Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Now Playing: One Arm Lightning
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Episode One concluded with:
Ed Horton spoke quickly, fumbling his words together. “We was jus’ kids, Wes. You know how kids are.”
Torveen walked slowly toward the part owner of the livery, as other patrons cleared away from the bar. “Yeah, I know all about how kids are, Ed. They gang up on the weakest boy they can find. That was me. You sure had yourself a good time knockin’ me to the ground and spittin’ on me.”
The gunfighter was now standing inches from the hostler. Ed Horton could smell the tobacco on Torveen’s breath. “This right arm of mine is as useless as ever, Ed. Go ahead, have yourself some more fun.”
“Wes, I’m sorry, I’m really--”
Torveen’s left arm whirled in a barely perceptible blur. His fist shattered Ed Horton’s nose. Horton slammed against the barroom floor and cupped his hands over his face.
Torveen’s voice once again boomed. “I’m not spittin’ on you, Ed. No man should ever spit on another man, treat him like he’s not even a human bein’.”
The gunfighter’s eyes seemed to envelope every person in the saloon like an uncontrolled wildfire. “Pete Franklin, fancy seein’ you again.”
Franklin was even taller than Torveen. He had a well- tended red mustache. The owner of a large ranch he had inherited from his father, Franklin had bragged since childhood about his prowess with a gun.
“I recall the day my brother and I visited your ranch. You recollect it, Pete?
Franklin was terrified but knew everyone in the saloon was watching him. Years of bragging had caught up with him. If he didn’t stand his ground now, he’d be laughed out of town.
“No Wes, I don’t recollect. Ya see I own that ranch now. Ain’t got much time for thinkin’ about school days.”
Torveen experienced a surge of excitement. He was being challenged. The gunfighter had heard the quiver in the voice of Pete Franklin and saw the fear that ran through him like poison from a rattlesnake bite. This was going to be fun.
“Well, Pete, allow me to refresh your memory. My brother Buck and I were real excited about being asked by Pete Franklin to come visit him on the Franklin spread. We thought you were being right kind to two boys from a hardscrabble ranch.”
The rancher tried to back down without losing face. He attempted a casual laugh before speaking, “My Momma made me go to Sunday school every week. Guess some of the golden rule took hold.”
“Let me tell you about how you handled the golden rule, Pete! You got us to ride up a hill near the ranch. Buck and I had never ridden such fine horses. We dismounted and started playin’ some game. The three of us got separated. Suddenly I saw you ridin’ toward me with a pistol you must have hidden in a saddle bag. You started shootin’ at me, chasin’ me all over the hill. One of those shots only missed by inches. You probably would have killed me, but Buck rode off and got your pa.”
Franklin shrugged his shoulders. “Yeah, guess I was a pretty mean kid. My Pa took me to the shed good that night. Reckon I had it comin’.”
“I think you got a bit more comin’ to you.” A deep, ominous growl crept into Torveen’s voice. “What was that name you use ta call me, Pete?”
“I do. You called me “crip”. Guess that’s short for “cripple”, right Pete?”
Pete Franklin wanted to blurt out something about all that happening a long time ago. He was sorry. Time to let bygones be bygones. But such talk would make him sound like the rest of the men in the bar: men who were afraid of Wes Torveen. He couldn’t do that. “Yeah, Wes, guess so.”
“Well, Pete, I was born a cripple. You became one on your own. Never earned nothin’ in your whole life. As a kid, you lorded over ever one because your daddy was rich. You had the ranch handed to you when he died. You think you’re a big man, but that’s cause you’re crippled in the head.”
A rush of anger overwhelmed Franklin’s good sense. He went for his gun. The rancher had barely touched iron when a bullet speared through his forehead.
A few of the saloon girls screamed and then a tense silence fell over the Shooting Star Saloon. One Arm Lightning had just shot down the richest, most powerful man in town. If he’d kill Pete Franklin, he’d kill anyone. No man who had bullied Wes Torveen was safe.
Tomorrow: Episode Three of One Arm Lightning