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 Crossing The Line

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PostSubject: Crossing The Line   Tue Jul 01, 2014 8:44 am

So while you are all sheltering from the summer sun, how about getting those fingers busy to give us a story for July's fantastic prompt chosen by Insideoutlaw? It's a goodie, and worth coming indoors for! So get typing and give us your take on:

 sunny  Dance  sun 1  Banana  roasting hot  fiesra  heat   beachside  flood 

Crossing the Line
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PostSubject: Re: Crossing The Line   Tue Jul 01, 2014 7:22 pm

Mere Words Part 2

“I’m terribly sorry to bother you at breakfast, gentlemen.”


They both stood politely, looking into the inviting blue eyes of Tibby’s mystery huntress.  Heyes’ brows gathered in curiosity.  “Can we help you with something, ma’am?”


“Oh, I do hope so.  I understand that you’ve been seen in the company of a Mr. Dunbar.  Do you know where I can find him?”


The Kid’s face radiated with innocence.  “Who?”

Irritation flared momentarily before her seductive smolder returned.  “The short tramp with grey hair; looks a bit like a turtle without its shell.  You were talking to him yesterday.  In fact, you had breakfast with him in here.”  


Heyes scratched the side of his head thoughtfully.  “I remember.  We have no idea where he is now.  We just bought him breakfast because we felt sorry for him.”


“How very kind of you.”  She bit gently into a rosebud lip, pulling out a chair.  “May I join you for a few moments?”


Heyes gestured to the waitress to bring another coffee as they all sat, his stony face clearly signaling his displeasure at her inviting herself to their table.


“My name is Mrs. Fox, Caroline Fox.  Are you in the habit of breakfasting with tramps?”


Mischief played around Heyes’ eyes.  “That depends.  The word ‘tramp’ has more than one meaning you know?”


The Kid rapidly took over the conversation.  “We felt sorry for him, Mrs. Fox.  We’re passin’ through here lookin’ for work, and we know how it feels to be down on your luck.  It was only a meal.”


“Are you still looking for work?”  


The Kid returned to his eggs.  “Not here.  We’re leavin’ town right after breakfast, Ma’am.”


“I could offer you twenty five dollars, with a further seventy five on producing Mr. Dunbar, if you’re interested?”


Heyes gave her a dismissive glance.  “We’re not interested.”  


“Why?  He clearly trusts you.  He’ll talk to you.”


Heyes’ eyes narrowed.  “Mrs. Fox, you should know that we were smoking on the porch last night.  We saw you chase him.  It’s clear that he doesn’t want to see you.”


She frowned.  “I must speak to him.  Name your price.  You don’t have to tell him it’s me until I appear.  Please?”


Heyes gave her a cold stare.  “We don’t lie to people, and we certainly don’t take them anywhere they don’t want to go.  We’re not the kind of men you usually do business with.  We can’t help you.”


Her eyes widened.  “Please, I have nowhere else to turn.”  She dropped her head.  “I’m desperate.   I’d do almost anything just to spend ten minutes alone with him.”  


The Kid arched his brows, fixing Heyes with dancing eyes.  “He doesn’t look like your type, ma’am.”


“Mrs. Fox, much as we appreciate the theatrics over breakfast, you should know that we heard you last night.  You wanted him killed.  In fact, you said you were prepared to do it yourself.  We’re doing our best to behave like gentlemen, but we are leaving town.”  Heyes stood, dismissing her.  “You crossed the line into criminal.  We don’t go there and I’m not going to be two-faced enough to wish you luck.”


She remained seated, stubbornly drumming her fingers on the table.  “How much will it take?”


The Kid pushed himself to his feet, throwing down his napkin.  “I don’t think you’re much for listenin’, ma’am.  We ain’t interested, and if you won’t go, we will.”


“Wait!”  There was a hint of desperation in her voice.  “What did you hear?”


Heyes folded his arms.  “You said that your two gunmen were useless.  You wanted them to bring him to you and then you’d kill him yourself.”


She nodded, turning from one to the other.  “Yes.  Haven’t you ever said you’d kill anyone?  It’s just an expression, but God knows he’d drive a saint to murder.  He’s my father and he’s... well, eccentric.  I only want to talk to him.  Maybe I can get him to listen to reason and come home.  You must have someone in your life you’ve said you’d kill; someone who just drives you mad.  Please!  I’m begging you.  Just bring him for one conversation.  I won’t force him anywhere.”  She paused and smiled innocently.  “How could I?  I’m only a woman.”


Heyes paused.  “Your father?”  


“Yes!”  Her eyes filled with tears.  “Why else would I be searching for him?  How many young women do you know who are desperately hunting for a middle-aged tramp?  Please?  If you doubt me, you can stay to make sure he’s safe.  I only want to talk to him.  There’s nothing I can do if he prefers living rough.”


“Why would he prefer to live like that?” The Kid asked, cautiously.


“Who knows?  He ran a successful business importing haberdashery from Europe, but he had heart trouble and his partners forced him to retire.  His work was his life,” she dabbed at her eyes with a lace trimmed handkerchief, “but he felt useless and went into some kind of crisis.”  She stretched out a hand, clutching the Kid’s forearm.  “Please.  He’s not well.  Let me talk to him at least.  What will it take?”


Heyes scratched his chin.  “I’m sorry, Mrs. Fox; that may, or may not, be true.  It’s just not what we do.  We can’t help.”


She nodded determinedly.  “Fifty dollars; with one hundred and fifty dollars more when you bring him to me.”  She paused, eyeing them carefully.  “Please?  If he doesn’t want to come home, you can make sure he can go on his way.  Two hundred dollars for the easiest work you’ve ever done in your life.  What do you say?”


**********


“I thought we didn’t work for the likes of her,” The Kid muttered.  “Since when were our principles for sale?”


“Probably the day we decided to work instead of steal.  Ironic, huh?”  Heyes shrugged.  “It’s autumn.  This money’ll see us through the winter without sleeping rough; besides, we’re only going to persuade him to meet with her.  We’ll make sure nobody forces him to do anything he doesn’t want to do.”


“Tibby doesn’t want to see her.  Doesn’t that count?”


“Maybe he doesn’t now, but he will.  All I need is half an hour with him.”


The Kid groaned.  “And if he refuses?”


“I’ll persuade him.   Trust me, this’ll be easy money.”


The Kid sucked in a breath.  “Easy?  Since when was anythin’ ever easy when there’s money and you involved?”


Heyes grimaced uncomfortably.  “It’s only for a visit. They clear the air, we get paid, and Tibby goes back to doing exactly what he wants to do.  Everybody wins.”


“I don’t like this, Heyes.  He won’t do it, and you ain’t good when you meet someone as stubborn as you are.”


“Just because my way’s better doesn’t make me stubborn.”


“He ain’t gonna do it, Heyes.  We should just leave town and leave them to it.”


“I thought you’d be keen to help out a damsel in distress.”


The Kid shook his head ruefully.  “The only folks who seem to be in any distress are the ones around her.  We should keep right out of this.  I don’t like this one little bit.”  


“This isn’t like you.  You’re usually doing your best to talk me into helping a woman.”


“This is different.  We both saw her last night.”  The Kid shrugged.  “There’s an edge to her, like a wild cat. “    


**********


Tibby started to his feet, knocking over the bottle of ginger beer which oozed into the grassy bank.  He stretched out a hand and quickly snatched it up.  “Where did you two spring from?”


The Kid’s eyes wandered lazily over the bread and cheese, laid out on an almost clean looking handkerchief.  “We wanted a word.  The man at the store told us he’d sold you some food.  Where’d you get the money, Tibby?”


The little man scowled, his mobile forehead wrinkling into an irascible knot.  “None of your business.  What do you want?”


“We wanted to give you this.”  Heyes held out a slim package, the grease on the paper betraying the fact that there was some kind of treat concealed in its layers.  “When they told us you’d bought bread, cheese, and ginger beer, Thaddeus suggested that some fresh pie would go with it very nicely.  He’s always had an eye for good food combinations, has Thaddeus.”


Tibby fixed the package with hungry eyes.  “Pie?”


“Apple.  It’s real good.”  Heyes held it higher.


“Why?”


Heyes watched the tramp simmer with suspicion.  “You didn’t ask that when we saved you from being thrown in the river, gave you a bed for the night, or bought you breakfast.”


“Nope, but this is different.  You want something.”


Heyes twinkled engagingly.  “Tibby, I’m disappointed in you.  What could we possibly want?”      


“Suppose you just tell me?”  Tibby sat back down on the grass.  “I’m too old for guessing games.  There’s no such thing as charity.  It always comes with a proviso; stop drinking, go to church, turn up for work; all completely unreasonable demands.”


Heyes sat beside him, fixing him with twinkling eyes.  “We met Mrs. Fox today; in fact, she made a point of coming to see us.”  He tilted his head.  “We know who you are, Tibby.  We know who she is too, and she wants to see you.”


Surprise flickered over his face.  “This is all about her, you must realize that.”


Heyes nodded.  “Yeah, I’m sure it is, but that’s not why I’m asking you to meet her.  We helped you; we think you owe us a small favor.”


Tibby lifted the cheese, festooning his sandwich liberally.  “You’ve come bearing bribes.  It can’t be that insignificant.”


“A slice of pie is just a sweetener.   Just meet her.  You and her, in a hotel room for a chat.  We’ll make sure you can leave afterwards.  I promise.”


Tibby’s round eyes glittered like wet pebbles.  “You’re giving me you word, Joshua?”


“I sure am, and that means something to me, Tibby.”


The little tramp chewed pensively.  “What’s in it for you?”


“Money.  The easiest money we’ll make in a long time.”  Heyes smiled engagingly.  “Go on.  Just sit in a room with her.  You don’t have to say a word.”


“She won’t be happy with that.  Are you kidding?”


“I don’t really care if she’s happy or not.  The deal was to take you to her.  I don’t care if you refuse to open your mouth.”


Tibby took another bite of his sandwich, looking up at The Kid standing beside him.  “So that’s it?  Just sit in a room with her and you promise to make sure I can leave?”  He shook his head.  “The only problem is, there’s nothing in it for me; is there?”


The Kid arched his eyebrows.  “What’ll it take?”


A plump little hand darted out, filching the pie.  “Nothing.  I can’t be bought, gentlemen.  I’m not going.  I’m sorry about your money, but I’m too busy.”


The Kid folded his arms.  “Aw, come on, Tibby.  We helped you; we even saved your ungrateful, little butt.  What difference does it make to you?”


“Don’t get me wrong, Thaddeus.  I am truly grateful, but you’re talking about shutting me in a room with that viper.  I’d rather stick needles in my eyes.”


The Kid folded his arms.  “What way is that to talk about your daughter?  She’s worried about you.”    


“Daughter?  Her!?  If I’d ever spawned that vixen, I’d get myself fixed.”  His eyes narrowed suspiciously, “I thought you said she’d told you who she was.”


The partners exchanged a glance.  “She said you were her father.  Why?  Just who are you?” muttered the Kid.


Tibby tucked away the last of his repast before delicately dusting around his mouth with his fingertips.  “Keep away from her.  She’ll eat you alive.”  


Heyes let out a huff of impatience.  “Tibby, I don’t care who anybody is.  I want to make some money and leave town.  Is that too much to ask?”


Tibby nodded.  “It sure is, when I’m to be treated like a tethered goat.”


Heyes stood decisively.   “Then you leave us no choice.  I’m sorry about this, Tibby.”


Uncertainty played around the cornflower blue eyes.  “If you try to force me anywhere I’ll scream bloody murder!  I’ll have the law on you.”


“Scream?”  Heyes chided.  “What kind of man are you?”


“One who’s determined to live life on his own terms, and I don’t care if you look at me as though I’m a coward.  If you try to drag me anywhere I’ll have you up for kidnapping.”


“But we’re taking you to the law, Tibby.  I’d doubt the sheriff will see that as kidnapping.”


The Kid darted a look at his cousin, but kept silent, keen to see where this was going.    


“Why!?”


“You damaged that man’s wall.  I’m sure he’ll identify you too.  That’s criminal damage.  You’ll have to pay for it or put it right.”  Heyes folded his arms.  “A nice little town like this sure won’t take kindly to vagrants messing up the place.”


Tibby simmered with doubt.  “You avoid the law.”


The smile dimpled beneath unreadable eyes.  “Nope.  There are many professional reasons why men might want to keep a low profile, but that doesn’t mean we’re avoiding the law.  You’ve got a choice, Tibby.  Go and meet Mrs. Fox, or go and meet the sheriff.”


“You’re bluffing.”


“Thaddeus, you take one arm, I’ll take the other...”


“This is an outrage!  That man was threatening me and I merely found a non-violent response.”


The Kid’s hand curled around the plump little arm.  “Yeah Tibby, you’re a regular Quaker.  I’m sure the sheriff will love to hear your sermon on the mount.  You can tell him while you’re re-paintin’ the wall.”


“This is blackmail!”


Heyes tutted.  “That’s such a nasty word.  Try to think of it as a negotiation; one you lost.”


“You can’t turn me in.  I can’t be arrested.”


Heyes grabbed the other arm.  “I don’t like to correct a man’s grammar, but I think you mean you ‘shouldn’t.’  You clearly can; in fact, you very soon will be.”


Tibby dug in his heels.  “Fine!  I’ll go.  I’ll see her.”  He fixed them with furious eyes.  “You have no idea what you’re asking me to do.”


Heyes grinned.  “We’re asking you to spend some time with an attractive, young woman.  You’re blowing things out of all proportion.”


“You’re making me choose between bad or worse.  I won’t forget this.  You have my word on that!”


**********


The Kid’s hard knuckle rapped on the door, which opened to a pair of sparkling, blue eyes.  “You brought him?  You’re just the cleverest men, aren’t you?”  She stepped back to welcome them into the room.   “Father!  How are you?”


“Save it, Callie.  These men were good to me and deserve the money you offered.  Pay them,” growled Tibby.


“Once we’ve had our little chat.”


Blue eyes met brown before Heyes spoke with calm coldness.  “No, Mrs. Fox, the deal was to bring him.  We did that, so we want our money,” two pairs of arms folded in unison.  “Now.”


She paused, watching the Kid systematically check out the room to make sure she was alone.  “I paid you to bring him for a chat.”


“No.  The deal was to bring him.  We didn’t guarantee anything more than that.  We want our money Mrs. Fox,” Heyes laid a proprietorial hand on Tibby’s shoulder, “and he’s not your father, either.  Now, we want to be paid and won’t tolerate being lied to.”


She bit into her lip, calculating eyes assessing her opponents.  “You’ll leave us alone?”


“In the name of all that’s holy, Callie,” snapped Tibby.  “We both know what you want to talk about, just pay the men.  I want to get on with my day!”


**********


The Kid was thoroughly fed up.  He sat staring at the hotel dining room, trying to decipher his way through the fine line between boredom and hunger before the waitress walked over and shut the door.  The lunch rush was over and the sign dangling from the handle proclaimed it closed until dinner time.   He stirred, prodding his cousin with a long finger.  “Are you just gonna sit there readin’?”


A pair of dark eyes flicked up.  “What else is there to do?  We’re waiting for Tibby.  I gave him my word we’d take him out of here.”


“You could talk to me,” The Kid leaned forward and dropped his voice.  “What do you think is goin’ on here?”


Heyes shrugged, glancing around the hotel lobby.  “Who knows?”


“Aren’t you even curious?”


“Sure I am, but we’ll be out of here real soon.”  Heyes returned to his book.  “If there’s one lesson I’ve learned in life, it’s to keep my nose out other people’s business.  It only leads to problems.”


The Kid gave a snort of irritation and kicked lightly at the foot Heyes had propped on his knee.  “So?  Who are they?  She’s not his daughter.”


“I don’t know.  Maybe he’s the father of her child?  Or have you considered the possibility that she’s running for president and he knows all her dirty secrets?”


The Kid’s lips firmed into a line.  “If you ain’t goin’ to be serious there’s no point in this conversation.”


“I’m glad you agree.”  Heyes arched his brows and returned to his book, only to endure another kick.  “What!?”


“What’re you readin’?”


Heyes snapped his book closed.  “Moby Dick.”


“What’s it about?”


“A whale.”


“Like a big fish?”


“Mammal.”


“Huh?”


“A mammal; like us.  It’s not a fish.”


The Kid stared at the illustration on the cover.  “There’s people in the boat?  Does the fish eat them?”


Heyes sighed.  “No.  It’s about destructive obsession, like you and this pair.”


The Kid tossed the book aside.  “Shame.  I might have read it if the fish ate Moby; now back to my point, what’s goin’ on?”


“Thaddeus, they could be runaways from the circus for all I care.  For once in our lives, we got paid, and we’ll be out of here soon.”


“How long do we wait?  It’s been forty five minutes.”


Dark eyes drifted up to the ceiling, contemplating the room above them.  “We could go up now.  They’ve had more than enough time.”


**********


There was no answer at the door.  Heyes and Curry exchanged a glance and knocked again.  Nothing.  “Mrs. Fox?  Tibby?” called The Kid.


Silence.


They knocked again.  “They didn’t come a past us.”  The Kid darted a quizzical look at Heyes.  “They must still be in there.”  He stretched out a hand and turned the brass knob.   The door swung open and his stomach turned over, completely unprepared for the scene unfolding before his eyes.


The room was awash with blood; splattered over furniture, walls, and fabrics.  Gouts of gore lay littered on the floor, and adhered to the wall behind the bundle of bloody petticoats in the corner.  Tibby lay unconscious near the door, a knife near his hand, his drenched clothes stained red.  


“Dear God!” exclaimed Heyes, his eyes drawn to the intestines strewn on the floor near what looked like half a kidney.  “Tibby!  What the hell have you done!?”
 



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PostSubject: Re: Crossing The Line   Fri Jul 04, 2014 12:50 pm

One Hoke over the line


A fractured note rent the air.  Heads turned in their direction, frowns erupting.  Another caterwaul.

The newspaper next to him rustled.  “Can’t you keep him quiet?” Heyes hissed from behind his paper.  He slumped lower in the station bench.

“Me?  This was your brilliant idea, genius, you shut him up.”  The Kid winced as another sour note flayed its unwilling audience.  

“Sweeet Besty, uh Bitty, um Betsy, yeah that’s it, Sweeeet Betsy from Piiiiiikkkee!” screeched the unrelenting assault.

Gunther Joachim Pearlmutter – commonly called Hoke – was not a budding opera virtuoso.  This did not stop him from lambasting his unwilling audience with his tortured rendition of his favorite song.  Of course, the stage was not the only career for which he was unsuited.  Outlawing wasn’t his forte either. One could almost see the dark cloud of incompetence hovering over him, raining on all who came too close.

Heyes and the Kid exchanged glances and raised their papers in self-defense.  “Sweet Jesus, I hope that train is on time,” the Kid muttered.

“At least he’ll be heading home.  I never should have listened to Kyle.  What was I thinking?” groaned Heyes and shuddered as Hoke drew breath for another onslaught. 

~~~oOo~~~

Hoke had arrived at Devil’s Hole three months earlier, having struck up a friendship with Kyle in a town they’d been hurrahing.  He was fresh off the farm and more than willing.  Heyes developed a fondness for him, although he couldn’t explain why.

But, as the gang discovered, to call Hoke clumsy was to call the Grand Canyon a ditch.  He had only to haul up a bucket of water from the well for the rope to break, put a pot on the stove for a grease fire to start.

In his care, the horses stampeded from the field.  It took the gang three days to round them up and repair the fences.  He dropped a crate of dynamite in the lake then set the storage shed on fire trying to dry the sticks out.  With him around, a rock slide broke the track three miles before they were prepared to hold up the train.

But Hoke was always sorry and eager to fix things.  He lost cheerfully at poker and could be counted on to laugh at anyone’s joke, whether he understood it or not.  Nevertheless, the gang began to mutter about jinxes when he wasn’t around.  Heyes and the Kid watched the situation and worried about what to do.

Eventually Heyes took Hoke aside, riding out with him on patrol – delayed only by one horse casting a shoe and the provisions inexplicably falling in the stream.  “Hoke, my boy,” he said, putting an arm around the man as the two stopped to camp.  “Why exactly did you join the gang?”

“Well…” Hoke hemmed and hawed.  “Mary, sweet Mary wanted me to make something of myself.”

“Mary?”

“Sweetest gal you ever hope to meet.”  Hoke frowned.  “But she wasn’t real happy with me.  Thought I could do better than sow wrangling.”

“Sow wrangling?”

“Yeah.  Pa owns the biggest pig farm in the whole county, but he runs it tight and don’t let me do much but muck out the pens.”

Having seen the destruction Hoke could wreck, Heyes had a sneaking sympathy with his father.  Nevertheless, he put that to the side; he had more important issues to deal with – getting rid of Hoke.  “I bet you miss her.  You know, the outlaw trail ain’t real conducive to love.”

“Yeah, I figure.  But I’m here now, wouldn’t want to let everyone down,” said Hoke.

“They’d get over it.”  

Hoke sighed, then brightened.  “Got a letter from her.”  He dug a tattered envelope from his envelope. “Course I cain’t read it.”  

“Want me to?”  

“That’d be real nice of you, Heyes.”  He handed over the missive.

Heyes extracted the closely written sheet and pondered it.  The penmanship was illegible and she’d crossed her lines to conserve paper.  Heyes couldn’t even swear it was in English.  The pen had blotched in places and run.  Finally, he looked up at Hoke.  “She misses you, Hoke.  Wants you to come home.  Says she’s sorry.”

“Really?”

“Really,” Heyes perjured himself.  Well, at least he figured that’s what she meant.  He was pretty sure some of the blotches were tear stains.

Hoke’s gap-toothed smile shone.  Then he sighed and frowned.  “But, gee, I got responsibilities here.  You all been so good to me.”

Heyes rolled his eyes.  “It’ll be hard, but we’ll manage without you.  None of us would want to stand in the way of true love.”

“You sure, Heyes?”

“I’m sure.”

“Well, golly, I don’t know.”

~~~oOo~~~

The two returned to the Hole, and Hoke thought about leaving returning home to Mary.  He worked double-time to help out the gang as much as he could while he decided.  The gang began to avoid Hoke. After all between Wheat’s black eye, Charlie’s bruised leg where Hoke’s horse had kicked him, and the blackened wall behind the stove in the bunk house after Hoke somehow managed to set a pan of biscuits on fire, they weren’t sure they’d survive his departure.

The last straw came when Hoke decided to build up the supply of wood for the smoke house.  He sharpened the axe and enthusiastically flung the newly sharpened axe over his head prepared to swing at the first log.  Somehow, the axe head came loose and launched from the handle, just as the Kid and Heyes walked by.  The axe head flew between the Kid’s legs, failing to emasculate him by a hair’s breath, but sliding down the side of his pants and slitting his left boot.

The Kid stood rooted to the spot, staring incredulously at the axe head lodged in the sole of his boot, its side resting against his ankle.  After a moment, his face reddened and he let out a bellow.  Heyes took one look at his partner and reacted quickly, slamming his fist into Hoke’s mouth.  Hoke went down hard and when he came up he was spitting blood and bits of teeth.

Heyes stood between Hoke and the Kid his hand on the Kid’s, both resting on the Kid’s holster.  “Now, Kid, calm down.  It’s just a boot.”

“Just a…  Just a…  Did you see?  Do you know how close that came?” the Kid sputtered.  Nose to nose with Heyes, he glared, breathing hard.  Finally, he drew a deep breath, cursed, and bent to remove the axe from his boot.  When he had done so, he stood with it in his hand, weighing it as he glared at Heyes and Hoke.  With an exclamation of disgust he dropped the axe head, spun on his heel, and limped to the cabin, the shreds of his boot slapping a counterpoint on the ground with each step.

“Well, golly,” Hoke mumbled through the blood in his mouth.  “I just don’t know what happened there.”  He started to rise.  “I gotta apologize.”

Heyes hurried over to him.  “No.  Let the Kid alone.  I figure my hitting you probably saved your life.” Heyes signaled to some of the other gang members to help Hoke to the bunkhouse and slowly headed to the cabin, giving the Kid time to calm down before he entered.

~~~oOo~~~

“He’s outta here tomorrow.”

“Now, Kid, be reasonable…”

“Tomorrow, Heyes, or I’ll be the one leavin’.”

Heyes watched as the Kid found a strip of leather to wrap around his boot to hold it together.  He let out a deep breath.  “Fine, but he needs to see the dentist anyway before he takes the train home.  So you’re coming with us, and you’re not killing him.”

“Dentist, huh?”

“Yeah, I broke a bunch of his teeth.”

The Kid smiled.  “Well, maybe that’s punishment enough.  But why do I need to come?”

“Are you crazy?  Do you really think I’m going anywhere alone with Hoke?  Without you to watch my back?  Why, I’d probably get mauled by a mountain lion in the middle of the street.”  Heyes flashed his dimples.  “Besides you need a new pair of boots.”

The Kid rolled his eyes and groaned.

~~~oOo~~~~

The trip to town had been surprisingly uneventful.  They had bought Hoke a ticket on the evening express, liquored him up for the ordeal, and delivered him to the dentist.  They’d had to stay to help hold Hoke down.  When it was over, the three adjourned to the nearest saloon and downed several whiskeys to settle their stomachs.

That had proved their undoing.  Hoke had been quiet until they arrived at the station.  But once settled on a bench the excitement proved too much.  First, he babbled about seeing his sweet Mary and worried about what was taking the train so long.  Then, after an exasperated Kid told him one more time to settle down or he’d break the rest of Hoke’s teeth, Hoke had lapsed into blissful silence.

Suddenly, he opened his mouth, displaying the full brilliance of his two new gold teeth and began to bray. “Oh, give me a home…”  From there he slid into butchering Sweet Betsy from Pike.  As all eyes turned to the spectacle, Heyes and Curry hurriedly hid behind newspapers, doing their best to distance themselves from their companion.

As Hoke segued into The Cowboy’s lament, tears streaming down his face, the Kid flung down his paper and stomped over to the counter in the corner.  He returned with a steaming cup of coffee.  “Drink this.”  He thrust the cup at Hoke.

As the heat of the coffee hit Hoke’s new teeth, he whimpered from the pain.  Glancing at the Kid’s set jaw; he sighed and finished the coffee.  Whether it was the coffee or the pain, Hoke sobered, just as the train pulled in.  Heyes and Curry hustled him onto the train and watched it leave.

With sighs of relief, they returned to the bar.

“Think he’ll be all right, Heyes?”

“Well if the train don’t run off the track, he should do just fine.”

“With his luck, the cars’ll decouple from the engine in the middle of a buffalo stampede.”

“Yeah,” Heyes chuckled, “as long as it happens a long way from here.”  

The two smiled and drank in companionable silence, admiring the Kid’s new boots.
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Javabee

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PostSubject: Re: Crossing The Line   Tue Jul 08, 2014 4:30 am

This is a pre-quel to the Parkersville series. I left out the safe cracking scene that goes in the middle of this chapter because it was already used once as a challenge entry and I wasn't sure about what the rules would say about that. If you want to read the chapter in full, including that scene, I posted it in the Writer's Area.


Parkersville


Part One: Crossing The Line


Kid Curry had been sitting for an hour, jostling awkwardly with the rest of the passengers to the movement of the noisy train. This 
was no luxury car; the seats weren’t much better than wooden benches and the passengers were crowded together like sardines in a can. The open windows didn’t do much towards relieving the heat and he was perspiring under his white shirt. He took off his hat long enough to run his fingers through his dark blonde hair.  He was glad they were almost in position; he was more than ready to get on with it.


The law had started to get wise to their tactics, so Heyes had chosen a coal train off the main line that rarely carried anything of value. No one would suspect them to choose this train as their target, just as no one would expect them to know when it carried it’s monthly payroll. A well paid informant and Heyes silver tongue had taken care of acquiring the necessary information. As lady luck would have it, today was payday in more ways than one.


One passenger caught the Kid’s eye, a striking, lovely woman, in her late twenties or early thirties. She seemed out of place on this common man’s train, primly attired in a fine blue silk dress, fashioned in the latest style. Her long black hair was pinned up with pearl stubbed pins, which also held in place a small hat with black netting. A richly embroidered bag sat in her lap. He tipped his hat, and she nodded politely in return.


The Kid was relieved to finally hear the brakemen running along the top of the car in response to the engineer's whistle. Kyle and his dynamite must have successfully blocked the tracks. The passengers were starting to suspect something was up. It was time.


Kid nodded to Lobo, who immediately stepped out the end door and climbed up to the roof. It was his job to run along the top of the cars to the engine and keep the engineer and his brakeman suitably occupied.  


With a routine that had become a well oiled machine, the rest of his men saw Lobo start his climb. It was the signal for them to take their respective cars. Wheat headed to secure the caboose, where the conductor and the other workmen were normally found.  Kid and Preacher stood and turned the business end of their guns on the passengers. 


“Ladies and gents, kindly put your hands up, and no one’ll get hurt,” Preacher drawled. Immediately one of the coal miners reached for his gun, but the sound of both outlaw’s hammers clicking into place stopped him cold. One of the women cried out, tightly clutching her child.


“I guess you didn’t hear him, mister, so let me make it real clear this time.” Kid stepped forward, stared the man down, and scanned the rest of the passengers with the eye of a gunman. “ My name’s Kid Curry. We’re fixin’ to rob this train. Keep your hands off your guns, or I‘ll have to shoot ya.”


Gasps were heard around the car. He heard a few folks mutter, “It’s the Devil’s Hole Gang”. The level of fear had been raised, and although the Kid hated threatening regular folks like this, he knew it was for their own good. Kid was determined that no one would get hurt, and if that meant he had to put the fear of his six-gun in them, so be it. One lady took off what appeared to be a wedding ring and hid it at her breast.  Kid frowned and just shook his head in dismay. A lady shouldn’t give outlaws reason to go digging through her bosom. Lucky for her, they weren’t that kind of outlaw.


“ Now don’t get excited, folks. All we want is just a little donation from the safe, and we’ll take our leave.” Kid found it usually calmed everyone down to know they didn’t aim to rob the passengers.


Under the Kid’s watchful eye, Preacher went row by row, taking each man’s gun and tossing it out the window. Respectable women rarely carried guns, so they escaped the pat down he gave the saloon girls, just in case they had something hid in their unmentionables. 


Kid began his final sweep, eyeing each passenger carefully.  He had an innate ability to spot trouble and had learned not to rush. His boots resounded loudly as he slowly walked the length of the car. He had almost passed the lady he had spotted earlier, when he noticed something out of place.


“Your bag, miss, where is it?” He wasn’t concerned about all the hidden jewelry and money, but the bag, that was a different thing altogether.


“ It’s Mrs., Mrs. Sophie Parker. And I don’t know what you mean, sir. I don‘t have a bag, as you can plainly see.”  Her voice was deceptively pleasant and sweet. She fanned herself with her gloves as she blinked and innocently gazed back at him from behind the netting.


“Stand up,” ordered the Kid. He didn’t have time to play this game. As she slowly stood up, her height surprised him; she was almost tall enough to look him straight in the eye. The bag that she had hidden behind her promptly fell to the floor with a suspiciously loud thump.


“Open it real easy, lady.”  He was starting to lose patience, and she knew it. His gun was pointed just a few inches from her black lace covered bodice. She slowly opened the bag and with two fingers carefully pulled out a small, but deadly derringer. Kid looked at the gun and looked back at the woman with bemusement. What was this prim and proper lady doing with a gun? Lady or not, he couldn’t leave her armed.


“Now, Sophie, what are you aimin’ to do with a dangerous weapon like this?” He took it from her like she was a naughty child, and gave it an inspection. It was clean, loaded, and well chosen for a lady.


“It’s Mrs. Parker. And I’m going to shoot it, of course.” Her formerly sweet demeanor began to change. She calmly and pointedly looked at him. “One never knows when one may run into a hoodlum.” 


“Well, Sophie, hoodlum or not, your gonna thank me for relievin’ you of the burden of this gun before you shoot someone, accidental like.” Kid took her gun and threw it out the window himself.


She slowly raised the netting shielding her face, and he saw her eyes clearly for the first time. They were a piercing emerald green and fiercely stared him down. Even her voice changed, no longer coy, but strong and firm.  


“Mr. Curry, I can handle a gun as well as any man, and I assure you it’s no accident that the only person I am likely to shoot,” she paused, “ is you.”


The entire car let out a collective gasp.  It was clear they all thought she had crossed the line.


Privately amused but keeping a poker face, the Kid knew he couldn’t tolerate a challenge like this, even from a woman. A lady standing up to him would shame the men into doing the same, and that was a  situation he couldn‘t chance. He had to get this under control, and fast. 


“Lady, you’re gonna git yourself killed. Put out your hands.” She glared at him with disdain, refusing to move. Kid’s blue eyes narrowed and turned to stone.


“Now!” he barked. Startled, she finally looked away and tentatively held out her hands. The Kid pulled a pair of  handcuffs out of his vest and clamped each wrist one by one. He didn’t put her hands behind her back; she was just a lady, after all. He tugged on the cuffs to see they were firmly in place. He took off his bandana and in a final effort at making an example of her, he blindfolded her. She slowly sat down.


The Kid glanced around the car. “Anyone else?” The rest of the passengers looked away, unwilling to make eye contact.


“Well then, I’ll be leavin’ you in the hands of my friend here. Don’t cross him. He ain’t as good natured as I am.”  Preacher adopted a suitably fierce outlaw stance that was sure to put the fear of God into them all.


The Kid started to move to the next car to assist Hank, when the passengers began to murmur and peer out the window. Two men were riding towards the train, with extra horses trailing behind. The scruffy one in the rear sure seemed cordial enough; he just kept spitting and grinning.  The brown haired man in the lead sat his horse like he was born to it. He paused for a moment at the engine and then rode the length of the train. When he reached the Kid’s car he broke into a dimpled grin, tipping his black hat to the ladies as he rode past.


“It’s Hannibal Heyes!” squealed one of the saloon girls. The redheaded beauty blew him a kiss and Heyes returned the sentiment with a wink and a nod. One of the little boys clutched a dime novel and looked at the picture on the cover for comparison. “It’s him, it’s him!” he yelled. His mother shushed him as fast as she could, glancing at the Kid fearfully.


The Kid stepped into the vestibule between the cars, and leaned out to catch his partner’s attention. He should have known Heyes wouldn’t miss an opportunity to make a grand entrance. Heyes rode up with a cocky smile and the Kid just rolled his eyes.


“I know your enjoyin’ your job, Heyes, but do you think you could take it more serious? I’m tryin’ to work here.”


Heyes looked around, not seeing any trouble. “No need to get proddy, Kid. The rockslide went like clockwork, Lobo’s got the engine locked down, and it looks like you got it under control here. So I don’t see no reason why we can’t be neighborly. We’re already robbin’ ‘em, no need to be rude, too.” He flashed another charming smile back at the passengers.


“Heyes, this ain’t a church social. I’m tryin’ to set a mood so no one gets hurt, and you come ridin’ in here like your everyone’s best friend.” The Kid was annoyed and it showed.


Heyes heard the tone in the Kid’s voice and sobered up real quick. He knew better than to question the Kid’s judgment when it came to security. 


“You’re right, you’re right. What’s gone wrong?” 


“Nothin’ I can’t handle. But I still need to clear the rest of the cars.” The Kid was all business.


“Alright. I’ll ride down and see how Wheat’s doin’ in the caboose.”


For once, Heyes took his chastisement to heart, keeping any further comments uncharacteristically to himself. He rode off, this time assuming an appropriately severe expression, his hand resting on his gun.


>>>Insert safe cracking scene here<<<


Mrs. Parker casually reached up to push back a stray hair from her face, managing to nab one of her pearl hairpins in the process. She began to work the pin into the locking mechanism of one of the cuffs, hoping Preacher wouldn‘t notice. She knew she could get her blindfold off, but didn’t want to call attention to herself. Being underestimated because she was a woman wasn‘t new, but being talked down to by a man like Curry really got her blood boiling. If she could just get to the derringer in her boot, she would have a chance at stopping him. 


As she worked the lock, she could only hope that the upgrade to the safe she had requested would be enough to stop them from getting her gem and her payroll. She hadn’t heard an explosion, so they had either given up, or Hannibal Heyes was the master safe cracker everyone said he was.  Her musings were interrupted by a tell tale click. She began to work on the remaining cuff. 

It had been a successful job and the Devil’s Hole Gang was ready to ride. Kid signaled to Hank and Preacher to retreat from their respective cars. He wasn’t really worried about the passengers arming themselves fast enough to do any harm; the guns they had thrown out the windows were a ways down the tracks from where the train had finally stopped. Nevertheless, he was determined to be the last man out of harm‘s way.


Kid threw the money bag to Heyes. They shared a look and without a word Heyes caught it and sped off accompanied by the rest of the gang.  Preacher and Hank were just reaching their horses and mounting. The Kid stayed behind to watch their backs. 


Surveying the train for trouble, he spied Mrs. Parker, pulling off her blindfold as she jumped out of the car. He briefly wondered how she had got out of those cuffs, but knowing she was unarmed, he didn’t consider her a serious threat. His eyes moved past her, scanning the rest of the train. Next thing he knew there was the retort of a gun and he felt a bullet brush past within inches of his head. He jerked his eyes back. It was the woman!


“Get outa here!” Kid swatted at the men’s horses, and Hank and Preacher took off like bats out of hell.


Curry always hit his mark, but he didn’t want to hit this one. He had never shot a woman and he wasn’t about to start now. He fired off two warning shots that stirred up the dust right at her feet, confident that they would frighten her and stop her short.  Her dual shot derringer was only accurate at very close range and he knew it. Satisfied, he turned and urged his horse to put some space between them. He had properly assessed the weapon, but not the woman.


By this time, one of the brakemen had gotten untied and grabbed a six-gun that has been hidden under the floor boards. He ran outside towards the lady and before he realized what was happening she had grabbed it from his hands. Steadying herself, Mrs. Parker took aim and fired three quick, measured shots.   


When Heyes heard the two shots from Kid’s gun, he turned in his saddle, and saw Hank and Preacher charging towards him at breakneck speed.  The Kid was riding hell bent for leather, not far behind. Heyes was just starting to smile smugly at their close escape, when he heard three more shots fired in quick succession. He watched in disbelief as the first of the three shots took Kid’s hat; it flew off his head like a bird taking flight. Immediately the next shot hit home, and he saw his partner slump in his saddle.


“Nooo!” cried Heyes.


The third shot stopped the Kid in his tracks. His gelding reared and fell on his side, taking the Kid with him. With his heart in his throat, Heyes watched as his cousin plunged to the ground. Heyes immediately began to turn his horse, when Wheat reached out with a steel grip and grabbed his reins.


“No, Heyes! They’ll gun ya’ down!” 


Heyes tried to yank his horse away but Wheat was immovable. Kyle grabbed the horse’s bridle and hung on for all he was worth. Come hell or high water, they weren’t letting him go.


“Wheat’s right, Heyes. You’d be a sittin’ duck. Look.” Kyle tried to reason with him and nodded towards the Kid.


The passengers were finally starting to arm themselves with the guns from up the tracks and the other workmen from the train were getting untied and joining them. The others were crowding around the Kid. Out there somewhere was the shooter, with three more shots left in a six-gun.


Sitting duck or not, Heyes didn’t much care. All he knew was that his only family lay bleeding on the ground, and he had to get to him. Heyes struggled to gain control of his horse by trying to rear him and break their hold. 


Wheat saw the look in Heyes eyes, and decided he wasn‘t taking any chances. He jumped off his horse, grabbed his boss, and pulled him roughly to the ground.  Heyes came up swinging, and slammed into his lieutenant’s iron jaw. Wheat, being the larger man, returned the favor and promptly flattened Heyes to the ground.  By that time Preacher and Hank had caught up with them. Preacher jumped off his horse, grabbed his boss, and held him down. 


“Your not helpin’ that blessed boy this way, son. You cain’t fight the good fight if’n yer dead.” Preacher would not loose his hold.


Heyes struggled to calm himself and shook the stars out of his head. The entire gang was circling him and he knew they were right. If he had a chance at rescuing the Kid, he would need to fight with his wits instead of his heart.  


“You gonna be alright, Heyes?” Kyle sounded worried.


Wheat held out his hand and Heyes took it, stood, and steadied himself. Slapping the dust off his black hat, he positioned it back on his head,  “I guess I owe ya, Wheat. I reckon you kept me from gettin‘ killed.” 


“Could be, but that ain’t why I did it.” Wheat straightened up and looked around at the rest of the gang.


“How’s that?”  Heyes was gazing into the distance, eyeing the crowd forming around the Kid, hoping to see a glimpse of him. 


Wheat cleared his throat. “Well, now, seein’ as how that payroll is still strapped to yer horse, you didn’t think I was gonna let ya ride off with it, did ya?”


For a split second Heyes considered cutting the money loose and letting them have at it. Then maybe he could still get to his partner. But he wisely overcame the notion. He hated to admit it, but Preacher was right. The best way to help the Kid was to safely get out of there so he could find a way to bust him out. 


With a frown, Heyes grunted and resignedly mounted his horse. The rest of the men eyed him suspiciously, as if he was going to try and make a run for it. With one last look towards the Kid, he kicked his mount and took off, the rest of the gang following closely on his tail. As far as Heyes was concerned, the Kid had better be alive and well, or all hell would break loose. He would see to it.

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Silverkelpie

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PostSubject: Re: Crossing The Line   Fri Jul 11, 2014 9:29 am

This is part of a story that Insideoutlaw and myself have started working on but this part fits the prompt so I've put it in for this month's challenge

Crossing The Line




The long fingers drummed absent-mindedly on the polished table before reaching over and grasping the whiskey bottle.  Amber liquid poured out in a ribbon of gold, swirling around the shot glass which was lifted to the pensive man’s lips.  To the casual observer he was killing time, possibly waiting for a friend, a poker game, or a hook-up with a diverting female; but a closer look would show a man sitting with his back strategically to the wall and dark eyes watching the saloon door out of his peripheral vision so as not to betray him examining every movement.  He looked relaxed and happy, like any other cowboy enjoying a hard-earned break from the harshness of life, but in reality he was a man ready to spring into action at the slightest hint of ambush.  




Hannibal Heyes sipped carefully at the glass; today was not a day to addle the senses, he’d need his wits about him to deal with one of the best gunmen the West had ever seen.  They would meet again after all these years.  Would they recognize one another?  If he did, would he be pleased to see him again after everything that had happened?




The moment the long leg appeared through the bat-wing doors he knew it was him.  He knew that gait; not so much a swagger of confidence, more the carriage of a man who knew he could deal with almost anything.  Almost.  Heyes’ throat tightened; he knew the baggage Kid Curry carried and understood the bluff.  Those moments alone were the hardest times, when you have nothing to do but think.  The silent cry is the always the loudest.   




Heyes watched the Kid stride up to the bar; at the end, not in the middle.  He had to watch the room as much as the new leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang did.  The blue eyes gazed around the bar, widening slightly at the sight of the man from his past.  A frown flickered over his face before he glanced around the room to make sure there were no more surprises, but he stood his ground and watched as his cousin walked over to him.




“Kid?  How’ve you been?  It’s been a long time.”




“I’m good.  What’re you doing here?  You weren’t followed?”




“Nope.”  The dark eyes looked his cousin up and down.  “You look good.  Filled out some, but it suits you.”




“Yeah, you could do with puttin’ on a few pounds.  How’d you find me?”




“Silky.  He’s got a good enough network to find a ghost,” Heyes gestured over to the table.  “I got a bottle.  Join me?”




“A ghost, huh?  I guess that kinda describes me.”  The Kid paused before nodding.  “Is this safe?”




“I wouldn’t be here if I thought it wasn’t.  It’s been five years.”  A joyless dimple pitted Heyes’ left cheek.  “I thought about you all the time, Kid.  I never stopped worrying about you.”




“Me?”  The Kid shrugged.  “You should worry about the man who catches up with me.”   




“Come and talk to me, Kid.  We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”




“Sure, why not?”  




Heyes gestured to the barman for another glass before they strolled over to the table.




“What d’ya want, Heyes?  You know us gettin’ together is real risky.”




His cousin slid a glass across the table.  “I want you to come back with me.  We’ve waited long enough for the dust to settle.”




“Long enough?”  One slim, fair eyebrow arched.  “Based on what?”




“Based on the fact that I got a safe place for us.  It’s like a fortress and nobody comes in or out of there without my say so,” Heyes sat back on his chair, “not now I’m leader.”




“Leader?”




“Big Jim Santana was captured.  The boys had a vote; they think I can get them bigger hauls,” Heyes tossed back his whiskey.  “Well, maybe I kinda promised them something like that.




“So that makes you...”




“Got it in one.  I’m Leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang... for now.”




The blue ice started to melt.  “You?”  A chuckle started to roll around the Kid’s lips.  “At your age?  There are some who’d say you’ve done well, but I’m guessin’ most’d disagree; especially your Ma.”




“Right back at ya, Fastest-Gun-In-The-West.  How have you been making a living?  Protecting church collections?”




“Mostly as hired help; more for what I might have to do, than what I do.”  The blue eyes stared into the depths of the glass.  “I look on it as keepin’ the peace.”




Heyes paused.  “One day there’ll be someone faster, Kid.  You’ll have to kill or be killed.”




A stiletto of blue ice was Kid Curry’s only reply.




“There is another way.  You can come back to The Hole with me.  We’d be a team again.”  Heyes hand reached out across the table towards his cousin.  “You and me; like old times.  What d’ya say?”




The Kid sat back in his chair.  “What’s in it for me?”




“There’s safety in numbers and you wouldn’t have to be watching your back every minute of the day.  You’d have me to do that for you.”




The blue eyes narrowed cynically.  “What’s in it for you?”




Heyes gave a non-committal shrug.  “I’m thinking of you, Kid.  Sure you could help watch my back; a leader always needs a trusted man behind him, but you know I could get anyone to do that.  I got three men, right now, watching this saloon.”




“You don’t trust me, Heyes?”




“It ain’t you I’m worried about.”




“So anyone will do?  You don’t need me then, do ya?”




“Nobody’s good as you, Kid.  You know that.”  Heyes’ eyes brightened.  “We’re unbeatable together.  You’d have a hideout, a place to relax.  Surely it must be tempting to be able to lay your head down at night and not worry about somebody sneaking in and blowing your brains out because they want to be the man who killed Kid Curry?”




“You’ve still got that silver tongue, Heyes.” 




“Yeah, but it never did work too well on you.”  Heyes dropped the mask and stared into his cousin’s eyes.  “I’ve missed you.  I’ve worried about you.  We were great together, unbeatable.  We could be the best, Kid.  You and me running the gang.  What d’ya say?”




The gunman sat back and contemplated the drink swirling in the shot glass.  “We parted for a reason.  That reason’s still there.”




“It was a long time ago and he’s stopped looking now.  I’ve been told it’s been eighteen months since he sent anyone to find either of us.”




“You’ve checked?”




Heyes nodded.  “Sure I have.  I wouldn’t come for you if I hadn’t.  Everyone’s moved on.”




“Everyone?”  The Kid stood and tossed down a few coins.  “Thanks for the drink.  I’ll see ya around, Heyes.”




Heyes followed the tense, stiff back out into the caustic sunlight.  “Wait.  I didn’t mean...”




“This ain’t gonna work,” the Kid turned simmering eyes on his cousin.  “You’ve moved on, they’ve moved on, everyone’s just livin’ life, just fine and dandy.”




“Except you,” Heyes murmured.  He watched the man in front of him beat down any trace of the emotions threatening to overtake him.  “And me.”  He laid a hand on the Kid’s arm.  “Did you ever think that I’m the same?  That I smile and laugh to throw people off the scent?  The brighter the light the darker the shadows, Kid.  You show nothing, I wear a mask; but did you ever think we could help each other?  You’re the only person I can really be myself with.”


Kid Curry stared off across the street, watching the two boys who were trying to impress a girl with their roping skills.  




“Come back in.  If we’re gonna part, let’s have a moment of complete honesty before we do, huh?  You’re the only person I can really talk to.  Let’s try to make some sense out of this.”   




“Sense?”  The bitterness caught at the back of the Kid’s throat.  “None of it makes sense.”




“Exactly.  Life is too short to waste, so let’s take it by the throat and shake it ‘till its pockets are empty.  We don’t owe the universe anything; what has it ever done for us?”  Heyes gave a wry smile.  “If you want it to make sense, maybe we’ve been put here to be a warning to others.  If that’s the case, let’s be one they’ll never forget.”  




They stood in silence, contained in a bubble of contemplation punctured only by a sigh from the Kid.  “You see them over there?  Those two boys tryin’ to impress the girl; they ain’t even noticed the younger girl who keeps walkin’ back and forth.  They remind me of us with Clem.”  




“Yeah,” Heyes chuckled lightly.  “She sends her love.”




The Kid turned back, engaging with his cousin at last.  “How is she?  Is she safe?”




“Safe, well, and as honest as they come,” Heyes shook his head, “well, compared to the circles I move in anyway.  Her pa’s determined to keep her on the straight and narrow.”  He watched the blond head nod in satisfaction.  “Come back in.  Talk to me.  If we can make some sense out of the past we might have a future.”




The Kid sighed heavily.  “That’s when we crossed the line, Heyes.  Up till then we could have given up crime and had normal lives.  It just took that one job to take everything too far.”             


Five years earlier...   
  
To be continued

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Javabee

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PostSubject: Re: Crossing The Line   Mon Jul 14, 2014 12:24 am

 FYI, I borrowed the lovely Helen from "The Fifth Victim".

Crossing the Line - “Hello, Jones”

“Hello, Jones.” The lovely Helen took him by surprise, and that was quite an accomplishment. The Kid usually had everything and everyone checked out before they even noticed him. Instantly recognizing her sultry voice, he put his back to the bar and faced her.


Helen was an eyeful and she looked just as he remembered her. Her provocative dress accentuated her creamy skin and tiny waist. She was smart and had an edge to her that the Kid liked. This was a saloon girl that could carry on a conversation, but knew when to stop talking. He didn’t usually like being recognized, but this time he surprised himself; he was actually glad to see her.


“Helen, what are you doing here?”  


“Oh, let’s just say I needed a change of scenery and thought I’d move on to Tucson. Never thought I’d see your handsome face again. Can’t say I’m disappointed. You and I got along pretty good, as I recall.” Smiling, she leaned in and ran a friendly finger along his familiar jaw line. 


“Yeah, real good.“ Pleasant memories of his time with Helen came rapidly flooding back. “Uh, can I buy you a drink?


“Thought you’d never ask.”


Kid nodded to the bartender. “Another whiskey, and one for the lady.” The mustachioed barkeep stopped polishing his counter long enough to refill Kid’s glass and pour one for Helen.


“To old friends.” Helen raised her glass to her companion and threw back her shot. Kid joined her in the sentiment. “So how’re you doin‘, Jones? Did your friend ever get over that gunshot wound?”


“That’s him over there playin’ poker. He’s doin’ fine.” The Kid gestured with his glass towards Heyes. Things were going pretty smooth for his partner in tonight’s poker game, but Kid knew how fast things could go south. It was quite a balancing act Heyes played, winning some and losing some, trying to make sure he didn’t cross the line into the dangerous territory of being called a cheat. 


Helen glanced over at Heyes. “So that’s your partner. You’re right, he looks just fine.” Helen was surprised at exactly how fine he did look. Lady luck seemed to be smiling on him tonight; his winnings were piling up and threatening to spill over into the other players territory.


“Still shootin’ cougars for a livin?” She noticed that Jones always kept at least one of his clear blue eyes on his partner. She wasn‘t accustomed to that; most of her gentlemen friends couldn‘t bring themselves to peel their eyes off of her feminine assets.


“Cougars? Not much lately.” Preoccupied, the Kid wondered when Heyes was going to pull the plug on this one; one of the men at the table was starting to appear downright unfriendly. Kid watched as tiny beads of perspiration appeared on the unhappy man’s forehead, sliding in rivulets down his frown to be caught in his deeply furrowed brow. Half of his mustache began to bob in rhythm to the twitch developing in his upper lip, as he dropped one hand under the table where the Kid couldn’t see it. Leave it to Heyes to push this man just one inch too far…


“Gonna be in town long?" Helen saw Jone's eyes turn to stone as he shifted his stance and subtly slipped his shooting hand into play.


“You sure do ask a lot of questions, Helen.” The Kid was relieved to see Heyes finally gather up his winnings, and call it a night. With a dimpled grin and a tip of his hat, he cordially bought all the men at the table a parting round of drinks. He had brought the man right up to the edge and then pulled back just in the nick of time. Heyes had been toying with him, like a cat with a mouse. The agitated cowboy grabbed his bandana, and furtively mopped his brow.  He scooped up the meager remains of his money and retreated out the door. The Kid took another sip of whiskey, savored the calming libation, and relaxed.


“Well, Jones, as I recall, last time you were the one doin‘ the askin‘. I turned on all my charms and could hardly get you to stop with the questions. I guess this time it’s my turn.” The Kid and Heyes briefly locked eyes. Helen marveled as the two men silently carried on an entire conversation with a single glance. Oh, what a pair these two made.


”Believe me, darlin‘, your charms are workin’ just fine.” The Kid leaned in and put an arm snugly around her waist. She had his full attention at last.


She pushed his concho hat back off his head and ran her fingers through his caramel curls. “How ‘bout we go upstairs and get reacquainted? That is, as long as you promise not to talk so much this time.”


“I like the way you think, Helen.“ Her heart began to beat a little faster, as he gently guided her towards the stairs. “I like the way you think.”

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


Last edited by Javabee on Tue Jul 15, 2014 4:12 am; edited 4 times in total
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riders57

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PostSubject: Re: Crossing The Line   Mon Jul 14, 2014 5:29 am

This is the beginning of a much longer story I'm working on but a number of lines are crossed here so I thought it fit the prompt.  I would especially appreciate knowing what does and does not work here since it's part of an ongoing story.  (the formatting was doing strange things with font size and styles so if it doesn't match here that's some odd quirk of the board)




Old Friends, New Enemies


Approaching dusk sent long shadows crawling across the silent compound.  Debris, stirred by the slight breeze, scudded into the shadows.  The door to the cabin opened and a man stood framed in the entrance, the last beams of the setting sun highlighting the badge on his chest proclaiming him to be a U.S. marshal.  He examined the dusty yard, then, satisfied, strode through the deepening shadows towards the shed. He froze as he heard a click; his hand moved stealthily towards his hip.


“That’s far enough, Sawyer.  Down on your knees and put your hands behind your head.”

Marshal Wade Sawyer let out his breath, slowly lowered himself to the ground, and clasped his hands at the back of his neck.  “Kid.  I figured you had to be somewhere close by.  Surprised it took you this long.”

Curry stepped out of the shadows, his gun pointed steadily at the kneeling man, and moved so he was confronting Sawyer.  He nodded to his companion, who silently slipped over to the marshal and removed the man’s weapon from its holster before stepping back into the shadows.

Sawyer’s eyebrows rose as he caught sight of the youth.  “Little young isn’t he, Kid.  Never knew Devil’s Hole took little boys.”



Curry’s grim visage lightened briefly as he took a quick glance towards his youthful companion.  “Yeah, well Mel there ain’t as young as you might think.”  His gaze returned to his captive, the cold fury in his eyes causing the man to recoil.  “That jail’s a joke, only I’m not laughin’.  You better hope nothin’ happens to Heyes.  If he dies, or goes missin’ like others have around here, you are goin’ to be wishin’ I’d kill you quick, because I won’t.  It’ll be long and slow.  I’ve learned a few tricks over the years, and you are goin’ to a livin’ Hell.”

He looked at his companion.  “Tie him good then get goin’.  Go get Heyes.”

His companion frowned at him, then shrugged and pulled out some thongs to tie Sawyer’s hands behind his back. When done, Mel walked over to the Kid, held a brief whispered conversation that, try as he might, Sawyer could not hear, and slipped into the shadows.  The two remaining were motionless until they heard the sound of a horse gathering speed as its rider headed to town.

~~~oOo~~~


Sawyer shifted to get more comfortable, to the extent that was possible for a man sitting with his hands tied behind his back and his torso and legs firmly lashed to a chair.  “Can you loosen the thongs on my hands?  They’re beginning to get numb.”

“No.”

Sawyer grimaced.  He cranked his head to look at his captor as best he could.  “What are you doing over there?”

“Makin’ coffee.”

“Can I have some?”

“No.”

“So you going to pay me for that coffee you’re drinking and food you’re eating?”


“No.”  

“Well, I guess that’s consistent with your thieving ways.”

“Code of the west.  I’m acceptin’ your hospitality.”

The two lapsed into silence.

“Are you always this talkative, Kid?”

“Heyes talks enough for the two of us.”

Sawyer sighed and shifted again.  “So how long do I get the dubious pleasure of your company?”

“Until Heyes gets here.”  The Kid allowed the corner of his mouth to lift slightly.  “Or until I kill you.”

The only sound thereafter was the sound of Curry sipping his coffee and eating the beans he’d heated up.

~~~oOo~~~

Sawyer startled awake from an uneasy slumber as the bindings on his hands were roughly jerked back. Curry finished untying the captive’s hands then pulled his gun and stepped back.  Blinking, Sawyer realized from the slant of the sun that it was late morning.  He looked at the cup of coffee sitting before him then looked at his captor in confusion.  

“You have company comin’.  Finish untyin’ yourself and throw me the ropes.  Just remember, I can kill both you and your company before either of you draw, so behave yourself.”  He holstered his gun with a flourish then drew fast as lightning before replacing it back in its holster and standing to the side of the room.

A frantic knock sounded just as the Kid finished stowing Sawyer’s bindings.  He nodded, and Sawyer called out, 

“Come in.”

The door flew open, and a balding man burst in, a sheriff’s badge pinned to a vest that strained over his paunch. He paused to wipe his streaming forehead with a grimy kerchief and catch his breath.  “Marshal!” he cried. “What’re you trying to do to me, claiming that man is Hannibal Heyes?  His fiancée, the daughter of the mayor of San Francisco no less, was in my office not one hour ago, demanding that he be released.”  He moaned and wrung his hands.

“Mayor of San Francisco?  What are you blathering about, man?”

The Kid choked on a laugh.  At the sound, the sheriff turned to him then back to Sawyer.  “See you brought in some protection.”  His eyes hardened.  “You’ll probably need it the way you’re sticking your nose into other folks’ business.  Folks who stick their nose in where it don’t belong have a way of disappearing around here.”

Sawyer glared.  “Don’t threaten me.  The Governor brought me in to clean up the area, and I intend to do just that.  So don’t you be getting in my way.”

The two men glared at each other, before the sheriff broke eye contact and looked sideways at the Kid who was listening to the exchange with interest, his hand caressing the butt of his sidearm.  “Whatever.  I’m telling you, Sawyer, if there are any repercussions, I’ll have your badge for this.”  He strode back and forth, muttering, “Last thing I need right now, more trouble.”

“The man’s Hannibal Heyes, I tell you.”

“And how would you know that?”

“I’ve caught him before,” Sawyer declared and glanced sideways at his captor.  “Him and that partner of his.”

“You caught them before?  So how come they’re still loose?  And if that’s Hannibal Heyes, where’s his partner?”

As Sawyer opened his mouth, the Kid shot him a warning glance and stepped forward.  “Sorry to interrupt, but I’m Thaddeus Jones.  I had business with the Marshal here.  You mentioned the fiancé of the mayor’s daughter.  Would that be Joshua Smith?”

“What’s it to you?”

“I’m an old friend.  Just heard about the upcomin’ weddin’.  So I figured if he’s in the area, I’d stop by to pay my respects.”

Sawyer stood up.  “Sheriff, start over again.  How do you know that this woman is who she says she is?”

“How do I… How do I know?  She handed me a letter, from the mayor hisself, or at least from his secretary. Described the man to a T, right down to the little scar on his neck, and that scar don’t match Heyes’ wanted poster – I checked.”  He reached into his vest and withdrew a rumpled sheet of paper, stained where it had once been closed with a wax seal.  “Here.  See for yourself.”  He thrust the paper at Sawyer.

Sawyer opened the missive and began to read.  The Kid moved behind him and read over his shoulder, one hand pushing the marshal back into his seat.

Sawyer looked up at the Sheriff.  “Who’s this S. O’Sullivan that signed the letter?”

“It says right there, the mayor’s secretary.”

“And I’m telling you that’s Hannibal Heyes.”

“Yeah, you told me and you told me.  But if that’s Hannibal Heyes, I’ll ask you again, where is Kid Curry?  They say one’s never around without the other.  But I don’t see anyone blasting into my jailhouse to free this man.  Not that they could for all the guards I’ve had there.”  He resumed pacing.  

“If it is Joshua Smith, I’ll be able to confirm that.  Just bring him here,” the Kid offered.  ‘If he’s none the worse for his stay in your jailhouse, I’m sure he’ll forgive the mistaken identity.”

The sheriff stopped pacing and stared at him, stricken.

“He is the worse.  Does he need medical care?” the Kid growled.

“What did you do, Sheriff?  I told you to lock him up and leave him alone,” demanded Sawyer.

“Well… but…” the sheriff sputtered.  “You said it was Hannibal Heyes.  You should’ve let me shoot him on sight.  But no, you wouldn’t allow that.  So we had to make sure he didn’t escape, didn’t we?  We shackled him to a corner in the back cell, so he couldn’t get out and his partner couldn’t reach him to help him escape.”

The Kid shut his eyes briefly.  “Is that all?” he asked quietly.

The sheriff glanced at him and shuddered.  “Pretty much.  Might have a couple of sore ribs.”  He looked at the two men glaring at him.  “Well, he didn’t take kindly to the shackling.  It took three men to subdue him,” he whispered.  “This is all your fault, anyway, marshal. You’re the one insisting he’s Hannibal Heyes.  He’s been saying he’s Joshua Smith all along.”

He reached for the door.  As he opened it, he looked back.  “You deal with this mess now.  His fiancée is driving him out here to see you.  I’m done.”  He stomped out of the cabin, mounted his horse, and galloped away.

The two men remaining stared at each other.  Sawyer tried not to show the shiver of fear that ran down his back as he looked at the Kid’s clenched jaw and fixed stare.

“On your knees; hands behind your back towards me,” Curry growled.

Sawyer did as instructed, closing his eyes briefly.  He opened them wide as he felt the tug of the thongs going back around his wrists.  He turned to stare at Curry.  “That’s it?  You’re just going to tie me up again?”

“Yeah.  For now.”  He grabbed Sawyer’s elbow hauling him to his feet and plunking him into a chair.  “I’m waitin’ for Heyes and Mel.  Want to see how bad he’s hurt.  I heard the sheriff, heard him say you stopped him from killin’ Heyes.”  He chuckled.  “Besides, I had to promise Mel I wouldn’t hurt you before she’d agree to help.”

The marshal let out a deep breath, then frowned.  “Who’s this fiancée?  I thought Mel was the boy that was with you last night.”

The Kid chuckled.  “She was.  She just wasn’t a boy.  That’s Mel.  She owed me, and I called in the debt.”

“Heard you had a way with the ladies – and other women.  Guess some of those um, other women’d do anything for you.”

The Kid smirked.  “You call Mel one of those other women to her face, and I won’t be responsible for the result.”

The two sat quietly.  Finally, Sawyer again shifted, trying to find a comfortable position. “So tell me, where were you when I caught Heyes?  I looked for you.”

The Kid stared out the window then turned to Sawyer.  “I was in the livery stable.  Heyes was gettin’ us a room, and I was seein’ to the horses.  When you caught him, nothin’ I could do, so I lit out for the next town to figure out how to free him.”

“Well, that makes me feel better.  I was going crazy trying to figure out where you were.”

“Yeah.  That was my goal – to make you feel better.”  The Kid shook his head and turned back to the window, staring out towards town.

~~~oOo~~~

At the whinny of horses, Curry looked up from the game of solitaire he was playing and walked swiftly to the window, pulling his gun.  A broad smile broke out on his face, and he holstered his pistol as he pulled the door open and waved in greeting to the new arrivals.  Heyes climbed carefully down from the buggy and grimaced putting a hand to his side.  He looked up, saw the Kid, his dimples flashed, and he limped quickly to the cabin.  Mel walked the horses to the shade at the side of the cabin.

The Kid put a hand lightly on Heyes’ shoulder and scrutinized him, taking in the bruises on his face that were slowly turning to green and yellow.  “Those ribs of yours, they broken?  You need a doctor?”

“I’m fine, ma,” said Heyes, shrugging off the scrutiny.  “Sorry we took so long getting here; I wanted to clean up some.”  He turned towards Sawyer, but stopped as Mel entered the cabin.

“Now we’re even,” she announced to the Kid.  “And just remember what I told you, I don’t care what the Governor …”

“Mel,” Heyes interrupted. “Let’s get through the introductions before you spill all our secrets.  Miss Melanie Duster, allow me to introduce Marshal Wade Sawyer.  We go back a long way. Sawyer, Mel.”  

Mel glanced at the tied man and turned furious eyes on the Kid.  “Release him, immediately!  I told you, I wouldn’t have anything to do with restraining him a second longer than necessary.  Heyes is out; now keep your word.”

The Kid glanced at Heyes leaning against the wall.  Heyes hid a smile and turned to Sawyer.  “You’re not going to try anything, right?”

Sawyer glared.  “One against three; I know when I’m outnumbered.”

“Good.  You can untie him, Kid.”  He chuckled.  “Engaged to the daughter of the Mayor of San Francisco, huh?”  He shook his head still chuckling.  “Now, is there anything to eat around here?  The pickings were a little scarce in that place.”


Heyes wandered over to look at the shelves and, with a grunt, set about making a meal, while the Kid untied Sawyer.

Sawyer watched them sourly.  “So, Miss Duster, how much these two promise you?  And what betting house they find you in?  Hope you got your money up front.”

Mel’s face turned red.  “Betting house!  You think I’m… that I’d… How dare you!” she sputtered and lunged for Sawyer.  

Laughing, the Kid grabbed her and swung her away, shielding Sawyer with his body.  “I warned you.  You should’ve listened to me.  Mel’s respectable.  Well, as respectable as a bounty hunter can be.”

“Sorry, ma’am.  I’m sure you can understand my confusion given the company you’re keeping.”

Mel narrowed her eyes and sniffed.

Sawyer examined the three.  “I don’t get it, Heyes.  What’s your lay here?  Your gang’s not around, hasn’t been active for a while.  Heard you two left Devil’s Hole.”

Heyes glanced over his shoulder before grabbing the skillet from the stove.  “Later.  Food’s ready.  Let’s eat.”

~~~oOo~~~

The four pushed back from a table littered with the remains of the ham and biscuits Heyes had prepared.

“I don’t mean to be inhospitable, but do you mind moving along?  All this togetherness with a pair of outlaws is beginning to grate.”

Heyes chuckled and looked at Sawyer over the top of his coffee cup.  “Tell me, when did you become a U.S. marshal?  Last time we saw you, you were a deputy sheriff in Bramberg.”

“About a year ago.”  Sawyer’s eyes narrowed.  “Bramberg?  I don’t recall seeing you there.”

“We saw you first.”

Mel choked.  She waved away offers of assistance as she looked from man to man.  “Now what, boys?”

“In a little bit, Mel.”  The dark eyes returned to scrutinizing Sawyer.  “What are you doing in Pantano Station?  Arizona’s a long way from Wyoming.”

“I could say the same thing about you two.”

Ignoring the comment, Heyes continued, “This doesn’t seem like your type of set up.  We may have our differences, but you always played straight.  The locals here don’t.  That sheriff for instance, told me that if I’d give him five thousand now he’d let me go rather than wait around for the full ten.  Of course, when I said I didn’t have five thousand, he roughed me up to be sure.  Offered to remove the shackles for a fee, too.”  Heyes grimaced.  “And I hear I’m one of the lucky ones.  Some never make it into that jail, or out of it once they get in.  I hear folks have been known to disappear around here, never seen again.”

He pondered their reluctant host.  “So, I repeat, what are you doing in Pantano Station?”

“Not that it’s any of your business, but that’s why I’m here.”

Heyes and the Kid looked at each other.  The Kid grimaced; Heyes rolled his eyes.  “Of course it is.”

Sawyer looked back and forth at the two and furrowed his brow. Shaking his head, he continued, “Governor Zulick asked me to come in to try to clean up the place and especially to solve the most recent disappearance.”  He sipped his coffee and mused.  “Told the Governor I needed backup, and he said he was sending a couple of men. They’ll be here soon so you two should get going.”

When he mentioned the Governor’s men, Heyes and the Kid began laughing.

“What are you two… Oh, no.  No, no, no.  You’re the men Zulick sent?”

“Yup.”

Sawyer groaned and put his head in his hands.

Mel began to laugh.  The partners grinned at her then turned their attention back to Sawyer.

He looked up.  “Does he know who you are?”

“He has a pretty good idea,” Curry answered.

Sawyer raised his eyes upward.  “What the Hell was that man…  Oh, sorry ma’am, miss, uh, pardon my language.”

Mel gave a lopsided smile.  “As they said, I’m a bounty-hunter.  I can assure you, I’ve heard worse.  Why don’t you call me Mel, like they do?”  She turned her attention to the other two.  “The Marshal has a point, Heyes; I’m interested in hearing why the Governor of Arizona Territory would ask you two to help, too.” 

Heyes and the Kid exchanged glances.  “Let’s just say we helped him out of a tight spot in Mexico a while back and let it go at that.”

Mel digested this and turned back to Sawyer.  “I have to tell you I was skeptical when I first met them, too, but I’ve found that if they give you their word, they’ll keep it.  Just make sure you read the fine print beneath their word.”

“Ah, Hell.  Sorry.  Looks like I don’t have much choice.  You two swear you’ll behave, and maybe we can work together this one time.”


Heyes regarded him, measuring him.  “We’ll swear we won’t be robbing any banks or trains while we’re here, and we’ll do our best to get to the bottom of this mess.”

“But, in return, you have to swear you won’t be tellin’ anyone who we are, or arrest us while we work together,” Curry said.

“Agreed,” Sawyer replied sourly.

Mel beamed at the three of them.  “Now that we have that resolved, tell me what this disappearance is about.  I assume there’s a reward?”

The Kid frowned.  “Mel, who said anythin’ about you bein’ involved?  This is too dangerous.”

She bristled.  “You asked me to come here.  Now that there’s money involved you want me to leave.  I don’t think so.  I can handle myself.”  She stood hands on her hips, foot tapping, and glared at the men.

Curry, who had moved to the stove to get more coffee, turned and glared back.  “No.”

Heyes started laughing again.  “Calm down, you two.  She’s right, Kid.  We don’t control her.  She wants to get herself killed, that’s her business.”

Sawyer cut in.  “Miss, I mean, Mel, there’s a six-thousand dollar reward being offered for the conviction of Brunen’s killers or kidnappers, but I came here with the understanding that that was my money.  I do not intend to split it four ways.”

“Fine, I’ll work this case on my own,” Mel stormed.  “And I’ll just claim the full reward.”  She began to gather her things.

Heyes stood up and walked over to bar the door.  He held up his hands placatingly.  “Hold on, don’t go flying off in a fury; you’ll get yourself killed that way.”

She narrowed her eyes.  “Move.”

They glared at each other for several long moments.  Finally, Heyes sighed.  “Mel, look all this isn’t necessary.  You should know by now that the Kid and I can’t claim rewards.”

“Even if we were willin’ to take money for sellin’ men to the law,” the Kid muttered.  

Heyes shot him a look.  “The Kid and I made other arrangements with the Governor.”  He turned to Sawyer.  “As far as we’re concerned the reward is for you and Mel to split, when it comes.  Even assuming we manage to find the men responsible, we can’t be sticking around waiting for the trial to finish.”  He glared at all in the room.  “Now, everyone sit down, and we’ll do some planning.”
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Hunkeydorey

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PostSubject: Re: Crossing The Line   Thu Jul 17, 2014 9:56 am

Crossing The Line


The bullet battered into the ground beside the too-big boots.  “Hands up,” yelled Kyle.  “Don’t move.”

The lad shuffled back, thrusting skinny arms straight up in the air.  “Don’t shoot, mister.  I ain’t armed.”

The blue eyes squinted through the blinding sunshine.  “Wheat!  Git over here.  It ain’t no more than a kid.”

“Not another one,” the gruff voice grumbled from somewhere off to the right.  “How many of ‘em does Heyes need?”  A large man lumbered out of some nearby bushes and shouldered his rifle.  “What d’ya want, boy?”

“I wanna see Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry,” the voice squeaked.

“Yeah?  Git outta here.  Don’t make me tan your hide,” Wheat shaded his eyes with his right hand and looked up at his partner on the rocks.  “Are you sure he’s alone?  You got a better view than me.”

“I’m sure,” came the reply.  He ain’t no bigger’n a picayune.”

“I’m twelve and three quarters,” the boy announced, indignantly.

“In pounds or years?”  A grinning Wheat strode closer to the lad and looked him up and down.  “Twelve?  You’re lucky if you’re ten.”  He glanced over to the mule glaring indignantly at the humans who had unsettled his inner calm by blasting those darned guns.  “Did you ride all this way on that wreck?”

“Billy ain’t a wreck!  He’s real friendly.”

“Billy?” Kyle climbed down from the rocks and displayed a fine array of teeth.  “Is that your mule’s name, boy?  What do we call you?”

“Jack.”

Wheat scowled at Kyle.  “We ain’t interested in your life story, boy.  Git!”

“I want to speak to Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry,” the child insisted.

“Why?  What d’ya want ‘em for,” laughed Kyle through a mouthful of chaw.

“Stop encouragin’ him, Kyle.  We’re lookouts.  It’s our job to keep strangers outta the Hole.”

The child backhanded glistening snot away from a face growing blotchy with emotion.  “My ma died.  She told me to find ‘em.  She was real fixed on that when she was ill; saved money for me to get here and everythin’.”

“I’m real sorry to hear that, Jack, but this is outlaw country.  It’s no place for a young ‘un.”  Wheat gestured towards Kyle with his head.  “My friend here will see ya to the outskirts of a town.  Ya can’t stay here.”  He dragged his foot across the earth, ploughing a furrow with his heel.  “I’m gonna make it real simple for ya.  You don’t cross this line without getting a whuppin’, got that?”      

The blue eyes widened, brimming with tears of defiance as the lad stood his ground.  “I ain’t got nobody else.  Ma said for me to come to them.  They’re kin.  I think one of ‘em’s my pa.”

The outlaws blinked in disbelief before they burst out laughing.  

“One of them?  Your ma didn’t know which one?” Wheat demanded.

“If’n she knew she weren’t tellin’.  All I know is she gave me a secret word that they’d know.”

“A word?” Kyle scratched the rough stubble on his chin.  “If’n it’s about words it’s gotta be Heyes.” 

“Kyle, go get Curry and Heyes.”  He sat on a rock and rested his rifle on his thigh.  “I’ll wait here with Jack.  This I gotta see.”


oooOOOOoo


The cloud of whirling dust from the horses’ hooves heralded the arrived of the leader of The Devil’s Hole Gang and the fastest gun in the West.  “Well, howdy there.”  Wheat stood, grinning ear to ear.  “It’s a boy.  Dark hair, blue eyes and dimples.  Take your pick, Jack.  Which one’s your pa?”

Two men dismounted in unison, completely ignoring Kyle who brought up the rear.  “That’s him?” Heyes asked, staring at the interloper. 

All eyes turned on the boy who looking at up the approaching outlaws with the biggest, bluest eyes they’d ever seen.  Heyes frowned and glanced suspiciously at his cousin.  “You’re Jack?  Where’d you get those eyes?”

“They came with my face.”  
“He’s got a smart mouth,” the Kid remarked, slyly.  The boy smiled.  “And there’s that dimple,” he added.

“My Ma had dimples.  She was real pretty.”  He raised a hand the brush away the floppy, dark hair falling in front of his eyes.  He reached into his breast pocket as the air suddenly became punctuated by the cocking of guns.  

The Kid scowled at the gang members.  “Put those away.  He’s a child.”  He looked down at the tattered document being held out by the stick-thin arm.  “Your name’s Jack?”  The child nodded.  “What’s your Ma’s name?  Where are you from?”

“I came all the way from Denver and my Ma’s name was Mary.  She died with a canker in the ...” Jack sniffed and dropped his head.  “She died.”  

Blue eyes and brown both swirled with memories of countless Marys along with various, and worrying, degrees of liaison.   

“Mary?”   Heyes propped his hands on his hips.  “Mary who?”

“Mulligan.  I’m Jack Mulligan.”

The Kid shrugged and took the document.  “I don’t know her.  What does this say?” he screwed up his eyes and tilted his head.  “What’s this?  A menu?  What’s ‘out house vin-ig-grette,’ Heyes?  That doesn’t sound good.  Is it a code?”

A gloved hand reached over and took the paper.  The face dimpled before he turned it over.  “She’s written on the back of a menu.  It’s ‘our house vinaigrette’ in fancy writing.  There are directions scribbled here.”  Heyes’ eyes darkened with suspicion.  “How’d she know the way to The Hole?  Who else did you show this to, boy?”

The lad’s chin set in irritation.  “Everyone knows where The Devil’s Hole is, they just don’t come here.  Doncha know you’re famous?” he nodded towards the menu.  “That’s where you met her.  She was a waitress in a fancy place in Denver.  She said you used this one so she kept it.”

“Ring any bells, Heyes?”

“No, Kid.  It doesn’t.”

“Look at the bottom.  She said there’s words at the bottom to prove who I am.”

Heyes glanced down, turned pale and thrust the document to his partner.  “There.  Look there.”

“Mary,” the Kid murmured in hushed tones.  “It was her?”  He turned soft blue eyes on the boy’s skinny frame. 
 “When did you last eat?”

“This mornin’”

“What did you have?”

The ragged shoulder shrugged.  “Some jerky.”

Heyes shook his head.  “What about yesterday?”

“The same.”

The blue eyes narrowed.  “When did you last eat anythin’ but jerky?”

“Dunno...”

Heyes gave a sharp nod.  “Come with me.  You need food and rest.  Then we’ll figure out what to do with you?”

“Are you my pa?”  The boy pulled back from the proffered hand, blinking up at the intense, dark eyes.

The Kid laid a hand on Jack’s shoulder.  “Let’s talk, huh?”  


oooOOOooo


“D’ya think it’s Heyes?” Kyle padded back and forth in the bunkhouse.  “The boy’s got a real smart mouth.”

The Preacher leaned back in his chair.  “He’s got dimples too.”  

“Ma Aunt Jean had dimples.  That don’t prove nuthin’,” Wheat growled.  “Those eyes are the giveaway to me.  It’s gotta be the Kid.”

“Yeah, Heyes ain’t the only one with a smart mouth.”  Hank swung back on his chair.  “Just yesterday the Kid told me that he’d try being nicer if I tried bein’ smarter.”

“What kinda woman sends a boy to a place full of thieves and outlaws?” Wheat shook his head ruefully.  “This ain’t no place for a kid.”

“Hey!” Kyle stopped in his tracks.  “I ain’t like that.  I’m good to the little ‘uns.”

“This is the Devil’s Hole,” Wheat retorted.  “We’re all like that.  I wouldn’t want a son of mine growin’ up here.”

“You with a son?” Hank chortled.  “Ya’d have to get a woman first; a keeper, not one that charges by the hour.”  

“It don’t take more’n an hour to get a woman in the family way,” Kyle gave an unsavoury grin.  “My ma, used to say that when she met pa she wanted him in the worst way and the worst’s what she ended up with; but at least he were considerate enough ta be quick.”  He spat a huge brown gob of chaw into the fire.  “Ma had ten of us.” 
Wheat lifted his tin mug and toyed aimlessly with the handle.  “We gotta decide what we’re gonna do.  I’d put money on them keepin’ the boy here.  I ain’t havin it.  I ain’t no nursemaid.”

“We don’t know if he’s related to either of them,” Preacher murmured.  

“No?  Well why’d they say ‘it was her,’ all meaningful like that?”  Wheat banged the table with the flat of his hand. 

 “It’s one of them and I’m takin a stand!  We ain’t raising their brat.”

“Proverbs 1:8-9 My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck,” the Preacher sat back in his chair and toyed with his belt buckle.  “The boy’s mother sent him here.  She had her reasons.  It’s better to have some kin than none.”

“That depends on the kin,” Wheat muttered, darkly.

“A mother has a special bond with a child and she’d only do what was best,” the Preacher continued.  “It ain’t the same for a man.  She feels the life growin’ inside her.”

“I had a tapeworm once,” Kyle ventured.

“A pet ain’t the same as a child.  All I’m sayin’ is that a child shouldn’t be cast out.  Preacher’s hooded eyes flicked over to Kyle.  “They’re precious in the eyes of God.”      

“Yeah,” Kyle nodded.  “And he‘s too old to do all that cryin’ they do.”

“Yah gotta let ‘em grow,” Preacher persisted.  “Yah wouldn’t cut down a sapling. They ain’t ready.”

“I would if they screamed for no reason all the time.”  A thought trickled through Kyle’s mind like waste through a clogged drain.  “How hard could it be, raisin’ a child?  We could teach him things.”  His face lit up.  “I could teach him about dynamite.  He could make a good livin’ on both sides of the law with that.”

“I could teach him scripture,” Preacher nodded quietly.  “I could teach him the difference between strechin’ the truth and breakin’ it.”  The thin lips stretched into an unsavoury smirk.  “That can be real handy.  I can’t count the 
times I saved my skin with the right twist.”

“What’d you teach, Hank?”

A bottom lip protruded as the man mulled over the possibilities.  “Ridin’?”

“He got here on a mule,” Wheat sneered.  “He can ride.”

“Fast draw then,” Hank asserted.  “Fancy shootin’”

“You’re gonna teach the Kid’s kid to shoot?” Kyle demanded.  “Are ya mad?  You’d be lucky to teach him not to blow his foot off.”

“Fine!  I’ll teach him about women.”

“Women?” Preacher snorted.  “What do you know about women?”

“I’m the only one who’s been married.”  Hank glared his challenge around the bunkroom.  “Ain’t none of you done that.”

“Ain’t none of us dumb enough to get trapped, that’s why,” Wheat chortled.  “They’re either in your arms or your pockets.  Stay awake and keep your wits about ya is the only advice you need to deal with a woman.”      

“It depends on the kind of women you attract,” muttered Hank.  “My Mirabelle is a real fine gal.  She don’t like me thievin’ but I need the money.”

“Ya could get a job,” Preacher suggested.  

Hank’s brows rose in outrage.  “I said I needed money, not chicken feed!”

“And there we have it, friends,” grinned Preacher.  “Hell has three gates; lust, anger and greed.  Avarice does not diminish with age.  It’s why we’re all here.”   

“So back to the boy,” Wheat shook his head.  “I still don’t hold with him stayin’ here.”

“Me neither,” the deep, chocolate tones coming from the door told them their boss was behind them.  “Tomorrow 
we take him to a safe place.  He’s leaving.”

All eyes turned to stare at the outlaw leader.  “Ya can’t juss throw the boy away, Heyes,” Kyle’s slanted eyebrows mirrored his top lip of his gaping jaw.  “He’s your kin.”

The dark eyes narrowed and the jaw tightened.  The gang knew that face, the one just before he lost control; and Heyes very rarely lost it, so when he did it was an explosion of epic proportions.  “He’s going.  The Kid and I are taking him to a safe place.  Any of you got a problem with that?”

A chorus of ‘nos’ echoed around the bunkhouse.

“Good.  I’m not in the mood to deal with a bunch of ba...” Heyes’ eyes scanned the room, “babysitters.”  He shrugged.  “Get over it.  You can’t keep him; he’s not a puppy who wandered into the Hole.”

The door slammed behind him.  

“Heyes bringin’ up a kid?” muttered Kyle.  “I told ya it was a bad idea.  He ain’t got the patience we got.”


oooOOOooo


Valparaiso Home For Waywards    

She rocked back and forth, clutching her thin shawl around her even thinner body.  Dull eyes stared forward, insensible to the hair clinging to cheeks drenched with tears and the nasal drip which shuddered and shimmered every time she gasped a rasping breath.  A skinny arm stretched out and gently touched her shoulder but the girl leaped back and cowered in the corner like a wounded animal.

“Hey, it’s me,” the boy smiled gently at her but frowned in consternation at her fear.  “It’s only Jed.”

She blinked furtive eyes full of shame and hurt.  “Go away.”

“There ain’t nuthin’ to be scared of, Mary.  I’m here.”

Her eyelids drooped, her damp lashes clumping together.  “Just go, Jed.”

“I know you’re much older’n me, Mary, but I want to help.  Why’re you cryin’?”

“I’m sad, is all.”

“Is it Mr. Fredrickson?  Does he hit you?”

The grey eyes suddenly focused into the panicked darting of the preyed upon.  “No.  He doesn’t hit me.”  Mary gulped hard.  “Leave me alone.  You’re too young to understand this.  You’re only twelve.  I’m fifteen.  I’m near a full grown woman.”  Her lips twisted at the knowledge that her budding femininity was the source of Fredrickson’s hunger.

“He likes ya, Mary,” the lad scratched his curly head.  “That’s why he kept ya here to work.  They usually send us away when we hit fourteen.  You’re lucky.  You got a job.”

“Yeah,” she groaned. “Real lucky.”     

“What’s wrong, Mary.”  Young Jed gave a moué of concern.  “I like ya.  I wanna help.”

“You like me because I give ya an extra helpin’ in the refectory.”

“Sure, I like that, but I don’t like to see ya cry, Mary.  Does he say mean things to ya?  Why do ya always come out cryin’ after he calls ya into his office?”

The tears started streaming down her face.  “You’re too young, Jed.  Just leave me alone.”

“What has bein’ young got to do with it?  What does he do to make ya cry every single time?”

“Aaargh!  Just leave me alone,” Mary made to stand, but her heel got caught on her hem and she slid ineffectually back down the wall until she crumpled at the bottom like a broken doll.  She dropped her head heavily back against it and started to sob; the gut-wrenching, heart-felt, hopelessness of the used and the trapped.

“Mary,” young Jed persisted.  “What’s wrong?”

“Leave her be,” the voice of his older cousin behind him caused Jed to swung around.

“Why?” The blue eyes glittered pugnaciously.  “I get sick of everyone treatin’ me like a kid.  What’s goin’ on?”

Hannibal Heyes sighed deeply and shook his head.  “He makes her do things, Jed.  Things she doesn’t want to do.”    
“Is that true, Mary?”  Jed stared at the girl who dropped her head in shame.  “What does he make ya do?”

“The kinda things the men did to your ma that day, Jed,” the dark eyes burned intensely through the shadows which failed to mask his ire, “’cept he keeps her alive so he can keep doin’ it.”

“Then we’ll tell someone,” the youngest boy nodded determinedly.  “Someone’ll help.”

“Nobody’ll help,” Mary’s sudden calmness was more disturbing than her despair.  “Nobody cares.  He’s an important man.  He works for the church and everyone respects him,” Mary’s bitter laugh was almost a sob, “and his wife...”
“We need to get you outta here, Mary,” Hannibal started to pace the corridor.  “Jed’n me have been planning that for months.  We’ll take you with us, Mary.  Ya don’t have to stay here. “

She turned a disbelieving stare on the boys.  “Yeah, it’s that easy, huh?  You can’t just head off with no money and nowhere to go.  It ain’t that simple.”

Hannibal stopped pacing and gave her a long, hard look.  “What if I told you we’ve got money?  We can go anywhere we want.  It ain’t enough to set you up for life, but it’ll get you somewhere else.  The West is full of jobs.  Folks come from all over the world to get a new start and most of ‘em don’t even speak English.  If they can do it, so can we.”

“You?”  Her tainted mirth turned into a strangled chortle.  “How could you get money?  It takes more than a few cents saved here and there.”

Hannibal walked over and helped her to her feet.  “It’s more than a few cents, Mary.”  His face dimpled with devilment.  “I’ve been sneakin’ into his office and I’ve managed to get the safe open twice.  I’ve been practising.  He keeps the money in there.  He pays folks outta the box he keeps in there and I’m gonna take it.”

Mary gave a gasp as the audacity of the idea but Hannibal pressed on, holding her gaze with mesmerising eyes all the while.  “It ain’t stealin, Mary.  You work in the kitchen for little more than food and board.  They got us boys doin’ carpentry and farm work, even lendin’ us out for pay from dawn.  We get nothin’ for it.  They owe us, Mary.  It’s taking back what they took from us.  They’re supposed to teach us and get us a trade; I heard Fredrickson tell that to folks to get them to donate, but we’re just cheap labour.”

She caught her breath.  “We can’t...” 

“We can,” mischief danced in the smile.  “They use us as slave labour and...” Hannibal’s eyes softened.  “They use us any way they want.  We deserve a fresh start.”  He reached out and stroked the top of her arm.  “All of us.  We’re goin’ tomorrow night.  You can come too.  What d’ya say, Mary?”  She looked deeply into the deep, dark eyes which beckoned with promise and felt something change.  For the first time in her life she was experiencing the notion that it didn't have to be this way.  The seeds of hope made her heart flutter and leap.  “All you gotta do is be packed and ready by the back door at nine,” Hannibal smiled.

Her eyes widened.  “But that’s after lights out.”

Hannibal nodded.  “That’s the idea, Mary.”  His hand slipped gently into hers.  “He won’t touch you again.  We’ll catch a train west and you can find a job out there as an independent woman.  You’ll never see him again.”

Her face turned to his.  “Can we?” she whispered.  “Do we dare?”


oooOOOooo



Leaving Devil’s Hole

“Where are we goin’?” Jack turned to the two men riding either side of him in turn.  “Are ya takin’ me to my real pa?”

“We told you, Jack.  We don’t know who your real pa is.  Didn’t she tell anyone his name?”  Heyes carefully scanned the horizon beyond the Devil’s Hole for risks.  “She must’ve said something.”

“Like I said, all she told me was that you two shared a secret with her and that you were like family.  She never told me my pa’s name so I thought one of you might be him.”  Jack urged Billy the mule forward.  “She got all kinda misty when she talked about you two.”    

“We ain’t seen your ma since school.  We were friends is all, I wasn’t much older than you are now the last time I saw Mary.  I always remember her as real kind.  I was real scared when I arrived there and she was the only one who looked after me,” the Kid shot a glance at Heyes, “except for Heyes.  It’s been a real long time since I saw your ma but she was one of the best people I ever met.”

Jack mulled on this for a few minutes.  “What about the menu?  She said she kept it because you’d used it.  It was special to her.” 

“I gotta be honest.  Your Ma wasn’t much more than a girl the last time we saw her.  If she was a waitress in a fancy place we might not have recognised her as a full-grown woman, dressed all fancy and clean.  I’d have loved to have her come and say hello, but she never came near us, Jack,” the Kid looked straight into the boy’s eyes, “truly she didn’t.  We never saw her after school.”

The boy nodded sullenly.  “So, you just get rid of me?  Why can’t I stay?  I could learn to be an outlaw.”

“Nope,” Heyes shook his head firmly.  “Your ma was a good, honest woman.  She’d skin me alive if I let you become anything less than a credit to her.  I’m not getting rid if you; I sending you to a friend in San Francisco who’s gonna make sure you get a good education and have the future she’d want for you.”

“Yup, and we’ll be checkin’.  We may not be your pa, but we are kinda family.  Think of us as uncles who’ll make sure your ma gets what she wanted for you.”  The Kid nodded, firmly.  “My pa told me that the best way to be a good father is to love his wife.  We loved your ma like a sister, Jack.  You ain’t gonna be allowed to turn into men like us, we’re gonna make sure of it.” 

“The note,” Jack asked.  “How’d you know it was from her if’n you’d never met her since school?”

“Because she wrote the name of the school along with the name of man she hated, Jack.  We never forgot about him.  Not to this day.”  Heyes’ jaw clenched.  “Maybe while we’re out of the Hole we could pay him a visit.  It’s good to remember people who changed your life, huh, Kid?”
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EvaHanley

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PostSubject: Re: Crossing The Line   Tue Jul 22, 2014 11:19 am

A missing scene from The McCreedy Bust. How did Heyes come up with his plan to get back at Big Mac after loosing their pay at his poker table ?



Abandoning any pretence of trying to sleep, Heyes carefully rose from the shared bed and walked silently towards the window. The dim moonlight hardly allowed him to distinguish the dusty buildings along the main street of Red Rock, but that didn't matter. He looked without really seeing, his mind fixated on the contents of Armendariz’s safe.


In front of the open door, and with the bust already tucked in the burlap sack, he couldn’t resist pulling the black jewel box out to contemplate the sparkling stones and the elegant goldsmith craftsmanship. He took in the heavy necklace and the ornate bracelets; his gaze caressed the sumptuous earrings; his eyes lingered, hypnotized, over the precious cameo. They were available, in plain sight, all his for the taking. But he didn’t do that anymore, this line had been crossed last month in Porterville. He was there to recover stolen property; the rest was now off limits. Or was it?


Facing him, the Kid was handling a thick wad of banknotes, looking equally dejected. Boy, this was hard! A fortune in valuables, and they were expected to put them back in the safe, like honest, law-abiding citizens. He was not sure that law-abiding citizens would really put back the loot in the safe if they were given the opportunity to hold it in their hands. Then again, law-abiding citizens would not normally have that opportunity, would they? 


When they returned the booty to the safe and he swung the door closed he was neither pleased with himself nor proud. He instead felt weary, as if he were recovering from a long illness. And now? Now he felt like an utter fool, a complete idiot. He had held enough money to see them through the winter and beyond, and he had given it up to chase after rainbows. He had wanted to play it straight and he had been tricked into McCreedy’s trap and out of their wage for the job. 


What a moron! He had fallen for this man’s scam, had been reduced to accepting his handout, had had to endure his banker friend’s roaring laughter. In his outlaw days nobody would have dared laugh at him like that, not if they knew what was good for them. In his outlaw days nobody would have dared fleece him like that either. And now? He had to lay low and smile grateful thanks to the pathetic handful of dollars the baron gave out before sending them on their way. 

Never mind having to live from hand to mouth, he hoped they wouldn't have to put up with more humiliations like this while waiting for their amnesty. Even if he'd padded himself with the extra money from Armendariz's safe, he'd have probably lost it anyway to his certainty of holding the better hand. 


He had been so sure about the odds; that's what had lost him and that's how he could give McCreedy a run for his money : play the odds. Swallowing the bitter taste in his mouth, he even knew who would give him the opportunity to turn the tables. That uproaring banker had really enjoyed himself this evening. He would only welcome another hoot.


He moved swiftly to the bed and shook Curry's shoulder. "Kid ? You're awake ? There's still a way to get our money back".
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Gringa

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PostSubject: Re: Crossing The Line   Tue Jul 22, 2014 4:59 pm

MAP told me that people were asking for me in chat and prodded me to give her another story.  This is the result


Crossing The Line




“A night out with your old friends?” Annabelle smiled brightly at her husband.  “Where are you going?”


“Dunno,” the Kid shrugged, adjusting his tie in the mirror.  “Just out.  A few drinks, maybe a meal.”


“Who’s going?”


“Dunno.  It just depends how many turn up.”


“Men, “Annabelle folded her arms.  “You’d think this would have been arranged ages ago if it’s a special occasion.”


“We did for a few years, but you know what men are like.  We’re kinda spontaneous.”


“Disorganised, more like.”  Annabelle straightened her husband’s collar.  


“See ya later, honey,” he dropped a kiss on his wife’s cheek.  “I’ll probably be late.”


Annabelle smiled knowingly.  “Yes, and merry.”


“Yeah, well it is something to celebrate.  I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the amnesty.  It’s the fifteenth anniversary,” he frowned, “or is it the sixteenth?”


“Fifteenth.  Tell them all I’m asking for them, will you?” she waved before she closed the door behind him to shut out the biting cold.


“Sure, Annie,“ Jed Curry wandered into the night muttering under his breath.  “When will women ever learn that men never tell their friends that?  It ain’t a sewin’ bee I’m goin’ to.”


~~~~~~~~


Jed Curry pushed against the batwing doors and grinned at the men clustering around the bar.  Lom clutched a mug of foaming beer in his hands, deep in conversation with Brubaker.  The way the men threw their heads back and laughed in unison made it obvious they had just shared a joke, one which Burbaker was keen to share with the cowboy beside him.   Where was Heyes?


The tap on his shoulder quickly confirmed that his cousin was behind him.  “Stop blocking the door, Kid.  Some of us have some celebrating to do.”


The fair-haired man turned.  “Sure have.  Fifteen years, huh?”


Heyes frowned.  “I thought it was sixteen.”


“That’s what I thought, but Annabelle says it’s fifteen,” the Kid shrugged.  “She’s probably right.  Women are better at rememberin’ dates than men.”


“Yeah, fifteen years, huh?  Have you ever wondered what would have happened if it hadn’t come through, Kid?”


There was a glimmer of deep mischief in the blue eyes as the ex-gunman replied.  “Jail.  Definitely jail...”


Fifteen Years Earlier


Darkness crowned the large house on the top of the hill.  The gathering clouds were thick and black and obscured the weak moon trying to fight through the cloak of murk.  It was a perfect night for subterfuge and larceny; it was perfect for Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry to do what needed to be done.       


The blade of the knife slipped along the sash window, releasing the catch and allowing deft fingers to slide the window open.  A long leg draped over the sill.  They were in.


Two figures ghosted across the drawing room, into the hallway and up the graceful staircase which spiralled towards the upper floor.  The silver conchos on the hatband caught a shredded moonbeam which had fought through the cloud and the landing window as the pair stopped outside a bedroom door.  There was a silhouette of a gun being drawn before a doorknob was carefully turned.


It was easy to identify the slumbering figure in the bed from the blowing, snorting and grunting from the hump on the mattress.  The pair stopped dead as the walrus sucked in a series of throaty rattles and turned over.  The squeaks from the protesting springs screeched through the night along with the humming and hawing of someone settling back down to sleep.  Both men waited until the in-out saw of the breathing resumed before a silent nod signalled the renewed creep towards the sleeping quarry.


A gloved hand clamped over the man’s mouth and pushed him onto his back.  The metallic click of a gun accompanied the dark-brown voice which whispered in his ear.  “Not one sound, Mr. Governor.  My friend here has a gun pointed straight at your head.  We’re gonna gag you and take you out of here.  If you make as much as a squeak you’re a dead man; on the other hand, if you do exactly as you’re told you’ll get out of this with no more than a bit of ruffled dignity.  If you understand, nod.”


Heyes felt the man’s head move under his hand.  “Good.  Now open your mouth.  I’m gonna stuff it full.  Not one sound.”


~~~~~~~~~~


The Governor blinked as the pillow case was dragged from his head, his grey hair standing upright in tufts from the kerfuffle.  Not that he could smooth it down, not with his hands tied behind his back.  Kid Curry closed the door to the cabin and leaned with his back against it, his drawn gun in nestled in his folded arms.  


“Sit down,” Heyes ordered, pushing the man into a seat.  “We’re in the middle of nowhere so you can shout your head of as much as you like.  There’s nobody to hear you but us.  We’ll be as nice to you as you deserve, so choose your actions wisely; but I hope to have a civilised conversation with you.  Now I’m going to take that gag off.”  A joyless smile made the dark eyes all the more menacing.  “Pleasantries begin right away.”


“Phleeeaah!”  The Governor spat out the wadded fabric and eyed the glass being held up to him suspiciously.


“It’s water,” there was nothing solicitous in Heyes’ tone.  “Take it or leave it.  I could care less.”


 “Do you know who we are?” asked the Kid, almost casually.


The man gulped hungrily at the water before he shook his head.  “I’ve never seen you before in my life.”


Heyes sat opposite his prisoner.  “My name is Hannibal Heyes and that man smiling so warmly at you by the door; that’s Kid Curry.”  Heyes raised a brow at the realisation settling in the older man’s eyes.  “We’ve done a lot of work for you and your predecessors.  A whole lot of work.”


“For no pay,” the Kid added.


“None at all,” Heyes agreed.  “Not even when it was messy, dangerous or borderline illegal.”


“Six years we worked for you, in exchange for the promise of an amnesty after two,” the gunman’s eyes glittered dangerously.  “Now I ain’t the clever one, but even I can work out that’s three times longer than we were promised.”


“What do you want?  You surely don’t think I can give amnesty to men who just kidnapped me!?”


The partners exchanged a wry smile.  “Kidnapped?  You agreed to come with us.  You nodded.”  Heyes propped his feet on the table and swung back in his chair.  “You might have gathered that we’re tendering our resignation.”


“We ain’t doin’ your dirty work for you anymore,” added the Kid.


The Governor nodded.  “Fine.  I understand.”  He twisted his bound hands behind his back.  “Now take me home.”


Heyes and Curry shared a lingering look before a chuckle rolled between them.  “Yeah, it’s that simple, Governor.  You and yours treat us like junk yard dogs, setting us on anyone who gets in your way.  You give nothing but a promise.”  Heyes tilted back in his chair.  “Your hands are dirtier than most and your jobs are real murky.  We’ve had enough.”     


 “Yes,” the white head nodded.  “You resign; I got that.  I give you my word that you will not be bothered by another mission.”


“Your word?”  Heyes grave, dark eyes pinned the man.  “We were promised amnesty six years ago.  Your word means squat.”


“That’s why we want paid.  We need something real in our hands before you go anywhere,” growled the Kid.  


“I’m in my nightshirt,” barked the Governor.  “I can’t give you anything.”


“He’s got a point, Heyes,” the Kid agreed with arched brows, “but then there ain’t any pockets in a shroud either.”


“You never killed anyone,” the man spluttered.  “You won’t kill me.”


The blue eyes narrowed.  “We never killed anyone in a robbery, Governor.  Take a look around you.  This ain’t a robbery.”


The older man gulped hard.  “What d’you want?”


“We worked as operatives for you for six years,” Heyes replied.  “We never got a penny for it, but we worked for a promise of freedom.  “That sounds a mite like slavery to me; or some kind of forced labour.  I thought that was abolished.”


“You want money?” he blustered.  “I’ll get you money.”


“Yeah,” the Kid smirked.  “’Cos we can trust you.  Do you take us for fools?”


“You bring me out here, wherever that is, and expect me to produce money out of thin air?”  The Governor pulled back his shoulders defiantly.  “You sure aren’t bright.”


Heyes pursed his lips.  “I’ve got to agree that we haven’t been too sharp.  We should have taken control of the situation much sooner.  Better late than never, huh?”  He stood and walked over to the corner where a carpet bag sat in the shadows.  “Recognise this?  We took the bag from your home.”


The Governor’s eyebrows furrowed.  “No.  Do you think I do my own packing?  I have people for that.”


“Yeah, you’ve got people for just about everything,” Heyes opened the bag, “we do our own dirty work, but you’re finding that out, aren’t you, Governor?”  He pulled out a buff folder.  “Anything familiar yet?”


The Governor’s eyes widened but he remained silent.


“I reckon he’s seen that file before, Heyes.  Try him with the cash.”


“Cash?” his face turned puce as stacks of notes bound by a paper band were placed on the table.  


“Yeah, that’s an awful lot of money to keep at home,” Heyes grinned.  “Did you forget that I can crack safes?”


“I’ll see you locked up until your dying day,” the furious man snarled.


“You probably will,” Heyes nodded, “seeing as you’ll be right in there with us.”


“Rubbish.”


Heyes flicked open the file.  “You shouldn’t have left this evidence lying about, Governor.  I take it you remember the Rock Springs Riot?  The authorities had a policy of paying Chinese workers less, so white men weren’t hired as much.  There are minutes to a meeting in there showing that you’re on the board of a company who deliberately shipped in the Chinese to drive down labour costs and reduce the wages for all miners.  Now what do you think the electorate would think of that if it got out?”


“I went to Rock Springs and tried to protect the Chinese.  I sent for federal troops.  Who’s going to believe a pair of blackmailing criminals?”


“Blackmail?  Think of this as negotiation,” Heyes reiterated, “and you might be surprised by what we’ve got.  Let’s see what else is in here,” he sorted through a few more pages.  “Ah, yes; livestock and mercantiles.”  Heyes’ eyes lit up.  “Miners need to be fed.  You used your power as a business man to make sure that your produce was all they could buy at the company shops, and the prices sure weren’t what you could call competitive.”


“Company stores are commonplace.  Small companies don’t want the responsibility of transporting the goods to remote areas.”


“Don’t want it or don’t get the chance,” the Kid demanded.


Heyes pulled out another piece of paper.  “And a certain company always seemed to know where to put the money into the next hotel in its chain,” cynical dark eyes glared at the Governor, “but they would, wouldn’t they?  The Governor always knew where the railway was planning to go next and he held a controlling share of the hotel chain.  He also knew where to buy up land before it was wanted by the railway.  Great way to make a quick profit, inside knowledge,” Heyes’ most innocent smile sparkled at his prisoner, “that’s why I always try to make sure I have some of that before I do anything.”


The partners watched the man simmer with doubts and fear.  “Get to the point.  What do you two want?”


“We want to offer you a choice, Governor,” the Kid’s stillness echoed a snake ready to strike.  “You sign a piece of paper for us or we go to a newspaper man we know and hand all this over to him,” he paused, “as well as your political rivals.”


“Sign?  Sign what?”


“Our amnesties,” Heyes pulled out a document and placed it on the table.  


“I can’t just sign that.  It needs witnesses and the like.”


“You let us worry about that,” Heyes grinned.  “They’re already witnessed, see?”


The Governor screwed up his eyes.  “Hotchkiss and Rembacker?  Who are they?”


“Our witnesses,” the Kid’s frowned in faux shock.  “You surely didn’t expect us to kidnap anyone else, did you?  That’d be wrong.”


“But you’d better believe they’ll swear or a stack of bibles that you signed this amnesty of your own free will,” Heyes added.


“Not only that, we’re going to hold onto these documents and if you so much as frown when our amnesty is mentioned, they’re goin’ straight to anyone who can cause you maximum damage.”  Heyes folded his arms and stood in front of the furious man.  “What’s it to be, Governor?  A signature or ruin and prison?”


“You realise that a signature under duress isn’t legal?”


Heyes nodded.  “I’ll take my chances.  I reckon it’s better than no signature at all and I’m not gonna be embarrassed by any legal arguments about whether you meant to sign it or not.”


“I doubt he will be either, Heyes,” the Kid nodded over to the bound man.  “He’ll be too busy answerin’ questions about corruption and why he never gave us the amnesty earlier.  I bet you won’t want us lettin’ slip a few details of the jobs you’ve had us do either, huh?”


“This is outrageous,” the Governor snarled. 


“Yup,” Heyes drew his knife.  “Now, are you going to sign or do we read about your political decline in some South American newspaper?”


“Fine!  I’ll sign.”


“I thought you might,” Heyes reached over and sliced through the man’s bonds.  “I’ll get you a pen and some ink.”


The ex-outlaw stood over his prisoner directing him exactly where to sign with a long finger.  Once completed Heyes snatched up the documents and blew the ink dry and handed a copy to the politician.


“So what now?” the Governor looked uneasily around the cabin.


The outlaws shrugged.  “You’re free to go.”


“But I’m barefoot and in no more than a nightshirt.  You took me from my bed!”


“You’re a mile from home,” chuckled the Kid.  “We rode about a bit before we stopped.  You can make it.”


“But how?  My feet’ll be torn to ribbons.”


“Use your initiative.  There are sacks in the corner.”


The Governor’s eyes narrowed.  “My money.  You’ve got my money!”


The Kid shook his head.  “We’ve got our money.  It’s payment for six years of jobs along with a bit extra to ensure our silence.”


“Goodbye, Governor,” Heyes cheeks dimpled with devilment.  “Let’s hope we never have to find you again, huh?”




~~~~~~~~~~
        


Heyes and Curry looked across the bar at their old friends and grinned simultaneously.  “Beer?”


The Kid draped an arm around his cousin’s shoulder.  “Sure.  A man’s got to believe in something.  I believe I’ll enjoy myself tonight.”


Heyes slapped the bar to get the barman’s attention.  “Drinks all round, Stan.  Here’s to a night we probably won’t remember with friends we’ll never forget.  Fifteen years, huh?”


The Kid nodded.  “Yeah,” he dropped his voice to a whisper.  “We really crossed the line that night.  D’ya ever wonder what would have happened if we hadn’t.”


“Estaríamos pidiendo cerveza en Español.” 


“Huh?”  The Kid looked blankly at his cousin


“I said, we would be asking for beer in Spanish, Kid.”


“You’ve been savin’ that, ain’t ya, Heyes.”


“For two weeks, Kid.”  Heyes lifted a foaming beer to his lips.  “You know how I like my plans.”  




Historical Notes


Governor Francis E. Warren resigned from his post in 1886, and was briefly replaced George Baxter White, due to business irregularities.  His reputation was not permanently damaged and he was voted in again in 1889. 


 
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PostSubject: Crossing the Line   Tue Jul 22, 2014 9:10 pm

The bunkhouse was rocking with Hank's special distilled whiskey and Kyle's family recipe for 'bourbon and beans' extra spicy.  The boys were having a good ole' time and their laughter and cajoling over their most recent 'job well done' could be heard all the way to the leader's cabin.

“I swear that was the easiest bank job we done in ages!”  Hank hollered as he slapped his half empty glass down on the hard wood.  Contents splattered into the air and sloshed onto the already gummy surface of the table top.

“You got that right,”  Kyle agreed through his mouthful of chaw and beans.  “Them folks was just bendin' over backwards ta' help us inta' that safe.”

“Heyes done a good job on this one,”  Lobo added from his corner.  “Even you gotta admit it Wheat; it was easy pickin's and a big pay off.”

Wheat snorted.  “Even that runt is gonna get lucky on occasion.”

This snipe was met with another round of uproarious laughter and Wheat was plastered with an onslaught of back slaps and another mug full of whiskey.

“C'mon Wheat,”  Hank chided him.  “That whole job was pure genius—even you gotta admit that.”

“Fine,”  Wheat finally conceded, his usual resentment towards his boss becoming blurred along with his vision.  He raised his glass and emitted a loud burp.  “To Hannibal Heyes; the boy genius who might eventually grow up to be a real outlaw!”

More laughter and back slapping, but everyone smashed mugs and glasses together and drank what didn't get sloshed onto the floating table.

Preacher pushed himself to his feet and helping himself to the jug first he then made the rounds and topped up everyone else's receptacles.  Preacher swayed and bumped into chairs but he still managed to pour out an equal share to all, including the floor, but then stopped when he got to Charlie.  He plunked the jug down on the table and while oscillating in his tracks, pointed an accusing finger at the gang member who was still waiting for his glass to be re-filled.

“You cross the line there though, didn't ya' Charlie?”  Preacher accused him.

“What do ya' mean?”  Charlie played the innocent though his eyes sparkled with the devil.  “I didn't do nothin'!”

More uproarious laughter and accusing fingers pointing his way.

“Aw c'mon!”  Charlie protested  “That was just fer fun.”  He smiled and poured his own drink from the jug.  “Got myself a real nice payback for it too.”

“Yeah well don't be surprised if Heyes don't see it that way,”  Wheat cautioned him.  “Believe me, he don't like nobody steppin' out on their own durin' one 'a his 'well laid out plans'.”

Charlie tossed back his drink and poured himself another.

“I'm thinkin' it's time ta' move on anyways,”  he announced and downed the next cup full.

Preacher scowled and grabbed the jug before Charlie could polish the whole thing off himself.  Charlie's little announcement was met with a chorus of protests.

“What do ya' mean; movin' on?”  Kyle whined.  “We ain't had this much fun since ole' Red Man left the gang.”

“Yeah,”  Hank agreed.  “You're real good company, Charlie.  What ya' wanna go 'movin' on' fer?”

Charlie shrugged and went to grab for the jug only to realize that it had found its way to the other side of the table with Preacher protectively guarding it.

“I ain't got nothin' agan' you fellas,”  Charlie assured them.  “Hell, I really like Heyes and the Kid too and they sure done me a good turn lettin' me join on here.  Give me a chance to get on my feet, ya' know?  But I wanna have some fun a'for I die!”  His eyes lit up and he grinned in anticipation.  “Heyes and the Kid just run too tight a ship for me, that's all.”

“Yeah, but they get us good hauls,”  Kyle pointed out.  “You ain't gonna do no where near as good on yer own.”

“Sometimes bein' yer own boss is worth a cut in pay,”  Charlie surmised.  “Besides, I won't be on my own fer long.  There's some fellas over in Colorado who kinda' fit me better.  They may not run as tight a ship, or bring in as big a haul but they sure do have fun doin' it!”

“A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do,”  Wheat slurred.  “And you sure got the goods on Heyes.  Bloody dictator if'n ya' ask me.  A fella can't even have his own opinion around here without...”

“Well why don't you come with me Wheat?”  Charlie suggested eagerly.  “All I ever heard you do was grip about Heyes.  Why don't ya' come where we can have some real fun?”

Kyle was drunk, but not so drunk as to miss the implications of that offer.  He sent a worried look over to his partner, but Wheat was instantly shuffling and trying to back step.

“Oh, ah...no thanks there Charlie,”  he mumbled.  “I may not like Heyes much but I'm kinda' dug in here.  You know how it is....”

“Yeah I sure do.”

Charlie raised his empty glass pointedly towards the Preacher.  Preacher scowled, but given this new announcement he begrudgingly scooted the jug over so Charlie could pour himself another.  That done, he raised his glass in a toast.

“Here's ta' findin' the right fit!”  he announced.  “God loves a fool—don't he Preacher.”

xxx

The next morning Heyes was up early and pacing the common room of the leader's cabin.  He'd made coffee and was already onto his third cup as he tried to decide how to deal with this current situation. He liked Charlie—a lot.  He was good natured and no coward, that's for sure and he added a lot of comic relief to the gang when everyone else was feeling bored and frustrated.  That counts for a lot.

Unfortunately he was too much of a clown, he just didn't seem to know when to shut off the fun and games.  He was going to get the gang into trouble one of these times and this last job had almost become 'that time'.  Heyes sighed and shook his head.  He hated this part of being leader.  He didn't like to cut a man loose especially when it was just for being too easy going.  But this time Charlie really had blatantly disobeyed orders and Heyes simply could not let him keep getting away with it.

That settled it.  Heyes put his coffee cup down, ran his hands through his hair and turned towards the door of the cabin.  He was brought up short by a quiet knocking on that same said door and his brow creased in mild confusion.

“Yes?”

The door opened quietly and Charlie's smiling face poked in.

“Howdy Heyes,”  he greeted the leader.  “Mind if I come in fer a spell?”

“Sure Charlie, come on in.  Want some coffee?”

“Naw.  I just wanna get this said and done if'n ya' don't mind.”

“Well,”  Heyes shrugged.  “Have a seat.”

Charlie pulled out a chair and sat down while Heyes did the same.

Charlie grinned over at him again.  “I bet you was workin' yerself up ta' come and tell me you was lettin' me go, weren't ya'?”

“Oh.”  Heyes smiled dropped and he looked slightly embarrassed at having been found out.  “Yeah well, you are kind of pushing your luck there Charlie.  And what's worse; you're pushing the luck of the gang too.  You just can't keep on doing the things you've been doing and not expect there to be consequences.”

“Aw, you know me Heyes,”  Charlie shrugged.  “I don't mean nothin' by it; it's just all in fun.”

“But that's the whole point,”  Heyes countered.  “This isn't for fun; this is a business.  It could mean the difference of surviving the winter or not.”

“And that's why I've decided I'm gonna head on out,”  Charlie informed him.  “Workin' fer you is too much like havin' a real job.  You got so many dang rules that fellas gotta stick to.”

“Charlie, leaving your post to go rob the mercantile while we're right in the middle of taking down the bank isn't just breaking the rules, it's lacking common sense!”

Charlie grinned.  “Yeah, but I got me a whole extra $50.00 outa it AND a kiss and tickle with the grocer's pretty daughter!”

“Who instantly started screaming and got the attention of the whole town!”

“Yeah!”  Charlie agreed whole-heartedly.  “Ya' couldn't 'a asked for a better diversion.”

“I didn't need a diversion!”  Heyes snapped back.  “I had that heist planned right down to a quiet, casual, diversion free saunter out of town.  That girl's high pitched screaming brought attention that we didn't need.”  Heyes calmed down but shook his head in regret.  “I'm sorry Charlie.  You're gonna have to....”

“That's why I've decided to leave,”  Charlie cut him off.  “You're a stick in the mud Heyes;  You just ain't no fun at all.  I really appreciate you and the Kid takin' me in when I was down on my luck but this really ain't a good fit for me and we both know it.”

Heyes sat and looked at the grinning face for a moment.  Then he smiled himself and nodded, deciding to let Charlie take the high road here.

“Alright Charlie.  Sure you don't want a coffee before you go?”

“Naw.  I already got my gear together.”  The two men stood up and shook hands.  “I'll just be on my way.”

“Okay,”  Heyes agreed.  “Take care of yourself—and try to stay out of trouble.”

Charlie grinned.  “But where's the fun in that?”

xxx

Charlie trotted down the steps of the leader's cabin and with a great weight now lifted off his shoulders, he headed over towards the barn to get his horse ready for travel.

“O'Rourke!”

Charlie stopped and a grin came to his face yet again when he spied the Kid coming towards him from the bunk house.

“The boys tell me you're movin' on.”

“Yeah,”  Charlie conceded.  “I sure have learned a lot from ridin' with you fellas but, let's face it.  I ain't really fittin' in here.”

“Yeah well,”  Jed extended his hand for shaking.  “Can't say ya' weren't fun ta' have around but Heyes do like ta' run a tight ship.”

“Yeah.  I'll be seein' ya' around Kid.”

“Yep.  Oh and Charlie?  You be careful out there.  One of these times you're gonna step so far over that line it's gonna wind up costin' ya' your life.”

Charlie smiled.  “Yeah, you're probably right.”
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PostSubject: Re: Crossing The Line   Thu Jul 24, 2014 1:48 pm

Crossing The Line


The movement of the train gathered as it trundled faster and faster away from the boys who struggled to keep up in their charity boots.  The fair-haired urchin felt his breeches slip over his skinny hips and let slip the bag of apples he carried in a hurried choice between hunger and dignity.  The older lad made a leap, catching the freight car with tight little hands.  The feet scrabbled and fought to keep up to the locomotion gaining speed with every minute.  One last leap and he caught hold of the handle, using it to drag his feet off the ground until he flopped, belly-first inside the car.


He scrambled to his feet and stretched his arm out to his little cousin, panting and puffing desperately in his efforts to keep up.  “Jed!  Give me your hand.”


The younger boy looked up at the hand and increased his pace as fast as his little legs could pump.  His left hand reached out to his cousin as he sniffed back the caustic tears which burned at the back of his throat.  Not now!  He didn’t have time to cry.  All his energy had to go into catching his cousin’s hand.  His breath came in great rasping gasps as his jog turned into a sprint.  One leap and the fingers touched, but it wasn’t enough; the train continued to pick up speed and carried the reaching hand out of grasp.  


“Han!  Don’t leave me, Han.”


The puffing and chuffing continued, covered by the screeching scream of the whistle announcing the departure of the train from another station.  The younger boy could barely hear the shout of his cousin.  “Jed!  Come on.  Ya gotta take my hand or it’ll be too late.”


Little Jed ran with all his might; the effort was a heart-pumping, leg-pounding, foot-slamming sprint.  The tears pricked at his eyes as the whistle ripped at his ears and the wind whipped at his legs.  He jumped – and his hand caught Hannibal’s.  The overworked heart leaped with relief as older boy’s fingers curled around his.  Hannibal pulled with all his might and young Jed’s feet rose from the stony ground.  “Gotcha.”


“Noo!” Jed felt the hold slip and his feet scuff back on the ground as the skin slid through his grasp.  The fingers slipped over the knuckles to the fingernails until Jed tumbled face first onto the gravel.  He looked up at the departing vehicle and the thin face still reaching out to him as the train chugged off into the distance.  “Han,” Jed cried, the tears cutting through the dust on his face, “Han.  What will I do on my own?”
      
Jed caught his breath at the sight of the flash of dark hair atop the scruffy clothes which tumbled from the train.  Over and over the bundle rolled and spilled down the rough embankment until it came to a stop against a thicket of rough shrubs.  


“Han?”  Jed found his shaky feet, and ignoring his scraped and bleeding knee, he scampered over to the still figure, lying like a broken doll a few yards away.  He dropped to his knees and clutched at the chest, shaking it and pulling at it in horror.  “Han, what am I gonna do without ya?  Wake up, Han.  Oh, wake up.”


“Ya didn’t think I’d leave ya, did ya?”  There was a groan and the bundle stared to move.  “Jed, if we’re gonna make a go of this and not get sent back to Valparaiso we’ll need to get a whole lot better at this real fast.”


“Ya did that on purpose?”  Young Jed sniffed back tears of relief.  “Maybe we’d better start with that one over there, on the other side of the tracks.  I don’t think we’re big enough to keep up with the movin’ trains.”


Hannibal nodded, sitting up tentatively.  “Yeah, but let’s find one with lots of straw.  I ain’t up for sittin’ on a hard wooden floor for a bit. 
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PostSubject: Re: Crossing The Line   Sun Jul 27, 2014 1:21 pm

When I saw the prompt I thought, "What crosses the line more than a Mary-Sue?  I know!  A Mary-Sue who crosses the line..."  This is the result.  Please forgive me.




Fifty Shades Of Curry


Kid Curry’s eyes flickered open and slid sideways to the blonde lying beside him.  Her hair stretched out over the pillows in rich golden waves, framing a heart-shaped face.  He propped himself up on his elbow and stared down at the almost perfect face; the nose was maybe just a little too pointed to be a regular, everyday goddess, but she looked damned good.  


But she was still asleep; awake, she was a nightmare.  No; she was more than that, she was positively weird.


It had been an odd night, but it had its moments where there’d been something in it for him.  He reckoned they were even.  He sat up with the stealth of a cat and slinked from the bed as quietly as possible.  He pulled on his clothes and considered leaving money but quickly dismissed it.  She wasn’t a prostitute and he didn’t want to insult her, but there was no way he was going to wake her with a kiss; not after last night.  He tried to think of a way he could leave her like a gentleman but came up blank.   He had to get out of here.




oooOOOooo




Expectant brown eyes looked up from a plate of eggs.  “Hi.  You look beat,” devilment danced in the smile.  “Good night?”


The Kid dragged out a chair and slumped into it.  “Yeah, I guess.”


“Ya guess?”  Heyes frowned.  “The last I saw you were heading off for a night with a delicious school teacher.”


“Yeah.”


Heyes waved for the waitress who bustled over with a menu and a coffee pot.  “I see...”


“Ya see nuthin’, Joshua.  Just leave it.”  The Kid buried his nose in the menu.  “Are the eggs good?”


“They’re eggs.  They’re scrambled or fried.”  Heye’s eyes narrowed.  “A bit like you.”


“Leave it, Heyes,” hissed his partner.


“What’s up with you?  You won.  You got to spend the night with the beautiful blonde.  She wasn’t interested in me, you should be crowing.”


“Yeah?   I’m great.  I’m crowin’ so much I can lay my own eggs,” The Kid dropped his hat on the table.  “I need coffee?”


“Cocks don’t lay eggs.”  Heyes sat back and stared at him quizzically.  “What’s up?”


“Nuthin’.”


The brown eyes narrowed.  “There is, I can always tell when something’s eating at you.  Let’s have it.”


“There’s nuthin’ wrong with me.  Just leave it will ya?”


“There’s no need to snap.”  Heyes smiled, annoyingly.  “I’m just looking out for you.”  He picked up his fork and consumed some more eggs while a hungry Kid gave his order to the waitress.  “It looked like she really liked you on the stagecoach.  When you didn’t come back to the room after you took her out to dinner I assumed that...”


“Yeah?” came the barked reply.


“That the evening went well?”


“It went fine.”


“Looks like it,” Heyes replied, archly.


“Look, I’m a gentleman.  I ain’t givin’ you any details.  It ain’t right.”  The Kid heaped a spoonful of sugar and dropped it into his coffee before stirring  it vigorously.  


“Sugar?”  The cheeks dimpled.  “You’re not hung over.  Use up a lot of energy last night?”


“Joshua, take a warning.”


“Something’s upset you.  I’m just trying to find out what.”


The Kid dropped his head.  “It was just a bad match is all.”


“A bad match?  So you just walk outta there.  It’s not hard.”


“It wasn’t that simple, Joshua.”  The blue eyes stared over the brim of a coffee cup.  “It was kinda, well...weird.”


“Weird?”


“Yeah,” the Kid leaned in towards his cousin and whispered conspiratorially.  “Have you ever done any strange stuff?”


Heyes frowned.  “Yeah.  It started the day you bounced into my life.  What are you talking about, Thaddeus.”


“With a woman,” the Kid hissed.  “Have you ever met a really strange one?”


“Yup, loads of them.  You’re not making any sense. ”


“Has a woman ever asked you to do stuff?”  A blushing Kid smiled up at the waitress who placed down a rack of toast.


“Stuff?  What get something off a high shelf?  Lift something heavy?”


“Not exactly.”  The Kid peered around the restaurant to see if anyone was listening.  “In the bedroom.  Has anyone asked you to do anything unusual?” 


Lights of laughter danced in the brown eyes.  “You mean in bed?”


“Not only in bed, but well; the whole house?”


The dimples got even deeper.  “What did she ask you to do?”


The Kid nodded at the waitress who placed bacon and eggs in front of him with a smile.  “She likes dime novels.  I guess she’s lives a borin’ life and lives through her imagination.”


“So she was keen?”  Heyes shrugged.  “That’s not a crime.”


“Yeah, keen...”  The Kid lifted his fork and started to eat pensively.


Heyes gave an exasperated snort.  “What’s eating you?  Either tell me or finish breakfast on your own.”


The Kid nodded.  “We had a real nice dinner; she was sweet and friendly so when she asked me to be discrete about slippin’ into her house so that nobody would see; I understood, and thought it was fine.”


Heyes nodded.  “She was being discrete?  It’s a small town and she has her reputation to think of?  That sounds reasonable.”


“Yeah.  That’s what I though.  I made a show of walking her to her gate, seein’ her inside and walkin’ away.  I even tipped my hat and wished a couple a good night to make sure I was seen leavin’, then I slipped down an alley and headed for her back door like she’d told me.”


“There’s nothing too strange so far.” 


“Just wait,” the Kid cut into his bacon.  “So I slide in through the back door just like she asked me to and she throws up her hands and yells that Kid Curry has just broken into her house.”


Heyes sat bolt upright.  “She knows us?  What did you do?”


“I had to act fast.  I had to shut her up.  I walked over and put my hand over her mouth.”  More breakfast was consumed, leaving an impatient Heyes to wait his turn before the Kid continued.  “Anyway, she’s laughing and enjoying me grabbing her so I let her go and she starts screaming again.”


“Huh?”


“I grabbed her again and told her that I wanted to know what was going on.  I guess she could tell I meant business so she told me she was havin’ some fun.”


“Fun?”


“Yeah,” the Kid nodded.  “She told me that she had a thing for Kid Curry and asked if I’d mind actin’ like I was him and had broken in.  She’d read everything she could find about him and had always had a fantasy.”


“Are you sure?  She really didn’t know?”


“Nope.  I looked deep into her eyes.  She didn’t have a clue.”


Doubt played in the brown eyes.  “What on earth...?”


“It was her fantasy to be swept off her feet by Kid Curry and ravished.  She could never act that out with a local man in case it got out, so it had to be someone passin’ through, and that just happened to be me.”


Heyes leaned back in his seat and groaned.  “Tell me you didn’t.”
                 
The Kid shrugged.  “She was real set on it, Joshua,” he chewed on a piece of bacon, “and you saw how pretty she was.”


“You can’t go around pretending to be...”Heyes dropped to a whisper, “Kid Curry.”


“She liked it,” the Kid shrugged.  “Nah, she loved it.”


“That’s not the point.  What if people put two and two together?”


“We were too busy puttin’ one and one together, Joshua,” the Kid smiled.  “I was real gentle.  Firm but kind.  She had the night of her life, but I was still a gentleman.”  


“So what’s eating you?”


“All these dime novels, Joshua.  Is that how I’m seen?  Do you know what she wanted me to do?  She wanted me to tie her up.  I wasn’t gonna go there, but do people think that’s what I’m like?”


“They’re only books.”


“Yeah, but people read them and think it’s the truth.  I’d never do that to a woman,” the blue eyes stabbed home the point with determination, “any woman.”


Heyes signalled with his head to be aware of someone approaching and dropped his napkin on the table as he stood.  “Miss Carmichael.  How lovely to see you.  Are you recovered from your coach journey?”


The blonde schoolteacher smiled at the Kid whose chair scrapped back as he leaped to his feet.  “No, please.  Call me Mary-Sue.  Mr. Jones?  I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed our dinner last night.”


“Well, I’m real glad you did,” shame flashed over his face.  “I don’t think I said goodbye properly.”


Her China-blue eyes burned at the object of her desire.  “You didn’t like to disturb me and that’s very sweet of you.”  She darted a curious look at Heyes.  “Did he tell you about our assignation last night?”


“Assignation?”  Heyes slipped into his most charming smile.  “He told me he had a lovely dinner.  Did you do anything else?”


Mary-Sue Carmichael seemed to be satisfied by this answer and turned back to the object of her affections.  “Mr. Jones, I know you said that you were just passing through, but I wondered if you would be in town again this evening?  Maybe we could...meet again?


“I dunno...” the Kid mumbled, doubtfully.  “Like I said, we’re on our way to a job.”


“Sure, we can stay another day,” Heyes grinned, mischievously.  “He can see you tonight, Miss Carmichael.”


The Kid glared at his cousin.  “We’ve gotta get on.”


“Sure we do,” Heyes nodded, “but it’ll wait.  You can’t disappoint a lovely lady like Miss Carmichael.”


“Then it’s settled.  Dinner at seven thirty?”  Mary-Sue clasped her hands in delight.  “I’ll think of nothing else all day.”


The Kid watched her bustle away before he stared daggers at Heyes.  “Me neither,” he muttered, bitterly.


“That makes three of us,” chortled Heyes.




oooOOOooo




The saloon doors clattered open and a belligerent Kid Curry strode into the bar room, his stiff shoulders and the harsh eyes glistening like gun metal signalling that he was on no mood for small talk.  He leaned on the bar and nodded curtly to the barman to bring him a shot glass.  


The glass was dropped in front of him and the bottle held over the receptacle.  “Bad night?”


“You want a bad night?” the Kid growled.  “Keep talking to me.”


“Hey, only I asked,” the barman poured the whiskey and strode off to see to another customer.  He gestured with his head to warn the dark-haired man approaching.  “Best steer clear, friend.  He’s a mean ‘un.”


“Yeah, I know, but he’s my cousin so I kinda gotta find out what’s up.”  


“Rather you than me,” the barman retorted.


Heyes leaned on the bar and eyed his partner curiously.  “I didn’t expect you in here.  I thought you’d have been back at Mary-Sue’s place by now.”


“Yeah, I was.”  The Kid threw back the last of his drink and slammed the glass on the counter.  “Hey, one more glass over here and leave the bottle.” 


“You were at her place?”  Heyes frowned.  “I know games aren’t your thing but she’s a real looker. Surely it’s worth meeting her half way.  It’s not like you don’t get a good time too.”


The blue eyes stared firmly ahead.  “She crossed the line, Joshua.”


“Huh?  It got worse?  How?”


“We had a real nice dinner; I walked her to her home and made a big show of leavin’; just like I did last night.”  The Kid took the bottle and poured out a drink for each of them.  “Then I snuck in the back.  I thought I knew what was comin’ next, so I thought I was prepared, but she went too far.”  He sipped at his drink.  “Way too far...”


“So, what could be worse than last night?” Heyes pressed.


The blue eyes, still whirling with anger, turned to stare at his partner.  “This time she wanted me to pretend to be Hannibal Heyes.”  




           
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Nancy Whiskey

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PostSubject: Re: Crossing The Line   Mon Jul 28, 2014 8:58 am

The Chinese man bent close, sniffing as he went.  Studying the prone figure.

“She is weak, I cannot promise to help.  Wait here and keep her cool.”  He gestured at the bowl of crystal clear water and the towel as he headed for the door.

He had been gazing contemplatively out of his herbalist shop as the girl collapsed.  Switching to action he had ushered the two startled men and the inert girl to the room behind his counter.

“What happened Thaddeus?”

“We were just talkin’.  She just gave a small gasp, and keeled over.”  Kid’s head shook, confused, concerned.

“She was giving you the eye.  C’mon, think.  Did you get her name?”  There was a muttered urgency in Heyes’ voice as he draped the wet towel over her forehead.  Damping the ash blond locks.

Only minutes before Curry had been happily flirting with her on an unremarkable street corner.  Irritation, masking rising frustration crept into Kid’s reply, “No dammit.  Is there a purse?"

Acting as one they searched the bodice, the sleeves, the folds of the skirt of the slight, pretty girl.  Nothing.

The ageless Oriental re-entered the room, bag in hand.  Picking up a small bottle and lifting her tongue gently he dripped two drops of a clear fluid into her mouth.

The cousin’s eyes met.  “What’s that?” Heyes could smell something that he could not place.

“It is a distilment of several plants.  An old remedy, it may clear her mind.”

“May?  That’s not good enough.  Help her.”  Curry cut back the as he watched a small clot of blood appear from one nostril.

The venerable one lifted the girl’s eyelids, put his ear to her chest and clasped her wrist.  Peering intensely, methodically examining his patient.  A small gasp, the faintest murmur.  The chest lifted, sank and was still.  The little colour she had drained from her face.

Curry’s speed of hand grabbed the bag from the table as Heyes stared accusingly at the shorter man, “What the hell did you just give her?”

Curry had found the bottle and took a sniff.  None the wiser, he shrugged at his friend.

“What the hell did you just give her?” Heyes snarled, menace behind the repetition.

“I told you nothing but truth.  It is a distilment, ancient medicine.  It would either help her or end her suffering.”  The eyes level, the voice low but authoritative.

Somehow, the boys believed him.

“What happened?” Kid asked, almost imperceptivity.

“I believe she had a brain bleed.  It can happen.  Anytime to anyone.  Sadly fatal.  We do not know why it happens.”  Silence, stillness and sadness filled the room.

“Did you know her?” Heads shook in unison.

“Very well, I will look after her now.  Find her people.  She will have an honourable burial.  I promise.”  Again they believed him.

“Anytime to anyone, huh?” echoed Heyes.

“Yes.”  Finality in that single word.

Heads down, Heyes and Curry turned to go.  The room somehow seemed darker, colder.

From behind them a quiet gentle voice floated.  “In my country we have a saying,” the mild man appeased.  “Life and death are but one thread, the same line simply viewed from different sides.”


NB:  This is a saying from Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher and poet from approx 6th century who was the founder of Taoism.  It is also believed he was a mentor and teacher of Confucius.

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PostSubject: Re: Crossing The Line   Tue Jul 29, 2014 1:41 am

I actually had a bunny hop while watching an episode the other night and found the time to write it out.

Don't know if this would actually be classified as a missing scene. More of an addition I guess you could say. This was inspired by "Everything Else You Can Steal".

----------------------------

"I knew something had changed. As soon as they walked through those saloon doors, I could tell by the look on their faces. There was a somber air about them. They'd found out something, something they wouldn't tell me. They told me to wait 'til morning.

I went back to my hotel room. But there was no rest to be had. I sat in the chair by the window, staring out into the moonless night. A million things went through my mind. What had Billy done to deserve this, how could I ever be at peace with it? Who had killed him and Caleb? My friends assured me it wasn't the banker Blodgett. So in my mind, that left only one suspect...Kenneth Blake. It had to be him. A mother just knows these things. That man had killed my son, there was no doubt in my mind.

Now I'm normally not a violent person. People can mess with me all they want, I just let it go. You kinda need to be like that making your living in the gambling business. Setting up a table in saloons, you get called things and treated all kinds of ways. I use my charm and feminine wiles to deal with that.

But one thing nobody does is mess with my son. I know he's a grown man, but he'll always be my little boy. And when Kenneth Blake decided to use and then kill Billy to try to get away with robbery, he crossed the line. I just couldn't let him get away with that. Hanging wasn't good enough for him, if he even got convicted of murder. I knew I'd never have any sort of closure if I didn't avenge my boy. I guess you could say I had a breakdown that night in that hotel room. I cried, I punched the bed over and over, I threw things. I thought about just getting a bottle of whiskey and trying to drown my sorrow. But that wouldn't help anything. The misery would still be there when I sobered up. I guess at that point you could say I crossed a line too.

It was then I made my final decision. I always carry a deringer with me. I would take care of this myself.

When I woke up the next morning, I sat for a while crying and thought about what I was about to do. I knew I'd be arrested and probably hung. But I didn't care. The anger seething inside me blocked out all other emotion or rational thought.

Then I heard about the money being found and the letter supposedly signed by Billy and Caleb saying that they were the ones who did the robbery, not Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. My boy could never rob a bank, let alone do it by opening the safe without the combination or dynamite.

So, I got dressed and left the hotel. I was determined to do what I had decided come hell or high water. I was actually calm as I casually walked into the bank and over to Blake. He asked if he could help me. I told him he could. So I bent over and whispered in his ear. I told him nobody hurts my son and gets away with it. Then I raised up, he gave me an anxious look, and I pointed my gun at him and fired.

It was odd, but at that moment, I felt peaceful. I didn't really care what happened to me. I stood there looking at Blake's lifeless body slumped over his desk. He got what he deserved and I was glad I was the one to give it to him.

The sheriff ran in at that moment and I just turned and handed over my weapon. I wanted to cry, but couldn't. I told him I was ready to go and he escorted me out of the bank. As I walked out, I smiled and nodded at my friends that had helped me figure it out. I'm sure they of all people knew how I felt.

So here I am now, inside this jail. I feel empty inside. My emotions are spent. But I ask you, if it had been your child, wouldn't you have done or at least wanted to do the same?"

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InsideOutlaw

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PostSubject: Re: Crossing The Line   Tue Jul 29, 2014 9:56 am

Smoke from the abandoned cigar tipped into a tin mug atop the cane table wafted to the porch ceiling and hung there like a malevolent spirit hovering above the heads of the two outlaws seated below.  Their eyes were on their men; watching as Wheat and Kyle worked in the dusty yard.  Wheat held a piece of paper in his hand which he referred to from time to time.  Kyle was occupied with opening boxes and digging through a pile of tools he had tipped out of the supply shed.

A moment later, Hank and Lobo came out of the barn, their heads together, deep in conversation.

The door to the bunkhouse hung open and the sound of an argument could be heard.  Preacher’s voice was raised in irritation.  “God bless it, Ikey, look again.  It’s got to be there.  Nowhere else it could be!”

The Kid tapped the ash from his own cigar and chuckled, “Looks like we ain’t gonna have the boys givin’ us anymore trouble for a spell, partner.”

Heyes grinned, picked up his discarded stogie, and drew a long pull.  Exhaling, he blew several smoke rings and watched them fade away.  “Yep.”

“So’s all they gotta do is find all the things on their list and they win a bottle of the good stuff and a day off to drink it?”

“Yep.”

“That’s a pretty damn clever way to get the Spring cleanin’ done.”

“Thanks, Kid.”  A pleased dimple appeared.

“So who do you think will win?”

“If I give ‘em long enough they all will and so will we.”

Curry laughed again.  “How about we make this a little more interestin’?  I’ll put ten dollars on Gully and Fletch to win.”

“Why Gully and Fletch?”

“Cause they're the only men we have with an ounce of organization."

“Good point.  Mind if I decline that bet?”

“All right then.  How about this one?  I’ll bet that same ten that Wheat and Kyle don’t finish their list.”  Curry leaned back in his rocker and glanced at his best friend and co-leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang.

“Sorry, I can’t take that bet neither.”

“How come?”

“’Cause no one’s gonna be able to finish those lists.”

“Aw Heyes, what have you done?” groaned Curry.
 
“Now, Kid, I wanted to be sure we got a few days of peace and quiet after all the ruckuses those boys have been kicking up lately.  I may have put a couple of things on each list that I know for sure we don’t have anymore.”



“What were you thinkin’, Heyes?   Those boys are gonna be real pissed at you when they find out you tricked them,” growled Curry.  “You know you crossed the line here, don’t you?”


“Don’t worry, when those knuckleheads finally figure it out, they’ll get their whiskey and their days off.  In the meantime, all we've gotta do is sit back and enjoy the peace.”

The Kid thought about it for a moment and then looked at his partner with admiration.  “You know, sometimes you really are a genius.”

Heyes smiled smugly, “I'd like to think so.”

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PostSubject: Re: Crossing The Line   Wed Jul 30, 2014 9:01 am

Heyes was doubled up, tears streaming from his eyes.  Straining to catch his breath, hat pushed back and dimples, deep and defined.   “C’mon Kid, stop it, you're killing me.”

His cousin’s howls of laughter were not helping Curry’s righteous indignation.

Heyes’ cheeks were now aching with mirth, “She was five foot nothin’ and was eighty if she was a day.”

“I’m telling you it’s true.”  The full horror was still sinking in.

“All you did was help her with her parcels.”

Curry shuddered.  “That feeble, old lady was as strong as an ox.”  His voice lowering as revulsion set in.

Collapsing helplessly again, ribs painful with mirth Heyes sank into further uncontrolled howls.

“For the final time Heyes.  When she planted that smacker on me, either that silver-haired old gal had three lips or that was her tongue!”

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PostSubject: Re: Crossing The Line   Thu Jul 31, 2014 3:01 am

This is my first-ever ASJ fic, dusted off, spruced up, and hopefully fitting this month's prompt.

Crossing the ...
Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry rode west into a hazy sun late on a hot Kansas afternoon.  Letting their mounts set the pace, they squinted at the ribbon of hard-packed and cracked trail stretching into the distance, coursing through expanses of undulating grassland and occasional parched coulee.  Still with nary a breeze, the air hung almost as thick as last night's impromptu campfire stew.

Cotton-mouthed themselves and with triple canteens each almost out, they searched for a good place to make camp. Mindful of water and grazing for the horses, each tried to ignore the sensation of hunger in his throat. Forage and water had been easy to come by last night in the greener, slightly higher elevation, but the golden blanket before them now was only occasionally interrupted by a verdant patch.

The stillness broken only by the tedious rhythm of the horses' hooves on hard ground, both men pulled the brims of their hats further down to shield their eyes from the relentless sun.  Steady rocking lulled more than babes to sleep; at least grown men could fight the urge. 

"HEYES, DO YA SEE THAT!"

"Wh-what, see what?" Heyes stuttered, jarred from his half slumber in the saddle.

His enthusiasm undeterred by free-flowing sweat, Curry wiped his eyes with a bare forearm, and then again with the blue sleeve rolled up to his elbow.  "There's something in the road, up ahead."

Heyes adjusted his hat yet again from the rays now only two hours shy of setting and peered down the trail.  "I don't see anything."

Kid looked again.  "I'm tellin' ya, I ain't crazy. I see somethin' movin'."

"Not saying you're crazy. What is it?"

"Movement."  Kid stopped and sat upright in the saddle. Wrapping the reins loosely around the pommel horn, he removed the brown hat, mowing his tendrilled hair back under the head covering.  How he wished he could do the same with the curls matted on the back of his neck.

Heyes checked his horse as well, mirroring his partner's actions. Grabbing his last half-filled canteen, he allowed himself only a brief swallow. The liquid was warm, but at least it was wet.  "Lots of mirages out here, Kid, and I think you're seeing one."

"It's not a mirage. There's somethin' movin' in the road up yonder."

"Any idea what it could be?"

"No."

"Whether something's out there or not, we have to keep moving if we're gonna find some place to camp before sundown."  Heyes gently reined his bay to the same slow pace, all that the heat allowed. 

Following suit with his gelding, Kid observed, "Full moon tonight.  We'll have more time."

"Maybe ..."  Heyes' own interest lay in what seemed the outline of rises in the distance. But was that too a mirage?  "Kid, do ya see those hills?"

"Yep."  Curry focused for a moment.  "At this rate, we'll have to make tracks if we're gonna reach them by sundown."

The men urged their mounts on, albeit a faster walk was all the stifling conditions allowed. Water was Heyes’ foremost concern. Jerky and hard tack could do for dinner, although a hot meal would be more palatable and preferable, especially for his partner. Though more alert, Heyes soon slumped back in his saddle to the silent tedium of before, while Curry remained upright. 

***

An hour later, the hills still loomed ahead -- no mirage, this -- and Heyes figured they had halved the distance. The rises were not high; nothing was around these parts.  But the hoped-for possibility of cooler climes, good grazing, and a source of water as they had last night was tantalizing. The rocking of his mount soon had him nodding off once more ...

"THERE IT IS AGAIN!"

Pulled startlingly into the steamy present by his partner's outburst, Heyes quickly shortened rein as the bay bolted from his sudden moves.  The dark-haired man rolled his eyes. "I think the heat's got ya."

Kid shook his head in annoyance. "Why? I'm tellin' ya, Heyes, there's somethin' movin' up ahead."

Heyes humored him.  "Come on, Kid.  So where is it now, in the hills?"

"Nope, still in the road."

"We've ridden a long way since you first saw it.  Maybe you're just seeing things."

"I'm not seein' things.  I tell ya there's something up ahead."

"And what's that?"

"Movement."

Heyes rolled his eyes.  Impatiently, "And what's moving?"

Curry peered ahead, pausing to focus.  Finally, "I don't know, but it's movin'."

Heyes rubbed his face, taking in his partner.  Sure, Kid could be excitable at times, but he was mostly a steady sort.  And he normally did not wither in the heat; complain maybe, but not wilt. But they had been plodding along all day, and the day before that, and the day before that, with barely a rest, eager to escape the bone-dry. Was Kid cracking on him?  Today they had stopped only twice and then briefly at that to answer nature's call and let the horses drink a little from the canteens. Between jobs and low on funds, time was of no essence, except for the next watering hole.

They had come to Kansas a couple weeks ago on a lark, for a change of scene, hoping to pick up a little job or poker here or there, but nothing had panned out. Heyes felt the odds of same diminishing, and they had turned west to return to Colorado, although he still hoped for better luck in Dodge, or Fort Wallace, or wherever the wind, or lack thereof, blew them on the way. The listlessness of the season and the monotony of the trip made the days seem twice as long to Heyes, and who knew how long to Kid.

Another little while passed in silence.  Curry remained ever vigilant, blue eyes straight ahead, mesmerized.  Finally, Heyes heard an all too familiar click -- Kid had unholstered his Colt and had it at the ready.

Heyes took in the landscape.  He saw nothing that should alarm his partner.  "Kid, what're you doing?"

No answer.

Louder, slower, calmer, "Kid?"

"What?"

Finding himself surprised at the steadiness of Kid's voice, Heyes tried to mask his growing concern.  "What's the gun for?"

"Just in case."

"In case what?"

Kid turned to his partner, annoyed.  He sighed. "You know, Heyes, just in case."

The next ten minutes for Heyes passed at both ends of an emotional spectrum: Guarded elation at seeing a bit more green on the hills growing ever closer and worry as Curry remained on high alert and at the ready, but for what?

Suddenly, Kid shifted in his saddle, took aim, and emptied the chamber. His mount skittered.  Then, calming and checking the horse, he reloaded the Colt and holstered the weapon.

Heyes pulled alongside and looked at him, dumbfounded.  "What was that?"

Kid wore a smug, almost silly, expression.  "You'll see."

"Uh huh. Is 'it' still moving?"

"Nope.  It stopped."

Heyes' brow furrowed.  They had almost reached the hills, which in turn practically obliterated the sun. It should be cooling off soon, at least a little bit. That had to help.

Kid dismounted. By this point, Heyes could only watch as his partner grabbed a rope and walked down the trail. Lost in thought, he sighed and closed his eyes. For the first time, he realized how tired he really was; the heat had drained him. What had it done to his partner?  Exhausted or not, in a role reversal he would steel himself to keep an eye on Curry tonight.

In the meantime, Heyes watched in fascination as Kid tied something up, ambling slowly back, grinning widely.  The dark-haired man squinted as Curry held up the bundle: two fat sagehens!

"Dinner, Heyes!"

Relieved, but also inwardly kicking himself for doubting his partner, Heyes smirked.  "That was the movement?"

"Yep.  These two must've gone plum loco in the heat, ahead of us the whole time, crossin' over the road, back and forth."

Heyes had to say it. "So why did the sagehen cross the road?"

Kid laughed. "To wind up on our dinner plates!"

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Remuda

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PostSubject: Re: Crossing The Line   Fri Aug 01, 2014 2:23 am

The Contest
"Come on, Heyes, you can do better than that!"

"Go, Kid! Ya almost got him!"

"That's it, Heyes, just a little more!"

"Dang, Kid, you're losin' your grip!"

The Devil's Hole Gang cheered their leaders on.

"Put your heels into it, Heyes!"

"You're gettin' the better of him now, Kid!"

Hannibal Heyes squinted as rays hit him from the west. His lucky coin had failed him this time, and his partner had positioned himself well. However, Heyes was not about to concede to a blinding sun. He kept his eyes lowered, his sightline to Kid's boots. Though Kid Curry had ten pounds on him, his heels were flat. Heyes smiled as his own slightly curved ones dug in at an angle, planting him solidly as his rear almost touched ground. He saved himself just in time.

At the other end, focusing as hard as his partner, Kid Curry thought he felt callouses rising underneath his gloves. He reckoned the sun had moved slightly since they started, so it must be fifteen, maybe twenty minutes by now. In charge most of the way, he loosened his grip just a tad momentarily to flex his shooting hand and was met with a tug forward. Heyes surprised him. Curry would concede most mental gymnastics to his partner any day of the week, but here his brawn should win out. However, each partner knew and respected the other's capabilities in all realms.

"Go, Heyes, you're gainin' on him!"

"Tighten up, Kid. Dig in harder!"

Although both could conceivably win, neither held the advantage for long. Back and forth it went, groans and cheers to accompany each move. As soon as one man's flag neared center, adrenaline hit and he pulled it right back. Center was home. One flag over center and spoils to the victor. Crossing the line was not an option for either man.

Fleeting thoughts came and went. How had they been talked into this? Neither usually felt the need to appear the stronger in front of the men. Indeed, a united front was their common goal, even if they privately disagreed. Heyes felt his hands cramp; Curry the same. Neither right now could figure which of the gaggle of outlaws sided with whom. Lobo perhaps for Kid; Preacher maybe for Heyes. Hank probably for Heyes; Charlie for Kid. Each had most recently ridden with one or the other to drum targets for this season's jobs, confident of good hauls. Kyle likely cheered for both. Wheat might as well, making sure to be on the side of the winner.

Curry and Heyes fought on. The cheering quieted. Men thinned out for a few minutes, attended to their business; returned to find much the same. The rope barely went slack. Wait! A foot this side for Kid. No! Now six inches in Heyes' favor. It looked as if the several yards to achieve victory might never be gained.

"Keep goin', boys!"

"Kid, I kin hear yer stomach clear over here. 'Bout time ya let Heyes take it!"

"Heyes, ya keep at this too long, yer brain's gonna be too addled to plan!"

With that, each competitor found new life. Heels re-dug in, they lost traction in loose furrows of ground at their feet, now too soft. Kid's calf pained him; for Heyes, a thigh. Now reversed. Then, a shoulder, an elbow. Grimaces beheld determination; belied teeth aching from clenching. And still, they kept on.

Grit might portend an outcome. Motivation, an aftermath. A frayed thread, though ...

Straightaway, each competitor fell backwards, landing with a thud at his end of the field of battle. Stunned momentarily, the crowd dispersed to offer aid to both, bringing each to his feet in turn. Regaining their bearings, they spied the other and met in the center, where the contest had started. There, they locked hands. Most of the assembled offered "atta boy" claps on backs and shoulders.

"Wha' happened?" One outlaw picked up the tool of competition, examining it thoughtfully. "Dang!"

Gaining his attention, Hannibal Heyes paused from conciliatory congratulations. "What is it, Kyle?"

All now focused on the blond man.

"Aw, Heyes, we'll hafta make 'nother trip to town fer more supplies."

"Why? We have everything we need."

"This ain't the good stuff."

Heyes and Curry grinned, locked eyes, then turned to Kyle. The blond outlaw held the frayed ends in his hands, his countenance a wonderment of confusion.

Wheat stepped forward and slapped him on the back, turning him toward the bunkhouse. "C'mon, Kyle. It's good stuff when this foolishness stops and we get to quietin' the racket Kid's stomach's makin'. Let's eat."

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Crossing The Line
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