Chapter VIII -- Close Encounters

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With the bank just across from him, Augustus Poe stood with his back to the dress shop as he tried to picture the events as they must have unfolded.

Precious little evidence had been found in the alleyway behind him, other than what left him to believe, for the moment anyway, that the dead man had left Daisy Mae to clean herself up; perhaps in reaction to something that he'd either seen or heard from bank itself.

Several witnesses had reported that the gunfire to have been short and fast when it happened; or in the ever so eloquent words of one witness: nothing more than a quick snap, followed by a crackled pop and a dull roar to beat hell.

By now, he'd also come to the conclusion that the round that had killed Daisy May had come from a rifle, not a pistol.

Having ventured a guess or two about that, he'd narrowed the suspect list down to the Sharps forty-four seventy; a long gun well suited for both range and the particulars of the ammunition that fit the bill; and from there it had not been all that difficult to surmise where the shot may have come from given what he know of that particular firearm and what it was capable of.

The question had then became one of why.

The small narrow porch two buildings down would have given someone a good clean angle to cover the entire front of the bank and much of the road around it.

If that person had been part and parcel to the robbery, then why on earth had the dress shop become a target?

For all intents and purposes it appeared that for no other reason, Daisy Mae had simply found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time yet again in the grander scheme of things.

Had the shot been wide to either side, or just a few inches higher; she would have easily walked out of the alley once it was over without anyone probably having even noticed one way or the other.

It had been the discovery of her body and where she'd rested that in and of itself set everything else askew for him about this entire debacle.

Something just wasn't right about it any which way he looked at it.

Words of wisdom that he'd heard long ago told him that if something didn't seem to fit in as properly as it should have at first blush; then by all accounts, it should also be fairly safe to assume that whatever it was had managed to stick out for a damn good reason - until proven otherwise.

Whatever it was that had stuck out about Daisy Mae and where they'd found her body still managed to elude him at most every turn, but he also knew beyond a shadow of doubt that it was there to be found eventually, he was sure of it.

He could feel it in his bones.

That left only one other reason for such a strange shot as it must have come as a warning of sorts to alert someone about the others that may have waited for them in the bank.

It was when he turned back toward the window while he considered things that it occurred to him - the very lace that had kept the bullet from shattering the window glass would not have been visible from across the street let alone the damned porch.

Which meant that whomever had taken the shot had either been very skilled, very lucky or plum missed their target altogether.

Unfortunately the thought of Daisy Mae as simple collateral damage hadn't seemed to fit any better than the other theories that he'd followed.

Although he'd heard the sound of approaching horses, he steadfastly ignored them as he studied the distant porch and what the distances involved may have been between them.

"That was probably where Thomas Bisbee watched the bank." A voice suggested as the horses stopped behind him.

Poe turned to face five men who'd lead an empty horse in tow just behind them.

One of the men rode forward as he considered Poe.

Hint of short red hair appeared beneath his hat, while ice blue eyes sharp with experience marked smooth features of a city man.

He smiled as he tipped his hat.

"Captain Horatio Crane, Sheriff. My men and I were traveling through the area when we found something that may prove to have been stolen recently."

He gestured to the horse with its empty saddle.

"Found her about a half day from here and figured that she must have come from this direction."

Poe made his way between two of the riders for a better look at the horse.

"Much obliged, Captain ..." he replied as he walked around the horse and examined the saddle, "... we had someone attempt to rob the bank yesterday and from what I've heard of them, this just might have been one of their horses."

Poe looked up to find hard experience etched in the men as they watched the town around them.

"I hate to be the one to break it to you, sheriff ..." the man who'd led the horse frowned as he watched him with dark eyes, "... but, that horse was abandoned when we found her. Your bank robbers are probably long gone by now. End of the line. Sorry."

Captain Crane dismounted and walked up to gently pat the horse.

"Mister Devrow may not be the most eloquent, but he's right; we didn't find any sign of a rider nearby. There was a burr placed beneath the saddle that might have caused her to be the runaway that she was."

"Or she's a decoy to throw off pursuit." Poe suggested with a knowing smile.

Crane returned the smile as he looked over the town.

"Sheriff, I have it on good authority that you're familiar with a certain group of men that are stationed out of Fort Danna. Members of that group rode out a few days ago in pursuit of unrelated matters when they came across this horse on their way back. Perhaps you and I should find your office and talk a bit about the men may have robbed your bank, or at least tried to."

The significance of Crane's comments was not lost on Poe as he took the reigns of the horse from Devrow.

"Follow me. I'll stop by the Long Branch and have a pot of black coffee sent over."

"Much obliged, sheriff." Crane offered as he climbed back up into his saddle and led his men up the street.

As Poe moved to follow, he wondered what new troubles may have come to his town on top of everything else.

Perhaps the bank robbery was only the beginning and not the end that he'd hoped it would turn out to be.

Someone had once suggested that there was a certain odor of sorts for trouble that might be found to be brewing nearby and as far as Poe had become concerned, it was getting thicker by the minute.

Even he could smell it.

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