Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Now Playing: The Songbird of the West
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Episode Eighteen concluded with:
Doc Erickson’s front door was unlocked. It always was. The killer entered and headed directly for the room the doctor provided for patients who couldn’t be moved. As he opened the door, he could see by the moonlight streaming in from the window that only one of the four cots was occupied. Good. He would only have to kill one man tonight.
As he stepped inside and drew the knife from his belt, the figure mused that he wouldn’t really have minded if there had been others to murder. Killing gets easier the more you do it.
He would first wake up the injured owlhoot, whose name he couldn’t remember. The killer wanted to enjoy the expression on his victim’s face before he sent him to perdition.
He pulled back the sheet and looked down on a collection of blankets and pillows.
“The jasper you’re looking for has been moved to a safer spot, Sheriff.” Rance Dehner stepped into the room.
Sheriff Tal Streeter stammered as he spoke. “Don’t know what you’re talkin’ about.”
“I think you do.” Dehner lit the lamp that sat on a small table near the door. “I examined the bodies of those two men you gunned down yesterday. They were shot in the back. That gang didn’t spot you behind the ranch house like you claimed. You ambushed them from the back window.”
The lawman shrugged his shoulders. “So what? They had the girl captive--”
Dehner cut in. “They kidnapped the girl because you paid them to do it. But they botched the job. A bystander spotted them robbing the stage. You couldn’t take a chance on what they’d say if captured.”
Streeter gave a sarcastic laugh. “You’re loco! I’m just a small town sheriff. Where’d I get enough loot to pay for an operation like that?”
“You told me yourself, yesterday.”
“What do you mean?”
“Those stagecoach bandits you killed, the ones who pulled the Wells Fargo hold up. They still had the money with them, didn’t they? You took it.”
The sheriff returned the knife to his belt. “Well then, Mr. Detective, why didn’t I just high tail it out of Dry River instead of hangin’ on to a lousy sheriff’s job?”
Dehner watched Streeter carefully as he spoke. “Bruce Patten confided in you about his plan to buy up property. You were going to beat him at his own game and get those two large ranches for yourself. But you still needed more money. That’s why you had Carrie Whiting kidnapped.”
Tal Streeter gave the detective a long stare. He realized lying was useless; instead he laughed scornfully. “Yeah, but there was somethin’ about it that was even more sweet. Havin’ that gal grabbed away in his town would’a made Bruce Patten look bad. Real bad.”
“You hate Patten don’t you?”
The sheriff went quiet for a moment and then continued. “You’d hate him too if you knew him like I do. Always expectin’ me to lick his boots, just cause I get paid a few more coins than most other sheriffs.” Streeter caressed the scar on his face. “When I got this, Patten laughed. Thought it was a big joke. Tole me it came with the job.”
“Save the sad story for a jury, Tal.”
The sheriff smirked and his voice became almost friendly. “I knew you’d be trouble Rance, the moment I got that letter sayin’ you were on the way.”
“Is that why you hired Holt Conley to kill me?”
“Yeah. The guy was crazy but fast. Not fast enough, I guess.”
“You’re under arrest, Tal.”
“No. You got no proof except maybe the words of a worthless owlhoot. Bruce Patten will back me. After all, I’ve been a faithful errand boy.”
“That ain’t quite the way it stands, Sheriff.” Curt Weldon stepped into the room. His voice sounded calm but his face reflected an array of emotions from sadness to a festering anger.
“Well, well, Deputy,” Streeter smiled at the newcomer who had been directly outside the room. “Remember what I taught you about makin’ an arrest.”
Weldon’s voice almost broke as he said, “Take off your gunbelt slowly and then hand it to me, Sheriff. No tricks.”
The sheriff unbuckled his gunbelt and held it out. The deputy cautiously approached his boss, who handed him the gunbelt and then quickly jerked the .44 from Weldon’s holster and pointed it at his chest.
Tomorrow: Episode Twenty of The Songbird of the West