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REPORT ON THE CRUEL CRIMES AND DREADFUL DEATHS OF THE BENDERS

Report by Luke Duke (only to be opened in the event of my death)

I guess the story started in the fall of 1873 when the sheriff dropped by.

"Luke!" my wife cried as I sat in my rocking chair picking my toenails. "Luke!"

"Look at what?" I asked her and spat some toenail at the old dog by the fire. I meant to hit the fire, you understand, but I missed and hit the old dog. Serves him right for hogging the fire.

"Luke!" She said for a third time. "That's your name!"

"So it is," I said. "What d'you want, woman?" (I call her woman cos I can't rightly remeber her name. Could be Sarah, could be Jane, could be neither.)

"There's a tap on the door!" she said and looked scareder than a turkey when it sees an axe on Thanksgiving day!

"A tap on the door? Funny place to put a tap," I muttered and picked a big hunk of nail off my big toe. Tasted just fine. Better than my woman's cooking anyway.

"Answer the door Luke!" she said.

I sighed and pulled my boot on and walked to the door. The sherrif stood there. "Howdy, Luke!" he said.

"How did he look?" I said and stratched my head with the toenail. "How did who look?"

"I said 'Howdy, Luke' - that's your name!"

"That's my name - don't wear it out. Now what can I do for you, Sherrif?" I asked him, polite as pie.

"I need a few good men to make up a posse!" he said.

"I got a dog, but I ain't got a pussy," I told him.

"No - a posse, Luke. A group of a dozen honest men to catch a group of the evilest people you ever saw!" he said and he sweating so much that his armpits were stained black with the wet. He didn't smell too good neither.

"Oh, a posse!" I laughed. "Where are you going to find a dozen honest man in Cactus Rock?"

"I thought you might like to join, Luke," he grinned. "You're honest, aren't you?"

I was going to tell him the time I stole the bowl of the blind beggar on Main Street when my woman called, "Bring him in Luke!"

So I ivited the sheriff in. We sat at the kitchen table and he told the terrible tale. "We're after the Bender Family," he said.

"That nice family that bought the shop anddaloon on Liberty Street?" I laughed when I thought of their lovely daughter Kate. "Why that pretty girl Kate came here to tell our fortunes using carrot cards!"

"They're 'tarot' cards," my woman said. "And I sent the girl packing. Don't know what her game was but she was up to no more good than a coyote in a hen-house."

I was just going to argue when the sheriff cut in, "Then you probably aved your husband's life, Mary!" (I never new they called her Mary, I swear!)

"Shame," she muttered.

Anyway, the sheriff went on, "Ma and Pa Bender came to town last summer with their son, Jake - a bit of a feeble-minded boy - and their daughter, Kate."

"Not the only one that's feeble-minded 'round this town," my woman muttered. I couldn't think who she meant, though I didn't like the way she looked at me.

"The Benders opened a shop and a saloon bar on Liberty Steeet and seemed to be doing good trade. But Kate went around every night, flirting with young strangers in tow and taking them home!"

"Disgraceful," my woman said and she gave one of those snooty sniffs up her nose that's longer than a vulture's beak.

"Trouble is," the sheriff went on, "those young men were never seen again." He lowered his voice and slurped some coffee before he went on. "One of the young men was followed by a friend when Kate took him to her home. The friend looked through a chink in the curtains and saw the young man sitting down to dinner. Thre was Ma Bender, Pa Bender and Kate sat at the table. There was no sign of the feeble-minded son."

"Probably went to bed to rest his feeble head," I said.

The sheriff ignored this common sense and continued, "The young man had his back to a curtain. His friend saw Pa Bender give a signal with his hand. The curtain opened and the feeble-minded son stepped out. He had a hammer in his hand!"

Probably a loose nail in the floor," I nodded.

"He brought the hammer down on the stranger's head! Crushed his skull top a pulp," the sheriff hissed.

My woman groaned. "Killers!" she sighed. "Knew they were up to no good."

"And robbers," the sheriff added. "They went through the stranger's pockets. Then they opened a trapdoor in the floor and dumped the body in the cellar. Naturally the stranger's friend came to tell me the terrible story of what he'd seen."

"You arrested them?" my woman asked.

"I guess the young man made a noise when he saw what happened. He thinks he may of cried out. Wahatever... By the time I got there the Benders had gone. We found the body in the cellar. This morning we dug in the yard and found another eleven bodies."

"Sure glad they've gone!" I laughed. "Town's a safer place."

My woman scowled at me at me like a hog with indigestion. "They have to be caught and brought to jusice! You have t go after them, Luke. Help the sheriff catch them."

I didn't like the sound of that. "I don't Know where they've gone!" I told her.

"No but you've gor Old Blue!"

"Who's that?" I asked. I didn't remember having no friend called Old Blue.

"The dog," she said. "Only the finest Russian Bloodhound in the whole of Kanses ... if his power of smell hasn't been damages by the stench of your feet," she added.

And so Old Blue and me set off with the Sheriff and a few other guys on the trail of the Bender family. And that's where the secret comes in. he dog tracked them ten miles to an old abandoned cabin near the border. It was nightfall by then and dark as a skunk's belly out there the Sheriff looked at the men and said, "They're in that cabin, if this dog's nose is telling the truth!"

"Call them out," one of the men said.

"Got to make sure they are the Benderss," I said. "Someone needs to go and have a look."

"Good thinking! You do it," the Sheriff said.

"Me?"

"Yes. You look, Luke. If you took a look, Luke, we'd know."

So they handed me a torch and lit it from a tinder box. I crept up to the window and that's when it all went wrong. There was no glass in the window, just an oiled cloth to keep out the draught. I tried to push the cloth to one side but I forgot I had the torch in my hand. In seconds the cloth caught fire and the wood cabin was ablaze. I ran.

We could all here cries from inside the cabin but they didn't last long . "Aren't we going to save them?" I asked.

The Sheriff shrugged. "They'll only hang anyway. Best to let them fry, Luke."

And that's what we did. Of course the governor of Kansas wouldn't like it. He'll say we toom the law in our own hands and executed those Benders without a trial! So we went back to town and said we couldn'd find them. We swore an oath to keep it all a secret

But I told my woman, what's-her-name, and she wrote it all down here for me.

I solemnly swear that's the truth about the end of the Benders, brought to book and cooke by Luke Duke,

Signed with his mark, X

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