By: Travis Naughton

As he slowly rode across the scorching Kansas plains, Blackjack sensed that he was being followed. A professional tracker himself during the war, he knew a thing or two about hunting human prey. What he didn’t know, but aimed to find out, was who was tailing him and why.

Ironically, Blackjack was on the trail of someone as well, riding his horse in the direction of a small frontier town called Twin Oaks, playing a hunch that his quarry, the Heartbreak Bandit, might be headed there to catch a ride on the stagecoach that passed through town twice a week. The bandit, a woman whose real name was Jane McCourt, was thought to be heading towards Denver, where she had wealthy relatives who could provide a place for the fugitive to lay low for a while.

For now, the hunt for Jane McCourt would have to wait. Blackjack decided to set a trap for his pursuer. First, he spurred his horse into a full sprint in order to widen the gap between him and whoever was tailing him. When he was certain that he had ridden far enough to be temporarily out of his follower’s sight, he stopped and dismounted his horse at a gravel bar along a dry river bed. The rocky terrain ensured that Blackjack would leave no footprints of his own on the ground. Then he hobbled his filly by tying her front legs together with a short length of rope before slapping her flank and sending her lumbering ahead on her own. This way, the person following Blackjack would see only hoof prints in the dust, never suspecting that Blackjack was now on foot, lurking behind an old snag in the riverbed, waiting to pounce. The hunter became the hunted.

Read whole chapter in this week’s Journal…

Published July 19th, 2023

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