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 True Blue

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PostSubject: True Blue   Sun Feb 01, 2015 9:35 am

It's time to get those minds buzzing and fingers busy with our new challenge.  No time to lose, it's the shortest month of the year and it also covers Valentine's Day!  You challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to give us your funniest, scariest, amazing, most-heart-wrenching and moving story in four thousand words or less on the topic;


True Blue

It can be the colour blue, constancy, honesty, loyalty, bruises, a blue uniform, a certain pair of blue eyes, you name it!  You can also turn it on it's head and show dishonesty ect...

Get Writing!


Writing

Get writing, and don't forget to finish commenting on January.  Comments are the only reward our writers get and late babies need as much love as early babies.
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PostSubject: Re: True Blue   Wed Feb 11, 2015 7:32 pm

I couldn't make my ongoing story fit last month's prompt, but here is the third part of my ongoing story.

Part 3


One blue eye opened a crack and tried to look around the room as discretely as possible. Every muscle in his body groaned and protested. It was no good. He couldn’t see a thing so he had to turn.


Kid Curry steeled himself for the next burst of pain from his bruised ribs before he rolled over, trying not to groan out loud. He wasn’t wrong; the spasm shot through his ribs and convulsed his body but he managed to complete the maneuver. He paused, breathing heavily from his exertions, half-covered by the scraggy blanket, but it was worth it. He could now see the deputy rocking back in his chair at the main desk, but where was his pal? The sheriff made it clear that at least two men had to guard an outlaw as famous as him; even injured he couldn’t be trusted.


And they were right; he was nowhere near as badly injured as he had let on. Why not keep the element of surprise wherever you could? He would never be as good at poker as Heyes but he sure knew enough to keep his cards close to his chest. Beecher might be a red-neck brute, but he wasn’t about to jeopardize the chance of the reward money. A corpse is hard to question, and a dead body beaten to a bloody pulp is even harder to identify beyond doubt. The attack had been violent, but not beyond the pale. Let them think he could hardly move. It never hurt to let the opposition underestimate you.


His curiosity was soon put to rest at the sound of the side door opening. The deputy looked up from his desk. “Is that you, Roy? Make sure you lock the door behind ya.”


The sound of a gruff, “yeah,” followed by the scrape of the door as it closed and the rattle of keys was confirmation of a return from the outhouse.


“All quiet out there? Surely they won’t be dumb enough to hit the jailhouse with Beecher’s men across the road at the hotel.” The deputy walked over to the pot bellied stove. “Yah want some coffee? We need to stay awake.”


He froze at the metallic click of a cocking gun behind his ear. “Across the road, you say?” The deputy turned to see a dimpled smile behind the gun barrel. “How many?”


“Where’s Roy,” he demanded. “What have you done to him?”


“Your friend is fine. He’s just a bit tied up right now,” the grin widened. “We waited until he was coming back. It’d be just plain mean to leave a man needing to go, wouldn’t it? Now get those hands up and keep them there.”


The deputy frowned, meeting the dark eyes defiantly, but he raised his hands as instructed. “You ain’t gonna use that gun. One shot and this place will be full of Beecher’s men.”


“Yeah? That’d be a dumb move, considering we’ve got one of your men out the back. Do you think we’re gonna stand by and let the Kid go to jail?”


“You’re the Devil’s Hole Gang,” the deputy countered. “You don’t hurt anyone. Everyone knows that.”


Hannibal Heyes shook his head. “Nope. They say we never shot anyone, and that’s not the same thing at all. Is it boys?”


“I can’t speak for you, Heyes, but I hurt plenty of folks,” Wheat emerged from the darkness near the side door. “How are you doin’, Kid? You don’t look so good.”


“All the better for seein’ you boys here,” the gunman propped himself up with some difficulty to work around his damaged ribs.


Wheat smiled and turned back to the deputy. “I don’t hurt ladies though. I ain’t an animal. So unless you’re the ugliest woman in town don’t get too comfortable, my friend.” He strode forward and grabbed the gun from the lawman’s holster. “What about you, Kyle?”


“Does breakin’ hearts count?” Kyle strode over to the front door and locked it. “I left a l’il gal over in Utah who never forget me. Lily her name was, and she was the sweetest saloon gal I ever laid eyes on. That’s a broken heart that’ll never mend ‘cos I took part of it with me. She had lots of yellow hair. I only ever saw that color when the sun hit a bobcat’s eyes. Man, she was a wild ‘un; a bobcat in her own right. I once saw her lay out a fella with one blow from a spittoon. I fell for her right there and then. ”


Heyes rolled his eyes. “Can we stick to the point, boys?” He held out beckoning fingers. “Keys to the cell; where are they?”


“The sheriff took ‘em with him when he went home,” the deputy raised a challenging eyebrow. “I couldn’t give ‘em to you to save my life.” He stared in to the hardening brown eyes and gulped hard. “Honest. I couldn’t.”


Wheat looked expectantly at his leader. “Looks like you’re needed, boss.”


The deputy’s hands started to quiver. “If you shoot the lock off the men across the road will hear. You ain’t got a chance of getting’ him outta this cell without gettin’ caught. Just get outta here while the goin’s good.”


Heyes gestured towards the chair. “Tie him up, Wheat. Make sure he’s gagged real good. Time for me to get to work, I guess.”


Heyes dragged off his hat and fumbled with the lining until he drew out a long piece of metal with a hook on the end. He nodded to his old friend. “I’ll have you outta there as soon as I can, Kid.”


“Well you better be quick, Heyes. The sheriff said he’d be checkin’ this place every three hours and you got twenty minutes to get me outta here and make a clean getaway.” The Kid winced through a bruised grin and nodded towards the clock on the wall. “I gotta warn you. I ain’t so quick on my feet tonight. It might take a bit to get me on a horse.”


“Gee, thanks. That always helps.” Heyes dropped to his knees and inserted the pick into the lock. “Nothing like working against the clock to focus a man’s mind.”


“Kinda like that time we held up the train at Tall Grass. We knew the time was runnin’ out and that a posse would leave the town when the payroll was late. That safe wouldn’t blow. Wouldn’t crack either. You kept turnin’ and turning’ at that combination. It just wouldn’t crack. I thought it’d be one we’d have to leave behind. Do you remember that, do ya?” Heyes ignored him and stared into the keyhole as he delicately manipulated his instrument in the cavity. “That looks real tricky. I don’t want to hurry ya, Heyes, but we’ve got to be on the road south if we want to get a head start on the sheriff.”


“I know that, Kid,” came the terse reply.


The clock ticked on, marking out the passing seconds accompanied only by metallic scratch of the pick on the tumblers of the lock.


“This is true blue of you boys. I knew I could depend on you to come back for me.”


Irritated brown eyes glared at the Kid. “Yeah. So can the law, so if you don’t mind, I’d appreciate some quiet to work?”


“Sure, Heyes. Sorry about that. I think it’s somethin’ the doc gave me. It’s made me a bit light-headed.”


Heyes returned to his work, the frown intensifying with his concentration as he continued his prodding and engineering in the keyhole. The scowl fell away with the click of success and the cell door swung open. “At last. Come on, Kid. We gotta get you outta here.”


Wheat covered the rear and Kyle the front as Heyes supported the groaning gunman from the bed. They stumbled towards the cell door, but the Kid pulled back when Heyes turned towards the side door. He pointed over at the desk. “No. My gun. It’s in the drawer.”


“Look at the time, Kid. We gotta go!”


“My gun! It’s taken years to get it just right. I need it.”


“But it’s nearly five minutes to the hour…”


“My gun!”


“For cryin’ out loud,” Wheat snapped. “Get him on a horse. I’ll get his gun.” He wandered over to the desk muttering under his breath. “If’n I didn’t know better I’d think that the doc gave the Kid whatever Kyle’s been takin’ for years….” He followed the gang out of the office clutching the precious weapon in a large fist. “It’d better wear off damn quick.”


“Wheat!” Heyes’ coarse whisper cut through the night air. “Help me get him on this horse. He’s hurt.”


“Sure, here, Kyle. Look after his gun belt for him.”


Two men pulled and pushed the injured man back and forth until come kind of balance was achieved. “You gonna manage, Kid?”


“Yeah. It’ll hurt even more if I fall off. That’ll focus the mind.”


Wheat threw his leg over his mount and guided his mount quietly out into the alley behind the jailhouse. “I heard the Kid say in there that we were goin’ south. I guess that means we’re headin’ north? Good idea of your’n to drop that into conversation when one of us is caught, Heyes. It kinda plays with their heads.”


Heyes shook his head. “Nope.”


“We are goin’ south? It’s a double bluff?” Asked Kyle.


“Kinda,” Heyes cast a worried glance at his partner. “He’s not fit to travel far. We’re movin’ quietly to the edge of town and laying low. Then we’ll do the last thing they’ll expect. We ride back in.”


“Are you mad?” Wheat demanded.


“Completely loco,” grinned their leader. “We know Beecher turned him in and I know who he is. While Beecher’s men are running about like headless chickens we’re going to check into the hotel and the Kid is gonna recuperate in comfort - in the last place they’d look. Kyle and I’ll sneak him in by the backstairs and while you book us two rooms, Wheat.”


“That don’t sound safe!” his lieutenant protested.


“The minute the alarm is raised every man in town is gonna hit the road, including the lawmen. Nobody in the hotel is going to know who you are and nobody but the clerk is going to see you. You’ll keep to your rooms and stay quiet until the Kid is fit to travel.” The night masked the growing darkness in the outlaw leader’s eyes. “I’ve got a few scores to settle with Mr. Beecher in the meantime. He’s not the only one with a good memory.”
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Stepha3nie

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PostSubject: Re: True Blue   Wed Feb 18, 2015 10:26 am

I'm still struggling with the continuation of Blue Jays's story, so a blue bunny decided I needed some other inspiration and here is the result:



Heyes pointed silently to the letter sitting in the middle of the kitchen table, propped up by the candleholder.  Warm, chocolate eyes sympathized with the weary traveler just returned to a silent home.

Blue eyes blinked, trying to make sense of it all, not yet ready to acknowledge the evidence.  The fastest hand in the West crawled towards the cream-colored envelope bearing his name.

He fell down heavily onto his favorite chair, dust and thirst forgotten, and after searching for encouragement in the dark eyes to his right, ‘always there, on my right, when I need him, always having my back’ he opened the envelope and unfolded the letter within.  Written in a hand he knew all too well.
 
 
 
April, 21st 1896

 

Dear Jedidiah –

 

                                                  When you read this letter, I will be gone and I will not be coming back.  I love you but I cannot continue to live with you.  It just hurts too much.  You are the love of my life, but time has shown me that it is not the same for you.  My heart is not big enough to share you with others, trying to do so is breaking it.  I have tried to be strong for a long time.

You have tried to stay true, I know, but I have come to realize that you cannot change who you are.  There will always be another woman you just will have to help and there may have been others I do not even want to think about.  I thought our love and our children would be enough to make you mine forever.  It was not to be.  There is nothing else I can do.  I have stood by your side for as long as I could.  My family had warned me to marry you, but I was too much in love with you to listen.  And I was happy with you.  For those first years I will always be grateful.  They were the happiest time of my life and I thank you for it.

If only it could have lasted.  If I stay, I will turn bitter and I might start to hate you, and I do not want this to happen.  Not just for myself, but for the sake of our children.

I am taking the children with me.  At least in them I will have something of you, the best of you, that will be mine forever.  I did  not want to take them away from you, but children need their mother and I need them.  I have nobody else and I know you have at least one other and you are so close to your dear nephews and nieces, almost as if they were your own.  Your cousin and Louise will look after you, you will not be alone.

Please, I beg you, do not come after us.  You could probably track us down, it is what you do after all, but if you ever loved me and still feel some affection for me, you will stay away.  I do not think I would be strong enough to deny you to your face.  But it would not last.  You know it as well as I do, if you are honest with yourself.  You cannot help your nature any more than I can help mine.

Do you really want to see our children growing up with parents who resent each other, who fight with each other, who hate each other?

I have not decided yet what to tell them, I pray we can find a way so they can see you again.  They are yours as well as mine and I know your devotion to them.  You are a wonderful father and I want them to grow up proud to be your children.

It grieves me to leave you all behind, not just you, but Louise and Heyes and their children as well.  They have become family to me too and I wanted our children to grow up to be as close as you and your cousin.  Please let us find a way for them; a way which does not destroy us.

Once I have found a place, I will let my dear friend Louise know how to contact me.  I ask you again, please, do not come after us.

Goodbye Jed, please forgive me, as I am trying to forgive you.

 

Take care and stay safe,

 

                                                  Amelia
 
 
 
Empty blue eyes looked up when a glass of whiskey clonked down on the table.  Mechanically his hand lifted it to his lips and then the strong liquor burned down his tight throat.  A comforting hand squeezed his shoulder and once more amber solace sloshed into the glass.

_________________
"I can resist everything - except temptation"  Oscar Wilde
For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
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Hunkeydorey

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PostSubject: Re: True Blue   Thu Feb 19, 2015 6:15 pm

True Blue


A pair of clear, blue eyes echoed the bright summer skies which lit another evening of blissful freedom. The road stretched out to the horizon, a ribbon of dust dotted with scrubby bushes, dry trees and jagged grass. Jedidiah Curry frowned at the figure sashaying towards his hiding place; her shape shifting in the shimmering heat haze as she walked passed the schoolhouse.


She was trouble, that one. She had changed his life the minute she had walked into the room, with her bright blonde hair and that intoxicating feminine sway. Odella Blau smelled of honeysuckle and jasmine in a world where females generally lived in a cloud of carbolic soap and new-baked bread. She was soft and round in all the right places and looking into her green eyes was like diving into a secret pool in a sun-dappled forest glade. Everything about her was a sensory experience from the warmth of her laughter to the hollow emptiness of the void she left behind when she was gone. This was the woman who had come between the two best friends. This was the woman for whom he lay in wait.


Thanks to her, Hannibal Heyes was not enjoying the sun on his skin, the freedom to walk in the warm, summer air, or the company of his best friend. This was a score that needed settling.


He turned, looking back down towards the town and a smile twitched at his lips. Yes, it was just as he thought; the preacher’s wife was heading towards the church where the junior chapter of the Ladies’ Mission were preparing for their craft show under the brightly coloured bunting which fluttered in the wind. It wasn’t just any craft show – it was the event of the year. Young women from all over the district were there, bustling about with their sewing, knitting, crochet, lace making. They were desperate to be named as the best in their field. A win was prestigious, marking a girl out as good marriage material, and Odella Blau was headed straight for it with her basket.


He climbed up onto his knees, making sure he was still concealed behind the rocks. The women were congregating around the stalls in chattering groups when Odella arrived. She laid her basket on the baked goods stall and used both hands to carefully place a dish of golden perfection among the offerings. The preacher’s wife turned, her interest piqued by murmured “oohs” drifting in the air. She raised her brows and stared intently down at the pie crust. “That looks beautifully browned, Odella.”


She smiled prettily. “Thank you, Mrs. Jay.”


“And you seem to have arranged all of the blueberries in a tight spiral. That looks absolutely beautiful and the glaze is perfect. It must have taken you ages.”


“It did,” Odella flushed.


“Well,” Mrs. Jay glanced down the table at the other offerings, “if it tastes as good as it looks it’ll be a sure fired winner. It looks good enough to be entered in the seniors’ competition tomorrow. I think we have the makings of a star baker in our midst.”


“Thank you, Mrs. Jay...”


Odella continued fussing and primping her at display, turning the dish this way and that, her fair head tilted to the side and the tip of a little pink tongue protruding through her rosebud lips in concentration. She stepped back to leave her competition entry, apparently happy that it was being shown to best effect.


Jed Curry grinned. His vantage point was the rocky outcrop between the church and the schoolhouse and from here he had a perfect view. Hannibal Heyes was there in the school house, cleaning the floor in front of the blackboard he had apparently just wiped as part of his detention duties. Jed scowled. He simply didn’t understand his older cousin’s obsession with thirteen year old Odella. Sure she was pretty and all, and made him feel real strange at times, but Hannibal was completely smitten. Since Odella had arrived at their school Jed had not only lost his fishing partner but Hannibal had lost all interest in their usual pranks and high jinks. Jed had even had to walk to school on his own because Hannibal was carrying Odella’s books for her. Why? She didn’t look crippled. He’d seen his ma bring in a whole basket of logs by herself, so it wasn’t like women couldn’t lift stuff. They were real good at it. His big sister was stronger than he was; in fact he still hadn’t forgiven her for holdin’ him down so that his younger sisters could put ribbons in his curls.


He shook himself back to the business at hand - Odella Blau and the contest. The church ladies were starting to file down the line of tables. Time to get to action. He raised his weapon and took careful aim, pulling back on the sling shot as far as it would go.


The aim was true. The projecting hurtled through the air and smashed straight through the school room window. Jed nodded with satisfaction at the sight of the school teacher bustling over to examine the missile, staring accusingly out at the yard to see where it had come from. One thing was for sure. She wasn’t going to blame Hannibal because he was standing in the middle of the room holding a mop. He might be in detention, but he was in the clear for this one.


The school wasn’t too far away, and he could hear Miss Gormley’s voice raise an octave in anger. She suddenly got louder when she appeared outside in the schoolyard, peering up at the rocks. Jed was ready for her though, and had already clambered down from his vantage point and was walking innocently towards the church.


“Miss! Miss Gormley!” The teacher turned and frowned at young Hannibal who was holding up the stone which had shattered the window. “It’s wrapped in paper. There’s a note.”


“There is?” Miss Gormley unwrapped the rock and stared down at the missive. Here eyeballs started to positively bulge before she crunched it up in her hand and marched off in the direction of the church. “I want that floor finished by the time I get back”, she called over her shoulder. “You are still in detention. I’ll only be a few minutes.”


Jed was strolling casually in the background as the irate teacher strutted up to the baking contest with the outrage of a wet hen. She scanned the table before giving a gasp of outrage and pointed at a blueberry pie. “That’s mine! I made that.”


“Are you sure?” The pastor’s wife scuttled up surrounded by the town matriarchs.


“Sure?” Miss Gormley pointed at the extravagant spirals picked out by individual berries in an everlasting, swirling fractal. “It took me hours to arrange the berries like that. I laid it out on the window sill to cool and it was stolen.” She cast guilty eyes over in the direction of the school. “In fact Hannibal is in detention right now for the theft. I was so sure it was him. He had blueberry stains on his shirt.”


“Odella Blau!” Mrs. Jay bawled at the blonde girl shrinking into the shadows. “What is the meaning of this? You stole this pie!? It’s your teacher’s pie?”


Tears glittered in her green eyes. “I...I had boasted to everyone about my pie... mine was stolen and when I saw that one sitting there it just seemed so perfect.” Her little hands formed into fists. “I couldn’t go without entering anything. I’d told everyone how lovely my pie was and I had nothing...”


“So you sat there and let me accuse poor Hannibal for something he didn’t do!” cried Miss Gormley. “How could you!?”


“I’m sorry. It was just a pie and I’m new here. The girls don’t like me and they said I was useless at baking. I had to out something in the competition.” Odella cast beseeching eyes at the adults. “I didn’t mean any harm. It was just a pie.”


“It was my entry for the Seniors Baking competition tomorrow,” Miss Gormley barked. “It was my special blueberry pie. Oh, poor Hannibal. He’s in detention for nothing.”


“Well, this is an easy decision. Odella Blau, you are disqualified and are barred from entering any of the Women’s Mission competitions for five years.”


The girl burst into tears and ran off in the direction of the town. Mrs. Jay turned to the teacher. “We can save your pie to enter in tomorrow’s contest. You can still submit that as an entry. There’s no real harm done.”


“I suppose,” Miss Gormley sighed, “now I have to go and apologize to Hannibal. I hate having to admit to students that I’m wrong.”


“To err is human, to forgive divine,” Mrs. Jay reminded to teacher. “This is actually quite funny,” she suppressed a quiet smile, “but we can’t possibly tell the children that. Where would it all end?”


“Quite,” agreed Miss Gormley. “It’d be chaos. I’d best get back to the school and let Hannibal get out to enjoy the sunshine.” Here keen eyes landed on a small figure in lurking in the background. “Jedidiah Curry! Get over here.” She watched the reluctant boy approach, dragging his boots through the dust as though they were made of lead. “Did you think you could send a note through my window wrapped around a rock without recognising the handwriting? You wrote that and pitched it through the glass. I’m your teacher. I know everyone’s handwriting!”


Jed drew aimless circles with his toe and cast rueful eyes to the ground. “I wanted to tell you what happened to your pie...”


“You could have just come to me. There was no need to be destructive. Your parents will have to pay for that repair.”


“I’m sorry, Miss,” Jed’s blue eyes widened innocently. “I thought you were too angry to listen. You were proper mad.”


“I am now,” she paused, “but I suppose you did tell me where my pie went. You will chop wood for the school fireplace every day next week for breaking the window, but because you helped me find my pie you can do it at break times instead of staying late.”


Jed nodded his curly head. “Yes, m. I understand. I won’t do it again.”


He watched the sparrow-like frame of his teacher disappear back in the direction of the schoolhouse clutching her precious blueberry pie, and it wasn’t too much longer before the an elated Hannibal Heyes came careening his way.


“Jed! That was you? You smashed the window?”


“Sure did, Han.”


“Wow! When the stone came through the window and there was glass everywhere. Man, Mrs. Gormley was furious. You found her pie for her? That was lucky. How did you know who stole it? Did ya see them? Huh, did ya see the thief?”


“No. I never saw them, but I knew it was Odella.”


“It was Odella?” Hannibal’s brown eyes filled with a mixture of disappointment and admiration. “She stole the teacher’s pie for the competition? But how do you know that it was her if you never saw her?”


“They know she did it, Han. She entered the teacher’s pie in the junior competition. She was caught with it and she was quite happy to leave you to take the punishment for it too, just because you had a blueberry stain on your shirt. She a wrong ‘un. She ain’t right for you.”


Hannibal shook his head in confusion. “But how did you know?”


“I knew when she insisted that she was puttin’ in an entry in the competition.” A devilish grin spread over Jed’s face and his eye twinkled with mischief. “The teacher’s pie was stolen and I knew Odella’s had gone missin’. Where do you think I got the pie we ate from? That’s how you’ve got a blueberry stain on your shirt.”


“You sly dog!”


Jed tapped his temple with grubby fingers. “Well you know what Grandpa Curry always says, Han. Up there for thinkin.’” He pointed down at his booted feet. “Down there for dancin’.”


“Thanks,” Hannibal scratched his head. “Yeah. That was pretty mean of her, huh? She shouldn’t have let me take the blame like that. It’s a good job you don’t let women turn your head. I need to be more like you. I would’ve been known as a thief. Can you imagine goin’ through life with that hangin’ over your head? Phew, talk about a narrow escape!”

~~~~~~~~~~
Did anyone notice anything about the names? They all relate to the word blue – except for the boys of course.

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riders57

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PostSubject: Re: True Blue   Sat Feb 21, 2015 1:29 pm

That’s What Friends Are For


The gentle breeze blowing from behind cooled the air; the chatter of birds in the trees and the warm scents of spring should have gladdened the two men.  Instead, Heyes stopped and rubbed at his reddened eyes trying to remove the offending strands of hair that insisted on further irritating them.  He pushed the hair back, yanked his hat on, and pulled it down low.  This accomplished, he stalked down the trail, saddlebag flung over his shoulder, grumbling to himself and throwing occasional glares behind him.  


His blond partner followed, sitting casually on his horse and chuckling to himself as he led both Heyes’ mount and a packhorse.


“You know you could come a little closer, Kid,” Heyes called over his shoulder.


“What’s that?  Couldn’t hear you.”  Curry smiled at the look of frustration on his partner’s face.


“I said this is ridiculous.  Come closer,” Heyes shouted.


“Can’t,” Curry replied.  “Any closer and the horses start up.  It’s not much farther to that pond.  There’s a cave nearby.  You can settle in there for the night, and I’ll head on into town and get the supplies.”


Heyes stopped short and swung around to face Curry, his hands on his hips, his face reddening to match his eyes.  “You’d leave me behind?”


“I ain’t walkin’, and your horse ain’t lettin’ you near.  You’ll be safe enough there.  If anyone comes you can retreat to the cave – no one’s goin’ to enter a dark cave to track such a proddy bear as you’re bein’.”


“But, but we were going to the Golden Spur after picking up the supplies.  You’d go without me?”


“One night in town after three weeks at the Hole with nothin’ but you and the boys for company – I wasn’t plannin’ on spendin’ it with you anyways.”  Curry paused, his eyes raking Heyes.  Finally, swallowing the grin tugging at the corners of his mouth, he jerked his chin to the side of the trail.  “Up there, Heyes, just jump on in when you get to the pond.  I’ll take care of the horses then come by.”


Heyes huffed and stomped on, turning off the path where Curry indicated.


~~~oOo~~~


Heyes scrubbed his body with sand until it felt raw.  He rubbed more into his tingling scalp then submerged his body, rinsing it.  Coming up, he shook the water from his eyes and took an experimental sniff.  He frowned and turned towards shore.


He noticed the Kid sitting on a rock, whittling.  Curry looked at him.  “It didn’t work,” Heyes called and grimaced.


Curry nodded.  “Didn’t think it would.  Got you all set up in the cave.  I’ve laid a fire and set up both our bed rolls for you.”  He bent down and, with a grimace, gathered the clothes Heyes had abandoned when he dove into the pond.  He reached into the pockets and, with an expression of distaste, emptied the contents onto the rock he’d vacated.  Holding the clothes well away from his body, his face averted, Curry turned back towards where he’d staked the horses.


“Wait!”  Heyes called.


Curry paused and looked back.


“You can’t take all my clothes!”


“You really want to put these back on?”


“Well, no.  But, but get me some of my other stuff from the saddle bags.”


“I tried – they’re almost as bad.”  Curry stood and pondered Heyes as Heyes stood hip deep in the water, a pleading expression on his face, shivering in the afternoon chill.  Shaking his head, Curry walked away.


“Kid…”  Heyes sank back down into the mud under his feet.  He contemplated the bushes around the pond and looked again towards where his partner had disappeared.  A smile lit his face as the Kid came back into sight.


Curry tossed a decrepit pair of long-johns and a torn pair of trousers onto the rock he’d vacated.  “I guess you can have these old ones of mine.  I was just bringin’ them to the rag picker, so you might as well have them.”


He strode back towards the horses.  “See you tomorrow.” 


Heyes opened his mouth but gave up without speaking.  Grumbling to himself he pulled on the old clothes, cinching his belt tight to keep the trousers from sliding down.  Dressed, he sighed and headed toward the cave.


~~~oOo~~~


Wrapped in a blanket, hair dripping from another immersion in the pond, Heyes sat outside the cave alternately contemplating the coffee in his hand and staring at the path before him.  He glanced at the sun, tracking its path across the sky, as he’d been doing for several hours.  His expression lightened as he saw the Kid heading towards him, trailing two horses behind his own – one laden with supplies.


“About time you got here.  I thought I’d have to go rescue you,” he growled.


Curry glanced his way, grunted, and stopped to stake the horses.  He pulled a saddle bag off the back of Heyes’ horse and reached into the supplies born by the pack horse, extracting a package.  With these offerings in hand he headed towards Heyes.


“See you managed just fine last night.”  He handed Heyes the package.


“No thanks to you.”  Heyes tore into the package and held up a set of long johns, pants, and a shirt – all new.  Eyebrows raised, he looked up at the Kid.  “What happened to my clothes?”


“Lin’s laundry tried but couldn’t save them, so I go you some new ones.”  Curry dropped the saddle-bags by Heyes.  “Got you new bags, too.”


“I see.”


“Three bucks, Heyes.”


“Huh?”


“You owe me three bucks.”


“I didn’t ask you to buy these.  I liked my old things.  You expect me to pay you for abandoning me, and going and having fun all by yourself?  I don’t think so.”


“Three bucks or I’ll flatten you.”


Heyes snorted and grinned.  He reached back towards the bed rolls stashed behind him.  Handing the Kid money, he commented, “It’s kind of fragrant.” 


“Yeah, well, so are you.  Go take another dunk in that pond before we return to the Hole.”


Curry returned to the horses while Heyes grabbed the new clothes and headed for the pond.  Once immersed, Heyes turned to watch Curry.  Curry sat on the rock, working a can opener.  As he finished he handed the opened cans to Heyes.  “Try this.  Lin said it might help.  Didn’t work on the clothes though – just stained them and they still stank.”


Heyes looked at the cans and back at his partner.  “Are you crazy?”


“No rub it in and rinse it off after.”  He grinned.  “Can’t hurt, can it?”


Heyes shook his head and sighed.  Grimacing he closed his eyes and emptied the cans over his head.  Hearing a chuckle from the Kid, he opened his eyes to glare at his partner.  


Curry met his glare with a bland expression.  “I’ll be by the horses when you’re ready.  Hurry up or the boys’ll think somethin’ happened to us.”


~~~oOo~~~


“. . . Call yourself a friend.  And another thing…”  Heyes turned in the saddle to glare at the Kid.


Curry glared back.  “Enough.  You’ve done nothin’ but complain for the last five hours.  Not one more word.”


Heyes opened his mouth, encountered Curry’s most intimidating gunfighter’s stare, and turned back to the path without speaking.  He pulled his horse up and waited for Curry.  Once Curry was beside him, he pulled his gun and fired three shots in the air.


Hearing the answering shot, he glared once more at Curry, and headed into the Hole, leaving the Kid to follow.


At the bunk house, Heyes swung off his horse, tied it to the rail, and announced.  “You take care of the supplies; I need to talk to the men.”  He strode towards the bunkhouse without looking at the Kid.


Curry’s eyes narrowed as he, too, dismounted and followed his partner inside.  Entering, he brushed past Heyes to lean against the wall after closing the door more forcefully than necessary.


The men looked up and examined the pair standing before them radiating indignation.


“Something wrong?”  Wheat ventured.


Heyes opened his mouth, but before he could speak Wheat frowned and sniffed.  “What’s that smell?” 


The gang stopped their activities and began to sniff with expressions of distaste on their faces. 


Wheat’s eyes narrowed.  “That you, Heyes?  What did you do?  Can’t our ‘leader’ even make it to town without getting into trouble.”


Heyes face reddened, his eyes narrowed, his mouth began to open then snapped shut.


Curry turned to Kyle who had just finished removing his boots and was laying back in his bunk with his feet up, half asleep.  “Kyle, put your boots back on and go take a bath.  How often do we need to tell you?” he barked.


Accusing eyes turned to Kyle, who looked bewildered and began to splutter.  Heyes glanced sideways at the Kid.  “Kyle, do what the Kid says.  Wheat, help the Kid with the supplies.”  He turned and left the bunkhouse, walking quickly to the leader’s cabin.


Curry glared around the room before exiting.  He gathered the reins of the horses and led them to the barn.  Wheat followed, grumbling.


~~~oOo~~~


Heyes looked up from tending the fire when Curry entered the cabin.  He grunted in Curry’s general direction and walked to the stove.  Pouring a cup of coffee, he walked over and handed it to Curry, who had settled himself in the rocking chair, his feet up and his eyes closed.  “Wait a second; I got some whiskey I can add to that.”


Curry nodded.  


Heyes settled in the chair opposite him.  The two sipped silently, watching the curtains blow in the breeze from the open windows.  


Finally, Curry spoke.  “I got a couple more cans of tomatoes if you want to try that again.  It helped some.”


Heyes concentrated on the fire.  “It should have worked, Kid.  It works with cattle and the horses.  Don’t know why it didn’t work this time.”  He frowned.


Curry’s shook his head.  “Heyes, next time you meet a skunk, just shut up why don’t you?  Don’t think it’s possible to hypnotize one.  He sure wasn’t interested in listenin’ to you.”


Heyes began to reply but stopped and looked up at the sounds coming from outside.  Shouts, splashes, and curses filtered through the windows.  “What’s going on out there?”


“The boys are makin’ sure Kyle gets real clean.  They don’t want to be smellin’ that all night long.”


The two men grinned at each other as they listened to Kyle’s half-drowned pleas that he had just bathed the other day and wouldn’t be needing one for at least another couple of weeks.


“You’re a true friend, Kid.”


“Back at you.”
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RosieAnnieUSA

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PostSubject: Re: True Blue   Fri Feb 27, 2015 3:29 pm

"You ever seen such a wilderness, Private?"

"No, sir, Sergeant. There sure is a whole lot of empty out here."

"Indeed there is, son. And we'll be seeing more before we've brought in them two villains."

Sergeant O'Hara twisted around in his saddle and looked back at the young soldiers slowly riding up behind him. Horses and men alike were caked in dust. Sweat poured from the horses' flanks, and the men's dirty faces were streaked by rivulets of perspiration.

"See them aspen trees just ahead, men?" he said. They all squinted in the bright sunlight. "That means there's a spring there. We'll rest up a bit there, fill up our canteens. Take a siesta like the Mexicans do." His words were greeted with subdued laughs. He could almost feel the sense of relief from his troops. If truth were told, O'Hara was looking forward to getting out of this sun as much as they were.

Half an hour later, six unsaddled horses were gratefully drinking from the cool waters of the spring. Tired men were leaning against trees, sipping from their canteens and slowly chewing jerky and hardtack. Their heavy blue cavalry uniforms clung to their bodies.

"Now ain't this a fine place, me boys?" O'Hara asked.

"We ain't complainin', Sergeant," Private Tobias replied.

"Clever boy," O'Hara said. "If the Army wanted you to have complaints, they'd've issued you some."

"Sergeant," another private asked -- O'Hara frowned, trying to remember his name -- "do you really think they came this way?"

O'Hara took off his regulation cap and wiped his face with a handkerchief.

"The Colonel says so."

"But how can we track them through rocks, sir?" the private objected. Horvath, that was his name. Some kind of Hungarian or Polish thing. "How can anyone follow Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry when there's no tracks?"

"I was wondering the same thing, sir. Anyway, don't they stay over to Wyoming? I never heard tell of them way out yonder in Nevada Territory." That was Tobias' friend, the blonde from Wisconsin, Mackey. Another greenhorn. O'Hara gave him a hard stare before replying, and the boy averted his eyes.

"Don't you be questioning orders, Private. You're in the Army now. We go where we're told, and we do what we're told." Properly chastened, the green recruits looked anywhere but at O'Hara. They looked so hurt, he instantly felt a little ashamed of himself. When he'd come from Ireland, all of 16 years old, hadn't he been more foolish than them? Only the Army, and some good sergeants, had saved his life. Maybe he was being too harsh. They couldn't help being young.

"I do think they come through here, Mackey. Them two is smart, remember. The only way they've stayed alive and out of prison is because they do what the law don't expect them to do. The Colonel himself, he told Captain Harte that someone who knows 'em on sight saw 'em. They're calling themselves by different names, 'course, but once you been robbed by highwayman who are damn fool enough to identify themselves, well, that you don't forget."

"But how we gonna track them, sir? Ain't nothin' here but rock and sand."

"Simplicity itself, Private. That wagonload of supplies Heyes and Curry bought in town will be too much for their horses to handle. They'll be dumping supplies along the way, same as the folks going to Oregon in the 40's did when they crossed through here. We'll split up into two groups, spread out a bit to make sure we don't miss nothin', and we follow their trash."

O'Hara watched his men nod and smile as they considered what he'd said.

"Anyways, me boys, don't be stretchin' your brains too hard. The Army don't pay us to think. We get paid to be true to these uniforms we wear and to each other." He pushed himself to his feet with a grunt.

"We'll not be catching them outlaws by lollygagging here all day. Time to saddle up." The young soldiers slowly rose to their feet, slapping their pants, trying to shake off sand and dirt.

"Horvath, Mackey, Tobias, you ride me with me. The first group to spot anything will fire three times. We'll join up then."

Once mounted, the two groups branched off from each other and headed deeper into the Nebraska scrublands. They rode slowly under the hot sun, scanning the ground.

"Sergeant O'Hara! Look!"

"What is it, Mackey?"

"Something up ahead! On the ground!" O'Hara shaded his eyes with one hand and looked where Mackey pointed. He saw lumps on the ground that didn't resemble anything natural.

"Quickly men!" O'Hara spurred his horse into a canter.

"What is it, sir?"

O'Hara was laughing softly. "Look for yourself, boyo. Didn't I tell you how it would be?"

The soldiers gathered alongside the sergeant. Ahead of them they saw several items strewn on the ground -- a chair, pots and pans, and a variety of small items.

"And you were worried about finding a trail, Private Mackey. Them outlaws are making it easy for us. They won't escape us now."

00000

"This is the worst idea you've ever had, Heyes. The worst. Those boys in blue aren't idiots. They're going to see through this." 

Hannibal Heyes pushed his battered black hat higher and wiped his forehead with his sleeve. He was too hot, tired and uncomfortable to argue. Almost.

"Will you stop, Kid? It's too late to change the plan now. If you didn't like my idea, you should have said so before."

Curry shook the reins. "I did say so before. I said leaving a false trail was still leaving a trail. I said that they'd be on horses and we'd be in a wagon, and that we couldn't outrun them if they caught up to us. Remember? I said all that."

Heyes looked sideways at Curry, sitting next to him on the rumble seat of the wagon.

"I do remember. I also remember you didn't have a better idea." Curry shook the reins again and stared resolutely forward, trying to ignore Heyes by not looking at him. But nothing could shut out the sound of Heyes' voice.

"Or did you?" Heyes said, oblivious to Curry's clenched jaw and narrowed eyes. "I sure don't remember hearing you come up with anything better."

Curry pulled back on the reins, and the horses stopped suddenly. Surprised, Heyes grabbed the front board to keep from falling onto the ground and under the wheels.

"What the hell did you do that for! Are you trying to kill me?"

"Not intentionally," Curry replied. "It's time to follow your genius plan. Go in back and pick something to throw out."

"You could have warned me it was time to stop, you know."

"It's more fun when I don't." Heyes glared at him and climbed into the back without replying. Curry heard him moving boxes, followed by the hollow thud of things dropping onto the desert floor.

"You about done back there?"

"Yeah." Heyes said, coming forward to sit up front again. "I took a look at the map. We should make a hard right here, and then we'll drop some more stuff a couple miles away. That ought to confuse them some."

"Some," Curry agreed. He made soft clucking noises to the horses, and they resumed their gentle pace across the harsh terrain.

 "I know what's really bothering you, Kid."

"Oh you do, do you? You mean aside from the plan I don't like but I'm going along with anyway. Or the fact that we got the cavalry chasing us instead of some posse that'd get tired and go home sooner or later. Or that we spent most of our money buying supplies we're throwing away, instead of using, and we're broke again. Tell me what's really bothering me."

"Leaving that rifle behind, that's what's bothering you. It kills you that we had to leave a perfectly good rifle behind, just leaning it up against a tree all by its lonesome."

"I wouldn't mind if it made sense, but you're right. Leaving that beautiful Winchester leaning against a tree was adding insult to injury."

"We had to do it," Heyes insisted. "The inscription on that stock was the only link to the idiots who pulled that Army payroll robbery. If we got caught with that thing in our possession, we'd be wanted for murder."

Curry's shoulders slumped. He didn't say anything. The two men rode in silence for a few minutes. Heyes reached under the seat and pulled out a canteen.

"How about a drink?"

"Don't mind if I do." Curry passed the reins to Heyes and accepted the canteen. He leaned back and took long, deep swallows. Even warm as it was, the water tasted good. He offered the canteen to Heyes, who shook his head no.

"You got to be thirsty, Heyes."

"Not just yet." Curry replaced the stopper and put the canteen back under the seat.

"You're wrong, you know."

"Wrong about what? Me being thirsty?"

"Maybe not that, but a lot of things. Mainly about what's bothering me."

"So what is bothering you mainly? Aside from the plan, the gun, the Army, and being broke again, that is." Heyes ignored the look Curry threw his way.

"Running again. And again. How many times can we get away? We got away so many times, I figure the odds got to be against us by now. And now we got the Army chasing us."

"The odds ain't never been with  us, Kid, not since we were boys. There's nothing new or different about that. And frankly, I think you're putting too much faith in the Army. Soldiers do things the prescribed way, the Army way. They don't think for themselves. Now us, we're creative. We do something they don't expect, like laying a couple false trails, and they won't know what to do. By the time they figure out they been hoodwinked, we'll be long gone. We'll leave the wagon behind, take off on the horses, and then there won't be no trail at all for them to follow. We'll be gone again. Broke, yeah, but we been broke before, and we always find a way."

Curry thought for a moment. Heyes saw a small smile creep across his face.

"I guess we do, don't we? But how long can we keep going on like this?"

"As long as we need to. That's what people do, ain't it? Keep on keeping on."

"I guess that's so."

"'Course it's so. Meantime, we're only a couple hours away from that big watering hole. We'll rest the horses there, and once they have some water and food, we leave the wagon behind, and we head out to that new silver strike I read about in the newspaper. We'll play some poker with the miners and get us a stake. We'll take it one day at a time. Does that sound like a plan you can live with?"

"Yeah, Heyes, I can. You got a deal." Heyes reached over and patted Curry's arm a couple times.

"Have a little faith, Kid. And don't worry about the odds. We'll make them work for us. We always do."

00000

O'Hara pulled his pistol from the holster, preparing to signal the other group of soldiers to join him. He had hardly clicked off the safety before three shots rang out in the desert.

"Sweet Jesus!" He looked around in anger. Another series of shots sounded, bang bang bang. O'Hara cursed with a fluency that made the men with him hide smiles behind their hands.

"You men stay here. Don't you go nowheres until I come back to get you." He put his spurs to his horse and took off at a gallop across the hard ground. Barely ten minutes later, he pulled up his second search team was waiting. The satisfied smiles on the their faces faded when they saw O'Hara's angry expression.

"Just what in God's sweet name are you boys doing?"

"What you told us to do, Sergeant," blonde Lindquist said. "You said to shoot three times when we found the trail of trash. Here's the trash."

O'Hara dismounted and walked slowly towards the line of household goods scattered in the dirt. He saw a chair, a frying pan, some tools, exactly what he'd expected to see discarded from an over-supplied, heavy wagon, and an almost exact duplicate of what his party had found. He walked up and down the line a few times, hands on hips, thinking hard.

Lindquist, braver than the others, asked the question everyone was thinking.

"Sir, is something wrong? Isn't finding their trash a good thing?"

"Oh, aye, son, it is. Except my group found some, too. Now we've got two piles of trash, which means two different trails to follow." Confused looks appeared on the young men's faces. O'Hara paced back and forth, talking more to himself than to his inexperienced troops.

"Could be we're tracking two wagons, which ain't likely, since the mercantile only sold one. More like, the outlaws are setting up false trails to confuse us. And they're doing a fine job of it, too." O'Hara shook his head slowly. He wasn't sure what to do.

"Clever of them. Don't know how they knew we were following them, but they did, and now we got to either split up to chase both trails -- hoping they didn't set a third -- or we take a chance and all follow one and just hope it's the right one. Either way, boys, the odds are against us now."

"So what do we do, Sergeant?"

O'Hara got back onto his horse. "We'll follow one trail for the rest of today. If we don't catch up with them outlaws by tonight, we head back to the fort tomorrow."

"But which trail, sir?"

"Don't really matter now, does it? One of 'em's a false trail. Or both. No way for us to know for sure, not unless we come to the end and find Heyes and Curry sitting there waiting for us." The thought of a professional gunman like Kid Curry laying in wait for his inexperienced troops . . . O'Hara didn't like to think about that. No, the odds weren't on his side anymore.

"Come on, boys," O'Hara said. "Mount up. Time to ride." He wasn't looking forward to tellling his officers that his search had failed, but that was better than riding back with bodies across saddles. Besides, his wasn't the first group that failed to bring in Heyes and Curry. Someday the odds would be against the outlaws. Today wouldn't be that day.
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InsideOutlaw

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PostSubject: Re: True Blue   Sat Feb 28, 2015 5:48 pm

“We’ll ride west, Kid.  They’ll never follow us across the desert, Kid.  We’ll be livin’ it up in Ely, Kid.”  The blond ex-outlaw muttered to himself as he trudged along through the scrubby desert landscape ignoring his partner who’d stopped and was staring angrily at Curry’s sweat-stained back.  


Dust covered Heyes’ face and lent him a ghost-like appearance.  They’d been on foot since yesterday afternoon and both men were tired and blistered.  “And why are we being chased in the first place?  Was it because someone couldn’t keep their hands off Elder Davies’ pretty little sister?”  


Swinging around, the Kid glared back at Heyes.  “How was I supposed to know she was fattenin’ me up for the kill?”


“You think a woman cooks like that for a man outta the goodness of her heart?   She had you in her crosshairs from the second you ran into her in front of her daddy’s store.  All those meals were meant to rope you in and brand you.  And what were you thinking drinking wine with her?  Don’t you know Utah’s got Blue Laws for every day of the week?  No, you just had to get involved with a proper lady—a proper, Mormon lady to boot.  Now we’ve got half of the population of Utah on our tails.”


Curry visibly deflated and sighed, “I was just havin’ a little fun.  You know, she cooked the best food I’ve eaten in years, but she sure could talk your ear off.  I guess when she started in on me turnin’ Mormon, I should’ve figured out what she had in mind, but I’d long since stopped listenin’ to what she was sayin’.”


Letting go of his own anger, Heyes smiled.  “You never could eat and think at the same time, Kid.”  He started walking again, each step a small agony.  “When we lit outta Richfield, I didn’t know we’d be on foot.  If I had, I would’ve taken us east; not west.”


“Yeah, I guess you can’t be blamed for your horse goin’ lame.”  Curry waited until his partner reached his side and began shuffling along next to him.  He could feel the heat of the hardpan radiating through the soles of his chafing boots.  The expanse they were crossing consisted of baked earth, lizards, sagebrush, and creosote.  There wasn’t a tree in sight for miles.  “Good thing we turned my horse loose when we did or the buzzards would be dinin’ on him now. Ridin’ double in this country is too much for any animal.”




“Hey, look at the bright side.  At least we’ve got plenty of water.  What were the odds we’d find that spring-fed lake?”  The sun was beating down on Heyes, forcing him to squint and causing his head to ache miserably, but he kept peering at the shimmery horizon.  “With a little luck, we should be able to make those mountains by nightfall.”


Curry groaned, “Good.  I can’t walk much further.  I’ve worn a hole in both heels and my feet feel twice their size.”


“Me too, Kid, but what are we gonna do?  We can’t stop here.  Davies almost caught us.  We were real lucky that prospector was willing to send them south for a five spot, but they’ll have figured out they’ve been had by now and you can bet they’re doubling back.  We don’t want to get caught out in the open.”


“What possessed you to strike out across the desert?  Everyone knows there ain’t nothin’ out here but tumbleweeds and rattlers.”  The Kid lifted his hat and wiped a grimy arm across his forehead.  He was hot and, worse, he was hungry.  They might have water, but they’d left too quickly to pack any supplies.  Visions of roasted chicken and fresh-baked blackberry pies floated before his eyes, but his pockets were filled with the mealy hardtack and jerky they’d bought off the old coot.  Wearily, he adjusted the saddlebags slung across his sore shoulder and tightened his grip on the new Winchester .44-40 he carried.  They were well-armed if it came down to a fight.  Still, he’d rather not shoot it out.  He was heartily wishing he’d never laid his hands on Miss Mary Beth Davies—or her pies.


Heyes carried the filled canteens as well as his own bags.  “I guess I figured Davies and his kin would give it up if the going got rough.”


“Well, it’s rough and they ain’t givin’ up.”  The Kid pointed to the south where a small plume of dust rose off the valley floor.


OOOOOOOOOO


“See anything?” asked Curry from the trunk of a juniper tree.  He was trying to forget about his throbbing feet and the fact they’d just finished the last of the food.  His saddlebags and his boots were tossed carelessly aside and the Winchester rested on its stock against the peeling, ragged bark of the twisted conifer.  


Heyes was lying on his chest peering down at the valley from their vantage point on a rocky outcropping.  “Naw, it’s getting too dark to tell, but I think they’ve stopped for the night.”  He rolled over onto his back and stared at the red and orange-streaked sky.  The first stars were appearing and it wouldn’t be long before the sun was down.  Every bone in his body hurt and it was with a loud moan that he hauled himself to his feet.  He staggered a few feet and collapsed in a heap of filthy denim on the sandy soil.  


Curry watched the steady rise and fall of his partner’s chest and knew Heyes had fallen almost instantly asleep where he’d landed.  With difficulty, he pulled his boots back onto his swollen feet and limped over to his friend.  He lay down next to Heyes, absorbing the warmth from the sleeping man.  Once the sun went down, it would get cold.  His eyes grew heavy and closed.


The sun had already cleared the top of the mountains when they both awoke with a start.  Heyes sat up, listening.  He was sure he’d heard something.  The Kid sprang to his feet and ran for cover, screaming at Heyes to follow.  Gunfire erupted around Heyes.  Small explosions traced his desperate dash for the rocks, but he reached cover without injury.  The Kid had his gun drawn but held his fire.  


“What’re you waiting for?  They’re shooting at us!” said Heyes, seizing his own weapon and aiming. 


Curry reached over and pushed his partner’s gun down with his left hand.  “They’re on that ridge. They’re outta range.”


“Where’s the rifle?”


“I left it with my saddlebags.  Heyes, don’t even think about it.  You wouldn’t get ten feet before they cut you down.”


“Me?  You’re the one who left it by the tree!”


“C’mon, we can scramble down the backside of this hill and cut out across the draw.  They won’t be able to get a bead on us there.”


“And then what?” asked Heyes.  “It’s not like there’s a lot of hiding places around here.”


“You want to sit here and get shot, be my guest.  Me, I’m outta here.”  With that, Curry rolled over the edge of the outcropping, tumbled ten feet, and rose to a crouch.  He waited until he saw Heyes following, then he took off running.  He could hear faint yelling from the ridge top and knew it wouldn’t be long before their pursuers closed in on them.


Heyes ran behind him cursing and wincing as small stones tortured his soles.  They reached the bottom of the draw at the same time and stopped.  Curry was panting as he gasped out, “You see what I see?”


“What?”  Heyes was doubled over, his hands on his knees as he caught his breath.


“Those rocks over there?”  Curry gestured up over his shoulder.


“Yeah, so?”  Heyes eyes were scanning the rocky wall that rose above the draw before settling on a jumbled pile of boulders near the base of a sheer rock wall.


“So it could be a place to hide.”


“And then what?  We’ll be trapped.”


“We might be able to make those rocks without them seein’ us.  Worst that’ll happen is they’ll see us and pin us down, but we can make ‘em think twice about comin’ after us.”


“They won’t have to come after us, Kid!  We’ve got no food, no water, and no place to go.  They’ll wait us out.”


“Do you have a better idea?  There’s no other option I can see,” said Curry.  Heyes was silent.  The Kid pulled his gun and checked his load.  “I didn’t think so.”


“You know, I really hate it when you take charge.  It usually means I end up getting shot at.”


“Well, it is my plan,” grinned the Kid as he pushed off and started running with all his heart for the rocks, Heyes close on his heels.  Shots rang out but were too far away to do any harm.  They ducked behind the largest boulder and waited.  They soon heard the sounds of pursuit.  Skittering rocks signaled the clumsy approach of Davies and his men.  


“What now?”


“Now, we persuade them to go home,” said the Kid, drawing his gun and taking aim.  He could see several men working their way down the draw.


“Hold up, Kid,” said Heyes.  “Look!”  He was pointing at a brushy tangle of cedar and shrubs nestled against the sheer wall that towered behind them.  


Curry stared at the vegetation for a while before he made out the yawning darkness it camouflaged.  He chuckled happily.  “A cave.  There’s a cave, Heyes!”


Laughing softly, the two men carefully pushed their way through the brambles taking care not to damage any branches and entered the cool, dank opening; quickly disappearing into the growing blackness.  Using their hands to feel their way along the damp walls they hurried towards the back of the cave and stopped, holding their breaths.  They could see the glow of light from the mouth of the cave and heard men yelling and crawling about the hillside.  


“Hey, I found a cave,” yelled someone eventually, “and footprints!”


The two ex-outlaws could hear the other men gathering at the entrance to their sanctuary and they waited silently, their guns weighing heavily in their hands.  Neither of them wished to harm anyone and they both prayed they wouldn’t be discovered, but it soon became obvious that the hunters were going to wait them out.  Minutes stretched into hours and all they could hear was the soft tones of muted conversation and all they could see was the fading light of day that failed to reach them.   When the darkness became absolute, they waited until they were assured by ragged snores that most of the men had fallen asleep.  Carefully, as slowly as possible, they felt around the back of the cave covering every inch until they found a small crevice.  Slipping into it, Heyes squeezed through with the Kid behind him.  The walls squeezed them tightly as they worked their way further into the depths of the cave.


After several hundred feet, the corridor widened again and Heyes felt the walls drop away from beneath his hands.  They were in another cave.  The Kid tumbled into him and nearly knocked him down.  “Shh,” whispered Heyes.  Deciding it was worth the risk, he fished a box of matches from his shirt and lit one.  The light flared brightly and revealed a small portion of the cave.  The walls dripped moisture onto the floor.  Overhead, long tendrils of limestone reached down towards their rising counterparts and delicate fluted columns glistened in the flickering light.  Heyes turned in wonderment as the match burned down to his fingers and he shook it out.


“Did you see that?” hissed Curry softly.


“Yeah, beautiful, isn’t it?” 


“Not that.  There’s a stream in here.”


Heyes lit another match.  “Where?”


Grabbing his partner, the Kid turned him to the right.  “There, see?”


Heyes saw a faint reflection along the opposite wall before the tiny flame burned out.  He stumbled blindly towards it, bumping into stony formations as he made his way across the cave until he heard splashing water beneath his feet.  He nearly danced with excitement.  “You’re right!  Haha, you’re right!”


“Shh, someone’s going to hear us.”


Another match revealed that the water was indeed moving.  It trickled past their feet.  Without a word, the two partners agreed to follow the course of the stream.  Their boots already wet, they stumbled along slowly until they abruptly came to another wall.  Heyes bent down towards the water and lit a match.  The stream cut through a small opening near the floor and disappeared.  He got down on his belly and thrust his arm into the hole.  The light danced wildly and blew out.


“You got any matches, Kid?”


“Yeah, almost a full box.”


“Good.”  Heyes lit yet another match and wriggled partway into the opening.  He could see the shallow stream leading into another widening before his light blew out again.  Emboldened, he wriggled forward.  


“Heyes, what the hell are you doin’?” growled an alarmed Kid.  He’d seen his partner disappearing into the wall before the light was extinguished.  


A muffled reply drifted to his ears.  “It’s another room, Kid, and there’s a breeze.  I think there’s a way out.”  


The Kid put his box of matches into his rear pants pocket to keep them dry and dropped into the water, squeezing into the hole.  He was almost halfway in when he felt himself wedged tight.  “Heyes,” he nearly yelled, “I’m stuck!”


Hands reached for him in the darkness and Curry felt his partner pulling on his shoulders.  It was no use.  He couldn’t get through.  Panicking in the confined space, he cried, “Push, push me back!”


Hearing the fear in his normally stoic partner’s voice, Heyes pushed with all his strength.  He felt the Kid slide away from him.


When he got his breathing under control, Curry morosely said, “It’s no use, Heyes, go on without me, I’ll cover your back.” 


“I ain’t leaving you behind, Kid,” growled Heyes through the opening.


“You ain’t got a choice, Heyes.  Guess I put on more weight than I realized eatin’ Mary Beth’s good cookin’.  There’s no way I can fit through there.”  The Kid stood up.


From the other side of the wall, Heyes’ mind raced.  He wouldn’t leave his partner.  Not now, not ever.  “Take off your clothes!” demanded Heyes.


“What?!”


“I said take off your clothes.  That’ll buy you a few inches.”


“I ain’t gettin’ nekkid, Heyes.”


“Would you rather get dead?”  Not hearing an immediate answer, Heyes added, “or married?”  


“When you put it that way….”  Curry quickly pulled off his garments and bundled his holster and pants inside of his blue shirt and tied the arms tightly.  Pushing the garments ahead of him, he crawled into the hole again.  With some effort, he managed to squeak through the narrow spot and landed on Heyes’ feet.  He felt his partner’s hands help him up.  


Heyes struck another match, but the Kid blew it out.  “What you’d do that for?!”


“Geez, give me a second to get decent, why don’t you?” was the irritated reply from the Kid.  Putting his wet clothes back on was a chore.  “Okay, I’m dressed.”
 
Another light flared and the Kid could see that they were in a much smaller cave.  The stream stretched through the center of it and once again disappeared into another wall, but, thankfully, through a larger hole than the one he’d just come through.  He felt a faint chill and realized there was a breeze and it was coming from the opening.  Without waiting for Heyes, he crossed the room and stood by the hole.  Cold air struck his face and he laughed.  He knelt down and peered into the opening.  He could see faint stars twinkling in the night sky.   


Heyes knelt next to him.  “I’ll go first in case you get stuck again.  I’d rather be pulling your arms than pushing your a…”  


“Don’t say it,” warned Curry.   He slipped out after Heyes into a clear, cold night.  The moon was up and nearly full, casting a soft light across the valley floor and the ribbon of roadway that bisected it.  They’d come out on the opposite side of the hill and could see the recently-christened Wheeler Peak looming above them.  The North Star shone overhead beckoning them to follow.  As quietly as they could, they picked their way down the hillside until they reached the valley floor.  It wasn’t until they’d struck north to Ely that they spoke again.


“How far do you think it is to town, Heyes?”


“It’s a ways, Kid.  Let’s make for the road, if we’re lucky we might hitch a ride.”


“Sound like a plan to me,” agreed Curry.  “I hope someone comes along soon.  I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse.”


“You might be better off sticking to a pony, Kid,” chuckled Heyes as he threw his arm over his partner’s shoulders and the two men limped into the night.


Author’s notes:  Lehman Caves are located at the base of Wheeler Peak in the Great Basin National Park.    Year round tours are offered by the Park Service and the cave features rare shield formations not commonly seen in other caves.  Great Basin is also designated an International Dark Skies Park and is known for its incredible starry skies.   At the top of Wheeler Peak is a trail that winds through an ancient Bristlecone Pine forest.  Bristlecone are one of the oldest living non-clonal organisms on the planet with some existing trees dating well over 5,000 years old. 

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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 Mar 01, 2015 8:12 pm; edited 3 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: True Blue   Sun Mar 01, 2015 4:57 am

The Rifle

Hannibal Heyes and Jed “Kid” Curry rode into yet another dry, dusty town in their quest for a few days’ respite from a long, never-ending trail.  Pulling their hats forward to shield their faces from close view, they rode past the sheriff’s office and glanced over.  Imperceptibly smiling at each other at the unfamiliarity of the local constable’s posted name, they scanned the array of businesses and pulled up to a saloon.  Dismounting and tethering their mounts, they strode toward the entrance.

“Get outta here, you drunk!  Done told ya enough is enough!”

Two ex-outlaw pairs of eyes met with a mutual shrug, then started as a large body bowled through the door, knocking Kid Curry off his feet and almost sending Hannibal Heyes to the same fate.  Reaching an arm over the still thrashing ejected one to help his partner up finally pulled Heyes into the heap as the swirling eddy of humanity engulfed him.

Dazed for a moment, Heyes rolled free of the tangle, only to be hit in the shoulder by another missile – a rifle, which thudded to the boardwalk to his side.  He ducked to avoid any further projectiles, human or otherwise. 

“Take yer trash and stay out!”

Kid Curry grasped at the man pinning him.  One hand instinctively reached for his gun belt.  Satisfied his pistol still lay secure in its holster, he renewed his effort to free himself. 
 
“Now, Thaddeus!”

Seeking the split second of opportunity afforded by his partner’s lifting of one shoulder of the now slurred-shouting ejectee, Curry rolled free.  Picking himself up, he bent to his knees to catch his breath.
 
Heyes appeared alongside.  “Okay?”

Kid nodded.

Heyes squeezed his partner’s shoulder.  “Good.”  Shifting his attention to the now quiet, supine man, he stooped to lend a hand.  “Let’s get you up.”  The man did not move.  The ex-outlaw leader bent to one knee, pressing his hand flat against and lightly tapping the man’s cheek. 
“Mister?”

Several seconds later, one eye opened.  “Dammit.”

Heyes recoiled from the stench.

“Not again, Hanson!”

Regaining his breath, Kid straightened up as a man with a star on his shirt approached.  He warned in a low tone, “Heyes.”

“I see him.”

The sheriff reached them, surveying the scene.  “You two look a little worse for wear.  Tell Smitty the bartender inside your drinks’re on me.  Sorry for the trouble.”

The sheriff, though wiry and not as tall, effortlessly grabbed the now unconscious, floored man under the shoulders, dragging him toward the jail across the street and half a block down. 

Heyes and Curry dusted themselves off. 

“Sheriff’s strong,” noted Heyes.  “Wouldn’t expect that strength in a man his size.”

Kid glanced after them.  “Yeah.” 

“Let’s get that drink.  Nice of the sheriff.”  Heyes walked ahead.

“Um hm.”

The dark-haired partner held the door.  With no hand soon taking it, he glanced behind him to see Curry stooping.
“Thaddeus?”

Kid stood with the forgotten rifle in his hand, inspecting it.

Heyes rubbed his shoulder with his free hand.  “Not every day I get hit twice.”

Curry smiled briefly at his partner before eyeing the long gun again.  “Haven’t seen one of these since the war.  Hasn’t been taken care of, though.  It’s rustin’ up.”

Heyes stepped out of the entrance to let a customer exit, peacefully this time.  “Rusting?  Gotta take better care of guns than that.”

Kid smiled at his partner.  “My feelin’s exactly.  Where’d ya learn that?”

Heyes rolled his eyes before turning serious.  “Better leave that where you found it.”

Blue eyes twinkled.  “You know I can’t do that.  Blue this up and it’ll be good as new.”  He thought.  “Well, at least a good lookin’ relic.  Have it back to him before he wakes up.”

“You mean, go to the sheriff’s office?”

“Yup.”

Heyes’ eyes grew wide.  The “look” overshadowed his countenance.  “There you go again.”

“What?”  Curry sighed.  “It’ll be fine.  The sheriff’s obliged to us.”  He paused.  “At least he seems to be.”

Heyes shook his head and stepped inside, glancing behind to ensure his partner followed.

oooOOOooo

“You two look like ya tangled with a cat.  Sorry for the trouble, gents.  Some don’t know how to hold their liquor.  What’ll it be?”
Heyes placed two five-cent pieces on the bar.  “Two beers.”  Spying a jar of hard-boiled eggs, he asked, “These free.”

Smitty placed the pair of brews on the bar.  “Yup, with a drink.  And keep yer money.  Bet the sheriff said they’re on him.”

Heyes nodded.  Grabbing a mug, he asked, “How’d you know?”

“That’s what he does, ‘specially if strangers is involved.”

Heyes gulped half his drink.  “Ah, that’s good.”  He replaced the mug on the bar.  “Lotta trouble around here?”

“Not usually.  Sheriff keeps a tight rein on things ‘round these parts.”

“I see.” 

Spying his partner’s untouched beer, Heyes looked at him.  Curry stood two steps back from the bar, examining the rifle.

“That thing’s seen better days,” Smitty offered.

Heyes smirked at his partner’s lack of reaction.  “I think Thaddeus here would agree with you.”

Curry looked up.  “Huh?”

Heyes shook his head.  “That the rifle’s seen better days.  Your thirst leave you all of a sudden?”

“Um, no.”  Kid grabbed his mug and sipped before replacing it.  Indicating the rifle, he looked at Smitty.  “It has seen better days.  Just needs a little attention is all.”

The barkeeper started to turn to new customers.  “Don’t bother.  It’ll just encourage him more.”

Curry’s brow furrowed.  He glanced at Heyes, who shrugged.

Smitty returned.  “You gussy that thing up right, it’ll start all over again.  Do us and yourself a favor and burn it.  Maybe then he’ll move on.”

“What’d he do?”

Heyes stood aside, momentarily forgotten, watching the speakers, outwardly showing disinterest while his curiosity was as piqued as his partner’s.  He never could resist a good story.

Smitty related flatly, “He’s a no good drunk.  Arrived in town a few months ago and been hangin’ ‘round since.  Spends nights in the livery with his no good nag; glue factory’s best place for the sorry beast.  That’s when he’s not sleepin’ off a drunk in the alley or in jail when the sheriff gets feelin’ sorry for him.  Sorry lot of humanity he is.”

Curry reflected.  “There’s probably a good fella underneath.  Too many good men hide behind a bottle.  I’ve known a few.”  He indicated the rifle.  “What about this?”

Smitty continued.  “You get rid of that rusted piece of crap, you get rid o’ him.”

“Means a lot to him?”

“Yup.”

“It’s seen better days, but with a bit of bluin’ and cleanin’ up, it’ll look just fine.  Might even shoot good if the bore’s intact.”

Smitty’s dander rose.  “Young fella, you’re new ‘round these parts, and you’ll be movin’ on soon, I suppose.  Don’t go askin’ for trouble.”

Curry finally glanced at his partner.  Heyes’ eyes narrowed.  Turning back to Smitty, Kid continued.  “How’s it askin’ for trouble just to help a fella out?”

“Done told ya already.  I want him outta here.  He’s no good.  Trashin’ that piece of old metal’s best thing ya can do for the town.”

A cold, blue-eyed stare met the barkeep’s anger.  Curry turned and walked out.  Heyes opened his mouth to speak, but no words came.  He shook his head, glanced at Smitty, and followed after his partner.

oooOOOooo

After checking in and performing the usual routine of checking the street from their window, complete with full view of the sheriff’s office, the partners set about unpacking.  This hotel’s being more affordable than most, they took a larger room than usual with more furnishings.  As Heyes loaded his change of clothes into a drawer, Curry spread out his gun cleaning equipment on a table sized for the task, pulled out a chair, and got to work on the rusted rifle.

His partner crossed his arms and watched.  When Kid did not look up, he sighed; still, no reaction.  “Kid, you can’t be serious.  We could get in trouble.  Just because the sheriff doesn’t know us …”

“Put a trap on it, Heyes.  I’m gonna finish this.”  Curry continued his task without flinching.

“We’re gonna regret this.”

Kid ignored the comment.  He took the rifle apart, gently setting down each piece in turn.  Removing bluing accouterment from the kit, he fingered the rust on the barrel, picking at it lightly.  “It’s only just the surface.  It’ll be good as new.”

Heyes threw up his hands.  “Just what we need!”

Curry said flatly, “It’ll be fine, Heyes.  If ya don’t like it, go take a walk.”

“Can’t afford to do that without you to watch my back.”  He paused.  “Or, in this case, best be me who’s watching yours.”

oooOOOooo

The light through the window began to fade.  The silence of the room save his partner’s ministrations distracted Heyes.  He put down the book he had only half immersed himself in to gaze at Curry, whose attention had not left his task.  Heyes had to admit to himself he sometimes did not give Kid the credit for his tenacity for something in which he took interest.  Perhaps after amnesty his partner could become the gunsmith Heyes thought he might like to be – under a continuing alias, of course – because peace might never come to him using his own identity.  Too many young wannabes out for the glory of making a name for themselves, no matter how notoriously.  Out-drawing the fastest gun in the West, well, that would do it.  But there was Curry’s restless spirit …

“Done.” 

Heyes blinked. 

Curry stood, holding a nicely blued and oiled rifle.  Both the rust and several glare spots gone, the long gun no longer looked the relic of a seemingly ancient war – still remembered perhaps, but hopefully long past the common consciousness.

The dark-haired partner stood, striding over to examine the piece.  “Wouldn’t recognize it, Kid.  Damn, you’re good.”  He smiled.

“Change your mind?”

“No.”  Dark eyes saddened.  Heyes looked away.  “You know, that do-gooding is gonna get us in real trouble someday.”

“Lighten up, Heyes.  We always come out okay in the end.”

OooOOOooo

“You comin’?”

Hannibal Heyes hesitated outside the sheriff’s office.  Twilight waned, but no stars appeared.  He sighed and followed in step with his partner.

Curry opened the door.  The sheriff sat at his desk.  The rustle of papers stopped. 

The lawman stood, extending a hand but keeping an eye on the long gun in Kid Curry’s hand.  “Good seeing you again, gents.  Hope you’re not the worse for wear.”

Heyes spoke.  “Nope.  Just fine.”  He did not immediately notice the sweat that broke as he shook the sheriff’s hand.

Kid stepped forward to do the same.  “Sheriff.”

The lawman nodded.  “Any reason for the rifle?”

Kid offered it to the sheriff, who took it.  “Yup.  Belongs to that fella from this afternoon.”  At the lawman’s puzzled look, Curry continued, “I
just cleaned it up a bit.”

The sheriff examined it carefully.  “Yeah, I guess it is his.  Ya don’t see too many of these anymore.”

“Nope.”

“It’ll make him happy, I suppose.”  He looked at the door leading to the cells.  “If he ever wakes up.”

Heyes repeated, “If he ever wakes up?”

“Yeah.  I feel sorry for him, although sometimes I think he’d be better off dead, and he probably does, too.  Ever since he came to town a few months back, I don’t think I’ve seen him sober for more than a few hours, and from what I’ve been able to piece together when he is, Hanson was a hero in some battle back East – Cold Harbor, I think.  His one moment of glory, it seems.  Not sure what he did with all the killing around him.  Then the war ended, and he didn’t know what to do with himself.  Drifted around all these years because there was nothing to go back to.  Said he couldn’t find a place he felt comfortable, ‘cept maybe in the bottle.  Can’t figure.  True Union blue, I guess.  That rifle is his life.”

The partners glanced at each other with pursed lips. 

Curry turned to the lawman.  “That’s too bad, sheriff.”

“Yeah.  A big man like him.  Probably could’ve made something of himself.”

Heyes nodded.  The hour was getting late.

“What’s your name?  I’m sure he’ll wanna know.”

Kid caught the lawman’s eye.  “Just … a friend.”

The sheriff’s gaze narrowed, eyeing Heyes and Curry in turn.  “A friend?”

“Yeah.  That’s all he needs to know.”

The sheriff nodded.  “I’ll tell him.”

“Thanks.”

With a tip of hats, the partners turned, closing the door behind them.

__________

Notes: 

Bluing of guns:  http://firearmshistory.blogspot.com/2010/08/metal-treatments-browning-and-bluing.html

Cold Harbor:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Cold_Harbor

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