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 What's in a Name

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PostSubject: What's in a Name   Sat Feb 01, 2014 7:56 am


While you're trying to decide who's won January's poll you'd best get writing on our next challenge, because February is a short month.

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Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is chosen by Nancy Whiskey:



What's in a name?  

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PostSubject: Re: What's in a Name   Fri Feb 07, 2014 6:48 pm

This is part 2 of an earlier story.  If you need to refresh on part one it can be found at the link below:

http://aliassmithandjones.canadian-forum.com/t293-hunter-s-moon-part-1-what-the-butler-saw#3884


Hunter's Moon Part 2   What's In a Name

Mrs. Hunter’s eyes flickered and her head jerked from side to side to escape the pungent smelling salts being held under her nose by Philpot.  “Mnuurgh...” 

“She’s coming round.”  Philpot turned and nodded towards Malachi.  “Will you help me to lift her onto the bunk?  And somebody bring a lamp.  I need to see what I’m doing.”

“You get the light, Malachi,” Heyes gestured towards the end of the carriage with his head, “I’ll help here.”

The two men lifted the tiny woman onto the lower bunk, where the shadows suddenly deepened to black against the arriving lamplight.

Philpot’s eyes flicked over to the pool of red liquid on the floor.  “That must be quite a head wound.  Turn her on her side so I can see.”  He frowned and waved to usher the lamp to where he needed it.  “Yeah, there’s a wound on the back of her head.  It looks like a clean cut.”

“Does it need stitches?” Heyes asked.

“How do I know,” Philpot scowled.  “I don’t usually deal with this end.  I’m not a doctor.”

Heyes gave a huff of disapproval.  “Use your common sense.  What do you think?”

“I always find it best to use the most conservative method possible.  Give me my bag,” Philpot stretched out a beckoning hand to the porter hovering on the background.  “I’ll put a pad on it and if it keeps bleeding I’ll stitch it.”

The men left the accoucheur to bandage up the injured woman as the men gathered in the aisle.  “Where’s Miss Davies?” a worried Kid looked up and down the train.

“You can’t think she did this,” Heyes scratched his head.  “A head injury like that would take strength or a powerful struggle; and we would have heard that.”

“All I know is that there’s been a violent robbery and a woman is missin’.  I ain’t accusin’ her of anythin’, I’m worried about her.”

Heyes nodded.  “Yeah, me too.”

Malachi finished lighting the carriage lamps and extinguished his taper with a blast of breath.  “If you don’t mind me saying so, gentlemen, you’re in security.  Unless the conductor has anyone else in mind, I believe you can help to make a search professional.”  He turned to the younger steward.  “Jeffrey?  Can you please mop up the blood from the floor and I’ll take them through to meet Mister Stephen?”

**********

The conductor was marked out by his livery, peaked cap, and grave expression.  He broke off from his conversation to give a hard stare at the men wearing tied-down guns walking behind his head porter.  “Malachi?”

“Mr. Stephen, sir?  These two gents work in security and I thought you’d find it useful to have them on our side considering we’ve had a robbery and got a female passenger missing.”

Intelligent grey eyes appraised them under a pair of steel-wool eyebrows.  “Security?  Who have you worked for?”

“We usually work for the Governor of Wyoming, but we have a large list of clientele,” Heyes replied.

The conductor’s eyes glittered with suspicion.  “I can check, sir.  Mr. Pullman is testing a new type of wireless telegraph and we have the prototype on this train.  If I was to check you out, who would I ask?”

“The Governor of Wyoming; but for a quicker response, Sheriff Lom Trevors at Porterville can vouch for us.  We’ve ridden with him.  I’m Joshua Smith and this is Thaddeus Jones,” Heyes’ cheeks dimpled.  “Does that mean we’ve got help coming?  That’s good news.”

The conductor shook his head.  “Not fast.  We’re fifty miles to the nearest town and high in the mountains behind a rock fall, but at least we have contact with the outside world.  Lom Trevors, you say?”

“Yes.  We rode with him before we started picking up jobs for the Governor,” Heyes smiled innocently.  “We have a lot of other clients we have to keep confidential, you understand.”

“Stephen Farrow,” the conductor extended an arm in handshake.  “What would you fellas do first?”

“Search the train, systematically and thoroughly.  Miss Davies has to be somewhere,” the Kid replied. 

“Sounds like a plan.  There are only two passenger carriages.  The rest are freight and livestock.  Do you want any of my staff to help you?”

The partners exchanged a glance before Heyes replied.  “One of your employees with us to show we have the authority to search and to vouch for the fact that we conduct ourselves properly.  We’ll do the search ourselves; except for the ladies.  Do you have any female staff that could help?”

“Yes, Miss Cunningham has worked with me for years.  She’s great with the passengers.  I can get you Helen to assist her.”  The conductor frowned.  “Why only one with you, surely the search would be over faster if we all searched?” 

“We have no choice with the ladies, but we prefer to do the search ourselves.”  Heyes gave a conciliatory smile.  “No offense, but how do we know your staff weren’t involved?  We can’t assume that a search will be thorough enough or that they’re honest about what they find.” 

“Right back at ya, Mr. Smith, how do I know you weren’t involved?”

“You don’t, Mr. Farrow.  That’s why I want a staff member with us.”

The conductor nodded sagely.  “Fine, I’ll supervise the search myself.  I just have a telegram to send before we start.  Malachi, can you make sure the passengers have everything they need; but ration the food?  We don’t know how long we’ll be stuck here.” 

Malachi nodded his greying head.  “Will do, Mr. Stephen.”

**********

Heyes and Curry looked down at the granite face of Gerald Tishing and the ancient man who sat propped up in the corner beside him.  “Mr. Tishing?  Would you and your companion mind stepping over here so we can search you?”

“Mind?  Of course I mind.”  Tishing turned indignant eyes on Heyes.  “I am not a thief.”

“I’m sure of it, sir.  But everyone’s being searched.  The conductor searched my friend and me.”

“And what about the ladies?  I will not allow you to lay a finger on them.”

“Neither would I, Mr. Tishing,” the conductor smiled the patient smile of the professional people-handler.  “Two of my lady stewardesses are looking after that.  Miss Cunningham has worked with me for a long time and is very efficient.”

“Ladies being searched by staff?  This is an outrage!”

“Voluntarily, Mr. Tishing.  Everyone has agreed to the search to establish what is going on here.  A violent crime has been committed.”

“And if I refuse?”

“Then we will draw our own conclusions,” drawled the Kid, “and this train has a telegraph system so help is on the way.  Anyone refusing to help will be a prime suspect and handed over to the law.”

“Never, in all my born days, have I encountered such behaviour.  I will register an official complaint.”

Heyes switched on his charming smile.  “Feel free, Tishing, but I’d have thought you’d have been keen to assist in a vicious attack on your business partner.”

The craggy face dropped into its mask of feigned indifference.  “Of course I want to help.  I didn’t say that I wouldn’t.”

“Then allow us to search you and the area you were sitting in.”  The Kid nodded towards the skeletal, old gentleman who snored softly beside him.  “Is this your father?”

“Goodness me, no,” one of Tishing’s brows rose superciliously.  “He’s my assistant.”

“Assistant?”  Everyone fought to suppress the smiles fighting their way through the politeness.  Heyes cleared his throat. “He’s rather senior to be an assistant, isn’t he?  How old is he, eighty; ninety?”

“His age is of no consequence.  Old butlers never die, they mature.  Mr. Jenkins has worked with the royal family and has a world of experience to bring to my Academy of Butling.”  Tishing raised his hawk-like nose specially to look down it.  “He taught me all I know.”

“Did he teach you that attempted murder is a very serious offence?” the Kid asked, laconically.

Tishing sniffed.  “I am willing to assist.  I just don’t like my privacy invaded by strangers.”

“We learned a long time ago that crime robs folks of a lot more than just property.”  The Kid held out an arm to help the old man struggle to his feet.  “Come with me, Mr. Jenkins.  I’ll make sure we get you a seat to make you as comfortable as possible.”

The elderly man leaned forward with a hand behind his ear.  “Huh?”

“Come with us, Mr. Jenkins.”

“Who?”

The Kid smiled patiently.  “Please come with us.”

“Is it time for my bath?”

“No, sir.  We’re just going to make sure you didn’t have somethin’ planted on you?”

The wrinkled face screwed up.  “Planted?  Are you a gardener?”

The Kid smiled.  “No, sir.  I’m, not a gardener.”

“Are you sure?  You look like a gardener.”  The wrinkled flesh folded into a scowl.  “You know him don’t you?  That footman.  He’s always around causing problems.”    

The Kid tried again.  “Come with me, Mr. Jenkins.”

“Who?”

“You.”  The Kid held out an arm.  “Come with me, please.”

“Come with you?  Sure.  Why didn’t you say so?”  The old man turned to Tishing.  “Why don’t folks get to the point anymore?  Wittering on about gardeners and old footmen.  Honestly!  No wonder you young folks don’t get anything done.  You can’t keep to the point.”

Exasperated blue eyes stared at Tishing.  “Sir, can you help?”

“Are we there yet?” Mr. Jenkins muttered.

Tishing extended a proprietorial arm towards the old fellow.  “Yes.  We just have to go through customs first.  They need to search us for contraband.” Tishing glanced up at the questioning faces.  “Humor him.  He’s very elderly and there are no pensions for domestic staff.  We look after our own because nobody else will.”

Heyes cheeks dimpled.  “Now, that I can understand; we will be very gentle with him, Mr. Tishing.  I promise you.”   

**********

A pair of arctic-blue eyes glowered at the accoucheur.  “Come on now, Mr. Philpot.  Everyone else on the train has been searched.  We’re askin’ you nice to cooperate.  Everyone else has, and even Mr. Glavin did,” he glared at the sullen-faced man in the Astrakhan collar.  “Eventually...”

“You bullied me into it,” Glavin protested.  “You pulled back your jacket and kept your hand near that gun.  Don’t think I didn’t notice.  I’ll be making a formal complaint to the authorities about this.  I’m not afraid to put it in writing, you know.”

“He didn’t say a word to you,” the conductor replied.  “I was here the whole time.”

“Yeah, with him glaring over your shoulder, mean as a junkyard dog.”  Glavin folded his arms.  “And you didn’t find anything either.  I told you so.”

“Well, one of the hazards of our line of work is that we can’t place a lot of stock on people’s word,” Heyes turned back to Philpot.  “Come on, Mr. Philpot.  You’re the last.  Once we’ve searched you, we’ve done the whole train.”

“I fail to see how I can be concealing a missing woman in my medical bag.”

“We’re searchin’ for a missing woman and a stolen gem, remember?” the Kid growled.  “We’ve been through the whole train, including the livestock and the freight and there’s no sign of her, so now we’re just lookin’ for the moonstone.”

“I am not a thief!” Philpot protested.

“Good, then you’ll want to be eliminated as a suspect, won’t ya?”  The Kid grabbed the leather bag and snapped it open.  He pulled out a large set of mid-cavity forceps.  “What are these for?”

Philpot rolled his eyes.  “They’re for removing jewels at a distance.  It saves getting too near the victim.  I can pick them up from over a woman’s shoulder.”

The Kid narrowed his eyes.  “Yeah, right.”  He pulled out a packet of powder.  “And this?”

“Magnesium sulphate.”

“What do you need a powder for?”

Philpot shrugged.  “It’s for afterwards.”

The Kid frowned.  “Huh?”

“Think, man.  Aren’t you married?  What do women do after they have your baby?”

Heyes and Curry stared blankly at the conductor who clearly felt he was the only one able to venture an option.  “Swear at you?  Warn you never to come near her again?  Is there a powder you can give her for that, cos even after all this time...?”

“Not immediately afterwards!” spluttered Philpot.  “It dries up their milk.  Decent women do not feed their own babies.  They use a wet nurse.”

Three men pursed their lips to bite back a very similar comment and stared back at the bag.

A long-handled hook was next out of the bag.  “And this?  It looks like a button-hook.  A big ‘un”

“That’s a decapitation hook.”

“Decapitation?”  The Kid blanched.  “Here, Joshua.  I get the feeling this is more your area than mine.  I’ll get Malachi to sieve the powder to make sure nothin’s hidden in it.”

**********

Farrow indicated some upturned crates in the conductor’s car.  “Take a seat and Malachi will bring you some coffee.”  He lifted a piece of paper from his tray wire in-tray.  “So, Mr. Trevors has replied.  You two are who you say you are.  He regularly gets you jobs to do for the Governor of Wyoming.”

“He sure does,” the Kid leaned back against the wall and folded a long leg on top the other, “and not always the ones we’d choose for ourselves.”   

“Any sign of anyone coming to help?” Heyes smiled up at Malachi who handed around mugs of coffee.

“We’re fifty miles from the nearest town and the weather’s shocking.  It’ll take a few days for them to get here at best.  Have we got enough supplies, Malachi? “

The Chief Steward nodded.  “Yessir, I’ve done an inventory and we’ve got supplies we were delivering to the depot so we’re not going to go hungry.  It’s mostly tinned meat and vegetables, but the Cook should be able to provide something warm and nourishing for folks.”

“Good, that’s one worry taken care of.” Farrow sipped at his coffee before nursing the warming receptacle in his cold hands.   “So, we’ve searched the train from top to bottom.  No sign of Miss Davies or the moonstone and no footprints in the snow from after the train came to a halt.  I guess we can only come to one conclusion.”

“That a woman is freezing to death somewhere in the mountains?”  Heyes frowned.  “If she jumped off with the stone, she’ll be dead by now.”

“That’s what I thought, Joshua.”  The Kid downed his coffee.  “I guess there’s only one thing left for us to do.”

Heyes grimaced, guessing what was coming.  “In this weather?”

“There are horses in the freight car,” a pair of determined blue eyes fixed each of the men in turn.  “We can’t leave her out there.”

“She tried to murder one of my passengers,” Farrow blew on his drink.  “I’m not interested in putting anyone at risk trying to find her.”

“It ain’t up to us to sentence her,” the Kid leaned forward, determinedly, “it’s our job to bring her in.  I ain’t gonna sit back and let a woman freeze to death without makin’ any effort to rescue her.”

“Much as I hate to admit it, my humanitarian friend is right.”  Heyes sighed.  “I guess we’d better take a couple of horses along the tracks until we find her.”

Farrow’s hirsute brows rose.  “I guess that’s the difference between a professional detective and a conductor.  I reckon she made her bed so she should stew in it.”

Heyes chuckled lightly at the mixed metaphor.  “How far did we travel last night from when we all turned in until we hit this rock fall?”

“We’re carrying freight and climbing uphill for about an hour so I doubt it’s more than twenty miles.”

“In this weather?”  Heyes shook his head.  “We can’t go that far.  We have to get back before dark.  “We’ll go and look, but if she’s too far back the authorities will have to recover her body.”

Malachi’s eyes widened in shock.  “Body?  You’re sure that she’s dead?”

Heyes’ dark eyes glittered with regret.  “Pretty sure.  I wouldn’t do it terrain like this unless my life depended on it.  In a cold like this and dressed the way she was, she’d last, what; four, maybe six hours?”

The Kid nodded.  “Unless she had a plan and was prepared for it.”

“It’s hard to prepare for a jump from a train in the mountains, Thaddeus.  She had no way of knowing what time Mrs. Hunter was going to fall asleep.  Nah, this wasn’t planned.”  

“Stupid; stupid girl!” the Kid muttered.  “She’ll be as cold and hard as that moonstone by now.  What good did it do her?” 

“Yeah,” Heyes stared down into his drink.  “I guess we’d better get moving.  I reckon it’ll be dark by about four o’clock so time’s a wasting.  Can you saddle up a couple of those horses for us?”

**********

The biting wind cut through the layers of clothing but the riders pressed on, the animals with their heads down as they faced into the stinging hail and slashing cold.  Progress was slow because the partners were cautious about the effect of the sharp rocks on the horses’ hooves through the drifting snow, but they inexorably made their way along the track, back the way the train had come, checking for signs of anyone jumping from a train, prints in the snow or anything else suspicious.

The wasteland spread out before them, nature in the raw; polar armour of bone-numbing ice encasing the already hard ground.  The bleak, white expanse stretched as far as the eye could see; a lucent, frigid desert as deadly as it was beautiful.  One of the riders raised his head and pointed ahead, calling out to alert the other of a flash of color in the snow ahead. 

“Wasn’t she wearing a green outfit?” Heyes called.

“Yeah, dark-green.”  The Kid drew the horse he was leading behind his own to a halt.  “Is that her?”

“Well, I doubt that’s grass showing through the snow.  Not in this weather”

They urged their mounts on, gaining ground on the bundle lying in the snow like a broken doll and a pair of grim blue eyes slid sideways to grimace at his cousin.  The Kid pulled out a gun and fired a shot in the air to chase off the forging fox working on the face before he dismounted.  It was clear that Miss Maud Davies was very dead indeed.

The snow around the body was stained with the blood which had seeped into the ground, staining and contaminating the ground with a cloud of darkening gore. 

The Kid waved an arm at the birds picking at what was left of her cheek.  “Git!” 

A raven fluttered away to the safety of nearby rocks to stare at him with indignant obsidian eyes.  Food was precious in this weather and a prize like this wasn’t to be abandoned easily.  He would wait until this human moved on and resume his feast in peace.  Persistence paid off in a harsh climate. 

Heyes crouched over the body.  “Her throat’s cut.”  The phrase seemed almost redundant given the gaping, open wound staring back at them.  Heyes pointed at the long, thin, spray-like stain colouring the snow for yards leading up to the body.  He frowned and stood deep in thought before striding the length of the stain, obviously counting as he went.  He stood at the clean, virgin snow before the long blood-splatter began and glanced between the tracks and the cadaver, his gloved hand on his chin.

“So?” the Kid demanded.  “What’re you lookin’ at?”

“You see this long thin blood stain?”

“Yeah.”

Heyes sighed deeply.  “Her throat was cut.”

“I can see that.”

“The train was travelling about twenty miles an hour, according to the conductor.”  Heyes pointed to the start of the blood spray in the snow.  “Now, if her throat was slit when she standing on the observation deck when the train was here, it would be carried outwards by the momentum of the train to hit the snow here.”  He strode the length of the stain counting once more.  “This is about fifteen yards long.  There are two hundred and twenty yards in a furlong and eight furlongs in a mile.  That’s seventeen hundred and sixty yards in a mile.”

The Kid stood patiently, well-used to his partner’s analytical mind.  “Go on.”

“So, it would take an hour to travel seventeen hundred and sixty yards.  That means it would take about thirty seconds to travel fourteen or fifteen yards.  We can’t be sure of the exact speed of the train, but the blood sprayed from her body for a distance of just over fourteen yards before she hit the ground.”

The Kid pushed back his hat and gazed aimlessly at the heavy sky.  “So she had her throat slit and blood spurted out for almost half a minute before she either fell or was thrown from the train?”

“That’s about the size of it, Kid.  We can check for traces of blood when we get back to see where it happened.  I’m guessing it was the observation deck.”

“She must have seen the thief.  Why didn’t she cry out?  I didn’t hear a thing and I’m a real light sleeper.”

“It’s hard to shout with a cut throat.”  Heyes sighed heavily and stared down at the last mortal remains of Maud Davies.  “Maybe she was in on it and her accomplice decided they wanted all the cash for themselves?”

“She wouldn’t be the first to go that way,” the Kid strode over to his horse.  “Whatever happened, I’m glad we brought those tarpaulins.  Let’s get her wrapped up and get back to the train.  It’ll be gettin’ dark in a couple of hours.”

**********

“Dead?”

“Very.”  Heyes cradled the bowl of soup in his chilled hands and blew away the steam.  “Poor woman.  I’m guessing she was killed by the same person who attacked Mrs. Hunter.” 

Malachi shook his head and proffered the plate of bread.  “Terrible, just terrible.  I ain’t never seen the like in all my born days.  She seemed like such a respectable young lady.  Real bookish, but a good type.  May her soul rest in peace.”

Heyes’ eyes narrowed in thought.  “Yes.  She did study a lot.  She said so.”

“So, have you heard from anyone?” the Kid reached out and grasped a couple of slices of bread.  “Any word of anyone comin’ to dig us out?” 

Farrow leaned against the bulkhead.  “They’re setting out in the morning.  They had to get a team of navigators together to dig us out.”

Heyes nodded.  “How long until they get here?” 

“Sometime tomorrow.  Probably late in the day.”  The conductor folded his arms.  “They’ll be bringing the law with them.  What do you fellas suggest doing now?”

“Question the passengers and fit together a picture of everyone’s movements.”  Heyes prodded at a potato with his spoon.  “Before we do that, can you grab me the old man’s bags; Jenkins, was it?”

The conductor nodded.  “Yes, but why?”

Dark eyes glistened with promise.  “He said something strange about a footman and a gardener.  I want to speak to him first.”

“Why?”  The conductor frowned.  “He’s old.  He’s probably just senile.”

“His name.  He didn’t recognise his name.  I’ve seen old, confused folks before and their name gets their attention before anything else.”  Heyes downed the last of his soup.  “Jenkins isn’t his real name.  I’ll put my money on that.  If we find out a bit more we may have something to tangible to ask Tishing and Mrs. Hunter. ”

“An alias?” Farrow frowned.  “He doesn’t look the type.  Surely not.”

“What’s in a name?” Heyes mused.  “It can tell you a man’s history or it can tell you that he’s hiding it.  Either way, it tells a story; and I need to know that old man’s story before I question anyone else.”

Historical Note

The 'Old Units of Length' thread in the site at the link below show the measurements Heyes used to make the calculations on the blood splatter.  There are numerous articles on the internet about 19th Century children learning such tables by rote. 

http://aliassmithandjones.canadian-forum.com/t292-old-units-of-length

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PostSubject: Re: What's in a Name   Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:48 pm

A continuation from the previous challenge; Hell Bent for Leather.
 
 
The partners left town at a casual hand gallop feeling secure in the fact that no one was chasing them. Once far enough away from the populace they pulled their horses down to a more sedate jog trot and settled in to conversation.
 
 
“We still don't have any supplies,” Kid pointed out. “Ya' hadn't actually paid for those things back there did ya'?”
 
 
Heyes looked insulted. “Kid!” he complained. “when have you known me to throw away good money?”
 
 
Kid snorted. “The way our luck's been runnin', you coulda bought the whole store and we'd still be outa supplies AND money by now. At least you got supper.”
 
 
“Aw quit your belly-aching.”
 
 
“Well my belly is aching!” Kid pointed out. “I'm hungry and we got no supplies. Where's the next town?”
 
 
Heyes shrugged. “I donno, that way.”
 
 
“Heyes, all ya' did is point in the direction we're goin'. You don't have any idea do ya'?”
 
 
“I just said I don't know,” Heyes snarked. “This road looks fairly well travelled, it must go somewhere.”
 
 
“Yeah.” Kid suddenly looked concerned. “Maybe it's a little too well travelled, especially with the sun comin' up. Probably be a good idea if we find a back trail for now, don't wanna be runnin' into the wrong element.”
 
 
“It'll take longer to get there Kid,” Heyes pointed out. “You sure you're empty belly can stand it?”
 
 
“I'd rather have my belly empty than full of lead,” Kid pointed out. “C'mon, this way.”
 
 
Kid spied a likely looking trail leading off into the hills and the partners pushed their horses down the embankment and up the other side to disappear into the foliage.
 
Six hours later two travellers approached the outskirts of a small stick in the dirt town. They stopped and sat their horses for a moment, contemplating the weather worn name sign hanging cock-eyed from the rotting post.
 
“'Welcome to Hard Luck',” Heyes read with some trepidation.  "Population: whatever."
 
 
Heyes and Kid exchanged anxious looks. The Kid's stomach growled.
 
 
“Well,” Kid smiled, “what's in a name?”
 
 
Heyes looked dubious but nudged his horse forward anyways. Kid's smiled dropped as he followed his partner down the hill. As long as the local sheriff's name wasn't 'Surekill' they should be alright.
 
 
Jogging down what could only be called the 'main street', the dark haired man in the lead still appeared relatively fresh after having spent some comfortable down time in relatively adequate accommodation coupled with a decent meal. The other man looked as weary and hungry as his horse did, having spent that same time hiding in the bushes and having to stay awake to keep watch over their situation. The horses had dined on sparse grasses and the man had chewed on what was left of the old jerky. All but one were feeling grumpy.
 
“What do we want to do first?” Heyes asked as they both scanned the street for danger signs. “We still need supplies and a place to put the horses up—oh my god! Is that the hotel?”
 
 
“I don't care what we do second,” Kid grumbled, “but I gotta eat first. If I don't get some food soon I'm gonna pass out.”
 
 
“Hmm,” Heyes nodded. He was feeling a bit peckish himself so he knew the Kid must be starving. “Well, that looks like an eatery and saloon all in one over there. I don't see a sheriff's office so...”
 
 
“Good!” Kid turned his tired horse towards the hitching rail in front of the local dining establishment and read the worn out and faded sign dangling over the door.
 
'The Pig Trough—Drinks and Eats'. Looks were exchanged again.
 
“Geesh,” Kid grumbled as he pushed his horse in between others that were tired there. “Don't see as we got much choice. This appears be the only place in town to eat; there's no parking.”
 
“Yeah.” Heyes carried on down to the next rail and managed to find one more space open for his mare. He tied her securely to the rail then he and Kid headed into the saloon while their horses got acquainted with their neighbours.
 
 
Jed stepped through the bat wing doors and did a quick scan of the inside of the dusty establishment. The air was musty and filled with the smell and smoke of tobacco and stale liquor, but that wasn't what stopped Kid in his tracks. Heyes was brought up short behind his partner, almost bumping into him then he too stopped and the tinny piano music went silent as everyone stared at the newcomers.
 
Seated around the large circular table in the middle of the smoke hazed room were more tin stars than either ex-outlaw ever wanted to see pointing at them. There was a heartbeat of stunned staring as everyone took in the incredible coincidence of running into these particular gentlemen here and now. Then all hell broke loose.
 
The large room was filled with the sudden scrapping of chairs as the lawmen all jumped to their feet, pulling weapons as they came. Ladies' screams and mens' yells took over from the silence and cursing seemed to be the language of the moment. The two partners turned as one and were headed out the bat wing doors and running for their horses.
 
The horses were startled out of their snoozing and every head in the herd jumped up and started blowing in their own agitation. Tense and wild-eyed they snorted and pulled back against their tethers, banging into each other and stressing everybody out even more than they already were.
 
With practiced skill coupled with desperation, the two men yanked loose their own horses' tetherings and actually took a couple of more seconds to release a few of the other horses as well. Then leaping aboard their own mounts, they pulled their guns and began firing in the air, scaring off as many of the loose horses as they could before galloping off down the short street towards the outskirts of town.
 
The lawmen all tried to get through the doors at once, cursing and yelling and pushing each other out of the way. Guns were out and firing but all that did was add to the general panic so the loose horses ran away even faster. The ones that were still tethered pulled back harder, bucking and plunging in an effort to get away from these madmen. A few of them even managed to break their reins and jump away from the men trying to grab them. They didn't show any remorse at vacating the scene and galloping off after their fellows.
 
 
“Goddammit!” Dicks yelled, practically throwing his hat on the ground and stomping on it. “Forget about catching your own horse! Just grab one! Get after them!”
 
 
Pandemonium prevailed as deputies ran in all directions either in an attempt to grab the reins of a horse that seemed close enough, or running down to the other hitching rails to untie those that had been left behind. Unfortunately the loose horses danced away and the tied ones had pulled back so hard on their tether that the knots were practically impossible to loosen.
 
Finally though, after some attempt at co-ordination the majority of the posse members had a horse underneath them and ready to go. The chaos became slightly organized as the marshal gathered his group and they all booted outa town in the wake of the fleeing outlaws.
 
 
“Damn,” commented the bartender as he stood on the boardwalk scratching his balding head while the dust settled. “that's the dangest thing I ever seen. Who was them fellas anyways?”
 
 
His companion shrugged his scrawny shoulders. “I donno. C'mon, let's eat.”
 
 
The bartender nodded and re-entered his establishment. A lone horse trotted placidly by, looking for the livery stable.
 
 
The partners galloped on, pushing their horses as hard as they could. They knew they had gotten a bit of a head start, but both horses had already been tired to begin with and they weren't going to last much longer in this race. Silently both men cursed the same mistake. They'd had a selection of horses to chose from, but being panicked they had fallen back onto habit and simply snatched up their own mounts, not even thinking that the others there would have been fresher.
 
But sometimes, opportunity knocks twice. The loose horses from town had no trouble keeping up with the tired escapees and they galloped along beside them like they were all the best of buddies. Both men came to the same conclusion at the same time; get fresh mounts or be run to ground. Not a difficult choice given the circumstances.
 
The Kid managed the switch first. Coming up on the left hand side of a sturdy looking bay, he reached down and grabbed hold of the rein that was flapping loose around the horse's neck. Bringing his own horse in closer, he prepared himself for the jump and when the timing was just right, he did it and landed square in the saddle of his replacement. His tired out gelding instantly threw up his head and slowed to a trot. He'd try to keep up with the herd as best he could, but he was done with competition.
 
Heyes was having a little bit more trouble making his switch. His mare didn't care for the idea of getting that close to another horse and every time Heyes came up on a possible candidate, the mare would lay her ears back and give that horse the evil eye. Heyes was getting frustrated. Trying to do a switch was slowing them down and they didn't have time for this nonsense. He booted her forward towards the black he'd had his eye on and tried yet again to get within leaping distance. It was not to be.
 
Once Kid was settled on his new mount, he saw the trouble Heyes was having and galloping up on the other side of that black, he grabbed hold of the bridle in order to steady the animal. Heyes pushed his mare up to it again. She laid her hears back but Heyes shortened the outside rein, turning her head away from the black so she couldn't snap at it and finally he was able to get himself lined up. As soon as he could get his hands around the second saddle horn he made his jump and they were off and running again at full speed, leaving that troublesome mare behind.
 
They had lost precious ground doing that switch but they hoped it would be worth it. The fresher horses sprang ahead and they galloped like thunder towards higher ground and thicker foliage. They would have to do better than that though, to lose this persistent posse. The lawmen were still close enough in their wake to maintain a clear eye line so trying to lose them with fancy maneuverings wasn't going to work until they could get out of sight.
 
 
Two hours later the sun was still high in the sky and the two men along with their horses were dirty, sweaty and exhausted.
 
 
“Do ya' think we lost 'em?” Kid asked hopefully.
 
 
“No.”
 
 
Kid slumped. “No, me neither.”
 
 
Heyes suddenly pointed back down the trail, the way they'd just come. “See. There they are.”
 
 
“Dammit!” Kid cursed quietly as both men turned their horses and forced them back up into a struggling lope.
 
 
They came down an decline, gravity adding speed to the horses' tired feet. They hit the level ground at a full out gallop and kept the momentum going to get across this flat open space. Reins and heels went into full gear when they heard rifle shots coming from behind them. Neither dared to look over a shoulder but yelled and whipped the horses up to keep them going in a vain attempt to outrun the posse.
 
Kid was in the lead and pushing his horse as hard as he could along this rocky ground and he could hear Heyes yelling behind him, encouraging his own horse to keep going. The wind was in their eyes and whipping their hats back against their necks as they focused on the copse of trees quickly tumbling towards them. If they could make those trees they just might stand a chance.
 
But then Kid's horse stumbled, picked himself up and stumbled again. Heyes had galloped past him, the speed of his own horse carrying him along as the bay went down for real and the Kid flew over it's head and hit the ground in a tumble before coming to rest on his back.
 
 
“Kid!” Heyes hauled on his horse's mouth, trying desperately to get the animal stopped and turned around.
 
 
Jed was on his feet, running towards him while Heyes booted his black back to meet him half way. But the posse was on to them by then and Jed could hear the horses coming up behind him and knew that it was too late.
 
 
“Go Heyes!” he yelled at his partner. “Get outa here! Go!”
 
 
Heyes bit into his lower lip in his frustration, but even as he pulled on his horse to stop it, he saw one of the lawmen ride up behind the Kid and clip him on the shoulder with his horse. The Kid fell forward, hitting the ground hard and knocking the wind out of himself. Heyes turned his horse back towards the copse of trees and booted it up into a gallop.
 
He reached the trees just in time as bullets came flying after him, splitting some of the smaller branches and ripping the bark off of trunks. Heyes pushed onwards, praying he wouldn't get hit and forcing his horse though the underbrush and deeper into the woods.
 
 
Jed rolled over onto his back just in time to see three lawmen standing over him with rifles and six shooters staring him in the face. He raised his hands and gave a lopsided smile.
 
 
“Hi'ya fellas. Got anything ta' eat?”
 
 
Rough hands grabbed him and pulled him to his feet. He was disarmed and searched while Marshal Dickson shouted out orders.
 
 
“You three!” Dicks pointed out to the three men still mounted. “Hey! Peter File—wake up! And you fellas—Ben Dover, Jack Hehoff! What are ya' doin' hangin' around! Stop playin' with yerselves and get after 'em! Run that son of a bitch down!”
 
 
The three men in question instantly looked guilty at their lack of incentive and getting their acts together they took off at a gallop after the fleeing outlaw.
 
 
The marshal stomped over to where his other three deputies had the Kid surrounded. He looked into those blue eyes and snarled.
 
 
“Howdy Marshal,” Kid smiled through the dirt and grim on his face. “nice day for a ride, ain't it?”
 
 
The marshal's fist landed a solid blow to the Kid's cheek bone and he went down in a heap, adding more bruise now to the dirt and grim.
 
 
“Get him up on one of those spare horses,” Dicks ordered. “Get him back to town and don't stop until ya' have him locked up.”
 
 
“Yessir, Marshal.”
 
 
“Sure thing.”
 
 
“C'mon Curry. On yer feet.”
 
 
“I'm going after Heyes,” Dicks announced as they pulled Curry up again. “there's no tellin' what that bastard'll get up to while he's still on the loose.”
 
 
The three deputies escorted Curry over to where the horses were waiting and he mounted up on the one indicated to him. He sat quietly while his hands were cuffed behind him and he sent a quiet thank you out to the body of the dead bay who had given all he could to the race. Up in the hills a volley of rifle shots sounded and Kid felt a dread settle over his heart. Dicks smirked as he pulled his horse around to face the group.
 
 
“Sounds like your partner might already be done for, Curry,” he announced and then smiled. “What; no smart remark to commemorate the event?”
 
 
When no comment was forthcoming, Dicks turned his horse around again and booted it into a gallop in order to catch up with his other three deputies. Hopefully this chase was already over with. Kid felt his horse begin to move and then they were on their way, back towards the spit in the dirt town where this race had started.
 
 
 
“Hey fellas, ya' know I really wasn't kidding back there. Ya' got anything to eat?”
 
 
“Shut up Curry.”
 
 
“Well, I'm just pointing out that it's starting to get dark out here. Now this looks like a real nice place to stop and set up camp for the night. Start makin' supper.”
 
 
“We're not stopping. You'll get fed once we got ya' locked up safe and sound. Maybe.”
 
 
“Aww, c'mon fellas. That last town we were in didn't even have a jailhouse. Where are ya' gonna lock me up?”
 
 
“There's a room in the cellar under the saloon where the drunks get put until they sleep it off.”
 
 
“Drunks? Oh. Is there a window?”
 
 
“No. It's below ground level. That's kind of the definition of a cellar ain't it?”
 
 
“Well yeah, but...c'mon fellas; that's hardly hospitable. No window, probably no light. No fresh air and in there with a bunch of drunks. I mean if that's the case then I insist that we stop and make camp so I can at least get something to eat.”
 
 
“You're not in a position to insist on anything Curry. Just shut up will ya'? We gotta watch where we're goin' here. It's gettin' dark.”
 
 
“Isn't that what I just said? It's gettin' dark. I just said that.”
 
 
Silence.
 
 
“How is the rest of your posse gonna be able to find us in the dark?”
 
 
“They know the way back to town.”
 
 
“Yeah, but if they'd got Heyes that quickly, wouldn't they have caught up to us by now?”
 
 
“He's got a point, Phil.”
 
 
“Shut up Mike.” Phil MacCracken snarked back. “Harry Dicks knows what he's doin'.”
 
 
“I donno deputies. Seems to me my partner is leading your boss on a wild goose chase. He's real good at that ya' know. Never know where he's gonna show up.”
 
 
“How many times do I havta' tell ya' to shut up.”
 
 
“I'm just sayin'...”
 
 
“What was that?” Mike Rotch jerked around, peering anxiously into the darkening woods.
 
 
The small group of riders came to a halt and everyone strained to listen into the gathering darkness. Even the horses were quiet.
 
 
“I didn't hear nothin',” Kid offered. “I think you boys are gettin' spooked.”
 
 
“Shuddup!” Phil snarked at him and they all listened again.
 
 
Everyone was looking off to the right trying to see through the darkness and the bushes. Even the horses, with pricked ears and nostrils quivering sensed that something was out there in the shadows, something was stalking them.
 
Mike's horse let out a whinny which caused the three other horses to jump and then become antsy. They were nervous now, fighting against their bits and trying to move away from the scary shrubbery. The deputies tried to keep their mounts still and quiet so they could listen, but the horses were having none of it. Between the nervous stamping of feet and the jangling mouthing of bits no other sounds in the night could be distinguished.
 
 
“Might I point out,” said Curry in a loud whisper. “that my hands are cuffed behind me and I have no control over this horse.”
 
 
“Shhh!”
 
 
“That's fine for you to say, but I feel like I'm sittin' on a stick of dynamite and he's gettin' ready to blow.”
 
 
“Yeah, c'mon Phil,” Mike agreed, a nervous twitch sounding in his voice. “Let's get 'em outa this gulley. I don't like it.”
 
 
“Yeah yeah alright,” MacCracken conceded. “a bunch of babies, spooked at some night sounds.” He gave his nervous horse it's head and giving the Kid's horse a tug on the reins, the small group began to move forward.
 
 
Then a wild, unearthly yell came from the woods to the left and the horses, already tense, really freaked out and began to rear and fight with their riders. The riders themselves suddenly found themselves with their hands full trying to control their animals. Then a large dark shape came crashing through the underbrush and rammed full force into Phil's horse.
 
The deputy's horse went down in a heap and Deputy MacCracken cursed as he felt the reins to Curry's horse being ripped from his grip. Then he was scrambling to get out from under the pounding hooves of the horse that had rammed into him, and avoid being crushed by his own animal. All he could hear was men yelling and hooves thumping all around him and then something large and heavy brushed past him, flattening him again and knocking the wind out of him.
 
Up at rider level, the dark shape charging out of the bush had turned into Heyes on horseback. He aimed his black animal towards the deputy holding onto the Kid and rammed into him full force. The reins were pulled out of the deputy's hands and Heyes made a wild grab for them while Kid clamped his legs around his frightened horse and hung on for dear life.
 
Heyes got the reins and wrapping them around his saddle horn he booted his horse into the woods on the other side of the trail. Kid's horse, though freaking out and trying to haul back, was being pulled by Heyes and pushed by Curry's legs and that, coupled with all the yelling he was doing, encouraged the animal to follow the other into the darkness.
 
 
The three deputies finally got their own horses calmed down enough to get their firearms organized. Phil MacCracken was on his feet while his own horse scrambled up and then stood there, shaking and blowing with the indignity of it all.
 
 
“What the hell was that?” Mike demanded of no one in particular.
 
 
“Where'd they go?” was Phil's anxious query.
 
 
“Was that Heyes?” asked the previous quiet Willie Stroker. “I couldn't see nothin'!”
 
 
“They went that way!” Phil answered his own question.
 
 
“Where?” Willie demanded. “There's no trail! They must have gone this way!”
 
 
“Shuddup!” Phil demanded.
 
 
Silence. Except for the heavy breathing coming from the six individuals, not a sound could be heard.
 
 
“Where'd they go?”
 
 
“We should be able to hear them.”
 
 
More silence.
 
 
“F*ck!”
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Nancy Whiskey

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Posts : 2702
Join date : 2013-10-14
Age : 49
Location : The Rusty Bucket Saloon

PostSubject: What's in a name?   Fri Feb 14, 2014 8:07 pm


“Good morning dear fellows, allow me to introduce myself.  I am Actor/Manager Dennison Adelphi Pettigrew, you may have heard of me.”

The boys shook their heads in unison.

The man in the cape gave a grand flourish with his polished cane, shook his carefully coiffured mane of full grey hair and boomed deeply.  “I am a renowned English Shakespearian actor.  In fact, one of the great leading tradgeans of our time.  You really should see my Lear.”

“Well, I guess as an actor you ought to be good at expressions,” Heyes replied.

Dennison opened his mouth to correct the dark-headed man, thought better of it and ploughed on relentlessly.  “I will be presenting a rather valuable painting of myself to the distinguished Orpheum Theatre, and would like you two to accompany me.  Just to ensure a safe journey you understand.”

“You expecting trouble?” Heyes asked.

 “No, dear boys.”  Dennison replied, confidently, “but as a well known and much loved public figure I have a certain,” his voice dipped to a dramatic stage whisper, “‘following’ you understand?”  Heyes and Curry just stared back blankly, but he seemed to take this as awestruck empathy.

“I also hate to mention this, as it is of little consequence,” a small flourish with the cane, “but the draw of the footlights, the smell of the greasepaint can turn many a man’s head.  Theatre is a cruel mistress and I have rivals.”  At this word the voice dropped even lower.  “There are some who would like to see me fail...  some protection would be welcome, and well paid.”

Curry glanced at Heyes and back to Dennison. “Sure, where is this theatre?”

ooOOoo

“... and as I throttled the beautiful Desdemona, the handkerchief biting into her neck, she died, gasping, tragic to the last...  Ah, now that was a triumph.  I remember the Morecambe Bay Echo said that I ‘had unknown potential, and certainly proved I could murder a part.”  Of course, they meant ‘in’ a part.”  Dennison gushed on and on.

“When are we getting to Denver?” mumbled The Kid as the irritating mosquito hum from Dennison continued.

“... and four curtain calls...,”

Heyes sighed, he was developing a headache.  “We’ll be there by sundown.  That is about three years from now, or just feels like it.” 

All the fight had gone out of him under the constant barrage of shameless name dropping by Dennison.  Curry’s hat slid over his eyes and a gentle snoring could be heard from under it.  Heyes however knew better, and kicked his cousin to let him know he wasn’t getting out of this that easy.

ooOOoo

From the Orpheum’s balcony and boxes fat, gaudy plaster cherubs looked down and laughed silently at the cousins.  Rosebud red mouths and gold, gilt paint glistening in the shadows gave them an unearthly quality, hinting at movement and whispers.  “Those damned angel-things are giving me the creeps,” hissed Heyes, casting a glance over his shoulder not paying full attention to the job in hand.  “Goddam it,” he yelped as he trapped his finger in the easel.

“Hey,” barked Curry said, “snap outta it.  This blasted picture is hellish heavy, and you peering at the decor ain’t getting it lifted.”

After manhandling the bulk onto the easel positioned centre stage, the boys stood back.  “Hey Kid, do you think we ought to have a look under that sacking cover?  After all, it would be a tragedy if it was upside down.”  A mischievous smile had settled on Heyes’ face, dark eyes glinting.

Curry mopped his brow, shrugged and nodded.  They each stretched out a hand, grabbed a corner, and The Kid counted down, “three, two, one...”

“Well, I didn’t expect that,” Heyes stated in a strangely flat voice.  He could not seem to tear his eyes away from the picture, but his eyebrows were desperately trying to crawl up his forehead to hide in his hairline.  “Kid?  Kid?  You ok?” Heyes managed a sideways glance at Curry, who just shook his head slowly and winced.

The blue eyes stared glacially.  “I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but that thing is so damned ugly, it would make a train take a dirt road.  And what the hell is going on with the eyes?”

“Do you think he’s meant to have three of them?” asked Heyes, squinting and tilting his head, hoping that would help.  “I reckon the middle one is meant to be his nose, but why is he standing so lopsided?”  Heyes was thinking out loud, needing to fill the space.

Curry frowned, “Dennison must have seen it, and liked it.  Why else drag this hefty heap of hell all the way to Denver?”

“Perhaps it is one of those ‘modern’ art things I heard tell about.”

Curry laughed.  “Well, if that’s what counts as modern art, then give me that painting of Dolly McGee over the bar at Madam Matilda’s any day.”

ooOOoo

“Hey, Joshua, do you think it suits me?”  Heyes wheeled round and saw Kid wearing an old fashioned type helmet with a flash of a scarlet crest and brandishing a long spear.  Having grown bored of the painting he had decided to explore.

“You look like one of those roman guys we read about in school,” chortled Heyes and strode over to where Curry stood beside a large box and table laden with props. 

“Hey, you would swear that you could just take a bite outta this,” beamed Heyes as he held up a feather light, juicy looking roast chicken, “and for pure gold candle-sticks these sure ain’t heavy.”

Curry had liberated some fine looking glasses, that crumbled too easily in his hand.  Dipping back into the prop box he let out a yell as he stood there clasping an all too human looking skull.  He tapped it lightly.  It had a dull clay sound to it.  “Just goes to show you can’t trust anything in the theatre.” 

They laughed, having forgotten all about the sinister little cherubs.  Heyes straightened up, setting a suspiciously light-weight axe back on the table, “ready for a beer and a steak dinner? Or shall we hit the hotel first and freshen up?”

Curry threw him a look, “don’t ask silly questions.”

“Ok, beer and steak it is,” Heyes grinned, almost able to taste it already.

“I can’t offer you beers and steaks, boys, but I can give you some decent coffee and the best damn cookies in Denver.”  The portly stage manager had been standing in the wings, arms folded and chewing tobacco laughing at their antics, “unless you want to play with the props some more?”

They shook their heads sheepishly.  “Relax, no need to look like kids with their hands caught in the cookie jar.  This is the theatre boys, you are supposed to have fun.”

Five minutes later they were sipping a strong dark brew and chewing cookies in a small comfortable office laden with books by the back stage entrance.  “You guys been with him for long?  I hear he’s a handful”.

“No, sir.  He hired us a couple a couple of days ago to escort him and that God awful picture of him here,” Heyes chewed on a ginger spiced cookie.  “If you ask me he just wanted us along to lug that thing around and listen to his stories.”  He swallowed and took another large bite.  “These are great, your wife make them?”

“Call me Edgar,” smiled the stage manager nodding, “she certainly did, she’s my Irene and she is the best little baker in Denver,” he beamed, dipping back into the bag himself and fishing out another tasty treat.

Curry had finished munching and chipped in.  “We were heading this way anyway, and heading further west in the next couple of days, so it paid our fare.  Why he thought that thing needed guarding is beyond me.  Still, I guess if a guy turns up to impress it helps if he has a few fellas behind him to make him look good.  That is what theatre is all about isn’t it?”

The three men chatted companionably for another half hour before Edgar announced.  “Well, if you excuse me boys, but I have to get things set up for tonight and you, if I remember correctly were heading for a steak dinner.”  They nodded, "well, take my advice, you can’t go wrong at Moffatt’s, two blocks down.  Tell them I sent you and they’ll look after you.”

“Thanks, always willing to follow a friendly tip.  Tell your Irene her cookies are excellent.”

“Good night boys,” Edgar waved them off.  “See you soon.”

ooOOoo

The cousins had woken early, sniffing coffee and bacon in the air and they headed downstairs to load up on both for the day, and were surprised to find their way blocked by three muscular men wearing tin badges.

“You’re coming with us”, said wall number one. 

“Why?” protested Heyes, frantically trying to figure out what they had done wrong.  They had not been in Denver long enough to get noticed, let alone get into trouble.  Heyes and Curry took deep and resigned breaths, and fell into step with the three deputies.

ooOOoo

“Edgar tells me you don’t know Dennison, he only hired you as muscle.  He believes you and that is good enough for me”.  The sheriff was sitting opposite the boys, his mutton chop sideburns quivering as he spoke.

Heyes and Curry looked nonplussed. “Excuse me, sir.  Are we under arrest, and if we are, could you tell us why?” Heyes asked politely as he could, playing the ‘innocent look’ for all he was worth.

“No, of course not... unless you think you ought to be under arrest?”  Mutton Chops looked immediately suspicious, re-assessing them.

“Hell no,” Heyes wide-eyed, “we just thought that three large deputies, um, escorting us here, before breakfast... well mistakes can happen, and we are new to this town.  If we have stepped out of line we didn’t mean it.”

Mutton Chops smiled and shook his head reassuringly, but both boys stayed on alert.  “You are here because Edgar trusts you, and I trust Edgar.  I need you to do me a favour.”  Heyes and Curry shifted in their chairs and exchanged a glance that spoke volumes.

“From what I know Dennison hired you, so you won’t be out of place turning up to the formal hogwash taking place at two this afternoon.”

Heyes and Curry exchanged another warning signal eyes at one another, sighed and looked back at the sheriff.  “Hogwash?”

“The formal presentation of the painting this afternoon, Dennison is holding a little ‘get-together’ at two at the Orpheum.  He can spot a lawman at fifty paces, but if you two turn up he will just assume you are nosey critters, sniffing around for a free drink.”

“He wouldn’t be far wrong,” mumbled Heyes.  The Kid gave him a well aimed kick and Mutton Chops frowned.

“Look, this job may not be easy, but I reckon you boys can handle yourself in a pinch.  And,” with all the skill of a well practiced fisherman he continued, “if you are successful there is always a substantial reward.”

Curry swallowed and Heyes licked his lips.  Sheriff Mutton Chops looked from one to the other and whispered.  “Do you know who he is?”

“Sure we do.  He’s one of England’s most tragic actors.”

Mutton Chops shook his head slowly and gazed levelly at the boys.  “He’s more, much more than that.”  The Sherriff leaned in, inviting confidence.  Finally their curiosity got the better of them.

ooOOoo

At just before two Heyes and Curry wandered down the aisle of the Orpheum Theatre and took up position in the front row.  They glanced along the row at the ‘dignitaries’, four men and one woman; all middle-aged and reeked of money.  They shifted uncomfortably at the sight of the two strangers, but relaxed when Dennison strode magnificently onto the stage, recognised the cousins and introduced them cordially to the assembly.

“Lady and gentlemen, as I stand in this beautifully appointed auditorium, which has stood as home to performers as varied as true Shakespearian greats, such as I, down to lowly hoofers...,”  Dennison boomed out in his fruity deep baritone voice.  Under the lights his hair shone, a hand resting commandingly on the ornate handle of his dark cane, his cape hung impressively from wide shoulders, the red satin lining catching the eye.

“He certainly looks the part,” Heyes whispered.

“Sure does.  I wonder how he’ll cope with a little bit of audience participation.”  With that The Kid stood, and pulled himself up on stage.

Several things happened at once; Heyes had drawn his gun and had it levelled steadily at the five seated guests as they made movements towards doors or weapons. 

“Take it easy, folks,” he smiled, but they could tell there was real steel behind it.  “That’s right.  We’ll just enjoy the show.”  The dimples fixed deep and his eyes dancing with mirth.

Dennison’s face changed from confused to outright killer rage in the blink of an eye.  He pulled the handle of his ebony cane and there was a sudden flash of a long, slender, fatal blade.  “How dare you.  Do you know who I am?” bellowed Dennison.

“Yeah, a ham actor!” Heyes shouted helpfully.  Curry grinned and ducked behind the atrocity masquerading as a portrait.

“I am Dennison Adelphi Pettigrew, one of the fastest blades in the industry,” he bellowed, all the while lunging towards Curry with deadly speed.  “I will have you know I have killed as many as five men a night,” swish, lunge, “and twice on Saturday,” whoosh, thrust.  “The West Wycombe Gazette said ‘the swordplay of Dennison Pettigrew brought a startlingly memorable piece of comic timing previously unknown in The Duchess of Malfi’.”

He was fast but Curry was faster, dancing around the picture.  Edgar was once again standing by the stage curtain, chewing his tobacco and watching the show.  “Use your gun,” he yelled over to The Kid.

“Can’t do that, Edgar, not a fair fight,” grinned Curry, obviously enjoying himself.   Dennison sprang towards Curry with deadly intent.  He stabbed and it hit, but only the ugly gilt frame.  That split second was all Kid needed; his hands were round Dennison’s wrist, wrenching the sword from his hand then twisting his arms painfully up his back.

“You can come in now, sheriff,” yelled Curry, still struggling to keep Dennison under control and from behind Edgar, Mutton Chops and his three be-muscled colleagues appeared from the wings.  The thespian did not look so magnificent now, red in the face, spewing vitriol and curses and struggling to free himself. 

“C’mon, you.”   Deputy number one had grabbed two of the ‘honoured guests’ by the arms, pulling them to their feet.   One of them started to try and struggle free, blustering and puffing himself up.  The hand grasping his upper arm visibly tightened and the man stopped struggling and went pale.  “Give me one excuse, Burke, that’s all I need,” spat the deputy.  The man went still and struggled no more, stony-faced.  The others took their lead from him and followed alongside their deputy quietly, frowning and pensive as they left the theatre.

Heyes looked quizzically at the sheriff, who almost imperceptibly shook his head.  “Long story,” and Heyes took the hint and did not push it.

The last and youngest of the deputies followed them out, puffing, carrying the painting.  Mumbling and grumbling to himself that he had drawn the short straw as the cumbersome object had already given him a splinter and weighed uncomfortably on his arms and dug into his legs.

ooOOoo

The cousins had settled down in Edgar’s office once again drinking strong, hot coffee and eating tasty lemon cookies.  “Well, thanks for all your help, boys.  I’ll see that the sheriff gives you that reward you’re owed.  We couldn’t have done it without you.  We’ve lost him before like that, we retrieved the stolen goods, but one whiff of a lawman and he just disappears.”

“I never had him pinned as a criminal, he seemed too dumb.  I suppose you never can tell,” Heyes reflected.

“I bet you never had me pinned as a Bannerman’s detective, either.  I suppose you never can tell.”  Edgar’s eyes darted from the fair to the dark, by second-nature reading their responses.

“If I am right then the painting you two have been lugging around is an oil on wood icon of the Madonna and Child, dripping in gold leaf, painted around 1320.  It was stolen from a cathedral in Umbria and we were tipped off it was heading our way.”  He shook his head slowly, “unique, beautiful and virtually priceless.”

Edgar tried to pin down the expressions that flickered across the faces opposite.

“He’s been working this trick for years.   He or one of his gang steals some precious piece or relic, doctors it enough so it doesn’t draw attention, then makes a ‘presentation’ to an exclusive little gathering of private collectors.  I even know of things stolen to order,” he took another bite.

“So Bannerman’s, huh?  How come?”  Heyes sounded nonchalant, although Curry could hear the tension.

“I used to teach art history in New York, but hated the students,” he smiled and shrugged, “I was just in the right place at the right time to suss out just what these acquisitive bastards were up to.  There are a lot of rich people in this town, and all of them wanna be top dog.”

“Talkin’ of dogs, yours seems very quiet,” and the Kid stretched out a hand to pat the dozing critter.

“Dog my ass,” Edgar guffawed, “That is Dennison’s wig!  That man is as bald as a coot.”

Curry whipped his hand back with lightening speed and chortling, Edgar poured them each another coffee, but this time topped it up with some bourbon he kept in his top drawer.

“Actors,” Heyes sighed, “nothing is ever real with them.  I bet he wasn’t even English, and as for that name... Who the hell calls a kid Dennison Adelphi Pettigrew?  That is just pure damn cruel.”

“Actually,” Edgar chimed in, sipping his brew, “he really is English.  He hails from a small mining village in Yorkshire, but you are right about the name.”

“Go on, spill,” said Heyes smiling, eyes wide as he and Curry leaned in.

“It’s a doozy....” teased Edgar in a sing song voice.

“You’re killing me,” groaned Curry.

“Tell us, or you will never see these cookies again,” Heyes had playfully grabbed the bag and held it to ransom.

Edgar threw his hands in the air, “Ok, you got me, you win.  You really wanna know his real name?”

“Sure do.”

The stage manager leant in and whispered conspiratorially.  “Seymour Ramsbottom.”

_________________
Tomorrow  I will no longer be reckless or feckless.  I will do everything with both reck and feck!
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PostSubject: What's In A Name    Sun Feb 16, 2014 12:06 pm

“Dr. Watson?”  The nursing assistant smiled at the old man, rousing him gently from his slumbers.  “Your nephew is here to see you.” 

“Nephew?”

“Yes, dear.  Mr. and Mrs. Holmes are here.”

The young, blonde giggled into her sleeve.  “Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson?  Seriously?”

“Yes,” the old man cleared his rheumy throat.  “But I was born in the eighteen fifties, so I had the name ‘Watson’ before it was used in the stories.  He had a remarkable mind, Conan Doyle.”

“I love those stories; especially the one with the giant dog.”  The blonde’s eyes widened.  “You met him?” 

“Sure did.  I met him when he visited the eastern U.S. in 1894 and again in 1923 when he came to Winnipeg.  He got quite a kick out of me being called Watson and having relatives called Holmes.  We talked about that.”   

The young nurse looked at the old man with renewed respect.  “I’d love to hear about that.  I’ve never met anyone famous.”  Her pretty face slid into a smile.  “Except for Dr. Watson.  Did he base that character on you?  You were a specialist in solving crimes after all.”   

“The books were written before I met him,” The patient’s face pitted with deep dimples, “but I must admit to using that story as line to impress more than one pretty girl.”  He shrugged a bony shoulder.  “That’s when they were still interested.  I’m all gristle and phlegm now.”      

“You’re a charmer, Dr. Watson.  You’re a breath of fresh air to us nurses.”  The dark-haired nurse lifted a dirty cup from the bedside cabinet and placed it on the tray on the sideboard.  “Our, Dr. Watson here, wasn’t a doctor of medicine either, were you, Doctor?” 

Dr. Watson coughed; a heart-stopping, gut-wrenching bark which rattled the aged, fragile ribs.  He seized the nearby oxygen mask and sucked in a breath of reviving gas.  “I worked in security all my life.  I studied all kinds of sciences which would help me perfect my methodology.”  The dark eyes grew distant.  “It was an honorary title.  I never used it.”

“But the police and the courts did.”  The nurse pulled at his pillows and punched them into a better support for the grey head.  “That’s why you are in the Winnipeg Police Rest Home, Dr. Watson.  The Chief Constable insisted that you be cared for here after your surgery and the Mayor agreed to pick up the bill.  You have been a great asset to the province.  Now, sit up nicely and let me brush your hair.  I want you to look good for your visitors.” 

“They’ve seen me look worse,” the doctor muttered under his breath.

“Not when I’m on duty, they haven’t,” the dark-haired nurse put the comb back on the locker and stepped back to appraise her work.  She gave a firm nod of approval.  “Yes, you’ll do.  Now let’s get that dressing gown on you.  You look so smart in that paisley pattern one.”

“The one young Jed got me for Christmas?”

“You’re so thin, we must fatten you up.”  She tied off the robe and pursed her lips.  “He’s coming with his wife to show you their new baby son.  Isn’t that exciting?”   

“The baby?  I guess.”

The older nurse put her hands on her hips.  “Why the sad puppy-dog eyes?” 

The grey head dropped.  “His grandfather would have loved to have seen him.”

The nurses exchanged a concerned glance.  “Your old friend?  Yes, it is sad he isn’t here to see his grandchild but you gave his boy a wonderful start in life and a loving home after he died.”

“No mother, though.   I guess we got caught up in work and starting a family came last,” the smile fell from his face, “too late for me.  ”   

“You brought up a fine young man and he’s here to see you,” the no-nonsense, professional tone rang with the certainty that the nurse would brook no opposition, “so let’s get you into that wheelchair and out to the porch, shall we?  They’re waiting for you out there and you could do with a breath of fresh air.”  She patted his shoulder.  “I don’t know what’s gotten into you today.  You’re feeling so sorry for yourself.  It’s not like you.”

“It’s seeing old friends, Nurse.”  The dark eyes became wistful.  “It brings everything back.”    

**********

“Uncle Joshua?”  The young man ushered forward the beautiful redhead who proudly clutched the precious bundle in her arms.  “This is our son; we’ve called him Jedidiah Curry Holmes.”

The nurse applied the brakes firmly to the wheelchair and walked away, leaving the little group in private. 

The dark eyes darted to the swaddled baby and shared an unspoken conversation with the couple.  “Oh,” was all the old man could say through a mist of emotion.  

“It’s time,” the young man smiled.  “We are proud of my father.  He died upholding the law but my son will carry the name and continue his legacy.  It’s been a long time in coming, but Jed Curry will live a decent, honest life under his own name in a way his grandfather never could.”

The dark eyes glistened with tears.  “I never meant for you to feel ashamed of your real name.  I guess it was safer for me for you be called Holmes.”

“I’ve never been ashamed of anything, Uncle Joshua; not my given name or my real one.  They’re all part of my father’s life,” young Jed shrugged, “so they’re part of me now too.”

“We chose the names because Smith and Jones were thrust on us and they were ridiculous; just too suspicious.”  Heyes’ chuckle quickly developed into a phlegm-clearing cough.  “When we picked names from a story who knew that those serials in a magazine would become so popular huh?  We thought the names Watson and Holmes were ordinary enough to go unnoticed.  In a way, though, they became great cover because people would never suspect you’d choose a famous name.”

“Serials?  I thought they were books?” Margaret took the seat her husband placed beside the wheelchair. 

“They started as serials in Lippincott’s magazine in London in 1887.  We were in Canada by then and some made their way there.  I loved them.  They ended up as books.”

“I get the feeling your exploits will too,” Jed dragged over his own chair over.  “It’s an amazing story.”

“No,” Heyes muttered.  “Not while I’ve got a breath in my body.  There’s no statute of limitations in Wyoming and I’m still wanted.  I won’t spend my last days in a prison infirmary.  I didn’t fight all my life for that.”       

The young man reached out a hand to touch the skeletal knee.  “I know why you did what you did, Uncle Joshua, and I think you were right.  You did everything you could to get amnesty and when the Governor strung you along you for too long you had to eventually give up and build a future.  You gave me a good life here in Canada, an education, respectability and a heritage to be proud of; but times have changed and people don’t condemn the likes of young Jed because his grandfather used to be an outlaw.  He redeemed himself and it’ll be good for folks to know that he turned over a new leaf and died protecting innocent people from bank robbers.  Your story is inspirational, you know; you made good.”

“Did I?  I think he gave up when your mother died,” the old man sniffed, but it was unclear if the source was infection or sentiment.  “I should never have let him go back to work.”
 
“Don’t beat yourself up, Uncle Joshua.  This is a happy occasion.  Here,” Jed ushered his wife forward.  “Margaret, introduce young Jed to his Grandpa.”

“Grandpa?”

“The nearest thing he’ll ever have.  You are a blood relative after all,” Jed unpacked the box brownie from the leather carrier.  “Here, Margaret.  Will you take a picture of three generations of the family together?”

“Of course,” she beamed.  “We must get this one in a frame.  This will be a very special photograph.”   
         
The new mother laid her baby in the old man’s arms, pausing to adjust his upper arm to support the infant’s head.  He gazed down at the little pink form staring up at him with earnest eyes.  “He’s got blue eyes,” he murmured, “dark-blue eyes.”

“All babies have blue eyes to start with,” Margaret cooed.  “They have a greyish tinge now, but that will go.  The colour will come in soon, but I expect he’ll have bright-blue eyes like his father.”

A wrinkled finger reached out to stroke the plump face. “And his grandfather.  The brightest eyes I ever did see.”

“What do you think of him?” Margaret asked, staring down at her offspring.

“He’s pink,” the old man wrinkled his nose.  “Do you know he looks like he’s been pushed up against a pane of glass?”

The outraged mother’s eyes widened.  “He’s beautiful!”

“Yeah,” the old man nodded.  “He is; squashed but beautiful.  Let’s get that photograph taken.  Us men folk aren’t used to babies, is all.”  The shawl fell away from the babe’s head.  “Oh, curls.  He’s got curls.”  Hannibal Heyes stared deeply into the baby’s scrutinizing eyes.  “Yes, I see the Kid in him.  I got that long, hard look too many times.  It’s like he’s telling me to stop yackin’ and get the picture taken.”

“’The Kid?’”  Jed Holmes grinned widely.  “I like that.  That’s what I’m going to call him.  That’s way better than junior.”

“It makes him sound like a goat,” the young mother protested.

“It makes him sound like his grandpa,” Heyes murmured.  “Yeah, the Kid.  That’s good.”

“It doesn’t sound like you have any say in the matter, Margaret,” Jed laughed.  “He’s ‘the Kid’ to me and his grandpa Heyes.”  He dropped his voice and glanced with a well-programmed response.  “Sorry...”

“No harm done,” the old man chuckled, “nobody heard.”

The men pulled close, propping the baby up to face the unblinking eye of the camera until their images were indelibly imprinted on the newly invented cellulose.

 “That’s going to be a keeper.”  The young man stood, observing his relative closely.  “You never liked getting your picture taken did you, Uncle Joshua?” 

“It kept me alive,” the tired head dropped.  “Did I ever tell you about the one photopraph we were stupid enough pose for?”

“Yes, Uncle Joshua.  You did.  I always wanted a copy of that; you and my father in the prime of life.”

“We destroyed every copy we could find.  I wonder if Clem’s folks still have one.  If they do, I wonder if anyone knows what it is?”  The thin shoulder shrugged through the paisley-patterned dressing gown.  “I’m old, it’s forgotten.  It’s done business.  Once we’re all buried nobody will ever think of us again.”

Jed’s brow furrowed in concern.  “You’ll be home soon.”

“I have cancer.  The end is coming.  I know it.”

“You can’t know that.”

The grey head nodded.  “Yes, I can.  I saw him today.”

“Who?”

“Your Pa.”  Heyes relaxed back against the raffia of the wheelchair.  “I’ve seen him for a few days now.  I’ve also seen my folks.  I’ve heard that happens at the end.”          

The young man and woman exchanged a glance.  “Nonsense.  You’ll be home again before you know it.”

The grey head shook in resignation.  “I never believed in such things, but there they are; smiling right at me.”

Both young people followed the staring, dark eyes over to the porch steps, but they were empty.  “They’re dreams, that’s all.  Vivid dreams.  Morphine causes that.”

“That’s what the nurse said.”

Margaret scooped up her baby again.  “See?  I told you.  It’s nothing to worry about.  It’s just a side-effect of the drugs.”

“I’ve been on morphine for a long time.  How come I’m only seeing my folks now?”

“It’s built up in your system,” Margaret hugged her baby to her breast.  “You’ll be fine once we get you home.  They said you’re doing well after the surgery and you can come home next week.”             

“Yeah,” Heyes blinked heavy eyes at his visitors, “I won’t be here this time next week.”

“Yes, you’ll be home.”   Jed frowned.  “We’ve tired you out.  We should go.”   

“Jed.  I love you.  I need you to know that.”

The young man paused.  Uncle Joshua could be playful; he could deliver long, meaningful looks and drape a friendly arm over a man’s shoulder but he rarely vocalised his feelings.  He was a man of his time, albeit a remarkable one.  “I’ve always known it.  Enough of this now, you need to rest to get you fit enough to come home.”

“Goodbye, Jed,” he nodded at the woman.  “Look after them all, Margaret.  I’m glad he found you.”

“We’ll see you again tomorrow, Uncle Joshua.”

The gaunt face dimpled into a joyless smile before the vacant eyes stared back at the steps again.  Margaret sighed and dropped a kiss on his cheek.  “You take care now.  ‘Bye.”

The old man gazed at the steps, staring into space before his lids grew heavy and flickered closed.  The spring sun felt good on his skin and the creeping warmth invigorated and vitalised a body wracked with pain and fatigue.  His rise and fall of his chest showed the drop in consciousness; slowing down with the spaces between each breath increasing as he relaxed into a hypnotic world of phantasms and memories.

He was young again in that place; strong, vital and commanding.  The lips twitched into a smile but the cheeks were no longer gaunt and wrinkled, the skin was firm and healthy and revealed white, even teeth.

“Heyes!”  The Kid gestured with his head.  “I’ve been waitin’ ages.  Are you comin’ or what?”

Hannibal Heyes grinned widely.  “Yeah, I’m coming.”  He paused to glance behind him at the other patients sitting on the porch, the nurses arriving with the tea trolley and wrinkled, old form in the paisley patterned dressing gown.  A weight had dropped from him and he was suddenly able to walk again.  He turned back to his cousin.  “Is this another dream?”

Kid Curry shrugged, his eyes dancing with mischief.  “Does it matter?  Ain’t you interested in findin’ out for yourself?  Think of it as another adventure.”

“An adventure?”  Heyes flicked up an eyebrow.  “We haven’t had one of those in years.”

“This is the biggest one yet.”  The Kid paused to throw an arm around the shoulder of his old friend and cousin.  “I’ve missed ya, Heyes.  It ain’t been the same without you.”

“Right back at ya, Kid.”

The wheels of the tea trolley squeaked their way over to the sleeping patient.  The nurse reached out and touched the slumbering patient.  Her gentle push became more insistent, rumpling the paisley patterned dressing gown in her efforts to rouse the insensible man.  Her worried eyes darted towards her colleague.  “Sister!  Come quick.  It’s Dr. Watson.” 

The more senior nurse busted over, her well-practised hand dropping to the man’s wrist to test for a pulse.  “Nurse, go and fetch the doctor.”  She watched the woman striding towards the door before she had an after-thought.  “I think his nephew’s just left; send and orderly to see if they can catch him.  I think the family need to come back.”
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PostSubject: Re: What's in a Name   Sat Feb 22, 2014 9:27 pm

What's in a Name

The dude threaded the reins through his fingers before bellowing at his horse.  “Whoa there, boy!  Not so fast”

“Your horse has very sensitive ears, Mr. Butterworth,” Heyes scowled at their employer, eyeing the skittish animal.  “He can hear without you shouting.  They watched the man’s awkward seat, suspended between the stirrups and the reins.  “Keep your heels down, Mr. Butterworth,” Heyes cantered forward to help the man adjust his position, “and try not to be so loud.”

“Loud?  I’m not loud.  I’m just strident.  The French have a special word for men like me.”

“Yeah, we’ve got a few good ‘uns too,” the Kid muttered under his breath.

“Did I tell you about the time I went to Paris?  What was it they called me?  It’s the ‘Aga’ something,” the moist lips wrapped around the cigar and dragged pensively at the stub.  He pulled the stogey out and waved it in the air.  “The Aga Sat.  That’s it.  I think it was the amount of money I spent.  I guess I reminded them of the Aga Khan.  He was there at the same time as the Missus and me.  Have you heard of the Aga Khan?”

“Can’t say I have, sir,” Heyes glanced around at the landscape, completely devoid of the already startled fauna.  “Where did you say you were going to meet this man today?”

“Cramond?  They one who challenged me to a fight?  Which one of you is gonna shoot him?” Butterworth pulled out an enormous linen square and trumpeted with never-ending, rasping nose-blow. 

A pair of irritated ex-outlaws shared a glance before the Kid replied as calmly as he could.  “We ain’t gonna shoot him.  My friend here is gonna reason with him; real polite like.” 

“What am I payin’ you for?  What if he ain’t the reasonable type?”

“We’ll get through to him,” Heyes smiled, calmly, “one way or another.  Couldn’t you have walked away when he challenged you?”

“I’m Bart Butterworth the Beef Baron.  Butterworth’s Beef is famous.  I can’t be seen backin’ down from a challenge, especially not from a barfly.  Haven’t you heard my slogan, ‘Butterworth’s is Best?’”

“He’s not a barfly, not from the way he moves and wears his gun,” a pair of blue eyes burned into the rich man’s back, “and best is relative.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Butterworth scowled.

“It means you know he’s better with a gun.  That’s why you hired us,” the Kid retorted.  “Why didn’t you walk away like anyone else would have?”

“He called me out.  What was I supposed to do?”

“Dunno.   You could try not sparkin’ his girl right in front of him?  Better a coward for a lifetime than a hero for a minute.”

“I get to do both,” Butterworth declared.  “I show up with my own guards and he backs down, but as far as anyone who saw him challenge me is concerned, I stood up to him.”

“You didn’t answer me,” Heyes repeated.  “Where are you meeting him?”

“The sheriff warned Cramond and me that he’s watchin’ us so we agreed to thrash this out at Pearce’s Mill.”

“On the edge of town,” the Kid nodded.  “It’s a good enough place but why dawn?  I ain’t had breakfast yet.  Nobody was servin’ that early.”

“I told ya,” Butterworth dragged at the reins, irritating the poor horse’s mouth.  “The sheriff was watchin’ so we had to do this in private.”

The Kid harrumphed.  “But why dawn?  If you’re gonna get your brains blown out why can’t ya do it after a decent sleep and a good breakfast?” 

“It’s gotta be dawn,” Butterworth protested.  “When did ya ever hear of the hero sayin’ ‘we meet at nineish?’  That ain’t the time for a duel”

“Who has duels in the eighteen eighties?” the Kid snorted.  “THIS ain’t the time for a duel.”

“Well you’re earnin’ good money, ain’t ya?” the rich man scowled.  “You’re gonna make it go away.”  

Heyes shot a harried look at his even more irritated cousin and tried to change the subject.  “Tell us about this Aga fella.”

“I don’t know much, only that he comes from some oriental place.  Persia maybe?  It could be China or India?”  Butterworth’s high-pitched laugh cut through his companions’ nerves like fingernails on a blackboard.  “He sure was rich for a foreigner and had a handlebar moustache you could rest a bald eagle on.  The ladies seemed to like him well enough but I think it was the money.  You never see a fine lady hankering over a pale, flabby trash man, do ya?  Put him in a fine w’esscoat and he’s suddenly gal-bait.  My Molly wouldn’t have looked at me twice before I made my fortune,” he preened his sunken chest, “but look at me now.  I got a wife and two girlfriends.”

“I guess they’re company for each other,” the Kid rolled his eyes.

“Company?”  Butterworth chortled.  “They’re all decorative enough but there ain’t one of them you’d choose for company.  Ya could clear a blocked drain with the wife’s tongue.  She ain’t got my charm.”

“Pearce’s Mill,” Heyes turned and nodded to the Kid.  “It’s just over the hill.  You’d best make yourself scarce.” 

The Kid glanced at their new boss.  “My pleasure.”

“Where’s he goin’?  I hired both of ya.”

“He’s back up in case things get nasty.  It’s best not to let your enemy know everything.”  Heyes gathered his reins.  “Come on, let’s get to the mill and get ready.”

“Get ready for what?  My funeral?”   

Heyes fixed Butterworth with a hard stare.  “We go in together and you do exactly as I say, when I say it.  If you hesitate or argue I’ll walk away and leave you to him.  Do you understand me?  Do as I say and everything will be fine.”

“Who’s payin’ the bills around here?”

“Butterworth, you’re not paying enough for me and my partner to risk our lives.  If you don’t agree to my terms, we turn back and you can stand up to Cramond on your own.  Am I clear?”

The Beef Baron simmered in silence before he nodded and nudged his horse in behind Heyes’ on the road to Pearce’s Mill. 

**********

Heyes and Butterworth rode into the clearing and nodded to towards the tall, slim man who leaned casually against the clapboard building.  “Ya came?  I thought ya’d chicken out?”

“I’m a Beef Baron,” Butterworth retorted.  “I ain’t anyone’s chicken.”

A smirk spread over Cramond’s weathered face.  “Meat-head, maybe?”

Heyes carefully appraised his opponent.   The quick eyes were indicative of an even quicker hand and they stared back at the ex-outlaw leader full of curiosity. 

“Ya brought back up, Butterworth?”

“A witness,” Heyes smiled, holding the gunman’s gaze.  “We just need to make sure that this is a fair fight.”

“Fair?  Ya callin’ me a cheat?”

“You’ve already got one gunfight on your hands, Cramond.  Don’t go looking for another.”

One brown eyebrow arched as Cramond pulled away from the building and stood upright.  “Are you tellin’ me what to do?”

Heyes hard stare never wavered but his hands rested on his gun belt.  “I’m offering free advice.  I understand that men like Butterworth have treated us like dirt when we’ve been in their employ.  Your grievance isn’t with me, friend.  I’ve been there too.”

“Whose side are you on?” Butterworth demanded.    

“My own,” Heyes dimples deepened.  “I’m here to see fair play and that’s it.  You two can sort out your own problems.”

Cramond shrugged.  “Fair enough.  I ain’t gonna be paid to end my life for the likes of them either.” 

He turned his pale-blue eyes on Butterworth.  “Let’s get started.”

“Sure,” Heyes nodded.  “Where d’you want him?”

 Butterworth turned panic-stricken eyes on Heyes.  “I thought you were gonna talk him outta this?”

“What’re you two whisperin’ about,” Cramond’s hand dropped down to his gun.  “No double-crossin’ or there’ll be trouble.”

“He wants a couple minutes to practice.  He’s not used to shooting at people,” Heyes smiled amiably at the gunman.   “But who is, huh?”

Cramond sniffed uncomfortably.  “There’d better be no tricks.”

“Tricks?”  Heyes eyes widened innocently.  “He just wants to get his eye in.  You can do the same to make it a fair fight?”

“What are ya doin’ ?” Butterworth punched Heyes on the top of the arm.  “The last thing he needs is practice.  Are ya tryin’ to kill me?”

Heyes firmly removed the hand clutching at his arm as though the man’s life depended on it.  “You said you’d do as I say.  I have a plan,” he murmured, “follow it or I walk.”

“Practice?”  Butterworth took the gun Heyes thrust towards him in trembling hands.  “Am I gonna shoot him when he ain’t expectin’ it?”

“No!” Heyes whispered angrily.  “Just do as I say.”  He strode over to a nearby tree stump and placed a pine cone on the top.  He turned and glanced at Butterworth’s opponent before bending down to find another to place beside it.  “Gotta be fair.  You both get a practice shot.”  Butterworth glared at Heyes, shaking his head in desperation.  “I’m guessing he doesn’t want to intimidate you, Cramond.”

“It’ll be a cold day in hell before I’m scared of that dude.  I got saddle sores tougher’n him,” Cramond sidled over and pulled out his gun.  He took aim and fired, hitting the stump and making the wood crack and splinter,  but the pine cone stayed in place.

“Your turn,” Heyes encouraged Butterworth.  He ignored the eyes widening in a mute warning and nudged the man’s arm up to aim.  “Go on.  Don’t be coy.”

Butterworth levelled a quivering hand up under the hard scrutiny of a pair or determined dark eyes.  “Ya’d better be right about this,” he murmured.  “Are ya hopin’ he’ll take pity?”

“Fire,” Heyes urged. 

They all waited until Heyes sucked in a breath of exasperation and delivered a spot of percussive encouragement with the toe of his boot.  The gun exploded into action and the pinecone splintered into a million pieces. 

The gunman started in surprise and stared at the Beef Baron.  “That was a fluke,” Cramond exclaimed.
 
“See, I told you could do it.”  Heyes strode forward.  “One more and then you two face off.”

“Where’d ya learn to shoot like that,” Cramond demanded.

“You know that rich men spend their time hunting and shooting for sport.  What did you expect?”  Heyes bent and gathered some more pinecones.

“That was a fluke.  Anyone can accidentally hit somethin’,” Cramond stared at Butterworth.  “A movin’ target’s a different thing completely.”

“Yeah, he’s right.  How about a few moving targets?  You first, Cramond.” Heyes tossed a pinecone in the air and watched it bounce harmlessly on the grass.”

“I wasn’t ready!”

“No?  How about now?”  Heyes threw another and watched it land on the grass before Cramond had his gun out of his holster.  “Well, we haven’t got all day.  Your turn, Butterworth.”

Heyes pitched another pinecone in the air and it fell to the ground as Butterworth scrambled for his weapon, but another followed it and it was blasted to bits before their eyes.  The ex-outlaw watched the concern grow in Cramond’s tanned face before he pitched another and another... and another. 

Each one disintegrated, smashed by shot after shot.

Butterworth’s mouth dropped open with delight.  “I did it!  I’m a better shot than I thought.”

“Easy there, Annie Oakley,” Heyes whispered in Butterworth’s ear.  “You didn’t hit one of those.  That was my partner, but as long as Cramond thinks you can shoot we’ve got something to negotiate with.”

Butterworth’s face fell as he dropped his arm and holstered his gun.   

Heyes grinned and folded his arms.  “Well I guess it’s time you fellas got started.  This should be interesting  One of you is slightly faster on the draw, but the other,” Heyes shrugged and glanced at Butterworth, “is definitely a much better shot.  Even if you get the draw on him you’re still likely to be hit, Cramond.  I know who my money’s on.”

“You’ve got a bet on this?” Butterworth spluttered.

“Sure I have.  How else am I gonna get paid if you buy it.  Duelling’s a dangerous thing.  It was made illegal for a reason you know.”

“You’re fired!”

Heyes shook his head.  “Really?  What’s to stop me taking a job with Cramond now and ganging up on you?  That’s not the smartest move you ever made.”

A glimmer appeared in Cramond’s eyes.  “Yeah, two against one.”

Butterworth took an involuntary step back.  “You’re unfired.”

Heyes put his hands on his hips.  “Now, Cramond.  Are you ready for the most stupid fight I ever saw in my life?  He’ll kill you, sure as eggs is eggs.  Is she worth it?”

Cramond shifted his weight from foot to foot.  “Polly ain’t worth the fight, but how am I supposed to hold my head up in town if I let the likes of him try to take her from right under my nose?  That’s what it’s really about.”

Heyes considered the remark.  “You faced off with him and everyone knows that.”  He turned to Butterworth.  “Aren’t you leaving town?”

“On the noon train.”

“So how about a compromise?  How about both of you tell everyone that you saw sense in the cold light of day and decided not to throw your lives away on a saloon girl?  That way both get to show you aren’t pushovers but you’re not dumb enough to eat lead or face a death sentence for shooting the other.  You’ve got the rest of your lives to tell everyone your own version of the story nobody will ever know the truth.”

Butterworth and Cramond exchanged a look.  “What are we supposed to tell folks?”

“How about you both found out that Polly spent the night with another man and realised how dumb this was?”

Cramond paused, the wheels of thought grinding slowly.  “But what if folks know she didn’t?”

A knowing light danced in the dark eyes.  “I really don’t think that’s gonna be a problem.  When you two were too busy arguing and promising the sheriff that you’d behave, she decided that she had her rent to make.  Let’s just say I saw her go upstairs with a blond fella.”

“And we were gonna fight over her?” Butterworth blustered.  “She’s a tramp.”

“She’s a professional,” Heyes reasoned, “and that doesn’t make her a bad person; it’s just not worth fighting for her honor.”  He narrowed his eyes.  “But this wasn’t about her honor, it was about yours.”

Cramond toyed the grass with the toe of his boot.  “I guess...”

“All I can say is that you have to decide if this is reputation or honor.”  Heyes watched both men carefully.  “Reputation is about what everyone thinks of you, and you both got that covered by being jointly brave enough to call this a damn fool exercise and then agree to walk away.  Honor is about what you think of yourself.  Do either of you think this is worth doing?”

Both heads dropped.  “I just didn’t want to look like a coward,” Butterworth murmured.

“I guess the good Lord gave us tumbleweed so we can see what way the wind’s blowin’.”  Cramond thrust his hands into his pockets.  “There ain’t no sense in this now I come to think on it.” 

Heyes folded his arms.  “That’s the smartest thing I’ve heard either of you say.  Now, can we get back to town?  I’ve got a partner who gets real proddy when he misses breakfast.”

**********

“Good Morning, gentlemens,” Pierre delivered a menu to each of the partners in turn.  “You are late to breakfast?  We will finish serving soon.”

“Yeah, we had a job.”  The Kid scanned the menu hungrily.  “Eggs, please; and bacon and toast.”

“Eggs for me,” Heyes handed back his menu, “scrambled.”  He paused.  “You’re French, aren’t you?”

“From Lyon.”  Pierre smiled proudly and pointed to the photographs on the wall.  “I have family there.  I hope they will join me here.”

“Can you think of a name they might call a man who spent a lot of money in a hotel in Paris?” 

“Mister Joshua, no I can’t.”

“It sounds something like Aga Sat.”

“No,” the waiter shook his head in confusion.  “I can’t think of anything.  So, eggs for both, one with bacon.  You have scrambled too, Mister Thaddeus?”

“I’ll have whatever’s fastest,” the Kid nodded, “and coffee.  Lots of coffee.”

“I’ll get that now for you, sirs.”  Pierre walked away and turned his brow crinkling.  “Aga Sat?  Could the word have been agaçant?”

Heyes’ brows met in curiosity.  “I guess.  That sounds like what they called him.  Is it a word?  What does it mean?”

The waiter smiled.  “It’s not a compliment.  It means irritating.”
 

Thanks to Silverkelpie for helping me with the French and also for the special font.
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HelenWest

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PostSubject: Re: What's in a Name   Sun Feb 23, 2014 12:57 am

“Randolph Z. Quaid!”

“What’s that, Mr. Anderson?” asked Clark Harrison, the assistant at Anderson’s International Book Store on the Upper East Side of New York City. The lanky young man spoke from the top of a ladder. He was shelving volumes of European poetry near the ceiling of the dusty, rambling shop. He gently shoved aside the black cat that had been curled on one previously under-populated shelf. The cat good-naturedly jumped down and went to find a perch that was not in demand for yet more books.

“Randolph Z. Quaid!” Anderson sounded excited as he repeated the name in a slightly louder voice.

“I beg your pardon,” said Harrison patiently after he had climbed down from the ladder. He looked over his boss’s shoulder to find out what he was looking at on the store’s front counter. “Who’s Randolph Z. Quaid?”

“I have no idea,” said the balding Anderson as he repositioned the wire-rimmed reading glasses on his nose and examined the books on the counter before him.

“You’ve lost me, Mr. Anderson,” said Harrison to the boss for whom he had worked for over a year. The young assistant ran a hand through his long, straw-colored hair to rid himself of dust from the upper shelves.

“I never did find out who he actually was,” said the store’s proprietor in his calm, highly educated voice.

“Who who was?”

“Randolph Z. Quaid.” Anderson sounded as if he thought his assistant had momentarily lost his mind.

“Please, sir, kindly explain,” said Harrison, trying not to sound impatient or stupid. If he annoyed his boss, he might never get an answer.

“Oh, sorry, Harrison,” said Anderson as he continued to examine each book in turn from the stack on the store’s front counter. He continued avidly, “The money here on the counter – do you have any idea who left it or why?”

“What does that have to do with,” Harrison started to ask. Then he stopped, knowing that there had to be a connection he wasn’t seeing yet. Anderson was eccentric but not rude and certainly not stupid. “I didn’t see anyone leave any money. I didn’t sell anything while you were gone. There were only a couple of people in. Isn’t there a note or a bill or anything with the cash?”


Anderson looked severely disappointed at this news. “Damn! There’s nothing except the books stacked on the counter next to the cash – a selection of our own books that the person who left the money must have pulled from the shelves. The amount is twelve dollars and twenty-three cents. It was the exact amount of Quaid’s last bill. The mail order went out two years ago last Thursday. It was never paid – until today.”

Harrison was not at all surprised that his boss would remember such a number for so long. In fact, it was typical of the man. “How can you be sure it was this man Quaid, Mr. Anderson? There’s no indication of who put the money there or why. I didn’t see anyone leave it there. It can’t be that rare a number, sir. You must have filled any number of orders for $12.23 worth of books over the years.”

But Anderson was increasingly excited. “Probably. But this was the mysterious Randolph Z. Quaid, himself. It must be! What bad luck for me to return just minutes too late! Look at the books he chose: Bashforth’s Ballistic Experiments from 1864 to 1880, the latest Hoyle on card games, Hamlet, Poe’s Complete Stories and Poems, and Machiavelli’s The Prince. An unlikely grouping of volumes, you must admit. Every one of these books was included in Quaid’s orders over the years we did business – in fact it was in the very order in which they are now stacked that he ordered these titles, which were among his favorites. He could not have signed his name more plainly.” Anderson caressed the leather-bound volumes with affection. The book store’s proprietor turned again to his faithful assistant. “You’re sure you didn’t see who left the money?”

Harrison shook his head. “No, sir. But there were only a few customers in here this morning. And only one was in all those sections – a young man. I didn’t see him leave any money . . . He was just looking at books. He was here for quite a while.”

“You saw him?” Anderson’s brown eyes sparkled with interest behind his glasses.

Harrison tried not to be too positive – it was obviously important to his boss that this be right. “Maybe, sir. I did see that man – and he did look at books on games, ballistics, drama – I can’t be sure of all the sections. But I was in and out. I could have missed seeing someone else.”

“Tell me about the man you saw. Tell me all about him. Everything you saw, heard.” Anderson spoke more slowly, but with intensity. “Give me your best imitation of our friend Holmes.”

Harrison smiled back at his fellow enthusiast of the new works by Arthur Conan Doyle. He spoke slowly as he thought back to capture all he could remember about a man to whom he had paid relatively little attention at the time. But he had watched the man – as he would watch anyone who was handling a lot of merchandise. “Well, he was a youngish man – maybe 30? No grey in his hair, although he had a start on crow’s feet around his eyes. A good looking fellow. Long, brown, straight hair. Thin. A little under six feet. Brown eyes. He wearing a dark suit, not expensive, but with no sign of wear. And over that, fully opened in the warmth of the shop, a heavy dark wool coat. It is cold out, for autumn.”

“What about his hands?”

“His hands?” Harrison looked at his own, long, slender hands.

“His hands! They can tell so much about a man.”

Harrison nodded and suppressed a smile at his peculiar boss. “True, sir. Very neat hands, as a matter of fact. I noticed them because he was handling books. But once I saw how he careful he was with the volumes, I felt no anxiety over his damaging them. His hands were clean, no callouses. He had short, clean nails. He had a pair of well-worn black leather gloves tucked into his belt.”

“Did you see him inspecting any of the books on the counter?”

Harrison thought for a moment, running his fingers through his long, blonde hair. “Yes, I saw him looking with great interest at new editions of Shakespeare. He looked particularly at Hamlet, as it happens. The same edition that is on the counter.”

Anderson was excited again. “Surely the same man!”

“Yes. He must have been.” Harrison, too, was starting to get interested in this mysterious man.

Anderson looked intently over his reading glasses as his assistant. “Anything further? Did you hear him speak? Any accent?”

“No, he didn’t say a word. I came down and offered to help him, but he waved me off and shook his head. Then I went in the back to get the books I was just shelving. I was gone for maybe ten minutes. I guess he left while I was gone. You missed him by maybe five minutes.”

“Goodness! So close to a man I always knew from a great distance!”

“So you did mail order business with this Quaid?”

Anderson looked thoughtful as he exercised his strangely precise memory. “Yes, Harrison, between 1878 and the autumn of 1883. We had quite the correspondence – far more than simple book orders.”

“But then you must know a lot about him. Like his address.”

“On the contrary, Harrison. Much as we wrote back and forth and many books as he ordered, he remained a cipher. The books were delivered to an address in Cheyenne Wyoming. It proved to be a warehouse. The books were, I was told, picked up by a different person every time. Sometimes the people sounded pretty colorful – cowboys, a bartender, a Chinaman, a drunken preacher. The man at the warehouse never knew who it would be. Quaid always paid by postal money order on an amount he had paid in cash – totally untraceable. The book orders were apparently taken some distance away. His letters in reply were never dated closer than about a week after the orders were delivered to the warehouse. He could have been anywhere in Wyoming or Montana. But sometimes there was a gap of weeks or months between his letters. He would make excuses for his slow replies. He said he often had to travel without warning. But he did always reply – until that last order in October 1883. As I said, two years ago last Thursday. It was never picked up, never paid for.”

“How intriguing. And worrying. He hadn’t paid you!”

“Oh, that was nothing. I missed him. I still do. He had become a sort of student of mine, you might say. Certainly a friend. And yet, I never met him. And I could find no third party anywhere who had ever heard of him.”

“Really? Tell me about your friend. To have caught your attention that way – he must have been – unusual.”

“Oh, yes. At first he just ordered a book. It was on mathematics or ballistics or some such technical thing, I recall. The first few orders were like that. Just pure business – not even gracefully stated and with no added words. And written in appallingly bad handwriting with poor English. But then, he wrote and asked, rather hesitantly, if I might advise him on some literature. At first his handwriting was very poor, and his spelling and grammar were not good at all. He admitted to having little education. But he wanted to learn. And he did – oh how he did! I pointed him to Shakespeare. He was ecstatic over Hamlet as if it had just been published! And he was in transports over Henry IV and V. He loved history, fact or fiction. With the works he requested on money and book keeping, I assumed he was a businessman of some kind – maybe a rancher or fur trader. The books on ballistics and explosives had me thinking he was a miner.”

“Interesting,” commented Harrison, turning over the problem in his head.

“I guessed that Machiavelli might appeal to him – it turned out to be a favorite that he often quoted back to me in letters. As he read the books I sent him, I could see his grammar and spelling improving. Especially after he bought a dictionary. He was building quite a varied and interesting library. Yes, his questions and comments become more and more sophisticated. He was certainly highly intelligent. Not that his handwriting ever improved. And his grammar and spelling never got to a very high standard. He had a long way to go. He was self-conscious about it – always apologetic. Always grateful for my help. It seemed so evident that, given time, he would become a formidable man. In some ways, he already was.”

Harrison was becoming nearly as intrigued by the mysterious Mr. Quaid as his boss was. “Did he say how he made his living? He must have made good money if he could afford such a good library.”

“Yes, I suppose so. But when I asked him anything about where he was from or where he lived or how he made his living, he was evasive. He said he had done a variety of things. He implied that he lived far from town and that he travelled a great deal around the West. And now and then he would tell colorful stories about poker games or strange Western characters he encountered. I remember once his handwriting even got worse – he admitted to having fallen off of his horse and hurt himself. I always wondered if it might be something actually more violent than that. I had the feeling he could be dangerous, when roused. He certainly knew ballistics, and not only in a theoretical way. If a book made a mistake in the area, he could spot it effortlessly. And he found books by eastern authors about the West very amusing for their many inadvertent errors.” Anderson chuckled in memory.

“What’s so funny?”

“Oh, Quaid had quite the sense of humor. He made wonderful jokes. I recall his comparing some lame western outlaw who tried to rob him to the character of Pistol in Shakespeare. He loved the idea of a man named for a gun. But then, there was that last order – never picked up, never paid for.”

“What happened?” asked Harrison.

“I don’t know. There was no explanation. I tried very hard, for many months, to figure it out. I asked my agents, my fellow book dealers, the local warehouse man, my customers. I questioned Wyoming and Montana bankers with which a businessman such as Mr. Quaid would have had to have done business. I even contacted local law enforcement in case he had met with a violent end. But no one had any evidence of a Mr. Quaid leaving Wyoming or dying or going out of business. It was as if he had vanished off the face of the earth. In fact, it was very much as if he had never existed in the first place. I could find no evidence, other than my own correspondence and the name on his post office box in Cheyenne, that any Randolph Z. Quaid had ever existed. I was very upset to have him vanish.”

“If he exists. Did if ever occur to you that the reason you weren’t able to find Quaid might have been that he was using an alias?”

“Yes, I it did occur to me. But why would a book buyer need an alias? Could he be a rich recluse, a celebrity of some kind, a notorious criminal? I thought of them all. But all the possibilities seemed so unlikely. So fantastical. I gave it up and stopped looking for him. Until now. I wonder what on earth could have brought him to New York at last. He always said that he wanted to visit. He wouldn’t explain why he couldn’t do so. He surely had the funds.”

Anderson stopped and studied the pile of books on the counter.

“Harrison, I forgot to ask the most important thing. How did he look? I mean, the emotion in his face, his gestures. What was his expression like?”

Harrison looked quizzically at his boss, wondering at the question. “At first, I thought he was excited, maybe even nervous. But then, I would say, meditative, wistful as he looked from book to book. And terribly embarrassed when I came up and tried to help him. I asked him what I could do for him and he wouldn’t say a word.”

“Silent? And embarrassed? I wonder . . .  If that man ever returns you must find me and bring me. And don’t let him leave before I meet him! I don’t care what I’m doing! I must meet him. That has to be Quaid. I’d bet – well, I’d bet $12.23 on it. Randolph Z. Quaid. I wonder . . . “

“What do you wonder?”

“Many things. But try to remember – did you see evidence of any injuries? A limp? Any kind of wound – especially to the head?”

“Oh my goodness, I almost forget. Yes! He pushed his long hair back from his face and I caught a glimpse of a long, diagonal scar on his left temple. It looked severe and fairly recent.”

“I knew it!” Anderson said in triumph.

“How did you know it, boss?” Harrison was dumbfounded.

“I’d better not say. One day, I hope we will have all of our questions answered. Perhaps the mysterious Mr. Quaid may return and answer them – if he can. Our man from the West has a special errand in this town, I feel sure of it. And I might just know what it is.”

000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

Two weeks later, Dr. Leutze, of Leutze’s Clinic for Aphasia Patients, was in Anderson’s International Book Store. He was, as usual, keeping an eye on the latest medical publications as well as a range of other literature. Mr. Anderson hurried up to his old friend and faithful customer. “Doctor,” he said eagerly, “this is taking a chance – but do you happen to have a new patient who could have been here – and who answers this description: about 30 years old, brown hair, brown eyes, thin, a little under six feet? A man wounded in the head and unable to speak? Who came from the West? Does that sound familiar?”

Leutze bristled. “Anderson, you know I can’t discuss my patients! Their privacy is vital.”

“In other words, yes, you do have such a man there. Otherwise you’d just say no. Is he from Wyoming? Or Montana? Come now, we’ve known each other for ten years or more. You know I would never endanger one of your patients!”

Anderson watched the doctor’s eyes – knowing they would tell him more than his words. He wasn’t sure about the response – there was no shock of recognition in Leutze’s sensitive blue eyes, but a frantic anger. “I can’t discuss my patients, Anderson!”

Anderson tried to calm the doctor, “I don’t want to violate the man’s privacy. I just want to know his name. And to have you ask him to come back here and . . . talk with me.”

Leutze laughed bitterly. “Very funny, Anderson. If I had such a man as a patient – if I did – why would he be at my clinic? Because, as you said, he couldn’t talk! So no, there’s no one I could ask to come talk to you. And I surely won’t tell you any names.”

“His name isn’t Quaid, is it?”

Again, there was no sign of recognition in the doctor’s eyes. “On my honor, I have no patient by that name. And if you keep bothering me about it, you will lose a customer. And I’ll tell my patients never to come here.”

“Alright, alright. I promise not to visit your place in search of him. But at least let me tell you about why I’m asking the question . . .”

Leutze pretended not to be interested. But as he listened to Anderson’s strange tale, he started to realize how very interested he was in the past of someone with quite a different name than Quaid. In fact, with two different names. The doctor gave no hints to Anderson of what he already knew about the man’s storied past. The doctor wondered how many names his patient had used – his patient who could not now say any of those names. He was afraid that he would be forced to tell his patient never to return to that particular book store. Or least, not until or unless his legal status changed completely.

*This story occurs near the beginning of the story line of my "Hannibal Heyes Goes to New York."*


Last edited by HelenWest on Sat Mar 01, 2014 1:20 am; edited 4 times in total
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Javabee

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PostSubject: Re: What's in a Name   Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:56 pm

Note: The bunny for this came from my "Hunter's Moon" submission. This story takes place after the safe cracking event in that story.


Just A Little Name Dropping

“Heyes don’t look so good.” Kyle was fretting to Wheat and Preacher, as they watched their boss take another determined stroll up and down the length of the bar. The men had never seen him in a fouler mood; Heyes was obviously on his last nerve.

“If that boy don’t settle down and show a little faith, I swear he‘s gonna dig a trench in the floor.” Preacher solemnly watched Heyes pace back and forth with growing concern.

“What are we waitin’ for, Wheat? When can I git my dynamite and bust out the Kid?” Kyle looked imploringly at his partner, hoping someone would come up with a plan to bring this misery to an end.

“Keep yer britches on, Kyle. We cain’t bust nobody till we get that telegram and find out if’n he’s dead or alive, you know that.  Then me and Heyes, we’ll come up with a plan. You‘ll see.”  Wheat was trying to sound confident, but he had never seen his boss in such a state. Then again, he had never seen him without the Kid by his side either.

Heyes was thinking back over the train robbery but just couldn’t figure out how things had gone south so fast. They were making their getaway on horseback after an otherwise successful job when shooting broke out and the Kid went down. Armed passengers from the train had crowded around the fallen outlaw, making it impossible to safely retrieve him. Heyes wanted to know what he was walking into before he went to see about his partner, so he had telegraphed his informant back in Parkersville for news. If the Kid was still alive, wild horses wouldn’t keep him away. If he wasn’t, well, then there’d be hell to pay.

If the Kid was still alive……he shook his head in disbelief. Heyes kicked back another shot, slammed the glass on the counter,  and nodded for the bartender to fill it up. The other bar patrons were wisely giving him ample berth as he scowled into his drink. Heyes grabbed his whiskey and finally sat down with his men.

“I wanna know what happened, boys.” He had been too far ahead of the others to see the particulars of what had gone on when the Kid was shot. His men watched as a frustrated Heyes took off his black hat and slapped it down. A cloud of dust rose forebodingly above the table.

Preacher carefully studied his boss and spoke real calm, like he was trying to avoid a scorpion sting. “One of the passengers came runnin’ up and started shootin’, Heyes.  Me and Hank were the last ones out, and we high tailed it while the Kid covered for us.”  

“What stopped the Kid from takin’ him out?”  Heyes couldn’t imagine the Kid being on the losing end of a gunfight. His partner could have easily silenced the shooter with a single bullet.  It might have injured the man’s shooting hand but it sure wouldn’t have killed him.

“Well, that’s just it, boss, it weren’t a he.“ Kyle shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

Heyes looked from man to man, still not getting it. Wheat gave it a try.

“It’s like this, Heyes, the he was a she. Hank and Preacher didn’t figure the Kid would need no help up against a little lady, so when he told them to git, well, they did.”

Heyes slowly began to understand. Put the Kid up against a lady, and let’s just say it wouldn’t be the first time his chivalrous nature had been his undoing.  He just moaned and shook his head in dismay.

“I think he’s startin’ to see the light.” Preacher said softly and took another swig. Kyle chose that moment to make use of a nearby spittoon.

Heyes quickly ran his fingers through his dark hair as he tried to make sense of it. ” Didn‘t you disarm the passengers?”

“Yup, every last one of ’em.”

“Then where did she get the gun?”

“Only God almighty knows the answer to that, Heyes, cause back on the train I seen the Kid take a derringer from her right before he cuffed her.”

“Right before he what?”  Heyes was sure he had heard wrong.

“Yup. She looked him right in the eye and told him she was gonna shoot him. Then he cuffed her. I sure would a liked to seen how she got out a them cuffs.” This time Preacher took a swig straight from the bottle.

Once again Heyes thought back on the robbery.  No wonder the Kid was grousing when he had ridden up with the horses like a conquering hero.  He winced at the memory of his own arrogance, possibly tipping his hat to the very lady that had shot his own partner.

“Tell me about this lady.  Was she a saloon gal?” Heyes was finally beginning to find someone to pin his growing anger on.

“Oh no, she was a respectable, God fearin’ lady, all dressed  up in fancy clothes and citified things. She had the face of an angel, Heyes, an angel carryin’ a terrible burden .”

“What burden?” Heyes wanted to know.

“An abundance of filthy lucre, a burden I would a been happy to relieve her of.” Preacher could even make thievery sound like a holy calling.

“Anything else?” Heyes found himself wanting to know as much as possible about this woman.

Preacher gave it a thought. “Well, there is one thing. She gave her name. Mrs. Sophie Parker.”

Parker?” Heyes appeared intrigued. The significance of the name did not seem to occur to his men.

About that time the telegraph operator appeared in the door of the saloon and hurried over to their table.

“Mr. Rembacker, sir, the urgent message you were expecting is here.”

Heyes took a deep breath, and gravely took the note. A moment ago he could hardly wait to get his hands on this message and now he didn’t know if he could bring himself to read it. He solemnly looked around the table as they all leaned in to hear him read the telegram. He cleared his throat:

“To R. Your Gun is locked up. Damaged but being repaired. Please advise.”

Everyone was silent as they let it sink in for a moment. Heyes finally broke into a dimpled grin.

Wheat let out a whoop and slapped Heyes on the back. “I told ya everything would turn out right, didn’t I?
Well, didn’t I?”

Preacher took another hit of whiskey, this time in celebration. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve, and slammed the bottle on the table. He was becoming characteristically inebriated.

Kyle just continued to chew as he looked confused.  “I didn’t know somebody’s gun was broke. Whose gun is it anyhow?”

“Never mind.” Wheat quickly elbowed Kyle and shushed him up.

Wheat looked at Heyes, puffed up his chest, and began his usual power play. “Now I reckon your fixin’ to make a plan, but I’ve got a few ideas and if your smart you’ll listen to me for a change…..”

The telegraph operator interrupted. “Do you have a return message, Mr. Rembacker?”

Now that Heyes knew the Kid was amongst the living, he was starting to feel like himself again. A plan was beginning to form in his head and the jewel inside his vest pocket was starting to feel heavy. The Kid had obviously underestimated the woman, and he was not about to make the same mistake. This woman with the face of an angel would soon find out that Hannibal Heyes did not share his partner’s weakness.

“Mr. Rembacker?”  The operator was getting impatient. He handed him something to write with, encouraging him to get on with it.

“I have two messages to be sent immediately. In response to this “ he waved the telegram, “just say 'Many Thanks. Stand by. R' “

He laid down a large bill for the operators services, and confidently smiled at his men. They all leaned in to hear as he recited the next message under his breath while carefully writing it out.

"To: Mrs. Sophie Parker of Parkersville. I have what you want. I propose a mutually beneficial trade. Hurt him again and I will come after you myself. HH"

The operator greedily snatched up the message along with the generous payment insuring his discretion, and ran back to his office to perform his duties.

As usual, Heyes was one step ahead of his men. All three outlaws looked at their boss like he had finally lost his mind.

“Heyes, what do you mean you have what she wants? The men ain‘t gonna part with any of the take…..” Wheat’s voice dropped off as Heyes discreetly reached into the inner pocket of his vest and pulled out the biggest jewel any of them had ever seen. Once again the men all leaned in to get a better look.

“Well, ain’t that a pretty sight.” Wheat whispered softly. Kyle’s eyes widened into silver dollars while Preacher reverently began to assess it’s worth.

Heyes turned it gently with his talented fingers, watching  it sparkle as the facets caught the light. “Found it in the safe with the payroll money. I have a feelin’ this might explain the mystery of a high society lady with an itch to shoot a train robber. I figure she wants it back real bad. ”

The men looked at each other uneasily while Wheat bolstered himself to face his boss and tell him what was on their minds. “That gem belongs to the gang, Heyes. We cain’t just be handin’ it over to no lady. We need to sell it off so all the boys can have a cut.”

If looks could kill, Wheat would’ve been dead and buried. “Kid got shot savin’ the gangs hide, and you want his cut? This is leader’s cut, and we’re usin’ it to barter the Kid free. Does anyone say different?” Heyes was every inch the outlaw leader; he looked daggers at them with his dark eyes and all three men knew to back off.

After an uncomfortable silence, Wheat shifted in his seat and made his peace. “Well, why didn’t ya say so in the first place, Heyes? If’n that’s leader’s cut, well, that puts a different slant on things.“

Kyle sheepishly looked around at the other two contrite outlaws. “Yeah, we’re behind ya, boss. But I think you done made a big mistake. You signed that telegram with your real initials. Now she knows it’s you that’s comin‘ for him.”

“Kyle, that don’t matter. It ain’t what’s in a name, anyways. It’s what’s in the message that counts.”  Wheat didn’t like thinking Heyes name carried any more clout than his.

“Now I don’t rightly know about that.”  Even after imbibing all that rotgut, Preacher was still lucid enough to see the truth. “It might not be a bad idea to put the fear of an angry Hannibal Heyes in ‘er. Everyone knows that if yer fool enough to mistreat the Kid you’ll have to answer to his partner. It might put ‘er on the straight and narrow when it comes to keepin’ that blessed boy doctored up.”

“I reckon I cain’t argue with that.“ Wheat drawled. “ But come to think of it, Kyle might have a point. Heyes, you sort a tipped her off. Now she knows your comin’ and she’ll have the law ready and waitin’ for ya.”

Heyes would do anything to keep his partner safe, even if it took a little name dropping that might end up putting himself at risk. He thoughtfully slipped the gem back into his vest pocket, positioned his black hat back on his head, and flashed a sly smile at his men.

“I’m countin’ on it.”



_________________
"If I asked for a cup of coffee, someone would search for the double meaning." Mae West
coffee 


Last edited by Javabee on Sat Mar 01, 2014 6:41 pm; edited 2 times in total
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InsideOutlaw

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PostSubject: Re: What's in a Name   Wed Feb 26, 2014 1:53 pm

“Name?” asked the desk clerk, scribbling in his register after taking care of his last customer and not looking up.  It had been a busy night and he was getting tired.  He just had to check in these three remaining men and he’d be off until four in the afternoon tomorrow.  

“Er, um, John Brown,” said a voice with a distinctive Texan twang.

The clerk looked up and studied the big, mustached man before him.  “You don’t sound too sure about that,” quipped the wiry man behind the hotel front desk.

Wheat tried not to fidget under the scrutiny.  “I’m sure,” growled Wheat.  He glowered threateningly until the clerk gulped and dropped his eyes.  He wrote the name in the register then turned to snatch a key hanging from the board behind him.  

“Room six, upstairs and to the right, Mr. Brown.  Next!”  

Wheat grabbed the key, lifted his saddlebags from where he’d left them on the floor, and walked over to wait by the bottom of the stairs.  

Heyes stepped up to the counter and smiled pleasantly as the clerk poised his pen over the register. 

“Name?” 

“Phineas Fulton Fleeglefielder,” intoned Heyes smoothly.  Not missing a beat, he added, “and my partner, Throckmorton Smatherly.  We’d like a double room, please.”  He smiled as the man began trying to phonetically sound out the names as he wrote them in the register.  Reaching into his vest pocket, Heyes pulled out a five-dollar bill and laid it on the counter.  “We'd like a view, too, if it’s not too much trouble, and feel free to keep the change.”  

“No trouble at all, Mr., um, Flee-gel-fied-ler,” said the clerk, the money quickly disappearing into his pocket.  He glanced again at his register to try to get the name right and gave up.  Flustered, he barely looked at Heyes and the Kid before tugging their room key off his board.  He held it out to them, “Here you are: room eight up the stairs and at the end of the corridor.  It has a lovely view of the street.  My apologies, sirs, I've never been good with names," he said sheepishly without meeting their eyes.

“No problem,” said the Kid, taking the key and tucking it in his shirt pocket.  He and his partner turned and led the way up the stairs, Wheat following two steps behind them.  As the threesome reached Room Six, Carlson inserted the key in the door and pushed it open.  It was a tidy, cozy room with a nicely dressed bed and thick drapes blocking out the streetlights.  He dropped his saddlebags on the stuffed side chair by the door and walked over to sink down onto the edge of the bed.  

Heyes and the Kid walked in behind him and closed the door without a sound.  The dark-haired outlaw leader glared at his tired man.  “John Brown?  What the hell, Wheat?”

Irritation leapt onto Carlson’s face.  “Dammit, Heyes, I couldn’t think of nothin’ else.  First I thought of John and the Brown just seemed to go along with it.”

“Did you ever think that’s ‘cause it’s a famous name?” smirked the Kid.

“Hey, I didn’t see you comin’ up with nothin’!  Besides, it’s better than Fleeglefinder or whatever the heck Heyes said,” snapped Wheat.  He leaned back against the headboard, insolently staring at his two bosses.  “What’s with the goofy names anyway, Heyes?  Ain’t you afraid someone’s going to remember that?”

Heyes sighed, pushed Wheat’s saddlebags to the floor, and sat down on the stuffed chair.  He was tired, too.  They had ridden all day to get here and they were going to be up all night casing the bank.   It felt good to sit on something besides the hard leather of a saddle. 

He looked at Wheat for a moment and wondered to himself if he was wasting his time explaining anything to the older man.  The Kid shook his head as though divining his partner’s thoughts.  Wheat had done nothing but devil Heyes since he took over the Hole, and he couldn’t help but resent it.  

Heyes wanted his first job with the gang to go smoothly, but maybe it would be for the best if someone, like the law, took Carlson off his hands.  He leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes.  When he opened them, he said, “He couldn’t remember it two seconds after I said it.  Don’t you get it?  I give ‘em something they have to think about so they’re not thinking about me and what I look like.”

The Kid chuckled, “Yeah, he was so embarrassed by butcherin’ your name he couldn’t wait for us to leave.”

Heyes' eyes hardened as he watched Wheat digest what he’d just heard.  “Now you gave him a name the whole world knows so he had to take a look at you.  I reckon he won’t forget what he saw when the law comes asking about strangers in town.”

“Yeah, you practically begged him to write you a new wanted poster, Wheat,” laughed Curry.  “Come on, Heyes, let’s go check our room out.  I could use some shut-eye before we go prowlin’ around that bank.  Meet us out front at one a.m., Mr. Brown.”

Wheat frowned as his two new leaders left his room.  The door shut with a loud click and Carlson leaned back against the pillow.  “I’m thinkin’ up all sorts of names for you two and ain’t none of 'em fit for polite company.”

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

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PostSubject: Re: What's in a Name   Wed Feb 26, 2014 6:45 pm

What's in a Name

The Kid coiled the rope loosely around his hand, his relaxed pose at odds with the glint of high alert which danced in his eyes.  The sun caught the stars on the chests of the riders who galloped purposefully through the gates of the ranch and headed straight towards him.  He stood and walked towards the barn, but it was too late – he’d been noticed.

“You there!”  The Kid kept walking, there were other men around and hopefully they could take the brunt of these mens’ attention.  “You with the lasso; stop.”

He paused and turned on his heel, squinting into the sun and masking his eyes in an exaggerated gesture which hid what he could of his face without being as too obvious.  “Yeah?”

“Who’s the boss around here?” barked the tallest of the posse.

“Patrick Keough,” the Kid replied.

“Is he in?”

“Gone to town.”  The blue eyes quickly appraised the situation.  Where was Heyes?  Could they get out of here?

“Keough’s family?  Are they here?”

The blond head shook in denial as he adjusted his hat to pull it further over his eyes.  “Nope.  All the folks have gone to town.”  He raised a gloved hand and pointed north east.  “It’s about eight miles that way.”

“I know where it is,” the bull of a man.  “I just came from Balleydehob.  The sheriff sent me here.”

“I don’t know what to tell ya, sir.  Mr. and Mrs. Keough went to town this mornin’ with the family.  You must have passed them on the way.”

“We came cross-country.  My name is McArthur.”  The lawman snorted in frustration.  “We’re Federal Marshals on the trail of a half-breed name of Joseph Lopez.  He’s half Paiute, half Mex.  Have ya seen him?”

“What’s he done?”  The Kid relaxed imperceptibly at the news. 

“I’ll ask the questions.  Have ya seen him?”

The ex-outlaw shifting his weight to the other leg was the only indication that this man was increasingly rubbing him up the wrong way.  “No, I ain’t seen anyone like that.  Not for years.”

“Yeah, like I can believe a saddle bum like you.  Where’s the foreman.”

“In town.” 

McArthur tore off his hat in frustration.  “He’s where?”  

The Kid pointed north east again.  “Balleydehob.  It’s about....”

“I know where it is!  Ain’t there anyone in charge around here?”

“Can I help?”  The voice came from a smiling Heyes who leaned against the barn, looking every inch the cow-poke in control. “I sure hope so.  We’re Federal Marshals lookin’ for....”

“I heard,” Heyes shrugged.  “We got nobody of that name around here.”

“You seem real sure of that.”

“Yes,” Heyes nodded.  “We’ve no natives here,” he narrowed his eyes and peered at the posse.  “Except, maybe, for him at the back?”

The swarthy man at the rear of the posse stiffened in anger.  “Hey!  I ain’t no half-breed.  I’m Black Irish.”

“Are you in charge?” the McArthur demanded.

“Almost always,” Heyes grinned cheekily.  “So what did this Lopez do?”

“He’s been sparkin’ a white girl over in Kansas.”

“That’s not illegal,” Heyes frowned, “and it ain’t a federal offense, otherwise we’d all be locked up.”

“True enough, but the girl’s pa took a shot at him and he fired back.  He’s wanted for attempted murder.”

Heyes’ brows arched.  “That sounds like self-defense.”

“Not when you’re lookin’ out for your daughter’s honor it ain’t,” the lawman muttered. 

“Did the girl make a complaint?” the Kid asked.

“What’s it to you?  The girl’s pa complained enough to raise the roof.  He didn’t want brown grandchildren and did somethin’ about it.” 

The Kid glowered down at the forefinger poking at his chest.  “What do you want, Marshal?”

“I want ta search the place.”  The McArthur turned his eyes on Heyes.  “Have you got a problem with that?”

Heyes shrugged.  “I can’t stop you.  Why do you think he came here?”

“A man fittin’ his description hitched a ride on a wagon.  We’re checking the whole area.”

“Shooting at a man isn’t a federal offense,” mused Heyes.  “Why’re you chasing him across state lines?”

“The girl ran off with him, so he’s wanted for transportin’ an under-aged girl across state lines.”

The Kid stiffened.  “Underage?  How old is she?”       
 
"Twenty."

Heyes shared a look with his partner.  “She seems to be old enough to make up her own mind.  Was she taken by force?”

“She’s back home safe, where she outta be.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” Heyes persisted.  “Was she forced?”

“She’s got a rich, angry pa and she ain’t legally of age.  It’s a crime.”

“So she went voluntarily?  It doesn’t seem to me that this boy did much wrong,” the Kid frowned. 

“Who cares?”  The lawman strode towards the partners as his men dismounted.  “He messed around with a wealthy man’s daughter and forgot his place.  It’s his funeral.”  He pointed at his men.  “Steve and Hank, take the house.  Will and Ira can take the bunkhouse and stables.  The rest of ya fan out and search the grounds.”  He gestured to the barn behind them.  “What’s in there?”

“It’s a barn,” the Kid smiled with well-practiced dumb insolence.  “There’s hay, animals, sack of grain; stuff like that.”

A pair of metallic-grey eyes fixed on the Kid.  “I don’t like you.  Not one little bit. Ya done nothin’ but run off at that smart mouth o’ yours since I arrived.  Have you seen Lopez?”

The blue eyes iced over and held the lawman’s stare defiantly.  “Nope.”

“Have you seen anyone fittin’ his description?  Black hair, dark eyes, dark skin and kinda broad at the shoulders?”

“I’ve met hundreds of men like that.”

The Marshal gave a grunt of irritation.  “When’d ya last see one?  Today, yesterday?  Is he around here?”

“Nope.”

The grey eyes narrowed before turning to Heyes.  “Ain’t there any kind of Spanish name around here?”

The partners shared a conversation in a glance, prompting the marshal to bristle angrily.  “What?  There is one, ain’t there?”

Heyes scratched his chin.  “Well, there’s Pedro, but I’m sure you aren’t looking for him.”  
  
“Pedro?  Young; black hair?”

Heyes nodded.  “Yeah, he is young with black hair.  Got an eye for the ladies too, and now you come to mention it. he’s real strong.”

“That sounds like him.  Kinda Mex looking?”

“I’ve never been south of the border, Marshal McArthur, but I think they’d be lots like him down there.”  Heyes looked to the Kid for back-up.  “Isn’t that right, Thaddeus?  He’d be real popular too.”

“I guess.  I never thought much about it,” the Kid shrugged.

“Where’d ya last see this Pedro?”

A pair of dark eyes darted towards the barn.  “You can’t go in there.”

McArthur’s jaw hardened.  “The hell I can’t.  Do you know who I am?”

Heyes nodded.  “I’m serious.  You can’t.  I’ve been told to keep people outta there.”

“People?”  McArthur thrust a plump thumb at his chest.  “Don’t you know who I am?  Didn’t I make myself clear?”

“Crystal clear, Marshal, but you can’t go in there.”

“Do ya think I give a damn what you think?”  McArthur’s face congested with anger as flecks of arrogant spittle flew.  “Look at this his f*****g badge!  This badge means I am allowed to go wherever I wish; on any land.  No questions asked or answers given!  Have I made myself clear?  Do you understand !?”

Heyes smiled sweetly.  “You’ve gotta do what you need to, Marshal.”  He stepped aside and gestured towards the barn.   “Just remember that I warned you.”

McArthur drew his gun and strode to the barn door.  He tinkered with the latch with his left hand as Heyes and Curry backed off towards the fence.

The lawman pulled open the huge door.  “Pedro!  If you’re in there, come out with your hands up.”  There was no reply, so McArthur strode forward, peering into the darkness. 

The partners climbed onto the fence and sat on the wooden pickets to watch what unfolded.

“That was just plain mean, Heyes.”  The Kid threw a long leg over and sat astride the fence. 

“He’s got a badge,” Heyes grinned.  “That takes him everywhere.”

There was a loud, high pitched scream before the marshal ran out of the barn followed by about eighteen hundred pounds of muscular Santa Gertrudis bull who stormed after the man like a thundering freight train.  He scarpered as fast as his legs could carry him, only just vaulting a gate in time.  Pedro stood eyeing the intruder aggressively, pawing the ground and snorting through ringed nostrils.

“He asked for Pedro” Heyes grinned.  “In fact, he insisted on going in the barn.”

“And you didn’t lead him on?” the Kid chuckled.

They watched the bull batter at the gate, determined to reach the Marshal who was trying to clamber over the picket fence at the other end of the field before Pedro made it the long way round.  “Hey, there’s a lot more to anyone than just their name.  You should know that better than most.”  Heyes paused, smiling enigmatically, “especially when somebody else chooses it for them.”

“Yup, he ain’t gonna be pleased when he finds out the bull’s really called Gordon.”

“What’s in a name?  He looks like a Pedro to me.” 

The keen blue eyes watched other ranch hands and members of the posse wave their arms and shout to distract the bull and drive him back into the barn.  “Maybe we should head outta here, Joshua?  It ain’t a good idea to needle Federal Marshals.”

“Yeah, let’s head off and if we happen to meet a young man who had to hot foot it outta Kansas I can give him a few pointers on how to keep outta trouble.”

The Kid jumped down from the fence and gestured towards the bunkhouse with his head.  “Pointers?  Ain’t that somethin’ we need to figure out for ourselves before we start passin’ them on to anyone else?”
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Cimarron

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PostSubject: Re: What's in a Name   Fri Feb 28, 2014 8:42 pm

What's in name

“Will you please stop reading that book and help me over here?”  The woman’s angry blue eyes stared over her little round spectacles.  “You’re worse than useless, Gunnar.  I should never have married you.  My mother was right.  She said you were so stupid you had only two things that drive you; women and hunger!”

The shopkeeper snapped his dime novel closed and rolled his eyes.  “Yeah, well.  I’m not huggin’ you now, so go make me a sandwich.”

Heyes and Curry exchanged a glance and continued to lift the provisions they needed from the shelf; coffee, beans, bacon and bullets as the bickering couple continued in the background.

“What are you reading anyway?  More rubbish about outlaws and the like?” his wife barked.

“I’m a very moral man,” grinned Gunnar, clearly enjoying his spouse’s annoyance.  “I like to see comeuppance being delivered.”  He paused and gave her a long, hard stare.  “Where it’s deserved.”

“Is that aimed at me?” she demanded.

“Aimed?” Gunnar arched a brow.  “The aim should be improvement.  Any chance of that?”

“Improvement!” the woman’s shrill voice cut right through everyone in the store.  “If anyone should improve themselves it’s you.”

“And you’re so perfect?” Gunnar retorted.  “You’ve fallen out with most everyone in town.  We’re losin’ money hand over fist because folks won’t come near the place.”

“I’m honest, that’s all.”

“Yeah; to a fault, Grace.  Have you ever thought that you don’t need to say everythin’ that comes into your mind?”

Grace propped her hands on her hips.  “How can honesty be a fault?”

“You hurt people’s feelings, that’s how.”

The grey bun started to tremble with anger.  “I don’t care what you or anyone else thinks!”

Gunner raised his eyes to the ceiling in exasperation.  “Do you ever listen to yourself?”

“I might as well, sometimes I feel like I’m talking to myself.”

“They way business is around here, you practically are.”  Gunnar turned back a page to re-read everything his wife had talked through.

“Will you put that down?  We’ve got customers.”

“No thanks to you,” muttered Gunnar.

Heyes and Curry brought their packages over to the counter.

Gunnar placed his book face down on the counter.  “Is that everythin’?”

“Yeah, I think so,” the Kid replied.  “Do you sell whiskey?”

“Sure do,” Gunnar pointed over at the corner.  “Three different types.”

“Just one’ll do,” Heyes dimples deepened.  “We don’t want to be falling off our horses, do we?”

“No?  You have to go some before you’re worse than a grocery clerk,” grumbled the woman from the end of the counter.”

Gunnar opened his mouth to answer but the words were cut off by the slamming of the shop door.  A young man with a bandana pulled over his face leaned with his back against it and waved a gun in the air.  “Hands up and don’t move.”

“Well, which is it?” Grace demanded.  “Do we put our hands up or not move?”

Gunnar raised his hands.  “In the name of all that’s holy, Grace; don’t start speakin’ to him the way you speak to me.  He’s got a gun.”

“I sure have, now do as I what I tell ya.”  The thin voice of an adolescent cut through the mask.  “Gimme the money.”

“Sure thing,” Gunnar pulled out the cash drawer and placed it on the counter.

“You there, in the corner.”  The gunman pointed his weapon at the Kid.  “Over here.  Stop skulkin’ about over there.  I want everyone where I can see them.”

The partners shared a look and sidled over towards the counter with their hands up where the youth leaned over the cash drawer.  “Is that it?”  He pulled out the bundle of notes.  “Seven dollars?”

Gunnar rifled about in the coins.  “There must be another dollar here, surely?”

“Oh, so you’ll help him but not me?” Grace whined.

“I’ll help anyone,” snapper Gunnar, “as long as they’re nicer to me than you are.”

“You think you’re some kind of hero, don’t you,” Grace strode forward towards the gunman.  “You’re a coward.  Don’t come to my store and start stealing.”

“Yeah, it’s a waste of your time and ours,” Gunner sighed resignedly.  “You’ve probably got more money than we have.  Maybe we should rob you?”

The woman’s hand shot out dragging away the mask to reveal a pock-marked teenager with a hooked nose.  The shocked boy stepped back, his gun straight in the woman’s face.   “Don’t look at me!”  The gun swung towards Heyes and Curry.  “Keep them hands up.”

“Hey, hey.  No need to panic,” Heyes raised his hands even higher as the boy pulled the mask back up.  “Just take the money and go.”

“Did ya see me?  Can ya identify me?” the boy blustered.

“Nope.  We weren’t looking,” the Kid smiled calmly at the lad.  “We just came in for some stores.  We didn’t see a thing.  Just get outta here.”

“What about you?” the pistol swung wildly towards the storekeepers.  “What about you two?”

Gunnar paused pensively.  “I think my wife might have gotten a good look at you.”

Grace gasped but the start of surprise in the robber was all the boys needed.  Heyes grabbed the boy’s arm, pointing it harmlessly skywards while the Kid landed a punch on the lad’s jaw.  He pitched over backwards and tumbled to the floor, festooned by a pair of ex-outlaws. 

“I got the gun, Joshua.”

The struggling figure was hoisted to his feet and held between the two much larger men.  “Alright, I ain’t fightin’.”

“I wouldn’t recommend it,” growled the Kid.  “Joshua, I’ll keep him here.  Will you go fetch the sheriff?”

“Sure will,” Heyes turned at the door.  “What’s your name, folks?  I’ll need that for the sheriff.”

“Sweet,” the woman replied.  “Grace Sweet.”

Heyes’ brow furrowed as he shared an unspoken conversation with the sparkling blue eyes which fixed on his.  “Sure.  Mr. and Mrs. Sweet.  Of course it is.”
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HannaHeyes

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PostSubject: Re: What's in a Name   Fri Feb 28, 2014 11:42 pm

I'm a wire dodger this month. Here are a couple of little scenes that may evolve into a longer story if the bunny will cooperate.....

Ooooooooooooooo

"It's finally happened Heyes. You've lost your mind." Kid Curry looked at his partner with a hint of pity in his eyes as he sat down on the hotel bed.

"Don't look at me like that! I have not." Hannibal Heyes was busily putting his small amount of belongings into his saddlebags. "This is going to be a simple little job that's going to pay us a hundred dollars."

"It's not the job. I'm perfectly happy to sit in a barn guardin' somethin' for two days and get a hundred dollars for my trouble. It's what you're trying to tell me we're gonna be guardin' that has me worried."

"It's just an animal."

"It's not just an animal Heyes. You told me it's a unicorn. A UNICORN."

"THAT'S WHAT THE MAN TOLD ME IT WAS!"

"THERE AIN'T NO SUCH THING AS A UNICORN!"

"Well, this guy says he has one and he's selling it to the circus coming through here day after tomorrow."

"Have you even seen this thing?"

"No."

"Well how do you know if he even has some kind of animal? This man might be crazy. He IS crazy if he thinks he has a unicorn."

"That's probably just what he's calling it to get the circus to buy it. It's more than likely a goat he's cut one of the horns off of or something. Does it matter what he's named the thing? It's getting us a hundred dollars for two days work. Easy work."

"Have you forgotten Lom wants us to meet him in three days? What's he gonna think when you send a telegraph to him sayin' that we're gonna be late because we're guardin' a unicorn? We won't have to worry about bein' sent to prison. They'll send us straight to the insane asylum."

"I ain't going to tell Lom what we're watching. I think I have a little more sense than that."

"Sometimes I wonder...," Kid muttered under his breath.

"Kid, it'll be fine. We'll stay in the barn with this critter 'til the circus shows up, then we're on our way with some money in our pockets."

"Yeah, well, if any leprechauns show up, I'm stealin' their gold..."

ooooooooooooooooooasjoooooooooooooooooooo

The two ex-outlaws rode more about half a day out to the ranch housing the so-called unicorn. It wasn't a very big place, just a couple head of cattle in a pasture next to a barn and a small, cozy looking house across from it. Some chickens scattered as the horses came to a stop next to a hitching post. A blond headed ranch hand who had been saddling a horse approached the two as they dismounted and stretched their backs. "Howdy there boys. Can I help you with something?"

The dark haired man opened his mouth to answer, but was interrupted by a voice coming from the side of the house.

"Mr. Hayes...," the voice called.

Heyes suddenly froze at hearing the name. Kid looked over at him and whispered, "He knows who we are?"

Heyes almost imperceptibly shook his head. "I didn't tell him." Both of them were on the verge of turning around and leaving when the ranch hand started walking towards the house.

"Yeah Mr. Wilson?"

Blue and brown eyes looked at each other with a look of surprise.

"Did I hear someone ride up?"

"Yessir you did." The ranch hand stopped as an elderly little man in dirty overalls popped around the house into view.

"Howdy Mr. Wilson," Heyes called.

A smile appeared on the old timer's face as he saw the partners. "Ah, Mr. Smith. You made it! Mr. Hayes, this is Joshua Smith. He and his partner, uh,..."

"Thaddeus Jones," Kid supplied his alias.

"Yes, Thaddeus Jones. They're the ones I was telling you was going to be helping me keep an eye on things while you're gone to visit your sister over the next couple of days. Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones, my ranch hand, Michael Hayes. He'll show you around right quick while I go take care of something in the house. I'll be back directly."

The men all shook hands in greeting. "I was just packing up to leave when you two rode up," Michael said.

"Anyone else work here?" Kid asked looking around.

"No sir. Just me. Place ain't that big. Mr. Wilson just needs someone to help him take care of the livestock and garden since he's getting up in years. Glad he found someone to help him out while I'm gone." Michael walked towards the barn. "Since you don't live close by, you'll be sleeping in the barn while you're here. There ain't no need for a bunkhouse on such a small place. There's lots of hay and some blankets and pillows in the loft for you."

Heyes stopped at the entrance to the barn. "Mr...Hayes." It sounded odd to him calling someone by that name. "Mr. Wilson tells me we'll be looking after a...rather unique animal."

"Uh, yeah. His, uh, unicorn." Michael failed to keep the smile off his face as he said it. "It's in here." He opened the barn door and led the way in. Heyes and the Kid followed him to the last stall. "Well, there she is. Mr. Wilson's unicorn."

The two looked into the stall not knowing what to expect. They stared for a moment, then turned and stared at each other. "Well, I'll be...," Heyes started.

"I ain't never seen nothin' like that before," Kid said looking back at the creature. There, staring back at them, contentedly chewing on a mouthful of hay, was a deer, with one small, pointed antler, right smack in the middle of it's head.

"Ain't she something!" Mr. Wilson said walking up to join them. "Found her outside the pasture one day when she was just a little thing. Never saw her momma come back so I took her and raised her. When I heard the circus was headed this way, figured I could sell her for a little money."

Michael turned to Wilson. "Guess I'll be on my way now. Fellas, nice to meet you."

"Have a nice trip. See you in a couple of days," Mr. Wilson called to Michael's retreating form. "Well boys. Make yourselves comfortable. Shouldn't be no trouble. Just wanted some assurance I'll still have something to sell when the circus shows up in town. I'll bring you some dinner out when it's ready."

Mr. Wilson walked out of the barn. Heyes and Kid looked once more at the unicorn-deer, then at each other. A few seconds later, laughter could be heard coming from the barn.


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Remuda

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PostSubject: Re: What's in a Name   Sat Mar 01, 2014 3:30 am

By Any Other Name

Hannibal Heyes walked through the batwing doors into a cacophony of Saturday-night raucousness.  Sidling carefully through the crowd, he side-stepped a barmaid with a tray full of beers precariously tipping, dripping droplets of amber fluid on shoulders of those seated as she passed.  No one paid any mind, however, too inebriated or glued as they were to the games of chance and mere luck to notice or care.  Heyes frowned as a larger stain spread on his forearm.  The shirt was new, just purchased to replace one too weather-worn from the trail to be of any further use except as a polishing cloth in his partner's gun-cleaning kit.  He had not intended to visit the laundress on this layover, pressed for time as they were to get to San Francisco on horseback, as funds for public conveyance were scarce, and the road ahead still long.

Finally making it to the third row out from the bar, he held up a hand with two fingers splayed, "Two beers!"  His words fell, drowning in the sea of noise, and none of the three bartenders noticed.  For a minute or so, or what seemed much longer, Heyes focused on strategically pushing his way to the front.  His patience won as he gained first row, although those gently, or not, pushed aside in the process would gladly have saved themselves the sweat of the mines if they had known a ten-thousand-dollar payday awaited them. 

"Two beers!"

A full-mustachioed man in apron thick of leather, as a smithy might wear, faced him.  "Lad, ye don't have to yell.  I kin here ye just fine!"

Heyes opened his mouth to say something, but did not.  A roll of eyes gave his reply.

Two mugs of brew appeared.  "Two bits, laddie.   Sarcastic isn't becomin', ye know!"

"Two bits?"  Brown eyes narrowed.

"Two bits."  The voice, authoritative but earnest, was firm.

"How much would it be on a Wednesday morning?"

"Two bits."

"That's a lot."

"Boon times, lad.  Best since forty nine.  New vein's've been found.  The old mine's producin' again, and then some.  Men're makin' fortunes, and we charge what we can."

Brow furrowed, Heyes rummaged in his pocket, throwing a coin on the bar.  As the bartender started for it, Heyes covered it.  "Wait.  How much for one?"

"Fifteen cents.  Two's on special tonight.  What'll it be, lad.  I ain't got all night."

The ex-outlaw moved his hand, studying the coin.  With a sigh he pushed it toward the man behind the bar, who took it without another word before moving on.

Heyes grabbed a mug, observing the crowd reflected in the mirror behind the bar.  He pulled the second mug closer to him. 

"Beers're dear.  You mind sharin'?"

Heyes' voice rose as he moved his ear closer to the shorter man next to him.  "What's that?"

"I said beers're dear, and would you mind sharin'?!"

"You don't have to shout!"

"Well, sonny, if'n ya don't hear me the first time, I suppose that's all I can do!!  'Specially when ever-body's tryin' to be heard above ever-body else!"

Heyes' hands covered his ears.  The din had reached uncomfortable levels.  Nonetheless, he guarded his purchases and spot at the bar as any zealous sot might on a busy night, even spreading his legs to expand his position. 

"'Pardon me, sonny, but you're crowdin' me.  'Nuf room here fer both of us, and then some."

Heyes took a swig and looked at the man.  Of short stature, he wore dirty, yellowed buckskins and long sheath on a leather belt.  From it protruded the pearled handle of a large knife.  It seemed too much weapon for this old man with wild, unruly, grey hair.  The ex-outlaw dropped his mouth to the man's ear.  He spoke in a lower tone, still trying to be heard.  "Sorry, but I'm waiting for my partner.  Just trying to hold some room for him."

They switched positions as the old man spoke directly into Heyes' ear.  "That's what they all say, sonny.  I been here long enough to know all's the tricks."

Keeping it up, Heyes responded, "No trick.  My partner'll be here any minute.  And he won't be too happy if he can't enjoy a beer, especially at these prices."

The man looked longingly at Heyes' second mug.  "How 'bout jest a sip for an old man.  You're gonna be toilin' away so's that two bits won't be any mind to ya in another week when ya get paid.  But me, I'm too old to do much more than run a canary into the mines, or relieve the powder monkeys when they'll let me.  Funds're hard for this one to come by, and everthin' in this dang town's dear."

Heyes and the older man started as shots fired.  The ex-outlaw reached instinctively for his pistol, of a sudden reversing the action once the shooter was ejected by a burly man with a badge.  Just as fast, he faced the bar, hunching over it to hide his face, although he did not recognize the lawman. 

The old man took note.  Once again he spoke into Heyes' ear, this more of a whisper.  "I might be an old-timer, but still sharp, I tell ya.  Nothin' much gets by me.  You're tryin' to hide from the law."

The ruckus behind them subsided a little.  Heyes relaxed his crouch, sideways glancing at the elderly gent.  He lit into a broad grin.  "Now what gives you that idea?  Just passing through.  Resting up from the trail." 

"Uh huh.  And I suppose your name's Smith, or Jones, or Johnson, or somethin'."

The grin disappeared for a quick moment but reappeared in an instant.  "How'd you know?"  He extended his hand.  "Joshua Smith." 

"I knowed it!"  The old man looked past Heyes' hand to the second beer, which held his gaze for some moments. 

Following the man's sightline, Heyes planted the second mug in front of him.  His eyes dancing, the old man extended his own hand and shook Heyes'.  "That's right kind of ya, sonny.  Ain't ever-day a body shares his beer."  He took a long gulp, replaced the mug on the bar, and wiped his mouth with a sleeve.  "Smith, eh?  I knowed it, I tell ya.  I'm Jim Bowie."

Heyes paused his own swig, turning to look at the man.  His brow furrowed with enough lines for a corduroy road to cross a river.  "Jim Bowie ...?  Now who's pulling a leg?  He died ..."

The old man interrupted, "Yeah, I know, heard it a thousand times if'n I heard it once.  Jim Bowie died at the Alamo.  Don't believe ever-thin' ya hear, sonny."

"But ..."

The beer sat idle as the old man grew agitated, his voice louder.  "Smith?!  I guessed your name's Smith and ya don't even try to do better!  I'd believe ya better if'n ya told me ya was Davey Crockett, or even Ol' Santa Anny hisself!  But, Smith?"  The old man's green eyes were ablaze.  "Next I suppose you're gonna tell me your partner's Jones, right?"

Heyes' jaw dropped.  He recovered quickly. 

"See!  I done told ya so!"  The old man's face was red.  He pulled the knife from the sheath.

Heyes' eyes widened.  The blade shone in the dim light of the saloon. 

"Next thing you're gonna tell me I didn't invent this pick-sticker.  Young'uns these days!  No respect for their elders!  Keep your beer!"  With that, he stomped away, leaving Heyes staring in his wake.

"Don't mind him."

The bartender startled Heyes.  "Huh?"

"Don't mind him.  Crazy old man.  Goin' on all the time how he's Jim Bowie and then not believin' anybody when he hears their name.   A lot here probably goin' by a different name for whatever reason."

Heyes eyed the bartender, looked over his shoulder as the old man exited the saloon, and turned back to the barkeep.  "Where's he headed?"

The barman rolled his eyes.  "Oh, probably to get the sheriff again.  But don't worry, sheriff's not interested in Jim's stories.  He's too busy keepin' order.  Or, tryin' to keep it."  He winked. 

Heyes watched the bartender walk away.  He opened his mouth, sighed, grabbed the handle of his beer mug, lifted it, put it down, contemplated the crowd again in the mirror, caught a glimpse of a familiar face.  Doing an about-face, he strode purposely toward his partner.

Kid Curry's grin faded as Heyes, without breaking stride, put his hands firmly on the blond man's shoulders and steered him out the door.

"Heyes, my beer ..."

"We're leaving."

"I just got the horses in the livery."

"We'll get them out.  The beer costs too much, and it doesn't go down real good."

_________________
Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything. ~ Wyatt Earp
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PostSubject: Re: What's in a Name   

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What's in a Name
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