Thursday, May 3, 2012
Now Playing: Hellfire
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Episode Seven concluded with:
Dehner changed the subject. “I hear laughter from our pursuers.”
Stacey nodded his head. “At this time of night, the entire population of Hellfire is inebriated.”
“The devil’s brew has been the ruin of many a soul,” Hosea lamented.
“Yes. But tonight Beelzebub’s bottles may be our friends.” Stacey looked back. “They aren’t making very good time. Let’s ride a bit faster. There are a few things we need to get done before we confront those villains.”
They spurred their horses into a gallop over the flat, dismal land. The few bushes and trees they rode past were withered and bent, as if this portion of the territory was a monument to death.
Stacey pointed to a dark patch which lay in front of them. “Up ahead!”
They reined in at a gathering of five crooked trees huddled together as if trying to comfort each other. An abandoned shack stood several yards away. Stacey spoke as the three men dismounted. “This is one of the few spots that offers shade in the daytime. An obvious location for a line shack.”
“What do you have in mind, Stacey?” Rance asked.
Stacey hastily opened a saddle bag, pulled a wax object out and held it up for his two companions to see. “I plan to light one candle rather than curse the darkness. You gents tie up the horses.”
The gambler ran to the dilapidated structure. True to his word, candlelight could soon be seen through the shack’s one small window. Stacey ran back to his companions and hastily explained his plan. The three men waited in the darkness of the trees. Rance and Stacey held Colts. Hosea Rimstead was now armed with a Winchester he had pulled from the boot of his saddle.
The sound of approaching hoofbeats mingled with the laughter Rance had heard earlier. Both sounds came to a stop. Whispering could be heard, followed by a couple of guffaws. A moment of total silence followed, then gunshots were fired at the cabin as four men rode toward it. Two of the men were firing pistols and two carried Henrys. Splinters of wood exploded from the shack as a storm of bullets pierced it. One of the Henrys blew a hole under the window of the shack.
The four men pulled back and admired their destruction, as if they had just pulled off a dangerous military maneuver. The flame that still flickered inside seemed to hypnotize them for a few moments.
“Think anyone is still alive in there?” One of the outlaws asked, his voice slurred a bit by alcohol.
“Na. They’re all dead, or close to it. But let’s move in slow.”
Later, it would occur to Rance Dehner that what happened next may have looked funny if there had been a bystander around to watch. The four outlaws dismounted and began to move slowly toward the shack. As they did so, Stacey,Rance and Hosea moved from the shadow of the trees into the moonlight and advanced quietly toward the backs of the owlhoots.
“Freeze and drop your guns, gentlemen!” Stacey shouted. “Failure to comply will result in immediate death.”
The outlaws did what they were told. Although they couldn’t see him, there was no mistaking the voice of Stacey Hooper. One of the jaspers spoke, his voice trembling, “You gonna shoot us down like dogs?”
Stacey Hooper’s laugh conveyed a genuine sense of fun. “I believe we can avoid such vulgarity. No gentlemen, I believe this occasion calls for a touch of whimsy.”
Tomorrow: Episode Nine of Hellfire