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Authors: Cynthia Woolf


The Brides Of Tombstone 01 Mail Order Outlaw

BOOK: The Brides Of Tombstone 01 Mail Order Outlaw
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Mail Order Outlaw

The Brides of Tombstone

Cynthia Woolf

Mail Order Outlaw

Copyright © 2015 by Cynthia Woolf

All rights reserved.

ISBN-13: 978-1-938887-60-4

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Mail Order Outlaw
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.

Published by Firehouse Publishing

Photo credits – Jenifoto, Scott Prokop Photography and Period Images

Digital formatting – Author E.M.S.

Books written by Cynthia Woolf can be obtained either through the author’s official website:

or through select, online book retailers.


Tombstone, Arizona Territory, March 5, 1882

Lizzie finished her letter to Maggie Black, owner of Matchmaker & Co. in Golden, Colorado.

Dear Mrs. Black,

I have changed my mind about becoming a mail order bride to Mr. Malcom Brandon. I cannot leave my ranch. It is my first love and if I must remain an unmarried woman in order to keep it, so I shall.

Please extend my apologies to Mr. Brandon. I will refund any fees associated with this change in the arrangement.


Elizabeth Cobb

She read it over again. Pleased with the document, she prepared it for posting in next mail run.

She still needed a husband, but being half Apache didn’t make it easy to find one. Lizzie couldn’t leave the ranch though, not even for the sake of a husband. For the ranch work she could make do with ranch hands and foremen. It would mean no children for her, ever, but this was the decision she had to make. Keeping the ranch for Jamie was more important than her own dreams.

* * *

Outside Tucson, Arizona Territory, May 12, 1882

Ed Talbot adjusted his bandana to cover the lower half of his face. The stagecoach his father had targeted for his latest robbery was about to crest the hill. When it did Ed and his half-brother, Harvey, would be waiting. His father, Josiah Talbot, would fall in behind the vehicle until it came to a halt.

Josiah rode with Harry and Joe, closing in behind.

Ed and his brother waited and the coach was slowing as it was supposed to. Suddenly the shotgun rider started firing his rifle at the men closing in behind.

Ed and Harvey rode toward the coach. Harvey fired his pistol and killed the shotgun rider, but not before they saw Josiah fall. The stage came to a halt and Ed kept his gun on the driver, while Harvey rode past the coach to where their father lay on the ground.

“Nooo.” A howl like Ed had never heard came out of Harvey. Ed knew then that their father was dead, but he didn’t grieve. The man Ed had hated for most of his life was dead. He rejoiced.

Harvey walked forward, reloading his gun as he came. As soon as he got had a full cylinder, he aimed at the driver and shot him dead.

Ed saw what was going to happen and jumped off his horse and ran toward his brother. He grabbed his brother’s arm. “Harvey. What the hell do you think you’re doin’?”

“He killed Pa. He deserved to die. The driver and this man are a witnesses and have to die…” Harvey’s eyebrows came together and he narrowed his eyes. “Or you do and then he dies anyway. Now you got a problem with that?”

That was no choice and Ed was about to say so, when Harvey raised his pistol and fired. The man who’d done nothing but be a passenger on the wrong stage, was dead.

“Couldn’t let you say something you might regret, little brother.” Harvey holstered his gun. “Gather up all the stuff including the luggage and then search all three men,” he instructed Harry and Joe.

Ed noticed a valise in the coach that he assumed belonged to the man. He took it and tied it to his saddle bags.

“Let’s go,” said Harvey. “Take the coach horses, we’ll sell them in town and set the coach on fire.”

Joe gathered up sage brush, so prevalent in this part of the desert near Tucson and piled it inside the coach. Then he took a stick match out of his pocket, struck it against a rock and started the kindling on fire. Within minutes the stagecoach was burning and black smoke billowed into the sky. If they hung around, they’d be found by the sheriff’s posse.

“All right let’s get out of here.” Harvey turned and rode his horse the way they’d come, back to their hideout in the Mule Mountains.

Not having any choice, Ed followed his brother. Harvey would kill him in a heartbeat rather than let him go. Their father had been the same way. Fifteen years ago, when Ed’s mother died, Josiah had taken him into the gang. Ed was thirteen. He learned how to rob stages, trains and banks. He learned how to kill people but he never actually killed anyone. He’d managed to avoid that particular deed. His father and brother thought him a coward, but Ed had no taste for killing a living soul or the outlaw life in general.

When they got to camp, Ed took the valise and went to his bedroll. He opened the piece of luggage. In his search for valuables he shoved aside a couple of suits, ties, shirts, and underdrawers. In the bottom he found a packet of letters tied together with a thin strip of leather. They were addressed to Malcolm Brandon of San Francisco. That must have been the man’s name.

Gripped by curiosity, Ed untied the bundle and opened the first letter. It was from a woman named Elizabeth Cobb in Tombstone.

Tombstone, Arizona Territory, March 8, 1881

Dear Mr. Brandon:

My name is Elizabeth Cobb, but I go by Lizzie. Thank you for responding to my letter desiring to become a mail order bride to the right man. My only requirement is that the man be over six feet tall as I am nearly six feet myself. I understand from Mrs. Black that you fit the bill by being six feet two inches yourself.

I run a cattle ranch outside of Tombstone in the Arizona territory. Up until two years ago, I ran the ranch with my father. Now it’s just Mama, Jamie and me. Jamie is the actual owner of the ranch but he’s only ten years old and I need to run it until he can take over, if he wants to. He’s a very studious boy and may decide to go to college and study a subject other than ranching. He doesn’t love it like I do.

Mrs. Black informed me that you own a thriving dry goods business in San Francisco. Why are you looking for a mail order bride? Aren’t there any women there for you to marry?

I don’t know what all to say. Please write me back with questions that you may have.


Lizzie Cobb

Ed wondered about Lizzie Cobb. Why was she willing to be a mail order bride? Was she ugly? She was very tall for a woman, maybe that was why. What would she do with the ranch when she got married, leave it for her mother to run with the little brother? Was she planning on taking the old lady with her and selling the ranch?

Many questions buzzed through his mind. Tombstone was about seventy miles south, two days hard ride through the desert. Riding hard wasn’t a good idea. He could kill his horse and then he’d be dead himself. There was nothing but sage brush and cactus as far as the eye could see. No water. The going wasn’t easy. There was a swing station where the stagecoach changed horses and passengers could rest and get a meal. Sometimes the stage stayed overnight depending on what time of day they arrived. Apaches roamed the desert and stages, stations, and settlements were often attacked. Bandits were known to come from Mexico and rob the stages as well as gangs like our gang. It was Harvey’s gang now that Josiah was dead.

The stage drivers and those who rode shotgun didn’t want to get caught out after dark if they could help it. Ed understood the reasoning. He’d faced the Apaches himself while living in the desert.

He read more of the letters; there were eight in all. With each letter he became more interested in Lizzie Cobb. She sounded like one hell of a woman. Running a large cattle ranch after her father died. Caring for her mother and younger brother.

From what she’d shared he knew Lizzie was twenty-four years old, six feet tall with dark brown hair and brown eyes. She didn’t sound like a woman who could be missed or mistaken for anyone else.

As he read a plan formed. His only worries were how much Lizzie knew about Malcolm Brandon. The dead man signed his later letters ‘Mal’ so Ed would go by that name. He was only a little taller than the man had been so his clothes would pretty much fit, might be a little tight.

Could he do it? Could he become Mal Brandon?

The more Ed thought about it, the more he liked the idea. He’d have to sneak away in the middle of the night. If his brother knew of his plan to leave the gang, Harvey’d stop him; maybe even kill him if he had to. Especially if he knew about the money Ed had found in the lining of the valise, a lot of money. Enough for a fresh start.

Ed didn’t want to be in the gang anymore. He’d never wanted to be in it to begin with. His mother had wanted him to go to school and become a teacher. Ed had wanted that, too or at least to do something…legal.

As a kid he’d never really known Josiah. He was just the man who stopped by and spent the night every couple of months when Ed was growing up. Then when his mother died, Ed had been by himself for a few weeks before Josiah showed up. A few glorious weeks where he could mourn his mother, Becky Brody in peace. When Josiah found out Ed’s mother had died, he took Ed with him. Ed had been in Josiah’s gang ever since. The only things he had left of his mother were her green eyes.

He did have some things he was thankful to his father for. Josiah had taught him to use a gun and to ride like the wind. He could speak Spanish as well as anyone, because Josiah’s mother had been Mexican and he made sure both his sons could speak it. He was big; six-foot-four and muscular.

Only Harvey had been bigger.

Harvey was also meaner. He had no problem killing people.

Ed thought he actually liked it.

Harvey used and abused women, as well. He liked that, too.

Ed hated to see and hear the abuse, when there was nothing he could do. Once he’d tried stopping Harvey and nearly died for his efforts. Now he just stayed away from camp whenever Harvey brought a woman there, which thankfully wasn’t often.

Unless it was Belle. For some reason Belle James could give as much as she took and Harvey liked her best. Maybe loved her, if he was even capable of that emotion.

Ed didn’t have women very often. He’d fallen in love once.

When Harvey found out, he had taken the woman, raped her and left her for dead. There was no way he or Josiah, either one, would let Ed leave the gang for any reason.

Ed watched Joe stoke the fire and add wood to it. It was cold in the mountains and on the desert at night. It shouldn’t have been considering how blistering hot they were during the day, but at night the temperature dropped to uncomfortably cold.

Ed didn’t want to be responsible for that happening to any other woman, so he stayed away from them. He visited the occasional brothel. He was a twenty-eight year old man, after all and had needs just like any other man. But other than those visits, and he never saw the same girl twice, he stayed away from women.

Except for the valise Ed had, there was only a strong box on the stage. The box was locked and Harvey let the boys use it for target practice until the safe was opened. There was a small payroll inside. Only a thousand dollars, but that was enough to keep the men in liquor and women for a couple of weeks and then they’d plan another robbery of a stage or train or bank. Probably a stage because it was easiest and Harvey was all about easy.

Plans made, he waited for two weeks knowing the men would eventually go into Tucson to let off some steam. They never lasted longer than a couple of weeks after a score. By then the liquor ran out and so did the ammunition from the target practice and the money they’d gotten was burning a hole in their pockets.

BOOK: The Brides Of Tombstone 01 Mail Order Outlaw
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