Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Episode One

Strange things are said to happen on the night of a full moon. People turn into wolves. Sweet and shy women take a knife to their husbands. Men of peace wantonly commit murder.
            Rance Dehner was not a superstitious man. Still, he was observant and had noted that on nights when the moon was a round orb there were a lot of odd occurrences.
            On this night of a full moon, Dehner was following a killer, Curt Tatum. The outlaw had tethered his horse to a tree and was heading somewhere on foot. This was definitely full moon stuff. There seemed to be no place for Tatum to go. Dehner followed on foot at a safe distance.
            Suddenly, no distance was safe. Curt Tatum moved out of a wooded area into a wide space dotted only sparsely by a few bushes and trees. The killer was moving toward a line shack, cautiously, like a mountain lion stalking prey. The shack had one window at the front, now beaming a faint glow of kerosene yellow. Tatum darted over to the side of the cabin, where there was only rotting wood. Dehner had no idea who was inside that shack, but it was no friend of Curt Tatum.
            Dehner did know Tatum by reputation and knew he couldn’t trail closely behind the man without cover. No matter how quietly he moved, the killer would hear him.
            For a moment, Dehner considered bushwhacking Curt Tatum. The man was a wanted killer. No one would argue if he brought Tatum in with a bullet in his back. Rance Dehner quickly rejected the notion. He couldn’t do that.
            Dehner decided to let his presence be known. “Visiting a lady friend, Curt?”
            Tatum wheeled around quickly, one hand hovering over the gun that lay in a holster on his right hip. He stared intently at the newcomer, then spoke in a voice filled with mockery. “Well, well, Rance Dehner, thought you and I parted company for good back in Denver.”
            “Yeah, Curt, you crept up on me from behind. Pistol whipped me good. I took a couple of weeks to recover.”
            “You coulda shot me from behind just now; why didn’t you?”
            “Company policy.”
            Both men were trying to size up the odd situation. They were about to have a gunfight that would leave one of them dead and they both knew it. The moonlight left their faces in shadow. A slight twitch of the mouth or eyebrows would not give anything away.
            “That company of yours, Pinkerton ain’t it?” As he spoke, Tatum tried to appear casual as he took one step forward. The killer was a fast draw, but his accuracy was faulty and the first shot had to count.
            Dehner pretended not to notice. “No. I work for Pinkerton’s competition, the Lowrie Detective Agency.”
            Curt Tatum wanted to take another step but decided to hold off. “Ain’t that the outfit owned by that Limey?”
            Rance Dehner saw his opening.  “Some Brits come over here to start a ranch. They give jobs to hard working cow punchers. Bertram Lowrie started a detective agency and gives jobs to lazy gunslingers. But Lowrie does have some standards. He’d never hire a cowardly snake who’d attack a man from behind!”
            “Why--” Tatum went for his gun as he spoke; Dehner matched his movements. Both men fired at almost the same time. Tatum’s shot went wide. Dehner’s shot went into his opponent’s stomach. Curt Tatum began to stagger about, gun still in hand.
            “Drop it Tatum, I’ll only say it once.”
            The gunman hung onto his weapon. Even wounded, Curt Tatum was a very dangerous man. Dehner’s second shot took the killer down.
            Tatum’s body lay still, his gun now positioned only inches from his right hand.  Rance Dehner moved with caution and his Colt drawn until he could feel for a pulse on the gunfighter’s wrist. Confident that Tatum was dead, Dehner turned his head toward the strange sound coming from the shack.
            A baby was crying.

Tomorrow: Episode Two of Full Moon