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PostSubject: Back    Sun Nov 01, 2015 10:38 am

Your mission for November, should you choose to accept it, is to give us a challenge story using the prompt:


 'Back'.  


BRB1
It can be any take on the word, a noun, a verb or an adjective.  Whether it's going back, thinking back, watching someone's back, stabbing someone in the back, going behind someone's, or thing's, back, a literal back, a back yard, a back issue of something, set the clock back, looking back, paying back, a setback, or anything else your imaginative minds can spin.


Don't forget to finish commenting on last month before you post.  Comments are the only thanks our writers get and they just love 'em!


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Remuda

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PostSubject: Re: Back    Mon Nov 09, 2015 12:56 am

Another reworked oldie. This was meant as a companion piece to "Resolution."


Backwash


“That’ll be four bits per horse per day, board and feed, with the first day payable in advance.”

Jed “Kid” Curry fished a dollar coin out of his vest pocket and handed it to the stableman. “Appreciate ya makin’ sure they’re brushed real good. They’ve been on the trail for two weeks straight and deserve a good rest.”

“Brushin’s not included in the price.  It’ll be an extra two bits per horse.”

“Per day?”

“Yup.

“That’s highway robbery!”

“Call it what you want, son, but those’re the terms.”

“Also payable in advance, I suppose.”

“You suppose right, son.”

Kid sighed and rolled his eyes, but did not hesitate to flip a fifty-cent piece to the liveryman. “Suppose there’s a charge for exercisin’ them, too?”

“Ya mean other than havin’ them in the corral?”

“Yup.”

“That’ll be an extra two bits per horse ...”

Curry echoed the stableman in sing-song as he continued, “… Payable in advance.”

“Nothin’s free, son. You want that service, too?”

“No, thanks. I think we’ll take them out ourselves.”

Kid started to walk out of the livery, then turned. “I’m afraid to ask, but what about extra oats?”

“Oats are included in the board fee, extra or otherwise.”

“About time somethin’s not extra!” Kid said under his breath.

“What was that, son?”

“Uh … Nothin’.  We’ll be in sometime tomorrow to take them out.”

“Suit yourself.”

Curry shook his head as he headed toward the hotel. The prices thus far would drain their meager funds after a week. He hoped Heyes had had more luck with the room. At first glance, this town was somewhat nicer looking than some in which they found themselves but was far from luxurious – luxury being relative after dusty trails, hard ground, and a steady diet of beans, biscuits, and the occasional squirrel or rabbit. Indeed, any place which was dilapidated and brown might seem an oasis after two weeks in the saddle in the middle of nowhere, thereby commanding an exorbitant price. 

Still, this burg looked like most they had passed through in the last two years – buildings the shades of tan or grey, some with once bright gingerbread trim, as was the fashion these days, although incongruent in a sea of monotony; some brick, the red faded from the sun and the grout dirty with age; a few more about ready to collapse – or seemingly so.  Overall, it was a mostly shabby place that could use a coat of paint.

The ex-outlaw quickened his pace.  His stomach rumbling, he smiled as he took note of the café, and the saloon opposite. Parched as he was, a beer would have to wait until after a bath and a meal. At least they had not lacked for good, cold stream water along the way, before it warmed in their canteens – but, even so, it was wet.

As Curry passed the general store, a small boy rushed out of the entrance and smack into Kid’s leg. The ex-outlaw stopped, looked down, and winked at his attacker.  “Whoa there, young fella.”

A tousled blond head and freckles met Kid’s gaze. “Sorry, mister.”

A chuckle. “No harm done.” But, upon second look, the small face looked almost familiar somehow.

“Jimmy, come back here!” a deep voice commanded.

“Okay, Pa!”

As the boy turned toward his father, Curry straightened to acknowledge the man. “No harm d-done …”

The words trailed off as his smile faded, blue eyes wide.  The resulting stare was not what most opponents feared; instead, it was solemn, studious, searching. The fellow mirrored Kid’s expression. For a long minute, the years retreated, the steady intensity of their gaze reaching their respective souls.

“Pa, don’t ya wanna go back inside?”

The man maintained eye contact with Curry. “Uh … Sure, Jim … I’ll be right there ...”

Several more seconds passed.  Patience as a virtue did not apply to young boys.  Jimmy tugged on his father’s sleeve. “C’mon, Pa! Ma’s gonna have a fit if we’re late."

The man finally broke the stare. “Okay, Jim …”

With one more look at Kid, he opened his mouth, attempting to speak.  Nothing came out.  Rueful, he turned to follow the youngster back inside.

~~oo00oo~~

Whistling softly, Hannibal Heyes unpacked his saddlebags. It would be nice to sleep in a real bed tonight and have his filthy clothes laundered.  On the trail, soap and cold water did not do the job, and heating water took too long when one was moving on each day.

He took in his surroundings as he moved toward the chipped wardrobe – the room was clean, but frayed, certainly serviceable. Filtered sunlight streaming through gossamer sheers danced off the opposite wall, not quite brightening the worn floral of the wallpaper. Shadows falling in a far corner almost overtook a coat rack, and Heyes’ black hat. They might have to light the wall sconces long before sunset.

He heard the signal knock at the door.  Un-holstering his Schofield, he walked to the entrance.  He asked in a low voice, “Kid?”

An even softer acknowledgement came from the hallway.

Heyes unlocked and opened the door, nodding a greeting to his partner.  He holstered his weapon and resumed his unpacking. “The horses all taken care of?”

No answer.

“Well?”  Heyes looked over his shoulder.  “You gonna come in or just stand there?”

Kid Curry stood in the threshold.  Out of breath, the usual ruddy cheeks devoid of color, the clear blue eyes haunted, he regarded his partner for several seconds before entering the room.  He closed the door.  His mind racing, he stared into space for a moment before splaying fingers across the bridge of his nose.

Heyes narrowed his eyes.  “You okay? Ya look like ya just seen a ghost.”

Kid opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He strode the few steps to the window and looked out to the main street below. He could see the partially loaded wagon, but neither Jimmy nor his father was outside.

Heyes rushed to Kid’s side and followed his partner’s gaze.

“I don’t see anything.  Kid?”

The blond man moved away from the window and stood in front of the wardrobe. The chipped paint stared at him like too many distant memories.

Heyes took another good look up and down the street, then faced Curry.  “Hey? What’s going on?”

Kid choked.  “Can’t.  Need some air.” Before Heyes could take in the words, his partner was at the door fumbling with the lock, and disappeared into the hallway.

Heyes grabbed his hat and the room key and hurried after him. He stopped at the entryway.  Curry stood in the corridor just steps outside the door.  Heyes squeezed his partner’s shoulder.  He spoke softly, “Kid?  What …?”

The blond man looked at Heyes, shrugged, and slowly shook his head.

“You want to take a walk?”

Ruefully, “No.”

Heyes raised an eyebrow.  “Let’s go back inside.”  Once they reached the safety of the room, the dark-haired man bolted the door after checking the hallway. He studied his partner, who once more stood at the window. “Okay. Talk to me.”

Kid let out a breath. “I saw somebody.”

“Who? The sheriff? Someone who knows us?”

Kid shook his head.  “No. Just, somebody …”  He glanced at the floor before looking up.  “Is there a back entrance?”

Heyes’ countenance was awash in concern.  “For what?  It’s not something I asked about when I checked in.  Unless there’s a good reason, it might arouse suspicion.”

Curry processed what he had heard.  “I … We’ll be okay if we stick to the alleys.”

Heyes raised an eyebrow. “THAT will raise suspicion.”

“I don’t care, Heyes.  I’m goin’.”

Dumbfounded, Heyes followed Kid out the door.

~~oo00oo~~

The partners made their way to the rear of the hotel and found a door leading to a back alley. If the shadows in the room had fallen too soon, they were magnified here – spare light and dark grey heralded a night still hours away.  Heyes noted there was almost enough cover to rob a bank from the rear – if only …

He smiled to himself, but just as quickly quashed the thought.  Keeping eyes ahead and ears attuned to his partner’s footsteps behind him, Heyes almost held his breath as his racing mind stumbled upon the universal antidote.  “How about a drink?”

“Okay.”

“Good.” The dark-haired man surveyed the labyrinth of passages. “I think the saloon’s over this way.”

They traversed tunnel-like channels – run of the mill yet atmospherically spectral. Gloom and shadow played off buildings long since new. Starkly weathered in most spots, here and there the wood grain protruded sharply, barb-like, as sentinels at attention, ready to advance.

Suddenly, light spilled forth. Leaving the gloaming for the brightness, they waited for their eyes to adjust. Getting his bearings on the main street, Heyes indicated they should go left.  Soon opposite the saloon, they stepped into the street.  Halfway across the road, they paused to let a wagon pass. Instead, it stopped.

Heyes waved to the driver and the small boy beside him and continued to the saloon entrance.  He said over his shoulder, “A beer’ll hit the spot.”

When no reply came, Heyes turned.  Curry stood in the middle of the street staring at the driver, who returned the gaze.  The little boy looked between his father and the stranger.  The man appeared to be searching for something to say, but he averted his eyes, looked down at his son, and eventually found Heyes. The dark-haired ex-outlaw’s eyes narrowed as he observed him. Finally, the man focused on his team and shook the reins. The wagon rolled past.

~~oo00oo~~

“All right – who was that?”

Kid stared at his whiskey.

“Drink it. It’ll help.”

A muttered but unconvincing reply, “I know.”

Heyes felt his patience running thin.  The saloon was noisy, but not enough to impede comfortable conversation, and the back table they shared offered them privacy.  “Kid?”

Curry lifted the glass to his lips and sipped. Swallowed. Put the glass on the table. Regarded the shot glass again before lining up his partner in his sights. Sighed. “Remember I told ya about the day the soldiers came to talk to my pa? About a week before ...”

Heyes braced himself. This was not what he was expecting. “Uh huh.”

“That’s where I know him from.”

His countenance a jumble of confusion and surprise, Heyes swallowed hard. “He was there? And?”

“That’s it.”

Louder. “That’s it?! What do you mean?”

“Shh, lower your voice. Ya want the whole town to hear?” Kid remarked flatly.  He took another sip. “And, yeah, that’s it.”

Heyes started to rise.

Kid grabbed his arm. “Leave it.”

Incredulous, Heyes reseated himself. “Do you hear what you’re saying?”

“Yeah, I hear what I’m sayin’.” Kid downed the rest of his shot. “And right now I’m gonna get a bath.”  Curry rose.

Caught off-guard, Heyes gulped his whiskey and followed.

~~oo00oo~~

Kid Curry awoke with a start. “Argh!”

“A bad one, huh?”

“Yeah.  What’re you doin’ awake?”

Heyes yawned.  “Couldn’t sleep.”

“What time is it?”

“I don’t know. Too early to get up.”

“Heyes, I wanna leave first light.”

The dark-haired man sighed. “I was thinking the same thing. But, dang it, Kid, how could you remember this guy from that long ago?  You were little, and anybody there was a lot younger, too. And people change.”

“I know him, Heyes. And he knows me.”

Heyes sat up and trained his eyes on Kid. He could see him plainly in the spare illumination that wafted up from the gas lamps in the street below. “How? I barely remember what you said about that day – it was years ago. Didn’t your pa want ya to go inside?”

Curry stared straight ahead in the darkness, at a wall – or an ethereal reminiscence. He spoke quietly, deliberately, “Yeah. But I didn’t go in. The one in charge took my pa aside to talk to him. And I started to go inside the house, but stopped when I heard a horse whinny. There was a boy on him. A blond-haired boy, like me – only he had freckles. Couldn’t have been more than sixteen, seventeen … My older brothers’ ages. He looked real scared. And I looked at him, and him at me. We just stared at each other, for a real long time. Neither of us moved, or … I don’t think we did.”

Heyes listened.  “Go on …”

Kid cleared his throat. “That’s it, really. We just stared at each other. And I never forgot him. Figured I’d always know that face, those eyes. But I haven’t thought about him in years. Guess I forgot about it when I tried to make peace with it.  But when I saw him, it all came back.  I knew, and so did he.  It’s like we were back there in that yard.” Rueful chuckle. “Guess he remembered me all that time, too.”

“I don’t remember you mentioning that part.”

Curry shrugged. “Maybe I didn’t.”

“Did you ever wonder what happened to him?”

“No. Told ya, I tried to forget it.”  He paused. “Not exactly something ya wanna be rememberin’ every day.”

“True.” Heyes looked at his cousin in the half dark.  “Kid, what’re ya gonna do?”

“Nothin’.  Gonna leave town.”

“What about consequences for his actions?”

“Consequences? Hmph. It was war. I’m just thankful we weren’t home when the soldiers came back a week later.  Of all the days to play a little hookey and go fishin'.”  Curry sighed.  “It took a long time to put it all behind me.”  He regarded Heyes.  “I hope you have, too.”

Heyes pursed his lips.

Kid continued.  “Anyway, he was only a kid.  A real green kid.  And what about his little boy? You wanna take from him what we lost? He hasn’t done anything.”

Heyes’ eyes flashed.  “Neither did we ...”

~~oo00oo~~

The next morning, the partners checked out of the hotel and stopped for breakfast at the café.  Halfway through their meal, Jimmy’s father entered and approached their table. He appeared nervous, and contritely addressed Curry.  “Excuse me. Can we step outside and talk?”

The partners regarded the man and each other. Kid responded, “Sure.”

Both stood up. Heyes motioned to the waitress they would be back. The man looked questioningly at Curry.

“Anything you have to say to me, you can say to my partner.”

The man nodded.

The trio walked the few steps to an alley beside the café. The man took note of two tied-down guns. He speechlessly implored Kid, who glanced at his partner. Heyes moved a couple of yards away, out of direct eyesight but within clear earshot.

The man cleared his throat. “I … I just wanted to say … I’m sorry.”

Kid regarded him, poker-faced. This was too awkward.

The man continued. “I had a hard time living with myself after that day. I deserted.  Found solace in the bottle for a long time.  Was about to pull the trigger when I met my wife.  Then we had Jimmy. They’re my life, my salvation.”

Kid looked toward Heyes, then back at the man in front of him. Several long seconds passed. “Take good care of them.”

Stunned, the man wiped his eyes with his sleeve.  “Thank you.”

He looked at Heyes. The dark-haired man averted his eyes.

He held Kid’s gaze again, extended his hand. Curry regarded it, looked away. The man dropped his head, nodded, turned.

For several long seconds, the partners watched him disappear down the street. Heyes squeezed Kid’s shoulder as they exchanged a glance. Then, they went back inside the café.

_________________
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Silverkelpie

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PostSubject: Re: Back    Mon Nov 09, 2015 2:56 pm

I will try to get a story done, but this month is frantic for me.  Here is an old one just for playing in the meantime.  Warning  It has a nude old man (including his back - that's my nod to the prompt Banana  ) 



Old Age and Treachery

“Old Matthews is dead.” Charles Clutterbuck put down his newspaper and stared at his wife over the table. “There’s an announcement in the paper.”

“Eric?” she asked.

“Yes. His funeral’s next week, Beryl.”

“How sad,” the man’s wife replied. “You never really got on with him, did you?”

The sunlight glistened off thick, white hair as the old man shook his head. “He wanted you Beryl. He never got over you.”

Heyes smiled sympathetically at the old man. “We’re happy to take you both in the wagon. I know that neither of you ride anymore.”

“If I could mount a horse I wouldn’t need to have you two here to fix the place up. I could have kept on top of the jobs myself. The most I can manage is my morning stroll into town.”

His wife clasped his wrinkled hand, her hair as grey as the ashes of a neglected fire. “Yes. We have a routine. First, we go past the school, where we first met. Then we go to the store and have a chat with Betty Hall. She gets lonely since her husband died,” she gave them a conspiratorial wink. “Although, one look at her and you can guess what from.”

The Kid shot a look of confusion at Heyes, who simply grinned. They were still getting used to their employers’ peculiarities. Mr. Clutterbuck was given to periods of senile confusion, while his wife was eccentrically simple. But nature has a way of balancing things out. Her portrait on the wall showed that she had been a stunning redhead, with burning, green eyes and perfect bone structure. He clearly hadn’t married her for her conversational skills, but his obvious love for her burned like a beacon in their old age.

She lifted away the cups. “Charles tries to keep his mind active. He reads the newspaper, books, just about anything. He’s reading Shakespeare at the moment.”

“Shakespeare? Really?” Heyes gave them a look of real interest. “I like to read. Which one?”

“William,” she replied. “Are you finished with that plate?”

oooOOOooo


“We’ll be social piranhas.”


The Kid stared blankly at his etymologically challenged employer. “Huh?”

“Nobody will believe all that money just fell out of the hay loft,” the old lady shook her grey head, causing her round spectacles to drop to the end of her pert, little nose. “It nearly hit my Charles on the head. He might have got percussion.”

Heyes looked down at the leather bag stuffed with banknotes. “It’s obviously stolen. Someone stashed it here.”

“But who?” fluttered Mrs. Clutterbuck. “They’ll think it was us! Charles and I branded as felines at our age. I’ll never survive in prison.”

The outlaws exchanged a meaningful look. “I doubt if you’ll be the prime suspects,” Heyes ran a hand distractedly through his hair. “We need to hand this in to the authorities. They’ll know it was hidden here. Nobody would suspect you for a second.”

“But we’ll be incinerated!”

Charles Clutterbuck grinned fondly at his batty, little wife. “Beryl, the word is incarcerated and nobody is going to believe that you and I stole that money. We can hardly make it into town, let alone hold anybody up.” He frowned, the furrowed brow echoing his crinkly, white hair. “I’ve got no idea where it might have come from. There must be at least a thousand dollars here.”

“Has there been a robbery around here?” asked Kid.

“Not for at least fifteen years,” replied Charles. “Around the time I retired. It can’t be from that. There isn’t enough.”

“It could be someone’s share of the loot,” Heyes glanced at the hayloft. “When were you last up there?”

“Oooh, ten years or so. I haven’t been fit enough for a long time.”

The partners exchanged a glance, both understanding the same unspoken thought. These old folks lived hand to mouth. There was no way that they would live in such straightened circumstances if they knew they had access to this kind of money. They couldn’t even afford to pay them, but bed and board on a quiet, little homestead was a good way for two ex-outlaws to lie low for the winter while they did odd jobs.

“So it could have been up there for a very long time,” murmured Heyes, reflectively.

“Ages,” agreed Mrs. Clutterbuck.

“Or, it could have been put there a few hours ago. We have no way of knowing,” Heyes gave the elderly couple a smile of reassurance. “In which case, we’d better get it to the local sheriff and make sure that everyone knows that we did, in case they come back for it.”

“They’ll come back?” gasped the elderly woman. “But we’ll be sitting ducks.”

The Kid gave the woman a determined look. “Not with us around, you won’t.”

“I’m guessing it’s been there for a while, judging by the dust.” Heyes snapped the bag shut. “We’re always here when you two go for your walk every morning. It’s the only time you go out. Nobody’s had the opportunity recently.”
Mrs. Clutterbuck nodded. “Yes, the doctor says that Charles needs routine. We always go out at the same time and go to the same places. We watch the children playing in the schoolyard, then the store to see Mrs. Hall.”

“Well, we’d best get this to the sheriff,” Heyes paused, thoughts clearly running behind his dark eyes. “On second thoughts, why don’t I go to the sheriff and bring him here. That way he’s responsible for it. We don’t want it to be stolen on the way there. Thaddeus, can you make sure that the money’s kept safe?”

The Kid gave a curt little nod to accompany the secret smile.

“Good idea,” announced Mrs. Clutterbuck. “But I don’t like Tommy Flanagan. He might be sheriff, but he has a face like a big toe, just like his father.”

“Huh?” snorted Kid.

Heyes folded his arms and chuckled. “You’ve been saying that a lot recently, Thaddeus.”

Kid scratched his head. “Yup, and I guess I’ll be sayin’ it a lot more before we leave here.”

oooOOOooo


Heyes’ opened the door to the sheriff’s office, trying to ignore the fluttering trepidation in his belly while Mrs. Clutterbuck’s words rang in his ears, ‘He has a face like a big toe.’ Some descriptions could force a man to gawp like a form of hypnosis. It reminded him of that time the Kid warned him not to stare at a man’s bad wig. He instantly found he could look at nothing else.

He pulled himself together and dressed his face with his most innocent smile. “Sheriff Flanagan?”

“Can I help you?”

Heyes gave him a dimpled smile. “My name is Joshua Smith and I’m doing some work for the Clutterbucks. They have a place on the edge of town?”

The man nodded. “I know the Clutterbucks.”

“Well, he found a bag this morning. It’s full of money.”

The lawman gave an echoing laugh. “Really?”

“Yes,” Heyes replied. “It fell out of the hayloft. We thought we’d better report it, but I didn’t want to be responsible for carrying that much money around.”

“Maybe a kangaroo kicked it out?”

Heyes shook his head in confusion. “Sorry?”

An apologetic grin split the sheriff’s fleshy face. “I take it you haven’t known Charles Clutterbuck very long.”

“No. Only about two weeks. We’re fixing up his place for him.”

“Well, you need to know a few things about old man Clutterbuck. He’s kinda loco,” he pointed at his temple and rolled his eyes. “Mixed up, like. It was only a month ago he was in here reportin’ a kangaroo runnin’ wild on his place. I had to look it up in the library. They’re big animals from Australia that jump about on two legs and have pouches. Do you know how far away Australia is?”

Heyes arched his eyebrows. “I’m guessing a few thousand miles.”

“Nearly eight thousand miles. What do you think one of them would be doin’; leapin’ about the Clutterbuck place?”

“Did anyone else see it?”

The sheriff stood and approached the stove before raising his eyebrows questioningly as he held up a coffee pot. “What do you think? Coffee?”

Heyes nodded. “Please. Has he done anything else strange?”

“Too many to mention. Last summer he walked down the street wearin’ nothing but a smile. He thought he was a little kid again and was headin’ for the swimmin’ hole. It sure took the shine off old Matthews’ birthday party. Walked straight through it.”

“But I saw the money, Sheriff. My friend’s looking after it.”

“He has a habit of hidin’ things about the place to keep them safe. He buried all his wife’s jewellery once and Beryl had half the town diggin’ up their place, lookin’ for it. About two years ago he took out every penny he had in the bank, sayin’ the staff would steal it. That’s probably the bag of money that you found.”

“But there’s about a thousand dollars in there!”

The sheriff shrugged. “He worked as a bank manager all his life. He used to be real smart. He could have easily that much money as his life’s savin’s,” he drained his coffee cup and put it down on the desk. “I’ll come over and look into it, but I don’t want to take the man’s own money from him. It wouldn’t be right.”

Heyes scratched his chin thoughtfully. “It’s not as simple as I first thought. Can you come by so that I know it’s all above board? Maybe I can persuade him to put it in the bank again?”

Tommy Flanagan proffered a handshake. “I’ll be glad to. I’m real glad to see Clutterbuck’s dealin’ with honest men. Do you know what a lot of people would do, meetin’ folks that vulnerable with a big bag of money? You’re a welcome addition to Greenville, Mr. Smith.” They shook hands and the sheriff ushered Heyes towards the door. “I’ll be there later. I need to go to the bank first and find out how much he drew out so we can compare the amounts.”

oooOOOooo


Night was cloaking the little homestead in dusky, ashen tones, when the sheriff finally arrived and hammered at the door. The amber light from the windows seemed especially cheerful, viewed though the driving rain and the howling, February wind.


Mrs. Clutterbuck pulled the door open. “Sheriff Flanagan, welcome to our little commode.”

One of the sheriff’s little eyebrows curled upwards at the bizarre welcome. “I understand that you’ve found some money? I thought I’d drop by on my way home.”

“This is it sheriff,” Charles Clutterbuck pulled open the bag. “It has one thousand two hundred and twenty three dollars in it. I counted.”

The sheriff pulled out a slip of paper from his pocket. “The same amount you drew out from the bank when you retired?”

“It’s not that money. I know it’s not!”

“Really! Tell me what happened today. Start right at the very beginning.”

Charles sat down, staring off into the middle distance. “Well, I got up. I had breakfast as normal. Then Beryl and I went to school...”

The lawman’s impatient voice cut him off. “I’ve heard enough! It’s your own money. Keep it, but if you’ve any sense you’ll put it back in the bank.”

“But..?”

“Mr. Clutterbuck, I’m a busy man. There hasn’t been a significant theft around here for years and it’s the same amount you took out from the bank. Keep it. I’ll file a report to say that you found your own money.”

“Are you sure?” demanded the old man.

“I’ve never been more certain of anything in my life!”

A grin spread over the old man’s face. “Well, if you’re sure – you two boys might have a lot more work to do. I can afford a lot more raw materials now.”

“Fine by us,” grinned Kid. “We’re lookin’ for honest work.”

“And we’re happy that the Clutterbucks have good folks about them,” smiled the sheriff, before he dropped his voice conspiratorially. “We ain’t had no ‘episodes’, as the doc calls them, since this.”

oooOOOooo

“The Circus? You’re going to work with the Circus?” demanded Mr. Clutterbuck.

Heyes nodded. “Well, it’s May and the place is looking great. It’s about time we were moving on. They’re offering us jobs and we’re done here.”

“I’ll miss you. You’ve certainly made a difference around here.”

Heyes gave a wry smile. “Yup. Some might think a whole lot more than a thousand dollars has been spent.”

The old man’s blue eyes darted up to meet Heyes’ scrutiny. “You think?”

“I know so. We had to go into town to fetch the supplies and pay your debts, remember?”

“Well, I had a few savings of my own. I added to it.”

Heyes watched the man squirm uncomfortably under his gaze. “Hmm, enough to practically rebuild the place and pay off the mortgage? Your health seems to have improved too.”

A pair of shrewd blue eyes fixed on the ex-outlaw. “What’s your point, young man?”

Heyes casually played with the frayed end of a rope. “I got talking to some locals in town over a few poker games. You were the local bank manager and the man who died; Matthews, wasn’t it? Matthews, was the head of security.”

“So?”

“You two never got on and he put the word out that you robbed your own bank just before you retired. Folks thought it was jealousy, because of Beryl. They saw you were poor, and quickly got poorer.”

“I never stole anything. Until I found that bag of money I was poor as a church mouse. He had a grudge because of Beryl.”

“Yes, it would be hard to spend it, especially after Matthews repeatedly threatened to ruin you if he so much as saw you living well. The last time was publicly, in the street – right before you ruined his birthday party.” Heyes smiled gently, “and Beryl wouldn’t move. Your son’s grave is here.”

Clutterbuck rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “That’s quite the imagination, you got there. Maybe it’s best you move on?”

“I agree. Just about everyone else around here has forgotten old Matthews’ accusations. I expect it’s all coincidence. Especially since Matthews had a heart attack the time you took all your money out of the bank. He survived. If he hadn’t, you would have had a big bag of money to spend two years ago and nobody would have been able to say exactly how much you were spending. Not even the bank. Just like this time.”

“Why would I fake being weak in the head?”

“Oh, Sir. You’re not faking. You do have periods of forgetfulness, but you’re not as bad as people think. You found out quite quickly that you could do just about anything you wanted to by acting a bit strangely. It’s just that Matthews lived a lot longer than you thought he would and you had to wait before you could ‘find’ the bag and spend the money. It was a long plan, but it all took a lot longer than you anticipated. He had a bad heart, after all.”

“Young man, if you repeat any of that to anyone else, I’ll...”

Heyes arched his eyebrows. “You’ll what? Cause a fuss? Remind everyone of the theft of ten thousand dollars when you retired? Is that really a good idea? The statute of limitations ran out on that theft a long time ago. Nobody’s looking for whoever did it and you made sure that the sheriff would testify that the bag of money was yours. You’re in the clear. You even had the town thinking your mind had gone in case anyone found out what you were up to. They’d never lock you up.”

Clutterbuck sucked in a breath. “What do you want? Money?”

Heyes gave a little chuckle. “Of course not. I’ve haven’t even mentioned this to my partner. We’ll be going, but be a bit more careful about how you spend the money. If I’ve noticed, then you can be sure that someone else might. I’d hate to think how Mrs. Clutterbuck could manage without you. I just wanted to warn you. I like you.”
“Beryl always had expensive tastes, and I love her so much. I prayed for more money, but God doesn’t work that way, so I stole it and prayed for forgiveness. How’d you know?”

“I suspected something was wrong when you suddenly found money somewhere you hadn’t been able to get to for ten years. The sheriff made me wonder why you’d take all the money out of the bank, but when I spoke to the folks in the bar all the old rumours came together.”

“I’m glad it’s out. It’s a relief. I think that I faked the senility so long that it started to affect me. I’ve started seeing things”

Heyes chuckled. “A kangaroo?”

The white head nodded solemnly.

“I think I can help you with that. I spoke to the circus folks.”

“Circus folks?”

Heyes grinned. “Yeah. They’ve got a boxing kangaroo. They were touring on the other side of those hills when it escaped in January. Did you know that they can cover tremendous distances and can reach speeds of about fifteen miles an hour? It took them two days to get it back.”

“I knew I’d seen one!” declared Clutterbuck, triumphantly. “I was beginning to think I had gone soft in the head. It was right there in my barn.”

“You? Soft in the head? Dumb as a fox, more like. You remind me of something an old friend of mine from San Francisco used to say.”

“Yeah? What was that?”

“Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill. Apparently some wise, old Greek used to say it.”

The old man grinned. “And a wise, young man in Wyoming too. I’d have to get up real early in the morning to get one over on you, Mr. Smith,” cornflower blue eyes gleamed with intelligence as they held Heyes’ gaze. “Or whatever your name really is?”

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

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PostSubject: Re: Back    Thu Nov 12, 2015 12:37 pm

Jed Curry rubbed frost off the windowpane with his gloved hand.

“How's the weather?” Hannibal Heyes asked.

“There's frost, but no snow.”

“Strangest autumn I ever seen. It's almost Thanksgiving, and there's no snow. It ain't natural.”

“Don't complain. It'll be here soon enough, and we'll be stuck here at Devil's Hole till the spring thaw.”

“Ain't that the idea, Kid? That we'd be safe and sound here, where no lawman can take us?”

Curry turned away from the window. Heyes wore his hat and heavy blue coat and was pulling on his leather gloves.

“Yeah, I guess so.” He reached for the sheepskin coat hanging on a peg by the door. “And, like I told you before when we were talking about wintering here, I could use some peace and quiet for a change.”

“Glad to hear you're not reconsidering.”

“I'm not. Especially since you're not doing the cooking.”

“Kid! I'm hurt. Partners all these years, and now I find out you don't like my cooking?”

“Your cooking ain't so bad as your coffee. Lucky for both of us that a better cook than you wanted to winter here with us.”

“And speaking of that,” Heyes said, opening the heavy door, “let's head over to the bunkhouse before breakfast gets cold.”

000000

Smoke pumped from the bunkhouse chimney, sending the smell of bacon throughout the clearing. The men quickened their pace, stomachs rumbling. They were greeted at the door by a tall thin man wearing a stained canvas apron.

“About time you two got here! I was beginning to think I'd have to eat this all on my own.”

“Now, Preacher,” Curry said, taking off his coat and draping it on the back of a chair, “you know we don't make any member of the gang do something that we wouldn't do.”

“Absolutely not,” Heyes agreed. He sat down at the table and unbuckled his heavy coat. The warmth emanating from the big cast iron stove made the room almost hot.

“I knew I could depend on you.” Preacher gestured towards the covered plates on the table. “We got bacon, flapjacks with jam, and baking powder biscuits. Help yourselves.  After we say grace, of course.” Hands halfway extended towards the plates froze in mid-air.

“Of course,” Curry agreed, glancing sideways at Heyes. “Go right ahead.”

“Lord, we thank thee for thy continued blessings of abundance and for shelter from the storm. I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. For all that we receive, we are truly grateful. Amen.” He reached over and removed the covers from the plates, allowing steam and a wicked good aroma to rise into the air. “Now we can eat.”

Half an hour later, the three men had finished their hearty breakfasts and were lingering at the table, drinking coffee and digesting.

“Preacher, I don't know who changed your mind about spending winter in Texas, but I'm mighty grateful to him, whoever he was.”

“Texas was too full of Texas Rangers, shootin' people for no good reason. Just didn't feel safe without the gang and you two to watch my back. I knew that Heyes'd lay in enough supplies for five winters. So I decided I'd join you, spend my time in contemplation and prayer.” He grinned. “And I figured you wouldn't mind if I did the cooking, especially with Thanksgiving coming up.”

“Thanksgiving feels funny with only us around,” Curry complained. “I kind of wish we had more folks here to celebrate.”


“Me too,” Preacher agreed. “I enjoy cooking for a crowd, and we got more than enough provisions. But just knowing the three of us are safely gathered here together is reason to give thanks.”

“True enough,” Heyes said, draining his cup. He stood and stretched his back. “Well, we better get going. Me and Kid thought we'd take a ride around the property, check up on everything while this weather holds.”

Preacher started to clear the dishes.

“It is the strangest winter I ever seen here, that's for sure. Feels like I brought Texas weather up here with me.”
“Just as long as you didn't bring any of those Texas rangers” Curry said. “'Sides, I don't think this weather's gonna hold much longer. The sky looks like a snow sky.”

“Better be extra careful. Don't ride out too far, or you could get caught in a blizzard. You know how fast the weather can change.”

“You contemplate dinner while we're gone,” Heyes told him. “We'll be back safe and sound before you know it.”

00000

The November sun was warm as they rode the trail away from the waterfall and familiar cabins, across the high country that provided a clear view of the surrounding territory. There was a sharpness to the air that kept Curry watchful and quiet. There was no need for him to say much anyway, since Heyes kept up a running commentary on the color of the aspens, the sound of the elks rutting in the distance, the huge amount of supplies they had stocked in the storehouse, why Mark Twain was talking too long writing his next book, the funny things a shopkeeper in Sheridan said, why General Grant should run for President, and such. Heyes tended to ramble on when he felt relaxed. Since he didn't need to do more than insert a comment like “you don't say?” or “how about that” or “I guess so” when Heyes took a breath, he was able to turn his attention to his own thoughts. Riding casually like this through the Wyoming uplands felt real nice. Too often, being on horseback meant riding hell bent for leather to outrun a posse. It was good to be outdoors. He was so lost in the pleasant mindless ride that he almost missed the unusual sound.

“Heyes! Wait up!”

Heyes pulled up on his reins and turned around in his saddle, blinking in surprise.

“What is it?”

Curry held up one hand. “I heard something.”

Both men strained to hear, their relaxed moods changed into alertness. The only sound was the wind blowing through the aspens, shaking the dry leaves down.

“What did you hear?”

“Voices.”

Heyes knew better than to question his partner's acute hearing. It had saved their lives on more than one occasion.

“Where?”

Curry pointed down, towards what passed for a trail. They turned their horses towards the sound. As they descended, they heard voices, both male and female. It was bad to have unexpected visitors, but if some of those visitors were women, they probably weren't bounty hunters or a posse. More curious than concerned, they came to a stand of trees that overlooked the trail. They saw a covered wagon below perched at an awkward angle, as if a wheel was missing. Two women wrapped in heavy shawls stood with crossed arms, watching three men who knelt on the ground, working on some sort of repair. Four horses were tied up nearby, nuzzling the ground for forage.

“What do you think, Kid?”

“I think it's getting colder. And it's starting to snow.”

Heyes tilted his head back and sniffed the air. A few snowflakes fell on his upturned face.

“Yeah. But I was talking about those folks. They look like settlers.”

“What're settlers doing out here in November? Don't they know they shouldn't be traveling in Wyoming this time of year?”

“Maybe they never heard of what happened to the Donner party.”

“Everyone's heard what happened to the Donner party.”

“You'd think so, wouldn't you? So why are they here?”

“Only one way to find out. Let's talk to them.”  Snowflakes floated down, whitening the dark ground for a moment before melting away. They heard the settlers' tense voices more clearly the closer they got. 

“Hello there!” Curry shouted. He held the reins with his left hand and kept his right hand close to his gun. Beside him, Heyes cradled his rifle across his lap. Neither smiled.

The settlers were almost too shocked to move. One man jumped up, but stopped when Heyes pointed his rifle.

“Keep your hands where we can see them. Don't even think about going for a gun.”

“Who are you?” a woman shouted. “What are you doing out here in this godforsaken country?”

Heyes and Curry exchanged a quick, amused glance.

“That's a real good question, ma'am,” Curry said. “Maybe you folks can answer that one for us. Why don't you fellas come around in front of that wagon, slow-like, and keep your hands where we can see 'em. No sudden moves. My friend here don't like surprises.” They spurred their horses to get closer.

“We are surprised, too,” a tall man answered. “We didn't expect to be see anyone, especially someone pointing a gun at us.”

“You shouldn't be here,” Heyes told him. “Devil's Hole is outlaw country. There are lots of men who point guns.”

Curry eased off his horse. He walked cautiously towards the group while Heyes stayed mounted, rifle at the ready.
“Maybe you'd like to tell us who you are and why you're here.”

An older, bearded man stepped in front of the group.

“I'm Tom Hutchins, here with my sons Richard and Thomas, and their wives Anna and Margaret. We're from Indianapolis, on our way to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. We're going to live with my brother there. And who might you be?”

“You're an awful long way from Indianapolis and Oregon,” Curry said, ignoring the question. “No sensible person is on the road in Wyoming in winter. Why are you here?”

The three men looked sheepishly at each other and at the ground.

“We got a late start from Indiana and had other problems along the way. A man we met in Dakota Territory offered to guide us through a short cut that'd get us to Oregon faster. He ran out on us after he tried to rob us and found out we had no money. We've been following his directions.”

“Are you crazy? Didn't you ever hear about what happened to the Donner party when they took a shortcut someone told them about? You could be stranded in these mountains till spring.”

One of the women pulled her heavy shawl more tightly around her. “We are stranded now, aren't we? The snow is getting heavier, and we are broke and out of food.”

Heyes slung the rifle over his shoulder and dismounted. He walked over to the broken wheel and knelt down to inspect it. The group watched him nervously.

“You aren't going anywhere with this wagon. Axle's sheared off. You'd need a blacksmith to fix this, and the closest one's in Laramie.”

“Is that far?”

“Mrs. Hutchins, you really are lost, aren't you? Laramie's a day's ride away. This storm is only going to get worse. You'd never make it.”

“What other choice do we have?” Tom Hutchins asked, wringing his hands. “We can't stay here. We have to find shelter.”

Heyes knew what was coming. He saw the thought cross Curry's face, and he knew what Curry would say. It was a terrible idea that could escalate into disaster. But for all his ability to think fast and talk faster, he couldn't come up with the words or the will to prevent it.

“You do have another choice,” he heard Curry say. “You can come with us. We've got a safe place where you can wait out the storm, and we got plenty of provisions.”

Hope, fear, and anxiety played across the settlers' faces. They looked at each other, looked at the dark clouds shedding thick snowflakes, the wagon listing uselessly to one side, and at the strange men who'd ridden up unexpectedly, pointing guns at them.

“I'm sorry,” the younger woman said. “We don't know you. We don't even know your names. We could be in more danger if we go with you.“

“That's right, you don't know our names. But you're wrong about being in more danger with us. I don't want to frighten you – then again, maybe I should.” Curry's voice was hard now. “You're unprepared for winter in Wyoming. If you stay here, you'll die of cold or hunger.”

“Why should we trust you?” the old man said. “We trusted another stranger, and he left us to die in this country.”

“We're offering you life,” Heyes said, coming around to stand face to face with him. “You said you don't have any money, so I can't rob you. But you got to decide right now. We still got to ride up this here mountain to our cabins, and you don't have time to pack more than you can carry on your backs. What's your pleasure?”

“We need more time to think this over,” Hutchins insisted.

“That's fine,” Heyes said. He pulled his pocket watch out from underneath his coat. “Take five minutes.   Then my friend and I leave, whether or not you come with us, because we sure as hell don't intend to die here with you. What's your pleasure?”

00000

By late afternoon, the man called Preacher had almost worn a path of worry on the wooden floorboards along the windows. The snow that started gently at mid-day had turned into a full-scale blizzard. Gusty winds blew the piles of white into drifts that stacked against the buildings, and there was still no sign of Heyes and Curry.

Sighing heavily, he sank down into the rocker and opened his Bible again. It was no use; he stared at the page, but he was too worried to read. He tucked the book under his arm and got up to pace again. Where were they? What should he do? Heading out in this weather was unthinkable. What if the boys were hurt and hoping he would rescue them? Shouldn't he at least try? He'd promised to watch their backs. Was this the time to prove it? He opened the Bible again, hoping it would provide an answer, but it opened to Leviticus talking about slavery. No help there. He slammed the book closed again. What should he do?

He spun around at the sound of the door slamming against the wall. Snow blew in on a heavy gust. Kid Curry appeared, head bowed down.

“Praise the Lord! I was so worried! Are you alright?” He rushed over and hugged Curry in his relief. Curry gave him a brief hug in return, then pushed him away gently.

“We're alright, Preacher. Sorry to worry you. We got waylaid.”

“Waylaid! By what?”

“Not by what,” Curry corrected. “By who.” He stood aside to hold the door open. To Preacher's amazement, two men and two women stumbled in. Curry had to push the door hard to close it against the gale while the strangers sank, exhausted, into chairs.

Preacher was too surprised to ask anything. He turned towards Curry with his mouth hanging open in shock.

Curry took off his snow-covered hat and hit it against the wall, dislodging melting droplets of snow onto the floor.


“Didn't you say you wanted more company, Preacher? Me and Heyes done brought you some.”

“Where's Heyes?”

“Stabling the horses. There's one more guest helping him. We got four guest horses as well as five people.”

“Where . . . how. . .”

“Did these folks come from? Does it matter? Like you said at grace this morning, they're strangers, and we're taking them in.”

“Did he really say that?” Tom Hutchins wondered. “The Lord does work in mysterious ways.” He wearily took off his heavy outerwear, letting it fall into the wet floorboards. The others had taken off their coats, but were too exhausted to do more than rest their heads on the table.

“How about firing up that stove?” Curry said. “We're all hungry and just about done in.”

When Heyes and Thomas came in half an hour later, they saw wet clothes hanging from wall pegs, sending steam into the warm air as they dried. The Hutchinsons and Curry, all wrapped in blankets pulled off the bunks, were sipping coffee and digging into venison stew.

“Plenty food for everyone,” Preacher announced. “Lucky I made so much, since I wasn't expecting guests.”

“Weren't you?” Heyes asked. He blew his nose hard into his bandanna. “Looks like you cooked for a crowd.”

“We prayed the Lord would safely gather us in, though we thought that would happen in Oregon,” Anna said, “And then we prayed for shelter from the storm. Prayers are always answered, though not always in the way we expect.”

“We surely weren't expecting such hospitality,” her sister said.

“The good book says 'do not neglect hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some have entertained angels unawares,” Preacher said. “We only follow His law.”

“I think you men are the angels,” she said, “not us. Only angels would take in strangers as you've done.”

Heyes hid a smile behind his hand. “Well, I don't rightly know if you can call us angels, ma'am. Here in the west, we got a tradition of hospitality. We watch each others' backs. I'm sure you'd do the same for us, if our circumstances were reversed.

“Anyway,” he went on, “my partner was just saying this morning he wished there was more of us gathered together for Thanksgiving.” He smiled fondly at Curry, who blushed bright red. “Looks like his prayer was answered, too.”

“I don't exactly know if that was a prayer,” Curry said to his folded hands, uncomfortable with everyone looking at him. “Just . . . Thanksgiving's about friends and family gathering together. Don't seem like a proper holiday without a crowd.”

“Seems like a lot of prayers were answered today,” Preacher said thoughtfully. “Listen to that wind howl outside. And here we are, safe and warm and fed. We truly have reason to offer thanks together this Thanksgiving holiday.”
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PostSubject: Re: Back    Mon Nov 16, 2015 12:11 am

This is an old story, but it seemed to fit the prompt.


A Matter of Honor




Feathery clouds blurred across a crescent moon, while the hoot of an owl echoed through the deserted streets.  Even the saloon crouched silent and dark at the end of the block.  

 
Hunched amid shadows, a scrawny adolescent poised motionless as a spooked hare.  He listened for the hollow tread of booted feet.  A pale hand snaked out of the darkness and landed on his shoulder.  The youth spun, and stopped with his gun drawn and pointed.  At the sight of the familiar figure, he holstered his weapon and frowned.


“Don't do that, Heyes,” he whispered urgently.  “I coulda shot ya.”


“Ya wouldn't do that.”  Dark-brown eyes peered at the empty street.  “Deputy?”


The shake of shaggy, blond curls was his answer.


“Door's open.” Heyes vanished back into the shadows.


Blue eyes flicked up and down the street before Jed Curry slipped into the darkness after his friend.


“Now what?” Heyes asked quietly as his partner latched the door.


“Why're ya askin' me?”


“Because this harebrained scheme is your idea.  You insisted we come back.  I'm just along for the ride and to keep you outta trouble,” snapped the older boy.


“We owe it to him.  He helped us when we had nothin'.”


“And kicked us back out again three weeks before Christmas!  No place to go.  Hardly any money.  Did you forget how cold these mountains were?  Snow and ice and no job or place to sleep.”


“That's not fair,” Curry growled.  “He warned us.  Said he'd have to let us go.  It weren't his fault that we spent all our money.  We emptied his safe!  What kinda trouble do ya think we caused him.  It's a matter of honor, Heyes.  Mr. Blake helped us.  We need to pay him back.”


Heyes' grunt might have been assent or scorn.  “Let's return the money and get outta here.”

 
Jed strained to see his friend creeping through the dark interior of the familiar shop.  At least, it should have been familiar.  They'd worked here and slept in the back room for four months, but things felt different.  Maybe Mr. Blake had remodeled.  Blake's General Store had been a fixture in this part of Helena for years.  It could use some sprucing up.


“Something's not right,” hissed Heyes from deep inside the store.


Curry felt his way through the darkness, until he bumped into his partner.  “Light the candle.”


Heyes fished a candle stub and matches from a pocket of his worn jacket.  Using his body as a shield, he hunched over as the light flared and shrank into the flickering glow of a lit wick.


The feeble illumination revealed a store full of hats.   The young men searched the shop, but found nothing but head wear.


Curry checked the counter.  “Bring the light over here.”


The dark-haired youth brought the candle and lowered it to shine on some paperwork.


“Wilson's Millinery,” Heyes read aloud.  “Are we in the right place?”


“Ya know we are.”


“Maybe Mr. Blake moved the business.”


“Why?  He liked it here.”


Heyes grunted.


“Do ya think he went outta business cuz we took his money?” wondered Curry in a hollow voice.


“Nope.  If takin' that money pushed him outta business, he was already in trouble.  That's not our fault.  Let's get outta here.”

__________
 
The boys hurried away from the empty streets near Blake's General Store.  Arriving in a part of town still awake and active, they relaxed into a casual stroll.  Light and music streamed  from open doors farther up the block.


Heyes stopped across from the saloon. “I'm thirsty.  How 'bout you?”


“Beer sounds good.  Do ya think Mr. Blake reported us to the sheriff?” Curry asked with a nervous flick of his eyes.


“Even if he did, who's gonna recognize us.  It's been nearly a year, and we never came into this part of town.”


Jed nodded and pushed his way through the doors into the smoky interior.  They paused, evaluating the occupants and the atmosphere.  It was quiet except for an off-key player piano churning out a jaunty melody.  One table boasted a small-stakes poker game.  Another served as a pillow for a man passed out next to an empty bottle.  A couple of cowboys sat at the bar nursing whiskeys.  The bartender was cleaning glasses.  He tossed the boys a professional smile, but continued to wipe a graying rag inside a beer mug.  Heyes skirted by Curry and headed to the end of the bar.


“Two beers.”


The bartender laid down his cloth and filled the glasses.  Jed joined his partner as the beers arrived.  The coins Heyes laid on the polished wood were quickly scooped away.


The man behind the bar spoke through a bushy mustache.  “Kinda late for you boys to be out, ain't it.  Is someone wonderin' where ya are?”


Heyes gulped some beer.  “Don't worry about us, Mister.  We won't cause any problems.  We're just passing through on personal business.”


“Personal business, huh?  Welcome to Helena, then.”  He returned to his dishes.


Curry set down his half-drained mug.  “We gotta find Mr. Blake, Heyes.”


“No.  We don't.”  The dark eyes scanned for anyone listening.  “We gotta stay clear of trouble and move on.  Mr. Blake means trouble.”


“We caused the trouble, and we gotta make it right.”  Curry lowered his voice.  “What if he lost his business cuz of us?”


“If he was already havin' troubles, we ain't to blame for that," grumbled Heyes.  "How were we to know he couldn't afford a little loss?”


“A little loss!” Curry's voice rose.


Heyes glared a warning.


Curry continued in a whisper.  “I think he lost mor'n a little.”


“He shoulda been able to afford it.  Leave it be.  We'll get a good night's sleep and head out of town after breakfast.”


Curry scowled.  Icy blue eyes bored a whole in the wood of the bar. 


“Need a refill?” asked the barkeep.


The blond jumped.


“Sorry, son.  Didn't mean to startle ya'.  Do ya want another?”


He nodded, and the man took both empty glasses.  Curry watched the bartender.

 
Brown eyes slid sideways.  “Watcha thinkin'?”


Curry didn't answer.  The bar-keep deposited the refilled mugs.  Jed paid this time, and stared at the retreating bartender.  “Hey, Mister,” he called out.  “Can I ask ya somethin'?”


“Sure, what is it?”


Heyes opened his mouth, but it snapped shut at the look on his friend's face.


“What happened to Blake's General Store on Lyndale Street?” asked Curry.


“What makes ya ask?”


“We were told to pick up supplies there,” Heyes interjected.  “But when we went by today, we couldn't find it.  Did it move?”


“I'm not real familiar with that end of town, but Gerald, the bald fella at the end of the bar, he might know.  His cousin works on Lyndale Street.  I'd ask him.”


“Thank ya, sir,” murmured Jed as he picked up his beer and headed down the bar.


Heyes wrapped his hand around his drink and started to follow.  With a shrug and a sigh, he sank back onto his stool.  Chasing after his partner was likely to draw attention.  He took a deep breath and waited for Curry to return.


After a brief conversation, his friend came back and drained his second beer.  “Shut down cuz of money troubles.  Mr. Blake's workin' different jobs now.  He's the night attendant at the livery stable over on Centennial Street.  He has a room there where he sleeps when he's tendin' the horses.”


“Now that you know he's okay, can we let it go?”


“No, Heyes.  I'm goin' to the livery.”  Curry placed an extra coin on the counter and turned to leave.

 
“That's risky,”  Heyes objected, placing a hand on his partner's wrist to hold him still.

 
Curry stared at the restraining hand until it slowly pulled away.  Blue eyes met brown, first in challenge and then in a silent plea.  “Will ya come?”


Heyes looked around to make sure no one was listening.  “We could end up in jail,” he whispered.


Curry held his friend's gaze, and then strode to the doors without a word.


Heyes rolled his eyes, drained his beer, and hurried after him.

__________

When they arrived at the livery, the moon hovered near the horizon, skimming the tops of the buildings.  The clouds had vanished, revealing stars like hard edged crystals high in the black sky.  The temperature was dropping.  Curry tightened his cloth jacket around his skinny frame.  Heyes blew on his hands before shoving them deep into the pockets of his coat.


“Now what?” asked a grouchy Heyes as they haunted a side door.


Curry raised his hand to knock.


The older boy grabbed his wrist before his fist connected with the wood.  “What do ya think you're doin'? If ya knock loud enough to wake him up, you could bring other folks.  We don't need an audience.”


“Got a better idea?”


Heyes tried the door.  It was secured with a simple latch.  A smile crept across his face as he fished a  knife out of his pocket.  He unfolded the tool and slipped the blade between the door and the wall.  Metal plinked softly and the door fell ajar.  Heyes' eyes sparkled above a wide grin.  Curry drew an old revolver from a worn holster and held it against his thigh.


The creek of rusty hinges caused the horses to nicker softly.  The boys froze in the doorway, listening for any human movement.  When no one called out or struck a light, they slipped inside and pushed the door closed.  Hovering near the exit, they waited for their eyes to adjust to the deeper darkness.  Once they could discern the silhouettes of the horses, they crept between the stalls looking for Blake's room.
 

At the end of the barn, a half-door blocked a stairway.  Curry used his revolver to point above their heads and raised his eyebrows in question.  Heyes nodded and stepped over the short door.  Placing each foot carefully, he glided to the second floor, shadowed closely by his partner.   At the top of the stairs a hallway led to a room with no door.  Creeping inside, Heyes hunkered down next to the bed.  A gray haired man with a lined face snored lightly and twitched in his sleep.  Heyes motioned for Curry to secure the other side.  Placing his hand across the man's mouth, the older boy woke their former employer.

The man's eyes flew open in sleepy alarm. 


“It's okay, Mr. Blake.  Nobody's gonna hurt ya.  We just wanna talk,” Heyes reassured.


Blake's brows drew together in confusion.


“Jed, light the lamp, will ya?” asked Heyes.   “Mr. Blake, can I trust ya not to yell?  We don't want to hurt you, but my friend has a gun if it's necessary.”


Curry turned the lamp down low, and frowned at the implied threat.  Blake nodded, and Heyes removed his hand.


The older man sat up in bed.  “Heyes?  Jed?  Why are you two here in the middle of the night?”


Heyes waited for his partner to explain.


“We came to set things right, sir.”  Without further words Curry handed him a thick envelope.


Blake opened it and saw a wad of currency.  “What's this?” He looked into blue eyes and then brown.


“It's the same amount that was in your safe the night we . . .”  Jed couldn't finish the sentence.  “We never meant for you to lose your store.”


Blake laid a hand on Curry's shoulder.  “Too much poker, whiskey, and dodgy investments
had as much to do with losin' the store as you boys stealing from me.”


The blond winced at the word 'stealing.'  Heyes didn't flinch.


Blake studied the matted curls on Curry's lowered head.  He removed his hand from the slumped shoulder and smiled.  “Thank you for returning the money.  But why the middle of the night?  You two scared me half to death.”


Heyes leaned against the wall and crossed his arms across his chest.  “We wanted to make sure that you were all right, but we didn't want ya callin' in the sheriff.”


“I didn't tell the sheriff when you stole the money, and I won't do it now.”


Curry's head snapped up, and he met the older man's hazel eyes with a direct stare.  “Mr. Blake, if you knew we took the money, why didn't ya tell the sheriff?”


Blake sighed and rubbed his eyes before answering.  “I shoulda done better by you boys.  Turning you out in the mountains of Montana in winter is hardly an act of Christian charity.  I was wrapped up in my own problems and didn't think about how it was affecting you two.  I wish that I had kept you on for room and board until spring.  I'm sorry I didn't do that.”


Heyes ran his hands through his hair.  “We took almost a thousand dollars from you, and you're apologizin' to us?  That don't make sense.”


“Maybe not, Heyes, but thank you for paying it back.”


“Don't thank me,” he scoffed.  “Thank Jed.  He insisted we bring you the money.  He kept harpin' on about it bein' a matter of honor.”


Curry scowled at his partner, but Blake laughed.


“Yet here you are Han Heyes, helping him return the money.  You could of sent him alone.  Besides, I'm guessing that half of that money came from you.”


He stared at Heyes, waiting for confirmation.  After a pause, the dark-haired boy nodded.


Blake smiled.  “Then thank you, Han.”  Blake glanced at the money in the envelope.  “I'm not going to ask where you got the money to pay me back.”


Heyes and Curry shot each other a look.


“It's all right, boys.  I'm not asking.”


Curry avoided Blake's eyes.  Heyes challenged him with a glare.

 
“Ya know, Jed,” soothed the older man.  “Honor's a good thing, but it's hard to know what's honorable when you're watching your friend freeze or starve.  I don't have the wisdom to judge the choices you boys have made.”  He pulled the blanket up further into his lap.


“Are you trying to say that you forgive us?” Heyes snarled.  “We're not askin' for forgiveness.  Jed didn't like thinking that we made you suffer, that's all.”


“If you're not careful, Heyes, you're gonna turn into a jaded old man before you're twenty.   So you want me to think that you've grown hard and don't care what decent people think.  Listen up, boy.  Nobody's honorable all the time.  We all make mistakes, and turn the tables to our own advantage.  If absolute honesty and constant honor are your standards for a good person, you're doomed to be disappointed.  Don't set yourself up to be bitter.  People make mistakes and hurt each other, but there's good in folks too.  You two are a good example of that.”


“What would someone like you know about it?  It's not that easy,” muttered the dark-haired boy.


“Okay, Heyes, you want unvarnished honesty.  I feel guilty for turning you boys out.  I shoulda kept you on through the winter.  But that's not why I didn't report you to the sheriff.  I was hungry and cold myself once.  I got tired of working for a fella who used my ideas to make money for himself.  So I liberated a few thousand dollars from him.  That's where I got the stake to open the store.  Now I'm seeing how the good Lord has a sense of humor, and what goes around has a way of coming back home to roost.  I don't approve of what ya did, but I got no right to condemn ya either.”


“You stole money to open the store?” breathed Curry.


“Don't go judgmental on me now, Jed.  I'm pretty sure that you'ld be a pot calling this old kettle black.”


“But you seem so honest.”


“Most of the time, I am.”  He watched them both.  “Heyes, you probably think I'm a crazy old coot, but you need to fence in that cynicism.  Most folks have a healthy dose of good in 'em.  If you look for that, and appreciate it when ya find it, you'll be a lot happier.”


Heyes lowered his eyebrows and covered his mouth with one hand.  After an uncomfortable silence, he coughed.  “I guess we should be going and let you get back to sleep.  Thank you for not telling the sheriff what we did.”


“You're welcome, Han.  Hold on to that personal honor, Jed, but remember that we all have feet of clay.”


“I'll try, sir.”


The two young men disappeared down the stairs and slipped back into the darkness.

_________________
When you put your hand in a flowing stream, you touch the last that has gone before and the first of what is still to come.
- Leonardo DaVinci
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Keays

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PostSubject: Re: Back    Mon Nov 16, 2015 11:59 pm

It was a good ten days before Wheat was well enough for the doctor to give permission for them to head out onto the trail again.  And then it was only granted with strict instructions for the patient to keep taking his medicine and to make sure he stayed warm and dry.  Yeah, right.  Good luck with that in this miserable climate!
  Kyle tended to hover like an old mother hen and Wheat tended to grumble like an old bear but they still managed to get on the road and put some miles between themselves and that town that had given them nothing but headaches.  They'd even managed to get some more money out of that lawyer fella and they didn't even have to lie about why they needed it!
  Unfortunately, just as when they had headed into that town, when they finally headed out again the weather wasn't the only thing that was still cold.  Harris had completely disappeared and the two friends were back to riding in circles in the hopes of finding some lead to follow.
  Trotting into yet another cold, damp and discoloured town somewhere inside the heart of Kansas, the fellas' spirits were feeling just as damp and unfortunate as the town that surrounded them.  They dismounted stiff and slowly, in front of the livery stable, in the hopes of getting the horses tended to and then get some hot food into themselves.  Unfortunately, as is so often the case, things did not go as planned and a soft bed and the anticipated hot meal was going to come to them at a price.
  The two men stood around for a few moments, stamping their cold feet and looking around for the hostler, but that fine businessman was no where to be seen.  The horses stomped and snorted their warm breath into the cold air, while Wheat tightened up the collar around his throat and began to cough and then curse the fact that he was coughing again.

  “Where the hell is that lazy, no good...don't he know he's got a business to run?”

  “Mebee he's gone off ta' git his dinner too,” Kyle suggested, always willing to give the other fella the benefit of the doubt.

  Wheat just snorted.  “Take these,” he said as he handed Kyle the reins to his horse.  “You wait here, and I'll go send that telegram to Kid to let 'em know where we are.”

  “Yeah, okay Wheat.”

  Wheat stomped his feet one more time and coughed into his hands, then with a disgruntled sniff, he headed across the street towards the telegraph office.  Kyle gave a dejected sigh as he watched his friend walking away.  He stomped his own feet and began to pace around in a circle with his hands, still holding onto the double sets of reins, tucked into his arm pits in the hopes of warming them up at least a little bit.  The two horses stood patiently, both of them sitting down on a back hoof and playing with their bits.
  Kyle began to search the street, up and down the block, hoping to catch sight of the livery man, but wasn't having too much luck with that.  He took note of some of the other people who were out and about on this damp and chilly afternoon, but none of them stood out as being of any importance to him. He basically dismissed them.  It was then, when he took his attention away from the far distance to focus on things in closer proximity, that he locked eyes with the very man who had been so elusive up until this instant.
  Harris had been trotting his horse up to the entrance to the livery barn, when he found himself staring into the startled blue eyes of a very familiar face.  He pulled his horse up in surprise and did a quick scan of the street himself, especially behind his back, before he faced forward again and acknowledged the former convict.

  “Hey Murtry,” Harris greeted him, though it came out as a snarl.  “Sure didn't expect to see you in these parts.”

  “Oh yeah...hi'ya Harris.”  Kyle was looking nervous, he didn't care much for confronting Harris all on his lonesome.  “How ya' doin'?”

  Harris was suspicious, taking note of the two horses that Kyle was holding onto and knowing that where Murtry stood, Carlson probably wasn't far away.



  “What you doin' around these parts, Murtry?”  Harris asked him.  “And where's your partner?”

  “Oh, we's just on a job down here fer some lawyer fella.”  Kyle never was good at lying, so he tended to simply fall back on some semblance of the truth.  “Wheat's just over there, sendin' 'im a telegram.”

  “Oh yeah?”  Harris responded, though his attention was no longer on the little man; he was looking around and back over his shoulder, not wanting to give Carlson the opportunity to come up on him from behind.  He pulled on the reins of his horse, getting the animal to start backing up, away from the livery and out into the street again.  “See ya' around Murtry.”

  “Yeah, ah—take care a' yerself.”

  Harris continued backing up until he reached the street, then he turned his horse's head north and nudged him into a trot.  Kyle breathed a sigh of relief and began to search in the direction of the telegraph office in hopes of seeing Wheat returning.  Suddenly the cold trail had become very hot.
  Then Kyle had just enough time to catch a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye when he heard the thumping of horses’ hooves coming at a run through snow and then onto wood, and a loud crack and a flash of fire grabbed his senses.  A bullet slammed into the wooden door right behind the ex-convict, and Kyle ducked and clutching his head he dashed forward to get in between the two, now dancing, horses.
  Another rifle shot quickly followed upon the echo of the first and the already nervous and blowing horses began to rear backwards and tried to pull away, but Kyle stayed with them, hoping to use them for cover.  This plan began to backfire however, as the horses panicked even more, and Kyle found himself in real danger of being trampled.  Then Harris' horse was on top of them, plunging headlong into Kyle's little bay and knocking the animal off it's feet.
  Kyle went sprawling into the muddy snow, just barely making it out from under the falling animal and saving himself from being crushed.  Suddenly the air was filled with panicked equine screams and thrashing hooves scrambling for a foothold in the slippery muck.  Wheat's horse pulled away from Kyle's grasp and rearing up, it over balanced, and with it's hind feet sliding out from under him, he toppled over backwards and hitting the ground so hard, he managed to break the tree of his saddle, rendering it useless.
  Harris pulled his own horse out from the fray and then bringing his rifle to bear he took aim at the little man scrambling to get to his feet and draw his own hand gun.  Fortunately for Kyle, Wheat had heard the ruckus and was coming at the run with his own revolver in hand and taking aim at the largest object in his sights.  He pulled the trigger and Harris' horse let out a quiet snorting squeal and instantly ducked away from the burning pain caused by the bullet nicking him across the top of his neck.
  The action wasn't much but it was enough to spoil Harris' aim, and he had to scramble simply to bring his injured horse back under control.  By that time, Kyle had his revolver out and was taking pot shots in Harris' general direction, so that along with Wheat also coming at him, made the fugitive decide to head for some other parts.  He pulled his horse around, and taking a shot at Wheat to slow him down, he spurred his frantic animal into a gallop and headed back, towards the outskirts of town.
  Wheat carried on across the street, cursing under his breath as he came up on his partner and pulled him the rest of the way to his feet.

  “Dammit Kyle!”  Wheat reprimanded him.  “Why'd ya' let 'em see ya'!”

  “Wull—I didn't know he was there, Wheat!”  Kyle tried to defend himself.  “He come up on me afore I knowed he was there!”

  “Now he knows we're after 'em!”  Wheat stated the obvious.  “Dammit!  C'mon!  Stop wasting time—let's go!”

  “But Wheat....”

  And Kyle kind’a gestured towards the two horses that were standing in the middle of the street, looking rather woebegone.  Both horses were wet and covered in mud while Wheat's chestnut was favouring his right foreleg with the broken saddle still strapped to his back.  Neither of them looked inclined to go for a gallop anywhere.
  Then, wouldn't you know it; the crowd of curious citizens who were gathered around the two horses parted down the middle to make way for the angry scowl sporting a tin badge who had his sights set on the two bedraggled transients.

  “What in tarnation is goin' on here!?”  came the snarling clipped accent of the man behind the badge.

  Kyle started to shift uncomfortably.  “Wull....ahhmm....”

  Wheat started to cough.
 
 Xxx


“No sir Sheriff! —cough, cough, cough—we were hired to track that man, and the longer you keep us here jawin' about it the more of a head start yer given' 'em!”

  The sheriff sat back in his chair and scrutinized these two vagabonds standing before him.  “Really, Mr. Johnston,” he commented sceptically.  “So you're bounty hunters.”

  “No sir—cough cough—we ain't no stinkin' bounty hunters!”  Wheat looked truly disgusted.  “That man is an escaped convict from Wyoming, and we've been hired to track 'em down, cause ya' see he's also wanted fer questioning in some other matters.”

  Kyle grinned and smiled through the mud, hopefully giving emphasis to his partner's words.

  The sheriff looked from one man to the other and practically snorted in disbelief.  “You got any proof of this?”

  “Well, ah—not on us,” Wheat was scrambling.  “Ah but if ya' send a telegram to that lawyer fella who hired us, I'm sure he'll back it up.  But still ya' know the longer you hold us here the less chance we got of catchin' up with 'em....”

  “Yeah, well you just hold your horses,” the sheriff told him.  “cause I'm gonna check out your story and you ain't leavin' town until I get down to the bottom of this.  You're both damn lucky that none of our citizens here got hit with any of those stray bullets!  As it is the livery is gonna need some repair work done and if this lawyer fella don't back ya' up—and even more to the point; send money to cover the costs, then you fellas will be guests of the jailhouse here until you can work off the debt!”

  The smile on Kyle's face dropped to an open mouthed frown as the thought of being stuck here in a jail cell sunk in.

  “Oh, well now sheriff, there ain't no call fer that!”  Wheat was feeling flustered.  “We got enough money on us to pay fer any repairs—there weren't none that was too bad!  Ain't no call fer us to be stickin' around town now, you just tell us what you need and we can be on our way.”

  “Ahh huh,” the sheriff sounded sceptical.  “Fine.  I will ask Cecil how much he reckones it'll cost and I'll let yea' know.  But in the mean time, you fellas ain't goin' nowhere's until I can substantiate your story.”

  “Oh now, Sheriff, there ain't....”

  “NOWHERE'S!”  the sheriff reiterated.  “Yer horses ain't fit for travel, and if I get wind of you tryin' to buy new ones from Cecil, I'll be throwin' ya both into a cell for the duration!  Do I make myself clear!?”

  The partners exchanged looks and Wheat started to grumble and then cough, but they couldn't think of no other way outa this.  If they pushed the sheriff too hard, then he just might do some real digging and find out that Mr. Johnston held an uncanny resemblance to a wanted highwayman who was actually suppose to be dead!  The fact that they were in the heart of Kansas, where chances were good that no one had even heard of Wheat Carlson, did not help the deceased outlaw feel any less anxious.

  “Yessir Sheriff,” Wheat finally relented.  “We'll just get us a room at the hotel and wait to hear from you to tell us we can go.”

  “Fine,” the sheriff seemed content with that.  “I will send a telegram to your lawyer friend and we'll see what he has to say.”
 
  Xxx

Wet snow was starting to come down from a slate grey sky as the partners grumpily made their way over to the hotel to get settled in for the night.

  “What are we gonna do, Wheat?”  Kyle whined.  “This is the closest we come to Harris all year and now we's gonna lose 'em again!”

  “Don't ya' think I know that!?”  Cough, cough.  Wheat snarked.  “There's nothin' we can do about it!  If our horses were fit we could just leave tonight, but as it stands—well I don't think Kid would want us stealin' horses, so we're just gonna hav’ta wait.”

  “Ya' okay,” Kyle accepted that.  “I guess a night or two in town won't be too bad....”  and his sentence trailed off as he sent a sidelong glance over to his partner, thinking how pale he was lookin' and how that cough was startin' ta get bad again.

  Meanwhile Wheat had walked on ahead, mumbling to himself,  “damn, Kid don't seem to want us to steal nothin' no more...just cause he's up and got his precious 'amnesty', he thinks we all need ta live by his rules.....”  Grumble, grumble, grumble.
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Silverkelpie

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PostSubject: Re: Back    Mon Nov 23, 2015 1:24 pm

They looked up at the heavy, frowning sky; the light adding a tint of purple behind the low cloud.  Huge flakes swirled and whirled out of the nebula, settling on eyelashes, shoulders, and freezing dirt roads into hard ruts.  The wooden spire of the church rose to meet the flurry, as though inviting coverage by a glacial blanket of crystals.  The two newcomers clustered together in the porch, nodding politely to the faithful on their way to worship.  The fair-haired man blew his reddened nose into a large handkerchief and shivered inside his sheepskin jacket.                

“I don’t know why we had to come back here,” grumbled the Kid, kicking aimlessly at the gathering snow.  “It ain’t like we usually go to church.”

“We’ve got to catch the priest right after he finishes his sermon, or we’ll miss the train back to Denver.  If we don’t get back on time, we won’t get paid.  It’s snowing, so I’m sure not going to stand outside.”  Heyes sighed deeply.  “I blame that rat Schlossen.  He looked us straight in the eye and told us there was no reply.  If we’ve got time before the train leaves I’m going to find out exactly why he lied to us.  It’s his fault we’ve done a complete round journey in the last two days.  You heard what the Governor said; if we don’t get a reply from the priest before tomorrow night, we won’t get paid.”     

“But I’ve been up since yesterday mornin’.  I’m ready to drop.  You know I’ve got a bad cold.”

“We need the money.”  Heyes stared into the bleary blue eyes and nodded in agreement.  “We’ll sit at the back.  You can rest your eyes until the sermon’s over and I’ll catch him as soon as it’s over.  You can sleep on the train.” 

“You said that on the way here.  That little brat ran up and down the aisle with that wooden horse between his legs, whoopin’ at the top of his voice.  It was cute for about ten minutes.  I felt like brainin’ him with the thing.”  A long forefinger poked into Heyes’ shoulder.  “If he’s on that train on the way back I’m gonna go back to outlawin’.  A law-abidin’ man has no control over the little ‘uns.  They didn’t tell me that when I went for amnesty.”

“Isn’t the powder the pharmacist gave you helping?”

He shrugged inside the sheepskin jacket.  “Not much.  It doesn’t do a thing.  It was a waste of money if you ask me.  We’re cuttin’ it fine.  The train goes at noon sharp.  If we don’t get that one, we’ll be too late.”  

oooOOOooo

The elderly priest’s voice barely reached the back pew.  The heavily embroidered vestments appeared to be holding up the gaunt frame leaning against the lectern with stick thin arms.  “I am of a mind, on this; my last day before retiring, to think of my first day in this parish.  On that day I took my first confession in this very church.  The man was a thief, a vagabond, and a drunk.  I could have judged him and walked by on the other side, but I chose to help him.  Was that a good decision?  I sometimes wonder, given the money he has cheated people out of, and the episodes of inebriated brutality he has brought to this town, but what would have happened if I hadn’t?  Yes, he brought a gang of thugs to the town, but wouldn’t he have done that anyway?  When I muse on the matter I find that I have at least managed to protect the town from the worst excesses by maintaining a dialogue and setting boundaries.  I employed that man and taught him how to read and write.  He didn’t turn away from his dishonest ways, but at least he became less violent.  I helped.”

The tousled head dropped in the sheepskin collar as the powder began to take full effect.  It was almost as quickly jerked back up again.  

The priest continued.  “I think that the message I want to leave you with is one of faith and courage.  Believe in your ability to at least make things better, even if you cannot solve the problems of the world.  It is better to try than to do nothing.  Be one of life’s helpers.  Don’t wait for everyone else to do it for you.  Please continue to fight the good fight when I am gone.”           

The sermon seemed interminable, not helped by the monotone delivery and the thin, insipid voice drifting from the pulpit.  The quietude was almost palpable in the calm, peaceful throng, where listening was as active as the pursing of lips and the tranquil nodding of heads.  The fat, pot-bellied stove in the back corner pumped out a delicious, embracing heat, and the general sense of peace was too much for a sleep-deprived, feverish, and medicated man; the fair head started to drop, nodding at first, then swinging down into a deep slumber as he slumped against Heyes.  Drugs stared to filter into his bloodstream, and pulled the ex-outlaw deeper and deeper down into a lethargic torpor.  The awkward position and the depth of the lethargy soon made themselves known; he started to snore.

The brown eyes rolled in embarrassment at the tutting and muttering aimed at them from the congregation.  Heyes jiggled his shoulder, trying to shrug the Kid into consciousness, but the only result was a loud, throaty snort of irritation followed by the smacking of lips before the resting head nestled back into its nest and settled back into a deep, deep nap.  At least this time it seemed to be silent.

“...And let us remember the words of Matthew chapter seven, verse six.”Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine...”

 A huge grunt cut through the sermon and rang in the rafters.  Heyes winced in discomfort at the head dropping from his shoulder.  The jolt of the falling head brought the sleeper up short and he gave a groan before grabbing at his partner’s jacket and sitting bolt upright, his head swinging from side to side.  All heads snapped around in their direction and fixed on Heyes in the absence of any ability perceivable guilt on the face of the dreaming cowboy, who smiled and mumbled to fellow travellers on his trip to the land of nod.  He buried himself into the side of his partner, his subconscious secure in the knowledge that an awake Heyes was on guard.
                             
Heyes smiled, his eyes glittering guiltily as he elbowed his comatose cousin in the ribs.  “Thaddeus!” 

“Uh...”  The uncomprehending blue eyes blinked open and stared blankly ahead as though nothing had happened.  “Wotsup...?”

The sermon continued with a bleary Kid Curry fighting heavy lids and leaden limbs while the soporific homily swept over the assembly.  Sleep won once more and the gunman’s head fell back, leaving the noise coming out of his throat to echo off the walls like the sawing of dry logs. 

“Disgraceful,” snapped an elderly woman from the pew in front.  “This is Father Whyte’s last sermon before he retires.  He shouldn’t have to tolerate this.”

“I’m real sorry, ma’am.”  Heyes leaned forward and beamed his most charming smile.  “We’ve been working all night, but he just had to come to church before turning in.  He’s real pious.”  He thrust a thumb in the Kid’s direction.  “He wouldn’t have missed this for the world, even though he’s done in and got some kind of grippe.  The pharmacist gave him a powder, I think that the problem.”

Thin lips pursed and an only slightly mollified matron turned back to face the front.  Heyes felt a slight tap on his arm. 

“Here, take this.”  He turned to see an ornate hatpin being handed to him over the back of the wooden bench by a sympathetically smiling woman.  “Just give him a slight jab when he’s getting too loud.  It’s wonderful to see a young man so determined to worship.  I wish it happened more often.”

The dimpled smile filled with the kind of devilment and light definitely not encouraged in a house of worship.  “Why thank you, ma’am.  If I was wearing a hat I’d tip it to you.”

Heyes faced back to the front and stared at the priest once more.  He tried to attend to the actual message, but the boring delivery stymied any comprehension in the ex-outlaw leader.  The ‘thee’s’ and ‘thou’s’ mingled with archaic language and the names of ancient tribes and nations until none of it made any sense anymore.

“Blah, blah blah... and Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse ...blah...”

There seemed to be a whole lot of begetting going on, but who knew it could sound so boring?  Owls?  Why can’t you eat owls?  Heyes found his mind wandering as he tried to remember if he’d even eaten one and came up blank, but given his past he supposed that his diet was the least of his problems.  His cousin’s head dropped back onto his shoulder, and as if to remind him of more immediate concerns, he had started to whistle softly every time he exhaled.  The head snuggled up, getting more comfortable, but that also meant that the muscles around the throat relaxed too.  The whistle turned into a wheeze, which gradually developed into a full throaty rasp.   The snore continued, a rasp on the way in, and a shrill blast through mucous on the way out.  Judgemental eyes were turning back at the irritating strangers.  Heyes raised the hatpin.           

The sermon continued,“...and who do we have to thank for all this...?”

“Jeez!”

All heads turned to stare at the exuberant worshipper in the back pew. 

“Yes.  Jesus.  We certainly do have to thank Our Lord for his sacrifice ,” the white-haired, aged priest smiled.  “And may I say how wonderful it is to have moved someone by the Holy Spirit with my last sermon?”

The Kid rubbed the top of his arm and glowered at his smiling partner.  Heyes frowned, guiding the blue eyes to the aging priest who continued to speak.  A scowl from the drugged man warned against another jab, but the Kid settled down and watched the wizened little priest continue with his speech.   

The stream of words continued, and flowed over everyone; not only the two ex-outlaws, but the matrons, shopkeepers, and schoolchildren.  The listlessness was contagious and more and more eyelids started to droop; along with the lashes of the drugged cowboy once again.  It wasn’t long before the Kid was floating back into a hard day’s sleep again. 

“And I am reminded, when I look at the providers of liquor and purveyors of the flesh on this Sabbath day of Ephesians chapter five verse four.  ‘Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.’   

“Zzzzz...zzzzzz.  Uchh!  Zzzzz.”

“And in who’s name should we give thanks?”

Prod.

“In the name of...!”

Heyes bit into his lip and looked innocently away.

“God.”  The priest smiled.  “That is correct young man.”

 The sheepskin covered arms folded indignantly as a pair of blue eyes levelled on his partner menacingly.  “Will you quit that?” he hissed.

“Sure, as soon as you stop snoring.”

“I ain’t snorin’.  I ain’t even asleep.”

“Not now you’re not.  Quit it or we’ll get thrown out.  Have you forgotten it’s snowing out there?”

“Sshhh!”

Both heads dropped to avoid the glare from the woman with the steel-grey hair and the even more steely eyes.

Father Whyte droned on and on, the heat from the stove built up, continuing to burn into the backs of the people on the back row, and the drugs continued to drag at the consciousness of the tiredest gun in West until he was unable to keep his eyes open any longer.  In his head he was in a bower of long grass with a beautiful woman who reached out and stroked his face.  The sleeping man’s lips twiched into a smile and he surrendered once more to the sandman.

“Zzzzz...Zzzzz....”

“Now all this begetting I spoke of has a reason.  We are here to populate this land, good people.   The Good book itself says, ‘And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.’”  The priest paused to raise his arm, pointing towards the heavens.

The Kid filled the silence once more.  “Zzzzzzzz”

“And what did Eve say to Adam on the birth of their ninety ninth child?”

Prod.

"You stick that darned thing in me one more time and I'll break it in half and shove it right u....!"

The elderly woman’s head swivelled around.  “If you two can’t behave like adults, you should leave.  This isn’t a zoo.”

Heyes glanced out of the window at the snow gathering on the greying trees, stiff in their winter armour.  “If he drops off again, I’ll take him out, I promise...”

“Make sure you do,” she turned back to the priest who was continuing with his speech.

“Zzzzz...Zzzzz”

Heyes gave a sigh of resignation and nodded acceptance to the elderly woman.  “Yeah, Yeah.  We’re going.”  He grabbed a handful of sheepskin and shook the Kid awake.  “Come on, let’s get you outside.  Maybe some fresh air will help?”

A bleary-eyed Kid followed his partner to the door, stumbling over the end of the pew and apologising to the elderly man nearby for nothing and everything on the way.  A blast of refreshing cold air hit like a polar vortex, opening eyes and burning into sinuses as they opened the door and walked out into the icy steps.  Heyes’ eyes hardened at the sight of the familiar wiry figure huddled into a thick coat and stripped scarf.  “Schlossen, I want a word with you.  We handed over that letter to you and you told us there was no reply.  We’ve had to come all the way back here because the Governor insists on one.  Why did you send us away?”

Schlossen’s moustache bristled as a grin spread over his face.  “Then you can have one.  The answer is that I am standing for mayor and that I do it with the full blessings of Father Whyte.  You can tell the Governor that he has nothing to worry about in Wellford Springs.  I have things under control.”

“The letter was about you?  I’d rather hear that from him, if you don’t mind.”  Heyes stood on the steps and stared down at Schlossen.  “If the Governor wants a character recommendation, it needs to come from the person he asked, not from the person it’s about.”

Schlossen shook his head.  “I’ve worked with him.  He gave me my first job.  I come to his church.  The man’s retiring because of ill health,” he pointed a stubby forefinger at his temple.  “He’s losin’ it.  He’s not well enough to be dealing with things like this.”

“But we need...”

Schlossen cut him off.  “Father Whyte is a poor, ill old man.  He doesn’t need to be bothered by any of this.  If you or any of your friends try to bother him before he leaves for the rest home, I’ll have the law on you.  Have you got that?”

“Bother him?”  Heyes scowled.  “We just want to ask him a simple question.  If there’s something you’re trying to hide, there are ways of finding it out.”

“Hide?  Me?   Don’t be ridiculous.  You can ask Father Hannigan, he’s been doing most of the work around here for years.  The sheriff, the local businessmen.  I’m just trying to save a sick old man from being bothered.”  He strode up the steps, brushing against Heyes’ shoulder aggressively as he went, and pulled open the door.  “I’ll have men watching out for you.  Get out of town and stop bothering Father Whyte.”

The door slammed behind him as Schlossen disappeared into the church.  Heavy blue eyes blinked into the brown.  “If the Governor asked Father Whyte, he had a reason.  He won’t be happy with anyone else’s message.”

Heyes nodded.  “I know, but if we don’t get back to him on the next train we won’t get paid.”  He glanced over at his shivering partner.  “You’re in no fit state to take on Schlossen’s men either.”

“I’ll manage, Heyes.  You know I will.”

“No, we’re not going to risk it.  You’re ill.  We’ll go back to the Governor and tell him what happened.  I guess he suspects some kind of bribery in the election and wonders if it’s worth looking into further.  This’ll have to be enough for him.  I’m not going to waste my time speaking to anyone Schlossen suggests.  He’ll be paying them.”  He turned and walked back up to the door, pulling it open to take one last look at his mark.

Schlossen had obviously come to make a speech about the departing clergyman.  He stood in the pulpit and took papers out of his breast pocket and began.  “Ladies and Gentlemen.  I remember meeting Father Whyte many years ago when I was just a lad.  In fact, this church had just been built and he had just been sent to this parish.  I was his first confession here....”

Heyes’ face split into a grin.  “First confession, huh?”  He let the door fall shut behind him and walked down the steps with a laugh ringing in the air.  “I think we’ve got what we need, Kid.  Let’s get that train.”

“Huh?  What just happened?” 

The dancing brown eyes crinkled at the corners.  “That’s the problem with being late you have no idea what you missed.  They say the early bird gets the worm, but that worm just crawled onto the hook all by himself.  We can give the Governor Father Whyte’s view of Schlossen from his own lips.  First confession, huh?  Real dumb.  Never admit anything.  He’ll never go anywhere in politics until he learns that.”

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

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PostSubject: Re: Back    Sat Nov 28, 2015 5:39 pm

"So, the boys are back in town."

Heyes and Curry stepped through the freshly opened door and were immediately enveloped in a flurry of black velvet and perfume.

"Good to see you again Clementine," both men happily enjoying the liberally dispensed kisses and hugs.

Coming up for air a dimpled grin asked "Back to black Clem?  What's with the mourning garb?"

"It's not Clem boys, it is Miss Carver for now.  Chastity Carver."

"Chastity?!"  Hooting with laughter the Kid threw himself on the chaise lounge while Heyes strode to the sideboard and poured three glasses of amber liquid from the decanter.

"Seriously, Chastity?  You?"

With mock offense and with angel eyes, gazing doe-like, "Why sir, I will have you know, I am totally respectablePure and simple."  Demurely she took a sip from the glass Heyes handed her.

With a good natured shrug to his friend Heyes settled himself on the bed.  "Isn't she lovely?" he murmured and turned his shrewd gaze back on the diminutive figure.  "When you're smiling like that I always feel I should check my pockets.  C'mon, spill.  Just what are you planning?"

"We boys, are going to a funeral.  Well actually Chastity Carver is going, accompanied by her legal advisor and her long standing family friend, for support."  Long eyelashes fluttered at each cousin in turn.

"Who's funeral and why are 'we' going and maybe this time you'll level with us.  After all it's not unusual for you to be less than truthful on occasions."

"We are going to the funeral of a certain Obidiah Leggatt, he is a distant cousin of 'Miss Carvers' and he has cheated her out of her inheritance by shamefully falsifying our family tree and claiming his branch was senior.  That is why I need support of my loyal friend and advice from my lawyer."  The sing-song voice purred seductively.  "And I want you both dressed to impress, high class formal.  You boys are going to be my men in black."

"Why are you picking on this Leggatt?"  Kid asked.

"You'll never know, but I can tell you he deserves it and unless the old devil comes back to life I am getting that moneyI won't back down."  Determination was written all over her heart-shaped little face.

Heyes took a long sip and mumbled, "and the bitch is back."  Laughter filled the room.  "I'm beginning to see the light, you have an old score to settle and you are out for blood."

Curry stood and refreshed their glasses, flicking a glance at Heyes.  "Ain't she sweet?  Alright Clem, count us in, but what's in it for us?"

Sickly sweet came the reply, "Why, a chance to help an old friend in need."

"Nope, try again."

"Twenty-five percent of the takings."

"If you can't pull this off without us, then it's worth sixty percent."

Little lips set firm, "thirty percent."  All three enjoying the old familiar dance as they finally agreed on sixty-forty in Clems favour.

"Hallelujah," as glasses were raised to seal the deal.  "Very well boys, lets get planning.  It's good to be back in the saddle again and this time we are back for good!"

 ~ ~ ~



Hope you all enjoyed the little game, all the song titles are in bold.

Ok everyone, there are 20 song titles hidden in this piece, some really obvious and some not so much.  I will re-post it in one weeks time highlighting all the songs.  Have fun searching.

Love
Nancy with the laughing face xxx (and this one doesn't count Very Happy )

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


Last edited by Nancy Whiskey on Sun Dec 13, 2015 12:24 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Stepha3nie

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PostSubject: Re: Back    Mon Nov 30, 2015 6:05 pm

I'm not sure how my story will sit right after Nancy's, but that's where it will be posted.


This is part of a scenario that has been ghosting around at the back of my mind for quite some time. So far, the scenario consists of a few scenes. I'm not sure if they will make a proper story. But I thought this part has grown up enough to stand on it's own now. Maybe it'll get company at some point.
Although, I could do without the sleepless night(s) and eyes red from crying the next morning.
Bunnies can be cruel! And why do mine seem to be active only during the night?

WARNING: This story belongs firmly in drama. Someone dies. If you don't want to deal with this, better stop reading now.




The Shot




The man might have lived if he hadn't raised his arm at that moment.  Then again, he might have died anyway.  If not from a bullet to his heart, blood loss or wound fever could have killed him.
But he did raise his left arm, to point out something in the sky to his friend, while his right hand rested on the other man’s shoulder.  And the bullet entering his back did its deadly work.
 
-o-
 
It was already late morning when the two men left the hotel.  The brown haired one looked fresh and happy, the blond seemed grumpy.  Dimples showed on the cheerful face, making it appear carefree and a little cheeky.  Its owner started talking to his companion animatedly while they leaned against the railing of the hotel’s porch and surveyed the scene in front of them.
 
They were in an ordinary small town in Wyoming, with a main street and several small side streets.  Main was bordered by buildings with large false fronts; most were wooden, only the merchant store was made of bricks.  From where they stood they had a good view of all the places they seemed interested in: a sheriff’s several houses down to their right on the other side of the street, a café about the same distance to the left, the saloon opposite their vantage point and the livery stable, where their horses rested after a long ride, two houses along on the left.
 
There was little traffic, this being a small town and given the hour.  A wagon trundled past, two women entered the general merchant, a group of children skipped past, some treasure clutched in a burlap sack.  At this sight, the blond man finally smiled for the first time, maybe remembering what it felt like to be carefree and playful.  He said something to his companion and nodded towards the café.  A moment later they stepped down from the hotel porch and leisurely ambled along the street, towards the place still serving breakfast at this time.  The brown haired man clapped his right hand on the other man’s shoulder in a comradely fashion.  He was saying something to him and pointed at the sky with his other hand.
 
-o-
 
The instant the shot cracked through the small town, the blond man spun around into a gunfighter’s crouch.  His colt seemed to have leaped into his hand as if of its own volition.  Steely blue eyes narrowed to slits as they scoured the street and buildings for the hidden shooter, possible danger.  But the only movement he could spot came from the children disappearing behind a corner, running away, most likely scared by the gunfire.  No more shots rang out.
 
Then he heard another noise; again from behind.  And from the look on his face, this one actually frightened him.  Once more he spun around.
 
-o-
 
The dark haired man hadn't moved when his friend ducked out from under his grasp.  His brown eyes looked surprised, the mouth still hung slightly open.  He didn't turn to the sound and didn't finish what he had been saying.  Then, suddenly, his knees buckled, and he fell, face-down, onto the dusty street.
 
-o-
 
It was the impact of his friend’s body on the ground that made the gunman spin around the second time.  Eyes, that an instant ago could have frozen any foe, widened and showed fear for the first time since the shot was fired.  The man tried to holster his weapon and didn't even notice when he missed and the weapon fell to the ground.  He was down on his knees by his friend’s side, calling his name, touching his shoulder, but he got no response.  In disbelief he stared at the small hole in the back of the brown vest.  Only a little blood had trickled out, almost invisible on the dark material.  This should be good news, shouldn't it?  A bad wound would bleed heavily.  But when he ever so gently rolled the other man far enough so he could see his face, he knew the truth.  A wound only bleeds as long as a heart is pumping the life-supporting fluid around.  The sightless eyes of his friend almost made his own heart stop too.
 
He hugged the unresponsive body to his chest, cradled the precious face, didn't want to believe what he knew to be true.  A small crowd was gathering, someone called for a doctor, someone else for the sheriff, but the man kneeling in the street didn't notice, too absorbed in his grief.
 
-o-
 
Once the dead man had been brought into the undertaker’s, the surviving partner began looking for the shooter in earnest.  He knew by now that it hadn't been the sheriff or a bounty hunter or some upright citizen eager to earn the reward on their heads.  If that had been the case, he would probably be dead by now, too, or at least in jail.  So, who had fired the fatal shot – and why?  Nobody had come forward to boast of killing a famous outlaw.  Had it been some personal grudge?  That didn't make sense.  For one thing, they’d only arrived in town the previous evening and retired to the hotel after just one beer at the saloon.  No opportunity to make deadly enemies.  For another, if one of the two was likely to leave people carrying grudges behind, it tended to be himself.  Had the shooter simply missed his target?  Then why not finish the task?
 
The blond man started his search at the place where the horror had happened only a short while ago, a lifetime ago.  Once again, he stood facing away from the café and studied the street, the buildings; searching for the place where the fatal bullet had come from.  Eyes, now empty of tears, looked like blue ice.  The killer must have been hiding, because he hadn't seen anyone moving, except for the kids.  He had to have been close because the shot had been fired from a handgun.  He could tell, because, after all, he was an expert on guns.  This narrowed the radius of his search.  The roofs of nearby houses would have provided good vantage points with ample cover, but due to the way the hotel balcony jutted out, it would still have hidden them from sight from all buildings in the right range.  So, the fatal bullet had been fired from the ground or a window.  Highly alert, right hand near his colt, the man began walking along the street.
 
Past the hotel was a barber’s shop.  It offered no hiding places, with its straight front and large window.  But just behind it a narrow alley joined the main street.  The shot could have been fired from the corner, but wasn't this the corner the children had disappeared behind?  Had they run past the killer? Away from him?  It seemed unlikely.  Still, the blond man’s eyes scoured the ground for any signs.  And then he spotted it; in the shadow under the boardwalk of the barber’s.
 
It was an old heavy colt, a little rusty in places.  Kneeling down, he reached into the gloom and retrieved the abandoned weapon.  Sniffing it, he could tell it had been fired recently.  This had to be the gun that had killed his friend.
 
It didn't make sense.  This was a relic, old and grimy, sticky to the touch in places.  Who would –
 
At this moment he spotted something else.  There was a board loose at the side of the building, and someone had crammed some fabric behind it.  The gunman bent down and retrieved the material.  It turned out to be a small sack, just like the one the children –
 
And then the truth hit him.
 
There had been no killer, no assassination.  Just a bunch of kids playing with a relic they’d probably found in a barn or an attic.  A twist of ill luck had made his friend step into the path of a bullet not meant to hurt anyone.  A bullet, the children had probably not even known about.  One single bullet, which ended a life, a quest and maybe a childhood.
 
-o-
 

About an hour later, a rider left the small town, leading a sorrel horse with a long bundle tied across the saddle.  The sheriff watched him ride past his office and shook his head.  He’d never heard of a case of more rotten luck.  Then he looked back down on the note the stranger had pushed into his hand, together with some coins, asking him to get it delivered to a friend, a Sheriff Lom Trevors.  He’d send it from the telegraph office in the next town when he did his rounds. 


It simply read: “Smith shot dead. It’s over. Kid”.


-o-

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

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PostSubject: Re: Back    Mon Nov 30, 2015 6:39 pm

A ragtag group of men burst into the town of Blackstone.  Well known in the town, they entered boisterously, shouting and jostling and greeting acquaintances.  Red Baker and Kyle Murtry were trying to push each other off their horses.  At the back, a man rode alone, quiet and watchful.  Though his hat was pulled low, his dark brown hair was visible.  The dark brown eyes were narrowed, apparently because of the sun; only those who knew him well would have realised that he was annoyed by the group’s antics, but there was no one in the group, or in the town, who knew him that well or so he thought.  In fact, on this day, it could only be said that there was no resident of the town who knew him that well.  Standing at a first floor window, watching the group, there was one man who knew.  A young drifter, of slight build, with blonde curly hair and piercing blue eyes, he had arrived in town the previous day.

Hannibal Heyes sighed inwardly as the group made their way to the livery.  He had ‘suggested’ that they not draw attention to themselves and here they were, behaving like children.  He was fed up with them and disliking more and more having been placed in the position of being their leader.  Silently he cursed Jim Santana for getting caught and then reprimanded himself; things couldn’t get much worse for Jim.  A faint prickle at the back of his neck caused his thoughts to focus and he looked around; despite his desire not to draw attention to them, it was unusual in this town to sense danger, generally Heyes felt safe enough here.  At the hotel window, the blonde haired man saw Heyes was alerted and drew back.

Heyes couldn’t see anything amiss.  He then realised that it wasn’t quite that there was danger.  It was an odd feeling, a feeling he half remembered, a feeling he had had when a particular person was close by, but that person hadn’t been around for, how long was it?  Heyes sighed as he realised it was around 4 years.  He had been thinking about the Kid a lot lately, maybe that was the reason for the way he felt.  He’d always missed the Kid being around, but now the vague feeling of loss had become a dull ache, constantly at the back of his mind.  Pointlessly too as he had no idea where the Kid was or any way of finding him.  Firmly pushing his thoughts away, Heyes found himself at the livery.  He dismounted and joined the Devil’s Hole Gang.  They were leaving their horses with the stable boy. Heyes decided he could get some time alone if he looked after his horse himself.

As the gang left, Kyle shouted across to him, “You coming, Heyes?”  

Heyes winced at the reckless use of his name.  He managed to keep his frustration out of his voice as he replied to Kyle, “Soon, just gonna see to my horse.”  

Kyle nodded, Heyes often dealt with his animal himself, just another of his odd habits which the rest of the gang would laugh about, when Heyes wasn’t there.  To Heyes, it made sense, he knew where everything was and everything was ready to make a quick getaway, if needed.

Calm descended in the stable.  The silence was broken only by the sounds of horses moving and eating and of the creak of leather.  Heyes lent his forehead against his saddle and sighed, listening to the quiet.  He had begun to feel overwhelmed by his position, the constant quarrelling and fighting and horseplay got on his nerves.  As did the repeated requests to sort out the disagreements, settle arguments and break up fights or stop gunplay.  He felt as though he hadn’t had a moment’s peace and that he would soon be insane.

“Mister?  Mister?  You okay?”  

Heyes looked up and saw the stable boy looking at him.  “Fine, thanks”  

“You want me to take your horse?”  

Heyes shook his head, “No thanks.  I’ll deal with her myself.”  

The boy nodded and led the others away.  Heyes took his animal into a nearby stall, removed the saddle and gave her a bucket of feed.  He then began to brush her.  While he did so, his mind wandered.  He drifted between thoughts of the Kid; the way he’d left and the way he hadn’t come back, that had been the surprising thing; thoughts of the way Jim had been taken and thoughts of him leading the Devil’s Hole Gang.  

Deciding on and planning a job was the easy part.  He could plan it to the minute, telling each man exactly what, where and when.  But the rest of the time, keeping them in check between jobs, was something he was struggling with.  He could use his fists, but he preferred to use his tongue.  But if that didn’t work, he didn’t have the size of Jim to fall back on, just speed and agility, not always impressive to the tough bunch of men he now led. And then there was Wheat’s sniping.  Nothing direct, but it undermined him and it seemed to be getting worse, such that he had had to resort to gunplay.  And he was uncomfortable with that.  The biggest problem though was that he had no time to think and plan.  He’d not come up with a single workable idea for weeks and they wouldn’t wait much longer.  

Leaning against his horse, his head aching, Heyes felt a faint ripple through the air and stiffened.  Someone had entered the stable behind his back.  Outwardly calm, Heyes continued to brush his horse and work his way around to put it between him and the newcomer and get a good look at whoever it was.  The click of a hammer being cocked froze him in his tracks.

“Would you mind telling me what you want, Mister?”  Heyes asked coolly.  “If you’re thinking of stealing from me, I’ve only got a few dollars…and my horse.”

“What about the reward on you?” a voice softly spoke.

A shiver ran down Heyes’ spine.  Damn!  “You must be mistaken, mister.  I ain’t wanted.  Just a poker player.”  

He heard muffled footsteps approaching and then a gun barrel was pressed against his head behind his ear, a voice whispering in it, with just a hint of amusement, “Heyes, you never used to let yourself get caught like this, losing your touch?  Tut, tut.  That ain’t good for the leader of an outlaw gang!”

“Do I know you?”

There was a click and a small whoosh and then the creak of leather.  The voice said, “A little!”  It sounded like he was laughing now.  

Cautiously, Heyes turned his head.  A slightly taller, younger man, with blonde hair, was standing behind him, arms folded.  Heyes locked eyes with a pair of sparkling blue ones, glistening with amusement.  

“Kid?”  Heyes whispered, incredulous.  

Kid Curry made a small bow.  

The sight of his cousin standing there brought a huge grin to Heyes’ face.  “Kid!” he yelled, grabbing and hugging the younger man, who laughed and hugged him back.  

“Good to see you too, Heyes.”  

“What do you think you’re doing, giving me a fright like that?”  

Curry was solemn, “Never let your guard down.” he said seriously and then grinned broadly, “Remember?” 

 Heyes smiled, “Sure do!”  

“So, you wanna keep grooming this fine animal or you want to go to the saloon for a drink?”  

“Hmm, difficult decision.  Reckon it’ll havta be the saloon!”  

Both smiling broadly, they walked out, in step, and crossed to the saloon.

Heyes bagged a table while the Kid obtained a bottle and glasses.  He sat down opposite, put a glass in front of Heyes and poured a shot.  Then did the same to his glass.  Raising it, he said, “A toast, to reunions!”  They sipped their drinks.

“So, how ya been Heyes?” Curry asked casually.  

“Pretty good. You?”  

“Fine.”  

“What you been doing?”  

“This and that.  Been pretty easy to see what you’ve been up to.”  

“Yeah.”  

“Ain’t you kinda young to be leading an outlaw gang?”  

Heyes bristled, “Don’t see what age has to do with it.” 

“Wonder to me how you done so well, if’n you’re the smartest!”  Curry smiled gently at Heyes, until Heyes realised he was being teased.  

“Yeah?  Well, you still look too young to be shaving!”  

Curry nodded solemnly, “Yeah, it’s a problem alright.”  

Heyes smiled, “Been creating trouble for you?”  

“Nothing I couldn’t handle.”  

“Yeah?  And what sort of trouble would that be?”  

“Oh, you know.” The Kid trailed off and stared into his whiskey.  The Kid’s evasiveness concerned Heyes, but he knew better than to push it.  Instead he began telling the Kid about one of the gang’s robberies.

The two men spent the rest of the evening drinking and chatting amiably.  Heyes continued to probe for details on how the Kid had been spending his time, but he refused to be drawn.  Heyes wondered how bad things could be, Kid looked in good shape, he must have had some means.  Still, he didn’t want to discuss it so Heyes recited stories about the Devil’s Hole Gang instead, frequently making Kid laugh; at one point he laughed so loud that everyone in the saloon looked over at him, making the two of them laugh louder!

Finally, Curry yawned heavily, “Heyes, I think I have just gotta go to bed.”  

Heyes gave a wry smile, “Okay, guess I should too”, he replied, a little sadly.  

Curry looked sharply at him, “Not been getting much fun lately, huh?”  

“Well, been busy you know, leader and all that.”  

“Poor Heyes, such a tough life.”  

“You have no idea.”  Heyes meant to be light, but his voice cracked a little.  

The Kid decided to ignore it.  He smiled, “I’ve had a good evening too.  You wanna walk across with me?”  

“Sure.”

They left the saloon and began to walk across to the hotel.  As they crossed the street, Red and Wheat tumbled out of another saloon, a full scale fight taking place.  Heyes stopped and his heart sank.  

“See ya later”, he called to Curry as he hurried over.  

Curry watched while Heyes and several others tried to break the two up.  This took some time and was not helped  by other members of the gang laughing and urging the fighters on!  When they were finally parted, Heyes took Wheat to one side and began talking heatedly with him, Wheat was obviously arguing.  Curry walked slowly into the hotel, musing.


It was late morning when Kid Curry awoke.  The sun was streaming in and he’d managed to toss all the bedclothes off.  The room was stifling and he felt muzzy headed and thirsty.  Stumbling to the washstand, he washed up, dressed and headed to the restaurant.  He ordered breakfast and coffee and got a jug of water.

Feeling considerably better after this meal, he headed out.  The saloons were quiet and Curry spent the day lounging on the hotel porch, reading the local paper and smoking a cigar.  It was evening before he saw Heyes again, storming out of a saloon.


Heyes was furious.  He had had yet another argument with Wheat over the fight, an argument that had segued into another over their next job.  Wheat had insisted that he had a plan, but refused to discuss it.  Heyes didn’t believe that it would be a workable one, if it existed.  He had ended up threatening to leave.  The others weren’t yet ready to go with Wheat, but Heyes had seen that they were close to changing sides.  He marched out and down the street, ending up behind the livery, where it was quiet.  He flung himself down on a small stack of hay bales.  He felt like yelling with frustration and anger.  Restless, he stood and began pacing.

Walking back and forth and muttering to himself, Heyes again failed to notice the approach of a man.  

Curry leaned against the stable and watched.  

“You still talking to yourself?” he asked eventually.  

Heyes started and turned to look at him.  “Do you have to creep up on a body like that?” he said crossly.  

“Your temper’s not improved then.  Given the amount of noise you was makin’, an elephant could’ve gone unnoticed.”  

“Yeah?  And what would you know about elephants?”  

“Seen one.  What’s your problem Heyes?”  

“Why’d you want to know?”  Heyes was angry and bitter.  

Kid looked hurt.  “Heyes, we’re family and we were friends.”  

“That’s right, were!  You left!”  

Kid was calm.  “You wanna keep yelling at me, go ahead.  But I ain’t your problem.”  

Heyes opened his mouth and then suddenly sank down onto the hay and dropped his head into his hands, exhausted.

Curry walked over and sat next to him.  He spoke gently, “It’s not going well, is it?”

Heyes raised his head and looked at Curry.  “I trust him,” Heyes thought, suddenly, “Of everyone, I trust him.”  He shook his head.  “Nothing’s under control.  And I can’t think, I always seem to be running after the others.  And, I feel bad about Jim.  I shoulda done more.  It was okay when Jim was around.  I had time to think, to plan.  He had no problem dealing with their squabbles.  They irritate me!  And, I’m sure that they think I should’ve done more to rescue Jim.”

“What happened?”

“We were on a job, I thought that we had the backdoor covered, the guy went off to the saloon!  A deputy spotted the horses and all hell broke loose!  Getting out was a fiasco, it was every man for himself.  I tried to stay close to Jim, but we got separated and while getting out, I was shot.  Not bad, but it bled heavily and I was laid up for a while.  By the time I found out Jim was took, he’d been sentenced and was on his way to the State Jail.  I headed there, but he was inside and, have you seen that place?”

Curry nodded.  

Heyes continued, “It’d take an army to get someone out.  I just didn’t get chance.”  He tailed off.

“Heyes, I’m sure you didn’t leave Jim on purpose.  Don’t beat yourself up!”

Heyes sighed and stared down at his feet.  Curry sat quietly, waiting.

In a small voice, Heyes said, “I don’t think I can do this.”

Curry was reassuring, “Course you can Heyes, you’re a genius!  Remember?”

Heyes was still staring at the ground.  “Kid” He paused, then went on “If there was someone who could corral them…?”  

Curry didn’t reply immediately.  He waited and finally said, “I dunno, Heyes.”

Heyes heart sank.  He wanted, no, needed someone to help him.  He stopped his thoughts.  That was true, of course, but it wasn’t what he really wanted from the Kid.  Now was not the time to hold back.  If he trusted Kid, then he had to tell him the whole truth, show him that he was trusted.  Heyes took a deep breath and began again, “Working with Jim was okay, but, I missed you.  I’m sorry Kid.  I don’t understand how things got so bad between us, but I’m sorry that it did.  I always missed you, but now, I really notice it.  I need someone to watch my back, like you always did.  I need someone I can talk my plans through with and who will tell me where I’m going wrong, without worrying about what I’ll say or do, I need someone I can rely on to get everything I need together and to keep the others under control.  Most of all, I need a friend, Kid.  Someone I can trust, someone I do trust.  A partner.”  Heyes looked earnestly at the Kid, “I need you.”

Kid Curry smiled.  “I know.”

Heyes blinked and stared at him.  “You know!  What do you mean, you know?”

“I know is all.  But I wanted you to know it.”

“Of all the.  You are the most difficult, stubborn, obstinate, hardhearted…”

“I missed you too, Heyes.”

Heyes stopped midflow, an amazing event in itself, Curry thought.  He looked at the Kid and then he began to laugh.  It bubbled up and grew, infectiously, until both of them were roaring with laughter and clapping each other on their backs.  

Slowly, their laughter subsided.  Curry groaned, “My sides ache!” he complained.  Heyes laughed again, joyously, his eyes twinkling and alight with delight.  

“Stop laughing Heyes.  This is a serious matter.  I need you to understand something!”  

Heyes was still grinning.  

“Heyes!”  

“Okay, okay!  I’m listening, really I am.”  

“Yeah.  Well, get your genius brain round this.  I’m only gonna stick around so long as you remember that we are partners.  You start ordering me around, taking me for granted, not listening to me…  You ARE listening, Heyes?”  

Heyes nodded, he was no longer smiling, though his eyes were still shining.  

“You stop listening to me, then I am gone!   I mean it!  An’ that’s why I wanted you to know that you need me.”  Curry stopped, as though he’d suddenly run out of air.

Heyes stared at him, it was one heck of a speech for the Kid.  He was very serious about this, Heyes realised.  Heyes also realised that he was getting a second chance and, if he screwed it up, he probably wouldn’t get a third.  Heyes’ expression became very serious.  “I understand Kid.  I really do and I won’t forget.  Partners?”  He was sincere.  

Kid Curry looked at him for a moment and then stuck out his hand, “Okay Heyes.  Partners.”  

In that moment, Heyes felt reborn, his love of the adventure revived, along with the partnership.  He shook the outstretched hand and grinned again, a grin that reached up to his eyes, a grin he hadn’t expressed in years, the sort of grin that only Kid Curry got the benefit of, “Good to have you back!”  

Curry grinned back, “Good to be back!”  

“Wanna go celebrate?”  

“Sure!”

The two men walked to a saloon.  As they walked in, they saw the Devil’s Hole boys drinking and laughing with some of the girls.  As they noticed Heyes, they quietened, until Wheat turned round and saw him.  

“You’re back.  Me and the boys bin talkin’.  Figure mebbe we need a leader who knows what he’s doing…”

Curry’s eyes narrowed and turned cold.  He stepped forward, his voice like ice, he said “I figure that you’ve got ‘bout the best leader you could have.  You wanna argue that?”  

Wheat looked at him.  “What’s it to do with you?  This is none of your business.”  

Kyle was looking at Curry, “Huh Wheat,” he said, tugging at Wheat’s sleeve, “Wheat….”  

Wheat brushed him away, “Not now, Kyle.”  

“Yeah, but Wheat…”  

Wheat ignored him and spoke again to Curry, “Well?”  

“I’m making it my business.”  

 The two men stared at each other.

“You gonna back that up?”  Wheat asked the Kid.  

Kid Curry folded his arms across his chest, “Any time,” he said.  

For a moment, the two men stood facing each other, then, in a heartbeat, a gun appeared in the Kid’s hand, as Wheat reached down toward his holster.  Wheat froze.  Kid didn’t shoot, he simply twirled his gun, replaced it in his holster and then drew again, so fast that to the men it appeared to just jump into his hand on command.  Holding it casually, Kid looked at Wheat, “So, do I get a say over who’s leader?”  

Wheat nodded, wordlessly.  

Kid twirled the gun again and replaced it.  

Kyle stepped forward.  “I tried to tell ya, Wheat.  This ‘ere’s Kid Curry.  And he’s fast.”  

There was a small ripple around the men, most had heard of the Kid.  

Kyle walked up and extended a hand, “Welcome Kid.”  

“Thanks, Kyle wasn’t it?”  

Kyle nodded and introduced the others to him.  That done, Kid ordered drinks all round.  

Wheat came up, “Er, no offence Kid, Heyes.”  

Kid stared hard at him, until Wheat wanted to turn and run, but he finally said, “None taken Wheat.  Just remember, me and Heyes are partners.”  He raised his voice, “Heyes’ll fill you all in when he’s good and ready, till then I figure you should leave him alone.  You got any problem, see me.  That goes for all of you,” he added, his hand resting on his gun butt.  There was a chorus of agreement and nods.  Satisfied, he turned back to the bar and took a drink.  Next to him, Heyes was trying not to smile.  In the bar mirror, Curry caught Heyes’ eye and raised his glass in a toast and winked!  Heyes did smile then and raised his own.  Yep, it was good to have the Kid back!
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Abcihgm



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Join date : 2015-10-04

PostSubject: Re: Back    Mon Nov 30, 2015 11:57 pm

Holding Up Time


      A group of men on horseback sit atop a hill overlooking a small town. A man in front removes his brown hat and slaps it against his thigh.  Dust scatters.  He yanks off his glove and combs his fingers through sweat-matted curls.  He leans toward the dark-haired man next to him.

    “Where are we, Heyes?”

    Heyes gestures toward a wooden board.  “According to that sign, Kid, we should be nearing Hill Valley.”

    “Do you know where that is?”

    “Hopefully away from the posse.  Did you pay attention to where we were riding?”

    “With them chasin' us? I didn't pay attention as long as it was away. What now?”

    “I guess we ride into town and find a place to stay for the night.”

    “What do we do if the posse comes?”

    “I don't rightly know.”

    “What would we do without you, Heyes.”

    Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry led Wheat Carlson and Kyle Murtry into town. The outlaws shifted nervously in their saddles as they passed a marshal's office.

    “Does anyone know a Marshal named Strickland?” whispers Curry. 

    Heyes shakes his head while Wheat answers no. 

    “Never heard of 'im,” states Kyle.

    “Pfft,” snorts Wheat, “then we should be fine, unless Kyle gets a notion to shout out our names again.”

    “Wheat.”

    “Just sayin', Kid.”

    “Wasn't your name that was shouted in front of the sheriff, Wheat.  If it had been we might not have been recognized.”

    “What are ya sayin', Heyes?”

    “Nothing important, Wheat.  Nothing important.”

    “I dun said I wuz sorry, Heyes,” pleaded Kyle.    “Ya heard me say I wuz sorry.  Dint ya, Wheat? Kid?”

    In the outskirts of town, Kid notices an old barn and motions towards it. Heyes nods.  Blue eyes scan the area before gesturing to the outlaws.  Kid circles around back, and the others follow.  Heyes dismounts in front of a door, picks up the strange mechanism, and mumbles, “What kind of a lock is this?” After examining it thoroughly, he pulls a slender metal pin from his pocket and inserts it. The lock clicks, and a smile stretches across his face. “We're in.”

    The four men slip inside.

    “What is this place?” the Kid asks.

    “I don't know. You found it,” replies Heyes.

    Strange things clutter the barn. A table with a miniature train sits in a corner. Odd parts of unknown machinery are strewn across the floor. Strangest of all is a giant object covered by a white cloth.

    “I don' like it,” remarks Kyle.

    “Looks like someone might come back any minute,” whispers the Kid.

    “You're right.  We should probably find a better place.” Heyes gathers the men. “Alright, we're moving out!”

    “What? My horse is just plumb stove in! We've been ridin' since dawn!” whines Wheat.

    The Kid glares. “Simmer down, Wheat. We'll find a place to sleep.”

    Footsteps echo outside. The outlaws dart behind the large cloth-covered object. The door creaks open. 

    “How much longer, Emmett?”

    “Almost finished, my dear Clara, and then we can ship out.”

    “When will that be? The children are getting anxious.”

    “Tell Jules and Vern that we will be leaving by eight o'clock on Monday.”

    “Very well.  Will we be here long?

    “I just need to check the circuits.  You can go back home if you like.  I'll be back to the house soon.”

    “Hurry, darling.”

    After the tall, dark-haired Clara leaves the barn, Emmet walks behind the cloth covered object.

    “Great Scott!” He shouts, his eyes growing wide.  “Who are you?”

    “Joshua Rembacher,” replies Heyes extending his hand to the gangly man with wild white hair.  “We were on our way to look at some property for my partner here. He's fixin' to get married, you see.  A real nice girl from a fine family.  Daughter of the mayor as it happens.”

    Curry roles his eyes.

    “Anyway we were on our way to help him find some real estate to build a home for his new bride. Out of nowhere, three men jumped from behind a bush pointing guns and ordering us to empty our pockets. They tied us up and took off with all our money.  It took a good long while to get untied, and then we had to track down our horses.  It's been a real long day, Mister...“

    “Brown,” supplied the barn's owner shaking Heyes' hand vigorously.

     “After that we didn't have enough money to find a place to stay. We saw this barn and thought we might spend the night.”

    Kyle looks up solemnly.  “We're just plumb tired out after all that.”
   
    “Great Scott!” blustered the strange man. “Did you report it to the Marshal?”
   
    “That's a good idea,” exclaimed Heyes with a sideways glance at Curry.  “We'll go do that now. By the way you said that you were shipping out. Are you and your family leaving?”
   
    “Oh. Uh... I just meant that I'll be shipping some money on a train from my bank on Monday. I'm the local Banker.” 

    After they left the barn, The Kid turned to Heyes and asked “Are you thinkin' what I'm thinkin'?”
   
    “If you're thinking of holding up the train on Monday morning then yeah, I'm thinking what you're thinking.”
   
    “There's just one problem though.”
   
    “What's that?”
   
    “How are we going to hold up the train with just the four of us?”

    “We can figure that out when we get to the hotel.”
         _________________________________

    “One of us could stand in front of the train, see?  They could hold a gun up and get the train to stop.”

    “Great idea, Wheat. One man standin' in front of a movin' train. That'll stop it. Who's gonna be stupid enough to agree to that?” scoffs the Kid.

    “I vote Kyle,” Wheat retorted, “After all he was the one that got the posse chasin' us.”

    “Hey! I dun said I wuz sorry.”

    “Drop it, Wheat.”

    “Okay. Okay. Seriously though how d'ya you plan on stoppin' this thing? Do we even know where this train will be?”

    “There's only one railway going out of this town, and that's the one going over the bridge at Eastwood gorge,” Heyes remarks.

    “But how are we gonna manage the people with only four of us?” asks Curry.

    “It's a private train.  Shouldn't have a lot of folks on it.”

    “Okay, Heyes, but how are you gonna stop it?”

     “Don't know yet, Wheat. I haven't figured that out, but it's gonna take finesse.”

    “Wheat didn't bring any of that,” pipes Kyle.

    “I got an idea,” Wheat boasts.

    “Does it still involve throwing Kyle in front of a train?” scolds the Kid.

    “Course not. I's just kiddin'. Wasn't I Kyle?”
   
    “Righ'.” Kyle replies skeptically.

    “Okay, Wheat. Let's hear it.”

    “Why don't we just lay a big ol' log 'cross the tracks to stop the train?”

    “Sounds possible,” says Heyes, “But how do you plan on getting this log to the tracks?”

    “Kyle could carry it.”

    “Hey!”

    “A'right a'right. We could have our horses drag it.”

    “Sounds good. Wheat, in the morning you and Kyle can go find a log. The Kid and I will go and scout out for a good place to lay it across the tracks.”

    “Heyes?”

    “What, Kid?”

    “How did you know the name of the gorge?”

    “I saw it on a sign as we rode through town.”

                               ____________________________

   
    “Emmet, you found four men that broke into our barn.  What were they doing there?”  She looks out the window before pulling the curtains closed.

    “They seemed harmless enough, dear.”

    “But they broke into our barn. What did you tell them about all the machinery?”

    “They didn't ask about that. They told me all about how they had been robbed.  One of the young men is getting married.  They also asked about our shipping out tomorrow.”

    “What did you tell them?”

    “I told them that I was transporting some money to the next town over.”

    “Do you think they believed you?”

    “They seemed satisfied enough, my dear.”

    “But they broke into our barn. Do you suppose they could be outlaws?”

    “Great Scott!”

    “Does this change our plans at all, Emmet?”

    “Why of course not, my dear.”

    “But you told them you were transporting money. Will they try to hold up the train?”

    “Possibly, but It won't matter. I got the circuits working.”

    “Very well.  I'm tired.  Come to bed, darling?”

    “Of course, my dear.”

    The next morning, Doc Brown and Clara gather their kids and luggage and walk out to the barn. The Doc stretches out his hand and yanks the white cloth revealing an odd steam locomotive. He then pulls a lever that opens the back of the barn to reveal secret tracks leading out to the main railway. The boys, Emmet, and Clara all climb into the train, and it rumbles to a start.

                                    ________________________________

    The outlaws stand outside of town behind a log on the tracks. Heyes, the Kid, and Wheat have their guns drawn. Kyle sits in a tree down the tracks searching for the train.

    A chugging sound begins to grow.  Small puffs of smoke rise in the distance.

    Kyle spots a smokestack and shouts “I can see 'er! I can see 'er!”

    The sound of the train grows louder and louder.

    “What's that Emmet?” Clara spots the men behind the log.

    “Great Scott! It seems they are outlaws!”

    “We don't have enough track to stop!”

    “Track? Where we're going we don't need tracks!”

    “She's not slowin' down Heyes!” Kyle shouts. “She's not slowin' down!”

    Emmet pulls a lever and the train jerks.

    "She's comin' straight at ya!” Kyle shouts again.

    “Get off the tracks!” barks Heyes.

    “But what about the money?” Wheat whines.

    “Wheat,” Curry warns. “He don't have enough time to slow down.”

    “If he's dim-witted enough to run into a log, then that's his problem, but I for one don't want to get run-over by a train,” adds Heyes.

    “That's an awful strange lookin' train,” Kyle mutters.

    Just then the train shudders and lifts off the tracks.

    “What in the world?!” Heyes exclaims. “Duck!”

    The outlaws dive for cover as the train flies above them.

    Kyle sees Emmet and shouts, “Where're ya goin'?”

    Just before the train disappears Doc Brown yells down, “Back to the future!”
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Caroline McK

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Location : western PA USA

PostSubject: Re: Back    Tue Dec 01, 2015 12:29 am

I looked at my back trail, it was empty. I shook my head and tried to close off the memories and the pain. It didn't work.


 "It's your reputation, your gun... You are just too good at what you do." Lom closed his eyes and his shoulders slumped. The words were painful for him to say, but he had to because it was his job. And he is still a friend. "Kid, I'm sorry. I tried. One of the governor's advisors persuaded him to do this. I...I'm not sure how or why, only that this wasn't the governor's original plan."


"Original plan? You mean that some thought actually went into this? No! No, don't answer that."Hannibal Heyes was furious and he was on his feet shouting at the former outlaw turned sheriff. "Don't you tell us that  the governor was actually going to finally come through."


 "I'm sorry Heyes. I know how hard it's been, how long it's been. Maybe..."


 "No, Lom. No more "next year". I've tried and I've waited. I've been shot at and I've been shot. I'm tired. I'm ready to go home." I got up and walked out, out of Lom's office, out of Heyes' life.


 That was three months ago. Three months of careful, light riding.


I've been to Mac's and talked to him. I've been to Clementine's and explained everything to her. I went to see Soapy and Silky. Nobody seems to really understand.
  
That's why I'm here. Just outside of the entrance to Devil's Hole. I'm not sure why, but I am hesitant to return, This was my home. Several friends are here. I need to find a place where I can sort out my thoughts and know that I am relatively safe.


It has been five years since Heyes got  his amnesty. The first year was difficult for both of us, but it was nothing compared to this last year.


Heyes has been marrried for three years to a cute school teacher from New York.She came west hoping for a job and found one in Porterville. Dorrie isn't comfortable around me, my gun really, so I respect her and stay away.


How hard can this be? All I have to do is go into Devil's Hole and join back up with the gang again. It's not that difficult. Deep down, inside my heart, I know how easy it is and that's not why I'm still here - on the outside.


I'm here because I don't really want to go back to the outlaw life. I'm bone weary tired of the constant fear of being on the run. I'm tired of not being able to take a real steady job. I'm tired of not having anythiing to call my own.


I wanted to settle down years ago, find some land, raise cattle and horses;  have a family. I held on to that fading dream for the past five years. I finally opened my eyes to the fact that will never happen for me.


That's why I'm here, fighting with my heart, trying to decide if it's worth it to go back.  
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