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 The Devil's Due Part 8

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Silverkelpie

Silverkelpie

Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 58
Location : Over the rainbow

The Devil's Due Part 8 Empty
PostSubject: The Devil's Due Part 8   The Devil's Due Part 8 EmptyMon Apr 20, 2015 4:27 am

“What I want to know is how did Scrivener catch up to us so fast?”  Heyes tossed his saddlebags onto his new horse.  The livery was empty at this hour.  It was dinner time, but not for them.  For them, it was time to get out of town.


Jed stopped cinching his gelding and turned to stare at his partner.  “You’re kiddin’, right?”


Instantly irritated and feeling challenged, Heyes smirked.  “Oh, I suppose you know.”


“It don’t take a genius to know.  The sheriff might’ve given us a head start, but he was in Burdon’s pocket.  You heard what William said.”  Jed returned to his preparations without offering further explanation, but he could almost hear Heyes thinking hard.


“So you think the sheriff told Burdon we left on the train.”  Heyes untied his gelding and mounted, considering his partner’s words.  “He probably also told him when we left.  Guess that makes sense.  He was decent enough to give us a head start, but he wouldn’t risk telling Burdon he let us go.  It wouldn’t take a genius to figure out the only train leaving at the time was the northbound, but Scrivener still couldn’t be sure we were here.”


Jed swung into his saddle.  “Ain’t too hard.  Easiest place to hide a marble is in a jar full of marbles.  Cheyenne’s what?  Four, five thousand now.  Trouble is you stick out like a sore thumb.”


“Me?!!” 


“Yeah, you.  Cheyenne might be big, but it’s still a cowtown and you’re wearin’ those dandified duds Soapy outfitted you in.  Your suit probably cost more than most of these folks make in a year.  Don’t you think someone might’ve taken notice of the new, fancy face in town?”


Angry and embarrassed by his lack of forethought, Heyes spurred his horse into a slow lope, careful not to draw any attention to their leaving.  He had to admit, Jed had a point.  He pulled off the black bowler on his head and let it sail to the muddy ground.  Next went the cardboard collar and tie.  When they stopped in another town, he was buying himself some trail clothes.  He glanced at Jed again.  The hard look on his partner’s face aged him by at least a couple of years and Heyes couldn’t resist needling him.  “When did you get so smart, Kid?”


Cold eyes turned to him, shocking him with their intensity.  Very quietly but with an iron undercurrent, Jed said, “I told you not to call me that.  Are we gonna have a problem here, Heyes?”


“I don’t have a problem.  Do you have a problem?”


“Yeah, but I can outrun it.”  Jed sent his horse into a dead run and galloped out of town sending people running out of his way.


Heyes held back.  He’d catch up soon enough.  Jed was leaving a churned-up trail a schoolmarm could follow.  Better not to have folks talking about two men galloping out of town.  Besides, he could use a break from his lifelong friend, too.


OOOOOOOOOO


Ernest Burdon stared out of his office window almost marveling at the way the world could carry on when his life as he knew it had ended.  Children played, women shopped, and men carried out business just as they had before his loved ones were moldering in their graves.  Even the birds swooped and sang as though life was worth living; but he knew it wasn’t.  Black sorrow washed around in his heart and soul, leaving a slick which smothered all hope and joy even the brightest sunlight couldn’t penetrate.  Time seemed different now, slower and more plodding as though the universe had decided to punish him by making the miserable minutes stretch into even more time to experience nothing but an empty, dull ache.


A sharp rap at the door made him snap back to the here and now.  “Come in.”


“A Mr. Scrivener to see you, Sir.”


“Didn’t Crighton get my message?  I told him not to let that idiot in here.”


“He did, but the gentleman is, well...kinda pushy.”


“Tell him to go away!” bellowed Burdon.


“The hell I will,” Scrivener kicked at the door and strode into the room.  “You and me have gotta talk, Burdon.”  The gunman paused and glowered at the clerk.  “Git!”


Determined pebble-eyes stared through glinting spectacles.  “You can’t tell me what to do.  Shall I call for help, Mr. Burdon?  Mr. Williamson has just finished filing...”


Burdon stared at the plump office worker.  “Yeah, like you two could deal with this fella.  I’m almost tempted to get you to try just for the view.”  He gestured towards the door with his head.  “Leave us.”


Scrivener watched the paper shuffler scuttle from the room.  “You told them to keep me out.  I warned you about double crossin’ me.”


“Double crossing?” Burdon exclaimed.  “Two days ago I got a parcel from one of the murderers.  It contained a letter and a gun.  Your gun, I believe?”


 Scrivener’s mouth twisted in anger.  “He sent it to you?  He said he was gonna.”


“Yes.  He said this was a warning not to send anyone else and said something about being survivors.”  Burdon glared at his henchman.  “Well, he sure survived you, didn’t he?  You were full of all kinds of big talk, but when it came to delivering on your word you were as good as diarrhea in a canoe.”


“You were supposed to tell me everythin’.  You didn’t tell me I was dealin’ with professionals.”


“They’re a couple of cheap flim flammers.  What else is there to tell you?”


Scrivener grabbed Burdon by his silk waistcoat and dragged him over the desk until they were nose to nose.  “These ain’t no street corner hustlers; they spotted me, and then I had to deal with the dirtiest, low-down, no-good bucks I ever met.  In all my born days I’ve never been treated like that.  I didn’t think I’d come out of it alive.”


Burdon shook himself free.  “What did they do?”


“I don’t wanna talk about that,” Scrivener’s shameful eyes glanced away quickly from Burdon’s searching gaze.  “All you need to know is that I was locked in somewhere real cramped for almost two days.   I never thought I was gonna get outta there alive.  Nobody could hear me for the heavy traffic headin’ for the lumber yard.  It took me over a week to stop achin’.”


“What happened?”


“Never mind,” the gunman barked, pushing down memories of kicking and shouting from inside the barrel until he was exhausted.  “You got a friend on your side and he’s got an axe to grind, too.  They’ll rue the day they made a fool outta Pike Scrivener.  I’m here to tell you that I’ll git this fella for expenses only.”


Burdon finished pulling down his rumpled clothing.  “Expenses only?”


“Yeah.  I got a need to even the score, but I’ve still gotta eat.”


Burdon nodded.  “Sure, I’ll just hand over the money now. How do I know you you’re not just getting me to finance you as you bum around the country?  What kind of fool do you think I am?”


“An angry one, just like me.  Both of us.  He turned over your family and...,” Scrivener paused, “Ya don’t need to know the details.”


“The hell I don’t!  You want me to believe you’ll carry out this job for expenses but won’t tell what went wrong last time?  What happened and how did he get your gun?”


“He fought like a cheated whore and caught me by surprise.  They look innocent, but they fight real dirty.  I’m mad at myself, but I underestimated them because I took ‘em for no more than boys.  I won’t make the same mistake again.”  


“Tell me what they did!” growled Burdon.


The triggerman started prowling about the room, shaking out his head with the lost pride of the lion usurped by a young upstart.


“I want to know, Scrivener,” Burdon watched the man closely, judging the change from the swaggering aggressor to canny, vengeful, assassin.  Tell me what they did.”


The gunman’s shoulders tightened with unexpressed emotion, but his eyes gleamed with anger.  “One of ‘em nailed me inside a barrel.  I got stuck in a corner where nobody heard me for nearly two days ‘cos of the noise of the wagons goin’ in and out of the lumberyard.  I couldn’t sit or stand, and I was so cramped I had to see the doc by the time I got out.  I couldn’t move.  Can you imagine bein’ forced to crouch for two days, with nuthin’ to think about but the snarky pups who put ya in there?  Now I find out they sent ya my gun to show the world that I’m a complete lunk-head?  I want revenge, Burdon.  I don’t let that kinda treatment lie.  They picked the wrong man to mess with this time.”


Burdon rocked back on his heels and pondered.  “You can never be as angry as me.”


“No, but it cost me my pride; and that’s too high a price for me to ignore.  Who else ya got on your side?  We both got the same itch that needs scratched.  I’m your best chance to get even, and you’re mine.  D’ya think I wanted to tell you or anyone else how humiliated I was, bein’ dragged outta that barrel like a cripple, covered in my own piss?  I reckoned you already knew ‘cos he was sendin’ you my gun.  The folks who let me out saw the state I was in too, but thank the Lord I’ll never have to face them again.  I’m gonna grind those bastards into the dirt.  With a bit of help from you I can do it faster and make sure you hear about it.”  Scrivener fixed Burdon with a long hard stare.  “Are ya in?”


OOOOOOOOOO 


“So, what do you think?”  Hannibal Heyes turned to his partner with a wide, dimpled smile.  His citified clothing had been replaced by a black duster and black canvas pants topped with a white shirt and bolo tie.  On his head was a black beaver hat with a leather silver-studded band and on his hips was a black, silver-conchoed gun belt. 


“You look like an undertaker,” said Jed.


“I like black.  It looks good on me.”


“Lose the coat.  Here, try this on.”  Curry pulled a plain, brown corduroy jacket off a hanger and held it out.


The duster was draped over the back of a chair and the jacket was put on.  Heyes stared at himself in the mirror for a split second before grinning.  “Okay, I get your point.  Maybe all black is a little too much.”


“Ya think?” chuckled Jed.  “The hat’s kind of flashy, too.  What’s with all the silver, Heyes?  You turnin’ magpie on me?”


“The hat stays.  The holster, too.  A man’s got to feel good about how he looks.”


“Now you’re soundin’ like Soapy again.  The whole idea of this little shoppin’ spree is to help you blend in, not stand out.  That hat’s kinda distinctive.”


“The hat stays,” said Heyes, firmly.


“I guess you ain’t the first rube to sport some silver.  Well, least the coat hides all those conchos on your gun belt.  C’mon, let’s pay the man and hit the road.”  Jed signaled the clerk to tally the cost and ignored Heyes’ muttered, “Rube?”


Completing their purchases, the two men left the general store and stepped out onto the quiet street.  Chugwater, Wyoming, wasn’t much to look at.  The town such as it was sat in the center of a valley lined on one side by a length of bluffs and consisted of a handful of businesses.  The chatty sales clerk had told them that the Indians used to drive buffalo off the bluffs.  Rumor had it the hunters made a chugging sound as the beasts hit the ground. That, along with the stream running through the valley, gave the town its unusual name.


“You’d think there’d at least be a saloon or a restaurant,” grumbled Jed as he crossed the street to his horse.


“Ain’t enough people around these parts, I guess.  It’ll be beans for dinner tonight,” said Heyes, toting a sack full of canned goods.  “I’m already missing Mary’s good cooking.”


“Yeah, me too.” Jed untied his gelding and mounted as Heyes stowed the food in his saddlebags.  “So where’re we headed, Heyes?”


“I was thinking maybe we should cut south again.  Throw anyone on our trail off.  We could stop in Laramie and pick up some supplies.  Maybe look for work.”  Heyes mounted and the two men started ambling out of town.


“Work?  Who’s gonna hire us?  All we know is lyin’, cheatin’, and stealin’.”


Heyes smiled.  “I reckon that makes us qualified for lots of things.  Like banking, railroading, or horse-trading.”


OOOOOOOOOO


It had taken nearly three weeks of travel, bribes and dead ends before Scrivener finally hit lucky again.  The saloons were always a good bet.  Filled with expert lollygaggers and very badly paid cowboys, who better to get information as to who had been coming or going anywhere?  Laramie, huh?  It was a fast-growing place.  It was gonna be hard to track them down from here.  It’s easy to get lost in a town like this, where people came and went along with fortunes, identities and morals.  If a name didn’t suit, try another; folks didn’t hire Irish, drop the ‘O’ or use your ma’s latest husband’s name.  Yup, this was a place to get lost.


He stepped off the sidewalk and onto the road, pausing only for an overloaded mule to weave across his path, before jogging over to the other side to avoid a cart.  Two men fitting the description of his targets had been seen arriving here a week ago.  Nobody had seen them leave, but that didn’t mean squat.  They could’ve gotten themselves a pair of cheap horses and gone anywhere.  Maybe it was best to start at the livery stables; there couldn’t be more than…he looked around…maybe, two or three?  Time to check into the hotel and do the rounds…


OOOOOOOOOO


Three livery stables he’d guessed.  The hired gun was now on his eighth and ready to pack up and let some whiskey compete with his spinning head.  Laramie was full of growing businesses and many ran their own stables; some big, some small, but every single one had to be checked.  If this lasted much longer he’d have to bring in some partners.  Scrivener dragged open the barn door and peered into the gloom.  “Hey!  Anyone there?”


A wrinkled man with a particular talent for moving his bristling moustache rapidly from side to side poked his head out from behind a post.  “ Ja?  You vant me?”


“You the boss?”


“Ja.  You got hores?”


“Whores?”  Scrivener shook his head and launched into his cover story.  “Aw it’s your accent.  You mean horse.  Nope.  I’m workin’ for a lawyer, tryin’ to track down an heir.  I hear tell he mighta rode outta here.”


“Ah, hair?”  The stableman tugged at a lock of greasy grey.  “Like dis?  Hartleman, he da barber.  You need Hartleman.  He just around corner.”


“No.  An heir.”  The gunman stared into the uncomprehending stare.  “He’s got money comin’.”


“Who has?  Me?  You buy hores?  I got good one.  You vant?”


“The man I’m lookin’ for,” Scrivener snapped with the impatience of a man who had had a similar conversation one too many times in the same day.  “An heir is a man who gets money.”


“He is?  I thought that was man selling hores?”


“He is family.  That’s why we’re tryin’ to give him money.  That’s why we’re lookin’ for him.”


“Who?”


“The heir…the man who gets the money.  I think he might have tried to buy a horse from you.”  Scrivener’s already thin patience was now shredding.  “Look, I got some money to give a fella.  I think he mighta been through here.”


“Vy didn’t you say so?”  The moustache wiggled from side to side.  “Ve haff man who tried buy hores.  Vos it today?”


“Mighta been.  Fair-headed young fella, about six foot.  Coulda had a darker-haired friend about the same age with him,” Scrivener paused.  “Both look sweet enough to make a man sick to his stomach.  Spotted them?”


The whiskers twitched again.  “Two fellas now?  Only one bought hores.”


Scrivener dropped his face into his hands.  “Who bought the hores…I mean horse?”


“Jeff Schumann.  He bought yesterday.  You vant Jeff Schumann?”


“Is Schumann this blond fella?  Does he wear a tied down gun?”


The stableman brushed his facial hair pensively.  “No, Jeff Schumann has orange hair and vears a leather apron.  He is blacksmith.  You vant blacksmith?”


The trigger man sighed.  “Nope, I’m just lookin’ for the young blond fella.  You sure he ain’t been here?  Curly hair?  Nothin’?  You ain’t seen him?”


The moustache quivered once more.  “No curly fella.  I ask my hand.  He mighta seen a curly fella.”  He stuck his head around the door and bellowed.  “Hey, Slim!  You see young curly fella vanting to buy hores?”


A gruff voice came from the depths of the building.  “No, Boss.  Only Jeff Schumann.”


“You see?  No curly fella.  You vant I should tell him if I see him?  Vot is your name?”


“Nah, don’t worry,” Scrivener turned on his heel and walked away, yelling over his shoulder as he went, “I’ll be movin’ on, he won’t be able to find me…”


The hand peered around the door looking at his employer, who wiggled his moustache.  “He vanted some blond fella.”


“Yeah,” a pair of intense brown eyes watched the gunman walk down the street.  “So I heard.”


“You finished for the day, Slim?”


The hired hand lifted the black hat with the silver conchos and tilted it over one eye.  “Sure am, Mr. Dorfmann.  You don’t have to call me Slim.  I told you my name.”


The stableman waved a dismissive hand.  “Ach, I no got time to learn all the names.  I got enough to remember.  You stay a month or more and then I learn you name.”


“Nah, as I said, it’s just a temporary job.  I’m passing through.”  Hannibal Heyes nodded thanks to his employer and pocketed his day’s pay.  “I probably won’t be here tomorrow, but it’s been nice working for you.”


Heyes walked off, his pace picking up to catch up with the man still heading back down towards Main Street.  This wasn’t good.  Not good at all.  


OOOOOOOOOO

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


Last edited by Silverkelpie on Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:26 am; edited 1 time in total
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Silverkelpie

Silverkelpie

Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 58
Location : Over the rainbow

The Devil's Due Part 8 Empty
PostSubject: Re: The Devil's Due Part 8   The Devil's Due Part 8 EmptyMon Apr 20, 2015 4:28 am

Heyes hurried down the sidewalk, dropping his head to mask his face beneath the brim of his hat in the event of his quarry turning.  He hadn’t meant to adopt a disguise when he’d bought a whole new rig out, but it had worked out pretty well.  Heyes felt older and more confident in clothes he’d chosen for himself.    If Soapy was paying, Soapy wanted to choose, and he picked clothes to make a man less memorable.  For the first time in his life, Heyes was wearing whatever he wanted, and it felt strangely freeing.


The tan hat bobbed among the populace of Laramie as Scrivener made his way through the shoppers, workers and traffic.  Suddenly, the man turned to stare straight back up the street.


Heyes felt his stomach flip, but he kept walking.  He wasn’t the shot Jed was, and clearly wasn’t equipped to deal with a gunfighter.  Had he been seen?The bluff apparently worked.  Heyes supposed that he looked sufficiently different to fool his prey into turning back and crossing the road to the cheap flop house.  Heyes watched him enter and took the opportunity to walk by on the other side, cross over further down and approach cautiously. 


The sign on the wall testified that Mrs. O’Dougherty provided the best quality beds for one dollar a night; fifty cents if you shared.  Heyes smiled secretly to himself at the knowledge that he and Jed were doing better than their hunter.  Soapy was right, crime did pay better than working to make someone else rich.  Time to get back to their two-dollar-a-night hotel and let Jed know that their tail had returned.  He already knew he’d want to get out of here, but agreeing on the direction was another thing entirely.  Jed could be so stubborn you’d think his mother had been bitten by a hungry mule when she’d been carrying him. 


They used to communicate so easily, almost telepathically, but things had been difficult recently and they never seemed to be able to do more than dance around the middle ground.  A knot of foreboding formed in Heyes‘ belly.  He wasn’t looking forward to this conversation at all.  


OOOOOOOOOO
 

He found Jed at his usual table, at the usual time, in the usual place.  In three weeks, they’d become regulars in many of Laramie’s fine establishment, but every night Jed chose to eat at the same small café tucked into an alley off the main street.  It was quiet and accustomed to serving a local clientele.  Hurrying over, Heyes pulled out a chair and flung himself into it.  Jed never looked up.  He was eating.  He’d looked forward dinner all day.  The special today was pot roast; his favorite.


“You ever gonna come up for air?” groused Heyes after several minutes had passed with no acknowledgment of his presence.


Slowly, Curry’s head lifted and his eyes revealed themselves in all their cold, frozen glory.


“Cut it out.  That’s never works on me.”


“What do you want, Heyes?  Can’t you see I’m eatin’ here?”


“Yeah, well, you’d better eat up fast.  That hired muscle Burdon sent looking for us…he’s found us…again.”


“Huh?”  Jed gave Heyes his full attention yet his hand was still working efficiently to bridge the gap between his dinner plate and his mouth.


“Jed, quit fooling around.  We’ve got to go!”  Heyes whisked Jed’s plate away, pushing up out of his chair, and out of arm’s reach.


“Give me that back!”  Leaning to one side, Jed made a swipe for the dish, but he missed by a hair’s breadth.


An older woman, the proprietor, hurried over and seized the plate with her left hand, plucking it from Heyes’ grip, and setting it down before its contents spilled on the woman at the next table.  In her right hand, she held a steaming coffee pot and in her apron pocket was a cup and saucer for Jed’s friend.


“Howdy, Mr. Heyes.  Set yourself right down and I’ll pour you up some coffee.  Made it fresh this morning and I let it boil down to Texas crude oil—just the way you like.”


Heyes bestowed his best smile on her, “Ah, you know me too well, Mags.” 


A giggle floated from her wizened face as she set the cup and saucer on the table in front of him and expertly poured the dark, steaming liquid before turning her attention to her other customers.  Heyes lifted the cup to his nose, inhaled appreciatively, took a big sip, and then set it down.   Jed had used the distraction to retrieve his dinner plate and was watching him expectantly, his left arm wrapped protectively around his meal.  “C’mon, Jed.   We’ve gotta run.”


“I ain’t runnin’, Heyes,” said Jed with all the disdain an eighteen year old could muster.


“You just gonna sit here and wait for Scrivener to come to us?”


“Nope.”


Exasperated, Heyes sat again.  “Then what are you planning to do?”


“I’m gonna go on back to work and finish my shift.”  A forkful of flavorful meat disappeared into the frowning mouth.


“Didn’t you hear what I said?  Burdon’s bird dog is on our scent.  I’ll get the horses and you can grab the gear--meet me at the livery in ten minutes.”


Putting down his utensils with calculated precision, Jed wiped his mouth, sat back, and pinned his partner to his chair with his intenseness.  “I’m…not…runnin’.  Do you hear that?  Do I need to say it again or are you lettin’ me finish my meal?”


“What’s gotten into you?” exploded Heyes.


“Go.”


“What?”


“I said go.  Run, if that’s what you want to do.  I ain’t gonna stop you.  Go ahead.  You’re good at it.  That’s your answer to everything.  Me, I plan to stay here.  I like Laramie, I like my job, I like earning a real livin’, not takin’ one.”


Heyes studied his young friend.  Jed was serious.  Instantly, Heyes’ temper boiled over and his mouth opened.  Before he could stop the words, he hissed, “Do I have to remind you the reason we’re running in the first place is you killed a man?”


“And I had to kill him to save your sorry ass.  I’m kinda re-thinkin’ that about now.”


Raising his voice and capturing the room’s collective attention, Heyes sniped, “I wouldn’t of needed saving, if you’d kept your gun tied down and hadn’t let William take it away from you!”  Noticing the stares, he lowered his voice and added, “Kid Curry.”


Jed jerked as though a blow had been struck then lean forward so only Heyes could hear him.  “You forgettin’, the whole reason we’re in this mess is you chose the wrong man to cheat?”  He saw that his words had wounded deeply, but he couldn’t stop.  All the pain, guilt, and dark thoughts he’d been choking down came bubbling to the surface.  “You chose him, Heyes, and now Jen’s dead.  What d’you make of that?”


Heyes was so hurt that he was at a loss for words.  He watched dumbly as Jed stood up, tossed a few bills on the table, and turned away.   He stood rooted to the spot, watching the jangling bell on the restaurant door swing from side to side as the echo of the slam still resounded around the now silent restaurant.  His hands formed into hard fists of anger.  Dammit!  Would that man ever listen to anyone?  The chink of cutlery on china brought his focus firmly back to the here and now, and to the pale waitress who took a step back in trepidation at being speared by the intense dark eyes.  “Are…you done?”


The muscles in his jaw flexed.  “Yeah, I’m pretty sure I am.  Completely done.”


“I’ll get your bill,” the girl stammered.  “Please…I’ll only be a minute.”  The clash of displaced crockery announced that she had backed too far.  “Ooh, so sorry.  I’ll refill your coffee, Ma’am…”


Heyes sucked in a deep breath but it was far from calming.  The world had gone mad.  Not so long ago they were the closest of friends living happily under the tutelage of Soapy Saunders, playing minor supporting roles in confidence tricks and flirting innocently with anyone worthy of their attentions; but now they were at one another’s throats, living life on the hoof, and had the specter of death hanging over them.  Worse, the words had finally been spoken; they were both to blame for getting involved in Clem’s crackpot scheme, but it was Heyes who had chosen the mark.  If he’d picked anyone else - absolutely anyone – they would not be in the mess they were in now, and Kid Curry would not exist.


He reached into his pocket and dropped a few notes on the table before striding out onto the sidewalk and kicking out at a wooden post in anger, the shock of pain instantly making him regret it.  Yeah, he could feel, but Jen sure couldn’t.  She was moldering in a grave by now and would never feel anything again.  Why the hell did he choose William Burdon, and why did they have to be so ambitious?  Clem had just wanted to best her sister, so something on a much smaller scale would have done.  Anything would have proved their skills; a quick glim-drop, or maybe they could have used Clem for a more refined version of the Beaver Game.  There was so much they could have done without raising the stakes so high.  His arrogance had led them all to disaster.


And Jed was right: he was to blame.  He was the oldest, the most experienced, and the one with the smart mouth.  Not so smart now, huh?  A woman he loved was dead…he paused and leaned back against a wall.  Was it as a sister, a lover, or as a colleague?  It had been complicated, for sure; but what did it matter now?  She was dead, and it was his fault.  He’d destroyed the closest thing to a normal family he’d had with the Hales, and now he’d lost Jed.  He leaned his head hopelessly back against wall, the timbers pushing his hat down over his face.  He didn’t care.  There was comfort in the blackness behind the thick, dark felt.  He’d been alone before, but never as bereft and isolated as this.  He was a many-sided charmer who rejoiced in being recognized for his wit, but only when he felt like it.  Jed was a taciturn creature who hid his thoughts deep for fear of someone prodding at them – but neither of them wanted to be lonely.   


Nobody wanted to be alone.  Nobody wanted regret to gnaw at their soul like a rat a corpse, but somehow that’s just where they’d gotten to.  What the hell was he going to do now?        


He heard the clatter of boots on the wooden sidewalk as they walked by, ignoring him.  They probably thought he was drunk, and that suddenly seemed like a great idea.  Heyes heaved himself off the wall pushed back his hat with his forefinger and his stomach flipped over.  That was Scrivener who’d just walked by. 


Where was he going?  He sure seemed to have somewhere in mind judging by the purposeful strides taking him off towards... where?  Oh shit!  The hotel.  The very place Jed would have headed for when he stomped away from the restaurant.


Had Scrivener spotted him?  Who knew?  Heyes quickly stepped into the doorway to check out the man’s movements, but it was clear that the gunman had only one thought in mind.  He strode on and turned the corner still following the route Jed might have just made.  Dammit!  He’d warned Jed about a shootist being on their trail but he’d stomped off in such a high dudgeon he probably paid no attention to whether or not anyone was following him.


Heyes hurried over to the corner and frowned.  Scrivener had stopped across the road from the hotel and was looking around.  He gave the hotel entrance one more glance and turned, entering the Baptist church opposite. 


A church?  Had he suddenly got religion?  Heyes stepped out of the shadows, frowning in concern and confusion.  Either that man had just found God or he was up to something, but what?  The dark eyes drifted over the white-timbered fascia, the clapboard painted white with stark black edges.  There was nothing particularly unusual about it with the row of large windows down the side, the double doors at the front opening onto the steps, and the three-story bell tower.  He had a choice.  Go and find Jed and warn him not to leave the hotel by the front door.  That risked blowing his new found anonymity, and also a gunfight between Scrivener and the newly-dubbed Kid Curry.  Jed had made it clear he wasn’t prepared to run forever and he was in no mood to be reasoned with.  In any case he didn’t even know if Jed was actually there.  Was it worth risking being seen to warn someone he wasn’t even sure was there?
 

On the other hand, he had the element of surprise with a none-too-gifted henchman and time was of the essence.  Heyes decided that the bird in the hand was the one to follow and carefully pulled back one of the large doors to peer inside.  The large square room had row upon row of wooden pews, all facing a paneled, wooden pulpit at the front.  Nope.  No sign of Scrivener, so he certainly hadn’t come to pray.  He stepped silently inside and listened; hearing the echoing footsteps of booted feet on steps.  The smell of pine resin hit; someone was clearly working at some carpentry.  A quick glance in the corner confirmed his suspicions.  It looked like additional pews were being added quickly to meet rising demand of a growing town.  Heyes padded over and lifted a hammer, testing the weight in a gloved hand.  He stuck it in the back of his waistband.  It never hurt to have another weapon.   


He turned, the sound of footsteps from the bell tower alerting him to movement.  Of course, that high vantage point directly opposite the hotel was just what a marksman needed.  Silently as a cat, he ghosted over to the twisting staircase and started climbing.  A whisper of a creak came, groaning from underfoot as he reached the turn.  He delicately shifted his weight and tried the next step up; that was fine.  Bit by bit he slowly and silently crept forward, ever upwards towards the sounds of the man reaching the top.  He drew his gun in readiness, spreading his arms for balance as he inched further and further up the twisting wooden stairs.  The outer wall at least had a handrail, but the center wall was just plain wood where the bell ropes were boxed in, leaving the steps narrow and confined with just enough room for one person at a time.  The sound of boots scraping on floorboards told Heyes Scrivener was settling down at the top of the belfry. 


The final turn took Heyes right to the top, the daylight suddenly brightening his way to the top.  There he was lying in wait, Pike Scrivener, lying on his belly with his gun facing out of the one of the open expanses of the bell tower which faced each of the four winds. Just a few steps more and he was right behind the man who was completely oblivious to the barrel of the gun approaching the back of his head.


Scrivener screwed up his eyes, testing the range with squinted vision.  His eyes weren’t what they used to be, but he could make out that young gunslinger for sure.  That light hair helped, but he was on the lookout for a tied-down gun to confirm.  There weren’t many who wore a gun like that, but that young upstart had started to look like a gunnie and that had consequences.  


“Don’t move a muscle.  Drop that gun.”


Scrivener froze.  “Yeah?  Which is it?  Drop the gun or don’t move.  A man can’t do both, ya know.”  He sensed a hesitation. 


“Drop the gun.”


“Good choice,” Scrivener murmured.  “I’d have picked that.”  He complied, dropping his gun right in front of him.  “Now what?”


Heyes hesitated, something not lost on the more experienced gunman.  “Hands up.”


“So you’ve backed off from the ‘don’t move’?  I ain’t sure about that one. I’d be stickin’ with that.”


“I don’t need your opinion.  Shut up.”


“Sure,” Scrivener’s hands slowly dropped.  “Whatever you say…”


“Don’t patronize me.  Who where you aiming to shoot?” 


“Nobody.”


“Nobody,” Scrivener insisted.  “Prove different.”


“I’m not the law.  “I’m not in the business of proving anything.”


“No, ya ain’t.  I know that voice.  We’ve met before.  So what’ve ya got planned this time?”  Scrivener sensed another hesitation. 


“What’ll it take?  To walk away and leave us alone?”


Scrivener shook his head and gave an unsavory smile.  “I don’t know what you mean.”


“Money.  How much?” Heyes barked.  “We want to leave here and get on with our lives.”


“Well, you’re talking my language,” Scrivener replied.  “How much ya got?”


“We know people who can make this go away.  How much are you being paid?”


“Ten thousand,” he lied, without missing a beat.


“That’s just plain crazy.  Nobody’s got that kind of money.


“Burdon has, but that’s why you were working a game on him, wasn’t it?  You want me off your tail, it’ll cost.”


Heyes shook his head.  “Nope.  You’ll bleed us dry for the rest of our lives.  Stand up, and do it slowly.  You need to be dealt with.”


Scrivener’s voice tightened.  “Dealt with?  What do you mean?”


The lengthy pause only caused fraught nerves to ring with tension.


“I’m taking you to the law.  You can explain to him why you’re tracking us for money.  We’re in the clear for William Burdon’s death and you know it,” growled Heyes.


“What about the little matter of the flim flam?” Scrivener retorted.  “You ain’t gonna want to go to the law any more that I do.”


“Nope, but enough’s enough.  We end this fool game right now.” 


“How are you plannin’ on gettin’ me there?  I know you won’t shoot.”  Scrivener heard the voice behind him turn to a snarl. 


“Are you a betting man?  Stand up or I shoot through the leg so you’re here for them to find. I’ll bring them back for you.”


“But…”


“Stand up!” 


The gunman hesitated, but dropped his hands to the floor to help push himself to his knees.  “Wait, the gun…push it away.”  Scrivener paused and reached out a hand.  Suddenly his fist stretched into a grasp and he made for the colt.  Heyes kicked out, but it was too late, his opponent had already swung around and kicked out at him.  The boot connected, battering Heyes’ gun from his hand, just as the other foot headed for Heyes’ knee.  Scrivener landed a blow on Heyes’ thigh as he jumped back; pushing himself against the wall as he scrambled for his weapon, but Heyes’ pistol slithered down the twisting staircase, out of his grasp.   He kicked out in desperation, pushing Scrivener away from his gun and jumped to grab it for himself, but it slid over to the well in the center, and dropped down among the bell ropes, lost to both men.


“Got ya now, ya bastard!” bellowed Scrivener as he hurled himself towards the slimmer, weaker, younger man.  Heyes threw out his arms to grab hold of the side jamb as he was pounded in the chest, “I’ll have ya outta here and smashed on the ground afore I’m done with ya.”  Heyes felt his foot slip, stepping out into fresh air before he braced himself against the wall and dragged himself inside.  Scrivener wasn’t giving up.  He barreled into Heyes again pushing him towards another opening in the tower, but Heyes managed to slide down the first few steps and grab the handrail to give him enough purchase to kick Scrivener back against the wall with a whump.  The respite was short; the wiry man made another plunge towards his opponent and grabbed him around the chest.  Heyes felt himself dragged, bit by bit by superior strength, over to the opening over the street below. 


One hand desperately grabbed at the wall, but there was nothing to hold onto.  Inspiration hit as he remembered the hammer thrust into the waistband of his pants.  He reached around with his left hand and grabbed at it.  He smashed it straight into Scrivener’s ribcage.


The hired gun gave a howl of pain and staggered to the side; straight through the opening and crashed down into the street below.


There was a scream, then a shout; which quickly turned into a clamor of voices and yelling.  One quick look at the crumpled body told Heyes he was in trouble.  People were pointing up at the tower and he could hear the doors to the church opening, but he was in a belfry with men already running into the church towards him.  What was he to do?


It didn’t take long before footsteps clattered up the steps to reach the top.  Two men stepped up to the top and looked around before one shouted down to the crowd on the ground.  “There ain’t nobody here.  Ya must’ve seen wrong, Martha.”


A female voice drifted up.  “I coulda sworn I saw someone else, honest I did.”


“I guess you were wrong.  Looks like he jumped.  Is he…?”


“Yeah,” called another.  “Ain’t no point in callin’ the doc.  He fell head first…”  There was a pause.  “Nope, nobody here.  Not even climbed out on the roof.  I guess that fella done hisself in.”    


“Get somethin’ to cover him.  There are women and little ‘uns about, they shouldn’t see that.  I’ll be right back down.”


The footsteps receded back down the stairs, not a moment too soon either for the man hanging from the bell-rope.  Heyes quickly shinned his way up and climbed out of the well in the center of the tower.  He sat for a moment shivering in shock and fear.  He had just killed a man; in self-defense, sure – but Scrivener was just as dead.  He raised his gloved hands and held them in front of his face, realizing that they were trembling.  And the world suddenly closed in.  He was a child again and the world was filled with whirling riders, screams and flames.  His breath came in sharp ragged pants which made his head spin and robbed his muscles of strength.  Stop this!  He hadn’t had one of these attacks for years and he sure didn’t have time for one now.  He had to get out of here. 


He gingerly climbed to his feet, listening all the while for anyone returning to the scene of the crime.  The legs were weak, quivering with the realization at yet another horror.  When would it end?  He reached under the bell and untied the bandana holding his hat over the clapper, to prevent the bell sounding the alarm at his acrobatic concealment.  The black, felt mass lay in a crumpled, wrinkled mess, echoing his increasingly damaged soul.  Damn, that had been new.  All his life he’d been hard on hats; sitting on them, getting them mysteriously attacked by animals, losing them; but this was a new one.  He pinched and punched it into some sort of shape and thrust it on his head, glad that he could at least reuse the hatband.  He paused wondering at his ability to care about such things when another man was lying dead in the dirt, before he realized that his mind was probably actively seeking a distraction to keep him functioning.  He sighed heavily and stopped to listen intently at the top of the stairs.  Nothing, so it was probably safe to make an exit.


He crept down, retrieving his gun on the way, and quickly spotted a door at the back of the hall.  It was locked; but that wasn’t too much of an obstacle for a man with a lock pick.  It rattled, and missed the tumblers more than usual, but eventually it creaked open and he stepped out into the caustic sunshine, blinking at the world through eyes with new shadows in their darkness. 


Where now?  Where could he run?  There was no running from the fact that he was now responsible for two deaths.  Sure, Scrivener was self-defense, but not Jen.  Jen’s blood was on his hand.  Numbly, he looked down at his clenched fists and made a decision.  Jed wasn’t coming with him this time.  He was on his own.  It’d be easier that way.  There’d be no more worrying about what was best for the two of them.  Jed was grown, he’d be fine. 


Heyes had made his choices and, dammit, he’d live with them.  He hurried down the side alley and disappeared into the darkness.


OOOOOOOOOO


The bat wing doors to the saloon flew open and Jed looked up from the table he was wiping to hear a raggedy man shouting, “Hey, some poor fool’s gone and flung himself out of the church bell tower.”  His heart and hand clenched at the same time as he whispered, “Heyes.”  He’d known he’d hurt him terribly, but…no, he wouldn’t do that.  Flinging down the grimy cloth, he ran out into the street.  People were pouring out of all the buildings and hurrying to see the spectacle.  Jed saw a circle of onlookers standing in front of the church staring intently at an inert form at their feet.  All he could see was a pair of inert black boots.


Heyes wouldn’t, he couldn’t…thought Jed, frantically pushing through the crowd until the body was revealed.  He heaved a sigh of relief.  He didn’t recognize the unlucky devil.  But he did recognize the horse and rider emerging from the alley up the street.  Shouting, Jed pointed in the opposite direction.  “Hey, who’s that?”  The eyes of the spectators swung away from the dead man and followed his outstretched, pointed finger, but Jed kept his eyes on the man in the silver-studded hat.  Heyes looked directly at him and nodded, then poked his horse a good one, and took off at a lope, never looking back.

_________________
Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb
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The Devil's Due Part 8
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