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 Means To An End

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PostSubject: Means To An End   Wed Jul 01, 2015 11:21 am

So, are you all sitting by your keyboards agog with anticipation?  Me neither, but I thought you'd want to get pondering on the next challenge.  Your mission (chosen by InsideOutlaw), should you choose to accept it, is:


Means To An End


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PostSubject: Re: Means To An End   Tue Jul 14, 2015 9:12 pm

The Kid sighed, then winced, as pain shot through his chest at the movement.  “What’s up?  I thought we were safe here.”


“We are,” Heyes replied, just a touch too casually.  “Are the ribs still bothering you?”


“They’re good enough to ride outta here if we need to.”


Heyes shook his head.  “You’re not ready yet.  The hotel manager is keeping us under wraps because he thinks he’ll get information about where to build his next hotel.  He’s a good front for riding about the country without too many questions but it’s only a means to an end.  He doesn’t want Beecher finding out we’re here either.  It might kill the goose with the potential for laying that golden egg.”


“Means to an end?  This ain’t the time to think of revenge, Heyes.  I know you, and how you get when you’re crossed, but we need to get out of here.  It’s more important than gettin’ back at Beecher.  As long as we’re free, we got nothin’ but time.”


The dark brows gathered.  “I know that.”


The Kid frowned.  “What?”  He watched his cousin glance away.  “Tell me.  There’s somethin’ eatin’ at you.”


Heyes sighed and walked over to the bed.  “I need your word that you’ll stay where you are and not do anything stupid.”


“Stupid?  Like what?”


“Like jump up out of that bed and try to deal with this.”  Heyes cast a hand out towards the window.  “You’ll only end up back in jail, so all this will have been for nothing.  You need at least a week of complete rest.  You’ve broken at least one rib and I’m not happy about that head injury.  You’re sleeping a lot.”


“I ain’t sleepin’ a lot; I’m tryin to sleep a lot,” The Kid retorted.  “This darned rib wakes me up every time I move.  I’m not that bad I can’t ride.”


“I don’t want that rib puncturing a lung.  Just let things settle down a bit and I’ll get you out of here at a pace you can handle.  There’s no way you could outrun a posse right now.”


“So, I won’t.”


Heyes paused.  “Won’t what?”


“Jump out of bed and get myself arrested again.  You’re great at changin’ the subject, but I know you too well.  I give you my word, now you keep your side of the bargain; why are you so keen to stay here?”


Heyes chewed on his lip before conceding.  “Christina.”


The blue eyes widened in alarm as the realization hit.  “Oh, my good…I never thought of that.  If he beat the life out of me, what would he do to her?  He didn’t have to make sure she could be recognized for a reward.”  He dropped his head.  “What kind of man am I?  Why didn’t I think of that?”


“Because you’re sicker than you’re making out and you’re drugged up to the eyeballs,” Heyes crossed over and perched on the side of the bed.  “You don’t need to be on top of everything, you know.  That’s what friends are for.  I’m looking out for her.”  He patted the mattress.  “I’m looking out for her for you.”


“How is she?  Is she hurt?”


Heyes shrugged uneasily.  “We haven’t managed to get anyone to her yet.  The sheriff’s told him that he’s got until tomorrow, but the doc’s being real pushy.  He won’t let it rest.”


“Pushy?  It needs more than pushy, Heyes.  You should have seen the mess of her back.  The skin was like a ploughed field.  I’ve never seen scars like it, let alone on a woman.  He’ll kill her by inches because quick’s less fun.  Someone’s gotta get her outta there.”


Hannibal Heyes took a deep breath, reflecting on the man they knew from their youth; brutish, callous, and petty.  He was the reason they had run away from Valparaiso.  They’d insisted in letting them out to work for that man, and had no interest in the listening to the boys about the way they’d been abused.  Beecher had been the overseer to Christina’s father, and when Jed had been caught in the hayloft with her all hell had been let loose.  That couple of hours in the hay had changed the course of their entire lives.  Neither of them had given a second thought for the girl they left behind, and he cringed at the realization that they’d both dismissed her position in life as being as secure as her father’s.  How were they to know that she’d be handed down to the harsh overseer because a woman with a ruined reputation been an inconvenience who soiled the family name?  He didn’t have to wonder what kind of life she’d had.  He already knew; and the truth stung.    


The poker played slipped into his mask and flashed a reassuring dimple.  “I’ll make sure I’m out that way tomorrow.  There’s no way I’m letting Beecher away with this.”


“He can’t see you, Heyes.  He’ll recognize you.”


“Yeah.  I’ve had a few thoughts about that.”  The dark eyes gleamed.  “I don’t think I’m going to have to worry about that.  I’ve got it covered.”


                                                                                   ~~~


The dark figure ghosted through the darkness, delicately pulling back fronds until the silhouette of the Beecher place could be clearly seen in the pale moonlight.  A hound grumbled and raised its head before rising to its huge paws to investigate the sounds drifting through the night air.  Heyes reached into his pocket and pulled out the package , tempting the beast over by wafting the aromas in its direction by waving it about.  “Come on, boy,” he murmured.  “Come and get the delicious beef.” 


The animal’s hunger got the better if it and it snuck cautiously forward.  This must be a friendly human.  There were enough of those who came to work for his owner, but nobody stayed for long.  None of them had ever come bearing meat before.  This should happen more often.


The wagging tail told the experienced interloper that the old ploy was about to be successful.  “Any more of you out there?”  Heyes let out a low whistle and another floppy-eared mutt scampered over.  “Yeah, there you go.  Eat it all up.”  He watched the beasts snuffle around on the grass where he dropped the drugged food.  “That should keep you two quiet, but in the meantime you think I’m a friend.”


He stepped carefully around the feasting dogs and allowed the shadows to engulf him as he took stock of the property.  The farmhouse stood in the center of the plot, just as he remembered from the maps.  He had been provided with by the hotel owner.  That meant that the bunkhouse was further away, to the north of the house; far enough away for him not to worry about it too much about them hearing him.  The barn, stable, corals, and various animal houses were near the bunkhouses for convenience.  In between the bunkhouse and the house there was a well.  The map was clearly out of date though.  The river had obviously changed course.  The map had shown it a matter of yards away from the cabin, but  he saw that it now played its way through the valley at the end of the field.


So much for maps.  Heyes turned to see the dogs scratch at the grass, searching for the remaining scraps of their tit bits and decided it was time to explore.   The light from a cabin window was too tempting for an expert burglar.  He kept to the edges, still in the shadows, until he could press up against the windows and stare into the building.  He recognized his old adversary right away, sitting facing the range.  The face was far craggier; gravity had grabbed the frequent scowl to drag the flesh into a permanent glower, and the crepey eyelids formed hoods over black piercing eyes.  There was not an ounce of humanity in that face.  He silently reflected on the fact that children and animals could read these features before frequent use etched them in place forever, yet they were often so often dismissed.  That was a lesson he would never have to re-learn.  He listened.


He watched Beecher stand up and pick up a bucket before making for the door.  Light poured out into the night as he made his way out of the building.  Heyes pressed further into the shadows and watched Beecher head down towards the river with his bucket.  A frown played over Heyes’ brow; did he have time to search the cabin?  Did he even need to?  Beecher was not a man to do his own dirty work.  If Christina was inside she would have been ordered to fetch the water.  He sank into the darkness and watched the man fill his bucket and stride back to the cabin.

Yes.  He had to be here tomorrow when the law came to find look for Mrs. Beecher.  He knew he could help.
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PostSubject: Re: Means To An End   Thu Jul 16, 2015 8:22 pm

Out in the office Turner was in the process of pouring out five shots of brandy (the good stuff) while Morrison and David continued to glare at each other.


“I think everybody just needs to calm down,” Turner stated as he handed the shot glasses around. “tempers seem to be a little high right now. Cheers.”


Everyone downed their drink and it did help to break the tension just a little. David found that the alcohol burned his throat on the way down, and it went straight to Morrison’s already pounding face, but everyone else seemed to enjoy it.


“You two need to find a way to get along,” Turner suggested as he poured out two more shots. “Why don’t you take these drinks, go into the back office and try to talk this out.”


This suggestion was met with silent hostility. David didn’t want to be anywhere near the sheriff and Morrison wished the doctor would just go away.


“Are either one of you intending to leave town soon?”


“NO!” came the unified retort.


“Well then,” Turner shrugged. “better work it out.” then he handed them each another drink and gestured towards the back office.


Suddenly feeling like two boys who had just had the principal catch them fighting in the school yard, the two men took the offered drinks. They cautiously made their way into the other office, David making sure that Morrison stayed in front of him every step of the way.
They both sat down on opposite sides of the desk and solemnly glared at each other.


“Alright,” Morrison finally broke the silence. “let’s be honest Doc; I don’t like you and you don’t like me.”


“Nothing to disagree with yet,” David mumbled.


“I think you’re a namby-pamby, lily-livered sorry excuse for a real doctor and you think I’m a sadistic bastard who just likes to inflict pain for no reason.”


David just glared at him.


“The Territory of Wyoming asked me to capture Heyes and Curry and get them to trial. The reason they asked me is for one reason and one reason only,” Morrison explained. “they knew that I could do it. My ways are harsh, but those two outlaws have been running wild for over ten years and nobody has been able to hold on to them. It was time to get tough.”


“Getting tough is one thing,” David answered him. “but you go beyond that. You’re right; I do think you’re sadistic, I think you really do enjoy hurting people.”


“I don’t enjoy it Doc,” Morrison disagreed. “I just don’t mind doing it. Not if I know it will get the job done. I studied those two men Doc, I figured out their strongest abilities and then that’s where I hit them. If you go after where a man is strongest then you have to hit hard or they’ll just run right over you. Look what happened with Heyes; I had him right where I wanted him. One look from me and he’d back off and keep his mouth shut, but look what happened as soon as I handed him over to these idiots here. This is supposed to be the most secure jail in the whole territory, but Heyes damn near walked out the front door!! It was just by chance he was stopped! That would not have happened if he’d still been in my custody.”


“So the whole idea was to break him?” David asked with a bit of a sneer.


“Break him? No,” Morrison answered. “I just needed Heyes to know that he wasn’t going to get away with pulling his crap on me, and he did know it! I didn’t come anywhere near breaking him. If I had I wouldn’t be sporting a broken nose and two black eyes. No, it’s going to take prison to break Hannibal Heyes.”


“And you’re pleased about that?”


“Nope,” Morrison said. “Couldn’t care less either way. My job is done as far as he’s concerned. I arrested him and I got him to trial. What the judge decided to do with him after that was up to him. I admit I’m glad he didn’t get off. The man’s an outlaw through and through. I don’t care about his past, a lot of us had a hard time growing up—so what. Now maybe the things that happened did make him who he is, but that’s still who he is and if he’d gotten a pardon he would have just gone back to being who he is—an outlaw.”


“But Sheriff, they have been trying to go straight,” David pointed out. “and they have friends who are willing to stand by them and vouch for them.”


“Yeah,” Morrison smirked. “I think those friends got a bit of an eye opener at Heyes’ trial don’t you? Seems he wasn’t staying quite as straight as his friends thought.”


“I think there is more to it than that,” David insisted.


“Well then maybe he should have explained himself in court,” said Morrison. “but he didn’t, did he? Because he couldn’t explain it, he couldn’t justify it. He’d gotten caught and that’s all there is to it.”


“He couldn’t explain it because it would have meant implicating other people,” David pointed out. “Seems to me he was protecting someone else.”


“Yeah,” Morrison agreed. “other thieves! This just goes to show that he’s still thick with them, still working with them. He’s a cardsharp, a conman and a thief himself. Nothing’s changed!”


David decided to let that one go. Morrison had one opinion and David had another. As far as the doctor was concerned, Heyes had good people who were willing to stand by him and that in itself should carry some influence in judging the man. But Morrison was adamant so there was no point in arguing the point. Besides, Heyes’ situation was somewhat a moot point now since the man had been sentenced and convicted and was probably already getting his first taste of prison life.
David changed tact’s and brought up another situation that he had felt was above and beyond the call of duty.


“Well, there was no need to shoot that man from the train,” David pointed out. “If you had wanted to get the attention of those outlaws all you had to do was fire your gun in the air.”


“Yup, that’s true,” Morrison agreed.


“Well then—why!?”


“Because I didn’t do it to get Carlson’s attention,” Morrison explained. “I did it to get Curry’s attention.”


“But Jed said that you told….”


“I told Carlson I did it to get his attention just to make him feel like he was important, like he actually had some say in the negotiations,” Morrison said. “but Curry was the one who was going to make things happen, he was the one who had to take control of his gang and make them do his bidding. I had to let Curry know—right now—what would happen if he didn’t co- operate.”


“So you killed a man just to get Jed to go along with you, something he probably would have done anyways.”


“I didn’t kill a man,” Morrison countered. “I killed an outlaw, and a two bit one at that. And there was no time for ‘probably’, I needed that situation defused instantly, like I said—right now. I did what I had to do to make it happen.”


David was silent, but he still didn’t look convinced. Morrison shook his head.


“You are so concerned over the death of one low-life outlaw that you’re not seeing the whole picture,” the sheriff carried on. “What do you think would have happened if that gang had boarded the train and come across their boss in custody? Do you really think they would have just walked away from that? They outnumbered us three to one. They would have tried to take Curry by force and who knows how many people could have been killed. Women and children, Doc, they would have been right in the middle of it. You should be thanking me.”


David hated to admit it, but the sheriff was actually starting to make sense. If a full blown gunfight had broken out on that train the results could have been disastrous.


“But still,” David wasn’t ready to give up yet. “this most recent incident. From what Rick tells me, Jed wasn’t trying to break away. There was no need to use that kind of force, indeed it was you reacting that way that set Hannibal off.”


Morrison shook his head again, like he had to explain logic to a child.


“I said right from the get go ‘Don’t let those two get together,’” Morrison continued to explain. “I didn’t want those two seeing one another, or even hearing anything about one another. Unfortunately I couldn’t stop their ‘friends’ from bringing information back and forth, so that part couldn’t be helped. But they’ve proven over and over again; together they’re dangerous! Keep them apart and you keep them off balance.
“Dammit, Heyes was supposed to have been gone two hours before I brought Curry over! And the prison coach was supposed to be in the back lane! I don’t know what the hell Turner was thinking! Now maybe I did over react a bit there, but I was mad! I’d had Curry’s attitude right where I wanted it—and then he sees Heyes! God dammit!!! So yeah, I hit him hard. Now maybe in your mind it was too hard, but I disagree. I don’t want these outlaws to like me, I don’t even want them to respect me, I just want them to know their place and to stay there.”


Morrison stopped talking for a minute and took a drink. David remained quiet, just staring ahead. The sheriff sighed and then continued.


“I’ve seen the way you are with these two, treating them like regular folk, calling them by their first names. I hear you talking to Curry, the two of you laughing like you’re old buddies. But I tell you Doc, the only people those two are loyal to are each other.
“Look what happened to Mike. He treated Heyes with a lot more leniency than I ever would have, those damn weekly poker games—what the hell was he thinking!? But did Heyes respect that? No! As soon as Mike got in his way; ‘POW!’ Now Mike’s going to be eating soup for a month,”
Here Morrison stopped and shook his head. “And I don’t know what’s going on with Layton. He was my best right hand man—but now...” Morrison shook his head again. “I don’t know.” Then he went back to his original point. “Those two outlaws have just simply been putting up with you because you’re helping them, and right now it’s Curry. Everything he is, is tied up with being a gunman, and he was scared to death that he was going to lose that. Now here you are, a young up and coming doctor, all ‘back East trained’ and full of ideas and you’re going to make him all better again. He’s just using you, cause that’s what they do; they use people to get what they want and to take what they want.
“ You mark my words Doc; if there ever comes a time when you get in between Kid Curry and something he wants you are going to find yourself face to face with a totally different breed of man. How do you think he got that reputation in the first place? By being the nice guy? You just might end up regretting helping him get his shooting arm back in shape.”


A chill went through David as he recognized the same sentiment coming from the sheriff as the one his wife had suggested to him concerning the outlaw’s recovery. He still didn’t feel that he wanted to agree with it, but it was un-nerving all the same.
Morrison finished his brandy and got up.


“That’s it for me,” he announced. “You chew on that for a while Doc. If you’ve got anything more to say I’ll see you in the morning. Right now, I’m heading back to the hotel to get some more sleep.”


And with that the sheriff plunked the empty shot glass down on the table and took his leave. David sat there for a few more minutes, staring into space, his drink still untouched. He felt heart-sick. Was his friendship with Jed just a ruse on the outlaw’s part in order to use him? He didn’t want to believe it, but the sheriff had put forth a convincing argument and David just wasn’t sure what the truth was anymore.
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PostSubject: Re: Means To An End   Fri Jul 24, 2015 5:48 pm

Black and white-striped, sweat-stained, manacled prisoners shuffled by outside the tall window of the warden’s office at the Wyoming Territorial Prison.  On their way back to their cells after a long day of splitting rock in the sunbaked yard, the inmates’ leg chains rattled creating ghoulish music as they passed.  Deep lines of fatigue etched every face and the air of desperation about them was nearly palpable.  




The unusual hot spell of ninety-plus degree days had taken its toll.  One of the prisoners stumbled to his knees and the response from the nearest guard was immediate.  Using his wooden baton, the guard flailed at the downed man while screaming at him to get up.  Exhausted, the defeated man could only cower with his arms shielding him as best they could before he fell to the ground and lay on his back, unmoving.  The guard’s arm dropped to his side and he turned away ordering the other men to pick him up and continue on.  The pained blue eyes of the fallen man opened slowly and stared beseechingly at the figure watching from the window.  




“There but for the grace of God, eh, Mr. Heyes?” said Warden Burke to his visitor peering out the window.  The blue-eyed man was roughly dragged away by the other prisoners.  Burke chuckled at his own witticism and rested his hands across his expansive stomach.




Rather than risk a curt response to the brutish man who had spoken, Heyes glanced at his partner occupying one of two chairs on the other side of the desk where the warden sat.  




Jed Curry imperceptibly shook his head then smiled at the warden and rose from his seat drawing the man’s attention away from baiting his partner.




“Well, Sir, thank you for your time, but I guess we should be gettin’ down to the mess hall and startin’ our talk.”




“What’s the hurry, Mr. Curry,” inquired Burke, “unless you’ve missed keeping company with thieves and brigands?”




The man’s snide manner was too much for Heyes.  He flushed red with anger and slammed one of his fists down on the oak desk.  “We’re emissaries of the Governor, Burke, or have you forgotten?  He’ll consider your behavior a personal insult.”




Delighted to have provoked a response, Burke stood and smiled at the infamous man before him.  “Do you think I give a damn what that pompous fool thinks?  He’s only sent you here to prove to his constituents he had a purpose in granting you amnesty.  You and I both know he’s committed political suicide by his actions and his influence will only last as long as the next appointment.  He may hold you both up as the stars of his amnesty program but, one of these days, you two will revert to your former ways and you’ll end up out there with the rest of the outlaw scum where you belong,” Burke nodded towards the window and added, “and I’ll be waiting for it.  Don’t let me keep you.  I am sure our guests are anxious to hear your words of wisdom.”




Curry’s icy blue eyes bore into his but Burke didn’t flinch.  He knew, as a lawman for the state of Wyoming, he had the upper hand.  Heyes and Curry lived their new lives under the scrutiny of every law officer in the country.  They deserved no less.




Storming out of the office, Heyes had difficultly reining in his temper and it took him almost the entire length of the prison hallway to control himself.  He and the Kid had been giving these motivational speeches for the past six months; ever since the amnesty had come through.  One of the terms the governor had insisted on was they make themselves available as shining examples of the power of redemption.  The governor was presenting himself as a reformer.  




Heyes hated holding himself up as a role model.  Both he and the Kid had only agreed to it because it got them what they wanted.  The amnesty.  If he was honest--which he wasn’t--he’d admit the only reason they’d given up stealing at all was the modern world was closing in on them.  If it weren’t for the advent of the telephone and the shrinking of the West, they’d still be at it.  




Sometimes, he wondered if they’d made the right choice.  Going for the amnesty had been hard enough, living a respectable life was proving nearly impossible.  Neither of them had found regular work.  The public had a real long memory and being forced to use their real names didn’t help much.  The governor threw odd jobs their way, but most of those were shady or downright dangerous.  They mostly scraped by on Heyes’ poker winnings or mountain lion and wolf bounties; that and their charm.




Thank goodness for Lom.  He’d stood by them all those years and, once the amnesty was made public, he’d had to endure a lot of criticism for his part in it.  Still, he’d gone the extra mile and offered them sanctuary in Porterville.  The good citizens hadn’t been happy, but Lom had persuaded them they owed the two famous outlaws a chance since they’d foiled a robbery--well, foiled Wheat’s robbery--at the town’s only bank.  It had cost him, too.  He’d almost been defeated in the last election; might be in the next.  Heyes was pretty damned sure Lom had let them stay so he could keep a close eye on them, but they needed all the help they could get.  




At least the ladies still loved them, although Miss Porter had decided she was no longer sweet on Jed now that she knew he was Kid Curry and the bank security job they’d held before the robbery had remained oddly vacant since they’d blown that fancy safe every which way to Hell.  




Fortunately for them, Porterville was stocked full of women who weren’t as discerning as the new Bank Manager.  He and the Kid might not make much money, but they ate like kings thanks to all those excellent cooks who love a rogue.  They were each real careful not to get involved with any one woman for fear of having to settle down and provide for a wife—something likely to result in work that was harder on the back than a handful of speeches.  Besides, they’d be cutting off the majority of their food supply.  It had worked out so far, but Heyes was pretty sure it wouldn’t last forever.   He was already working on a new plan.  He knew what they wanted, the trouble was figuring out how to get there. 




Arriving at a bolted steel door, Heyes stopped and watched his partner coming down the lengthy corridor.  He’d been so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he hadn’t realized how far behind the Kid had been.  The guard escorting them tried to appear nonchalant while they waited, but Heyes could feel the man’s eyes sizing him up.  He let his brown eyes bore into the man’s hazel ones and, without words, dared him to cause trouble.  The man looked away and pretended to be occupied with opening the bolt.  




“You ready, partner?” asked Curry, arriving by his side.




Heyes nodded at his lifelong best friend.  The amnesty might not be perfect, but at least they were together.  They could still watch out for each other and live with some semblance of freedom.  “Ready as I’ll ever be.  Let’s get ‘er done.” 




“You think we’ll help anyone today?”  Curry asked him that before every one of these talks.   




Heyes watched the door swing open and saw the sea of faces turn in their direction.  He smiled broadly, his dimples pronounced.  Speaking so softly only his partner could hear, he said, “Maybe, but…we’re definitely helping ourselves.  Ain’t that enough?”

_________________
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

“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 Wed Aug 26, 2015 2:30 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Nancy Whiskey

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PostSubject: Re: Means To An End   Sat Jul 25, 2015 7:12 am

Hung over and parched, the boys stood shoulder to shoulder waiting for the onslaught, a barrage of noise. It did not come.
 
“Well?” the deep sonorous voice pitched low and slow was all the more menacing for the growing silence that followed.
 
“We're sor...” Normally confident, Heyes' voice tailed off quelled by the arched eyebrow and ferocious focus of hazel flecked eyes. The Kid, tried to lick his dehydrated lips to respond, but his thumping head told him this was one fight he was not going to win.
 
Ma Brown seemed to swell with anger till she filled the room, but the tone of voice remained menacingly muted. “I don't mind my workers enjoying a drink, as long as it don't affect your duties. I don't mind you boys gamblin', rough-housin' or even 'associating'. It's good for men to let off steam. But...” Ma Brown leant forward, her substantial frame compellingly daunting, “But I will not have you two rolling in here in the middle of the night, full of bumblebee-whiskey, raiding my God-damned pantry and eating my last pie!” The voice had steadily risen in volume during this tirade.
 
Ears ringing and feeling suitably ashamed The Kid croaked, “Sorry Ma'am. We could...”
 
Mighty hands planted firmly on monumental hips Ma Brown stared him down. “I'll tell you what you two are going to do.” She cut across him with a speed that the gunman could only respect.
 
“You two are going to replace that pie from scratch. Ingredients are in the larder, cook book is on the table.” She gestured to the offending article. “I've marked the page, everything else you need is over there and the scales are in the corner. I've got a feeling you fella's know your way round a set of scales, well flour ain't gold-dust, but the principle's the same.”
 
With that she turned on her heal, grabbed her hat and wedging it on her head with a ferocity that left the cousins wincing at her downright disapproval she savagely stabbed an ornate hat-pin into the crown of her hat.  “I'll be back in four hours!”
 
The door slammed. The boys exhaled.
 
  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~
 
There was flour everywhere, but mainly on the Kid with blond hair now ghostly white, intent over a large bowl. “This don't look right Heyes, what do you think?” He pushed a bowl of pale lumpen mixture towards his cousin.
 
“How would I know?” Heyes pulled a battered old book towards him and scanned the pages for any hints and tips. A well worn compendium with spidery hand written notes scrawled haphazardly in the margins. If it did not have the answers they were sunk, a little note to one side floated into view.

“Keep kneading it, if it is too dry add a little more milk, just a little, see if that helps. I've got to finish peeling these apples.”
 
The spooky looking Kid turned back to the bowl. “Thank the good Lord that Kyle, Wheat and the gang can’t see us now!”
 
“Ha, I wouldn't worry, I would just set Ma Brown on them. She would have them whipped into shape in no time. They wouldn't stand a chance.” Deep dimples appeared as Heyes pictured the joyful scenario, and a large grin appeared through the flour in response. “Now, where did I leave that lemon?”
 
~  ~  ~  ~  ~
 
 
The cousins were just finishing wiping down the flour coated kitchen as the noise of the buggy approached.
 
“We've had bank jobs with less tension than this,” muttered The Kid. “I'll never look at a pie in the same way again.”
 
“Promises, promises. Still, we got there.”  Heyes slapped his friend on the shoulder and another flour filled cloud engulfed the pair.
 
Ma Brown swept into the kitchen, eyes taking in every speck, smear and smudge. Not a trace of a smile. Heyes was strongly reminded of a bald eagle. “Well boys, you have been busy.” The storm had passed, the cousins relaxed.
 
“Yes Ma'am.”
 
“It smells good.”
 
“Yes Ma'am.” Dimples appeared and The Kid nodded, loosening a further flurry of flour.

Ma walked over to the range, turning her back to mask her grin. Lifting a lid she peered in, sniffed and frowned.
 
“We made a fricassee Ma.” The Kid volunteered.
 
“You what?”
 
“A fricassee, it's a kind of stew.”
 
“I know what it is, but why?”
 
“Well Ma,” Heyes explained, “We were right sorry for what we did, so to make it up to you we made two pies. One just plain old apple, and in the other Jedidiah thought that we could add a little bit of molasses and raisins too.”
 
Hazel flecked eyes were unblinking, appraising.
 
“Well, while they were cooling,” a long finger gestured towards the far windowsill, “We found we still had some time, and we thought it might be kind of nice if we made you dinner.”

“We're right sorry Ma'am.” Clear blue eyes shone through flour tinted lashes. “It won't happen again. Promise.”
 
Ma sniffed the pot again, lifted a spoon and stirred. “This was my Mother's recipe.” A gentle smile illuminated her face. The sentimentality struck both men.

“Go get yourselves cleaned up, and I'll finish in here.”
 
The boys turned to go, and as they did they could swear they heard a small sniff, but neither would ever have turned back to look.
 
~  ~  ~  ~  ~
 
Night had fallen as the men, clean and content, relaxed on the porch. Good bourbon in one hand, cheroot in the other.  “If ever we get stuck for jobs Jedidiah we could hire you out as a cook. You've got a real talent.”
 
Leaning back in his chair The Kid chortled, “Yeah, yeah.” But he was secretly gratified at how well the meal had turned out and of the praise from both Ma and Heyes, still surprised at how much he enjoyed the task.
 
“The fastest bun in the west,” snorted Heyes into his glass, lifting his feet to avoid a half hearted kick from long lean legs.


“I kinda thought it was a real mean punishment at first. But I see her point now, good food don't just happen.” He took a slow sip, letting the fluid slip gently down. “But it turned out alright.  I guess it was a means to an end.”
 
“It sure was...”
 
“Oh Joshua.”
 
“Yes Jed?”
 
“If I ever find out you have told any of the gang that I am good at cookin', then I will personally, and I mean this, make sure you will never eat solids again!”
 
 


NB – Bumblebee-whiskey was a slang term used to describe very strong, cheap liquor that was 'sure to sting'.

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


Last edited by Nancy Whiskey on Sat Jul 25, 2015 4:44 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Means To An End   Sat Jul 25, 2015 3:03 pm

As I said, last month didn't count as a win as there were so few entries.  Everyone was a winner.  So I'm including this one for polling as we get back to normal after all the holidays.  It's just a little bit of silliness.  It's also about historically accurate as the series.     cowboy 13  

“It’s a means to an end.”  Wheat turned to his friend with a growing grin.  “That’s what Heyes said.”


“There ain’t nothin’ that worries me more than you with a plan,” groaned Kyle, “except maybe, this plan.”     


Wheat glared at his partner, and Kyle could have sworn that one eye bugged out more than the other.  “Find a way to spy on the railroad, he said.  I’m doin’ that.  They want a security team and we’re applyin’.  We know how to keep money secure.  When we steal cash, it stays stolen.  We’re just the men they want.”


“I ain’t sure this is what he meant,” Kyle scratched his head.  “I hate it when I’m the smart one.”


Wheat pulled out a scrunched up piece of paper and spread it carefully out on the saloon table.  “Ya gotta apply in writin’.  I guess it’s their way of weedin’ out the dumb ones.”  He smiled triumphantly.  “I went to school for four whole years.” 

“Yeah, but wasn’t that ‘cos it took that long for ya to pass first grade?”  Another scowl landed on the smaller outlaw.  “Hey, ya helped your Ma in the cathouse.  If that ain’t an education, I don’t know what is.” 


“It’s book smarts they want.  That’s why we gotta fill in this form.  They give the same one to everyone, from the waitresses to the men layin’ the lines.”  The tip of his tongue protruded from the side of his mouth as he put down his false name and even falser age.   “We’ll do me first.  Now the first question.  Wheat’s nose crinkled.  “Sex...”   


A pair of wide blue eyes twinkled over a dropped jaw.  “They let ya do that at work?  Maybe we want to go straight and join this outfit after all?”


Wheat nodded in agreement.  “What d’ya think we should say?  Once, twice a week?”


Kyle thought hard; really hard.  “Put four.  They might be tryin’ to see how fit we are.”


“Great thinkin’, partner.  I’ll put five.  Next question, m.a.r.i.t.a.l. status,” the unfamiliar word came out slowly and deliberately. 


“Marshal?”  Kyle shook his head.  “No, we can’t claim to be no marshals.  They’ll check.”


“I’ll write ‘no.’  Current employer.  We can’t put down the Devil’s Hole Gang.”  Wheat sat back pensively in his chair.  “What’ll we say?”


“How’s about we’s between outfits?”


“Yeah.  That’s what I’ll put.  ‘Between outfits’,” Wheat frowned at the next question.  “Children.”


“Hate ‘em... Skills?”


“Well ain’t that just what we’s good at?  Put down that we can shoot the eye off a bug, sharp as a needle, and ride like the wind.”


“Yeah, that’s good, but there ain’t much space.   It looks like bug, needle, and wind are our strengths...”



“They’ll get the gist of it,” Kyle waved his hand dismissively.  “What’s next?”


“Reason for applying,” Wheat swung back on his chair.  “I’m guessin’ they don’t want us to say we want their money.”


“Nah, that’d be a give-away.  How about a clever way of sayin’ our last place went bust?”


“Kyle, I don’t care what anybody says.  You’re a genius.”  Wheat leaned forward, mouthing as he wrote.  “Last boss made money, then had large defecate.”

 
“Real classy,” Kyle murmured.  “Now they want to know our most positive attribute?  Jeesh, they make it easier to hold them up than it is to guard them.”


“Well, what do you like about me?”


Kyle grinned.  “Well you’re the most devious, double-dealin’, thievin’, hard-drinkin’, cheat who ever had my back.”


Wheat nodded.  “I’ll put chatty.  Now they want weaknesses,” a smile twitched of his lips.  “An easy one at last.  Blondes and whisky.  Ain’t that most men’s weakness?”


“I don’t care what color they come in.  Just not slappin’ me is flirtin’.”


“Not chargin’ me is mine.  Preferred hours.  You got a favourite, Kyle?”


“Saturday night,” he asserted.  “The whole town’s swingin’ and singin’.  Ya can’t beat it.”


“Great.  We’re nearly done here.   Just gotta think of our ‘notable achievements or recognition.”


“Well, yoo’s wanted in five states.  That’s recognition.”  Kyle raised his brows.  “Can we make that sound good?”


“How would Heyes say it?”  Wheat drummed his fingers on the table.  “Track record of guardin’ money against criminals?  Ya had to keep hold of it in the Hole, for sure.  They’d steal the fingers from your gloves.”


“We’ll I guess we just about got the first form done.  Anythin’ else?”


Wheat shook his head.  “Nope.  It just says sign at the bottom.”


Kyle smiled, revealing an array of uneven teeth.  “Well that’s easy.  I’m Aries.  When was you born again?”    

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Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb
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PostSubject: Re: Means To An End   Fri Jul 31, 2015 5:55 am

When the Fat Lady Sings


With a bang and a lurch, the door slammed and the train began its slow acceleration


“Oh, dear, oh my goodness,”  The little man fluttered and flittered, wringing his hands and uttering small, shill moans, while generally getting in the way.  He surveyed the straps securing the organ in place.  “Oh, I just don’t know if this is secure enough.”


The Kid rolled his eyes at Heyes, who shrugged.  


“I’m sure it’s fine.  See it didn’t move at all when the train started.”  With a broad smile, Heyes patted the man’s back, comforting him.


Curry walked over to the freight car door and slid it open.  Even though the day was overcast, the weak light was welcome in the stuffy compartment.  


“We’ll be together a while, we might as well use first names.  I’m Joshua Smith and my partner there is Thaddeus Jones.”  Heyes smiled brightly at the man crouched next to the instrument patting it and crooning.


“What? Oh, oh, of course.”  For the first time, the man noticed the partners.  He smiled tentatively at them, then the smile dimmed and he gave them a frightened stare as he took in the weapons strapped to their sides.  “I’m, I’m,” he gulped and lifted his chin. “My name’s Silas Tiberion Uttermole.”


“That’s a mouthful,” the Kid commented, settling himself in the hay that filled a corner of the car.


“Yeah, a bit much to say all the time.  How do you shorten it?”


“I don’t”


Curry’s eyes flickered.  He shrugged and pulled his hat over his eyes. Heyes wandered around the car, taking in the pile of trunks in one corner, his eyes lighting as he noticed a small lockbox against the far wall.  He shook his head.  “It’s a Merchant’s Friend … the old model,” he commented to the Kid.


“It’s like they’re askin’ to be robbed.”


Uttermole looked back and forth at the two, bewildered.  The partners relaxed with the motion of the swaying freight car.


o0O0o


As the sun sank, the partners moved over to the open door and sat with their legs dangling as they opened a sack and pulled out sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs.  Curry reached over and grabbed a canteen, taking a deep swallow before handing it to Heyes.


He turned to the man huddled by the instrument, “Want somethin’ to eat Mr. Butterbean?”


“Not Butterbean, Thaddeus, its Underman,” Heyes corrected, winking at Curry.


“No, Uttermole, Uttermole,” the man sighed.  He crept over closer to the two and accepted the proffered sandwich.  “Never mind.  No one ever gets it right.  At school they did terrible things to the name.  I guess you should call me what everyone else does – Stutter.”


“Stutter?”


“Yes – ‘S’ for Silas, ‘T’ for Tiberion…”


“Right and ‘Utter’ for Uttermole.”


“Yes.  You have no idea how difficult it is to have your name be such a burden.”


“Oh, we do,” the Kid chuckled.  “Why I know a fella whose first name is so bad he’ll only use his last name.”  


Heyes glared then rolled his eyes and shook his head.  “So, Stutter, what’s so all fired important about this organ that you’d hire us to guard it?”


Stutter turned to feast his eyes, once again, on the instrument.  “It’s a beauty isn’t it?  The newest model, small and portable.”  He sighed.  “Can’t wait to play it in church next Sunday.  Won’t that be wonderful?”


“Don’t sound real dangerous,” the Kid commented.  “Why the guards?”


Uttermole turned shocked eyes on the partners.  “It took us three years to raise enough money, and just think what could happen.  Think if the train got robbed.”


The two looked at him open mouthed, stared at the organ sitting serenely in its web of strapping and turned back to their companion.  “I wouldn’t worry about that; trains we ride on never get robbed,” Heyes reassured him..


“Not the ones we ride on, just the ones we ride to,” Curry muttered quietly.  Heyes ignored him.


o0O0o


The men were dozing when they were jolted awake by a sudden stop.


“Stand and deliver!” filtered in from outside.


“I do believe we’re bein’ robbed, Joshua.”


“It does sound like that, doesn’t it, Thaddeus.”  Heyes disentangled himself from Uttermole. 


“Oh, goodness, whatever shall we do?  You must protect my organ.” Uttermole cowered behind the partners, while throwing frightened glances at the doorway.


Heyes and Curry looked at each other.  “Relax, they’re not after the organ; it wouldn’t fit in their saddlebags.”  They raised their hands as a gun appeared in the opening and their eyes widened, Heyes shook his head, closing his eyes briefly.


“Hey … Wheat …” the robber called.


“No need to call reinforcements, we’re not fighting you,” Heyes said hastily, bending to untie his weapon and gesturing for the Kid to do the same.  “We have no interest in whatever’s in that safe over there.  Just let us get down, you can have whatever you want; right, Thaddeus?”


“Uh, sure.”  Curry hastily undid his weapon, grabbed Heyes’ gunbelt and walked to the door with them held out to the gunman in the doorway.  As the robber, wide-eyed, reached for the weapons, Curry hissed, “Remember, you don’t know us.”


“Uh, yeah, yeah.”  The man shook himself.  “Stay there a minute, will you?” he disappeared from sight.


Uttermole, standing with his hands in the air, looked at his companions.  “That was strange; do train robbers usually behave like that?”


Heyes suppressed a grin.  “No idea, not being that familiar with train robbers and such.  But this does seem pretty amateurish.”


As he finished speaking, Wheat appeared in the doorway.  Eyes narrowed he glared at Heyes for a moment, glanced at Curry, and swallowed.  “Alright you three, get down from there.”


The three complied, although Uttermole fell into a mud puddle as he leapt from the freight car with his hands still in the air.  Heyes and Curry picked him up and set him upright.  


Wheat stared at them, but receiving no further comments, he turned his attention to the freight car.  After an examination of the contents, he leaned out of the car and called, “Kyle, bring the dynamite.  Two sticks should do it.”


“Oh dear, oh dear,” Uttermole fretted.  “You have to save my organ,” he beseeched his companions. 


Shaking his head, Heyes gestured to Curry.  “Stay here, Stutter, and we’ll see what we can do.  I worked for a locksmith once and know some things about that type of safe.”


“Uh, sir…” he called to Wheat, grimacing and walking back to the freight car, Curry following behind.


As they reached Wheat, Kyle came running over.  “I don’t believe it.  Hank told me, but I just didn’t believe him.”


“Kyle, be quiet,” Curry snapped.


“Oh, right.  Sorry.”


Heyes ignored them and focused on Wheat.  “Wheat, I can’t let you dynamite that safe.”


“How you gonna stop me?  You don’t run this gang, no more.  I do, and I say we’re gonna dynamite it.”


“Wheat,” the Kid spoke.  “You dynamite it and you’re goin’ to blow up everythin’ in the place.”


“So?”


“So, how about I open it for you?” Heyes suggested.


Wheat’s eyes narrowed.  “Is this some trick?  I thought you two had gone straight.”


“No trick, just turn your gun on me and order me into the car, so’s all the passengers hear you.  Just don’t use my name.”


Wheat smiled.  “You know I could get to like this plan of yours.”  He pointed his gun at Heyes.  “You, in the car,” he snarled, backing up.  “Kyle, you too.”  He gestured at Curry.  “You stay out here.”


Curry glared but complied, crossing his arms and planting himself firmly at the opening.


The rest of the gang stood watching curiously, caught Curry’s glare and hastily went back to business.


o0O0o


Heyes sat back on this heels as he pulled to door to the safe open.  “Eight minutes, piece of cake.”  He gestured to Kyle.  “Kyle, take what you want.”


“I run this gang now, Heyes,” Wheat snarled.  “Kyle, take what we want.”


Once Kyle was done, Heyes swung the door shut.  “Okay, Wheat, let me have your gun, and I’ll shoot the lock off.”


“Why shoot the lock off?  You already opened it.”


“I’m shooting the lock off so no one knows I opened it.  Now let me do the aiming, so the bullet doesn’t ricochet back and hit one of us.”


“Oh.”  Wheat handed over the gun and stood back.


Heyes aimed carefully and winged the safe, the bullet angling off and disappearing into the straw.  Heyes removed the rest of the bullets, pocketed them, and handed the gun back to Wheat.  “Now we wait, then you all can escort me out of here at gunpoint.”


“Ain’t you gonna give me back the bullets?”


“With you pointing that thing at my back?”


“Wheat wouldn’t shoot you, Heyes.” Kyle looked anxiously between the two.  “Would you, Wheat?”


“I just might at that, if he don’t stop being so uppity.  Just remember who’s the leader here, and who’s giving the orders.”


Heyes rolled his eyes.  “Wheat, just walk us back out.”  He looked at his former gang member over his shoulder.  “Unless, of course, that is, as leader you’ve decided the gang should wait around for the posse that left the station, I figure about 5 minutes ago.  If you’re lucky the rain will pick up and wash out your tracks before the posse finds them – but you better hurry.”


Wheat snorted and gestured for Heyes to exit.


o0O0o


As the train resumed its journey, the three men settled once more into the freight car.


“Sure hope that’s the last trouble we face, Joshua.”


“Come on, Thaddeus, even we couldn’t get robbed twice in one train ride.”


“Way our luck’s runnin’, it wouldn’t surprise me.”


“I certainly hope not between here and Fairview, there’s only the next stop before we reach it.”  Uttermole noted.  “It’s when we arrive that I worry.”


“What do you mean, when we arrive?  What trouble are you expectin’?”  Curry pulled the door of the car closed against the storm now raging outside and turned to examine the little man.


“Well…”  


“Stutter, tell us what problem you expect so we can protect your precious bundle over there,” Heyes snarled.


“It’s just… It’s just…”  Uttermole wilted under the partners’ combined glares.  He closed his eyes and began again.  “As I said, it took us three years to raise the money.  We could have done it sooner if everyone had helped.  But, but some of the women don’t approve of an organ in the church.  They say it’s Satan’s instrument, that God gave us voices to use…”  He trailed off.


“And you think these ladies will cause trouble?”  Heyes glanced at Curry.  “I think we can handle a few unhappy church women.”


“You haven’t met Maud McCreevey.”


Curry laughed.  “I think we can handle her, even if she’s a giant.”


“No… no, she’s actually very short; just very...”  Uttermole turned away.


Heyes and Curry looked at each other and shrugged before settling in to sleep through the remainder of the journey.


o0O0o


The train shuddered to a stop and the men began gathering their things.   Uttermole peered out the freight car, drawing back as men hurried through the rain to assist in unloading the car.  


“Wrap it carefully, it can’t get wet,” he warned, hovering around the men offloading the organ.


The partners jumped down and stood back, watching as the instrument was slowly guided down the planks forming a ramp to the platform.


“This has to be one of the easiest jobs we’ve ever had,” Curry muttered to Heyes.


“Yeah….”


“Out of my way you oaf!”


The two turned startled eyes to stare at the apparition beating Heyes with her cane.  Clad all in black, the woman barely reached their shoulders.  As wide as she was tall, her corsets strained as she raised her arm to wield the cane again.


Curry reached out, grabbing the plump arm.  “Ma’am, if you’d like to see the organ, we’d be happy to move.  No need to force it.”


“Fool.”  She spat, kicking him in the shins and jerking her arm free.  She surged past the startled pair and descended on the organ, cane raised.


Curry shook himself and sprang forward, grabbing the cane.  “Ma’am, don’t do that.”


Heyes reached out to help, but instead startled and turned back to find a cluster of women hissing at the sight.  


“Devil’s work!”


“The rain is God’s way of showing His disapproval.”


“Shame!”


The other men ignored the women and struggled to load the well-wrapped organ into the waiting wagon.  Heyes and Curry restrained the protesters, trying to duck the blows of the one woman’s cane and ignoring the venom of her cronies.


As the wagon began to move, the partners disentangled themselves and leapt into the wagon.


Curry removed his hat, and tried unsuccessfully to wipe the rain from his face.  “Sheesh!  What was that about?”


“I guess now we know why they hired us.”


“I guess so.”


They looked back to see the woman shake her fist at the departing wagon, her pendulous jowls flapping as she flung unheard words after them.


o0O0o


Heyes deposited the bottle and two glasses on the table and the two sank wearily into the chairs.  “Who would have thought a church organ could raise such a ruckus.”


“Yeah.  Easy job, you said.”  Curry sighed, emptied his glass, and refilled it.


“How’re you feeling?”


“I’ve been beat worse.”


“Yeah but usually it’s by the jealous boyfriend, not the lady herself.”


“That was no lady.”  Curry stared at the table.  “Did you count them?  There were twelve of ‘em.”


“One more and the old witch could have had a whole coven.”


The two drank silently.


“Mind if I join you?”  Uttermole asked timidly.


“No, not at all.”  Heyes pushed out one of the chairs for him.  “I’ll get you a glass.”


“Oh, no.  Thank you but I never drink alcohol.”  Uttermole silently thanked the man who had brought him a steaming mug of tea.


“Stutter, if you don’t drink, why’re you hangin’ out in the saloon?”  Curry’s brow knitted.  “If you don’t mind my askin’ that is.”


“No, no, I don’t mind.”  He stared at the table.  “This is the only place I can get some peace and quiet.  I married Widow McCreevey’s daughter, you see.”


He flushed as he saw their stares.


“Mavis isn’t anything like her mother.  Real quiet, meek you might say.  But she can’t stand up to her.”  He muttered, “Nobody can.”


“Seems to me you’re standing up to her, bringing an organ and all – seeing how all fired set against the old bat is.”


Uttermole looked up in surprise.  “Why yes, I guess we are.  Fancy that.”  He pushed aside his empty mug, stood, and shrugged back into his slicker.  “I should tell Mavis that.  Might perk her up.  This constant rain has sunk her spirits terribly and her mother harping on about us all being damned for bringing ‘the devil’s own harp’ to the church hasn’t helped.  Still, I’m sure when all rise to sing accompanied by that soaring sound, she will recognize that music is a gift from God, not a sin.”


The partners watched him head for the door and stop as the door swung wide.


“Parson!  What are you doing here?”


“Mr. Uttermole, I am glad to find you, although surprised to do so here.”  The parson acknowledged him before pulling a chair from a table and standing upon it.  Conversation slowly stopped.  “Gentlemen,” he called with a voice well used to carrying to the back of the church.  “As you know, the rain has been coming down for days.  Carson’s Creek is rising fast.  We need help to keep it from flooding the town.”


A couple of hoots from the drunks could be heard, but several men downed their drinks quickly and stood.


Heyes and Curry looked at each other and sighed.  They too downed their drinks and joined the crowd heading into the rain-soaked night.


o0O0o


Weak sunshine filtered through the scattering clouds.  The rain that had been tapering off, ceased.  Heyes and Curry huffed as they placed a final sandbag along the edge of the raging creek – really more of a river now.


Along the line, men ceased their labors and raised a cheer.


The Parson, his mud-coated face breaking into a smile, called, “Gentlemen, I think we’ve done it.  Please join us over at the church hall where the ladies are providing us with sustenance.  I’m sure our women will provide a marvelous spread.”


The partners stood back from the surge to the hall, only a short rise from the line of sandbags, the town stretching behind it into the distance.  As they stretched and twisted to relieve their backs, sore from hours of lifting sandbags and shoring up the lines, they turned to watch the muddy waters careen by.  Those ran swiftly until, in the distance, they reached fell over a cliff.  What was normally no more than a trickle was now a flood, crashing into the valley below and sending mist soaring up.


Curry winced as a large branch slammed into the line of bags, shifting them slightly.  “Do you think it will hold?”


Heyes contemplated the sandbags oozing moisture and the roiling water beyond.  “If it doesn’t rain upstream, maybe.  But we should be gone before they break anyway.  What time’s that train tomorrow?”


“Four fifteen – assumin’ it’s on time.”


Heyes nodded.  He tore his gaze from the water and shrugged.  “Well, let’s get us some of that sustenance the preacher promised.”


o0O0o


Heyes and Curry stood to the side of the church hall enjoying full plates of food and the attentions of some of the younger women when a small murmur arose.  Glancing up, they saw Stutter hurry over to take a basket from a woman who could only be his wife.  Behind the pair, muttering to herself, Widow McCreevey stumped into the hall.


The woman looked neither left nor right but headed straight for the main table, pushing her way past those standing between her and her goal.  At the table, she reached into her capacious bag and extracted a small jar of preserves.  She set this among the overflowing platters the townswomen had prepared.  Having set her preserves down, McCreevey proceeded to remove containers from her bag, fill them with the varied offerings on the buffet and place the now-full containers back in her bag.


Heyes and Curry watched fascinated as the woman hefted her overloaded bag, grabbed a plate and filled that, too, to overflowing.  She then turned away, stumped her way over to a table and ordered those sitting there up.  After they hastily complied, she seated herself and began to consume the food she had gathered.


The partners were startled from their fascinated stare by the clearing of a throat.  “Joshua, Thaddeus, I’m so glad you came.  You must be sure to get some of Mavis’ gingerbread.  It’s wonderful.”


“Stutter, you’re looking more cheerful than when we last saw you,” Heyes greeted him.


“Did we just see what we thought we saw,” Curry asked, “she put one tiny jar of preserves and is eatin’ enough to feed a whole gang for a week.”


Uttermole turned to contemplate his mother-in-law.  He sighed.  “Probably.  That’s what she usually does.”


The widow paused in her eating to frown at them.  “Don’t you know it’s rude to stare.  Heathens, that’s what you are, the whole lot of you.”


The three hastily turned away.


o0O0o


“When’d you get religion, Kid?” Heyes grumbled as he sleepily made his way to the church the following morning.


“Do us some good.  Besides, there was a real pretty blonde.  Said she’d be there today and maybe we could visit afterwards before we catch that train.”


“You and your women.”


Thunder rumbled from a distance but no rain fell as the two slipped into the back of the church with the last of the stragglers.


“… and bless us, oh Lord, for this thy gift that we may lift our voices in song in praise of your many wonders. Amen.”


As those gathered waited in anticipation, Stutter slowly made his way to the front of the church and pulled out the stool of the new organ.


The doors at the back of the church flew open.  


Stutter paused halfway onto the stool and turned with the others to see the sight that confronted them.  


Ignoring the water dripping from their sodden hats, as they had ignored the thunderstorm raging outside, Widow McCreevey flanked by her eleven acolytes – all clad in black – marched up the aisle to the front of the church.  Knocking Uttermole, aside, the women grabbed the organ and pushed it back down the aisle.


“I told you, this is the devil’s work.  There’ll be no sinful instruments in any church in my town!” McCreevey cried as they headed out the door.


The closing of the doors unfroze those inside.  Heyes and Curry, having the advantage of being at the back of the church, were among the first outside.


The widow and her friends were struggling to push the organ through the mud towards the stream.


“Stop her!” shrieked Uttermole.


The partners joined the men who surged forward, struggling through the mud to reach the encumbered women.  Just as it seemed they were in reach, Widow McCreevey and her gaggle crested the top of the embankment.  Most of the women had dropped out of the struggle but the widow forged on.  The organ hesitated then sailed down the slope to the raging waters below, Widow McCreevey still attached.  Astonished, the crowd watched the organ crash through the weakened line of sandbags and soar into the roiling waters, with Widow McCreevey now riding atop it.


Hands reached out to grab her.  She spat curses and pummeled them with her cane until she was too far away to be reached.


Uttermole and his wife stood arm-in-arm, their mouths agape.


With a final screech that ended in a pitch-perfect high “C”, the widow McCreedy sailed downstream and over the falls in the distance.


Struggling to find words, Heyes and Curry turned to the Uttermoles.  “We’re sorry you had to lose your mother that way, ma’am,” they managed to say.


Mavis McCreevey Uttermole took a final look down the flowing waters and sighed.  “That was Mamma.  Mean to the very end.”
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SheilaUK

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PostSubject: Re: Means To An End   Fri Jul 31, 2015 5:44 pm

(extract from Hell and High Water - part 2 - High Water)


Heyes was waiting at the railroad station.  He gave little indication of his impatience, the only sign was the way his eyes kept shifting to stare up the track.


Finally, the train whistle could be heard and the train puffed its slow way into the station.  Heyes waited at the end of the platform until he was approached by a shifty looking man, aged around 45, with dark hair and a mustache and wearing a rather battered looking suit and trilby hat.


Heyes sighed heavily.  He needed someone who could intimidate and the newcomer was not his first choice, in fact, he probably wasn’t his tenth choice but he was his last, no, his only choice for this!  Harry was the only means he had been able to call on for this job, so Heyes straightened his shoulders and adopted his easy, practised smile as the man drew near.  The man greeted him so loudly and heartily that Heyes cringed inwardly and prayed no one had noticed!




Heyes stood in front of the newcomer.  He was slightly dishevelled.  He ran his hand through his hair.


“Harry!” he said, exasperated.  “It’s simple!  How is it you’re still with Bannerman?”


Harry Briscoe looked hurt.  “There’s no call for that.  I’ve given up a good job to come here to help you.”


Heyes sighed.  “I’m sorry Harry.  I am”  Heyes paused momentarily, which Harry didn’t notice, nor did he notice the slight grimace as Heyes continued “grateful.  Jefferies knows me or I’d come in with you.”  He walked to the window and peered out.


Mollified, Harry said, “Well, I suppose I do owe you, a friend in need and all that.”  He paused, suddenly puzzled.  “Where’s the Kid?”


Heyes rolled his eyes, trust Harry to have only just noticed.  He turned back, “Out, following a group of outlaws.”


“Oh.”  Harry was really none the wiser.


“Look Harry, you just need to enter the bank, announce you’re a treasury agent and demand to see the books, in private.  Once you’re in, let me in and I’ll do the rest.”


Harry nodded.  “Got it.”


After Heyes had straightened Harry’s tie and brushed his hat and coat, Harry left, observed from the window by Heyes; who would have crossed his fingers if he had been given to outward displays of emotion.


Heyes watched Harry enter the bank and then he slipped out the back way.




The cashier looked up.  A rather shifty looking man was standing in front of his counter.


“Can I help you Sir?”


“I wish to see the manager.”


“May I ask why Sir?”


Harry was haughty.  “You may not.”


The clerk looked at him, surprised.  There was a moment’s silence while each stood, staring at each other.


“Well?”  Harry said, “Move man!”


The cashier disappeared.  He returned moments later.


“I’m afraid Sir, that the manager is unable to see you without an appointment.”


Harry remembered who he was.  “I’m from the Treasury,” he boomed, “I do not need an appointment.”


The deputy manager looked up from his desk at the bank and gulped.  He hurried into the manager’s office and emerged followed by a rather red looking Jefferies.


Jefferies hurried over.  “I had no idea that you were coming, Mr.?”


“Good.  No one was informed.  It’s a” Harry paused, trying to remember the phrase Heyes had given him, “a er a an unannounced erm au., au., a look.”  He finished finally.


“Er, a what?”


“I need to take a look at your books, in private.  I trust that’s not much trouble, for you to accommodate the Treasury?”  Harry was making his way toward the manager’s office, followed by Jefferies.


Once inside, Harry seated himself at the manager’s desk.  “And now, the books please?”


Jefferies opened the safe and took some large, heavy ledgers out and placed them in front of Harry.


“Thank you.  Please close the door on your way out, I need to work in peace and quiet.”  Harry opened the first ledger and began to pore over the figures.  Jefferies hovered by the desk.  


After a minute, Harry looked up and gave him his best withering glance.  It wasn’t much but the bank manager was already sufficiently flustered for it to affect him.


“Why are you still here?  I meant peace and quiet – alone.”


“Oh, certainly, certainly, if you need anything though……”


“I’ll be sure to ask, though I’m also sure I won’t need a thing.  Goodbye!”


Harry stared hard at the manager until he left the room.  Quickly, Harry stood up and went over to lock the door.  He then went to the window, “Smith,” he hissed, “You there?”


He jumped when a voice behind him answered, “Here, Harry.”


Harry Briscoe turned round, surprised to see Heyes already in the room, “When?  How?”


Heyes ignored him and went to the small painting on the wall. Moving it to one side he opened the small safe revealed there and took out a ledger.


“Harry!” he called.  “Come and take a look while I explain this to you.”


Glancing back at the door, and wishing he were outside, Harry took his seat back behind the manager’s desk.


After an agonisingly long hour, Heyes finally gave up trying to explain it to Harry in any more detail.  Both he and Harry were hot and tired.  He wrote down what he wanted Harry to say, replaced the ledger in the small safe and went to the window.


“I’ll be outside.  If you need anything, tell him to leave and then ask me.”


Heyes checked up and down the street and then slipped out of the office window.  Harry unlocked the office door.  A short while later, there came a tentative knock and a voice.


“Sir, have you done yet?”


“Come in” called Harry


Jefferies entered.


Harry looked up at him.  “These books are very interesting.  This item, the mortgage of  Mrs Haines farm.  You loaned her $15,000 and, after foreclosure, you apparently sold it to Mr. Jeremiah Leighton for $25,000?”


“Yes.”


“But, Mr. Leighton believes he paid $30,000 for it.”


Jefferies paled.  “You, you’ve spoken to him?”


“I am aware of the transaction.  He was given a forged document, the deed for this property Mr. Jefferies.  What do you have to say about this?”


“I, I can’t explain, I, I’ll have to look into it, at once.  I.”  Jefferies paused, looking rather frightened.  “Mr. Leighton has a forged document?”


Harry nodded.


“But, I took the deed from her, I myself took it from the safe before”  He trailed off, looking more than worried, almost frightened in fact.  He wrung his hands, unsure what to do.


Harry didn’t know what to do either.  He hadn’t expected this.  Before he could figure out his response, a commotion began in the bank.  A woman’s voice could be heard steadily rising.  Harry headed out to see what was going on.  As he left, Jefferies seemed to come to a decision.  Unnoticed by Harry, he moved purposefully over to the small safe, opened it, took out bundles of cash which he placed in a Gladstone bag and then he climbed out of the window.


At the end of the street, a figure was leaning casually against the wall of a building.  Under the brim of his hat, Hannibal Heyes never took his eyes off the bank office window.  He smiled a smile of satisfaction as he saw Jefferies leave.


A moment later, Heyes strolled into the bank.


Vic Haines was surrounded by bank employees and Harry.  She was demanding to see Jefferies, in as loud a voice as she could manage.  Alternatively, she was sobbing loudly and apparently uncontrollably into her handkerchief.  The employees were all trying, unsuccessfully, to calm her.


Vic saw Heyes enter and a miraculous transformation took place.  Immediately, her tears stopped and she calmly said, “Well, I suppose I shall have to see him tomorrow.  Goodbye.”  And she walked out, leaving all but one of the men with their mouths open.  She winked at that lone man as she left, forcing him to suppress a grin.


Heyes turned and watched her go and then, composed, he turned to the men.


“Mr. Briscoe?  Mr. Briscoe?” he called.  “I have a message for Mr. Briscoe.”


Harry stepped forward.


“Ah, there you are.  Mr. Briscoe, would you come with me?”


Harry followed Heyes out of the bank and across to the Sheriff’s office.
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Remuda

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PostSubject: Re: Means To An End   Sat Aug 01, 2015 12:50 am

Transitions
 

Lom Trevors entered the territorial governor’s outer office.  A cross breeze through open windows and transoms moved the air some, but not enough to make a difference – it still hung like a pall.  The lump in his throat played against the already too-tight necktie and cardboard collar; an index finger did not fit between the two, try as he might to insinuate the digit.  Of course, perspiration did not help matters, the moisture constricting things further.  A string tie on a regular collared shirt was one thing.  This dress-up for business in high political circles was not his norm, but attempting to move mountains required finesse, and appearance.  He smirked, rolling his eyes at a singular conclusion:  That he thought himself clad no better than a clown in the center ring, fit.  After all, political games were a circus, and here he was.  But, no game this. 

He considered himself fortunate his office was an appointment; no small-town political machine to impress every couple of years.  His gruff, no-nonsense, rock-hard exterior kept the few bad ones at bay, and his town was peaceful, for the most part.  Faster than most, his quick draw warned away the odd wannabe, but more often it was the drunks or petty thieves who challenged his authority and found a cell at the local pokey with their names on it.  Dried out or having served the sentence doled out by the local magistrate, they left the jail behind and hopefully learned a lesson, although a few were regulars. 

That toughness belied a heart, or perhaps he was just stupid to put himself in this position.  He could not be sure, of course, but they did seem sincere.  Amnesty?  For two wanted dead or alive?  But then, why dead or alive?  Thievery should not carry such a sentence, but notorious men played a dangerous game.  And their adversaries responded in kind.  Yes, Heyes was right.  This newfangled technology moved at lightning speed, outpacing even the best, and they knew it.  Sooner or later, someone would catch up with them, someone who could outgun even Kid Curry.  But, they were affable enough, charming even, former colleagues of his.  And he had let them talk him into this.

So he had taken the train to Cheyenne, a bag packed with his one suit and the uncomfortable accouterment that went with it.   He had a lot to lose, but so did the bank corporations and train conglomerates if those he might call friends were not stopped.  So here he was.  Whether he was on a fool’s errand, he knew not, but the first audience with the governor had gone better than expected.  He presented his – their – case.  The governor smirked, laughed, quieted.  The furrows on his brow gave away his thought process.  Lom sat quietly, not knowing what to expect. 

“Interesting they contacted you, Sheriff, but good that they did.  There might be something here.  Let me give this some thought.  I’ll be in touch.”

Lom had stood, momentarily dumbfounded.  His words came hurriedly, “Yes, sir.  Thank, thank you, sir.”  His hat in hand, he had almost tripped over his own feet on the way out.  Straightening, he made his way to his hotel, and waited.

And here he was, the call-back.  Another of the stuffed shirts who seemed so similar bade him enter.  Again, the governor stood to greet him, handshakes less tentative the second-time round.  They sat.

The governor waited until they were alone and the door closed before he spoke.  “Sheriff, I’ve given this matter much thought.  Of course, it’s an unusual proposition.  The amnesty offer was intended for common criminals of the small-time variety – chicken thieves and the like.  That it might attract the likes of Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry never crossed our minds.  But, why not?  It was meant for the common good, and getting those two off their thieving path can only help the common good.  However, I don’t feel I can just sally forth and grant them full amnesty outright.  They need to earn it.”

Lom blinked.  One eye narrowing, his expression tentative, he sat straighter.  “Earn it, sir?”

“Yes.  I propose to grant them provisional amnesty.  They’ll have to stay out of trouble for a time – say, a year or so.  If they do, we can revisit the issue at that future time.”  The governor grabbed a sheet of paper.  Dipping his pen in the well, he spoke as he wrote, “Heyes and Curry … provisional amnesty … there, all done.”  He replaced the pen in its holder and lightly blotted the sheet.  Satisfied, he looked it over before handing it to Lom.

The sheriff read.  Looking up, he saw the governor was about to speak.

“Please express my congratulations to Messrs. Heyes and Curry, Sheriff.  You pled their case admirably well.  They owe you.  As well, make sure they know the terms and conditions.”

“I will, sir.”  Lom folded the paper carefully on the edge of the desk.  Brow furrowed, he unfolded it, re-read it.  He regarded the governor.  “Sir, this says nothing about the bounties being lifted.  They’ll still be wanted?”

“That’s right.  As I said, they’ll have to earn it.  What kind of reaction do you think I’d get if I announced amnesty or a full pardon for those two?  Heyes and Curry?  Political expediency and all that.  I’m sure you understand, Sheriff.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Let the world forget Heyes and Curry ever existed.  Let the public be spared their crimes.  Let the good citizens of Wyoming Territory …”  The governor swept his arm toward the Stars and Stripes on the wall behind his desk, “… Yay, all the good citizens of this great country, be spared their evil exploits.  That will be doing us all, far and wide, a great service.”

“Yes, sir.”

“So, yes, they’ll still be wanted.  It’s up to them to disappear and trod the straight and narrow.  That’s the proviso.  And it’s only because they’ve never shot anyone in the commission of their crimes.  Hard to believe, but I’m taking your word for it, Sheriff Trevors.  And thanking you for even broaching the subject.  We’ll all breathe easier.  The perfect means to a desired end.  It’s brilliant, really.  ”

“Thank you, sir.”

The governor stood.  Lom scrambled to his feet. 

“Now, deliver the message to your charges.  The sooner they know, the sooner their thievery stops, or at least I hope it does.  I’m putting a lot of faith in you, Sheriff.”

Lom stood stone-faced.

“Make sure they know it’s your reputation on the line.”

Sheriff Trevors nodded.  He knew that too well.  Reaching his arm across the desk, he shook hands with the governor.  “Thank you, sir.” 

The governor nodded.  Lom turned.

“Oh, one last thing, Sheriff.”

Lom stopped, facing the governor once again.

“This is just between you, me, and them.  No one else is to know.”

“Yes, sir.”

The governor nodded leave.

Lom exited the inner office, letting lose a breath.  He had not realized he held it.

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PostSubject: Re: Means To An End   Sat Aug 01, 2015 3:41 am

M
I have overestimated the time I had available these days to complete this on time, so the last part was a vit too hastily drafted. But I felt obliged to our dear MAP for her help with the story, so I had to post it. I hope to do better with the next installment of the story.






“AGAIN !” Leland Huntington smashed his fist on the big mahogany table. “This is the third time in as many months !”


Grenville Dodd waited patiently as the president of Midwest Rail shuffled through the report about the latest spree of robberies on the company’s trains. He was not afraid of Huntington, he considered the company as much his own achievement as the product of the older man’s wallet and clout, but he needed to let him take in all the specifics and their implications before exposing his line of thought. His partner was ruthless, he was not a fool. 


The large, silver-haired man kept reading, a dark frown on his imposing features. Now and again he would go back a page or two, tap his fingers on a sentence, mumble things Dodd could not distinguish but could very well presume. Finally, he lifted his eyes and spat “A hundred and twenty thousand already! If this keeps up, the company will soon be history !”.


The manager pursed his lips at the overstatement and pointed to the document. “They all went way too smoothly. By the time the delay is noted and the law intervenes they are long gone.”


“I noticed. No dynamite, just tumbler manipulation.” Huntington run his eyes over the document again. “And quick too.”


“Mmmm” Dodd nodded. 


Understanding slowly dawned on the older man. “A particularly gifted safe-cracker? Hannibal Heyes? The Devil’s Hole Gang ?” He frowned again “We haven’t heard from him for quite some time.”


“Leland, I don’t think it is him” Dodd let this sink before pursuing. “Descriptions I have from them don’t match. I know it’s not easy to tell, they are all masked. But the leader seems heavier, there is no Kid Curry in sight and the bunch is clearly trigger-happy”. 


“That is not enough to …”


Dodd lifted his hand to cut the other man’s objections. “We haven’t heard from them, rumour has it that they are trying to go straight.” 


“Heyes and Curry go straight!” bellowed Huntington, before pausing to size up his business partner. “What are you saying ?”


Dodd laid both hands flat on the table. “If we have a new robbing genius in our hands Heyes should know about him. Or, be able to find out for us. And I know just the way to convince him to help at no expense for the company.”


ooooooooOooooooooo


The dark-haired man stared absently at the hilly landscape as the train rushed by. He was well lost in his thoughts and started when his partner broke his musing.


"Tell me again, why we are playing Bannerman agents ? Trying to catch fellow train robbers for the railroad of all people ?"


"Aww, Kid. These robberies are too easy to associate with our names. They could cost us our amnesty. But if we catch these people, they promised to recall the reward."
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