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PostSubject: Fireworks   Fireworks EmptyMon Jul 01, 2019 6:20 am

Time for a new challenge, and as it's July, the topic just has to be,
Firework
Fireworks
Firework
 
 That can be actual fireworks, figurative fireworks like lost tempers, or even someone working with fire like a blacksmith or a glass blower. On  top of that it can be anything your inventive minds can conjure up. 
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RosieAnnieUSA

RosieAnnieUSA

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Age : 100
Location : Chicago, Illinois, USA

Fireworks Empty
PostSubject: Re: Fireworks   Fireworks EmptyWed Jul 17, 2019 8:25 am

I'm first out of the gate? That's crazy. Hope you enjoy this bit of summer fluff.

----------------------------
“What time is it?”

Jed Curry squinted at the pocket watch in his hand. “Two minutes later than the last time you asked me.”

“Sheesh. I hate waiting.”

Curry flicked an incredulous glance towards his partner. “This was your idea, remember? You told Kyle to set off the fireworks at ten, and it’s not ten yet. Relax, will you?”

Hannibal Heyes pushed himself out of the heavy oak chair and went to stand by the window, where Curry was peeking out carefully around the pulled-down shade. “I can’t relax. I won’t relax till we’re all at the meeting place, safe and sound, with our saddlebags full of Midwest Railroad’s executive bonuses.”

“Yeah. Those bastards like to pretend they’re so moral and honest, but they’re all crooks.”

“They’re worse crooks than us, Kid, and a lot more arrogant, embezzling their own stockholders to line their pockets and calling what they steal bonuses. Imagine the expressions on their faces when they hear that only thing missing from the safe is their dirty money, and that the depositors’ money hasn’t been touched.”

“Let’s concentrate on the job for now and save the gloating for later. Once the fireworks start, you can light the fuse, and nobody’s going to notice this explosion, what with all the other noise. You were smart to plan this job for Independence Day.”

“I hope so, Kid. But you know me. I’m a worrier.”

“I do. That’s partly why your plans are so good. You go over every detail a hundred times. You don’t rely on luck.”

“I’m still trying to decide if this heat wave is good luck or bad luck. Everybody in town seems to be out and about because it’s too hot to sleep.”

“Yeah, well, it’s July after all. Can’t expect a snowstorm.”

“Hope not.” Heyes smiled. “I may plan for every detail, but I didn’t plan for snow.”

Curry looked at the watch again. “Two minutes. Get ready.” They sat on the floor, backs against the row of teller’s cages, where they would have the most protection from the blast. “One minute on that fuse?”

Heyes pulled out his matches. “Yeah. I’ll light it as soon as we hear the Roman candles going off.”

Almost in response, the sound of rockets and explosions filled the bank building.

“Kyle can’t tell time.”

“He’s close enough, Light that fuse.” Heyes struck a match and touched the flame to the fuse. They covered their ears with their hands and crouched low while the fuse sizzled. The building seemed to be rocking from the concussions of the fireworks so that when the safe blew open, it was almost anticlimactic. They rose slowly to inspect the damage. The door to the safe hung open. Curry slapped Heyes’ back.

“Good work. Now let’s grab that dirty money and ride out of town before anyone notices we were here.”

“My sentiments exactly, Kid.”

00000000000000

Across town, two dirty faces looked up at the rainbow of colors that the fireworks cast across the night sky. Each brilliant display was greeted by shouts of appreciation from the large crowd who filled the town square.

“Aint’ that something, Wheat?”

The tall cowboy kept his eyes on the fireworks. “It sure is, Kyle, It sure is.” He draped a companionable arm across the little man’s shoulders. “You done yourself proud tonight. I sure wish we could stay for the whole show, but you know we got to go now.”

“Yeah. I wish we could stay, too. It shore is a pretty sight.”

“Your job’s done. Them fellas from the blacksmith shop, they’ll keep it going while we ride, just like you planned.”

Confusion crossed Kyle’s dirty face. “Like I planned? It weren’t me that planned this. Don’t you remember, it’s Heyes’ plan.”

Wheat Carlson restrained a sigh. Some people just didn’t know how to accept a compliment.

“No, I ain’t forgot. Let’s go while the going’s good, alright? We still got us a long ride tonight.”

“Yeah. Sure. I guess.”

Wheat smiled at his friend’s regret. “There’ll be other explosions, Kyle. Bigger ones. Better ones. You’ll see.” He looked up at one particularly colorful display. “Though, I admit, there might not be no prettier ones.”

00000000000000

“Are we there yet, Kid?”

Curry took off his hat and wiped his dripping forehead with his bandanna. Even though it was past midnight, the night was still warm. Waves of heat seemed to rise from the ground. There was no breeze to move the still air.

“Listen up. You hear it?”

Heyes leaned forward on his horse, reaching down to stroke the sweaty animal’s neck. Man and beast were both exhausted.

“Is that what I think it is? That’s the river?”

“Yep. We’re almost there.”

“Not soon enough for me or this horse. He’s as close to done as I am.”

“More. He’s carrying you and $10,000.”

Heyes, grinned. “You got a point. Lead on.”

Guided by the sound of water rushing over rocks and the light of the full moon, they found the rendezvous site. They had barely dismounted when their tired, thirsty horses pulled them to the river. While the horses drank, the men got down on their knees and splashed their faces. Heyes sat back and pulled his boots and socks off and put his feet into the water.

“Oh yeah. That’s what I needed.”

Curry smiled at his partner. “Now that’s another good idea.” Soon, they lay back on the mossy ground, cooled by their bare feet in the current.

“This is the life, Heyes. A good campsite, fresh water, no posse following us, and $10,000 in our saddlebags.”

Heyes turned his head to look at his partner. “It’s a good start, but I won’t relax we’re far away.” He sighed. “I suppose we better take care of these animals and set up camp. Kyle and Wheat ought to be here soon.”

“If Kyle didn’t talk Wheat into watching the whole fireworks show, you mean. He does like to watch things blow up.”

Heyes pushed himself up onto his elbows. “He likes cash money even better, and he knows we got it.”
The horses were settled comfortably, and the men almost so, when Curry noticed the horses raise their heads, alerted by some sound. He drew his weapon.

“What is it?” Heyes asked.

Curry pointed with his gun. “Someone’s coming.”

“Of course, someone’s coming. We’re expecting two someones.”

Curry got up. “Let’s make sure it’s the right someones.”

“There can’t be a posse,” Heyes argued, as he took out his gun. “Nobody should even know the bank’s been blown until morning.”

“Should is a dangerous word. Let’s make sure.” They positioned themselves near big trees, weapons drawn, and waited. 

They heard the voices of Wheat and Kyle, even above the sound of rushing water. They were bickering. 

“Are you sure this is the way, Wheat? It don’t look like it did when we was here before.”

“’Course it don’t. It was daytime then. Don’t nothing look the same at night.”

Heyes and Curry lowered their weapons and stepped out from their hiding places.

“About time you two got here,” Curry said. “I thought maybe you were staying for breakfast.”

“I didn’t know we could do that,” Kyle complained, as he and Wheat dismounted. “Wheat, you never told me that. I could’ve eat.”

“I never told you that ‘cause it wasn’t part of the plan. Was it, Heyes?”

“Nope. Sure wasn’t. The plan was set off the fireworks while we robbed the bank. The fireworks distracted everyone in town, and no one noticed one more explosion. And, like every Hannibal Heyes plan, it worked to perfection.” A note of doubt entered his voice. “It did work, didn’t it?”

“Shore did,” Kyle said. “Nobody noticed nothin’.”

“You probably could’ve blown the bank sky high, and them people would’ve thunk it was part of the show,” Wheat affirmed. “That bank manager’s gonna be some surprised when he sees that blowed-up safe in the morning.”

“Him and Midwest Railroad. They’re going to notice $10,000 is missing real quick.”

Broad grins broke out on Kyle’s and Wheat’s grimy faces. “You got the money?”

“I got the money.”

Kyle grabbed Heyes in a bear hug and pounded him enthusiastically on his back. 

“Heyes! You is the best there is!” 

“Ten thousand, you said?”

“We figure about $10,000, Wheat, although we ain’t taken the time to count it all. That can wait. You’re positive no one followed you?”

“No sirree bob. We rode out of there, quiet as a couple of church mice. And ain’t no posse, because nobody knows the bank’s been robbed. Yet.”

“They’ll know first thing in the morning,” Curry reminded them.

“It doesn’t matter, Kid. Any trail we left will be covered by all the people in town for the Fourth of July. Not even an Apache could pick out our trail among all the others. It’ll be like we disappeared into thin air.”

Curry stepped closer to Wheat and Kyle, sniffing. “Speaking of thin air . . . Kyle, what’ve you been rolling in? You smell worse than your horse.”

Kyle raised one arm and sniffed his armpit. “I don’t smell nothing different than usual.”

Heyes walked around Kyle, sniffing, then pulled back. “Whoa. That is a whole new fragrance. A posse could track us just by following your scent.”

“When’s the last time you took a bath, Kyle?” Curry asked. “I mean, a real bath, when you put your whole body in water.”

Kyle looked up at the sky while he thought. And thought. And thought some more.

“Are you telling us you never took a real bath?” Heyes wanted to know.

“Sure, he has.” Wheat defended his partner. “It just don’t loom large in his life.”

“Getting in water like that’s unhealthy,” Kyle offered. “You kin catch some disease if you ain’t careful.”

Heyes and Curry exchanged a glance that said, now’s not the time to fight this battle.

“You two get your horses and yourselves settled over there. Way over there.” Heyes waved vaguely at the far side of the clearing, trying unsuccessfully to move the humid air that seemed to embrace Kyle’s unique body odor. ”It’s been a long night. We’ll discuss business in the morning.”

“Heyes, you done got one good idee after another. We’s lucky you’re our leader.”

Wheat greeted Kyle’s remark with an eye roll. “Never mind that. Let’s hit the hay and dream how we’s gonna spend that Midwest Railroad money.”

000000000000

The long days of summer meant that early morning sunshine woke the weary men long before they’d had enough rest. They rubbed tired eyes, rolled over on lumpy bedrolls, and sleepily got to their feet for brief visits behind the trees. Whatever temperature relief the night had brought seemed to be burning away in the first light of day.

“Gonna be another hot one,” Wheat said. “I ‘spose we ought to be riding out soon, since it’s only gonna get hotter.”

Heyes was trying to rub the sleep out of his bloodshot eyes. “I could do with some coffee.”

“It’s too hot for coffee,” Curry said. “And we shouldn’t start a fire under these conditions.”

“What conditions are those?”

“Heat wave like this, the forest’s bone dry. You want to start a forest fire? We can always outrun a posse, but we’d never outrun a fire.”

“Fine. No coffee.” He looked around the clearing. It seemed to shimmer with heat. “I suppose we might as well just saddle up and ride as much as we can before midday. We’ll have to stop somewhere then to rest the horses.”

“There is one thing I’m doing before we go.”

“What?”

“This.” Curry walked purposefully over to the riverbank. He took off his shirt. He sat down on a rock and pulled off his pants. Dressed only in his underwear, he walked into the river and did a belly flop into the water. Wheat, Kyle and Heyes all stood and watched him stand and sink down again.

“I am not leaving here until I am clean!” Curry shouted. “And neither are any of you! Get in this here water right now and wash up!”

“If that’s an example of a Kid Curry plan, I am 100% in.” Heyes pulled off his clothes and, clad only in his underwear like Curry, ran to the river and jumped in. He sank under the water and emerged, coughing.

“Holy crap!” he said when he surfaced. He shook his head, and beads of water flew off his long hair. “You never said it was cold!”

“Why’d you think I tiptoed in, instead of jumping in like a crazy person?” 

“Oh boy, does this feel good. I feel like I haven’t been this clean since . . . I don’t know when, but it’s been a while.”

“That’s for sure,” Curry agreed. “You ain’t been that pleasant to travel with.”

“Everyone will be, real soon.” Heyes pointed to Wheat and Kyle, “Kyle,” he shouted, “Get out of those filthy clothes and get in his water right now. We ain’t riding with you until you smell better than your horse.”

Kyle looked stunned. “In that there water? Me?” He shook his head. “I don’t think so, Heyes. You may be the leader, but you can’t tell me to do that.”

“Why not?” Heyes asked.

Kyle blushed red through the dirt. “Cause I cain’t swim!”

“You got nothin’ to worry about. I’ll watch out for you, same’s as I always do.”

“Are you tellin’ me, you’re going in . . . . that, Wheat?” 

“I sure am. And you will, too, ‘cause you’re gonna feel real good once you’re cleaned up.” Kyle flashed a look of stunned disbelief up at him. “Yeah, you will. I ain’t never done anything to hurt you, now, have I?” 

“No. Guess not.”

“Well, I ain’t gonna start now. So get out of them filthy clothes and let’s go. Alright?” 

“Just . . . don’t nobody look at me till I’m in the water.”

“We’ll keep our eyes closed tight, Kyle. Promise.” Curry said.

“Closing our eyes tight right now, Kyle,” Heyes added.

“And that means no peekin’!”

“Alright, Kyle,” Curry tried to soothe him. “You let us know when we can open our eyes.”

“Well, I guess that’s alright, then.” Kyle still sounded dubious. Heyes and Curry nearly held their breath, waiting for the sound of the two other men entering the waters. 

“Okay, youse can look now.” Wheat and Kyle were immersed up to their necks. Kyle wore his hat.

“How you doing, Kyle?” Curry asked.

“I guess I’m alright.”

“Don’t it feel nice to wash off all that sweat?”

“I guess it does.”

“You know what’d feel even better? Clean clothes.” Curry stood up and walked back to the clearing, water dripping off his sodden underwear, and he picked up all the clothes the men had left piled up. He carried all the clothes back to the river. 

“Here, you all take your clothes and push ‘em down deep. Get ‘em good and soaked. Don’t look at me like that, Wheat, everything’s gonna dry fast in this heat. And nobody’s gonna leave a stink trail a posse can follow.” Something in Curry’s voice made it impossible for anyone to refuse him. In a moment, all four men were wrestling with their clothes, pushing them under the water, then taking them out again, wringing out all the trail dust and dirt.

“Now put everything on the bushes to dry. It won’t take long in this heat. We’ll be ready to ride in a couple hours.”

“Or we could stay a while longer,” Kyle said. “Ain’t no need to ride out so soon, is there? We kin wait till the sun start’s going down.” Three sets of stunned eyes met each other, then focused on Kyle.

“Did you say that, Kyle?” Heyes asked. 

“Wellll . . . I guess so.”

Curry shook his head. “As nice as that sounds, it ain’t safe or smart. Tell you what, boys,” he offered. “Me, Heyes and Wheat can get everything organized to go while Kyle, you stay in this here river for a while longer. Think you can do that?”

“I s’pose I can.”

“But you got to get your hat and head clean. Think you can do that, too?”

“Weellll . . . “ He looked over at Wheat.

“Do it now. I’ll pull you out if you got a problem.” With both eyes squinted tightly shut and fingers holding his nose, Kyle ducked under, hat and all. He emerged quickly, rivulets of water running off his drooping hat. A broad grin slowly spread across his face.

“That really weren’t too bad!” 

“I guess that’s settled then,” Curry said. “We’ll break camp and ride for Devil’s Hole, where we’ll split this money and have some real food.”

Wheat followed him and Heyes out onto the riverbank. He looked back at Kyle, who had his face in the water and was blowing bubbles. 

“I never thought I’d see the like,” Wheat said. “Kyle, you sure you’re alright?”

The blonde head surfaced. “Sure am!”

Heyes and Curry looked over their shoulders at the unexpected sight.

“It’s like the old saying goes, Kid. Wonders never cease.”

“I guess that’s true, Heyes. I guess that’s true.”

#####################################################
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InsideOutlaw

InsideOutlaw

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Age : 63
Location : Colorado

Fireworks Empty
PostSubject: Re: Fireworks   Fireworks EmptyWed Jul 31, 2019 1:00 pm

A Day Early, A Dollar Short - final chapter


“Just let me sit a horse.  I’ll be fine,” growled Heyes as the Kid secured his lariat lacing it across his partner’s chest.  Heyes was lying on his travois his injured foot nestled in the bedding taken from the cabin.  It had taken the Kid and Doctor Minner the better part of the night to construct the two conveyances and most of the morning to force the two occupants into them.




Smiling down at his partner, Curry shook his head.  “Give it up, Heyes.  You’d just end up fallin’ outta the saddle and I ain’t picking your dusty ass up.  I did enough of that yesterday.”  He glanced over at the doctor who was securing Mac to his own travois.  “Just relax and enjoy the ride.  At least you don’t have to walk twenty-some miles in a pair of cowboy boots.”




“Kid, I’m not sure we’re doing the right thing here.”




“I’m sure we are.  You’ll be sick all over again if we make a run for it.  I ain’t riskin’ it.”




Desperation etched Heyes’ features.  “You make a run for it then.  You can circle back and bust me out later.”




“And leave you with the good Doctor Minner to protect you from Mac?  I don’t think so.”




“He’s tied up!!”




“Don’t matter.  Mac’s already proven he’s slipperier than a greased pig.”




Frustrated, Heyes’ snapped, “You’re gonna be stubborn about this, ain’t you?”




“Now you’re thinkin’ clearly.”  With a pat to Heyes’ shoulder, the Kid stood up and turned to Minner.  “You ready, Doc?”




“I believe so, Mr. Curry,” replied Minner leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind he knew exactly who he was dealing with, “Mr. Lamford’s as comfortable as I can make him.” He stood up and dusted the dirt off his knees.  His formerly good suit was dirty, rumpled, and stretched in ways he could’ve never had imagined.  His wife was going to have a fit when she saw it and him.   Strangely, he was enjoying this adventure.  Who would believe he’d meet Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes?  And, discover he rather liked them?




Mac frowned up at him.  So the Doc believed him about these two crooks after all?  He could use that. “Thanks Doc.”  With his hand, Mac gestured for the doctor to lean down.  Lowering his voice, he whispered.  “You better keep an eye on those two.  They might seem like nice fellows but Curry’s a killer and Heyes is somethin’ worse.  They’re gonna try somethin’, mark my words.”




“And what exactly do you expect me to do if they do?  I’m a doctor, not a sheriff,” replied Dr. Minner curtly before he straightened up and walked away leaving a stymied Mac staring after him. 




The Kid untied the horses and passed the bay’s reins to the Doc.  “I know you’re happy to be walkin’ but keep it slow n’ easy.  I ain’t lookin’ forward to the blisters I’ll be raisin’.”




With a grin, Minner took the reins.  “Turn about’s fair play, Mr. Curry, although my blisters aren’t on my feet.”




Curry smiled.  “Call me Kid.  I figure we ought to be on a first name basis by now, you fixin’ up Heyes and all.  But there’ll be fireworks if you use Heyes’, he ain’t fond of it.”




“That so, Hannibal?” sneered Mac.




“Nice going, Kid,” said Heyes softly with an extreme eye roll.  Turning to Mac, he smiled.  “That’s right, Cyrus Elwood.”




Both Minner and Curry laughed.




XXX 




The going did indeed prove to be slow and the sun was on its descent before the small party stopped for a rest in a meadow filled with dried grasses and a salt bed where a pond had existed before the summer’s parching heat.  The Kid and the doctor helped the wounded men out of the travois and sat them down on the grass in the broad shade of a blue spruce.  Curry passed around the last of the dried porcupine and offered each man cold, canned beans or potatoes he’d brought from the cabin then sat down and pulled off his boots with a sigh of relief.  Rubbing each foot, he could feel the swell of the blisters through his socks.  Big, puffy clouds scuttled overhead and darkness on the horizon grew steadily as they ate their paltry meal.




“It appears we may finally have some relief from the heatwave, gentlemen,” said Dr. Minner gesturing towards the sky.




“We better hope not,” grunted Mac.  




The doctor was puzzled by the comment.  “Why do you say that?”




“Those are cumulus clouds.”  Heyes shifted his hips and winced at the pain it caused in his foot.




“I am familiar with cumulus clouds, Mr. Heyes, and I believe they mean rain,” smiled Minner.




Heyes ignored Mac’s derisive snort.  “They also mean thunderheads are building and that means lightning.”




The Kid chimed in, “What Heyes and Mac are tryin’ to say is there’s so much fuel in the forest even one unlucky strike could touch off a firestorm.”




“Surely the odds are in our favor that won’t happen.”  Discomforted, Dr. Minner stood up and shaded his eyes with one hand looking towards the darkness to the west.




Heyes smiled.  “You a gambling man, Doc?” 




“I’ve been known to tempt Lady Luck once in a while.”




“How ‘bout a few hands while we rest up?”  Heyes withdrew a pack of cards from his chest pocket.  “Stud?”




“What’re we playin’ for?” asked Mac as he put down his can of cold beans.  “Ain’t worth playin’ if’n we’re playin’ for nothin’.”




“Wait a second, Methodists don’t gamble, do they?” asked Curry.




 “You got somethin’ against Methodists, boy?”  Mac scowled at the Kid and added, “Ain’t gamblin’ if’n we don’t bet.”




“No sir.  Just thought pleasure-seeking was against the rules,” said Curry, sheepishly.




“Pleasure’s not important to Mac,” smirked Heyes.




Mac scowled at him.  “Only pleasure I seek is seein’ your dead body picked over by the crows.”




Minner had sat quietly through the bickering, but now spoke up loudly.  “Chits,” he said.  “We can use chits for chips.”   He retrieved his bag and rummaged inside it coming up with a small pad of paper.  He began tearing off small strips.




“So we win paper?” ask the Kid.




 The doctor stopped tearing paper and pondered the question.  “We’ll play for questions.  Winner gets to ask one question of the rest of us.  Honest answers only.”




The Kid and Heyes shared a cautious glance.  “I don’t know…” started Curry.




“We already know who you are,” snapped Mac.  “What the hell else matters?”




Heyes couldn’t help a sarcastic grin.  “He’s got us there, Kid.  All right, I’m in.”




Minner dealt the cards with the familiarity of a longstanding player.  The good doctor played well and with great confidence causing Heyes to rethink his question.  Heyes won the first hand but not as easily as he’d expected.  “I gotta ask, Doc.  Where’d you learn to play cards like that?”




Mac snorted.  “That’s your question?” 




“Yes, it is.”  Heyes gave the doctor a kind smile.  “I’m curious.  You play well, better than most.”




“Thank you, Mr. Heyes.”




“Please, it’s just Heyes.  Mister sounds like my pa.”




“Well, Heyes, that’s the wonderful thing about growing up in a large city like Chicago, you meet many people from many walks of life.  Some of them even teach you a thing or two if you are willing to learn.  Suffice it to say, I found my childhood illuminating.”




“That doesn’t really answer the question, Doc,” said the Kid.




“Yes, I suppose I should be more specific.  I was taught the finer points of poker by Miss Kitty LeRoy while she was visiting my fair city with her fourth husband.”




“Kitty LeRoy?  Didn’t her husband end up killin’ her?” asked the Kid.




“That was her fifth husband.  Dear Kitty had difficulty with the confinement of marriage,” said Minner wistfully before clearing his throat.  “However, she was a wonderful mentor to a young man.”




“I’ll bet she was,” said Mac snidely, noting the dreamy look in the doctor’s eyes.  “How’d a nob like you fall in with a woman like that?”




“You’d be surprised, Mr. Lamford,” smiled the doctor,  “what a checkered past I have but, luckily for me, medical school was a saving grace as was Miss Kitty, rest her soul.”




Heyes took the cards and performed an elaborate shuffle.  “Shall we?”




“One more hand, then we need to get a move on,” Curry firmly stated.  “I’m not stumblin’ around out here in the dark.”




Surprisingly, Mac won the hand after a lucky draw.  He looked around at the other three players with a mean, assessing glance before asking, “I wanna know about this amnesty deal for you and Heyes, Curry.” 




The two ex-outlaw partners shared shocked glances as Dr. Minner looked back and forth between them and Mac.  “Amnesty?” he asked.  “Have you been offered amnesties?”




“It’s my question, Doc, and I’ll be havin’ an answer,” growled Mac.




“We can’t talk about that,” Heyes sat back and crossed his arms.




Mac frowned.  “So you’re welchin’ on me?”




“No, ask us somethin’ else,” replied Curry.




“Ain’t nothin’ else I want to know.  That’s my question and you promised to answer it.”




“Come now, Mr. Lamford, it is obvious they are not at liberty to answer you.  I suspect some legal issue.  Am I correct, sirs?” 




“Yeah, Doc, you could say that.”  The Kid coldly stared at Mac, waiting for him to push it further.




“So someone really has gone and offered you two amnesties?  I heard somethin’ about the state of Wyoming coming up with a crackpot idea like that, just didn’t believe anyone’d be stupid enough to see it through.”  Mac grimly chuckled.  “That’s why it’s a big secret, Doc, if’n the press got a hold of it, the governor’d be burned at the stake.”




“Well, if you already know about it, then I suppose no answer is needed.  Shall we move on, gentlemen?” Minner stood up and offered his hand to Mac, pulling him up and close to him.  “I would suggest you stop baiting these men, sir.  I, for one, prefer not to tangle with desperadoes.”




Heyes let the Kid take his arm and support some of his weight as he hopped back towards the horses.  Under his breath he said, “Dammit, Kid, he must’ve heard us talking.  If he shoots off his big mouth, we’re finished.”




“C’mon, we already know we could be finished.  Let’s just get you to Grand Lake and then we can figure out our next moves.”




Mac meekly allowed the Doctor to aid him, leaning on him more than necessary.  He’d been prepared to shove him aside but had hesitated when he felt the unmistakable bulge of a gun under the doctor’s frock coat.  The damn fool had been armed this whole time--he was just too yellow to act!  He waited until they were nearly to the horses before he whipped his arm around Minner’s neck, viciously twisted him to one side, and seized the concealed Derringer.




Heyes and the Kid swung around.  Curry went for his gun but stopped when he saw the unwavering gun pointed directly at Heyes’ heart.  Instead, he slowly lifted his arms in surrender.  Heyes stood next to him, his hands at his side, refusing to submit.




“Hands up, Heyes.  Drop your weapons, both of you,” grunted Mac.




The Kid started to reach down, but Heyes grabbed his arm and said, “No.” 




“Ain’t that kinda dumb with me pointin’ this here gun at you, ladylike as it might be?”  Mac tightened his grip on Minner, who stood as still as possible.




“It’s plain to me you’re gonna kill us once we put our weapons down.  This way, you kill me and the Kid’s gonna kill you and you’ll never see that reward money,” Heyes stated blandly.  




“That so?” Mac looked from one partner to the other.  “Guess you’re right.”  Shifting the gun, he pointed it at Minner’s temple.  “You say you ain’t killers--you willin’ to risk the Doc’s life?  Put down your damn guns.”




Panic lit Minner’s face.  “Please…I have a family.”




Heyes’ eyes narrowed.  “Mac had a family too.  Didn’t you, Mac?”




The Kid whispered, “Heyes, don’t…” but his partner kept talking.




Heyes stared at Mac. “Yeah, that’s right, you weren’t the only one eavesdropping.”




Giving a throaty growl, Mac gripped Minner’s throat even tighter.  




“See, Doc, Mac here blames us for his family’s death.”




Minner’s eyes widened.




“No, Doc, the Kid and I didn’t kill them but a gang of outlaws did and, to Mac, that’s the same thing.”




The snub-nosed barrel of the Derringer started to shake as Mac’s rage grew.  “Don’t you talk about my family, Heyes.”  He voice broke. “Shut him up, Curry, or I swear…”




“Heyes,” hissed the Kid.




“See, Doc, what Mac doesn’t want to own up to is he rode off for his own selfish reasons and left his poor family to fend for themselves.” Heyes gave an ugly smile.  “Why, some folks might even say he’s responsible.”  




As Mac screamed aloud and began to pull the trigger, Minner ground his heel down on his captor’s wounded foot and, released, dove to the ground.  Heyes shoved aside his partner. Unbalanced, the Kid drew and fired as Mac snapped off a shot.  The Derringer’s bullet whizzed by Heyes harmlessly, and everyone froze for a moment before a blossom of blood erupted on Mac’s chest.  He looked down at it, puzzled, before slowly crumpling to the ground.     




Stunned, the Kid looked down at his hand and then at his partner.  “Are you all right?  Why’d you shove me?!  I couldn’t get a decent shot!”




“I was afraid he might go for you first.” replied Heyes.  “I’m fine.”




“You ain’t gonna be when I get done with you.  Heyes, what the hell were you thinkin’?!”




“I’m sorry, Kid.  I didn’t know what else to do.  He was going to kill you the second you dropped your gun.”




Holstering his Colt, the Kid ran a hand through his hair.  “Sheesh, some day you’re gonna be the death of me.”




A broad grin lit Heyes’ face.  “But not today.”




They walk together to where Minner sat on the ground cradling Mac’s head in his lap.  He glanced up at the two men and shook his head silently.  




Pain flashed across Curry’s face and he knelt down next to the dying man.  




Mac smiled weakly.  “Guess I make three, huh?”




“Dammit, Mac, you left me no choice,” said the Kid.




Mac weakly shook his head.  “You always have a choice.  I made mine, you made yours.”  His gaze shifted to Heyes.  “I’ll see you in Hell, you bastard!” 




“It didn’t have to end like this, Mac,” said Heyes, sadly.




A coughing fit overtook Mac and his chest heaved with the effort.  “Yes,” he whispered.  “It did.”  




“Is there anyone we should contact, Mr. Lamford?  Do you have a next of kin?” asked Dr. Minner.




“Ain’t nobody left but me,” said Mac with his last breath.  The three men solemnly watched as the light faded slowly from Mac’s eyes and death claimed him.




Minner laid him down gently and got to his feet.  “It was self-defense.  There was nothing you could do.”




The Kid gave him the ghost of a smile.  “Somehow that don’t make me feel any better.”




“What do we do with the body?” asked Minner.




Heyes swung his head away from Mac and towards the doctor.  “What do you mean?”




Minner looked at him.  “Well, we can’t take him into Grand Lake, you’ll be arrested.”  




“We’re still wanted men, Doc,” said the Kid slowly.  Heyes just kept watching the man wondering what he was getting at and hoping he knew.




“I know that and that’s what worries me.  A trial might prove, shall we say, fatal for you.” 




“What are you suggesting?” said Heyes.




“We give him a proper, Christian burial as best we can.  We’ll lay him and this whole, ugly story to rest.  I will go home to my lovely wife and you will go on your way to amnesty.”  Minner stooped down to pick up his gun and slipped it inside his coat.  “But I don’t want to hear about you two getting into any trouble in the future.  Understood?”




“Understood,” grinned Heyes.




XXX




“Rest in peace, Mac Lamford,” finished the Kid.




“Amen.”




“Amen.”




Together, the three men turned their backs on the pile of stacked rocks and walked over towards the horses.




“One thing I don’t understand, Doc.  You had a gun on you the whole time.  You could’ve gotten the drop on us a bunch of times.  Why didn’t you try?” asked the Kid.




“I didn’t want the complication, Mr. Curry,” smiled Dr. Minner.




 What do you mean?” asked the Kid.




“He means we’re not the only ones with a past to put behind them,” answered Heyes.




“Good day, gentlemen, and good luck.”  Dr. Minner picked up his medical bag and started down the trail to Grand Lake.




A flash of lightning split the sky followed by a distant peal of thunder rolling across the treetops as raindrops ricocheted in the dust.




The Kid looked at his partner.  “You gonna be able to ride?”




“I can ride if I have to.”




The Kid nodded.  “Sit down, I’ll get the horses.”  He unharnessed the animals from the travois and led them over to his best friend. “Now what do we do?”




“We go find Lom and see if the governor’s still willing to give us an amnesty.”  Heyes struggled to his feet.




“If he’s not?” asked the Kid as he helped Heyes into his saddle.






Heyes smiled widely as his partner mounted then he reined his horse around.  “I hear the poker’s good in Chicago.” 

_________________
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“The purpose of life isn’t to arrive at death in perfect condition but to slide into it sideways with your hair mussed, your clothes disheveled, a martini in one hand and chocolate in the other, shouting ‘Whooeee, what a ride!’”--Hunter S. Thompson
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