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 October 2013- "To laugh often and much" - Quotation

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PostSubject: October 2013- "To laugh often and much" - Quotation   Tue Oct 01, 2013 2:58 pm

Well, folks.  What a great response to our story challenge  with 11 stories being posted - that's a whopping 42% response from the membership!  clapping   Remuda has opted not to poll one of hers as it appeared on another site, but it still deserves a special chocolate treat from the boys  chocolate dipped 

So - to next month's challenge, this time from Riders57:

sun 1 

"To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded." spinning daisy 

Now - if you can't get something from that, you've never seen an episode! Black Cat  If you want to get all seasonal and make it a scary hallow'een one - feel free.  Flying Bat 

So get writing folks and if the challenge stories were new to any members maybe you've got a good idea of the range and variety of interpretations there can be and feel you want to have a go.  Writing 

Now, I've just got in from a busy day at the stables, so I'm off to run a curry comb across my flanks and have a hose down before I put up the poll for September's stories.

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PostSubject: Re: October 2013- "To laugh often and much" - Quotation   Tue Oct 08, 2013 7:00 am

This is within the length limit, not counting the note at the end.

To Succeed

Newly-ordained Father Jacques-Marie Baptiste settled at his favorite table in the seminary garden and stacked the aging newspapers on a chair, before picking up his croissant and café au lait.  As he ate, he contemplated the verdant valley below, the spires of the many churches in the village competing with the mountains for his attention.  The scent of lavender wafted past.  Tomorrow he would be leaving this all behind, following in the footsteps of that most illustrious of his seminary’s alumni, Archbishop Lamy, to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  

He shook his head, laughing ruefully.  He’d never managed to convince his fellow seminarians that ‘le Americain’ had been nowhere near Santa Fe, that it was as foreign to him as to them.  Baptiste turned his attention to the pile of American newspapers that had been sent him from that distant land he used to call home, and would soon do so again.  Shuffling through the sheets, one headline caught his eye.  The fragrance of the gardens surrounding him faded as he remembered…

~~~oOo~~~

The three men sat at their ease at the corner table, a bottle of whiskey before them.  The smoke from their cigars disappeared into the fetid air of the dimly lit saloon.  

The youth appeared out of the murk then hesitated before them.  He stared at his feet, gulped, and looked up.  “Mr….  Mr. Heyes, could I speak with you?”

Dark eyes examined him.  The boy was young, how young was hard to say through the dirt.  Raw, chapped hands descended from wrists dangling too far beyond the frayed cuffs of the boy’s grimy shirt.  The shirt was torn, displaying ribs protruding against the flesh of his emaciated chest.  The boy’s besmirched face couldn’t hide that he had no need to shave.  The dark eyes queried the blue ones seated next to him before turning back to the boy.  

“Got the wrong man, kid.  The name’s Joshua Strawn; my partner here is Thaddeus Hawk.”  He reached into a pocket and pulled out a coin, tossing it to the boy.  “Go get yourself something to eat while you look for this Heyes person.”

The boy let the coin fall to the floor.  He hunched his shoulders and looked down, sighing.

Blue eyes looked at brown then back at the boy.  “Sit down, son.  Maybe we can help you anyway.  What did you want with this Heyes fella?”  The blond pushed a chair out with his foot.  Brown eyes rolled, but their owner remained silent.  The third man snorted and opened his mouth, but at a quick frown from the blue eyes, fell back silent.

The boy pulled the chair to him and sat tentatively at the front of the chair, watching his hands in his lap twining in intricate patterns.  “I… I…”  He gulped and turned his attention to the three men watching him.  “I wanted to join his gang.”

The third man laughed.  “Won’t nobody take the likes of you.”  He looked sheepish as two sets of eyes glared at him and subsided, muttering to himself.

Brown eyes noted the boy’s flushed face.  “So this Heyes is an outlaw, is he?  Why would you want to live that life?”

The boy looked down at his lap and didn’t answer.

The man contemplated him.  Finally, he pulled out several coins.  “Look, son, maybe we can work something out, even if I’m not this Heyes you’re looking for.  You might be just what I need for a job.  But, frankly, you need a bath before we discuss it.  Take this, clean yourself up, and meet Thaddeus and me at the Lulu’s Café down the street in about an hour.”

“I don’t take charity.”

He chuckled.  “It ain’t charity; it’s self-preservation.  My nose can’t take much more.  Get some new clothes while you’re at it; your present ones won’t work for the job I have in mind.”

The boy’s face flamed, but he accepted the money.  He mumbled something, turned, and left.

The three men watched him leave.  Once he was out of hearing, the third turned and hissed, “Heyes, what are you thinking?  Devil’s Hole ain’t a charity home.  We don’t need children.”

“Wheat…”

The one word caused Wheat to subside after glancing at the Kid, but he continued to mutter.

“That’s the problem with you, Wheat.  You have no imagination,” said Heyes.  “Don’t worry, he won’t be joining the gang, but he just might prove useful.”

The Kid glanced quickly at Heyes then turned to Wheat.  “Wheat, go find Kyle and the boys; make sure they’re not in any trouble.”

Wheat glared but pushed his chair back and turned to leave.

Heyes spoke, “Head back to the Hole in the morning.  Leave us one of the mules and a saddle kit for it.  And make sure you get all the supplies we discussed.  We’ll join you in a week or so; there’re still some things we need to do.”

~~~oOo~~~

Heyes and Curry sat at a table in Lulu’s Café.  Heyes sat facing the door.

“Wheat’s right.  That kid don’t belong with us.  Think about us at that age.”

“I am, Kid.  He’s hungry and desperate.  That’s a bad combination.”

“Yeah, we were lucky.  We survived.”

“Luck had nothing to do with it.  But there were two of us.  Besides, I have a plan for him.  He could prove useful.”

“You gonna let me in on this plan of yours?”

“Later, here he comes.”  Heyes signaled the waitress and pushed out a chair for the boy.

He sat and looked at them warily.  With his face washed and hair brushed out of his eyes, he looked even younger than he had at the saloon.  His eyes gleamed as the waitress set a plate of stew and cornbread before him.  Still, he hesitated, looking down at his hands folded in this lap.

“Go ahead and eat, boy, you’re no good to me if you starve to death,” Heyes spoke roughly.

The boy murmured a quiet, “Amen,” then picked up a spoon and began to shovel the food in.

The Kid smiled.  “Slow down there, boy.  When’s the last time you ate?”

“A few days ago.”

“Eat more slowly then or you’ll make yourself sick, and that’d be a waste of good food.  Trust us, we know from experience.”  

The boy smiled shyly at him.

“We can’t keep callin’ you boy.  What’s your name?”

He hesitated.  “Jacques.”

“Jock?”

“No, Jacques.  It’s French, but most of my friends call me Jack.”

Heyes looked interested.  “You’re French?”

“No, but my folks are.”  

Heyes nodded.  “So why are you so all fired set on finding this Heyes?”

Jack flushed but answered defiantly.  “I have to eat somehow.  I’m not going home, so don’t think you can make me.  If I’m going to be an outlaw, I might as well join the best.  Everyone has heard of Hannibal Heyes, Kid Curry, and the Devil’s Hole gang.”

“Wouldn’t dream of suggesting you go home.  But does it have to be the Devil’s Hole gang?  Would you consider working for Mr. Hawk here and me?”

“You two are outlaws?”

The Kid smiled.  “Let’s just say we’ve been known to bend the rules a time or two.”

“Well…”

“At least until you find Heyes and Curry, what have you got to lose?”  Heyes smiled at the boy, who slowly smiled back.

~~~oOo~~~

Jack stood holding the saddle the Kid had handed him looking doubtfully at the mule.  He reached tentatively to place the saddle on its back but jerked back when the mule turned and brayed at him.

Curry laughed but took the saddle from him.  “Don’t mind Sadie here, she’s just sayin’ howdy.  You ever ridden before?”  He looked quizzically at the boy.

Jack flushed.  “Sure, I…  No, not really.”

Curry quirked an eyebrow and looked at Heyes, who shook his head and turned his attention back to his horse.   Jack looked down then back at the Kid, who smiled and finished saddling Sadie.  “Well, watch closely how I do this.  Next time you have to do it yourself.”

~~~oOo~~~

They made camp early that night.  Jack moved stiffly and sat gingerly on a log to eat his supper.  “Are all saddles that hard?” he asked around a mouthful of beans.

Heyes laughed out loud.  “Yup, pretty much.  You get used to it.  I’m guessing you’re not from farm stock.”

“No.  My father’s a baker.”

“Well, even baker’s kids ride where we come from,” the Kid commented.  “You must live in a pretty big town.”

Jack looked at him sharply.  “I guess,” he muttered and applied himself to consuming as much food as possible.  

After his plate was empty, he put it down and looked up, a determined expression on his face.  “Look, Mr. Strawn, Mr. Hawk, I’m grateful, but I told you I don’t want charity.  Is there really a job, or did you just say that to be kind?”

Heyes frowned.  “I’m never kind,” he growled.  “Outlaw leaders don’t get there by being ‘kind.’  No, I have a job for you in the next town.”

“Really?  What’s the job?”  Jack looked at Heyes.  The Kid, off to the side, also looked a query at Heyes.

“I’ll tell you when we get closer.”  He stood up and walked over to his saddle bags, from which he extracted a bottle of whiskey.  He picked up their coffee cups, threw away the dregs, and poured some whiskey into each cup, pouring just a small amount into Jack’s.

The Kid glared at Heyes and opened his mouth, but shut it after Heyes gave him a quick shake of his head.

“So, Jack, you’re on your own now, your own man.  You deserve a man’s drink,” said Heyes, handing him the cup.

Jack took the cup and sniffed it doubtfully.  He looked from Heyes to the Kid, who was standing with his back to them, and, nose wrinkling, quickly downed the drink.  Suddenly, his face turned bright red, his eyes began to water, and he burst out coughing and sputtering as the whiskey turned his throat into fire.

While he recovered, Curry walked over to Heyes and muttered.  “Heyes, what do you think you’re doin’?  He’s too young.”

“Relax.  I doubt he’s any younger than you were when we first drank.”

“That’s no recommendation.”

“Yeah, well.  He needs to learn if he’s going to be on his own out here; might make him more talkative.  Also, it’ll help with the pain from those saddle sores he’s trying to ignore.”

The Kid chuckled.  “Save some for tomorrow then; that’s when he’ll really need it.”

Heyes grinned but walked over and poured another tot into Jack’s cup.

Jack stared at it then looked dubiously at the two men grinning at him.  He sipped the liquor.  This time, although it warmed his throat, it didn’t burn.  He took a bigger gulp and held out his cup for more.  Heyes contemplated him then poured another short shot into his cup.  “That’ll be enough for you for the night.”

~~~oOo~~~

Jack smiled muzzily at the two men sitting by the fire.  They glanced at each other and smiled back.

“So, Jack,” began Heyes, putting his hands behind his head and stretching out his legs, his back against a tree.  “How’s the outlaw life, so far?”

“S’good.”

“Guess being out on the trail is a little different from being the baker’s boy in… what town was that?”

“I ain’t saying.  You can’t make me go back to Chicago!  Umm… or wherever I’m from.”

“We’re not the law, Jack.  We can’t send you anywhere,” the Kid reassured him.  “So why’d you leave?  It so hard being the baker’s son that you decided the outlaw life was better?”

Jack looked at the two of them.  He wanted to tell his new friends everything, but a little caution made it through the alcohol fumes in his brain.  He hesitated.

Heyes spoke nonchalantly.  “Everyone’s got a story out here, Jack.  We all left where we were for a reason.  When we were your age – well we didn’t have any folks; we didn’t have a choice.  Sounds like you do.”

“You didn’t have any parents?”

“Nope.”

“What happened to them?”

The Kid spoke quietly.  “They died, didn’t have any other family, so we lit out on our own.”

They sat quietly for a moment.  

The Kid resumed, “You said your folks were from France.  Got any other family?  Any brothers or sisters?”

“There’re seven of us kids.”

“Nine’s a lot of mouths to feed.”

“Yeah, well, it’s not so bad.  Francois, that’s my oldest brother.  He helps out in the bakery, and Eloise, she’s married and moved away.  Henri, my other brother, does the deliveries for the business.”

“A real family business, I guess.”

“Yeah, but there’s nothing left for me.  I’m the youngest boy.”

Heyes turned serious.  “So you got pushed out?”

“No, nothing like that.  It’s worse.”

The Kid’s eyebrows rose.  “Worse than being pushed out of your home?  They beat you?”

“No, no… Nothing like that.”

“Well, then why’d you leave?”

“We’re Catholic, you see.”

“So?”

“So, my parents decided I should be a priest!” he cried, anguished.  “And, and they want to send me to some seminary back in France, back where they grew up.”

“Well…”  Heyes and the Kid looked at each other.  “That doesn’t seem so bad.”

“Don’t you see?  If I go to a seminary now, especially one in France, I’ll never see the world, I’ll never have adventures.”  He flushed.  “Never be with a girl.”

“Never be with a girl.”  The Kid was appalled.

“No, priests can’t be, you know.”

~~~oOo~~~

Jack woke to an aching head.  He groaned as he tried to rise – his leg muscles protested and other body parts reminded him how hard the saddle had been.

Heyes handed him a canteen.  “’Bout time you got up.  As the newest member of the gang, the chores fall to you.  That means you gotta fetch the water and cook some breakfast, then clean up and get us packed.  Now get going!”

Jack opened his mouth to protest.

The Kid cut him short.  “Don’t be arguin’ with the leader; that’s a sure way to have a real short life on the outlaw trail.”

Jack glowered but grabbed the pot and headed off, muttering to himself.

The Kid grinned at Heyes.  “How long you think he’s goin’ to put up with this?”

“Long enough for what I need from him.  By then he’ll be happy to get away from us.”

The Kid laughed.

~~~oOo~~~

Jack clenched his teeth as he dismounted that evening.  He silently groaned when handed a pot for water.  Legs bowed, he staggered off, making sure his chafed thighs didn’t rub against each other.

Heyes and the Kid grinned as they watched him go.

“He’s tough,” Heyes commented.

“Yeah.  Now tell me what you’re plannin’.”

~~~oOo~~~

Heyes waited until Jack had finished his prayers and begun eating.  “Jack, tomorrow we’ll reach Hanford, so let’s talk about this job.”

Jack choked on his supper.  When he finished sputtering he looked uncertainly at Heyes.  “Really, Mr. Strawn, you really have a job for me?”

“Yeah.  But first…  You were right, kid, I am Hannibal Heyes.”

“And I’m Kid Curry.”

Jack’s eyes opened wide.

“Now the Wash Valley Consolidated Mining Company,” Heyes resumed, “runs the gold they mine to the Denver mint on the Wyoming-Colorado Stage Line.  I need you to go to the Line’s offices in Hanford and get the schedule of those runs.  A kid like you won’t look nearly as suspicious as one of us.”

“You’re going to rob the stage?”  Jack turned pale.

“That is what outlaws do, Jack.  They rob folks,” Curry stated.

Jack looked back and forth at the men before him.

“So you serious about joining the gang or not, Jack?”  Heyes asked.  “We’re not a charity here.  You want to be in the gang, you need to earn it.”

Jack stared at his boots.  Finally, face pale, he looked up.  “What do I need to do?”

~~~oOo~~~

The three stood in the grove of trees, the town of Hanford visible in the distance.

“Okay, Jack.  Go in there, get the information, then meet us at Miss Lizzie’s, it’s a half mile down that track there.”  Heyes pointed out a well-worn path leading off to the north.

Jack squared his shoulders, mounted Sadie, gave them a nod and set off down the road towards Hanford.

Curry turned to Heyes.  “You know at some point he’s going to spill that the Devil’s Hole gang is interested in the stage.”

“Yup.  I want them worried.  Think you can find the right woman at Ms. Lizzie’s for him?”

The Kid grinned.  “I was thinking Flo.”

Heyes laughed out loud.  “Flaming Flo?  She’ll eat him alive.”

“Yeah, I figure she’ll convince him maybe he’s not as ready as he thinks he is.”

~~~oOo~~~

Miss Lizzie ushered Jack into the room where Heyes and the Kid were playing poker.

“Joshua, this boy says you’re expecting him.”

Heyes looked up and nodded.  “Have a seat, Jack.  Be with you soon.”

Jack looked around.  His eyes widened and he blushed as he saw the dishabille of the women in the room.  A brunette, her gown open, sat in the Kid’s lap.  He casually ran a hand along and under the top of her chemise as he played.  A redhead leaned over Heyes, whispering in his ear.  The corner of his mouth quirked, but he returned his focus to the game.

Game over, the men stood.  Curry whispered to his brunette, who looked at Jack, laughed and hurried out a door.

Heyes turned to Jack.  “You get the information?”

Jack nodded, but as he opened his mouth, Heyes cut him off.  “Good.  We’ll talk later.”  Heyes nuzzled the redhead’s neck, and the two headed up the stairs.

Jack watched until they disappeared.

“Jack.”

He whipped around and found the Kid standing behind him accompanied by a large woman, overflowing her slip.  Her brassy hair was piled high and her face wore a mask of make-up.  Jack’s mouth opened.  He looked at her, blushed, and quickly looked away.

“Jack.”  The Kid reclaimed his attention.  “This is Flo; she’s going to take care of you, while Joshua and I are busy.”

“That’s right, honey.  I’ll take real good care of you.”  Flo’s laughter blared as she took Jack’s hand.  He looked stunned, then gulped.  Flo led him off.  

Curry chuckled and turned to the brunette.  “Now where were we?” he murmured into her ear.  The two followed the others up the stairs.

~~~oOo~~~

“From here we can get a good look at the stage.  It should be along soon.”  Heyes and his companions lay on their stomachs, looking over the edge of the bluff at a well-worn track below.

“I didn’t know the Devil’s Hole gang robbed stagecoaches.”  

The two looked at him.  Jack had been quiet since they had left Miss Lizzie’s, saying little and distancing himself when they camped.  He appeared to be wrestling with his conscience.

“Well, Jack, we’re not known for it, but it’s always good to change things up,” Heyes explained.  “Keeps them guessing.  And if there’s gold on the stage, well…”

“I guess.”

“There a problem, Jack?” the Kid asked quietly.

“I guess not.  We’re not robbing this one are we?  Just the three of us, I mean?”

The Kid laughed.  “Not hardly, it takes more’n three people to rob a guarded stage, especially when one of ‘em can’t shoot.”

They lay quietly waiting for the stage to appear.

Finally, they heard noises, the crack of a whip and the rumble of the wheels on the track as an overburdened stage slowly lumbered into view.  Its driver was accompanied by several guards riding alongside.

As it slowed to take a series of bends in the trail, it was confronted by a mound of dirt across the track.  The horses stopped.  Suddenly, nine horsemen swept from behind a nearby rock formation, guns blazing.  Pandemonium reigned as the guards met the gunmen with shotgun blasts.

As the three watched, stunned, the battle raged below them.  Horses plunged and screamed, and dust arose, making it hard to see what was happening.  Finally, it was over.  The driver and remaining guards hurried on.  Five bandits streaked away, foiled.  They left two guards and four bandits lying on the blood-soaked ground.

“Time to get going.”  Heyes stood up and patted the dust from his clothes.  He took a last look at the scene below then turned to the horses.  The Kid nodded and joined him.

Jack still stood, looking down at the scene.  “But shouldn’t we go down?  See if we can help or something?”

“No.  We’re bandits, boy.  That stage is going to send the law out here pretty darn fast.  Last thing we want is to be anywhere around here when they arrive.  Now get moving!”

As Jack still hesitated, the Kid spoke gently.  “Nothing we can do to help them, Jack.  It’s a hard life you’re choosin’ when you choose the outlaw trail.”  Jack slowly came over and mounted Sadie.  He looked back over his shoulder as they rode away.

~~~oOo~~~

That night after supper, he refused the whiskey offered him.  Heyes and the Kid glanced at each other.

“So, Jack,” Heyes began.  “Tomorrow we head for the Hole.  Once we’re there the Kid here will teach you to shoot, and you’ll have to prove yourself to the rest of the gang if you want to stay.”

Jack looked from him to the Kid.

“Yeah, Jack, you have to be able to shoot.  You willin’ to kill a man?  If not, you’re no good to us,” Curry stated.

The three were quiet as the fire crackled.

“Of course,” Heyes continued.  “If you decide you don’t want to join us, now’s the time to tell us, before you see the Hole.  You’ve earned your pay and I guess that’d be enough for a train ticket to Chicago.  But once you’re at the Hole, there’s no going back.  It’s too dangerous for us.”  He looked at Jack.  “You think about it and tell us in the morning.”

~~~oOo~~~

Jack turned to the men accompanying him.  “Mr….” Blue eyes warned him and he gulped.  “Mr. Strawn, Mr. Hawk, thank you.  I, I’m sorry I won’t stay, but…”

They grinned.  “Not a problem, Jack.”

As the train to Chicago arrived, the Kid turned to Heyes.  “Seems kind of strange, Cooley’s gang attacking that stage while we were watchin’.”

“Yeah, well I might’ve let something slip to Maude while at Lizzie’s”

The Kid glared at him.  “You know she’s Cooley’s gal.  You set them up.”

“No, Kid, I just gave them the opportunity.  Not my fault, they took it.  Anyway, now the mining company knows that its stages are vulnerable and others were sniffing around.  Should be just what’s needed to get them to use the train.  There’s a couple of spots between Brimstone and the mountains that’d work for us.  Just let them get comfortable using the train then…”  

As the train began to move, Jack hurried on board.  His last sight of his companions was them bickering, breaking off only to wave good-bye.  

~~~oOo~~~

“There you are.  Alors, we must hurry, Jacques.  You’ll be late to teach us all to speak the English for our new posts.”

The scent of lavender drew Baptiste back.  “What?  Oh.  Oui, let’s go.”  He smiled.  “I must teach English, Maurice, not the English.”

Maurice shrugged.  “A little I must know, even if they do speak French in New Orleans.  Maybe on the boat you can teach me more.  Now the others are waiting.”

While Jacques gathered his cup and plate and headed back inside, Maurice stooped to pick up the papers.  Maurice pondered the headlines as he followed.

He called, “Jacques, this headline, what does it mean, ‘amnesty’?”



Author’s note:  Jean-Baptiste Lamy was the first Bishop and Archbishop of the diocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico.  He was educated at the seminary in Clermont, France then did advanced studies at the seminary in Montferrat, France (now a part of Clermont).  He arrived in New Mexico in 1851 and served until his resignation in 1885.  For a marvelous fictionalized account of his life in New Mexico, read Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop.
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PostSubject: Those people who keep us going.   Mon Oct 14, 2013 8:14 pm

Kenny strolled by the cell just to do a quick check on the inmate but then stopped and stepped quietly inside the doorway to get a closer look at what Heyes was doing. It didn't take him long to see what the inmate was looking at and he smiled and waited patiently for the man to acknowledge him.
Heyes was vaguely aware of Kenny standing there but he was too absorbed into the photograph to pay him much mind. He kept stroking the image with his thumb as though by doing so he was actually having some physical contact with the child herself, as though she would then know him and know who and what he was. Suddenly he felt that rush again of paternal pride wash over him and this time he thought for sure that he was going to be sick.
He managed to keep himself under control however and finally he sighed deeply and though still staring at the photo he spoke quietly to the man standing before him.

“Do you remember when we were out on our little hike and you asked me if I had any children?”

Kenny nodded, feeling a slight thrill of hope sweep through him; Heyes was talking, calmly, reasonably—lovingly. Maybe, maybe they'd finally broken through.

“Yeah,” Kenny answered. “Your response was rather non-committal. I recall you saying something about the life of an outlaw not being conducive to raising a family.”

Heyes smiled sadly and nodded. Then, still not looking up at the guard he motioned for him to take the photo he held. Kenny had of course already seen the picture when he had gone through Heyes' mail. At that time he couldn't help but notice the familial likeness between the child in the photograph and the inmate sitting before him but he knew a genuine peace offering when he saw it. The guard stepped forward and took the photo.

“She's beautiful,” he stated, as though this were the first time he had viewed it. “What's her name?”

“Anya Rebecca,” Heyes answered him.

“Anya. That's pretty. It suits her.”

Heyes nodded again. “It was my mother's name.”

“And Rebecca?”

Heyes didn't answer right away and a great sadness clouded over his dark eyes. Kenny had a feeling that his caustic response to the guard's previous query into Heyes' family life was about to be expanded upon. He was not mistaken.

Heyes swallowed the knot in his throat. That pain in his heart, that incredible ache of loss and loneliness just wouldn't go away even after all these years.

“Anya would have had an older sister,” Heyes finally forced out through his constricted throat. “She died while still an infant—because of me. A bullet meant for me, missed and hit her instead.”

Kenny groaned. He and Sarah had been so lucky compared to others in their place and time; they had never had to bear the loss of any of their children. Kenny could not even imagine—didn't even want to try and imagine what that would like. Heyes sat, staring into nothing with his hands clutching the pages of Abi's letter.

“Her name had been Rebecca,” he finally continued, then sighed deeply. “When our second daughter came along, well, Abi's younger sister who had also died young was named Rebecca so Abi wanted to keep the name in the family. So....”

Kenny nodded and then returned the photo to Heyes' shackled hands. “Do you see them often? Does your daughter know you?”

“No,” Heyes admitted, and the pain and regret in that one word hit Kenny like a sledgehammer. “After what happened to Becky, Abi wouldn't let me stay and be a part of their lives. I was so angry with her for denying me that contact—I hated her for years. I refused to even mention her name. But I gradually came to understand why. Becky wasn't the first child that Abi had lost and she was terrified of losing a third, and she was right to be concerned. I understand that now.”

“Yeah,” Kenny agreed. “but from what I've read in her letters to you, it seems that she still cares a great deal about you. Why else would she give the child your mother's name? She obviously wants to keep that connection.”

Heyes looked back down at the photograph of his daughter again. “Yeah, I suppose.”

“It seems to me that you're holding in your hands a really good reason to carry on, Heyes,” Kenny pointed out. “You may not know your daughter now but you don't know what the future holds. You get this part of your life behind you and you may come to discover that you have a valuable friend in her.”

“That's kind of what Kid said,” Heyes recalled. “that I don't have the right to deny Anya the opportunity of getting to know her father.”

“He has a point,” Kenny agreed. “You lost your parents at a young age, so you know what that's like. Just think of all the things you could be denying both of you.”

Heyes creased his brow and sent the guard a very sceptical look. “Are you sure you haven't been comparing notes with my partner?”

Kenny gave a quiet laugh. “No, I haven't. But obviously he's a very wise man.” Then he turned serious again. “I just know what it means to be a father. Sons are an honour to have, but daughters—hmm, daughters are a gift. And not one to be taken lightly. Don't you think she is worth hanging around for?”

Again Heyes sat silently for a few moments, looking at the photograph and softly, lovingly caressing the image upon it. “Yeah,” he finally admitted quietly. “Yeah, I suppose she is.”


Twenty minutes later Kenny was quickly walking into the kitchen and approached the trustees who were busy preparing chicken stew for dinner.

“Is the stew ready?” the guard asked the startled inmates. “HURRY UP! IS IT READY!?

“OH! Ahh, yessir,” answered the quicker of the two. “it's just simmering until it's time for supper.”

“Good! Give me a bowl of it—and some bread!” Kenny ordered. “A pitcher of water and a drinking cup as well.”

“But we shouldn't be serving supper until....”

“ARE YOU QUESTIONING A DIRECT ORDER!?” Kenny bellowed. He was in no mood for stupid questions.

“Oh! Nossir!” came the quick denial from both trustees and they then scampered around to fulfil the order from the guard without any more adieu.

Once it was ready, Kenny put a spoon in the bowl of stew and plunked the bread on top of it, then he dropped the tin cup into the pitcher of water and laden down with the meal he turned and made a bee line back into the cell block.
He slowed down as he got closer to Heyes' cell so that by the time he turned in to the tiny room he appeared calm and collected and sent the inmate a reassuring smile as he set all the dishes down on the small table. Heyes sent a startled look over to the food and wasn't quite sure how to respond. It wasn't suppertime.
Kenny turned away from the table and took out the key to the handcuffs.

“Think you want to eat something?” he asked casually.

“Oh,” was the hesitant response. “I donno. I'm not really hungry.”

“How about you just give it a try,” Kenny suggested as he unlocked Heyes' hands.

Then while Heyes sat and quietly contemplated the food, Mouse had been awakened from her afternoon nap by the tantalizing aroma and was not hesitating at all to take advantage of the offered meal. She hopped up onto the table and was just about to tuck in when her pet project grabbed her around her body and dumped her unceremoniously onto the floor.
She gave an indignant 'ahhhgg!' and glared up at the inmate while sending him a series of adamant tail flicks.

“No you don't!” Heyes told her. “Not this time!”

Then Heyes turned to the food on his table, and with his hands trembling as though he were reaching for the forbidden fruit, he took the bowl with the spoon and bread along with it and he contemplated the stew.

“Are you going to eat?” Kenny asked, trying not to reveal his anxiety.

Heyes looked up at him, his dark eyes filled with uncertainty. He looked back down at the bowl in his hands and then with shaking fingers, he clasped the spoon and dipped it into the savoury gravy and meat. He brought the spoon up and for the first time in over two weeks, he willingly put food into his own mouth. He slid the spoon out from between his lips and began to chew and then swallowed.

Kenny was watching him with a quiet intensity. “Well?” he asked. “How does it taste?”

Heyes nodded. “Surprisingly good,” he admitted. Then he took another spoonful and sent it down after the first one.

He picked up the piece of bread and dunking it in the gravy, he took a bite of that and swallowed. Then another spoonful and he was barely chewing before he swallowed, then another spoonful....

“Whoa....whoa, show down,” Kenny touched his arm to stop him. “You're going to make yourself sick. Here, drink some water.” He poured out a cup and handed it to the now starving man. “Here...slowly! Don't gulp it. There, good. Eat, but slow down.”

Heyes shovelled another spoonful into his mouth and then while he was chewing it he glanced down at a rather pathetic looking Mouse. She sat at his feet and stared up at him with her green eyes imploring him for a share of the tasty stew. Hadn't she been willing to share her mouse with him? Even with his now ravenous hunger Heyes took pity on the little feline and taking some chicken and gravy into the spoon he tapped it out onto the floor by her feet. Loud purring instantly filled the cell as she instantly began to dig in to her supper and it would be hard to say which one of them finished their meal first.


When Jed went in to town again and checked in at the telegraph office to see if there were any messages, he was both hopeful and scared to death that there would be something for him from Kenny. Then when he found that indeed there was a message waiting there for him from the guard, his gut tied itself in a knot and he almost couldn't get himself to open it. This was either good news or bad and if it was bad he just didn't know how he would be able to carry on.
Finally though, he had to know and he opened up the folded piece of paper. Instantly relief washed over him and he found that he had to sit down on the edge of the boardwalk or collapse right there in the middle of the street.

'Jed Curry, Brookswood Colorado. He's eating. On his own. We did it. K. R.'

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Tashmina

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Join date : 2013-08-24
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PostSubject: Re: October 2013- "To laugh often and much" - Quotation   Sat Oct 19, 2013 3:50 pm

Ride Out the Storm - part II



The Kinscumber Private Asylum was a grim, brick-built, Victorian edifice which stood out in the flat, bleak landscape.  The redness of the hand-made bricks did nothing to warm the grim facade.  It was a forbidding place, with many of the windows so high they had to be operated by long poles with hooks on the end; nobody could see out and more importantly, nobody could see in.  Both men knew the implications of invisibility on the indigent and inconvenient.  Powerless people were used in this life; the very bricks which constructed the place were made by unskilled, badly-paid children doing back-breaking work in the burning kilns.  They were cheap, they were disposable; and their needs were more easily disregarded than their commercial value.  

“What now, Heyes?”

“We find a door, Kid.  I don’t know about you, but I’m getting too old to be shimmying in a window seven feet off the ground; not when there’s a lock to pick.”

“I got too old at fifteen.”

“Yeah,” Heyes murmured.  “It just wasn’t your type of crime.  You’re more a stare ‘em down kinda guy.”

“Hey, sneaky just doesn’t come as naturally to me as it does for you.  I’d be stupid not to play to my strengths.”  The tall figure beside Heyes threw out an arm towards an area with more hospitable-looking architecture.  “That looks like the administration block.”

“Yeah, and the accommodation block too,” Heyes arched a brow, “judging by the closed curtains on the upper floor.”

“Ya think this Miss Roberts is in there?  The one who does the beatin’?”

“Probably,” Heyes murmured.

“What’ve you got planned, Heyes.  I can’t be a party to hurtin’ a woman, not even one like her.”

“I dunno yet, Kid.  Something will come to me.  She’s killing that boy and she can’t be allowed to get away with that.”

“I guess...”

“Trust me.  When have I ever let you down?”  The silver conchos on the hatband caught the watery moonlight.  “Let’s see what we’re dealing with first.”

“It’d ruin our reputations if anything related to dealing with a woman comes out.”

“Sure it would.”  Heyes felt the lapel of his jacket for the lock-pick he kept concealed there, “but who says we’re gonna tell her who we are?  We’re outraged citizens as far as she’ll ever know.  Come on. Let’s get in there.”

   
>>>>>>>>


Two figures crept down the panelled hallway and halted at the door.  Heyes raised the dark light and adjusted the flap to target the beam on the gold letters ornamenting the surface.  “Belinda J. Roberts, Head Keeper.”

“Keeper?” hissed the Kid.  “It makes the place sound like a zoo.”

The only reply was the sound of a hand turning the doorknob, smoothly and quietly.  The door swung open with a slight creak.  “Not locked,” Heyes whispered.  “Probably nothing of value in here.”

His partner closed the door behind him and leaned on it.  “Just the records.”

Heyes placed the lamp on the desk and opened the flaps so the light no longer shone out through slits.  A bubble of golden light expanded to fill the room, illuminating the heavy desk, the bookshelves and the walls lined with institutional, extra-long photographs of glassy-eyed children lined up in order of height.  

“Well, let’s see what it says about Chancy.  What was his surname again?”

The blue eyes screwed up in thought. “De... Goosey, was it?  De Gusset...?  Nah, I can’t remember.”

Long fingers riffled through the files.  “Nah, nothing here; not under that name – not even close.”

The Kid frowned.  “Nothing under ‘C’ or ‘D’?  Are you sure?”

Heyes pulled open the third drawer of the filing cabinet.  “Can you bring that lamp over here?  I can’t see into the bottom drawers.”  His finger flicked over the labelled files   See for yourself, not a single child with a name even remotely like Chancy’s.”

The Kid perched on the edge of the desk and scratched pensively on his chin.  “The boy was lying?”

Heyes paused, considering the question.  “As a poker player, I’d put my whole stake on him telling the truth.”

“That’s good enough for me,” the Kid crossed his long legs at the ankle.  “Could it be anywhere else?  A register?”

“Good thought.”  Heyes strode over to the book case and pulled out a register.  “He said his pa died just over a year ago, so I guess we’ve gotta check this year’s register and last.”  He slid a book over to his cousin.  “Here you go.  If there are any clues it’ll be in one of these.”


>>>>>>>>


“Nothing.  All the names are real ordinary and not one child came here from Boston in the last two years.”

The Kid sighed heavily.  “Either the boy’s lying or the records are a crock of...”
     
“That’d be my guess too.”  Heyes sat back and stared off into the dark corner of the room, the designing lights in his eyes dancing with promise.

“Whatcha thinkin’, Heyes?”

“I’m thinking that it’s time to start asking some questions.  How many staff do you think live in here?”

“Judging by Valparaiso, at least five – most of the cleanin’ and cooking’ll be done by the inmates.  Boys’ll tend the grounds too.”

“That’s what I thought too.”  A pair of intense dark eyes stared at the Kid.  “There’s something real off about this place.  I need to ask this Miss Roberts a few questions but I can’t do it in a building full of folks.  Are you with me Kid?”

“Questions?  Just questions?”

“Just questions.  We can’t send Chancy back to this, Kid. He’ll be dead before the winter’s out.”  Heyes shook his head.  “Why bring a boy all the way from Boston, hide the fact and then slowly kill him with neglect?  It’s like he doesn’t exist here, which makes me wonder why.  The Patrons who run these places inspect the children; you know that as well as I do.  Have they condoned this treatment or don’t they know about Chancy either?”

“Yeah, the Patrons ain’t generally the motherly type, but they’d never tolerate that kind of cruelty.  Those wounds on his back were fresh injuries over old and an infection is startin’ to set in.  The Doc used to inspect us once a month.”  The Kid grimaced, “right before the nurse covered us in that stuff to kill nits.”

A smile twitched at Heyes’ lips.  “Yeah, that stuff sure stank.”  He arched a brow.  “In or out, Kid; I know how you are with women.”

The blue eyes narrowed.  “In.  Anyone who can do this deserves a bit of a fright – and that’s all we’ll so, ain’t it?”

“That’s all we’ll do, Kid.”  He picked up a pen and dipped it in the inkwell, quickly writing a few words before blowing the ink dry.  His eyes fixed on the safe.  It was a cheap, utility version which took no more than a few clicks before it popped open.  “Accounts, a money box,” Heyes chuckled lightly to himself.  “Letters tied in pink ribbon.  Looks like Miss Roberts has a past.”

“You’re not gonna steal from an orphanage safe, it ain’t right.”

The dark eyes widened.  “Steal?  I’m putting something in the safe, Kid.”  He closed the door firmly, twirling the knob to re-lock it.

“What’re you up to?”      

Heyes leaned forward and closed the flaps of the dark light in preparation for leaving the room.  “She’ll be in the best room,” he cast his eyes towards the ceiling, “and judging by the big windows we saw, that’ll be right above here.”  He picked up his hat and gestured towards the door with his head.  “Well, let’s go.  We might be able to get some sleep before dawn.”

“Go?  I thought we were gonna take her.”

Heyes’ eyes widened in faux shock.  “Take her?  Do you really think I’m that crude, Kid?”

“But you said...”

“I said I couldn’t question her here.  I didn’t say I was going to kidnap her.  She’s going to come to us.”  Heyes tutted in admonishment and shook his head ruefully.  “I sometimes worry about you, I really do.  You were prepared to do a thing like that?”        

“But...”

“Shh!  You’ll have the whole place awake.”  Heyes pulled open the door and glanced surreptitiously into the hallway.  “It’s a good job I’m here to keep you on the straight and narrow.”

“Sometimes speakin’ to you is like tryin’ to herd hornets,” the Kid muttered under his breath.  “I’ll remember this the next time you’re lookin’ for support.”


>>>>>>>>


“Come in.”  

Heyes smiled at the teenage boy who was clearly acting as unpaid secretary and walked back into the room he had explored the previous evening.  The room seemed larger in daylight, with two large bay windows casting a stark light over the picture covered walls.  A crisp, business-like woman in her fifties sat behind the desk, her hands clasped on the blotter in front of her.  “Can I help?”

He strolled casually up to the desk.  “Yes.  I’m looking for a boy.”

The woman’s brows arched wrinkling her forehead.  “I see, about fourteen?  Or maybe younger but good and strong; just ready for farm work?”

His gaze landed on the triangular nameplate on the front of the desk; ‘B.J. Roberts Head Keeper.’  Considering it was also on the door she seemed inordinately proud of her position.  “B.J.?”

“Belinda Jessamine Roberts.”

“Jessamine?  That’s unusual.  I don’t think I’ve heard that name before.”

“An aunt’s name.  I was named for her.”  Miss Roberts slid open a drawer and pull out a ledger.  “I think we can help you.  We have about eleven or twelve boys who could be suitable for your needs.”  She reached out towards the brass bell beside the lamp.  “I’ll get them lined up for you to inspect.  For a processing fee you can take one home today.”

Heyes put out a hand to prevent her for ringing for the secretary.  “Processing fee?”

Miss Roberts nodded her head, her bun of an indeterminate colour sitting impossibly high on the top of her coiffure.    “Thirty dollars.  We do have costs to cover; medical inspections, food and board, not to mention a good, solid education in the basics.  It will help the other children.”

Heyes’ eyes narrowed.  “Well as long as it’s for the children.  We wouldn’t want it to look like you were selling them, would we?”

The thin mouthed firmed into a hard line.  “No.  Indeed we wouldn’t.  That’s illegal, Mr...?”

“Yes, it is.”  Heyes dropped unbidden into the chair opposite her and leaned over the desk with a venal smile.  “I’m not looking for just any boy, Miss Roberts.  I’m looking for a particular one.”

“We have all kinds here.  I’m sure we can meet your requirements,” a pair of cold, blue eyes drifted over the outlaw before the nose tilted up as though avoiding a bad smell, “whatever they may be.”

“I’m looking for a boy from Boston.”  

Heyes watched the carefully arranged demeanour dissolve for the briefest of moments.  Miss B.J. Roberts was tough but she was no poker player.  “I have no idea why you’d think I had a boy from Boston in this establishment.  It’s thousands of miles from here.  I can’t help you.”

“I think you can,” a beguiling smile dimpled the cheeks.  “In fact I’m sure of it.”

The crêpey neck shifted under the crisp lace collar of her dress.  “I think you should go.”

“And I think you should produce the boy before things turn ugly,” Heyes shrugged.  “I’m trying to help you.  I’m the nice one, but I can only protect you for so long.  You should have heard what my partner wanted to do last night.”  He tutted quietly.  “He would have taken you out of here for questioning.”  

Her eyes bulged from their sockets.  “Last night?”              

“Well, yeah.  I can be civilised as long as the boy’s not harmed,” he shook his head, ruefully.  “I won’t be able to do much for you if anything’s happened to him.”

The stiff back betrayed a miniscule tremble, but was it anger or fear?  Whatever this woman was, she was not about to buckle.  “Get out.”

“Where is he, Miss Roberts?”

“You’re mad!  Do I have to call for help?”

Heyes tilted his head.  “I don’t know.  Will they be able to tell me where Chancy is?”

The name hit her like a virtual blow to the solar plexus.  “Chancy?  That’s a ridiculous name!”

Heyes picked up the name plate, toying casually with the ‘J.’  “Yeah, there’s a lot of it about.”  He replaced it carefully on the desk.  “I may not be pronouncing it properly.  My education was solid and basic; but you get the gist.”  He stood, bending over the desk until he was inches from her pointed nose.  “You’ve got until this time tomorrow, Miss Roberts.  We’ll be staying at the hotel in town, under the name of,” he stared at the name-plate, “Roberts.  That should be a name you won’t forget.”

“We?”

“My assistants,” Heyes gave her a cold smile.  “Bring the boy or face the consequences.”

“Get out!”  She stood, staring straight into the intense, dark eyes.  “I couldn’t produce a boy from Boston if my life depended on it.”  

Heyes straightened up and nodded.  “Your life.  We’re finally on the same page, ma’am.  Bring him to the hotel or face the consequences.”  He lifted his hat and strolled casually over to the door.  “Oh, and if you’re thinking about going to the law, I already know about your grubby, little secret.  I broke in last night and I’ve been through everything.”

Miss Roberts blanched.  “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“No?  Look in the safe.  I left you a message.”  He arched a slim eyebrow.  “I’ve been everywhere, ma’am.  I know what you’ve been doing.   You turn me in, and I’ll turn you in.”    

“Get out!”

“I repeat - bring the boy or face the consequences.”  

Miss Roberts watched the door close behind him and rushed over to the safe.  Trembling fingers turned the dial until it opened.  She let out a quiet gasp as she reached in and pulled out a note.  “Bring the boy,” she read through baited breath, before banging the safe door closed and testing the handle.  

No.  The lock worked.  How could he get that in there?  The note was crumpled by harsh, determined fingers.  Did he know it all?  Where was that boy?  Damn it.  What was she going to do now?  


>>>>>>>>


A pair of questioning blue eyes fixed on his partner.  “Dirty secret?”    

“Everyone’s got one, not everyone wears theirs as lightly as we do.”  Heyes sat back against the headboard of the bed examining a piece of note paper.  “I’m just playing with her head.”

The Kid prowled over to the window and looked at the street below.  “What makes you so sure she won’t call the law?”

“And say what?  I enquired about a child?  It’s my word against hers and she’s scared about what I might tell them.”  Heyes flicked a look over to his cousin.  “She’s lost a child she appears to have been hiding.  Tonight we’re breaking into the telegraph office.  I need to see what’s being said about all of this.”

“Who says she’s sayin’ anything?  An inconvenient child has disappeared.  That’s it.”  

Heyes sighed and laid the letter on his lap.  “It’s a guess.  Look, orphanages run on money and they’re hardly likely to forget to record or count one.  They need money from charities and patrons, so they’re far more likely to overestimate the inmates than underestimate them.  A child has been transported across the county to be incarcerated in a place where they deny he’s ever been.  I can think of only reason why anyone would do that.”    

“Money?”

“Yup, it’s always money.  Chancy sounds like he comes from good folks, maybe he’s in the way of somebody else inheriting.”

A frown gathered around the Kid’s brows.  “Why not just kill him?  Surely this is a real risky way to do it?  He got out.”

Heyes shrugged.  “Not everyone has the stomach to kill, especially a child, and not many will listen to a ragged boy,” he shook his head, ruefully.  “It’s a sad day when a boy is safer with a gang of criminals than with the authorities or his own kin.”

The Kid flopped onto the bed.  “I don’t get why you went in hard.  You could have offered money for him to see what she said.”

“She could take the high road and claim she was honest.  That gives the option to do nothing.”  A pair of dark eyes glistened intently.  “We know she hasn’t got the boy but if she truly believes she’s in danger, we’ll force her to do something.”

“Why would she come here?  That’d be admitting she was involved.”

“I’ve worried and intrigued her,” Heyes shuffled his papers to the next page.  “She won’t come yet, but I have a few more things up my sleeve before I’m done.”  He gave an enigmatic smile.  “Miss Roberts has a married lover in San Francisco.  He’s a patron of the charity who run this place and got her the job.  She used to be a housemaid.”

“How in the name of all that’s holy do you know that?  Have you started usin’ a crystal ball?”

“It’s in the letters I found in the safe.”  Heyes placed them on the bed with a flourish.  “And very educational they are too.  She’s had a hard life; brought up in an orphanage until she was put into service at fourteen.”

“Not comfortable, but hardly harsh.”  The Kid folded his arms.  “Lots of girls end up workin’ from that age.”

The dark eyes glimmered with mischief.  “She didn’t last there... the letters don’t say exactly why, but I’m guessing she left under a cloud because she went from there to being a hostess in a saloon.”

A smile twitched at the Kid’s lips.  “So how’d she get from there to runnin’ an orphanage?”

Long fingers riffled through the stack of correspondence.  “A certain Mr. Charles Drummond seems to have taken her under his wing.  He’s also on the Board of Patrons for the Kinscumber Private Asylum.  She’d currently dreaming of his next visit.”

“Under his wing?” the Kid chuckled.  “That’s a new term for it.”    

“I’m always up for giving someone a fresh start, but not off the backs of children.”  Heyes pulled out his pocket watch.  “Come on.  Let’s get down to the telegraph office.”

“We ain’t breakin’ in?  It’s broad daylight, Heyes.”

“No, but I need to send a telegram to Silky to see what he can find out about Charles Drummond for us.  They live in the same town, so he should be able to help.”  The black hat was placed at just the right angle and the cheeks dimpled with mischief.  “It’ll give me a chance to check the place out for tonight too.”


>>>>>>>>


“Mr. Kyle?  How long do we have to wait here?”

The lopsided, toothy grin split the uneven features.  “’Till Heyes and the Kid get back, Chancy.  They told us ta take good care of ya.”

Chauncey gulped, heavily and stared down at the tied down gun.  “Good care?”

Wheat and Kyle exchanged a smile at the concern in the boy’s eyes.  “Relax.  Ain’t nobody gonna hurt ya.”  The wide eyes transmitted solid disbelief.  “Hey, we might be rough and ready, but we’ve all been boys too.”  Kyle sat on the fallen tree beside the child.  “Why was this woman so hard on ya?  What did ya get up to?”

“Nothing.  She just hates me.”

“Why?”

Chauncey’s bottom lip protruded.  “She detested me on sight.  It’s like she came out in hives the first time we met.  I tried to be a good boy, when that failed I tried to hide, but nothing I did was ever good enough.”  

Kyle frowned.  “Well everyone here knows about not bein’ good enough, but a lad who speaks as well as you do should never feel that way.”  The stained teeth put in another appearance.  “You sound sweet enough to flim flam a duchess.”

Chauncey’s slim brows met in confusion.  “Flim flam?”

“How can I explain it to ya?  Ya know when you want something for nuthin’, but don’t want to have ta work for it?  It’s kinda like that.  Ya just talk your way into gettin’ them to give you all kinda stuff, but mostly money.”

“Like a lawyer?”

Wheat gave a triumphant laugh.  “Yeah, just like a lawyer.”

Chauncey sat processing this information.  “Why don’t you do that instead of robbing banks and trains?”

“Well, Chancy, it’s like this.  God never gave me the gift o’ the gab like you.  I was brung up by my ma, thirteen of us, dirt poor and doin’ whatever we could to get by.  Then I started to go to town and look into Miss Bobbie’s cat house from the tree outside her window.  I saw all kindsa stuff there; drinkin’, smokin’, gamblin’; twisted, godless stuff,” Kyle gazed off, wistfully, “and I wanted some o’ that for myself.”  But it cost good money.  Good times, real good times.  Bein’ corrupt ain’t half as much fun as bein’ corrupted.”  He sighed heavily.  “Now, God gives us all a road to travel down,” he thrust a stubby thumb towards his chest.  “He gave me a dirt track, so there ain’t no point in tryin’ to cross over to the nice, clean sidewalk because I ain’t welcome there with my muddy footprints.  Ain’t nobody gonna give me money for sweet talking, so I gotta go out there and get it any way I can.”

Lines furrowed over the boy’s forehead.  “You could work for it.”

The outlaw chuckled and patted the child’s knee.  “Nah, I’ve seen folks work all their lives to have a peaceful old age where they can just sit and contemplate the world and everythin’ they learned.  I’m just cutting out the middle bit.  I’m one of life’s thinkers – it just ain’t fair to put a mind like mine to work on the railroad or behind a plough.  T’ain’t right and I ain’t built for it.  Some of us are put here to make other folks feel superior.  That’s my job in this life and I’m real good at it.”

Chauncey shrugged, staring doubtfully at the self-professed sage.  “I’ve never met anyone like you.”

Wheat propped his hand on his hips.  “If you don’t start makin’ more sense, Kyle, they’ll send squirrels in to find the nuts.”  His head snapped up listening to slight echoes and howls.  “What was that?”

The distant, baying rouwlfs of animals drifted in, echoing around the outlaws.

“Bloodhounds,” Preacher’s sharp nose rose into the wind.  “They’re searchin’ for someone.”

All eyes fixed on the child.  “It’s him,” Hank muttered.  “Nobody knows we’re here.  It’s gotta be the boy.”

“I ain’t getting turned in for no boy,” a voice growled from the group.

“What’re we gonna do?”

Wheat glowered at the men as Chauncey burst into tears.  “Do?  We’re takin’ him outta here.  We ain’t handin’ that child over to be beaten and starved.  Sometimes you’ve just gotta do what’s right to make things better for somebody.”  Wheat glowered at the outlaws, “If’n it was his kin it’d be none of our business, but this place sets itself up as better’n the likes of us.  Are any of you gonna pass up the chance to help a child – especially when we get to rub dirt in the noses of the kind of folks who’ve spent their lives lookin’ down them at us?”

All eyes darted around, examining their colleagues as well as the now crying boy.  Two things were clear: Chauncey was starting to spiral into a blind panic at the prospect of being returned to the home and Wheat knew his audience.  The Devil’s Hole Gang had no time for do-gooders, especially when they failed to do good.

There was a universal grumbling and mumbling until Hank nodded.  “Yeah, alright.  We’ll take the boy outta here.”

“No.”  Wheat shook his head.  “I look after him. I’m Heyes’ deputy and he’s my responsibility.”    

“Yeah, and Heyes told you to make sure he was safe,” Preacher smirked.

“That ain’t got nuthin’ to do with it,” growled Wheat.  “I can make decisions for myself.”

“Go on then,” Preacher glanced over to where the hullabaloo of the search increased.  “Decide.”

Wheat nodded, staring around at the topography.  “Pack up, real fast.  Kyle and me’ll take the boy up the river bed to throw them off the scent.  Let them follow you and make sure you let them find you.  You’re just drifters lookin’ for casual work if’n anyone asks.”

“And where’ll you be headed?”

“Dunno, somewhere there ain’t no bloodhounds,” Wheat emptied the coffee pot over the campfire.  “Get movin’!”

Kyle sighed staring over at the sobbing child.  “That just ain’t right.  A boy his age shouldn’t be that scared of folks.”

“We’ll help him.  I guess we can shake them off,” Preacher threw his saddle onto his horse.  “What with my cunnin’...”

Wheat nodded. “And I’m real good at plannin’...”

Kyle nodded furiously, caught up in the care for their fellow man now the Devil’s Hole Gang had realised it didn’t actually cost them anything.  “And I’m here too!”


>>>>>>>>


Heyes had spent hours poring over the Morse code guide and then referring back to the purloined message register.  Thankfully, the names of the senders and recipients were written longhand, so he quickly managed to pull out the messages he need to transcribe.  On the morning of the twelfth, Miss Roberts had sent a telegram to Mr. Charles Drummond in San Francisco; after much thumbing of pages the following message appeared:  “C gone.  Run off. B.J.R.”
 
The twelfth.  That meant that the boy had run away during the night and had been living rough for twenty four hours by the time he had stumbled onto the Devil’s Hole Gang.  No wonder the boy had been so hungry.  Drummond had then replied:  “Find him or fired. C.D.”

It would appear that Mr. Drummond knew about the boy and had a vested interest in his return to the orphanage.  He was not likely to be happy with the reply.  “Still no sign. B.J.R.”

That had prompted the threatening missive:  “Find boy or face consequences.  C.D.”

Heyes face dimpled into a smile at the next message to Mr. Drummond from his mistress.  “Men came looking for C.  Come quick.  B.J.R.”

The message clearly confused the recipient.  “Why come?  Men supposed to be looking.  C.D.”

Miss Roberts then started to show signs of the strain at being between a rock and a hard place:  “Not our men. Strangers looking for C.  Come quick.  This your mess.  B.J.R.”

There was no reply from Mr. Drummond, stimulating the increasingly distressed woman to send another missive:  “Dogs searching.  Found track.  Come or I see lawyer.  B.J.R.”  

Heyes sat back with a satisfied sigh.  His visit had certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons and Miss Roberts was about to spill whatever beans she had been concealing for so long.  A little more pressure was likely to tip her over the edge.  

The sound of a key on the door made Heyes grab for his gun but it was only the Kid who nodded a greeting.

Heyes flicked up an eyebrow in query.  “Did you get it?”

“Yup,” the Kid nodded.  “Silky delivered.”  He bowed his head and read from the note in his hand.  “C.D.  rich lawyer.  Moved with wife and ward; Chauncey De Gosbeck Bosiet last year.  Boy in S.F. S.”  Confused blue eyes fixed on his cousin.  “Chancy is in San Francisco?  So who was the boy we met in the woods?”

The outlaw leader rubbed his chin pensively.  “The real one, I’d say.  The question is; who’s the boy in San Francisco and how much is it worth to this Charles Drummond to put a fake in his place?”

“A year ago?”  Lines furrowed the Kid’s brow.  “That’s about the time Chancy said he was put in the Orphanage.  He must have inherited and Drummond’s kept the lot.  That’s about the dirtiest trick I ever heard of!  That place is killin’ him by inches.”

“Yup, you’ve gotta be pretty low to make the Devil’s Hold Gang look noble.”  Heyes stood.  “We should eat.  Once it’s dark I want to pay another visit to the Kinscumber Private Asylum.  Miss B.J. Roberts has a lot of explaining to do.



 

I know it exceeds the word limit - so it's posted just for fun and because I also think it fits the prompt of leaving someone's life better because you passed through it

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Javabee

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PostSubject: Re: October 2013- "To laugh often and much" - Quotation   Thu Oct 24, 2013 7:15 pm

Keep On Smilin’

Under a clear blue Colorado sky, with the sun warming his back, Kid Curry carefully lined up a set of old tin cans along a fence and retreated to a healthy distance. With the eye of a seasoned gunman, it only took a few seconds for him to send them all flying. Without looking up from his book, Hannibal Heyes amiably flashed a dimpled grin, and ran his fingers through his unruly brown hair.
 
Curry methodically reloaded his gun, and got to work lining up another identical row. Glancing sideways at his partner, he stepped back, and shot off another precision round. Squinting narrowly through his left eye as he closed his right, Heyes studied the cans now laying on the ground in disarray. He looked up at his younger cousin with another smile of pride and lazily stretched out his long legs. Heyes was relaxing under a tree on this beautiful summer day, apparently enjoying the show.

"You always do that, Heyes."

"Do what?" Heyes scratched his head and looked quizzically at his partner.

"Smile."

"Oh, that. That's cause I'm just a naturally pleasant fella, Kid." Heyes grinned.

“No, Heyes. That’s like sayin’ I’m a naturally peaceable man. We both know that ain’t exactly true. I mean, you always smile after I'm done shootin' or drawin‘." Curry reloaded his gun.

"Maybe that's cause I'm relieved to see you've still got the touch, Kid. You’re getting up in years, partner. You're almost 28." Heyes quickly looked down at his book.

Kid swept a blonde curl out of his eyes, folded his arms across his chest, and looked at Heyes with what could only be described as annoyed tolerance. Sometimes his cousin's silver tongue just didn’t deserve a response. Kid continued to look at Heyes and patiently waited for Heyes to finish.
 
"Or maybe I'm just real happy to see you practicing’, Kid. You never know when we're gonna meet up with that fella you keep yakkin’ about."

"What fella?"

"You know, that fella you claim is faster than you. I, for one, don't think he exists. But…“, Heyes shrugged and turned a page in his book, “you never know."

"I sure do appreciate your faith in me, Heyes, but believe me, he's out there."

"Well don’t let it go to your head, Kid. You just keep on shootin’, and I'll keep on smilin'.” Heyes was grinning at Kid as he said it, but then suddenly sobered up and looked back at his book.

Kid rolled his blue eyes, and with a determined look shot off another successful practice volley. Even though Heyes tried not to smile this time, Kid could see the twinkle in his brown eyes and the smug look on his face. Heyes let out a contented sigh.
 
“Maybe I just appreciate excellence, Kid.”

"Maybe." Kid thought about that, swatted a fly, and set up another row of cans.

Curry knew that Heyes possessed an entire library of smiles, and each one told a different story. The fact that his dimples served as bookends on either side of his smile only punctuated their effect. He had seen Heyes disarm a table of card sharps with his “I’m just a friendly cowpoke” smile and then take them for all they were worth. He had watched, almost with embarrassment, as Heyes lustily cracked one safe after another with a smile that Kid thought should have been reserved for a saloon girl. Even during a confrontation, Heyes would confuse his adversary by continuing to smile, as his dark, hard eyes spoke the real message of intimidation and disdain.
 
But Kid knew another smile, a genuine, warm, guileless smile that would naturally appear when Heyes was pleased, proud, or just plain happy. It would go all the way to his eyes, lighting up his face, and that was the one he was using today. Kid knew his fast draw pleased his cousin because it kept them safe and breathing easier. But that wasn't enough to keep Heyes smiling that smile, and Kid knew it.
 
Heyes would not be smiling, no matter how fast Kid was with a gun, if Heyes thought he was a killer. Yet Heyes had seen him kill a man, and was still managing to smile.

Kid thought the killing had been justified, but he had been privately shaken, wondering what he could have done to avoid it. Through it all, Heyes had stood with him, backing him up and trusting him. This meant more to Kid than all the gold in all the banks and trains they ever robbed. Kid knew that Heyes would not play against the odds, and if Heyes was still smiling, the odds had to be in their favor. Maybe amnesty wasn’t just a pipe dream after all. Maybe, despite his past, he would have a chance to do some good with his gun. Maybe someday he would leave the world a bit better than he found it.
 
Faster than the proverbial greased lightening, Kid Curry shot off another round, hitting each can dead center. He finished the draw by holstering his gun with a expert twirl of satisfaction, and casually looked over at his partner. Hannibal Heyes managed to keep his eyes glued on his book, but try as he might, he could not hold back his beaming smile.

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Gringa

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PostSubject: Re: October 2013- "To laugh often and much" - Quotation   Sun Oct 27, 2013 9:22 am

The Letter

                                                                          May 1864

Dear Ma and Pa,


I do hope that you and all the rest of the family are well.  How are all my sisters and little Hannibal?


Things are pretty good here now that spring has come.  That was a hard winter, with the ground all churned up the way it was.  The freezing mud got everywhere, but that’s over now and the sweet, green grass is covering the residue of battle.  


We have been marching hard and we are now camped in a field outside of a little town.  The folks are supposed to be real, hard dyed-in-the wood confederates but the ones I’ve met seem like normal folks just like us.  They were a bit standoffish at first, but once they realised we weren’t rogues and villains they started speaking to us like we were human beings.  They’re still a bit cagey about their womenfolk and livestock being around us but they’ve gradually gotten used to us.  They were glad to see the sutlers arrive because it showed them that we buy and don’t plunder.  A few of the new boys have been a bit uppity but they were soon put in their places by Captain Brooke.  He’s a real fine man who won’t tolerate Sunday soldiers or hospital rats.  Everyone pulls their weight and treats the locals with respect or they answer to him.  He’s real good at making fresh fish feel like they can deal with seeing the elephant.  It’s amazing how a good leader can turn things around for a unit.  The locals know he won’t tolerate bad behaviour from his men, so give us an easier ride than some of the other units around here who aren’t so well run.    


It’s good to work for a man who really cares about his men.  I’ve read the newspapers and politicians saying we are fighting for our beliefs and our causes, but I wonder how many of them have actually met any of us fighting men.  I joined because my family and my town support our side, but I fight for my friends, comrades and unit.  We keep one another alive and that’s what’ll help me come home to you after the battle.  I know we all thought the war would be after one battle, but tomorrow’s should be the one that really ends this thing once and for all.


I’ll be home soon, Ma.  The day after tomorrow I’ll be on my way to you.  In fact, I’ll be on my way to you before you even get this letter.


We will all meet again soon.  I dream of riding a wild horse without bullets whistling about my ears and I can’t wait to give Hannibal a race.  I bet he’s growing like a weed!  Boys sure stretch at his age.


Anyway, I must go.  I will see you all soon in a much better place than this.  My love to all and especially to my pretty Elizabeth.  


Your loving son,


Alexander    



**********



Valparaiso Home for Waywards


The pinch-faced, hook-nosed man stared at the letter through hooded eyes before sitting back and tapping his fingers with it.  “What fool gave this to the boy?”


The uniformed guard shuffled his heavy boots around on the colourful rug.  “The matron at the orphanage, sir.  She’s always been too soft for her own good.  She thought he should have his brother’s last letter home,” he shook his head ruefully.  “He had nothing left.  The whole place was burnt to the ground.  She thought it would be a keepsake.  It only survived because it arrived after the...”  The man’s voice drifted off, “the incident.”


The Chief Warden tossed the paper aside.  “Stupid, female, sentimental poppycock!”  He stood, the legs of his chair scraping against the floorboards.  “Look at the trouble she caused.  The boy went mad.  All he had left was the hope that his brother would eventually come back from the war and build a home for him and his cousin.”  He started to pace.  “Why couldn’t she have just let him have that?”


“Dunno, sir,” the guard shrugged.  “It would appear to have been the best course of action in light of what happened.”


“Best course of action?  The boy not only went on the rampage; he took his cousin with him!”


“Yeah, he was angry at the whole world.  It seems the two boys had a fiction built up in their heads that Alexander would take them out of the orphanage and give them a new life.  Nobody actually took the time to tell Hannibal that his brother had died in the battle.  The timing was bad, with what happened to their families and all; it seemed too much to tell them.  The boys seemed to think he’d gone off somewhere to build a new life and would come back to get them eventually.  You know how fanciful children get.  It gave them hope.  The thought of him was always there as unfinished business; as a person who could change their lives.”


“Yeah?  Well, in a strange kinda way he did.  The boy didn’t know his brother had been killed in that battle; hell, he was dead before the rest of the family were hit by the raiders; but look at what happened when he was told.  I don’t believe in telling children anything unless I have to.  Hannibal was a difficult child at the best of times, but robbing him of his last hope pushed him over the edge.  The brother’s death pushed him out of life in the orphanage and straight into the Valparaiso Home for Waywards.”  The Chief Warden flexed his calves and rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet.  “How many windows did they break?”


“Seven – well, ten if you count the big church window as four separate panes of glass.”  The guard’s lips firmed into a line.  “We’re not sure the younger boy did anything.  He might have been trying to stop Hannibal.”


“You know the old saying, ‘you fly with the crows, you get shot with the crows,’” the Chief Warden clasped his hands behind his back.  “He should have kept out of it.”  He nodded curtly as if to punctuate his point.  “I’m not going to accept that he followed that rapscallion all the way through town and did absolutely nothing wrong.  He should have stopped it or told a responsible adult what was happening.”


“Jed is two years younger than Hannibal.  He’s too small to stop a larger boy and he says he was trying to talk sense into him.”


The Chief Warden waved a dismissive hand.  “Rubbish, I know what boys are like when they get together.  They turn into savages.  They’ve had it too soft, that’s the problem.  They won’t find it so easy here.”  


“I guess...”


“So, has Mr. Morrison decided what workshops they’ll be allocated to?”


“Yes, the younger boy will be taught woodworking and metalworking; but he says Hannibal is bright.  He wants to teach him accounting.”


“A good steady job.”  The older man nodded approvingly.  “We just need to rein in his wild side.  I think sitting in silence, fixed on columns of numbers will be just the thing to calm him down.  I’d like to see him as a clerk as a grown man.”


“And the letter, sir?  What should we do with it?  It is all the boy has left of his family.”


The older man strode over to the desk and snatched up the paper.  “The letter?  It goes in the trash.  There’s no way he gets it back – not after all the trouble it caused.”


“But it’s his property, sir.  Maybe we should give it back to him when he’s older...”


“Are you questioning my authority?”


The guard’s brow furrowed.  “No, sir.  It was just a suggestion.”


“Well, let it be your last one,” the Chief Warden gestured dismissively towards the door.  “Oh, and Watson?  I know how some of these children can get to you, but don’t let them get inside your head.  They’re bad’uns; pure and simple.  I’m not being hard by throwing the letter away.  It troubled a boy who was already angry at the world.  I’m protecting him by not giving him the chance to dwell on this.  Once you’ve been here a bit longer you’ll understand.”



**********



Hannibal Heyes turned onto his side and closed his eyes.  It was too dark to see anyway.  Why had he thought of that damned letter again?  He hadn’t thought about it for years.  Maybe it was that woman at the train robbery, the one who handed out the flyer about amnesty?  She looked a bit like the lady who had sat him down and told him Alexander was dead.  She had then sat with him gently mopping his tears through a barrage of spiked elbows and shrugging shoulders.  The lady had been so kind and patient, but he’d been too angry to appreciate it.


She had been right.  He did need to know the truth and he had to find a way to deal with the loss of his last shred of hope.  If something wasn’t there for him, he needed to know that and plan his life accordingly.    He was suddenly adrift and needed to know he mattered to someone; anyone - and the universe had delivered in the form a pleading, worried cousin who then found himself condemned to a home for waywards as an accessory to his delirium.


He had searched through the trash at Valparaiso until he had found it and carefully hidden it away.  As the years went on he had read more and more into it; from understanding the impact a good leader can have on people, to the need for looking after your own.  He had read and reread the letter for years; every word burning into his brain until it stayed there as though branded until it eventually fell to pieces in his hands.  They were his brother’s last words to him; words of hope, love and the need for normality; echoing his own hopes and dreams.  The flyer popped into his mind again.  Maybe that little, old lady had a point?  Perhaps he did need think harder about trying for amnesty...




*I found a link online full of Civil War slang which I used in writing the letter.  If there are terms in the letter you do not understand (like seeing the elephant) you will find them in the Historical Research thread in the Writer's Aid area under 'Civil War Slang.'
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InsideOutlaw

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PostSubject: Re: October 2013- "To laugh often and much" - Quotation   Tue Oct 29, 2013 11:44 pm

It was snowing again.  The weather this spring had been unpredictable and so had the mood of the gang.  The wild swings between good weather and inclement had put everyone on edge including Heyes.  He couldn’t plan his next job without a stretch of dry, warm days to reconnoiter and he just wasn’t getting them.  Worse, his men were bored and bored outlaws were dangerous.  He’d already broken up several fist fights, one gunfight, and countless minor skirmishes.  The nightly poker games almost always ended with trouble these days.  Even the Kid was growing surly.  He had to do something to break up the enforced confinement before someone got killed.
 
OOOOOOOOOO

The next morning dawned clear and cold.  Kid Curry woke to a frigid draft running up his backside from where the blankets had twisted around his legs at the end of the bed and pulled free of the mattress.  Grumbling, he rolled onto his back and lay still.  It was quiet; too quiet.  Where was Heyes?  Most mornings, he woke to the sound of his partner banging around in the small kitchen of the cabin.  He could usually smell breakfast cooking, or at the very least, coffee.   Rolling out of bed, he pulled on his pants and grabbed his shirt off the back of the chair, buttoning it quickly.  He opened his door and looked into the living area of the leader’s cabin.  The lights were still off and there wasn’t a sound.

He crossed to Heyes’s door and pushed it open slightly.  “Heyes?”

The lump on the bed shifted slightly and a hoarse voice said, “Go away, Kid.  I’m sick.  Leave me sleep.”

“All right, do you need anything?  Some broth or maybe some of that willow bark tea?”

“No, just sleep.”  A tousled head peeked out from the covers, “Thanks.”

Curry shut the door softly.  Heyes hardly ever got sick.  The least he could do was stay out of the cabin and let his partner sleep.  He could eat with the boys and then get them working on saddle-breaking those three four-year olds they’d bought for re-mounts.   Heyes had asked him to get the boys started on them today.  They’d halter broke them last fall, and the horses had been turned out for the winter in the fenced pasture towards the rear of the Hole.  It was far enough away that Heyes wouldn’t hear the commotion and it would keep the men busy.  They’d been pretty antsy lately and needed something to do.

OOOOOOOOOO

Kid Curry trudged through the heavy mud to the bunkhouse.  His stomach was rumbling with hunger as he stepped onto the porch.  Swinging open the door, he walked into the warmth and aroma of the bunkhouse.  It was a troubling combination of wood smoke, dirty clothes, leather, and body odor, all layered over with bacon and eggs and fresh-brewed coffee.  Kyle was standing at the woodstove with his hand on a cast-iron fry pan.  He glanced at the Kid and nodded at the coffee pot on the table.  Steam was rising from its spout.  The Kid picked it up and poured himself a mugful, then walked over to Kyle.  

“Heyes is sick.  Do you have enough for me?” whispered Curry hopefully.

“Sure, Kid.  I’ll just toss a few more eggs on if’n you fetch ‘em for me.  I got some of them good biscuits from last night, too.  There’s already plenty of bacon goin’,” replied Kyle softly.  

The Kid smiled and looked around the bunkhouse.  The rest of the boys were still abed although several showed signs of waking.  He went to fetch the eggs.  The cranky hens pecked at him as his cold hands felt under them, but he found what he was looking for.  There were four more eggs, more than enough to stretch breakfast.  He paused on his way back to the bunkhouse to appreciate the rosy glow of dawn lighting the south-facing red rock wall of the Hole.  It was cold, but it was beautiful.  

Whistling, he returned to the bunkhouse.  The men were awake now, some shaving, others pulling on their clothes.  The Kid handed the eggs to Kyle, freshened up his coffee, and sat at the table.  He was soon joined by Hank, Wheat, Lobo, and the Preacher.  

“Morning, boys,” he said brightly.  He poured a mug of coffee for each of them and mumbled thanks were given.  “I thought we’d get a start on saddle-breaking those four-year olds today; looks like the weather’s gonna cooperate.”

Kyle put the pan of eggs and bacon in the center of the table and dealt out plates all around.  “Dig in.”  He reached back and pulled the warming biscuits from the top of the stove and tossed one of them onto each plate.  Pulling out the last empty chair, he sat down as the rest of the men dove for the food.  Wheat reached for the sugar bowl and ladled a large teaspoon into his coffee.  He took a big sip and spewed coffee across the table in front of him.  The rest of the boys sat stunned for a second and then began to laugh at the sight of Wheat’s soggy eggs.

“Dang it all, who put salt in the sugar bowl?” he roared.  “It ain’t funny!”

The rest of the men thought it was hilarious and laughed even harder.

After breakfast, the men prepared to work the horses.  Wheat gathered halters and leads.   Preacher, Hank, and Kyle each carried a saddle while Lobo started off for the pasture with the Kid by his side.  Lobo had long experience at saddle-breaking the youngsters and would handle the hands-on part of the task.

“Let’s start with that fancy-looking sorrel, the one with all the white on him.  Heyes has his eye on that one and it’ll cheer him up to know we got to him first,” said the Kid.

“Sure, don’t make no difference to me,” said Lobo, as he rounded the corner to the fenced field.   He stopped cold in his tracks, so did the Kid.  Out in the field were the three sorrel horses they’d been expecting to see, but what they hadn’t been expecting was that the horses were identical.  Each gelding sported a wide blaze down its face and four white stockings of equal size.  Lobo and the Kid had no idea which horse was the one Heyes wanted.  They all looked the same.  Wheat, Hank, Kyle, and the Preacher caught up with them and stared at the horses.

“What the hell?” said the Preacher, a man not normally given to idle cursing.

“All right, who’s the wise guy?” asked Lobo, scowling at the others.  Kyle started chuckling at the expression on the craggy outlaw’s face.  He was soon joined by Wheat and the others.  Even Lobo started laughing.  “It’s April first, ain’t it?”

“Nope, but someone sure thinks it is,” said the Kid.  “Lobo, can you catch that one over there?”

“Sure,” Lobo walked into the enclosure with a halter and lead.  The sorrel closest to the gate, snorted at him and pranced off a ways.  He walked forward towards the horse again only to have it dance away again.  “Something’s spooked them,” he said, turning to the Kid.

“Hank, run on back to the barn and fetch a bucket of oats.”  The Kid picked up a second halter and handed one to Wheat.  “Let’s see if we can round these nags up.”

Hank had to stop at the entrance to the barn and let his eyes adjust to the darkness.  He crossed the straw-strewn aisle to the feed room and opened the door of the grain bin.  Looking around, he spotted a bucket in the far corner and walked over to it.  The bucket was already filled with oats, saving him the time of filling it.  Reaching down, he yanked the handle up.  It wouldn’t budge and he nearly lost his balance.  He yanked again and still couldn’t lift the bucket.  Using his hands, he scooped all of the oats from the bucket and peered inside.  He found a sixteen-penny nail pounded through the wooden bottom holding it firmly to the feed room floor.  Cursing roundly, he looked around for something else to carry the feed.  There wasn’t anything.  Flustered now, he pulled his hat off and dipped it into the grain bin filling it with oats.  Running, he hurried back to the pasture.

“What took you so long?” asked the Kid as Hank skidded to a stop holding out his hat.  Most of the oats had fallen out on his way back and there was only a small amount in the crown.  “I asked for a bucket, Hank.”

Hank threw his hat to the ground, and exploded.  “I tried to get a bucket but the damned bucket was nailed to the floor.”  His fellow gang members whooped with laughter as Hank reddened in frustration.  “It’s not funny!” he yelled, making the men laugh harder.

“That’s enough!” yelled the Kid.  He had to restore order or he’d never hear the end of it from Heyes.  “I don’t know which one of you is fooling around, but it stops now.  Do you hear me?”

The chuckles died off and the men all nodded their understanding, quickly returning their attention to the horses.  Kyle ran back and fetched some more grain and they caught the three geldings.  Wheat led the last one through the gate and the Kid pulled him up.  Bending over, he examined the horse’s leg.  “Whitewash.  Someone’s painted them.  Get ‘em washed off, Wheat, and then have Lobo saddle them up.  I’m gonna go check on Heyes.”

OOOOOOOOOO

Heyes was sitting in his rocker in front of the fire, reading a book.  He looked up as the Kid walked in and smiled.  His partner looked disgruntled and he put his book down.  

“What’s wrong?”

“Some idiot’s been pulling practical jokes all morning.”

“Who is it?”

“I don’t know, but when I find out he’s going to get a licking.”

“Why?”

“What do you mean, why?  I can’t get anything done.  The boys are too busy laughing their butts off at every fool prank.”

Heyes grinned from ear to ear and the Kid narrowed his eyes.  

“You know you look a whole lot healthier than you ought to for someone who couldn’t get outta bed,” growled the Kid.  Heyes jumped up from his chair and ducked behind it, fending off his partner’s approach.  “How’d you get better so fast?”   It had just dawned on the Kid exactly who had thought up all those pranks.

“You know what they say, Kid,” chuckled Heyes, “laughter is the best medicine.”  

“Heyes!”

“Now, Kid, I had to do something to lighten things up around here.  I reckon it worked.”

Curry’s frown faded and he started to smile.  “I guess it worked, too.  You should’ve seen the look on Wheat’s face when he got a cup full of salted coffee.”

“Wish I’d been there.”

“So you’re all right?”

“I’m fine, Kid.  You all were getting a little too serious lately and I thought it was time I stepped in.”

“Next time, let me know what you’ve got planned, okay?”  The Kid turned for the door.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m gonna go do some target practice; relax a little.”  Curry went out the door and Heyes sprang into action.  He grabbed his hat and jacket, going out the back of the cabin and hurrying to the barn.  He didn’t have much time.  He pulled his saddled horse out of its stall, hearing the shots as the Kid began shooting at the tin cans he used for practicing.  The gunfire stopped after a couple of seconds and he heard his partner cursing.  The shooting resumed again for a few more seconds and then stopped again as he mounted his horse and turned its head towards the trail out of the Hole.   Booting the horse into a lope, he heard the Kid bellow.

“Heyes!  Come back here!  I’m gonna whup your hide.  Heyes!  I know you put blanks in my gun!”

_________________
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

“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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Hunkeydorey

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PostSubject: Re: October 2013- "To laugh often and much" - Quotation   Wed Oct 30, 2013 8:46 pm

Great prompt, Riders.
 
 
 
 
I don't write angst, but the prompt, along with clearing out a house after a recent bereavement, inspired this short piece.  I will catch up with comments tomorrow.
 
MAP - I think I posted correctly, but please let me know if I haven't.
 
 
 
"Because You Have Lived..."
 
Bethany opened the chest and was hit by the smells wafting up from the mothballs and lavender bags.  Tears stung the back of her eyes, but she blinked them back and pulled out the bonnet.  She shook her head, releasing a sound which was a cross between a sob and a chuckle, the mingling of good memories with loss, and turned to face the mirror.  She turned it in her hand, examining the tiny ribbons arranged to look like a mass of minute flowers.  Black flowers.  Who grew miniscule black flowers?  They were never found in nature.  Maybe they were meant to be berries and what was the point of the dark-purple rosette on the top?  It was a ridiculous hat, but fashion had changed a whole lot since the 1880s.
 
 
Bethany popped it on top of her head and twisted in the mirror, examining herself while grief burned the back of her throat.  She had always wanted to play with this when she was younger, but her mother had protested that it had belonged to her grandmother’s sister and was not a toy.  Her mother had been right.  It was special, just like the lady who had owned it.  Bethany had never met her but her legacy had been profound.  She had been a social campaigner – a force for good in a world that didn’t care.  She had touched so many lives for the better and had been notoriously fearless in her drive to leave the world a better place for her having been in it.  She had pushed her nieces to do the same; being the proud aunt of a doctor and two lawyers in a world where women largely stayed in the kitchen.  Ironically her nephew had become a famous chef.  Go figure, huh?    
 
 
She turned back to the trunk, the untied ribbons caressing her face as she leaned further in.  This had been her great- grandmother’s chest and had been used to store memories of three generations.  Her mother’s graduation scroll was in that brown leather-covered tube, kept safe from crushing along with her marriage certificate and the children’s birth certificates.  The thought struck Bethany that it was the perfect place to put her mother’s death certificate.  It would be nice to keep all the important family papers together.  Yes, she would use that to store papers.  It would be nice to add to them and pass things down the line.
 
 
Further rummaging showed that the chest was full of all kinds of treasures; photograph albums, medals from long-forgotten heroes, stacks of letters tied up in ribbon – only the most precious memories made it into the chest.  Bethany opened a long thin box and carefully tickled back the tissue paper.  She caught her breath.  A bridal veil, fine and intricate in its delicacy adorned her fingers.  Who had this beautiful thing belonged to?  It wasn’t the one her mother had worn when she had married.  The photograph still sat downstairs on the mantelpiece.  
 
 
The tears took over yet again.  There were so many questions she would never get the chance to ask, things which never seemed important in the hurly-burly of a busy life until the last guardian of the knowledge had disappeared.
 
 
This chest was important.  It was clearly the repository of precious memories for so many generations so the decision was easy.  Her mother’s chest was going to come home with her and she and Amy would go through it together, laughing and crying as only a mother and daughter could.  
 
 
Bethany’s eyes fell on an album.  Maybe the owner of the mysterious bridal veil would be in there?
 
 
They were all there; frozen in their faded monochrome grandeur; the uncles, aunts, cousins, children, parents and friends.  The smiling faces spoke of good times and continuance.  They were her family and they were part of her just as they were part of her daughter.
 
 
Bethany’s brow crinkled with curiosity at the news cutting on the next page; ‘Amnesty for Heyes and Curry’ the headline cried.  Why was that in her mother’s family album next to a flyer explaining how to get absolution from the Governor of Wyoming written in a classic Victorian font?
 
 
“Honey!  Do you want some coffee?”
 
 
Bethany walked over to the landing and called downstairs to her husband.  “That’d be great, Eric.”  She paused to lean on the banisters and smiled at him.  “Guess what I found?”
 
 
Eric raised an eyebrow.  “Knowing your mother it could be anything.  What on earth are you wearing?”
 
 
Bethany reached up and touched the bonnet.  “This?  Oh, it’s old Auntie Birdie’s.  I always wanted to play with it as a child, but I was never allowed.”
 
 
“Auntie Birdie?”
 
 
“Yes, my mother’s grandmother’s sister, so my great-grand aunt.”  Bethany frowned.  “Is there such a thing?  She was quite a woman by all accounts.  I found a newspaper cutting about Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry winning amnesty.”
 
 
“Heyes and Curry are related to you?” chortled Eric.  “That explains your need to steal from my plate all the time.”
 
 
“Heyes and Curry?”  Bethany’s Aunt Elizabeth poked her head out of the kitchen.  “Oh, no they weren’t relatives.”  She paused.  “Aw, Bethany have you been crying again?  Come and have coffee and I’ll tell you all about the day Heyes and Curry met Auntie Birdie when they robbed a train she was on.  She was so pleased when they won amnesty.  She really felt she had made a big difference in their lives.”  The older woman smiled warmly, “and then we’ll tackle the bedroom together.  It a horrible job; clearing up after the loss of a loved one...”


Last edited by Hunkeydorey on Sat Nov 02, 2013 1:20 pm; edited 4 times in total
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Bluebelle

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PostSubject: Re: October 2013- "To laugh often and much" - Quotation   Thu Oct 31, 2013 6:55 pm

The tall, dimpled man stuffed his bedroll into the overhead luggage compartment, sharing a discrete smile of satisfaction with his weary companion. The whistle blew and the guards started to close the doors.

The cousins heaved a sigh of relief. They had a double Pullman seat each, facing one another – plenty of room to stretch out aching limbs and catch up on some much needed sleep. They slumped down in opposite corners, filling the space between them with a tangle of long, muscular legs. The chug of the train told them they had pulled out of the station – no more passengers meant these seats were theirs until the next station. The partners pulled dusty hats over their faces and folded their arms, ready to be rocked and cradled into locomotive insensibility.

“Ahem!” A female voice cleared a throat in close proximity.

Without even exchanging a glance they each knew the other had decided to feign oblivion in the hope that they could hold on to enough room to stretch out. The pair remained as immobile as statues.

“Ahem!!” The voice had become stronger and more insistent. A long forefinger pushed up the brim of a hat revealing a single, bleary, blue eye. “Ma’am?” drawled the stranger.

The elderly matron pointed at the empty seats with a rolled umbrella. “We can’t get to these, young man. Your legs are in the way.”

Kid Curry lifted his hat and kicked his cousin’s foot, shrugging his languid body to an upright position. “Joshua!” Another jolt was required, his partner seemed especially determined to hold onto the leg room. “The ladies need these seats.”

The black hat was lifted, a chiding, dark eye glowering at his partner. “Yeah, yeah, I’m, moving.”

Heyes shuffled to an upright position allowing the two elderly matrons to scuttle into the available seats. The smaller of the two delicately arranged her skirts and perched beside the Kid, watching her more rotund companion wedge herself on the opposite seat.

The bigger lady leaned towards her companion conspiratorially, the little, straw hat covered in violets pitching precariously forward, wobbling in time to every word. “So, have you heard about Mary?”

“Oh, yes. Her leg’s come back.”

Her companion grimaced. “So I hear? Can’t they do anything?”

“They can drain it, but that’s about it.”

The woman sat back, clutching her purse to an impressive bosom with surprisingly delicate hands. “Emily, promise me you’ll shoot me if I ever get like that.”

Emily nodded gravely. “I know, Agatha. She was such a beauty – what a tragic end. And I will shoot you. I’ll be first in line.”

Agatha lips gathered in a sour pucker. “You think there’s a line?”

Emily shook her head defensively. “No, I just meant...”

“Who? Is it that Martha Clarke and her henhouse? She’s always been jealous of me since she saw my fish knives.”

Blue eyes met brown and exchanged a silent conversation before Heyes spoke. “Ladies, would you like to sit together? I can’t see any other empty seats, but at least you could share the same bench.”

“No, this suits us just fine, thank you.” Agatha pursed creased lips. “We can talk more easily facing one another.”

“Yeah,” the Kid frowned, his worst fears being confirmed. “I did think that might be the case. Just checkin’.”

“How kind of you.” Emily smiled up at the man seated beside her, the top of her head level with his shoulder. “This is my friend, Mrs.Brown, I’m Mrs. Harpole. Are you going all the way?”

“To San Fransisco?” Heyes shook his head. “No, ma’am.”

“Me neither.” Agatha dropped a light hand on Heyes’ knee. “I’m going to see my son. He’s a very successful businessman, you know. I just have to pop in and see a friend on the way.”

“Now, don’t be silly,” Emily chided. “How on earth could this young man know your Isaac?” The smaller lady turned to the partners. “Proud mothers, always boasting about their offspring, huh? I bet your mothers are just the same – two such handsome boys.”

“Thank you, ma’am,” murmured the Kid.

The ladies returned to their conversation. “Emily, did you hear that old man Philips died?”

“Yes, what age must he have been? Ninety six?”

“Fifty nine.”

The fluffy white eyebrows rose. “But he looked so old!”

“Yes, being married to Peggy will do that to a man.”

Emily shook her head. “I wonder why so many men die before their wives?”

The smaller woman’s eyes gave a wicked glint. “In Mr. Philips case; probably because he wanted to.”

“Oh, Agatha! You are awful,” the matron nudged Heyes. “Isn’t she awful? “

Heyes drew himself further up in his seat. “I would never make such an assertion of any lady.”

A hand wearing a crochet day-glove dropped onto the ample bosom. “Oh, how gallant. Isn’t he gallant, Agatha?”

Agatha nodded vigorously. “And handsome. Nearly as handsome as my Olly.”

Emily leaned in conspiratorially. “Emily has a lover.”

The partners exchanged a glance borne of men-of the-world learning something novel and shared a warm smile. “A lover?” Heyes’ cheeks pitted with dimples. “I’m very pleased for you.”

Emily nodded her grey head. “I’ve been so lonely since I lost my Harold, three years ago.”

“Then I’m even more pleased for you, ma’am,” the Kid gave her a nod. “It’s not good to be lonely.”

“No, it has been magical. He is so attentive. My brother does not approve, of course,” Emily’s mouth firmed into a harsh pout, “but he never approved of Harold either.”

“Well, Harold was,” Agatha groped for the mot juste, “a diamond in the rough?”

Emily’s eyes twinkled with memories and secrets. “He was a man’s man. He worked his way up from nothing to be one of the most successful lumber merchants in the state. If you look at where he started, he moved further up the social ladder than George did ever did. He was born a banker and is still a banker. He ran hard all his life to stand still.”

Agatha laid a hand on the Kid’s forearm. “Emily’s paramour is much younger than her.”

Another unspoken conversation was shared before Heyes spoke again. “I’m sorry. We seem to be intruding. We’ll let you get back to your conversation.”

The women were not to be so easily diverted. Emily’s eyes gleamed with pride. “Olly is so sophisticated, he’s from San Francisco, you know.”

The men nodded politely before the Kid’s head dropped in feigned sleep. Agatha prodded him back to alertness with her parasol. “Have you been to San Francisco?”

The Kid rolled his eyes and carefully arranged his face into a patient smile. “Yes, ma’am.”

Emily gave a sigh. “I’ve never been. Olly is going to take me there on my honeymoon.”

“I hope you’ll enjoy it.” Heyes gave the Kid a light kick. “Northfield. It’s our stop.”

The blue eyes crowded with confusion. “Huh?”

“Northfield, we get off here. Remember?” Heyes gestured with his head as the trains started to slow down. He sighed heavily at his partner’s inability to take a hint. “Get the bags.”

“Ah!” a smile spread over the Kid’s face at the realisation dawned on him that Heyes was trying to make a dignified exit from their travelling companions. “Yeah, Northfield.”

“You get off here too?” The ladies beamed at the rictus smiles of the men whose shoulders sagged with disappointment. “Could you grab my bag for me? This is where my friend lives, the one I said I was coming to see.”

The Kid’s gloved hand reached for the carpet bag. “Certainly, ma’am.”

The train chugged and ground to a squealing halt and the ladies gathered their various fripperies, and dangled parsols, reticules and shawls from their arms.

“So, genius? What’re you gonna do now. This wasn’t our stop,” the Kid hissed.

“We’ll just leave their bags on the platform and jump back on,” shrugged Heyes. “Say we made a mistake. I was only trying to get us a seat where we could sleep.”

“Didn’t ya think to ask them where they were gettin’ off before you made your announcement?”

“No,” Heyes scowled. “I’m tired. I just wanted some peace and quiet. I’ve been up all night, you know.”

“So have I.”

“Shhhh,” Heyes whispered out of the corner of his mouth. “They’re waiting for us. You got her bag.”

“Sure I have. It’s heavy , so you ain’t gonna be the one carryin’ it...”

The pair followed the woman out onto the platform with Emily positively scampering over to a barrel-chested man with extravagant pair of mutton-chops. “Olly!” She tilted her head to allow the man to drop a light kiss on her cheek. “Oh, I never asked you your names.”

“I’m Thaddeus Jones,” the Kid placed her bag on the platform beside her, staring hard at Olly, “and this here is Joshua Smith.”

Olly looked quizzically at both men in turn. “Smith and Jones?”

“Yeah,” the smile dropped from Heyes’ eyes but the dimples remained. “You must remember us, Olly. We used to have the same boss, years ago.” The eyes hardened. “Mr. O’Sullivan.”

A crimson blotch started to creep up from the man’s neck. “I think I recollect someone like you.”

“Olly is my fiancé,” Emily gushed. “Oliver Benton. He’s in beef”

“Benton?” The Kid relaxed onto one hip allowing his jacket to fall away from his gun. “That’s not what I remember you being into. I thought it was pork fat.”

Olly glowered at the ex-outlaws as the ladies tittered and nodded their flowery bonnets in excitement.

“You know one another? How marvellous. You must take tea with us and catch up,” exclaimed Agatha.

Heyes didn’t take his eyes off Olly. “Yeah, let’s get reacquainted. You ladies go on ahead and choose a nice table in the tea room, we’ll be right behind you.”

They watched the ladies head off towards the buildings, all three men keeping false smiles pasted on their faces. “What’re you up to, Heyes? You gone back to flim flammin’,” Olly demanded.

“If I did I wouldn’t be rinsing sweet old ladies out of their life savings,” Heyes narrowed his eyes. “You were playing the badger game the last time I saw you. Where’s Lulu? Lost her taste for it?”

“Pregnant; with her fifth,” Olly gave a weary sigh, “and they’re all mine.”

“Congratulations!” The Kid punched the man’s shoulder playfully. “You and Lulu are headin’ for your own gang.”

“Yeah, one that’s great at robbin’ me blind. Now leave me to this Heyes, this is my mark. I got here first.”

Heyes shook his head. “Walk away, Olly. I never let anyone play these kind of games when I was around before. I’m certainly not going to let you use that woman now.”

“You just want her money for yourself. What’s your game?”

The Kid’s eyes chilled. “We’ve asked ya nice, Olly. Lever her alone.”

Olly drew himself up to his full height. “Or what? You ain’t gonna turn me in.”

“You want to push us, Olly?” Heyes voice dropped to the low, even cadence which meant he was at his most dangerous. “Really?”

The man eyed both partners in turn, shuffling a patent leather toe on the ground. “You’re at as much risk as I am.”

“Ya think?” The Kid’s right pulled back his jacket to reveal his gun. “I could show this to you, real friendly like, and shoot that shiny, pointed toe right off.” A cold smile twitched at his lips, “by accident of course.”

“That could put a kink in any man’s love life,” Heyes pointed out, “not to mention when we tell Mrs. Harpole about Lulu.”

“This ain’t fair,” whined Olly. “I put three months into that mark.”

The pair strolled casually over to him and took an arm each. “Look on the bright side, Olly. This way you get to stay faithful to Lulu.” Heyes gave Olly a dimpled smile.

“And we all know what Lulu’d do to you if she caught you,” the Kid agreed. “You’d consider yourself lucky if all she shot off was your toe.”

The propelled the confidence trickster inside the train just as the conductor blew the whistle and great puffs of steam covered the wheels as they started to grind into action again.

“Give our love to, Lulu and the kids.” Heyes slammed the door.

“This ain’t fair,” wailed Olly.

“Don’t turn your back on your friends,” Heyes retorted with a wave. “You can’t trust them.”

They watched the train chug off into the distance. “So which one of us tells Mrs. Harpole? We’ve got time. We can get the later train and we don’t have to be at the meeting until tomorrow morning.”

“You do, Heyes,” the Kid sighed. “She’ll need a sliver tongue to sweeten this.”

“But you’re the one who’s good with the ladies.” Heyes’ eyes brightened as an idea struck him. “Why don’t we toss for it?”

“I can’t face it, Heyes. Why not just leave her with the mystery when nobody turns up for tea?”



**********



The door to the hotel suite opened. “Come in, gentlemen.” A hirsute man indicated a young man perched tensely on the edge of a chair.

The man who had opened the door continued. “The Governor of Wyoming assured us that you could be trusted with a job of a delicate matter.”

Heyes nodded. “How delicate?”

The young man spoke up. “My name is Harold Harpole and a relative of mine is seeing a highly unsuitable person.”

The cousins exchanged a glance. “Harpole?”

“Yes,” the young man dropped his head. “My mother is behaving most foolishly. I’m at my wits end. None of us can talk any sense into her, but I’m afraid that her new man is nothing more than an adventurer.”

Heyes rubbed his chin. “What’s your mother’s name and where is she now?”

“She’s in the next town visiting a friend,” or so she says. “The large man offered a seat. “She’s with her friend Agatha who’s as bad as she is. You’d think she’d calm down at her age, but not her. Not Emily. Cigar?” The man proffered a humidor in their direction. “I’m her brother, Edward Holland. I’m here to support her son before she wastes all his inheritance on frills and thrills.” Edward Holland sat on a plump sofa and watched Heyes and Curry puff their cigars into life. “We were told that you could find out about this man and maybe even,” there was an uncomfortable shrug of a burly shoulder, “dissuade him...?”

“What do you think, gentlemen?” Harold Harpole glanced from one to the other. ”We can pay three hundred dollars to get this man out of her life. Can you help us?”

Heyes sat back and examine his cigar thoughtfully. “Yes. For three hundred dollars, I think we can...”
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Remuda

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PostSubject: Re: October 2013- "To laugh often and much" - Quotation   Fri Nov 01, 2013 1:32 am

Legacy

Two men sprawled on a bench in the heart of Denver. The dark-haired member of the duo perused a newspaper he held full length in front of him. His blond counterpart reclined, head resting against the back, hat covering his head, arms to his side, legs splayed out in front of him. Before them, the city bustled, but paid them no mind.

Hannibal Heyes turned a page, rustling the paper to straighten it.

Jed “Kid” Curry stirred. Hand lifting his hat from his countenance, he peered in his partner’s direction. “Can you do that quieter?”

“Huh?” Heyes’ visage never left the rag.

“Can you do that quieter? You just woke me up.”

Heyes’ eyes narrowed. He turned to his cousin. “You mean, read quieter?”

Curry’s eyes rolled. “No, turn the page quieter.”

“Oh.” The thought sank in. “You mean, like this?” Heyes played the paper as an accordion, pulling it inward and out, the rustling growing louder with each “squeeze.” “A little hard not to make noise with it.”

Blue eyes closing, Kid replaced the hat over his face and leaned back. “I’m sure you can be more careful than that and let a body rest.”

Deep dimples appeared. “I suppose I could.”

Passersby went about their business. A dog chased a cat. Children rolled hoops down the street. A horse neighed as a delivery wagon stopped in front of a store. Still, the partners kept their perch.

“Kid!”

No answer.

Heyes’ elbow found Curry’s ribs. “Thaddeus! Wake up!”

A right hand jumped to a sidearm. Blue eyes opened wide. Kid Curry pulled himself up straight, alert and at the ready. “What?!”

Heyes shook his head. “Would you keep it down?”

They looked around. One or two people regarded them but otherwise went about their business.

Curry’s hand moved away from his pistol. He rolled his eyes in his partner’s direction and lowered his voice. “You’re the one who shouted.”

Heyes opened his mouth to say something, but stopped short. “I didn’t shout. Never mind.”

“What’re you so all fired up about?”

The dark-haired man spoke under his breath. “You remember Tremaine?”

The blond brow knit. “Gus Tremaine?”

“Yeah.”

“Sure. That old coot’s a sly one.”

“That he was.”

“Was?”

“Yep. Was.” Heyes handed Kid the paper, indicating a place on the page.

Curry read out loud in a low voice. “Gus Tremaine, age 82.” He turned to his partner. “I didn’t know he was that old.” He continued, “… Died peacefully in his sleep in Denver … He was right under our noses. Wonder if he’d have known we were here.”

“No reason for him to.”

“No, guess not.” Kid read silently. “A wife and three daughters … When did he have time for a family?”

“Guess he made the time. But his glory days were way behind him.”

More silent reading. “True, but he was there when we needed him.”

Heyes chuckled. “Yeah, he sure was. Taught two wet-behind-the-ears kids a thing or two about life.” He lowered his voice, “And outlawing.”

“We were young then, weren’t we?”

“Uh huh. Barely knew anything about the world.”

“And we thought we knew it all.” Curry smiled; sighed.

Heyes glanced at him. “What?”

“Nothin’. Just thinkin’.”

“Now, Thaddeus, I’ll do your thinking for you. Just don’t go being all philosophical on me.”

“I’m not. Just rememberin’.”

Heyes sat up straighter. “And to think we only knew him such a short time.”

“Yeah. Not long. But he really got to us, didn’t he? And wouldn’t take no guff from us, either. Follow what he said or get out of his sight. He was tough, but fair. But what’s really gettin’ me …”

“What?”

Curry tried to convince himself. “He lived to 82.”

“Yeah, a ripe old age, especially for someone in his line of work.”

Kid turned to Heyes. “That’s what’s gettin’ me. He didn’t look that old, he didn’t act that old … It says he was a wanted man livin’ out in the open with a wife and family and no one paid him no mind. That’s somethin’, Heyes.”

“It is. Maybe they dropped the charges against him and the paper got it wrong.”

“Maybe. Or maybe they just got tired of chasin’ him.”

“Could be.” Heyes stared straight ahead. “Or maybe … Guess we’ll never know.”

“Nope.”

“That’s a legacy he left. A family. Imagine that.”

Curry contemplated the bustle around them, but it faded from his focus. “I can’t imagine that, the way we’re always on the move. One day, maybe …”

“A family? Settling down? Maybe.”

“Do you really think so, Heyes?”

“Joshua.”

Kid looked around sheepishly. “Sorry. Joshua.”

“It’s a good thing we don’t slip up too much. The aliases are almost like our real names – the way we answer and all.”

They sat in silence for several moments.

Curry re-read the obituary. “It says he might not have been the most successful outlaw but he did all right for himself, in a criminal sort of way.”

“He was successful, all right.” Heyes absentmindedly breathed on his fingernails and shined them against his shirt. “They’re probably comparing him against the ‘most’ successful – us.”

Curry chuckled. “Modesty’s not your strong suit, is it, Joshua?”

Heyes didn’t miss a beat. “Nope.” Then, “But Gus was modest. He really was.” A pause. “Maybe we can learn something from that.”

Blue eyes grew wide. “Did I hear you right?”

“You heard right, Thaddeus. Face it, Gus Tremaine left a legacy. He lived to a ripe old age and had a family when the odds were way against him. He lived a good enough life that the law left him alone, whether they dropped the charges against him or not – but there’s nothing here that says they did. He beat the odds in all the ways that mattered.” Heyes sighed. “I guess that’s something to think about …”

“And learn from?”

“Maybe. If we get the amnesty, we have a chance. If we don’t, the odds are against us achieving half what he did. He was a good man, we knew that. But you really have to admire him for winning the roll of the dice. Isn’t everybody beats the odds like that.”

“What’s the chance we will?”

“Don’t know, Kid, but …”

“Thaddeus.”

Heyes smiled. “Thaddeus. That’s a reminder of it all the time, isn’t it? Aliases. I wonder if Gus ever had to use one. He didn’t when we knew him.”

“And in his lifetime, that wasn’t all that long ago.”

“Nope.”

Curry breathed deep and stretched. “Well, I don’t know about you, but all this philosophizin’ is makin’ me hungry. All the good we’ve said about Gus, but the man still had to eat.”

Heyes laughed. “That he did, Thaddeus. That, he did.”

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