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 The Devil's Due Part 7

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Silverkelpie

Silverkelpie

Posts : 1446
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 58
Location : Over the rainbow

The Devil's Due Part 7 Empty
PostSubject: The Devil's Due Part 7   The Devil's Due Part 7 EmptyTue Mar 03, 2015 12:35 pm

Effie Burdon reluctantly came to in the perfumed and heavily curtained confines of her room and groaned at the waves of dread and hopelessness washing over her in the half-light.  She closed her eyes again, hoping to sink back into the comfort of oblivion, but consciousness wormed its way through her fraught brain to remind her of the horror her life had become.  


Her William was gone.


He was her baby, her last born, her shining star.  All men wanted a son and it had taken her ten years to provide one, but he had been worth the wait.  He was beautiful.  As a baby he had blond curls framing the face of an angel and a nature so sweet he was the envy of every other mother in town.  Their jealousy was apparent when he played with their not-quite-so-gifted offspring; their mothers’ pursed lips, disapproving looks and readiness to blame William for every bump, bruise and slight proving their ire.  They said he was rough and unable to share.  Pah!  Utter balderdash.   He was a delight and they merely didn’t want him amongst their clod-hoppers because he showed up their peasant breeding.  He shone like the sun by just walking into the room; he was the pinnacle of her life’s achievements – and now he was dead.  


Her mind struggled to grasp what had gone on.  Ernest had been so vague, but it appeared that her baby had left the house after his showdown with his father.  It was clear to her that he had gone to the bad side of town to try to find the murderer and clear his name.  Why else would he choose to go to that horrible place over the safety of his mother’s boudoir?  He was so brave!  


And he must have found the killer, too, except that had been his undoing.  Hadn’t William been holding on to him when he’d been killed by one of his ruffian friends?  He’d clearly been trying to take him to the Marshal, but she couldn’t for the life of her understand why the question of who drew first should matter.  Her son’s killer should be swinging in the wind like the carrion he was, but no!  He was free, clear and heading over the hills to enjoy his liberty.  She buried her face into her sheets and sobbed.  There was an ache deep in her chest, surely that was her heart splitting in two.  How could she go on?  What was there to live for if she could never hold her beloved bunny in her arms again?


There was a tap at the door before the handle turned and Ernest Burdon crept stealthily in.  “Effie?  Are you awake?”


She managed to give a moan.  “Yes, but I wish I wasn’t...”


“How do you feel?”


“Terrible.  I still can’t believe he’s gone,” a rasping sob cut through the shadows.  “I have nothing left.  My life is over.”


“You have me and the girls.  I know William was special to you, but we...,” he paused, “the girls need a mother.”


Light sobbing dabbled at the thick silence.  Burdon sat on the side of the bed.  “Our marriage...us, it was an arrangement.  Your pa needed money and I needed the respectability your family brought with it.  It hasn’t turned out so bad, has it?”


Effie closed her eyes.  “I thought you were the biggest lummox I ever laid eyes on.”


“I was.  You were always right.  I thought you were the finest thing I’d ever seen.  I felt like I’d leave dirty finger marks on your skin.  You were a beauty.”  He reached out and felt for her hand before curling his fingers around it.  “I couldn’t believe my luck.  So you see, my dear.   There’s so much to live for.  We’ll get through this, you’ll see.”


“How can I ever get over such a loss?  It’s unnatural for a mother to outlive her child.”  Tears started streaming down her face yet again.  “I never knew it was possible to cry this much.  I though they must surely run dry by now.”


“Once they get past the childhood illnesses you think they’re safe.”  Burdon raised aimless glittering eyes to stare at nothing in particular.  “I wish I’d taken him away myself.  I’m so sorry, Effie.  So very, very sorry.  I was trying to make him into a man.”


“Why isn’t the law looking for the scum who...,” she turned her face into the pillow and her remaining words were lost to emotion.


“We’ll find him, Effie.  I give you my word.  Right now I’m worried about you.”  Burdon frowned.  “I don’t think I ever told you that I love you.   I’m just not that kinda fella.  But I do.  Maybe I shoulda told you that before now, but I’m tellin’ you now.”


“You’re forgetting your elocution, Ernest,” she chided.  “I think I’ve grown to love you too and that frightens me.  It hurts so much when love gets in.”


“I know...,” he raised her fingers to his lips.  “Is it a price or a legacy?  Either way I’m glad he was here and I’m grateful you gave him to me.”


“What are we going to do, Ernest?  I had envisioned a life where William takes over the business, gives us children, and makes us proud....”


“I am proud,” he declared, gulping down the knowledge that his son had killed a woman.  The law had told him everything, but he was not about to break that to a grieving mother.  His death was enough; to stomp all over his memory was unthinkable.  He could buy silence and as far as the respectable world knew he had been murdered in a bar brawl.  He would crush any whispers as he encountered them.  “He’s going to have the best funeral Denver ever saw; and the best mausoleum.  The name William Burdon will be on everyone’s lips.”  His voice dropped to a growl.  “And once it’s over I’m going to hunt that rat down and destroy him.  There’ll be no place to hide.”


“How could William find the killer so quickly?  The law have done nothing.”


“They’re idiots, that’s how.  All they’re fit for is stopping drunken cowboys shooting up the place.  I don’t know how he found him, but I’ll make it my business to find out.  I’ll get the best money can buy.”


“You don’t think it was something to do with what William said, do you?  About us being conned and not knowing it?  It got me to thinking about something Mrs. Shand said to me in San Francisco.  She said she’d never heard of any of the titles Miss Abbott used.  You know; her aristocratic relatives.  She knows everyone and has visited London so many times.  Do you think he was right?  That she was a fraud?  Do you think he went after the people he said conned you or him?  How else could he have caught up with them so quickly?”


Burdon’s brows gathered.  “Yes... you’re a very smart lady, Euphemia Hepworth Burdon.  Where else could he have stumbled on the culprit so quickly?  I must ask that marshal some more questions.”  He paused, nodding gently to himself as his resolution hardened.  “Now, do you feel up to getting up to eat or shall I arrange for a tray to be brought to your room?”


“Eat!?  I can’t eat.  It’d turn to ashes in my mouth.  I don’t want anything.  I feel sick.”


You need to have something.  You haven’t eaten since supper last night.  How about some beef tea?”


She propped herself up to punctuate her message.  “Ernest, I don’t want anything!”


“I’ll send in Doc Hastings to make sure you’re alright.  You’re very grey....”


He strode over to the door, ignoring her angry cry.  “I don’t want to see him.  I don’t want to see anyone!”  


The door clicked behind him and Effie turned to punch her pillow into a more comfortable shape.  The dull ache in the centre of her chest grew, spreading into her neck and jaw.  Beads of sweat pricked at her skin as the ache spread into her arms and bile rose in her throat along with a sense of desperate dread.  What was going on?  She slumped back on the bed with her head spinning, too weak to call for help.  The pain in her chest increased to an intense, crushing, life-sucking agony...


Doctor Hastings turned the handle.  “Mrs. Burdon?  Your husband asked me to come up before I left.  Would you like something to help you sleep?”  He walked further into the room, but one sight of the prone figure slumped diagonally on the bed made him quicken his pace.  “Mrs. Burdon!”  He grasped at her wrist to feel for a pulse and sucked in a breath of concern.  “Someone, anyone!  Come quick and bring my bag!”            


OOOOOOOOOO


A stream of sunlight wedged its way into the boxcar through a loose board and fell across Heyes’ eyes, waking him.  He lay on the hard, dusty floor as memories of the previous night flooded his sleepy brain.  Jed had killed a man.  No, that wasn’t true; Heyes had killed him, too, by setting William on his path.  But William had killed Jen; beautiful, sweet, smart Jen.  He’d deserved to die, but why did Jed have to be the one to kill him?  His eyes closed tightly as he willed the ghosts and his jumbled feelings away.


At the other end of the car, Jed was rolled over on his side facing the wall.  He’d been awake most of the night and had heard his partner stirring, but wasn’t ready to face anyone yet; most of all Heyes.  The shooting replayed over and over in his head: William lifting his gun, the red stain that had appeared on his forehead, the fading light in his eyes, the fear in Heyes’, and the pain Jed had felt when he’d realized he’d taken a life, even an ugly, murderous life.  


In all the years he’d practiced his skills, he never envisioned using them to kill; only to protect.  But, wasn’t that exactly what he’d done?  He’d protected Heyes.  Then why did he feel so empty?  Why did he feel so incredibly angry?


Heyes felt the train slowing as it climbed a grade.  They’d have to jump off at some point.  It was too risky to stay here.  If Burdon’s family decided to come after them like the marshal thought they’d would, the first thing they’d do would be to wire ahead to surrounding train stations to be on the lookout for two men fitting his and Jed’s descriptions.  They had to get off the train soon, but Jed was still asleep and he couldn’t help wondering how Jed could sleep so easily after killing a man.  It had been plain that his partner had been in shock when they’d made their escape, but he’d settled down quickly enough and hadn’t moved all night.  


Heyes would never forget the fear and helplessness he’d felt in William’s arms or the cold, calculating look in his partner’s eyes when he’d shot the man.  One tiny mistake on Jed’s part and Heyes would’ve been the one bleeding out on the filthy barroom floor, but Jed hadn’t hesitated.  Not for a second.  


Who was Jed?  Did he really know anymore?  He’d always accepted his friend’s obsession with guns.  He figured it was Jed’s way of feeling he had some control over their fates; something to contribute to their well-being.  He had always trusted that Jed was too sweet, too kind, to kill.  But he had and he’d done it with an icy efficiency.  Heyes was grateful Jed had saved his skin, but terrified about what it meant.  


They’d chosen to fall in with Soapy because they’d thought that conning was a game of wits and minimized risks.  How wrong could they have been?  Why had he done it?  Why had he let Clem blackmail them into running a con when none of them were equipped to handle it?   He knew why.  It was because he was arrogant.  He’d been so sure he could handle it.  Well, look where his arrogance had gotten them.  Soapy had always warned him not to let his ego cloud his judgment, but he had and they were all going to pay heavily for it.  


OOOOOOOOOO


“There’s a person to see you, Sir.”


Burdon looked up at the servant in surprise.  “A person?”


“I’d hesitate to call him a gentleman, Sir.”  The maid darted a look back over her shoulder.  “Shall I tell him to go?  I wouldn’t have let him in but he insisted that you’d asked a Mr. Blackmore to find him for you?”


“Blackmore?  The marshal who was there when William was killed?”  Burdon stood abruptly.  “What are you waiting for girl?  Show the man in.”


He paced back and forth in front of his desk until the door opened and a wiry man in his forties strode in, instantly owning the room with both his swagger and odor.  “Burdon?”


“Mr. Burdon to you.”


The man shrugged but managed a smile though a nicotine-stained moustache.  “Makes no difference to me.  You’re the one payin’.”  Steel-grey eyes glinted a warning, “but hold out on me and what I call ya’ll be the least of your problems.”


“Your name?”  Burdon demanded.


“Pike Scrivener.  I’ve worked for sheriffs between here and Utah, on and off.  Mostly off.  They call me when they need a good gun, not when they need somebody to quote law books.”  The man paused.  “You should know I was there that night; when your son was killed.   I saw it all.  I thought it best you know. I’m a straight shooter – in more ways than one.”


“You mean when my son was murdered,” snorted Burdon.


Scrivener shook his head and held the businessman’s gaze.  “He was shot.  He drew first and you know it.  If you and me are gonna do business you’d better understand that I want the truth, even if it don’t matter a damn to what I’m prepared to do for a buck.  I do dangerous work and need to know exactly who and what I’m dealin’ with.  I don’t care a hill o’ beans what you want me to do – it’s your money – but your boy were a whore-beatin’, lily-livered coward.  He weren’t much of a poker player neither.”  He stared straight into the father’s simmering eyes.  “I ain’t no shoulder to cry on, but I know what you want done.  There ain’t many who’ll put a man in the ground for ya, no questions asked, so I’m the best you got.  Take it or leave it.”


Burdon turned his back on the visitor to stare out of the window, but the stiff shoulders betrayed a man on the edge.  “You’ve seen him?  You know what he looks like?”


“Yeah, I’ve seen him.  Lanky kid with baby curls and the eyes of a prison wolf when he stared down your son.  Didn’t look no more’n sixteen.  That was some real fancy shootin’, so I gotta tell you this weren’t no ordinary bar fight.  This’ll cost.”


The banker clasped his hands behind his back.  “How much?”  


“Two thousand dollars.”  


Burdon turned, not failing to take in the greed glittering in the gunman’s eyes.    “Yes, it’s a good sum.  I want this man disposed of.”


“You mean killed.  I like plain speakin’.”


Burdon’s jaw firmed.  “And I like efficiency.  I want it done as soon as possible.  This man killed my son, and yes; I know what he was,” he paused and gulped heavily, “but given enough time I’d have made a man of him.  That bastard robbed me of the opportunity.”


Scrivener flicked up a cynical eyebrow.   “Ya think?”


“I know so,” Burdon asserted.  “There’s something else you may not know.  These low-lifes are confidence men.  They targeted my son and he went to that brothel to find them.”


“Yeah?”  The gunman gave a light chuckle.  “He was in bed with trug in a cat house.  He’d sure have noticed if there was already a man where he was lookin’.”


“He might have been diverted,” sniffed Burdon.


“Diverted?” Scrivener shook his head.  “Sure he was.  Right up...”


“That’s enough!”  Burdon stomped his way back over to his desk.  “The woman who was killed; she was one of them too.  A whole gang of crooks targeted this family and you’ll never convince me that she wasn’t killed by one of her own confederates.  People like that would cut their own grandmother’s throat for a penny…”  An involuntary image flashed through his mind and he fought back a shudder.  “None of this would have happened if they’d left us alone, or at least they’d have slit her somewhere else.  I have an idea she was double-crossing them.  William had his faults, but he’d never do that to a woman.  Never!”


The gunman nodded pensively, regarding the man’s naked pain with knowing detachment.  “I hear ya lost the missus.”


“A heart attack,” Burdon whispered, “I never even got to say goodbye…”


“I reckon she knows everythin’ ya wanted to tell her by now and then some.”  Scrivener thrust his thumbs in his belt.  “Five hundred and the rest when he’s planted.”


“Two hundred,” the banker countered.


“Four hundred.”


“Three hundred.”


Scrivener frowned.  “For a grievin’ man you sure know how to barter.  Ain’t nobody ever told ya that misers make better ancestors than friends?  Three hundred and fifty or I walk.  If I need more I’ll tell ya, because trackin’ folks don’t come cheap.  Ya can have cheap or ya can have good but ya can’t have both.”  Burdon slid open a drawer, freezing at the gun suddenly drawn by the visitor.  “Easy now, there’d better be no surprises in there.”


“For God’s sake man, I’m getting you the money.”


“Yeah?  Four hundred and don’t forget this kid knows his way around a gun.  The best way to deal with this will be to get him by surprise.  I ain’t risking my neck against someone who can shoot like that.  This’ll take as long as it takes.”


OOOOOOOOOO

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

Silverkelpie

Posts : 1446
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 58
Location : Over the rainbow

The Devil's Due Part 7 Empty
PostSubject: Re: The Devil's Due Part 7   The Devil's Due Part 7 EmptyTue Mar 03, 2015 12:35 pm

The train whistle blew three short warning blasts signaling it was pulling into a town soon.  Heyes stood up and looked out through the crack in the wall.  He couldn’t tell where they were, but he saw buildings in the distance and knew it was time to wake Jed.  He crossed to his partner, who rolled over and stared up at him.


“You’ve been awake all this time?”


“Yeah, what’s it to you?” asked Jed, belligerently.


Stung, Heyes growled, “We’re coming to a town.  I’m getting off.  Come if you want to.”  He turned away and crossed to the door, sliding it open and looking out.  The ground flew by at an alarming speed, but he’d done this many times in his young life.  They both had.  He heard Jed coming up behind him and the knot of anxiety forming in his stomach instantly unraveled.  “Ready?”


“You first,” was the reply.


Heyes jumped and went limp in the air.  The ground rushed up at a crazy angle and collided with his hip and shoulder.  His body rolled down the embankment until he came to rest against a fence post.  Barbed wire bit at his clothes and he heard fabric tear as he pulled free.  Standing up, he saw Jed further up the line.  He was already up and dusting off his jacket.  Heyes bent down, retrieved his hat, and limped towards his partner.


“You hurt?” asked Jed, indifferently.  It wasn’t that he didn’t care; it was that he was too numb to feel much more than a deep, burning disgust with himself and the world.


“I’m all right.  Looks like we’re maybe a couple of miles from town; what do you want to do?” said Heyes.


Jed looked at him sharply. Why was he asking him?  Heyes always took charge.  “I’m hungry.  Let’s find a place to eat.”  Money wasn’t going to be a problem.  They had plenty of money.  It was getting into town without being noticed that was going to be hard.  “Let’s cut through the forest.  With any luck, no one will see us on foot.”  


“All right, but we ought to get hold of a paper and see what’s being said about the shooting.”


“What more do we need to know?” Jed was scowling.  “William’s dead.  I killed him or maybe you hadn’t noticed.”


Angered, Heyes put his hands on his hips.  “How could I not notice?  You almost took my head off when you shot him!”


“Yeah, well, don’t make me sorry I didn’t.”  Curry started walking away.


Sullenly, Heyes followed him into the trees.  A short time later, they were hiding in the shadows of an alley.  Around the corner, a grocer was busily setting up his produce bins for the day.  He rolled out a bin of apples and put them next to the one filled with corn before going back into his store.  A moment later, a small boy walked up the sidewalk carrying a bundle of newspapers in his arms.  Reaching the grocery store, he dumped the bundle and turned around, hurrying back towards the newspaper office.  


Heyes and Jed watched him get to the end of the block and cross the street then they emerged from their hiding place.  The grocer was still in the store when Heyes reached down and pulled a paper from the bundle, tucking it quickly inside his coat, and tossed two bits on top of the bound papers. The grocer came out a second later with a sack of beans and greeted them.  They smiled in returned, tipped their hats, and hurried off.


Seated in a small café, their breakfast orders having already been placed, Heyes pulled the newspaper from his coat and unfolded it.  The headlines leapt off the page at him and he glanced in dismay at Jed.


“What?  Let me see that,” said Jed, reaching for it.  


Heyes pulled back, but put it down on the table where they could both read it.  The two-inch typeface screamed, “DENVER SCION SHOT TO DEATH BY JED ‘THE KID’ CURRY!”  Jed choked back his anger and finished reading the story.  When he got to the end, he was angry all over again.  “It says I killed him during a barroom brawl.  A dispute.  It don’t mention anything about William killing Jen!”  Jed sat back, fuming.  “And what the hell’s a sky-on?”


“Scion.  It means a rich kid from a rich family.  That marshal’s quoted as saying it was a fair fight and that William provoked it, but not why.  Burdon’s family must be covering up William’s crime.  Not that you can really blame them.  My guess is the marshal is on their payroll.”


“So now I look like some hot-headed gunman. I can’t believe he gave the press our names.  Look, he even gave me a nickname!”  Curry was furious.  This was the last thing they needed.  He wanted to disappear, lick his wounds; not have his name splashed about in the press.


Sick to his stomach, Heyes’ mind was already racing.  The account had glorified the speed of Jed’s draw and his cool demeanor; saying his skills rivaled those of the deadliest shootist.  It said nothing about his shock over William’s death or the marshal spiriting them out of town.  Instead, the reporter stated they had disappeared; probably out of fear of retribution.  It made them look guilty as hell despite the circumstances and made Jed look like a professional gunslinger.  And what was with the nickname?  Everybody was going to be on the lookout for ‘Kid’ Curry.  Every two-bit, wanna-be gunnie would be hoping to run into Jed; hoping to face him down and steal his new notoriety.


The waitress came over and put down their meals in front of each of them, but they could only stare at the congealing eggs.  Their appetites were gone.  


OOOOOOOOOO


Ernest Burdon squinted through the bright sunshine at the funeral procession outside of his home.  Gleaming ebony stallions tossed the extravagant black plumes attached to their head pieces, keen to be off.  Impatient hooves pawed at the ground but the undertakers held them firm, immobile in their quiet dignity.  Mourning crêpe was swathed around the pair of hearses, wound around the shining brasses and draped over the top of the glittering glass through which the caskets were displayed.  White lilies cut through the starkness from the top of William’s coffin; dozens upon dozens of them, specially transported to the town from fertile slopes around San Francisco where they cultivated flowers as crops for the growing cities of the West.  


The blanket of pink roses marked his wife’s pall, so small behind that of his son.  Effie had loved roses, but their perfume would now always carry the stench of death to him.  He had agonized over which of the coffins should go first in the funeral procession, but in the end it was William who went first.  He was the man, after all.  It was the order of things.  It was right.  


He sighed deeply, a rasp catching in his throat as he stared at the scene with empty eyes.  Was this good enough?  It was grand, ostentatious and expensive; with weeping children, who were paid for their pallor and acting abilities along with severe looking men in stove pipe hats who stared ahead with cadaverous faces.  His business-like pride welled to the surface.  He had to be steady.  This needed to be done.  There would be plenty of time for mourning when he was in private but today his son and his wife needed him to be dignified and put on a fine show.  He glanced over at his weeping daughters and steeled himself against rolling his eyes in embarrassment.  What was wrong with women?  Why did they act like they’d had a blow to the head?  Couldn’t they hold it together for ten minutes?  For God’s sake, he had paid mourners to make a scene; he didn’t need one from his daughters.  Effie had been the very soul of dignity and decorum.  If only she were here to sort them out.  They clung to one another in support, their sobs and wails forming a knot of sorrow.  When he’d been younger women weren’t allowed to join the funeral procession, it was high time some of these good old traditions were brought back.  They should be in the kitchen making sure the mourners were catered for on their return.  Was this his future?  A life of frills and fripperies without his wife to absolve him of the monotony of domestic life?  Was this going to get in the way of his business?  He was a father of four girls and he knew nothing about women.  What was he going to do?  


In that instant he felt his life stretch out before him; empty and meaningless, devoid of any of the things which mattered.  His son would no longer carry on his name or his legacy and his only support had been kicked to the grave by the murderer of her baby boy.  What was the point?  There was nothing to look forward to, nothing to aim for and nobody to turn to.  She had been the anchor to his ship, stopping him from careening off-course.  He hadn’t realized how much his wife had multiplied the good and divided the evil until she was no longer doing it.      


He jammed his cane under his arm and nodded to the undertaker that he was ready to go.  The carriage shifted and swayed as he climbed aboard, blinking in the caustic morning sunshine.  It was just over three miles to the new Riverside Cemetery from Curtis Park and the lower grade people were expected to walk all the way behind the cortege.  Mourners gathered in anxious clusters whispering in sepulchral tones as they fell in behind the procession.  It should be over by lunchtime. The sooner this was over the sooner he could shut himself away from this hellish world and concentrate on what mattered; brandy.  He needed a drink.  


OOOOOOOOOO


“I can’t believe we had to pay a hundred dollars for these two nags.  We’ll be lucky if they last fifty miles,” groused Jed.


“When did you become such a great judge of horseflesh?”  Heyes shifted in the saddle.  He was unused to riding.  It had been a long time since he’d sat a horse and, while he was enjoying it, he could tell his muscles would make him pay for the pleasure.


“Right around the same time I became the ‘Fastest Gun in the West’.  Can you believe that crap?”


“The reporters are having a field day.  They’re feeding on each other’s stories, embellishing each one and blowing it all out of proportion.  One thing’s for certain, every Tom, Dick, and Harry’s heard about ‘Kid’ Curry by now.”


“What are we gonna do, Heyes?”


“We’re going to lay low and not give the press any more stories to cover.  It’ll blow over once they get their hooks into something new.”


Jed brightened slightly.  “You really think so?”


“Sure I do, Kid.”


“DON’T CALL ME THAT!”


Heyes chuckled; pleased he could rile his partner.  Maybe he could rile him right out of his bad mood.  Not that Heyes blamed him, the kid really did have a lot weighing on him and they were both tired.  They’d hopped a freight wagon unnoticed in the first town and changed up transportation at every opportunity.  He’d made a point of sticking to the smaller towns; the ones unlikely to have newspaper offices or telegraph services.  It would take a Pinkerton to stay on their trail.  In a little while, they’d cross the border into Wyoming and then they’d be able to relax and rest up in Cheyenne before deciding where their new lives would lead them.  


As though he could read the direction of his partner’s thoughts, Jed said, “When we get to Cheyenne, we ought to telegraph Clem’s aunt and let her know we caught Jen’s killer.  Clem’ll be there soon and she’ll want to know.”


“I don’t think that’s a good idea.  What’re we gonna tell her?  The man you swindled killed your sister because you cheated him?”  Heyes hadn’t meant for that to slip out so sarcastically, but his own role in selecting the mark was still eating at him.


“They don’t need to know who it was, only that the killer was caught,” snapped Jed.  


Warming to the plan, Heyes nodded and said, “We don’t mention William and we don’t wait for a reply.  By the time the Hales hear from us again, maybe some of the pain might’ve of worn off.”


“That kinda pain never wears off, Heyes.  We both know that.  Clem’s gonna need to know the truth someday, and I was thinkin’ maybe we should head east, too. Talk to her in person, tell her what happened, and make sure she’s all right.  We could stay in Philadelphia awhile and let things die down out here.  We might even like it there.”


“That’s another bad idea.  Clem’s not going to be ready for the truth for a long, long time.”


Bristling, Jed argued.  “You don’t know that.”


“True, but I do know I’m a westerner and I’m not going to like being cramped up in some crowded city trying to pretend I fit in.  I’m not going east.”  Heyes’ harsh reaction killed the conversation and the ride to Cheyenne was completed in silence.


OOOOOOOOOO


Cheyenne was in the process of losing its crown as the West’s premier hub city to Denver, but it retained its lively culture and thriving businesses.  It was Heyes and Jed’s first time in the frontier town and they spent several days roaming the city and several nights frequenting its saloons.  After a spirited quarrel the first day, mornings were spent riding out of town to a deserted homestead where Jed insisted Heyes brush up on his shooting skills and where he could practice his own.  Both of them knew that they weren’t in any position to take their safety for granted.  


At first it had all been fun and exciting, but they were beginning to get restless and ready to move on.  The only question was where would they go?  Jed kept pushing for Philadelphia and Heyes kept steadfastly refusing to consider anywhere east of the Mississippi.  The only thing they’d agreed on was that the coast was beginning to look clear.


As Heyes had predicted, the newspapers had already lost interest in ‘Kid’ Curry and moved onto other things.  Broadway was being graded and the Denver Horse Railroad Company had just announced that it would begin offering horse-drawn streetcar services in December.  Heyes read these headlines out loud to his pleased partner who’d begun to recover some of his good nature.  They were seated at a table near a big, plate glass window in the dining room of one of Cheyenne’s many smaller hotels.   The remains of two steak dinners sat to one side and a half-finished bottle of the house red wine sat by Jed’s elbow.  


“Imagine that, streetcars in Denver, just like a real city,” marveled Jed with a grin.  “I bet there’re lots of streetcars in Philadelphia.”


“Give it a rest, will you?”  Heyes put down the front section of the newspaper and picked up another.  He didn’t notice Jed stiffen and pick up the discarded pages, burying his face inside the centerfold.


“Heyes, don’t look up!  I think someone just spotted us,” Jed whispered urgently.  The dining room was full and the other customers were unaware of the sudden tension at table five.


“What’d you see?”  Heyes put the paper down and stared at his partner, frozen in place.


“I’m not sure.  This guy stopped and peered in the window out front; seemed like he was lookin’ around the room.  He stopped lookin’ and hurried off when he saw us.”  Jed lowered the paper slightly and saw that the man hadn’t returned.  Putting the newspaper down, he shrugged.  “Could be nothin’, but it don’t feel right to me.”


“Me either.  Let’s go.”  Heyes stood up and threw some money on the table to cover their bill.  Hurrying to the kitchen, they rushed past the startled cooks and left by the back door.  Once in the alley, they stopped and waited to hear if they were being pursued.


“I don’t hear anythin’, do you?”


“No, but better safe than sorry.  Let’s split up and meet at the livery.”


“What about our gear?”  


“Grab it if you can, but don’t take any chances.”  


Jed nodded and the two men hurried away from each other.  It wasn’t far to the livery and Heyes clattered down the sidewalk trying to look as nonchalant as possible, but every sense was on high alert.  The streets were still alive with townsfolk, and glowing windows cast radiant shapes into the darkness, but it was the mirroring footsteps resonating from behind which caused the hackles to prick on the back of his neck.  


Turning was not an option, not if he was being followed.  Soapy had schooled his students in the skills of evasion and it was time to reach down into that bag of tricks.  Heyes stopped, apparently suddenly interested in the busy display in the pharmacy window.  The following footsteps clumped for another couple of steps before his quarry apparently realized he had halted, but the delayed echo confirmed his worst fears.  He was definitely being followed, and not with the delicacy of a professional either.  The clumsy pursuit spoke of either an opportunistic thief or hired muscle.  The lawman had warned that Burdon’s father would come after them and he had meant it.  


Heyes glanced as far down the street as he could without turning his head.  Nobody there.  The pursuer was must have darted into a doorway or a shadow, so that was the final validation he needed.  A casual pedestrian would still be continuing on their way.  


A wagon, heavily laden with lumber, started to turn down the alley between the ex-confidence trickster and his tail.  Heyes saw his chance.    He waited until it completely rounded the corner and sprinted towards the junction on his toes.  As soon as the vehicle passed, he flattened himself against the wall and waited.  Heyes’ heart pounded in so loudly in his chest he was sure it would give him away.  This was life or death, he was sure of it.  


It didn’t take long.  He soon heard tentative steps out onto the wooden sidewalk behind him, rapidly followed by the quickening pace of a man who had lost sight of his mark when the wagon had turned between him and his intended victim.  


The sound came nearer and nearer, the boots clattering on the wooden planks getting louder and louder until a figure appeared at the end of the block, peering ahead into the darkness.  A quick glance told Heyes there was nobody near enough to witness what he was about to do.  He might not be the strongest, but he had the element of surprise and an adrenaline rush powered by the need to survive.  He waited until the man stepped down to cross to the next block and leaped out to grasp him around the neck.  Heyes pulled him into the darkness.  


The arm around the stranger’s throat served to keep the man quiet, while the backwards drag kept him off balance as Heyes pulled him into the alley.  He was about three inches shorter than Heyes and he could feel the tightening muscles around the man’s shoulders as he struggled and fought against the hold.  The older man’s experience started to show as he hauled himself out of the chokehold and Heyes felt the red mist rise.  There was no choice.  The man pulled away out of instinct, his superior brawn carrying the day against a slimmer, younger man, but he hadn’t reckoned on a cunning survival instinct honed by the Valparaiso Home for Waywards.  He suddenly found his own power used against him as Heyes stepped to the side and grasped his waistcoat.  The stranger had been pulling away, he now found himself thrown into his own momentum headfirst into the opposite wall.  His skull crashed against the timbered building with a sickening thud before he slid face down into the dirt.  


Heyes removed his opponent’s weapon before tossing it off into the darkness before turning him onto his face and thrusting the muzzle of gun into his moustache.  “Who are you and who sent you?”


“Sent me?”  The stranger shook his head very carefully.  “I don’t know what you mean.”  He gulped heavily at the grim voice flitting through the night.


“Maybe you didn’t hear the question,” the metallic click of a gun underscored the urgency of the words.  “You can answer me and live, or die in an alley, another victim of an unsolved robbery.  Name!?”


He gulped heavily, but quickly decided that money wasn’t everything.  In fact it wasn’t anything at all if you are dead meat in a box.  “Scrivener, Pike Scrivener, and Burdon sent me; but only to tell him where you are.”  


The cynical chuckle did nothing to ease Scrivener’s fears.  “Sure he did.”  There was a long pause before Heyes murmured.  “Relax friend.  You’ll get to tell Burdon where you last saw us.”  


Hannibal Heyes stood and glanced around.  His gaze landed on a pile of crates and barrels by the back door of a shop and a devilish grin lit up his face.  He gestured with his gun.  “Stand up.”  Scrivener stared defiantly up at the young man.  “You don’t think I’ll use this?  Think again.    Get up, if you want to live.”


Scrivener hauled himself to his feet and began dusting down his clothes.  


“Hey!  None of that.  Hands up.”  


“I thought you were goin’ ta let me go,” scowled Scrivener.


“I am,” the cheeks pitted with dimples, “but properly packaged up.”


“Huh?”


Heyes’ grin widened.  “That barrel.  Get in.”


“You’re jokin’!”


“If you think this is a joke you need to get new friends,” the dark eyes hardened.  “Get in the barrel.”  


Scrivener examined the height of the vessel.  “How am I supposed to get my leg that high?”


“Do you want it put in a box by an undertaker?” Heyes scowled.  “That might just be easier for everyone.”


“Alright, alright, I’m goin’!”  The gunman climbed clumsily on top of some crates and draped his leg over the side of the barrel.  “This is just plain dumb.  Can’t you fight properly?  I ain’t seen nothin’ like this in all my born days…”


“I fight.  I just prefer to use my brains and that’s where you’re wanting, my friend.  Head down,” ordered Heyes bending to pick up the hammer and nails left lying on one of the open crates.  “You might want to stick something in your ears.  This is gonna get a bit loud.”


Heyes placed the lid on the barrel and proceeded to hammer it in place, one nail after the other.  He tested it before adding a few transverse nails for good effect and nodded in satisfaction.  That’ll keep Burdon’s muscle busy until he and the Kid could get out of town, especially if he piled heavy stuff on top and placed the other barrels about it so Scrivener couldn’t roll his prison onto its side.  He set about completing the makeshift jail and patted the curved side in satisfaction.  “That should hold you for a bit.  Don’t bother looking for your gun when you get out of here either.  I’m gonna mail it back to your employer to let him know just how good you are at your job.  Let’s hope we don’t meet again, Scrivener.  He sent you to kill me, so this is as near turning the other cheek as you deserve.  Go back to Burdon and tell him we’re going away.  We’ll leave him alone if he leaves us alone.  We’re not killers.  We’re survivors.  There’s a difference.”                        


Heyes retrieved his opponent’s gun and walked pensively into the night.  The Kid wasn’t going to like this news.  He wasn’t going to like this at all…      

Historical Notes


Truk, Trug - A prostitute of the lowest class. Usually dirty, slatternly. -  
http://www.legendsofamerica.com/we-slang-t.html

_________________
Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb
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The Devil's Due Part 7
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