Thursday, June 7, 2012

Now Playing: The Songbird of the West 
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Episode Sixteen of The Songbird of the West

Episode Fifteen concluded with:

Carrie looked about in an appreciative manner. “I feel guilty putting Ellery to all of this trouble. But I really do need a private room to eat in. Otherwise…well…you saw how people can be.”
            Dehner remained standing in the doorway while Carrie stood by the table. “I sure did. But it was a pleasure escorting you here. Enjoy your evening meal, Miss Whiting.”
            “Wait a minute, Mr. Dehner, you can’t expect a girl to dine alone. You must join me.”
            “Ah…I hadn’t…”
            A playful look appeared on the singer’s face. “After all, you are supposed to watch over me. So, come in and watch.”
            Dehner stepped in and closed the door behind him.

Episode Sixteen

“How did you know I’m supposed to keep an eye on you, Miss Whiting?” Dehner’s mood wasn’t nearly as playful as that of his companion.
            Carrie’s smile broadened as if she were mocking Dehner’s seriousness. “I know George McLeod very well. He is not only my manager. He is the older brother I never had. The moment I learned you were from the Lowrie Detective Agency, I knew George had hired you.”
            There was a light knock on the door. Ellery and a young man he introduced as his eleven year old son, Clayton, marched in carrying dishes and a tray of food. Carrie once again beamed with delight over the service and paid special attention to the boy. Clayton could only smile and nod, his face reflecting shyness and adoration. Dehner realized that the boy would remember this night for a very long time to come.
            Once the couple began eating, the detective wanted to exude charm and wit but found himself unable to do so. He settled for discussing business. “I heard your conversation with Bruce Patten.”
            Carrie responded with a mirthless grin.
            Dehner continued, “Do you think Patten pulled off the kidnapping in order to raise money for his scheme? That talent agency in Dallas would have paid plenty--”
            The singer shook her head. “I don’t think so…but I can’t be sure…”
            Carrie paused, trying to collect her thoughts. “The West is a tough, brutal land. It takes tough, and sometimes brutal, men to tame it. I’m not sure Bruce has the stamina for the job. He can’t always keep his emotions in check. His pride gets the best of him. To use a theatrical term, that is Bruce Patten’s fatal flaw.”
            “You should have been a detective, Miss Whiting.”
            The singer laughed and the playful expression returned to her face. “I couldn’t have been nearly as good a detective as you, Mr. Dehner. I know more about you than you think.”
            The detective raised his eyebrows and looked curious.
            “I spend a lot of time alone,” the singer continued. “Private compartments on trains, hotel rooms, what have you. So, I do a lot of reading. Your name appears occasionally in the newspapers, Rance Dehner.”
            “I try to avoid that.”
            “I know,” Carrie’s voice maintained its playful quality. “The name “Rance Dehner” always appears far down in the article. If there is a local lawman involved, he always gets the credit. I’m afraid your shyness disqualifies you for a career in the theater, Mr.Dehner.”
            The conversation continued to be light and the rest of the evening passed far too quickly. Dehner realized that young Clayton was not the only one who would long remember this very special dinner.
            As they were walking to the hotel, Dehner filled Carrie in on his assignment. “You are stuck with me as a neighbor tonight. George McLeod told me he had booked us in adjoining rooms. I arrived last night. We’re on--”
            “I believe in being a good neighbor,” Carrie said as they approached the hotel.
            Dehner wondered exactly what she meant by that or if she meant anything at all. His musings were quickly cut short. Once inside the hotel lobby, Carrie Whiting again became the Songbird of the West, granting everyone a few minutes of her complete attention. 
            Twenty minutes later, the couple arrived at Carrie Whiting’s room. The singer leaned against the door and gave her escort a whimsical smile. “I very much enjoyed this evening.”
            “I’ll bet you say that to all your body guards.”
            “Tonight I really mean it. I suspect you and I have a lot in common, Rance Dehner.”
            “And how is that, Carrie Whiting?”
            “We are both trapped by our jobs. A singing career makes for a very lonely, isolated existence. But I wouldn’t want to change. There are such special rewards in what I do. I suspect that being a detective is much the same way.”
            Dehner experienced a tornado of emotions, all of which he kept in check. But his will power was eroding. His voice wavered a bit, “Good night, Miss Whiting.”
            “Good night, Mr. Dehner.”
            The detective tried not to look behind him as he scooted next door to his room. He stepped inside, his mind full of vivid pictures of his evening with the Songbird of the West.
            He didn’t see the weapon coming at his head.

Tomorrow: Episode Seventeen of The Songbird of the West