Cold-Blooded Assassin

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Thunder Over the Prairie:

The Story of a Murder and a Manhunt by the

Greatest Posse of All Time.

Dora Hand


A steady beat of boots hurrying along the wooden plank sidewalks reverberated off the buildings and overhangs lining Dodge City’s Front Street. Curious onlookers peered out of the saloons and bathhouses as two familiar characters sprinted past. Lawmen Wyatt Earp and Jim Masterson, Bat Masterson’s younger brother, raced in the direction of town where a series of gunshots had popped five minutes earlier.

Both men wore the stern, focused look of peace officers accustomed to living in a dangerous unpredictable cow town. Each had a commanding presence that warded off as many as it attracted. Each wore a badge on their vest. Wyatt was an impressive man with blonde hair, a well-groomed mustache, and blue-grey eyes. His slender frame and erect posture made him appear taller than the six feet he stood. Jim was roughly the same height with dark hair and a thick mustache that covered a stubborn line on his thin mouth.

As the men neared the back entrance of the Great Western Hotel, they scanned the area carefully, their hands perched over their pistols, ready to draw if necessary. Fannie Garrettson was crouching near the back door of Mayor James Kelley’s home, sobbing. She saw the two men fast approaching as she backhanded a torrent of tears off her face.

As Earp and Masterson arrived, her plaintive eyes met theirs and before anyone could speak, she pointed a shaking finger at the house behind her. The men quickly noticed a bullet had splintered the door of the home. They entered Mayor Kelley’s place, lifting their six-shooters out of their holsters in the process. A fast inspection of the various rooms of the house led the lawmen to the spot where Dora Hand lay dead.

The two men made their way back outside. They were rattled by the singer’s blood soaked remains, but fixed on the job at hand. “Looks like four shots were fired,” Jim offered after a few moments silence, “maybe more.” Wyatt bent down next to Fannie and waited for her to gather her composure. “She was sleeping in the Mayor’s bed,” she said stammering. “He’s been sick for two or three weeks and last Monday he was obliged to go to the hospital at the post, Fort Dodge.”

The lawmen asked if she had seen the shooter. The grief stricken woman shook her head. Unable to continue holding back the flood of tears that insisted on coming, Fannie broke into more hysterical sobs. The officers waited for the wave of emotion to subside. “What a horrible death,” she cried. “To go to bed well and hearty and not dream of anything and be cut down in such a manner, without a chance to breathe a word.”

Sympathetic friends of the slain entertainer and of Fannie Garrettson were sent for at the same time the acting coroner; Judge Refus G. Cook. The distraught singer was escorted to a hotel, and the coroner was delivered to the deceased.

The mood inside Mayor Kelley’s home was heavy and foreboding. Wyatt and Jim, who had now been joined by Sheriff Bat Masterson, looked on as the Judge lifted Dora’s arm to inspect the spot where the bullet had entered her body. The Judge was a man of medium build with ice-blue eyes that reflected his mighty prowess and serious tone. He handled her still form with gentleness ordinarily reserved for the living. “Coward,” he said under his breath. Bat, a stout, compact man with broad shoulders, dark hair and heavy eyebrows and a mustache, turned away from the scene and headed into the sitting room, disgusted.

Thunder Over the Prairie

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To learn more about the death of Dora Hand and the posse that tracked her killer read Thunder Over the Prairie.