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 September 2013 -Storm

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PostSubject: September 2013 -Storm   Sun Sep 01, 2013 7:56 pm

Hi everyone.

Your challenge for September was chosen in honor of the birthday girl, so get your thinking caps on and start creating your timeless tales relating to:

thunderstorm           Storm




That can be weather related, the mood, teacup related incident   Tea  or any derivation or the word.

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PostSubject: Re: September 2013 -Storm   Sun Sep 08, 2013 11:43 pm

“I swear, when we get back to the Hole, I’m gonna kill him.”

“No you’re not.”

“I have to.  How dare he take over – at least his idea was worse than mine.”

“Heyes, if you don’t stop yammerin’ and get that horse saddled, you’re not gonna have a chance to kill Wheat.  That posse will catch us.  Now get movin’.”  Kid Curry tightened the girth on his horse then turned to glare at Heyes.

Heyes opened his mouth, thought better, closed it, and finished saddling his new mount.  As he swung up, the Kid opened the corral and slapped the two horses they’d ridden in on, chasing them away.  That accomplished, he closed the corral gate, swung up on his horse, and nodded at Heyes.  The two galloped away.

“Sure was good we stashed these horses, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah, Heyes, sometimes you’re almost the genius you think you are.  Sure was better than your idea to drag that safe with us.  Now keep movin’, will you?  Head for the river, we can go up the middle a ways before crossing and maybe lose them then.”

~~~oOo~~~

They paused in the trees at the crest of the ridge and looked back.  Far below them they could see the dust stirred by the posse chasing them.

“Sheesh, aren’t these fella’s ever goin’ to give up?”

“Don’t look like the river’s going to stop them for long; we have to keep going.”

“I’m gettin’ real tired of bein’ this popular.  One good thing though.”

“What’s that?  I could use something good about now,” Heyes panted.

“Looks like the whole posse is followin’ us.  Wheat and the boys must have gotten away.”

“That’s your idea of good?  Shut up and get moving.”

The Kid grinned, pulled the collar of his coat up against the rapidly increasing cold, and followed Heyes briskly down the far side of the ridge.

~~~oOo~~~

Once again, they quickly exchanged mounts.  Heyes looked up at the sky as he chewed some jerky during the brief stop.  “It’s getting mighty dark.  Good thing, maybe we can lose them then.”

“Heyes, we can’t see any better than they can in the dark.”  The Kid looked at the sky.  “Look at those clouds.  We’re in for a real torrent.  We need to find shelter.”

“Can’t, they’re still back there.”  Heyes sighed and began to mount.  Thunder rumbled and a large drop splashed onto his hand as he mounted.  Suddenly he looked around and grinned.

“Kid, we can make it to the hidden cave.  This storm should wash out our tracks around here.  I think we’re gonna make it.”  He spurred his horse and hurried off, the Kid following quickly.

~~~oOo~~~

Rain streaming down their faces, holding onto their hats only by tightening the stampede strings until they almost cut off the circulation in their chins, the two men struggled up the rocky slope, leading the horses.  The horses balked – unhappy with the footing, unhappy with the wind and the lightning flashing too close, and unhappy with the men leading them – they sought to break free.  The men tightened their hold on the reins and struggled on, focused on the goal of reaching the cave, no longer concerned with the posse behind them.

They flinched as lightning struck a tree only yards to their right, then clung desperately to the reins of the rearing, bucking horses as the tree exploded, showering debris around them.  They heard the rumble of rocks to their left as a rock slide showered past them.

“We have to take shelter, Heyes,” the Kid shouted over the noise of the storm.

Squinting his eyes and blinking rapidly to adjust to the darkness after a lightning flash, Heyes looked up the hill.  Suddenly, he let out a whoop and pointed.  “Up there, Kid.  It’s right up there.  Just a few more minutes.”  He led the way, hauling his horse behind him through sheer force of will.

The Kid took a deep breath then struggled after him.

~~~oOo~~~

They crept around a boulder into a narrow canyon, only slightly more than a crevice.  Already the walls of the canyon reduced the wind and the lashing of the rain.  Wary of further rock slides they made their way carefully until they came to the end of the ravine.  Inching their way around what appeared to be a solid wall, they entered the cave they sought, still leading their horses behind them.

Men and beasts stood in the dark, sides heaving, exhausted.  Finally, the Kid slowed his breathing and reached into his saddlebags, extracting an oil-cloth wrapped bundle.  He slowly felt his way to the left of the cave entrance.  With a grunt of satisfaction he bent down.  Extracting the flint from the bundle, he quickly lit the candle that had been stored where he expected it.  The light from the candle danced around the cave, revealing a large room that led back into darkness.

“Think the posse’s still out there?”

“Nah, Kid, they couldn’t have followed us in this storm.  Still, don’t light a fire.”

“Sure am glad we stock these places around here with candles and such.”  The Kid busied himself laying out the bedrolls, grimacing when he realized that they were soaked.  He made his way back to the small stash by the entrance and extracted two blankets, smiling as he found a bottle of whiskey rolled up in one.

“Too bad, we can’t leave food, but that’d just attract varmints.”

“Maybe next time some cans and an opener.  Even canned tomatoes sound good about now.  Oh, well.”

The two settled onto the blankets leaning against their saddles.  Heyes took a sip of the whiskey the Kid had passed to him.  “I don’t know, I just don’t know,” he murmured.

The Kid chewed on some jerky.  “Don’t know what, Heyes?”

“Where this job went so wrong.”

“You know they can’t all go smoothly.”

They sat for several moments, content to be off the horses and out of the rain, knowing that the light of the candle was too weak to penetrate the entrance and give them away.

Eventually, “I planned and planned, but that was one tough safe, Kid.  Since it didn’t break on the rocks, I’m not sure the dynamite would have opened it, even if Kyle hadn’t gotten it wet.  I guess Brooker finally did it, managed to make a safe even Hannibal Heyes can’t open.”

“You’ll figure it out in time.”

“I don’t know, Kid, they’re getting tougher all the time.  That posse was harder to shake than many too.”

“Yeah, even the posse’s are gettin’ tougher.  It just keeps gettin’ harder, and harder.  And the way the telegraph’s spreadin’ they can wire ahead to towns up the line.”  

Heyes sighed heavily and passed the bottle to the Kid, who took a long pull.

Both sat in silence, absorbed in the flickering shadows sent around the cavern by the candle.  They listened to the storm continuing to rage outside.  After several moments, the Kid passed some jerky to Heyes, who nodded his thanks and chewed abstractedly.

“You know, Heyes, that amnesty sure sounds nice.”

Heyes turned and looked at him.  The Kid turned his face towards him, then turned away and sighed.

“I know, Kid.  But I can’t see us getting it.  We’re just too famous.”

“Well that seems unfair, penalizin’ us for excellence.”

Heyes glanced at the Kid and gave a short laugh before lapsing into silent contemplation of the candle.  Finally, he got up and walked over to stand by the entrance of the cave, staring out.  “Storm’s passing.”

The Kid grunted and watched him stand there for several minutes.  “You got an answer yet, Heyes?”

“No, but I know there’s one out there.”

The Kid left him to his thoughts and stared into the back of the cave.

~~~oOo~~~

Heyes came back and sat down.  “We couldn’t just walk into Cheyenne and ask the Governor.”

“They’d clap us in chains immediately, if they didn’t shoot us on the spot,” the Kid agreed.

Heyes huffed in frustration.  He lay down and faced the entrance.

The Kid observed him then silently walked to the entrance to watch for any signs of the posse while Heyes slept.

After a time, he woke Heyes and took his turn sleeping.  Soon he was snoring softly, worn out from the activity of the past few days.

~~~oOo~~~

The Kid woke to see Heyes strolling back into the cave, holding feed for the horses.  He reholstered his gun.  “Any sign of the posse?”

“No, and all traces of our passage are washed away.  Let’s rest here for the day, just to be sure.  The horses are in no shape to go on anyway.”

So they rested, drying their things and taking turns leading the horses out to water and graze.  They wandered, exploring surroundings much changed by the storm that had raged through the previous night.

Late in the afternoon, the Kid trapped a rabbit and they lit a fire in the cave to roast it.  Heyes dug another bottle of whiskey out of the stores.

As they leaned back, rested, the Kid turned to Heyes.  “So any thoughts?”

“About what, Kid?”

“Amnesty.”

He sighed.  “As I said, we couldn’t just walk in and ask for one.  We’d need an intermediary.  So who do we know?  Who could plead our case?”

Heyes passed the bottle to the Kid, who took a sip and passed it back.  Suddenly, the Kid turned.  “What about Lom?  He kind of owes us; after all, we’ve left his town in peace.”

“Lom?  Hmm…  You know that might just work.  Who better to argue that an outlaw can reform than a reformed outlaw?”  A big smile lit Heyes’ face as he turned eagerly to the Kid.

The Kid’s eyes lit in response.  Excited they talked until the last of the firewood burned out, thrashing out all the pros and cons, examining the risks and the possible results.  Then the two turned in, knowing that in the morning they would head to Porterville and, they hoped, a new life.


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PostSubject: Re: September 2013 -Storm   Wed Sep 11, 2013 2:03 am

I was traveling along life's highway one cold winter day when all at once, I came to an intersection. It was a crossroads, consisting of three different paths. Each path led off in a different direction to a different destination. It had gotten dim, like an evening twilight before a heavy storm. The wind blew, not hard, but enough to blow a hat off your head. Still, it was eerily calm. I couldn't see where any of the paths led. Matter of fact, I couldn't see any more than a few feet in front of me. I turned and started down the left path. It looked the less stressful. But, after a few feet, an enormous boulder appeared and blocked the path. I tried to go around and continue, but there was no way off this path. Walls had appeared on either side preventing me from going around. The boulder was too large and smooth to climb over, so I was forced to turn back.

I went back to the crossroads and decided to try the path in the middle. It was a little more rocky, not as smooth as the left path had been, but it was still an easy walk. I got a little further down this path, but just as I was getting comfortable, rocky spikes pushed up from the ground blocking the path and any way off it. So again, I had to turn back.

I made it back to the crossroads and noticed that the path I had taken to arrive here had disappeared. Now, I had no choice but to go down the right path. I hesitated. It looked very foreboding. I could hear a storm in the distance getting closer. I hesitated still. I didn't want to go down this path. I would have rather just stayed where I was than step one foot on that path. But it had been chosen for me. The storm got closer. It was a big one, exceptionally dark. An unseen force pushed me from behind towards the path. The fog thickened. The calm twilight had been broken, the last fragments of normality broken with it. I tried resisting the force pushing me, but it was too strong. I was forced to put one foot on the path and that's all it took. It was the point of no return. The crossroads disappeared. I could now see the storm. It was coming rapidly. I had to go forward. There was no going back no matter how hard I fought and tried. I started denying that I had to go this way. Everything I had known, my whole world, was starting to change. It couldn't be, I didn't want it too. I stopped, just staring, in denial, the horrible storm approaching quickly.

All at once, without me really realizing it, the storm was on top of me. The winds swirled and howled fiercely, blowing things over and away. The lightning struck continuously, shredding everything it touched, ripping apart the fabric of my world. How could I endure this? It was too big, too much. Then a hole started forming in the path. It grew bigger, engulfing the path and everything around it. I couldn't escape it. I tried to run, but there was nowhere to go. My mentality was starting to fracture. I cried out for it to stop. Why was this path the one I had to travel? It was a despairing path, full of heartache and grief. The hole continued to grow. From within it's depths, I could hear screams of agony. What was down there? Then I froze in horror as I realized the screams were my own. I frantically searched for a way out, but there was none to be found. I tried to cry out, but couldn't. My voice was lost in the roar of the storm. Then the hole's perimeter reached me and I fell into the abyss. The storm seemed to follow me. I cried out with everything in me. Every now and then, the walls would seem to come within reach, but then expand again before I could stop my fall. I tried to convince myself that this wasn't happening. That it was all just a nightmare. Why couldn't I wake up? Somebody wake me up PLEASE. "Its real," a disembodied voice said. I cried out harder, louder. Why is my world being turned upside-down? As I fell, I started seeing memories of my family. They would float past and then be gone. They were painful, but I was forced to watch. My mental strength started to wane. I didn't want to lose them. 'Somebody help me, I don't understand why this is happening', I thought. I continued to fall. Somewhere, back on the surface, a part of me, a part of my heart, was ripped away by the storm, carried off, along with the world I had known. I sunk lower into the abyss, my mental state shattered. Would the pieces ever be put back together correctly? How could I be happy in this abyss? I felt so many things, I couldn't really make sense of them. I want out of this void. When will the freefall end?...

"Heyes…..Heyes!" Kid Curry shook his cousin a little violently. "Wake up!"

A pair of dark brown eyes opened fast and wide as Hannibal Heyes shook convulsively. He raised up from his bedroll onto his elbows with a look of pure fear on his face, his chest heaving. His eyes quickly scanned the horizon, looking, searching. They finally settled on his partner who was sitting on his own bedroll to the right and slightly behind him.

"Kid?"

"Its okay. I'm right here. You're safe," Kid reassured him, placing a hand on his shoulder. "You had the dream again didn't you?"

"Yeah," Heyes said, trying to slow his breathing. "It was so vivid this time. I hate that dream. And I hate the fact that I always seem to have it after we've been talking about..." Heyes trailed off, running his hand through his dark hair. He turned his eyes to stare out at the dark expanse of the rocky outcrop where they had camped for the night. "When we talk about that day. That horrible, unfair day we lost..."

"I know," Kid said, cutting him off.

"Sorry. I just…that dream, it just makes me feel angry and alone. No offense."

"None taken. I know what you mean." Kid laid back down with a slight, understanding smile, then turned on his side to stare off at nothing in particular.

"Kid?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks for being there."

"Now, don't go gettin' all mushy on me." Then after a few seconds, "You know I always will be."

Heyes laid back down, staring up at the stars. He couldn't help but wonder, as he stared up into the vastness of space, if his parents were up there somewhere staring back at him. With that thought, a silent 'goodnight' escaped his lips as he closed his eyes, hoping for pleasant dreams and a better tomorrow.
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Keays

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PostSubject: The storm   Thu Sep 12, 2013 6:12 pm

“Gentlemen of the jury, have you reached your verdict?”

“We have Your Honour.”

“And what say you?”

“We find the defendant Hannibal Ellstrom Heyes guilty of all charges.”

Reaction swept through the assembly like a wave, a chorus of relieved jubilation competing with anguished disbelief. Even though the verdict was exactly what Heyes had braced himself for, nothing could have fully prepared him for the reality of it. He was numb and his heart was pounding so hard, he was sure it must burst from his chest. He couldn’t breathe.

“Hannibal Ellstrom Heyes please stand up and face the bench.”

Heyes complied, feeling like he was in a nightmare.

“Mr. Heyes,” the Judge began. “I must agree with the jury. Though I do not contend that you are a sociopath as the prosecution suggests, but perhaps the choices you have made and the life you continue to embrace would be more understandable if you were. But on the contrary, to all intent and purposes you are a very sane and intelligent young man who simply has chosen to live outside the laws of this land.
“You came into this trial insisting that you had led a law-abiding life for the last five years, and yet it has been shown beyond a doubt that that has not been the case. You have lied to your friend and supporter and you have shown contempt for this court. Indeed, I feel that you are a very dangerous man and have no true intentions of reformation. I therefore sentence you to twenty years to life at the Wyoming Territorial Prison. Sentence to commence immediately. This court is adjourned!”

And the gavel came down.

Heyes’ groan would have been audible if it hadn’t been for the uproar of the assembly. Everyone started talking at once and someone, somewhere in the hubbub was crying. Mike was quick to approach Heyes and get the cuffs on him before the prisoner regained his equilibrium and attempted something desperate. Then he was dragged, unhindered through the side door and, for the last time, down the corridor and back to his cell.

He was un-cuffed and left alone. The silence in the cell block was suffocating, its other occupants acutely aware of the storm brewing. The rage came upon him gradually. Beginning in the pit of his stomach and the back of his throat and then spreading until it engulfed his heart and his mind and then his very soul. He screamed his anguish to the world and not a single item in his cell was safe from his assault. No one dared approach him while he was in this mood because for the first time in his life Hannibal Heyes was out of control and murderous.
It took two hours for the prisoner to wear himself out to the point where he was sane again. Only officers of the law were allowed near him now that he was convicted and Lom knew that of that select group only he would have any chance at all of reasoning with the man. So, he swallowed down his own anger and feelings of betrayal and entered the cell block. He realized that when all was said and done, Heyes was still his friend and he would continue to fight for him, and for the Kid.

Heyes saw Lom approach the cell and snarled at him.

“What was the point Lom?!!” he yelled at his friend. “All those jobs we did for the governor and for the governor’s friends!!! What was the point?! Where were they when I needed them?! Huh!!! Where?!! Hiding in their offices behind their big wooden desks, that’s where!!! Do you know how many times Kid and I could have just hightailed it to Mexico?!! How many times we were in Mexico and came back!!! How many times we could have gone to Canada!! We were so close to the northern borders so many times, it would have been easy!! DAMMIT!! EVEN CANADA WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER THAN PRISON!! I bared my soul out there and for what?!!! I had forgotten so much of that bloody nightmare and I had to dredge it all back up again!! Have to live with it all over again!! For NOTHING!! You may as well put a gun to my head and shoot me! I'm going to be just as dead anyways!!! Damn promises! I should have just lit out for Mexico!! I learned early; watch your own back! Me and the Kid! I don't owe anybody else anything! I shouldn't even be here dammit! This is what I get for developing a conscience!"

Lom stood quietly, accepting the onslaught. Heyes paced the cell furiously, hitting the bars with his fist, kicking the already overturned cot, letting his anger run wild. But at least it was just anger now and not blind murderous rage. Lom waited. Eventually Heyes began to calm down even to the point of realizing that he had bruised his hand when hitting the bars. Finally he stopped pacing, and stood facing away from Lom, hands on his hips, breathing heavily and dripping sweat. He gave a huge sigh and then turned to look at his friend. Lom looked back.

“I’m sorry.” Heyes finally said. “I’m sorry I let you down.”

Lom didn’t respond. He was sorry Heyes had let him down too.

Heyes shook his head as though in a debate with himself.

“We had to do it,” he told Lom. “I can’t explain why, you’ll just have to accept that we had to do it. And that Fletcher! That weasel! He’s more of a scam artist than I’ll ever be. He’s the one who should be going to prison!”

“And the other crime?” Lom asked quietly. “The one Charles Morgan accused you of.”

“We told you about that one Lom,” Heyes reminded him. “We had to get that money back from Grace Turner. We returned it to the authorities Lom, you know we did.”

“Yeah, I guess I do know that,” Lom admitted. “Unfortunately in the eyes of the law, all the good things you’ve done were cancelled out by the bad things. And your refusal to give up those names just sealed your fate in the eyes of the Judge.”

Heyes came back over to the bars and again leaned his forehead against them.

“Is the Judge right Lom?” he asked almost in desperation. “Am I beyond redemption? Beyond hope of a decent life?”

“No Heyes,” Lom assured him having changed his mind about that himself now that he'd had a chance to calm down. “The Judge was wrong about that. He doesn’t know you; he was just going by the evidence. Your friend Mr. Jordan and I have been talking with Mr. Granger. We have a plan. We’re not going to give up, so don’t you.”

“Okay Lom,” Heyes agreed. He pushed himself away from the bars, looking exhausted, burned out. “I won’t give up.”

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Remuda

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PostSubject: Re: September 2013 -Storm   Wed Sep 18, 2013 12:10 am

While waiting for a bunny to hop, this story or variations of it kept coming to mind.  It was originally written for a challenge three years ago, and in the interest of posting something, I tweaked it a bit and decided to recycle it.


Squall
“Ante up!"

As winds howled and rain poured buckets outside, five players inside respectively dropped a dollar coin into the pot, the clunk of metal thudding against the wooden table.  A quintet of cards to each was quickly dealt and assessed.

“Pass.”

“Pass.”

“Pass.”

“Open – for a dollar.”

The dark-haired opener threw a bill onto the pile.  Two others followed.  Another pair tossed their cards in, finished for the round.

The dealer had the deck at the ready. “How many?”

The opener started as a strong clap of thunder caught seemingly everyone in the saloon off guard, quieting conversation and music for several seconds before resuming – cautiously at first. A hand mowed his dark hair out of his brown eyes before seeking the familiar blue of his partner, who leaned against the bar. They connected as yet another rolling blow outside resonated with grimaces inside. Shared imperceptible nods signalled silent thanks for the shelter.

The opener sat, poker-faced. “One.”

“Three.”

“Two.”

The gambler who took three threw in his cards. “I’m out.”

The remaining pair sat opposite each other – the darker one‘s back to the door. His opponent's gaze subtly darted from cards beyond the opener to the outside. His expression unreadable, he focused on his hand.

The opener laid his cards face down in front of him. Counting out several bills, he added them to the pot. “Three dollars.”

The opponent repeated the motions. “I’ll see your three, and raise five.”

The dark-haired opener hesitated not.  “There's the five, and raise ten more.”

The opponent, again, “Ten, and raise another fifteen.”

The crowd edged closer – the game beckoning them as the proverbial moth to the flame. A hush descended, the weather cooperating for a moment as well.

The dealer interjected, “Check. Gentlemen, we’ve reached the three-raise limit.”

The opponent demanded, “Call!”

Brown eyes met blue again as the partner took a step forward from his perch at the bar, thumbs unlooping from the low slung gun belt as his arms fell to his side.

The opener revealed his hand. “Aces and eights.”

The opponent stared, stone-faced, waiting several seconds before disclosing his. “Aces and eights.”

The dealer spoke, “Two dead man’s hands – very unusual. Since you both also have a deuce, Smith’s spades beats McCall’s hearts.  Congratulations, Mr. Smith.”

Flashes of lightning briefly brightened the dark afternoon.  Mottled shadows danced on the whitewashed walls, framing the collective gasps and murmurings after a sudden quiet.

"McCall?”

“They hung him!”

“Jack McCall?”

"Couldn't be . . ."

The blue-eyed partner moved stealthily closer.

Smith regarded his opponent. “Just a coincidence, I’m sure.”

McCall met the stare. “Maybe.  Hickok also had his back to the door that day . . .”

The saloon doors blew open. A Colt appeared, quicker than the lightning outside. A dark-haired man dropped to the floor.


Author's Note: Jack McCall shot James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, on August 2, 1876, during a poker game. Hickok held a pair each of aces and eights, which hand has since become known as a "dead man's hand." McCall was tried and acquitted in Deadwood, then re-tried, found guilty, and hanged in Yankton, Dakota Territory – double jeopardy had been declared not to apply because Deadwood was an illegal settlement with no legally constituted law enforcement or court system.


Last edited by Remuda on Sat Sep 21, 2013 2:23 pm; edited 1 time in total
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InsideOutlaw

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PostSubject: Re: September 2013 -Storm   Wed Sep 18, 2013 5:56 pm

The light in the room had changed; Heyes had been startled awake knowing something was different.  His hand reflexively moved to the gun belt hanging from the bedpost, but another flicker of light halted its progress.  Lightning; that’s what he’d sensed.  

He pulled back his hand and rubbed it across his eyes.   Just his luck, he’d had a heck of a time getting to sleep in the first place.  The Kid had insisted that they celebrate their good fortune in the privacy of their hotel room with some fine whiskey he’d bought after they had gotten Lom’s succinct telegram yesterday:  Come quickly. Stop.  This is what you’ve been waiting for.  Stop.  

The Kid had passed out late last night, happy, drunk, and looking forward to the next day.  Like some obscenely adult-like child the night before Christmas.  Heyes had matched him drink for drink, but had hardly felt the effects.  His mind had been working too quickly for the alcohol to dull it.  Well, it was dull enough now.  He had a headache and a bad case of dry mouth.   Rolling out of bed, he walked to the dresser.  The tray from last night’s dinner was there and on it was a nearly empty pitcher of water.  Heyes picked it up and drank from its lip, but there was barely enough water left to wet his whistle.  He put it down and went to the window, drawing back the drapes.

A soft glow far in the distance lit up the craggy tops of the mountains.  Heyes waited for the roll of thunder, but the storm was still too far away.  Deciding that sleep wasn’t coming for a while he sat down in the cozy stuffed armchair nestled in the corner of the room by the large paned window.  Another flash brightened the room and he glanced at his snoring partner.  Good old Kid, he could sleep through anything.  He sat down in the chair and leaned his head back to get a good view of the bright explosions lighting up the night sky.

Heyes had rarely seen his cousin so happy over the past four years since they started trying for the amnesty.  Last night, the Kid had been giddy with joy and so very determined to enjoy the anticipation of the next day.  Why couldn’t he be more like his partner?  He wasn’t really a pessimist; for the most part, he was very optimistic; maybe even more so than the Kid.  All those times, Curry wanted to quit and he would never give up.  So why was he worried now?

Heyes was fond of saying that he looked at life like a long, bumpy road and he always had one eye looking ahead for the next pothole so that he could smooth the way.   That philosophy had worked well when they’d been thieving.  He guessed maybe somewhere along the way it had become such a deeply ingrained habit that he could no longer enjoy the moment without worrying about the future.

Well, he had plenty to worry about.    By the time the Kid had begun snoring, Heyes had filled his head with doubts and he took them out now to examine each one more closely.  What was the amnesty really going to mean to him and his partner?  The wanted posters weren’t going to magically disappear from every sheriff’s desk or bulletin board overnight.  Even with modern communication it could take an awful long time for word to spread; and, in the meantime, he and the Kid would still face all the risks they’ve faced since outlawing.  They’d probably get chased by the occasional posse or bounty hunter; still get shot at by honest citizens who recognized them from one job or another.  Would their amnesty put an end to the anger felt by the people they’d wronged?  No, it wouldn’t; worse, it might even fan the flames of hatred to burn hotter and drive some of those folks to seek retribution on their own once they discover that the law failed them.  The railroads certainly weren’t likely to withdraw the money they’d offered for Heyes’s and Curry’s dead bodies.  Heyes closed his eyes to wash away the image that had leapt into his mind.

If he didn’t stop thinking, he’d never get to sleep and he wanted his wits about him tomorrow when they were supposed to meet with the governor.   He went to the dresser and poured a glass of whiskey from the opened bottle on the tray.  Downing it quickly, he poured another before going back to his comfortable chair.  The lightning was drawing closer and he could see the jagged strikes now.  A few lonely raindrops shattered against the glass.

What if the governor was going to pull a fast one on them?  Maybe this is all a set up.  Heyes shook his head.  If the governor was going to trick them, he wouldn’t be bringing Lom and the newspapers in on it.  There had been a small mob of reporters awaiting them as the train pulled into the Porterville station.   Out of habit, they had ducked out the rear and avoided facing the press.  There’d be plenty of time for that after they had the amnesties in hand.

If this was it and they got the amnesties what was it really going to change?  Not much.  Heyes downed his whiskey and peered out the window.  He could see the rosy glow of dawn rising over the peaks silhouetting the plentiful lightning strikes.   As he stood up to go back to bed, he heard the first low rumble of thunder and chuckled ruefully.  No doubt about it, there's a storm brewing one way or another.
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Tashmina

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PostSubject: Re: September 2013 -Storm   Sat Sep 21, 2013 1:52 pm

Okay, Sarah Whyment may have given up writing, but she's still a fount of amazing plots.  I asked a question about my plot and she came back with an fantastic mystery.  Come on, Sarah.  You need to get writing again!

In the meantime, here is something she helped me with...  



Ride out the Storm

Necks stiffened almost imperceptibly in the darkness; the dancing, flickering flames cast sinister shadows over the faces of outlaws determined not to let on they’d heard the snap of a twig on the periphery of their camp site.  A pair of blue eyes met brown; the knotting of the brows a sign of affirmation that the unspoken plan had begun.  

A few men strolled casually to the edges of the campsite and melted into the darkness.  Kyle raised a tin mug to his lips and nervously gulped back the contents.  The practiced drill dictated that those already beside the fire should stay there to draw in whoever was stalking them.  It was a dangerous position in full light, but approaching lawmen had to have someone to home in on and it was the luck of the draw; they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  All they could do was sit tight and trust their comrades to do their part.  A scramble for cover would almost certainly result in chaos and crossfire; this was the safest way.  

The Kid inched forward, stepping carefully to avoid the same mistake as his quarry.  He had no idea how many of them there were, but the best way to find out was to crouch, listen and watch.  It didn’t take long before his head turned in response to another crack, followed rapidly by rustling and a yelp.  The crash of a body falling into what was apparently a more than averagely brittle, yelp-provoking bush told Kid Curry all he wanted to know about the professionalism of his opponent.  The lack of response to the predicament and the minutes of impotent thrashing around showed that he was either on his own, or his accomplices cared so little that it amounted to much the same thing.  

He stood, but the familiar silhouette already hauling a figure from the shrubbery told him that Heyes had beaten him to it.

“He’s just a boy.”  The sound of none-too-gentle patting indicated that the lad was being quickly searched.  “He’s clean.  Come with me, sonny.  Somebody needs to teach you not to sneak up on men in the dark.  Where are your folks?”  Staccato sobbing cut through the night air.  “Stop crying, boy.  Where are your folks?”

The Kid heard Heyes give a snort of irritation at the lack of response but hung back in the shadows, still alert for the possibility of ambush.

Kyle squinted at the boy being trotted into the halo of the campfire by the scruff of his neck.  “What ya got there, Heyes?”

“Our ambush.”  The lad was prodded forward into the camp.  Heyes turned him around to stare into the grubby face streaked with tears and mucous.  He kept his voice low and controlled, but it was to remain stripped of kindness until he knew exactly what was going on.  “I’m gonna ask you again.  Where are your folks?”

“I haven’t got any folks.”  

Heyes frowned.  The educated, Eastern accent was incongruous against the beggarly, torn clothes three sizes too big.  The sobbing started up again.  He glanced over at the Kid who wandered casually back into the clearing.  The nod assured him that the area had been checked and nothing had been found.  Quizzical dark eyes returned to the interloper and Heyes’ voice softened.  “You’re an orphan?”

The thin face hardened and the chin tilted defiantly up at the outlaw leader but the refusal to meet anyone’s eyes told Heyes what he wanted to know about the lad’s potential bravado.  “So?”

“Why’re you creeping around in the dark?  I’m not buying you being on your own.  We’re twelve miles to the nearest town.  Who’re you with?”

The child’s bottom lip started to tremble, but he bit into it and backhanded away the glittering snot and tears.  “I’m on my own.  I just smelled the food... I’m hungry.”

“Aw, Heyes.  Leave ‘im alone,” Kyle drawled.  “He’s just a hungry kid,” all eyes turned to the fast-gun leaning against a tree, “and we know all about them, don’t we?”  Kyle raised his tin cup and threw back a slug of moonshine.  “Ya want some beans, boy?”

The lad’s eyes widened and darted towards Heyes before he stared hungrily at Kyle.  “Beans?”

“Kyle, feed the boy,” Heyes strode over to join his cousin.  

“Nobody else there,” murmured the Kid.  “Wheat, Preacher and I searched the area.  Unless they’re watchin’ from a distance and sent the boy in to see what he can find out.”

Heyes nodded.  “Well, we’ve just got to make sure that whatever he does find out isn’t any use to anyone.”  He groaned softly and rubbed his face distractedly at the words drifting in the night air.

“Yup, we’s the Devil’s Hole Gang.”  Kyle pointed toward the partners with a dripping spoon.  “That there’s Kid Curry and the fella givin’ up dirty looks, that’s Hannibal Heyes hisself.  We’s gonna rob a bank tomorrow.”

The Kid watched the lad shovel beans into his mouth as fast as his bodily functions could cope.  “Yeah, good plan, Heyes.  Give him over to Kyle.  I can’t see where that could go wrong at all.  What are we gonna do now?  Keep him or kill him?”

“I guess tomorrow’s job is off.  I can always depend on my gang, huh?”

A smirk played around the Kid’s lips.  “I guess that depends on what you need them to do.  The boy says he’s alone?  All the way out here at night?  We chose to camp here because there’s nothing for miles.”

“He’s obviously travelled.  There’s a lot that bothers me about this.  He’s real well-spoken too.”

The smirk spread into a fully-fledged grin.  “Jealous, Heyes?  You speak alright for a farm boy with his own teeth.”    

Kyle scrutinized the child by the light of the fire.  “The boy’s got cuts on his cheek, Preacher.  Yah got anythin’ for them?”

“You got whiskey,” Preacher observed the lad through hooded eyes.  “Use that.”

“Ma whiskey?”  Kyle’s eyebrows shot skywards.  “That costs two bits a jug.  I ain’t wastin’ it.”

Preacher shook his head ruefully.  “Yeah, nuthin’ but the best for you.  The boy won’t mind whiskey.”

The inhaling of beans paused and the boy’s big eyes blinked through the darkness.  “I don’t drink alcohol.”

“A real good boy,” snickered Wheat.  “I bet he don’t smoke, steal or curse either.”

“No, I certainly don’t.”

Kyle’s nose crinkled at his friend.  “Leave ‘im be, Wheat.  He’s an orphan.  It’s real tough for a boy to learn things without a pa.  I know that for sure.  I had to learn all that from my ma.”  His blue eyes looked wistfully into the fire.  “It just ain’t the same.”

Heyes rolled his eyes.  “Let’s get over there before they start a junior branch.”

Two pairs of boots crunched to a halt beside the boy.  

“What’s your name?” the Kid asked.

“Chauncey.”

“Chancy?” the Kid repeated.  “What kinda name is that?”

“Chauncey.  Chauncey de Gosbeck Bosiet.”  Chauncey stared down at his empty plate with an air of disappointment.

“Chancy?  Why’d you call a boy that?” snorted the Kid.  “That ain’t a name that’ll be the making of an honest man.”

The boy’s slim eyebrows gathered into a knot.  “I’m named after my grandfather.  He was a politician in England.”

“Yeah?” the Kid nodded.  “Credit where’s it due.  They sure know how to call a spade a spade; Chancy the politician.”

“Chancy,” Heyes began.

“Chauncey...”

“Yeah, whatever,” Heyes waved a dismissive hand.  “What’re you doing all the way out here on your own?”

“I’m going to Boston.”
 
Heyes and Curry shared a conversation in a glance.  “Boston?  Do you know how far that is from here?”

“Quite far.”

“Quite far?  It’s about two thousand miles east of here.”

Chauncey’s lips formed into an ineffectual ‘O.’  “That’s quite a lot.”  

Heyes sat down beside the little, hunched figure and gestured towards the plate.  “Ya want more?  Kyle can get that for you.”  He handed the plate over to be refilled.  “Listen.  We’re miles from anywhere.  What’re you doing out here.  We need to get you to your folks.”

“My father died just over a year ago.  My mother died when I was born.”

Heyes pondered this information.  “Yeah, so who were you heading towards?”

“My mother’s friend.  She’d never have seen me put in a home.  She’ll take me in.”

“A home?”  Heyes flicked up an eyebrow.

“I was put in an orphanage.”

The Kid folded his arms.  “You live out here?”

Chauncey shook his head.  “No.  I was sent here.  I come from Boston.”

“You were sent here from Boston?” the Kid held out the new helping of food.  “Why?”

“I don’t know.”

Heyes pondered this for a few moments.  “Did any of your folks come from here?”

“No.”

“Then why here?”

“This is where Uncle Julius brought me.”    

The Kid scowled.  “You got an uncle and you ended up in a home?”

“He’s not a real uncle.  He was a friend of my parents.”

The Kid kicked at some fallen leaves.  “Yeah?  Some friend.  Where is this place?”

Chauncey’s eyes widened.  “You can’t take me back.  I won’t go.  I’ll die there.  It’s a terrible place.”
 
Heyes smiled softly.  “I know those places aren’t exactly soft, but they’re not dangerous.”

“I’m not telling you where it is.  I won’t go back.”  Chauncey dropped the plate and stood.  “Thanks for the food, it was great.”  He backed off into the darkness but stopped at the heavy hand which dropped onto his bony shoulder.  

“You ain’t goin’ anywhere, boy,” the Kid murmured.  “It’d be criminal to let a child wander off into the wilderness on an October night.”

“You can’t keep me here.  I won’t go back!”  Chauncey started wriggling against the grasp.  “I won’t.”  The struggles became wilder until the Kid had to wrap an arm around his waist and carry the kicking child over to a tree.  He pushed him to a sitting position and held him in place by both wrists.  The boy’s wild, frantic eyes darted around and little flecks of saliva formed at the corners of his mouth as his breath started to come in great gulps of panic.  

“Hey, hey!”  The Kid’s voice was gentle but firm.  “Nobody said we’d take you back.  We just said you can’t head out on your own.  There are bears and mountain lions out there.”

Chauncey stopped fighting but continued to hyperventilate.  “You won’t?”

“Look, did I say we’d send you back?”  The Kid gave a nod of reassurance.  “We just said we couldn’t let you walk off into the night.  Stay!  Got that?”

The writhing stopped.  “I s’pose.  If you’re not taking me back...”

“Stay there, ya hear me, boy?”  The Kid’s eyes glittered a warning through the night.

“Please, I can’t go back there.  Promise me.”

The Kid grimaced.  He didn’t want to lie to the child.  “I’m an outlaw, boy.  If you’re gonna survive in this life you’d better learn not to take folks at their word.  It means squat.  Some people’ll tell you anything that gets them what they want; it’s what they do that counts.”

Chauncy nodded.  “Yes, you’re right.” The whites of the big eyes gleamed a pathetically grateful message by the light if the fire.  “I can go in the morning?  I can stay the night with you, by a fire?  I’d like to be warm.”  

“We insist on it,” Heyes gestured for the Kid to join him for a conversation.  “Have you had enough to eat?”

“I left the rest of my beans,” Chauncy ventured, cautiously.  

Heyes nodded.  “Kyle!  Get Chancy some more food.  The Kid and I gotta talk.”


>>>>>>>>


“Where’s the nearest orphanage?” Heyes murmured.

The Kid watched Chauncey mop the sauce up with a lump of rough bread.  “The closest town or thereabouts, I guess, but he doesn’t want to go back, Heyes.”

“We can’t bring him with us, Kid.  What else do you suggest?”

“Put him on a train to Boston?”

Heyes shook his head.  “If his mother’s friend had wanted him he wouldn’t have ended up here.  Orphanages are the last resort because they cost folks money; you know that as well as I do.  

“Something ain’t right here.  Why send a boy all that way?”

“I agree: they probably sent him here to stop him from pitching up on their doorsteps.  If we send him back he’ll end up sinking into a life of crime – that’s if he’s lucky.  The big city is full of folks who’ll use a boy anyway they want because it’s easier to be anonymous in a crowd.  He’s better off out here.  At least he’ll have a chance of farm work in a few years.”

The Kid rubbed his chin.  “I guess.  We’ve got no choice, but that was real panic in his eyes, Heyes.  He was scared.  We both hated Valpairso but we were never that bad.  I’m not happy takin’ him back there until we check things out.”

“Kid, why is it you manage to find needy people everywhere.  If I didn’t know better I’d think there was one behind every tree,”

The Kid cast a casual hand out to the trees.  “If there were any more like him out there we’d be deafened by the noise they make.  He ain’t equipped to deal with this.  He needs help.”

“If you mean he’s been too sheltered, I agree.  That’s why it’d be cruel to send him off to Boston.  At least he’s only dealing with the elements here.  In the big city he’d be preyed on every which way.”

They watched Chauncey follow Kyle, holding out his hands to warm them at the fire before taking a slug from the tin mug and screwing his face up in disgust.  “Easily led,” Heyes muttered, “wouldn’t last ten minutes.”

“What age d’you think he is?  Ten maybe?” the Kid queried, casually.

“Maybe.  He’s real thin.  He could be younger, but being so well spoken he sounds older.”

“You know what we’d have done at that age if we’d run into a gang like this?”

The dark-brown eyes dropped.  “We’d be impressed.  He can’t be; he needs to see us as lower than the dirt under a worm’s belly.  He goes back tomorrow.  So do we.”

“The job’s definitely off?”

“They’ll be no job.  When he goes back all folks will be able to say is that a child went missing and that a group he thinks might be The Devil’s Hole Gang brought him back.”  Heyes sighed heavily.  “We can’t pull a job when we’ve been anywhere near a child; some might say we used him as a shield, a lookout, or even kidnapped him as a diversion.  Only a fool mixes crime with children.  If we’re lucky they’ll think he’s just full of wild tales.”
     
“Yeah, I guess.”  The Kid nodded heading towards the child.  “I’ll get out bedrolls out.  He can share ours and we’ll get him back at first light.”


>>>>>>>>


“Chancy?”  The boy looked up at the smiling outlaw.  “We’ve made you a bed.  You can sleep with us near the fire.  It can get cold outside, so you’d best keep your boots on.  They’re dry, ain’t they?”

“Yes.  They’re too big but I stuffed them with some old newspaper,” Chauncey, pulled up the leg of his pants and revealed a stick-thin, bare limb.

“No socks?”  The Kid frowned.  “You need to keep your feet dry and warm; it’s one of the first rules for survivin’ when you’re livin’ rough.  C’mon, I’ll give you a pair.”  He laid a hand on the boy’s back to guide him but pulled it back abruptly when Chauncey stiffened and sucked in a sharp breath of pain.  “What?  Did that hurt?”

Chauncey’s gaze dropped.  “A little.”

“I barely touched you, boy.  Let me see.”

Chauncey stepped back.  “No, I’m fine.”

“I’ll be the judge of that,” the Kid reached over and dragged up the lad’s shirt tails.  His face hardened before he raised his head and called to his partner.  “Heyes, we got a problem.”


>>>>>>>>      

 
The bleeding welts covering the child’s back had been a deal breaker.  Poor Chauncey suddenly found himself at the centre of the tender mercies of an angry pack of soothing hoodlums; if they didn’t kill him with kindness they we very likely to stray towards dead-drunk with their standard, medicinal alcohol applied liberally; both internally and externally.  Within half an hour it was fair to say that it wasn’t so much a case of feeling better – he was just feeling a lot less - and couldn’t care less about whatever was left swirling around the trio of kaleidoscopic campfires rotating in front of his blinking eyes.

He had talked; telling his saviours everything from the fact that he was nine, to the name of the woman in charge of his punishment for daring to ask for another blanket as autumnal chills started to seep through his only cover.  The beatings and hunger were a harrowing reminder of the impotence of an inconvenient childhood; just as the scars, the protruding ribs and hunted eyes testified to the persistence of the abuse.

The Kid watched his partner stare over at the boy swaddled in blankets, lying on his side away from his injured back.  His quietude spoke volumes to anyone who knew Hannibal Heyes well; it was the stillness in the eye of the storm.  The dark eyes swirled with dark thoughts and memories, thrust back into a torn past.  

“The Kinscumber Private Asylum, Davistown.  D’ya think he’ll remember tellin’ us?” the Kid asked.

Heyes breathed heavily with suppressed anger.  “Not as much as the folks responsible will, Kid.  There’s a storm headed their way.  That boy has been starved and beaten like a cur.  Are you with me?”

“She’s a woman, Heyes.  If it was a man I’d be first in line, but what can we do?”

“Do?  I need to think about that one, Kid,” Heyes scratched his chin pensively.  “There are some things you can’t stand back and ignore.  Sometimes the silent majority has to speak up and I’ll be damned if I’ll be a bystander to this.  It’s autumn; that boy wouldn’t survive a winter of that kind of treatment.”  He turned a joyless smile on his cousin, his eyes flickering with a malevolent glint.  “A woman might be in charge of the day-to-day care, but a man will run the place.  What d’you say, Kid?  Do you think they need a visit from some more orphans?  After all, they’re one down at the moment.  They have vacancy.”      

To be continued...    
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RosieAnnieUSA

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PostSubject: Re: September 2013 -Storm   Thu Sep 26, 2013 2:29 pm

The whirling sound of the wind was what woke him. That’s Wyoming for you, he thought to himself, that wind never stops blowing. It rattled the shutters and whistled around the building. He pulled the quilts higher around his shoulder and resolutely kept his eyes closed. No way, no how, was he going to let anything interrupt his sleep. He was just too comfortable, nestled in the feather bed with his head resting deep into the pillows.

Now he could hear sleet starting to hit the bedroom windows. Yeah, sounded like a real blizzard getting started. By tomorrow night, the snow would probably be drifted up to the roofs. Good thing he and Heyes had laid in plenty of stores to get them through the winter.

He stretched a little and tried to roll onto his back, but he couldn’t move. What the . . .? Was Heyes hogging the bed again? And what was Heyes doing there anyway? He had his own bedroom.

He tried pushing himself onto his side a little harder, but the obstruction didn’t budge. Finally, he opened his eyes and twisted his head to look over his left shoulder. It wasn’t Heyes laying there, though. It was a stuffed bear. Behind the bear was a small, blonde girl.

“Katie? What’re you doing here, pumpkin?”

Two small hands rubbed sleepy eyes.

“I got scared, Grandpa.”

“What scared you, sweetheart?”

“I don’t like the funny noises.”

“What funny noises? You mean the wind?” She nodded.

“It’s just wind, Katie. Nothing to be scared of.”

“Oh no it’s not, Grandpa. It’s a ghost. Uncle Liam said.”

He sighed. Liam was an idiot. Time was, his reputation and a few minutes behind the cabin would’ve been enough for him to set Liam straight. He couldn’t do that today, much as he wished he could.

“I’m cold, Grandpa.”

He lifted the heavy covers. “Might as well crawl in with me, then.” She wiggled up next to him. He put an arm around her and pulled her close.

“Feeling better?”

“Uh huh.”

He listened to her soft breathing and held his own for a moment, hoping that she’d go to sleep. Even 8-year-olds got tired sometimes. The silence lengthened, and he started to drift off.

“Grandpa?”

“Hmmm.”

“Are you afraid of ghosts?” He stared at the ceiling. So much for sleep.

“No, Katie. I don’t believe in ghosts.”

She pushed herself up, hands on his chest, and looked at his face. Even in the darkness, he could see she wasn’t satisfied.

“Why not?”

“I just don’t, that’s all. And neither should you. There’s no such thing.”

“Uncle Liam says when you hear the wind like that, it’s not just the wind, it’s a banshee, and that’s a lady who comes around when somebody’s going to die.”

“Oh, is that what he says?” he asked. She nodded vigorously.

“Has he ever seen one?”

“He says he heard one, in Ireland. That’s where they live.”

“Well, that’s Ireland,” he said. “Maybe over across the ocean. But there aren’t any banshees in Michigan.”

She bit her lip, thinking. He couldn’t help but smile at her small face, all twisted up in deep thought. He stroked her cheek with his thumb.

“So. No banshees in Michigan, alright? Just the wind.”

“Okay.” She leaned higher, pushing down on her chest with both hands, and kissed him on his forehead.

“I love you, Grandpa.”

“Love you, too, Pumpkin. Now how about we get some sleep?” He pulled her close again, and drew the covers over them. His eyes closed. The warmth of her little body next to his was soothing. Even the sound of the ice and sleet hitting the house made a staccato sound that made him drowsy.

Another sound intruded. Creaking. Was that the door? Reluctantly, he opened one eye.

“Grandpa,” a childish voice whispered. “Are you asleep?”

“No, honey,” he said. “Why would I be asleep?”

“Because it’s real late!” She whispered, loudly. “Most people are sleeping at this time!”

“You know what?” he said. “You’re right. Most 10-year-olds are asleep at this time. So why are you up?”

“I woke up.”

He pushed himself up on one elbow.

“Why didn’t you go back to sleep?”

She shrugged. “Is Katie here?”

“Yep. She couldn’t sleep either.”

He looked at her. She bit her lip. He gave in to the inevitable.

“Annie? You want to crawl in with us?” She closed the door and ran over.

“Okay, okay, you two, let’s get rearranged. There’s plenty of room.” There wasn’t plenty of room, but he figured there was enough for himself and two little girls. Soon he had a child on either side, and he wrapped an arm around each girl.

“Everybody happy and warm?” Vigorous nods answered him. “Can we get some sleep now?” More nods. Katie pushed herself up.

“We heard a banshee before!”

“You did not!” Annie said.

“Did so!”

“Did not!”

“Did so!”

“Did not!”

“Wait a minute, wait a minute!” he said. “I thought we settled the whole banshee question. There aren’t any banshees in Michigan.”

“There aren’t any banshees anywhere!” Annie said.

“Are too!”

“Are not!”

“Are too!”

“Are not!”

“Alright, girls! That’s enough! It’s the middle of the night!” The girls stuck their tongues out at each other.

“I said, that’s enough! If you two can’t settle down, I’m taking you both back to your beds.”

“I’m sorry, Grandpa.” “Me, too, Grandpa.”

There was quiet for a moment.

“Really?” he said. “You mean it?”

“Yes, Grandpa.” “I promise, Grandpa.”

“Well . . . alright then. You can stay. If you promise not to argue.”

Both promised. Both kissed his face.

“Grandpa?” it was Annie. “Will you take us out sledding tomorrow?”

“Maybe,” he said. “If your mother says it’s okay. If there’s enough snow, and it’s not too cold.”

“There’s lots of snow already, Grandpa,” Annie said. “I looked. And it’s still snowing hard.”

“Did you now. Well, we’ll see tomorrow. But first, we need to sleep, or you’ll be too tired to play in the snow.”

“I won’t be too tired, Grandpa!” Annie said.

“I won’t be tired either, Grandpa!” Katie said.

“Yes you will! You’re only eight. You’re still a baby!”

“I am not a baby! I’m almost almost almost nine anyway! I’m almost old as you!”

“When you get older, I’m getting older too. I’ll always be older, and you’ll always be a baby!”

“No I won’t! I’m not a baby! I can go tomorrow!”

“Enough!” His voice was loud enough to quiet both girls. “Are you already breaking your promises to me? Are you?”

Two heads hung in shame. “I’m sorry Grandpa.” “I’ll be good, Grandpa.”

“You said that before.” His voice was stern. “You mean it this time?”

Both promised. Both kissed him again.

“Okay. You can stay – only IF and UNTIL you start arguing again. Understand?”

They settled down again. He watched the ceiling, waiting.

“Grandpa?” It was Annie. “Did you ever have a sled when you were a boy?”

“No, sweetheart. I grew up in Kansas. We had snow, but no hills.”

“Did you have a sled when you were a grown-up, Grandpa?” Katie wanted to know.

“No, pumpkin.”

“Didn’t you have anybody to ride the sled with?” Katie asked.

“I had a friend,” he said. “But we were men by that time, and men don’t ride sleds.”

“I think that’s silly,” she said. “Men should have fun, too.”

“Oh, we had fun,” he said. “We travelled a lot, met a lot of different people. We did the kinds of things men like to do.”

“What do men like to do, Grandpa?” Annie said.

“We liked to play lots of card games like poker,” he said. “We did that a lot.”

“What else?”

“Well, we worked a lot, too. Cattle drives, delivering things, mining, ranch work. Men’s work.”

“Men’s work,” she said. “Even in a big storm like tonight?”

“Sometimes,” he said. “Storms are bigger in the Rocky Mountains, though. Here in Michigan, you might get a foot of snow, or two. In Wyoming, you could get 10 feet of snow in one storm. And winter started early, too. Why, one time, me and my friend were gold mining up in the mountains, and we stayed too late in the fall. We spent the whole winter in that one cabin with some other men.”

“Why did you do that?” Annie said.

“They had to do that,” Katie said. “They got stuck. Right, Grandpa?”

He stroked her hair. “Right, sweetheart. We were trapped for the whole winter. Couldn’t get out till spring.”

“Did you go sledding?” Annie asked.

“No, honey. We didn’t have a sled. We played cards, all winter. That’s all.”

“I think Michigan is nicer,” Annie said.

“It’s nicer because you two are here,” he said. He kissed them both.

“Is your friend going to come and live with us, too?” Annie asked.

“No, honey. I don’t know where he is. We’re not friends anymore.”

“Why not?”

“We had an argument, honey. A big one. We both got so mad, we left that town and went our separate ways.”

“What did you fight about?”

“I don’t remember, honey. Something stupid. I don’t even know anymore.”

“So what happened to him?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “We both left. I never saw him again.”

Both girls crawled higher to hug him.

“Don’t be sad, Grandpa.” Annie said. “We’ll be your friends now.”

“We won’t ever leave you, Grandpa.” Katie said. “We’re going to love you forever and ever.”

He was astonished, almost too full of emotion to speak. He pulled the girls tightly together against him.

“I love you, too, girls. Forever and ever.”

Annie looked up. “We promise, we won’t fight ever again.”

“Well,” he said, “well. . . don’t make promises you can’t keep, girls. It’s okay to fight sometimes. Just don’t stay mad, okay? That’s how you lose friends, and good friends are special. You don’t get too many of them.”

He heard a knock on the door. The door swung open slowly on creaking hinges.

“So that’s where you are. I didn’t know there was a slumber party going on this evening.”

The girls giggled.

“The storm and wind scared the girls, Christine.”

“I did warn you, Daddy, that you might get some company at night. You girls have perfectly fine beds of your own.”

“We didn’t want Grandpa to get lonely, Mama,” Annie said.

“I didn’t want the storm to scare him, Mama,” Katie said.

“Well. Be that as it may. I think Grandpa is feeling pretty brave now. How about you two scamper back to your own beds and let him get some sleep? If you ask real nice tomorrow, he might take you sledding.”

“Grandpa said he’d teach us to play poker!”

“Oh no I didn’t!” he said. “Honest, Christine, I didn’t say that!”

“Oh, I don’t know, Daddy. Maybe you should teach us all. You were a pretty good poker player back in the day, weren’t you?”

“Please Grandpa! Please! We want to play cards like men do!”

He saw his daughter trying not to laugh and relented. “We’ll see. But I can’t do anything tomorrow if I don’t get some sleep now. So go to bed, you two, and I’ll see you in the morning.” Both girls threw their arms around his neck and kissed him soundly before skipping out the door and back towards their own bedrooms.

“Honestly, Christine. I was just telling them a story, and they . . . “

“They were just being little girls. It’s okay, Daddy.” She stepped over to where he was sitting on the bed and kissed his forehead. “You’ll get used to them. I’m glad you’re here, Daddy. I really am. And it’s okay with me if it gets known that that nice retired man from the west, Mr. Thaddeus Jones, plays a lot of poker. Or even if he’s teaching it to his granddaughters. After all, didn’t you always tell me a reputation is a good thing to have?”

“Not always, Christine. Not some kinds. Not out west.”

“You’re in Michigan now, Daddy. No worries. I hope you can get some sleep now. The storm’s getting worse.” She blew him another kiss as she quietly closed the door and left. He heard her footsteps fading as she went down the hall to check on her daughters.

The house was silent again. The wind howled outside. He got up to peek behind the thick curtains hanging in front of the bedroom window. The winter storm had become a white-out, like he’d seen so many times in the west. You couldn’t even see across the yard.

He thought of the long winters he and Heyes had seen, back in the 19th century. Somehow, he’d survived to become an old man. The blonde curls had gone gray, and there were some deep lines on his face, but he didn’t feel that different than he had forty years ago. He wondered what Heyes would look like as a 70-year-old, and if he’d even recognize his old friend, if they happened to meet again. He hoped Heyes was alive out there somewhere, maybe settled down with family like he was.

He went back to his warm bed and pulled the heavy covers up. He pushed the thoughts of Devil’s Hole and Heyes out of his mind. He’d need to get some serious rest, if he was going to be dragging two little girls around on a sled in the morning. He let the familiar sounds of the storm lull him to sleep.
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Hunkeydorey

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PostSubject: Re: September 2013 -Storm   Sun Sep 29, 2013 9:53 am

Okay, so I had a bunny hop about a woman storming into a bank that was already being robbed by The Devil's Hole Gang and then got stuck.  I went to Sarah Whyment - the font of all plots - for some help and here is the result.




Storming In

Gertrude Morris was a redoubtable woman by anyone’s standards.  Her late father had owned large tracts of land and had been a bit of a laughing-stock for his ability to choose the least fertile earth, the most arid areas and the rockiest ranges; but he had an eye for mineral rights and had promptly built up a mining business which quickly wiped the smiles of everyone’s faces.  

By the time Gertrude’s mother died, the mines were running dry, but by a fortunate happenstance the end of the mines coincided with the new railroads snapping up land.  Gertrude had proven herself to be a canny negotiator and prevailed upon her father to take a combination of shares and cash.  The woman who strode down the main street of Mullerville wasn’t exactly popular but was well-heeled enough not to care.  Some said she was above herself and held her nose so high she’d drown in a rainstorm, others muttered that she had managed to buy everything but a man; but nobody had the courage to say any of this to her face.  The keen, grey eyes were as sharp as her tongue.  It was easy to say she didn’t suffer fools because she didn’t suffer anyone; especially not those she considered too smart for their own good.  There was a place for everyone and if they didn’t know where that was she had a knack of putting them firmly in it.

The hand which rattled the doorknob of the bank did not belong to a woman who was going to take ‘no’ for an answer.  It was ten to five on a Wednesday.  It should still be open.  In fact, Gertrude was going to make sure that it was.  She had shares in this place and was not prepared to be inconvenienced by layabouts and goldbrickers.

oooOOOooo

“Wheat!”  Heyes positively bellowed at the outlaw holding his gun in the face of the matron who stormed in the back door of the bank.  “Shut that door.  I thought you’d locked it?”

“I checked!  I swear I did,” Wheat muttered.  He lowered his gun but still kept it levelled at the bantam quivering with anger at the audacity of the man who had confronted her.

“How could you have checked it?” Heyes growled.  “She just strolled right in on us.  That could’ve been the law.”

Wheat scowled.  “Yeah, well it weren’t.  It was an old lady.”

“Old!  How dare you?”  Wheat felt his chest prodded by a rolled-up parasol.  “I’m probably no more than ten years older than you are, although it’s hard to tell under all that hair and grime.”

“Wow, that old?  And ya can still chew your own meat?”  Kyle snickered, rapidly regretting the comment when Gertrude pinned him with an arctic glare.  “I didn’t mean no disrespect, ma’am.  It was aimed at him, not you.”  Kyle shuffled from foot to foot.  “I’m sure you chaw just fine,” the woman’s grey eyes narrowed to slits.  “In fact, you look like you’re gonna chew me out any minute now.”

“And she’d be right to.  Show the lady some respect,” the Kid drawled.  Gertrude’s head tilted back as she looked the approaching gunman up and down.  “Ma’am, will you please step this way?”

“Why?”

The Kid’s eyebrows gathered in a frown.  “Why?  Because I said so.  Now, I asked you nicely...”

“Your friend is pointing a gun at me.  What’s nice about that?”  Gertrude whacked Wheat on the arm with her parasol.  “Put that thing away.  Didn’t your mother teach you anything?”

Wheat’s top lip curled in anger.  “Yeah, she taught me that women may not hit harder, but they sure hit lower.”

Heyes glared at Wheat before nodding a mute instruction to the Kid and putting his ear back to the safe.  

“Ma’am, it ain’t a good idea to hit a man who’s holdin’ a gun on you,” the softness of the Kid’s words didn’t match the firm set of his chin.  

“Why?”

The Kid gave a snort of irritation.  “You sure ask that a lot.  It’s dangerous, now come with me.”

“Dangerous?  Nonsense,” Gertrude eyed her moustachioed opponent up and down.  “If he was going to shoot he’d have done it by now.”  She raised her weapon once more only to have it dragged from her hand by the Kid.  “Give me that back!”

“Ma’am, I’ve asked you nicely, now I’m tellin’ you.  Come with me and I’ll take you to the rest of the customers.  We have work to do and you’re gettin’ in the way.”

“Why?”

“Why?”  The rolling blue eyes accompanied a snort.  “It’s like dealin’ with a two year old; because I said so.”

“No,” Gertrude shook her head.  “Why should I let the likes of you rob this place?”

“Because you ain’t got a choice, ma’am,” the Kid’s eyes narrowed.  “Now, I never like to manhandle a lady, so if you’re determined to stay here and watch, go ahead.”  He signalled with his head to Kyle and Wheat.  “Go and keep an eye on the other customers.  I’ll deal with this.”

“This?  I’m not a ‘this,’ nor am I a customer.”

The Kid heaved a sigh and folded his arms.  “Yeah?  How would you describe yourself?”

“The owner.  At least, I own thirty five percent of it.”  She stared straight at Heyes.  “Stop that immediately, young man.”  

Heyes seemed oblivious to the command.  His dimples deepened and he pulled back from the safe.  The Kid gave a whistle of admiration as the door opened like a sigh.  “You ain’t lost it, Heyes.  That was what; five, six minutes tops.”  

“About that.  I wasn’t counting.”  He stood to admire the contents.  “It’s a Griffiths and Sons.  Stealing apples from an orchard is harder than getting into one of these babies.”  He patted the top proprietarily.  “The bank couldn’t have helped us more if they’d bagged it up and left it on the counter.”

“My manager assured me it was the best money could buy,” Gertrude exclaimed.  “That cost a fortune.”

“This?”  Heyes gave a cynical laugh.  “Second, maybe even third-hand.  Real cheap.”  He scratched the top with a coin revealing some forest-green paint.  “It’s been touched up to make it look new.  Don’t tell me you trust this man?”  

“Yes.  The board interviewed him together.  He came highly recommended by the Mayor of Barlow, not to mention a Bishop.  He beat all other candidates based on his recommendations.”

Heyes and the Kid exchanged a glance before they burst out laughing.

“A Bishop?” chortled Heyes.  “Not a Governor or minor Royalty?”

“What’s so funny?” Gertrude demanded.

“It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book, ma’am,” the Kid smiled.  “Fake references.”

“But they replied,” she stammered.

“Yeah.  By letter I’ll bet?”  Heyes grinned, “real promptly?”

“Well, yes...” Gertrude’s brows knotted.  “They were glowing.”

Heyes bent to grab a wad of cash.  “I’ll bet.  You do realise he probably wrote them himself and had a stooge post them?”

“I will not stand here and listen to a good man being abused by common guttersnipes.”

Heyes turned slowly and fixed the matron with his most glittering smile.  “Common?  There’s nothing ordinary about us, ma’am, I can assure you and at least when we rob you we have the courtesy to do it to your face.”

Gertrude glowered at both men in turn.  “You are cracksmen; pilfering good-for-nothing larcenists.”

“You missed out ‘crack shots.” Heyes nodded towards the Kid, “especially him.”

“You’re proud of it?”

Heyes pondered for a moment and shrugged.  “We’re proud of being good at anything we do.  There are too many greedy, violent men in this line.”  His eyes darkened along with his voice.  “If you’d stormed in on the wrong men you’d be dead by now – if you were lucky.  We’re not those kinds of men.”

“Is that a threat?”

“Nope.  It’s a simple fact.”  Heyes riffled the wad of notes through his fingers and stiffened.  “The payroll came in today.  The safe should be full.”

“It is full,” Gertrude huffed.  “At least, for the moment.”

Heyes pursed his lips and fixed the Kid with a hard stare.  “It’s full, but not with money.  See for yourself.”  He handed over the wedge of notes bound with a paper band.  See for yourself.”

The woman turned the bundle in her hand.  “It’s money...”

“The notes at either end are,” Heyes arched a brow.  “Look in the middle of the bundle.”

“Newspaper?”  The matron eyed the outlaws suspiciously.  “What have you done?”

“You watched me open the safe, ma’am.  The payroll was already like that.”

“Do you take me for an idiot?  I refuse to believe you.  What are the chances of meeting two sets of thieves on the same day?”

“If you leave the house, about a hundred percent,” Heyes watched the Kid root through the stacks of notes, tossing each aside with disgust.  “You may believe in the goodness of your fellow man, but I’ve found most folks are so crooked you could screw them into the ground.  They’re honest when you’re watching.  If I ran a bank I’d be watching all the time.”

“Well, you would think that; surrounding yourself with guttersnipes.  It’s the company you keep.”

Heyes strode over to the ledger, a long finger following his eyes down the column.  “Yup, the manager signed in seventeen thousand dollars.  So, Mrs...?”  He eyed the woman expectantly.

“Miss.  Miss Morris.”

Heyes nodded.  “Miss Morris, how do you explain the fact that we appear to be down at least seventeen thousand dollars?  We never took it,” he folded his arms.  “In fact, it leaves us in quite a sticky situation.”

“In what way?”

“My partner and I may not be violent, but there’s a whole gang of men in there who are expecting to be paid from this theft.”  

The partners exchanged a glance.  

“They ain’t gonna be happy,” the Kid shook his head ruefully.  “Newspaper cuttings don’t buy many...” he paused to muse on the general post-robbery expenditure and thought the better of finishing the sentence as previously planned in present company, “beers.”  He nodded firmly and scratched his chin.  “Yeah, drinks... and things.”

“Your manager is a thief, Miss Morris.”  Heyes fixed the woman with intense dark eyes.

“So?  Do you expect sympathy because he beat you to it?” she crowed.  

Heyes tilted his head.  “Hey, you’re in as much trouble as I am.”

The smile fell from Gertrude’s pinched face.  “I don’t see why, young man.”

“What would you lose if this bank failed?”

She carefully adjusted her mousey bun.  “Well, I do have a lot tied up in this bank.”

“I’m guessing you’d be ruined.”  Heyes narrowed his eyes.  “It’s got to be hard to start again, for an unmarried  woman...”

The little pointed chin tilted at him defiantly.  “That’s where you’re wrong.  We’re insured against theft.”

“Really?”  Heyes leaned casually against the safe.  “How do you insure against an inside job?  Do you really think they’ll pay out?”

Both outlaws watched the woman shift from foot to foot.  

“They ain’t gonna pay out if you steal it yourself, ma’am.”

“I haven’t stolen anything!”

Heyes’ grin became infuriatingly broad.  “Yeah, that’s what we say when we get caught too.”

“How dare you?  If Michael Caruthers has stolen the money it is nothing to do with me.  I will make sure he faces the full force of the law!”

“That’s one option,” the Kid strolled over and stood beside his partner, “but then you lose everything.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Yes, you do.  The money’s gone and the insurance won’t pay out.”  Heyes shook his head ruefully.  “You’ve lost everything.”

“Not everything,” doubt played over the grey eyes.  “I still have my railway shares.”

“Yeah, that’s the spirit.  You’ll have some income.  What does respect matter when you have all your family and friends around you.”  The Kid rubbed his hands together and headed towards the door guessing that he’d hit a nerve.   “Well, let’s tell them.  Best get it over with.”

“She looks like she’s fairly comfortable too Kid.”  Heyes followed his partner to the door.  “It’s a crying shame she wouldn’t listen to sense.  Her life will be ruined, well, except for her shares in the railway.

”The sharp nose pricked up like a terrier scenting rabbits in the wind.  “Sense?”

The outlaws turned to face her in unison.  “Well, yeah.”  Heyes kept a hand on the door handle to drive home his message.  “You do realise that if we steal the money you’re covered by your insurance, but if Caruthers does...”

“But he did!”

Blue eyes met brown.  “Yeah...we know that, but when we walk out and announce that to everyone you’re done for.”  Heyes smiled but his posture was reminiscent of a serpent ready to strike, “However, if we’re known to have taken it, you’re insured.  The question is; what’s in it for us?”

Gertrude paused.  “What do you mean?”

“It’s easy, really.  We’ll pretend to have stolen the payroll.”  Heyes smile became even broader, “but I need you to do something for us in exchange...”

Gertrude shook her head in confusion.  “What?”

Heyes turned to his cousin.  “Kid, lock the door.  Miss Morris and I need to talk.”  

oooOOOooo

The figure closed the door quietly behind him and quickly melted into the stygian murk of a moonless night.  Only the clatter of the heels on the boardwalk betrayed the sounds of the man scurrying down the board walk.

The footsteps suddenly ceased; an indication that the man had either stopped or stepped down onto the damp earth of the road.  The hunter following his quarry followed his instincts and pressed on.  If his guess was right, there would be no loitering on street corners tonight.

The covert pursuit continued, using the most minuscule sounds through the night.  There was no chance of seeing anything other than movement in the blackness, but the old tracking skills were invaluable in keeping up with the target and the hunt continued with stealth and patience until there were the undeniable sounds of a wooden bar being slid through slots.

The Kid smiled to himself.  Yup, the doors to the stables were being opened.  The man slid inside the building and closed the door quietly behind him.  It took no more than a few minutes before the glow of light crept through the cracks around the door.  

oooOOOooo

Thick fingers fumbled with the leather straps and buckles, completely distracting the man from the outlaw leader who moved from the shadows with the grace of a cat.

“Hi.”

Michael Caruthers spun around, fumbling towards his holster for his gun.

“Nu uh,” Heyes shook his head, a casual smile gently warning the bank manager against the folly of underestimating the danger of his already drawn gun.  “Get those hands up and keep them there.”  The door creaked open.  “Hey, Kid.  Look who I found.  The manager of the bank we robbed today; heading out of town by the looks of things.”

“Yup,” the Kid walked over to the saddlebag and flipped it open.  “I guess we found the money from the payroll, Heyes.”  He picked it up and draped it over his shoulder.  “I’d have headed out earlier than this.  You must have known The Devil’s Hole Gang would have spotted that most of the money had been replaced by newspaper pretty soon.  Why’d you wait so long?”

The bank manager shuffled nervously in the straw.  “Nobody spotted it in the bank.  If I’d gone before dark, folks might have thought I’d helped you and arrested me.”

The two outlaws shared a conversation in a glance.  “Yeah, they probably would.  Well, I gotta thank you.  We got what we came for and they all think The Devil’s Hole Gang took the payroll this afternoon, so there’s no reason for you to hot-foot it out of town anymore.”  Heyes flicked up an eyebrow.  “Either way the bank stays robbed.”  

The Kid narrowed his eyes.  “Do I know you from somewhere?”

Caruthers averted his eyes, unable to hold the gunman’s cold scrutiny.  “No.”

“I do.”  The Kid strode forward and examined the banker more closely.  “Lose that moustache, take off about twenty pounds and the same amount of  years...”  He reached out and pulled off the man’s hat.  “Yeah, it is.  It’s Jake Cody.  You remember the Codys, Heyes.  His Pa was a friend of Soapy’s.  No wonder he hung back in the corner like that in the bank.”

Heyes’ eyes lit up with recognition, warming the smile which had previously been no more than artfully arranged.  “Jake Cody!  Yeah, it’s been years.  How are you doing?”

A nervous smile flickered over the man’s face.  “My arms ache from holding them up for so long; other than that, I’m good.”  

“You found an easier way to steal?” the Kid grinned.  “We knew there was some kind of flim flam goin’ on when Miss Morris told us all about the references.”  He strode over and removed the man’s gun before patting him down for concealed weapons.  “You can drop your hands, Jake.”

“There was no need to remove my gun, Kid.  I’d never try to outdraw you.”  Jake dropped his arms and shrugged.  “I’m a thief, not an idiot.”

“No?”  Heyes shook his head, ruefully.  “Replacing the payroll with newspaper?  Didn’t you think anyone would notice?”

“I’d have been outta here tonight but for you lot,” Jake sighed, heavily.  “What were the chances that I’d be robbed that very day?  I’d spent nearly a year planning this and then you lot waltz in and take the lot from right under my nose.”  His eyes widened hopefully.  “I don’t suppose there’s any chance you’d be interested in splitting it three ways?”

“Dream on, Jake,” Heyes holstered his weapon.  “You’ll find another mark.  I’m guessing your family provided the references?”

“Yup.”  Jake sighed.  “It was worth a try, I suppose.”

“Yeah, it’s always worth try.”  Heyes nodded.  “Now get out of here, Jake.  They’re onto you.  Miss Morris knows you’re a fake.  We found out that the newspaper was substituted at the bank.”

Jake’s brow creased in curiosity.  “Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Because she wouldn’t get the insurance money if it was an inside job, that’s why.”

“You’re getting soft, Heyes,” Jake scowled.  “I can’t believe you fell for that ‘little-old-lady’ act.  The woman’s a coyote.  That face of hers may be her own chaperone, but at least it gives a man a clue about her nature.”

“Her nature?” the Kid scowled.  “She’s a woman alone who’s had to make her own way in the world.  You’re a thief, Jake.  She had to protect herself against men like you.”  

Jake rolled his eyes.  “I might have guessed you’d be stickin’ up for her, Kid.  You always had a soft spot for the ladies.  I never pegged her for your type, though.  She’s a mouse studying to be a rat.”

“She’s better than any of us, Jake.  You’ve just gone too far to remember that she’s more than just a mark.”  The Kid gestured towards the horse.  “Get saddled up and get out of here.”

Jake moved nervously towards the horse and finished tacking her up.  “I never thought I’d see the day that Kid Curry would get so soft.”

Arctic blue eyes glowered across at the confidence trickster.  “That ain’t your problem, Jake.  What you want to worry about is seein’ me get angry and you’re headin’ that way real fast.”

Jake swung himself up into the saddle.  “I guess.  Good seeing you boys again.  Maybe we’ll meet again.”

“Let’s hope not, huh?”

The Kid flung the door open and the animal battered off into the darkness.  “I knew there was a reason we got outta that game.  Men like him make my skin crawl.”

“Lost your taste for flim flam, Kid?  Is that any more dishonest than what we do?”

“Yeah, it depends on the mark.  We only ever went for greedy; he goes for easy.  He destroys lives; ya gotta have standards or we’re no better than the kind who hit our folks.”

Heyes nodded.  “Yeah, we’ve played fair.  She got the evidence for a decent insurance claim, so her bank won’t go down.  We’ve explained to her how to choose a better manager and recommended a good safe; but none of that compares to the service you provided, Kid.”

“Me?”

Heyes grinned, mischievously.  “She had to be seen as the woman who stood up to The Devil’s Hole Gang to have credibility in this town and let’s face it, that’s all she had, apart from a little money, until she met you.”

“What’re you talkin’ about, Heyes.”

“You carried her back into the bank as part of the act.  I saw her face when you threw her over your shoulder.  She loved it.”

The Kid frowned.  “It made everything look real for folks when we took her into the bank.  I’d never manhandle a woman without her permission.  She asked me to do it.”

“Yeah, I know that, Kid.  All those years without human contact does something to a person; that was a special moment to her.  She gave us the schedule of payrolls being carried on other lines of the railway she part owns in exchange for us giving her the evidence for an insurance claim,” Heyes’ eyes danced with devilment.  “You on the other hand, gave her something entirely more personal.”

“Shut up, Heyes.”

“Why?”  Heyes chuckled and followed his partner from the stable.  “You’re one of life’s givers.”

“Yeah?  Keep this up and see what I give you.”

They wandered out into the darkness and disappeared into the shadows, bickering lightly.  

“What’s wrong?  Can’t you take a compliment?”

“The problem with havin’ a war of words with you, Heyes, is that you’re the only one who gets to use any.”

“Ow!”

“There was something on your shoulder, Heyes.  Honest there was.”
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Remuda

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PostSubject: Re: September 2013 -Storm   Mon Sep 30, 2013 12:35 am

Weathering Storms
So here we are, under cover of a blanket of stars, some so bright and sparkly they almost penetrate shut eyelids.  They’re pretty against the night sky and get a fella to thinkin’.    

Hard ground we should be used to, but to tell the truth, it’s a let-down from what we had – a comfortable enough cabin with soft beds and a fire to keep us warm, food enough to keep us fed, whiskey to give a nice buzz, and cards to while away a night in the bunkhouse – the comforts of and a place to call home even if we were wanted men.  Sure, we spent enough time sleepin’ in bed rolls, campin’ out with a fire to keep us warm, or not, dependin’ on who might be trailin’ us.  But we’ll do what we have to.

We’re here now because the stage we’re waitin’ on was late, and the hotel full.  We’d already sold our horses and tack, with only whatever personal stuff we could carry around in saddlebags and bedrolls left.  Between us, we don’t have a lot, but maybe we really don’t need that much.  We kept the rifles too because they can be dear to replace and might be needed to hunt dinner.  We’ve only been at this less than a month and I’m already missin’ havin’ somebody cookin’ my meals; there was always somethin’ on the stove in the bunkhouse.

Between us we don’t have much money either.  We’re already near the end of what Heyes won in that last poker game a few weeks ago.  Might have to depend more on winnin’ at cards to provide for ourselves – Heyes sure is good at it and I’m no slouch.  With this depression, good-payin’ jobs are hard to find.  It won’t be easy but we’ll do the best we can.

We have an offer of a delivery job from somebody Lom’s friend knows, if we can get to Laramie in enough time and we’re already delayed.  I’m not sure it’s safe to still be in Wyoming, but we have to go where the jobs are.  Sooner or later we’ll have to leave.  It has to be safer where we’re not wanted.

Over time, we watched the bounties on us go from fifty dollars when we first started to ten thousand apiece.  We excelled at what we did.  Between Heyes’ plannin’ and schemin’ and me backin’ him up, we were a great team.  We still are.  But, now we’re tryin’ a new direction, goin’ for amnesty.  

We always tried to be the best at what we did, and they called us the most successful outlaws in the history of the West.  We used to be proud of that, but now I’m not so sure.  I mean, others were pretty successful, too, but what do they have to show for it?  Most of them are dead, or at least in prison for what amounts to the rest of their lives – “life” or even twenty years does sound pretty final.  We had our glory, but we’re getting’ older, too – makes you think differently.  Maybe the success is in still bein’ alive and free.

We’re surprised the Governor even considered amnesty for us.  We’re not exactly two-bit petty thieves after all.  But Lom persuaded him somehow.  He was second only to Heyes in talkin’ real smooth.

What’s different now is a resolve to put our past behind us.  Make honest men of ourselves.  What I do know is it won’t be easy.  Sometimes I think Heyes has a better chance without me, and maybe we should consider breakin’ up so he’s able to get it.  With my reputation as a gunny, it has to be easier for him if I’m not around.

But, Heyes says we’ll weather the storms together, find our way through the next year and keep on the straight and narrow so the Governor has to keep his word.  With his silver tongue, he’s talked us out of bad situations, and we even ended up smellin’ like roses.  Heyes sometimes sounds like a poet, usin’ lots of figurative language.  I’m more straightforward than that and just say what I’m thinkin’.

Heyes is over there sleepin’ away.  I’m glad one of us can.  That’s funny because those roles are usually reversed.  I have no trouble sleepin’ and it’s Heyes who’s up late at night thinkin’.  I guess this whole pursuit of amnesty’s been weighin’ on my mind.  It doesn’t seem fair the Governor would give it to us conditional-like but still keep the prices on our heads.  But he said he needs to see if we can do it.  Lom said it wasn’t politically expedient for him to do it in the first place, at least not right now.  Lom was surprised the Governor went as far as he did.  But, time will tell if we can stay out of trouble, and if the Governor will keep his word.  I hope he does.

So here we are, still under cover of that blanket of stars, enough to keep a body awake.  Hard ground we’re used to and we’ll be doin’ more of it now that we’re travelin’.  Sure, it’s a step down from the comforts we had, and our reputations and wanted posters follow us wherever we go, but to tell the truth, it’s freein’ in a way, knowin’ we’re doin’ our best to stay inside the law.  As Heyes says, it becomes a habit, and it won’t be easy, but we’re determined to see it through.  I’m not much of a philosopher or anything like that, but the storms’ll pass and the sun will shine – more figurative stuff, but I thought of it myself.

~~~ooo~~~

So here we are, camping out behind the livery for lack of space after the stage was late and the hotel full.  Or, to clarify, there was one room left but my partner felt compelled to let the ladies behind us have it.  He sure does have an eye for the gentler sex and a soft spot for the needy.  Hard ground aside, the stars sure are pretty tonight, though, all clustered and illuminating the night sky, like a canopy keeping watch over us.  It’s pretty dark out these parts, so you can see all the way to the planets and beyond.  Makes a body’s problems seem small in comparison.

In any case, I do my best thinking and planning at night, usually lying awake while Kid is in dreamland somewhere.  He’s sleeping quiet tonight, like always.  I think he’s smiling in his sleep, but it’s dark so maybe I’m just imagining it.  We’re both pretty still at night, not too much tossing and turning, so we don’t wake each other up much, even when sharing a bed.

Sharing a bed … Who would have thought?  But that’s as far as the money stretches these days.  We did as kids at the home but had our own rooms back at the Hole.  I miss our cabin and the boys, and the creature comforts we took for granted.  But with technology getting better and better and safes harder to crack, it’s about time we left that business behind and set out on our course to amnesty.  I really didn’t think the Governor would go for it at first, telling Kid it was for chicken thieves and such, not for the likes of us.  We were too successful, but that’s what we strove for.  Even wound up with ten thousand dollar bounties on our heads, wanted dead or alive.  We’ve both wondered how we went the way we did.  But, there’s a little larceny in all of us, some more than others.  I have to smile at that.

We’ve only been at this about a month and times are bad, so jobs aren’t plentiful.  And we’re pretty picky about what we do, too – nothing too hard on the back if we can help it.  Robbing was pretty easy once we got the hang of it.  It fed my thirst for challenges and learning new things, but with the safes getting harder to open and lawmen smarter, it was the right time for us to quit.  

Although I grew up with a good grounding in the Good Book, I’m not a religious man; but when a little old lady from Boston just happened to have an amnesty notice at our last job, my partner seemed convinced it was the way to go.  We weren’t at our best that day, probably even the worst we’d been in a long time.  And for that Boston lady – Miss Birdie – to chide us like that, well, he took notice.  I could tell from the tone of his voice maybe it was something we should do.  Now I’m not saying it was a sign, but when my partner takes heed of something, I listen.  He follows me without question most of the time, and I owe him the same consideration, although I hate to tell him that.

So far we’ve had employment which didn’t pay a lot, and we’re on our way now to Laramie for a delivery job; that is, if we get there on time.  I don’t think Colonel Harper is going to wait too long on us.  His matter is time sensitive.  We gave ourselves an extra day to get there, but with the delay now, we’ll be lucky to make it.  I hope we do.  The pressure will be off me to win big at poker.  I mean, I hardly ever lose and love the competition.  It feeds something in me like a good book does that even food or a good looking woman doesn’t.  But having to play to win, especially when I’m starting with a miniscule stake like we have now between us, can be annoying and take the fun out of it.  I don’t want to let on to Kid about that.  After all, it’s my winnings from last time that’s keeping us going, and we’re almost out of funds.  Oh yeah, we do have money from the sale of the horses and gear, but that doesn’t count.  We’ll have to buy new ones when we get to Laramie.

Kid wants to leave Wyoming.  He says it’s safer to be where we’re not wanted.  I know he’s right, but although hardly anyone knows what we look like, we’ve run into one or two people over the years who were present at jobs we pulled.  I really don’t think there’s anywhere we’d be perfectly safe, unless we went all the way East.  But I’ve never crossed the Mississippi, and although Kid was in Philadelphia once, he said it was dusty and crowded and didn’t like it.  We’re both happy in the wide open spaces out here.  Although we think of going to South America, neither of us speaks Spanish but for a word or two we picked up along the way.  There’s always Australia but that’s too far away.  Now crossing into Canada might be feasible.  We could probably disappear pretty quick there and come back after the year is up with a spotless record so the Governor can make our conditional amnesty permanent, but neither of us likes the cold much.  I figure if we don’t stay in one place too long, we should be okay.  We’ll have to see.

We’ve resolved to get this amnesty.  Besides technology and posses getting better and smarter, the truth is we’re getting too old for this.  Robbing is a young man’s game.  Sooner or later, we’d get caught, or worse yet, I’m afraid someone would come along who’s faster than my partner and would want to prove it.  I’m not sure that wouldn’t happen anyway with amnesty, but it’s the chance we have to take.  We’ll probably have to keep our aliases, too, at least until word of us not being wanted anymore gets out and people get used to the idea.  We’ve gotten real used to calling ourselves Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones.  I’m surprised by how second nature it’s become.

I have to reassure Kid sometimes.  He says we should break up because the amnesty will be easier for me to get alone.  Even though I kid him a lot, the honest truth is we’re a team.  We’ll get it together or not at all.  Never mind being family; he’s my best friend and partner – none better.  He tells me the only reason I’m still alive is because of him.  I hate to admit it, but he’s probably right.  

So, with my genius and silver tongue leading the way, we’ll weather whatever storms cross our paths together; keep on the straight and narrow so the Governor has to keep his word.  I just hope Kid never has to use his gun.  

In the meantime, we’ll keep looking for ways to make money and keep ourselves going.  Something I read from “Tom Sawyer” comes to mind, about always being willing to take part in any enterprise that offers entertainment and requires no money, and having an abundance of that sort of time that isn’t money.  Even though we robbed for a living, I guess that describes the way it was as part of the gang, lolling around between jobs with all the time on our hands.  But now we need to be employed.

Kid’s over there sleeping and it’s about time I got there too.  Won’t get much rocking in a stagecoach all day tomorrow.  Good thing I have a book to read, a novel by Walt Whitman.  I’d read out loud if it’s only Kid and me on board, but given the ladies who’ll also be passengers, I’m afraid I’ll have to read to myself.  From what I’ve heard, “Franklin Evans” isn’t appropriate for mixed company.      

So here we are.  Maybe if I close my eyes, that canopy of stars will lull me to sleep.  The ground’s hard, sure, but I have my partner for company and we’re on our way to amnesty.  We’ll do our best to stay inside the law, and if we have to resort to a little larceny to stay out of harm’s way, so be it.  As long as Lom and the Governor don’t hear about it, we should be fine.  We’ll keep moving and stay out of trouble.  What was that Kid said earlier?  Oh yeah, the storms will pass and the sun will shine.  And he says he’s not a philosopher!  He underestimates himself.

Sweet dreams, Kid.  See you in the morning.
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Gringa

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PostSubject: There's No Place Like Home   Mon Sep 30, 2013 5:10 pm

There’s No Place Like Home

From the far north they heard a low rumble, and Uncle Henry and Dorothy could see where the long grass bowed in waves before the coming storm. There now came a sharp whistling in the air from the south, and as they turned their eyes that way they saw ripples in the grass coming from that direction also.

Suddenly Uncle Henry stood up.

"There's danger comin’, Em," he called to his wife. "I'll go for help.  You know what to do." Then he ran toward the sheds where the cows and horses were kept.

Aunt Em dropped her work and came to the door. One glance told her of the danger close at hand.

"Quick, Dorothy!" she screamed. "Run for the cellar!"

Toto jumped out of Dorothy's arms and hid under the bed, and the girl started to get him. Aunt Em, badly frightened, threw open the trap door in the floor and climbed down the ladder into the small, dark hole. Dorothy caught Toto at last and ran for the cellar.

“Quick, Dorothy.  Get down here!” her Aunt urged.

Dorothy crawled to the end of the root cellar, to the cubby hole at the back where they were able to drag the shelves in front of them.  With any luck they could hide here until it was safe to come out.  Nobody knew about this spot; it was a safe haven from tornados, storms and raiders – especially raiders.  Since the border wars had started it was vital to have a safe haven.

They huddled together on the old mattress and listened intently to the hoots and thuds as the riders came close to their homestead.  Dorothy felt her breath gutter with fear at the thunderous noise outside but she hugged her aunt more tightly and felt herself rocked like a baby in a cradle.

“It’s only two miles to town,” Aunt Em murmured, softly in her ear.  “Uncle Henry has gone for help.  We just have to stay as quiet as mice until help gets here.  We’ll be fine, darlin’.”

Then a strange thing happened.

The rumbling, thundering, hooting, howling crowd started to quieten; the noise diminishing as it disappeared into the distance.  Dorothy tilted up her head and stared up at her aunt, but she could see nothing in the pitch-blackness of their hidey-hole.

Dorothy felt her aunt gulp heavily.  “It looks like they’ve passed us by.  We’re too near town, I guess.  Sounds like they headed off towards the Heyes’ place.  I do hope they’ll be alright.  At least they have the Currys nearby for support.”

Silence fell, the two women cleaving together for comfort in the mute blackness of their cranny.  After the longest time Dorothy raised her lips and whispered in her aunt’s ear.  “Can we get out now?”

Aunt Em shook her head.  “No, sweetie.  We stay here until Uncle Henry comes for us.  You know that’s what we’re supposed to do.”

Dorothy nodded and snuggled into her aunt again.  In spite of her worries about her school friends over at the Heyes and Curry places, she soon closed her eyes and fell fast asleep.

Somehow, Kansas didn’t feel too much like home right now.



With apologies to L. Frank Baum
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Stormr

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PostSubject: Re: September 2013 -Storm   Mon Sep 30, 2013 5:54 pm

The stars were shining bright in the clear crisp autumn night.  The two ex-outlaws sat propped on their saddles, around their campfire, coffee cups in hands, warming them.  You could see for miles and miles as the flat land ahead, behind and to the sides was void of any type of civilization.  There was barely a tree in site.  The two sat in silence, listening to the flickering of the flames and the various typical outdoor noises.

The blond one shifted, “Heyes.”  There was no response.  He cleared his throat and raised his voice a little, “Heyes.” He turned his head to stare at his partner.

“Hmmm,” seeing the glare, the brown haired man sat up.  “You talking to me, Kid?”
 
“No, I’m talkin' to the coyote in the next territory…who do ya think I’m talkin' to?”

Heyes contemplated a moment, “You could be talking to yourself.”

“I’m not you.”  Kid sounded indignant.

“Geez, no need to get all proddy.”

Kid sighed.

“What did ya want?”

Kid thought for a second, “I was just thinkin’, that, Storm lady, she hasn’t written anythin’ in a long time.  This new phantom administrator was real nice and made this month's challenge her name because it was her birthday.”

“Yeah.”

“Well, it’s September 30th and she still hasn’t written one word.”

“And how would you know that.”

“Because I’m not hurt, you ain’t been shot, we ain’t runnin’ from no posse, the gang ain’t here.  We’re just hangin’ in the middle of nowhere, havin’ a good cup of coffee.”

“So…”

“Well to start with…the coffee is good!”

“I always like my coffee.”

“You’re the only one.”

Heyes snorted.

“So why ya thinking about Storm?”

“Just wonderin’ what happened to her.  Maybe she forgot about us or somethin’,”  Kid said sounding a little hurt.

“She didn’t forget about us.”  Heyes forcefully stated.

“Whoa, that didn’t sound like someone who wasn’t worried about bein’ forgotten.”

“I’m not worried,” Heyes stated trying to convince himself as well as Kid.

Kid chuckled.

“I’m not!”  Heyes defiantly announced.  “Storm would never forget me, um, us!  She’s just been real busy and all.”

“Ha!  You’re worried one of your girls forgot you!!”

“AM NOT!”

As the words came out of Heyes’ mouth the stars disappeared.  The wind picked up, and a large clap of thunder echoed across the plains.

“Now you did it!”  Heyes exclaimed.

“Did WHAT?”  Kid yelled over another booming blast of thunder as lightening lit up the sky.

“You said, she didn’t write.”  Heyes placed his hand firmly on his hat as it threatened to blow off his head.  “You said she forgot about us!  You had no faith in her.  You basically dared her to write something…and she is!”

“Your point, Heyes?”  Kid snarled as his eyes darted around looking for some type of cover.

“The point is the prompt is STORM!!!  So Storm has to write about a STORM!”

Kid’s shoulders slouched as the torrential downpour started across the plains and was beelining straight towards them.

“We are in the middle of nowhere, no trees, no shacks, NO NOTHING for cover!”  Heyes bellowed as he sunk down against his saddle, hand still holding the ever so precious hat in place, resigned to take whatever Storm had planned for them.

“Heyes, she’s your girl, do something," Kid pleaded.

“I’m not the one who dared her.  I’m not the one who said she forgot about us…ME!!!  This is all on YOU.”

“Come on, Heyes.”  The waterfall of water was just inches away from dousing them and getting closer.  “Okay, okay…”  Kid yelled into the sky.  “I’m sorry!  You were just busy.  You didn’t forget about us.”  Droplets of water began to hit Kid.  “You would never forget about us…forget Heyes! “  The wind blew toward Kid and he got a nice spray of water in the face.  “I will NEVER doubt you again!!!”

With that the wind stopped, the rain stopped, and the stars reappeared.

Kid wiped his face dry on his sleeve and turned to Heyes.  Creasing his brow he stated, “You’re not wet!”

“Nope,” Heyes sat up and picked up his coffee cup.

Kid looked down at himself, he was wet.  Not soaked to the bones wet, but wet.  He looked at his coffee cup and it was turned over.  He looked back at Heyes.  “You were sitting right next to me.”

“Yep,” Heyes took a nice long sip of his warm coffee.

“How come you’re not wet and your coffee is still hot?”

“Like ya said, Kid, Storm is my girl and I never doubted her.”

Kid glared at Heyes.

A smile spread across Heyes’ face showing his dimples and he knew everything would be right in the world.
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