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Mysterious Dave by Nigel Roth


As the sun set in the dead center of a hot and dusty Kansas in 1885, a man saddled up his horse, tied a bandana over his face, and rode away, counting his lucky stars, and his bullets.

He didn’t have time to read the Wichita Daily Eagle, so he wouldn’t have known that the Dow Jones Index had recently been launched, or that Louis Pasteur had just created a rabies vaccine, or even that Arbroath FC had beaten Bon Accord FC by thirty-six goals to nil, in the highest scoring win in competitive professional football, before or since.

No, he was fleeing fast on his able steed, to parts unknown, never to be seen again.

His name was Dave. Mysterious Dave.

He was nicknamed Mysterious before he disappeared, but not before robbing trains in New Mexico, gunfighting at variety halls, counterfeiting in Texas, stealing from prostitutes, murdering people in Dodge City, and defending outlaws in New Kiowa, which is the town he was fleeing on September 6.

He was not the first person to don a mask and head for the hills.

In 1696, the pirate known as Henry Every, or Avery, or Jack Avery or John Avery or Every, or Benjamin Bridgeman or Long Ben, or just The Arch Pirate, or even The King of Pirates, sailed away in confusion over his own identity, his salty, drooping hat low over his face, and was never espied again, despite a decade-long search with a weighty bounty on his piratically-well-known head.

The difference is, Mysterious Dave ditched the boat.

Born in Saybrook, Connecticut in 1851, Mysterious Dave Mather was about as far as you can get from the lawless West where he made and lost his name. He started out as a simple sailor, but his wild life really began by selling fake gold bricks, with his partner in crime, Wyatt Earp, before being hired by Bat Masterson to enforce territory claims for the railroads. Masterson went on to a respectable career in New York as a reporter, while Mysterious Dave headed south, in many ways.

First, he became a Deputy Marshall in New Mexico, and promptly robbed a train. On acquittal, he and his boss, Joe Carson, got into a brawl at Close & Patterson’s Variety Hall, where it seems the 'variety' included shooting dead two other men and wounding two more. He followed that up by killing Joseph Costello, a local businessman, and allowing the subsequent lynching of the two men he’d wounded days earlier in the gunfight.

While this was indeed the Wild West, Mysterious Dave was certainly mysteriously-wild in his ways.

Suspected of being as crooked as John ‘Jack’ McCall’s nose, Mysterious Dave left town and went to Dallas, Texas. There he was arrested for counterfeiting and stealing a silk dress, two diamond rings, and a watch f