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 Story Of The Year 2015 Finals

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Which one of our wonderful writers wins your vote for the finals of Story Of The Year?
1. November - Nancy Whiskey - A cheeky young maestro soon finds his nerves twanging when the boys bring him down a peg or two.
Story Of The Year 2015  Finals Vote_lcap17%Story Of The Year 2015  Finals Vote_rcap
 17% [ 4 ]
2. True Blue - Remuda - A rusty rifle stands as a metaphor for a damaged human being. The Kid see the dignity beneath the damage.
Story Of The Year 2015  Finals Vote_lcap52%Story Of The Year 2015  Finals Vote_rcap
 52% [ 12 ]
3. Heyes' clever mind realizes that some people never see the man, they only see the colour, and uses that to his advantage.
Story Of The Year 2015  Finals Vote_lcap30%Story Of The Year 2015  Finals Vote_rcap
 30% [ 7 ]
Total Votes : 23
 

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PostSubject: Story Of The Year 2015 Finals   Story Of The Year 2015  Finals EmptySun Nov 01, 2015 7:26 am

So the votes are in and we now have three wonderful finalists for Story Of The Year 2015.  Which one deserves to be crowned as the most popular challenge story of 2015?  It's a real tough choice.  We have some fantastic finalists, but there's only one way to find out.


Time to vote




November - Talk Of The Devil  Story Of The Year 2015  Finals 2883726996 



Nancy Whiskey




February - True Blue   Story Of The Year 2015  Finals Suspect 



Remuda


May - Renegade   Story Of The Year 2015  Finals 2737165872  





RosieAnnie
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PostSubject: November - Talk Of The Devil - Nancy Whiskey   Story Of The Year 2015  Finals EmptySun Nov 01, 2015 7:28 am

November - Talk Of The Devil - Nancy Whiskey


"Am I annoying you yet?"



"Nope, not yet. But feel free to keep trying." The resigned note in Curry's voice as it emerged from under the hat told Heyes all he needed to know.


Curry looked relaxed, long legs stretched out, feet resting on the seat opposite, but the hands at the end of the folded arms were tensed. Knuckles showing.


Heyes was not handling the situation well either.  His nerves were shredded almost to the point of no return. The job had seemed so simple but now he was pacing back and forth in a locked room. "Sure," he thought, "it's a swanky room, but any minute now..."


"How about now?" The gloating glee, from the brat with his plump pink cheeks was nauseatingly evident. His unadulterated joy in torturing the men unbounded.


Heyes wheeled around to stare out the window.  As if that would stop the terrible nerve shredding noise.


~ ~ ~


Earlier that day


"It's easy money. Babysit the son and heir of some swank for twenty-four hours 'till his guardians show up and take him and his belonging to his doting Ma and Pa" grinned Abner.


"Just baby-sit? Ain't that a job for a woman?" Curry looked indignantly at Abner.


"Hey boys," protested gentle Abner, "this ain't no routine baby-sittin'. This here is the son of a very prominent politician, a real high-brow, rarefied sophisticate. This boy is precious cargo, but, I'll level with you." Abner leaned towards the cousins, his familiar gummy grin drawing the boys in. "It's the fiddle that is the real prize."


"Huh?"


"That fiddle he plays with is old, and I mean rare, real old. To be honest boys, if it weren't for the fiddle, I think his Pa would leave the boy right here." A rare grimace flitted across his face. "I know I would."


Heyes and Curry trusted and liked Abner. An ageing hard working gentle giant, his successful haulage firm was now run equally well by his hard working, reliable sons. The cousins tucked away the warning about the boy's behaviour and the three men shook hands on the job. After all, how hard could it be?


~ ~ ~


A shrill quivering note hung in the air, so palpable you could almost see it.  Heyes remained immoveable, staring at the heavy sky through the window, and the Kid suddenly found himself grinding his teeth. He had not prayed for a long time, but he was considering taking refuge in it now.


"My governess tells me I have exceptional talent. She told me I have a unique gift. I am a prodigy!" asserted the youth, his voice breaking as he eyed the gunman, defying him to contradict his genius.


"You're somethin' alright, I ain't heard nothin' like it before."


"If you are going to talk to me, I insist that you converse properly.  Lazy diction is the sign of a poor education and a slack mind!"


The silhouette at the window quivered, masking a snigger.


Pushing his hat back the Kid changed track to wrong foot the brat. "That is some fiddle you have there, sure you ought to be playin' with it?"


"It's not a fiddle, it's a violin," snorted the adolescent. "And it's not just any violin, this is a valuable antique. My Father bought it specially." The haughty young voice continued to pipe "He collects objet d'art. That means he has class, good taste and money."


The young swell fixed his piggy grey eyes on the ex-outlaw. "What do you two have?"


"A warning," blue eyes flashed.


"A warning about what? You can't threaten me. My Father will have your hide."


"Oh, no, it ain't a warning about us. It's a warning about mistreating a fine and delicate instrument like that violin there." He gestured to where the boy had thoughtlessly discarded it on the bed.


A suspicious look crossed the youngsters face. Quiet for a change, eyebrows raised, inviting the Kid to explain.


"You know who else plays the fiddle?" The boy let the word pass and shook his head.


"Old Nick."


"Who?"


The fair head shook in exasperation. "Old Harry.... Beelzebub.... Satan.... The Devil." and with each name breathed Heyes took a step forward and lowered himself into the chair beside the bed. They were eye to eye, and neither were blinking.


"I don't believe in The Devil," asserted the youth.


Heyes knew that declaration from the boy was purely to convince himself rather than anyone else.


"Well, you should.  We've seen what He can do." The Kids' voice dropped even further.


The lower lip of the boy jutted defiantly, but the close grey eyes and the furrowed brow betrayed his interest.


Knowing he now had the boy hooked the Kid leaned further in.  "We've actually met a man fool enough to think he could out-do Old Nick and it wasn't pretty, was it Joshua?"


Heyes looked earnestly at his friend in confirmation. "I know I'll never forget it." Intense brown eyes fixed upon the youth. "This fella played the fiddle too, just like you." His head inclined towards the discarded instrument. "And he thought he was so good, so talented that no one could best him in a competition.  And worse for him, it may just be that he was right."


The boy was feeling increasingly uneasy.


"Thaddeus and I met him making this very boast. Challenging everyone and anyone to a play-off, and take it from me, that guy sure could play. When he lifted that bow and started to play, well it was like the air was on fire. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. Now he really was a genius."


The boy was so entranced he did not even notice the insult.


"We heard him lay down that challenge. What's more we were there when someone took him up on it."


Dusk had fallen and the room was growing dark.


"This stranger appeared with his own violin and vowed that if the crowd thought the young man played better then he would give the young man him his own personal violin. Now, the young man examined his challenger's instrument and it sure was beautiful. He could see it was old, ancient almost, and he had never seen anything like it. It was truly beautiful and seemed to glow.  And the young man wanted it."


Brown eyes held grey and Heyes' low, slow voice continued.


"The stranger played first and all I can remember was that terrible, eerie sound. It was monsterous but somehow beautiful. The strange thing is although I can picture it, I just can't remember the tune. It's somehow out of reach. Stranger still, I can't even remember what this stranger looked like. I can see a shape, but no detail, and worst of all no face. It's like my memory can't quite pin him down. Just out of reach.  Like seeing something out of the corner of your eye.  It's almost like I don't want to remember."


The boy gulped.


"Well this stranger seemed to unnerve the audience and when he'd finished playing the crowd was silent. Me and Thaddeus here were just as bad. It was like we were stunned or something.  Like all the air had been sucked out the room."


Blue eyes glinted through the gloom, "Downright unnatural if you ask me."


"Now when the young man took the stage everything was silent and then he let out such a note that I never thought to hear. He played his very soul out. Everybody was clapping, hooting, hollering.  Thaddeus and me were on our feet too. We just couldn't help ourselves. He had magic in his music, no doubt."


Large brown eyes glittered in the half light.


"The youngster had won it hands down! Everyone went wild. Then the stranger came up and stood beside him, gave a small bow and held out his violin and said 'You've won sir. As promised I hereby relinquish my violin to you. But I will warn you, you must treat it with respect. It can be temperamental. It has a...'"


At this Heyes visibly shuddered and the boy swallowed, forgetting to breath.


"'... particular appetite for sin. Play it well and play it humbly or rest assured you will be the worse for it.'"


The room by now was almost in total darkness.


"'And when you really need me I will find you.' The young man laughed in the strangers face and took the instrument. He placed it under his chin and just as his fingers touched the strings one of them broke, flicked back and all we saw was blood!"


Heyes relished the gasp from the boy.


"The string had broken and sliced the winner's eye. There was just an empty socket.  There was blood everywhere, his face, his hands, his clothes, but strangely not one drop on the violin. It's as if the blood had some how soaked into it."


"What happened?" asked a trembling voice.


"The next time we came across him was years later. We had been riding through the night and were approaching a cross-roads. All of a sudden rain came out of nowhere, pouring down, torrential, then thunder, lightening. It was deafening and the rain was so heavy, I've never seen anything like it. We made for cover but that was when we spotted the violinist. He was standing at the very centre of the crossroads soaked to the skin and screaming like a banshee, begging for the Devil to make good his promise and to come back; pleading for Old Nick to lift his curse." 


Rain hit the window and the boy was not the only one who jumped, but Heyes was relentless.


"The poor guy was almost unrecognisable. Not only had he lost his eye, but his face was scarred almost beyond knowing. He was skeleton thin, like a walking corpse.  His back was bent and his feet were twisted and bleeding badly.  Then the lightening flashed again, and that's when I saw that damned violin for what it truly was."


"Saw what?"


"That was not some simple fiddle he was holding. I know, because I saw it, and I will never forget it till the day I die."


"What?"


"That cursed instrument was The Devil's own tool. Made from the tormented! The body of it was a human pelvis and the chin rest was carved from the skull of a child. The neck was an arm-bone, the strings were made from human guts and the pegs, well, they were made from finger-bones." 


Even Curry was leaning in caught in the tale. 


"The man was plumb crazy, raving,demanding Satan make good his promise and show himself and free him from this torture.... then when the lightening flashed again it turned back into an ordinary violin. Well after some coaxing we managed to get the poor soul to the nearest town and a doctor."


The boy exhaled. "What happened?"


"Last we heard the poor guy was in some asylum, still screaming 'sorry' at the wind and begging for 'The Devil to 'take it back' . Far as we know he's still there."


"What happened to the violin?"


"Who knows?" replied Heyes. "Maybe Old Nick did take back his trinket or maybe he left it here just waiting to snare another fool-hardy blow-hard. I just know I wouldn't be tempted to risk that bet."


The boy jumped as the oppressive silence was broken by Curry as he abruptly stood and lit the oil lamp. Heyes was satisfied to see the boy, ashen faced staring suspiciously at the violin lying innocently at the foot of the bed.


"Well, we are all up early tomorrow, so I guess we better get some sleep." Heyes, threw his hat to one side and stretched out on the sofa.


The subdued boy was a very different creature to the insufferable brat of earlier. The cousins pretended not to notice as the youngster tentatively placed the violin reverentially in its case, closed it carefully and settled it gently upon the wardrobe.


Both Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry slept soundly that night.


The same however could not be said for the boy...
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PostSubject: February - True Blue - Remuda    Story Of The Year 2015  Finals EmptySun Nov 01, 2015 7:32 am

The Rifle


Hannibal Heyes and Jed “Kid” Curry rode into yet another dry, dusty town in their quest for a few days’ respite from a long, never-ending trail.  Pulling their hats forward to shield their faces from close view, they rode past the sheriff’s office and glanced over.  Imperceptibly smiling at each other at the unfamiliarity of the local constable’s posted name, they scanned the array of businesses and pulled up to a saloon.  Dismounting and tethering their mounts, they strode toward the entrance.


“Get outta here, you drunk!  Done told ya enough is enough!”


Two ex-outlaw pairs of eyes met with a mutual shrug, then started as a large body bowled through the door, knocking Kid Curry off his feet and almost sending Hannibal Heyes to the same fate.  Reaching an arm over the still thrashing ejected one to help his partner up finally pulled Heyes into the heap as the swirling eddy of humanity engulfed him.


Dazed for a moment, Heyes rolled free of the tangle, only to be hit in the shoulder by another missile – a rifle, which thudded to the boardwalk to his side.  He ducked to avoid any further projectiles, human or otherwise. 


“Take yer trash and stay out!”


Kid Curry grasped at the man pinning him.  One hand instinctively reached for his gun belt.  Satisfied his pistol still lay secure in its holster, he renewed his effort to free himself. 
 
“Now, Thaddeus!”


Seeking the split second of opportunity afforded by his partner’s lifting of one shoulder of the now slurred-shouting ejectee, Curry rolled free.  Picking himself up, he bent to his knees to catch his breath.
 
Heyes appeared alongside.  “Okay?”


Kid nodded.


Heyes squeezed his partner’s shoulder.  “Good.”  Shifting his attention to the now quiet, supine man, he stooped to lend a hand.  “Let’s get you up.”  The man did not move.  The ex-outlaw leader bent to one knee, pressing his hand flat against and lightly tapping the man’s cheek. 
“Mister?”


Several seconds later, one eye opened.  “Dammit.”


Heyes recoiled from the stench.


“Not again, Hanson!”


Regaining his breath, Kid straightened up as a man with a star on his shirt approached.  He warned in a low tone, “Heyes.”


“I see him.”


The sheriff reached them, surveying the scene.  “You two look a little worse for wear.  Tell Smitty the bartender inside your drinks’re on me.  Sorry for the trouble.”


The sheriff, though wiry and not as tall, effortlessly grabbed the now unconscious, floored man under the shoulders, dragging him toward the jail across the street and half a block down. 


Heyes and Curry dusted themselves off. 


“Sheriff’s strong,” noted Heyes.  “Wouldn’t expect that strength in a man his size.”


Kid glanced after them.  “Yeah.” 


“Let’s get that drink.  Nice of the sheriff.”  Heyes walked ahead.


“Um hm.”


The dark-haired partner held the door.  With no hand soon taking it, he glanced behind him to see Curry stooping.
“Thaddeus?”


Kid stood with the forgotten rifle in his hand, inspecting it.


Heyes rubbed his shoulder with his free hand.  “Not every day I get hit twice.”


Curry smiled briefly at his partner before eyeing the long gun again.  “Haven’t seen one of these since the war.  Hasn’t been taken care of, though.  It’s rustin’ up.”


Heyes stepped out of the entrance to let a customer exit, peacefully this time.  “Rusting?  Gotta take better care of guns than that.”


Kid smiled at his partner.  “My feelin’s exactly.  Where’d ya learn that?”


Heyes rolled his eyes before turning serious.  “Better leave that where you found it.”


Blue eyes twinkled.  “You know I can’t do that.  Blue this up and it’ll be good as new.”  He thought.  “Well, at least a good lookin’ relic.  Have it back to him before he wakes up.”


“You mean, go to the sheriff’s office?”


“Yup.”


Heyes’ eyes grew wide.  The “look” overshadowed his countenance.  “There you go again.”


“What?”  Curry sighed.  “It’ll be fine.  The sheriff’s obliged to us.”  He paused.  “At least he seems to be.”


Heyes shook his head and stepped inside, glancing behind to ensure his partner followed.


oooOOOooo


“You two look like ya tangled with a cat.  Sorry for the trouble, gents.  Some don’t know how to hold their liquor.  What’ll it be?”
Heyes placed two five-cent pieces on the bar.  “Two beers.”  Spying a jar of hard-boiled eggs, he asked, “These free.”


Smitty placed the pair of brews on the bar.  “Yup, with a drink.  And keep yer money.  Bet the sheriff said they’re on him.”


Heyes nodded.  Grabbing a mug, he asked, “How’d you know?”


“That’s what he does, ‘specially if strangers is involved.”


Heyes gulped half his drink.  “Ah, that’s good.”  He replaced the mug on the bar.  “Lotta trouble around here?”


“Not usually.  Sheriff keeps a tight rein on things ‘round these parts.”


“I see.” 


Spying his partner’s untouched beer, Heyes looked at him.  Curry stood two steps back from the bar, examining the rifle.


“That thing’s seen better days,” Smitty offered.


Heyes smirked at his partner’s lack of reaction.  “I think Thaddeus here would agree with you.”


Curry looked up.  “Huh?”


Heyes shook his head.  “That the rifle’s seen better days.  Your thirst leave you all of a sudden?”


“Um, no.”  Kid grabbed his mug and sipped before replacing it.  Indicating the rifle, he looked at Smitty.  “It has seen better days.  Just needs a little attention is all.”


The barkeeper started to turn to new customers.  “Don’t bother.  It’ll just encourage him more.”


Curry’s brow furrowed.  He glanced at Heyes, who shrugged.


Smitty returned.  “You gussy that thing up right, it’ll start all over again.  Do us and yourself a favor and burn it.  Maybe then he’ll move on.”


“What’d he do?”


Heyes stood aside, momentarily forgotten, watching the speakers, outwardly showing disinterest while his curiosity was as piqued as his partner’s.  He never could resist a good story.


Smitty related flatly, “He’s a no good drunk.  Arrived in town a few months ago and been hangin’ ‘round since.  Spends nights in the livery with his no good nag; glue factory’s best place for the sorry beast.  That’s when he’s not sleepin’ off a drunk in the alley or in jail when the sheriff gets feelin’ sorry for him.  Sorry lot of humanity he is.”


Curry reflected.  “There’s probably a good fella underneath.  Too many good men hide behind a bottle.  I’ve known a few.”  He indicated the rifle.  “What about this?”


Smitty continued.  “You get rid of that rusted piece of crap, you get rid o’ him.”


“Means a lot to him?”


“Yup.”


“It’s seen better days, but with a bit of bluin’ and cleanin’ up, it’ll look just fine.  Might even shoot good if the bore’s intact.”


Smitty’s dander rose.  “Young fella, you’re new ‘round these parts, and you’ll be movin’ on soon, I suppose.  Don’t go askin’ for trouble.”


Curry finally glanced at his partner.  Heyes’ eyes narrowed.  Turning back to Smitty, Kid continued.  “How’s it askin’ for trouble just to help a fella out?”


“Done told ya already.  I want him outta here.  He’s no good.  Trashin’ that piece of old metal’s best thing ya can do for the town.”


A cold, blue-eyed stare met the barkeep’s anger.  Curry turned and walked out.  Heyes opened his mouth to speak, but no words came.  He shook his head, glanced at Smitty, and followed after his partner.


oooOOOooo


After checking in and performing the usual routine of checking the street from their window, complete with full view of the sheriff’s office, the partners set about unpacking.  This hotel’s being more affordable than most, they took a larger room than usual with more furnishings.  As Heyes loaded his change of clothes into a drawer, Curry spread out his gun cleaning equipment on a table sized for the task, pulled out a chair, and got to work on the rusted rifle.


His partner crossed his arms and watched.  When Kid did not look up, he sighed; still, no reaction.  “Kid, you can’t be serious.  We could get in trouble.  Just because the sheriff doesn’t know us …”


“Put a trap on it, Heyes.  I’m gonna finish this.”  Curry continued his task without flinching.


“We’re gonna regret this.”


Kid ignored the comment.  He took the rifle apart, gently setting down each piece in turn.  Removing bluing accouterment from the kit, he fingered the rust on the barrel, picking at it lightly.  “It’s only just the surface.  It’ll be good as new.”


Heyes threw up his hands.  “Just what we need!”


Curry said flatly, “It’ll be fine, Heyes.  If ya don’t like it, go take a walk.”


“Can’t afford to do that without you to watch my back.”  He paused.  “Or, in this case, best be me who’s watching yours.”


oooOOOooo


The light through the window began to fade.  The silence of the room save his partner’s ministrations distracted Heyes.  He put down the book he had only half immersed himself in to gaze at Curry, whose attention had not left his task.  Heyes had to admit to himself he sometimes did not give Kid the credit for his tenacity for something in which he took interest.  Perhaps after amnesty his partner could become the gunsmith Heyes thought he might like to be – under a continuing alias, of course – because peace might never come to him using his own identity.  Too many young wannabes out for the glory of making a name for themselves, no matter how notoriously.  Out-drawing the fastest gun in the West, well, that would do it.  But there was Curry’s restless spirit …


“Done.” 


Heyes blinked. 


Curry stood, holding a nicely blued and oiled rifle.  Both the rust and several glare spots gone, the long gun no longer looked the relic of a seemingly ancient war – still remembered perhaps, but hopefully long past the common consciousness.


The dark-haired partner stood, striding over to examine the piece.  “Wouldn’t recognize it, Kid.  Damn, you’re good.”  He smiled.


“Change your mind?”


“No.”  Dark eyes saddened.  Heyes looked away.  “You know, that do-gooding is gonna get us in real trouble someday.”


“Lighten up, Heyes.  We always come out okay in the end.”


OooOOOooo


“You comin’?”


Hannibal Heyes hesitated outside the sheriff’s office.  Twilight waned, but no stars appeared.  He sighed and followed in step with his partner.


Curry opened the door.  The sheriff sat at his desk.  The rustle of papers stopped. 


The lawman stood, extending a hand but keeping an eye on the long gun in Kid Curry’s hand.  “Good seeing you again, gents.  Hope you’re not the worse for wear.”


Heyes spoke.  “Nope.  Just fine.”  He did not immediately notice the sweat that broke as he shook the sheriff’s hand.


Kid stepped forward to do the same.  “Sheriff.”


The lawman nodded.  “Any reason for the rifle?”


Kid offered it to the sheriff, who took it.  “Yup.  Belongs to that fella from this afternoon.”  At the lawman’s puzzled look, Curry continued, “I
just cleaned it up a bit.”


The sheriff examined it carefully.  “Yeah, I guess it is his.  Ya don’t see too many of these anymore.”


“Nope.”


“It’ll make him happy, I suppose.”  He looked at the door leading to the cells.  “If he ever wakes up.”


Heyes repeated, “If he ever wakes up?”


“Yeah.  I feel sorry for him, although sometimes I think he’d be better off dead, and he probably does, too.  Ever since he came to town a few months back, I don’t think I’ve seen him sober for more than a few hours, and from what I’ve been able to piece together when he is, Hanson was a hero in some battle back East – Cold Harbor, I think.  His one moment of glory, it seems.  Not sure what he did with all the killing around him.  Then the war ended, and he didn’t know what to do with himself.  Drifted around all these years because there was nothing to go back to.  Said he couldn’t find a place he felt comfortable, ‘cept maybe in the bottle.  Can’t figure.  True Union blue, I guess.  That rifle is his life.”


The partners glanced at each other with pursed lips. 


Curry turned to the lawman.  “That’s too bad, sheriff.”


“Yeah.  A big man like him.  Probably could’ve made something of himself.”


Heyes nodded.  The hour was getting late.


“What’s your name?  I’m sure he’ll wanna know.”


Kid caught the lawman’s eye.  “Just … a friend.”


The sheriff’s gaze narrowed, eyeing Heyes and Curry in turn.  “A friend?”


“Yeah.  That’s all he needs to know.”


The sheriff nodded.  “I’ll tell him.”


“Thanks.”


With a tip of hats, the partners turned, closing the door behind them.

__________

Notes: 

Bluing of guns:  http://firearmshistory.blogspot.com/2010/08/metal-treatments-browning-and-bluing.html

Cold Harbor:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Cold_Harbor
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PostSubject: May - Renegade - RosieAnnie   Story Of The Year 2015  Finals EmptySun Nov 01, 2015 7:38 am

May - Renegade - RosieAnnie








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




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




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




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




The prisoner moved cards without speaking.




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




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




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




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




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




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




Dark brown eyes flicked briefly towards Berger.




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




"Where are the keys to the cell?"




"Bottom right drawer in the desk."




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




"Only one?"




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




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




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




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

----------------
The inspiration for this story came from photos posted recently by the Pete Duel page on Facebook. Pete played an Apache doctor on an episode of the old Marcus Welby show, in which the studio clearly used makeup to change his skin tone. That practice, common in the old days, showed a cultural insensitivity which would never be tolerated today. It would be akin to a white actor wearing blackface. But, as an inspiration for the monthly challenge, the photos were useful to me.
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 Finals   Story Of The Year 2015  Finals EmptySun Nov 22, 2015 4:48 pm

Just a reminder that story of the year will be available for polling untill the end of this month.  Don't miss the chance to vote for your favourite.
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 Finals   Story Of The Year 2015  Finals EmptyTue Dec 01, 2015 5:30 am

The votes are in and counted and we have had a great turnout.  We have a worthy winner in a very tough choice.  


cheers  Congratulations to Remuda  cheers




She wins for her beautiful story of the old rifle reflecting the damage in the human being.  A poignant and beautifully wirtten tale.  Congratulations to all the contestants.  Every one was a winner and it ws wonderful reading them all again.
applause
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 Finals   Story Of The Year 2015  Finals EmptyTue Dec 01, 2015 5:35 am

Congrats 3

Congratulations, Remuda.  A worthy winner and a great story.


And thanks to all the other winners who also gave us a great contest.
Kiss thanks

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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 Finals   Story Of The Year 2015  Finals EmptyTue Dec 01, 2015 6:53 am

balloon1Wonderful Story, Remudaballoon1
 
clapping clapping clapping 

Congratulations on a well deserved win!

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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 Finals   Story Of The Year 2015  Finals EmptyTue Dec 01, 2015 3:30 pm

Congratulations Remuda! Wonderful story! cheers

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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 Finals   Story Of The Year 2015  Finals EmptyWed Dec 02, 2015 4:13 am

Congratulations, Remuda.  Great story
Congrats1
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 Finals   Story Of The Year 2015  Finals EmptyWed Dec 02, 2015 4:22 am

Wonderful story, Remuda.  Congratulations
Congrats 3
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 Finals   Story Of The Year 2015  Finals EmptyWed Dec 02, 2015 4:27 am

Congratulations on a worthy win, Remuda, and thanks to all the other writes for giving us another great year of stories.   Guntoot

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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 Finals   Story Of The Year 2015  Finals EmptyWed Dec 02, 2015 4:34 am

Congrats 2
Thanks for a great story, Remuda.  Thanks to everyone else doe a great contest.
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 Finals   Story Of The Year 2015  Finals EmptyWed Dec 02, 2015 6:19 am

Congratulations on your win, Remuda
Congrats 2
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 Finals   Story Of The Year 2015  Finals EmptyWed Dec 02, 2015 6:30 am

Congratulations, Remuda.  Great story.  applause
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 Finals   Story Of The Year 2015  Finals EmptyWed Dec 02, 2015 8:56 am

Congratulations REMUDA!!
Winning Story of the Year is quite a feat, especially considering the stiff competition, great story!!!!


applause jump face applause

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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 Finals   Story Of The Year 2015  Finals EmptyWed Dec 02, 2015 4:45 pm

Congrats 2
Well done, Remuda, for winning the Story of the Year.
And thanks to your other half, who provided the inspiration, if I remember correctly.
You packed a lot into it and still left enough room for your readers to find more.


Well done also to the other finalists! 
thumbs up applause Congrats 4 applause thumbs up

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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 Finals   Story Of The Year 2015  Finals EmptyWed Dec 02, 2015 6:10 pm

Congratulations, Remuda! Your story was powerful and touching. You found exactly the right tone, and that made this story very special indeed.
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 Finals   Story Of The Year 2015  Finals EmptyThu Dec 03, 2015 7:59 am

Thanks, everyone.  Words cannot fully convey how special this is.  There are so many wonderful and skilled writers here.  Thank you to all of you for the camaraderie and encouragement.

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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 Finals   Story Of The Year 2015  Finals EmptyFri Dec 04, 2015 10:49 am

Remuda -- it was a great story and well deserving of story of the year.  Congratulations.   cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 Finals   Story Of The Year 2015  Finals EmptyFri Dec 04, 2015 2:30 pm

Congratulations remuda Banana Congrats1
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 Finals   Story Of The Year 2015  Finals EmptySat Dec 05, 2015 1:49 pm

Oh yes!  Congratulations, Remuda.  I almost missed this, what with my classes and all.  It is a great story. jump face
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