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 Glad Tidings

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PostSubject: Glad Tidings   Sun Dec 01, 2013 8:04 am

Holly Well, are you all ready with pens poised to rise to another challenge?  Writing        Holly 

This month it's been chosen by Insideoutlaw.  The seasonal, festive bunny is:      rabbit 


Mistletoe2  Glad Tidings Mistletoe2


Last edited by Admin on Fri Dec 20, 2013 3:46 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Glad Tidings   Thu Dec 19, 2013 5:42 pm

Glad Tidings

“Heyes?”  The scanned the stable.  “What’s that noise?”

“It sounds like a hurt animal.   There, by that bag of food.  There’s something in the hay.”

The Kid gasped and crouched.  “Oh!”

 “A baby?”

“Where’s the mother?”

Dark, confused eyes peered around the dark corners.  “There’s nobody else around.  Maybe the stable-hand knows.”
The Kid grimaced at the open, pink mouth yowling at the injustice of ignored requirements.  “There’s a note.”

Heyes’ gloved hand snatched it from the pin attaching it to the shawl.  “To whom it may concern,” the partners exchanged a glance indicating they certainly fitted that category.  “This is Joshua and he is eight weeks old.  I have desperately tried to look after him but I can’t cope.  I pray that someone will take him in and care for him.”  Heyes shrugged.  “It’s unsigned.”    

“Joshua?  A real one?”  The Kid looked down at the needy, open mouth demanding urgent attention.  “I reckon he’s hungry.”  A plump, pink hand emerged and grasped the gunman’s forefinger, wrapping around it with all with the power of a life-seeking plant reaching for the sun.  “Aw, Heyes,” he lifted the finger gently to show the tiny fist obstinately encircling the digit.  “He likes me.”     
 
“Poor, little mite.  At least we were wanted.”   
 
“Little Josh’s wanted,” the Kid murmured, “she just can’t manage.  Aw, he needs milk.”

Dark eyebrows arched.  “You do realise we’re in Bethlehem, and it’s Christmas Eve don’t you?”

The Kid frowned.  “Maybe we can find something for now.  There’s cow over there.  Is there any animal a baby shouldn’t have milk from?”  
 
“Yeah, mountain lion; straight from the teat.”  Heyes gave a wry smile.  “Come on.  There must be a woman there who can nurse him.”


oooOOOooo


A clasp of cooing women surrounded the tiny foundling before a young woman removed the caterwauling bundle to the kitchen where the sound suddenly cut off as though plugged. 

“Rachel’s offered to wet-nurse him,” the doctor sighed.  “Poor woman lost her boy after just a few days, so she’s got milk to spare.”

The partners exchanged a hopeful glance.  “That’s real tough, maybe she’d like to take him in?” Heyes ventured hopefully.

“Her husband’s fixed on having a son of his own.”  The doctor shook his head.  “Everyone knows everyone else’s business around here, but I can’t think of who the mother might be.”         
          
“Dr. King,” a blonde thrust her head around the door.  “He’s been sick.”

“He’s probably guzzling too fast; remove the breast now and again to give him time to digest some a little at a time,” Doctor King smiled at the cousins.  “I hope I haven’t confused you with all this medical jargon?”

“I think we’re managing to keep up, I’m very medically minded,” Heyes grinned.  “Is he gonna be alright?”

“Yeah, he’s a strong, little scrap.  Adopters either want babies they can rear as their own or adolescents who can do hefty work.  He’ll be fine.”

“Come on, Thaddeus,” Heyes nudged the Kid out of his quietude.  “Let’s go.”

“Yeah, but I keep wonderin’ what would have happened if we hadn’t found him,” wistful blue eyes lingered on the kitchen door.  “He’s so small, ya know.”

“He’d have been found,” the doctor paused at the kitchen door.  “The stables are constantly in use.”

The Kid nodded.  “Come on, Joshua.  I’m suddenly real thirsty.”

Doctor King narrowed his eyes suspiciously.  “Joshua?  That’s the baby’s name?”

“Me?” Heyes spluttered.  “It’s a real common name – like Smith – my other name.”

“It wouldn’t be right to leave your own child as a foundling,” the doctor reiterated.

“Do you think I need to be told that?” barked Heyes. 

The glimmer in the doctor’s eyes confirmed the lingering scepticism.  “The name’s the same and he has dark hair.”

“Half this town has dark hair, including you,” Heyes retorted.  “I’m not that baby’s pa.”  
 
Doctor King waved a dismissive hand and gave Heyes a cold glare.  “Just go.  You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him face up to his responsibilities.”


oooOOOooo        



The woman was impeccably dressed in the most respectable modes but a certain hardness around the cornflower eyes and the set of her pretty mouth spoke of a woman who’d been kissed as often as a court bible; and by the same class of people.  The empty coach drew up and the coachman strode over to the pile of bags as another woman joined the passengers on the sidewalk whose wide, cinnamon eyes only served to emphasize the patina of moxie in the slightly older woman. 

Heyes and Curry had just drawn level with the passengers on the sidewalk when the bottle-blonde took the initiative with the group.  “Hi, I guess we’ll all be travellin’ together, so we might as well get to know one another.  I’m Vervia Howard.”

All eyes turned in question to the new arrival who brushed gently at her eyes with a delicate handkerchief.

“What’s your name, honey?” asked Vervia.

“Lydia,” a bulldog face, congested with anger, loomed up on the group from around the corner.  “You ain’t goin’ nowhere!”

Vervia dabbed away a gob of irate spittle with her gloved finger as she stepped between the young woman and the stranger.  “Is this your pa, honey?”

“Pa!?  I’m not her goddamned father.  I’m her husband.” 
 
“No, you’re not,” the sylph protested.  “I’ll never marry you!”

“But you promised to when I sent you the fare.”  The toothless mouth added a gelatinous quality to the lips between the wobbling jowls.  I either get my money back or a wife; and if’n I don’t, I go to the sheriff.”

“You lied to me.  You said you were twenty three.”  Lydia sniffed back her tears. 

Heyes’ brows arched in disbelief.  “You’ve got to be at least sixty.”

“Yeah,” the Kid muttered, staring at the angry bull.  “The only place you’re twenty three is around the neck.”

“Sixty?  I’m approachin’ forty.”

“From the wrong side,” the Kid retorted.  
 
Vervia frowned and turned to the sobbing woman.  “You don’t have to go anywhere you don’t want to go and certainly not with him.  What do you want to do, sweetheart?”

“I want to go home,” Lydia bawled through her handkerchief. 

“I’m gettin’ the law, ya can’t rob a man blind like this,” growled the thwarted bridegroom.

The Kid scowled but hung back at Vervia’s calming nod.  “I’ll talk to him.  A man’ll fight with another man just for show, but only the lowest of the low fight with a woman; if he does that, cowboy, you’re welcome to join in as fast as you like.”

“The name’s Jones, sweetheart.”  A pair of lambent blue eyes smiled determinedly into hers.  “And you can count on it.”           
 
Vervia stared gamely up at the furious farmer.  “I’ve been around the woods too long to be scared by a hoot-owl.”  She prodded the well-upholstered chest with a long forefinger.  “You wanna cry foul?  You lied about your age and the good Lord only knows what else.  Ya brought her here under false pretences.  Let’s tell the law about that shall we?  There’s a name for folks like that?”  The finger stabbed the chest again.  “A procurer; that’s what you are.”

“Ain’t that someone who smokes meat?”  The bulldog blustered in confusion.  “What’s that got to do with anythin’?”     
       
“She seems to have him distracted at the very least” Heyes murmured.

“So far,” the Kid agreed, cautiously.

Then it started.  Something was said; nobody could swear what, but it merited repeated whumps around the ears with a parasol which sounded as though it had been weighted like a shillelagh. 

“You low-life piece of ...” Vervia was cut off by the Kid snatching the weapon from her hand and snaking an arm around her waist.  “Did you hear what he said?”

“Can’t say I did, ma’am,” the Kid nodded towards the approaching lawman as he dragged her out of the fray.  “But we’ve gotta keep you out of trouble, ain’t we?”

Vervia’s bright eyes sparkled with heightened emotion.  “Well, that’s a first.  Men like you have usually got trouble written all over them.”

A wiry man sporting a shiny star on his chest glowered at the group.  “What’s goin’on here?”

“That no-good, low-down, flop-eared buzzard lied to an innocent girl to get her out here.  He promised marriage to a handsome young man!” 

“I never said I was handsome,” the man protested.

“Neither did anyone else, I reckon” barked Vervia.

“Innocent woman?”  The sheriff flicked up a doubting eyebrow at Vervia.

“It ain’t me.  I ain’t fool enough to fall for his brand of usin’.”  Vervia pointed an accusing finger at her opponent.  “Now he’s tryin’ to bully her into going through with the marriage.  He’s as ugly as a burnt boot and she’s over there cryin’.  She can’t handle him.”

“And you can?” the sheriff grinned.

“I can stomp a rattlesnake in a square dance, if that’s what you mean, sheriff,” Vervia pouted.  “He’s a bully.  He paid a fare for an introduction, but he seems to think he bought her.”

The lawman’s eyes narrowed and fixed on the thwarted groom.  “Is that right, Noah?”

“All I want is for her to follow through with her part of the deal or give me ma money back, Sheriff King.  Mail order bride they call them.  She came for marriage, not courtship.  I can’t be doin’ with none of that wooin’ stuff.  Do I look like a maiden aunt?”

The sheriff sighed heavily.  “Noah, she saw you and didn’t want you.  Get over it.  Half the county had already come to that conclusion.”

“I want ma money back!”

“And I want to be able to walk down this street without seein’ any trouble but life ain’t fair.”

“Ain’t ya even gonna speak to her?” Noah protested.

“She saw you and had the sense to get her butt in the first stage outta town,” the sheriff shifted his weight onto one leg.  “You should’ve expected that.”

“I’m gonna see Ira King if’n you ain’t doin’ anythin’ to stop me from bein’ ripped off,” snapped Noah, “ and you need to stop her from leavin’ town until this has been dealt with by ma lawyer.”  
 
“King?” Heyes queried.  “Isn’t that the doctor’s name?”

“Yeah,” the sheriff nodded.  “He’s my oldest brother; Ira the lawyer is the middle one and I’m the youngest.”  He turned to Lydia.  “I guess you’d better  stay in Bethlehem until we get this straightened out, miss.”

“I’m not marrying him!” Lydia howled.

“Nobody’s suggesting that you do.”  Sheriff King shook his head, “but I know my brother Ira, he’ll do his best for his client and he’ll only send me to fetch you back.  I’m saving myself the trip.”

“I haven’t got any money,” sniffed Lydia.  “I can’t give him anything.”

“We’ll get this all ironed out, honey,” Vervia cooed.  “I’ll stay with ya.”  She levelled eyes as friendly as gun barrels on the jilted fiancé.  “Men have been at the root of all my friends’ problems but even the worst of them knew when to back off.”

“I have to get out of this place,” sobbed Lydia.

“There’s another coach the day after tomorrow,” the lawman pulled the ladies’ bags away from those being loaded onto the coach.  “Just spend Christmas at the hotel.  It’s not like you’ve anywhere to get to.  You thought you were going to get married and stay here.”

“Am I under arrest?”

Sheriff King shook his head.  “No, Miss...?”

“Barrett.  Lydia Barrett.”

“Well, Miss Barrett, old Noah’s claiming that you owe him money and he’s sure mean enough to only spend money on the basis of some kind of promise, so I think it’s best we get it all ironed out for  everyone’s sake.  It won’t take long.”

Vervia slipped a hand around Lydia’s arm.  “I’ll wait with ya, honey.  I was only goin’ to look for somewhere to open a theatre anyways.  It’ll keep.”

Heyes arched his brows.  “A theatre?”

“Yeah,” Vervia nodded.  “I’m lookin’ for somewhere classy where folks can be entertained while they dine; somewhere men ain’t ashamed to bring their wives.  I figured the best idea was to build it myself.” 

“Sounds great.”  The Kid’s smile broadened.  “Maybe you two ladies would care to join us for dinner in the hotel tonight.  It’d be nice to do somethin’ special, this being Christmas Eve and all.”

Lydia pursed her lips doubtfully before Vervia swiftly cut in.  “We’d love to.  Shall we say about eight o’clock in the lobby?”  She glanced at her timid charge.  “I’ve got some lovely things she can wear.”  Her blue eyes lighted on each of the partners in turn.  “Show a little flesh, maybe?  Live a little dangerously, that’s what I say.”

“That’s the complete opposite of what we say,” Heyes gave the ladies his most twinkling smile.  “See you tonight.”
 
They watched Vervia sashay off in the direction of the hotel with Lydia trotting in her seductive wake.  Heyes pulled a coin out of his pocket.

“Nuh uh,” the Kid murmured.  “No coin toss; not with your coin.”

Heyes shrugged.  “Which one do you like?”

“Vervia’s got spirit and courage...”

“And Lydia’s innocent and unspoiled,” Heyes grinned.  “Just your type.”

The blue eyes narrowed.  “I like spirit too.  Sometimes I like a little excitement.”

“What if we both want an exciting evening?”  

“Joshua, How about we let the ladies decide for themselves and just see how excitin’ things get naturally?  You could try plannin’ on turning in early.  That could make everyone’s night.” 
         


oooOOOOooo



“Vervia Howard?”  The Kid turned, rankling at the familiar tone used at a woman in his company by a stranger.  “What’s a girl like you doing in a nice place like this?”

Vervia gave a whoop and swung herself at the tall, dark moustachioed man.  “Ira King!  I thought the name seemed familiar, but I didn’t dare hope.  We were just goin’ on for dinner,” she hooked both hands around his neck and dragged him down to her pouting, painted mouth.  “C’mere.”

“What’s a lovely thing like you doing in this backwater?  I thought you were a star who lit up the stage with her incandescence?  At least, that’s what the Philadelphia Clarion said.”  He turned to the ex-outlaws.  “I studied law in Philadelphia and wasted so much of my youth on this lady.  She was the most distracting thing I ever saw.”  He turned back to Vervia, hugging her to him.  “Still is.”

“Aw, that’s is the first time in years a man has called me a thing and put a pretty word in front of it.”  Vervia gave a sensual smile.  “I’m gettin’ older, Ira.  It’s time for me to get off the stage and build a business.  I’m headin’ to San Francisco to build a dinner theatre.  I stumbled over this poor girl on my way.  Has that old coot lawyered up?”

The handsome lawyer nodded a sympathetic smile in Lydia’s direction.  “He has instructed me in an action for breach of promise.”

“I thought that action could only be brought by a woman,” Heyes queried.

Ira shrugged.  “Men have brought them in England for centuries when they suffered financial loss from a broken engagement.  There’s no legal reason why a man can’t bring a breach of promise action.  Pride usually gets in the way nowadays, but with Noah Stapleton...”

“No pride?” Vervia ventured.

“Nope,” Ira replied.  “But he’s got mad-money.” 
 
“When I’m done with him he’ll have no teeth either,” the Kid growled.

“You’re about ten years too late,” Ira mused, “and that’s an improvement.  They were like old roots, rotting in a bog.” 

“How can he afford this?”  The Kid cast concerned eyes at Lydia.  “He looks like a dirt-poor sodbuster.”

“He seems to think this might make her pay up or give in just on the threat.  He doesn’t like being thwarted by a slip of a thing.” 

“Thwarted?”Heyes demanded.

Ira gave an apologetic moue.  “He built this up in his head.  Miss Barrett was more than he could have hoped for.”

Vervia scowled at Ira.  “I’m surprised at you allowing this.”

“I’m not,” Ira shook his head. “We just need to give him one very good reason why he shouldn’t proceed with this.  He could go to one of the other lawyers in town and they aren’t as ethical as I am.  I’m on the side of justice, Miss Barrett, and I’m not about to see you pushed at that old warthog through lack of funds.  Tell me your side so I can persuade him it’s not worth his money.  I do intend in charging him for my services so he’ll have less to spend with another lawyer.”

Vervia prodded the lawyer with a lacquered nail.  “Ira, she’s scared.  Say somethin’ nice.”

“Miss Barrett?”  They all turned to see the sheriff enter the hotel lobby.  “Will you come with me please?”

Lydia turned white and her knees began to buckle.  “No...”  The Kid caught her, supporting her over to a couch.
“We found out,” the sheriff nodded gently.

Ira King frowned.  “David?  What have you found?”

“Miss Barrett came to town yesterday on the inbound coach.”

The lawyer turned to face his younger brother.  “Yes, as a mail order bride.”

The sheriff shook his head.  “She also had a babe in her arms and one has been abandoned today.  I’d like you to tell me what you’ve done with that child, Miss Barrett.”

“Surely she needs the opportunity to consult with her lawyer?”  Heyes’ dark eyes stared intently at Ira King, pushing home his message.

Ira smiled.  “Yeah, her lawyer.”

David King pulled off his hat in frustration.  “Damn it, Ira.  Don’t pull this ‘big brother’ rubbish on me again.  She abandoned a baby!”

“Mislaid, I think.”  Ira smiled mischievously.  “She collapsed with relief.” 

Heyes held up a warning hand as Lydia’s lips opened.  “Best let your lawyer speak for you, Miss Barrett.”

“Good advice,” Ira nodded towards the manager’s office.  “I need to speak to my client in private.”

“Ira, you’ve gotta stop messing with my cases,” the sheriff scrunched his hat in exasperated hands.
 
“Your brother’s the doctor isn’t he?” Heyes asked

“Yes,” Ira nodded, “but nobody’s ill.”

Duplicity played in the shadows of Heyes’ eyes.  “Let me talk to him.”  


oooOOOooo


Sheriff King frowned at both of his brothers.  “Purple mania?”

“Puerperal mania,” Doctor King repeated.  “Women can have a passing melancholia after giving birth, and some can behave very irrationally.  Children have been abandoned to protect them; their mother’s disordered mind sees that as being in the child’s best interests.”

The sheriff’s eyes flicked uncertainly from Lydia to each of his brothers.  “So?  We have to take her to the asylum?” 

“Not necessarily?”  Ira King smiled.  “She has no family to commit her and many medical men see a rest cure as the way ahead, isn’t that right, Sam?  Some travel might be best...” 

“What’re you saying?” the sheriff crossed his arms impatiently. 

“I’m saying that the local town doesn’t want the expense of taking Miss Barrett or her child into care,” Ira asserted.  She left her child because she couldn’t cope – not to harm him.  Let them go or I’ll mount a defense of temporary Puerperal Mania.  She’s over it now; so the townsfolk aren’t gonna want to support her or the baby.  It’s all about the money when it comes to politics, David.  Do I need to remind you there’s an election looming at Easter and not only are you standing again as sheriff?  I’m running for mayor.”

“I’ve got to make sure the best interests of the child are considered,” the lawman muttered.

“We all know a child is best with its mother,” Vervia cut in.

“Within reason,” shrugged David.  “She’s an unmarried woman who came here as a mail order bride who then abandoned her child.  What’s she gonna do next?”  

 “She felt helpless because the feckless father left her to it,” Vervia cut in.  “She needs support, the poor love.  I’ll make sure she’s looked after.  I’ll need staff in San Francisco.  Hell, if I rejected women with no past, I’d have no show.  Even the clean livin’ ones are only waitin’ for the highest bidder among the stage-door Johnnies.  She had had no job, no future and no hope, and another mouth to feed.  She just needs a break.”  
 
“I can’t sing or act,” Lydia exclaimed.

“You can cook and clean, can’t you?”  Vervia placed her hands on hips.  “Can you sew, we’ll need costumes...”

“Yes,” Lydia sniffed back caustic tears.  “I can do all of that.”  
 
“You’ve both got a future, honey.  I ain’t gonna turn you away because your morals slipped.  I know better than anyone that it’s the good girls who get caught out.”  The blue eyes glittered meaningfully.  “The bad ones know better.”  

“Can I have my baby back?” Lydia murmured, fixing the sheriff with glistening eyes.  “Little Josh?  It was like ripping out my heart.”

“I need a guarantee,” Sheriff King growled. 

“How could we survive without a roof over our heads or any money?” Lydia’s knuckles whitened nervously.  “I couldn’t see any way to give him a start in life.  It was to save him.”

The lawman stared ruefully at his now mangled hat and made a mental note to stop letting his older brothers wind him up.  “Then I guess you can go.  Come and fetch him.  I guess it’s the best thing all round – what with the costs of taking care of him, your trial and an election coming up and all...  It’s best you leave town.”

“So I guess there’s somewhere for the babe to lay his head after all,” the Kid grinned.  “Where’d you hear about this ‘purple mania?’”
    
“A court case I read in a newspaper; a woman called Esther Lack.”

The Kid’s blue eyes were alight with curiosity.  “How did that end?”

Heyes’ eyes darkened.  “This isn’t the same.”

“No?”

Heyes smiled.  “That was a case of a woman driven to the edge.  This..?  Well, it’s a baby with no place to lay his head and a star from the East making all the difference to his future.”

And three wise Kings,” the Kid chuckled, “the lawyer, the doctor and the sheriff.  The gold they saved the townsfolk meant they made sure they let Lydia and baby go on their own sweet way.”

“Yeah, Bethlehem sure is a seasonal town,” Heyes nodded.  “It’s a good job they didn’t know they whole truth.”

“That Lydia stole the ticket to Bethlehem from a woman at her boarding house to see if the husband could give her and her baby a fresh start?”  The Kid whispered quietly.  “That plan turned to worms the minute she saw the bridegroom.”

“A desperate woman, Kid.  I’m just glad that someone other than you was around to pick up the pieces for a change.  Vervia’s a woman with two very fine attributes.”

The blue eyes narrowed.  “Yeah?”

Devilment glittered in the dimpled smile.  “Her ability to get folks to trust her enough to get to the truth.”

“Yeah, and the other?”

“They didn’t need to know about the theft, Kid, and Vervia distracted the Kings from asking the right questions.  She had the wisdom to know that honesty may be the best policy; but when that fails, dishonesty is the second-best policy.”

The Kid raised cynical eyebrows.  “A real fine Christmas message, Joshua.  What about the frankincense and myrh?”

They both turned at Ira King raising his hand and waving to the hotel manager.  “Frankie?  Any chance we could add a few more seats to the table these folks have booked?  We’ve got a family back together and there are some glad tidings to celebrate.”

The man in the black suit nodded.  “Sure, how many?  I’ll get my wife to sort that for you.”  He thrust his head around the kitchen door.  “Myrtle?  Can you help Ira King and his party?”

Brown eyes met blue.  “Frankie and Myrtle?  Tell me this is a joke, Joshua.”

_________________
Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb
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Cimarron

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PostSubject: Re: Glad Tidings   Fri Dec 20, 2013 9:06 pm

Okay, (big gulp) this is my first effort and it being Christmas I felt the need to be a bit silly.  Try mentally fitting this to the tune of 'Good king Wenleslas' and have fun...

Kyle and Wheat and Hank looked out
While the gang went thievin’,
Wheat gave Kyle a gentle clout
to make him keep perceivin’,
Lookouts had to check the scene and and not nod off to sleep,
Every single one of them, had to earn their kee-eep.


“Did you see that shadow move?
And hear the sidewalk creakin’?
If someone’s watchin’ out for us you’ve,
Got to start up speakin’.
Move yer butt to warn the Kid, that trouble’s soon forthcomin’,”
Kyle did that and warned the gang by hollerin’, “Someone’s co –omin’.”

Heyes grabbed the handle of the safe
And pulled the door wide open.
The need to stay and steal did chafe,
Sure the Kid was copin’.
The contents went straight in the sack, and Heyes leaped to his fee-et,
His partner gestured with his head to make the exit flee-eet.

The horses waited out the back,
For the robbing gang.
The sound of gunfire gave a crack,
Followed by a real loud bang.
To the saddles they all jumped, and rode into the night.
The sound of hooves behind them made them ride with all their mi-ight.

The night flashed by to show the pace,
Of the fleeing thieves.
All the pressure of the chase,
Spoke of no reprieves.
On and on it went for hours until their strength was spent,
The pursuers were so determined the gang started to repe-ent.

For two days and for two nights,
The gang headed for home.
The posse it gave up the fight,
The chase became a roam.
As they got near to the Hole, glad tidings they did ring.
“We can share the money out and plan our ne-ext sti-ing.”
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Nancy Whiskey

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PostSubject: Re: Glad Tidings   Mon Dec 23, 2013 5:22 pm


They had begun to get a little fed up.  In fact they had begun to being a lot fed up. 


Everywhere they went the little man appeared.  They went to the store, he was there.  They went to the saloon, he was peering round the corner.  He seemed harmless enough, but they could not be too sure, even though they were doing nothing wrong... after all, what was there to do wrong in a town this size?

He was small and neat, with deep brown eyes and a well trimmed beard.  He was mid forties, wore a smart dark (which was a tiny bit shiny in places) well tailored suit and a stove pipe hat.  He would trail the boys and not necessarily inconspicuously, although he tried to be.  But it was not just where they went, but he also took keen note of their height, their build, their faces.  He was also the undertaker!  He was measuring them!


Heyes and Curry had just come out the bath house, feeling content and at ease, ready to deal with whatever the world threw at them (well, within reason)... and there he was, pretending to look in the general store window, but he was watching them in the reflection of the store glass.  He saw them as they stopped and stared right at him, and like a frightened jack rabbit the cousins saw he did not know which direction to dart in.

 
“OK” sighed Heyes, like they were dealing with a mischievous child, “enough of the cat and mouse, I’m gonna talk to him”.  He took a step down, and as the cousins sauntered towards the smaller man they noticed he backed up towards to store window as if they were calling him out.  The boys slowed up and approached open handed to show no harm was meant (well, not immediately anyway....).


A grimace appeared and fixed upon the little man’s face.  They could tell it was a mix between fear and extreme discomfort.  Not a smile, more a ‘kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar’ look.  Both the Kid and Heyes had enough history to register this, but also to think “been there, done that, let’s see what happens”. 


This little man did not scare them.  He was, if anything one of nature’s ‘messenger-boys’.  But that did not mean they would totally relax their guard.


Without speaking they decided to go easy.  That was the better way of getting full information out of this little rabbit.


Heyes took a deep breath, flashed his Sunday best smile and said “Good Mornin’ sir, we seem to have the pleasure of running into you.  Can we help you”?

“Excuse me”? The man had an accent with a slight lisp.  ‘Menacing’ was now definitely disappearing over the nearest set of hills, and not looking back!


“Well sir, you seem to be waitin’ for us.  A lot.  Watching us.  Care to tell us why?”. 


Curry stepped in, giving his most solicitous, disarming smile and said “Yes sir.  As you know we have noticed you taking an interest....  watching us.... we could also go as far to say ‘sizing us up in a .... professional fashion ’, but I am wondering sir, how you, as an Undertaker, an honourable profession I am sure, would use these measurements.  After all, I can assure you sir, we are both very much alive.”  He took a breath in, looked across at Heyes stifling a laugh and still with a smirk on his face mumbled “Or at least we were when we left the bath house, and if that is not the case I want my money back!”


Heyes eyes danced, he knew his cousin was virtually all talked out for today, so he took up the slack and was still laughing at his joke said “So, we ask you kindly, once again, can we help you”? The small man noticed that although this question was just as polite, the tone was sharper.


“Gentlemen, gentlemen, please”.  The neat little man cocked his head to one side and showed the upper side of his palms and shrugged apologetically.  The boys now knew for certain this man was no physical threat.  Well perhaps not physical, but he could still blabber, and sometimes that was much more damaging.  Both Heyes and Curry knew the best way round this type was to butter him up.  Maybe a drink or two...



000OOO000





They insisted that they take their new best friend to the saloon.  After all, what better way to cement a friendship? 

“So, care to tell us why you are measuring us for the here-after”? asked Heyes putting down the third bottle of beer in front of him.


Hesitantly Samuel spoke “Boys... boys.  I am not a rich man... I have a family.... a good family.  But families need feeding”.  The accent and lisp were more pronounced as he relaxed into speaking.  He shrugged again and continued “It’s nothing personal my friends.  But....,” the cousins shared a glance.  ‘But’was always a dangerous word.


“It’s nothing personal” he repeated “but.... well.... I think I know who you two are.  I think you may be somebodies”.  He managed to sound overawed and impressed as he said this, in no way a threat.


Samuel continued, but still in hushed tones flicking a glance from side to side.  “Now, look I am a business man.  You two are either who I think you are, in that case there is a bounty and, or possibly bodies.  Or you just look like you attract trouble, in that case there may just be bodies; or failing that you two just do attract trouble and somebody ends up getting killed.  Either way I get a bounty or the Undertaking.  I can’t lose.  Sorry, I am a professional, I can’t help it”.


The figure shrugged again and had the good grace to blush.  The gentle face broke into an apologetic smile and small chortle, a pleasant sound, knowing he sounded ridiculous, but honest.  Samuel was not comfortable talking like this, after all, he had wanted to be a song and dance man when he grew up.


Baffling though his statement was Heyes and Curry were disarmed.  They knew they had met an honest man.  They laughed , finished their drinks and assured Mr Samuel Simkhaw that they were ‘nobodies’, had no intention of getting into trouble and that “dying would be the last thing we would do”!



000OOO000





It was a hot day not too far from town and the boys stopped to water their horses.  Heyes was just settling down on the dusty dry river bank, comfortable and warm with his hat well over his eyes.  He sank into the comforting noise of the beasts, happy and refreshing themselves.  Snickering, lapping.

That is when they heard the screams.


It was one voice, hysterical.  Crying out one word “Brucie... Brucie... Brucie...”

 
Both bolted down river to where the screeches were coming from.


Stuck, almost waist deep, was a girl, perhaps 13 years old, perhaps a bit younger, but she was flailing about.  And as she flailed she dug herself even deeper into the sticky, pervasive, clay-like mud that lined this riverbed.  Well, they thought it was a girl.  The giveaway clue was the long hair, but in this case it was long and muddily straggly.  But the big brown eyes shone out, that and the clean lines of skin where her tears ran free.


And still she called “Brucie... Brucie... Brucie...”


The boy’s did not know what a ‘brucie’ was, but they knew a ‘help’ when they heard it.  Acting automatically they went to work. 


This river looked calm and slow flowin’ but there were currents underneath that would knock you off your feet and drag you to your death, and that was if you avoided the cold, clawing mud that would keep you, until you were exhausted.  This was where the girl struggled.


“Brucie... Brucie... Brucie...,”  the Kid threw off his hat and waistcoat – less things on him to hinder the process the better he reckoned.  Heyes – sinewy and strong stood on the bank to pull them out. Kid with his longer reach grabbed the girl, but only just managed to heave her out with Heyes help.


She sat on the bank, mud caked and shivering, despite the heat of the day.  Her skirts were virtually rigid with the drying ooze, but she was rocking slightly, still in shock.  She raised her beautiful big brown eyes to Curry.  “Brucie... Brucie”.


“Wha’?”  The Kid asked. A piping voice with the hint of a lisp replied “My dog Brucie.  Went in the water.  Got caught in the current”.  She stuck out her chin, “and’ I won’t go home without him.  Dead or alive!!!!” she asserted...  “I mean it, I won’t go home without him”, this time, more fatigued, less certain.


“All this for a dog?”  Heyes threw is hat down in exasperation.  


“I found him; he was just a pup.  But he was starving and some mean kids were throwing rocks at him”.  Under the mud her lips had set firm.  “I rescued him.  How would you like it if a bunch of kids threw rocks at you? “.  Heyes smiled inwardly – this was gonna be a woman to be reckoned with when she grew up.


“We’ll find your dog, I promise” yelled Kid over his shoulder making the unpromisable promise.  He strode off searching the riverbanks, expecting the worst.


While the boys scoured the riverbanks Jemima Simkhaw shivered and dried out a bit, but continued to call for the beloved “Brucie...”   


Then, what could only be described as a hairy, mud caked boulder lumbered happily towards her.


“BRUCIE” she screamed joyfully and just as joyfully the huge misshapen thing joined her jubilee.  Tears, joy unbounded and a large mucky dog.


He needed a wash, everyone was agreed on that; hugely agreed on that (apart from the dog!).


After a thorough dowsing in the safe part of the river ‘Brucie’, that most beloved of creatures  happened to be a scruffy looking mongrel.  A happy, scruffy looking white(ish) mongrel with black splodges.  He had a long clever face , with old eyes and one ear set at a different angle  to the rest of his head.  Just as if God had stuck it on late one day as an afterthought.


“Good for her” thought Heyes – “she rescued a mutt, and we all need a little bit of that!”


000OO000


 Samuel Simkhaw sat at the table in his immaculately laundried white linen shirt, good waistcoat and a fine watch chain trailing across his body and glinting in the sunlight.


He was rapturous in his thanks.  He could hardly muster a sentence of thanks for at least 10 minutes and Mrs Simkhaw bowed and cried, and bustled and bowed and cried and bowed and cried.  Their ‘beautiful daughter’ saved from the river. 


Then Jemima seemed to disappear and the cousins could hear the squeak of the water pipe and the squeal of the daughter.  There seemed an occasional howl too, but they could not be sure if that was Jemima or Brucie as they both seemed to reach the same pitch.


Samuel was grateful though.  Truly grateful.  He poured them a glass of an odourless colourless spirit, but WOW! “That could fell a man” stated Curry.


“Not men such as you” stated Samuel proudly.  “Gentlemen, I will put my cards on the table”.  He inhaled as if to make a proclamation.  “Today you have become my family.  You have put your lives at risk to rescue my firstborn.  You did not have to; but as is her birth name, my little Jemima means ‘warm’.  So warm and kind that she risks her life for a dog, and you risked your life for her!”  He held his hand up to halt any interruption.  “I would not have her any other way.  Kindness is a gift”.


“And so, I am giving you this gift, these tidings, as family... leave... I know who you are.”  Silence, but the glance between the cousins spoke volumes.  “I know who you are “, Samuel shrugged to emphasise the importance of his dire statement.


“I know who you are” he repeated, then cocked his head and said “or perhaps were”. The shoulders shrugged again.


“But”, he continued in a low voice as he poured out more of the lethal liquid, “I know who you are!”  There seemed a slight slur as he hammered home the information.

The three of them glanced at one another, two of them not sure whether to be on guard or not.  They could hear feet running about upstairs, distant voices busily engaged.  “Leave, you must leave” pleaded Samuel Simkhaw.


Heyes’ face simply gazed across the table, but Samuel could tell he was looking for an explanation.


“People are coming, bad people.  Looking for you.”  The Kid’s brow furrowed, “I did not tell them, on my oath I didn’t, and I don’t know who did.  But I know you are decent men, perhaps a tad ‘tested’ at times”, that shrug appeared again, and a slight knowing smile crossed his face, ”but you are good men”.


Heyes looked to the ceiling and Curry studied the lace tablecloth.


“Sorry my fellows” said Samuel Simkhaw rubbing his hands and shaking the cousins out of their own thoughts “you have two days before they get here, but until then you are guests here in my home.  Where even the dog is your friend!”  Samuel’s chest puffed out, honoured to have such fine men as guests in his home.


The boys were well fed on a salty bread and were liberally dowsed with huge bowls of a tasty chicken soup with little dumplings in.  There were vegetables and a salted lamb dish to which Heyes could not get enough of.  Wine was poured and toasts were made, becoming more and more outlandish throughout the evening.


000OOO000


Jemima, when scraped clean of all remaining traces of riverbed proved to be a strapping girl of 13, more than able to help both her Mother and her father; capable and ferocious, a tomboy with a mind of her own.  Yet Heyes got the distinct impression when looking at the face, demure now, she would be a striking woman in years to come.  And yet, he knew she would always rescue that lost sheep... dog.... outlaw... 

Her parents named her well, “warm, she is a warm soul.  Always has been, always will be.  Warm – that is what Jemima means”, mumbled Samuel with a tear in his eye and not for the last time he looked at them both, bottom lip quivering and said “thank you”.


After a day of being fed, watered and washed they were ready to make a move.  Their saddle bags were groaning full, and so were they.  Samuel had given them a list of 'family’ in New York, Chicago and Phoenix.  He mentioned vaguely some had tried settle Salt Lake City, but then muttered “didn’t work out”... 


The boys were instructed that if ever they were in need of anything , they were to contact him or any of these people, explain the connection, and any and all help would be given.


As they sat astride their horses Heyes shouted down one last question, “You say ‘Jemima’ means ‘warm ‘in your language, what does your name mean”?  A smile crossed the bearded face “Well my friends, ‘Simkhaw’ in my language means ‘glad’”. 


The boys laughed as they started their journey, but something made them turn their heads before they left.  A clean, neat little head was peering at them through the parlour window, waving frantically.  They waved back, feeling, just for a moment, like they were 13 again too with the whole world before them.


Then, just before they turned back Brucie appeared.  Clean (for now) and gave them what could only be described as a wry, humour filled glance of acknowledgement.  Finally he turned to go, looked back over his shoulder and threw the boys a huge, slobbery, toothy, conspiratorial grin.









NB:  The word ‘Simkhah’ does mean joy or glad and is the Hebrew origin of the name Simon.  It is actually spelt Simcha, but in this case I have chosen to use the phonetic  spelling for clarity.

_________________
Tomorrow  I will no longer be reckless or feckless.  I will do everything with both reck and feck!


Last edited by Nancy Whiskey on Sat Dec 28, 2013 7:48 am; edited 2 times in total
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Javabee

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PostSubject: Thanks to Silverkelpie for help with the bunny!   Wed Dec 25, 2013 3:31 am



A Devil’s Hole Christmas - Glad Tidings

It was Christmas Eve in Devil‘s Hole, and a merry one at that. The entire gang was feeling the Christmas spirit. Their last job had been very successful and everyone had a little extra jingle in their pockets from the take.  They were all feeling healthy, wealthy, and in Hannibal Heyes case, wise. Even Preacher had ridden in for the celebration.

Hands on his hips, Heyes was staring up and down at the enormous douglas fir that Kyle had dragged in. Wheat had spotted him struggling with it just outside the camp, and between the two of them had finally got it up to the door. They wrestled and fought with it for some time and finally got it cut back enough to fit it inside. The smell of pine was overwhelming the room.

“Do you think it’s big enough, Kyle?” Heyes snarked. He was actually in awe of Kyle’s ongoing inclination towards overkill. The outlaw seemed to have the same trouble with Christmas trees that he had with dynamite.

“Well, I coulda got a bigger one, Heyes, but I woulda had to get a team a horses to haul it in.” Kyle deftly hit the spittoon with a well aimed chaw. Cold and wet from the snow, he and Wheat were covered with wood chips and pine needles.

The Kid was standing by the fire with his arms crossed, gazing at the tree with a big smile on his face. He couldn’t remember the last time they’d had a Christmas tree.

Wheat hitched up his pants and begun to grouse. “Well, now, Heyes,  I don’t see you out in the cold up to your neck in snow trying to get a tree. Why, if it was up to you we wouldn’t even have a Christmas tree. Things would sure be better around here if I was leader of this gang.”

The Kid’s smile faded as he stepped away from the fireplace. The fact that his shooting hand had slipped quietly into position was not lost on Wheat.

“No offense, Kid.” Wheat coughed, making sure he kept his hands well away from his gun.

“None taken, Wheat.” The Kid relaxed his stance and everyone sighed in relief. The Kid was ever vigilant to respond to any challenge of Heyes leadership.

Wheat and Kyle decided it was a good time to retreat for the bunkhouse.

“What would you do different for Christmas, Wheat? If’n you were leader, that is?”

“Well, now, I ain’t leader. Yet. But if Heyes ain’t gonna take care of the men at Christmas time then I guess I’m gonna have to do it myself.”

With the tree finally in place, for the first time in a long time it had occurred to Wheat that it almost felt like home. The only thing missing were presents under the tree, and Wheat had been around long enough to know he couldn’t depend on Saint Nick or Hannibal Heyes to do the honors. Not for a gang of outlaws that were more naughty than they were nice.

Fortunately, he had been thinking on this for a awhile. With all that cash burning a hole in his pocket from the last job, Wheat had penciled out a Devil’s Hole Christmas list some time ago. When Heyes asked him to go to town for supplies he had surprised his boss by being downright congenial. Heyes had raised an eyebrow in bemusement. Wheat knew he would have ordinarily grumbled at Heyes for trying to treat him like an errand boy, but this time he had some errands of his own to do. He just let Heyes stew on it and rode off for town.

Christmas morning had finally arrived. The Kid had risen early and gone hunting with Lobo. The catch was roasting beautifully as the smell of Christmas goose permeated the entire Hole. They had actually bagged several of them so there would be plenty for everyone to get their fill. The potatoes were roasting along side the birds, and with a little flour and goose fat Hank had promised to stir up the gravy. Add a few pans of hot buttered biscuits and they were fixing to have a simple but appetizing feast. Heyes contribution was some fine Kentucky bourbon to be enjoyed after dinner to toast the holiday and warm their spirits.

There wasn’t much to decorate with, but that didn’t seem to matter. Much to everyone’s surprise, someone had put an assortment of gifts under the tree. Wrapped in plain brown paper and tied with string, each one was labeled with a different outlaw's name. With the fire crackling and warming the room, the men all gathered around to see for themselves.

“What’s all this?” Heyes strutted around the tree, inspecting the packages with interest, feigning surprise.

The Kid, being a man of action, did not hesitate. When it came to opening gifts he was just like a big, well, kid. While the rest of the gang watched, he tore into his package and found something close to his heart, cookies! After sampling his treasure he wiped the crumbs from his chin, smiling all around.

“What are ya waiting for?” he asked. The rest of the gang took his cue and began ripping their gifts open in a frenzy. Kyle was pleased to find a nice big package of fresh tobacco, the good stuff. Hank and Lobo got brand new shiny razors with some fancy soap.  Preacher was pleased to get a nice leather cover for his Bible. The entire gang got something, even Heyes got Mr. Twain's latest book!

The outlaws were all busy enjoying their gifts when Kyle noticed his partner sitting empty handed.

“Awww, it looks like Wheat didn’t get nuthin’.” Kyle looked disappointed for his friend.

Wheat straightened up and coughed, suddenly feeling a little embarrassed. He didn’t want to be pointed out and he didn’t really want the gang to know he was the one that brought the gifts. He elbowed Kyle and shushed him up.

“Nah, that’s alright Kyle, I wasn't expectin’ nuthin‘ anyhow.”  Especially not with a boss like Heyes in charge, he silently grumbled.

Right about that time Heyes stopped flipping through the pages of his new book and with a dimpled grin peered towards the back of the tree.

“What’s that over there?” he whispered to the Kid, like he didn’t want anyone to hear.

“Where? I don‘t see nuthin‘.” Kid’s blue eyes twinkled as he stared at something behind the tree.

Kyle jumped up, dug through the tree and pulled out a small package wrapped in a blue bandanna.

“Lookie here, Wheat, it’s a package, and its got your name on it!” Kyle was grinning from ear to ear.

“Wha-a-a-t?” Wheat was caught completely off guard. “Where in tarnation did this come from?”

Heyes and Kid watched Wheat slowly unwrap the gift.  Inside was a brand new fancy hat band, made of black leather decorated with round silver studs. It was a beauty.

“Suits ya’ “ commented Heyes, quickly looking down at his book.

“It’s almost as nice as the one on Heye’s hat.” Kid pointed out, as he chomped on another cookie.

Wheat composed himself, and held it up for a better look see. “Well, I don’t know what your talkin‘ about, Kid, but I think this one is a might better than the one on Heyes hat.”

Kid stopped chomping on his cookie and stared at Wheat.

“No offense, Kid.” Wheat recognized that look.

“None taken, Wheat.”  The cookie chomping recommenced.

“Heyes, I was wonderin’ if I might say a few words to these blessed boys before we eat this fine feast.” Preacher cleared his throat, and stood up holding his newly covered Bible.

“Go ahead Preacher. We’re all ears, just don't be gettin' too long winded on us.” Heyes smiled.

Kid gave Heyes a look like the kettle was calling the pot black, and turned to hear what Preacher had to say.

“Well, it looks to me like the good Lord has seen fit to bless our hides this year despite our wicked ways. I reckon it’s as good a time as any to ponder the glad tidings of Christmas. Let’s all be thankful as we eat this grub.”

They all enthusiastically said “AMEN” and Kid Curry smiled and said “Lets Eat!”

Merry Christmas!

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PostSubject: Re: Glad Tidings   Fri Dec 27, 2013 1:16 pm

Glad Tidings

Her stomach had lurched at the sight of him emerging like the ghost of Christmas past from the saloon.  The sheepskin jacket was weathered and the hatband was more ornate than she remembered, but it was definitely him.  Her heart started to pound but the beat seemed to palpitate alarmingly high in her breast; in fact, it almost seemed to block out her ability to swallow.

The ice-blue eyes had locked onto hers, telling her instantly that he had recognised her too.  Her fingers grasped the wooden frame of the mercantile for support as a voice seemed to come from the deep recesses of the shop behind her.  “Lainie?  Are you alright.”

Aelene willed herself to take deep breaths and steeled her composure.  She was a wife and a mother; and appearances were all in this world.  Nobody could ever know she had a past and certainly not the truth about the murky path she had left behind.  “I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?”  Concerned grey eyes examined her.  Shall I fetch some smelling salts?”

“No, Mrs. Creswell,” Aelene forced a smile.  “I just had a moment there.  That’ll teach me not to skip breakfast, won’t it?”  And there it was; the ability to lie so easily had flooded back.  She hadn’t done that for years, but then she hadn’t needed to.  Life as a simple housewife enabled her to leave all that duplicity behind.  That place has been a foreign country to her, but one glimpse of him had forced her back there and she still effortlessly knew her way around every nook and cranny of the world of mendacity. 
 
“Are you sure?”

Aelene darted a look at the man striding towards her from across the road.  “Perfectly, I must get on.”

She could feel the deep-blue eyes burning into her back but she quickened her pace and scurried off in the opposite direction.  The sound of firm heels on the wooden sidewalk behind her jangled her nerves but she kept her head down.  Maybe he’d get the message if she kept moving?

“Lainie?”  The sound seemed to resonate right through her.  She knew that voice so well in every shade, mood and colour but it now seemed unreal in the here and now; the dissonance ringing loudly between her former life and the mundane ordinariness of the town.

“Lainie,” he repeated.

She stopped, but did not turn to greet him.

“Aelene,” he murmured softly.  “I know it’s you, Lala.”

The pet name caught in a caustic lump at the back of her throat as she glanced over to see Hannibal Heyes standing on the other side of the road.  It was so like them – give the other space but make sure they were around in case help was needed.  She closed her eyes slowly with a sigh; she knew the strategy and she understood that Heyes was worried about how this meeting would pan out.  Well, join the club - nobody was more concerned than Mrs. Aelene Coalville.

“How are you doin?  You look real well.”

She finally found the strength to face him and to look into those amazing eyes once again; and there he stood, looking as though time had stood still, with the hands on his hips pushing back the sheepskin jacket.

“Jed?” she whispered.  “I never thought I’d see you again.”

Kid Curry nodded.  “Me neither.  How’ve you been, darlin’?”

“Fine.  I’m married now.”

He smiled broadly but she was unable to read any emotion in his eyes.  “You are?  That’s just great.  Is he good to you?”

“He’s a lovely man.”  She gulped heavily.  “He’s a bank manager.”

A twinkle returned to the smile at the irony.  “He is?  Well ain’t that a turn up for the books.  How’d you meet him?”

“At a dance.  It was all very ordinary.  My life has been much simpler since I last saw you.”

“I wish I could say the same.”  The smile dropped from his eyes.  “I thought of you often, darlin’.”

“I... I need to go.  Robert will be waiting.”

A blond eyebrow arched.  “Is that your husband?”

“My son.”  An alarming thought crossed her mind.  “You’re not here to rob the bank are you?  You can’t...  it’d hurt Ralph.”

“No, Lainie,” he shook his head.  “We don’t do that anymore.  We’re tryin’ to go straight and live quietly.”

She darted a look over at the man she knew to be the outlaw leader.  “I don’t believe you.  It’s a trick.  Hannibal Heyes going straight?  I’m not an idiot.”

“I swear on my life.  We may be many things but we ain’t stupid.  There are telephones now and folks can call in a robbery from one town to the other.  I tell you; fifty years from now there’ll be one in every town the rate they’re bein’ taken up.”  Jed folded his arms.  “Catchin’ thieves is becomin’ a science and we reckon it’s time to get out while the goin’ is good.  They’ll forget about us soon enough, there are always new fellas comin’ up behind.”

“Not like you.”  The words slipped out before she could help herself.  

His eyes softened.  “Or you.”

“Why are you here?”

“Just passin’ though.  We survive by doin’ odd jobs.  It ain’t safe to stay anywhere for long.”  They both looked over at the ex-outlaw leader who cautiously scanned the street.  “And I guess it’s best we pass through even quicker now we’re been recognised.”

She frowned.  “Jed, I’d never turn you in.  What do you think I am?”

“I know that, Lainie.”  The Kid shrugged.  “But you know how Heyes is.  He thinks my judgement ain’t the best when it comes to women.”    

Aelene blinked back the tears pricking at her eyes.  “Yes, so I remember.”

“It wasn’t him,” he cut in, defensively.  “I made the decision to go.  It was better for you.”

“Was it?” the bitterness dripped from every syllable.  “You would say that, wouldn’t you?  But I suppose you’d had what you wanted.”

“That ain’t true, darlin’. Come and talk to me properly.  There’s a restaurant over there.”

“I’m a married woman.  I can’t be seen to be consorting with strange men.”

“I’m not strange,” his lips curled into a grin, “folks are just jealous they ain’t got the courage to be more like me.  It ain’t consortin’ to be seen in a public place.  Talk to me.”  Aelene glanced around at the passing shoppers; and more particularly at the matron who did nothing to conceal her interest in the bank manager’s wife being accosted by a handsome stranger in the street.  “Folks have seen us talkin, Lainie.  It’s always best to take control of a situation; or have you forgotten that?”

“Apparently I forgot that the moment I met you,” she sighed. 

He hooked an arm through hers and led her towards the door.  “Well, I haven’t.  Come on.  An hour from now I’ll be gone and you’ll never see me again.  Why waste your life wondering about what I might have said?  I need you to understand why I left.”

He swept her inside and got them quickly installed at a table where a smiling waitress took their order before bustling through the whispering customers towards the kitchen.  Aelene’s stomach turned at the sight of Margaret McGlasson manifesting at their table like a spectre at the feast.

“Lainie?”  The preacher’s wife turned curious grey eyes on the Kid before smiling archly at Aelene.  “I just wanted to remind you that you were going to help with the decorations for the Christmas Pageant.”

“I hadn’t forgotten, Mrs. McGlasson.”

The matron lingered, smiling awkwardly at both people in turn, unwilling to let this choice morsel of gossip slip through her fingers.

Bright blue eyes twinkled mischievously.  “Lainie, aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend?”

“Yes,” Mrs. McGlasson beamed.  “Tea with a stranger?  Do tell.”

“Stranger?”  The Kid serenely ignored Aelene’s glower.  “I’m no stranger.  I’ve known Lainie for years.  We went to school together.”

Thin eyebrows arched in interest.  “Really?”

“Well, I knew her brother better.  He was my best friend, you know,” the Kid smiled benignly.  “She’s like a kid sister, bein’ so much younger than me.”

“Really?”  The preacher’s wife frowned at Aelene.  “I didn’t know you had a brother.  In fact, you had no family at your wedding at all.” 

“Well, there was the tragedy,” he continued, blithely.  “She’s very brave, but she doesn’t like to talk about it.  She came here for a fresh start.  I don’t like to bring up bad memories but I couldn’t pass through town without seeing lookin’ up little Lala.  I’m between trains.  I’ve only got an hour or so before I have to leave.”

“Tragedy?”  The desperate need for further information positively consumed Mrs. McGlasson before their eyes.  “I’m sure I could help.  Someone to talk to, perhaps?”

Aelene stared at the Kid who was clearly enjoying the story.  “I’m fine.  Do you think we could have some privacy?”

“Of course,” the woman leaned over and patted Aelene’s hand.  “We must have tea very soon.”

“What did you do that for?” Aelene hissed as the interloper walked away.

The Kid settled back in his chair.  “She wanted a secret to gossip about, so I gave her one.  It just wasn’t the real one.”   

“A brother?  I’ve never had a brother.”

“That’s alright,” he smiled at the waitress who laid out the coffee cups and placed a pot of coffee between them.  “You still haven’t, but she’s so busy tryin’ to find out about that she doesn’t give a tinker’s cuss about you havin’ tea with a strange man.”  He met Aelene’s cold glare.  “You’re welcome.”

“Jed, why are you really here?”

“I’m passing through, just like I said.  It’s a coincidence, Lainie.  I wouldn’t disrupt your life.  That wouldn’t be fair.”

Something stirred deep in her heart at the knowledge he’d never intentionally seek her out but she dropped her eyes and focussed on the coffee pot.  “White or black?”

“Hey, there’s fresh cream; I’ll have white.  That doesn’t make me a bad man, Lainie.”

“Of course not; lots of people take cream.”

His eyes softened.  “I walked away and I know I hurt you.  It was for the best,” he dropped his voice to a hush.  “I’m still wanted.  I drift from town to town living from one wage to the other.  That’s no life for a woman.”

Aelene fixed him with a weary look.  “Don’t tell me what to think.  Nothing will annoy me quicker.”

“I’m sorry.”

She stiffened.  “For what?  Taking my virginity, walking away, not caring enough to do more than bump into me in the street by accident?  Just what are you sorry for, Mr. Curry?”

He paused.  “For all of it.  For any hurt I caused you.”  Aelene’s knuckles tightened on the handle of the pot, but she remained silent.  “But I didn’t take anythin’, darlin’.  I’d never do that; we shared that moment, but I didn’t take it.  It was a place only we know and I’ll remember it to my dyin’ day.”

“I thought it was special.  It was a forever thing for me.”

He dropped his hand and pursed his lips.  “Me too, but life thought different.”

“Your partner thought different, you mean.”

“No,” the Kid shook his head.  “He’d have done what it took if it made me happy but it’s not his fault he was right.  I’d have only brought misery to your door; and mine.  A husband is no use to a woman if he’s spendin’ twenty years in jail.”

“And that’d be more likely to happen if you were with me?” Aelene demanded.

“You’d have likely spent time in jail yourself, Lainie.  You weren’t exactly Little Nell.  You were a professional flim flammer.”

“I did that so I wouldn’t have to end up selling myself,” Aelene murmured, bitterly.  “I had a brain which was more use than my body.  I had no choice, but once I did,” she cast a hand around, “I lived a clean life.”

“Good choice, Lainie.  It took me far too long to realise that I had to change my ways.  What did it for you?”

“William changed after I took up with you.  I couldn’t stay with him as a partner.  He started pushing me towards the Badger Game.”

The Kid frowned.  “He wanted you to sleep with other men so he could blackmail them?  But he’d always been so protective of you.”

Aelene nodded.  “He’d been like a father towards me, but once he knew I’d been with you,” she shrugged.  “It seems it was all or nothing to him.  I was either pure, or a complete, well – you get the picture.”
       
“I’m real sorry, Lainie,” the Kid stretched out a hand and let his fingertips brush hers.  “I had no idea.”

Aelene glanced over at Mrs. McGlasson who nodded in discrete approval of a gesture support and comfort.  "Ayway, I ran off and got work at a general store here.  I changed my life.  I had to.  My old life broke my heart.”

Jed Curry drew back his hand and toyed uneasily with his coffee cup.  “You were special to me, Lainie.  Some people make me more like myself and you were one of them.  You made me realise who I could have been, but you also made me see that I wasn’t the man you deserved.”  

“Yes,” Aelene glanced distractedly out of the window.  “I came to realise that too, but it didn’t hurt any less.  I loved you.”

“I’m sorry.”

She took a sip of her coffee.  “So am I.  The first thing that hit me when I saw you was that I was in danger of losing my marriage, my family and my life.  I wondered why you were here.  Now that I’ve had time to think about things I feel sorry for you.  I’m happy, and you are still running.   I hope you find peace, Jed Curry.  I truly do.”  The Kid’s chair scrapped back as he leaped to his feet as Aelene stood.  “I must go.  Little Robert will be back from school soon and he’ll be hungry.”

“I loved you too, Lainie.”

A weak smile twitched at her lips.  “Yes, we loved.  It’s all in the past and meeting you helped me to realise that.  It was wonderful, but you were right.  It would have been a disaster for both of us.”  She leaned into the gentle kiss he placed on her cheek.  “Goodbye, Jed.  I wish you nothing but the best.  For all I loved you, the hurt it would cause my husband to find out about you was paramount in my mind.  You brought glad tidings for Christmas.  You not only made me realise where my heart lies now; but you focused my mind on how much I value it.  Keep running until you find safety.  It’s only over when you give up.” 

She walked out of the restaurant and nodded over to the man in the black hat loitering nearby before she picked up her skirts and strode across the road.  There was so much to do.  Tomorrow was Christmas Eve and there was so much food to prepare.  Family would be arriving soon and she would leave a lamp in the window to light their way.  This was going to be a special Christmas because nobody knew better than her that moments can be short, but their echoes can be endless.
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Keays

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PostSubject: A Chirstmas Story   Fri Dec 27, 2013 9:58 pm

“How much money we got between us, Heyes?”  Curry asked quietly from his bunk.

  “None,”  his partner answered, his deep voice echoing out from under his hat that was placed comfortably over his face.  “The sheriff took it from us when we were arrested, remember?”

  “Yeah, but we'll get it back when we leave,”  the optimistic partner insisted.

  “If we leave,”  the pessimistic partner answered.

  “He don't know who we are.”

  “Yet.”

  A few moments of contemplative silence.

  “So how much money we got between us?”

  “$1.28,” the information mumbled from under the hat.

  “That's how much I had on me,”  Kid pointed out.  “How much do we have altogether?”

  “$1.28.”

  Silence.

  “Oh.”

  Silence again.

  “Not really enough for a nice Christmas dinner with all the trimmin's, is it?”

  “Nope.”

  “But it is Christmas,”  Kid stated.  “If the sheriff is going to keep us in here over Christmas, ain't he kinda obligated to give us a Christmas dinner?”

  Heavy sigh from under the hat.

  “Donno Kid.  Depends on the sheriff I suppose.”

  “Yeah, but if he's married his wife would likely insist on it.  You know how women are.”

  Kid sat up and looked over at his partner who was still stretched out on his bunk, his black hat settled over his face.

  “Is he married?”  Kid asked.

  “Who?”

  “The sheriff!”

  “I donno.  Ask him.”

  “Well that's kinda personal.  I don't know if I'd feel right....”

  The front door to the sheriff's office opened and the two prisoners instantly felt the rush of cold air and the chill of snow come wafting through the interior.  Heyes sat up then as well and both men turned to the sheriff who was in the process of stamping snow off his boots and slapping his white enhanced hat against his thigh.

  “Oh man, that sure is some blizzard we got coming down out there,”  the lawman commented as he headed over to the stove to warm his hands.  “You fella's should be thankin' me for arrestin' ya' last night.  At least ya' got a roof over your heads.”

  Heyes stood up and walked over to the bars.  “Just how long do you intend to keep us here, Sheriff Donner?”  he asked innocently.  “I realize we were a bit rowdy last night, but it was just a little Christmas Eve celebrating,  and them other fella's, why you let them go first light.”

  Sheriff Donner poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down at his desk, facing his two guests.

  “Yup,”  he agreed to the truth of that.  “but I know them other fellas and they all had homes to go to.  Now you two are about as transient as they come.  Damn, the amount of money you had between ya' you would have ended up freezing in an alley way.  You're better off in here until this storm subsides.”

  Heyes smiled winningly, knowing that he would have to lay the charm on thick to get this sheriff to release them.

  “Yeah, but if you had just let us be, I had a really good hand there and we'd 'a had enough money for a hotel room.

  Sheriff Donner snorted.  “The way you had them other fellas riled up you wouldn't have made it to the hotel.  They were fixin' to skin you alive.”

  “Yeah, but....”

  “Besides,” the sheriff continued.  “Smith and Jones?  I might'a been born at night, but not last night.”

  “There's plenty of folks named Smith and Jones, Sheriff,”  Kid offered the usual argument.  “we just happen to be two of 'em.”

  Heyes' smile deepened and he nodded, supporting his cousin's logic.

  “That's true enough,”  Sheriff Donner agreed.  “But for the two of ya'  to be ridin' together with no fixed address and barely enough money between ya' to keep ya' fed?  That's too much of a coincidence.”

  “But Sheriff...”

  “Nope,”  Donner shook his head.  “I got a nice stack of wanted posters here and I've already started going through them.  I don't know who ya' are, but I'm pretty damn sure you're wanted fer somethin' and I ain't lettin' you outa here until I've done some checking up.”

  Heyes and Kid exchanged disappointed looks.

  “What about our horses?”  Heyes asked solemnly.  “Are they being tended to?”

  Sheriff Donner looked insulted.  “Of course they're being tended to!  I'm not gonna leave animals standing out in weather like this—besides the money ya' had on ya' will pay for their keep for a few days.  As for your keep, well it is Christmas I suppose.”

  “Are you married Sheriff?”  the Kid asked.

  “Yeah.  Why?”

  Jed grinned and sent his partner a 'I told ya' so' look.   Heyes rolled his eyes.

  “No reason,”  Kid answered him.  “just wonderin'.”

  The front door burst open again and another draft of cold air and snow flurries accompanied the young woman who came bustling into the office.  The sheriff was on his feet in an instant and bustled over to her to shut the door and help her brush the snow off her shoulders.

  “Dagnabbit!”  he complained.  “Cupid Sinclair—what in the world are you doing out on a day like this?”

  “I just had to come and get you Uncle Dashiell!”  the young woman insisted.  “Some of the older boys are out there throwing snowballs at the horses going by.  There's going to be an accident—mark my word!”

  “Dagnabbit!”  the sheriff cursed again as he gathered up his coat.  “What in tarnation is the matter with those boys?  Just because it's Christmas...!”

  The office door burst open again and a small boy tumbled into the room, quickly followed by a barrage of snowballs that hit with loud thumps and splats into the far wall.  One hit the stove and began to sizzle and sputter, as steam vapour spread upwards and water drops dripped to the floor.

  “Hey!”  the sheriff yelled.  “What's the big idea...?”

  More snowballs came flying into the office, one hitting the sheriff on the arm and another splattering across his desk.  Finally Miss Sinclair thought to close the door before more projectiles headed their way.

  “Rudolf Sinclair, what in the world are you up to?”  his mother demanded to know.

  “Weren't my fault, ma!”  the young man insisted as he stood up and tried to brush the snow off his chest.  “They ganged up on me!”

  “So you run in to the sheriff's office?”  Mrs. Sinclair asked incredulously.  “Your uncle has more things to deal with than a silly snowball fight!”

  Rudolf shrugged.  “Yeah but they won't dare come in here,”  he insisted logically.  “What's the point of having a sheriff in the family if ya' can't use it to your advantage?”

  “What!?”

  “Don't worry about it, Cupid,”  the sheriff assured his niece.  “I'll take care of this.  A simple snowball fight is one thing, but throwing them at the horses and people just going about their business, that's another.  Especially on an awful day like this.”

  The front door slammed open again and two rather irate townsmen stomped in, their faces red either with the cold or with anger, or both.  Their eyes meant business though. 
  Then 'thump!' as a white projectile exploded on the back of one of the manly heads.  The gentleman cursed as his hat was knocked off his head and dumped to the floor.  The second man quickly closed the door just as two more thump thumps smashed against it.

  “Those boys have lost all reason!”  Dan Sier complained loudly as he picked up his hat and his friend brushed the snow from his shoulders.  “You gotta get out there and put a stop to this nonsense.  Just because it's Christmas doesn't mean they should be able to get away with behaving like this.”

  “I intend to Dan,”  Donner assured him.  “Just give me a minute to get my coat on will ya'?”

  “Well, hurry up!”  the second man snarked.  “Those hellions are gonna start breaking shop windows before ya' know it!”

  Sheriff Donner got himself organized and all three men made a concentrated rush out the door as two more snowballs flew in under the radar and skidded along the floor to smack up against the legs of the stove.  The door slammed and the loud cursing diminished into the whirling distance.

  “Who are you?”  young Rudolf noticed the two men in the cell.

  “I'm Joshua Smith and this is Thaddeus Jones.”  Heyes introduced them.

  The boy snorted, sending a stream of snot flying through the air.  “No you're not!”  he insisted as he wiped his nose.  “Who ever heard of two people named Smith and Jones ridin' around together?”

  “Rudy, now don't be rude!”  his mother cajoled him as she grabbed his arm and started pulling him towards the door.  “Besides, you shouldn't be talking to those men.”

  “Why not?”

  “Because they're bad men.”

  “Why?”

  “How should I know why?”  his mother complained.  “but if your uncle locked them up on Christmas day then they must be bad!”

  Rudolf looked back at the two innocent expression meeting him half way.  “Oh.”

  Cupid Sinclair opened the front door once again and bracing herself against the swirling snow, forced herself and her son out into the elements.  The door slammed shut and the two ex-outlaws once again found themselves alone.

  “Well,”  Heyes commented.  “That was interesting.”

  “Yeah.”

  Heyes sent a speculative look to the door, then over to the pile of wanted posters still sitting on the desk.

  “You think that sheriff is going to be kept busy for awhile?”  he asked his partner.

  “Probably,”  Kid smiled.  “If those boys are anything like we were, it could take him all afternoon to round 'em up.”

  Heyes grinned.  “Exactly what I was thinking.”

  Heyes lifted his right foot up onto the edge of his cot and slipping a hand into his boot he pulled out his every handy lock pick, along with the accompanying hand file.  Walking over to the cell door, he slipped his arm through the bars and inserting the pick into the lock he played around with the file until he got his bearings and then clicked the lock open.
  Both men were grinning as they grabbed their hats and coats and while the Kid went to lock the front door, Heyes knelt down by the safe in order to get their hardware.  Within thirty seconds Heyes had the safe open and grabbing both their holsters, they made a dash for the back door.  Heyes opened it and they were instantly assaulted by strong winds and swirling snow.  Both of them cringed back with arms up to protect themselves.  Heyes slammed the door shut again.

  “Geesh!”  Curry complained.  “I knew it was snowing, but....”

  “Yeah,”  Heyes agreed.  “I think we need to re-think this.”

  “Yeah, but if that sheriff is going to search through them wanted posters, you know he's gonna find us in there.”

  “Hmmm.”  Heyes pursed his lips and nodded, engaging in some serious thought.  “But the horses are at the livery and it'll be hard to get them out without being spotted.  On top of that, we don't have any money between us now—and I have to admit; I'm getting hungry.”

  “Getting hungry?”  Kid complained.  “I've been smellin' turkey in my dreams.”

  “Yeah,” his partner agreed.  “C'mon, let's see if we can find our wanted posters and then stay for supper.  Tomorrow's another day.”

  Jed grinned.  “Yeah.”

  The two miscreants returned to the desk.  Kid returned the holsters to the safe and swinging the door closed, spun the dial while Heyes started sifting through the stack of posters.  Kid stood up and looked down at the pile and whistled in disbelief.

  “I find it hard to believe that there's that many crooks in Wyoming.”

  “Most of these are penny-ante,”  Heyes noticed.  “Still, it's gonna take forever to get through them all.”

  “Yeah, here give me half.”

  Heyes nodded and splitting the pile in half he set a share down in front of his partner.  But before he could get back to his own pile, Jed gave him a tap on the arm and nodded towards the bulletin board.  Heyes followed his gesture and they both found themselves looking at their own wanted posters pinned to the wall.
  They shared a quick look and dashed over to the wall to unpin the telltale descriptions.   They grinned mischievously and were about to head back to their cell when Heyes took note of the now large empty space on the bulletin board.

  “Just a minute,”  he told the Kid as he handed him his own poster.

  He stepped over to the desk again and picking up two wanted posters from the pile, he stacked the posters all together again and returned to the bulletin board.  He pinned the two new posters up to replace theirs and cover up the obvious omissions.  Heyes grinned in triumph while the Kid looked sceptical.

  “Frank Blitzen?”  he read in mock disgust.  “Wanted for obscene behaviour and stealing from the  Christmas orphan's fund'?”

  “Yeah, well he can be you,”  Heyes informed him.

  Kid read over the second poster and smiled.  “Yeah, okay Heyes,”  he agreed.  “Then you can be  'The 'Kansas Comet' Calhoun.  Wanted for expectorating on women,' whatever that means—sounds disgusting, right up your alley.  'And petty theft.'”

  Heyes frowned and looked from one poster to the other. 

  “Maybe we can find two others....”

  Then two sets of eyes widen and locked onto each other as the handle on the front door began to rattle.  The locked door refused to open and the handle began to shake and a soft thumping could be heard from the outside.

  “Papa!”  came a small muffled voice.  “Papa, let me in!”

  The small mittened hands continued to thump on the door as Heyes gathered up their hats and coats and the wanted posters and made a dash back to their cell.  Kid waited until the child tried the door one more time and began thumping again, then unlocked the door and made his own dash back to the cell.

  “It's open!”  Heyes called out as the Kid quickly swung the cell door shut.

  The visitor tried the handle again and this time the door slowly came open to reveal a small red cheeked cherub with big blue eyes on the verge of overflowing.  Her pudgy face was adorned with long blond curls twinning their way out from under a snow powdered knitted hat to fall damply around a red scarf and snow covered shoulders.  More snow was swirling in from the elements, making her look like a little fairy princess in a glass snow ball decoration.  She stared over at the two 'prisoners' with a certain amount of accusation in her creased brow and pouting lips.

  “The door was locked!”  the little darling accused them.

  “No it wasn't,”  the Kid lied.  “It was just stuck.”

  “It was not!”  she insisted.  “You locked it!”

  “Well, if we locked it, then how come you got it open?”  Heyes asked logically.

  “Well....you unlocked it!”

  “How could we have done that from in here?”  Kid asked her and he gave the cell door a rattling just to prove his point.  “We're locked in ourselves.”

  The child's brow creased even more but her chin jutted out stubbornly.  “I donno,”  she admitted.  “but you unlocked it!”

  “Ah, do you mind closing the door?”  Heyes asked politely.  “You're kinda heating up the outside.”

  Her red little lips pursed even more but she did step into the office and close the door.

  “Where's my daddy?”  she demanded as the sniffles threatened to begin.  “He said he was coming in here.”

  “Well I'm sure I don't know,”  Heyes informed her. 

  “But he said he was coming in here!”  the lips started to tremble as a damp sleeve wiped across a running nose.  “Where is he!?  WHERE'S MY DADDY!”

  Heyes cringed and looked to his partner for help.  Kid rolled his eyes and smiled over at the bereaved child.

  “There's been a number of people coming and going today,”  he explained.  “Why don't you tell us what your name is and then we can tell you if he was in here earlier, alright?”

  “My papa says that I shouldn't talk to strangers,”  she insisted.

  “But you've already been talking to us,”  Jed pointed out.  “Besides, what harm can we do you, locked up in a jail cell?”

  The child frowned as she thought about this.

  “Well, I suppose it's alright,”  she finally agreed.  “My name is 'Pranny'.”

  “Pranny?”  came the unison query.

  “Yes!”  she insisted with a cross look.  “Pran Sier!  What's wrong with my name?”

  “No nothin'!”  Kid quickly assured her, not wanting a continuation of the tears or tantrum.  “It's a very pretty name.  It suits you.”

  “Of course it suits me!”  the sweet thing insisted.  “Everybody says so...”

  The office door once again flew open, bringing with it not only more wind and swirling snow, but two people and the enticing aroma of roasted turkey and stuffing.  Kid instantly perked up and even Heyes grinned in hopeful anticipation.  Sheriff Donner began to shake the snow off his coat and hat while the woman with him set the large picnic basket down on the desk and did the same for her own hat and cape.  She turned to close the door and gasped in surprise.

  “Why, little miss Pran Sier!  What are you doing here?”

  “Hello Mrs. Donner,”  she answered politely.  “I'm looking for my papa.”

  “Your papa's gone home,”  the sheriff informed the child.  “Which is exactly where you should be.  It's getting late.”

  “But he said he was coming here!”  the lips started to tremble again.  “I can't find him!”

  “Oh you poor dear,”  Mrs. Donner consoled her as she draped an arm over her shoulders.  “Come, come.  I'll take you home.”

  “I think the child's old enough to find her own way home Alicia!”  the sheriff grumbled.  “I'm hungry!”

  “Oh don't be an old bear!”  his wife prodded him.  “It's getting dark out.  You start getting the dinner set out...”

  “Me?”  the sheriff asked as a look of panic settled over his features.  “But I don't...”

  “Oh don't be so silly!”  his wife chided him as the child smiled at him.  “I won't be long.  Besides it will give me the chance to give the Sier's our glad tidings and solicitude's.”

  With that the woman and the child headed back outdoors to complete their journey, leaving the three men to organize the supper arrangements.  Sheriff Donner looked lost and frustrated, then he growled and shook his head in defeat.

  “Dagnam that woman!”  he cursed.  “I swear she's a vixen in disguise the way she twists me around her little finger!”  He looked over at the prisoners and was met with two very hopeful grins.  “I suppose you fellas are hungry?”

  “Christmas dinner?”  asked Heyes.

  “Turkey and potato's,”  asked Curry.

  “Stuffing and gravy?”

  “Yeah, and sweet meat pie for dessert too,”  the sheriff grumbled as he began to unload the large, heavily laden basket.  “The missus insists that if we have fellas locked up over Christmas than the only 'right' thing to do is to bring supper to the jailhouse so that we can share in our abundance with those less fortunate...or something like that.  I swear word has gotten around cause every year we end up with somebody in here—it's becoming a blasted tradition!”  He set out numerous plates that were weighed down with aromatic delights and began to unwrap them in preparation of serving.  He looked up from his endeavours and eyed the two prisoners.  “I suppose you'll be wantin' wine too?”

  The ex-outlaws sent sparkling looks to one another and then grinned back at the sheriff.  Heyes made doubly sure that their wanted posters were neatly stuffed under his mattress.



                              MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!
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InsideOutlaw

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PostSubject: Re: Glad Tidings   Sat Dec 28, 2013 4:03 pm

“Hold on, Heyes, it’s just a few more miles,” said the Kid.  His frozen fingers held the reins to his partner’s sorrel gelding.  Curry could barely see the slumping form next to him.  The heavy snow storm had become a blizzard and the visibility was near zero.  


What had started out as an easy two-day’s ride to Tin Cup had turned into a nightmare.  They’d left Gunnison in clear skies.  Not a cloud on the horizon.  Pitkin had been reached in record time, and they’d hoped to overnight there, but the town was flooded with disgruntled railroad workers laboring on the construction of the new Alpine Tunnel.  Work on the tunnel had begun the previous January and had been scheduled to be completed within six months.  Numerous delays had the workers facing another rough winter and had soured the town’s mood.


A brief stop at the local saloon for a beer had been a mistake.  Four fights had broken out while the boys downed their suds and the sound of gunfire punctuated the brawls.  Before the sheriff had arrived, the Kid and Heyes had ducked out the back of the tattered tent building and retrieved their horses.


The papers they were delivering to the mine at Tin Cup had to arrive by the close of business the next day or they wouldn’t be paid.  It was Christmas Eve and the mine was shutting down until after the New Year.  They couldn’t afford to be stranded in the remote town without money.  The Kid was down to his last dollar and Heyes only had a few cents more rattling about in his pockets.  They needed this paycheck.  So instead of risking trouble in Pitkin, they’d chosen to climb the long, arduous route up Cumberland Pass as the clouds had begun to move in and a strong wind picked up, driving a chill through their heavy winter coats, and roughly swaying the firs and spruces lining the trail.


They’d stopped for the night just short of the summit.  It had been brutally cold and, this morning, they’d awakened to a light snow dusting their bedrolls. 


The trail had become treacherous as the snow had begun to fall in earnest and it became covered by a coating of soft powder.  Hidden beneath the fresh snow, the newly moistened mud had turned slippery.  Heyes’ horse had lost its footing, gone down hard, and had rolled on him.  As the horse madly scrambled to its feet, the Kid had leapt off his own animal and hurried down the trail, half-sliding and falling in his haste to reach his partner.  Heyes had sat up quickly and cussed a blue streak.  He’d been clutching his sides by the time Curry reached him.  


The Kid had argued for stopping right then and there, but Heyes had stubbornly refused to give up on the job.  He had insisted he was fine and had demanded his partner’s help in mounting.  It had been a struggle.  The spooked, mud-caked horse had jumped away nervously several times before Heyes was able to pull himself painfully up and into his saddle.  That had been three hours ago.


Heyes was no longer cussing, and the only sounds he made were a hiss of labored breathing and an occasional groan.   Curry was worried, but they had to go on.  The snow drifting across the trail was several feet deep and the blizzard showed no sign of abating.  If they stopped now, they’d freeze to death in no time.


It’d be just their luck to die on Christmas Eve, thought the Kid.  He couldn’t remember the last time they’d had a normal holiday.  No, that wasn’t true, he could; he just didn’t want to.  When the Preacher had been with the gang, they’d attempted to observe Christmas.  Had even put up a tree a few times and read the scriptures, but outlaws don’t have much self-control and what would start out as a day of feasting and goodwill always devolved into a night of drunkenness, morose regret for the life they had chosen, and a dawn of remorse.  Heyes had given up on it years ago.  Now it was just a reminder of how far they had fallen.


OOOOOOOOOO


The Kid wiped the ice from his caked lashes and blinked several times as he rode into town.  Soft, diffused light from the buildings glowed through the heavy snow as the horses waded through deep powder that tickled their bellies.  Huge snowdrifts half-hid the sturdy log cabins sprinkled among the businesses that lined the street.  Great, thought the Kid, the whole town’s closed up tighter than a lady's corset.  


Heyes moaned softly and the Kid turned to check on him.  He was hunched over his saddle horn clutching it tightly.  His face was covered with frost and his battered, black hat had been dyed white in the storm.  Pulling up, the Kid dismounted.  He had to get Heyes inside even if it meant barging in on some poor family’s celebrations.  He trudged to his partner’s side and reached up to help him down.  As Heyes half fell into his arms, he heard a voice muffled by the blizzard.


“Hello, there, let me help.”  A reddened, chapped face appeared out of the curtain of snow and hands reached out to steady him.  “What the hell are you two doing out in a storm like this?”


Curry turned to thank his helper and stopped short at the sight of the tin star pinned to the lawman’s chest.  He tried to hide his shock, but the man had seen him flinch and the Kid knew it.  “Much obliged, Marshal.  Uh, my partner took a bad spill coming off the summit.  I think he busted a few ribs.  Is there a doctor in town?”


“There is, but he ain’t here.  Doc took off this morning to visit his family in Taylor Park.  Here, let me take him.  Jail’s four doors down on the left; I’ll take him there.  There’s a corral and a lean-to out back; you can put your horses in there for the night.”


There wasn’t anything the Kid could do but nod.  He snatched up the horses’ reins and followed the marshal as he tugged Heyes through the snow.  


OOOOOOOOOO


Each of the two empty jail cells had two cots.  The marshal gently sat Heyes down on a cot in the first cell and propped a pillow behind his back.  “Hold on, son.  I’ll get you settled in a minute.”  He hurried into the next cell, pulling the thin, threadbare mattress off one of the cots, rolling it up, grabbing both pillows, and carrying it all back into Heyes’ cell.  He unrolled the mattress on top of the empty cot’s mattress making it thicker and softer.  


Fluffing up both pillows, he put them on the doubled-up mattresses before turning to help Heyes up.   The Kid plowed through the door, a swirl of snow following him in, as the marshal eased Heyes onto the cushioned bed.  “Easy now,” said the gentle marshal.


The Kid rushed into the cell to help and together they laid Heyes back.  He was barely conscious and shivering as his body began to warm.  Curry pulled the extra blankets from the other cells and piled them upon his partner.  


The marshal walked out of the cell as the Kid waited for the door to clang shut in his face.  Instead, the man went to the woodstove behind his oak desk and poured two cups of hot coffee from the pot resting atop it, and carried them back to the Kid.  “Here, this ought to take the chill off.”  He held out a cup.


“Thanks, Marshal…?” said the Kid, taking the coffee.


“Rivers, Harry Rivers.  You can call me Harry,” said the genial man.  


“I’m Thaddeus Jones.  My partner there is Joshua Smith.”


The lawman surprised the Kid by laughing, “Smith and Jones, huh?”


Trying to stay nonchalant, Curry smiled, “Yep, Smith and Jones.”


“Well, Jones, you and your partner can wait out the storm here.  I reckon it ought to let up in a day or so.”


“I’m grateful, Harry,” said the Kid.  The marshal sat down on the bunk opposite from Heyes as he sank carefully next to Heyes.  


“So what brings you and Mr. Smith to Tin Cup?” 


“We’re delivering some papers to the mine from a lawyer fella down in Gunnison.”


“That so?  What lawyer?”


“A Mr. Winkoop.”


“I know Art Winkoop.  Good man,” said Harry, blowing on his coffee, but watching the Kid over the rim of his mug.


The Kid wondered how long it would take for Harry to check his story.  Not long, he bet.  He stood.  “I reckon I ought to get the job done.  Mine’s closing tonight, right?” he asked.


“Yes, son, it is.  Tell you what.  I was on my way out there myself.  I can drop off those letters for you,” said Harry.  He’d like to take a look at those papers just to make sure that Mr. Jones wasn’t lying to him.


Curry knew he’d look at the papers, but he didn’t hesitate at all. “Sure, Harry, that’d be right nice of you.”  He pulled an envelope from his jacket pocket and held it out.  It would be far worse to leave Heyes here with the marshal while he was half out of his head with the cold.  It was a known fact that his partner was likely to blab in that condition. 


“No trouble, son,” said Harry, tucking the envelope into his own coat and standing up.  “I’ll send someone around with some food for you.  I ought to be back in an hour or so.  Help yourself to the coffee if you’d like.”  He wasn’t worried about leaving these two loose around town.  His gut told him these men weren’t dangerous and he relied heavily on instinct.  Besides, where would they go on a night like this?


“Thank you,” said the Kid.


OOOOOOOOOO


Curry had just fallen asleep in the marshal’s chair with his feet propped up on the desk.  His heavy sheepskin coat was draped over the back of the chair and the odor of wet hide permeated the small jail.  He’d wrestled Heyes out of his gray jacket, wet boots, and pants before retreating exhausted to the warmth of the woodstove.  The wind was still howling through the eaves of the building and he hadn’t envied the marshal his trip to the mining office.


The sound of the door opening aroused him and he dropped his feet from the desk.  A small, gray-haired woman stepped into the office, brushing the snow off her buffalo-hide coat.  A floppy old Stetson drooped on her head failing to conceal the wide grin on her face.


“Hey there, sonny, Harry said you could use some vittles.”  She held up a small Dutch oven, bustled over to the desk, and plunked it down in front of the Kid.  Digging into her pocket, she pulled out a bandana filled with warm biscuits.  “Damn, boy, you look like hell.  Are you daft or something wanderin’ around in a blizzard?”


“No, ma’am…”


“I’m Gladys, who are you?”  She held out a wizened, arthritic claw.  The Kid took it gently and smiled.  She was hard not to smile at.  


“Thaddeus Jones; pleased to meet you, Gladys.”


“So Harry said your partner got hisself busted up; I ain’t no doc, but I’ve bound a few ribs in my time.  Is he awake?”


“No, ma’am…”  A soft moan belied his statement, and the covers over Heyes started to flop about.


“I’m awake,” said a deep, sleepy voice.  Gladys followed the sound to the lumpy form lying in the cell as the Kid got up and trailed after her.


“Well, sit your butt up, boy, and I’ll get you fixed up in no time,” said Gladys, yanking back the covers as Heyes tried desperately to hang onto them.  She smiled into the wide brown eyes staring up at her, outraged.  “Come on now, good-lookin’, don’t be shy.  You ain’t got nothin’ I ain’t seen before; though I’ve seen more.”  


Heyes blushed, beet red, pulled the covers back up over his long johns, and frowned when his partner chuckled.  “Hey, I’m cold!” he growled.


She helped Heyes up gently until he sat on the edge of the cot, his feet dangling above the floor because of the second mattress.  Looking over her shoulder, she snapped at the Kid.  “Don’t hover over me, son, fetch me that coffee pot.”


“Yes, ma’am,” said the Kid.


Turning her attention back to Heyes, she gently unbuttoned his shirt knowing he would be too sore to raise his arms if his ribs were busted.  He sat there passively, too tired and too sore to resist.  She whistled at the heavy purplish bruising that covered his chest.  “Aww, you bunged yourself up right proper now, haven’t you?  But nothin' seems broken.  What’s your name, son?”


“Joshua.”


“Joshua what?”


“Joshua Smith.”


Gladys cackled harshly, “You two don’t have a lick of imagination, do you?!”


The Kid heard her as he walked into the cell and stood over them, holding the hot coffee.


“Thaddeus, put that down and fetch me some towels.  I think Harry has some in the back room,” she ordered.  He put the coffee on the rough table between the two beds and hurried away.  


“You,” she said to Heyes, “stop squirmin’!”


“Yes, ma’am,” said Heyes, passively watching as she pulled out a small jar from her hairy coat.  She unscrewed the lid and laughed again as he wrinkled his nose.  


“It smells bad, but it works real good,” she assured him.  Heyes tried to cringe away, but she liberally slathered him with the unguent.   Finished, she buttoned up his shirt, and left him sitting on the cot unable to avoid the pungent aroma.  His stomach lurched at the smell, but he could already feel a strange, tingling sensation spreading across his chest.


“What is that you smeared on me?” he asked.


“That’s my secret recipe.  Learnt it from an old chinee fellow who passed through these parts a few years back.”


“What’s in it?” asked Heyes.


“If’n I told you what’s in it, it wouldn’t be a secret, now would it?” she snorted.  “Never you mind.”  She pulled out a small bindle from her other pocket and put it on the table.  She could hear Thaddeus banging around in the back room and chuckled at his curses.  Grabbing one of the two tin cups resting on the table, she filled it halfway with coffee.  Her gnarled finger stirred the concoction while she blew on it until satisfied it was cool.  She held it to Heyes’ lips.  


He pulled away from it.  “What’s this?”


“You’re just full of questions, ain’t you?  It’s plain old white willow bark and a little sleepin’ powder.  She pressed it on him again.  “Now, drink it all down fast like.”


Heyes did.  


“Good boy.”  With infinite gentleness, she eased him down and covered him with the blankets, tucking them in carefully.  She brushed his forehead, sweeping back the hair, and smiled.  “You get some sleep now, Joshua.  You’ll feel better in the morning.  Who knows, if’n you been good,” she chuckled, “Santa might just bring you something.”  She sat next to him and held his hand as he drifted off.


He was asleep when the Kid came back.  


“I couldn’t find any towels.  Are you sure they’re there?” said the Kid doubtfully.


Gladys stood up and smiled, “I don’t need any towels, son, I just hated you hoverin' over me while I took care of your friend here.  Now, c’mon, let’s get out of here and let him sleep.”  She shooed the Kid through the cell door.  “You sit down and eat.  There’s enough stew for tomorrow, too.  I reckon you can set it on the stove to stay warm.   I’d best be goin’ now; I’ve got a passel of kids to feed.  Don’t you worry about your partner none; he’ll be right as rain in no time.  Merry Christmas.”  She waved good-bye as she hurried through the door before he could say good-bye. 


The Kid sat down at the desk and lifted the lid on the pot.  The stew tasted as good as it smelled and he ate eagerly.   He’d just put the leftover stew on the stove, leaned back in the chair, and wiped his mouth with one of the unused towels as the marshal came in.


“I see Gladys made it over here,” said Harry, knocking the snow off his hat and putting it back on his head.


“Yes, she did,” grinned the Kid.  


Harry dropped an envelope on the desk.  “Here’s your pay.  There’s a little extra, too.  I made sure the manager knew what it cost you to make the delivery.”


“Thanks, Harry.  Want some stew?” asked the Kid, gesturing to the pot.


“Nope, I ain’t staying.  It’s Christmas Eve and I’m spending it with my missus,” said Harry, his tone less friendly and more businesslike.  “Now, I’ve got a little tradition going here.  I make it a point to have my cells cleared out of prisoners by Christmas.  I don’t hold with locking a man up on the Lord’s birthday and that’s my day to spend with my family.  You’re on your own tomorrow.  I won’t feel the same come the day after.  Understood?”


The Kid gulped and nodded, “Yes sir.  Can you give our thanks to Gladys?”


Harry smiled again, “Will do.  Miz Tydings is a gem, ain’t she?” he said as he opened the door and went out.


“That she is,” said the Kid softly, getting up to join his partner in the cozy jail cell.  

Author’s Note:  In the 1880 census, Tin Cup, a mining town at an elevation of 10,157 feet, had a population of 1,495.  Harry Rivers was the Town Marshal until 1882 when he was killed in a gunfight.  His replacement, Andy Jameson, was shot to death in 1883.

_________________
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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


Last edited by InsideOutlaw on Tue Dec 31, 2013 11:12 am; edited 2 times in total
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Bluebelle

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PostSubject: Re: Glad Tidings   Sun Dec 29, 2013 11:03 am

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas

’Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,

Nothing was stirring not even a mouse.

The bank keys were snug in the drawer with care,

In the hope that when needed they’d still be there.

The manager was sound asleep in his bed,

Visions of the audit alight in his head.

He’d covered the hole in the books with a tale,

Of how Heyes and Curry, tho they should be in jail,

Had stolen the money, and made off with the lot,

And now to the law their names were hot.

From the end of the bed there came such a clatter,

He sat straight up to see what was the matter. 

The moon glinted off of a dazzling smile,

Which made the manager’s heart jump more than a mile.

A deep resonant voice cut through the night,

The tone making stating that there was no point to fight.

“Good evening, I believe your name is Klaus?

You reported a theft and made us the cause.”

“Why are you here and what do you want?”

the banker stammered, suddenly gaunt.

A voice drifted over the click of a gun,

“You blamed us and thought the matter was done?

Ya gotta be kiddin’ if you think we’re chumps.

We just ain’t gonna let ya come up trumps.

The banker’s weak nerves soon wobbled like jelly,

At the sight of a colt pointed straight at his belly.

“We want ya to tell the all the townsfolk the truth,

That why my friend here turned into a sleuth.

He’s determined to solve this and clear our names,

We’re not the type to fall for your games.”

“So you think they’ll believe a pair of known crooks,

Over an honest man who does their books?”

The dimpled one nodded his smile full of guile,

“Maybe they will when we show them your file?”

The banker blanched to a pale snowy white,

His bulging eyeballs became quite a sight.

“What have you done?” the voice quivered with fear,

“I’ve made sure your books show that we’re in the clear.”

The dimples deepened, but the dark eyes were hard.

The mayor’s got your real books and we’re clear by a yard.

“Wha’dya mean there is only one set,”

The banker protested to the eyes black as jet.

Heyes shook his head with a dangerous gleam,

“One set for the audit and one more for your scheme.

All carefully hidden behind lock and key.”

The outlaws chuckled with malevolent glee,

“They’re still in a safe, but not in your house.

The Mayor how has them, you thieving louse.”

“What do you mean?” protested the banker,

“It was locked in the safe,” he barked with rancor.    

“It’s still locked in a safe,” came the chortled reply,

“Just not the same one, we’ve exposed your lie.

“The mayor can open his safe when it’s dawn,

and in it he’ll find us used as a pawn.

The real books show that you stole the cash,

And if you want to escape you’ll have to dash.”

The partners turned to head for the door.

“Wait!” cried the banker, “I need to know more.

The books were locked up and kept out of sight,

How could you find them to use them in spite?”

Hannibal Heyes turned, his eyes lit with flames.

“You gave the descriptions, and gave out our names,

You fool, you named men who’re terribly skilled,

In cracking safes and makin’ sure secrets are spilled.

We’re not your scapegoats and we’re not gonna take it,

You staged a robbery and named us just to fake it.

You’re gonna have a visit tomorrow,

And it’s gonna bring you a world of sorrow,

So it’s goodnight from us and to all a goodnight.

To stay out of jail you can either run or fight.”
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Remuda

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PostSubject: Re: Glad Tidings   Mon Dec 30, 2013 3:47 am

With thanks and apologies to Bret Harte


The Message
"Been a bit o' time since the baby was born, but he's no babe no more, nosiree!  All growed up is he.  That's right, I tell ya, all growed up."

"Baby?"

The grizzled old man looked askance at the younger.  "Yesiree, he ain't no babe no more.  Young man, you ain't gonna tell me no different."

"Old man, we ain't ..."

"That's what I said, you ain't gonna tell me nothin' o' that."

Hannibal Heyes shared a glance with his partner.  Kid Curry's brow furrowed.

"Look, we're only here to deliver a message, not to argue anything with you, Mr. ...?"

The visage below thick eyebrows skeptically eyed the pair.  "Message?  Ya know the name!  Now what have ya to say?  Speak up!"

Blue eyes narrowed.  "Told ya already.  We're here to deliver a message to a Mr. Thorne.  Are you him?"

"That might be me.  Who's askin'?"  

Heyes sidestepped a saliva bomb aimed at his boot -- unsuccessfully.  He looked downward in disgust.  His partner raised a brow, barely stifling a grin.

"Now no need for that, Mr. ... whoever you are.  The name's Smith.  This here's my partner, Jones.  We're here to deliver a message to a Noel O. Thorne.  Are you him?"

"Told ya, young fella, might be, might not be.  How'd ya happen on me?"

"Like we told you, the sender told us where to find you -- well, one of a few places you might be.  The first couple didn't pan out, but here you are."

The old man stood, his stooped shoulders still massive despite his lack of height.  "Who'd've wanted to get in touch with Ol' Oakie here?  No one'd wanna bother with me."

His harsh tone set two pairs of ex-outlaw eyes questioning.

"No one needs to know 'bout me, nosiree!  You two'd best take your business somewheres else."  He turned.

"Wait!  Mr. ... Oakie, is it?  Like we told ya, we're not tryin' to bother ya; just tryin' to deliver a message is all."  Kid's tone was conciliatory.  "You take it and sign for it -- that's all we want.  We'll be glad to leave ya alone."

The old man faced them.  "That's all ya be wantin', just like ya just said?"

"That's right."

"Who'n's the message from?"

Heyes sighed, "Same as before, Thomas Christmas."

"Ol' Tom!?  Now why didn't ya say so?  Now there was a babe if there ever was one ..."

"Um, you told us."  Heyes' tone lacked patience.

"Yeah, he's all grown up, huh?"  Curry chimed in.

Oakie smiled.  "Damned tootin'!  And a wonder babe he was, survivin' in the cold there without his mama.  She delivered him herself.  Miracle he was.  We named him for the day.  She didn't last the night."

"And you ..."

"And we all kinda raised him up, right as rain.  Imagine, a baby and a bunch'a cussin' miners in a camp up the mountains -- Californy, ya know?"

"Well, Mr. Oakie ..."

The old man fixed stern eyes on Curry.  "Boy, didn' yer mama learn ya no manners?  It ain't polite to interrupt!  That's what we learned Ol' Tom.  Right as rain he growed up, too.  Did I tell ya that?"

Two ex-outlaws nodded.  Heyes started, "Now, Oakie, are you ..."

"So I told ya that.  That's good.  Now, ya see, we took turns takin' care o' the babe.  Bein' 'round him kinda cleaned us all up; kinda made us better men, I s'pose.  Cain't have no babe growin' up the likes o' the way we was, nosiree."  

Spittle found Curry's boot this time.  He smirked at Heyes, but stayed silent.

"Nope, we's all become better men 'cause of a babe.  Who'd'a thought?  And we seen him raised up good.  Well, I mean, the men, they came and went, but I stayed 'round 'cause o' him, so I's more a pa to him 'cause we shared a birthday, and my own ma named me for it.  Noel Oakes Thorne -- yep, that's me."  He stood matter-of-factly before them.  "Each Christmas we spent celebratin' three birthdays -- me, the boy, and Jesus.  Well, none o' us was church-goin' men or nothin', but in our own way mebbe we ... well, on one day we put aside our diggin' and did a lil' observin' the right way 'cause o' the boy -- glad tidin's and all that.  Sort of a tradition, ya know?  We tried to do right by him."

Curry nodded.  "Yes, sir."

Heyes pulled a pencil from his pocket.  "Now, Mr. Thorne -- Oakie -- if you'll just ..."

"And he growed up all fine, despite it all.  He had the whole camp to call pa, but nary a ma.  That went lackin'."

"Umm, Oakie?"

"That's what I'm known as, boy.  What can I do fer ya?"

The partners did their best to be patient.  Heyes offered the pencil.  "If you'd just sign here, we'll hand over the message and be on our way."

"Message?  What message?"

Curry's brow furrowed yet again.  "The one we're tryin' to deliver to ya."

The old man's countenance grizzled.  "Now who'd wanna be in touch with the likes o' me after all these years?"

The partners' eyes met.  Heyes spoke, "Ol' Tom's a rich man now in San Francisco.  He knows someone we know and hired us to deliver this message.  We can give it to you once you sign for it.  It's Christmas Day, and from what you said, maybe a happy birthday is in order, for you and him."

Oakie's brows raised.  His countenance lit up.  "Did I hear ya right, young fella?  It's Christmas?  Today?  Time just goes by with nary a sign in this old shack, and town ain't no different."

Heyes nodded.  "That's right."

"Ol' Tom?"

"Uh huh."

"A rich fella?"

Kid chimed in.  "Yep.  Said he would've come himself but for some business and not knowin' just where to find ya."

"What's on the paper?  Never could read real good."

Heyes indicated the message and opened it when met with a nod from the old man.  He read,

"Dear Pa Oakie,

At this time of year, my thoughts turn to you and all the other men from the camp.  I am sorry I have not kept in touch as I should have through the years; however, I have made discreet inquiry through mutual acquaintances and have heard you are well and living in one of several places (said acquaintances could not be sure who was whom of the many men who raised me).  

I hope you do not think it forward of me to contact you after so much time.  It has been too long but you in particular are never far from my thoughts.  When the bearers of this message find you, I should like to visit, if you will allow it, and hope you will return with me to San Francisco to live with me here.  Please give it some thought.  I shall contact you forthwith, hopefully in time to celebrate our mutual birthday together.

Fondly and with much affection,

Your son,

Thomas Christmas"

Heyes' voice trailed off.  He regarded the old man.  Oakie stood mesmerized, a tear trailing down his cheek.  His voice broke a little as he spoke, "The boy wants to return for me?  He's made a good life for hisself.  There's no place for me in it."

Kid smiled.  "Oakie, sounds like he wants to take care of you like you did for him."

Heyes handed him the pencil.  "Yep, a gift, just in time for Christmas.  Now, Oakie, if you'll just sign right here, we'll wire him that we found you and he can get started on his trip here."

The old man looked at them.  Pencil in hand, he made his mark where Heyes indicated.  "Now, did I tell you two'n 'bout that babe we found on Christmas Day so many year'n ago ..."

_________________
Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything. ~ Wyatt Earp
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RosieAnnieUSA

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PostSubject: Re: Glad Tidings   Mon Dec 30, 2013 4:29 pm

I'm very grateful for this month's prompt, because it sure prompted me to type madly. About 3,000 words got written to lead up to this one scene, which is the latest chapter of a story I've got going on the fanfiction website. If you'd like to catch up, here's the link to the rest of the story.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/9732168/1/In-Winter


===
It felt good to work up a sweat in the cool of the stable. Christine’s arm went back and forth, moving the stiff brush over Molly’s body. The horse’s winter coat had come in, thick and full. Molly stood patiently while Christine’s brush pulled out loose hair and dirt. In the next stall, the gelding, Ned, looked on while he waited his turn to be groomed.


“You love this, don’t you, girl?” Molly dipped her head. Christine was used to reading horses’ subtle expressions and body language. She knew Molly enjoyed this time together almost as much as she did.


“I know, I know. You need some exercise. So do I. We’ll go for a good, long ride pretty soon, I promise. Between you and me, I’d rather do that than play perfect hostess for the O’Connors and their horde of friends.”


She wrapped her arms around Molly’s neck. Molly knickered softly.


“Give me strength, sweetie. I’m going to need it this week.”


“Why do you need strength this week?” a familiar male voice asked. Christine released Molly and turned around. A broad smile lit her face.


“Well, look what the cat dragged in!”


“Now is that any way to greet your loving husband?”


“No, it isn’t, loving husband. Come here and let me greet you properly.” They embraced and joined together for a long, deep kiss, long enough that Molly became jealous and nudged the couple with her nose. They broke apart, laughing.


“Molly’s still a princess, I see,” Patrick said. “She demands everyone’s attention.”


“True. We exist merely to serve her needs.”


“Sounds like some of my society patients. Each one of them seems to think I exist only to serve her.”


“Since when has your mother been one of your patients?” 


Patrick stepped back. “I just got here, Chris. Please don’t start with me already.”


Christine looked away, embarrassed. “I’m sorry, Pat. I shouldn’t have said that.”


“No, you shouldn’t. She hardly ever comes to visit, Chris, and she wants to see the girls and us, too. It’s Christmas. Can’t you make an effort to get along with her?”


Christine picked up the brush again and started to work Molly’s mane.


“She’s so critical, Pat. You know I try. I do. It’s just . . . nothing I do is ever right. I don’t think she believes I’m good enough for you.”


“Oh well,” he said, moving forward to stroke Molly’s neck. “If that’s all, I can reassure you. She never thought any girlfriend I’ve had was good enough for me. So don’t think you’re different or special that way.” They looked at each other and laughed.


“Speaking of Christmas,” he said, “I bring glad tidings of great joy for you.”


“Oh yeah? What?”


“Mother and Dad are delayed. They’ll be here tomorrow instead of today.”


Christine tried not to look happy or relieved. She failed.


“Oh? What happened?”


“Some items she ordered from Marshall Field’s won’t be ready till tomorrow. Field’s offered to ship everything, but she wants to make sure she’s got it all, and on time for Christmas, so she’s waiting. You get one more day of quiet before the O’Connor horde arrives.”


She had the good grace to look embarrassed. “You heard that, too, huh?”


“Sure did. Can’t say I totally disagree, though. It gives you and me some private time to work on baby-making. Unless the girls decide to interrupt us to talk about a dream they had, or a noise they heard, or how they’re thirsty or hungry or the cat had kittens or some other crisis.”


Christine was putting away the grooming tools and settling Molly back in her stall.


“I have some glad tidings for you, too. Lately they let me sleep and take all their little nighttime problems to Daddy.”

“Really?” Patrick could hardly believe it. “And he lets them? I remember waking him up once from a nap back in Montana. I thought he was going to shoot me.”


“Would never happen, Pat,” she said, locking Molly into her stable. “For a lot of other reasons, like knocking up his only daughter, sure, but not for waking him up. He can fall asleep anywhere, anytime.”


“That’s reassuring. Now that he’s living with us, you’ll have to let me know what other reasons he might find for shooting me.” He pulled her next to him, with his arm around her shoulders. She wrapped her arm around his waist, and, close together, they walked slowly back to the big house.


“Is he really okay with the girls’ nocturnal visits?” Patrick asked.


“More than okay,” she assured him. “In fact, I think he loves it. He spends a lot of time with the girls, especially Annie. They’ve become very close.”


“Wow,” Patrick said. “That’s good. I know you were hoping that would happen.”


“I don’t know why you sound surprised,” she said. “He’s a wonderful father. Why wouldn’t he be a wonderful grandfather?”


“Because sometimes he still scares the bejeezus out of me, that’s why. As nice as he is, he’s one tough son of a bitch. Truthfully, Chris, I wouldn’t want to get on his bad side. I do believe that he’s capable of violence, or at least, he was when he was young.”


“He had to be tough to survive, Pat. You know his entire family was killed in the border wars when he was a child. He ended up in an orphanage, and it wasn’t a good one. He drifted for years until he finally settled down with Mom. I think that’s why he became such a strong family man. He really appreciated us, and he still does.” She poked him playfully. “He even likes you, for some reason.”


“Lucky for me, there’s no accounting for taste,” he said.


“I do need you to take a look at his ankle, though,” Christine said, turning serious.


“Why?” Pat asked. “Did something happen?”


“Yes. He fell and twisted it this morning when he and Annie went out. I think it’s a sprain, but I’d feel better if you looked at it.”


“Will do. Though if you think it’s only sprained, I’m sure it is.”


“Thanks for the vote of confidence. I just hope you can convince him to stay put while it heals.”


“He’ll have plenty of people around to distract him. I did bring two students along, like I told you I might. They can’t afford to go home to their own families for Christmas. I’m glad you don’t mind letting them join us.”


“Not at all,” Christine said. “Besides, I have an ulterior motive.” Pat looked at her sideways.


“Everyone’s polite for strangers. I figured we’d all get along better if we’re performing.”


“You’re a devious woman, my love. Well, maybe they’ll amuse Thaddeus, too. At least one of them’s interested in the Old West. They’ll probably be asking him to tell stories.”


Christine came to a halt. “Oh no. You mean, like, ‘talk about the olden days when you were young, Grandad? How many gunfights were you in? Did you know Doc Holliday and Kid Curry and Bill Hickok?’ That sort of thing? He hates that. He doesn’t even tell me stories about when he was young.”


“Well, with any luck, he’ll be polite to strangers, too, and he won’t shoot them. With his sprained ankle, they’ll have plenty of time to run away before he gets his Colt loaded.
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