Ain’t Never Lost Yet
Thomas Calabrese — Striker Mallous was born on June 6th, 1850 in Liberty Missouri. His family owned a small farm and along with his father, mother, two sisters and brother, struggled to make a living off the land.
Bloody Kansas, or the Border War was a series of violent civil confrontations between 1854 and 1861 which emerged from a political and ideological debate over the legality of slavery in the proposed state of Kansas. The conflict was characterized by years of electoral fraud, raids, assaults, and retributive murders carried out in Kansas and neighboring Missouri by pro-slavery Border Ruffians and anti-slavery ‘free staters’. Missouri, a slave state since 1821, was populated by many settlers with Southern sympathies and pro-slavery views, some of whom tried to influence the decision by entering Kansas and claiming to be residents. The conflict was fought politically as well as between civilians, where it eventually degenerated into brutal gang violence and paramilitary guerilla warfare. After the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 Clay County, Missouri became the scene of great turmoil, tension and hostility. Much of the dramatic build-up to the Civil War centered on the violence that erupted on the Kansas-Missouri border.
Grebb Mallous, Striker’s father, was a peaceful man by nature and did his best to maintain a neutrality between the rival factions during the brutal conflict in order to protect his family. He repeatedly told his neighbors that he would respect the decision of the President and Congress, whatever it might be. The Mallous family was related to the James family and Frank and Jesse were much more outspoken about their alliances, which caused trouble for the Mallous family. When they joined Quantrill’s Raiders, things worsened dramatically. Grebb was forced to choose between family and being a Union sympathizer. Even though he had no slaves and was against slavery, he told Frank and Jesse, “I won’t ride with you, but I’ll help you in other ways if I can. Come judgment day, I’ll try and explain it to the almighty.”
“Thanks Grebb,” Jessie smiled.
“I know you don’t agree with what we’re doing, so I reckon it was kind of hard for you to say that,” Frank added.
Grebb sighed in resignation, “A lot of bad doings on both sides. Even if I don’t agree with slavery, I damn sure don’t like the way the ‘free staters’ are going about things either.”
As Jesse and Frank rode out, Jesse stopped to speak to Stryker, “Your pa is a good man, anything you need, you tell me, you hear?”
“I hear, Jesse,” Stryker responded then went back to his chore of feeding the hogs.
Over the next few months, Grebb Mallous provided food and lodging and a place to hide out for Jesse and Frank. In August 1863, Union authorities assigned to the so-called District of the Border were frustrated by the hit-and-run tactics of Quantrill’s guerillas, particularly the aid provided by Confederate sympathizers in the western Missouri border counties. One of the policies that they instituted to discourage helping the Quantrill’s raiders was to imprison female family members.
Stryker was asleep in his bedroom when he heard the thunderous sound of horses growing louder. He ran outside to see fifty armed riders carrying torches. When the dust settled, a man called out, “We’re here for the women! There’s a price to pay for helping the bushwhackers and we’re here to collect!”
“I ain’t going to let you take my wife and daughters,” Grebb protested vehemently and blocked the door with his body. A dozen men pulled their pistols and he was shot down in a hail of gunfire. When Stryker’s older brother, Ridge rushed to his father’s side, he was also killed. Stryker screamed out, “No!” and took two steps and one of border guards smashed him in the head with a rifle butt and knocked him unconscious. The three female members of the family were dragged kicking and screaming from the house, placed in a wagon and taken to a makeshift jail in Kansas City, Missouri.
When Stryker awakened two hours later, he was bleeding from the ears and nose and had suffered a traumatic brain injury. He was no longer a playful young boy, his eyes were cold and lifeless and his ability to feel compassion and empathy had been knocked out of him. Stryker was sitting next to the corpses of his father and brother when Jessie and Frank James rode up, “We’re plum sorry about what happened, wished we could have been here,” Frank sighed, “We might have been able to stop them”
“You’d have just gotten yourself shot, there were too many,” Stryker said.
Jessie noticed the blood, “Are you alright?”
“I reckon that I might never be alright again,” Stryker answered.
After burying Grebb and Ridge Mallous on the hill behind the farmhouse, Frank, Jessie and Stryker rode off. Captain William Quantrill told the young boy “Sorry about your family. You’re welcome to stay here as long as you want, but I don’t think it’s a good idea. Once the stench of death gets on you, it sticks like molasses in the summertime. Rest up then ride on.”
Stryker took a deep breath and looked William Quantrill straight in the eyes, “Right now the only thing sticking to me is getting even with the scum that killed my brother and pa and took my ma and sisters. The only thing that is going to wash it off is the blood of my enemies.”
William Quantrill was a ruthless killer, but even he felt a slight chill run up his spine when the young boy spoke. The Mallous females were housed in a warehouse on Grand Street in Kansas City with other women taken from other families. In order to make room for them, the Union Soldiers enlarged the space on the first floor by removing several support beams.
As the result of their reckless actions, the structure collapsed, maiming and killing a dozen women including Stryker’s mother and sisters. The death of the women outraged the pro-southern guerillas, especially Quantrill’s Raiders.
Lawrence, Kansas was the historic base of operations for abolitionist and Jayhawker organizations. Calling for revenge, Quantrill decided a unified partisan raid on the location was warranted. Among his men was John Noland, the best scout in the Raiders. “Johnny, I need you to scout Lawrence, I want to know the best way in and out and where most of the menfolk are staying.”
John Noland was a bitter man whose family had been killed by Jayhawkers replied eagerly, “I’ll get some grub and be on my way.”
After getting the vital information from Noland, Quantrill organized a unified partisan raid on the town. The groups would rendezvous on Mount Oread on August 20, 1863 near the Wakarusa River, two miles south of Lawrence. Jessie and Frank did not want to take Stryker with them, but he refused to be left behind, “If I don’t go with you, I’ll just follow later,” Stryker promised.
Frank James handed the young boy a Colt Army Model 1860 cap and ball .44-caliber single-action revolver, “Do you know how to use one of these?”
“My pa had one, he showed me,” Stryker answered.
The attack was the product of careful planning. Quantrill had been able to gain the confidence of many of the leaders of independent bushwhacker groups, and chose the day and time of the attack well in advance. The different groups of Missouri riders approached Lawrence from the east in several independent columns, and converged with well-timed precision during the pre-dawn hours of the chosen day. Many of the men had been riding for over 24 hours to make the rendezvous and had lashed themselves to their saddles to keep riding if they fell asleep. Almost all were armed with multiple six-shot revolvers. Because revenge was a principal motive for the attack, Quantrill’s raiders entered Lawrence with lists of men to be killed and buildings to be burned.
While many of the victims had been specifically targeted beforehand, executions were more indiscriminate among segments of the raiders. The James brothers and Stryker rode with “Bloody Bill” Anderson, and his men accounted for a disproportionate number of the Lawrence dead. Stryker became filled with bloodlust once the killing started and could not be stopped. He murdered a father who was in a field with his son, shot a defenseless man who was lying sick in bed, killed an injured man who was being held by his pleading wife, and bound a pair of men and forced them into a flaming building where they slowly burned to death. After the attack, Quantrill led his men south to Texas for the winter.
A day after the attack, some of the surviving citizens of Lawrence lynched Rance Shanks a member of Quantrill’s Raiders and a neighbor of the Mallous family who was caught during the raid. On August 25, General Ewing began evicting thousands of Missourians in four counties from their homes near the Kansas border, then had every structure burned to the ground. The action was carried out by the infamous Jayhawker, Charles Jennison.
Eventually word reached the James Brothers and Stryker about the destruction in Missouri and they vowed to return in the spring to continue the fight. Under the tutelage of Frank and Jessie, ‘Bloody’ Bill Anderson and Archie ‘Snake’ Clement, and hours of practice, Stryker became extremely proficient with guns. Add that deadly skill to his total lack of empathy and it wasn’t long before he was shocking some of the most evil men who ever took a breath with his heinous behavior.
After returning to Missouri, Jesse James suffered the second of two life-threatening chest wounds. While he was riding with Stryker, they came across a Union cavalry patrol. Stryker was carrying four pistols at the time and killed fourteen soldiers and was wounded twice, once in each leg before he grabbed the reins of Jesse’s horse and escaped down river. To deal with the ever increasing pain from his brain injury and numerous gunshot wounds, Stryker began taking Laudanum, a combination of opium and morphine and soon became an addict, which added to irrational homicidal behavior.
Jessie told Stryker, “As much I’d like to keep you in the gang, you’re too trigger-happy.”
“There ain’t nothing happy about my shooting, I’m always dead serious.” Stryker replied
Frank interjected, “You’re kin and that means something, but it don’t mean everything. I got an idea if you’re interested.”
In order to take the heat off the James Younger gang, Stryker would go into town a few days ahead of the planned robbery and pick several fights with townspeople. After killing them, he would shoot up the town and ride out of town. The sheriff and his posse would often follow and the James Younger gang would ride in later to very little resistance. Jesse and Frank were bandits who killed to get what they wanted. Stryker was as likely to kill a man for a penny as a thousand dollars and shoot up a church with the same of lack of remorse that he exhibited when blasting away in a saloon.
On April 3, 1882, after eating breakfast, Charlie and Robert Ford and Jesse James went into the living room before traveling to Platte City for a robbery. James laid his revolvers on a sofa then noticed a dusty picture above the mantle and stood on a chair to clean it. Robert Ford drew his weapon, and shot the unarmed Jesse James in the back of the head. The death of Jesse James became a national sensation. The Fords made no attempt to hide their role. Robert Ford wired the governor to claim his reward. Crowds pressed into the little house in St. Joseph to see the dead bandit. The Ford brothers surrendered to the authorities and were dismayed to be charged with first-degree murder. In the course of a single day, the Ford brothers were indicted, pleaded guilty, were sentenced to death by hanging, and then were granted a full pardon by Governor Crittenden.
Stryker felt no grief for his cousin, but was indebted to him. In order to avenge Jesse’s death, the young gunslinger killed every one of the Ford’s relatives then went looking for Governor Crittenden. When he couldn’t get close enough to the corrupt politician, Stryker shot eleven guards at the gubernatorial mansion then headed west. The Civil War was over and the James Gang ceased to exist once Jesse was killed, but for Stryker, the killing would continue. Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas and Arizona, Stryker left dead bodies wherever he went. He was now in California and when he came to shooting fast and straight…he was mighty good.
Quint McMasters was a good-hearted young man, who always had a smile or a friendly word for those that he met. His father was Matt McMasters, legendary U.S. Marshal and defender of the innocent and protector of the weak. His mother, Kitty Loomis used to travel with a carnival as a trick shot prodigy. She would challenge anybody in the crowd to a shooting contest and whether it was fast draw or accuracy, Kitty Loomis always won. His parents had met 18 years earlier in the town of Brawley, California when Matt was bringing in the Newsome Gang and the carnival was performing. Matt saw Kitty shoot and when she made her customary challenge, he called out, “I’ll take that challenge!”
Twelve bottles were placed on each end of a long board and Kitty commented, “I don’t shoot for free…it’s going to cost you 20 dollars, cowboy.”
Matt pulled out five 20 dollar gold pieces, “Let’s make it interesting.”
“I like your style, cowboy,” Kitty said, “but I’ll still take your money.”
Matt handed the five coins to the man who explained the rules, “When I say draw, pull your smokewagons and shoot. The winner is judged by the number of bottles they hit and how fast they do it.”
Matt smiled at Kitty, “Sounds simple enough.”
Kitty liked the personable cowboy and said, “Simple to say, not so easy to do.”
“We’ll find out soon enough.”
The man called out, “Draw!”
Matt and Kitty drew at the same time, so quickly that it was hard to see their hands move, twelve shots and twelve shattered bottles with only a split second difference between the two expert marksmen. Kitty looked over at the cowboy, “I think you won.”
Matt reloaded his pistol and replied, “I thought it was a tie.”
Kitty asked, “Most men don’t shoot like that unless they’re an outlaw or a lawman.”
“Matt McMasters, U.S. Marshal. Would you like to join me for dinner tonight?”
Matt and Kitty got married six months later and two years after that, Matt gave up being a lawman and Kitty quit the carnival and they bought a ranch in San Marcos, California. When Quint was born, he was raised with a code of honor and taught what to do if trouble came his way. Matt told his young son when he was only 8 years old, “A gun is a tool, nothing more, nothing less. Some use it to take what they want or to hurt people. To others like us, it is used to protect what we value and bring people to justice. You need to be the best because second in a gunfight will only get you killed or seriously wounded. Always remember this; the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Kitty seconded her husband’s advice, “You’re going to grow up someday and if you’re lucky and we’ve done our job right, you’ll be a good man. Good men don’t walk away from bad hombres, they stop them. That means you’re going to have to do what 99.9 per cent of other men are unwilling or incapable of doing. I don’t plan on burying you on boot hill with tears in my eyes and living the rest of my life in sadness. As your mother, I need your solemn promise to me right now, that you will not let that happen.”
Quint answered, “I promise.”
Quint practiced at least an hour a day from that point forward, either by himself or under the expert tutelage of his father and mother. He perfected his fast draw accuracy and most important of all, how to read an opponent. By the time he was 16 years old, Quint had learned everything that his parents had to teach them. For his birthday, they took him to see Newly Lathrop, master gunsmith and close family friend who lived in Oceanside. Kitty told Newly, “It’s time that he has a personally fitted Colt Peacemaker with the necessary adjustments.”
“I can do that,” Newly replied.
Newly took the ebony handled .45 caliber pistol and re-configured the grip so that it fit perfectly in Quint’s hand. He also changed the tension on the trigger assembly so that it only took the slightest pressure to fire. To avoid being challenged, Matt McMasters rarely wore a gun in public, but that didn’t mean he didn’t keep one in a holster in his saddlebag. Quint followed the same example of his father. As the three McMasters rode back to San Marcos, Kitty suggested to her husband and son, “Why don’t we stop at Dugan’s for lunch.”
“Good idea,” Matt replied.
“I love their blueberry pie,” Quint smiled.
Stryker Mallous had left a trail of dead bodies from Kansas to California and with each person that he shot down, his legend continue to grow. By the time he reached Vista, California the mere mention of his name caused women to quiver in fear and men to question their courage. When he arrived at the Old Santa Fe Trail Saloon, he made an announcement for all to hear, “My name is Stryker Mallous, if any of you have a problem with that then step forward.” When nobody accepted his offer, he boasted, “I take what I want when I want it and I ain’t never lost yet.”
Sheriff Chunk Benteen entered the saloon, flanked by his two deputies, “Mallous!”
Stryker turned around, “That’s my name.”
“I heard that you were in town. I’m giving you fair warning, this is a peaceful place and I don’t want no trouble from you.”
In a split second, Stryker drew his pistol and killed both deputies then put a bullet through Sheriff Benteen’s right forearm, rendering his arm useless, “People don’t warn me…I warn them. The only reason that you’re still breathing is so that you can tell people what happened here.”
When the McMasters family arrived in Vista, California, a lot of people were riding out. “What’s going on?” Kitty asked a cowboy on a pinto horse.
“I’d turned around if I was you. Stryker Mallous just got into town and he’s already killed two men. I figure he’s going to kill a lot more and I don’t aim to be one of them.”
When they got to the front of Dugan’s restaurant, the street was empty. Matt. Kitty and Quint dismounted and Matt turned to his son, “Your time has come.”
Quint opened his saddlebag and pulled out his holster with his pistol and put it on. The family entered the small café and found a table in the corner with a view of the front door. They were eating their meals when Stryker walked in and saw the McMasters. He walked over and said, “I like to eat alone…get out.”
Kitty looked up, “We haven’t finished our lunch.”
“You’re finished,” Stryker reached for Kitty’s slice of pie and Matt grabbed him by wrist, “You getting on my nerves, Mister.”
“Maybe you don’t know who I am.” Stryker said.
“I know who you are, I’ve smelled enough scum like you in my day,” Matt sniffed the air and shook his head in disgust.
“I see that you’re not wearing a gun. You can go get one or not, but either way I’m going to kill you!”
Quint stood up, “I’m wearing a gun, Mister. Maybe you’d like to try and kill me.”
“Don’t mind if I do. You’re kinda’ young, but I’ve killed them younger.”
Quint and Stryker walked outside followed by Matt and Kitty. The two men walked away from each other until they were at a distance of 20 feet then turned to face each other. Stryker reached into his pocket and took a long swig of Laudanum and stared at the young boy.
Quint called out, “Make your play, mister. I want to finish my pie.”
The homicidal killer reached for his pistol and he didn’t even clear leather before Quint put two bullets in his chest, a quarter of an inch apart. Stryker looked at the red spots on his shirt in disbelief and commented with his last breath, “I ain’t never lost yet.”
Quint replied calmly, “Your time has come, Longrider.”
Stryker fell face forward in the dirt and died, his death was long overdue. Quint unbuckled his holster and put it back in his saddlebag. Kitty kissed her son on the cheek and the McMasters family went back into the café and finished their dessert.