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.
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 aloud, “Four.”
A red explosion filled his head. Forrest Connors dropped the piece of cloth
before his entire body slumped to the floor.
Rob Laverty was jittery as he went
about his evening patrol. The lawman admitted to himself that he was scared of
a ghost. He wondered if quitting his job and leaving town would make him safe.
But where do you go to escape a
The sheriff remembered some things
his mother had said to him long ago about the powers of a guilty conscience. He
wondered if his conscience had created a vision of Wes Torveen. But he didn’t wonder
for long. No, what he had seen was real.
The lawman nodded his head to the
owner of the town’s only hotel and continued down the boardwalk. He had been a
fool to tell people about seeing the ghost of Wes Torveen. Nobody believed him
and his actions could have angered the ghost.
Laverty was approaching the Rome
Saloon. He didn’t want to go in. Fenton Goulding would probably be inside and
Laverty didn’t want to be seen palling around with one of Wes Torveen’s other
targets. In his desperation, Rob Laverty was trying to concoct some scheme that
would put him in favor with the strange spirit he believed was stalking him.
A shot fired from across the street.
The sheriff turned his head toward the noise. It came from behind Oliver’s
General Store. Damn! He would have to look into it. Laverty hoped the ghost
wouldn’t take offense at his helping Blake Oliver.
The lawman drew his gun and moved,
not too quickly, across the street. Entering the alley beside the general store,
his pace became even slower and more cautious. A dark alley provides a great
location for a ghost. But Laverty found nothing unusual. Maybe it was just a
drunk making noise.
Returning to the boardwalk, the
lawman saw a glimmer of light coming from the front window of Oliver’s General
Store. He looked inside. The light was coming from the storage room. Maybe
Blake was in the back getting some work done.
Maybe not. Laverty entered the store and moved
cautiously toward the storage room. As he drew near, he could hear odd,
scraping footsteps: a spirit from beyond the grave!
The sheriff’s gun hand was shaking
as he stepped inside the room. He spotted Forrest Connors, face pale and
uncertain on his feet. One hand was carefully feeling the back of his head.
“What are you doin’ here, Connors?”
“Blake Oliver is dead.” The young
rancher wheezed out his words as he pointed downward.
Rob Laverty stared at the corpse. His
face began to contort when he shifted his eyes to the cloth and piece of paper
that Connors handed him. “Now, there are only two of us left: me and Fenton
“I’ll go get the undertaker…”
“You’re not going anywhere, Connors,
‘ceptin’ to jail.”
The sheriff held up the gun which
shook in his hand. “I’m arrestin’ you for the murder of Blake Oliver.” He
motioned with the gun toward the front door of the store. “Move!”
Forrest Connors did what he was
told. The sheriff’s eyes were filled with desperation, and his entire body was
beginning to tremble. He seemed possessed by a demon. Forrest wanted to get
into a jail cell before the weapon in Laverty’s hand went off.
The sheriff was terrified, but in an
odd way, he was feeling happy. He had a scheme in mind: a plan which might
pacify the ghost of One Arm Lightning.