeling that Kirkland had already planned his death too. But when? Where? How? And most of all, Why?

He patiently worked for the old man as if he suspected nothing. Every night, he looked for Thomas. The boy would come and run messages to town for him for what food the lawman scrounged from Kirkland’s table and a couple silver dollars. The instructions were always the same. Cherub was to send the mounting evidence on to the Governor.

On the fifth morning of the third week, Kirkland appeared at the bunkhouse. This time, he wore his guns. He waited for Carter to bury his bones, then began to lead to the corral. “Bring your saddle.”

Carter went back into the bunkhouse and grabbed his saddle. Heading to the corral, he called his palomino. Kirkland called a buckskin mare. Carter looked at the old man. “Where we headed?”

Kirkland scowled. “The south forty. The missus mentioned that a piece of fence there needed some work.”

Carter almost froze in his tracks, but kept moving. Kirkland had said that the missus had mentioned a piece of fence needed mending. His missus had been dead for a good three or four years. He realized that the slip had been code for I’m going to kill you, Mr. Mackey. The same chill ran down Carter’s back that had hit when he’d been in the barn. His fingers began tingling. Itching. He could almost feel the cold of the trigger on his index finger.

***
Denvers, Horne, Kidder and the real Simon Mackey met Cherub just a few miles from the Bar-Kay. Cherub looked them over. “You look like you been ridin’ hard.”

Speck grinned and nodded. “Only way to keep Simon, here, from stopping long enough to get drunk.”

Cherub looked doubtfully at the alcoholic gunman. “I wonder why Carter wanted him along. He ain’t dependable.”

Horne smiled. “Nope, but he’s a damn good shot, drunk or sober.”

Will smirked. “And deadly unpredictable.”

Cherub shook his head. “Alright.”

Simon ignored the conversation as if it were about someone else. “So what’s the plan?”

Cherub smiled. “We will go to the main house. if they ain’t there, we go to the south forty. Seems to be the one spot all the victims had in common. each one was supposed to be working on a stretch of broken fence there.”

They talked as they rode onto the ranch-grounds. Mackey looked over at the corral and counted the horses. “How many horses does a rancher usually have?”

Cherub looked. “Normally, they have four. Plus one per hand. Kirkland should only have…four. But he has fifty-three. Damn!”

They suddenly noticed that the main house and bunkhouse were both eerily silent. Horne dismounted, drew a gun, and entered the main house. “Dear God Ahmighty!!!” Came his exclamation from within. He came rushing out. “They’s a couple of mummies in there! And Kirkland’s guns is missin’!”

Kidder came out of the bunkhouse. “Carter’s gone too. But he has his guns.”

Cherub whipped his horse toward the south. “Mount up. we have more riding to do. Our friend is in trouble.”

***

Damn his ugly luck. He now found himself out near a creek. They were somewhere south of the houses and he had yet to see any cattle. Or any animals at all. Not even a stray was to be seen. But there was fence. Lots of it. they stopped.

Kirkland’s saddle creaked. “We stop here. The fence needs tightened before the cows git out.”

Carter knew what was about to happen. He smiled sadly. “Alright.”

He dismounted and walked to the fence. He looked at the creek. Bones. Human bones. And bits of cloth. he heard the drag of the old man’s gun on the leather of the holster. In one fluid motion, he whipped around and drew, firing as the gun was in position. Kirkland’s gun went off harmlessly, his eyes wide with surprise. “No…one..ever..got…the…drop…on…me.” The old man fell to the ground, face-down. A growing stain of blood grew on the ground under him.

Carter went and turned the old man over. “Why?”

Kirkland smiled. “It doesn’t matter anymore. I just need to know who you really are.”

Carter frowned. “I am the state Marshal, Kirkland. My Name is Carter Cree. Simon Mackey is my friend. I used his name to get in. I knew you wouldn’t know him from Adam.”

Cherub and the rest appeared at Carter’s side. Kirkland smiled. “I can now come clean. I killed Amelia. I killed Sammy. Hell. I killed Matthew. I drove him to that street. That duel. I pushed the boy too hard, Cherub. From that point on, it all spiraled out of control. My guilt. My anger. My loneliness. It all contributed to my killing those drifters.

“There ain’t just fifty, Cherub. But fifty is all you’ll find. There has to be about a hundred. half are bits and pieces in the creek. Fifty are buried in the barn. I suppose I wanted to be caught…or I wouldn’t have picked Cree by mistake. I wouldn’t have mistaken him as a drifter.” The old man took his last breath, stiffened, then went slack.

Carter looked at Cherub. “We need to give these poor hands a proper burial. Find what you can of those he put in the creek. We will have to dig in the barn to find the rest. How many coffins can you conjure up?”

Cherub scratched his head. “Maybe a hundred, if we’re lucky.”

Carter nodded. “Even if you can get a few less, that’ll be fine. just as long as there are more than fifty. even if the fifty others from the creek have to share a single coffin, it’ll work.”

Cherub smiled sadly. “Alright.”

Carter looked at his friends. “Denvers, Horne. Go help. If you need more help, send Thomas to get Kidder and Mackey. In the meantime, Mackey, Kidder and I will begin digging in that huge barn.”

***

In the months that followed, word finally leaked out about where the horses of those who’d been killed first had gone. A Horse rancher, thinking nothing of Kirkland’s invite to buy stock, had bought fifty horses a year from the old man. This, he said, started in the months after Amelia Kirkland’s death and had continued on until just prior to Carter’s arrival. He admitted that Kirkland had contacted him about another fifty horses, but he had turned the old man down, citing he had more horses than he had been able to sell.

The rancher said that the real reason he had stopped buying Kirkland’s horses was that he’d begun noticing that the horses looked an awful lot like horses he’d seen drifters riding through on mere weeks before. It had been partly his doing that the Governor had been alerted, and Carter sent to investigate. He said that he had only wished that he had caught it all sooner. Maybe a few of the drifters would have avoided such a horrible end. Carter tried to reassure the man that he had done all he could.

While digging in the barn, Carter’s team found well over two hundred bodies. All missing drifters. They finally gave Amelia and the youngest Kirkland child a proper burial in Boot Hill, along with each body they found. Plus the bones of a possible one hundred more.

Fin

dedication: To Evelyn Birkby, who said I should write this story. Thank you for the inspiration. It is always an honor and a privilege to work with of talk with you.

Note: The basis of this story is true. There really was a ranch in Oklahoma where the reclusive rancher had killed many drifters and cowhands that he hired. The original story was of a man named Noland. The story was passed down to my dad by his father who worked as a journeyman carpenter in Oklahoma and around the US during the early 1900s. The story was told to him by a young lady whom he called “Jane”.

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