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 Talk Of The Devil

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PostSubject: Talk Of The Devil   Sat Nov 01, 2014 10:12 am

Okay, it's November and time to pose you a new challenge.   This month it's Hunkeydrey's turn to choose and I think she's picked a real goodie.  This should get those creative juices flowing!  She's picked:
 


Devil    Talk of the Devil   Devil


Don't forget to finish commenting on last month's stories before you post a new challenge.   Writers are sensitive souls and comments are the only reward they get.


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PostSubject: Re: Talk Of The Devil   Sat Nov 01, 2014 6:58 pm

Okay, this one has been out there before but it has never been in a challenge, so I'm  putting it in for this month's challenge as I need to get on to some other writing I have to do on my Tibby story and on the one I am doing with Insideoutlaw.  You may get another if I can manage it.
Resolutions




31st December Cheyenne - 1885




Two figures trudged through the crunching Cheyenne snow, hunching into the turned-up collars defending them against the sinus-burning, bone-numbing, teeth-chattering cold.  




They walked away from the imposing house which cast trapezoids of light over the twinkling snow, dotted with the shadows of the party guests whose silhouetted forms raised glasses and danced in celebration of a New Year and a new start.  




A man with a tiny wife clutching at his arm raised a hand.  “Is the Governor’s mansion around here?”




“Yeah, Governor Warren?”  The fairer of the pair nodded with a grin.  “Talk of the devil.  We just came from there.”   


 
The dark man pointed the way with a gloved hand.  “Straight down there and up the long driveway on the left.”




The woman huddled into her husband. “Is it far?”




The men exchanged a questioning glance before the dark-haired man shrugged.  “Three hundred yards?”  




“Oh, Henry.  I told you it was too far to walk in this cold,” she dropped the arm and scowled.  “It’s alright for you.  I’m wearing a ball gown under this coat.  I’m freezing.”




“I was told it’s a ten minute walk.”




“I have a heel on these boots, Henry,” the woman’s eyes narrowed in irritation, “and I’m sure my hair is starting to frizz.  I’m not a cowhand.”




Dimples greeted a smile of sympathy as the two men tipped their brims and turned to continue on their way.  “Happy New Year to you both.”




“Happy New Year...” but the voice was already drifting behind them in the night air.




The pair soon found a saloon, heaving with unsteady, wild-eyed inebriates, who swung and sung in time to the rowdy ballads assaulting the eardrums.  The pair elbowed their way to a corner table and huddled over their drinks.




Heyes raised a glass.  “Happy New Year...” his face dimpled into a grin, “and a happy amnesty.”




The Kid dropped his head and chuckled.  “Yeah, happy amnesty.  This really is a new year, and a fresh start.  It kinda feels like there should be more fuss.”




Heyes shook his head.  “The last thing we want is fuss.”  He pulled out the document and examined it.  “Yup, amnesty, all fully signed and witnessed.”




“Yup, the governor was real busy.  That was genius of you to get him to pose for a photograph with us too.”




Heyes shook his head slowly.  “It’s gonna be real hard for him to deny giving us amnesty.  He signed it, his secretary witnessed it, and then he posed for a photograph.  Try telling anyone who arrests us now that we should go to jail for twenty years.”




“How are we gonna explain there bein’ no announcement in the newspapers?” the Kid asked.




Heyes tilted his head.  “Not our problem, Kid.  It’s up to him to deal with that, and we could argue that he didn’t want to draw attention to it for his own political reasons.  As far as he knows he signed the paperwork for the inauguration of the new library, and posed with some local worthies; it’s just that he signed another document slipped in amongst them.  We’ve been strung along for years.  It’s time we made new lives for ourselves, under new names.”  Heyes carefully folded the document and put it in his breast pocket.  “All he’ll know is that those criminals who’ve been bothering him for amnesty just gave up and went away.  I’m not doing another of his dodgy jobs for him.  It’s about time we put our energy into building our own futures, not looking after his dopey friends.”




Bright-blue eyes glistened in the light of the oil lamp.  “And this is our insurance in case we get caught?  He signed it, and it’s not our fault he didn’t get it all filed properly?  It’s better than nothin’, and maybe nobody’ll ever find us.  Hopefully, if they do, we’ll have a whole lot of respectable life behind us by that time to add to our case.  Like that philosopher fella said - few things are harder to put up with than a good example.  I sure hope this works.”      


They both drained their glasses.




“Look on the bright side, Kid, this sure beats some New Years’ Eves hollow. Remember the last winter with the gang…?”




oooOOOooo




Five Years Earlier




A scrawny, dead-behind-the-eyes saloon girl scuttled out of the building, the tawdry headdress and the gaudy outfit hanging from her rake-thin frame marking her out as either a professional escort or a gifted amateur.  The glowing light through the darkness told of her anxious draws at her cigarette.




Kid Curry stood in the shadows, his hand darting to his gun at the movement in the darkness beside him.  




“Hey, it’s me,” murmured a familiar voice.  




The partners stood in the shadows the sound of hooraying and whooping coming from the crowded bar.




“Quite a night, huh?”




Heyes shrugged.  “The boys are celebrating.  It is New Year.”  




“The barkeeper has a brother in Calvary.  You know the bank manager had a wife and four children.  They’re on their own now.”




“Some would say that he’s irresponsible leaving them like that.”  Heyes glanced up into the expansive darkness, supposedly examining the pinpricks of light working through the midnight velvet.  “Anyway, I thought barmen were supposed to listen to the drunks, not the other way around.”




“Well, some drunks are just plain borin’.  Take Kyle, for instance.  All he can talk about is his new lady friend,” the Kid paused, “despite the fact that the less money he’s, got the surlier she gets.  She doesn’t strike me as the loyal type.”  




“She should do, Kid.  She’s got the face of an angry bloodhound.  I guess appearances can be deceptive.” 




Gunshots rip into the night, the shouts and hollering indicating the start of a new year.




“We gotta get outta this business, Heyes.”




“Either that or we need to get a better gang.  If it rained soup, Wheat and Kyle would run outside with forks.  That damned bank manager... how did he manage to switch the bags at the last minute?”     




oooOOOooo




Five Years Earlier




Jed Curry stares at the – object - ten feet away, in the beer sodden sawdust.




The room was now silent, the chatter and hullabaloo forgotten, as were the last few remaining, scurrying moments of the year.




All eyes looked down at the head and wondered who he had been.  Did it matter?  He was now stone-cold and dead.




The crowd parted to make way for a grim faced sheriff.  “What’s been goin’ on here?”




The voices clamoured in an ever helpful cacophony:




“Howie was shootin’ his mouth off. “




“This fella, Jed, is it?  He moved like light’nin’.”




“It was a fair fight.”




“Howie shouted and reached, but the kid moved like a bat out of hell.  He never stood a chance.”




The saloon girl tugged on the sheriff’s arm.  “Jed told him to git, but Howie wouldn’t let it go.  He just kept on and on, until... I guess Howie thought his chances were good, the kid bein’ so much younger than him an’ all.  He just reached for it.”




The sheriff looked at the blood seeping into the saw dust and shook his head in anger.  “I don’t wanna see you in my town come sunup.  You got that, kid?  My town don’t need this sorta stupid violence in it.  And think hard on your New Years’ resolutions.  You just ain’t headin’ the right way to make a success ‘o your life.”




Jed wandered over to the poker table and scooped up his winnings, before bending and reaching out to touch the cold face.  “I’m sorry, Howie.  It’s only a bust of an ugly ol’ Roman.  The man who paid me to bring it to him swore blind it was his,” Jed looked over at his opponent, propped up against the bar, blood trickling from his mouth.  “When you reached for it, I just swung the sack.  I didn’t realise it was so heavy.  I hope I ain’t done too much damage.”  He bent and picked something up from the sawdust.  “Here, I think this is your tooth, at least, I hope it’s yours.”




He picked up the bust from the floor, dusting sawdust off the head before he headed for the door, clutching the prize and muttering under his breath.  “I gotta meet up with Heyes, and stop doin’ these stupid two-bit courier jobs.  It’ll take a real silver tongue to get me to do anythin’ like this again.  If I never lay my eyes on another old Roman bust it’ll be a hundred years too soon. ”




oooOOOooo
  


Five Years Earlier




Heyes strains forward, clutching at the bars.




“What’re ya doin’ 




“Go back to sleep.”




“I’m tryin’. But you’re climbin’ all over me, and you wouldn’t be my first choice for that, even if you are called 




Hannah,” he paused, admiring his own wit.  “I need three things to give me a good night’s sleep.   I guess you only need two, food and a comfortable bed.”




Hannibal shifted position and scraped at the lock again.  




“Do you want a broken jaw, boy?”  His companion muttered irritably under his breath.  




A pair of dark eyes flicked over to the man lying on the bunk.  “There’s no right answer to that.”




“What’re you doing boy!?”  The man dragged his blanket over his head and turned back to face the wall. 




“It’s New Year.  I can’t be locked up at New Year.”  The boy’s hand jerked before he stopped his face dimpling into a smile.  “Gottcha!”




The cell door swung open silently.  Heyes glanced over, but all he could see was a butt protruding from the blanket.




He crept out staring at the clock hands tick up to wards twelve.  “Midnight!  And I’m free to enjoy it,” he whispered under his breath.  “Happy New Year, Jed.  Where ever you are.”  




His dark eyes darted over to the window, and the huge, swirling feathers of snow.  His head then dropped down to his bare feet.  “I guess you’re not a prisoner if you choose to go back.  It’d be stupid to head off in this.”




He padded quietly back to his cell and closed the door behind him.  His companion started awake again at the clang of the cell door.  “For cryin’ out loud, boy.  Will ya leave that be and get to bed?  You’re driving me nuts.  It’s like tryin’ to sleep with a mosquito.”




The man rolled onto his back.  “Ya know, if you ever get any good at that lock pickin’, like you were sayin’, there’s some gangs out there who’d watch your back for ya.  I’m goin’ ta find ma brother, he runs with the Plummer gang.”




“A gang?  Me?  When I get outta here, I’m going straight.  A gang’s not gonna look after me.  A man called Silky offered me a job, and I’m goin’ to see him.  He’s dead keen to teach me all kinds of things, and at least he’ll appreciate me.  Even a mosquito gets a slap on the back when he starts working.”




oooOOOooo




Five Years Earlier




Heyes pulled back the curtain, staring out at the winter night, his breath clouding the cheap, flawed glass.  A pair of bleary blue eyes flickered open.  “Whatcha doin’, Han?”




“I’m waiting for the chimes.  You can hear the town clock if you listen real hard.  It’s New Year.”




Jed propped himself up on his thin little arms and propped a thin, lumpy pillow behind him to protect his bony back from the bedstead.  “What did Jenkins want to see ya for?” he asked.




Heyes gave a smile pregnant with secrets.  “He never found out.  ‘Tweren’t that.”




“What then?” the younger boy persisted.




The dark eyes became downcast.  “I get out soon.”




“How!?  They ain’t told me anythin’.”




Heyes thrust out his bottom lip.  “They got me a ‘prenticeship.”




“They have?  Doin’ what?”




“A cousin of his is a pharmacist.”




“A farm!” Jed exclaimed.  “That ain’t too bad.  Maybe they’ll have a place for me?”




Heyes shook his head.  “You’re too young.  They won’t take you yet, but that’s not the worst of it.  It’s in New York.”




“New York!” Jed blinked hopelessly.  “But that’s the other side of the world.”




Heyes nodded reluctantly.  “He says I’m his best student, the only one smart enough.”  He shrugged, “and that beggars can’t be choosers.  We are in a home for waywards, after all.”




“But we ain’t criminals, Han.”




“We ain’t exactly angels either, Jed.  Jenkins told me our reports get shown to folks we’ll get sent to.”




A single tear ran down Jed’s face.  He back handed it away, hoping that he could pass it off as something manly, like clearing snot.  “I’ll never see you again, Han.”




Heyes looked around surreptitiously.  “I got a plan...” 




“You have?”  




“I’m not going to New York.  I wanna be a locksmith like my pa.”         




They both smiled at the sound of distant chimes.  The boys hugged.  “Happy New Year,” whispered Heyes.  I got a plan if you’re interested?”




“Yeah!”




“They ain’t splittin’ us up.  We’re gonna run away.”




Jed’s eyes widened to great globes of curiosity.  “How?”




“I know where they keep the keys, and the cashbox.”




“Han!  We can’t.”




“We can, they’re the ones who called us waywards!  C’mon, I’ve made a resolution - if I’m gonna be a wayward, I’ll be the best one they ever had.”




oooOOOooo




Five Years Earlier




“What’re you two doin’ up,” demanded the dark dimpled man.




Two pairs of eyes, one set blue, the other dark, blinked back innocently.  “We heard ya talkin’, pa.  Why’re ya up so late?”




“It’s New Year’s eve, Han,” the fair man replied.




“What’s whiskey taste like, pa?” asked Jed.




“Have a sip – you tell me.”




Jed tentatively allowed the amber liquid to tip down towards his mouth.  “BLEEUACH!”




“What’s it like?” demanded Hannibal excitedly.  He supped at the glass, his face puckering to a lemon-sucking gurn. 




“Don’t you like it?”  The two fathers exchanged a glance of amusement at the pair of young heads rattling from side to side.




Hannibal sniffed at his father’s pipe before wrinkling his nose with distaste.  “What else do you do at New Year, Pa?” 




“When it’s midnight we give your mothers a good kiss and then we have a drink or two to celebrate,” Hannibal’s father replied.




Both boys shared dark looks, indicating that this was not going to be a contender to oust Christmas from their memorable annual events.




“We make resolutions too,” Jed’s father added.




“What’s a revolution?” queried Jed.




“Resolution, Jed,” the blond man replied.  “The word is resolution.  It’s when we decide what we’re goin’ to do in the year ahead.”




Hannibal nodded sagely.  “What’s yours, pa?”




“I’m gonna keep my family safe from these border wars, Hannibal.”




Mr. Curry ran his hand through his son’s tousled head.  “It doesn’t have to just be the year ahead.  It could be about what you want to do when you grow up.”




“Oh, that’s easy,” Hannibal declared.  “When I grow up I ain’t gonna drink whiskey or smoke.  They’re horrible!”




“And girls,” squeaked little Jed.  “Don’t forget kissin’ girls.  That’s just nasty!”




Both men sat back on their chairs and chuckled.  “So you two ain’t gonna drink, smoke or kiss girls?”




The little heads nodded in unison.  “Yup.”




Mr. Heyes shook his head.  “In that case you too are probably gonna be complete angels, or you’re just practicin’ at being fantastic liars.”     




“We’re not liars, pa!” Hannibal protested.




“Nah, you’re just normal kids – and maybe you’re gonna be a whole lot like your folks.”  Hannibal’s father sat back on his chair and patted his knee to invite his son to join him.  “As Grandpa Curry would say, a wild goose never reared a tame gosling, but whatever you become, I’m sure you’ll be the best at it.” 




Mr. Curry raised a hand. “…Four, three, two, ONE!”




“Happy New Year!” The fathers’ glasses clink. 




“Happy New Year, Jed!”




“Happy New Year, Han!”             
 
 
                    

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

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PostSubject: Re: Talk Of The Devil   Sat Nov 15, 2014 3:53 pm

“I’ll see you and raise you two bits,” said Hannibal Heyes, reaching across the scarred, wooden table and tossing a few coins into the paltry ante.  The clatter of glasses sounded in the background cutting through the smoky atmosphere of the crowded saloon.


“Fold,” said Kid Curry, sitting to Heyes’ right.  He put his cards down and leaned back in his chair to watch the hand play out.


“I’m done,” said the red-haired man in the worn dark suit.  “I’ve got customers to see.”  This last caused a soft, uncomfortable chuckle from the fourth player, a young cowboy.  The red-haired man was the town’s undertaker; he stood up, tipped his hat, and drifted out of the building.


“I’ll see that two bits and raise a dollar,” said the cowboy clutching his cards as though they were his only lifeline.  He was scowling at Heyes and ignoring Curry’s benign stare.


“Call,” said Heyes.  He kicked his partner’s foot under the table and nodded surreptitiously towards the swinging saloon doors where a big, gray-haired, grizzled man had just entered as the undertaker left.  Pinned to the man’s chest was a tarnished gold star.  Heyes watched as the man crossed to the bar and started a conversation with another man standing there.  Relieved, his attention returned to the game.  


“I got me a straight,” said the youngster, grinning from ear to ear and laying his cards on the table.  He’d just doubled a month’s pay and he was already dreaming of spending it upstairs with one of the calico queens.


Heyes smiled blandly at the boy.  “Full house, jacks and eights.”  He put his cards down knowing what was likely to come next.  Cowboys were mostly bad poker players and sore losers.


“$#&!!” roared the young man, jumping to his feet and upsetting the table.  Curry rose at the same time, his right hand suspended next to his holster; his cold, blue eyes locked on the cowboy.  The boy glared at Heyes with undisguised anger and reached for his gun, but a hand snaked out and clamped down on his wrist, wrenching his arm behind his back.  With practiced ease, the big sheriff deftly handcuffed the boy.


Curry settled his Colt back into its holster and dropped his hand to his side.  No one, except for Heyes’, had seen him start to draw.  All eyes were on the sheriff.


“Eddie, I told you ‘bout startin’ another fight in my town,” said the sheriff.  “Walt, come take Eddie to the lockup.  We’re gonna give 'im a coupla days to cool his heels.”  


The man at the bar came over and seized Eddie by his arm.  "Sure thing, Cord," he said, dragging the young cowboy from the saloon.  Warm blue eyes and a tin star turned to the two ex-outlaws.


Heyes and the Kid gave each other a quick glance and then smiled ingratiatingly at the bigger man before them.   “Cord?  You wouldn’t be Cord Gifford by any chance?” asked Heyes, keeping his voice friendly while his heart froze in his chest.  


“I am and who would you two be?”


“I’m Joshua Smith and this here’s my partner, Thaddeus.”  Heyes deliberately left off the last part of the Kid’s alias.  Smith and Jones in one sentence was a tip off to any lawman with a few brain cells and Cord Gifford was known to have more than a few.  He was also known as the former sheriff of Bradford Junction, Colorado, where the Devil’s Hole gang had robbed the local bank back in ’77.  


Fortunately, the two ex-outlaws had never laid eyes on this particular lawman as it had been an extremely successful night job.  Heyes had manipulated the safe in record time and the gang had been in and out of town before anyone had known they were there.


“So, Joshua and Thaddeus, what brings you to Rustic?”  Gifford pulled out a chair and settled himself in it, eyeing the tied-down gun on the Kid’s hip. 


Heyes was all smiles and congeniality.  Curry less so.   He tried to force a smile on his face, but settled for a neutral expression.  It was the best he could do.  He reluctantly sat back down at the table.


“We’re just passing through, Sheriff,” said Heyes.  “We ran some cattle down here for Jim Beck up in Tie Siding and now we’re just resting a spell before looking for work.”


“You two don’t look like cowboys,” said Gifford, pointedly.  


“We don’t cowboy much if we can help it,” admitted Curry.


Gifford leaned back in his chair and smiled at them.  “So what is it you usually do to put grub on the table?”


“Anything that’s not too hard on the back.”  Heyes laughed, and beckoned the bar girl over.  “Whiskey, Sheriff?”  He’d noticed the finely broken blood vessels decorating the man’s nose, a sure sign of a long familiarity with cheap tongue oil.


Taking off his hat and hooking it on the ladder-backed chair, Gifford smiled and licked his lips, “Sure, if’n you’re buyin’, I’m drinkin’.” 


A couple of drinks later, the tension had bled out of all three men and they were now on a first name basis.  Heyes found himself enjoying the sheriff’s company.  The man was smart, friendly, and told some wild yarns.  Swapping tall tales was Heyes’ specialty and he’d warmed to the task an hour ago, thoroughly charming his new-found friend.   Even the Kid was grinning by now.  If the sheriff had recognized them, they would already be in jail.  But the man’s next question put the fear back in Heyes’ soul.


“So, how’d you boys know who I was?  Hell, Bradford Junction was just a wide speck in the road in those days,” asked Cord.


“We passed there once on the stage,” said Heyes.


“When?”  The smile fled Cord’s face and he scowled, taking a big slug of his third whiskey.


“I think it was ’78, might’ve been earlier or later.  Why?” Heyes sipped his drink.  He was still nursing his second, being careful not to cloud his own judgment.


“If’n you was through there in ’78, I guess you’d know why,” growled Cord.


“Cord, if I said something to offend you, I’m real sorry.”  Heyes reached out and put a reassuring hand on the man’s shoulder.  He had no idea what had irritated the man.  


The sheriff looked at him speculatively but saw only earnestness in the brown eyes that stared back at him.  He relaxed.  “Aw, hell, you might as well know, half the folks in these parts do.  I was fired in ’77 right after the Devil’s Hole gang wiped out the bank.  Townfolks blamed me for not stoppin’ them.”


“That don’t seem fair.  From the way I hear it, those boys could steal the bible from a preacher’s hand on a Sunday morning.” Heyes tossed back the remainder of his drink and signaled the barmaid to bring another round; he was going to need it.  The Kid nearly choked on his own drink, but hid it well.   


“It weren’t fair, but that didn’t matter none to them,” said Cord bitterly. “You see, my wife was havin’ a baby at the time and I was pacin’ the floor when those varmints pulled that job.”  


“So how come you got the boot?” asked the Kid.


“The deputy I picked fell asleep on the job; didn’t make his rounds that night.  Guess I was lucky in hindsight; he got tarred for his part in it.”


The barmaid set three more whiskeys on the table and tucked the bill Heyes handed her into her bodice.  She took the empties and smiled seductively at the Kid as she left.  Heyes handed around the filled glasses.  “Nice town.”  


“It was a nice town, but losin’ everythin’ don’t set well with hardworkin’ folks and they needed someone to blame.  They chose me.”  Cord lapped his whiskey and smiled ruefully.  “Slick as grease it was.  No one even knew we’d been robbed ‘til day broke, but then it was plain who’d done it.  Only Heyes could’ve opened that safe without blowin’ it.  Anyway, by the time I knew who to look for those longriders were across the border and headed for home.  They sure threw a spoke in my wheel, though.  Lost my job and our home the same day I became a daddy.  Had trouble findin’ work after that,” he shrugged.  “Weren’t long before the wife left me and took the baby.  Can’t say as I blame her; I weren’t much company back then. See, I was obsessed with running those owl hoots, Heyes and Curry, to ground.  It was all I could talk or think about.  I dragged my family from town to town on the promise of lookin’ for work, but I was really lookin’ for them.  I couldn’t let it go, not even for her, and she knew it.  We used to fight something terrible.  I took to the drink ‘round then and that was the final nail in my coffin.  Came home one evening and they was gone with nary a fare-thee-well.  Now it’s bottled courage that keeps me warm at night.”   


Heyes cleared his throat.  Years ago, he wouldn’t have given a thought to the consequences of his actions, but now he understood what it meant to scrape out a living and to go hungry when you didn’t have two thin dimes to rub together.  How could they have been so stupid as to think they’d never harmed anyone?  Just because they didn’t resort to violence didn’t mean no one was hurt.  


While Heyes felt a momentary flush of shame for the havoc he’d wrought in this man’s life, at the same time he needed to steer the conversation onto safer soil.  “I heard those two gave up outlawing a while back.  No one’s seen nor heard from them in a long time.  That true?”


“Don’t know.  I quit lookin’.  Doggin’ those two took every damned thing worth livin’ for from me.”


“You gave up?”  Heyes ignored the poke in the ribs his partner gave him.


“Had to; but it was for the best, I never did have much to go on.  The wanted posters on those two weren’t worth the paper they was printed on.  Word is, Heyes and Curry quit the gang and dropped out of sight; probably moved onto greener pastures is all.  Maybe changed their names.  Wouldn’t be too hard to disappear in these parts.”


Curry squirmed in his chair, uncomfortable with how close to home Cord was coming.  


“I can tell you one thing, if I run across those two there’s gonna be hell to pay.”  


“I believe you,” said Heyes softly.


“Joshua, shouldn’t we be goin’?  If we’re gonna make it to Fort Collins tomorrow, we’ll have to hit the trail early.”  The Kid wanted out of there: now.


“Right,” said Heyes, standing up and holding out his hand to the sheriff.  “Good luck to you, Cord.”  


The sheriff took the ex-outlaw leader’s smaller paw, shaking it enthusiastically.  “Pleasure meetin’ you boys; stop by the next time you’re in town.”  He’d enjoyed their company and was sorry to see the evening end.  His drinking companions left and he finished his drink slowly, savoring every burning sip for the pain it obscured in his heart.  


OOOOOOOOOO


“Heyes?”


“Hmmm?”  The partners had hurried out of town as quickly as possible without speaking a word; both of them lost in their own thoughts.


“How many more folks do you think we hurt outlawin’?”


Heyes didn’t know how to reply to that.  He knew damned well they’d hurt a lot. He rode along silently for several minutes before saying, “I can’t tell you how many; too many to count.”


“We don’t really deserve amnesty, do we?  Maybe that’s why we ain’t got it yet.”


“Maybe we’ll never get it, but we’re not going to give up.”


“Maybe we should.  Maybe we oughta disappear like Cord said.  Nobody’d miss us.”


Heyes pulled his horse up, turning toward his best friend.  “No, we ain't gonna up and leave.  We’re seeing this through.”


“Why?”


“Because we can't change what we’ve done; we can only change what we’re gonna do from here on out.  The amnesty will give us a chance to be better men.”


“And if we don’t get it?”


“Then Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones keep on helping folks as best they can.  It’s the least we can do.”


The Kid nodded his agreement and the two riders resumed their journey.

_________________
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“The purpose of life isn’t to arrive at death in perfect condition but to slide into it sideways with your hair mussed, your clothes disheveled, a martini in one hand and chocolate in the other, shouting ‘Whooeee, what a ride!’”--Hunter S. Thompson


Last edited by InsideOutlaw on Sun Nov 30, 2014 8:13 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Talk Of The Devil   Sun Nov 16, 2014 7:36 pm

Heyes looked down at the steaming serving of oysters that Harold had just placed in front of him. They looked innocent enough and the aroma was pleasing but still he hesitated. Miranda smiled over at him as she cut one of her oysters in half and delicately placed it in her mouth. Her eyes instantly widen as she chewed and sucked in air to cool the morsel. She forgot all about table etiquette as she sent a sparkling smile over to the master of the house.


“These are delicious!” she stated through the mouthful. “I've never had oysters prepared this way. Oh Hannibal you must try them.”


Heyes followed his wife's example and cutting one in half tentatively placed it in his mouth. Chewing cautiously he finally allowed his expression to soften and he nodded in appreciation.


“These are good,” he admitted. “Too bad we can't get them in Colorado.”


“Ya, that would be a mite awkward,” Silky agreed. “but you'd have ta take my chief with ya cause nobody does a baked oyster dish like Franco. Anybody else an' it'd just be a...a disappointment.”


“I believe you are quite right about that,” Randa agreed. “I've never had them like this before. They're wonderful. My compliments to Franco.”


The oyster appetizer was quickly dispensed with and the main meal of duck a l'orange along with root vegetables and wild rice took over the table.


“Yer husband was into banks and railroads, ya' say?” Silky picked up the conversation where they had left it in the sitting room.


“Yes,” Miranda confirmed.


“And he came to San Francisco on a regular basis?”


“Yes, quite regularly.”


“You were never interested in what the banks and railroads were doing Silky.”


“Keep outa this Heyes,” Silky snapped at him. “I was speaking with your wife.”


Heyes' brows went up in hurt surprise. He glanced at his wife and Randa sent him a nervous smile. She didn't mind speaking with Silky but she didn't want to insult her husband by doing so.


“Perhaps we should wait for...” Miranda began but was cut off.


“No, that's fine,” Heyes assured her. “You two go ahead.” He went back to assaulting his duck.


Miranda didn't like the look of this. She knew Hannibal was getting irritated but Silky diverted her attention once again.


“Ah, don't worry about him,” Silky dismissed Heyes' mood and kept his attention on the more enjoyable vision. “Why don't you have some wine? A glass or two of a nice Pinot shouldn't cause you any distress.”


“Excuse me?” Now it was Miranda's turn to be surprised.


“Hee hee hee!” Silky cackled with delight. “You don't think an old geezer like me can tell when a lady is in the family way?”


“Oh.”


“Silky, you're embarrassing her,” Heyes complained.


“Oh I am not!” Silky denied. “She's a twice married lady! What's she got to be embarrassed about?”


“It's hardly proper to...”


“Since when do you care about what's proper?”


“Oh Hannibal, it's alright.” Miranda put a placating hand on his knee, her eyes dancing with mischief. “I'm not embarrassed. I'm overjoyed. And yes, Mr. O'Sullivan I will have a glass of wine.”


“Good! Harold!”


The wine arrived and everyone at the table then had a glass in front of them. Silky raised his and though they had to stretch to touch the glasses together, he still made a toast.


“To the new young'un,” he said. “I hope he don't give ya' the same grief his pa gave me.”


Heyes sighed in surrender. He smiled at the toast and clasped Miranda's hand where it still rested on his knee. She smiled over at him as she took her first sip.


“Hee hee!” Silky clapped his hands. “Young lovers! Never thought I would see the day when a young, intelligent lady would be willing to put up with your bullheadedness.”


Heyes' smile grew. “She is one of a kind, isn't she?” he agreed.


“Yes siree, she sure is,” Silky agreed. “just the kind of lady to appreciate the sapphire necklace I put aside for her. I didn't give it to ya' earlier cause I wasn't sure if it would fit. A fine set of jewels like that need to be partnered up with the right lady and I couldn't be sure until I met ya'. But you'll do, yes siree. You'll do just fine.”


“Oh now Silky, there's really no need...”


“A course there is!” Silky insisted. “I gave the Kid's new wife a necklace, a course I'm gonna do the same fer yours. Ahh, Beth is a pretty little thing but she's young and hasn't developed her own style yet. Presenting her with a necklace was easy. But a more mature lady such as yourself, well you already know who you are. The jewels have to fit the lady.”


As if on cue Harold showed up carrying a small oblong box which he set down on the table in front of Miranda. She was truly taken aback by this generous gift. She was hardly aware of the men in the room as she opened the box and admired the beautiful stones.


“Oh my!” she exclaimed. “They're beautiful! But I have nothing to wear them with. The dress I brought with me for the concert tomorrow is blue but I would so love to wear these!”


“Ah, fiddlesticks!” Silky fluffed it off. “You go to the shops tomorrow and get yourself a gown that will do. One of my housekeepers can go with you. Melissa may be from the wrong side of the wharf but she knows a thing or two about ladies fashion I can tell you!”


“But that is too generous!” Miranda insisted. “You've already bought us the tickets and now this lovely necklace. You really shouldn't...”


“He can afford it Miranda,” Heyes commented as he began to rise from his chair. “Here, let me help you put them on....”


“You just sit right back down there!” Silky ordered him as he himself got up to do the honours. “I'm the one givin' her the necklace so I get the privilege!”


Heyes settled back into his chair trying hard not to feel irritated. As the old man clasped the necklace around Miranda's neck he allowed his gnarly hand to caress the delicate neck and shoulder and though Miranda was too excited by the lovely gift to really notice, her husband felt a rise of protective jealously assault him. He pushed the feeling down, knowing that Silky was just needling him and by the time Miranda turned laughing eyes to her husband again, his countenance was one of pleased acceptance.


The meal continued with happy conversation that focused more on the business end of Heyes' life now. No more talk of prison or of past mistakes but of the present and of course the future. Growing families and a new detective agency tickled Silky's fancy.  He wanted to know all the details of Heyes and the Kid's latest exploits both at home and abroad. The fact that Heyes and the Kid had both risked their lives over a silly horse amused the old man no end.


Brandy and more wine were taken as all retired to the smoking room for the evening, though no one smoked in consideration of Miranda's condition. She smiled appreciation for that gesture, knowing what cigar smoke would probably do to her stomach at this point.


Upon entering the subdued room with the plush carpeting and comfortable arm chairs the two gentlemen prepared to settle themselves in and relax, but politely waited for the lady to be seated first. Miranda had instantly been seduced by the beautiful, star sparkled view of the bay that the large back window afforded them from their idyllic location.


“Oh, look at that,” she breathed as she gazed out at the night sky and the shimmering water. “That is a sight I have not seen before.”


Hannibal came up and slipped an arm around his wife's waist and looked out upon the view with her. He smiled in memory of days long ago when he was in this same room and saw this same view but was too young and too full of himself to appreciated the magnificence of it.


“It is lovely, isn't it?” he whispered.


“Yes,” Miranda agreed as she leaned against him. “William spoke of views like this when he visited the homes of his business partners, but I never had the chance to see them.”


“You won't find too many more views like that,” Silky crowed. “I've got the best one in town.”


Heyes snorted. Trust Silky to blow his own horn whenever he could.


Miranda looked around at their host in some confusion


“Really?” she queried. “But this seems very much like what William described to me. He made me so jealous and yet he refused to let me come with him.”


“And rightly so!” Silky insisted. “No women allowed at our meetings either. Business matters are a man's territory.”


Now Heyes turned and looked at his ex-mentor.


“What do you mean, business meetings?” he asked. “All your meetings were with fellow confidence players. You never knew any legitimate business men.”


“Of course I did!” Silky was incensed. “How do you think I kept up a convincing cover? I couldn't just be making money running cons or the authorities would have been suspicious. I had to have legitimate business dealings just to cover my more lucrative activities.”


“You never told me that!” Heyes complained.


“Well ya' didn't stick around long enough, did ya'?” Silky snarked. “There was a lot more to this business that you were just too damned impatient to learn, and look where it got ya'! You could'a been livin' like this Heyes, you could'a had everything and ya' threw it all away. Leader of the Devil's Ass Gang! Like that was somethin' ta' be proud of!”


“Devil's Hole Gang,” Heyes sniffed.


“Same difference!” Silky snapped. “Still had ya' livin' in the dirt with the lowest class of criminals that God put on this earth. I was offerin' ya' the best....”


“Could we please not do this again?” Miranda asked. “I would much rather hear about these business meetings and just who it was that attended them.”


“You're quite right,” Silky's tone softened. “Enough of this. Water under the bridge, even if ya' did make the biggest mistake of yer life.”


Heyes felt a retort coming again, but Silky quickly moved in and sneaking Miranda out of her husband's grasp, led her over to the comfortable sofa and sat down with her to continue enjoying their after dinner drinks. Heyes sighed deeply and moved over to settle into an armchair while he awaited the onslaught of yet another contrary conversation. Kid never mentioned Silky being this ornery when he and Beth had come to visit.


“There must be other homes in the area with this kind of view,” Miranda continued. “William described it quite accurately and what you have here easily fits.”


Silky was dubious. “Well, could be. I expect your husband was far too young to be at any meetings here. I only deal with the more experienced investors.”


“Miranda's husband was much older than she is,” Heyes put in, then instantly regretted the remark when he saw both people across from him brighten up as the idea struck them simultaneously.


“Really?” was Silky's squeaky response. “Well....what was his name?”


“William Thorton,” Miranda informed him.


Silky's eyes lit up even more and he began to cackle.


“Ole Bill Thorton!? Hee hee hee! Is that a fact?”


Miranda smiled uncertainly and met her husband's gaze. Heyes' jaw was tight in irritation and Miranda frowned slightly as she wondered why he was behaving so defensively. She turned her attention back to her host.


“You knew him?” she asked, almost not believing what was now becoming obvious.


“I'll say I knew him!” Silky agreed. “Shrewdest damn investor I ever worked with. Hee hee hee! He helped to fund more than one of our little escapades. Helped to give me the retirement I enjoy today!”


“You mean he was involved with...?” Miranda was thunderstruck. “No, I can't believe that William ever did anything underhanded. He was very adamant about staying above reproach. He would never...”


“That's what made him perfect!” Silky informed her. “He was so honest that no one ever suspected that anyone associated with him could be a flim flam. Ahh, old Bill Thorton. He sure knew his stuff. I remember him telling me he had married a woman much younger than himself. Daughter of a long time friend he said. Yup. We teased him about it no end. Confirmed bachelor we thought and then he up and robs the cradle!”


Heyes was feeling threatened now as well as irritated.


“You mean Miranda's husband was here during the time that Kid and I...”


“No no!” Silky waved off the concern. “He was after you two jumped ship. You never met him.”


“Well that's some relief at least.” Heyes grumbled but Silky didn't hear him, or didn't care.


“I was saddened when we got word of his passing,” Silky admitted. “Hadn't seen him for a couple of years as I was retired by that time but we sure did have some interesting discussions together.”


“Really?” Miranda was animated now, both her hands holding onto Silky's arm, imploring him for more details. “What did you talk about? Did he ever talk about me? Was he really a good investor?”


Silky grinned, pleased with the feminine attention and he easily warmed to the topic.


“He was one of the best I'd ever worked with,” Silky complimented. “Sly. He knew just when to jump in and jump out and he was no man's fool, no siree. I'm sure he left you well heeled, my dear.”


“Well....yes.”


“Lucky for you Heyes!” Silky continued. “Always landing on your feet, ain't ya'?”


“That wasn't what....”


“Oh please, tell me more!” Miranda pleaded. “I know so little about that side of him.”


“The only fault I found in Billy Thorton is that he was too honest,” Silky continued. “but I suppose nobody's perfect. He was smart enough but I never even hinted that he join the other side of my business because I knew he wouldn't have gone for it. Probably would have lost him as a friend too.”


“Imagine that,” Heyes grumbled.


“He sure was proud of you though,” Silky continued in his conversation with Miranda. “Hee, hee, always talkin' about his young, pretty wife. Yes siree! We indulged him, yes sir. A man his age getting a young thing to marry him for more than his money—well he has a right to be proud. We kinda chuckled amongst ourselves though, convinced that she couldn't possibly be as pretty as he was lettin' on. But now that I see ya', well he sure weren't exaggeratin'. No sir.”


Miranda was smiling in her bliss.


“He was proud of me?” she asked. “He was such a sweet man. I still miss him terribly.”


“Sweet!?” Silky cackled again. “Well I suppose he was sweet to some. He sure weren't sweet when it come to business though. He was one shrewd wheeler and dealer. You probably could'a learned a thing or two from him Heyes.”


Heyes sent the older man a pointed look but his mood was being ignored.


“How often was he here?” Miranda continued to query. “I know I came with him a number of times, but he did occasionally come on his own. I was always so envious of him coming to San Francisco without me, I always had so much fun here.”


“Oh well, let me see,” Silky pondered. “I suppose we had meetings twice a year with the proven business men. Your husband I think came here about six times.”


“I'm her husband,” Heyes pointed out. “and I don't remember you holding business meetings here. Where were we when this was going on.”


“You think serious investors want to talk business with a bunch of snot nosed little kids running around?” Silky responded. “I always made sure you boys were off running some numbers or something. Kept ya' outa the way.”


“Oh, no wonder I never met him.”


“I already told ya' he was after yer time!” Silky was losing his patience. “What's with you tonight Heyes? Yer actin' as ornery as a cow that's all blocked up.”


Heyes sighed and tried to bring his irritation back down again.


“I donno,” he admitted. “I think I'm just tired. It's been a long day.”


“It's only 10:00!” Silky complained.


“No, Hannibal is right,” Miranda put in. “It is late for us. We should probably retire for the night.”


“Oh well alright. If you say so,” Silky reluctantly accepted that. “I'll have Harold show ya up to yer room then.”


“Thank you,” Miranda responded politely and came to her feet.


The two gentlemen quickly rose with her and the evening of visiting came to a close.
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PostSubject: Re: Talk Of The Devil   Sun Nov 16, 2014 8:28 pm

Okay, I know I'm not suppose to post more than one challenge per topic but I couldn't decide which one to go with so here you are.  I'm not normally a rule-breaker, but hey we all gotta walk on the wild side once in a while.



  The late winter sun was making the streets slushy by the time mid-afternoon rolled around. It was one of those days that looked as though it could have been a nice warm spring day but actually wasn't. There was still the chill of winter hanging from the roof tops and dripping from the leafless tree branches. It was cold; it was still winter.

  The cousins were being very cautious as they tucked in along the outside planking of the abandoned warehouse. They were both leaning back against the boards, their heavy breathing making itself apparent in the cold damp air. Despite their jackets they were both shivering slightly, their noses sniffling with the chill.

  The broken down door into the warehouse stood gaping between them and Jed risked a subtle lean over to take a peak inside. Nothing. All was quiet. Heyes continued to lean back against the building, as he broke open his Schofield and checked the chamber one more time.


  “What do ya' think?” Jed asked quietly. “That was him heading in here, wasn't it?”


  “Can't think who else it would have been,” was Heyes' logical response. “There's nobody else around and we were following him.”


  “Yeah.”  Jed leaned back himself and though he knew exactly how many bullets he had in his Colt, he also broke it open and checked the chamber. “How do ya' want to do this?” he asked as he snapped his gun back together and held it at the ready.


  Heyes thought about it for a moment, then with a deep breath he too swung around and took a quick look through the open doorway. Just as quickly he came back around again and leaned against the building for cover. It was just out of habit really, because if Mitchell knew they were there, bullets would not have had any problems coming through the debilitated wood of this large structure. Still, no shots came and our boys continued to breathe.


  “Well,” Heyes surmised. “there's a lot of places in there he could hide.”


  “Uh hmm.”


  “But we can't just stand here and let him get away now.” Heyes swallowed, his throat suddenly tight. “Not after what he's just done.”


  “Uh hmm.”


  Heyes took another deep breath. “Okay,” he finally decided. “I think we should rush in, real fast and then I'll go to the right and you go to the left. There's plenty of cover in there and he won't have time to get a shot off before we can get behind something.”


  “I donno Heyes,” Jed sounded skeptical. “Things don't usually go too well when we split up.”


  “Well, yeah,” Heyes tentatively agreed. “But we're not really splitting up Kid. We're just going in two different directions.”


  “Right,” Kid responded with a look and sounded even more skeptical. “Besides, how do you know he ain't just inside there and waitin' for us to show ourselves in this doorway?”


  “Well we've both taken a look in there and didn't draw any fire,” Heyes reasoned. “I bet he's already making his way towards the back of this warehouse so he can sneak out the other way.”


  “You willing to bet our lives on that Heyes?”


  “I'm willing to bet my life on the fact that Mitchell's a coward,” Heyes told him. “There's no way he's going to stick around for a face to face showdown with the two of us and no guards around to protect him.”


  “Yeah...” Kid continued to be skeptical.


  “C'mon Kid,” Heyes grinned, oozing charismatic persuasion. “we'll catch him in the classic pincher movement—get him trapped in a cross fire.”


  “If he's still in the building.”


  “Well yeah. If he's still in the building,” Heyes nodded agreement and then shrugged. “C'mon, let's GO!”


  The two men made a simultaneous rush through the open doorway and, as suggested, instantly split up and dived for cover behind items of structural decay. They both hit the ground, sending up bellows of dust and wood chips and then lay silently in amongst the cobwebs, waiting for any sound that would indicate company.

  All was quiet, except for the numerous birds who had been irritably flapped from their roosting perches high up by the ceiling. They all noisily took to wing and squawked their indignation to the two men below them who for some unfathomable reason had decided to invade their domain. Yowling and the scrambling of feline claws on wood also let the boys know that they were not welcome.

  Finally the dust settled, the birds returned to their roosts and the cat had disappeared into a secluded corner to lash its tail and silently seethe over its hunting being so disturbed. Kid wiped cob webs off his face and glanced back to where his partner was also brushing off his jacket.  Heyes then took a cautionary peek around the dusty two x four that was acting as part of his cover. He glanced over at the Kid and their eyes locked.

  Jed silently asked the question. Heyes shrugged. Nothing appeared to be happening. Finally Heyes motioned for the Kid to move on around that side of the interior and Heyes would do the same on his side. Jed nodded though he wasn't feeling too happy about this. Heyes just rolled his eyes. Geesh!

  Heyes got to his feet, but still keeping bent over and low, he carefully made his way along the wall, keeping to cover whenever he could and having his Schofield up and handy just in case. He moved silently—like a cat, keeping to the dusty shadows, stopping and listening every few steps and hearing nothing.

  He came to another open doorway and stopped, listening for any sound of movement from inside the room. Everything was quiet; he couldn't even hear the Kid on the other side of the open warehouse. There wasn't a sound; nothing was moving. Finally he was approaching the back of the enclosure and though he was beginning to feel that they had lost their quarry he still moved cautiously, peering into every nook and cranny and checking out every musty, dusty room.

  He gave a deep sigh and began to look for the Kid when he heard a barely audible scuffling coming from behind him. He didn't even have time to turn when he felt a heavy weight hit his back and send him face first into the cobweb covered boards of the wall. A cloud of dust puffed up, nearly choking him and his Schofield went thumping down into the inch deep layer of detritus that cluttered the floor.

  Heyes felt a moment of panic and he tried to push back but whoever had hold of him pulled him away from the wall and then shoved him hard into it again. Heyes gasped as the wind was knocked out of him and this time he did cough from the dust uprising coupled with the irritation caused by the earlier smoke. The weight pressed against him even more and Heyes felt hot breath against his neck and fear took hold of him as he realized that he was truly pinned and once again at the mercy of whoever was holding him.


  Then a shiver shot down his spin as an oh so familiar voice rumbled in his ear. “Prison sure didn't do you any favours Heyes,” Morrison sneered, his voice heavy with contempt. “Even with a bullet in my lung you're still no match for me.”


  Heyes struggled against the hold even though he knew he had no chance of breaking it. “What the hell do you want, Morrison?” Heyes gasped out while trying to avoid breathing in the dust. “You got nothing on me now—you have no right to hold me against....”


  Heyes' protest was cut short by the marshal once again pulling him away from the wall and slamming him into it again. Heyes groaned and struggled to get air into his already hurting lungs and then coughing with the dust that was drawn in with it. He felt Morrison shift, heard the hammer of his gun clicking back and then felt the cold steel press into the back of his skull.


  “I've got every right Heyes,” Morrison contradicted him. “I'm an officer of the law and you're a parolee who is supposed to have restrictions on his movements. So what are you doing in here all on your lonesome, looking like you're up to no good?”


  “He ain't quite all on his lonesome Marshal!”


  Heyes felt a surge of relief but in the same instant also felt himself being swung around, an arm encasing his throat and the muzzle of that gun pressed against his temple. Through the dim, dusty air of the warehouse he saw his partner standing no more than ten feet from them, his gun drawn and pointed directly at the marshal.


  “Let him go, Morrison.” Kid was presenting himself at his most dangerous.


  “Well, what do ya' know,” Morrison was practically snickering. “the little kid himself.”


  “Let him go,” Jed repeated, his aim sure and steady. “I can take you out where you stand, and you know I won't miss.”


  “Oh, I'm sure you won't,” Morrison agreed. “but I strongly suggest you re-think your position. You can shoot me dead, right here and now but you ask your partner here if I haven't already got this trigger half way pulled. It wouldn't take much—no sir, not much at all for my finger to jerk the rest of the way and guess who's brains would be splattered all over this warehouse floor? You know I won't back down, so you better think real careful about what you want to do here.”


  Heyes saw his partner swallow; the first sign of indecision. Heyes didn't mind at this point, in fact he was almost relieved. Morrison had him tight around the throat and he could feel the muzzle of that hand gun pressing into his temple. This was not good; he felt like the prize turkey stuck between the hungry coyote and the dedicated cattle dog; no matter which one of them won the fight, there was going to be feathers flying.

  Between tight gasps for air, Heyes sought out and caught his partner's gaze; and indeed, those blue eyes had turned to ice and Heyes felt the chill go through him. He knew when his cousin had reached this level of intensity it was almost impossible to get him to back off but Heyes also knew that this was a no win situation and the gunman had to back off—he had to. Heyes tried with all his might to convey that message through his eyes; through his gaze, through that silent communication they shared.

  Morrison wasn't joking; that trigger was half cocked and ready to go. The slightest twitch would pull it the rest of the way and Heyes knew he would be dead if Jed fired his gun. But even that didn't scare him as much as what he was picking up from the man who held him so securely. Morrison wasn't even shaking; there wasn't a tremble coming from him. He was staring back into those hard blue eyes and he did not feel fear; he did not back down.
Heyes held his cousin's gaze and he saw the ice start to waver, just a little. Kid knew too that Morrison was not a man you could easily push.


  “That's right, Curry. You stop and think about it.” Morrison had seen the hesitation as well. “You pull that trigger and you'll be destroying everything you have—everything that matters to you. Your partner will be dead and you will have blown your amnesty to kingdom come. You will have murdered a US Marshal and you will be hunted down and hanged, that is if some bounty hunter doesn't just shoot you from ambush first. You pull that trigger and I'm taking Heyes with me and you know I ain't bluffin' Curry; you know I'll do it.”


  Heyes sent the Kid a nearly imperceptible nod, the best he could muster with his neck in a vice the way it was, but Jed saw it. He swallowed and sighed and then nodded back. He took a deeper breath and then shifted his gaze back to the marshal. He nodded again and tipping the muzzle of his Colt upwards, he uncocked the hammer.


  “Alright Morrison,” Jed told him, albeit reluctantly. “Do it your way.” And he moved to slip his gun back into its holster.


  “No ya' don't,” Morrison stopped him. “You think I'm a idiot Curry? With your speed? I don't think so. You unload that hand gun, right now.”


  Jed sighed and with slumped shoulders, sent his cousin a long suffering look. Heyes shrugged—again, the best that he could handle under his present circumstances. Jed broke his gun open and tipped the cartridges into his left palm.


  “Okay,” Morrison approved. “now scatter them.”


Kid squatted just slightly and sent the bullets clattering across the dirty floor to end up bumping up against the far wall or disappearing down a cobwebbed hole or into a dark dusty shadow. He straightened up and awaited further instructions.


  “Good. Now send that Colt over this way—easy. Just slide it across the floor.”


Jed did so and the firearm slid neatly under Morrison's raised boot. Then and only then did the marshal uncocked his own handgun and relieve the pressure of it from Heyes' temple. Before he could stop himself, Heyes actually sighed with relief, although what was going to happen next was anyone's guess.

  Morrison removed his arm from around Heyes' throat and roughly gave him a shove which sent him staggering across the floor and sprawling into the Kid, practically knocking both of them off their feet. While they recovered their balance, Morrison quickly dove down and grabbed the Kid's empty Colt and then stood up and had his own revolver once again aimed directly at the two ex-outlaws. They all stood and glared at one another.


  Finally Morrison broke the stalemate. “You idiots! You fxxxing morons! Do you have any idea what you've just done!?”


  The partners both stood in silent disbelief for a moment, staring at their nemesis with slacken jaws.


  “What do ya' mean; what we've done!?” Heyes was the first to recover. “Why are you hounding us!? We're both legal now and you've got no jurisdiction...!”


  “LEGAL!?” Morrison damn near spit the word out as he holstered his revolver; an act that neither Heyes nor the Kid missed, by the way. “What are you talking about; Legal!? You complete bloody imbeciles! I didn't even know you were down here—you're suppose to be up in Colorado! Jesus Heyes! You're on parole!! What the hell are you doing down here, playing detective!?”


  “Well...I...ah....what do ya' mean!?” Heyes became rather indignant. “You knew damn well we were here—what the hell were you thinkin' coming after us!?”


  Morrison was almost red in the face he was so angry and when he strode towards the boys with his hands clenched into fists and a snarl on his face, neither one could help but step back a pace or two.


  “Why the hell would I be coming after you!?” the marshal demanded. “You're past history! I don't give a damn about either one of you! I was after Mitchell and I would have had him by now too if it wasn't for you two idiots blundering in here and messing it all up!”


  “What!?” Jed threw back at him and then he and Heyes exchanged slightly concerned looks. “Why would you be after Mitchell?”


  “Yeah,” Heyes seconded that opinion. “We thought you two were working together.”


  “WORKING TOGETHER!?” Now Morrison was red in the face and his angry retort was momentarily abated as a harsh spasm of coughing took hold. He got himself under control again, spit into the dust and glared back at the two ex-outlaws. “Working together,” he repeated in disgust. “What kind of a low-life, double crossing piece of sxxt do you take me for!?”


  “Well....ahh.....” Both fellas were looking everywhere but at the marshal and even came close to shuffling their toes in the dusty floor.


“Jxxxs fxxking Chxxxt!” Morrison looked as though he was getting ready to shoot them again. “That piece of sxxt—that scum! Nothing worse than a lawman gone bad—and you think I was working with him!?”


  “Well....” Heyes still looked a little embarrassed. “....what are you doing here then? I mean, we kept seeing signs of you everywhere we went! If you weren't after us, then....?”


  “Jeez Heyes—you are thick aren't ya?” Morrison sneered at him. “I just finished telling you I was after Mitchell. After he left the prison, Warden Reece began to notice oddities in the book keeping so the penal commission sent in some officers to do an independent examination of the financial records. It seems that good ole' Warden Mitchell was embezzling funds from the prison's accounts. At least a quarter of the money intended for upkeep of the prison ended up in his pockets.”


  “Really?” Heyes was incredulous. “He actually was embezzling funds? We just made that up to get Mrs. Stanton scared enough to make contact with him.” He paused and looked reflective. “No wonder the food was so crappy,” he mumbled. “and no heat in the winter.”



 “Hmm,”  Morrison practically growled.  “We think that is why he had the doctor out there at the prison murdered and you and Reece were targeted.  All the complaints and then that hearing was bringing too much attention to the warden and how he ran that prison.  I think he figured that if he just got rid of the main antagonists then he’d be fine.  What a joke!”


 Heyes' face fell and he turned a rather sickly shade of pale.  “Ya’ mean Doc was killed because of that hearing?”  he whispered, a guilty knot settling into his gut.  “Because of me?”

 “Naw Heyes,”  Kid tried to assure him.  “It’s wasn’t cause of you.  It was cause of Mitchell and Carson.  It wasn’t you.”


 “Yeah, but if we hadn’t pushed for that…just so’s I could get out sooner, just cause I couldn’t handle it in there—and the Doc died because….”


 “No Heyes!”  Jed reiterated.  “Just like Abi said to me; I can’t take on the responsibility for what Julia Stanton did—that’s on her!  And she’s paid the ultimate price for it.”


 Heyes still looked sad and contrite, but he nodded somberly and tried to accept what his friend was saying to him.  “Yeah, I suppose,”  he admitted, then sighed a deep sigh.  “But if all of that was because of the books being tampered with, why are they still after Beth and Anya?  I mean it’s kinda after the fact now, isn’t it?”

 “Yeah,”  Jed shrugged.  “I donno Heyes; revenge?”


 Heyes looked perplexed and shook his head.  “But Mitchell and Carson were making my life a misery before that hearing came up—what was that all about?”

 “Will you two shuddup!”  Morrison had finally had enough of this conjecturing.  “All this ‘what if’s’ and ‘why that’s’!  Jexxs Chxxxt I knew I had a good reason for keeping you two apart!  Maybe we should just catch the bastard and ask him ourselves!”  Then Morrison really got mad and our two boys felt as though they were trapped in a lion’s den.   “And I had him! I had that bastard convinced that I had turned bad, and I was fed up with the way the law was handling things and that I was interested in getting in on some of his action.” Morrison shook his head and cursed again. “Dammit! I had it all arrange to meet up with him in Missouri but then he got wind of something—one of his cohorts got killed and sent him running scared!” Heyes looked a little sheepish at this, but Morrison was too pissed off to notice. “I finally tracked him down again and got him to relax. He was gonna meet me here today—and then you two imbeciles showed up and sent him running again! GODDAMMIT!!”


  The cousins both cringed and took another step back.


  “Oh.” Heyes actually sounded contrite, but then set up his own defense. “Well, you can hardly blame us for thinking the same thing as Mitchell then, can ya'?”


  Morrison snarled and looked as though he was actually going to come after Heyes and wring his arrogant little neck when their dispute was suddenly forgotten. A gun shot reverberated through the large empty warehouse, sending innumerable birds squawking and flapping their way up towards the ceiling, or out through the nearest exit. The marshal instantly had his gun out again and was searching the side lines, looking into shadows and under crannies, hoping for any sign of movement.

  Heyes cringed and pressed his hands against his ears as the loud shot echoed against the walls and the hundreds of birds instantly on the wing sent dust and cobwebs raining down upon them. He took a step back and instantly fell over something on the ground. He hit the floor with a thud and a puff of dust and then coughing and trying to wave the settling dust away from his face, he saw that the object he had fallen over was his cousin.

  More gunshots filled the air as Morrison found his target and began to shoot after it. Heyes cringed and ducked again while at the same time grabbing Jed's shoulder and rolling him over onto his back.


  “Kid!” Heyes called him, and grabbing the collar of his coat, gave it a shake. “Kid! C'mon, Kid!”


  But Jed didn't respond. He lay silently with his eyes closed and blood slowly oozing from a nasty gash across his forehead.


  “Aww, jeez Kid! C'mon, no!” Heyes was begging him, desperation taking a solid hold. “C'mon please! Don't do this to me again!”


  Heyes was almost sobbing as he got his knees up under himself and then leaned an ear against his cousin's chest. He practically cried with relief as he felt and heard the strong and steady thump thump of a heart beat. He sighed and sent out a silent 'thank you' to the powers that be and then reached up and cupping his friend's face in his hand he turned his head slightly towards him to examine the wound on his forehead.


  It didn't look too bad, but any head wound was cause for concern and Heyes desperately looked around for help. Morrison was nowhere to be seen and there was nothing—not even gunfire, to be heard. Heyes took off his bandana and pressed it up against his partner's forehead and wished he had some water with him to try and clean the wound, but then he figured with all this dust in the air, that probably wouldn't make any difference now anyways.


  He carefully tied the bandana around Jed's head and then, making sure that his cousin was resting comfortably he went in search of his Schofield. It didn't take him long to find the weapon since he had a pretty good idea where he had dropped it in the first place. Picking it up he made sure it was safe and then brushed and blew the dust and dirt off of it. He slid the hand gun back into its holster and returned to the Kid's side and keeping his hand on his friend's shoulder, he sat back down on the dirty floor and awaited the return of the marshal. 

  At this point; even the Devil's help was better than no help at all.
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Nancy Whiskey

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PostSubject: Re: Talk Of The Devil   Mon Nov 17, 2014 6:01 pm

"Am I annoying you yet?"

"Nope, not yet. But feel free to keep trying." The resigned note in Curry's voice as it emerged from under the hat told Heyes all he needed to know.

Curry looked relaxed, long legs stretched out, feet resting on the seat opposite, but the hands at the end of the folded arms were tensed. Knuckles showing.

Heyes was not handling the situation well either.  His nerves were shredded almost to the point of no return. The job had seemed so simple but now he was pacing back and forth in a locked room. "Sure," he thought, "it's a swanky room, but any minute now..."

"How about now?" The gloating glee, from the brat with his plump pink cheeks was nauseatingly evident. His unadulterated joy in torturing the men unbounded.

Heyes wheeled around to stare out the window.  As if that would stop the terrible nerve shredding noise.

~ ~ ~

Earlier that day

"It's easy money. Babysit the son and heir of some swank for twenty-four hours 'till his guardians show up and take him and his belonging to his doting Ma and Pa" grinned Abner.

"Just baby-sit? Ain't that a job for a woman?" Curry looked indignantly at Abner.

"Hey boys," protested gentle Abner, "this ain't no routine baby-sittin'. This here is the son of a very prominent politician, a real high-brow, rarefied sophisticate. This boy is precious cargo, but, I'll level with you." Abner leaned towards the cousins, his familiar gummy grin drawing the boys in. "It's the fiddle that is the real prize."

"Huh?"

"That fiddle he plays with is old, and I mean rare, real old. To be honest boys, if it weren't for the fiddle, I think his Pa would leave the boy right here." A rare grimace flitted across his face. "I know I would."

Heyes and Curry trusted and liked Abner. An ageing hard working gentle giant, his successful haulage firm was now run equally well by his hard working, reliable sons. The cousins tucked away the warning about the boy's behaviour and the three men shook hands on the job. After all, how hard could it be?

~ ~ ~

A shrill quivering note hung in the air, so palpable you could almost see it.  Heyes remained immoveable, staring at the heavy sky through the window, and the Kid suddenly found himself grinding his teeth. He had not prayed for a long time, but he was considering taking refuge in it now.

"My governess tells me I have exceptional talent. She told me I have a unique gift. I am a prodigy!" asserted the youth, his voice breaking as he eyed the gunman, defying him to contradict his genius.

"You're somethin' alright, I ain't heard nothin' like it before."

"If you are going to talk to me, I insist that you converse properly.  Lazy diction is the sign of a poor education and a slack mind!"

The silhouette at the window quivered, masking a snigger.

Pushing his hat back the Kid changed track to wrong foot the brat. "That is some fiddle you have there, sure you ought to be playin' with it?"

"It's not a fiddle, it's a violin," snorted the adolescent. "And it's not just any violin, this is a valuable antique. My Father bought it specially." The haughty young voice continued to pipe "He collects objet d'art. That means he has class, good taste and money."

The young swell fixed his piggy grey eyes on the ex-outlaw. "What do you two have?"

"A warning," blue eyes flashed.

"A warning about what? You can't threaten me. My Father will have your hide."

"Oh, no, it ain't a warning about us. It's a warning about mistreating a fine and delicate instrument like that violin there." He gestured to where the boy had thoughtlessly discarded it on the bed.

A suspicious look crossed the youngsters face. Quiet for a change, eyebrows raised, inviting the Kid to explain.

"You know who else plays the fiddle?" The boy let the word pass and shook his head.

"Old Nick."

"Who?"

The fair head shook in exasperation. "Old Harry.... Beelzebub.... Satan.... The Devil." and with each name breathed Heyes took a step forward and lowered himself into the chair beside the bed. They were eye to eye, and neither were blinking.

"I don't believe in The Devil," asserted the youth.

Heyes knew that declaration from the boy was purely to convince himself rather than anyone else.

"Well, you should.  We've seen what He can do." The Kids' voice dropped even further.

The lower lip of the boy jutted defiantly, but the close grey eyes and the furrowed brow betrayed his interest.

Knowing he now had the boy hooked the Kid leaned further in.  "We've actually met a man fool enough to think he could out-do Old Nick and it wasn't pretty, was it Joshua?"

Heyes looked earnestly at his friend in confirmation. "I know I'll never forget it." Intense brown eyes fixed upon the youth. "This fella played the fiddle too, just like you." His head inclined towards the discarded instrument. "And he thought he was so good, so talented that no one could best him in a competition.  And worse for him, it may just be that he was right."

The boy was feeling increasingly uneasy.

"Thaddeus and I met him making this very boast. Challenging everyone and anyone to a play-off, and take it from me, that guy sure could play. When he lifted that bow and started to play, well it was like the air was on fire. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. Now he really was a genius."

The boy was so entranced he did not even notice the insult.

"We heard him lay down that challenge. What's more we were there when someone took him up on it."

Dusk had fallen and the room was growing dark.

"This stranger appeared with his own violin and vowed that if the crowd thought the young man played better then he would give the young man him his own personal violin. Now, the young man examined his challenger's instrument and it sure was beautiful. He could see it was old, ancient almost, and he had never seen anything like it. It was truly beautiful and seemed to glow.  And the young man wanted it."

Brown eyes held grey and Heyes' low, slow voice continued.

"The stranger played first and all I can remember was that terrible, eerie sound. It was monsterous but somehow beautiful. The strange thing is although I can picture it, I just can't remember the tune. It's somehow out of reach. Stranger still, I can't even remember what this stranger looked like. I can see a shape, but no detail, and worst of all no face. It's like my memory can't quite pin him down. Just out of reach.  Like seeing something out of the corner of your eye.  It's almost like I don't want to remember."

The boy gulped.

"Well this stranger seemed to unnerve the audience and when he'd finished playing the crowd was silent. Me and Thaddeus here were just as bad. It was like we were stunned or something.  Like all the air had been sucked out the room."

Blue eyes glinted through the gloom, "Downright unnatural if you ask me."

"Now when the young man took the stage everything was silent and then he let out such a note that I never thought to hear. He played his very soul out. Everybody was clapping, hooting, hollering.  Thaddeus and me were on our feet too. We just couldn't help ourselves. He had magic in his music, no doubt."

Large brown eyes glittered in the half light.

"The youngster had won it hands down! Everyone went wild. Then the stranger came up and stood beside him, gave a small bow and held out his violin and said 'You've won sir. As promised I hereby relinquish my violin to you. But I will warn you, you must treat it with respect. It can be temperamental. It has a...'"

At this Heyes visibly shuddered and the boy swallowed, forgetting to breath.

"'... particular appetite for sin. Play it well and play it humbly or rest assured you will be the worse for it.'"

The room by now was almost in total darkness.

"'And when you really need me I will find you.' The young man laughed in the strangers face and took the instrument. He placed it under his chin and just as his fingers touched the strings one of them broke, flicked back and all we saw was blood!"

Heyes relished the gasp from the boy.

"The string had broken and sliced the winner's eye. There was just an empty socket.  There was blood everywhere, his face, his hands, his clothes, but strangely not one drop on the violin. It's as if the blood had some how soaked into it."

"What happened?" asked a trembling voice.

"The next time we came across him was years later. We had been riding through the night and were approaching a cross-roads. All of a sudden rain came out of nowhere, pouring down, torrential, then thunder, lightening. It was deafening and the rain was so heavy, I've never seen anything like it. We made for cover but that was when we spotted the violinist. He was standing at the very centre of the crossroads soaked to the skin and screaming like a banshee, begging for the Devil to make good his promise and to come back; pleading for Old Nick to lift his curse." 

Rain hit the window and the boy was not the only one who jumped, but Heyes was relentless.

"The poor guy was almost unrecognisable. Not only had he lost his eye, but his face was scarred almost beyond knowing. He was skeleton thin, like a walking corpse.  His back was bent and his feet were twisted and bleeding badly.  Then the lightening flashed again, and that's when I saw that damned violin for what it truly was."

"Saw what?"

"That was not some simple fiddle he was holding. I know, because I saw it, and I will never forget it till the day I die."

"What?"

"That cursed instrument was The Devil's own tool. Made from the tormented! The body of it was a human pelvis and the chin rest was carved from the skull of a child. The neck was an arm-bone, the strings were made from human guts and the pegs, well, they were made from finger-bones." 

Even Curry was leaning in caught in the tale. 

"The man was plumb crazy, raving,demanding Satan make good his promise and show himself and free him from this torture.... then when the lightening flashed again it turned back into an ordinary violin. Well after some coaxing we managed to get the poor soul to the nearest town and a doctor."

The boy exhaled. "What happened?"

"Last we heard the poor guy was in some asylum, still screaming 'sorry' at the wind and begging for 'The Devil to 'take it back' . Far as we know he's still there."

"What happened to the violin?"

"Who knows?" replied Heyes. "Maybe Old Nick did take back his trinket or maybe he left it here just waiting to snare another fool-hardy blow-hard. I just know I wouldn't be tempted to risk that bet."

The boy jumped as the oppressive silence was broken by Curry as he abruptly stood and lit the oil lamp. Heyes was satisfied to see the boy, ashen faced staring suspiciously at the violin lying innocently at the foot of the bed.

"Well, we are all up early tomorrow, so I guess we better get some sleep." Heyes, threw his hat to one side and stretched out on the sofa.

The subdued boy was a very different creature to the insufferable brat of earlier. The cousins pretended not to notice as the youngster tentatively placed the violin reverentially in its case, closed it carefully and settled it gently upon the wardrobe.

Both Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry slept soundly that night.

The same however could not be said for the boy...

_________________
Tomorrow  I will no longer be reckless or feckless.  I will do everything with both reck and feck!
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RosieAnnieUSA

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PostSubject: Re: Talk Of The Devil   Tue Nov 25, 2014 1:16 pm

This is a missing scene from "Smiler With A Gun." How did Heyes and Curry get out of the desert and into a nice hotel room?

One more thing: Where I grew up, we said "speak of the devil" instead of "talk of the devil." Since it's my story, I decided the characters should talk like I do!
lol!
--------------------------

Heyes and Curry collapsed next to each other at the base of a rock formation. Heyes’ heart pounded, and he gasped for breath. Beside him, Curry wasn’t in much better shape. He’d been stumbling more and more on their long trek through the desert. Only his iron constitution had kept him going, putting one foot mindlessly in front of the other, but even he was spent.

 “What’s that?” Curry asked, more to himself than to Heyes. He sensed something was different. Something was new.

 “What’s what?” Heyes barely had enough breath to speak.

 “I hear something.” Curry sat up straighter, listening hard.

 “You’re hearing things.”

 Curry got up and started scrambling over the rocks, out of Heyes’ sight. Heyes didn’t have enough strength left to turn and watch him go. His chest heaved, and his throat and mouth throbbed painfully with dryness. He heard Curry shout “Heyes!!” The urgency in that cry pulled Heyes to his feet. Somehow he dredged up enough strength to push himself up and over the rocks to follow Curry. He scrambled over the rocks, tripping and righting himself. As he topped the rocks, he saw Curry below, diving into a pool of water. All rational thought flew out of him. He ran headlong for the pool, laughing and crying hysterically. He threw himself on the ground next to the pool and lapped up the precious liquid like the desperate animal he’d become. Finally, satiated, he rolled over and screamed “thank you!” to the uncaring sky. Beside him, Curry lay back in the water and drenched himself, laughing and gasping. At least for now, they would live.

 00000

 Night brought cold temperatures to their barren refuge in the Sangre de Christo Mountains. Heyes and Curry huddled next to each other at the base of the rock formation that surrounded the shallow waterhole.

 “Getting’ cooler,” Curry said. Above them, the broad expanse of the Milky Way cast its pale light.

“Yep,” Heyes agreed. His belly growled. He folded his hands over his stomach, willing it to forget how empty it was. Sitting with his back against the stones, he tried to absorb the last heat of the day. His pants almost slid off his hips. He needed to tighten his belt, but it seemed like too much trouble to do just now. Maybe he’d do that later. Or tomorrow.

 “Wish we had our saddlebags. Or at least our blankets.”

 “If you’re wishing for something, Kid, wish for a couple of horses and some canteens, too. Then we could get out of here.”

“I wish you wouldn’t pick on me, Heyes. I was just thinkin’ out loud.”

“Well, don’t. I’m trying to get some sleep here.” He rolled over on his side and curled up into a fetal position, trying to get comfortable and failing. Insomnia had troubled him for years, even in the most comfortable bedrooms. Out here, he knew that exhaustion, cold and hunger probably meant another night of little or poor sleep. He closed his eyes and hugged himself, but found little warmth.

“Heyes.”

“What.”

“We’re still in trouble.”

Heyes rolled over to look at Curry. “You woke me up to tell me that?”

“You weren’t asleep.”

“No. No, I wasn’t.”

“I been thinkin’, Heyes.” The old joke flashed across Heyes’ mind, but he was too tired to mention it.

“I been thinkin’,” Curry went on. “We got water, but no canteens, so we got to stay here.”

“Yeah. I know.”

“We got no food. No blankets for the nights. If somebody tries to rob us, we only got the bullets in our gunbelts.”

“Rob us!” Heyes sat up straight. “Kid, who in their right mind would rob us? I mean, look at us! Do we look like we got anything worth stealin’?”

"No,” Curry said, thoughtfully. “I guess not. Don’t have to worry about robbers, then.”

“No, not about robbers anyway.”

 “Heyes, what’re we gonna do?”

 Heyes rubbed his eyes with his fists. “I don’t know. Maybe if I can get some sleep, I’ll think of somethin’.”

 “Sleep sounds good. Think I’ll turn in, too.” The two men lay close together, back to back, trying to conserve body heat. It was only a few minutes later that Heyes heard Curry’s breathing slow and deepen. Unbelievable. The man really could fall asleep anywhere, anytime. Heyes figured he’d be lucky if he caught more than a couple hours of real sleep. He closed his eyes and resolutely vowed to try.

Heyes’ sleep was filled with strange dreams. He’d woken up a couple times with a start, looking around wildly for something that frightened him. There was nothing but the rocks, the desert, the restless wind whistling past, and his partner snoring quietly next to him. He lay down again, snuggling against Curry’s warmth. He thought of all the cold nights at Devil’s Hole and told himself, this wasn’t near as bad. Then he remembered the reality of their situation, and wished he’d never left the Hole. At least then, he had some control of his life. Now, he felt like a speck of dust in this damn wilderness where nothing lived but he and Jed, and that, probably not for long. You could do without food for some time, but they were both already half-starved. How much longer could they last?

 He couldn’t get these dark thoughts out of his mind. It was almost dawn. Giving up on sleep, he pushed himself up onto his elbows and looked around. Curry was gone. He remembered what happened to Seth. Panic filled him.

“Kid!” he shouted. “Kid!” His voice caught in his dry throat, and he started coughing. He needed water. He got up on his feet, weaving from side to side, and stumbled to the pool. He got down on his knees and cupped water in his hands, drinking his fill. Satisfied, he sat back on his heels and looked around. Still no sign of Curry.

“Kid!” This time, his voice was louder. “Kid! Where are you?”

 “Just a minute!” Curry answered. He sounded far away.

 Relieved, Heyes waited. Only a few moments later, he saw Curry circle around the rocks.

 “Sheesh, Heyes! Can’t a man answer a call of nature in peace?”

 “Are you alright?”

Curry came over to Heyes and squatted down next to him. “Aside from no food, no horses, no shelter, I’m fine.” He looked closely at Heyes’ face. “How you doing? You get any sleep?”

“Aside from no food, no horses, and no shelter, I’m fine, too. I didn’t sleep much, though. Trying to work on a plan.”

“I got us a plan.” Heyes looked expectantly at him.

“You do?”

“Yeah. We wait here for someone to come by and pick us up. They take us to the next town. We borrow or beg for money. We find Danny and I take care of him.”

“Oh, that’s a fine plan, Kid, real fine. You know what Robert Louis Stevenson said about plans?”

 “You know I don’t.”

 “He said, ‘the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

 “Did he? Well, I guess Danny’s gonna find that out real soon.”

“Yeah, sure he will.” Heyes bent down again to take a few more handfuls of water. When he’d had enough, he splashed water on his face and in his hair. The sun had risen, and the day was already getting hot.

“I admire your perfect faith, Kid, but there’s one basic problem with your plan.”

 “What? That you didn’t think of it first?”

 “Now don’t be like that, Kid. It’s just, you’re countin’ on some mysterious stranger to show up here. A poker player like you should know the odds on that.”

“Heyes, you ain’t thinkin’ clear. How much water is there in the Sangre de Christo besides this? Not much, right? This place has got to be on maps. Somebody’s sure to be stoppin’ here for water.”

“Huh.” Heyes stood up, running his fingers through his long hair. “You may be right, Kid. If anybody’s fool enough to be out here in the first place.”

“They will,” Curry said stubbornly. “If we came out here, somebody else will. All we got to do is wait. It won’t be long.”

Curry stood and put an arm around Heyes’ shoulders. He tried to not to show how worried he was about Heyes’ weight loss. Slender at the best of times, he looked like a strong wind could carry him off.

“Why don’t you get back in the shade and take it easy? Try and get some sleep. We might need your silver tongue when the wagon gets here.”

“Maybe I’ll rest for a spell. Ain’t got nothin’ better to do.” He flashed a pale imitation of his old smile. He didn’t want to admit just how weak and tired he felt. The two men walked together to the dubious shelter of the harsh rocks. Heyes settled down again, adjusting his body till he found a smooth place in the sand. Curry stood over him, watching and frowning.

“I’m alright, Mother. Why don’t you go look out for that wagon you’re expectin’?”

“I will. Get some rest, Heyes. You look like hell.”

 There was no good answer to that. Heyes closed his eyes. Maybe he could actually get some sleep, have some happy dreams about steak dinners with potatoes and gravy. But sleep proved elusive again. In dreams, he ran out to the desert, towards a motionless body. But this time, when he rolled the body over, it wasn’t Seth; it was Curry. He woke from his nightmare shaking with fear. Slowly, the nightmare faded away. He squinted up at the sun. It seemed to be descending already. Had he dozed here the whole day?  And where was Curry? He stood up too fast and got dizzy. Putting one hand on the rocks to steady himself, he shouted.

“Jed? Where are you?” There was no answer. He tried again, louder. “Jed!”

“Heyes! Get over here!” He ran towards the sound of Curry’s voice as quickly as he could, climbing on hands and knees up to the high point on the rock formation where Curry stood, one hand shading his eyes.

“What’s wrong?” Heyes asked breathlessly.

“Nothing’s wrong. Everything’s right. Look out there!” Heyes squinted in the direction Curry pointed. His jaw dropped open in shock. Curry slapped his back, almost knocking him off his feet.

“Didn’t I say? I told you somebody’d be comin’ real soon, and look!” In the distance, they saw the outline of a wagon, its canvas sides shaking side to side. The afternoon sunlight glinted off the metal on the horses’ harnesses. To their amazement, the sound of tinkling bells echoed through the still air.

“Is it real? I mean, is it really real?” Heyes asked. “Not one of them mirage things?”

“Does a mirage make noise? He’s heading this way.”

“Damn. You were right, Kid. It’s the only water for miles around. Someone’s got to come sooner or later. And now there he is. Speak of the devil.”

“No devil, Heyes. An angel.”

Heyes laughed. “Since when did somebody send an angel for broken-down crooks like us?”

Both men stood, staring at the wagon as it slowly moved closer to them. When it arrived at the rocks, they saw a man jump down from the high seat and move over to help a woman descend. The man went to unhitch the two horses while the woman stood and stretched.

“Let’s go down and say hello,” Heyes said.

“No, not yet.” Heyes looked at Curry curiously. “They get a look at us now, we’ll scare them off. Wait until they get the horses unhitched and at the watering hole. They won’t be able to run off fast then.”

“Another good plan, Kid. Keep it up, and we’ll have to switch jobs.”

“Never gonna happen, Heyes. Not so long as you do that twisty thing when you shoot.”

“I do not do a twisty thing!” Heyes protested. Curry ignored him and started carefully climbing down from their high perch. After one last look at the wagon, Heyes followed him, more slowly. They could hear the new arrivals now, their voices unnaturally loud in the silence of the desert. Opposite the water hole, they stood quietly in the shadows, waiting to speak until both people and horses were drinking.

“Hello there!” Heyes called out. Startled, the couple looked around wildly for the source of the unexpected voice. The horses kept drinking, unconcerned.

“Who’s out there?” the man called. “Show yourself!” To Heyes’ immense relief, neither newcomer pulled out a gun.

“Boy are we glad to see you!” Curry said. The couple stood with gaping mouths, amazed at the sight of the two bedraggled men approaching them.

“Where’d you two come from?” the man asked.

“Back there,” Heyes gestured vaguely in the direction they’d wandered. “We’re miners. Got lost trying to get back to town. We just barely made it here.”

“Land’s sakes!” the woman said. “Where are your horses?”

“Dead,” Curry told her. “We lost ‘em days ago. We lost everything, trying to walk out of here. We got nothin’ but what we’re wearin’.”

“You mean you don’t even have any food?”

“Nothing, ma’am, not even a canteen,” Heyes said. “We just barely made it here, where we finally found water. My partner here, Thaddeus, he kept sayin’ this place had to be on the map. We been prayin’ hard as we could that somebody would come by and help us.”

“And so it is,” the man said. “The Lord always answers prayers. Maybe not the way we expect, but He always answers. Martha, looks like we have guests for supper. I don’t suppose you boys would care to join us for a hot meal?”

“When was the last time you ate?” Martha asked. Heyes and Curry looked at each other, trying to count the days.

“Never you mind,” she said. “You’re having dinner tonight. And breakfast tomorrow.”

“And a ride to town,” the man added.

“You’d do that?” Curry asked. The man nodded.

“The Lord moves in mysterious ways, son. Martha and me, we’re honored to be the instruments of His will. I’m John Barnes, by the way, and this is my wife Martha.”

“Joshua Smith, and this here is my partner, Thaddeus.” Nobody but Curry noticed the omission of the surname. He realized that Heyes didn’t want to arouse suspicion with the damn fool Smith and Jones aliases.

“We’re very grateful, Mr. Barnes,” Curry said. “More than you’ll ever know.”

“We’re only following God’s law, Thaddeus. Matthew 25: 35 I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

“You boys sit down before you fall down while I go get the dinner fixin’s,” Martha said.

“Let me help you, Mrs. Barnes.”

“No, Thaddeus, you been through the mill. I hope you don’t mind me saying so, but you don’t look too good.”

“I believe it, Mr. Barnes, but my mother raised me to always help a lady. I’m too old to change now.”

“In that case, Thaddeus, you can walk with me and keep me company, but that’s all!”

“Yes ma’am.” Curry followed her as she strode back towards the wagon. Heyes and John watched them go.

“Joshua, you just sit and rest. Your troubles are all over now. We’ll take you two with us, and you’ll stay at our mission in town till you’re ready to travel again. We’ll get you fattened up, too.”

“John, I’m beginning to think I’m imagining you. Are you real?”

Barnes laughed. “Yes, Joshua, I’m real.”

“What are you doing out here anyway? You sure aren’t miners.”

“We came looking for you, of course.” For a moment, Heyes feared that this gentle man might be a bounty hunter, but John only smiled benignly at him.

“I mean it,” John went on. “We minister to the forgotten who wander these wastelands. We care for people like you and your friend, who need to be reminded of Christ’s love.”

“You mentioned your mission? What’s that?”

“Martha and I are Missionaries of the Living Christ. Our group runs a small mission in town where we take in men who have lost their way.” He winked at Heyes. “Does that sound like a place where you need to be?” Heyes could only shake his head in amazement.

“Maybe more than you know, John.” He watched John move to tether the horses.

“John,” Heyes said, seriously. “We’ll pay you back for everything. Right now, I don’t know how we’ll do that, but we will. I mean it.”

John nodded, equally serious. “I believe you, Joshua. No hurry, though. Like I said, God moves in mysterious ways. We’re just His instruments.”

Heyes had no answer for that, so he sat quietly until Curry returned, carrying some firewood, while Martha brought a pot.

“Just beans and ham, but I think you’ll like it,” she said.

“It’s like manna from heaven, ma’am. We’re very grateful,” Curry told her.

“Now you boys sit while Martha and me get things organized.” Heyes was only too happy to oblige. He still couldn’t believe that he and Curry were going to live.

“How come you two were out here by your lonesomes?” Martha wondered, fanning the flames that John had started.

“We weren’t,” Curry said. All three looked at him in surprise. “We came out with a friend, but he left our campsite a couple days before us.”

“Well, I’ll be. You mean he upped and left you to die?”

“Why’d he leave you two behind?” John wanted to know. Heyes heard suspicion in his voice for the first time.

“He didn’t leave us behind exactly,” Heyes explained. “He wanted us all to go with him, but we were stubborn. We wanted to dig a while longer. He didn’t. Said if we hadn’t hit pay dirt yet, we weren’t gonna. Thing is, he was the one who’d been this way before. He gave us directions, but we went wrong somewhere.”

“You didn’t happen to see him?” Curry asked. “Tall, thin, sandy-haired? Smiles a lot?”

Martha and John didn’t look happy.

“His name wouldn’t happen to be Danny, would it?” John asked.

Heyes and Curry sat up straight and looked at each other, stunned. Heyes found his voice first.

“Speak of the devil. Yeah, it would. But how . . . ”

John sat down heavily. “How, in all this emptiness? Strangers search out each other in this wasteland, boys. Yes, we saw him. Just in passing. We talked and went our separate ways.”

“And this Danny, he was your friend?” Now even Martha sounded suspicious.

“I don’t know if I’d say friend so much,” Heyes said. “We only met him a short time before we decided to work a claim.”

“Why do you ask, ma’am?” Curry wanted to know. “Did something happen?”

“No, boys,” John answered, sighing heavily. “It’s just . . . there was something about him made us feel uneasy. Not like you boys. We feel right comfortable with you.”

“The Lord tells us, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it,” Martha said. “It’s what we do, after all. We take in strangers. But after this Danny went his way, I remembered something my grandfather used to tell me. He said, ‘be careful of anybody who smiles too much.’”

“Do you remember where he said he was going, ma’am?”

“Same place as us.” John frowned at his guests. “This was a few days ago, boys. He’ll be gone by the time we get there for sure. What are you thinkin’?”

“I’d sure like to catch up with him,” Curry said. “He’s probably wonderin’ if we got out alright. I’d like to look him up, let him know we’re still around, thanks to you kind folks.”

“Well. I knew you two were good men right off. Even if you did startle us some! I sure wasn’t expectin’ to find nobody out here.”

“Like you said, John, the Lord works in mysterious ways. I guess he had other plans for us.”

 “Must be something He wants you to do. Do you have any special plans?”

"Yes,” Curry said. “There is something special I want to do. Guess now I can. Right, Joshua?”

Heyes only smiled weakly. It was always hard to change Curry’s mind when he decided to do something. Now that he had God on his side, Heyes knew that nothing would stop Curry from getting revenge for Seth’s lonely death. They would find Danny, and Curry would kill him, and there was nothing, absolutely nothing, Heyes could do about it.
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PostSubject: Speak Of The Devil   Sat Nov 29, 2014 8:37 pm

Speak Of The Devil

Blue eyes slid sideways to glower at the dark-haired man who smiled and nodded towards the water. “I ain’t doin’ it.”


Heyes turned suddenly wounded. “What?”


“I know you. You’ll have worked out some way to get me to do all the grunt work while you sit on the bank yellin’ orders. I ain’t doin’ it.”


“You were all for it when I told you about my idea to get the reward.”


“Sure I was, as long as we were splittin’ the work,” the Kid’s eyes narrowed in warning. “I’m just tellin’ you I ain’t gonna be the only one to get wet.”


“But you love the water. You were always the first in the swimming hole back home.”


“Only because you liked pushin’ me in. I’m bigger’n you now. Try it.” The Kid folded his arms and gave an frosty glare. “I dare ya.”


“Bigger? In your dreams.” The cheeks dimpled. “In hat size maybe...”


“Are you callin’ me big-headed?”


“Well, if shoe fits...”


The blue eyes brightened. “Yeah, it does, and it’s bigger’n yours. You know what they say about men with big feet, don’t you?”


Heyes gestured towards the depths of the lake and made a flapping gesture. “That they’re better swimmers? They’d be kinda like flippers, I guess.”


“I told you before. I ain’t doin’ it! Besides how are we supposed to find it?” The Kid shook his head. “The boys are gonna go mad when they realise you came back for this and stole it out from under their noses.”


Heyes pushed his hat back on his head with one finger and sighed. “That safe has been in there for years, ever since we held up that train and threw it down the mountain. We get a reward for returning the money.”


“A reward? For givin’ back what we stole it in the first place? It makes no sense, Heyes.”


‘Not a cash reward, Kid. It’ll help convince the Governor that we’re serious about our amnesty.” Heyes’ reassuring smile was failing to have any impact on the target. “Things have gone real quiet recently and I want to remind him we’re still waiting. I’ve never forgotten that Wheat threw fifty thousand dollars in a lake and it’s time for us to use that to our advantage.” An arm draped over his partner’s shoulder, the other sweeping out towards the scenery, “besides, it’s summer. The weather’s great, we can spend some time swimming, hunting and relaxing here. We brought supplies, it’ll be fun. Kinda like a vacation. Look at the mountains and the lake. It’s beautiful. It’ll be good for us. We’ve been working real hard recently.”


Blue eyes rolled. “Yeah, well some of us have.”


Heyes strode over to the wagon and dragged down a bag before scanning nature in its summer serenity. “Yeah, this’ll be great. It’ll be quiet and peaceful. I do my best thinking when it’s quiet.”


The Kid reached for the sack of provisions. “Funny...that’s when I do my best worryin’.”


~~~~~~


The clear brightness of the morning was accompanied by birdsong and a sweet, warm breeze. The Kid opened his eyes and looked up at the birds circling lazily in the clear blue sky. He’d enjoyed the previous evening; camping out under the stars after a meal of rabbit stew and potatoes washed down by good whiskey. Maybe Heyes had a point? Some rest and recreation might just cheer them all up and if they had to do some swimming, what harm would it for to look for an old safe sitting on the bottom? Heyes would be the one who’d have to crack the thing open after all. Nah, this wasn’t going to be too bad after all.


The metallic click of a cocking gun shook him out of his reveries. A pair of keen blue eyes stared down at him over a mouthful of irregular, prominent teeth awash with brown chaw. “Kid Curry, as I live and breathe. You’s gettin’ old, lettin’ us get the drop on ya.”

A brow rose before the Kid grinned from ear to ear. “Kyle Murtry? You ole son of a...”


“You should be glad it’s only us,” Wheat’s voice cut him off abruptly. “You’re gettin’ soft. Kid. Where’s Heyes?”


“Right behind you, Wheat. Drop your weapons, both of you.”


They all turned to face the uncompromising man striding out of the trees behind them. “How you doing, boys? Great to see you, but it’ll be even better without the side irons.” He smiled and gestured with his gun. “I don’t see you dropping them.”


“You ain’t gonna shoot us any more than we were gonna shoot the Kid,” Wheat growled, holstering his gun. “We just liked the idea of catchin’ him unawares, is all.”


“Yeah, I guess. Didn’t work, did it? You know we always cover the other’s back.” Heyes strode into the clearing as his cousin clambered to his feet. “What are you two doing here?”


“Nope, you first.” Wheat eyed his old bosses cagily. “You tell us why you’re here?”


“Since when did we answer to you?” The Kid buckled up his gun belt and strode over to the lake to fill the coffee pot. “We’re on a trip. I like trips, especially when they’re taken by people who annoy me.”


“Yeah,” Kyle chortled, “we’re kinda on a trip. Ain’t we, Wheat?”


Both pairs of men eyed one another suspiciously, the oldest man stroking his moustache pensively. “You’re after the safe, ain’t ya, Heyes?”


Heyes smile twinkled with innocence. “We’re just camping. What safe?”


“The one what we threw off that mountain,” Kyle chirped. “Ya gotta remember that. We was tryin’ to open it after that job near Columbine?”


Heyes ignored the look thrown at him by the Kid. “That’s here?”


“Quit it, Heyes. Ya know it is.” Wheat sat beside the camp fire and frowned. “We’ve been meanin’ to come back for it for years and we finally got around to it.”


The Kid placed the coffee pot on the fire. “So you two’ve headed out on your own?”


Wheat shrugged. “The gang’s broke up and folks are went off bit by bit. Mostly we’re hopin’ we can disappear and we can start a new life somewhere. Sure, the gang was real successful, but you two are the folks everyone noticed. We decided to call it a day and try to live a normal life. Nobody’ll remember us.”


“The whole gang’s gone?” asked the Kid.


“Yup,” Kyle nodded. “Most of the boys already drifted off. The last winter was real tough, and when there weren’t no good pickin’s in the spring it all sorta turned to nuthin’ but hard knocks. Hank went east to guard the railroads. Don’t that beat all? He sure knows how trains get robbed, so I guess he’ll be real good at it.”


The Kid pulled out a bag of coffee. “Nobody’s left at the Hole?”


“Nope, Preacher left the country. He made for San Francisco and got himself taken on a ship’s crew headin’ for South America,” Kyle replied. “I reckon he did the right thing considerin’ he did some jobs for Pat Donahue. They were a real mean crowd and killed more’n a few. It weren’t gonna go well for him if he got caught with ‘em.”


“But a ship?” Heyes chuckled. “I can’t see Preacher doing that.”


“His pa was a Fisherman back in the old country, remember? Italian, I think. He worked shippin’ lumber at El Embarcadero with his folks until he decided it was too hard on the back and started outlawin’.” Wheat shrugged. “He’ll manage. It’s better to be haulin’ sails than eatin’ lead. It got him out of the country, so I reckon it was a good move.”


“Yup. He was a lean, mean son of a...,” Kyle agreed, “but he was one of us. We were happy ta see him safe.”


“Lobo was the last to stay, but he got a hankerin’ for eatin’ something he ain’t shot himself and went off to join an outfit in Utah,” Wheat shot a challenging look at Heyes. “You weren’t wrong in givin’ up this game. The safes ain’t so easy to open anymore. The last one Kyle blasted blew the cash to bits. There weren’t anythin’ bigger’n than a chitlin’ left to spend. Ya just can’t get at the money no more. We took a vote and the gang split up.”


“Yeah, and Wheat and me got to thinking about the money lyin’ at the bottom of that there lake. That’d be enough for a man to settle down to a life of sin. There ain’t nobody throws a party like fool and his money,” Kyle chortled.


Heyes gave a wry smile. “Speaking of the Devil’s Hole Gang, they were all here that day. How do we know that you’re the only ones who’re gonna come after this safe?”


Wheat shrugged. “There ain’t a gang, not no more. I can’t say they ain’t gonna remember, but I reckoned it was best to get there first, leastways that’s what I thought before I saw you pair.”


“We got time to look,” Kyle volunteered. “The last time we was here we had to high tail it back to the Hole with a posse on our tail.”


“Yeah, and don’t forget that it was your idea to drag that safe behind us,” Wheat added. “A blind suck-egg ridin’ on crow bait could have tracked us followin’ the ruts in the ground. It was your fault that posse was so close behind, Heyes.”


Heyes and Curry shared a look. “Yeah, well, you’d have been none too pleased if I’d left it behind and it wasn’t my fault the dynamite got wet. I tried to tell you about the water, Kyle. You weren’t much for listening, as I remember.”


All eyes turned to Kyle whose mobile features gradually settled into a smile. “Hey, if’n I blowed that safe open you’d have spent it all by now. Ain’t you pleased I never? The way we see it we can split that money four ways.”


Heyes shook his head. “Nope, we need to hand that money in to show the Governor we’re serious about amnesty.”


“You’re gonna give it back!?” Wheat demanded. “Are you loco? That money could give all of us a new start.”


“Yeah, and it could land us our amnesty,” the Kid shook his head firmly, “you ain’t keepin’ it.”


“We want our fair share, and don’t you start threatenin’ us,” growled Wheat. “You can’t turn us in without turnin’ in yourself. “


The Kid pinned his old henchman with a penetrating glare. “Since when did I depend on turnin’ people in?”


Kyle’s unthinking enthusiasm bubbled to the fore. “We ain’t got nuthin’, Kid. You gonna shoot us for takin a dip? Ya got plenty of time to attitudinize if’n we find it. Besides, ya ain’t got no amnesty yet. Ain’t it about time ya started plannin’ on what’ll happen if’n it don’t come through? ”


Heyes pursed his lips and glanced at the Kid. “I’ve gotta say, Kyle’s got a point. It’s been three years now and nobody’s looking for that money.” He rubbed his chin pensively. “Maybe we need to look at our options?”


“The way I see it, we got a better chance of gettin’ it with four of us,” Wheat agreed. “It didn’t suit us to find you two here, but it is what it is. We coulda waited ‘til you dragged it up and then took it from ya,” he thrust a thumb towards his chest, “but me and Kyle are better’n that.”


“Nope, you’re just smarter than that,” Heyes sighed. “I’ve always said I reserve a special place in hell for the man who cuts out with the haul so I guess I can’t do that to you two. I’d be a hypocrite.”


“’Course ya can’t,” Kyle pointed out to the tree line. “You’re a good ‘un, Heyes. We’ll go get our stuff. You know it makes sense.”


Intense blue eyes glittered across the camp fire as their old gang members headed off. “You’re somethin’, Heyes. I’m too much of a gentleman to say what.”


“We haven’t got anything yet, Kid, and I’m not going to fight over nothing,” the dark eyes narrowed, and when you think about it, this money’s already stolen. Nobody’s going to miss it and there’s a principle here. I never took the men’s share when I was leader and I’m not going to do it now. But how can we hand it in with two shares already missing? It’s time to think bigger.”


“Are you givin’ up on the amnesty?”


“I honestly don’t know. We could do a number on Wheat and Kyle and hand the money in, but never see anything back from the Governor. On the other hand we could disappear to somewhere real far away and start over with our share.” Heyes scratched his chin. “It’s a tough one.”


“Well, we started with nothin’ and we’ve managed to double that,” the Kid grinned. “Whatever you decide I’ll support you.”


“I know ya will, Kid. A man’s got to have principles, especially if he’s going to make a fresh start, but you don’t want to fanatical about it.”

~~~~~~


A pair of pale, spotted buttocks rose among the bubbles on the surface, quickly followed by a puce, gasping head. The mousey hair stuck to the puffing cheeks and life-giving oxygen was consumed in huffing gulps amid splashing and thrashing at the water.


“Kyle, I told you. Straighten your legs and your body,” the Kid shifted his weight onto one leg. “If you roll into a ball like that, all you do is stick your butt in the air. You’ll never find it that way. You ain’t gettin’ anywhere near the bottom.”


“I wish we could say the same,” murmured Heyes.


“Yeah? That’s the least of our problems. What are we supposed to drink that hasn’t had their butts floatin’ about in it?” the Kid muttered. “Your coffee’s bad enough as it is. I ain’t using that now.”


“What do you suggest? That’s what all we’ve got.”


He swept up the canteen and gestured towards the pond with a tousled fair head. “There must be a stream somewhere that feeds into the lake. I’ll go find it.”


“Don’t be long,” Heyes called. “We did say we go next while they covered us.” Wheat’s emerging nether regions caught the eye. “Ironic, huh?”


The Kid headed off around the banks, ignoring the floundering outlaws diving repeatedly into the cool, dark depths of the basin, his booted feet crunching on the dry summer dirt on every step. He tilted his head at the sound of gurgling. A stream?


He climbed a gentle incline and headed over to a craggy area near the base of the craggy outcrop where crystal clear water bubbled out from between large boulders and twinkled its way down towards the lake. The canteen quickly filled with the sweet fresh water and he twisted the lid back in place before turning to make his way back to the camp. He stopped, his eye catching something glinting in the sunlight higher up. What was that?


~~~~~~


Heyes propped his hands on his hips and stared down at the twisted, broken metal. It was mangled but still recognisable, especially the scratched red lettering on the ochre background of the label on the door. “Brooker, model 202,” dark eyes looked regretfully at his partner. “It’s gotta be the same one. What’s the chance of the exact same model safe turning up on these rocks. Someone got here before us.”


“It’s rusted up,” the Kid kicked at a loose corner. “It could have been there for a very long time.”


“It’s been in water. The rust means nothing. It could have been dragged out recently,” Heyes dragged a finger across the nearby rocks. “None of it’s dripped onto anything nearby. I’d expect that if it’d been sitting out here for any length of time.”


“So it’s recent?”


Heyes nodded at his cousin’s earnest face. “Yup.”


“That low-down, dirty, no-good, son-of-a-...”


The Kid frowned at a still dank Wheat. “Who?”


“The Preacher. He was in a real hurry to leave the country, now I know why.”


“You think it was him?” Heyes demanded.


“He was a sailor, very near grew up in the water. What was it they use to call him?”


“Preacher?” Kyle ventured.


“No, before that. He told us what his nickname was as a Kid. Squalo...that was it. It means shark. He told me so.” Wheat’s chest puffed out indignantly. “I thought it was just the sight of that nose of his cuttin’ through the water, but we know better now.”


“We don’t know it’s him,” the Kid reasoned.


“He’s the only one to leave the country,” huffed Wheat. “That’s enough for me. He was always a bit of a loner.”


“Yeah. Mean, bitter and low,” Kyle muttered before shrugging. “I liked him.”


“Well, time to pack up,” Heyes declared. “The money’s gone and there’s nothing we can do about it. Whoever took it isn’t any worse than any of us. We were going to do the same.”


“We were going to use it for our amnesty,” the Kid replied.


“Yeah,” Heyes gave a knowing smile. “Well, that’s money for you. It can’t buy everything.”


“Yeah, but it sure puts you in a better bargaining position,” the Kid muttered.


Heyes turned to the dripping outlaws. “What’s your plan now? You wanted that money for a fresh start.”


Wheat ran his hand through his wet hair. “Who knows? Head off real far where nobody knows us and make a fresh start?”


“The Wild West Show,” Kyle grinned. “We’s goin’ to Europe. I hear they got ladies there who’ll do almost anything for us. Over there we’s exotic.”


Heyes and Curry shared a smile.


“Sure sounds like a plan,” the Kid chuckled. The partners watched the pair pick their way back down the hill towards the camp. “Everyone’s moved on, Heyes. We’re the only ones still waitin’; hangin’ on with no future. We gave up outlawin’ first. It ain’t right. We need a plan.”


“Oh, I’ve got a plan,” Heyes’ eyes darkened and the smile dropped, “The Governor’s got precisely one year to give us amnesty or I find out who took the money from that safe. We know it’s not Wheat or Kyle, so that starts to narrow it down. Fifty thousand dollars is a lot of money, Kid, so they won’t go unnoticed. I always said there was a special place in hell for anyone who made off with the loot and I meant it.”


“And if it’s in South America?”


“I’ll find them, Kid, no matter where they are. I was the leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang. If they weren’t going to take me seriously they shouldn’t have joined.”
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PostSubject: Re: Talk Of The Devil   Sun Nov 30, 2014 7:26 pm

Just a little bit of something I've been playing with.  I appreciate your thoughts...


She dived, her pale flesh flashing briefly through the darkness as she broke the surface before her voice drifted back to him.  “Go on then!  If you can catch me?”


The missing years seemed to melt away and it seemed like they were back at the creek, when they were young, innocent and in love.  Everything was so easy then.  Little did they know it was only because they were too naive to see the bumps in the road. 
 
She was fast but Jed was faster.  He dove headfirst into the water and cut through the water in an overhand crawl.  Even though she was at least three yards away he reached the bank at about the same time as she did.  Christina ran whooping from the water, gathering her clothes about her before she was grabbed from behind.  They fell together, laughing and tumbling onto the bedroll before she laid face down, his arms still wrapped around her as she let out a long sigh.


“Well, now you’ve got me, what are you going to do with me?”


He drew his fingers softly across her shoulders, lazily tracing his way down her naked back as the fire threw flickering shadows across her flesh.  “I don’t know yet.  What do you suggest?”  He asked, archly.  


Christina gave a small chuckle, as his fingers slid further down her back, savoring the wonderful sensation of his gentle touch.  He suddenly stopped, sitting up abruptly as she heard a sharp intake of breath.  “What the hell is that?”


She turned, taking in his angry face and taught jaw, shocked and bemused by this rapid change in mood.  “What?  What’s wrong?”


“That!”


She could feel his hand on her back, between her shoulders and continuing down to her lower back as the realization hit her that he was talking about her scars.  The faded, uneven, lumps and bumps which had been part of her for so long.


She sat up, clutching her clothes to her chest and gave him a weak smile.  “They’re scars.  It’s fine.  They’re really old.  Nothing hurts.”


Anger exploded across his face.  “Fine?  There ain’t nothin’ fine about it!  Who did that to you?”  She looked directly into his eyes and fixed her mouth into a resigned pout, refusing to answer him.  “It was your Pa, wasn’t it?”


His eyes glittered through the darkness as the true horror of their parting hit him for the first time.  “I’ll kill him,”


“You’ll do no such thing.  You’re better than he is.”


“Am I?”


“Yes, you are,” she put out a delicate hand, resting it on top of his.  “I know this is new to you, but this is all old to me.  I put it behind me a long time ago.  It’s fine, really.”


His eyes melted in front of her as he took her hand and looked into her face.  “Was it your pa after he caught us?  Should I have stayed?”  


She shrugged.  “No.  My pa never hit me.  Once he knew we’d,” she gulped, heavily, “once we’d been together...he made me get married.  He said I was dirty and that I was lucky to find anyone at all.”


“And your husband did this?  What’s his name?”


“Please, that doesn’t matter.  Let me have today.  Let’s just make this about us?  He’s away.  That’s all you need to know.”  


Jed nodded and bit back a curse before her gathered her in his arms and laid her down on the bedroll, cradling her like a child.  They lay together, his hot breath against her neck before she felt his hand stroke her hair as he whispered in her ear.  “I ain’t goin’ to let anyone hurt you ever again.”


There was the metallic clattering of more than one rifle cocking before a voice barked through the darkness.  “Hey, Paw.  Look what we got here?  That whore you married is turnin’ tricks again.  You wasn’t outta town more’n ten minutes before she was at it.”  


An angular face caught the moonlight as a tall man emerged into the clearing.  “Well, look who we got here, Abner.  Talk of the devil and he’s sure to appear.  We’ve been off across the hills lookin’ for the bank robbers and we find one in our own back yard when we give up the ghost and come back home.  We got ourselves a buck-neked Kid Curry."  
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