Monday, April 30, 2012

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

Episode Five of Hellfire

Episode Four concluded with:

“You’re not armed, Hosea. Going back into a place like the Quick Dollar without a gun…after being thrown out…well…you could be setting up another test for the Lord.” 
“Good point. But listen, you won’t be alone, brother. I’ll stay right outside here and pray for you.”
Dehner stepped onto the boardwalk and glanced backward. Hosea’s head was bowed and his hands clasped together. His whispered words sounded intense. Rance couldn’t decide if the man was loco or genuinely devout.  He reckoned that was a question for later. He pushed open the batwings and entered the Quick Dollar saloon.

Episode Five:

Inside, the detective moved to the side of the entrance and looked around. Olsen would spot him soon enough, but first he wanted to get the lay of the land. The saloon was crowded. Somewhere in the chaos a piano player with little talent pounded a contraption that had probably never been tuned. Near the right stairway, several saloon girls were busy encouraging a passel of male fools who were losing money at the roulette table. Rance moved toward the left side of the bar, where he would be under one side of the second floor horseshoe. He passed several tables where men were playing poker. At one table, he spotted Stacey Hooper. He thought the gambler had also seen him, but couldn’t be sure.
Rance figured Lars Olsen had some sort of status at the Quick Dollar and with Beau Rawlins, the man who owned the saloon and the town. After all, it had been Olsen who tossed out Hosea. For a moment, Rance’s mind went back to the words Olsen had shouted at Hosea. Something about a woman…
“Well, look at the piece of loco weed that just blew in!” Lars Olsen stood a few yards from Dehner.
Rance smiled. “The last time I tried to arrest you, Lars, you got right ornery. Make it easy on yourself this time.” Dehner cringed inside. On the second floor, a man and a woman stepped out of one of the rooms, laughing. The laughter stopped as the man looked down. He pushed the woman back into the room and followed her. A speck of light winked from the room as the man drew his gun.
The crowd parted, but not in the usual manner. There was snickering and an almost gleeful sense of anticipation. Lars Olsen was a fast gun who had killed many men. Now, Lars was about to kill one more. Something to talk about tomorrow.
“You know why I hate you so much, Dehner?”
Lars’ question surprised the detective, but he was grateful for the conversation. The detective skimmed the crowd for someone else who might decide to assist Lars Olsen, but he didn’t dare turn his head toward the men behind him. Olsen was too fast a gun. “Well…golly…no, . .Lars.” Dehner continued to smile as he faced the killer. His voice was friendly. “Must be because I’m a Baptist and you’re a Methodist.”
“Not hardly. It’s because you got some kind of demon in you. You jus’ gotta go after men like me. That demon ain’t never gonna let you go. But don’t worry none, Dehner, I’m gonna put an end to your misery tonight.”
That would have been an obvious moment for Lars to go for his six shooter, but the gunfighter was too smart for that. The saloon was now completely quiet except for the still spinning roulette wheel which made a sound like an angry swarm of insects. Olsen’s body appeared loose but his eyes were fixed on Dehner. “How’d you know I was here?”
“Hellfire is just a natural place for you to be.”
Olsen’s face remained placid but Dehner saw the man’s chest rise as he did a slight inhale. The outlaw’s gun had just cleared leather when a bullet from Rance’s Colt cut into his shoulder and pushed him backward.
As he pulled the trigger, Rance jumped sideways. He hit the floor as the man from the second story room ran to the railing and fired a shot that ricocheted off one of the gambling tables. Rance snapped off two shots toward the second floor. Both bullets hit the target. The gunman dropped his weapon. His body went into spasms and he plunged over the railing.
Instinctively, the detective began to jump to his feet when he heard a familiar voice yell, “Stay down!” Dehner flattened himself against the floor as a red spear cut the air over him and burrowed into a gunman who spun and fell without firing the weapon in his right hand.
Stacey Hooper was on his feet, smoke curling from his gun. “Welcome to Hellfire, good friend!”

Tomorrow: Episode Six of Hellfire