THE LONG RIDER
Those who moved West from elsewhere and those raised in the new West accepted the frontier's eventual close. But there yet remained men like Jed Matthews who were born when every man still maintained his own law and an endless and unfettered frontier stretched out before them, a temporal West soon to disappear other than within themselves.
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Here’s your start:
Ten years after Jed Matthews escaped jail just before hanging for Jim Ryker's murder, he returns to confront the man who had jailed him, Sheriff Tom Booker.
Tom, a hard-bitten lawman, is not in town when a drunken brawl lands Jed in jail. When he returns, all those involved in the ten year distant murder trial have also arrived including Stacy, who was then a fourteen-year-old greenhorn Jed had mentored on the Ryker Ranch.
Jed is impressed by how Stacy has prospered in his distant new life, but Stacy's only concern is Jed's refusing his assistance. Stacy tries to explain his debt to Jed for all his help when he was alone and adrift, but he can't find the words.
Stacy then works to prove Jed's innocence, but quickly clashes with Tom once he discovers every file of the murder trial is missing, and every trace of Jed's life has been destroyed.
Stacy next tries to discover who profited from Ryker's death, but finds it difficult to understand the motivations of people he barely knew ten years ago.
Tom meanwhile attempts to fathom why Jed has returned and if it is connected with the continuing investigation of his office's style of law enforcement. A mental chess game between them explores their shared history starting with Jed's parents' brutal deaths, and Tom's temporary custody of Jed until Jed ran away from all his foster families and the back room of the jail finally became his permanent home.
Schooling came easy for Jed, but Jed's real classroom was watching Tom as he handled a gun, his fists or a mustang – and how effortlessly Tom creased a Stetson, all skills Jed mastered before he left for good on a cattle drive before age fourteen.
Jed's fearlessness and craving of (for) excitement soon led to his employment in the never ending depopulation of rustlers and stage robbers from neighboring counties and states. These skills also attracted men envious of his reputation; a reputation enhanced with every dead body that lay at his feet.
Stacy meanwhile struggles to find the murderer, and begins to believe Tom guilty. He tells Jed his friends have betrayed him but Jed refuses to believe him.
Stacy also feels guilty since after Jed saved him from Ryker's son brutal attach (I bet you mean attack), Ryker's hatred of Jed made it possible for a jury to convict Jed.
That night, he tells Jed he will break him out – with or without his cooperation.
When Stacy leaves, Tom sees in Jed's hands an old 20 dollar gold piece, and Tom realizes it is the unspent grub stake he had given Jed the day he left home for the cattle drive.
Jed then unexpectedly asks if he requests dropping his hearing for breaking jail, can he be hung for the murder that morning.
Understanding Jed's concern about Stacy, Tom agrees. Tom leaves to talk with the Mayor and Stacy takes advantage to break Jed from jail. Jed insists Stacy take his horse. He then looks for another, and overhears the Mayor and Tom talking about how the Judge had killed Ryker.
Jed follows Tom to the jail, and accuses him of hanging him for another's crime. Tom tries to explain, but Jed silences him with his fists before approaching voices force him to flee.
By the time Jed can find Stacy, Tom has formed a posse and they get the drop on them. They are disarmed, but Stacy drops a hidden gun.
Tom explains to Jed the Judge had accidentally shot Ryker when they were each drunk and he had confessed after the trial, not realizing Jed had escaped. He adds this is why every mention of the crime and Jed's life has been destroyed. Tom also explains his carelessness the night Jed 'escaped' and Jed realizes as he often thought, his escape was no accident.
Stacy, who was reaching for his gun, stops when Jed is cleared, but Tom then reminds the posse of the political consequences of their acts and how this will affect them, their families and the town – and why when it comes down to the welfare of the town – or a lone drifter – Jed Matthews can no longer live.
Tom then slowly dictates to the editor of the newspaper what he is to print about that night; stating that once the posse discovered the escaped murderer, Jed Matthews was shot and killed.
Stacy grasps his gun just as Tom says the man who shot and killed Jed was – Mr. Robert Smith - the identity Jed had assumed while on the run.
After a brief pause, Tom resumes.
Tom states that after Jed Matthews was buried, it was the posse's sad duty to have to say good-bye to Mr. Robert Smith and thank him for his help, his understanding and his forgiveness knowing that never again could any of their paths again cross.
After a silence, Tom asks Jed – why did he come back?
Jed quietly asks Tom if he remembered how he always said a jail was not a home and how he had always run away from every other place?
Jed said he just wanted to come home again.
Tom and Jed look at each other.
Nothing else is left to be said.
Jed walks over and mounts his horse. Stacy comes over, but still can not find the words to say. Jed finally extends both a wide grin and a firm hand and when their hands break, the 20 dollar gold piece passes between them.
Jed next looks to Tom and gives one final nod.
He then turns and rides away, never to be seen or heard from again.
Can’t you just see Gary Cooper riding off into the sunset?
Other than being awash in endless detail, which you don’t really need, you’ve got a pretty straightforward synopsis. Some of the sentences look like double helix DNA they’re so convoluted, but I have a feeling you wrote this in a hurry.
No hounds, no horses, and no pretty girls make this pretty grim, but you never know, cowboys read lots of strange things these days. Hell, I’ve caught a couple reading Proust. If that doesn’t signal the impending apocalypse I don’t know what does.