Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Now Playing: Dangerous Calling
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Episode Four concluded with:
Abner smiled and took another sip of coffee. Fargo was a decent enough partner, but he was a fool. He was a man who would spend his life robbing the wrong stagecoach and getting one fourth of sixty-five dollars for his efforts.
But, he still needed the fool. Fargo had no idea how much money was involved here. Abner did. He had already killed one man for that money. He’d kill more if necessary.
Frank Dunning looked at himself in the large mirror that was located in a corner of his bedroom. One hand was pressed against a side wall. He was a tall, angular man with black hair, restless eyes and a scar running down his left cheek. The scar was one memento of his service as a volunteer deputy. He had tackled a killer who was about to ram a knife into the back of Sheriff Len Swayze. The killer had managed one painful slash across Dunning’s face before Frank overcame him. The deputy then helped to cart the snake off to prison and, eventually, to a rope.
Reluctantly, Frank’s eyes went to the pinned up trouser leg on his left side. The business man sighed as he reached beside him for the two crutches that were now such an integral part of his life.
Frank whispered curses at himself as he made his way out of the bedroom. Every morning seemed to begin with reliving that horrible day out on the prairie. It was a little over a year ago. He had once again been a volunteer deputy, this time part of a posse that was pursuing a gang of bank robbers. They had captured the robbers and retrieved the money, but not before he took two bullets in his left leg.
A violent rain storm had delayed the return trip to Antioch. By the time they got back his wounds had become infected. “I’m sorry, Frank,” the doc’s voice had been low but firm. “The leg has to go. Tonight. Otherwise, you’ll die.”
Frank put on his black flat crowned hat which nicely complimented his gray suit. He left the small house and began his morning journey to Hurley’s Café. By the time he stepped onto the boardwalk, Frank had redirected his thoughts onto the day’s responsibilities in his gun shop.
“Mornin’ Mr. Dunning!” The two Conklin boys were walking toward him. They were on their way to the livery where they would help their father for an hour or so before going to school.
“Good morning, boys!” As Frank spoke one crutch went through a hole in the boardwalk. He staggered for a moment but kept his balance.
“You okay, Mr. Dunning?” Bobby Conklin, the oldest lad spoke.
Frank attempted a friendly laugh. “I’m fine. I make this walk every morning. You’d think I’d remember where that hole is.”
The two boys smiled, nodded and then continued on their way. A few moments later, Frank Dunning heard the sound of suppressed giggles. The kids were laughing at him.
Dunning’s immediate reaction was anger. He recalled Sheriff Swayze’s words to him a few days after his leg was amputated. “Frank, if it wasn’t for you, those robbers would have gotten away with the money. A bank this town depends on would have closed. You will always be a hero in Antioch.”
Some hero, Dunning thought to himself. The Conklin boys got their sense of humor from their father. He had heard Bert Conklin telling a “gimp” joke one night at the Paradise Saloon. Of course, Bert didn’t know he was in ear shot, but…
Frank Dunning stopped and took a deep breath. Feeling sorry for himself was no way to get a day started. Besides, kids are cruel by nature, especially boys. Their mother was a fine woman. Hopefully, she would help them grow out of it.
He continued his journey and within a couple of minutes was entering Hurley’s Café. The place was about half full, as it usually was at this time in the morning. There were some quick hellos all around. Hurley’s Café always had a few drifters grabbing a meal before moving on but most of the customers were familiar faces: men like himself with no woman in their lives.
Stella Hurley smiled at him from behind the counter and shouted, “Glenn, the mayor just walked in!”
Glenn Hurley was in the kitchen. Soon, Frank would have steak and eggs fixed exactly the way he liked it.
Frank sat at one of the half dozen tables. After a year, he still felt guilty about taking an entire table but since losing his leg, the chairs at the counter were too uncomfortable for him.
A newcomer stepped into the café. He was better dressed than most, wearing a black frock coat. “Howdy,” Stella shouted. “Find yourself a place at the counter or take a table--”
“I’m lookin’ for Frank Dunning. Went to his store, but it ain’t open yet. A fella passin’ by tole me Dunning usually has breakfast here.”
“There’s the gent you’re looking for,” Stella pointed at Frank.
Abner walked over to Dunning’s table. “My name’s Jim Goodman. I’m the preacher you sent for.”
Dunning stood up, propped a crutch under his arm and extended his hand. “Pleased to meet you, Reverend Goodwin. The whole town’s been looking forward to meeting you. It is great that you arrived on a Wednesday. We’ll have a good turnout tonight.”
The smile on Abner Coogan’s face was tentative. “I don’t quite follow you.”
“We have a prayer meeting every Wednesday night. Didn’t I mention that in one of my earlier letters?”
Coogan’s smile turned into a nervous laugh. “Oh, yes, of course.”
“Have some breakfast on the house, Reverend!” Stella shouted from behind the counter.
“Thanks. Don’t mind if I do.”
“Steak and eggs, okay?”
“Okay by me. Could you scramble those eggs?”
Stella smiled brightly. Dunning had trouble sharing her enthusiasm. Revered Goodman was supposed to be an educated man from the East. But the man who was now sitting across from him at the table talked like a saddle tramp. Something wasn’t right and he needed to find out what it was.
Tomorrow: Episode Six of Dangerous Calling