True Crime Books by Jason Lucky Morrow

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Pistol Packin’ Mama

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Originally Titled: “Fiendish Plot of the Pistol Packin’ Mama,” by Jack Harrell, Front Page Detective, March, 1944.

Note: This full-length feature story lacks clarity in some passages, but if you power through, it all comes together in the end.

Wyoming, July, 1934

LIKE MANY ANOTHER successful city businessman, Sewell Combs—”Charlie” to his friends—hankered for life in the country. Fortunately he lived where his desire to be in the open could be indulged, in Casper, Wyo.

Hazel & Sewell "Charlie" Combs of Casper, Wyoming

Hazel & Sewell “Charlie” Combs of Casper, Wyoming

Some 50-odd miles south of that central Wyoming city he owned a ranch to which he retreated when he could free himself of the demands of a prosperous law practice. Life out there, he felt, not only was good for his soul but greatly benefited his physical condition. His lungs still showed traces of tuberculosis he had contracted in the Midwest years earlier, although the vitalizing, dry climate of the West had all but eradicated the disease.

Combs and his wife arrived at the ranch house early in the evening of July 10. Bill Satterlee, a tall, powerfully built young man, ambled toward the lawyer’s sedan from one of the outbuildings, waving a cheery greeting. Bill’s two young nieces ran shrilling from the house where Grandma Satterlee stood smiling in the doorway, wiping her hands upon her apron.

These were the only inhabitants of the ranch in the absence of the owner. Bill was the caretaker, and his mother and his brother’s children lived with him. There would have been room for no more. The ranch house was small, having only a combination kitchen-living room and two bedchambers.

Consequently Joe Ludwitz, a handyman whom Combs frequently employed in Casper, and who had ridden out in the back of the sedan to help with the haying on the ranch, had to sleep in a small cabin on the creek, perhaps a mile from the main buildings.

It was some time after 11 P.M. when Combs and his wife retired to their bedroom. Grandma Satterlee already was in bed in the other chamber with the children, and Bill had made up his bunk on a cot in the main room of the ranch house.

The breeze which rustled the plain curtains at the windows and scented the bedroom with the odor of sage was dry and hot. The lawyer paced across the floor twice, then spoke casually.

“I believe I’ll drive down and get a cold bottle of beer from the creek,” he said. “I’d like to see Joe a minute, anyway.”

His wife looked at him, a peculiar foreboding in her eyes. “Charlie,” she murmured, “please don’t . . .”

“Now, Hazel,” he interrupted, “don’t worry. I’ll watch myself. Just one bottle, no more.”

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