Thursday, May 17, 2012
Starting Today: The Songbird of the West
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Rance Dehner awoke and stared into darkness. At first, he didn’t recall where he was. He was lying in a strange bed in yet another hotel room somewhere in…Texas. Yes, he was in Dry River, Texas. He had arrived in town a few hours before, checked into the room, taken off his boots and dropped into bed with his clothes still on.
Clumsy steps sounded in the hallway. “A rich man, I’m gonna be king of the world!”
Dehner sighed deeply. This always seemed to happen. On nights when he got to sleep in a hotel bed, his slumber was disturbed by some drunken fool.
For a moment, an odd sense of depression came over the detective. Was his whole life going to be spent moving from one hotel bed to the next? Of course, he spent more nights sleeping under the stars than in a hotel.
The detective laughed softly to himself, alleviating the depression. How the poets loved to rhapsodize over sleeping under the stars! Rance figured those poets didn’t spend many nights actually sleeping outside.
“Gonna have anything I want because I’m the best there is!”
Dehner tensed up. The voice was shrill with threat. Of course, it could be just drunken bravado, but…
A door somewhere down the hall opened. Heavy footsteps clomped into a room. The voice remained loutish though a bit muffled. “None better…lots of money…”
A loud shot resounded through the second floor of the hotel. In almost one movement, Dehner was off the bed and into his boots, strapping on his gunbelt which had been hanging on the bedpost.
The detective opened the door of his hotel room cautiously. Across from him and at the far end of the hall, a blade of kerosene light cut across the floor. A loud, moronic laugh came from the other side of the partially open door.
Dehner moved toward the slash of yellow. Two doors down, a head protruded from a dark room.
“What’s goin’ on?” The question came from a bony face topped by long, greasy black hair.
“Don’t know,” the detective replied. “Get back in your room.”
“I’m a farmer,” the man spoke as if that fact lent him moral superiority. “Only come into town now and again. Towns is evil places.”
“Get back in your room.” The head withdrew into darkness, like a small creature retreating into a shell.
The laughter suddenly stopped. Laughing man had heard Dehner approaching. As Rance drew closer to the lighted room, the door was pushed open wider, creating a small carpet of light which also splattered a murky tinge of yellow against the opposite wall.
The detective could hear anxious, erratic breathing coming from inside the room. Someone was waiting for him.
Tomorrow: Episode Two of The Songbird of the West