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 Comings and Goings Chapter three

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Keays

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Posts : 1435
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 60
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: Comings and Goings Chapter three   Thu Nov 21, 2013 10:33 pm

Comings and Goings

The loud rap at the door cut through the room, jangling everyone’s nerves. Kid’s hand dropped to his gun, not quite believing what he had heard. The door was hammered again as anxious eyes darted around.

“Who could that be, at this time of night?” gasped Belle.

Kid stood decisively. “Only one way to find out,” he stood to the side of the door, gun drawn. “Who’s there?” he barked. “What do you want?”

“It’s Abigail. Open the door.”

Heyes leapt to his feet, his eyes like saucers. “No,” he whispered, hoarsely. “It can’t be.”

The door was battered again, the female voice ringing with Scottish tones. “Let me in! It’s horrible out here.”
There was another thunder clap, punctuating the tension before Kid released the catch and turned the handle. The door swung open, the lightening flash illuminating the silhouette of what looked like a cowboy, water running from the brim of the hat like a blocked gutter. “Abi?” murmured Kid. “Is that you?”

She strode into the room, water dripping from her long waxed coat in rivulets. “Of course it is. How many women do you know with a Scottish accent?” She smiled, staring deeply into Kid’s eyes. “Jed, you do look well. It’s good to see you again.”

Kid slammed the door closed behind her and stared at her incredulously. The cold had nipped at her nose and ears, turning them bright red and a sopping tendril of hair snaked its way across her cheek, slathered in place by the wind.

“Abi? You look horrible,” he chortled, gathering her up in his arms and lifting her off her feet in a great, soggy, bear hug. “What in the name of all that’s holy are you doin’ here?” He dropped her back on her feet and held her at arm’s length. “I can’t believe this, especially at this time of night.”

She stripped off her coat, casting apologetic eyes in Belle’s direction. “You must be Mrs. Jordan. I’m so sorry to drop water all over your floor.

Belle nodded, drinking in the wet denim clinging to her legs and the feminine hips emphasized by the tied down gun. “You know our boys.” Belle glanced at Heyes, before she fixed Abigail with wise eyes. It was a statement, not a question.

Abigail nodded. “Yes. It’s been a long time. My name is Abigail Stewart.” She paused, casting dark eyes in Heyes’ direction. Her lips parted, apparently stopping herself before she spoke again. “A VERY long time.” She gave a weak smile. “Mr. Heyes...” her voice caught slightly before she dropped her head and looked away.

Kid nodded towards the gun. “I’ve never seen you armed like that before, Abi. You look like you mean business.”
She released the stampede strings and pulled off her hat, revealing her dark, dank hair pulled into a bun at the nape of her neck. Her dress was obviously functional and not a disguise. “Just because you’ve never seen it, doesn’t mean it never happened, Jed. Someone’s trying to hurt people close to you. So – yes, I mean business. I’m deadly serious about dealing with this.”

Kid’s eyebrows arched. “You know about that?”

She nodded. “I certainly do. I get the newspapers for this area sent to my home. What I’ve read recently has been very disturbing.”

“Jed? Mr. Heyes?” Beth held the strange woman’s gaze in challenge. “I take it you are closer to my Jed than you are to Hannibal? I thought we’d met all their old friends.” Her voice became more clipped. “Those close to them helped. Where were you?”

Kid gave Beth a firm look. “Abi helped. More than you know.”

“Really? What did she do? Who is she?”

Abigail smiled warmly at the young woman. “Your Jed? You must be Beth, and you’re the reason I’m here. I’m not here for your man, Beth. You can relax. I’ve come to help.”

Beth frowned. “I’m sorry, but who are you? What were you doing while we were working hard for five years? Why has nobody even mentioned you?”

Jed folded his arms. “Abi has done a great deal, but she works in secret. She has to. You need to trust us on this, Beth.”

“She needs to trust me too, Jed.” Abigail turned back to the young woman. “I find out secrets. I dug up a great deal about every governor who refused to release Mr. Heyes. One even resigned because of what I uncovered. I made sure they all knew that they would have to be completely fireproof as long as he was in jail, and that I’d keep digging as long as he was in there. It was my mission to ensure that keeping him in jail was more trouble than it was worth. There really aren’t many politicians who have a completely clean record in business, in love, or in both.”

"Secrets?” Beth bit into her lip. “But how?”

Abigail arched her eyebrows. “Anything can be uncovered if you know where to look, or how to get into it. We all have secrets, and generally speaking; the more powerful you are, the bigger they get.”

Jesse cleared his throat. “Miss? I don’t know if you’re aware of the terms of Hannibal’s parole, but he isn’t allowed to associate with criminals.” His voice firmed. “I don’t care what the weather is doing out there, but he can’t afford to have you around. We don’t harbour criminals.”

Abigail pulled out a seat. “I’m very pleased to hear that and it’s very similar to something I said to this pair the last time I saw them, but then, they were fully fledged outlaws – and I was a Pinkerton.”

Beth’s mouth dropped open. “You!? Yes, they did say they knew a female Pinkerton. That was you?”

She glanced at the cousins in turn. “You told someone about me? Really?”

Jed shrugged. “Well... You are kinda memorable, Abi.”

“Not as memorable as you two.” She looked at Heyes again, the flicker of a frown ghosting over her face. “Mr. Heyes, how are you?” He held her gaze in an intense, nonspeaking stare and gave an indifferent shrug. She looked away, blinking nervously, before addressing the Jordan family. “Mr. and Mrs. Jordan, someone is trying to kill your daughter. That has to be addressed. You and she have to get out of here until we sort this out.”

“Where can we go? Surely they’d just follow us?” Jesse looked over at his wife. “Still, you're right; the women at least should go. How can you deal with this on your own?”

“Tomorrow an elderly woman will arrive. She’s been in town for two days, making a fuss about coming to see the men she thinks may be her long, lost great nephews. She will leave with Jed, and the Jordans will go to town on a shopping trip. They will see her off at the station, but at the last minute they’ll get on the train. Jed will take them to my home in Topeka and make sure nobody is following them.” Abigail looked at Beth and Mrs. Jordan in turn, “I understand you have a boy. You must bring him too. No bags, no warning – they’ll have no time to follow you. You couldn’t be safer there, with a crack shot who has guarded the president.”

“You’ve guarded the president?” demanded Belle.

“I live with an old friend, she was also a Pinkerton, but she is now a doctor. She will look after you.”

“You live with Hester?” All eyes turned to Heyes, who had spoken at last.

Abigail nodded. “Yes, Mr. Heyes. Just me, Hester and Anya.”

His voice rasped with emotion. “How is she?”

Her eyes softened. “She’s wonderful. Clever, funny and as much trouble as a barrel load of monkeys. You’d be proud.”

“Would I?” he asked, bitterly.

Abigail bit into her lip. “Yes. And so will she, when she’s old enough to know who you are. This is your turning point, but we need to make sure that those connected to you are safe.”

Heyes stared aimlessly into nowhere. “Yes...”

Abigail took a deep breath and looked back at the Jordan women. “Jed will see you safely to Topeka, and then come back here. We’ll need him. The old lady who arrives will be me, but Beth will leave wearing that disguise. They’ll think Beth is still here until it’s too late, and you’ll be safe until we get this sorted.”

Jesse shook his head in confusion. “Do you really think this is necessary?”

“I lost my eldest daughter to a criminal, Mr. Jordan. I want to save you from that pain. They must get to safety.”

Belle and Jesse shared a conversation in a glance. “We need to talk about this.”

Abigail nodded. “Of course,” she picked up her coat. “I must be going. I’ll see you tomorrow, but I can’t emphasize strongly enough that Beth must leave, at the very least.”

“You can’t go in this!?” Jed scowled at the window. “You’re already soaked to the skin and it’s a long way to town.”

“I have to. Nights like this split the professionals from the amateurs. I’m less likely to be followed in weather like this.”

“Heyes, tell her. She can’t ride out in this,” Kid held her hat back from her, shaking his head.

“She’ll do what she wants to do. She always does,” shrugged Heyes.

Abigail and Kid shared a frown. “Heyes, I wouldn’t send a dog out on a night like this. You can’t allow this. At the very least she should stay here and dry out.”

“It’s not my call,” muttered Heyes.

“Then I’ll make it mine,” interjected Jesse. “You do need to dry out, Abigail. Your trousers and shirt are soaking. You can leave at dawn, in dry clothes, after some rest. Beth will leave tomorrow, but my wife and I will discuss how many more members of the family will accompany her.”

Abigail pursed her lips in thought. “I doubt I’ll sleep, but your care is appreciated. At least I’ll dry out.” She sat back down.  “My horse is outside; she'll need to be tended to.  Is there a stall where she can spend the night and dry out herself?  I must be gone before dawn, though.” She glanced at Heyes. “I clearly need to be brought up to date.”

 “Of course,”  Jesse assured her.  “Jed could you....”

“I'll do it!”  Heyes interjected and then before anyone could argue the point he went over to the coat tree, threw on his hat and coat and headed outdoors.  Even a night like this was preferable to standing there feeling like an idiot.  He had to get out—get away from her!  He had to give himself a chance to re-group.  What the hell was she doing here!?

He took the lantern down off its hook and shielding it from the wind he struck a match and lit the wick.  The light flared up and almost sputtered out again, but he was quick with enclosing the flame inside the lamp and it held and though it flickered, the flame shone brightly.  He turned and started down the steps and then tightened up the stampede straps on his hat so that it wouldn't get blown away.

The poor horse was tied to the porch railing looking spooked and soaking wet.  Her eyes were showing white in the lamplight and she blew in nervousness at the man coming towards her;  she really didn't like this situation at all!  Heyes spoke quietly to her and then untying the wet reins he led her prancing and blowing over towards the second barn.

Once there he pushed open the doors and then the wind grabbed them and slammed them open even harder.  The mare spooked and pulled back just as another flash of lightening lit up the sky and thunder rumbled loudly across the horizon.  The mare then jumped forward, nearly running Heyes over and causing him to almost drop the lantern into the straw!  Now wouldn't that have been a fine thing!  Abi shows up out of the blue and then her horse sets fire to the barn!  How much more fitting could that be!?  Oh Heyes was in a mood!

He hung the lantern up on its hook out of harm's way and turned and closed and latched the doors.  He led the mare down to one of the empty stalls having to keep his shoulder and an elbow leaned against her to stop her from running him over in her hurry to get someplace safe.  He finally got her into a stall, striped the gear off her and threw it out into the isle way.  He then came back out to the open area, grabbed a dry blanket and a flake of hay and returned to the stall.  He might be in a mood but he wasn't about to leave a horse soaking wet and hungry no matter what he might be thinking and feeling about the rider—if he even knew himself what he was thinking and feeling!

He gave the mare her flake of hay and then noticed the pricked ears and hopeful looks of the two draft horses who made up the other occupants of this barn and so went and grabbed two more flakes of hay for them.  They didn't seem to be too upset by the storm, perhaps the mare would be influenced by their calm demeanour and settle down  herself.

He gave the mare a thorough rubbing down, not being in any hurry to return to the house and not really understanding why.  While in prison he had dreamed of the day when he might possibly see Abi again, that he had forgiven her that cruel decree and that he did still love her.  But when she had walked in on them so totally unannounced and unexpected the emotions that had surged to the surface were anything but forgiving or loving.  Suddenly he was angry again—just as angry as that day ten years ago when she had pushed him away, when she had denied him his paternal rights.  He rubbed at the mare's hide even harder and she was actually enjoying it—it felt good, but Heyes himself was venting!  Muttering under his breath and cursing the day he'd first laid eyes on Mrs. Abigail Stewart!
 
Ellie had actually padded out of her hiding place from the storm to come and greet the human in the barn, but once she got a hint of the mood he was in she turned tail and rejoined the two little dogs who had chosen to stay in their nest, buried in the loose hay.  Nothing short of breakfast was worth coming out of the warmth on a night like this. Ellie decided she was going to agree with them.
 
Finally Heyes had to concede that he couldn't rub the mare down any further and he left the stall.  He picked up the gear that was still laying in the isle way and hauled it up to the front of the barn and set it down on a railing, hanging the saddle blanket out full so that it could dry at least a little bit before morning. Then he sighed and turned to stand, staring at the closed barn doors.
 
Maybe he could just spend the night in here.  No; he knew that wouldn't wash.  He'd only have to face her again in the morning when she came to get her horse anyways.  Oh well.  It's close to bedtime.  Just get back in there and then retire.  If Jed wanted to stay up and visit well, that was up to him.  Another sigh.  He didn't move.

“Dammit!”  he cursed and Ellie was glad to be safely back in her nest.  “Dammit.” he repeated.  He paced back and forth a couple of times, muttering obscenities under his breath, stopped and stared at the barn doors again.  Another big sigh and then he took down the lantern and with a knot in his gut he left the barn and headed back across the yard towards the house.


 Heyes was in the dark cell.  He was scrunched into the corner, clutching his knees to his chest and shivering with cold and fear.  Why did he have to keep ending up in this place—he hated it in here; he couldn't even remember what he had done to deserve it this time!  His teeth chattered as he stared into the blackness and he groaned in fear at the sound of something scurrying passed him.  He pushed himself deeper into the corner and wanted to cry.

“Papa...?”

Heyes jumped.  “Wha...?”  He looked around in the darkness and saw nothing.  “Who's there?”  Even he could hear the tremor in his voice.  “Who's there!?”

 “Papa!  It's me....”

“I can't see you!”  Heyes called out.  “Where are you?”

“I'm right here Papa.  Why aren't you coming?”

Heyes fought harder to see through the darkness that hid everything.  He began to feel desperate and getting onto his hands and knees he started to pat the floor, feeling his way forward, trying to find the source of the voice.

“Where are you.....where are you....?”

“I'm right here Papa.  I'm waiting for you.”

Then Heyes saw a light shining before him and slowly the form of a little girl began to take shape and she stood there, her thick long dark brown hair curling down over her shoulders and her hands clasped politely in front of her.  Just like in the photograph.  Heyes reached out to her, trying to touch her, desperately wanting to take her into his arms.

“Anya....?”
 
Then the expression on her face tightened and she suddenly looked confused.


“You're not my Papa....!”

“Yes I am, sweetheart.”  Heyes assured her.  “I am your Papa....”
 
“No you're not!”  she insisted.  “My Momma said that my Papa died, so how could you be him?”

“No, no Anya!  I am your Papa!”  Heyes insisted.  “You have to believe me!”

 “Why should I believe you?”  she sneered.  “You're a thief!  A criminal!  You lie to people all the time!  You're not my Papa!”

“Yes, Anya, sweetheart....”

“How dare you call me that!”  she screamed at him.  “Only my Momma and my Aunt Hester call me that!  You're nothing—you're nobody!  You have no right to call me that!”

“No Anya!”  Heyes yelled out in desperation, but the little girl began to fade away, the light swirling around her and swallowing her up until there was nothing left.  “NO!  Come back!  Anya—please....!”

But she was gone and Heyes was left alone in the darkness again.  He desperately patted the floor of the cell, moving forward trying to find her, trying to bring her back.  Then suddenly the floor gave way and his hands sank down into the rolling mud that had once been a solid surface.  He panicked, trying to pull back but the mud had hold of him and began to suck him down into its depths.  He fought and struggled, desperately trying to get free, but it continued to pull him down first to his elbows and then he was up to his shoulders and he started to scream.

He screamed and screamed but the mud kept sucking him down until his chin was sinking into the mire and then he felt the sludge roll into his opened mouth and he sputtered and spit and clamped his  teeth shut, pressing his lips tightly together.  He could no longer scream but his mind was crying out at full volume inside his head as his nose was pulled under and he could no longer breathe!  He fought and struggled until his eyes were pulled into the blackness that was blacker than black and his lungs were burning and he couldn't help it!  He couldn't help it and he gasped for air but all he drew into his lungs was the suffocating mud!
 
Then he was gasping and scrambling, pushing himself back against the headboard and clutching the blankets to his chest!  There was light in the room, it was coming up on dawn and he could smell coffee perking but his mind was spinning and he couldn't breathe; fear was clutching at his chest and he shivered from the cold sweat that covered him.


Belle was there—oh no! Not Belle again! Why did it always have to be her, oh but then who better? She seemed to be the only one he could truly let down all his defences with and know that she wouldn't think anything the less of him because of it. He let loose a deep shuttering sigh and for the briefest of moments allowed her a glance into his soul.

She saw that he was awake but she could also see the terror in his eyes. She was over to the bed instantly and sitting down she laid a gentle hand on his trembling one and gave the cold, clamming fingers a reassuring squeeze. He continued to hug his drawn up knees but returned her hold as he fought to stop the trembling. This was awful; even in front of Belle. He had to stop these nightmares, he had to stop being so weak.

He held onto her hand, almost desperately as though it were his only hold on his sanity. His jaws tightened stubbornly as a ragged sob fought to come forth.

Belle's other hand instantly came up and joined with the first to hold on to him. “Ohh, Joshua. No It's alright.”

“When are they gonna stop?” his voice was a whisper, a tight, pleading whisper punctuated by his ragged breath. “I'm losing my mind—I don't know who I am anymore.”

“Shhhh,” she continued to sooth him. “you're not losing you mind Joshua. You're alright. Shhh, you're alright.”

“I'm scared to go to sleep.” he whispered.

She continued to sit with him on the bed, holding his hand, consoling him until his breathing finally settled and she felt the trembling ease off. He gave a deep sigh but continued to hold on until he was sure that he had control over his emotions again. He met her eyes then and smiled at her, though it was a weak smile at best. She smiled back and rubbed his drawn up knee under the bed clothing.

“You feel better now?” she asked him. “Yeah. I'm sorry.”

“Stop apologizing; it's not your fault,” Belle assured him. “You're not losing your mind, there's just so much you need to work out and I have a funny feeling that Abigail showing up here has dredged up some old memories—opened some old wounds.”

He gave a small sardonic laugh. “Yeah,” He sniffed and wiped his face on the sleeve of his henley and then he uncurled his legs and stretched them down so that he was sitting on the bed beside Belle but still modestly keeping the blanket covering his long-johns. Leaning forward he rubbed his face with his hands and gave another deep sigh. He still felt worn out, like he'd just been put through the corn grinder.

They heard the front door open and Jed's familiar footsteps came in and head towards the kitchen. He passed by the open door to Heyes' bedroom then stopped when he saw people in there and back stepped. It didn't take him long to know what was going on.

“Aww jeez Heyes,” he commented. “did you have another nightmare?”

“Yes he did,” Belle answered as she rubbed his back. “Quite a bad one too, by the sounds of it.” Then she smiled a reassurance at Jed, knowing he would be concerned. “Did Abi get away alright?”

“Yeah she's long gone,”  Jed confirmed and then he smiled, hoping to lighten the mood “Next time we see her she'll be a whole new person!”  It didn't work.  “Ahh, I smell coffee.  Ya' want some?”

“Yes Thaddeus, thank you,”  Belle smiled and looked at Heyes as she caressed his back.  “You ready for some coffee Joshua?”
 
“Yeah,”  Heyes sighed and then he glanced up and locked eyes with his cousin.  Jed did indeed look worried and Heyes smiled back at him hoping that would be enough to let his cousin know that he was alright.  “Yeah, coffee sounds good.  Just let me get dressed.”

“Alright,”  Belle smiled at him as she stood up.  “we'll see you out in the kitchen.  The rest of the household should be up soon and maybe we can make some hotcakes this morning.”
 
“Sounds good,”  Heyes agreed, though he didn't come across as too convincing.

Belle gave him one more shoulder rub and then she walked out of the room and closed the door behind her so Heyes could finish getting dressed.  He sat on the edge of his bed for a few moments just trying to settle his thoughts.  He was still feeling jittery but knew from past experience that a cup of coffee and conversation with friends in the light of day would soon chase the night fears away.  
Then a slight movement caught his eye and he smiled weakly as the half-grown fluff ball came out from hiding under the dresser.

“Scared ya' did I?”  Heyes asked the kitten.

“Murr,”  came the feline response as she trotted over to the bed and jumped up.  Heyes began to stroke her and his smile broadened as she began to purr.


The stout Matron drew up in a hired wagon, the Jordan family spilling out from the house to greet her. J.J. gave a whoop of excitement and ran towards her, all gangling legs and waving arms.

“You’re visiting us? They’re in here. You’re related to my uncles?” the boy grabbed the hand clad in a grey day glove.

“Let the lady get in the house, will you?” Belle smiled at the driver. “It’s fine, Sam. We’ll take her back to town. We’re heading there today, anyway. You can go.”

“But I’ve been paid for the whole day,” Sam replied, uncertainly.

The old lady turned, speaking in an American accent. “I’ll be fine. Mrs. Jordan has offered to take me back. Just go. You can keep the money; after all you weren’t to know you wouldn’t be needed. You’ve probably turned down other work to bring me here.”

“Well,” Sam shrugged, “if you’re sure.” He twitched the reins and trundled away.

“Well, let’s get inside,” the abrupt switch in accent stopped J.J. in his tracks.

His jaw dropped and he stared at Abigail. “You sound funny.”

Belle frowned at him. “J.J.! The lady is Scottish – they talk like that. Don’t be so rude.”

There was a tinkling laugh from behind the veil. “Children are so honest, aren’t they? Yes, J.J., I expect I do sound funny to you – just as all you Americans did when I came here from a little island thousands of miles away. You’ll get used to it.”

They reached the steps to the porch, where Kid leaned on the door jamb and nodded in welcome, his eyes fixed on the wagon driving off in the distance. “He’s gone. It’s just us now.”

“Maybe not,” Abigail replied. “Let’s get inside.”


J.J.’s eyes widened in amazement at the old woman dragging off her hat and wig, before unfastening the padded bodysuit down the front, unveiling a slim, dark haired woman dressed in a simple black riding habit.

“It’s a kind of game, J.J.,”  Abi told him with a smile.  “Your sister is going to try to trick people into thinking she’s an old lady. You’re not going to give the game away, are you?”

The lad grabbed the wig, balancing it on top of his straight, blond hair. “What am I gonna be?”

Abigail grinned. “You are going to be the most important part of this trick. You are going to be the watcher.”

“The watcher? What’s that?”

She crouched down. “You must realize that we usually pick men to be the watcher, don’t you? Are you old enough for this?”

The boy nodded gravely, the wig wobbling sideways, making him look like a drunken judge. J.J. had no idea what a ‘watcher’ was – but if it was a man’s job, he wanted to do it.

“You need to look at people’s eyes. If you see anyone looking at your sister or you mother for more than ten seconds, you must tell Jed. You must tell him very quietly, though. The trick is for you not to let anyone know the watcher has spotted them. Can you do that?”

“Easy!”

“Good. So, who’s going?”

Jesse put an arm around his wife. “Beth, Belle and J.J.” The couple shared an emotional look. “I need to stay to make sure the place still runs.” He nodded towards Kid, “and I’ve got the feeling that the boys are going to be busy. At least I’ll know my family is safe.”

“Jesse, I’m real sorry about all of this.” He gave the Jordans a pained smile. “You deserve better than this. You all do.”

Jesse nodded, smiling at his wife. “Keep them safe for me, Jed. Get them there.”

“I will.”

“Where are we going? We’re going somewhere?” demanded J.J.

“To town,” his mother replied, firmly. “We’re going to see the lady off at the train.”

Abigail indicated a carpet bag. “There’s some cold food to keep you going, basic toiletries and some basic nightwear.” She deposited some papers on the table. “You can write and send telegrams, but not directly. They will go via the Pinkerton Office in Chicago. We can’t run the risk of someone just picking up the address from your mail. Hester will take you shopping for clothes.”

“You seem to have thought of everything,” murmured Belle.

“I hope so,” she paused. “There’s just one more thing. You are going to stay in my home. My daughter is there. She’s ten...”

“A lovely age,” Belle gave Abigail a smile of reassurance. “I’ve brought up two daughters. I’ll take good care of her for you.”

“You don’t understand. She doesn’t know about me, or about... Well, anything.”

“Ah!” Belle nodded. “And you want us to keep your secret?” Their eyes met. “All your secrets?”

Abigail heaved a sigh of relief, sensing the understanding in the other woman’s gaze. “Please. It’s the only place I could think to send you.”

“Your eldest daughter,” Belle reached out and lightly touched Abigail’s hand. “I understand why you’re here. Thank you.”

“Secrets?” Beth narrowed her eyes. “She doesn’t know you’re a Pinkerton?”

Abigail shook her head. “Was. I gave it up years ago, and no, she doesn’t.”

Beth frowned. “So? What are your other secrets?”

“Beth, if you haven’t worked it out, it’s best to leave it,” Belle replied.

“But what if I say the wrong thing? And why hasn’t Hannibal come to see us off?” She frowned. “I know he’s missed Karma, but he’s just avoiding us by staying out there.” She fixed Abigail with accusing eyes. “He’s avoiding you! Why? What did you do to him?” Beth sucked in a breath as an idea hit her. “Did you help put him in jail?”

“No! Of course I didn’t.”

“Beth!” Kid folded his arms. “Abi would never do that.”

She sat firmly down in a chair. “He doesn’t trust her. I’m not going.”

Jesse ran his hand distractedly through his hair. “Beth, we’ve talked about this. You have to go. It’s not safe here.”

“Got to? I don’t think so. He hardly said a word to her last night, disappeared out to the barn and then went straight to his room when he found out she was staying.” Beth’s lips firmed into a straight line, “and now he keeps a low profile as soon as she arrives? No. I’m staying. There’s something wrong.”

“Beth,” Kid strode over and fixed her with an intense stare. “Don’t you think I’d know it if he hated her.” He leaned over her, tilting her chin up with a crooked finger. “Heyes and I would put our lives in her hands, and by trusting her with you, I’m doing exactly that. He doesn’t hate her – you couldn’t be more wrong.”

“What’s going on then? Why is he so upset?” She bit into her lip, “I’m not going anywhere.”

Belle and Jesse exchanged a desperate look. “You have to, Beth. It’s not safe here,” murmured Belle.

“Do I need to get Heyes?” Kid asked. “Don’t you think he’d have spoken up if he didn’t think you should go, Beth? They have a past, and he finds it hard to deal with emotions at the moment – that’s all it is.”

Beth sighed. “I suppose... He’s just acting so strangely. I need to speak to him, just to make sure,”

Belle picked up the padded suit to examine it. “Beth, if Abigail’s daughter asks, we’re staying there because somebody is sick. We’ll work out who on the train. That’s all you need to know.”

“Train?” J.J. hopped from foot to foot. “We’re going on a train? Where are we going?”

“Now see what you’ve started,” Belle tutted at Beth. “It’s a surprise, J.J. It’s a special train with the watching game.”

“Ooh! I’ll get my hat.” The boy scampered to his room, stopping halfway. “My magnifying glass – the one I got for Christmas. Can I bring that?”

Abigail tilted her head up the staircase at him. “That would be just perfect for the watching game.”

Beth made her way over to the door. “I’m sorry if I seem rude, Abi, but there’s something wrong, and I have to be sure. I need to speak to Hannibal before I go anywhere.”

Abigail shrugged. “Whatever you need to do, Beth, but don’t be long, you have a train to catch.”

“Where does your daughter think you are?” Belle asked.

“Her name is Becky, and she thinks I’m visiting a sick friend who has measles. It’s contagious, so people have to stay at my house so they can’t catch it. I’ve had it, so I’m immune.”

“Who’s Anya?”

Abigail’s eyes softened. “A pet name, but please don’t call her that. It’s just for family.”

“How typical of his daughter to have an alias,” Belle muttered under her breath. “You are such a wonderful liar. If only Hannibal had used his abilities like that instead of turning to crime.”

“Mama, that’s rude!” gasped J.J. from the top step of the stair case.

“But true,” Abigail turned and snapped open her bag and produced theatrical greasepaint. “How do you think Beth will like being aged fifty years?”


 Beth made her way out to the first barn and pushing the door open she stepped quietly inside and took a look around.

 “Hannibal?”  she called out a little tentatively.

“Yes?”  the familiar voice answered her from down in Karma's stall.

 Beth smiled and made her way down there and sure enough, her friend was in the stall with his beloved mare, grooming her with a soft brush even though her thick coat was already shinning.

“You almost ready to go?”  Heyes asked her with a gentle smile.

“Is it alright for me to go?”  she queried.

Heyes furrowed her brow and then putting the brush down he opened the stall door and stepped out into the isle way.

“What do you mean?”  he asked her, feeling concerned.  “You know it would be safer for you to leave here.  Just for now.”

“But you don't seem to trust this woman,”  Beth pointed out.  “and I'm supposed to just leave with her?  If you don't trust her then....”
 
“Oh no,”  Heyes' tone was full of regret.  “No, sweetheart.  Don't take my mood as any kind of a reflection on Abi's ability to protect you.”  He smiled at her then and gave her a hug.  “You'll be safe with her, of that I have no doubt.”
 
“But you don't trust her,”  Beth pointed out again, her voice slightly muffled against his shoulder.  “You don't even want her here; you've made that very clear.”
 
She felt Heyes give a sigh and then he pushed her away and held her at arm's length for a moment.  His hand moved up and gently touch the healed over wound on her neck, then cupped her cheek in that same hand and smiled a sad smile at her.
 
“Abi and I have history together,”  he finally admitted to her.  “She chose to end things between us ten years ago and in hindsight she was probably right considering our situations and all that.  But I was hurt by it and very angry.  When I was in prison she wrote letters to me and helped to keep me going and I thought that maybe the old wounds were healed over and we could be good again.  It's just the shock of seeing her unexpectedly after all this time, that's all it is Beth.  It's hard for me to deal with it.  But believe me; if anyone can keep you safe, she can.”  Then he pulled her into a hug again and stroked her long blond hair.  

“Well now I'm really worried,”  Beth commented.
 
Again Heyes frowned.  “Why?”
 
“She had your love and she sent you away?”  Beth reiterated.  “How is that sensible?”

“Ha!”  Heyes grinned and hugged her even closer.  “Thank you!”

Beth smiled into his shoulder.  “For what?”

“For making me laugh again,”  He hugged her tight and kissed her forehead.  “I love you, ya' know.  You're a dear, dear friend.  You and Jed are going to be great together.”  He sighed and again pushed her to arm's length and gazed into her brown eyes.  “All the more reason why you need to leave.  I don't even want to think about what a bear Jed would be to live with if anything happened to you.  You can trust Abi, Beth.  Don't let my sour mood deter you.”

 “That's what Jed said,”  Beth admitted.  “that you were just having a hard time dealing with all the emotions of seeing her again.”
 
“Well he's right,”  Heyes supported that.  “I want you to go with her.  It'll be fine.”

“Well if you're sure....”

“Yes I'm sure,”  Then he gave her another kiss and smiled at her.  “I'll say my 'goodbyes' to you here though.  I think it'll be better if I don't come up to the house right now.”

Beth smiled.  “Alright Joshua...oh!  There I go calling you Joshua again!  Sorry.”

“That's alright.”  he grinned.  “I don't mind one little bit.”

“Alright.  Goodbye 'Joshua'.”

“Goodbye,”  Heyes said softly.  “We'll see you soon.  Take care of yourself.”

 “I will.”
 
And she left.


Abigail’s eyes flickered open, gazing around Beth’s bedroom. She sat up and dropped her tired head into her hands. She had hoped that she would feel more positive after a nap, after all, it had been a long, bone-achingly cold night. By the time the Jordans said their goodbyes and set off in the wagon for their trip to safety, she had been light-headed through lack of sleep. The time she had spent drying her clothes had been filled with Kid bringing her up to date on Heyes’ treatment in prison and the effect it had had on him. It was a harrowing tale.

Heyes needed care, patience and routine, and it was clear her presence had upset his sensibilities. The wild, burning anger of the man who had stalked away from her at their last meeting had hardened into a cold hatred which assaulted her every time he deigned to glance at her – and that was rare. He had walked silently from the room when Jesse had invited her to stay, and had made sure he was with his horse in the paddock when she arrived. Once he had said his goodbyes to the Jordans, Heyes delivered another of his heart-stopping glares and strode off towards the barn. He delivered his mute message with clarity.

He had broken her heart all over again. He was so thin, gaunt, and lost; and all she wanted to do was take him in her arms and rock him gently back to safety, but the light had gone out in those wonderful eyes, replaced by ghosts and shades of horror. They no longer danced with mischievous promise – they slashed like a razor as they dashed by, because just about anything else was more interesting. The pain gnawing at her heart was all too familiar, and was all the worse for returning after a period of respite.   He had accepted her letters and her apologies when he was in prison – at least she thought he had. It was now clear that he had been a desperate, lonely man clinging at any shred of kindness he could find. Now he was out, he no longer needed to clutch at that straw. She was just another bad memory to be dispelled.

The sound of laughter drifted through the door. Female laughter. Intrigued, she ran a brush through her dishevelled hair and wound it into a chignon before she made her way to the kitchen. Two women sat at the table, enjoying light, easy conversation with Jesse and Heyes. Abigail arched her brows in surprise.

“Aah, you must be Mrs. Stewart. I’m Tricia Gibson, and this is my cousin, Miranda.” She stretched out an elegant hand, indicating a package on the table. “My husband’s the doctor and we thought the need to deliver some medication was a good excuse for a visit. Hannibal needs it to sleep. Belle’s gone then? How good of you to help out these helpless men at a time of family emergency. Goodness only knows what Belle would come home to, if this lot were left to their own devices.”

“Please, call me Abi.”

The other woman’s eyes gave a twinkle of appraising deep blue under her slim eyebrows. “Lovely to meet you, Abi. Miranda – everyone calls me Randa.”

“Have either of you been offered a drink?” Both women shook their heads as Abigail smiled. “After that distance? Let me get one for you, tea? Jesse, Mr. Heyes!? What are you thinking?”

“That would be lovely, Abi. So, what do you think of our part of the world?” asked Tricia.

Abi poured water into the teakettle and placed it on the stove, turning to chat over her shoulder. “I haven’t seen much of it yet, but everyone seems very welcoming so far, but you are all I have to judge it on. So far, so good.”

Randa looked bemused. “You call him Mr. Heyes? Hannibal, surely you can let Abi call you something a little less formal?”

Heyes laid a gentle hand on Randa’s forearm. “I doubt I’ll see her enough for it to matter,” he replied, dismissively.

The two visitors exchanged a glance before Tricia changed the subject. “We came to see if Beth and Jed were going to come to the Thanksgiving dance, maybe you’d like to come instead, Abi? It would be a great way to meet people.”

Abigail shrugged. “A dance? I didn’t bring anything suitable. It was all very last minute.”

Randa stood, roughly measuring Abigail’s hips. “I’m sure I have something. My green, Tricia – wouldn’t Abi look beautiful in my emerald satin.”

“Oh, my! She certainly would. It would be wonderful with her dark hair.”

Abigail turned back to the range to tend to the whistling kettle.

“She’s shorter than you, Randa, but we could take it up. Please say you’ll come, Abi?” Randa turned to Heyes and Jesse. “Tell her she must come.”

“You’d have fun, Abi,” Jesse offered.

“It makes no difference to me,” grinned Heyes, “with you two in the room, who would notice anyone else?”

The two guests blinked in surprise and embarrassment. This was not the mild, charming man they knew. What was going on?

“Do you take milk and sugar?” Abigail put the kettle back on the range with a clatter, biting her tongue, mentally reminding herself that he needed patience. “Let’s wait and see, shall we? If we’re lucky Beth and Belle will be back soon, and I may be gone.”

Heyes sat back in his seat, stretching his legs out in front of him. “We can only hope, eh?”

Jesse glared at Heyes. “I’m sure he didn’t mean that the way it sounded, Abi.”

She deposited the cups on the table. “I’m sure Mr. Heyes will be very pleased to see everyone back where they belong.” She gave Tricia and Randa a weak smile. “Excuse me, but I have some chores to do. It has been lovely meeting you.” She stalked over to the door closing it firmly behind, blinking back burning tears.


Last edited by Keays on Sun Dec 01, 2013 12:58 am; edited 1 time in total
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Keays

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Posts : 1435
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 60
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: Comings and Goings   Thu Nov 21, 2013 11:03 pm

So... It was a cold, damp day and she had just shut herself out of the house. Where was she to go? She stomped over to the barn - at least that offered some kind of protection from the elements. She needed time and space to think. This couldn’t go on. Operating under this kind of emotional stress was likely to lead to mistakes and she couldn’t afford those, not when lives were at stake.

A chicken scuttled passed her, flicking its head back and forth in concert to each strutting step. Abigail looked hopelessly around for a place to be female, to weep, until some of the pain washed away. Heyes could never find out he had made her cry. He knew how rarely that happened.

The ladder to the hayloft was illuminated in a dull streak of light. Yes, it was private and fairly soundproof. That would do fine - it wasn’t as though anyone cared enough to come and find her.

Her tears hadn’t been cathartic, the acid had burned her eyes and cut through her sinuses, leaving her face puffy and red. She opened the hatch a crack, allowing her to watch the visitors leave, with surprising alacrity after her departure. They called her name to bid farewell, but she ignored them. They had been lovely women, but she needed solitude. So much energy had gone into being brave, getting on with life, and she now knew she'd been deluded to think that she could work with Heyes as a parent.There was no light at the end of the tunnel.

Pain gnawed into new, sensitive areas. She had lost her family, her career and her reputation through her involvement with this man, but she had hung on to the memories and a stupid hope that something could be possible in the future, or that at the very least, it had mattered. If Anya was old enough to understand... if the timing was right... if he cared enough to wait... she now damned herself to hell for being such an idiot. It was clear that all that mattered to him was to forget she and Anya had ever existed.

She had left home a week ago and had spent the last three days, and broken nights, investigating the respectable and, not so respectable residents, for any motivation for the attacks on Beth Jordan. The straw was soft, and a wave of fatigue washed over her. Her breathing started to slow down. She drifted off into a haunted, caustic dream.


Jesse and Heyes returned to the house after the ladies had made their departure. Heyes was in a sour mood and would have been just as happy to spend the rest of the afternoon in his room and read but Jesse had different ideas.

“Hannibal! Sit down!” he ordered, sounding very much like a father speaking to his recalcitrant son.

Heyes turned with a glare, his mood already so deeply set that he would even go so far as to defy Jesse. He set his jaw and stood with hands on hips, challenging the other man; daring him to push this doctrine. Jesse was having none of it! He'd had to give Jed a sock on the jaw in order to get him to buck up and start behaving himself and he wasn't beyond doing the same thing to Hannibal.

Jesse returned Heyes' glare, his own jaw tightening and his hands closing to fists. “I said 'sit down'.” He repeated, his tone low but menacing none the less. He was not going to stand for this nonsense; not in his house.

Heyes continued to glare at him, stubbornly not moving. The two men locked eyes and Jesse pushed, daring him to make good on his challenge. It seemed an eternity, the two men locked in yet another battle over male dominance but gradually, just as before, Heyes started to back down; this wasn't Devil's Hole and he wasn't the great outlaw leader anymore. He wasn't anything anymore. He blinked a couple of times, his stance softening and then he looked away. He was still angry, he was still defensive but Jesse had him beat and they both knew it.

“Hannibal, sit down,” Jesse repeated a third time but without quite the same heat to it.

Heyes sighed and then looking around for a chair, he pulled one away from the dinning table and sat down, preparing himself for a chewing out. Jesse pulled out a chair as well and joined him, getting hit with a sudden deja vu moment of the last time the two of them had sat together at this same table and Jesse had assured the younger man that he would not be forgotten about. Jesse sighed; so much water under the bridge since that day—so many changes.

“What was that all about?” Jesse finally asked him. “This woman has come here with an offer to help us and you treat her like she's the devil incarnate. What's gotten into you?”

Heyes continued to sit, looking at the table but his eyes were still hard with anger. “Kid was right—what he said last night. We have history and I don't want to talk about it.”

“Well TOO BAD!” Jesse was getting angry again himself. “You damn well better start explaining yourself—and right now!”

Heyes' jaw was working; he didn't want to talk about this but Jesse wasn't about to let him off the hook.

“FINE!” he finally snapped out. “I loved her once upon a time, alright! I'd never loved anyone like I loved her and she stabbed me through the heart. She took our daughter and she pushed me away! She denied me access, denied me any contact at all. I HAVE A TEN YEAR OLD DAUGHTER WHO DOESN'T EVEN KNOW I'M HER FATHER!”

Silence settled over the table. Jesse's anger softened a little bit as he realized that Hannibal's acid verbal assaults were a defensive mechanism resulting from a deep seated pain. He nodded. “I can understand why you would be angry about that.” Heyes snorted. “Am I correct in assuming that her eldest daughter, the one who died—was also yours?”

“Yes!” came out as a strangled affirmation.

Jesse sighed again, running his hands through his hair. “I'm sorry Hannibal, I didn't know. That's a hard thing to have happen, but don't you think that Abigail has suffered too? Don't you think she only did what she did out of the best interests for your daughter? You were an outlaw, running a gang of outlaws. Can't you see what a detrimental lifestyle that would be for a family?”

“I did,” Heyes admitted. “Time and distance convinced me that it was all for the best, that Abi was right—and then she shows up here! Out of the blue! NO WARNING! Just 'HI! I'm back! I'm here to help!' Like ten years is nothing! Like she can just waltz back into my life as though nothing had happened!!”

“I can see how that would have been a shock,” Jesse agreed. “But that still doesn't give you the right to speak to her in that manner. She is the mother of your children Hannibal—she deserves respect.” Heyes just snorted again, he was not feeling very respectful. “To speak to anyone in that manner while in my home will not be tolerated. She has travelled a fair distance in order to help us in this situation and I for one think that she is more than capable. She is welcome in my home and as long as she is here you will treat her with the respect that she deserves. Do you hear me Hannibal?”

“Yessir,” Heyes practically snarled at him. “Can I go now 'sir'!”

Jesse bit back an angry retort, realizing that it would do no good at this point. He nodded and gave a slight gesture towards the door of Heyes' room. Heyes slammed the palm of his hand onto the table by way of ending the conversation and then stood up and stomped off to his room. Jesse sat quietly at the table for some time trying to digest all that had gone on there.

Hannibal was hurt and angry and still so damaged that he had no tools left to help him deal with all these emotions coming at him in quick succession. Too much was happening all at once and all he seemed capable of doing was to raise his arms and lash out in his own defence. He wasn't emotionally capable of realizing, or perhaps of even caring that it was the people closest to him, the ones trying to help who were getting hurt the most.

Jesse sat back with yet another frustrated sigh. Oh my goodness! What a time for Belle to be away!


She woke with a start, blinking in the half light. What had wakened her? Her answer came fairly quickly; people were shouting her name outside. She crawled over to the hatch and peeked out, Jesse, another hand, and to a much lesser degree, Heyes, were calling for her. How long had she been asleep? It felt like hours. She rubbed her face and tried to shake herself back to reality. The bone-deep, life-corroding loneliness still gnawed, but no matter what, she had to face, she had to swallow it down and see it through for her daughter.

She lay on her stomach, watching the search from her vantage point, trying to garner the strength to put herself back into the lion’s mouth. Her dark eyes settled on Heyes, and Jed’s words rang through her mind; Heyes needed care, he was having difficulty facing any emotional issues; he needed time, protection, and support... but why did he have to be so cruel? She would have given anything to spend her life with him – almost – she couldn’t sacrifice Anya’s safety, but now he couldn’t even be civil.

She raised her head, suddenly fixing on the dark figure over by the chokecherry bushes. Action was required. He needed to be dealt with – immediately.


Jesse was the first to see her, stomping towards them, full of business. “Hannibal! She‘s here, she’s fine...” His voice trailed off as he noticed that she was bearing the shotgun he usually kept in the barn in case of predators. She was pushing cartridges into the barrels and snapping the barrels up into a two hand carry, ready for use. His voice rose in concern. “Hannibal, what’s she doing?”

Heyes eyes widened. She was heading his way with a shotgun and he knew he’d royally pissed her off. “I don’t know. Abi, put that down.”

“Oh? You can speak to me when I’m armed?” she retorted. She stalked passed Jesse, on course for a confrontation with Heyes.

He raised his hands to chest level in appeasement. “Don’t be stupid.”

“Stupid!? I’m way passed stupid.” She gave an angry puff. “I was stupid when I gave you a chance. I’m now a gormless eejit.”

Abi, put the gun down!” yelled Jesse. “I know he’s been an idiot, and I told him as much, but there’s no need for this.”

She raised the gun, ready for use. “There’s every need.” She darted an impatient look at Heyes. “For heaven’s sake, what are you just standing there for?”

“Huh?” grunted Heyes.

“Get out of the way, man!” She pointed straight at the chokecherry bushes. “You! Put your hands where I can see them and stand up. Do it slowly.”

There was a slight rustle before she yelled again. “Do you think I won’t blow your head off? You have three seconds!”

A black hat appeared over the foliage, between two pink hands raised in surrender. They grew until a man with a pointed nose and a dark moustache appeared. Abigail thrust both barrels into his face.

“Walk! No false moves.” She led him out of his concealment and forced him into the open. “KNEEL, and keep those hands on top of your head.”

“Abi...”

She glared at Heyes. “Do something useful, man.” She glowered at the stranger. “Get down on the ground.”

“But, ma’am... My suit.”

“Abi...”

“GET DOWN ON THE GROUND!” The man complied instantly, lying face down on the wet, cold mud. “Hands on your head and keep them there.”

“Abi...”

“Why are you flapping around like an old woman? Pat him down for weapons. He’s probably armed.”

Heyes sighed. “I’ve no doubt he is, Abi. He’s an old friend. Hello, Harry.”

Harry Briscoe turned his head, mud splattering his face. “Call her off, Heyes! Take that gun away from her.”

Heyes gave a chortle and took the shotgun, breaking the stock to make sure it couldn’t go off accidentally. “You can get up, Harry. It’s safe.” He smiled apologetically. “He’s a Bannerman Agent, and we invited him here to help.”

Abigail’s jaw dropped. “A Bannerman?”

“Yup.”

“You asked a Bannerman Agent here? But I had to find out from the newspapers!?”

Heyes shuffled uncomfortably. “I guess... I didn’t want to worry you.”

Outrage burned in her cheeks. “So, you knew someone was harming people close to you, and you didn’t even think to let me know?”

“Well... I thought you’d be busy. Maybe... I just didn’t think.”

Her face blanched, seemingly set in stone, before she strode towards the house. “I’ll be gone first thing in the morning. I’m clearly not needed here.”


Abigail sat in Beth’s bedroom, her bag already packed. The smell of cooking wafted from the kitchen and her stomach gave a growl of protest. Damn! She hadn’t eaten since breakfast. The soft tap at the door made her look up.

“Abi? It’s Jesse.”

“Come in,” she sighed.

Jesse fixed her with kind blue eyes, leaning against the door. “Come and eat. You must be starving. You missed lunch when you disappeared for hours.”

“I’ll get something later.”

He gestured towards the bed, asking permission to sit beside her. “Beth’s room.” He glanced around nostalgically. “I’ve had some heavy conversations in here.”

Abigail gave a watery smile. “I’ll bet. I’m starting those myself.”

“Yeah, daughters, huh?”

“Yes... they grow up so fast.”

“Abi, I had a long talk with Hannibal about the way he’s been treating you. I’ve told him it’s not acceptable.”

“As long as he’s under your roof, he lives by your rules, eh?” She gave a rueful chuckle. “I thought he’d welcome me after the things he wrote. I was deluding myself.”

“No, you weren’t. You bring up a lot of emotions in him, and he can’t deal with them. His strategy is to ignore you or dismiss you. It’s just too much all at once.”

She shrugged. “Well, it worked. I’m well and truly dismissed.”

Jesse glanced down at her bag. “You’re really leaving?”

“At dawn. I’d have gone now but it would mean riding into town and a woman arriving alone after dark would raise suspicions, especially when I have to leave a horse there for you to bring back to the Double J.”

“You don’t have to go. He’ll be much better behaved now. I promise.”

“Yes, that’s what every woman wants in the father of her child - a man who has to be told off to make him tolerable company.” She shook her head. “No, you now have a detective, and one he wants to be here. I’ll go.”

Jesse arched his eyebrows. “You could stay a little longer? Try being a little more assertive - give him a chance. Prison changed him and he’s still working out who he is.”

“I can’t sit back and allow anyone to treat me like that. I can’t tell him off, so I need to go.”

Jesse put a fatherly arm around her shoulder and she gave an involuntary shudder of emotion, the realization hitting her that it had been well over a decade since she had experienced that kind of human contact.

“Abi, there is no need for you to bite your tongue and take it. I think he’s afraid to deal with you, but there’s just that little part of him who’s provoking you, forcing you to make him face up to his fears. I haven’t seen him act like this with anyone else, so it must be a really big thing for him to look you in the eye again.” He patted the top of her arm. “Tell him. I do, Jed does too. It works. If nothing else; make sure he doesn’t get the last word. He needs to face these things, but in a safe, supported way. I’ll help.”

She turned her dark eyes up to Jesse. “It’s tempting.”

“Well if that’s tempting, you should taste the chicken pie Belle left. She’s a real good cook.” He stood. “Come to dinner, Abi, if he so much as steps out of line, I’ll back you up. You bore that man two children – I simply won’t allow him to treat you with anything less than complete respect.”


Heyes looked up at her with surprise, before arching his brows and dropping his head to examine his plate. Jesse ushered her over to the empty seat beside the Bannerman detective. “Harry, this is Abi.”

The man’s face glimmered into a shifty smile. “I remember. Feisty piece, aren’t you, Abi?”

“I’m sorry about making you lie face down in the mud, but you shouldn’t really go creeping around like that.”

“Yeah, but I was making sure it was safe to make my presence known. That isn’t something a woman like you would understand. It’s detective work.”

Jesse and Heyes caught her gaze, but stayed silent. They clearly wanted to see how this unfolded.

“A woman like me?” Abigail mused. “I have to agree with you. Rustling about in a chokecherry bush in broad daylight is beyond me.”

Jesse put down plates bearing delicious smelling slices of pie, before adding dishes of mashed potatoes, carrots and a gravy boat to the table. “Dig in, folks.”

“I can understand your nervousness, Ma’am, I know what’s been going on, but you now have a Bannerman man here to protect you.”

“I know,” Abigail placed a spoonful of mashed potatoes onto her plate. “That’s why I’m leaving.”

Harry slid suspicious eyes in her direction. “Ma’am, I have to point out that Heyes can’t mix with criminals. Have you been convicted of anything? Are you wanted?”

She chewed thoughtfully on a carrot. “Nope, they dropped the charges.”

“Charges? What charges?” demanded Harry.

Abigail gave Harry her sweetest look. “Murder, in broad daylight, in front of dozens of people – but it never made it to court. They agreed with me.”

Harry’s mobile eyebrows met in the middle. “I think you’re messing with me, ma’am.”

“Does it matter? I’ll be gone in the morning.” She smiled at Jesse. “Belle is a wonderful cook, this pie is delicious.”

“I’m trying to persuade Abi to stay longer. Tell her, Hannibal.” Jesse lifted a forkful of pie to his mouth. “I think we need her.”

Heyes flicked a dismissive glance at her. “First she arrives in the middle of the night, now she’s going? She wants to make her mind up.”

“I have, Mr. Heyes. I came here to help, but I see that nobody needs, nor wants, me.”

Heyes gave an indifferent shrug. “I just don’t know what you want.”

“I’m keeping my side of our bargain. If you want to walk away from that, you’ll be the biggest loser.”

Harry glanced at Abigail and Heyes. “So, you two don’t like one another, and you’ve butted heads with the boys in the past, Abi? What was this bargain?”

“That’s up to Mr. Heyes to disclose. There was no talk of amnesty when I met them,” Abigail looked down at her pie, “and I don’t think Mr. Heyes is happy to be reminded of how his past can still impact on his life. That’s why I’m leaving. I have no wish to make things unpleasant for anyone.”

“It’s not ill-gotten goods, is it? They never recovered any of the money this pair took.”

Abigail sighed. “Ill-gotten? No, Mr. Briscoe, nobody stole anything.”

“That’s a matter of opinion,” growled Heyes.

Jesse sent him another reprimanding look; perhaps their earlier discussion hadn't been as effective as he'd hoped.

“I’ll be gone first thing in the morning, Mr. Heyes, you only have to tolerate my presence until I finish dinner because I’ll go back to my room. Just try to ignore me until then.”

Harry sat back considering the pair. “So you got the better of Heyes in some kind of deal? That’s impressive, but he’s not the kind to forget something like that easily, ma’am.”

“So I see.” She dropped her fork and fixed Jesse with dark eyes, “I’m sorry that my appetite doesn’t do your wife’s cooking justice. This can’t be any more comfortable for you than it is for me. I must apologize for bringing this to your door.”

“Ma’am, he’s not violent. There’s no need to worry,” Harry replied.

“I’ve known Mr. Heyes for a long time, Mr. Briscoe. I know exactly what he’s capable of.”

Harry smiled, moving towards her like an uncle who kisses too much, and too long. “That figures, ma’am, but I want to reassure you. I’m here, you have a Bannerman man to protect you now.”

“Afraid? Of him? No Mr. Briscoe, I’m not afraid, just irritated.”

Harry gave her hand a patronizing pat. “I admire your stoicism, but I can tell. In all my years of experience I’ve seen a lot of strong women putting on a brave front. I’ll look after you. You’re fine.”

Abigail rolled her eyes, before firmly removing the clammy hand which had curled around hers. “Yes, and nobody can accuse you of a lack of staying power.”

Harry dolloped a pile of potatoes onto his plate. “Sure have, ma’am. I’m a Bannerman man. We have nerves of steel, hearts of oak and...”

“A knob of butter?” Abigail asked, sweetly.

“Huh?”

“For your potatoes,” her eyes widened innocently, “it makes them lovely and creamy.”

Harry’s eyes narrowed, glancing around assessing Heyes’ and Jesse’s reactions, but they had dropped their heads so he couldn’t read them. This woman couldn’t have just said what he thought she had... could she? He cleared his throat uncomfortably. “No thanks, ma’am. I’m fine with the gravy.”

Jesse swallowed down a laugh. “So, Harry. What do you intend to do first?”

“Well, I had intended to get the women folks to safety, but they’ve mostly gone, and with Abi leaving in the morning, that’s done. We’ve just got to find the shooter.”

Abi sliced into her pie. “And how do you intend to do that?”

“I’ll head into town tomorrow and ask a few questions.” Harry loaded up a forkful of food. “Folks open up to a Bannerman man.”

Abigail sighed. “Won’t that tip him off? Shouldn’t you adopt a role and enquire discretely?”

“Ma’am, this isn’t a dime novel. Detectives don’t really work that way.”

Abigail pursed her lips. “There was a man hanging around town – five foot eight, light brown hair, and a dagger tattoo on his right forearm. He had a favourite at the Black Rose, her name is Molly. He asked questions about the Double J. I would suggest you start there, but don’t be clumsy and let him know you’re on his trail. That’ll just give him the chance to cover his tracks.”

Harry’s brows furrowed. “And just how would you know about that, ma’am?”

“I was in town for a few days before I came here. Women talk, you know how we are.”

Harry shook his head. “No, I meant about covering his tracks.”

Abigail shrugged. “That’s just common sense.”

“I use tried and trusted methods, honed to perfection over the years, ma’am.” Harry delivered a superior smirk. “I don’t use common sense.”

Abigail and Jesse shared a look of concern.

“Does that description ring any bells, Hannibal?” asked Jesse.

“Five foot eight, light brown hair. It’s about half the men in the state,” muttered Heyes.

“What about the tattoo?” pressed Abigail. “Is that familiar? Do you know anyone like that from your past? Or prison, what about prison?”

Anger flared in his eyes. “Will you leave me alone! Do you really think I want to think about that place?” Heyes snarled.

Abigail gave him a soft smile. “I’m sorry, Mr Heyes. No, I’m sure you don’t.”

His dark eyes burned into her. “Why did you come here?”

“I came to help.” Abigail paused. “I didn’t realize how uncomfortable that would make you, so I’m going.”

Heyes dropped his fork, suddenly off his food. “Good. I don’t need this. I want to get on with my life.”

“Heyes, Abi has some good information. She can help,” Jesse pressed.

“That’s no substitute for a professional detective,” Harry interjected.

Jesse held Heyes’ gaze captive. “Yes, Harry makes a good point too. We need a professional detective and we both know who that is.”

“It’s not all about you, Mr. Heyes.” Abigail fixed him with an intense stare. “There could be other lives at stake. Nobody’s trying to make life hard for you, but it would help if you’d just try to remember about the tattoo.”

Heyes smashed his fist on the table with a shattering crash. “Will you leave me alone!? I can’t do it! My God, what right do you have to come around here, demanding that I put my mind back in that hell-hole!? I’m just starting to put it behind me.”

“Nobody’s demanding anything,” Jesse offered, gently.

“No,” Abigail gave Heyes a soft smile. “Just think about it – sleep on the idea.”

“Sleep! What kind of sleep do you think I get?” Heyes snarled. “The sooner you get the hell out of here, the better. There’s nothing on this earth worth that kind of torment.”

Abigail’s eyes widened, her maternal ire flashing up like oil tossed on a fire. “Nothing!? How dare you?!” She stood striding over to him, pointing at Jesse. “That man’s daughter is worth it, and so is mine! I say ‘mine’ because you appear to have abdicated all responsibility to marinate in self pity. Now I know why you’ve spent so much time out in that paddock - you’ve turned into a complete horse’s ass!” She lifted the gravy boat, tipping it slowly over the top of his head. It oozed its way over his hair until it percolated over his ears and dripped off the end of his nose. Abigail stormed from the room, delivering a final blow over her shoulder. “I resolved to go easy on you because of the terrible time you’ve had, but you took advantage of that. I’ve seen too many graves, Mr. Heyes, and I won’t stand over another to save you from fighting a few ghosts. You need to help the people who helped you. Work with us!”

Jesse and Harry exchanged a look.

“Never a dull moment with her around,” grinned Harry.

“I did tell her she should try to be a little more assertive.” Jesse folded his arms, “so I bet you’re glad she resolved to go easy on you, eh, Hannibal?”

Heyes stood, his anger simmering. “Does she really think I’ll let her away with that? Where is she!?”

Harry jumped to his feet in concern. “What are you gonna do, Heyes? Remember you’re on parole.”

Heyes stormed off in the direction of Beth’s room, Jesse catching Harry’s sleeve. “Leave them, Harry.”

“But the man’s furious, I can’t let him do this. He’s on parole. What if he does something stupid?”

Jesse watched Heyes’ stiff back marching up the stairs towards Beth’s room. “He’s been needling her since she got here. Something was bound to blow up, and he’s caused it. He needs to learn to deal with the consequences of his actions. I’ve got a feeling she can handle him.”


Heyes kicked at the door, battering it against the wall with a clattering thump. “What the hell do you think you’re playin’ at!?”

“Oh, so you’re talking to me now? That’s what it took?” Abigail sat on the bed with her arms crossed. She glared at him. “Who said you could come barging in here? Get out.”

“I’m goin’ nowhere, Lady. Did you think I’d just sit back and take that? Do you think I’m still manacled, and too afraid of bein’ beaten half to death to retaliate?” He strode over to the bed and grabbed her by the wrist, pulling her to her feet. “You’ve finally got my full attention. Now, just how good an idea do you really think that was.”

She tilted her face up to his in challenge. “Careful – you’re dropping your ‘gs’ and getting all folksy again. Your roots are showing. Now I know you’re REALLY angry. AND IT’S A GOOD THING TOO! It’s about time you felt something other than self-pity.”

“You little...” he lowered his face down to hers, fury simmering in his dark eyes and his hot breath burning her cheek.

“Lost for words, Mr. Heyes?” Her mouth firmed into a line, “do you want some help? I can think of enough names for you to keep us here all night.” She tugged against his grasp. “Let me go!”

His eyes narrowed. “You sanctimonious witch, you’re out of here right now. I’m taking you to town myself.”

“I don’t need you to do anything for me. I decided it would be a clue that something was up out here if I left tonight, and that’s not good for the Jordans. I’ll go in the morning – when I’m good and ready. The world doesn’t revolve around you!”

“I can’t wait to see the last of that smug, selfish face of yours.”

Abigail’s eyebrows darted up. “Selfish! I’m here to save someone else’s life and to look after our daughter. You’re too busy gazing at your navel to see passed your own pain. Grow up, man. People need you, people who spent the last five years working for you.”

He seized her by the top of her arms, shaking her. “Don’t you dare go there! You have no idea what I’ve been through. I wanted to die – it would have been easier. You don’t know what that feels like!”

“Don’t you think I know about ‘easier’? I’ve tried to do the right thing. I COULD HAVE JUST DISAPPEARED, YOU KNOW! But I didn’t. I said I’d let you into her life when she was old enough to understand. Involving you in keeping her safe was the start of that. My, God, I’ve been a fool!”

“Why did you have to come back now? I was just starting to see a way forward; to feel and taste and...” he trailed off, his fingers digging into her arms. “Why now?” he hissed.

“For my daughter, and I didn’t chose the timing,” Abigail flicked up an eyebrow in challenge, her voice eerily calm. “You’re dripping gravy on me.”

He grunted in anger, his face distorting in rage. “You self-satisfied, hellcat! You want to see drips?” He swept her off her feet and carried her out of the room. “You got it!”

Jesse leapt to his feet, concern etched over his face as Heyes clattered down the stairs. “Hannibal! What are you doing?”

He carried on down the stairs bearing the struggling, kicking woman in his arms, ignoring both Jesse and Harry as he headed for the door.

“Put me down!”

“Sure will,” Heyes retorted, fixing her with an evil smile, “and I can’t wait to see your face when I do.”

He carried her out into the cold night air. Abigail’s eyes fixed on the approaching horse trough and widened in horror. She fought, this time with renewed vigour. “Don’t you DARE! It’ll be freezing. It’s November.” He now stood right over it, so she decided her best tactic was to cling desperately onto him.

“Bitterly cold, wet, AND completely deserved!” Heyes announced, triumphantly. He leaned over, plunging her into the raw, chilling water with a chuckle. A piercing shriek cut through the air before it was cut off by Heyes pushing her head under the surface. “Who’s dripping now, Abi?”

She emerged, gasping for air and shocked by the frigid water; her sopping hair plastered over her face, and her skirt floating about her where pockets of air had added buoyancy. “You complete and utter... Aireamh nah-Aoine ort! Thalla’s cagainn bruis, Mhic na Galla!”

Heyes bellowed with laughter and leaned over with his thumbs hooked in his belt, his gloating face inches from her dripping nose. “Careful, Abi. You’re showing your roots!”

Her hands darted out, grabbing him by the lapels of his vest, and yanked with all of her might. His awkward position along with her tug was enough to drag him face first into the water on top of her. Abigail was quick to take advantage of the element of surprise, and placed both hands on the top of his head, forcing it under the water. Gurgling bubbles filled his ears, and the jolt of coldness stole his breath, before he got enough purchase on the bottom to prop himself up on his knees. He raised his head, kneeling on all fours between her legs, looming over her, his dripping face a picture of anger, incredulity and exasperation.

A shivering Abigail sat watching him uneasily in the cold autumn air, waiting for the explosion.

“Well...,” she bit into her lip, “you needed to wash your hair anyway.”

Heyes’ eyes narrowed, his breath coming in ragged uneven gasps which hung in the cold, night air like a dragon’s. He stared into her with swirling, intense eyes for the longest time before he gave what sounded like a snort. It rumbled around his throat, before it resonated in his chest, rising to a chuckle, before erupting into a full throated guffaw.

Abigail’s eyebrows rose in cautious surprise as her own lopsided smile spread over her generous mouth, her lips parting to allowing the giggle to escalate to a full-throated laugh.

“I needed to wash my hair!?” Heyes spluttered. His eyes softened, and for the first time since she had arrived, he looked at her instead of through her. His voice rasped with emotion. “Only you would dare to push me that far! Oh, God, Abi, I’ve missed you. I missed you so much.”

The tears in Abigail’s eyes were indecipherable in the darkness. “You too, Mo Gràdh, you too.” She stared into his eyes. “Welcome back, Mr. Heyes.”

“Madness! Complete and utter madness,” muttered Harry, wandering back to the house with Jesse. “Is it always like this around here?”


Abigail sat in Beth’s room, towelling off her tangled, wet hair. She was finally warm at last – inside and out. She had washed all the stale trough water away, the nightgown was soft and fresh against her skin, and Heyes had finally shaken himself out of his torpor. Things were better. Not great – just better.

A soft tap at the door made her look up. “Who is it?”

“It’s me,” Heyes replied. “Can I come in?”

She bit into her lip before she replied. “Sure.”

He gave her a sheepish smile. “I want to apologize. I’ve been behaving like an ass.”

She shook her head. “No. You’ve been lost. Jed and Jesse have both told me all about your issues since you came out of there. I had no idea it was that bad. I really didn’t want to add to it. If I’d known, I’d never have come. I’d have worked alone.” She gave him a soft smile. “You’re so thin, Mr. Heyes. You need to eat more.”

He dropped his head. “I guess I just didn’t know how to take you. I know we said things in our letters, but you might not have meant them.” He flicked a nervous look at her. “You probably just felt sorry for me.”

“I meant every word I wrote, Mr. Heyes.” She held his gaze. “I’ve missed you, but we couldn’t be together. You know that. Didn’t you mean what you said?”

He heaved a huge emotional sigh. “I’ve had a lot of time to think over the last five years. When we were arrested it was bad – real violent, just like you said it could be. It was bad enough that Beth and Bridget witnessed it, but.... Anya couldn’t have seen that, she could never be caught up in anything like that. It would scar her for life.”

She fixed him with grateful eyes. “You understand at last.”

He nodded. “I hated you for years, but I understand now.”

She gazed off into nowhere. “I never hated you. That would have been easier.”

“It never struck me that Anya might be in danger, Abi. Kid didn’t see it either.” His dark eyes pushed home the seriousness of his message. “I thought it was a local thing, that’s why we called for Harry, and not for you.”

“It might be local, Mr. Heyes, but what if it’s people you’re close to? I just can’t take the risk.”

“Of course you can’t, and I should have thought. My mind’s just not working too well at the moment.”

“It’ll come back, you’re still there.” She gave him a coy smile. “You proved that tonight. You just needed a little push.”

“Will it? I just feel so lost. I don’t know who I am anymore.”

“Admitting that is a big part of getting better. The prison system is designed to break a man down. Allow your friends to support you whilst you rebuild yourself.” Her eyes glistened like molten chocolate. “Some men walk in the rain, others just stand around and get wet. Take action, Mr. Heyes. You can come out of this a better man than you ever were.”

Heyes walked over and sat beside her on the bed, staring at the wall with haunted, dark eyes. “When you came here without warning, it just shocked me. I didn’t have time to work out what you’d want.” He hung his head. “We said things in those letters, things we never said face to face. It was too much for me to juggle that and everything here too.”

“I didn’t come here to hurt you. If nothing had happened to Beth I’d have stayed in Topeka and waited to see what you’d do, if anything,” she patted his arm gently. “I’m sorry I was hard on you, but I was so frustrated. I knew you were in there somewhere and I had no more time.”

“Are you still going?”

“I won’t stay where I’m not wanted.”

He rubbed his face, still refusing to look at her. “That’s not it, Abi. I did want you. I just couldn’t deal with the prospect of you rejecting me, so I guess I got in there first.”

“Did?” She nodded, reading his message loud and clear. “Mr. Heyes, I’m not going to reject you, use you, or make any kind of call on you. We have a daughter and I’m here for her. If you can’t deal with that, I’ll walk away and do this by myself - no hard feelings,” she gave a twinkle of mischief, “at least not now I dunked you, there aren’t.”

“No hard feelings?” He picked distractedly at the seam of his pants. “After I completely overlooked a danger to Anya?”

She reached out and wrapped her hand around the plucking fingers. “I’m probably just over thinking this. You know what I’m like. You wouldn’t beat yourself up if you had to rest because you’d broken a leg. This is the same thing, and somebody did this to you deliberately. Just rest, take things easy. None of us can be on top of everything all the time.”

He pulled his hand away. “That’s what everyone’s been saying.”

She nodded. “Yes, and then I showed up and ruined it all.” She sighed and ran a hand distractedly through her wet hair. “I’ll go. You can’t deal with this. It’s too much.” He stood and walked over to the door, turning as she spoke again. “Just stay in bed in the morning, and I’ll be gone by the time you get up.”

“But what about Anya?”

“I’ll think of something. I’ve worked alone for the last five years – another won’t matter.”

Heyes closed the door softly behind him and walked downstairs into the kitchen. He found his eyes drifting over to the clock on the shelf. He felt his stomach flutter and darted a look back at the staircase. It was their time – ten o’clock. He groaned gently, pacing for a while, and eventually made his way to his own room, dreading the dreams he’d have tonight.


Beads of sweat glistened on Heyes’ brow as he tossed and turned, muttering and murmuring incoherently. The same scene kept playing over, and over again in a hellish loop. They were back in the infirmary again, Harris had come up behind the Doc and pinned his arms to his side. The start of the end for Doc Morin... Boeman had taken the knife which had supposedly been protruding from his gut and plunged it into the helpless man. The scene never changed, it played repeatedly, maddeningly and relentlessly, worming into his brain. Every time the knife drove into Doc’s flesh he cried out; but nothing changed. Doc was dying...

He felt a touch on his shoulder and the scene changed. He was fighting Harris, having chased him after the attack in the laundry, until he caught him in the stairs. He lashed out an arm, breaking the brush handle and grabbed him by the throat, forcing him against the wall. “You bastard!”

There was a light touch to his hair and he was back in the prison cell again dreaming of Abi – of the feel of her curves in his arms, the smell of her musk, and the taste of the salt on her naked, sweating skin. He dragged her into bed and swung himself on top of her. He needed a release, and taking her was one way of stopping the horrors.

“Mr. Heyes, stop fighting. Rest, you need to rest.”

He clamped his hand over her mouth. “Quiet, Abi. I don’t want to talk... Not now. I don’t have much time. They’ll be back in a minute. You know what I want.”

He felt her ruffle his hair again before pulling his hand away. “Who? Who’ll be back?”

“Harris and Boeman, they’ll do it again; they’ll kill the Doc.”

“It’s a dream, Mr. Heyes, it’s all a dream,” he felt her arms cradle him. “Let it go, Mo Gràdh, let it go.”

“I can’t, Doc keeps coming back.”

He felt her kiss the top of his head. “Is he coming back, or are you bringing him back?”

Blackness closed in, the smothering, soul-sucking shadows of the dark cell. “It’s gone dark, Abi! I can’t see! Where are you? Where have you gone?”

Her voice seemed to echo from the centre of his soul. “I’m still here. Take control of these dreams, Mr. Heyes. Ask him what he wants.”

There was a pinpoint of swirling light, which grew until it filled the dark cell – he was back in the infirmary again and Harris had grabbed Doc.

“Good God, NO! Not again! What do you want!? Just tell me what you want!”

The scene seemed to slow down, played in the slowest possible pace. And then he saw it - the tattoo of a dagger on Harris’ right forearm where his sleeve dragged back against the Doc’s struggles.

“Oh, Doc! I see it! I know what you’re showing me.”

His eyes opened with a start, the low autumnal sun streaming in through the gap in the curtains. He glanced around the room; he was alone. He rubbed his face and shook himself awake before sitting up and throwing the blankets aside. Of course he was alone. Was that a dream, or a memory? Either way, he had to tell Abi


Harry arched an eyebrow and raised the coffee mug to his mouth, fixing him with eyes like raisins. “Morning, Heyes.”

Heyes nodded in acknowledgement, eyeing Harry cautiously because of his clipped tone. “What? What’s wrong?”

“Sleep well?”

Heyes frowned. “Not bad... I’ve had worse. Why?”

Harry placed his mug on the table and shrugged. “You’ve changed, Heyes. I never thought I’d see the day you laid hands on a woman, in a less than friendly way, that is.”

Heyes poured himself a cup of coffee. “Abi has a way of bringing that out in me,” he pursed his lips, “and I never hurt her. Trust me, she gives as good as she gets.”

“Really?” Harry sat back and folded his arms. “I don’t see you covered in bruises. I don’t like it Heyes. I’m not going to sit back and let you do anything like that again. Got that?”

“Bruises?” Heyes clattered the pot back on the stove with a frown. “What bruises?”

“The ones all over her throat and face, Man! Her eye’s cut too.”

Shock spread over Heyes’ face. “I didn’t do that. Where is she?”

“You did it last night, Heyes. You were having a nightmare, and attacked her when she came to see how you were. If you’re going to keep doing that, you want to lock your door. You’re a danger.”

“Where is she? Abi!?” He darted up to Beth’s room, but it was empty. “WHERE IS SHE!?” he yelled.

Harry stood at the bottom of the staircase. “She’s gone. She told you she was going at dinner. I doubt last night did much to change her mind.”


Jesse turned at the sound of the pounding hoofs behind the wagon. “It’s Hannibal.”

“Oh, no, just keep driving, please! I knew I should have taken a horse. I’d be on a train by now.”

Jesse tugged on the reins and drew the vehicle to a stop. “It’s not going to be that easy, Abi. You might be used to a life of excitement, but I’m not about to try and outrun Karma in this old cart.”

She turned watching the approaching horseman. “Excitement? I teach piano and French from home whilst I bring up my daughter. What kind of life do you think I lead?”

“Colourful,” grinned Jesse, “primary colours – definitely not pastel shades.”

Abigail flushed. “I’ll have you know I’m a respectable woman. Apart from Mr. Heyes, I’ve only ever been with my late husband. I live a quiet, modest life. He just seems to bring out the worst in me.”

Jesse gave her arm a pat of reassurance. “I don’t doubt that for a minute, Abi. A man can tell when a woman’s loose, even one of my advanced years. I only mean that you’re not run of the mill.”

Karma crunched to a halt beside them, Heyes sucking in a breath at the vivid discolouration mottled over Abigail’s neck, and the gash over her swollen, back eye. “It’s true! No! I’m so sorry... I would never... Abi? I didn’t know what I was doing.”

She dropped her head. “You lashed out during a nightmare, that’s all. I shouldn’t have come up on you like that.” She looked determinedly forward. “Apology accepted. I must go. I have a train to catch.”

Heyes dismounted, laying a hand on her arm. “Don’t go, please. I don’t even know if you’re fit to travel.”

She stared resolutely ahead, avoiding his desperate eyes. “I’ve been hurt before, Mr. Heyes, and I’m not the sort to wilt at a little accidental injury. I’ll be fine.”

“Abi, look at me!” He stepped up on the wagon and placed a finger under her chin, drawing her face to look towards him. “I hurt you. How can I put this right if you just ride away?” He narrowed his eyes examining the damage, his stomach turning over with self-loathing. “God! Not you... how could I do this to you, of all people?”

She stared into his eyes. “This is not why I’m leaving. If I’d been wanted here, I’d have stayed regardless. I wish you all the luck in the world. Jesse, please drive on.”
H
eyes darted pleading eyes towards Jesse. “Please, take my horse. I’ll take Abi where she wants to go - I need to talk to her.”

Jesse shook his head reluctantly. “I dunno, Hannibal. After last night? You got kinda physical even before the nightmare.”

“Mr. Heyes would never knowingly hurt me,” Abigail cut in. “That’s not why I’m leaving. It was an accident.” She turned back to Heyes. “That does not mean I’ll defend the way you treated me yesterday. I don’t have to put up with that, but I’ll thank you for letting me know where I stand. Drive on, please.”

Heyes stayed on the wagon, staring into her eyes. “Abi, I don’t want you to leave. I’ve never wanted you to go. That’s what frightened me most about seeing you; losing you yet again.” He reached out to touch her cheek. “Don’t go. We’re free – I’m not wanted, and you’re no longer the law. We need to talk about that, our daughter, our lives, and the future. I’ll damn myself to hell for not having the guts to tell you this yesterday, but not as much as I do for hurting you. Don’t walk away without hearing me out. It’s all too late, I know that, but give me a chance. The only times I ever felt truly alive was when I was with you, or during a successful robbery.”

Abigail arched her eyebrows. “Is that supposed to be flattering? I was supposed to stop you.”

“Yes; and that was so much fun, just the best time,” he shook his head distractedly. “Abi, I hurt you. I couldn’t have been more wrong.”

She dropped her head. “Mr. Heyes, your first instinct was to be unwelcoming, and I was clearly a spare wheel when your visitors arrived. That provoked you to be just plain mean. It was instantly clear you were showing Randa that you had no connection to me, and she picked up on that as quickly as I did. Good luck and I wish you well. She’s lovely. I hope you have a very happy life, and I won’t do anything to invade that ever again. Jesse, can we go now?”

Heyes darted an appealing look at Jesse. “Please! I just need to talk to her.”

“It doesn’t sound like she wants to hear it, Hannibal.”

“Abi, I’ll take you to town. Just give me a chance. I beat the living daylights out of you. We can’t part like this.” Fear swirled in his eyes. “Please, talk to me. I’m frightened, I feel like I’m losing my mind. First I hurt Jed, and now you. If I can do that, then I’m capable of hurting anyone! How can I be around decent people ever again?”

“You promise to take her to town, Hannibal?” Jesse gave them both a hard appraising stare, accepting Heyes’ nod, before turning to Abigail. “You’re surely not going to let him stew on hurting you, Abi? You said yourself he didn’t know what he was doing. Hear him out.”

The wagon swung and heaved as Jesse climbed down.

“It doesn’t look as though I have a choice, does it?” she sighed.


They trundled slowly towards town, as slowly as Heyes was able to make the horses amble whilst pulling a vehicle.

“Abi, I’ve never been sorrier for anything in my life. I’d never hurt you – not if my life depended on it.”

“I know that. Just let it go will you?”

He turned to face her, his heart skipping a beat at the sight of the deep fingerprints embedded in her alabaster neck. “How can I? Look at you! If another man had done that to you, I’d...”

“Yes... And you did protect me, more than once. I’m clearly just out of practice, it’s not like I’ve never been around traumatized people. It’s my own fault.”

His voice softened to a breath. “I heard your voice. I thought that was a dream. Did you stay and talk me through it, even after what I did to you?”

He watched her stiffen before she replied. “Of course I did, you needed help. Those nightmares are eating you alive. I wouldn’t leave you like that.”

“So, when you told me to ask the Doc what he wanted... How could you know that’d work?”

She turned, suddenly interested. “He told you? What does he want?”

Heyes looked forward, reliving the dream. “He showed me. The same scene kept playing over and over again, but once I asked what he wanted, it slowed down so I could see every detail. Harris was holding the Doc, so Boeman could stab him... Harris’ sleeve slid back; he had a tattoo of a dagger, Abi, on his right forearm, just like you said.”

She stared intensely at him. “Did you ever notice that any other time?”

He shook his head. “He was showing me, Abi. I’m sure of it.”

She pursed her lips. “Or your mind was playing with it, one of the two. You need to get Harry to send for Harris’ details, let’s see if he does have that tattoo. It’ll be on the prison records.”

“I beat the life out of you, yet you embraced me... I felt you stroke my hair,” his voice rasped with emotion. “You stayed for me after I did this to you.”

Her voice tightened. “Of course I did, how many times do I have to tell you? I don’t blame you for hitting me. You needed looking after and I wasn’t going to desert you at a time like that.”

“How’d you know, Abi? How did you know to tell me to ask him?”

Her voice tightened. “You’re not the only one who’s haunted, Mr. Heyes. I have my own ghosts.”

He tugged on the reins, pulling the horses to a halt. “And you learned to deal with them?”

“I had to...” she fell silent, staring into the distance.

“Abi, I did wonder how you coped. I did care.”

She jumped down from the wagon, striding off towards the trees. Heyes jammed on the brakes and followed.

“What do you want?” she cried, swirling around. “First, you don’t so much as look at me, and now you won’t leave me alone!”

He folded his arms, gazing at her. “Is it Becky? Does she haunt you?”

“Of course she does. Every day... amongst others.”

He flicked up an eyebrow. “Others?”

“I’ve killed three men, Mr Heyes. One was shooting at me, another at a colleague. Then there was Knap.”

“Three? I didn’t know that, Abi. You only killed to save a life.” He furrowed his brows in concern. “You’re not a killer.”

“I wasn’t saving anyone when I killed Knap.” Her eyes clouded over, “he’d have been hanged anyway. That was revenge, pure and simple.”

He tilted his head, speaking to her as though speaking to a skittish horse. “That was maternal instinct, Abi.” His voice softened. “You found a way to deal with it all? I really hope you have.”

“I have, and I tried to use it to guide you.” She walked towards the wagon. “You have to take control of the dreams. I use them to see Becky, and I tell Knap that I’d do it again in a heartbeat. He doesn’t stick around after that.” She turned. “Let’s go.”

He reached out and held her arm, scrutinizing her. She built up walls and rarely let anyone see her weaknesses, just like he used to. This was a new side to her. “Has it gotten better?”

She looked deeply into his eyes. “To start with I could only think of the hole she left in my soul. The pain was physical, emotional, and spiritual – every part of me hurt – to the point it wasn’t so much that I wanted to die, I just wanted it all to stop. I know what you meant when you said you wanted to die in prison. I couldn’t take any more,” she turned away. “You never had the means in there, at least, not easily. That was for the best.”

He sucked in a breath. “Abi? You didn’t! What did you do?” He felt her arm tremble in his grasp.

“I used to have a gun, with just one cartridge in the barrel before I spun it. I suppose I was leaving it to fate. I wasn’t even brave enough to take decisive action. I’m a coward. I had no family, no job; my baby was dead, and I was so completely alone. I had nothing left to live for. All life promised was more pain. I just couldn’t see how I could go on. I had nothing, so nothingness seemed appropriate. Somehow, it just never happened.”

He closed his eyes, fighting back the tears as he drew her into an embrace. “Oh, God, Abi... No! What if you’d succeeded? No... I had no idea you were going through that.”

She pulled back to look into his eyes. “I’ve told no one, and only I tell you now to help. The pain gets less, the mind is kind – you forget. You are encompassed, but you go through the motions, and after a while, you have the beginnings of a life. I sometimes remember the pain, and feel guilty about feeling happy; but mostly I can think of them without tearing my soul apart. Yours is a loss of your own life, but the process will be the same. You will prevail. Just take control of the dreams. You’ve already found that it works.”

He hugged her to him, sucking in her scent. “What saved you? What stopped you trying?”

“Anya.” She buried her head into his shoulder. “I found out I was pregnant, and I would never take a life unnecessarily.”

“Anya,” he whispered, hoarsely. “Our beautiful daughter, her picture stopped me too.” He cupped her bruised face in his hands, appalled at the damage he had done to her. “Forgive me, Abi.”

“There’s nothing to forgive,” she whispered. He looked into her eyes and knew she meant every word. “Forgive me too,” she murmured. “I never meant to hurt you either. Not ever.”

“Come back with me, Abi. Don’t leave. We have so much to sort out.”

She pursed her lips, her dark eyes swirling with a million thoughts. “Take me to town.”

“Please, Abi, don’t go.”

“I’m not, not yet. I think you should go and tell the doctor about how you’ve managed to use the dreams for something positive. He needs to know that if he’s drugging you at night. I have to go to the Black Rose. I can use these injuries to persuade them I’m a battered wife with nowhere else to go. I have to speak to Molly to see if she can tell me more about that stranger with the tattoo.” She raised her eyes and smiled at him. “I’ll stay and help. I’m not convinced that Harry is such a great detective anyway.”

His face dimpled into a smile of relief. “Do you think the dreams will stop now?”

“Baby steps, Mr. Heyes, you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time.” She reached out, tentatively fingering the scar on his throat. He flinched, prompting her to take his hand and place it on the white, star-like scar on her head. “The bullet wound. It’s part of me now, so are the rest, I don’t even notice them anymore.” Her brow creased pensively. “What did Francis of Assisi say? ‘Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible: and suddenly you are doing the impossible.’ First things first, you need to master your own mind again. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much falls into place after that.”
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Keays

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Posts : 1435
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 60
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: Comings and Goings   Thu Nov 21, 2013 11:27 pm

Heyes wandered aimlessly back and forth outside the Gibson house until Tricia had had enough. She opened the door and gave him a smile etched with curiosity.

“Are you on sentry duty, or are you here to see someone?” she flicked up an eyebrow. “David’s in his office, unless you’re here to see Randa? She’s gone to the store, but she’ll be back soon.”

Heyes felt a weight lift off his chest. He couldn’t contend with both Abigail and Randa on the same day. “David,” he murmured, distractedly. “I need to see David.”

Tricia gave a sweet smile tainted by worry. “Are you all right, Hannibal?”

He gave a deep sigh. “I need to speak to David.”

“Sure, come with me.” She held the door open for him to follow her down the hallway to the doctor’s office. She tapped lightly at the door. “David, Hannibal is here. He’d like to see you.”

The door opened, the doctor frowning slightly at the visitor’s weary eyes. “Hannibal? Come in. I wasn’t due to see you for another couple of days. Is everything all right?”

Heyes followed David over to the desk and took a seat. “David, I had another dream.”

David nodded. “And it drove you here?”

“Yes... well, not so much the dream, more what happened during it.”

David sat back, his eyes holding Heyes’ dark gaze with interest.

“I hurt someone, David. I grabbed her by the throat and punched her in the face.” Heyes dropped his head into his hands. “I’m dangerous. I need to be locked back up! I’d NEVER have hurt her – not her. First Kid, now her. I’m losing my mind.”

David sat upright. “You hurt a woman? Who? Where is she? Did you bring her here?”

Heyes dropped his hands and turned tired, dark eyes on the young doctor. “She’s staying at the Double J. She came into my room because she heard me having a nightmare.”

“Ah, yes. Mrs. Stewart. I did want to ask about her.” He frowned. “Belle, Beth, and J.J. have all gone to help nurse someone with measles, and she’s looking after the house?” He frowned. “J.J. has never had measles. Belle would never expose her son to that deliberately. What’s going on?”

Heyes bit into his lip. “Can I trust you?”

David looked a little hurt. “I would have thought you would know the answer to that by now.” Heyes just sat and looked miserable. David smiled slightly, realizing then that it was reassurance his friend needed now, not a reprimand. “Hannibal, everything you say to me is completely confidential. I’m your Doctor.”

“What about your wife? And Randa?”

“Even from them,” David’s brows furrowed. “What’s so secret?”

Heyes gave a nod of cautious satisfaction. “They’ve gone to Kansas because we think somebody is trying to hurt Beth. We’ve hidden them, and Abi is helping.”

“Abi?” David took up his pen and started to take notes. “That’s Mrs. Stewart? I have to say, I think it’s a good idea for them to keep a low profile. I won’t mention the measles to anyone, but I’d recommend you find some other ailment in case anybody else spots it.” He flicked questioning eyes up to Heyes. “So this woman wandered in to tend to a nightmare and got a beating. How badly hurt is she? Do I need to get out there?”

Heyes shook his head. “She’s in town. She’s, well... kinda independent. If she’d wanted a doctor she’d have come to see you.”

“The capable widow? I know the type.” David paused sensing that there was a lot more to come. “It couldn’t have been too bad if she came to town.”

Heyes groaned. “No, it was bad, really bad. I’ve attacked two of the people who mean the most to me in the world. I’m an animal. Her eye’s cut and swollen, and her throat’s covered in bruises.”

David’s eyebrows flicked up in interest. “The most? I know you assaulted Jed... but Mrs. Stewart? You know her?”

Heyes fixed him with desperate eyes. “Yeah, I know her. I’ve known her for a long, long time.” Heyes’ fingers curled around the arms of the chair. “She’s the mother of my children.”

David’s eyes widened in surprise. “I didn’t know you had children, Hannibal.”

“I have a daughter,” Heyes’ voice tightened. “We had two, but my eldest daughter was killed by somebody aiming at me. Abi wouldn’t let me near her, or Anya, after that. She was terrified something would happen to her. It didn’t end well.”

David scratched his forehead distractedly. “I can see why. She’s back? Is your daughter there too?”

Heyes shook his head. “No. Just Abi. She came to help.”

“Well Hannibal, what you have described would be a tumultuous emotional experience for anyone, let alone somebody already traumatized. A woman with that kind of pull on you would certainly not help your dreams.” He paused thoughtfully. “I’m sorry to ask you this, but are you sure you were asleep?”

“OF COURSE I WAS! WHAT KIND OF MAN DO YOU THINK I AM?” his voice dropped almost to a whimper. “I’d never, ever hurt her. I didn’t think I was capable of hurting any woman, but to hurt Abi? We might have had our ups and downs, but she’s special. We have a connection – to hurt her is just the lowest I’ve ever been. Kenny once said he didn’t think I was ready to be released. He was right, wasn’t he? I’m a danger to normal people.”

“The governor wouldn’t have released you unless he was absolutely sure.” David tilted his head. “I had to ask, Hannibal. I’m only checking. You may have got over emotional if it ended acrimoniously.”

“It did, but I’d never hurt her deliberately. I didn’t want to lose them, but she was adamant, so I left. She wrote to me in prison and we got kinda close again. When I didn’t want to live Anya’s picture was all that kept me going.”

David tapped his fingers distractedly on the desk. “Tell me about this dream.”

“It was Doc Morin again, I saw him being murdered, over and over again until it drove me mad. I felt somebody touch me and it turned into a fight. It was all so real. It was just like I was back there.” Heyes’ voice rasped with emotion. “The touch was Abi. She stayed with me even though I half strangled her. I heard her voice telling me to ask the Doc what he wants. I did. The dream slowed down. He showed me Harris’ arm and the tattoo. A man with a tattoo like that was seen around here when Beth was hurt. He showed me.”

David nodded thoughtfully. “So when you engaged with the dream it was better?”

“I guess...” Heyes replied uncertainly.

“Well, the mind is a very tricky thing, and we understand surprisingly little about it. I have ordered a couple of books, but they haven’t arrived yet.” He gave Heyes a reassuring smile. “Until they do, we’re feeling our way, but if it felt better to face the dreams, I’d do it. Let’s see how it goes. I can’t see that it’d be any worse than not doing anything. Just one thing, I think you should sleep alone for the time being, until your subconscious manages to iron out the wrinkles it’s working on. Tell Abi to sleep in her own room.”

Heyes’ eyes widened. “She does sleep in her own room. I don’t know what kind of woman you think I’d get involved with, but she isn’t the type to just jump into bed with me after all this time.”

“So you’re not involved with her?”

“I wouldn’t say that, it’s complicated. To see somebody like that after all this time. It’s hard.”

“I suppose,” mused David. “You probably spent all night talking, and then just fell asleep.”

A vision of a bedraggled Abigail sitting in the horse trough flashed through Heyes’ mind. “No... I wouldn’t say we talked too much last night either.”

“Just make sure you sleep alone until we work this out, eh, Hannibal?”
Irritation flashed in Heyes’ eyes. “I told you! She’s not easy. She slept in her own room. We haven’t restarted a relationship.” He stared off pensively. “Nobody who met her would ever say she’s easy.”

“Where is she now?”

“The brothel.”

David arched his eyebrows. “The brothel!?” He let out a snort. “I’m trying to help, Hannibal, but have you listened to yourself? She doesn’t sound like a healthy influence.”

“She used to be a Pinkerton. She’s trying to find out about the stranger with the tattoo. That’s why she came; to help. Somebody’s hurting people close to us, and she’s worried about it affecting our daughter. She’s as smart as you are, David, and strong–minded. She was a real good detective.”

David rubbed his temples. This consultation was far from ordinary. “A law woman? I didn’t even know they existed.”

“Neither did we, I guess that’s why Allan Pinkerton sent one after us.”

David dropped his pen and sat back with a bemused smile. “Didn’t work, huh?”

Heyes gave him a flicker of a smile. “No.”

David chuckled. “I’d be a lot happier if I could see her. Being strong minded doesn’t protect you from injury.”

“I’ll try. Truly I will.” Heyes rubbed his face with both hands. “Do you think I’ll ever be normal again?

“Hannibal, you’re normal now. This is how normal people react to trauma. You just need time and support. Let’s see how you do engaging with the dreams, and keep up the stretching.” David gave him a meaningful look. “If you feel it’s all getting too much for you, you must come and see me again. This is going to throw up some very intense feelings for you and that may add to the dreams. We can only play it by ear.”

“Can't you just give me a stronger sleeping dosage?” Hannibal asked hopefully. “One that will block out these nightmares?”

David shook his head. “No.”

Heyes slumped looking totally crestfallen. “Why not?” He was almost pleading. “I'm scared to go to sleep David! I'm scared of what....” His voice caught and he stopped talking, unable to continue.

David's heart went out to him but he remained adamant. “The nightmares are the natural healing process Hannibal. It's your mind's way of working things out. The more sedative I give you, the harder your mind will fight against it and ultimately we would lose the battle. I'll continue to give you enough sedative so that you can sleep but I'm afraid we have to just let these nightmares run their course.”

Heyes continued to sit silently as this bad news settled in. He felt like he wanted to cry—again. He felt so worn out. But even with that, he had to admit that what David was saying made sense. He was just going to have to ride them out. He sent forth a deep, heart wrenching sigh and then nodded acquiescence.

“David, what about Randa?”

The doctor bit into his lip. “I think you need to deal with Abi before you turn your attentions to Randa. Although you say you’re not in a relationship with her, her appearance here has clearly had a huge impact on you. There seems to be unfinished business, and speaking as a friend and a relative of Randa’s, she deserves to know where she stands before she gets in too deep. I sense that you’re not sure what you want either.”

Heyes gave another huge sigh. Sometimes these consultations were more painful than the physical poking and prodding! “Randa is wonderful. She’s beautiful, reassuring, and steady – everything a man could want.”

“But?” asked David.

“Abi is the mother of my child and she’s also very lovely.” Dark, lost eyes stared at the doctor, “And she’s exciting, unpredictable and clever. She challenges me in a way nobody else does.”

David gave a wry smile. “That’s not the way most men describe the mother of their children, Hannibal. There’s unfinished business there. Please don’t hurt Randa. She’s just getting over her husband. If you’re not available, that’s fine, but you have to find a way to let her know.” David sat back in his chair and scrutinized his friend for a few moments; there was one more question he needed to ask. “You seem to be having your fair share of women problems, does that mean that your other problem has resolved itself?”

Heyes swallowed nervously. “What other problem?”

David sent him a very good rendition of 'the look'. “Are we going to start playing games now Hannibal? You know exactly what I'm talking about.”

Heyes shifted uncomfortably. “No,” he finally admitted. “I still can't....well...with a woman. Which is another reason why it's ridiculous that you would think that me and Abi were....well. I don't really feel like humiliating myself even more than I already have!”

“Have you tried?” David asked.

“What? Humiliating myself?”

“NO!” David frowned at him. “Have you tried being with a woman?”

“No,” Heyes answered. “Like I said; I don't want to humiliate myself even more.”

The doctor nodded his understanding. “How about when you're alone? Are you able to become aroused and then take it through to completion?”

“Well...when I'm alone...yeah,” Heyes was mumbling; this line of questioning was making him very uncomfortable. “But what good is that? It's not...real. It's just necessity.”

“Yes, but it re-affirms that your problem is not physical,” David explained. “it's emotional. You just need to relax and give yourself some time. The more you worry about it, the more stressed out you will become and the less likely that you'll be successful.” He smiled. “Considering everything that is going on in your life right now it would seem that the best course of action on all levels would be to take things slowly until you've had a chance to sort out what you really want. Alright?”

“Yeah, alright David,” Heyes agreed. “I will.”

“Good.”


Heyes watched the veiled woman make her way onto the street from the back of the Black Rose. He let her cross the road, and walk a few hundred yards before he fell in behind her, only catching up with her once she turned the corner.

“That didn’t take long,” he murmured.

Abigail kept walking as Heyes caught up and walked alongside her. “Yes, Molly may have been a favourite of his, but the feelings weren’t reciprocated. I told her I was his wife and showed her my face. For ten dollars she sang like a bird. She’d have told me his birth weight if she’d known it.”

“Was it Harris?” asked Heyes.

“He called himself 'Mitch'. He had a thing for knives, and talked about having gotten away with murder, as though that would endear him to the poor woman. He frightened her.”

Heyes sighed. “So there was nothing to prove he was Harris?”

“The tattoo might, and he talked about his childhood in Sheridan. The man’s parents came from Yorkshire in England, and they moved West about 1870. He had two brothers and one surviving sister, having lost the youngest to scarlet fever at the age of eight. His father was a miner looking for a better life, but they were dirt poor. It would appear they didn’t find what they were looking for.”

She turned her head to him, her dark eyes burning through the veil. “Whoever he is, he’s a suspect and criminals are often stupid – they’ll change their name, but give intimate details about their personal life which destroys the alias. Some things are clear though, he was passing through town, he was violent with Molly, and talked about criminal connections; he had money to flash with no obvious means of support, and he was heading for Missouri to see a man about some business. If there’d been any other itinerant in town the girls there would have known about it. There wasn’t anyone else like him. The other visitors to the brothel all worked and have a reason to be here. Harris’ past should be easy enough to find out, but we need to keep an open mind in case it’s not him.”

“It could have been someone working in town, Abi. We don’t know it was this ‘Mitch,’” Heyes pointed out. “and why would Harris be after Beth? It doesn't make any sense.”

“True, but if the real suspect’s still around, he’ll probably try again. He doesn’t know Beth’s gone. We have to stay alert.” She shrugged. “Sometimes you just have to go on instinct. Mitch was an aggressive drifter with money to burn, who hot-footed it after a second, failed attempt on Beth. He’s worth a look, and I have a direction of travel.”

Heyes smiled in admiration. “You haven’t lost it, Abi.”

“It’s not hard. Those women have had hard lives and get treated like lepers. If somebody treats them like an equal, they’re grateful. I’m just glad I got there before Harry muddied the waters. What does the idiot mean when he says he doesn’t rely on common sense?”

They walked along in silence for a few minutes before Abigail spoke. “Why did you meet me?”

“I guess I was worried you might head to the railroad station.”

I could have done that while you were in the doctor’s.”

Heyes’ brows gathered in thought. “I guessed you wouldn’t resist getting the better of Harry, even if you only sent us a telegram.”

She gave him one of her lopsided smiles. “I suppose you still know me. I can’t resist a challenge.”

“I’m... not so up for them right now, but who knows, maybe with time?”

“Yes,” she whispered. “Maybe with time.”

“Abi, the doctor wants to see you, to make sure you’re all right. I told him about you, and us.”

Her head snapped towards him. “You were only supposed to tell him about your dreams.”

“I don’t hide anymore, Abi. I know you don’t want the world to know about Anya, but he’s my doctor and he has to keep it confidential. Please, come with me. I’m worried sick about you.”

“I don’t need a doctor, Mr. Heyes. I only have a few bruises.”

He laid a hand on her forearm. “Abi, humour me. I hurt you, at least let me hear you’re doing fine from a professional. Please, just drop the stubborn for once. I’m not myself right now and I need David to tell me I didn’t do anything too serious.”

She gave a groan. “I don’t need a doctor, but if it helps...”

“It’ll help,” Heyes stated, determinedly.

“Fine. I’ll see him, but then I want to get back. I was up most of the night. I am really tired. I think we’re both getting too old for this.”

“You’re not old, Abi, you look exactly the same. That’s one of the things that shocked me; it was like all those years never happened.”

He heard a gentle chuckle from behind the veil. “Of course I’ve changed.”

Heyes shook his head. “Nope, you’re still a beauty, Abi. You always were. I couldn’t quite believe my luck when I knew you were interested.”

“You were trying your luck?” Surprise lightened her voice. “You sounded so sure of yourself.”

“I was sure I wanted to try,” Heyes chortled, “but I thought you’d either flatten me or lock me up. It was worth the risk, though.”

“So I wasn’t special? I was just one of a series with whom you pushed your luck?”

They stopped, Heyes pulling her around to face him. “I knew you were too good for me, that’s all. I now realize I pushed my luck in everything, as though life owed me whatever I wanted. That’s why I became a criminal, when the universe didn’t deliver, I just took it. I was such an arrogant ass, Abi, wasn’t I?”

“Gloriously so,” he could just see her plush lips curl up in a thoughtful smile behind the veil. “I thought life owed me too; that my life would be just like any other happy woman. I’d meet a man I loved, marry and have children, and watch then grow up in an extended family. I couldn’t cope when I lost my husband, father and baby in quick succession. My life was empty and meaningless and I used work to fill the void. Then everything changed.”

Heyes reached out and took her hand. “Everything did. I want to meet her, Abi.” He felt her tense, but she didn’t pull her hand away. “Please. Just once.”

“You’re on parole, Mr. Heyes.”

He fixed her with dark eyes hardening with determination. “I can travel, as long I sign in with the local sheriff. Just a visit, please, Abi.”

Her voice wavered. “If you didn’t tell her who you were, I suppose it could work...”

“Yes! I won’t tell her anything,” he tightened his grip, urging her on. “Please, Abi. She was my only reason to keep living. Let me see her as flesh and blood, just once.”

“You promise me you won’t tell her who you are? She’s only ten and she thinks her father died when she was a baby. It would be too much for her to cope with at her age.” Abigail pressed. “I told you I’d tell her when she’s old enough, and I meant it, but not yet.”

“Anything. I’ll be a family friend, a distant relative – damn it, I’ll be the man who delivers your groceries if I have to. Just let me meet her. Seeing Kenny and Jesse with their daughters has really focused my mind. I know I’ll never be a proper father, but let me have a small memory of her, something real.”

Abigail gave a curt nod. “Fine, when this is all over, you can meet her.”

Heyes’ eyes widened. “You promise me?”

“I promise.”

“Oh Abi,” he pulled her fingers up to his lips and kissed them, an ember igniting in his dark eyes. He suddenly caught a movement behind her and he dropped her hand like a stone. She turned to see Randa standing stiffly in the street, her eyes fixed on Heyes.

Abigail pulled her hand away. “It’s by no means certain that you’ll never be a proper father, Mr. Heyes. It would appear that life has a lot more planned for you. Let’s get back to the Double J. I don’t really want to see a doctor, and you don’t need any more complications.”

“Abi, I haven’t... I’ve only seen her a few times. I never thought I’d see you again.”

Abigail shook her head, her face unreadable under the veil. “I have no call on you, Mr Heyes. I’ve already told you that. Now, take me back. I need to sleep. I haven’t spent an undisturbed night for at least four days, what with one thing and another. I don’t think seeing the doctor will be of much help to either of us.”


“Hannibal!”

Heyes groaned quietly, his shoulders slumping at the sound of the scurrying footsteps behind him. Another few yards and they would have been safely driving away. He had thought they were in the clear, the wagon was two streets away from the Gibson place and Randa had no reason to come this far from the mercantile area – but it appeared that she’d had other ideas, and had a motivation of her own.

“She clearly wants to speak to you,” murmured Abigail. She turned to face the scurrying woman with a smile.

“Randa? How are you?”

Heyes shuffled uncomfortably. “Hi,” he mumbled.

She darted quizzical eyes one from the other. “Abi? That’s you? Why are you hiding behind that thing? You have such a pretty face. It’s not like you’re in deep mourning or anything,” she paused, embarrassment flooding her face with colour. “Oh! You were wearing a black skirt when I met you; add that black jacket and that veil... You’re not, are you? I knew you were a widow, but I didn’t know it was so recent. I’m so sorry, I just didn’t think.”

Abigail shook her head. “I’m not a recent widow. He died many years ago whilst I was pregnant, and my daughter is ten now. I’m wearing black because it’s practical for travelling, and I’m wearing a veil because of this,” she lifted the fabric to expose her back eye and quickly dropped it again. “I came in to town to collect a telegram and a few things, but I just couldn’t bear to have everyone looking at me.”

“What on earth happened to you!?” Randa exclaimed.

“Animals – big, lumbering, stubborn animals,” muttered Abigail, wryly. “I’m just not used to being around them, and they’re not very forgiving when somebody is stupid enough to get between them and their food. I learned the lesson the hard way. They make those stalls out of especially hard wood, don’t they?”

Randa bit into her lip. “Oh, my goodness! Are you all right?”

“I’m perfectly fine, I just look bad, and poor Mr. Heyes is beside himself because he took me up on my offer to help. He blames himself – in fact he was positively begging me to go to see the doctor. I think he steered our walk in the direction of the doctor’s house, hoping his powers of persuasion would win out over my stubbornness. Do you know he had hold of my hand not five minutes ago, pleading with me to go and waste the Doctor’s time?”

Randa’s taught stance relaxed, before she glanced at Heyes. “It’s not a waste of time. That eye’s dreadful – it’s closing up.” She walked over and linked an arm through Abigail’s. “Hannibal? Take her other arm, I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.” Heyes hung back reluctantly until Randa’s frown spurred him into action. “Hannibal? She needs to see the doctor, tell her.”

“I tried,” he muttered, ineffectually.

Randa’s frown blossomed into full blown curiosity. “Tell her again.” She tightened her grip on Abigail’s arm and guided her in the direction of the Gibson place. “Abigail, if you won’t do it for yourself, then do it for Hannibal. He looks as guilty as a bear cub with a honey pot.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, all this fuss about nothing,” Abigail huffed. “Randa, I really don’t think I need this, but I don’t want to be churlish. You’re as bossy as I am.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment, Abi,” giggled Randa. “I suspect we may share a few traits.”

“Yes,” Abigail allowed herself to be led back the way she came. “I suspect we share a lot more than that.”


David ushered the woman to a seat with a smile.

“Can I stay,” asked Heyes.

“No,” David replied, gently, but firmly. “I see patients alone.”

Abigail lifted the veil revealing a purple eye, the congestion forcing the eyelid closed beneath pinching, tight flesh relieved only by the gaping gash being forced open by the swelling. “I don’t mind if he stays. I have no secrets.” She gave a coy smile. “Actually, I have a lot of secrets, but none from Mr. Heyes.”

“I mind. I see all patients alone,” David smiled patiently. “Some husbands object to that, so I tell them they should consult a doctor in another town. I have a blanket policy on that, with a few exceptions related to children or people who may genuinely need support.”

“He’s not my husband, but I suspect that Mr. Heyes is using this as an opportunity to hide, rather than stopping me from telling you anything about him,” she gave a lopsided grin, reading the doctor’s motives. “Besides, he couldn’t control me in any case, and he knows it.”

David grinned. There was an engaging liveliness about this woman, even when injured. “Well, he’ll have to allow himself to be entertained in the kitchen. I want to see you alone.”

Heyes’ face fell. The last thing he wanted was to sit in that kitchen with Randa and Tricia, but unless he was to be blatantly graceless, he would just have to face it. Being rude to Abi was one thing. Part of him felt comfortable enough with her to lash out with a cruel comment; it was almost like family, knowing there was a foundation of compassion and understanding, but Randa was different. All she knew was the man in front of her, and he was rapidly turning into a man with all the emotional intelligence of a box of doorknobs.

“See you later, Hannibal.” David steered him to the hallway, closing the door firmly behind him. “Camomile tea is calming. Ask Tricia for some.”


David narrowed his eyes leaning over to examine the cut. “That needs stitches.”

“Are you sure?”

David gave a wry smile. “Do I strike you as the kind of man who sounds uncertain?” He strode over and lit a lamp before pulling the drapes closed. “It’s likely to be a bad scar unless we close the wound.” He placed a hand under her chin, moving the oil lamp in front of her face, staring into her eyes. “The pupil reaction seems fine. Let me see that neck.” He ran gentle fingers over her throat, scrutinizing the bruises. “Do you hurt anywhere else?”

“No.”

He walked over and dragged the curtains back open, before approaching the cabinet and removing a kidney bowl and various pieces of equipment. “How squeamish are you, Mrs. Stewart?”

“About the same as you are, I suppose.”

David turned with a smile. “Do you mind removing your clothes? I want to make sure you’re not hurt anywhere else.”

Abigail tilted her head in challenge. “I mind a great deal, but I’ll do it to help convince you that Mr. Heyes is no woman beater. He didn’t assault me, Doctor Gibson. I was caught up in one of his nightmares and nothing more. I have known him for a very long time and he’s not capable of hurting a woman in anger. Besides, do you really think Jessie would tolerate that? Do you think I would? Let me tell you, it’d be a brave man who raised his hand to me in a relationship. It doesn’t matter how big they are, they all have to sleep sometime.”

“Brave words, but I’ve heard similar things from beaten wives in the past.” He shrugged. “Well, maybe not the part about them all having to sleep, that seems to be a somewhat foolhardy stance around a violent man.”

“Mr. Heyes is not violent around women, and I’m not foolhardy. A partner who hurt me would have to fear for his life, Doctor. I would make him suffer, make no mistake about that.”

“Mrs. Stewart, I’m very fond of Hannibal, but he ran a gang of outlaws, and his prison records show that he was frequently involved in fights. I also happen to know that he practically beat another inmate to death, and probably would have done so if the guards hadn’t stepped in.”

Abigail nodded. “You forget I knew him as an active criminal, and not as a man seeking amnesty, or rebuilding his life after serving his sentence. I doubt anyone was harder on him than me, but I saw the waste of his potential, and I frequently became exasperated with him. I also witnessed his ability to put parts of himself into compartments. He learned how to survive in any circumstances, but the way he might behave in a prison is not the same way he would behave in anybody’s home. His versatility is part of his intelligence, and is a skill in itself.”

“So? He can control his behaviour, but that can change, especially when fuelled by a temper. I understand your relationship with him ended badly.”

Visions of last night’s gurgling, freezing water flooded through her memory. “Yes, I fully admit that I can provoke him, and I have done many times, but he has never hurt me. I’d go further than that, he never would. He’s beside himself over this. I didn’t want to come here; I’m here more for his sake than mine.”

“Yet you sent him away, and prevented him from seeing his daughter?”

Abigail set her jaw in challenge. “Doctor Gibson, I saw my oldest daughter blasted to pieces in front of my eyes. He had enemies, and maybe he still has. I’m protecting Anya from them, not him. That episode affected me very deeply. It’s why I’ve come to help the Jordans'.”

David’s eyebrows gathered in curiosity. “I’d have thought that seeing something like that would make you more likely to avoid potential danger. You could have simply offered a safe haven.”

“I got them out of here in a way which prevented them from being followed. Maybe I’m over cautious in relation to Anya, it may be a family matter, but it might also be connected to Jed, and therefore vicariously to Mr. Heyes and anyone connected to him. In any case, I know how it feels to see your daughter covered in her own blood. I can help them in a way nobody else can. Nobody expects a woman to be investigating.” Abigail gave a firm nod. “I’m probably over thinking things, but I don’t just come to a conclusion and follow it. I look at all the angles and try to consider every possibility. I need to see evidence before I’m happy I know what’s going on. So far all we know is that somebody seems intent on hurting Beth Jordan.”

David sighed. “At least you got them out of here, I understand you’ve just come from the brothel?”

“Yes, and there was a fairly good suspect frequenting the place, so we’re making headway already. Do you really think I’d seek out a violent man, Doctor,” she gave a wicked twinkle, “without a gun in my hand? I know you will have seen women beaten by their husbands, but I can assure you that it’d be a cold day in hell before I’d allow myself to become one of them.”

He nodded, holding her gaze. “Keep your dress on, Mrs. Stewart. You’ve convinced me. You’re very protective of him, aren’t you?”

“At the moment, yes, he needs support, and I’m afraid I’ve caused him anguish by turning up. That was really not my intention. This is not about me at all. I was worried our daughter might be next.”

David dabbed iodine over the wound. “It’s a shock for sure, but each time he’s pushed he rises to the challenge and comes out of it a little stronger. I’m sure he’ll do the same this time.” He raised concerned eyes, looking through the wall towards the kitchen, “probably.”

Abigail flinched at the needle piercing the already delicate flesh. “Doctor Gibson, I want to reassure you that I’m not here to disrupt his life. He has told me that any feelings he had are all firmly in the past. I’m sure he’ll sort his head out soon, especially when I’m gone.”

David tied off the first stitch. “He told you that?”

“More or less.”

He started on the second stitch. “How do you feel about that?”

“I won’t lie to you doctor, it hurts,” she sucked in a breath as the wound tightened. “But I told him to go, so I can’t complain if he goes off and builds a new life. If you really care for someone, you have to wish them well, don’t you?”

The second stitch was completed and the thread was neatly clipped away. “Do you?”

She gave a heartfelt sigh. “Yes – you do, and you have to find a way to make that work, no matter how you feel.”

He dragged up a chair, observing the woman with professional scrutiny. Under the wounds she was a beautiful woman, with curly, dark hair, high cheekbones, and a plush, sensual mouth. A thoughtful, almond-shaped, black eye was set beside the injured partner. “That’s very noble of you. Most of us are too concerned with ourselves to think like that.”

“It’s been a long time, Doctor. My daughter is now ten. When things turn bad you do what you can to move on. That was my strategy; it’s not noble to find a way to deal with life’s vicissitudes. It’s sensible.”

David clasped his hands thoughtfully in front of him, rubbing his thumbs together. “But you did move on? You found someone else?”

“No, Doctor. I lived a very independent life, one which I was reluctant to give up by handing my life over to man. I have strong views, quite radical, in fact. I believe that men and woman are equal; different – but equal. I think we should have the right to vote, work, control our fertility, and be as educated as any man. I would need a partner in life, not just a husband. He would have to be proud of me for standing up for my beliefs, not just tolerate me. I’ve never found that man.”

“Not even in Hannibal?”

Her mouth set in determination. “Does it matter? He and I are both unusual people. Maybe we come from the same pod, maybe not. It’s not an option. Our timing was bad, and now it’s too late. He’s moved on.”

“Is it? It seems to me that you have another chance at life – both of you.”

Abigail stood. “As much as I appreciate the time, Doctor, this has nothing to do with my eye, and I’m acutely aware that Mr. Heyes has been seeing your wife’s cousin. I’ll be out of the way as soon as I can, and the status quo will soon be restored.”

David’s voice firmed. “Sit down, Mrs. Stewart. I’m seeing a patient, not a rival for the object of Randa’s affections. I see a wounded woman before me, not just an injured one, and I’d be no kind of doctor if I didn’t investigate that.” He watched surprise flicker over her face before she reluctantly took a seat. He smiled, proceeding more gently. “You told Hannibal to engage with his dreams. That tells me you are a woman who has fought her own demons. Do you still have nightmares?”

She bit into her lip. “Yes, but I learned to control them.”

“What do you dream about?”

Her chest heaved with emotion. “I’ve killed. That never goes away.”

His eyebrows arched in surprise. “You were a Pinkerton. You killed in your line of work?”

Abigail nodded. “Except for one. I was beside my daughter when she was shot.” She stared at the floor, a sob catching on her voice. “I put a bullet in that man’s brain, and I see him almost every night, but I also get to see my Becky, so it’s not all bad...” She pulled herself together. “You can’t help me, Doctor. It’s just a scar, like those left by any injury. My friend is a very good doctor, and she has tried for years.”

“She? Yes, I should have known you would know a female doctor.”

“Do you disapprove?”

“On the contrary. Physical strength is rarely required in my profession, and I agree with your view that men and women are different, but of equal value. They tend to have a natural empathy, which can be lacking amongst some of my male colleagues. I’d like to meet her.” He sat back then, smiling warmly. “In fact, I think anyone you allow into your life would be quite a singular individual.”

“Flattery? Really?” Abigail’s brow furrowed. “Since when was that a diagnostic tool?”

David chuckled. “You’re too smart to fall for it, but I suspect you used it as a detective all the time. It doesn’t mean it’s not true, though. I’m interested in how you’ve managed these night horrors. You strike me as being similar to Hannibal, but further down the line. Who taught you to face the dreams head on?”

“My mother,” she replied, wistfully. “When my sister died as an infant I had nightmares, and she told me to turn and face the next dream. They changed very quickly after that. Instead of seeing her dragged off to a grave, I found I could see her, and speak to her. Then they faded away altogether.”

“Is your mother still supportive?”

Abigail stiffened. “I have no family. I lost my husband, father and baby in quick succession. We engaged the Pinkerton agency to find my father’s murderer, and I found the investigation helped fill the void they left. Stopping anyone else dying like my father gave my life some meaning, and Alan Pinkerton found me easier to control if he employed me, rather than have me meddle on the sidelines.” She shrugged uneasily. “My mother and sisters thought I worked as a governess, which was barely tolerated, but when they found out I had actually been a detective, and had an illegitimate child with a criminal, they were horrified.” She clasped her hands tightly together. “They accepted that, but then I fell pregnant again, and it was a step too far. I am alone except for my friends and daughter.”

David nodded. “An interesting turn of phrase that; ‘alone except for my friends and daughter?’ There’s a big hole in your life?”

“You’d make a good detective, Doctor Gibson.” Abigail sat back and folded her arms. “You pick up on such little things.”

“They’re not such different skill sets, Mrs. Stewart. We both look at all the evidence to come to a conclusion. Do you want to hear mine?”

Curiosity got the better of her and an intrigued smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. “Go on then. Tell me.”

“You and Hannibal have a great deal in common. You are intelligent people, with enough strength of character to be highly individual; neither of you seek the approval of others, and march firmly to the beat of your own drums. You are logical, analytical, and able to juggle conflicting demands so quickly you leave others floundering in your wake. To see you two clash must have been quite impressive.”
He leaned back in his seat and scrutinized her closely. “There are other similarities. You filled the emotional void left by the tragic loss of loved ones by throwing yourselves into a series of challenges, and use those to blot out complex emotional problems rather than deal with them, but they still simmer under the surface. Coincidentally, you both found crime to be stimulating, but you sought out different perspectives. You are both natural leaders, with the need to be pushed mentally. Danger attracts you in the same way others are repelled by it, some would even call you ‘thrill seekers.’”
David paused, narrowing his eyes. “And lastly, you both have a deep need for a loyal and understanding partner. Hannibal has Jed. Who do you have, Abigail? I think you found that in your late husband, and have been too afraid to open up ever since, in case you get hurt again.” He sat back. “I suspect some people think you’re cold. You’re actually very vulnerable, and hiding behind a protective shell.”
He watched the last comment land, her controlled front dissipating for a moment before he continued. “Jed is moving on, and Hannibal knows that. He’s uncertain right now, but we both know he’ll be looking for a new partner in the near future. I can see that causes you pain, Abigail. You have your own ghosts, and I’m concerned about how all of this will affect you.”

“All kinds of things cause pain in life, Doctor Gibson, you still have to get on with it. I’ll be gone soon. I have a direction of travel for the suspect and I’m following that up.”

David’s eyebrows shot up. “On your own?”

She nodded. “Yes, Doctor Gibson. I spent many years doing just that.”

“I don’t suppose there’s anything I can say to stop you?”

She shook her head. “Nope.”

“Then all I’ll say is that those stitches must come out in ten to fourteen days. Any doctor can remove them. Make sure it’s done.” He stretched out a hand. “It’s been a pleasure, Mrs. Stewart. If I can ever be of any help in the future please don’t hesitate to contact me. I do hope you’ll think long and hard about living a solitary life. You strike me as a lonely woman.”


Heyes quietly came out of David's office and then just stood there for a moment to collect his thoughts—and his courage. He could hear Tricia and Miranda talking together down in the kitchen and he knew he would have to go that way either to leave or to wait. Heavy sigh; why did life have to get so complicated? Did Miranda pick up on anything? Did she know? Woman's intuition and all that, goodness knows Jesse could never get away with anything! If she didn't know, should Heyes tell her? But tell her what? Heyes didn't even know himself what was going on—this was crazy!

Another sigh and then both hands brushing through his hair. Hmm, at least he had hair now, that was something to be thankful for. Then he started to move forward and just about had a heart attack when Nathan suddenly came charging down the hallway from behind on his way from his bedroom to the kitchen. He had a toy wooden horse in his hand that he was galloping through the air and making a fair amount of noise about it!

“Giddy up, giddy up!” came the childish high-pitched expletive. “I'm the sheriff and I'm running down those outlaws! Watch out Han'bul! There's outlaws!”

Heyes gave a little bit of an ironic laugh as he brought himself down off the figurative ceiling. “There ya' go Sheriff Nathan!” Heyes called after the energetic child. “You go get 'em!”

The boy disappeared into the kitchen and there were sounds of dishes clattering and chairs scraping along with little boy feet galloping around the table.

“Oh Nathan!” came Tricia's reprimand. “Be careful—watch what you're doing! You know you not suppose to run in the house!”

“But I'm after the outlaws Momma!”

And then Heyes quickly stepped aside as the little hurricane on two feet came charging down the hallway again and with the slamming of a door, disappeared back into his bedroom. Heyes leaned back against the wall for a moment and gave a little bit of a chuckle at the boy's antics. A chilly autumn day—the child had to entertain himself somehow! Heyes sent another reluctant look towards the kitchen, gave yet another resigned sigh and continued on his way.

Stepping out into the open room instantly both sets of dark blue eyes were upon him. Heyes smiled uncomfortably.

“Hummm, David wouldn't let me stay,” he explained.

“No,” Tricia agreed. “He does prefer to consult with patients in private.”

Heyes nodded. “Oh.”

There followed a moment of awkward silence. Both women were certainly curious as to how Mrs. Stewert had been so badly bruised up. Tricia especially had heard enough excuses from some of David's lady patients about how they got that black eye that Abi's story wasn't necessarily being believed. Neither ladies were about to broach the subject however; it was a private matter after all and David was a stickler for confidentiality. Tricia and Miranda exchanged glances and then looked over to the unfortunate male. Heyes just stood silently and for some reason, felt exposed.

“Hannibal,” Randa began. “I was just getting ready to head for home. Would you care to walk with me?”

“Oh,” Heyes swallowed. “I really should wait for Abi—ah, Mrs. Stewert. I'll need to take her back out to the ranch.”

“You know my house isn't far, it won't take long,” Randa persisted. “Please. I think we need to talk.”

“Oh,” Heyes repeated himself. He glanced at Tricia and she gave him an encouraging smile. “Yes, alright.”

Randa smiled and made her way over to the coat tree and Heyes helped her on with her cape and hat then turned to don his own outside gear.

“Thanks for lunch Tricia,” she said to her cousin. “I'll see you later.”

“Yes,” Tricia agreed pointedly. “I'm looking forward to it.”

Heyes smiled over at her, the hidden meaning there not being lost on him at all. He took his hat and shoved it down onto his head, nodded a farewell to Tricia and then opened the door for him and Randa to leave.

It was cold out today; the sky gray and heavy, but no rain—not yet. Or maybe it would snow, it felt cold enough. There had been quite a frost that morning and some of it still lingered in the more shaded areas against the buildings and down back lanes. Heyes smiled at the memory of Abi in the water trough. That really had been mean of him and even though she had been asking for it he'd be feeling some contrition by this time, if it hadn't been for the fact that she had pulled him in after her. But at least they had broken the ice.

But now, after what had happened during the night—and earlier on today. Everything was in such a jumble again! Heyes wasn't used to feeling confused where women were concerned. This was a new experience for him and he really didn't like it much. But David was right; he didn't know what he wanted and it wasn't fair to lead Miranda on like this. He had just resolved himself to opening up conversation along those lines when Miranda herself beat him to it.
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Keays

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Posts : 1435
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 60
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: Comings and Goings   Thu Nov 21, 2013 11:34 pm

“William was the love of my life,” she stated bluntly and Heyes felt his heart skip a beat. Why? “I still miss him so terribly much.”

The couple were walking arm in arm and Heyes brought his other hand over to cup her one hand in both of his.

“Yes I know,” he admitted.

Miranda sighed. “I'm not ready for this Hannibal,” she told him quietly. “I like you very much and I want us to be friends but I don't think I'm ready for anything more than that. Not yet.”

Heyes felt like he was going to cry. Why? “Oh,” was all he was able to get out.

She smiled and looked up at him. “And I strongly suspect that you have been feeling much the same way.”

“Oh. Well....”

“You and Mrs. Stewert,” Randa continued on bravely. “she did a very good job of covering for you, but I saw that look of guilt flash across your face. You have history don't you; unfinished business?” then she really smiled. “Even though she calls you 'Mr. Heyes'!”

“Yes,” Heyes admitted quietly.

Randa couldn't help the knife that went through her heart. Why? “Are you in love with her?”

“I don't know,” Heyes admitted. “I was, once—but that was so long ago now. And she ended it. She sent me letters while I was in prison and said things that caused me to wonder if we could start up again but....since she's been in town she has made it very clear that she's not interested. She truly is just here to help with Beth.”

Randa nodded, trying to fight the tightness in her throat. She had thought this would be easy; that she didn't really love this man, but now....or was that just loneliness—just ego?

“Well, perhaps she did come here thinking of starting things up again, but you were very rude to her out at the ranch; are you sure it wasn't you pushing her away?” Randa sighed and hesitated a moment and then resolved herself to asking the hard question. “If she wanted you to come back, would you go?”

Heyes sighed and stopping their slow progression he turned the lady towards him and cupped her face in his hand. Her cheeks were cold and she looked up at him with eyes that were sad and bright with emotion. Heyes felt torn—again! He was used to being the one in control, even with women but now he had two women on his hands who were not afraid to step up and take that control away from him. Abigail and Miranda were alike in so many ways and yet sooo different!

“I don't know,” he admitted again. “I love Abi, I always will but I don't know anymore if I still love her in that way. I'm so confused Miranda. I don't even know who I am anymore. These nightmares are driving me crazy and now all this stuff going on with Beth.” He shook his head, his torment showing plainly in his dark eyes. “I just don't know.”

She smiled sadly up at him, feeling her own heart breaking again, only this time it was for him. He looked so lost. Her hand mimicked his then by coming up and caressing his cold face in her warm palm. “Then I think it's best that we both back off, until we do know.”

Heyes dropped his eyes from hers. He didn't answer her; he didn't like it. Everybody was making decisions for him and he was being left out in the cold. Even if they were the right decisions it was just the fact that he wasn't the one making them!

Miranda brought his eyes up to look into hers again, and she smiled. “If William were still alive today,” she continued. “I would not leave him for you. I would look upon you and think; my what a handsome man he is...” Heyes grinned but his eyes remained sad. “....but that's as far as it would have gone. I don't want to make the mistake of committing myself to another man simply out of loneliness and I certainly wouldn't want you to do the same.
“And I certainly wouldn't want you to commit to me only to realize later that there's someone else you'd rather be with...if only you'd given it one more try.” The sadness in his eyes nearly choked her and she brought her hand down from his face and gently shook his arm. “C'mon Hannibal, don't look like that. You know this is the right thing to do. I'm not going anywhere. We can still be friends and if we both want to take things to the next step later on, well......”

Heyes smiled at her and then nodded. “Yes, alright.” Then they went arm in arm again and continued to walk to Miranda's new house. “Does this mean our date for the Thanksgiving dance is off?”

Miranda laughed. “No!” she teased. “I still want to go. Just... no expectations. And if your friend Abi is there and you want to dance with her, well now you can feel free to do so.”

Heyes nodded again and the couple continued their walk in silence. They reached Randa's little house and Heyes walked her up the front steps. She turned the knob of the front door and was just about to enter when Heyes put a hand on her arm, stopping her. She looked up at him and their eyes met and held.

“I do love you, you know,” Heyes told her quietly, sadly.

“I know,” she whispered. “but this is something you need to work out. This is important.”

Heyes leaned down and kissed her, quietly, softly. She returned it and then pulled away. She smiled up at him and turning, she walked into her home and closed the door.

Heyes stood on the front porch for a few moments, feeling wretched. He was in love with two different women at the same time and both of them had basically pushed him away and given permission for him to begin courting the other! How was this fair? How come he didn't get any say? He shook his head in resentful futility and then turned and clomped down the steps to head back to David's place. Now he had to face Abi! Oh God—could this day get any worse?

Inside the small house, Randa quietly removed her cape and hat and went over to the stove. She struck a match and lit the tinder inside the belly of it and prepared to make herself a pot of tea. Yes, some tea would go down really nice right now—something to take the chill off.

She picked up the kettle and walked over to the sink and began to pump some water into the pot and returned it to the top of the stove. She could already feel the warmth beginning to rise up—it wouldn't take long for the water to heat and she really could do with a cup of tea right now.

She got the tin of biscuits down from the shelf, the ones that Belle had given to her last week; and they were very good too. Belle was such a kind woman and now all this turmoil going on in their family. That just wasn't right. She took down a saucer and a tea cup and a little plate to put the biscuits on and set everything down on the table. She could really feel the warmth from the stove now and soon the kettle began to whistle. She got her tea pot down and poured a little of the hot water into it, then swished the water around for a moment to warm the pot and dumped the water into the sink.

She opened up the tin of tea leaves and put some inside the ball then put the ball inside the tea pot and filled it with hot water. She stood there, staring into space, waiting for the tea to steep. She wasn't thinking about anything, she couldn't focus her mind on anything; she just stared. After a few moments she picked up a pot holder in order to grab the hot tea pot and she moved over to the table and poured herself a cup. She set the pot down and pulled the tea cozy over it to keep it warm and then settled into the chair and stared into space. She held the warm cup in both her hands, but she didn't drink, she didn't even look at it; she just stared into space.

Then she started to cry.


Half way back to David's house Heyes decided to run a quick errand in town while he had the time and headed over to the telegraph office. They finally had a little bit more to go on as to a description of the assailant and he wanted to run is past Kenny to see if things matched up. Why get Harry to do it when Heyes was already in town? He didn't really know why it would be Harris who was causing all this trouble—it didn't make any sense to him and maybe his mind was just playing tricks on him. Wanting to make those people guilty, wanting to make them responsible so that he could have a reason to go on hating them; a reason to seek retaliation.

But on the other hand, maybe it was something. Maybe his subconscious mind was trying to tell him, letting him know that he knew something that he didn't realize he knew. Or maybe Doc Morin was really haunting him, pushing him to seek justice, but then that could mean that all of this was interconnected and that didn't make sense either! Heyes groaned to himself. This was crazy! And Doc had said that life wasn't about seeking revenge, it was about learning and growing and moving on but was that really Doc talking to him or just the delusional rantings of a brain on the edge of death?

Heyes sighed, shaking his head as he mumbled to himself. No wonder he was having nightmares! All of these questions swirling around him and then just as he was beginning to feel half way normal again, Abi shows up out of the blue! She always was upsetting to his equilibrium, but now her presences was sending him spiralling down into hurtful memories and old wounds that he had thought were healed over but were actually only hiding in wait.

And then there was Miranda. She took his breath away whenever he looked at her, she was exciting and fun to be with and he was comfortable around her. He didn't have to be on guard with her all the time, wondering when the next confrontation was going to hit him square in the face. Always in a battle to see who was going to end up on top! He could relax with Randa.

But Abigail! Oh Abigail! Not only was she the mother of his children but she was beautiful, brilliant—challenging. But always, constantly pushing him. He used to thrive on that, enjoyed it even. But now? Now he just felt worn out by it and yet drawn to it at the same time, like a moth to the flame.

Now both of them had pushed him away. He knew they were right, that he needed time to sort things out but he still resented it all the same.

Well, he thought to himself as he walked, his eyes focused on the ground; the only way to get to the bottom of all this was to take one step at a time. The suspected assailant had a dagger tattoo and his dream showed Harris with a dagger tattoo. Find out from Kenny if that fits Harris' description and then go from there. One step at a time. Hopefully the rest of it will eventually sort itself out!


Heyes twitched the reins, stimulating the horses into action. Abigail narrowed her eyes and watched the profile of a man who was clearly simmering quietly. She bit her tongue and faced forward, lifting her veil as soon as they were outside of the town.

“Why did you do that?” Heyes suddenly demanded.

Abigail frowned. “Do what?”

“Cover for me.”

A look of mystification washed over her face. “I didn’t cover for you. You didn’t hit me; you lashed out in your sleep. It was the truth.”

“I’m not talking about that, you covered for me with Randa. She saw me kiss your hand, and you told her I was begging you to see the doctor. ”

Abigail shrugged. “So?”

Heyes huffed and puffed for a few minutes before he bit the bullet and got to the point. “Why the hell would you make it all right for me to see another woman!?”

“Oh, that,” Abigail frowned. “I was trying to help. You’ve clearly been seeing her. I didn’t want to cause you any more pain. I was just trying to smooth things over for you.”

Heyes scowled. “How would you feel if I was to set you up with another man?”

Abigail turned to face him. “What’s that got to do with anything? Who?” A thought struck her right between the eyes. “It’d better not be Harry! Is that why he was so clingy with those clammy hands of his? I’d rather have the horse trough.”

“Do you know how you made me feel?”

Abigail shook her head in confusion. “What are you talking about? You’ve been seeing a woman, that’s not a crime. It’s been ten years, Mr. Heyes, I would expect you to move on. I don’t see any reason why your relationship with Randa should be hurt by me. I want you to be happy.”

“It’s that easy for you, huh?”

“Easy?”

“Yes,” Heyes snapped. “You just hand me over to another woman, and you have no reason to feel guilty.”

“You still have the power to confound me, Mr. Heyes. What are you wittering on about? You’re going through a tough time and I’m trying to iron things out for you. You don’t need any more complications. And in answer to your question, no – I don’t feel guilty. I’ve done the best for my daughter, and now I’m trying to do the best for you, and your friends.”

“You’ve got it all worked out, haven’t you? Who is he?”

Abigail let out a gasp of disbelief. “He? What on earth are you talking about?”

“I’m sure Kid will only meet Hester when he arrives in Topeka, but you’ve clearly got a man. You’ve moved on, and you’re making sure I do the same.”

“I don’t have a man. I teach piano and French from home, and I bring up Anya. That’s it.”

“That’s not all. Who is he?” growled Heyes.

“Mr. Heyes, I’m trying to help. Why are you so angry at me?”

Heyes shuffled the reins through his fingers. “Why have you never said it in English?”

“Said what?”

“There was a Scotsman in prison; he translated the Gaelic in your letters. Why? You called me ‘my love,’ but you haven’t said it since. It’s like you were hiding it from me... or were you hiding it from him? Didn’t you mean it?”

Abigail laid a gentle hand on him arm. “I have said it. I said it in that trough, of all places. It’s my language. Don’t you think that has more power for me than a second tongue? And no! I don’t have a man, nor have I had one. Why should that stop me from helping you?”

Heyes paused. “There’s nobody?”

Abigail scowled. “Not that it’s any of your business, but no. In any case, don’t you want me to be happy? I wish only the best for you. And whilst we’re on the subject, I told you I meant what I wrote, and you refused to reply. You’ve been impossible. You won’t talk, you don’t want me around, you don’t want me to leave... I doubt you’ve lived like a monk for the last ten years, and now you’re questioning me? You have a nerve.”

“There’s been somebody. I know it.”

“For heaven’s sake, I’ve never met anyone so intent on not listening. It’s like talking to a rock. No. There has not been anybody. I said I loved you in Gaelic. I meant it, but I tried to make it easy for you to get what you want because you’ve clearly moved on, and I want you to be happy. You’ve said nothing about how you feel about me, so I’ve had to read it in your behaviour, and it’s not good. I know where I stand. What do you want? I’m leaving tomorrow to track Mitch, so if you have something to say, you’d better get to the point. I probably won’t be back.”

He turned to face her. “You can’t go tomorrow, Abi.”

“You’re not the leader of a gang now, you have no say in it.”

“Abi, I never could control you, and that’s part of the attraction.”

“Great, runaway horse was what I was going for. I’m glad you saw that in me. I’m following Mitch’s trail before it goes cold. Get used to it.”

“Abi, you just had stitches in your eyebrow, you’re in no fit state to go anywhere.” He paused. “Besides, we need to talk.”

She shrugged. “I’m prepared to talk as long as you stop havering.”

“Huh? Stop what?”

“Havering. It’s a Scottish word for babbling nonsense.”

Heyes gave a snort of annoyance. “Abi, I don’t even know who I am anymore, let alone how to take your sudden arrival here. I need to think. I need to get my head straight.”

Abigail nodded. “Yes, you do, and you’ll do that a lot better if I’m gone.” She patted his arm. “Stop trying to second-guess me, and just treat me like an old friend who wishes you well and who’s trying to help.”

“Yeah,” Heyes frowned and stared at the flicking tails of the horses. “The telegram. You said you’d collected a telegram. Was it from the Kid? Have they arrived?”

Abigail shook her head. “No, it wasn’t from them.”

“Who then? What was it?”

Abigail gave a deep sigh. “It was from Anya.”

Heyes’ brows rose in concern. “Is she all right?”

“She’s fine.” Abigail gazed aimlessly ahead.

“It must have been important for her to send a telegram.” Heyes pressed. “What did she want?”

Abigail swallowed hard. “She wanted to wish me happy birthday, Mr. Heyes.”

“Your birthday?” Heyes groaned. “No! And you got stitches? What a damnable way to spend it. Why didn’t you tell us?”

He watched her profile as she stared ahead. “At last you’re talking sense, Mr. Heyes. It has been a terrible day, but I was leaving, remember?” She slowly closed her eyes. “I’m going to bed when we get back. I really need to sleep. I’ll be gone in the morning.”


The dusk gathered around the little group clattering up the stoop of the red brick house in Topeka. Kid took up the rear, looking cautiously around the shadowy street. Belle stretched up an arm and hammered on the door with the bright, brass knocker. The door opened and a woman with little sparkling spectacles scanned the group before her gaze settled on the Kid.

“Mr. Curry, how good to see you again.” She ushered them inside darting a look up and down the street. “Nobody followed you?”

“Nope,” the Kid stepped towards her, his smile spreading. “I can’t thank you enough for this, Hester.” He wrapped his arms around her and dropped a kiss on her cheek.

“Mr. Curry!” Hester chuckled, “I think that’s the first time a man has kissed me in nearly twenty years.” Her smile brought out the ruddy apple cheeks in her round face. “I’m Hester Bentham. I’ve known Abi for many years.”

All eyes turned to the ceiling at the sound of thundering footsteps clattering across the floor above them.

“They’re here!?” A dark haired whirlwind appeared at the top of the stair case, before she gave a whoop of delight, and dashed at breakneck speed toward the visitors. She took the last five steps in a single leap, landing like a gazelle. “A boy? You never said there’d be a boy! Oh, we can play! I’m Becky. What’s your name?”

Hester fixed Rebecca with a glare. “Becky, that is not how young ladies introduce themselves to visitors. Is it?”

She widened her eyes in faux innocence, but the devilment dancing in the chocolate depths was all too familiar. “Sorry, Aunt Hester.”

“Say hello properly,” Hester urged.

Rebecca stood up straight and tossed back her dark, brown curls. “Good evening, my name is Becky. It’s good to have you here.” The facade dissipated before their eyes as her face spread into a dimpled smile and she wiped her pert little nose on her sleeve. “I’ve got roller skates. Have you?”

Beth blinked in disbelief, the ‘secret’ suddenly hitting her between the eyes. “Oh! She’s...”

Kid stretched out an arm and hugged Beth to him. “Yup, and she looks so much like him,” he whispered.

Her colouring was the main difference from her father. Her lustrous hair could almost have been mistaken for jet black; sultry deep brown could be seen around the edges and in its wily shine; anywhere the hallway's darkness didn't obscure. The light seeped down into each strand, barely settling, but gleamed from her dancing, cat-like eyes. Kid’s heart skipped a beat; Heyes should be here. They should know one another; and his resolution to make that happen for him hardened in his soul.

“She’s irrepressible,” Hester shook her head and flicked a smile at Kid. “I can’t think where she gets that from.”

“A double dose, I reckon,” the Kid grinned. “I saw you when you were just born, Becky.”

She gave a little gasp. “You knew my father? What was he like?”

“A wonderful man; clever, loyal and brave,” his voice was heavy with emotion. “He’d be so proud of you, I can tell you that.”

Rebecca gave a glittering smile. “Mama talks about my father all the time. I can tell she loved him so much. She looks sad sometimes, and I know she still misses him.”

“Enough of all this,” Hester ushered them down the hallway towards the kitchen. “You must be tired after that journey. I have a little supper prepared and then you can bathe and go to bed if you want. Beth? I take it you have no objections to sharing a room with your mother?”

Later that evening while Beth and her mother were in their room, getting ready for bed Belle could not help but notice the quiet look of consternation upon her daughter's face. All through the simple but satisfying dinner Beth couldn't take her eyes off of young Becky. She was very much like her mother, but with every movement, every gesture, Beth could see so much of her friend coming through in the child. Even her little mannerisms were just so.....Heyesian!

Beth picked up quite quickly that Becky had no idea who her father really was and was careful about keeping her mouth shut on that topic, but inside her, the resentment was growing. No wonder Hannibal had been so upset at that Abigail's unannounced arrival—no wonder he was so hurt! To have a child and not even know her; to not even be acknowledged as the father, not even to the child herself? And what kind of woman was this Abigail Stewert that she would allow herself to be put in such a position as to have a child out of wedlock in the first place!? Apparently she'd had two!! Didn't she learn from her first mistake?

Yes indeed, by the time dinner had been cleared away and the three members of the Jordan family had settled into their room, Beth was practically seething with self-righteous indignation. Belle had just gotten J.J. settled into the cot that had been set up for him and was turning down the blankets of the double bed that she and her daughter would be sharing when she decided that Beth had stewed in silence for long enough.

“Becky is quite a precocious child, isn't she?” Belle finally broached the topic.

“Hmm,” was Beth's only comment.

“What are you thinking about?” Belle asked, knowing there was a lot going on behind those brown eyes.

“She's obviously Hannibal's daughter,” Beth finally quipped. “It's written all over her.”

Belle smiled. “Yes. No denying the paternal line there.”

“And yet Abigail seems to think she had the right to deny him!”

Belle sighed and sat down on the edge of the bed. “You must remember that Joshua was an active criminal at the time of Becky's birth. Hardly an ideal situation to be raising a family in. Abigail obviously did what she thought was best for the safety and welfare of her daughter.”

“If the situation wasn't ideal, then what was she doing with Hannibal in the first place then?” Beth fumed. “If she didn't want to marry a criminal than what business did she have doing....that....with him!” Then she mumbled under her breath. “We all know what kind of women have children out of wedlock.”

Belle's eyebrows went up at her daughter's self-righteous comment. “Well now aren't you a fine one to talk!”

Beth puffed herself up and sent her mother an indignant stare. “What's that supposed to mean? I didn't......” she stopped in mid denial and started to turn red with embarrassment. “Well, we didn't....it was only once!”

“And once is often all it takes young lady,” Belle pointed out to her. “The only difference between you and Abigail is that you were very lucky!” Then Belle softened her tone a little when seeing her daughter's obvious distress. “Come,” she said, patting the spot on the bed beside her. “sit down with me.”

Beth slumped in defeat and then did as suggested. Belle put her arms around her daughter's shoulders and hugged her close.

“Try not to be too judgmental of others Beth,” Belle suggested quietly. “It is that very attitude that you've just displayed that has forced Abigail to deny Becky's true paternity. She had to lie to people, to say that Becky is the legitimate child of her marriage and that the father passed away. She's even had to lie to the child herself in order to protect her from the cruel remarks of self-righteous busybodies!”

Beth gave a little ironic laugh. “You mean like me.”

“Well, I wasn't going to actually say that.....” Belle smiled and hugged her daughter even closer. “Oh, Beth. You of all people should understand how a woman can get lost in a man's eyes,” she gave a quiet laugh. “and Joshua has such beautiful eyes, doesn't he?”

Beth practically snorted. “Yes, alright Momma—you've made your point.” Then she turned serious again. “It has been hard; waiting. There were times when we came close again and it was always Jed who put the brakes on before we went too far. I never could. I knew Jed wanted to, just as much as I did but somehow he was able to say no.”

“Hmm,” Belle thought about that for a moment. “Thaddeus has always been less—impetuous than Joshua. He was well aware of the consequences and perhaps after seeing what Joshua went through and realizing how close he came to making that same mistake with you, well maybe that gave him the resolve he needed to wait. OH! But that was a terrible thing to say.”

Beth frowned. “Why?”

“It's like saying that that beautiful child downstairs was a mistake,” Belle explained. “That by rights she should never have been born—and that's a terrible thing to say of any child. Oh my! Here we are again in one of those gray areas. By our teachings having a child out of wedlock is wrong and we shouldn't do it and yet once that baby is born and is full of life and joy then how can she not be one of God's children and be made welcome!”

“Oh Momma!” Beth teased. “You always did see things from both sides! It must make life very confusing sometimes!”

Belle laughed. “Yes! I have caused your father many a sleepless nights, I can assure you!”

Then Beth became serious again and sighed a deep sigh. “Do you think that Hannibal and Becky will ever know one another? It just doesn't seem fair that she can't know who her father is—especially when her father is....well...Hannibal Heyes! And that Hannibal knows he has a daughter, but isn't even allowed to visit her? That's cruel!”

“Yes. It's has been hard on Joshua.” Belle agreed. “And of course seeing Abi again has brought up all those old wounds on top of everything else he's struggling with right now. But I can see Abigail's point of view....”

“There you go again!” Beth pointed out. “seeing both sides!”

“Yes I know,” Belle laughed. “but Abi has said; In time. When Becky is a little older and able to understand then she'll tell her who her father is. Then perhaps Joshua can meet her. But in the meantime we must not say anything, do you understand? This is how Abi wishes it to be and we must respect that, alright?”

“Yes, I suppose you're right.”

“And be careful of where you cast stones,” the mother sternly reminded the daughter. “There but for the grace of God.....you could very easily have ended up in the same situation as Abi except that you would have had family around to support you. Abigail had no one. She's a strong woman to have been able to hold it all together. She deserves our respect not our disdain.”

“Yes Momma,” Beth agreed.

Heyes yawned and stretched, slowly coming awake in the early morning dawn. He took a deep breath and stared up at the ceiling or maybe more appropriately, he stared in the direction of the ceiling but was actually looking at nothing. He'd had the nightmares again but it had been one of those nights that come along every once in a while that don't run him through the wringer and leave him shaking and terrified at the other end of it.

He felt rather than heard Mouse stretch out and yawn herself and Heyes smiled. For an animal that was supposed to be nocturnal she sure liked to spend the nights sleeping at the foot of his bed. Of course the chilly autumn temperatures could have something to do with that; come spring time he'd probably never see her.

Finally Heyes flipped the covers off and sat up. He shivered a little in the dawn chill and quickly grabbed for his clothes that were hanging on the nearby chair. The thought flitted through his mind that he had been wearing these same articles of clothing for a while now and should probably consider changing them, but the thought left as soon as it had arrived. It was too cold to waste time rummaging through the dresser drawer for clean clothing; he would do that tonight before he went to bed and then they would be ready for him when he got up the next morning.

That sounded pretty logical to him and he quickly pulled on his trousers over the longjohns, then his socks and his shirt and then one of the sweaters that Belle had knitted for him while he'd been in prison. He had been afraid that those items would bring back too many bad memories to be of use to him now, but the fact that Belle had knitted them for him had over shadowed the bad vibes. He pulled the sweater on over his shirt with a smile of appreciative greeting.

Mouse was already on the move and with a good morning 'ack' she jumped down off the bed and trotted over to the closed door, purring and weaving back and forth, waiting for him to catch up.

“Yes I know,” Heyes mumbled as he headed in that direction. “you want your breakfast. Why don't you prove to us all that you're your mother's daughter and go catch it yourself?”

“Ack!”

“Hmm.”

Heyes opened the door and headed out towards the kitchen with the little gray tabby cat trotting along beside, ahead and around him. He went to the ice box and grabbed a piece of chicken and then cut off a slice which he then chopped up into little bite size pieces and put them on the floor for his pet. Mouse trotted forward and with loud and appreciative purring, began to devour her breakfast.

“You're spoiling that cat Heyes,” he heard Harry's voice from the door of the kitchen. “How is it ever going learn to catch mice if you keep on feeding it?”

Heyes just shrugged. “She'll get around to it when she's ready. She's still just a baby.”

“Hmm,” Harry grumbled. “Can't understand why you have a cat in the house in the first place. They belong out in the barn.”

Heyes smiled as he leaned down to stroke his furry friend. Her purring increased but she continued to eat. “She's not a barn cat Harry,” Heyes explained. “She's special. I don't care if she never catches a mouse in her life. She has a more important job than that.”

Harry snorted. “Can't imagine what that would be.”

“No, I don't suppose you can,” Heyes mumbled as he straightened up and went about the business of getting the coffee going.

Jesse came in to the kitchen then, yawning and looking dishevelled. “You fellas are up early,” he commented. “The only one to beat you was Abi.”

Heyes looked around suddenly concerned. “Abi? She's up already!?”

“Up and gone,” Jesse told him. “She sure is a firecracker. I tried to get her to wait and have breakfast first but she was determined. Said that her saddlebags were already packed and ready to go and if I could just lend her a horse, she would be on her way....”

“Jesse, you didn't loan her a horse did you?” Heyes was almost pleading with him.

Jesse sighed with a defeated look on his face. “Hannibal when was the last time you were able to talk that woman out of doing anything?”

“Hmm, yeah. Good point,” Heyes conceded. “I better get after her. Which way did she go?”

“What do you mean 'you better get after her'?” Jesse asked him. “You can't just go riding off into the hills. Who knows how long it would take you to catch up with her; she has a good couple of hours head start on you.”

“Then the sooner I get started, the better isn't it?”

“Han, you're not going,” Jesse was adamant. “I can already see it; you'd catch up with her and then decide to join in on the manhunt. You'd end up violating the conditions of your parole and then you'd really be in trouble wouldn't you.”

Heyes' body language spoke defeat but he wasn't ready to give up yet. “I don't like the idea of her going off to track down this 'Mitch' fellow all on her own. I know she's capable, but if he's who I think he is then he won't hesitate to kill a woman and I just can't sit here and do nothing!”

“Well send Harry,” Jesse suggested. “You brought him in on this case so that he could do the things that you can't do. He'll find her.”

“That's sound thinking Mr. Jordan!” Harry agreed. “Don't you worry Heyes—I'll bring her back. Just point me in the right direction. I'll have that little lady back here before you know it!”

Heyes and Jesse exchanged looks. “You've got no other choice Han,” Jesse pointed out. “You don't have the time to ride into town to get permission and you are not leaving this ranch without it.”

Half an hour later Harry was all ready to go on one of Jesse's fine horses, looking like he was just heading out for an afternoon ride in the park. Heyes stood beside the horse's head, looking concerned.

“Don't you worry Heyes,” Harry assured him. “I'll find her. Tracking down people is what I'm good at!”

“Yeah right Harry,” Heyes was not looking too confident. “Well, take care of yourself. I'll see ya' later.”

“Look for us on the front porch by lunch time!” Harry boasted and then he booted his horse forward and took off in the direction that Abi had gone in.

Heyes stood, watching him go with hands on his hips and a sinking feeling in his heart. Sometimes this being on parole was really hard to take. He couldn't believe that he was standing here letting Harry Briscoe ride off and attempt to do a job that he should be doing himself. Abi wasn't going to listen to Harry, Heyes already knew that; hell Abi probably wouldn't even listen to Heyes! And then, yeah Heyes would have carried on with her rather than let her carry on alone and Jesse was right, then he would really be in trouble.

Knowing that however, did not make standing there and watching Harry ride off to do what he himself should be doing, any easier.

To Be Continued
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Stepha3nie

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PostSubject: Re: Comings and Goings Chapter three   Wed Jul 30, 2014 3:05 am

Wow, what a roller coaster ride with Abi. She sure did stir things up. I no longer know who I am rooting for. Abi deserves to be together with the love of her live, especially since they got closer through their letters while Heyes was in prison. Heyes owes her for her help and support (not just with undercover work, but emotionally and for sending him his lifeline). He also deserves to be part of his daughter's life. And he deserves to be with a woman who supports him and whom he can find peace with. Miranda certainly does not deserve to be toyed with, she deserves a man who truly loves her. Love triangles are so painful.
Enjoyed the scene with the water trough! Good solid Western fare. Always good for a chuckle. Nicely done. Thank you for the comic relief.
Speaking of which, I also loved seeing Harry make an appearance and managing to make a total ass of himself in front of the former Pinkerton. I hope he will prove to be a little more useful further down the line - even in the series he did have some skills after all.
And the mysterious attacker seems to be Harris, not Carson. Could it be he is heading to Missouri to the former warden? Did he act on his directions, get paid by him? Mitchel has reason to hate Beth. She was one of the driving forces that put him out of his cushy job and she is a close friend of Heyes.
It is painful to see Heyes doing worse due to his nightmares and emotional stress. He sure still has a long road ahead of him. You are very good at showing how trauma and depression can affect someone. Even a little bit of stress/something out of the ordinary can be enough to derail a person, something the same person would probably hardly notice when they are in good health.
But at least Abi has now shown him a way to tackle the dreams. Hopefully it will help.
And finally we get to meet Anya/Becky. The secret is now certainly out of the bag, nearly all of Heyes' friends know. I just hope there will be no negative repercussions. I loved the way you described her and her behaviour (and I don't take easily to children). She is so much her father's daughter. It was almost painful (but there is such a thing as good pain).

Ok, rambling off, onwards with reading.

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"I can resist everything - except temptation"  Oscar Wilde
For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
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Keays

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PostSubject: Re: Comings and Goings Chapter three   Wed Jul 30, 2014 3:30 am

Wow, you are on a roll. Thanks for commenting, and it sounds like you're having a good time.

It's 11:30 pm here so I'm about to head off to bed. Looking forward to reading more of your thoughts and comments tomorrow.
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