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 Story of the Year Jan - Apr

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Which one of our wonderful writers wins your vote to go through for the finals of Story Of The Year
1. January - Hell Bent for Leather - RosieAnnie. Two desperate ex-outlaws are at the end of their tethers when the bump into a face from their past. Will they go back to a life of crime?
Story of the Year Jan - Apr Vote_lcap43%Story of the Year Jan - Apr Vote_rcap
 43% [ 6 ]
2. February - What's In A Name - Hunkeydorey. An ageging Heyes passes through that final curtain. Is the Kid waiting for him? You betcha!
Story of the Year Jan - Apr Vote_lcap14%Story of the Year Jan - Apr Vote_rcap
 14% [ 2 ]
3. March - Outlaw Olympics - Riders. Wheat competes with Heyes and ends up in jail. Will anyone come through for him? Marshal MCLoud look awfully familiar to me.
Story of the Year Jan - Apr Vote_lcap14%Story of the Year Jan - Apr Vote_rcap
 14% [ 2 ]
4. March - Outlaw Olympics - Cimarron. A young woman learns the difference between bad and evil from a dangerous Kid Curry.
Story of the Year Jan - Apr Vote_lcap21%Story of the Year Jan - Apr Vote_rcap
 21% [ 3 ]
5. April - A Handshake Seals the Deal - Javabee. The boys try to work out what a connoisseur is until Javasue arrives to put them right
Story of the Year Jan - Apr Vote_lcap7%Story of the Year Jan - Apr Vote_rcap
 7% [ 1 ]
Total Votes : 14
 

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PostSubject: Story of the Year Jan - Apr   Story of the Year Jan - Apr EmptyFri Aug 01, 2014 5:41 am

It's time to vote for your favourite out of the next few batch of stories to go through to the final if our prestigious 'Story of the Year' vote.  It looked close for a bit there, but the winner for the last poll with her tale of a matron swept off her feet was: 


  jump face  Hunkeydorey  jump face 

The next vote will be for the following stories.  As you can see I have also posted them into this thread to make life easier for you.  Each month is  in a different colour font.

January- Hell Bent for leather

RosieAnnie    cowboy 11 


February - What's in a Name


Hunkeydorey   confused   


March - Outlaw Olympics


Riders and Cimarron  cowboy 9 


April - A Handshake Seals the Deal  


Javabee   Hamdshake 




Time To Vote!
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PostSubject: January - Hell Bent For Leather - RosieAnnie   Story of the Year Jan - Apr EmptyFri Aug 01, 2014 5:44 am

Hell Bent For Leather - RosieAnnie


While I admire brevity in others, I can't seem to achieve it myself. This is just under the word limit.

---

Heyes pushed the creaking door open. In the dim moonlight from the window, he could just barely see an oil lamp. Curry waited quietly in the hall while Heyes struck a match to the wick, and a feeble light illuminated the shabby hotel room. Curry squeezed past Heyes, dropping his saddlebags onto the floor. He sat on the nearest bed, gingerly testing the mattress. Satisfied, he lay down across the bed, with his feet on the floor.


Heyes adjusted the lamp to burn brighter. In the dresser mirror, he saw Curry collapse onto the bed. Heyes put his own saddlebags on the dresser and took off his hat, carefully hanging it on a peg.


“You planning to sleep that way?” Heyes asked.


“What way?” Curry answered, eyes closed.


“With your coat and hat on. Wearing that hogleg.”


“Maybe.”


There was a pitcher and bowl on the dresser. Heyes lifted the pitcher carefully and was pleasantly surprised to see that it was full. He poured water into the bowl and splashed some on his face. Running wet fingers through his dirty hair, he looked at himself in the mirror and saw a three-day stubble of dark beard, deep circles under the eyes, and pale skin. His eyes shifted to Curry’s reflection. Curry looked worse than he did. Heyes took a towel from the rack and, wiping his face, went to stand next to his friend.


“How’re you doing, Kid?”


“Wonderful.” Heyes put the towel on the nightstand, got down on one knee, and pulled Curry’s boots off. Curry neither resisted nor helped.


“Good to hear, Kid. I was afraid that little tumble you took might’ve bruised you up some.”


“I’ve had better days.”


Heyes got up. His knees creaked.


“Why don’t you take off your coat and hat and stay for a while?” Curry slowly sat up, grunting. Giving his hat to Heyes, he unbuttoned his sheepskin jacket, and Heyes helped him shrug out of it. Heyes knew better than to help with Curry’s gunbelt; he waited, holding Curry’s coat and hat, while Curry unbuckled the gunbelt and hung it on the brass headboard, within easy reach.


Curry sat slumped on the edge of the bed, head hanging, elbows on knees and hands clasped, while Heyes hung his coat and hat in the wardrobe. The clothes put away, Heyes went back to check on his exhausted partner.


“You hungry?”


“No,” Curry said. He looked up at Heyes’ concerned face and forced a small smile. “Don’t look like that, Heyes. I reckon I’m more tired than hungry.”


“How about I go down to the dining room and bring us back a couple sandwiches? That sound good?”


Curry tried to get up, but Heyes pushed him back down with a gentle hand on his shoulder.


“You need me to watch your back, Heyes. There’s no telling if any of that posse trailed us here.”


“Not a chance, Kid. They’re heading to Mexico by now. Besides, it ain’t likely I’ll see anyone who knows me, especially since the restaurant’s just about to close.”


Kid looked at Heyes’ drawn face. Heyes looked as bad as he felt. He looked at the pillow. He looked again at Heyes.


“You just rest for a bit, Kid. I’ll be back in no time.”


Kid looked at the pillow again. He felt like it was calling his name.


“Okay, Heyes. Just stay out of trouble.”


“I’ll be meek as a church mouse. Promise.” He released Curry’s shoulder, and Curry lay on his side and closed his eyes.


Heyes was almost out of the room when Curry spoke up.


“Heyes.”


“Yeah?”


“No onions.”


Despite his worry, Heyes smiled at his partner. “Got it.”


No customers were in the dining room when Heyes arrived. He glanced at a large wall clock – it was 9:02, and the restaurant closed at nine. A short balding waiter was picking up salt shakers from the tables. Heyes cleared his throat. The man turned around, frowning.


“Dining room’s closed, mister.”


Heyes pointed to the clock. “Only for two minutes. Can’t I get something to take back to my room?”


The little man straightened up, surprised. “You’re a guest here?” This skinny cowboy dressed in raggedy clothes didn’t look like he had ten cents to his name.


“Yes, sir, me and my partner just checked in. We sure could use some food.”


“Well. . . “ the waiter hesitated, torn between his desire to go home and the boss’s insistence to take good care of guests. “If the dining room supervisor says it’s alright. Kitchen’s supposed to be closed.”


“That’d be real kind of you. Anything you got would be fine, as long as it’s got no onions. ” Frowning again, the man went into the kitchen. Heyes waited, looking around at the comfortable dining room chairs, all arranged neatly around the tables. If he sat down, he might fall asleep right then and there. 


The wall clock ticked loudly. Five minutes passed. Heyes was trying to decide if he should go looking for the waiter when he heard clicking footsteps behind the kitchen door. He put on his best smile that lasted only two seconds after the door opened. He sure wasn’t expecting to see her in this place. She recognized him, too. The shock on her face was almost comical.


“Hello, Louise.” He pointed at the tray she was carrying. “Is that for me?”


Her jaw hung low. She looked quickly around the room. They were alone.


“What are you doing here?” she whispered loudly.


“I’m here for dinner.”


“That’s not what I meant! Why are you in Yuma? Did you come here looking for me?”


He ran one hand through his long hair. “No, Louise. Why we’re here is a long story, but it’s not about you. Seeing you is just a happy coincidence.”


She almost threw the tray at him. “Here’s some cold chicken with slaw and bread. Take it and go.”


“Don’t you want to know what room to bill it to?”


“No,” she hissed. “Just go.”


“Why Miss Carson,” he said. “What kind of greeting is this? Especially after all we’ve been through.”


She opened her mouth, ready to tell him off, when, all of a sudden, her anger evaporated. He was smiling, trying to charm her. The deep dimples were still there, but his big brown eyes were dull. He was thinner than she remembered, too. His clothes were threadbare and dirty. This wasn’t the man she’d known two years ago.


“Are you alright, Mr. Smith?” The concern in her quiet voice surprised him.


“I will be, once I get to eat. Thanks for this.”


“Is your friend with you?”


“He’s upstairs.”


“I see.” They looked at each other without speaking. After a long moment, Heyes turned away.


“I ought to get back. Thaddeus gets cranky when he’s hungry.”


“You’d better go then. Unless you need something else right now?”


“No, Louise. Thank you. I guess you’re the supervisor here?”


“Yes, I am. Almost since I arrived in Yuma.”


“Yeah, well. . . that’s good, Louise, real good. I guess I’ll be seeing you again, since we’re staying here.”


“Yes, you probably will. And I’m sorry I was so sharp with you earlier. When I saw you, I thought. . . well, I thought you were here about what happened before.”


“Not a problem, Miss Carson. Good night.” 


“Good night.” Louise moved to hold the door open for Heyes, who was balancing the heavy tray. He smiled his thanks. Halfway up the stairs, he paused and looked back. She was standing at the door, watching him.


Heyes kicked the door of his hotel room. “Hey Thaddeus, can you open up? My hands are full.” There was no answer. Frowning, Heyes put the tray on the floor and opened the door cautiously. Curry was laying on his side, snoring loudly. Heyes picked the tray up and put it on the dresser, closing the door behind him and locking it. Curry opened one eye and looked at his partner blearily.


“Everything okay?”


“Sure thing, Kid. You want to eat? Got some chicken, courtesy of Louise Carson.”


Something about the name woke Curry up a little. “Who?”


“Louise Carson, remember her? The waitress who was fooling around with that asshole who murdered Jenny’s boy Billy and implicated us?”


“Oh.” Ancient history wasn’t interesting to Curry just at that moment.


“She’s still real pretty.”


Curry punched his pillow and settled down again. “That’s nice.”


“You want some of this chicken?”


“Maybe later,” Curry mumbled into the pillow.


Heyes sat in the armchair. He was still hungry, but he felt too tired to take even one more step. He didn’t know he wanted to do, so he sat and watched Curry sleep. Eventually, he closed his eyes. His mind was racing, but it wasn’t the events of the last week keeping him awake. Instead, Louise Carson occupied his thoughts. Her face was the last thing in his mind’s eye when he slipped off into a light sleep.


The next few days passed quietly. Heyes spent half that first night in the chair, finally crawling into bed in the small hours. He and Curry slept past noon and gratefully ate the cold chicken Louise provided. Both men bathed, sent their dirty clothes to be laundered, and went back to bed. Neither felt well enough to go out, although each man made halfhearted attempts to get out for the other’s benefit. Room service regularly brought meals up, much to Heyes’ surprise and concern. The next afternoon Heyes went to the front desk to see what this was costing him and was stunned to find the hotel had no record of any charges beyond the cost of the room.


On the third day, clean, shaved, and wearing his last good shirt, Heyes waited on the hotel’s front porch for Louise to arrive for work. He saw her walking down the wooden sidewalk, wearing a sensible shirtdress, her long brown hair braided and worn like a crown on her head. He stood up to greet her when she reached the steps.


“Good morning, Miss Carson. Hot day, isn’t it?”


“Good morning, Mr. Smith. Yes, it’s always hot in Yuma.” Standing fully five feet apart, neither could think of another thing to say. Louise looked at him closely.


“You seem to be feeling better, Mr. Smith.”


“If I am, it’s because I’ve been able to clean up and eat well. I believe I have you to thank for that.”


She moved closer to him so she could speak quietly. “I do have some discretion as a manager to take care of preferred guests, Mr. Smith. Even so, let’s keep this between us, shall we?”


“I never look a gift horse in the mouth, Miss Carson.” She made a face, and Heyes realized what he had said maybe didn’t sound so good. “Not that I think of you as a horse, I mean.”


“It’s alright, Mr. Smith. I know what you mean. I think.” They looked at each other again. The long silence was finally broken when both laughed.


“How is your friend, Mr. Smith?”


“Feeling better. He twisted his back when he fell off his horse. It’s been real sore, but he’s up and about a little bit.”


“Fell off his horse?” she asked, amused. “How did he manage to do that?”


“It ain’t hard to do when there’s eight or ten someones riding hell bent for leather, chasing you.”


She sobered instantly. “Sorry. I did hear something about that.”


He felt the old fear stiffen his body. He looked around briefly before he leaned in closer to her.
“What did you hear?”


“They’re following the outlaws' trail, still riding hell bent for leather, heading into Mexico.”


“Huh,” he said, trying and failing to hide his relief with a joke. “Hope they speak good Spanish. The Mexicans don’t like American posses crossing the border.”


“No,” she said. “I’ve heard that, too.” She saw he was still tense. “What will you do?”


He wiped his sweating forehead with one hand. “Depends on how my friend’s feeling. He was hurt worse than he admits. I’d like to stay another day or two, if we can.”


“Let me know if I can do anything to help.”


“Louise, you’ve done a lot already. More than I could have asked for. Maybe you’d do one more thing for me?”


“If I can.”


“Let me buy you dinner tonight? Someplace nice? If you’re free, of course. I know you got a job to do.”


She hesitated. “Can you afford that?”


He gave her a bitter little smile. “I wouldn’t offer otherwise.”


She rested a soft hand on his arm. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”


“You and me got a history of saying things to each other we shouldn’t. Maybe we can start over again?”


“Yes, Mr. Smith. Let’s do that. I can meet you here at, oh, 7:00pm? Today’s actually my day off. I just came by to do a little paperwork.”


“See you then, Miss Carson.” She smiled at him one more time and went inside. Heyes felt unreasonably good. Must be the prospect of spending time with a beautiful woman who didn’t want anything from him, he thought. Especially a pretty woman who knew who he was and didn’t seem anxious to collect the reward.


00000


“You picked a nice place, Louise,” Heyes said. “A private table where we can visit without anyone overhearing us, good food, lots of good wine. And charming company. It’s the nearest thing to heaven I can imagine.”


“Your imagination is limited then,” she said. “Still, it is a nice place. The owner thinks of himself as a chef, not just a cook. He takes a lot of pride in his business.”


“Do you know him?” he asked.


She nodded. “Because of my job, I know everyone in the food service business in Yuma.  He’s a friend.”


“Oh?” Heyes’ voice rose. “How good a friend?” She stared at him.


“I thought we decided to start anew, Joshua.” It was hard to tell in the dim light, but he seemed to be blushing.


“We did, Louise. I’m sorry. Sometimes stupid things come out of my mouth. I can’t seem to stop them. You’re the last person I want to hurt, especially after all you’ve done for us.”


He looked so earnest, she wanted to hug him. Instead, she changed the subject.


“The last time I saw you, you mentioned that you and your friend were trying to change your lives. How is that going?”


He reached for the wine glass. It was empty. Louise obligingly filled it for him, and he took a long swallow. The wine was going down real easy. “We changed, alright. We changed from eating regular and sleeping in beds and getting medical care to sleeping on the ground, going hungry – “ he tipped his glass at Louise – “except when some kind woman takes pity on us, and bandaging each other up, because the local doctor’s been warned to look out for a pair of broken-down old outlaws. We take the dirty, dangerous jobs no one else will take, and only sometimes we get paid for them. Yeah, we changed.” This time, Louise did reach across to comfort him. He gripped her small hand tightly.


“Sometimes, I think, is this what we deserve for everything we did before? I mean, did we earn this, because of all the bad we did? The way things are, we got no more control over our own lives than a tumbleweed does blowing around Yuma. We’re nothing. We’re dirt. Sometimes I feel like just giving up, you know?”


Louise’s eyes were sympathetic, and she was listening closely. Maybe that’s why he was talking so much. That, and all the wine he’d had.


“You know what, Louise? Lately I been thinking, maybe we should just go back to doing what we know how to do. We’re probably going to end up dead or in prison anyway. Might as well go out on a high. At least my belly’d be full, and I’d be wearing decent clothes.”


“What does your partner say?” she asked.


“Not much. Oh, I know he’s still hurting some, but that ain’t it. He’s quiet. Doesn’t talk much. Doesn’t want to do anything but sit in the room. That’s not like him at all. And there don’t seem to be anything I can say or do to make him feel better.”


“I’m so sorry, Joshua. I wish I could help you.” He noticed tears welling up in her eyes, and he kicked himself mentally. Why was he telling her his life story? She was just a casual acquaintance. He hadn’t spent more than six hours of his life in her company. Now he was spilling his guts to her. He pulled his hand free and sat up straight.


“I’m sorry, too, Louise. I shouldn’t be dumping on you. You’ve been more generous to me and my partner than we deserve. It’s sure a lot more than I expect from anybody these days. What about you? I remember you were coming out here to live with your sister. You were hoping to find somebody nice, maybe get married. How’s that working out?”


“It’s not, Joshua.” He looked so surprised, she laughed out loud. “What, you never met an old maid before?”


“Not one as beautiful as you, Louise. There must be something wrong with the men in Yuma, if they’re passing you by.”


“Oh, they’re not passing me by, Joshua. Just the unmarried ones.” His eyes got wide again. “I’ve had more illicit offers from married men than I can count. I don’t accept any of them. I learned my lesson.”


“What about your sister? Aren’t you living with her?”


She shook her head. “No. Oh, I did, at first. It didn’t work out. Her husband was one of those married men who made an illicit offer.” Heyes shook his head.


“That’s awful, Louise. What did you do?”


“I moved out. I made up some lie to tell her, but she wasn’t fooled. She knew something was wrong. I finally told her what happened, and she got angry. She said terrible things, made all sorts of accusations. We don’t see each other anymore.”


Now Heyes reached across to hold Louise’s hand. “I’m sorry, Louise. You deserve better.”


“It’s not so bad,” she said, lightly. “I have a job, a place to live. I make my own way in the world. But sometimes, Joshua” – she took a deep breath – “I’ll tell you the truth. I want to give up, too. I want to run away and have some excitement. The thought of spending the rest of my life in this town, doing what I’m doing . . .. I’ve done nothing but work, and what do I have to show for it? A room in a boarding house, and a tiny savings account. I want to travel, do exciting things, have some adventure in my life, like you’ve had.”


“Being chased by a posse for almost a week ain’t the kind of adventure anyone wants, Louise.”


“I guess I could skip that part. Would you go back to – to what you did before with banks and trains?”


“No. The glory days of outlawing are gone. We’re talking about working the confidence game. Maybe go east to Florida, where we wouldn’t be recognized so easily.”


“I’ve heard about Florida,” she said. “Big real estate boom going on. A lot of rich easterners are buying land there.”


“Wherever rich easterners and their money goes, crooks follow,” he said. “It’s the natural order of things.”


She laughed, as he’d intended. God, she was beautiful. And sweet, and kind, and she liked him, even though she knew who he was and what he’d done.  He looked at her, and, in an instant, a plan came to mind, whole and complete, and he knew it was perfect. A look of wonder crossed his face, and Louise watched his whole demeanor change.


“Joshua? What is it? What are you thinking?”


“Louise,” he began, “I got me an idea.”


00000


The 8:10 to Tucson and points east was only halfway full. Heyes and Curry, wearing suits and carrying carpetbags, easily found seats facing each other.


“This is either the worst idea you’ve ever had, Joshua, or it’s the best. I’m not sure which.”


Heyes glanced at his partner. Curry wore his impassive poker face. “You’re still willing to go along with it, aren’t you?”


“Yeah. Yeah, I am.” Something in Curry’s voice made Heyes look at him closer. “You’re definitely right about one thing. Giving up was the only thing we could do, if we wanted to have any sort of a life.”


“Losing everything can be a gift, Thaddeus. There’s nothing holding you back from embracing your future.”


“Now who’s the philosopher?” Curry asked. Heyes smiled. He was feeling good.


“The only thing I feel bad about is Lom,” Curry said. “Not telling him anything, just disappearing, after all he tried to do for us.”


“Yeah,” Heyes agreed. “But we got to do it. He’s an honest man, old Lom is. You know he’d feel duty-bound to come after us with a posse.”


“I know,” Curry said. “But still . . . “


“I know. Still.” The thought of leaving their old friend in the dark was his only regret. Heyes wished it could be different, but if they were leaving amnesty behind, they had to leave Lom behind, too. It was the only way.


Curry pointed out the window. “There.” Heyes looked in that direction. Louise Carson was boarding the train. Something, some instinct, made her turn towards Heyes. He was clearly visible from where she stood, but she showed no reaction; she just boarded the train calmly and went into the next car. Too many people in Yuma knew her. Being seen together now could be dangerous. Heyes grinned. She had natural talent. He knew he could teach her how to work a con in no time.


“I wasn’t really talking about you and me, Joshua,” Curry said.


“I know.”


“Is it a good idea to bring her into this? This kind of life, I mean.”


“It’s her decision, Thaddeus. She could have said no, and we’d still be doing what we’re doing.”


“Uh huh.”


Heyes heard criticism in Curry’s voice and got a little defensive. “We already discussed this. We’ll teach her the business, and we’ll all make some serious money along the way, like we used to. Only we won’t throw it away like we did before.”


Curry held up both hands. “Alright, alright. It’ll just take some adjusting, working with a new partner.”


“It’ll be great, Thaddeus. I got a real good feeling about this.”


Heyes was smiling. He looked confident and happy, Curry thought, just like he used to be, before they’d wasted the last few years chasing the dream of amnesty. They were finished with that, finally. It was good to see Heyes excited about the future. Truth be told, Curry was feeling pretty excited, too.


“So Florida’s a peninsula, is that right?” Heyes nodded.


“Yeah. That means it’s surrounded by water.”


“That’s great,” Curry said. “That means the seafood will be really good.”


Heyes laughed. His partner was acting like his old self again.


“Yeah,” Heyes said. “A chance to do the kind of work we do best, without anyone like Lom watching over our shoulders. A warm climate, rich idiots, lots of good seafood, and a prettier partner than you. Things are looking up.”


Both men grinned happily at each other. Things were definitely looking up.
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PostSubject: February- What's In A Name - Hunkeydorey   Story of the Year Jan - Apr EmptyFri Aug 01, 2014 5:47 am

February- What's In A Name - Hunkeydorey


“Dr. Watson?”  The nursing assistant smiled at the old man, rousing him gently from his slumbers.  “Your nephew is here to see you.” 


“Nephew?”


“Yes, dear.  Mr. and Mrs. Holmes are here.”


The young, blonde giggled into her sleeve.  “Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson?  Seriously?”


“Yes,” the old man cleared his rheumy throat.  “But I was born in the eighteen fifties, so I had the name ‘Watson’ before it was used in the stories.  He had a remarkable mind, Conan Doyle.”


“I love those stories; especially the one with the giant dog.”  The blonde’s eyes widened.  “You met him?” 


“Sure did.  I met him when he visited the eastern U.S. in 1894 and again in 1923 when he came to Winnipeg.  He got quite a kick out of me being called Watson and having relatives called Holmes.  We talked about that.”   


The young nurse looked at the old man with renewed respect.  “I’d love to hear about that.  I’ve never met anyone famous.”  Her pretty face slid into a smile.  “Except for Dr. Watson.  Did he base that character on you?  You were a specialist in solving crimes after all.”   


“The books were written before I met him,” The patient’s face pitted with deep dimples, “but I must admit to using that story as line to impress more than one pretty girl.”  He shrugged a bony shoulder.  “That’s when they were still interested.  I’m all gristle and phlegm now.”      


“You’re a charmer, Dr. Watson.  You’re a breath of fresh air to us nurses.”  The dark-haired nurse lifted a dirty cup from the bedside cabinet and placed it on the tray on the sideboard.  “Our, Dr. Watson here, wasn’t a doctor of medicine either, were you, Doctor?” 


Dr. Watson coughed; a heart-stopping, gut-wrenching bark which rattled the aged, fragile ribs.  He seized the nearby oxygen mask and sucked in a breath of reviving gas.  “I worked in security all my life.  I studied all kinds of sciences which would help me perfect my methodology.”  The dark eyes grew distant.  “It was an honorary title.  I never used it.”


“But the police and the courts did.”  The nurse pulled at his pillows and punched them into a better support for the grey head.  “That’s why you are in the Winnipeg Police Rest Home, Dr. Watson.  The Chief Constable insisted that you be cared for here after your surgery and the Mayor agreed to pick up the bill.  You have been a great asset to the province.  Now, sit up nicely and let me brush your hair.  I want you to look good for your visitors.” 


“They’ve seen me look worse,” the doctor muttered under his breath.


“Not when I’m on duty, they haven’t,” the dark-haired nurse put the comb back on the locker and stepped back to appraise her work.  She gave a firm nod of approval.  “Yes, you’ll do.  Now let’s get that dressing gown on you.  You look so smart in that paisley pattern one.”


“The one young Jed got me for Christmas?”


“You’re so thin, we must fatten you up.”  She tied off the robe and pursed her lips.  “He’s coming with his wife to show you their new baby son.  Isn’t that exciting?”   


“The baby?  I guess.”


The older nurse put her hands on her hips.  “Why the sad puppy-dog eyes?” 


The grey head dropped.  “His grandfather would have loved to have seen him.”


The nurses exchanged a concerned glance.  “Your old friend?  Yes, it is sad he isn’t here to see his grandchild but you gave his boy a wonderful start in life and a loving home after he died.”


“No mother, though.   I guess we got caught up in work and starting a family came last,” the smile fell from his face, “too late for me.  ”   


“You brought up a fine young man and he’s here to see you,” the no-nonsense, professional tone rang with the certainty that the nurse would brook no opposition, “so let’s get you into that wheelchair and out to the porch, shall we?  They’re waiting for you out there and you could do with a breath of fresh air.”  She patted his shoulder.  “I don’t know what’s gotten into you today.  You’re feeling so sorry for yourself.  It’s not like you.”


“It’s seeing old friends, Nurse.”  The dark eyes became wistful.  “It brings everything back.”    


**********


“Uncle Joshua?”  The young man ushered forward the beautiful redhead who proudly clutched the precious bundle in her arms.  “This is our son; we’ve called him Jedidiah Curry Holmes.”


The nurse applied the brakes firmly to the wheelchair and walked away, leaving the little group in private. 


The dark eyes darted to the swaddled baby and shared an unspoken conversation with the couple.  “Oh,” was all the old man could say through a mist of emotion.  


“It’s time,” the young man smiled.  “We are proud of my father.  He died upholding the law but my son will carry the name and continue his legacy.  It’s been a long time in coming, but Jed Curry will live a decent, honest life under his own name in a way his grandfather never could.”


The dark eyes glistened with tears.  “I never meant for you to feel ashamed of your real name.  I guess it was safer for me for you be called Holmes.”


“I’ve never been ashamed of anything, Uncle Joshua; not my given name or my real one.  They’re all part of my father’s life,” young Jed shrugged, “so they’re part of me now too.”


“We chose the names because Smith and Jones were thrust on us and they were ridiculous; just too suspicious.”  Heyes’ chuckle quickly developed into a phlegm-clearing cough.  “When we picked names from a story who knew that those serials in a magazine would become so popular huh?  We thought the names Watson and Holmes were ordinary enough to go unnoticed.  In a way, though, they became great cover because people would never suspect you’d choose a famous name.”


“Serials?  I thought they were books?” Margaret took the seat her husband placed beside the wheelchair. 


“They started as serials in Lippincott’s magazine in London in 1887.  We were in Canada by then and some made their way there.  I loved them.  They ended up as books.”


“I get the feeling your exploits will too,” Jed dragged over his own chair over.  “It’s an amazing story.”


“No,” Heyes muttered.  “Not while I’ve got a breath in my body.  There’s no statute of limitations in Wyoming and I’m still wanted.  I won’t spend my last days in a prison infirmary.  I didn’t fight all my life for that.”       


The young man reached out a hand to touch the skeletal knee.  “I know why you did what you did, Uncle Joshua, and I think you were right.  You did everything you could to get amnesty and when the Governor strung you along you for too long you had to eventually give up and build a future.  You gave me a good life here in Canada, an education, respectability and a heritage to be proud of; but times have changed and people don’t condemn the likes of young Jed because his grandfather used to be an outlaw.  He redeemed himself and it’ll be good for folks to know that he turned over a new leaf and died protecting innocent people from bank robbers.  Your story is inspirational, you know; you made good.”


“Did I?  I think he gave up when your mother died,” the old man sniffed, but it was unclear if the source was infection or sentiment.  “I should never have let him go back to work.”
 
“Don’t beat yourself up, Uncle Joshua.  This is a happy occasion.  Here,” Jed ushered his wife forward.  “Margaret, introduce young Jed to his Grandpa.”


“Grandpa?”


“The nearest thing he’ll ever have.  You are a blood relative after all,” Jed unpacked the box brownie from the leather carrier.  “Here, Margaret.  Will you take a picture of three generations of the family together?”


“Of course,” she beamed.  “We must get this one in a frame.  This will be a very special photograph.”   
         
The new mother laid her baby in the old man’s arms, pausing to adjust his upper arm to support the infant’s head.  He gazed down at the little pink form staring up at him with earnest eyes.  “He’s got blue eyes,” he murmured, “dark-blue eyes.”


“All babies have blue eyes to start with,” Margaret cooed.  “They have a greyish tinge now, but that will go.  The colour will come in soon, but I expect he’ll have bright-blue eyes like his father.”


A wrinkled finger reached out to stroke the plump face. “And his grandfather.  The brightest eyes I ever did see.”


“What do you think of him?” Margaret asked, staring down at her offspring.


“He’s pink,” the old man wrinkled his nose.  “Do you know he looks like he’s been pushed up against a pane of glass?”


The outraged mother’s eyes widened.  “He’s beautiful!”


“Yeah,” the old man nodded.  “He is; squashed but beautiful.  Let’s get that photograph taken.  Us men folk aren’t used to babies, is all.”  The shawl fell away from the babe’s head.  “Oh, curls.  He’s got curls.”  Hannibal Heyes stared deeply into the baby’s scrutinizing eyes.  “Yes, I see the Kid in him.  I got that long, hard look too many times.  It’s like he’s telling me to stop yackin’ and get the picture taken.”


“’The Kid?’”  Jed Holmes grinned widely.  “I like that.  That’s what I’m going to call him.  That’s way better than junior.”


“It makes him sound like a goat,” the young mother protested.


“It makes him sound like his grandpa,” Heyes murmured.  “Yeah, the Kid.  That’s good.”


“It doesn’t sound like you have any say in the matter, Margaret,” Jed laughed.  “He’s ‘the Kid’ to me and his grandpa Heyes.”  He dropped his voice and glanced with a well-programmed response.  “Sorry...”


“No harm done,” the old man chuckled, “nobody heard.”


The men pulled close, propping the baby up to face the unblinking eye of the camera until their images were indelibly imprinted on the newly invented cellulose.


 “That’s going to be a keeper.”  The young man stood, observing his relative closely.  “You never liked getting your picture taken did you, Uncle Joshua?” 


“It kept me alive,” the tired head dropped.  “Did I ever tell you about the one photopraph we were stupid enough pose for?”


“Yes, Uncle Joshua.  You did.  I always wanted a copy of that; you and my father in the prime of life.”


“We destroyed every copy we could find.  I wonder if Clem’s folks still have one.  If they do, I wonder if anyone knows what it is?”  The thin shoulder shrugged through the paisley-patterned dressing gown.  “I’m old, it’s forgotten.  It’s done business.  Once we’re all buried nobody will ever think of us again.”


Jed’s brow furrowed in concern.  “You’ll be home soon.”


“I have cancer.  The end is coming.  I know it.”


“You can’t know that.”


The grey head nodded.  “Yes, I can.  I saw him today.”


“Who?”


“Your Pa.”  Heyes relaxed back against the raffia of the wheelchair.  “I’ve seen him for a few days now.  I’ve also seen my folks.  I’ve heard that happens at the end.”          


The young man and woman exchanged a glance.  “Nonsense.  You’ll be home again before you know it.”


The grey head shook in resignation.  “I never believed in such things, but there they are; smiling right at me.”


Both young people followed the staring, dark eyes over to the porch steps, but they were empty.  “They’re dreams, that’s all.  Vivid dreams.  Morphine causes that.”


“That’s what the nurse said.”


Margaret scooped up her baby again.  “See?  I told you.  It’s nothing to worry about.  It’s just a side-effect of the drugs.”


“I’ve been on morphine for a long time.  How come I’m only seeing my folks now?”


“It’s built up in your system,” Margaret hugged her baby to her breast.  “You’ll be fine once we get you home.  They said you’re doing well after the surgery and you can come home next week.”             


“Yeah,” Heyes blinked heavy eyes at his visitors, “I won’t be here this time next week.”


“Yes, you’ll be home.”   Jed frowned.  “We’ve tired you out.  We should go.”   


“Jed.  I love you.  I need you to know that.”


The young man paused.  Uncle Joshua could be playful; he could deliver long, meaningful looks and drape a friendly arm over a man’s shoulder but he rarely vocalised his feelings.  He was a man of his time, albeit a remarkable one.  “I’ve always known it.  Enough of this now, you need to rest to get you fit enough to come home.”


“Goodbye, Jed,” he nodded at the woman.  “Look after them all, Margaret.  I’m glad he found you.”


“We’ll see you again tomorrow, Uncle Joshua.”


The gaunt face dimpled into a joyless smile before the vacant eyes stared back at the steps again.  Margaret sighed and dropped a kiss on his cheek.  “You take care now.  ‘Bye.”


The old man gazed at the steps, staring into space before his lids grew heavy and flickered closed.  The spring sun felt good on his skin and the creeping warmth invigorated and vitalised a body wracked with pain and fatigue.  His rise and fall of his chest showed the drop in consciousness; slowing down with the spaces between each breath increasing as he relaxed into a hypnotic world of phantasms and memories.


He was young again in that place; strong, vital and commanding.  The lips twitched into a smile but the cheeks were no longer gaunt and wrinkled, the skin was firm and healthy and revealed white, even teeth.


“Heyes!”  The Kid gestured with his head.  “I’ve been waitin’ ages.  Are you comin’ or what?”


Hannibal Heyes grinned widely.  “Yeah, I’m coming.”  He paused to glance behind him at the other patients sitting on the porch, the nurses arriving with the tea trolley and wrinkled, old form in the paisley patterned dressing gown.  A weight had dropped from him and he was suddenly able to walk again.  He turned back to his cousin.  “Is this another dream?”


Kid Curry shrugged, his eyes dancing with mischief.  “Does it matter?  Ain’t you interested in findin’ out for yourself?  Think of it as another adventure.”


“An adventure?”  Heyes flicked up an eyebrow.  “We haven’t had one of those in years.”


“This is the biggest one yet.”  The Kid paused to throw an arm around the shoulder of his old friend and cousin.  “I’ve missed ya, Heyes.  It ain’t been the same without you.”


“Right back at ya, Kid.”


The wheels of the tea trolley squeaked their way over to the sleeping patient.  The nurse reached out and touched the slumbering patient.  Her gentle push became more insistent, rumpling the paisley patterned dressing gown in her efforts to rouse the insensible man.  Her worried eyes darted towards her colleague.  “Sister!  Come quick.  It’s Dr. Watson.” 


The more senior nurse busted over, her well-practised hand dropping to the man’s wrist to test for a pulse.  “Nurse, go and fetch the doctor.”  She watched the woman striding towards the door before she had an after-thought.  “I think his nephew’s just left; send and orderly to see if they can catch him.  I think the family need to come back.”
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PostSubject: March - Outlaw Olympics - Riders   Story of the Year Jan - Apr EmptyFri Aug 01, 2014 5:52 am

March - Outlaw Olympics - Riders



Going for Gold, Taking Silver, Getting Bronze


“… Thinks he’s so smart.”  The man huffed as he stalked away from the Devil’s Hole compound.


The smallest and scruffiest of those remaining bit a chaw of tobacco, hitched up his pants, and hurried after him.  “What would you do different, Wheat, if you was in charge?”


“Well, shoot, if I were in charge I’d … I’d …” Wheat paused and frowned.  Shaking his head, he growled, “Whatever I did, I’d do it smarter.  And I’ll tell you this.”  Wheat warmed to his theme, his voice rising.  “If I were leading this gang, we’d have enough money to go somewheres warmer this winter instead of being stuck here.  Yessir, if I led this gang, we’d all be better off.”  He stomped away, leaving Kyle looking after him.


~~~oOo~~~


The Kid entered the cabin, his arms loaded with firewood.  As he walked to the fireplace, he glanced at his cousin, who was staring absently out the window.  Curry bent over to place a couple of more logs on the fire and spoke casually, “Wheat’s at it again.”


“I know; I heard him.”  Heyes scowled and began to pace.  “We need to settle this.  He can’t keep undermining my authority.”  Suddenly he stopped and glanced at the Kid, his dimples appearing.  “Why don’t you shoot him?”


“Too easy a target.  No sport in it.”


Heyes snorted and continued pacing.


“You’ll think of somethin’.”  The Kid looked cautiously at Heyes then turned back to the fire.  “He’s got a point though.”


“What?  Not you, too?”


“I’m not real anxious to spend winter here neither, and we don’t have enough money to go someplace warmer for five months.”


“Five months snowed in with this gang?”  Heyes looked appalled for a moment then his shoulders slumped and he turned towards his room.  At the doorway, he paused and looked back.  “I’ll figure something out.  You’re right, I don’t think I can take five months of Wheat saying how he would do things better.  I’d probably shoot him myself, since you won’t do it for me.”  He stalked into his room and slammed the door.


~~~oOo~~~


As the two leaders entered the bunk house, Wheat stopped in mid-flow, his mouth hanging open momentarily before he shut it.


Heyes shut the door and leaned against it.  “Evening, men.”  He held Wheat’s eyes until Wheat looked away and bowed his head slightly.


“Heyes, Kid.” The men responded guardedly, exchanging guilty looks with each other.


Heyes smiled grimly.


“So, men, I’ve been thinking that we need one more job before winter sets in.  Something to allow us all to spend it anywhere other than here.”


The men looked interested.


“Gee, Heyes, that’s just what Wheat was saying,” said Kyle.  “What?”  He looked at Wheat, who had poked him rather forcefully in the ribs.


The Kid straightened up from the wall he’d been leaning against, rested his hands on the buckle of his belt, and looked steadily at Wheat.  “Got somethin’ you want to say, Wheat?”


Wheat opened his mouth and closed it a few times.  “No.”


“Sure you do, Wheat,” said Kyle, encouraging his friend.  “You was just saying that you’d make sure we had enough money to head somewhere warmer for a few months.”  He turned excitedly to Heyes and the Kid.  “He’s got lots o’ ideas about how we could make money.”  He exclaimed, ignoring Wheat’s attempts to shush him.


“Does he now?” said Heyes, looking at Wheat, not Kyle.


“Well …” Wheat began then stopped. 


The other gang members watched the battle of wills, their eyes shifting from speaker to speaker, taking a grim satisfaction from the duel.


Heyes smiled and looked at Wheat.  “Tell you what, why don’t we have a contest – just the two of us.  One robbery and whichever one of us brings the most for the gang to split gets to lead?”


“One robbery?”


“Yup, and I know just who we’re going to rob.  Since it’s only the two of us and we won’t be working together, we’re going to rob a home.  A rich home.”


“Just you and me?”


“Yup.”


“Whoever robs him first is going to get the most.  Won’t be anything left for the next fella to take.  That don’t make sense.”  Wheat folded his arms, smirking.


“We go in together.  One hour.  Whoever brings the most back to the Hole, leads the gang.”  Heyes looked at the rest of the gang.  “That seem fair to you boys?”


“Sure.”


“Uh, huh.”


The rest of the gang nodded their agreement.


“The Kid gonna be there to make sure you get the biggest share?”  Wheat looked at the Kid with a mixture of defiance and fear.  Curry smiled back at him, but Wheat shivered just the same.


“No, just you and me will enter the building, take what we can, then we’ll tally the score when we get back here.  The Kid and Hank here can be nearby to help us get away, but that’s it.  That way you know the Kid won’t be helping me; Hank’ll be there to make sure.”


Wheat looked around at the other gang members and ran a finger around his collar.  He looked at Heyes and back at the gang.  Finally, he sighed.  “Okay, as long as it’s just you and me doing the robbing.  Who are we robbing?”


“That banker – Rutherford.”


“Who?”


Curry rolled his eyes.  “You remember him.  That rich banker that cheated in that poker tournament down Cheyenne way a month or two back.  When Heyes called him on it, he brought in his goons.  Heyes and me figure it’s about time to get a little payback.”


“Oh, him.”  Wheat sat quietly then brightened.  “Yeah, but ain’t his goons going to be around if we break into his house?”


“Not next weekend they won’t be.”  Heyes dimpled.  “I’ve been keeping tabs.  Seems the missus is going out of town and Rutherford’s having his mistress in for the weekend.  Doesn’t want the guards around while she’s there.  Guess he’s afraid someone’ll slip and tell the missus.”  His eyes darkened.  “But that’s the least of his worries.  No one cheats me and gets away with it.”


~~~oOo~~~


Heyes slipped his knife into the crack of the window and lifted the latch.  Opening the window he climbed through.  Hesitating for a moment, he shrugged, then turned back to give Wheat a hand climbing in.


“This is the study,” he whispered, pulling out a candle and lighting it, after making sure the curtains were closed.


Wheat looked around.  “So we both gotta stay in this room?”


“Nope.  You can go anywhere you want.  Of course, you’re more likely to run into someone if you go wandering around, and the safe’s in here.  But it’s up to you.”  Heyes looked around and grinned when he saw the safe tucked in the corner with an oil lamp sitting on top.  “Piece of cake,” he muttered to himself walking over.


Wheat went to the door and began to open it, thought better, and turned back to look around the room.  “I didn’t bring a candle can I take that one?”


“No.  If you want to lead, you need to be prepared.  You’re not, and I’m not helping you.  Now be quiet, I’m busy.”  Heyes leaned back to the door of the safe and resumed twisting the dial, focused on the slight sussings the tumblers emitted as he turned them.


Wheat muttered to himself, stepped into the hall, and promptly tripped over a chair in the dark.  Cursing silently, he returned to the study.  He began to look around the room, sizing up the choices.


Wheat had opened a curio cabinet and was examining the contents when he heard a quiet laugh from Heyes and the sound of an opening door.  Spinning around he saw that Heyes had opened the safe and was examining the contents.  Wheat’s eyes widened, and he hurried over.


“Those are gold bars,” he exclaimed, reaching forward to snag one.


Heyes swatted his hand away.  “Hey, this is a contest, remember?  Did you open this safe?  No, you didn’t.  So get your hand out of there.  When I’m done, I’ll shut it and you can open it yourself.”


“What?  You know I can’t open the safe if you lock it again.  I didn’t bring any dynamite.”


“Guess you’re going to have to find something else.”


“Look, Heyes, be reasonable.  Those gold bars are too heavy for you to carry.”


Heyes ignored him and continued looking through the contents of the safe.  He examined some papers, smiled, rolled them up, and tucked them inside his jacket.  That accomplished, he stood up and shut the safe door. 


Wheat glared at him.  “Ain’t you even going to take the gold?”


“No.”  Heyes looked at his watch.  “Forty minutes gone, Wheat.  You have twenty minutes left.  I’ll even leave you the candle.  See you back at the Hole.”  He climbed back through the window and disappeared into the dark garden beyond.


Wheat swore softly and looked around the room.  He tried the handle of the safe – nothing.  Shrugging his shoulders, he walked over to the cabinet he’d been exploring and removed a pair of candlesticks.  He hefted them in his hands, considering.  “Silver, at least that’s something.  Didn’t see Heyes take anything, just some old papers.  Bet these candles and that platter there’d be worth more than that.  Who needs his gold anyway?” he muttered to himself.


Filling his arms with the candlesticks and the platter he headed to the window.  Realizing he couldn’t climb out with his hands full, he tossed the goods out the window.  They landed with a clatter.  Climbing out after them, he didn’t notice the light that had come on in the room on the floor above.


Suddenly, a shot blasted next to him.  “Who goes there?  You there, stop or the next one goes into you!”  A whistle blew, and another man came running, gun drawn.


Heyes, Curry, and Hank drew up in the shadows of a tree in time to see Wheat hang his head for a moment before raising his hands in the air and standing still.  Curry drew his gun, but stopped when Heyes grabbed his arm and pointed to the arriving sheriff.  “Too late, but I have a plan.”


~~~oOo~~~


Outside of town, Heyes and Curry stood to the side while Hank explained what had happened.  Heyes placed the papers in his saddlebag and drew out a couple of items.  He and Curry spoke quietly.


Kyle hurried over.  “Heyes, what are we gonna do about Wheat?”


Eyebrow raised, Heyes turned towards the gang.  “Why should I do anything about Wheat?  Not my fault he got himself caught.”


The gang murmured among themselves, tossing an occasional dark look at Heyes, while Kyle frowned and looked back and forth.


Curry spoke.  “Don’t worry, Kyle.  Heyes doesn’t mean it.  Hank and I are going back to get him.  You go on back to the Hole with Heyes.”  He smiled.  “After all there’s still a contest going on, and we wouldn’t want Wheat to be able to say Heyes cheated by picking up something on his way back to the Hole now, would we?”  He waved Hank over to his side then looked around.  “We’ll camp here for the night.  Then while Hank and I go in and get Wheat, the rest of you will wait here.  If anyone asks, you work for Marshal McCloud and are waiting his orders.  Don’t go anywhere.”


The gang looked confused. 


Heyes rolled his eyes.  “It won’t hurt Wheat to spend a night in jail – might even teach him a lesson.  The Kid’s in charge of the rescue.  You don’t need to understand right now, just do what he tells you.  Come on, Kyle.”  He mounted his horse and waited impatiently for Kyle to join him.


~~~oOo~~~


Wheat sat up on the hard wooden bunk that served as a bed in the jail cell.  He got up, paced and stretched his back, then sank back down, his head in his hands as he moaned to himself.  He looked up.  “Hey, sheriff, do I get any food here?”


“Hold your horses, man.  Thief like you don’t get a lot o’ say in when you get fed.”  The sheriff tossed the keys to his deputy.  “Billy, go escort him to the necessary and I’ll make us all some coffee.”  He looked sternly at Wheat.  “Don’t try anything.  So far all you’ve done is try to rob old man Rutherford – no one’s gonna blame you too much for that – but you try to escape and Billy here has my permission to kill you.  Got it?”


“Yeah, yeah, I got it.”


“Just so you understand.”


~~~oOo~~~


Wheat pushed the thin oatmeal around in the bowl.  When he thought about what Heyes would say, he lost his appetite.  Probably just let him rot in jail.  He glanced at the sheriff and deputy where they sat talking quietly.


“Billy, why don’t you go do the rounds, while I keep our master criminal here company,” the sheriff said.


Billy nodded.  “Yeah, he don’t look too dangerous, even if Ol’ Rutherford is screaming for his head.”


“Hey!”  Wheat took exception.


The sheriff and Billy looked at Wheat and laughed.  Billy was still laughing as he walked out the door.


Wheat looked speculatively at the sheriff.  “Don’t sound like you like Rutherford much.”


“What I or this whole town thinks of Rutherford don’t matter to you.  You’re still guilty of robbing the man.”


Wheat sighed.


A knock on the door caused both men to look up.  The sheriff gave Wheat a hard look.  “Friends of yours?”


“Doubt it.  Don’t think I have any friends, and the type of folks I know, don’t usually bother to knock.”


The sheriff snorted but pulled his gun before walking over to the door.  He looked through the barred window. 


“Who are you, and what do you want?”


“Name’s McCloud.  U.S. Marshal Service,” the muffled voice announced.  Wheat could just make out a hand holding something up to the window.


The sheriff opened the door and two men entered.


Wheat muffled an exclamation as he recognized the Kid, now wearing a U.S. Marshal’s bronze star on his jacket, and Hank standing quietly behind the Kid.


“Sorry didn’t catch the name.”


The Kid smiled and stuck out his hand.  “The name’s McCloud, Dillon McCloud.”


“Well, Marshal McCloud, what can I do for you?”


The Kid turned to Hank.  “Take a good look at him.”  He gestured at Wheat.  “Is that him?  That Floyd Hudsucker?”


Hank walked over to the bars and, with his back turned to the sheriff, winked at Wheat.  “Yeah, that’s Hudsucker all right.”


“Hudsucker?  Well, sounds more likely than John Brown, which is what he told me his name was.  What do you want with him?”


“We don’t want him.  The Canadians do,” the Kid replied.  “Seems he’s wanted up in Saskatoon for grand theft and the murder of twenty people.”


“Him?  You sure you got the right man?”  The sheriff looked at Wheat incredulously then shook his head.  "Don’t seem capable of robbing a two-year old to me,” he muttered.


Wheat, who was straining to listen to the exchange, took offense.  “Aye, now.”


Curry swallowed a smile.  “You have a point.  He don’t look too bright, but gotta admit that ‘eh’ sure sounded Canadian to me.”


Wheat glared at him.


“What are you holding him on, sheriff?”  The Kid ignored Wheat.


“Petty theft.”


“In that case, I think the Canadians have the better claim on him.”  He reached into a pocket and pulled out some papers.  “Ever seen a federal warrant before?”


“Around here?  Not likely.  It’s pretty quiet these parts.”


Curry handed him the papers.  “Well, now you have.”


The sheriff examined the papers curiously.  Having never seen a federal warrant before, he had no idea whether this was one.  Satisfied, he nodded and handed the Kid the keys to the cell. 


“Thanks.”  The Kid pulled a large set of handcuffs from his pocket.  He held the cuffs out to Hank.  “Mr. Malloy, why don’t you go cuff him, and we can take him now.”  Curry turned back to the sheriff.  “I have men waiting on the edge of town to help me transport him to Canada.  We want to get moving, before his gang hears of this and comes after him.”


The sheriff watched them hustle Wheat out of his office and shook his head.  “Grand theft, gang – who’d have thought it of that bumble-fingered fool.”


~~~oOo~~~


Back at Devil’s Hole, the gang was celebrating Wheat and Heyes’ safe return.


Kyle looked back and forth at Wheat and Heyes.  “So who won the contest?”


“Kyle,” Wheat said exasperated.  “No one did.  The sheriff took the silver I got, and Heyes didn’t take anything in the first place, just some old papers.”


“Well, I did manage to keep those papers.”  Heyes smiled brightly at Wheat.  “So, I’d say I won.  I brought back more than you.”


Wheat glowered at him.  “The bet was to bring back something to share with the gang, something to give us enough to tide us over the winter.  You didn’t do that.  Paper ain’t gonna keep us warm very long, even if we use it for kindling.”


“Yeah,” came the disgruntled reply from the gang.  “We’re still stuck here for the winter.”


Heyes dimpled at the Kid, who gave a broad grin right back at him.


“Would I do that to my gang?” asked Heyes.  He reached into his jacket and pulled out the papers he had taken from Rutherford’s safe.  “Don’t you even want to know what these papers were that were so important Rutherford stored them in his safe?”  He looked at Wheat.


Wheat’s face creased in suspicion.  “Okay, Heyes, what’s so great about those papers?”


“Those insignificant papers just happen to be bearer bonds.  You know, ‘pay to the bearer’ no questions asked.  And there’s twenty thousand dollars’ worth here.”  He looked around at the gang members and watched faces begin to light up.  “I’d say that’s enough for all of us to enjoy a few months somewhere else.”


A cheer went up.  Wheat groaned.


“So did I win our contest, Wheat?”


“Yeah, yeah.”  Wheat subsided in a chair and continued to mutter under his breath.


“I’ll divide these up and we can all be out of here whenever you want to leave.  Any of you who want to resume working with us can meet back here the end of April.”  Heyes walked out the door of the bunkhouse and sauntered to the leaders’ cabin.


Curry watched him go then turned back to the room.  “He told you he’d been watching Rutherford.  He knew the bonds were there.  That’s what makes a good leader - planning.”  He paused then reached into his pocket.  “Wheat, catch.” 


Wheat looked up and automatically caught the object the Kid tossed him.  “What is it?”


“The marshal’s badge.  Keep it to remember just who leads this gang – it ain’t you.”  Blue eyes fixed Wheat with an icy stare before their owner turned and walked out the door after his partner.


“Let me see, Wheat.”


“Shut up, Kyle.”  Wheat stared morosely at the bronze star, with the words “U.S. Marshal Service” emblazoned across it, that he held in his hand and sighed.  It was going to be a long, cold winter.
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PostSubject: March - Outlaw Olympics - Cimarron   Story of the Year Jan - Apr EmptyFri Aug 01, 2014 5:54 am

March - Outlaw Olympics - Cimarron


Losers, Weepers





Gabriella looked around the yard, a frown creasing her brow.  She had been sure she’d caught some kind of movement out of the corner of her eye; but only butterflies fluttered quietly around the vegetable plot in the corner and the drying clothes flapped harmlessly in the breeze.  The cat sat on top of the water butt with its hind leg stretched out at an impossible angle so it could reach some cranny which required the attentions of a rough tongue, but broke off from its ablutions to give her a curious emerald stare.  She wiped her hands on her apron and returned to the kitchen, sighing at her own imaginings.



She cut the dough into lumps and dropped them into the tins.  It would take a couple of hours for the bread to prove in front of the range and the evening meal was already on a slow heat so there was time to catch a precious moment of peace with her new book.  Father was at work and her mother was visiting with friends.  The little home was an oasis of peace for a change.  She stripped off her apron and hung it on the hook behind the door.  She’d started ‘Little Women’ just the day before and wanted to know if Jo got her copy of ‘Undine and Sintram.’  Was that a good book, she wondered?  Was it worth her while seeking it out?  



She picked up her book from her nightstand and made her way into the hallway; stopping short when a silky voice caressed nerves which suddenly tightened to breaking point.



“Hello, Gabby.”



She swirled around, her heart thumping in her breast.  “Jed!?  How did you get in here?” 



He arched a brow.  “Don’t ask silly questions.”



“I haven’t seen you for months.”



“Well, you wouldn’t,” he folded his arms.  “I was locked up after the law grabbed me when I was with you.  Marshal Marcus Schaeffer claimed the reward didn’t he?”  He watched her gulp heavily.  “It was him, wasn’t it?”



Her knuckles whitened on the book she grasped.  “I guess so.  How should I know?”  



“You’re gettin’ married to him in May.”



“We don’t talk about you.  We have better things to discuss.”



Kid Curry watched the green eyes waiver.  “You’ll be a beautiful bride.”



“Thank you.”  The book was raised to her chest like a shield.  “How have you been?”



“Oh, you know.  Runnin’, gunnin’ and cunnin’,” his hands dropped to his hips, followed by her cat-like eyes all the way before they darted fearfully to his holster.  “Not as well as you, but good enough to hold things together.  I hear your fiancé got ten thousand dollars reward for my capture.”



Gabriella bit into her lip.  “I’ve thought of you often, Jed.  Truly I have.”



“I’ll bet.”  He reached up and pulled off his hat.  “Let’s go into the kitchen.  We can have a cup of coffee, like civilized people.  I always try to be real nice first.”



“First?”



He nodded.  “If that doesn’t work there’s a whole range of options, but let’s try to be friendly, huh?”



Gabriella stiffened.  “You can’t stay.  Mother will be back soon and so will father.  They’ll call for the sheriff.”



The blue eyes narrowed.  “Nope.  She’s at the Creswell place helpin’ with the birthin’ of the new babe.  The last I saw, the Doc was headin’ out there too.  I doubt she’ll be back before dark.”  He grinned widely.  “You pa is kinda tied up at work right now.  We’ve got plenty of time, darlin’.”



“For what?”  



He grasped her hand and led her firmly back towards the kitchen.  “For a talk.” 



Gabriella felt herself placed into the kitchen chair by the hands which sat on each of her shoulders and gulped hard.  “We have nothing to talk about.”



“No?” Jed Curry leaned against the dresser and crossed his ling legs casually at the ankles.  “I’m not one to tell a lady what to do but you have a choice between dealin’ me or Heyes.”



She blanched.  “Hannibal Heyes?”



“He wanted to come himself, but I talked him out of it.”  The blue eyes hardened.  “He seemed to think my judgement isn’t the best when it comes to you.”



A glimmer of hope flared, lighting up her smile.  “I’d never hurt you, Jed.”



He pinned her with a hard stare.  “I convinced him that you weren’t gonna get around me this time.  Ya gotta give it to Heyes; he doesn’t look down on women.  He’ll give you just the same chance as any man.  How does it feel to be equal, Gabby?  I read that some women are fightin’ for that out East.”



“He’s going to hurt me?” she gasped.



Dubious eyes examined her.  “And why should he want to do that, Gabby?  What did you do?”



“I...he...I don’t know!”  Tears stung the back of her eyes.  “I didn’t do anything to you.  I promise.  I would never...”



He cut her off.  “Sure ya wouldn’t.  I was just a lonely saddle bum, but your pa would never have approved, so we had to meet in secret.  The law stumbled onto us by sheer dumb luck.”



“Nonsense,” her bottom lip protruded prettily.  “You were never lonely.”



“Yeah, I gotta give ya that one.  Heyes was never very far away, but you never knew it,” a wry smile twitched at his lips, “I kinda had my hands full that night didn’t I?”  He watched her flush at the memory of their intimacy.  “He never trusted you.  I really should’ve listened to him.”



She stood.  “How can I convince you that I never did anything to you?  I was devastated when the lawmen turned up.”  Gabrielle dropped her blonde head, “not to mention frightened.  Didn’t it occur to you that being surrounded by all those gunmen would be terrifying for me?”



“Yeah, it did and I felt real sorry for you, until Heyes pointed somethin’ out to me.”  The Kid took her by the shoulders and set her back in the chair.  “The tears dried up real fast and you got close and cozy with one of the men as soon as they’d got me in handcuffs.”  He watched her eyes widen before he continued.  “Heyes was lookin’ out for me and saw you, darlin’: you and the young marshal.  His name is Marcus Schaeffer.”  He stepped towards her, holding her gaze all the way.  “We found out that he’d collected the reward money and had all kinds of information on where I’d be.”  His brows gathered suspiciously.  “Now where’d you think he’d have gotten that from?”



“It wasn’t from me,” Gabriella grabbed his hand and started kissing the knuckles.  “I love you.  I’d never hurt you.”



“Love?”  He pulled his hand back sharply.  “You love what I’m worth, but I guess that’s only fair.  It wasn’t everlastin’ for me either, darlin’.  Do you expect me to believe that you’re suddenly engaged to the man who had me arrested?”



“It wasn’t sudden,” Gabriella pleaded, “he was so lovely to me that night.  I simply responded to his kindness.”



“You responded to the dollar signs flashin’ before your eyes when you saw me walk down the street that day.  You went straight into your damsel in distress act, askin ‘me for help because you thought a man was followin’ you.”  He shook his head ruefully.  “Heyes is always tellin’ me I’m a sucker for a pretty face.  I guess now I know the truth I agree with him.”



“I did need help.”



“Heyes has been sparkin’ a local girl to find out all about you.  You were on a train we robbed so you’d seen me before.  Why is it you keep claimin’ to be completely innocent, but you failed to share that with me.”  He leaned forward, looming over her.  “Explain to me why would you look for help with from a known outlaw over almost any other man in the town?”  



The curls trembled as she shook her head in denial.  “I never...”



“We made it our business to find out about you, Gabby.  The Devil’s Hole gang don’t take kindly to bein’ double crossed.”  He stood upright and gave her a hard stare.  “So, the question is, what am I goin’ to do with you?”



“I’ll scream!”



“Yeah, I expect you will.”  He nodded, sagely.  “It took three weeks before the gang was able to spring me.  It was a real stupid decision to transport me by train but one I’ll always be grateful for.”  The Kid started to pace.  “A man can build up a powerful amount of anger in that time.  Thinkin’ ain’t good when it’s the same thought runnin’ around and around a man’s mind with no place to go.”



“What are you going to do?”  She gripped the arms of the chair and started to breathe heavily.



He turned and folded his arms.  “You tried to take twenty years of my life in exchange for a few dollars.  What would you suggest?”  He watched her nostrils flare with her gasps of fear.  “You haven’t been stupid enough to believe the dime novels, have ya?  We’re criminals.  We lie, cheat, threaten and steal; in fact, we do just about anythin’ it takes to get what we want.  I don’t have ten thousand dollars on my head because I’m a church-goin’ shopkeeper who has their moral fiber already cut out for them; I make my own.  You thought you saw enough restraint in me not care what I’d do you; that I’m good man?”  He leaned forward, whispering in her ear as she trembled.  “I’m not.”



He stood upright again, drawing his gun at the sound of a door handle turning. 



“That’ll be my little sister coming home from school,” Gabriella wailed, tears streaming down her face.  “Don’t hurt her, please!  Do what you like to me but leave her be.”



The ice-blue gleam in his eyes hardened.  “I don’t hurt little girls, Gabby, and you’re lucky that you played this game with me and not some other outlaw.  Take this as a warnin’ and count yourself lucky you got off this light.”  He holstered his weapon and lightened up his demeanor to greet the little girl who wandered into the kitchen.



A girl in a starched, white pinafore smiled innocently up at the gunman.  “Who are you?” 



“My name is Kid Curry.  I came to see how your sister is.  We’re old friends.  Ain’t we, Gabby?”



The child’s china-blue eyes widened.  “Gabby?  You’re crying.  What’s wrong?”



The Kid darted a disdainful glance at Gabriella.  “She’s sorry I’m leaving is all, nothin’ for you to worry about.  Stand up and give me a hug goodbye.”



“You’re going?” Gabriella sniffed.



“Sure I am, right after you give me a hug.”  He felt her trembling arm reluctantly encircle his shoulders as her perfume filled his nostrils.  “All I needed was for someone to see me here, so I can go now,” he whispered.



She pulled back, confusion crowding her face.  “See you?” 



“Sure.  You want to play games?  I can do that too.  Heyes and the boys are robbin’ your pa’s bank while I’ve been here.  Heyes will have told him that I was afraid you might be pregnant.  He thinks I’m givin’ you the option of comin’ away with me without any chance of him interferin’,” he paused, “and collectin’ enough money from his bank to make sure we can make a go of it together.  I think you got a mess of trouble comin’ your way.”



“But we never...I never...”



“I know that and you know that, but it’s all down to what your pa and a bank full of customers are gonna believe. You; or a lover who’s considerate enough to try to take you away from all this and do the decent thing for his beloved.”



“But the gossip?”  She shook her head, helplessly.  “I’ll be ruined.”



“I wonder if the marshal will still want to marry the girl who everyone knows dallied with the outlaw.  Will you get your hands on the reward money he got?”  The Kid shrugged.  “I guess only time will tell, but either way I’ve done my best to make sure that you don’t gain out of this little game.  You played and you lost, Gabby.  Don’t ever be stupid enough to do anythin’ like that again.  Only a fool brings men like me to their door.”



Gabriella blinked back tears from her glittering eyes.  “But you’ve ruined me.”



Jed Curry paused at the back door.  “Ruined you?  You played and lost, darlin’.  You got off real light when I consider what a lot of men would have done to you.”  He tipped the brim of his hat.  “Learn from this, Gabby.  You might not be so lucky next time.  I’m bad; but evil is a completely different animal.”
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Story of the Year Jan - Apr Empty
PostSubject: April - A Handshake Seals the Deal - Javabee   Story of the Year Jan - Apr EmptyFri Aug 01, 2014 5:57 am

April - A Handshake Seals the Deal - Javabee



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah.”

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

“ Like us. “ Kid nodded in agreement.

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

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

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

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

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

“ So, it should be obvious.” 

“How so?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What‘s that?”

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

“But we already went straight, Heyes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Your serious.”  Heyes was incredulous.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re the ex-con?” Kid blurted out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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