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 The Long Marhc

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riders57

riders57

Posts : 554
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 62

The Long Marhc Empty
PostSubject: The Long Marhc   The Long Marhc EmptySat Aug 31, 2013 7:52 pm

The Long March


Heyes and Lawson turned quickly as the Kid and Harrison slithered down the steep path to them.

“Here to relieve us?”  Lawson stood and hurried up the path as Harrison settled in to the guard position overlooking the entrance to Devil’s Hole.

Heyes smiled at the Kid.

Harrison watched cynically.  “Heyes, Big Jim said ‘specially for you not to linger.  He wants you right back at the cabin, so you better not get back after Lawson does.”

Heyes sighed.

“I’ll just walk him up to the horses then be right back, Harrison.”

“Big Jim ain’t going to like that, Kid.”

The Kid looked levelly at Harrison.  “Don’t matter.  I’m goin’ up to the horses with Heyes.  I’ll be back before anything can happen.”

~~~oOo~~~

“Feels like I saw more of you when I was in Texas, Heyes.”

“Yeah, Kid, I know,” Heyes sighed.  “I think Jim’s worried.”

“Worried about what?”

“About who you’d back in a showdown for leadership.”

The Kid looked at Heyes and thought for a moment.  “You thinkin’ of doin’ somethin’?”

“No.”

“But…”

“Big Jim’s always worried about it.  I’m sure it is a problem in a lot of gangs, but I don’t see any of the regulars challenging Jim.”  Heyes smiled at the Kid.  “But let’s keep it to ourselves for now that we’re family.”

“Look, I know I’m new here, and I know that means I get ridden a lot, but not sure how much more I can take.  This may have been a mistake.”

“Jed.”  Heyes reached out to him.  “Please, just a little longer.”

“Harrison’s voice echoed up the path.  “Kid, get your butt down here!”

Heyes sighed, “I gotta go, Kid.  Just a little longer, alright?”

The Kid stared off into the distance then looked at Heyes.  “Yeah, for now, but…”  He shook his head and carefully edged down the steep path.

Heyes watched him for a moment, frowning, then turned, mounted his horse, and hurried back to the cabin.

~~~oOo~~~

Heyes remained closeted with Big Jim and Wheat for the next two days, finalizing the plans for the next robbery.  Plans complete, they settled in for a game of poker with the rest of the gang.

The Kid was making dinner as the others played.  New man always had to do the cooking; luckily, the Kid had fended for himself enough that his food was edible.

“Wrap it up fellas, the food’s ready,” he called over his shoulder.

~~~oOo~~~

“Well, Kid, for a gunnie your food’s not half bad.”  Big Jim smiled at him.

Kyle took a swig of his whiskey.  “Heyes, you ain’t never told us how you two know each other.”

“Shoot, Kyle, you don’t ask a fella a question like that,” Wheat scoffed.

“No, Wheat…”  Big Jim drank thoughtfully.  “I’m sure we would all like to hear some of their stories from their days together.  Hannibal, do explain.”

Heyes and the Kid looked at each other.  “Well, like I said, Big Jim, we rode together when we were first out on our own…”

“Yes, Hannibal, you did say that.  But how did you meet up to ride together in the first place?”

“We were in the same home.  Lit out of there together.  Figured we’d do better the two of us together than alone.”

“You all done?”  The Kid stood up, grabbed the plates, and began to clear the table.

“Yes, we are done,” Big Jim confirmed, looking at the Kid’s back.  “For now.”

~~~oOo~~~

The Kid set the pinecones up on the log and reloaded.  “You know I have your back.”  He fired off another round.

Heyes watched as he reloaded then got up and placed new pinecones on the log for him.

“The question is, Heyes…”  The Kid fired again.  “Do you have mine?”

Heyes stared at him.  “Of course.  Why would you even ask?”

“We ain’t seen each other for a long time.  You seem awfully happy here.  You fit in.  Not sure I do; Big Jim don’t seem to be takin’ to me too well.  Maybe I’ll move on after this job.  Just wonderin’ what you’ll do if I do.”  He looked down at his gun, taking a long time to reload.

“Now, Kid, don’t go expecting trouble.  Remember what Grampa Curry used to say about putting the cart before the horses…  What do you want, Wheat?” Heyes asked angrily as Wheat coughed and sauntered into the clearing.

“Big Jim says it’s time for the Kid to go on guard duty.”

Curry sighed, holstered his gun, and headed off after a long look at Heyes.

~~~oOo~~~

As Heyes strolled into the compound, he saw Wheat coming out of Big Jim’s cabin, smirking.  Big Jim appeared in the doorway, looked around, and pointed at Heyes.

“HANNIBAL!  Come here.  We need to talk.”

Heyes rolled his eyes and shook his head, watching Wheat walk away.  He entered the cabin and shut the door.  As he turned, Big Jim’s right fist connected with his jaw, knocking him down and into the wall.

“I demand loyalty, Hannibal.  I told you that when I took you in.  Now, Wheat tells me you’ve been keeping secrets from me.  Perhaps I was wrong.  Perhaps we do not need a gunnie, after all.  If you and your… your… the Kid think you can take over, you’re wrong.”  He reached down and offered a hand to help Heyes up.

Heyes pushed it away angrily and stood on his own, breathing heavily.  He glared at Big Jim, his fists clenching.  Finally, he let out a deep breath.  “Big Jim, you know Wheat.  You know he always wants to cause trouble for me.  You like it that way.  I guess you think that keeps me in line.  Well, it also creates problems where there aren’t any.  I don’t know what he’s been telling you…”

“He says he thinks you and the Kid are family.  Is he wrong?”

Heyes exhaled.  “No, he’s not wrong.  We’re cousins, grew up together.  After our families died, we were sent to a home and left it together like I said.”

So the Kid’s loyalty is to you, not me.  That is a problem, Hannibal.”

Heyes huffed in frustration.  “Big Jim, the Kid’s loyalty, as you put it, is to the leader of the group he’s in.  He’ll watch my back, but he’s not going to challenge you, or let me do it.  Not that I have any desire to challenge you.”

Big Jim turned away, “I have made my decision, Hannibal.  The Kid must leave after tomorrow’s job.”

Heyes stared at Big Jim’s back; then, his shoulder’s sagged.  “If you insist.  But, Big Jim, when the Kid leaves, I’ll be going with him.  I’m not leaving him again.”

Big Jim whirled around and looked at him, reading the determination in his eyes.  “So be it, Hannibal.  Your first loyalty appears to be to him instead of to me, and I won’t tolerate that in my gang.  This will be the last job for either of you.”

~~~oOo~~~

Heyes watched the Kid split wood for several minutes.  He looked back at the compound and sighed, then walked up.  “Hey, Kid.”

“Heyes.”  The Kid swung the axe and split another log then stooped to pick up the pieces and throw them on the pile.

“You know, Kid, I’ve been thinking,” Heyes began and paused.

The Kid turned his attention to Heyes.  “Thinkin’ what?”

“Maybe you’re right; maybe we should leave after this next job.”

The Kid looked him up and down, noting the bruise on Heyes’ jaw.  His mouth tightened, and he turned, placed another log on the stump, and raised the axe.  “What happened, Heyes?”

“Nothing.  I was just thinking about what you said about feeling like you didn’t fit in.  Anyway…”  Heyes looked away from the Kid’s scrutiny.  “Anyway, I think you’re right.  We were better off on our own.  Let’s leave as soon as we get our shares.”

The Kid frowned.  “What aren’t you tellin’ me?  You don’t want to leave.”

Heyes got angry.  “Look, I’m saying we should leave after this job.  Are you coming with me, or not?”

The Kid was silent, chopping several logs before he spoke again.  “Big Jim said I had to go, right?”

Heyes picked up a log and took the axe from the Kid.  “Yeah, yeah he did.”  He slammed the axe into the log, splitting it with a single blow.

The Kid watched him.  “Okay, I’ll leave, but you should stay here, Heyes.  You fit here; you belong here.”

“I’m coming with you, and that’s that.”

“No, that ain’t that!  I did just fine on my own.  I can do it again.  We can still see each other!”  The Kid paced angrily.

Heyes glared at the Kid.  “I told you before, I ain’t leaving you again.  I let you walk away once; I’m not doing it a second time.”  His eyes dropped.  “Besides, I don’t have a choice.  Big Jim kicked me out, too,” he muttered.

The Kid looked at him solemnly.  “Alright, Heyes, we’ll leave together.”  He smiled crookedly, “It’ll be like old times, just the two of us.”

Heyes smiled sadly back and left.

The Kid watched him leave and stood staring thoughtfully for some moments before turning back to the wood and chopping furiously.

~~~oOo~~~

The gang knew something had happened, but not what.  The tension was high, higher than normal when doing a job, but the job went off like clockwork – almost.

The gang left the bank with several saddlebags full.  The Kid left last.  “If all you kind folks will just remain on the ground where you are, until that gentleman there counts out loud to one thousand, everythin’ will be fine.”  He pointed at the disarmed and trussed guard, holstered his gun with a flourish, and stepped out of the bank, walking quickly but calmly to his horse.

Kyle heaved a sigh of relief as he saw the Kid step out of the bank.  He threw the saddlebag full of coins over his horse in preparation to mounting, when the buckle on the bag broke and coins cascaded to the ground.  He stood rooted, aghast, as everyone in the street came to a halt staring at the coins clinking and rolling in the dust.

“Get going men!”  Big Jim shouted and spurred his horse.  The other followed.

The Kid ran to Kyle.  “Never mind, Kyle, just get goin’.”  He pushed the smaller man onto his horse then slapped the animal to get him started.

He raced back to his own horse, leapt on, and spurred his way out of town in the gang’s wake.

~~~oOo~~~

Even as Kyle and the Kid caught up to the rest of the gang, it was clear a posse was already pursuing them.  The gang charged on, but the posse’s horses slowly closed the gap.

Big Jim signaled for them to stop to rest the horses for a moment.  “We need to split up.  Harrison, Lawson, you go with Heyes.  The rest of you come with me and the money.”  He glared at the Kid.  “That means you.”

He looked around.  “We’ll keep together until we get to those big rocks there.”  He nodded at a rock formation a little way ahead.  “As soon as we get past them and out of sight of the posse, Heyes, you go left, and we’ll go right.”

They raced their horses, determined to get to the rocks far enough ahead of the posse to have a chance of splitting up.

They had split but could still see each other when the first of the posse rounded the rocks.  The posse stopped as it saw the situation.  One of the men dismounted and climbed to the top of the rock formation.  He sighted down his rifle and shot.  Big Jim’s horse went down.  The other gang members ran on.

The Kid looked over his shoulder and saw the posse closing on Big Jim.  He heard a horse scream and cranked around to see Heyes lying on the ground, trapped under his horse.  The posse saw the two men down and split, one group thundering towards Big Jim and the other towards Heyes.

The Kid hesitated, looking back and forth.  Finally, his mouth set in a grim line; he pulled his gun, shooting towards the posse heading for Big Jim, slowing its advance.  He quickly reloaded and galloped to him.

“You alright?”

“Broke my arm.  Horse is dead.”

The Kid kicked his feed out of the stirrups and reached down.  “Get on.”

Big Jim swung himself and the money up, and they raced after the others.  The Kid looked sideways watching the posse catch up to Heyes until he could no longer see them.  They rode on.  The Kid flinched and stiffened as he heard a single shot.  Big Jim stared at his back as they rode.

~~~oOo~~~

Heyes looked up and saw the backs of Lawson and Harrison.  He struggled to free himself from his horse, which was thrashing on the ground, having tripped in a hole.

“You there, hands up!  Drop the weapon!”

Heyes sighed and obeyed both commands.  “Just wanted to put him out of his misery.”

The leader of the posse was a young man, only a few years older than Heyes.  He looked at the horse.  “John, he’s right, go ahead.”

John silently turned his gun on the horse and shot it once in the head.  The horse lay still.  Another man reached over and emptied Heyes’ saddlebags.  “Dang, he don’t have any of it.”

Disgruntled, the leader turned to him.  “I’m Wade Sawyer, and you are our prisoner.  What’s your name?”

“Hannibal Heyes.”

Sawyer smiled.  “You know, men, this was the Devil’s Hole Gang.  Mr. Heyes here is worth five hundred dollars.  Mr. Heyes, your thieving days are over.  I suggest you enjoy the march back to town; it’s the last time you’ll be outside for a long time.”

“March?”

“We don’t have any horses, and yours is dead.  So, I guess you’re walking.”

Sawyer turned to the other men.  “Tie his hands real good, then I’ll tie him to my saddle horn.  We won’t get back as fast as we left, but we’ll get there.  Schmidt, ride on back into town to let the sheriff know what’s happened.  I guess four of us are enough to guard one prisoner, especially one on foot.”

The other men laughed then turned to their tasks.

~~~oOo~~~

“We’ve lost them.”

The men had stopped near where they had fresh mounts hidden.  Big Jim hesitated and held out his hand.  “Kid, I thank you.  It took a lot for you to help me and leave Hannibal back there.”

The Kid checked his gun.  “I’m goin’ back for him.”

“You heard the shot.”

“I did, and if all I can do is bury him, I’ll do that.  I’ve buried family before.”

Big Jim looked at the set jaw and steely blue eyes, opened his mouth, then closed it and nodded.  “Come see me when you get back to the Hole; we have things to settle.”

Kyle hesitated then spoke, “I’ll go with you, Kid.  You helped me back in town, and I reckon I owe you.”

“You don’t.”

Wheat came up with the fresh mounts.  “What’s happening?”

“Kyle and the Kid are going back to see if they can get Heyes.”

The Kid carefully stowed shotguns in the saddle holsters and handed Kyle the lead to a spare horse.  Wheat watched them mount the fresh horses.  “Shoot, I’ll go with you.”

“You?!”  The Kid stared.

“Well, don’t make a big song and dance about it…” Wheat huffed.  “Are you coming or not?”

The Kid managed a small grin.

~~~oOo~~~

Heyes plodded along.  The Kid had helped Big Jim, not him!  He knew he’d told Big Jim that’s what the Kid would do, but he hadn’t really believed it.  When the Kid had agreed to join up, he’d told him to back Big Jim first.  For once he wished the Kid hadn’t listened to him.

They were passing through a stand of trees, which provided Heyes some welcome shade.

“Stop here,” Sawyer called.  He looked down at the man stumbling by his side, head down.  He reached over and held out a canteen.  “Want a drink?”

“Thanks.”

“Don’t be too grateful.  There’s no ‘dead or alive’ language to your reward, so we don’t have a choice if we want the money.  Of course, you give us too much trouble, and we might decide the money’s not worth it.”

Heyes gulped.

~~~oOo~~~

The three raced back to where Heyes had fallen.  Finding only the horse shot through its head, the Kid let out a huge sigh.

He examined the trail, smiling as he found boot prints among the horse tracks.

They mounted and followed the tracks quickly.

~~~oOo~~~

Heyes trudged on.  These boots were not meant for walking, he thought ruefully.  Even his blisters had blisters.  He looked up at the strip of sky he could see between the rocks of the arroyo they were passing through, the pebbles on the ground further irritating his feet through the worn soles of his boots.  Jail might not be so bad.  At least he wouldn’t have to walk anymore.  Or march, as Sawyer put it.  No, he sighed, jail would be awful.

As he glanced up at the sky, a lasso snaked out from a rocky outcropping.  It caught Sawyer and lifted him off his horse, depositing him on the ground at Heyes’ feet.  Shots rang out from both sides, sending flecks of rock cascading over the startled posse.

John frantically reached for his gun, only to have it shot out of his hand.

“Throw down your weapons.  Muy pronto,” Wheat’s voice rang out.

Heyes’ eyebrows rose as a grin stretched his cracked lips.

The Kid slid down the slope into the arroyo, keeping the rope binding Sawyer taut.  Wheat and Kyle remained above, the shotguns in their hands creating silhouettes to terrify the frightened posse.

“You okay?”

“Great now.  Good to see you, Kid.”  Heyes’ dimples shone.

The Kid grinned back.  He reached down and removed Sawyer’s gun and handed it to Heyes, while he untied him.  Once Heyes was free, the Kid loosened the lasso and freed Sawyer.

Sawyer glared.  “I’ll get you another day, Heyes.”  He paused and glared at the Kid.  “And your friend here.”

“Maybe you will, but looks like you were wrong once today already.  My thieving days aren’t over, after all.  So, maybe you’ll be wrong about that, too.”

“We have fresh mounts up there, Heyes.  What should we do with these?”

“Let’s ride ‘em up; then we’ll see.  I’ve done enough walking for the day.”

“And what about us?” Sawyer stormed.

Heyes looked at the Kid.  “It’s your call, Kid.”

“How badly they treat you?”

“Could’ve been worse.”

“Then I think I’ll just tie them up lightly.  You’ll be able to free yourselves in about half an hour,” the Kid said, suiting action to words.  He gathered their guns and tossed them away, after emptying their chambers.

Heyes mounted Sawyer’s horse.  “Come on, Kid, boys, let’s get out of here before the town sends out another posse.”

“And what’ll we do in the meantime?” Sawyer muttered.

Heyes smiled at him.  “Why, once you get free, you can do what you wanted me to do – march yourselves back to town.”

~~~oOo~~~

The men gathered up their shares of the money that had been distributed.

“Well, Jim, we’ll just go pack our things…” Heyes started.

The men stared and muttered to themselves.

Big Jim looked at him.  “Yes, pack them up, Hannibal.  I’ve been thinking that you could help me plan better if you were up at the cabin.  Why don’t you move your things to the spare room there?”  He looked around at the rest of the gang.  “And I think Mr. Curry has proven himself now; it’s time for the rest of you to resume your share of the chores.”

Heyes and the Kid looked at each other, eyebrows raised, and grinned.

~~~oOo~~~

Heyes found the Kid sitting on a stump by the clearing where the men practiced their shooting.  He sat next to him.  “Want a cigar?”

“Thanks.  Want some whiskey?”

“Thanks.”  Heyes took a drink then looked off in the distance.  “Jed, remember the first time we drank whiskey?”

The Kid laughed.  “Both of us thought it tasted horrible – worse than that tonic you ma used to give us.  Guess we’ve grown some since then.”

Heyes chuckled and the two sat silently, watching the sky darken as the sun set.

“Why’d you go after Big Jim, Jed?  I thought you’d come for me.”

“I thought about what you’d do and decided to go for him.”

“You thought I’d abandon you?”

“No, Heyes.  I thought you’d figure I could protect myself and go for the leader who was questionin’ our loyalty, then come get me.”

Heyes looked at him with respect.  “That’s quite a scheme, Kid; it’s worthy of me.”

“Yeah, well, I learned from the best, Heyes; I learned from the best.”

Heyes chuckled.

The Kid chuckled too then sobered.  “But when I heard that shot…”  He shuddered, and a look of despair crossed his face.  “Not sure I’d do it the same way the next time.”

Heyes patted his leg.  “We’ll just have to plan better, make sure there is no next time.”

They sat silently for a moment, Heyes with his legs stretched out before him, ankles crossed, and leaning back against a convenient tree.

The Kid grinned and lightly kicked Heyes’ heel, knocking his foot off the other ankle.  “Guess next time we go to town you need to get new boots, Heyes.  Those are lookin’ a mite worn.”

“What are you talking about, Kid?  I just got these broke in.”  He smiled as the Kid groaned.  Heyes took another slug of the whiskey and passed it back.

They sat shoulder to shoulder, smoking and passing the bottle back and forth, quietly watching the night settle in.
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