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 Outlaw Olympics

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PostSubject: Outlaw Olympics   Sat Mar 01, 2014 12:08 pm

    It's the first of March and spring is finally on it's way, but forget about all those lambs and daffodils.  It's time for a new story topic!  This month it's chosen by Helen West and the Winter Olympics have inspired her, so the topic is:


Outlaw Olympics


The idea is that if criminals competed, what areas would that be in and who would be best?  We look forward to stories which show our boys, their enemies or their colleagues at their criminal best; the most devious, the fastest, the most violent, the best lock-pickers, the best at hiding and evasion, the most intimidating, ect.  You get the picture.  So get those keyboards clattering, the pens printing and the quills quivering to give us stories that show how the boys are the best in the business.


 Suspect  prisoner  cowboy 1  cowboy3  cowboy 5  cowboy 11  cowboy 13  coboy 8  safe  cowboy 9  Night 
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RosieAnnieUSA

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PostSubject: Re: Outlaw Olympics   Sat Mar 01, 2014 6:16 pm

If we're inspired by the Olympics, could it also be stories of epic failure, of hubris, of doing your best and being cheated of winning?
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PostSubject: Re: Outlaw Olympics   Sat Mar 01, 2014 6:36 pm

RosieAnnie, I also took it as being any part of the "Olympics" experience, including all of those things you mentioned.

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PostSubject: Re: Outlaw Olympics   Sat Mar 01, 2014 6:40 pm

RosieAnnie and Remuda, the answer is yes.  And don't forget that the Jamaican bobsled team became famous enough to have a movie made about them and the Brits know all about Eddie the Eagle who was a classic anti-hero with a huge following.  There can be stories about all those things because where there are winners there are also losers.  There have been cheats, men masquerading as women - you name it!  Anything that relates to competition and what that brings out in people, good or bad, can be a basis for a story.
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HelenWest

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PostSubject: Re: Outlaw Olympics   Sat Mar 01, 2014 10:39 pm

Yes, absolutely - the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat! For the folks not in the US, that was a famous line from a US TV show on sports for many years.
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PostSubject: Re: Outlaw Olympics   Fri Mar 07, 2014 4:49 pm

What do you know, maybe spring is coming - finally.  A bunny poked its head out of hibernation.  Of course, it's probably an arctic hare.

Going for Gold, Taking Silver, Getting Bronze

“… Thinks he’s so smart.”  The man huffed as he stalked away from the Devil’s Hole compound.

The smallest and scruffiest of those remaining bit a chaw of tobacco, hitched up his pants, and hurried after him.  “What would you do different, Wheat, if you was in charge?”

“Well, shoot, if I were in charge I’d … I’d …” Wheat paused and frowned.  Shaking his head, he growled, “Whatever I did, I’d do it smarter.  And I’ll tell you this.”  Wheat warmed to his theme, his voice rising.  “If I were leading this gang, we’d have enough money to go somewheres warmer this winter instead of being stuck here.  Yessir, if I led this gang, we’d all be better off.”  He stomped away, leaving Kyle looking after him.

~~~oOo~~~

The Kid entered the cabin, his arms loaded with firewood.  As he walked to the fireplace, he glanced at his cousin, who was staring absently out the window.  Curry bent over to place a couple of more logs on the fire and spoke casually, “Wheat’s at it again.”

“I know; I heard him.”  Heyes scowled and began to pace.  “We need to settle this.  He can’t keep undermining my authority.”  Suddenly he stopped and glanced at the Kid, his dimples appearing.  “Why don’t you shoot him?”

“Too easy a target.  No sport in it.”

Heyes snorted and continued pacing.

“You’ll think of somethin’.”  The Kid looked cautiously at Heyes then turned back to the fire.  “He’s got a point though.”

“What?  Not you, too?”

“I’m not real anxious to spend winter here neither, and we don’t have enough money to go someplace warmer for five months.”

“Five months snowed in with this gang?”  Heyes looked appalled for a moment then his shoulders slumped and he turned towards his room.  At the doorway, he paused and looked back.  “I’ll figure something out.  You’re right, I don’t think I can take five months of Wheat saying how he would do things better.  I’d probably shoot him myself, since you won’t do it for me.”  He stalked into his room and slammed the door.

~~~oOo~~~

As the two leaders entered the bunk house, Wheat stopped in mid-flow, his mouth hanging open momentarily before he shut it.

Heyes shut the door and leaned against it.  “Evening, men.”  He held Wheat’s eyes until Wheat looked away and bowed his head slightly.

“Heyes, Kid.” The men responded guardedly, exchanging guilty looks with each other.

Heyes smiled grimly.

“So, men, I’ve been thinking that we need one more job before winter sets in.  Something to allow us all to spend it anywhere other than here.”

The men looked interested.

“Gee, Heyes, that’s just what Wheat was saying,” said Kyle.  “What?”  He looked at Wheat, who had poked him rather forcefully in the ribs.

The Kid straightened up from the wall he’d been leaning against, rested his hands on the buckle of his belt, and looked steadily at Wheat.  “Got somethin’ you want to say, Wheat?”

Wheat opened his mouth and closed it a few times.  “No.”

“Sure you do, Wheat,” said Kyle, encouraging his friend.  “You was just saying that you’d make sure we had enough money to head somewhere warmer for a few months.”  He turned excitedly to Heyes and the Kid.  “He’s got lots o’ ideas about how we could make money.”  He exclaimed, ignoring Wheat’s attempts to shush him.

“Does he now?” said Heyes, looking at Wheat, not Kyle.

“Well …” Wheat began then stopped. 

The other gang members watched the battle of wills, their eyes shifting from speaker to speaker, taking a grim satisfaction from the duel.

Heyes smiled and looked at Wheat.  “Tell you what, why don’t we have a contest – just the two of us.  One robbery and whichever one of us brings the most for the gang to split gets to lead?”

“One robbery?”

“Yup, and I know just who we’re going to rob.  Since it’s only the two of us and we won’t be working together, we’re going to rob a home.  A rich home.”

“Just you and me?”

“Yup.”

“Whoever robs him first is going to get the most.  Won’t be anything left for the next fella to take.  That don’t make sense.”  Wheat folded his arms, smirking.

“We go in together.  One hour.  Whoever brings the most back to the Hole, leads the gang.”  Heyes looked at the rest of the gang.  “That seem fair to you boys?”

“Sure.”

“Uh, huh.”

The rest of the gang nodded their agreement.

“The Kid gonna be there to make sure you get the biggest share?”  Wheat looked at the Kid with a mixture of defiance and fear.  Curry smiled back at him, but Wheat shivered just the same.

“No, just you and me will enter the building, take what we can, then we’ll tally the score when we get back here.  The Kid and Hank here can be nearby to help us get away, but that’s it.  That way you know the Kid won’t be helping me; Hank’ll be there to make sure.”

Wheat looked around at the other gang members and ran a finger around his collar.  He looked at Heyes and back at the gang.  Finally, he sighed.  “Okay, as long as it’s just you and me doing the robbing.  Who are we robbing?”

“That banker – Rutherford.”

“Who?”

Curry rolled his eyes.  “You remember him.  That rich banker that cheated in that poker tournament down Cheyenne way a month or two back.  When Heyes called him on it, he brought in his goons.  Heyes and me figure it’s about time to get a little payback.”

“Oh, him.”  Wheat sat quietly then brightened.  “Yeah, but ain’t his goons going to be around if we break into his house?”

“Not next weekend they won’t be.”  Heyes dimpled.  “I’ve been keeping tabs.  Seems the missus is going out of town and Rutherford’s having his mistress in for the weekend.  Doesn’t want the guards around while she’s there.  Guess he’s afraid someone’ll slip and tell the missus.”  His eyes darkened.  “But that’s the least of his worries.  No one cheats me and gets away with it.”

~~~oOo~~~

Heyes slipped his knife into the crack of the window and lifted the latch.  Opening the window he climbed through.  Hesitating for a moment, he shrugged, then turned back to give Wheat a hand climbing in.

“This is the study,” he whispered, pulling out a candle and lighting it, after making sure the curtains were closed.

Wheat looked around.  “So we both gotta stay in this room?”

“Nope.  You can go anywhere you want.  Of course, you’re more likely to run into someone if you go wandering around, and the safe’s in here.  But it’s up to you.”  Heyes looked around and grinned when he saw the safe tucked in the corner with an oil lamp sitting on top.  “Piece of cake,” he muttered to himself walking over.

Wheat went to the door and began to open it, thought better, and turned back to look around the room.  “I didn’t bring a candle can I take that one?”

“No.  If you want to lead, you need to be prepared.  You’re not, and I’m not helping you.  Now be quiet, I’m busy.”  Heyes leaned back to the door of the safe and resumed twisting the dial, focused on the slight sussings the tumblers emitted as he turned them.

Wheat muttered to himself, stepped into the hall, and promptly tripped over a chair in the dark.  Cursing silently, he returned to the study.  He began to look around the room, sizing up the choices.

Wheat had opened a curio cabinet and was examining the contents when he heard a quiet laugh from Heyes and the sound of an opening door.  Spinning around he saw that Heyes had opened the safe and was examining the contents.  Wheat’s eyes widened, and he hurried over.

“Those are gold bars,” he exclaimed, reaching forward to snag one.

Heyes swatted his hand away.  “Hey, this is a contest, remember?  Did you open this safe?  No, you didn’t.  So get your hand out of there.  When I’m done, I’ll shut it and you can open it yourself.”

“What?  You know I can’t open the safe if you lock it again.  I didn’t bring any dynamite.”

“Guess you’re going to have to find something else.”

“Look, Heyes, be reasonable.  Those gold bars are too heavy for you to carry.”

Heyes ignored him and continued looking through the contents of the safe.  He examined some papers, smiled, rolled them up, and tucked them inside his jacket.  That accomplished, he stood up and shut the safe door. 

Wheat glared at him.  “Ain’t you even going to take the gold?”

“No.”  Heyes looked at his watch.  “Forty minutes gone, Wheat.  You have twenty minutes left.  I’ll even leave you the candle.  See you back at the Hole.”  He climbed back through the window and disappeared into the dark garden beyond.

Wheat swore softly and looked around the room.  He tried the handle of the safe – nothing.  Shrugging his shoulders, he walked over to the cabinet he’d been exploring and removed a pair of candlesticks.  He hefted them in his hands, considering.  “Silver, at least that’s something.  Didn’t see Heyes take anything, just some old papers.  Bet these candles and that platter there’d be worth more than that.  Who needs his gold anyway?” he muttered to himself.

Filling his arms with the candlesticks and the platter he headed to the window.  Realizing he couldn’t climb out with his hands full, he tossed the goods out the window.  They landed with a clatter.  Climbing out after them, he didn’t notice the light that had come on in the room on the floor above.

Suddenly, a shot blasted next to him.  “Who goes there?  You there, stop or the next one goes into you!”  A whistle blew, and another man came running, gun drawn.

Heyes, Curry, and Hank drew up in the shadows of a tree in time to see Wheat hang his head for a moment before raising his hands in the air and standing still.  Curry drew his gun, but stopped when Heyes grabbed his arm and pointed to the arriving sheriff.  “Too late, but I have a plan.”

~~~oOo~~~

Outside of town, Heyes and Curry stood to the side while Hank explained what had happened.  Heyes placed the papers in his saddlebag and drew out a couple of items.  He and Curry spoke quietly.

Kyle hurried over.  “Heyes, what are we gonna do about Wheat?”

Eyebrow raised, Heyes turned towards the gang.  “Why should I do anything about Wheat?  Not my fault he got himself caught.”

The gang murmured among themselves, tossing an occasional dark look at Heyes, while Kyle frowned and looked back and forth.

Curry spoke.  “Don’t worry, Kyle.  Heyes doesn’t mean it.  Hank and I are going back to get him.  You go on back to the Hole with Heyes.”  He smiled.  “After all there’s still a contest going on, and we wouldn’t want Wheat to be able to say Heyes cheated by picking up something on his way back to the Hole now, would we?”  He waved Hank over to his side then looked around.  “We’ll camp here for the night.  Then while Hank and I go in and get Wheat, the rest of you will wait here.  If anyone asks, you work for Marshal McCloud and are waiting his orders.  Don’t go anywhere.”

The gang looked confused. 

Heyes rolled his eyes.  “It won’t hurt Wheat to spend a night in jail – might even teach him a lesson.  The Kid’s in charge of the rescue.  You don’t need to understand right now, just do what he tells you.  Come on, Kyle.”  He mounted his horse and waited impatiently for Kyle to join him.

~~~oOo~~~

Wheat sat up on the hard wooden bunk that served as a bed in the jail cell.  He got up, paced and stretched his back, then sank back down, his head in his hands as he moaned to himself.  He looked up.  “Hey, sheriff, do I get any food here?”

“Hold your horses, man.  Thief like you don’t get a lot o’ say in when you get fed.”  The sheriff tossed the keys to his deputy.  “Billy, go escort him to the necessary and I’ll make us all some coffee.”  He looked sternly at Wheat.  “Don’t try anything.  So far all you’ve done is try to rob old man Rutherford – no one’s gonna blame you too much for that – but you try to escape and Billy here has my permission to kill you.  Got it?”

“Yeah, yeah, I got it.”

“Just so you understand.”

~~~oOo~~~

Wheat pushed the thin oatmeal around in the bowl.  When he thought about what Heyes would say, he lost his appetite.  Probably just let him rot in jail.  He glanced at the sheriff and deputy where they sat talking quietly.

“Billy, why don’t you go do the rounds, while I keep our master criminal here company,” the sheriff said.

Billy nodded.  “Yeah, he don’t look too dangerous, even if Ol’ Rutherford is screaming for his head.”

“Hey!”  Wheat took exception.

The sheriff and Billy looked at Wheat and laughed.  Billy was still laughing as he walked out the door.

Wheat looked speculatively at the sheriff.  “Don’t sound like you like Rutherford much.”

“What I or this whole town thinks of Rutherford don’t matter to you.  You’re still guilty of robbing the man.”

Wheat sighed.

A knock on the door caused both men to look up.  The sheriff gave Wheat a hard look.  “Friends of yours?”

“Doubt it.  Don’t think I have any friends, and the type of folks I know, don’t usually bother to knock.”

The sheriff snorted but pulled his gun before walking over to the door.  He looked through the barred window. 

“Who are you, and what do you want?”

“Name’s McCloud.  U.S. Marshal Service,” the muffled voice announced.  Wheat could just make out a hand holding something up to the window.

The sheriff opened the door and two men entered.

Wheat muffled an exclamation as he recognized the Kid, now wearing a U.S. Marshal’s bronze star on his jacket, and Hank standing quietly behind the Kid.

“Sorry didn’t catch the name.”

The Kid smiled and stuck out his hand.  “The name’s McCloud, Dillon McCloud.”

“Well, Marshal McCloud, what can I do for you?”

The Kid turned to Hank.  “Take a good look at him.”  He gestured at Wheat.  “Is that him?  That Floyd Hudsucker?”

Hank walked over to the bars and, with his back turned to the sheriff, winked at Wheat.  “Yeah, that’s Hudsucker all right.”

“Hudsucker?  Well, sounds more likely than John Brown, which is what he told me his name was.  What do you want with him?”

“We don’t want him.  The Canadians do,” the Kid replied.  “Seems he’s wanted up in Saskatoon for grand theft and the murder of twenty people.”

“Him?  You sure you got the right man?”  The sheriff looked at Wheat incredulously then shook his head.  "Don’t seem capable of robbing a two-year old to me,” he muttered.

Wheat, who was straining to listen to the exchange, took offense.  “Aye, now.”

Curry swallowed a smile.  “You have a point.  He don’t look too bright, but gotta admit that ‘eh’ sure sounded Canadian to me.”

Wheat glared at him.

“What are you holding him on, sheriff?”  The Kid ignored Wheat.

“Petty theft.”

“In that case, I think the Canadians have the better claim on him.”  He reached into a pocket and pulled out some papers.  “Ever seen a federal warrant before?”

“Around here?  Not likely.  It’s pretty quiet these parts.”

Curry handed him the papers.  “Well, now you have.”

The sheriff examined the papers curiously.  Having never seen a federal warrant before, he had no idea whether this was one.  Satisfied, he nodded and handed the Kid the keys to the cell. 

“Thanks.”  The Kid pulled a large set of handcuffs from his pocket.  He held the cuffs out to Hank.  “Mr. Malloy, why don’t you go cuff him, and we can take him now.”  Curry turned back to the sheriff.  “I have men waiting on the edge of town to help me transport him to Canada.  We want to get moving, before his gang hears of this and comes after him.”

The sheriff watched them hustle Wheat out of his office and shook his head.  “Grand theft, gang – who’d have thought it of that bumble-fingered fool.”

~~~oOo~~~

Back at Devil’s Hole, the gang was celebrating Wheat and Heyes’ safe return.

Kyle looked back and forth at Wheat and Heyes.  “So who won the contest?”

“Kyle,” Wheat said exasperated.  “No one did.  The sheriff took the silver I got, and Heyes didn’t take anything in the first place, just some old papers.”

“Well, I did manage to keep those papers.”  Heyes smiled brightly at Wheat.  “So, I’d say I won.  I brought back more than you.”

Wheat glowered at him.  “The bet was to bring back something to share with the gang, something to give us enough to tide us over the winter.  You didn’t do that.  Paper ain’t gonna keep us warm very long, even if we use it for kindling.”

“Yeah,” came the disgruntled reply from the gang.  “We’re still stuck here for the winter.”

Heyes dimpled at the Kid, who gave a broad grin right back at him.

“Would I do that to my gang?” asked Heyes.  He reached into his jacket and pulled out the papers he had taken from Rutherford’s safe.  “Don’t you even want to know what these papers were that were so important Rutherford stored them in his safe?”  He looked at Wheat.

Wheat’s face creased in suspicion.  “Okay, Heyes, what’s so great about those papers?”

“Those insignificant papers just happen to be bearer bonds.  You know, ‘pay to the bearer’ no questions asked.  And there’s twenty thousand dollars’ worth here.”  He looked around at the gang members and watched faces begin to light up.  “I’d say that’s enough for all of us to enjoy a few months somewhere else.”

A cheer went up.  Wheat groaned.

“So did I win our contest, Wheat?”

“Yeah, yeah.”  Wheat subsided in a chair and continued to mutter under his breath.

“I’ll divide these up and we can all be out of here whenever you want to leave.  Any of you who want to resume working with us can meet back here the end of April.”  Heyes walked out the door of the bunkhouse and sauntered to the leaders’ cabin.

Curry watched him go then turned back to the room.  “He told you he’d been watching Rutherford.  He knew the bonds were there.  That’s what makes a good leader - planning.”  He paused then reached into his pocket.  “Wheat, catch.” 

Wheat looked up and automatically caught the object the Kid tossed him.  “What is it?”

“The marshal’s badge.  Keep it to remember just who leads this gang – it ain’t you.”  Blue eyes fixed Wheat with an icy stare before their owner turned and walked out the door after his partner.

“Let me see, Wheat.”

“Shut up, Kyle.”  Wheat stared morosely at the bronze star, with the words “U.S. Marshal Service” emblazoned across it, that he held in his hand and sighed.  It was going to be a long, cold winter.
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PostSubject: Hunter's Moon Part 3   Mon Mar 10, 2014 5:54 pm

Hunter's Moon  Part 3 - the Thrill of the Chase
 
 
“We interview him without you here, Mr. Tishing.”  Heyes folded his arms and smiled at the elderly gentleman.  “I insist on it.”
 
The granite face took on the hue of rose quartz.  “He’s old and confused.  You’ll get nothing out of him without my help.”

“He seems okay at the moment.”  The Kid glanced at the old man being assisted to drink a cup of warm, sugared milk by the stewardess.  “We’ll let you know if we need your help.”     
 
“Staff will be here at all times,” the conductor ushered the head of the Academy of Butling to the door of the conductor’s car.  “We’ll call on you if we need you.”
 
Tishing looked over at the stewardess whose competent smile shone brightly and reassuringly.  “She’ll be here?”
 
Heyes nodded.  “Yes, sir.  He seems to like Miss Cunningham.”
 
“It’ll be her dark skin,” Tishing nodded.  “He probably thinks you’re Indian, miss.”
 
Miss Cunningham’s brow creased.  “They’ve got braids and shoot bow and arrows.  I look nothing like one.”
 
Tishing chuckled lightly.  “He spent time in India with Earl Brockenhurst.  He fell head over heels for a beautiful lady there, but they couldn’t marry because of her place.”
 
Heyes smiled sympathetically.  “Because she wasn’t white?”
 
Tishing shook his head.  “She wasn’t white, but she was high caste and from the very best family in Nahorani.  He wasn’t acceptable to her family because he was a mere servant and they put pressure on his employer to send him back to England.  His career spiraled downwards after that.”
 
Miss Cunningham’s eyes widened.  “There’s colored folks who look down on whites?”
 
Tishing inclined his head graciously in her direction.  “Certainly, Miss.  In my view there is a difference between knowing one’s place and putting others in it.  The first is just socially practical, but the later merely shows that it’s takes to less strength to put people down than it does to pick them up.”
 
Heyes folded his arms.  “I’m kinda surprised to hear you say that.”
 
“Service is an ancient and honorable profession.”  The butler’s craggy face rearranged itself into the professional mask once more.  “A man can work himself up to be the butler of the finest houses in the land if he applies himself.  There is almost no other job which can offer such social mobility,” he paused.  “At least not until now; these days almost anyone can demand the life of a lord if he has enough money.  That’s why I’m here.”
 
“And you approve of that?” the Kid rested on the edge of the conductor’s desk.  “Ain’t that turnin’ tradition on its head?”
 
Tishing’s eyes twinkled.  “Tradition?  Isn’t that just a way of holding onto the good parts of the past while we let go of the bad bits?  The people we serve may change but if I saw that as a bad thing I wouldn’t be here.  I’m not completely antediluvian.”
 
“Thanks, Mr. Tishing.  We will call you if we need you.”  Farrow urged the butler from the carriage by closing the door firmly on his face.
 
Heyes pulled out a packing case and sat opposite the old man.  “What’s your name?”
 
“Huh?”
 
“Your name, sir.”
 
The wrinkled face frowned.  “You know my name.  It’s Gerald Tishing.”
 
“The butler?” The Kid frowned.
 
The old man’s gaze dropped.  “I was.”
 
Heyes’ scrutiny intensified.  “What do you do now?”
 
He gazed up at the stewardess.  “I’m sorry, Avani.  I’m a failure.”
 
Confusion crowded Miss Cunningham’s face.  “Avani?”
 
“I’m guessin’ he thinks you’re his old love.”  The Kid stood as an idea hit him.  “Ask him why he’s a failure.” 
 
Miss Cunningham nodded and gently complied while dabbing away spots of milk from the elderly gentleman’s mouth.  He blinked back tears and grasped at her hand.  “Avani.  Your name means the Earth and that’s what you are to me; the whole world.”
 
“Gee, thanks, sugar,” her coffee-colored eyes gazed into his.  “Why are you a failure?”
 
The wrinkled jowls quivered.  “I lost my job.”
 
Miss Cunningham’s eyes met the blues pressing her to continue.  “How, my darlin’?  Tell your honey pie.”
 
“Pie?  There’s pie?”
 
“In a minute, tell me how you failed?”
 
“When I got back to England I couldn’t get a job.  They said I couldn’t be trusted around women and I didn’t know my place.”  He shot a desperate look at the stewardess.  “It’s not true.  You were special; worth risking everything for.  There was no one else; not in my whole life.”   
 
Miss Cunningham patted his hand.  “Aw,that’s real cruel.  What did you do to earn a livin’?”
 
“I ended up working in a tailor’s shop.  I was in ignominy!”
 
“Where?” the Kid murmured.
 
Heyes shrugged.  “Dunno.  I heard they got funny place names over there, but what’s so bad about working in a tailor’s shop in Ignominy?”
 
“Maybe it’s a real mean town?” the stewardess ventured before turning back to her frail charge.  “Don’t you fret none.  What’s so bad about workin’ in a shop?”
 
“It’s trade, Avani.  I worked for the Princess Louise and the Duke of Fife.”  He shuddered.  “Then I ended up in trade.”
 
“In Ignomony,” the Kid nodded, wisely.
 
“There ain’t nothin’ to be ashamed of in good honest work, sweetie.”
 
“I knew you’d understand,” the crinkled hands clasped Miss Cunningham’s to his breast.  “You’ve come back to me.  I knew you would.”   
 
Heyes narrowed his eyes.  “Who are you travelling with, Mr. Tishing?”   
 
“Herbert Jenkins.”
 
“Isn’t that your name?”
 
“No!”  The wrinkled fist crashed down on the table with a sudden vehemence.  “My name is Gerald Tishing.”
 
“Sure, Mr. Tishing.”  Heyes watched Miss Cunningham offer another calming sip of warm milk.  The protruding Adam’s apple bobbed beneath cadaverous skin as the elderly man now known as Tishing drank.  “Tell me about Herbert Jenkins.”
 
The rheumy eyes narrowed, hooded by crepey eyelids.  “He’s a nice enough lad and he was a good footman, but he had ideas above his station.”
 
Heyes leaned forward.  “So?  He was ambitious.”
 
“He’s a man in a hurry,” the chuckle rolled around the old man’s throat before it dropped into his chest and wallowed in the welling phlegm.
 
“What does that mean, ‘he’s in a hurry’?”
 
“Money.  He likes money,” the head started to droop.  “He wasn’t too fussy about how he made it either.  He’s got a good a heart so I tried to guide him, but you know how impulsive the young are.”  The eyes closed.  “I’m tired, mummy.  Where’s Bertie?”
 
“Who’s Bertie?” Heyes pressed.
 
“My big brother.”
 
 “He’s getting over-tired,” the stewardess murmured as gnarled hands closed tightly around hers.  She grimaced in embarrassment and tugged but the old man held fast.    
 
The Kid stepped forward.  “I’m guessin’ your eyes are pretty enough to make him forget he’s a gentleman.”  He leaned over and tapped on the bony shoulder.  “You’re hurtin’ her.”
 
“Huh?”  The empty vacuous eyes told the assembled group that the moment of lucidity was suddenly lost, gone in a cloud of geriatric absence. 
“You need to let go of the lady,” the gloved hand unfurled the fingers, allowing the stewardess to slip her fingers away.  “That’s the way, Gerald.  There’s a fine gent called Malachi who’s gonna help you to your bed.”
 
“Where’s my mummy?”
 
Pity softened Miss Cunningham’s chocolate eyes.  “She’ll be with you directly.  Let’s get you all tucked up so you’re ready to see her, honey pie.”
 
“Pie?  There’s pie?”
 
“Not again,” Heyes scratched his head.  “Can you get him something to eat?”
 
“The Stewards can take him to his bunk,” the Kid asserted.  “Could you go fetch him somethin’ to eat, miss?  Give it to Malachi, though, I don’t want you goin’ near his bed.”
 
Amusement lit her face.  “He’s eighty-six.”
 
The blue eyes glittered determinedly.  “He’s strong.  I felt it when I released his grip and he’s a bit wandered at times. He thinks you’re the love of his life so I’d prefer it if you weren’t alone around him.”     
 
“Don’t you think I’m used to dealin’ with sugar daddies?”  Miss Cunningham placed her hands on her hips.  “They sometimes think that the like of me comes with the price.”
 
There was a steely glint in the blue twinkle.  “Yeah?  If I hear any man thinkin’ that, he’ll be able to use his teeth for poker chips, ma’am.”
 
**********
 
The trainee butler turned to his companion over the chess board balanced on suitcases between them, “...and I looked down the hill and I watched this wrinkled, old dowager dotting up the slope towards me.  At least, that’s what I thought until I pulled out my spectacles.”
 
“And?” his companion’s brow wrinkled in curiosity.
 
The man dropped his voice to a conspiratorial whisper.  “It was Patterson.  I swear he’s looking more like Queen Victoria every day.  I think it’s the hair.”  Both men turned to eye the man sitting a couple of rows away.  “Have you heard that accent he puts on?  He’s getting grander and grander by the day.  I fully expect him to declare that this was an assassination attempt.”
 
“Yes, the family that gets him better know their place.”  The second butler took a bite of his sandwich and looked down at the chess pieces.  “Oh, I think I got some sauce on your bishop.”
 
“He’s got nearly as many wrinkles as old man Jenkins.  He’s says they’re laughter lines but nothing is that funny.”
 
Both men stared down the car at Heyes and Curry following Malachi and the old man.  “Here come those security men again.  How many times do I have to tell them that we saw nothing?”
 
His companion nodded in agreement.  “It’s obvious what happened.  That Davies woman stole the jewel and jumped off the train.  They’re in competition with the criminal.  I swear it’s a sport to them.  Look at that dark one grinning, he’s loving this to the point of dimpling.”
 
“They’re after one of us.  They always think the butler did it.  Why is that?”
 
“I blame the French.”
 
“Why?”
 
“I don’t know.”  The first butler took a pawn.  “It’s generally their fault isn’t it?  They gave us everything louche and disgraceful; French kissing, French leave, and don’t get me started on the letters.”
 
“That doesn’t explain a Dutch uncle or Spanish practices.”  The other man’s knight slid over the board to threaten the white queen. 
 
“You’re right.  It’s all the continental types.  They refuse point blank to play cricket you know.”  The first butler glanced around.  “Do we have any on board?” 
 
“That Glavin man is suspiciously cosmopolitan.  Didn’t Woodward hear a door in the night?”
 
The butler’s lips pursed as he scanned the pieces looking for an escape for his most valuable piece.  “Yes.  I heard him telling them that.  I heard it, too.”
 
The second butler stared at his travelling companions like a judgmental cat on top of a cheap pine dresser.  “Someone’s not telling the truth.”
 
“What makes you say that?”
 
“I saw the Davies woman going out to the observation deck when I came back from the lavatory.”
 
The lips pursed tighter emphasizing the hollow cheeks.  “Did you tell the investigators that?”
 
“Of course I did.  Robertson saw me.  He’d have told on me if I lied.”
 
The first butler shook his head in confusion.  “But why does that mean someone’s lying?”
 
“I heard the door open again a few minutes later, and looked out.  Mrs. Hunter was in the corridor whispering to a man before she went back to her bunk.  I don’t know who he was.  I only saw his back in the darkness.”
 
The older man slid his queen diagonally across the board to seize the black rook.   “But why does that mean someone’s lying?”
 
“As far as I know, no men admitted to being in the corridor after Robertson and I went back to bed; but I could see a man’s feet just under the curtains of my bunk area because I still had my nightlight lit.  Then I heard the door to the observation deck door again, yet everyone denies leaving their bunks after Robertson and I went back to bed.  A man was wandering around.   I’ll swear that on a stack of bibles.”  The younger butler knocked over the white king with his knight.  “Checkmate, I think.” 
 
***********                      
Heyes kicked out a packing case in the butler’s direction.  “Sit down, Mr. Tishing,” the dark eyes gleamed, “or should I say, Herbert Jenkins?”
 
The granite features hardened.  “My name is Gerald Tishing.”
 
“Your companion told us different.”
 
“He’s senile,” Tishing snorted.  “I can prove who I am.  I have papers.”
 
Heyes threw down the document on the conductor’s desk.  “Yeah, these; I’m no expert, but even I can see these have been altered.”
 
“I don’t have to listen to this rubbish,” the Englishman turned on his heel but stopped short, his exit cut off by the tall, blond gunman with a stare as friendly as a pair of gun barrels.
 
“Sit down,” Heyes commanded.
 
The ex-servant glowered at everyone in turn.  “Who died and made you king?”
 
Heyes casual tone was belied by the intensity in the brown eyes.  “You can answer to the law when they get here tomorrow.  Did you know there’s a telegraph onboard?” he added brightly.  “They’re on the way.  It may help you to explain why they’ve been altered and you’ve swapped identities with that confused old man in there.  You can see how convincing your story’s gonna be to them.”
 
The Englishman drew himself to his full height and raised full ceremonial eyebrows above a haughty nose.  “I will not deign to dignify that accusation with a response!” 
 
“No?”  Heyes sat and propped his feet casually on the packing case.  “Have you ever been to prison?”
 
“Of course I haven’t.”
 
“Well, get yourself ready, you’re going there real soon.”  Heyes arched a brow.  “They’re gonna love you.  They’ll think they’ve died and gone to heaven having their very own butler.”
 
“You are mistaken,” Tishing sniffed.
 
“Am I?” Heyes replied, archly.  “I’m guessing the toughest man in the place is gonna have you run into the ground tending to his every need, either that all he’ll have you ground into the...”
 
“Alright!  What do you want to know?”
 
“Your real name would be a start.”
 
“It’s Gerald Tishing.  I’ve already told you that.”
 
Heyes leaned over and carefully selected a document covered in copperplate handwriting.  “This is yours?”
 
“My birth certificate, yes.”
 
Heyes help it up to the lamp.  “How long have they had these in England?”        
 
“Since 1837, I believe.  I was born in 1838.”
 
“So when your companion was born there were no records?”  Heyes handed the paper to the conductor. 
 
“I wouldn’t say that,” Tishing frowned.  “There have been parish records for centuries.  The churches have records.”
 
“Your passport?”  Heyes selected another missive from the pile and started to read.  “We, Granville George Earl Granville Viscount, Granville Baron Levson, a Peer of the United Kingdom...,”  Heyespaused,  “well, there’s a whole list of titles before he requests and requires in the name of the queen to allow you free passage to the United States of America.”
 
“Yes, so?”
 
“You see this, Mr. Farrow, when you hold the birth certificate up to the light,” Heyes pointed out a line on the document.  “See there?”
Farrow screwed up his eyes to look closer.  “There’s lots of wear around the name and other writing showing through.”
 
“Yup, and if I hold up the passport you can see the same around the date of birth.”  Heyes glanced over at the butler, “and on the birth certificate, the handwriting’s not the same.  The loop of the ‘g’ is completely different to the hand in the rest of the document and the ink’s a different density.”  
 
“Yeah,” Farrow stared at the butler suspiciously.  “I’d never have spotted it until you pointed it out.  They’ve been rubbed out and changed.  The name’s different on the Birth certificate and the date of birth has been altered on the passport.”
 
Heyes nodded.  “Yes.  He had to change the name on the birth certificate because the old man wouldn’t have one.”  
 
Tishing shifted his weight from foot to foot.  “If they have, I know nothing about it.”
 
“Do ya think the law’s gonna believe that?”  The Kid folded his arms.  “What’s goin’ on?  You’re a crooked ex-footman in the middle of a murder and theft.  It doesn’t look good for you.”
 
The craggy face started to crumble as the man bit into his bottom lip.  “I’m not a killer.”
 
“But you’re a thief?” Heyes demanded.
 
“Yes...no!” he sank onto the packing case with his head in his hands.  “I stole.  I did a stupid thing a long time ago, when I was young.  I learned my lesson and wanted a fresh start under a new name.  Is that a crime?”
 
The partners exchanged a conversation in a glance.  “Not in itself,” Heyes eventually replied.  “Tell us about it.”
 
“My real name is Herbert Jenkins.  I worked under Mr. Tishing when I went into service as a young footman.  I was caught up in a scam I had going with the local coal merchant.  I’d sign for a ton more than was delivered and then we’d split the profit we made selling that on.  It went on for over a year before we were caught.  The coal merchant got a prison sentence but Mr. Tishing pushed for me to be able to give evidence in exchange for immunity.  He argued that I was only eighteen and that I was led astray by a fully grown man.”  He turned imploring eyes on the boys and the conductor.  “I escaped prison, but I was sacked without a reference.  I had to start from again from nothing.  A reference is everything in England and it was nearly impossible but I studied hard and improved myself.  Eventually, I worked my way up from nothing to be a clerk in an engineering factory in Lincolnshire.”
 
Penetrating blue eyes peered into the man’s eyes.  “You stayed clean?”
 
“Yes.”  A huge sigh racked the man’s big frame.  “I was on a weekend trip to the seaside when I found poor Mr. Tishing working in a tailor’s shop.  The owner was yelling at him for burning something with an iron and it was clear he was far from well.  He was about to be sacked.  I took him home with me and I’ve looked after him ever since.  I owe him.  I’d have been in jail if it wasn’t for him.”      
 
“Yet you stole his name?” Heyes snorted.
 
“I thought of writing a book, putting together everything he knew about running a fine house, but then I started reading about millionaires over here trying to get good staff.  I hit on the idea of training men and then matching the best candidates to the employers, but I couldn’t use my own name because it’d destroy everything if it came out I was a failed, dishonest footman.”
 
“Using his know-how?” cynical dark eyes glittered at the man they now knew to be called Jenkins.  “Yeah, he’s real lucky to have you looking out for him.”
 
“I have worked in that line myself,” protested Jenkins, “besides; he has wanted for nothing since I took him in and he’s never had to work another day.  I don’t expect any of you to understand the kind of debt a man owes someone who keeps him out of jail.  I’ve lied because I wanted a new start and that’s the only reason.” 
 
Heyes stood and rubbed his chin pensively.  “Why should we believe you?”
 
“The secret’s out now.  All of this can be checked.  Why would I lie?”
 
“To save yourself from the noose?” the Kid murmured.
 
Jenkins gulped heavily.  “I’m not a killer.  A man can be a thief but that doesn’t make him a killer.”
 
Farrow shook his head.  “How did you meet Mrs. Hunter?  You don’t mention her in your story.”
 
“On the boat on the way over here.  We were at the same table for meals and got talking.  She was coming over to start an employment agency for ladies.  It seemed to make good sense to marry the two up.  No respectable woman would work for an agency without a lady involved, so it saved me looking for someone.  She had the added advantage of bringing some funds into the business.”
 
“Had she told you about her moonstone?”  Heyes started to pace.
 
“No,” Jenkins shook his head firmly.  “All she said was that she had the finances taken care of.  I assumed she had savings.”  He glanced around nervously.  “So, what now?  Am I under arrest?”
 
A smile twitched at the Kid’s lips.  “To stop you runnin’ away?  No.  There’s nowhere to go.  Besides, we ain’t the law.  We find out what we can and hand it over to the law when they get here.” 
 
Heyes nodded in agreement.  “Go back to your seat, Jenkins.  We’ve still got a few more people to question.” 
 
“Really?  Aren’t you afraid that I could get hold of a gun or something?”
 
“Nope.  Believe me when I say I’ll deal with anyone who tries anythin’ like that.”  Jenkins felt a chill go through him as the gravity of the fair man’s words bored into his soul.
 
**********
 
“So, we have Mrs. Hunter talking to a mystery man in the corridor after everyone went to bed and nobody will admit to being him,” Heyes sighed.  “If we find out who that was, we’ll have our man.”
 
The Kid leaned languorously against the wall.  “So how do we break them?”
 
“I’m hoping Mrs. Hunter can help once she’s fit to talk,” Heyes replied.  He fixed Farrow with questioning eyes.  “Are you sure none of your staff saw her talking to anyone?  Can they be trusted to tell the truth?”
 
“I’m sure of it,” Farrow replied.  “Working for Pullman is one of the best careers around for black folks.  They’d never risk their jobs.”   
 
The men looked up at a tap on the door of the conductor’s car.  “Come in,” Farrow called.
 
“Mr. Philpot says that Mrs. Hunter is well enough to be interviewed now.  She’s up and about,” Miss Cunningham bustled in and put the dirty mugs onto a tray.  “He thought you might want to talk to her before lights out.  It’s getting late and he’ll give her some more drugs soon.”
 
Blue eyes met brown.  “Yeah,” the Kid stood.  “We’ve been waiting to speak to her.”
 
Farrow strode over to the door.  “I didn’t want the lady bothered until she was well enough.  She’s been attacked and I have a duty to care towards everyone on this train.”  He cast a warning glare at both ex-outlaws.  “I don’t want her upset.”
 
“We’ll be gentle as kittens,” Heyes smiled.
 
The Kid followed the conductor into the corridor.   “Don’t they scratch?”  
 
“You’re not helping, Thaddeus.”
 
There was a shrill scream of terror from the stewardess as the Kid walked straight into the back of the conductor.  “Hey...” he rapidly corrected himself before the rest of the name slipped from his lips. 
 
Heyes jumped back from the oozing pool of gore spreading over the floor.  “What the...?”
 
“It’s Jeffrey,” Farrow mumbled.  “Oh my God!”  He fell to his knees where the steward was gasping for air. 
 
The Kid rushed forward and Heyes finally had a clear view.  The man was lying with his head and shoulders supported against the wall.  Jeffrey’s hand was slipping helplessly away from the gaping wound in his throat as the light faded from the steward’s brown eyes.  The pupils dilated in the light of the oil lamp and remained as fixed and open as the mouth which had been mutely pleading for help just moments before. 
 
“He’s dead,” the Kid pulled Miss Cunningham protectively to his chest as she covered her eyes and started to scream incoherently.  “Throat slit, just like Miss Davies.”  He frowned down at the sobbing woman in his arms before he peered into the dark corridor.  “Whoever did this must have been right behind her.”

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

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PostSubject: Re: Outlaw Olympics   Thu Mar 13, 2014 8:01 pm

Wheat sat back in his chair, as contented as a pig in warm, summer slop and gazed around the bunkhouse.  “Yup, we’ve got a lot to celebrate, boys.  We pulled off a real good job and did it without Heyes or Curry.”
 
“Yeah,” Kyle sharply pulled his reaching hand away from the fist which crashed down on the table.
 
“That’s the leader’s whiskey,” Wheat growled.
 
The blue eyes widened in protest.  “Heyes shared his bottle with his loo-tenent.”   
 
“You ain’t my loo-tenent.”
 
The prominent teeth topped off a gaping mouth.  “I ain’t?”
 
“No, you ain’t”
 
“Well who is, if’n it ain’t me?” Kyle demanded.
 
“It’d better not be me,” the Preacher muttered from the bunk in the corner.
 
“I ain’t decided yet.”  Wheat scowled over at the bunks.  “What’s wrong with bein’ my right-hand man?” 
 
Hank plonked a half-gallon jug on the table before lifting a shot glass and frowning at the cobwebs gathered at the bottom.  “It sure looks like we ain’t had call to celebrate for a while.”
 
“There’ll be plenty more good jobs to follow, boys.”  Wheat poured himself a drink from the leader’s bottle.  “Fill your glasses and let’s have a toast to the new Devil’s Hole Gang.”
 
Hank nodded and gathered a gob of spittle in the back of his throat.  The projectile obliterated even the most obstinate stains before they were swept away with a grimy cloth.  “Drink up,” the amber liquid was slopped into the waiting receptacles.  “Not you, Wheat.  You got your own.” 
 
“Yeah, I do.”  He lifted the bottle and poured himself another slug of store-bought whiskey.
 
“So who’d ya want to have as your loo-tenent, Wheat?”  Hank propped his heels on the table.
 
The moustache bristled in thought.  “I need a man of quality.  Someone I can trust.  He ain’t gonna be the kinda fella who’d steal from his own grandma.”
 
“Hey!  That were never proved,” Kyle protested.
 
“He’ll watch ma back no matter how hot things get,” Wheat continued.
 
“I only ever look after a man’s immortal soul,” the Preacher swept up a glass from the table.  “If’n he wants to keep flesh on his bones he’d better make sure he don’t cross me.”
 
Wheat narrowed his eyes and threw back his drink. “I guess I’m lookin for some kinda special outlaw.  One who’s the best at everythin’?”
 
“A special outlaw?  Ain’t ya afraid he’d best ya in a fight and take the Hole from ya,” Lobo chuckled.
 
“Na, if’n he was that good he’d take over a bank; not this god-forsaken backwater,” Hank grumbled.  “We’re the only dang fools stupid enough to stay here.  Sneak in, sneak out, and live in a hole.  Hell, a gang of talented prairie dogs could take over from us.”     
 
The newly-posted leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang poured himself another drink and ignored the back-slapping, howls of disrespect reaching the rafters.
 
“We’re the best.  We just rode off with almost fourteen thousand dollars didn’t we?  We’re invincible.”
 
“We’re only foolin’ with ya, Wheat,” grinned Kyle.  He paused and stared into his moonshine.  “Ah’d like to be invisible.”
 
The moustache twitched in curiosity.  “Huh?  I said ‘invincible’ not ‘invisible.’”
 
“If’n I was invisible I could walk straight into any bank and take all the money I wanted.”
  
“That wouldn’t work,” Lobo laughed.  “They’d see the money walkin’ straight out the door on its own.”
 
“Ah’d have an invisible bag,” Kyle asserted.
 
“Yeah?  How ya gonna spend it if folks can’t see ya?” Wheat demanded.
 
Kyle sat back and pondered this mystery until his eyes glazed.  “I could spend it at Miss Kitty’s.  They ain’t gonna care if they can’t see me.  Heck, I might even do better.”
 
Hank threw back his head and laughed.  “I reckon ya might at that, Kyle.  Betsy might turn ya a trick if she don’t have ta look at ya.”
 
“What’d ya gonna do about the smell?” Lobo guffawed. 
      
Kyle pulled a face and threw a tin mug at his comrade.  “What about you, Hank?  If you was ta be the best outlaw ever, what’d you be able to do?”
 
“Me?  I guess I’d be the sneakiest, slipperiest cow-poke you’d ever seen.”
 
Wheat frowned.  “How’d ya reckon that’s what’d make ya the best outlaw?” 
 
“I’d be able to get in anywhere, no matter how well it was locked up.”  Hank swung back on his chair.  “No jail could ever hold me and no safe could keep me out.  I could steal anythin’.”
 
The group looked wistfully around until Kyle spoke again.  “That’s a good ‘un.  What about you, Lobo?”
 
“Me?  I guess I’d be smart.  So smart I wouldn’t have to pull a gun on folks.  They’d just hand it over to me like I deserved it.  Forget the fountain of youth; I want the fountain of smart.”
 
“Ya want ta go work at Miss Kitty’s,” Kyle snickered through a mouthful of baccy sauce.  “I’ve seen men hand it over like there’s no tomorrow in her place.”
 
All eyes turned to the man in the bunks.  “So?  What would you want to be best at, Preacher?”
 
“I’d want what I already got, I guess.  I’m good enough of a shot to look after myself, but I ain’t gonna make a fuss about it and try to be the best.”
 
Wheat frowned.  “Why not?  What wrong with bein’ the best?  Ain’t ya a good enough shot ta hold ‘em off?”
 
“Folks only want to bring ya down when you’re at the top.  Fools’ll be linin’ up to try to best me.  There ain’t no sense in drawin’ fire unless ya can help it.  That’d be as sensible as holdin’ a square dance in a rowin’ boat.”  He shook his head.  “Nah, I’m happy to stay in the background.  Romans 8:28; and we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  I’m good at stayin’ in the background” 
 
The outlaws watched in silence at the prominent Adam’s apple signalled the downing of the whiskey before they turned to Lobo.  “So?  What’d you be Lobo?”
 
“Me?  I’d be the best rider you ever saw.”  The face split into an unsavoury grin.  “I’d outrun any posse.  Nobody could ever catch me.”
 
The room resounded with yucks of general agreement before the Preacher’s voice drifted over from the corner again.  “Ya do know you just described Heyes and Curry, don’t ya?”
 
“We never...”
 
The dark head nodded.  “Think about it.  Ya did; ya just lost your best outlaws.”  He pulled his hat over his face and put his hands behind his head.  “Congratulations, Wheat.  Ya got a tough act to follow.”
 
“Who asked you?” Wheat blustered.  “This ain’t none of your business.”  He banged an angry fist on the table and stared in disbelief at the empty wooden table top.  “Which one of you took ma special bottle of whiskey?  Kyle!  Where’d he go!?”
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Keays

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PostSubject: Re: Outlaw Olympics   Fri Mar 14, 2014 9:58 pm

Outlaw Olympics



They waited, quiet as deer mice with a cat on their trail. Heyes had dismounted and was standing by the Kid's horse in an effort to keep both animals still. They listened, barely daring to breathe as the deputies out on the trail argued about what they should do.


“They couldn't 'a just disappeared that fast,” Willie Stroker insisted. “They're probably just inside the tree line.”


“What difference does it make?” Mike Rotch complained. “Ya' can't see further than yer own nose in there; we could ride right past them and not even know it.”


“We best get after 'am,” Phil McCracken stated. “Will's right. They can't have gone far or we'd 'a heard 'em.”


“I donno,” Mike backed off. “Kid Curry without a gun and his hands tied is one thing, but bangin' around out there in the dark—knowin' he's loose and got a gun? I don't care how much he's worth....”


“He still don't have a gun,” Will offered by way of incentive.


Mike sent him a look that would have striped Willie's hide if it hadn't been so dark out. “Well Heyes sure as hell had a gun and with only one gun between 'em, just who do you think is gonna be usin' it?”


“It's a moot point anyways,” McCracken broke in on the argument. “I for one don't want to have to tell Harry Dicks that we not only had Hannibal Heyes in our midst and didn't arrest him, but that we also lost Kid Curry to boot. I say we go after 'em!”


“Well I say only a fool would go after them two in the woods, in the dark,” Mike snarked back. “It's just askin' ta' get shot!”


“Well Dicks put me in charge,” McCracken pointed out, “and I say we go after 'em!”



Inside the cover of woods and darkness, Heyes was frantically trying to untie the Kid's hands. They could hear which way this conversation was going and they knew they had to get out of there fast.


“Hurry up!” Kid complained in a stage whisper.


“Well I can't see what I'm doing!” Heyes groused back just as quietly.

Heyes continued to fumble with the knots until he finally felt them beginning to loosen. Then Heyes' horse took a step forward and not only snapped a twig, but let out a soft whinny as well. The two outlaws froze and stared back towards the small posse.



“What was that?” Willie asked, instantly looking towards the woods.


“That sounded like a twig snapping,” Mike observed.


“And a horse whinnying,” Phil added. “You're right! They're just inside the woods there. C'mon boys; let's go get 'em!”


Encouraged by the fact that the outlaws were still so close the three deputies booted their horses to the edge of the woods and plunged into the darkness, anticipating an early capture.



“Crap!” Heyes cursed under his breath.


He pulled on the ropes that bound the kid's hands and between the two of them, got the binding to come loose. Kid grabbed up the reins to his horse and Heyes made a run for his animal.


“Don't wait for me Kid! Go!”


Kid booted his horse and the animal jumped forward, disappearing into the darkness. Heyes' black gelding had no intention of waiting for Heyes either and he was instantly on the run, following his companion. Heyes didn't care; he already had the reins wrapped around the saddle horn, so all he had to do was grab the horn and the pommel. As the horse took off, Heyes gave a little kick and that, along with the momentum of the animal itself, he sprang up into the saddle like an athlete onto a balance beam.


Kid held on for dear life and gave the horse it's head. He was riding blind and just hoped that the horses could see better in the dark than he and his partner could. Then he hoped that the horse wouldn't inadvertently take him under a low hanging tree branch and send him flying into the ground. He and Heyes both ducked down as low over their horses' necks as possible, feeling branches scarping against legs and foliage slapping them in the face. But they hung on for dear life and kept going.


Curry felt his horse suddenly disappear out from under him. They'd come upon a shallow gully and not seeing the drop off in the dark, the horse had literally galloped out into thin air. Kid felt his stomach lurch as they fell and he still hung on to the saddle horn for all he was worth. The jarring as the horse hit dirt vibrated up through his arms then he hit head first into the horse's neck, thinking for sure he had broken his nose. He and the horse slid half way down the decline and stopped.


Both Jed and the horse tried to get to their feet despite being battered and bruised but Heyes and his horse came right down on top of them. The second comers hit so hard that Kid's horse was sent skidding down the rest of the way to hit bottom amidst a showering of pebbles and dirt and rising dust. Kid scrambled away from his animal as quickly as he could and now that they were more in the open, with a full moon coming up he could see the wreck that their escape attempt had become.


His own horse scrambled to its feet and trotted away, bruised but not broken. Heyes' horse was laying on its back with all four feet in the air and he was looking at Curry with beseeching eyes. He was stuck in this most indignant position with the dirt bank bracing him on one side and—Curry's heart did a flip—Heyes' body jamming him from rolling over on the other.


“Heyes!”


Curry ran towards them and the horse panicked and began to kick in its effort to get back on its feet.


“Whoa, easy!” Curry yelled in his fear and anger and grabbed the flailing reins in an effort to calm the horse before he did more damage to the man trapped beneath it.


But the horse was determined and kicking and thrashing at the air even more now, it finally was able to push its balance over to the side. The animal rolled over, completely covering Heyes with its body until it arrived on its chest and then heaved itself up onto its feet. Heyes was laying face down and half buried in the soft dirt at the base of the decline.


“Heyes!”

Curry ran forward and skidded to his knees beside his partner. He grabbed the blue shirt and began to pull his friend up, brushing away the dirt and pebbles as he did so. Heyes started to cough and sputter as the Kid hauled him into a sitting position.


“Jeezus Heyes! Ya' alright?”


Heyes continued to cough and then spit as he tried to get the dirt out of his mouth and nose.


“Depends,” Heyes gasped. “Feels like the bloody horse crushed my lungs.” And he coughed some more just to prove the point.


“Yeah, but he didn't, cause you're still breathin! C'mon, we gotta go unless ya' wanna have them posse horses comin' down on top of ya' too.”


Kid gave him a slap on the shoulder, then stood up and started walking away.


“Well give me a hand!” Heyes yelled at him, panic sounding in his voice at the thought of more horses dropping in.


“What, can't ya' stand up on yer own?”


“Just give me your hand!” Heyes snarked.


Kid came back and taking Heyes' hand, gave a heave and helped to pull him up out of the hole the horse had dug him into. Both men suddenly looked up at the sound of more horses crashing through the foliage and they knew they had to get a move on.


They turned to the horses and catching up the reins, scrambled aboard as quickly as they could.  Then just as Curry booted and Heyes hat thrashed their horses into a gallop, they heard the first of the posse horses come tumbling down the decline. They kept the horses galloping, staying in the gully where they could at least see where they were going and hoped that they could gain some distance while the posse recovered from that unexpected sudden drop.


They pushed the horses as fast as they dare, keeping their eyes on the track ahead of them but also looking for a good place to exit this one way street. They had to get lost again—out of sight and out of sound before the deputies could get up and carry on.


Finally the gully itself began to level out. The high embankments on either side gradually sloped down until the only difference between the gully and the woods was the line of trees and foliage still crowding in on either side of the pebbly track.


After what seemed an eternity, Heyes pulled his horse up and Kid stopped along side him. They both sat quiet for a moment and listened for any telltale sounds of pursuit. The two horses were steaming with sweat and breathing heavy but the two men held their breath and stained to listen. Aside from the noise their own group was making, the night came back quiet.


“You think we lost 'em?” Kid asked breathlessly.


“Nope.”


“Me neither.”


“We gotta find a place to hole up for the rest of the night,” Heyes suggested. “These horses are about done in.”


“Yeah, they ain't the only ones,” Kid responded. “I'm hungry.”


“I know,” Heyes said choosing not to tease his partner about his appetite at this junction. Kid hadn't eatin in ages and even Heyes had to admit that he could feel his belly button scraping against his backbone. “We'll find a place for the night and check the saddle bags. Maybe there's something edible in them.”


They got the horses moving again and disappeared into the woods. After half an hour of carefully picking their way through the foliage the cousins came across a small creek. By the light of the full moon they could see across it to a pebbly bank that led up to an escarpment that was streaked with deep crevices. Heyes pushed his tired horse across the fetlock deep water and followed the creek along until they came to an indentation that was wide enough for them to all get into, and deep enough to hide them from casual eyes.


They dismounted and coaxed the hesitant horses to walk in-between the high walls on either side of them until they actually found a circular section that was big enough for them to settle into. They dared not untack the horses, nor start a fire so it was going to be an uncomfortable night for all of them. Nobody was planning on sleeping anyways.

Once the horses became comfortable with their cramped surroundings, they settled and even found some scrub grass to munch on. Both Heyes and Curry took the opportunity to search through the saddlebags in hopes of finding something—anything to eat.


“Dammit,” Heyes mumbled.


“What?”


“There's a pouch of flour in here, but we dare not make a fire,” Heyes groused. “I suppose if we get real desperate we can always eat dough. Oh wait—what's this.”


“Ya' find somethin'?” Kid asked hopefully.


Heyes took a cloth out of the bag and unwrapped it. “Yeah, there's some left over flapjacks—a couple of 'em and some jerky.”


“I got a can of beans!” Kid announced but then frowned. “We'd havta use your knife to open it though and that could be noisy. Do we risk it?”


Heyes came over to the Kid and they sat down against one of the dirt walls to inspect their bounty.


“I don't think we got a choice,” Heyes said as he pulled his small knife out of his boot. “I'm hungry enough but you must be close to passin' out. Can't have that. I might need ya' to watch my back. We'll do it fast and hopefully nobody will hear it.”


“Well use your glove or somethin' ta' muffle the sound.” Curry suggested.


“Oh, yeah.”

Heyes pulled off his glove and placing the tip of the knife against the top edge of the lid, he placed his glove over the handle, then pulled out his gun and gave the knife a quick tap. The point sank through the tin lid and almost half way up the shaft. The partners grinned at each other; it hardly made any noise at all. Heyes pulled the knife out and and setting the tip again, repeated the tap.


With both of them salivating in anticipation, Heyes quickly went around the whole lid until it fell into the beans. He fished the piece of tin out and grabbing first one and then the second flapjack, he shovelled the beans out onto the edible plates and handed one to his cousin. Silence, except for the smacking of lips settled over the make shift camp as the two men devoured the bean and flapjack sandwiches.


The dripping beans made a mess, but neither of them cared. Any excess beans in the can were quickly dragged out into waiting hands, then chins were wiped off and fingers licked clean.


“Ohh, the only bad thing about that is that there ain't no more,” Jed sighed now that his belly at least had something in it.


Heyes handed him a couple of strips of jerky. “Here, gnaw on that. Sure could use a cup of coffee, but I guess water's gonna havta do.”


“Hmm. Ya' think there's any fish in that creek?”


“Probably,” Heyes confirmed, “but I don't wanna be standin' out in the open, trying to catch them.”


Jed nodded as he chewed on the jerky. “Yeah, good point.”


“We'll just rest up here till we get some light and then we'll be on our way,” Heyes said. “I still got some money on me so the next town we come to we can get us some real food.”


“Yeah, I got some money too,” Kid confirmed and then grinned. “I'm actually feelin' pretty good right now.”


“I'm not,” Heyes grimaced. “My rib cage is aching plenty.”


Kid frowned in concern. “Ya' didn't break nothin' did ya'?”


“No,” Heyes shook his head, “but my lungs didn't take too kindly to being a mattress for a horse.”



Later that morning, just as the horizon was beginning to lighten, the partners got themselves and their horses ready for travel. Coming out from their little cubby hole all four of them were moving slow and stiff from the previous days acrobatics and they could only hope that with movement and the warmth of the coming sun they would soon be put to rights.


A cautious look around convinced them that they were alone so with a final check to their gear, they mounted up and silently disappeared into the woods.


Within an hour they had finally broken clear of the woods and found themselves in more open country. The only downside to this was that they would now be more visible to their pursuers and the need to put as much distance between themselves and the posse weighed heavy on their shoulders. Despite everyone's soreness the horses were pushed up into an easy ground covering lope and the miles disappeared behind them.


By 10:00 that morning the bay that Heyes was riding began to limp and instead of becoming easier with the warming sun, the horse's stride was growing more and more broken and stumbling. Heyes gritted his teeth and tried to make himself keep the animal going, but having a soft spot for horses was not always advantageous to outlaws. Half an hour after the limp had begun to exerted itself Heyes cursed and with a regretful shake of his head pulled the animal up. He just couldn't bring himself to run the horse into the ground.


“I gotta get off and walk him, Kid,” he announced as he swung his leg over the cantle and stepped to the ground.


“Yeah I know,” was Jed's resigned reply. “Hopefully we've put enough miles between us and them by now.”


“Why don't you go on ahead,” Heyes suggested. “You get to the next town you can come back for me with a fresh horse.”


Jed sent him 'the look' and Heyes shrugged knowing before he'd even said it that it wasn't going to happen. Kid nudged his horse into motion again, keeping it to a quiet walk while Heyes and the limping gelding followed along beside them.


Forty minutes later the bay stopped in his tracks. He was nearly falling with every step he took and he decided that just staying right where he was and spend the rest of the day grazing sounded like the best idea he'd had all day. Heyes clucked to him and then pulled the animal's head from side to side in an effort to unlock his locked up legs. Nope. Curry came around behind the injured horse and yelling at him, slapped him on the rump with the reins but to no avail. The little bay was not going to move another step.


“Well that's it,” stated the Kid. “Best get on behind me Heyes. He'll follow along when he's ready.”


“We can't just leave him here,” Heyes argued. “He'll die out....”


Then everybody jumped when a rifle shot sounded from some distance behind them. The little bay didn't rear or even squeal. He simply grunted once, his legs crumbled beneath him and he sank, almost gracefully to the ground. Heyes stared at him in mute surprise as another shot followed close on the first and dirt sprang up under the feet of the black gelding. That horse did rear in fright and fought with the Kid to take off away from the unseen predators.


“Heyes!” Kid yelled. “C'mon!”


Heyes didn't argue this time, and grabbing the Kid's outstretched hand, he swung aboard behind the saddle and the race was on.


More shots sounded out behind them but none found their mark. The black, finally being allowed to run, dug in with his hind quarters and was now flying across the open country with no other thought but to get away. Heyes hung on to the cantle with both hands in order not to be ejected from his precarious perch on the horse's power-housing backside but he still added his voice to the Kid's in encouraging the animal to run faster.


Jed was focusing on the terrain ahead and also searching for some change in the landscape that might offer them some cover. It didn't take a course designer to know that a two-manned horse wasn't going to be able to keep up this speed for long and he sure wouldn't be able to out-run the lesser burdened posse horses. Still the black gave it all he was worth; mouth gaping with the exertion and nostril flared to drag in as much oxygen as he could his muscles strained to carry the handicap and his legs pounded the earth in his effort to win the race.


What seemed an eternity later, Jed spotted a copse of trees up ahead and he booted the horse straight towards the edge of it. As soon as they were up to it and out of sight of the pursuing lawmen, Kid pulled the sweating, trembling animal to a halt. Heyes slid off the rump of the dancing horse and Jed jumped down right after him. Both men yelled and waved their hats at the solid fellow and now free from his burden the gelding powered up again. In a cloud of lose dirt and spraying pebbles he took off outa there with the hopes of never being seen by these men again.

Holding his chest, Heyes followed the Kid inside the tree line and as soon as they could, they slid down behind a log and tried to slow their racing hearts. They could hear the sounds of the posse's horses galloping closer and both men actually stopped breathing as the lawmen came into sight. The pounding of hooves on dirt, the squeaking of leather and the jangling of bits competed with the yells of the men as the posse galloped past them.


The partners waited, barely breathing as they listened to the sounds of the galloping horses quickly diminishing with distance. Then finally, as silence took over again they both drew in huge lung fulls of air and let out relieved sighs.


“Oh, that was close,” Heyes breathed as he rolled over into the cooling grasses. He continued to hold his chest as he listened to his own heart pounding.


“Yeah, but now we're on foot,” Curry complained, “with no food, no water and only one gun between us. Tell me how this could be worse.”


A rifle shot and bark twirling into the air gave him his answer. Both men scrambled to their feet and made a dash away from the sound. Totally unplanned by them, yet somehow inevitable, they found themselves out on open ground and by reflex alone they both began to run.

Another shot and dirt sprang up in front of them and they changed direction. Then a horse was there blocking their way. They skidded to a halt and changed direction again but another horse was suddenly coming at them. The horse ploughed into both of them, forcing them backwards until they could scramble away from it. They turned and with sinking hearts found themselves surrounded the the same three deputies they had escaped from the night before.


Then they spied Marshal Dicks and the remaining deputies trotting around the far edge of the copse. The ruse had worked. Having galloped past the point where the outlaws had jumped ship, the posse had split up, half of them continuing to gallop away from the hiding place to make their quarry think they were in the clear. Meanwhile the other half of the posse had quietly doubled back and ambushing the unsuspecting outlaws, had driven them out into the open.


Marshal Dicks rode up with a big smile shining through the dirt and sweat on his face.


“Goin' somewhere, were ya'?” he asked them with a smirk. Then the smile dropped. “Search 'em,” he ordered. “Then tie their hands behind them. And don't forget about Heyes' lock pick!”


Half an hour later, the two captives were limping along side by side, completely surrounded by posse horses and rifles. Their hands were tied snugly behind them, their feet hurt and they were both hungry again.


“I'm waitin' Heyes,” Curry mumbled.


“For what?”


“For you to figure us a way outa this.”
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Nancy Whiskey

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Location : The Rusty Bucket Saloon

PostSubject: Re: Outlaw Olympics   Fri Mar 21, 2014 5:58 pm

A silly short one this month from me, also two birds with one stone, Olympic and a daft wee limerick. 

ooOoo


 Two outlaws they pledged to go straight,
To win amnesty they'd to wait.
They were handsome and bold,
At crimes they'd won the gold,
 But were used and were fleeced by the State!

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

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PostSubject: Re: Outlaw Olympics   Sat Mar 22, 2014 8:03 pm

Losers, Weepers





Gabriella looked around the yard, a frown creasing her brow.  She had been sure she’d caught some kind of movement out of the corner of her eye; but only butterflies fluttered quietly around the vegetable plot in the corner and the drying clothes flapped harmlessly in the breeze.  The cat sat on top of the water butt with its hind leg stretched out at an impossible angle so it could reach some cranny which required the attentions of a rough tongue, but broke off from its ablutions to give her a curious emerald stare.  She wiped her hands on her apron and returned to the kitchen, sighing at her own imaginings.



She cut the dough into lumps and dropped them into the tins.  It would take a couple of hours for the bread to prove in front of the range and the evening meal was already on a slow heat so there was time to catch a precious moment of peace with her new book.  Father was at work and her mother was visiting with friends.  The little home was an oasis of peace for a change.  She stripped off her apron and hung it on the hook behind the door.  She’d started ‘Little Women’ just the day before and wanted to know if Jo got her copy of ‘Undine and Sintram.’  Was that a good book, she wondered?  Was it worth her while seeking it out?  



She picked up her book from her nightstand and made her way into the hallway; stopping short when a silky voice caressed nerves which suddenly tightened to breaking point.



“Hello, Gabby.”



She swirled around, her heart thumping in her breast.  “Jed!?  How did you get in here?” 



He arched a brow.  “Don’t ask silly questions.”



“I haven’t seen you for months.”



“Well, you wouldn’t,” he folded his arms.  “I was locked up after the law grabbed me when I was with you.  Marshal Marcus Schaeffer claimed the reward didn’t he?”  He watched her gulp heavily.  “It was him, wasn’t it?”



Her knuckles whitened on the book she grasped.  “I guess so.  How should I know?”  



“You’re gettin’ married to him in May.”



“We don’t talk about you.  We have better things to discuss.”



Kid Curry watched the green eyes waiver.  “You’ll be a beautiful bride.”



“Thank you.”  The book was raised to her chest like a shield.  “How have you been?”



“Oh, you know.  Runnin’, gunnin’ and cunnin’,” his hands dropped to his hips, followed by her cat-like eyes all the way before they darted fearfully to his holster.  “Not as well as you, but good enough to hold things together.  I hear your fiancé got ten thousand dollars reward for my capture.”



Gabriella bit into her lip.  “I’ve thought of you often, Jed.  Truly I have.”



“I’ll bet.”  He reached up and pulled off his hat.  “Let’s go into the kitchen.  We can have a cup of coffee, like civilized people.  I always try to be real nice first.”



“First?”



He nodded.  “If that doesn’t work there’s a whole range of options, but let’s try to be friendly, huh?”



Gabriella stiffened.  “You can’t stay.  Mother will be back soon and so will father.  They’ll call for the sheriff.”



The blue eyes narrowed.  “Nope.  She’s at the Creswell place helpin’ with the birthin’ of the new babe.  The last I saw, the Doc was headin’ out there too.  I doubt she’ll be back before dark.”  He grinned widely.  “You pa is kinda tied up at work right now.  We’ve got plenty of time, darlin’.”



“For what?”  



He grasped her hand and led her firmly back towards the kitchen.  “For a talk.” 



Gabriella felt herself placed into the kitchen chair by the hands which sat on each of her shoulders and gulped hard.  “We have nothing to talk about.”



“No?” Jed Curry leaned against the dresser and crossed his ling legs casually at the ankles.  “I’m not one to tell a lady what to do but you have a choice between dealin’ me or Heyes.”



She blanched.  “Hannibal Heyes?”



“He wanted to come himself, but I talked him out of it.”  The blue eyes hardened.  “He seemed to think my judgement isn’t the best when it comes to you.”



A glimmer of hope flared, lighting up her smile.  “I’d never hurt you, Jed.”



He pinned her with a hard stare.  “I convinced him that you weren’t gonna get around me this time.  Ya gotta give it to Heyes; he doesn’t look down on women.  He’ll give you just the same chance as any man.  How does it feel to be equal, Gabby?  I read that some women are fightin’ for that out East.”



“He’s going to hurt me?” she gasped.



Dubious eyes examined her.  “And why should he want to do that, Gabby?  What did you do?”



“I...he...I don’t know!”  Tears stung the back of her eyes.  “I didn’t do anything to you.  I promise.  I would never...”



He cut her off.  “Sure ya wouldn’t.  I was just a lonely saddle bum, but your pa would never have approved, so we had to meet in secret.  The law stumbled onto us by sheer dumb luck.”



“Nonsense,” her bottom lip protruded prettily.  “You were never lonely.”



“Yeah, I gotta give ya that one.  Heyes was never very far away, but you never knew it,” a wry smile twitched at his lips, “I kinda had my hands full that night didn’t I?”  He watched her flush at the memory of their intimacy.  “He never trusted you.  I really should’ve listened to him.”



She stood.  “How can I convince you that I never did anything to you?  I was devastated when the lawmen turned up.”  Gabrielle dropped her blonde head, “not to mention frightened.  Didn’t it occur to you that being surrounded by all those gunmen would be terrifying for me?”



“Yeah, it did and I felt real sorry for you, until Heyes pointed somethin’ out to me.”  The Kid took her by the shoulders and set her back in the chair.  “The tears dried up real fast and you got close and cozy with one of the men as soon as they’d got me in handcuffs.”  He watched her eyes widen before he continued.  “Heyes was lookin’ out for me and saw you, darlin’: you and the young marshal.  His name is Marcus Schaeffer.”  He stepped towards her, holding her gaze all the way.  “We found out that he’d collected the reward money and had all kinds of information on where I’d be.”  His brows gathered suspiciously.  “Now where’d you think he’d have gotten that from?”



“It wasn’t from me,” Gabriella grabbed his hand and started kissing the knuckles.  “I love you.  I’d never hurt you.”



“Love?”  He pulled his hand back sharply.  “You love what I’m worth, but I guess that’s only fair.  It wasn’t everlastin’ for me either, darlin’.  Do you expect me to believe that you’re suddenly engaged to the man who had me arrested?”



“It wasn’t sudden,” Gabriella pleaded, “he was so lovely to me that night.  I simply responded to his kindness.”



“You responded to the dollar signs flashin’ before your eyes when you saw me walk down the street that day.  You went straight into your damsel in distress act, askin ‘me for help because you thought a man was followin’ you.”  He shook his head ruefully.  “Heyes is always tellin’ me I’m a sucker for a pretty face.  I guess now I know the truth I agree with him.”



“I did need help.”



“Heyes has been sparkin’ a local girl to find out all about you.  You were on a train we robbed so you’d seen me before.  Why is it you keep claimin’ to be completely innocent, but you failed to share that with me.”  He leaned forward, looming over her.  “Explain to me why would you look for help with from a known outlaw over almost any other man in the town?”  



The curls trembled as she shook her head in denial.  “I never...”



“We made it our business to find out about you, Gabby.  The Devil’s Hole gang don’t take kindly to bein’ double crossed.”  He stood upright and gave her a hard stare.  “So, the question is, what am I goin’ to do with you?”



“I’ll scream!”



“Yeah, I expect you will.”  He nodded, sagely.  “It took three weeks before the gang was able to spring me.  It was a real stupid decision to transport me by train but one I’ll always be grateful for.”  The Kid started to pace.  “A man can build up a powerful amount of anger in that time.  Thinkin’ ain’t good when it’s the same thought runnin’ around and around a man’s mind with no place to go.”



“What are you going to do?”  She gripped the arms of the chair and started to breathe heavily.



He turned and folded his arms.  “You tried to take twenty years of my life in exchange for a few dollars.  What would you suggest?”  He watched her nostrils flare with her gasps of fear.  “You haven’t been stupid enough to believe the dime novels, have ya?  We’re criminals.  We lie, cheat, threaten and steal; in fact, we do just about anythin’ it takes to get what we want.  I don’t have ten thousand dollars on my head because I’m a church-goin’ shopkeeper who has their moral fiber already cut out for them; I make my own.  You thought you saw enough restraint in me not care what I’d do you; that I’m good man?”  He leaned forward, whispering in her ear as she trembled.  “I’m not.”



He stood upright again, drawing his gun at the sound of a door handle turning. 



“That’ll be my little sister coming home from school,” Gabriella wailed, tears streaming down her face.  “Don’t hurt her, please!  Do what you like to me but leave her be.”



The ice-blue gleam in his eyes hardened.  “I don’t hurt little girls, Gabby, and you’re lucky that you played this game with me and not some other outlaw.  Take this as a warnin’ and count yourself lucky you got off this light.”  He holstered his weapon and lightened up his demeanor to greet the little girl who wandered into the kitchen.



A girl in a starched, white pinafore smiled innocently up at the gunman.  “Who are you?” 



“My name is Kid Curry.  I came to see how your sister is.  We’re old friends.  Ain’t we, Gabby?”



The child’s china-blue eyes widened.  “Gabby?  You’re crying.  What’s wrong?”



The Kid darted a disdainful glance at Gabriella.  “She’s sorry I’m leaving is all, nothin’ for you to worry about.  Stand up and give me a hug goodbye.”



“You’re going?” Gabriella sniffed.



“Sure I am, right after you give me a hug.”  He felt her trembling arm reluctantly encircle his shoulders as her perfume filled his nostrils.  “All I needed was for someone to see me here, so I can go now,” he whispered.



She pulled back, confusion crowding her face.  “See you?” 



“Sure.  You want to play games?  I can do that too.  Heyes and the boys are robbin’ your pa’s bank while I’ve been here.  Heyes will have told him that I was afraid you might be pregnant.  He thinks I’m givin’ you the option of comin’ away with me without any chance of him interferin’,” he paused, “and collectin’ enough money from his bank to make sure we can make a go of it together.  I think you got a mess of trouble comin’ your way.”



“But we never...I never...”



“I know that and you know that, but it’s all down to what your pa and a bank full of customers are gonna believe. You; or a lover who’s considerate enough to try to take you away from all this and do the decent thing for his beloved.”



“But the gossip?”  She shook her head, helplessly.  “I’ll be ruined.”



“I wonder if the marshal will still want to marry the girl who everyone knows dallied with the outlaw.  Will you get your hands on the reward money he got?”  The Kid shrugged.  “I guess only time will tell, but either way I’ve done my best to make sure that you don’t gain out of this little game.  You played and you lost, Gabby.  Don’t ever be stupid enough to do anythin’ like that again.  Only a fool brings men like me to their door.”



Gabriella blinked back tears from her glittering eyes.  “But you’ve ruined me.”



Jed Curry paused at the back door.  “Ruined you?  You played and lost, darlin’.  You got off real light when I consider what a lot of men would have done to you.”  He tipped the brim of his hat.  “Learn from this, Gabby.  You might not be so lucky next time.  I’m bad; but evil is a completely different animal.”
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InsideOutlaw

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PostSubject: Re: Outlaw Olympics   Tue Mar 25, 2014 3:21 pm

“Got the tools loaded?” asked the Kid as he stood amidst a flurry of activity in the Hole.  Outlaws scurried from one building to the next; gathering their gear, packing their horses, and preparing for the latest Hannibal Heyes plan.




“Yep.  I got the flat-heads and Wheat’s got the spades.  Lobo’s carryin’ the picks,” said Kyle, stopping long enough to spew a brownish stream of chaw into the dust of the yard before rushing off to the bunkhouse. 




"Good.  Let the boys know we're leaving in an hour.  Anyone not ready gets left behind and left out of the loot,” Curry called out loudly to the small outlaw as he retreated.  The Kid turned his back on the frantic scene and walked into the leader’s cabin.  There, he found his partner leaning over the kitchen table, his hands resting on either side of a detailed diagram.  “Heyes, it’s almost time to go.  You still haven’t packed up your gear.”




“I know, I just want to go over these plans one last time,” said Heyes, not lifting his head from his perusal.  “If we don’t get the explosives placed perfectly, this bridge ain’t gonna come down.  I can’t risk only damaging it and having that train run across it.”




Curry nodded his agreement.  The last thing either of them wanted was to hurt or kill anyone in order to pull a job.  A train wreck would be a disaster.  He wondered what Heyes had planned.  He’d been characteristically vague when he outlined the plan to the men a couple of days ago, but he’d also evaded further questions from the Kid.  Knowing his partner, that meant only one thing—he knew he wasn’t going to like this plan.  Still, he hadn’t pushed.  Heyes had only been leader a short time and the responsibility was resting heavily on his shoulders.  The last thing the Kid wanted to do was add to his partner’s stress.




He went into Heyes’ bedroom and began pulling out clothes and stuffing them into the brocaded carpetbag his partner favored.  Spying their grandfather’s silver pocket watch on top of the pine dresser, he scooped it up, grabbed the bag, and walked back into the living room of the leader’s cabin.  “Here,” he said, getting Heyes to look up at him.  




He tossed the watch and Heyes caught it in one hand and shoved it in his vest pocket.  “Thanks, Kid.  Mind making sure the boys got everything?  I’ll be out in a minute.”  The dark head swiveled back to the diagram on the table and everything else was forgotten.




The Kid shook his head and mumbled, “Already did.”  He left the cabin with the carpetbag in hand.




OOOOOOOOOO




“How much further is it, Heyes?” asked Hank with a decidedly whiny note to his voice.  They’d been riding hard for four days and he was tired.  Heyes had said he wanted to get there fast enough to give the horses some rest before the job so they’d be fresh for the getaway, but this was as bad as having a posse chasing them.  Hank could feel a blister coming up in a very inconvenient place and he wriggled in his saddle trying to get more comfortable.




“We’re almost there,” snapped Heyes.  Sometimes it was like travelling with a gang of three-year olds instead of hardened criminals.  He glanced at his partner and rolled his eyes.  The Kid grinned back at him and he felt his spirits rising again.  This is what he lived for even if his men didn’t; planning the perfect theft, working out all the details, the thrill of pulling the job, and the sense of accomplishment at getting away with it all.  The money was secondary, but welcomed, too.




This job had been a tough one to plan.  The train was carrying a load of gold from the mines in Cripple Creek down Clear Creek Canyon to the mint in Denver, Colorado.  The canyon was steep and formed a corridor of cliffs along either side of the tracks making it a difficult location to pull a job, but the loot was too good to resist.   This end of the canyon, access was difficult but not impossible.  At the other end of the canyon lay the town of Golden, much too close and too well-staffed with lawmen.  He’d come up with a workable plan, but it wasn’t one his men were going to be happy with and he’d conveniently omitted the details when he briefed them on the job.  The level of grumbling he was going to endure would be ridiculous.




“Whoa,” said Curry, simultaneously lifting his arm to signal a halt and pulling his gelding to a sliding stop.




“Praise the lord,” said Preacher, wiping the sweat from his forehead.  The other outlaws came to a stop and gathered around their two leaders.  They were perched on an overlook and could see the canyon snaking its way down this side of the Continental Divide; the chasm flowing east with the river that carved it.  Far below them, were a set of train tracks perched on a narrow shelf of land parallel to the creek and leading to a tall bridge that spanned the roiling water at a steep drop-off where the tracks crossed to the other side.




“How’re we gonna get down there?” asked Wheat.




 Heyes pointed to the west and a narrow, precariously cut trail snaking down the cliff face.  




“What the hell…you tryin’ to kill us all, Heyes?” blustered the biggest outlaw.




“We can’t take the horses down that,” objected Lobo.  Preacher kept quiet; he’d learned a long time ago that saying ‘can’t’ to Heyes was like throwing down the proverbial gauntlet.




“We’re hiking it,” said Heyes, dismounting and handing his reins to Hank, who’d been tasked with caring for the horses.  He would take them to a nearby meadow and turn them loose in hobbles to graze for a while.  That night, he’d bring them in, grain them well, and make sure they were tacked up and ready to go before dawn.  This was the best job and he’d won it fair and square, by selecting the longest match Heyes had held in his fist last night.  Glancing down the deep cut in the earth before him, he forgot all about his saddle sores, feeling lucky to have gotten off so easy. 
 
“You heard him, boys,” yelled the Kid, “Start unpacking the gear and get ready to walk.  If you’ve got to relieve yourself, do it now.  We ain’t stopping for nothing on that trail.”




“I ain’t hikin’ down that,” snapped Lobo.




Curry’s eyes turned cold and he slipped the strap off his gun, squaring up to the man.  “What did you say?”  He could see Heyes talking to Wheat fifty yards away, looking down below them.




“C’mon, Kid, Heyes didn’t say nothin’ about hikin’,” Lobo kept his hands well away from his gun as he spoke.  “That’s gotta be three miles.  We won’t be able to walk by the time we get down there.”




“If you don’t walk now, I can guarantee you, you won’t have to worry about walking again,” said the Kid, leaving his threat hanging.




“@#$!!%” Lobo turned and stomped away, cussing.  Preacher and Kyle watched him go and then docilely went to unpack the horses.  They weren’t about to make any objections now that Lobo had pissed the Kid off.




Curry sighed and glanced over at his partner and the biggest outlaw in the gang.




“I want the last one perpendicular to that pine there.  Use some of that scrubby sage to hide it, got it?”  Heyes pointed to a lone tree several hundred feet down the tracks.




“Got it, Heyes.”




“We need to be done before five tonight.  The evening train’s due through at six.  I don’t want any sign of work to alert the engineer.  We can relax after that until the sun comes up.”




“I’ll see that it’s done by four,” said Wheat.  He walked back to his horse to gather his gear.  He could hear Lobo grumbling under his breath about the hike and he smiled.  “If’n I was leader of this gang, you wouldn’t be hikin’ no cliff.”




Lobo just glared at him and walked away.




“Hey, what’d I do?” said Wheat to Preacher, who shook his head.




“It ain’t what you did, Wheat, it’s what you don’t do,” said Preacher, leaving as well.




“Huh?  What’s that supposed to mean?” said the mustached man, resting his fists on his hips and looking at his small, tobacco-chewing partner for an answer.




“I reckon if’n you want to be leader, Wheat, you’re gonna have to learn how to say no to Heyes for the rest of us.”




An hour and a half later, a gang of dusty, sore outlaws trickled down the last pitch of the treacherous trail and gathered around their leader at the bottom.




“See, that wasn’t so bad,” said the Kid unconvincingly.  His feet were killing him.  Stacked-heeled cowboy boots weren’t meant for walking.  He looked enviously at his partner’s tall, black, flat-heeled boots.  Leave it Heyes to forget to mention a hike.  Even to him.




Kyle looked at his scraped hands.  He’d fallen, halfway down, and only Preacher’s quick reflexes had saved him from tumbling to his death.  He looked at the long, twisting trail.  How the hell did Heyes plan to get back up it with a shipment of gold?  He wasn’t any happier than the other men being kept in the dark about so much of the plan.  Heyes was up to something they weren’t gonna like. 




His supposed partner was still toadying up to the new leader of the Devil’s Hole gang.  The two men had walked off together and had their heads together.  He was getting irritated with Wheat, too.  The man had complained the whole way down, but far enough out of Heyes’ and the Kid’s range that they couldn’t hear him.  Ever since the gang had voted Heyes in as leader last spring after the law got Big Jim, Wheat had been playing on both sides of the fence.  He said he was taking Heyes’ measure, looking for his weak spots.  So far it didn’t look to the rest of the gang like Heyes had any weak spots.  Heck, he even had Kid Curry watching his back.  It looked to Kyle like Wheat was currying favor with his new boss and all it had gotten him was laughed at behind his back by the other men.




Preacher wearily dropped his pack and stretched his neck and shoulder muscles.  They must’ve each humped fifty pounds down that hillside.  He prayed that they wouldn’t be carrying more weight back up it.




Lobo, too, dropped the bundle of bronze pickaxes he’d been carrying and glanced around.  The landscape was barren except for a few willows here and there.  When the train came through, there’d be no place to hide.  What was Heyes thinking?




“All right, gather round, and listen up,” yelled Wheat.  He watched the surly men slinking over to him and Heyes.  Heyes had his diagram out and was studying it, ignoring his men.  They were going to hate this part of the plan.  Wheat knew he did.  It might just be enough for them to make him the new leader.  He caught the Kid looking at him speculatively and his smarmy smile widened into an innocent grin.  “Hurry it up, boys, we’ve got work to do.”




“What kind of work?” asked Lobo.  




Wheat was really enjoying himself now.  This was what he’d been waiting for.  “Heyes, here, wants us to dig ourselves some trenches.  Make ‘em three feet wide by six feet long and at least three deep.  You and Preacher are digging one over by that pine tree, me and Kyle will dig up ahead on this side of the bridge.  Heyes and the Kid will dig right over there,” he said, pointing towards the cliff.




“What?!” said the Kid, turning quickly to his partner.  Heyes smiled benignly at him and nodded. 
 “You didn’t say anything about digging.  I thought we’d be using those pickaxes on the rails.”




“You thought wrong,” said Heyes.  “We need places to hide until the train’s stopped.  You see anywhere to hide?  We’re digging.”




“I’d like a word with you.” Curry marched over, grabbed his partner by the elbow, and dragged him a few feet away from the men.  “You make these men dig all day and you’ll be looking at a mutiny.”




“You’ll keep ‘em in line, Kid.”




“Let me be real clear here, Heyes.  You make me dig all day and I’ll be leading that mutiny.”




“Is that any way to talk to your new leader?”  Heyes grinned.




“You ain’t my leader, you’re my partner.”  Kid growled and narrowed his eyes at his infuriating friend.




“And I’ll be digging right alongside you, partner.”  Heyes picked up one of the spades and a pickax and walked over to the cliff to begin digging.  “All right, boys, grab your shovels and get diggin’,” he hollered, “First ones done, get a bottle of my best whiskey and the rest of the day off.”




Preacher smiled, “Now you’re talking!”  He grabbed a shovel for himself and Lobo, leading the way to the pine tree. 




“C’mon, Wheat, they’s gonna get ahead of us,” said Kyle, grabbing his tools and hurrying towards the bridge.




Heyes hadn’t said anything to Wheat about good whiskey.  Damn it, the man knew how to handle his men.  Wheat grabbed a pickaxe and a shovel and rushed after Kyle, telling him to wait up.




Hours later, a cheer went up from the direction of the pine tree and Lobo and Preacher nearly ran back to their leader to receive their reward.  As promised, Heyes produced a bottle of fine Scotch whiskey and the two tired men went to sit in the shade cast by the cliff towering over them so they could enjoy their prize.  




It took Heyes and the Kid another twenty minutes to finish their pit and, by then, Wheat and Kyle had straggled in.  They’d heard Lobo and Preacher hooting and hollering and had taken their time finishing their task knowing that they had more work out ahead of them.  Wheat was picking at his blisters, but Kyle wore a happy smile.  He knew what came next.  Dynamite.  




“Good work,” said Heyes.  “Get yourself a canteen and go cool off while the Kid and me take a look at your trenches.”  He watched the two men get settled and then turned to his sweating, scowling partner.  The Kid hadn’t said a word to him while they were working and he knew he’d hear more than a few now.  “C’mon.  You can chew me out on the way over.”  He picked up his own canteen, unscrewed it, and handed it to his partner.




“I’m too hot and too tired to bother chewing you out.  Just tell me there ain’t no more digging to do,” said an exhausted Kid.




“There ain’t no more digging to do,” said Heyes before chuckling, “Now, you gotta climb.”




“What?!”




OOOOOOOOOO




“Put the next one four feet to your right,” yelled Heyes.  “No, to your right.  Your right, Kyle.  Dammit.  Towards Wheat.  Good.”  He stood on the left bank of the bridge and directed his partner and his two men while holding the diagram.  “Kid, yours goes six feet from that left-hand stanchion.  Easy now, take your time.  We aren’t in any hurry,” he said as his best friend clung to the tall bridge above him and fumbled for the next trestle before steadying himself.  He saw the curly blond head look down at the sheer drop below him and, a second later, heard some inventive language floating through air in his direction.  Satisfied, he smiled to himself.  They would be ready ahead of time.




He watched the three men carefully work their way back down to solid ground using the framework of the bridge as an ersatz ladder.  The Kid made it down first, gave his partner a disgusted look, and walked around him without a word, heading back to the two slightly drunken outlaws who’d been cheering them on.  While inebriated, Preacher and Lobo were smart enough to shut up as the Kid walked past them to the water.  He took off his hat and plunged his head into the icy, snow-melted water, coming up sputtering and shaking his hair.  Seconds later, Wheat and Kyle joined him, splashing water on their sweat-soaked clothes.  




Wisely, Heyes avoided his partner and his men for the next hour and worked on making dinner out of a salted haunch of pork he’d brought, some wild onions he’d gathered yesterday, and some canned beans.  The aroma of the meal beckoned his men and they soon joined him at the fire ring he’d built as they’d looked on.  He went to his pack and pulled out two more bottles of good whiskey, opening them both, and passing them around.  It wasn’t long before spirits were first drained, and then lifted, and talk blossomed around the warm fire.  He leaned back against his pack and closed his eyes.  He opened them again as he felt his partner settle next to him.




“How come you didn’t tell me what you had planned, Heyes?” asked the Kid.  He was hurt by his partner’s reticence and couldn’t keep the resentful tone from his voice.




Heyes smiled at him.  “I wasn’t sure what I had planned until we got here, Kid.  This was one of two plans and I didn’t want to upset anyone unnecessarily.”




“Even me?” said the Kid, frowning.




“Hey, aren’t you the one who says ‘as long as it ain’t too hard on my back?’”




A slow smile formed at the corners of Curry’s mouth.  “I reckon I have to admit I would’ve been bellyachin’ the whole way here.”




Heyes stared across the flames at his gang.  “This has to go well, Kid.  Those yahoots’ll cut our throats in our sleep if we mess this up.”




“It’ll go fine.”




“How do you know?” Heyes looked at his partner, skeptically.




“’Cause you planned it.  Now shut up and pass me that bottle you’re holding.”




At dawn, Heyes was up and standing by the tracks when the Kid rolled over and opened his eyes.  He saw his dark-haired friend bend down and put a hand on the rail then look west down the tracks.  Heyes stood up and walked back to the fire ring.  There were no flames this morning.  They couldn’t risk the smoke alerting anyone of their presence.  There’d be no hot coffee to warm their bellies, only the thought of all that gold they’d be hauling out of here.




“All right, boys, rise and shine,” said Heyes, as he walked about, kicking booted feet, and rousing his men.  “There’s cold biscuits and jerky for breakfast, but we’ll be eating steak and drinking champagne by dinner.”




Groans and grumbles greeted this statement as shaggy, sleep-worn heads popped out of bedrolls.  




“Kyle, you and Wheat roll up the bedrolls and get rid of them.  Lobo, you and Preacher sweep this camp clean.  I don’t want to see any signs we were here.  Train’ll be coming along in an hour so get your butts moving.”   He turned to the inert bedroll occupied by his partner and knelt down, shaking its occupant’s shoulder.  “Kid, c’mon, get up.  You’re setting a bad example for the men.”




“Will I be setting a bad example if I tear your arm off, Heyes?” Curry blinked his eyes open.




“I believe so,” grinned Heyes.  




“Ugh,” groaned the Kid, “my aches have aches.  Why did I ever let you talk me into outlawing?  Into anything?”




“It’s a serious character flaw, Kid.”  Heyes stood up and reached down to pull his partner to his feet.  The Kid yawned as Heyes whisked away the bedroll and tossed it to a waiting Kyle.




“All right, everyone to their holes.  Kyle, when the engine passes you and Wheat, hit the plunger.  Remember, you don’t come out until you hear explosion.  Count to ten so the train can stop and then run for it.”  




Heyes stood in the center of the camp with the Kid and watched as his men concealed themselves in their trenches.  Pleased that he could no longer see them, he walked back to the tracks and put his booted foot on the rail.  Smiling, he said, “Train’s coming.  Let’s go.”  He laughed happily and jumped into his own trench; the Kid following a second later.




They were smiling at each other as they heard the train whistle as it entered the canyon.  From their hole in the ground, they could feel the vibrations of the approaching engine and their anticipation sharpened. 




OOOOOOOOOO




It went like clockwork.  The bridge blew on schedule, causing the two-car train to stop just short of the ruined structure.  The explosion had caused such confusion that the outlaws had managed to leap on board and take charge of the train before the guards knew what was going on.  Not a shot had been fired.  




Heyes was grinning broadly as he held his gun on the engineer while his partner kept the stokerman covered and the train backed down the track away from the caved-in bridge, reversing its course.  He had already searched the compartment, discovering several concealed weapons he’d tossed out the window.




As the engine rolled backwards and the train emerged from the upper end of the canyon, Heyes pushed his gun into the engineer’s back and ordered, “Stop here.  We’re getting off.”  The surprised man hauled back hard on the brakes, causing them to squeal loudly as the train came to a shuddering standstill.  Instantly, a rider emerged from a stand of trees lining the broad meadow to the north and galloped towards them, leading six horses.




Heyes waited as his men unloaded the heavy, steel strongbox bolted to the boxcar’s floor.  Preacher and Lobo had easily busted it open with one of the bronze pickaxes while the train was backing up.  They now passed out bars of gold as the bound and gagged guards looked on.  The outlaws hurried to their horses, packed the saddlebags evenly, and mounted up.  Heyes pulled his silver pocket watch from his vest and glanced down at it before snapping it shut again.  He smiled, pleased with the efficiency of his new gang.  




Wheat led the Kid’s and Heyes’ horses to the engine and waited with his gun trained on the two railroad men as Heyes tipped his hat and dropped down the side of the engine and into his saddle.  Heyes also covered the two men as his partner descended and pulled himself onto his horse. 




 “Gentlemen, I’ve got another ten men in the trees covering us.  I suggest you get going now and don’t look back.  We’ll be watching you,” Heyes smoothly lied.  He produced a dimpled, broad smile and turned his horse, galloping to catch up with his men.  Wheat and the Kid covered the rear as they, too, fled the scene of the crime wearing huge, happy smiles.




The engineer swore loudly, released the brakes, and eased the train into reverse.  




“Who were those guys?” asked the bewildered stokerman, adding wood to the firebox.




“A bunch of no good, dirty outlaws too lazy to work for a living, that’s who!”

_________________
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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

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Posts : 107
Join date : 2014-03-27
Location : Paris

PostSubject: Race Ready   Thu Mar 27, 2014 11:24 am

"Now, show me what you’re worth !”

Looking intently in his eyes I gesture towards the Pierce and Hamilton 1868, hardly distinguishable in the half-light. He holds my gaze for a moment and then nods. He moves slowly to face the safe, lowers himself and sits on his heels, torso and head erect. His movements hold a catlike grace, unexpected on this lanky, scrawny frame. His jaw is tense, his face pale from lack of sleep and I can picture his eyes burning with anticipation. He flexes slender, musician’s fingers and sets both hands on the metallic surface.

Over several months we had the opportunity to go over the motions of safe manipulation a number of times. I am getting quite old and the stress surrounding everything else beyond my own task in the safecracking jobs starts wearing on me. It is about time to pass on my locksmith experience to someone that can build on it. It has been rewarding teaching him; he was an attentive and thoughtful pupil and ended up making short work of the couple of older models we have had to open in the recent jobs. This P&H though … The smooth mechanism of this newest model is too big a challenge even for me.

I know that the prospect of this heist has kept him sleepless those last few nights. Yet, now, he is calm and focussed. He closes his eyes, cutting himself from the world, and starts turning the lock with his right ear propped against the door. I can see he is now alone with the sounds and the sensations. He toys with the tumblers, willing them to produce the music that he seeks, like with the cords of an old, seasoned cello he didn’t really believe he would be allowed to hold. He is there, already inside the vault, ever alert to his objective, reaching it mentally before manipulation is completed. His expressive face is the very image of resolve.

His brow furrows in concentration before a small smile plays in his lips, then turns into a broad, dimpled grin as he pulls the safe door open. He seeks my eyes, the approval of his achievement, but his look is not needy, it is full of assurance.

I smile and nod wordlessly. I knew already he is the best. Now he knows it too …
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HelenWest

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Join date : 2013-09-09
Age : 55
Location : West of the Mississippi

PostSubject: Re: Outlaw Olympics   Sun Mar 30, 2014 1:55 am

“Hazy!” taunted Roy Treadway, the lock-picker for the notorious Red River Nine. The other men laughed at the nickname for the boy who had recently joined a gang of what was actually a dozen men.  Treadway was gleefully tormenting the new boy as the gang rode their horses slowly single-file along the side of a narrow, treacherous scrub-pine-lined ravine. The gang was on its way back to their remote hideout in the Texas panhandle after robbing a small town bank. They had made some canny turns and twists in their getaway. Now, with no pursuit close enough to see, the outlaws were taking it easy. Fifteen-year-old Hannibal Heyes was bringing up the rear, as usual.


“Oh Hazy, look sharp!” called the gang’s horse wrangler from a horse farther up the line. Heyes kept reading a book on the American Revolution that he had leaning on his saddle horn. He tried to pay no mind to the men teasing him with this offensive new nickname. But the boy’s lips twitched with suppressed anger.

“Hazy! Don’t ignore your elders and your betters, boy!” called Cliff Torey, the gang’s fastest gun, riding just in front of Heyes.

Heyes looked up from his book and opened his mouth to protest. At that moment a pine branch Torey had been holding smacked painfully into the teenager’s face. Heyes winced and pushed the branch out of the way, but he didn’t say anything about it as the men laughed again. The black eye Torey had given the boy for sassing him a few days before was still a bit sore.

“What’re you doing with that book, Hazy boy?” yelled back the hard-knuckled bruiser, Bart Crum, riding three horses up.

“Bettering myself!” declared Heyes stoutly in a surprisingly low voice for so skinny a boy.

“Ha! Waste of time, that!” laughed the Liverpool-born Treadway. “You’d do better to watch out for yourself and get out of the fog, Hazy!”

“The next time anybody calls me that . . .” started Heyes furiously.

“Shut up, Heyes!” called back John Richthofen, the leader of the gang. “Don’t make threats you can’t back up.”

The gang now was riding over the edge of the ravine and emerging onto the high desert. Richthofen yelled to the boy at the end of the line, “Put away the damned book, Heyes! We’ve got to ride fast and get out of sight. Wipe out our tracks for 20 yards. Go get yourself a pine branch and get to work.”

“But, boss, there’s no posse after us.”

“Do what I say, boy! Now! Before I cut you loose to starve again.”

Heyes put away his battered but precious book and pulled his skinny old horse to the side of the trail. He jumped down and wrenched a branch off of one of the scrub pines. He carefully swept away the gang’s tracks. By the time he was done wiping out the trail, the gang was nearly out of sight among the scrubby hills. Heyes could see only a cloud of dust ahead of him. The boy mounted up and galloped frantically after them. It took the youngster a long and anxious while to catch up with the gang on his tired gelding. It was nearly dark by the time he joined up with the back of the group. Nobody took any notice that he was back.

Heyes sat on a rock barely within the circle of light from the camp fire in the desert as he ate dinner. The older men ate in companionable pairs and threes. None of them cared to sit by the brooding boy.

“You’re on guard duty at 3:00 AM, Hazy,” said Treadway as he went to get another helping.

“Ain’t got a watch,” answered Heyes resentfully.

“Don’t worry. Smith will kick you when it’s time. Then you kick Cookie at dawn. You better not fall back asleep. We don’t want breakfast late.”

“Yeah, alright.”

“Alright what, Hazy?”

“Alright, sir.”

The ugly outlaw kicked up dust that landed in the boy’s food. Heyes bristled but was rapidly learning better than to complain.

When he had finished eating gristly, gritty antelope stew and had scrubbed his plate and spoon with sand, Heyes went to find Richthofen. The head man was leaning against a saddle.

“Boss,” said Heyes, “the guys keep giving me grief.”

The leader of the gang stopped picking his teeth with a cactus spine. “What do you expect? They do that with every new guy.”

“How do I get them to stop ragging on me and let me be?”

Richthofen laughed harshly. “You don’t like the nick names and the sand in your food? You stop ‘em.”

“But you’re the leader. If you said . . .”

Richthofen cut him off. “Yeah, I’m head man. So I got better things to do than wipe the nose of every brat who wants to try outlawing. This ain’t no charitable institution, boy, like that home for Waywards you and little Jed just ran away from.”

“Charitable institution! If you think . . .”

“Don’t sass me, Heyes! Didn’t I take you and Jed in and feed you when you was near starved?”

“Yeah, boss, and I appreciate it. But . . .”

“No buts. Just do your work. Follow orders and keep your place. You need to be studying outlawing, not that book. Earn your keep and you’ll keep eating.”

“Yes, sir.” The chastened Heyes turned to go.

Richthofen stopped Heyes, putting a hand on his shoulder. “I know you miss your little cousin. Bet he misses you, too. When we get back, if you want to go visit him at that ranch where he’s working . . .”

“No, sir. The head man told me to stay away. They don’t want outlaws like me around.”

Richthofen burst out laughing. “Outlaws like you want to be, you mean!”

“Yes sir. So the men can do what they like to me.”

“They can if you let ‘em.”

“But how do I stop ‘em, boss? They’re all so much bigger and got more time in the trade than me. And they can all outdraw me and have better guns. And their horses can all outrun mine any day.”

“There’s more ways to beat a man than by beating him to a pulp or shooting him down or beating him in a race, Heyes.”

The dark-eyed youngster stopped and considered that.

Richthofen told his youngest follower, “Would I have you in this bunch if I didn’t think you could do us some good? And not just by doing chores and wiping out tracks. Anybody can do that. You think about it, boy.”

“I ain’t a boy no more.”

“Ain’t you? Prove it to me. Prove it to them.” Richthofen pointed to the other gang members.

Heyes turned and went to find a soft place in the desert dust to lay his worn out blankets and shiver himself to sleep. He didn’t look forward to being kicked awake in the cold dark of 3:00 AM.

Two days later, the men of the Red Rock Nine were hanging around the hideout’s bunk house drinking or playing poker with their shares from the heist. They’d laze off until they had to work again on the next job.

Their boss was hard at work planning that next job. He knew better than to wait. Heyes wasn’t lazing, either. He was riding his lean old horse back and forth across the hills, practicing picking up small objects from the ground without dismounting. He had fallen a few times, but eventually he got to where he could pick up and ride off with a bag of pretend loot from a gallop.

“You’ve lost your mind, Hazy,” said Torey as boy came in to the bunk house that afternoon. “You’re gonna lame that old horse with all those games.”

That wasn’t Heyes’ last time practicing fancy riding, either. He kept at it nearly every day.

Late that afternoon as the day got cooler, Treadway went out back of the bunk house. He got out a little anvil and a hammer. Then he went to work on some slender steel strips, flattening them and turning them to just the right shapes. Heyes went out back and watched the lock specialist work on his picklocks. “What’s that one for, Roy?” asked the boy as Treadway worked on a long pick.

“None of your business, Hazy,” said Treadway. “And address me with respect!”

“Yes, sir,” responded Heyes modestly.

That evening Heyes brought Treadway’s dinner to him at the table. “What are you now, Hazy, a waiter?” asked the lock specialist.

“No, just being nice, Mr. Treadway, sir,” said Heyes cautiously.

The next day, when Treadway got out his anvil and hammer, Heyes was watching again. “Mr. Treadway, sir, would you please look at my picklocks and tell me what you think?” asked Heyes.

“Huh, sure,” said Treadway, surprised. “Say, that’s quite a set you’ve got there, Heyes. Where’d you get ‘em?”

“A few I was given by a friend at the home. But most of them I made them myself. It was the only way to get decent food and stuff – to steal it.”

“Rough place, huh? Here, let me show you how this long one works,” said Treadway, going to fetch a sample lock he had among his paraphernalia.

Richthofen looked out of his cabin window and nodded to himself.

The next job the Red River Nine pulled was a payroll rain robbery. IT went off like clockwork, with a pile of stones on the track to stop the engine. A few sticks of dynamite soon had the payroll safe opened. And off the gang rode, with young Heyes at the end of the line. His old horse couldn’t keep up with the others when they were going flat out, and that was what they were doing as they took off with the loot.

They went even faster when they found a posse on their heels. They had accidentally set this job too close to a little town with a good sheriff who was determined to bring the miscreants to justice – and to get the reward offered on Richthofen and the famous gunman Torey.

The gang was off through a high-desert canyon at top speed, trying to lose the posse among the rock formations. But the sheriff on a pinto horse kept his men close behind the Red River boys. At times Heyes could practically have spoken to the pursuing men.

As the pursuit took the gang near the side wall of the canyon, the big pinto with the blonde sheriff aboard was breathing down Heyes’ neck. Torey drew his gun and shot the sheriff out of the saddle. Heyes looked back in shock, watching the blood spurting from the sheriff’s chest as he fell almost on Heyes’ heels. The other gang members cheered. They knew how lucky they were to have such a formidable gunman on their side. But Heyes swallowed hard to keep from vomiting at the bloody sight.

The posse was soon furiously on the trail of the Red River Nine again. As the gang rode close under the lip of the canyon, there was a sudden small rock slide from above the gang. Pebbles and dust showered down. A rock the size of a baseball bounced off Torey’s gun hand. He dropped his prize Colt with a yelp. The pistol flipped through the air and landed by the creek running along the trail. The gun was a famous one that Torey had modified. He look back in anguish to have lost this weapon that could make the difference between life and death. But Torey didn’t dare dismount to get it – the posse was much too close.

Heyes, riding a few yards behind Torey, headed his horse toward the fallen gun. Without slowing down, Heyes leaned down from the saddle and scooped up the precious Colt in a single motion. Torey slowed his big chestnut long enough for Heyes to catch up and hand him back his prize weapon. Soon, Torey had shot down two more posse members. The posse dropped back again. It wasn’t long before the Red River boys had outdistanced their pursuit.

That night around the campfire, Torey told a rapt audience, “I tell you, Heyes had that broomtail of his at full gallop and he grabbed up that gun like it was child’s play. If he’s messed it up, it might have gone in the water, been lost forever. He didn’t hesitate and he got it.”

“Here’s to Hazy!” said Treadway, raising his flask.

“No,” said Torey, raising his own flask, “Here’s to Hannibal Heyes the outlaw.” Later that night, Torey quietly called Heyes over to his bedroll.

“Here you go, Heyes. A share of my share. You’ve earned it.” He handed Heyes a small roll of bills.

“Wow, thanks, Mr. Torey,” whispered Heyes, looking around cautiously as he pocked the cash. “I never got a share from a job before. Just my board.”

“Keep it up, Heyes, and this won’t be the last time,” said the gunman.

But if Heyes thought one heroic bit of riding would get him home safely with this gang, he was wrong. The next day on the getaway trail, he was back riding at the back of the gang. When he tried to stop Bart Crum from calling him Hazy around the campfire that night, Heyes got a smack for his troubles. Even Torey didn’t want to take on the roughest fighter in the bunch to save his new young friend. The gunman just ignored the whole incident.

Back at the hideout, Heyes kept up practicing his athletic riding tricks. And he worked more with Treadway on techniques for lock picking and opening windows. To this he added pistol practice with Torey, who also showed the boy how to keep his gun in the best condition and how to make some alterations to it. Heyes could see that he would never outdraw his younger cousin, but his speed and accuracy improved with practice. Richthofen watched his young protégé with approval.

The next job for the gang was robbing a big ranch house while the wealthy family was away on a European vacation. Only a few men went, Heyes among them. As Treadway opened the back door to let the gang in late at night, he called Heyes to watch him get past the formidable combination of locks. Inside, he showed Heyes around the silverware and candlesticks as they tucked the riches into sacks. “See, Heyes, this is good English silver here. See that mark – Henry Holland. Good maker. That’s worth stealing. But this over here, badly made stuff, not even marked – not worth the trouble to haul away."

When they got to the main office, there was a formidable safe waiting for them. Treadway shook his head in regret. “I don’t have a chance against that.”

“Can’t we use dynamite, Roy?” asked Heyes, puzzled.

“No! This job’s gotta be quiet. If we blow anything, the hired men will be down on us in no time. If we stay quiet, nobody’s gonna know anything’s gone until the family gets back in a few weeks. We’ll be away safe and sound. Too bad they’ve got a serious safe. It’s beyond my powers to open by manipulating the tumblers.”

“Are there any men who could open that safe with the tumblers?” Heyes wanted to know.

“Sure. Just not one with this gang.”

Richthofen walked up to the pair. “Let’s go. We’ve got what we’re getting here.”

“Wait, boss, let me look at this,” said Heyes, peering into a dark bedroom as the lamp in Treadway’s hand sent a beam in the door. Heyes darted in while Treadway held the lamp for him. “Look – this painting has something behind it – the wall doesn’t match. Look – it’s a door.” Heyes was excited as he pulled the painting away.

“I think you’ve earned the right to go after that door,” said Treadway. Heyes pulled out his small ring of picklocks. He tried one – not right – another didn’t work either. The third slender piece of twisted and bent steel, with some careful manipulation, did the trick. The little door popped opened.

Richthofen laughed in pleasure. “Now what do you suppose is behind that?”

Soon, Treadway was showing Heyes how to tackle the tiny old-fashioned safe hidden behind the door. It took an hour and a half of manipulation, but when the safe was opened, it was worth the wait. The little compartment was stuffed with bearer bonds.

“Would you look at that?” exclaimed Treadway in his Liverpool accent. “I’d say Mr. Heyes deserves a portion of that loot.”

“You opened the door, Roy,” said Heyes.

“You found it, Heyes,” said the safe-cracker.

That night around the campfire, the Red River Nine divided up their loot. “I think Mr. Heyes should get a full share this time,” said Richthofen. He looked around the ring of hard bitten faces. There was no argument from a single man – not even Crum. They all knew that a good portion of that take would never have gotten into their hands without Heyes and his quick eyes.

“Here you go, Heyes,” said Richthofen, handing the boy a fat roll of bills and a bearer bond. Heyes gave the gang leader a brilliant smile.

When the gang visited a saloon on their way through the town nearest their hideout, Heyes finally had the means to get himself some drinks. And a girl.

“Say, Sylvia,” said the teen-ager as he and the young harlot lay nude in her bed. “You ever done it with an outlaw before?”

She laughed. “Yes, Heyes. I’m seventeen. I’ve got plenty of experience. Jim Plummer’s real good in bed.”

“Tell me about him,” asked Heyes, curiously.

Sylvia was taken aback. “Wouldn’t you rather do it than talk about it?”

Heyes blushed. “I don’t mean tell me about the man in bed – tell me what you know about the gang. Who’s in it? How much money do they bring in?”

“Oh. You sure are all business, Heyes,” giggled the lovely blonde Sylvia.

“Not all,” said Heyes, pulling her back into his arms.

Heyes kept working and he kept doing more with the gang as the months went by. He got a fractional share of takes, now. He went to find Richthofen in his cabin after dinner one night. Heyes looked around carefully to make sure no one from the gang was watching as he knocked on the cabin door.

“Come in, Heyes. Have a seat. What is it?” asked Richthofen. “You’re dressed to ride. It’s late – where’re you going?”

Heyes nodded and didn’t sit on one of the half-log stools in the rough cabin. “Yeah. Boss, I’ve got another offer. You beat it and I’ll stay.”

Richthofen was startled. He hadn’t know that anyone from any rival gangs had taken notice of the rapid development of this budding outlaw. “An offer? From who?”

Heyes’ voice was hard. “Pardon me, but that’s not your business.”

Richthofen studied his protégé for a moment. “We’re getting new horses next week. You can have your pick. Even before me. And a one fourteenth share of the take for all jobs you’re in on.”

Heyes shook his head. “Not good enough.”

Richthofen could hardly believe it. “What are they offering?”

“A better share than that,” said Heyes scornfully.

“I’ll give you one twelfth, but I can’t do better than that and you know it.” Richthofen was starting to sound worried.

Heyes sounded more confident than his boss did. “I do know it. The gang making the offer brings in bigger takes than you do. And they’re doing me better – a bigger share of that more money - and a new horse – and lessons from a good box man.”

“They have a better man on safes than us?” The Red River Nine’s leader was starting to guess where Heyes might be going.

“I’d hate to say it to Treadway after all he’s done for me, but yeah. They do. And the man’s gonna teach me the trade before he retires.”

“It’s the Plummer Gang.”

Heyes nodded.

“Good luck, Heyes. Not that you need it. You’re on your way. You leaving tonight?”

“Yeah. Saddle bags are all packed. Good-bye, John. Thanks for the food and lessons. See you on the trail.” Heyes tipped his black hat and went out the door, never to return.

The years passed. Richthofen’s gang folded and he moved on. He moved on again a few times, acquiring a few scars along the way and losing a chunk out of one leg so he limped badly. But with his latest gang, there was a familiar face. The same old Roy Treadway the lock picker was back with his old leader, who was now a secondary gun man for a scruffy gang with no promise.

Sitting around the table late after breakfast at their hideout one morning, Richthofen was reading the local paper. It was a few weeks out of date, but it was rare for him to get to see a paper at all. “Well, would you look at this? The Devil’s Hole Gang pulled off a big one. Took $25,000.00 from a payroll train and got clean away. They dammed up a little stream in just the right place near a river where the train ran - blew out the dam after the heist - it cut off access to where they were riding. It wasn't that big a stream, but they had had it dammed up for weeks. Let loose a lot of water all at once when they blew it out. Took forever before anyone could go round that flood the long way and go after them, or get across it when the water had mostly gone. By then it was much too late. Those boys have style! And money.”

“Ain’t that nice for them? Clever boy, that Santana. Wish we was bringing in that much,” grumbled Treadway.

“You’re behind the times, Roy,” said Richthofen. “Big Jim Santana got put away. But the man who’s followed him seems to be something really special – in another league entirely.”

“Oh?” asked Treadway as he drained his coffee mug and scowled at the bitter liquid. “Who is it?”

“You’ll never guess,” said Richthofen.

“I won’t if you won’t give me a hint,” said Treadway testily.

“Alright,” said the former leader of the Red River Nine. “It’s somebody used to ride with us. I knew he’d be able to beat out that skinny, good for nothing lowlife. I was right.”

Roy Treadway snorted, “What? Who’d he beat out? Sounds like half our guys.”

“That skinny, pitiful orphan we took in,” the old leader sounded almost nostalgic.

Treadway combed through his memory. “That moody boy, what was his name? Must be nearly ten years ago. You mean Little Hazy? The guy who learned a bit and left?”

“Yeah.”

“But who beat him out? Who’s leading the Devil’s Hole now?”

“Mister Hannibal Heyes.”

Treadway gasped. “Huh?” He thought for a moment, and then he laughed.

The two men laughed together good and hard. Yes, Hannibal Heyes had beaten out his past. He had left his old colleagues in the dust, too. Now Heyes was fast becoming one of the most successful outlaws in the United States. How much he would continue to better himself, and in what directions, his old colleagues could never have guessed.
 
One note: in Exit from Wickenberg, Heyes tells Curry that the Plummer Gang was the first he ever rode with. Obviously, it had to have been the first gang he rode with after he and his cousin split up. Otherwise Curry would already have known about it.
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Remuda

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PostSubject: Re: Outlaw Olympics   Tue Apr 01, 2014 2:18 am

Grue


"Look, mister, you got the wrong man."

"Sonny, I knows what I'm looking fer, and you're it.

The young man held his hands in the air. "Mister, please."

The gunman smirked. He held his pistol steady, and fired.

***

Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry galloped into the yard of Salter’s ranch near Laramie, Wyoming. Jumping down, they hitched their horses to the rail, acknowledging Lom Trevors on the porch. The trio entered the ranch house.

"You two made time. Just pulled in myself a bit ago."

The duo, winded, regarded the lawman expectantly. Heyes spoke, "Wire said you'd seen the Governor?"

"Yep. Just in from Cheyenne."

"And?"

The sheriff poured two additional mugs of coffee, handing each in turn to the partners before grabbing his own. "Take a load off and catch your breath." He sat backwards on a chair in front of a stained oaken table; it had seen its share of conversations. He was not smiling. "We have some serious business to discuss."

The partners glanced at each other before seating themselves. They sipped and settled the mugs on the table, spoke in unison, "What's up?"

Without giving Lom a chance to respond, Kid Curry asked, "We didn't get it, did we?"

Hannibal Heyes glowered. "No, we didn't. There'd be whiskey instead of coffee if we did. Lom?"

Setting his mug on the table, the lawman spread his forearms the length of the top of the chair back. He sighed. "No."

In one motion, Heyes stood, sidearming his mug into a corner. He raised his voice. "I knew it! What do we have to do, Lom? It's been two years! We've stayed out of trouble, helped the Governor whenever he asked ... Hell, we've kowtowed to any request from him or you." He turned and stared at the open door. The front coming in had overtaken the sun; the scenery beyond was dark.

A few moments of disquiet filled the room. Finally, Heyes turned back to the men at the table. He breathed deeply, his tone repentant. "I'm sorry, Lom. When we got the wire and it said urgent, we got our hopes up a little too high maybe." He glanced at Curry, sighed, sat down.

Kid's brow knit thoughtfully. "Lom, what's goin' on?"

"The Governor's none too happy with you two. He was ready to pull your provisional amnesty, but I managed to put him off that idea, for now anyway."

"Why? After all this time ..."

"I was as confounded as you, Heyes. I calmed him down and finally got the whole story. Seems the son of one of his biggest backers was shot up by Devil's Hole. What he was doing up there, who knows -- fool kid! Anyway, he's in a bad way; was left for dead. From the little he's been able to tell, it seems he got on the wrong side of one of the boys up there. They couldn't make out the name, but it was something like Bratton, or Bartel. That ring a bell?"

Kid slowly shook his head.

Heyes spoke, "No. But then, we haven't been up there in a long time. Don't sound like any of the boys we rode with."

"I didn't think so. But, the Governor is holding you two responsible."

Kid looked aghast. "That don't make sense."

"That's what I told him. Somehow he thinks you bein' good at what you did might have influenced the men with you too much, or even spur some to want the outlaw life, especially like that fool kid." Lom shook his head. "It's a damn shame. Anyway, like I said, the boy's in a bad way. The doc tending him is hoping for the best but ain't sure he'll make it. That boy dies, I can't say what the Governor'll do as regards you two, never mind your amnesty."

Heyes looked Lom dead in the eye. "So the Governor's putting it on us even though we had nothing to do with it?"

"Yep, that's about the size of it. Don't make sense. It's political payback far as I can see. There's an election coming up, and the boy's father is pressuring the Governor to get the shooter." The lawman rolled his eyes. "Like I said, he was ready to revoke your provisional amnesty and have you two hauled off to the territorial prison. I pointed out he has you two at his beck and call, so he's calling in a favor."

Curry looked up. "Another favor? Hmph! More like hangin' us by the throat."

Heyes eyed the sheriff. "Yeah, we bring in this Brat, Bart -- whatever his name is -- or we're behind bars. Is that about it, Lom?"

"Unfortunately ..."

Heyes flew out of his chair. "Unfortunately, nothing! We've done everything we were supposed to do. Now this? We go to Devil's Hole or ... go to Mexico. Got no choices left. Come on, Kid. We can make tracks before this storm sets in."

Kid Curry rose. "See ya, Lom." He followed his partner out the door.

The lawman jumped to his feet. "Wait!"

They stopped. "What?"

Lom's face flushed with anger. "Now just a damned minute! I put myself on the line for you two. You owe me!"

"Huh?"

"You two come to me two years ago for a favor. I was skeptical but pulled for ya every step of the way. Even now I talked the Governor into not throwing the pair of ya to the wolves." He sighed. "You want to walk away now, go ahead. But if I ever see either of you again, I'll ship you off to prison myself. And be glad to do it!"

***

"Kid, tell me again why we're doing this?"

"Because we owe Lom."

"Do you really believe that?"

"Yeah, Heyes, I do. Much as I hate to admit it."

***

A blond man reclined behind a pair of boulders on an outcropping overlooking a valley. He started at the sound of a shot, then another. Now alert, he clambered to the best vantage point, rifle at the ready. Grinning, Kyle Murtry fired two return shots, signalling the men forward.

He watched men and horses slowly ascend the trail, standing when they finally reached the summit. "Good to see ya, Heyes, Kid."

"Kyle."

"Whatcha doin' up here? Ya ain’t changed yer mind on goin’ straight?"

The partners glanced at each other. Heyes replied, "Maybe. Kinda miss the old life."

Kyle removed his hat and slapped it against his thigh. "Golly! It be good to have ya back!" His smile just as quickly faded. "But ..."

Curry's eyes narrowed. "But, what?"

"Well, t'ain't like it was. Things've changed."

"Well, yeah, but we'll put Wheat in his place."

"Heyes, it ain't Wheat." Kyle looked down at his boot.

Kid eyed his former subordinate. "Kyle, whatcha ..."

Three sets of eyes turned toward the sound of hooves. The rider stopped on a dime, pistol drawn.

"Heard shots back at the cabin." He turned the gun on Heyes and Curry. "Hands up where I kin see 'em."

The partners complied.

Heyes smiled. "Now, that's not a real friendly welcome ..."

"Shut it! I'll do the talkin'!" The gunman kept one eye on the partners and the other on Kyle. "Who're these two?"

The blond outlaw stammered. "They's Hey ... Hey ..."

Keeping his gun trained on Heyes and Curry, the rider jumped off his horse, striding toward Kyle. He backhanded him with his free hand. The blond man cowered.

"No need for that!" Before Kid Curry could lower his arm to slap leather, a shot whizzed past his ear.

In the confusion that followed, Curry's bay reared, throwing him to the ground with a thud. The gunman fired again. Heyes sidestepped, reaching for his holster, but yelped, his hand streaming blood. Kyle sprang forward, throwing his weight at the stranger's legs. Both went down in a heap, the gunman's pistol knocked free. The blond outlaw took a blow to the face.

"Hold it!" Hannibal Heyes held his side arm in his left hand. Kicking away the gunman's pistol, he motioned for him to stand. "Hands where I can see them." His eyes held the stranger's. "Kyle, see to Kid."

The blond outlaw ran to the prone Curry. Removing his bandana, he spit on it, applying it to the side of Kid's head.

Curry moaned, then bellyached, "Ow!"

Kyle grinned. "He's a'right, Heyes."

"Heyes? Kid? Curry?"

Dark ex-outlaw eyes narrowed. "What about it?"

"Hell, we been wonderin' if you two would ever show yer yellow bellies."

"Now, wait a cotton-pickin' minute ..." Kyle stormed toward the gunman.

"Yer little yappy pup there ain't good fer much, is he?"

Heyes stepped to block the blond outlaw's approach. "Kyle, tie his hands real good. Nothing but a two-bit loser. He ain't worth your trouble."

The gunman smirked. A handful of blood caught him mid-laugh.

"But he's worth mine."

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PostSubject: Re: Outlaw Olympics   Tue Apr 01, 2014 3:46 am

Outlaw Olympics - A Worthy Adversary (continued from last month)

The Kid shifted uncomfortably on the thin, dirty mattress, gingerly trying to find a position that didn’t hurt. He was concentrating on not breathing too deep, since every breath caused a sharp pain to radiate up through his broken ribs.  The doctor that had seen him was either a drunk or a fool. Even his partner could've done better. Heyes would have at least given him a shot of whiskey to make removing the bullet bearable. Digging at the wound would have been done carefully instead of with the heavy hand the Doc had used, and he would have got his ribs taped up so he could move easier.

He’d been watching himself for a fever, since no one else was, trying to keep down as much water as they would give him. The meals were coming twice a day: some kind of thin watery grits in the morning, and some beans with a few bits of meat in the evening. He tried to place it, was it goat? He couldn‘t tell. He’d always had a healthy appetite, but even he couldn’t swallow much of this poor excuse for grub. Not that he was complaining, he knew better.

He was wearing the same clothes he’d had on when they brought him in. The dirt and the dust he could take, but the amount of blood caked in his clothes was actually making him queasier than the food. The smell from the honey pot no one ever emptied didn’t help. A bath, that’s what he needed. A bath and a shave. He forgot himself for a moment and took a deep breath, ending up moaning in pain.

“Shut up over there,” the deputy barked. The scrawny young man glared at his prisoner and got back to reading his Wild West Weekly. This one was called “The Fastest Gun West of the Mississippi”. The irony wasn’t lost on the Kid. Evidently this deputy would rather read lies about him than have a conversation with the real McCoy.

“Can I trouble you for some water, deputy?” The Kid had drunk every drop they had given him that morning. The wound in his shoulder was burning and throbbing, and he thought he felt a slight fever building up. It was long past time for his dressings to be changed.

“In due time. Quit whinin’.”  The man was not to be bothered with catering to the likes of this thief.

Kid wasn‘t surprised. Outlaw scum like himself didn’t deserve any consideration, to the contrary.  He guessed he was lucky to have any doctoring at all. Men had been strung up for less than what he’d done. At this point he was just happy to be alive, with a partner that he knew would come for him. And he knew for a fact that Hannibal Heyes would come.

He began to doze fitfully as the fever began to rise. He was back on the train, disarming the passengers. Making sure no one was hurt. Arguing with what looked like an angel. Or was she a devil? What would an angel be doing shooting at him?  He tossed and turned, hurting his ribs again in his dream state, moaning in his sleep. Gradually it all faded away as he slipped into unconsciousness.

Later that evening the door to the jail opened. A figure emerged and moved gracefully across the room to the single cell, her expensive skirts rustling. She intently studied the prisoner through the bars.

“How long has he been like this?” She continued to inspect the unconscious man from where she stood, noting the uneaten plate of beans, the filth, and the smell. She quickly put a lace handkerchief over her nose.

“All day, I reckon.” The deputy was not concerned; he didn’t even look up from his book.

When she turned, the deputy finally saw her face. Her beauty matched her anger, and she was livid. “You were told to get the doctor if he took a turn for the worse. What are you thinking?”  

“I’m thinkin’ he’s the dirty rotten thief that kept us all from gettin’ paid this week. Seein’ as how his gang has our payroll, he don’t deserve nothin’.” The deputy spit across the room barely hitting the pot. He clearly would have preferred to spit on his prisoner.

She couldn‘t disagree with his sentiment, but the deputy’s neglect of the prisoner may have cost the town what had become one of their most valuable assets.  

“It’s not your place to decide what the prisoner does or does not deserve. Turn in your badge and get out of here.” She took a step towards the man and pointed a manicured finger towards the door.

“You ain’t in charge here, lady. No uppity skirt is tellin’ me what to do.  I ain’t goin’ nowhere till I hear it direct from the Sheriff’s mouth.” The man finally saw fit to stand up.

“The Sheriff works for me, and you did too until a few seconds ago.”  It was so tiresome to constantly have her authority challenged simply because she was a woman. He apparently didn’t he know who she was. He would soon find out.

The door opened and two well built men, strong and fit from working the mines, entered the room. The taller of the two looked at the deputy, taking in his defiant stance.  He looked at her questioningly. “Is he giving you lip, boss?”

“As a matter of fact, Levi, he is.” She raised a finely shaped brow and looked pointedly from her foreman towards the deputy. The man immediately knew what to do.

“You must be new around here, mister.“ Levi took a quick step towards the deputy and knocked him to the floor with one solid punch to the face.  The deputy cried out as he clutched his broken nose.

“Throw this poor excuse for a man out of my town.” She stood over the bleeding man, hands on hips, glaring down at him with disdain. “And then get back here and help me with the other one.”

“Right away, Mrs. Parker, right away.”

A few hours later, the doctor stood over his patient, frowning. Still unconscious, the Kid had been cleaned up and was laying under pristine white sheets at Mrs. Parker’s house in her guest room.

“I don’t take kindly to coddling criminals, ma’am. He’s as crooked as a dog’s hind legs, and don’t deserve all this fuss. He should be back in jail where he belongs.” The short, stocky man crossed his arms across his barrel chest, apparently waiting to be given good reason to further treat the thief. She had no problem giving him one.

“Dr. Matthews, if you had been giving him proper care in the jail, I would’ve been glad to leave him there. You have a job to do and you‘d best do it.”  She made no attempt to hide her displeasure; she had known him a long time and had expected better.

“I understand, ma’am. No offense. “ He glanced over at Levi and saw that he was watching the interaction intently. He immediately dropped his arms. “But if he wanted decent treatment he should a seen fit to keep his hands off our pay. How are we gonna get by after what this outlaw trash has done?”  This was a company town, and everyone was on her payroll, including the doctor.

Mrs. Parker had learned early on that there were times when her typically direct approach was best served with a healthy dose of sugar, especially when dealing with a man. She calculated that a conciliatory tone might be more effective on the good doctor. She relaxed her stance and softened her voice.

“Dr. Matthews. Tom.” She gently put one hand on his shoulder and looked in his eyes.  “We’ve been through hard times together before. My husband and I have always been there for you and we’ll get through this too. Please, won’t you hold these for me until you’re paid? ” He watched, mesmerized, as her slender fingers subtly traced her neckline, moving slowly up across her lace covered décolletage. She unclasped the string of pearls that circled her lovely throat, placed the pearls in his right hand, and folded his fingers tightly around them. “Surely you’ll do everything you can to see that he recovers, for the sake of the town?”

The doctor hesitated for a moment and then coughed uncomfortably. “Uh, alright, ma’am, just until we can get paid. For the sake of the town…..”  He slipped them quickly into his coat pocket. At least he would have something to show his wife.

“Speakin’ of your husband, ma‘am, when do you think he’ll be well enough to return home and run things again?”

Mrs. Parker straightened and shot a quick glance at Levi. Levi was doing a good job maintaining his poker face. “It’ll be a long, slow recovery doctor, as you are well aware. He’s in good hands at the clinic back east.“  She was all business once again.

“Yes, Ma’am, but has he told you how to handle this…..,” he glared at the Kid, “situation?”

She took a long deep breath.  Did he actually think she was receiving instructions from her husband? She deftly hid her frustration. “Rest assured that I am doing everything possible, Dr. Matthews. One way or another, everyone will soon get paid.”

“Well then, give him our best, ma’am. As for this one,” he scowled again at the Kid, “ I can’t make any promises. A festerin’ has set in with a fierce fever. If he has grit he might live, but I ain’t sure I can save the arm.” He rolled up his sleeves and set to work.

Later that night she stood vigil under dimmed lights, watching the prisoner ‘s chest rise and fall. Leaning over him, she brushed a damp curl from his face and changed the moist, cooling clothes on his forehead. He appeared almost childlike, with his blonde hair and boyish good looks. Almost. Indeed, there had been nothing childlike about him when he had looked at her with those steely blue eyes, pointed his gun at her, and locked her in those cuffs. The skills she had learned as a younger woman had served her well that day. After all, she hadn’t always been Mrs. Reuben Parker. She sat back in her chair, plotting her next move.

Since her husbands accident she had worked hard to reassure the community that the mine would operate as usual. And why wouldn’t it? The truth was she had been gently pulling the strings and calling the shots from the very beginning. Despite the fact that Reuben sadly lacked business sense, most folks had thought of him as the boss and were unsettled at his absence. Her foreman, Levi, had been around long enough to know who was really running things, and had backed her up.  With his support she had been able to convince most of the town that she had everything under control.

Enter Hannibal Heyes. He and his gang had shaken the peoples confidence she had worked so hard to build. One missing payroll had been enough to send the already tenuous stability of her town spiraling. The truth was that the coal mine had seen more prosperous days; it was no longer producing  more than what was needed for them to limp from payday to payday. The town had desperately needed another source of income to supplement the coal.

There was a light tap and Levi quietly opened the door, taking off his dark gray hat.

“What is it?”

“Just checkin’ in. How’s he doin’?”

“Too soon to tell. His fever hasn’t broken.” She felt the Kid’s forehead again and frowned.

He walked over to the second story window, checking the locks. He continued to scan the room, noting that the Kid’s good arm was cuffed to the bed frame. Satisfied, he finally found a seat.

“They didn’t just get the payroll, did they, ma‘am.”

“No, they got the gem too. I had it assessed, cut and finished. It was just as we thought. It was a diamond of the highest value and clarity.”

He relaxed a bit and almost smiled. “But that’s good news, ma’am. If we can start turnin’ out diamonds along with the coal, it’ll put the town over the top.”

She stood and began to pace back and forth across the room.

“Yes, but only if we can keep the men working, Levi. The bank loaned me just enough for the payroll, and only God and Hannibal Heyes knows what happened to it. There won’t be more where that came from until we can show the bank some diamonds.”

“I’ll do my best to keep the men on the job, ma’am. Some of ‘em are real loyal, but even they won’t stay long without bein' paid.“

“Just give them whatever they need out of the town stores to tide them over, including free whiskey so long as they don‘t get so drunk they can‘t work.”

“Yes, ma’am. That’ll work for awhile, but it won’t take long before we’re busted. If we don’t get our hands on some cash, Parkersville will soon go by way of the ghost towns.”

She stopped her pacing.  “That’s not going to happen if I have anything to do with it. I’ll go over the books again with the bookkeeper to see how far we can stretch our resources. Have you secured the town?”

“The Sheriff swore in extra deputies and doubled the guards, ma’am. The entire town is on full alert, as you ordered. Everyone’s itchin‘ to shoot themselves another outlaw.” She noticed he still had on the tied down Colt he had been wearing since Curry had been brought to Parkersville.

“Well done. Go get some rest, Levi, you’ve had a long day.”

“What about you?  Let me get one of the ladies to take your place.”

“Not this time. After today, I won’t be trusting the care of the prisoner to someone else.” Reaching under her skirts, she pulled a derringer out of a laced up boot. “Please remind the doctor I want him back here at first light, and inform the household staff to identify themselves before they enter. I’m armed and I don’t want to be startled.”

“Yes, Boss.” He put his hat back on his full head of dark brown hair, stood and moved towards the door.

“One more thing, Levi?”

“Ma’am?”

She looked at him with appreciative eyes.  She was beginning to see this man as more of a partner than an employee. He had stood by her through thick and thin for many years. She had even been able to trust him with the truth about her husband. “You’re always there when I need you, Levi. Thank you.”

“Yes, Boss.”  Sophie Parker was one helluva woman, and taking down Curry like she’d done was just one of the reasons he thought so. “Just doin’ my job, ma’am. Good night.”  He tipped his hat and was gone.

She picked up the copy of the telegraph she had received from Heyes and read it over again.

"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 concern this outlaw had for his partner clearly gave her the upper hand. There was another way she could get enough cash to keep her mines producing. Hannibal Heyes was not the only one that could make ultimatums.

Her eyes drifted down the page to the response she had already sent to the presumptuous Mr. Heyes:

“To HH:  I am the one that has what YOU want. Bring back all that you took. If not I will claim his reward, dead or alive. Time is running out. SP”

She knew the stakes were high, but if she played her cards right she could get her stolen goods back and claim the reward on both outlaws. Hannibal Heyes had threatened to come after her. As far as she was concerned, two could play at that game. Let him come.




Note: Through the 1800's only jade, and of course coal, had been found in Wyoming. But recently a variety of gems have been discovered, including diamonds. Some have been very large and of high quality, found by both panning and drilling in Wyoming.
http://wygemstones.blogspot.com/

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