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.
A crashing sound came from the back of the
store. Blake Oliver made a face of disgust as he looked to his left at the door
that led to the storage room. “Guess somethin’ has fallen off the shelf.”
“That doesn’t make much
sense,” Connors looked toward the back of the store in a quizzical manner. “How
could something just fall off a shelf all by its lonesome?”
expression went from disgust to concern. “Guess I better have a look.”
have to talk to you some more, Blake. Please, we gotta--”
“Hold your horses, I’ll be right
back.” The store owner reached under the
counter for a lantern. He put a match to the wick and stomped off. Oliver’s
General Store was so packed with stuff that Forrest had trouble keeping track
of the lantern’s light as Blake made a convoluted walk through his large
But Forrest did see the door to the storage
room open and the light move inside. He wondered if he should go back there and
lend a hand. Maybe that would make Blake Oliver a bit more agreeable. Probably
not. But it wouldn’t hurt to try.
Connors made his way cautiously
toward the faint yellow glow that came from the back of the store. Early in his
journey, he could hear a moan coming from the store owner. Oliver must be
trying to lift something heavy.
Forrest collided with a pile of
cooking pots, creating an explosive clatter. “Sorry, Blake!” Forrest called out
as he viewed the chaos on the floor. “Nothing is broke.”
There was no response.
“I’m coming to help you,” Forrest
yelled. “Don’t try lifting anything too heavy by yourself.”
To his relief, Forrest Connors made
it to the storage room without knocking anything else over. As he stepped into
the skewered yellow light, he could see a large tub lying on the floor. Blake
Oliver was lying beside it.
Connors moved quickly to pick up the
lantern from the floor. He set it upright so it would no longer spill kerosene.
He then checked Oliver, who he thought had been knocked unconscious by
something falling off the shelf.
He was wrong. There was a knife
protruding from Oliver’s back. Lying beside the corpse was a pretty piece of
gingham cloth with a paper pinned to it.
Connors’ voice trembled as he read
A red explosion filled his head.
Forrest Connors dropped the piece of cloth before his entire body slumped to