Friday, February 24, 2012

Now Playing: Last Job
 New to these parts? To start the story from the beginning, click

Episode Fourteen of Last Job

Episode Thirteen concluded with:

             Hunter tensed up as he heard a voice from down the street: a voice he had heard a few hours ago in the Lucky Miner. “Of course I was cheating, Rance. So was everyone else in the game, or they were trying to. Why, not to cheat at playing cards amounts to gambling, which is a sin.”
            The sheriff saw two shadows advancing through the puddles of light. He couldn’t take a chance on the gambler’s friend possibly running after Hooper’s killer. He would have to shoot both of them. 

Episode Fourteen

Hooper continued to pontificate as the two men approached the spot of light provided by one of the hotel’s porch lamps. As the two men began to enter the light, a woman called out and rushed toward them.
            Penelope Castle joined Dehner and Hooper in front of the hotel. The sheriff cursed inwardly. Killing a gambler and his friend was one thing, no one would care. But killing a woman would create pandemonium in the town. He couldn’t take a chance on hitting her. Sheriff Rush Hunter lay flat on the roof and listened carefully.


            Penelope Castle leaned against the counter of Westlake’s General Store and counted her money. The young woman didn’t know if she had enough. She had never hired a detective before.
            Penelope had often been one of the last people to leave Westlake’s General Store. Not an unusual situation for a bookkeeper.
            For a moment, she reflected on happier times, like the day she had stood nervously in front of Lon Westlake making her pitch for a job. “I may not be a formally trained bookkeeper, Mr. Westlake, but I have a head for figures. You can ask Mrs. Stanfield. She will tell you I was the best student at arithmetic she ever had!” 
            Lon Westlake had hired her. Six months later he asked her to marry him. What followed seemed like magic. She cherished the memories of the one hour they had together in the store each day after Lon’s brother and his wife departed. Not that anything wrong happened! They kept the shades of the store wide open, not giving the gossips anything to chew on.
            But she and Lon made silly jokes and talked about their future together as she worked on the books and Lon got the store ready for the next day. Yes, she had to go home early on Wednesdays when George Conklin came to dinner. At first that had seemed like no more than a pebble in her shoe.
            Then came that awful morning when she arrived at the store to find out Lon had been arrested…
            Now, Penelope’s eyes had been fixed on the store’s front window. Seeing the men she had been watching for, the woman hurried out the front door and into the street.
            “Excuse me, Gentlemen!”
            Dehner and Hooper halted near the splash of light in front of the hotel and turned to greet the young woman who stopped in front of them, looking very self-conscious. “I know it is late gentlemen, I’m sorry for being so rude.”
            Stacey Hooper’s smile was more lecherous than gracious. “No apology is needed! An evening spent with ruffians is rarely concluded with the arrival of someone as lovely as yourself.”
            To Stacey’s disappointment, Penelope addressed Dehner. “Sir, I understand you are a detective.”
            Rance cringed, remembering how Stacey had called him “…the west’s greatest detective” back in the saloon. “Yes, my name is Rance Dehner.”
            The woman noted the chagrin on Dehner’s face. “This is a small town, Mr. Dehner.” She nodded at the store behind her. “One of our regular customers witnessed the mishap at the Lucky Miner this evening. Knowing about my present circumstances, he came by and described you and your, ah, friend to me. I figured you’d be staying at the hotel…”
            Penelope’s voice trailed off. She inhaled and then spoke. “Mr. Dehner, I wish to hire you!” 
            The next fifteen minutes were spent with Dehner at first trying to put Penelope at ease, and then masking his surprise that her wishes were identical to those of Tully Brooks. The detective stopped Penelope when she began to approach the matter of money. “I’m sure we can work out the fee at a later time, Miss Castle. I do have one question. Have you discussed this matter with the local law?”
            Penelope nodded her head. “Our sheriff, Rush Hunter, is a good man. I’m afraid I’ve been too harsh on him. So has much of the town. Rush has to uphold the law.  A jury found Lon Westlake guilty of robbing the bank. What could a lawman do?!”
            “I’ll talk with the sheriff first thing in the morning. I’ll let you know the moment I come up with anything significant, Miss Castle. Meanwhile, allow me to walk you home.”
            “That’s very kind of you. Thanks.”
            “Propriety demands that I wish both of you good night, despite the fact that you both are oblivious to my presence!” Stacey Hooper turned and marched into the hotel.
            “Oh, dear!” Penelope put a hand to her cheek.
            “Don’t worry about my friend. He’s temperamental, but harmless.”

            Rush Hunter watched the couple walk up the street and vanish into the night. George Conklin would not be happy when he learned the gambler was still alive. Hunter would have to come up with a new scheme. Fast.

Monday: Episode 15 of Last Job