13 Dead End Street
In a recent capture that proved to be his last as he confessed, Dead Hand Dan had officially retired from crime. While the other common outlaws still struck, the big one was out of the picture. This was a sigh of relief to the townsfolk, but it did not satisfy his desire to kill Cody Belachman and those other members of the Fab 5. “He prevents me from becoming richer!” he once told himself while coming up with his infamous plot to blow up Cody with dynamite. While his inner desires were to see that Cody die by accident, he could do nothing about it since, not with the current Sheriff and other law enforcers on the job.
Although serving his term in jail, Dead Hand Dan made sure he stayed away from crime from that day forward. In fact, the first time he managed to tell Cody and his posse vital information came from the night strange activity emerged from the supposed haunted house located at 13 Dead End Street.
“For all I know,” he said to Cody one night at the Sheriff’s office/jail in the Wildcat City sub-city of Horseshoeville (which looked like the Wild West on the outside but was modernized on the inside), “that house is haunted. My great-great-great uncle, whose name was also Dan, occupied that house. Jeopardized from his position as top outlaw, he used his other status as a front in order to concoct schemes to kill the Marshal, your ancestor, and several others. So, you see, it’s a family tradition that you put to an end, but, it had to be done. If ghosts exists, which you and I know they don’t, then his ghost is the one doing all the haunting.”
“Why is that?” Cody asked.
“To get the revenge on the ancestor of the hero that put him to justice. According to what my ex-henchmen confirmed, it’s that ancestor of you, even though you and I both know he was just a bounty hunter and not actually a Sheriff.”
“Where are them cronies now?”
“I sent them to a factory until they could learn to behave like real henchmen should. They don’t know I’m retiring from crime, since my life has proven nothing but misery to me. If you don’t watch out, they’ll come and get you.”
“Well, I’ll be keeping my eye on them. How’d your uncle die?” Cody asked.
“My henchmen say it’s because your ancestor wrestled him in the same way Sherlock Holmes wrestled with his enemy, except in the detective’s case, they both fell to their doom, although the detective came out alive. Your ancestor didn’t fall over the cliff. I wonder if they’re making the whole thing up?”
“Well, one thing’s for certain, Dead Hand Dan; I realize you were true blue all the time, and when you’re not, no one else is, but you’ll always be Dead Hand Dan to me. Think of it like how Jesse James, though an outlaw, left a legacy.”
“It’s not the fame I was hoping for, but if it works out, it will be all right with me.”
“Now the only reason the Sheriff is letting you out is so you can help us determine what’s happening at the house.”
“I knew that.” Cody unlocked Dead Hand Dan’s cell and the two walked back to their horses, where the rest of the Fab 5 were waiting, already saddled up. Dead Hand Dan looked at Cody and said to David, “I don’t think I ever apologized to you, at least for all those times I took you hostage as bait to trap Cody and his friends.”
“I forgive you,” David replied. “I just want to see this case put to an end.”
“Knowing all of you, that won’t take long.”
“Thanks.” David smiled as the group headed for the house.
By now, the full moon was at its peak, and coyotes were howling at it. Strange witch-like laughing could be heard from the house. “That doesn’t sound like my late great-great-great uncle,” Dead Hand Dan exclaimed, very confused. “That’s a witch! Who ever let a witch in here?”
“Unless that witch is a fake,” Bryce replied. “What I know about haunted houses is that traditionally, if the trickster is a male, he’ll use female tactics, and that includes witches.”
“Better go in, boys,” Cody announced. “It’s do or die time!” The group bravely opened the door and entered the house.
“Nothing scary about this place to me,” John spoke up. “Nothing here but lots of cobwebs. Ooh! Get off me!” He shook his hands until he got the attacking cobweb off him. “There!”
Cody took out his magnifying glass and searched the house for clues. He wasn’t making any progress until he came across a loose board. “Whoa,” he exclaimed. “Almost fell in.”
“You okay?” John asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine, John,” Cody replied. “I just tripped across that there loose board. Could be a clue.” He took the loose board off and peeked down. “I can hear stuff down there, but I can’t see anything.” He turned to Dead Hand Dan. “Does this here hideout have a basement?”
“If it does, there ain’t no stairs leading to it. My great-great-great uncle believed in one-story houses. If he wanted a second story, he’d want it upstairs.”
“Cody, do you see any trapdoors anywhere?” Benjamin called. “That’ll lead us down there and then we’ll know.”
“Found one. Geronimo!” Cody called as he jumped down the trapdoor. After landing on his feet, he grabbed a nearby lantern and used it to look around. Then he discovered the source of the sound. “Boys,” he called, “I found a tape recorder. I didn’t know we had them things on in town!”
“We don’t,” somebody else replied. “Our home here is devoted to living like the Wild West and we do not need any of that new technological stuff here. Somebody smuggled it here and was using it. What else do you see down there?”
“Nothing but…yikes!” Cody exclaimed as he bumped into somebody’s back. When he turned, whom should he have expected to see but two of Dead Han Dan’s ex-cronies! “Y’all two goons! You’re supposed to be at some factory!” he shouted.
“Don’t remind us,” one cronies replied. “What matters is you are coming with us, and the Dead Hand Dan will be so pleased!”
“Again, they don’t know I’m not an outlaw no more,” Dead Hand Dan replied as his two ex-henchmen took Cody away.
“Can you act as a double agent?” Bryce replied. “I got a plan to get Cody out of there.”
“Sure, I can. Only this time I’ll be doing it the other way, if you know what I mean.”
“Yup,” said David, as the group ran outside and spotted where the two birdbrains were, holding Cody tied to a pole, and blindfolding him.
“We got him, boss!” the second crony called. “Now we gotta get the others.”
“I knew you were brighter than you looked,” Dead Hand Dan replied, going with the plan. “You finally proved it. No more factory work for you!”
“What do you want us to do with him?”
“Remember what you did the night before the dynamite scheme several years ago? Do that.”
“Okay.” The two cronies took Cody to that same mill and prepared to dump him on the conveyer belt, unaware Bryce and David were hiding. They pulled the lever and activated the belt, then ran off to wait for Dead Hand Dan’s instructions on capturing the others as he commanded them. After it was safe, Dead Hand Dan switched the lever off, and Cody, still tied to the pole, slid back down to the ground. “Don’t worry,” he said to Cody as he untied him. “Bryce has a plan. He is having me play a double agent. I’m not really telling those two buzzard brains to wait for my next instructions.”
“So I figured,” said Cody. “What do y’all want me to do now?”
“Come with me. Your friends should be about ready to book those two.”
“Okay.” Cody followed Dead Hand Dan back to Horseshoeville, where the two cronies were poised. But so was Bryce. “Now commence phase two,” Dead Hand Dan called, and the two henchmen began sneaking out quietly. At the right moment, John and David jumped out in front of them and shocked them. They screamed and ran for their lives, but Cody was standing on the other side. The two henchmen ran around until they fainted, exhausted, and out of breath.
“Whoa. Déjà vu,” Dead Hand Dan said to himself.
Instead of the local jail, Cody had the two henchmen shipped back to the factory they were working at, where they had to make up some excuse. Yet the union boss would not believe it, so he slashed their paychecks in half. “Do it again, and you’re working the rest of your lives for nothing!” he warned.
Back in Horseshoeville, the news had spread of the victory, and folks were more than glad to see justice was served. Cody, with the Sheriff’s permission (after discussing it with him) made the choice to switch the Dead Hand Dan’s term to house arrest. “At least it’s more sanitary there,” he said. “And again, if we need you, we’ll call you.”
“And I’ll be waiting for you,” Dead Hand Dan agreed as he entered his house, although showing Cody, his posse, Miss Jenny (the saloon bartender), and Jimmy (her nephew) inside. “It feels better fighting crime instead of making it.”
“One thing about your outlaw life,” Miss Jenny commented. “You were persistent. How was I supposed to know about your brilliance behind the plans?”
“I don’t know, but I am glad I decided to take charge and not work for someone else. I was getting tired of the cowardliness of those two cronies anyway. They ain’t worth a dime.”
“Like a friend of mine once said,” Cody replied, “a corrupt fish out of water will never find another way to travel.”
“Yup,” David agreed, and Bryce nodded his head.
A former outlaw informs one of his former enemies about an alleged haunted house located at 13 Dead End Street.