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 Was Today Really Necessary?

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PostSubject: Was Today Really Necessary?   Mon Sep 01, 2014 9:49 am

It's time for a new challenge for you all and this one is loads of fun. Chosen by Niekx, the subject is:


Was Today Really Necessary?


So get those pens scratching and the keyboards clattering, but don't forget to finish up last months comments. Late babies need as much love and affection as the early ones.
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Hunkeydorey

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PostSubject: Re: Was Today Really Necessary?   Tue Sep 09, 2014 6:54 pm

This was a re-write challenge, my version of Gringa's 'Five Years Earlier.  Although it's an old story of mine I was only challenged to re-write this and it's never been entered into a challenge, so I'm going to submit it because I think it fits the prompt. 


A Twist in the Tale

The child buried his face into his mother’s skirts before peeping at the outlaws with huge, blinking, fretful eyes. 
The blond man’s piercing gaze scanned the room above the level of the little ginger head, assessing each and every one of the customers cramming against the wall. He stepped back to let more men holding guns make the staff walk from behind the counter, one hunched teller scurrying past a gruff looking man with a moustache who stood beside a small man who was chewing something brown and squelchy.

The boy bit into his lip as a dark man with a dimpled smile instantly commanded everyone’s attention simply by walking into the room. He was the only one not pointing a gun, but he transmitted an air of danger dressed in charm. The boy snuggled further into his mother’s legs. He didn’t like this. Not at all. It wasn’t like the games he played when he pointed wood whittled to look like a handgun at his brother and shouted ‘pchewou’ to let the victims know they’d been ‘gotten.’ His mummy was here and everyone knew that you didn’t point guns at mothers, preachers, or school teachers – well, maybe, it was okay to point them at teachers - as long as you didn’t get caught, but nobody should point one at his mother. He sniffed and wiped his nose on the skirt for courage. Heroes never had runny noses and he had to be prepared. It just wouldn’t do to be laughed at. 

The blond gunman shared a look with the dimpled man, who nodded and headed off behind the counter. This was it – his chance to teach the gunman a lesson, but his stomach turned over, churning in fear and anticipation at the daring act he was about to undertake. He swallowed down his fear and darted forward, ignoring his mother’s cry, and launched an attack on the lean, muscular leg, delivering a mighty kick before grabbing the thigh and sinking his teeth into it as hard as he could.

“Cut!!” yelled Ben, doing his best to shake off the child actor who was still attached to his thigh. The cast broke out of character, snickers rolling around the studio. Ben roared again. “I’m serious! He’s still biting me!” One more push did it, and the boy was ‘persuaded’ to release the star from his champing jaws. “What do you think you’re doing?” Ben demanded. “This is called acting. You’re only supposed to pretend to bite me.”

The boy’s eyes widened into great globes of anxiety. “Am I sacked, mister?”

Ben gave a sigh of exasperation. “No... Let’s just try to take the shot again. Go back to your mark,” he pointed over to the woman playing his mother. “Go back over there and we’ll try again.”


The boy darted forward, ignoring his mother’s cry, and launched an attack on the lean, muscular leg, delivering a mighty kick before grabbing the thigh and sinking his teeth into it as hard as he could. “Cut!” Ben yelped. “What the...? What are you playing at, boy? I told you, you’re only supposed to make it look like you’re biting me.”

The lad’s bottom lip started to tremble. “Sorry, mister. I’ve never done anything like this before.” The huge eyes started to glisten with tears. “Please don’t sack me. This is my big chance.”

Ben pulled of his hat and ran a hand distractedly through his tousled hair. “No. Just try again, and we’re pretending, remember. You don’t really bite me.” 

“Okay, Mister. I’ll get it right this time.”


The boy darted forward, ignoring his mother’s cry, and launched an attack on the lean, muscular leg, delivering a mighty kick before grabbing the thigh and sinking his teeth into it as hard as he could. “Cut!” Ben threw down his hat in frustration. “He’s still biting me, really hard!”

The boy started to cry. “I’m sorry... You’re all such good actors. You pull out those guns and I just get scared. I don’t mean to hurt you, really I don’t.”

Ben gave a heavy sigh and kneeled down to fix the boy with his intense blue eyes. “Look, we all deserve a break. Why don’t we just do a little rehearsal, huh?”

The boy’s head rattled up and down in a rapid nod. “Yesir, please can we? I’ll get it right this time.”

Ben stood. “Go and take your mark.” The boy returned to his place. “Now run over, and PRETEND to kick me. Not with all that force you’ve been using... good boy. Now, make sure your teeth are turned to the camera. Yeah, that’s it, now gently... GENTLY, make it look like you’re biting, but you’re really not.” Ben held the now disengaged boy by the shoulders and smiled gently. “Are you happy with that? Can you do that again with the camera rolling?” The child gave a huge smile of positivity. “Great... let’s go. One more time.” 


The boy darted forward, ignoring his mother’s cry, and launched an attack on the lean, muscular leg, delivering a mighty kick before grabbing the thigh and sinking his teeth into it as hard as he could. “Cut! For crying out loud, what’s so difficult? You only have to pretend...” 


................................
In a television studio -1994

“What age are you, Mr. Nicholas?”

“I’m 30,” The young man beamed into the Camera. 

“So, you’ve met famous people? We have established that they are actors, but the show is no longer on. We’re stumped. We’ve seen your mime, but you say you weren’t on ‘Jaws,’or ‘Jurassic Park. We can’t figure out what all those teeth showing and biting could mean. You’ve beaten the panel on ‘I’ve got a Secret.’”

Jimmy looked into the glare of the studio lights, his forehead beaded with sweat. This questioning was taking much longer than he thought. He was beginning to wish he’d never agreed to take part in this TV show. As though reading his mind, the presenter stepped in to bolster the flagging guest. “So, it looks as though the panel can’t guess your secret Mr. Nicholas. They’ve used their twenty questions. Would you care to enlighten us?” 

He nodded. “I was in Alias Smith and Jones, when I was a child. I kicked and bit Ben Murphy so hard I was sacked. The scene was never used, poor Ben couldn’t face another take, and I can’t blame him. I bit him real hard.” 

Gasps echoed around the television set before the fashionable woman spoke up. “My goodness! Why would you do that? Were you some kind of delinquent?”

Jimmy laughed lightly. “He was real mad, but now I’m grown I know he tried to get me to be sensible and keep the part, but all I could think of was the fifty dollars my uncle promised me for giving him a hard time. He tried out for the part of Kid Curry, you see, and didn't get it. He had it in for the actor who beat him. Poor, Ben, he was so patient...”
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Nancy Whiskey

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PostSubject: Re: Was Today Really Necessary?   Fri Sep 12, 2014 7:23 am

Ok everyone, I am trying for the shortest story ever award...    

  ~  ~  ~


Two figures lay sprawled in foot deep mud.  Bruised, battered, bloodied but triumphant.

"Was today really necessary?"

A grin flashed through the mud although the  dimples were hidden beneath the grime.

The answer shot back like a bullet.  "Definitely."

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Tomorrow  I will no longer be reckless or feckless.  I will do everything with both reck and feck!
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PostSubject: Re: Was Today Really Necessary?   Sat Sep 13, 2014 3:47 pm

This is a continuation of my last challenge story:

Heyes watched listlessly as the hind end of Lobo’s horse disappeared into the forest.  His gaze shifted to his partner who was leading his horse and the Preacher’s gelding up from where the horses had been high-lined last night.  Preacher had offered his horse and gear to Heyes, had made no smart remarks, or jokes about the circumstances, and Heyes had gratefully accepted.  His somewhat pious friend had cheerfully doubled up with Hank for the long ride back to the Hole.  


“You ready?”  Kid Curry tightened the cinches on the horses as he waited for an answer.


“As I’ll ever be,” said Heyes, rising to his feet and knocking the dust off his woolen pants.  He reached down and picked up the light tan Stetson Wheat had left him.  It was a generous loan; almost as much as the horse.  Riding bareheaded could be damned uncomfortable.  For all his gruffness and insubordination, Wheat could always be relied on to step up and help out when the chips were down.  Heyes figured that’s why he kept him around.


Putting the hat on his aching head, Heyes instantly felt better with the shade it provided.  He’d done some real damage to himself last night and in the light of day he’d felt sheepish for losing his self-control.  Not that his men would hold it against him; every last one of them had done the same at one time or another.  It was just that, being leader, he liked to hold himself to a higher standard.  He’d let those standards slip because of his temper and he was paying the price.  Shuffling over to the horses, he slowly and carefully mounted the sturdy roan gelding.  


Curry jumped into his saddle.  “Which way do you think they went?” he asked with a smile.


“They were headed north along that cut over Robson’s Ridge.”  


Without a further word, the Kid nudged his horse and ambled in the direction of the ridge.  Unless the thieves had stopped early for the night, there wasn’t much chance of catching up to them today.  That was just as well.  He hated to think what Heyes would do to them in the midst of a vicious hangover.  


By mid-morning, they’d crested the ridge and had seen only the day-old tracks of the three robbers.  The valley that stretched before them was blanketed in meadow grass, bisected with a small creek, and dotted with Gambel oaks and Mountain Mahogany.   The horses quietly followed the trail of trampled grass winding through the shrubs and nibbled at the taller weeds tickling their noses.  


The Kid glanced at his partner who hadn’t said a word all morning.  If that wasn’t an indication of how Heyes was feeling, he didn’t know what was.  The normally loquacious man was still pale-faced and grim.  Another hour passed and Curry started getting bored with the silence.  He began softly humming ‘Sweet Betsy From Pike’ and it wasn’t long before he was belting out the words:


Did you ever hear tell of Sweet Betsy from Pike,
Who crossed the wide mountains with her lover Ike,
Two yoke of cattle, a large yeller dog,
A tall Shanghai rooster, and a one-spotted hog.
Singing too-ra-li-oo-ra-li-oo-ra-li-ay.


“You ain’t planning on singing all fourteen stanzas, are you?” Heyes finally grumbled when the Kid paused to draw another deep breath.


“Why not?  You ain’t much company today.”  Curry grinned at his partner’s frown, inhaled, and continued to sing:


They swam the wide rivers and crossed the tall peaks,
And camped on the prairie for weeks upon weeks.
Starvation and cholera, hard work and slaughter--
They reached California 'spite of hell and high water.


“Kid, you’re killing me here,” whined Heyes.


“Nope, you did that all on your own.”


One evening quite early they camped on the Platte,
Twas near by the road on a green shady flat.
Betsy, sore-footed, lay down to repose--
With wonder Ike gazed on that Pike County rose.


“What do I have to do to make you stop?”  Heyes asked with no real bite to his words.  He was grateful for his partner’s support.  It was going to take some doing to catch Will and his men, but he was bound and determined to do it.  There was no way he could ride back into the Hole until he did. 


Curry smiled at him.  “I can’t believe I’m sayin’ this, Heyes, but you ridin’ along all quiet-like is unnervin’.  How ‘bout you try joinin’ in and fillin’ the gaps?”


The Injuns came down in a thundering horde,
And Betsy was scared they would scalp her adored.
So under the wagon-bed Betsy did crawl
And she fought off the Injuns with musket and ball.


Despite his pounding headache, Heyes began softly humming along.  Strangely enough, he began to feel better and, by the seventh stanza, his baritone was blending in nicely.  He felt his spirits lifting along with his voice.


With Heyes singing along, the Kid figured the worst was behind them and he urged his horse to pick up the pace.  He wanted to close the gap with their quarry as quick as he could and molly-coddling Heyes wasn’t going to do that.  


By mid-afternoon, the greenheads were out and pestering both horse and rider.  Both men swatted at the biting flies and the horses swished their tails and tossed their heads.  The mood soured quickly and, as an effort to resurrect it, the Kid tried some conversation.  “I wonder where they’re headed.”


“Could be Fort Steele or Medicine Bow; ain’t much else out this way.  We’ll know when we get to the fork.”


“Damn these flies!” said Curry, frowning.  “I sure hope it ain’t Fort Steele.  All those soldiers give me the creeps.” 


Heyes smacked his own neck.  “Yeah, me too, but the gambling’s awful good with all those bluecoats milling around looking for fun.”  


“You’ve got a point, but I don’t fancy runnin’ into the law in Medicine Bow.  Last time, we barely got outta town.”  The Kid rubbed a welt that was rising on his gun hand.  


“Don’t worry about it.  I ain’t planning on letting them get close enough to a poker tables to lose my money.  We’ll catch up with them before dark.”  Heyes slapped his leg.  The cursed flies were biting right through the fabric.


“I sure hope so.  I want to be done with this,” mumbled Curry, scratching at an itching bite on his back.


A breeze came up and the insects disappeared.  After being tormented, their absence made Heyes feel better, and he chattered along about everything and nothing.  The Kid let his partner’s word pour over him and enjoyed not having to contribute to the one-sided conversation.  Instead, he chewed on some jerky and kept his eye on the churned up trail.  When they reached the fork in the trail, he followed the hoof prints that turned to the left.  Fort Steele it was unless they managed to catch them before nightfall.  He pulled his gun from his holster, checked the chambers, sighted down it, and returned it to rest on his hip.  Heyes had given him a rundown on the three men and the Kid didn’t think they’d have much trouble ambushing them.  Will sounded like the brains of the operation; the other two would probably give up easily enough if they could catch him out.


Cresting a rise, they saw that the ground leveled out and opened into a broad valley.  As they worked their way down the trail, they saw a flash of light mid-way up the next hillside.  Something metal had caught the sunlight and reflected it.  Both outlaws kept their eyes trained in the direction where they had seen the flash and it wasn’t long before they saw it again further up the peak.  The Kid pulled up and retrieved a pair of binoculars from his saddlebags.  He focused them carefully and three riders appeared in his field of vision.  They were winding their way up a steep trail, single-file.  


“Got ‘em,” said the Kid, happily.


Heyes urged his horse into a rolling, ground-covering lope and Curry trailed behind him keeping sight of the bandits.  They lost them as the three men dropped down the other side, but they knew they were gaining on them.  The Kid slowed his horse to a jog and started up the winding trail.  Midway up, the horses began to walk, picking their way across an open scree field that cascaded across the trail.  It was slow, tough going for both man and beast, and all four pairs of eyes were glued to the shifting, hard-to-follow path.


None of them saw the rifle barrel that peeked out from behind a cluster of rocks at the top of the hill until the sharp report thundered past them taking Wheat’s hat clear off Heyes’ head and sending both men diving for the rocky ground.  Heyes landed on his hands and knees, quickly clearing his holster and returning fire.  The Kid slid several feet down the hillside trying to get purchase on the small, sharp stones.  By the time he managed to draw, the shooting had stopped and Heyes on his feet, holstering his gun.


“They’re gone.”  Heyes picked at his raw, bleeding hands.


“Are you sure?”  The Kid was still flat on his stomach, his gun trained on where he’d seen the shot originate.


“Of course, I’m sure,” snapped Heyes.  “I’m standing here in the open.  They’d still be shooting at me if they were still there.”


The Kid sat up and holstered his own gun.  


Picking up Wheat’s hat, Heyes poked a finger through the new hole in it.  He heard his partner start to laugh and he looked up sharply.  “You think getting shot at is funny?”


“Nope, but that was.”


“Are you nuts?”


“If they’d wanted to kill us, they would’ve,” said the Kid, getting to his feet.  “I really thought they were going to.  There was a second there when my life flashed before my eyes.  You know what I saw?”


Heyes looked at him as if he’d grown a second head.  “I can’t believe you had time to think of anything.”


“I thought about that time we scared those two cowboys down Wichita way by tossing those firecrackers in the barrel; taught them not to hassle a couple of kids.”  The Kid walked towards his horse.


Heyes smiled at the memory and started to chuckle.  “I guess we might’ve looked something like them just now.”  He walked over to his own horse and picked up its rein, stroking the frightened, quivering animal.  If it weren’t for the slippery slope, he was sure the animals would have taken off.


“We sure did, Heyes, only we didn’t have an audience to laugh at us like they did.”  The Kid remounted and waited for his partner to swing into his saddle.  “Remember how pissed they were?  Those two chased us clear to Dodge City before we shook them.”


Heyes stepped up onto the roan.  “I ain’t letting these three shake us.”


The smile slipped from Curry’s face.  “Nope.  Me neither.  It was one thing when they made a fool of you, but making a fool outta me is gettin’ personal.”


“Always good to know you’ve got my best interests at heart, partner.”


Upon cautiously reaching the top, they saw that the riders had all but vanished again.  Only an occasional hoof print was visible on the rocky trail winding down off the ridge.  They rode on in a tense silence knowing that the three men could be waiting for them around the next bend.  The path wound downhill for another mile or so, crossing several open spaces, but there was no further gunfire.  The two partners began to relax.  


They rode on as quickly as they could, but they’d lost a lot of time.  There were few stretches of good footing and they loped and jogged where they could, but failed to catch sight of the men again.  The sun was starting to dip down in the sky and the shadows were growing longer and paler against the ground.   The Kid could feel his muscles stiffening up and he rolled his shoulders.  It wouldn’t do to be too sore to draw.  


Heyes’ headache had returned with a vengeance and he was feeling more irritated by the second.  Old Will had a lot to answer for.  He let his imagination run wild with all sorts of ways of evening up the score with those three lowlifes.


It was getting late in the day when he pulled ahead of the Kid as they dropped down into some boggy bottomland.  The trail got muddier and narrower, the vegetation got taller.  Soon they were ducking whip-like branches every step or two and leaning over the sides of their saddles.  The Kid looped his reins around his horn, trusting his gelding to follow the path, and began using both his hands to fend off the stinging lashes of the willows as they snapped back from Heyes’ passage.


The third time his face was struck with a stinging blow, he snapped, “What the hell did they come through here for?”  At that exact moment, Heyes’ horse stumbled over something in the trail.  A rush of sound foretold the heavy branch, now unleashed from the knot that had held it, as it swung around and swept the dark-haired partner from his saddle.  Curry’s horse reared, fearful of an unexpected predator, and dumped him in the muck.  The two thoroughly spooked horses retreated up the trail at a gallop.  The Kid swilled around in the mud until he could sit up and wipe it from his eyes.  Heyes was slowly getting to his feet but he was bent over and gasping for air.


“Heyes, are you all right?”


“I’m…fine…I think.”  He was still dazed by his fall. 


The Kid got up slowly and took a few steps towards Heyes and fell heavily to the ground again.  He flailed around in the mud, grabbing huge handfuls of the oozing soil and cursing loudly, “%#$!!, they booby-trapped the trail!”


Heyes started laughing at the filthy, indignant look on his partner’s face, but the Kid failed to see the humor and glared at him.  “Kid, the look on your face,” more guffaws and gasps followed, “you should see…”


“It ain’t funny, Heyes,” warned Curry, getting to his feet again.


“Yes, it is.”


“Oh yeah?  Is it as funny as the great Hannibal Heyes gettin’ near stripped nekkid by a bunch of saddle tramps?”


Heyes stopped laughing and struggled out of the dirt.  “Ain’t no call to get proddy, Kid.”


“Oh, I think there is,” said Curry.  “You know, I’m beginnin’ to look forward to meetin' up with this Will character.”


“You and me both, partner.”


It took a good long while to backtrack and round up the horses, but they finally began to make some forward progress.   By the time night fell, Curry could tell by the tracks that they were getting nearer to the three men who had so humiliated them both.  They pulled up for the night alongside an escarpment and settled the horses in a cluster of cottonwoods.  Since morning, they’d dropped down a few thousand feet in elevation and it wouldn’t be long before they neared civilization. 


Heyes built a small fire and they ate a dinner of beans warmed in the can.  The heat of the flames hardened their caked clothes and before they bedded down early for the night they tried to knock the worst of it off each other.  It was a lost cause.  Sore, stiff-clothed and dirty, they crawled into their bedrolls. 


Curry spoke into the darkness.   “We better catch up with them real quick, Heyes.  I can’t take another day like this one.”

_________________
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

“The purpose of life isn’t to arrive at death in perfect condition but to slide into it sideways with your hair mussed, your clothes disheveled, a martini in one hand and chocolate in the other, shouting ‘Whooeee, what a ride!’”--Hunter S. Thompson
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PostSubject: Re: Was Today Really Necessary?   Mon Sep 15, 2014 11:09 pm

How to Get to Carnegie Hall


“Heyes!”


“Wha?  Huh?”  Bleary eyes opened and quickly closed.


“Drink this.”


A fragrant, steaming cup was thrust under his nose.  Heyes waved it away, grumbled, and struggled to untangle himself from the clutch of the sleepy woman next to him.  The cup was again thrust into his hand.  His bloodshot eyes opened, blinked, shut, then opened again and focused on the backside of his partner struggling to pull pants on over his long johns as he moved around the large, alcoved room kicking various lumps into semblances of consciousness.


The rising sounds, both low-pitched curses and high-pitched shrills, pounded into his throbbing head as chaos rose around him.  He swallowed a large portion of the contents of the cup, and his eyes opened wide as he absorbed the potent mix of high-strength caffeine, whiskey, and hot pepper sauce Sally had handed him.  He groaned as his muzzy brain snapped into gear and he placed himself – Sally’s Salacious Salon.


“Kid,” he croaked.  “Kid?  What’s happening?”


Curry turned in his direction.  Heyes winced at the redness of the Kid’s eyes, which clashed with the green tinge to his face.  They had to stop drinking this much – well, maybe not.  He walked over and handed his partner the rest of the cup.


The Kid opened his mouth to speak, but Sally bustling around the room, sorting clothes, and thrusting them at the barely-attired men spoke first.  “Jem’s saddling your horses.  The girls will delay as long as we can.”  She ignored the faint protests from the women in the room who were pulling robes about themselves as they rose.


She walked up to Heyes as he scrambled into his clothes.  “Here, I kept it in the safe for you.”  She thrust two heavy saddlebags at him.  


He smiled his thanks, checked the contents and turned his attention back to pulling on clothes as quickly as possible.  “What’s going on, Sally?”


“Jem – the boy I keep on watch when we’re entertaining customers such as you – anyway, he says there’s a posse gathering the far side of town.  They plan to raid here just before dawn to catch you all unawares.”


Heyes quickly pulled his watch from the vest he was holding.  “One hour!  Get moving, men!”  He reached into the saddlebag and pulled out a handful of gold coins.  “Sally, you’re a love, thanks.”


She nodded, tucked the coins out of sight, and hastened to restore the room to its pristine state – the way it had looked thirty hours earlier, just before the gang had arrived for the wildest carouse they could manage, courtesy of their leaders.


Heyes surveyed the motley assortment of half-dressed men around him.  Kyle was flinging cushions in every direction.  “I can’t find my boot,” he explained.


“Wheat, help him find the dang boot,” the Kid snapped.  “Everyone, out to the barn and mount up.  Now!  Just carry the rest of your things with you; we can stop to dress properly when we’re safe from the posse.  Move!”  He stuffed his shirt into the saddlebag Heyes handed him and shrugged his jacket over his bare shoulders.  


Heyes called, “Kyle, Lance, Lobo, you ride with me.  The rest of you are with the Kid.  Kid, I’ll take the short trail.”  


His partner frowned at him, knowing the shorter trail was more difficult and more likely to draw a posse after them.  Unwilling to challenge his partner in front of the gang, he nodded, winced at the pain the motion caused, swallowed convulsively, and headed out the back door, gesturing for the men to follow.


~~~oOo~~~


The Kid peered cautiously out of the barn then signaled Wheat to lead the men quietly away, while he – gun drawn – covered the rear.  He caught his partner’s eye and held up his hand to signal five minutes.  Heyes nodded and pulled out his watch as the Kid exited the barn.


Curry mounted and followed the men till they passed the last field, outside the town.  Once there he rode to the front, nodding to Wheat as he passed him, and led the way towards the woods and north.


They entered the undergrowth, riding cautiously to disturb as little as possible.  A rising crescendo of song from the birds signaled the approaching dawn as they picked their way through the dark cover of the woods.


Bright sunlight greeted them by the time they reached a clearing and the Kid signaled for a halt.  The men dismounted, groaning and gulping water from their canteens, shading their eyes from the searing sun.


“Kid, think we lost them?”


“Geez, Hank, keep your voice down,” Wheat ordered, whispering loudly.


The Kid spoke quietly.  “No, we’d be too easy to track through the woods, but I think we can take a quick break.  Five minutes then we move on.”  He shrugged off his jacket and reached into the saddlebag to retrieve his shirt.  The others used the opportunity to straighten clothing and fasten it properly.  The Kid leaned on his horse and closed his eyes against the pounding headache that had been plaguing him since the abrupt awakening.  He seemed oblivious of the quiet grumbling and complaining around him.


Wheat peered at the Kid and began to pass among the men, urging them to settle themselves.  “Look, we got lucky that Sally gave us a head start.  It ain’t the Kid’s fault the posse found us.  Now get back on them horses or you’ll have me to deal with as well as the Kid, and trust me, you won’t want that,” he growled.


Hearing this, the Kid stifled a smile and straightened.  “Mount up; next stop is Henry’s field.  We’ll change horses there.”  He nodded and gave Wheat the lead.  Wheat puffed up and signaled the men to follow.  The Kid took the rear.  He stopped, dismounted, and raced back to brush away their tracks for several yards.  For the next half hour he would ride, dismount, brush, then remount and follow the others.


Whinnies erupted as they approached the field.  The Kid let out a piercing whistle then dismounted as the field horses came trotting up.


“Kid!” Wheat stage whispered.


“What?”


“Ain’t that a little loud?  What if the posse hears that?”  Wheat flinched as the Kid gave him a level stare but held his ground.


The Kid closed his eyes then swung off his horse.  “If they were that close we’d hear them, and we wouldn’t have time to change horses.  Now see how fast you can get them movin’, rub these down good before lettin’ them loose.”  He spoke through gritted teeth as he hastened to unbuckle his girth.


Wheat opened his mouth, closed it, and nodded.  “Come on, men, get moving.  Gotta move fast, unless of course you want to be spending time in jail.”


“Right now, the way my head feels, it might be a relief,” the mutter came from the group of men. 


Wheat glared hard trying to determine who had said it.  “Git moving.”  He ground out glaring at them.


Minutes later, on fresh mounts the men cantered towards the next ridge.  They rode without stopping up the ridge, down the other side, and over another, smaller ridge.


The Kid signaled a halt at the edge of a shallow river.  Hank leaned over and tossed in a twig.  The men watched it rush down and over the edge of the falls, disappearing into the mist rising from the water as it hit the rocks below.


The Kid squinted up at the sun which had passed zenith some time earlier.  He pulled out some jerky, looked at it with distaste and munched resolutely, signaling the men to do likewise.


Wheat turned to him.  “Have we lost it yet?”


The Kid walked a few paces back and listened then returned.  “I don’t think so.  We’ll walk the horses up river then cut through the swamp.”


“That’s gonna ruin boots.”


“Only if the men didn’t think to bring moccasins like Heyes suggested.”  He grinned at Wheat.  “You got any?”


“Yeah, I got some.”  Wheat huffed then turned to the men.  “We’re going upriver.  Switch to moccasins if you got them.  More fool you if you don’t.”  He narrowed his eyes and frowned as Chalkie opened his mouth to argue.


“Listen to Wheat,” the Kid commanded his eyes frosting over as he stared down Chalkie.


The man paled and muttered but turned away.  The others groped in their saddlebags, stuffing jerky in their mouths and grabbing moccasins.  Chalkie and Hank stood to the side, muttering around the jerky they were consuming.


When boots had been stowed and pants legs rolled up, the Kid nodded to Wheat, who cautiously stepped into the river.  He gasped at the cold and gruffly ordered the men, “Keep to the shallows, the current’s strong.”


The Kid waited until all were in, cut a branch, and wiped away all traces of their descent down the slope.  As he joined his men, he cast the branch into the center of the current, where it swiftly sailed over the edge and down the falls. 


When they had rounded two bends and the falls could no longer be heard, Wheat came to a stop and waited for the Kid to join him.  “Thanks, Wheat, I got it from here.  You take rear now.”


Wheat huffed, but at a look from the Kid, nodded.


The Kid trod wearily onto a tuft of grass beside the river that had widened into a swamp.  “Men, watch where I step and follow me.  We should stay mostly dry.  If you step out of line – well, it’s been nice knowin’ you.”  His moccasins squelched as he led his horse through the muddy plain.  


The men, grimaced in distaste and followed, too tired to complain.   They slogged on.  Insects buzzed and small, unseen creatures crashed out of their way.  The only other sounds were slaps as men tried to stop their biting tormentors, the swish of the horses’ tails, and a pop and squish as foot or hoof heaved itself out of the mud with each step.  A viscous sludge rushed to fill each vacuum created by a retreating appendage, waiting to trap the next one.  Wheat, walking last, looked back but could see no trace of their passage.


The sun was heading for the horizon when, with a jerk, the Kid pulled his mud-soaked foot out of the muck and stepped onto solid land.  He moved to the side and waited for all to join him.  Once they had, he mounted his horse and stood in the stirrups looking back.  Satisfied, he dismounted, pulled off his moccasins, wrung out his socks, then pulled them back on and followed with his boots.   The men did likewise.  


Chalkie and Hank muttered quietly to themselves grabbing branches to try to scrape the mud off their boots.


“We lose ‘em yet?” Wheat sighed, his eyes shadowed.


The Kid grinned.  “Yeah.  It’s an easy ride from here.  If we hustle some we’ll make it back to the Hole before full dark.”


The men cheered and remounted.


~~~oOo~~~


Heyes watched his partner head out then focused on his watch.  He looked up.  “Time to go, men.”


The others glanced at his set face and followed without speaking.  Heyes lead them through the fields to the trees, going on a tangent from the Kid and the other gang members.


They pulled up under the shade of the trees to look at the stark cliff rising before them.  The mid-morning sun cast shadows over the faint trail edging its way up the steep side, disappearing at times in the twists of the rock face..


Lobo looked at it, looked back, and spat.  “We’re going up that?”


“Yes, I’ve tried it; it can be done.  A posse’s gonna be reluctant to follow.”


“Uh, huh, you did this with horses?”


“Well, I had a mule.  I’m sure it’ll be fine.”


“Uh, huh.”  Lobo looked back the way they’d come.  “You sure we haven’t lost them yet?”


“Through those woods, Lobo?  My grandmother could track us through that.”


“Really, Heyes?  I didn’t know your grandma was a tracker.”  Kyle looked at Heyes in admiration.


“She’s dead, Kyle.”


“Then how does she track?”


Heyes rubbed his forehead and pulled his hat down.  “Never mind, just follow me.  Lobo, cover the rear.”  He dismounted, took a big swig from his canteen and led the four men to the start of the trail.


Lobo hesitated looking at the rock wall then back at the woods.  Shaking his head, he followed slowly.


The four inched along, sweat pouring down their backs, their mouths dry.  The horses snorted and hesitated, balking at the path before them.  Loose shale and rubble twisted under the feet of the men and the hooves of the horses alike.  Slowly they gained altitude, the sun beating mercilessly down on them.


Heyes pressed his back against the rock wall taking a deep breath.  He closed his eyes and took several deep slow breaths to ease the rising nausea.   Inching forward, he held tightly to the reins, forcing his horse to follow.  The trail was too narrow to lean around his horse to see how the others were managing – still he’d have heard if anyone had fallen.  “Just a couple more yards then we’re at the top, men,” he called.  Low-voiced curses reached him.


At the top, he moved aside and watched the others clamber onto the ridge.  All were pale and gasping for breath by the time they reached him.  
“See, piece of cake.”


Lobo leaned over the side and retched.  When he straightened up he glared at the others.  “Drank too much,” he muttered.  The others nodded.  
Heyes silently handed him his canteen, dimpling as he did so.


Lobo stood staring back the way they’d come.  “I think we lost them.”


“Don’t think so.”


“I don’t see anything, Heyes.  Ain’t seen anything all day.  I say we lost them.”  Lobo crossed his arms, defiant.


Heyes glared at him then looked over the valley they’d left behind.  As he watched a flock of birds rose mid-forest, soaring into the air.  He pointed.  “See, Lobo, something disturbed them.  That’d be the posse.  Now we’re too exposed here.”  His eyes narrowed.  “Get moving.”


The men quickly obeyed.


They rode along the top of the narrow ridge, too winded to admire the view.  The ridge began to slope down, soon a few stunted trees, twisted by the incessant wind appeared, then more.  In the shade of a small cluster of trees, Heyes drew up.  The path forked before them.  One fork headed down a steep wall, though not as steep as the one they had climbed, down into a canyon below.  Water could be heard running at the bottom, although it could not be seen through the heavy brush lining the canyon walls.  The other path, wide and gently sloped, wended its way slowly down, winding around outcroppings of bare rock.


“Now what?”


“Down there,” Heyes pointed down the steep canyon.


Lobo’s eyes narrowed.  “What’s wrong with that path?” He indicated a wider trail.


“The posse will think we went that easier way, but I have a surprise planned for them,” Heyes replied.  He led the men to the trail edging down into a canyon.  While narrow it was wider than the one they had just traversed.  It was also shaded by the trees, bushes, and rising sides of the canyon as one descended.


Lobo’s face lost some of its green tint and his frown lightened.  “I guess.”


“You and Lance head down there and we’ll meet up at the bottom by the stream.  Kyle, come with me.  You still have a stick of dynamite, don’t you?”


“Sure, I always save one back.  Why?”  Kyle rode after Heyes down the easier trail until they turned a corner.  Here, Heyes stopped, signaling Kyle to dismount.  Heyes reached over and took the reins of his horse.


“See that ledge up there?”  Heyes pointed.  


Kyle shaded his eyes and nodded.


“I want you to place about half the stick there and set it off so it sends that pile of rocks down onto the path here.  Be careful how much you use, or you’ll send the whole cliff side down.  We’re all counting on you.”


“Well…  You sure?  Won’t it block the path?”


“That’s the idea.  But I want it to look like a natural slide, mind.  I don’t want the posse to hear it and think they’re so close to us – that’d just encourage them.  This way the posse will follow our trail to here then think we made it past this point before the path was cut.  They’ll give up.”


Kyle looked at the ledge, spit some chaw out, and grinned.  “Wow.  That sure is smart.  Guess that’s why you’re the leader.”  He climbed to the ledge, broke open the stick, tucking the bottom half in his pocket and folding the paper over the broken end of the top half to keep the powder in.  Kyle gestured to Heyes to move back.  Heyes carefully moved the horses back down the trail.


Satisfied, Kyle lit the fuse and scrambled down, racing to Heyes just as a pop sounded.  They waited anxiously; a rumble sounded, quiet at first then increasing in volume.  Dust floated around the corner.  Heyes handed the reins of both horses to Kyle and cautiously made his way back.  The path was strewn with rocks, and one boulder made the passage too narrow for horses.


He grinned and returned.  “Okay, Kyle, let’s go.  From the stream, we’ll be back in the Hole in less than an hour.”


“Hoowee!”  Kyle grinned and mounted up.  “Never sounded so good to me before.”


~~~oOo~~~


Heyes sat beside the fire, yawning as he read by the light of an oil lamp.  Periodically he checked his watch.  He glanced up as the door to the cabin opened and a weary Kid strode in.  Curry dropped the saddlebag onto the table and sank into a chair before the fire, groaning and closing his eyes. 


Tired, dark eyes contemplated him then their owner limped over and poured some whiskey.  He handed a twist of headache powder and the drink to the Kid, who took them without opening his eyes.  “Everything, go smoothly?”  Heyes slumped in the other chair, sighing as he relaxed.


Curry opened his eyes and sipped the whiskey.  “Like clockwork.  Barely a peep out of the boys, even when Hank and Chalkie ruined their boots in the swamp.  Wheat was a real help and kept the others in line.  He can take a crew if we have to split up again.  You?”


“Stubbed my foot crossing the creek, but otherwise fine.”  A smile lit his face.  “The landslide idea worked great.  Kyle used just the right amount of dynamite – sounded like a natural slide.  I’ll send a couple of the boys out next week to clear the area and reset it.”


The Kid nodded.


“You want something to eat?”


“Too tired.  You?”


“No.”


The two sat quietly, content to relax after several exhausting days – first the robbery, then the carouse, and finally the chase.  But now they could rest – safe in the confines of the Hole.


“So,” the Kid murmured without opening his eyes.  “Was it necessary, do you think?”


“What?”


“Today.  Was it really necessary?”


“Well, now, Kid, if we’re going to be this successful at robbing banks and trains, we’ve got to expect some posses.”


“True.  And at least your escape plans worked.”


“Yeah, good to know.”  Heyes chuckled.


“Still . . .   I could wait a few years before another day like today.”


“Yeah.”  Heyes nodded then grinned suddenly.  “But yesterday sure was fun.”


“Yeah,” the Kid chuckled, “but the wakenin’ was kinda rough.”


“Sorry about that.”


This time it was the Kid who nodded.  


Silence reigned in the cabin as two tired outlaws relaxed.


Eventually, the Kid yawned and levered himself out of the chair to head towards his room.  “So, tomorrow you gonna tell them?”


“What?”


“When we distribute the takin’s from the bank job, are you gonna tell them?”


“Are you crazy?  They’d kill us if they knew there never was a posse; that today was just practice.”


Last edited by riders57 on Fri Sep 19, 2014 10:46 pm; edited 1 time in total
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RosieAnnieUSA

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PostSubject: Re: Was Today Really Necessary?   Thu Sep 18, 2014 8:46 am

What happens when you've finally had enough?
---------

“Wait up, Heyes!”  Hannibal Heyes looked back over his shoulder and slowed his horse to a walk.

Kid Curry put his heels to his mare’s sides, urging her to put forth one last bit of energy.

“What’s your hurry?” Curry asked, as he pulled up next to Heyes. “Ain’t we worn out these animals enough for one day?” He stroked the mare’s sweaty neck with one hand, trying to soothe her. She was still breathing hard.

Heyes looked at his partner disbelievingly. “Don’t you want to leave that town behind as bad as me?”

“That town, those people, and this whole day. Just not enough to kill the horses. In case you forgot, we ain’t got money to buy fresh horses. We need to keep these beasts alive and well a while longer.”

“I ain’t forgot.”

“We ain’t got money enough for a poker stake either. We ain’t got money for a hotel room. We ain’t got money for dinner. We ain’t got money for – “

“I know, I know,” Heyes said, irritated. “You think I don’t know that? I was there with you, remember?”

“Yeah, I remember. And I remember all the rest of today, too, but I’m gonna try real hard to forget that.”

Heyes snorted. “Yeah, well, good luck with that. Me, I want to remember every little last bit. That way, I’ll know better next time.”

It was Curry’s turn to snort in derision. “You think so? Tell me, Heyes, how many times we found ourselves in this very same spot? No money, no job, no place to sleep ‘cept the ground, and riding two sorry horses half to death? Even since we started tryin’ for amnesty, it’s been the same thing. I’m beginnin’ to think we’re too stupid to learn anything new.”

“No,” Heyes disagreed. “No, that’s not it. There’s another way. There’s got to be. Today was necessary, Kid. We needed this.”

“Now you’re talkin’ crazy, Heyes. I don’t think this was day was necessary, not at all. Unless it’s to show us how this whole amnesty idea was crazy from the start.”

Heyes only looked sideways at Curry, squinting one eye closed, before turning his attention back to the dusty trail before them.

“Heyes,” Curry began slowly, “Is that what you been thinking, too? About the amnesty?”

“Let’s find us a campsite, Kid. You’re right; these horses are plumb wore out, and tell you the truth, I’m about ready to drop, too.”

“You didn’t answer my question, Heyes.”

“I know, Kid. Let’s get ourselves settled someplace where we can’t be seen, and then we can talk.”

Curry knew he wasn’t going to get an answer for a while. If he was honest with himself, he wasn’t real sure he wanted to hear what Heyes had to say on this particular question. He figured they both already knew.

00000

“At least we got some Arbuckle’s and whiskey to wash the dust out of our mouths and settle our stomachs,” Curry said. He poked the burning logs of their campfire with a branch. Sparks rose into the air briefly before winking out and floating slowly back down into the ash.

“That and a stream full of trout,” Heyes added.

“That don’t hurt none either.” The liquid in Curry’s tin cup was too hot to drink. He blew cool air on it. Satisfied, he took a careful sip. It did taste real good. He took a long drink of the whiskey-laced coffee, letting it warn his insides all the way down to his stomach. A loud burp escaped. Across from him, Heyes hid a smile behind his cup.

“Oh yeah, like you never belch.”

Heyes wore his innocent look. “Did I say anything?”

“You didn’t have to say it. I heard you thinkin’ it.”

“Oh now you can hear me thinkin’. Guess I don’t have to bother actually sayin’  words then.”

“I should be so lucky,” Curry muttered.

“What was that, Kid?”

“Nothin’.”

Heyes put his cup close to the fire, where he hoped his coffee would keep warm. The night clouds were moving in, bringing cooler temperatures.

“You know what, Kid? I envy you. I truly do.”

Curry looked at Heyes, not sure if Heyes was teasing him.

“You do?” Heyes nodded. “How come?”

“Because right now, in this moment, in this place, you look happy.”

“Huh.” That wasn’t what Curry expected to hear. He wasn’t sure how to respond.

“So, are you?”

“Am I what?”

“Happy. Are you happy right now?”

Curry thought about it for a moment.

“Yeah, sort of. Maybe.” He took a long drink, draining his tin cup. “I mean, why not? We got food and drink. If we got to sleep rough, this is a pretty place, and the weather’s nice. We’re far enough off the trail that we can have a fire without anybody seein’ us. Yeah, I guess I’m happy enough for now.”

Heyes reached for his coffee cup and held it in his gloved hands. The warmth felt good.

“That’s why I envy you, Kid. You take pleasure in the simple things. You can be in the moment, and if the moment’s good, then you’re good. Me, I look over at you, sittin’ so content, and I wish I was more like you. Really, I do. But I’m me, and I can’t help thinkin’ about that other time we were fishin’ and campin’ in the mountains, out in the middle of nowhere like we are now. You remember? We were talking about when we were kids and everything that happened back then. And right in the middle of that good time we was havin’, Matt Tabscott jumped out of the bushes with his shotgun pointed at us, and we got took. Came real close to endin’ up in prison for twenty years. Remember that?”

Curry leaned forward, elbows on knees. He did remember that day. That had been a nice time, with him and Heyes relaxed and easy, trying to figure out how they’d made such bad choices with their lives.

“Yeah, Heyes, I do.” He remembered sitting in that jail cell, too, sure that all their luck had finally run out. It wasn’t a good memory. “But,” he said, brightening, “it all worked out for everybody in the end, didn’t it?”

“That it did. But think about it. Matt, he was a nobody. Just a busted prospector, and he took us. What if there’s six professional lawmen and bounty hunters out in the woods right now, watching us? It’d be over for us, and there’d be nothin’ we could do about it. Nothin’ at all.”

Curry turned from side to side, anxiously searching the shadows.

“Did you see something?”

“No, Kid. Calm down, will you?” Curry sat back again, uneasy.

“I’m wonderin’ if maybe we been goin’ about this amnesty thing the wrong way, from the beginnin’, and if it’s time to make some real changes.”

“Okay,” Curry said, cautiously. It was best to go along with Heyes when he got excited about some plan, and from the way he looked, his eyes real bright and big in the pale light cast by the dying campfire, he had a doozy. “What kind of changes you talkin’ about?”

“Look at what happened today. What’s that tell you?”

Curry thought back to the events of earlier that day. They’d ridden into that small town as they had so many others, slow and careful, looking around for familiar faces and names, especially at the sheriff’s office. Every face, every name, was strange to them. Reassured, they’d tied up their mounts outside the saloon and gone in for lunch and gossip. By the time they’d finished their second beer, Heyes had become convinced that the bartender was looking at them funny.

“What’s the matter?” Curry asked.

“That barkeep,” Heyes whispered. “He’s starin’ at us."

So what? We’re strangers. He’s curious, that’s all.”


“That ain’t curiosity, not the way he’s lookin’ at us,” Heyes insisted. “I think he recognizes us.”

“Can’t you relax for even one minute? You’re imaginin’ trouble we ain’t got.”

Heyes looked stunned. “How could I imagine more trouble than we’ve had the last couple years? I’m tellin’ you, he knows us. Lookit how he’s lookin’ at us.” Curry started to turn around to get a better look, but Heyes grabbed his arm. “Look but don’t look! Don’t look suspicious.”


“How’m I supposed to do that? I am suspicious!”


Curry glanced casually in the bartender’s direction. Sure enough, he caught the bartender looking intently at them.


“See what I mean?” hissed Heyes. “He’s watching us. He knows who we are.”


We can’t just up and leave now,” Curry argued. “We just ordered lunch. Drifters that look like us don’t run out on a meal they already paid for. That really would look suspicious.”

“If we don’t go now, you can look forward to plenty of free meals in prison.”Both men rose simultaneously and ambled slowly to where their horses were tied up outside, casting nervous glances over their shoulders. Half an hour’s ride out of town, they saw a small dust cloud behind them.

“I told you he recognized us,” Heyes shouted, as they spurred their horses into a gallop. Curry bit back what he wanted to say. Heyes had been right again.

Finally, Curry shook his head.

“I don’t see anything new or different about today. We got chased out of another town, that’s all. I’ve lost count how many times that’s happened.”

“That’s just it. It’s the same old story. And we did the same thing we always do – we headed for the hills, hell bent for leather, and our pockets are just as empty as they was this mornin’.”

“More empty than they were this mornin’,” Curry grunted. “We paid for a lunch we never got to eat.” Heyes acknowledged the truth of that with a smile.

“So what do you think we shoulda done different?” Curry asked. “Stay in that town and find out if the bartender really knew us?”

“Nooo,” Heyes said, drawing out that small word almost into three syllables. “Not that. No, I mean maybe it’s time to start usin’ our skills again. We’re the two most successful thieves the West’s ever known. Let’s do what we’re good at it.”

“Are you saying you want to rob banks and trains again? Aside from the fact that we promised Lom and the Governor we wouldn’t, you” – and Curry pointed an index finger for emphasis – “and me decided the glory days of thievin’ were over.”

“More important,” Curry went on, “you and me decided we weren’t gonna hurt people like our folks by stealin’ their life savings. Maybe you’ve changed your mind, Heyes, but I haven’t. That ain’t the kind of person I want to be anymore. I thought you didn’t want to be that person either.”

Heyes was shaking his head. “I don’t, Kid, any more than I want you to be. No, I’m not talking about taking money from the folks who can’t afford to lose it,” he went on, “But what about the folks that who afford to lose it?” He looked at Curry expectantly. When Curry only stared at him, Heyes sighed.

“I been thinkin’ – no, really, Kid, hear me out – I been thinkin’, what if we got ahold of some money and just laid low for a while? Enough to rent a house, put food on the table, without havin’ to scrub for any job we can find. Maybe go somewhere on the ocean, like Oregon or Washington, where our faces aren’t so well-known, and just stay put. If we pulled two or three quiet burglaries, we’d be set until the amnesty came through. We wouldn’t have to be going town to town like we been, taking the worst kind of jobs from people who use us harder than they use their horses or dogs.”

Curry sounded doubtful. “I don’t know, Heyes. After all the time we spent tryin’ to get an amnesty, I ain’t ready to throw all that away by goin’ back on our word.” Heyes drew a deep breath, ready to argue, but paused when Curry held up one hand.

“You told Lom, our word was good, and I like to think it is. We gave our word, Heyes. It means somethin’ to me that no matter what we did, people knew our word was good. I don’t think I ever want to give that up.”

“We wouldn’t be givin’ that up, Kid. We promised we wouldn’t rob any banks or trains. But we didn’t say anythin’ about hittin’ back at all those rich men who steal worse’n we ever did, like Winford Fletcher or Big Mac. They’re more crooked than just about anyone we know, but they get away with it. Someone like that, they wouldn’t hardly miss $5,000 or $10,000. We’d take just enough to keep us goin’ for a while while we lay low and wait for the amnesty to come through.”

“Lom still wouldn’t like it,” Curry objected.

“Only if Lom knew about it,” Heyes argued. “Like I said, we won’t clean anyone out. Look at Big Mac. He spent $10,000 on that stupid statue of Caesar. It was chicken scratch to him. But it’d mean the world to us.”

“What about Smith and Jones?”

Heyes frowned. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“Could we leave them two behind?”

Heyes grinned. “We could and should. Those names are almost more trouble than Heyes and Curry. I don’t know what Lom was thinkin’ when he decided we had to stick with those names.”

“Heyes, the thought of leavin’ those names behind is almost enough to convince me. That and your silver tongue.”

Curry looked at their campfire dying out. The heavy logs had burned through. All that was left of them was glowing little chunks. He picked up the branch again and poked at a chunk, breaking it into smaller parts that sprung into flame for a brief moment and then collapsed into white-hot ash. He could barely see Heyes sitting across from him in the deepening gloom. He reached across and rested one hand lightly on Heyes’ arm.

“I ain’t sayin’ no, Heyes, but I ain’t sayin’ yes right now either. I’m just as tired as you are of beggin’ for scraps and livin’ hand-to-mouth. The more we do live this way, the more I want to settle down someplace quiet and peaceful.Let’s do some thinkin’ and plannin’, and not just jump into this like we been livin’ our lives lately.”

“Goes without sayin’, Kid.” Heyes grinned. He was getting excited. That’s what always happened when he had an idea. All he needed now was a plan. Well, time enough for that tomorrow. Kid was yawning and stretching.

“Think I’m gonna give it up for today, Heyes.” Curry crawled carefully into his bedroll, settling his hat and gun within easy reach. Satisfied, he pulled the blanket around him and closed his eyes. Only a moment later, his eyelids snapped open again.

“Ain’t you gonna sleep, Heyes?”

“Not just yet. I want to do some thinkin’.”

“Huh. Well, don’t overheat that brain of yours. We might be needin’ it tomorrow.”

“I won’t. Good night, Kid.” He watched Curry relax. Only a minute later, soft snores emerged from the bedroll.

Heyes took blanket and wrapped it around himself, still sitting up next to the remains of their campfire. Thinking through this new idea would probably keep him up for a couple more hours. He had a lot of planning to do.
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PostSubject: Re: Was Today Really Necessary?   Thu Sep 18, 2014 9:58 am

Mere Words Part 4






Tibby twiddled one thumb around the other in his clasped fingers and stared around the office.  The chronic boredom of incarceration was beginning to set in; the hiatus between meals being the sea of monotony an active mind dreads.  Tibby’s barely contained dynamism had become the twitching, jiggling, irritating tick from the next cell which matched the pacing, caged–lion, silent-snarl of the ex-outlaw leader.  The Kid closed his eyes and wished the hat over his face could shut out the sighing, squirming laments coming from his companions-in-custody.  The clatter of a coffee pot on the pot-bellied stove finally cut through the mire of tedium.  The hat was pulled back and a pair of bright-blue eyes fixed on the Deputy.  “Hey, Gus.  Any of that for us?”




“Sure, why not?”




Tibby raised his head expectantly.  “Cream and three sugars for me.”




The lawman scowled.  “I like my coffee like I like my women; rich, bitter and South American.  You’ll have it the same as me.  I ain’t here for your convenience.  Got that?”  Gus passed a tin mug through the bars.  “Any more lip and you’d be havin’ water.”  He walked back over to the pot and returned to Heyes and Curry with their drinks.  “There ya go, boys.”




“Any idea how long we’ll be in here, Deputy?”


 
“That’s up to Rumplestiltskin,” Gus gestured towards Tibby with his head.  “You got any answer?”




“You weren’t kidding about bitter.  This hits the stomach like a long-nailed whore going through your pockets in the dark,” he supped deeply at the cup before grimacing, “and my name is Tiberius F. Dunbar.  You can call me Mr. Dunbar.” 


“I’ll call you anythin’ I darn well want to,” Gus strolled back over to the desk and leaned back in his chair.  “You got me stuck in the office until you’re released and I got a whole lot of better things to do with my time.”


  
The Kid grinned.  “Like that woman you talked about?”




Gus propped his feet on the desk.  “She’s a sweet little Irish widow with three little ‘uns.  Related to half the county too,” a smirk spread over his face, “and that’s always handy come election time.  She wants a man with a secure job and I want what I want.  It’s the perfect relationship.”




“Yup, it always helps to have friends behind you.”  The Kid darted a mean look at Tibby.  “The best way to be reminded of that is to forget it at the wrong time.”    




Tibby glowered but waited until the Deputy was engrossed in his dime novel again.  “I offered you a job.  That’s friendly.”




Cynical dark eyes stared over the top of a tin mug.  “No thanks, Tibby.”




“Yeah, about that...”  Tibby’s thin lips stretched into a smile.  “You might want to reconsider.”




The dark eyes hardened.  “Why?”




“I’ve just been staring over at those wanted posters over there, now Gus is a real nice fella, but he’s not the most conscientious lawman I ever met, but he’s not dumb.”  




Two pairs of eyes drilled into Tibby as he continued.  “You know the first thing that struck me about you two was your kindness,” he stared off with a benign smile on his face,  “along with those tied down guns, the ever-alert eyes, the need not to be seen around anyone who might be corrupt.”  He leaned back against the wall, talking to nobody in particular.  “Yup, you’re a real interesting pair.”  The cornflower-blue eyes narrowed to a gimlet stare.  “I owe you a debt of kindness; like an honest job.”




“Don’t push your luck, Tibby,” Heyes hissed.




“Right back at ya, Mister...”  Tibby’s eyebrows rose provocatively, “what did you say your name was again?”


     
“Smith.”




“Really?  I’d have sworn it was something else,” he stood and scuttled over to the bars.  “Maybe the deputy can help?”




“Tibby, we’re gonna get out of here soon, so don’t push us,” the Kid warned.




Tibby shook his head.  “I’d never do that, you look too much like,” he paused, looking the Kid up and down, “a gunman?”




“I’m a security consultant.”




“You lack the complete ruthlessness of a William McCarty or a John Wesley Hardin but you’ve got an edge to you; no, two edges, like a sword.”  Tibby grinned at both partners.  “A dichotomy, that’s what you are.”




Heyes’ eyes narrowed.  “That’s a camel, isn’t it?”




“That’s a dromedary.”  Tibby folded his arms.  “A dichotomy is something with two edges; usually one good and one bad.  I’d say that’s a pretty good description of you two, which is why I think you could help me save lives.  You have a foot in both camps, so to speak.”




Heyes folded his arms.  “Right now I’m considering training as a hangman.”


             
“But think of the bigger picture,” Tibby replied.  “So far at least fifteen men who were reported missing by their families have been found dead in this county.  The last one was in this town.”




“So?”  Brows gathered over hard, blue eyes.  “Times are hard.  Men are travellin’ to find work.”




Tibby shook his head.  “These are men who deserted their families years before.  They come from all over the country; two were from out East, yet they end up headed for a pauper’s grave in Saggart County.  Why is that?”




“Dunno,” Heyes snapped, “and it’s nothing to do with me.”




“No?”  Tibby’s brow creased.  “Oh, Gus!”




Both ex-outlaws’ heads snapped up to attention.  




Gus dropped his dime novel.  “What?”




“Those wanted posters on the board over there.  How often do you read them?”




“None o’ your beeswax, Stubby.”


        
“The name’s Tibby.”  He reached through the bars and pointed.  “Those posters over there.”




“Ya expect me to walk over there just because you want me too?”  The Deputy’s face wrinkled.  “Do I look like some kinda fool.”




“Tibby, don’t answer that,” hissed Heyes.  “This man handles our food.”          


         
Tibby dropped his voice.  “Then say you’ll work for me.”




“No.  We’ve had a bellyful of you,” the Kid growled.




The little man’s blue eyes sparkled with mischief.  “How effective do you think Dogberry is at his job?  This story ends unless I get some help,” he smiled, meaningfully, “so I’ll need another.  Tell your friend how determined I am when I’m on a story, Mr. Smith?  Tell him how I could dig into your lives.”




Heyes scowled at the writer.  “Why us, Tibby?”


    
“It’s a compliment.  You two have a certain intelligence and kindness not usually found in people of your...” Tibby shrugged, “shall we call them skills?  I could easily find muscle, cunning and duplicity,” he gestured over to the indolent lawman with his head, “but most of them only look after number one.  You two care about people, like me.”




“Care?” Heyes snorted.  “You didn’t care much about that man having to re-paint his wall.”




“I said I care, I didn’t say like them.  I’m like a benign zookeeper.  I have to try to stop the tigers ripping the penguin’s head off, but I don’t want to get into the cage with them.  I don’t fit in.”




“Did you try the reptile house?” asked Heyes.




Tibby arched a brow.  “Don’t get insulting.  You’ll only make me like you more.  Seriously boys, I see something in you, that’s why I’m offering you the best money you’ll ever make in just a few weeks work.  One hundred dollars a week; apiece – plus expenses, and if we wrap this up part way through a week you’ll get paid for the whole lot.  How does that sound?”




“Like a fantasy,” muttered the Kid.




“So you accept?”




“That’s it, Tibby.  Aim high,” Heyes placed his empty mug on the floor, “with any luck you’ll shoot yourself in the head.”




Tibby folded his arms.  “Surely you’ll consider it when my editor comes through with the payment?”




The Kid glanced at the dangerously silent Heyes eyes before sitting on his own bunk.  “Tell us about it.  At least it’ll pass some time.”




“A local newspaper has links with the New York Times and they get access to our important stories in exchange for giving us leads.”  Tibby leaned up against the bars dividing his cell from the ex-outlaws.  “A story came in that’s very strange.” 




 He paused, staring from one to the other until the Kid harrumphed impatiently.  “What’re you waitin’ for, Tibby?  A round of applause?  Get on with it.”




The grey eyebrows met in a frown.  “Well, a young newspaperman out in a town called Poulpeasty puts out a weekly paper that covers four or five towns in the district.  He noticed a spike in reports of drifters turning up dead in the county.  The death of a saddle tramp isn’t new; the country is full of poor men trying to make ends meet during hard times, but he noticed that it went from maybe one or two a month to a five or six.”




Heyes looked over in spite of himself.  “How did they die?” 




“Various ways; heart attack, falls, accidents; some were ill before expiring.  The ages ranged from their twenties to their fifties.”




“I’m not seeing an epidemic of sudden deaths yet, Tibby,” Heyes replied.




“No, and that’s what’s so clever about it.  Different men, towns, ages and causes of death,” Tibby pushed his face further between the bars, “nothing to connect them until a newspaper man in a backwater noticed something when he started mounting the type into the blocks.  All these bodies were claimed.”




“So?” Heyes asked.




“A woman claimed them, the name varied along with her description and age.  Sometimes a son, others a brother or a husband; but how often do you think someone comes forward to claim a drifter’s body?”




“About half the time?” ventured the Kid.




“Try practically never,” hissed Tibby.  “Nobody wants the expense of the burial, let alone the cost of travelling on the chance that the carcass belongs to the cheating husband who deserted you.”




“There’s nothing to connect them,” muttered Heyes, his mind already buzzing.  “You just happen to have more drifters passing through.  It’s a coincidence.”




Tibby’s little sausage fingers tightened on the bars.  “How about the fact that a doctor always seems to be passing through town and seems to be the person who finds the body?”  He watched the mute conversation bounce between the two men sharing the cell next to him.  “Interested?”   




oooOOOooo




Gus pulled the gun belts out of the safe and ginned at the two men staring expectantly at him while their smaller companion lingered in the background by the notice board.  “Paid in full, by the chairman of the biggest bank in the state.  Well, Herb Fulsmith at the local bank made good on the bill on condition that we let the troll go.  The governor got a call on the telephone machine from some big wig and sorted it.”  He shrugged towards Tibby.  “Either he’s got friends in high places or he’s threatened to go back somewhere to visit.”  He handed the partners their weapons back.  “Nobody said anything about you pair, but it didn’t seem right to leave you locked up when the main culprit is roamin’ the streets.”     




“Thanks, Gus.”  The Kid strapped on his sidearm.  “You’ve been real decent.”




“I do my best, boys.  Are you headin’ out of town?”




“It’s gettin’ kinda late.  Maybe tomorrow, huh, Joshua?”  




“Yeah, I need a drink.”




“I’ll buy,” Tibby declared.




Exasperated brown eyes met blue before Heyes thrust out a hand to Gus.  “Thanks for letting us go, Gus.  I won’t forget it.”




“Well, if you decide to stay around here, remember me come election time, boys.”


       
“That’s a promise,” the Kid raised a hand and waved in the Deputy’s direction.  




The ex-outlaws clattered down the sidewalk towards the saloon, their shoulders tensing in unison at the voice behind them.  “Wait for me!”


Without a word both men increased their pace in unison.  




A hand tugged on Heyes’ arm causing him to turn and glare at the interloper.  




Innocent blue eyes blinked up at them.  “Can I come for a drink?”




The Kid folded his arms.  “Do what you like, just don’t do it near us.” 




“I have something to show you.”




Heyes sighed.  “Don’t push it.  The last thing I want to do is hurt you, but you’d better realise that it’s still on the list.”




“I think you’ll be interested in what I’ve got to say.”   




 “Go on.”




“Well not here, obviously.  I do have a room.”




“You got your own hotel room and you kept us awake with your snorin’!?”  The Kid’s long forefinger prodded the writer’s rotund chest.  “Out of everythin’ that happened over the last twenty four hours, just what was really necessary?  The sleepless night, the bloodbath,” he paused, angry, hot breath hitting Tibby’s cheek, “the night in jail?” 




Tibby paused.  “Well, jail was Callie’s doing but I had to stay with you to find out if you were the killers.”




“Us?  Killers?” Heyes snorted.




“Yes.  I believe all these drifters are being murdered.  That might have been why you approached me.”  He shrugged.  “I had to find out.”




Heyes blinked in amazement.  “By coming with us?  Do you go off with just anyone?  You could have been killed.”




“My work isn’t always safe, Mr. Smith.  You don’t get a story by sitting in the office waiting for it to come to you.  Besides, I have insurance.”




“Insurance?” the Kid exclaimed.  “What good will that be to you when you’re stiffening up in the undertaker’s back room?”




“You’re a madman, Tibby.  Go back to your editor and leave us alone.”  Heyes turned on his heel and strode off towards the saloon.  




The Kid looked at his partner’s departing back and shook his head.  “What if we’d been killers, Tibby?  That’s a damn fool thing to do for a story.”




“So you believe I’m Dogberry,” grinned the little man.




Hard blue eyes bored into the tramp.  “I can’t think if any reason why you wouldn’t be, or why I should waste any more time on you.  Don’t make me tell you to leave us alone again, Tibby.  That’d be real dumb of you.”  




oooOOOooo




Jangling music drifted through the smoke and the babel drifting to the stained ceiling of the saloon.  It was payday and the place was full of men making sure that they blew off steam after a hard week.  Tomorrow was Sunday and a day of contemplation lay ahead, or maybe a day of fornication for those who were heading to the bawdy house.  The town was prepared to take money from all regardless of their appetites, provision was made for both bible and blasphemy.      




The Kid stood with his back resolutely turned to the irritating little man who took position at the other end of the bar.  Everything about the little figure was annoying from his ingratiating smile to the way he supped his drink clutched in a tiny hand.  “First thing in the mornin’, Joshua,” the Kid threw back his whiskey, “we’re outta here.  I can’t wait to put this whole bloody mess behind us.”




The dark eyes fixed on his opponent at the other end of the bar.  “I know.  We’d be out of here by now but that’d confirm we’ve got something to hide.  If he knew anything he’d have used it.”




“Yeah, that’s what I reckoned too.  Act normal” the gunman gestured to the barman for a refill, “well as normal as anyone can who’s bein’ followed about by an accident waitin’ to happen.  He’s like hallow’een come every day.”




Both men groaned at the shout which came from the far end of the bar.  “That’s my drink!”  They knew that voice intimately.   They turned to see Tibby protesting vehemently with an enormous, moustachioed show-off.  “You know that’s mine.”


                        
The bully guffawed.  “You’re too small for whiskey.  You ain’t no bigger’n a peanut.”




“Barman, are you going to allow you clientele to be discomposed by this cockalorum?”




The barman stared back.  “Huh?”




“What did you just call me, squirt?”




“Cockalorum!” Tibby declared.  “You heard me, fusitlugs.  If the shoe fits you’re very welcome to lace it up and parade around in it.”




“Cocka...what?”




“You’re a bullyboy, a thug, a hectorer,” Tibby paused.  “A hoodlum of the first order!”




The Kid dropped his head.  “He sure makes an impression, huh?”




“Are you callin’ me names, ya bug?” the man replied with a complete absence of irony.




“Simply employing the mots justes,” Tibby pronounced through tight lips.




The thief turned to his entourage.  “Is he a foreigner?”




A grizzled cowpoke snickered through yellow teeth.  “Who cares as long as his whiskey tastes good, huh, Jim?  Gimme some.”




Tibby stepped forward to protest but was pushed roughly back by Jim.  “Did ya see that, Linus?  He’s a fighter.”




Tibby juddered back at another stiff prod to the chest before his eyes glittered with distress and he burst into tears. 




“Tears?” Heyes hissed glaring at his partner.  “For crying out loud.”




“You said it, partner,” chuckled the Kid.




The hecklers shuffled uncomfortably as all eyes turned to a blubbering Tibby.  “Are you happy now?  Do you know what I’ve been through today?”




The thug’s jaw dropped open in disbelief.  “Cryin’?  I ain’t never seen the like.”




“What d’you expect?” bawled Tibby.  “My life is at an end an all you can do is make fun of me?  Just when you think thing can’t get any worse you come along and grind my manhood into the dirt.  Are you proud of yourself?”  The little man strode forward and thrust his tear-stained face forward pugnaciously.  “Do you feel like a big man now?”




The bully bit into his lip, unable to meet his opponent’s gaze.   “Well, beside you I do...yeah.”  He glanced around at the murmurs of discontent which had begun to sweep the bar.  This was no longer funny.




“I took this damned job because my whole life was going down the drain,” Tibby wept.  “My wife was ill, she needed treatment and the doctor’s bills were killing me.  I needed work and the only job I could get took me away from home.”  He turned great globes of hurt on his tormentors.  “Have you any idea how painful it is for you to lose someone you love when you’re not there?”      




It was Heyes’ turn to rub his chin pensively.




Tibby continued his tirade.  “So I get set up by a competitor, a real ruthless piece of work, who trashed a hotel room and blamed it on me.”  He wiped his nose on his sleeve and sniffed loudly.  “I spent last night in jail with two of the scariest men I ever met and when I get out I find I’ve lost my job.  So now I’ve been fired, widowed, and I’m almost broke.  I come in here for a quiet drink and who at you do!?”  The stubby finger pointed accusingly at the ring leader who dropped his head in shame. 




“I’ll buy you another,” Jim sensed the tide turning against him, “Hey, barman!”




“I don’t want another,” Tibby exclaimed.  “I want that one.”




“I drank it.  I’m offerin’ you another.”




Tibby stamped his foot.  “No.  It’s gotta be that drink.”  




“What’s so special about that one?”




“I came in here to end it all,” Tibby propped his hands on his hips.  “That one had the poison in it.”




There was a smash as the bully dropped Tibby’s empty glass on the floor.  “Poison?”




A malevolent smile suddenly twitched at the impish lips.  “Yeah, the poison.  I guess I’m gonna live.  I wish I could say the same about you.”




Jim blanched.  “What kinda poison?”




“Does it matter?  It’s too late,” Tibby shrugged.




“Too late!”  Panic set over the bully’s face.  “What d’ya mean?”




Tibby walked towards the door, his tears disappearing as quickly as his old spunk returned.  “You drunk it.  Not my problem.”




A shot battered into the door frame, stopping the little man in his tracks.  “You ain’t goin’ nowhere until you tell me what I just drunk.  I gotta tell the doc.”




Tibby’s eyes widened with faux innocence.  “I don’t know.  It just had a skull and crossbones on the bottle.”




Jim’s colour turned from crimson to puce.  “You tell me what was in that whiskey or I’ll drop you where you stand.”  He froze at the metallic clicking of a gun beside his head.  




“Drop it.”  Heyes reached out and took the gun from the man’s hand, giving his accomplices a dazzling, but harsh, smile.  “Walk away.  My friend over there has me covered, not to mention the barman’s gun.”  He looked at the grey-suited proprietor on the staircase who smiled and nodded.  “So let’s do this peaceable-like, huh?”




“But he poisoned me,” cried Jim.  




“No, he didn’t.”  Heyes slid Jim’s pistol down the bar to the barman.  “He scared you stupid after you stole his drink.  We all saw it, so take it as a joke and walk out of here peaceably.”




“But...”




The man in the grey suit descended the staircase.  “Git outta here, Jim Brackman and take Linus Schuffenhaur with you.  I warned you before about throwin’ your weight about.  You’re barred for a month.”




“But Sam...”




“Git out and stay out.  If I hear you’ve behaved yourself I might let you back in for thanksgiving.  Ya hear?  Fred!”  The barman snapped to attention at his boss’s call.  “Drinks on the house for the man who broke it up and one for his friend too.”




Tibby turned hopefully.  “And me?”




“Yeah, sure.  One for the little ‘un too.  No poison this time.”




oooOOOooo




“I thought the needy folks were my area, Joshua,” shrew blue eyes examined his cousin waiting for a response.




Heyes leaned on the bar and watched the barman pour his free drink.  “He fired at a man’s back without warning, Thaddeus.  I thought I’d better step in.  I didn’t want folks to see how good you were with a gun.  They might get suspicious.”




            
A chuckle lightened the Kid’s voice.  “Sure, Joshua.  It was all about me.”  He turned and leaned with his back to the bar.  “That soft heart will be the end of you.”




“Don’t bank on it,” Heyes muttered as they both watched Tibby weave his way towards them, “especially not in the next few minutes.”




“Gentlemen!  I knew you’d come through for me,” Tibby rubbed his hands together.




“Cryin’, Tibby?”  The Kid shook his head.  “Have you no shame.”




“Not a jot.  I’m a small man and I can’t rely on brawn.  I have to be more original.”




“So your wife...?” Heyes queried.




“Alive and kicking.  Probably biting too, from what I remember.”




“You’re not even ashamed,” Heyes admonished.




“Never be ashamed of any confrontation you walk away from without a scratch,” Tibby picked up his drink.  “I learned that a long time ago.  I’ve just redefined winning is all.”   




“You call yourself a man?” the Kid sighed.  




“I call myself a survivor.  Besides, I can’t get in a fight.  I have some very specialised equipment which might get damaged.”    


Heyes frowned.  “Equipment?”




“Yes.  I was lucky the law didn’t know what it was when they stripped me of my bloody clothes.”  He pulled out his watch.  “This is a camera, gentlemen.  I take photographs of everyone of significance so that there will at least be some trace of the people I dealt with if anything untoward happens.”




“A camera?”  The ex-outlaws shared a look of concern before Heyes reached out to examine it.  “In something that small?”




“Isn’t technology wonderful?  Yup, this is worth its weight in gold to me.  Takes great pictures too.  I developed them yesterday before your friend found me having lunch.  Has anyone ever told you two you are very photogenic? ”




Historical Notes


On May 9th 2007, a ‘Detective Camera’ from the 1880s, what we would call a spy camera, was sold for £21,600 ($34,778.16). It was hidden inside a woman’s watch, which increased its rarity as most were male watches. Detective cameras were well known to be in use in the 1880s and were hidden in any number of items such as parcels, hats, books etc.


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1551141/19th-century-spy-camera-sells-for-21000.html

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


Last edited by Silverkelpie on Sat Sep 20, 2014 9:33 am; edited 1 time in total
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Javabee

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PostSubject: Re: Was Today Really Necessary?   Fri Sep 19, 2014 4:32 pm

A Necessary Conversation


“What’s up, Kid?” Heyes was sitting on the bed with his legs crossed, playing another game of solitaire.


“Not much.” The blond gunslinger was cleaning his gun for the third time in just as many hours. He glanced out the window long enough to see lightning flash midst the rain storm and glumly returned to his ritual.


Heyes studied his partner thoughtfully. “I know you, Kid. There’s something botherin’ you.”


Silence.


“You hungry?”


“Nope.”


Heyes looked at his cousin, surprised. “It’s supper time. There’s somethin‘ wrong, alright. You better tell me or I’ll think the worst.”


The Kid looked up with a scowl. “What could be worse than this? We’re stuck, hidin’ in this hotel room from that deputy that knows us from Tucson. Can’t even go to the saloon to play a little poker. We even got to eat in here for fear he‘ll see us.”


“Your right. It sounds terrible. Only one thing could be worse.”


Kid looked at him questioningly.


“Being stuck in a room with a partner that whines like a little girl.”


Little girl! The Kid abruptly stood and looked daggers at his partner.


Heyes held his hands up in appeasement. “Now, hold on, Kid, hear me out. We ain’t sleepin’ on the ground. We ain’t wet or cold. Nobody’s shootin’ at us and we just got paid. All we got to do is order a nice steak supper and they‘ll bring it to us.  Don’t you see we got it easy?”


“Easy! You call this easy?” Kid paced across the room, kicking the chair as he went.


Heyes shook his head. “Look at you. You’re downright unpleasant to be around when you’re like this.”


“Leave, then. I won’t stop ya.” 


“Like you said, Kid, we’re stuck here.” Heyes expertly shuffled his cards for another round.


“And stop callin’ me Kid. Why’d you start callin’ me that anyhow?”


“What?” Heyes stopped fiddling with the cards, perplexed at the question.


“My name is Jed.” 


“What’s wrong with Kid? It never bothered ya before.”


“I ain’t been called by my real name for so long, I ain’t even sure I would answer to it. I’m Jed. Jed from Kansas.” 


Heyes raised one brow. “Well, Jed from Kansas. What’s this really about?”


Jed glared at his partner. “I’m tired of livin‘ like this, Heyes. I’m tired of my alias. I’m tired of runnin’, and I’m tired of bein’ stuck in this room with you!” 


Heyes knew better than to argue with Kid Curry in a mood; his partner’s stubbornness was famous, rivaled only by his own. He stood and began packing his saddle bag.


“What’re you doin’?” Jed stopped pacing, and stared at his cousin.


“When you’re right, you're right. I don’t feel like runnin’ no more either. Let’s march right down to the sheriff and turn ourselves in. We’ll get 20 years a piece in nice, secure cells. No more runnin‘, no more alias, and I reckon no more bein’ stuck with me. How ‘bout it?”


“That’s not what I meant and you know it.” Jed watched his partner with a glimmer of concern. He knew Heyes could fly off the handle if pushed too far.


“Fine. Then what say we wait till dark and hit the trail. We’ll ride all night and put some distance between us and that deputy. With a little luck, the thunder won’t spook the horses and the rain’ll quit by mornin’. Then we’ll find a place to make camp and try to get dried out. As soon as our teeth stop chatterin‘, we’ll chew on a piece a cold jerky for breakfast.  Sound good?”


Silence.


“No? Don’t you worry, I got us another plan.” Heyes stopped packing long enough to face his partner. His brown eyes appeared to sparkle as he gestured with apparent enthusiasm. “We just need to give up on this whole amnesty idea. Go back to Devil’s Hole where we belong. We’ll get the boys back together and pull a few jobs. I’ve got a couple schemes tossin’ round in my head that are foolproof. We’ll be rich!”


Wide eyed, Jed shook his head. “No, Heyes. I didn’t mean…” 


“Or maybe you’re just fed up bein‘ my partner. Is that it? You always did say we’d never get amnesty unless we split. You want me to leave? Fine.” Heyes abruptly slapped on his hat, threw his saddlebag over his shoulder, and strode towards the door.


Jed took a step towards him, alarmed. "Come on, Heyes, is this really necessary?”


Heyes turned to face him. “You tell me. You’re the one with the itch to change things. What do you really want?”


Jed studied the floorboards. “I reckon I can’t have what I want.”


“That’s where your wrong, Jed. You just can’t have it right now. You need to be patient and give Lom a little more time. Now do I leave, or do I stay and we work this out together?”


Jed‘s voice softened. “Aw, Heyes. You know I’m just goin’ a little stir crazy, bein’ cooped up in this room. We’re partners, same as always.”


Heyes flipped his saddle bag over the back of the chair, and took off his hat with a knowing look.


“Glad to hear it. Now, how ‘bout I go downstairs and order those steaks?”


“Yeah.”


“Anything else?” Heyes opened the door and took a step into the hall.


“Pie. Apple if they got it.”


“Alright, Jed.”


“Heyes?”


“What now?” Annoyed, Heyes spun around in answer to his demanding partner.


“Please. Call me Kid“.

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Gringa

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PostSubject: Re: Was Today Really Necessary?   Sat Sep 20, 2014 3:47 pm

I'm taking up Nancy Whiskey's shortest Story Challenge, so at 38 words - one less than her's - here's mine.



The secretary closed the door behind a departing Lom Trevors.  “You promised amnesty?  Was that really necessary, sir?”


The Governor leaned back in his seat and smiled slyly.  “Why not?  They’re never going to get it, you know.”
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Stepha3nie

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PostSubject: Re: Was Today Really Necessary?   Sat Sep 20, 2014 9:05 pm

Ok, Gringa, you are on. My contribution has 37 words, so one less again. And even though I find your story rings very true, I tried to show an alternative.


Amnesty, a dream come true. They could hardly believe they had lived to see it.

But press conferences, photo shootings, public appearances were a different matter. For days they kept asking themselves, was this all really necessary?

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For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
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Remuda

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PostSubject: Re: Was Today Really Necessary?   Sun Sep 21, 2014 1:26 am

Worth

Yesterday:  Sounds. Shots.  Silence.

He sat, stretched, sighed.  A life, a flicker in time, gone.

The quest, accomplished; the future, uncertain.

Was it worth it?

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Last edited by Remuda on Sun Sep 21, 2014 12:39 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Distant Drums

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PostSubject: Re: Was Today Really Necessary?   Sun Sep 21, 2014 10:12 am

Ok - I am trying for it too, Remuda's has 25 words, mine has 21.

* *  *

"You had to."

Angry brown eyes flashed.  "No, I didn't."

Kid chuckled, listening to continued protestations.

"Never again.  I hate dentists!" 

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Stepha3nie

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PostSubject: Re: Was Today Really Necessary?   Sun Sep 21, 2014 8:00 pm

My ambition has been fueled. And there was this plot bunny, already active in my brain, so I came up with an ultra-short variant of a story I am still working on. Not quite sure where it will lead now. ;-)
Oh, 25 - 21 - 20!


“Was today really necessary?” Heyes pondered after Kid shot Bilson.


Regretfully “Yes.”

He remembered the smiling killer’s fast-draw and cruelty.

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For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
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Keays

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PostSubject: Re: Was Today Really Necessary?   Thu Sep 25, 2014 9:49 pm

Okay, even I have time for this.  Not exactly 'a day' but what the heck.




“What Heyes? What’s eaten’ at ya’?”


“It’s just….” Heyes couldn’t look the Kid in the eye. “it’s been a year.”
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Stepha3nie

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PostSubject: Re: Was Today Really Necessary?   Tue Sep 30, 2014 7:42 pm

I guess I was feeling a bit morose when I toyed with this. But since I did not get round to finish the story I really wanted to post for this month's challenge, you'll get this snippet instead. Sorry.
(19 words)


What could go wrong?

Shots.

“Kid?”

“KID!
Deathly silence.
Guilt-ridden heartbreak.

His last words unheard.
“Was today really necess

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PostSubject: Re: Was Today Really Necessary?   Tue Sep 30, 2014 9:17 pm

This story was inspired by a 1990s movie. The plot could be considered a little...strange...

~^~^~^~^~

The cool early Autumn rain had dissipated leaving a translucent fog hanging over the valley. Nocturnal insects had started to perform their droning song as the evening twilight faded slowly into obscurity. The only other sound to be heard was the squish of horses' hooves on the muddy trail. Two damp and weary riders stared ahead, looking for any sign of civilization.

"I thought there was supposed to be a town around here somewhere."

Hannibal Heyes looked over at his partner Kid Curry to see him scowling under the floppy brown hat. "There is...somewhere..."

"Well there better be. I ain't plannin' to spend another night sleepin' on this soggy ground."

"Don't worry Kid. You won't have to. I'll find you a rock to sleep on."

"I'm fixin' to find a rock to brain you with."

Heyes tried to hold back a smile as he turned to face forward again. They rode on quietly. As they turned a bend, he pointed up ahead. "Look there. I think I see the outlines of some buildings."

Another five minutes found them riding past a sign declaring the start of a town. Heyes pulled his mount to a stop as he quizzically looked at it. "Destiny Loop?" What kinda name is that for a town?"

"As long as there's a sheriff that don't know us, a place to get a hot meal, and a hotel with an empty bed, they could name it Outhouse for all I care."

Heyes clicked his horse back into motion and followed Kid toward what appeared to be the main street. Momentarily, they passed the sheriff's office. "Don't seem to be anyone we know in the law business here."

Kid was quietly checking out the surroundings. "Maybe we ought to keep going Heyes. This place has a weird feeling about it."

"What? Just two minutes ago you were ready to kill if you had to spend another night outside."

"Yeah, well, I'm havin' second thoughts."

"Don't be ridiculous. This is just another town on the trail, like all the rest. You'll feel better after some food and sleep."

"Maybe..."

They stopped and checked into the hotel, then after taking their horses to the livery, hurried to the cafe to get some dinner before it closed.

Later, back in their room, Heyes had settled himself down to read a little. "Well, Kid. Feeling a little better now?"

Curry threw the quilt back on his bed and climbed in. "Yeah, I guess so. That pot roast and this semi-comfy bed is helpin'." It wasn't two minutes after he laid down before he was snoring softly.

A little while later, Heyes put his book down on the nightstand and finally fell asleep.

~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~

"COCK-A-DOODLE-DOOOO...COCK-A-DOO..."

BANG

"SQUAAAWWKK..."

"What the..." Heyes jerked up in bed and grabbed his gun. After seeing nobody in the room with him, he got up and looked out the window. In the street below, the sheriff or deputy was pushing a staggering drunk who had apparently just shot a rooster toward the jail. A hand was run through the dark hair as Heyes put his gun back in his holster. He was getting ready to wash his face when the Kid unlocked the door and walked in.

"Mornin' Heyes."

Heyes grunted in reply. "Where have you been this early?"

"Went out to get some breakfast and a paper. Didn't want to wake ya, so I just brought you something back."

"I hope it includes coffee."

"Got it right here." Kid set the steaming cup on a table. "Were you awake in time to see the excitement?"

"The excitement is what woke me up. What happened out there?"

"Some guy spent all night with a whiskey bottle and didn't appreciate that rooster's wake-up call."

Heyes snorted a quiet laugh and turned back to the wash basin.

"Since we're runnin' low on money, I was glancin' at this paper while I ate and saw a couple ads for jobs. One's out at a small ranch patchin' up a barn. The other's deliverin' some documents out to a mine."

Heyes paused to peer at his cousin through the wash basin mirror. "Let me guess. You chose the delivery job."

Kid shot Heyes his most charming, innocent smile. "Well, I figured this time, I'd do the decidin' instead of that coin of yours."

~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~

Heyes stood in the livery stable tacking up his horse. Out of the corner of his eye, he could tell the stable boy mucking out the next stall kept staring at him. Heyes turned his head and touched his hat in greeting. The boy nodded his head back and turned his attention back to his work. The only other time he looked up was to watch Heyes lead his mare out into the street. A smile creased his young face.

~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~

Kid had already picked up the mining documents and was on his way out of town. The morning air was pleasant as the sun drifted in and out of cloud cover. He smiled smugly as he thought of the fact that he had gotten the cushy job this time. Heyes usually ended up with it either through manipulation or that dratted coin of his. He could just see Heyes cursing to himself up on the roof of a barn trying to patch it. Heyes wasn't the best when it came to carpentry. He'd say it was a safe bet his partner would return to the hotel with more than one cut or bruise on his hands. Kid let his horse plod lazily down the trail. No need to be in too much of a hurry.

~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~

Heyes was headed in the opposite direction after he had finally decided not to stop at the general store for any food or supplies. Besides, as Kid had pointed out, they were low on funds and the job ad hadn't said anything about needing your own tools.

The ranch lay just about twenty minutes ride from the town. He kept a close watch behind him as he rode. He didn't know why the stable boy had been staring at him, but he figured if he'd been recognized, he'd be running from a posse by now.

As he rode, he thought about how unfair it was that he had ended up with the job that required the most work. At least the Kid had a much longer ride than he did.

The ranch came into view. As he got closer, he groaned when he saw the repairs that needed to be done were on the barn's roof. Next time, Kid was definitely getting the hard job. He rode up to the ranch house where a middle-aged lady appeared on the porch wiping her hands on a dish towel.

"Can I help you with something?" she asked as she looked Heyes over. Heyes dismounted.

"Howdy ma'am. My name's Joshua Smith. I'm here about the job you had in the paper, patching up the barn?"

"Oh yes, yes. It's not a very big job, just finishing up patching the hole in the barn's roof. Shouldn't take no more than a day or two. My husband had started the work, but he got a telegraph saying his ma was real sick and he left to see her. He put the ad in the paper before he left so hopefully we could get the repairs done before any more rain. We have such a small ranch we never hired any ranch hands. Will you listen to me just goin' on and on. Come on in Mr. Smith and have a cup of coffee while I tell you about the job. By the way, I'm Mrs. Baker."

~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~

Kid was allowing himself to enjoy the ride even though his senses were still on guard. A good thing they were too. Up ahead, on the side of the road in a grove of trees, his eyes caught the slightest glint of sunlight hitting metal. He slowed his black gelding to a stop and pulled his Colt out of his holster.

"Hey up there," he called out in a commanding voice. "You might as well unload your gun and throw both the bullets and gun out on the road and come out of those trees. If I don't see both tossed out, I'm gonna have to start shootin' and don't think I can't hit you at this distance."

A normal man probably couldn't have made the shot, but the Kid knew his abilities well. And to prove his point to the would-be bandit, he shot the tree limb above where the man's head would be. It wasn't a few seconds later that he saw a handful of bullets and a gun slung into the road followed by a decidedly disgruntled highwayman with his hands raised. Kid kept his .45 trained on the man as he rode up to him.

"You know, hiding in full shadow is alot more effective than in partial sunlight," Curry said as he dismounted.

The man scowled at him. "Just who are you mister?"

"Somebody that's teachin' you a lesson. Now lay down there with your hands behind your back."

The man did as he was told as Kid dug some rawhide thongs from his saddlebag. "And just what lesson is that?" the man growled.

"Be careful who you try to rob."

~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~

Heyes had been told all the supplies he needed to fix the roof was in the barn. He went in and spotted a crate full of various tools next to a couple of barrels. As he reached down to grab a hammer, he heard a hiss from behind one of the barrels. He froze, his eyes searching desperately for the snake he knew was there. He couldn't find it. It was well hidden in the shadows and he had no idea how close it might be to him. He quickly debated the best course of action to take. Should he try to back up slowly so he wouldn't startle the creature or pull back fast in case it struck out at him? He decided and mentally prepared himself to jerk back as fast as he could possibly move.

He took a deep breath and jumped back as far as he could get from the crate and barrels. As soon as he had started to move, he heard an ungodly screech and a cat ran out from behind the barrel not happy at having its nap interrupted by this interloper.

Heyes released the breath he was still holding and frowned at the retreating animal. He frowned yet again when he saw what he had managed to jump on top off. "I'm beginning to hate nature," he grumpily muttered. He tried to wipe the brown mess off his boots and then gathered the tools and nails needed and went around the side of the barn where a ladder stood leaning against the wall.

To get the stuff he needed to work with up on the roof, he got a bucket, put his things in it, and tied a rope to the handle. He then climbed the ladder and stood on the edge of the roof to pull the bucket up. Once in the air, the stuff shifted in the bucket causing it to lean to one side as he pulled it up. Heyes didn't pay it any attention and halfway up, the bucket caught on a protruding nail in the ladder. Before he could stop pulling the rope so it could right itself, all the weight being on one side caused the bucket to tilt enough to drop its contents back to the ground.

'I should of just stayed in bed today,' Heyes thought as he descended the ladder to gather up the tools and nails laying about. This time, he made sure to distribute the weight evenly in the bucket and once back on the roof, stood away from the ladder to pull it up. From his vantage point, he noticed the two cows and horse in the pasture had stopped eating to watch him.

"Enjoying the show?" he called out sarcastically. As if in reply, the horse snorted and lowered its head to continue grazing.

Finally, after a few minutes, Heyes had settled himself next to the hole in the roof and started to work.

~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~

Kid had deposited the unruly bandit next to the road tied to a tree. He lead the man's horse off just around the bend and left it to graze to its heart's content. He figured it would take the man at least an hour to get himself out of the trussed up state he'd left him in. Even then, he'd have to locate his horse, so Kid wasn't worrying too much about him.

The rest of the ride to the mine was pretty uneventful thankfully. As he rode up, two men started walking towards him. One of the men was apparently the mine foreman and he didn't look happy at all.

"Who are you and what are you doing here?" he demanded.

"My name is Jones and I was hired to bring these documents up here," Kid explained as he dismounted.

"I told that banker not to be sending anymore men up here to try to serve me that nonsense. Now, you just git right back up on your horse and go tell Reynolds my brother owns this land fair and square and he ain't got no legal reason to foreclose on it."

Kid stared at the irate man. "Look mister, I have no idea what you're talkin' about. I'm just supposed to give you this envelope and then go get paid and that's what I aim to do. Whatever business you got with this Reynolds guy don't involve me none. I'm just tryin' to do a job."

"Well, as soon as you rode onto this property you got involved."

The man's companion stepped forward to put in his two cents. "Looks like old Reynolds went and hired himself a gunslinger to do his dirty work. A man don't wear his gun like that less'n he means to use it."

Kid turned an icy blue stare at the foreman's minion. "I ain't a gunslinger and even if I was, I wouldn't hire out my gun. Now, you gonna take this envelope?"

"No, we're not. You better just take it and git. We ain't gonna tell you no more." The man backed up as he spoke and squared up to Curry.

"And I ain't gonna tell YOU no more that I ain't leavin' until this document's delivered." Kid could tell by the man's cockiness that he wasn't going to back down. He sighed inwardly. This was supposed to have been the easy job. He readied himself for the inevitable.

His opponent sneered at him. A tense few seconds passed and the man went for his gun only to find it shot off his hip before he could grab it. Kid reholstered his revolver and turned back to the foreman who had his mouth gaped open. "Now, I suggest you take this and let me be on my way." The man only nodded in reply.

~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~

"SON OF A ...," Heyes did his best to supress a yell as he hit his hand for what seemed like the hundredth time. He looked down at the newest bruise forming and added carpentry to his list of jobs too hard on the back, or in this case, hands.

After the pain had subsided a bit, he reached for another shingle. There was none to be found. He rolled his eyes as he got up to go down the ladder yet again to get some more.

There were a couple of rungs left to step down onto when his foot slipped and he fell flat on his butt. He lay there a moment gritting his teeth. When he got up, pain temporarily shot up his back. He shook it off though as he was pretty sure one couldn't break one's rear.

He gathered together some shingles and went back to the roof.

~^~^~^~^~^~^~

The sun was low on the horizon when Heyes decided to quit for the day. He stretched as he stood up. At least he was almost finished. He COULD'VE been finished had he not had his mishaps and trudged up and down that ladder a thousand times. Plus, he could've worked a little harder. Tomorrow, Kid could come help him so it wouldn't take long to complete.

He reached the ground and went up to the house to let Mrs. Baker know how much he had gotten done and that he was leaving. She insisted on paying him half of what she would owe him when the job was completed. He gladly took it and told her he would be back in the morning.

He made it back to the saloon about five minutes before Kid showed up. He was leaning on the bar looking kinda rough when Curry walked over to him and ordered a drink.

"You look like you had a good day," Kid quipped sipping his beer.

Heyes just glared at him. He decided to change the subject. "Did you enjoy your leisurely ride to deliver that document?"

It was Kid's turn to glare. "I've had better days."

"Well, I'll bet you didn't have as much aggravation as I had."

"Oh yeah. That's one bet you'd lose Joshua." He gulped down the rest of the beer. "I'm going after some dinner. You comin'?"

Heyes nodded and finished off his own drink.

~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~

After they had finished eating and filling each other in on the day's events, they retired to their hotel room.

"With both of us working on that roof tomorrow, we should be done by noon and can relax the rest of the day," Heyes said removing his boots.

"Think that lady will pay extra since both of us will be workin'?"

"I'm sure I could convince her to." Heyes reclined against the bed's headboard and opened his book.

"Well, I sure hope you're more successful at that than you were hittin' nails," Kid smirked looking at Heyes' hands.

Heyes snorted at him and started to read. Kid lay down and was asleep within minutes.

Heyes read for about ten minutes then suddenly felt extremely sleepy himself. He turned to place his book on the nightstand. Before he could lay it down, it slipped out of his hand. He tried to grab it, but only succeeded in tearing the paperback cover. Rolling his eyes, he picked it up off the floor and put it on the table.

~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~

COCK-A-DOODLE-DOOOO...COCK-A-DOO..."

BANG

"SQUAAAWWKK..."

"What the..." Heyes jerked up in bed and grabbed his gun. After seeing nobody in the room with him, he got up and looked out the window. In the street below, the sheriff or deputy was pushing a staggering drunk who had apparently just shot a rooster toward the jail. A hand was run through the dark hair as Heyes put his gun back in his holster. He froze where he stood and a confused look appeared on his face. "Now wait a minute..." He was still standing there when the Kid unlocked the door and walked in.

"Mornin' Heyes."

Heyes grunted in reply but didn't move.

"What's wrong with you?"

Heyes shook his head. "Uh...nothing. Where've you been?"

"Went out to get some breakfast and a paper. Didn't want to wake ya, so I just brought you something back."

"I hope it includes coffee." Heyes stopped and furrowed his brow.

"Got it right here." Kid set the steaming cup on a table. "Were you awake in time to see the excitement?"

"That's what woke me up," Heyes answered absently scratching his head.

"What's wrong with you? You fall out of bed and hit your head or somethin'?"

"No...uh...you ever felt like you've done the exact same thing before?"

"Don't guess so. Unless you're talking about runnin' from posses or somethin' like that. We've certainly done that before."

"No. I mean the EXACT same thing. Same things happening, saying the exact same
thing..."

"You've lost me Heyes. Do you feel hot? You got a fever?"

"I ain't sick Kid! This same scenario has happened before, yesterday morning."

"Heyes, yesterday mornin' we was pickin' ourselves up off a cold, damp ground gettin' ready to drink that sludge you call coffee."

"No we weren't. We were here in this town. A gunshot woke me up."

"You must have had a dream Heyes. We just got here last night."

"It WASN'T a dream Kid! We were here. I spent all day working. Just look at the bruises on my hands."

Kid looked at Heyes' hands as he held them up. After a second, he looked his cousin in the eyes. "There ain't no bruises there."

"What?!" Heyes examined his hands for himself. Just as Kid had said, the bruises weren't there. He dropped back down on the side of the bed. Then he noticed his book. He was sure that he had ripped the cover last night. But there it was, perfectly intact. After a moment, he went to his saddlebag and retrieved the little bit of whiskey he had and dumped it all in his coffee.

Hoping his partner's temporary insanity was over, he told him what he'd found in the paper. "Since we're runnin' low on money, I was glancin' at this paper while I ate and saw a couple ads for jobs. One's out at a small ranch patchin' up a barn. The other's deliverin' some documents out to a mine."

Heyes just looked at Kid. Maybe he was right and it had all been a dream. He'd heard of people having such realistic dreams that they'd think they'd actually happened. That had to be what was going on. There was no other explanation for it.

Kid continued. "And I figured this time, I'd do the decidin' instead of that coin of yours. I'm takin' the delivery job."

To be continued...

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