Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Now Playing: Full Moon
New to these parts? To start at the beginning of the story,
click Full Moon 1.

Episode One concluded with:

            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.

Episode Two:

Rance again used caution. He crept around the shack and approached the door on the side without a window. He tapped gently on the door.
            “Go away!” The voice sounded female and scared.
            “I won’t hurt you. I’m a detective. I need to talk with you, for just a few minutes.”
            The baby’s crying became louder. The woman’s voice turned into a near scream. “Go away!”
            Dehner holstered his Colt. “I’m coming in.” The detective opened the door slowly, stepped into the shack and faced an old Winchester which was pointed at him.
            “Don’t you move no more. I’ll shoot. I really will.” The girl looked about fourteen, although it was hard to tell with her eyes squinting along the sights of the gun. Her clothes were old, but clean. That description could also apply to the inside of the shack and the blankets on the cot. The small table beside the cot stood barren of dust. The kid had done everything she could to make an abandoned line shack safe for her child.
            Dehner’s eyes couldn’t spot any food. “When was the last time that baby was fed? When was the last time you had anything to eat?” 
            “You never mind. Git!” The girl’s body was shaking.
            Rance held up both palms in an effort to calm the girl. There was an element of self-defense in the move. That old rifle could fire easily. “I’m not here to cause you any trouble.”
            “What are you doin’ here?”
            “Point that gun down and I’ll tell you.”
            She lowered the gun, revealing a pretty face marred by paleness and red streaked eyes. Her long dark hair was turning stringy through neglect. Dehner figured all the care the girl had to give went to her baby.
            “My name is Rance Dehner.”
            “I’m Leona.” The sudden propriety seemed to confuse her. Leona looked toward the crying infant. “His name is Samuel.” Hostility again returned to her eyes. “Why are you here?”
            “Like I said, I’m a detective. I trailed a gunslick to this place, a jasper named Curt Tatum, ever hear of him?”
            “Do you have any idea why he was here?”
            “Did you kill him?”
            “Then what difference does it make?”
            Dehner decided to pull back, figuring Leona had just evaded his question in order to avoid telling a lie. She had a strong sense of right and wrong which was being tested by fear and desperation.
            Dehner spoke quietly. “I have some food in my saddlebags. Don’t know if Samuel can eat any of it, but at least it will help you. I have to ride into town. Let me know what you need. I’ll bring it back.”
            Leona’s face contorted. The young woman pressed her lips together, then looked at Dehner and named off some food and other supplies for both her and the baby. She propped the Winchester against a side wall, casting a fast glance at the detective. Leona then bent over the baby, who had stopped crying, and didn’t look at Dehner as she spoke to him. “I gotta favor to ask.”
            “Name it.” 
            “When you get to Colter, could you look up Del Burgess? He’s a bit taller than me. Green eyes. Brown hair. Sixteen.”
            “Where does he live in Colter?”
            Leona went silent for a moment; she seemed to be wondering if she was betraying a trust of some kind. “Del works at the livery. Sleeps there most nights.”
            “What do you want me to do when I find Del?”
            She turned and faced the detective. “You might could tell him I’d like to see him, and just let me know he’s okay.”
            There was a lot behind that awkward request, but Rance decided not to look for it. He settled for a quick “Sure”, then went outside to attend to a corpse. He recovered his own horse and that of Curt Tatum. The detective laid Tatum’s body over the saddle of the outlaw’s horse and tied it there. He found some jerky in Tatum’s saddle bags, then, as promised, grabbed the food he had been carrying and took it all into the shack where he placed it on the table. 
            Leona was sitting on the bed cradling the baby, who was now sleeping. She was singing Jesus Loves Me in a soft voice.
            Rance Dehner felt very uncomfortable. “I’ll find Del Burgess for you, and I’ll be back in the morning with some more food.” He hastily left the cabin.
            The detective knew the area well, and with the light from a full moon could ride at a steady gait. He glanced at the corpse on the horse behind him. Curt Tatum had been a gun for hire. Who had hired him to find Leona and for what reason? Was Tatum supposed to kill the girl?