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 Choices Chapter Thirty

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Keays

Keays

Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 62
Location : Camano Island Washington

Choices  Chapter Thirty Empty
PostSubject: Choices Chapter Thirty   Choices  Chapter Thirty EmptyFri Nov 08, 2013 10:50 pm

Choices



Summer was settling in over Wyoming and life at the prison had also settled into a more relaxed, warmer weather kind of routine. Even Heyes wasn't quite so jittery as he had been during the spring and was doing his best to enjoy the warm days outside as much as he could, knowing that winter makes its bite be known pretty early on. He had checked out the little library that was next to the chapel in the hopes of finding something new to read and he hadn't been disappointed. A stock of used books had been donated to the prison last winter as soon as weather had permitted, but Heyes had been preoccupied during that time and hadn't been down to check on any new arrivals.

Now, however he was in the mood for some light reading and was pleased to discover one of his favourites had been added to the selections. His face broke out into a soft smile as he pulled 'Life on the Mississippi' out of the shelf and right then and there began to flip though the pages. He was again pleased to find the book intact, and heading back up to his cell, he grabbed his pillow and the last of his cookies from Belle and then made a bee line out to the yard. As usual he did a quick scan of the enclosure and seeing nobody worth worrying about he stretched himself down along the bench under the stairs, and propping his pillow behind his head he settled in to spend the day reading.

Even though he had read this book before it had been some time and he found himself becoming totally immersed in once again. He was aware of the minor activity going on around him, but everybody seemed to be in a laid back summer mood and nobody was looking to cause trouble. It was just that kind of day. The only thing he was finding annoying was the flies and even then, not enough for him to pack up his cookies and head back indoors—it was just too pleasant out there on the bench. So he continued to read and to munch on cookies and occasionally give a swat at some insect that was getting too brave.

Then he felt something really tickle at his scalp and being so busy in his book it didn't occur to him that it didn't really feel like a fly this time. He sent a quick annoying swat at it and it went away for a few seconds, but then being persistent, it came back and tickled him again. He sighed irritably and gave an even stronger swat, this time actually connecting to something very solid.

He sat up in an instant, preparing to do battle with whoever was antagonizing him just as the fawn snorted in surprise. The tiny antelope jumped away and with the whites showing in its eyes, trotted ungainly back to it's mother. The doe stood there with with her ears flicking back and forth and sending the inmate a rather indignant look concerning his behaviour towards her baby.

Heyes relaxed his stance and smiled. It really wasn't unusual for the local deer population to find their way into the prison yard, usually coming in through the open front gate while other travellers were coming or going. They had learned that often the inmates would feed them apple cores or some old bread, maybe even a little bit of grain if there was any to be had. The only time it was dangerous was during the rutting season in the fall when the bucks would be antagonistic and had been known to come into the yard and actually charge some of the men, viewing them as competition for the does. But now it was summer and does with their new fawns would often come in to socialize and to accept any tidbits that would be offered to them.

Heyes sat quietly on the bench and then breaking off a small piece of cookie, he held it out to the small family and made soft clucking sounds to encourage them to come in close again. The fawn stayed by  its mother, and the doe continued to stand there flicking her ears, but gradually the look in her eye softened and she began licking her lips—if deer have lips. Eventually her head came down and she stepped in closer to receive the tasty bit of cookie. Once that was munched down she came in even closer, looking for more.

Heyes laughed and spoke to her quietly and then breaking off another piece he held it out for her. While she munched on that, he reached out with his other hand to the fawn, and taking the cue from it's mother, it stretched out it's neck and sniffed the inmate's fingers. Heyes' grin widened as his fingers slowly reached forward and stroked the side of the baby's face. The fawn wasn't sure what to make of that and pulled it's head away at first and started nodding, but then curiosity got the better of it and it came in closer to investigate. After all, mom didn't seem too concerned

. It wasn't long before Heyes was scratching the fawn's long delicate ears and rubbing it's little neck and then the fawn came in closer and really started to investigate. It nibbled on Heyes' tunic, his fingers that still had cookie crumbs on them, his book, his pillow and then the little tin box, dumping what was left of the cookies onto the ground. Both the deer jumped away at the sudden noise that caused, but the doe was quick to return and using her delicate tongue she commenced to clean up the cookie crumbs from the ground and look around for more.

The fawn started to investigate the crumbs on the ground too, but didn't really find them too appealing, still being on mother's milk and all, so it came back to continue investigating the human. Heyes continued to scratch and stroke the baby until the doe had finished with the cookies and decided that it was time to move on. She gracefully turned away and elegantly walked towards the other side of the yard to see if anyone else had anything for her. The fawn gave the human one more little nose butt and then turned ungracefully and loped most inelegantly after it's mother.

Heyes sat quietly on the bench and smiled after them, then laughed again at the ungainly gait of the fawn doing its best to keep up with mom. Then with a sigh and a slightly disappointed look at the now empty cookie tin, he lay back down again and settled into his pillow to continue with his book. He had to admit that giving up the last of his cookies was more than worth the pleasure of having the deer come over for a visit. The cookies had become kinda stale anyways.

After lunch, Heyes returned to his cell to find that he had a couple of letters waiting for him. One was from David, which wasn't really a surprise since the two of them had been exchanging correspondence lately. But the other one was from Lom, which was a surprise—that man not being one to write letters unless it was something really important. Heyes settled onto his cot and tore that one open first. Typically, it was short and to the point.

Heyes;

Don't know if you've seen Kid or not, so he might have already told ya'. Anyway, in case he hasn't yet; I'm gettin' married next month. Don't feel like you're missing out on anything as it's going to be a quiet ceremony with mostly just her adult children present and maybe the Kid if he can make it. Just letting ya' know. Hope you're doing okay and staying out of trouble.

Lom.


Heyes sat back and sighed. That was unexpected. Heyes had come to think of Lom as the quintessential bachelor and he had certainly never indicted that he was involved with anyone special. But then Lom never did discuss his personal life all that much and there was certainly no reason why he should discuss it with Heyes. The inmate smiled a little ironically—yeah, maybe he should consider himself lucky that Lom thought to tell him about it at all. It would have been just like Lom to not say a word about it and then have the Kid show up one day to find a woman in residence. Heyes laughed to himself at that thought.

He was just about to open up and read the letter from David when he became aware of someone standing at the door to his cell. It was Murrey.

“Convict, follow me.”

Heyes frowned, with a little bit of apprehension tightening his gut. Kid had been for his visit two weeks ago so wasn't due again for a while. Lom had written a letter, so who else would be coming? Maybe Steven with some good news? Heyes snorted to himself; that wasn't too likely. Still, Heyes got to his feet and followed Murrey through the prison proper and over to the 'pat down' room. Being in here didn't tell him anything. Whether it be for a visitor or a trip over to see the warden or to the orphanage, all roads began in this room with a body search and manacles. Heyes sighed. At least it was Murrey and not Carson but then Heyes hadn't seen Carson, so he probably wasn't even working that day—thank goodness for small blessings.

Then with a definite feeling of relief Murrey directed Heyes towards the visitor's room and got him settled into the chair to await his company. The door opened and—oh! It was Kid. Again? Surely Kid hadn't come all the way back to the prison just to tell Heyes about Lom's upcoming nuptials.

“Hey Kid!” Heyes greeted his friend with a smile.

“Heyes.”

But then the smile left Heyes' face and he felt a tingle of—what? Some strange emotion; a little bit of fear, a little bit of antagonism, a little bit of 'Oh crap, what am I suppose to do with this?' Sam, looking just as uncomfortable as Heyes was feeling came into the room on the Kid's heels and sat himself down at the table. He couldn't quite bring himself to meet Heyes' steady gaze and then the inmate broke contact and sent the Kid an accusatory look. Kid just shrugged and sat down himself.

“Sam and Maribelle were over this way anyways,” Kid explained. “I thought it was about time you two buried the hatchet—and not in each other either!”

“Hmmmm,” came Heyes' non-committal response.

Sam continued to look uncomfortable and at anything other than the inmate. Murrey, sensing the tension in the room, straightened up a little bit and remained watchful. Kid sat back with arms folded, hoping that one of these two antagonist would make the first move towards getting things settled. Since Heyes was the one who had insisted on holding onto the grudge, Kid felt it would be a good sign if Heyes was the one who opened up negotiations. Heyes sat sullenly, staring at the Kid with his mouth drawn into a tight line. He resented being put into this awkward position and with no warming either. Yeah, Kid was really beginning to do too much of his own thinking these days!

The partners continued to sit and stare a one another—Heyes' expression hard, and the Kid's soft. But there was no doubt as to whom was going to be the more stubborn. Kid was not going to let Heyes go and since Heyes had already been thinking that it was time to let up on that grudge, he consciously decided to put his ego on the back burner and he began to relent. He finally gave a sigh and relaxing his shoulders he dropped his gaze from the Kid and looked over to Sam.

That young man was still looking very stressed and could not bring himself to meet the convict's gaze. Though Sam still found the ex-outlaw to be very intimidating, he was surprised at how much he had changed. This realization made him feel even more guilty about having been the cause of it and he had no idea what he could say to try and make things better. If only he didn't find Hannibal Heyes to be so masterful then maybe he could face the man down and garner some respect from him.  But he just didn't have that in him to do yet. Fortunately Heyes finally made the first move.

“I hear you and wife are going to be adopting.”

“OH, yeah,” Sam answered, relieved that the topic was one that he felt good about. “Ah, yeah. That's why we're here. We had the last of the paperwork to sign and Maribelle is over at the orphanage now, getting them ready for the trip back home.”

Heyes brows went up. “Them?”

Sam smiled, warming to the topic. “Yes. We decided on two siblings,” he informed the inmate proudly. “We had only planned on adopting one, but we just fell in love with the brother and sister and then thought that, well...we lost two children, so maybe it was fitting that we adopt two. It's going to mean some big changes in our lives, but we're really looking forward to it.”

“Yeah,” Heyes nodded, then smiled. “That's good. So, Todd and Carol? Those are the siblings you're adopting?”

“Yes,” Sam agreed. “Do you know them?”

“Oh yes!” Heyes grinned also warming to the subject. “That's great. I'm sure you'll do real well by them.”

“I hope so,” Sam answered. “We don't know much about raising children, but my mother is there and she'll help. I sure hope we do good by them.”

“Ohhh, I think you will,” Heyes assured him. “Even though this orphanage is a palace compared to the one Kid and I were in, there's still nothing better than being in a family with folks who want you. I'm sure you and Maribelle will do fine.”

Sam beamed. Curry grinned, relieved to see Heyes rising to the occasion. Then Sam looked a little uncomfortable again, but he was feeling more confident now that the conversation had been initiated.

“I'm real sorry, Mr. Heyes,” he said awkwardly. “I didn't realize how bad....I mean, my pa was run down and killed by bank robbers and I just....I mean, I thought they were all the same. That none of you deserved any....well, respect, or....regard. But then Mr. Curry almost dying there and now you in this place....it's not what I thought it would be. I mean...you and Mr. Curry ain't nothin' like those men who ran down my pa.  And...well, I'm real sorry.”

Heyes listened quietly to this awkward apology and felt regretful and almost embarrassed by his continued antagonism towards this young man. Yes, his ego had taken a beating and it was just so much easier and satisfying to be able to blame Sam for the unfortunate turn that his life had taken. But he was finally—finally beginning to see how it was his own self-serving choices that had led him to this end.

“You don't have anything to apologize for,” Heyes told him quietly. “You were hired to do a job and you showed real backbone and persistence in completing that job. You didn't push me and Kid onto the outlaw trail, you had absolutely nothing to do with that. Those were our choices and sooner or later we were going to have to face up that. You have nothing to be ashamed of Sam. I'm the one who's ashamed and I apologize to you for putting the blame for my choices onto you.”

Sam grinned, relief emanating off of him in waves. Kid smiled. He knew that had been hard for Heyes to say, but after his many talks with Kenny, he also knew that Heyes had to face up to things. He had to begin to forgive if he was ever going to get out of this place—and not end up coming right back in again!

“Thank you Mr. Heyes,” Sam said. “That means a lot. Carol and Todd both hold you in high regard, as does Sister Julia so I guess that does mean a lot.” Then Sam smiled. “I'm not sure what those two youngsters are more excited about; coming to live with us as part of our family, or having Mr. Curry, and hopefully yourself too, soon—as neighbours!”

“Oh well, I think in the long run having a family is going to matter more,” said Kid. “Me and Heyes are just regular folk after all.”

Heyes smiled over at him. “Speak for yourself,” he teased.

“Uh huh.”

“So, I got a letter from Lom this morning,” Heyes commented, changing the subject.

“Oh yeah. Told ya' the news did he?”

“Yeah,” Heyes creased his brow. “Did you know he was seeing someone special?”

Kid shrugged. “Well—sorta.”

“What does that mean?”

“Well I knew that there was this widow lady who he tended to spend the holidays with,” Kid explained. “but when I questioned him about it, he claimed it was nothin' serious. Just someplace to be, you know.” Then he smiled. “But I guess it turned serious!”

Heyes laughed. “Sounds like it! You gonna go?”

“Yeah, I thought I would try to,” Kid admitted. “Still, he has lots of friends in Porterville so if I don't show up I don't think it would matter much.”

Heyes shrugged. “Yeah, still—I think you should go,” Heyes suggested. “Lom's done a lot for us over the years. It would kind of be showing respect, from both of us.”

“Yeah, ya' think?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay,” Kid agreed. “Maybe me and Beth can go together.”

Heyes smiled.

“Sorry Mr. Curry,” Sam broke in on their discussion. “but Maribelle is waiting for us so....”

“Oh yeah,” Kid accepted that and then sent a regretful smile over to his cousin. “Sorry Heyes. I kinda knew this was just going to be a short visit, but I thought it was important. I'm glad you two have kinda made amends.”

“Yeah, okay Kid,” Heyes nodded a little self-consciously. “You were right, it was past time that I let that go. Thanks.” Then he smiled over at Sam. “You take care of that new family of yours. It's a good thing—what you're doing.”

“Yessir, Mr. Heyes. I surely will,” Sam promised and then standing up he extended his right hand for shaking.

“Ahhhmmm....” came from Curry, Heyes and Murrey. Then Heyes smiled a little sadly, and again as he'd had to do on previous occasions with other visitors, he shook his wrists, rattling the chains. “Sorry Sam, I'm not really at liberty to shake your hand.”

“Oh that's right,” Sam looked a little embarrassed. “Yeah, Mr. Curry did tell me. I forgot. Sorry.”

Heyes smiled and brushed away the apology. “Never mind,” he said. “Consider your hand duly shaken. Perhaps one day we can do it for real.”

“Yeah.”

“I'll see ya' in a couple of weeks Heyes.”

“Yeah, okay Kid.”

Heading back to his cell to read David's letter, Heyes was surprised at how 'light' he felt. He would have thought that finally accepting the responsibility for his own actions and choices, at least where Sam was concerned would have added a weight to his shoulders, but indeed the exact opposite was true. Heyes felt elated, like the weight of his self-righteous anger at an imagined betrayal had suddenly been lifted from him and he could breathe again. Murrey thought it odd that the inmate actually had a smile on his face and wondered somewhat apprehensively what this particular convict was scheming about now.

This guard had totally missed the significance of the that whole conversation in the visitor's room and therefore was certain that Heyes was up to no good—again. Still, not being quite as interested in the welfare of the inmates as Pearson was, Murrey left Heyes on the work floor and both men went their separate ways. Heyes was just as happy for that since, though he didn't dislike Murrey, he felt no significant connection to him and he trotted up the stairs and back to his cell to read. He settled onto his cot and opened up David's letter.

Hannibal;

Well, as usual I seem to be starting my letter to you with an apology for not having written sooner. I would never have thought that having a child running around the house would take up so much space in our lives. But still it is a glorious space and I wouldn't change it for the world! Nathan appears to be a very happy child and is growing like a weed as they say. Belle and a few of our other neighbours have been generous enough to pass along clothing that their children have already outgrown—and thank goodness for it too! Though of course we have some new things for the little fella to wear, it seems like such a waste of money when he outgrows them all so quickly!
He and Jay Jordan seem to be developing quite the friendship when they can actually get together. Jay always seemed to be drawn to Nathan for some reason, and right from the beginning was always trying to help with his care and feeding and never got bored with entertaining him, even when Nathan was still an infant. Odd, isn't it? How two young children can bond with each other like that and be friends right from the get go. Jed often becomes whimsical while watching them playing together and has commented that it reminds him of his childhood and all the antics the two of you got up to as young boys. Makes me wonder what I've got in store when those two mischief makers get a little older and really begin exploring their options. I have warned Jed not to go giving them any ideas. He responds with a smile that I'm not too sure I like!
Of course everyone in the county are excited about the Jefferies' adopting a child—or I'm hearing rumours now that it might be two children! Siblings. That would be wonderful, not just for the children to not only find a home for themselves, but to be able to stay together. So many times you hear of siblings forced into separation once they lose their parents so to hear of a situation where that is not going to happen is wonderful indeed. It is also a very positive thing for Sam and Maribelle to do. I know that losing their own children was very hard on them, as it usually is of course. I remember being terrified that something like that was going to happen with us, and now that we do have our little Nathan I can appreciate the pain of losing a child even more than I did before. But them adopting now is a wonderful thing, turning something negative and painful into something positive and joyous. Those two children are going to be very much welcomed here that is for sure!
On other news, Tricia's cousin Miranda is going to be coming to stay with us for a while. She's been going through a difficult time in her life right now and is just feeling the need to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life for a time. I have no idea how this is going to go as I have never met 'Randa' so don't know if we will get on or not. Of course I will give it my best efforts and hopefully all will go well. Fortunately she has insisted on taking a room at the boarding house in town here at least for now so she's not going to be underfoot.
Apparently her late husband has left her fairly well off so affording it is not going to be a problem. Also, Tricia says that she is just as concerned about being in the way here as I am and agrees that getting to know one another on a less strenuous basis would make it easier on everyone. She appears to be a woman processing a certain amount of common sense!
Well, now that the pleasantries have been dispensed with I feel the need to comment on the apparent mood of your last letter. Depressed, hopeless, giving up. Those are the three main impressions that come to mind. I hope that you have been able to pull yourself out of these moods Hannibal and are able to view things with a little more optimism these days. I was furious when Jed told me what had happened to you last winter and I can certainly understand why you would be angry about it. I find it disappointingly incredible that our prison systems still allow for such barbarism within their institutions and that only the rare few are finding it unacceptable. Thank goodness you do have some friends in there who are trying to watch out for you and if you can just stay focused and be patient (I know, I know) you may find things turning around for the better.
Jed also said that you are beginning to re-assess your decisions of the past and trying to accept responsibility for them, which can only help you in the long run to grow beyond them and to move on. I hope I am not coming across as sanctimonious here because I certainly don't mean to be. I realize that self-examination is difficult to go through even under the best of conditions, and that your current circumstances are hardly ideal for this type of journey. Yet sometimes we do need to be pushed into the depths of despair before we can even begin to climb back up to the light again. Again, I'm not saying that I wish this on you, I'm just saying that I realize you are going through a very difficult time in your life right now but that you mustn't give up hope. That you must hang on and know that some good will come out of it all at the end and then you will be able to look back on this time and know that you had the strength to get through it.
Now I know I'm sounding sanctimonious so I'll just leave it at that before I really start to preach. But please, Hannibal, write me again as soon as you can and let me know how you are doing. And write as often as you want; throw your thoughts at me, give me your ideas. Tell me your fears, your despairs your hopes your dreams. Write them all out and send them to me, let me know what you are feeling. I'll even burn the letters after I read them if that would make you feel more comfortable and you know that you can trust me with whatever you tell me—it will not go any further. I will assume that anything you want Jed to know you will tell him yourself. Whatever you write to me will be between you and me and no one else.
Well, except for the guard who reads your letters, I suppose. But I'll leave that up to you to judge. The important thing here is that you don't bottle things up inside, and writing things out is often the best way to really take a look at what's going on and how best to deal with it. Okay, enough of the lecture. Just take care of yourself Hannibal and as usual, eat as much as you can and drink lots of water etc etc. Oh I know, I'm back to being a doctor again, aren't I? Just take care, and write to me as soon as you can.

David.


Heyes lay back on his cot with a sigh and stared up as his ever patient ceiling. He knew David was right and that keeping things bottled up wasn't a good idea. He had felt better after pouring out his soul in his last letter to his friend. Not that he felt as though his problems were all solved, just that it was a relief to be able to write them all out and then send them away. Almost like letting go. He wasn't one to do that normally—talk about his innermost fears and conflicts but lately he seemed to be doing it more and more. It was as though the confusion and self-doubt that he was dealing with right now was too much for him to handle on his own. That he had been so badly wounded, emotionally and physically that he needed to buffer himself with his friends against a world that he no longer felt safe in.

That concept alone scared him. He was always the one doing the protecting, he was always the one looking out for everyone else. Oh but there again—that's exactly what Kenny had been telling him to stop doing; to stop putting himself in the position where he had to be in control! Dammit! He just couldn't seem to get it! Another heavy sigh. This self-examination stuff was really exhausting. Hmm, tomorrow was Sunday. Maybe he would go back to services again, it'd been a while since he'd last gone. Maybe Dr. Slosson would have some new words for him to play around with—that would be fun. And some more music. Yeah. Yeah, maybe he would go.

By the time the work week got under way again Heyes was feeling a little bit better about things in general. He had done everything that he had set himself up to do and had actually enjoyed the services on the Sunday morning and was glad that he had gone. He even wrote David another letter, assuring him that he was feeling better these days—not 100% better, but getting there and that he would indeed, continue to write and to let him know how things were going.

Down on the work floor his mood was lighter and even Kyle, who tended to hover close by whenever he could, smiled at him and seemed more relaxed himself now that his 'boss' was recovering and getting back into the swing of things. During his day in the laundry room Heyes even caught himself humming. Yeah, maybe things were getting better. Carson was leaving him alone and even Thompson had stopped sending him hostile glances. Boeman seemed to be preoccupied, with what Heyes didn't know and didn't really care. As long as Heyes knew where that inmate and his buddies were, he really wasn't concerned about what else they might be doing.

When Heyes arrived in the infirmary for his usual day of work there, even that place seemed to be light and airy and relaxed. Heyes smiled a greeting over to Sister Julia and the novice, Marilyn who had once again joined the Sister for a day in the ward. The young woman seemed to be taking to her duties with a great deal of enthusiasm and was even feeling much more relaxed in the company of the infamous inmate.

“Good morning Sister,” Heyes greeted his friend. “I'm surprised to see you here today, there's really not that much going on.”

“Good morning Joshua,” Sister Julia smiled at him. “It is quiet, yes. But I thought it would be good practice for Marilyn here and to give her the opportunity to become more familiar with the infirmary without there being too much activity to distract her.”

“Ahh,” Heyes nodded and then smiled over at the novice again. “Are you enjoying your duties miss? The Sister isn't working you into the ground is she?”

Marilyn gave a shy smile, knowing she was being teased and inwardly enjoying it. “Yessir, Mr. Heyes, I enjoy my work here a great deal,” she quietly assured him. “Sister Julia is wonderful.”

Heyes flashed his dimples. “That's good to hear. I'm sure you're doing very well.”

Marilyn beamed. He had such beautiful brown eyes. Sister Julia sent a knowing smile back at her friend.

“Well now I know you're feeling better Joshua,” she said in a mock reprimand. “You're back to flirting with every young lady who comes within range.”

“Ohhh, not every young lady, Sister. Just the pretty ones.”

Marilyn blushed and dropped her eyes, though the smile didn't leave her face. The Sister laughed and then diverted her young novice off in another direction to get her attention focused on something constructive. Heyes smiled after them and then looked around for the doctor.

“Is Dr. Morin here Sister?” he asked her.

“He was here a few moments ago,” Sister Julia answered him. “I'm sure he'll be back soon. He knows you're coming in today.”

Heyes nodded and then went over to the counter and began doing an inventory check until Morin returned and gave him something else to do. Half an hour later Morin did return but he brought company with him. Spotting Heyes, he headed straight over to him, bringing the middle aged suit with him. Heyes instantly became suspicious and tensed just a little bit. He was no longer comfortable with meeting new people and would have preferred to not have to deal with anything—unexpected.

“Heyes. This is Mr. Dalton, he's an official from the Board of Directors for the penal system in Wyoming. He wants to have a few words with you and the Sister, if she has a moment,” Morin explained. “Mr. Dalton, this is Hannibal Heyes.”

“Mr. Heyes, it's good to finally meet you,” Mr. Dalton greeted the inmate, holding out his right hand for shaking.

Heyes was taken aback for an instant, but quickly recovered and returned the handshake. It felt awkward, it'd been so long since he'd actually been able to reciprocate a handshake that at first he hadn't quite known how to respond. Sister Julia, having heard herself being referred to quietly made her way over to the gentlemen.

“Oh, Mr. Dalton, this is Sister Julia,” Morin introduced her. “She also witnessed that particular incident.”

“Sister, nice to meet you,” Dalton tipped his head to her and then glanced over at the novice. “Is this the young woman who stopped the assault?”

“Oh no,” the Sister informed him. “No, she was not here at that time.”

“Oh. So, Mr. Heyes. Would you care to tell me what happened that day?”

“I don't know if that's such a good idea,” Heyes commented, feeling a little defensive at this intrusion. “Jeez Doc, do you really think we should be discussing this here?”

Morin shrugged. “I donno Heyes. One place is as good as another I suppose.”

“Yeah, but....”

“Rest assured, Mr. Heyes,” Dalton put in. “Warden Mitchell is well aware of my presence here and that I am speaking to you about this.”

Heyes paled visibly and swallowed. “That's what I'm afraid of,” he answered a little sardonically. “This isn't a good idea, Doc.”

“Joshua, surely you don't think that the warden would do anything to you now,” the Sister asked him. “The Officials are aware of the problems here, if the warden retaliated against you it would only make things look worse.”

Heyes sighed anxiously with a slight groan thrown in. The Sister's words made sense, but he couldn't help the nagging doubt that was sitting in the pit of his stomach.

“I assure you Mr. Heyes,” Dalton seconded the Sister's opinion. “now that we are aware of this situation, nothing will happen to you if you speak with us. Besides that, I'm already here. Whether you speak with me or not, Warden Mitchell is going to assume that you did, so....”

Heyes sighed again, feeling as though he was being backed into a corner.

“Is Kenny here today?” he asked the Doc.

“No not today,” Morin informed him. “C'mon Heyes, it'll be alright.”

“Yeah okay,” Heyes finally agreed, though reluctantly. “What do you need to know.”

“Just tell me in your own words what happened that day,” Dalton explained. “Beginning with you going to help the inmate out on the work floor.”

“Well, it all started....”

Heyes' optimistic mood of the morning had been crumbled by the visit from the official. He had gone in to great detail about the assault by Carson and Thompson that had taken place there in the infirmary and Sister Julia had confirmed all that she had witnessed. Then Heyes had gone on to describe what had happened at Christmas time when he had gotten into a fight trying to protect his friends and had accidentally struck one of the guards.

His description of the ensuing punishment, though already known about by this official still caused the man to crease his brow and tisk sympathetically. Young Marilyn had inadvertently allowed a quiet gasp to escape and quickly brought her hand to her mouth.

For the rest of the afternoon Heyes had continued on with his duties in the infirmary with a quiet dread settling onto his shoulders of what the consequences of that discussion were going to be. He tried to convince himself that it was too late for Mitchell to do anything against him now, since he was already being watched and his previous actions examined. The common sense thing for the warden to do would be to just let things lie for now as any retaliation would look suspicious. Indeed, Heyes hadn't put himself out there any more than any of the other people here at the prison who had been involved with the hearing. So really, what could Mitchell do? Heyes continued to try and convince himself that Mitchell was smarter than that, that there was no way that he was going to try anything now. Surely it would be too obvious. Of course it would.

But Heyes just couldn't get rid of that knot in his gut. But then as the week continued on and Heyes was once again part of work gangs going outside the prison walls to help raise a barn or to mend fences and nothing untoward happened, he began to relax again. He had actually learned how to appreciate physical labour since even on the hot summer days, it was better to be outdoors and active than stuck inside the prison stuffing cigars. Not only that, but often the ladies of the properties they worked on would come out to offer the inmates water or lemonade and roast chicken or ham sandwiches and after prison fare, this was considered a fine banquet indeed.

Often Kyle would be a part of the work crews as well so he and Heyes would always make a point of being able to work together. Ames made a point of joining them as well when he could and the three men got along well enough, and even managed to get in a few jibes or comments between themselves without the guards overhearing.  Heyes was back to feeling fairly good again and a little bit of optimism about life in general was beginning to seep into his musings in such a way as to make his days become a little bit more tolerable. If he could convince himself to just take one day at a time and not get caught up in trying to see seven years into the future then it didn't all seem quite so overwhelming.  And by doing so he was able to keep despair on the outer edges of his consciousness.

Mitchell, much to Heyes' relief was leaving the inmate alone for now and as mentioned before even Carson and Thompson had stopped antagonizing him. The only real fly in the ointment was Boeman. He still seemed to have a lot on his mind for an inmate who wasn't going anywhere and on more than one occasion Heyes had glanced up to find that inmate staring at him. And what was even more disconcerting is that he would often have a slight smile on his face as though he were aware of something that Heyes was not.

But nothing would happen and the next weekend came and went without any disturbances or even any kind of suspicious events. Everything at the prison was running smoothly, which in itself should have been a clear warning that everything was just about to go to hell.

It was Heyes’ day over in the infirmary again, and again it was a slow and uneventful shift that he had put in. So slow in fact that he and the Doc were sitting down at the lunch table and enjoying a pot of tea and chatting until such time as Kenny would come over to escort Heyes back to the prison proper for supper.

“No, Joe’s doing real well from what I hear,” Morin was saying, talking about his nephew. “Sheriff Jacobs is real pleased with him and has suggested that he go and study criminology and make a real career outa law enforcement.”

Heyes wasn’t too sure how he was supposed to respond to that.

“Most of the law men I know just put on badges and started shooting people,” Heyes mumbled, not feeling too kindly towards most lawmen considering the treatment he had received from the majority of them.

“Oh crap, Heyes! Stop being so snarky!” Morin grumbled back at him. “There’s more to it than that and you know it. What about that lawman friend of yours who came to see you when you were so sick? And Kenny said he was at the hearing as well.”

“Well yeah,” Heyes admitted. “But he was an outlaw first Doc, so he still had some honour left in 'em.”

“Geesh!” Morin snorted. “I woulda thought you’d be all for getting a different breed of man taking up the badge. Jacobs' not a bad sort.”

“Yeah well maybe,” Heyes was non-committal. “I’ve met up with both Doc, the ones who just take up the badge and the ones who actually get an education and get hired on with Bannerman’s or Pinkerton’s and on the most part they’re all just bullies.”

“I think that maybe you’re viewing it from a somewhat prejudice point of view,” Morin observed. “I mean, right here in the prison we run the whole gauntlet of personalities in the guards. Let’s face it, Carson, that fxxxing prxxk and Thompson are just outright bullies.” Heyes snorted and nodded agreement. “Then there are the other ones like Davis and Murrey who are just here cause they needed a steady job—they do their shifts and go home. Then there’s Kenny and Pearson who both actually give a damn about what goes on here. I predict that young Mr. Pearson will make it to senior guard one day and he’ll be a damn sight better at it than Carson is I can tell ya’ that!”

“Yeah, but there’d have to be a whole lot of changes made to the system before that happened,” Heyes predicted. “Otherwise Kenny would be senior guard right now rather than that bastard Carson.”

Yeah, sxxt floats alright,” Doc grudgingly agreed. “But I don’t want to think that the hearing was all for nothing. We gotta start somewhere and I think there’ll be some changes made because of it.” Then he laughed with just a touch of bitterness. “Maybe not in my lifetime, but…”

Heyes snorted again and with raised eyebrows, nodded agreement.

Then both men jumped as the door leading from the prison proper was suddenly opened with a bang and a bundle of inmates came rushing into the infirmary with one of them obviously in some distress. Heyes and Morin were both on their feet instantly and the Doc headed over to the group to assess the situation while Heyes went to prepare an exam table to lay the injured man on to.

Not surprisingly, the injured man was Boeman. Apparently he had started a fight yet again and had actually got himself knifed in the gut before the guards could get in there and break it up. The opposing inmate had then disappeared into the throng and nobody could rightly recall who it had been. Boeman’s two lackeys, Harris and MacKenzie had quickly moved in at that point to help their buddy over to the infirmary. Carson had given them the go ahead to get Boeman over for medical attention quickly and not to wait for a guard to escort them. Reece would be heading over shortly to retrieve Heyes anyways and could check up on the status of the injured man at that time.

Nobody waited around for further instructions and the two inmates got their friend over to the ward where Morin was quick to come to their assistance. Morin tried to get a look at the wound right away, but Boeman was in so much pain that he was practically doubled over and would not remove his hands from the injury. The most that Morin was able to see was the handle of the knife sticking out from Boeman’s grasp and whenever the Doc tried to move his hands out of the way, Boeman would cry out in such agony that the Doc gave up the effort and directed his two friends to get him laid out on the exam table.
Meanwhile Heyes was busy getting gauze and bandages and tape and all the other paraphernalia he knew would be needed to treat the wound and bringing them over to the table where Boeman was now lying and clutching his gut in agony. Heyes shot him a quick look, knowing that a gut wound was bad news and that Boeman could very well not survive it. The sooner it got treated the better chances were for survival and that was probably why Carson had sent them over without waiting for an escort.

But still, it was an odd thing for the senior guard to do since he was always more concerned about security than about the lives of any of the inmates. Even his favourite. Oh well. The thought passed through Heyes’ mind and then was gone again as his focus was needed more on helping the Doc with his patient—even though the patient was one whom Heyes probably would not have shed too many tears over if he’d bled to death. But, as the medical assistant he knew he had to put his personal feelings aside and do his job, and his job was to assist the doctor.

“Heyes, go get me the morphine over in that cabinet—and bring the carbolic acid,” Morin instructed his assistant while he tried again to get Boeman to move his hands so he could get a look at the injury.

“Yeah okay Doc,” Heyes turned away and began to walk quickly across the ward to the cabinets in question when he heard Morin suddenly yell out.

Heyes turned and at first wasn’t quite sure he was seeing what he was seeing. Harris had suddenly come up behind the Doc and had grabbed him, pinning his arms to his side and then in the same instant, Boeman took the knife that had supposedly been stuck in his own gut and shooting up from the table had plunged it into Morin’s gut instead. The doc yelled out in shock and pain and sent Boeman a look of total bewilderment as to why he would have done such a thing.

With a strangled “No!” Heyes came running back to his friend, and grabbing hold of Harris he shoved the man out of his way then got his arms around Morin as the doctor slowing sank down to the floor.

“Aww, no Doc!” Heyes was scared to death, pleading with his friend. “No, Doc, no, no no!”

Morin was gasping for air and trying to fight the pain. Boeman had pulled the knife out just as quickly as he had plunged it in and the open wound was bleeding freely and Heyes thought he was going to be sick. It was happening all over again! Morin had grabbed hold of Heyes’ sleeve with his one hand while the other was clutching the wound. His breathing was ragged as he lay back, but he fought for control.

“No, Heyes....It’ll be alright,” Morin gasped, trying to assure his assistant. “It’s not as bad as it looks, really….just get me some of that padding….up there to stop….the bleeding.”

“Yeah, okay…” Morin’s confident assurances helped Heyes to calm down a bit and he looked up to the counter top, searching for the padding. Spying it he grabbed it and brought it down to their level. “Here ya’ go Doc.”

“Okay Heyes,” Morin continued through clenched teeth. “You know what to do…c'mon…start thinking. Just…get that padding in there…stop the bleeding. It’ll be alright.”

“Yeah, yeah okay,” Heyes took a deep breath as he focused on what he needed to do. “Sorry Doc. I’m alright.”

Morin laid his head back with a deep sigh and closed his eyes. Heyes was still worried and scared to death but at least he was thinking again now. He applied more padding and put pressure on the wound to slow the bleeding. He knew it would need stitching, but he dared not relieve the pressure in order to prepare the needle and suturing thread. Maybe Kenny would be here soon. Kenny would handle this, and then he could help.

Heyes was dimly aware of the other three inmates moving quickly around the infirmary and he thought briefly how odd it was that Boeman could have suffered a knife wound and yet be up and walking around now as though nothing had happened. He couldn’t piece together what was going on here and nothing was making any sense. The only good thing was that the three men were busy with their own agenda and were ignoring Heyes and Morin for the time being.

“Why do we have to wait for the guard?” Mac was complaining, feeling jittery. “Why don’t we just go!!?”

“Because that was part of the plan!” Boeman snarled back at him. “And besides that we need a guard to get outa here.”

“Why!?”

“He’s got the keys you idiot!” Boeman retorted. “And don’t you think a guard as a hostage might just come in handy!?”

“We need to travel fast and light!” MacKenzie persisted. “Taking a guard with us is just gonna slow us down!”

Heyes gave a sardonic laugh from his position on the floor.

“You jokers are planning a break out?” he asked incredulously. “Just how far do ya’ think you’re gonna get!?”

“Well that just might depend on you Heyes,” Boeman sneered at him. “cause you’re comin’ with us.”

“WHAT!?” Heyes practically laughed in his face. “There’s no way I’m going with you! For one thing I don’t think I’d get very far and for another thing there is no way I’m leaving the Doc here to bleed to death!”

“Oh, you’re gonna come Heyes. And you’ll come willingly,” Boeman promised him, with a threatening tone to his voice. “Cause if you refuse to then I’ll cut the good doctor’s throat and then if we do get caught we’ll all say that you planned the whole thing and you killed the Doc. He trusted you; it would have been easy for you.” Then Boeman smiled wickedly. “Do you really think that Carson won’t believe us?”

Heyes’ upper lip tightened over his teeth, his jaw clenching in anger and then he felt the Doc patting his hand. Heyes looked down and Morin smiled weakly up at him.

“Don’t worry about it Heyes,” he said softly, hardly more than a whisper. “I’ll be alright…. Just leave me enough padding to staunch the bleeding….it’ll be okay. I’ll let Mitchell know…what really happened.”

“He’s coming!” Harris suddenly announced from his watch post at the door.

MacKenzie quickly got into his position on the opposite side of the door from Harris while Boeman pointed a warning finger at Heyes.

“You keep your mouth shut Heyes,” he hissed. “You try and warn him and I’ll kill him as soon as he steps through the door—you hear me!”

Without waiting for an answer Boeman moved over to stand beside Harris and everyone waited in strained silence for the guard to walk through the door. An eternity plus thirty seconds went by until finally the door knob turned and the door opened. Kenny stepped through the threshold and the first thing he saw was an anxious Heyes sitting on the floor beside a prone Morin. Kenny instantly tensed and went for his bully club while at the same time stepping back out into the hallway again…but he was too late.

The convicts made their move. Harris reached forward and grabbing Kenny’s right arm yanked the guard back across the threshold and into the ward. Mac stepped in behind Reece and slipped his arm around the guard’s throat, squeezing tight to disable him while Boeman grabbed the bully club and then used it to send a hard sucker punch to Kenny’s midriff, dropping the guard to his knees. Kenny stayed there, one hand propping him up while the other hugged his gut. He was doubled over and gasping for air. Then Boeman landed a kick to his ribcage that sent Reece sprawling and fighting just to remain conscious.

“C' MON”!” Heyes yelled, angry at the abuse and frustrated at his own inability to stop it. “He’s not gonna be any good to ya’ if you kill him!”

Boeman glared over at his nemesis but then returned his attention to his cohorts, anxious to get the show on the road.

“Get ‘em on his feet!” Boeman ordered. “Bring him over to this door.”

Harris and Mac each grabbed an arm and pulled Reece up to his feet, then practically dragged him over to where Boeman was standing by the door which led out into a hallway which led to another door which lead out to the yard. Reece was pulled up to stand straight while Boeman opened the guard’s light jacket and searched around for the ring of keys.

“You’re not going to get away with this Boeman,” Reece gasped out.

Boeman slapped the guard hard across the mouth, splitting his lip against a tooth.

“Shuddup!” Boeman yelled at him. “That was your token warning! One more peep outa you and your kiddies won’t have a daddy anymore! You understand!?”

Boeman continued his search, making sure that the guard didn’t have any concealed weapons on him and then unclipped the ring of keys and began going through them and trying each one in the lock. He quickly got the right one and the door unlocked and swung open.

“Okay good,” Boeman mumbled, then he walked back to Heyes and grabbing him by the collar started to drag him to his feet.

Heyes resisted, fighting back. “NO!” he yelled. “He’ll bleed to death.”

Boeman’s lip curled. He was getting fed up with this! He grabbed the front of Heyes’ tunic with both his hands and hauling the other inmate to his feet; he pushed Heyes back against the counter and then leaned into him. Their eyes locked in an angry glare.

“I told you once already Heyes!” Boeman snarled. “You come with us now—willingly and Morin has a chance of being found and patched up. You refuse to and I will cut his throat here and now and then you’ll still be coming with us! Which is it gonna be?”

The two men stared at each other, but Heyes knew he held the loosing hand and he finally broke the standoff and looked almost pleadingly down at his friend. He’d never felt so torn in his life. Morin was clammy and pale, beads of cold sweat standing out on his forehead. He was conscious but his breathing was shallow and rapid. He licked his lips and then looked up at Heyes and smiled weakly.

“It’s alright Heyes…you go,” Morin gasped out. “Carson will…send someone over soon…lookin’ for you fellas…so—it’ll be alright. You go.”

“Ya’ sure Doc?”

“Yeah…go.”

“C'mon Heyes! You’re wasting time—let’s go!” and Boeman grabbed him again and shoved him towards the now unlocked exit door.

“You’ll be okay, right Doc?” Heyes kept calling back to him as he was being pushed towards the exit. “I’ll be seeing ya’ later right? Don’t you go dyin’ on me Doc, alright? You promise? I’ll see ya’ later, right?”

And then the group was gone, down the hallway and Heyes’ voice was cut off as the door closed behind them and they made their way towards their next locked barrier. Morin groaned and shifted slightly while he added more padding to his wound. Someone would be by soon—he was sure of it.

Along the back hallway, the escapees and their two hostages were making their way quickly and relatively quietly towards the next door. Once they got there Boeman pulled out the ring of keys and again began trying each one until he found the one that would fit. He went through the whole ring without any luck and then, cursing, went through it again just in case he had missed it
.
“What the hell!” he snarled, turning on Reece. “Why aren’t any of these keys working!?”

“Guards don’t carry the keys for these perimeter doors,” Reece informed him. “It would make it too easy for inmates to do exactly what you’re trying to do.”

“FXXK!” Boeman cursed again and gave Kenny a hard cuff across the head. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me!?”

Kenny shook his head, trying to clear his senses. Heyes held his arm, making sure he didn’t fall down again.

Then Kenny sent a scathing look back at Boeman. “You told me to ‘Shuddup’—remember?”

Boeman seethed and looked like he was going to strike Kenny again, but then he decided against that and glared over at Heyes instead.

“Okay Heyes,” he ordered. “This is another reason I brought you along. Open it!”

Heyes laughed in his face. “What!? I can’t open that!!”

“Don’t play games with me Heyes!” Boeman cautioned him. “We all know about your special talents! OPEN IT!”

“WITH WHAT!?” Heyes demanded. “I don’t have any tools with me!”

Boeman snarled and grabbing Heyes by the tunic, pulled him up to the locked door, then he pushed the ring of keys onto him and handed him one of the long slender scalpels they’d snatched up from the infirmary.

“OPEN IT!”

Heyes and Kenny locked eyes for a moment, and then Heyes sighed and knelt down beside the keyhole on the door. He closed his eyes and took a deep cleansing breath, trying to relax his stressed nerves and clear his head.

Boeman gave him a shove on the shoulder. “Hurry up!”

“Shhhh,” said Heyes, keeping his eyes closed. “You want me to open this then you better let me do it my way.”

Heyes sat back on his heels for a moment, taking another deep breath and calmly persuading his body to relax. Then he opened his eyes, and pushing himself back up onto his knees he very gently slid in one of the smaller keys from the ring. He felt his way around in there for a moment and a smile came to his face as he realized that he hadn’t lost his touch.

He applied pressure with the key where he needed it and then carefully manoeuvred the thin scalpel into the opening alongside the key. He licked his lips, cautiously feeling his way and then held his breath and listened as he applied more pressure, then the smile faded and he pursed his lips in concentration. This was a heavy lock, heavier than the one at the Cheyenne Jail House and it wasn't going to be such an easy one to persuade.

He removed the tools and sat back again while he scrutinized the various keys on the ring, seeing if he could find one more appropriate. He finally chose a heavier key and coming forward again into a more comfortable position he inserted that key and again placed it into position against the tumblers. He knew that Boeman was getting impatient and wanted him to hurry it up, but there was no hurrying a job like this and Heyes did his best to ignore him. Kenny, on the other hand was watching the inmate with intent.

Once again, he noticed Heyes' hands, those same hands that had so deftly manipulated a deck of cards into doing exactly what the inmate had wanted and now they were coming into action again. Only this time it wasn't just for an innocent game to pass the time; this time it was for real and Kenny was getting just a glimpse into another reason why Hannibal Heyes had been at the top of the 'Most Wanted' list.

Heyes was no longer aware of scrutiny on any level. He was biting his lower lip in concentration as he felt for the resistance in the tumblers and then sliding the scalpel in alongside the larger key, he began to slowly apply pressure. This was not an easy lock to pick. The tumblers were heavy and didn't want to give to subtle pressure, but the angle was awkward and if Heyes applied too much pressure then the key would simply slide off the tumblers and they'd be back to square one. Indeed, as Heyes gradually did apply more pressure he suddenly lost the contact and what little movement he had encouraged from the tumblers snapped back into their original, locked position.

Heyes sighed deeply, pulled back for a moment and sat to reconsider his assault. Boeman groaned with impatience and Heyes felt his jaw tighten in irritation but then he forced himself to relax again. Getting into a conference with a lock like this one was going to take calm nerves and a clear head. He couldn't let Boeman or their situation take control. He released another deep sigh, then sitting forward again he inserted the key into the lock and got it into position. This was the third time he had done this so it didn't take him long to find the right location. Once there, in went the scalpel again and made contact with the key.

Heyes closed his eyes once more and forced himself to block out all outside stimulation, he focused on the lock—he became intimate with it. He coaxed it, stroked it, whispered loving endearments to it and slowly, slowly, slowly applied pressure to it. Then he felt the tumblers give in to his seduction and he allowed himself a hint of a smile. He wasn't there yet, he hadn't quite reached it, but he could feel it building and he knew that he had it. Just a little bit more, just a subtle touch in the right place and he felt the lock surrender to him. There was a loud 'click' from inside the door.

He grinned even more and removing the tools from the keyhole he reached up and turned the knob. It opened and the door swung wide. Heyes looked up triumphantly at the other four men and found all of them staring at him, almost in disbelief. Truth be known, Boeman hadn’t really expected Heyes to be able to do it. Reece had been sure Heyes wouldn’t be able to do it. The locks to the perimeter doors were supposed to be 'pick proof'! He was going to have to talk to the warden about getting better locks installed—if they ever got out of this!


Last edited by Keays on Fri Nov 08, 2013 10:57 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Keays

Keays

Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 62
Location : Camano Island Washington

Choices  Chapter Thirty Empty
PostSubject: Choices   Choices  Chapter Thirty EmptyFri Nov 08, 2013 10:52 pm

Boeman held up a hand to hold the others in place and then cautiously took a look around the yard area. It seemed quiet enough since by that time all the inmates would have gone back inside and be just settling in to supper but still one had to be careful. Boeman waved them on and the small party made their way out into the yard. It was still light out, being summer time, but it was quiet and Boeman led them all along the fence line, heading towards the gate.

Heyes and Reece exchanged looks as both of them noticed that the towers were all un-manned. That was very unusual since guards were supposed to be in those watch towers 24/7. Reece shrugged his shoulders, shaking his head, indicating that he had no idea why they were empty.

Then, to make things even more suspicious, the front gate was not only free from the attention of guards, it was also unlocked. Boeman was still being very cautious and when they arrived at the gate, he very slowly pushed open the heavy wooden blockade and again peered outside the parameter of the yard, making sure that there were no surprises waiting for them. Seeing that the coast was clear, he quickly waved them all through, and with Harris and MacKenzie encouraging the two hostages to make it quick, everyone very soon found themselves outside the prison yard.

Heyes wasn't sure if he was happy to be out there or not. He had dreamed of the day when he could walk out those prison gates as a free man but this didn't quite live up to expectations. Far from being a free man, he was not only leaving the prison illegitimately, but as a hostage in someone else's jail break. He really wasn't feeling comfortable in this situation at all. Aside from being suspicious of the ease of this breakout and the convenient lack of security right where it was needed the most, Heyes was also very worried about his friend the doctor.

Morin had insisted that the wound wasn't bad and that help would come to him soon, but Heyes was not totally convinced of that. Heyes had treated wounds like that before, and though it hadn't appeared to be as bad as the one Lobo had sustained, it was bad enough. Still, Heyes tried to assure himself, if anyone could save the doctor it was the doctor himself and therefore he really couldn't have been left with anyone better.

Then everyone's head turned at the sound of horses approaching. Sure enough, two light weight draft horses came trotting out from behind an out building, pulling one of the many prison wagons usually used for hauling supplies. Up on the driver's seat was another inmate, someone whom Heyes recognized from the work floor but hadn't really paid enough attention to get the name. It might even be one of the Cripple Creek boys, he would have been new enough. Boeman showed relief at the arrival of the wagon and everyone ushered towards it.

“Hey Warren!” Boeman called quietly. “You have any trouble?”

“Nope,” Warren answered, just as quietly. “Wagon was waiting right where it was suppose to be and we got food and water to last us a couple a days at least. Only thing missing are the civilian clothes.”

“What!?” Boeman spoke louder than he had intended upon hearing that news. “Dammit! A change of cloths is about as important as the food and water! How the hell are we suppose to blend in wearing prison garb?!”

Warren shrugged. “We got some jackets here” he commented hopefully.

“Alright, fine!” Boeman grumbled. “Let's just get outa here! Everybody into the wagon!”

Heyes and Reece got hustled forward and pushed onto the bed of the wagon with Harris and MacKenzie quickly coming on board behind them. Boeman climbed up on the driver's seat beside Warren and the horses got pushed into motion again. Boeman reached back and grabbed one of the jackets to wear over his striped tunic and then grabbed one for Warren as well. Harris and Mac followed suit. Kenny was already wearing a light jacket and didn't have any need to cover his identity anyways. Heyes was the only one who was left shorted and even though his light summer tunic was almost too much to be wearing in the heat of the day, the nights could get chilly so he knew he could be in for an uncomfortable time.

Despite the discomfort of the jolting wagon and the uncertainty of their situation, Heyes had to admit that the sunset was beautiful. They had been travelling across country for a few hours now and night was obviously making its move to close in upon them. Heyes and Kenny both kept glancing back, hoping to see some sign of pursuit, though Heyes wondered why that would be much of a concern for him. Did he really want to be recaptured and taken back to the prison? But then, what would his life be as a fugitive and on the run? That's if Boeman even let him live. Heyes looked back along their trail again. Nothing was coming.

“Where exactly are we headed?” Kenny finally ventured to ask.

“Shuddup!” came back the standard reply.

Heyes and Kenny exchanged looks again. Heyes thought that maybe he would give it a try.

“Ahh, none of us have really had anything to eat since lunch,” he reminded the man running the show. “Any chance of breaking out some vittles?”

This suggestion was met with silence from the front row. Heyes sighed in disappointment and glanced around at the other occupants. They didn't look too pleased either, apparently everyone was feeling a bit peckish.

Eventually Heyes tried to settle in more comfortably. Night had closed in around them by this time and he wondered briefly how Boeman and Warren were able to see where they were going. There was a bit of a moon shedding some light upon the trail, but that wasn't much and not necessarily a good thing either. Though it gave the fugitives some light to see by, it would also make it easier for their pursuers to track them down if and when said pursuers decided to come after them.

This whole escape was very odd. No guards in the towers, the front gate unlocked? Warren showing up with a wagon all supplied with necessities and nobody apparently in any hurry to come after them. Indeed, Boeman hadn't checked their back trail even once throughout this whole trek, as though he knew that no one was going to be coming after them. That fact in itself was enough to make Kenny and Heyes both very suspicious that this was an inside job. But who? Who would have enough clout inside the prison to arrange this escape? And why?

And the wagon? Why even use a wagon as the means of escape. Wouldn't that be more cumbersome than useful? After all wagon wheel tracks are about the easiest trail of them all to follow, even at night. Plus it made for slow going. Surely saddle horses would have been faster and not quite as easy to track. Better yet, men on foot could have simply disappeared into the landscape and procured mounts for themselves later on from one of the many ranches in the area. No—none of this was making any sense. Heyes shivered, the chilly night air finally making itself apparent.

He leaned up against the side boards of the wagon bed, hugging his knees and hoping that he might doze off just a little bit so that he wouldn't feel the cold so much. Fat chance of that, the way the wagon was jostling them all about. The only good thing about this situation was that everyone was being jostled and nobody was going to be spending a comfortable night. Then around midnight, Heyes was surprised to find himself jolted awake from the light doze he had been hoping for when Harris put in a universal complaint.

“Hey, c'mon Boeman,” he grumbled. “we got a whole sack full of food here. Don't ya' think it's time we stopped to eat?”

“We ain't stopping,” Boeman threw back over his shoulder. “but if you can see enough to pull out some jerky or something, then help yourself.”

“Oh finally,” Mac mumbled under his breath while Harris rummaged around in the sack for something that didn't have to be cracked open and heated up.

Eventually he pulled out a package that was wrapped in cloth and then paper and opened it up to find a large portion of corned beef that had already been sliced up into good sized slabs. A little more rummaging produced a loaf of bread and that seemed to satisfy the menu selections. Harris was able to see well enough by the moonlight to pass out chunks of bread and meat to everyone in the wagon, including some up front to Boeman and Warren, though Heyes was pretty sure that he and Kenny received smaller portions than anybody else. Still, it was something to eat and was gladly accepted and then washed down with a couple of swallows of the still warm canteen water and dinner was done.

Heyes settled back in again and tried not to shiver too much. He leaned his head back and looked up into the night sky and focused his mind on the impossible task of counting stars. He had hoped that it might help him to fall asleep again but instead all it did was open up his mind even more. He found himself wondering, and not for the first time in his life, just what exactly was up there. He knew about the sun and the moon and the stars, but what else was hidden by the dark expanse of nothingness? Some people claimed it went on forever—never ending, but Heyes found that hard to imagine. In fact whenever he did try to grasp onto that concept his mind just went into a tail spin and he'd feel dizzy to the point of having to step back from it.

Others claimed that heaven was up there, just out of sight. Just out of reach. Well, Heyes wasn't too sure that he believed that either. But if heaven wasn't up there, then where was it? Hmm. Contemplative sigh. Why did his mind have to do this to him? There was Harris and Mac just sitting there and not thinking about anything beyond what Boeman told them to do and they seemed perfectly happy with their lot. Even Boeman didn't lay awake at night worrying about 'what if's', so why did Heyes have to get saddled with a brain that wouldn't stop reaching out and asking unanswerable questions? Why did he have to be so 'blessed'?

Oh, he was tired. Not just from being awake into this night, but overall tired. Body and mind tired. Exhausted. Life as he knew it just didn't seem worth the effort it took anymore. He was finding himself not really all that concerned about what was going to happen on this little venture. So what if they got away? How was that going to make life any better? So what if the posse that was sure to be on their trail by morning actually caught up with them? Best case scenario is that he would simply be taken back to the prison. Heyes gave a little sardonic laugh to himself. Best case scenario, yeah right!

The wagon jolted again, hitting a particularly deep pot hole and Heyes was jostled out of his mental meanderings. He sighed. It was still dark and cold. Boeman would have to stop sometime soon in order to rest the horses. Even they couldn't go on forever, especially when the heat of the day would replace the night air and make the open landscape feel like a furnace.

Then, quite suddenly the decision got made for them when the wagon hit another pot hole and that same wheel ploughed up against a rock. There wasn't any sound, really—just a mild creaking and then the wagon started to teeter. The next thing they knew, everyone was thrown from their positions as the aforementioned wheel came free from its axle and the back end of the wagon tilted dangerously as the corner ended up in the dirt and ground the whole expedition to a halt. Everyone rolled or scrambled out of the disabled wagon cursing and swearing and swatting at one another for an inadvertent boot in the butt or butt in the face.

Heyes' first thought as he rolled nose first into the dirt was to wonder how in the world anyone could blunder up an escape so thoroughly, especially one that obviously had support from someone on the inside. His second thought, was how could he use this to his benefit?

“God dammit! What the hell happened back here?!” Boeman cursed as he awkwardly got down from the wagon seat and started kicking scattered bodies out of his way.

“The wheel came off,” was Harris' obvious answer.

Boeman turned in the direction of the voice and would have hit the idiot who had come out with it if the darkness hadn't made it almost impossible to discern one silhouette from another. Instead he just cursed again.

“Dammit!” he spewed while he aimed a totally misjudged kick at the offending wheel, then with hands on his hips he let go a big sigh and tried to calm down enough to consider their options. “Well, it's too dark to try and fix it now. We may as well hole up in here for the rest of the night and see what we can do with it in the morning.”

Then Boeman looked around at their surroundings though it was pretty hard to see anything. The fact that the stars were being blotted out in many areas suggested that they were in some kind of a gulley with high rock outcroppings scattered around them and that was both good and bad as far as he was concerned. It would make good cover for the fugitives, but it could also provide the same for any pursuers that might come upon them. Oh well, there was nothing for it right now. They could unhitch the horses from the disabled wagon, but still keep them harnessed just in case, and then keep one of the men on watch while the rest got some sleep. That sounded like a plan. Boeman glanced around at the human shapes surrounding him and then suddenly froze.

“There's somebody missing!” he snarled. “Where's that damn guard?!”

“I got 'em,” Mac announced. “I fell on top of 'em and knocked the wind outa 'em. He's right here.”

“Then where's Heyes?!”

The shapes all looked around. Oh oh. Where was Heyes?

Boeman cursed again—this escape was going from bad to worse! What a bunch of morons he'd brought along with him. He had 'special' plans for that arrogant son of a.....and if these idiots let him get away there would be real hell to pay.

“Where's the guard!?” Boeman demanded again.

“Right here,” Mac said and pushed Kenny forward.

Boeman grabbed the guard by his jacket and pulled him forward.

“Where the hell did he go?!”

“How should I know?” Reece asked, quite reasonably. “I was busy trying to catch my breath....”

Boeman slapped him hard across the face in his frustration. Kenny, startled by the unseen blow grunted and very nearly went down, but Boeman still had a hold of him and yanked him back up to his feet again. He swung the guard around and tightened an arm across his throat.

“HEYES!” Boeman yelled out to the rocky outcroppings. “I know you can hear me! I'll choke the living daylights outa this guard if you don't put in an appearance, RIGHT NOW!”

Silence. One of the horses snorted. Waiting, everyone searching the silhouette of the rocks around them.

“OKAY HEYES! HAVE IT YOUR WAY! I GUESS YOU DON'T MIND HAVING A GUARD'S DEATH ON YOUR CONSCIENCE!” Then added, almost in a whisper in Kenny's ear. “'Course why should that surprise me.” And he started to squeeze.

Kenny tensed and fought against the strangle hold, trying to break free, but Boeman was strong and didn't have any moral conscience hindering his ability to kill. In fact if it had been light enough for the other men to see his face, the expression of malicious glee would have sent chills down their spins. Kenny could feel the blood starting to pound in his ears and his lungs burning for oxygen when suddenly—and finally by some accounts—a silhouette of a man showed itself in amongst the rocks.

“ALRIGHT!” came Heyes' voice. “Alright. I'm coming in.”

Boeman was almost disappointed; he had begun to feel the rush of squeezing the life out of another man's body. But Heyes was the one he really wanted, the guard would have just been a consolation prize. Boeman eased up on the guard's throat and Kenny gasped in a lungful of air.

“You get down here Heyes—right now!”

“Alright! I'm coming.”

The group could hear the scrape of shoes on rock and the clattering of pebbles being displaced as the 'escapee' made his way down to ground level. Then with disappointment written all over what little body language they could see, Heyes walked over to the group and surrendered. When he got up to them, Boeman released Kenny and then shoved him into Heyes and sent both men sprawling into the dirt.

“Tie them up! Hands and feet! And make it tight!”

An hour later Heyes couldn't believe how stupid these men were being. He knew that Boeman wasn't particularly imaginative, but he still seemed to display a certain amount of brain cell activity under most circumstances. But this was just ridiculous!

Instructions had been followed and soon Heyes and Kenny had found themselves leaning up against one of the still intact wagon wheels with their hands snugly tied behind their backs and their ankles bound together to apparently prevent them from running off. But other than that they were loose—they hadn't been tied to anything even though the wheel was quite handy and they were left sitting upright, beside one another. Heyes just shook his head at the stupidity of it. Obviously Boeman had never had to deal with prisoners before or having to be creative in escaping bondage himself.


All Heyes had to do was wait for the right opportunity. It didn't really take long either. Leaving MacKenzie on watch for the first couple of hours, the other three men settled in to get some shut eye. Unfortunately (well, depending on your point of view.) Mac didn't have much in the way of self-discipline and within forty-five minutes, his snores could be plainly heard mingling in amongst the others.

Kenny and Heyes exchanged glances. Dawn was not too far off by now and with the little bit of glow that the soon to be rising sun was creating on the horizon the two bound men decided that if they were going to make a move, it was now or never. With another quick glance over at the sleeping men, the two prisoners shifted around so that they were back to back and Heyes, who figured that he was the more experienced of the two when it came to untying knots, went to work on Kenny's wrists.

Despite cold fingers, it didn't take him long to find the knots and start to work them loose, then as soon as Kenny felt himself free he quickly untied his ankles and turned around to get Heyes' wrists untied.

It never occurred to Kenny that he should only untie Heyes' ankles and keep his hands secured behind his back. They were allies in this situation and they both needed to be unencumbered if they were going to get out of this alive. Kenny blew on his hands to try and warm them up a bit and then started to work on Heyes' knots. He finally managed to untie the bonds and leaned over to start on the ankles when a sudden movement caught Heyes' eye. He yelled out a warning, but was too late.

Mac had been awakened by their movements and sneaking up behind the guard had clipped him a good one on the back of the head with his own bully club. Then again—all hell broke loose! Kenny fell forward across Heyes' legs, groaning and rubbing the back of his head. Heyes reached over and grabbed one of Mac's ankles and pulled the man's legs out from under him, sending him sprawling backwards into the dirt. Then he pushed Kenny off of him and tried to finish untying his own ankles but by then the other men were awake, and assessing the situation in an instant made a concerted rush at the prone group.

Heyes was completely free by this time and was scrambling to his feet still hoping to make it to the horses, but MacKenzie had also regained his footing and pissed off that he had fallen asleep and allowed this to happen, had strong incentive to nip it in the bud. He ran at Heyes and making a desperate lounge body checked him into the ground and knocked the wind out of him. Gasping to get his air back, Heyes still turned and kicked out at his assailant landing a blow against the man's head. Mac grunted and fell back but didn't stay down and was up and after him again. Heyes tried to get to his feet, but his own body was fighting against him and between the dust and the assault, he couldn't get any air.

Mac was on to him again pushing him back into the ground and the two men locked themselves into a battle for supremacy. Then Warren joined in and got hold of Heyes from behind, pinning his arms to his side and dragging him to his feet. Mac, his mouth and nose bleeding was really in a foul mood now and he came at Heyes with his fists set to do damage. The first blow got Heyes in the midriff and he doubled over just in time for a wicked undercut to bring his head back up again. Mac was just winding up for another attack when Boeman yelled at him and brought it to an end.

Mac didn't particularly want to back off, but he did and he and Warren escorted Heyes, none too gently over to where the others were standing. As they got close Warren gave him a shove to bring him up, bloodied and still gasping for air right in amongst the circle of his enemies. Kenny was back on his feet by now looking both dishevelled and disappointed. Harris was holding him snugly, pinning his arms behind his back while Boeman was glaring at all of them. Now that the sun was rising there was no mistaking the look of infuriation on the boss's face. Everybody tried to be looking somewhere else. Then he zeroed in on MacKenzie and that young man started to look decidedly uncomfortable.

“You idiot!” Boeman yelled at him. “You fell asleep!”

“No, I...”

“Don't you dare stand there and tell me you didn't! How else would they have gotten loose!?”

“Yeah but I stopped them!” Mac tried desperately to defend himself.

“And a good thing you did too, otherwise I'd be leaving you out here for coyote bait!” Then Boeman took a deep breath and started to calm down just a little bit. Finally he shook his head and apparently came to some kind of a decision. “I was gonna wait until we got further away from the prison, but I have had enough of this bullxxxx.” He pulled the scalpel out of its makeshift sheath and turned towards Kenny with malicious intent. “Say your prayers 'Officer' Reece. Your wife is about to become a widow.”

Kenny tensed at that unexpected announcement and instantly started to fight but Harris only clamped down on him tighter, holding his arms back in a vice. Heyes didn't even think, but was on the move instantly, getting himself in between Boeman and his intended victim.

“NO!” Heyes was practically pleading. “No! C'mon now!” He actually put his hands out, trying to take hold of Boeman's wrist, to push him away. “There's no need for this! Besides I thought you wanted him as a hostage!”

Boeman sneered. “What's it to you Heyes?” he asked with a snort. “After the way these guards have treated you, I'd a thought you'd be all for this.”

“Hey, look, I wouldn't mind helping you at all to put your head in a noose if you wanted to kill Carson,” Heyes explained. “But NOT Kenny.”

“Carson—Reece!” Boeman spit. “What difference does it make? They're all the same!”

“Well if that's what you really think then you haven't been paying attention!” Heyes shot back, desperate to save his friend's life.

Boeman stepped back, looking suspicious.

“What's going on here?” he asked. “I know I'd heard rumours that you and the Kid had buddied up with the law, trying to go straight, but I didn't believe them—until your trials!” And he turned and spit into the dust again, showing his disdain. “Then after you joined us in our cozy little home away from home the grape vine whispered that you were in cohorts with the warden, spying on us. Then I admit, I started to wonder that maybe you were just playing games with everybody.
“Then I figured it couldn't be—not after the way those guards had been treating you—why would you side with them?” He looked passed Heyes now and bore into Kenny. Everyone could feel the tension. Boeman snarled and shook his head. “I thought it was odd that you would give yourself up just now to save a guard's life, but I figured you were just a wimp—didn't want to be responsible for another man's death, even if it was a guard.
“But now here you are putting yourself in harm's way to protect HIM!? That kinda makes me wonder Heyes, wonder if you're not in the warden's back pocket after all.”

Heyes laughed but he couldn't hide the nervousness in it. “You're crazy,” he argued. “Why would I do that?”

“I donno Heyes, you tell me,” was Boeman's comeback. “I mean, now that I really think about it, all those times that you got punished for stuff, but you never permanently lost any of your special little privileges did ya'? You still had your day in the laundry room and over in the infirmary. And going to the orphanage—what the hell was that all about?” Boeman snarled for real and then grabbed Heyes by the front of his tunic and pulled him in close. “What the hell have you been telling the warden Heyes? What have you been doing to 'earn' those little privileges?”

“Nothing!” Heyes insisted. “You said yourself that I get punished a lot! And I've got a twenty years sentence hanging over my head—what kind of a cushy deal is that supposed to be!?”

Boeman thought about that for a moment and then slowly shook his head.

“Maybe you didn't make the deal for yourself,” he speculated. “How come Kid Curry got off completely? How come you got twenty years and he got nothin'?”

Heyes hesitated. He had never thought about how incriminating that would look. Now that Boeman had seen the pattern, what could Heyes possibly say to him in order to explain why the governor sent Heyes to prison but gave Curry the amnesty. This was getting complicated.

“It was just....politics,” Heyes commented, though even to him it sounded lame. “Luck of the draw, it's just the way it went.”

Boeman snorted derisively. “Yeah right! I'm thinkin' you made a deal. You agreed to do prison time and be a spy in here in exchange for your partner to go free. All of a sudden that's beginning to make sense. Hell! Maybe you didn't even get twenty years—maybe you only got five as part of the deal and you're just bidding you time and getting in chummy with the guards.”

“Oh come on!” Heyes was getting frustrated. “After the way Carson and Thompson have been pounding on me?! Why the hell would I want to help any of them?!”

“But you are helping them Heyes!” Boeman pointed out. “You've just put yourself in front of a guard to prevent me from killing him! Why would you do that if you're not working for them?!”

“Because Kenny's different!!” Heyes yelled in desperation. “And you should talk! You and Carson are practically attached at the hip! Is he the one who set up this escape for you?! Cause it sure doesn't take a genius to figure out that you had inside help with this! You accuse me of being a snitch!! What the hell are you up to?!”

Boeman turned red with anger and Heyes wasn't sure if it was because it was the ultimate insult or if he'd gotten too close to the truth. But the result of this accusation was a stunning blow to Heyes' temple that sent him staggering backwards. Again, he would have fallen except that Boeman grabbed hold of his tunic once more and hauling him back up, swung him around and shoved him hard into Mac and Warren.

“HOLD HIM!” Boeman ordered his two cronies.

The two convicts responded instantly, both of them grabbing an arm and holding him in a grip that defied movement. Boeman's eyes had turned cold and hard and he came towards Heyes, holding the scalpel up so that Heyes could see it. Kenny tried to fight himself loose, but Harris tightened his grip and choked the guard back into submission.

“Pull his head back,” Boeman ordered.

Heyes began to fight but then he felt someone's arm wrap around his forehead and pull his head back, exposing his throat. Suddenly he felt real fear—that primal, animalistic fear when your most vulnerable area has been exposed to your enemy and you're staring death in the face. Heyes yelled and fought and tried to kick out as Boeman approached him. But Boeman just laughed at him and Heyes' head was pulled back even further until he felt as though his spine was going to snap.

“Oh Heyes I have waited so long to be able to do this,” Boeman smirked at him. “You have no idea how much I'm going to enjoy it.”

“Nooo.....” Heyes tried to fight in his desperation but he couldn't break loose. He could hear rather than see Kenny struggling as well because they both knew what was about to happen.

Boeman came and stood right in front of Heyes and smiled with almost manic pleasure. Then Heyes felt the tip of the scalpel pierce the epidermis just below his right ear. He tried to struggle again, fear clutching at his heart and turning his legs to butter. He heard Kenny yelling and then the yell being choked off. Slowly Boeman began to slide the blade across Heyes' throat, applying just a touch more pressure to push the tip into the dermis to cause blood to start to bead up but not quite enough pressure yet to actually cut into the jugular. Boeman had waited too long for this—he was going to take his time.

The blade had made a shallow cut right across Heyes' throat and was just about to his left ear when a number of things happened at once. A rifle report cracked through the early morning mist somewhere off to Heyes' right and instantly Heyes was being splattered with blood and bits of brain and bone as Boeman's skull exploded from the impact! Boeman's hand jerked up with the shock, causing the scalpel to cut deep and slice upwards across Heyes' jawline, exposing the bone and nearly taking off his left ear lobe! Heyes and Kenny both suddenly found themselves free as the other three convicts panicked and ran!

Heyes, his adrenaline pumping now, found his legs again and spun around to face the assault! He saw a posse of mounted men come charging out from behind the rock outcroppings, their rifles out and firing after the fugitives. Heyes felt panic! Everything was happening so fast. His first instinct was to run for cover and to get out of here! His legs were just about to answer to that impulse when he felt a hand on his shoulder and Kenny's voice in his ear.

“Don't move Heyes,” he ordered the convict. “Put your hands up behind your head and stand perfectly still. You try to make a run for it now and they will shoot you down.”

Heyes swallowed. He was shaking from the adrenaline and his fear instinct was to ignore the guard and run! But his logical mind was telling him to do as Kenny instructed and the hand on his shoulder tightened its grip. Heyes raised his hands and laced the fingers behind his head.

It took hardly a minute for the onslaught to end, but to Heyes it seemed an eternity while he stood there and fought the powerful impulse to run. Only Kenny's hand on his shoulder kept him rooted to the spot as the posse charged towards them, shooting as they came. But Kenny had been right; the posse ignored the two stationary men and focused in on the ones who were fleeing. All three of those convicts were making a desperate run for the two wagon horses and those animals were in a panic, fighting against their tethering in an effort to break away.

The air was filled with dust and gun smoke and the yells of men competing with the reports from the rifles. The horses galloped passed Heyes, so close that he could smell their sweat and feel the ground shake with the pounding of the hooves. First Warren went down, taking a hit in the head and then two more exploding into his back before he hit the ground. MacKenzie and Harris actually made it to the horses and were able to swing aboard the panicked animals and get them running away from the attack—not a hard thing to do considering that was what the horses had been trying to do all along anyways.

Then MacKenzie's horse took a hit and it ploughed shoulder first into the ground, sending up a spray of dirt and gravel and throwing Mac into a somersault to land heavily on his back. Then almost instantly both horse and man were on their feet and running after Harris, both wanting to join up with their respective friends! Mac was desperately clinging to the hope that Harris might just pull up and come back for him, but that wasn't going to happen and in the next instant five different bullets found their mark and Mac hit the dirt, his back shattered into bits and pieces.

Harris kept going! He leaned in low against his horse's neck and with yells and boots of encouragement kept that animal going at full speed towards parts anywhere but here, the second horse quite happy to follow along behind. The posse split up at this point, three of them continuing on after the fugitive while the main group pulled up and came back to what had been the camp site.

Heyes was still shaking as Carson rode up to them and dismounted. He handed the reins of his horse over to Thompson and approached the two men, his eyes boring into Heyes. Heyes looked away, even more frightened of Carson and what he was going to do than he had been of Boeman. Finally Carson released Heyes from the scrutiny and looked over the convict's shoulder at Kenny.

“You alright, Reece?” Carson asked him.

“Yeah,” Kenny assured him. “Wouldn't have been though if it hadn't been for Heyes. He saved my life.”

“Uh huh,” came the stagnant response. Then he returned to his horse and untied one of the sets of manacles he'd been carrying.

Heyes inwardly groaned. Maybe he should have just let Boeman cut his throat.

Carson came back and wrapped the belt around Heyes' waist, cinching it up snugly in the front this time which was different from the usual routine.

“Turn around Heyes.”

Heyes did so, locking eyes with a disappointed Kenny while Carson did a complete search of Heyes' person. That done, he took hold of one of Heyes' hands from behind his head and brought it down behind his back and snapped it into the cuff and then did the same with the other hand. Heyes grimaced from the movement, his shoulders still not quite recovered from that last 'punishment'. Then Heyes dropped his eyes from Kenny's as Carson took hold of his elbow and turned him around to face forward again. Heyes knew he couldn't have expected anything different; as far as Carson was concerned he'd been a convict involved in a prison break and he would be treated as such until it could be proved otherwise.

“There ya' go Heyes,” Carson told him. “all safe and sound again.” then he smiled, as though he knew something that Heyes didn't know and that was a little unsettling.

“Do you have any water?” Kenny asked his boss.

“Yeah, sure.”

Carson returned to his horse, grabbed the canteen and brought it back to him, then he walked away to go deal with what was left of the three 'escapees'.

Kenny took a deep drink from the canteen and then offered some to Heyes.

“Don't be wasting water Reece!” Carson called back to him. “It's going to take us all day to get back to the prison!”

Kenny's jaw tightened in irritation and continued to let Heyes drink. When he was done Kenny untied his bandana and soaking it in water he then pressed it against the deep cut across Heyes' jawline. Heyes sucked his teeth but then had to admit that the cool wetness did make it feel better.

“You're a mess,” Kenny commented. “Ya' look like you've been through the wars.”

“You should see how it feels from my end.”

Kenny smiled and nodded. He soaked the bandana in water again and tried to clean up some of the blood from the slice across Heyes' throat and then went to work wiping away what he could of Boeman's debris. It was not a pretty sight. In fact Heyes could hear some young fella throwing up on the other side of the wagon, though Heyes figured that it wasn't just his appearance that had evoked that response.

What was left of the three dead men had been dragged over and dumped by the wagon while everyone discussed how best to proceed. Kenny took Heyes' arm and basically lead him over to the wagon as well, mainly just to give him a place to settle until the trip back to the prison got underway.
Some of the men had already unloaded what hadn't fallen out of the vehicle and had lifted it up and placed the wheel back on again. Nobody thought it odd that the posse had all the tools they needed with them in order to fix the wheel, almost as though someone knew that that's what was going to happen.

“Laity!” Carson called out to one of the posse men.

“Yeah, what?”

“Your ranch is the closest to us, how about riding back there and getting us a couple of harness horses to haul this wagon?” Carson asked the rancher. “If you can hitch them to the wagon and bring these bodies back to the prison the warden will pay ya' an extra share for your help today.”

Laity shrugged. “Yeah sure, why not,” he agreed. “Just make sure those bodies are in the wagon and covered up before I get back. No amount of money is worth having to deal with corpses—unless of course, it's already your job.”

“Yeah, don't worry about it,” Carson sneered at the older man's queasiness. “They'll be all nicely wrapped up and ready to go. Shall I put some ribbon on them too?”

Laity just snorkeled through his handlebar moustaches and headed over to his horse.

Heyes listened to this exchange in a light headed daze. He looked over to where Boeman's body had been dumped and tried to acknowledge what was left of the convict's head. It just didn't seem to register with him that Boeman was actually dead and that the bloody mass attached to the body had once been a face. He wasn't sad, or regretful, but nor was he relieved or elated. He felt nothing but overwhelming exhaustion.

“Hello Mr. Heyes.”

Heyes slowly looked over to the source of the familiar voice and then he creased his brow and stood up a little straighter from where he was leaning against the wagon.

“Michael,” Heyes acknowledged the older boy from the orphanage. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, sir. You remember we told you that Henry and I had gotten jobs working for Mr. Jackson over at the Two Blazes?” he explained. Heyes nodded. “Well, last night word got around that there had been a prison break and the ranchers were all welcome to join up on tracking you fellas down. Mr. Jackson, well he says he's too old to go traipsing across the countryside, but if me and Henry wanted to go, well.....” Michael shrugged a little self-consciously. “We kinda thought if would be exciting, you know....it never even occurred to us that you were one of the escaped prisoners.”

Heyes nodded his understanding. Michael looked over at the bodies that were in the process of being wrapped in blankets in preparation to load into the wagon. He turned even more pale and looked as though he might throw up again.

“Jeez, I didn't think that.....” he swallowed, trying to hold down what was left of his breakfast. “I'm sure sorry Mr. Heyes. I don't think either of us would have joined up if we'd known we'd be running you down. If you'd been killed here, I don't think.....”

Then he simply shook his head, unable to continue with that thought.

Heyes gave him a quiet smile. “Oh that's alright Michael,” he assured the young man. “But I want you to know that this wasn't my idea. What I told you fellas about making choices and about not breaking out even if I had the opportunity—I want you to know that I meant that. They forced me to come with them. I was just as much a hostage here as Officer Reece.”

Michael smiled and nodded. “That's good to know Mr. Heyes. Thank you for telling me. I guess I better go check up on Henry; he didn't look so good when I left him.” He started to walk away, but then as an aside, added.... “I'm real thankful you didn't get killed.”

Heyes nodded his acknowledgement and then mumbled to himself. “Don't give thanks yet, it ain't over.”

Then a yell went up that got everybody's attention.

“Hey! The posse's comin' back! And they're leading a horse!”

Everybody looked up in the direction that the fugitive and his pursuers had taken off in and sure enough there was the obvious dust cloud rising lazily into the warming air and four horses, three of them with riders could be seen heading back towards the camp. But as the group got closer, everyone sighed in disappointment; the fourth horse, limping, but holding its own did not have a body slung over it's back as had been everyone's hope so apparently Harris had made a clean get away.

Carson was cursing and as soon as the three men rode up to him he began laying into them right away.

“ARE YOU GOING TO TELL ME THAT HE GOT AWAY!?”

Everybody looked a little sheepish.

“He got over to the river Mr. Carson,” Davis explained, hoping he wasn't going to get a pay cut. “We saw where he went in, but we couldn't find where he came out on the other side. He can't get far wearing prison garb.”

“Ya' wanna bet!?” Carson challenged him. “If he holes up during the day and rides at night, who's gonna see him!? The first ranch or farm he comes across he's gonna steal clothes and food and maybe even another horse! He could be clean across the territory in a couple a days! Now you ride on ahead into Laramie and get the word out! I want that bastard found!”

“Yessir, Mr. Carson,” Davis agreed. Then dropping off the lame horse, the three men pushed their already tired horses back into a lope and made a bee line towards the town of Laramie.

Carson stepped forward and grabbed the reins of the abandoned draft horse and led him back towards the wagon.

“Hey Reece! You're in luck,” he announced. “Strip the harness off this animal and you've got a horse to ride back to the prison.”

“Yessir,” Kenny acknowledged and stepped forward to take the horse's reins. “I suppose he's sturdy enough to carry both of us.”

Carson, who had turned to walk away, heard that comment and spun around again, pointing an accusing finger at his underling.

“NO! Just you!” he ordered in no uncertain terms. “Heyes can walk back!”

“What do ya' mean 'walk back'?!” Kenny questioned. “It's at least twenty miles back to the prison and most of it'll be during the hottest time of the day!”

“Well I guess he shoulda thought about that before he tried to make a run for it!”

“He didn't try!” Kenny protested. “Boeman forced him to come!”

Carson snorted his opinion of that statement. “Right! Just get ready to go, we'll be heading out in about ten minutes.”

Kenny stood for a moment watching Carson's retreating back then he sighed and turned around to meet Heyes' disappointed gaze. Reece didn't say anything; there was nothing he could say. He turned back to the horse and started to remove its harness so that it could be transported back in the wagon.

Heyes felt totally dejected. He was already exhausted from the stressful events of the last twelve hours and having to walk back to the prison in this heat and with no hat was going to be anything but easy. He wasn't even sure he'd make it. And the flies were already buzzing around his bleeding jaw and making a nuisance of themselves and with his hands cuffed behind him he couldn't even have the satisfaction of swatting at them. Was he even going to get any more water? With Carson running the show, probably not.

Half an hour later, the group was well under way, leaving the wagon with its grisly cargo to wait for Laity to return with his own harness horses. Heyes was understandably in a sour mood. It didn't even make sense! If Heyes were allowed to double up with Reece on the draft horse then they could make better time and get back to the prison probably by early afternoon, but at this rate it was going to take all day. He'd even been quite willing to ride back in the wagon with the dead bodies for company. Carson was just doing this to punish him, Heyes knew that and so did everybody else—any excuse at all to grind the convict into the ground.

The morning laboured on and the sun rose high in the sky. Heyes felt the heat burning the top of his scalp and he was already starting to get a headache. Kenny didn't have a hat with him either, but at least he had a head full of hair but Heyes had nothing to protect him. He pushed onwards, doing his best to keep up to the pace that Carson was setting and knowing that if he went down he just might not bother getting back up again.

Kenny stayed close, trying to angle himself and the horse so as to cast a shadow over the convict as some protection from the sun. He also kept the horse close so that Heyes could lean against it on those occasions when he lost his balance and needed some support to regain it again. Considering the uneven terrain and the fact that Heyes' hands were cuffed behind him it was surprising that he was able to keep to his feet at all. But he did. He was determined.

About ninety minutes into the trek, Michael, who had been keeping a close eye on Carson, waited for the opportune moment when the senior guard was in conversation with one of his men. Then he pressed his horse close to Heyes and plunked his own hat onto the convicts head. Heyes sighed with relief but made no other move to thank the young man, not wanting to bring undue attention their way. Kenny however, smiled and nodded at him.

An hour after that, Henry saw his opportunity and taking one last swig from his canteen, rode up behind the inmate and dumped the rest of its contents down the back of his neck and over his shoulders. Heyes plodded on. The relief from the shower helped a bit but it was temporary at best. Soon the hot noonday sun was beating down on him and sucking the moisture from his body. His tongue felt thick and heavy in his mouth and his throat was dry and burning. The blood on his neck had caked and he couldn't even turn his head without it pulling and tearing at his skin. And then the inevitable; his feet stumbled over a rock and before he even had an inkling of trying to save himself he was face down in the dirt and just as he had surmised, he had no incentive to try and get back up again. Kenny pulled the horse to a halt and slid to the ground.

“Hold up!” he called out to Carson as he knelt down beside the prisoner. “Hold up a minute!”

Carson pulled up and then turned his horse and came back to the cause of the delay.

“Get him back on his feet,” Carson ordered. “Keep him moving.”

Henry came up and dismounting as well, helped Reece to pull Heyes back up onto his feet. Heyes just stood there swaying with his eyes closed. He didn't think he was going to make it.

“Look, we gotta hold up here for half an hour or so,” Reece said. “Let him rest and have some water or he's not gonna make it. How do you think the officials from the prison board are going to deal with that, Mr. Carson? The one inmate who's situation is already in question conveniently dies while in your personal custody? Might not look too good.”

Carson looked like he was going to blow, but he ground his teeth and kept his temper in check none the less. Unfortunately Reece had a valid point and from the looks he was getting from the rest of the men it would seem that everyone was in need of a break.

“Alright!” he snarled. “Jenkins! Divvy up what's left of that corned beef and the bread. And make sure everyone's got water!”

“Yessir!”
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Keays

Keays

Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 62
Location : Camano Island Washington

Choices  Chapter Thirty Empty
PostSubject: Choices   Choices  Chapter Thirty EmptyFri Nov 08, 2013 10:56 pm

The whole posse sighed with relief and everyone quickly dismounted and sought out what little shade they could find to sit and rest and replenish. Kenny and Henry helped Heyes over to a sparse looking tree that only afforded a little bit of shade but at least it was something. Heyes sat down with a sigh of relief and leaned against the skinny trunk. Kenny took the old bandana and doused it with water again and then tied it around Heyes' neck, then put the canteen up to his mouth and gave him a drink. Heyes choked on the first mouthful, his throat was so dry, but after a couple of small sips the water worked it's way through the dust and he was able to take in a healthy drink.

By this time Jenkins had gotten around to them with their portions of the rations and also plunked down another full canteen of water. Kenny smiled and nodded his thanks and taking the hat off of Heyes' head he poured some of the water into it and let it saturate the felt, then he put it back. Heyes finally opened his eyes and smiled with some relief.

“Thank you,” he was actually able to breathe out.

“Yeah, you're welcome,” Kenny responded. “Here's some corned beef, do you think you can eat some of it?”

Heyes made a face—that did not sound very appetizing.

“C'mon try. You'll feel better for it.” Reece held the meat up to his mouth and Heyes obediently took a small bite. “Good. Eat some more.”

Heyes gave Kenny a look that Kid would have instantly recognized and Kenny smiled because he didn't have a hard time interpreting it either. At least it showed that Heyes was feeling better and getting some strength back. Kenny continued to pressure food onto him in between chewing on mouthfuls himself and then washing it down with some water.

Henry and Michael sat close by and watched these proceedings while eating their own lunch. This whole venture had turned out to be quite different from the exciting experience Mr. Jackson had promised them it would be. Maybe it was because they already knew Mr. Heyes and felt that they had some level of friendship with him that they didn't appreciate the way the inmate was being treated. But whatever the reason, neither young man was going to forget this day and how easily a person in a position of power can be abusive of it. They were definitely going to have something to tell Sister Julia when they got back to the orphanage for a visit!
The meagre meal done, everyone just sat back to relax for awhile. Heyes was feeling much better and Kenny continued to offer him water to drink and to splash over his face and neck and hat, and even over his wrists that were certainly feeling the heat from the metal cuffs as they had become hot from the summer sun. Eventually Heyes shook his head—he'd had enough to drink, and enough to eat. Kenny took another drink himself and then screwed the cap back onto the canteen.

“Feeling better?” he asked, somewhat needlessly.

“Yeah,” Heyes nodded.

“We're about half way back to the prison,” Kenny informed him. “Think you can make it now?”

Heyes groaned, then nodded. “I think so. I'll certainly try.”

“Good.”

“OKAY!” they heard Carson yell from up ahead. “Everybody on your feet—let's go!

Heyes groaned.

It seemed that nobody was in a great hurry to get moving again but with the obvious fact that 'the sooner they did get going the sooner they would get back' forcing its way into their collective thoughts they all managed to remount and carry on.

Heyes seemed to be holding his own for the first couple of miles, but then the hot afternoon sun, his new injuries and the stresses from this latest venture again began to take their toll and he started to lose ground. Carson was taking a shorter, but more rugged route back to the prison than the one the wagon had been forced to use and Heyes was finding the rough, uneven terrain hard to navigate.

He stumbled more than once but was able to maintain his footing along with mumbled curses, but when they came to a creek embankment that would require a bit more dexterity to descend, he hesitated. He was certain that he no longer had the strength to hold his balance down the rocky slope to the creek bed and the ascent on the other side was way beyond his current level of ability. Kenny pulled up behind the inmate and could easily read doubt and indecision in the exhausted man's body language. He slid down off the draft horse and handing the long reins over to Michael he then came forward and took hold of Heyes' elbow.

“C'mon Heyes,” he encouraged the inmate. “I'll give you a hand down.”

“What's the hold up back there?” Carson's irritated voice reached them as the head guard rode back to the stalled group. “Jesus Christ Reece! What are ya' doing!?”

“I'm just going to walk with him the rest of the way,” Kenny told his boss.

“Don't be an idiot!” Carson chided him. “It's still a good seven or eight miles yet.”

“I know that!” Reece was starting to get pissed off. “You can refuse to let him ride but you can't stop me from walking with him! Besides, that old horse is limping worse so he could do without the extra weight himself right now.”

Carson snorted knowing that was just an excuse; the draft horse was a sturdy animal and would have kept going until it dropped, but Carson was in no mood to argue.

“Fine,” he snapped back. “It's your choice. Let's get going.”

Carson put his horse back up the far bank and the small group carried on
.
Kenny encouraged Heyes forward and between him holding the prisoner's arm and Henry keeping his horse close for moral support, they all managed to get down the embankment and also back up the other side.

To Heyes this walk back to the prison was like a nightmare. He couldn't remember the last time he had been this tired. Maybe that horrible, horrible walk through the desert after Danny had left them all to die—yeah, that would probably be ranked right up there with this one. The only difference was that on that walk both he and Kid had incentive to make it through; they had a mission. On this walk, all Heyes had to look forward to was the prison and even he was surprised at how much he was longing to see those stark walls come into view.

He was drifting, he knew it. He was just putting one foot in front of the other, his eyes barely focusing on the tail of the horse ahead of him. He was vaguely aware of Kenny walking along beside him and only felt the hand on his elbow when he took a stumble and it was that hand that kept him on his feet. He barely even acknowledged Henry riding up beside Kenny and handing down the canteen, or even the guard dousing his head and shoulders with water and then forcing some of the liquid down his throat.

He couldn't help but acknowledge it though when he started to choke and then he stopped and took a real drink. Amazing what water will do for a thirsty man. Even that little bit that his friends had been able to sneak to him behind Carson's back, refreshed him to some degree and put strength back into his failing legs. Kenny took a quick drink himself while keeping a cautious eye on his boss and then screwed the cap back on and handed the canteen back to Henry. The group carried on.

“Heyes.”

“Hmmmm?”

“You're fading on me again,” Kenny observed. “Talk to me for a while, why don't you?”

“Talk to you?”

“Yeah.”

“What about?”

“Oh, I donno. How about your folks, where did they come from?” Kenny already knew this from reading the transcripts from the two trials, but he was fishing for anything to keep the man awake.

“Oh, ahh. Well. My pa came from England and my ma came from Ireland.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“How in the world did those two oppositions get together?”

Heyes smiled—sort of.

“In New York,” he stated bluntly.

Kenny chuckled.

“Yeah okay,” he condescended. “The Great Melting Pot.”

“Hmm. How about yours?”

“Mine?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh well, the Reece's come from a long line of proper Southern landowners,” Kenny explained. “My family owned a large estate before the war and we raised the finest horses in all the southern states!”

“Really?”

“Well, so my father insisted.”

“So why aren't you there being a fine southern gentleman instead of here nursemaiding a bunch of misfits?”

“I lost everything in the war,” Kenny admitted softly. “Much like you and your cousin did, I suppose.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

Kenny nodded. “Yeah, it was hard at the time,” he admitted. “I thought I had my whole life sewn up. I was running the family business and I was engaged to be married and my future was looking pretty good.”

“That war changed things for a lot of people.”

“Yes it did,” Kenny smiled reflectively. “Still, things worked out pretty good for me in the long run. My wife Sarah is the best thing that ever happened for me, except for the the children we've had together.”

“Yeah,” Heyes sighed. “You have four, right?”

“Yes, that's right,” Kenny's tone brightened with paternal pride and Heyes smiled at the slight hint of a southern twang making itself apparent. “Three sons and a daughter.”

“A daughter.....”

“Yes,” Kenny smiled. “She's the youngest, but she rules the household. The most precocious little lady you'd ever care to meet. She's in love with your cousin, by the way.”

Heyes snorted. “Yeah, he seems to have that effect on the young ladies. It's those blue eyes of his, apparently the fairer sex finds them totally irresistible. Don't understand it myself.”

“Well, she's just coming up ten years old,” Kenny prophisized. “It's her first 'crush' so I'm sure she'll outgrow it.”

“Ten?”

“Yeah.”

Heyes was quiet for a moment, lost in his own thoughts.

“They're cute at ten,” he finally commented, almost more to himself than to Kenny.

Kenny nodded, intent on keeping the convict talking so that he wouldn't fade away on him again.

“How about you Heyes?” Kenny asked. “You have any children?”

“Yeah.....probably,” Heyes answered with a shrug and a deprecating smile. “You know how it is.”

Kenny smiled himself. “Yeah, okay,” he conceded. “Let me put it another way. Do you have any children that you know of?”

Heyes went quiet again and this time for a longer stretch. Kenny was beginning to think that the man walking beside wasn't going to answer. But finally Heyes shrugged and gave a somewhat regretful sigh.

“The life of an outlaw doesn't really lend itself to raising a family,” he explained quietly. “You're always watching your back, always on the move. It's unsettled and unpredictable—and dangerous too. Not only for the outlaw, but for the people he has allowed himself to love. It's not fair, or right to bring children into that kind of a lifestyle. I've seen others try to do it—to make it work, but it always ends badly. People get hurt. Children get killed.....” Heyes went quiet again and Kenny couldn't help but feel that there was a lot more to what the ex-outlaw was saying than just the words themselves.

Heyes looked off into the distance, a quiet sadness drifting into his dark eyes and then he quietly concluded; “It would be awfully arrogant of me to think that I could make it work out differently when so many others before me have tried and failed.”

“Maybe one day Heyes,” Kenny tried to sound encouraging. “When you get out of here and put that old life behind you. There's nothing like children to give your life new purpose.”

Heyes smirked and sent the guard a look.

“I don't see that happening any time soon,” he commented.

“Oh I donno,” Kenny surmised. “Your partner doesn't strike me as the kind of fella who gives up too easily.”

“Ha! You got that right!” Heyes agreed. Then he turned serious again. “But I thought you said that I was too 'dangerous and unpredictable' to be released amongst decent folks.”

“Yeah I did,” Kenny admitted. “and at the time, I meant it. But you've been doing a lot of soul searching lately Heyes—I know you have. And it shows in your attitude; in the choices you've been making.”

“I kinda backslid though, didn't I?” Heyes observed with a slightly impish smile peeking through the grim and exhaustion.

Kenny furrowed his brow. “Backslid. When?”

“Well back there,” Heyes explained. “You keep on telling me to step back, to stop trying to always be in control, and yet as soon as someone I care about gets threatened, there I go getting involved and trying to take control.” Kenny chuckled. “I apologize for that Kenny,” Heyes continued. “Next time an inmate threatens to cut your throat, I'll just stay out of it.”

Kenny smiled and shook his head at the man's undying audacity. “Yeah, that's alright Heyes. I'll forgive you this one time. Hopefully it won't come up again.”

“Well—if you're sure.”

Finally, finally; the prison walls came into sight. Heyes almost felt like dropping to his knees and kissing the ground, he was so relieved. He was exhausted; his head was pounding from the heat and his shoulders were aching from their forced positioning and the previous abuses inflicted upon them. He didn't care that it was the prison, all he could think about was the hope of a cold shower and then his cot inside the safety of his cell. He was so tired—he wasn't even hungry.

“Officer Reece,” Michael moved up to the guard. “me and Henry better get back to the ranch, so if you could take your horse again.”

“Oh yes fellas,” Kenny took the reins back. “Thanks a lot for your help.”

“Yessir,” Michael nodded. “And don't worry about my hat Mr. Heyes. I'll get it back later.”

“Oh yeah I forgot,” Heyes mumbled. “Thank you. It helped a lot. Both of you helped a lot. I'll put in a good word for you with the Sisters.”

Both young men smiled. “Thank you Mr. Heyes,” Henry responded. “We're just glad you got back okay. Next time you go back to the orphanage, maybe we can get time off and come visit.”

“Yeah.”

Then both young men trotted ahead to let Mr. Carson know that they were splitting off and heading for home. The senior guard nodded, shook both their hands and they were off at a lope towards home and their own respite.

The guards in the watch towers had spotted the small posse returning and had sent for the warden to let him know. By the time the weary group plodded their way through the gates and into the yard, Mitchell was already outside and waiting for them. He wasn't looking too pleased. Heyes spotted the escape wagon parked horseless over by the far wall, so obviously Mr. Laity, being able to maintain a faster pace had circumnavigated the posse and had already completed his mission. That would explain why the warden was not pleased; three dead prisoners and one still at large could hardly be considered a successful conclusion to this whole bothersome episode.

The small group stopped in the centre of the yard and those who were mounted, stepped down from their horses and allowed Murrey and Davis to collect them up and lead them back to the stables. Mitchell and Carson spoke together for a few moments while Heyes swayed on the spot, waiting for whatever was to come next. Why couldn't they just let him go back to his cell—that's all he wanted. Why do they have to stand there talking? They could do that anytime.

Then the main door to the prison proper opened and what appeared to be most of the inmate population began to slowly make their way down the stairs to stand in a somewhat dishevelled group over by the far wall. Nobody knew why they were there—it was supper time after all. What were they doing all assembled out here? Heyes was able to pick out Kyle in the group and both men asked the same question with their eyes. Neither one had the answer. Heyes was starting to feel anxious.

Then Carson and Mitchell stopped talking and the warden made his way over to stand in front of the prisoner. Mitchell's eyes bore into him and Heyes kept his own eyes downcast; he wasn't up to any sort of confrontation right now and he was willing to be as subservient as they wanted him to be. Just let him go lay down before he fell down!

“Mr. Heyes,” Mitchell finally stated. “how disappointing this must be to have such a well laid out plan fail so miserably.”

Heyes was shocked into making eye contact but then instantly broke it again, his mind spinning at the accusation. That hadn't been a question so he was powerless to say anything in his own defence.

“Warden Mitchell,” Kenny began. “Heyes didn't....”

Mitchell held up his hand to silence the guard, still staring at the prisoner. “I'm sure you'll be pleased to learn that in one instance at least, you did succeed. Though I found it to be a most despicable and cowardly act that I would have thought beneath even the likes of you.”

Heyes was feeling confused. What the hell was he talking about? He was so exhausted he couldn't think straight. Why couldn't the warden just get to the point.

“A man who had shown you nothing but trust and friendship and this was how you repaid him!”

All of a sudden the penny dropped and fear clutched at Heyes' heart and he found that he couldn't breathe. Again his eyes shot up to meet those of the warden's, and the name escaped his lips before he could stop it.

“Doc Morin.....”

“What was that, Convict?” Mitchell demanded. “Did you say something!?”

“Dr. Morin....is he....?” Heyes couldn't bring himself to finish the question.

“Is he dead?! Is that what you are trying to say?!” Mitchell yelled at him. “Yes Mr. Heyes! He's dead—thanks to you!!”

“NO! No...I....” Heyes gasped for air and stepped back with the shock of realization hitting him.

Kenny saw Heyes starting to sway again and grabbed hold of his arm to steady him, but the guard was fighting his own emotions as well. Doc Morin had been his friend too and the news of the man's death was hitting him like a bucket of ice water. The wound hadn't appeared to be that bad—even the Doc himself had said that it wasn't that bad....

“No, Warden Mitchell, sir—Heyes didn't do it,” Kenny insisted through his shock. “Heyes couldn't have done it.”

“Is that so, Officer Reece?” Mitchell demanded, his voice cold with anger. “And did you witness the assault in order to be so certain of your facts?”

“No sir, I didn't,” Kenny had to admit. “but Heyes wouldn't have done.....”

“When Mr. Carson went in search of you, Mr. Reece, he found the doctor laying on the floor, barely clinging on to what was left of his life,” Mitchell explained. “When Mr. Carson asked him who had done the foul deed, the doctor had just enough breath left to utter one word: Heyes.” Then Mitchell turned his accusing glare to the prisoner again. “He bled to death on the floor of his own infirmary, Mr. Heyes! Imagine that!”

“No! I didn't....” Heyes' head was spinning. After everything he had already been through in the last twenty-four hours, and now this! Not only was one of his best friends dead, but he stood accused of killing him! He felt like he was going to throw up.

“Heyes saved my life out there Warden Mitchell,” Kenny was determined to say his piece. “Boeman was going to cut my throat and Heyes put himself in harm's way to stop him. The way things appeared to me in the infirmary, it was Boeman who had attacked Dr. Morin—not Heyes! Heyes was trying to help him!”

“By leaving him on the floor to bleed to death!?”

“Boeman forced Heyes to go with us!” Kenny was getting mad now. “He was just as much a hostage as I was! The Doc said it wasn't too bad, he said he'd be alright.”

“Well what a shame that neither Boeman or the doctor are still alive to testify to that!” Mitchell observed. “And since a 'deathbed' confession, or in this case: 'accusation' is considered irrefutable, I have very little choice but to accept it as truth!”

Kenny opened his mouth to protest further, but Mitchell turned his back on him and instead, addressed the assembled group of fidgeting inmates.

“Many of you have been here long enough to realize now why you have been brought out here before supper,” the warden began in a voice loud enough for the assembly to hear. “but there are others of you who are more recent guests to this institution. I highly recommend that you newcomers pay close attention to what is about to happen here! And why!!
“Attempting to escape from this prison is a foolish and pointless act! I promise you, you will be hunted down like dogs and dragged back in irons and then you will be punished! And that's if you are lucky enough to still be breathing!”

At this point Mitchell paused for effect and glanced back at the prisoner. Heyes was shaking. He couldn't believe this was happening—not again! The warden allowed a subtle smile to escape his lips, then he hardened his expression again and returned to his audience.

“In this particular escape attempt we apparently had a joint effort,” Mitchell continued. “Mr. Boeman, Mr. Heyes, Mr. Harris, Mr. MacKenzie and Mr. Warren somehow managed to organize and plan this little endeavour and our prison physician, Dr. Morin was killed in the process! Mr. Heyes stands before you and you will all witness his punishment as a reminder to you what will happen if you attempt such a foolish act yourselves!
“You will all take note of the wagon parked over there by the far wall.” Every inmate's eyes turned towards the wagon. “In that wagon are the remains of Mr. Boeman, Mr. MacKenzie and Mr. Warren! When the punishment is completed you will all be filed passed the wagon to view those remains at which point you will then be free to return to the mess hall and receive your supper.
“Now, I'm sure that the more astute of you have noticed that Mr. Harris is not among the dead, nor is he standing here to receive punishment. Be rest assured, he will be re-captured! Every rancher and lawman in the territory have been alerted to his escape and have been given a full description of the man they are to look out for. The prison has also offered up a sizable reward for this convicts return, dead or alive, so you see there is added incentive for our neighbours to assist us in tracking him down.
“When he is returned to the prison, again you will all be assembled out here once more to witness his punishment or to view his remains, depending on the outcome. But I assure you, he will be returning to this prison, one way or another. Escape is impossible and the consequences of attempting an escape are dire to say the least."

Then Mitchell turned to his senior guard. “Prepare the prisoner for punishment, Mr. Carson.”

Carson nodded and turned towards the prisoner. Heyes' mind was racing, but his body was frozen in place. He didn't know what to do. Possibilities flashed across his brain like lightening strikes and then just as quickly were deleted as improbable and unlikely to succeed. Carson stopped in front of him and unbuckled the belt from around Heyes' waist and then turned the prisoner around to unlock the cuffs. Heyes' teeth were chattering, just like at the trial when he had totally lost control. David had said that he had gone into shock. Is that what was happening again? Or was he simply losing his mind? He locked eyes with Kenny and he heard himself pleading with that man, though he had no control over what his mouth was saying.

“Kenny, please. Help me. Don't let them do this,” Heyes' voice came in a shattered whisper, his mouth barely moving and Kenny had to struggle just to catch the words. “I can't do this again. I can't take another beating—please, don't let them do this. Please.”

Kenny's expression was one of sadness and regret and then fear. Heyes' teeth were chattering and his pupils dilated. Kenny didn't understand what was happening to him, but then he'd never seen a man have a nervous breakdown before either.

Heyes felt himself being turned around again and his hands were loose now, but his arms just hung limply by his side. He could see the assembly of inmates looking at him, uncomfortable with what they were being forced to watch. And then he saw Kyle looking away, not being able to bear watching the enigmatic Hannibal Heyes falling apart.

Rough hands grabbed the hat off Heyes' head and tossed it aside, then they pulled the soiled tunic over his head as well, and it joined the hat down in the dirt. Then two guards (Heyes' mind couldn't register which two) took him by the arms and began to drag him over towards the stairs. Heyes didn't know what was going to happen to him and he didn't need to know—he was terrified. He dug in his heels and he fought like a man possessed. And yet his mind had become calm, cool and collected. He was consciously telling himself to stop this nonsense, that he was only degrading himself and that nobody was going to listen anyways.

But his body was out of his control and his mind was just along for the ride. He screamed and pleaded and prayed to a God he was no longer sure even existed anymore and the guards just clamped down harder in their grip and dragged him kicking and screaming and pleading over to the side of the stairway. His arms were stretched up above his head and his wrists were tied tightly to the railing and he was left there, shaking and sweating, his teeth chattering with emotions that were numbing his heart.

It seemed an eternity that he stood there, his hands tied up above his head. The yard was silent and all Heyes could hear was the sound of his own ragged breathing and the whispered pleading that continued to tumble from his lips. He had to clench his jaw to stop himself from starting to cry; even now he wasn't going to allow himself to cry though fear strangled him and sucked the breath from his lungs. Throughout this spectacle Kenny had continued to protest, insisting that Heyes hadn't been a part of the escape and that they were punishing the wrong man! Heyes had saved his life, they couldn't do this! It was Boeman who had killed the doctor, not Heyes! This was unjust! This had to stop! He continued to protest, deliberately putting himself in Mitchell's face until the warden had finally had enough.

“Officer Reece! Stand down!” Mitchell ordered him. “This inmate has had you hood winkled from the start and he has blindsided you!”

“NO!” Reece insisted. “Warden you have to listen to me! Heyes didn't....!”

“STAND DOWN!” Mitchell yelled at him. “One more word out of you that doesn't include 'Yessir' and you'll be suspended without pay! Do you understand?”

Reece's jaw tightened even more in anger, but even through his indignant rage he knew that if he was suspended he could not be of any help at all to Heyes inside the prison. He didn't know what to do at this point, but he knew that he could not be suspended. He backed off.

“Yessir,” he practically snarled at his boss. But Mitchell took what he could get and he accepted it.

“GOOD!” Then he turned back to the senior guard. “Carry on Mr. Carson.”

Kyle felt sick to his stomach. He tried to look anywhere but at his friend. How could they do this to the great Hannibal Heyes? He was a legend! He was brilliant! These morons had no right to treat him this way. They were destroying him, breaking him into pieces and it was agonizing to have to stand there and watch it happen. Kyle tried to slip behind the other inmates, to try and block the image from his eyes and the pleading from his ears, but Murrey had been watching for just such an avoidance, especially from Murtry.

The guards all knew that Murtry was Heyes' friend and compatriot and would feel the punishment of his 'hero' even more than the other witnesses. As soon as Kyle had ducked away, Murrey had stepped forward and grabbing him by the shirt front, pulled him up to stand front and centre again and indicated that he was to watch—like it or not. Kyle gave the guard a quick glare and then dropped his eyes, but Murrey was onto him again then, giving him a quick jab in the gut with the club. He grabbed him by the shirt again and shook him upright and indicated once more that he better keep his eyes forward and watch the punishment; if he looked away there would be trouble, and Murrey was watching him.

Kyle set his jaw and stared eyes forward. He tried to glaze them over, to just look straight ahead and into nothing, but he wasn't able to do it. The image of this man whom he'd always thought of as untouchable and unbreakable, being striped half naked and tied to the railing and left there to be pleading for mercy and trembling in fear was a sight that he was never, ever going to forget—or forgive.

Carson came over to the steps and picked up the long heavy bull whip that had been laying there, curled up on the landing. He made sure that Heyes saw it as he unfurled it and then he gave it a quick snap. Heyes' eyes rolled back and he shut them tight against the reality of what was happening. Fear in-golfed him and he was trembling so badly that if his hands hadn't been tied above him he would have collapsed in a whimpering heap.

He was broken even before the punishment began. Hannibal Heyes had packed his bags and left the arena, leaving behind a shattered shell of who the man used to be. His mind had gone into a loop and his reality had become so surreal that it wasn't even happening to him—until he felt the first lash of the whip hit his back. Even then his brain sat back and said 'Well, isn't that odd; there's no pain.' All he felt with that first cut was something, almost like a board hitting his body and pushing him forward, and the air knocked out of his lungs. But there was no pain; then, gradually as his brain began to register it, the sharp cutting fire began to build and then blossom out over his whole torso, the intensity of it escalating with each passing second.

Then the second blow came and again, he didn't feel it at first, but then it also began to build up and blossom out, and added its intensity to the agony of the first. The third blow came and Heyes spit out a gasp! He squeezed his eyes tight shut and clamped down his jaw to the point where his teeth would have hurt if not for the growing searing pain in his back. The forth blow came and his fear turned to rage and he screamed it out to the heavens and cursed the God he was now positive no longer existed.

The fifth blow came and he tried to fight against the bindings and he could hear himself still screaming his anger while his brain just shook its head and quietly voiced its opinion. 'Don't bother Hannibal, there's no point. Nobody's listening.' By the sixth blow his screaming had diminished to a whisper. His rage fled the scene and he begged for mercy, pleading with them to stop but it just came out as a whisper on the wind and even he couldn't hear the words. A loud buzzing had attacked his brain and he felt his awareness slipping away.

When the seventh blow hit he was barely conscious of anything anymore. Swirling darkness was taking over from the buzzing and the only thing keeping him upright was the rope binding his hands. By the eighth blow he was no longer aware of the strokes reigning down upon him, but they continued to come until the punishment was completed and all that was left of his back was a raged bloody mess.

Carson stopped inflicting the strokes, his respiration heavy from the exertion. Silence reigned over the yard, nobody moved. Finally Kenny stepped forward, intending to cut the man down and get him over to the infirmary, although what they were using for a doctor at this point was beyond him. It became a moot point however when Mitchell stopped the guard in his tracks with a simple gesture.

“Not you Officer Reece,” he ordered. “Mr. Murrey, Mr. Thompson, cut him down and then take him to the dark cell.”

Those two men nodded acceptance of their orders and set about their business. Thompson made short work of the bindings and Heyes slid to the ground and lay there in a motionless, bloody heap. Kenny's jaw had never softened during the whole punishment and now his teeth were aching with his anger as he watched those two guards each grab an arm and begin hauling Heyes up the stairs and into the prison proper. The punished man gave no outward sign of life and Kenny again felt enraged by the actions of his superiors and he cursed his station and his inability to have any control over these events.

“Sir,” he addressed his boss quietly. “might I ask how long you intend to leave him in the dark cell?”

Mitchell turned towards him, his eyes hard and his mouth set.

“As long as it takes, Mr. Reece,” Then Mitchell turned away from him and gestured towards his senior guard. “In my office Mr. Carson. NOW!”

Carson swallowed nervously. “Yessir, Warden.”

Carson took a deep breath and then followed the warden back inside. He knew he was in for it because of the way this whole episode had fallen out—why the hell did Harris have to get away, dagnabbit! That's just going to make everything all that much more complicated. And it had all started out to be so easy!

Reece stood and watched them leave. Fear took hold of his chest, but in a way a sense of release as well. Mitchell had made a big mistake right there in admitting to Reece that he intended to leave Heyes in the dark cell until he died. There was no reason now for Reece to feel that he had to stay close, there was no longer anything he could do by staying here. His job, as it was, no longer mattered to him so if leaving the prison meant that he was going to lose that job, well so be it. He could no longer function under these conditions and he no longer had any intentions of continuing to try.

With his mind set and his heart resolved, he turned to make his way over to the stables when he was brought up short by one of the inmates staring at him. Kyle Murtry stood stock still while the other inmates filed passed him on the way to view the grisly remains that were laid out in the wagon. After what was left of his friend had been hauled away he turned his attention to the guard and his gaze did not shift when Kenny turned around and met his gaze.

The two men stared at each other for a few seconds before Kyle dropped his eyes and walked away, but Kenny got the message all the same. The question was clear. 'What are you going to do about this? You are the only one who can help him—so what are you going to do?' Kenny stood rooted to the spot for a moment. He knew exactly what he was going to do, he just hoped that he would be able to get it done fast enough.


“WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT? A SIMPLE PRISON BREAK AND IT GETS TURNED INTO A BLOODY CIRCUS!”

Carson stood tight lipped in defensive anger. “How was I suppose to know it was going to go that way?! I thought Boeman had more brains than that!”

“And now Harris is on the loose!” Mitchell complained. “How much does he know?”

“I donno,” Carson shrugged. “I told Boeman it was 'need to know' basis. He might of figured that Harris needed to know. Who knows!?”

“DAMMIT!” Mitchell swore. “We gotta get him back! Dead or alive, but we have to find him!”

“I know! We'll get him!”

“God Dammit! Jxxxx Fxxxxxg Cxxxxt!” Mitchell was furious. “What the hell went wrong!? You weren't supposed to take out Boeman until after he'd killed Heyes and Reece—I would have thought that was the most obvious part of the whole plan!”

“IT WAS! TO US!” Carson was really getting mad now. “But as we agreed; it was 'need to know'--remember!? And I didn't think Thompson needed to know! He saw Boeman threatening Reece and then go after Heyes and decided for himself to act on it! Damn that Boeman! That sadistic bastard! He couldn't just cut Heyes' throat—no! He had to start playing games, stretch it out for as long as he could! Thompson got that shot off before I could stop him and then it was too late! All hell had broke loose!”

“FXXK! You shot the other two when they ran for it, why didn't you just take out Heyes at the same time?!”

“BECAUSE HE DIDN'T RUN FOR IT!” Carson protested. “He surrendered to Reece and stood stock bloody still!”

“Well then why didn't you 'accidentally' shoot both of them where they stood!?” Mitchell strongly suggested. “It wouldn't be hard to accept that they got caught in the line of fire and with all the confusion.....”

“BUT THEY WEREN'T IN THE LINE OF FIRE!” Carson pointed out. “MacKenzie and Warren were running away from them! I would have had to aim my rifle in a whole other direction to shoot them! It was one thing to set up Boeman to kill a guard, but a whole other kettle of fish for me to do it myself! DAMMIT! It was bad enough that I had to finish off the doctor, but I am not gonna get brought up on review for shooting another guard!!”

“Alright, fine!” Mitchell backed off. “Let's just settle down here and try to figure this out.” He took a couple of deep breaths and then sat down at his desk, thinking. “So Morin is dead and Heyes is never going to see the light of day again if I have anything to do with it. Boeman's dead so he won't be going mouthing off about it all being a set up. Harris is a loose cannon; we don't know what he knows—if anything. Hopefully some rancher will just shoot him.” Then he sighed. “But Reece. What the hell are we going to do about Reece?
“DAMMIT! This was such a good plan! It would have gotten all three of those bastards out from under my skin! It would have been a simple matter of a dangerous convict attempting escape and going on a killing spree before he was finally shot down and killed himself! Why can't anything go as planned!?”

Carson just stood silently, trying to calm down his own defensive anger. Mitchell sat and pondered, rubbing his chin.

“What to do about Reece,” the warden repeated. “Can't fire him. Not with all those 'officials' looking this way. Still, maybe there's no need—he doesn't know that he was a target, doesn't know that this whole thing was a set up. As far as he's concerned it was just a simple escape attempt that did not succeed. He might know for himself that Heyes wouldn't have killed Dr. Morin, but he can't prove it. And once Heyes is dead, well Officer Reece just might up and quit anyways. This still might all work out alright.”

Carson took a deep breath and then slowly let it out. “Yeah, maybe,” he finally agreed. “There's nothing that can lead back to us. Even if Harris does know anything he'll probably just go into hiding and that's if he gets away at all.” But then another problem came to his mind. “What about Curry? He's the one who got this all started and he's not going to be too happy about his partner dying in the dark cell.”

Mitchell waved a dismissive hand. “Don't worry about Curry,” he commented. “Heyes instigated a prison break and killed our doctor in the process. He was re-captured and punished for it. End of story. Curry will have nothing to go with.”

“Yeah, but if Curry and Reece get together....”

“Look! Just don't worry about it alright!” Mitchell was starting to get mad again. “I'll take care of Curry, you take care of tracking down Harris! Dismissed!”

Carson's jaw tightened in irritation, but he still knew his place. “Yessir Warden.” And he turned on his heels and stomped out of the office.


Kenny headed into town, having another fight with his horse over which direction they should be going in first, but Kenny won the battle and he ended up dismounting in front of the telegraph office.

“Evening George.”

“Kenny!” George was elated. “You won't believe how worried everyone was about you. I hope you're going home to your wife, she's just been going crazy since we found out about that break out and that you were part of it!”

“Yeah I know,” Kenny admitted. “I'm heading home right now. She knows, though, doesn't she? I mean that everything's alright?”

“Oh yeah, word got around pretty quick,” George assured him. “It's still good to see ya' though. And I'm sure Sarah will be very relieved when you get home. A shame about the Doc,” he added quietly. “Quite a colourful character he was—he'll certainly be missed. Especially by the crowd over at the saloon.”

“Yeah I know,” Kenny couldn't hide his hurt at the mention of Morin and George's exuberance at seeing Kenny alive and well softened a little.

“Is it true that Heyes fella killed 'em?” he asked almost sympathetically. “Awful shame. The Doc often talked about him being a real good assistant. Real smart.”

“Yeah. That's what they're saying,” Kenny admitted with a bit of a catch in his voice. “But between you and me George, I don't believe it.” Then Kenny took a deep breath and got himself down to business. “And that brings us to why I'm here. I need to send a couple of telegrams.”

“Uh huh. It always seems to be two with you.”

“Hmm I suppose,” Kenny admitted. “Anyway the first one is to a Mr. Ludlow. Wyoming Territorial Penal Board. Cheyenne Wyoming. Mr. Ludlow. Trouble here. Coming to see you. First train tomorrow AM. Kenny Reece. Laramie Wyoming.”

“Okay,” said George as he finished writing that one down. Then he took out another slip of paper. “And the second one?”

“Jed Curry, Brookswood, Colorado,” George nodded, he was so used to sending telegrams to this particular individual that he didn't need to hear the address anymore. Kenny continued. “Come. Now. Bring doctor. K.R.”

“Hmm,” George nodded as he finished writing the message. “Short and to the point as always, Kenny. But he always seems to know what you're talking about.”

“Yes he does,” Kenny agreed. “Well, goodnight George. I better get home to my wife.”

“Yes. You better.”

When Kenny got home it was to an avalanche of hugs and kisses from all his family members. Sarah had kept most of the details of the last twenty-four hours away from her children, but somehow they still managed to know most of what had been going on. Word had spread quickly that the posse had returned to the prison and that Kenny Reece had arrived back alive and in one piece, but his family still needed his actual person to walk through the front door before they could allow themselves the privilege of a celebration. He hugged his wife and his sons, and his daughter refused to let go her strangle hold around his neck until it was well passed her bedtime and she was falling asleep in his arms.

The evening settled down into night and the household quieted and everyone eventually retired to their beds, confident that the world was once again as it should be. Kenny and Sarah made love. It was passionate, and terrifying and clinging and reassuring. It was reaffirming, soft and gentle and loving. Kenny held her in his arms for a long time afterwards, almost afraid to let her go and she nestled into him, comforted by his presence, by his scent, by his masculine embrace. He stared out into the darkness, holding her close until she eventually fell asleep.

Then once he was sure she was down for the night, he quietly slipped out from under the sheet, pulled on his night shirt and glided out of the room. He padded quietly out to the kitchen and reaching up to the top cupboard he brought down the bottle of bourbon that was for 'special' occasions, and taking a glass from the counter, he headed out onto the back porch. It was still fairly warm out after the hot day they'd had, though Kenny knew that in a couple of hours it would be chilly enough to send him back indoors. But in the mean time he settled into one of the chairs there and poured himself a drink. He sat back, taking a sip and swallowing it, allowing the strong liquid to glide down his throat and send a warm glow through his body. He sighed deeply, and then sat quietly for a while, just looking up into the dark night sky and the brilliant stars.

He raised his glass then, to the stars and made a quiet toast to his lost friend.

"Doctor Walter Morin," he mumbled quietly. "It doesn't matter that you never had any formal training, you were the best damned doctor the prison ever had. On top of that you were a real good man too and you didn't deserve this end. I'm gonna miss ya' Doc. Cheers."

He took a swallow of liquor to try and ease the knot that was suddenly in his throat and he quickly wiped a sleeve over his eyes. He sighed and then took another drink trying to block out that look in Heyes' eyes; that lost terrified look as the inmate had begged him, pleaded with him to stop this, to save him somehow. And Kenny had just stood there and let it happen. He had tried to stop it, but trying hadn't been good enough and Kenny didn't think he would ever forget those dark eyes staring at him, beseeching him—haunting him.

Kenny sighed again and downed what was left in the glass, then poured himself another. He had a plan in the making, that was for sure. But there was no guarantee that it was going to work, or if anybody was going to take him seriously, all he knew was that he had to try. And if in that trying he still failed, he knew that those dark, stricken eyes—the window into the man's soul, would torment him for the rest of his life. Kenny sat out on the porch, staring up at the endless expanse of stars and slowly, quietly, got drunk.

TO BE CONTINUED



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Gringa

Gringa

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Join date : 2013-08-31
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Choices  Chapter Thirty Empty
PostSubject: Re: Choices Chapter Thirty   Choices  Chapter Thirty EmptySun Mar 23, 2014 8:46 am

Oh my goodness!  How could you do that to poor Doc Morin!  This whole chapter was just a rollercoaster with one climax after another!  Very powerful.  I have to read more
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Choices  Chapter Thirty Empty
PostSubject: Re: Choices Chapter Thirty   Choices  Chapter Thirty Empty

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