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Matt Jensen, The Last Mountain Man Massacre At Powder River
By William W. Johnstone J. A. Johnstone
PINNACLE BOOKSCopyright © 2012 William W. Johnstone
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLivermore, Colorado Late March 1884
When Jarvis Winslow returned home from the city council meeting, he wondered why the house was dark. His wife and daughter should be there, and supper should be on the table.
"Julie?" he called. "Julie, are you here?"
Winslow walked over to a nearby table, then lit a lantern. Light filled the room as he turned it up. "Julie?"
"Hello, Mr. Winslow," a man said, stepping into the living room from the hallway. He was a smallish man, with black hair and a large, hooked nose. He had a big red spot on his cheek and a gun in his hand.
"What?" Winslow gasped. "Who are you? What's going on here?"
"Who I am doesn't matter," the gunman said. "And what is going on is a bank robbery."
"A bank robbery? Are you insane? I'm the president of the bank, but I don't keep any money in my house. Wait a minute, I know who you are. You are Red Plummer, aren't you?"
Two other men came into the room then.
"If you know who I am, then you know I am someone you had better listen to. Let me introduce my associates, Manny Sullivan and Paddy McCoy. You don't want to get them angry, either."
"Where is my wife? Where is my daughter?" Winslow asked.
"They are safe. For the time being," Plummer said. "Would you like to see them?"
"They are back in the bedroom. Bring your lantern."
"Julie?" Winslow called, grabbing the lantern and hurrying into the bedroom. When he stepped through the door he saw his wife and his daughter, both stripped absolutely naked and tied to the bed. They had gags in their mouths, and terror in their eyes.
"What the hell have you done to them?" Winslow shouted angrily.
"We ain't done nothin' yet." Plummer looked over at the other two men. "But I have to tell you, I'm havin' a hard time keepin' Sullivan and McCoy off of 'em."
"I want the young one," Sullivan said, rubbing his crotch.
"You bastard! She is only twelve years old!" Winslow said.
"Maybe so, but she's comin' along real good."
"You see what I'm having to deal with?" Winslow said. "Now, the only way I'm goin' to be able to keep them away from your women is if you do exactly what I tell you to do."
"What do you want?" Winslow asked. "I'll do it."
"I want you to go to the bank, get every dollar the bank has, then bring it here. Once we have the money, we'll be on our way."
"I'll get the money. Just—just don't do anything to hurt my wife and daughter."
Plummer smiled, showing a mouth full of crooked and broken teeth. "I thought we might be able to work something out."
Winslow took one last look at his wife and daughter, then hurried out of the house and over to the bank, which was just one block away. Inside the bank he emptied the safe, taking out twenty-three thousand dollars, and stuffing the money into a bag. He started to leave, but before he did, he scribbled a quick note.
Red Plummer, Manny Sullivan and Paddy McCoy
When he got back to the house, he hurried into the bedroom. "I got the money. Let them go."
Then, looking toward the bed, he gasped. Their throats had been cut and blood was all over the bed. His wife and daughter were looking up with glazed, sightless eyes.
"You bastards!" he shouted, throwing the money bag toward Plummer.
"Really now, Winslow, you didn't think we were going to let you live after you knew our names, did you?"
So shocked by the sight of his wife and daughter, Winslow didn't realize McCoy was behind him until he felt the knife thrust into his back.
One week later
Matt Jensen walked into the Gold Nugget Saloon in Fort Collins, twenty miles south of Livermore. On the wall was a sign:
Card cheats will not be allowed in this establishment. Please report any cheating to the Management.
In addition to the sign cautioning gamblers against cheating, the walls were decorated with game-heads and pictures, including one of a reclining nude woman. Three bullet holes strategically placed had augmented the painting, though one shot was slightly off, giving her left breast two nipples. Below the painting was a mirror which reflected back the long glass shelf of whiskey bottles. At each end of the bar was a large jar of pickled eggs as well as pickled pigs' feet.
The saloon was also a first-class brothel and Matt saw one of the girls taking a cowboy up the stairs at the back of the room.
The upstairs area didn't extend all the way to the front. The main room, or saloon, was big, with exposed rafters below the high, peaked ceiling. There were a score or more customers present, sitting at tables or standing at the bar talking with the girls, drinking or playing cards.
Matt was one of those standing at the bar when a woman known as Magnificent Maggie went over to him and put her arm through his. She got her name, not from her beauty, but from her size. Weighing over three hundred pounds, she was the owner of the Gold Nugget.
"Welcome, Mr. Jensen. It has been a while since you have graced us with your presence. What brings you to Fort Collins?"
"You know me, Maggie. I follow the tumbleweed." Matt looked around the saloon. "You seem to be doing a pretty good business today."
"Some days are better than others. Could I get you something to drink, Mr. Jensen?"
"Wine, beer, or whiskey?"
At the back of the saloon a piano player with a pipe clenched in his teeth, wearing a round derby hat and garter belts around his shirt sleeves, was playing "The Gal I Left Behind Me," though few were listening.
"Oh my, still alone? You haven't found a girl to keep you company?" Maggie asked when she returned with Matt's whiskey.
Matt put his arm around her shoulders. "Maggie, do you think I could settle for anyone but you?"
Magnificent Maggie laughed out loud. "My, my, Mr. Jensen you do have a gift for the blarney. But what would you do if I thought you were serious and took you up on it?"
"I don't know. I'd do my best, I guess," Matt replied.
She laughed again, a loud cackle that rose over the piano music and all the conversation in the room. "Oh, damn! You just made me laugh so hard that I peed in my drawers."
Matt had just taken a swallow and at her pronouncement he laughed, spewing out some whiskey.
She hurried off to take care of the situation, leaving Matt standing alone at the bar, smiling and drinking his whiskey.
One of the customers got up and walked over to Matt, carrying his beer with him. "Hello, Matt. It's been a while."
"Hello, Bart," Matt replied.
"What are you doing in Fort Collins?"
"A man's got to be somewhere. You still deputying?"
"No, I'm working as a messenger for Wells Fargo now. It pays some better. Oh, by the way, I suppose you heard what happened in Livermore last week?"
"Bart, there's an open chair. You in or not?" someone called from one of the tables.
"Ah, I've been waiting to get into the card game." Bart held up his beer. "It was good seeing you again."
"What happened in Livermore?" Matt asked.
"Someone killed the bank president and his wife and daughter. There's a paper down at the end of the bar. You can read all about it."
Matt moved down to the end of the counter where newspapers were stacked. He put a nickel in the bowl and took one, then found an empty table where he sat down to read.
In what may be the most gruesome event in the history of Livermore, Jarvis Winslow and his wife and daughter were found murdered in their home.
Mr. Winslow was president of the bank and many will tell you there was no finer man for the job, as he always showed a willingness to work with people who needed loans.
Mrs. Winslow and her young daughter were discovered tied to a bed, their throats cut and their clothes removed, giving evidence of ravages being visited upon them. Mr. Winslow was on the floor with a knife wound in his back.
The murder seems to be connected to the bank robbery, for over twenty-three thousand dollars is missing. In what must be considered a clue, a paper was found in the bank bearing the names Red Plummer, Manny Sullivan and Paddy McCoy.
The funeral of the three slain was attended by nearly all residents of the city.
Jarvis Winslow, like Matt Jensen, had been an orphan in the Soda Creek Home for Wayward Boys and Girls. They were there at the same time, and a friendship had developed between them. Though they had not maintained steady contact, Matt considered Winslow a brother of sort, and he took it personally when Jarvis and his family were killed in such a way.
Matt was too late for the funeral, but he went out to the cemetery where he found three fresh mounds of dirt, side by side. There was only one tombstone set in the middle of the three graves.
Jarvis Winslow His Wife Julie His Daughter Cynthia
Plucked from this earthly abode by a deed so foul as to defy all understanding
Two years older than Matt, Jarvis had helped him adjust to life in an orphanage. Matt remembered a moment he had shared with Jarvis.
* * *
"You don't have any brothers?" Jarvis asked.
"No. I had a sister, but I don't anymore."
"I don't have any brothers either. You want to be my brother?"
"Sure, why not?"
Jarvis stuck a pin in the end of his thumb bringing up a drop of blood. Matt did the same thing, and they held their thumbs together.
"Now we are blood brothers," Jarvis said. "And that is as real as real brothers."
"Jarvis," Matt said, speaking quietly over the three graves. "I don't know if your spirit is still hanging around here or not. I reckon that's a mystery we only find out after we're dead. But in case your spirit is here, and you can hear me, I'm going to make you this promise. I intend to find the lowlife sons of bitches who did this to you and your wife and daughter, and I am going to send their sorry asses to hell."
Matt left the cemetery, then rode across town to the sheriff's office. When he went inside he saw Sheriff Garrison and two of his deputies looking at Wanted posters.
"Matt Jensen," the sheriff said, smiling broadly as he walked around his desk with his hand extended. "What brings you to Livermore?"
"The murder of Jarvis Winslow."
The smile left the sheriff's face. "Yes. That was a terrible thing. The woman and the girl." He shook his head. "I've been in the law business for a long time and I've seen some grizzly things, but I tell you the truth, Matt, that is about the worst I have ever seen. I don't know what kind of animal could do such a thing. They had both been raped, Matt. Then their throats were cut and they bled to death. Not only that, we found 'em both naked. The sons of bitches didn't even have the decency to cover 'em up."
"Jarvis Winslow was a personal friend of mine," Matt said.
"Oh, I'm sorry," the sheriff replied.
"Sheriff, I intend to hunt down the men who did this, if you don't mind the help."
"Of course I'm glad to have your help. I can even deputize you if you'd like. That would make it legal, as long as you catch up with them in Larimer County. Once they get out of the county, your badge wouldn't do you much good."
"That's all right," Matt said. "I've got my own badge."
Over the years, he had done investigative work for the railroad, for which he had a railroad detective's badge. Even though the badge had no actual legal authority, a detective for one railroad was recognized on a reciprocal arrangement by all other railroads. It was also given a courtesy recognition by the states served by the railroads. He showed the badge to Sheriff Garrison.
"I don't see how that is going to help. This crime had nothing to do with the railroad."
"I read in the paper that Plummer, Jenkens, and McCoy got away with twenty-three thousand dollars. Is that right?"
"I'm afraid it is right," Sheriff Garrison said.
"Sheriff, are you going to try and tell me that not one single dollar of that money was ever on a train?"
Sheriff Garrison chuckled. "That's sort of stretching the intent, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Matt replied, his answer almost a challenge.
Garrison threw up his hands. "Well, you'll get no argument from me. Go after them."
"Oh, I intend to."
Chapter TwoMoreton Frewen was an unquenchable optimist, prolific in ideas, and skilled in persuading his friends to invest in his schemes. Although he owned the Powder River Cattle Company, his personal field of operations covered America, England, India, Australia, Kenya, and Canada. He had crossed the Atlantic almost one hundred times.
A brilliant man who urged the building of a canal across the Isthmus of Panama, as well as a means of connecting the Great Lakes to the sea, he was, despite his intellect and creativity, a man who had failed in nearly every business enterprise he undertook. Frewen had the build of an athlete with long legs, a flat abdomen, a high forehead, bright blue eyes and a baroque mustache. An avid hunter and sportsman, he had attended Cambridge University in England as a gentlemen, spending his days betting on horse races and his evenings in the university drinking club.
After graduation he continued the life of a country gentleman, fox hunting and wenching in the shires through the winter, and horse racing and wenching in London during the summer. Living in such a way as to show no interest in a career, he ran through his rather sizeable inheritance within three years. Shortly thereafter, he came to America, married Clara Jerome, daughter of the very wealthy Leonard Jerome and sister of Lady Randolph Churchill, and set himself up as a rancher in northern Wyoming.
Along the Powder River was a stretch of prairie with grasslands watered by summer rains and winter snows. A large open area, it was impressive in its very loneliness, but good cattle country, and it was there that Moreton Frewen built his ranch.
Two of the Powder River Cattle Company cowboys, Max Coleman and Lonnie Snead, were at the north end of the twenty-thousand-acre spread, just south of where William's Creek branched off the Powder River. They were keeping watch over the fifteen hundred cattle gathered at a place providing them with shade and water, and were engaged in a discussion about Lily Langtry.
"They say she is the most beautiful woman in the world," Snead said.
"That's a load of bull. I've seen pictures of her, and she ain't half as good-lookin' as Mrs. Frewen is."
"Yeah, well, Mrs. Frewen is the wife of our boss. We can't really talk about her like that."
"Hell, I ain't sayin' nothin' about her that ever'body else don't say," Coleman said. "All I'm talkin' about is that she is a real good-lookin' woman. You ain't a' doubtin' that, are you?"
"No, I ain' doubtin' that. But she's our wife's boss, so I don't think about her like that. But now, Miss Langtry, why I can think any way about her that I want to, 'cause she's a single woman, and besides which, she goes around the country singin' up on the stage, so she's used to people lookin' at her."
"Yeah, but with her, lookin' is all you can do," Coleman said.
"And day dreamin'," Snead said. "Sometimes I get to day dreamin' about her and I think maybe she's been captured by Injuns, or maybe the Yellow Kerchief Gang or someone like that, and I come along and save her."
Coleman laughed. "Snead, you're fuller of shit than a Christmas goose. Ha, as if you would—" He interrupted his own comment mid-sentence, then pointed. "Hey, wait a minute. Look over there. Do you see that?"
Looking in the direction Coleman pointed, Snead saw someone cutting cattle from the herd.
"Who the hell is that over there?" Coleman asked. "We ain't got anyone out here but us, have we?"
"No, we ain't got anybody over there. So whoever it is, he must be rustlin' cows," Snead said.
"He's got some nerve, comin' out here all by his lonesome to steal cows."
"Maybe he thought there wouldn't be anybody out here."
"Let's run him off," Coleman proposed.
The two started riding toward the rustler. Pulling their pistols, they shot into the air, hoping to scare away the rustler.
Excerpted from Matt Jensen, The Last Mountain Man Massacre At Powder River by William W. Johnstone J. A. Johnstone Copyright © 2012 by William W. Johnstone. Excerpted by permission of PINNACLE BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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