Thursday, November 29, 2012

THE DUDE RANCH MURDERS by Sam James, 6th installment


   Sherry stalked up the stairway with mixed feelings of emotion. She was put out with Patty, jealous of Paul McFarland's fiance, yet hopeful that his flirtaceous flattery might lead somewhere.
   Yet she hardly dared hope that it would. Paul McFarland flirted with every woman on the place, except, of course, his sister--even old Mrs. Lightfoot. Her problem was, she knew she was falling for him. It had to be as obvious to everyone else as it was to her. She should just cut her time short and go back home, but what would her mother say? And her friends? She and Mom had worked so hard and scrimped and saved to get up enough money so that Sherri could spend two weeks on a dude ranch, something she'd wanted to do since she was a little girl. She couldn't very well quit and go home, especially for such a dumb reason that she had a crush on the owner. Her crushes came and went and she'd just have to work it out as she always did.
   It would help if she didn't have to cope with Patty's moods. Patty made her so mad sometimes. She would take these spells where she'd get irritable and pick at every little thing Sherri did, like now. Sherri got so she didn't even want to be around her when she acted like that.
   It was dark outside and she decided to go to bed early and read or write letters or something. She had started reading the latest Louis L'Amour novel and was anxious to finish it. There had been a discussion at breakfast this morning over good books to read. Victoria Blaine had this pocket book edition she'd taken out of her book bag, an Austin Ashley thriller, something called, Murder Wears A Smile, about a jealous woman who murders every woman her fiance looks at.
   Spooky! Sherry gave a shudder. How could anyone get their kicks out of books about murder? That Victoria was a little weird, anyway, even if she was on the pages of all the glamour mags and commercials on tv and stuff. She was pretty standoffish, too, just like you'd expect a famous model to be.
   Sherri reached her room and went in. She was a little surprised to find the room dark. She could have sworn they'd left the light on when they went down to dinner. She found the switch and turned on the lights. She puttered around quite awhile before turning down the sheets and getting ready for bed. As she flipped over the pillow and reached for her pajamas she saw the note pinned to her pj's.
   Curious, she unfolded the paper.

                   Meet me in the hayloft of the big barn tonight. I need to see you.
                                      Love, Paul
                      P.S.  Don't let anyone else see this....our secret, right? Bring it with you.

   Sherri felt a peculiar rush of electric emotion, yet a small fear, a hesitation.
   Paul, wanting to see her?
   Honeypot. He'd called her that just about every time he talked to her. How come he'd pinned the note on her pj's, unless it meant he wanted something from her? She had dreamed of his arms around her, kissing her.....Would he want more....going all the way? That idea scared and excited her at the same time. She was a virgin and hadn't even let a guy pet her when the necking got too heavy.
    Something in her conscience warned her, told her this was not only wrong but foolish and reckless, but only for a brief moment did she argue with herself. This was Paul, and he wanted her.
   With the naive faith that is peculiar to teenage girls under the spell of an infatuation, Sherri tucked the note in her jeans pocket, hastily wrote a note to Patty saying she'd gone out and would be back in awhile, and left the room with a sense of excitement she didn't try to suppress.
   Not once did it occur to her that the note might not have been written by Paul McFarland, or that, instead of finding some new exciting part of life, she was going to meet her death.

   Though the bottom half of the barn was lit with night lights, the vast haymow was almost pitch black above. As she climbed the ladder and poked her head through the loft hole, she began to feel recrimination that she'd been foolish enough to come. At that point, peering off into the vast space of the dark loft, she was on the verge of scrambling back down the ladder and forgetting it.
    It was sure spooky here at night!

   "Honeypot! Over here!"
   The loud whisper had come from a section near the middle of the barn.
   "Paul?" Somehow it hadn't sounded like Paul. She couldn't be sure.
   "Over here, baby."
   "It's so dark! I can't see." Sherri had completed her climb into the loft and was now standing just beside the loft hole, almost ready to bolt, it was so spooky, and she couldn't see a thing, it was so dark. She turned to start back down the ladder when the flashlight beam suddenly snapped alive at her feet and the whispered "Just follow my light, honeypot. I'm right over here. We'll have fun, you and me. C'mon."
   And Sherri went.
   Suddenly the light flicked out and plunged her into the total darkness which is experienced just before one's night vision kicks in.
   "Paul?" Now she was scared. Really scared.
   A strong arm snaked out and caught her from behind, closing against her windpipe in a visegrip, cutting off any scream she might have attempted. She felt herself going black, getting lightheaded--
desperate to breathe. She felt herself being strangled, murdered. No! No! Help
   So easy. So gullible. The killer dropped the girl in a heap, stood over her a moment, then flicked on the flashlight, kneeling to search for and retrieve the note....stood up, pocketed it. The beam flicked over the loft to different spots, settled finally on the huge bin that let grain down the big holding tank to be funneled to the stock into individual feeders. The cover had been removed to accomodate the killer's plans, and now, standing over her inert form, the killer spoke softly: "Well, honeypot, if you're not dead now you soon will be!" With some effort the girl was hefted over the shoulder, carried a short distance, and heaved into the bin of seed.
   "Now then, you little hussy--that'll teach you to make eyes at men you don't even know. Serves you right, you little whore!"
    And with a low, insane chuckle of satisfaction, the killer pulled the lever that sent the grain cascading down the chutes just enough so that the body of Sherri Hilliard disappeared and was buried under the churning, broiling mountain of grain.
   The cover was very quietly replaced, and the night again closed into blackness and silence over everything in the loft.      

Thursday, November 22, 2012

THE DUDE RANCH MURDERS, by Sam James, 5th Installment:


    Victoria rolled over and awoke suddenly. Light strained to get in through the closed shades and curtains. The room was gray with early dawn. She reached to turn on her bedstand lamp and her hand brushed against the book she'd been reading in bed last night.
   It was Murder Wears A Smile, the latest Austin Ashley thriller. Ashley was to the readers of mystery thrillers what Louis L'Amour had become to the Western book fan: the leading author in his field. Mysteries had always been her favorites, Ashley especially. Maybe she felt the kinship more out of a sense of identification with her past, but she could hardly come to that conclusion. Even as a girl, she'd loved them.
   Her past was better let alone. Paul didn't know of it and never would, as far as she was concerned. Perhaps with Paul she could forget....she could become the real person she wanted to be---not the phony, glittering painted lady of the ads, the woman who must sell herself and her beauty and her talent in a dog eat dog effort to succeed.
   She'd succeeded in leaving something sordid behind her. She'd lost two fiances because of it. They'd found out, and had given no mercy.
   She was not a fortune hunter. The death of her first husband had left her well off. She was, however, a woman who needed a man. She knew her wants. She was well acquainted with her needs. She wanted and needed Paul, and did not want to lose him as she had lost the others.
   She didn't like Merrilee at all. (Merrilee, Kate--Whatever! Paul called his sister Kate most of the time, except when he seemed annoyed with her!)  Kate acted as though Victoria were an intruder, threatening somehow to her position. Kate was a very possessive person when it came to her rights or her authority. Well, that would only last so long: She knew how to deal with people like Kate.
   Victoria chose her clothes for the morning and got dressed. As she studied herself in the mirror, and liked what she saw, she ignored the dark side of herself. She picked up the book and tucked it into her chic drawstring bag. She wouldn't ride today. Perhaps Paul would stay home with her.....but if not, well, she was in the mood to read and the book was good. She went downstairs to the dining room where she found most of the other guests already gathered around the long plank table for breakfast. She took her place, exchanging greetings, glancing as she did so at Mrs. Long-- Georgia--who was seated next to her place. By this time coffee was being served while everyone had a chance to arrive in time for breakfast.
   She thought that Kate acted cool towards her this morning. Kate always sat at the far end of the table, and Paul at the near end, the head. Her thoughts rested on Mrs. Long, broken by the arrival of Paul, who greeted everyone and took his seat. He was always so lively in the mornings, not like most people who took an hour to wake up. But then, he'd probably been up before sunup.
   All through breakfast Victoria made a point of paying attention to Mrs. Long. Did she trust Paul? He was a flirt, yes---but he loved her and meant nothing by his flirtations. She turned back to the conversation at hand,  the subject being the reading of a page turner--books you couldn't put down.
    "Speaking of good books," she said, "I'll forego the saddle today in lieu of the printed page. Is anyone else here an Austin Ashley fan?"
   Some were, but Sherri Hilliard said, "I like Louie L'Amour, myself. He's neat. But how could anybody read a book when they've got a chance to ride a horse?"
   Ralph Tully, who'd seated himself next to Sherri,--much to her distress-- leaned over and whispered an obscene suggestion that he thought only she could hear. His ugly little eyes leered at her and his hand found her thigh under the table.
   "Mr. Tully, take your hands off me!"  She hissed back in a firm whisper. She reached down as inconspicuously as she could and removed his hand from her leg, hoping no one else had heard. Tully laughed. He had seen the way she flirted around with the ranch boss--He knew her kind, the little tart. Who did she think she was kidding, anyhow? He'd show her a thing or two when the time came.
   Sherri inadvertantly glanced at Richard DelaCruz, the Indian seated on her right at the corner of the table, next to Paul. She saw that he had seen what happened. Her cheeks flamed.
   "If he bothers you again, baby, let me know. I'll teach him some manners!" He winked at her and poured himself some more coffee.
   Sherri blushed. He was an attractive man but she'd seen him pour from a bottle into whatever he was drinking in the evenings when he thought no one was looking. His kind of flirting was polite and fun and harmless. Besides, he was too old for her, anyway.
   It was Paul she couldn't keep from thinking about. She glanced at him up the table but he was talking to Victoria and then to Georgia, across from Sherri. Mrs. Long was saying how she had read Murder With A Smile but she'd be a sport and not tell who was killing off all those women.
   "Jealousy does funny things to people," she added. They couldn't tell just how she meant it. "Lucky for you, Paul, your fiance isn't the jealous type.  Or else all we females who're mad about you might end up corpus delecti!" Her eyes twinkled into Paul's and she laughed at her own joke.
   "Ha ha," said Vikki, dryly. "You might just as well have come right out and said the Dr.'s fiance went around killing everyone he flirted with!" She didn't appreciate the joke at all, but maintained her cool.
   "Well, that let's me out," DelLaCruz laughed. "Paul didn't flirt with me, so I'm safe, right, Vikki? In case you go Lizzie Borden on us?"
   Vikki glared at him, waiting for Paul to come to her defense. Paul didn't. Instead, he laughed. He thought the jokes were funny.
   A light rose to her eyes, a hot fire of indignation. She caught herself in time. Careful, Vikki. Don't let it get the best of you. Not this time. Not again.
   She forced herself to relax.
   She would show them she could enjoy the joke as much as the next person.
   She would, no matter what effort it took.
   In spite of her self-avowal, she turned to Georgia Long, a small, baiting smile on her lips. "Are you 'mad' about Paul?
   "Why certainly I am! You should consider yourself a very lucky woman. Hang onto him while you can." Georgia returned the smile with a flair of her own.
   "I intend to," Victoria said.
   "I'd sure like to hang on to him," Sherri Hilliard said without embarassment. She was always just herself, without guile or snares, which is what made her so attractive to predators. She was really quite conservative, certainly not promiscuous. She and Patty were both moral teenagers who liked attention, a little harmless flirting, dates with boys when they could be had, and other normal things that normal teenage girls wanted. But naive enough to be embarassed when necking on dates progressed to the no-man's land of petting when the boys' hands began to rove. She honestly did not realize how strong she came on to other people nor what feelings she aroused in men, particularly.
   She wished she hadn't gotten this crush on the ranch boss. It was spoiling her vacation. All she'd planned on was riding everyday as much as she could, and having the kind of wholesome fun you could have on a ranch---and if there had been any boys her age, well, just maybe she'd get a little romance, too.
   But this stuff with older guys was getting out of hand.
   "Better look out, Vikki--looks like you've got some serious competition." Paul grinned at Vikki, then turned to Sherri and winked at her. "You'll do allright, honeypot."
   Under the table he was squeezing Victoria's hand and rubbing her leg.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Another Chapter Soon

Be patient. 5th installment of The Dude Ranch Murders coming up after Thanksgiving. In the meantime, it's bedtime.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

More Dude Ranch Soon......

Too much going on. Another chapter soon.

Ages Old Bible Verse Prophetic!

Well, it's happened! The 2012 voting is over, and as usual, Washington State is racing out ahead of all the Politically correct nags: The liberal left stuck its nose under the wire and other forbidden places when its "Power Grabbers" passed two bills: Queer marriages and Mary Jane (mareewanna) are now legal.  By golly, the Bible got another one right: Quote Liviticus:
           "If two men lie together, they shall be stoned........."