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 A Handshake Seals the Deal

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PostSubject: A Handshake Seals the Deal   Tue Apr 01, 2014 4:47 pm

 sun 1 It's April already!  Can you believe it?  More to the point can you come up with more of your wondrous words and put them in the right order to give us another set of stupendous stories on this month's prompt?  Get your keyboards ready to give us your take on:

A Handshake Seals the Deal
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PostSubject: Re: A Handshake Seals the Deal   Wed Apr 09, 2014 8:01 pm

This is a silly piece of fluff with an unmistakable Mary Sue. I'll get back to Sophie Parker next month.

A Handshake Seals the Deal - Cowboys, Coffee, and a Connoisseur

“What exactly did yesterdays telegraph say again, Heyes? “ The two partners were relaxing on the porch of their hotel in Denver, puffing on cigars, and enjoying the noon day sun.  They had a clear view of the stage depot across the street and were waiting for its next arrival.

“Here, Kid, read it for yourself.” Heyes waved it in front of him and Kid quickly grabbed it away.

To: Joshua Smith. I’m done with your coffee. Sending connoisseur to set you straight.  Meet stage noon tomorrow. Silky

“He don’t sound too happy, Heyes. What’s a consewer?”

Heyes contemplated the question while continuing to puff on his cigar. Being an avid reader possessing the gift of gab, he had always considered himself knowledgeable with words. He began to pontificate.

“Well, it looks like Silky don’t appreciate my coffee…”

Kid interrupted.  “Nobody appreciates your coffee, Heyes.”

“Now, don’t be like that Kid. I like my coffee just fine. And I think I remember Preacher drinkin’ quite a few pots in his day. “

“That’s cause he was drunk, Heyes. Three sheets to the wind. He couldn’t taste a thing and we was just tryin’ to get him sobered up to do a job.”

“Never mind. As I was sayin’, there’s no accountin’ for taste, and it appears that Silky don’t like my coffee.”

“Yeah.”

“So, through logic and facts we should be able to figure out what this word means. As you know, Silky is acquainted with a large number of folk who are just a shade outside the law.”

“ Like us. “ Kid nodded in agreement.

“Yeah. Like us.” Heyes took another puff of his cigar and continued.

“We also know that Silky is a cantankerous old coot who is accustomed to gettin’ his way and has a temper a mile high.”

“Truer words were never spoken, Heyes. “ Kid watched his smoke rings circle in the air as he listened intently to his cousin’s line of thought.

“He’s also a very successful man who has money to throw at any fool idea that comes to mind.” Heyes was on a roll.

“That he is, partner. He is a man of means.”

“ So, it should be obvious.”

“How so?”

“Well, it’s like this. The last time we visited Silky I made him a nice cup of coffee every morning. Even got out my camp coffee pot to make it with.”

“I was there, Heyes." The Kid grimaced at the thought. "You made me drink it too, remember?”

Heyes glared at his cousin. “Anyways, Silky must have got to thinkin’ on how much he didn’t like it and decided to do somethin‘ about it.”

“That still don’t explain what a consewer is, Heyes.”

“Kid, you just ain’t listenin’. I figure he’s hired himself an ex-con to come and throw my coffee pot in the sewer. Con - sewer.”

“So your sayin’’,  Kid looked thoughtful as he attempted to understand his partner’s brand of logic, “that a consewer is a tough criminal type whose job is to get rid of somethin‘?”

“Yup. I think it’s a citified word they made up back east somewhere. Either that, or some foreigner made it up, from Scotland maybe.” Heyes looked quite pleased with himself, biting his cigar while flashing a smug grin.

“Heyes, your nimble mind has done it again!” The Kid watched the street contentedly,  knowing he could always depend on his partner for answers. Maybe not the right ones, but they were answers just the same.

“Thanks, Kid.” Heyes smiled another one of those smiles. “What I still don’t understand is why Silky thinks this will help us go straight.”

“What‘s that?”

“The telegraph. It says the consewer is gonna set us straight.”

“But we already went straight, Heyes.”

“I know, Kid, I know. I think our old friend Silky has finally lost his senses. In the mean time, we need to be ready for an ex-con to get off that stage lookin’ for trouble.”

“Or for your coffee pot. Which come to think of it, is its own kinda trouble. Sure has been a burden tryin’ to drink your coffee all these years.”

“Oh, come on. It ain‘t that bad. It‘s just coffee.” Heyes appeared exasperated. “Silky‘s just getting’ a little weird in his old age, that‘s all.”

“ Heyes, if all this ex-con wants to do is to throw away your coffee pot, then I think I’m with him on this one.”

Heyes looked at his cousin with a wounded expression. “You gonna side with him over me?”

“Partner, you know I always have your back. I’d take a bullet for ya, heck I have took a bullet for ya. But when it comes to defendin’ your coffee, I draw the line.”

“Your serious.”  Heyes was incredulous.

“Dead right I‘m serious.” Steely blue eyes met perplexed brown.

Just then the stage came into view. The driver seemed hell bent for leather, urging the team forward as though they still had miles to go. Finally slowing down, the stage came to an abrupt stop at the depot. Still on the hotel porch, the partners stood and readied themselves to meet their visitor.

The first passenger to disembark was a large burly man with a dark scowl on his face. He caught his bag with one arm as the driver threw it down.

“I bet that’s him.” Heyes said under his breath.  Still puffing his cigar, the Kid slowly maneuvered his shooting hand into position.  He might let this ex-con take Heyes coffee pot, but he sure wasn’t gonna let him rough up his partner while doing it.

The man was walking up the steps to the hotel when Heyes stopped him.

“Mister, do you know a man named Silky O’Sullivan?”

“Never heard of ‘em.” The man growled at Heyes and kept on walking.

“Huh.“ Heyes shrugged his shoulders as the Kid relaxed his stance. “Guess that wasn’t him.”

About that time a woman stepped off the stage.  She glanced at the driver who was unloading a very heavy, large trunk, and watched to see that he was being careful with it as she had instructed.  Looking around, she saw the two young men standing on the porch and presumed they were the ones she was looking for.

“Look, that lady is makin' a bee line straight for us.” Kid watched the lady with interest as she headed their way.

“She probably just wants some help with that trunk. Don’t get distracted, Kid, we still need to find that ex-con.”  Not only did Kid have a knack for having his way with women, Heyes knew that women often had their way with Kid, keeping him from focusing on the task at hand.

“Good afternoon, gentlemen.” The bespectacled woman looked over the rim of her glasses, inspecting the cowboys. She recognized them immediately from Silky’s description:

“Two cocky young fella’s with tied down guns. One with a smile that’ll con you right out of your last nickel, and the other as fast as a whip snake and as deadly as a rattler. But two more loyal young’uns you’ll never meet. Downright good natured, they are. Don’t let ‘em fool ya.’“

Her first impression was that Silky’s description was spot on. However, he had failed to inform her of their extra-ordinary good looks, a trait that someone of the female persuasion would not have failed to mention. If only she was say, 20 …oh alright, 30 years younger. She was startled from her reverie when one of them spoke.

“Somethin' we can do for you. Ma’am?” Ever the gentleman, the Kid stepped forward.

She couldn’t help but notice that this cowboy’s curls were the color of dark golden honey, the same shade of the sugar she used in her coffee.  Not bleached, common table sugar, mind you, but caramely sweet and very raw. She sighed.

“Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones?” She looked expectantly from one to the other.

“Yes, Ma’am, I’m Thaddeus. How do you know our names?” The Kid stopped puffing his cigar and shared a look of confusion with Heyes.

“Silky sent me. I’m Mrs. Java Sue. You can call me Java.”

“You’re the ex-con?” Kid blurted out.

“Certainly not!” Java could not believe her ears. “ I run a gourmet coffee shop in San Francisco and Silky is one of my best customers. I assure you it is a respectable establishment. Some folks may think that what I charge for my coffee is criminal, but I promise you it’s well worth every cent.”

Heye's dimples made an appearance as he shook his head at his cousin‘s lack of finesse. “No offense intended, ma’am. Uh….Java. We did get a telegram but it wasn’t too clear. What exactly can we do for you?”

At that moment Java realized that Joshua’s eyes reminded her of two rich, dark brown pools of beautifully prepared espresso demitasse, quite complex and very fresh.   In answer to his question, she immediately thought of a few pleasantly distracting things he could do for her, cleared her throat, and moved on.

“It’s what I can do for you, gentlemen. Silky has made arrangements with a local restaurant for us to use their kitchen. I am here to give Mr. Smith coffee lessons.”

“Lessons!” It was Heyes turn to be indignant. He shook his head again, this time in disbelief.

“Don’t pay him no mind, ma’am.” The Kid stifled a chuckle. “It’s just that Joshua is used to bein’ the one to give instructions. You wouldn’t happen to be a consewer, would ya’?

“You mean connoisseur? Well, I suppose you could call me that. I am schooled in fine coffees and their preparation.  I assure you I am well qualified to teach Mr. Smith how to make coffee.”

“No, ma’am, I mean, have you ever been wanted by the Sheriff or his deputies?” Kid gave her a hopeful look.  “Are you gonna take Joshua’s coffee pot?”  

“The Sheriff and his deputies frequent my café daily, so I assume that my coffee and I are wanted.” She looked at the Kid, perplexed at the line of questioning. “And as for taking Joshua’s coffee pot, that remains to be seen. I would like to inspect it first.”

“Go get your pot, Joshua.” Kid gave his partner a no nonsense look. “The lady wants to give it a look see.”

“She’s not gettin’ my coffee pot.” Exasperated, Heyes put his hands on his hips and scowled. He was not pleased with the way this conversation was going.

“Oh, she’s gettin’ your pot alright, partner. Silky sent her all this way to set your coffee makin’ straight and if you won’t give her the pot, well, I’ll have to flatten ya’.”  After years of suffering through Heyes camp coffee, the Kid was not going to let this chance for deliverance slip away.

Heyes bristled and put up his dukes.  He knew his partner packed a powerful punch, and he was going to be ready in case he followed through on his threat.

Java had heard enough. “Now calm down, boys, I don’t want to see the coffee pot right now anyway. I’m tired and need to freshen up. Thaddeus, I appreciate your support, but I‘d rather bring Joshua around in my own way.”

She turned to Heyes. “As for you, are you a gambling man?”

Heyes relaxed and the dimples began to dance as a subtle smile played across his face. “I’ve been known to place a bet or two in my day.” The Kid rolled his eyes.

“Good. I have a proposition for you. I’ll bet that after one sip of my coffee, you’ll be more than happy to cooperate with me. If not, I’ll pack up my bags and be on my way. Deal?”

“Now, that’s a good deal, partner. You’d best take it.” Kid hoped that her coffee was as good as Silky thought it was.

“Oh, alright.” Heyes thrust out his hand. “Deal.” She took his hand and they sealed the deal with a shake.

“We’ll start right after the morning rush tomorrow, say around 10 am. In the mean time, would you be so kind as to help me get my trunk into the hotel?”

Java watched with more than one kind of appreciation as the two cowboys each took an end of her trunk and carried it up the stairs to the hotel desk. Not only was Denver a likeable town, but the view was especially pleasant here as well. It looked like tomorrow was going to be a very interesting day.


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


Last edited by Javabee on Wed May 07, 2014 2:52 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: A Handshake Seals the Deal   Sat Apr 19, 2014 3:23 pm

A Handshake Seals the Deal



I tug on the rope tying me to the post and watch the grinning men judge me.  My breath comes hot and fast in my trepidation, my chest rising and falling in gasps of panic.  Who were they and what did they want?  They milled around, unloading the bags full of whatever it was they took from my home – apart from me that is.  Where was my mother?  Why was I the only one they took?

A fierce-looking man with one eye larger than the other approaches me and reaches out a hand to stroke my face, but I jerk back, flashing the whites of my eyes.  All I can do is make noises of distress and pull away, but I am trapped; a captive left to push my tongue against the intruder which had been forced into my mouth.  His rough fingers stroke my cheek, the calluses catching slightly.  His foul-smelling breath assaults my nostrils as his face approaches mine.  He smiles, revealing uneven teeth awash with some horrible brown liquid.  “Hey, ain’t you a pretty thing?  No need to be scared, I ain’t gonna hurt ya.”              

“Ethan!  Come away.”  I looked over at the cowpoke who is shouldering stolen sacks of grain away from the wagon.  “I told ya, she ain’t for you.  I’m keepin’ her.”

I shake my head, blinking away strands of hair which had fallen over one eye.  Not him; anyone but him.  I had heard my mother scream when he’d cornered her in the barn, but I had no way of knowing what had happened to her because I’d been grabbed by the rest of the criminal band.  I’d lashed out, but I was no match for the men and their big horses.  I was lost.   

The bug-eyed bandit stretches out an arm and tucks the strands behind my ear.  “There ya go.  That’s better, ain’t it?”

Better!?  Better than what?  Freedom, security and kindness?   I give another futile tug at the rope again before I hang my head.  The realisation is sinking in that there is nothing I can do.  The men go inside the cabin and I can hear them talking and laughing.  They are clearly more pleased with today’s events than I am.  I want to go home!

I stand there unheeded and untended as the mid-day sun beats down, with nothing to do but stare wearily out at the flat, scrubby countryside and let hopelessness sink into my psyche.  I’ve never felt lonely before and I was finding out that it hurts like a hot poker to the soul.  I was nothing to these people; I do not matter and I do not belong.  I was a thing to be taken.  I had no future, I had no past; I only had now; a moment filled with fear, pain and sorrow.

My breath judders with emotion but I resign myself to watching a cloud of dust on the horizon.  It is a lone, shifting haze moving steadily towards me.  The reddish-brown tornado stands out against the stillness of the endless landscape which shimmers in the afternoon sun.  It whirls and twists towards me, relentlessly shifting over the terrain in a ghostly dance until I can make out two figures at its centre.  My heart flutters, but I am unsure if I feel hope or spiraling fear.  I decide that it is fear.

It takes half an hour before I can see the two horsemen more clearly.  They are dusty from the journey, but it isn’t the sour, ingrained lack of grooming which contaminates the men who stole me.  Their horses’ coats gleam healthily and their tack and kit is well-looked after.  This isn’t more of the same.  How will they treat me?  Is this a good or a bad thing?

I tense.  The creaking of the door to the cabin tells me that my captors have noticed the approaching strangers too.  I catch their uncertainty just before I hear the metallic click of a gun cocking. 

“Slim, go get your rifle,” the leader says.  “I ain’t got no time for callers.”

“Ya can’t just go shootin’ folks,” Ethan replies.  “Let’s find out if they got money and where they live first.”  He taps his forehead with a blackened fingernail, his uneven smile widening.  “Ya gotta use this and not just go shootin’ from the hip.  If they got a homestead and we’ve already killed the men folk it’ll be easy pickin’s, but I ain’t gonna be any use to us if we don’t get them to tell us where it is first.”

The leader’s eyes gleam hungrily and he puts his weapon down.  “You gotta point.  Let’s hear what they gotta say.”

I tug at my rope again, wanting to run, to warn these strangers to go, to turn around and flee.  There is nothing but misfortune and doom in this place.  My mouth is hurting me now.  The thing they forced into it is hard and sharp.  I shake my head but it does no good.  I cannot dislodge it.

The two men finally arrive at the cabin.  One is a dark-haired man with a ready smile; the other has a mop of fair curls under his hat.  The fair man nods at the thieves and speaks.

“Howdy, gents.  We wondered if we could fill our canteens with some fresh water?”

“Water?  Sure,” the leader replied.  “That ain’t gonna cost us nuthin’.”

Both of the strangers look over at me, the dark one narrows his eyes.

I hear the door to the cabin open again and the skinny robber they call Slim comes out.  He stiffens.  “Hey, Boss...”

The boss ignores him and continues to talk to the strangers.  “Where d’you boys hail from?”

“Kansas,” the dark one never takes his eyes off me.  “Where’d you get her?”

“That ain’t none of your business,” the boss barks.

Slim tries again.  “Hey, Boss...”

“You’re a long way from home, ain’t ya?”  The boss lifts his rifle.  “Ya got business in this area?”

Slim nudges his leader urgently.  “I know those men.  That there’s Hannibal Heyes and he’s Kid Curry.  There ain’t nobody who can shoot like Kid Curry.”

The blond stranger gives a discreet smile.  “Slim Norton.  I thought it was you.  You look like you ain’t doin’ so well.”

Slim tugs at his ragged jacket indignantly.  “I’m doin’ just fine.  I don’t need no Devil’s Hole Gang to get along.”

“That’s a good job,” Kid Curry replies, “’cos you were run outta The Hole before one of the boys killed ya.”  He nods towards the men standing on the porch.  “Is this your new outfit?”

“Yeah, he rides with me,” the boss announces.  “The name’s Bull Norton.”

The two strangers share a glance.  “Never heard of you,” Hannibal Heyes jerks his head towards me again.  “Did you take her?”

“What’s it to ya if’n we did?” barks the boss.

“I want her,” Heyes swings a leg over the saddle and dismounts.  “How much do you want for her?”

“She ain’t for sale,” Bull barks.

Heyes’ cheeks dimple but his eyes remain cold.  “I want her.”

“Are you deaf?  I told ya, she ain’t for sale.”

The dark eyes look straight into mine.  I am sure he can read my pain.  I blink and release a rasping breath. 

Heyes scowls.  “How long since she had water?”

“Dunno?” Bill shrugged.  “She looks fine to me.  She’ll find a way to let us know when she wants somethin’.  It ain’t like she earned her keep yet.”

Heyes strokes my cheek gently, smiling at me reassuringly when I react to his touch.  “Five dollars.”

“Five dollars!” Bull snorts.  “She’s worth a whole lot more than that.”

Heyes puts his hands on his hips.  “Once you’ve done with her she’ll be worth nothing.  Five dollars.”

The leader strides down from the porch and faces his opponent.  “Git your water and git outta here, Heyes.  I took her and she’s mine fair and square.”

I make a noise at the back of my throat, my tongue still pushing on the thing forced into my mouth. 

The dark eyes harden.  “She’s part of a haul in my territory, so she’s fair game.  I’m offering you good money, but one way or another I’m taking her with me.”

Bull gives a snicker of derision.  “Ya think?  Git outta here, Heyes.  I ain’t gonna tell you again.  There’s four of us and only two of you.”

“Three,” Slim raises his hands and retreats to the shadows at the back of the porch.  “I ain’t gettin’ into no gunfight with Kid Curry.”     

“Ya coward,” Bull yells.  “They’re outgunned.  There’s still three of us.”

“Three of ya,” Slim hisses.  “I’ve seen him shoot, and you ain’t gonna outgun him with three.  Give them what they want.  She ain’t worth dyin’ over.”

Bull raises his rifle but is cut off by a shot which pounds into the ground beside his foot.  “Drop it,” barks the blond man.

I let out a cry of fear and tug again at the rope.  Heyes has also drawn his gun.  “You got a choice.  Five dollars or nothing, but either way she’s coming with me.  Got that?”
      
“Slim, gather up the guns and tip them down that well.  We don’t want to get shot in the back when we ride outta here.”  Kid Curry gestures with his colt towards the tall, thin criminal.  “Do it.”

Slim steps down from the porch and does exactly what he is bid and I hear the resonant splash of the weapons hitting the bottom of the well. 

The fair man throws a couple of canteens over to Slim.  “Get a bucket of water and fill these for us.”

“Yeah,” Heyes is smiling malevolently at Bull.  “When you’re done with that bring the bucket over here.  She’s thirsty.”


The dark man puts his have into his pocket and pulls out some money.  “Five dollars.  Now she’s mine, fair and square.”  He reaches out a hand and shakes the large outlaw’s hand.  “The deal’s sealed.”  He holsters his weapon and turns back to me, smiling gently as he works on the knot.


The Kid has brought ridden closer, bringing Heyes’ mount with him.  “Why’d ya have to do this, Heyes.  The last thing we need is another horse.  That filly isn’t big enough to carry either of us.”


“Not yet, but she will be.  She’s a beauty.  Look at the condition of their horses, they don’t look after them.”  Heyes pulls the uncomfortable thing from my mouth and rubs his cheek on my muzzle.  “She wouldn’t last a year with Bull Norton.  They don’t even care that this bit is cutting her mouth to peices.”

           
And that, Dear Reader, is how I join the Devil’s Hole Herd.


 
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PostSubject: Re: A Handshake Seals the Deal   Mon Apr 21, 2014 10:45 am

Hunter's moon, Part 4 - A Handshake Seals the Deal 

Two women huddled on seats across from Mrs. Hunter’s bunk surrounded by a sneer of cooing butlers who tucked a blanket around the shaking stewardess and proffered hot sweet tea as though it were an elixir of tranquility.  The granite-face man they had previously known as Tishing cautiously approached the ex-outlaws.  “Excuse me,” he nodded towards the blood seeping down the corridor and at Malachi who fought back tears as he stared at the gore.  “Can we help?”

“Help?”  The Kid eyed the butler suspiciously.  “Help with what?”

“The mess.”  Tishing threw a hand out to the gory corridor.  “That’s the Steward’ss friend and colleague.  How can anyone expect him to clear up his blood after the murder; it’s inhumane.  We are all in service and I have a collection of my best men who will make that vestibule look spick and span in no time.  Allow us to look after the poor man; his position is very much like ours, after all, and I believe we must look after our own.”

Glavin eyed both the white butler and the black steward.  “Your own?”

Heyes and Curry exchanged a glance.  “You want to clean up?” Heyes asked.

“Want?  I hate blood and going near that mess is the last thing I want to do.”  Tishing’s hard stare rolled towards the conductor who stood near the door at the far end of the railway car with the driver and the fireman.  “I get the feeling that the white men of his own nation are none too keen to get their hands dirty to help him,” he nodded at the stewardess, “and that poor girl has been traumatized.  It seems only fitting that we help out.”

“I need to make sure you’re not destroying evidence,” Heyes replied.

“Evidence?” Tishing spluttered.  “What can you possibly deduce from that slaughterhouse?”

Heyes stepped forward, drawing the butler with him.  “See those splashes on the wall?  That’s where Jeffrey’s blood spurted out.  Whoever did it was standing behind him and not between the victim and that wall.”

“Well, I could have told you that,” sniffed the Englishman.  “If the murderer had been in front of the poor man he’d have been marinated in stuff.  As nobody has been walking around looking like a cut-price dentist from a travelling show, we can safely assume that the killer was protected by being behind the victim.”

Heyes arched a brow.  “Exactly; but there’s so much blood.  Something small could be hidden in the mess.  How do I know you’re not just trying to remove something?”

Tishing pulled himself up to his full height and widened indignant grey eyes.  “You don’t, but you could roll up your sleeves and do the bloody work yourself if you’re so worried!”

The Kid dropped his head, concealing a smirk.  “Yeah, Joshua.  How about that?”

“I’m too busy,” Heyes scratched his chin.  “Go ahead, Tishing.  My partner will make sure everything’s above board.”

A pair of disgruntled blue eyes hooked his partner. “And what’ll you be doin’ while I’m watchin’ this?”

“It’s about time I found out more about the victims.  I’m going to go through their belongings.  Didn’t Maud Davies have some books tied up with cord?”

“Books?  Well, you make sure you don’t burst a blood vessel.  All that readin’ could injure a man,” the Kid replied, tersely. 

“How can reading injure anyone?” Heyes retorted.

“Take too long doin’ it while I’m workin’ and ya might find out.”  The Kid reached out and shook the Englishman’s hand firmly.  “Thanks for doin’ this, Tishing.  It’s real decent of ya.”    

A dozing figure rubbed his bleary eyes before running his hands through his greasy, black curls and pulling up his Astrakhan collar.  He pulled his feet off the bench and slowly sat upright in his seat.  “I want to sleep.”  Glavin reached out an arm and tugged at the sheepskin jacket as the Kid turned to walk towards the murder scene.  “I don’t want to be disturbed.”

The Kid shrugged dismissively and made to walk on.  “Who does?”

“I’ll pay ya.  I’m a wealthy man.  You look like you know how to use that gun.  Work for me instead of the railroad.  There are horses in one of the wagons.  I’ll give you fifty dollars to get us a couple and protect me until we reach the next town.”

“Let go of my coat or the hand comes with me,” the eyes hardened, “and I don’t work for the railroad.  I’m a passenger; almost like you, but useful.”  

“I’ll be filing out an official complaint when we get to our destination.”  The hand clutched even more tightly at the sheepskin.  “You’ll be in trouble, but you could be earning a nice little sum.”

“I don’t know what makes you so dumb, but it’s working real well,” the Kid retorted.  “Shut up and listen.  I don’t work for the railroad and I ain’t workin’ for you because I don’t like you.  Have you got that or do you want me to put it in writin’?”  He strode to the front of the railway car and raised his hands.  “Settle down, folks.  It’s gettin’ late and we need to get a few things straight.  We’ve got ourselves a killer here, so nobody leaves this car unless my partner and me go with them.”

“Go where?” asked a butler with extravagantly waved grey hair.  “We’re stuck in the mountains in an ice storm.”

“Help is on the way,” the Kid assured him.  “In the meantime if anyone needs to use the latri…” he eyed Mrs. Hunter and thought the better of calling a spade a spade, “the facilities; my partner and I will escort you.”

“What about those of us left behind?”  Squeaked a little weasel-faced butler. 

“We like to think that there are enough men here to step in,” Heyes strode over beside his partner.  “In any case, we’d be back in a few minutes.”     

“That’s easy for you to say,” Glavin barked.  “You’ve got a colt strapped to your leg.”

“Yeah,” the Kid drew his weapon rested it on his folded arms.  “And I’m quite prepared to use it if necessary.  My partner has a few questions and I want you all to cooperate.  Am I clear?”

“We’re being held at gunpoint now?” Glavin harrumphed.  “This is ridiculous.”

“You’re bein’ warned what to do for your own safety,” a pair of bright-blue eyes burned over at Glavin.  “Don’t blame me if you’re fool enough to ignore it.”

Glavin pulled up his collar.  “I tried to hire you as protection.  The last thing I’m doing is ignoring it.”

“I am lookin’ out for you,” the Kid growled, “along with everyone else.”

“What about your friend?” Glavin gestured towards Heyes with his head, his hands thrust straight into deep pockets against the cold.  “Are you for hire?  Ya look second best as a bodyguard, but you’re better than nothing.”

“Second best?”  The harsh stare filled with obsidian darkness.  Glavin shifted uneasily in his seat and pulled out a pair of spectacles and blinked huge, apprehensive eyes at the ex-outlaw.  “Don’t worry; I never hit a man with glasses.”  Heyes muttered under his breath, “not when there’s something heavier around.”

“Just saying,” Glavin shuffled in his seat.  “He looks meaner’n you.”

Heyes’ face dimpled at the sight of his partner’s indignant scowl.  “You’re clearly a great judge of character.   Are you a betting man?  We could play poker when I’m done here.”

“I’m a businessman.  I can pay,” Glavin snarled.  “If you don’t want the job, ya just have to say.”

“Much as I love being offered commissions, I have to refuse, Mr. Glavin,” Heyes arched a brow.  “After all, if you’re the murderer I won’t get paid, will I?”

“How can I be the killer?” spluttered Glavin.  “I never moved from my bunk last night and I was in the cabin with everyone else when the boy was killed.”

“Yeah,” Heyes nodded, and gazed around the assembled company.  “So which one of you snuck out of the passenger car and did it?  One of you did.”

“It wasn’t me,” huffed Glavin.  “I was having a snooze on these seats.”

“Lying down?  Out of the line of sight?”  Heyes glanced around looking for witnesses.  “Who noticed him?”

“I was reading,” proffered a prospective man-servant, shaking his head.

“I was sketching,” another pronounced.  “I was concentrating on mastering perspective.”

“We were playing chess,” a brace of butlers announced with a shrug.

“I was tatting,” declared another, “in that seat over there, so I had my back to him.”

“Tatting?” Heyes glanced at the Kid who shrugged and shook his head. 

The man held up an intricate piece of lace.  “Yes.  It passes the time.  I learned in the Royal Navy.  I found knitting too boring.”

“Yeah…right.”  Heyes scratched the side of his head, tilting his hat slightly.  “What about you lot?”

A huddle of men suddenly sat erect and faced front.  “We were playing ‘The game of Authors.’”  A butler with a serious centre parting smiled.  “I was Louisa May Alcott.  Everyone in the game can vouch for me.”

The Kid rolled his eyes and dropped his head.  “Of course you were.”  He threw Heyes a look.  “What was that you were sayin’ about there bein’ men here when we escorted folks to the latrines?” 

“Hey, we may not be cowboys, but we’re men,” a British bulldog growled over a starched collar cutting into his neck  “We all know about standing up to be counted and there’s not a man jack of us who’ll sit back and let someone be hurt.  You survive in your world and we survive in ours.”

Heyes appraised the men who glared at him over the backs of the Pullman seats.  “Yes, I suppose.  The world’s not easy to negotiate wherever you end up, and brute force doesn’t cut it where you come from.”

“But sometimes it’s called for,” The Kid holstered his weapon.  “Nobody’s gonna get the chance to skedaddle before the law gets here either,” he glowered at Glavin.  “I ain’t gonna stand by and watch anyone else get killed.”

“Me neither,” Heyes gestured to the front of the railway carriage with his head.  “Come with me, Glavin.  I haven’t interviewed you yet.  I want to know why you were so keen to get outta here and why no one can confirm your whereabouts at the time of the second murder.”

“It’s Mr. Glavin to you,” he stood, prodding at Malachi who was walking down the aisle to provide Tishing and his butlers with cleaning equipment.  “Get outta my way, George.”

“Malachi!” the Kid barked.

All heads turned at the sharpness of the tone.  “Can I help you, Mister Jones?” Malachi asked.

“Nope.  I’m just letting Glavin know that I ain’t happy with him usin’ slave names for folks around me,” an ice-blue glare fixed on the dark-haired passenger.  “His name is Malachi, but you can call him ’Sir.’”

“A steward?  You want me to call a black steward ‘Sir’?  Are you mad?”

The blue eyes narrowed to slits.  “Yeah, real mad.  Wanna find out how mad?”

Glavin gulped hard as the conductor stepped forward.  “I won’t have anyone intimidated on board my train.  Come with me, Mr. Glavin.  I’ll sit with you while you’re interviewed.”  Farrow ushered the man past the lean gun man who held  Glavin’s dark eyes every step of the way.  “I’ll make sure you’re looked after.  Mr. Jones, weren’t you going to oversee the cleaning?”

“Yeah,” the Kid continued with his glare.  “I need to take out the dirt.”

“This way, Mr. Glavin.”  Farrow steered his charge towards Heyes who had cleared the benches at the front of the railway carriage for the interview.  “We need to speak to everyone on board.”

“Sit down, Mr. Glavin,” Heyes gestured towards the empty seat opposite from him.  “So, why do you feel the need for a body guard?”

The lips pulled into a snarl under a pencil-thin, dark moustache.  “Folks have been killed.  Why’d ya think?  I don’t want to be next.”

“There are women on board.  Don’t you think they need to be protected more than the men?”

Glavin thrust a thumb towards his chest.  “What?  An English housekeeper and a black railroad worker?  I’m an important man.  I own the biggest salmon cannery on the Sacramento River.  I’m travelling back west after a trip to expand my business on the East coast.  I deserve some protection.” 

“And how do you figure that?” asked a frowning Heyes.

“Money’s clearly the motive.  They went for old Hunter when they found out about her moonstone.  I’m gonna be next.”  Glavin’s voice dropped to a whisper.  “I’m wearing a money-belt.”

Farrow and Heyes exchanged a glance.  “We know.  We searched you.”  Heyes pushed back his hat with a long forefinger.  “Why do you think you’re next?”

Glavin’s greasy curls nodded towards the two women huddled together.  “I dispose of fifty like them a week, when they don’t measure up.  They hate men like me.”

Heyes sat back in his seat.  “Dispose of them?”

“They have to keep up with the line, if they can’t they’re out.”  Glavin’s dark, Italianate eyes mirrored Heyes’ reflection.  “I’m not a charity.  I lose money if the lines slow down in the cannery.  Folks come from miles around to work in my factories, so I don’t have to put up with lollygaggers and goldbrickers.  If folks can’t keep up they have to go.  I only keep the best, but that makes a man enemies.”    

“So how do you recruit these people?  Where do they come from?”  Heyes asked.

“I have agents meeting immigrants from the boats and trains.  Chinese, Italians, Poles, Irish; you name it.  They come from all over; all I’m interested in is how well they work.”

“Is the work dangerous?”  Heyes sat forward and looked straight into Glavin’s eyes.  “How long do they last?”

“The women look for husbands and get out real quick.  They tend to do the gutting and salting.  The men last longer, until they can’t do the carrying and heavy work anymore.  It ain’t too dangerous, maybe a finger here and there, but that’s what happens if you ain’t bright enough to learn how to use a knife.  The ice can freeze the hands so you don’t feel it slice through.  It’s not like it hurts – at the time anyway.”

Heyes’ brows gathered.  “You don’t think losing a finger hurts?”

“They keep working, so how bad can it be?”

“They probably face starvation if they don’t.  Maybe worse.” 

“Immigrants; there are thousands of them desperate for work.  I can afford to cherry-pick; and why shouldn’t I?”  Glavin twitched his head towards the sobbing stewardess.  “I wouldn’t tolerate that for a second.  You’re paying her and she sits there with her betters?  She’d be on her knees with her butt in the air scrubbing that floor, if I had my way.”

Silence fell; the kind of thick, uncomfortable disquiet which gets under the skin and makes folks blink, shuffle and clear their throats.  Heyes folded his arms.  “Have you any questions, Mr. Farrow?”

“Yeah, but I have a family to feed so I need to keep my job.  You ask, Mr. Smith.”

Heyes stared at the factory owner through hooded eyes.  “Are human beings disposable to you, Mr. Glavin?”

“Like I said; I’m not a charity.  They’ll find something else.”    

Heyes arched his brows.  “Like what?”

“Not my problem.  They can end up on the streets as far as I’m concerned.”  Glavin parted his thin lips and released an unsavory smile.  “There’s some of them I’d pay, but I don’t usually have to.  Have you ever met a desperate woman, Smith?  They’ll do anything,” he leaned forward, a malignant darkness in his eyes, “and I mean, anything.”

Heyes bit pensively into his lip as his jaw hardened, the tightening sinews standing out as his hands balled into fists.  “You’d best go back to your seat, Glavin.”      

“So what about my protection?”

Heyes stood, peering down at the greasy crimped hair which merged into the tight curls of the Astrakhan collar.  “Your best protection is to get back to your seat and shut your mouth.”

“But…”

“Take a warning, Mr. Glavin.  He doesn’t work for the railways and there’s a limit to how much I can control him,” Farrow murmured

Glavin stood eyeing the brooding ex-outlaw leader suspiciously.  “Ya’d better.  I didn’t book a ticket to have all this trouble.”

“Keep away from the women,” Heyes muttered.  “I’ll be keeping an eye on you.”

**********

The tall gunman gave his partner’s boot a gentle kick, causing the book in the dark man’s hands to jostle.    A pair of irritated dark eyes darted up.  “What!?”

The Kid grabbed the book.  “’Durk…heim’s Structural Function…alism?’  You thinkin’ of buildin’ a house, Joshua?”

“It’s Maud’s.  It’s about how society works together like a series of parts, like clockwork.  If one part of it goes bad it has an effect somewhere else.”  Heyes handed it over to his partner and picked up a pile of letters.  “She worked for a charity in England that helps women tricked into traveling on the promise of marriage or employment.”

The Kid scratched his head.  “She said she was a student.”

“She was a charity worker, too,” Heyes unfolded a letter.  “The chairman of the charity was worried she was getting too involved.  He sent her this telegram telling her to stop following someone.” 

Serious blue eyes widened.  “A motive.  So she was after someone who was forcin’ girls to become,” he dropped his voice, “prostitutes?”

“I guess so.  Once a poor girl travelled all this way she’d have no money and even fewer choices,” Heyes shook his head ruefully, “and it’s not just girls either.  There are boys too.”  She’s been communicating with a journalist called William Stead who’s done a series of stories in England about the problem.”

“Boys?”  The Kid’s face hardened.  “What kinda dirty lowlife…?”

Heyes handed the Kid an album full of newspaper clippings and turned the pages until he pointed at a piece.  “He bought a thirteen year old girl and wrote a story that shocked England.  It’s happening here, too, Thaddeus.  Vulnerable young folks are being sold and used every which way by greedy users.  Youngsters like we once were.”

The Kid stared around the railway car at the people bundled up against the biting cold.  “And one of ‘em’s on here.”

“It looks like it,” Heyes flipped open Maud’s leather suitcase. 

The Kid swore quietly under his breath and glared at Glavin.  “Yeah, it’s all startin’ to fit.” 

“We don’t know it’s him,” Heyes flicked through Maud’s case.  “Clothes, shoes, books.  Nothing out of the ordinary.”  He flicked open a leather case.  “Mirror and brushes…” he flicked open a cardboard box.  “What is that?  Bandages?”  He frowned reading the printing on the box.  “’Hartman’s Hygienic Wood Wool Diapers.’  Why would she need diapers?”

His cousin shrugged.  “Dunno.  She works for charity.  Maybe she needs ‘em for little kids she saves.”

“I guess.”  Heyes pulled out a veneered and lacquered box and draped a delicate gold chain over his fingers.  “She had a fair collection of good jewelry of her own.”
“So, if anyone stole the moonstone it’s lookin’ less likely it was Maud Davies.”
The box snapped shut before it was tossed back into the suitcase.  “Yup, it feels dirty, going through that woman’s things and I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth.  I need a drink.”   

**********

“Mrs. Hunter?” Heyes smiled at the Englishwoman.  “How are you feeling?”

She placed a forefinger on her temples and gave a watery smile.  “I have a headache, but I’m much recovered, thank you.”  

Heyes cheeks dimpled.   “We didn’t like to disturb you earlier.  Can the conductor and I ask you a few questions?”

“Questions?”  Mrs. Hunter turned resigned eyes on both men.  “I suppose, but I really don’t remember much.  It was dark and everything happened so fast.”

“We have to try,” Heyes nodded.  “Can we search your sleeping area while we’re at it?  We couldn’t do it before because you were being treated there.”

“Search?”  Mrs. Hunter watched Heyes throw back the curtains to her sleeping area without waiting for permission.  “Whatever for?  You surely don’t think I stole my own moonstone?  I’ve lost my nest egg.  I have absolutely nothing to gain and everything to lose.”

“Hmm,” Heyes slid something out from under the bunk and flicked open a wooden box.  “I think I missed this in the search, but we couldn’t get in there before now.”

“That’s my writing set.  I do the books for the new Academy of Butling.”  She watched Heyes pull out a pair of squat, little bottles.  “The black ink is for net income, the red denotes net loss.”

“Pens, inkwell, extra nibs,” he listed.  “Ah, the ledgers,” Heyes dragged out the book and put it on the bench, glancing over at the woman hugging the stewardess across the aisle from him. 

Heyes lifted the bottles and held them up to the light measuring the levels of both bottles.  “Did you have a previous business fail?”

“Unless you think I’ve hidden my gem in there I can’t see the relevance of going through my writing chest.”

Heyes snapped the box closed.  “Me neither.  How will you manage now you’ve lost your capital?”

The Englishwoman dropped her head and sighed heavily.  “Mr. Tishing and I have to discuss that.  There may be a delay while we get some capital behind us,” she drew her chin up defiantly, “but we will get there through hard work and perseverance.  I think you call that the American way?”

“I’m sure somebody does.  It sounds like the kinda thing politicians say to get folks to do more work for the same money.”  Heyes lifted the mattress to both bunks and examined the beds before dropping everything back in a crumpled mess.  “Nothing.”

“What did you expect?”  Mrs. Hunter frowned. 

“Just what I found, I guess.  What happened last night, Mrs. Hunter?”

“Miss Davies wanted to talk to me in private.”  The woman dabbed away nothing in particular from her mouth with a lace-trimmed handkerchief.  “She asked me to follow her to the observation deck.”

“And did you?”  Heyes pressed.

“After I went to the rest room, yes, I did.”  She cast a hand out towards the student butlers.  “I saw Robertson and Drake,” she paused and rubbed her forehead, “no, forgive me.  I saw them when I came back in from the observation deck after talking to Miss Davies.  I wasn’t out there long.  It was freezing.”

The dark eyes grew more intense.  “What did she want to talk to you about and why did it have to be out there?”

“Female things,” Mrs. Hunter met Heyes’ gaze with a defiant stare.  “There are things a woman does not discuss with a man, or within his earshot.”

“Female things?”  Heyes and Farrow shared an uncomfortable glance before Heyes continued.  “Can’t you do better than that?  This is a murder investigation.”  

The woman sniffed.  “All you need to know is that she wanted to talk to me about a delicate matter and it took no time at all.  I returned to my bunk fairly quickly.”

“Can’t you tell Mr. Philpot what she wanted to talk about?” Heyes nodded over to the accoucheur.  “I doubt there’s anything about females that’d shock him.”

“It’d shock me, “she declared.  “To the very bone.  There are some areas a man has no business meddling with and that…” her face grew puce.  “She needed to seek out some feminine supplies.  I won’t be drawn further.”

Heyes shrugged, knowing when he was beat.  “Why’d she have to take you out to a freezing observation deck to ask you that?  Why not do it in the comfort of the bunk area?”

“You’d have to ask her that,” the Englishwoman snapped.  “All I know is that I went out there and our conversation was ended in less than a minute.  I did not have what she sought.  I returned to my bunk and it was then I saw the students.  I went to bed and the next thing I knew she was standing over me.  She struck me with something and everything went black.  You know the rest.”

Heyes nodded.  “You talked to one of the men?” 

“Oh, yes.  I spoke briefly to the young man who was just murdered.”  Mrs. Hunter’s eyes widened.  “No!  Do you think someone might be afraid that I may have told him something important?  Something worth killing for?”

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

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Posts : 1427
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 60
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: Re: A Handshake Seals the Deal   Wed Apr 23, 2014 6:53 pm

By the time the posse finally arrived in the town of Handshake, Wyoming the two captives were a sorry sight. Both men were foot sore and limping and the sight of the empty saddle on that bay gelding being led along right under their noses just added insult to growing agony.  Heyes' chest was burning like he'd just eaten a plateful of jalapenos at the Hedalgo cantina.  Except that his tummy felt empty again.

Handshake was a small town and Kid found himself hoping that they actually had a jailhouse here.  The last thing he wanted was to end up in a dark, damp cellar with no windows and probably no food.  Besides that, Heyes had stopped talking ages ago so Kid knew he was hurting; a cool but dry place to rest was on the top of the list for accommodation.

It was late afternoon when the small group rode into town and a large percentage of the locals were out and about, either heading for home or the saloon.  Everyone's curiosity was aroused and comments and enquiries were being tossed around like a new baby at a family reunion.  Soon quite a group had fallen in with the tired posse and were following them down to the local law office.  The tired and dusty men ignored the hangers-on and the two captives willingly came to a halt along with the horses once they had reached their destination.

The small crowd were all milling around and basically getting in the way when the town sheriff stepped out of his office.  Marshal Dicks stiffly dismounted and came up the steps to shake his hand.

“Sheriff,”  he greeted the local law.  “I'm Marshal Harry Dicks.  I'd  like to house my two prisoners here while I arrange to transport them back to Cheyenne.”

The skinny lawman scratched his afternoon stubble and scrutinized the two prisoners as he shook the marshals hand.  “Howdy,”  he mumbled.  “Sheriff Wayne Carr.”  His afternoon shadow made a nod towards the dusty outlaws.  “Well who are they?”  he asked.  “They're so covered in dirt it's kinda hard ta' make out their features.”

That same question had been going around the gathering as everyone peered at the two men and tried to come up with the answer.  Then the inevitable happened just as the sheriff himself made the enquiry.

“Hey, I recognize them two,”  came a voice from the group.  “That's Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.”

“What?”  came more than one incredulous tone.

“I thought they was up Colorado way.”

“You sure it's them, Clyde?”

“Yeah I'm sure,”  Clyde sounded insulted that he was being questioned.  “I was in a bank they robbed a couple 'a years ago.  Ya' don't go forgettin' somethin' like that.”

Whistles of appreciation went round the group as the deputies all dismounted and stretched out aching muscles.  Heyes and the Kid stood placidly; too tired to care.

The sheriff showed some interest with Clyde's announcement and took a closer look at the placid prisoners.

“Heyes and Curry?”  he said.  “Sure don't look like 'em.”

“It's them,”  Dicks assured him.  “If you've seen them before than ya' oughta be able to recognize 'em now, even with all the dirt on 'em.”

“Oh, I ain't never seen 'em before,”  the sheriff countered.  “I just figured they'd be lookin' a bit more....'outlawish', if ya' know what I mean.”  

Dicks sent Carr a derogatory look that was totally lost on the local man.

“Ya' got room for 'em or not?”  Dicks pushed.

“Oh yeah,”  the sheriff assured him.  “Yeah, you can bring 'em on in.”

“Good!”  Dicks nodded towards MacCrackin.  “Bring 'em in here Phil.  The rest of you fellas, get the horses and yourselves settled and we'll meet ya' over at the local eatery.  Feel free to order whatever ya' want for supper.  After the chase these two lead us on I think we all deserve a decent meal.”

This announcement was met with nods and appreciative comments and the deputies all gathered up the  horses and followed the local directions to the livery.

Phil came up behind the two captives and gave each one a push towards the office.  They stepped forward as though in a trance and were practically leaning on each other to get up the step to the boardwalk.  They quietly allowed themselves to be herded into the sheriff's office.  

The local townsfolk continued to mill around outside the establishment, speculating back and forth among themselves and apparently in no hurry to get home to their own suppers.


“Put them in the bigger cell, right there,”  the sheriff suggested.  “I suppose you expect the town to feed them as well.”

Dicks sighed with irritation.  This sheriff was really getting on his nerves.  “Don't worry,”  he mumbled.  “I'll pay for their keep.  They'll be bringin' us in a big enough paycheque so I suppose they can benefit from that a bit themselves.”  he called over to the prisoners as Phil was removing their handcuffs and closing the cell door on them.  “Hear that boys?  Order whatever ya' want for supper.  It might just be the last decent meal you're gonna get.”

Curry just sent him a nod and a slight wave while Heyes simply lay down on one of the cots and bringing his knees up, held his torso in pain.  Jed sat down on the opposite bunk and leaning back against the bars watched his partner with growing concern.

“Ya' alright Heyes?”  he asked quietly.

Heyes just closed his eyes and concentrated on breathing.

Dicks and MacCracken left the office and Sheriff Carr ambled over to tend to his guests.

“So, what you boys feel like eatin'?”  he asked them.

Curry just sent him an exhausted look.  “I think some water for drinkin' and for washin' might be first on the list Sheriff,”  the Kid told him.  “And is there a doctor in town?”

“Yeah,”  the sheriff puffed himself up with pride.  “we got us a young fella, fresh out here from back east, lookin' for adventure.”  the sheriff snorted.  “Seems he's been a mite disappointed that he ain't seen no big time outlaws or had any epidemics to deal with, but I suppose you two oughta make up fer some 'a that!”

“That's nice,”  Curry grumbled.  “Do ya' think you could get him over here.  My partner had a horse fall on him and he ain't feelin' too good.”

The sheriff looked at the prone man as though it was the first time he'd noticed anything amiss with him.  

“Yeah, I suppose I can see if he can come over,”  he agreed.  “might havta' wait until he's had his supper though.  It is gettin' on to that time ya' know.”

“Sorry for the inconvenience.”

The sheriff nodded, accepting the apology and then moved over to the front door of his office.

“Hey Wilbur!”  the prisoners could hear the sheriff calling outside.  “get over to Doc Brimmers' place and see if he's able to come over here, will ya'?  Oh and stop by the cafe on yer way and pick up a couple a' steak dinners as well.  Seems these two are gettin' top shelf tonight.”


“Ya' hear that Heyes?”  Curry asked quietly from his bunk.  “Steak dinner tonight.  Maybe they'll even bring us over a couple of beers.”

Heyes didn't answer.  He lay on his back with his eyes closed, his right hand clutching the bars of the cell.  Jed sighed and realizing how much his feet were hurting, he slowly pulled off his boots and his socks in order to examine the damage done.  Damn; there were some blisters there alright.  Best keep the boots off for a while.

“Hey, Heyes.  Your feet hurtin'?”

Heyes thought about it for a moment having to focus his mind away from his torso and down to the south end.  He frowned and then nodded.

“Yeah,”  was his simple conformation.

Jed stood up and walked gingerly over to the other cot and carefully pulled off his partner's boots.

“Ow,”  Heyes complained, still without opening his eyes.

“Yeah I know Heyes.  But they'll feel better out gettin' some air.”

“Hmm.”

The sheriff came over then with a pitcher of water, two cups and a small basin to wash up in if they wanted to.  He set the items down on the floor outside the cell and pulled his gun.

“Get back, over against the far wall,”  he told Curry.

Jed sighed and slowly stood up to comply.  The sheriff opened the cell door, placed the items on the other side of the threshold and then quickly slammed the door shut again.  Curry nodded his thanks and hobbled over to take advantage of the offering.


Two hours later, doctor and dinner still had not arrived.  It was Kid's turn to start pacing the cell.  Asking the sheriff what was going on wasn't getting any more response than a lazy shrug so Kid had stopped asking.

Finally he heard the office door open and he sent an anxious glance over that way.  A young blond haired man carrying a satchel arrived and closed the door behind him.  The sheriff sat up from where he had been dozing and greeted the newcomer.

“Hey Charlie,”  he said.  “Good to see ya'.”

“Evening Wayne,”  the young man answered.  “I hear one of the prisoners needs some seeing to?”

“Yeah,”  Wayne stood up and getting the keys and the set of handcuffs from the desk drawer he headed over to the cells and beckoned Curry over.

“C'mon young fella,”  he instructed.  “put your hands through the bars.”

“Oh come on!”  Jed protested.  “I'm not gonna go anywhere.  You think I'm gonna run out on my partner when he's like this?”

Wayne shrugged again.  “Wouldn't surprise me none,”  he admitted.  “so if you want your partner seen to by the Doc, then you better put your hands through the bars.”

Kid sighed in resignation and came over to the sheriff to accommodate him.  The cuffs were quickly snapped into the place and the sheriff opened the cell door for the doctor to step in.

“Thanks Wayne,”  he said.  “I'll call ya' if I need you.”

“Hmm,”  Wayne grumbled, knowing he had been dismissed.  “Fine, but I”ll be keepin' an eye on ya' from over here. These two ain't to be trusted Charlie.”

Charlie just nodded and smiled.  “Bring me a chair will ya' Wayne?”

Sheriff Carr grumbled some more, but he did go and get the doctor a chair and then retreated back to his desk. He sat nursing a cold cup of coffee and kept his beady eyes focused on the people in the cell.  Can't ever let it be said that Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry broke out of his jail.


“You took your time getting over here,”  Kid snarked, his nerves totally frazzled with worry.  “I suppose a lowly outlaw ain't worth disturbin' your supper.”

Charlie sent Kid a quiet smile as he sat down beside Heyes.  “Wasn't like that at all Mr. Curry.  Apparently a couple of the posse members were also injured and the marshal insisted I tend to them first.  I got here as quickly as I could.”

“Oh,”  Jed felt slightly contrite.

“What in the world happened here?”

“Ah, we kinda' took a tumble down an embankment.  Couldn't see it in the dark.  Horse landed on top of 'em.”

“Yes,”  the doctor confirmed.  “that's pretty much what the deputies said too.”  He turned his attention to his patient and placed a hand across his forehead.  “Can you hear me Mr. Heyes?”

“Yes,”  Heyes answered quietly, his voice strained with pain.

“I'm just going to unbutton your shirt, alright?”

Heyes nodded with just barely perceptible movement.

Charlie carefully undid the buttons and opened the shirt up, revealing Heyes' chest.  Jed caught his breath as he looked on from the bars.

“Jeez,”  he exclaimed.  “He's all black and blue.”

Charlie nodded and started to do a very careful examination.  Heyes hung on to the bars and tried not to be a baby.

“Does it hurt when you breathe?”  the doctor asked.

“Yes,”  came the strained reply.

“Umm hmm.  Right from the start, or did it come on gradually?”

“Gradually.”

“Okay.  Any blood in the chamber pot or when you vomit?”

“No,”  Heyes assured him.  “and I haven't vomited.”

“Okay,”  came the response again.  “Can you sit up?”

Heyes' eyes widen with concern but he gave it his best shot, using the bars of the cell to haul himself up to a sitting position.  Charlie took hold of his left arm and assisted with the movement.  Heyes gritted his teeth but he did sit up.

Charlie pulled Heyes' shirt all the way off and Jed couldn't help but whistle again, albeit softly.  “He's bruised all the way through.”

Charlie just smiled and taking out his stethoscope he placed the end against Heyes' back and gave him the usual instructions.

“Just breath as best you can.”

Heyes did so though it hurt like the dickens  Finally Charlie nodded and settled back in his chair.

“Well,”  asked the Kid.  “How is he?”

“You're going to be alright Mr. Heyes,”  Charlie assured his patient. “You were damn lucky.  The two deputies both had broken bones and seeing that bruising on your chest I was afraid you had suffered the same.  Worse even. Bruising like this often indicates internal bleeding.  If you had broken a rib and it had punctured a lung you would have been in very real distress here.
“But it appears that you are just bruised and sore.  Something to eat, as much fluids as you can take and a good nights sleep and you'll be feeling much better by morning.  Ah, if it's possible you should rest for a few days before doing any physical activity but I understand that you don't have much say in that.  But, in the mean time here's some laudanum.”  He took a small pouch out of his satchel and picking up the empty cup that was on the floor by the cot, he took the nearby pitcher and poured water into it and added the medication.  “Take a little bit now, with lots of water; here you go.”  Heyes took the cup and swallowed its contents.  He made a face with the bitterness of it, but Charlie poured him another cup of water and that helped to chase the taste away.   “Take more after you've had something to eat.  That should help you sleep.”

“Yeah, okay Doc.  Thanks.”  Heyes told him.  “Not sure if I can eat anything though.”

Charlie smiled.  “Once the laudanum eases some of the pain I'm sure you'll be feeling hungry.  The cafe is slowing down about now so your meals should be arriving soon.”

“About time,”  Kid grumbled.

Charlie ignored him.  “I'll also send over some salve and ointment for those blisters on your feet.  The salve is for your sore muscles, Mr. Heyes.  Don't put that on your blisters; it would sting like hell.  I'm sure Mr. Curry, or the sheriff can help you apply the salve.”

“Ahhh....”

“I'll help him,”  Jed assured the whole assembly.  

Charlie grinned again and picking up his satchel he stood up and prepared to leave.  “Okay, fine.  I'll come by again in the morning to check up on you.”

“Okay, thanks Doc,”  Heyes held out his hand for shaking but then cringed with the pain it caused.  He jerked it back out of reflex and accidentally knocked the doctor's satchel to the floor.

Murphy's law dictated that the case did a quick flip, spilling many of its contents across Heyes' lap before landing itself upside down on the floor beside the cot.

“Oh, jeez Doc, I'm sorry,”  Heyes looking slightly embarrassed as he began to collect up the utensils that were spread out across his cot.

“Oh, that's quite alright,”  the doctor assured him as he picked up his bag and got busy putting everything back in it's place.  “No worries.  I can get it.  You just rest easy Mr. Heyes.  Don't worry about it.”

Heyes gave him his most charming smile then again held out his hand to the doctor for shaking.  Charlie smiled back and returned the solid handshake.  For an outlaw, Mr Heyes seemed to be very cordial.  What a shame he would probably be spending the rest of his life in prison.

“Fine,” he said again as he prepared to leave.  “I'll send those medicines right over.  Oh!  And here comes your suppers, right on time.”


Twenty minutes later Heyes and Jed were sitting on their respective cots, their sore feet soaking in basins full of cool medicated water.   They each had a small tin cup of beer sitting by them on the floor and were busy eating steak suppers from plates resting on their laps.

“Your appetite seems to have picked up some,”  Curry commented between chews.  “I'm surprised that little bit of laudanum helped ya' that much.”

Heyes sent a quick look over to the sheriff and satisfied that he was duly distracted, offered up an explanation.

“I wasn't quite as sore as I let on,”  he told his cousin quietly.  “I'm achy that's for sure but the bruising's not as bad as it looks.”

“Well then, why...?”

“I wanted to get that doctor in here,”  Heyes grinned through his mouthfuls.  “That Marshal Dicks took my lock picks, but it's amazing the tools you can find in a doctor's bag.”

“Oh.  So.....”  It was Kid's turn to grin as light dawned and he realized Heyes' deliberate slight of hand;  so smooth that even Kid hadn't noticed it.  “Aw Heyes,  ha ha!  You are a genius!”

Heyes' brows went up and he nodded in appreciation of his own profound abilities.  “So, let's just enjoy our steak suppers, rest up for a bit and then see if we can get out of here in time for the local freight to be coming through later tonight.”

“Sounds like a plan to me partner.”  


The end.


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PostSubject: Re: A Handshake Seals the Deal   Sat Apr 26, 2014 10:47 pm

No matter how hard or how often Deputy Harker stamped his feet, they were still cold. The heavy, wet snow was piling up faster on the platform than the stationmaster could remove it. Times like this, he wondered why he’d ever left Indiana. Oh, Plainfield got snow, but it didn’t come as early or as heavy in the Midwest. He probably wouldn’t see ground again till March or April.

He looked again at the big clock hanging over the platform. It was two minutes later than the last time he’d looked. He tramped through the slush to the stationmaster’s office.

“Leland, you told me this train was gonna be on time. It’s already five minutes late.”

“Hold your horses, Harker. Five minutes ain’t nothin’ in this kind of weather. It’ll be rollin’ in ‘fore you know it.”

“I already know it, Leland. My feet are just about froze.”

A shrill whistle interrupted the conversation. Both men turned towards the tracks. The whistle sounded again, twice, three times.

“Now you see? It’s a comin’, just like I told you.”

“Christmas is comin’ too.” Harker turned expectantly toward the train and watched it pull into the station, belching soot into the air and turning the snow gray. As the train slowed, he saw Lom Trevors, carpetbag in hand, waiting to jump down. Harker hurried over towards him.

“How’s your trip to the capitol, Sheriff?” Harker said, touching his hat. Trevors hopped off the steps.

“What have you heard, Harker?” Trevors asked. “They show up yet?”

“No, Sheriff, they ain’t. I ain’t seen hide nor hair of either Smith or Jones.”

“No telegram?”

“No, Sheriff.”  Trevors made a face. “You want me to check the telegraph again?”

“Yes. I’m going to the office. Report to me there.”

“Yes sir.” Harker almost saluted. Trevors watched him turn smartly on his heel and slip on the icy platform. Harker righted himself and headed off to the telegraph office at a more careful pace.

Trevors looked at the sky and wondered how the sky could hold so much snow. By morning there’d be drifts up to the windows. The chances of Heyes and Curry getting to Porterville in this kind of weather were slim to none.

The deep snow slowed his walk back to his office. The lamplight illuminating the barred window looked as welcome to him as his own home. Which was a pretty good description, he thought, because his jail would be home for tonight. It was too cold and too late to ride out to his cabin. Anyway, sleeping in his own jail wasn’t so bad. A lot better than nights he’d spent in other sheriffs’ jails, back when he was outlawing.

The front door was almost frozen shut. He put his shoulder against it and pushed hard. The forward motion propelled him into the room so quickly, he almost fell over the threshold. A gust of freezing wind knocked the door open wide, and it banged against a railing and bounced off. Closing the door was almost as hard as opening it had been, what with the wind pushing against it. When he finally got it closed, the frustration of the last few days boiled over, and he kicked the door,fluently cursing the snow, the cold, politicians, and the former leaders of the Devil’s Hole Gang.

“Well ain’t that a fine howdee-do for your old friend!”  Surprised, Trevors dropped his carpetbag and reached for his pistol, but it was covered by his heavy coat, and he fumbled until he got a good look at his visitor.

 “Dammit all, Heyes” Lom complained. “Get out of my chair before I kick you out of it.”

“Take it easy, would you, Lom?” Heyes said. “And stop playing with that hogleg before you hurt someone.”

“Just get out of my chair.”

“Alright, alright!” Heyes pushed himself up and stood next to the chair, waving his arm towards it.
“It’s all yours, Lom. And the seat’s all warmed up for you, too.”

“About time.” Trevors crossed over to his desk and fell heavily into his chair.

“Where’s the Kid?”

“Went to the hotel to check us in,” Heyes told him. He sat down on a corner of the desk and crossed his legs. “He figured I could hold the fort here.”

“I see.” Trevors looked closely at Heyes’ bland expression, trying unsuccessfully to read his thoughts.

“You want to hear the news now, or should I wait for the Kid?”

“Depends on whether or not you think he’s gonna want to shoot something when he hears your news.”

“Uh huh. Well, I got good news and bad news. Which do you want first?”

“You choose.”

“The Governor says he’s going to give you both the amnesty.”  Trevors tried to smile, but couldn’t quite manage it. Heyes noticed.

“Normally I’d say that’s good news, Lom. There’s more, though.” Trevors nodded.

“But he’s changing the deal. Instead of giving you the amnesty straight out, he wants you and the Kid to serve two years in prison. After that, he’ll pardon you both.”

“I knew it!” Heyes stood up and slammed his fist on the desk, rattling papers. He threw his hat to the floor and started pacing in the small room, three steps front and then three steps back again. Trevors waited for Heyes’ to calm down enough to talk.

“Three years, Lom! Three years! We had a deal!”

“I’m sorry, Heyes. The Governor knows you and he had a deal, but he’s responsible to a lot more people than a couple outlaws. At least, that’s what he says. He says he discussed amnesty for you two, kind of like a crazy idea to reduce crime, with a lot of his advisors and backers. Nobody, not one of them, would go along without you two serving at least a little time. It’s two years instead of twenty.”

Heyes swung around to face Trevors. “He says! What does he expect we’re gonna do? Just shake hands with him like good little boys and say, yes sir, anything you say sir, and then go to prison? Why would we believe him now, when he’s already gone back on his word?”

“What else can you do, Heyes? He don’t have to do even that much. He’s the governor.”

All the anger suddenly drained out of Heyes. His shoulders slumped, and he collapsed onto a chair as if he didn’t have enough energy to stand.

“Don’t a man’s word mean anything?” Heyes said, almost pleading. “Me and Kid, we kept our word. We went straight.”

“Listen, Heyes. No, really, listen to me,” Trevors said. Heyes finally raised his head and looked at Trevors, who had no problem reading Heyes’ expression now. “I believe him. He said to me, a deal’s a deal, but the bankers won’t go for it. “

“But nothing, Lom!” Heyes jumped out of his chair and began pacing again. “When you and me and Kid met here three years ago, were there any buts? No, there weren’t. He said, stay out of trouble, and then we’d get amnesty, free and clear. We kept our word and stopped thieving. Now I’m wondering, what for?”

Lom half-rose from his chair. He was starting to get angry, too.

“To stay out of prison, that’s what for! You wanted a pardon without any cost to you or Kid! Well, now it’s gonna cost you, if you still want it. Do two years time, and you’re free and clear.”

Heyes stood still and stared at the ceiling, blinking rapidly.

“Heyes,” Trevors urged, “Think about it. Talk about it with the Kid. This may be your last chance. It’s two years instead of twenty.”

“How do I know that, Lom? Am I supposed to shake hands with the Governor and figure we got a binding deal?”

“I ain’t lied to you once for the last three years, Heyes, and I ain’t lying to you now. I think this is the best you’re gonna get. The railroads and the banks, they think you’re getting away with all your robbing without paying any price. How can the guy who robs one bank get put away for ten, twenty years, when a career thief  like you walks away free as a bird?”

Heyes’ voice was quiet again. “Because that was the deal, Lom. That’s what we were offered, and that’s what we accepted.”

Trevors fell backwards into his chair. He clasped his hands together and spoke quietly, too.

“I know, Heyes. I know. I was here, too, remember?”

Heyes bent down and picked up his hat from the floor. He put the hat on, pushing it low on his head so that his dark eyes were almost invisible below the tattered brim.

“Where you goin’, Heyes?”

“To the hotel. To bed. Me and Kid nearly killed ourselves and our horses trying to get to Porterville after we got your telegram.”

“You gonna talk to Kid about this now?”

“Can’t hardly avoid it.” Heyes was reaching for the door when it burst open, almost hitting him. He jumped back and put his hand on his gun, ready to defend himself, until he realized it was only Deputy Harker.

“Sheriff, there weren’t no – hey, what’re you doing here, Smith?”

“I’m leaving, Deputy. If you’ll kindly move aside.” Harker did, and Heyes slipped by him quietly, out into the snowy night.

“Well I’ll be,” Harker said, straightening his shoulders. “I guess it don’t make no difference now, but there weren’t no telegrams from Smith or Jones.”

“Guess not,” Trevors agreed, “Why don’t you go on home, Harker? I’m spending the night here.”

“Thanks, Sheriff. I’ll see you tomorrow then?” Trevors nodded, and Harker left, slamming the door behind him. Trevors looked at the bed in the cells. It’d been a long couple of days, and tomorrow wasn’t looking any better. Maybe he’d go lay down and try to forget everything for eight hours. If that was even possible.

===

The clerk was scribbling something in the register when Trevors approached the front desk. He didn’t look up until Trevors cleared his throat, loudly.

“Why, good morning, Sheriff, what brings you out so early?”

“I’m looking for a couple old friends who registered here last night. Name of Smith and Jones. What room are they in?”

“22 front, Sheriff. But they ain’t here now.” Trevors waited expectantly for more. The clerk smiled benignly. Trevors suppressed a sigh. Why couldn’t people just tell you what you wanted to know?

“Do you know where they are, Abner?”

“They’re in the dining room, having breakfast.” Abner pointed off to his left. “Right through there.”

Trevors nodded his thanks. He found Heyes and Curry sitting together at a corner table.

“Morning, boys. Mind if I join you?”

Heyes pointed his fork at a chair. As Trevors sat down, a waitress appeared at his elbow.

“Coffee, Lom?” She asked.

“Yes, thanks, Betty.” She filled his cup and moved away silently. Trevors took a careful sip of the hot, wonderful liquid.

“So,” Trevors began, “How’s your morning, boys?” Neither answered.

“It ain’t like you to have nothing to say, Smith.” Heyes responded by taking a drink of his own coffee. Trevors turned to the other man seated with them.

“You got anything to say, Jones?”

“I’m not much of a talker,” Jones replied.

Trevors looked around the room, checking to see if anyone was close enough to overhear their conversation. Only two other tables were occupied, and the diners were involved in their own private conversations.

“Did Heyes tell you?” Curry and Heyes glanced at each other briefly.

“He told me.”

“We need to talk, boys.”

Heyes spoke up. “Not here. I mean it, Lom. We’ve learned over the last few years that we’ve got to be extra careful. You never know when somebody’s gonna overhear and jump to a reasonable conclusion.”

“You should know by now you’re as safe in my town as you are anywhere,” Trevors said. He saw another, longer look pass between the two men.

“How safe do you think we are anywhere?” Curry asked.

“You’ll have to define safe for us, Lom,” Heyes said. “For example: If we told you, right now, we were turning down the offer we talked about last night, would you arrest us?” Trevors hesitated.

“That’s what I thought.”

===

Late in the afternoon, Trevors finished with his paperwork. Stretching, he got up and looked out the window of his office, scraping frost off with his fingernail so that he could read the big thermometer that hung on the post outside. Standing with his nose pressed almost onto the window, he saw a familiar figure in a brown coat and hat crossing the street. He squinted, looking for Heyes – the two were always together – but it looked like Curry was coming alone. He sat down in his
chair to wait for the knock on the door. When it came, he was ready.

“Come in.” Curry pushed the sticky door open. Once inside, he brushed snow off his jacket and shivered.

“I almost forgot how cold it gets in Wyoming,” he said. “And here it ain’t even Thanksgiving yet.”

“Where’s Heyes?” Trevors wasn’t in the mood for small talk.

“Resting. He’s got a cold. We thought it best he take it easy and stay indoors, so it don’t turn to something worse.”

“Good thinking. Nobody wants to get pneumonia.”

“Where’s Harker?”

“I sent him on an errand.”

“Good. Mind if I sit down?”

“Go ahead.” Trevors waited while Curry settled into a chair.

“We thought about everything you said today after breakfast, Lom, and we’ve made our decision. We decided we want a contract.”

“You want a what?” The sudden change from small talk to negotiation confused Trevors for a moment.

“We want a contract. Printed, witnessed, and signed, legally binding. No more secret deals between you, us and the Governor. It’s got to be public and reported in the newspapers. Once we see it in the newspapers, we’ll turn ourselves in.”

“Are you crazy?” Trevors almost shouted. “No governor is going to make a deal like that public! He’d get thrown out of office.”

“It’s the only way we can be sure he don’t change the conditions again.”

“Whose idea was this, Kid? Was it Heyes?”

Curry’s face was impassive. “It don’t matter whose idea it was, Lom. We’re agreed on this. If we’re looking at prison time, we want a guarantee that those two years ain’t gonna turn into twenty. The only way to be sure of that is to make the whole deal public.”

Trevors was shaking his head. “Kid, I just don’t see him doing that. The only reason he was willing to do a deal in the first place was because it was private.”

 “When it’s private, he gets to change the deal whenever he likes.” Curry’s steady voice and demeanor worried Lom. The Kid was most dangerous when he was calm.

“No, Lom, he don’t get the final say any more. You let him know we’ll accept the deal, but only if it’s public and legally binding on the Territory of Wyoming as well as on us.” Curry stood up and turned to leave. Trevors jumped out of his chair and got between Curry and the door.

“Kid, think this over. If you force his hand, you might end up with no deal at all.”

“What kind of deal do we got now, Lom? No, me and Heyes, we’re done playin’. We want to get this settled, once and for all.” Curry looked at Lom’s tense face, and he softened his attitude.

“Are you worried we’re gonna start robbing banks and trains again, Lom?” Curry smiled and put a soothing hand on Trevors’ shoulder. “Whatever happens, we ain’t going back to that life. One thing we got out of living honest lives is, we know how many people we hurt, hard-working people like our folks were. We won’t be travelling that road again.”

“Good to hear, Kid. Not only because it’s wrong to rob people. Because it’s a sure way for you two to get killed.”

“We know it. Thanks, Lom. For everything. I mean it.”

“Yeah, sure. It’s gonna take a couple days to get an answer probably.”

“Just as well. We’re still pretty tired from travelling here. A couple days to take it easy sounds real good.”

After Curry left, Trevors stood looking out the window for a while, wondering how Heyes and Curry could take it easy while waiting for an answer that could change their lives, probably for the worse.

===

Two days passed peacefully. Temperatures moderated, and the first big snowfall of the season melted, turning the dirt streets into thick mud. Trevors told Harkins to keep an eye on Smith and Jones, but Trevors found himself doing that job. A nasty cold kept Heyes confined to his hotel room, reading, coughing, sneezing, and complaining. Trevors stopped by to check on him, bringing hot coffee laced with whiskey to soothe Heyes’ sore throat. The two men spent companionable hours
together, getting a little drunk and reminiscing about their shared outlaw past.

Harker reported he’d seen Curry hanging around the bank. Trevors found out why, during his evening rounds, when he saw Curry having dinner with an obviously happy Miss Porter. When the two of them saw him, Curry waved, and Miss Porter flashed a brilliant smile. Trevors wasn’t sure, but he thought he’d feel better if Curry was casing the bank instead of courting Miss Porter.

When Harker gave him the telegram from the capitol, Trevors held it in his hands for several minutes without opening it. Ever patient, Harker stood and waited for instructions. Finally, Trevors looked up.

“Thanks, Harker. You can call it a day.” Harker just nodded and left. Slowly, Trevors got up and put on his coat and hat.

A few minutes later, he was at the hotel, knocking on the door of Room 22.

“Boys? It’s me.” Curry opened the door a few inches.

“We need to talk.” Trevors said. Curry opened the door wide to let Trevors in. Heyes greeted him with a sneeze.

“Still under the weather, Heyes?” Heyes blew his nose loudly.

“I’ve felt better when I’ve been shot,” Heyes said, punctuating his words with a cough.

“Don’t mind Heyes. He’s always a big baby when he’s sick.” Curry ignored the look Heyes directed his way. Heyes turned his attention to Trevors.

“Don’t keep us waiting, Lom. What have you heard?” Trevors pulled the unopened yellow envelope from his pocket and passed it to Curry.

“No, I ain’t opened it.” He saw the men’s surprised looks. “I wanted to wait and do it with you two here. After all, we started this whole thing together. If this is the end, let’s do that together, too.”

“Let’s do it then.” Curry tore open the yellow envelope and pulled out the message. Trevors saw the tension in Curry’s and Heyes’ faces. He was feeling a lot of tension himself. Curry read the telegram without expression, then handed the paper to Heyes. Trevors saw Heyes’ eyes flick back and forth as he read. He folded the telegram neatly.

“Well?” Trevors said gruffly. “What does it say?”

“We ‘re getting amnesty with no prison time,” Heyes said.

Trevors big smile faded as quickly as it formed.

“How come you look like someone just died? Ain’t this the good news you been waiting for these three years?”

“Yeah. Yeah, it is,” Curry said.

“Then why ain’t we celebrating?”

“Because there’s more, Lom. See for yourself.”

Frowning, Lom crossed over to Heyes and took the telegram from him. He moved closer to the light to see the message clearly. It was from Governor Hoyt himself.

AM BEING REMOVED FROM OFFICE STOP CONSPIRACY BY BANKERS STOP THE HELL WITH THEM STOP AMNESTY MY LAST OFFICIAL ACT STOP EXPECT ANNOUNCEMENT AND PUBLICITY TOMORROW STOP TELL HC LEAVE WYOMING STOP MANY POWERFUL ENEMIES STOP

Trevors looked at his friends’ serious faces.

“I think I understand, boys.”

“Do you, Lom?” Curry asked.

“All we been thinking about for almost three years is getting amnesty,” Heyes said, still hoarse. “We thought that’d be the end of all our problems. No bounties, no prison, a new life. Last couple of days – “ a deep cough interrupted him.
 
“We’re realizing amnesty’s not just an end. It’s a beginning, too,” Curry continued. “We’re still who we were. We’re still going to carry our reputations around with us. And you were right when you said people are going to resent this. An awful lot of people we robbed, especially bankers and railroad men, will think we’re getting away with everything we did and not paying any price. All amnesty means is, lawmen like you won’t be after us.”

“Huh. You boys have been thinking a lot.”

“We got to, Lom,” Heyes said. “After all, the dead or alive posters were issued by the railroads, not the Territory of Wyoming. If Midwest Railroad decides to put out a private bounty, who’s gonna stop them? No, Governor Hoyt’s right. We need to lay low for a while and take some time to figure out our next move.”

“Nothing’s simple, is it, boys? This sure ain’t turning out like I thought it would. I thought we’d all be celebrating. I even got a bottle of champagne put away for this.”

“We’ll drink it in a day or two, Lom, once my throat stops feeling like someone scraped it with industrial-grade sandpaper.”

“Besides,” Curry added, “We still got reason to celebrate. We got us a good job for the whole winter, and this time, we’re pretty sure we’re actually gonna get paid.”

“This better not be what I think it is, Kid,” Lom warned.

Curry grinned in return. “Relax, Lom. We’re working for somebody you know.” Both Curry and Heyes laughed at Lom’s confusion.

“Miss Porter hired us to be caretakers for her father’s hunting lodge up in Sheridan.”

“Caretakers? Why does she need caretakers?”

“She says when the place is left empty over the winters, there’s been break-ins. Things have been stolen, and sometimes there’s vandalism. We’re gonna keep an eye on the place and do some repairs and upkeep while we’re snowed in.”

“Ain’t nobody going there for months,” Heyes added. “We can lay low, make some plans, and stay safe. It’ll be like the winters we stayed in Devil’s Hole, except no one will be fighting, gambling, or shooting anyone else. Unless Kid does.”

“As long as Heyes don’t piss me off too much, I won’t have any reason to shoot anyone.”

“When do you plan to leave?” Now that he knew he wouldn't have to arrest his old friends, Trevors realized he was going to miss them. There weren't many people who knew his entire history and didn't care about it.

“We’re gonna give Heyes another couple days to get healthy. Meantime, Caroline’s buying the extra supplies we’re gonna need.”

“You’re on a first-name basis with Miss Porter now, Kid?”

Incredibly, Kid Curry, the fastest gun in the west, was blushing.

“She’s a fine woman, Lom. Real fine.”

“I guess so, Kid,” Trevors said. He saw Heyes’ smile. “All sorts of change going on, I guess.”

“You ain’t going anywhere, are you, Lom?” Heyes asked.

“That’s one deal you can count on Heyes,” Trevors answered. “We can seal it with a handshake, if you like.”
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PostSubject: Re: A Handshake Seals the Deal   Wed Apr 30, 2014 8:54 pm

Hannibal Heyes’ hand paused just before it connected with the solid oak door of the leader’s cabin.  He could hear Big Jim Santana inside cussing a blue streak and he wasn’t about to walk into his new boss’ bad mood even if he’d been summoned.  He retreated towards one of the old chairs populating the rickety porch, but a creaking floorboard betrayed his presence to the man inside.  The door flew open with a bang and Jim peered outside at his youngest gang member.  Without a word, he waved Heyes to come in and disappeared.  A second later, an angry Wheat Carlson barreled out through the doorway.  He pulled up short at the sight of Heyes.


“What are you lookin’ at?” snapped the older man.  He had no time for pesky kids who didn’t know their place.


“Nothing,” said Heyes, holding his hands up and wearing a lop-sided grin.


Wheat stomped down the stairs, swearing under his breath and disappeared into the bunkhouse.


“Hannibal, get in here!” ordered Big Jim.


Heyes stepped into the comfortable cabin and shut the door behind him.  Santana was pouring himself a whiskey and held the bottle up.  “Don’t mind if I do,” said the young outlaw to the unspoken question.  “What are we drinking to?”


“We are drinking to your good fortune my young friend,” said Santana.  “It seems that I have an opening for a new lieutenant.”


Heyes said nothing.  He sipped his whiskey and wondered what kind of trouble he would be taking on if he became Big Jim’s new right hand.  Carlson had been furious just now and Heyes had no desire to go up against the man.  Not only did Wheat outweigh him by a good forty pounds or so, Heyes actually liked the annoying man.  Take away the boasts and the bluster and there remained a relatively good man with a loyal streak a mile wide.


Santana frowned as he watched Heyes thinking furiously.  He’d expected the youngster to jump at the chance and he wasn’t sure if he was annoyed or pleased by the consideration.  Finally, he said, “Do you want the job or not?”


Heyes grinned, “Oh, I want it, but first I want to know what’s gonna happened to Wheat.”


“That is none of your business,” snapped Jim, slamming his glass down on the scarred table between them.


“I’m afraid it is, Jim.  If I’m taking Wheat’s job, I need to know how you deal with the men you fire.”


The audacity of the boy amused him.  Jim smiled at the bright, young man before him.  “I doubt I will be firing you, Heyes, but your question is a fair one.  He can stay with the gang, but I don’t want to have to depend on him.  Wheat is a good man in many ways, but his brawn is better than his brain.  He was to case the bank of Clifton for our next job.  Here is what he brought me.”  He held out a torn piece of paper and Heyes took it, looking it over carefully.  “Tell me, what do you see?”


“I see the floor plan of the bank of Clifton, the hours of business, and some notes about the guards; their shifts and positions.”


“Is that all?”


Heyes shook his head, “That’s all I see, but there’s a lot I don’t see.  I don’t see any information about its location in relation to the town and the sheriff’s office, the construction of the building, or the population of the town.”


“Population?” 


Shrugging, Heyes said, “I’d want to know how many men the sheriff could raise for a posse, wouldn’t you?”


Santana wasn’t about to let on that he hadn’t given it any thought; he simply laughed and spit in his palm, then held out his hand.  “The job is yours.  You get a five percent cut from here on.  Deal?”


“Deal,” said Heyes, clasping Jim’s hand firmly.  


“So, Hannibal, together we will make history.”


“I hope so, Jim, but first I’d like to make peace with Wheat.” 


“Do you have a plan to do so?”


“I do, but I’m not sure it’s foolproof.” 




OOOOOOOOOO




Wheat didn’t look up as Heyes entered the otherwise empty bunkhouse and crossed to the table he was sitting at.  Drawing out a chair and turning it around, Heyes sat down and leaned his crossed arms over the ladder back.  “Big Jim wants me to be his new lieutenant.  Are we gonna have a problem with that?”


“I don’t give a damn what you do.”


“Wheat,” said Heyes, softly.  “You and me are gonna need to work together or one of us is going to end up leaving, or worse, and I don’t think that’ll be me.  Big Jim’s kinda pissed at you already.”


“Don’t you think I know that?!  Hell, he just ripped me a new one and I did what he asked.  I don’t get why he’s so mad.  I don’t understand what Big Jim wants,” finished Wheat, more hurt and bewildered, than actually angry.  


"Jim’s a planner, like me.  He wants all the details, not just the big ones.  Sometimes it’s the small ones that matter most.””


“Well, how the hell do I know what he’s lookin’ for if he don’t tell me?” grumbled Wheat.


“That’s just it, Wheat.  He can’t tell you.  He doesn’t know what he’s looking for until he sees it,” said Heyes.


“So how am I supposed to know?”


“I can help you with that,” said Heyes.


“Why would you do that?  You just got the job, you don’t need me.”


“Now that’s where you’re wrong.  I do need you.  Listen, I need someone who can keep the men in line.  They ain’t gonna listen to a kid like me, but I see the way they listen to you, Wheat.  I need someone to watch my back.  I’m just a kid and I know it.  Any one of these guys could decide I’m blocking his way to a better life.”


“So you want me to be your bodyguard?”


“I’m asking you to partner up with me.”


“Partner?  Don’t you mean work for you?”


“No, I mean we both work as Jim’s lieutenants.  The boys’ll never need to know that he fired you.  Jim’s giving me five percent.”


“Five percent?  He only gave me four!”  Wheat turned red with anger, “and now I’m only gettin’ three like the rest of the gang.”


Heyes smiled broadly at the older man.  “So with your three and my five, we can each get a four percent cut.  That’s fair, ain’t it?”


It took a moment for Wheat to understand what Heyes was offering.  A way to keep his job and save face with the men and still not take a pay cut.  He sat back and crossed his arms, snorting.  “Huh, you really are a clever hombre, ain’t you?”


“So?”


“So we’ve got a deal,” Wheat held out his hand and nearly engulfed Heyes’ smaller one in his meaty grip.


“All right.  Now all we have to do is go sell it to Big Jim.”


“You do the talkin’, Heyes.  I reckon you can talk the birds outta the trees with that silver tongue of yours.”

_________________
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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


Last edited by InsideOutlaw on Sun May 04, 2014 9:46 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: A Handshake Seals the Deal   Thu May 01, 2014 3:05 am

Bon


Just another day in another town in the life of Hannibal Heyes and Jed "Kid" Curry, the most successful outlaws in the history of the West -- now ex-outlaws attempting to go straight.  Many of their contemporaries in crime rotted in jail, or in at least one unfortunate's case, was assassinated by his own men for the reward money.  These two, now christened with aliases Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones, respectively, sought amnesty from the Governor of Wyoming Territory through a former partner in crime, now respected sheriff.  However, renown in notorious circles only went so far at the get-go.  Although granted provisional amnesty by the head of the territory, the duo still had prices on their heads, and wanted posters reminded them, or anyone who cared to attempt to collect, of that very fact.  Twenty thousand dollars is a lot of money at any time in the national history, far eclipsing the mere fifteen thousand that tempted the Ford brothers.

As our tale began, the partners found themselves in yet another town needing a coat of paint in another dry, dusty corner of the West -- Wild, or not.  Just in from the trail, as broke and dirty as the leaden grey, rotting wooden shingles on the buildings in this burg, the two wondered if they would ever again, or at least anytime soon, have between them more than a few bits with which to bed down, themselves and their mounts, eat more than jerky and biscuits, or afford more than the cheap rot gut found in most establishments calling themselves saloons in these pieces of dry, dusty backwater (of course, mostly minus the water).

Now, luck would have it this day that the boys ran into one Bon Hedley at the saloon.  Taking note of their dry, dusty, down-on-their-luck appearances, suitable to put them right at home in this place much too small to call itself a municipality, the old man approached.  After small talk, he sped right to the point.  These young whippersnappers, as he called them, looked like they could use a job, especially with the depression and all, and he had one.  He would pay them ten dollars apiece to help him dig a little deeper in his well.  Dirty work, yes.  Backbreaking work, definitely.  But work, nonetheless.  The boys adjourned to a corner to talk it over.  Not normally liking dirty, backbreaking work, they did not cotton to it initially, but finally decided to give it a go.  After all, they were filthy from the trail, and could not afford a bath; hungry, and could not afford to eat; broke, and could not afford provisions.  But, dirty and backbreaking though it might be, it was work.  And by George, the twenty dollars between them would make for a nice future poker stake for Heyes to work his magic at the card tables -- in some cleaner, nicer, richer town than they now found themselves, of course.  Thus, they shook to seal the deal and went with Bon to his ranch.

Now, never mind that Bon's place was in appearance no different than the town.  However, they made good, and immediate, use of his wash tub, ate the offered victuals, drank the not-quite-better rot gut distilled on the premises, and bedded down that night in the barn on old hay and blankets, satiated and clean for that day and enjoying the rest before the dawn.

Before they took their rest, however, Bon regaled them with stories; his own, of course.  How he and his brother had come West in the Forties along the Oregon Trail, only to find Oregon Territory too crowded for their liking.  How they headed south to this piece of desert they claimed for their own, raising enough stock and crops to live on and then some, and somehow making a comfortable living on their piece of dry and dusty in the middle of nowhere.  How his brother had married but lost his wife in childbirth, and had a son, who might just be around the same age as his guests.  How his brother left to fight Mr. Lincoln's war, never to return.  How Bon had raised his orphaned Nephew as his own.  How the boy was smart, too smart for a Hedley (not that they were stupid), and left the dry, dusty ranch to read law in a bigger town too far away for an old man with an old mule and bum hip to visit.  How Alban Hedley never thought his Uncle's place in the dry, dusty nowhere would amount to much, and said so, often.  How Uncle Bon bet Alby that was not the case, although until recently he had wondered if he could ever win it.  How he now thought he had that answer.  How his young, whippersnapper guests played into that payout.   

Inasmuch as Boniface Hedley was no saint, he was a fair man, and shrewd.  As his guests raised brows in unison as to how he might win his bet on this dry, dusty piece of ground in the middle of nowhere, Bon said it was foolproof, important now, yes, but more the wave of the future.  Another round of very perceptible, skeptical glances hastened his point -- oil!

Oil?

Yes, oil.  The water from his new well, dug just last year with money Alby sent when Uncle refused to leave the dry, dusty ranch in the middle of nowhere, had a funny taste and odor.  It had been dug deeper than the old one to try to reach a suspected aquifer below the dry and dust, only to tap into an oil bed.  Bon had not particularly wanted this new well; the old one still produced potable water, but he let Alby have his way.  He hoped the young man would return if he did and keep the old Uncle company.  Once he proved his point to Alby, to whom his young, whippersnapper guests would dutifully deliver a sample of the so-called black gold, the proceeds of the bet, fifty dollars, would be paid to Heyes and Curry (known to Bon, lest we forget, as Smith and Jones).

Thus, after the aforementioned good rest on not-quite-new and sweet-smelling hay and blankets in the barn, and a hearty breakfast of just-laid eggs, ham, biscuits, beans, and strong coffee, Heyes and Curry grabbed pick axes, shovels, and lanterns, and lowered themselves carefully into the new well.  Wondering what situation they had gotten themselves entangled in now, they complained but a few moments, deciding it best to get the work done so they could get on their way.  To that end, they worked diligently in the dimness for a few hours before reemerging, unrecognizable -- white henleys, faces, indeed, their whole beings, black with grease and tar, but smiling.  They held aloft the precious sample of oil, contained neatly in an old canning jar.

The old wash tub saw more use that second day; indeed, it spent the rest of the afternoon being filled and dumped, filled and dumped, with hot water, as two ex-outlaws on the hoped-for road to amnesty scrubbed themselves raw for hours with lye soap, attempting to rid every nook and cranny of the black gold, so-called.

Curry noted it didn't look like gold.  It might be valuable but was no match for real gold, in looks at least.

Heyes smiled.  It might be dirty but Bon was right that it was the future -- more plentiful and cheaper than whale oil for lamps, not to mention burgeoning industry.  They might get paid after all.  If not, it was a memorable, though dirty, interruption in their hunt for good-paying work.  One of the best parts, it was a fairly easy job; not too backbreaking.

Feasting on Bon's tasty cooking that night, the partners made ready to leave first thing in the morning, provisioned for the trail from Bon's ample stores, precious jar of oil safely tucked into saddlebags, and the promised twenty dollars in their pockets, along with a letter to Alby explaining everything and directing him to pay the fifty-dollar proceeds of the bet to Heyes and Curry.  Bon was sure Alby would see the Uncle had won.

After a hearty breakfast and farewell to Bon, they hit the trail.  Three days later they arrived in Alby's town, noting the name of the sheriff, which they as ex-outlaws with provisional amnesty but still with prices on their heads are wont to do.  Unfortunately, they knew him, and more importantly, he them.  Figuring to finish their errand as quickly as possible, they tried the second of two law offices and located Alban Hedley, for although the town was larger, cleaner, and greener, it was still of the mostly dry, dusty variety to which they were accustomed, and not really all that big.

At first skeptical of their story, Alby read the letter, and knowing his Uncle Bon's hand, accepted the boys as messengers from his kin.  That he expressed surprise is perhaps an understatement, but he was not shocked, not really.  Indeed, he had heard of oil strikes here and there in dry, dusty, out-of-the-way places, and had even once or twice thought about what might lay under his Uncle's vast nothingness of a ranch, if anything.  The hoped-for conclusion was an aquifer, water to hydrate the dry, tamp down the dust, make the ranch in the middle of nowhere worth something more for his elderly kin.  Oil was a bonus.

Two ex-outlaws listened to Alby's musings there in the law office for a short time, but interrupted to get to a point.  They must make haste to meet another about a job in a distant place and needed to be paid. 

Of course, and rightly so!  But it was late in the afternoon on a Friday and the bank was closed.  Please enjoy the town at Alby's expense until Monday morning, when the law clerk would be happy to withdraw the money and pay up.  He heartily conceded his Uncle had won.

They reiterated their need to make haste.  Could he borrow the money from someone so they might be on their way? 

Unfortunately, not.  No one he knew kept that much on hand.  But he would be more than happy to give them six of the seven dollars in his pocket, given as to how he needed the extra dollar to see himself through the weekend, and he would forward the rest.  They could trust him for it.

Needing to put daylight between them and the lawman who knew them, they had no choice but to agree.  Leaving a forwarding address to their own sheriff friend, they bade Alby goodbye and good luck.  He bade them bonne chance.

They pulled their hats low over their eyes and nonchalantly rode out of town with no notice of the sheriff, and breathed a sigh of relief.  Further employment awaited them here and there, backbreaking and dirty, or not, but was hard to come by.  They kept themselves and their mounts sheltered and fed through Heyes' skill at the poker tables.  As usual, Curry watched his partner's back.

Our two ex-outlaws later learned Alby did indeed return to the dry, dusty ranch in the middle of nowhere, both to oversee the start of the Hedley Oil Company and settle Uncle Bon in a bigger burg where he lived comfortably the rest of his days.  No need to prove anything more to his Nephew.  And Alby did continue his law studies, using his natural smarts and education to steer Hedley Oil to a prosperous future.

And just in case you're wondering, the last we checked, Heyes and Curry were still waiting for amnesty.  But they did get paid.

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