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 The Devil's Due Part 6

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PostSubject: The Devil's Due Part 6    The Devil's Due Part 6   EmptyMon Jan 19, 2015 4:01 am

As Heyes stepped up onto the wooden sidewalk, Jed came out through a pair of batwing doors, a scowl on his face. Curry saw his partner and shook his head wearily. The two of them had scoured the many saloons of Denver and were now making their way to the seediest part of town. This was where the bordellos were outnumbered by the opium dens and fallen angels plied their trade openly. Even the law feared to tread this street after dark. It was nearing midnight now and the rough trade in this part of town was just beginning to trickle in from their revelries elsewhere.


“No luck?” asked Heyes unnecessarily. If Jed had found William, he would’ve known about it. The whole town would’ve known about it.


“You really expect him to be out on the town after what he did? Or even in town at all? He’s probably long gone.” Jed had barely spoken to his partner since they had discovered the emerald earrings. His feelings were in turmoil. Grief still held him in its grip, but anger and recriminations were rising every time he allowed himself to think about Jen. He knew from Heyes’ terseness that, he too, was struggling. Jed could see it in his eyes. That was why he kept his mouth shut. If he let fly with what he was thinking their friendship would be over.


It had been Heyes who had chosen William as their mark; Heyes who had conceived of the plan and put it in motion; that made Heyes responsible for Jen’s death. Intellectually, Jed knew this wasn’t true. He couldn’t blame his partner for the uncontrollable chain of events that led to the murder, but his heart was still screaming for retribution and he was afraid if they didn’t find William, he’d never be able to get past this tragedy.


It was plain to him that Heyes had already taken on the blame for Jen’s death. This manic search was a sign that his partner was on the run, too; keeping in motion so that he could ignore his guilty conscience. What good would it do to voice what both of them were thinking?


“If he ran, we’ll track him down. We’ll get the truth from him. If he did this, he’ll tell us why.” Heyes pulled off his hat and ran a hand through his hair. “We’ve got Soapy’s people covering the stage lines, liveries, and train station. Unless he took off on foot, he’s in Denver.”


“Maybe he’s hidin’ under his mama’s skirts, Heyes.”


“That might be, but we can’t go barging into the Burdon mansion. It’s surrounded by lawmen and Burdon’s hired thugs. I’ve got eyes on it, too. If he’s there, we’ll know soon enough.” Heyes started towards the next drinking emporium.


Jed stared at his partner’s retreating back. He wanted to storm the mansion and drag that little weasel out by his ears, but he knew Heyes was right. He’d never make it past the front gate. Sighing, his shoulders drooped and he followed. William would show up eventually and they would find him.


OOOOOOOOOOO


Effie Burdon raised a delicate lace handkerchief to her nose. “Tell him I cannot see him. I am indisposed.”


The servant hesitated. “But he’s the Chief of Police, Mrs. Bur...”


“I don’t care if he’s the King of Siam!” the Matron snapped. “I am indisposed and I have already told his flunky that I have no idea where my son is. I have nothing to add. Tell him if he needs anything else he needs to speak to my husband. He will find him at his offices. I am worried to death about William.”


The girl nodded. “Sure will, m’am.” She bit into her lip and bustled down the staircase towards the imposing bearded figure in the hall. Her eyes widened in apprehension, suddenly caught between a rock and a hard place. She wasn’t good with authority figures at the best of times, but now she was lying to the law. Couldn’t you get locked up for that? “Mr. Sabyn, sir?” The man turned and gave her an expectant stare. “My mistress says you need to go and see Mr. Burdon at his offices.”


The formidable shoulders squared before Sabyn glared at the servant. He had earned his position by following backing his instincts with action. “I’ve already been there and they said he went home.”


The maid flushed puce and diverted her lying eyes. “I don’t know what to tell you, sir. She says she ain’t well.”


The glower mellowed to a stare. “And that’s what she told you to tell me?” He watched the girl shrink before his eyes and recognized the intimidation, but she was not his mark. “You tell your mistress I’ll be here at six with my men and if the family won’t talk here I’ll take them somewhere they will. I ain’t bein’ shooed away like some bluebottle ‘cause she’s gone all streaky on me. I got a murder to deal with. She can make sure her husband is home by then if she knows what’s good for her.” He watched the frightened house girl’s jaw drop at the prospect of delivering such an ultimatum to her employer and cracked a smile. A smart lawman kept people onside wherever possible. “Here. I’ll write it down for ya. There ain’t no need for you ta be the cause of more upset, is there? Ya got a pen and paper? There ain’t no need for you to pucker her lemon, is there? That’s my job.”


OOOOOOOOOO


Ernest Burdon crumpled the lawman’s missive in an angry fist. “How dare he say something like that to you? Who does he think he is? I’ll have his badge for this.”


“He’s a blustering bully,” Effie Burdon dabbed at her eyes with a lace trimmed handkerchief. “Did you see Enid when she brought his letter? She was terrified to hand it over. He clearly traumatized her.”


“I can’t worry about her. Can we keep to the point, woman?” Burdon strode back and forth in front of his wife. “What are we going to do about William?”


“He says he didn’t do it, Ernest, and I believe him. My son would never do such a terrible thing.”


“Your son!” the distraught father growled. “That’s a big part of the problem. He’s a complete mother’s boy. A pansy, a Nancy, a complete mitten! He needs some toughening up, not more coddling!”


“He’s suffering. He said he saw a man run away! He’s scared,” her knuckles whitened to pearl as they clutched at her handkerchief, “and so am I. He could be next. I won’t give him up. I won’t!”


“The police are going to search. Where can we send him?”


“I’ll find somewhere. I just need a little time to contact friends,” Effie’s eyes turned to the ceiling in desperate contemplation. “Surely you can find someone to get him out of the area?”


“Just how am I supposed to do that? Who can we trust?”


“Surely you can pay someone?”


Burdon stopped pacing and turned to confront his wife. “He ran away from the scene of a murder, covered in blood. He then hid. Who the hell do you think is going to believe he wasn’t involved?”


The matron blanched. “I will not tolerate that language, Ernest. He tried to help the poor girl, he told me so himself. That’s how he got her blood on his suit. It’s unthinkable that he could have done anything else.”


“Is it? What about the Courtney girl?”


“That bit of fluff?” Effie snorted. “She wanted to break the engagement. She soon found someone else, didn’t she? If you ask me she was seeing that Deichmann boy for a long time. He was conveniently there to support her spurious allegations against William.”


“So was her father,” barked Burdon. “Face the facts, Effie. Our son wants what he wants, when he wants it, and he is not kind to people who get in his way. Everyone can see it but you. He’s failed miserably in business; he was always late and the petty cash went missing, not to mention irregularities in the accounts. I had to get rid of him to protect the Burdon name. He messed up his own engagement because he couldn’t wait…”


“You can’t believe he did this!”


“No…of course he didn’t, but you know how people think. All that history will be put together and they’ll come to their own conclusions. We have to get him out of here so nobody gets the chance to question him. He won’t last ten minutes up against hard questioning by real men. You won’t get to protect him, Effie. He’ll bring the whole family down and I can’t allow that.” Burdon pulled his shoulders back. “He has to go. He has to go far away and stand on his own two feet. I’ve worked too hard to build up this company and I can’t allow my good name to be dragged through the mud.”


“You can’t turn him away! It’ll break my heart. He’s my baby.”


“He’s twenty and should be building something for the future,” Burdon resumed his pacing, his hands behind his back. “He has to leave the country. I can’t have a child of mine facing a murder charge. I’ll get some cash together; I’ll give him a good start, but he has to go. Canada, maybe?” He stared at his wife. “Are you sure none of the servants saw him?”


“Well, yes, no…” she shook her head. “I don’t know! I never asked.”


“Well, ask him,” snarled Burdon. “I’ll go and get some cash from the safe. He’ll have to get out of Denver and head east. He can get lost in the crowd and head up to Canada from there, but he’ll have to keep a low profile and change his appearance. I’ll give him my glasses and we’ll have to dirty up his clothes and grow a beard on the way. What time’s the next train?”


“Is that really all you can do for your only son?” Burdon turned to see William leaning lugubriously against the door to his mother’s dressing room. “That won’t save me from the noose.”


“What do you expect?” Burdon eyed the silk dressing gown with disdain. “I see you got cleaned up and changed. You look more rested than anyone else in the house!”


“Mother got me some things from my room and asked for a bath to be brought up. I’ve been hiding out here since I got home. You can’t throw me out. It’ll be the end for me.”


“It’ll be the end if you don’t. The law is coming back here at six and they are going to search the place. You have to be gone by then, William.” Burdon glared at him. “I’m sure you’d rather fight your case from a safe house than a prison cell. You can’t stay here. One of the servants is bound to find out. It isn’t safe.”


“I’m sure you could do better for me if you put your mind to it,” William pushed himself to his full height. “From what I heard you expect me to scrape a living and I don’t like that plan at all. I went back to see that woman for a good reason.” One dark brow flicked up. “I noticed something you didn’t, Father. You keep telling us you’re so clever, but you missed something. That woman’s earrings…”


“So?”


“I saw them on another woman. There isn’t another pair like those. They’re real emeralds and in an unusual setting. White and yellow gold mixed. If two women wore those they must have been sharing them. So they must have known one another. Put that together with a family resemblance and…”


Burdon shook his head in confusion. “What are you wittering about boy? Earrings?”


“I’m wittering? What about you? Going on and on about me messing things up when it’s obvious to me that you’ve just been scammed. You haven’t a clue, have you?”


“Scammed? What are you talking about, boy?”


William strode into the room and confronted his father. “I’ve just been flim flammed out of three thousand dollars, and that woman was involved with the folks who did it. Her father was doing business with you, wasn’t he?”


Burdon blanched. “How much? What the hell have you done? You don’t have that kind of money.”


“It’s your fault.” William bellied up to his father. “You pushed me into this.”


“I didn’t push you into a damned thing. I pushed you out of bed, is all.”


“You made me get engaged to that pudding-faced Courtney girl. I never liked her. It was all about you and her family business. You pushed us together.”


Burdon’s brow creased. “What has that got to do with you losing three thousand dollars? Where did you get it? If you’ve stolen that money I’ll…”


“You’ll what? Hand me in and ruin the family? I doubt that. I borrowed it. I got it from mother.”


Burdon swung around. “Effie, you gave him three thousand dollars without consulting me?”


William shook his head. “She didn’t give me a penny. I signed her name…”


Mrs. Burdon sat bolt upright. “You did what?”


“I only borrowed it and you were going to get it back real soon.” Her son shrugged helplessly, “you have so much money. You never even noticed it until I told you!”


“That’s hardly the point,” his mother snapped back. “You stole…”


“I borrowed; and for a good cause. You wanted me to get married and make a good match, so I found a princess…”


“Princess?!” Burdon cut in. “Is this some kind of joke? Where would you meet a Princess?”


William’s jaw firmed in determination. “You pushed me to get married to a woman I didn’t want and then treated me like rubbish when it fell through. I wanted to show you I could get things done my way.”


“It fell through because you tried to…”


William cut his father off. “I tried to behave like a man in love, that’s all. She was frigid and started shouting down the house when I tried to…” he glanced at his mother, “…pay court to her.” Do you honestly think I’d have done anything in her home with her family in the house!?” He shook his head in denial. “No, she was unnatural, and it was best that I found that out before I ended up saddled with her for life.”


Burdon sighed heavily, unable to articulate the thought that this frigid girl had given birth every year since her marriage to another man. He contented himself with simply drawing a hand through his hair in frustration. “What has that got to do with you losing three thousand dollars?”


“I wanted to show you I could be a success. I wanted to do something on my own and show you I’m not a failure.” William prodded his father with a long finger. “I wanted the chance to run my own life for a change!”


“It’s all about what you want, isn’t it boy? Well, you can go and run things for yourself anytime you please, but as long as you want me to finance things, you do it my way. Have you got that?”


William’s eye glittered with anger. “Yes, but I was trying to show you, to show the whole town, that I could do something right if someone just gave me some breathing space.”


“But you didn’t do anything right, did you, boy? You never have to clean up with your own mess,” a flake of angry spittle hit William’s chin. “If I’m to sort this mess out you need to tell me about this princess; the money; everything. You leave nothing out.”


OOOOOOOOOO


Down in the scullery, Enid the maid dug through the latest bag of laundry to be passed downstairs. Tomorrow was Monday; washday, and a hot, heavy uncomfortable day it was too. Sunday certainly wasn’t a day of rest for the servants. It meant a trip to church on top of all the usual duties, unless you were lucky enough for it to be your half day off for the month. The laundry had to be checked for stains so they could be treated and soaked out before the big day so her nimble fingers searched through the mess for drippings, dribbles and smears.


Her fingers recoiled in disgust at the brown crusted stain on the garment. That was blood; lots of it. She’d dealt with enough menstruating girls from the staff to know that rough, coated rust, and that it needed to be thrust into the soak bucket with the wooden tongs. An overnight steep in bicarbonate of soda and cold water usually did the trick, and caustic soda would see to any stubborn residue, but she hated to think what she’d touched and turned to wash her hands. A voice from behind made her turn.


“Mrs. Burdon, if there’s anything you want, you needn’t trouble yourself to come down here. I’ll do it for you,” the housekeeper’s Irish lilt alerted Enid to the unusual presence of the Mistress. She never came down here! What was wrong?


“I think something got caught up in the laundry which shouldn’t have, I’ll just be a moment, Mrs. Quinn.” Mrs. Burdon plunged unceremoniously into the pile of dirty clothes for the first time in her privileged life. She rooted like a truffling pig until she pulled out a garment which she thrust under her shawl with a palpable sigh of relief. “I found it.” The matriarch waved imperiously with the free hand not containing the bundle. “Thank you for your assistance.”


She bustled away with the amazed eyes of her staff burning into her back.


The housekeeper turned to Enid. “What did she want?”


Enid frowned and bent to ferret through the dirty clothes. “It’s gone.”


“What is?”


“There was a man’s shirt covered in blood, Mrs. Quinn. I was just going to get the tongs to put it in to soak.”


The Irishwoman’s eyes widened. “A shirt? Are you sure?”


“Yes, Mrs. Quinn. An evening shirt with ruffles. I’m absolutely certain.”


The housekeeper nodded slowly. “Enid, I want you to promise me not to talk to anybody about this.”


“But why, Mrs. Quinn?”


“Just promise me…”


“Well, yes. Of course. I won’t say anything.”


“She’s been in her room all day with a headache.” Mrs. Quinn paused thoughtfully. “You’re a good girl, Enid. We must strive to protect our families wherever possible. You can take the rest of the day off.”


“But it’s not my day…”


“It’s a reward, Enid,” the housekeeper’s grey eyes drifted to the ceiling, “for loyalty. I’ll even give you a few pennies so you can enjoy it. I’ll look after Mrs. Burdon for you. Have a lovely evening.”




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PostSubject: Re: The Devil's Due Part 6    The Devil's Due Part 6   EmptyMon Jan 19, 2015 4:02 am



“I’m telling you, he’s up in his mother’s room, Sam,” the housekeeper clutched at the coachman’s arm. “They’re offering two thousand dollars reward. That’ll change our whole lives.”


“We can’t be sure it’s him,” Sam retorted, doubtfully.


“No? His mother just came downstairs for the first time in her life and took a blood-stained shirt from the laundry. The world would have to be ending for her to venture below stairs. He’s up there, I know it. She’s taken all her meals up there today. I bet he’s the one eating them while she feigns one of her headaches.”


“You’re sure? You can get this shirt?”


Marion Quinn nodded. “I’ll do my best, but it’ll be better if we can get William himself. I’ll watch the front stairs and you watch the back. He has to be out of here before the law comes back at six so we don’t have long to wait.”


Sam paused. “We could lose our jobs for this.”


“Do you think the Burdons will stay here once it’s announced their son is a cold-blooded killer? We’ll be given our marching orders soon enough, at least we might get some sort of future out of this mess.” Marion’s jaw firmed as a though hit her. “And there’ll be a trial. We’ll have to tell everything we know after swearing on the bible. I couldn’t lie then, Sam, I just couldn’t! I’d have to tell about the shirt, about that horrible man’s behaviour to the staff; everything. You remember what happened to Clara, don’t you? Turned away without a reference. Did they care that she was carrying their grandchild? Did they show her an ounce of loyalty? Women get caught out, but we looked after our own in Ireland. We bring them up in the family after coming up with some kind of story, but all their money can’t buy them a soul. They won’t look after us, so we need to look after ourselves.”


“I s’pose...” Sam muttered. “How can we be sure he did this?”


“He went missing right after a murder and his mother’s hiding bloodstained clothes. What more proof do you want? Besides, it’s not our problem. The court has to prove it; all we have to do is get him there.”


“Yeah, I guess,” the coachman sighed. “Nobody’s sayin’ it out loud, but he was always a devil for the women. What if he’s just been out on the drink?”


“Then how did his shirt get covered in blood and why is the law looking for him?”


“I’d sure be lookin’ to clear my name real fast,” Sam agreed. A malevolent smile spread over his face. “I’ve got a good idea where he’ll head if he leaves the house. I’ve dropped him there hundreds of times. He won’t risk the trains right now; he’ll lie low for a bit.”


“Then it’s decided. You watch the back and I’ll watch the front,” she nodded, firmly. “We’ll be married as soon as we get the money. That little store doesn’t seem so much of a dream now does it?”


OOOOOOOOOO


Evening came on excruciatingly slowly, but it was finally dark. William had spent the remainder of the day chafing over the dressing down his father had given after he’d explained the circumstances leading up to the murder. While never letting on that he was the murderer, he was sure his father had put two and two together. Well, he wasn’t about to stay cooped up in this hellhole listening to his recriminations for one more minute. He was bored beyond belief and itching for fun. He’d tried to make a break for it earlier, but the damned servants were watching the exits. His parents must’ve set them to the task. No matter, no one would see him shinny down the drainpipe in the dark. He slipped open the window and laughed softly to himself. He hadn’t snuck out for years. He hoped the pipe would hold his weight.


OOOOOOOOOO


Soapy’s eyes gleamed as he crumpled the piece of paper in his fist. “What time did you say the boys were checking in with you again?”


His lawyer glanced up from the stack of papers on his desk. “Seven, I think. You think it’s a good lead? I thought the shirt was a significant factor.”


“I think it’s a great lead. Keep me posted and get the reward ready.”


The lawyer’s brow crinkled. “We can’t pay out until someone has been found guilty.”


Soapy tapped his silver-topped cane on the brusquely on the floor. “I’ll decide when I’m ready to pay. Money can buy a jury, but it sure isn’t going to help him buy his way out of this. His consequences will be a banquet from hell’s own kitchen if he killed Jen Hale; unless I kill him first. A trial is too good for some folks.”


“I didn’t hear that, Soapy,” chided the lawyer.


“I know,” the confidence trickster’s face crinkled into the first smile it had seen since the terrible news had hit, “and that’s why I continue to pay you.”


OOOOOOOOOO


Curly Jenkins was wiping a glass when the door opened and a curly-haired, blue-eyed man came in. His gut told him immediately that this could be trouble so he carefully set the glass on the back counter and put one hand on the scattergun he kept under the bar. No one noticed his reaction; no one but the blond man.


Smiling, Jed nodded. “I’m lookin’ for a friend of mine. He told me to meet him at Sparky’s only he ain’t there. Maybe you’ve seen him?”


“What’s your friend look like, Mister?”


“He’s a little shorter than me. Maybe so high,” said Jed, holding out his hand in an approximation of William’s height. “Blond hair, sorta shifty blue eyes; kinda soft around the middle.” He saw the bartender’s eyes widen as he recognized the description but the man’s next words caused the smile to slip from Jed’s face.


“Ain’t seen anyone like that.” The man started to move down the bar to his next customer, but the sound of Jed slapping a twenty dollar bill down on the coppertop stopped him.


“I think you have. I think maybe you’ve just forgotten.” Angry blue eyes pithed Curly in place. He immediately regretted relinquishing his hold on the scattergun and couldn’t prevent his eyes straying to where it laid across the beer keg under the bar. “Don’t even think about it,” said Jed, squaring up to the balding man behind the bar, dropping his right hand and slipping it into his jacket.


Curly jumped back and raised his hands. “Don’t shoot! Oh please, Mister, don’t shoot me!”


All eyes in the room were drawn to the drama at the bar and the sound of several guns cocking echoed around.


“I ain’t shootin’ no one. I’m askin’ for your help.” Jed said loudly as he drew his hand out and his wallet along with it, forcing a smile again. “I got another twenty if you tell me where that lyin’ little weasel is holed up.” He put the new bill alongside the other one and leaned across the bar until he was only a foot or so from the bartender. “I know a lie when I hear one. Do not lie to me.”


Beads of perspiration decorated Curly’s bald pate. The man before him wore a smile but there was no warmth in it at all and his cold, blue eyes held an evil promise. In that moment, Curly decided he didn’t care how much Billy Burdon paid him to keep quiet; he wasn’t prepared to die for that spoiled rich man’s brat. “Well, I ain’t supposed to say, but seeing as how you and him is friends...”


Jed slid both twenties towards the man and waited.


Curly leaned forward and whispered, “He’s upstairs with Emmy Lou; only you didn’t hear it from me. Please, Mister, I don’t want no trouble.” His hand reached out and snatched up the bills tucking them under his grimy apron. “Second door on the left.” He watched the curly-haired man weave his way through the crowd and start up the staircase. Curly just knew this was going to end badly. When Jed disappeared upstairs he beckoned Lulu over and told her to fetch the law right quick. He watched her duck past a dark-haired man coming in the front door. The man locked eyes with him and crossed the room.


Heyes had finally had enough. He’d worked his way to the end of the street and turned up nothing. Jed was right, he was wasting their time. Leaning on the rail, he smiled at the barkeep. “I’m lookin’ for a friend; maybe you’ve seen him…”


“Upstairs. Second door on the left,” sighed Curly. He was getting too old for this crap.


“I haven’t told you who I’m looking for yet.”


“Well, if it’s Billy Burdon, that’s where you’ll find ‘im, but you’d best hurry. The other fella didn’t look like he’d leave him breathing.”


Heyes bolted for the stairs, taking them two at a time. As he neared the top step, he saw Jed down the hall gesturing for him to be quiet. Despite his pounding heart, he walked normally down the long passage until he neared his partner.


“Burdon’s in room 3,” whispered Curry. “I was just figuring out the best way to play this. There’s a girl with him.” He couldn’t put another woman’s life at risk; he couldn’t just barge in.


Heyes nodded and looked up and down the hallway. They were alone; for now. “Cover me.” He picked up a tray from outside of the room across from where they stood. He removed the covered dishes and cups and set them on the floor. Pulling out a bandana, he wiped the crumbs off the tray, cleaned the dishes as best he could, and then carefully placed the dishware back on it. Lifting the tray over his shoulder, he walked down the hall. Jed followed on his heels.


Clearing his throat as he lifted his fist, Heyes stood to one side and pounded on the door. Disguising his voice with a thick Southern accent, he called out, “Emmy Lou, open up. Cook’s sent some supper up for you and your guest.” A moment later, the door opened a crack and a young, red-headed girl poked her head out. Her cheek was reddened and she held one hand to it.


Heyes could just see William’s hairy legs sticking out from under a rumpled quilt on the bed. They had him just where they wanted him.


“Geez Louise, don’t you know better than to knock when I’m sportin’ a fella? You pissed him off. Who are you, anyways?”


Heyes dropped the tray and yanked her through the doorway pulling her with him as Jed dove into the room. Heyes pushed Emmy Lou away from him and she ran down the stairs. He found Jed with his Colt in his hand aimed at a startled and naked William who held a small derringer.


“You!” yelled Burdon, glaring at Jed. His eyes shifted to Heyes who was frowning back at him and closing the door. He turned the lock and pocketed the key.


“Drop it!” barked Jed, thrusting the deadly gun at William.


“No, I won’t! How dare you burst in here? I know you cheated me. I’ll have you arrested!” William drew himself up with as much dignity as he could muster in his current state and held his weapon steady despite his personal disarray.


Heyes glanced at Jed. He could tell his partner was on the ragged edge of his control and he had to defuse the situation quickly without gunplay. He spread his arms wide to show he was unarmed and stepped in front of William. He cocked his head, judging William’s words and deciding which tack to take. “What do you know about the murder of Arabelle Abbott?” he asked, lapsing into the cadence of speech he’d used as Juan. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Jed look at him questioningly and he hurried on. “She was a dear friend of my Isabella and we were terribly distraught to learn of her death at your family home.”


William hesitated. “Isabella knew her?”


Heyes moved to sit down on the bed, willing his muscles to relax, and his poker face to remain open and calm as the small gun followed him. “Yes. We were all shocked to hear the news. Why, we just saw Arabelle the other day when she came to bid us farewell. Isabella gave her a pair of our dear mama’s earrings as a remembrance.” He could feel Jed’s eyes boring a hole in his back, but his partner remained mute.


Damn it. William hadn’t considered that possibility. Could it be that he’d made a mistake? He’d been so sure. No matter. He could talk his way out of this. He cleared his throat, “I met Arabelle for the first time that night. She was lovely. It was a horrible event. We are all heartbroken about it. But I thought you’d left town; why are you here?”


“Clyde and I had to come back when we heard the news. Poor Isabella is completely stricken. I had to leave her in the care of family friends in Wichita. She sends you her love.” Heyes smiled blandly. “We have been trying to get word to you, but we were unable to get even a note passed to you at your home so we had to resort to other measures. Ah, but all men all have their needs and you are no exception; my apologies for disrupting your evening.” He looked up at Jed and winked but received nothing more than a glacial stare in return.


“I really can’t tell you anything. The law is looking into it, but the rest of us are left wondering what happened.”


“Yes, I tried to speak with the authorities, but they were unwilling to provide any information to me; perhaps because I am a foreigner. I am convinced if you vouched for us, they would be more forthcoming.”


“You want to talk to the marshal right now?” William nearly laughed. “You must be joking.” He lowered his pistol without thinking about it and Jed relaxed as well.


“I assure you I am not. I know it is an inconvenient time, but I must conclude my business here quickly. We must be in New York by next Friday to sail to Spain and I know there is someone at the Marshal’s Office tonight. Please,” Heyes begged, “will you help us? It shouldn’t take too long.”


“All right. Give me a moment to get dressed and I’ll meet you downstairs,” said William. He had no choice but to agree. All the upstairs rooms in the brothel had barred windows to prevent clients from ducking out without paying and the doves from trying to escape their dismal lives. He dropped his derringer on the nightstand and waited until Jed holstered his own gun before picking up a pair of pants from the floor. “I’ll be right down.”


Heyes turned to leave and gestured for Jed to come with him. He had a brief, bad moment when he thought his partner might refuse, but Curry stalked out ahead of him. Closing the door, Heyes held a finger to his lips and started down the stairs.


When they reached the bottom, Jed could no longer contain his anger and he seized Heyes’ elbow, hissing, “What the hell are you playin’ at?”


Heyes pulled away and straightened his jacket. “I was trying to get William outta here without a fuss. Half the people in this joint could be working for his father. He already has the bartender in his pocket. Look, we need to get William alone and put the screws to him. We can’t do it here, can we?”


“So we ain’t takin’ him to the Marshal’s?”


“No, I just told him that so he’d feel safe coming with us.”


“Why you’d tell him about the earrings, Heyes?”


“To throw him off balance; now he’s not sure about what he knows and he’s greedy. If he thinks there’s even a tiny chance Isabella was for real, he’s going to cooperate and we need to get him out of here without causing a scene.” Heyes saw Emmy Lou seated alone at one of the back tables. She held a piece of ice to her rapidly swelling cheek. “Stay here and wait for William, will you?” Without waiting for Jed to agree, he walked over to the young, heavily made-up girl. She saw him walking towards her and she dropped her hand. The bruise was already dark and spreading across her face. He stopped in front of her table and asked, “May I join you?”


“Suit yourself.”


He sat. “Are you all right?”


“Do I look all right?” she snapped. “I ain’t gonna be able to work for a week looking like this.”


“Did William do that?”


“Damn him, he’s usually more careful-like!”


“He’s hit you before?”


“Sure, but never in the face. I can’t hide it there. Now, don’t look at me like that. He pays me for it, pays me good, too.” She leaned forward confidentially. “I think that’s the only way he likes it, if’n you know what I mean.”


Heyes felt his bile rise. He hated men who abused woman. “So William was a regular of yours?”


“Just lately. He got in some trouble at Sparky’s and they won’t let him back. Now, don’t go asking me about it. They kept it real quiet. I heard his papa had to come down and spread some of his money around to shut the girls up, but I’d already heard about him. All us working ladies know about William Burdon. He likes it rough and that costs big.” She smiled for the first time and Heyes could see how young she was; young, but already old in so many ways.


William came down the stairs and Jed took him by the arm. “I said I’d come with you.”


“Yeah, well, I’m not one for takin’ chances.” Curry pulled him into the shadow of the stairwell and quickly patted him down, pulling the derringer from where William had shoved it down the back of his waist. Jed dragged him over to where Heyes sat. “Apologize to the lady,” he growled.


“Lady?” sneered William. Jed shook him savagely. “All right, all right! Emmy Lou, I’m really sorry I hit you.”


Emmy Lou rose to her feet and smiled, “Sugar, you can hit me anytime as long as you’re willing to pay for it, but I reckon you still owe me for this shiner.” She held out her hand expectantly. William glared at her.


“Pay her!” Jed shook him again. Heyes rose to his feet watching his partner carefully.


Digging for his billfold with only one hand, William dragged it out of a pocket and handed it over to Emmy Lou who opened it. She pulled out a ten dollar bill, tossed the wallet on the table, and smiled. “Reckon that ought to do it. See you around, Sugar.” She blew him a kiss and wandered towards the bar to look for someone not too particular about a bruised gal.


Heyes, with great effort, pasted a friendly smile on his face. “Come, let us find the marshal.”


The two partners walked towards the door with William between them, firmly held by Jed. He glanced at each man. They meant him harm; he could see it. He hadn’t believed them and he was damned sure they didn’t believe him. He knew he was making a terrible mistake leaving with them, but what choice did he have? As Jed pushed him ahead of him through the crowd, his panic rose. If they got him outside, he was done for. His mind raced and his fear made him bold. Snatching a gun from the holster of one of the men who stepped back to let him pass, he swung the gun up and around, hitting Jed across the side of his head. Stunned, Jed let go, cursing. By the time he lifted his head, his Colt in his right hand, William had his arm around Heyes’ neck and the gun pointed at his head. The crowd fell back quickly, leaving the three of them in the center of the room.


“I’ll kill him. I swear I will!” cried William, pressing the barrel into Heyes’ forehead with a shaking hand.


“William, what are you doing? I thought we’d agreed to visit the marshal,” said Heyes softly, hoping to talk his way out of this.


“Shut up! You liar! You, drop your gun.” William’s demanding tone was belied by the fear in his eyes.


“I can’t do that,” said Jed, calmly.


“Didn’t you hear me? I’ll kill him!”


“No, I don’t think even you’d be that stupid, William.” Jed squared up to Burdon, his gun steady. “See, if you kill my friend, then what’s to stop me from killin’ you? You lookin’ to die?” Heyes’ eyes shot daggers at him for his antagonizing tone.


“What the hell’s goin’ on here?” Attention shifted to a large, older man standing by the still swinging doors. A tin star was pinned to his chest and a frown pinned to his face. “William, are you in trouble again? What am I gonna tell your daddy?” His exasperation drew laughter from the crowd.


Embarrassed, William blustered, “These men are accosting me, Marshal. I demand that you arrest them.”


“That so? Looks to me like you’re the one doin’ the accostin’. Why don’t you let that boy go and we’ll settle this over a few beers?” The marshal smiled at William, but his hand went to his gun and William saw it.


“I told you to arrest them! Do as I say! My father will have your head for this!” William was turning puce and his chokehold tightened around Heyes throat.


“Put the gun down, William. I ain’t tellin’ you again,” said Jed.


“Easy now, both of you,” said the marshal, staring into Heyes’ alarmed eyes, trying to reassure him. “Let him go, William. If there’s a problem here there’s better ways of sortin’ it out.”


“No, he’ll shoot me. He said he would,” whined William.


“You ain’t gonna shoot him are you, son?” asked the big man, shifting his attention to Jed.


“That depends.”


A chuckle bubbled out of the lawman. “Depends on what? Hell, Kid, there’s no point in mowing him down in front of so many witnesses. You’d hang for it.”


“Not if I don’t shoot first,” said Jed flatly.


“Now I’m assumin’ that’s your pal William has a chokehold on, you plannin’ on sacrificin’ him?”


“Maybe.”


Heyes glared at him. “Hey!” It was all he could croak out.


“What’s got you so riled up, Kid?” The marshal stared at the young man holding the Colt as though it were an extension of his arm. This kid knew how to shoot, he’d bet his eyeteeth on it. But he hadn’t. The boy was holding back. “What kind of beef do you have with William?”


“I think he killed a friend of mine,” said Jed. His eyes never left William’s. He was ready for the slightest move and William knew it. Beads of sweat had sprung to Burdon’s brow and his hand shook more every second. Heyes was getting worried that William would pull the trigger without even meaning to do it. His eyes urged his partner to put down his gun, but Jed was ignoring him. He was too far gone with hate to think about the consequences. “Arabelle Abbott.”


“You hurt that little gal, William?” asked the marshal. He knew all about William’s reputation and his interest was piqued. He took a step forward.


“No!” William dragged Heyes back a few feet to put some more distance between them.


“Then how come you didn’t want to go to the marshal’s with us? Why’d you pull a gun on us to keep from talkin’ to the law?” growled Jed.


Heyes couldn’t believe Jed was interrogating William while he had a gun to his head, but even he was interested in the answer.


“You were going to kill me. I’m sure of it.”


Heyes couldn’t take it anymore. “If he was gonna kill you, you’d already be dead. He’s a dead shot, you idiot.” He could feel William tense up and Heyes briefly wondered who the idiot was. Closing his eyes, he waited.


William saw the truth in Jed’s eyes. He was going to die no matter what he did and all because of that snotty bitch. “She had it coming to her.”


Heyes eyes flew open and the marshal shook his head slightly to warn him to stay quiet.


“She snubbed me. Me. She treated me like I was dirt in front of my friends!”


“You don’t have any friends, boy,” said the marshal, stepping to one side for a better shot. Even his papa couldn’t save William now.


“You killed her because she hurt your feelings?” Jed eyes narrowed with intent.


“I saw her earrings!” screamed William. “The emerald earrings! I…I…went crazy. I didn’t mean to kill her...it just…happened.”


A sick pallor crossed Heyes’ countenance. It was true. They’d driven William to kill. Jen was dead because they’d chosen a crazy man for a mark.


“Make him put his gun down!” cried William. “I’ll surrender.” His own weapon started to lower. He knew he was caught. There was no hope for him now. He’d hang.


“Kid, let me handle this. He’s confessed. There ain’t no call for you to ruin your life by killin’ the likes of him,” urged the marshal. “What’s your name, son?”


Distracted, Jed answered, “Curry. It’s Jed Curry.”


“He said his name was Clyde!” yelled William.


“He don’t look like a Clyde to me. Naw, he’s Jed all right,” said the big lawman with a chuckle. “Let’s put that gun away, nice and easy, Jed.”


Slowly, Jed un-cocked his gun, returned it to his holster, and dropped his hand to his side, but his eyes never left William’s and neither did the marshal’s. They watched as he loosened his grip on Heyes. Heyes started to pull away and William’s hand swung sharply up again.


Jed screamed “Heyes!” in a panic and scrambled for his gun. Before William could pull the trigger, a shot was fired, and the gun slipped harmlessly from his dead hands. A blossom of blood replaced the sweat on his forehead and his eyes rolled up into his head. He slid almost gracefully to the ground. A pool of blood and urine stained the floor around him.


Heyes jumped away from the corpse and began hyperventilating. He stared at his hands flat on the table he was leaning on and tried to catch his breath. He’d known Jed was good, but not that good. He’d truly thought he was a dead man. He slowly became aware of the silence in the room and, when he lifted his eyes again, he saw the marshal put a gentle hand on Jed’s forearm as he holstered his own unfired weapon.


“Steady, son. It’s all over. We all saw him go for his gun.” The big lawman ever so slowly reached out and tugged the gun from Jed’s still outstretched hand. He put it back in the empty holster and patted Jed’s shoulder. “That was fine shooting, Kid. Best I’ve ever seen. You saved your partner’s life, you know.” He kept up a soft patter, whispering reassurances, until Jed turned to look at him. The boy was in shock and it was plain to the marshal that he’d never killed a man before. “Come on, now, let’s go somewhere quiet where we can talk, okay?” Jed nodded and the marshal turned to Heyes. “You, too. We need to get out of here. Curly, best you call the undertaker. I’ll take care of notifying the family.” He led the two stunned, young men out the door before he said, “You boys know who that was?”


Jed turned dull eyes to him. “Yeah, we knew.”


“Then you’ll also know you need to get out of here fast. His daddy’s gonna come looking for you and you left a room full of witnesses back there. Any one of them will be able to describe you two.”


“Jed didn’t do anything wrong. William shot first!” protested an astonished Heyes.


Sighing, the marshal shook his head. “You really think that’s gonna matter to his daddy? Ernest Burdon is a powerful man and you just killed his only son. He’s gonna come after you. You’ve got to get outta here. Now. There’s a train leaving in fifteen minutes. If you run, you can make it. Now, go, git!”


Heyes and Jed exchanged a glance, stepped off the sidewalk and began running for their lives.
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Keays

Keays

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Age : 62
Location : Camano Island Washington

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PostSubject: Re: The Devil's Due Part 6    The Devil's Due Part 6   EmptyTue Jan 20, 2015 7:35 am

What an amazing chapter!

You had me hooked right from the beginning with the boys searching through the seedier side of town, a side that both boys would be familiar with but few writers have put them there. Then the little hints of anger and accusation that the Kid feels towards Heyes and that Heyes feels himself, but neither want to confront it. Is this going to turn into a festering resentment that pulls them apart?

The Burdon's are so typical in their wealthy arrogance, thinking that their money will solve all problems, even murder. Then you have a mother who refuses to see what her son really is and seems willing to cover up everything in order to protect him.

The final scene was very tense and it took a sudden turn there at the end that I hadn't expected. I thought once the marshal was there and Jed had put his gun away, that would be it. William would be arrested. But true to nature William figured he could bully his way out of his predicament and nobody, not even Heyes, had counted on Jed's honed instincts.

Now they really have made themselves a powerful enemy. Is there going to be more strife between the partners? Is Heyes going to resent the fact that Jed had been willing to put Heyes' life at risk in order to get retribution? Is Jed going to continue to blame Heyes for Jen's murder?

There is a rift building between them and I am eagerly awaiting your next chapter.
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Javabee

Javabee

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Age : 63
Location : Seattle

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PostSubject: Re: The Devil's Due Part 6    The Devil's Due Part 6   EmptyTue Jan 20, 2015 12:45 pm

Dear Talented Ladies,

There are so many layers to this that it feels like I am dining on a rich, satisfying meal. You have taken the time to develop even the minor characters so well that I feel I actually know them.
The small insights into their inner thoughts made them seem so human, like this one: Heyes couldn’t take it anymore. “If he was gonna kill you, you’d already be dead. He’s a dead shot, you idiot.” He could feel William tense up and Heyes briefly wondered who the idiot was. Closing his eyes, he waited. 

I never expected William to confess, even under duress, because he was so used to getting whatever he wanted. On the other hand, it rang true because he had never faced a gun pointed at him by a furious Jed Curry. 

Little by little you are chipping away at the relationship between our two boys, and eventually I am sure we will understand how two devoted friends could end up with such bitterness and resentment towards each other. How it could get so bad that they would finally be driven apart remains to be seen, but I am certain you will get us there. 

I am (not so)patiently awaiting your next chapter,

Java

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"If I asked for a cup of coffee, someone would search for the double meaning." Mae West
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