Monday, July 9, 2012

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Episode Seventeen of Night Riders

Episode Sixteen concluded with:

Rance drew his Colt and fired as Donnigan went for his gun. The ramrod’s body jerked and fell to the ground. Dehner hastily dismounted and grabbed the six shooter Lem had dropped. He didn’t want to have to shoot him again.
Lem Donnigan twisted in the dust and brayed a string of curses. From the corner of his eye, Dehner could see that both Lila and Rory had dismounted and were in a tight embrace.
The detective gave Elijah Tantrall a fast glance. The man looked totally confused. Rance laughed softly to himself. He couldn’t tell if the rancher was more shocked by the fact that his ramrod was an outlaw or that his daughter was in love with the son of a man who hated him.

Episode Seventeen


“Wish you’d stay over ‘till tomorrow, Rance. We got quite a feast planned!” Elijah Tantrall spoke as Dehner was tightening his saddle bags. His horse was in front of the ranch house. Standing around Elijah were his daughter and Rory and Glenn Kagan.
            Elijah pointed a thumb at Lila and Rory “Yeah, the whole county is gonna be shocked to hear these two are getting’ hitched. I figure some good beef and a barn dance will help ease the surprise some.”
            “Reckon it will,” Dehner said. “But I need to be moving on.” He realized that the planned celebration was Elijah’s way of making peace with the homesteaders.
            The rancher’s voice turned somber. “I still can’t believe that Lem Donnigan was a Judas. He was my right hand man.”
            “Lem was provoking a war with the homesteaders in order to get to you.” Rance gave his saddle a quick once over. “Once the war started, he’d have plenty of opportunities to kill you and claim the bullet had come from a homesteader.”
            “How did Lem know I was meeting Rory at the cave?” Lila asked.
            “I can’t say for certain, but I suspect you are not very good at deception, Miss Tantrall,” the detective replied. He didn’t mention her failed attempt to hide her bare feet. “Lem’s plan was to kill Rory and dump his body in the barn at the Kagan place.” Dehner shifted his glance to Glenn. “Lem was certain Rory’s father would jump to the conclusion that Elijah had murdered his son.”
            “I’m ‘fraid  he was right,” Glenn admitted.
            “But Sheriff Thompson got in his way,” Rory added.
            Dehner nodded his head. “On the night he was going to kill you, Donnigan spotted Max Thompson outside the cave. He changed his plans a bit. He decided to kill Thompson, whom he saw as the one obstacle in his scheme, and then kill you on another night. After all, he knew that you and Lila were . . . ah, . . . eager to see each other again.”
            The detective looked at everyone around him. “That new sheriff, Lucky Chandler, is very good at interrogations. He sure got to Lem.”
            “When did you begin to suspect my foreman, Rance?” Elijah asked.
            The detective gave his horse a pat. “When I heard the men being instructed not to shoot off any guns near the cattle. Lem didn’t want any of his thugs to alert the cowboys watching the herd. He didn’t want to lose any good hands. I trusted you, Mr. Tantrall, which got me thinking in the direction of Lem.”
            Elijah made a lopsided grin. “I had some extra chores for Lem. He needed to be at the ranch before sunup. That’s why he couldn’t do the job himself, had to trust his gang.”
            A look of confusion still danced over Lila’s face. “But I don’t understand. What would Lem Donnigan gain from killing father?”
            Dehner smiled at the young woman as he mounted his horse. “You would inherit the ranch. Lem planned on marrying you, and with his gang of thugs, making this county his fiefdom.”
            Lila looked flabbergasted. “Lem Donnigan planned to marry me!”
            Dehner’s smile broadened. “Males can have a lot of vanity, Miss Tantrall. You’d be wise to keep that in mind.” He gave a two fingered salute and began to ride off.
            As he rode past the barn, Rance thought about the hired guns who had escaped. He had a feeling that eventually he would again meet up with those owlhoots. He gave a caustic laugh, “Guess that just comes with the job.”
            The detective slowed his horse and gave a quick look backwards. Lila and Rory were laughing and enjoying each other’s company as their fathers jawed together, creating a friendship where there had only been animosity.
            “Maybe this isn’t such a bad job, after all,” Dehner said to himself as he spurred his horse into a gallop. 
Tomorrow: A new Rance Dehner western adventure, One Arm Lightning

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