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 The Face In The Window

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PostSubject: The Face In The Window   Thu May 01, 2014 5:50 pm

I love this month's challenge and I hope you do too. It's a real bunny prodder.
 rabbit rabbit 

Your challenge is a sentence.

"A long car ride with nothing to do but think. The face in the window."

You can make that a railway car, just make it a long ride, set it in their old age, the possibilities are endless and what can you do with a face at the window? Will they be looking in or looking out? I can't wait to find out!

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Remuda

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PostSubject: Re: The Face In The Window   Thu May 01, 2014 5:59 pm

Does this mean the sentence has to be used verbatim in the challenge, or is it just for inspiration, from which we can draw elements?

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PostSubject: Re: The Face In The Window   Thu May 01, 2014 7:01 pm

Hi Remuda, it is inspiration for you to draw on, embroider, play with, or do anything which maximizes the creativity or fun.  Please feel free to take what works and run with it.   rabbit
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PostSubject: Re: The Face In The Window   Tue May 13, 2014 10:45 am

I know this is too long for the challenge so I'm posting just for fun.  This isn't for this month's challenge.  If you want to read the complete story you can find it under Stories by Sarah Whyment - Hunter's Moon  http://aliassmithandjones.canadian-forum.com/t293-hunter-s-moon-what-the-butler-saw

Hunters Moon Part 5 - The Face At The Window

“Something worth killing for?  What could that be?”  Heyes queried.    


“I’ve no idea,” she raised a hand, waving him away with fingers curled around the lace-trimmed handkerchief.  Mrs. Hunter slumped back in her seat and fanned herself her handkerchief.  Her wan face shifted into a scowl at the sight of Heyes continuing to sit on the opposite bench with his arms crossed.  “This is all too much for me.  I’ve had enough.  Please leave me be.”    


“Sure, Mrs. Hunter,” Heyes raised placating hands to the Englishwoman.  “You take all the time you need.  I need to see Mr. Philpot about something.  I’ll be back when you’re rested.”


“I thought I’d made it clear that I’ve said all I have to say.”


Heyes’ cheeks dimpled as his eyes sparkled with his most irritating affected charm.  “Really?  I didn’t get that at all, ma’am.  I thought you needed a rest.”


“Well, I have had enough.  I have nothing else to say.”


Heyes cocked his head.  “Sure, ma’am.  You just relax and take it easy.  I’ll be back when I have more questions.”  Hesmiled reassuringly at the stewardess.  “How are you doing, Miss Cunningham?”


The stewardess turned coffee-colored eyes shimmering with sorrow on him.  “It was just such a shock,” she gave the conductor a shame-filled glance and made to stand.  “I’m sorry, Mr. Farrow.  I’ve never seen anything like that before and to think he was just there, talking and laughing just a few minutes before.  I’ll get back to work.”  The eyelids drooped and tears streamed down her cheeks.  “Oh, Jeffrey!  What happened?  Why would anyone kill you?”


Heyes leaned forward and stroked her arm.  “We’ll get justice for him.”


“Justice?”  The bitterness of the words betrayed the depth of her feelings.  “There ain’t no such thing for the likes of us.  The only reason folks care when we die is because they have to take the trouble to go out and find another or dig a hole.”


Heyes’ jaw hardened.  “That’s not true.  Tishing and the butlers cleaned up to help Malachi.  They insisted on it.  There are folks who care.  I care.”  The brown eyes softened.  “I’m doing my best, Miss Cunningham.  What’s your name?  It sound too formal to call you Miss Cunningham all the time.”


“Cassie,” she sniffed.  “My name is Cassie.”


“Did Jeffrey say anything to you; to anyone?  Anything which might give usinkling as to why this might have happened to Jeffrey?” asked Mrs. Hunter.


“No.”  Miss Cunningham shook her head hopelessly.  “That’s what I can’t work out.  He was so ambitious.  He… well, we weren’t courting properly or anything, but he always said he wanted to marry me.  He said he’d make enough money for my feet to be warm for the rest of my life.”  She took great gulps of sorrow, her face alight with tears.  “I’m always cold, you see.  My hands and my feet; it doesn’t sound very romantic but it was to me…he cared enough to know that.  Nobody ever cared before.”


Heyes watched Cassie dissolve into grief as a pomaded butler came forward and proffered a pressed linen square.  She took it and rasped her delicate nose fiercely before offering it back.  The butler’s professional face turned blank to mask his horror, mutely saying goodbye to his handkerchief forever before walking quietly away.


“Did he say how he’d make all this money?  When did he say that?” Mrs. Hunter asked.


“He always said it,” Cassie sobbed.  “We got a chance to work on this new train and thought it meant a great future.  This is one of the first to be heated by the heat of the engine, to have lights, bunks and a connecting corridor with restrooms.   It’s the future.  He told me only today he’d propose soon and get us a little home together.  He made me believe that he finally had something firm to plan upon.  It seemed wild and lovely to have someone plan to have you in their dream future, but that’s all it was – a dream.”


“Miss Cunningham was with us when Jeffrey was killed, Mrs. Hunter.  Where were you?” Heyes asked.


“I was sitting at the back of the carriage with Mr. Philpot,” the lacy handkerchief saw more dismissive action towards the ex-outlaw.  “He was tending to my wound.”


The dark eyes stared intensely into hers.  “Did either of you see anyone leave the carriage and go into the corridor just behind you?” Heyes pressed.


“I was dazed and nursing a headache, but I can tell you that Mr. Philpot stayed with me the entire time.”  Mrs. Hunter leaned into the stewardess and sighed deeply.  “Please leave us be.  Neither of us is in a frame of mind to revisit these horrors.”  


Farrow stared at the stewardess before he turned resigned eyes on the ex-outlaw leader.  “I guess she’s not fit to work.”


Heyes gave a huff of exasperation.  “Ya think?”  He stood and folded his arms.  “How many women would be fit for work within an hour of a friend being brutally murdered a few feet behind them? “


“It’s just that we have a train full of folks to look after.”  Farrow scratched his head pensively.  “Women think like a man who’s been hit on the head at the best of times.  They’re kinda delicate, huh?”  


Heyes glowered at the conductor.  “You’ve got a train full of butlers who’re keen to prove to the West that rich folks can’t live without them.  Leave her be and let them get some publicity for their school.”


Farrow sighed deeply.  “Have you ever had to find a killer before?  How do I know you’re competent?”


Heyes turned dark eyes on the Kid.  “Both my partner and I have dealt with killers before.  I can’t say I enjoy it, but I’m prepared to do what it takes.  There are two young people stiffening up in one of the baggage cars instead of laughing, living, and loving.  I’ll find them and make sure they meet up with some kind of consequences.”  


Farrow blinked hard, caught by the starkness of his message.  “I’m glad it’s not me.”


The cold smile echoed the chill in the ex-outlaw leader’s eyes.  “Let’s hope not, huh?”


**********


“Can I have a word, Philpot?”  


The accoucheur gestured to the seat beside him.  “Do I have a choice?”


“Always,” Heyes sat.  “Can I ask you something very personal about women?”


The straight nose underscored the Englishman’s quizzical blue eyes.  “I can’t give you the secret of eternal bliss, if that’s what you’re looking for.  Women don’t work that way.  It’s not like knowing how to wind up a clock.”


“No?  I guess I’ll have to keep trying.”  The cheeks dimpled joylessly.  “That’s not what I want to know.  If Miss Davies took another woman aside to talk to her about something personal  and the other woman refused to discuss it with a man, what do you think it would that be about?”


The mid-husband scratched his chin.  “If women know one another they’ll talk about very personal matters in the most lurid detail.  They talk about feminine health in a way they’d never dream of doing to a husband and sometimes even to a doctor.  I see them bring mothers, sister, friends; you name it, for support.  Sometimes I feel like I’m creeping up on a cauldron surrounded by witches, muttering secrets they won’t tell me.”


Heyes chuckled lightly.  “Do they do that if they’ve just met; say like Mrs. Hunter and Miss Davies?”


Philpot pursed his lips.  “That depends on the woman.  I got the definite impression that Miss Davies was of a considerably higher social class than Mrs. Hunter, so it’s unlikely that she would confide in her.  Mrs. Hunter is of a servant class.”


Heyes frowned.  “What difference does that make?”


“You’re not English.  The social structures are very set and they don’t cross except professionally.  People follow the rules.  An upper middle-class woman like Miss Davies would be happy to allow Mrs. Hunter to clean up after her, but she wouldn’t make a friend of her.”


“How can you tell?”


Philpot chuckled lightly.  “Miss Davies did all she could to put Mrs. Hunter at ease; you don’t do that unless you feel you have the upper hand.  However, she did it without being too warm.  I think you could call it companionable aloofness.”


“True,” Heyes sighed.  “I’m glad my folks left England.  I don’t think I could live in a place like that.”


“They were English?”  


“Pa’s folks were.  Ma’s folks were Irish.”  


“The Irish have the most beautiful women,” Philpot sighed, “my first love was Irish.”


“Yeah, my ma was something special,” Heyes nodded, “but back to the matter in hand.  Mrs. Hunter says that Miss Davies asked her to go out on the observation deck to discuss something about feminine supplies?”


Philpot paused, staring down the train at the conductor playing cards with the fireman and the driver.  “She wouldn’t confide in a servant unless it was something practical.” Philpot shrugged, smiling mysteriously.  “Something very personal which nobody else could supply.  I can’t think of any other reason.”


Heyes rubbed his chin.  “How would we know if that was the case?”


“I could examine the body.  If she required something for feminine personal hygiene I would know.  Why is this important?”


“It supports Mrs. Hunter’s story,” Heyes stood in the aisle and leaned on the back of the seat.  “I just like to have everything covered.  Otherwise how can a man spot the gaps in anyone’s story?”


“You’re very thorough,” Philpot leaned back against the window and stretched his legs out across the now vacant seat.  


“Sure am.  So how about it?”


Philpot’s brow creased.  “What?”


“Examining the body.  I’d like you to confirm if Miss Davies may have needed any ‘feminine supplies.’


“Now?”


Heyes nodded.  “No time like the present and the butlers appear to have finished clearing up the connecting corridor.”  He stepped out into the aisle and spread out an ushering hand.  “Shall we?”


***********


The sharp chill of baggage car caught at the back of their throats and made their breath hang in the air in condensing clouds.  Two forms lay on the cold floor covered in tarpaulin, the English lady and the black railway steward side by side as they could never have been in life, leveled by nature’s finality.  


Heyes held up the lamp, cutting through the darkness.  “She’s in the corner.”  He turned, watching the accoucheur hesitate.  “What’s the matter?  You’ve seen a dead body before, haven’t you?”


The Englishman’s thin lips firmed into a line.  “Mine are usually fresh.  I’m not a doctor, you know.  I don’t slice them up to find out why they died.  It’s my job to try to stop that happening in the first place.”


Heyes grimaced.  “Yeah, it’s a gruesome job, but you can help catch a killer.”  


“Fine,” Philpot planted his leather bag on the floor and started fumbling with the covering on the cadaver.  “Bring that lamp over here.  I need to see what I’m doing.”  He raised curious eyes towards the dark man who crouched and peeled back the tarpaulin on the steward’s body.  “What’re you doing, man?  Have some respect for the dead.”


Gloved hands slid over the blood-splattered body, pushing into pockets and exploring the uniform.  “I’m checking out a hunch.”  Heyes paused at Jeffrey’s right-hand trouser pocket, glancing up at Philpot before he pulled out a white cloth covered in red stains.  Lights of cleverness danced in the dark eyes as he looked down at the gore, now forming browning, crusting gouts over the young man’s chest.  He stared into the cloudy, sightless eyes.  “Gotcha!”


“Pardon me?”


Heyes replaced the covering and stood, thrusting the stained cloth into his jacket.  “Are you done here?”


“No, hold that lamp up for me.”


Heyes averted his eyes respectfully, allowing the male midwife to complete his inspection amid the sound of rustling fabric and the clank of metal instruments.  


“I’m finished,” Philpot snapped his bag closed and stood.  “Mrs. Hunter may have been telling the truth.  Miss Davies would have required some intimate sanitary items.”


Heyes’ jaw hardened along with his anger as he stared at the two bodies on the floor, young people robbed of life and promise.  “Let’s get back.”


“Have I helped?” Philpot asked.


“More than you know.  Let’s go and expose ourselves a killer.”  Heyes stepped over to the connecting corridor and stood back to allow the Englishman to go first.  “Nuh uh.  Nobody walks behind me on this train.  Not after what happened to Jeffrey.  You go first.  I’ll watch your back.”      


**********


“Joshua, take a look at this?”  The Kid held out sketch pad.


The dark eyes scanned the parchment before the dark eyes darted back to his partner.  “The whole railway car?”


“Yup.  When one of the butlers was sayin’ he was sketchin’ I thought I’d have a look to see if it was any use to us.”  He smiled.  “I think it is.”


“It sure is.  Look at that.  Everyone in their place,” the cheeks dimpled, “and we can see exactly where that is.  This is a real good drawing.”  Heyes pursed his lips.  “Who did it?”  He scanned the cabin and smiled at the lean man whose receding chin disappeared into his starched collar.  “Ah, yes; the one who spoke up.”


The Kid held the pad out at arm’s length and turned the page to look at a few unfinished etchings.  “He’s talented.  He’s caught your lopsided face real well.”


"My face isn’t lopsided.”


“Yeah, it is. It might look fine from your side, but you should see it from here.”


Heyes turned indignant eyes on the conductor.  “Farrow, is my face lopsided?”


The man gave Heyes a long, hard stare.  “Not lopsided exactly, but one eye’s bigger than the other.”


“No, it’s not.”  Heyes stabbed a gloved forefinger at the drawing.  “I’ve always been told my eyes are my best feature.”

A guffaw cut through railway car.  “Who by?  Kyle?  It doesn’t count if you’re his boss.”  The Kid glanced between the sketch and his partner.  “I ain’t sayin’ that one eye is bigger than the other; it’s a completely different shape.”  He snapped the pad shut and grinned.  “I guess the problem ain’t so much that your eyes don’t match some romantic hero, it’s more that they don’t match each other.”

The partners watched Farrow’s retreating back as he followed the driver and the fireman down the aisle towards the latrines.  “And you’re so perfect?” Heyes demanded.  “What about those curls?  You look like that boy in the advertisement for tar soap; the one in frilly knickerbockers.”


One slim, fair brow arched in retort.  “At least they picked him because he was cute.  Not because he’s lopsided.  That ain’t gonna sell soap,” the Kid paused pensively.  “Your face might sell some kinda cure though.”


“I’m not lopsided!” Heyes exclaimed.  “My description said I have even features.”


“Good point,” the blue eyes sparkled with humor, “I guess it was such a good description you were recognized everywhere you went, huh?”


“I can’t talk to you when you’re like this.  It’s like trying to order a cat around.”


“You should be more grateful, Joshua.  I just got you a picture of where everyone was just before the murder.  Whoever it was would have to try to get past Mrs. Hunter and Philpot in the back row.”


“Yup.  I have one more thing to find out.  Where did Farrow go?  The latrines?”Heyes nodded towards the sketch pad in the Kid’s hand, “and take those.  We don’t want anyone to have pictures of us.”


“So you agree it looks like you?”


“Just take the pad, Thaddeus,” Heyes sighed.  “Tell him we need it for evidence.”



**********


“Farrow, I need to ask you about how your crew looks after the passengers.”


The conductor pulled himself up from the wall where he had been leaning and nodded.  “You were a passenger.  You’ve seen it.”


“More specifically; I want to know what the stewardesses do for the female passengers.”


The door to the toilet opened and the burly driver emerged, holding it open for the fireman.   Farrow gestured towards the washroom with his head.  “We’re going in threes.  That way there’s always somebody to watch our backs.  What did you want to know?”


“Smart move,” Heyes folded his arms.  “Female hygiene when they travel.  How different is it to men?”


A line of puce rose up from the conductor’s stark, white collar.  “How the…?”  He paused, snorting slightly through hirsute nostrils.  “What has that got to do with a steward getting his throat slit and a passenger thrown from the train?”


“More than you’d think,” Heyes pressed.  “What does the stewardess do for them that she wouldn’t for a man?”


“I don’t rightly know, and I don’t want to.  We pay the stewardesses to deal with all that stuff.  It ain’t decent to even ask about this.”


“All what stuff.  What do they deal with and how?”


Farrow tugged at his collar as though releasing steam.  “Well, you know… women’s things.”


“No, I don’t.  That’s why I’m asking.”


“The stuff they incinerate.  You couldn’t pay me enough to get involved in that nonsense.”


Heyes stare intensified.  “They incinerate stuff?”


“Sure they do.  A lady doesn’t want to carry stuff about with her when she’s travelling.  The ladies’ rest rooms have incinerators in the stations, but on the train the stewardess will take a package and burn it in the pot-bellied stove in my car.  Women can buy disposable things now.”  Farrow shook his flushed head.  “My wife does if she’s travelling.  Most pharmacists make their own disposable diapers.”


“Miss Cunningham’s the only stewardess in this train.  Did she dispose of anything for anyone?  Anyone at all?  Did she burn anything in the stove?”


Farrow shrugged.  “Dunno.  I’m not at her side all the time.  Is it important?”


“Very,” Heyes nodded.  


The fireman thrust open the door to the restroom and closed it behind him.  “We’re all done here.”  Farrow gazed around the group.  “Let’s get back.  This corridor gives me the creeps.  Who’s gonna walk at the back?”


The men eyed one another nervously before Heyes spoke and drew his gun.  “I’ll do it.  Go on, get back to the main car and I’ll cover your back.”  


Farrow paused.  “You think the moonstone is in the stove, don’t you?  It’s still burning.  It’d take hours to cool down.  Does fire hurt a moonstone?”


**********


The Kid watched his partner follow the staff into the main car, immediately catching the unspoken message in the intense eyes and stiff stance.  He’d seen this before, in countless jobs and capers: business was coming.  Heyes had a plan.


The ex-outlaw leader leaned over and whispered something to the stewardess.  Her perfect forehead, the color of milky coffee, wrinkled in confusion before she shook her head.  Joyless dimples pitted Heyes’ cheeks.  His smile was merely a polite response to the young woman.  The man known as Thaddeus Jones shifted back to his instincts; he could trust them.  He had no way of knowing what would happen next, but experience would inform the responses.


Heyes straightened up and nodded pensively before he strode to the front of the car.  “Kid,” he whispered, “take the back.”


There was no room for hesitation, dubiety or question.  Their skills dovetailed perfectly.  Heyes’ ability to strategize unfolding events needed a man who could foresee potential danger and strike like a rattler.  They were a team; a well-oiled machine.


“Ladies and gentlemen,” Heyes stood at the front and raised his hands.  “We need to bring this to an end.  I can’t allow anyone else to be killed.  Maud Davies worked for a charity which helped people forced into prostitution.  We found the evidence in her bag.”


“Prostitution?”  Tishing spluttered.  “But she was such a genteel young lady.”


“She was a brave, young lady.  The telegrams in her bags show that she was on the trail of someone who’d trick the poor into making a journey at the promise of employment.”  Heyes glowered at Glavin.  “Once they arrived they had no money, no job and no prospects.  They’re treated no better than slaves.”  Restrained anger glistened in the dark eyes.  “Apparently there’s a market in children.  She was on someone’s trail and was warned to back off, but she didn’t.”  


“Really,” Mrs. Hunter clucked.  “That is such an ugly subject for mixed company.  The woman was a thief.”


“It’s an ugly business,” Heyes replied, “and she never stole anything from you.  Did she, Mrs. Hunter?”


“Well, I was unconscious.”  The folded arms pointed jagged, hostile elbows at Heyes.  “Anyone could have taken it.”


“Unconscious?”  A humorless smile twitched at Heyes’ lips.  “I’ll come to that in a minute, but let’s start with the sketch made by...” his eyes crinkled as he deciphered the signature and frowned, “Mr. Dumbass?”


“Dumas,” the frowning man with the receding chin corrected.


“Mr. Dumas, sorry,” Heyes nodded.  “It’s a wonderful picture and it clearly shows Philpot sitting next to the window in the back row and Mrs. Hunter by the aisle.  This sketch was done just before Jeffrey was murdered and shows us where everyone was.  Mrs. Hunter was best placed to slip into the corridor behind her.”


“This is utterly ridiculous.  I am a respectable woman.  I’m the victim here!”


“Victim?” disdain dripped from Heyes’ lips.  “You’ve been tempting vulnerable youngsters on the promise of a future, but they’ve been forced into a choice between prostitution and starvation


“But I run a school for butlers and a placement agency for superior domestic staff,” Tishing declared.  “Any of these men will verify that they are not being used for immoral purposes!  They are going to the best homes in the West.”


All eyes turned to the array of flunkies; tall, short, fat, thin, hirsute and smooth as a pool ball; each of them as good an example of male pulchritude as the average mule’s butt.  An overtly coiffeured man spoke up.  “My dear fellow, if I had wanted to get involved in immoral activities I would have gone to work for the Marquis of Beauregard.  Some people treat their bodies like a temple.  He treats his more like a vaulting horse.  I can assure you my placement will be prestigious.”


Heyes gave a wry smile and turned the cloth he’d pulled from the steward’s pocket in his hands.  “Even Mrs. Hunter was clear about having met Tishing on the boat over here.  He thought he’d gained someone to do his clerical work and place female staff; she thought she’d got a respectable front for her crimes.  This cloth is covered in red ink, not blood, and Jeffrey suddenly seemed to think he’d come into money after he’d cleaned up the bunk area.  Mrs. Hunter has a bottle of red ink in her writing case that’s nearly empty.  Blackmail threats, Ma’am?”


“These are just wild lies and accusations,” wept Mrs. Hunter.  “I was attacked and robbed.”


Heyes’ eyes narrowed.  “I spotted right away that there was no moonstone.   There never was.  You never mentioned it all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, all the way west and when bargaining for a share of a new business.  You couldn’t even produce it at the point of a gun.  It was a lie, a ruse, thought up on the spur of the moment as an excuse to dispose of Maud Davies.  Folks won’t be so concerned about a thief disappearing as they would a respectable young woman.”  Heyes shook his head.  “Nope.  It was dumb luck that the train was stopped by the landslide.  If it hadn’t, you’d have been at your destination and gone before anyone found Maud Davies’ body.  The sound of the door to the observation deck opening again was you going back out there after talking to Jeffrey.  He saw you, and that, combined with the fake blood, gave him enough to blackmail you.  I can prove you faked the whole thing because there’s nothing wrong with your head.  Isn’t that right, Philpot?”


The accoucheur blanched.  “Me?”


“Yeah, there’s nothing handier to a madam than her own pet abortionist, is there?  A nice sideline too, for a man who’s building a brand new kind of business.  A male mid-wife’s got a lot of resistance to get over; a man doing your kind of work over here won’t be well received and you still need to eat in the meantime.” Heyes nodded over to the stewardess who sat on the bench beside Mrs. Hunter, her eyes widening with disbelief.  Heyes glowered over at the Englishman again.  “Let’s see your wound, Mrs. Hunter.  That’ll soon tell us if you and Philpot have been telling the truth.”


Bony knuckles bulged under the woman’s lace cuffs as she clutched at her reticule.  “I refuse to be shown off like some kind of prize cow.”


“No?  You can show us now or be forced by the law.  Your friend here helped to confirm you were both lying.  First of all, you said she wanted to speak to you about some female supplies, but I found out that she had her own.  I didn’t know what they were when we found them in the bag, but the conductor is a married man and filled me in.  Why would she ask you for something she already has?  They were right at the bottom of the bag too, so I’m guessing she didn’t need them the day she died and that Philpot lied about her condition.  The stewardess didn’t incinerate anything for her so that kinda supports my reckoning.”  The dark eyes bored into Philpot.  “But an examination of the body will tell us if you lied to me just to back up Mrs. Hunter’s excuse for going onto the observation deck,” a dark eyebrow flicked up, “won’t it?  It shows you two are working together.”  


“You damned fool!” Philpot yelled at Mrs. Hunter.  “You could have used any excuse, but you had to use something that could be checked.  You’ve just killed me.  I’ll be hanged.  They always blame the man, even though you were the one who slit their throats.”


“I deliberately chose that subject because any decent man would back off.  How was I to know he’s some kind of deviant?” spat Mrs. Hunter.


Farrow stared at Heyes in amazement.  “That’s why you were asking all kinds of questions about women?  You were trying to trap them?”


“I can smell a lie at a thousand paces,” Heyes nodded. “I just needed to find a way to prove it and I had to work with what I had.”


“You’re unnatural!” screeched Mrs. Hunter.


“He sure is.  It’s written all over his lopsided face,” grinned the Kid, nodding proudly at his cousin.  “But as soon as you lie to him; he’ll call you on it eventually.  That was your biggest mistake, ma’am.  Ya tried to tell him not to go there.  That’ll do it every time.”


**********


Two days later the train chugged wearily into its destination.  Once the navigators had arrived to help dig them out, it had been a long hard slog to clear the line, involving backing up the train so dynamite could be used to blast the larger rocks to a more manageable size.  Men worked in shifts to clear the line.


“Mr. Smith.  Mr. Jones!”  Gerald Tishing scurried down the aisle towards them.  “I really need to thank you for not disclosing my past to the law.  I felt sure I’d be a suspect as soon as we got through to town.  I was setting up a business with her, after all.”


“Everyone deserves a second chance,” Heyes shrugged, “and you were duped by her.  You never knew her before you set off from England to start your school.  Besides, I think your gang of butlers would have turned you in if they thought you’d do anything like that.  They seem like a pretty upright bunch.  They spoke for you indirectly.”


“Gang?” Tishing grinned.  “I never thought of them as a gang, but now I’m over here maybe I have to change; when in Rome and all that, eh?  I need a woman to do the clerical work and interview female staff though: someone respectable, this time.”  He scratched his head.  “I don’t need this setback.  I have interviews already set up and I need to find someone who can find out if they have the right qualities to make good servants.  I need a woman’s eye.  Men miss things when it comes to women.”


“What about Miss Cunningham?” the Kid gestured towards the stewardess with his head.  “She’s real presentable and smart as a whip.  I bet she’d jump at the chance to get away from the trains after all this.”


“Oh!”  Tishing’s hirsute eyebrows shot up.  “I never thought of her.   She’d be ideal, and if anyone reacts to her badly because of her color, we can weed them out instantly.  A good servant needs to expect the unexpected, and rise to it.  That is a wonderful suggestion.”


“Well, she certainly got the unexpected on this train,” the Kid mused.


“I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before.  I had thought of approaching Malachi to see if he would be interested in working with us.  I think his calm dignity would make him an ideal candidate.”


“I don’t think he could afford the fees to take the course,” Heyes murmured.


“He could help with all the clerical work and the placements whilst he’s studying,” Tishing mused.  “I wonder if he’d do it?  He really does have a presence and gravitas many employers would value.  I doubt he’d have to learn too much.”


The partners exchanged a grin.  “I knew I liked you, Tishing.  You give folks a chance, that’s why I reckoned you needed one yourself.”  Heyes glanced at the forlorn giant of a man watching the body of his murdered companion being stretchered away from the train.  “Go ask him.  I think he’ll jump at the chance to get outta here and into a place where he’ll be treated with respect.”


“Yes, I’ll get right on that,” the Englishman declared, striding determinedly towards Malachi and the stewardess.  


“Sorry, we need to get past.”  The partners stepped aside to allow the sheriff and his men to lead a scowling Mrs. Hunter and a gaunt Philpot off the train.


“You’ll never prove this!” the Englishwoman yowled.  “All you have is a lot of wild speculation.  There’s no evidence.”


“Ya think?” The sheriff prodded his prisoners along.  “Maud Davies sent a telegram from her last stop to tell me that she was following a woman called Maggie Butler who was forcin’ girls into prostitution and to meet the train.”


“My name is Hunter.”


“Is it?  We’ll soon find out, ma’am.  The lady’s boss is on his way here and he can identify Maggie Butler,” the sheriff’s smile spread under a salt-and-pepper moustache as the sight of the suspect’s mouth dropping open in shock.  “He tells me he’s got copies of Maggie Butler’s criminal record from London, along with photographs.”


“Nothing to say, Maggie?”  Heyes’ eyes narrowed.“That silence tells me the law’s got you dead to rights.”


“Hey, boy!”  All heads turned to look at Glavin, who was pointing at his bags with a silver-topped cane and glaring at Malachi.  “George, get my bag.”


The Kid stepped forward but was stopped by Heyes’ restraining hand on his chest.


Malachi’s smile split his face in two.  “Sure will, sir.”  The enormous man’s fist dwarfed the handle as he lifted the bag and strode to the observation deck.  They watched through the gaping door as the giant of a man raised the bag above his head with both hands and pitched it as far down the tracks as his considerable strength would take it.


Glavin turned puce.  “Farrow!  Have you seen what that n*$$@* just did to my bag?  I want him sacked.  I want the law on him for criminal damage. ”


“Sacked?” Malachi couldn’t hide the delight dancing in his chocolate eyes.  “I don’t work here anymore.  Ya should’ve thought of that before demanding that I get your bag.  Consider it got.”  He dusted off his enormous hands and stalked off towards the conductor’s car.  


“My bag!” spluttered Glavin.


“You’d best go get it,” the Kid grinned.  “I hear the next train’s in soon, so it’ll probably run right over it.”


“Where’s Farrow?  I want that man arrested,” Glavin demanded.  


The blue eyes narrowed.  “The conductor’s on the platform dealin’ with the law.  My partner and me are the only ones here and we never saw a thing.”  


“I wouldn’t say that, Thaddeus,” chuckled Heyes.  “I think I saw Glavin throw the bag himself, in fact I’d swear to that on a stack of bibles.”  The hoot of a whistle deepened the joy in the dimples.  “Sounds like the next train’s arriving.  Yup.  It sounds like you left it too late to get your bag.”


“What are you talking about, man?  It’s miles away.  I’ve got time.”


Heyes and Curry’s smiles danced with mischief.  “Nah, I don’t think so.  I think we’d better keep you here for your own protection.  What do you think, Thaddeus?”


“I never agreed with you more, Joshua.  How about the latrine?  We can keep him in there until it’s safe to let him out.”


Glavin felt himself grabbed under each arm and dragged off to the restroom.  “But it’s stinking in there!  This train’s been trapped for days and everyone been using it.”


“I know,” nodded the Kid, sympathetically, “better safe than sorry though.  We’ll let you out as soon as the train’s in the station.”


“But it’ll have run over my bag by then!  I’ve got at least five minutes.”


They thrust Glavin into the stinking latrine and shut the door in his face.  “It’s real stinky in there, Joshua.  The stewardess stopped using it as soon as help arrived.  Cassie said it was disgustin’.”


“Yeah,” Heyes ignored the battering on the door.  “She had a point.  All those men and her with long skirts; they’d have more respect for a white woman, but they just didn’t care.  It was like being in some kind of den for a couple of days.  We can’t deny that a decent woman civilizes men.”  


“Maggie Butler,” mused the Kid, holding the rattling handle fast.  “She was usin’ an alias?  You do realize that means the butler really did do it, don’t ya?”


“I guess.  Who’d have thought it?”  Heyes shook his head ruefully.  “I keep thinking how different things would be if Maud had told one of us what she was up to.  She’d still be alive.”


“Yeah,” the Kid nodded.  “I keep seein’ her face through the window smilin’ up at us before Malachi and Jeffrey went to help her.  Damn!  I thought she couldn’t have been safer.”


The partners shared a few moments of pensive silence, punctuated only by the angry business man pounding on the door demanding to be released.  “Ya know, if we tied this door shut we could just walk away and leave Glavin to it.”


The dark eyes danced with delicious devilment.  “You’re right.  That’s why I need you, Thaddeus.  You see the practical things I miss.”


The Kid fastened off a convenient curtain-pull to the door handle and tied it to a grab-rail.  “Yup, it’s my job to cut holes in your big ideas until they work.  C’mon, let’s get outta here before Glavin gets out and starts pointin’ fingers over his ruined bag.  Why is it that we’ve always got to make a break for it, even when we did good?  D’you think we’ll ever learn?”


“Somehow, I seriously doubt that, Thaddeus.”


Historical notes


Maud Davies was a social pioneer who wrote a book identifying all the social ills in her native village of Corsley which pulled no punches.  She identified the drunkenness, idleness, and indiscretions in such a way that made the subjects very identifiable.  This caused outrage because they had cooperated with her, inviting her into their homes and lives.

She went into fascinating and meticulous detail about laborers’ subsistence living and published diaries on what they ate, bought, and detailed indiscrete liaisons.  Her investigative work was exhaustive; compiling hourly censuses of people’s whereabouts and the customers’ transactions at the local public houses over years.  The local parish council did everything they could to suppress the work.


She was investigating the white slave trade (human trafficking) to America and the West Indies, (one assumes with equal vigor) when she was murdered just after returning to London from the West Indies.  She was found decapitated in the London Underground.  The murder was never solved.  Her work ‘Life in an English Village’ was re-published a hundred years after her death to celebrate a life dedicated to attempting to break down barriers in class and gender.

Women in the 19th century menstruated less than her modern sisters due to the frequency of childbirth, breastfeeding, later onset of menses and earlier menopause.  Most women used home-made washable pads which they would toss into buckets of cold water to soak with bicarbonate of soda before being washed with soap and caustic soda.  Another treatment to remove blood stains was to soak with petroleum and then wash in warm water.


Local pharmacies and a few manufacturers started to produce disposable wood wool pads in the 1880s.  These were often too expensive for the poorer women but were frequently used for traveling, or at times where washable pads could not be conveniently and hygienically stored.  Incinerators were provided in public toilets, stations and institutions so used pads could be burnt.  The grids for these incinerators can still be seen in some Victorian public toilets.  
Links
Victorian London - Publications - Etiquette and Advice Manuals - The Lady's Dressing Room, by Baroness Staffe, trans. Lady Colin Campbell, 1893 - Part IV

www.victorianlondon.org/publications/ladys-4.htm


http://tranquilheart.hubpages.com/hub/Overview-of-menstrual-pads#

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PostSubject: Re: The Face In The Window   Thu May 15, 2014 10:49 pm

The Journey


As the final whistle sounded, a man raced down the platform, flung his saddle forwards, made a heroic leap, grabbed the railing at the back of the carriage, and hauled himself onto the departing train.


Heyes gathered himself together.  His hands tried ineffectually to brush off the dirt, but ultimately surrendered to its overwhelming nature.  Sighing, he opened the door and walked into the solid form of the conductor.  That burly man examined him from head to toe.  “Ticket?”  His tone conveyed his disbelief the derelict form before him would have a ticket.


Heyes smiled placatingly.  “Didn’t get a chance to stop at the station.  Almost missed my train.  How much is it to Flintrock?”


The Conductor sniffed and again examined him from head to toe.  He rolled his eyes and held out his hand, proclaiming, “Two dollars and fifty cents for the ticket.  Another dollar penalty for not purchasing one in advance.”


Heyes eyes narrowed, and his smile disappeared as he locked eyes with the official.


“Three fifty or I throw you off.”


Biting back a retort, Heyes dug into his pocket and slowly counted out the coins.  He glared as he handed them to the man.  Grudgingly, the conductor stood aside, leaning back so as to avoid contact with Heyes. 


The ex-outlaw pushed past and into the compartment.


The elderly couple seated opposite looked at each other in dismay as he hefted his bags and saddle into the overhead rack and collapsed onto the hard wooden seat.  They hastily gathered their belongings, and moved down the railcar before splitting up to take seats as far from him as possible.  His dark eyes followed them then looked around and noticed the stares of his fellow passengers, their faces reflecting fear, dismay, and disdain.


Resolutely he closed his eyes and attempted to relax.  Since he and the Kid had parted ways ten days earlier in order to shake a persistent posse, he had had little rest.  The entire posse had followed him, but finally he had lost them and had ventured into Garden City where the two were to meet.  He had surrendered his horse to the livery, selling the spent beast for a few pitiful coins, and headed to the hotel.  


Heyes opened his eyes, still too wound up to sleep, and extracted the crumpled cable the desk clerk had handed him.  Rubbing his hand across the two weeks’ growth of beard, he read it again.  "Change of plans. Stop. Come to Flintrock. Stop. Train every Tuesday and Thursday at 7:30.  Stop.  Don’t forget the asterisks. Stop. TJ"


He sorted through the papers he had pulled from his pocket until he found the train schedule.  Glancing through the tattered pages, Heyes found the schedule for the train, with stops at Rimstone, Flintrock, Siler’s Creek, and points west, before arriving in Denver.  He examined it again.  Right there it said the train left Garden City at 7:30 p.m.  He pulled out his watch – 7:10.  The brown eyes peered closely at the torn sheet then rolled as he realized the fly speck was actually an asterisk.  He traced it to the bottom of the page.  Sure enough, the train left Garden City every Tuesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., except, according to the asterisk, on the second Tuesday of the month when it left at 6:42 p.m.  


~~~oOo~~~


Heyes stared out the window absently until his attention was drawn by several young voices.


“I’ll trade you for that aggie.”


“Yeah, what’ve you got?”


“Well, a penny whistle and …”


Heyes grinned as the boys in the aisle interrupted their game of marbles to disclose pocket collections and negotiate the trade.  He leaned back against the seat and stretched out his legs, closing his eyes…


“Why’d you trade your blue, Han?  That was your favorite marble.”


“Nah.  I still got my lucky aggie.  ‘Sides look at what I got for it.”


The two boys stopped on their slow journey home from school to the chores awaiting them.  Han handed the cherubic blond a woven straw tube.  Blue eyes examined it then queried his friend’s dark ones.


“What’s it do?”


“It’s a finger catch.”


“A what?”


“Just put your fingers in the ends.  Yeah, like that.  Now, pull them out.”


“I can’t!  Get it off me!”  The blue eyes frowned.  “Stop laughin’!”


“Okay, okay.  Look stop trying to pull your fingers out.  Now, push them together.  Yeah, like that.  See now you can get your fingers out.  Hand it over.”


The blond shivered.  “I don’t like the way that caught my hands so I couldn’t use them.”  He looked speculatively at his friend.  “So, what are you gonna do with it?”


“Don’t know, but I figure the next time we play sheriffs and outlaws at school, I’ll be sheriff ‘cuz I can lock folks up with this.  Sheriff’s better than outlaw any day.”


“So long as we know how to get out of the locks, I guess that’d be fun.  Can I be the deputy?”


“Course, ain’t we partners?”


His rumbling stomach woke him.  Glancing at his watch, he groaned as he realized he still had hours before reaching Flintrock.  The Kid better be there.  His stomach echoed the thought.  He looked around the railcar and his mouth watered as he watched his fellow passengers consume the meals they had brought with them.  Heyes thought back and realized that he hadn’t had anything since the apple he had snacked on that morning once he realized he’d lost the posse.  He’d been in such a hurry to get to Garden City, and the Kid wasn’t even there.  Stomach protesting the enforced abstinence, he resolutely shut his eyes.


“Okay, you keep a lookout while I open the lockbox.”


“You think you can do it?”


“Sure, piece of cake.”


“Don’t say cake when we’re this hungry.”


“Won’t be hungry for long.  Once we get this money, we can head out of here and buy some food, next town.”


“Next town!”  The gangly youth stared at his friend in disbelief.  “I won’t last that long.”


“Will you be quiet?  I’m trying to work,” 


Jed snorted but quieted down.  He wandered to the front of the store to peer around the curtain. Looking down he saw a row of boots for sale.  He glanced at his own cracked footwear, sat down, and exchanged them for a new pair.  Leaving his old ones behind, he selected a pair that might fit the dark-haired teen picking the lock and headed back to the counter.


“Look, new boots.”


“We can’t afford them,” Heyes replied absently, focused on the lockbox before him.


“Uh, you do know we’re robbin’ the place, right?”


Heyes looked up sheepishly.  “Oh, right.  Look, I’m almost done; why don’t you go find us something to eat until we can get to another town?”  He bent back down to work.  “And, Jed, thanks for the boots.”


Jed hummed happily as he searched for portable food in the store.


Heyes awoke from his doze with a start as the conductor moved down the car lighting the lamps, then into the next car.  The sun had set, hiding the passing terrain in the dark night.  As Heyes shifted, his shirt, crusted as it was with two weeks’ worth of sweat, mud, and dust, crinkled and crackled against his skin. He glanced around the car.  A trickle of sweat ran down his back.  He thought he’d seen a specter in the far corner of the car against the window -- hollow-eyes, gaunt cheeks behind an unkempt beard.  He blinked and looked around again, but the vision was gone.


Standing and stretching, Heyes glanced again, saw nothing unusual.  He swayed down the aisle to the front of the car.  As he walked he looked for the man he’d seen, but the car was filled with families, couples, and groups all content and chatting quietly.  Passing them, he could feel their eyes watching him, their bodies drawing away to avoid all contact with him.  He shook his head and searched through the pile of old papers kept at the end of the car to be twisted into spills for lighting the lamps.  Grasping a largely-intact copy of Scientific American, he returned to his seat. 


~~~oOo~~~


Feeling eyes on him, Heyes looked up from the article he was reading on the latest improvements in blasting caps.  Two young women sitting a few seats away, across the aisle, quickly averted their eyes.  A grin illuminated his face, but was quickly extinguished as he saw the specter again, grimacing at him over the shoulders of the young women.  He closed his eyes and looked again; it was gone.  Frowning, he examined all the passengers but could find none resembling his vision.


Heyes sighed.  He was exhausted; now, he was seeing things.  He closed his eyes.


Curry looked at the trestle crossing the gorge then looked down at the water rushing past one hundred feet below before turning to his partner.  “You want us to do what?”


“You and the boys just need to climb out there and place the charges then come right back.  Piece of 
cake.”


“Uh, huh.  And why exactly can’t you do this yourself?”


Heyes smiled, his dimples beaming at his companion as he put his arm around Curry’s shoulders.  “I have to watch from here, make sure you all place them right.  It’s important they get placed just right.  I couldn’t trust anyone but you for such an important job, you know.”


Blue eyes examined him from head to toe, their owner shrugging off the arm around his shoulder.  “Uh, huh.”  He looked again at the trestle, then down at the river, and back to his partner.  “You’re sure this will work?”


“Yeah.  I read about it in Scientific American.  If we place these three charges just right, we can bring down the whole bridge.”


“And the train that goes plungin’ off the tracks?”


“That’s the beauty of my scheme, Kid.  That’s why we do it now.  If we do it right, the whole thing’ll collapse and it’ll take months to rebuild.  There’s no train due for three days, so no one’ll get hurt.”


“No one except us when we fall off that thing.”


“I have faith in you.”


“Well that takes a load off my mind.”


“Honestly, Kid, I don’t know what you’re complaining about.  I had to do all the work to figure out the right places for the dynamite.  All you have to do is put it there.”


“All I have to do!  All I have to…”  Curry stopped and shook his head.  “And why do we want to stop trains goin’ this way?”


“Because you know there’s no good stopping place on this route.  With the bridge out the trains’ll have to divert through Crazy Critter Canyon, and we can stop them there.”


Curry took a last, pained look over the rim, shouldered his pack, and headed over to the gang.  “Come on, Kyle, Hank, let’s get this over with.  Just be careful.”


Kyle and Hank looked at him, looked at Heyes, and backed away from the edge of the gorge, making no effort to pick up their bundles.  Steely eyed, the Kid held up the packs.  The two shuffled their feet, ducked their heads, stole glances at each other, and reluctantly moved forward to take the packs.


The Kid smiled.  “Don’t worry, boys.  As soon as we get done blowin’ up the bridge, we’re headin’ to town and Heyes is buyin’ us each a bottle.”  Raising his voice, he added, “the good stuff, not some old cheap rotgut either.”


The blast of the whistle awoke Heyes.  It sure had been satisfying to watch as that trestle slowly collapsed after the dynamite blasts, worth the cost of the whiskey.  They’d all stayed rooted to the spot, watching until the bridge was nothing more than toothpicks and tangled metal in the water below.


The whistle sounded again as the conductor walked down the aisle.  “Flintrock, coming in to Flintrock.”  He looked contemptuously at Heyes.  “So you’ll be leaving us here.”  The conductor continued his stroll, muttering, “At least we’ll get rid of the garbage.”


Heyes glared after the man then started as he once again caught a glimpse of the haunted face.  He quickly stood and searched around the compartment but, again, saw no sign of the visage’s owner.


Shrugging, he reached up and gathered his belongings.  When he next looked around they were pulling into the station.  Through the window he saw his partner leaning against a wall, watching the train as it arrived.


As Heyes exited the compartment, the Kid hurried over to help him with his belongings.  They moved to the back of the platform out of the bustle of the new arrivals.


“See you got my cable.  I’ve been meetin’ the train for the past week.  You couldn’t send a reply and let me know you were on this one?”


“Didn’t get a chance.”  Heyes grinned.  “Those asterisks almost got me.”


Curry chuckled.  


“So why not Garden City?”


The Kid examined Heyes, his brows drawing together as he got a full appreciation of Heyes’ state.  “Tough trip, huh?”


“Yeah.”


“Well, sorry about the extra.  Sheriff in Garden City knew me.  I was pretty sure he didn’t know you, or I’d’ve waited outside town to grab you.  Instead, I hightailed it to here.  Anyways, I got us a job.  You’ll like this one.  I’ll tell you all about it over a drink.”  


He sniffed lightly and stepped back from Heyes.  “Well, maybe you might want to clean up a bit first.”


Heyes grimaced and ran a hand across his face.  “Right now, all I want is sleep, a drink, some food, clean clothes, a bath, and a shave.  Not necessarily in that order.”


The Kid grinned.  He started to put an arm around Heyes’ shoulder, stopped, and picked up his saddle instead.  “Tell you what, how about I get us some food and a bottle of whiskey while you clean up, then I’ll tell you about the job.”


Heyes nodded and lifted his saddlebags.  “Sounds like a plan, but that better be a bottle of the good stuff, not some old cheap rotgut.”  He took one last look back at the train, searching the windows of the compartment, but he couldn’t see the face he was searching for.  All he saw were their own reflections, smiling as the two headed out of the station.


Authors note:  Scientific American was first published in 1845 and continues to this day.  It is the oldest continuously published monthly magazine in the United States (Harper’s is the second oldest, having begun in 1850).  Poetic license as to the contents of the stories covered back then.


Last edited by riders57 on Fri May 16, 2014 6:34 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: The Face In The Window   Thu May 15, 2014 11:55 pm

I'm cheating again and falling back onto an excerpt from 'Twist Of Fate'.  Life is biting me this month so I'm not sure if I'll be writing an original for this challenge.  I will if I get the chance.  In the mean time, this one is just for old time's sake.  Enjoy.


The small group of men left the sheriff’s office and then headed across the street towards the train station.  Heyes had expected to see horses waiting for them outside, or at least a coach.  It had not occurred to him that they might be leaving town by train and in the middle of the night at that.  David was not going to be pleased.

 Morrison knew what he was about as they were not standing on the platform for much more than five minutes when the lantern for the train engine could be seen steadily making its way towards them.  It hissed and chugged its way up to the platform and carried on past the small group of men as it slowly came to a halt alongside the station.  There was no one else around and the steam coming up from the engine into the cool night air gave the platform an eerie almost ghostly atmosphere as the conductor approached the four men carrying his own shimmering lantern.

 “You Sheriff Morrison?”

 “That’s right.  Is everything arranged?”

 “Yup.  Just climb aboard this car right here.  Your seats are at the back of the car, left hand side.”  Then he gave Heyes a suspicious look. “You sure your prisoner’s secure?  We got families with children on board here.  Don’t really understand why you got to transport him by passenger train anyways.”

 “Because nobody would expect it, that’s why,”  grumbled Morrison.  “And don’t worry about him, he won’t be causing any trouble.  Will you Heyes?”

 Heyes smiled innocently.  “Not me, Sheriff.”

 “Well, okay.”   The conductor clearly wasn’t too happy with the situation, but he waved them on board anyways and went about his own business of managing the train.

 The small group stepped on board and entering the dimly lit passenger car slowly made their way down the isle towards the seats that had clearly been reserved just for them.  Mike went first, with Heyes then Morrison and finally Jack bringing up the rear.  Morrison kept his hand in the middle of Heyes’ back, partly to keep him moving, but mainly to constantly be re-enforcing the pecking order to ensure that Heyes never forgot who was in charge.

 After the cool night air outside, coming in to the confined space of the passenger car was like stepping into a warm encompassing blanket.  The after-shock and weariness that had begun to settle over Heyes once he had been left alone in his cell now doubled its intensity and he felt his knees wanting to give way beneath him.  He gave a quick glance at the sleeping passengers and his weary eyes lighted onto a young boy to his left who was snoozing in his father’s arms.  There was something familiar about him, as though Heyes were looking back into his own past and he was looking at himself.

 Heyes felt what?  Remorse?  Regret?  Or was it just plain self-pity at the sight of the youngster?  He couldn’t be any more than eight or ten years old.  Right around the same age he had been when his own life had started to go so wrong.  The lad was small, and so young, nestled there safe in his father’s arms. Heyes felt the years fall away so that once distant memories loomed before his mind's eye and caused his throat to tighten with forgotten emotions.  He wouldn’t have been much different from this boy when his own father had been so violently taken from him.  How could a small boy that age take on the weight of the world and not be damaged by it?  And yet Heyes could remember not thinking of himself as a small frightened boy, but as the man of the ‘house’ now. As the older cousin whom Jed could look up to and depend upon and young Hannibal thought he was doing right.

 Then the boy looked up and met Heyes’ eyes, bringing the outlaw back to the present.  What was that in the child’s eyes?  Fear or awe?  Or maybe a mixture of both.  Heyes wanted to put the lad at his ease, to let him know he had nothing to be afraid of.  He quietly smiled at the boy and did the best he could to give him a little wave with a shackled hand.  The boy ducked down, but couldn’t bring himself to look away.  Then Heyes was past him and the contact was broken.

 Heyes was directed into the middle set of seats and was actually grateful to be able to sit down and get settled in.  To his bruised and aching body the cushioned seats were like a warm well-padded woman’s soft embrace.

 Exhaustion threatened to take him over, yet he was afraid to close his eyes not wanting to yet again relive the nightmare of the previous day’s events.

 Morrison had taken another set of manacles from Jack and, kneeling down in front of Heyes’ seat, snapped the leg irons around the outlaws ankles, then taking the length of chain attached to the cuffs, wrapped it around the metal bar under the seat and then brought the loose end up and attached it to the leather belt that was cinched around Heyes’ waist.  He was most definitely secured.  He didn’t care; he was so tired.

 Mike settled in beside Heyes, and Jack slid into the seats behind them. Jack hadn’t had much chance to get much sleep, having taken the first watch with Curry.  Now, it seems it was finally his turn to catch a nap.  Mike made a point of keeping his rifle handy.  Morrison sat down in the window seat in front of Heyes and didn’t look like he was planning on sleeping any either.  Then, from over Morrison’s shoulder Heyes made contact again with the wide open brown eyes of that same youngster.  The outlaw was still being scrutinized.

 Heyes acknowledged the boy again and sent him another quiet smile.  Then the lad did something that to Heyes seemed very prophetic; he pulled out his little toy hand gun, took aim at the prisoner and pretended to be shooting at him.  Heyes’ smile deepened for an instant.  It wasn’t because he thought the boy’s actions were amusing, on the contrary, he found them tragic.  Tragic and symbolic of a life gone wrong.

 Heyes broke the contact this time and turned to look out the window as the train jerked slightly and began moving again. Once they got past the station, the night sky was so dark there really wasn’t anything to look at and Heyes found himself staring into the dark brown eyes of his own reflection.  Worried stared back at him.  Worry and sadness and…defeat?  No, not defeat.  Even in his state of exhaustion he was not willing to concede defeat. Acceptance maybe.  Jesse had been right again;  there were going to be difficult times ahead but maybe it was time to face up to them, maybe it was time to stop running.

  Heyes sighed.  Is this how it was going to end?  All those years of avoiding the law and now he was ironically on a train, being taken back to Wyoming to stand trial for…how many crimes?  Maybe Heyes needed to look at this from another point of view.  If this was the end of his life as a fugitive, didn’t that also mean that it could be the beginning of his life as a free man?  Turn a negative into a positive, isn’t that what he was supposed to be good at?  But Curry was right, Heyes was a cynic and he couldn’t block out the other possibility either; that it could also mean the beginning of his life as a convict.

 And so it begins—one way or another.

 The train was picking up speed and the clackity clack of the wheels along with the rhythmic rocking of the car was having a mollifying affect on Heyes and the exhausted eyes of the reflection gazing back at him began to glaze over.  He started to lean forward, to remove his hat but was again instantly halted by the sharp pain in his ribcage.  He asked Mike if he would be so kind as to remove the hat for him.  Mike obliged, but then gave the hat and hatband another quick inspection before plunking it onto Heyes’ lap.  Morrison had been quite adamant in his instructions.

 Heyes had never thought about putting a lock pick inside his hat.  Maybe because it was too obvious.  Still that might be a good idea for future reference, if only…..he could…utilize…that….

 Then just when Heyes wasn’t thinking about it, sleep snuck up from behind and put his troubled mind to rest.
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Nancy Whiskey

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PostSubject: Re: The Face In The Window   Thu May 22, 2014 9:09 am

Salt tears still hung round the impossibly long eye lashes.  The nose was crusty, but had thankfully stopped running and blowing bubbles.  The cheeks were cherry red, but cooling gently as he sucked on some candy cane, gazing trustfully up into clear, blue eyes.

Kid Curry had gently tried to prise the little hand from his index finger, but the toddler had an iron grip.  He would not be moved; not to Maggie who bustled around and who was built for maternity or to Heyes, who looked on with an expression of mirth, sympathy and interest.  The boy had taken to Kid and that was that.

“The Mom can’t be far.  I’ve sent Tobias out searching.”  Maggie sounded reassuring.  “Poor woman must be frantic by now.  You wormed a name outta the little pickin’s yet?”

Curry shook his head, looking down at the well-dressed toddler.  The thought crossed his mind how proud his mother must have been at how neat, shiny and clean he would have been this morning; but that was before his big adventure, and long before the lost child wandered crying into the cookhouse.
 
A tired and dusty Little Pickins stopped sucking the candy just long enough to take a swallow from the milk Maggie had placed before him, still keeping a rictus grip on Curry’s finger.  The Kid helped him manoeuvre the small cup to the rosebud, sticky mouth.  Watched him drink then placed it safely back on the table.

The thought of how natural his partner looked hit Heyes like a ton of bricks.  There were suddenly undreamt futures stretching out ahead of them.  Maggie meanwhile was watching the little scene from behind the cookhouse counter.  She arched an eyebrow, smiled a half smile, but she kept her thoughts, tinged with reflection and remorse to herself.

The gunman tried again.  “What’s your name?”

A drowsy, sticky, little face tilted up and focussed intensely upon the questioning blue eyes.   “I’m Harry, Harold when I’ve been bad.”
 
The partners grinned.  “Have you been bad?” Heyes asked.

The child sniffed, sucking back a nasal drip.  “Yeah.  I got lost.  Momma’ll be mad at me. ” 

Harry’s head gently sunk into Curry’s chest; both of them breathing low and even until the exhausted boy slept.  Even in sleep, the child maintained the vice-like grip on the Kid’s hand, all the while accommodated in a strong circling arm.  Heyes looked from one face to another.  His cousin had hardly spoken and his gaze virtually never left the boy.  The tenderness was palpable.  Heyes shook himself, what was he feeling now?  Confusion, envy?

He was rocked from his thoughts by the face of woman appearing at the window, tear-stained and wide-eyed.  As her eyes adjusted to the light her hunting gaze fell on the infant.  Fear and desperation changed to disbelief, flipped into recognition, relief and finally elation.  “My baby!” 

The small tousled head awoke briefly; he smiled sleepily and finally let go of the gunman’s finger.  “Momma.”

“I was fit to burst,” the woman blinked back tears from glittering eyes, “mad with worry, almost hysterical.   I’ve been everywhere  and anywhere.  I just turned round for a minute and he had wandered off.”  She clutched her firstborn to her breast.  “I don’t know how he got here.  He’ll follow anyone and then go off looking at ponies or puppies or some such.  What am I going to do with you, Harry?”

“Not Harold, huh?” the Kid chuckled.

“Thank you so much for looking after him,” she bustled out, cuddling her tear-stained precious cargo.

Curry wiped away dribble and the flakes of candy cane with a sigh. 

“You alright?” Heyes asked, his voice low.

“Yeah, I figure I’m just gonna get some air and tend to the horses.”  Heavy blue eyes tossed a glance, but there was depth behind the nonchalance. 

Heyes frowned.  “Ya want some company?”

“Nah, I guess sometimes all you can change is the scene, huh?  Ya gotta work instead of thinkin’.”  The Kid shook his head.  “Maybe I need to tend the horses, or maybe they need me.  Who knows, but I guess we’ll work it out, huh?”



I took an 'executive decision' to only focus on the 'face in the window' bit, but just like the boys, I bend the rules on occasion...

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

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PostSubject: Re: The Face In The Window   Mon May 26, 2014 6:48 pm

The Face At The Window
 
The face pressed closer to the window, the brim of the brown hat touching the glass.  “What d’ya think, Joshua?”
 
The man in the dark hat shrugged.  “It’s alright I guess.”
 
“Alright?  It’s more than alright.  We both need a new one.”
 
“What’s wrong with the ones we’ve got?  They’ve done us up to now and they come outta the saddlebags without so much as a crease.  I bet there’s nothing like that in there.”  Heyes peered through a frown into the darkness of the shop.  “Nah, mine’s fine.  I don’t want a new one.”
 
“It ain’t fine,” the Kid scowled.  “The legs are too short and the waistcoat’s too tight.  It’d fit that ape in the travellin’ show we went to better than you.  Its years old.”
 
“It looks great!” Heyes protested.  “It fits like a glove,”
 
“Sure, but it’s supposed to fit like a suit.  You just don’t care how you look, do ya?  Look at the state of that hat.  It looks like a dog attacked it.”

 
“It was a horse, and you know it,” frowned Heyes.  “Leave me alone.  You know I’ve got a headache.  I’ve had it off and on for months.”
 
“I know,” the Kid nodded, sympathetically.  “None of the other doctors we’ve tried can find anything.  What about the one in this town?”  He glanced around at the bustling shoppers.  “Somebody’ll know where his office is.”
 
“I went there this morning while you were bathing.  He gave me some powders, but he was no better than all the rest.  I guess I’ll just have to put up with them.  Megrims, I think he called them.  Folks get them for no reason.”
 
The Kid’s brow creased.  “Those headaches are killers; somethin’s gotta be causin’ them.”        
 
“Yeah, well, until somebody can tell me what that is, I’ll have to put up with it.” 
 
“Did you take your powder? “
 
Heyes nodded.  “Yeah, it’s easing off some.”
 
“Good,” the Kid’s eyes brightened.  “Let’s go look at some suits.”
 
The bell tinkled a welcome as the door opened, jangling Heyes’ frayed nerves and clanging through his psyche like a church bell.  Their eyes adjusted from the caustic brightness of the street and the shadow making its way from the back of the shop took the form of a dapper little man wearing an extravagant waistcoat and an embroidered yarmulke.  “Can I help you, gentlemen?”  Fluffy, little brows rose along with the man’s intonation.  “We have a whole range of ready-made garments along with ties, cravats and shirts.”  The dark eyes settled on the dark hat with the silver conchos.  “My brother-in-law can provide you with some excellent hats too.”
 
“I don’t need a hat,” Heyes glanced around the shop, “or a suit. I need a chair.  He wants a suit.”   
 
“My name is Ira Rosen and I’m the best tailor this side of the Mississippi.  I’m sure I can find something for fine-looking gentlemen like yourselves.”  Ira dragged out a chair from behind the counter and placed it next to a rail of jackets.  “Please, sit.  Relax,” the little, pale hands spread expressively, “take your time.  Everyone’s in so much of a rush nowadays.  Don’t you find?  Look at the schmutter.  Enjoy.  What’s your hurry, I say?”
 
“Depends who’s after us, I guess,” Heyes muttered under his breath as he sat and rested his head on his hands.
 
The tailor’s eyes sparkled with mischief.  “Angry fathers, huh?  Maybe even a husband or two?”
 
“Or hat-eatin’ horses,” the Kid glowered at his indiscreet partner.  “Can I see that grey suit in the window?  It looks about my size.”
 
The tailor glanced the tall gunman up and down.  “Nope.  That suit’s a 34 sleeve.  I’d say you were a 36.  I can look at a man and know his sizes in an instant.  I’ve been doing this all my life.  It’s my talent.”
 
“Are you sure?” doubtful blue eyes drifted over to the mannequin in the window.  “It looks about right.”
 
Ira slipped the garment from the dummy and handed it over to the Kid.  “There’s only one way to be sure.”  He watched the fair-haired customer slip on the jacket.  He held out his arms and examined the cuffs.   “See?  I’m never wrong.  The sleeves are too short.”  The shopkeeper bustled over to the rail.  “Now if you like that one, I have one almost the same colour in your size.”
 
“What d’ya think of this one, Joshua?”
 
Bleary dark eyes turned up.  “Yeah, lovely.”
 
“D’you like this one or should I get a darker colour?”
 
“I don’t really care.  Get what you like.”
 
“If you need any adjustments I can get that done for you right away,” Ira tugged at the sleeve and picked some lint away from the shoulder.  “If I may so, sir, that looks superb on you; let me get the trousers so you can try them on.”  
 
“Yeah,” the Kid nodded.  “I take a...”
 
“I know what size you are, sir.  Leave all that to me.” Ira smiled knowingly and disappeared into the back of the shop.
 
“Won’t you even try anythin’ on, Joshua?”
 
Heyes rubbed his face and sighed.  “I’m quite happy with the suit I’ve got.”
 
“Look at this black one,” the Kid removed a hanger from the rail.  “It’s got a little stripe through it.  That’d suit you.”
 
Heyes arched a brow.  “I thought we’d agreed we were gonna do all we could to avoid wearing suits with stripes, Thaddeus.”
 
“You’re in a mood,” the hanger was abruptly returned to the rail.  “I’m going to try on the trousers.  Wait here.”
 
  “Yeah and I’ll watch your back while you’re nekkid as a jaybird back there.”
 
“Have you ever seen a naked jaybird?”  The Kid picked up a tie and examined it closely.  “Yeah, I might even get me a tie and a couple of new collars too.  He’s got real nice stuff here.”
 
~~~~~~~~~~
 
Ira tied off the string on the brown paper parcel and handed it over to a smiling Kid Curry.  “One more happy customer.”  The tailor’s dark eyes fixed on Heyes.  “Are you sure I can’t get you anything?  I can do you a special price on this dark charcoal.  Feel that material.  You can just feel the quality.”
 
Heyes shook his head.  “It‘s great.  I just don’t need one.”
 
“At these prices?”  Ira shook the proffered sleeve.  “Everyone needs a suit at these prices.  It’s just your size too.   A thirty four inch chest, waist thirty two and an inseam leg of thirty four,” Ira pulled himself up to the full grandeur of his five foot six frame and nodded sagely, “if I’m any judge.”
 
Heyes shook his head.  “Nope.  My inseam leg is thirty two.  It always has been.”
 
Ira’s brow creased.  “No, it’s thirty four.  I make my living doing this and I’ve done this my whole life.”
 
“I’m sorry to disappoint you, Mr. Rosen.  My inseam leg is thirty two.  I had my suit made to measure by the best tailor in Denver.”
 
Ira shook his grey head.  “No, sir.  You’re thirty four.  If you were to wear thirty two it’d make your...” he cleared his throat, “your manhood would be pushed up against your pelvis.  That’s make you hold your spine awkwardly.”
 
“A suit can do all that?”  Doubt danced in Heyes’ face.  “Nah, I’d feel it.”
 
“You certainly would.  The tension in your back would end up giving you the most terrible headaches.”
 
The Kid’s jaw dropped open.  “Headaches?”
 
“Yes.  Real stinkers.  They’d last for at least twelve hours.”
 
“You were wearin’ that suit yesterday, and just before the last time you had one of your heads.”  The Kid nodded slowly, the light of triumph in his eyes.  “Joshua, try on the suit.  You might get the headaches, but I’m the one who suffers from them.” 
 
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RosieAnnieUSA

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PostSubject: Re: The Face In The Window   Tue May 27, 2014 8:37 pm

Missing scene from "Wrong Train to Brimstone." A lot happened after the train left the station.

-----

“This better be good, Barnes.”

The young man swallowed hard, his adam’s apple bobbing, but he didn’t back down.

“It is, Deputy. You need to come and talk to these two.”

The imposing older man restrained a sigh. So much for dinner.

“Alright, boy. You better tell me”.

Fifteen minutes later, they entered the sheriff’s office. Two middle-aged men jumped up from their chairs.

“These are the two the janitor found tied up in the men’s necessary at the train station, sir.”

“I kind of figured that, Barnes,” he responded drily. He shook hands with both men.

“Gentlemen, I’m Deputy Wade Sawyer. I’m the Acting Sheriff here in Bramberg. Deputy Barnes already told me a bit on the way over here, but why don’t one of you give me your story.”

“Deputy, there ain’t time for a story. I’m Carl Grant, and this here is my partner Fred Gaines. We’re detectives with the George Bannerman Detective Agency. You got to get that telegraph office open again so we can send a telegram to Harry Briscoe in Brimstone. He’s running the Bannerman operation on the gold train. We got to tell him there’s two men pretending to be us on that train.”

“Slow down, Grant. I don’t got to do anything until you convince me you’re really Bannerman men.”

“Here’s our identification Deputy Sawyer,” Gaines said. “This proves we’re certified agents from the Fort Worth office. George Bannerman himself had us come here to Bramberg to help protect the gold train. If we can’t reach Mr. Briscoe when the train stops at Brimstone, the whole gold shipment could be in danger.”

“I know about the gold train,” Sawyer said, casually sitting down on one corner of his desk, giving the identifications cards only a quick look before returning them to Gaines and Grant. “Everybody seems to. Poor security, I’d say. That don’t sound like the way Bannerman operates.”

“It is in this case, Deputy,” Gaines insisted. “We made sure the word got out. Me and Grant here, along with other top agents, we set a trap for the Devil’s Hole Gang. We want them to attack the train. When they do, we’ll be ready.”

“The Devil’s Hole Gang,” Sawyer said, thoughtfully.

“No doubt you’re familiar with them, Deputy.”

“More than you know, Mr. Gaines.”  Sawyer held up one hand in a stop gesture when Grant started to talk again. “Give me a minute here, Mr. Grant.”

Sawyer turned abruptly to the young man waiting nervously behind him. “Barnes. You’re so good at getting people over here. Find Homer Thatcher and Al Farrington and bring them here. Thatcher first. He’s probably bending his elbow at the saloon.” Barnes nodded and almost ran out the door, slamming it loudly behind him. Sawyer winced at the noise and turned his attention back to the two anxious men before him.

“Thatcher’s the railroad ticket agent. He’ll verify whether or not you were on the list Bannerman provided.”

“I appreciate your caution, Deputy,” Gaines said, “but we’re awful short on time. We need that telegram sent.”

“Farrington’s the telegraph office manager. If I believe your story, which I don’t yet, I’ll have him send the telegraph to Brimstone.”

“What don’t you believe, Deputy Sawyer?” Grant asked. “We gave you our identification.”

“Identification can be forged or stolen,” Sawyer replied. “Especially when the Devil’s Hole Gang may be involved. And frankly, the way you were found, all hog-tied nice and neat in the men’s necessary, isn’t exactly the way I normally meet Bannerman agents.”

Grant’s and Gaines’ expressions shifted between embarrassment and anger.

“I’ll admit that tonight’s not our finest moment as Bannerman agents,” Grant said. “We were completely surprised by those two.”

“Not completely,” Gaines argued. “I had my gun pointed at ‘em.”

“You were holding a gun on them?” Sawyer asked, his voice full of doubt. “And they still got the drop on you? Gentlemen, gentlemen. And you want me to believe that you’re not only Bannerman agents, but so good that George Bannerman wanted you special.” Sawyer shook his head, as if he were sad. A deep red flush grew on the faces of both agents.

“Not our best day for sure,” Gaines admitted. “But it doesn’t alter the facts, Deputy Sawyer. There’s two men on the gold train, pretending to be us.”

“How is that a problem? A train full of Bannerman detectives, two strangers will be spotted right away. Unless they look just like you.”

“They don’t look like us, but this job’s pulling agents from all the major offices. We’ve never met any of them.”

“So even if I let you send a telegram to Briscoe, he won’t be able to verify who you are, or who they are?”

The deep red flush on the agents’ faces got deeper. “Afraid so, Deputy.”

“You two are in a world of hurt, aren’t you?”

“Deputy Sawyer,” Grant said, “You’ve got to believe us. This is our best chance to get the Devil’s Hole Gang, and especially Heyes and Curry. Don’t you want them out of your hair, once and for all?”

“More than you know,” Sawyer told them. “I had a run-in with Heyes and Curry in Kingsburg not too long ago. My wife’s heard me go on so much about them two, she laughs at me and calls me their nemesis.” He noticed the confusion on the agents’ faces. “Nemesis was one of them old Greek gods. The agent of justice or vengeance. My wife’s a reader.”

“Now you  got me curious, Deputy,” Grant said. “Sounds like you know them well.”

“Too well. If I ever see them two again, I’ll put them in the ground myself.”

Both Gaines and Grant stood up a little straighter.

“You’d know them on sight, Deputy?” Gaines asked.

“Sure would. I’ve been as close to them as I am to you right now.” The agents exchanged glances.

“What?” Sawyer asked.

“I wish we’d known that beforehand. One of our agents, Jeremiah Daly, he found a girl who says she knows Heyes and Curry. She’s the ace up our sleeve.”

“You mean she’s on the train?” The two agents nodded.

“When the gang attacks, she’s supposed to point out Heyes and Curry, so we can be sure to aim the gatling gun direct at them.”

“This train’s got a gatling gun?” Sawyer was impressed in spite of himself.

“Sure does. The Bannerman organization’s going to put every one of the Devil’s Hole Gang down. Especially Heyes and Curry.”

Sawyer whistled a slow, long whistle. “Well. That’s something.” He looked at his reluctant guests with more respect. “I sure hope your story pans out, gentlemen. Because nothing’d please me more to see Heyes and Curry in pine boxes.”

The door burst open suddenly. A dishevelled man in a railroad conductor’s suit stumbled over the threshold. He was pushed into the room none too gently by Barnes.

“I found Homer at the saloon, Deputy, just like you said.”

“Good job, Barnes. Now go get Farrington. Homer, sit down before you fall down.” The railroad agent fell heavily into a chair. He wiped his face with a crumpled handkerchief. The other mens’ noses wrinkled at the strong smell of beer that emanated from Thatcher.

“How much you had to drink tonight, Homer?” Sawyer asked.

“What do you care? I’m off duty, and I paid for my own drinks.”

“In case you ain’t noticed, Homer, I got two guests here besides you.” Thatcher looked up reluctantly into two familiar faces.

“How come you two ain’t on the train?” Thatcher asked.

“There you go, Sheriff! That confirms our story,” Grant said.

“Homer. You recognize these two?”

“Sure do, Deputy.”

“Where’d you see ‘em last?”

“At the ticket office tonight. They had reservations for the special train. I gave them their tickets.”

“You see anybody else who didn’t have reservations?”

Thatcher shrugged dismissively and tried to rise. Sawyer leaned forward and put a firm hand on Thatcher’s shoulder, shoving him hard back into the chair.

“Be real clear, Homer. Leastways, clear as you can be when you get off-duty. Did anyone else try to buy tickets for the special train tonight?”

Thatcher looked resentfully at the firm hand pinning. “My memory ain’t so good when someone’s tryin’ to push me around.”

“You ever hear of obstruction of justice, Homer?” Sawyer asked. “That’s a criminal offense. That’s when an officer of the law, like me, is trying to do an investigation, and some damn fool, like you, tries to be a pain in the ass. That railroad you work for ain’t gonna be too happy when it finds out you didn’t do your closing rounds like you should have done anyway. ‘Cause if you had, you’d’ve found these two Bannerman detectives right quick.”

“I didn’t know they was Bannermans,” Thatcher whined.

“You weren’t supposed to,” Grant said. “Answer Deputy Sawyer’s question.”

“Yeah. There was two young fellers. They wanted real bad to buy tickets. I told ‘em, the train was full up. That’s when these two, Grant and Gaines, they come in, and I checked the reservation list. They was on the list, so I sold them tickets. Soon as they left, them other two came back, wanting to know why they got tickets. I said, ‘cause they had reservations. The dark-haired one, he was doing all the talking, he says, ‘fine, sell us a reservation.’ I told him, sorry, the train’s all sold out. I turned away just for a minute, and they was gone. I figured they left.”

“That’s better, Homer. Now tell me what these two looked like. You saw ‘em real close-up.”

“I sure did. Both maybe late 20’s. Clean-cut. Both of them maybe just under six foot tall.”

“Good, Homer,” Sawyer urged. He glanced over at the Bannerman agents and noticed both looked grim.

“This description sound familiar to you men?”

“Sure does.”

“Go on, Homer. Hair color. Eye color. What they wore. Were they heeled?”

“I’ll remember better if you unhand me, Deputy.” Sawyer released the man’s shoulder.

“The dark-haired one, brown hair, brown eyes. Black hat with silver studs on the hat band, brown corduroy jacket. The other one, he never said a word. Brown hat, leather jacket. Curly blonde hair, I think, but hard to say with his hat on. Blue eyes. And yeah, now that you mention it, both of them wore guns.”

“Gaines, Grant, you got any more questions for this man?”

“I do,” Gaines said. “What did you do after the train left the station?”

“I locked up and walked over to the saloon. That’s where I been since.”

“Alright, Homer, you can go now,” Sawyer told him.

“I can?”

“Yep. In fact, if you ain’t out of here in about 30 seconds, I might kick you out.”

“I’m goin.” He paused at the door. “Deputy, you ain’t gonna tell the railroad about me not checking the washroom before I left are you?”

“I’ll think about it. Now skedaddle.”

After the door closed, Sawyer turned to the unhappy agents.

“Boys, I’m starting to believe you.”

“All that man did was confirm we gave him names that were on the list,” Grant said. “How come you believe us now?”

“Because of that description.” Grant and Gaines looked puzzled. “You don’t get it, do you? It’d be funny if it weren’t so tragic. That description fits Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry a hundred percent.” Disbelief and shock showed on the agents’ faces.

“That’s the tragic part. Here you are, all fired-up to get on that gold train to catch Heyes and Curry, and you could’ve caught them in the washroom. Gaines, you even had them at gunpoint. Twenty thousand dollars in the washroom with you, and you never knew it.”

The door slammed open again. This time, Barnes escorted an elderly man, who stepped carefully over the threshold. Sawyer got up and shook his hand.

“Sorry to disturb you, Mr. Farrington, but it looks like I’m going need you to reopen the telegraph office right now and send an emergency message to Brimstone.”

“You know I’m always willing to help out, Deputy Sawyer. Least as much as these old bones let me.”
Sawyer opened a desk drawer and pulled out a pad of paper. “Mr. Farrington, one of these gentlemen is going to dictate a message for you to send to the railroad office in Brimstone. Why don’t you sit down in my chair so it’s easier for you to write?”

“I’ll dictate,” Grant said. He waited until the old man was settled in the chair, pen poised above the paper. “To Mr. Harry Briscoe. Men claiming to be Grant and Gaines are impostors. Arrest them immediately. And sign that Fred Gaines and Carl Grant, Bannerman Agency.” The old man wrote quickly and read the message back to make sure it was right.

“You satisfied, gentlemen? Barnes,” Sawyer said, “you escort Mr. Farrington to the telegraph office. Make sure you wait for a reply. Then bring it back here right away.”

“Will do, Deputy. This way, if you please, Mr. Farrington.” Barnes offered his arm to Farrington, who gratefully took it to pull himself out of the chair.

“Don’t worry, Deputy,” Farrington said. “I know the operator in Bramberg. He’s a good man. He’ll make sure the conductor on that train gets the telegram.”

“Good. Do it.” No one spoke until the two left.

“Why didn’t you mention Heyes or Curry in that message?” Sawyer asked.

“Not necessary,” Grant replied. “All that matters now is that they’re taken into custody.”

“Besides,” Gaines added, “all hell might break loose if a lot of people knew $20,000 was walking around in front of them. Even that responsible telegrapher in Bramberg could decide to take it upon himself to arrest them and claim the money for himself. No, it’s safer for everyone if they don’t know they’re facing Heyes and Curry.”

“I see your point, but I don’t agree with you. Those two are smart and dangerous. Better to have everyone alerted. Else they’ll get the jump on folks the same way they did on you.”

“No, they won’t, Deputy. They had the advantage of surprise. They won’t get that again.”

Sawyer only grunted. “Have it your way.” He looked at the clock on the wall. “Shouldn’t be too long a wait. You might as well sit down and get comfortable. I’ll make us some coffee.”

The minutes passed slowly. Gaines and Grant sat tensely in their chairs, sipping the bitter coffee and checking their pocket watches almost minute to minute. Rather than watch the clock, Sawyer decided to do a little paperwork. He was thumbing through a file drawer when some sixth sense made him look up. Barnes was outside, looking at him through the window. Sawyer’s mouth opened to say something, but Barnes shook his head. Sawyer pushed the file drawer closed carefully.

The two agents were staring off into space, ignoring him. Slowly, Sawyer reached for his gun. He unhooked the safety on his holster and patted the gun for reassurance. Looking at Barnes again, Sawyer flicked his eyes towards the agents and pointed to his own gun. He mouthed silently “come in.”

Barnes came in quietly. Grant and Gaines almost jumped out of their seats. Standing behind them, Sawyer drew his gun and pointed it at their backs.

“Did you get a reply, boy?” Gaines asked. Barnes’ eyes drifted past him towards Sawyer.

“Easy now, Grant, Gaines. If those are your names.” Their jaws dropped comically when they saw Sawyer’s Colt pointed steadily at them.

“Take your guns out, gentlemen. Slow, one finger, and put them careful-like on my desk.”

“Deputy Sawyer, what are you doing?” Grant demanded. “I thought you said you were starting to believe us.”

“Starting to,” Sawyer replied, “but not there yet. Guns on the desk, then you sit down again. Hands on the arms of your chairs, where I can see them.” The men complied, reluctantly.

“Now what?” Gaines said. Sawyer crossed over to his desk, his Colt steady in  his hand.

“I believe we do have a reply, gentlemen. Why don’t you read it, Barnes?” There was no sound in the room except the crinkling of paper as Barnes unfolded the telegram. He read out loud:

Men claiming to be Grant and Gaines are fugitives. Hold for my return. All my best, Harry Briscoe.

“That settles it. You’re going to be my guests here until Mr. Briscoe gets back.”

“There’s got to be a mistake,” Grant insisted. He was almost sputtering.

“No mistake,” Sawyer said. “Unless it was yours, trying to pass yourselves off as Bannermans. Barnes, you take one of their guns. We’re going to escort these two into the first cell, where they can settle in. You’ll stay here tonight with them, and I’ll relieve you in the morning.” The two demoralized agents wearily entered the first cell, shoulders sagging. They looked utterly defeated.

“Bannerman men. Huh. Nice try, fellas.” He tipped his hat to them and left quickly. If he got home soon, maybe Maggie would heat up some dinner for him.
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EvaHanley

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PostSubject: Re: The Face In The Window   Thu May 29, 2014 6:12 pm

 BEYOND FEAR
 
 
The two travellers made their way down the aisle of the railcar as the train started slowly moving again. They headed towards an isolated set of seats in the rear, all the while observing the passengers already on board. The railcar was not crowded and none of their fellow-travellers looked familiar. Three middle-aged, balding Easterners briefly interrupted their scrutiny of a thick wad of documents to inspect the newcomers, while in the middle of the carriage an elderly couple returned the smiling nod offered by the young men. Across the aisle, a group of young women clad in dull calico dresses and headscarves falling over their shoulders gave them wary looks before hastily dropping their eyes. The older seemed to be in her mid-twenties and the younger hardly more than a girl. They looked vaguely Mexican but their complexion was much paler and their clothes outlandish. The partners put their saddlebags away and settled down for the long ride.




"I can't say I mind being out of the saddle for a spell" sighed the Kid, sliding his hat down to cover his eyes.  "Don't wake me until we get there."




His partner nodded and pulled a small book from the inner pocket of his jacket. He was soon absorbed in reading.


The train progressed steadily across the desolate Colorado landscape. The older woman watched fascinated the dry rock formations rushing past the train. Pulling away from the window she returned an absent gaze to the swarthy mustachioed man who was staring back stiffly from the photograph lying on her lap, dressed in his Sunday best. One of her younger companions shot a string of fast-flowing but low-spoken sentences, to which she responded by weary monosyllabics. Their muffled conversation drew the attention of the dark-haired man, who watched quietly from above the rim of his book, intrigued by the unknown, rumbling language. “Certainly not Mexican,” he thought. “Where do these women come from and what are they doing on this train?” The woman caught his gaze and lowered her voice even further, sending a look of urgency to her partner. Heyes realized the impropriety of his behavior and tried to smile reassurance, before forcing his eyes back to his book but failing to similarly coax his attention.


He was the first to notice the change in the train’s motion. He tensed and shoved his book in his pocket as the wheels started squealing against the tracks. Before he had the time to wake his partner, the blond man pushed back his hat and stared at him with enquiring eyes.


We’re miles from anywhere. It can only be a holdup,” muttered Heyes.


As the train came to a halt the two took a cautious look out the window sizing up the bunch of ugly thugs circling the railcar. At least they didn’t seem to know any of them. The engineer and the fireman were herded beside the tracks at gunpoint, while two of the outlaws hopped onto the baggage car. The rest of the gang made their way into the passenger cars.


A brawny youngster pointed his six-gun at the passengers as his older accomplice motioned towards the compartment’s exit. “Folks, I want all of you off the train, nice and quiet. You do just as you’re told and no one will get hurt,” he sneered.


The passengers slowly rose and moved in his direction, exchanging worried looks, but the young women remained frozen in their seats. They were clearly distraught, clasping their cheap cloth bundle and repeatedly crossing themselves, "Panaghia mou ! Panaghia mou !"


"I said OUT !" bellowed the outlaw, moving menacingly towards them. One of the women uttered a fearful plea.


The Kid quickly stepped in, gently pushing the woman forward. "Better do as he says ma'am. Don't worry, everything will be all right."


Heyes positioned himself behind the group, encouraging the women forward with a reassuring gesture. The youngest girl kept pleading with them as they were all escorted out of the railcar.


"None of them seem to understand what we're saying," sighed the Kid.


"And that’s not Spanish, maybe a bit like it, but I’m sure it’s not," observed his partner.


"They’re scared to death, Joshua, and not much we can do about it".


Heyes nodded, unease about their own past actions washing over him. How could they have pretended to ignore the effect produced on passengers and patrons in every train and bank they robbed? Gentlemen robbers, right! Cocky and self-centered is more like it, dismissing the real, living people behind the impersonal entities. Was the constant fear in their lives - of being recognized, of the posse that would finally catch up with them, of the bullet that would end it all before the blasted amnesty ever came through- atonement for the fear they caused? And for how much longer? And would it ever be enough?


The gang had started collecting money and valuables from the passengers gathered at some distance away from the tracks. Arrived in front of the group of women and quickly gauging their modest attire for possible hiding places, they stripped off their scarves and pried their bundles open.


No, you don’t !” hissed Heyes, pulling back his partner, about to intervene again, as tears welled in the women’s desperate eyes.  The scarves exposed nothing more than thick braids of dark chestnut hair and handwritten tags pinned on their left shoulders, but the meager packages revealed embroidered white muslin gowns neatly folded among more pieces of dull clothing. The gang burst into an uproar of mean laughter.


The women had the looks of cornered animals, yet Heyes didn’t see fear in the eyes of the older woman; only resignation. She had been there already, in fact, she was fleeing from it.  And the violence had caught up with her, like an earthquake or a forest fire. He suddenly felt the need to explain, to justify, not the train robbers, but the Kid, his former gang, most of all himself. But how do you justify the fatality to those who have lost hope?


At that moment the blast from the baggage car covered all other noise and sent the women, together with the other passengers, bracing against the ground. The Kid gathered in his arms the younger girl, who had started sobbing hysterically, in a vain attempt to calm her down.  Heyes grabbed the older woman's hands and fixed his gaze in hers, urgently seeking to come through. "You have to help her!" he waved towards the panicked girl with imploring eyes. "Tell her, it will be all right at the end. There’s hope; there’s always hope." He didn't know how much of it was meant for her and how much he was addressing to himself.


The last of the train robbers were already stepping back towards their horses, covering the rest of the gang's hooraying departure. The woman finally nodded and moved to place her hands on her companion's face. She spoke in a soothing voice, slowly singing the vowels and lightly wiping the girl's tears with her finger pads. She kept talking until the girl stopped crying and buried her face on the woman's shoulder. Her tired, dark eyes turned to face to the dark-haired man once again, but this time she did not drop her gaze.


Note : I had to play with timelines in order to allow for the encounter of the boys with Greek picture brides traveling to the American West.


Colorado and Utah hosted significant Greek communities from the end of the nineteenth century. By 1915 thousands of Greeks were working in the Carbon County mines and on railroad gangs in eastern Utah and western Colorado, alongside with Italians and immigrants from the Southern Slavic regions. Starting in the 1910s, picture brides from the immigrants’ home countries began arriving on every train headed to the Carbon County coal camps. Many of the women were fleeing poverty, misery and often persecution, coming from areas in constant conflict over the best part of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. In some cases prospective brides arrived alone with tags on their clothing that identified future husbands. Such was the case of one Cretan woman who travelled to Carbon County and was left waiting near the railroad tracks in a sagebrush flat thirty miles from Helper. Most of the homeland wedding customs had to be left aside and weddings were briefly and collectively celebrated on Sundays, followed by feasts in backyards of mine company houses.
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Silverkelpie

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PostSubject: Re: The Face In The Window   Fri May 30, 2014 8:36 pm

The Face in The Window

She wore her weariness like a shroud of bible black.  The harshness of her existence had gnawed into her soul until her eyelids drooped and her thin shoulders hunched in defeat over the water boiling on the range.  This was her lot; the daily grind which quashed her spirit and crushed all hope until the only light at the end of the tunnel came from the candles on the alter; not that she could afford to light a candle herself, they cost a penny for six.  Sure, the Father dressed it up as a donation to make it sound all voluntary-like, but Mary had heard him grumbling about having to subsidize his flock when she was scrubbing one of the many floors which stood between her and total penury.  Hadn’t they ever heard the saying ‘poor as a church mouse?’  She had seen those mice as they played and scuttled off into the safety corners and crannies while she had to carry on working.  She envied them.



Mary straightened up, her reddened hands in the crook of her back as she stretched her out thin frame and stared at the dawn light creeping into through the cheap glass of the scullery window.  She froze.  Two men were leading horses out of the stable building at the back of the saloon looking around like hunted animals; not just any two men – they were Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.  Her breath juddered to a halt.  Had they seen her?


Mary stepped back into the shadows.  For once the owner’s meanness had paid off and the lack of a lamp meant there was nothing to alert the outlaws to her presence; besides who would expect anyone to be cleaning latrines and floors in a saloon only a few hours after the drunks and gamblers corkscrewed their way home?  She sidled nervously over to the door and slid over the latch as quietly as her trembling fingers would allow.  What would they do if they knew the woman who had turned them in was no more than a few feet away?  They knew who she was; they had seen her at the sheriff’s office when she had desperately sought an advance on the reward money.


Seven Hours Earlier:



“It’s Mary Gifford ta see ya, sheriff.”


“Who?”


“That old drudge from the shack at the edge of town.”  The deputy looked her up and down.  “The one who always wonders why her husband up and left.”


“Yeah,” the burly man behind the desk guffawed heartily.  “She says he got so ding-swizzled he fell asleep in a freight car and ended up god knows where.   I never believed that.  He had to be stone-cold sober to walk out on her – only a man snake-bitten by the bottle’d go back to that hovel to a pinch-faced grunt and her snot-nosed fetch.”


Mary tugged at her worn shawl and tucked an unruly tendril of grey hair behind her ear.  “Sir,” she darted a nervous glance at the outlaws glaring at her through the bars.  “I wondered...” her voice dropped to an unintelligible whisper.


“Speak up!” the sheriff bellowed.  “I ain’t got all night.”


Mary swallowed hard.  “I ain’t been paid this week and things’ve been real hard.  I wondered if you could see your way clear to givin’ me an advance on the reward.”


The lawman’s belly rumbled with laughter as he sat back and propped his hells on the desk.  “An advance on what?”


“The reward, sir?  It was me who told you about them, who they was.  I was on a train they robbed.  I was lookin’ for my Jim.  Someone said he was in Grangeton and we was held up not three weeks ago on my way back ...”


“Reewaard,” the burly lawman rolled the word around in his mouth for comic effect.  “Did you see anythin’ that gave Musty Mary a call on that reward money, John?”

The deputy placed his hands on his hips.  “Nope.  In fact this is the first I saw of her all day.”


Mary’s eyes widened in outrage.  “You were right here.  Both of ya.  I came in and told ya they were in the hotel.  I saw them when I was collectin’ the laundry to take home.”


The sheriff’s lips narrowed to an unsavoury smirk.  “Don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, Mary.  Now get outta here before I lock you up for disorderly conduct.”


“Disorderly conduct?”  Mary shook her head desperately.  “I never done nothin’.  All I did was tell ya they were in town.  I dun it because I needed the money.  I was desperate.”


“You’re on your last warnin’, Mary.  Now git!”


She tugged desperately against the deputy’s grasp as he manoeuvred her towards the door.   “You’re nuthin’ but cheats and liars.  All I want is a few dollars for some food.”


“Ya want food, Mary?” The sheriff stood, the legs of his chair scraping against the wooden floorboards, “there’s a pig bin at the back of the hotel.  Stop wastin’ your money lookin’ for that husband o’ yourn.  He’s gone.  He ain’t comin’ back.  I won’t warn ya again, git outta here, slut,” the sheriff snarled.  


“I ain’t a slut,” sniffed Mary.  “If’n I was I’d make more money than I do now.”


“Ya think?” the deputy laughed.  “Ya’d have to pay me, Mary.  You’re better off cleaning floors.”


“For cryin’ out loud, the woman’s clearly desperate,” all eyes turned to the blue eyes blazing through the bars.  “Come here, I got just over a dollar, you can have it.”


“Don’t take as much as one step towards him,” the deputy threw out an arm to block her way.


The sheriff shook his head in disbelief.  “Ya want to give money to the woman who turned you in?”    


“Well, it’s no use to us in here.  Is it?” growled Heyes.


“Ya got that right,” the sheriff stepped forward and pointed to the floor.  “Toss it over here.  This could be a trick to get me over to the bars.”

             
The Kid rolled his eyes and thrust his hand through the bars before dropping the coins on the floor with a clatter.  “There, and make sure she gets it.  You got enough comin’ to you.”


The sheriff paused.  “Is that a threat?  I ain’t scared of no Devil’s Hole Gang.”


“No?  We know she really turned us in but you’re doing the dirty on her, so I guess you get to take all the credit.  Remember that if you ever meet any of them.”  Mean dark eyes glowered at both lawmen over a cold smile.  “And you’re supposed to be the law, better than us?  Don’t make me laugh.”


“So you admit that you’re Heyes and Curry,” demanded the sheriff.


“I never admit anything, it makes things more interesting,” Heyes purred.  He gestured towards the money on the floor.  “Give it to her.”


“I ain’t scrabblin’ around on the floor, that’s her place,” came the snorted reply.  “Mary, get it if ya want it.  These idiots are payin’ ya for puttin’ them behind bars.”


She edged forward nervously before her calloused hand darted up to grab the prize.  She raised quizzical eyes towards the incarcerated men.  “Why?”


“Why?  Any man who treats a woman badly has forgotten where he came from,” the Kid gestured towards the lawmen, “either that or they grew right outta the dirt.”  He smiled weakly.  “Just go, ma’am.  We know what happened and we ain’t got hard feelin’s.  We understand.”

She dropped the coins into her saggy bosom, the metallic clanking giving away how much of the flesh had withered through years of want.  “I’m sorry.”


“We know,” the smile dimpled reassuringly.  “Just get outta here, huh?”


Back at the saloon : Dawn.


The gentle tap at the door made her heart judder.  A voice of dark velvet drifted through to her.  “Ma’am, we know you’re in there.  We saw you.  We need your word that you won’t do anything stupid."


“Just look down, Mary.”  She did as bid and followed the sound of scrabbling at the floor beneath her feet.  Cash; note after note appeared under the door.  “Don’t ask where it came from and spend it carefully.  Ya don’t want the Devil’s Hole Gang on your tail as well as the local law, do ya?”


The words tumbled from her lips through fear.  “No...Please.  I have a son.  I’m sorry.”


“Good, stay there and come out when it’s fully light.  You’ll find some more cash over by the horse trough.  Take some good advice and don’t flash it around.  Some of the local lawmen might be missin’ it.”


Mary, stood silently and watched the horses disappear from the yard before she shook herself back to reality and looked down at the cash in her hands.  Eleven dollars; not enough for her to risk her job; she lifted the pan from the range and poured it over the caustic soda in the galvanised bucket.  She had a floor to wash.


oooOOOooo


The saloon floor had been sluiced of all unnecessary and unmentionable waste; it was brushed, washed and fresh sawdust had been scattered for another day of indulgence before Mary made her way out to the brightening day.  Most of her floors needed to be done at the end of the day, but the saloon needed to be dealt with at its quietest time, which left her the day free to take in laundry.


Birds darted through the freshness of the new morning, celebrating life and fruitfulness as Mary made her way over to the horse trough.  A bandana sat exactly where she had been told to look, along with the large heavy ring bearing keys.  They looked suspiciously like the set that hung on the hook on the wall in sheriff’s office.


Her fingers peeled back the bandana as she glanced around the yard nervously.  Fifty dollars; a life changing amount, if she was careful; but it was obviously stolen.  She thought about handing it back as she turned the keys in her hands.

A long-dead light flared in her eyes.  This cash had probably come from the very lawmen who had tried to cheat her.  Oh, he was as clever as she’d heard, that Hannibal Heyes.  They had bought her compliance for about a dollar fifty of their own money.  It wasn’t loyalty, there had still been an underlying threat, but given a choice between the Devil’s  Hole Gang and the law; the outlaws had at least given her the chance of being treated with some modicum of respect.  


She dangled the key ring from her fingers; she had heard the sheriff boasting about how strong his cells were and it looked like he was about to test that first-hand .  Nobody could bust out of that jail and if the keys were lost the locksmith would have come from the next town to get the doors open.  How long would they be in there if she didn’t raise the alarm?  Twelve hours, a day or maybe more?  The shadow of an unfamiliar smile twitched at her lips; it had been a very long time since she’d had any kind of buffer against life’s vicissitudes and fifty dollars would go far if she kept working hard.


The risk of alerting anyone to the outlaws’ escape had been made clear.  The choice was easy.  Mary strode over to the well and tossed the keys into the inky blackness below.  She raised her face to feel the warmth of the morning sun and brushed back a tendril of grey hair.  What was it her mother used to say?  If there was enough blue in the sky to make a Dutchman a pair of trousers it would be a good drying day.  Yes, today she could make some money.
                             
     




             



This one I will put in for polling, folks.  It's been ages since I played properly.

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

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PostSubject: Re: The Face In The Window   Sat May 31, 2014 4:16 pm

*If you don't read my Feb and March challenge entries first, this story won't make much sense. This is the third part in what has inadvertently become a series.

Faces in the Windows: Parkersville


The bespectacled young man with the slicked back hair and the brown citified suit peered out the stagecoach window as it jerked to a stop. He had spent the last few hours gazing at the passing scenery deep in thought, wondering what he was riding into. Once the dust finally settled, it seemed his fears had been warranted. Most of the faces in the window appeared to be wearing stars. 


“Parkersville, everybody out!” The driver began throwing bags into the street.


“Hey Deke, what d’ya reckon all those lawmen are doin’ out there?“ The young man‘s hesitation to open the door was barely perceptible, but his fellow passenger hadn‘t missed it.  The two men had gotten to know each other during the long hours of the trip.


“Not rightly sure. Must be after outlaws.” Deke stepped out and was greeted by a tall, lean man who immediately recognized the older miner.


“Hey there, Deke.”


“Howdy, Levi. You sure put on a mighty fine welcome. Still on the look out for that outlaw‘s rescue party?”


“Yup. The Boss asked me to check out all the strangers comin’ to town and I reckon meetin’ the stage is as good a way as any. Who’s this fella you rode in with?” Hands on his hips, Levi scrutinized the young man with a suspicious eye.


“Aw, he’s alright Levi.” Deke stuck his head back in the stage. “ Come on out Henry, Levi’s our foreman. And the deputies, well they won’t bite. At least not much.” He chuckled at his own joke, as well as the subtle discomfort of the new arrival. “I’ll see you boys later, I got to get home to the missus.”  Deke took off, still chuckling to himself.


Resigned, the newcomer pushed his spectacles back on his nose, clutched his satchel to his chest, and stepped off the stage.  He looked around at all the tied down guns and assumed a practiced, but friendly smile.


“Mornin‘, deputies. Lovely day, ain’t it?“ He nodded at Levi and the lawmen congenially. “Looks like you boys got the place locked down tighter than a drum.” 


“Glad you noticed, mister. What brings you to Parkersville?” Levi was courteous, but was in a hurry. He looked the newcomer up and down, noting he wasn’t wearing a gun.


“I’m here about a job, sir. There some kinda trouble ‘round these parts?” 


One of the deputies spoke up. “ Train robbery. We’re on the look out for outlaws, mister.” 


The young man chuckled as if the notion were absurd, and offered an even broader grin. “Outlaws! Well, as you can see, there ain’t no outlaws on this stage, deputy.” He quickly stepped aside so they could see for themselves. 


The tall man grunted, continuing to study him. “The name’s Levi. What do they call you, mister?’


“Hubble. Mr. Henry Hubble, at your service,” lied Heyes.  He pleasantly tipped his hat all around .


“Well, Mr. Henry Hubble. Someone has steered you wrong, cause there ain’t no jobs in this town. The Devil’s Hole Gang has seen to that.”


“Devil’s Hole Gang?” Heyes feigned concern. “How could those scoundrels have anything to do with jobs? Why, I was told this is a prosperous town with plenty a coal….”


Levi interrupted. “I don’t know where your from, mister, but around here it don’t matter how much coal there is if we can’t get paid for diggin’ it out. You have as much chance at findin‘ a job as a one-legged cat tryin’ to bury terds on a frozen pond.” 


“I don’t understand….”


“There ain’t nothin’ more to understand. Now I’m gonna search you, Mr. Hubble, and then you can take a look ‘round  town for yourself. Tomorrow I expect to see you back on the outbound stage. Now hand over that satchel.” Levi was becoming impatient and scowled. He was done with shooting the breeze and wanted to get on with his duties.


After being searched with a fine tooth comb and questioned thoroughly, Levi and the deputies let him go. Heyes took off down the dusty street, taking in the sights like a wide eyed tourist.  


He was glad he hadn’t listened to Wheat and Kyle. They had done everything they could to talk him into riding in and busting the Kid out with a stick of dynamite, instead of using the gem in a trade. But the gem was his ace in the hole. Instead of attempting a quick rescue, he figured it would be worth taking the chance at being recognized and personally case the town before finalizing a plan. His instincts told him that Mrs. Parker was no fool, and he appeared to be right.


In addition to the harrying welcome he had received, there were also armed lookouts posted on every corner and most of the rooftops. They were obviously just waiting for him to make a move. No, if he wanted to avoid a blood bath, his plan would need a little finesse. As he walked Parkersville, he made a mental note of the positioning of the gunmen, and the layout of the town.


Preoccupied, he stepped up onto a wooden walkway, only to be run into by a gang of wild and rowdy children. 


“Hey, watch where your goin’.” Heyes called out, as they ran helter skelter through the street. Caught off balance, he took a step back and bumped into a well dressed woman who was just leaving the general store. He instinctively grabbed her arm to steady himself.


The lady quickly inspected the stranger. She casually wondered what a bookish gent like him was doing in this rough and tumble Wyoming coal town.  Raising a brow, she glared at the hand on her arm, and waited for him to let her go.


“Oh, pardon me, ma’am.” Embarrassed, he quickly released her and offered a sheepish grin.  “The name’s Hubble, Henry Hubble. Sorry to have disturbed you.” Tipping his hat while awkwardly juggling his satchel, he couldn’t help but notice she was tall for a woman; she was looking him straight in the eye.


The lady continued to study the stranger‘s appearance. If it wasn't for that ill fitting suit, she concluded he might not be an altogether unpleasant looking man. She would have to ask Levi if he had already checked him out. 


Relaxing a bit, she returned a strained smile. “No harm done. The town children have been a nuisance of late. We recently lost our school teacher and our parson, otherwise they would be doing their lessons.”


He noticed her discomfort and tried to put her at ease. “I’m sure it won‘t be long before their replacements arrive, ma’am.”


“ Not likely. The town can‘t afford to send for them. At least not yet. “ She seemed troubled by the admission and frowned. 


“ Ma’am?” Heyes was intrigued.


“Never mind, it’s no concern of yours. The town will soon have everything it needs, one way or the other. Good day.” She immediately regretted saying anything; the town‘s affairs were really none of this man‘s business. She picked up her parcel and was gone.


Wondering what she meant, Heyes stepped backwards into the store as he watched her depart. Glancing around, he noticed a tall, gangly shopkeeper watching him. The man was fussing over what appeared to be sparsely stocked shelves.

“If you don’t mind my askin’, sir, who was that fine lady that was just in here?” 


“That’s the Boss.” The man moved on to another task, polishing the counter with the corner of his once white apron.


“Boss? You mean she owns the store?” 


“Well, yeah, that and everything else around here. That’s Mrs. Parker. She runs the entire town.” He paused and looked at Heyes warily. “The store is for miners and townsfolk only. I’ve been ordered to ration the supplies. And I know you ain’t from around here, mister, so don’t go tellin’ me different.”


“Oh, no, sir. Wouldn’t dream of it.” He found the lack of supplies perplexing, but he had something more important on his mind. Her name was Mrs. Parker, and she had piercing green eyes unlike any he’d ever seen.


Heyes hurriedly stepped back outside and quickly looked around to see if he could spot her. He was just in time to see her ride by, driving her own buggy. Her long wavy black hair was tied back out of her face, the ends flying in the wind. She made a striking picture, but Heyes hardly noticed. All he could think of was the sickening image of his cousin lurching off his horse, with the cracking sound of her gun echoing in the air. Anyone watching the newcomer would have seen his jaws tighten and demeanor darken. His brown eyes narrowed as he intently studied her, until the dust rose up and she was no longer in his sight.  


Less than an hour later, Heyes found himself standing on the porch of the Parkersville Bookkeeping Office, surveying the premises. He could see two men’s faces through the window, as they sat at their desks pouring over mounds of paperwork. He took a deep breath to help settle himself into the deception, and stepped into the modestly furnished office.  


Without even looking up, Mr. Blake, the senior of the two, barked impatiently. “Make it quick, we’re busy.” 


Drumming up another winning smile, Heyes greeted them with skillfully fabricated enthusiasm. “Good morning gentlemen. My name is Henry Hubble and I’m here to apply for the job!”


“What job?” Sam, a young man with a receding hairline and a pencil tucked behind one ear, looked up and studied Heyes with a perplexed expression on his face.


“Why, the bookkeeping job. I heard that you needed help with your books and hopped the morning stage to see if I could assist you.”  Heyes looked innocently from man to man, as if it was the most natural thing in the world to hire an unsolicited stranger to pour over the company finances.


Mr. Blake, a robust, balding man with a salt and pepper goatee finally looked up. “I don’t know who you been talkin’ too, mister, but there ain’t no job. Don’t you read the papers?”  He adjusted his spectacles and got back to scrawling his barely legible chicken scratch. “Now quit wastin’ my time, I’m already behind in my work.”


“ He’s right, mister, I’m afraid you come all this way for nothin’. We won‘t be takin‘ on new help, whether we have the work or not.” Sam sullenly looked back down at his desk. Under his breath he quietly muttered, “That cussed, no good, devil of a crook, Hannibal Heyes, has seen to that.“ 


With a cough, Heyes tried to ignore the insults and managed to keep his smile plastered on his face. The towns troubles were of no concern to him, except for the fact that it was affecting his ability to acquire an urgently needed job. The welcome he had received at the stage had made it clear he would need good reason to be allowed to stay in town.


“So, then there is work?” He hoped his insistent optimism would somehow make it so.


Mr. Blake frowned in obvious frustration and annoyance. “Well, yes, more work than me and Sam here can handle. Mrs. Parker just ordered a completely unnecessary audit and won‘t let us hire on any help. But...”


Heyes recognized an opening when he saw one. “Well then, gentlemen, I believe this is what we call a “win-win” opportunity. I’m a brand new bookkeeper in need of experience and I’ll work for nothin’ but room and board, until things settle down.  If you don’t like my work you can send me on my way, no harm done. You win and I win.  How ‘bout it?”  He eagerly glanced from man to man, confident that his gift of gab had worked its magic.


The two overworked men who hadn’t been paid in weeks looked at each other.  Free help was a temptation they could not resist and they quickly changed their tune.


“Well, I reckon that puts a different slant on things, Mr. Hubble. I think I can find somethin’ for you to do. When can you start?” Mr. Blake saw no point in working hard if he could shirk it off on someone else. The room and board that it would cost  Mrs. Parker would be no skin off his back, and he could still tell her he hadn’t hired anyone.


“Please, call me Henry, sir. And there‘s no time like the present.” Heyes was quite pleased with himself. He smugly inquired, “Where do you want me to begin?”


“You can use that desk over there, Henry.” Mr. Blake pointed across the room to a small desk with a thick stack of papers on it. He gleefully began to bark orders at his new minion.


“Tally the totals on all those invoices in a ledger, and then file them away alphabetically in the file drawers.” Mr. Blake pointed to a file drawer located on the back wall. “Stay outa that one. That’s private company files; I‘m the only one with a key.”


Heyes raised a brow and asked. “You mean everyone but you and Mrs. Parker?” 


“Nope, she don’t need to get in there. She gets all her information directly from my reports. Bein’ a woman, she most likely wouldn’t understand it anyhow.  Heck, she wouldn’t be able to run this town if I wasn’t around to keep track of the financials. “  Mr. Blake was apparently suffering from a bad case of inflated self importance, brought on by an elevated assessment of his superiority over the fairer sex. 


Heyes had no lost love for Mrs. Parker, but something about Mr. Blake’s opinion of her mental prowess rubbed him the wrong way. Mrs. Parker may be many things, but she certainly had not appeared feeble minded. 


Mr. Blake continued to enjoy hearing himself speak. “Come to think of it, this afternoon I’m gonna send you up to the big house to give her the weekly figures. I’m tired of bein’ the bearer of bad tidings. Since your new, I’m gonna give you the chore.” Mr. Blake gave Heyes a sly look, as if he had dodged a bullet. It wasn't dignified for a man of his floating intellect and masculine pomposity to be required to report to an inferior female.


The supercilious Mr. Blake continued to ramble on with instructions. “Here’s a copy of the report for you to go over with this weeks credit and debit totals. Make sure the tallying is accurate. When your done with that, get to work on those invoices. I’ll send you over after lunch.”


“Yes, sir. Right away, Mr. Blake, sir!”  The senior bookkeeper did not know the new employee well enough to recognize his subtly patronizing tone. Heyes had already decided he did not like this man. He brought in his satchel from the porch, settled it beside his desk, and started checking the numbers. 


“Oh, and one more thing.” Mr. Blake looked at Heyes. “That outlaw is with her.”


“What outlaw?” Heyes innocently looked up, hoping they did not hear the catch in his throat.   


“Kid Curry. The place is under lock down and you’ll be searched.“ Mr. Blake silently congratulated himself on pawning that indignity onto someone else. “Don’t speak to him or even look at him. Your business is with Mrs. Parker. Understand?”


Heyes tried to hide his anticipation. This was turning out even better than he had hoped. He dug for a little more information. “Yes, sir. But why isn‘t he in jail?” 


“Damn thief almost died, I wish he had.” Mr. Blake almost spit out the words. “She insisted on takin’ him back to the house to doctor him up. I say she should a just let him die like the dog he is, but she wouldn’t have none of it.  He’s worth just as much to us dead, and less trouble.  Don’t make no sense, but I guess that’s what happens when a female’s in charge.” With that Mr. Blake’s eyes turned back to his paperwork.


Heyes became subdued at the man’s caustic words. Anger and concern for his partner continued its slow burn within him. He knew full well that Mrs. Parker’s reason for keeping the Kid alive had nothing to do with her soft, feminine sensibilities. He could only imagine what kind of neglect his cousin may have suffered in her care.


He tried to refocus and concentrate on the task at hand. He reviewed the report, making a few minor corrections. Mrs. Parker’s financial woes had not been exaggerated. It seemed that the stolen payroll had been the straw that broke the camels back. With coal production down and expenses up, she had been hanging on by a string. How convenient for her to have an outlaw gang to blame it all on.  Heyes was not sympathetic towards her plight in the least. Not after what she’d done to the Kid.


After about an hour, the other two bookkeepers stood and stretched. “We’re headin’ over to the café for lunch. I heard they got fried chicken today. Care to join us?” Sam pushed back his chair and started for the door.


Heyes stomach had been grumbling all morning, but as usual, his appetite for information won out over his belly. “I’d like to finish going over this report. You two go on ahead and I’ll head over when I‘m done.”


The unpleasant Mr. Blake grunted, ‘Have it your way. But work commences again in one hour, whether you take the time to eat or not!“ Heyes watched the rotund man strut across the street with Sam in tow, keeping an eye on them through the window until their faces were no longer in sight.  


Heyes didn’t waste any time. Reaching under the inner lining of his boot, he pulled out a craftily hidden lock pick. He crossed the room to the back wall, and inspected the forbidden drawer. Child’s play. Biting his lower lip, he began working the lock. In just a few seconds he found himself thumbing through it‘s contents, locating what appeared to be the most recent file. He quickly scanned it, comparing it with the weekly report. It took a few minutes for what he was seeing to register with him, but he soon broke into a grin.


“That sly dog.” Heyes muttered under his breath. Chuckling, he shook his head in a combination of admiration and disgust. He quickly returned the file to the drawer and worked the lock shut. 


Satisfied, he put on his hat and headed across the street to join the other two men at the café. He could hardly wait to deliver that report and see for himself how well his partner was holding out. But right now it was time to sample some of that fried chicken and have a beer, compliments of his new Boss, the intriguing Mrs. Parker. 
.
To be continued…..

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


Last edited by Javabee on Fri Jun 06, 2014 12:51 am; edited 7 times in total
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Remuda

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Join date : 2013-08-25
Age : 42

PostSubject: Re: The Face In The Window   Sun Jun 01, 2014 2:32 am

For this month, a friend suggested I continue the Hopping Trains story, which has had six prior installments as monthly challenges.  Hope this makes sense to those not familiar with it.



Hopping Trains: Faces

"A stone, a leaf, an unfound door; of a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces." -- Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel.

"When's the last ya ate, Jed?"

Green, brown, grey scenery sped by. Trees, woods, grasslands flat, stretching horizon-ward as far as blue eyes could see.   Reveries of home-cooked meals played in the boy's thoughts. 

"Jed?"

Startled, he turned toward the voice. 

"In yer own world there, huh?  Thinkin' of food?  Maybe yer ma's?"

A young brow furrowed.  "How'd ya know?"

A laugh.  "Yer stomach's rumblin'.  Not hard to figure."

He felt his face flush.  A grumble inside.  Only then did mind and gut connect.  A too brief picture of home-baked bread, cookies -- sweet olfactory overload.  His ma's gentle but unnecessary prod to her youngest son to eat ... gone.

"No sad faces, then.  Wayfarers are boon sorts.  Gotta watch out fer each other."  He reached into his rucksack, brought forth jerky, held one out. 

Jed was on the offering faster than ... anything.

Cager Bruce chuckled.  "Good reflexes there, better'n a jack rabbit."  He watched the lad chomp, offered another. 

The same.

"So I'll ask again, when's the last time ya ate?"

The boy used sleeve as napkin.  Brows knit.  "Um, not since we run away, about two days ago.  Seems longer."

"Bet it does.  Mighty long fer a man to be without sustenance."

Sad blues eyes stared at the side of the box car, as if trying to will something.  "Han had the victuals."

A canteen held out.  "And the water?"

Jed grabbed the vessel, perhaps too eagerily.  "Uh, huh."  He drank, not as greedily as the first time.  Handed it back.

Cager took a swig.  "Gonna hafta scrounge up provisions.  Barely have enough for one, never mind two."

"Two?"

"Sure.  We's together, ain't we?  Companions have to look out for each other."

"But ..."

"I know.  Ya need to find this Hannibal."

A nod.

"Like I said, that needle in the haystack's hard to find, but until ya do, we's travelin' the same way, so, how's 'bout it?  I've only a kid sister, so ya can be the little brother I never had.  We're both runnin'."

Blue eyes met hazel.  Why did this one remind him of Han?  The hat jauntily placed?  The devil may care in the light of danger?  The protective posture?

"Well?  What've ya got to lose?"

Hesitation.  Finally, "Okay."

"Good."  A pause.  "One thing, though.  They catch up to me, you run, and keep runnin'.  And don't look back."

"But ..."

Sternly, "No buts.  Ya get the hell out of there if'n that happens."

A grave nod.  A look, away, out the door.  Scenery rushed by, like too many faces from yesterday.  Away. 

***

"Cat got your tongue?  You're awfully quiet."  Polly Brewster glanced at the youngster beside her.

Han glanced back, looked into the distance.  "Just thinking."

"About what?"

"I don't know."

She smiled.  "If it's about Pa, I told you there's nothing to worry about.  He's a good man and wouldn't want anybody out there by themselves if he could help it.  My brother got lost once when he was little, and Pa hoped somebody'd find him, and they did and brought him home.  Pa was thankful, but tanned his hide after the people left."   

"Why'd he get a licking if he got lost?"

She smiled.  "Well, it was more he got lost after running off.  Couldn't find his way home."  Blue eyes clouded.  "Still can't, sort of.  Not for long anyway"

"Why not?"

"Long story."

Brown eyes reassured.  "That's okay."

"I just worry about him, like you're worried about finding your cousin."

A nod.

"Pa says what keeps him away is his nemesis, too; not just Will's."

"Nemesis?  What's that?"

Pert nose scrunched beneath flaxen curls.  "Um, something after you; like an enemy, I guess.  Pa could explain it better." 

"Nemesis?  Guess me and Jed have that, too."

"You run away?"

"Uh huh."

"Where from?"

Han looked down.  "I'd rather not say."

"Long story?"

"Uh huh."

"I understand."

Save for clops along the road, silence.  Young minds wandered, contemplated blue sky, puffy clouds, warmth.  Laughter, good times, smiles.  Shattered.

"Whoa!"

Axles screeched.

Blue uniforms, a short column, rode past.  Two youngsters stared, hard.  Locked eyes with a beribboned soldier.  A tip of hat.  "Ma'am."

Harsh gazes, silence, returned the greeting.

Squad past, Polly whipped the reins.  Startled horses galloped, frenzied.  The boy held tight to the bench.  A mile flashed by.  Han's thoughts took him back.  Grey that day:  Weather.  Uniforms.

Farmhouse, outbuildings, came into view.  The horses charged into the yard.  Polly jumped down, looked up at a man standing on the porch.

"Pa?"

"It's all right, girl.  They're still looking for him.  Thought they'd catch him visiting."  The elder William Brewster sighed, relieved.  "Two days earlier ..."  He shook his head.  "That was close.  Too close."

Polly flew up the porch stairs, into her father's embrace. 

Han watched, tried to remember loved ones' faces, faded now with time, like a clouded window.  But washing it would not make it any more clear.

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The Face In The Window
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