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 The Mouse Chapter thirty-two

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Keays

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Posts : 1431
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 60
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: The Mouse Chapter thirty-two   Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:18 pm

The Mouse


Jed was nearly frantic in his despair and anxiety. It seemed to him that Kenny was gone for an eternity and the solid Mr. Grant didn't seem to be too concerned about anything too much. He eyed the Kid suspiciously and was following every move he made just to be sure that there was not going to be a sudden sneak attack upon his domain in an effort to retrieve his hardware.

As for himself, his hardware was the last thing on Kid's mind. His heart was pounding against his breast so hard he was certain his whole chest was going to explode, and if not that, well it was certainly doing a good job of rising up into his throat and choking him. Where the hell was Kenny!? This was just crazy! Why was it taking so long!? 'Oh God! HEYES! What are you thinking? NO! NO! NO! This can't be happening! This is crazy! Where the hell is Kenny!?'

Finally! Finally, finally the interior door opened and Officer Reece stepped though. He caught Jed's eye and giving a light shake of his head, he smiled to put his friend at ease.

“No, it's alright Jed, it wasn't him.”

Jed's knees went weak with relief and with a huge sigh he headed over to the alcove in order to sit down. Kenny gave a quick nod to Officer Grant and then followed Jed over to the chairs. Jed had sat down with a heavy sigh and rubbed his face with his hands. He felt like he was going to throw up or feint or something.
Kenny sat down opposite him.

“Apparently one of the new hires thought it would be a good idea to take some pot shots at the antelope,” he explained. “He didn't realize that we kind of consider them pets around here.” Then he smiled with just a touch of malicious humour. “He realizes it now though.”

Kid groaned with relief.

“So he hasn't tried anything?”

“No,” Kenny confirmed. “He's not even outside. Davis said he simply went back to his cell. I did a quick walk by and sure enough he and Mr. Murtry are in his cell playing cards.”

“Oh that bastard!” Kid cursed his friend. “What the hell is he playing at, putting me through all that for nothing!?”

Kenny shook his head. “He's not playing at anything, Jed,” the guard cautioned him. “I believe he meant every word he said; he's just waiting for the right time. I have a feeling he's going to be having a hard time shaking Mr. Murtry though, that particular gentleman has been sticking close ever since Heyes was released from the infirmary. Mr. Murtry is not quite as obtuse as people seem to think; he knows something is up with Heyes and he isn't about to let that man out of his sight.”

Jed nodded. “Good! I never thought I would be relieved to have a friend in this place, but thank goodness Kyle is. He will stick close. And it won't matter how abusive Heyes gets towards him, he'll just keep on smilin' and doing what he needs to do.”

“Yup,” Kenny agreed. “and the guards have been alerted now too, so we'll all be watching him. The best thing you can do right now is just go home. I'll let you know if anything happens.”

“Go home,” Jed repeated with a touch of disdain. “How am I supposed to just go home? This is crazy!”

“I know,” Kenny sympathized. “but there's no telling if or when anything is going to happen. He might try tomorrow, or next week, or never. Maybe we'll be able to prevent him from doing anything until the urge passes. I hope so. But in the meantime, you being here isn't going to do him or you any good. Go home Jed. I'll keep in touch and let you know what's happening.”

Jed sat back with a frustrated sigh and ran his hands through his curls.

“Yeah, I suppose you're right,” he reluctantly admitted. “But I think it's time I went and had a word with the warden.”

“Ahh—I don't think that's a good idea,” Kenny countered. “Why don't you just leave well enough...”

“No!” Jed was adamant. “I'm going to have a little talk with the warden. You can either escort me there or I'll find my own way. Goodness knows, I've been there often enough; I'm quite certain I can find it on my own!”

“You'll be stopped, Jed; you know that.”

“Then I'll cause one hell of a raucous getting there!” Jed threw back at him, his temper starting to show itself again. “But one way or anther he's gonna see me!”

And with that Jed stood up and walked away in the general direction of the official business section of the prison. Kenny groaned out loud, and then having to admit defeat he stood up and followed after him.

It didn't take Kenny long to catch up with Jed and putting a hand on his arm, tried to stop the headlong rush into an altercation. Jed shrugged him off and kept on going—he was in no mood to be reasoned with.

“Jed c'mon!” the guard tried to stop him. “This won't help, can't you....”

But then Jed turned on him, anger flashing out and an arm pushing Kenny away.

“The only reason Heyes is in here is because of me!” Jed raged. “And ever since he stepped through those gates he's been attacked! Mitchell has been grinding him and grinding him into the ground and I don't understand why! Well I'm going to find out why Kenny! And you can either come with me, or get outa my way! One or the other!”

“You watch yourself with him!” Kenny warned. “You don't want to push him right now, he is already on edge.”

Jed turned then and stared Kenny straight in the face. “You don't need to worry about me,” he said with a tight jaw. “I will be just as meek as a mouse!”

And with that Jed turned on his heel and continued on towards the offices. Kenny hesitated a moment, feeling very sceptical of that last remark. He had to admit though that part of him agreed with Jed, but another part of him was concerned about the outcome. Still, he finally reasoned, better to go along and try to put out fires than set back and watch the whole situation explode, so he followed along and catching up with Jed, gave him access to the offices.

As the two men strode down the hallway towards the main reception area they both noticed that Warden Mitchell was out of his office and speaking to his secretary about nothing in particular. His back was to the two men approaching him and it wasn't until Jed was almost upon him that he heard the approach and turned to face him.

“Mr. Curry,” Mitchell acknowledged him, forcing a slight smile. “what can I do for you?”

“YOU CAN BLOODY WELL TELL ME WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!”

“Indeed? Well,” Mitchell tried to stall for time, but then decided to play the game. “Fine, Mr. Curry. Please—come into my office and we can discuss this.”

Mitchell smiled snakily and with a friendly gesture encouraged the Kid to step inside his office. Jed, his jaw set and his mood dangerous, moved towards the open door. Kenny began to follow him but Mitchell stopped him with a look.

“You may return to your duties Officer Reece,” Mitchell ordered him. “I don't believe we need to take up any more of your time as I'm sure Mr. Curry can find his way out without your guidance.”

Then Mitchell turned and followed Jed Curry into his office, closing the door behind him. Kenny stood still for a moment, feeling irritated that he had been dismissed in such a flippant manner and knowing that he had simply been gotten rid off. He stood for a moment and fumed and then locking gazes with the rather impotent secretary, he turned and headed back down to the prison proper. Whatever trouble Jed got himself into, well he was just going to have to get himself out on his own.

Inside the office, the warden stepped around his visitor and sat down at his desk. He smiled up at Jed and silently invited him to have a seat. Jed declined. He stood in front of the desk trying to bring his anger down to a level where he would actually be able to speak reasonably and not simply choke the life out of this human serpent.

“Well, Mr. Curry. What can I do for you today?”

“What can you do for me!?” Jed was almost incredulous. “What the hell are you doing!?”

Mitchell sighed with the indignity of being questioned so, but decided to placate his visitor.

“I assume you are referring to Mr. Heyes' punishment,” he commented.

“Damn right I'm referring to Mr. Heyes' 'punishment'!” Curry practically spit at him. “You whipped him to within an inch of his life and then threw him into that damn cell in order to finish the job—and for what!?”

Mitchell leaned back with a long suffering sigh and crossed his arms. “Mr. Heyes was involved in a prison break which is rightfully punished by flogging,” the warden explained and then his expression hardened. “He also murdered our prison physician—a man who had shown nothing but trust and friendship towards him. It was a most despicable act that was well warranting of capital punishment.”

“That's f***ing bull**** and you know it!” Kid was yelling at him in his frustration. “Mr. Reece himself told you that Heyes was not involved in that escape—that he was forced to go along! And you know damn well that Heyes would never have killed the doctor! You know damn well that he wouldn't have done it! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU PLAYING AT!?”

Mitchell's expression hardened even more and he leaned forward, his hands laying flat upon his desk and resentment burning in his eyes.

“I offered Mr. Heyes a very prestigious position at this prison,” Mitchell explained, his own anger starting to come through. “I gave him the honour of being a trustee long before he had put in the appropriate time to prove his worthiness of such a position. He was given access to the infirmary, to all the books he wanted to read and trips away from the prison to pass on his indelible wisdom to the sweet, impressionable orphans.
“All I asked for in return was information. I informed him quite plainly what would happen if he refused—it was a fair exchange. Help me out with attaining information and he could keep his precious privileges, deny me and he would go back to being a simple, common inmate with all the rest of the ignorant curs on the work floor.
“I told him what would happen if he tired to play me for a fool. I told you what would happen! I thought we had an understanding. Apparently not. Now I can't say for sure that Mr. Heyes had no part in the prison break, indeed you are correct in that Mr. Reece insists that he did not. I also highly doubt that he murdered our doctor but as far as the official report states, he is guilty of both those accusations and I intend to keep it that way!
“I will not tolerate insolence, Mr. Curry—nor will I be played for a fool. Mr. Heyes made his choices and he will pay the price for them!”

Throughout this whole narrative Jed's countenance was becoming more and more aggressive and indignant in its stance. He could hardly believe what he was hearing; Mitchell was openly admitting to punishing Heyes unjustly, but at the same time had made sure that no one else was around to witness the admittance.

Jed was furious. He leaned forward with his hands on the desk and his eyes sending ice daggers into the warden's skull. Kenny had been quite right not to give Jed back his gun.

“You mean to tell me that you knew all along that Heyes wasn't guilty and you punished him anyways!?” Jed was barely keeping his anger under control. “That you whipped him and threw him into the dark cell out of REVENGE!?”

Mitchell sat back again and returned Jed's glare.

“I'd watch my temper if I were you Mr. Curry,” Mitchell warned him through tight lips.

“I am watching it!” Jed insisted. “IT'S RISING!!”

“You and Mr. Heyes both knew the risks!” Mitchell threw back. “That's the end of it!”

“That is not the end of it!” Jed yelled, his fist coming down on the desk. “You broke him! He's a wreak of the man he used to be—AND FOR WHAT!? REVENGE!? He's no use to you now, he's no use to anybody! YOU SUCCEEDED, DIDN'T YOU!? You destroyed him! You WON! Alright!? You won! He wants death now, he wants to die! You want to complete your revenge upon him—then let him go! Give him his pardon—force him to go on living now that he no longer wants it!”

Mitchell sat back again, with a satisfied smile on his face. He knew he had won; he didn't need Jed to tell him that, and now it was time to bring his victory to its final glory.

“If Mr. Heyes is indeed a broken man, then he is of no use in society,” the warden pointed out. “Therefore, I see no point in releasing him. He would only become a useless burden on the civilized people of this territory. Obviously the best thing for him would be to stay with us where he won't have to worry about anything. We'll keep him busy with some menial tasks so that he can at least believe that he's still of some worth. A much better solution to the problem than to release him back out into a world that he is no longer capable of dealing with. Don't you agree?”

Kid was livid. He was beyond anger now, beyond fury. He was cold right into his core and he leaned onto his hands and glared at the warden straight in the face.

“There is something I am going to say to you right now Mr. Mitchell, that I never in my life thought that I would ever say to another person,” Jed said quiet as death. “And even though it stands the risk of sounding like an empty cliche, I can't help myself because it fits this situation so completely.”

“Really, Mr. Curry,” Mitchell commented dryly. “And what, might I ask is that?”

Curry leaned even further into him. “You'll be hearing from my lawyer.”

And Jed turned on his heel and stomped out of the office.



Jed hadn't gone straight home after leaving the prison, he stayed on the train and continued on to Denver. He needed to speak with Steven and there was no time like the present.

Arriving at their home in Denver, Jed knocked on the open front door, hoping that Steven would be at home and thought ruefully that maybe he should have sent a telegram from Laramie. On the other hand, there was no guarantee that Steven would have received it in time anyways, so what would have been the point?

Almost right away he heard footsteps coming from the back of the house and he saw Bridget through the screen door coming towards the porch to answer the knocking. She smiled when she saw her friend and quickly opened the screen door for him to enter.

“Jed! What a pleasant surprise!” she exclaimed as she took him into a hug.

Jed hugged her back and they exchanged kisses on their cheeks. He couldn't help but grin even wider as he felt the roundness of her belly press against him and he gave her an even deeper hug.

“How are you Bridget?” he asked her as they separated. “Everything going okay?”

“Yes!” she stated adamantly, as though why shouldn't they be, but then she smiled shyly and caressed her own tummy. “Everything is going fine,” she assured her friend. “Have you told him yet, that there's going to be another addition to the clan?”

“No not yet,” Jed admitted. “I don't think that news like that would mean anything to him at this time.”

Bridget frowned. “Is it that bad?”

Jed looked solemn then and nodded, though he couldn't quite bring himself to elaborate any more than that. “Is Steven at home?”

“Yes,” Bridget nodded and began to lead the way down the hall. “He's in his study right now, but I'm sure he'll be glad to see you.

She opened the door to one of the back rooms and announced their visitor.

“Steven, Jed's here.”

Steven looked up from the paperwork and smiled a greeting.

“Jed! Come in!” he welcomed his friend as he stood up to usher him into the room and over to a comfy chair. “Give me a break from this cursed paperwork.”

Jed came in and sat down with a sigh. Steven's expression turned from a smile to a frown as he took note of his friend's apparent mood.

“Is this a social call, or....?”

“No, it's business Steven,” Jed admitted. “About Heyes.”

“I'll go put on the kettle for tea,” Bridget offered as she closed the door on them. “Then I'll be back, because I want to hear about this too.”

Both men smiled at that comment and then settled in to discuss business. Bridget could catch up on events when she returned.

“So, Jed. What's up?”

Jed groaned, not quite sure where to begin. “You know what Heyes has been going through out at that prison?”

“Oh yes,” Steven was emphatic. “You and David have certainly made sure that I was up date.”

“Yeah well,” Jed sighed and again was finding it hard to put things into words. “my last visit with Heyes was....well...frightening to say the least.”

“Frightening?”

“Yeah. He ah.....he told me he was going....kill himself,” here Jed's voice caught and he swallowed to try and loosen this throat again.

“Oh my God,” Steven responded. “Was he serious? Do you think he meant it?”

Jed nodded. “Oh yeah. He was serious. It was really weird Steven. It was like it wasn't even him anymore. It was like....I donno. It was frightening. All he could talk about was how nice it was 'over there' and that death was what he wanted and that we should just let him go. He kept talking about seeing dead people and having conversations with that doctor friend of his who was killed last month. It was just weird Steven, and I'm scared to death he's gonna do it! I just couldn't talk him out of it. He wouldn't listen to reason.”

“No,” Steven said quietly. “When someone is suicidal they don't see reason. It's as though their logical mind just shuts down and they disappear into their own reality. Does Officer Reece know about this?”

Jed nodded. “Yeah,” then he snorted sardonically. “He says he'll 'watch' Heyes. Keep an eye on him! For all the good that is going to do!”

“I know,” Steven nodded sympathetically. “But for now Jed, that's probably all he can do. Just watch and wait, and hopefully stop him if and when he does try something. Other than that...” Steven shrugged. “Is there something you wanted me to do now?”

“I donno,” Jed sounded discouraged. “I talked with Warden Mitchell and that bastard admitted right to my face that he knew Heyes hadn't killed Dr. Morin and probably wasn't a willing participant in the prison break either, but he made sure there was no one else within hearing distance before he admitted it, so.....”

“Oh yes,” Steven nodded. “That's not good. If no one else heard it then it's your word against his and that certainly won't hold up in court.”

Jed smacked the arm of his chair and then stood up and began to pace.

“I just don't get it Steven!” he exclaimed. “Ever since Heyes went in there this Mitchell as been on his back! Like he's been deliberately trying to break him! And now he has and he still won't let up! It's like he won't stop until Heyes is actually dead! And for what!? It just doesn't make any sense!”

“No, it doesn't. At least not on the surface,” Steven agreed. “Is there any connection that you know of between Heyes and Mitchell? I mean, outside the prison? Did they know each other before? Did Heyes commit some crime against him on a personal level that you know of?”

“No!” Jed as adamant. “Neither of us had ever heard of Mitchell before Heyes went into that damn prison!”

“Hmm,” Steven sat back to consider. Jed sighed and sat back down in his chair to await any suggestions.

Just then the door opened and Bridget came in rolling the serving tray with her, laden with a tea pot, cups and some pastries.

“Here we are,” she announced. “Always time for tea.” Then she noticed the solemn expressions coming back at her. “Oh dear. That bad?”

She quickly poured out three cups of tea, and knowing what both gentlemen took in theirs she prepared each cup to their liking and handed them out. That done, she took her own cup and sat down in the only other empty chair in the room. She didn't ask what was going on and just settled in to listen to the conversation from where it was and catch up on the details later.

“Heyes is better now physically,” Jed continued. “I thought that maybe you could talk to him, ask him about what really happened during that prison break, and what he does know about Dr. Morin. I mean, that's why Kenny was able to get him out of the dark cell wasn't it? So that Heyes could have a chance to defend himself against those accusations? Especially when Kenny himself was denying the truth of the charges against him.”

“It doesn't really sound to me as though 'now' would be a good time to do that,” Steven commented.

“Why not?” Jed was almost incensed. “Maybe if the truth could be brought to light, Heyes might....”

“From what you tell me, I don't think Mr. Heyes would be a very reliable witness at this time,” Steven cut him off. “If he truly wants to die then he might very well lie about what really happened in the infirmary that day.”

“Why would he lie about it?” Jed asked, though truth be known, he knew why he just didn't want to admit it.

“What better way to insure his own execution than to admit to cold blooded murder?” Steven pointed out what Jed already knew. “Even if he didn't kill Dr. Morin, all he'd have to do is say that he did and he would succeed in accomplishing what he thinks he wants.”

“I admitted to cold blooded murder,” Jed quietly pointed out.

“Those were under different circumstances Jed, and you know it,” Steven reminded him. “And even at that it was nothing short of a miracle that you got off. In Mr. Heyes' situation I hardly think we could expect the same outcome. Even if the authorities didn't execute him he'd be right back into facing a life sentence—he'd never get out of there.”

Jed sat sullenly and sipped his tea. Bridget was looking a little concerned, quietly looking back and forth between the two men. She wasn't liking the sound of this at all.

“I'll tell you what I can do, if you like,” Steven offered, and Jed looked up with interest. “I could put it to the Prison Commission that Mr. Heyes is no longer of sound mind and should be transferred to the Territorial Insane Asylum. One that is more equipped to deal with this situation.”

“NO!” Jed shook his head adamantly. “No way! I'd rather shoot him myself than send him to one of those places!”

Steven looked confused. “I would have thought that would be better,” he reasoned. “It would get him out of that atmosphere; into one that was more nurturing....”

“NO!” Jed repeated, almost getting angry now. “No. Heyes and I helped a friend of ours get someone out of a place like that. She had been wrongly committed by her husband who was just trying to get her out of the way. Our friend was determined to get her out of there, and after what I saw going on in that place....” Jed shook his head, almost looking sick. “No way!” he repeated. “No way Heyes is going there! At least at the prison he has friends. Kenny will watch out for him, and Sister Julia too. No. We need to get Heyes out of there all together, not just transfer him someplace else.”*

Steven nodded, not willing to push a point that was obviously so unacceptable. “Alright,” he conceded. “Then, I can go to the Prison Commission and inform them of the statement that Mr. Mitchell made to you, even though there were no other witnesses to this confession. At least there would be an official recording of it.

“Then I can go and have a visit with Mr. Mitchell as well and remind him that it would be in his best interests to see that Heyes be treated fairly and given whatever support he needed to recover from his ordeal. Remind him again that we are watching him and paying attention.

“While I'm there I will probably have a word with Mr. Heyes as well. See for myself what his state of mind is and then make some decisions as to how to proceed. Is that acceptable to you Jed? See where Heyes is at and then go from there?”

Jed sighed and nodded. “Yeah, I suppose. I just hope Kenny knows what he's doing.”

Steven nodded and took a drink of tea, contemplating what his next move should be.

“You'll stay for dinner and the night, won't you Jed?” Bridget asked hopefully as she didn't get to see her friend often these days. “It's too late for you to carry on home now anyways.”

The two men smiled at each other. Jed nodded.

“Yes Bridget,” he agreed. “I'll stay the night. Thank you.”


Heyes stood out in the yard. The nights were chilly now hinting of the autumn colours soon to come and the never ending winds just would not give up. But the days were still very warm and the sun heated up the inside courtyard almost like an oven. Heyes stood out in the yard. He didn't feel the afternoon heat, it was chilly to him and the fallen leaves were rimmed with glittering silver. He was aware of his surroundings—he was completely aware of where he was, but it was as though he were seeing it in a dream. He couldn't even remember how he had gotten here, he was just here—and he was on a mission.

He was vaguely aware of other activity in the yard. There were other inmates out, getting some fresh air and exercise despite the heat and none of them were paying any attention to Heyes. There was a new dominate heading the pack, some non-discript by the name of Gunther who had basically won the position by default. Everyone knew that Heyes was broken now, that he was no longer a contender. No one paid him any mind.

Heyes stood out in the yard. Kyle had been a pest to say the least. He hadn't left Heyes' side since he had returned from the infirmary, that is until he had been forced to do so by the night call to return to cells. Otherwise, Kyle had been a constant shadow. Heyes had sighed, and simply accepted the inconvenience. He wasn't in any hurry and Kyle couldn't stay with him for ever. Sooner or later Heyes would find an opportunity to slip away from his guardian and do what he needed to do. And finally that opportunity did present itself.

Heyes stood out in the yard. He didn't feel the afternoon heat. It was cold and frost covered the ground. As though in a daze he looked around the yard absently noting who was there and who wasn't. There was Ames over by the far wall, feeling resentful that Kyle was no longer hanging out with him. Gunther was there too, trying to look important, but not really sure what to do with his new found leadership role. Thompson was there, talking to some new hire and probably giving him advise on how to use the bully club. And there was Carson, standing casually with his back to Heyes.

Heyes' focus zeroed in on him.

'That f***ing p***k! Have I said that before?'

“Yeah Doc, yea have.” Heyes mumbled to himself.

Heyes continued to glare at the unsuspecting back. A new plan of action began to take form and Heyes smiled quietly to himself. This was good, this was how it was supposed to be. Carson was right in front of him, all he had to do was tackle him, get him in a headlock and snap his neck. It would be so easy and so appropriate. The powers that be would have to end Heyes' life then. Even if his run to the wall failed, they'd have to execute him for killing a guard. It was the perfect opportunity; Carson was helping him to achieve his goal without even knowing it. Doc said that one shouldn't seek revenge, that those things didn't really matter in the grand scheme of things, but it wouldn't be revenge—it would be justice!

Heyes looked around; nobody was watching him. This is the moment he had been waiting for. Carson was in his sights. All he had to do was get to him, snap his neck and then make his final run to the wall. It was clear sailing, there was no one in his way. A quick glance up to the guard towers assured him that they were well manned and the guards there were capable of full filling their part in this drama. Heyes smiled to himself with satisfaction. Finally. Finally he could go home.

He zeroed in on the far wall. He could see the blood on it and he knew that it was his and he felt comforted knowing that his pain and worries were now coming to an end. He smiled. 'I'm coming Doc. I'm coming back to where you are.' He took a deep breath and the muscles in his legs tightened and bunched up in preparation for his fatal run and then he was off and....

“What's on your mind this afternoon Mr. Heyes?”

Heyes had no choice but to pull up short. He hadn't even put in one stride and then there was Kenny standing in his way, his grey eyes boring in to Heyes and stopping him dead in his tracks.
Heyes' mouth opened as though to reply, but nothing came out and he stood there in total confusion now that his ultimate goal had been disrupted. His mind was spinning and he found himself at a total loss as to how to respond.

“Convict. Follow me.”

Then Kenny did one of the hardest things he had ever had to do in his professional life; he turned his back on the inmate and began to walk away. He knew that he could not show doubt or indecision, he had to trust that the years of conditioning of the inmate to follow that particular order, that particular command without thought, without question would win through. To trust that Heyes would follow through and respond to that invisible line between them that would force him to fall in step and follow the guard wherever he led.

Kenny would not allow himself to look over his shoulder; he looked straight ahead and walked confidently towards the access door that would lead them back into the cell block. But though his eyes were focused forward, he ears were straining to pick up any noise behind him, and sure enough; he knew Heyes was following.

The inmate's focus had been totally destroyed. He'd given no thought to what was going to happen after he made his fatal run—why would he? Mortal events would no longer be of any consequences; he hadn't needed to think beyond the act itself. So when that act had been so suddenly interrupted, the inmate's mind had nowhere else to go and he was adrift in a sea of nothingness.

The guard's command pushed it's way through the fog and surrounded his mind. It took control and when the inmate's mind had nowhere else to go, it latched on to that command like a safety line thrown out to a drowning soul. It never even occurred to him to not obey, that there was no longer any reason to obey. Since death was what he wanted, the guards no longer had any control over him, but that obvious truth never occurred to him. Without question, without thought, Heyes turned from his destructive course and followed the source of the order allowing himself to be led back into the prison proper like a broke horse on halter being led back to the stable.

Kenny took them across the yard and back inside the cell lock. His whole focus was aimed behind him at the inmate, consciously willing him to follow along—to keep on coming. So far so good. He walked across the empty work floor and over to the staircase. He took hold of the hand railing and began the ascent up to the third floor. He could have put Heyes in any cell for the time being, but instinctively he knew that any deviation from the norm could set the inmate off—could break that precious contact. Kenny chose to take the risk and lead the convict up to the third level. Up to his own cell—his own haven.

Going up the steps Kenny could hear the foot steps coming along behind him and he knew that for now he still had control. It was precious though, and tenuous. Anything could disrupt it, anything could break the focus. He had to get Heyes back into his cell before he came around to his own senses—his own reasoning. Before he realized what was happening.

Finally—an eternity later they were up on the third level and Kenny led the way along the walkway towards cell number 312. They arrived at it and Kenny walked passed the open door and then turned to face the inmate who had come up behind him. Kenny did not say a word but simply motioned for the inmate to carry on into his cell. It was a routine act, one that Heyes followed without question and he stepped passed the guard and entered into his familiar surroundings and then stood, just inside the door, staring at the far wall.

Kenny stepped forward and manually closed the door on him and locked it. He wasn't done yet though, he didn't relax. More was to come and he knew it. He looked around him and found that Murrey had been following along behind this strange procession and was now approaching his boss to see if he was needed for anything. Kenny nodded at him, bringing him closer in.

“Go get the Doc,” Kenny whispered, afraid that any loud voices right now would set the inmate off. “Tell him to bring that sedative that Dr. Gibson used when he was here.”

Murrey creased his brow. “What sedative?” he asked in a normal voice. “Why?”

Kenny cringed and gestured him to be quiet. “Just tell him!” he whispered. “The sedative in the syringe! And make it fast! Go!”

“Yeah, yeah alright,” Murrey agreed, but at the same time expressing his dubiousness at the necessity of this act. But he turned and headed towards the infirmary anyways; it was hardly his place to argue with one of the bosses.

Kenny pulled his bully club out from his belt and then looked around for some back up and very much to his relief Pearson had also taken note of the situation and was now approaching to see if he could be of help. Kenny nodded at him and motioned for him to have his club ready.

“What's up?” Pearson whispered as he pulled his club.

“Just be ready,” Kenny cautioned quietly. “Doc's coming with a sedative but he may not be here in time.”

“In time for what?”

And then both men involuntarily stepped back as a large heavy object banged into the cell door from the inside.

“JESUS CHRIST! What was that!?” Pearson exclaimed, suddenly very nervous.

Then a wild animalistic yell came from inside the cell and the same heavy object smashed into the bars again. It was followed by a scream that sent icicles from the devil down their spines and they had both stepped back even further until they were up against the hand railing, their hearts in their throats. Then another crashing and a splattering of blood shot out to land upon the isle floor.

“JEEZ! What's he doing!?” Pearson asked, shaking but holding his club up and ready.

“He's bashing himself up against the door!” Kenny informed him. “Dammit!! Where is Murrey with that doctor!?”

Another wild scream hit their ears and another assault hit against the door of the cell. Kenny was almost frantic! He didn't dare enter the cell with the inmate in this destructive state of mind but he also knew that if Heyes hit the bars too many more times that he was going to accomplish exactly what he had been trying to do out in the yard.

“C'mon! Where are they!?”

“There!” Pearson pointed them out. “They're coming.”

Kenny followed Pearson's indicator and saw the two men coming up the far stairway and onto their level. He waved at them to hurry up and they started to run. Dammit!! They should have been running all along! What the hell was the matter with Murrey, was the man brain dead!?

Finally they arrived just as Heyes screamed and ran full force into the door again causing the two new comers to jump back in alarm.

“Alright,” Kenny said a little breathlessly. “You got the sedative?”

The young doctor looked pale and anxious but nodded and held up the syringe as proof of his reliability.

“Okay,” Kenny nodded and then was interrupted by another crash against the barred door and more blood putting in an appearance. “Dammit!” He took a deep breath, getting himself under control to handle this situation. “Murrey, get your club out! Be ready. Okay. Next time he makes a rush, Pearson you open the door and then Murrey, you and I will tackle him and get him down on his bunk. Then Pearson you get in there and help us hold him. Then Miller, you get in there as fast as you can and get that sedative into him—you understand? As fast as you can!”

Dr. Miller could not have looked more out of place. He was shaking and was as pale and clammy as a fevered patient would have been, but he met Kenny's eyes and nodded his understanding. He knew it was now or never. Step up to the plate and do the job or he may as well pack his bags and go home to mother. He bit his lower lip, but got ready none the less.

There was a crashing from inside the cell, then swearing and then another wild high pitched screaming and the heavy bulk of a human body battered itself against the bars again and then retreated. Pearson yanked opened the lock and pulled the door wide. Kenny and Murrey made a concentrated rush into the cell and Pearson was right behind them.

Heyes saw them coming! His face was smeared with blood; saliva and mucus mixed with the red fluid was running from his nose and spattering from his mouth. His dark eyes were wild with his rage and his scream was unworldly as he focused his fury and charged the men who threatened him.

They caught him in mid lunge and pushed him backwards. He began to pound on them with his fists, swearing and cursing them with every breath he could draw in and every foul obscenity that he could spew out. He raged against them as his enemies; as the force that was preventing him from getting to that place of peace where he so desperately wanted to be.

They got him back onto the cot, Kenny up at his chest, pushing him down with his bully club against Heyes' throat and doing everything he knew how to do in order to subdue the inmate. Murrey was across his torso, holding him down onto the cot while Pearson coming in last was trying to get hold of the kicking legs.

Heyes gave a choked scream and kicked and fought against his oppressors! He sent Pearson sprawling across the cell and continued to lunge and buck against the pressure holding him down. He tried frantically to sink his teeth into flesh but Kenny was too good at what he did to allow that to happen! But Heyes fought on, screaming and spitting blood while Pearson made his way back into position and got himself laid out across the kicking legs!

Everybody was fighting to hold their positions and Heyes continued to rage and kick and buck like a crazed stallion that was being forced into the slaughtering chute.

“C'mon!” Kenny yelled back at the doctor. “Get in here with that!”

Miller looked frantic! He was scared to death and he really wasn't sure that he could do this. He stood in the isle way holding up the syringe and tried to get his feet to move.

“C'MON!” Kenny repeated. “DO IT! NOW!”

Miller sucked in a deep breath and took himself in hand. He pushed down his fear and charged into the cell, his syringe ready for action.

Heyes saw the needle coming towards him and yelled and fought even harder, but the three men holding him down had him tight and he wasn't going to get away from them.

“DAMN YOU KENNY!” he screamed in his frustrated rage. “I THOUGHT YOU WERE MY FRIEND! I THOUGHT YOU WERE ON MY SIDE!..... NO!!” This last objection being thrown at the man with the syringe as the doctor found a bare patch of skin between the trousers and the tunic and plunged the needle in. “NO!!” Heyes yelled again, but the doc pushed down the plunger and the deed was done. “No!” Heyes was almost crying in his frustration. “No! Damn you Kenny! I SHOULD HAVE LET BOEMAN CUT YOUR THROAT! I SHOULD HAVE LET HIM.....I should have let....damn you......this is the thanks I get.....I should have let........”

The body beneath the three men gradually began to relax and the cursing to ease off, but still nobody released their hold. Dr. Miller, having found his legs, stepped forward and checked the inmates pupils and heart rate, then standing up he sighed and nodded.

“Okay,” he announced. “It's alright, he's out.”

There was a great communal sigh of relief and everyone straightened up and standing silently stared down at the mess of a man who was blessedly passed out on the cot.

“Alright,” Kenny finally ordered as he ran a hand through his hair. “go fetch leg and arm manacles and get him secured. Attach the leg irons to the underframe of the cot so he has enough length to stand up if he wants, but not enough to reach the door of the cell. Get it done. Now.”

The other two guards nodded their understanding and headed off to attain the essentials. Kenny glanced over at the young doctor who was still visibly shaken but holding his own.

“Good job Doc,” Kenny complimented him. “You just might make it in here after all.”

Miller gave him a weak smile and then glanced down at the drugged inmate.

“I better check him over,” he stated matter of factually. “Make sure he didn't break his nose or any of his teeth in that assault on the bars.”

“Good idea,” Kenny nodded and then exited the cell, leaving the doctor to his job.

Officer Reece then walked calmly down the isle as though he had not a care in the world, indeed, as he trotted down the steps and passed Murrey and Pearson coming back up with the irons they both silently marvelled at his apparent calm. He gave them a nod as he passed by them and then continued on through the work area and the mess hall towards the officers' lounge where the guards would often retire in order to have a break or to eat their meals.

The room was empty when Kenny got there and that suited him just fine. In an instant he had his bully club out and without hesitation he walked up to the nearest chair and with a yell of pent up rage began to smash it into match sticks and smithereens until there was nothing left but the anger in his heart and the frustration in his soul.

A few days later Jed did indeed receive a telegram from Kenny letting him know that Heyes had in fact attempted the act, but had been thwarted at the last moment. He was currently being held secure in his cell until such time as he showed a change of heart and indicated some interest in living life again. So far all anyone had been able to get from him was anger—or silence. It could be a long haul but Jed was to take hope in the fact that everyone from the orphans to the Sister, to Dr. Slosson where doing everything they could to get him to respond. Give it time—don't give up. Yeah, give it time.

Jed stayed in town for some time after receiving the telegram because he just didn't feel that he could handle going home and facing everyone. The very act of putting this nightmare into words was beyond his capabilities because putting it into words would somehow make it all true, somehow make it irretrievable. And Jed just couldn't face that. He had no idea how to deal with this, he was absolutely powerless and knowing that enraged him.

He went over to the saloon and ordered a shot of whiskey and downed it in one go. Then he kept the glass and ordered the whole bottle. A few of the regulars, remembering the last time Kid Curry had gotten falling down drunk in their establishment (but stayed standing) shifted away from the bar, giving the gunman some extra space. A few of them even decided to make it an early afternoon, not wanting to stick around for any more of those kinds of fireworks.

Their concerns were needless however, since Jed had no intentions of getting drunk in the saloon; he'd rather go home and do that. So no, he poured himself a second drink from his bottle and nursed this one while he stood, elbowed up against the bar and played that last conversation with his cousin over and over again in his mind. He'd chew his lower lip, shaking his head and muttering obscenities until even Bill creased his brow and wondered when the self-destruction was going to begin.

But as Jed stood and mulled things over and over in his mind, one fact that should have been obvious if he hadn't been so distraught finally began to filter its way into his consciousness. Of all the straws he had been pulling out of the hat, of all the things he had said to try and sway Heyes' decision, only one had any real effect. Only one made him stop and lose his focus, made him become defensive—angry even, because it had hit so close to home.

Yeah. Maybe, just maybe they could use that as ammunition, use that to give Heyes a reason to hang on. Jed finished his drink, sealed the bottle and headed out the door of the saloon and made his way over to the telegraph office to send a message—a plea—a bargaining chip. Help.

'Topeka Kansas. Mrs. Abigail Stewart. Dear Abi.....'

Jed only hoped that it wouldn't get to her too late.


BANG! BANG! BANG! Another swig from the whiskey bottle, a stagger over to the handy log to replace the battered tin cans, then stagger back to his mark, turn around and check the gun's chamber. It looked blurry so he felt it with his fingers, feeling the empty slots and then gathering more cartridges from his belt he sloppily attempted to reload his six shooter.

DAMMIT! He got one cartridge in and then dropped the other two. S**t! He squatted down and felt around in the dirt for the metal cylinders and then finding them, he made a second attempt to get them loaded into the chamber. He finally succeeded, and standing up he swayed and had to move fast to re-balance himself. Another swig from the bottle, then placing it down on the ground beside him, he pushed out three more cartridges from his belt and tried to focus enough to get them loaded.

He finally succeeded in this endeavour and then closed and spun the chamber. He snorted with satisfaction and cocking the hammer he squinted and took aim. No—that's not what he wanted to do. He slid the gun back into its holster, on the third try—and then took another long drink from the bottle. He swayed and cursed again, then took a deep breath and steadied himself just to make sure that he didn't fall over. He squinted at the row of cans and tried to imagine them as Warden Mitchell and Governor Warren, not to mention Governor Moonlight—yeah, he wouldn't mind shooting any one of those a**holes. Yeah.

Another swig from the bottle. He squared himself off again and squinted at his targets. Deep breath. Quiet. Relaxed. Focused. Then—a flash of movement and; BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! He sniffed, spun his six shooter and slipped it back into its holster. Reached down and picked up the bottle and took another swig. Put the bottle down and swaggered back to replace the tin cans on the log....


Down in the yard Jesse stood in the open door of the first barn and looked towards the hill behind the house and listened to the repeated gunfire with trepidation in his heart. Jed had returned from town already half drunk and without a word to anyone had gathered up his armoury and had headed up the hill at the back of the house where he usually did his target practice. He had been up there for more than an hour now and with the sun going down it was getting cold and would be dark soon. Jesse was a little bit worried for his friend, bud knew that the younger man had to work this out for himself.

He was just about to turn back into the barn to do the evening feeding when he noticed his youngest daughter come out of the front door of the house and start to make her way around the structure, towards the back hillside. Jesse was on the move instantly and running up behind Beth he grabbed her arm and stopped her in mid stride.

She turned in surprise at the obstruction and then tried to pull away from the hold her father had on her.

“No Papa!” she protested. “This has gone on long enough! He needs to come inside—he hasn't had any supper and it's getting cold out!”

“NO! Leave him be.”

“But Papa....!”

“Beth!” Jesse tried to reason with her. “That's Kid Curry up there! He's angry, he's drunk and he has a loaded gun! Sweetheart, you need to learn when to leave the man alone.”


An hour later Jed finally felt the cold seeping into his fingers to the point where he could no longer pull the trigger of his gun and so decided to call it a night. He did one more fast draw practice where he successfully shattered to pieces the empty whiskey bottle. He spun his six shooter, dropped it, cursed and stooped down to pick it up again and nearly ended up face first in the dirt. He managed to save himself though and picking up his gun, gave it a successful spin this time and slipped it into the holster.

Leaving the broken glass and discarded cartridge shells scattered about the area he turned and made his unsteady way back down the hill and into the horse barn. He knew he should have been doing chores, should have been helping Jesse with the evening feeding but after reading that telegram from Kenny he just hadn't had the heart to face anybody and all he'd really wanted to do was get drunk.

Well he had certainly accomplished that alright and he'd probably regret it in the morning too, but that was then and this was now; he'd worry about the morning when the morning came. He sighed and then went down the isle of stalls to give a quick check on his young gelding only to find that Jesse had already taken care of the horse and had him settled into his stall. Jed opened the stall door and went in, running his hand along the horse's flank and then moving up to give him a pat on the neck. Young Gov was too busy munching on his hay to give the human much notice, but despite the strong smell of alcohol, he gave a quiet contented snort anyways and continued on munching.

Jed gave his horse a pat on the neck and then left the stall. He had just turned to latch the stall door closed when he heard a rustling behind him and he spun on instinct, nearly over-balancing himself in the process. He grabbed onto the top of the stall door for support and once steadied, sent a rather accusing glance over to whoever it was who had startled him.

Belle stood in the isle looking a little apprehensive, but smiled quietly at him all the same in order to put him at his ease. Jed sighed and felt a little contrite, but uncomfortable as well and he pushed himself off the stall door and walked passed the woman in hopes of finding something to busy himself with in the front of the barn. He stood facing the wooden counter that held a number of the barn utensils and began to rummage around in them just to give his hands something to do.

“Thaddeus, what's wrong?” Belle asked quietly. “Is Joshua alright?”

“No,” Jed answered tightly. His emotions rose up at the sound of Belle's voice and they threatened to choke him. He fought hard for control but he feared it was going to be a losing battle. “No he isn't alright.”

Belle felt fear touch her heart and she wanted to take her young friend into her arms and comfort him as she had done once before, but she also felt the anger emanating off of him and knew that it was best to keep her distance. At least for now.

“What's happened?” she asked in barely more than a whisper. Jed had let them know that Joshua was struggling with things and now she was fearful of what the answer might be.

Jed clutched the edge of the bench until his knuckles where white and he fought to keep his anger from exploding out.

“Nothing has happened—yet,” Jed answered through a tight jaw. “But if Heyes has his way....” He stopped, still not able to put this anarchy into words. His throat was burning and he felt the hot bitter tears behind his eyes threatening to come forth. He closed his eyes tight, but a tear came forth anyways and he angrily brushed it away.
“That bastard,” he whispered, just barely loud enough for Belle to hear him. “What the hell makes him think that he's the only one suffering here? That he's the only one who's in....pain? What makes him think that all he has to do is step out of the picture and everything will be fine!?” Jed's voice rose now, becoming louder as his anger forced its way out from his chest and screamed at its own impotency to make a difference.
“What makes him think that we could all just carry on and be happy and find contentment in our lives with him gone!? HOW DARE HE SAY THAT HE'S DOING THIS FOR ME!!”

“Thaddeus...don't....” Belle couldn't help herself in her anguish for her friend and reaching out a consoling hand she took a step towards him.

Jed spun violently and pushed her away. “NO!” his yell was feral, brutal—overwhelming. “DAMN HIM IF HE DOES THIS! DAMN HIM TO HELL!”

“No! Thaddeus please! Don't say that, you don't mean it!” Belle pleaded with him. “You know you don't mean it. Please....”

Jed turned away from her again, his fists gripping his hair, his face a picture of pure agony. He was lost in his anger and frustration and in his inability to have any effect on anything. His anger and his fear rose up and enveloped him and he felt as powerless as a rudderless boat being tossed about upon an angry sea.

“Please,” Belle whispered and again reached out and placed a quiet hand on his arm. “Please don't say that Thaddeus. You don't mean it, you know you don't. You're hurting and you're angry—I know. But I also know that you love him dearly and that you don't mean it.”

“NO!? You think not!?” Jed turned on her again. “He obviously doesn't care about me—about what he'd be putting me through, so why should I give a damn about him!?”

“Because you do,” Belle answered sensibly and she squeezed his arm and stepped in a little closer. “I know that I offered this before and you didn't feel the need to accept, but I offer it again in this time of your need. Come to services with me Thaddeus. You might find comfort and support there. God can bring...,”

“GOD!?” Jed yelled back at her. “WHAT GOD!? THERE IS NO GOD!! How could 'God' destroy families, butcher babies!! How could 'God' abandon us into that hell hole of an orphanage and then call us 'sinners' for the life it threw us into!? Then after everything we've done to try and straighten our lives out, He sends Heyes into yet another hell hole and leaves him there to be broken and shattered until his will to live has been bled out of him and he's not even HIMSELF ANYMORE! What kind of a god does that and then still claims to love us!?”

Belle felt tears roll down her cheek. Thaddeus' words had hurt her to her very soul, but she did not step back from him in the face of his anger and instead, leaned in closer with her desire to bring comfort to him.

“Having faith in God doesn't mean that nothing bad is ever going to happen to you,” she told him gently, trying to cover her own hurt. “It doesn't mean that you won't have tragedy in your life, or that you won't lose people whom you love. What it gives you is strength to cope with these hard things that come to us all. It offers you guidance to find your way through the dark times until you are able to see your way clear again. Please Thaddeus, come with me....”

“NO!” came Jed's adamant refusal. “I don't want anything to do with your 'GOD'! You go and pray to Him if you think it'll make any difference, but as far as I'm concerned you'll only be praying to an empty sky!”

Then Jed turned his back on her again and she felt the wall come down between them. She pulled away from him then and wiping the silent tears from her face she turned and walked back through the semi-darkness towards the house.
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Keays

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Posts : 1431
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 60
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: The Mouse   Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:29 pm

Jesse met her half way and took her into his arms. She pressed into him and allowed the tears to roll freely and he held her tightly and stroked her hair until her quiet sobs ceased and her breathing settled. He kissed her on the top of her head and stroked her hair again.

“I better go have a talk with him,” he reasoned. “He has no right to be yelling at you.”

Belle pushed herself away from her husband and smiled gently up at him.

“Don't be angry with him,” she said. “He's hurting, and angry because he doesn't know what do to. He's frightened Jesse, getting angry with him isn't going to help.”

“I didn't say I was going to get angry with him,” Jesse assured her. “I just said I was going to have a talk with him. I'll see you back up in the house in a little bit. Alright?”

Belle smiled and then nodded. “Alright.”

Jesse walked into the barn to see that Jed had led his disappointed gelding out of his stall and had tethered him to the center post in preparation of tacking him up. He was busy running a soft brush over the horse's hide and pretended that he hadn't heard Jesse come into the barn.

Jesse stood silently for a moment, watching the proceedings with a growing irritation tightening his jaw.

“What do you think you're doing Jed?”

“I'm leaving,” came the obvious response. “Go spend the night in town.”

“Well, that certainly is what you're good at,” Jesse commented dryly. “Running away.”

“I'm not running away,” Jed insisted tightly as he started to brush his horse harder. “I just need to get away.”

“Get away from what?” Jesse asked him. “You yell at my wife, hurt her when all she is trying to do is help you and you think that the only way to deal with that is to run into town and get even more drunk than you are right now?”

Jed turned on Jesse, anger in his eyes, but the stagger in his step took away some of his intensity.

“I'm not running away!” he insisted. “I just need some time to myself!”

“So is this what you're always going to do?” Jesse asked him. “After you're married, and you have a fight with Beth are you going to just walk out on her? Leave her on her own for who knows how long just so that you can have some 'time alone'?”

“No,” Jed answered, his anger suddenly deflated and his mood sobering. “No. I would never do that to Beth.”

“But you already have Jed,” Jesse pointed out. “Whenever there is a confrontation that you can't handle with your gun, you run away. That strategy won't work in a marriage Jed. You can't just run away and drown your sorrows in a whiskey bottle, you have to learn to deal with things as a man, as a husband and as a father. You can't just run away and get drunk.”

Jed stood silently, gently swaying. Gov was becoming hopeful that he wasn't going to be expected to head out for a ride after all, especially now that darkness was coming down.

“Do you think that Belle and I have never fought?” Jesse asked him, then he gave an ironic laugh. “We've had our battles—believe me! And some of them have been whoppers! But I have never run out on her. I have never hit her, or turned my back. We might be yelling, but we talk it out. And that's what you have to do Jed—you have to stick around and talk it out.”

“I've never heard you and Belle yell at each other.”

“No,” Jesse admitted with a smile. “not anymore. You should have heard us when the girls were young. But we learned how to talk things out, we learned that it was okay to be mad as long as you remained respectful to one another and talked it out. All I've seen from you is a tendency to get mad and then run away. You can't do that in a marriage Jed, and expect it to work.”

Jed looked a little contrite and then slumped his shoulders in defeat. “I didn't mean to yell at Belle,”
he conceded. “I'm sorry I yelled at her. She's the last person in the world I would want to hurt.”

“I'm not the one you need to apologize to,” Jesse pointed out. “Come into the house and tell her that yourself. Belle isn't angry with you and Beth has been keeping your supper warm. Besides that, you try to ride into town now, in your state of intoxication you'll probably end up killing yourself and your horse. And he's a good horse—I'd hate to see you waste him.”

Jesse had hoped to get a bit of a laugh out of the younger man, but Jed looked even more depressed than he had before the conversation. He turned and absently began to stroke his horse's neck, hoping to find some comfort there.

“I don't know what to do Jesse,” Jed finally mumbled. “I've done everything I know how and it's not good enough.” Jed stopped then and swallowed down the tightness in his throat. He stood quietly and continued to stroke his horse's neck and then he finally turned and met Jesse's gaze, his blue eyes full of anguish and his heart was breaking. “I'm losing him Jesse,” his voice strained with fear. “I'm losing him and there's nothing I can do about it.”


Heyes lay on his cot and stared up a ceiling that he could see, but saw nothing there but despair and resentment. He was shackled hand and foot and the door to his cell was kept locked day and night. He couldn't even get up to read a book, even if he'd wanted to. One of the guards, usually Murrey or Davis would come in about four times a day to allow him to use the 'honey bucket' if he needed to, and to bring him food if he wanted it.

Then the cuffs would go back on and he would be left in his cell to stare at the ceiling to wallow in his own impotency and time had no meaning. He felt nothing. Nothing but resentment. All his other emotions had been depleted from him and he just lay on his cot day in and day out and stared at the ceiling.

He ignored all efforts to get him to eat. Why would he want to eat? Abi had said in her letter that there were better ways to commit suicide than to starve oneself to death, but when all other options have been taken from you, well.....

He tried to refuse fluids as well but that young doctor was sneaky. He always seemed to manage to get water down Heyes' throat whether Heyes wanted it or not. Often it seemed that Heyes' own body was betraying him in that its desire for water would override his brain's determination to die of thirst. It always seemed that once the fluid was forced into his mouth, his throat would suck it down despite his protestations.

Sister Julia came by and tried to engage him in conversation but he simply turned his head away from her and stared at the wall. He ignored her. Even when she left letters for him from the orphans he ignored her. His mind was in a world of its own and he felt nothing but despair and resentment.

One evening after Pearson had tried unsuccessfully to get food down his throat, the doctor came in to Heyes' cell to give him the usual sedative to help him sleep through the night and to be less agitated during the day. Pearson unlocked the cell door and let the doctor enter and Heyes actually turned his head from the wall and met the gaze of the young medical man..

“Time for another shot, Doc?” Heyes asked him.

“Ahh yes,” Miller responded, surprised that the inmate was acknowledging him. Up until this point he had only been met with stoic silence. “It'll help you to sleep.”

“Hmm,” was Heyes' only comment.

Miller pulled up the sleeve of the tunic and looked for a vein to use for the injection. He frowned a little as he pressed the skin down since all he seemed to be finding were old puncture marks where all the previous injections had taken place. Finally he found a spot that wasn't too bad and pushed the needle in to release the sedative into the inmate's body.

Heyes just accepted it now as a fact of nature. He couldn't fight it, so why bother. He sighed as he felt the needle go in and then turned and smiled at the doctor.

“What would happen if you gave me three times that amount Doc?” he asked through heavy eyelids.

“Ah well,” he answered. “a triple dose would probably kill you.” And then he inwardly cringed as he realized that this was probably the last thing he should have said. Sure enough, Heyes smiled at him.

“That's what I thought,” he admitted. “How about it Doc? One less uppity inmate to worry about. It would be a pretty easy solution to all our problems.”

Miller looked down at the inmate. This man who he had read so many dime novels about, this notorious outlaw who had seemed to have the world in his hands, and here he was, asking him for release. Asking him for an out to all of his problems. But the doctor knew that he couldn't do it.

“I'm sorry,” he said, and genuinely meant it. “I can't do that. It would go against everything I swore to uphold and I just hope that one day you will be able to thank me for not doing what you ask.”

Heyes sighed, disappointed but not surprised as he felt the sedative begin to take effect. Dr. Miller stayed with him, sitting beside him on the cot with a hand on his shoulder until he drifted off to sleep and was released from his despair for a short time at least.


The next morning Heyes sat dispassionately on his cot, his manacled feet resting on the floor and his hands temporarily unshackled but setting quietly on his lap. He was staring at nothing and certainly not at the plate of food that was sitting on his table awaiting his attention. Officer Pearson stood back, leaning against the wall of the cell by the open door with his rifle at the ready just in case the despondent inmate suddenly decided to attack somebody. A heavy silence stood between them.

“C'mon Heyes,” Pearson finally prompted him. “eat something why don't ya'? It's been days—you gotta be hungry.”

No outward response. Inwardly though Heyes' mind was as active as it had ever been.

'Why don't you eat it then you bastard?' Heyes thought to his inner self. 'Don't tell me I must be hungry! Screw you—if I wanted to eat I would—don't go telling me what I need to do! Why don't you just go away?'

Finally Pearson gave up and re-shackling Heyes' hands into the cuffs he picked up the plate of untouched food and left the cell, closing and locking the door behind him. Heyes didn't move but just sat where he was and continued to stare into nothing. Outwardly there was no indication at all that he was even aware of his surroundings—no eye movement, no heavy sighs, no acknowledgement to people moving by outside his cell. Nothing.

Finally he swung his legs up onto the cot and lay back down again to simply stare up at the ceiling and appear to all outward appearances to be asleep—except that his eyes were open. Inside his mind Heyes' resentment had built up into anger, into a rage that was seething and unforgiving. His silence became all encompassing and his refusal to respond to the most basic of human contact brought more fear to his friends than any outward act of violence would have done.

At noon Sister Julia was escorted into the cell by Pearson, in the hopes that she might have more luck with getting her friend to eat something. It did not go well.

“Joshua, please sit up and eat,” Julia was almost pleading with him. “It's a good stew. Marilyn made it herself. Please, won't you try some of it.”

Heyes' physical response was to simply turn his head away from the Sister and stare at the wall of his cell.

'Why don't you just go away? Why do you people insist on harassing me? Why can't you just leave me alone. I'm not hungry, I don't want any damn stew and I don't care who made it. None of you understand anything—you're all just so stupid! And don't even think about sending Dr. Slosson in here because I won't talk to her either!
'All either one of you are going to talk about is how God loves me and how you're going to pray for me and why won't I come to services and find guidance in God's words and all that damn crap! GO AWAY! I know where I want to be—I know how to get there! But nobody will let me go! And I'm supposed to be thankful for this!? None of you understand anything! JUST GO AWAY!'

“I've heard from Thaddeus,” the Sister continued, hoping that news about his cousin would garner a response. “He's worried about you. He'd like to come and see you again. Don't you want to see him Joshua?”

'NO!' The scream exploded silently inside his mind. 'Why would I want to see him!? That traitor! I waited! Intentionally waited before I left this place just so that I could talk to him and let him know that he didn't need to worry about me, that I was fine—that this was what I wanted! And what does he do!? He turns traitor that's what! He knifed me in the back! Gave me away to the enemy! THAT BASTARD!
'I thought he was my friend! I thought Kenny was my friend! But now I see them for who they really are! They've both turned against me—they're in it together, I know they are! Conspiring against me! Why would I want to see either one of them again? That bastard Kenny! I should have let Boeman cut his throat. I should have.
'I've only got one friend now and everyone is doing everything they can to stop me from getting to him! Doc's the only one who cares about me. He showed me how I could be happy, how I could be free and now everybody is doing everything they can to stop me from going!
'DAMMIT! Why can't you people just let me go!? LET ME GO!!'


Sister Julia continued to sit quietly beside her friend, holding on to the bowl of stew and wishing that she could find a way to reach the man laying on the cot. He was so totally unresponsive and she had never experienced anything like this before. She understood outright anger, fear, uncertainty and jealousy, but this, no this was something she had never had to deal with before.

Like everyone else she so much wanted to help her friend, but how do you help someone who won't respond to you? How do you offer hope to someone who is beyond hope and is no longer seeking it?She continued to talk quietly to the back of Heyes' head, to reassure him that she cared about him and that she wasn't going to give up on him and her only acknowledgement from him was silence. Finally Pearson had had enough.

“Sister, I'm sorry,” he finally said to her. “I need to get on with my other duties. Perhaps you could come back and try again at suppertime.”

The Sister sighed regretfully and then with a nod she stood up and leaning forward she placed a hand on Heyes' shoulder.

“I'll leave you for now Joshua,” she told him. “I'll come back and see you later, alright.”

'NO! Don't come back! I don't want you here—go away! Leave me alone!'

She gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze and then turned away and followed Officer Pearson back out of the prison proper.

She carried on her own way and retired to her little room that was just off the infirmary. Closing the door behind her she knelt down on the floor beside her bed and grasped the small gold cross which hung around her neck. She closed her eyes and lifting the small cross to her lips she kissed it gently and then holding it tightly against her breast, she prayed.

She prayed for her friend as she had never prayed before. She prayed for his mortal life as well as for his everlasting soul. She prayed for God to give her strength, for Him to help her to find a way to bring her friend back from the edge. Then she prayed that if they all failed in their endeavors and that her dear friend succeeded in committing that terrible sin of taking his own life that the Good Lord in all his wisdom and forgiveness would still welcome his soul into the Kingdom of Heaven where he may at last find peace.


Heyes lay on his cot and stared up at the ceiling. He hadn't eaten in days and the only water he'd taken in was whatever the amount the young doctor could force down his throat. He wouldn't talk to anyone, wouldn't respond to anyone—he didn't care about anyone.

Kyle came in to see him as usual at the end of his work day. Supper would be done and everyone had the opportunity to relax and visit if they wished to, so long as they did it quietly. Kyle would often bring in a small stool or bench and sit down by the opened cell door and try to engage his friend in idle conversation. It never seemed to work, but Kyle continued to come by every evening and go through the same routine anyways as it did seem to help pass the time. OH, who was Kyle kidding; there were other ways to pass the time, but he knew just as others knew that Heyes was in jeopardy and he wasn't about to ignore his friend at this time.

“Hey ya' Heyes, how was supper?” This was the way the evenings' conversations would usually begin.

'Fine. Go away.'

“Those potatoes were ones we growed ourselves in that little garden outside the walls. They was good wasn't they.”

'Hmm.'

Kyle sat quietly for a moment, not sure if he should mention his next bit of news, but since there was nothing else to really talk about in this one way conversation, he decided to go for broke.

“I've been in here for over a year now,” he pointed out a little hesitantly. “so the warden figures that since I've behaved myself real well that he just might see fit to give me an early release.”

'That's nice.'

Kyle shuffled his feet and looked down at his hands, obviously uncomfortable with this topic, but feeling the need to get it out anyways.

“I'm not so sure I want to go though,” he finally admitted.

'Don't be an idiot—get out while you can.'

“I don't think I should be leavin' ya' when yer in this kinda state.”

'I'm not in any kind of state. Just go why don't you!? And speaking of going—GO AWAY!'

“Kid says that the big time rancher fella that he works for would be willin' ta give me a job,” Kyle continued on. “Parently he's gone and bought his-self a new parcel a' land an' he needs some fellas ta winter up in the line cabin ta mend fences and watch the stock—that sorta thing.”

'Fine. Go for it. Just leave me alone.'

“I donno though,” Kyle shuffled again and looked uncomfortable. “I don't think I would like that kinda work.” Then he grinned. “It ain't like robbin' trains is it!? I donno....” He gave a bit of a trepidatious look around just to make sure that no one was within ear shot. “I think I might just go join up with one of them gangs that's still runnin' in Wyoming—ya know. Get back doin' what I knows how ta do.”

Heyes gave an inward sigh—Kyle never was one for thinking too clearly.

'Go ahead. You want to do something stupid like that when Jesse is right there offering you the best opportunity you've ever had—fine, go ahead. You're gonna get outa here with a clean slate and you're just gonna throw it all away—whatever.
'This better not have anything to do with Wheat. Is he still alive Kyle? Is that it? Are you going to throw away all your chances to live clean in order to go meet up with Wheat again? Is that what you're telling me?'

Kyle's hope rose for a moment as Heyes turned his head and actually made eye contact with him. This was the first time there had been any form of acknowledgement between the two men in close on two weeks and Kyle hoped that maybe he had broken through. But then his heart sank again when Heyes' eyes once more glazed over and he turned his head away to once again stare at the empty wall.

'I don't care what you do. Just go away and leave me alone.'

Kyle signed in disappointment. Heyes' attitude was starting to wear thin on everyone.

“Wal, I'll be seein' ya' later Heyes,” Kyle mumbled. “Almost time fer lock down anyways.”

'Fine. Thank you. Go away.'


Out of remorse more than anything else, Jed did accompany Belle in to services that next Sunday. He felt badly for having yelled at her and decided that the least he could do was go along with her suggestion in order to help make up for his thoughtlessness. He hadn't really expected to get anything out of it so ended up being pleasantly surprised at the amount of support that was shown him and concern that the townsfolk apparently felt towards his partner's plight.

Jesse was away on some business of his own that weekend, but Belle, Beth, Jay and Jed took the surrey into town and joined David, Tricia and Nathan up near the front of the church. Miranda was also in attendance and seemed to be getting more than her fair share of the attention from some of the young men in the community. She ignored most of the polite advances and stayed close to her group so as not to give any of the gentlemen any hope of gaining access.

She smiled as the Jordan's' joined the group and gave Jed a warm greeting.

“Good morning Jed,” she offered. “How are things going? I understand you've had some difficult times.”

“Good morning Miranda,” Jed returned the greeting while Beth latched onto his arm. “I'm not really sure how things are going, but thank you for asking. I suppose being here can't hurt.”

“My sentiments exactly,” she agreed with a small laugh, then she leaned in conspiratorially. “I never was one for going to services,” she admitted slyly. “but I suppose, when in Rome etc. Etc....”

Jed knitted his brow. What did Rome have to do with going to Sunday services? Oh well. He let it go and just smiled at her.

“Come along Beth,” Belle broke in on the discussion. “Why don't we ladies go find seating so that we can all sit together, let the men talk for a while.”

“Oh,” Beth wasn't sounding too enthusiastic about that, not wanting to leave Jed on his own but finally succumbed to parental pressure. “Alright Momma. I'll see you in there Jed.”

“Yes, alright Beth,” Jed assured her. “We won't be long.”

Once the ladies with the two young boys had departed on their mission, Jed stepped in closer to David and allowed some of his true anxiety to show through. David smiled and gave him a pat on the shoulder.

“I know,” the doctor sympathized. “This is a difficult thing to deal with. I'm mad too. I knew Hannibal was up to something but he wouldn't talk to me. Why won't people talk to me? I keep on telling them that talking out their worries will make them feel better but all I get back is 'I'm fine David!' 'I don't need to talk David!', 'You're imagining things David!', 'Stop being such a pest David!'. Then the bastard turns around and announces that he's going to kill himself! Goddammit!---oh whoops! Probably shouldn't say that here.”

“Yeah I know,” Jed consoled him. “At least you and Kenny suspected that he was up to something but he had me totally duped into believing that everything was fine! ME! I'm his partner, I'm supposed to know him better than anybody! Why couldn't I see this!?”

“Don't be too hard on yourself,” David told him. “You're too close to him that's all. The very idea of him doing something like that was just too painful to even look at so you simply didn't see it. We all do that to some degree or another Jed. Don't be too hard on yourself.”

“Yeah I suppose,” Jed mumbled though still feeling put out. “But I swear David! If he does this—dammit! I will never forgive him!”

David sighed and put his hand on Jed's shoulder again. “I know. C'mon, let's go inside, I think they're close to starting now anyways. I'm still not sure if praying does help at times like these, but it sure doesn't hurt.”

After services everyone was outside again and talking about getting together over at the Gibson's home for a light lunch when Jed suddenly spotted somebody over by the mercantile.

“You folks go on without me,” he said to everyone in general. “I'll see ya' over there in a few minutes.”

“Oh...” was Belle's surprised response.

“Jed...?” came from Beth.

But before anything else could be added, Jed was off and running across the street and was soon half a block down to his destination.

“Joe!” Jed called out. “Joe! Wait up!”

The young deputy swung around at the sound of his name being called, but as soon as he saw who it was a scowl crossed his face and he turned to continue on his way.

“Deputy! C'mon, stop! Let me talk to ya'!”

But Joe continued on, his shoulders tense and the scowl on his face becoming deeper. He was in no mood to talk to the ex-gunman. But Jed wasn't about to give up and as he reached the young man he grabbed his shoulder and turned him around to look at him. Joe's face was like thunder.

“You stay away from me!” he growled at the older man.

“C'mon Joe! He didn't do it!”

“Of course you'd say that!” Joe countered. “he's your friend! You'd say anything to protect him. But I know he did it!”

“He didn't!” Jed insisted. “Your uncle was Heyes' friend too! Heyes respected and admired him—he wouldn't have killed him!”

“Yeah right!” Joe practically spit back at him. “Your partner took advantage of my uncle's friendship with him and knifed him in order to break out of prison! He's a despicable bastard and he deserves to die!”

Joe tried to turn away then but Jed grabbed him again and pulled him around to face him.

“NO!” Jed insisted. “That's not what happened! Another inmate named Boeman did it! Heyes is not a killer—he wouldn't have done that!”

“Warden Mitchell says that he did,” Joe was seething.

“HE'S LYING!” Jed yelled, causing a few passers-by to give them a wide berth. “Heyes liked your uncle—he wouldn't have done it!”

“Why would the warden lie about that?”

“I don't know why!” Jed let his frustration come through. “Mitchell's been out to get Heyes right from the start! I don't know why! Some nonsense about revenge, but there's more to it than that—there's gotta be! But I can't figure it out! C'mon Joe! You're a lawman! You know enough about Heyes' history! You know he's not a killer—you know that!”

Joe hesitated then, giving himself time to calm down and to think about it. Finally he nodded.

“I know he's never killed anyone during his outlawing days,” he finally conceded. “but that don't mean to say that he wouldn't kill to get outa prison.”

“C'mon Joe,” Jed persisted, but calmer now that he was starting to make some headway. “Your uncle worked at that prison for years. Do you really think he would have befriended Heyes if there was any chance at all that Heyes was a danger to him? You're uncle liked Heyes, you know that. They were friends. In fact, Heyes was really cut up himself over that loss. He's hurting too.”

The two men stood silently for a few minutes, both of them starting to calm down and one, at least hoping that he was getting the message across.

“Yeah maybe,” Joe finally conceded, just a bit. “I know Uncle Walter talked a lot about Heyes. Talked about how pissed off he got sometimes because of how smart he was. Made his job look easy.”

“Well, there was nothing easy about your uncle's job,” Jed told him. “Heyes had a great deal of respect for him and believe me, Heyes doesn't give that easily. He was real sorry about what happened.”

“Well, if Heyes didn't kill him...you say a fella named Boeman did it?”

“Yeah, he was another inmate and the one who instigated that escape attempt,” Jed informed him. “But he's dead now himself so....”

“Oh,” Silence again. Then... “You know we buried Uncle Walter at the cemetery here...I mean, he never did marry or anything, so we were his only family.”

“Yeah, I know,” Jed admitted. “I should go pay my respects, but I guess I just felt outa place. I didn't really know your uncle, not like Heyes did. But I'll go pay my respects, maybe in lou of Heyes for now.”

“Yeah,” Joe shrugged. “I suppose. What are ya' gonna do about your partner? If the warden claims that he killed my uncle, but you're sure that he didn't, well....what can you do about that?”

Jed slumped and sighed. “I donno,” he admitted. “Just keep putting pressure on Mitchell I suppose. Our lawyer is going to have a word with him, so....” Jed shrugged, he really had no idea where else he could go with this.

“Okay,” Joe answered. “If there's anything I can do, just ask. I want justice here, but if my uncle's killer is already dead I sure wouldn't want to see Mr. Heyes get punished for it if he didn't do it.”

“Yeah, okay. Thanks.” Then Jed offered his hand for shaking and Joe gave him a small smile and took it. “I'll see ya' later Joe.”

“Yeah.”

The two men parted company then and Jed made his way over to David's house. He wasn't feeling particularly hungry, but he was feeling in need of company and he knew that he couldn't do much better than the company of friends.


The next one to put in the effort to get Heyes to respond was Kenny—again. He walked into the cell casually shuffling through a small stack of letters. Heyes glanced over to see who was invading on his space and then with an inward snarl at the sight of one of his many betrayers turned his head to the wall again.

“Looks like you've got some mail Heyes,” Kenny announced rather casually. “Let's see—there's a few here from the orphans, all of them hoping you'll get better soon. I don't think Sister Julia has had the heart to tell them that you're deliberately starving yourself to death.”

'You bastard! You think you're going to make me feel guilty? What do I care what they think!'


“Ahh, let's see. There's one here from your friend Dr. Gibson,” Kenny continued. “After all the effort he put in to save your life I would think that you might want to respond to him. No? Oh well. Then there's one here from Mrs. Granger. She's Miss Jordan's sister isn't she? She seems genuinely concerned about you.”

'Yes Kenny—I know you read all my mail. Why don't you just bore me to death and read the whole letter to me since you already know what they say? Or better yet—GO AWAY! And while you're at it—burn the damn letters! I don't want to hear from anybody!'

Kenny had hesitated in his announcements and sent a quietly speculative look over to the inmate. Then he casually pulled out another letter from the pile and was very deliberate in his acknowledgement of this one.

“Here's one I really think you should read Heyes,” he suggested. “It's from Topeka, Kansas. A Mrs Abigail Stewert.”

He paused heavily at this point and eyed the convict, looking for any reaction at all. He tried not to let disappointment creep into his expression and hoped that the very slight tensing of the other man's shoulders wasn't just his imagination. Even though he wasn't sure about it, Kenny was right in reading Heyes' body language; the sound of that name had caused Heyes' heart to skip a beat, and though he regained control almost instantly, he was listening to Kenny's words with a little bit more interest now.

“You always seemed to appreciate her letters in the past Heyes,” Kenny continued. “and I believe that this one could be of particular interest to you.”

But then Heyes' brief spark of interest was once again covered over by hostility and the barriers went up once more.

'Why would I want to read a letter from her!? She doesn't want me in her life! She doesn't want me in our daughter's life—I know that for certain now! Kid probably put her up to this—just play along Abi! Pretend you care! She's just another one who I can add to that list of betrayers. Another conspirator joining forces to prevent me from doing what I want to do.
'What makes you think that what you have here is so much better!? Hug!? Nobody seems to be able to explain that! Nobody seems to be able to tell me why! All anybody ever says is ;You can't do this Heyes! This isn't right Heyes! Think of all the people you'd be hurting Heyes! Nobody's thinking about how I'm hurting! Nobody's thinking about what I want! So who's being selfish here!?
'GODDAMMIT! GO AWAY! Just go away.'

Kenny put the letters on the table and then stood for a moment with his arms crossed, contemplating the prisoner. He was getting close to the end of his rope on this one and quickly running out of options. Though Dr. Miller and Sister Julia had been somewhat successful in their efforts to force soup down the inmate's throat, it was hardly enough nutrition to sustain the man.

Already weakened by his near death experiences since the breakout, his refusal to eat was definitely taking its toll and he was looking painfully sallow and gaunt. Kenny was rightfully concerned that if they didn't find a way to break through the barriers soon then Heyes was going to accomplish his end later rather than sooner, but still accomplish it none the less.

Half an hour later Kenny returned to the cell and Heyes was determined to ignore him. He kept his head turned to the wall and even though his curiosity had been aroused by the odd sounds that he was hearing, he was stubbornly refusing to be drawn out.

Then he heard the cell door close and Heyes was alone again. He cautiously looked around but what he saw only added to his consternation rather than relieve it. Kenny had placed a box that measured about 18x12 inches around and six inches high and inside the box was a layer of dirt. Heyes frowned.

'What's he up to now? An indoor vegetable garden? Yeah right! Give the boy something to do—a project! That'll get him out of his slump! What a bunch of morons!'

Then Heyes heard the cell door opening again and was just about to turn away when something caused him to pause and take a closer look. For an instant nothing happened, and then a small cat was dumped somewhat unceremoniously onto the floor just inside the door. The fickle feline, though very petite in stature landed with a loud 'thump—thump!' and then just stood there, flicking her tail with indignation. She sent a look back up at the human who had dropped her (probably Kenny) and voiced her opinion in a rather loud 'eeaaah!' and then took a couple of quick hops forward as the cell door closed on her butt.

'A cat!? I don't even like cats! What does Kenny think he's doing, putting that damn thing in here? Maybe he thinks I'll get so pissed off with it that I'll kill the damn thing and eat it! Yeah right! Here I am shackled hand and foot to this bloody cot—how am I suppose to do that!? What's this thing supposed to eat anyways!? Don't go thinking I'm going to feed it. Bloody cat! What does he think he's doing!?'

Heyes frowned and glared over at the feline but the feline was totally ignoring him. She stood and flicked her tail a couple of more times and then casually strolled over to the box with dirt in it. She sniffed the air in that general direction and then with minimal effort she hopped over the rim and began to intently scrape the dirt around. She did this for some time; walking around in a circle, pawing at the dirt, kicking it about and spraying it all over the cell floor. She seemed oblivious to the mess that she might be making and continued to circle and paw and dig until she finally became satisfied and then she nestled herself in and squatted.

Heyes sent a rather disgusted look over to her but she continued to ignore him as she sat with her ears slanted backwards and a very focused expression upon her face until she was done her business. Then she stood up and again began to circle and paw and dig and spread dirt around everywhere inside the box and out until such time as she was satisfied that it was a job well done.

Then she daintily hopped out of the box and onto the floor again. She had done her duty in marking this cell as her territory for now and then went about the business of scoping it out. She casually moved about, sniffing in all the corners, moving in and around the books and letters, walking under the cot and around the table legs and making a point of rubbing her scent on every piece of furniture in the small inclosure.

Having accomplished all of this, she then went and sat down beside her box and began to go through the methodical process of cleaning her coat. For the next fifteen minutes she purred and licked and made sure that every square inch of her body got the attention it so rightly deserved, and the whole while she never once looked up at the inmate.

Heyes on the other hand, was intently watching her. She was a small cat, he noted—nothing like the half wild ones they'd had running around Devil's Hole. Those cats had been feral to say the least but they had done a decent job of keeping the rat population down so they had been accepted as part of the gang. But this little thing? What could she possibly be good for?

She was a plain, unspectacular grey tabby cat with no white markings on her what-so-ever, just a little bit of fawning on her belly and around her whiskers. She was very short haired which probably accentuated her petitness although her dainty little paws made that clear enough. She was young, though appeared to be full grown even though Heyes surmised that she couldn't be much bigger than some of the rats he'd seen around the place. So again; what could she possibly be good for?

He came back out of his musings to suddenly find a pair of discerning and very intelligent green eyes contemplating him and apparently waiting for him to acknowledge her. They stared at each other for a moment, contemplating the next move and then the feline, already having established that this was her cell, decided to take the initiative. She opened her mouth and a rather inquisitive 'ack' emanated from it. Then she trotted the short distance over to the cot and hopped up onto it and stepped delicately onto the inmate's stomach.

Heyes frowned. He wasn't sure he liked this liberty being taken upon his person and he contemplated giving a quick twist in order to dump the cat back onto the floor. Before he could make up his mind to do this however, the small cat took another liberty and walked up towards his face and sniffed his nose. Heyes grimaced; the whiskers tickling him. He opened his eyes again and found himself gazing into those intense green orbs and then she stepped foreword once more to sniff his eyelids and nearly choking him when she placed the weight of her one paw onto his jugular.

Fortunately she backed off again and sniffing his chin and then his throat, she turned her tail to him and began to rub her whiskers upon his shackled hands. Having satisfied herself with her scent application there she continued on a few more steps and then she caused Heyes to feel somewhat violated when she paused again to sniff his privates. But this was just her way of saying; 'Are you a guy or a gal? Oh! You're a guy! I'm a galhowdy-doo!' Hmm, Heyes was not impressed.

She continued on down to sniff his feet and then began to rub her whiskers and the side of her face along his shoes and to nibble on the laces. She began to purr and rubbed the whole length of her body against his shoes and then casually made her way back up to his hands. Once there her purring intensified and she began to rub her whole face against his wrists and the shackles. She sniffed the shackles and the chain attaching them to the belt and then started to rub in earnest. She tumbled all over herself as she purred and drooled and rubbed the length of her body against his hands, her eyes closed to slits and a feline smile upon her face.

Heyes just continued to lay there wondering what in the world this cat was doing! Most of his experience with felines was either tripping over them, or throwing something at them in order to prevent them from stealing food. There were plenty of rats in the barn for goodness sakes! Go get your own dinner! Cats weren't allowed in the house—let alone on the bed! So this was an entirely new and confusing experience for the inmate. Just what exactly was he supposed to do with this?

While Heyes was busy contemplating this dilemma the feline had expertly forced her nose under one of his hands. Then she casually pushed her whole head under there as well so that before Heyes even realized what he was doing he had begun to stroke her soft coat. Then he was absently scratching her ears while at the same time continued to wonder just what in the world he was expected to do with this, it never occurring to him that he was already doing it.

The cat remained where she was for about ten minutes, thoroughly enjoying the ear rub and putting all of her weight into her nudging and prodding in order to get the most out of it. Once satisfied with that she then stood up and approached his face again and began in earnest to rub her cheeks and whiskers against his nose. Heyes grimaced and screwed up his eyes and mouth while she purred and drooled and continued to claim ownership of her new pet project.

Finally she completed that part of the take over and then started sniffing his chest and stomach before she settled in to needling his tunic which was fortunately a heavy enough material that her small sharp claws didn't penetrate right through. She circled a couple of times and then curled herself into a ball and still purring with contentment decided that it was time to fall asleep. Heyes sighed and stared up at the ceiling.

For some reason that Heyes didn't bother to question, he never even thought to simply dump the cat back onto the floor. He lay there for some time, feeling the warmth of the cat's body seeping through his tunic bringing with it the calming vibration of her purring and the reassuring rhythm of her breathing. After a little time Heyes felt his own eyelids begin to feel heavy and before he knew it, and without the help of the doctor's sedative, he also drifted off to sleep.

When he woke up again it was dark in the cell and the prison was quiet. The cat was absent, probably having slipped through the bars of the cell door and gone off to do whatever cats do at night. Heyes wasn't sure if he was disappointed or relieved, but what he was sure about was the lowering temperature; he was cold.

He also had to pee. Hmm, this could be awkward. Usually one of the guards came by throughout the day and evening to unshackle his hands so that he could tend to that business but since he had been asleep, whoever had checked on him right before lock down had apparently decided not to disturb him.
Now he had a dilemma.

He stood up but found that he couldn't even pull his own pants down with his hands shackled the way they were, and even if he had been able to, he couldn't reach the chamber pot. This could be embarrassing—he really had to go! He stood there looking out into the dimly lite walkway and listened intently for any sound of the night guard. In the past, when he had been trying to sleep but couldn't it seemed that the guard was always strolling by on patrol but now that he desperately needed him to show up, it seemed an eternity.

He was just on the edge of calling out and risking even more punishment when he finally saw the night shadows sway and shift with the coming of the guard's lantern. Oh finally! Heyes got as close to the door as his chain would allow and waited until he saw the shadow of the guard approaching and then took the chance that the man would be understanding.

“Hello,” he whispered.

The swaying shadows stopped and the outline of the guard turned towards his cell.

“Jeez Heyes,” came the guard's whispered voice. “Ya' don't talk for days and then when ya' do, you're outa line. That's typical.”

Heyes' heart sank just a bit. It was Thompson. He had been hoping it would be Davis, but you just never knew who was going to be on night shift. Heyes chose to ignore the sarcastic remark.

“I gotta go,” Heyes' whisper had a touch of urgency to it.

“So you've been implying,” Thompson pointed out. “but you ain't goin' anywhere, so settle down.”

“No—I mean; I gotta pee,” Heyes redefined. “Help me out, will ya'?”

“Oh,” came the caustic response. “Okay, just back off the door.”

Heyes backed off to stand closer to his table and Thompson unlocked the door and pulled it open. He stepped inside the cell and with a cautionary look at the prisoner he dragged the chamber pot out from under the table and placed it in reach of Heyes' aim. Heyes looked at him rather skeptically and tried to hide his total disdain for this particular guard. He was on a mission after all.

“Well, unless you're going to pull down my trousers and hold my dick for me, I'm gonna need ya' to unlock the cuffs,” he pointed out rather sardonically. “Ya' know what I mean?”

“Well then you're just gonna havta hang tight,” Thompson informed him. “cause I don't have the keys with me.”

Heyes groaned. Thompson exited the cell and closed the door behind him. “I'll be right back,” he announced and then disappeared into the darkness. Heyes stood there with clenched jaw and crossed legs and waited for the guard to return. He was just beginning to think that he wasn't going to make it and that there was going to be a mess on the floor of his cell when he finally saw the swaying shadow of the lantern coming into sight again. Oh thank goodness!

Thompson unlocked the cell door and coming in he placed the lantern down on the cot and then proceeded to unlock Heyes' hands from the cuffs. Heyes didn't hesitate. As soon as he felt his hands free he pushed down his trousers, grabbed hold of his weapon, aimed and fired. OH! The relief! He couldn't think of anything else other than the steadily decreasing pressure on his bladder! Nothing could have ever felt that good. Finally!

When he was done, he sighed gratefully and tucked himself away. Then, quick as a blink Thompson was manoeuvring his hands into the cuffs again and had snapped them into place. Heyes frowned; he didn't see why he had to be shackled hand and foot, after all what could he get up to in his own cell?

But then he shrugged with the inevitable and reaching down as best he could he pulled up the blanket from his cot and sent Thompson an enquiring look.

“Yeah yeah,” Thompson nodded. “Lay down—I'll cover ya' up.”

Heyes smiled and got himself settled onto the cot again. Thompson draped the blanket over top of him and the inmate settled in to try and get some sleep. The guard picked up his lantern and exited the cell in order to continue on with his rounds. Heyes, feeling much more relieved and warmer than he had just shortly before settled in and with a deep, almost contented sigh drifted off to sleep away the rest of the night.

A few hours later Heyes slowly began to rise up from his slumber. He gradually became aware of those things that were a part of his outer world while his inner dream world drifted away. One of the things that followed him from his dream state up into his conscious state was the round patch of warmth that was laying upon his chest.

He wasn't quite sure what that was, but he felt nice and cozy so he didn't really worry about it too much. He shifted a little bit and moaned as sleep began to dissipate and wakefulness took over his realm. He frowned. The warm circle on his chest started to vibrate and he couldn't quite figure out what that was. Finally he gave in and opened his eyes.

The cat was back. She was laying on her chest on his torso, facing him. Her dainty paws were curled in towards one another and then tucked in under her chest as she rested there and contemplated her human. Her bright green eyes were closed to slits but her whiskers were pushed forward in a definite feline smile as she waited for her project to acknowledge her.

Heyes lay there and stared at her and she squinted and smiled back at him. Her purring increased until it was an all out rumble and she continued to wait for him to come to his senses and appreciate her and the gift that she had brought for him. When you take on the responsibility of a pet you need to take care of him after all.

Heyes woke up further and yawned. He knew that the alarm klaxon hadn't gone off yet so nobody was up and about. Indeed the prison was quiet and still wrapped in semi-darkness and Heyes tried to settle in and go back to sleep for whatever time was left of the night. Unfortunately someone's purring insisted on keeping him awake.

As Heyes lay on his cot waiting for the morning klaxon he felt his on-going depression begin to wrap itself around him again. The cat had been an unexpected diversion but now he wished that it would just go away. He intentionally kept his eyes closed so that he would not have to acknowledge the feline whom he knew was still perched on his stomach, settled comfortably between his cuffed arms. He was hoping that she would just get bored and go off to do cat things and not being too familiar with feline nature he didn't realize how patient one could be.

Finally the morning klaxon sounded and he knew that he could no long fringe sleep. He sighed and squinted open one eye and the purring instantly began again. He groaned. Why had this damn cat latched onto him? Why wouldn't she just go away? She continued to lay on his chest, purring loudly and apparently expecting some response from him. He opened both eyes and glared at her and she continued to smile sweetly back at him. Then he noticed something else that had been placed neatly on his tunic between them.

He looked closer and then grimaced and groaned with disgust. It was a dead mouse. Oh yuk! It had obviously been laying there for some time and the blood from its ripped open belly and exposed guts had spread out and dried upon the material of his tunic.

There was no hesitation this time and he sharply twisted his torso to the side and unceremoniously dumped the cat onto the floor. The feline landed with a loud thump-thump and with an indignant 'ack!' glared back at him and sent him a couple of flicks of her tail. The cell door opened and the cat instantly trotted out between the guard's feet in order to go nurse her wounded pride somewhere private, this was quite the insult after all!

Thompson watched her disappear down the isle way and then stuck his head into the cell to berate the prone inmate.

“C'mon Heyes! On your feet!” he ordered. “Just cause you're in 'solitary confinement' here doesn't mean ya' can....what the hell is that!?”

“It's a bloody dead mouse!” Heyes yelled in disgust. “Get the damn thing off me!”

Heyes had hoped that the dead rodent would get dumped to the floor along with the cat, but the dried blood was acting as a glue and it was well and truly stuck to his tunic. Heyes twisted and turned in an effort to dislodge the thing but all he accomplished was getting the corpse to dangle and swing from it's extended gut. Ohh, this was disgusting!

“Alright. Just—lie still!' Thompson ordered him. “I'll come back after the roll-call and get it off.”

“No! Get it off....!”

“You talking outa line again Heyes?” Thompson snapped back at him.

The two men locked challenging glares for an instant, but then through force of habit, Heyes sighed and relented. There was no point in getting into a battle of wills over this and despite his dislike for this particular guard he let the man win and settled back to await release.

“That's better,” Thompson mumbled as he began to move away.”Looks like you're finally beginning to learn the damn rules. Only took four years.....”

Heyes' lips tightened in irritation, but he lay back and glared up at the ceiling and forced himself to be patient.
Fifteen minutes later, after the other inmates had dispersed to the mess hall for breakfast, Thompson and Davis returned to Heyes' cell to assist him in his dilemma. Thompson had a rifle with him and stood just inside the cell door while Davis stepped forward and plunked a clean tunic onto the table and then unlocked Heyes' hands.

“Alright, sit up,” he ordered the inmate.

Heyes did so, the mouse dropping and swinging from its gut. Davis snorted quietly in amusement and Heyes felt himself becoming even more irritated. He himself could not see the humour in this situation at all! Davis rolled up the offending tunic and then pulled the whole mess up and over Heyes' head and arms and handed him the clean one.

“Put it on.”

Heyes happily did so and Davis re-cuffed his hands yet again.

“You gonna eat breakfast today?”

“No,” was Heyes' sardonic reply. How could anyone even consider eating breakfast after that disgusting awakening? He felt nauseous, though if truth be known it was probably more the lack of food in his stomach than the bloody offering from the cat that was causing him to feel that way.

“Fine,” Davis mumbled and then the two guards left the cell, taking the offending tunic with them.

Heyes sighed and lay back down on his cot again. He was getting tired of this game. Why couldn't they just take these shackles off of him? It's not like he could do anything locked in his cell. But then he remembered how he had been bashing himself up against the cell door in his rage at having his well laid plan diverted on him. He sighed. Why couldn't they just let him do what he needed to do? Why were they insisting on forcing him to stay here? He'd always been a thorn in the side of most of the guards here so why wouldn't they just let him leave?

“How's our pet prisoner doing today?” came a familiar but hated voice from the vicinity of the cell door. “Still alive I see.”

Heyes snarled over at Carson. “You bastard!” And he was on his feet in an instant and charged the guard, but he was brought up short by the chain attaching him to the cot. His legs were yanked out from beneath him and he clattered to the floor, bruising his elbows as he landed.

Carson hadn't even flinched and he stood there, laughing at the inmate while Heyes struggled to get back on his feet.

“Forgot you were chained up like a mad dog, did ya'?” the guard sneered at him, intentionally trying to provoke an aggressive response. “I always knew you were a bad egg, Heyes. Thanks for proving me right.”

“You bastard!” Heyes repeated as he finally managed to get to his feet. His nose was bleeding. “You killed Doc—I know you did!”

Carson just laughed at him again. “Come off it Heyes. Morin told me himself before he bled to death that you're the one who knifed him. Now why would he lie about that?”

“He wouldn't!” Heyes snarled at him. “But you sure as hell would!”

“Yeah? Prove it!” Carson challenged him. “Don't worry Heyes—your execution has simply been postponed. You committed cold-blooded murder and you're gonna pay for it.”

The two men glared at each other again and then Carson grinned before turning and continuing on down the isle way and out of Heyes' line of sight. Heyes continued to seethe, his self-righteous anger taking hold of him and causing him to start pacing in a circle until such time as Sister Julia, escorted by Pearson arrived at the door of his cell, carrying a bowl of oatmeal. Heyes groaned. Why couldn't these people just leave him alone?

“Oh! Joshua,” she exclaimed. “your nose is bleeding! What happened?”

'Nothing,' he grumbled to himself, feeling even more dejected than he had the previous day. 'Why don't you just go away—and stay away this time!'

“Mr. Pearson, could you go and get something to clean him up with?” the Sister requested of the guard.

“No Sister I'm sorry,” Pearson answered her. “I can't leave you alone with him. I'll accompany you over to the infirmary if you like where you can get whatever supplies you need.”

Julia smiled. “Yes, alright. That'll do.” Then she absently set the bowl of oatmeal onto the small table and followed the guard out to run the errand.

Heyes signed. At least they were gone for awhile, but obviously they were going to be back. He looked disgustedly over at the oatmeal and then noticed again all the unopened letters still sitting there awaiting his attention. He pursed his lips and looked away. Why wouldn't these people just leave him alone!

Then he groaned—the cat was back! Apparently she had gotten over her tiff and she came trotting back into the cell with her tail up and a welcoming expression in her green eyes. Heyes' expression was anything but welcoming but she ignored it. Without hesitating she gave a quiet 'murr' in greeting and hopped up onto his lap.

Heyes sighed in resignation as she began to purr and rub her face against his chin. Then she left his lap and walked around him on the cot, rubbing along his back and his arms and then coming into his lap again she reached up and touched noses before he had a chance to pull away from her. She seemed genuinely pleased to see him.

Then her nose started to twitch as she picked up the scent of the oatmeal and without much ado she jumped over onto the table and began to help herself to breakfast. Heyes sighed again. If there had been any chance at all before of him eating anything, it was now a definite 'not gonna happen'!

So the cat continued to lap up her fill of the oatmeal and then when she was done she hopped down to the floor and went to her box of dirt to do her business and re-establish her territory. That done she settled herself onto the floor at Heyes' feet and set about her daily grooming, purring the whole time and completely ignoring the cold shoulder she was receiving from her pet project.

Sister Julia returned then with a small basin of water and a clean cloth and promptly shooed the cat away. 'Hmm,' Heyes thought to himself; 'one gone, one to go.'


The following afternoon Kenny presented himself at the door of Heyes' cell and proceeded to unlock the chain that was attaching the inmate to the cot. Heyes was trying hard not to let his curiosity get the better of hm and he just continued to stare at the wall while Kenny brought the end of the chain up and attached it to the belt around Heyes' waist.

“C'mon Heyes, on your feet,” Kenny ordered him. “you have a visitor.”

Heyes allowed himself to be pulled up off the cot and then shuffled out into the isle way. He didn't look around him at all, didn't pay any attention to anything or anybody and just simply allowed himself to be led off towards the visitor's room. Getting down the stairs with his feet shackled was a bit of a challenge, but with Kenny assisting him, he was able to hop down them without breaking his neck and they continued on.

Heyes' curiosity was quickly turning to anger and resentment. Kenny wasn't just escorting him to the visitor's room, but had stopped to pick up a rifle and was showing all intent of being the guard in residence during the upcoming visit. This was odd. Kenny had never been present during a visit before, that duty usually falling to one of the lesser guards. Why was Kenny stooping down to perform this lowly duty now?


Heyes' anger grew and his jaw tightened with the resentment. 'This is a conspiracy,' he thought to himself. 'This is something cooked up between Kenny and Jed, that's what this is! The two of them have joined forces and are going to start bombarding me with guilt trips—try to get me to do their bidding!
'Damn that Curry! I told him to stay away from me! Jeez—give him a chance to start thinking for himself and he doesn't even know how to listen anymore! I told him not to come back and now here he is, back again! And he and Kenny have joined forces against me! Damn them to hell! Well, I'll show them! I won't break—I won't give in to them! They'll see! Those traitors! They'll see!'

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Keays

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Posts : 1431
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 60
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: The Mouse   Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:33 pm

Heyes continued to fume and rage to himself as Kenny got him settled into the chair in the visitor room and then took up his place behind the inmate with his rifle at ease across the nook in his arm. The outer door began to open and Heyes sat up straighter, his mouth set in a hard line. He was ready—he was going to let Kid have it! If Jed was going to ignore what he wanted then he was going to pay the price for his insolence, for his arrogance! Heyes was gonna let him have it good.

Then the visitor stepped into the room and softly closed the door behind him. He turned and looked Heyes straight in the eye and all of Heyes' blustering and self-righteous anger deflated out of him and then shameful fear took hold of his heart and he broke eye contact and looked down at his hands.

It wasn't Jed who stood before him. It was Jesse.

Jesse stood quietly at the door for a moment, looking at his friend and doing a very good job of hiding his shock and dismay. He could not believe the wreck of a man who sat before him. No matter what Jed had told him, how much he had warned him, Jesse would never have been prepared for the physical and apparently, emotional degradation of his once strong and confident friend.

Jesse sighed and glanced over at Kenny and the guard nodded and sent him a slight smile. Jesse nodded back and then pulled out the chair closest to him and sat down, facing the inmate. Heyes was still looking down at his hands, he couldn't bring himself to lift his gaze and look his benefactor in the eye.

“Jed tells me that you've given up on us,” Jesse quietly stated.

Heyes looked up sharply, that accusation taking him by surprise. His mouth opened to answer, but nothing came out so he closed it and looked back down at his hands again. Silence continued for a few moments until Jesse broke it again.

“We haven't given up on you Hannibal. Why have you given up on us?”

“I just....” Heyes' voice sounded shaky and strained even to himself. He coughed and shifted uncomfortably. “I just didn't think it would be this hard.” His voice was no more than a whisper; he felt like he was going to start crying but he wasn't about to let that happen.

Jesse nodded. “It has been hard,” he agreed. “on all of us. But you made me a promise Hannibal, and I expect to you live up to it.”

Heyes sat silently, looking down. He felt ashamed of himself, ashamed that he had let this man down, that he had disappointed him.

“I just....” Heyes began again and then took a deep almost shuddering sigh. “I didn't think it would be this hard. I...I shouldn't have made that promise Jesse. I didn't think it would be this hard.”

Kenny stood silently against the back wall. He found himself feeling true sympathy for the inmate, listening to his heart wrenching admittance to failure. He hadn't been prepared for the raw emotion radiating from the man seated in front of him and he was finding it extremely difficult to witness. His admiration and respect for the visitor grew immensely as Jesse did not waver in his mission, despite the inmate's obvious pain and disillusionment.

“That's why we make promises,” Jesse gently pointed out. “so that when it gets tough to stay true to the course we have something to hold on to; an obligation to other people who expect us to stay true to our word. I made a promise to you as well, if you remember.”

“It's different for you,” Heyes tried to defend himself. “You're stronger than I am Jesse. I've known that ever since I first met you—you're a stronger man than I am.”

“That's nonsense,” Jesse countered. “You have strength in you that you don't even know about yet. I told you before Hannibal; you're a strong man. You can be anything you want to be. You can survive anything you put your mind to. I'm no stronger than you are.”

Heyes snorted sceptically. Then silence again. Jesse looked at his friend and could see his desperation; he was looking so hard for something to hold on to, but he had given up any hope of ever finding it.

“As I said; I had also made a promise to you,” Jesse repeated.

Heyes nodded. “And you've stayed true to it. I know you have.”

“Yes,” Jesse agreed. “But I lost faith, I came very close to giving up on you.”

Heyes felt a shiver of disappointed fear run through him. There it was again, this desire to please this man who sat before him, to make this man proud of him. The knowledge that Jesse had been so disillusioned that he had been ready to give up on him was like a dagger through his heart. Heyes swallowed and felt like he was going to throw up except that there was nothing in his stomach to assist him with that.

“It was right after your trial,” Jesse quietly continued. “All the things that had come to light at that time about what a good con man you were. That you were considered a top contender in that game of manipulation and deception and I couldn't help but wonder if you hadn't simply duped me into thinking that you were an honourable man. That you had tricked me into promising my support, my friendship to a scoundrel.”

Heyes slumped even deeper into his chair, the wound in his heart growing with every word that Jesse spoke.

“But then it took my wife and my daughter to show me the way,” Jesse continued. “To give me the strength to stand by my convictions and to trust my own instincts.”

Heyes looked up then, his eyes asking the question.

Jesse smiled and nodded. “Belle never lost faith in you and your desire to turn your life around. And Bridget! Even after everything she had heard at your trial, as soon as she saw you in distress she was right there for you. She defied my instructions to her and ignored the rules of the jailhouse in order to be there for you, to offer you friendship and support when you needed it the most.” Jesse stopped and looked Heyes in the eye. “It took those two ladies to show me how weak I was. I'm not as strong as you think I am. It's my family and my friends who make me strong, who keep me true to the course.
“You need to look to the same support Hannibal. You need to look to your friends and to your family to give you the strength to see your way through this. Don't turn your back on us; we're still here, fighting for your freedom, fighting for your life. You can't give up on us Hannibal. You don't really want to die.”

“Yes I do,” Heyes insisted. “You people just won't let me.”

“No, you don't want to die,” Jesse repeated. “You've just lost all desire to go on living.”

Heyes shrugged his shoulders and sent Jesse a questioning look.

“There is a difference,” Jesse insisted. “If you really wanted to die you would not have waited to tell Jed that you were going to do it.”

“I told him because I didn't want him to feel guilty,” Heyes insisted. “So that he could get on with his life and not carry that guilt around with him. That's why I waited.”

“Pardon my language, but that's bullshit. And don't tell Belle I said that,” Jesse commented. “You know just as well as anybody else—better even; that if you took your own life you would be destroying Jed along with yourself. He would never have recovered from it, he would have carried that with him for the rest of his life—and you know it!”

Heyes again looked away, unable to meet this man's gaze. This conversation was making him feel very uncomfortable.

“You know darn well that if you told Jed that you were planning on ending your life then he would do everything in his power to stop you,” Jesse insisted. “You told him that because you were desperate for a way out of doing it—you were desperate for help. And Jed didn't let you down did he? He did what he had to do, didn't he? He did exactly what you knew he would do.”

At this point, Jesse sent a quick glance over to Kenny who gave a subtle smile and nodded.

Heyes continued to look at the floor. He started to retreat again, this was more than he could handle.

'You don't know what you're talking about,' he mumbled to himself. 'You're just making this up as you go along.'

“You can deny it all you want to,” Jesse said as though he could hear what Heyes was thinking. “but I know darn well that if you truly wanted to end your life you would not have given any warning. You would simply have done it.”

Heyes became sulky. He didn't like anybody, even Jesse second guessing him and the fact that Jesse might be closer to the truth than Heyes would like to admit didn't make him feel any better.

“I just....” Heyes began again, rather lamely. “I just don't think I can hang on in here any longer. There is no other way out.”

“Yes there is,” Jesse countered. “I told you before, I meant it then and I mean it now; You're a strong man Hannibal, all you have to do is tell yourself that you're going to make it through this and you will. It's as simple as that.”

'It's not as simple as that! You have no idea what it's like living in here! These are all just words—all just attempts to make me feel guilty You don't know what you're talking about.'

Jesse saw the wall come down in Heyes' eyes and knew that trying to continue on with this argument wasn't going to do either of them any good. He had said his piece and now all he could do was hope that the words would gradually sink in and take hold. He watched his friend for a few more minutes but Heyes refused to look up and meet his gaze. Jesse nodded quietly to himself and stood up. He nodded over to Kenny.

“Thank you Officer Reece,” he said. “that's all I have to say.”

Kenny acknowledged him and then with one more quiet look to his friend, Jesse left the visitor's room and made his way home, hoping and praying that what he'd had to say might just make that little bit of difference to matter.

As Kenny escorted Heyes back to his cell, he noticed a very subtle change in the inmate's demeanour. He was quiet and sullen, which in itself was not unusual these days, but there was something else there too. The seething anger had been replaced by a thoughtfulness, resented at first, but taking hold and growing deeper with every step they took.

When they finally arrived back at Heyes' cell, the cat was curled up and asleep on the cot but she woke up as the two men entered the tiny room. She stretched and smiled at her project as he shuffled over to the cot and sat down in preparation for Kenny to chain him to the frame again. Her purring took over the cell as she stepped daintily onto his lap and began to need and drool. Heyes sighed and started to absently stroke her as best he could with his hands shackled the way they were. She didn't mind, she just leaned into position herself in order to make it easier for him.

Kenny stood up from attaching the chain to the cot and smiled down at the cat consoling the inmate.

“You two seem to be getting along quite well,” he commented.

“Hmm. She's alright—for a cat,” Heyes responded before he remembered that he wasn't talking to the guards. Then he totally forgot himself and asked a rather personal question. “What's her name?”

Kenny gave a quiet laugh. “Well we don't usually bother to name the cats here—there's so many of them,” he informed him. “but right from the get go this one showed a definite talent for catching mice. She's too small to be a good ratter, but mice—yeah, the prison has never had a better one. Every morning she leaves a large pile of them in the middle of the mess hall floor just to show us all what a good job she's doing. Soooo.....a couple of the trustees started referring to her as The Mouser, then it got shortened to The Mouse and now, well it's just Mouse.”

Heyes nodded his understanding and continued to pat the purring, drooling feline.

“Then, a couple of months ago she started displaying another talent,” Kenny continued. “She seems to have a natural affinity towards people in trouble. She'll pick up on something about them and decide that she's going to take them under her wing—so to speak and help to bring them back up from their despair. I tell ya' once she decides that you're worth the effort she doesn't give up either! So you may as well give up trying to shoo her away cause it's just not gonna happen.”

“Yeah I noticed,” Heyes mumbled as he continued to stroke the small cat. Mouse in the meantime was leaning into his shackled hands and rubbing her whiskers against them before flipping over onto her back and practically demanding a belly rub.

“Do you want some lunch?” Kenny asked him.

“No.”

“Well, how about I bring you a bowl of stew anyways,” The guard suggested. “The Sister couldn't make it in today so it really is going to be up to you whether you eat it or not. Though Doc Miller might have a thing or two to say if you don't eat supper.”

Heyes didn't respond but simply stared into the middle distance while he continued to rub the cat.

Two hours later Heyes was still seated in the same position in the middle of his cot. Kenny had returned with the bowl of stew and then left Heyes to figure out for himself how to get the spoon from the bowl to his mouth with his hands left shackled. Kenny knew he could do it if he really wanted to and perhaps the challenge would give him something to strive for.

Unfortunately Heyes just sat and stared and left the bowl of stew untouched. Mouse didn't mind though, because as soon as she got a whiff of the tantalizing aroma she gave up on the message and hopped up onto the table to help herself to some lunch. He was vaguely aware that the cat was stealing his food, but he had too many other things on his mind to be incensed by it and he was being stubborn about not wanting it anyways.

Finally Mouse had lapped up her fill and had returned to the middle of the cot. She prodded and needled the blanket until it was to her satisfaction and curled up into a ball and purred herself back to sleep. Heyes continued to sit and stare at nothing.

Then he gave a deep sigh and his eyes came back into focus. He glanced over at the bowl of stew and considered it for a few moments. Finally he shuffled over to it and picked it up. He sat back down on the cot and leaned into the bowl and took a deep sniff of the meat and potatoes and gravy. He grimaced slightly, not quite sure if he wanted to eat or not and also vaguely aware that the cat had already helped herself to a large portion of it herself. He wasn't too sure if he wanted to be eating the cat's left-overs.

Still, he picked up the spoon and awkwardly raised a small portion of the stew to his mouth. But as soon as the aroma of the meat reached his nose he stated to gag and he quickly replaced the spoon into the bowl and manoeuvred himself to put the food back up onto his table. He felt nauseous. Then he berated himself for being so weak. He had decided that he wasn't going to eat—not unless they forced it down his throat, so what was he doing even considering the option!

He sat for a moment, breathing heavily and trying to calm his stomach when his eyes fell upon the stack of letters that had been sitting there now for over a week. He sat back down and continued to stare at them as though it were the first time he'd been aware of them.

Once more he stood up and grabbing hold of the sheets of paper, he sat back down and began to shuffle through them until he came to one in particular. Once he found the one he was looking for he absently allowed the others to slide to the floor while he focused his attention completely onto this one. He sat for a moment and ran his fingers gently over the hand writing that he knew so well and he felt both fear and anticipation at opening this letter.

He was afraid of it, afraid of what words she would have to say to him. He knew how sharp her tongue could be a times and he just didn't feel up to dealing with a reprimand. It was just so much easier to stay inside his self-made world of exile and destruction and he was afraid that she might present him with an undeniable reason to keep on holding on.

But finally curiosity got the best of him and he pulled open the re-sealed envelope and slid out the folded pages of her letter. Then to his surprise another oblong piece of paper slid out from the sheets and fluttered heavily to the floor. Heyes sat and stared at it for a moment, almost afraid to pick it up. It was a photograph, he knew that, but it had fallen face down and he found himself hesitant to turn it over to see the image.

But again, curiosity finally won out and he slid down to his knees and leaning over he awkwardly picked up the card stock and then pushed himself back up onto the cot again. With a knot in his throat that he thought was going to choke him he flipped the photo over and his heart nearly broke in two when he saw his own dimples smiling back at him.

He gently caressed his thumb over her soft face and along her thick, dark hair. He stared into a pair of smouldering dark orbs that he knew without a doubt were the same rich chocolate brown as his own and he felt such an overwhelming rush of paternal pride that he was sure it was going to choke him. He couldn't take his eyes off of her image.

“Oh sweetheart. You're so beautiful,” he whispered. “You're so beautiful—my daughter.”

Finally he pulled his eyes away from the image and unfolded the pages of the letter that had been sent by her mother. He began to read.

 
My Dear Mr. Heyes,

What a terrible time you have been having recently. Tragedy piled upon misfortune. What can I say or do to make this better for you?

I am doing everything I can to help you, just as your many loyal friends continue to do. It may seem as though we are not making progress, but we have managed to get them to consider parole after ten years. We see that as one of our small victories on the road, not the destination. We fight on.

I know you are a deep thinker, and that is a curse as much as a gift. It is too easy to dwell on the darkness and infamy until they plague us. We can miss the light shining in the distance. To that end I have enclosed a photograph of Anya Rebecca Stewart.

She is known formally as Rebecca or Becky Stewart, but only those intimate to her get to call her Anya. It is my treasured pet name, used only by those closest to her and she loves it. The name is never used to scold or reprimand her; it’s the name used to bring her comfort and love. I hope it brings the same to you.

She has my big mouth, sadly, but her father’s eyes (Heyes couldn't help but smile at this; another talker in the family. Well, he reasoned, she comes by it honestly). Her colouring is very dark, just like most of my father’s family, but none of my side have ever had dimples.

She is so very clever, inquisitive and quick. I do wonder what she will make of a world which tries to constrain her and box off her options. She is not good at taking, ‘no,’ for an answer; as her school recently found out when they told her that little girls should not be progressed to more complex arithmetic, because they will only get married and have no use of an advanced education. I had to intercede with the headmaster, as Anya pointed out (quite rightly in my opinion) that the woman who had told her this was ‘really old’ and hadn’t got married. Where do you think she gets all that from? Where indeed? (Oh oh, trouble brewing there!)

The teacher in question is about forty five. Whilst I agreed that Anya should not have described her as old, I had to support the pure logic and the ideological basis of her stance. Thank goodness I am used to living in a world of tutting and raised eyebrows. Whoever heard of a school restricting access to education? I simply won’t stand for it. I wonder what she’ll grow into?

Anyway, back to you. We have a saying in Scotland,’ Triùir a thig gun iarraidh – gaol, eud is eagal.’ It means that three come unbidden – love, jealousy and fear. You have experienced far too much of the latter, but remember that love can also find a way to creep through those dark cracks and provide chinks of light. It is there. Dwell on that, apply your mind to something positive and try to make sure that this dreadful time does not become who you are. You are better than this. You have a good mind and a strong spirit which can carry you through to the future.

I do hope I have managed to raise your spirits a little. I will think of you again tonight as I promised. (Heyes groaned on reading this; he had forgotten all about sending out evening wishes to Abi every night. Life had just become so complicated lately. He was going to have to change that).

Try to stay strong, mo ghràidh. Think of the future. Dwell on the life you will build and in that way, I’m sure you can persevere and endure.

Abigail



Heyes read the letter over numerous times until he practically had it secured in his memory, just as he had done with her other letters. Then he lay it onto his lap and picked up the photo of his daughter again. He just couldn't get over her. She was smiling at him as though she knew that he was gazing upon her and needed so much for her to love him—and to forgive him. And he sat and he stared into her eyes for an eternity.

Kenny strolled by the cell just to do a quick check on the inmate but then stopped and stepped quietly inside the doorway to get a closer look at what Heyes was doing. It didn't take him long to see what the inmate was looking at and he smiled and waited patiently for the man to acknowledge him.

Heyes was vaguely aware of Kenny standing there but he was too absorbed into the photograph to pay him much mind. He kept stroking the image with his thumb as though by doing so he was actually having some physical contact with the child herself, as though she would then know him and know who and what he was. Suddenly he felt that rush again of paternal pride wash over him and this time he thought for sure that he was going to be sick.

He managed to keep himself under control and he sighed deeply and though still staring at the photo he spoke quietly to the man standing before him.

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

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

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

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

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

“Anya Rebecca,” Heyes answered him.

“Anya. That's pretty. It suits her.”

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

“And Rebecca?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once it was ready, Kenny put a spoon in the bowl of stew and plunked the bread on top of it, then he dropped the tin cup into the pitcher of water and laden down with the meal he turned and made a bee line back into the cell block.

He slowed down as he got closer to Heyes' cell so that by the time he turned in to the tiny room he appeared calm and collected and sent the inmate a reassuring smile as he set all the dishes down on the small table. Heyes sent a startled look over to the food and wasn't quite sure how to respond. It wasn't suppertime.

Kenny turned away from the table and took out the key to the handcuffs.

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

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

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

Then while Heyes sat and quietly contemplated the food, Mouse had been awakened from her afternoon nap by the tantalizing aroma and was not hesitating at all to take advantage of the offered meal. She hopped up onto the table and was just about to tuck in when her pet project grabbed her around her body and dumped her unceremoniously onto the floor.

She gave an indignant 'ahhhgg!' and glared up at the inmate while sending him a series of adamant tail flicks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


When Jed went in to town again and checked in at the telegraph office to see if there were any messages, he was both hopeful and scared to death that there would be something for him from Kenny. Then when he found that indeed there was a message waiting there for him from the guard, his gut tied itself in a knot and he almost couldn't get himself to open it. This was either good news or bad and if it was bad he just didn't know how he would be able to carry on.

Finally though, he had to know and he opened up the folded piece of paper. Instantly relief washed over him and he found that he had to sit down on the edge of the boardwalk or collapse right there in the middle of the street.

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


TO BE CONTINUED

Author's note; The letter and photograph from Abi to Heyes was kindly delivered across the pond by Silverkelpie.

* Referring to Silverkelpie's story; Compos Mentis. With her knowledge and approval, of course!
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PostSubject: Re: The Mouse Chapter thirty-two   Sun Mar 23, 2014 1:07 pm

Oh, I admit to a tear when Heyes sat there stroking the photograph of his daughter.  So very touching and you leave us with a glimmer of hope.  All people are connected and tragedy ensues when people forget that.  It looks like Heyes is starting on the road back.
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PostSubject: Re: The Mouse Chapter thirty-two   

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The Mouse Chapter thirty-two
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