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 A Fool And His Money

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Silverkelpie

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Posts : 1355
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 56
Location : Over the rainbow

PostSubject: A Fool And His Money   Thu Jul 03, 2014 5:33 pm


A Fool And His Money


“Put your hands up!” 


The Kid turned at the thin, weedy voice behind him, his eyes widening in surprise at the slight figure holding a gun which seemed too large for the trembling hand.  “This is a joke.”


The reedy voice cracked with fear and the man’s skinny frame barely contained in the jacket which seemed to have been made for a fourteen year old.  “It’s no joke,” his monocle dropped from the man’s eye and was quickly lost in the straw covering the stable floor.  “You’re under arrest.  I know who you are.”


Cool, blue eyes appraised the besuited, diminutive figure standing between the gunman and the stable door.  A too-small bowler hat slid about on oiled hair and a straight moustache twitched nervously above pale lips.  The Kid snorted impatiently.  “Put it down.  You’ll only hurt someone and if it’s me I’ll be real angry.”


Sweat started to bud on the pallid face, causing the mouse to tug at his stuff collar as though releasing steam.  His voice rose an octave with spiralling tension.  “You’re coming with me over to the jail.  I need public support to deal with this.”  

“The hell I am,” snorted the Kid, “I’ve got my pride to think of.  I ain’t bein’ led through the town by some pen-pushin’ weaklin’.  Drop the gun.”


“I’m the one giving the orders,” the man squeaked.


The Kid gave a conciliatory smile.  “I can look in a man’s eyes and know his next move, and you ain’t gonna shoot me or anyone else.  Put the gun down and stop actin’ stupid.”


“Stupid!”  The pitch rose again.  “Don’t call me stupid.  Everyone thinks I’m a complete walkover; well it’s about time I stood up for myself.  Stop telling me what to do.”


“Hey, hey...” the Kid waved placating hands with his arms still raised.  “I didn’t mean you were stupid.  I meant you were actin’ stupid.”


“What’s difference?”


“Well, I guess if you were stupid you’d...” the Kid scratched his head.  “I dunno.  What do you think, Joshua?”


“You’re not going to fool me with that old trick,” the clerk sniffed.  “You came in here on your own.  I told you I’m not stupid.  I’m not turning around so you can get a jump on me.”


A loud metallic click beside the man’s head made him blanch to an even paler shade of tallow.  “I’ll tell you what the difference is,” Hannibal Heyes’ mellifluous tones murmured in the stranger’s prominent ear.  “Acting stupid is drinking downstream from the herd.  Being stupid is pulling a gun on a man without making sure you know where his partner is.” A gloved hand stretched over and took the colt from the man’s hand.  “One is temporary; the other could be real permanent.” 


The stranger backed off, his pale face contorting in some kind of fearful conniption fit as he stumbled over bales of hay before tripping over a pitchfork.  The partners exchanged a grin before advancing on their opponent.


The Kid folded his arms.  “What’s your name?”


“Cecil...”


“Cecil what?” Heyes demanded.


“Cecil Bean.”


“Bean?  Ya mean like the things we eat?”


Cecil pulled himself upright and forced himself into a corner.  “Yeah, Bean.  It’s Irish.”


“Irish, huh?”  Heyes glanced at the Kid.  “There’s a lot of it about.  Well, suppose you explain why you pulled a gun on my friend, Cecil Bean?” 


“He’s come to hold up the payroll.  I can’t let that happen.  Everything rests on me keeping my job.”


Curious, brown eyes turned to the fair gunman.  “The payroll?  Thaddeus, is there something you want to tell me?  When you said you had plans I thought you meant a drink at the saloon.”


“Don’t be stupid, Joshua.”  


Heyes grinned, his cheeks pitting with amusement.  “There ya go again.  Am I being stupid or acting stupid?”

   
“Both.”  The Kid glared at Cecil.  “You can’t go around accusin’ folks of things like that.  You’ll get hurt; and if you do it again I‘ll make sure of it.”


“I’ll suffer anyway.  You’re going to ruin me and I’ll lose Audrey.  This time I’m going to take charge.  I’ll show everyone that a worm can...”  Cecil’s fists formed into angry balls, his grey eyes staring boring into the Kid, “change his spots!”    


“Who the Sam Hill is Audrey?” 


“Don’t act like you don’t know what’s going on.”  Cecil struggled to his feet.  “Harriet told me all about it.”


“Who?”


“My sister,” Cecil scowled at the hay clinging to his crisp, business-like attire.  “She found out all about it.”


“Harriet Bean?” Heyes mused.  “I bet that’s a lady who can’t wait to get married to change her name.”


The receding chin rose in defiance.  “My sister has dedicated her life to looking after mother.  She isn’t interested in men.  She told me so herself.”  


“Cecil,” the Kid shuffled impatiently, “if you don’t start makin’ more sense you’ll end up gettin’ elected to office.  I don’t know anyone called Audrey.  There was a Harriet once.  She had lots of red hair,” he gazed of wistfully, “lots of everythin’; but mostly lots of red hair.  I can tell you she didn’t make me think of a cosy fireside; not at all.  Does that sound like your sister?”

Heyes rolled his eyes.  “Let’s get back to the point, huh?  Cecil, we’ve just arrived in town.  We don’t know Audrey, Harriet or anyone else.  In fact, you’re the first person we’ve talked to.  Why don’t you tell us what’s going on?”


“Why should I?”


“Because I don’t like to be blind-sided,” the brown eyes darkened, “and you’re not going anywhere until you do.”


Cecil’s Adam’s apple bobbed beneath his paper collar before he swept off his bowler hat.  “Oh, poop!  Mother’s right.  I always get it wrong.”


Blue eyes met brown over two pairs of arched brows.  “Language, Cecil.  We’re delicate types,” chuckled Heyes.


The Kid strolled over and crouched in front of the little man.  “Why don’t you tell us all about it?  We might be able to help.  You had to be pretty desperate to pull a gun on me.”


“I wouldn’t have shot you, sir.”  Cecil shrank further into the wall.  “I’ve never hurt anyone in my life.”


 “Yeah, guns can go off if you don’t know what you’re doin’.  It ain’t the bullet that kills, it’s the hole.  Why’d you do a stupid thing like that?”  


Cecil sniffed and pulled out a voluminous handkerchief.  “The mine is going to get robbed and there’s nothing I can do about it.  My sister heard all about it in the church when she was arranging flowers.”


“The church?”  The Kid sat on a hay bale.  “I ain’t an experienced criminal, but that doesn’t sound like the usual place to plan a robbery.” 


Cecil wrung out the handkerchief in his girlish hands.  “For weeks Harriet has been keeping me updated on Audrey’s growing friendship with Sheriff Abe Bacon.  He’s everything I’m not; tall, manly, virile.  He’s afraid of nothing, a man of action,” Cecil sniffed.  “He looks like he’s had a moustache since kindergarten.  He’d turn any woman’s head; so if that’s the type Audrey likes, that’s how I have to act.”


“Are you kiddin’ me?  Bean and Bacon?”  The Kid scratched his head.  “They sure sound like they go together.”


“Audrey’s name is Zwiefelhofer, not Bean.”  Cecil toyed with the brim of his hat.  “The way things are going I don’t think she’ll ever take my name.”          


Heyes frowned.  “So?  What has Audrey said about this?”


“You don’t understand, my relationship with Audrey isn’t exactly conventional.”


The Kid frowned.  “What does that mean?”


“My mother inherited my father’s interests in the mine.  I don’t get a penny until I prove myself,” he pulled at his paper collar once again, “and mother’s very hard to please.”


“So?”


“Audrey and I,” Cecil paused, “we have more of an arrangement than an engagement.”  The little clerk darted an anxious glance at the disapproving glare.  “I adore her.  I treat her like a queen, but I’m under no illusions that her father pushed her at me for financial reasons.  I had hoped she would grow to love me but she’s clearly got eyes for Bacon.”           


“Surely you must have said something?” asked Heyes.


“She denies it, of course, but I know she’s covering.  I’ve seen the way she looks at the sheriff.”


“I’m confused,” the Kid frowned.  “How does her having a thing for the local lawman lead to you pullin’ a gun on me?  I’ve never heard of this Sheriff Bacon.”


“I’ve been told that they’re planning on running off together.  Stealing the payroll is going to bankroll their new life together and today was the big day,” sighed Cecil.  “He’s got a fair-haired friend who’s handy with a gun to come and help.  I took one look and thought that had to be you.  After all, you arrived in town the same day as this planned robbery.”   


“This all came from your sister?”  Heyes paused.  “Is she the imaginative type?”


“Not in the least.  She’s very like mother in that respect.  In any case, Reverend Butters heard it all too.  I have a member of the clergy confirming overhearing their plans so I have no reason to disbelieve them.  I have to stop them.  Mother is not an easy woman to please.  If they get the money I’ll lose both my job and Audrey.”


“Let her go,” the Kid replied.  “You can’t keep a woman who doesn’t want you.  You’ll never relax a day of your life if you go through with it.  Find someone you can be yourself with.”


“But I love her!”


“Poor little rich boy not gettin’ what he wants?” growled the Kid.  “I bet it’s nearly as bad as when your pony never learned to fly.  What about her; bein’ pushed to marry someone she doesn’t want?  Find someone else.”


“Mother doesn’t like anyone else.”


“Cecil, your mother ain’t marryin’ her, you are,” the Kid retorted.  “Do you let your mother run your life for you?”

    
“More or less,” Cecil murmured.  “She’s very forceful.  But quite apart from Audrey, there’s the payroll.  I could lose my job; even my whole inheritance.”


Heyes shook his head.  “You need to go to the law.” 


“Bacon is the law.  I have nowhere else to go.”


Heyes shrugged.  “The next town?”


“Mother doesn’t let us travel.  She says I’m needed at the mine and Harriet is invaluable to her at home, especially when she gets one of her heads.”  Cecil turned a glum face on each of the partners in turn.  “Mother gets a lot of headaches.  She is very sensitive to stress.  Besides, it’s too late.  It’s happening today and Harriet is looking after the office for me so I can try to sort out this mess before Mother finds out.” 


Heyes started to pace.  “You mother doesn’t know about any of this?”    


“Certainly not.  Mother holds the controlling share of the mine and if I don’t hold up my end by running the accounts efficiently I’ll never inherit those shares.  She has made that very clear, but Mother couldn’t cope with this; not at all.  She does not deal well with stress, or disagreements,” Cecil paused, “or things out of the ordinary.” 


“So, your mother has you and your sister dancing in attendance while she controls your lives?” Heyes muttered.  “You could go and work for someone else.” 


“It sounds more like she doesn’t suffer from stress,” the Kid grinned, “but maybe she’s more of a carrier?”  


Cecil visibly bridled.  “Mother built up the mine from nothing.  Father never had a head for business; she’s simply doing her best for Harriet and me.  My sister looks like me, we both favour father; so you can imagine that neither of us have been lucky in love.  Mother helps us in the same way she helped father.”  The grey eyes drooped, “Harriet fills her life with the church, in fact, I think Reverend Butters rather depends on her; but men are different.  I’m a hot-bloodied male and I have needs.  Mother understands that and helped me persuade Audrey’s family.  Everyone agrees that I’ll win her over eventually.  Mother wants her grandchildren to be attractive.”


“Hot-bloodied, huh?  That’s quite a mother you got there,” the Kid suppressed a smile.  “Mine got me a ball once.”


Heyes scratched his chin pensively.  “Have you stepped up security on the payroll?”


“Yes, but it seemed to me that my best way of impressing Audrey was to bring in Bacon’s accomplice and make him confess.”  Cecil shook his head helplessly.  “It was a stupid idea.  I’m impressive with ledgers and files; not guns.”


“Yeah, well.  There’s no fool like a man in love,” The Kid hooked the small man with a questioning glance.  “So what now?”


“I’d do anything for Audrey.  I had hoped saving the payroll would help her to see me in a different light.”  Cecil replied.  “I’m desperate; head over heels.”   


“I don’t know about you, but I do most everythin’ head over heels,” the Kid stood and gestured towards the door with his head.  “Come on.  We’ll help you get the payroll over to the bank and you can tell the miners to collect your money straight from there.  That’ll give you time to get some better security in place for the next payday.”   


Cecil hesitated.  “How can I trust you?”


“Has it occurred to you that if we were after the payroll we’d be at the mine and not at the stables,” Heyes replied.  “Use your own security to guard the payroll if you like; we’ll watch the sheriff to make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid.”  He handed the milquetoast back his gun, examining it appreciatively.  “A Colt?  A good weapon.  It’s not the type I’ve have thought you’d have.”


Cecil nodded.  “Mr. Shutterworth at the general store recommended the Colt.  Mother wouldn’t approve but I thought I should get a pair.”


“I was thinkin’ that as soon as you told me about your mother,” the Kid muttered. 


oooOOOooo   


Cecil appeared at the door, his cheeks puffing with relief.  “It would appear that great minds think alike.  Harriet and the Reverend Butters got the security men to escort them over to the bank.  They’ve put the word out that the workforce can get their money there tomorrow.  She’s always been the sensible one, has Harriet.  I don’t know what we’d do without her.”  Cecil rubbed his face.  “Gentlemen, I owe you an apology.  Everything’s fine.”


Heyes scanned the street.  “And this blond gunman?  Has there been any sign of him?”


“No.  I appear to have made rather a fool of myself.  It’s exactly this type of impetuosity Mother detests in me.  How can I make this up to you?”


The Kid shrugged.  “We came here lookin’ for work.  Ya got anythin’?”


“Mining work?  We are always looking for men,” ventured Cecil.


Resigned blue eyes met brown before Heyes spoke.  “Can we get back to you on that, Cecil?  We’ve just arrived and there might be something that’s more our style?  Maybe something a bit gentler on the back?”     


“Sure,” Cecil reached out a hand in thanks.  “If only I’d stopped to think this through.  I could have made a real fool of myself if I’d pulled a gun on anyone else anyone else.”


“That could have been the least of your problems,” Heyes slapped the Cecil on the back, winding the delicate clerk.  “Don’t try anything like that again,” the Kid gave Cecil a warning glint.  “You ain’t equipped for it.”


“Cecil!”  


The voice cut through the psyche and blared above the noise of the traffic and general populace in a cacophony of dissonance.  Everyone turned to look at the black-clad matron cutting through the townsfolk like a galleon in full sail.  “Mother,” Cecil murmured, visibly shrinking behind the Kid.  “If she asks, you’re looking for a job.  Don’t tell her I messed up.”


“Why would we do a mean thing like that?” grinned the Kid.  “We ain’t gonna tell your momma on ya?  We’re a lot of things, but we ain’t tattle-tails.”



Mrs. Bean swept up to them, her blazing eyes displaying a countenance as delicate as pig-iron.  “Cecil?  Where is Harriet?  I’ve been looking for her.”


Her son gulped heavily.  “I’ve just been told she went over to the bank, Mother.” 


“I’ve just come from there,” Mrs. Bean’s eyes narrowed, focusing in on her son.  “She and the Reverend Butters left.  What were they doing there? ”


“I...she...we,” Cecil wilted under the intensity of the woman’s glare.


“Cecil!”  All three men stiffened at the suddenness of the bark.  “The payroll is missing and you are away from your post.  I demand an explanation immediately.”


“It isn’t missing.  It’s in the bank.  Harriet overheard a plot to steal it so I hired extra security.”


“I have been to the bank,” snapped the matron.


“Yes, Mother.  The security escorted Harriet and the Reverend Butters over to the bank.”  He patted the handle protruding from his pocket.  “I joined in with the men to protect it.”


The glare landed on Heyes on Curry.  “You, are you two involved in this?”


“No, ma’am.  We just got into town and your son wondered if we were for hire.”  Heyes shook his head, firmly.  “We’re not.  We’re passing through on our way to a job for the Governor of Wyoming.”


The tip of the parasol was firmly rapped on the wooded sidewalk.  “Cecil, I demand to know why you are wasting your time lollygagging with a couple of saddle tramps when the payroll is missing.” 


“It’s in the bank mother.  Roberts and Schultz escorted Harriet over themselves.  There was a scare we didn’t want to bother you with.”  Cecil’s guilty eyes were unable to hold his mother’s hard stare.  “Harriet took the payroll to safety and I helped to secure the area.”


“It is not in the bank.”  The woman’s jowls began to tremble in anger, “and I have spoken to Roberts and Schultz.  They escorted her to the bank, but they didn’t make sure she deposited the money, nor did they escort her back to the mine office.”  She threw out an arm towards the railway station, the black, crepe frilly of her cape flapping like a crow’s wing.  “She and the Reverend Butters have left town on the three o’clock train.”


Cecil blanched.  “But surely she deposited the payroll?”


The old lady stiffened and glared at Heyes and Curry.   “Why are you still here?  This is private family business.”


The Kid raised placating hands.  “Sorry, ma’am.  We’re on our way.  We were just talkin’ to your son.  It ain’t any of our business.” 


“So?”  Mrs. Bean flicked up an eyebrow.  “Walk!”


Heyes’ mouth firmed into a line to prevent the retort swirling around in the dark eyes from becoming a reality.  The Kid’s bar room diplomacy kicked in and he grabbed his partners’ arm.  “Come on, Joshua.  We’ve got that job to get to.”


“I thought he said his mother was delicate?”  Heyes allowed himself to be steered back towards the stables.  “We’ve blown safes that’ve been frailer.”


“D’you think the payroll’s been stolen?”


Serious dark eyes turned to the Kid.  “It’s a good plan; persuade Cecil to focus on a mysterious blond gunman and keep away from the sheriff while you get escorted out of the building with the whole haul.  The hired security were only going to make sure the money made it to the bank; they’d never suspect the docile sister, so nobody thought to make sure it stayed there.”        


“And she’s so dedicated to the Reverend,” the Kid chortled.  “She has no interest in men.”


“Yeah, good luck to her,” Heyes shrugged.  “Mrs. Bean had everyone’s lives mapped out for them.  At least Cecil got a job and the chance to inherit; it sounded like Harriet was well and truly trapped.”


“Well, I guess we’d better get outta here,” the Kid dragged open the stable door.  “We can’t stick around anywhere there’s been a robbery.”


“Yup, and we’d better hope they’re never caught,” Heyes grabbed at his saddle and hefted it over to his horse, “we’d have a hard time explaining our part in this.”


“We thought we were helpin’ an elopin’ couple to catch the train in good faith, Joshua.”  The Kid tightened the girth.  “We weren’t to know they’d just taken the payroll with them.”


“And you think anyone would believe that?”  Heyes paused and leaned on the saddle.  “You’ve got to admire the way they distracted Cecil to get hold of the money.  If we were ever to go back to flim flaming I’d get myself a dog collar.  Nobody ever suspects the clergy and rich folks always think they’re smarter than them.”


The Kid sighed.  “Ya gotta feel sorry for Cecil though.  He’s stuck with all this.”


Heyes swung his leg over his horse.  “The way I see it, Harriet got nothing but an unpaid servant’s post, so she took what should have been hers; a start and a future.  Cecil could up and leave any time he wants.  It’s harder for a woman.”


“She could’ve just married the reverend,” The Kid steered his horse towards the open stable door.  “She didn’t have to steal.”


“Neither did we, when it comes right down to it, Thaddeus.  Not for the most part.  Happiness is having what you want.  She wanted a man and a comfortable home, you can’t blame her for that.”  The partners steered their animals out onto the street and headed toward the road out of town.  “I’ve always reckoned that people who say that money can’t buy happiness just don’t know where to spend it.”


“Yeah, but poor Cecil.  He’s gonna lose Audrey.  She’s gonna choose the sheriff.”


“He never had her, Thaddeus.  He’s better off finding that out now than later.”


They continued out of town, only the jingle from the bridles and the gentle this of hooves on soft earth breaking the silence.

“What’s for dinner tonight, Joshua?  We ain’t had a chance to get to a mercantile.”


“Unless you can shoot something we’re having prairie sandwiches, Kid.”


“Prairie sandwiches?”


Heyes nodded.  “Yeah, two slices of bread with wide open spaces in between.”
 
 

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