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 Ashes to Ashes Chapter nine

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Keays

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

PostSubject: Ashes to Ashes Chapter nine   Sat Dec 21, 2013 3:06 am

ASHES TO ASHES



Heyes pushed his jacket back to get easy access to his gun. Joplin’s railway station was far too near the whooping and the jangly music coming from the various saloons for his liking – well, his taste was not so much of the issue, in different circumstances he’d have been very pleased to step off the train and be right in the centre of the shenanigans; but accompanying a woman and carrying baggage marked him out as a fairly easy target for the shady figures he saw dawdling in the shadows and gloom.

Harry walked ahead of them, maintaining the fiction of being on his own. Heyes watched him clatter around the corner, sporting the new fedora he had purchased to replace the one damaged by Julia Stanton’s bullet, but subsequently thoroughly destroyed by her mop.

“Will you please relax,” Abigail urged, picking up on his tension. “We’re fine - the porter told us that the hotel is in the next street, so we’re nearly there.”

“Yeah,” murmured Heyes, scanning the streets with sharp eyes. Two men had emerged from a doorway and fallen in behind Harry. Heyes groaned inwardly. Harry looked too much like a pie-eating sap straight from the city in that hat- he hadn’t even taken the time to curl the brim. Shop-bought style didn’t help in a town like this; it simply marked you out as a dude.

They turned the corner, and Heyes stopped dead. The hotel was about fifty yards away, but Harry had only been a few feet in front of them, and he had disappeared.

“Mr. Heyes...” Abigail dropped his arm and was sidling towards the nearby alley. “Harry didn’t have time to make it to the hotel,” she hissed.

“Get to the hotel!” Heyes whispered.

Abigail’s chin set defiantly. “Not on your life, you go – you’re the one on parole.”

“Get help then,” Heyes pushed her over to the next boardwalk where a restaurant provided reassuring lights. He tossed the bags towards her. “Go!” Without another word he disappeared into the shadows of the alley.

It didn’t take long before he heard the scuffling along with the sickening thud of a hard fist on soft flesh. Painful grunts cut through the night and Heyes’ worst fears were confirmed. He quietly slid his gun out of his holster and slunk forward, allowing his eyes to adjust to the light.

There were two of them, and they were now crouched over the prostrate figure on the ground, snickering drunkenly. Heyes smiled in satisfaction; they were in a bad position, with their hands full of victim and their guts full of whiskey. This should be easy enough.

“Get your hands up where I can see them,” barked Heyes, stepping forward. The pair shuffled back, stumbling and floundering away from their mark. “And drop your weapons. Harry, are you alright?”

Heyes blood ran cold at the sound of a metallic click beside his head. “No, you drop it. Ya don’t think I’d let my brothers work without back up do ya?”

Heyes stomach turned over at hearing another gun cock, followed by a familiar female voice. “Right back at ya! You don’t think he’d come down here without backup either, do you?”

The man’s voice rang with surprise. “A woman! With a gun?”

“Well... yes. A woman can accomplish much more with soft words and a gun than she can with soft words alone; but let’s face it – we both know a woman’s hand on a trigger makes you a whole lot more nervous than a man’s. I like that.”

Heyes’ hackles rose in anger as he could almost feel Abigail smiling benignly through the darkness. Why wouldn’t she ever do what she was told?

“Want to take a chance?” Abigail murmured.

The stranger pulled himself up to his full height. “I otta...”

“Oh, please! Don’t start me on what you ought to do. I’d start on your bathing regime – a skunk with a cold could find you in the dark.” Abigail’s voice hardened. “Up against the wall, hands where I can see them, or I shoot. I’m not a patient woman.” They both heard the clunk of the man’s gun drop in the dirt. “Mr. Heyes, can you get that and keep them all covered while I put handcuffs on this one?”

“Handcuffs? Where did you get handcuffs?” snapped Heyes, retrieving the weapon.

“The Pinkerton Agency, where do you think?”

“Pinkertons?” gasped one of the men close to Heyes.

“You made such a mistake with this one; robbing detectives? Just plain stupid,” Abigail pushed the man’s jaw into the wooden cladding, dragging one hand behind his back and clicking a manacle around his wrist. “Other arm...” She clicked the handcuffs into place. “You two, pick Harry up. It’s only right you should carry the man you hurt. Where’s the sheriff’s office?”

“You’re takin’ us to the law?” whined one of Harry’s assailants.

“You’d better believe it,” growled Heyes, “make one false move and I’ll shoot you in the knee.”

Abigail pulled her prisoner out into the street, grasping him by the collar and holding a gun to his head. Heyes frowned. “A colt? Don’t you even use a Derringer anymore.”

The man in Abigail’s custody glanced around nervously. “When the situation calls for it, but – these bottom-feeders,” Abigail shook the man’s head back to the front, “need a repeating weapon.”

“What’d she just call us?” grumbled the smallest robber.

“Right you three - walk,” Heyes barked. His gaze slid over to Abigail, “and once we’ve handed these over to the law, I’m gonna strangle you. I sent you to get help, not to turn into Buffalo Bill. You can’t do this stuff anymore. You’re a mother.”



Daniel Sheehan stood as the little group shuffled through the door of his office, his bright-blue eyes narrowing at the sight of the woman holding a gun to a man’s head. “Clay Short? What’ve you been up to now?” He watched the others prop up a battered and bleeding man and shook his head. “You can lower your weapons, folks. The Short brothers ain’t gonna fight me, or my deputy. They know better.”

A battered and bruised Harry was lowered into a chair and offered a restorative cup of coffee before Sheehan flicked a look at the young blond deputy. “Luke, lock them up then go and fetch the doc for this fella, will ya?”

“May I have my handcuffs back?” asked Abigail.

“Your handcuffs?” Sheehan’s dark eyebrows gathered in a knot of curiosity, pinning the young woman with intense scrutiny. “Now, where would a little lady like you get a pair of handcuffs?”

“From Robert Pinkerton,” Abigail replied, sweetly. “He also gave me this gun.” She tucked her Colt into a large pocket inside her coat.

Sheehan perched on the edge of his desk, drinking in the trio. “What exactly has gone on here?”

Heyes hesitated, unwilling to give his name to the law, but Harry shook himself back to reality and cut in. “My name’s Harry Briscoe, I’m a Bannerman detective. These fellas dragged me into an alley and kicked the...” He paused and glanced at Abigail before choosing a more delicate turn of phrase. “they assaulted me, they were robbing me when these folks helped.”

Sheehan gave a snort. “And these folks, who just happened to be behind you, are equipped by Robert Pinkerton? Do I look like I’ve just wandered in here on my way to Sunday school?”

“We have no intention of misleading you, Mr Sheehan. My name is Abigail Stewart, and I worked as a Pinkerton agent for many years. I am assisting this gentlemen with the blessing of the Agency as they need a woman’s assistance, but they no longer formally employ female agents,” she indicated over to Heyes. “Another Pinkerton Agent, Micajah Attwater will be arriving soon. Both the Bannerman Agency and the Pinkerton Agency have been separately commissioned to find a corrupt official who has now gone on the run. He is implicated in murder, attempted murder, and for complicity in an escape from the Wyoming territorial Prison. We have reason to believe he has come to Joplin. We just arrived in town when we saw Mr. Briscoe being dragged into the alley. We would have informed you we were in town, but events overtook us. We weren’t going to stand back and allow him to be robbed and assaulted. We know him; our paths have crossed many times in this investigation.”

Sheehan’s brow creased as he considered this information before his face split into a grin. “Do you have identification?”

“Of course we do,” Abigail bluffed, bustling over to Harry and crouching down to attend to his cut. “Do you have some water and I’ll get Harry cleaned up a bit?”

“Sure,” Sheehan nodded, strolling over to the pot bellied stove and putting on a pan of water to boil.

“Here’s my identification,” Harry dropped his wallet on the desk. “Ow! Will you stop poking at it, Abi?”

“I’m only trying to help,” Abigail protested.

“I told her to get help from the restaurant, sheriff,” Heyes scowled at Abigail. “She’s a liability. She followed me down the alley! What can you do with a woman like that?”

“Yeah?” Sheehan’s grin widened, sensing a simmering dispute with the glee of someone able to remain as a casual bystander.

“What she hasn’t told you is that we’re married,” Heyes glowered at Abigail. “You are a mother! You can’t do risky things like that anymore.”

“Oh? So it’s alright for her father?” Abigail retorted.

Heyes put his hands on his hips. “You are here to mix with the women and pick up titbits and confidences, not as a hired gun.”

“Don’t you tell me what I’m here for, Toll-tòine!”

Heyes simmered with irritation. “Stop that! You always do that. At least argue in English. What the hell does that mean anyway?”

“Guess – and you’d be spot on – or in, depending on where I shove your head!”

“Enough!” chortled Sheehan. “So you’re married, I definitely got that.” He dropped a hand on Heyes shoulder. “You ain’t gonna win this, give it up, son. I’ve got one like that at home. It’s like tryin’ to tie a knot in the wind – but I’ve gotta say I’ve had years of fun givin’ it a go. One thing you’re not going to be is bored.” He smiled around the group. “Coffee? Then you can tell me all about this character you’re after. Ah, the water’s warm too.”

“My hat?” Harry looked around anxiously. “Has anybody seen my new hat?”

Heyes was suddenly hit with the realisation that Harry’s fine new hat was not all that was missing. “And our bags? Where are they, Abi?”

“I hid them in the alley. I’m sure they’ll be fine.”

Heyes gave a huff of exasperation. “Mr. Sheehan, do you mind if I retrieve our baggage before we end up reporting a theft too.” He glowered at Abigail. “I’ll leave her here as a hostage, but if you can get anything for her, you’re welcome to take it. Jerky would be a fair exchange, it’s about as easy to swallow.”



Daniel Sheehan looked down at the telegram and gave a wry smile. “You check out, ma’am. Don’t think it escaped my notice that you prevaricated when I asked for identification. I got my deputy to send a telegram to the Pinkerton agency.”

Abigail sat back on the chair her eyes twinkling with mischief. “Very astute, Mr. Sheehan, but we are telling you the truth. I worked for Alan Pinkerton for eight years, of course I had to leave when I had a family, and that was before his son Robert got rid of all the women; but I really was an agent, and at least one more will be arriving soon.”
Sheehan nodded. “Mr. Attwater, he’s on his way apparently.”

“Good. I think Robert Pinkerton lost a lot of skills when he got rid of the women,” Abigail shrugged, “but his wife had a real thing about him working with women.”

“She probably felt that way because of his father’s relationship with one particular agent. Wasn’t one even buried next to his family plot?” Sheehan sat back and propped his feet on the desk. “We do hear all kinds of things, even all the way out in Joplin.”

Abigail arched her eyebrows. “We didn’t all live that way, Mr. Sheehan. Please don’t make the mistake of putting me in that box because of rumours you may have heard.”

“I wouldn’t dare, Mrs. Stewart. I think that husband of yours would shoot me.”

“I think I’m in his sights right now. I don’t think he’s too happy with me.”

Sheehan swung back on his chair. “He was upset, is all. He probably thought you were well out of this life. Why did he allow you to do this?”

Abigail gave an indignant snort. “Allow? I take it your wife’s not really Irish?”

Sheehan grinned. “Yup, a Cork woman, so I take your point.” He paused. “Why hasn’t anyone told me that this man may be in the area? Surely there’s a U.S. Marshal on his trail.”

Abigail shrugged. “Probably, but we haven’t been privy to that information. The Pinkertons are involved because of an attempt to murder a mother and child in Topeka, and the Bannermans because of a young woman who was shot in the throat in Colorado.”

Sheehan’s brow wrinkled before he swore in Irish. He darted sheepish eyes up to Abigail, aware that she probably understood him. “Sorry... a woman shot in the throat? A child? Why?”

“The woman in Colorado gave evidence against him at a hearing, and the mother and child were related to another witness at the same hearing, but we don’t know the motive for sure. Revenge seems to be the most obvious motive, but he may be acting along with others as part of a larger conspiracy. I would contact the U.S. Marshal’s service to ask them for information, sheriff. One of the victims was an agent’s family, Mr. Sheehan, and we need to look after our own. We don’t care who brings him in, but he must be caught.”

Sheehan nodded knowingly. “I take it you’re supposed to mix with women who may know what he’s really up to?”

“That’s the general idea. I could have done without this introduction to the town, but we couldn’t stand by and let Harry be beaten up and robbed.” She sat forward and fixed him with a determined look. “I want you to know, we have no interest in spiriting this man out of your jurisdiction, Mr. Sheehan; we want him in the nearest possible jail and facing a court. We really would appreciate any help you can give us.”

“Just one question,” Sheehan steepled his fingers thoughtfully in front of him. “If you know Harry so well, why wasn’t he with you? Why was he on his own?”

Abigail grinned. She was warming to this intelligent man and was happy to answer his thoughtful questions. “Spend some time with him, sheriff, and you’ll soon understand. Harry can be a bit... annoying, and competitive. We sat with him on the train and had enough, so we hung back. That said; we’re not going to let him be attacked.”

They both turned to sound of the door opening. Abigail gave Heyes a sheepish smile. “Have you forgiven me yet?”

He frowned. “Let’s just say I’ve calmed down, you’ve gotta stop going into dangerous situations, Abi, my heart won’t take it.”

“Did you find the bags?”

Heyes nodded. “And Harry’s hat’s broken in – well, mostly just broken, but we found it. He’s back at the hotel, sleeping off whatever the doc gave him for the pain. Let’s go, I booked us a room.”

Abigail stood. “We’ll probably be in touch tomorrow sheriff, once we find out about our colleague. I think he’d like to meet you.”

“And I look forward to meeting him, Mrs. Stewart,” he nodded towards Heyes, “Mr. Stewart... or whatever your names really are.”

Abigail and Heyes exchanged a look. “What do you mean by that?”

“Somethin’ and nothin’, just instinct,” the lawman twinkled perceptive blue eyes at them. “You haven’t told me everything. I’m only letting you know I’m aware of that. I like to be straight with folks wherever I can.”

Heyes gave a dimpled smile. “So do I, sheriff -wherever I can.”

 
The Kid stepped down from the train, beaming widely at the small welcoming party.  He shook Harry’s hand, frowning at the cut above his eye, and bruises and grazes on his face and knuckles.  “You been courtin’ women with good vision, Harry?”

“This town’s as rough as a porcupine’s backside, Kid.”  Harry smiled ruefully.  “I got turned over on the way to the hotel last night.”

Heyes and the kid fell into a back-slapping man-hug.  “Where were you?”

“Behind him.  Abi and I were trying to pretend were didn’t know him.  That didn’t last long.”  Heyes gave Abigail a hard glare, “and she got right in the middle of it.”

 “Yeah?  You didn’t get hurt again, did you, Abi?”

She shook her head.  “No, of course not.  He just doesn’t seem to get the fact that he’s on parole.  You can’t go running off and indulging in gun-play, Mr. Heyes.  You could end up back inside, and in any case, it’s a good job I did.  They had back up.”

The Kid’s blue eyes widened in query.  “Yeah?”  

“Yes,” Abigail confirmed, “and he got the drop on Mr. Heyes for a few seconds.  We had to take the lot of them over to the jail.”  She shrugged.  “So much for keeping a low profile.”

“Well Beth and Belle send their love,” the Kid embraced Abigail, dropping a kiss on her cheek.  “And that’s from Anya.”

“Nothing for me?”  Heyes looked slightly crestfallen.

“Heyes, I ain't kissin’ you - not for a pension, besides, she doesn’t know her ma’s with Uncle Han.”

“I guess,” Heyes mumbled.

“I’ll bet you’re hungry after that long journey,” Abigail slipped a hand through the Kid’s arm.  “We found a good restaurant.  We’ll drop your bags off and get some lunch.  Then I want to hear everything that went on back at Mayzee’s.”

Visions of Beth in his arms, discussing birth control flashed through his mind.  “Everything?  Well, let me see...”

 
 The Kid pushed away his plate and settled back in his chair, casually watching the toings and froings of the respectable folks of Joplin.  “So, what’s the plan?”

Abigail shared a secretive glance with Heyes.  “I have to get the banks checked, to see if he’s deposited his savings for safekeeping.”

“So you’ll want me to get that officially?” Harry asked.

“Not yet, let me narrow down the field so we can get you to ask for very specific information,” Abigail toyed with her glass of water and smiled at Harry.

Harry’s brows gathered.  “How are you gonna do that, Abi?”

“Just some old fashioned detective work, Harry,” the Kid shared a look with Heyes, not buying the ‘old fashioned detective work’ claim for a second.  “We can’t leave you to do all the work, when I’m also a trained detective, can we?” Abigail asked, casually.  She patted Harry’s hand.  “Besides, you’re recuperating.”

“What am I supposed to do?”   

Abigail shrugged.  “How about you three frequenting  a few of the local establishments to see what you can discreetly find out about Charles Anderson.  The brothel maybe?”
   
The Kid sat bolt upright.  “Abi!  You’re not seriously thinking of sending your man off to a brothel?  What kind of woman are you?”

“A detective, that’s what,” she pursed her lips indignantly.  “He doesn’t have to do anything.”

“Abi, you know nothing about places like that.  You can’t go in and not...” Harry groped around for the right expression, “sample their wares.”

Abigail’s lips firmed into a line.  “You seem to be able to manage it, as I remember.  When we were trailing Carson all you got was a face full of snow.”

“You put me off,” Harry blustered.  “A respectable woman doesn’t go into places like that.”

“A good detective has no business acting like a parson,” Abigail frowned.  “No, bad example, I’ve seen plenty of them in places like that.  Like a matron teaching Sunday School.  There’s hope for you yet, Harry.  Purity doesn’t exactly ooze from your pores.” 

“Very funny, but the Kid has a point.  You’ll let Heyes go to a brothel with your blessing?”  Harry’s brow crinkled.  “Are you mad?”

“Probably, but I’m sending him for information, not pleasures of the flesh.  Your flesh is yours to do with as you will, Harry.”

“Mores the pity,” Harry muttered.

The Kid shuffled uncomfortably in his seat, wondering how to broach this subject.  “I ain’t happy goin’ to a brothel, Abi.  I promised Beth.” 

“You did?” exclaimed Abigail.

The Kid stared into Abigail’s impressed eyes before scowling at Harry’s grin.  “Yeah, I did.”  He folded his arms and pointed pugnacious elbows at Harry.  “And I ain’t gonna let her down.”

“Well, you can go to the saloon, can’t you?  You can cover the male areas; I can speak to Sheriff Sheehan and then try places like the general store.”

The Kid turned contrite blue eyes on Abigail.  “Yeah, I’m sorry, Abi, but I like to keep my word.”

“Don’t be, Jed, you have my respect.  I have limits too,” she smiled warmly.  “I won’t just do anything for information, you know.”

“I never thought I’d see the day Kid Curry was scared to walk into a brothel,” chuckled Harry.

Deep-blue eyes glowered at the detective.  “I ain’t scared, I just gave my word.  If you can ever get a woman, and keep her without using handcuffs, you might understand what that means.”

Abigail leaped to her feet, her eyes fixed on a woman across the street.  “Julia Stanton!”

“Huh?  Where?”

All eyes peered through the window of the restaurant at the dowdy woman wearing a veiled hat on the opposite boardwalk.  “How can you tell?” Heyes screwed up his face, trying to focus as closely as possible on the face beneath the veil.

“That umbrella, the handle is carved and painted like a duck’s head.  Her husband did it when they were engaged, she told me.”

The Kid shook his head reluctantly.  “I dunno, Abi, a duck’s head is a common enough handle, and you can’t see her face or even her hair colour.”

“It’s her.  I recognise the purse too.  Those brown fringes are very distinctive.”  Abigail grabbed her coat.  “It’s a basic mistake, forgetting to change distinctive details like that, but covering your face.  I’m going to follow her.  Pay the bill and get after me.”

Heyes grabbed his hat.  “Right behind you, Abi.”

The Kid stood gesturing to the waitress for the bill.  She bustled over and laid it on the table.  “Sorry, ma’am, we’re in a hurry.  The Kid tossed it towards Harry.  “And don’t forget to leave a tip.”



 Julia Stanton clattered down the sidewalk, her head a maelstrom of anguish and business.  All those people had disappeared on the night of the explosions, leaving nothing behind other than some odd-looking fish bobbing around in a bathtub, and a group of disappointed gamblers rumbling and grumbling in the hotel lobby.  That detective with the twitchy moustache had vanished at the same time, so they had to be connected somehow – she just couldn’t work out how.  There had been the woman, and everyone knew there were no law women.  That left one option – a personal vendetta.  Somebody hated Uncle George and he had to be warned.

She stopped at the crossroads, her frown imperceptible beneath the veil as she turned and glanced around.  Her hazel eyes scanned the streets.  Nothing.  Satisfied, she took a deep breath and turned right.  Not too far now, Uncle George had taken refuge at a rundown, little building on the edge of town owned by a cousin.  It was reputed to be in a state as it had been let out to vagrant zinc miners since he’d inherited it five years ago.  Julia shuddered - Uncle George had been a hard-working and respectable man, living in a lovely home with a housekeeper, a piano and gas lights.  What was the world coming to when a pillar of society was reduced to living like some kind of hobbledehoy?

Her eyes darted nervously from side to side.  This was a terrible neighbourhood, with all kinds of vagabonds and ne’er-do-wells in ragged clothes leaning on street corners.  Her breath started to come more rapidly, no longer as worried about being followed as she was about being accosted, until the building came into view.  It was shabby and rundown, its appearance far less comforting than its proximity, but it sat across the dirt road beside the familiar ramshackle outhouses.  She had arrived at last.

Her knock was answered by the scowling face of Uncle George.  She chortled with relief, suddenly realising that he would not recognize her, shrouded by the veil.  She tugged it aside.  “It’s me, Uncle George – Julia.”

The man’s lips curled into a snarl.  “Julia!?  What’re you doing here?”  He grasped her wrist and dragged her into the building.  “You damned fool!  What’re you thinking coming here, they’ll have followed you.”

She shook her head.  “No, Uncle George.  I was really careful, nobody followed me.”  She dropped her hat on the table, glancing around the hovel with distaste.  “Oh, my, we really must find you somewhere better than this.”

“Why the hell are you here?”  Mitchell strode over to the window, flattening himself against the wall and looking out at the road.  “We agreed on a method of contact.”

“I had to see you.”  Julia plunked herself on a chair and leaned on the table.  “A detective was in town looking for you, and he said the most dreadful things.  He said you were stealing money from the prison.  You’d never do anything like that, would you?” 

Mitchell gave an impatient snort and returned to the window.

“I mean,” Julia continued, “I did ask you by telegram, but you didn’t respond.”  She tapped her fingers impatiently on the table, waiting for her Uncle’s attention.  “You wouldn’t do that, would you?”

Mitchell frowned.  “Of course I wouldn’t.  They’re lies, put about by my enemies to get the law to find me for them.  While they’re investigating these stupid claims, I’ll be a sitting duck.”

“But surely the books would easily show...”

“Julia!”  She jumped at the unexpected yell which cut through her psyche.  “Will you shut up?  You know nothing about this, or the kind of people I dealt with for half of my life.”

Julia turned injured eyes on her uncle.  “I’m trying to help you.  Ed and I found you this place.”

“This bu**hole?  Prisoners live better than this.”  He stared out of the window and sucked in a breath.  He turned a pale, angry face on his niece.  “Kid Curry!  You led them right here, you stupid bitch.”

“That’s enough!  I’ve been more than patient about your profanities,” Julia leaped to her feet.  “Don’t speak to me like that!”

She walked over to the window, only to be dragged roughly away by Mitchell.  “Do you want that foolish head blown off?  Get down.”

She peered cautiously out of the corner, biting her lip at the sight of the man taking up position behind a horse trough outside.  “It’s him.  He’s behind all of this?”  She slid down the wall landing on the floor with stinging tears streaming down her face.  “Why won’t that man leave me alone?  Kid Curry’s haunted me all my life, and now he’s here for you.”

“Because you brought him here, you dumb fool.  Why couldn’t you do what you were told?”  He advanced on her, fear spiralling in her heart at the hand raised like a club and the spittle of hatred hitting her cheek.  “You never could mind your own business, could you?”

She scuttled backwards, out of range, her heart thumping in alarm.  “He didn’t follow me, it’s just a coincidence!”

“Coincidence?  You pitch up here and you expect me to believe it’s just a coincidence?”

“I’d have seen him, if he was following me, Uncle George.  Truly I would!” 
  
Mitchell turned away with a growl, and rooted around in a cupboard.  He placed boxes of ammunition on the table and flicked open his gun.  “Lock the back door.”

Julia nodded, shocked by this sudden change in her Uncle George.  He had always been so charming and sweet.  “Sure.”

“And get back over here.  I need you to take this other gun.”

“A gun!?  I can’t fire a gun!  What are you thinking?”  The back door on this property consisted of no more than a wooden bar placed into brackets, and Julia quickly slotted it in place.

“You can hold them off while I try to get out of here.”  Mitchell strode over to the back window.  “Damn!  So help me, Julia, when I get outta this I’m going to make you pay.  This is all your fault.”

“Hold them off?  I’m not firing a gun at Kid Curry.  I’m a mother!”

“You should’ve thought about that when you came to me and asked me to punish Heyes.”

Julia’s eyes widened.  “I wanted to hurt Kid Curry, not Hannibal Heyes.  I don’t care a jot about him.  We both know you did that because you were being paid – and paid well!  That was nothing to do with me.”

Mitchell laughed derisively, peeking out of the window, carefully noting Heyes’ hiding place behind the well.  “Don’t act the innocent with me.  You were positively joyful every time I told you just how near death Heyes was, and how much that was hurting Curry.”

“It was the only way I could get to Curry at all!  How can a housewife take on a gunman? He’s evil!”

“Yeah?”  Mitchell stomped back to the front window, “he went for the person responsible for killing his folks.  You went for his fiancé, I’d say evil is as evil does.”

Julia pursed her lips angrily.  “What do you mean by that?”

“I mean, you’d be dead a long time if he was as bad as you are, so don’t pull all that ‘I’m an innocent mother’ cr*p with me.  You’re a killer; mean, selfish and burning with revenge – just like your pa.  Grab a gun, you’re in this up to your neck.”

“My father was NOT a killer – he was a soldier!”

“Grow up, Julia.  Your pa and his brothers didn’t go after the Currys and the Heyes because of any war.  They were part of the underground railroad and they helped slaves we owned to escape.  It was revenge, pure and simple – and a warning to any other fools in the neighbourhood not to come between the Mitchell's and their property!” 
 
Julia blanched.  “That’s not what he told me.”

Mitchell shook his head dismissively.  “Take a gun, but be careful not to shoot Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.  After all, we know that daddy never told you anything but the truth, huh?”  Mitchell’s eyes narrowed.  “The Curry's and Heyes' were always a sanctimonious bunch of trouble makers.  Losing those slaves was the beginning of the end for our family.  We were staring to get some real wealth behind us and then those damn bleeding hearts started meddling in our affairs.  We owned half the county between us.”  He cast out an arm to the broken-down cabin.  “And now look at what we’ve got!  My pa took me to hear Heyes’ pa speak at a meeting – what a pecksniffian, holier-than-thou, bastard he was.  We couldn’t work the land without slaves, so we had to sell it after the war for a fraction of the value.  I looked Heyes in the eye in that prison and saw the exact same arrogance as his pa.  I was happy to break him, even without the money.”

“I can’t get involved in a shootout!” cried Julia.  “I can’t go to prison.  What about little Edward?”

“You’re useless, you bring this on my head, and then wilt?” roared Mitchell.  His eyes darted around the cabin.  “I need a plan.  I’m not going to hang.”

“Nobody died yet,” Julia whined, “it’s not a capital offence to plot and fail.”

“There’s a bigger backer – and you know it!  My head’s in the noose from that, and you come here wittering about the prison books, bringing Kid Curry with you on your skirts-tails!?  I knew you were naive, but I didn’t take you for a complete f*ckwit!  It suited you to get drawn into this group for revenge: I did it for money and pleasure.”  Mitchell leaned close to Julia’s face, watching her pupils dilate with fear.  “When a group of folks plan a crime together, the law doesn’t split it up.  They call it conspiracy and we’re all in this together.  They don’t care if none of your targets died, other people did.”  He grabbed her wrist.  “Now, fold those ears back and listen well.  We’ve still got a chance, if you can distract them while I get away.  We can’t beat Heyes and Curry in a gun battle.  I get away and you’re just visiting somebody.”

“Distract them?  How?”

“Go outside, if anyone stops you, and they will, tell them you were visiting an old relative who’s not here.  Tell them you came to see Bert – he owns this place, they’ll have to buy it.  While you’re arguing with them I’ll sneak out the back.”

Julia shook her head hopelessly.  “I can’t.  Kid Curry’s out there.  I can’t face him, what if he guesses?  He’ll kill me.”

“You should’ve thought about that before you persuaded me to get somebody to put a bullet in his fiancé.  That was your idea and I warn you, Julia, if I’m going down I’m taking you with me.”

Her glittering eyes filled with tears again.  “I can’t walk out there and face Kid Curry, Uncle George.  We’ll have to think of something else.  Can’t you hide under the floor boards?  They look pretty loose... and I can sneak out the back?”

Mitchell gave a snort of exasperation.  “All that hate and bluster doesn’t come to much when some backbone is needed, does it, Julia?  It’s easy to hit out when you don’t have to look them in the eye, but sometimes you need to see things through.”  He lifted the oil lamp, scattering the paraffin over the floor and sticks of furniture, taking care to cover the doors and window before leaving a large pool near the table.  “It looks like I’ll have to take more drastic action.”

“Drastic?  In what way?”

“A fire, Julia.  This is the distraction they need.  Once it takes hold they’ll be too busy dealing with that to notice somebody slipping away.  I’ll leave the back door unlocked, and slip out while they’re rescuing you.”

“But that’s dangerous!” Julia exclaimed.

“It got dangerous the minute you stopped listening  to people more experienced, and started following what passes for thought in that rat’s nest of a brain of yours.”  He gave her a hard stare before picking up a tin box.  “Naive, idealistic people are useful as cannon fodder.  They’re the kind who’ll ride off on a suicide mission.  You’re not even good for that.”

Julia slumped into a chair and dropped her head into her hands.  “Why are you being so horrible to me, Uncle George?”

“Because I’ll be lucky to see this day out, thanks to you!” barked Mitchell.

He opened the tin box and took out the flint and blade.  “One spark is all it’ll need.  Then we wait.”

“For what?”

“For it to take hold.  Then you start screaming.  They’ll be too busy trying to rescue the damsel in distress to look too hard for me.”

 He dashed the blade against the flint and watched the brilliance of the sparks which danced and flared over the fuel, growing in heat and incandescence, flaming and burning anything and everything in their path.  Julia’s hands leaped to her mouth, her eyes widening in horror at the fire consuming the building.  The old, timber building cracked and hissed as the heat forced out the last remaining vestiges of moisture from the wood, the flickering flares licking over every surface, consuming everything in their path.

“Oh, God, get me out of here!”  Julia ran towards the door, stopping in her tracks at the wall of flames between her and escape.  She glanced around, desperately trying to identify a way out from the mounting heat and voracious, searing flames; her heart sang at the sight of Mitchell unblocking the back door.  She ran for it; panic spiralling in her heart at the scorching conflagration charring the little hairs on her flesh.

“Not so fast, Julia.”  Mitchell stood behind the door, his gun drawn.  “You’re a liability, and I have absolutely no doubt you’ll sing like a bird.  You’ll tell them where I’m going and who else is involved, and without them I have no future – none at all.  They’ll look after me, because they have to.  They’re too powerful to just disappear.”  He tilted his head, an unsavoury smile playing over his lips.  “Sorry, darling – but a choice between you or me is no choice at all.”

                       
   
The Kid was already running towards the burning building when two shots cut through the air.  Smoke poured from the broken window, and the alight tattered curtains flapped in the breeze, spreading the blaze to the shingled roof. 
The screams were the stuff of nightmare; the agonized, shrill wails of a wretched soul in agony.  The howls were beyond words in their eloquence, speaking of despair, agony, and hopelessness, and cut into the psyche like fingernails down a blackboard.

“What’s going on?” Sheehan arrived beside Abigail just as the Kid kicked in the door.  Flames surged from the portal, as he ducked, throwing up an arm to protect his face from the blast.  “Newman!  Help him!  Dear God!  There’s somebody in there.”

“We were having lunch when the woman we had been watching in Jacksonville walked past,” Abigail ducked at the remaining glass shattering with the heat.  “She went in there.”

Sheehan watched the Kid wrap his sheepskin jacket around his head, edging forward to fight his way through the holocaust, while Abigail joined the human chain ferrying buckets and pans of water from the well to the burning building.   Horrified eyes met in an unspoken conversation at the shrieking from the inferno; they had become shriller, transforming into a terrifying clamour reaching a sickening crescendo.  Abigail’s blood ran cold: it was no longer human, the sounds were of an animal begging for death and release from the engulfing agony.

 “No!” she muttered, “please let it end.”

“Amen to that, lady.”  The burly man next to her thrust a bucket of water into her hands.  “I ain’t never heard anythin’ like it in my life, and I pray to God that I never hear it again as long as I live.”

 Sheehan ran around to the back of the building.  The back door was already open, and black, caustic smoke poured out, tainting the clean air.  He wrapped his bandana around his face and made his way into the murk, stepping back as Heyes fought his way back to daylight before collapsing on the ground on all fours.  Heyes wiped the stinging smoke from his reddened eyes, his back arching against the retching, hacking cough.  He turned hopeless eyes up to Sheehan.

 “I got in through the back door.  I couldn’t see her,” he barked up more grime and mucus.  “I could hear her, though.  Then it went quiet.  It’s pure hell in there.  She’s gone...”

“She got out?” Sheehan demanded.

Heyes rolled onto his back, staring up at the sky.  “She’s dead, Sheriff.  Nobody could survive that heat.  She’d be burned alive” 
    
“Heyes!”

Heyes propped himself up, turning his blackened face to the Kid.  “I tried, Kid.  I tried to get to her,” he dropped his head into his hands, tears streaking the soot.  “She must be dead.  I got so far in, and I was beaten back by the flames.”

Sheehan frowned.  “Heyes?  I thought your name was Stewart.”

Heyes gulped deeply and dropped back onto the grass.  “Not now, Sheriff.  I really can’t deal with that right now.”


 “I never said his name was Stewart, Mr. Sheehan.  I said mine was,” Abigail gave the sheriff her most beguiling smile.  “I deliberately omitted his name altogether.”

Sheehan picked up a pen, staring at the people assembled in his office in turn.  “Who are you folks?”

“My name is Jedidiah Curry.”

“And mine is Hannibal Heyes.”

Daniel Sheehan dropped his pen.  “Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry?”  He glared at Abigail.  “Why’re you lying about who these fellas are – more to the point, why did the Pinkerton Agency cover for Heyes when I checked you out?  Are you who you say you are, or do I have to lock you all up until I find out?”

Abigail shrugged.  “Lock us up if you like.  I’m telling you the truth.  I am working for Robert Pinkerton to assist with the investigation.  Mr. Attwater is arriving on the one o’clock train, and he will have papers on him.  He had to go and deal with some other matters relating to this investigation.” 
 
“And them?”  Sheehan arched his eyebrows and nodded towards Heyes and Curry.

“Mr. Curry was given amnesty and is free to go where ever he pleases.  Mr. Heyes is on parole, and is currently in the charge of Mr. Briscoe, until Cage Attwater gets back, responsibility will then return to Mr. Attwater.”

Sheehan glanced at Harry who smiled amiably at the sheriff.  “That’s right, Sheriff.  It’s all been cleared.”

Sheehan’s eyes narrowed.  “Why’d you lie, ma’am?”

“I didn’t lie,” Abigail replied.  “I just didn’t tell you.”

“That’s lying by omission, and you know it.”

Abigail sat down opposite the sheriff and laid her hands on the table in a businesslike manner.  “Only if the question was asked, and it wasn’t.  The people who have been targeted with a view to murder are Hannibal Heyes' daughter and Jed Curry’s fiancé.  Somebody is waging a vendetta against people connected to them, and they are assisting us in identifying the suspects.  George Mitchell was Julia Stanton’s uncle and we had been targeting her as we suspected she was helping a suspect to evade justice.  We found that she had been telegraphing a Charles Anderson in Joplin and came here to see if he was Mitchell living under an assumed name.  We did not expect to see her at all, but she walked past the restaurant where we were having lunch.  We followed her, and you know the rest.”

Sheehan leaned forward.  “How do you know they’re just not here on their own vendetta?”

Abigail’s eyes warmed, she loved a debate.  “Why would they hire Bannerman agents and get the Pinkertons involved?”

“To find their enemies for them?” Sheehan pressed.

“Telegraph Sheriff Jacobs in their home town.  He’ll confirm that the authorities have asked them to assist, and not the other way around.  The terms of Mr. Heyes' parole says that he must report to the local law office once a week, but he has been given permission to assist the investigation as long as he is escorted by an officer of the law.  We have met those conditions at all times.  Please also remember that we brought the men who attempted to rob Harry to your office, which somebody on a personal crusade would have been unlikely to do.”

“So you and Heyes aren’t married?”

Abigail shook her head.  “No, Mr. Sheehan.  I am a widow.  My husband died of natural causes.”

“So what was all that about?” demanded the sheriff.  “He clearly said you were married, and you went right along with it.”

“Mr. Heyes was very unhappy with me after I got involved in capturing the robbers.”  Abigail smiled softly.  “He is very protective of women, and I imagine he hoped you would tell me off too.  We also find that telling everyone who Mr. Heyes is causes more trouble than it’s worth.  It was an innocent conceit and I just went along with it.” 
  
Sheehan sat back pondering this information.  “Fine—for now. But as far as I'm concerned this is a violation of his parole terms. I don't like being lied to Mrs. Stewart—and I don't care how you want to sugar coat it; you lied to me.” He sent a rather scathing look over to Heyes. “I don't care who is officially responsible for you Mr. Heyes, as long as you're in my town you are under my jurisdiction and I should have been informed as to your identity as soon as you arrived here. You are this close to being thrown into my jail. The only thing saving you right now is the fact that both Pinkertons and Bannermans are vouching for you. But that will only go so far Mr. Heyes. You do one more thing that questions your validity and you will find yourself a guest of this establishment. Do we understand one another?”

Heyes swallowed nervously and he felt all eyes upon him. Dammit! He was still being treated like a convict, his every move being scrutinized. He'd fallen so far since his days as the leader of the Devil's Hole gang and it stuck in his craw, having to kowtow to every lawman who pointed a finger at him. Still, he felt the pressure of his friends' expectations so he forced down his indignity and smiled disarmingly. “Yessir sheriff.” He placated the lawman. “I'll stay real law abiding. Don't want to cause any trouble.”

“Good!” Sheehan practically shouted at him. Then he sighed and got his mind back to the business at hand and looked over to Abi again. “So, there were shots fired after she went in?”

“We were watchin’ the building, sheriff,” the Kid fixed the lawman with earnest blue eyes.  “We were waitin’ to see who’d come out.  We saw the flames and ran to the building, then there were shots,” he shrugged helplessly, “we just couldn’t get her out.  The fire was out of control”

Heyes ran a hand distractedly through his hair.  “I’ll never forget those screams to my dying day.  She must have been burned alive.”

Abigail nodded.  “So the question remains, what happened in there?  A man opened the door – we got a glimpse of him.  Did he die too?  And was he Mitchell?”

“We’ll find that out when the place cools down enough to search.”  Sheehan’s cool blue eyes scanned the room.  “I guess that fits; both with the reply from the Pinkertons, and what I saw when I got there.  Both you fellas tried real hard to get that lady out.”  The drifting gaze rested on Harry. “You, on the other hand, stood back and did nothing.”

“I was paying the bill at the restaurant,” Harry protested.  “I’d just arrived.  You wouldn’t want us dodging the bill, would ya?”

Sheehan flicked his eyes dismissively away from the Bannerman man.  “I guess I’d better get down there.  They’d have got the fire out by now.”

Abigail leaped to her feet.  “I’m coming too.”

Sheehan heaved a sigh.  “That offer to stick you in a cell still stands, Mrs. Stewart.”

“Nonsense, Mr. Sheehan,” Abigail grinned.  “Have you been trained to forensically examine a scene?  In fact, I do believe I am the only one here who has!”

Sheehan folded his arms.   “I know I’m gonna regret asking this, but what does that mean?”  

“We need every detail from that scene to tell us exactly what happened.”

“We know what happened.  She burned to death.”

Abigail nodded.  “Yes, but why didn’t she make any attempt to get out, and where is the man?”

“She was cut off by the flames,” muttered Sheehan.

“From the start?  That sounds unlikely.  Why wait until the flames took hold, and who fired the shots?  Can they be matched to a gun?  If so, we have someone alive at that scene.  Why didn’t they help her?”

“And you can answers those questions by looking at a burned out building?”

Abigail nodded.  “Sometimes - if you know what to look for.”

Sheehan pinned Harry with a hard stare.  “Are you trained in any of this stuff?”

“I could give it a try,” ventured Harry.  “How hard can it be?”

Sheehan threw up his hands.  “Fine, Mrs. Stewart, come along in an advisory capacity, but you are only there under sufferance.  Got that?”

 
“Dear God!”  Sheehan pulled back, holding a handkerchief over his nose.  “The smell.”

Abigail nodded.  “Yes, you never forget the smell of a burnt body, but it’s not as bad as one which has been submerged in water for a while.  That’s just the worst.”

The charred wreck of the building had been completely soaked, but what was left of the interior was covered in soot.  The still identifiable remains of collapsed furniture lay in amongst the ashes.  It never ceased to amaze Abigail how dark a burned out building became.  Her eyes adjusted to the light and she made her way gingerly into the building, testing each step before trusting the scorched floorboards with her weight.
 
“How can you stand it?” Sheehan asked from the doorway.

“You get used to it.  Get in here.”  She paused by the cadaver, hairless and blackened, the arms drawn up tight and bent at the elbows.  The legs were also pulled up, the clothing had been burned away by the fire, but the corset stays still lay around the body.

“What’s she doing here?” demanded a figure from the doorway.

“This is Mrs. Stewart,” Sheehan picked his way through the rubble towards Abigail.  “She was trained by the Pinkerton agency to examine crime scenes in some modern, scientific way.”

“What’s to examine.  She was burned alive.  Do you want life pronounced extinct?”

“Yes please, Doc.”

The man nodded.  “She’s dead.  Really dead.  About as dead as anyone can be.”

“Aren’t you coming in,” demanded Abigail.

“In these shoes?”  The doctor looked at his watch.  “Death by immolation, timed at 12.47.  I’ll send the certificate over to your office.  Have we got a name for the victim?”

Abigail nodded.  “Julia Stanton, aged thirty four.  She lived over at Jacksonville with her husband and son.  She arrived on the ten forty five train and made her way straight to this building.”

The doctor gave a low whistle.  “She can tell all that just by looking at the body!?  She’s good.  You want to employ her, Sheehan.”  He turned on his heel, wandering away from the doorway.  “Modern science, huh?  I must get some books about that.”

Sheehan and Abigail exchanged a smile.  “See that, the way the limbs are all shortened like that?  They call that the pugilistic posture.  That always happens when a body is burned.  The tendons shorten in the heat, and they can even break bones sometimes.”

“Does that only happen when they’re burned alive?” asked Sheehan.

“No.  We have to look at the lungs to see if smoke was inhaled for that, but it’s academic in this case because we heard her.”  She glanced at the metal skeleton of the spokes of the umbrella lying beside the table, noting that the duck head handle had been burned away.  “So is the identification, which is about the only fortunate thing I can think of in this case.  That can often be problematic in corpses disfigured to this degree.”  She gave a heavy sigh.  “At least we can spare her poor husband that ordeal.”

She pulled out a hatpin, using it to delicately probe the leather-like flesh.  “No bullet wounds to the head,” she continued down the carcass, “the abdomen is a mess, we may have to cut her open.”  Abigail’s eyes widened.  “No.  Here they are.  One in the lower thigh and the other in the knee.  It would appear she was shot in both legs, which explains why she couldn’t get out.  Just imagine the horror of lying there, watching the fire come closer and closer and not being able to move.  What a devil!  He could have killed her to spare her from all of that, but no... he went for the legs.”

Sheehan swore under his breath.

“I couldn’t agree more, sheriff,” Abigail stood.  “She was facing the back door, and fell where she stood.”  She nodded thoughtfully.  “Yes.  I’d say she was facing her killer when she was shot, so he was at the back door.  It’s only an assumption, but I think he needed her to scream blue murder as a distraction.  There are no other bodies in here, so the killer slipped out the back door.”

“Probably when your friend fought his way in and was blinded by the smoke.  He probably kept her here while the fire took hold too.”

“Yes,” Abigail crouched again, pushing her hatpin into the wounds, “it comes out the other side, so the bullets are in this building somewhere, not in the body.”  She looked up at Sheehan.  “Can we get her moved so we can find them?  My guess is that they’ll be a match for Mitchell’s gun.”

Sheehan nodded.  “Sure.  I’ve gotta say, you’ve been more use than I thought you’d be.  Up ‘till now, all I’d have done is count the bodies.”   

 
 Abigail lounged in her bath, pouring in generous amounts of the oil she had purchased in the pharmacy.  It was a pungent mixture of jasmine, rose, and Iris root; but she needed the strong aromatic notes to drive the smell of burning flesh and the stench of death from both her skin and her memory.  She stared aimlessly ahead before sinking below the surface, desperate for the cleansing to begin; but part of her knew that the memories lingered longer than the smell.  She didn’t remember every dead body she had ever seen, but they were filed somewhere in her mind, ready to loom up at weak moments.

Apart from family, the first body had been a woman – she had been older than Abigail at that point, but she now knew she’d outlived her.  That one had been clinical; a cadaver on a mortuary slab, rather than in a building or a field - stripped of life, identity, and dignity.  That was when Abigail learned that she felt more for those left behind – they were still hurting, but the dead were beyond pain, and justice served the living just as well as the dead, but what about Ed Stanton?  How would it help him to find out they’d clutched a viper to their breasts because of family loyalty?  
   
She surfaced in a mass of gurgling bubbles and rubbed the slick oil over her flesh.  So Julia Stanton had been killed by Mitchell.  She must have had information he didn’t want to fall into their hands, otherwise he wouldn’t risk turning his own family against him – and they were a formidable force, as clannish as anything she’d seen in the highlands of Scotland.  Where the hell had he gone?  This investigation was one step forward and three back.

Think Abigail, think!  He obviously had somewhere to go, and it meant he could do without his family.  Abroad?  Not Mexico – no, that didn’t feel right and she was very much a creature of instinct.  He would stay in the states and try to build a new life; but that took money, more than his life savings.  Somebody wealthy was involved in this.
She lay back, shivering slightly.  Was the water really getting that cold?  It was time to get out.  She stood, reaching for a towel, patting at her skin to work in the fragrant oils, but something niggled with obstinate persistence at the back of her brain.  What was it?  What had she missed?



The late winter sun was making the streets slushy by the time mid-afternoon rolled around. It was one of those days that looked as though it could have been a nice warm spring day but actually wasn't. There was still the chill of winter hanging from the roof tops and dripping from the leafless tree branches. It was cold; it was still winter.
The cousins were being very cautious as they tucked in along the outside planking of the abandoned warehouse. They were both leaning back against the boards, their heavy breathing making itself apparent in the cold damp air. Despite their jackets they were both shivering slightly, their noses sniffling with the chill.

The broken down door into the warehouse stood gaping between them and Jed risked a subtle lean over to take a peak inside. Nothing. All was quiet. Heyes continued to lean back against the building, as he broke open his Schofield and checked the chamber one more time.


“What do ya' think?” Jed asked quietly. “That was him heading in here, wasn't it?”

“Can't think who else it would have been,” was Heyes' logical response. “There's nobody else around and we were following him.”


“Yeah.” Then Jed leaned back himself and though he knew exactly how many bullets he had in his Colt, he also broke it open and checked the chamber. “How do ya' want to do this?” he asked as he snapped his gun back together and held it at the ready.


Heyes thought about it for a moment, then with a deep breath he too swung around and took a quick look through the open doorway. Just as quickly he came back around again and leaned against the building for cover. It was just out of habit really, because if Mitchell knew they were there, bullets would not have had any problems coming through the debilitated wood of this large structure. Still, no shots came and our boys continued to breathe.


“Well,” Heyes surmised. “there's a lot of places in there he could hide.”


“Huh hmm.”


“But we can't just stand here and let him get away now.” Heyes swallowed, his throat suddenly tight. “Not after what he's just done.”


“Huh hmm.”


Heyes took another deep breath. “Okay,” he finally decided. “I think we should rush in, real fast and then I'll go to the right and you go to the left. There's plenty of cover in there and he won't have time to get a shot off before we can get behind something.”


“I donno Heyes,” Jed sounded sceptical. “Things don't usually go too well when we split up.”


“Well, yeah,” Heyes tentatively agreed. “But we're not really splitting up Kid. We're just going in two different directions.”


“Right,” Kid responded with a look and sounded even more sceptical. “Besides, how do you know he ain't just inside there and waitin' for us to show ourselves in this doorway?”

“Well we've both taken a look in there and didn't draw any fire,” Heyes reasoned. “I bet he's already making his way towards the back of this warehouse so he can sneak out the other way.”


“You willing to bet our lives on that Heyes?”


“I'm willing to bet my life on the fact that Mitchell's a coward,” Heyes told him. “There's no way he's going to stick around for a face to face showdown with the two of us and no guards around to protect him.”


“Yeah...” Kid continued to be sceptical.


“C'mon Kid,” Heyes grinned, oozing charismatic persuasion. “we'll catch him in the classic pincher movement—get him trapped in a cross fire.”


“If he's still in the building.”


“Well yeah. If he's still in the building,” Heyes nodded agreement and then shrugged. “C'mon, let's GO!”


The two men made a simultaneous rush through the open doorway and, as suggested, instantly split up and dived for cover behind items of structural decay. They both hit the ground, sending up bellows of dust and wood chips and then lay silently in amongst the cobwebs, waiting for any sound that would indicate company.

All was quiet, except for the numerous birds who irritably flapped from their roosting perches high up by the ceiling. They all noisily took to wing and squawked their indignation to the two men below them who for some unfathomable reason had decided to invade their domain. Yowling and then the scrambling of feline claws on wood also let the boys know that they were not welcome.

Finally the dust settled, the birds returned to their roosts and the cat had disappeared into a secluded corner to lash its tail and silently seethe over its hunting being so disturbed. Kid wiped cob webs off his face and glanced back to where his partner was also brushing off his jacket and then taking a cautionary peek around the dusty two x four that was acting as part of his cover. He glanced over at the Kid and their eyes locked.

Jed silently asked the question. Heyes shrugged. Nothing appeared to be happening. Finally Heyes motioned for the Kid to move on around that side of the interior and Heyes would do the same on his side. Jed nodded though he wasn't feeling too happy about this. Heyes just rolled his eyes. Geesh!

Heyes got to his feet, but still keeping bent over and low, he carefully made his way along the wall, keeping to cover whenever he could and having his Schofield up and handy just in case. He moved silently—like a cat, keeping to the dusty shadows, stopping and listening every few steps and hearing nothing.

He came to another open doorway and stopped, listening for any sound of movement from inside the room. Everything was quiet; he couldn't even hear the Kid on the other side of the open warehouse. There wasn't a sound; nothing was moving. Finally he was approaching the back of the enclosure and though he was beginning to feel that they had lost their quarry he still moved cautiously, peering into every nook and cranny and checking out every musty, dusty room.

He gave a deep sigh and began to look for the Kid when he heard a barely audible scuffling coming from behind him. He didn't even have time to turn when he felt a heavy weight hit his back and send him face first into the cobweb covered boards of the wall. A cloud of dust puffed up, nearly choking him and his Schofield went thumping down into the inch deep layer of detritus that cluttered the floor.

Heyes felt a moment of panic and he tried to push back but whoever had hold of him pulled him away from the wall and then shoved him hard into it again. Heyes gasped as the wind was knocked out of him and this time he did cough from the dust uprising coupled with the irritation caused by the earlier smoke. The weight pressed against him even more and Heyes felt hot breath against his neck and fear took hold of him as he realized that he was truly pinned and once again at the mercy of whoever was holding him.
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Keays

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

PostSubject: Ashes to Ashes   Sat Dec 21, 2013 3:28 am

Then a shiver shot down his spine as an oh so familiar voice rumbled in his ear. “Prison sure didn't do you any favours Heyes,” Morrison sneered, his voice heavy with contempt. “Even with a bullet in my lung you're still no match for me.”


Heyes struggled against the hold even though he knew he had no chance of breaking it. “What the hell do you want, Morrison?” Heyes gasped out while trying to avoid breathing in the dust. “You got nothing on me now—you have no right to hold me against....”


Heyes' protest was cut short by the marshal once again pulling him away from the wall and slamming him into it again. Heyes groaned and struggled to get air into his already hurting lungs and then coughing with the dust that was drawn in with it. He felt Morrison shift, heard the hammer of his gun clicking back and then felt the cold steel press into the back of his skull.


“I've got every right Heyes,” Morrison contradicted him. “I'm an officer of the law and you're a parolee who is supposed to have restrictions on his movements. So what are you doing in here all on your lonesome, looking like you're up to no good?”


“He ain't quite all on his lonesome Marshal!”


Heyes felt a surge of relief but in the same instant also felt himself being swung around, an arm encasing his throat and the muzzle of that gun pressed against his temple. Through the dim, dusty air of the warehouse he saw his partner standing no more than ten feet from them, his gun drawn and pointed directly at the marshal.


“Let him go, Morrison.” Kid was presenting himself at his most dangerous.


“Well, what do ya' know,” Morrison was practically snickering. “the little kid himself.”


“Let him go,” Jed repeated, his aim sure and steady. “I can take you out where you stand, and you know I won't miss.”


“Oh, I'm sure you won't,” Morrison agreed. “but I strongly suggest you re-think your position. You can shoot me dead, right here and now but you ask your partner here if I haven't already got this trigger half way pulled. It wouldn't take much—no sir, not much at all for my finger to jerk the rest of the way and guess who's brains would be splattered all over this warehouse floor? You know I won't back down, so you better think real careful about what you want to do here.”


Heyes saw his partner swallow; the first sign of indecision. Heyes didn't mind at this point, in fact he was almost relieved. Morrison had him tight around the throat and he could feel the muzzle of that hand gun pressing into his temple. This was not good; he felt like the prize turkey stuck between the hungry coyote and the dedicated cattle dog; no matter which one of them won the fight, there was going to be feathers flying!

Between tight gasps for air, Heyes sought out and caught his partner's gaze; and indeed, those blue eyes had turned to ice and Heyes felt the chill go through him. He knew when his cousin had reached this level of intensity it was almost impossible to get him to back off but Heyes also knew that this was a no win situation and the gunman had to back off—he had to. Heyes tried with all his might to convey that message through his eyes; through his gaze, through that silent communication they shared.

Morrison wasn't joking; that trigger was half cocked and ready to go. The slightest twitch would pull it the rest of the way and Heyes knew he would be dead if Jed fired his gun. But even that didn't scare him as much as what he was picking up from the man who held him so securely. Morrison wasn't even shaking; there wasn't a tremble coming from him. He was staring back into those hard blue eyes and he did not feel fear; he did not back down.
Heyes held his cousin's gaze and he saw the ice start to waver, just a little. Kid knew too that Morrison was not a man you could easily push.


“That's right, Curry. You stop and think about it.” Morrison had seen the hesitation as well. “You pull that trigger and you'll be destroying everything you have—everything that matters to you. Your partner will be dead and you will have blown your amnesty to kingdom come. You will have murdered a US Marshal and you will be hunted down and hanged, that is if some bounty hunter doesn't just shoot you from ambush first. You pull that trigger and I'm taking Heyes with me and you know I ain't bluffin' Curry; you know I'll do it.”


Heyes sent the Kid a nearly imperceptible nod, the best he could muster with his neck in a vice the way it was, but Jed saw it. He swallowed and sighed and then nodded back. He took a deeper breath and then shifted his gaze back to the marshal. He nodded again and tipping the muzzle of his Colt upwards, he uncocked the hammer.


“Alright Morrison,” Jed told him, albeit reluctantly. “Do it your way.” And he moved to slip his gun back into its holster.


“No ya' don't,” Morrison stopped him. “You think I'm a idiot Curry? With your speed? I don't think so. You unload that hand gun, right now.”


Jed sighed and with slumped shoulders, sent his cousin a long suffering look. Heyes shrugged—again, the best that he could handle under his present circumstances. Jed broke his gun open and tipped the cartridges into his left palm.


“Okay,” Morrison approved. “now scatter them.”


Kid squatted just slightly and sent the bullets clattering across the dirty floor to end up bumping up against the far wall or disappearing down a cobwebbed hole or into a dark dusty shadow. He straightened up and awaited further instructions.


“Good. Now send that Colt over this way—easy. Just slide it across the floor.”


Jed did so and the firearm slid neatly under Morrison's raised boot. Then and only then did the marshal uncock his own handgun and relieve the pressure of it from Heyes' temple. Before he could stop himself, Heyes actually sighed with relief, although what was going to happen next was anyone's guess.

Morrison removed his arm from around Heyes' throat and then roughly gave him a shove which sent him staggering across the floor and sprawling into the Kid, practically knocking both of them off their feet. While they recovered their balance, Morrison quickly dove down and grabbed the Kid's empty Colt and then stood up and had his own revolver once again aimed directly at the two ex-outlaws. They all stood and glared at one another.


Finally Morrison broke the stalemate. “You idiots! You fxxxing morons! Do you have any idea what you've just done!?”


The partners both stood in silent disbelief for a moment, staring at their nemesis with slacken jaws.

“What do ya' mean; what we've done!?” Heyes was the first to recover. “Why are you hounding us!? We're both legal now and you've got no jurisdiction...!”


“LEGAL!?” Morrison damn near spit the word out as he holstered his revolver; an act that neither Heyes nor the Kid missed, by the way. “What are you talking about; Legal!? You complete bloody imbeciles! I didn't even know you were down here—you're suppose to be up in Colorado! Jesus Heyes! You're on parole!! What the hell are you doing down here, playing detective!?”


“Well...I...ah....what do ya' mean!?” Heyes became rather indignant. “You knew damn well we were here—what the hell were you thinkin' coming after us!?”


Morrison was almost red in the face he was so angry and when he strode towards the boys with his hands clenched into fists and a snarl on his face, neither one could help but step back a pace or two.


“Why the hell would I be coming after you!?” the marshal demanded. “You're past history! I don't give a damn about either one of you! I was after Mitchell and I would have had him by now too if it wasn't for you two idiots blundering in here and messing it all up!”


“What!?” Jed threw back at him and then he and Heyes exchanged slightly concerned looks. “Why would you be after Mitchell?”


“Yeah,” Heyes seconded that opinion. “We thought you two were working together.”


“WORKING TOGETHER!?” Now Morrison was red in the face and his angry retort was momentarily abated as a harsh spasm of coughing took hold. He got himself under control again, spit into the dust and glared back at the two ex-outlaws. “Working together,” he repeated in disgust. “What kind of a low-life, double crossing piece of sxxt do you take me for!?”


“Well....ahh.....” Both fellas were looking everywhere but at the marshal and even came close to shuffling their toes in the dusty floor.


“Jesus fxxxing Christ!” Morrison looked as though he was getting ready to shoot them again. “That piece of sxxt—that scum! Nothing worse than a lawman gone bad—and you think I was working with him!?”


“Well....” Heyes still looked a little embarrassed. “....what are you doing here then? I mean, we kept seeing signs of you everywhere we went! If you weren't after us, then....?”


“Jeez Heyes—you are thick aren't ya?” Morrison sneered at him. “I just finished telling you I was after Mitchell. After he left the prison, Warden Reece began to notice oddities in the book keeping so the penal commission sent in some officers to do an independent examination of the financial records. It seems that good ole' Warden Mitchell was embezzling funds from the prison's accounts. At least a quarter of the money intended for upkeep of the prison ended up in his pockets.”


“Really?” Heyes was incredulous. “He actually was embezzling funds? We just made that up to get Mrs. Stanton scared enough to make contact with him.” He paused and looked reflective. “No wonder the food was so crappy,” he mumbled. “and no heat in the winter.”



“Hmm,”  Morrison practically growled.  “We think that is why he had the doctor out there at the prison murdered and you and Reece were targeted.  All the complaints and then that hearing was bringing too much attention to the warden and how he ran that prison.  I think he figured that if he just got rid of the main antagonists then he’d be fine.  What a joke!”

Heyes face fell and he turned a rather sickly shade of pale.  “Ya’ mean Doc was killed because of that hearing?”  he whispered, a guilty knot settling into his gut.  “Because of me?”

“Naw Heyes,”  Kid tried to assure him.  “It’s wasn’t cause of you.  It was cause of Mitchell and Carson.  It wasn’t you.”

“Yeah, but if we hadn’t pushed for that…just so’s I could get out sooner, just cause I couldn’t handle it in there—and the Doc died because….”

“No Heyes!”  Jed reiterated.  “Just like Abi said to me; I can’t take on the responsibility for what Julia Stanton did—that’s on her!  And she’s paid the ultimate price for it.”

Heyes still looked sad and contrite, but he nodded sombrely and tried to accept what his friend was saying to him.  “Yeah, I suppose,”  he admitted, then sighed a deep sigh.  “But if all of that was because of the books being tampered with, why are they still after Beth and Anya?  I mean it’s kinda after the fact now, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,”  Jed shrugged.  “I donno Heyes; revenge?”

Heyes looked perplexed and shook his head.  “But Mitchell and Carson were making my life a misery before that hearing came up—what was that all about?”

“Will you two shuddup!”  Morrison had finally had enough of this conjecturing.  “All this ‘what if’s’ and ‘why that’s’!  Jesus Christ I knew I had a good reason for keeping you two apart!  Maybe we should just catch the bastard and ask him ourselves!”  Then Morrison really got mad and our two boys felt as though they were trapped in a lion’s den.   “And I had him! I had that bastard convinced that I had turned bad, and I was fed up with the way the law was handling things and that I was interested in getting in on some of his action.”
 Morrison shook his head and cursed again. “Dammit! I had it all arranged to meet up with him in Missouri but then he got wind of something—one of his cohorts got killed and sent him running scared!” Heyes looked a little sheepish at this, but Morrison was too pissed off to notice. “I finally tracked him down again and got him to relax. He was gonna meet me here today—and then you two imbeciles showed up and sent him running again! GODDAMMIT!!”


The cousins both cringed and took another step back.


“Oh.” Heyes actually sounded contrite, but then set up his own defence. “Well, you can hardly blame us for thinking the same thing as Mitchell then, can ya'?”


Morrison snarled and then looked as though he was actually going to come after Heyes and wring his arrogant little neck when their dispute was suddenly forgotten. A gun shot reverberated through the large empty warehouse, sending innumerable birds squawking and flapping their way up towards the ceiling, or out through the nearest exit. The marshal instantly had his gun out again and was searching the side lines, looking into shadows and under crannies, hoping for any sign of movement.

Heyes cringed and pressed his hands against his ears as the loud shot echoed against the walls and the hundreds of birds instantly on the wing sent dust and cobwebs raining down upon them. He took a step back and instantly fell over something on the ground. He hit the floor with a thud and a puff of dust and then coughing and trying to wave the settling dust away from his face, he saw that the object he had fallen over was his cousin.

Then more gunshots filled the air as Morrison found his target and began to shoot after it. Heyes cringed and ducked again while at the same time grabbing Jed's shoulder and rolling him over onto his back.


“Kid!” Heyes called him, and grabbing the collar of his coat, gave it a shake. “Kid! C'mon, Kid!”


But Jed didn't respond. He lay silently with his eyes closed and blood slowly oozing from a nasty gash across his forehead.


“Aww, jeez Kid! C'mon, no!” Heyes was begging him, desperation taking a solid hold. “C'mon please! Don't do this to me again!”


Heyes was almost sobbing as he got his knees up under himself and then leaned an ear against his cousin's chest. He practically cried with relief as he felt and heard the strong and steady thump thump of a heart beat. He sighed and sent out a silent 'thank you' to the powers that be and then reached up and cupping his friend's face in his hand he turned his head slightly towards him to examine the wound on his forehead.


It didn't look too bad, but any head wound was cause for concern and Heyes desperately looked around for help. Morrison was nowhere to be seen and there was nothing—not even gunfire, to be heard. Heyes took off his bandana and pressed it up against his partner's forehead and wished he had some water with him to try and clean the wound, but then he figured with all this dust in the air, that probably wouldn't make any difference now anyways.


He carefully tied the bandana around Jed's head and then, making sure that his cousin was resting comfortably he went in search of his Schofield. It didn't take him long to find the weapon since he had a pretty good idea where he had dropped it in the first place and picking it up he made sure it was safe and then brushed and blew the dust and dirt off of it. He slid the hand gun back into its holster and returned to the Kid's side and keeping his hand on his friend's shoulder, he sat back down on the dirty floor and awaited the return of the marshal. At this point; even his help was better than none at all.


As it turned out it was not Morrison's return that relieved Heyes, it was the local constabulary. Apparently, and not surprisingly the sound of gunfire coming from an otherwise abandoned warehouse had caught the attention of an ambitious corporal as well as that of two private detectives who had managed to lose track of their elusive parolee. The alarm was sounded and before much time had past the previously abandoned warehouse was crawling with law men.


Heyes heard them coming, pushing their way through the debris and sending up the frustrated birds once again to wing and to scream their indignation to echo down upon them. Heyes perked up, scanning the empty spaces that surrounded him, trying to see anything through the dust and feathers floating in the air.


“Hello!” he called out, thinking it odd that for once in his life he was actually relieved that lawmen were quickly closing in on him. “Over here!” he shouted again. “We need help—my friends been hurt!”


“Heyes!?” Cage's voice came to him through the emptiness. “Where are ya'?! Keep talking!”


“Over here!” Heyes obliged him. “Hurry up! We're over here! Hello!”


Then Heyes saw them and his face broke out into a relieved grin. He waved over to them as they came through the dusky dimness and their shapes became more defined. Cage was in the lead, his gun drawn as he peered ahead of him. There were five uniformed police officers fanning out and scoping the area, making sure all was safe to proceed, and then bringing up the rear was Harry doing his best to look important but still letting the other men take the lead.

Heyes waved his arm over his head and Cage spotted him and came running over, closely followed by the Bannerman man.


“Jeez Heyes!” Cage cursed at him. “What the hell happened!?”


“It was Mitchell!” Heyes informed him. “He shot Kid! We gotta get him to the Doc's!”


“Yeah, alright. Just calm down.” Cage tried to reassure him. “How bad is he hurt?”


“He's still breathing, but bad enough!” Heyes was up on his knees again, getting ready to lift his partner up and get him to a doctor's office.


Cage put a hand on his shoulder. “Just wait Heyes,” he told him. “Let him be.”


“But we gotta get him....”


“Just wait Heyes! Calm down!” Cage repeated. “Let me get a look at him.”


Heyes settled down again, but his breathing was rushed and his lips had drawn back in irritation. Cage ignored him and kneeling down himself he slipped the bandana off the Kid's forehead and did a quick examination of the wound. Harry squatted down beside them and sucked his teeth as he looked at the Kid's pale blood smeared face.


“Jeez, that looks pretty bad,” he diagnosed. “We oughta get him to a doctor.”


“YEAH!” Heyes nodded emphatically. “Get 'em to a doctor!”


Cage sent Harry an irritated look. Trying to get Heyes to calm down was hard enough under these circumstances, and having Harry making a point of stating the obvious wasn't helping.


“We will Heyes,” Cage assured him. “It actually doesn't look too bad” He sent a pointed look over to the other detective. “Don't worry Heyes, he should be alright.”


One of the uniformed officers came over to the group on the floor hoping to get some information as to what had gone on here.


“How is he?” was the first question out of the lawman's mouth.


“He needs a doctor!” Heyes stated. “Why are we all just standing around here!?”


“We're not just standing around!” the sergeant was insulted. “My men are doing an investigation of the area—like they're suppose to be doing! What were you two fellas doing in here in the first place? This building isn't safe to be walking around in and shooting off firearms!”


“Look, I'll tell ya' everything ya' wanna know! Just get my friend here to a doctor!”


“He really should get some medical attention Sergeant.” Cage seconded Heyes' opinion.


The Sergeant nodded. “Yes alright. Kelly! Newman! Get over here!”


Two young constables came on the run, kicking up dust as they arrived but full of good intentions.


“Yessir!” came the unified response.


“Get this fella over to Dr. Saunder's place—pronto!”


“Yessir!”


The two hearty constables got in line, one at the Kid's head and one at his feet and between the two of them, quite easily lifted him up off the floor in preparation of following their orders. Heyes came up with them, refusing to let go of his partner's shoulder.


“Easy with him!” Heyes demanded, his voice heavy with concern. “Take it easy.”


“Don't worry sir.” constable number one assured him. “We'll be real gentle getting him over to the Doc's.”


“Yeah okay,” Heyes mumbled. “Let's go.” He started to walk along with the small procession with every intention of accompanying them all the way the doctor's office. He was going to make sure this was done right! That is until two sets of hands grabbed him and pulled him up short.


“You ain't goin' anywhere Heyes!”


“Hold on young man! I need a statement from you.”


“No!” Heyes argued. “That can wait until....”


“No it can't.” the sergeant countered him.


“I'm not letting you outa my sight Heyes!” Cage informed him. “What was the bright idea, you and Curry running off like that!? I told you to stay put and when I tell ya' to do something I expect you to listen! You have a lot at stake here in case you have forgotten and then you go and disappear and give Harry the slip! What the hell game are you playing at....!”


“We saw Mitchell!” Heyes explained, feeling like he was being backed into a corner. “We didn't have time to come and get you! And Harry....well, Harry I'm sorry, but you were just gonna slow us down.”


Harry puffed up with the apology, secretly relieved that they hadn't brought him along on this turkey shoot. “Oh well, that's alright Heyes.....”


“No it's not alright!” Cage interrupted. “You agreed Heyes! When I'm not around you agreed to accept Harry's authority and then the first time it becomes inconvenient you duck out on him! Do you want to go back to prison!?”


“NO! I don't want to go back to prison!” Heyes was getting angry now, and coupled with his anxiety over the Kid's welfare he was almost ready to explode.”


“Gentlemen! Gentlemen!” the sergeant interrupted them. “I don't know all of what is going on here and I would appreciate being brought into the loop! What in tarnation happened here!?”

Heyes gave a deep melodramatic sigh, feeling the frustration of having to stand there and explain things rather than follow his partner towards medical care.


“My partner and I spotted the man we've been trailing,” Heyes began through a clenched jaw and jangled nerves. “He was headed this way looking like he was late for an appointment so we figured we didn't have time to go for backup. We got in here, but couldn't find him. Then Marshal Morrison found us...”


“Morrison?” Cage interrupted. “He's here?”


“Yes,” Heyes confirmed. “And apparently working on our side. He said that he had set up a meeting with Mitchell pretending to be wanting in on Mitchell's action, but then me and Kid....well, I guess we kinda messed things up—but dammit! We should have been told that Morrison was working with us! How were we supposed to know!?”


“I have found that to be typical of the various different law enforcement agencies,” the sergeant commented dryly as he sent pointed glances over to Cage and Harry. “None of them will offer information to the others so nobody knows what's going on. Bloody waste of time if you ask me!”


“Yeah, well. We didn't know,” Heyes mumbled, still feeling slightly guilty over messing up another man's game, even if that other man was Morrison. “Anyway, while we were talking somebody started taking pot shots at us. That's when Kid got hit, and then Morrison ran off after whoever it was. I'm willing to bet it was Mitchell!”


“You mean Morrison has gone after Mitchell now!?” Cage demanded, his frustration at this ex-convict becoming more and more apparent. “Why the hell didn't you say so!?”

“I just did!” Heyes yelled back, his temper flaring again. “Look! My partner has been shot! You're keeping me anchored here—you won't let me go see to him and you won't let me go after Mitchell! What do you want from me!?”


“I want you to stay outa trouble, goddammit!” Cage yelled back at him. “Abi'll have my hide if you mess up your parole!”


“Oh thanks for the sentiment there 'Detective!” Heyes was at his sarcastic best. “Wouldn't want to do anything to jeopardize your hide!”


Cage exploded and grabbing Heyes by the front of his coat began to shake him. Heyes was sure he could feel his brain rattling and realized that he had pushed the big man just a tad too far.


“ALRIGHT! STOP!” Heyes finally managed to spew out of his mouth. “STOP!”


“You arrogant little bastard!” Cage cursed him, but he did at least stop shaking him. “You wait here while I go and check out what's happening!”


“I thought you wanted me to stick with you,” Heyes snarked back at him as the ringing in his ears began to dissipate.


Cage came at him again with his fists in balls and Heyes took an involuntary step backwards. Fortunately for Heyes the big detective kept himself in check this time and simply contented himself with burning a hole in Heyes' head with his eyes.


“Sergeant,” Cage snarled while still glaring at Heyes. “this man is a convict out on a conditional parole. I'm putting him in your custody—don't let him out of your sight.”


“Why don't you just leave me with Harry?” Heyes asked still feeling angry with this whole situation.


“Cause you just proved that you can't be trusted with Harry—that's why!” Cage yelled back. “I'm gonna go check out Morrison—and you better be here when I get back!” And then he glanced over at Harry, who was doing his best to disappear into the dusty floor. “Both of you!”


Cage pulled his Colt revolver and gave it a quick checking over and then he turned and was heading out the back way of the warehouse at a long-legged jog. Heyes watched him go, his fists and teeth clenched in frustrated anger.


“Now you heard him Heyes,” Harry tried to get his friend's attention. “Don't you go taking off again or we'll both be in trouble!”


Then Harry regretted his remark when he did indeed get his friends attention and that dark 'if looks could kill' glare became directed at him.


“Well, Mr. Heyes,” the sergeant interrupted the grinding of wills. “how about you and your friend help us look for bullet casings.”


Fifteen minutes later the lawmen were still milling about looking for casings and examining the various footprints in the dust and Heyes was getting more than a little antsy. Finally he'd had enough of this and decided that it was time he evened the odds a little bit and got rid of one set of beady little eyes that wouldn't stop staring at him.


“Hey Harry, do me a favour will ya'?” Heyes quietly asked the Bannerman man while the others were investigating elsewhere.


“Sure Heyes. Anything for you, you know that.”


“Ah huh,” came Heyes' cryptic response as he sent another quick glance to the officer in charge. “Head over to the Doc's place will ya'? Check up on the Kid. I'm going nuts here not knowing how he is.”


Harry shuffled a little uncomfortably. “Oh, I donno Heyes,” he mumbled. “I think I'm supposed ta' keep an eye on you.”


“Aw, c'mon Harry,” Heyes smiled, flashing his dimples and looking innocent. Harry should have known this trick by now. “What do ya' think I'm gonna do with all these very competent lawmen just itching for something more exciting to do?”


“Well.....”


“C'mon Harry,” Heyes continued to push. “I'm asking ya' as a friend. I just wanna know how he's doing.”

“Well, okay Heyes,” Harry agreed. “Truth be known I'm kinda worried about him too.”


“Yeah,” Heyes nodded. “So you just nip over there and find out, then come back here quick as you can and let me know, okay? That way neither one of us has to worry anymore.”


Harry smiled and nodded; yeah that sounded reasonable. “Okay Heyes. You won't go anywhere, right?”


“I promise Harry; I'll stay very close to this vicinity.”

“Ah...right!” Harry gave him a quizzical look. If he could ever learn to listen to his own instincts rather than trying to think everything out he just might have made a decent detective. “Okay Heyes; I'll be right back.”


“Okay.”


Heyes watched the detective make his way out towards the front of the warehouse just to make sure he was well on his way. The ex-convict but still very competent conman sent his glance over towards the working law enforcement. His mouth tightened in mild irritation as he felt the restrictions of his parole bit deeper into his psyche and then slowly, keeping his eyes on the lawmen, he backed his way over to the wall.


Once he felt the boards behind him he stopped and watched for a moment. No one had noticed him slipping away from the group; they were all too busy with their noses pointed downwards for them to be giving any thought to some has been parolee. Good. He checked the distance to the rear exit and scanned the wall for convenient hiding places and very slowly began sidling along the wall until he got behind some planks and 2x4's. He ducked in behind those, stopped and listened again for any alarm to sound and when nothing came he misted over to the open double wide doors leading to the outside—and he disappeared.

Once outside he did a quick scan of the area and found himself in a back alley. He was alone but the wet snow on the ground gave a clear accounting of how many others had recently passed this way. Heyes waited again, listening for any sounds from either inside the warehouse, or outside, down the lane but all was silent.


He gave a quick glance over his shoulder and stepping out into the lane he scrutinized the tracks left in the slush. Definitely three different sets had gone running off in the one direction, the occasional skid mark indicating the hasty departure and slippery conditions of the retreat.


Heyes pulled out his Schofield and keeping close to the sides of the structures lining the lane way he carefully became the fourth set of footprints to head in that one direction. It was eerily quiet, the snow it seemed was muffling the sounds from the street and the town that must be carrying on with it's own business despite the cat and mouse game going on in the back alleyway.

Heyes couldn't help but feel nervous; he knew who the players were but he didn't really know who his enemies were. Mitchell for sure was his ultimate focus and nemesis. Morrison—now there was an enigma! Where did that marshal stand in all of this? Was he for Heyes or against him? And an even more mystifying question; was Heyes for or against Morrison? Should he be watching the marshal's back, or his own?

And Attwater. Oh boy! They would go for a while getting along just fine and then Heyes would feel the animosity coming off him in waves. Cage was interested in Abi for himself, that much was obvious but it was also obvious that Abi only had eyes for the ex-outlaw and that must be sticking in the detective's craw! If push came to shove here, would Cage back Heyes up or see it as an opportunity to rid himself of a rival?


Heyes found himself with that age old dilemma that had haunted him throughout his lifetime; who could he trust? He wished the Kid was with him, backing him up. Damn that Mitchell! If the Kid died....oh don't go there! Heyes was already so close to wanting to shoot the ex-warden down in cold blood that if he started dwelling on the Kid's possible demise then there would be no stopping the bullet into that bastard's heart! He'd worry about going back to prison after the fact!


Heyes took a deep breath to steady himself and saw the condensation in the air and felt the chill tingle against his nostrils. His fingers holding his gun were slightly numb and he hesitated a moment to blow on them to warm them up. He carried on, alternating between watching the tracks on the ground and scanning the rooftops and the corners up ahead, not wanting to miss anything but not wanting to get left behind either.


He came to a T-intersection and noticed that two sets of prints went off to the left and then the third set carried on straight ahead. Heyes was faced with a decision; which way to go? By the way the tracks over-lapped one another Heyes would say that Mitchell and Morrison had made the turn but Cage, who's tracks were much larger than the other two sets had carried on straight ahead. Did Cage know these back alleys? Was he taking a short cut in order to cut the quarry off? Did Morrison know that he had back up; did the two lawmen have an opportunity to communicate and set a trap?


Heyes hesitated for a beat and then continued on straight, following the Pinkerton's. He had no idea if this was the right course of action or not, but he knew he felt better knowing that Cage Attwater was ahead of him and not coming up behind.


He carried on, watching the tracks and scanning the lane ahead and still not hearing anything. He walked on, glanced down into the snow and then stopped in his tracks, feeling a dread go through him. Cage's footprints had disappeared. Heyes stared down at the trackless snow for a moment, looking almost comical in his surprise. He searched the ground around him, first one side and then the other, but nothing! The tracks came this far and then stopped as though Cage had simply lifted up into thin air.

Had he backtracked, carefully placing his feet into his own footprints until he had found an open door or set of stairs to climb up? Heyes straightened and looked around, scanning the structures behind him. He ran back, looking for an unlocked door or convenient hiding place. He found one door, rattled the handle only to find it locked, then tried another only to find the same thing. He looked around a siding and saw a narrow stairway heading up to an open loft and deduced that this must have been the course of action.


With gun steady and pointed up the stairs, Heyes grabbed the railing and took a step. Then instinctively he ducked as a shot rang out from further down the alley and he scooted in behind the stairway, his heart in his throat. He waited and listened intensely for a follow up, but the shot wasn't aimed at him and after a few seconds of silence he cautiously looked out from behind the steps.


Nothing—not a sound. He bit his lower lip in nervous reflection and with his Schofield up and ready he tentatively stepped out from his hiding place. He stayed close against the wall as he slowly made his way down the alley, scanning above and ahead, staining his ears for any sound.


Two more shots rang out and he ducked again and pressed himself into the side of the building, holding his breath while he waited. Somebody yelling—another shot! Silence. It was coming from up ahead; a running battle was going on but Heyes couldn't tell what direction it was going in. Was it coming towards him or away? Were they all ahead of him or was Cage above, looking down on him? Heyes did another frantic scan of the building tops but saw nothing. He focused his attention ahead again and cautiously began to move forward.



Dr. Saunders was in his office with Timmy and Mrs. Carlyle trying to figure out how he had gotten a bean stuck down inside his ear canal. Young Timmy was adamantly denying any knowledge of said bean while his older brother Geoffrey sat silently in the corner trying to hide his apparent guilt.

“How many times have I told you not to put things in your ears!?” the embarrassed mother was demanding while the doctor stood by holding up the offending bean with a pair of tweezers.


“But I didn't do it....” Timmy's quiet voice insisted while at the same time he was thinking that his mother had never ever said anything to him about putting anything in his ears. Even though he was young Timmy still had enough common sense not to voice his thoughts in this matter. The bean however was just as much a mystery to him as it was to the adults and neither of them were believing him.


Before the discussion could go any further, and much to Geoffrey's relief, the front door to the doctor's home could be heard banging open and suddenly there was quite a commotion going on between the doctor's wife and a pair of rather insistent visitors.


“Good heavens constables!” the wife's strident tones could be heard echoing down the hallway. “You can't just come barging in....OH! Gracious me, what has happened here!?”


“Man's been shot Mrs. Saunders!” came the obvious response. “Gotta see the Doc right away!”


“He's with another patient right now....”


“Well, this is important!” came another voice. “This could be a matter of life and death!”


“Oh alright!” was the rather indignant response, after all she had been married to the doctor for thirty years and trampled snow and a little bit of blood dripping on her carpets was only an emergency from a housekeepers point of view. “Bring him down here and I'll see when the doctor can look at him.”


The procession could be heard clumping down the hallway, passed the office door and on into the examination room where there was a bed for the patient to be laid down on and all the supplies needed to tend to various types of injuries. They could still hear Mrs. Saunders complaining about the inconvenience and the two constables stating their case as the door to the room closed and the voices, thankfully became muffled.


Dr. Saunders glanced over to the anxious mother and smiled. “It's nothing serious, Mrs. Carlyle,” he assured her as he dumped the bean into the trash and he smiled at Timmy and ruffled his hair. “Just don't go putting anything into your ears again, alright young man?”


“But I didn't do it this time....”


“Come along you two!” the exasperated mother hustled her two offspring towards the door. “I swear! The things the pair of you get up to....”


“Good day, Mrs. Carlyle,” the doctor said as he ushered the family down the hall and out the front door. “Sounds like I have another patient waiting for me.”


“Yes. Good day doctor. Thank you.”


The doctor closed the door with a sigh and a shake of his head and then looked down the hallway towards the door at the end. It opened up to emit his wife just on her way to get him. She spotted him and rolled her eyes over the bad timing of some people. It was time for tea after all!


“It's quite alright my dear,” the doctor assured his wife as he met her at the examination room door and gave her a little peck on the cheek. “We can have tea when I'm done with this one.”


“Yes, yes I suppose so,” she mumbled, though disappointed. She so looked forward to their afternoon tea together. “You may be a while with this one though. He's out cold.”


“Oh well, then perhaps it won't take long at all.”


She smiled up at him, feeling placated and gave him a loving pat on the arm. “I'll put the kettle on. I know we're going to be needing hot water for more than just tea.”


The doctor nodded and watched her ample figure make its way down the hall and then disappear into the kitchen. He opened the door and entered the examination room. The two constables were standing around looking out of place, while a young man who was, as his wife had stated, out cold, had been laid out on the bed, still fully clothed and with his wet, dirty boots leaving melting snow on the sheet.


The doctor sighed; some people were so totally useless. “Well, c'mon,” he ordered the two young men. “Get his coat off and those boots. Perhaps one of you could tell me what happened here?”


“Oh yeah!” came the once again unified response from Kelly and Newman. It would seem that these two were quite used to working together.


“We don't know what actually happened,” Newman informed the doctor as he tugged at a boot. “We heard shots fired over at the old Freemont warehouse but by the time we got there the shooter was gone and this fella had been hit. He had a friend with him though, maybe you can talk to him about what happened.”


“Hmm, yes,” Saunders agreed as he took a careful look at the wound on the young man's forehead. He furrowed his brow and then went over to the side cabinets and commenced to gather together some supplies. He poured disinfectant into a kidney bowl, grabbed a handful of small cotton pads and returned to the patient. He set the bowl and pads down on the side table and pulled up a chair to set himself down on. As soon as the coat and boots had been removed the doctor set about cleaning the wound so he could get a better look at it.


“Hmm,” he mumbled again. “I've seen worse, but then the victim was usually dead so this young man can consider himself lucky. Does he have a name?”


“Yeah, I suppose,” came Kelly's optimistic response but it went no further than that.


Saunders sent him an expectant look. “Well....what is it!?”


“Oh!” Kelly suddenly looked concerned. “I donno. They didn't say.” He looked over as his companion. “Do you know?”


“Nope,” Newman admitted. “Ya' want me to go back and ask?”


“No no, not yet,” Saunders told him. “I'm sure your sergeant will be by later to check up on him, I'll ask him.”


“Oh, yeah.”


A knock came to the door just then and Newman actually had the presence of mind to open it and give Mrs. Saunders access. She smiled a thank you and entered the room carrying a small bowl of hot water along with a wash cloth, a towel and a bar of soap. She came up on the other side of the bed from her husband and set her items down on the side table and set about cleaning up the patient as best she could.


“My, but he certainly is a handsome young man,” Mrs. Saunders commented with a sparkle in her eye. “Why in the world someone would want to shoot him....”


“I'm sure we'll find out the reason sooner or later,” her husband assured her. “In the mean time it does look as though he will be here for a day or two so we best get these clothes off of him and get him settled.”


“Yes of course,” his wife agreed. “You leave me to that dear. I'll get him cleaned up.”


The doctor gave a big sigh and leaned back as he threw away the last bit of cleaning pad. He looked over at the two constables and then stood up and came to them.


“You fellas can go back to your duties now,” he informed them. “Tell your sergeant that the injury isn't too bad considering but wait until tomorrow if he wants to ask him any questions. Perhaps one of you could also let the sheriff know that this has happened.”


“Yeah, okay Doc,” Newman agreed. “Thanks. I'll get his name for you too, and let you know.”


“Fine.” The doctor ushered them down the hall and out the front door. “Thank you. Take care now.”


Then just as the doctor was about to close the door another gentleman came hurrying down the street and began the assent up his steps and to his porch. The newcomer looked up, startled to find himself face to face with the doctor himself and seemed a little flustered at the unexpected encounter.


“OH! Ah, are you the doctor?”


Saunders tapped the business plaque that hung beside the front door. “That's what they tell me,” he commented. “It seems it never rains but it pours.”


“Huh?”


“Nothing.” The doctor sighed. “It's just turning into a busy afternoon. What can I do for you, Mr....?”


“Briscoe, sir!” Harry introduced himself with the usual flourish. “Harry Briscoe! I'm a Bannerman man!”


“Oh.” Enlightenment dawned. “I take it you are connected in some way to the young man who was brought to me with the bullet wound?”


“Yessir!” Harry marvelled at the man's astuteness. “Come to check up on his condition.”


“Well, come in Detective Briscoe,” the doctor offered. “No sense standing out here in the cold.”


The two men made their way down the hall to the end room and the doctor knocked gently on the door.

“Is he decent Meredith?” he asked through the barrier.


“Yes, yes. All done in here,” came the response.


The doctor opened the door and the two men entered the room. Harry instantly looked concerned and went over to the bed and touched the Kid's shoulder. He truly was concerned for his friend and found it surprisingly upsetting to see him in such a vulnerable state. Jed was all cleaned up but his hair was wet from Mrs. Saunders giving it a quick wash to remove the blood that had soaked into it, but the wound itself still looked raw and painful.


“Kid?” Harry called quietly, giving his shoulder a little shake. “Hey, Kid.”


“I'm afraid your friend will remain unconscious for a while yet,” the doctor informed him. “But he should be fine when he does wake up. We just have to keep a close eye on him over the next twenty-four hours.”


“Oh, yeah. Sure Doc,” Harry accepted that. “But he's going to be fine you say?”


“I expect so,” Saunders assured him, noting the man's obvious concern. “Can you tell me his name?”


“Oh, I sure can!” Harry puffed up with pride at his association with the wounded man. “This here is none other than Kid Curry! I'm sure you've heard of him!”


Mrs Saunders gave a little gasp and brought her hand up to her ample breast. “Oh my! Well that certainly explains all those other.....Oh no, no...never mind.” She smiled, looking a little flustered as she waved a hand in front of her face. “I'll go put the kettle on for tea, shall I!?” And then she was gone to recover her composure.

The doctor furrowed his brow. “Kid Curry you say?”

“Yessir,” Harry confirmed it, pleased with the result of his claim. “None other than.”


“Hmm. Well, come join us for tea Mr. Briscoe,” the doctor invited him. “Perhaps you can fill us in on what happened to Mr. Curry. I'm afraid the two constables were not much help.”


“Oh well, as tempting as that sounds, I really should get back to Heyes,” Harry told him. “He's real anxious to hear how his partner is doing.”


“Mr. Heyes is in town as well?” the doctor asked. “Well, I suppose that's not surprising. The two of them do seem to attract—trouble though, don't they?”


“Ha Doc!” Harry laughed good heartedly. “You don't know the half of it!”



Hannibal Heyes scraped himself along the side of the building, keeping his eyes and attention focused forward, his gun up and ready. This was a cat and mouse game and he had no idea where the other players were. At least fifteen minutes had gone by since the last of the gunshots had sounded and now there was just silence in amongst the slush. Heyes shivered involuntarily; this standing around in the snow and afternoon winter sun did not do much for the circulation.


He moved forward again, crossing one foot over in front of the other, keeping his back against the wall as he continued to watch and listen, and move. Then he heard the creaking of hinges coming from in front of him and across the lane to a building there. He creased his brow in a quick question mark and watched as the back door, just twenty feet across and ahead of him opened slowly into the lane. Heyes watched and waited, his Schofield aimed and at the ready.


A head and part of a shoulder appeared through the open door, the owner of said appendages peering straight ahead while the right hand slowly rose up to reveal his own hand gun being held at the ready. The man was looking away from Heyes and wasn't even aware the ex-con was standing behind him on the other side of the alley. He was only focused on what he was searching for up ahead.


Heyes waited quietly, not quite sure if he should let his presence be known or not but then the decision was made for him when the head turned slightly and Heyes recognized a slightly haggard rendition of Mitchell's profile. The ex-con felt a tingle of conditioned fear shiver through him that was then quickly replaced by anger. Mitchell turned his head just enough to catch Heyes in his peripheral vision.


Mitchell tensed and swung fully around to face his adversary, bringing up his gun and firing a shot at him just as Heyes ducked and fired as well. Mitchell's bullet hit the wood planking just beside Heyes' head and the ex-con felt sparkles of dirt and dust dance up and sting his eyes and cheek. He heard Mitchell curse and looking forward again, Heyes caught just the last glimpse of him flipping back inside the building and disappearing.


Heyes pushed himself off the wall and was charging across the open lane towards the door when he heard another gun shot rent the air and someone calling him.


“HEYES!” It was Cage's voice. “HEYES! STOP!”

And another gun shot, both of them having been aimed up into the air as a warning, but then Heyes didn't stop and Cage cursed him for an arrogant, hard-headed, not to mention; stupid little bastard who was intent on getting himself killed! Cage came down the alleyway at a slippery run even though he knew he wasn't going to get there in time.


Heyes reached the open door and slipped through, quickly closing it behind him. He showed the presence of mind that Mitchell had not and quickly locked the door and then barred it in order to at least slow down any unwanted visitors. Heyes wanted Mitchell for himself so he sure didn't want to be interrupted by the large detective—or the marshal for that matter, wherever he was!
Another gun shot and Heyes ducked again as a splinter of wood flew off the closed door just above Heyes' head and Heyes fleetingly thought that Mitchell's sights must be off for him to keep on missing like that, then he hit the floor and quickly scrambled for cover in order to get his bearings. Just like the majority of the other buildings on the lane, this building was also abandoned but it wasn't as large as the warehouse; this was apparently the back storage room to the store front that opened onto a once busy side street. But just like the warehouse, this room was dark and dank with cobwebs hanging off of every conceivable surface and dust prevailing in the air and laying inch deep under foot. There was a staircase lined up against the wall closest to the alley that lead to an open second floor. Heyes could see foot prints in the dust on the steps and knew that his adversary had headed upstairs.


Heyes was just about to make a run up those stairs when he jumped as the back door suddenly rattled violently and he heard the muffled voice again.


“Heyes!” Cage called him. Rattle, rattle. Shake, shake. “Heyes open the damn door!”


Another shot vibrated through the small room, the bullet striking the wood of the door and sending another splinter twirling up into the air to land soundlessly in the dust just a foot away from the door itself. Cage cursed and ducked out of the way himself on the outside. He hadn't seen Mitchell enter this building so assumed that it was Heyes himself shooting at him.


“Goddammit Heyes!” the detective yelled at him. “What do ya' think you're doing!? Do you want to go back to prison!? Open this damn door!”


Then Heyes just about hit the ceiling again as Cage took a running plunge at the wooden door and crashed with his full weight into the barrier. Heyes cursed quietly to himself and then heard footsteps running across the floor overhead and he made a run for the stairs himself. Damn if Mitchell was going to get away from him now!


When Heyes was about half way up the staircase he heard another crash and then the splintering of wood in amongst curses and yells from the detective himself as he came shoulder first through the door.
Cage regained his footing and saw Heyes running up the rest of the stairs and then disappear from sight around a support beam.

Cage cursed to himself again; he could have shot the ex-con; had a good clean line on him but the detective just couldn't bring himself to do it so instead he held his Colt steady and took the stairs three at a time. He got up to the second floor just in time to see nothing!


Heyes had swung himself around the support beam just in time to see Mitchell push through another door on the other side of the open floor and instantly followed in his footsteps. He reached that door and found himself at the top of another stairway heading down into the abandoned store front. He was instantly down them in a puff of dust and a scrambling of feet and out through the broken front door to find himself standing on the boardwalk of the quiet side street.

There were a few people walking about on their own business, but they still had time to stare at the dust covered apparition who was suddenly in their midst and send helpful glances towards the outside corner of the building. Heyes didn't hesitate and was on the run and around that corner just in time for Cage to put in his own appearance and once again, find himself alone.


The big detective cautiously made his way along the boardwalk, checking ahead of him and behind him and to the sides but he could see no sign of the ex-convict. Even looking down for tracks gave him nothing to go on since most of the snow and slush had been removed from the walkway and what was there was so plastered with footprints that it was of no help at all.


He reached the corner of the building and glancing down the side alley only saw a dead end but he knew this was the only way Heyes could have gone for him to disappear so quickly so he turned down it to investigate. He came right up to the high fence that indicated the dead end and thoughtfully ran his hands along it. He was in full thought mode now and looking up at the height of the fence he wondered if Heyes was athletic enough to scale it. Probably; but Cage knew that he was too bulky to be able to make that climb—one would have to be part cat.


He looked around for an alternative and instantly spotted it; a narrow opening between the fence and the wall of the building next to it. Cage went over to it to investigate and knew right away that there was no way that he would be able to get his broad chest through that narrow slit. He sighed regretfully. Sometimes there was a great advantage to being a big man but other times it was downright inconvenient. He glanced up at the fence again, shook his head and quickly retraced his steps to return to the alley via the abandoned store. He would pick up Heyes' trail again on the other side.


When Heyes had come around that same corner he also saw a dead end but he had the advantage of knowing that Mitchell had come down this way so there must be a way out. He didn't even hesitate but ran on to the high fence that separated him from the back alley. He did a quick scan and saw it; an opening between the fence and the wall of the next building! It was narrow and would be a tight fit but Heyes knew that if Mitchell had been able to make it through then he could himself.


He ran over to it and sucking in his gut (as if he had one) he squeezed himself through the narrow opening and found himself once again in that same back alley with no one around. He stood silently for a moment, looking all around him but neither saw nor heard anything. He whispered a quiet curse and once again, pressed against the wall of the building, he slowly moved along the alley way.


A few moments went by with all still as quiet as a church when Heyes stopped, feeling rather than hearing a presence close to him. He pursed his lips in concentration and tilted his head a fraction to try and pick up any sounds around him. Silence. He moved forward again, his Schofield out and in front of him, pointed ahead.


Sure enough, sudden movement caught his eye and then a sharp numbing pain as something hard came down on his wrist and his fingers lost their hold. His Schofield landed with a loud thump onto the ground and the next thing Heyes knew he had been grabbed by his coat collar and yanked into a hidden alcove! It was close quarters and Heyes quickly found himself with his back up against a wall and his face nose to nose with a very irritated looking Marshal Morrison.


Heyes gave him a cheeky grin. “Hey Marshal.”


Morrison's features morphed even harder. “What the hell are you doin' here Heyes!?” he growled in a loud whisper. “Can't you stay put even for five minutes!?”


“Well, I just thought I would come and give ya' a hand Marshal...”


“Goddammit! There's more people skulking around out here than at a travelling peep show!” the marshal irritably observed as he sent a furtive glance over Heyes' shoulder to scan the lane behind him. “And the last thing I need is YOUR help!”


“Yeah, but since I'm here anyways....”


“YOU'RE ON PAROLE!” Morrison roared at him quietly. “Why the hell I should give a hoot about you is beyond me but the smartest thing you could do right now is get outa here and let the law men handle this!”


“No offense, Marshal,” Heyes ventured with his eyes wide with innocence. “but it's been my experience that most law men can't tell their rifle butts from their.....”


Whatever Heyes was about to compare rifle butts too was abruptly disintegrated by more rough shaking. Heyes couldn't understand it; why was everybody shaking him so much? Did he really cause that much irritation in his fellow countrymen?


“You start shootin' off your gun the way you shoot off your mouth and I'll personally throw you back into a prison cell and throw away the key!” Morrison was practically red in the face. “Now get outa here!!!”


He pulled Heyes forward and gave him a shove back out into the lane way. Heyes stumbled but found his footing and then spotting his Schofield he quickly scooped it up and slipped it back into his holster.


“Alright Marshal,” he grinned affably. “I'll just be waitin' for ya', right over.....”


Another shot rang out and Heyes felt the breeze of it passing by his left ear. He instinctively ducked and then ran back the way he had come in order to find another cover spot. More shots were fired but Heyes could tell they weren't all coming for him; the marshal was busy sending back a rapid return fire in order to keep Mitchell pinned down and give Heyes a chance to make it to cover.


Heyes ducked into another doorway, but checking the door he found it locked and cursed the fact that he didn't have his lock pick with him—time to make that standard issue again! He looked back just in time to see Morrison break from cover and make a charge towards their assailant, shooting as he went.
Heyes gave a quick shake of his head; he might not care much for that marshal but the man had nerve that was for sure.


He was just about to step out from his hiding spot when another idea struck him and he quickly headed back the way he had come earlier until he got to that narrow opening in the fence again. He turned sideways and scraped his way through it once more just as Cage came out from the back of the original storage room. He did a quick look around the area himself and carried on past the opening in the fence to run after Morrison and the sound of gunfire.


Totally unaware of the close encounter, Heyes ran down the side alley and back out onto the quiet street again. He made a quick left and started running full tilt, dodging the few pedestrians who were on the boardwalk, most of them looking concerned at the sounds of the gunshots coming from the alleyway behind the abandoned stores. None of them seemed too interested in investigating it though and they were happy to carry on with their own business; the sound of gunfire wasn't all that uncommon after all.


Heyes continued to run past them and into the next block until he came upon another empty storefront where the glass window had been shattered long ago and offered just the right size entrance for an enterprising up and coming private detective. He ran through the front display room tripping on broken toy wagons and other abandoned nick nacks, indicative of young boys coming here to play away from the prying eyes of nosey parents. Might even make a handy 'make out' rendezvous as well if the young lady didn't mind getting a little dirty....my goodness; the things you think about when your mind is racing!


He pushed through another door and sure enough found himself in yet another storage room, this one filled with wooden crates that were all lined up and stacked against the walls. Well, most of them were; there were also a number of them that were broken and strewn about the floor but Heyes dodged those and made directly for the back door. It was locked but he was on the right side of it this time and he simply unlocked it and pushed it open.


He just took a step to exit the storage room when he almost jumped out of his skin when a large, heavy object ploughed into the other side of the door. The door jumped back, hitting Heyes hard on the left shoulder and the side of his head and he staggered over to the right, cursing under his breath. He was able to keep his footing though and grabbing the door handle, he shoved it shut and got the next surprise of his life.


Mitchell, who had been running full speed along the side of the buildings had just come up level with the door when Heyes had pushed it open right into the ex-warden's path. Mitchell couldn't believe his bad luck! He cursed inside his head and tried to put on the brakes but it was too late and he collided full force with the wooden barrier. He felt his nose get squashed and as he staggered backwards to land in a heap on his back in the wet snow.


He was on his feet in an instant though and when he saw Heyes his anger erupted, his dented and now bleeding nose was forgotten and he came at a charge, fully prepared to do damage. Heyes was recovering from his own surprise but he still had the wherewithall to block the onslaught though once again he found himself with his back against the wall.
The two men struggled silently, the hatred that each man felt for the other giving them strength to cause real injury if either one let their guard down. Heyes tried to get himself away from the wall but he only managed to slide sideways, Mitchell staying with him every inch of the way. Then Mitchell made a mistake; he released his hold with one hand in an attempt to get his arm across Heyes' throat in order to choke him. He did manage to get his arm in position and began to apply pressure, but it also freed Heyes up enough for him to get a hand loose and smack the ball of his palm into the already injured nose.


Mitchell gasped and cursed as his eyes watered and he staggered backwards Heyes noticed blood on the warden's arm and hand and wondered how the blood from his injured nose had gotten all the way over there. Then Mitchell lashed out in his pain and anger and landed a stunning blow to the side of Heyes' head. He grunted and slid down the wall to thump down onto his butt. Mitchell sent a quick kick into his torso and was getting ready to land another one when the gunfire commenced once again.


“Hold it right there Mitchell!” Morrison's voice sounded weak and raspy, as though he was fighting for breath. “Don't you move!”


Mitchell however had other ideas and with a snarling glare at Heyes he turned and ran off down the alleyway. Heyes was on his feet again in an instant and pulling his own gun he took off after Mitchell, firing as he ran. Mitchell swerved and ducked and kept on going.


“HEYES! Goddammit!” But then Morrison had to stop, his lungs robbed of breath. He leaned up against the side of the building and doubled over, coughing harshly; the bullet lodged in his lung finally catching up to him.


Heyes carried on, running after Mitchell and firing whenever he found an opportunity. He heard other gunfire coming from behind him and didn't know if he was being shot at or around—and he didn't care! He had Mitchell in his sights and he wasn't about to lose contact now. He fired again and Mitchell staggered but kept to his feet and though limping, he kept on running, trying to make it to cover! His feet hit a particularly slushy spot and his wounded leg slid out from under him and he went down in a sloppy skid. Before he could recover his footing Heyes was on to him.
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Keays

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

PostSubject: Ashes to Ashes   Sat Dec 21, 2013 3:32 am

He grabbed Mitchell by the collar and yanked him to his feet! Heyes' lips were pulled tight across his teeth in an angry grimace and all his pent up fear and frustration over past events exploded in a rage and he swung his revolver down, hitting Mitchell across the head. Mitchell gasped and went down again and Heyes lost his grip on the man's collar, but no problem! He aimed his Schofield straight at Mitchell's head and pulled back the hammer.


Mitchell saw his own death staring him in the face and no one was more surprised than him when suddenly there was another player in the scene! Heyes got knocked off his feet, his revolver sent sliding through the slush. He was back on his feet instantly and before he even thought about what he was doing he charged this new assailant, furious that his retribution had been snatched away from him.


He could hear both Cage and Morrison yelling at him to stand down but he was beyond listening to them and continued on with his attack with every intention of getting his hands around this usurper's throat! Then Heyes felt an instant panic when he recognized Sheriff Sheehan and the thought entered his brain to put on the brakes!


He never had time to put thought to action as the large man simply stepped aside and giving Heyes a shove, sent him head first into the wall of the building and then pinned him there with a vengeance.


Now Heyes was the one who was scared and instinctively he fought to get free! He knew he'd over-stepped the conditions of his parole; he knew he was in trouble. Then he froze and the fear he was feeling closed like a fist around his gut as he heard those dreaded words hitting him like a bucket of ice water;


“You’re under arrest,” Sheehan snarled at him, for attempted murder and assaulting an officer of the law.”


“What....!”


“Shut up! Get your hands behind your back!”


“NO! No, you can't!”


Heyes panicked and started to fight with that extra strength that fear gives you but even at that he was no match for this officer who had him pinned down. Still Heyes struggled until he suddenly found himself face down in the cold slushy mud, his arms being pulled roughly behind his back and the cuffs quickly snapped into place.


“Heyes, stop fighting!” he heard Cage yelling at him. “You'll only make it worse for yourself. Stop fighting!”


Strong arms hauled the prisoner to his feet where he stood, swaying and shaking with adrenaline and fear.

Mitchell had hoped to make another run for it in the confusion, but Morrison was onto him before he even staggered half way to his feet. A second pair of cuffs put in an appearance.


“Oh no ya' don't Mitchell,” the marshal snarled at him while still trying to catch his breath. “You're under arrest as well, on the charge of embezzlement and now; suspicion of murder and that's just for a start.”


Mitchell just sneered over at Heyes, triumph shining in his hard eyes. “I still got back at you didn't I Heyes?” he gloated. “You're gonna go straight back to prison now and this time you're gonna die in there!”


“What the hell you after Mitchell?” Heyes yelled at him. “Why are you doing this!?”


But Mitchell's eyes just turned harder and a slow malicious smile spread across his bloody face. Heyes felt his rage rise up again and he charged the other prisoner but Morrison was quick to step between them. Cage as well as Sheehan grabbed Heyes and pulled him back.


“NO!” Heyes yelled at them in his frustration and he struggled and kicked out in his useless efforts to get at his tormentor.


Cage was onto him in an instant and pushed him back into the wall yet again and held him there. Heyes was breathing heavily, his teeth bared, not wanting to submit but reason telling him that he had to.


“Calm down Heyes,” Cage told him. “Calm down. We've got him now and we'll find out what's behind all this. And we'll get this mess sorted out with you too, so just calm down and stop making things even harder for us. Alright?”


Heyes stood still, his breathing coming in ragged gaspes but he did gradually begin to calm down. Finally Cage felt him relax then he nodded and looked up at the detective.


“Yeah. Alright,” Heyes quietly agreed. “I'm alright.”


“Good.” Cage then released the pressure on him and let him up off the wall.


“This is a fine mess!” Sheehan commented dryly. “Morrison, I realize that you are a U.S. Marshal but this is still my town. If there is going to be a running gun battle down the back alleyways it would have been nice if I could have had some indication of what was GOING ON!”


Morrison straightened up at this onslaught, not appreciating being reamed out by a mere sheriff.

“Though I appreciate your concern Sheriff Sheehan, things got happening here a little too fast for any of us to come and get you!” the marshal growled at him. “Besides that, there were enough constables back at the warehouse shuffling their toes in the dirt that I'm sure one of them could have taken time away to inform you of events!”


Sheehan sighed in frustration as he took Heyes' arm and began to lead him towards an exit from the back lane.


“Great!” he grumbled. “That's what happens when there's too many sheriffs in the posse! Let's get these two over to the jailhouse and start getting this mayhem sorted out! And you,” the sheriff nodded his chin at Cage. “Go get his gun over there. We'll need it for evidence. I suppose we better get the doctor to take a look at these two as well.”


“Doctor!” Heyes tensed and then felt guilty as hell as he realized that he'd forgotten all about the Kid.  “My partner! I need to find out how he is!”


“It's alright Heyes,” Cage assured him. “Maybe Harry can go over and find out.”


“Oh, no,” Heyes recalled. “I already sent Harry over there. He should know something by now.”


“Alright,” Cage agreed as he stooped down to pick up Heyes' Schofield. “I'll ask him.”



Heyes found himself becoming more and more anxious as their little procession got closer to the jailhouse. Sheehan made sure that he kept Heyes moving ahead quickly so as not to encourage curious town folk to stop and have a chat with the infamous outlaw, well—ex-outlaw. But still, folks were watching and talking amongst themselves and that was never a good sign.


All of this attention was lost on Heyes however; his focus and thoughts were going inwards. He hated to admit how scared he was feeling. The press of the cold steel against his cuffed wrists, the solid grip on his arm of a law officer forcing him to go where he didn't want to go. The total, overall feeling of not being in control of his own life and his own choices. The feeling of being vulnerable.


He kept trying to tell himself that he had friends here. He hadn't done anything wrong—well, except assault a sheriff—but let's be fair; Heyes didn't know he was the sheriff until after the fact! Surely that would account for something!! And like Cage had said; they would get this sorted out. Just relax. Don't listen to what Mitchell says, the guy's a raving lunatic! You're not gonna go back to prison. C'mon Heyes, be reasonable. Relax. It's no big deal.


Kid. How was the Kid? Heyes hadn't heard anything. Where was Harry? He should know by now and he must know that Heyes would be worried. What if this turned out just the way it did the last time? What if Heyes got extradited back to Wyoming and he'd never see the Kid again!? No! That can't happen! That was bad enough the last time! He wouldn't be able to handle that again! No...!


Sheehan felt his prisoner tense up and start to slow down. The sheriff tightened his grip and glanced over at him taking note of the paled complexion and the anxious look. Sheehan had learned early on in his career that the sooner you can get a prisoner into a cell, the better. Don't give them a chance to think about where they're going. Take control of the situation and keep them moving. Don't let them stop to reconsider.


“C'mon, keep up,” he ordered. “Almost there, just keep walking.”


True to his word, the group soon arrived at the sheriff's office and Heyes hesitated even more as a real panic threatened to take over his logical thought. Fear took hold and he put on the brakes. Suddenly Harry was in front of him—where did he come from? The two men locked eyes for an instant. But it was an instant of eternity for Harry; an instant of awakening.


He looked into those dark eyes staring back at him and he saw fear there. He'd seen many different moods and emotions from Heyes over the years. Indeed, Hannibal Heyes was a very emotional man, even Harry knew that. He'd seen the whole gauntlet from him, from joking and teasing, to serious, angry, worried, sad and even complacent. But Harry had never seen Heyes afraid before.


It sent a shiver down Harry's spine; that one instant of seeing fear in the eyes of this man who always appeared to be so confident. And then it was gone, Sheehan pulling Heyes forward across the threshold, and the contact was broken. Harry hesitated a moment out there on the boardwalk and waited until Morrison came through, escorting a limping and rather disheveled looking Mitchell and then Cage bringing up the rear. Cage smiled at him and motioned for him to go on into the office ahead of him. Harry nodded and entered.


Inside the office Heyes was standing on his own while Sheehan retrieved the cell keys from the safe. The ex-outlaw was so distracted that he didn't even pay attention to the sheriff opening the safe, didn't even think about the tumbler action or what the combination might be. He was numb—he wasn't thinking about anything. Until he saw Mitchell. Then his eyes became hard and he stared the man down until Morrison made a point of keeping the two adversaries apart.


Then Heyes' eyes lit upon Harry again, and this time actually saw him.


“Harry!” Heyes spoke up. “How's the Kid?”


Harry opened his mouth to answer but Sheehan interrupted. “You can discuss that later, let's go.”


Panic hit Heyes again and he looked to Cage with anguish in his eyes. Cage actually kinda felt sorry for him.


“C'mon Cage!” Heyes reasoned. “I'm under your authority—can't I just stay with you? I won't go anywhere! There's no need for this—tell him!”


Cage shook his head. “I'm sorry Heyes but in this matter, my authority doesn't take precedence over an arrest. And these are very serious charges.”


“Well, I know, but....I didn't do anything wrong...c'mon....!”


And so the argument continued while the sheriff escorted Heyes and Mitchell down to two different cells, (with an empty cell between them) and got them settled in. Once the sheriff had removed the handcuffs and returned to the front office, Cage and Harry stayed behind to talk reason to the new prisoner.


“Just relax Heyes,” Cage suggested. “Everything will be taken care of, don't worry.”


“Don't worry!?” Heyes was incredulous. “I could end up going back to prison! And the only thing I was doing was trying to get HIM....” Pointed finger over to Mitchell, who growled back at him. “...into custody so we could put a stop to this vendetta!”


“Yeah, I know Heyes,” Cage assured him. “And like I say; don't worry about it. We'll get it taken care of.”


“Well why can't we get it taken care of while I'm in your custody?” Heyes wasn't going to let this go easily. “Really, I promise; I'm not going to go anywhere!”


Cage sighed and considered the options before them.


“Did you ever stop to consider that maybe a jail cell is about the safest place you could be right now?” Cage asked him.


Heyes looked incredulous. “How do ya' figure that!?”


“What do you think Abi's reaction is going to be once she hears all about what you've been up to today?”


Cage almost broke out laughing at the shocked and worried expression that froze upon Heyes' face. Admittedly, he had not thought of that. Oh no. 'Hell hath no fury like a (Scottish) woman.....'

“Why don't you just settle in here for the night,” Cage continued to suggest. “I'll try to keep Abi calmed down about this and then when Sheriff Sheehan releases you there won't be a problem.”


“Oh, yeah,” Heyes breathed. “You got a point.”


“Good. So just relax. Like I said; we have this covered.”


“Yeah, okay,” Heyes gave a big sigh and then turned his attention to Harry. “Did you see the Kid? How is he?”


“Oh, yeah Heyes,” Harry told him. “Ah, he's still out cold, but the Doc thinks he'll be okay. Just needs a day or two to come out of it.”


Heyes nodded, obviously relieved. “Oh good. I just wish I could get over there to see him. This is the second time that he's been shot and I've been locked up and not able to get to him. Geesh!”


“Naw, he's fine Heyes,” Harry assured him. “And I hear the Doc is coming over to check up on you two so you can ask him yourself.”


“Yeah, that's true,” Heyes conceded. “I can ask him myself.”


“Okay Heyes,” Cage patted his arm through the bars. “We better go. I'll bring you some dry clothes though so after the doctor checks ya' over you can get cleaned up.”


“Yeah, thanks,” Heyes mumbled. “I am kinda cold.”


“Okay, but I'll probably be an hour or so; I think the sheriff will be wanting our statements and then I need to go and tell Abi what's happened here. Ohh, I'm sure not looking forward to that!”


“Better you than me,” Heyes commented. “I'll see ya' later. Don't forget about me, now.”


“Naw, we won't. I'm sure Abi wouldn't let us anyways.”


“See ya' later Heyes.”


The two men left the cell block and Heyes rested his chin on his arms and let loose a deep sigh. Here he was again. Then his mouth hardened and he sent a rather antagonist glare over to the other inmate in the cell one over.


Up in the office Morrison had just finished giving his account of the events and was heading over to the cafe for some dinner. He needed some down time to relax, his lung was burning from the exertion of running in that cold air and the chance to sit down, have a hot meal and a cold beer sounded just about right to him.


Harry wasn't far behind the marshal. He didn't really have much to report since he wasn't really a part of the major activities so he was quite happy to head out and get some dinner himself.


That left Cage and the detective, tired as he was, knew that this was all part of the game and he sat down at the sheriff's desk and prepared to give his statement.


The sheriff jotted down some note headings on a piece of paper and then looked up at the detective.


“Do you have the suspect's revolver?” he asked. “That is a rather important piece of evidence.”


“Sure do,” Cage agreed as he dug the weapon out of his belt where he had stored it. “Had no trouble finding it where it had fallen in the slush there.” Sheehan nodded as Cage plunked the revolver down on the table. “He really didn't do anything wrong you know,” Cage continued in Heyes' defense. “We were all after the same suspect—we were all trying to bring him down.”


Sheehan sighed and sent a long-suffering look over to the detective. “He is a convict, Mr. Attwater. He is out on parole, but a conditional parole which by its very nature includes certain 'conditions'! Running down a back alley shooting his gun at anything that moves is far from being one of those conditions!”


“I was also shooting at the suspect,” Cage reminded the sheriff. “You don't seem to have a problem with that.”


“You—I hope—are a trained professional,” Sheehan pointed out. “Mr. Heyes is an outlaw—a loose cannon! There is no way you are going to convince me that he had a right to be involved in that. In fact, Marshal Morrison stated that he told Heyes to get out of it! And if I understand your earlier comments, you also told him to stay out of it—in fact; to stay put! He chose not to. So with him actually shooting the suspect, along with his neglect to let me know who he was upon his arrival in my town, well....let's just say he might be heading back to Wyoming a lot sooner than he expected.”


Cage pursed his lips in irritation but kept quiet, there was nothing else to say. Sheehan relaxed his stance then turned his attention back to the matter at hand. He put down his pen and picked up the revolver that Cage had just placed on the desk top and examined it. “Okay.” He broke it open and closed it again. “Empty,” he observed. “Not surprising. He did a lot of shooting out there.”


“Hmm huh,” Cage agreed.


The sheriff put the revolver down and picked up his pen to start making notes. “Alright. One revolver, empty. Make; Colt 45......”





Down in the cell block Heyes sighed dejectedly and pushed himself away from the bars. He turned to go sit down on the cot and try to relax but then he discovered an opportunity for some entertainment. He stood for a moment watching Mr. Mitchell limping over to his cot and trying to find a way to sit or lay down in such a manner so as not to aggravate his injury. Heyes' smile was quiet but devious.

“I always knew you were a pain in the ass,” Heyes commented wickedly. “Now the proof is in the pudding as they say.”


“Don't be so cocky Heyes!” Mitchell snarled at him as he tried to sit on his left cheek and keep pressure off the right. “You'll be bleedin' worse than this soon enough—you and your partner both! Bleedin' from the kind of wounds that don't heal. Yeah, soon enough; you'll get yours.”

Heyes' mouth hardened. “What are you talking about Mitchell!?” he demanded to know as he approached the bars of the cell that separated them. “What the hell are you after!?”


But Mitchell just looked at him and smiled. “You do have a real cute daughter there Heyes,” he commented like a snake in the mud. “It's a real shame.”


Heyes felt fear wash over him and then an over-powering rage. His hands clutched the bars of the cell until his knuckles turned white. But he took control of himself and refused to allow emotions to rule him; only a convict would allow emotions to rule over the mind and body and Hannibal Heyes was pushing himself beyond that state, pushing himself back up to the man he used to be; the man he was slowly but surely becoming again.


“You bastard! You leave my family outta this!” Heyes warned him with a quietness laced with hate. “You're done for now anyways. I don't know why you're doing this but we will find out—even if I havta beat it outta ya'. Well actually, even if I don't havta to beat it outta you, I'm gonna beat it outta ya'.”


“Big talk for someone who's stuck in a jail cell, Heyes,” Mitchell observed. “Feeling at home, are ya'? You tried to kill me Heyes. You're not a law man, you're still a convict on a conditional parole; the law is gonna rake you over the coals for this!”


“That's where you're wrong.” Heyes smiled at him, though the humor didn't reach his eyes. “You're the one who will be going back to the prison Mitchell—not me. It'll be good for you; give you a chance to see things from the other fellas' perspective. Just think; you'll be able to re-establish some old friendships. I'm sure there are a lot of our mutual acquaintances there who would just love to see you again.”


Mitchell noticeably paled upon this reflection but he tried to cover it up, having already developed his own little fantasy about how that wasn't going to happen. He shifted uncomfortably, more due to his awkward injury than his emotional state, and he smiled knowingly. He was about to add further comment but was interrupted by the cell block door opening and both prisoners turned to view the new arrival.


Constable Newman entered first, followed closely by an older gentleman who could only be the town's doctor. He just had that look about him and the black satchel that he was carrying pretty much cinched the impression. Heyes smiled in reflection. David was about the only doctor whom he knew that didn't actually look like a doctor. Oh well, he mused; give him time.


“Afternoon gentlemen,” the older visitor greeted them. “I'm Dr. Saunders. Which one of you is hurt the worst?”


Heyes grinned and jerked a thumb over towards Mitchell. “He is, Doc. Don't know how much you're gonna be able to help him though; I'd say that wound's terminal.”


“You let me be the judge of that young man,” Saunders cautioned him and he carried on down to the next occupied cell. “Afternoon,” he greeted Mitchell. “Where are you injured?”


“Bullet in my thigh,” Mitchell informed him while Heyes snorted.


Saunders nodded and stepped aside while Newman unlocked the cell door. The two men entered and the doctor went over to the cot and placed his bag down beside the prisoner.


“Can you stand up?” he asked the reclined man.


Newman came forward and took Mitchell's arm, helping him to his shaky feet.


“My, my, my...”Saunders tutted, shaking his head. “you are a mess.” He glanced over at Heyes who was appreciatively watching the proceedings. “You too! What have you been up to?” He sighed and turned back to Mitchell. “Anyway...drop your trousers please.”


“What?” Mitchell was rather incredulous. “Why?”


“I need to see the injury,” Saunders informed him as though that should be obvious.


“Better get used to it!” Heyes sniped. “Having to strip naked for all to see is a common occurrence where you're headed.”


“I'm not dropping my pants in front of him!” Mitchell insisted with an angry gesture towards his fellow inmate.


Saunders followed the gesture and was met with a pair of innocent brown eyes. “Oh come now! We're not children here. If it'd make you more comfortable just turn and face the other way.”


Mitchell scowled but then shuffled around so he was facing away from Heyes and then Saunders placed himself between the two men, effectively blocking Heyes' view of the proceedings. Heyes smiled at Mitchell's discomfort and outright grinned when Mitchell yelped as Saunders inspected the bullet wound.


After a few quick seconds of examining the injury, Saunders straightened up.

“Okay, pull up your trousers,” he said. “I'm done for now.”


“What do ya' mean you're done!?” Mitchell complained. “You didn't do anything!”


“I know,” Saunders agreed. “The bullet is still in there. You look like your nose might be broken too so we'll have to do something about that. We'll get you over to my surgery in order to get you cleaned up. I'm sure not going to do it in here.”


“Oh.”


“Aww, that's too bad,” Heyes complained. “I've had some medical training myself. I was hoping to assist.”


Mitchell sent Heyes a scathing look but Saunders chose to ignore the comment. He snatched up his satchel and left the cell, followed by Newman who slammed the door shut behind them. Saunders approached Heyes' cell and took a close look at the inmate.


“You injured anywhere, young man?” he asked.


“No sir.” Heyes answered him. “A few bruises but no broken bones.”


“Well, I better take a look at you anyways. Constable, if you would open his door please.”


“Yessir.”


“Hmm,” Saunders surveyed the man in front of him. “You still need cleaning up and some dry clothes. Do you have any?”


“Yessir,” Heyes informed him. “A friend of mine is bringing some over in a little bit. Hopefully he can persuade the sheriff to get me some hot water and soap as well. I know I look a mess.”


“Yes, you do,” Saunders agreed. “None of that blood yours?”


“Ahh, don't think so.” Heyes looked reflective; he hadn't realized that there was blood on him.


“Fine,” Saunders accepted that. “Take a seat young man and take off your coat.”


Heyes did so and then waited patiently while the doctor pulled up his damp shirt and did a quick examination of the bruised rib cage. Heyes flinched occasionally but never felt the sharp pain that always accompanies a broken rib. Saunders straightened up and took Heyes' chin in his hand and tilted his head up and then he put a finger up in front of his nose and moved it from side to side.


“Follow my finger with your eyes.”


Heyes did so and the doctor nodded with satisfaction. “Okay. Like you said; bruised but not broken. You let me know though, if you don't feel so good later. Sometimes internal injuries take a while to show up.”


“Yessir, Doc. I sure will,” Heyes assured him, then quickly got the medical man's attention just as he was leaving the cell. “Ah, Doc!? What about my friend?”


Saunders furrowed his brow. “Your friend?”


“Yeah, ah...blond fella. Bullet crease on his forehead.”


“Oh! You mean Mr. Curry?”


Heyes grinned; he was so accustomed to keeping their identities a secret that it had not occurred to him to refer to the Kid by name. “Yeah, I mean Mr. Curry.”


“I take it that means that you're Hannibal Heyes.”


Heyes' grin broadened. “Yeah, it does.”


“Hmm,” Saunders nodded. “Why doesn't that surprise me?


Heyes kinda shrugged, feeling a little self-conscious.


“I believe your friend will be fine,” Saunders assured him. “He has a concussion but I expect he will regain consciousness tomorrow. I'm keeping him at my place now just as a precaution. I'll let you know when he wakes up.”


Heyes' smile was one of great relief. “Aw, that's great Doc, thank you.” Then Heyes leaned in to the bars a little closer and motioned for the Doc to do the same. “Ahh, I take it that Mitchell will be under guard while he is being treated over at your surgery?”


“Yes, I expect so,” Saunders assured him.


“Okay. But just make sure that you don't leave him in the same room as my partner, alright?” Heyes cautioned him. “He's got some kind of vendetta against us so just, be careful with him, alright?”


Doc Saunders nodded and gave Heyes' arm an assuring pat. “Don't worry Mr. Heyes, I wouldn't dream of leaving an inmate in the same room with another patient—and he won't be unguarded. Your friend will be quite safe. Don't worry.”


Heyes smiled. “Okay Doc, thanks.”


Saunders nodded at Newman and the two left the cell block together. Heyes pulled his clothing back on; they were damp but still offered some amount of warmth, then he glanced over at Mitchell, the two men locking eyes. They both held the look for a moment before Mitchell smiled and looked away.


Within fifteen minutes Newman returned with a pair of handcuffs and Mitchell was secured and then assisted, limping down the aisle and out the door, on his way over to the doctor's surgery to get that pesky bullet removed.


Just as they were leaving Cage walked in carrying a dry change of clothes for the remaining inmate.


“Here ya' go Heyes,” he said as he handed the clothes over to him through the bars. “The deputy is going to bring you some soap and water too so you can get cleaned up.”


“Alright, thanks,” Heyes accepted the clothing. “This place is just crawling with lawmen of all types isn't it.”


“It's the kind of town that needs it,” Cage observed drily. “Anyway, I brought over a couple of your sweaters as well since it looks like that coat of yours could do with a laundering too.”


“My coat?” Heyes repeated, surprised. “I don't think I've ever laundered my coat.”


“Then it's probably due.”


“I donno; if we clean it, it might fall apart.”


“Just hand it over Heyes.”


“Listen,” Heyes began in a conspiratorial tone. “we don't really have to tell anyone about this do we? I mean you did say that you could take care of it and....” He stopped talking as Cage regretfully shook his head.


“I've already sent telegrams to Sheriff Trevors, Warden Reece and Mr. Granger,” the detective informed him. “They all need to know what is going on here, just in case we can't get you out of it—you could be in a lot of trouble here Heyes.”


“Oh.” Heyes' expression dropped as his mind flipped from one of those individuals to the next, doing a quick calculation as to which one of them would be the least disappointed in him. He shoulders slumped almost imperceptibly as he realized that they would each be just as eager as the other to wring his neck.


The two men stood in silence for a moment, Heyes staring distractedly into thin air and Cage watching him. The big detective finally gave a frustrated sigh and the anger he had been trying to keep in check came forth.


“Dammit Heyes!” he scolded. “What the hell did you think you were doing!? You're not a lawman! Jeez—far from it! You're a convict out on a very conditional parole! That means that there are some very strict guidelines that you have to adhere to! Running after a suspect with your guns blazing is far from one of them!”


“He shot the Kid!” Heyes retorted in his own defense. “What was I suppose to do!?”


“Exactly what I told ya' to do!” Cage reminded him. “I told ya' to stay put in the warehouse! Jeez—even the marshal is trying to help you to stay outta trouble; he told ya' to stay out of it! But NO! No—you just had to be right in the thick of it didn't ya!? You might very well have blown your parole here Heyes, what do ya' think about that!? Hopefully Abi and I can take care of things but in the mean time you can be thanking your lucky stars that you have a good lawyer cause you just might be needing him! IF they give him the chance to speak on your behave at all! They don't need to ya' know!”


Any response that Heyes had been building up got lost on its way out when a young officer whom Heyes had not met yet entered the cell block carrying all the vestiges required for a sponge bath.

“Here ya' are, Mr. Heyes,” he offered, somewhat in awe. “We'll get ya' cleaned up.”


“We?” Heyes asked skeptically as the youngster unlocked the cell door and brought the items in. “I think I can manage to give myself a bath Constable.”


“Ah, it's 'deputy' actually,” the young man corrected him. “And sorry, but somebody has ta' stay in here with ya'.”


“I'll stay with him, Deputy,” Cage offered. “I need to collect the wet clothes anyways.”


“Oh. Yeah okay,” the deputy agreed. “I suppose that'll be alright. Here's a towel.”


“Okay Heyes, strip,” Cage ordered him after the officer had left. “Let's get this over with.”


“I'd much rather have Abi assist me.”


Cage snorted. “I bet. But right now I doubt you'd want her getting anywhere near your sensitive parts if you get my meaning. C'mon Heyes, don't be shy. Just pretend that you're back in prison; hell, it might even be good for you to get accustomed to that routine again.”


Heyes scowled but did as suggested. He wasn't really all that shy anymore, just feeling resentful at the enforced lack of privacy. Still he peeled off the wet and dirty clothing and got himself cleaned up. Cage assisted when he needed to and tried not to notice the numerous scars on the other man's body; scars that were a testament to not only his years as an outlaw, but also to the brutal treatment that he had been subjected to as a inmate under the jurisdiction of the Auburn Prison System.


Yes, he tried not to notice but even he felt a certain amount of anger brewing at the obvious abuses that prison inmates were subjected to. No wonder Heyes was having such a hard time adjusting to things out here and why he held such resentment towards that man in the other cell. Still, Cage had to stay focused on their goal and he couldn't allow sentimentality to get in the way of keeping Hannibal Heyes in line.


Heyes felt Cage's eyes upon him but he chose to ignore the scrutiny; he no longer took it as a personal affront. He dried himself off as he shivered in the cold air and pulled on the clean and warm clothing as quickly as he could. That done, he had to admit to feeling a whole lot more comfortable to the point where he might even be able to relax a little bit.

“Alright,” Cage mumbled as he gathered up the items. “we'll get these laundered and Abi can hold on to them for now. We'll see ya' in the morning.” Heyes nodded as Cage turned to go, but then the detective stopped in mid stride and glanced back at the reluctant inmate.“Oh, I almost forgot,” Cage told him. “Harris is dead.”


Heyes perked up. “What? How?”


“One of the other inmates threw him off the third floor walkway,” Cage explained. “Seems he wasn't too popular with that group.”


Heyes couldn't help but grin. “Does Mitchell know?”


Cage shrugged. “Don't know,” he admitted. “I sure haven't told him, but he may have heard about it another way. See ya' tomorrow.”


“Yeah, see ya'.”


Heyes settled onto his cot, his arms behind his head as he tried to relax and put the day's events behind him. No such luck. Even now, being warm and dry, his mind, as is its want, broke free and went running out of control. He was worried about his partner and wanted to go see him. He didn't care if Jed wasn't awake yet, he just wanted to see him to reassure himself that he was alright. A head shot; that's nothing to take lightly. It hadn't looked too bad but one never knows with things like this. What if he doesn't wake up? What if he wakes up and doesn't remember who he is? What if he has brain damage—can't see, can't walk, can't.....


Damn that Mitchell! Heyes would love to help remove that bullet from his derriere and without the benefit of any sedative too! After what that bastard had done, he deserved no less!


Then Heyes was up and pacing, falling back into old routines—old habits. What had he done? Hands went through hair as he paced back and forth. Oh crap! What had he done? Would they really send him back? If they did, it would be for good—it would be forever. He'd never get out of there again. He felt panic rise up and threaten to choke him. They couldn't! They couldn't send him back! He hadn't done anything wrong—not really!


Surely Abi would stop them—and Lom and Steven. They'd all back him up. They won't let this happen, no. And Kenny too. They'll all back him up—won't they? Pace, pace. Heavy sigh. Plunking down on the cot, rubbing his face with his hands. Oh brother! Was he never going to learn? Was he never going to just back off and let other people deal with things?


Cage had been right—and Morrison, though it stuck in Heyes' craw to have to admit it. Heyes should have just stayed out of it! The law was on to Mitchell then and they weren't going to let him get away and Heyes might have just ruined everything!


Would Abi stand by him if he went back to prison? Why would she? There would be no chance of him getting released again. It wouldn't matter how hard his friends tried and that's if they even bothered to try again. They had all worked so hard to get him released this time and then he goes and blows it!? Oh no.

Heyes felt a tingling of fear wash over him as he thought about life at the prison—thought about the reality of actually going back there. He couldn't do it again, he knew he couldn't. He'd rather be dead than go back there and nobody is going to use his daughter to manipulate him the next time either! What would be the point? He was never going to see her again anyways. Abi would be so ashamed of him that she probably wouldn't even tell her who her father was.


Fear was replaced by sadness. Oh, Anya, sweetheart. I'm sorry. I've let you down. More than anybody else, I've let you down. He felt tears threatening, his throat tightening up into a knot. He'd had his life back again and an even better life being offered to him and he had thrown it all away with his arrogance. He hadn't learned humility at all! He'd just been covering it up, playing the game. Pretending to change his thinking around and he'd fooled them all—himself included.


He didn't deserve to be out of prison. He was still the same selfish, bull-headed outlaw he had been before his trial. Still having to take control; still having to be the one in charge! Nobody was going to tell him what to do! He was so much smarter than the rest of them, he was running circles around everyone else—well, except Abi—but still; everyone else! Nobody could get the job done the way he could, no no! The great Hannibal Heyes! He'd save the day!


On his feet, pacing. He wasn't going to get much sleep tonight!



Supper came and went. Stew and biscuits, well better than beans and biscuits. He wasn't hungry anyways. Coffee? Yeah, no—maybe. I suppose. How about something to read—a book? Perhaps the newspaper? Here ya' go Heyes, coffee and a paper. How about a brandy and an after dinner cigar? No, I don't know how your partner is. Settle down. Yeah, Mitchell's fine, that Doc dug the bullet out no problem. Mitchell and the bullet will both be back here tomorrow. Will ya' settle down so we can all get some rest?


The hours dragged by. The newspaper hadn't offered up anything of any great importance; there wasn't even anything about the great alleyway shootout. Maybe it was too soon to expect a write up on that—maybe in tomorrow's paper. Abi hadn't come to see him. Was she that mad at him? What were they doing while he was stuck in here and the Kid was laid up? Had anyone questioned Mitchell or was he still under sedation? Heyes was looking forward to what that bastard had to say. Maybe he wouldn't end up in prison after all, maybe they'd just hang him. Either way he was dead. Like Harris. Heyes hadn't been able to hide his grin when Cage had told him. Tit for tat on that.


Heyes fluffed up what little there was of what was referred to as a pillow, pulled off his boots yet again and then settled in under the blanket to see if he could actually get some sleep. It was late, he always could tell that just by the feel in the air—it was night; time for roll call, lights out and the evening lock down. He could almost hear those big heavy steel locks clanging into place and locking him into his cell for the night. He lay on his side, one arm cradling his head and he stared at the bars.


Just like at most other jailhouses he'd been a guest of, there was still a dim light shining in the cell block; they never did turn the lamps off altogether. That always bothered Heyes, it never getting dark enough to be black but he'd learned to accept and adjust to it in any case. And here he was again, laying on the cot looking at the bars of his cell through the dimness of the shadows. This was strange; now that all was quiet he'd almost expected a déjà vu, but this was nothing like being in that cell at the prison. The whole feel of the place was different. Not quite sure how different, just—heavy. Yeah, that was it. The atmosphere at the prison had been heavy. This here was light and airy, despite the bars.

Wonder how Miranda's doing. He creased his brow; where had that come from? He hadn't thought about Miranda in quite some time and then he felt guilty about that. He knew he had hurt her and that bothered him because he also knew that in another place and time he could have been very happy with her. But there had been so much going on. Reestablishing things with Abi, finally meeting Anya and then all of these mysteries swirling around them; he just hadn't had any time to stop and think about anything else.


Now here he was stuck in a cell again with nothing to keep his mind in check. It was quiet time; time to reflect, time to ponder. There was nothing coming at him; no problems to solve, no people to chase down—no Abi to banter with. His mind had gone off on its own and ended up coming back with Miranda. He sighed; a deep cleansing sigh and with one last look at the bars of the cell, he closed his eyes and fell asleep.



Not surprisingly he slept fitfully, filled up with dreams and mutterings and thrashings about. He was at the prison again and Kenny was standing by him, shaking his head and his finger and telling him that he would have to go stand in the corner now for being such a bad boy. Heyes had shuffled over to where he had been directed looking all woe-be gone and Anya was there, giggling at him from behind little hands covering her mouth. This was humiliating.


Morrison had drifted through, not staying long thank goodness but long enough to put in his two bits worth about how he'd always known that Heyes was no good. Outlaw, through and through. No reforming that one—nope. Then he was gone in a whiff of gun smoke, or fog or cloud—whatever; it was just nice that he had disappeared.


Then oddly enough, Belle was there looking very disappointed and telling him that he would be sent to bed without any supper now that he was back in prison. What a disappointment; they'd all had such hopes.....


Heyes twisted and turned, muttering explanations and (yes, even he had to admit) excuses for his foolishness. Could they not just give him one more chance? He'd make good next time—he promised. Just one more chance. Kenny shook his head and his finger. Anya said 'No; one chance was all he got and he'd blown it. She'd find someone else to be her Papa now.'

Abi and Randa seconded that opinion. 'What a shame.' Abi was saying.

'Yes.' Randa nodded her head in agreement, then pursed her lips with a look of disapproval drifting across her countenance. “Handsome is as handsome does; as they say. I never would have left William for him.'

Heyes moaned in his sleep and curled himself into a ball, pulling the blankets up around his shoulders. He was in his cell number 312. He was alone but he could hear people talking down below, down on the work floor. Then, quite suddenly his cell was on fire and he was trapped and he could hear a woman screaming. Oddly enough he wasn't that scared, like it wasn't really him in the fire but he could hear a woman screaming and he thought distractedly that someone ought to do something about that.

Then Kid put in an appearance just casually walking out of the flames. He was smiling that big open mouthed grin of his and laughing with the blood pouring down his face from a huge gash in his forehead. He didn't seem to notice it. 'C'mon Heyes, it's not all bad. I'll break ya' outta here and we can go back to Devil's Hole. I'm sure that Wheat and Kyle will let us come back and work for them—it'll be fun!'.
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Keays

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

PostSubject: Ashes to Ashes   Sat Dec 21, 2013 3:37 am

Heyes really groaned then and woke up with a start. Damn, that was scary! He lay there for some moments getting his bearings and collecting his thoughts. He wasn't shaking or terrified, it hadn't been a nightmare just a meandering and disturbing dream brought on by the pressing events of his days. He lay there on his side, in a ball and stared at the bars of his cell. He knew where he was and disappointment in himself hit him again and he feared for real that his friends were not going to forgive him this time.


It was still early, not yet dawn but Heyes knew that he was not going to get back to sleep again. He rarely did if something woke him up in the night; without the sedative from David to help him sleep, his brain would just think that it was morning and start grinding on something again and he'd be up for the day. He sighed and settled into his pillow. He had to admit that he was actually feeling quite warm and comfortable right where he was and saw no good reason at all to get up.


Until half an hour later when he had to pee. He sighed again only this time in irritation. When he slept right through the night he never had to pee at this time of the morning, but if he woke up early, like this then all of a sudden he'd have to pee! It was as though his bladder was getting the message from his brain that it was morning and time to get up—therefore....groan! He was nice and comfy right where he was, he didn't want to get up!


Oh man! He must be getting older. Used to be he could just ignore it; pretend it wasn't there and go back to scheming and planning his next job or his next conquest. Not anymore! Now it was persistent, refusing to be ignored and preventing his brain from focusing on the important things. Now it was knocking at the door and insisting on being let out!


Finally he couldn't take it anymore! He snaked an arm out from under the blanket and searched around under the cot in hopes of hitting upon the chamber pot or, more likely; an old wooden bucket set aside for that purpose. His hand finally hit upon something wooden and he grabbed it and pulled it out from under and then lay there, contemplating. Well, unfortunately he wasn't quite dexterous enough to do the job from the prone position, so he was just gonna have to get up. So, still holding the blanket snugly around his shoulders, he swung his legs off the cot and stood up—ohh! That floor was cold! Oh, hurry up! Hurry up! Now that his bladder got the idea that it was about to be relieved it really started knocking at the door and Heyes was almost shifting from foot to foot as he quickly undid his belt and trousers and got down to business.


Wasn't this fitting, he thought with his eyes closed while nature ran its course; the last time he had come close to peeing his pants he'd been behind bars as well. The main difference was that this time it had been on account of his own laziness and his refusal to accept the inevitable. Still hadn't learned, he mused as he shook himself off, tucked it away and rolled back into bed—after pushing the bucket back under the cot, of course.


He gave a deep sigh of contentment, let go of a couple of more shivers and then settled in to warm up under the blanket. His eyes felt heavy but then thoughts of the Kid came to invade his rest and his contentment turned to worry again. So instead of falling back to sleep, as he knew he wouldn't anyways, he lay there curled up in a ball and watched the dawn light begin to put in an appearance and listened to the sounds of life beginning to stir in the front office. Then he smelled coffee.


Jed Curry was sitting at the kitchen table, his short legs kicking back and forth as they hung down from the chair still not quite long enough to reach the floor. It was Saturday and his Ma had made pancakes and some bacon from the hog that they and the Heyes family had recently butchered and shared. This was a real treat with the fresh churned butter and a little dollop of honey over the cakes and bacon to help sweeten them up. Yeah—Jed loved Saturdays!


His Ma had just poured herself a fresh cup of coffee and came to sit down beside him at the table. She brushed a long blonde curl away from her sparkling blue eyes and smiled lovingly at her youngest son. He grinned back at her as he stuffed his face with pancake.


She smiled even more and reached out a hand to run through his thick curls.


“It's an important day Jed,” she reminded him. “Are you all ready?”


“Yes ma'am,” he smiled sweetly. “I've been ready for ages.”


“Han is going to be disappointed,” she prophesized. “You and he have been such good friends.”


“Han will understand,” Jed assured her, but then looked worried himself. “I hope he will. He knows he'll always be my friend.”


“Yes. But a decision like this; it could change everything.”


“But it won't change that!” Jed insisted but suddenly his appetite was waning and the pancakes were growing cold. “Will it?”


His Ma shrugged and took a sip of coffee. “It might,” she cautioned him. “Are you sure you still want to go through with it?”


“Well, yeah,” Jed mumbled, feeling disappointed that his mother was doubting him. “Why not?”


Just then the silhouette of a young woman appeared in the open doorway, the summer sun shining brightly behind her, obscuring her features from the two people sitting at the table. Jed looked away from his mother and grinned over at the new arrival. His mother frowned and pursed her lips in concern.


“I don't know Jed,” she commented as she stroked his curls. “She's awfully young for you.”


The silhouette in the doorway moved inside and Beth smiled down at the little boy sitting at the table with his mother.....



Jed groaned. Someone was stroking his hair, but his head was pounding. He tried to move but everything ached. Where was he? He was laying down and in a bed, that much he could tell but...he couldn't remember. Who was that stroking his hair? He groaned again.


“Shhhh.”


Obviously someone was with him. “Belle?” he asked quietly.


“No,” came back the quiet response. “I'm Mrs. Saunders, the doctor's wife.”


“Oh.” Kid groaned again. “Where's Belle?”


“I don't know who Belle is.”


Jed slowly, cautiously opened his eyes. He became aware of a damp, cool compress placed across his brow but his head hurt so badly. He tried to focus, his blurry vision refusing to sharpen; he blinked, zeroing in on the bed post hoping that maybe he'd see something that would help him orientate himself. It wasn't working. Who was this woman that was with him? If she didn't know who Belle was then they weren't at the Double J. What had happened?


He licked his lips and swallowed. “Where's Joshua?”


“I don't know Joshua, either,” came back the quiet response.


Jed groaned and licked his lips again.


“Here, take some water.”


He felt an arm come under his shoulders and lift his head just a bit. That started it to really pounding but he was thirsty now that water was under his nose and he drank eagerly from the offered cup. She only let him take so much however, before pulling it back and settling him in again.


“That's enough,” she cautioned him. “Don't want to take too much all at once.”


Kid opened his eyes again and this time his vision was a little more focused. He was able to turn his head and take in the older rather plump woman sitting beside the bed, a gentle smile on her face.


“What happened? Where am I?” he mumbled out.


“You were shot,” she told him bluntly. “A crease, along the forehead. That's why you probably have a pounding headache right about now.”


“Uh huh,” Kid agreed.


“I don't know who Joshua is,” Mrs. Saunders reiterated. “but your friend, Mr. Heyes is over at the jailhouse.”


Kid closed his eyes and groaned again. Oh no! These people knew who they were and Heyes was in jail! He couldn't remember anything, but he must have been shot during the arrest and now they were both in for it! But then the woman's next words really confused him.


“I'll let the sheriff know you're awake now,” she informed him. “Mr. Heyes has been very worried about you and I know he'll want to come over to see you.”


What did that mean? Did she actually think that the sheriff was going to allow Hannibal Heyes out of jail in order to come visit him? More likely now that he was awake, the sheriff was going to come and drag him over to the jailhouse! That didn't sound appealing at all! As much as he'd like to see his cousin and put his mind to rest, he didn't feel like moving anywhere—especially from this comfortable bed to a hard cot in a jail cell!


He felt a gentle hand pat him on the shoulder. “You just lay quiet now,” she told him. “Go back to sleep if you want to. My husband will want to examine you again anyways before you can have visitors but I promise that I will let your friend know that you've regained consciousness. He'll be very relieved, I'm sure.”

“Yes ma'am....” came the mumbled response. Sleep sounded real good right about then.






Breakfast of oatmeal and coffee came and went and Heyes started pacing again. One would have thought that his years in prison would have broken him of this habit, but it still had a hold and he took it up with a vengeance once again. This was driving him nuts. It was late morning and no one had come to visit him! No one was letting him know what was going on. Was Abi that angry with him that she wouldn't even come to visit? She must know how desperate he'd be feeling right about now!


He paced and paced and was beginning to get angry! His pacing increased and he'd actually hit the bars with his fist before turning from them and heading towards the wall again. This was crazy! He couldn't take this—not again! He had to get out he had to know what was going on!


He was just about to start yelling in his frustration when he heard the cell block door unlocking and he pivoted around to face that way, anticipating some news. His heart sank, however, when the opened door revealed close to the last person he really wanted to see. Newman was escorting a rather pale and sore Mitchell back into the cell block to return him to his incarceration.


Heyes snarled, his mood already foul. “Back to wallow in the mud with the rest of us, Mitchell?” he prodded him. “Why would the doctor bother digging a bullet out of a dead man?”


“That bullet's evidence, Heyes,” Newman informed the ex-outlaw.

“Yeah,” Mitchell sneered back as he limped into his cell and his cuffs were removed. “Evidence that's gonna send you back to prison Heyes.”


“It's almost worth it to know you're gonna hang you bastard!” Heyes threw back at him. “And you are gonna hang—there's no doubt about that!”


“Heyes, stop goading 'em,” Newman ordered. “Only a jury can decide that—not you.”


“You didn't hear that woman screaming, Constable,” Heyes informed him as his throat tightened with the memory. “It's a sound I'm never gonna forget, I'll tell ya'.”


Mitchell just smiled. No need to give anything away. He went over to his cot, maneuvered himself painfully into his repose and turned his back on his companion. Heyes scowled and mumbled obscenities under his breath and commenced pacing.


“Newman!” came a voice from the outer office.


“Yeah!”


“Bring Heyes out here!”


Heyes perked up. What was this? Was something finally about to happen?


“Yessir!” Newman responded.


He unlocked Heyes' cell door and motioned the prisoner over to him. Heyes came willingly and Newman snapped the handcuffs on him in front and escorted him out to the office. Heyes smiled when he saw Cage standing over by the sheriff's desk with the two of them looking back at him.


“You can take those cuffs off him, Constable,” Sheehan told him. “We have decided that due to lack of evidence and with his involvement in helping to solve this mystery, he is free to go.”


“OH!” Heyes really brightened up and a grin broke his face in half as Newman uncuffed him. “I'm free to go!?”


“Yes,” Sheehan repeated. “But you're still under Mr. Attwater's authority! Do you understand that!? And no more running gun battles down the back streets of my town!”


“Oh, no, no of course not!” Heyes readily agreed. “Ahh, but why the change of heart? I thought....”


“It appears that the bullet that hit Mr. Mitchell was not from your gun after all,” Sheehan informed him. “It was Mr. Attwater who brought the suspect down, so you're off the hook. Thank your lucky stars your aim was off, Mr. Heyes or, believe me; you wouldn't be going anywhere!”


“Oh.” Heyes almost looked disappointed that it hadn't been him who had fired the crucial shot but he was relieved to be out of that cell and if that meant taking a back seat to Cage, well so be it.


Sheehan stood up and turned to the safe. He quickly worked the dial and opening the door he took out Heyes' holster and handed the rig over to him.


“Here ya' go,” Sheehan said. “It's not loaded and from now on just be careful where ya' point that thing!”


“Yessir Sheriff, I certainly....” Heyes' smile didn't falter, his eyes didn't even blink and he covered up his surprise with a quick cough. “Yeah, I'll certainly be more careful Sheriff, thank you.”


Heyes took the rig and strapped it around his waist. He smiled over at Cage. “Shall we go?”


“Yup. I know Abi's got a thing or two to say to you.”


Heyes' smile dropped as they turned towards the door.


“Oh, one more thing!” Sheehan stopped them in their tracks. “The Doc says that your friend woke up a while ago. If you want to nip over and see him, just for a minute you can.”


“OH!” Heyes' grin returned. “Thank you Sheriff. I will.”


The two men stepped out onto the boardwalk and carried on in silence for about half a block before Heyes thought that it was safe enough for him to venture an opinion.


“You switched guns, didn't ya'?”


“I don't know what you're talking about Heyes,” Cage responded.


Heyes' dimples went even deeper. “Thanks.”


“Don't mention it.”








Heyes knocked on the front door of the doctor's residence and he and Cage waited while they could hear footsteps coming down the inside hallway towards them. The door opened and a plump smiling woman greeted them there. Both Heyes and Cage quickly removed their hats and Heyes smiled disarmingly.


“Ah, afternoon ma'am,” he greeted her. “Ah, I was told that I could come visit my friend for a few minutes. Is that alright?”


“Oh. I take it you're Mr. Heyes?”


“Yes ma'am.”


“Certainly. Come on in.” She stepped aside and opened the door for them to enter. She looked up at Cage as he stepped past her and marveled at his height. “Oh my,” she smiled nervously, with a hand to her ample bosom but then stepped around them and led the way. “He's just down here at the end of the hallway.”


“Thank you ma'am,” Heyes said to her and he continued on down the hall, feeling a little nervous at what he was going to find, even after all the assurances he'd had from friends and the doctor.


Cage touched his arm to get his attention. “You go on in Heyes,” he told him. “I'll wait out here for ya'.”


“Okay,” Heyes smiled and then opened the door and entered the room, closing the door behind him.


Cage glanced around and locked eyes with the smiling hostess. She blinked nervously but was bound and determined to be sociable.


“Would you like a cup of tea?” she asked.


Heyes closed the door behind him and then leaned back against it, his heart in his throat. Kid looked so pale it scared him a little; he was almost blending in to the white sheets that surrounded him. He appeared to be asleep and Heyes hesitated to approach him not sure if he should wake him up, but still feeling the need to settle in his own mind that Kid was still Kid and that he was going to be alright.


He pushed himself off the door and quietly approached the bed, noticing the raw, ugly gash that sliced across the Kid's hairline. Jed sighed deeply and shifted a little and then through some instinct telling him that he wasn't alone, he opened his eyes to slits and saw his cousin.


Heyes smiled and came all the way forward, putting a hand on the Kid's shoulder.


“Hey Kid,” he breathed with his relief. “How are ya'?”


Kid closed his eyes and groaned. “I've been better,” he said quietly, almost a whisper. “But I'm okay. How about you?”


“Yeah, ah—better,” Heyes admitted as he pulled up a chair and sat down by his friend. “I would have been here sooner but there was a little misunderstanding over at the jailhouse.”


“Oh yeah?” Jed asked, his eyes still closed. “Were they fed up with your antics and going to send you back to prison?”


“Ah, yeah actually.”


Jed opened his eyes and turned his head to gaze at his cousin. “You're kidding,” he said. “I was just joking.”


“Hmm,” Heyes nodded with raised eyebrows. “They weren't.”


Jed looked concerned and actually tried to lift himself up on his elbows. Heyes quickly put a hand on his shoulder again and pushed him back down.


“No no, it's alright now,” Heyes assured him. “Everybody backed me up—even Cage. So, it's alright now.”


“Oh.” Jed nodded and settled back down again. “Okay, good.”


Kid sighed and closed his eyes again; he looked exhausted. Heyes sat quietly, keeping his hand on his friend's shoulder until Jed's breathing became quiet and regular, suggesting that he had gone back to sleep. Heyes was just about to get up and leave him when a quiet question came up to him.


“Did ya' get 'em?” Kid asked, his eyes still closed.


“Who?”


“Mitchell! Did ya' get 'em?”


“Oh yeah Kid. We got 'em.”


“Good. Has he said anything?”


“No, not yet.”


“Hmm.”


“He will. We're getting close to the end of this thing Kid. I know we are.” Heyes smiled. “You and Beth have a wedding to get to.”


Jed smiled. “Yeah. Not too soon though; gotta let my hair grow to cover up the scar.”


“Oh well, the ladies like a scar,” Heyes ventured. “So long as it doesn't mar a handsome face. Besides I thought you'd be pleased to have a scar there.”


“Pleased?” Kid furrowed his brow and instantly regretted the action. “Why would I be pleased Heyes?”


“Well, cause now ya' got one just like mine!” Heyes teased him. “Kinda brings ya' up to my level!”


Kid opened his eyes and sent him a bleary version of 'the look'.

Heyes grinned at him innocently. “Beth is going to find ya' totally irresistible now.”


“Beth already finds me totally irresistible Heyes—I didn't need ta' get shot in the head to accomplish that.”


“Yeah, well; every little bit helps.”


This gentle bantering would have carried on for some time if a knock on the door hadn't interrupted them. Heyes glanced over that way as the door quietly opened and Dr. Saunders put in an appearance.


“My wife told me our patient had a visitor,” he explained. “May I come in?”


“Oh, yes. Certainly Doctor,” Heyes smiled at him. “He's looking good. How long before he'll be up and about?”


Saunders came over to the bed and looked down at his patient. “Well, perhaps tomorrow, but nothing strenuous. He'll need to take it easy for a couple of days. No running around through back alley's”


“Ah.” Heyes was never going to live that one down.


“Come and join us for tea in the kitchen when you're done, Mr. Heyes,” Saunders invited him. “But don't be too much longer, he needs to rest.”


“Yes, of course,” Heyes agreed as the doctor smiled at his patient and then left the room. Heyes turned back to his cousin. “I guess I should leave ya' alone.”


“It's alright Heyes,” Jed mumbled, his eyes getting heavy. “You can....stay...a while....longer.....”


“Uh huh.” Heyes just stood and quietly watched his friend as he slowly drifted off into sleep again. He smiled and gave him another soft squeeze on the shoulder. “I'll see ya' later Jed.”







Heyes gulped heavily as Cage knocked on the door.  It was only Abi, so why was he so nervous?  The door opened and a pair of accusing, affronted, brown eyes stared into his.  They flicked up to Cage.

“You’d best come in.”  Abigail turned on her heel and walked back into the room, leaving them to follow her stiff, tense back.

The hotel room somehow seemed different, even though he’d shared that bed with Abigail the night before his arrest; it seemed more formal and somber, and right now it seemed unlikely he’d ever share a bed with her again.

Cage’s blue eyes glanced from one to the other, drinking in the outraged silence as he folded his arms.  “Do I need to stay to keep order?”

Abigail arched her brows.  “No, Cage.  Please leave us.”

Heyes felt the nerves flutter in his stomach, her stillness screaming at him across the void of mute grievance.
They watched the door close slowly behind Cage before Heyes turned to face her.  He swept his hat from his head and proffered a contrite smile.  “I’m sorry, Abi.  I was stupid.”

“Sorry?  I bet you were, especially when you didn’t know if you’d get out of there.  And yes, you were stupid; but I don’t want to argue with you about that – you have so much more experience in that area.”

“The need to get Mitchell just ran away with me, Abi.  I had to get him.  He was the man who was behind everything that happened to me in prison.  I just got swept up.”

Her face remained stony.  “You were warned.  Cage told you to stay with Harry.”

“I know,” Heyes shrugged.  “But I didn’t know if I could trust them to get him.  They didn’t need him to be caught as much as I did.”

Abigail snorted in offended surprise.  “Trust?  I trust Cage with my life and Anya’s.  I wouldn’t work with him if I didn’t!”

“I know...”  Heyes ran his hand distractedly through his hair.  “I know that now, but then?  I thought,  maybe, that it was just a job for him.  It meant more for me.”

“More?  What kind of people do you think work in law enforcement?  We’re not just in it for the money – it’s not like working at a grocery store or a bank!”

“I know,” he shook his head dejectedly.  “I’m an idiot.”

“Five years in jail is enough to teach just about anybody a lesson, but it appears that pigs will fly before you learn anything.”

Heyes arched his eyebrows.  “Well, I guess we found out that pigs’ fly with enough thrust.  Mitchell was mine.”

Her eyes widened.  “You want to get clever, Mr. Heyes!?  It’s a shame that couldn’t happen yesterday.  You’re a day too late.”

“Abi, you’re too quiet.  I prefer you kicking and screaming when you’re angry.  At least I know what you’ve got on your mind.”

“Do you, now?  Maybe I’m too tired.”  Her eyes softened, but her voice became more vehement.   “I thought that was it.  I really thought you were going back to jail, I was scared.”

“Me too.”  He stepped towards her.  “You didn’t even come to see me, Abi.  Why?”

“Why?  Two reasons, Mr. Heyes; one – I wanted to strangle you.  Two – I’ve been up all night making sure that my version of events reached the governor of Wyoming’s ears, and not anybody else’s.”

“The governor?”

“Yes, Mr. Heyes.  I was speaking with him on the telephone machine.  He was not pleased at all!  I had to convince him that you were assisting in the chase - and absolutely nothing else.  I also had to persuade him your enthusiasm had been provoked by the fact that he tried to kill me and your daughter, and you’d just tried to rescue that poor woman from the burning building.”

Heyes’ eyes widened.  “And you persuaded him?”

“Partially – Cage swapping the gun helped,” she shook her head, “and if he hadn’t done that, they’d have known the Schofield bullet came from your gun and not his.”  Her eyes glittered with emotion.  “WHY!?  Do Anya and I mean less to you than revenge?  Did you only want to get out here so you could hunt him down?”

Heyes rattled his head from side to side in denial.  “No!  Not for one second.  I was sick to my stomach at the damage I’d done.”  He watched her walk over and drop on the bed, her head in her hands.  “Abi, I’d never hurt you deliberately – there’s just a part of me that always thinks I know best – even when I don’t.”

“I know!” Abigail declared before she rolled her eyes ,“but I don’t want to know it.”  

“Thank you, for helping.  I really have learned my lesson.”

Abigail glared at him.  “I wish I could believe that, I really do.”

“Abi, I had a stupid moment!  He tried to kill everyone I cared about, and I’ve already lived through that.  I couldn’t take it anymore.  I wanted to grab him by the throat and make him tell me why he’d done this.”  He sat beside her, fear gripping his heart.  “I’ve learned something – sometimes you have to stop being sorry and really make the changes.  Give me that chance, please!”

She looked up at him, her glistening eyes on the brink of tears.  “We’ve got him now.  You don’t need me for the investigation now.”

His stomach turned over.  “What are you saying?  You want to leave?  Don’t do it, Abi.  That’s not why I’m with you.”  He reached out and clutched her hand.  “Please, what do I have to do?”  He turned anguished eyes up to the ceiling.  “Damn it.  Why do I have to be such a stubborn idiot!  Cage tried his best to stop me, short of cuffing me to a post.”

Abigail sniffed back tears and gave him a watery smile.  “Is that what it’ll take?”

“Maybe, real attachment, something deeper?  I want us to get married, Abi, that’s what matters to me, more than revenge.”  He reached out and embraced her, cradling her to him.  “I was so scared I’d lost you.  Please don’t go.”  He felt her breath, heavy and emotional against him.  “I’m not used to being in a relationship, and I’m still learning how that works.  Give me a chance.”

She pulled back.  “You’re nearly forty.  You’re a bit old to being going through puberty.”

Heyes gave rueful smile.  “Yeah, I’m a late developer.  I’ll never do anything like that again.”  

She flicked up an eyebrow.  “You’d better not.  There’ll be no more chances – I’ve had to get heavy with the Governor just to get him to listen to me and he’ll be pretty unforgiving if anything happens again.”

Heyes frowned.  “What did you do, Abi?”

“He wouldn’t speak to me at all until I reminded him that there was evidence of the governors using you during the period of the amnesty agreement, as well as Lom’s word.  I also had to remind him that the populace might be very interested in the role the Pinkerton agency played in getting him elected.  I told his staff he could speak to me or read about it in the press.”

Heyes’ eyebrows rose.  “Really?  Is that wise?  Robert Pinkerton might stop providing resources for the investigation.”

“Robert Pinkerton is covering his own backside because he also knows what’ll hit the press if he doesn’t.  Cage very much agrees with me on the political meddling, and fiddling elections, along with the suppression of workers in labor disputes.”  Her mouth set in a determined line.  “That’s the book Cage is planning on writing when he leaves the agency, and Robert Pinkerton is set on damage limitation.  He doesn’t want deals with notorious criminals to target his rivals in the mix too.  He’s hoping to claim regime change for everything Cage publishes.  He’s going to blame his father.”  

“So the governor spoke to you?”

Abigail nodded.  “At length - we came to an agreement that you would be released as long as the bullet in Mitchell’s butt didn’t come from your gun.”

Heyes dropped his head, realizing just how much he owed Cage.  He nodded slowly, “It’s hard to learn to trust, Abi.  I’ve spent my whole life not being able to trust anyone but the Kid.”  He reached out and stroked her face.  “Give me a chance, Abi.  Please.”

She blinked back tears.  “It’s like picking up a toddler who runs so fast they fall over.  What am I going to do with you?”

“I don’t think either of us slept well last night.”  He tucked a crooked finger under her chin and tilted her face up to his.  “Let’s go to bed and talk when we’re thinking straight, huh?  Let me hold you.”


To Be Continued.
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PostSubject: Re: Ashes to Ashes Chapter nine   Thu Jul 31, 2014 11:59 pm

The emotional rollercoaster is in full swing again. After the last chapter, which was so lighthearted and optimistic, things just had to take a turn for the worse.
Heyes is behaving annoyingly reckless from the start even though it is easy to see that sheriff Sheehan is clever, astute and a force to be reckoned with.
Nice to see the Kid back with the others, but maybe he should have waited a few more days, poor boy.
Finally some more revelations about motives and drivers behind the attacks on Heyes, Beth, Abi and Anya.
You have woven a dense and very believable back story. Poor Heyes and Kid - caught up in some form of old family feud they did not even know about. How many more people will they have to track down? It is beginning to look more and more like a battle that can't be won.
I am wondering if the boys tried to save Julia because she's a woman or because they needed/wanted her statement. After all, even in the series they sometimes did the noble thing for very selfish reasons (e.g. save Lom because of his role in their amnesty). I can't help but wonder if they would have done the same for Mitchell. I like to think their better nature would have won anyway. It is agonising to see them get so close to Mitchell only for him to slip through their grasp once more.
The long sequence in the warehouse and back alleys was frightening, full of uncertainty, bad visibility, unseen danger, nasty surprises and it is in this situation that Heyes has to go and lose the last ounce of common sense. Aaaaarg!   And the way it is written made it seem to happen so quickly; when I scrolled back up, I was surprised how much of the story it comprised.
Morrison finally reappears and I am still not sure whether I like the revelation about him or not. I had so much hoped that Wheat had killed him and I am still lovingly nurturing a hatred for him. Did you really have to go now and make your bad guys become human? Please don't go and pull a full "Game of Thrones" where some of the worst guys suddenly have deeper layers revealed until you cannot help but root for them.
You had me almost scared to death due to Heyes somewhat understandable but still irrational behaviour. Please slap some sense into the boy - maybe he'll listen to you; Morrison and Mitchell were obviously not successful.
When will he start to realise that he has to be careful and also think about his loved ones (and readers/fans)? I just pray (yes, you have me praying now!) that Abi does not decide to whisk Anya away to disappear again.
Can't wait to see how it continues, even though I am almost afraid to read on.

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PostSubject: Re: Ashes to Ashes Chapter nine   Fri Aug 01, 2014 12:58 am

Comments re language:

I found 2 more words I did not know which I love:

hobbledehoy and pecksniffian

When you described the fire, I admired the way you described how it grows until it is clear that it is out of control:
You use vividly painted images from dancing sparks via flickering flares and voracious, searing flames to finally scorching conflagration.

I have one question: is there an adjective "alight"? So far I have only encountered "alight" (with regards to fire) in combination with "to set" i.e. to set sth alight
There was a sentence containing "alight, tattered curtains" and somehow this description seemed odd to me.

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PostSubject: Re: Ashes to Ashes Chapter nine   Fri Aug 01, 2014 7:18 am

Hi Stepha3nie, using 'alight' in this sense is an example of an attributive verb - that is using a verb as an adjective. This is something which especially carries over from Gaelic speech patterns where it happens all the time and is known as a copula verb. It is something which Irish and Scottish people do more than English, as the words may be English but native syntax bleeds through. I hope that makes sense to you but you can google Hiberno-English and Scottish Gaelic English. So I guess that you know that's one of mine!
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PostSubject: Re: Ashes to Ashes Chapter nine   Fri Aug 01, 2014 8:31 am

Thank you for the explanation. I will definitely look it up. Always good to learn more. And it is another example why I have come to appreciate "language" so much: so alive and versatile The choice of one word or expression over another conveying a similar meaning can carry so much more than just meaning, e.g. setting the mood or providing information about the speaker.

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