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.
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.
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.
Rance Dehner felt uncomfortable and
it wasn’t just the chemical smells of the doctor’s office. There had been some
very important developments in the case, but Bertram Lowrie had not ridden into
town with him. Lowrie had said that he needed to talk once again with the
mother of Pete Franklin, the wealthy rancher who Wes Torveen had gunned down.
What could Franklin’s mother know
that would help with the case?
Dehner redirected his attention to
the situation in the doctor’s office. Dr. Rufus Brooks had the look of a man
who was always tired. His skin sagged and his suit was rumpled. He would
probably never get rid of the dark half moons under his eyes.
Dr. Brooks was sitting at his desk,
facing five people. Besides Dehner, there was Fenton Goulding, Rebecca and Buck
Torveen, and Spur Sanders, a man who had been introduced to Dehner only moments
before. Sanders had served as a deputy sheriff in a nearby town. He now worked
as a ranch hand.
The only woman in the room was
dominating the meeting. Her words to the doctor were respectful but shrill.
“Dr. Brooks, you know Forrest did not kill Blake Oliver.”
Dr. Brooks waved a hand in front of
him as if urging the woman to be calm. “Yes, yes, Rebecca. And more important,
I am willing to testify that Forrest’s account of what happened jibes with the
evidence. Forrest Connors was hit on the head from behind with a hard object.
He did not get that injury from a fight with Blake Oliver, as Sheriff Laverty
Fenton Goulding spoke with a
cigarette dangling at the side of his mouth. “Besides, Connors is much younger
and much stronger that Blake Oliver is…was. The whole notion of a brutal fight
between the two of them which ended with Connors stabbing Oliver is nonsense.”
“What’s really crazy is Laverty’s
assertion that Forrest also killed Stanley Wiggins,” Rebecca’s voice remained
shrill. “Only a day ago, he was saying Stan was murdered by my brother’s
“And, Forrest has no reason to kill
either Stanley or Blake,” the doctor tossed in.
“Well…” Buck spoke reluctantly.
“Forrest did admit to owing Blake a lot of money.”
The doctor’s response was something
between a laugh and a sigh. “Half of this town owed Blake money.”
Dehner remained silent. A couple of
hours earlier, the detective, Rebecca, and Buck had visited Forrest inside his
cell, and Forrest had recounted Oliver’s attempt at blackmail. Rance had told
him to keep quiet about it, at least for the moment.
Rebecca now gave Fenton a look that
was almost accusatory. “Mr. Goulding, the sheriff of this town is insane. He’s
a dangerous man. You head the town council. What do you plan to do about it?”
Goulding crushed the stub of his
cigarette in an ashtray on Dr. Brooks’ desk. “I met with the council early this
morning. Didn’t take long; with Blake gone there are only three of us. We
decided to take immediate action.”
Rebecca’s look turned curious.
“I have already introduced all of
you to Spur Sanders. Within the hour, Mr. Sanders will become our new sheriff.
I brought him here because I believe he needed the background on this whole
A sense of urgency came into the
doctor’s voice. “Be careful, Fenton! Rebecca is right. Rob Laverty is unhinged.
There is no telling how he will react to losing his badge.”
“He’s got no choice in the matter!”
Goulding proclaimed as he placed a hand on Spur Sanders’ shoulder. “Are you
“Ah, yes sir.”
“Then let’s get to it. I need to
take away Rob Laverty’s badge and swear in our new sheriff.” Fenton Goulding
began to exit the office in a very ceremonious manner. Everyone except the
doctor followed him.
Rance was the last one out the door.
He turned to the physician, who was still sitting at this desk. “Nice meeting
“Yes, yes. The same here.” Dr.
Brooks looked very worried. Rance understood why. Firing Rob Laverty was going
to be a dangerous undertaking.