Bewildering Stories

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Space Ranger

by Frederick G. Soper

“This interview is for what magazine?”

Frontier Magazine Mr. Rodgers.”

Frontier eh, never heard of it. How long have you been a writer, son?”

“Almost two years, sir.”

“Humph, Well, pull up a chair anyway. I’ll tell you about my last adventure.

“The year was 2201, I believe, maybe 2202, but that’s not really important. The fact of the matter is, son, I didn’t really enjoy traveling around space any more, you know, being a spaceman and all. I was tired and I was getting older and after thirty years, well son, the thrill was gone. When I arrived at a new planet I was always naked, naked as the day I was born and at times well, this could be downright embarrassing.

“The problem was the cloth or clothes, if you prefer. Fabric would not transport with substances containing carbon. That’s one of the bugs they hadn’t worked out yet. I usually transported with my clothes on even though I knew they would be left behind. I didn’t feel comfortable being naked around Miss Sheehan. She was the transport engineer and she was a darn good-looking woman.

“Anyway, she always sent my clothes separate. All but once that is. It’s a long story, son, but, basically, well, let’s just say I’m not as shy as I used to be. The lady that found me though was very understanding, once I convinced her I was not a pervert.

“I would much rather travel around in a starship the way my ancestors did, instead of being teleported through space naked. Maybe I was getting to old for all this crap.

“Anyway, I teleported to the colony of Stockholm, the larger of Uranus’s moons, I forget the name of it, 1997U something or other.

“I was sent there to check out a complaint received at headquarters. Did I mention I was more than a spaceman? Well I was. I was actually a Space Ranger. We were the elite of all the cops, and our history dates back to the 1800’s when we were called Texas Rangers.

“Well, to get on with my story, the complaint I was there to investigate involved a young girl, drugs, and the governor. I followed standard Ranger protocol. I went to the local sheriff and told him what I was there for, and he volunteered to accompany me. I say volunteer, but when it gets right down to it, he really didn’t have a choice, according to the Sheriff’s Handbook on protocol that is.

“Anyway, the two of us went to see the family that had lodged the complaint and we got everything down on paper all signed official and legal like. I had read the complaint from her family and this young girl it seems, her name was Doris I believe, yup, Doris, that was it, anyway she stumbled upon this drug buy involving the governor.

“Now you would think that the governor would be the buying party. No-sir-ree-bob he was the seller, according to our report from the family that is. Poor little Doris she stumbled upon a drug buy in this deserted dark alley. And at the ripe old age of twelve she was shot. Doris died in that dark alley. But before she died, she fingered the governor.

“But this is where the problem comes, in son. Where do we get enough proof to arrest the governor? You arrest a governor, even if he is guilty, then you don’t prove it? Well, I’m here to tell ya son, you’re in a heap of trouble. When you arrest a governor, your ducks better be in a row, neatly in a row.

“Well, getting back to my story, we started at the coroner’s office. Now, this was the strangest thing, and it caught my attention right away, you know being a trained law enforcement officer and all. In this day of laser guns, and long-range blasters, why was she killed with an old black powder pistol, a collector’s item, an old Colt 45 that was referred to in the 1800‘s as a six-shooter, of all things?

‘The governor is a collector of antique guns, but even as much as I disliked the governor, I couldn’t believe that he was stupid enough to use a weapon that he owned and there wasn’t another like it on this planet, or any planet remotely close. The governor may be dumb, but I never said he was stupid. I’m sure he realized the bullet could be matched and proven in a court of law to come from a weapon he owned. The sheriff, well, there just wasn’t any talking to him. He just knew the governor killed little Doris. It seemed the governor had few friends, and the Sheriff was not among them.

“Well son, we decided to pay a little visit to the governor. We were supposed to call first, but we broke protocol and didn’t tell him we was coming over. I say we broke protocol, but personally I never believed in calling a suspect and warning him I was on my way. I was not in this business to see how fast a crook can cover up his tracks and hide the evidence, and I was definitely not out to win a popularity contest.

“Needless to say he was not happy, and he was even more obnoxious and sarcastic than usual, but he let us take the Colt 45, which belonged to him, and he gave us a bullet to fire through it so we could check it against the bullet we got from the coroner. I had to send the bullets back to earth to be checked, Miss Sheehan was not happy that we used the transporter.

“Let me tell ya son, that woman was cute, as cute as they come, but she was also one of the orneriest females I ever saw. She contrary and hard to get along with, when it came to that transporter that is.

“I actually believe she thought she owned that transporter. And she didn’t think this investigation was important enough to spend a million dollars to send two bullets to earth. I tried to explain to her that we didn’t have anyone in Stockholm that could analyze this archaic weapon.

“This gun may be old son, but she still kills with the best of ’em. In fact when the bullets did come back, they came back as being fired from the same weapon. This of course was no surprise to me. Ya see, son, I was the best.

“But this poses another problem, do we have enough evidence to arrest the governor? His prints were on the gun, but dang it, he owned the gun. Why wouldn’t they be on it?

“The sheriff, excuse me, he informed me his title was the ‘High Sheriff,’ and that was what he preferred to be called. Anyway, he couldn’t arrest the governor fast enough. I had to settle the young pup down. After all, this is my investigation, not the ‘High Sheriff’s’.

“The next step in my investigation took us to the crime scene, and from what I was told little Doris was standing over by the back door to the general store. That’s where they found her body. The High Sheriff’s chalk marks were still on the tarmac.

“The drug deal was going down in the alley in back of Joe’s Bar. Now, this just didn’t make any sense at all to me, not with the training I had in law enforcement that is, because that would be a shot of about ninety yards. I have never fired and old powder and lead weapon, in fact this is the first time I have ever seen one. But I’ll tell what son, I am hard pressed to make that shot with my state of the art Laser weapon. And I remember reading one time those old pistols, because of the short barrel, weren’t very accurate over about thirty or forty yards. Then you would have to be awful good with one to hit anything at that distance. So the question is now, how was she killed from that distance, and with that weapon?

“I decided to go back to the coroner’s office and see him again. Well, I’m gonna tell ya, son, the trip was worth it, I found out little Doris was shot from a maximum of three feet, this was determined by the powder burns the coroner found on her clothes.

“I had some thinking to do. Who could have walked up to little Doris, and shot her at point-blank range? She was shot in the chest, so she wasn’t snuck up on. This told me it had to be someone she knew and someone she trusted.

“I went back to the parents, and I asked them if they were sure little Doris said the governor killed her; they seemed surprised. They told me that they didn’t find Doris, the High Sheriff found her, and Doris told the high Sheriff the governor had killed her. Now this is another strange development. Why was I led to believe the parents found the body? Why wasn’t I told earlier the High Sheriff discovered the body? Anyway, it was time to talk to the High Sheriff and see why I wasn’t told he found the body.

“He told me he didn’t think that was an important fact, and besides he thought I knew he found the body.

“I asked him if there was any chance of a misunderstanding on the name she whispered to him as she died. He told me no, there was no way for a misunderstanding.

“Well, I’ll tell ya what son, this really got me to thinking; all of a sudden I realized the governor didn’t kill her. Now, if the governor didn’t kill her, who did, and why would they try to frame the governor?

“Well son, the only answer that makes any sense is the High Sheriff killed little Doris. But why, and how could I prove this?

“If the High Sheriff did kill her, it was a planned murder, which means premeditated. It was not because she happened on a drug deal. It was because someone wanted her dead, and someone wanted the governor out of the way. So why not kill her with the governor’s gun and accomplish two things at once, or as the old saying goes, kill two birds with one stone; Pretty clever.

“But there is a problem you run into quite often in law enforcement son. You know someone is guilty, they’re as guilty as sin. But how do you prove it? Of course, you being nothing more than a writer, you wouldn’t know these things. Not like us cops anyway, we’re trained for this.

“I took my handy-dandy finger print kit and went back to the governor’s mansion. I didn’t tell the governor what was going on, frankly because I didn’t think it was any of his business. I checked for fingerprints on the windowsill, and I found some almost perfect prints, I found more prints on the gun case, and there were two different sets of prints there. One looked the same as the ones on the windowsill, the other completely different. Although this is very hard to tell with the naked eye, even with my professional trained eye it’s hard to tell, and even I get it wrong, sometimes.

“I took the governor’s prints before I left the mansion, so I could cross his prints off the list and not mix them up with the prints of the suspect. I stopped at the local liquor store and picked up a bottle of Jack Daniels; went across the street and bought a set of glasses and a two liter bottle of coke.

“Then I went to my hotel room and poured myself a drink. I needed to think things over. I didn’t want to blow the deal by getting in to big hurry; I made this mistake once, when I was young law enforcement official. If you are going to be a Space Ranger son, you don’t make the same mistakes twice. I called the High Sheriff and asked him to come over for a drink, I didn’t like to drink alone, you see.

“Well, the sheriff, sorry, The High Sheriff, he arrived in about twenty minutes. We sat and chatted and polished off the rest of the bottle, and me being careful that I didn’t touch his glass when I poured his drinks.

“I got my little handy dandy fingerprint kit back out and was planning on lifting his prints so I could compare them to what I found at the governor’s mansion. But after thinking the situation over I decided to wait until tomorrow, maybe my hands would be steadier; at least my head would be clearer, I couldn’t afford to mess this up, son.

“Next morning I compared prints; they matched. OK, I have the prints on the window where he broke into the house, I have prints on the gun cabinet, the only thing that could have been better is to have his prints on the gun; now this guy ain’t very smart, but he had enough sense to know I could match his prints to the gun. He had wiped the gun clean.

“I needed to find a motive, without a motive I have no case. Why would the High Sheriff kill a twelve-year-old girl? I went back to the parents to see if they new anything that might help my investigation.

“No, unfortunately, that was a wasted trip, they could tell me very little. But was this old Space Ranger ready to give up? I should say not, Her best friend was Megan O’Reilly. No relation; mind ya, to the then heavyweight champion of the world Patrick O’Reilly. But anyway, it was time to talk to Megan.

“I went to see her the next morning; all my police training told me the High Sheriff was guilty. All I needed was a Motive, and so far I haven’t been able to tie them together at all, I wasn’t even sure if they knew one another or not.

“Megan didn’t want to talk, said she new nothing, but even a monkey could tell she was afraid. I must have talked to her about an hour or more before I convinced her I could protect her if she would just be honest with me. She started crying and her parents came in and they were not happy with me until I convinced them that their daughter’s life was in danger and I was there to protect her.

“I made what’s called in our profession as a cardinal error. Now you would think after almost thirty years, and ready for retirement, I wouldn’t make mistakes like this. Well son, this just proves that I am only human, and I am capable of making mistakes, in spite of what people think I don’t walk on water. I should not have questioned her without her parents present.

“At any rate, little Megan told me the High Sheriff was peddling drugs to the local school, and little Doris was going to turn him in. He had to do away with her. But what he didn’t count on was the family requesting an outside investigation, which means the Space Rangers got involved. On reflection, I think he had it figured where he would shoot the governor resisting arrest, and all would be OK. After all son, he was the High Sheriff.

“Anyway, we got everything straightened out and got her signed statement, both parents signed as witnesses and my signature as a witness, this way the little girl wouldn’t have to appear in court after the arrest, don’t ya see.

“Well, I had everything I needed to put the High Sheriff behind bars for the rest of his life if they had the trial here. If the trial is on Earth he would probably get the death penalty, a High Sheriff killing a 12-year old little girl does not warrant leniency in any court. He would get the maximum sentence allowed.

“I went to arrest him and son, I’m gonna tell ya what’s the truth now; this was a gunfight with lasers that would put any gunfight to shame, including the legendary Gunfight at the OK Corral.

“I walked into the High Sheriffs office and informed him that he was under arrest for the murder of Doris. I never expected him to try and shoot me. I mean what would be his alibi? Well, that was mistake number two in this investigation; he didn’t figure he needed an alibi.

“I decided right there, when I felt that laser burn through my left side and create a painful, but not necessarily deadly wound, that it was definitely time to retire.

“I fired back at him but it was a clear miss, in fact it hit the wall beside him. Well son, have you ever tried to return fire when you have a big hole in your side? Oh, I forget you’re a writer. Of course you haven’t. Anyway, he went out the back door, with me limping after him. What ensued after that was an hour or more of shooting at each other in the alley, with no one actually getting hit.

“Well son, I made mistake number three, and I paid for it, I stood up to get a better angle, and he shot me again in the right shoulder; my laser flew across the alley, and I was without a weapon.

“I’m telling ya right now son, I thought my days were over, he stood up with that stupid grin on his face, I’ll never forget that face as long as I live, I thought it was all over. He walked toward me with that laser in his hand; I knew he was planning on killing me; and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

“Then I seen it, out of the corner of my eye, a flash from a laser, and the high Sheriff went down like a sack of beans. He was dead before he hit the ground. It went down in the archives as killed by a Ranger while resisting arrest.

“You and I son are the only ones alive that know the truth of what happened that day on Stockholm. I never told anyone that he was killed by little Doris’s mother out of revenge, mainly because I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for her. Granted, she didn’t do it for me, she done it for revenge. But regardless of why she done it, I’m alive today because she did do it.”

“It’s time for your nap and medication Mr. Rodgers,” the nurse said as she entered the room.

“Hmmff, is this what happens to America’s best when we get a little age on us?”

Nurse Sheehan helped him out of the rocker and said, “Now Mr. Rodgers, you know how it is when you don’t get your nap and medication. You go back to telling science fiction stories and think you’re a Space Ranger. Everyone knows you write westerns.”

With a smile and a wink that cute little Miss Sheehan looked at me and said, “He always wanted to be a science fiction writer. Which story did he tell you today, Fred?”

Copyright © 2005 by Frederick G. Soper

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