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 Old Friends/New Enemies

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riders57

riders57

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

Old Friends/New Enemies Empty
PostSubject: Old Friends/New Enemies   Old Friends/New Enemies EmptyFri Sep 05, 2014 1:28 pm

Old Friends, New Enemies


CHAPTER ONE


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


~~~oOo~~~


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


“No.”
Sawyer grimaced.  He cranked his head to look at his captor as best he could.  “What are you doing over there?”


“Makin’ coffee.”


“Can I have some?”


“No.”


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


“No.”  


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


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


The two lapsed into silence.


Later.  “Are you always this talkative, Kid?”


“Heyes talks enough for the two of us.”


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


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


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


~~~oOo~~~


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


“And how would you know that?”


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


“You caught them before?  So how come they’re still loose?  And if that’s Hannibal Heyes, where’s his partner?”
As Sawyer opened his mouth, the Kid shot him a warning glance and stepped forward.  “Sorry to interrupt, but I’m Thaddeus Jones.  I had business with the marshal here.  You mentioned the fiancé of the mayor’s daughter.  Would that be Joshua Smith?”


“What’s it to you?”


“I’m an old friend.  Just heard about the upcomin’ weddin’.  So I figured if he’s in the area, I’d stop by to pay my respects.”
Sawyer stood up.  “Sheriff, start over again.  How do you know that this woman is who she says she is?”


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


The sheriff stopped pacing and stared at him, stricken.


“He is the worse.  Does he need a doctor?” the Kid growled.


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


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


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


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


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


The two men remaining stared at each other.  Sawyer tried not to show the fear he felt as he looked at the Kid’s clenched jaw and fixed stare.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


~~~oOo~~~


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Mel narrowed her eyes and sniffed.


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


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


~~~oOo~~~


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


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


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


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


“We saw you first.”


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


“Yup.”


Sawyer groaned and put his head in his hands.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


“Agreed,” Sawyer replied sourly.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


She narrowed her eyes.  “Move.”


They stood glaring at each other.  Finally, he sighed.  “Mel, look all this isn’t necessary.  You should know by now that the Kid and I can’t claim rewards.”


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


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


~~~oOo~~~


After coffee had been refilled, all four settled back around the table.


“So,” said Mel, “who’s Brunen, and why is the Governor involved?”


Sawyer hesitated, looked at the ill-assorted group around his table, and shook his head.  “He was the lawyer for the Southern Arizona Stock Growers’ Association and a member, a free mason, a former territorial senator, a colonel in the territorial militia, hero in the Indian wars, and leader in the statehood movement.  He runs a spread over in Mesillo maybe ten miles from here.  He was coming back from delivering evidence to a grand jury in Douglas, traveling with his youngest son, Henry, when he disappeared just a few hours from home – outside of town here on February second.  Neither he nor his son has been seen since, and the evidence he was carrying went missing, too.  Supposedly it would have led to the arrest and conviction of over twenty rustlers and other outlaws in the area.”


Mel nodded.  “That would make him important.”  She frowned.  “And a target.”


The four sat silently until Heyes shifted in his chair.  “So, we know that Brunen went missing and that there are some signs that he was murdered, but not much more than that.  Kid, did you learn anything else from Doc while I was talking to the Governor?”


“Well …”


“Wait a minute,” Sawyer interrupted.  “Doc.  Do you mean Doc Donovan?”


“Yeah.”


"The Deputy Territorial Marshal?”


“Is there more than one Doc Donovan?”


“Does he know who you two are?”


Heyes and the Kid exchanged glances.  “Sure.  Turned down the reward on us once.”


Sawyer stared.  Mel just shook her head, muttering, “For a pair of notorious outlaws, you two have the strangest assortment of friends I’ve ever seen.”


The Kid cleared his throat.  “To continue, they found the burned remains of the wagon about a hundred yards from the trail, a pool of blood near where the wagon turned off, and a number of foot and hoof prints.  The searchers found three distinct sets of prints that all seemed to be made around the same time but couldn’t follow them to anywhere.  That’s about all I know.”


Heyes looked at Sawyer, “What can you add to that?”


“Not much.  There’re rumors that the sheriff and his deputies are involved, and maybe another troublemaker – an independent rancher as well.  The Stock Growers’ Association thinks he’s in league with the rustlers.”


“Wait a minute,” Mel spoke.  “If you think the sheriff’s involved, why haven’t you removed him?”


“I can’t.  It’s an elected position, and the Mayor and Sheriff don’t recognize my authority.  The two are cronies.”  Sawyer smiled grimly.  “But, that may change.  As I understand it, the sheriff only won this last election because a missing ballot box suddenly turned up – all the ballots in it were marked for him.  There’s a panel of judges in Douglas reviewing the matter, and they may throw him out.  If so, the new sheriff would be one of Brunen’s people.”


He paused.  “Of course, that man – Huvel is his name – was accused of shooting Dutchy Schmidt in the back, in cold blood.  Grand jury refused to indict; tried to indict the ones bringing the charges instead.”


He glanced out the window.  “It’s getting dark; I guess we can all camp here tonight.  Miss… Mel, you can have the bed, we’ll doss down on the floor out here.”


Heyes stood.  “No, we need to get into town.  Why are you this far out of town, anyway?”


“It’s not far, only a mile or so, and it gives me some freedom of movement.  The folks I’m investigating won’t see who all comes here.”


The dark head nodded.  “Makes sense.  In fact, we shouldn’t be seen with you either.  It won’t help to have folks think we’re friendly.  We’ll just have to figure out how to get word to each other.”  He sighed and placed his hand briefly on his ribs then pinched the bridge of his nose.  
“Well, we’ll figure that out tomorrow.”


After a searching glance at Heyes, the Kid stood.  “Can you draw us a map of where the wagon was found?  We’ll go take a look at the place tomorrow.”


“Won’t see much.  It’s been too long.”  Nevertheless, Sawyer dug out a piece of paper and began to draw.  The Kid watched over his shoulder, occasionally seeking clarification.  Finally, the Kid took the sheet, folding it and placing it carefully inside his vest.  Nodding at his partner, he left to put the horses to.”


Heyes turned to Mel.  “You coming, Mel?  After all you are my fiancée, and we need you to drive the buggy back.  I’ll ride with the Kid.”  He headed towards the door a grin on his face as she grunted, then turned back to Sawyer.  “By the way, don’t feel the need to say you were wrong about who I am.  I think it might help if folks aren’t exactly sure.”


~~~oOo~~~


The partners allowed the buggy Mel was driving to pull ahead of them.


“How are you really feelin’, Heyes?”


“I’m fine, Kid.  Stop worrying.  I’ll be fine once I have a drink or two and get some sleep.”  He grimaced.  “It’s a little hard to sleep when you’re shackled hand and foot in the corner of a hot cell.”


“What’ll we do about Mel?”


“I’m thinking.  Why’d you involve her, anyway?”


“Best idea I could come up with.  I needed someone to swear that you weren’t you.  Lom would take too long and probably wouldn’t do it anyway.  Besides she owed me from the last time.”


Heyes laughed.  “It worked, so I’m not complaining.”  He sobered.  “You know, I think the deputies might be in on the disappearance.”


The Kid swiveled on his horse to look directly at him, eyebrows raised. 


He held up a hand.  “No, no actual confessions.  But I could overhear them talking sometime.  They’re definitely crooked and didn’t love Brunen.” 
 He started to speak, looked at the Kid, and closed his mouth resolutely.


“What?”


“Nothing.”


“Sure it’s nothin’.  Just tell me what it is before it becomes somethin’, okay?”  The Kid spurred his horse and caught up to the buggy, riding beside it the rest of the way to town.
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riders57

riders57

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

Old Friends/New Enemies Empty
PostSubject: Re: Old Friends/New Enemies   Old Friends/New Enemies EmptyFri Sep 05, 2014 1:34 pm

CHAPTER TWO


The partners strolled into the hotel dining room.  Heyes looked more alert than he had the previous day, the slight frown was gone, and he was laughing at the Kid’s comment as they entered.


Mel glanced up from the paper she was reading and waved.  They walked over to join her.  “Good morning, dear,” Heyes said, his dimples deepening as he watched her frown then roll her eyes.


“Joshua,” she replied.  She turned a dazzling smile on the Kid.  “Mr. Jones, so nice to see you again.  I’ve heard so much about you from dear Joshua here.”  She smiled at the waitress that had materialized by the table. “I’ve already ordered, but you two go ahead.”


Once the food had been placed before them and the waitress had left, she spoke, “So, what are we doing today?”


“Thaddeus and I are going to take a ride this morning.”


“I’ll come with you.”


“No, dear, it’ll be much too strenuous for you,” replied Heyes, wicked delight dancing in his eyes.  “Why don’t you just rest today, maybe do some shopping, around town.”  He lowered his voice.  “Mel, it’d be better if you’d stay here and see what you can find out.  Get the gossip.  We’re going to go look at the site.  We can meet back here this afternoon and compare notes.” 


Mel glared briefly, then wiped a mulish expression from her face and smiled sweetly at them.  “Very well.  I hope that you’ll join us for tea this afternoon, Mr. Jones.  Joshua does so like a little tea in the afternoon.”


Heyes rolled his eyes, and the Kid chuckled as he ate.


~~~oOo~~~


“Slow down, I think we’re gettin’ near,” the Kid called to his partner in the lead.  


Heyes slowed his horse and began to examine the ground as he went.  Shortly, he pulled up his horse and dismounted.  “Look.”


The Kid dismounted and stood beside him, holding the reins loosely.  “Yeah, I guess the rock around here kept the blood from disappearin’ completely, you can see it in the darkened sand right here.”  He brushed his foot across, clearing a thin layer of dirt from the stained rock below.


The two looked around.  “Are those wagon tracks, there?”


“Looks like it.”


They remounted and slowly followed the intermittent tracks until they arrived at the burned out hull of a wagon.  Shards of fabric, a broken tin box, and bits of debris littered the area, caught among the charred remains and the dry scrub encircling the site.  A breeze stirred the dust and ash, creating ghosts of the events that had occurred there; the rustle of the brittle growth around the site mocked with faint echoes of the screams and sounds of that night.  Mouths set in grim lines, they dismounted and began to prowl through the remains.  


“It’s not just two-footed snakes been here, be careful,” Curry said, pointing to the tracks of a sidewinder in the dirt, heading under a broken wheel.  


Heyes nodded absently.  He carefully moved several timbers near the edge of the scorched earth and grunted.  He reached down and picked something up, examining it closely.  “Kid,” he called.


The blond straightened from his examination of the footprints surrounding the burned site.  He walked over to his friend.  “What?”  Heyes held out the object he was examining.  It was a boy’s boot.  The two looked at each other and closed their eyes briefly, then Curry took the boot, turning it over.


“See those dark marks there?”


“Yeah.”


“I think that’s blood.”


“Looks like it.  Guess we should bring this back with us.”


Heyes took the boot and carefully stowed it in his saddlebag.  He looked around and walked away from the wagon, stepping carefully as he headed into the surrounding brush.  Finally, he stooped and pulled a torn scrap of paper that had been caught in a low-growing cactus.  He stood trying to read the faded writing.


Meanwhile, the Kid had picked up the remains of a leather strap used to tether a team to a wagon.  When Heyes came over, he held up the end.  
“It’s been cut.  Wonder what happened to the mules.”


“Maybe they could be traced.  We can suggest that to Sawyer.”  Heyes held out the scrap of paper.  “Best I can tell this is one of the statements that Brunen had with him.  See, that right there?  I’m pretty sure it says ‘rebranded’.  Good thing it doesn’t rain much around here, or this would have been destroyed.”  He walked over and stowed the scrap with the boot.


The Kid placed the leather trace he had removed from the remains of the wagon into the saddlebag with the other sad remnants they’d found.  He stood looking around.  “Let’s ride up that rise over there.  I want to get a better view of the land around here.”


Heyes nodded and the two mounted up, heading towards the rise.


~~~oOo~~~


As they reached the top, the Kid pointed down the far side.  They could see the back of a rider quickly heading away from them.  


“So, we seem to be attractin’ some interest.”


“The question is whose.”


“That’s the question alright.”  Shaking his head, the Kid turned back to look down at where they’d been.  From here they could see the trail they’d followed out; the breaks in the vegetation where the wagon had veered off the trail were clear.  Finally, the Kid turned his head from the blackened ruin of the wagon.  He studied the terrain spread below them and nudged Heyes.  “There, see, off to the west there.  You can see where they went.”


The dark eyes searched the terrain, examining the faint trail through the brush and comparing it to other faint trails through the surrounding countryside.  “Looks like something heavy came through there alright.  More than some mule deer or coyote, at least.  Some time ago.  But it’s too faint to see where it ends.”


“Yeah.”  The Kid squinted up at the sun, judging the time.  “We need to head back if we’re going to meet Mel.”


“I guess.”  Heyes shook his head.  “Tea.  That woman can be annoying at times.”


The Kid chuckled.  “Yeah.  She’s real good at annoyin’.”


~~~oOo~~~


The two ambled along.  The breeze spoke of summer heat to come, but it had not yet arrived.  The two were enjoying the freedom of the trail, away from the shadows they’d been following.


Heyes pulled up and waited for the Kid to come up next to him.  


“What’s up?”


“Someone’s coming.”


Curry shaded his eyes and peered forward, then reached behind and removed field glasses from his saddle bag to get a better view.  “Looks like one man; he’s in some kind of uniform.”


“We’ll wait here for him.”


The two sat on their horses, motionless except to remove the guards from their holsters as they waited.  As the man pulled near they could see that he carried a bag.  His cap carried an insignia.  The two relaxed slightly.


In contrast, the approaching rider displayed increasing agitation as he saw them waiting for him and saw the weapons resting comfortably on their thighs.  His sun-darkened face was pale, and he kept glancing around over his shoulders.


Heyes smiled and raised his hand.  “Howdy.”


The man pulled up a distance away, and looked warily at them.  “Hello.”


The Kid examined him, a slow smile breaking out.  “Mail carrier, huh?”


“Yeah, but I don’t carry any money.  That goes under armed guard.”


“Don’t worry, friend.  We’re not here to hold you up.  You ride this route regularly?”


He relaxed slightly but kept his distance.  “Yes, every few days.”


The partners looked at each other.  Curry nodded to Heyes.


“I’m Joshua Smith and my friend here is Thaddeus Jones.  We’re real interested to hear that.”


“Ignacio Trujillo.  Why would my activities interest you?”


“Were you ridin’ this route when Colonel Brunen disappeared?” the Kid asked.


“Why?”


“Well, we hear there’s a reward offered in the case, and we were wonderin’ whether you saw anything helpful.”


Trujillo examined the two.  They sat with innocent smiles on their faces, theirs hands far from their weapons.  “You don’t work for Tripp do you?”


“No.”


“Or Hollister.”


“Who?”


“Rancher in these parts.”


Faces blank, the two looked at each other.  Heyes answered slowly.  “No, we don’t know any ranchers around here.”


“You work for Brunen’s folks?”


“We’re what you might call independent.  We don’t work for any of the folks involved and don’t know them either.”


Trujillo thought some more.  He looked around studying the terrain and rode closer.  Finally, “Alright.  This may be my death, but I have to tell someone.  I saw Brunen and his son that day.  I know him well.  He mentioned that he was being followed.  I suggested he turn back to the waystation a few miles back, but he was anxious to get home.  So I rode on.”


“See anyone else that day?”


Trujillo compressed his lips and looked around again.  His horse sidled, and danced, tired but worried by her rider’s agitation.  “Not that day, but early the next morning, as I was returning.  One man crossed my path near here.  He was coming from that direction,” he pointed towards where they’d found the wagon’s remains.  “There was smoke still rising from that way.  The man turned his head away, but I recognized him.  It was, Montoya, G.G. Montoya – Hollister’s foreman.”


“You sure?”


“Pretty sure.  It was still kind of dark, but he had a white hat like Montoya wears.  The horse had a white patch on her side, too.  I’ve seen him ride one marked like that.  And he was the right height.”


Curry nodded.  “Thanks.”


Trujillo looked frightened and examined the area again.  “Don’t tell anyone what I said.  If you do, I’ll deny it.  This could get me killed.”


Heyes hastened to reassure him.  “We don’t know any of these folks, so who would we tell?  Anyway, we’ll do what we can to keep you safe.”


I, I have to go.”  Trujillo’s horse snorted and tossed her head, her hooves dancing on the ground.  Trujillo gave his horse her head and she surged forward, hurrying past the partners.


The two watched him ride on.  The Kid turned to Heyes.  “We should tell Sawyer.”


“In a bit.  Right now, that man won’t talk to anyone.  Let’s give him a few days to settle down.  That is one frightened man.”


“Yeah.”  Curry sat silently for a moment then glanced at his partner.  “Hollister, you don’t think…  Nah.  It has to be a coincidence.”  


Heyes glanced sideways at the Kid sitting astride his horse frowning.  “Kid, I gotta tell you.  When I was in jail, some man was talking to the deputies, I couldn’t see him, but I heard him call his boss Tex.”


Curry’s shoulders slumped.  Then he straightened and stared towards town.  “Can’t be the same man.  Anyway, that was a long time ago.”  He shook his head.  “A lifetime ago.”  He nudged his horse and headed back towards town.
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riders57

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PostSubject: Re: Old Friends/New Enemies   Old Friends/New Enemies EmptyFri Sep 05, 2014 1:42 pm

CHAPTER THREE 


Mel watched, barely concealing her smile, as the partners tried to get comfortable amid the lace and ruffles of Amanda’s Tea Room – that would teach them to leave her out.  She lifted a plate filled with dainty sandwiches and tiny pastries.  “Something to eat?”


The Kid took two of the pastries and popped them in his mouth.  Heyes shook his head and carefully lifted the fragile cup to his lips, taking the smallest of sips.  “Mel, didn’t we fight a war so we wouldn’t have to drink this stuff?”


“Somehow I don’t think that’s what the war for independence was about, Joshua.”


“It should have been.”


The Kid swallowed and looked carefully around.  Keeping his voice low, he said, “So did you find out anythin’ useful today, Mel?”


“Why, Thaddeus, don’t you want to enjoy your tea first?”


Heyes rolled his eyes.  “Just tell us what you found.”


“Why don’t you two tell me what you found, first?”


“It would ruin your appetite.  Let’s eat while you tell us what you found.  If you can call this eatin’,” the Kid ended in a mutter.


She looked at him and nodded.  “There aren’t all that many places to look in this town.  I tried the millinery shop and the dry goods, but didn’t hear anything.  The ladies don’t discuss it apparently, at least not when they’re in public.”  She sighed.  “So after having dinner with Wade, I went to the library and began to read the newspaper accounts.”  She opened her mouth to continue, but Heyes held up his hand.


“Hold on there.  Wade?”


“Yes, the marshal.  You remember him.”


“You had a meal with Sawyer?”


“Yes.”


“In public?”


“Yes.”


“You’re supposed to be my fiancée.”


“And you abandoned me for the day,” Mel replied.  


Heyes nodded and sank into thought.  


Mel looked at him for a moment then turned to the Kid to resume her tale.  “I think we need to talk to the local paper.  It’s owned by someone named Hollister who clearly doesn’t like Brunen.  The paper reports sightings of Brunen and his son in Denver and Chicago, claiming he isn’t dead, he staged the whole thing, in order to leave his wife.  They hint he may have taken some of the Stock Growers’ Association money to finance his new life.”


She paused, sipped her tea, and nibbled on a sandwich before resuming.  “But there’s other papers that are sure they’re both dead.  The Mesillo Recorder – that’s where he lived – anyway, that paper goes so far as to suggest that the sheriff here and his deputies know more than they’re saying.”


“I agree,” Heyes said.  


Mel reached over and poured a little more tea into the men’s largely untouched cups.  “So what did you find?”


The Kid looked at his partner, but the dark one was not paying attention.  “It was pretty grim.  I’d say they’re dead alright, both of them.  We found one of the boy’s shoes.”  


Mel’s eyes shadowed.  “Just one shoe?”


The Kid nodded.


She sighed.  “We need to let Wade know what you found.”


The Kid glanced at Heyes, who frowned slightly but gave no other indication of hearing their conversation.  “Yeah, but we can’t be seen with him.  At least, Joshua here can’t, and if I’m with Joshua it’s hard for me, too.”


Heyes smiled at them, returning his attention to the table.  “I’ve figured that out.”


The others looked at him.  


“You and I are going to have a fight, Mel.  You’ll break off the engagement and start entertaining Sawyer’s attentions.  That way, you can pass information between us, because, of course, even though we’re fighting we’d still be talking sometimes.  Being seen in public with Sawyer today will help after all.”


Mel narrowed her eyes at the “after all.” 


The Kid snorted.  “Fightin’ shouldn’t be hard for you two. Here?”


“I think we start it here, but finish the fight in the lobby of the hotel.”  Heyes held up his hand for the check.  When the waitress came, he threw some coins on the table and stood.  “Come on, Melanie, you and I have some more talking to do,” he announced loudly and led the way out of the Tea Room.  


The Kid raised his eyebrows and pulled out Mel’s chair before allowing her to flounce out the door ahead of him.  He shook his head, chuckling silently.


~~~oOo~~~


Heyes flung open the door to the hotel and stormed in, not waiting to allow Mel to enter first.  She strong-armed the door before it shut in her face and followed him in.  The Kid followed unobtrusively.


“You have no reason to be jealous,” she yelled.


“No, reason, no reason!”  Heyes stormed.  “There you were dining one-on-one with that man!  That man had me thrown in jail just so he could spend time with you.”


“I’m sure that was just a misunderstanding.”


He snorted.  


“I keep telling you, Wade’s a dear friend,” she continued.  “My family’s known him for ages.  What could be more innocuous than that?”  She stood hands on her hips, inches from Heyes, glaring at him.  Both were seemingly oblivious to the spectacle they were making.


“No future wife of mine is going to go around with another man, especially a ‘dear’ friend!”


“We can fix that easily enough.  We’re through.”  Mel pushed past him, holding her handkerchief to her face, her shoulders shaking as she raced up the stairs.  “Daddy warned me …” her strangled voice trailed down the stairway back to the lobby.


Heyes stood glaring after her.  After a moment he looked around the lobby, noticed the gaping stares directed at him, and pulled himself up.  His gaze fixed on the Kid, whose eyes were dancing while a hand concealed his mouth.  “I need a drink,” he announced and headed back out of the hotel.


The Kid looked the spectators.  “Guess the course of true love isn’t so smooth,” he grinned as he followed his friend out the door.
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PostSubject: Re: Old Friends/New Enemies   Old Friends/New Enemies EmptyFri Sep 05, 2014 1:52 pm

CHAPTER FOUR


Curry caught up with his partner at the bar.  After obtaining two beers they watched the room, their backs resting against the bar.  Heyes chuckled.  “That should do it.”


“Yeah.  But hadn’t we better let Sawyer know he’s your rival for Mel’s affection?” 


“Tonight, one of us will go out there tonight.  Make sure no one sees you.”


As the Kid opened his mouth, his partner quickly interjected, “For now, let’s go get ourselves a steak dinner.”


The Kid downed his beer and placed the empty on the bar.  “Yeah, somehow that tea just wasn’t very fillin’.”


~~~oOo~~~


Heyes accepted the proffered beer with a quick smile and a silver coin for the saloon gal serving, then turned back to the cards in his hand.  She lingered for a moment, then, realizing she’d lost his attention, moved on.  


He glanced at his fellow players.  “I’ll call and raise five.”


“Fold.”


The next player disgustedly threw his cards onto the table and pushed back, gathered his chips and headed over to the bar.


“I’ll see you.”  The next player tossed his chips into the pot.  The man next to him folded.  The sole remaining other player anted up and looked expectantly at Heyes.  Heyes laid down his cards.  The others saw the five diamonds staring back at them and shook their heads. 


The remaining player narrowed his eyes then blew out soundlessly and showed the three queens he was holding.  “Lucky draw, Smith.”


“I guess.”  Heyes smiled and reached to pull the chips towards his already significant pile.


“Room for one more, boys?”


Heyes’ hand checked momentarily before he resumed gathering the pot.  He looked up warily, examining the newcomer as the others greeted their old acquaintance.


The man was the epitome of a cowboy – tall and rugged, his legs slightly bowed from long hours on horseback.  His gray hair and luxuriant mustache set off a face that was tanned and lined.  The crow’s feet around his eyes told of days spent squinting in the sun, the furrows between his eyes as well as from his nose to his mouth indicated that he had seen hard times.  He smiled at his friends as he sat down and studied Heyes.  Finally, he nodded.  “Tex Hollister.” 


Heyes, his eyes wary but his face blank, responded, “Joshua Smith, plenty of room at the table.”


One of the men joked, “Better watch out, Tex, Smith here is the devil at the table.”  He looked slyly at Heyes.  “Of course, you know what they say, lucky in cards, unlucky in love.”  The other players joined in the laughter. 


“Now, now fellas, I’m not worried,” Heyes said easily.  “No marshal is going to get the better of me.  Now, whose turn is it to deal?”


“What’s this?” Tex asked good-naturedly.


“You haven’t heard?  Would’ve thought the owner of the paper would be up on all the news in town.”


“I’ve been busy on the ranch.  Jed’s helping out there.”


The dark eyes flickered, but Heyes kept his head down and gave no sign he’d heard the name.


“Yeah, we don’t see you in town during the week often, Tex.  You’ve been missing the fun,” the speaker laughed.  “Seems that new marshal in town got poor Smith here arrested as Hannibal Heyes.  Imagine that.  Why anyone can see old Smith here is much too good-natured to be that outlaw.”  He snorted and gasped as he laughed.  Finally sobering, “So not only does he say Smith is a wanted man, but while he’s at it he steals his girl.”


“I can get Melanie back when I want,” Heyes said.  “But I was surprised your local law actually believed the marshal.”  He smiled innocently around the table.  “Really, do I look like I’m such a desperado as Hannibal Heyes?”


The rest of the table hooted and hollered at the suggestion, but Tex Hollister shook his head.  “Are we going to play cards or gossip?”  Recalling the business at hand, play resumed.


An hour later Tex raked in a pot.  “It’s getting late boys, I have to get going.”  He turned to Heyes.  “Before I leave though, let me buy you a drink Smith to apologize for our sheriff.”


Heyes examined him and shrugged.  “Sure.”  He stood and followed Tex to a corner table.


Once they’d been served, Tex opened his mouth to speak, but Heyes interrupted him.   “A little loud in here, isn’t it?  Wouldn’t want to have a private chat here.”  His eyes warned Tex.


Tex nodded.  “So, Smith, what brings you to Pantano Station?”


“Oh, a little business.  I’ve been looking at some investments in the area.”


“Here on your own?  No, I guess your fiancée is with you.”


Heyes smiled crookedly.  “As the fellas mentioned tonight, she’s not exactly my fiancée at the moment.  But I did run into an old friend, Thaddeus Jones.”


“Thaddeus Jones, hmm.  He’s not with you tonight?”


“No.  He had some business elsewhere, but he’ll be back shortly.” 


Tex thought for a moment, watching the other inhabitants of the saloon.  “I might have some investment ideas.  Why don’t the two of you come out to my ranch some evening?  I’m busy tomorrow night, but I’d be happy for some company the next night.  My son’ll be out of town, and my foreman said he had plans, so we won’t be interrupted.”


“I’ll check with Thaddeus; I’m not sure what his plans are.”


“I think you two would find it very beneficial.  I suggest you come.”  Tex swallowed his drink and stood.  “Good talking to you.”


Heyes signaled for another drink and sat drinking it, thinking hard.


~~~oOo~~~


A beam of moonlight shone through the window, illuminating Sawyer’s sleeping face.  He moved restlessly, the sudden light pulling him from the depths of sleep.


A hand clamped over his mouth.  His eyes flew open and he began to thrash, seeking to dislodge the insistent hand.  He went still as he heard the unmistakable click of a six-shooter in his ear.


“That’s better,” the Kid whispered, removing his hand.  “Just keep quiet while I make sure your watcher’s really gone, and everythin’ will be fine.  I guess they don’t have enough folks to watch you all the time.”


“Curry, wake me up like that again and you’re a dead man.”


The Kid chuckled.  “You know you’re bein’ watched, don’t you?”  He slipped out of the room, and Sawyer heard the quiet sound of the door being shut.


When he reentered the cabin as quietly as he had left, the Kid heard the snick as the hammer of a six-shooter was pulled back.  “Just me.”  He stood still waiting for Sawyer to respond, and breathed silently as he heard the reset and the gun placed down on the table.


It was Sawyer’s turn to chuckle.  “Thought you should feel the joy of a gun pointed at your head, for a change.”


“I’ve felt it often enough.  Luckily, I have a partner who’s pretty handy with a gun himself.  Don’t ever tell Heyes I said that.”  The Kid walked over to the stove and stuck a spill in the embers then lit a lamp, which he quickly shuttered.  “They’re gone, we can talk.”


~~~oOo~~~


Sawyer examined the pieces that Curry had spread on the table between them.  He picked up the shoe and grimaced.  “God.  Who would kill a little boy like that?”


“My experience, there’s lots of monsters out there pretendin’ to be men.”


Sawyer glanced up quickly and saw that the Kid was not focused on him.  He turned his attention back to the table.  “These were good finds.  I was planning to go talk to the widow tomorrow.  What will you be doing?”


“Well, I should tell you, you and Heyes are fightin’ over Mel.”


“What?”


“You’re sparkin’ Mel.  She’s ended her engagement with Joshua and is takin’ up with you.”  He chuckled at the astonished expression on Sawyer’s face.  “Why don’t you take her with you tomorrow?  That’ll keep her out of our way.”


“Can’t say I ever thought of you two as matchmakers.”


“There’s lots about us you don’t know.”


“I’m beginning to suspect that.  Why exactly did you decide I should court Miss Duster?”


“She can take messages between us.  That way we don’t have to be seen with you.”  The Kid grinned.  “It ruins our reputation to be seen with lawmen.”  The grin faded, and he stood and began to prowl around the room.


Sawyer watched him.  “Is there something else?”


“No.  I should be goin’.”  But Curry continued to wander, picking up a cup and putting it down, straightening a calendar on the wall, picking the cup back up.  Finally, his back to Sawyer, he said, “Tell me about this rancher, Hollister.  What do you know about him?”


“Why?”


“Just wonderin’ whether we need to worry about him, too.”


“I’m not sure.” 


The Kid turned around and faced him, his expression giving no clue to his thoughts.


“He’s been around these parts maybe ten, twelve years,” Sawyer said.  “I don’t know where he came from – Texas I guess since folks call him Tex.  He’s an independent rancher and doesn’t like the Stock Growers Association, or their rules.  In fact, I hear he’s a pretty outspoken critic.  He owns the local paper, which runs frequent editorials on things like ‘undue influence’ and ‘trusts.’  Basically, he doesn’t like the big money interests, and they don’t like him – but he does have some powerful supporters.”


“Anythin’ else?  What about his family?”


“His wife and daughter died a couple of years ago in one of the epidemics.  It’s just him and his son now.  Dutchy Schmidt, the one who got shot in the back by Brunen’s men, he managed the paper.  Now the staff is, with Hollister’s son’s help.  That’s about all I know.  I can’t tell how much of his reputation as a troublemaker is real, and how much is because some powerful interests don’t like him.  I’d be careful around him if I were you.  He has a solid reputation of taking care of his own, and of being a crack shot.”


The Kid grunted.  Sawyer looked at him curiously.  Curry put down the cup he’d been turning over in his hands.  “Time to go.  Come get Mel in the mornin’, will you?” and he slipped out the door.


~~~oOo~~~


Heyes knocked lightly and entered the room he was sharing with the Kid.  The Kid looked up from the gun he was cleaning then returned to polishing the barrel with a cloth while staring abstractedly at the wall.


Heyes shot him a glance then settled into the chair opposite the Kid.  “So, you talk with Sawyer?”

Yeah.”


“And?”


“And what, Heyes?  What do you want me to say?  He agreed with us about the things we found, and he’ll take Mel tomorrow.  So I did what you wanted.  A good errand boy,” the Kid snapped.  He drew a deep breath.


“Heyes…”


“Kid…”


The two started simultaneously and stopped.  Finally, Heyes spoke, “Go ahead, Kid.  Finish what you were going to say then I’ll tell you about my night.”


The Kid shot him a quick glance then looked away.  “I think that rancher is Tex.”


“Yeah, he is.” The Kid stared at his partner.  Heyes shrugged.  “I was playing poker in the saloon, seeing what I could learn.  Anyway, Tex joined the game.”  He thought back.  “I think he came to town on purpose to see if it really had been Hannibal Heyes in the jail.”


“We can leave tonight.  Forget our deal with the Governor.”


“No.  I don’t think it’s necessary.”  Heyes looked at the Kid.  “He didn’t give me away, or show any sign of recognition, but he knew who I was all right.  He strongly suggested we come out to his ranch the night after tomorrow.”


“Just the two of us?”


“Yeah, said he’d be all by himself.”


The Kid didn’t respond.  He quietly reassembled his gun, grunted, and went to bed.   “Night.”


Heyes looked at him, shook his head, and went to bed himself.
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PostSubject: Re: Old Friends/New Enemies   Old Friends/New Enemies EmptyFri Sep 05, 2014 1:58 pm

CHAPTER FIVE


Mel was leaving the dining room after breakfasting in solitary splendor when Heyes and Curry walked in.  She started to smile, caught herself, and turned it into a haughty sniff as she pointedly turned her head away and brushed past them.


“She’s sure enjoyin’ bein’ mad at you,” the Kid commented, shaking his head as he watched her stop irresolutely in the lobby.  “Of course, I can understand the bein’ mad part.  You do make it easy.”


“Will you shut up?”  Heyes led the way to a table and signaled for coffee.


Mel overheard the Kid and suppressed a grin.  Looking up, she saw Sawyer enter the hotel lobby and head towards her.  “Why, Marshal Sawyer, so nice to see you again,” she gushed, smiling coyly at him.


He stopped for a moment then smiled back.  “Miss Mel, I was hoping we could continue getting reacquainted.  I came to see if I could convince you to ride out with me.  I have a buggy outside.”  He spoke in a slightly elevated voice as he walked towards her.  Once he reached her, he took her hand and spoke sotto voce, “I was hoping you could come with me to speak with the widow.”


Mel’s smile broadened.  “Why there’s nothing I’d like better than to ride with you.  Just let me get my shawl, and we can go.”  She whisked up the stairs to her room.


Sawyer paced in the lobby.  Glancing into the dining room he saw Heyes and exchanged the briefest of nods with him.


~~~oOo~~~


The buggy trotted along.  Mel watched the passing scenery.  Sawyer split his attention between the horse he was driving and stealing quick glances at his passenger.


Finally, he turned to Mel.  “I have to say bounty hunting is an unusual occupation for a woman.  How did you end up doing it?”


“Oh, it just sort of happened.  Turns out I’m good at it, and it’s been profitable.  Most folks don’t expect it, which gives me an element of surprise.”


“I imagine it would.”  Sawyer smiled at her.  “Is that how you met our two outlaws here?”


Mel laughed out loud.  “They were fighting about a whether I was a bounty hunter, and I overheard them.  That’s how I found out who they were.”


“Heyes saying you were?”


“No, the Kid.  Heyes didn’t think a woman would be a bounty hunter.”  She thought back to that encounter.  “He was certainly angry when he found out he was wrong.”  She shook her head.   “Anyway, I was taking them to the jail to turn them in when we were interrupted.  My nephew had been kidnapped, and I traded their freedom for help in recovering him.”  She looked at him.  “You seem to have a past with them, too.”


“Yeah.  First time was when I was part of a posse.  That was back when Jim Santana was running Devil’s Hole.  Heyes’ horse tripped and trapped him under it.”  He shook his head.  “A long time ago, not much of a price on his head and none on the Kid’s at all.  The Kid and a couple of the gang members came back and rescued him before we could get him to town.”


He paused to urge the horse on its way.  “Next time, it was the Kid I caught.  Santana was gone by then and everyone was starting to hear the names Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry linked together.  Anyway, Heyes was able to rescue the Kid.  Haven’t caught them since, but not for lack of trying.”


The horse trotted on as the two sat silently.  Sawyer resumed, “So you met them by catching them.  But I got the impression that you know them better than that.”


“A little.  A friend of theirs, a sheriff up in Wyoming called in some favors from them for help catching a gang of killers.  He thought they might have difficulty dealing with the law, so apparently they’d told him about me, and he called me in.  The Kid did me a big favor during that chase.  I came here to pay off that debt.”


“Friends with a sheriff in Wyoming, huh?  Must have been Lom Trevors; I’ve heard he used to ride with the Devil’s Hole before he joined the other side.”


“Yes, it was Sheriff Trevors.”


“Never knew they had that kind of relationship.   Knew the gang left his town alone, but didn’t know they’d stayed friends.”  


“They do seem to make friends with the most unexpected people,” Mel commented.


Sawyer looked speculatively at her.  She smiled blandly back and pointed ahead.  “Is that the house up there?”


~~~oOo~~~


Sawyer turned the horse through the large gateway into the compound.  Before them stood a rambling adobe ranch house at the end of a dusty drive lined with large agaves.  As they started down the drive, two men stepped off the shaded front porch, shotguns cradled in their arms.


Sawyer stopped the buggy in front of the men and sat with his hands up.  “I’m Marshal Wade Sawyer, Governor Zulick asked me to look into this matter.  May we speak with Mrs. Brunen?”


The men eyed the two of them closely then spoke quietly in Spanish.  Finally, one entered the house while the other stayed watching them.


After some minutes, a young woman dressed in black came to the door.  “I’m Dolores Brunen, my mother asks you to please step inside.”


~~~oOo~~~


They stood in the doorway of the room, their eyes blinded by the transition from the bright sunshine outside to the darkened interior.  Heavy curtains were drawn across the windows, the furniture was wooden and heavy, the cushions a dark red that sucked in what light there was.


“This is a house of mourning.  Why do you trouble me?” a voice demanded harshly.  The woman was dressed head-to-toe in black, a black mantilla covering her hair.


Mel and Sawyer looked at each other then entered and sat on a horsehair settee.  “Ma’am, I’m Sawyer, Wade Sawyer, with the U.S. Marshal’s Service.  The Governor asked me to come investigate your husband’s disappearance.”


“And my son’s,” the woman interrupted.  


“Yes, ma’am, of course, your son’s.”


“What type of monster would kill a little boy?”


“Now, mama, you don’t know they’re dead.”


“I know.”


“You mustn’t say that.”


“Dolores, go get the coffee.”  


Dolores compressed her lips and went out of the room, stopping in the doorway to look back at her mother before shrugging her shoulders and disappearing.


Her mother watched her go, frowning.  “She thinks I should be crying.  But what good is crying, I ask you?  Two months my son has been missing.  Bah!”


She sat frowning then turned to her visitors.  “So, you are Marshal Sawyer.  And who are you?” She assailed Mel with a harsh look.


“My name is Melanie Duster.  I know it will seem unusual, but I am a bounty hunter.  I’m helping Marshal Sawyer as he searches for clues.”


“A woman!”  Mrs. Brunen studied them silently for a moment before nodding.  “Good.”  She looked towards the door through which Dolores had disappeared.  “Dolores!” she called.  “I know you are listening.  Go fetch Albie.”  She turned her attention back to the two before her.  “Albie, Albert Jr. that is, is my eldest.  He should be in Prescott attending to business.  Instead he wastes time here making sure I don’t collapse from grief.  Bah,” she spat.  “Do I look like I am about to collapse?”


“No, ma’am, you don’t,” Mel replied, a small smile lifting her lips.  “Too many men, and some women even, do not realize how strong a woman can be when she needs to be.”


“Albert, my husband, has been away often in our marriage.  In those times I have run the ranch and the business of this family.  I have held us together.  Now they think I will collapse when my husband and son are missing, when they need me the most.  Bah!”
She sat silently until a husky, young man, dressed formally, arrived.  He nodded politely to the strangers and turned to Mrs. Brunen.  “Mama, Dolores says you wanted me?”


“Yes.  The Governor has sent the marshal here and Miss Duster to look for your father and brother.  I want you to answer their questions.”


He nodded, seated himself, and looked enquiringly at the marshal.  “How can I help you?”


Mel and Sawyer glanced at each other before Sawyer spoke.  “We know that Mr. Brunen had been to Douglas and was returning.  Has anyone traced his path back?”


“Yes, my brother Juan and I and some of the ranch hands rode to Douglas and back, stopping at every habitation we saw.  The men who were with us found the campsite.  It was still smoking when we arrived.”  He looked at his mother and saw that she was watching the three intently.


“Did you find any sign of the men who did this?”


“There were three separate sets of prints.  Grooch – our foreman – measured them.  We also found the tracks of the mules – carrying something heavy – heading off through the brush.  We traced them to the wash that’s a ways back there.”


“Was there anything else?” Mel asked.


Albie Brunen looked at his mother, hesitating.


“Oh for goodness sakes, just tell them everything you know,” his mother snapped.


He sighed.  “In the clearing by the wagon, just beyond the range of the fire, there were signs that a blanket or two had lain there and that something heavy had been placed on them.  We found some threads, probably from one of the blankets, it was the same color as the blankets my father had with him.”


Sawyer thought for a moment.  “You said you traced the mules to the nearby wash.  Did you find anything there?”


“No.  It had rained up in the Rincon recently.”  Seeing Mel’s confused look, he explained.  “That’s the range of mountains near there.  When it rains, the washes flood, sweeping everything in their paths away before drying as quickly as they flooded.”  He grimaced.  “The killers were lucky; there had been such a flood before we arrived.  We tried to trace further but could find nothing – no more tracks to follow, and no signs that the ground had been disturbed.”  He sighed and looked at his mother again, but she sat immobile.


Mel’s brow puckered.  “So you found nothing else?”


“Well, nothing much.  A few feet down, near the edge of the wash there were some grains – oats and some green barley.  But we didn’t think anything of that.”  He frowned briefly.  “Although it was strange that the barley was green – it must have gotten damp in the flood; it had  sprouted.”  He shook his head.  “That’s all we found.  Is there anything you two can tell us?”


Sawyer glanced at Mel.  “We understand that suspicion is centered on a gang of rustlers that operates out of Pantano Station.  Does that seem likely to you?”


Mrs. Brunen finally spoke, “Daniels.”


“And Gallagher, Mama.”


“Yes, and Gallagher.”


Mel and Sawyer looked at the two.


“Lee Daniels runs the gang.  Tory Gallagher is one of his main deputies.  They were among the men my father was hoping to indict.”


“And if those two are involved, Horace Tripp is, too.”


“Tripp, ma’am?  The sheriff?” Mel asked.


“Sheriff.”  Albie Brunen snorted.  “He won’t be sheriff for long.  Stuffing the ballot boxes.  I tell you the panel in Douglas will get rid of him.”


“Quiet, Albie.  That has nothing to do with the matter at hand.” Mrs. Brunen turned back to Sawyer and Mel.  “Those two men, Daniels and Gallagher, are Tripp’s deputy sheriffs.  Horace Tripp may not be out rustling the cattle himself, but he runs that gang.”  She returned her attention to her son.  “Now, who else should they consider?” 


Albie Brunen thought.  “Father said G.G. Montoya was also with the gang.  I think he had evidence of that as well.”


“Don’t you know?  Didn’t you speak with the Grand Jury in Douglas?”


“Yes, Mama, I spoke to the jury foreman and to the prosecutor.  But it was no good; they wouldn’t tell me anything.  Grand Jury proceedings are secret.”


“But this is a murder investigation.”


“Mama, without the bodies it’s a disappearance, not a murder investigation.”


“Bah!  Marshal, can you get the information?”


“I’ll try, ma’am, but your son is correct.  Now, Montoya, he’s the foreman of Hollister’s ranch, correct?”


“Yes,” Albie Brunen confirmed.  “It wouldn’t surprise me to hear Hollister’s involved as well.  Father always suspected that he did not come by all his stock honestly, but could never prove it.”


The four sat silently for a few moments.


“Thank you.  Anything else you can tell us?”


“Nothing I can think of.”


Sawyer turned to Mel, who hesitated then spoke.  “Ma’am, this seems to have been a business trip, why was your son traveling with his father?”


A spasm crossed Mrs. Brunen’s face, her first show of emotion since they had arrived.  She turned mutely towards her son.  


He grimaced.  “We thought it would be safer.  My father,” he hesitated.  “My father had received a number of death threats, but he refused to travel with guards.  Said it would slow him down and make him appear afraid.  My father was never afraid.  Anyway, we convinced him to take Henry with him.”


“I insisted,” his mother whispered.


“You see, we thought no one would kill my father in front of his young son,” Albie Brunen explained quietly.


After a brief pause, Sawyer sighed and reached into the bag he had brought with him.  “Ma’am, Mr. Brunen, I’m afraid I need you to look at some items we found, see if you recognize them.”  He pulled out the leather trace the Kid had found.


Albie Brunen took it and examined it closely.  Finally, he handed it back shaking his head.  “It’s part of a harness, but I can’t tell if it’s one of ours.  There’s nothing special about it, or about the ones we use.”


Sawyer nodded.  “I thought as much, but it comes from the burned wagon, and you can see it’s been cut, so it was worth a try.”  He reached back into his bag and pulled out the scrap of paper, Heyes had found.  “What about this?”


Albie Brunen examined it, hesitated and began to hand it back.  His mother reached out, stopping him and taking the paper herself to examine.  
She looked at Sawyer.  “It is very faded, but yes, that is my husband’s handwriting.”


“Good.”  Sawyer carefully replaced the paper in his bag.  He hesitated, glanced at Mel and, at her nod, withdrew the last item.  He held it in his hand, assessing the Brunens.  Finally, he held out the shoe.  “And this?”


Mrs. Brunen gave a cry and darted out of her chair, snatching the shoe from Sawyer’s hand.  “My Henry, my poor Henry,” she cried cradling the shoe.  Albie rose and went to her side; he looked up, saw Dolores hesitating in the doorway and gestured for her to come.  She rushed to her mother’s side, hugging and comforting her. 


Albie gently detached his mother from the shoe, handing it to Mel.  “Yes, that is my brother’s shoe.  Where did you find it?”


“Some men helping me found it in the remains of the wagon,” Sawyer explained.


Mel and Sawyer looked at each other, and Sawyer stood to join Mel.  “I’m sorry to upset you all, but we needed to be sure.”


Albie nodded and walked them to the door.
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riders57

riders57

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PostSubject: Re: Old Friends/New Enemies   Old Friends/New Enemies EmptyFri Sep 05, 2014 2:02 pm

CHAPTER SIX


Heyes and Curry sat on the shaded hotel porch and considered their next move.  


“We could go check out the newspaper.”


“They’d probably ask too many questions about us.”


“The bar?”


“Too early, the folks we want won’t be there yet.”


“So…”


Heyes considered, turned to Curry, and indicated a shop down the street.  “I think it’s time we got some haircuts, and maybe a close shave.”


The Kid ran a hand across his chin.  “A shave would be good,” he agreed.  “And your hair is always too long.”  He headed across the street towards the barbershop, his partner at his side.


Three men walked towards them as they reached the opposite sidewalk.  Sheriff Tripp stopped when he saw them then turned and shook hands with his portly companion, nodding briefly in the partners’ direction.  The portly gentleman glanced at them, frowned, muttered to Tripp, then turned and walked back the way he had come.  Tripp and his other companion, Deputy Daniels, continued towards the pair.


Curry tensed and his eyes turned icy as the men walked towards them.  Heyes put a brief hand on his partner’s arm.  Tripp began to perspire heavily and pulled at his collar as he approached.  In contrast, Deputy Daniels, fingered the ends of his large handlebar mustache and swaggered confidently towards them.


The partners recognized Daniels’ confident swagger.  Curry and Heyes stood calmly awaiting the men’s arrival.


The sheriff gave a sickly smile as he reached them, stopping short.  “Mr. Smith, and, Mr. Jones, wasn’t it?  I hear you’re staying in town a few days.  I hope there are no hard feelings about our little misunderstanding.”


Heyes contemplated him silently, his eyes raking the man.  Tripp paled.  


“Let’s say I won’t be recommending a stay in your jail to any of my friends,” Heyes replied, smiling briefly, although his eyes remained cold.


“Yes, of … of course.”  The sheriff mopped his brow and glanced at his companion.  “I want to apologize again.  It was all that crazy marshal’s fault.  Who knew he would try to lock up an innocent man?”


“Who indeed?  Of course, guilty or innocent, there’s no reason to treat a prisoner like an animal.”


“Er, um …  As I said, it was all a terrible misunderstanding – all that marshal’s fault really.  Well, we, umm, we need to be getting along.  Keeping the town safe and all that.  Come on, Daniels.”  Tripp turned to nudge his deputy. 


Daniels ignored him, continuing to assess Curry, who stood regarding him coolly.  Curry’s hands rested on his belt buckle, his gloves tucked into his belt.  Tripp nudged his deputy again.  “I’m sure Deputy Daniels also wants to add his apologies to mine, right?”


Daniels glanced at Tripp.  “Yeah, sure.”  He smirked at the two and swaggered past them.  


Tripp gulped and hurried to catch up.


~~~oOo~~~


The partners watched them go with narrowed eyes.  “We need to keep an eye on that deputy.  He could be trouble; he’s too sure of himself,” the Kid muttered.  Heyes nodded but continued to the barbershop.  The Kid followed him.


When they were out of hearing, Daniels turned to the sheriff.  “You know, I think Sawyer may be right.  I don’t know if that’s Hannibal Heyes, but I bet the one with him is Kid Curry.”


“What do you mean?  It can’t be.”


“Look, Horace, I can recognize a gunslinger when I see one.  He wasn’t the least bit intimidated by me.”


“But he, he was a guest of Sawyer’s.”


“Are you sure?  You sure Sawyer wanted him there?”


Tripp’s eyes opened wide.  He stopped walking and stared at Daniels in consternation.  “Who do we know in San Francisco?”


“Why?”


“Let’s find out if the mayor has a daughter and, if he does, what her name is.”


Daniels laughed.  “You know, Horace, sometimes you aren’t as dumb as you look.”


“You work for me, remember.”


“Yeah, yeah.  So you going to send a telegram?”


“No, I don’t think so.  I don’t want those two getting wind of it.  I’ll send a letter.  We can wait a few days.”  Tripp thought a moment.  
“Think you can outdraw Curry?”


“If he’s as fast as his reputation, not in a straight fight,” Daniels responded.  “But then, who ever said it would come down to a straight fight.  Yeah, I can take him.”


~~~oOo~~~


The man working the typesetter looked up as the bell over the door tinkled.  “You looking for Tex, Sheriff?”


“Yeah.  He here?”


“In the back.”


Sheriff Tripp nodded and made his way to the back office of the newspaper.


As he pushed into the office, Hollister looked up from the map he was studying with a young man.  He glanced at Tripp and turned to his companion.


“So you know how to go, Jed?”


“Yes, father.”


“Good, see you in two weeks then.”  Hollister rolled the map, handed it to the youngster, and ushered him out the office door.  Shutting it behind him, he turned back to the sheriff.  “Something I can do for you, Horace?”


Tripp settled himself in a chair.  Hollister sat behind the desk, his chair pushed back and one booted foot resting on the desk’s edge.


“Nothing special.  Just dropping in, friendly-like.  You’re out on your ranch so much we don’t hardly see one another.”


Hollister stared at him.  “Didn’t know you missed me.”


“Yes, well.” Tripp looked at the ceiling.  “I was just talking to the Mayor, saying we ought to have an organization, for the influential folks in town.”  He focused back on Hollister.  “You know, the elected officials, the bankers, and some of the main ranchers in the area.  A Chamber of Commerce like they have back east or something.  Maybe we could make something of this place.”


“I kind of like how quiet it is right now.”


“Wasn’t so quiet when Brunen’s men killed Dutchy.”


“No, you’re right; it wasn’t so quiet then.”


“So you see, I’m sure we both want the same thing.”


“We do?” 


Tripp cleared his throat.  “Yeah, this town doesn’t need any more bad stories about it.   All this bother about Brunen.”  He looked fiercely at Hollister.  “If this isn’t just like Brunen, making all this fuss.”  He stood up and began to pace.  “You know that mine’s opening just a few miles away.  Think what that’ll do for the town.  Maybe we could even get the railway here.”


“Yes, I suppose development would be good for the town.”  Hollister smiled without warmth.  “Might even pressure us to clean up the town a little, make it more respectable.”  As Tripp’s eyes narrowed, he continued, “You want the paper to write some editorials for you?”


“I guess.  The mayor would appreciate it, I know.”


“Let me study it.  We’re short-handed here since Dutchy was killed.”


Tripp nodded and walked to the door.  Hand on the knob he hesitated and turned back.  “Say, didn’t I hear that you once knew Heyes and Curry?”


Hollister stiffened.  “Where’d you hear that?”


Tripp smiled, although his eyes remained hard.  “The mayor and me, we like to know who’s in our town.  So, do you know them?”


“Drove some cattle to Cheyenne with them when they were boys, long before they were famous.  Why?”


“Nothing, nothing.  I was just thinking.  Sure is a coincidence, what that marshal claiming Heyes was here and all.”  He shook his head.  “Guess I should have asked you before I arrested him.  We don’t need any bad reports getting back to San Francisco, do we?  It’d be bad for the town.  But, on the other hand, think of how famous we’d be if this was the place where Hannibal Heyes was finally caught.”  He glanced at Hollister.


Tex looked back at him.  “It was a long time ago.”  He drew a deep breath.  “Played some poker last night with that fellow Smith.”


“Did you now?”  Tripp leaned in.  “And?”


Tex stared at the far wall.  “He’s a good player.  Doesn’t let anything show and reads the other players.”  He stopped.


“I don’t care if the man’s better’n Doc Holliday hisself.  Is he Hannibal Heyes?”


“All I can say is the man I played poker with last night sure wasn’t the boy I knew on the cattle trail.”  He smiled slightly.  “But it’s been a long time.”


Disappointed, Tripp opened the door and walked out, waving his hand over his head in farewell.


Hollister sat at his desk, propped his feet on its surface, and stared at the wall.
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riders57

riders57

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PostSubject: Re: Old Friends/New Enemies   Old Friends/New Enemies EmptyFri Sep 05, 2014 2:08 pm

CHAPTER SEVEN


A burst of male laughter sounded as Heyes and Curry walked into the barbershop, before several pairs of eyes turned to them.


A well-groomed gentleman bustled up to them.  He was small, had his hair slicked back, and smelled of bay rum.  “Gentlemen, I’m Ed Williams, owner.  What can I do for you today?”


Heyes smiled broadly.  “We’d like a couple of close shaves.”


“Yeah, and Joshua here could use a haircut.”


“Certainly, certainly.”  He looked around.  “Cyril, you old coot, get out of the chair and let this man, Mr. Smith, is it, sit down. And I believe you are Mr. Jones, correct?”  He saw their expressions.  “Anyone new in this town attracts attention.  Between you two and that marshal… 


Well, let us just say the whole town knows about you.”  A wizened old man, grinned toothlessly and got up from the barber’s chair before sitting at one of the tables topped with a checker board.  Another man put down the paper he was reading, and joined him.


Williams continued, “Unfortunately, I am the only one here today so one of you will have to wait, unless you would like Johnny to shave you.”


The partners looked at the young boy immersed in a dime novel then looked at each.  Finally, Heyes turned towards Williams.  “We’ll wait.  Why don’t you take Thaddeus here first.”  He seated himself in the extra chair while the Kid, after throwing him a look, sat in the chair vacated by Cyril.


Williams nodded and settled Curry in the chair, wrapping him in a clean sheet.  Over his shoulder he ordered, “Johnny go get a warm towel, now.”  
The boy reluctantly put down his tattered book and headed into the back room, returning shortly with a steaming cloth.


Heyes picked up a newspaper and began to read, while Johnny carefully wrapped a hot towel around his partner’s face.


After watching these proceedings critically, Cyril and his companion turned back to the checker board.


~~~oOo~~~


Heyes glanced over as Williams removed the towel and began to lather the Kid’s face.  “Sure is hot out there.”


Cyril cackled, “Yeah, it’s hot as a whorehouse on nickel night.”


Williams sharpened his razor against the strap.  “You get used to the heat around here.  Why I remember, three years ago …”


Cyril’s companion laughed.  “Now you’ve done it.  You’ve set Ed off.  Man could talk the ear off an elephant.”  The room erupted in laughter.


The bantering continued for several minutes.  As the Kid stood and switched places with Heyes, pulling out a cigar and lighting it, one of the shop’s inhabitants spoke.  “Surprised you two are hanging around.  Nothing much happens these parts.”


“In fact,” another of the loungers commented, “You’re about the most interesting thing going on around here.  You and that marshal and that gal of yours.”


“Yeah, I’m kind of enjoyin’ that, too.”  The Kid grinned at his partner.  


A muffled snort erupted from Heyes beneath the hot towel.  “We’re just looking around.  We hear there might be some mining come in around here,” Heyes elaborated once the laughter died down.


“Besides we like it quiet,” Curry affirmed, blowing a smoke ring.


“Well then you should be glad you weren’t around a couple of months ago,” Williams commented as he removed the towel.  “It was plenty exciting around here when Brunen disappeared.”


“I read about that,” Heyes prompted.


“Oh you can’t imagine the hullabaloo it created.”


Cyril looked carefully around, “He’s dead, I tell ya, and we all know who kilt him.”


“You old coot,” his companion exclaimed.  “I keep tellin’ ya, he’s taken off with his fancy woman.  You’ve seen the missus.  Stiff as a board that one, and I hear one o’ Jenny’s gals is missing.  Heard he was real fond of her, too.”


“But what about his boy?” another interjected.


“That don’t explain the burnt wagon, and I’m telling you Daniels and Gallagher were out that way earlier in the day.”


“Earlier don’t make no difference.  Did anyone see them that night?”


Williams chimed in.  “No one is fool enough to admit it if they did.  But what I ask is, what happened to the mules?”


“That’s easy enough, sold them down in Mexico.”


“No one, not even a man as tight as Brunen, is going to be worrying about selling mules in Mexico if he’s leaving his family behind – well all except his boy, I guess.”


“I tell you, they’re dead!  It’s just a coin . . .  co … whatever.  That missing gal’s got nothing to do with it!  Gals like that move around all the time.”


“And what about the Swensons?”


“What about the Swensons?”


“Way I heard it, Brunen stopped at their stage post the night before.  Spent the night there, and they say he was worried about being followed by a couple of men.  They tried to get him to wait until others came by to ride with but he wouldn’t, he wanted to get home.”


“That sure sounds like he was killed.”


“Or like he wanted folks to think he was killed while he headed to the city with some skirt.”


“And I keep saying no one runs off with his whore and a little boy!”


The door chimed as a cowboy strolled in.  The men who’d been arguing fell silent, looking at each other guiltily.


“Men.”


“G.G.”


“What’re you all so het up about?”


There was silence.  Williams finished slapping some bay rum on Heyes’ face and turned to him.  “Nothing.  You know the boys, G.G.; they could fight over whether a scorpion or horned toad would win the race.”


Cyril spit his chaw towards the spittoon.  “Heck that depends on how you get ‘em heading the same direction.”


There was a round of nervous laughter.  G.G. did not join in but stood looking speculatively at the partners.  Williams glanced at him then turned back to whisking the spare hairs off Heyes’ neck.  “There, Mr. Smith, shave and a haircut.  That’ll be two bits.  Ten cents for you, Mr. Jones.”


They paid him, nodded to the assembled, and left, brushing past Montoya who watched them leave, his eyes narrowed.


~~~oOo~~~


“So who’s this G.G.?”


“He’s the foreman of the Hollister ranch,” Curry replied shortly, obviously pre-occupied.


“What do you think happened to the mules?”


“Like they said, sold down in Mexico.”


“Yeah.  Still,” Heyes sighed.  “You know, Kid, I think we should take a ride this afternoon.”


The blue eyes frowned suspiciously.  “Where exactly?  It’s too far to Mexico and back in one afternoon.”


“No, I was thinking.”


“There’s a surprise.”


Heyes’ dimples flashed.  “I was thinking that if folks did burn the wagon and take the mules, they wouldn’t want to disappear right away.  That’d be too suspicious.  I bet there are line shacks and such out in the range for the ranches around here.  And I bet that one of them housed a couple of mules in it for a while, before those mules headed to Mexico.  Thought it would be interesting to see if that’s so.”


Curry nodded.  


~~~oOo~~~


Mel smiled as she unlocked the door to her hotel room.  Despite the sad interview, she had had a delightful day with Marshal Sawyer.  She entered the room, took off her hat and turned to light the lamp.


“Mel.”


She jumped and turned.  “What are you two doing in my room?” she demanded.


“We wanted to see how you were doing.  We were beginning to worry about you; you’ve been gone so long.”


“As you can see, I’m fine.  You can get going now.”


“Mel, don’t be like that.”  The Kid smiled at her.


Mel felt her resolve weakening.  She hesitated then sat on the bed.  “I can tell you what the widow said if you want.  But I want to hear about your doings, too.”


Heyes grinned.  “Works for us.  Tell us about the widow.”


~~~oOo~~~


“Anyway, that’s all they had to say.  But they do think …”  Mel stopped abruptly as a knock sounded on her door.
Heyes and Curry stood behind the door, guns drawn, and nodded at her.  She opened the door.


“Mel,” Sawyer smiled down at her.  “I’m glad to see you’re still up.  I returned the buggy and realized you’d left your shawl.  I would have been here sooner, but I stopped to get my mail.  While I’m here, I wanted to say how much …”


Mel put a hand on his arm, leaned out to check the hall then opened the door wide.  “You might as well come on in.”  She stood back.


He entered with a broad smile on his face that disappeared as soon as he turned and saw the partners, holstering their guns.  “What are they doing here?”


“Wanted to make sure Mel was safe after a day in your company.”  The Kid grinned at him.  “Seems just fine.”


“Since you’re here, we can compare notes,” said Heyes commandeering one of the two chairs, while the Kid took the other.


Sawyer looked at the occupied chairs and at Mel seated on the bed and leaned against the wall.


“I just told them about our day,” Mel explained.   “They were about to tell me what’d they’d found out.”


“Somehow, I doubt you told us everything about your day Mel, you were gone too long for that.”  Heyes and the Kid chuckled as Mel scowled and Sawyer frowned.


“Anyway,” Heyes resumed.  “We checked out the gossip around town.  Seems to be about evenly divided between whether Brunen’s dead or set up house with some young thing.”  He held up a hand as Sawyer opened his mouth.  “Let me finish telling you what we heard.”  He turned to Curry.  “Kid, 
what was the name of that couple they stayed with?”


“Swenson, Lars and Inga Swenson.”


“Right.  Anyway, seems that Brunen spent his last night at their way station.  They say he complained he was being followed by a couple of men.  
Have you talked with them yet?”


“No but I think the original searchers did,” Sawyer answered slowly.  He looked at the partners.  “Is that it?  Is that all you found out?”


“Not really, we went looking for range sheds, to see if we could find any sign of the mules.  Found a couple of likely places where they might have spent some time before the attackers managed to dispose of them.”  


“We figure they sold them down in Mexico, but not right away,” the Kid explained.  He looked at Sawyer.  “Also heard there was a girl missin’, some folks think she went with Brunen and his boy to set up housekeepin’ somewhere, away from Brunen’s wife.”


“Well that would fit with this,” Sawyer said pulling a letter out of his jacket.  “Picked this up with my mail.  Jenny Maloney says she didn’t want to be seen talking to me, but that I should know that one of her girls, a Fronie, she says.  Anyway, apparently this Fronie went missing about the same time Brunen did.  Jenny Maloney says they left together.”


He paced around the room for a minute.  “I need to go out of town for a couple of days – get statements from Brunen’s son and the men who conducted the original search, and I guess I’ll talk with the Swensons, and take care of a couple of other things.”


“You should get a statement from a man named Trujillo, too,” Heyes interrupted.


“Who’s Trujillo?”


“He runs the mail route between here and Douglas.  Told us he saw Brunen and his son the day they disappeared.  He’s probably the last one to see them alive,” the Kid explained.


“Of course, he’s scared so he’s not going to want to talk to you,” Heyes cautioned.  


Sawyer’s eyebrows raised.  “Where’d  you find him?”


“We told you we’re good.”  Heyes grinned at him.


“Fine.  I’ll see if Brunen’s son can convince him to give me a statement.  Why don’t you two check out Jenny’s story while I’m gone.”


“Why don’t I do that?” suggested Mel.


“Not a good idea, Mel.”  The Kid grinned at her.  “Jenny Maloney runs Jenny’s Playtime Parlor.   Not your type of place.  The gals there won’t talk to you.  You’re too respectable.”


“Then I’m sure you and Heyes are perfect.  No one would equate you two with respectability,” she sniffed.  “Are we done?  Just be discreet when you leave.”


“Yes, we certainly wouldn’t want anyone thinking you were setting up to rival Jenny,” Heyes said and ducked out the door before Mel could reply.  
Curry laughed and checked the hallway before following his partner.


Mel stood, fuming, until Sawyer cleared his throat.  “Are you sure you’ll be all right here, Mel, well I’m out of town?”  


Her eyes softened.  “Yes, Wade, I’ll be fine.  I guess I’ll just see if I can get some of the local ladies to talk to me.   When will you be back?”


“I shouldn’t be gone more than three days.”  He walked to the door, stopped and hesitated, looking at her.  He shook his head briefly.  “Well, guess I should be going.”  He slipped out the door without waiting for her reply.  


She stood gazing absently at the door, then sat and began brushing her hair, humming softly to herself.
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riders57

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PostSubject: Re: Old Friends/New Enemies   Old Friends/New Enemies EmptyFri Sep 05, 2014 2:11 pm

CHAPTER EIGHT


Mel joined the partners for breakfast.  “After all, aren’t you supposed to be trying to win me back?” she explained.


Heyes choked on his coffee.  His eyes watering, he muttered, “That’s one competition I wouldn’t mind losing.”


Mel narrowed her eyes.  “Don’t worry; you have no chance of winning it.”


The Kid laughed out loud.


“So what should we do today?  Don’t tell me to spend my day wandering around town.  I’ll have more luck tomorrow when the ranch ladies come to town to do their shopping.”


“Yeah, and we’ll do better in the saloon tonight.”  Heyes looked at the Kid.  “Maybe we should all go on a picnic.   You can be the chaperone.”  
The Kid rolled his eyes.  “Mel, how would you like to help us look for signs of the mules?”


“A picnic would be delightful, Joshua.  Mr. Jones, you’ll join us won’t you?”  At his nod, she smiled.  “I’ll see you down here in a couple of hours then.”


They both hastened to their feet as she left.


~~~oOo~~~


“I’m telling you I think that one with the oats and sprouted barley was where they were stored.  You can see that some animals were there for several days.  If they were the wranglers’ mounts, they would only have been there one night.”


“Yeah but it was a while ago, Mel.  Who can say whether it was our mules?”


“Brunen’s son mentioned that they had found some oats and green barley that was beginning to sprout down by the wash when they traced footsteps from the wagon to the wash.”


“I suppose it’s possible, but I think this search is played out.  No real evidence of anythin’,” the Kid commented.


“But wasn’t the barn on that rancher’s land?  What’s his name, Hollister?”


Heyes shot a quick look at the Kid and turned to Mel.   “I have to agree with the Kid, Mel.  That may well be where the mules were stored, but it doesn’t tell us anything.  It’s a half a day’s ride from the homestead, so anyone could have used that barn.  Even if the mules were held there, it doesn’t mean Hollister or his men were involved.”  He pulled the buggy up to the hotel.  “We’ll let you off here then take care of the horses.  See you around.”


Mel rolled her eyes and descended from the buggy.  The Kid handed her the basket they had borrowed.  Heyes waited until she had entered the hotel, then drove on to the livery stable.


~~~oOo~~~


The two leaned on the bar, whiskeys in hand.  The room was noisy and filled with smoke, but still about half empty.  


“Quieter than I’d expect for a Friday night,” Heyes commented to the bartender. 


“It’ll be busier later, but tomorrow’s the big night.”


“Get busy then does it?”


The bartender laughed, “If there’s only two fights, it’s a slow night.  All the hands from the ranches around try to get here.”


“Sounds like a good time for the rustlers to work,” the Kid murmured and signaled for refills.


The bartender shot him a look.  “I wouldn’t know about that, now would I?” he muttered.  He filled their glasses and moved away.


The partners looked at each other and simultaneously turned around, resting their backs against the bar as the surveyed the room.


“Don’t see our sheriff or either deputy.”


“Nope, surprised they’re missin’ on a night like this.”  Curry downed his shot and looked at Heyes.  “Let’s go see about this missin’ girl.  Another visit to Jenny’s sounds good about now.”


“Tex is expecting us, remember?”


“I remember.  I say we go to Jenny’s instead.”


“You’re gonna have to confront him sometime.”


“I guess.”


“I don’t get you, Kid.  I thought you liked Tex.”


“I do.  Or I guess I did.  Don’t know him now, do I?  Sounds like he’s changed.”


“So have you.”


“I know.  I was just a kid in Texas.”  He smiled.  “We were barely shavin’ back then.”


“You were barely shaving.  I had a man’s beard.”


The Kid snorted but didn’t respond.  


The two stayed quiet, watching the scene.  Heyes snuck glances at his partner, but Curry’s face was set, revealing nothing.  He sighed quietly.  
“I suppose, we can check out Jenny tonight, and go see Tex tomorrow.  Might be better if he’s not expecting us.”


The Kid nodded.


~~~oOo~~~


Heyes grinned at his friend as the two tipped their hats and strolled out of Jenny’s, heading towards their hotel.  Both had had a little more than was sensible to drink, but neither was inebriated, just glowing.  Even so, Curry kept his eyes on the shadows, watching for danger.


“That was a productive evening.”


“In more ways than one,” the Kid chuckled.


“Yes, indeed …” Heyes trailed off as Curry nudged him and, with a slight nod, indicated the alley up ahead.  Peering in the darkness, Heyes saw the pinprick of light from the cigarillo of the watcher stationed there.  “We should be sure to visit there again before we leave.”  Heyes removed the guard from his holster as he spoke.


The two walked on, ignoring the alley.  As they drew level to it, Heyes stumbled and turned to catch himself, giving him a look straight into the gap between the buildings.  He saw a quick movement as their watcher drew back.


He smiled and placed a hand on his partner’s shoulder.  “Maybe we should skip that nightcap at the saloon tonight.”


“I’m willin’.”


The two kept walking.  When they were far enough away, Heyes spoke quietly, “It was Gallagher.  I guess they’re keeping an eye on us.”


“So we should let them see what borin’ lives we live tomorrow.”


Heyes smiled as they arrived at the hotel.  “We’ll be the most boring, respectable folks they can ever hope to meet,” he agreed.


“Doubt that, but we’ll do our best.”


His friend laughed and shoved him through the doors.
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PostSubject: Re: Old Friends/New Enemies   Old Friends/New Enemies EmptyFri Sep 05, 2014 2:16 pm

CHAPTER NINE

Mel stepped onto the hotel porch where Heyes and Curry were sitting, chairs tilted back, legs crossed at the knee with one foot each resting on the porch rail, gently pushing their chairs back and forth.  They contentedly blew smoke rings from their cigars as they watched the street.  As 
she approached them, they tipped their hats, bringing their feet to the floor and the chairs upright.  

“Howdy, Mel,” the Kid smiled at her.

“You’ve been shopping,” Heyes said, noting the packages she carried.  “Why don’t you join us?”

Mel considered and looked around.  Finally she nodded, “Thank you, Joshua.  I have to thank you again for the lovely picnic, yesterday.”  She spoke in an elevated tone.  

The Kid stood and relieved her of her packages then reseated himself.  “There’s no one watchin’ us right now, Mel.  But Tripp and his deputies have been keepin’ a pretty close eye on us.”

“Yeah, they’ve shown up at breakfast, dinner, and the bar.  I even saw Tripp look into the lending library when I was there,” Heyes confirmed.  
“Since we’ve been sitting here, one or the other of them passes every few minutes.”

“They’re not following me.”  Mel’s forehead puckered as she thought.

The Kid smiled at her.  “They’re underestimatin’ you, Mel.  Lucky us, they don’t know you as well as we do.”

Mel laughed.  Keeping her voice low, she spoke, “I’ve heard some rumors today.  I’m going to try to get more information after church tomorrow.  
What did you find out last night?”

“Let’s wait until Sawyer gets back, then we can all compare notes.  In fact, the Kid here has a girl he should speak to.  Did he say when to expect him?”  Heyes looked at her.

“Yes, he said he’d probably be back tomorrow night.”  She frowned.  “If they’re watching you, do you think they might try to ambush him, like they did to Brunen?”

“I don’t think they can afford to do that,” Heyes reassured her.  “They’re already under a lot of scrutiny because of Brunen’s disappearance; if a U.S. marshal disappeared, too, the Governor’d probably bring the whole militia in.  Tripp’s smart enough not to let that happen.”

“So you’re sure it’s Tripp, not the rancher?”

“No, but Hollister’s smart enough to avoid that, too.”  He looked sideways at the Kid.  “We’re going to go speak to Hollister tonight,” Heyes told Mel.

The Kid looked at him.  “If we can shake our shadows.”

Heyes grimaced.  He turned to Mel as Gallagher walked by again.  “Melanie, will you allow me to take you to supper tonight?  I know it’s not San Francisco, but I bet we can find somewhere nice.”

“Well …”  Mel prevaricated.  “Yes, you may.  And even though this isn’t as busy as home, there is a concert in the assembly hall tonight.”  She turned to the two men, just as Tripp passed.  “Would you take me, Joshua?  Please?  I mean with Wade out of town, I’d like to attend, but …”

Heyes rolled his eyes and smiled.  “Mel, it would give me great pleasure, and I’m sure Thaddeus would be delighted to join us.”

Curry glared at him.

Heyes watched Tripp and Gallagher conferring at the street corner.  “We can take Mel to the assembly hall then sneak out to visit Hollister.”

Mel frowned at them.  “I’m going with you.”

“No, you’re not.”  The Kid’s tone brooked no argument.  “You’re our alibi, so you need to stay.”

Mel sighed, studied his face, and acquiesced.

~~~oOo~~~

The Kid walked quietly up to Heyes where he lay on a slope looking down at the ranch house.  Light flickering behind the curtain in one room indicated the house was occupied, as did the smoke from the chimney.  He stooped next to his partner.  “See anyone?”

“No.  I think he’s alone.  You?”

“No one.  The bunkhouse is empty, and I don’t see any signs of Montoya.”

“You want the front or the back?”

“He’s seen you so why don’t you take the front?”  

Heyes nodded and rose.  The two slipped silently through the darkness towards the house.

~~~oOo~~~

Heyes knocked on the door, waited a minute then knocked again.

Approaching footsteps sounded and the door opened.  Hollister looked at him and nodded, but did not holster his gun, although he did step back and open the door wider.

As Heyes entered, Hollister peered outside before shutting the door.   “I said come yesterday.”

“Yeah, well we figured it was better to come when you weren’t expecting us.”

“Us?  I see one person.  Where’s your partner?”

“Behind you.  Holster your gun, Tex.”

Hollister grimaced but did as he was told, one corner of his mouth turned up.  He turned and surveyed the Kid.  “You’ve grown since I last saw you.”  He turned away and entered his parlor, gesturing for the two to follow him.

“You alone?” 

“Yes, Heyes, I’m alone.”

“Your son likely to join us here?”

“No.  I sent him away when I realized you two were in town.  I’d rather he didn’t meet his namesake.  By the time Jed was old enough to be told, Betsy and I decided he was better off not knowing.  Might give him ideas – the wrong ideas.”  This last was spat out.

Heyes felt the Kid flinch and glanced over, but the Kid’s face revealed nothing. 

The three sat and contemplated each other for several moments.  Finally, Hollister broke the silence.  “So I gather you two made up your quarrel.”

The two nodded.

“Haven’t seen much about you two in the papers recently.  What happened?”

Heyes glanced at the Kid who was sitting poker faced.  He sighed silently.  “The Kid and I decided to give up the business.  Getting too dangerous.  We’ve been straight for a while now.”

“You two?”  Hollister nodded.  “Glad to hear that.  What are you doing here?”

The Kid finally opened his mouth.  “I have the same question for you.  What happened to your spread in Texas?”

“It’s been a long time, Kid.”

“I’d like to know.”

Hollister stood up and strode over to a bar.  He glanced at them and poured three drinks, gesturing for them to take theirs, he picked one up and began to pace.

“I suppose you heard that Goodnight left Texas and spends his time at his new ranch in Colorado?”

They nodded.

“Well, I didn’t think that would make a difference to me; after all, I had my own place – could support myself and wasn’t working for him anymore.  I was wrong.  Seems the other big ranchers resented little guys like me.  They started creating rules, drove me out.”  He sighed.  “Betsy, the twins, and I came out here.  Started over, ten – twelve years ago.”

“I just heard the other day about Betsy and little Sarah.  I’m sorry.  Betsy was a good woman,” the Kid stated quietly.

Hollister nodded.  “Yeah, she was; they were.”  He paused.  “At first, all seemed good here.  Got the ranch up and going; we were running several hundred head, doing well.  I bought the paper on a lark.”  His face clouded up.  “Then it started all over here.  Some of the big ranchers formed the Southern Arizona Stock Growers Association – started taking over, setting rules.  Trying to drive the rest of us out.  Called us rustlers.”

“What sort of rules?”

“At first, the rules seemed reasonable.  All cattle had to be inspected for disease and the diseased ones slaughtered.  Hard on the rancher with the diseased cattle, but necessary to protect everyone.”  Hollister laughed harshly.  “But somehow most of the cattle found to be diseased belonged to the independents, even ones that appeared perfectly healthy were labeled diseased and slaughtered.  And you couldn’t appeal the decision – the inspectors were paid by the Stock Growers Association.  Then the Association increased its control – got a law passed:  all calves borne on range land were the property of the Stock Growers Association.  For the independents to replenish our stock, we had to buy back our own calves from the Association – at inflated prices!”  By now he was pacing angrily around the room, pounding his fist into his other hand.  “So if we take our beeves’ young, our own cattle, we’re called rustlers.”

The three were silent.  Finally, Heyes broke the silence.  “And where did Brunen come into this?”

Hollister looked sharply at him.  “What do you know about Brunen?”

The Kid spoke, “We’ve been hearin’ things around.  Hear the two of you weren’t exactly friends.  Just wondered what was goin’ on.”

The rancher laughed bitterly.  “No, we weren’t friends.  Brunen ran the Stock Growers Association.  He used his contacts as the former Speaker of the Territorial Legislature to get the laws passed designed to drive us out of business.  I used my paper to expose their corruption, and he objected to that.”  He sighed.  “Dutchy, my manager, paid the price for that one.  And, of course, when the grand jury convened to bring charges for Dutchy’s murder, they’d been bought and paid for, too.  Mind you, he was shot dead in the street, shot in the back in front of witnesses.”  He sneered, “The verdict, Dutchy shot himself.  According to the jury, he somehow managed to shoot himself in the back, without ever pulling a gun.”  Hollister poured himself another drink and drank it in one go.  “So, you heard right; we weren’t friends.

The Kid walked over to him.  “Did you have anythin’ to do with his disappearance?”

“Get out of my house,” Hollister spat back.  

The Kid didn’t move.  “Tex, we just want to know what’s goin’ on.  You say the rustlers around here aren’t really rustlin’, and we believe you, but you have to know you’re suspected in Brunen’s disappearance.”

“And you came all this way to protect me?”

Heyes’ smile twisted.  “Not exactly.”

“Good.  I don’t need protecting by a pair of outlaws.  I can take care of myself.”

The Kid sighed and drew himself up, his eyes shadowed.  “Maybe you can, but we’re here even though you don’t like it.  I know you haven’t given us away yet, and if there’s any friendship left between us at all, I’d appreciate it if you continued to keep silent about that.”  He looked steadily at Hollister.  “For Betsy’s memory, if nothin’ else.”

The two stared at each other for several minutes before Hollister looked away, breaking eye contact.  “Ah, hell…”  He walked over and sat back down.

Heyes waited, then resumed, “So there’s no problem with rustlers around here?”

“I didn’t say that.  Rustling’s a big business these parts.  All I said is that not everything that’s labeled rustling, is.  Some of it’s just independent ranchers trying to survive.”

Heyes nodded and thought.  “What about the sheriff and his deputies?”

Hollister looked sharply at him.  “Watch yourself around them.  Tripp’s not convinced he should have let you go.  He was asking me about you.”

The Kid frowned.  “Why would he ask you?  I wouldn’t have thought you’d admit to knowin’ us.”

“I didn’t.  Apparently, Tripp checked me out at some point.  He has a way of finding out things,” he warned them.  “And using it to his advantage.”

“How good is Daniels with that gun he carries?”

“Watch your back with him, Kid.  He’s good, but he can’t outshoot me.”

“So I could take him.”

“You could – in a fair fight.  But with Daniels it wouldn’t be a fair fight.”  

The Kid nodded.

Hollister looked at them curiously.  “Why are you so interested in this?  And why are you sticking around?  Clearly that marshal knows who you are.”

Heyes laughed shortly.  “Yeah, he knows.  But we’ve worked that out, for now.”

Hollister’s eyebrows rose and he turned to the Kid.  

The Kid’s mouth quirked and he glanced at his partner.  “Let’s just say a mutual acquaintance convinced him to keep quiet for the moment.  Sawyer was brought in to find Brunen or to find his killers.  He’s suspicious of you, among others.”  

Hollister nodded.  “And this fiancée of yours, Heyes?”

“A friend.”

“Well, be careful.”

“We will be.  So, what do you know about Brunen’s disappearance?  Some folks say you’re involved.”

“Do they?  Let me guess, that would be Brunen’s cronies.  I told you, they hate the independents.”

“What about your ranch foreman, Montoya?” Heyes asked abruptly, watching Hollister closely.

Emotions crossed Hollister’s face quickly, surprise, dismay, anger, before he resumed a blank expression and stood up.  “I think we’ve had enough discussion for the night.”  He walked out of the room and opened the door.  “In memory of old times, I’ll warn you two to watch your backs; you’re sticking your noses in what’s none of your business.”

The partners looked at each other and headed out the door.  As they left, the Kid stopped and turned back.  “Tex, you need to be careful.”

Hollister looked at him and nodded.  “Watch out for Daniels and Gallagher – they supposedly run one of the most vicious gangs in the area.”  He closed the door.
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PostSubject: Re: Old Friends/New Enemies   Old Friends/New Enemies EmptyFri Sep 05, 2014 2:22 pm

CHAPTER TEN


“Here let me help you.”  Mel reached for the top two pies on the woman’s tottering pile.


“Thank you,” the woman gasped.  They walked together and set the pies out on the trestle tables.  The woman shot shy glances at Mel.  Mel smiled back.  “Aren’t you Mrs. Munvies?  I’m Melanie Duster, I think we spoke at your dry goods store yesterday.”


“Oh, of course.  “You’re new in town aren’t you?” the woman asked.


“Yes, I am, I’m just visiting.”  Mel looked around.  “Can I help you with all this?”  She indicated the church yard where men were setting up trestle tables and the women were covering them and setting out food.


“Indeed, that would be much appreciated.”  Mrs. Munvies turned to her companion.  “Miss  Duster, allow me to present Mrs. Kreeger to you.”


“Hello, please call me Ramona.  My husband and I, that’s him over there…”  She pointed to where a small, dark haired man stood to the side chatting in a circle with other church attendees, while the children swirled around them in the ebb and flow of their games.  “Anyway, my husband and I have the Sleeping J Ranch over towards Mesillo.  I don’t get into town here often.”


“So nice to meet you, both of you.  Please call me, Mel.”


“And I’m Harriet,” Mrs. Munvies smiled at her.


“There.”  Ramona finished setting out the pies and straightened up, looking around the church yard.  “Being on a ranch it’s hard to get here.  It does get lonely sometimes, although I’m so busy most days I don’t notice.”  She laughed.  “Most weeks it’s too far for us to come to church, but with this dinner after services today, I just insisted.”


“Yes, I can see where it would get lonesome out on the ranches.  I’m from the city myself, San Francisco – although I haven’t been there long.  Daddy sent me East to school and I had just returned, when I got engaged.” Mel paused, thinking ruefully that she had certainly perfected the persona of a chatterbox.


“Congratulations.”


“Yes, well it’s been a trial.  Joshua – the man I was going to marry.  Joshua had to come down here for business, and, and I was going to meet him in Douglas so he could take me to meet his family, but as soon as he got to town, someone mistook him for Hannibal Heyes of all people!”


Ramona looked excited and leaned in closer.


“I heard about that,” declared Harriet.


“Well, I just had to rush here to explain that he couldn’t be that terrible outlaw.  But now he just won’t leave, and, well, we had an argument, and …”


“You poor, dear.   You just relax, and I hope we can make you feel comfortable after your terrible initial experience in our town.”  Ramona leaned over and patted her shoulder.   As she did the bell rang and the men surged towards the laden tables.


Mel joined the other women, staying close to Ramona and serving the men, enjoying the laughing and teasing that accompanied service.  Once the men had taken their plates, the mothers gathered food for the children and left.  Mel, Ramona, Harriet and one other woman looked at the decimated tables and laughed.  “Well, the hordes didn’t leave much for us, did they?”  Harriet looked to Ramona, “Ramona dear, I just know you saved one of your wonderful steak pies back, didn’t you?”


Ramona laughed.  “Of course.  I’ve been to these before.  If we didn’t hide the best dishes, none of us would eat,” she explained to Mel.  “Do join us.  I’m sure Harriet here has managed to hide some gingersnaps as well.”


The women urged Mel to join them.  Soon the four had gathered the hidden pie and treats, taken the remaining plates, established themselves in the shade of the wagons, and settled in for a relaxed meal and gossip of their own.


~~~oOo~~~


“Have another gingersnap, Mel.”


“Thank you.   They are delicious, Harriet.”


Harriet smiled at the praise.  “You are too kind.”


“Ladies,” Ramona interjected, “Please, tell me what’s been happening in town.  I think it’s been a month since I was last here.  Have they found what happened to that poor man and his son?”


The women looked over their shoulders and leaned in closely.  “No.  It’s so terrible.  But there’s a marshal here now.  I understand he’s here to solve the mystery.”


“Oh.  I’m sure the sheriff doesn’t like that,” Ramona breathed.


Harriet chuckled.  “No indeed.”  She looked slyly at Mel.  “Also, I understand the marshal has caused you some trouble, as well.  Isn’t he the one that tried to have your fiancé arrested?”  She asked Mel.


Mel sighed.  “Yes he did.  It was all quite silly, but then your sheriff overreacted.”


“Well, that’s never happened before.”  The women laughed.


“So do you know him?”


“Yes, he’s an old friend of my family and a wonderful man.  He wasn’t happy with my engagement.  But now everything’s up in the air.”  Mel sighed dramatically.  “Oh, please, let’s talk about a something else.  It’s all too confusing.  What can you ladies tell me about this missing man I keep hearing about, a Mr. Brandon, is it?”


“Brunen,” Ramona corrected.  “It was quite a nine-day wonder when he disappeared.  But it’s tragic that his young son disappeared with him.  I quite feel for poor Juanita, his wife.”


“I can’t believe they have no idea what’s happened to him.”


Harriet looked archly at the others.  “I think they know full well what happened to him, but you know it will never be public.”


“Whatever to you mean, Harriet?”  Mel asked.  


“Yes, tell us,” Ramona urged.


“Well,” Harriet looked around again and lowered her voice to a whisper.  “Well, Johan – he’s my husband – Johan says it’s clear as day that it was that terrible man Daniels and his gang.  But of course, since he’s the deputy sheriff, no one will say anything.”


“Surely, the deputy sheriff wasn’t involved?  A man of the law?”


Harriet laughed.  “I don’t know how it works in San Francisco, but around here it’s hard to tell which side of the law some men are on.”


Ramona looked thoughtful.  “You know …”  She broke off and shook her head.


“What?  Ramona, you must tell us now,” the fourth woman urged. 


“Yes, come on, Ramona, do you know something?”  Harriet asked.


“Well, it was the day before those two disappeared if I have my dates right.  Daniels and Gallagher stopped by the ranch – wanted to buy some feed.  Hank didn’t want to, but you know how it is.”  


The other women nodded.  


“If you don’t, you’ll find yourself losing a lot more cattle,” Ramona resumed.  “So Hank sold them a couple of big bags of this mix he’d bought that we didn’t like.  He’d read about it and ordered it in special, since they don’t sell it around here.  But the horses wouldn’t eat it.  It was this mix of oats and green barley.  I guess you’re supposed to let the barley sprout.  It was too much trouble, so Hank sold it to them.  At least we were rid of it and rid of them.  We wondered why they needed feed so far from town, but… With those men, well, sometimes it’s better not knowing.”  


Again, the other women nodded.  Ramona looked frightened.  “Oh, I shouldn’t have said anything.  Hank warned me.  But I’m in town so rarely, I guess I just forgot.”


“We won’t tell anyone.”


“We’d never get you in trouble, Ramona.”


Suddenly a vigorous game of tag ran through the area.  The women scrambled to gather their things before the children destroyed the plates.
Once calm had been restored, Mel helped the women pack up the remains of the feast, and bade them all farewell.


~~~oOo~~~


Heyes and the Kid strolled into the bar.  They nodded to the bartender and ordered a couple of beers.


“Quiet here, today,” Heyes ventured.


“Yeah, Sunday afternoons are pretty slow around here.  It’s good; gives me a chance to sleep in after Saturday night.”  The bartender handed them their beers.  “Didn’t see you in here last night, did I?”


“No.”  Heyes grimaced.  “My friend, Miss Duster, convinced us to keep her company at the concert.  We figured by the time we returned her to the hotel it would be too wild here for our tastes.”


The bartender laughed.  “Have to keep the ladies happy.”  He returned to the paper he’d been reading when they entered.


The Kid picked up their glasses and led the way to a table in the corner, far from the few other customers – several of whom looked as if they had been left over from the night before.


The two friends seated themselves.  Heyes looked at his partner, shook his head, and returned his attention to the empty room.


“Why do you keep lookin’ like that?  It’s annoyin’.”  The Kid growled.


“You’re awfully quiet.  Even for you, I mean.”


“We can’t all yammer on like you.  What do you want?  Should I recite the Gettysburg Address or somethin’?”


“Calm down.  It was just an observation.”


The Kid sighed and looked at his mug.  “I’ve been thinkin’.”  He looked sternly at Heyes.  “No smart jokes.”


The dark eyes opened wide in innocence as Heyes gestured at himself.  “Me?”


Curry shook his head but kept his gaze focused on his glass.  “What’s the point?”


“What’s the point of what?”


“Why are we doin’ this?”


“Look, I know you don’t like to waste any extra words, but a few more would be helpful.  What are you talking about?”


“Us, going straight.”


“Oh.”


“I mean.  I look at these so called ‘honest’ men.  How many crooked bankers have we met since we went straight?  How many cheats and liars?”


Heyes opened his mouth then shut it again.


“Think about it.  Even the lawmen are crooked.  Harry can’t stop tryin’ to make a quick dollar, any way he can.  Then there was Clitterhouse.  The sheriff and deputies here …”  He turned anguished blue eyes on his friend.  “I think, maybe we should forget the amnesty, forget everythin’, get a stake and leave the country.”


“We’ve talked about that before; we don’t speak enough Spanish.”


“We could learn.  Or what about going to Australia or somethin’?  They speak English there, don’t they?”


“Yeah, but I’m not sure we do.”


The Kid ignored him.  “When I think of how many crooked ‘honest’ men are out there …  Just look at Tex.  Twice the big ones have done everything they could to drive him off his ranch, take everything he has, all he’s worked for …”


Heyes nodded.  “I figured this would come around to Tex.”


“It ain’t about Tex.”


The two sat silently drinking their beer.  Heyes got refills then returned to the table, plunking a fresh glass before the Kid.


The two nodded blandly to Daniels when he looked into the saloon and kept their silence until he left.


The Kid stared absently around the room.  The bartender looked up, caught his gaze and shivered.  He reached under the bar and touched his shotgun stored there.  Reassured, he returned to his paper.  The bar maid entering the room noticed the two handsome men in the corner and headed their way with a big smile.  Curry’s eyes wandered over and passed her by.  She frowned, sighed, and made her way to the bar to flirt with the bartender.


“You done?”


“Yeah.”


“After all, we gave our words to Zulick.”


“I know.”


Heyes sat watching Curry, deep in thought.  “I have an idea.”


“You usually do.  The question is, is it a good one.”


Heyes ignored him.  “Look what’s the one thing we always say we’re better at than robbing banks and trains?”


“Breakin’ out of jails?”


“Exactly.  But tonight we’re going to do the reverse.”


“Huh?”


“Tonight we’re going to break into the jail.”


“Well, it’s happened.”


“What’s happened?”


“All this honesty is too much for you.  You’re plannin’ on turnin’ us in.  I don’t think they’ll let you keep the reward.”  The Kid swallowed the last of his beer and thumped the mug back on the table.  He shook his head when the bartender looked up to see if he wanted another.


“Ha, ha.  No, there’s a safe in the sheriff’s office.  I for one would like to know what he keeps there.  After all, what better place to keep evidence of wrongdoing than in a safe in the sheriff’s office?”


Eyebrows raised, the Kid nodded slowly.


~~~oOo~~~


With a quiet snap the lock gave.  Heyes and Curry crept cautiously into the back of the jail and stood listening.  Satisfied the space was empty they shut the door and continued to the front room.  Both shuddered as they walked past the empty cells and quickened their pace to reach the office.


Curry strode to the window and looked out, giving Heyes the all clear sign.  


Heyes turned towards the cells and struck a match, quickly lighting then shuttering the lantern they carried, so that only a small beam of light shone.  He turned back to the main room and surveyed the space.  Heyes quietly searched the desk making sure he put everything back as he found it.  


“Anythin’ useful?” the Kid asked, turning his head to look at his partner before resuming his post watching the street.


“No.  I’m going to check the safe now.”


The Kid nodded.


With a satisfying click, Heyes turned the handle and opened the safe.  He stooped, examining the papers.  “Kid,” he called softly.  “Come take a look.”


With a final glance out the window, Curry strode over to the safe and stooped down to his partner’s level.  “What is it?”


Heyes was jimmying the lock of a strong box inside the safe.  Once opened, he extracted a small notebook and began examining it.  The Kid looked in and choked.  He reached in and extracted the remaining contents of the box – a stack of currency.  While Heyes examined the book, his partner counted the bills.


“Seems our sheriff’s been indulging in some blackmail if I read this right.  There’s Williams – that guy who owns the barbershop, and I think this one’s the banker.  Hmm, let’s see who else is here.”  


“Heyes.”


Nothing.


“Heyes!” Curry was staring at the bills in his hand.


Heyes looked up, his eyes opening wide.  “How much?”


“Nearly twenty-thousand, and it’s not in the bank.”


“Well, if it’s from blackmail that makes sense.  The banker’s name is in here, so I guess Tripp couldn’t trust the bank.”


“This’d be enough to go to Australia, Heyes.  No questions asked.  It’s not like Tripp can complain about the missin’ money.  It wouldn’t be stealin’ would it?  The money don’t really belong to him.”


The Kid looked at Heyes, who glanced at his friend then pondered the money in his hand.  He sighed.  “It’d still be stealing, and we don’t do that anymore, remember?  Put it away.”


Curry continued to stare at the money in his hand.


“Come on, Jed.  Let’s finish this job.”


The blue eyes shut, and Curry’s shoulders slumped.  “Yeah.”  He slowly placed the stack back in the box and rose, walking to the window before he spoke again.  “So what were you sayin’ about that notebook?”


“It seems to be a list of people Tripp is blackmailing.”


The Kid stared out the window.  “Is Tex in there?”


“No.”


The Kid nodded.


“Let me copy some of these names, just in case, and get out of here.” Heyes quickly grabbed a sheet of paper and began to copy the names and amounts registered in the notebook.
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riders57

riders57

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

Old Friends/New Enemies Empty
PostSubject: Re: Old Friends/New Enemies   Old Friends/New Enemies EmptyFri Sep 05, 2014 2:29 pm

CHAPTER ELEVEN


As Mel passed the partners entering the dining room the next morning, she muttered, “Wade’s back; he says he needs to talk to us tonight.”


“You’re looking lovely today,” Heyes said, taking her hand and holding it briefly.  “Can he meet us in your room this evening?” he asked quietly.  “We have things for him, too.”


“No.  He doesn’t want to be seen in town.”


Heyes nodded.  The Kid sent an elbow into his side, his eyes pointing out the interested listeners.  


“Mel, darling, would you ride out with me this evening?  We can bring a supper with us, and I’ll show you the sunset over the desert.”


Mel smiled.  “Joshua, that would be lovely.   Thaddeus, will you be joining us?”


“No, I have other plans for the evenin’.”


Mel frowned but subsided at the slight shake of Heyes’ head.


“Until this evening.  I’m sure we can straighten out all our recent misunderstandings then.”  Heyes let go of her hand.  The Kid smiled and tipped his hat.  She nodded and continued to her room.


~~~oOo~~~


Curry lurked in the shadow of the livery stable, watching Mel and Heyes drive off in the buggy for their picnic.  He frowned as Montoya headed down the same road on horseback, but shrugged.  Heyes knew the danger.


He strolled to the hotel porch and sat smoking a cigar until Montoya returned.  He watched Montoya head to the jailhouse and smiled.  Lifting his feet from the porch railing, he stood and stretched.  


He strolled past the jail, noticing the three men inside playing cards, and continued on to Jenny’s Playtime Parlor.


He was greeted enthusiastically by the women, who had learned on prior visits that he and his friend tipped well.


Jenny bustled up to him.  “Mr. Jones, so nice to see you again.  Your friend’s not with you?”


“No, he had other plans this evening.”  He looked around the parlor at the women and the men they were encouraging.  “Is Polly available?”


“Ah yes, she said you seemed to enjoy your time with her last visit.”  He nodded.  She looked around the room, her eyes narrowing.  “Elena, go find Polly,” she ordered.  The woman so ordered nodded and slipped out of the room.


She returned shortly with a young redhead, who twisted her short skirt nervously.


Curry smiled reassuringly.  “Polly, I thought I’d pay you another visit,” he remarked calmly.  He turned to Jenny and held out a handful of bills.  


Jenny’s eyes widened as she counted.  She looked at him in surprise.  


“I thought we’d take our time and didn’t want to be disturbed.  No point in bein’ rushed now, is there?”  He smiled at Jenny and held out his hand to Polly.  “Shall we?”


“Yes, yes,” she stammered.  She saw Jenny’s glare and flushed.  Gulping, Polly gathered her courage.  “Of course, Thaddeus, this way.  We’ll have a good time tonight.”  She swayed towards the stairs, looking provocatively over her shoulder at him and holding out her hand.  Grinning, he took it and followed her up the stairs.


Jenny chuckled and continued her rounds of the room to make sure all her customers were as satisfied.


~~~oOo~~~


As the door closed behind them, Polly uttered a moan and sank onto the bed.  She looked timorously at the man leaning against the door.  “Mr., Mr. Jones, I don’t think I can.  What if they find out?  Oh, why did I ever agree to this?”  She put her head in her hands moaning and sniffing.


The Kid walked over and put his arm around her.  “Polly, we talked about this.  Now you don’t want to stay here, do you?  If they find out what you know, your life is worth nothing.”


“My life’s not worth much anyway.”


“This is a chance at a new life.”


“But what if they catch us?”


“They won’t; I told you I’d make sure you’re safe.”  He reached over and took her chin, forcing her to look at him.  “Trust me.”


She stared into the deep blue eyes and slowly nodded.


“Good.  Have you packed your things?”


“Yes.”


“And the back stairs are next door to this room, right?”


“Yes, they are.  How did you …?”  She looked surprised then shook herself.  “Let’s go, before …  before I lose my courage.”


“No, we have to wait a little while, until it quiets down out there.”  He smiled at her.  “Now, how should we pass the time?”


~~~oOo~~~


Curry buckled his belt and tied down his gun.  He smiled back at Polly who sat apprehensively on the rumpled bed.  Cracking the door, he peered out into the hall, scrutinizing it and listening intently.  Satisfied, he turned back to the girl.  “Come on, we’ll slip out now.”


She hesitated then gathered her carpet bag and shawl and took his hand, following him into the quiet hallway.  They slipped silently through the next door and down the back stairs.


Cheerful chatter rang out in the kitchen but sputtered to a halt as the workers noticed the two.  The Kid reached into a pocket and pulled out another, smaller, pile of bills that he laid on the kitchen table.  He held a finger to his lips and looked around the room.  Once all had nodded their agreement, he removed his hand from the money, took Jenny’s hand, and slipped out the back door.


They passed from shadow to shadow until they reached the end of town.  There the Kid left her, returning shortly with a saddled horse.  He pulled her up and, once her arms were clasped firmly around his waist, quietly urged the horse on.


~~~oOo~~~


Sawyer puttered around his cabin, cleaning the corners and disposing of spiders.  He watched the sun set and pulled out his watch.  Sighing he pulled out his papers and laid them on the table, studying the evidence he’d gathered.  He looked at his watch again, and moved to the stove to make coffee, gathering four mugs as he went.


He walked to the window and listened, then opened the door and looked around, listening for any sound.  Hearing nothing, he returned to his scrutiny of the evidence.


Finally, Sawyer heard the clopping of horse hooves and the rattle of a buggy as it pulled up to the cabin.  He strode to the door and smiled as he saw Mel, motioning her in then stood frowning, waiting for Heyes.  As Heyes entered, Sawyer looked around once more before shutting the door.   “Where’s your partner?”


“He’s coming; he’s bringing company.”


“Let’s get started.”


“Not until the Kid gets here.  Have a seat, Mel.”  Heyes sniffed.  “Is that coffee I smell?  Anyone want some?  Mel, did you bring the remaining cookies from our supper in with you?”  He poured them cups of coffee, glancing across the papers strewn about the table.  As he sipped, he lifted the pages, examining them.


Sawyer glared at him.  Heyes ignored him.  Shrugging, Sawyer turned to Mel.  “How are you, Mel?  You look as lovely as ever.  Have you had any trouble?  I worry this town’s not safe for as gentle a woman as you.”


Heyes choked but raised innocent eyes when Sawyer glared at him, before returning to his scrutiny of the papers. 


~~~oOo~~~


A knock quietly sounded on the door.  Sawyer and Heyes pulled their guns while Sawyer walked to the door.  He opened it cautiously then stepped back to allow the Kid and Polly to enter.  Polly saw the looks from those inside and tightened her shawl around her while tugging nervously at her skirt.


Mel’s eyebrows rose briefly as she took in Polly before assuming a blank expression.


“Mel, Marshal this is Polly, Polly Simpson.  Sit down, Polly,” the Kid urged her, pulling out a chair.


Polly, her eyes wide, perched on the edge of the chair the Kid offered.  “I knew I never should have come,” she moaned.


Heyes and Curry exchanged looks over her bowed head.  Heyes stepped up to Polly, sitting next to her and taking her hands in his.  He offered his brightest smile, his dimples exploding.  “Now, Polly, you just relax.  No one here will hurt you.  Thaddeus here speaks very highly of you.  He says you’re a bright girl, too good to be in your profession.  We want to help you out.  Don’t you want to leave?”


Polly looked at him and nodded, relaxing slightly.


“Good girl.  Now all you have to do is tell the marshal here what you told Thaddeus the other night.  Mel will write it down as you speak; you can then review it and sign it.  That’s all there is to it.”


“But once I sign it, what happens to me?”


“Well tonight, tonight you’ll stay here.  Then tomorrow the Marshal will take you out of town someplace safe.  He’ll give you some money so you can make a fresh start.  Now mind you, he’ll only give you a portion now.  You get the rest after you testify, if necessary.”


Polly paled.  “Testify?  In court?  Thaddeus never said anything about that.”  She began shaking her head and pulling at the fringe of her shawl, plaiting and unplaiting it.  “I couldn’t, I just couldn’t.  I’d die.”  She looked fearfully at Curry.


He looked back, his blue eyes like ice.  “Polly, you said you’d do this.  It’s too late to back out now.  If you go back, Daniels and Gallagher will find out.  You know you wouldn’t like what happens then.”


Polly burst into tears.


Mel pursed her lips and blew out her breath, exasperated.  “Men,” she proclaimed.  Motioning Heyes away, she walked over and put her arm around Polly.  “Now, now, Polly, don’t be frightened.  The marshal here is a good man.  He’ll make sure you’re protected.  And just think, when it’s all over you’ll have some money to start a new life.  What did Thaddeus promise you?”


“Two hundred dollars,” Polly breathed.


Mel glared at the three men.  “Well I say they can make it three hundred.  Just think, Polly, three hundred dollars.  Just think what you could do with that money.”


Polly stared at her and sniffed.  She drew her hand across her face, wiping her nose.  “All right,” she sighed.  “What do you want to know?”
Mel and Sawyer looked at the Kid.


“Just tell them what you told me about Fronie’s disappearance.  That’s not so hard.”


Polly nodded imperceptibly.  Mel walked around the table and sat in front of a blank sheet of paper.  Dipping the nib of the pen into ink, she nodded.  “Go ahead Polly, just speak slowly, please so I can write it all down.”


Polly looked around the room and drew a deep breath.  “Well, Fronie and me, we’re friends, or we were.  We started at Jenny’s about the same time, but Fronie, she was older and more experienced.  She helped me get through those first nights.”


She looked at her audience, who nodded, encouraging her to continue.  “Fronie, she had her specials.  You know, her favorite men, the ones that asked for her over and over again.  She was real close to Mr. Brunen – Albert Brunen.  He used to bring her trinkets and special treats.  She laughed and told me, really, that all he wanted was someone to talk to.  She said it was real boring sometimes, but he paid well and listening was easy work.  So she was happy when he came.  One night he told her he had to go out of town, something about a jury, but that he’d come see her real soon after he returned.”


She stopped and surveyed her audience, her hands pleating her skirt as she considered.  “He never came, not ever again.  Fronie was that upset, I thought she’d never get over it.  She’d said he was going to give her enough to go away.  She said she’d go to Mexico, start over.  She’d been learning Spanish and everything.  When she heard he was missing, Fronie just cried and cried.  I swear, you could have watered the whole desert with her tears.  Jenny, well Jenny was real mad – said if Fronie wasn’t going to earn her keep she’d have to leave, that Jenny’s wasn’t no charity and that it hurt business to have everyone hear Fronie sobbing.”


She looked at the Kid.  “I need something to drink.”


Blank faced, he glanced at Sawyer, who walked to a cabinet, pulled out a bottle of whiskey and poured a glass, handing it to Polly.


Polly took the glass and consumed the contents in one swallow before plunking the glass on the table.  Mel looked up from her paper then swiftly turned back to it.  Polly took a deep breath and resumed.  “Anyways, two nights later I think it was … Do you know the Deputy, Daniels?”  She looked at her audience.


They nodded.


“Well, then …  Two nights later Daniels came.  He and Jenny talked.  I think he might own the business with her, he’s with her a lot, and I know the sheriff’s her partner.  Anyway, they disappeared into Jenny’s office.  All the girls tried to find men and be busy.  We don’t… Even though you earn more, no one …”  She glanced at Mel, who sat rigidly staring at her paper, her face slightly flushed.  Polly’s voice dropped to a whisper.  “He likes to, to …  No one wants …  But that night Jenny insisted that Fronie, that Fronie go with Daniels.  He … I don’t know …  I never saw her again.”  She stopped and sighed.


The men looked sideways at each other, but no one spoke.  Finally, Heyes walked over and sat beside Polly again.  “Polly, do you think she’s dead, that Daniels killed her?” he asked quietly.  


She looked up, her eyes wide and began to shake her head.  “No, oh no, no, no …  She’s not dead.  She’s in Mexico, like she always wanted.”


Heyes turned his head in the Kid’s direction and rolled his eyes.  The corner of Curry’s mouth tipped up and he turned away, coughing.  The brown eyes darkened.  “What makes you think she’s in Mexico?”


“She wrote to me and got someone to slip me the note.  You don’t need to know who, do you?  Anyway, if I ever get enough money, I’m going to go join her there.  Of course, I don’t speak Spanish, but …”  She stopped and held up her glass for more.  Sawyer glared but picked up the glass, refilling it and handing it back to her.


“Thank you, Polly.”  The Kid gave her a quick smile that didn’t reach his eyes.  He glanced at Sawyer.  “Well, I guess that means Brunen didn’t take off with Fronie, at least.”


“Yeah.”


Polly frowned, looking from face to face.  “What about me?  You said you’d take care of me, that I’d be safe.”


Again the men conferred silently; Mel walked over and whispered agitatedly to them.  Finally, Sawyer spoke.  “For now, Polly, why don’t you go sleep in the bedroom back there?  You can stay here tonight.  Tomorrow, I’ll take you away, someplace safe – but you need to stay there in case we need you for the trial.”  He opened the door and pointed into his bedroom.


Polly downed her drink and looked at him speculatively.  She glanced at Mel and then, with a smile, stood and sashayed into the bedroom, glancing over her shoulder.  Sawyer closed the door behind her and sighed.  Mel snorted and looked away but said nothing.


Heyes glanced at the two, and his dimples flashed.  “Let’s give her time to get to sleep then we have some planning to do.” He gestured to the Kid and they walked over to read the papers Sawyer had been examining prior to their arrival.


~~~oOo~~~


“… So we looked at some of the line shacks and barns to see if we could find any trace of the mules.  Didn’t find much.  One barn looked like it’d been occupied lately – had a pile of oats and sprouted barley, like we found by the burn site, but that doesn’t mean much.”  Heyes summarized what they had heard and found so far.


Sawyer looked at Mel.  “Didn’t Brunen’s son say something about oats and green barley, or something?”  He dug through his papers.


“Yes, he did,” Mel answered.  “But there’s more than that, too.  Sunday after church I was talking with one of the rancher’s wives in town for services.  She said her husband had sold Daniels and Gallagher some feed the day before the Brunens disappeared.  She said it was an experimental grain they’d tried and hadn’t liked – a mix of oats and green barley.”


The three men stared at her.  She smiled sweetly.  “I told you, women have a way of knowing things.”


Heyes rolled his eyes and the Kid snorted.


Sawyer thought for a moment then turned to Heyes.  “That line shack, whose land was it on?”


Heyes eyed the Kid, who was stone faced.  He answered slowly.  “I’m pretty sure it was Hollister’s land.”


“Hollister, hmm,” said Sawyer.  “His name keeps coming up.  He and Brunen had many run-ins.  And didn’t that mail delivery man, what was his name?  Trujillo, that’s it.  Didn’t he say he saw Montoya near the wagon remains the morning after Brunen disappeared, that Montoya acted like he didn’t want to be seen?”


“Yes.”


“And Montoya works for Hollister.  So we have Daniels and Gallagher on the one hand and Hollister and Montoya on the other.  Which ones do you think?  Is it all of them, or just one of the pairs?  And where does Tripp fit into this?”  Sawyer looked at the others.  Heyes was watching the 
Kid, frowning slightly.


“It could be all of them working together,” Mel ventured.


Curry stirred.  “It’s not Hollister.  Montoya may be involved, but Hollister isn’t.”


“Now, Kid …” Heyes ventured.


His partner glared at him.  “I’m tellin’ you Tex ain’t involved.  Now, I have to get back to Jenny’s – have to be seen leavin’ there without Polly so they won’t know she went with me when they find her gone.”  He clapped his hat onto his head and strode to the door.  Once he had opened it, he turned back.  “It ain’t Tex.”  He closed the door behind him with a decided clap.


“You two know something about Hollister you aren’t telling us?” Mel asked.


Heyes walked over to the cupboard and poured himself a drink, swallowing half of it before he spoke.  “Years ago, when we were young, before Devil’s Hole, we rode trail with Hollister – Tex.  He was a good man, tough but fair.  The Kid really looked up to him.”  He chuckled.  “The feeling must have been mutual, since his son is named Jedidiah.”


“He named his son after Kid Curry?” Mel exclaimed.


“Yeah, well, the Kid was there when the twins were born, Tex wasn’t.  He was with me on the trail.”  He finished his drink.  “But that was long ago, and we’re all different men now.”


“Does he recognize you?”


“Oh, yeah.  But he’s not telling.”


Mel and Sawyer exchanged glances, eyebrows raised.  Heyes contemplated his glass.


“So,” Sawyer started.  “Do you agree with Curry that Hollister isn’t involved.”


“He certainly hated Brunen, with reason I’d say.  And he didn’t exactly deny it when the Kid asked him.  But…”  Heyes stared unseeingly at the cabin wall.  “No.  I trust the Kid’s instincts about a person.  No one reads a man better than him.  I agree with my partner, Hollister’s not involved.”


Sawyer and Mel looked skeptically at each other.


After a pause, Mel spoke, “So now what do we do?  What’s our next step?”


“I get Polly on a stagecoach to Prescott in the morning, after I have her sign the statement you took down.  Then I think I’ll call in some troops and we’ll confront them.  But that’ll take a few days, so just lay low until then.”  Sawyer raised his voice.  “You hear me, Heyes.  Stay out of trouble until then.”


Heyes nodded absently.  He looked around.  “Come on, Mel, we need to get back to the hotel.  Let us know when you’re back again, Sawyer.”
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riders57

riders57

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PostSubject: Re: Old Friends/New Enemies   Old Friends/New Enemies EmptyFri Sep 05, 2014 2:36 pm

CHAPTER TWELVE


The partners were once again relaxing on the hotel porch, smoking cigars and watching the slow pace of the town unfold before them.  Heyes glanced to the left and nudged Curry, nodding his head once he had the Kid’s attention.  They exchanged glances and waited.


Tripp climbed the step to the porch and loomed over them, a dissatisfied expression on his face.  “You’re back.”


“That’s a fact,” Heyes replied, removing his cigar from his mouth and holding it in his hand.


“Why?”


“Well, now, I’m not sure that’s really any business of yours, sheriff,” Curry replied, his blue eyes frosting over.  “As it happens, we’re still examinin’ the investment options in the area.”


Tripp assumed an artificial smile.  “No offense meant.  I was just surprised you came back.”


“You might remember my fiancée.  She’s still here; she’s been visiting some friends she made.”


“Umm.”  He paused then resumed.  “Mr. Jones, now that you’re back I have some questions for you.”


“Do you?”


“Erm, yes, well, I understand you were at Jenny’s place several nights ago.”


“Yeah?”


“And you visited a Miss Polly Simpson.”


The blue eyes opened wide as the eyebrows above them rose.  “I believe that’s the idea of a place like Jenny’s, that one would be visitin’ the women.”


“Of course, of course.  But you did spend most of the night with Polly, didn’t you?”


“Yeah.”


“Sheriff,” Heyes intervened.  “What are you asking?  What does it matter how long he spent with this Polly?  I’m sure Thaddeus here paid generously for her time.”  


The Kid smirked and nodded.


“She’s gone missing.”  Tripp paused and wiped his brow, then looked closely at the Kid.  “That night.  You’re probably the last person to see her.”


“She seemed fine last time I saw her.  Of course, she was pretty tired.”  Curry smiled genially, but there was no warmth in his eyes.


“You know, sheriff, this town seems to make a habit of losing people,” Heyes remarked.  “Why a place could get a bad reputation what with folks up and disappearing all the time.  How many have we heard about since we’ve been here, Thaddeus?”


The Kid knitted his brow.  “Well let’s see.  I think with Polly gone now, it must be three.  There’s that other girl from Jenny’s and Polly – of course, in that business women come and go, I wouldn’t worry too much about that, sheriff.  But didn’t we hear something down at the barber or somewhere about a man – Buder, no Brunen was the name.  Seems he went missing, too.  So I make it three in just a few months.”


“No, I think you’re wrong, Thaddeus – I think it’s four.  Didn’t Brunen have his little boy with him?  Yes, definitely four.”  He turned to Tripp.  “I guess you need to be finding out what’s happening around here, or your townsfolk might find themselves another sheriff soon.”


Tripp reddened and glared at the two.  They returned the glare with bland expressions.  


Curry slowly blew out a smoke ring.  “Was there somethin’ else you wanted, Sheriff?”


Tripp muttered and stomped off, brushing past Mel as she reached the hotel.


Mel looked after the departing sheriff and then joined the partners.  “What was that all about?”


The Kid stood and offered her his chair, retrieving another one for himself.  “He’s tryin’ to figure out what happened to Polly.”


“Oh.” She sat and looked around, then reached into her pocket, extracting a note.  “Wade’s back,” she announced.


Heyes reached for the note but she placed it back in her pocket.  “That’s not for you, it’s for me.  Meet in my room after midnight?”


“Really, Mel?  You sure you want us?  I mean, we wouldn’t want to intrude on you and ‘Wade,’ after all.  You two seem to be getting very friendly.”  Heyes flashed his dimples at her as the Kid chuckled.


Mel flushed.  “That’s none of your business.  We all need to talk, and my room’s the best place to meet quickly without the whole town knowing.”


~~~oOo~~~


Tripp stormed into the office of the jail and slammed the door.  Daniels and Gallagher looked up from their card game.  “What’s got you so bothered?” Daniels drawled.


“It’s those two.  They’re back.  We can’t seem to get rid of them.  I know they’re up to something, I just can’t seem to find out what.”


Daniels pulled an envelope out of his pocket.  “That reminds me, you got some mail – from San Francisco.”


Tripp snatched it and tore it open.


“You gonna tell us what it says?”


He looked up smiling.  “Seems the mayor of San Francisco is named Bartlett; he’s not married and has no known children.”


Gallagher laughed.  “So she ain’t the mayor’s daughter, huh?  Maybe I should have a go at her.  I bet I could get her to tell us what’s going on.”


Tripp frowned quickly.  “No, fool, we need to know more about them first.”


Daniels pulled out his gun and began to polish it.  “She seems pretty friendly with that marshal that’s hanging around town, trying to find out about Brunen.  I wonder if they’re all working together.”


“Could be, but then why would Sawyer have said the dark one was Hannibal Heyes when they first came?”


“Maybe he is Hannibal Heyes,” Gallagher said.


“And I tell you the other is Kid Curry,” Daniels concurred.


“That doesn’t make any sense.  If they’re Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, they wouldn’t be working with a U.S. marshal.  Neither’s been near the bank as far as I know, and we don’t have a train through here, so they can’t be planning to rob the place.  So, if they’re not working with the marshal, why are they hanging around?”


“Maybe they thought we’d bring him into the gang if we thought he was Hannibal Heyes.”


Tripp paced back and forth.  “What we need is a plan.  We need to settle this.”


Daniels checked the bullets in his gun before restoring it to his holster.  “Leave Jones, or Curry, or whatever-his-name-is to me.”


~~~oOo~~~


“Mel, did you find out anything new at the Kreeger ranch?”


The four were once again gathered in Mel’s room.  The two former outlaws had claimed the chairs, while this time both Mel and Sawyer were seated on the bed.


“No, just confirmed what Ramona told me, and that they don’t like Daniels or Gallagher.”  She paused.  “They don’t seem to like Hollister and Montoya either.  Ramona’s husband says they’re all troublemakers and everyone should just mind their own business.”


She narrowed her eyes.  “Where have you two been the last few days?  Why did you want me out on the ranch?”


“We had to go out of town, take care of some business, and didn’t think it safe for you to be here alone,” Heyes replied.  He turned to Sawyer.  
“So, why did you want to meet?”


“The judges have ruled on the election issue.  Tripp is being removed from office, but that information isn’t being released until the additional troops get here to enforce it.”


Heyes and Curry looked at each other then at Sawyer.  “Who’s the new sheriff?”


“I am.  At least until they can hold a new election.”  Sawyer grinned at the expressions on the partners’ faces before sobering.  “But I got some other news this afternoon.  Seems Daniels and Gallagher are gathering their men for a big raid, down near Brunen’s spread, tomorrow night.  Montoya will be there as well.”


“Why?”


“I don’t know, but I don’t think we can wait for the troops to get here.  We’ll have to go after them ourselves.”


The Kid’s eyebrows rose.  “The three of us?  Not a good idea.”


“Four of us.”


The men turned to Mel in unison, “No!”


She reddened and prepared to speak when Sawyer laid his hand on her arm.  “I’m sure you would be a great help, but all of us, being the men we are, would be worrying about you and not focusing on the gang.  We can’t afford to be so distracted.”


Her eyes narrowed and she glared at each man in turn before subsiding.  “Very well, Wade.  I’ll wait here.”  He smiled at her and she slowly smiled back.


“Okay, I rode out that way after I got the news.”  Sawyer stood and walked over to the small table, pushing the lamp to the side.  Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a folded sheet of paper, unfolding it and smoothing it on the table.  “I sketched the land there.”  


The partners walked over to examine the map.  


“While there I spoke to Brunen’s son, to warn them.  I might be able to convince him to lend us one or two of their guards, but most will be protecting the homestead.”


Heyes looked up and nodded.  He rejoined Curry in examining the map, conversing quietly.  Finally, he looked at Sawyer.  “Our best chance …” he began.


~~~oOo~~~


Heyes watched from his position as three men rode into the shallow below him.  He glared at the full moon and bright stars illuminating both the new arrivals and those waiting to capture them.  He shrugged himself further into the shadows and raised his arm to signal the others.


An owl hooted, followed by three others.  He nodded; everyone was set.  He turned his attention back to the men below.  One rider, he thought it was Gallagher, glanced around then pulled out his watch.


There was a brief flare of a match as the man checked the time.  He slowly put the watch away then sent out a loud whistle.  At the signal, he and the other two men, dove to the ground behind the rocks and bushes in the shallow and began shooting towards the surrounding rise.


A bullet whistled over Heyes’ shoulder from behind, hitting the rock near his head.  He rolled over, gun out.


There was a rush.  To his left, Sawyer shouted, “It’s a trap!”  Gunfire rang out on all sides.  Heyes sent a quick whistle to Curry.  Reassured by the responding peal, he focused on the attackers coming at him.


Curry crouched down, shooting towards the center then looking quickly to the sides to find the ambushers.  He rolled to the side and shot quickly into the bush to his left.  A grunt and a moan responded.


“That’s far enough, Curry.  Hands up and drop the weapon.”


He rolled to his right and felt a bullet crease his left arm.


“I said drop the weapon.”


Sighing, he did as instructed and finished rolling over to find himself facing Daniels standing above him.


“Sorry, but the name’s Jones.  Didn’t know you were talkin’ to me.”


“I don’t care what your name is.”  Daniels kept his gun trained steadily on the Kid as he stepped up, kicked Curry’s gun away, then backed away.  
“Stand up.”  


Curry slowly got to his feet.


Daniels smiled.  “Well, well.  So I’m the one who gets the pleasure of killing Kid Curry.”


“I told you, my name is Jones, Thaddeus Jones.”  His eyes squinted as he focused on Daniels, poker face on.


“Nope, not the way you were shooting.”  Infuriated by Curry’s calm demeanor, Daniels took aim.  “Goodbye, Kid Curry.”


As Daniel’s finger tightened on the trigger, Curry dove to the left towards his gun.  He ignored the burning pain in his hip and reached for his gun just as a second shot rang out.  Gun in hand he prepared to return fire when Daniels crumpled to the ground.


Behind Daniels, heading quickly and carefully towards the Kid, rifle in hand, was Tex.  “Good thing I’ve been keeping an eye on G.G. since we spoke.”


They smiled briefly at each other before the gun battle raging around them claimed their attention.  Curry shot over Tex’s shoulder.  “Yeah.  Thanks.”


A whistle sounded, the Kid shrilled two notes back.


“What?” Tex whispered.


“Lettin’ Heyes know I’m alive.”  He looked past Tex, and sent off several quick shots, before reloading his weapon.


Tex lay on his stomach, rifle at the ready, sending shot after shot down into the attackers.  The Kid focused on the ones behind them.  Gunfire rang out from all directions.


~~~oOo~~~


The remaining captives were sitting glumly as Sawyer moved through them, tying their hands behind their backs.  Heyes stood before them, gun at the ready.


The Brunen family’s guards were herding the horses into a quickly assembled remuda.


Curry, leaning heavily on Tex but holding his gun steady, made his way to the group.  Heyes glanced quickly at him, a frown on his face.  “You’re bleeding.”


“I noticed.  I’ll be fine.”


Heyes nodded.  “Daniels?”


“Dead, thanks to Tex here.”


Sawyer finished tying the captives and turned his attention to the trio.  “Hollister,” he said, holding out his hand.  “I’m Sawyer, the new 
sheriff here in town.  Thanks for your help.”


Tex’s eyebrows rose.  “New sheriff?”  He glanced at the captives.  “Where’s Tripp?”


“Still in town.  He doesn’t know yet; he will before this night’s done.  The panel down in Douglas ruled his election invalid.”


Tex nodded.  He looked at the crowd and grimaced as he spotted Montoya, blood caking on his arm.  “G.G., I should have let you go a long time ago.”


Montoya muttered under his breath and spat but did not otherwise respond.


Tex counted the captives.   “Looks like you got the whole gang, sheriff.  Need help taking them to the jail?” 


Sawyer looked over the sullen crowd.  “Brunen’s men will help me get them to town.  Jones, you need to get those wounds treated.”  He sighed.  
“Wish we could have gotten Tripp, too.  I’m sure he’s involved.”


“You should grab the lockbox in the safe at the jail before he can destroy it.  You might not get him for this, but you’ll find other reasons,” Heyes said.  He gave a feral smile.  “Let’s see how he likes being locked up.”


Sawyer stared at him.  “How did you …?”  He rolled his eyes.  “Never mind, I don’t want to know.”
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riders57

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PostSubject: Re: Old Friends/New Enemies   Old Friends/New Enemies EmptyFri Sep 05, 2014 2:40 pm

EPILOGUE


The morning sun illuminated the empty yard, throwing the shadows of each object into strong contrast.  A roadrunner darted around the compound seeking sustenance among the tumbleweeds rolling in the breeze.  Through the window of the cabin, opened to catch the random zephyrs, could be heard gusts of laughter.   The four had gathered once more at Sawyer’s cabin.  This time though, a fifth had joined them – Tex Hollister.


“Still, we didn’t find Brunen,” Mel commented.


“No, but I’ve spoken with the prosecutors; they’ll try Gallagher, and Montoya for the murder anyway based on the evidence we gathered.”  Sawyer looked around the room a slight frown marring his smiling face.


“That means we’re done here.  Let’s get moving, Kid, we have places to go.”  Heyes stood.  “Tex, good seeing you again.”  He nodded at the man who was talking quietly with Curry.  Tex nodded back.


As the partners bent to gather their things, Sawyer grimaced and pulled his gun.  “Hands up you two.  Hannibal Heyes, Kid Curry, you are under arrest.”


“Wade!” Startled, Mel turned to him, her features contorted in confusion and dismay.


“Sorry, but you two are still wanted, and I’m the law.  Our deal was that I wouldn’t arrest you while we were working together.  We’re no longer working together.”   He paused.  “I really am sorry.”


Heyes and the Kid, their arms raised, looked at each other and shook their heads.


“Sawyer, do you mind?  I just need to show you something; I’m not pulling a weapon.”  Heyes lowered his arms, reached into his vest pocket, and extracted a piece of paper.  “Mel, can you pass this to the sheriff there?”


She took it, opened it, and read it; chuckling she handed it to Sawyer.


Tex  read over Sawyer’s shoulder:  “To whom it may concern:  For services rendered to the territory, I hereby grant Hannibal Heyes and Jedidiah “Kid” Curry, a temporary amnesty in this territory for all prior actions.  During this time, no warrant for their arrest will be honored within the boundaries of this territory.  This amnesty shall remain in effect for one year from the date of this notice as long as they commit no new crimes.  Signed, C. Meyer Zulick, Governor of the Territory of Arizona.


Tex began laughing.


Heyes and the Kid grinned.  


“Told you my partner could read a man better than anyone.  We figured you’d try something like this, so we got ourselves some insurance,” Heyes explained.


Sawyer glared; then he too grinned.  “Can’t say I’m sorry to read this.”  His glare returned.  “But I still want you out of my town.”


“We’re leaving.”


Curry turned to Mel.  “Mel, if you want, we’ll ride with you to the border.  You shouldn’t travel alone if you don’t have to.”


“I’m staying here.”  Mel looked at Sawyer, a slight smile on her face; a smile he returned as he glanced down at her.  “I have unfinished business.”  Seeing the partners exchange amused glances, she blushed.  “Through the trial, I mean.”


“Uh huh.”  The Kid turned back to Tex.  “Good to see you, maybe we’ll meet again.”


“Not so fast.  Ride back with me to my place.  I have business to attend to there; it seems I need to find a new foreman.”


The three left the cabin, leaving Sawyer and Mel together.




Author’s notes:  Mel Duster was first encountered in “The Toadsuck Ransom,” and her further adventures with the boys can be read in “Buffalo Hunter.”  Tex Hollister was first encountered in “The Goodnight Trail.”  As with the boys, Sawyer is not mine, just borrowed, but can be seen in the first season episode, “The Wrong Train to Brimstone.”


Certain historical persons were referenced in this story.  Conrad Meyer Zulick was Governor of the Territory of Arizona from November 2, 1885 to April 8, 1889.  At the time of his appointment he was being held hostage in Mexico.  M. T. “Doc” Donovan freed him and was appointed the Deputy Territorial Marshal.  The story of how the boys came to know Zulick and Donovan (and their involvement in his rescue) was told in the third season episode, “The Strange Fate of Conrad Meyer Zulick.”    Washington Bartlett was the 20th mayor of San Francisco, serving from 1883 to 1887, when he became Governor of California.  He was a lifelong bachelor.  


This story was inspired by the real life disappearance of Albert Fountain and his son, Henry, in New Mexico Territory in 1896.  Their bodies have never been recovered, although there was forensic evidence indicating they’d been murdered.  Marshal Pat Garrett was persuaded to investigate the disappearance with the promise of a reward.  By coincidence, Fountain had been Billy-the-Kid’s attorney when the outlaw was tried and convicted of murder.  After Billy-the-Kid escaped from prison, it was Pat Garrett who tracked and killed him.  Rancher and land developer Oliver M. Lee (and part-time Deputy U.S. Marshal) and his employees, Jim Gililland and William McNew, were suspects in the disappearance.  Lee and Gililland were tried and acquitted.  To this day, the case of Fountain and his son remains unsolved (several books have been written about the mystery, most recently, “Murder on the White Sands:  The Disappearance of Albert and Henry Fountain” by Corey Recko).  Nevertheless, any resemblance between characters in this story and real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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PostSubject: Re: Old Friends/New Enemies   Old Friends/New Enemies EmptyMon Sep 08, 2014 2:25 pm

Riders - Great story.  It's got everything, mystery, wonderful characters, terrific plot, romance, and action.  The Kid is powerful and scary when he has to be and Heyes is smart.  Mel is a great opponent; clever, brave and dogged and then you topped it all off with the great historical notes.  You know I'm a sucker for those.  Loved it and will tell everyone it's a must read applause

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