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 Renegade

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PostSubject: Renegade   Fri May 01, 2015 5:50 am

So, it's time to get those brains buzzing and digits dancing over those keyboards to give us your take on the Rider's choice of the challenge topic for May (is it that time already?) 


Writing Computer smash

shoot  Renegade  cowboy 1


Don't forget to comment on last month's stories before you start as comments are the only thanks our writers get and late babies need as much love as new ones.
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Keays

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PostSubject: Re: Renegade   Tue May 12, 2015 9:34 pm

It was cold and damp as usual for this god-forsaken State. No new snow had fallen but the snow that was there was insisting on hanging around, turning the ground into a slushy mushy mess. The cold breeze that kept up a constant fluttering all around didn't help to make the scene any more pleasant or endurable. Indeed the only good thing about this situation is that Harris' tracks were plain as day to those who knew how to read them and Wheat and Kyle not only knew how, but knew they were catching up.

By early afternoon they spotted the speck in the distance moving away from them at a steady pace and Wheat took his spy glass out from his saddlebag and zeroed in on the gradually diminishing object. They had thought they had caught up with him before only to find that it was some deer or stray cow and they didn't want to get their hopes or their adrenaline up before they knew for sure. The land out here was so flat they could see for miles and it was an easy enough thing to mistake one moving object for another.

Sure enough, as Wheat focused in on that speck in the distance, this time it developed into a man and horse, who by the casual way they were moving, had not realized yet that they were being scrutinized.

Wheat lowered the spy glass and smiled. “Yup, it's him.”

Kyle grinned while he continued to chew and then he spit out some of the brown juice. “So what's the plan Wheat? We can't exactly sneak up on 'em.”

“You got that right,” Wheat agreed. “Why don't we just hang back here a bit—wait and see what he does. If he don't spot us, maybe we can come up on 'em when he's makin' camp.”

Kyle grinned even wider. “Yeah.”

Again, things do not always go as planned and twenty minutes into the slow motion chase the two pursuers noticed the speck make a slight change in direction and then turning back onto it's original course, started to move off again. Since the speck was moving directly away from our boys and since the ground was mud and snow rather than dirt it took a moment for them to realize that their quarry had obviously spotted them and was on the run.

Once that fact had been ascertained all need for discretion was gone and they roused their horses from the casual jog and booted them up into a gallop. They knew they were on fresher horses and probably better ones as well so it didn't surprise them to find the distance between pursued and pursuers quickly diminishing. Their blood was up and the excitement of the chase was taking hold to the point where even Wheat wasn't feeling the cold anymore and they encouraged their horses to run faster and the lead that Harris had became shorter.

Then Harris turned abruptly to the right and headed at full speed towards a copse of trees such as they were in this bleak landscape, obviously hoping for some cover. This instantly put a little more pressure on our heroes to pick up the pace if they could; if Harris made it to cover then he could turn and start taking pot shots at them and there they would be stuck out in the open.

They started to push their horses with earnest now but even then they knew that Harris was going to make the trees before they could catch up with him. They kept at him in a straight line until he did indeed plunge in amongst the trees and though they could see him inside the sparse branches, he still had the advantage for cover. They saw him dismount and get ready to make his stand so the partners instantly split up in order to come at him from either side rather than straight on.

Wheat had an eery feeling of deja vue only from the opposite side of things as he remembered Morrison and his posse attempting to trap Wheat in this very same type of manoeuvre. Hopefully he and Kyle would be more successful than that posse had been. Then his musings were cut short as Harris' rifle barked from the cover and Wheat experienced that knot of anticipation of a bullet hitting home. But Harris missed his shot and Wheat's horse kept going, and then they were into the trees themselves.

Harris turned to attempt to bring Kyle down on his other side but he was too late as that horse also jumped over some dead-fall and then disappeared into the jumble. Harris cursed and quickly made a run for his horse. He could hear them coming, one on either side and if he'd been smart he would have stayed where he was because at least there he would be able to see them and he had some cover. But as we all know Harris was not all that smart. He panicked.

Wheat had drawn his revolver right after he had entered the woods, not wanting to bother with his rifle in such close quarters so he was ready as soon as he had a target. It didn't take much of weaving in and out between the sparsely spaced tress before he caught sight of movement just up ahead of him and he levelled his revolver and fired. He didn't hit his mark as a tree branch got in the way, but he did succeed at spooking the horse and that animal lunged backwards and tried to get away from the brutal human who was holding on to him.

Harris became so preoccupied with trying to hang on to his horse and level his rifle to get a shot off at Wheat that he totally forgot about Kyle coming up on him from the other side. Kyle didn't bother with any of his firearms as the quarters they were in were too close now and he didn't want to take the chance of hitting Wheat by accident. He aimed his horse straight at Harris and just as the fugitive heard him coming and spun to face him, Kyle's horse hit him full force with its chest and sent the man sprawling into the cold wet mud.

Harris had the wind knocked out of him but he still tried to scramble to his feet and having dropped his rifle, went for his handgun instead. Kyle spun his horse around again and basically ran the fugitive over and probably would have done some damage if it wasn't for the mud cushioning him. Harris tried to push himself up and out of the mire, coughing muck out of his mouth but by that time Wheat had jumped down from his horse, and running over to the barely recognizable Harris, kicked him in the ribs and sent him rolling onto his back.

Harris started to curse as best he could while still spiting out mud, but before he had a chance to recover Wheat was standing over him with a cocked revolver staring him in the face. Harris stared back up at him and snarled.

“What the hell you doin'!?” he garbled up at the previous leader of the Devil's Hole gang. “What are you doin' comin' after me!?”

Wheat grabbed him by his shirt front and hauled him to his feet. “Shuddup!” Wheat was disgusted with all the carnage this man had left in his wake and was in no mood to be genial. “Tie 'em up Kyle!”

Kyle grinned with malicious pleasure; finally seeing this brutal bastard at a disadvantage was making his day. “You betcha'!” And he hurried forward with the leather straps they'd had on them just for this eventuality and was quick to get Harris' hands pulled behind his back and tied together.

Throughout all of this Harris was cursing and snarling but still not taking his eyes off the gun in Wheat's hand. He was a bully and a half when he had the advantage but he still preferred to do his fightin' from behind and certainly not when he was outnumbered.

“You fxxking bastards!” he continued to curse. “What are ya' doin'!? I thought we were all on the same side here!”

“I ain't never gonna be on the same side as a man who'll treat a lady the way you do!” Wheat snarled at him.

Kyle snickered as he gathered up the three horses and got them secured. “Yeah. You got some s'plainen' ta' do.”

Harris glanced from one then back to the other again. The sneer wasn't leaving his muddy face. “What are you talkin' about? What's that to you?”

“Well, ya' see....” Wheat explained, like he was talking to a child. “we got some friends up Colorado way who really wanna have a word with you.”

“Colorado?” Harris repeated, but even through the mud they could see the blood leave his face. “I ain't been near Colorado.”

“Well whether you have or you ain't is no mind to me,” Wheat continued. “but there are still certain people who want to have a word with you about some things that happened at that prison in Wyoming. Yeah,” Wheat smiled. “they're real interested in havin' a few words with you.”

Harris shifted a little nervously on the fallen tree they had him perched on. “You don't know what yer talkin' about. You got nothin' on me!”

“Hell, that don't matter none,” Wheat told him. “We ain't the law—we don't need nothin'. All we need is you, and that's what we got, ain't it.”

Harris snarled again and made a lounge for his captor. Wheat got his hands up to block him and Kyle made a grab at his arms before he'd even taken one step.

“You bastards!” Harris yelled at them again as he was unceremoniously shoved back down onto his perch. “What the hell game are you playin'!? Heyes put you up ta' this didn't he!? That fxxkin' sanctimonious bastard! I shoulda kilt him when I had the chance....”

Harris didn't even see the blow that thudded into the side of his head, momentarily stunning him.

“Who you callin' a bastard—you bastard!!” Wheat had him by the front of his shirt, shaking him in his anger. “We seen what you done to those ladies! And we heard about worse...so don't you go callin' Heyes a bastard! And for yer information you never had no chance ta' kill 'im—you don't have the brains ta' get the better of Hannibal Heyes!”

“Yeah!?” Harris challenged as soon as his head stopped spinning. “I tell ya' I had that son-of-bitch in my sights more'n once! I ever get him there again—I'LL KILL 'EM!”

“Big talk for someone in your situation,” Wheat growled at him. “If I was you I'd start given' some serious thought to answerin' whatever question are put to ya' if you have any desire to be seein' daylight again. You just think on that!”

“I ain't tellin' you nothin'!” Harris snarled back and then spit at his captor.

Wheat stepped out of the way but then landed another blow to the other side of his head, nearly knocking him to the ground. Kyle was starting to get a little worried that his partner was becoming too wrapped up in his role.

“Hey Wheat....” Kyle started, a little hesitantly. “don't ya' think you should stop hittin' 'em so's he can answer the questions?”

Wheat snarled over at his partner but then snorted and backed off. Kyle was right; Wheat had been gettin' ready to beat the living daylights outa this snake and then he'd be no good for nothin'. Harris smirked, thinking that these two worthless outlaws were no match for him. This was going to turn into a waiting game; sooner or later they'd slip up and he would slit their throats. Everything was going to be alright.....
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PostSubject: Re: Renegade   Thu May 21, 2015 9:43 pm

The continuation of my story:

Heyes signaled to his men to be ready to draw.  “Who is it?”


“It’s Samuel Denton, Sir.  I’m the owner of the hotel.  May I speak to Mr. Beecher?”


Wheat shrugged and gesticulated in confusion.  “I said I was Kyle Beecher down in the street,” he whispered, “but you said you were John Beecher when you were checkin’ in.”


Heyes glowered at Wheat.  “I gave the hotel a different name for you.  Can’t you keep your alias straight for ten minutes?”  He raised his voice to respond to the man at the door.  “That’s a common name.  Which Beecher are you looking for?”


“John Beecher, the man who just checked his team in at the front desk.  The desk clerk said you had gone to this room when you got back from the street.”


Heyes bit into his lip.  “Yes, that’s me.  How can I help?”


“Open the door and I’ll tell you.”


Heyes breathed in heavily through him nose and slipped a cautious hand down to the lock.  As the door opened the manager was greeted by an amiable smile which gave no indication of the lather and flap of the previous few seconds.  “How can I help?”


The man who stood in the hallway glanced around conspiratorially.  He widened his bulbous, pale-blue eyes and smiled at the outlaw leader.  “Mr. Beecher?  Can I come in?”

   
Heyes shook his head.  “Sorry, but we’ve been on the road for days.  We were about to turn in when the shots disturbed us.  We’re definitely turning in now.”


A not-quite-shiny shoe was thrust between the open door and the jamb.  “I may have some information to your advantage.”


Heyes’ brows rose.  “And I have some for you.  I’m going to close that door whether your foot is in the way or not.” 


“I understand you’re tired, sir, but I only need a minute of your time.”


“For what?”


“We have been alerted that the posse is just returning and that the men are tired and hungry.  They have asked the hotel to arrange a meal for them.”  The manager paused.  “That could cause you a problem.”


“Me?”  Heyes arched his brows.  “I don’t see why?”

 
“The sheriff will be back soon,” the prominent eyes bulged in emphasis, “he’ll want to know all about the shooting and there’ll be an angry pa on your tail.  When old man Beecher hears that his son was shot by your man he’s likely to go renegade.”


There was a low grumble from the room which provoked a grimace from the dark-eyed man at the door.  “So you want us to go?”


A smile spread over the hotel owner’s face moon-shaped face.  “Far from it, Mr. Beecher.  I want to hide you.”


“And why would you want to do that?”


A pair of shiny boots shuffled on the floorboards as the owner mused on an answer.  “Because I can tell him and anyone else who asks that you left town after the shooting.”

       
A muscle tightening in Heyes’ jaw was the only indication of a reaction.  “And why would you do that?”


“Because you work for the railroad, something to do with surveying, I believe?”  The owner turned at the sound of the little clerk bearing a heavy tray onto the landing.  “You have an injured friend, it’s late and you’ve had a long hard day.  You want rest, privacy, and nourishment.  Hospitality is my game and I know how to look after a guest’s every need.  The last thing you need is to strike out in the dead of night to find a camp site.  I can give you everything you need.”


Heyes right hand casually raised his gun behind the door.  “You haven’t answered my question.  Why?”


“Well, mainly to stop by hotel from being smashed to pieces as the battleground, but mostly because you work for the railroad.  A hotel owner needs to know if you are surveying for another line.  Information like that is gold dust for me, if you catch my drift.  The name’s Denton.  Samuel Denton,” he gestured back to the clerk struggling under the weight of the tray, “and I took the liberty of plating you up a few sandwiches and sending up a bottle.  “Can Higgins and I come in?”


Heyes scanned the two men, weighing up the risk.  Those two, against three hardened outlaws?  He nodded curtly and stepped back, curling around the door to re-holster his weapon.  “Sure.”


Denton and Higgins paraded in, the owner making a grand show of removing the cloche.  “A choice of roast beef, ham, or chicken.  I have included a bottle of bourbon.”  He turned to the clerk.  “You may go.  Tell anyone who asks that they left town after the shooting.”


“Very good, Sir.”


They all watched the door close behind the retreating desk clerk before the manager spoke again.  “He’s a good man, that Higgins.  Loyal, discrete, and smart.”


“Yeah,” Wheat prodded at a bread roll to investigate the filling.  “Me too.”


Heyes fought the impulse to roll his eyes.  “You want information on any planned works?”


“Sure do.  Wait, Higgins.”  The manager halted his man as he was about to leave the room.  “In exchange for protection against Old Man Beecher.”


Heyes strode over to the window and peered out at the arriving riders gathering in the street below.  Some of the posse were home, others still had to reach outlying farms and homesteads and required rest and succor before they finished their journey.  Voices were rising, no words were audible, just the music of the clamor.  One voice rose above the others, an angry, heated, impassioned cry of pain which spiraled above the others.  Denton followed over to the window.  “Yeah, sounds like Beecher just heard about his son.  Very angry man at the best of times.  I’m kinda worried how this’ll take him.”  He turned bright blue eyes on the outlaw leader.  “What’s it to be?  I can tell them all you left town and you’ve got a snug little hideout here.  All I want is to know where the railroad is goin’ to put its next line.  How about it?”


The fake smile dimpled Heyes’ cheeks.  He knew when to deal.  “I’d be dumb not to take a deal like that, Mr. Denton.  It makes no difference to me where you build a hotel.”  He thrust out a hand to seal the deal.  “Tomorrow?  Not early, I want to be sure that I’m not seen.  Have your man get my horse ready for noon and I’ll share what I know.  Have the horse out the back of the hotel.  We don’t want anyone to see me and know you were lying, do we?”


Last edited by Moonpie on Tue Jun 02, 2015 8:47 pm; edited 6 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Renegade   Sun May 24, 2015 12:23 am

“Heyes!  What’s taking you so long?” shouted Jim Plummer.  He could see his newest recruit’s back bent over as the kid worked on trimming the hooves of one of the mustangs Jim had brought in for remounts.  The day was getting away from the outlaw leader and he wanted to finish breaking these nags to saddle.  They’d need them for the next job; a job that would require a quick getaway in the middle of nowhere.  Fresh mounts were imperative.




The dark-haired young man dropped the last foot of the cranky mare he’d just trimmed.  It was back-breaking work even for a young man of twenty and she hadn’t made it any easier.  She’d rested most of her weight on him every time he held a hoof off the ground.  “I’m done except for the stallion.” 




“Forget that renegade.  He’ll kill you soon as let you near his feet,” said Jim, coming over to get the mare.  He cast a jaundiced eye at the flashy bay left in the holding pen.  The horse tossed his head and snorted his defiance.  He sure was a looker, thought Jim, but he’ll take to hell and back to break.  It was smarter to stick to the mares.  A rogue stallion was nothing but trouble.  




Heyes rubbed his lower back as he wiped his other forearm across his sweaty brow.  The mare flattened her ears and nipped the air next to him.  With what little strength he had left, and aggravated beyond patience, he slapped her neck.  Startled, she pulled back on her lead and sat down on her hind end but the rope held.  Heyes sighed and untied her, handing the lead to his new boss and watching as Plummer led her away.




Heyes had only joined the gang a little over a month ago and he already rued his decision to trust Jim Plummer.  The man was uncommonly greedy and he treated him like dirt.  It had taken Heyes’ silver tongue a lot of wagging to convince Jim to take on an untried nobody, but Heyes had been desperate.  He hadn’t known that he’d be little more than slave labor.  It was hard on Heyes to be at the bottom of the hierarchy; he saw himself as a leader.  At least he used to lead Jed around.




He and his younger cousin had split up six months ago and he hadn’t fared well on his own.  It hadn’t taken him long at all to understand that he needed the safety of a gang to survive.  Finding one that would take him on took a little longer.  He couldn’t help but wonder how Jed was doing.  He missed him.  It had been a mutual decision to split--another decision he now regretted.  It was getting to be a habit with him.




Walking over to a rusty bucket sitting on a tree stump, he picked up a tin cup and dipped it into lukewarm water.  Drinking deeply, he watched the other men gathering around the corral.  Shaky Sam was in the pen with a sorrel mare.  The horse had been snubbed to a post they’d sunk in the ground yesterday for that purpose.  Pete held a blindfold wrapped tightly around her head and Grampy was trying to help Sam mount the skittish beast.  Finally, his leg swung over and his weight settled into the saddle as Pete stood by in case the horse went berserk and he had to release her head.  The frightened mare lifted her head as high as she could while her back hollowed from the unfamiliar weight.  Too terrified to move, she stood and shook uncontrollably.  Sam pressed his leg against her, gradually increasing the pressure until the mare was uncomfortable and swung her hips away from his leg.  He did the same thing with his other leg, repeating the motion over and over until she swayed obediently from side to side.  




“Hey Sam, you got a dud.  Spur that cow and let’s see what’s she’s got,” yelled Pete, releasing the mare’s head, pulling off the blindfold, and shooing her away.  She shied from him and began to buck.  Sam rode her through a couple of hardy bucks then a few half-hearted hops until she settled down and he could put her to work.  Twenty minutes later, she was behaving like a veteran saddle horse.  




Heyes had drifted over to the corral mesmerized by the process.  He’d ridden all his life, but he’d never broken a horse before.  He was sure he could do it and he didn’t see any reason to be brutal about it.  An angry squeal drew his attention and he turned to see the bay pawing at the gate of the pen.  The stallion was furious at being separated from his harem.  




Sam led the now docile mare from the corral as Jim led in the sorrel mare and handed her over to Pete.  That figured.  Plummer never did his own dirty work as far as Heyes could tell.  He watched them begin to work the mare but soon grew bored and wandered back over to the pen that held the stallion.  The horse had seen him coming and watched him warily.  Bending to pick up his tools, Heyes didn’t see the curious animal creeping nearer.  When he stood up, he spooked the horse sending it galloping around the pen tossing its head.  




“That jughead had better enjoy his last meal,” said Sam on his way back to the corral.  He was carrying his saddle.




Heyes’ eyes widened, “What d’you mean?”




Sam paused and dropped the back end of the saddle to rest on his boots.  “Plummer told Grampy to slaughter him.  We’re making jerky outta him.”




“Why?”  Heyes was shocked.  The stallion was by far the best of the herd.  He looked back at the crested neck and thick muscling of the glossy beast.  Brown eyes as dark as his own watched him with a guardedness he mirrored.  “You can’t do that!”




“I do what I’m told,” said Sam, lifting the heavy tack and walking away.




Heyes ran after him, catching him as he neared the corral.  He reached out and spun Sam around causing him to drop the saddle.  “Heyes, what the…”




“You can’t do it.  I won’t let you!” yelled Heyes.  Pete, Grampy, and Plummer turned in their direction, listening intently.




“Sonny, how’re you gonna stop us?” said Sam, derisively.




Heyes swung at him, but Pete caught him from behind, pinning his arms at his side.  “Easy now, Heyes.  You don’t want to git yerself kilt now, do ya?”




“What’s the hell’s going on here?” snarled Plummer.  He had no time for this petty squabbling.  




Sam chuckled.   “Seems Heyes is taking exception to us butchering that stallion.”




“He’s the best horse you have.  He’s better than all those mares combined!” shouted Heyes.




“That might be, but he’s also a renegade.  He’s spent his whole life fighting for his freedom.  He ain’t giving it up easy,” said Plummer.  “We don’t have time for him and we can use the meat.”




“No!”  Heyes shook himself loose from Pete and got up in Plummer’s face.  “I’ll buy him from you.  You can have my cut of the next job.”




Jim Plummer had been scowling at his youngest man, but he mulled the offer and then smiled like a satisfied crocodile.  He knew a sucker when he saw one.  “All right, Heyes.  He’s yours.  Now that you’ve got him, good luck riding him.”




“I ain’t planning on riding him.”  Heyes strode over to the holding pen and swung the heavy gate open.  




“What the heck is he doin’?” said Pete.




Sam smiled.  “Looks to me like he’s setting that stud loose.”  He watched the stallion inch closer to the gate, keeping one eye on Heyes.  As the bay’s shoulders passed through the gate, he took one last look as his band of mares and plunged into a gallop, taking off up the trail leading away from the camp.  The men could hear him crashing through the brush and shrubs that narrowed the path.  




“I’m holding you to our agreement, Heyes,” said Plummer, walking away with Grampy and Sam.




“Why’d you do it, Heyes?” asked Pete, bewildered by the boy’s actions. 
 


Heyes didn’t say answer.  He left Pete standing there and walked over to finish picking up his tools.  He knew why he’d done it; he’d looked in that animal’s eyes and seen a kindred spirit.  That horse was every bit the outlaw he was.

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“The purpose of life isn’t to arrive at death in perfect condition but to slide into it sideways with your hair mussed, your clothes disheveled, a martini in one hand and chocolate in the other, shouting ‘Whooeee, what a ride!’”--Hunter S. Thompson


Last edited by InsideOutlaw on Tue Jun 02, 2015 9:51 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Renegade   Mon May 25, 2015 10:40 am

Hannibal Heyes cautiously approached the prone figure.  

It was a fine day, with blue sky above.  Heyes had been enjoying the scenery, when a riderless horse had galloped toward him, startling his.  As it passed, Heyes had gone after it.  He had soon caught it and he then headed in the direction it had come from.

Now, he saw a brown object lying on the ground ahead of him.  He dismounted and approached, keeping a watch.  He could sense nothing dangerous, but it was as well to be sure.  As he got closer, he saw that the brown object was a sheepskin coat, wrapped round a body.  He approached cautiously and prodded the figure with his foot, “Hey, hey you!”  There was no response, not even a groan.  He pushed harder, rolling the figure onto its back.  This revealed a young man, with blond, curling hair, thin faced, pale and with dark circles under his eyes.  Heyes was shocked by his appearance.  Holstering his gun, he bent down and examined the boy.  The skin felt cold and waxy, he was unconscious and breathing shallowly.  He found a deep gash in the back of the boy’s head, bleeding heavily.  Heyes figured his condition was so poor, there was little he could do for him but he tied the kid’s bandanna around his head and fastened his horse to a tree.  Heyes then rode off.

Even as he did so, guilt gnawed at him.  He was a stranger, sure, but the kid was dying, would he, Heyes, want to be left to die alone?  Who would bury the kid?  Heyes felt someone should, though he wasn’t sure why, it just seemed right.  Then again, if he got help, the kid might survive.  And what if he could survive, if he got help?  On the other hand, Heyes sure didn’t want the boy to know his name and anyway, renegades didn’t help folks out, did they?  Then again…he was so young, so sick.….Heyes sighed, wheeled his horse round and returned.

The kid’s condition hadn’t improved, but it hadn’t got worse.  Heyes wiped at the wound to remove most of the blood and then bandaged the kid’s head.  He made a comfortable spot and moved the kid, wrapping him in their blankets.  The boy was much too light and thin.  And he was still deathly cold and even paler.  Heyes didn’t really expect him to make it, but, for now he was still breathing.  Heyes made himself comfortable and sat down by the fire to wait.

The day slipped by into evening and the only change in the kid was that he moved slightly, every now and then, and would occasionally mumble incoherently.  Heyes stayed up all night, drinking coffee and listening.  Once in a while he would check on the kid.  The bleeding had stopped, but he remained cold to the touch and unconscious.  By a miracle, he remained alive.  Heyes kept the fire burning, if the boy made it to morning, maybe he’d live.

By the time, dawn broke, grey and overcast, Heyes was chilled and cramped.  He got up, stretched and walked around for a bit, then checked the boy.  Incredibly, the young man was warmer, his skin colour had improved and he was breathing easily, almost as though asleep.  Heyes made coffee and settled down.  The day wore on and brightened.  The sun came out.  Heyes began to relax.  It had been a while and the sun was so warm, Heyes began to feel sleepy……………

He woke with a start.  Something had spooked him, just a little, a sense of danger.  Looking around, he was startled to see a pair of bright blue but confused eyes staring at him.  Heyes smiled reassuringly.  

“Hello there.  How you feelin?”   

The kid gingerly touched the back of his head.  

“Dunno.  Sick.  And my head hurts.”  

“You were knocked out, cut your head pretty badly.”  

The boy still looked confused.  

“Who are you?” he asked bluntly.  

“Ran into your horse, he’s over there by the way, and then you.  You needed a bit of help”  

“You bandaged me up?”  

“Yep, is it okay?”  

“Fine.”  There was a pause.  “Thanks.  I guess you saved my life.  But why?  You don’t know me.”  

Heyes appraised the kid.  He was plain speaking, a little green, young, but not as young as he’d first thought.  His eyes were wary.  His hands were callused and his clothes were worn and thin and his saddle was well used.  There was a little colour in his face, but he still looked gaunt and sick.  Heyes wasn’t quite sure what to think of him.  

He shrugged, “You needed help,” he said dismissively.  “You want some coffee?  Food?”   

The kid nodded.  “Both would be nice, but, just coffee.  I feel too sick in my stomach to eat.”   

Heyes handed over a cup.  “So.  Where you from?  Or going to?”  

“From Kansas.  Not goin anyplace.”  

“Aren’t you a little young to be travelling on your own?  How old are you anyway?” Heyes asked, interested in learning more about the enigmatic youngster. However, the question irritated the boy.  
“Everyone always wants to know how old I am!” he snapped.  “I’m old enough!”  

Heyes smiled gently, “You don’t look it.”  

“Yeah, I know.”  

There was bitterness in the boy’s voice.  The kid continued angrily, “Folks always think I can’t do anything.  Always saying, you’re too young.  Too young for saloons, or poker or a beer.  Too young drive a wagon or punch cows, to young to wash dishes or clean stables or even load wagons!  How can you be too young to wash dishes?  Always too young to stay in town…” His voice died away and the angry gleam was replaced by sadness.

There was an uncomfortable silence.  In these days of depression, work was hard to come by and the kid’s appearance gave folks an excuse.  Heyes looked up at the kid, “More coffee?” and then filled the cup that was held out.  

The kid broke the silence, “Guess you wanna move on?  I’m okay now.  You gotta have someplace to go?”  

Heyes started.  He’d been thinking about how to broach the subject of leaving and here the kid was raising it!  And, if he left now, he’d make the next town by nightfall.  So he replied, “Well, if you’re sure you’re gonna be okay?”  

“Sure I’m sure.  My head hurts some, but that’s all.”  

“Can you stand?”  

“Sure.”  

“Well?”  

“Well what?” 

“Stand up.”  

The young man sighed and tried to get up, but fell back, looking ill.  

“I think maybe I should stick around…”  

“No.  Really.  I’ll be okay.  Good night’s rest is all I need.  You don’t need to stay.”  

Heyes, to his surprise, found himself torn.  He felt he should leave before the kid learnt too much, but he also felt a strong pull to stay and make sure the kid was okay.  The conflict raged for a minute as the kid hunched himself into his coat.

Self preservation won.

 “I should be moving on.  I’ll just take care of a few things first.”  

Heyes built up the fire and left a pile of wood within the kid’s reach.  He made a fresh pot of coffee, transferred some of his supplies to the kid’s saddlebags and checked on the kid’s horse.  The kid watched all this without protest.

Satisfied he’d done as much as he was able, Heyes saddled his horse and mounted.  He turned to the kid, “Well, Kid, take care of yourself.”    

“Thanks.  For everything.  My name’s Jed, Jed Curry!”  

Heyes nodded, “See ya, Jed!” and he rode off.  

Jed watched and then had a sudden thought, “Hey, you got a name?” he called, but the dark haired stranger didn’t turn or answer, showed no sign of hearing.  Jed shrugged and watched the man disappear, absurdly grateful for everything the dark stranger had done for him.  Used to being on his own, as the sound of the hooves died away, Jed felt very cold, very ill and very alone.  Miserably, he hunkered down inside his blanket and stared forlornly into the flames.

Hannibal Heyes heard the Kid call to him, but had no intention of answering.  He hoped that the Kid would be okay, but it was no longer his concern.  He doubted he would ever see him again.


Jed Curry had an uncomfortable night.  His head pounded, making it difficult to sleep.  But the fire burned all night, keeping him warm. In the morning, he made breakfast, his first meal in days.  He was pleased when he managed to keep the food down.  He tried to stand and was delighted when he could do so without feeling sick and dizzy.  He did feel unsteady and his head still ached fiercely so he rode reluctantly for the nearest town, Black Pines.  There, he was no more successful than in any other and he was back in the saddle within hours.


Cold, hungry and dispirited, his head throbbing unmercifully, feeling sick and tired, Jed simply stopped where he was.  He made a halfhearted attempt to set up camp and built a small fire, on which he made some weak coffee.  He then settled into his bedroll and brooded.  No money meant no room and no food.  No room plus his youth meant no one trusted him with a job.  No job meant no money.  Without money, he could not replace his weapon and no weapon meant no robbery.  No robbery, no job, no money.  He was going round in circles and it made his head hurt!  No closer to any sort of solution, he drifted off to sleep.


The next day, he found a narrow side trail and followed it.  He’d learnt the hard way how dangerous the main roads were to a young, lone man.
 
The trail wound through the rocks and rose up high over the main road.  Jed found himself in a perfect position for an ambush, if he had a weapon.  Wanting a break, he dismounted and climbed down aways to view the road.  He thought about how he could rob someone from up here.  There was a good view and he would be almost unseen, giving him the advantage of surprise.  A bit of metal caught his eye.  It was some sort of pole.  A childish urge enveloped him.  He crouched between the rocks and then he softly called out, “Hold it!”  

The rider pulled up his horse and looked up.  He saw the end of a rifle pointing at him.  


“Take your gun out and toss it over here.  Slowly, two fingers!” Jed instructed.  


The man complied.  


“Now, your money.  Slowly.”  


As the man reached into his pocket, Jed got up and jumped down the rocks, holding the rifle.  He reached the man’s gun and picked it up, gave it a twirl and put it into his empty holster.  He approached the man and took the cash.  


“Thanks, “ he said and then he slapped the horse on its rear. It took off, the man grabbing to stay on.  Jed watched him ride out of sight.

Jed stared down the road as the image faded from his mind, suddenly feeling foolish.  Then, his stomach cramped and he doubled up, dropping the pole and holding his belly.  He was reminded how hungry he was and how depressing his situation was.  There was no money or gun.  He stood up slowly and walked over to the side of the road, taking the pole with him.  


Hannibal Heyes was watching all of this, first with amusement at the charade and then with some concern.


Heyes had made his camp by a small waterhole, not far from the road.  It was perfect – hidden from view of the road, but near enough to hear any traffic on it.  He had been relaxing when he had heard a voice, though he couldn’t quite make out what was said.  Making his way to the rim of the hollow, he peered out and was astounded to see the blond haired kid hopping down the rocks, holding a stick of sorts like a rifle.  He listened and watched as the Kid pretended to rob someone and nearly laughed out loud when the Kid obviously slapped an invisible horse’s rear.  His amusement turned to concern when he saw the boy, young man, he reminded himself, double over.  He started to go toward him, but paused when he saw the other stand up and cross to the rocks at the side of the road.  Heyes felt embarrassed for watching and knew that the young man would feel foolish if Heyes revealed himself, so he stayed there, unwilling to move away, in case a sound should alert the Kid.  He watched as the Kid drew something in the dirt of the road with the end of the stick.


Jed Curry was still feeling miserable and hungry.  He sat on the roadside, not sure why he didn’t return to his horse.  Aimlessly, he began to drag the pole through the dirt as his imagination ran wild again.

The table was covered in a red checked tablecloth, the waitress was ready to take his order.  


“Hello Ma’am.  I’ll start with the soup.”  

Jed drew a soup bowl in the dirt.  

“Next, a steak, as big as you’ve got, with a mound of mash potato and corn,” 

A plate appeared next to the bowl, with some uneven shapes on it, 

“Finally, apple pie – a big slice.”  

He drew a quarter circle in the sandy ground.  


A sound drew Jed’s attention and he looked down the road.  Heyes also turned to look in the same direction.  Jed began to climb back up the rocks and hid.

“Hold it!”  

The shout was loud and sharp and the man reined in his horse.  He looked around and saw the end of something that resembled a rifle.  The man laughed.  

“You gonna hold me up?”  

Jed was annoyed.  “Nope, just stopping you for a chat!  Course I’m holding you up.  Throw you gun onto the ground.”

The man laughed again, “I’m not armed.”  

Jed knew that wasn’t true.  “I said throw your gun onto the ground.”  

“I’m unarmed.”  

“And I’m telling ya, you ain’t.”  

“Why don’t you come down here and search me then?”

Jed grimaced.  Stalemate.  Jed was puzzling over what to do next when a shot rang out, startling both men.  The rider’s horse shied a little.   

A third voice spoke out, cold and hard, “My partner told you to throw your gun down.  I suggest you do as he said.”  

The rider moved his hand toward his inside pocket.  

“Very carefully,” the voice added, meaningfully.  The man slowed and drew out a small pocket gun, which he tossed into the edge of the road.

Hannibal Heyes stepped out onto the road and approached the man.  

Jed was stunned and watched as Heyes holstered his gun and patted the man down.  He withdrew a bundle and scanned it.  His brown eyes darkened with anger and he drew his gun again.

“I’ll be keeping these.  Now get movin!”  

The man protested, “Those are mine!  What would a robber need with them?”  

Heyes stared at him, until the man backed down.  

Up in the rocks, Jed wondered what the fuss was about.

The man glared at Heyes and then suddenly spurred his horse away.  Jed saw the dark haired stranger holster his gun.  The man looked up into the rocks.  

“You wanna come down from there?”  

“Not particularly”, thought Jed, but it was more of a command than a question.  Jed sighed and made his way back down to the road.

Heyes watched him stepping confidently down through the jumble of rocks.  

“You made that look easy”, he said as Jed landed on the road.  

“Huh?”  Jed looked at him, puzzled.  “Where did you come from anyway?”  

Heyes gestured behind him and then pointed at the pole Jed was still carrying.  “What’s that?  You expect to rob a man with a stick?”  

Jed looked down at the pole.  He’d forgotten he had it and he now flung it away, embarrassed.  He stared at his feet.  The dark haired man was so full of confidence, so sure of himself, that Jed felt awkward and wary.  

Heyes smiled, “You sure look better than when I last saw ya.  Had any more luck since then?”  

When Jed didn’t answer, Heyes wandered over to the drawings in the ground, curious about what the Kid had been doing.  Jed suddenly shot in front of him and rubbed his foot along, removing the marks.  His face was red as he realised that Heyes must have been watching.  

“How long were you there?” he muttered, mostly to himself.  

Heyes shrugged his shoulders.  “Long enough.  It wasn’t a bad idea, that thing looked a lot like a rifle, but you were unlucky with your mark.  You picked a gambler and a cheating one at that.  He was bound to call your bluff.”  

“How’d ya know he cheats?”  

“I took a pack of cards from him, see?”  Heyes showed the Kid the bundle.  “They’re marked.”  

“How’d ya know that?”  

“I know marked cards, don’t you?”  Heyes showed him. 

Jed took the cards and examined them.  He could hardly tell and certainly not at a glance.  He looked at Heyes, “You a gambler as well?”  

“Nope.  But I do play poker and I don’t like cheats.  It was a pleasure to rob him!”  Heyes grinned, boyishly and suddenly looked a lot younger.  

Jed felt more at ease and grinned broadly back at him.  

Heyes then counted the bills he’d taken and handed some over.  “Here, this is your share.”  

Jed shook his head.  “Nope, you got it from him, you keep it.”  

Heyes’ jaw dropped.  “What?!  C’mon, that’s stupid, turning down money.  We pulled it off together, you get your share.”  

“I wouldn’t have got anything if you’d not come along.”  

“Maybe, but you stopped him.”  

“Yeah, because you’re not stupid.”  

Heyes shook his head, “That’s not it, generally I rob banks and trains, not passers by.”

Jed stared in awe at the man.  “You rob banks and trains?”  

“Most of the time.  The rest, I play poker.  Here, take a share.  It was your idea.  A man should get paid for his ideas.”  

Feeling foolish, Jed took the money and stuffed it in his pocket.  

“I’m camped over there, supper’s on.” Heyes offered.

Jed began to back away, “No, I, that is, I think that I ought.”  His voice dried up and he looked up the hillside.  

He looks scared, thought Heyes.  Heyes liked the young man and didn’t want the Kid to be scared of him.   

“Look, I’m not gonna rob you.”  

Stung, Jed swung round, “I didn’t think you were!”  

“Then why you leaving in such a hurry?”  

“You rob banks, and trains!”  

“So?”  

“Well, that’s, that’s, that’s something.” Jed ended lamely. 

 Heyes grinned, “Yeah, an outlaw!”  

“I know that!  I mean, well, I mean, I don’t really know what I mean. I just…”  

“Come and get some supper, I could do with the company!”  

“My horse.”

“What about it?”  

“I ought to fetch him.”  

Heyes nodded.  “Okay.”  

And Heyes walked back and disappeared over the edge.  

Jed stood on the road.  He wanted to eat, but he was still unsure about the stranger, whose name he didn’t know.  One minute, he was friendly and putting him at ease, the next, he was cold and hard and it frightened Jed a little.  Slowly, he made his way up the hillside to his horse.  He then guided it down and onto the road.  By the time he reached it, he’d made up his mind.


The stars were out when Jed Curry leaned back against the rock behind him and sighed contentedly.  

Heyes laughed.  “Feel better?”  

Jed smiled at him, his eyes twinkling, “It’ll do for now.”  

Heyes poured them both coffee and settled back himself.  There was a comfortable silence.  They hadn’t known each other long, and they knew little about each other, but they had both decided that they liked each other.  Jed hadn’t had any friendly company for months and Heyes was enjoying being with someone his age, instead of the older and measurably duller outlaws he usually ran with.  Besides, Jed had obviously enjoyed listening to Heyes’ stories of the outlaw life and he had a sense of humour that Heyes appreciated.

Jed broke the silence.  Keeping his voice neutral, he asked “Where you headed tomorrow?”  

“Devil’s Hole.  That’s the gang I’m running with right now.  Got some plans.” 

Jed was quiet.  Eventually, he said, “What would you have done?”  

Heyes looked at the young man.  “Well, Kid, first thing, you gotta sound like you believe the lie.  You believe it, they believe it.  Then, you can’t argue with ‘em.  They have to do what you say, immediately.  If they don’t, tell ‘em!  Don’t argue.  But,” Heyes grinned, “I wouldn’t have lost my gun in the first place!”

Jed grimaced.  “You had to mention that!  I got bushwhacked.” He held up his hand, “Before you ask, there were three of them.  One knocked me out of my saddle.  They took everything, ‘cept the clothes I had on – my horse, saddle, money – all of $5 – and my gun.”  

Heyes shook his head.  “You sure ain’t lucky.”  

Jed stared into the fire.  He tried to work out his choices.  He wanted to stay with the dark haired man, what was his name anyway?  After months on the road, he was lonely.  Besides, he was more likely to have regular meals with this guy!  “But he won’t ask me to stay, he must think I’m an idiot,” thought Jed.  “Can’t get work, can’t rob someone, lose my gun, can’t even tell a gambler and a deck of marked cards.  What have I got to offer?  He hasn’t even told me his name.”  Jed sighed sadly.  

Heyes looked across at him, noting the hint of despair on his face.  Heyes wanted to help, but was sure that this young man would not be accepted into the Devil’s Hole Gang, he was just too young and unskilled.  

Jed wrapped his blanket around him and lay down. “Night”, he called.  

“Night Kid,” Heyes responded. 


In the morning, the two men ate breakfast, cooked by Jed, and then broke up the camp.  Neither said much.  Heyes felt Kid would stick around if asked but there was little point.  Jed was too embarrassed to ask for more help.

They rode together for several hours, until the road forked.  One led in the direction of a town.  Jed pulled up.  “Think I’ll head for Silver Springs.  Maybe they got work there.”  

Heyes nodded.  “I gotta go on this way,” he indicated the other road.  “Take care Kid, try to get a gun soon!”  

“Thanks mister… What is your name?”  Heyes gave the young man a cheery wave and rode off, still not answering that question.  Jed watched him leave and once more felt very alone.


In Silver Springs, Jed went through the motions but he knew that there was no chance of work.  He had decided that robbery was his only option and all he really wanted to do was re-arm himself.  He also took a hotel room; one night of relative luxury would do no harm!  In the morning, feeling much better now he had a gun in his holster, he once more hit the trail.  


Heyes had run into trouble, more precisely a group of men who seemed to know who he was.  He was trying to convince them otherwise, when he was clubbed from behind.  He woke with a throbbing head and found himself bound and gagged.  The men were asleep and Heyes began to work at his bonds, but they were well tied and he made little progress.  By morning, Heyes’ throat was dry and he wanted a drink, but he remained impassive as they threw him roughly over his horse and headed back


Jed arrived at the fork in the road and took the path taken by Heyes.  At the sound of horses, he pulled off the trail, wary of groups from past encounters.  When he saw the party, he gaped.

At the fork, the four men began to argue.  Two wanted to go to Silver Springs with their prisoner, as it was closer.  The others wanted to go on, to a town with a smarter, tougher sheriff and a stronger jail.  The argument raged and Heyes was getting annoyed.  A shot silenced them.  A voice, harsh and commanding, demanded that they remove their gun belts.  The order was followed by another two shots, in quick succession.  One knocked a hat off; the other blew a holster away.  The men hastily undid their belts and threw them onto the ground.  Jed ordered them off their horses and then, that one of them untie his partner.  Heyes groaned as he moved his stiffened shoulders and rubbed his sore wrists.  

“You wanna tie them up?”  

Heyes looked up at the Kid and shook his head,  “I’ll watch ‘em, I feel like killing ‘em, if they move.”  

The Kid nodded at him and, after Heyes had recovered his weapon, dismounted and firmly tied the four men together.  The four men had not moved a muscle.

Jed mounted and surveyed his handiwork.  “That’ll keep ‘em for a while.”  Heyes nodded and both men spurred their horses away.


Heyes was mulling things over.  If Kid was skilled with a gun and not just lucky…A skill like that would be useful and the others would have to accept him.  A skilled gunsmith that he could trust…

Heyes pulled up.  “That was some shooting.  I sure am glad that you got your gun back.  Thanks.”  

Jed grinned at him.  “I owed ya.”  

“Can you shoot that way all the time, or was it luck?”  

The Kid looked hurt.  “I may not be very good at robbery, but I can shoot.”  

“How fast are you?”  

“Fast enough”  

“How fast is that?”  

“No one’s beaten me yet.”  

Heyes dismounted and walked over to some rocks.  Setting up a target, he said, “Show me.”  

Jed looked perplexed.  “Why?”  

“Just show me.”  

Jed shrugged and dismounted.  He pulled the glove off his right hand and folded his arms.  “Say when.”  

“You ready?”  

“Yep.  Say when.”  

Jed stared at Heyes. Finally, Heyes said “Whey..”  

The gun jumped into the Kid’s hand and the little pebble bounced onto the floor before Heyes had finished the word.  Heyes’ jaw dropped.  “Wha!”  

Jed looked at him.  

“I’ve never seen anyone so fast.”  

Jed looked pleased.  

Thoughtful, Heyes returned to his horse and climbed on.  Jed followed, once again perplexed by the older man.  

They rode on for a while and then Heyes pulled up again.  Jed stopped his horse and leaned on the saddlehorn.  

Heyes held out his hand, “Hannibal Heyes.  Just Heyes will do fine.”  

Jed took the outstretched hand.  “Jed Curry, but I’ve kinda gotten used to Kid!”  

“Yeah, I’ve kinda gotten used to that too.  You know, we sure seem to work together well.”  

“Yeah.”  

“Could use a good man, who’s not afraid to be a renegade.  You want to ride with me?”  

Kid Curry stared down at the ground, chewing his lip, unwilling to seem too eager.  

Deciding that the Kid needed further persuasion, Heyes said, “ We’d be partners.  Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry – the two most wanted outlaws in the West!”  

There was a pause the length of a heartbeat and then Kid looked up and grinned, “I always wanted to be the best!”
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Silverkelpie

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Posts : 1400
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 57
Location : Over the rainbow

PostSubject: Renegade   Wed May 27, 2015 8:35 pm

I'm interested in your comments as I'm playing with a circular timescale here.  Challenges are great for trying things out.  Please let me know if it doesn't work for you.  


The man forced his face into the dry dirt, listening to the pounding, beating hooves of the posse as they battered by his hiding place.  His horse snickered quietly to the passing herd, flicking his ears and raising his head.  Why wasn’t the human picking up on the signals?  When the herd runs, you go with it.  It is a sign of danger; danger to be avoided at all costs.  The hard hand grasping at the reins transmitted a message of urgent awareness, but all he did about it was keep pushing his face into the ground and make sure that the horse lay down behind the bushes.  The colt thrashed his legs, lying down here was dumb.  The lion – or whatever it was that they were all running from – might get you.  The animal’s dark eyes darted about, flashing the whites in anguish.  The herd was getting further and further away!  That must mean the monster was getting nearer.  Why were they still lying here?  They should be running like the wind.


“Easy, boy,” Heyes murmured softly into the velvet ear.  “Easy…just hang on.  We’ll go in a minute.”


The colt raised his head again, but the human still held his hand over his flanks, signaling to him to lie still.  How much longer?  Humans were idiots.  They were scared of all the wrong things and carried metal sticks that went bang.  The calming whisper from the silken voice poured soothing secrets to match the sedating, relaxing stroke of the long fingers.  Maybe he could trust his human after all.  He seemed to know what was best.  He didn’t seem scared.


The human looked cautiously out into the road, scanning both ways.  He turned back to his mount and encouraged the colt back to his feet before swinging back into the saddle.  “Come on, we gotta get back to the hideout.  It’s the only place we’ll be safe.”


The beast was not slow to disagree.  Adrenaline still surged in both of them, the memories of the raw, hard, chase before they found safe concealment fresh in their memories.  It had been hell; the shots flashed around them, the sight of a man slumped forward with a bullet in his arm had made the horses scream and rear in fear. 


The humans had done exactly what they usually do.  They had gathered the herd and ridden into town, where they had all waited outside of some building while the humans went inside.  It must have been somewhere really smelly, because they all covered their faces with bandanas before they went in.


When they came out of the building, they did it in a real hurry.  They ran, and pounced back on the horses before they kicked them into action and almost stampeded their way out of town.  The man in charge turned and glanced at the following humans who had given chase.  It was obvious that the other horses has decided to get out of that town too, either that or they had to show that they could run faster and better.  Maybe they were challenging the stallion?  The colt was too young to worry about that yet.  He had the urging legs of his human to worry about. 


They had reached a crossroads and the oldest human had stopped, yelling at the colt’s human.  “Heyes!  You go that way.  You two; go left.  The rest of you, split into three.  They can’t follow all of us.  I’ll take off with the money and meet ya back at the hideout.”

             
“But, Jim!”  One of the men scowled at his leader.  “Shouldn’t we split it?”


“Don’t be a damned fool.  The posse’ll be here in a minute.  We ain’t got time to split the bag.”  Jim Plummer swirled around on his mount and grabbed his hat.  “Now git!”  He whacked his horse on the flanks and took off up the hill, the animal clearly struggling against the steep gradient.


“What are we gonna do?” the small man at the back demanded.  “He got all the loot.”


“Split up like he said,” yelled Heyes.  “We’ve got no choice.”  He cast anxious eyes towards the bend of the road where the sound of thundering hooves was getting closer and closer.  “He’s right.  They’re too close.  We’ve got to confuse them.”

A bullet ripped through the air, making up everyone’s minds in double quick time.  Heyes pulled the reins tight and headed off downhill, leaning back in the saddle against the declination.  The rest of the men scattered in all directions.  Heyes was quick to find out why the most experienced outlaw had chosen the most difficult, uphill route.  The posse split and picked the two easiest targets, the one going downhill and the others going straight ahead.  He cursed under his breath and kicked his heels to speed up the animal which was picking its way through the scrubby bushes, rabbit holes, and rocks.  Another shot let loose just as they neared the bottom of the slope which caused the colt to make a huge leap of fear.  They flew through the air for what seemed like an eternity before landing heavily on the dusty ground.  The beast stumbled, clumsily regaining his footing and juddering back to a standing position.  Heyes held his breath as another bullet smashed into the ground nearby.  If he lost his horse now he was doomed.  His pursuers were at the top of the hill.  Were they willing to risk life and limb to get down the incline?  The hunt was never as desperate as the prey. 

His colt suddenly found its feet again and took off like the wind.  The followers were more cautious, taking a more slowly and more measured approach to the chase.  Most of them were farmers and a broken limb could cripple them and their family budget; that was a risk they were unwilling to take.


Heyes galloped off around the bend and managed to lead his mount into the bushes where he pushed the animal to the ground and made him lire behind the bushes.  He quickly threw himself to the ground beside the animal pushed his face into the dry dirt, listening to the pounding, beating hooves of the posse as they battered by his hiding place…


oooOOOooo


It was a bruised, battered, and drained Hannibal Heyes who strode into clumped into cabin and slumped into chair.  He glanced around at the only two men in the place and frowned through the grime.  “Where’s everyone else?  Where’s Plummer?”   


The older man raised a weary head and nodded towards the range.  “Ya want coffee?”


“Yeah.  Where the rest of the gang?”  Heyes hauled himself to his feet and headed towards the pot of sustaining caffeine.


“Here, there, everywhere.  Some are out lookin’ for Plummer.  He’s got the money.”


Heyes scowled.  “Ya mean he’s not back yet?”


The bearded man on the corner growled a curse under his breath. 


“Speak up, woncha?  I can’t hear a word you’re sayin’ since you lost those teeth,” the outlaw turned back to Heyes.  “He was hit in the face by a branch when we all split up.”


“Ouch.  Are you alright?”  The grizzly man shrugged untidily under a shirt crusted with his own dried blood.  “What’d you say?”


“He said that Plummer’s gone renegade.  Made off with the lot.”  The older man scratched at his stubble.  “My guess is that I’ll be foundin’ my own church afore we see him again, either that or hell’ll freeze over.”


They all turned to listen to an impressive stream of incomprehensible babble from the hirsute man in the corner before Heyes turned questioning eyes on his interpreter. 


“He says he always knew Plummer was a wrong ‘un.  Knew it the minute he set eyes on him.”


“he’s hardly some kind of oracle,” Heyes replied.  “He’s the leader of a gang of thieves.  We’re all wrong ‘uns.”


“Yeah, but there’s different kindsa wrong.  He took it too far.  A man who’d steal from his friends is a man who’s reached rock bottom and has started to dig.”


“We don’t know he’s gone yet,” Heyes protested. 


“Don’t we?” came the terse reply.  “I guess false hope’s better’n n hope at all.  We’re restin’ up and headin’ South of the border.  If you’ve got any sense you’ll do the same thing.  If there’s one thing Plummer was good at it was looking after his own skin.”


“Well, let’s hope he comes back,” Heyes swilled back the coffee and grimaced.  “If he’s done the dirty on us I’ll find him.  There’s always a way of finding money and it’s getting easier every day with telegrams and the like.”  He paused looking pensively out of the window.  “Yeah, It’s definitely getting easier to follow the money.  I’ll find him if it takes years.”          


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RosieAnnieUSA

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PostSubject: Re: Renegade   Thu May 28, 2015 12:32 pm

The night was quiet. There were no sounds but the steady rhythm of footsteps outside on the wooden sidewalk. The boards creaked softly with each step in a reassuring pattern. Sheriff Berger turned his head slightly to listen. A small smile crept across his face. The regular footsteps meant that Deputy Wilson was guarding the jail and its famous prisoner as he'd been told to do.

Berger turned his attention back to the stack of papers on his desk. When he became sheriff two months ago, he'd imagined himself as the hero of a dime novel, keeping his town safe from bad men who threatened civil order. Instead, he did mountains of paperwork and broke up fights between drunken cowboys. Not exactly the stuff of dime novels. He'd actually prayed for some excitement, maybe for some famous outlaw to show up in this dull one-horse town. No one wasmore surprised than he when his prayers were answered yesterday.

He pushed himself up from his cluttered desk and walked over to the cell block. The prisoner sat on his bunk, playing solitaire.

"Ain't you tired of that game yet?"

The prisoner moved cards without speaking.

"Hey you! I asked you a question and I expect you to answer. Can't you hear me?"

"I hear you," the prisoner said calmly. "It is impossible to not hear you, even though I try. I simply choose not to answer an ignorant question." He looked up at Berger. "If I were tired of the game, I would not be playing it. You have my answer. Are you happy now?"

"Happier than you, I expect. You're the one going on trial for armed robbery. And you're the one who'll be sitting in a jail just like this one for the next 20 years, where all you low-down bank robbers belong."

The prisoner turned his attention back to his cards, shuffling and laying out another game of solitaire.
 
"You ain't so big now, are you, Big Jim? You think the Devil's Hole Gang's fixin' to rescue you? Well, they ain't a'comin'. Me and my deputy, we been keeping a sharp eye on everyone in this here town, and we ain't seen hide nor hair of them renegades."

"My men are not renegades; they are thieves. There is a difference. And of course you would not see them. I have trained them better than that."

"Too bad nobody trained you better, or you wouldn't be sitting where you are right now."

Dark brown eyes flicked briefly towards Berger.

"Everything in life is temporary, Sheriff. Everything changes." He put the cards down on the bunk and leaned back against the cold brick wall. "For example: the sheriffs in this town change regularly. This is a new job for you, is it not? You are the fifth man to take the job in one year, I believe."

"What of it? It don't make no difference what them others did. I'm here to stay."

"Oh, you are, are you? It is good to have a goal."

"I know what you're thinking. You're wrong."

"You have the ability to read my mind? That is impressive."

"Don't pull that with me, Santana. I'm smarter than you." Santana's composed expression seemed like defiance to Berger.

"I do know what you're thinking. You're thinking sheriffs come and go because of you and your damned Devil's Hole Gang, running roughshod over this whole territory. That's all over now. With you in prison, that gang'll be running around like a chicken with its head cut off."

"You are welcome to think so," Santana said. His calm voice only served to irritate Berger more.

 "Change happens to all of us, does it not? This situation where we find ourselves now, you outside the bars and me within, even that is subject to change." He picked up his cards again and started shuffling them. "Let me advise you. Never count on anything to remain the same. Never." Suddenly, he smiled. "Especially if you are a sheriff in this town."

"The hell with you, Santana." Berger strode quickly back to his desk. He was surprised to realize that he was breathing hard. He shook his head, trying to clear it, and consciously took some deep, slow breaths. Quiet surrounded him. Something was wrong about that. Straining, he listened hard for suspicious sounds, but he heard nothing, not even his deputy pacing back and forth on the boards outside. Berger stood up suddenly, angry all over again. If that idiot Wilson's sleeping onthe job instead of patrolling, I'll throw him into the cell with Santana. He walked rapidly to the front door, unlatched the bolts, and yanked the door open.

Deputy Wilson stood motionless on the sidewalk, eyes wide and staring at seemingly nothing.

"What're you doing standing there like a cigar store Indian, Wilson?"

A small blond man holding a shotgun stepped out from behind the deputy, startling Berger.
"What the hell - " but before he could finish his sentence, he heard an ominous click and felt cold metal touch his neck. A quiet voice whispered close to his ear.

"He's stayin' alive, Sheriff. If'n you want to do the same, you'll hush up, too."

"Who are you? What do you want?" Berger asked. "If you're looking to rob us, go right ahead, but we ain't got much money. We work for the city."

"Right now, Sheriff," the deep voice went on, "I want you to shut your mouth." Berger complied. The whispering voice moved against his ear again, so close that Berger felt the man's warm breath.

"Now. One of my men is gonna put on your deputy's hat and jacket, and he's going to take over guarding the jail. Then the rest of us, we're going go inside real quiet-like." Another, taller man came around from behind the whisperer and took the coat and hat from an unresisting Wilson.

 The cold gun barrel tapped lightly against Berger's neck. "Open the door. Quietly."

Once inside, Berger heard the door shut behind him and the bolts click into place. The gun moved away from his neck, and a flat hand between his shoulders pushed him forward suddenly. He had to grab the corner of his desk to keep from falling.

"You two lawmen stand at either side of the desk. Then you're both going unhook your gun belts, using only two fingers, and my friend here is going to take them from you." As they awkwardly loosened their gun belts, Santana rose silently from his cot to watch.

"Sit down in them two chairs, and put your hands on the arm rests, where we can see them. Keep your eyes on the floor." Berger's mind was racing. They were two against two, at least inside, but the outlaws had the guns and the advantage. He was torn between wishing someone would come by unexpectedly and rescue them, and the fear that someone would come by unexpectedly and rescue the new sheriff and his deputy.

The outlaw brought his gun under Berger's chin, forcing him to raise his head slowly. Berger saw dusty boots, then a slim figure in denims and black shirt, and finally a young man's bronze face under a black hat adorned with silver lightning bolts. The man smiled, and deep dimples appeared in his dark cheeks.

"Now, Sheriff, you're probably wondering why I've invited you to come inside and talk with me tonight."

"The thought did cross my mind right about the time you held a gun to my head. But then, putting a gun to a white man's head is what you Injuns like to do."

The gunman smiled as if he were amused. He pushed his hat high onto his head, revealing large  brown eyes. Berger studied the man's face, trying to commit every detail into memory.

"Speaking of pointing guns, I'm going to ask my friend to take yours over to Mr. Santana while I keep an eye on you and your deputy. That'll improve the odds for me a little bit." The little blond man in the floppy hat took Berger's cherished Colt to Santana, who nodded his thanks and spun the chamber before pointing the gun steadily at the captive lawmen.

"Now, Sheriff. Why we're here. It's not only for the joy I get watching you trying not to wet your pants while I hold this here hogleg on you. The honest truth is, we came here to make a withdrawal, but don't you worry none; we're going to make a deposit, too. We're going to withdraw Big Jim, and once we do that, we're going to deposit you and your deputy."

"You mean, you're not gonna kill us?" Wilson asked. His voice shook.

"Shut up, Wilson! You sound like an idiot."

"I heard what them renegade Comanches do. Please don't kill me. Please. I don't wanna die."

"Stop it, Wilson! You're acting like a little girl!"

"Rest your mind, boys," the Indian said. "The Devil's Hole Gang don't believe in killing folks." He shook his head sadly. "I have to resist temptation all the time, don't I, Jim?"

"It is true that my men do not kill," Santana said from his cell. "I do not allow it."

"Lucky for you. Now. My friend is going to get those handcuffs you kindly left hanging on the wall there by the wanted posters and cuff you and your deputy together."  While the blond handcuffed the unhappy lawmen together, the  Indian pointed his gun at the trembling Wilson.

"Where are the keys to the cell?"

"Bottom right drawer in the desk."

"Good answer." He looked over at the blond outlaw, who retrieved the keys and unlocked the cell. Santana came out, still holding the stolen gun.

"There's the withdrawal. Now, gentlemen, kindly walk into the cell and sit down on the bunk." When they hesitated, the Indian raised his gun in an unmistakable threat.

"Santana said he wouldn't let you kill us," Wilson protested.

"That is true," Santana said. "Kill, no. Maim, yes. So please, gentlemen. It is in your best interest to follow orders." Slowly, the handcuffed lawmen walked into the cell and sat down, side by side, on the uncomfortable cot.

"One last thing. We're going to have to gag you." The Indian held up one hand to forestall any comments. "We can't have you calling for help. We need a little time to get back to the Hole before any alarm is raised." The little blond outlaw holstered his gun and tightened the captives' own bandannas over their mouths while the other outlaws watched.

Santana closed the heavy iron cell door slowly, then turned the big skeleton key to set the lock. The lawmen could only watch in despair. Santana had already walked away a few steps with his rescuers when he stopped as if remembering something. He turned quickly and went back to stare at the unhappy men imprisoned in their own jail.

"Do you remember what I said to you earlier about how things change rapidly, Sheriff?" Unable to speak, Berger could only seethe. Yeah, he remembered. He was almost glad he was unable to say anything. He wanted to curse and scream at Santana and that renegade Indian and that blond man with the tobacco-stained grin. More than that, he wanted to pound his own head against some hard surface. This could have happened to anyone, but it had happened to him, and the citizens of
this town, and the men who had chosen him for this job, would never let him forget it. He would need to find a new job. Again. He squinted his eyes shut; he couldn't bear watching his prisoner leave with his rescuers. Their footsteps echoed on the floor until he heard the big front door open and shut. He was left with silence and his bitter thoughts.

Outside, Santana followed his men as they led him around the building to a back alley, where four horses were tied up. As the men unhitched their horses, Santana crossed over to the slender Indian, putting one hand on his shoulder, speaking to him in a low voice.

"Thank you, Hannibal. You have done better than I could have hoped. There is only one thing that I question."

"Only one?"

"For now. Why did you darken your skin to look like an Indian? Those men still got a good look at you."

"They did, Jim, and what they saw was an Indian. A renegade, like that sheriff said. He didn't notice my eyes or my hair color or my build, nothing like that. He saw an Indian, and that's all he'll remember. I could play poker with him all night without this war paint on my face, and he'd never recognize me.

"Besides,"  Heyes added, "it probably don't matter if them two recognize me. I'd lay odds there'll be a new sheriff here, real soon. Maybe even tomorrow."

Santana laughed. "I am glad you are on my side, Hannibal Heyes."

----------------
The inspiration for this story came from photos posted recently by the Pete Duel page on Facebook. Pete played an Apache doctor on an episode of the old Marcus Welby show, in which the studio clearly used makeup to change his skin tone. That practice, common in the old days, showed a cultural insensitivity which would never be tolerated today. It would be akin to a white actor wearing blackface. But, as an inspiration for the monthly challenge, the photos were useful to me.
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PostSubject: Re: Renegade   Fri May 29, 2015 12:00 pm

It took a while, but a sleepless night sparked a plot bunny.



Hannibal Heyes opened his eyes.  By the position of the stars in the clear night sky he estimated that it was now past 2 o’clock in the morning.  Sleep still eluded him, even though he was tired, exhausted really.  He tried to make sense of the situation.  “What’s wrong with me?  We finally skipped that posse and we both need all the sleep and rest we can get!  Tarnation!  Can’t a man get any peace?

“All we’re trying to do is go straight.  We’re not harming anyone.  Why can’t they leave us alone?

“Maybe we left it too late.  Could it be there is no fresh start for us?  Nah!  I’ve always managed to think of something.

“Haven’t I?”

He turned slowly and carefully onto his side.  No sense in waking the Kid just because he couldn’t sleep.  Gazing into the embers of their campfire, Heyes once more paid attention to the thoughts continuing their not-really-merry dance through his brain.  “Hmm, my ideas.  But that time, Kid came up with it, the try for amnesty.  Okay, he lost interest again quick enough, after Lom told us of the conditions.  Still, I didn’t see it.  Not at first.  Am I missing other things as well?

“We haven’t been able to find good jobs lately, and even poker seems to have dried up some.  I need to come up with an idea, with a solution.

“And fast.  He trusts me.”

Grabbing a handy stick, the tired ex-outlaw carefully poked at the embers, coaxing some tiny flames to life.  Even more quietly he fed the stick to the fledgling fire and added some more wood.  Unfortunately, this activity couldn’t stop the thoughts from continuing.  And the new flames didn’t cast any light into the dark recesses of his mind either.  “He relies on me to do the thinking for us.  But maybe we’re too set in our ways.  What if my ideas have all been used up?

“Can brains dry up?  Do people get a limited supply of ideas, and when they’re gone, that’s it?  No more?

“Is that what’s happened?  I used to thrive on sleepless nights, getting my best ideas, planning the next job.  It used to be fun, exciting – but now?

“Hell, I’m the one who’s always optimistic.  I see the bright side of things, while the Kid grumbles and snarks.”

A vicious poke at the fire produced a bright glow on a gloomy face, but inner illumination remained elusive.  With a soft sigh, Hannibal Heyes rolled again onto his back and gazed at the stars.  “Must be nearer 3 o’clock by now.  At least I can still tell the time.  One thing I’m still good at.

“Hey, Kid. How about this new distribution of duties between us: I tend the fire during the night and tell the time.  You’ll better do the rest.

“We couldn’t do any worse than we are doing right now.  How long’s it been?  ‘Since when, Heyes?  Since you had a plan that actually worked?  Ah, don’t get me started.’  Yes, Kid. I can hear you.  Loud and clear.  You don’t need to say a word.  You don’t even need to wake up.  I know!

“How long’s it been, indeed?  We had a few good jobs.  With Big Mac, unless he managed to cheat us out of our earning.  The Hanley woman.  Encounters with Harry Brisco.  But it’s nothing like we used to have.

“When was it we went to Lom?  Must be, ah, over two years now.  Yeah.  ‘Stay out of trouble for a year and the amnesty becomes official.’  Yeah, right.  You gotta hand it to the governor.  He turned out to be the one who outfoxed Hannibal Heyes.  Keeps dangling that amnesty carrot in front of us, always ready to snatch it away should we so much as step wrong, much less go astray.  And so he got rid of the most successful outlaws in the history of the West.  He didn’t even have to lift a hand.  We handed us to him.

“Nobody knows of the deal, we can’t do a thing, he gets re-elected by his bankers and railroad men and never needs to keep his word.  I wonder if he ever intended to.

“Most successful outlaws, indeed.  If Kid and I had wanted to become real criminals we should have gone into politics.  Ha!  Fat chance of that.  We were never rich enough to do it.  And never mean enough.

“That fat politician just sits and waits until a posse or a bounty hunter finishes us off for him.  No need to get his dainty hands dirty.  All squeaky clean on the outside.  A pillar of society.  That dirty scumbag.

“The Kid does not deserve this.  He’s so much the better man, always out to rescue somebody, to help.  Why can’t he rescue himself?  And he was so happy with the idea of amnesty.

“He needs a fresh start.  With that temper of his, and his way of finding trouble for us, whenever he so much as looks at a pretty face.”
He chuckled softly inwardly, a smile bringing out his dimples.

“Ah. What am I thinking?  I’m getting pretty soft myself when I don’t watch it.  Telling him to give the gun back to that Tapscott kid.  Might have saved us all a lot of trouble if he’d kept it, if we’d escaped before ever arriving in Hadleyburg.  There.  Another stupid decision of mine that came to cost us.  Kid had the right of it.  Why did he listen to me?  He should know better by now!  I’ve lost it.”

Eyes, burning with more than fatigue, closed, but the churning mind refused to rest.  “Hell, Kid, you might be better off without me.  You managed to get paid that time when I took the guide job and you drove the dynamite to the mine, while I didn’t see any money.  You didn’t let yourself get conned into going back to Devil’s Hole.  By a woman who never uttered a true word in her life.  And when I managed to get myself shot, you had known there was something going on.  I didn’t believe you, but you found the guy. Before he decided to finish the job.

“Looks like you truly might do better without me.”

This thought forced gritty eyes to open once more.  “I always thought I needed to be there to stop you from blasting off, from letting your temper get the better of you.  But maybe you only do that when I’m around?

“Maybe even simply because I’m around?  Because you trust me to stop you?

“Am I holding you back?”

A dark head, full of even darker thoughts, turned to the side away from the fire and deep eyes gazed at the form stretched out in the bedroll next to the sleepless thinker.  The look carried more warmth than the small fire.

“How do you do that, Kid?  It can be annoying as hell, but how do you manage to sleep whenever you want to?  No matter where you are.  Do you even know what a gift you got there?”

The warmth in the gaze vanished quickly when the eyes were directed once more towards the stars.

“After 4 o’clock already.”

A hand moved of its own volition through dark tousled hair, smoothing it back to the head refusing to find rest despite exhaustion.  If only thoughts could be smoothed out as easily as these stubborn strands.

“I guess we gotta have us a talk, Kid.  About our options.  And we gotta be reasonable.

“Hell, Kid, I don’t want us to split up, but it might be our only choice.  I finally have to let you go.  It’s your best option.  I’ve done enough for us.  Haven’t I?”

The only answer to this sarcastic question was a lonely, far away howl.

XXXXXXX

The noise was also heard by the man stretched out in the bedroll next to Heyes’.  Kid Curry had fallen asleep easily enough, but something had woken him hours ago.  And for once, his knack for only having to pull his hat over his eyes to fall asleep, had deserted him. It was not a completely new experience for the young gunslinger, but it was still annoying and worrying.  “What’s wrong with me?  We lost the posse, I’m exhausted.  Time to get some sleep.  Some more sleep.”

Blue eyes closed determinedly, after having surreptitiously checked for any visible sign of danger.  There were no unexpected noises, no feeling of an imminent threat.  His sixth sense told Kid Curry it was safe to rest.  Only, his mind had other ideas.  Literally.  “Heyes is supposed to be the one awake at night, doin’ the worryin’.  Not me.  But there he is, off in dreamland, and I’m awake.  Have we switched roles when I wasn’t lookin’?

“Wouldn’t that be just like him?  Maybe I lost a coin toss I didn’t even know about.  Alright, partner.

“Let’s see.  What do I need to do?  Come up with a plan?  Huh.  How ‘bout figurin’ out the way to the next town, so we can get a decent night’s sleep in a proper bed.  And somethin’ to eat that’s not cooked over a fire.  Or something that’s cooked.  That would be a nice change from the recent fare we had!

“See, a good plan.  Easy.

“That should do it.  And now I can sleep.

“Shouldn’t it?

But apparently it wasn’t enough, and sleep still wouldn’t come.  Curry’s sleep-starved brain had apparently instead sent signals to the stomach, which now began its own nagging.  “ Aw, hell, Heyes.  What happened to us?  Most successful outlaws in the history of the West.  Right.  And instead of livin’ it high, there’s open season on us for every sheriff, bounty hunter, crook and who knows what else.  We’ve been running for days with hardly had any sleep or food.  If another posse shows up, I’ve half a mind to welcome them with open arms, provided they come armed with coffee and some proper food!

“I’m tired.  So doggone tired.  Of this all!  I’m not sure I can go on much longer.  Not like this!

“It’s high time we started livin’ again instead of just breakin’ our backs for no pay.  Sometimes I wish that little old lady from Boston had taken some other train and handed her paper to some other outfit.

“Aw Heyes, why did you have to listen to me that one time?  Don’t you always tell me to leave the thinkin’ to you?  But no, you went and let me send us on this wild goose chase.

“We might still have to put up with Wheat’s posturing and blustering and with Kyle and the boys, but at least we knew where we were staying each day.  We were safe.  We had money.  We were free.  And happy.

“What do we got now?  We’re wanted the same as before, but the pay is much worse.

“And we have to work a lot harder to get it.  If we get paid, that is.

“If we haven’t to hightail it out of yet another place and keep running until the money runs out.  Hey, I used to enjoy goin’ new places, but I’m tired of ‘em now.

“And having to go after every crooked banker who decides to pin his thieving on us.  When did we agree to havin’ the tables turned on us like that?  When did we sign up to do the law’s job for them; and for free, while we’re at it?

Angry blue eyes blasted an icy glare at the uncaring stars which only kept glaring back, unrelenting.  “What time is it anyway?  Heyes is better at that than me.

“And that’s not the only thing.  I knew I shouldn’t draw on that guy.  But I just can’t stop it.  When I see a bully, I take him down a peg or two.  Hang the consequences.

“And now Heyes has to suffer for it.  I know his back is actin’ up again.  Never says a thing about it, but I can see how he sits in the saddle.  Sleeping while ridin’ or on the ground like now ain’t helpin’ any either.

“Without my challenge he would have talked the guys in that last town into givin’ us a job.  Probably would have gotten that bully to apologize, while he was at it.

“Heck, without me, they would probably make him mayor in less than a month.  And next election, whenever that is, he can run for governor.  Huh.

“Now wouldn’t that be a headline?  Governor Smith grants amnesty to notorious outlaws Heyes and Curry.  Wouldn’t he love that?  Grantin’ himself amnesty?”

Kid Curry directed a pensive glance at the potential future governor, before he rolled over, away from his partner. A sound from the fire almost made him turn back, but it was probably only some wood collapsing, coaxing flames from the embers by supplying new food.  “And he’d pull it off, too.  If he wasn’t weighed down with me.  If I didn’t get us into trouble all the time.

“I just don’t think things through.  Hasn’t he told me often enough?  But I always go with my gut.

“Lightnin’ reactions, fastest gun in the West.  Yep, that's me.  Something to be proud of.  Yeah, right.

“Hell, and I am proud of it!  And why not?!  I worked years to get that fast.  And as long as I’m around, no-one is gonna kill another member of my family!”

A furious glare was this time directed at the trees sheltering the two fugitives from curious eyes on the prairie beyond.  Then the gaze softened again while brows creased. 
“But how often would he need my protection if I wasn’t puttin’ him in danger first?  The occasional bad loser at poker, I guess.

“Yeah, but would he play as recklessly if I wasn’t around?  He seemed to be doin’ a great job of fleecin’ all of Yuma without protection, while I managed to get myself set up for a firin’ squad in Santa Marta.”

Thinking back on this close escape from certain death made the former outlaw shudder inwardly.  The fire seemed to mimic his tremble, sending up new flames.  But blue eyes just stared unseeing into the night, the vision filled with painful pictures of a solitary cell in a Mexican jail.

“That was too close.  I always figured I’d die by a bullet, but please, not that way.  If it hadn’t been for his quick thinkin’…

“But hasn’t it always been that way?  Him havin’ to find ways to save my hide?  Santa Marta, Harry Wagoner and those crazy women, aw heck, I might have ended up getting’ shot and killed by Harry Brisco, of all people, on that Brimstone train.

“Seems like it’s been that way forever.  He could be livin’ it up like Silky or Soapy by now if it hadn’t been for me.  He did real well for himself after we split up.  But I, I had to go and get myself a name on my own.  A name that made the news, and instead of stayin’ with Soapy he had to come lookin’ for me.  And he never went back.

“Reckon I should start thinkin’ things through.  Might as well start now.  Got nothin’ better to do anyway, have I?”

Nobody seemed inclined to argue.  A soft noise from his partner probably just indicated a peaceful dream.  Nothing like this waking nightmare.

“Alright then.  We’re wanted men.  Dead or alive.  Now, who are they more likely to take in dead and who alive?

“Everybody knows Heyes and Curry are always found together.  They might not recognize us as often, if we didn’t always stick together.

“It’s mostly my fast draw gets recognized.  Or draws attention.

“Heyes – or rather Joshua Smith – will get by.  Polish up that old silver tongue and he’s set.  Now, Thaddeus Jones?  It’s just a question of time, really, isn’t it?  He’s killed once already.  Might even make a name for himself.  And if amnesty should ever come for Kid Curry, what about old Thaddeus Jones?  Now, wouldn’t that be ironic?”

A lopsided grin spread over the Kid’s even features.

“Now, how do I get Heyes to split up?  He won’t agree.  Not for real.  He cares too much.  Still being the big brother.”  A sad, but fond smile played around the Kid’s lips for a moment.

“And even if I could get him to agree to a split for a while, he’s just too dang ornery not to come runnin’ after me again.  Soon as he smells a rat.  Just so he can prove he’s right.

“No!  I need to come up with somethin’ good.”

Blue eyes squeezed shut with the pain, not from lack of sleep, but from a troubled mind and a heavy heart.  “He might agree if he thinks it’s just for a short bit.  Then I only have to figure out how to let old Thaddeus die and become someone else.

“Yep.  Wear him down some.  Then suggest a split.  That might work.  It’ll be for the best.”

The howl, that had seemed to answer Heyes’ last mental question, jerked blue eyes open again and stopped the thoughts behind them for a moment.  Was this only a coyote or a lonely wolf?  How close was it?

XXXXXXX

There was the howl again.
Definitely not a wild animal.  This was a different sound.
The howling and baying of a dog on a scent.
Not close, but not far away enough to ignore.

Suddenly, the night became very quiet around the campfire close to the trees.  Not even a breathing sound could be heard.  When this realization hit, two heads, one dark, one light, turned towards each other.  Brown eyes sought blue.  A look, no further communication was needed.  Not now.

All renegade thoughts were pushed back, while more urgent matters required action.

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

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PostSubject: Re: Renegade   Mon Jun 01, 2015 1:54 am

This is an oldie, somewhat rewritten but substantively the same.


Diablo

"Ride him, Thaddeus! Show him who's boss!"

The voices from the sidelines mere echoes to his ears as he grimaced in concentration, Thaddeus Jones struggled to remain astride a bucking stallion – the equine body black, sinewy, and sleek. The ex-outlaw whirled in the saddle as the direction demanded, lunging forward and back, side to side, to and fro, balancing his weight, holding on for dear life. Nostrils flaring, flanks glistening, the bronco’s body flailed. Horse and rider moved as one for interminable moments, the rhythm rocking, yet somehow graceful in its brute force.

Cheered on by his partner, Hannibal Heyes, and several other onlookers, their shapes blurs in the background, the blond-haired man jerked a tad too far to the right, and the dance ended. Thrown, landing hard against the corral fence, he lay for a moment stunned, until he felt himself being hauled to his feet.

"Hey, you okay?" Heyes leaned over to pick up the blond man's hat. He slapped it against his thigh to rid it of dust.

Breathing heavily, Kid Curry could only nod in the affirmative.

"Good. That was some ride."

"Was it?” Curry gasped as he took the proffered hat. He regained his voice. “Felt like every bone in my body shook." He nodded toward the corral. "You next?"

"Nah. I'll leave that sorta thing to the ones with the hard heads." Heyes grinned. Draping an arm around his partner's shoulder, he continued, "That stubborn streak comes in mighty handy sometimes."

Weary blue eyes met brown as Kid asked, "Remind me whose idea this was?"

The dark-haired man did not hesitate. "Okay, so it was mine, but you want to eat, don't you?"

Curry rolled his eyes. As they strode slowly toward the bunkhouse, several ranch hands congratulated the fallen rider with back slaps and “Atta boy”s. Not wanting to be the center of attention at that moment, Kid half-smiled, but otherwise kept his head down.

The partners had taken the ranch job reluctantly when their usual sources of employment had dried up. Mindful of avoiding dirty and back-breaking work when they could, the two felt they had no choice but to sign on for ranch work at $40 a month and keep. They planned to stay on only long enough until something better came along or they had a stake to keep them going for a while. Besides, the food wasn't bad.

“Nice ride!” The ramrod caught up with the partners.

Curry raised an eyebrow. “Was it?”

“Yep. Longest I’ve seen anyone sit that stallion. Diablo’s a tough one – a renegade. He lets us know who’s boss. What’s your experience with broncs?”

Kid shrugged. “Not much. Diablo, huh? Devil?”

“You could’ve fooled me! Yep, that horse has the devil in him. If that’s what you can do with the toughest four-legged hombre on this spread, how about doin’ it full time? Got more comin’ in over the next month or so, right off the range. Pays more, too.”

“How much?”

“Double – $80 a month.”

The partners shared a look.

“Mind if I think it over?”

“Sure. Appreciate it if you’d let me know by mornin’. Lookin’ to hire another buckaroo, and I’d hate to see you pass it up and then change your mind.”

Curry nodded. “Okay.” The pair watched the ramrod walk away before Kid spoke, “So what do ya think?”

Heyes shrugged. “It’s your decision. Just have to figure if it’s worth it.”

The blond man sighed. “There’s gotta be a better way, but double the pay is double the pay. We can be outta here sooner.”

Brown eyes met blue. “Huh! You know that’s music to my ears but at what cost? You’re no good watching my back if you’re laid up.”

Curry understood. “Somethin’ to think about.”

Heyes slapped his partner’s back as they continued toward the bunkhouse. “Let’s get some lunch.”

~ooOOoo~

That evening after dinner, the pair relaxed by the corral fence, watching the horses in the waning twilight. The black, Diablo, was obviously in charge, butting heads with the other stallions trying to get closer to the mares.

“Now there’s a man who knows what he wants,” Heyes mused.

“And how to take it,” Curry noted.

Heyes kept his eyes on the horses. “So, ya made up your mind?”

“Not yet. Think I’ll sleep on it.”

Heyes glanced at his partner. “What’s there to think about? Earlier you thought it might be a good idea.”

“Might still be.” Kid met his partner’s gaze. “But you’re the one who said to think of the cost, and now I’m not sure even double the pay is worth playin’ with the devil.”

Heyes smirked. “Some would say we’ve been playing with the devil our whole lives.” His expression evened. “But it is double the pay. And we could be out of here sooner.”

“I know. But this was your idea, and a last resort at that. Back-breakin’ work is never really part of the plan, especially when it’s my back we’re talkin’ about.”

The dark-haired man turned his gaze back to the corral. The other stallions had backed away from the black. “You’re right, but double pay is nothing to sneeze at, either.”

Curry sighed. “So ya think I should take it?”

“Not up to me, Kid. But if you’re asking … Yes, I think you should take it.”

Kid yawned. “Okay, but I’m still gonna sleep on it. And I think I’m gonna hit the hay.”

“Guess I will, too.” The pair stretched as they strolled back to the bunkhouse.

~oo00oo~

At breakfast, the ramrod took the seat opposite Curry and Heyes at the table.

“Mornin’. Hope you two slept good. Got a load of work waitin’ on us today.” He gulped back a mug of coffee and addressed Kid. “Made up your mind?”

Heyes made an audience of two. They waited as Curry chewed his bacon, put down his fork, looked from one to the other, raised a brow. Reaching for his mug, he sipped his coffee.

“Well?” came in unison.

Kid replaced the mug and picked up his fork, stabbing at scrambled eggs. He leisurely chewed.

Two sets of eyes watched his every move. His own focused on his breakfast and coffee.

He nodded.

Heyes slapped his back hard enough for Curry to choke in mid-chew. “Whoa, Thaddeus, don’t get so choked up over the decision.”

The ramrod’s expression changed from expectation to delight. “Good. We’ll get started right after we eat.”

~ooOOoo~

At the corral, the ramrod discussed the horses with the assembled hands. He wanted the three stallions and four mares currently in the corral gentled before new ones came in the following week. They would be followed by a new group every seven days or so over the coming month. The buckaroos would alternate with each other, giving each an opportunity to rest and catch his breath. Heyes was assigned to help wrangle.

Over the next few days, Kid broke two of the stallions, and possibly, he swore, a rib. He left the mares to the other cowboy and concentrated on the black. Heyes watched his partner’s skills with admiration, and also winced sympathetically each time the blond man was thrown.

~ooOOoo~

As the sun set on yet another tiring day in the saddle, Heyes startled his partner by touching the blond man’s shoulder from behind. “You’re losing your touch, Kid. It’s just me.”

“Just thinkin’.”

“That’s my job.” Heyes smiled knowingly. “He’s not just on your mind; under your skin, too.”

Kid winced. “And on it.”

Both watched the black prance proudly, daring Curry to try again.

“I’ll say, with those bruises are all over you. That rib might not be broken, but it is bruised. Maybe bind it up tighter tomorrow.”

“Maybe …”

Heyes paused before continuing. “What’s really on your mind, Kid?”

Curry and the black locked eyes, mesmerized. Kid finally broke the gaze, shaking his head. “I don’t know. He might or might not have the devil in him. He’s spirited, sure. But, maybe … maybe he just needs not to be fenced in.”

Heyes glanced at his partner. “Kid, now I know ya been thinkin’ too much.”

Curry returned the gaze. “No, Heyes, hear me out. It’s like he’s just fightin’ to stay free, like us tryin’ to stay away from the law.”

“Maybe you have a point, but just try not to fall on your head again.” The dark-haired partner now met the black’s eyes. “I’ll say one thing, though – you’re a good match, because he’s just as stubborn as you.”

Kid chuckled. “Probably just a matter of who out-stubborns who.”

Heyes did not return the levity. “Maybe. But it only takes a split second for a man to break his neck.

Curry smiled. “Aw, Heyes, you’re worried about me.”

~oo00oo~

Heyes had a restless night, awaking to the door being closed softly. Pulling on his pants, he noticed Curry’s bunk was empty. Grabbing his boots, he padded outside in his stockinged feet. Dawn’s first faint light lent just enough illumination to outline a lone figure at the corral fence.
Heyes approached. “What’s up?”

Kid shrugged. “Couldn’t sleep.”

Heyes sighed. “Kid, you gotta get this job done or quit it and let the other guy have a go.”

“Can’t, he’s mine.”

“Damn it, Kid, he’s not yours! It’s just a horse you signed on to break.”

“I’m givin’ it my best shot.”

“Are you? Or are you trying to get yourself killed?”

Curry regarded his partner. “What are ya sayin’, Heyes?”

The dark-haired man sighed, his voice almost beseeching. “I don’t know … It’s like an obsession with you now. You’re living and breathing that devil horse. Almost like he’s got a hold of you, instead of the other way around.”

Kid spoke as he started to walk away. “Just got a job to do. That’s all.”

Heyes grabbed him by the arm. “Is it just a job, Kid? Who’s breaking who?”

Curry pulled his arm away roughly. The gunfighter stare bored through Heyes before the blond man steamily strode away.

~oo00oo~

The tedium at the corral continued much as it had since Curry had taken the buckaroo job. Heyes and the other wranglers managed to get a blindfold over the black and line him up at the fence long enough for Kid to slip into the saddle. Then, as the wranglers let go, Curry guided Diablo in a walk to the center of the corral. The stallion stood still for several long seconds, and Kid removed the blindfold. This day, however, the black remained still. The blond cowboy cautiously reined a few steps right; the horse cooperated. Now they moved a few steps to the left. Curry grinned at his partner, who gave him a thumbs-up.

Kid signalled to the fence, then around the inside perimeter. Diablo whinnied, shaking his head vigorously up and down, but complied. Again, the black acceded to Curry’s gestures as they circled in the opposite direction.

However, as suddenly as congratulatory cheers began, gasps and shouts of “Watch out” sounded. Heyes could only stare in horror, his own mount frozen to his spot. Diablo bucked violently. Curry grimaced as he struggled to maintain his tenuous balance.

Rider still astride, Diablo kicked at the fence. Within seconds, the top board gave way. The instant the black splintered the second rung, he gracefully vaulted the enclosure, throwing Curry into the fence. The cowboy’s fall broke the bottom plank. Dazed, he watched the stallion fade into the distance.

~oo00oo~

Thaddeus?”

The voice swam in his thoughts. Curry shook his head to regain his senses. He awoke to worried brown eyes.

“You okay?”

Kid winced, his voice weary. “Yeah.”

Heyes and the ramrod helped the blond man to his feet. Curry steadied himself.

The ramrod spoke. “You gave him a good run, Jones.”

Curry nodded through the pounding in his head, glancing in the direction the stallion had escaped. “We gonna go after him?”

“Nope. You were right – that one wasn’t meant to be gentled. Just a renegade. Leave him be.” The ramrod walked away.

Now alone in an empty corral, Heyes draped a protective arm around his partner’s shoulder.

“Like us, Heyes?”

“Huh?”

“Can we be gentled?”

The dark-haired man sighed. “That, Kid, remains to be seen.”

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