“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode Thirty: two very brief but poignant interludes in the desert
(Click here for our previous episode; go here to return to the beginning of this unexpurgated and uncut serialization of Larry Winchester's A Town Called Disdain, a Dino De Laurentiis Production.)
September, 1969, a few miles outside a town called Disdain, in the lovely state of New Mexico.
The #1 song in the country is “Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones...
And as our protagonists ride their tired horses back to Big Jake Johnstone’s dude ranch, little do they know they are being watched by the international assassins (and fellow guests at the ranch) Hans Grupler and the woman known only as “Marlene”:
Grupler and Marlene had watched the entire Thorndyke family episode through binoculars from a butte some two miles distant.
“Well,” said Hans, “things are clearing up. We know now they are renegade. That was a US Army truck, albeit somewhat oddly camouflaged. And those soldiers were trying to kill them. If they are worth killing there must be a good reason for it.”
He spoke in the almost-extinct Bavarian village dialect he had spoken as a child and which he had taught Marlene.
“Perhaps they intend to steal an H-bomb from the air force base,” said Marlene, just to add something to the conversation.
“Perhaps. And oh my dear girl what we could do with an H-bomb.”
“Yes. That would be nice,” she said.
Not that she really cared so much about the details. She let Hans deal with all the silly intrigue. Marlene was an old-fashioned girl. Just let her know where to point her gun and she was happy.
Daphne was way off in front. Every once in a while she would swing down partway off her saddle like an Indian and grab up some plant or desert flower and swing back up again. She would ride along looking at the plant and sometimes she would toss it away and sometimes she would stick it in her saddlebag, and sometimes she would just keep it in her hand for a while.
Dick suddenly noticed that there were two holes in the breast pocket of his jacket, where he had put his little Philco transistor radio.
He took the radio out and saw that a rifle bullet had gone clean through it, entering the front at an angle that would have led straight into his right ventricle, but somehow the bullet had taken a left turn through the body of the radio and gone out the thin part on the side, making the second hole in Dick’s pocket.
Dick clicked the little dial, but the radio was dead, killed, kaput.