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 Rites and Wrongs Chapter thirteen

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Keays

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Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 61
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: Rites and Wrongs Chapter thirteen   Fri Dec 27, 2013 12:51 am

Rites and Wrongs



It was the middle of the afternoon on a warm and pleasant spring day that found two travel-weary friends trying their best to disappear into a side alley. Considering the dusty monotone of their attire that blended in almost seamlessly with the faded wooden siding of the structures surrounding them they weren't finding it too difficult to become one with their environment.

Both men, if one were to notice them, appeared nervous and watchful.  And though they kept their backs up against the wall behind them they still sent furtive glances out to the busy main street, hoping that if trouble saw them, they would see it first. Unfortunately even with their vigilance they ended up missing the one thing that they had been looking for and both breathing dust mops jumped skittishly when they suddenly found themselves being scrutinized by the piercing blue eyes of Kid Curry



“Jeezus Kid!” the breathing, dusty not quite as dead as he used to be man complained. “What'cha doin' sneakin' up on us like that?!”


“What's the matter Wheat?” Kid asked him with a smile on his lips and a teasing glint in his eye. “You're actin' like the whole sheriff's department is on your trail.”



“What's the matter!?” Wheat repeated, his tone escalating with his nervousness. “We're standin' here in broad daylight right smack dab in the middle of the busiest street in Cheyenne, Wyoming! And yur askin' me what's the matter?!”



“Oh c'mon!” Kid ridiculed him. “You're here to meet up with the law—not run away from them.” Then Kid started to brush Wheat's shirt off and quickly gave up the effort when they all got surrounded by a billowing cloud of dust. “Jeez, you fellas are a mess! Couldn't ya' have cleaned up some?”



Wheat was unable to answer due to the harsh coughing spasm brought on by the dust cloud. 


“Wul, we been hidin' in this here alley waitin' fer you Kid,” Kyle defended him and his partner. “Not like we could just walk into the hotel and order us up a bath.”



“No reason why you couldn't Kyle,” Kid pointed out to him. “You ain't wanted no more.”


Kyle's expression froze for an instant as the words sunk into his brain. Then his blue eyes sparkled and a boyish grin took over his face. “Oh yeah...”



“Well, c'mon...” Kid prodded them out of the alleyway. “the governor's waitin' to see ya'.”


“No, no...now wait!” Wheat grabbed hold of Jed's shirt sleeve, effectively stopping him in his tracks. “Now you're sure this ain't some kinda trap, right?” 


Jed sighed and repeated it yet again....”It ain't a trap Wheat,” he assured his ex-gang member. “I wouldn't lead ya' into no trap. The governor really wants ta' see ya'.”



“You're sure, now...”


“Wheat, c'mon!” Jed was getting frustrated with all this; they'd already been over it so many times. “Lom's here too, and Sheriff Jacobs. Everybody's here, willing ta' back ya' up on this.”


“Yeah? Well where is Heyes?” Wheat asked while he looked furtively about. “Why ain't he here?” 


“Cause you ain't got your amnesty yet and Heyes can't associate with known outlaws,” Jed explained yet again. “Once you sign those papers and you got your amnesty then you can see Heyes.” 


“Yeah, but what..?” 


“WHEAT!” Jed'd had enough. “We gonna do this or not? This offer ain't gonna come to ya' a second time; it's now or never.” 


“Yeah, yeah alright,” Wheat grumbled. “I suppose...” 


“Yeah, c'mon Wheat,” Kyle encouraged him. “It's real nice not bein' wanted no more.” 


“How would you know?” Wheat turned on his partner. “You keep on forgettin' you ain't wanted no more!” 


Kyle's smile dropped as he fidgeted for an explanation. “Wul yeah, but...that's just cus' I'm runnin' with you and you're still wanted.” The boyish grin came flooding back. “But when you ain't wanted no more you can remind me that I ain't wanted no more.” 


Wheat and Jed stood in silence for a moment, trying to take in the smaller man's logic.



“Ya' know, that actually kinda made sense,” Wheat finally admitted. “Let's go get this thing done before I totally lose my mind.”


The walk down the carpeted hallway was just about the longest soft walk the Kid had ever made. He strode forward confidently but was still very much aware of the scuffling and mumbling behind him and the many discouraging glances around them. A few of the gentler folk even put a hand up to noses in an effort to block out the odorous aroma wafting off the two trail-weary individuals. This new governor sure had some odd associates! 


“Howdy boys,” came Lom's voice from down the hall as the trio turned the last corner. “Beginning to think ya' changed your mind on us.” 


“Oh, hey howdy Lom,” Wheat was practically wringing his hands in his nervousness. “Are you sure...” Quick cough to get the frog out of his throat and a swallow to bring his tone down a notch. “Are you sure this is what the governor had in mind?” 


“Yup,” Lom assured the outlaw. “The governor's real interested in meeting you two. He was very impressed with the way you tracked down Harris and he agrees that if you're willing to accept the terms of an amnesty then he just might see fit to let bygone's be bygone's.” 


“Uh huh.” Wheat didn't sound too convinced. “What are these terms that I'm suppose ta accept?” 


“Ah, well that you agree to work with Heyes and Curry in their detective business and that you also agree to report in to Sheriff Jacobs and myself on a regular basis so that we know where ya' are. But ya' can't tell nobody. It'll be our secret. What good would ya' be getting in cozy with the outlaw element if'n they knew you was legal?”  


Wheat and Kyle exchanged glances. Kyle smiled like it was some kind of joke. 


“So....” Wheat looked sceptical. “... only you and us and the governor are gonna know about it? I'm still gonna be wanted as far as the law and damned bounty hunters are concerned?” 


“Well, yes,” Lom conceded. “But now, if ya' get arrested they can't hold ya'. You just get in touch with your lawyer and he'll get ya' out.” 


“Well, ya' know the funny thing about most lawmen and all bounty hunters is that they tend to shoot first and ask later,” Wheat pointed out. “Kinda late once I'm in the ground to let 'em know I ain't wanted no more.”


“You've been dead before Wheat,” Jed teased him. “You apparently came out of it alive.” 


Wheat just snorted at him. 


“Yeah!” Kyle agreed with a toothy grin but instantly dropped it when met with his partner's sardonic stare.  


“Gentlemen!” Higgins summoned them from across the hall. “Governor Barber is ready to see you now.”
 
The four gentlemen in the hallway nodded and made their way over to the secretary who then ushered them into the governor's office. There were already other visitors seated around the desk and everyone there stood up to meet the new-comers. Wheat and Kyle looked and felt decidedly out of place as they tried to brush the dust off the other.


“Ah, here you are!” Governor Barber stood up and came around his desk, offering his hand to the two dusty drifters. “Ahh, which one of you is Mr. Carlson?” 


“Ah...that'd be me,” Wheat informed him, awkwardly shaking the official's hand. 


“Well...interesting to finally meet you, Mr. Carlson.” Barber retracted his hand after the shake and consciously refrained from wiping his palm along his trouser leg. “Considering we were all under the impression that you were deceased this all comes as quite a surprise.” 


“Yeah, you ain't kiddin',” Wheat mumbled. 


“And you must be Mr. Murtry.” 


“Yeah!” Kyle grinned and shook the governor's hand. He was actually beginning to enjoy meeting all these high up gentlemen.


Barber smiled and motioned to the other two individuals who had stood up to meet the new-comers. “This is Sheriff Jacobs. He, along with Sheriff Trevors will be helping you settle into your new life.” 


“Oh, yeah. Howdy.” Wheat shook Jacobs hand and then nervously wiped his own palm against his dirty pants. Being surrounded by badges, even if one of them was an old friend was making him jumpy.
 
“And this gentleman here is your lawyer, Mr. Granger.” 


Wheat perked up a little bit and Kyle grinned even more at the mention of the familiar name.  


“Oh, Mr. Granger!” Even Wheat managed a smile. “Yeah, I sure do remember you. You paid us real well.” 


“Yeah!” Kyle agreed. “We done lived good well on what you sent us.” 


“You gentlemen deserved it,” Steven assured them. “Tracking down Mr. Harris the way you did took real courage and tenacity. We all appreciated it.” 


“After the things that bastard done, we was pretty determined to catch him anyways--even without you payin' us!.” Wheat admitted. “Weren't no tears shed when we heard he died in prison, I can tell ya' that!” 


“Yeah,” Kyle agreed with an emphatic nod.


“Well, gentlemen...please, sit down,” Barber offered. “Would you like some coffee?” 


“No, we're fine,” Wheat answered. “Let's just get this show on the road here. I wanna know what this here 'deal' is all about.” 


“Oh, well fine,” Barber smiled. “A man who likes to get down to business. Good.” Barber took the documents that were on the desk in front of him and swivelled them around so that they were under Wheat's nose. “This is the deal that I am prepared to offer you. Mr. Granger has already viewed it and is agreeable, as are Sheriff Jacobs and Sheriff Trevors. All we need is your approval and signature. Ahh...you can read...can't you?” 


“Yeah! Course I can read.” Wheat was insulted but then creased his brow in confusion as he scanned over the top page of the documents and saw many words there that he didn't recognize. “Ahh, sorta...” 


“I'm sure Mr. Granger will help you with anything you don't understand,” Barber commented and then he stood up. “I will leave you gentlemen to discuss this. Just give Mr. Higgins a shout when you're done.” 


“Yeah, okay...” 


Twenty minutes later Wheat was still not so sure he wanted to sign his life away. Kyle had given up smiling and Jed was about ready to wring the man's neck. The two sheriff's were sitting patiently and Steven was doing his best to explain the details of the contract, yet again.
  
“I just don't get this how I wouldn't officially be wanted no more, but I'd still be on the run!” Wheat complained. “How's that right?” 


“It would be kinda like what me and Heyes went through, only better,” Jed told him. “When we got caught Heyes still ended up going to prison. If you were to get caught well, Steven here would get ya' out. You wouldn't have to stand trial or nothin', 'cause ya already got your amnesty.”  
 
“Yeah, but what if...” 


“Wheat we already went over this in the alleyway!” 


“No, no Jed,” Steven settled him with a placating hand. “Mr. Carlson has the right to ask any questions he wants to. He needs to fully understand the conditions before he signs anything.” 


“Yeah, that's right Kid!” Wheat took advantage while he had it. “So stop proddin' me!”  


“I ain't proddin' ya' Wheat!” Jed was getting mad. “It's just we've been over this...” 


“Just give me a minute!” Wheat complained. “How can I know the law will honour this agreement?” 


“That's part of why I'm here, Mr. Carlson,” Steven explained. “I will have a copy of the document, as will yourself. It will be signed by all of us here, including the governor so it will be official. The law has to honour it. It'll be something like what your friend, Mr. Curry has. Governor Warren granted him an amnesty and even Governor Moonlight who was not in agreement with that decision was helpless to over-rule it. It was binding, just as your amnesty will be and so long as you abide by the conditions it cannot be taken away from you.” 


“Yeah.” Wheat still sounded sceptical. “Those conditions bein' that I can't tell nobody and that I remain in contact with Lom and Sheriff Jacobs. And that I also have ta' make myself available to Heyes and the Kid for those occasions when they think they might need my special talents, so to speak.” 


“That's about the size of it,” Steven agreed. “Oh, and also that you refrain from any illegal activity that does not pertain directly to any undercover work you might be employed in at the time. No robbing of banks or holding up trains, that sort of thing. Unless you are infiltrating a gang who are engaged in that type of criminal activity. Then of course, you must play along.”
 
“It'll be like old times!” Kyle finally spoke up. “We can go back to robbin' trains but the law can't arrest us fer it!” 


“Well...sort of.” Steven showed some concern at the smaller man's enthusiasm. “Whenever Mr. Heyes or Mr. Curry call you in to do a job I will go over the plans with you and we can then decide what criminal activities you may be expected to partake in, in order to complete your assignment. There may be a fine line between what you can and cannot do so it is important that you not step over that line. Do you understand this?” 


“Yeah, sure.” Wheat shrugged. “I can dip my hand into the candy jar but I can't take nothin' out.” 


Steven smiled. “Yes, that's about it.”


The five men sat quietly while Wheat and Kyle exchanged a look. Kyle gave a barely perceptible nod. 


“Yeah, fine,” Wheat finally agreed and Jed audibly sighed with relief. “I suppose I'll sign it. Things ain't been the same since we lost Devil's Hole anyways.” 


“Good.” Steven tried not to show his relief as transparently as Jed had. “It's a step in the right direction, Mr. Carlson. And your friends are all here to support you.” 


“Yeah,” Wheat grumbled. “Except Heyes.” 


“I told ya' Wheat,” Kid reiterated. “ya' gotta get your amnesty first. Don't want him goin' back to prison do ya'?” 


“Yeah, okay. Where do I sign this thing?”
 
Back out in the hallway everyone was pleased with the end result and a lot of the stress had been relieved. Wheat was the only one who was still looking a little dubious and the others tried to cheer him up. 


“Congratulations Wheat.” Lom shook his friend's hand. “This is all gonna work out fine, you'll see.” 


“Uh huh.” 
 
“Yeah, c'mon Wheat,” Jed seconded. “We'll all get together tonight for a celebratory dinner and you'll be feelin' a whole lot better!”


“Yeah, but what the hell am I suppose to do fer money in the meantime?” Wheat griped. “It's not like I can just go rob a bank now is it?”


“What have ya' been doin'?” Jed asked reasonably.  


Wheat and Kyle exchanged slightly guilty looks. 


“Well, you know Kid,” Wheat shrugged. “The usual.” 


“Yeah,” Kyle grinned. “The usual.”  


Skeptical looks got sent their way. 


“Uh huh,” Jed commented. 


“You know you can't be doing that anymore,” Steven informed them. “And Mr. Murtry if you have been engaging in illegal activity I don't want to hear about it, and it stops—now!” 


“Well now that just brings us right back to my original question,” Wheat pointed out. “What are we suppose to do about money while we're waitin' fer Heyes or the Kid to get in touch?”


“We'll discuss that over dinner,” Steven assured them both. “I'm sure we can work something out. In the meantime, do you have a room at the hotel?” 


“Nope,” Wheat stated bluntly. 


Steven nodded and took out his pocket book. “Here's some cash just for now. Get a room, get cleaned up and maybe buy yourselves some new clothes. We'll all meet up at the hotel lobby say around six o'clock and go have dinner. We can discuss the details then.”
 
“Oh.” Wheat seemed a little reluctant to take money that was being freely offered him rather than him having to steal it. Getting money via a telegram was one thing but having the lawyer just hand it to him out of the blue somehow seemed a bit degrading. “Ya, well...I suppose...”  


Kyle, who had been eyeing the money with open glee sent his partner a confused look. Then he nudged him. “C'mon Wheat. You could do with a bath.”
  
“Ya' well so could you, ya little runt!” Wheat sniped back and Kyle looked hurt. “Yeah, yeah alright.” Wheat took the offered funds and Kyle was back to smiling again. “C'mon Kyle, let's go get cleaned up.” 


“Yeah!” 


The remaining men watched the two partners disappearing down the hall and around the corner leaving the aroma of dust, campfires and unwashed bodies wafting in the air like a well marked trail behind them.
 
“Whoa...” Lom complained. “You should have given them that money before the meeting.” 


“I was afraid they might not show up at all once they had funds,” Steven explained. “But it might have been worth the risk.” 


“I just hope they don't go get cleaned up and then decide to not show,” Jed commented. “If they ride outa here now, I'll run them down and shoot them myself!”
 
Jacobs smiled. “I'm sure they'll show,” he assured everyone. “Nothing like a free meal...” 


“Yup.” 


“That's true.” 
 
 
 
Nobody needed to worry about the two more ex-outlaws as Jacobs words were never more true and both miscreants were actually early arriving in the hotel lobby. Lom and Steven entered the foyer and breathed a sigh of relief, not to mention fresh air at the sight of the two men of the hour looking scrubbed and cleaned and ready for dinner in a decent restaurant. 


“Howdy boys!” Lom greeted them. “You're lookin' a little more comfortable about things. Ready to eat?”


“Yeah!” Kyle was emphatic. “I don't get into one of these fancy eaten' houses too often. This oughta be good!” 


“Uh huh,” was Lom's only comment. 


“We certainly have enough to discuss, and to celebrate,” Steven commented. “Let's go get a table and get settled.” 


“What about the Kid?” Wheat asked, looking around him a little nervously. “He's comin' ain't he?”


“Yes, he's coming,” Steven assured him. “Don't worry about it; he'll be here.”
  
“Yeah, but...” 


Next thing Wheat knew, Lom had him by the elbow and was leading him into the hotel restaurant whether he wanted to go there or not. Wheat kept looking over his shoulder, feeling like he was being led into a trap but he saw no logical way to back out of it. Kyle on the other hand was striding confidently forward with his hands hooked into the lapels of his new jacket with his big toothy grin leading the way. True to his word, he was really going to enjoy this! 


“C'mon Wheat,” Lom encouraged the hesitant man. “Kid'll be along—don't worry about it.” 


The hostess approached Steven since he appeared to be the least barbaric of the group and put on a pleasant smile for the attractive, obviously professional gentleman.
 
“Table for four, sir?” she asked him hopefully.
 
“No,” Steven corrected her. “There will be seven of us this evening.” 


“Seven?” Wheat mumbled as they were escorted to a fine table. “I may not have gone ta' school, but I can count. Who else is gonna be here?” 


Everybody ignored him as they settled in around the table and Steven ordered two bottles of red wine.


Kyle grinned and nudged his partner. “We's getten' wine...” he whispered as though it were a secret.
 
“Yeah,” Wheat grumbled. “I'd be just as happy with a cold beer.” 


Kyle's smile dropped and he leaned into his partner. “What's matter with you?” he asked quietly. “This is the best we been treated in an outlaw's life-span. Everybody's rooten' for ya' Wheat.”
  
“Yeah, I don't like it,” Wheat grumbled. “I never did trust the Kid, you know that. And where's Heyes? Surrounded by all these lawmen—I don't like it.”


Jacobs put in an appearance just then and sent a universal greeting to everyone at the table. He settled in between Lom and Steven.  “Evenin' gentlemen,” Jacobs said. “Everyone hungry?” 


“Oh yes!”  


“Definitely ready for a good meal.”
 
The waitress showed up then with seven wine glasses which she strategically placed in all the appropriate places and was quickly followed by the waiter bringing the first of two bottles of wine. He un-corked the first with a loud 'pop!' causing both Wheat and Kyle to jump and send him nasty glances. He ignored them and poured a small portion of the wine into Steven's glass. Steven swirled the red liquid around a couple of times, took a light sniff and then tasted it. He smiled and nodded to the waiter. All the glasses were then proportionally filled.

The two ex-outlaws looked at the portions in their glasses as though this were some kind of joke. 


“Don't worry about it fellas,” Lom assured them. “You can have as many re-fills as you like.” 


“Well why not save the man the trouble and just fill the glasses to the top?” Wheat complained. “Then we'd all be happy.” 


“Oh, here they come!” Steven announced. 


Everyone followed his gesture and suddenly Wheat was feeling a whole lot better. He stood up with a smile and extended a hand to his ex-boss. 


“Heyes!” he greeted him. “I was gettin' worried ya' wouldn't be shown up.” 


“Hey Wheat,” Heyes grinned, happy to finally be able to see his friend again. “I wouldn't miss this for the world. Ya' over the shock of it yet?” 


Wheat grinned a little foolishly. “I donno. Sure good ta' see you though.” 


Heyes stopped smiling, and taking Wheat's hand he looked his compatriot straight in his brown eyes and then moved in and put a hand on his shoulder.

“It's good to see you too Wheat,” he said, very seriously. “It was a terrible thing; what happened to Devil's Hole and then I thought we had lost you too. The only thing that gave me hope was that Kyle is terrible at keeping a secret and for once in his miserable life that was a good thing...” Creased brow from Kyle, not sure if he should be insulted or not. “...It's good to have ya' back with us Wheat.” Heyes grinned again. “And good to have ya' on our side again!” 


“Yeah, about that,” Wheat leaned in conspiratorially. “is this on the up and up? I'm really gettin' an amnesty if I agree to do some odd jobs for you two?” 


“Yup,” Heyes nodded. “In fact you've already got it.  That was the deal.”
  
“Well, shoot Heyes! Why didn't ya' come and tell me that yourself?”


“I couldn't, Wheat, you know that,” Heyes told him. “It sure is good to see ya' now though.”
 
“Well yeah, 'a course,” Wheat straightened his shoulders and dropped back into character. “I wasn't worried, just....wonderin' where you was and all...” 


Kyle snorted. “Yeah. We was thinkin' you done set us up or somethin'...” Wheat gave Kyle a quick punch in the arm. “Ouch! What ya' done that fer!?”



“Shuddup, Kyle!”



“Well, what...?”
 
“Oh settle down fellas,” Heyes told them as he and Jed found their own chairs and helped themselves to wine. “This is supposed to be a celebratory dinner.”
 
“Well, yeah...” Wheat mumbled.
 
“And now that we are all here,” Steven stood up and raised his glass. “To new beginnings.” 


“Here, here!”


After dinner the various officials in the party felt it most discretionary to allow the old friends to have some time together. They went their own separate ways while the four ex-outlaws made a bee line for the saloon.
It was late in the evening by the time the dinner broke up but it was relatively mild out as they laughed and joked their way towards the local drinking hole. They were all in a good mood, even Wheat and though they had tended to get on each other's nerves while riding together in the same gang, tonight they were pleased to be in the company of friends.

They pushed their way through the bat wing doors laughing and joshing with one another and quickly made their way over to an empty table in anticipation of a few beers and 'some old time's sake' discussion before heading back to their hotel rooms. Heyes did a quick scan of the numerous poker games going on at the time but then decided that tonight was not the night for that and dismissed the temptation from his mind.

They all settled in around their chosen table and one of the gals was quick to come over for their order, she even included a bowl full of nuts to go along with their beers since they appeared to be here for the long haul.
 
“So Wheat! How ya' feelin'?” Heyes asked as he clapped the older man on the back. “New duds, new lease on life. Ya' ready to start living like an honest man?” 


“Yeah, I suppose. I...” 


Whatever Wheat had been about to say was cut short by the loud explosion of a gun going off inside close quarters. Screams filled the smoke-heavy air and everyone, patrons and employees alike made a frantic rush for cover. Everyone that is except the group of friends at the newly occupied table.

Wheat didn't even know what hit him. The bullet sliced through his right arm and his surprised reaction sent him falling backwards so that he and his chair crashed to the dusty floor boards. He lay there with the wind knocked out of him and blood oozing from the wound in his arm. He was cursing to beat the band while at the same time coughing and gasping to bring air back into his lungs.

Kyle was instantly on the floor beside him, grabbing hold of Wheat's brand new shirt lapel, scared to death that his partner might be really badly hurt. Instinct took over and he grabbed his new bandana and shoved it down inside Wheat's shirt sleeve in order to staunch the bleeding despite his friends’ fervent protests.
  
Heyes was on his feet in an instant, his gun drawn and pointing towards their assailant and then when he saw who that assailant was his blood ran hot. Fear for that man dissipated in a rush of indignant anger! 


“Morrison! You fxxxing bastard!” Aim was taken and Heyes' finger tightened on the trigger all ready to blow the marshal into the after-life when suddenly the Kid was there, putting himself between Heyes and Morrison and forcing Heyes to pull his Schofield up just in time to send a bullet into the ceiling. “Jezzuss Kid!! Get outta the way!”



“NO!” Jed came forward and grabbed Heyes by the shoulders, stopping his partner's forward rush. “Back off Heyes! Don't do it!” 


“You better listen to your partner Heyes!” Morrison sneered at him as he re-cocked his own gun. “You come at me again and I'll put you into the dirt!”
 
“What the hell do ya' think you're doing!?” Heyes yelled back at him, over his partner's shoulder. “He's been given an amnesty—you got no right...!” 


“An amnesty!?” Morrison snarled as he came towards them. “After the life of crime that bastard has led—after what he did to me!? I'm suppose to just let him go because of some stupid piece of paper!?” Stopping for a beat to catch his breath and cough. Big wheezing intake and then....“It's bad enough that you two are back to walking around free as the wind—I shoulda killed the whole lot of ya when I had the chance! Nothin' but rats in a nest!”


Heyes made another lunge at the lawman but Kid had him solid and really leaned into him. 


“Heyes no!” Jed's whisper was frantic. “Ya' can't—you'll throw everything away. Don't do it.” 


Heyes' lips were drawn back in anger and his brown eyes were like molten chocolate burning into the marshal. He was ignoring Jed and trying to bring his gun arm back into play again. Morrison just stood quietly and watched him struggle, knowing that Curry wasn't going to let his partner get the upper hand.


Jed knew he didn't have Heyes' attention and shook him until the brown eyes turned to meet with his. “Don't do it Heyes,” Jed whispered again and then breathed with relief when he saw the fire finally go out of his friend's eyes. 
Heyes took a deep breath and forced himself to calm down. He was shaking with the adrenaline and his breathing was unsteady, but eventually he began to relax as he held his cousin's gaze with his. He nodded at Jed and the vice like grip on his shoulders released their hold. Suddenly he was aware of the cursing going on behind him and both he and Kid looked around as Kyle assisted the wounded Wheat up to his feet.


Wheat took one look at Morrison standing there with that insufferable smile on his face and tried to go for his own gun.  “You bastard!” Wheat gasped out as he fumbled with his six-shooter. “You never had the chance to kill me! You tried and failed every time!” Cough, cough, cough. “Whatever you got from me you had comin'!”
  
“I'm an officer of the law, cleaning out a den of coyotes!” Cough, cough, cough! “You're dirt! All of ya!” Cough, cough. “Amnesty! You destroyed my career and now you're gettin'....” Cough, cough. “ ...amnesty!? What a joke!”
 
“Yeah, well you destroyed Devil's Hole! Killed a lot of my...” Cough, cough, cough. “...friends! Not to mention ripping my lungs apart!” Cough, cough! 


“I killed rats in a...” Cough, cough, cough! “...hole! It'll be a cold day in...hell...” Cough, gasp. “...when I let the likes of you...” Cough, cough! 
 
“Oh this is getting ridiculous,” Heyes mumbled now that he had come down off his anger. Seeing his friend up and cursing did a lot to waylay his fears. But now, seeing these two adversaries confronting one another but barely being able to form sentences due to previous injuries was making this whole situation seem surreal.  


“Yeah,” Kid agreed quietly, then with more volume. “Look, why don't we all just sit down and have a drink.”


“A drink!?” Wheat's tone rose with his indignation. “I got a bloody hole in my arm!” 


“Wul it ain't really that bad Wheat...” Kyle tried to placate his friend. “You done rode back ta' Devil's Hole clutchin' a sack full 'a money with worse than this...”
 
Wheat turned on his friend with a snarl. “What the hell you talkin' about!?” Cough, cough! “I've been shot!”  


“Well now let's just take a look at it Wheat,” Kid suggested as he left Heyes and Morrison to stand sizing each other up. “Maybe it ain't so bad as all that.” Kid took a look at the arm and Wheat yelped as he pulled the bandana away from the wound. “It's about done bleedin' already. It ain't that bad.” Kid shoved the bandana back into place and gave Wheat a pat on the back. “Sure ya' don't want another beer Wheat? You can have the doc take a look at it later if it's still botherin' ya'.”
 
“Yeah, well...I suppose a beer would be alright...” 


“Good.” Jed smiled and turned to face their adversary. “Marshal...join us for a beer?”
 
“What!?” Cough, cough. “You expect me to sit down with this...this...” Cough, cough...



Heyes smiled, seeing the opportunity for some marshal-baiting and decided to go along with the peace offering. “Yeah, Marshal...'let by-gone's be by-gone's' as they say. We're all on the same side now.” 


“Oh...heaven help me!” Morrison cursed and he stood there looking pissed off and totally unwilling to join the group at the table. 


His decision was made for him however when the other inhabitants of the saloon saw the opportunity for a truce and no more gun-play and took advantage of it. Two of the saloon gals came sashaying forward and taking the marshal by the arms started to lead him over to the table. Morrison went along with it as far as returning his gun to its holster but that was about it. 


“That sounds like a real good idea, Marshal!” one of them was saying. “No need for all this silly gun-play.”
 
“Yeah!” piped in the other. “You boys just make up and play nice. Here ya' go Marshal—you just sit yourself down right there and I'll go get ya' the best beer we got—on the house! I'll bring ya' your own bowl of nuts too!” 


I think there's enough 'nuts' at the table already...” Morrison mumbled under his breath. 


“In fact; you can all have a round on the house!” the bartender announced having missed the marshal's comment. “So long as ya' keep things civil—how's that!?” 


“That sounds real fine, barkeep,” Jed agreed. “Free round for the table!”  


“I'm willing!” Heyes seconded, quite happy to go along now that Wheat was back to his old surely self.  


“Ya'!” Kyle was ginning again. “I don't mind some of the best in the house neither!” 


Wheat and Morrison sat and glared at one another.

Next thing, everybody jumped and all eyes were turned to the entrance as three sheriffs and a lawyer put in a hasty appearance through the bat wing doors.
 
“What in tarnation is going on in here!?” Sheriff Turner demanded to know. 


“Oh howdy, Sheriff!” Heyes stood up with a dimpled smile and greeted the local law man. “Haven't seen you in ages and then all of a sudden I'm seein' ya' twice in one day....!"
 
“Never mind that, Heyes!” Lom growled at him. “Can't we leave you fellas alone for five minutes without all hell breaking loose!?” 


Heyes looked hurt. “Nothing's goin' on, Lom...” 


“Don't give me that!” Lom cut him off. “We all heard gun fire coming from in here. What have you been doing! And how come Wheat's bleedin'!?”  


All eyes turned to Wheat. The ex-outlaw shifted uncomfortably and brought his left hand over to try and hide the blood stains on his shirt.  


“Ahh...this was nothin',” Wheat mumbled. “Just an accident.” 


“AN ACCIDENT?” Turner was incredulous.
 
“Yeah,” Morrison rumbled from his chair and turned to look back at the new arrivals. “An accident. You have a problem with that—Sheriff?”  


Four jaws dropped in surprise.
 
“Oh! Marshal Morrison.” Turner was still somewhat incredulous. Lom looked suspicious. “I didn't realize you were in here. You substantiate that nothin' was goin' on here?”
 
“Yeah,” the marshal grudgingly agreed. “Everything's fine, Sheriff.”
 
Turner sighed deeply and looked around at all the men seated at the table. He was met with numerous innocent expressions. “Alright, fine. If you're all agreed.” 


“Yessir, Sheriff,” Heyes smiled. “Don't want to be causing no trouble in this town.”
 
“That's right, Sheriff,” the Kid agreed. “We was just celebratin'. Things just got outa hand a little.”
 
The barkeep put in an appearance, quickly followed by the two gals all of them loaded down with filled to the brim beer mugs and bowls of nuts for their patrons. The refreshments were dished out and the servers made a discreet exit from the scene. The three sheriffs and the lawyer watched them go and then turned eyes back to the men at the table.
 
“Okay,” Turner nodded. “Just be more careful with you celebrating. And you....” pointing a finger at Wheat. “just be sure the doc gets a look at that before ya' get too drunk.” 


“Yessir, Sheriff. I'll be sure to do that.”
  
Turner turned and walked out of the saloon but the other two sheriffs and the lawyer stood stock still and eyed the men at the table. Everyone but Morrison smiled back. Morrison sat glaring down at the table with a snarl on his lips but even he had calmed down enough to know that he'd best keep his mouth shut.  He could be in for a nasty reprimand from his boss if it was found out that he'd taken a pot shot at a legal citizen inside a crowded saloon.  
The silence weighted heavy until the tinny piano picked up its tune again and the usual chatter got going and the roulette wheel got spinning and it was ops normal.



The two sheriffs looked at each other and Lom stepped forward and put a hand on Heyes' shoulder.  “I'm gonna be wanting a word with you two about this in the morning,” he told them.
 
Heyes swallowed nervously.
 
Kid smiled. “Sure thing, Lom.”
 
“Whatever you say, Lom,” Heyes added.
  
Lom glanced over at Wheat and Kyle and those two worthy gentlemen smiled back and raised their beer mugs in a toast.
 
“Uh huh,” Lom commented. “See ya' in the morning, boys.” 


Lom and Jacobs locked eyes and they both turned and headed back outdoors.



Steven stood where he was for a moment and then smiled at his two friends.  “You do realize that anything you boys say to me can be held in complete confidence,” he hinted.


“We sure do, Steven.” Heyes smiled back at him. “And we thank you for that.”
 
“So any time you want to discuss anything....anything at all...” 


“Yup.” Kid raised his glass. “You'll be the first we come to, Steven.”
 
Steven nodded then burst out laughing. “Alright!” he said. “I'll see you in the morning. Just stay outa trouble will ya'? My wife would have my hide if I let anything happen to her sister's fiance right before their wedding!”
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Keays

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Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 61
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: Rites and Wrongs   Fri Dec 27, 2013 12:55 am

“So what are you two plannin' on doin' now that you're all fine and legal?” Morrison growled over at Wheat and Kyle.
  
“I thought maybe I'd come and be your new deputy, Marshal—kinda keep things in the family,” Wheat threw back at him. “Looks like ya' might be needin' a hand with things.”  


Heyes snorted into his beer while Morrison simply sent the older outlaw a mean glare. 


“That's what we was plannin' on discussin' here this evening, Marshal,” Jed piped in while Heyes got his breath back. “Set these two fellas up to do something legal and wholesome like...”  


Heyes choked on his beer again and this time the dirty looks were sent his way. Heyes waved their scepticism away. “Sorry,” he croaked. “Wrong way.”
 
“Yeah, that'll be the day any of you low-life's get into something wholesome,” Morrison prophisized and took a swig from his own glass. “Still, I gotta admit; you'd probably fit right in with being an undercover detective Heyes. If there's ever a profession that needs a lying, low-down conning card sharp it'd be that one. You'd be a natural.”
 
“Well thank you, Marshal,” Heyes grinned, flashing his dimples. “I'm sure you didn't mean it as such, but I'll take that as a compliment.” 


“You take it any way you want,” Morrison told him as he stood up. “Just stay outa my town—the whole lot of ya'. Stay away from me.” He turned and walked out of the saloon as the boys sat solemnly and watched him go.
 
“No problem,” Kid commented quietly and everyone nodded agreement.
 
“So, Wheat...” Heyes began once the marshal was well and truly gone. “How about it? Mr. Jordan could use a couple of extra hands this time of year. He's got lots of beeves to move and a number of young horses to be broke out. Ole' Deke and Sam could really use the help going through the summer.”  


“Yeah, ah....I donno, Heyes,” Wheat didn't look too excited at that prospect. “I don't seem to be too good at the heavy work no more.” He and Kyle elbowed each other and snorkelled at their private joke.  


“You was never into heavy work Wheat!” Kyle teased him with a big toothy grin. “That's why we's outlaws!”  


“Well now, 'were' outlaws,” Kid corrected him. 


“Oh well, yeah,” Wheat agreed, sobering quickly. “'Were' outlaws. But still, I just don't seem to be able to handle any of that stuff anymore. I'm not even sure if I'd be much good to ya' doing that undercover work. Tracking down Mitchell done near done me in.” 
 
“I don't think our usual cases will be that extreme,” Heyes ventured. “A lot of it might just be sitting around saloons and listening to gossip—that sort of thing. Fellas will open up and talk after they've had a few and they think that you're of like-mind.”  


“Sittin' around saloons?” Wheat asked suddenly brightening up. “Wull that don't sound too bad.”


“Yeah, we do that real well!” Kyle agreed, his blue eyes sparkling.
 
“Yeah,” Heyes reiterated. “It'll probably be Kid doing most of the real leg work.”
 
“Huh?” Jed suddenly looked suspicious. “I'm gonna be a married man remember? I can't go traipsing off for months at time. What kind of a husband and father does that?”
 
“Well somebody's gotta do it,” Heyes pointed out reasonably. “We all know I can't. I won't be allowed to go anywhere.”
 
“That's not true, Heyes,” Jed countered him. “Just so long as you let Lom and Jacobs know where ya' are and what you're doin'.” 
 
“Like a dog on a leash ya' mean!” Heyes complained. “Lawmen breathin' down my neck—kinda hard to stay discreet under those conditions.”  


“Aww c'mon! It ain't that hard, Heyes,” Curry continued to push. “With all your talents for deception I have no doubt in your ability to pull it off.”
  
“All I'm sayin' is...”



“Wasn't we suppose to be discussin' the problem of our current employment?” Wheat finally cut in on the bantering. Experience had shown him that those two could keep this up for hours if given a free rein. 


“Oh yeah,” Heyes turned serious as he took another swallow of beer. “Well, if not ranch work then what...?”  


“Well, ah....we was thinkin' of heading up into California fer a spell,” Wheat informed his former bosses. “Get some easy work where it's warm and dry for a change. That doc who treated me when I got so sick while trailin' Mitchell—he said the ocean air would be good for me.”  


“Oh,” Heyes looked disappointed. “I don't know, Wheat. The terms of your amnesty state that you gotta be available to work for us.”  


“No, no, I know.” Wheat nodded. “Ah, we'll be back for Kid's weddin' in a couple of months and we'll be all set to come and work for ya', if yer ready for us by then, that is.” 
 
“Yeah,” Kyle nodded his agreement. “I'm really lookin' forward to Kid's weddin'!”  


“That's good,” Kid piped in. “I was beginning to think you were gonna miss it. But California's a long ways to go just to have ta' turn around and come right back again. Why don't ya' just stay here and help out at the ranch like Heyes suggested? We'll make sure that Deke don't work ya' too hard. And you're good with horses.” 
 
“Yeah,” Wheat sat back and considered. He and Kyle exchanged looks. “I suppose that might be alright. See how it goes anyway.”  


“Good!” Heyes slapped the table with his hand and raised his beer in a toast. “To good honest work!” 
 
“Uh huh.” 
 
 
 
Much later that night, Heyes and Jed were casually making their way back to the hotel when Heyes allowed his irritation come forth. 


“What did you go and do that for?” he asked his partner. 


Jed looked at him, confused. “What?”
  
“Invite Morrison to sit with us,” Heyes grumbled. “Bad enough we're on the same side now, but to actually sit down and share a beer with him...?”



“It calmed things down didn't it?” Jed pointed out. “Remember I'm the one he forced to identify all those bodies after the ambush. That was one of the worse days of my life—I know I'm never gonna forget it.”  


“Yeah,” Heyes agreed soberly.
  
“I got just as much reason to hate that man as you do,” Jed continued. “But if we're gonna be working for the law now...well, Morrison is the law and we better learn how to play along.”


“He had no right to come in there and shoot Wheat.”


“No, he didn't,” Jed agreed. “But where do you think you'd be right now if'n I'd let you shoot down a U.S. marshal?”  


“Right back in the same jail where this all started.” 


“Yup,” Jed agreed again. “There would go your pardon and probably Wheat's amnesty too.” Kid grinned wickedly. “And I think Morrison knows he messed up comin' at Wheat like that and he knows that we know. I bet that's gonna stick in his craw, him messin' up like that in front of us!”
 
Heyes grinned in the darkness. “When the hell did you get so smart Kid?”  


“Always have been, Heyes. Always have been.”  
 
 
As it turned out, Wheat and Kyle decided to head back to Porterville with Lom for the time being. Lom thought it would be a good idea to keep the two new ex-outlaws under his surveillance for awhile, at least until they found their footing—and some jobs. Lom figured he could keep the boys busy helping out at the livery or the mercantile although Kyle's inability to read might create a bit of a dilemma. Still, Lom had mumbled; Martha would probably take the little ex-con under her wing and start teaching him to read! Patience of an angle—that woman! 



The train ride back into Colorado was a little strained since Jacobs knew damn well that 'something' had transpired over at the saloon the previous evening and our two boys knew just as well that they were not going to change their story. Finally the sheriff decided to let it go and accept their version at face value. Besides, Morrison himself had backed it up so there was no real point in pushing it.


“What are you fellas planning on doing once we get back home?” Jacobs finally asked just to get some conversation going. 


“Oh! Ahh....” Heyes shrugged and looked over at Jed. “I donno. Head back out to the ranch I suppose. Always something to do there.” 


“Hmm,” Jacobs nodded and also looked over at Jed. 


“Ahhmm...” Jed was at a loss. “Just like Heyes says. Always lots to do on a ranch. Besides, I think the ladies are busy with weddin' plans and all. Jeesh...” he commented, suddenly looking very serious. “The weddin's two months off but there always seems to be so much to do to get prepared for it. I thought all I needed was a suit and all Beth needed was a dress—but noooo! There's the bridal shower and the luncheons and the 'coming to' outfit and the 'gettin' married' outfit and then there's the 'goin' away' outfit! I swear! No wonder people only plan on gettin' married once in their lifetime—it's enough to wear a man out just thinkin' about it!”



Steven snorted. “Just wait until the first baby is due. Good Lord! Suddenly the house is filled with clamouring women bringing boxes of swaddling blankets, bathing blankets, sleeping blankets, bonnets, baby clothes, baby toys. Hand me downs for next year when the infant outgrows all the things they brought in the first place! I swear it's a mad house.” 


Jed looked at him incredulously. “And you wanna have another one?” 


Steven grinned. “Well, yeah. Why not?” 


Jed held up his hands in surrender and laughed. “No, nothin'! Just sayin'!” 


Jacobs glanced over at an uncharacteristically quiet Hannibal and thought for an instant to ask him if his plans to marry Mrs. Stewart were definitely off and then wisely decided to keep his mouth shut on that matter. Heyes hadn't made any public announcement concerning his marital status and considering his mood when he had received the news about his parole it was probably best to let sleeping dogs lie. 

Steven carried on home to be with his wife and daughter while Heyes, Kid and Jacobs disembarked at the station in Brookswood to carry on with their 'busy' schedule. 


“Howdy Sheriff,” Deputy Morin greeted the travellers. “Good trip?” 


“Hey there Joe,” Jacobs responded. “It was fine. No problems.” 


“Morning Joe,” Kid nodded to him.



Heyes just smiled and didn't say anything. Joe was still too much of a reminder to Heyes of his friend, the Doc and the fact that Heyes had yet to pay his respects to that deceased gentleman. Joe smiled quietly at the other man's discomfort, knowing full well where it was coming from. 


“Heyes,” Joe greeted him. “Everything go alright for your friend?” 


“Oh yeah,” Heyes answered him with a quick smile. “Other than the bullet wound in his arm, that is.” 


“Bullet wound....?” 


“I'll tell you all about it over lunch, Joe,” Jacobs assured him. “It turned out to be a very interesting evening, didn't it boys?” And the sheriff sent a knowing look over at the two miscreants. “C'mon, Joe, lets head over to the cafe. I don't know about you but I'm hungry...”


“Well, Heyes...” Jed clapped his friend on the back. “kinda' early for a beer but Beth asked me to drop in at the tailor's before heading back to the ranch; just to make sure everything is going along as planned—you know....want to come along?”  


“Ahh, no,” Heyes declined as his eyes seemed inexplicably drawn towards the milliner's shop. “No, you go ahead Kid. I'll meet up with you in about an hour or so.” He smiled. “Won't be too early for a beer then.” 


“Yeah, okay,” Jed agreed. “See ya' in an hour at the saloon.” 



 
Sheriff Jacobs strode purposefully towards the stranger, whose grey eyes turned to observe the approaching lawman.


“Can I help you?”



The sheriff nodded.  “I sure hope so.  You’ve been hanging around town for a couple of days now.  Do you mind telling me what your business is in Brookswood?”  He looked the stranger up and down, carefully noting the fustian work wear and scuffed boots.



“I see you’re sizing me up.”  The man thrust out a hand, inviting a handshake.  “Valentine Bamforth, and I take it that you are the local law enforcement?” 


“The name’s Jacobs.  What brings you to Brookswood, Mr. Bamforth?”



The man’s face brightened into a friendly smile.  “Don’t let my clothes fool you, sheriff.  I am a professional man.  I dress like this for digging up soil samples.”



“Soil samples?”


Bamforth nodded.  “I am a prospector, not your usual kind, but a speculator.  If I find the right kind of deposits I will look to purchase land to mine.” 


The sheriff’s cynical scrutiny indicated that he was clearly not buying the explanation.  “And you can prove this?”



Bamforth’s brows gathered in curiosity.  “I sure can, but why?  I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“You’re a stranger in town, one who has spent a lot of time hanging around and asking questions.  That tends to attract the attention of a good lawman.”


Bamforth nodded.  “Well, I’m glad to see that; the chances are good that I might be purchasing some land around here.  For the record my ‘hanging around’ is my way of establishing who lives where, who owns what, and to generally get the lay of the land.” 


“And why would you need that?”


“To get the cheapest price for the most promising land of course.”  Bamforth smiled.  “If I know someone’s desperate to sell I’ll pitch the price lower than I would if somebody’s well set up.  Business, you know.” 


Jacobs nodded.  “You say you can prove all of this?” 


“Sure can,” Bamforth looked confused.  “I just don’t really understand why I need to.” 


“As I said, you’ve been hanging around asking questions and today you rode out to both the Double J. and the neighboring Johnson place.” 


“Yeah, for soil samples.  If I find what I’m looking for, I’ll offer a fair price.” 


“Then there’s nothing to worry about, Mr. Bamforth.  I’m only interested in strangers behaving suspiciously in my town.  If you are who you say you are, nobody will bother you.” 


Bamforth pulled off his scruffy hat and ran a hand through hair like the ashes of a discarded fire.  “Come on.  All my papers are in the hotel – along with my mother.”
 
Jacob’s eyebrows arched in surprise.  “Your mother?” 


“Yeah, how many itinerant criminals bring an old lady along?”  Bamforth gestured with his head.  “Come on.  Let’s meet Mama.”
 
 
 The old lady raised a head covered in white lace and even whiter curls at the sight of her son walking into the hotel with the local lawman.  “Valentine?”  She gripped the banister, wavering on the staircase as though flailing for support. 


“Mama?”  Bamforth darted forward. “Are you ill?  There’s nothing to worry about.  The sheriff just checks out strangers in town.” 


“No, just shocked at seeing you with a sheriff.  I thought something had happened.” 


“That’s right, ma’am,” Jacobs nodded.  “I like to know what’s going on and who’s in town.”  Jacobs proffered an arm in support.  “Let me help you.”  


The matron delicately took the sheriff’s arm, her bird-like frame almost weightless against him. 


She patted the lawman’s hand with a fluttering lightness.  “I’m sorry for my reaction, but the only time I’ve seen my family with lawmen was when somebody died.  You scared me.” 


Sheriff Jacobs smiled, guiding the lady to a couch.  “No, ma’am, I just like to introduce myself to strangers in town.  There’s nothing for you to worry about.”


Bamforth placed his mother down delicately, punching a cushion into submission before placing it behind her back.  “I think it disturbed the locals to see a scruffy man asking questions and riding about other folks’ property, Mama.  The sheriff wants to know why, and I have no problem with that.  I guess I’d want to know too if a saddle tramp started lurking about my place.  Are you settled now?”  His mother nodded weakly.  “Let’s get you some tea, huh?” 


 Bamforth rooted around in a bag and pulled out a stack of papers.  “Here you go.  Banking details, letters, my company papers.  If there’s anything else you need you can get it through my lawyer, here are his details.” 


Jacobs peered at the bottles and test-tubes arranged along the dresser.  “What are these for?”

“Testing soil samples.”  Bamforth smiled enigmatically.  “I’ll only make an offer if I find what I’m looking for.” 


“And that is...?” 


“None of your business, Sheriff.  This is a very competitive game, and if any of my rivals get the whiff of anything around here the area will be full of them.”  Bamforth folded his arms.  “Are you happy now?  Can my mother and I go about our day?”


Jacobs nodded.  “Sure - just one thing, should you be dragging your mother about the country like this?  She seems kinda delicate.”
 
“You just shocked her, Sheriff.  I think you brought back memories of both my father’s and brother’s deaths to her.  The law turned up both times and it’s the only contact she ever had with lawmen.  She’s sheltered, is all.”  Bamforth put the papers back in his bag and snapped it shut.  “I never married and I’m all mother’s got.  She likes to come with me.”


“But still, at her age?”


Bamforth sighed heavily.  “What else can I do?  She wants to come.  This is a safe little town, isn’t it?”

Jacobs stared into the helpless eyes and smiled in spite of himself.  “Yeah, it’s safe enough.  There’s a ladies sewing bee meets at the church on Tuesdays.  I’m sure she’d be made very welcome.”


“Yeah, she gets bored.  That’d be a good idea, thanks Sheriff.  I’ll suggest it.”
 
 Valentine Bamforth smiled and waved at Sheriff Jacobs before he turned and joined the old lady in the hotel lobby.  She lowered her newspaper and peered at him over a pair of round spectacles.  “Did he buy it?” 


Bamforth nodded.  “I think so.”  His lips twitched into a grin.  “It definitely helps having you around.  Who’s going to suspect a man who takes a little, old lady everywhere with him?” 
  
“See!”  She patted the cushion beside her, urging him to sit.  “And you didn’t want me to come.  I bet you’re glad now.” 


He sat, his fingers curling around her hand before he drew it up to his lips.  “I’m always glad when you’re here.”  The grey eyes narrowed in concern.  “You really looked ill on that staircase.  Do I need to get the doctor?” 


She shook her head.  “No, I’m fine.  I was acting.”


“Are you sure,” Valentine’s voice simmered with suspicion.  “We can’t take any chances.” 


She clasped his hand.  “I’m fine!  I promised to sit around in the background as cover and that is all I’m going to be doing.  Now, do you fancy a trip to the restaurant for a spot of lunch?”


Valentine nodded.  “Fine, lunch.  As long as you promise to take a nap afterwards.” 


She nodded her white head.  “I will.  It’s right across the road from that hat shop, you know.  It might be interesting to see who comes and goes, don’t you think?”
 



Heyes headed across the street and down a block until he arrived at the shop in question and then hesitated before attempting the door handle. He wasn't quite sure why he was here. He was still missing Abi so much that the last thing he felt ready for right then was a new relationship. Besides, Amy had made it quite clear that a romance was not on her agenda at all so don't even bother trying. Maybe that was it, Heyes mused to himself; the fact that she wasn't interested took the pressure off and he was able to relax in her company. Besides that, she intrigued him. 
He didn't want to think that it was something as selfish as the simple fact that she didn't want him that attracted him. He hoped there was more to it than that. Admittedly it was a rare experience for him to find a woman attractive and to have her rebuff his advances—he was accustomed to winning at that game no matter who the quarry was or how serious that flirtation. 

But surely he had grown up a bit more than that! Perhaps it was simply the desire for feminine companionship with someone who knew what it meant to lose a spouse and to be able to pick up and move on from that. But then Miranda had been through the same thing and from what Amy had said of her marriage, Miranda's had been a far more loving relationship. So obviously that wasn't the only attraction.
  
Heyes nodded as he arrived at his own conclusion; he found Amy attractive right now because she was not after anything more than friendship and that's about all Heyes could emotionally handle at this point. He knew he still had feelings for Miranda, but he also knew that she wanted more than just friendship and Heyes was still too raw to give that to her. So for now; Amy it was. If she wasn't too busy that is.

He turned the handle to push open the door and a chill went through him before his mind could even register the coincidence of the situation. 

Amy was indeed busy with a customer and that customer was none other than Miranda herself. Tricia was sitting over in the corner watching while Amy was helping the young ladies try on various different hats; presumably for the up-coming wedding. All heads turned at the opening of the door.


“Oh! Good morning, Mr. Heyes,” Amy greeted him with a smile.
 
Heyes cringed, the knife going through his heart. He put on a brave face and smiled at the assembly. “I'm sorry,” he apologized. “I didn't realize you had customers. I'll come back another time.” 


“Oh nonsense, Hannibal!” Tricia told him. “Come on in. We're just trying on hats.” 


“Yes, it's not like we're standing around in our petticoats,” Randa teased with a smile. “Come and join us; a man's opinion is always welcome in these matters.” 


“Oh.” Heyes smiled shyly; this wasn't exactly what he'd had in mind.  


“Yes, do come in Mr. He...oh I'm sorry! I do keep forgetting.” Amy looked contrite. “You've asked me more than once not to call you that. I'll put the kettle on for some tea while you ladies decide what you want. A nice morning tea I think would be just the thing to help us get on with our busy days.” And she disappeared to the back room to do just that.  


Heyes stepped into the shop and closed the door, feeling just a little out of place at interfering with this feminine tradition. Still, none of the ladies seemed to mind his presence so he settled himself in a chair by the table where Tricia was sitting. Miranda was still standing and looking with serious contemplation at her reflection in the mirror.
 
“What do you think?” she asked anyone. “This blue one, or the yellow?”
 
“Since you haven't decided which dress you're going to wear yet, it's rather difficult to say which hat,” Tricia pointed out.  


“I'll probably decide the dress depending on which hat I choose.”  


Both ladies then looked over to Heyes with raised brows. Heyes looked from one to the other feeling totally out of his element. 


“Umm...” Heyes adopted a reflective countenance in order to buy some time; he had absolutely no idea. “Well, that blue one is very nice.” He smiled as an epiphany hit him. “It brings out the colours in your eyes!” 


“Yes, true,” Randi agreed, also buying for time. She didn't quite know what to make of this. Her heart had given a sudden leap when she had turned to see Hannibal walk into the shop. She had always tried to be prepared for those occasions when she might run into him out on the street, but the hat shop was the last place she had expected him to turn up and she had been caught with her guard down.
 
She had been a little disappointed when Hannibal had returned to Brookswood but had made no point of coming to visit, in fact just the opposite. Hannibal and Jed had met up with David for a social drink, but had avoided coming to the house altogether. She understood, of course she did; she'd been there herself. That ache of missing someone who was gone forever; it overwhelms and cancels out all other thought and emotion. The last thing Hannibal needed now was some woman pushing for a new relationship. That Isabelle was such a fool, absolutely no finesse at all! 
Miranda was willing to sit back and wait until Hannibal was ready to make contact but in the meantime, it still hurt that he apparently didn't even want her as a friend. Maybe he just didn't know what he wanted yet so she had resolved herself to give him time. Now here he was showing up totally unexpectedly at the milliner's, looking just as handsome as ever and drawing her eyes to him like a butterfly to the spider's web.

She turned back with a quiet sigh to the mirror and pulled out the hat pin with fingers that trembled with the emotional shock of seeing him like this. And why was he in the milliner's shop in the first place? She hadn't missed the smile that came to Amy's face when she had spotted him and she hated herself for allowing it hurt so much. 


“Well how about this one?” she asked as she removed the blue hat and picked up the yellow one. “What do you think of this?” 


She turned again and faced Heyes, a bright smile on her lips and a sparkle in her eye. Heyes met her gaze and felt his breath catch in his chest, as though someone had just knocked the wind out of him. She was so pretty and when she looked at him like that he felt confusion wash over him again. That conflict of two such extreme emotions; those of devastating hurt and loss vying for the upper hand over attraction and arousal.



He swallowed and smiled winningly. “The yellow...” Quick cough, for some reason his throat had tightened up on him. “Ah, the yellow one compliments your hair.”


“Yes!” Amy agreed as she entered the room with a tray full of tea cups and accessories. “That's been the dilemma all along. The blue one goes nicely with her eyes, but the yellow brings out the richness in her dark hair. Either one suits your skin tones though, Mrs. Thornton, so it really is going to depend on which dress you chose! Oh, sit down Hannibal!” Amy expostulated as Heyes stood up to take the tray from her. “You're a guest here, sit down and I'll pour the tea.” 


Miranda sighed as she turned back to the mirror. “Yes. I just don't know!” she complained with some frustration. “We need to come up with a tie-breaker.” 


“Well you think on it and let me know,” Amy advised her. “In the meantime, come and have some tea before you carry on with your busy day.” 


“Oh yes! Thank you,” Randa agreed. 


She and Tricia exchanged knowing smiles and Miranda settled herself into a chair beside Hannibal while Amy poured the tea and got everyone situated. She sat down herself then, beside Tricia and picking up her cup she took a deep appreciative breath of the aroma and closed her eyes with a smile.
 
“Oh I so love a good cup of tea,” she announced rather needlessly. “There are so many different moods you can produce—or inhibit, with just the right blending of leaves. It truly is God's miracle brew!' She laughed at the three looks that were coming back at her. “Oh! Don't mind me! It's just a passion of mine!” she told them. “Come, back to discussion on hats! How shall we break the stalemate?” 


“Well...” Miranda sighed. “process of elimination I suppose. Are you settled on the green one, Tricia?”
 
“Yes, I think so,” Tricia assured her. “It will go very nicely with my peach frock with the green lace. It's as though the two were made for each other!” 


“What will you be wearing, Hannibal?” Randa asked and then tried to retract the question with a hand to her mouth. “Oh dear, I've done it again!” 


“What?” Heyes asked.
 
Randa smiled a little abashedly. “I didn't mean to imply that we would be going together. I'm just curious—perhaps it will give me some ideas.”  


“Oh.” Heyes nodded and sipped his tea. “I suppose I'll be wearing the dark gray suit that Abi...ah, that I picked up last month.”
 
All three ladies smiled, none of them having missed the minor slip-up or the flash of sadness that had made it's way past Heyes' defences. 
 
“Dark gray,” Amy repeated thoughtfully. “Hmm, what about your tie? What colour will that be?”
 
Heyes shrugged. “Black, I suppose.” And then was shocked at the reaction he received. 


“Oh no!”



“No, no! Not black!” 


“Not to a wedding, Hannibal,” Amy chided him. “Especially since you will be standing up with your friend.” She became thoughtful again. “Mr. Curry is going to be wearing a dark blue tie to complement his young lady's choices. I can give you a sample of the same material and colour that I gave to him and I'm sure the tailor can make you a lovely tie that will complement the bride and groom!”
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PostSubject: Rites and Wrongs   Fri Dec 27, 2013 12:57 am

“Oh.” Heyes smiled as he recalled the Kid complaining on the train about how there was so much more to this wedding stuff than he'd ever imagined. Heyes was beginning to understand what he meant. “Alright. I hadn't thought of that.”  


“That's why I'm here,” Amy teased and reaching over gave Heyes a playful pat on the hand. “I'll make sure the whole bridal party is presented appropriately.” 


Heyes grinned. The exchange had not been lost on Miranda, or Tricia for that matter.
  
“Well, I guess that settles it then!” Miranda suddenly announced, bringing all eyes back to her. “I'll take the blue hat!”


“A wonderful choice,” Amy nodded.  “I’ll get you a box.  It goes so well with your eyes.  Maybe you’ll come back and get the yellow one on another occasion?” 


Randa raised an appraising eyebrow.  “You really are quite the saleswoman, Mrs. Oliphant.  You manage to push yourself without being too obvious.  That’s quite a skill.”
 
The two women exchanged a lingering look which was completely lost on Heyes.
 
“Thank you, but I like to think the hats sell themselves,” Amy replied.
 
“Oh, they do, dear,” Randa retorted with a smile.  “Your talents go beyond simple millinery.”
 
Amy sighed, glancing at Heyes before looking Randa straight in the eyes.  “I’m fixed on my new business, Mrs.Thornton.  I’m just beginning to see a life ahead after I lost my husband.”  Amy turned sharply and left the front shop. 


“She’s a recent widow?” Randa asked, full of concern.  “I didn’t know.”


Heyes nodded.  “Fairly.  She’s still pretty raw too.” 


“Oh!  She’s not wearing black, or even grey.  I’d never have guessed.”
 
Heyes shrugged.  “Maybe it’s not so great for a new business, especially one like this?  Maybe she needs to look cheerful and sunny.”
 
Amy reappeared bearing a large round box covered in an ornate floral design.


Randa frowned.  “Mrs. Oliphant, I had no idea you were still mourning.  I’m sorry.”
  
Amy shook her head, but didn’t meet Randa’s deep-blue gaze.  “I’m not, so much, as just taking the first few steps alone.  It’s...”



“Scary?” Randa suggested, gently. 


“Yes,” Amy placed the hat inside the box, covering it over with delicate tissue paper.  “At times it is.”   Her eyes darted up to Randa’s.  “But I don’t want sympathy, all I want is a fresh start,” her voice dropped, adding extra emphasis as she glanced at Heyes.  “And that’s ALL I want.” 


“Of course,” Randa looked slightly embarrassed.  “I didn’t mean...”


Amy cut her off.  “Of course, you didn’t.”  She tied off the ribbon on the box and smiled.  “Your hat.”  Randa opened her bag to pay while Amy boxed up the green hat for Tricia in a beautiful box covered in pink candy stripes.  The little cash register rattled closed as the purchases were completed.  “Do come again.”


Randa hesitated.  “Hannibal?” 


Heyes stared at her as though struck dumb.  Randa was a wonderful person, but right now he felt unable to face her.  Things were simpler with Amy, and somehow the rawness of her pain echoed his own.  What did they call it?  Tea and sympathy?  Randa would only offer kind words and warmth, but maybe he had to talk to somebody who had nothing to gain from Abi’s departure. Why was nothing ever easy for him? 


“I expect you’re here for Belle and Beth’s order?”  Amy arched her brows.  “They did warn me to expect you.  I have to finish off the feathers and then box it up.  Would you care for some more tea while you wait?”  


Heyes nodded gratefully.  “That’d be great.” 


Randa bit into her lip.  “I haven’t had the chance to see you since you got back.” 


“I’ve been busy.  You know, catching up on things I’d neglected and now the wedding,” Heyes gave her a rueful smile.  “I’ll catch up with you soon.” 


“I’m sorry about Abi.”  Randa’s eyes glistened with emotion.  “Really I am.” 


“Me too,” Heyes replied, simply.  “Soon, Randa, I promise.  I just need to clear my head first.” 
 
Randa nodded as Tricia laid a hand on his shoulder, the tightening fingers signalling her empathy.  “Come and see us when you are ready.  We’ll look forward to it.”  Tricia patted him gently, “and in the meantime, if you need anything, you know where we are.” 


The bell above the door jangled and the two women left.  


 Amy’s blue eyes met Heyes’ brown.  “I do hope I wasn’t out of line there.  I sensed you wanted some space.” 


“I guess I did.”  Heyes gave her a watery smile, unable to articulate that it was her company he sought.  “I thought I’d take you up on the offer for some tea, but I didn’t bank on anyone else being here.”


Amy walked over to the door back shop.  “How nice.  Shall I put the water on to boil again?  I can turn the sign so we have privacy?  It’s nearly lunchtime.” 


Heyes took a deep breath, his mind buzzing.  Why was he here?  “Yeah, Amy.  That’d be great.” 


Amy gave him a beaming smile and disappeared into the darkness of the doorway.  “Fine.  How does Darjeeling sound?” 


“Like gibberish,” Heyes replied with a frown.  “What is it?” 


Amy popped her head around the door frame.  “Tea.  It’s Indian.” 


“Indian?  They have tea?”


Amy’s lips twitched into a smile.  “Not that kind of Indian.  It’s from India.  You know, where all the elephants and silk comes from.  It’s lovely, try some.”


Heyes nodded.  “Sure, anything will do.” 


Amy’s blue eyes twinkled with a knowing glint.  “Oil on troubled waters, so to speak?  I’ll be right back.” 


Heyes sat, listening to her clatter about in the shadows of the back shop, the piercing whistle of the tea kettle and the chinking of china cups.  She re-entered the front shop bearing two cups sitting on matching saucers.  Amy handed him one and sat beside him with an air of expectancy.  “So how have you been?” 


“Down, and I feel like a heel because of it.” 


Amy’s slim eyebrows rose in question.  “Any particular reason?” 


“A friend just got amnesty.  I just got back from there.”


“Isn’t that a good thing?” 


Heyes heaved a heartfelt sigh.  “His parole restrictions let him do most things, so he can work as a private detective.  He can mix with criminals, use a false name, even be at the scene of a crime,” Heyes shrugged.  “Yet they won’t relax mine enough to allow me to live quietly somewhere with the woman I’ve loved for over fifteen years.” 
 
Amy’s brow creased.  “Why can’t she live here?” 


Heyes hesitated.  “Somebody had a campaign against us, trying to hurt everyone we cared for.”
 
“So?”  Amy tilted her head.  “You said, ‘had.’  Is that still going on?” 


“No,” Heyes grimaced, “well, kinda.  We think ‘accidents’ might be planned.  Abi won’t risk our daughter being anywhere near that - so she’s gone.  I’ve lost her.  I’ve lost both of them.”


Amy frowned, staring at him intensely.  “What makes you think accidents might be planned?” 


Heyes shook his head dismissively.  “Does it matter?  We just do.” 


Amy bit into her lip.  “That’s tough.  Do you really love her?” 


Heyes nodded.  “Yeah.”


“That’s worse than bereavement.  At least I know that Frank would still be with me if he was here.  Knowing that she’s out there and that she can’t be with you must be torture.”  Amy stared into the intense, dark eyes.  “I’m so sorry.  How can I help?”


“Nobody but the governor can help.  You still hurt, but you’ve found a way to deal with it.  Is it getting better?  How do you do it?”


Amy sipped thoughtfully at her tea.  “Keep busy.”  She cast a hand around the shop, looking proudly up at the new display unit filling one wall.  “Do you see that?  Brand new, all ready for use.  Vincent Cramond built that for me, and now I have to fill it with hats of every hue.  It’s very therapeutic, and every single one is a step to a new life.  What do you have which could perform that role in your life?”

“There’s helping with the wedding, and keeping the Double J running while the Kid is away,” Heyes shrugged.  “After that, who knows?” 


“You don’t have a plan for the future?  Do you want to work on a ranch all your life?” 


“No,” Heyes replied, firmly.  “I had planned to run a detective agency, but without Abi it doesn’t seem worth it.” 


Amy put her cup down.  “If you don’t mind me saying so, that’s more than a little defeatist.  You surprise me, Hannibal.  I would have thought the great outlaw leader would have been a lot more proactive than that.  A detective agency sounds like a wonderful idea.  What have you done about it?  Have you premises, staff, or any cases?”


“I’ve got staff, kind of... nothing else.”


Amy nodded.  “Well then, what do you need to do first?  Can you start a case without premises?”

“I guess...”


“There you go.  Get yourself a case.”  Amy pouted thoughtfully.  “How does one go about doing that?  It’s not exactly like arranging hats in a shop window.”  She smiled.  “I don’t think you can just sit in a shop window with a magnifying glass; that would be a fire hazard on a sunny day.”  Her eyebrows rose, watching him carefully.  “There’s very little quiet in that quiet face of yours,” she murmured.  “What’s the first obstruction?  What are you thinking right now?” 


“I need to help my best friend get ready for something I can never have, and it hurts like hell.  All this talk of weddings is rubbing salt in the wound.”


Amy reached out and lightly patted the back of his hand.  “I’m sure he understands that.  I take it you wouldn’t have it any other way?  You can’t back off?”


“No.  I promised him and he delayed the wedding so I could be there.”


“Then you must, but you do realize you don’t have to enjoy it.  Look on it as a duty, and then any enjoyment you have will be an extra.” 


Heyes frowned.  “A duty?  The Kid’s wedding is more than a duty.” 


Amy’s smile widened.  “You see?  You have already got one thing in perspective.  This is a wonderful, loving thing to be engaged in.   It will be difficult at times, but I’m sure he knows that.  Talk to him when you are finding things difficult and allow him to support you, but enjoy the rest of it. Take things one step at a time.” 


“Somebody else gave me advice like that once.”  Heyes’ face dimpled into a grin.  “I knew there was a reason I came here today.  Thanks, Amy.” 


“You are very welcome.”  Her tone rose in question.  “So it was me you came to see?   Not Mrs. Thornton?”


“I didn’t know Randa would be here.”  Heyes put his now empty cup beside Amy’s.  “I can’t face her right now.” 


“May I ask why?” 


“I was seeing her when Abi came back into my life.  Now I’m free again, who knows?”  Heyes shook his head.  “She’s probably expecting me to pick things up where they left off.  How can I tell her I can’t face a relationship yet?”


“How?”  Amy hooked him with a determined stare.  “The same way I told you, and her.  Just be honest.”  Her eyes turned pensive.  “In any case, how do you know she wants to pick things up again?  You haven’t asked her.  She may even have met someone else for all you know.”


Heyes’ eyes widened with surprise.  “Why?  Do you think she has?  I haven’t heard anything.” 


“From the way she was looking at you I doubt she has, but she seems to be a lovely woman.  Talk to her, and tell her how you feel – the pressure will be off then.  She’s no Isabelle, she not a predator.  A woman can tell.” 


Heyes chuckled ruefully.  “What would I do without you?”


“Buy hats mail order?” Amy suggested, brightly.  She stood collecting the cups, and bustled towards the back shop.  “Not that I can see you in any of my summer bonnets.  Flowers are quite the thing this year.  Silver conchos on leather won’t be on any of my designs.”


Heyes followed her, leaning on the door frame.  “I guess you don’t want anything from me, it makes visiting here uncomplicated.”


Amy’s light, musical giggle floated in the air.  “Don’t I?  Keep standing in the shop.  Seven women stopped and stared in while you were here, and Mrs. Thornton even walked by trying to look inconspicuous.  The kind of attention you attract does me no harm at all.  I have no doubt they’ll all be in here once you’ve gone, trying to find out what we’ve been talking about.” 


“Oh, I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to give you a reputation.” 


Amy glanced over her shoulder, washing the cups before placing them on the draining board.  “Don’t worry, they know you’re safely tucked up, out of town every night and this shop is practically a public place because of the enormous window, so they know we’ve not been up to anything.”  She picked up a tea towel.  “Mrs. Thornton, however?  She may be another matter entirely.  To walk past here right after she’d left speaks loudly of a woman checking up on you.” 


“I’m sorry,” Heyes repeated.


“Don’t be.  I’ll sell something to every single one of them when they come in investigating.  I’ll take all the help I can get while I’m starting out,” Amy chuckled.  “Now, can I help you with anything else?” 


“Not today.”



She nodded.  “Until next time?”


“Yeah,” Heyes headed over to the door, unlocking it, “next time.”  His dark eyes softened.  “Thanks, Amy.  I appreciate a kind ear.  If I can ever return the favor, just ask.” 


Her eyes twinkled with mischief.  “I told you.  Tell all the ladies in town you find them irresistible in a new hat.” 
 
 
Heyes made his way back towards the saloon to meet up with the Kid. He walked with head down and hands in pockets, a contemplative frown upon his face; he really didn't know what to make of that encounter. Amy had been pleasant as always and obviously enjoyed having visitors stop by for tea and chatter. Miranda had been kind and a little playful which had always made Heyes smile when talking with her; there was no topic she wasn't willing to discuss and no question she wasn't willing to ask! She was intriguing and smart and fun to be with. Tricia had sat quietly on the most part, sipping her tea and casting glances back and forth and hither taking in the dynamics of the three other people seated at the table.

In one way Heyes was relieved when the small gathering had broken up as he kind of felt like the odd man out and that each lady had their own agenda. Normally he would have had fun playing that game, but not now, not today. He just didn't have the energy anymore. Though in another way he had felt reluctant to leave the company of the ladies, though he wasn't sure which lady he wanted the company of the most. 

Tricia of course wasn't even in the running. He certainly liked her well enough as a friend, but obviously she was not a contender.

Amy's company he felt comfortable and relaxed with and her bubbly personality helped bolster his spirits and she really was helping him to develop a taste for tea! He'd never realized there were so many different types and they did indeed give energy or encourage relaxation, depending on the blend that was brewed! No wonder Belle enjoyed a cup after her busy day. Maybe he should talk to Amy about suggesting a night time tea to help him sleep, Abi had often mentioned that a cup of tea would help him to relax so maybe there was something to it. 

Then there was Miranda—lovely Miranda. She was a joy to be with and her high energy and flighty speech pattern gave Heyes a run for his money in the 'silver tongue' category. At first meeting one might think that Randa was herself flighty and scatter-brained, but nothing could be farther from the truth. She was just so energetic and her mind moved so quickly that her mouth often simply could not keep up and that gave the impression that her conversation was unintelligent and pointless. But Heyes had found that if he just shut up himself and let her talk, the points she finally got around to making were insightful and well worth the high-energy meandering to get to them. 
He smiled at the memory of some of their discussions and found himself wanting to be in her company again. But he had to admit that he was afraid of moving too fast. He felt totally incapable of dealing with those emotions right now and he had to admit to feeling a certain amount of resentment at the fact that Miranda had strolled passed the hat shop, apparently 'checking up' on him.

Dammit! He was feeling pressure from all comers; even Isabelle was circling for the kill! He and Abi had come so close; he had been certain that he would spend the rest of his life with her and Anya. And truth be known he'd thought with a slightly whimsical smile; he had been looking forward to making even more 'little Anyas' once things had settled down a bit. 

Now that assumption had been shattered and he knew there was no going back. Yet again anger took hold of him like a vice around his heart and he felt his respiration increase with the strong emotion. Why were they doing this to him? Here Jed Curry was permitted to walk around free as a bird; do and go wherever he wanted to, yet Heyes they continued to keep tied up on this short suffocating leash! Why couldn't they just leave him alone to live his life!? That was all he was asking, that was all he wanted and yet they continued to curtail him.

He took a couple of deep breaths and tried to calm himself down. He cursed the governor for the unfairness that was being shown him but he knew that there was nothing he could do about it. At least he was out of the prison, he knew that was something to be thankful for, but life without Abi, without Anya just seemed pointless.

In a way he was so grateful to the Kid for going ahead with the wedding plans as it gave Heyes something to focus on. It gave his mind something to look forward to rather than just wallow in self-pity as was its want these days. Jed and Beth's wedding was Heyes' anchor as well and he clung to it like a life-line; he had to or he would simply sink into the darkness of despair and perhaps never come out of it.

He smiled to himself, almost bitterly. Hannibal Heyes; so independent. Always the leader, always the one in charge and now he couldn't even make it through everyday life without someone throwing him a life-line. In prison it had been Abi and then ultimately; Anya. Even though she hadn't been aware of it at all, his daughter had saved his life. 
Now, with Abi and Anya no longer with him, it was back to the Kid again. Jed and Beth giving him a reason to carry on, a reason to keep looking forward and to focus his mind on something positive.

What a dilemma! Heyes couldn't even think about starting up a business now, his mind just wasn't into it but he knew he would have to do something soon. Wheat and Kyle were counting on him—again. Just like old times and he had pushed for Wheat to get an amnesty so he certainly couldn't back out of the plans now. And he wouldn't either—he knew that. He just needed some time to recover, some time for his mind and heart to stop hurting and to start being able to look ahead to his own future again. He just needed some time. 


“Heyes! Wake up!” he heard Jed's voice cut through his musings. “Jeez—where were ya'? You were just about to walk right passed me.”  


“Oh, sorry Kid,” Heyes smiled sheepishly. “Guess I was off thinking about something else.” 


“Yeah, I'll say,” Kid grinned. “You look like you're ready for that beer now!”


Heyes grinned. “Sure am! But umm, Amy gave me this piece of material to give to the tailor so he could make me a tie to match yours.” 


“Oh yeah?” Jed's eyes danced with laughter. “Now they're gettin' you jumpin' to the band too!” 


“Yeah, I guess so.” 


“Let's go get a beer first,” Kid suggested hopefully. “Isn't today the day of your weekly poker game?” 


“Oh yeah!” Heyes had forgotten about that. “Yeah, the fellas should be here soon. Still have time for a beer first though!” 


“Good! Lets go.” Kid took Heyes by the arm as though he needed more encouragement and hurried him along to the saloon. “I can take that material thingie over the tailors later if ya' want.” 


“Sounds good...” 




“You're awfully quiet, Miranda,” Tricia observed. “That tells me something is brewing inside that head of yours. Still wondering about the hats?” 


“Oh good gracious no!” Randa laughed at having been caught drifting. “No. I was just thinking about our little tea party.” 


“Oh yes?” Tricia asked conspiratorially and linked her arm with her cousin's as they strolled along the boardwalk towards the grocers. “What about it?”


Randa became reflective again and pursed her lips in consternation. “Mrs Oliphant caught me flat-footed with her rather pointed remarks concerning her lack of interest in Hannibal. But you know, now that I've had time to think about it I do believe she was deliberately trying throw me off-balance—you know, make me uncomfortable so that I would back off,” Miranda cocked an eyebrow and glanced over at her cousin with a knowing expression, “and I fell for it.  Maybe I need to take the matter in hand." 
   
Tricia chuckled. “I've never known you to be the jealous type Randa,” she teased. “Don't you think you might be reading more into it than is actually there? She is recently widowed after all and not every woman who lays eyes on Hannibal is going to be in an instant swoon. Maybe she is just looking for friendship.” 


Miranda was looking straight ahead, a perplexed expression upon her brow; she really hadn't heard a word her cousin had said. “Did you not notice how Mrs Oliphant perked up and even blushed a little when Hannibal came into the shop?” Randa carried on with a hint of suspicion in her tone. “And speaking of which; what was Hannibal doing coming into the milliner's shop in the first place? It's not like he's buying a hat for anyone. As far as I know he's not escorting a lady to the wedding. Beth already has her hat on order and so does Belle and I know for a fact that Beth isn't expecting her hat to be ready for at least another two days—so what was he doing there? 
“And you can't tell me that he wasn't looking at her with that certain kind of look either! I swear I wish that man would simply make up his mind. First he's with Abi then he's not with Abi then he's back with her again and they have a child together, then he's not with her again, then he's with me. Then he's back with Abi again, now apparently that's over and done with for ever and a day, but is he back with me? No! Now he's making eyes at the new milliner in town! What am I? Yesterdays news?
“Yet, I don't know...he was looking at me again like he used to, like he wants to be with me but then it's as if he's laughing at me too! I just don't know what he wants. I'm trying to back off, to give him time; I know he's hurting, doesn't want to rush into anything but then there he is showing up at Mrs. Oliphant's place of business; someplace he has no business being!
“I should just forget about him! I was doing just fine before he showed up and sent my common sense out the window. I was quite happy being in mourning for William and convincing myself that no other man could ever take his place in my heart and then HE has to show up! Well it would be all fine and dandy if HE know what in the world HE wanted!
  “Ohhhh! I should just go back home and get a job at the library!” Randa pulled her arm away from her cousin and grabbing her skirts, stomped into the grocers to take her frustrations out on the produce.
 
“Oh dear, oh dear,” Tricia comment under her breath, and then smiled softly as she followed her cousin indoors.


 
Vincent Cramond battered frenetically on the Gibson’s door.  It was dragged open by a shocked looking Tricia who frowned at the frantic visitor’s shocked face.  “Vincent?  What’s up?” 


“Is the doctor in?” 


“David?  Why, yes.  He’s just having breakfast.” 


“Get ‘im!  Fast, there’s been an accident.” 


“An accident?  Where?”



“The new hat shop.”  Vincent’s dark eyes peered over her shoulder at David who was dragging on his jacket and grabbing his bag.  “The new lady there.” 


“What happened to her?” David demanded. 


Vincent dropped his face into his hands.  “The new shelving unit I made for her, it’s toppled over and crushed her!”  The man’s eyes whirled with helplessness.  “I could swear I anchored it to the wall, honestly I could!  I went to do some more work for her this morning and found her there.  Oh, my god!  I’ve killed an innocent woman.  It’s real heavy.  It took three of us to lift the thing the other day."



David and Tricia exchanged a concerned glance.  “Tricia, cancel all my appointments this morning.  Vincent, let’s go.”


To Be Continued
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Stepha3nie

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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Wrongs Chapter thirteen   Sat Aug 02, 2014 1:50 pm

What a funny beginning. You must have had so much fun writing this. Poor Wheat and Kyle - first you turn them into some kind of chameleon and then into living cleaning utensils. And Wheat gets an amnesty! Yay! But I can definitely understand his apprehension regarding the terms. What good indeed is a secret amnesty? Shouldn't at least the law enforcement be informed? Heyes and the Kid did not exactly enjoy when they had to live with the little secret and it was very difficult for them. For Wheat it can only be worse, after the shooting match with Morrison and his posse. And he does have the amnesty unlike Heyes and the Kid did.
Morrison - I don't think even a marshal is allowed to just shoot someone without warning in a crowded saloon. Kid may think it's funny to force him to sit down with the gang but this seemed completely out of character for Kid and Heyes at the least. I had hoped they would have the sheriff arrest him and then bring a law suit against him. Now, THAT would have stuck in Morrisons craw!
The shouting/coughing match with Wheat was very funny to read (oh, now I commenting in rhymes) but I still felt a little apprehensive about it. As a stand alone story I would have thought it was hilarious, but in the context of the series, their last encounter and the situation now, I felt uneasy about the absurdity of the situation.
I am now really curious about the stranger, Valentine, and his mother. In a crime novel, they would be good guys, because they are behaving so suspiciously. Are they Pinkertons in disguise?
And we also get more information about Amy. Heyes feels drawn to her and tries to figure out why. Miranda is suspicious of her (at least her intentions regarding Heyes and herself). I think I agree with Randa. If I am right she is very dangerous because she is an expert manipulator. The only thing at the moment that still makes me wonder is her accident at the end of the chapter. An accident happens and it's not one of our boys' close friends...
I can't understand why Heyes' friends don't do a bit more to help him out of his depression - Belle, Jesse and David were not exactly shy about having talks with him before. Well, I guess it's a plot necessity, so he talks with Amy. And talk about oversharing! Where is the genius brain and what happened to the silver tongue? I guess depression is to blame...
I am also a bit confused about the detective agency - it seemed certain enough for the guys to make it part of Wheat's amnesty, but now none of them seems inclined to do anything about it, not even really talk about it.
I am really curious how this will all develop.

A historical question:
Were weddings such a big deal with months of preparation, colour coding, decoration/flower arrangement planning,... in the Old West? I was under the impression that this was more a middle to late 20th century phenomenon.

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For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
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Stepha3nie

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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Wrongs Chapter thirteen   Sat Aug 02, 2014 2:04 pm

Oh, I forgot. There was one expression I thought did not work in the context: when Heyes' eyes were burning like molten chocolate into Morrison. Sorry, but that does not sound dangerous or threatening at all. Molten chocolate is nice, delicious, warm...  

Another sentence that worked really well and which I loved was "...anything you boys say to me can be held in complete confidence" LOL   A nod to Miranda rights?

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PostSubject: Re: Rites and Wrongs Chapter thirteen   Sat Aug 02, 2014 3:55 pm

Hi Stepha3nie, in answer to your historical question many of the wedding traditions we know today date from Queen Victoria's wedding in 1840. It also happened around the time a burgeoning media started to morph into something we would recognise today. Everything from the white dress to the flowers, the gifts, and the colour schemes were the subject of great scrutiny and were aspirational for the new and growing middle classes. When she got married most brides wore a dress which could be re-used, but by the end of the century most wedding dresses were white. It was as much of a sign of conspicuous consumption as it was a symbol of purity - that such an impractical garment could be afforded. Whether these happened anywhere, in the U.K., U.S.A. or in the old West was directly related to wealth.

Queen Victoria also influenced Christmas traditions. Most of those, right down to the meal we eat, is down to her too.

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