Short Story Fiction
Murder Justified

She didn’t realize who murdered her husband. When she found out there was hell to pay.

The young deputy came bounding through the door of the Sheriff’s office. He was short of breath, but the urgent look on his face revealed more than any words he could muster.

The sheriff, who was sitting easily at his desk was startled by the deputies sudden entry.

“Sheriff, come quick,” the deputy cried out. “Matt Glory’s been shot.”

Murder JustifiedLibrary of Congress

Without a moments hesitation, Sheriff Ben Daniels jumped to his feet and headed for the door. His deputy was hot on his heels.

“How bad is he?” Inquired the sheriff. “Has anyone fetched the doc?”

“No need for that,” replied the deputy. “Matt Glory is dead.”

“Dead?” Questioned the sheriff, not wanting to believe what he had just heard.

“That’s what I said. He took a bullet in the back. He didn’t stand a chance. It’s murder as sure as I’m telling you.”

Sheriff Daniels quickened the pace. He could see a crowd was beginning to gather in front of Matt Glory’s general store. As he reached the front door the gathering crowd of curious onlookers stepped aside and let him enter.

“Where is he?” Inquired the sheriff.

“Behind the counter,” answered the deputy.

The sheriff walked behind the counter where he saw his good friend Matt lying on the floor in a pool of blood. His hand still clutched a small can of snuff from off the shelf behind the counter. On the counter was a large glass jar of peppermint candies. The lid was off and a few of the candies were scattered on the counter as if someone had hurriedly grabbed a handful on their way out. Other than that, nothing else seemed amiss.

“Do you think it was robbery?” Questioned the deputy.

Sheriff Daniels opened the cash drawer. There was still money in it. “Doesn’t seem to be,” replied the sheriff as he closed it.

He had seen enough. “Why don’t a couple of you men take Matt over to the doc’s office so he can get him ready for a decent burial. The rest of you, unless you’ve got something important to say, clear on out. I’m going to have a word with Sarah.”

Matt’s wife, Sarah, could be heard sobbing through the curtain covered doorway next to the counter. On the other side were the living quarters. The sheriff stepped past the curtain where he found several of the women from town consoling her as best they could. Fortunately, her two young boys, Abe and John were already at school. They would know soon enough. As for now the news hadn’t reached them.

“If you don’t mind ladies, I’d like to speak with Sarah alone if I could,” requested the sheriff.

The women reluctantly got up and left the room. Ben sat down in a chair across from Sarah. Leaning forward, he took her shaking hand in his and consoled her.

“Sarah, I’m so sorry about this.”

Sarah gently replied. “Did you know that tomorrow is Matt’s birthday? I was going to bake him a chocolate cake. It’s his favorite. He’ll be 45. Oh Ben,” Sarah began to sob. “What am I going to do now? The boys, I have to tell the boys.”

Ben took the handkerchief Sarah held and dabbed the tears from her eyes. “I’ll tell the boys Sarah. I’m their Godfather. I’ll take that responsibility. I’ll make sure there is someone here with you and the boys until after…” The sentence trailed off to nowhere as Ben took a deep breath to regain his composure. “I promise you Sarah, no matter how long it takes, I’ll catch the man who did this. When I do I’ll see to it he hangs. That is if I don’t shoot him first. For all you and Matt have done for me over the years, it’s the least I can do. Do you have any idea who might have done this?”

“No, I never seen the man before.”

“You saw the man?” Questioned Ben surprisingly.

“I saw his backside. I shot at him,” Sarah replied. “I was right here when I heard the shot. I came through the doorway only to see a man heading out the door. He was dropping mints he had taken from the candy jar that sits on the counter. I grabbed the gun Matt keeps by the cash drawer. I fired off a shot at him as he headed out the door.”

“Do you think you hit him?” Asked Ben.

“I don’t know Ben. I just don’t know.”

“That’s alright Sarah. I’ll have my deputy search for signs of blood. Maybe you got lucky.”

~~~

It was mid-day, but you would have never known it. The early spring storm clouds kept the sky as dark as evening time. The rain was coming down so hard it seemed as if the flood gates of heaven itself were opened wide.

Two men slowly rode their horses into town. Water poured from the brims of their hats as if a pump handle was being worked above their heads. They wore rain slickers to help keep their saddles and upper bodies somewhat dry. It helped but they were still wet enough to be chilled to the bone.

The town itself was laid out on a slight slope and the muddy runoff from the pouring rain was the only thing to meet them as they entered from the south. The street was a deserted mud hole from one end of town to the other. No one in their right mind was adventurous enough to be out in this kind of weather. The horses sank to their fetlocks in the gooey muck as they made their way to the Sheriff’s office.

“Mary’s River,” remarked one of the riders.

“What’s that you say?”

“I said, Mary’s River. That’s the name of this town. I was just wondering.”

“About what?”

“About this runoff coming at us. Was wondering if this was Mary’s River.”

The two men laughed. It was the most they had said to each other for most of the day. They continued to move slowly forward, each to his own misery. As they came up to the Sheriff’s office they stopped and dismounted. Their boots sunk deep into the mud as they hit the ground.

One of the men cursed to himself. “Damn this rain and damn this mud. I’ve had just about all I can take of this.”

They both stepped up onto the boardwalk, knocked off as much of the goo as they could from their boots and walked into the Sheriff’s office.

As they entered the small office, Sheriff Ben Daniels got up from his desk to greet them.

“Well I’ll be damned. Abe and John Glory. The Glory boys. It’s been a while. I almost didn’t recognize you. I figured the two of you would be holed up somewhere until this God forsaken rain let up,” exclaimed the sheriff.

“That could be sometime next year,” quipped Abe.

“You might be right about that,” replied the sheriff with a smile. He stepped back as if to get a better look at the boys. “I knew the two of you wouldn’t let my invitation go and that you’d eventually darken my door. That’s why I left word of my whereabouts with your ma back in the Grove. It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”

“Three years to be exact,” replied John.

“Seems longer than that,” replied the sheriff. “Have a seat. Let me get you some hot coffee. You two must be chilled to the bone?”

“You’re right about that. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll just back up to your stove,” replied Abe. “It’s been a long and wet three day ride. I need to dry out.”

“The two of you must be what, eighteen now?” Questioned Ben.

“Yes sir, eighteen,” replied John. “Why did you send word for us?”

“We almost didn’t show,” added Abe. “Why did you pull up stakes in the Grove? We thought you’d be there for life? Especially after you promised you wouldn’t stop looking for our pa’s killer until you found him.”

We were fairly disappointed when you left the Grove. We felt let down. Thought you were a man of your word.”

“Well you boys get right to the point now, don’t you,” replied the sheriff.

“You said it yourself,” remarked Abe. “It’s been three years.”

“Well, to tell you the truth, you boys were a little too young at the time to understand why I left. I guess I do owe you an explanation. After your pa was killed, I did my best to get to the bottom of it. The deeper I dug the more resistance I came up against. My hands became all but tied during the investigation. Every time I came up with a good lead or thought I was making headway I was shut down. It left a real bad taste in my mouth. One that to this very day I still haven’t gotten over. Believe me, I haven’t stopped looking.”

“Shut down by who?” Inquired John.

“By Mayor Blackstone. He wouldn’t let me conduct a proper investigation. I knew as long as I remained sheriff of the Grove, I’d never be able to get to the bottom of it. Your pa was my best friend. I stood up for him at his wedding. I was at the house with him the day the two of you were born and I owe it to him to bring his killer to justice. That’s what I’ve always planned to do. I just couldn’t do it in the Grove. Not with Blackstone and his hired men breathing down my neck. So yes, I did pull up stakes, but not for the reason you think. I didn’t give up looking for your father’s murderer. I never told you boys this before. In fact I haven’t said much about it to anyone, but I’ve always had a pretty good idea who was behind the death of your pa.”

Abe quickly spoke up. “You think Blackstone was behind it, don’t you?”

Ben wasn’t ready to answer the question, so he continued.

“In fact, the reason I sent for the two of you is because I’ve come to the point where I need help. If you boys are willing to give me a hand, I’ll fill you in on the details.”

“Willing!” Replied Abe. “Why on earth would you think we’d be anything but? We want to see our pa’s killer brought to justice just as much as you do. Maybe more so. John and I have been doing some investigating of our own over the past couple of years. Since we figured you gave up on the case. We have our own suspicion about Blackstone. Any time we started asking questions he would remind us that this was a matter best handled by the law. He felt we were too close to the case to think about things ‘objectively’. He would give us that ‘look’ of his he uses when he doesn’t want someone poking around where they don’t belong.”

“That sounds like Blackstone,” replied the sheriff. “I firmly believe he was behind this killing. He may not have pulled the trigger, but you can darn well bet he knew about it. Maybe even ordered it.”

“But why?” Asked Abe. “Why would Blackstone want to have our pa killed? He had nothing to his name except the store and a chunk of land.”

“That’s the key Abe. That chunk of land is a full section, 640 acres of virgin timber. It has value to it. More than you realize. To the right person, enough value to have your father killed for it. I’m sure of that. In fact, your father knew exactly what that value was. He wanted the same thing Blackstone wanted only he needed something that Blackstone owned.”

“We’re not following you here, Ben. What do you know?”

“Blackstone owns several hundred acres of bottom land North of the Grove. His plan was, and may still be, to build a lumber mill on it. I know that Blackstone wanted that timbered section even before your father ended up with it. You see, a man named Randall Mason owned the deed before your father. He and your father were friends.

“The story I was told was that Mason and Blackstone were business partners at one time and the land was part of a business deal they had worked out with the banker in the Grove. Mason didn’t know it at the time, but Blackstone and the banker had made their own deal behind his back. That deal would have left Mason holding an empty bag. Thing is, Mason was no fool when it came to business. He didn’t trust Blackstone and kept a close eye on him. The whole deal fell apart when he discovered the truth.

“The deal was Mason was supposed to sign the land over to Blackstone once he gained possession he would front the money to build a mill. The money was to come in the form of a loan from the banker. The side deal was for the banker to refuse the loan and the deal would fall apart. Blackstone would now own all the land. Mason found out about the side deal and confronted the two of them at the last minute. Blackstone began to threaten Mason so he backed out and refused to sign over the land.

“Everything fell apart when he sold the land to your pa and then skipped town. Blackstone and the Banker were the ones left holding an empty bag. The sale didn’t set well with Blackstone. He needed that land and offered to buy it from your pa for more than he paid for it, but your pa knew Blackstone intended to develop a mill site North of town.

“He knew the land held more value than Blackstone was offering and refused to sell it to him. Your pa offered to partner with him but Blackstone wanted nothing to do with the idea. Your pa then offered to buy Blackstone’s property from him which infuriated him. I think Blackstone had your pa killed thinking your ma would be an easy route to getting his hands on the land.”

“There may be some truth to that story,” replied John. “Blackstone did approached our ma about buying it from her, but she’s as stubborn as our pa was. She says she’s holding on to it for our future. I personally don’t want Blackstone to have it at any price.”

“If Blackstone is still on the prowl for that land, now might be the perfect time to beat him at his own game,” Ben suggested. “For now, the best thing you boys can do is make sure your ma is out of danger.”

“What do you suggest,” inquired John.

“You’re of age now. You need to get your ma to sign over the deed to you boys. If she no longer owns the property, Blackstone should leave her alone.”

“That will put Blackstone on our trail and that suits me just fine,” remarked Abe.

“That’s exactly right,” replied the sheriff. “Once we get to that point, here’s what I have in mind.”

Ben proceeded to fill the boys in on his plan. They agreed it was sound.

“Good,” exclaimed the sheriff. Once you boys have possession of the land, telegraph me and we’ll start putting things in motion.”

“What if ma isn’t ready to let go?” Questioned John.

“My gut tells me she is,” Ben replied. “And once you fill her in on what we have in mind I believe she will. You boys plannin’ to spend the night?”

“I’m not leaving until this God-forsaken rain quits, and that’s a fact,” declared Abe.

“This is Oregon territory,” quipped the sheriff. “You may be here for a spell.”

“We’ll see,” remarked Abe. Right now, I’m getting a stall for my horse and a room for me. Then I’m heading over to the saloon. I need something more than coffee to take the chill out of my bones.”

“I’m right behind you brother,” added John as they both walked out of the sheriff’s office.

The two boys took their horses to the livery. Once their mounts were taken care of they headed toward the boarding house just across the street. A warm room and dry clothes were first on the list.

~~~

Two days passed. The rain had let up and the Glory boys decided it was time to head back to the Grove. They were anxious to get their plan in motion. At the last minute Ben decided to go back with them. He put his deputy in charge until he returned.

~~~

Abe and John walked into the store. Sara stood behind the counter. “Look what me and John drug home with us,” quipped Abe just as Ben stepped through the door.

“Well I’ll be,” remarked Sarah as she came around the counter and gave Ben a big welcome hug. “What on earth brings you to town? Whatever it is I’m glad you’re here. You boys should know as soon as the Mayor found out you were out of town he began to pester me about that land again.”

“Did he threaten you?” Asked Abe.

“Not directly, but he certainly let me know it would be in my best interest.”

“How long until you close, Sarah?” Asked Ben. “We have some talking to do.”

“I can close right now. It’s late enough. Besides we have some catching up to do.”

Sarah locked the front door and hung the closed sign. “Let’s head into the kitchen. I’ll put on some coffee.”

Sarah, Abe, John and Ben sat down at the kitchen table where the plan was laid out to Sarah. She agreed and it was decided they would begin to put their plan into motion.

The following morning Sarah went to the land office and transferred the title of the timbered section of land over to her two sons. Meanwhile Ben went over to the sheriff’s office to pay him a visit. He knew Blackstone had hand picked his replacement so he would have to be careful about what he said. At the same time he would let it be known that the Glory boys now had possession of the land Blackstone wanted.

Ben walked into the sheriffs office and introduced himself as The Groves former sheriff. They made small talk and Ben inquired about the town and a few of the folks he knew. During the course of their conversation the sheriff pulled out a jar of peppermint candies from his desk drawer and offered some to Ben.

“I have a sweet tooth and these peppermint candies are my favorite.”

Ben declined the offer but the candy reminded him of the day Sarah’s husband was killed. It only added to the suspicions Ben had had all along. Before he left the office he let the sheriff know he had heard that Abe and John Glory now owned the section of land Blackstone had wanted and that they were thinking about harvesting the trees.

When he left the office, the sheriff was right behind him. He made a beeline for Blackstone’s office. Ben’s plan was moving forward.

As soon as Blackstone heard the news he headed straight to the land office. He wanted to be sure if what he had been told was accurate. It was. The paperwork had been filed. The Glory boys were indeed the new owners.

The news didn’t set well with Blackstone. His desire to acquire the property was now going to be more difficult. Their parents may have been stubborn but maybe they would be open to some sort of agreement. He didn’t want to seem too anxious so he decided to wait a couple of days before he approached them. In the meantime he would have the sheriff nose around a little and see if he could come up with something he could use to his advantage.

Later that day the sheriff walked into the general store. Ben was talking with Sarah from across the counter.

“How can I help you, sheriff?” Asked Sarah.

“How many times do I have to tell you. Call me Josh. Sheriff seems way to formal .”

“I would just as soon keep it that way if you don’t mind.” Sarah replied. Her tone made it clear as to how she felt about the man.

“I hear you signed over that section you own to your boys? That’s mighty nice of you. I hope those boys appreciate what they were just given. Do they have any plans for it?”

“Word gets around fast. There is some thought of logging the property but right now it’s nothing more than that. Just a thought.”

“I’ll bet the Mayor won’t be happy to hear that. I know he’s been trying to get that property for himself for quite some time.”

“And how would you know that?” Interjected Ben.

“I do believe I was talking to the lady here but let’s just say I hear things. It comes with the job. You should know how that is.”

The sheriff reached into the mint jar and grabbed a hand full. “Put this on my tab.” He looked over at Ben. “It’s this damn sweet tooth. I love these things. They’ll probably be the death of me some day.” A couple of the mints fell to the floor as he walked out the door.

Sarah snarled under her breath as he disappeared from sight. “There’s something about that man that doesn’t sit well with me.”

Ben had his own suspicions about the man. A hand so full of mints he couldn’t hold them all. Several dropping to the floor. He was Blackstone’s hand picked man. It was all beginning to add up in his mind. He was still Ben’s prime suspect. He had been for quite some time.

Once Blackstone heard what the glory boys were up to he made a point to “accidentally” meet up with them. He had his opportunity the following day right in front of the town hall.

As they were walking by Blackstone collared them. “Hey now, hold up there boys. I have a question for you. I here you’ve recently became the new owners of a certain piece of property.”

“That’s true, we have.”

“What might be your plan for it?”

Abe spoke up first. “I’d like to sell it if we can get a fair price for it.”

John countered. “We’ve been through this. It’s not for sale and never will be.”

“Well I don’t want my part. I would just as soon have the money.”

“Not going to happen Abe so get the thought out of your mind.”

“Here here now boys. No need to fight about it. Perhaps I might have a solution. If Abe would be interested in selling his half I might be interested in buying it… at a fair price I might add.”

“Can’t do that,” replied Abe. “The deed is in both of our names. We would have to agree or one of us would have to die before the other owned it outright.”

“Well in that case, I guess we’re both out of luck.” replied Blackstone. “If you can get your brother to change his mind, my offer stands.”

The Glory boys walked off chuckling to themselves. “Do you think he believed us?”

“If he did, you’re life could be in danger.” replied Abe.

“I’m willing to take that chance if it opens up the possibility of finding our pa’s killer. You and Ben have my back so I’m not too concerned.”

As the boys walked off, Blackstone’s twisted mind began to race. He found his man, Josh. “It looks like that land may be mine. The only thing standing in my way is John Glory. I need you to take him out. Make it look like an accident or self defense.”

“I took care of his old man for you, I’ll take care of the kid too,” replied Josh.

“There’s two hundred dollars in it for you if you do it right.”

“Oh I’ll do it right. You can count on that.” Josh reached into his vest pocket and pulled out a mint. He popped it into his mouth and walked off.

~~~

That afternoon Ben and the Glory boys discussed their next move. It was at this point Ben filled the boys in on his suspicion of Josh being their fathers murder.

“It all makes sense now,” replied Sarah who had been listening from the other side of the room.

“I didn’t mean for you to hear that,” replied Ben.

“I knew there was a reason why I despised that man. I just didn’t put the pieces together until you spelled it out.”

“You can’t let on you know anything,” replied Ben.

“I don’t like the idea of John being the bait in this trap. I’d just die if something happened to one of my boys.”

“I’ll be fine ma. I’ve got all three of you watching out for me.”

“Ben, I sure hope you know what you’re doing,” cautioned Sarah. “If you don’t, I’ll hold you personally responsible.”

“Fair enough,” replied Ben.

~~~

The sheriff had devised a plan to take care of John Glory. He would shoot him down in an act of self defense. He kept his distance from the boys for several days. All the while keeping a sharp eye out for the perfect opportunity. It finally showed itself early one morning as Abe left the store leaving John alone with his mother. Ben hadn’t been seen all day. Josh figured he was still in his room at the boarding house. He made his move.

Josh walked into the store. When he was sure he was alone with Sarah he began to talk inappropriately to her. He made lewd comments about her body and Sarah began yelling at him demanding he leave the store. Josh ignored her demands.

The commotion was enough to bring John out front. “What’s going on here?” He asked.

Sarah was smart enough to see what the sheriff was up to and told John it was nothing. The sheriff wouldn’t let it go. He had John where he wanted him. Now he just needed to finish the job.

“I told your ma I thought she had a nice looking ass and I’d love to get my hands on it.”

The comment put John into a rage. “You bastard.” He drew on the sheriff. The sheriff was expecting it and drew as well. Both men shot and John went down. He was only wounded.

The sheriff took a step toward John. He was ready to pull the trigger and finish the job. A shot rang out and the sheriff fell to the floor. Ben was waiting just around the corner and had taken the sheriff down. He wasn’t dead. Sarah pulled a gun from behind the counter. She held it to the sheriffs head. “Who put you up to this,” she demanded. She pulled back the hammer. Tell me now or I’ll blow you to kingdom come.”

Josh could see she meant business. “Blackstone. Blackstone hired me. He wants that section of land in the worst way.”

“You’re the one who killed my husband, aren’t you!”

“Blackstone forced me to do it. I had no choice. If you don’t believe me ask my deputy. He was there.”

That was all Sarah needed to hear. “You murdered my husband and you shot my son.” She pulled the trigger and sent the sheriff to his grave.

Sarah looked up at Ben and parroted the sheriffs words. “He forced me to do it. I had no choice.” She lowered the gun and Ben took it from her hand.

Ben spoke to both John and Sarah. “Two bullets hit the man. One from john and one from me. No one needs to know about this gun.” He quickly put it behind the counter before a crowd began to gather.

Johns wound wasn’t life threatening.

“Well that didn’t go as planned,” remarked Ben.

“My fault,” replied John. “I lost my head when he started saying those things about ma.”

“Well let’s just be thankful he didn’t kill you. Let’s get you over to Doc’s office. Can you walk?”

“I’ll make it.”

~~~~

Ben decided to stick around the Grove. He was rehired as sheriff and immediately arrested Blackstone and the town’s deputy. Blackstone was charged with hiring Josh to murder both John and his father. The deputy’s testimony put him behind bars.

When everything had settled down, Ben began to look toward Sarah in a new light. Sarah didn’t object. In fact she welcomed the idea.

© Copyright 2023 by Scott A. Gese All Rights Reserved.


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