Each weekday on this blog you will find an episode of a western short story featuring Rance Dehner, a detective who operates in the old West. When the story concludes, it will be archived for those readers who prefer to read a story from start to finish.
Torveen, could you draw me a map of how to get to the Franklin Ranch?”
“I understand that Pete Franklin’s mother is still alive--”
“I hate to impose on her grief. Of course, I know that her son, Pete, was
killed by Wes in a gunfight. But an interview is necessary. If you could please
draw that map.”
Forrest Connors and Buck Torveen both appeared confused by Lowrie’s orders. But
Dehner noticed the slight smile on Rebecca’s face. Rance figured Rebecca hadn’t
smiled much since her brother’s death. The detective hoped that he and Bertram
Lowrie could help the young woman in her grief and bring her some sense of
justice being done.
Lowrie was enjoying the ride alone to the Franklin ranch. The surrounding land
prompted him to recall the dream that had brought him to America. He would be a
cattleman with a huge ranch, and, of course, he would be rich.
Bertram Lowrie had gotten his ranch,
but the riches never came. In fact, the ranch lost money. So he had abandoned
the cattle business and started a detective agency. Would the Lowrie Detective
agency make him rich?
Lowrie sighed and decided to forget
the dreams. There was work to be done. He reached into his pocket and checked
the map Buck Torveen had drawn for him. The Franklin spread should be right
over the large hill that was immediately ahead.
A flash of light winked at him from
a large rock near the top of the hill, causing the detective to drop from his
horse. Lowrie hit the ground as a bullet passed inches above his saddle. The
horse neighed and ran, taking with it the Henry in the saddle boot. Lowrie
would have to make do with his .44.
He scrambled toward a pile of small
boulders near the bottom of the hill. Another rifle shot punctuated his run.
Dropping behind the boulders, the former military man planned an offensive
The enemy would be expecting him to
remain at the foot of the hill or make a run for a small boulder that was up
the hill to his right. He would run for the thick grove of trees on his left
side. The spruces provided less safety but from there he could make a run for a
large boulder near where the enemy was perched. The closer location would make
his .44 a more deadly weapon.
Lowrie dashed up the hill. The enemy
took another shot, this one flying over his head. As he took shelter behind one
of the larger trees, Lowrie noted that his attacker appeared to have a bandanna
pulled up over the lower half of his face.
The enemy expected him to pause and
rest for a few minutes, so he took off immediately, this time firing at his
attacker. One of his bullets ricocheted off the large rock which provided the
As he approached the end of the
dash, Lowrie tripped and fell behind the boulder that had been his goal. He
quickly rodded out the empty cartridges in his .44 and reloaded. He was ready
to bring down the enemy.
The sound of stones tumbling down
the hillside was followed by fast hoofbeats. Lowrie peered cautiously around
his cover to see a rider vanishing over the hillside. Bertram ran to the top of
the hill and looked down. “The rotter is either lucky or a good horseman,”
Lowrie said to himself. “He’s made it to the bottom without crippling his
Bertram Lowrie turned and looked
back. He could spot his horse nibbling at a patch of grass. As he walked
downwards, he thought about the attack he had just survived.
Only a very small number of people
knew he was riding out to the Franklin place. Someone didn’t want a detective
talking to the mother of Pete Franklin. And
Lowrie couldn’t be sure that the
someone was a man.
Bertram Lowrie laughed softly to
himself. “Apprehending a ghost can get bloody complicated.”