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 Ace In The Hole

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PostSubject: Ace In The Hole   Mon Jun 01, 2015 10:43 am

Is it really June already?  Half way through the year?  Well, it's time to get writing in response to the challenge set by RosieAnnie, and it's a goodie.  Get your fingers tapping, and minds buzzing with your challenge for this month:


Ace In The Hole 


prairie dog


Don't forget to comment on May's stories before you post this month's.  Late babies need as much love as early ones, and comments are the only thnaks the writers get.
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PostSubject: Re: Ace In The Hole   Sat Jun 27, 2015 8:45 pm

“Ya want one?” Kyle thrust out a sandwich clutched in his grimy hand.  “They’re real good.  I even think the beef is real cow.  You got us a real fine hideout here.”


“No thanks,” Heyes headed to the door.  “Take those to the Kid and share them with him.  Keep an ear out for any trouble and take him down the back stairs if your hear anything.”


Wheat nodded, while Kyle watched his friend carefully place the bottle of bourbon behind the curtain.  The door to the room carefully closed behind the outlaw leader.  “He never said nuthin’ about the booze, best to do exactly what he told us.”


“Yeah,” Kyle nodded.  “Don’t know how it might take him if he drinks bourbon.  Him being on medicaments an all.”


“Better safe than sorry,”


Kyle picked up the tray.  “Yup, he’s gotta be ready to make a break for it.  He can’t do that if he’s full as a tick.”


“We’re all heart, Kyle.  You and me’s just like nurses.”


“Yeah,” Kyle spat in the fireplace.  “I know my ma used ta hide the hooch from me so I like ta think we’s just like family when the Kid is all laid up like this.”


                                                                               ~~~


Heyes glided silently down the hallway, keeping to the shadows and the walls until, he reached the top of the staircase.  The light and hubbub from the hotel lobby drifted up to the man peering out of the shadows at what was unfolding below.  It didn’t take Heyes long to spot Eugene Beecher’s craggy features; not only was he a face he knew from the past in the milling crowd, he was the one making the most noise.  The face was older, craggier, and harder.  Life certainly hadn’t been kind to Eugene Beecher.  “Ya let him go and ya back the men who shot my boy?” he barked in disbelief. 


The man with the star was obviously at the end of his tether.  “Eugene we didn’t set him free.  He escaped, while your men were lookin’ out for the Devil’s Hole Gang too.”  He jammed a poking finger into the famer’s chest.  “And your Abner took a pot-shot at the doc.  That’s why he got injured, and that’s why these Beecher folks left town.”


“Beecher?”  The arrogance dropped from the father’s face.  “The folks who shot my boy are called Beecher?”


“Yeah...why does that matter?”


“Where’re they from?”


“Doc said somethin’ about Boston.”


“Boston.  What’s folk from Boston doin’ here?”  Beecher’s mouth dropped open, betraying a dismay which caused Heyes’ brow to furrow in intrigue.  “Boston’s a long ways from here.”


The sheriff folded his arms.  “I don’t need no geography lesson.  I got an escaped outlaw ta deal with and your boy tried ta kill the town’s only doc.  Where folks come from is the least of my problems.”


“He never did nuthin’.  It’s all a mistake,” Beecher protested.  “I just want ta find the witnesses, and I want that reward money.  T’aint my fault you let him go.  I caught him, fair and square.”


“Beecher, git outta ma sight before I lock you up for causin’ a disturbance.  That son o’yorn tried to murder the doc, and if’n he lives he’s gonna face prison for it.  If you want to do anythin’ useful go and find Curry.  There ain’t no reward for an escaped prisoner and that’s all there is to it.  Git!”


“This ain’t over,” Beecher yelled as he was ushered to the door by his own men.  “I’ll be seeing a lawyer.  I’ll get my boy out and we’ll see about that money!”


                                                                            ~~~


“I’ve had a selection of sandwiches laid out for you and your men, Sheriff Smart,” Howard Keen, the hotel manager, nodded over to the dining room where then hotel owner was pointing out intricacies of a huge urn to Higgins, the desk clerk.  A disapproving middle-aged female was arranging the food and was clearly finding all these male bosses more of a hindrance than a help.  She stopped and glared at the two men blocking her way, before clearing her throat theatrically.  She was clearly not to be trifled with; one flick of a heavy eyebrow was enough to send even the owner scuttling out of her way.   


From his vantage point at the top of the stairs, Heyes was able to see through the timbered arch into the first few feet of the dining room where tired and hungry men crowded around the long table which stretched off beyond his field of vision. 


The dark eyes  followed the hotel owner as he gestured with his head over to the corner.  The cheeks dimpled with delight as he realized that the owner was leading the manager to the corner right below his vantage point on the stairs.  Heyes pressed closer to the banisters and started the necessary ear peeling required to tune into the murmured voices.


“Keen, get over here,” hissed Denton.  The owner glanced around at the remaining members of the posse who were being herded into the dining room.  “I need to speak to you about something.” 


“Yes, Sir?”

  
“The railroad men are upstairs.  Nobody is to know, especially not Bertha.”  He gestured with his head over to the stern matron at the dining room door.

 
“Why not her?” asked the manager.  “She does most of the cookin’.  She’s bound to ask who the food is for.”


“It’ll be sandwiches, and I’m havin’ meetin’s.  That’s all she needs to know.  She’s got a mouth as wide as the Mississippi.  I don’t want anyone to know these men are here.  Nobody, you got that?”


Keen nodded obediently.  “It was me who told you they were here, Sir.  I know how much we need information to keep ahead of the competition.”


“Yes,” the owner seemed slightly mollified.  “It was Higgins who brought it to you though, wasn’t it?  A bright lad that Higgins.  Very bright.”


“Lad?  He’s thirty two, Mr. Denton.  He’s married with two children.”


The owner nodded.  “Yes.  A very bright lad…”


The manager rolled his eyes.  “Yes, and from what I hear tell, his ma was real pretty when she was young.  She arrived in town with just her and her young ‘un didn’t she?”


“What’s that supposed to mean?  She’s a respectable widow,” demanded Denton.  “All those rumors are hogwash.” 


“Nothin’,” smiled Keen.  “You like the Higgins family.  I get it.  Now these men upstairs.  What about them?”


“Quirke thinks he runs this town.  He’s about to find out he’s not as smart as he thinks he is.  When I’ve got some inside information he’ll find I’ve bought up the land before he gets there.”


Keen raised his brows.  “He does run this town.  He’s the mayor.”


“I mean, he’ll take over this business if I let him.  That railroad man said he’d take me out with him tomorrow.  I need two lunches packed, food for other three, and a breakfast before they go.  Got that?”


Keen nodded patiently.  “I have, Sir.  Shouldn’t you be givin’ these orders to Higgins?”


“I’m givin’ them to you, Keen.  I need you to run this place,” Denton cast an arm over to the matron once more.  “She can’t get an inkling of this.  Talkin’ to her’s like releasin’ a flock of carrier pigeons.  Quirke has ears everywhere.  He can’t get an inkling of any land I want to buy.  The price’ll go up.  There’s a new hotel to run for you in this.  It’ll be a bigger, better, and newer place.  I’m aimin’ on Higgins steppin’ up to run here.”  Fenton laid a hand on his manager’s shoulder.  “We’re on the verge of somethin’ big, Keen.  I need good men around me.  Are you in?”


The manager nodded and smiled.  “I’m in.”


“Good,” Denton grinned.  “Sort breakfast and the rest of the meals.  I’ll take care of the business deals.”


                                                                                        ~~~


Shrewd dark eyes flicked up from the map and scanned the trees skirting the river.  “So, this is the Beecher place?”


Denton nodded.  “Why does that interest you?  Are you sure you’re not related?”


“Positive.  I like to think that nobody would mistake me for a hillbilly.”  Heyes’ lips twitched into a winning smile.  “It interests me because the new branch line to Guernsey will go right through the middle of it.  There’s a lot of copper out that way and we need to transport it.  I guess it’s best we keep out of his way for now.  He won’t be a happy man this morning.  Have you heard how his son is?”


The hotel manager shook his head.  “The last I heard he weren’t doing too good.  I’ll be surprised if he makes it.  Doc Murray s a fair shot.  The boy was a fool to go after him but Abner was always short of a few sods on his roof.”  He tapped his temples knowingly.  “They said his ma drank and he came out pickled.  I never met the woman but his step-ma seemed nice enough; too good for that lot if you ask me.”  Heyes eyes darkened but he remained silent.  “She’s real put-upon girl and she’s not in town much.  She ain’t allowed, by all accounts.  Beecher keeps a real tight rein on her, but since she was caught with Kid Curry I can understand why.  What kind of woman goes off with an outlaw?”


Heyes shuffled in his saddle.  “What kind of woman goes with the man you’ve described to me?  I guess she was desperate to marry him.”  He shrugged.  “Anyway, back to the point.  This is the land I need to survey…” he was cut off by the sound of gunshot blasting through the peace.  Birds scattered from their roosts and filled the air with black twisting clouds of panic.  Both men jumped down from their horses and quickly led them over to a thicket where they took cover behind a fallen tree. 

They watched as horses thundered away from the Beecher Ranch, followed by another volley of shots.  The glint of a metal star pinned to the chest of one of the riders caused the outlaw leader to duck lower behind the log. 


“What’re you doing?” snickered the hotel owner.  “They’re not shooting at us?  Beecher is chasing Doc Murray off his land.”


“The doc?” Heyes frowned.  “What’s he doing out here?  Is he mad?”


“Sometimes we think he’s loco, but mostly he’s as stubborn as a rock.  Come on, let’s find out what he’s doing,” Denton raised a hand and called out to the riders, who paused before kicking their horses into a turn.  They headed straight for the wanted fugitive, who felt his stomach drop unto his boots until they got close enough for Heyes to see that the mustachioed  lawman was not the deputy from the jailbreak, he was the measured man from the lobby of the hotel.  In short, he could not identify Hannibal Heyes. 

                  
“Hey, boys.  Whatcha doing all the way out here?” waved Denton.


Sheriff Smart frowned at the dark man emerging from the undergrowth as he pulled his mount to a halt.  “Hey, Denton.  What brings you all the way out here?”


Denton grinned at Heyes climbing out from the bushes.  “Just showing a guest around the area.  He’s not used to gunfire from the looks of things,” he smiled at the medical man.  “What brings you back this way?  I thought the Beechers would be the last people you’d want to see today.”


“They are,” muttered Doc Murray, “but I need to see the woman.  I’ve warned Beecher before about mistreating his wife.  I’m down right scared for that woman.  I told Beecher I’d be around to make sure she was healthy.  I won’t be scared off.  I reckon that’s what Abner was trying to do, but he took it too far when he pulled a gun on me.”


“A married woman caught with an outlaw?  Doesn’t seem like she deserves too much sympathy to me,” Denton muttered.  “I know what I’d do if’n it was my wife.”


“Anyone who spends their life with that man deserves sympathy, and we’ve only got Beecher’s word for the way Kid Curry was caught,” the doctor snorted.  “Besides, a bit of chastisement is one thing, but half-killing them is another thing altogether.”


“You’re genuinely afraid for this woman,” ventured Heyes.


The sheriff’s curious eyes turned on the newcomer.  “That’s why we’re here, Mister…?”


“Smith,” blurted out Denton as Heyes sighed in the face yet another alias in this town.  How many was that now?  He was Beecher to the hotel staff, Wheat was Kyle Beecher to the doctor but Jim Hotchkiss in the hotel.  Now he was Smith to the sheriff and to the Doctor while the Kid and Kyle were Jack Trevors and Joe Rembakker respectively.  He made a mental note to draw up some kind of chart to deal with a situation which seemed to be degenerating into some kind of Western farce and hoped that all these people would never be together at the same time. 


“And your business here, Smith?”


“Holes,” Heyes replied with eponymous dimples appearing on cue.  It was clear that the hotel owner didn’t want to tell the sheriff that the men who shot Abner were still in the area. 


“Holes?” the lawman repeated.


“Yes.  The government has asked me to look into sinkholes and try to find areas in danger of developing new ones in the future.  The geology here has shown that we need to check things out,” Heyes tapped the side of his nose conspiratorially.  “It’s a matter of public safety, but it’s purely a precaution, you understand.  They open with no notice and suck anything above ground to the bowels of the earth.”


“Have we got any of these holes in these parts?” demanded the doctor.


“Not one,” Heyes assured the men.  “But if they’re likely to happen, the Governor wants to know about it.  The only way to do that is to take some mineral samples.  Mr. Denton here is just showing me the lay of the land.”


Sheriff Smart arched his brows.  “Who knew the authorities were so on the ball?” 


“Yeah,” Denton glanced at Heyes admiringly.  “Who knew?”


“I should’ve guessed you were from the governor’s office when you jumped for cover so fast,” grinned the sheriff.


“Hey, you do your job and I’ll do mine.  Should you be riding away if you think a woman is in danger?”


“He refuses to let us on his land, but we was only firin’ over our heads to make a point,” the Sheriff replied.  “I’ve told him that if the doc don’t see his wife by tomorrow morning I’m takin’ back up and goin’ in there.  He’s lost the reward money and his son is hangin’ by a thread.  I ain’t gonna push him too far.”    


“But if she’s badly injured…,” Heyes persisted. 


“A man has a right to be angry at a wife who went off with a criminal,” Sheriff Smart stated firmly.  “No court’s gonna punish him for a bit of discipline, as long as it’s within reason.”


“Within reason?” muttered Heyes.  “He sent his son after the doctor for even asking.  That doesn’t sound like a reasonable man.”


“We don’t know that,” Smart replied.  “Abner could’ve taken against the Doc all on his own.  We’ve gotta give a man a chance.”


Heyes nodded, unwilling to push the matter further.  “Sure, shall we head on to the next place, Denton?  I think I’ve got a measure of the dirt around here.”  He tipped his hat to the Doctor and the Sheriff.  “Nice meeting you.  Maybe I’ll see you around if I don’t move on before.”
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PostSubject: Re: Ace In The Hole   Sun Jun 28, 2015 8:33 pm

Lom, Scott and Morrison trotted into the yard of the deserted ranch feeling like they were riding into a ghost town. The frequent Wyoming wind was casually swirling little dust devils around the open yard and though there were still plenty of signs remaining that told of horses in the vicinity, there were now none in attendance.



The three men carried on until they came up to the crumbling ranch house and there they dismounted.



Well, I suppose we could search the premises building by building,” Lom suggested. “See if anybody's...”



Lom and Scott jumped and all three horses did a little dance as Morrison pulled his revolver and fired two shots into the air.



It's too damned hot to be searching round this dump,” Morrison answered to their silent query. “If someone's here they'll let us know.”



Scott was about to mumbled a complaint when sure enough they all stopped in their tracks and looked over towards the bigger of the two barns. Was that a muffled yell coming from inside the structure? They waited, listening for more and another just barely audible yell followed the first.



Morrison snorted and shook his head at the idiocy of certain lawmen as they all headed over to the barn. Entering in to the dusty abandoned building it still looked as though the three men were alone. A few small birds chirped in alarm and fluttered their way out the door or through a gaping hole in the roof but other than that the barn appeared empty.



Horses have been in here recently,” Scott mentioned as they approached the stalls and noticed fresh droppings.



Hmmm.” Morrison hadn't thought the obvious worth mentioning.



Scott jumped back in alarm as another yell came from beneath his feet. “What the hell!”



Ah,” Morrison commented casually. “Sounds like we got us an Ace in the hole.”



The Marshal stepped into the stall and brushed dirt and straw away from the trap door and standing up, he took hold of the edge and heaved the heavy door up and open. All three men peered down into the dusky semi-darkness and the first thing they saw was Mike's smiling face looking back up at them.



Howdy Tom,” Mike greeted him. “Good to see ya'.”



Mmm hmm,” came the response. The marshal turned to his companions and waved them into the hole. “Get down there and get him untied. Looks like we got some fugitives to round up.”



Lom and Scott exchanged looks, not really appreciating the marshal's attitude but then Lom shrugged and climbed down into the hole. Simply by job title, Morrison was senior lawman and had every right to take charge and give orders but his abrasive manner still had a tendency to rub the wrong way.



Lom stepped down into the darkness, the only light being what came down through the open trap door. But it was enough to see by. He frowned and peered deeper into the small space as the sounds of pathetic whimpering met his ears.



Who's that over there?” he asked as he untied Mike's hands.



That's just Gus Stainton,” Mike informed him. “Appears he's afraid of the dark.”



Oh.”



Lom finished untying Mike and leaving him to untie his own feet, Lom turned to the other occupant of the dark enclosure. He touched Gus' leg in order to position him easier to untie his feet but Gus shrank away from him.



What's that!?” he practically screamed. “What's that touching me!?”



Calm down Gus,” Lom told him. “It's just me, Lom Trevors. Let me untie your feet and we'll get you outa' here.”



Trevors?”



Yeah,”



Oh thank God!” Gus was whimpering in his relief. “Get me outa here! Get me away from that moron! The man's such an idiot; he doesn't have enough brain cells to be afraid of this place!”



Lom never did care much for Gus Stainton, but now he was disliking him even more. “Best watch who you're calling an idiot Stainton. I have a feeling you're gonna be locked up in his jail for some time. You don't want to make him mad now, do ya'?”



What do ya' mean locked up?” Gus complained as Lom helped him to his feet. “I ain't done nothin'...”



Mike snorted as he helped himself up to his own feet and began to stamp them to get the circulation happening again.



I think Heyes is going to have a thing or two to say about that,” the big sheriff commented.



If we find him alive,” Lom grumbled.



I think we will,” Mike commented. “Heyes always seems to find a way to land on his feet.”



What are you doin' down there? Havin' a tea party!?” Morrison's bellow came down through the door.



We're coming Tom,” Mike called back. “Just gettin' the feet to work again.”



How am I going to get up that ladder with my hands still tied behind me?” Gus complained. “Ya' gotta untie me—you can't leave me in here!”



I told ya' I wouldn't leave ya' in here,” Mike reminded the shaking bounty hunter. “Ain't my fault ya' didn't believe me.”



But how am I gonna get up with my hands tied!?”



Mike sent him a look that instantly shut his mouth. Then when the big sheriff moved towards him, Gus really panicked and tried to scrambled away from him. Unfortunately in such confined quarters, there was no where for him to go.



No no! What are you gonna do....NO!”



Mike leaned down and pushing his shoulder into Gus' midriff, hoisted the complaining man up onto his back. Gus' eyes widened in fear as he hung upside down and the sheriff moved back to the ladder and began to climb up to ground level.



No! Put me down you big oaf! Goddammit! Put me down!”



Lom followed behind and poked his head out of the hole just in time to see Mike unceremoniously dump his complaining passenger into the manure covered straw of the stall.



There,” he said. “I put ya' down. Now stop yer bellyachin'.”



You goddam fxxxin' imbecile....”



Mike turned on him and giving him a hard stare, took one step back towards him. Gus yelped and scrambled deeper into the stall wall.



Stay away from me!” Gus whined. “Stay away!”



You gonna keep yer mouth shut?”



Yeah...”



Mike turned back to the three other men and smiled at them. “Thank you,” he said to them all. “It was gettin' a might wearisome being stuck in there with that.”



I can imagine.” Lom agreed.
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PostSubject: Ace in The Hole   Tue Jun 30, 2015 2:13 pm

Ace In The Hole

The lucent blue eyes searched the valley: the river; the scrubby vegetable patch, the corrals, the outhouses, the bunkhouse, and the cabin.  The craggy sides rose around the canyon like a fortress, ripping through the landscape to meet an azure sky.  It was a remote and not easily accessible place, and it was clear that this injured man would not have made it home without help; help which both Hannibal Heyes and Jed Curry were happy to give.  A scrubby chicken clucked towards him, twitching its scraggy neck back and forth in the hope that these newcomers might provide some food.  The Kid turned and reached out to help his partner carry the injured man from the wagon, noting the mere bag of bones in his arms.  “Damn!  There’s nothin’ to him.  It’s like he ain’t eaten properly for years.”    

“Don’t let looks deceive ya, I’m wiry,” wheezed the old man.

“Sure ya are,” murmured Heyes, kicking at the door to open it.  “Are you sure there’s nobody else here?”

“I already told ya,” both men suddenly felt the ribs spasm in a paroxysm of coughing which seemed to originate somewhere deep in the man’s scuffed boots, “the wife left years ago and took the little ‘uns with her.  She hated this place.  The ground don’t grow nuthin’ but taters and cabbage.  She swore that she left Ireland for somethin’ better, and ended up livin’ worse.”

The Kid pulled back a quilt and helped the old man onto the bed as it groaned in protest.  “Easy now, mind that hip.  I think those ropes need tightening too.  You’re sinkin’ too low on that bed.”

“It’s broke, I tell ya.  There ain’t nuthin’ you can do for me now.”

“How far is it to the nearest doctor, Gabe?” asked Heyes.

“It’d take at least two days for ya to get him here, and even then there’s be nuthin’ he could do,” Gabriel De Ville sighed in resignation.  “A broke hip is the end for any man, not least a farmer.  I’m a goner and I knows it.  At least I’ll die in my own bed, thanks to you boys.  I didn’t want to go out there on the rocks.  I was fixin’ to put a bullet in my head when you two came along.”

Heyes and Curry exchanged a worried look.  “There ain’t no need for that,” the Kid put his hands on his hips.  “I’m more than happy to go to the nearest town for a doctor.  I can leave now if you want.”

“Nah,” Gabriel shook his head.  “You two were already beat when ya found me and it ain’t gonna change a thing.  I’m done for.”

Heyes sighed deeply, acceptance setting in.  Both he and the Kid had already discussed their surprise at this determined old man lasting this long.  “You need some fresh water.  There’s a well out there.  I’ll be right back.”

“Do you need anything?” asked the Kid, tugging gently at the dusty boots.  “These need to come off, let me know if I hurt you.”

“There’s some laudanum in the dresser, over there,” Gabe watched his guest pull open a drawer.  “Open the cupboard.  Yeah, that’s it.  The green bottle.  I’ve been dreamin’ of this stuff.”  The old man seized the bottle and tossed back a gulp of the reddish-brown liquid before settling back on the pillows. 
“Easy,” the Kid exclaimed.  “That’s strong stuff.  Ain’t you supposed to dissolve a few drops in water or somethin’?”

“Yeah, that’s the job,” the old man settled back on his pillows with a smile spreading over his grizzled face.  “I can feel it spreading through me already.  There ain’t nothin’ to worry about.  What else can happen to me now?  I’m as well floatin’ out on a cloud, there ain’t nuthin’ to stay here for.”  He winked at the young visitor.  “No offense, Jed.  You and your friend have been great.  It’s like the Almighty himself sent you, but if’n my time is up I want to go with a smile on my face and rememberin’ the best of times.”

“The Almighty?” the Kid gave Gabriel a wry smile.  “I ain’t had too much contact with him.  I’d be more likely to be sent by that other fella.”  Heyes strode in carrying a bucket of water.  “He seems to think we’re angels, Heyes.”

“Angels, huh?”  Heyes dipped a glass into the bucket.  “Here, drink this.”

“Yeah, I told him we’re more familiar with the devil.”

“Sure we’re in league with the devil, but our duties are purely ceremonial, Gabe,” Heyes smiled down at the injured man.  “We’re not here for your soul, your money, or anything else.”

“I know,” chucked the old man.  “You ain’t robbers, I can tell.”  Uneasy brown eyes met widening blue pools of guilt before drifting back to the patient.  “In any case I ain’t got nuthin’ worth stealin’.”

Heyes pulled out a chair.  “Sure you have.  Everyone has.  You have your farm, your family, your memories,” he arched his leg and sat on the chair the wrong way around, leaning his chin in the back.  “If you don’t want us to fetch a doctor is there anyone you want to contact for you?  You said your wife is in San Francisco?”

“Yeah,” the old man shrugged, his eyelids drooping from the drug.  “I guess she’ll want to know.  I heard she got married again, at least it won’t be bigamy no more.”

The dark eyes softened.  “She wasn’t coming back?”

“It were never right between us.  She’d be a good enough woman if she found the right man: maybe a lion tamer or a lighthouse keeper who lived away a lot.  Livin’ here in this hole with nobody to talk to drove her half-mad.  Add no money, scratchin’ a livin’ to all that and she just had enough.  She didn’t want to be here anymore.”

“You didn’t want to go with her?” asked the Kid.

Gabriel shook his head.  “My pa was a poor farm worker from France.  There might not be much here, but it’s mine.  This might be a hole, but it’s my hole and it‘s the first time the De Ville family ever owned more’n a crust o’ bread.  It won’t make ya rich, but it’ll keep ya alive and that was enough for me.  I’m proud of it.”

Heyes nodded gently.  “And she ends up with it?”

“Nah, she won’t come back here.  She married some blacksmith and is sittin’ real pretty,” Gabriel opened his heavy eyes and looked at each of the boys in turn.  “Ya want it?  It ain’t much, but it could be a place to call home.”

“Us?” spluttered the Kid.  “But it belongs to your children.”

“Nah, they’re girls.  The place’ll rot before any o’ mine take an interest.  I’d like ta give ya somethin’ for helpin’ me.  What d’ya say boys?  If you can write I can add my mark to make it legal-like.  Take it.  I can see you boys ain’t got nuthin’ but each other.”

The partners exchanged a meaningful glance.  “We ain’t the settlin’ down types, but we’ll think about it, Gabe.”

“Well, I want you boys ta write it up and I’ll put my mark on it.  If ya don’t want the place ya can just burn it and ride outta here.  Do it boys, ‘cos I got no intention of bein’ here come mornin’.”  He pulled out the bottle of laudanum and pulled out the stopper. 

Heyes frowned and rose to his feet, but the Kid threw out an arm to bar his way.  “Let him go.  There’s nothing anyone can do.  It’s his choice and at least he’s not in pain.”

Heyes paused, his downcast eyes masking his emotions before he walked over to the shelf and pulled down the bible.  “If that’s what you want, Gabe.  This is the only paper I can see in the place.  I can write your wishes on the endpaper.”

“Yeah, it’s like swearin’ before God himself.  I wouldn’t want you boys to have any trouble...”

oooOOOooo

A golden dawn lit up the valley as dawn broke over the craggy, jagged rocks encircling the little valley.  The stark shadows grew at the rising of the sun, before being chased back into the crevasses and clefts by the fingers of light spreading across the canyon.  The glow hit the face of the pensive young man sitting on the porch steps.  He was doing what he always did when he had time to kill; cleaning his gun.  It was an automatic movement to him; one which allowed his mind to wander and skip.  It was something he only did when he knew he was safe, so it was something he did when he was most comfortable in his own skin.  He turned at the sound of the door opening and held the gaze of the solemn man facing him.   The Kid raised questioning brows in a mute conversation.

Heyes nodded silently.  “He’s gone.  A mixture of the laudanum and the shock of the broken hip.  It was probably for the best.  He was in agony and there was nothing we could do.”

The Kid stared back out at the valley.  “So I guess we’ve got to bury him?”

“Yeah, I’ll write a letter to his wife too.”

“So, I guess this is all ours.  All fair and above board.”  The Kid looked around at the outbuildings.  “We’re landowners.  I’ve gotta tell ya, Heyes, I ain’t mad on the idea of livin’ off cabbages and potatoes.”

“It could be a fresh start, Kid.”  Heyes fixed his partner with an intense stare.  “Think about it.   It’s a base for us, out in the middle of nowhere where we can’t be snuck up on.  You get to the head of the valley and you can see for miles.”

“You ain’t serious about staying here are you?  I’m no cabbage farmer.”

“Neither am I, Kid, but we can use it as a base, a safe place to come back to.”  Heyes shrugged.  “Look at that last place where we’ve been settled; out on the plains so we could see people coming for miles.  The freezing winds cut right through you in the winter, and the lack of shade roasts anything caught out in the summer sun.  Trying not to be snuck up on is no way for a civilised man to live.  We’re not jackrabbits.”

“I think folks stopped callin’ us civilised when we committed our first robbery, Heyes.”  The Kid shook his head.  “Livin’ in one place will only make it easier for us to be found.  It’s better to keep movin’.”

“But think about it.  We can have a guard, and the rest of us can relax at last.  It’d not only be safer, it’d be a lot more comfortable.” 

“De Ville’s Hole?”  The Kid shrugged.  “It could work.  We’d best run it past the boys though.”         

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

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Location : Derbyshire UK

PostSubject: Re: Ace In The Hole   Tue Jun 30, 2015 6:56 pm

An Ace in the Hole

(Sequel to Renegades)


The young man pulled up his horse and stared up into the rocks which rose high above the narrow pass.  Sunlight glinted.

“Two men?”

The older man nodded.

“Both on the same side though.  Wouldn’t you be better to flank the pass?”

The other man simply raised an eyebrow and the young man looked up again and studied the cliff faces.

The two men were riding in a rocky landscape, with few trees and little grass.  Not quite barren, it was far from fruitful.  There was just one narrow pass between the towering cliffs.  The area felt empty, oppressive and threatening.

“There’s no way up the other side unless you climb!”

The older man nodded and smiled.

The first man pursed his lips, “You could climb up and tie a rope, anchor it at the bottom and then you’d get up and down pretty quickly,” he paused and added, smiling, “but I guess that would make it too accessible to undesirables and give them a good vantage point!”

The second man smiled.  “There’s no cross fire, but with the view, you don’t really need it, no one else can get in or out without going through here and if you’re up there, you can see a rider approaching from some distance.  Everyone will already know we’re coming in.”

He waved up at the glint in the rocks, gave a signal and continued to ride forward.  The younger man trailed slightly behind.

Up in the rocks, Lobo lowered the field glasses and turned to the man standing a few feet away.  “Better go and tell Wheat that Heyes is back and he’s got someone with him.”


Heyes rode up into the compound of the Devil’s Hole Gang and dismounted.  Several voices chorused greetings.  One of the men took the reins Heyes held out and led his horse away to feed and water him.

“Hi Kyle, boys.  Say hello to Kid Curry.”

The men all turned and looked at the young man sat quietly on his horse.  One of them spat onto the ground.  “Young ain’t he?  You shavin’ yet, boy?”

Several of the men laughed.  Kyle walked up to young man and held out a hand, “Welcome to the Devil’s Hole!”

Kid bent down and shook the outstretched hand.  “Thanks.”

“Coffee on?”

“Of course.”

“Kid, you wanna join me?”

“Sure, thanks.”

“Red’ll take care of your horse, won’t you, Red?”

“If you say so, Heyes.”

“I do.”

Curry dismounted and followed Heyes into the cabin, handing his reins to Red as he passed him.

Inside, Heyes poured two cups of coffee and handed one to Curry.

The door opened and a man entered.  “’Bout time you got back.”

“Good to see you too, Wheat.”

“Kid, Wheat Carlson.  Wheat, Kid Curry.”

“Ain’t he a little young?”

Kid sighed heavily and Wheat glanced in his direction, “No offence.”

“Sure”, Kid answered dryly.

“I’m vouching for him Wheat, you got a problem with that?”

The others shuffled their feet and stared at the floor as Wheat responded, “Might have.”

They all looked over at Curry, noting the way his gun was worn and how he’d tied it down.  Wheat continued to hold Heyes’ cool gaze.

Kid sipped his coffee, he appeared relaxed but his eyes were fastened on Wheat and he was aware of the tension in the room.  Carefully, unobserved, he pulled off the glove on his right hand and tucked it into his belt.  For now, he was content to allow Heyes to take the lead, but he wanted to be ready in case he needed to fight his way out.

Kyle spoke up, his voice anxious, “Wheat, you know we could always” Heyes glanced at Kyle and he fell silent.

“Tell you what, Wheat, let’s cut cards.  You draw the highest, he goes.  I draw the highest, he stays.”

Heyes picked the pack of cards up off the table in the centre of the room and gave them a quick shuffle.

“Okay”, Wheat consented.

Heyes handed the cards to Kyle, “You shuffle them.”

Kyle gave them a long shuffle and set them back on the table.  Heyes gestured to Wheat to go first.  He lent over and picked up a section and showed a ten of diamonds.  He set them back on the pile.

Heyes lent over, paused and lifted a stack.

Curry held his breath.  The silence in the cabin was almost physical.  Slowly, Heyes held up the cards to Wheat to show the top face card, the Ace of Spades.

Wheat shrugged and turned to Curry.  “You do anything but look pretty?”

The glint in Kid Curry’s eyes hardened.  Carefully, he set his coffee cup down and walked out of the cabin.

Curious, everyone followed him.

“You ever see a gun shoot two bullets at the same time?” he asked Wheat.

“Huh?  No gun can do that!”

“Mine can.”

“Of course it can”, Wheat responded, sarcasm heavy in his voice.

Kid Curry pulled a bullet out of his belt and held it up.  “That’s one.”

He tossed it into the air and, in the blink of an eye, drew and fired – the little bullet exploding while still on its way upwards.  “That’s two.”

Several jaws dropped, Wheat’s included.

The gun returned to its holster and then, without pause, in a blur, Curry drew again and fired.  Heyes dropped the coffee cup he was holding, the brown liquid spilling out of the neat bullet holes through the centre.  He rubbed his tingling fingers and glared at the Kid.  Kid twirled his gun and dropped it back into his holster.

“Course, sometimes, it only fires one.  Now, where should I bunk?”

Kyle and the others began to laugh.  Kid smiled at Heyes, a little apologetically and Heyes smiled back.  The men approached Kid and thumped him on the back or shook his hand, exclaiming over the “demonstration” and introducing themselves.  Kid accepted the acclamations calmly and noticed that Wheat remained in the cabin’s porch for a minute before walking away.

Curry smiled at the men around him, “Is there anything to eat, I’m starved!”

Kyle nodded, “Sure, just got started.”

“I’ll bring your things in”, Red started for the stable.

“Red, put them in the cabin.”  Heyes called after him.  Red nodded to indicate he’d heard.  There were surprised looks, but no one dissented.


The rest of the evening was spent in eating, drinking and playing poker.  Finally, the men drifted off to their beds in the bunk house.

Heyes showed Kid the back room, which contained a bed and a cot.  He gestured to the cot.  Kid smiled, “You pulling rank?”

“Age, I’m older.”

“By two years!”

“And I’ve been here longer!”  Heyes’ jaw had a stubborn set.

“Okay, okay, I’m not arguing!”  Curry placated him, “I’ll take the cot.”

Heyes relaxed, “I’ll get another bed up here as soon as I can”, he promised.

Curry shrugged, “It’s a lot better than the ground!”  He paused and added, “So, am I officially a member of the Devil’s Hole Gang and your partner?”

“Yep.”

“Will that Wheat fella be a problem?”

“Wheat’s okay.  He usually backs down, but, he wants to lead and would, if he could.  For now the others are happy to follow me, as long as the money rolls in.”

“Which is where I come in?”

“Yeah, partly.”

Curry nodded, his face thoughtful.  “By the way, how did you palm that ace?”

“Kid!”  Heyes feigned hurt.

Kid grinned.  He undressed and lay on the cot and stared at the ceiling, mulling over his change in fortune.  A week ago, he’d been alone, broke and unarmed.  Now, he had a roof over his head, a full stomach, a gun, a partner and a pocket full of dollars.  He smiled to himself.

Heyes turned out the light and climbed into the bed.  He chuckled.

“What’s the joke?”

“Oh, something just struck me, about how good you are and where we are.”

“What’s that?”

“Stupid really.”

“What?”

“I dunno, on reflection…”

“Heyes!”

“Okay, I just thought, it’ll be good to have an Ace in the Hole!”

“Heyes!”



Author's note:
(Sorry, couldn't resist the pun!)
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