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 This Town Ain't Big Enough...

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PostSubject: This Town Ain't Big Enough...   Wed Apr 01, 2015 11:18 am

Don't forget to dinish all you comments on last month's stories before you throw yourself into April with a frenzied, "Yes! I must get this story out..." Comments are the only thanks our poor, delicate writers get.

Your mission, and you'd better darn well accept it, is to give us 4,000 words or less on April's topic. Chosen by Javabee, your challenge is...

coboy 8 This Town Ain't Big Enough... Guntoot

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Keays

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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough...   Thu Apr 16, 2015 11:41 am

The way the town was laid out, the Sheriff's office wasn't exactly an easy place to find. Both men were scanning the buildings along the boardwalks and seemed to find everything but the local law office. Lom had to concede that some towns were like that as those that survived tended to expand and grow out beyond the original boarders. What once might have been a simple lay-out would lose its logic as streets and new intersections were added, businesses expanded and the residential quarter blossomed. Still made trying to locate the sheriff's office down right frustrating.
Finally Lom turned his horse's head towards a group of men standing and smoking outside the mercantile. “Excuse me,” he called over to them. “Can you tell us where the sheriff's office is?”



Oh yeah, sure,” one gentleman offered. “Actually ya' passed it. Go back the way ya' come, past the hotel then turn right at the next street. Can't miss it.”



Lom tipped his hat. “Thank you.”



The sheriff glanced over at Scott who rolled his eyes. “They sure don't make it easy do they?”



Nope.”



Ten minutes later the sheriff and the rancher stepped into the relative coolness of the required office and found themselves face to face with a rather youthful looking deputy.



Howdy son,” Lom greeted him.



The deputy scowled slightly at the informal 'son', irritated that nobody seemed to take him seriously. He was an official deputy now and actually had to shave every single morning; the least they could do was show him a little respect. But then he wisely decided that this very official looking lawman might deserve some respect of his own, and he stood up to shake hands.



Sheriff,” he said, then simply tipped his hat to Scott, not sure what official title he might hold. “What can I do for ya'?”



I'm Lom Travers out of Porterville,” Lom introduced himself. “And this is Scott Medgar, a rancher over by Denver.”



The deputy nodded, trying to look like he had some authority here. “Good ta' meet ya'. I'm Deputy Carter. Sheriff Schomacher ain't in town right now but maybe I can help ya'.”



The sheriff's not here?” Lom was visibly disappointed. “Will he be back soon?”



Carter shrugged. “Donno. We had a couple of big time outlaws in here—well one of 'em was big time, I suppose the other was just some hanger-on. But he's dead now anyways, so don't matter....”



Slow down Deputy,” Lom instructed him. “What outlaws did you have here and who's dead?”



Oh hell, I can't remember his name,” Carter admitted. “I always did have a hard time with them foreigners. It was somethin' Mexican though.”



Lom and Scott exchanged glances. “Jose Yamis?” Scott ventured.



Carter instantly brightened up. “Yeah! That was it. Don't matter none now though; he's deader than a chicken in the pot. Got his throat cut by his own buddy. Geesh! Honour among outlaws, huh?”



Lom sighed, beginning to feel irritated. “And his buddy's name was...?”



Oh now his I remember!” Carter informed them triumphantly. “Probably because I already heard a' him. And I tell ya' he sure lived up ta' everything I'd heard too. Real cold-blooded son-of-a....”



Deputy Carter!” Lom was out of patience. “His name!”



Oh! Ah, Tom Duncan.”



Both Lom and Scott groaned.



You had Tom Duncan in this jailhouse and you let him get away?” Lom needed confirmation.



Oh well,” Carter squirmed. “I mean he's real slippery, Sheriff. And like I said; he didn't seem to mind killin' his own partner in order to get away too. Now who would go expectin' that?”



And Sheriff Schomacher has gone after him?” Lom asked. “Alone?”



Oh no not alone,” Carter assured them and they both felt a sense of relief until the deputy carried on. “the bounty hunter what brought Duncan in went with 'em. Ahh, what was his name now....?”



Gus Stainton by any chance?” Lom offered up.



Yeah that was it!”



And no sign of Heyes?”



Who?”



Hannibal Heyes!” Lom yelled at him. “Did he come into town with Duncan!?”



Oh, no—dagnabbit!” the deputy complained. “Now him I sure woulda' liked to have met. That Duncan ain't got nothin' on Hannibal Heyes.”



Dammit!” Lom cursed.



What the hell is goin' on here?” Scott asked no one in particular.



I donno,” Lom sighed. “Gus and Wes must have split up and Heyes must be with Wes. But what are they up to? I know Duncan has some kind of personal vendetta against Heyes but what are Wes and Gus thinkin'? If they're after some bounty on Heyes they must know they're outa luck. He ain't even wanted anymore.”



I got a real bad feeling about all this,” Scott admitted. “If Wes and Gus are up to no good, that sheriff could be heading into a whole lot of trouble.”



A ghost of a smile crossed Lom's face. “You never met Mike Schomacher have ya'?”



Well no. But what's that got...?”



I'm thinkin' it's Gus who might come out the loser on this,” Lom informed him. “Duncan's the one I'm worried about. If he's goin' after Heyes, that's where there'll be trouble. Which way were they headed, Deputy?”



Who?”



Lom sighed. “Duncan! And then your sheriff!”



Oh! Well, kinda'....north east. Towards the old abandoned Fromer's spread.”



Thank you Deputy,” Lom told him. “I can't tell ya' how much help you've been.”



Deputy Carter smiled at the 'compliment'. Scott smiled at him as well, but his smile had a totally different meaning behind it.



Deputy,” Scott tipped his hat. “Have a good afternoon.”



Yeah. Same ta' you fellas....”



Lom had just walked over to the office door and was reaching for the knob when both he and Scott had to jump back to avoid having said door slam into them. A large man with a badge who needed no introduction stormed into the office, the hard look in his eyes turning to a full grimace when he saw the two visitors.



Sheriff Trevors,” he snarked. “what the hell are you doin' here?”



Nice to see you too Marshal,” Lom greeted him and he glanced back at Scott who had noticeably paled at the sight of the imposing lawman. “Mr. Medgar and I were just on our way to see if we can track down your sheriff. He might be headin' into a whole mess 'a trouble.”



That's what I'm doin',” Morrison informed them as he headed over to the gun cabinet to take out his best rifle. “What the hell Schomacher's thinkin' goin' after a bloody murderer all on his own....”



He ain't on his own Marshal,” Carter spoke up. “That bounty hunter...”



Shuddup!” Morrison yelled at him. “I've yet to meet a bounty hunter that's better than nothin'!”



Yessir,” Carter feebly agreed and sat back down at the desk. “I'll just stay here and finish the paperwork.”



You still haven't answered my question, Trevors,” Morrison grumbled as he grabbed a box of cartridges. “What are you doin' here? You're a long way from home.”



I can explain that to you on the way Marshal,” Lom told him. “It's not only your sheriff who could be in trouble. I have a real bad feelin' about a friend of mine who's gotten himself caught up in all of this.”



Fine,” Morrison agreed as he headed for the door. “So long as it ain't Heyes.” the marshal walked past the two men then stopped with his hand on the door knob when no assurance was sent back to him. He looked suspiciously back at the sheriff. “Sxxt!” he exclaimed. “You tellin' me that damned reprobate is mixed up in all of this?”



Right up to his neck,” Lom informed him. “I'm afraid he could be in some real trouble here.”



Dammit!” the marshal swore again as the three men headed outdoors. “Why the hell doesn't that surprise me!” He slid his rifle into the saddle boot and everyone mounted up. “When I wanted to find him, it took me a year and hell of a lot of hard work and expense to track him down. Now that I don't want anything more to do with either one of em' they keep showin' up like a damned ex-wife! You don't need to tell me that Curry is in on this too—wherever one goes the other follows! Goddammit....!”
And so the gripping continued as the three men headed out of town at a hand gallop, pointing the horses' noses north east.
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Nancy Whiskey

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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough...   Mon Apr 20, 2015 2:24 pm

It was dark, and that suited him just fine.  His cousin's pale hair would glint in the moonlight and knowing how frighteningly fast his opponents reactions were he was going to need every trick in the book to bring him down.

Brown hair bristled at the nape of his neck.  Instinctively sniffing the air, ears straining to catch the slightest change in the wind alerting him to the smallest movement.  Statue still he was content for his quarry to stalk him.  Years of experience told him he could afford to play the long game.

"This time I'll have him," he fumed, temper raging under the calm exterior.  "This is my ranch now and he is not welcome.  Not now.  Not ever!"  He was almost growling under his breath, but he knew he had right on his side.  "And Lom thinks so too."

A slight smile floated fleetingly across his face as he remembered their last encounter.  Lom planted firmly between them, head jutting angrily and the blue eyes staring defiantly back.

Lom had seemed to swell like a bull and took two steps forward.  They were close, too close, but all three knew Lom was within his rights.  "Now git!" he barked, and with a cold arrogance the fair haired interloper simply turned on his heel and stalked off.

The brown hair shook as his memories were interrupted by a faint rustle of straw and he glared at the mouse who made his way happily out of the barn in search of some tasty morsel.

"Damned rodents," he cursed under his breath.  "I'll deal with you later."

He stretched his long lean body and peered round the corner of the stable, straining to give himself a better view.  After all, he knew what direction his one time friend and ally would come from.  "Still, he's a crafty devil... maybe he'll circle round and attack from the back... hmmm.... wouldn't put it past him.  Hell, he could be anywhere."

His nerves were stretched to the limits, but he knew the best course of action was to gain the advantage of height.  As stealthy as a panther he manoeuvred himself towards the stable roof. 

From this vantage point he fell to musing again.  He found it difficult to think they had ever been friends.  Them against the world, brothers in arms, inseparable.  "Always up to something, always up to our ears in trouble."  A small half smile made a fleeting visit... "And Lom was just as bad.  Worse if anythi...."

The footfall was unmistakable.  He knew that smooth stalking as well as he knew his own.  His enemy was making his move, and right dead centre of his territory.  No question.

"That's it pretty boy.  You've pushed your luck one time too many and I'm going to tear you to pieces once and for all!"

Temper and fury took over as he launched himself from the roof.    Height and patience had paid off and now pure, unbridled aggression kicked in.

The noise was terrible as the two cousins, one-time-friends, wrestled in the dust.  A duel to the death as the brown haired and the blond figures fought, locked in combat, teeth bared and eyes flashing.  A glint of scarlet shone through the pale hair.  "Ha," he thought.  "First blood!"

"What the...?"  A voice rose in exasperation as the back door of the ranch opened, flooding the battle scene with light and a large shaggy mongrel bounded, barking towards the bloodied bodies.

The pair instinctively moved apart.  Glowering.  Challenging.  Neither giving way.

"Lombard, Lombard, it's alright boy.  Good dog, c'mere boy."  And the ever dutiful Lombard lolloped back towards the door, but not without an admonishing glare at the pale coloured cat with the blue eyes.

The young woman picked up the squirming brown feline as it twisted and wriggled indignantly, determined to escape his owners vice like grip.

"Naughty boy," shaking her head and tutting in a tone that told the moggie he was in trouble.  "Bad Hannibal, naughty Hannibal.  How many times do I have to tell you, no fighting?!"

He finally gave a half hearted wiggle.  "No use fighting it," he thought as the girl and her tumultuous tomcat headed back towards the door.

"And as for you," she aimed an apathetic kick at the pale cat still hovering in the shadows, "Shoo, go home.  Git!  Back next door where you belong."

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


Last edited by Nancy Whiskey on Fri Apr 24, 2015 6:12 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough...   Thu Apr 23, 2015 4:28 pm

Part 5.  This Town Ain't Big Enough...

Heyes took the stairs three at a time, pausing only to make sure that the door was locked behind him.  The last thing he needed was an injured Kid Curry stumbling into the middle of whatever was going on down there.  He nodded towards the curious desk clerk who fluttered around the doorway like a worried moth.  “There was a shot.  Did you hear a shot?  I thought I heard a shot…”


“Yes, that’s why I came down.”  Heyes frowned into the street from the doorway.  “What happened?”


“I dunno,” the clerk blinked in to the night.  “I just heard a shot and the sheriff is out with the posse.  Should we get the deputy?  They’re guarding a prisoner, but they’re the only law in town.”


Heyes nodded, fixing the man with wide, innocent eyes.  “Let’s find out what happened first, huh?  It could’ve just been a misfire.  You stay here, and if I shout for you, you can run out the back door to get the law.  How does that sound?”


The man’s smile twitched nervously as he assessed his part in this bold plan.  “The back door?  Yeah.  I could do that.”


“Good.  Make sure you can hear me if I call, but don’t get too near.  I need you to make sure you’re out of range.  You can’t get back up if you’ve been hit.”


The clerk swept obligingly back from the door, his smile widening.  “No, we don’t want that.  I couldn’t get help.  Not if I was hit…”


Heyes rolled his eyes and strode out into the night, keeping to the shadows until he got near to the two outlaws standing over a hunched figure on the other side of the road.  A quick sweep told him that the law wasn’t back yet.  “What’s going on here?  I heard shots.”


Wheat’s hand dropped from his holstered gun, recognizing the voice.  “I did it to save him.  Honest I did.”


“Save who?”  Heyes strode forward as a few locals tentatively opened their doors and crept out into the street.  “What have you done?”


The outline of a prone figure lay on the sidewalk, with a man lean over him loosening the buttons and pulling his clothing open.  Kyle pressed near to his leader.  “We was helpin’.  Honest were.  If Wheat hadn’t a done it, I’d have, Hey...”  A sharp kick cut off the rest of the name.  “Ow!  That weren’t called fur.  I was only tellin; ya what happened.”


“Well, do it quietly and no names,” hissed Heyes.  “Why did you shoot him, Wheat?”


“He was gonna shoot that fella, and he was telling him that he weren’t armed.”  The large outlaw bristled with indignation.  “I done a good thing.  Honest I did.”


“He did,” the man crouched over the body raised his head at last.  “He was going to shoot me.  Your man got in there first.”


Heyes frown deepened.  “Who are you and what is going on?”


“I’m the town doctor, and this piece of…,” he indicated, the man in front of him, “is Abner Beecher.  I tried to go and see his step-ma while his pa was outta town and he came after me with a gun.  It was like he suddenly decided this town weren't big enough for the two of us.  I was runnin’ for my life when I bumped into these two.  I can’t thank them enough.”  He fixed Wheat with a serious stare.  “You saved my life, Mr…?”


Wheat groped around.  What did he just say at the hotel?  Ah, yes.  “Beecher.  Kyle Beecher.”


The doctor tensed.  “Beecher?  Are you kin to this one?”

 
“Maybe back in the days of Adam,” Wheat brushed his mustache, “Pa came from the old country before comin’ west.  Are these folks from Boston?”


“They’re from Kansas,” shrugged Doctor Murray.  “You got folks there?”


Wheat’s blue eyes glimmered at his leader.  “Nope.  Never been there in my life.  I once knew a couple o young upstarts who came from out that way.  A pair of wrong ‘uns if ever I met one.”


Heyes felt the need to bring things back to the point, especially as the crowd of locals pressed nearer.  “Is he dead?” 


“Oh, no,” Doc Murray grinned.  “He’s unconscious.  Your friend shot him right through the thigh.  I got a tourniquet on it.  He lost a lot of blood.”


“Is he going to make it?”  Heyes dreaded the answer even before he heard it.


“Probably not,” the doctor stood, “but it was him or me.  Given the choice I’d rather it was him.”  The doctor paused to take in the shocked looks.  “What!?  He was going to kill me.  Were you going to go to him to tend your ailments?   Well?  Were you?” 


“Abner Beecher?” muttered an elderly man standing in the shadows.  “Ain’t nobody gonna miss him,” he grinned a near-toothless grin and nodded towards Wheat, “and I’m glad that one didn’t.” 


“Help me carry him over to my office, will ya?”  The doctor summoned over a couple of townsfolk.  “Get a board or something.”  He turned back to Heyes.  “You don’t need to worry about your man.  I’ll tell the sheriff he saved me.”


Heyes watched an old door being brought out to carry the wounded man.  “That won’t be enough.  A man is likely to die.”

      
“It’ll be enough for the sheriff here,” Doc Murray affirmed.  “He’s known the Beechers since they arrived in town.  They’ve got a way of being noticed.  I was looking for Beecher’s wife, and Abner here was clearly given the job of seeing me off.  He took it a bit too seriously and followed me into town to make sure I didn’t double back.”


“Double back?  Why would a doctor be hunted like that?” demanded Heyes.


Doc Murray dusted off his knees and watched his patient borne off towards his office.  “There’s the odd domestic dispute and then there’s downright cruelty.  Old Man Beecher’s been known to break an arm for his wife spendin’ too much at the store, so when his wife was caught with Kid Curry I worried for her life.  Abner was determined I wouldn’t see her for myself.  His pa told him not to let me near the place while he was out with the posse.  I guess the boy took that kinda serious, like.  Maybe he wanted to show off to his pa, but he followed me into town and drew on me.”


“Why would he do something that dumb?” Heyes demanded.


“I’m guessin’ she ain’t too well and he didn’t want me to see that.”  He called to a youth standing beside a woman clad in white night clothes and a shawl.  “Billy, go get the marshal.  I think we gotta get out to the Beecher place.”  He looked at Heyes and Wheat.  “You want to go and see the marshal to clear things?”


“We just got into town and need the rest,” Heyes shook his head.  “You tell him.  I’m glad my man could help.  I know I depend on him.  I don’t think we’re needed if you testify that the other man drew first.”


“Could’ve been anyone.  I’m just glad it was someone who could help.  You were just folks passin’ by at the right time, is all,” the doc agreed and tugged at the brim of his hat in farewell.  “Thanks for all your help.                                            
 

                                                                          ~~~        

 
Heyes paced back and forth in Wheat and Kyle’s room.  The large lieutenant twitched back the curtain and peered out into the street.  “I tell ya, Heyes, we gotta get outta here before the posse get’s back to town.  This is the dumbest idea you’ve had since you had us tryin ‘to rob that army payroll.  We all told ya there’d be soldiers protectin’ it, but oh, no.  You had a plan.”  Wheat dropped the curtain and glared at his boss.  “As soon as the sheriff hears about this, he’ll want to see me and then we’re done for.” 


“Not necessarily,” Heyes murmured.  “He’s gonna be all hot and bothered by the Kid getting clean away, and he’s gonna have to answer to that.  The last thing he’ll be bothered with is someone getting shot because he was breaking the law.  It’s a closed case.”


“It ain’t closed just because you say it is,” Wheat growled.  “I ain’t stayin’.  You can do what you like.”


“And leave the Kid here without protection?” Heyes demanded.  “It’ll be at least a week before he’s fit to ride.  Are you really gonna sneak out of here and leave him to fend for himself?  He’s lying in the next room thinking we’ve got his back while your plotting your escape.  Do you think that’s what he’d do it it was you?”      

   
“That ain’t fair,” Kyle muttered.  “We can take him with us and hide out close by.  We ain’t saying we’d leave him.”


“He’s going nowhere.  He’s in a comfortable bed at last and he’s staying there until he’s fit to ride.”  The dark eyes glared at his men.  “You owe it to him?”


Kyle’s loose jaw dropped open in dismay.  “But, Heyes…”


“But nothing,” Heyes looked at each man in turn.  “You go if you need to, but that just puts the Kid in a worse position.  He’s only got me to cover him, so what’s he going to do when the sheriff comes knocking on the door to ask questions?”


“What’s he gonna do whether we’re here or not?” Wheat retorted.  “One look at us and the law will know who we are.”


Heyes shook his head.  “Nope.  The only people who can identify us are Beecher and his wife and they’ll too occupied with the shooting to care.  The sheriff has only seen the Kid, and nobody else.”  He paused.  “I guess the dark-haired deputy from the office can finger us too.  It was too dark for his pal outside, so we only have to avoid those three.”


“Only?” snorted Wheat.  “We ain’t got no control over who goes where.  This whole plan is nuts.” 


“We’ve got control over where we go, and the plan is to stick to the rooms until we can get the Kid fit enough to ride outta here.”


“But what if the marshal comes up to our rooms to ask about the shootin’?” asked Kyle.


Heyes hated it when Kyle made sense.  He paced some more to give himself thinking time.  “Yeah.  I guess I’ll have to make sure I get hold of the Sheriff on his own to stop that from happening.”


“You got your chimney clogged, Heyes,” Wheat tapped his forehead.  “You’re trying to juggle a whole town and it’s our heads on the line.”


The harsh glare told the outlaws how their leader was taking this conversation.  “You want to go?  Nobody’s stopping you.”


“Well, don’t be too hasty, Heyes.  We ain’t sayin’ we ain’t gonna help.  Just that we feel like sittin’ ducks.  Maybe we could stay close to town and give you cover when things get rough,” reasoned Kyle.


“And what do I tell the sheriff when he wasn’t to know why you hot-tailed it out of town?” demanded Heyes.


“Well…we got a message to go somewhere?” ventured Wheat.

            
“Yeah?  Where from?  If you got a telegram; that can be checked.”


“Someone came to tell us,” Kyle announced.  “They came right here.”


“And the desk clerk didn’t see them?  They didn’t even have to ask what room you were in and walked straight up and knocked on your door.  Psychic, are they?”


“Now you’re just bein’ proddy, Heyes,” Wheat folded his arms.  “Ain’t nobody gonna check.”


“Not before the shooting they weren’t, but now you shot a man it might raise a few questions if you disappear.  You should have thought this through if you didn’t want to do it.  The way I see it, you’re committed.”  Wheat and Kyle exchanged a glance as their leader continued.  “Well, what’s it to be?”


Wheat sighed heavily and opened his mouth to reply.  A series of short raps at the door cut him off.  Kyle’s eyes widened and everyone’s hands dropped to their guns.  “Who’s that?” hissed Kyle.


Heyes gulped and regained his composure.  “Only one way to find out, I guess.”  He strode over to the door and stood to the side with his gun drawn.  “Who’s there?”
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Stepha3nie

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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough...   Sun Apr 26, 2015 12:51 pm

The bunny hopped this morning and forced an idea to develop into something resembling a story.
This one's for Keays and Karma.


Ain’t big enough

The tension was palpable, making the hair on his neck stand up.  This fight had been inevitable since they’d come here.  Here being the small town of Nederland, Colorado. He’d done what he could to avoid the confrontation, to be peaceable, but there was only so much a fella’ could take.  The other guy had made it clear enough: this town just wasn’t big enough for the two of them!  And so, he and his opponent now stood here, squared off in the classic stance, watching each other closely, ready to strike, but neither willing to make the first move.

Time seemed to stand still, seconds stretched forever.  And then it happened, in the blink of an eye the fight was on.

A shotgun threatened, a colt leapt to hand faster than the eye could follow and a bucket of cold water separated the snarling fighters.

Before he even had time to shake the water off, a strong hand pulled him away.  He didn’t see the rope coming, but he was tied up with it before he could react and the other end was then firmly attached to the saddle of a horse.  A horse, which was now mounted by his friend, or rather by the man he had thought of as a friend, whom he had followed, who was now unceremoniously towing him behind, past the store and then the saloon with all its gawkers.

He’d never suffered such indignity in all his life, and he continued to struggle.  What did the other think?

What ‘the other’ thought was “$%^#!  If it isn’t one it’s the other!  Can’t they ever back down?!”
Out loud he chastised the living anchor he was dragging towards the edge of town at a trot “Coffee, I really had expected more of you!”

The disappointment in the tone cut deep, deeper than the rope around his neck or the anger still swirling around his mind; it was a colder shower than the bucket of water had been.  Of all the humans, this was the one whose approval he sought, the one he’d chosen to follow.  All of a sudden, the anger and indignation were gone, replaced by worry.  Would he get cast out, forced to leave his newly-found pack?  A soft whine escaped his throat.  He no longer struggled against the rope but bounded alongside the reddish gelding, anxiously looking up to his pack leader, trying to appease him, whining again, showing his willingness to follow.  But the man wearing the black hat with the silver-studded band was ignoring him.

Having reached the edge of town, the horse was allowed to slow down to a walk and gently guided along the outskirts towards the back of the hotel, accompanied by an increasingly apprehensive pooch.  All the while, the dark-haired man was thinking fiercely, considerations racing through his mind.  Had the dogs with their flashing teeth and loud snarling captured the full attention of all the witnesses?  Or had anyone but the shotgun-wielding butcher paid attention to his partner’s quick-draw?  Was there a chance someone would recognize them because of it?  Had his intervention been quick enough?  What were the odds? Always the odds.

He had assured his reluctant friend that traveling with a dog would be a good cover.  Who had ever heard of Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry having a pet?  Now their ‘cover’ had blown; maybe.

The canine had quickly won his own heart after their initial encounter, and no matter how much his cousin groused, it was obvious the Kid had grown fond of the mischievous dog too.  After all, hadn’t he caught him sharing his food more than once?  And no matter the protests, he knew his partner enjoyed the play-fights, now that Coffee occasionally let him win.  The dog had managed to turn his friend back into a kid on occasion, making him forget their worries and the weight of the gun on his hip.  If for nothing else, he’d love him for this gift.

If there had still been any question about loyalties going both ways, the lightning-fast action to prevent the owner of the territorial, bad-tempered butcher’s dog from using his shotgun on their companion of a few weeks would have been enough to disperse any lingering doubts.  But this brought him back to his problem.  Did they dare stay or would they have to leave town once more?

With a sigh, the man dismounted and slung a rein over the hitching post at the back of the hotel.  The rope was loosened from the saddle horn and a contrite dog used the opportunity to finally capture the attention of his human.  He grabbed the makeshift leash between his teeth with a mock growl and tugged playfully.  Once the man looked at him (goal achieved), he began his arguments to be allowed to remain a member of their small pack, not getting cast out, in earnest.  His mission wasn’t over yet, after all.

He started his case by jumping puppy-like in a careful half-circle, giving space and showing he was only young and playful.  He added frantic tail-wagging.  When this wasn’t enough – the human still hadn’t changed expression yet – he made his assurances of being a respectful follower more obvious by throwing his front half to the ground with every jump, while his back end with the furiously moving tail pointed skywards.  Surely his friendly flag-waving and bowing down would be enough?  He knew from experience that humans thought it looked funny and they couldn’t stay angry once the first chuckles escaped them.  Just to make sure, he grinned in a gesture of insecurity around his lolling tongue and waggled his eyebrows as hard as he could.  Finally, success.

Deep dimples showed in the man’s cheeks as a warm rumbling laughter burst out and chocolate eyes beamed their affection.

“Alright, Coffee.  You can quit your clowning.  I’m not really angry at you.  I know the other guy was a bully, and you can’t stand them any more than the Kid ever could.”  A human sigh was drowned out by happy barking.  “Well, I guess even if someone now suspects who we are, who are they going to tell?”

Golden glowing eyes gazed up adoringly at his wise leader’s face, a long wet tongue tried to follow.  A slender hand reached out, instantly becoming the new target of the flexible slobbery organ.  Accepting his canine thanks, it proceeded to remove the rope from around his neck.  Its twin patted a dark brown, furry, still soggy shoulder, then proceeded to scratch the favorite spot behind his right ear which was trying its best to stand to attention.

“I guess we can risk staying a bit longer.  After all, this town ain’t big enough to have a sheriff.”



Historical Note: The town of Nederland does exist. It grew up around a trading post and went through several name changes: Dayton, Brownsville, Browns Crossing, Middle Boulder. In 1871, the owner of the nearby Caribou mine decided to have his silver-rich ore milled in Middle Boulder. Two years later he sold the mine to the Nederland Mining Company from Holland. Middle Boulder was jokingly referred to as "the Netherlands" (the low lands) despite its elevation at over 8000 feet. 1874, when the town was incorporated, the people chose the name of Nederland.
The mines at Caribou soon declined and the Dutch company pulled out, causing the many people to leave. The population is listed at 350 in 1881. By 1890 only a handful of families lived there all year, Nederland almost became a ghost town.
I'm not sure if it had a sheriff when the boys and Coffee came to visit.

Several more booms and declines followed. Today, Nederland is known as a gateway to outdoor recreation.
And it has gained some fame for its annual "Frozen Dead Guy Days", commemorating and celebrating the substandard attempt by Norwegian immigrant Trygve Bauge at practicing cryonics on his deceased grandfather Bredo Morstoel. Bauge was forced to return to Norway, but Morstoel still remains in Nederland, as a town celebrity of sorts.
I recently saw a program covering weird festivals and "Frozen Dead Guy" was one of the features. I just had to let it make an appearance in a story.
If you would like to know more about the festival and its background, look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frozen_Dead_Guy_Days

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For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
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SheilaUK

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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough...   Tue Apr 28, 2015 9:47 pm

(Yay, got it completed!)

“I’m telling ya, that town aint big enuf…”


“Wheat!”  The voice that interrupted Wheat Carlson, erstwhile member (and wishful leader) of the Devil’s Hole Gang, was sharp and edged with anger.  “Cut it out!”


“I’m jes sayin..”


“You’ve bin ‘jes saying’ for the last week!  We’ve been over and over it.  You say the bank won’t have anythin’ in it, Heyes says it will.  I’m with Heyes.  You can stay behind, if you want.”  The man looked belligerently at the rest of the group, “Any of you can!”


Five of the men studiously avoided the gaze and stared at the ground.  The sixth, at the front, continued to stare ahead, but raised his hand to his mouth and coughed, attracting a suspicious stare from the last speaker.


Kid Curry, joint leader of the aforementioned Devil’s Hole Gang, thought he detected a grin on the face of Hannibal Heyes, his partner and also leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang and the man riding at the front of the motley gang.  Annoyed, Kid turned his attention back to Wheat.


“So?” he demanded.


“So what?”, Wheat retorted.


“So, you goin’ back?”


Heyes struggled to ignore the conversation and stop a grin emerging again.  He knew, without looking, that Kid would be staring hard and Wheat and Wheat would eventually look away and back down.  He always did.  Wheat liked to push and he liked to grumble, but he also was fond of his own hide and would not push so hard that he faced the wrong end of Kid Curry’s gun.


The eight men were on their way to Scarboro, a small town in the hills.  Wheat had been there once and claimed that it wasn’t big enough to hold a general store, let alone a bank with a substantial sum in its safe.  Heyes knew differently.  Despite Wheat’s complaints, the others had gone along, nothing better to do, Kyle had claimed.


Wheat had continued to moan, which accounted for the Kid’s mood. 


“It’s fine with me if you want to waste time,” Wheat finally responded, petulantly.


“So, shut up!”  Curry demanded, the frustration and irritation clear in his voice.


The crew continued in silence.  The members of the Devil’s Hole Gang were not big on conversation, something that Heyes missed from the days with Big Jim.  Generally, Kid listened to him and commented but Wheat had soured his mood so he was also silent and Heyes didn’t try to engage him.  He sighed silently, it was another 48 hours to Scarboro!




The party finally crested a ridge and looked down onto the ‘small’ town of Scarboro.  It now sprawled through the valley – a vast collection of ramshackle huts, tents, cabins and more substantial buildings – several saloons, a general store, a hardware store, stables and a new bank.


With a shiny, new safe.  Heyes’ eyes glinted as he thought about the contents of that safe.


Wheat gave a low whistle.  “Town sure has growed.”


Heyes glanced at him, “Yep.”


The gang stared at the town for several minutes.  Fed up, Curry finally exploded, “Let’s get moving!”


Heyes shook his head silently, “Yep, split up and try to remember the plan!”


The men rode off in two’s and three’s so as to enter the town separately and from different directions, at different times.


Heyes and Curry rode in together, on the direct route.  They pulled up outside a saloon, which just happened to be diagonally opposite the bank.


Inside, they took seats at a back corner table, with a couple of beers.  Curry took a deep drink and then repeated an oft stated desire, “Do we really need to have Wheat with us?”


“Now, Kid, Wheat has the right to be with us, it’s really up to him to leave.”


“Which he won’t.”


“It is unlikely.”


Two of the gang came in and went up to the bar.  They looked around and tried rather too hard to not recognise Heyes and Curry.


Curry sighed.


Heyes smiled, “Relax.  No one’s paying any attention and remember, there’s no Sheriff or Marshall!”


“Yeah, why is that?  There’s gotta be some sort of law.”


“In a town growing as fast as this?  It’s every man for himself.  Sure, the saloons got muscle, but that’s all.  Six months ago the town was jus’ like Wheat remembers.  Then they found silver.  Guess they haven’t had time to appoint a Sheriff yet.”  Heyes grinned and, finally, so did Kid Curry.




Some hours later, Harvey was turning the handle of a bar spreader.  This implement was positioned between the bars of a small window at the rear of the bank.


Wheat was still complaining, “This is takin’ too long!  It’ll be light soon.”


“There’s plenty of time.  No one will be around at first light anyhow,” Heyes spoke soothingly.


“You’d better be right, Heyes.  Even if there is no law, I don’t think the folk will take too kindly to their bank being emptied!”


Curry stared at Wheat, “You want this to go faster, why don’t you take over from Harvey?”


Harvey looked up hopefully.


Wheat shook his head, “He’s doin’ okay.”


Regretfully, Harvey returned to his task.


The men watched silently and anxiously.  Finally, the gap was wide enough to allow the men through.


Curry went over to the front window, drew the blind down and then lit a lamp.  This he placed in front of the safe.  Heyes settled in front of the safe, his ear against the cool metal, and began to manipulate the dials. 


It did not take long.  Heyes grasped the handle, turned and pulled the door open.


“You sure is good at that!” Kyle opined.


Heyes grinned.


The men stared at the mountain of cash, stacked up on the shelves.


From over at the window, Curry spoke.  “You’d be better to start filling the sacks than staring at it.  It ain’t gonna get in there by itself!”


A number of gunny sacks were produced and Wheat and Kyle began to fill them and pass them back through the window to the Harvey and the other men still outside.  The sacks were then tied onto the saddles of the waiting horses.  




The early morning light was filtering through the windows.  Heyes blew out the lamp.


Gun in hand, Curry was stood by the front window still, peering round the blind, watching the street.  Even though none of the others expected trouble, no one had stopped him taking his usual place.  Argument would have been pointless.  He turned now to look at Heyes.


“Heyes.”


Heyes looked back at him.


“You said this town weren’t big enough fro a sheriff?”


Heyes nodded.


“So how come there’s a man walking toward the bank, with a star on his chest?”


“What!”


Heyes shot over to the window and peered out.  “Damn!”


“He don’t look like much…”


Heyes gave a slight shake of his head.


“Okay, that’s it.  Everyone out, now!”


“What about the rest of the money?”  Wheat complained.


“You rather lose the lot?  Be followed by a posse?”  As he spoke, Heyes was closing the safe door.


“Down!” Curry hissed.


The men remaining in the bank ducked down and held their breath.  Footsteps echoed on the sidewalk and the door knob rattled.


“Hey Wade!”


The man with the star turned away from the bank.  Curry signalled Heyes and Wheat and they crawled quickly to the rear window.


The front window blind suddenly shot up.


Wade turned back to the bank.


Heyes and Wheat froze.


Curry plastered himself against the wall under the window.


Wade peered in.  The interior was dark and he could make out very little.


“Something wrong?” the second man asked.


“Dunno.”


The second man looked in.  “Seems okay to me.”


“Yeah, looks quiet enough, jes seems like summat’s wrong.”


Both men peered in.


Curry prayed that none of the Devil’s Hole Gang appeared in the rear window and that the two men couldn’t see that the bars were no longer straight.


“Think I’ll check round the back.”


Curry swore softly under his breath.


Wade started down the street.  The second man remained standing just outside the front door.  Fortunately, he was looking the other way.  Unfortunately, movement in the bank could still attract his attention.  Curry felt trapped.


Across the other side of the room, Heyes’ mind raced through the options.  He could get the men outside to high tail it out of town, past the “Sheriff”, as a distraction, but that would alert more people and cause a posse to head out after his men and the money.  They could risk climbing out and hope neither man spotted them, but again, time was short and it would probably also result in a posse coming after them.  Nope, what they needed to do was to quietly delay the alarm being sounded.


Heyes exchanged a look with Curry.


Heyes raised his head and poked it out of the rear window.


“Kyle, you and the boys ride out, quietly.  That way.”  He pointed in the opposite direction to the one he expected the “Sheriff”, Wade, to come in.  “Leave our horses at the end of the alley and head for the meeting place.”


“What ‘bout you and Wheat and the Kid?”


“Don’t worry, we’ll be right behind you.  Get movin’!”


Heyes watched the men depart, no sign of Wade yet.  He pulled back inside.


“Wheat, you stand against the wall, that side of the window.”


Heyes went over to the front door, keeping low.  Curry kept an eye on the second man.  Heyes looked at him and Curry shook his head.  Heyes pulled a piece of think metal out of his boot, knelt in front of the door, by the lock and inserted the metal.  He jiggled it around and in seconds heard it click open.  He then returned to the rear window and stood against the wall on the other side to Wheat.


Curry moved to the front door and took hold of the handle.


It was so quiet inside the bank, you could’ve heard a fly land.  The three men were barely breathing.  A slight crunch outside alerted them to Wade’s arrival.


Wade came round the corner, seconds after the Devil’s Hole Gang disappeared at the far end.  He walked down toward the bank.  He was on top of the window when he noticed the bent bars.


A puzzled look came over his face, “What the…?”  He stuck his head in through the window.




Wade was never clear about what happened next.  One minute he was outside the bank looking in, the next he was inside, sat on the floor, tied up. Gagged and blindfolded.  He never saw who grabbed him and trussed him up, just that they came out of nowhere and disappeared as quickly.  For ever after, he maintained that they were more like ghosts than bank robbers, though afterwards, it was clear to Wade and the rest of the town, after Wade and Bert were found by the assistant bank manager on opening up the bank just before 9a.m., two hours later, that the bank had been robbed.  Bartenders remembered a number of strangers in town, but couldn’t really describe them.  The only clue was the way that the bank’s safe had been opened.




As Wade was hauled through the window by Heyes and Wheat, Curry opened the door of the bank and jabbed his gun into the small of the second man’s back.


“Don’t turn around and be quiet.”


The second man, Bert, froze.


“Now, back up, slowly.”


Bert walked backwards into the bank.


“Shut the door.”


Bert shut the front door.


“Pull your scarf up, over your eyes.  Tie it real tight behind you.”


Bert pulled up his scarf, over his eyes and tied it tightly.


“Put your hands behind your back.”


Bert put his hands behind his back.


Heyes appeared by Curry’s side and tied Bert’s hands tightly.  He then gagged the man and pulled him across the floor, near to where Wade was sitting.


“Sit down.”


Bert struggled to sit and was helped.  His feet were then tied together.


Heyes went back to the front door and locked it as Curry and Wheat climbed out.  He joined them and the three men ran down the alley.


Round the corner, Kyle was waiting with their horses.


“Thought I told you to get out of town.”


“Couldn’t leave without ya.”


“Well, let’s get out now.”


The four men hurried out of town.




Back out on the trail, and satisfied that no posse was chasing them, the men relaxed as they made their way to join up with the others.


“There’s one thing I gotta say,” Wheat began.


Curry looked at him, “Wheat,” he warned.


“It ain’t a complaint,” Wheat said hastily, “It’s a, it’s a, it’s an observation, yeah, that’s what it is.”


Intrigued, Heyes looked at him, “What observation?”


Wheat grinned, “That town may have growed, but it still ain’t big enough to hold the Devil’s Hole Gang!”
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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough...   Thu Apr 30, 2015 6:14 pm

I can't for the life of me remember if I've ever posted this as a challenge story before. If I have, I'm sorry and will not ask it to be polled.

I guess you could kind of consider this an ASJ/Young Guns crossover...

-----------------

The town of El Dego, New Mexico sat as a welcomed beacon in the dusty desert landscape. Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry had been riding for what seemed like a month when they steered their horses onto the main street of the town.

"Heyes, you ever think about us being stuck in a rut?"

"What?"

"You know, we ride into some dusty town, look for a job, go to the saloon, leave before someone recognizes us...same old, same old..."

"Well, what exactly do you expect us to do? We can't very well dress up and go to the theatre."

"I know that!"

"You mean you're getting tired of running from bounty hunters, working menial jobs for a few dollars?"

"You don't have to get sarcastic Heyes. Just forget I said anything."

Heyes surpressed a small laugh. They rode by the sheriff's office nonchalantly.

"Hmm, Sheriff Perry. Wonderful. We don't know him!" Heyes said.

They turned towards the livery stable. There was an old man sleeping outside the door.

"Howdy," Heyes said a little too loudly waking the man.

"Gal-durn it! Scare a body to death why don't you!" the old man exclaimed jumping up and slamming his hat on his head.

"Sorry. You the livery man?"

"Yeah, that's me."

Heyes and Kid dismounted, handing the reins to the man. "Here you go. Feed and water them please."

"I'll take care of them." The old man opened the livery door and led the horses in. Heyes and Kid started walking towards the saloon.

"I'm about parched," Heyes said going through the bat wing doors. They walked up to the bar and ordered two beers. Then they went to a back table facing the door and sat down. They had only drank about half the alcohol when another patron came in the saloon doors. He was a young looking lad, who walked up to the bar and rather loudly ordered a whiskey. Heyes and Kid noticed he wore his gun tied down. Another one of the barflies, who had had a little too much to drink, stumbled into the young man on his way out the door. He immediately drew his gun.

"You lookin' fer trouble mister?" he snarled.

The drunk righted himself, looking scared to death. "No sir Mr. Bonney. IIIII'm shorry. Please don't kill me."

Mr. Bonney looked the man up and down, then let out with a raucous laugh. "Get outta here old man. I got better things to shoot than you." He reholstered his six-shooter and turned back to his whiskey. "Give me another," he ordered the bartender.

Heyes had been watching the exchange at the bar. "Bonney, where do we know that name from?"

Kid studied Bonney at the bar. Realization then hit him. "Bonney...Heyes, you reckon that's Billy the Kid?"

Heyes returned his gaze at the man. "Billy the Kid? You know, you may be right. He is supposed to be around these parts. He looks young enough to be him."

From the bar, Bonney noticed the two at the back table staring at him. He picked up his whiskey glass and walked back to where they were seated. "What are you two lookin' at?" he asked.

"A young man drinking," Heyes deadpanned.

"Well, ain't you just the smart one," Bonney laughed. His expression turned serious. I don't like smart alecs. What's your name mister? I like to know a man's name before I put a hole in him."

Heyes smiled at Bonney. "Joshua Smith and this my partner Thaddeus Jones. And you are...?"

Bonney looked dumbfounded. "You don't know who I am? Where you been? Under a rock? I'm Billy...Billy the Kid."

"Well, pleased to meet you Mr...uh...Kid."

"Pleased to meet you too." He drew his gun and leveled it at Heyes. "Now, git up. Me and you gonna see who the faster man is."

"Now there's no need for that," Heyes replied.

"Yes there is, now GIT UP."

The commotion in the back had caught the attention of the whole saloon.

"Can't we talk about this?"

"My gun does my talkin'. Are you gittin' up or not?"

"Mr. Bonney, I think you should put your gun away," Kid intervened.

"And why's that?"

"Because I got my .45 pointed at you under the table."

Bonney considered this new information. "So, you want to be the one to draw instead of him?"

"I never said that. Now just put your gun down and we can discuss this like men."

"There ain't nothin' to discuss. I've decided to let your friend alone. I'm callin' you out for interruptin' me. Now git up and git out on that street."

Kid gave Bonney a steely-eyed stare that would've made the devil run for cover. Bonney stared back and smiled at him.

"Thaddeus, don't do this."

"Joshua, he called me out, you heard him." Kid slowly started to get to his feet. Heyes grabbed his arm.

"Thaddeus, DON'T."

"Better listen to your partner there. I'd hate to kill a man before lunch."

Kid's stare never wavered. "Let go Joshua."

Heyes had no choice but to let go. Once Kid had his mind made up, it was almost impossible to change it. Bonney gave a laugh and made a show out of walking out of the saloon. "I'll be back in a minute Sam. Have me a whiskey waitin'!"

Kid followed Bonney out into the street. They stood facing each other. Just then, Sheriff Perry walked out of his office and saw the standoff. He immediately recognized Bonney and sent his deputy to the telegraph office.

"Boys, what are you up to?" Perry asked from across the street.

"Why nothin' Sheriff," Bonnie said, never taking his eyes off Kid. "We's just gonna see who the fastest is here."

The two stood staring, one outlaw against one ex-outlaw. Kid's eyes blazed like blue fire. His hand rested on his gunbelt near his Colt, his face expressionless. Bonney was smiling with his hand hanging loosely next to his six-shooter.

"Any last words?" Bonney yelled.

Kid never answered. Bonney waited a few more seconds. Heyes watched with trepidation. Word was that Bonney had killed at least twenty one men. He always hated seeing Kid face off with somebody. Something Kid had once said always went through his mind; 'there's always somebody out there faster, always is'.

Kid never moved. He seemed frozen in his stance. Bonney finally reached for his gun. Before he could clear the leather, Kid had drawn his gun and shot Bonney in the arm. Bonney fell to the ground, a look of surprise etched in his face.

"He beat me!" he exclaimed to no one in particular. He just couldn't believe he'd been beat. He lay there clutching his arm.

Sheriff Perry walked over and knelt down at Bonney's head. "Boy, you had to know it would happen sooner or later." The sheriff stood up and to the crowd said," Somebody fetch the doc. Anybody know who started this?"

Most all the onlookers pointed to Bonney. Perry looked back at him and shook his head. He turned and walked over to Kid. "That was some mighty fine shooting there son. Never seen nobody that fast. What's your name?"

"Thaddeus Jones sir."

"Well Mr. Jones. You just earned yourself five hundred dollars. Bonney had a bounty on his head. I sent my deputy to telegraph Sheriff Garrett over in Lincoln County to come on over. Since you was the one that brought him down, you get the money."

Kid turned to face Heyes who walked over to join them. They had actually run into Sheriff Garrett once quite recently. He'd formed a posse and chased them all the way to Arizona before he gave up.

"Well Sheriff, that's real nice, but my partner here and I have to be going. We were just passing through on our way to a job," Heyes hurriedly said.

"Well, what about an address to send it to you?"

"We move around so much, we'd probably never get it. Why don't you keep it Sheriff. After all, you'll be the one actually turning him in."

"Well, that's mighty nice of you. Mighty nice."

Perry shook hands with Heyes and Kid and walked back up the street to where the doc was now looking Bonney over.

"Quit whining, you'll live," they heard the doc say.

Heyes and Kid went directly to the livery stable to pick up their horses.

"We better get put of here before Garrett shows up," Heyes said saddling his horse.

After both animals were tacked up, the two ex-outlaws took off towards the north.

"You know Kid. It'll be kinda neat when we get our amnesty to be able to say you faced down Billy the Kid."

"Yeah, I guess so."

"What's wrong?"

"I's just thinkin' about Bonney. It was sorta like lookin' back at a version of ourselves when we were that age just starting down the outlaw trail."

"Yeah, I guess so. Was I ever that cocky?"

The Kid laughed. "Heyes, you're still that cocky!"

They both spurred their horses and headed north, on to their next adventure.

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Remuda

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PostSubject: Re: This Town Ain't Big Enough...   Fri May 01, 2015 1:01 am

The Stage Ride

Content Larner’s eyes flew open as the stage hit a rut, her chin striking the frame of the window on which she rested her head.  “Agh!”  The single motion also pushed her bodily into the passenger to her left. 

 

Indeed, the bump disarrayed all five passengers.  Shrugging off the intrusion, the men helped steady the two women. 

 

In the middle seat, Jed “Kid” Curry instinctively grabbed Content by the elbow, sheltering hers in the crook of his own.  “Ma’am, are you okay?”

 

Recovering, she allowed herself the momentary attention.  “Yes, thank you, Mr. Jones.”  Another arm reached across Curry.  “And you also, Mr. Smith.”

 

Hannibal Heyes grinned.  “Lots of ruts on this road, but that was a big one.”

 

“Hmph!  One would think age before youth!”

 

Miss Larner and Messrs. Smith and Jones regarded the speaker.  Kid Curry soothed, “Sorry, I guess we just reacted.  Are you all right, Mrs. Bellows?  Mr. Bellows?”

 

The older woman sat up, her nose pointed away from those to her front.  “A little banged up, I fear, but yes, quite fine.  No thanks to you!”

 

The gentleman to her left stopped in mid-motion of replacing his derby.  “Now, now, dear; no need to exaggerate.  That side took the harder jolt.  We’re fine.”  He turned to those across from him.  “Thank you for inquiring, Mr. Jones.  And I must apologize for my wife.  Lack of sleep while traveling leaves her impatient.  I trust you’re all well and that will not happen again.”

 

Hannibal Heyes shared a cursory look with his partner before turning his attention to the older man.  “Unfortunately, Mr. Bellows, we’ll be lucky if that’s the only one.  I trust you don’t travel by stage often?”

 

Mrs. Bellows jumped in before her husband could answer.  “No, we don’t!  Only the finest carriages and private train cars will do, but my husband felt we must journey as everyone does, so here we are.  Certainly, these common conveyances leave a lot to be desired!”

 

“Now, now, Harrette.  There’s no need to offend anyone.”

 

“Wilkie, stop with the placating, please.  If offense is taken, it’s the other party’s problem, none of mine.  And I do not need anyone apologizing for me.  Hmph!”

 

Wilkie Bellows pursed his lips, shaking his head and offering a silent apology to the others.  The partners nodded; Miss Larner sat stone-faced.

 

An awkward moment passed before Hannibal Heyes spoke, dimples aglow.  “Well, this trip has been quiet thus far.  Perhaps we can put that interruption of the road behind us.”

 

“Yes, let’s start over.”  Bellows offered his hand to Heyes.  “Wilkie Burrows, of the New York Bellows, and my wife, Harrette.  Nice to meet you all, as I suppose you say out these parts.”  He chuckled.  “Please do pardon if my language gets too formal.  I’m afraid it’s what we’re used to.”

 

Heyes and Curry extended their hands in return.  Heyes spoke.  “Joshua Smith, and my partner, Thaddeus Jones, and I believe, Miss Larner.  Nice to make your acquaintance.” 

 

“Good, do let’s start fresh.”  The older man smiled.

 

“Wilkie, really.  That last town was not big enough, and I fear the next one will be the same – all dust and everything needing a coat of paint.  There is no need to mince words with those who qualify as no better than hired help!”

 

Mr. Bellows’ brow knit.  “Harrette, we’ve been through this.”

 

Their fellow passengers could only observe.

 

“Please forgive my wife.  Things have changed a lot for us.  I felt a change of scenery would do us both good.”

 

Heyes nodded.  “The West is certainly a change from New York.  But if Mrs. Bellows misses it too much, might I suggest San Francisco?  I’m sure you’ll find it to your liking.”

 

“Hmph!  How could you possibly know, Mr. Jones?”

 

“Smith.  My partner’s Jones.”

 

Harrette Bellows sighed.  “Really … Smith, Jones – does it really matter?  The Smiths and Jones I have known all colluded on things best left for the constable.  Undesirables, all of them!”

 

“Now, dear …”

 

“Don’t ‘now, dear,’ me, Wilkie.  Certainly there’s some common form of conversation you and these gentlemen …” she looked them over with a sneer, “… can find a meeting ground on while I try to resume my interrupted rest.”

 

Kid Curry offered lightly, “Ma’am, ruts a-plenty along here’ll probably interrupt any rest you try to get.  Perhaps you and Miss Larner …”

 

“Hold your tongue, young man!  Unlike my husband, I do not wish to cavort with the help!”

 

Content was not.  “Now, wait a darn minute!  I ain’t the help!”

 

Harrette looked straight at the young woman.  “I rest my case.”

 

Wilkie once again, “My wife comes from a long line of lawyers.  She has no patience …”

 

Heyes regarded him.  “I see that.”  He paused.  “Mr. Bellows, you said things had changed for you?”

 

The older man sighed. 

 

“Wilkie, this is not for strangers’ ears …”

 

Bellows addressed Heyes, ignoring his wife.  “Yes, Mr. Smith.  We were quite well off, but I’m afraid our fortunes, well … perhaps you might say we took a bath in the recent recession.  I’ve wanted to see the West for a long time, and we had a trip planned, so here we are.  But, our method of travel has been …”

 

Harrette interrupted, looking Heyes square in the eye.  “Yes, Mr. Smith, our method of travel has suffered, immensely.”  She turned to her husband.  “And why is this anyone else’s business?”

 

“I’m just making conversation, dear.” 

 

Kid Curry glanced at Content, who busied herself with the passing scenery.  “Mr. Bellows, what did you do?”

 

“I was in banking, Mr. Jones.  There were bank runs in two of our establishments, and they had to close.  Our third is struggling to hang on.”

 

“Sorry to hear that.”

 

“Yes, it has been rough.”  Bellows paused before proceeding.  “Now, I invited scrutiny, but might I also ask you gentlemen how you make your livings?”

 

“Wilkie, can’t you see these two are drifters, and likely common ones at that.  And the young woman … I won’t even guess.”

 

Miss Larner jumped from her seat at the insinuation, only to be caught by Curry.  “Miss, I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by it.”

 

“Oh, didn’t she?!  She’s been pointing her eyes down her nose at me since we boarded.”

 

“Why, yes, I have, haven’t I?  I wouldn’t call that dress anything anyone respectable would wear.  Perhaps the last town was too small for you as well, dear?  At least where the respectable ladies were concerned?”

 

“Harrette, enough!”

 

“Well, however would she explain that … that … dance hall costume?  Were you asked to leave the last town, dear?”

 

“How dare you!” 

 

Kid wrested Content’s purse from her before it became a missile and as gentlemanly as he could, forced her back in her seat.  “Mrs. Bellows, if you weren’t a lady …”

 

Heyes interjected, “What Mr. Jones is trying to say … What we’ll both say, is you’re out of line, Mrs. Bellows.”

 

Harrette’s voice rose, “You’re the one out of line, Mr. Smith!”

 

The partners regarded Bellows.  He threw up his hands.

 

Curry rolled his eyes.  “Maybe both you ladies settle down and we’ll have a peaceful ride.”

 

~oo00oo~

 

Silence prevailed as all five passengers nodded off to sleep.  At times, Heyes and Bellows busied themselves with a book.

 

Wilkie watched the passing scenery before addressing Heyes, the only one awake.  “Mr. Smith, I hope it wasn’t too forward of me to ask how you and Mr. Jones made your livings.  If you’ll allow the question, I’d be interested in knowing.”

 

Heyes placed his latest Mark Twain acquisition in his lap.  The movement jerked Kid Curry awake.  “No, Mr. Bellows, the question is fine.  Like you, my partner and I were also in banking, and since the recession have found it difficult to make a living.  Right now, you could say we’re messengers for the business interests of a retired army colonel.”

 

“Really?  That sounds exciting.”

 

Curry added, “Kind of boring, really.”

 

Heyes glared at his partner.  “But, it does pay the bills, right, Thaddeus?”

 

Kid sighed, “Yeah.”  He closed his eyes.

 

Heyes again regarded the older man.  “Mr. Bellows, it can be exciting, but like other things, becomes rote.  I’m afraid my partner needs more excitement at times.”

 

Wilkie nodded.  “Yes, like my wife, perhaps.  Except she’s longing for what we can no longer afford.  Life has changed drastically for us.”

 

The dark-haired ex-outlaw leader half-smiled.  “Yes, for us, too.”  With the conversation seemingly ended for the moment, he picked up his book.  Bellows noticed.

 

“Ah, Twain.  Good fellow.  That’s his latest, isn’t it?”

 

Heyes’ eyes met the older man’s.  “You know Mark Twain?”

 

“Yes, yes; well, by acquaintance, anyway.  Met him several times on his travels to New York.  Good man.  Wonderful writer.  Of course, my wife would rather I stick to the Classics, but, Twain is a wonderful read.  There’s serious reading and the more enjoyable.  Ah, that reminds me …”  He pulled something from his pocket.  “Speaking of enjoyable, I picked these up recently.”  He handed Heyes several dime novels, while also lowering his voice.  “Of course, my wife doesn’t approve, but coming West, I just had to read up on the heroes and villains out here.”

 

Heyes perused the pile.  “Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickok, Kid Curry and the Devil’s Hole Gang …”

 

“Huh?”  Kid stirred, opening one eye. 

 

“Nothing, Thad-de-us.  Go back to sleep.”

 

They shared a look.

 

Curry grinned.  “They left out that other fella.”

 

Bellows arched an eyebrow.  “Other fellow?”

 

Heyes jumped in.  “Yes, Hannibal Heyes was the leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang.  At least that’s what I’ve always heard.”  He paused.  “But, of course you know, Mr. Bellows, these are just a writer’s wild imagination.  You shouldn’t take them as gospel.”

 

“Yes, I know.  But the romanticism of it all.  The West, I mean.  I admit to looking at it from a boy’s perspective, perhaps.”

 

Curry spoke.  “Romanticism?  I’ve heard of it but don’t know where it comes from.”

 

“Just someone’s fancy, Thaddeus.”  Heyes turned to Bellows.  “The West is a rough place.  But then, it’s what we know.  I’ve not been East, so can’t really say other than what I’ve heard; that it’s … civilized, maybe … in a way we’re not out here.  Well, other than San Francisco, maybe.  But even that has its rough spots were you wouldn’t want to walk.”

 

“Yes, I know all of that, Mr. Smith.  Perhaps at times the little boy who had to grow up so fast when his father passed early on comes out from time to time, and he had a healthy appetite for flights of fancy.  But that was more the age of mountain men and Indian scouts, westward expansion, than the grown up West of now.”

 

“It’s still growin’, Mr. Bellows.  Plenty of space out here to wander and get lost when you have to.”

 

Heyes imperceptibly jabbed Kid in the ribs.  They shared another look.

 

“Yes, what my partner means is …”

 

“Mr. Smith, it’s uncanny how you know what your partner means.  Despite what you might see, my wife and I are also very much in tune, sometimes finishing each other’s sentences or explaining thoughts of the other.  I’ll guess what your partner means is that when he wants to be alone, or hide out for some reason, the West has plenty of space to do so.”

 

Heyes sat poker-faced.  “Maybe something like that …”

 

“And plenty of towns, big or small, to satisfy one’s need for civilization as well.”

 

“Yes, I’m sure.”

 

Curry grinned.  “That’s right, Mr. Bellows.”

 

Another look.

 

Heyes handed the dime novels back to Bellows, who flipped through them briefly before replacing them in his pocket.  The movement, and another, smaller jolt, disturbed both his wife and Content. 

 

“So, gentlemen, do you think banking is in your future again?  You’re young enough to start over, while I’m not.”

 

Both partners answered, “No.”  Heyes continued, “That’s behind us, Mr. Bellows.  Besides working for the colonel, we consult in trains, mining, and other pursuits.  I’m sure something more lucrative will come along.”

 

Curry rolled his eyes.  This stage ride was long and leading his partner to get long-winded.  He – they – certainly needed a break.  He stretched.  “Guess we’ll be comin’ to a waystation soon.  We could all stretch our legs.”

 

“Indeed!  Mr. Jones, that’s the first thing besides the mention of San Francisco that any of you has said that I can agree with!” Harrette Bellows noted.  “So much for my husband’s boyish and foolish romanticism of this wasteland.  A town both big and respectable enough is what we need.”  She looked disdainfully at Content.  “Of course, Jezebels and floozies can keep to that unrespectable side of town that Mr. Smith recommends not visiting.  Wherever this God-forsaken coach is going, I’m sure we’ll find someplace to fit my expectations.”

 

Content smiled sweetly.  “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.”

_________________
Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything. ~ Wyatt Earp
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