Friday, May 25, 2012
Now Playing: The Songbird of the West
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Episode Six concluded with:
With Rance on his side, the deputy had gained new confidence. Still, he spoke carefully and with respect to his boss. “You’re right that the trail will be real hard to follow, boss. Let’s give my notion a chance.”
Tal shrugged his shoulders. “Okay. We’ll ride out to the Kimball place.”
As they mounted, Dehner mused that he had worked with Sheriff Tal Streeter only once before and then very briefly. Streeter was short tempered and didn’t like to admit he was wrong. But the sheriff’s temper usually cooled quickly. Rance hoped that Tal would eventually apologize to this deputy for yelling at him for no reason.
But the two men would have to work that out later. Right now, there was a life to save.
The sun had set as the three men approached a tall, wide knoll. “I think we should leave the horses here,” Curt said. “We can hoof it up to the top of the knoll. From there we got a good view of the Kimball ranch. What there is of it.”
The three men quickly dismounted and tied up at a grove of trees. Rance removed field glasses from his saddle bags and the threesome moved quietly up the knoll. At the top they lay on the ground and studied the scene below. There was a small house sided by a coral. The house faced a barn which, like the rest of the ranch, appeared modest but well cared for.
“There are a lot of little ranches like this ‘round here,” Tal whispered to Dehner. The sheriff was situated between his deputy and the detective. “They sell cattle to the larger outfits. I think the Kimballs sold their herd a few weeks ago. Ain’t started a new one yet, though I reckon there could be some calves around somewhere.”
“I’m just hoping the Kimballs are still alive,” Dehner focused the glasses on the house below. A kerosene yellow shone from the front window; it appeared to be struggling for survival against a dark night bereft of stars or a moon.
Two men stepped out of the house, one of them was carrying a lantern. They untied the horses from the hitch rail and began to lead them into the barn. Dehner watched them closely.
“Curt called it right,” Dehner whispered. “Those jaspers have the look of hired guns.”
“Should we rush them now?” Curt Weldon asked. “This might be a good time, while two of them are in the barn seein’ after the horses.”
Tal shook his head. “I’m just a small town sheriff. Ain’t had much experience with kidnappin’ situations. But we need to learn the lay of the land here. How many outlaws we’re dealing with, and where the girl is.”
The deputy’s eyebrows shot up. “You don’t think Carrie Whiting is in the house?”
Anger again came into Streeter’s voice but he still spoke in a whisper. “Yes, she is in the house, but where? Our first job is to get her back safe. If we rush the place, one of those owlhoots could have a gun to her head in no time.”
Dehner nodded, “What do you have in mind, Tal?”
“I’ve visited this ranch many times. Bert and Patricia are friends of mine.” The sheriff paused for a moment. His face went gray. “Or they were. Anyhow, I’m going to move around back. The way I see it, these thugs plan on askin’ for a ransom. If they get the money, they’ll free the girl. That means they have to take precautions.”
“What kind of precautions?” Weldon asked.
“The money will probably be wired from Dallas.” Tal continued to study the ranch below him as he spoke. “That means they need to hold Carrie Whiting captive for a few days. You can bet they don’t want her to see or even hear them much. They don’t want her to be able to identify them.”
Dehner got the point. “They will keep the woman locked up in a room.”
“Exactly,” Streeter replied. “And the Kimballs have large windows in every room of their house. I’m bettin’ that one of those windows is boarded up. That’s where the girl is bein’ held. I’m sneakin’ ‘round back and findin’ out where that room is. You men stay here. If you hear shots, you’ll know I’ve been spotted.”
“Good luck,” Dehner said as the sheriff quietly got up and made his way down to the ranch.
The lawman moved stealthily and quietly. He seemed to be swallowed by the darkness of the night. Dehner watched Streeter through his field glasses, but not for long.
“Lost him,” Rance whispered as he put the glasses down. “But I think he is almost at the back of the house.”
More time passed; the detective didn’t even try to guess at how much. The tense circumstances made an accurate assessment impossible.
Two shots sounded from the direction of the house. “The sheriff’s in trouble!” Curt yelled. He sprang to his feet and began to run down the knoll before Dehner could stop him. Weldon’s brashness may have put both the sheriff and Carrie Whiting in even worse danger.
Monday: Episode Eight of The Songbird of the West