Thursday, June 21, 2012
Now playing: Night Riders
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Episode Four concluded with:
Tantrall stared silently at the homesteaders. When he spoke, his voice was steady and without emotion. The rancher wasn’t making a threat, he was stating a fact. “The next man who spreads lies about me will answer to me.”
Elijah Tantrall turned and left. His ramrod and the sheriff followed behind him. A few minutes later, the homesteaders left the church. They had nothing more to say.
Max Thompson was grateful for the full moon, one of the few breaks he had received lately. The sheriff continued to ride the range in the vicinity of Tantrall’s Circle T Ranch and the homesteaders in the dark hours. Thompson believed the daylight attack on Jared Ashley and his family had been a surprise move, something out of the ordinary. For their next strike the night riders would likely strike, once again, at night. The sheriff knew he had to stop these raids if he wanted to prevent a land war. There had almost been an outbreak of violence that afternoon in the church,--of all places!
The lawman didn’t have a dog in this fight and he could see both sides. The homesteaders were just doing what the government encouraged them to do, moving West and working the land. But men like Elijah Tantrall were a special breed. They had been here first and had built ranches that had almost become empires.
Thompson stopped his horse near a section of hills and looked upwards. What he saw reminded him of the beautiful paintings he had viewed on his last trip to Dallas. Against the backdrop of the full moon, a young woman was riding a horse toward the top of one of the hills. The horse moved swiftly and gracefully and the woman’s hair swayed upward in the breeze, then playfully bounced against her shoulders.
“That could only be Lila Tantrall,” Thompson whispered to himself. “What’s she doin’ out at this hour of the night?”
The lawman realized it was his job to get the answer to that question. He spurred his horse and moved toward the hill.
Tracking at night can be difficult, even with a full moon, but Lila did not realize she was being followed. The young woman’s focus was speed. Max Thompson figured Lila needed to get something done and then return to the Circle T before her father realized she had left the ranch.
As Thompson rode a safe distance from his prey, he remained unable to even speculate on the lady’s motives for being out so late. Lila had always been mischievous, but still a sweet kid…
Max Thompson gave a whimsical laugh. A lot of time had passed since he really knew Lila Tantrall. Why, she had been little more than a child when her father sent her off to that school in the East. Elijah had hated to do it. He missed his daughter very much. But Elijah’s wife had died when the girl was eleven and the rancher had no idea how to raise a daughter.
Thompson halted his horse. Up ahead he could hear feet hitting the ground as Lila dismounted from her palomino. They were on a slope, but not a steep one. The hill was large and trees were plentiful. The sheriff tied up his black gelding and proceeded up the hill on foot. He reached a clearing and spotted a cave with a large entrance. A flickering light shone from within the strange meeting place, but the fire was not too bright. Someone had probably lit one torch and kept it a good distance from the cave’s opening. Lila and whoever was with her didn’t want light or smoke to signal their whereabouts.
Max slowly approached the cave entrance. He could hear Lila’s voice. She sounded upset, but he couldn’t hear what she was saying. He moved closer to the entrance.
Cold iron pressed against the back of his neck, followed by a low whisper, “Say anything and you’re dead.” A gag was tied around Thompson’s mouth. Another whisper followed. “Move. No tricks, or you die.”
Max couldn’t shake the feeling that he was about to die, no matter what.
Tomorrow: Episode Six of Night Riders