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PostSubject: Alcohol   Fri Jan 01, 2016 10:39 am

Here is your first challenge for 2016, should you choose to accept it.  Give us your best story of up to 4,000 words using the prompt, chosen by Stormr, which should help ease some weary heads after New Year's celebrations.   

Drink Alcohol   climb bottle

Don't forget to finish your comments on last month's stories before moving on.  Comments are the only thanks our writers get.
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Silverkelpie

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PostSubject: Re: Alcohol   Sun Jan 03, 2016 3:16 pm

I'm posting this just for fun as it fits the prompt and to kick start the New Year's challenge.  I'm writing a real one at the moment which I'll post soon. 

Sporting Chance





“This is it.”  The woman’s brittle, steel-like hair and sharp nose emphasised a character as crisp as her clipped English accent.  “I don’t let just anybody stay here, you know.”  She eyed Kid cautiously before she gave Heyes an accusing glare.   “You did not tell me that your companion was a hobbledehoy.”




“Mrs. Plant, I am writing a perspective on the west and I need a guide.  Mr. Jones is both courteous and honest.”  He gave the reassuring smile of a man desperate not to spend another damp night camping out in the cold, April rain.  “Besides, I’m here to cover the race and he knows one of the jockeys.”




Mrs. Plant gave a little sniff.  “Well, I hold you responsible for his.”  




She bustled towards the door.  “Breakfast is at seven thirty sharp.  DO NOT damage the new counterpane.  I spent hours making that and I think it really sets off the room.”  The door clicked shut behind her.




“What’s a counterpane?” hissed the Kid, scanning the room in confusion.  “Does she mend windows?”




“Dunno, just don’t damage it.  The town’s booked up because of the big race and it’s been pouring for nearly two weeks.  We can’t get thrown out.”




“I don’t damage things,” muttered the Kid, indignantly.  “This is just typical.  You’ve got us the stupidest job on earth and now we’re staying with a stiff, crusty old...,” he dropped his bag on the bed.  “What’s a hobbledythingy?”




“Just use your charm.  It got us this job.”  




The dimpled grin only served to irritate Kid more.  “Matchmakers!? What were you thinkin’?”




“It’s more of an introduction service.  Conrad knows who he wants.  We just have to get her to appreciate him, and you’ve got her ear since you helped her when her horse threw that shoe.  Tell her how great he is and we get paid.  It’s easy.”




“Heyes, he’s a five foot two jockey, in love with a five foot eleven Amazon.  They’ve been introduced and she ain’t interested because they’d look ridiculous together.  Men should give up when they can’t reach the cookies on the top shelf.”




“He adores her.”  Heyes tilted his head.  “She could do a lot worse – she’s from dirt poor farming stock and he’s got money from an uncle who was a beef baron.”




“I’ve never tried to convince a woman to like another man.  I ain’t sure I can do it.”




“Sure you can, Kid.  You do it for me all the time, without even realising it.”  Heyes twinkled engagingly.  “Conrad’s going to be the hero of the race, he’s well off, and he worships her.  He’s got a sporting chance.  Just try not to damage the counterpane.”  He scratched his head and glanced around the room, “although it would help if we knew what the hell it was.”




“Does this mean I’m supposed to take this woman out and tell her how wonderful Conrad is?”




Heyes bounced on the bed testing it for comfort.  “Why not?  She’s got a lovely personality.”




Uncompromising blue eyes bored into his back.  “So does Kyle, but I don’t want to take him on a picnic.”  




oooOOOooo




Conrad Painting was a handsome man, with sparkling, chocolate eyes set in clear, olive skin, topped with dark, wavy hair.  His diminutive stature was a boon in his career, but had caused him years of heartbreak.  Even he wasn’t sure if he had thrown himself into his passion for horses to compensate for his lack of success in other areas.  All he knew was that he had found it difficult to focus on anything since he had met Sabrina.  He felt a pang of shame at paying someone to help him get her attention, but he was desperate.
 


She was special; and he was prepared to do just about anything to win her.  He stood, tilting his head back, greeting the men to whom charm came so easily with a glittering smile as they walked into the saloon.  




“We got in,” grinned Heyes.  “The last room in town.  Tough landlady though.”




Conrad nodded, pouring whiskey into the shot glasses and sliding them across the table towards them.  “So?  How do we start this?”




“Well, we’ve never done anything like this, so I guess we need to look at what attracts a woman.”




Conrad shrugged.  “How would I know?  How do you attract a woman?”




The partners exchanged a quizzical glance and shrugged.  “Dunno?  




We just talk to them and they give you the signal if they’re interested,” replied the Kid.  




“What kind of signal?”




“They hold your gaze...”




Conrad frowned.  “Muriel holds my gaze all the time...”




Heyes leaned forward.  “That sounds promising.  Why not concentrate on Muriel?”    




“Because she’s seventy four.  There must be more to it than that.”




“Well, it’s a kind of ‘come hither’ look, sort of like the look saloon girls give you when they see the money,” the Kid’s eyes narrowed and pouted his lips as he tried to give his best imitation of a love-struck maiden.




“If they look at you like that, jump on the nearest train,” chortled Heyes.  




“He looks more like he put his back out jumping off one himself,”




Conrad’s shoulders slumped.  “So how do you get them to give you the signal?”




Heyes arched his eyebrows.  “Just be charming and gentlemanly.”




“I am.  They pat me on the head and say I’m cute.  I want to be desired; the man their mothers don’t want to leave them alone with... like you two.”




Kid’s stiffened.  “I’m a perfect gentleman.  I can be trusted with any woman.”




“Good, because I need you to tell Sabrina things about me that’ll get her interested.”




“Like what?”




“How about - I love her and would do anything for her.”




Kid shrugged.  “You’ve already done that and she ain’t interested.  How about ‘treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen?’”




Heyes sipped thoughtfully at his drink.  “Nah, if that really worked; Custer would have been invited to dinner instead of Little Big Horn.  I think we’ve got to find out what she’s interested in.  Thaddeus, that’s your job.  You go and see her first thing in the morning.”




oooOOOooo




“Let me help.”




Sabrina looked into the blue eyes before straightening up and swinging the sack over her broad shoulders.  “I can manage.  Customers are supposed to come through the front door of the store.”




“I came to see you,” Kid gave her an engaging smile.  “I guess the big race brings in lots of customers.”




“It sure does.”  She dumped the sack of flour on top of the others and straightened up, fixing Kid with serious grey eyes.  “So?  What do you want?”




“I wondered if you were going to the race.  Conrad’s the favourite and he’s bound to win.”




She tucked a tendril of light brown hair behind her ear.  “What are you up to Mr. Jones?  I’m not your type.  A woman can tell.”




He shifted uncomfortably in embarrassment.  Her square jaw and wide mouth made her more striking than conventionally pretty, but she was right.  Sabrina was not a woman he would have called on by choice.  “Conrad would be real keen to see you at the winning post.”




She rolled her eyes.  “Can’t that man take a telling?  We’d be a laughing stock.  Don’t you think it’s hard enough being taller than most men, without pairing me up with him?  We’d look like freaks.”




“He’s fairly well off.  His wife wouldn’t have to carry sacks.”




She put her hands on her hips.  “Look, maybe if he was taller...  Or I was shorter?  Who knows – but we are who we are.”




“There’ll be food, and a band – all kinds of entertainment.  My partner and I will keep you company until the race is over.”




“The music sounds tempting, I love music...”




“Apart from his height, what have you got against him?”




Sabrina shrugged.  “It’s not him.  I’m just not strong enough to even try this.”  




Kid shrugged.  “You’re a real lucky woman, Miss Fontana.




“I am?”




“A truly kind and genuine man thinks you are the whole world to him, and you just dismiss it because of what a few folks might think.  Lots of women would be overjoyed to find a man who worships the ground they walk on, and he’s so sure you’re the one for him he won’t give up.  Yup, you’re real lucky.”




Sparks of curiosity flared in her eyes.  “Why does that make me lucky?”




“You turn your back on it so lightly.  You must have somebody real special.”




He watched his words land, her fingers subconsciously twisting the fabric of her apron as she bit into her lip.  “What time is the race, Mr. Jones?  I don’t suppose it would hurt to cheer him on.”




oooOOOooo




“She’s coming?”  Conrad’s delighted eyes danced at the prospect of being cheered over the finishing line by the woman he loved.  “She must see me lift that cup.  Did she say anything else?”




Kid looked quizzically at a breadstick.  “Music.  She loves music.”




Conrad’s eyes lit up.  “She does?  I’ve played piano since I was a little boy.”




Heyes gave him a pat on the back.  “This time tomorrow night she’ll be eating out of your hand.”




Conrad sighed.  “No, but it’s a start.  She needs to overcome this height thing.  It really bothers her.”  He waved over to the waitress.  “Gentlemen, my mother is Italian and this restaurant is run by my aunt and uncle.  Tonight you will dine like kings.  I know you can’t guarantee she’ll come around, but getting her to spend time with me, getting to know me – that’s what’ll make the difference.”




A doe-eyed waitress put three shot glasses and a bottle on the table before dropping her dark head and kissing Conrad on the top of then head.  “Good luck tomorrow, Tresoro.”




“Gentlemen, this is my cousin, Tizianna.  This is Thaddeus Jones and Joshua Smith.”




The girl nodded warmly at them before sashaying seductively back to the bar.  “What a friendly family,” purred Heyes.




“Have you ever tried grappa?” asked Conrad.  




Kid examined the bottle, but there was no label.  “Never even heard of it.  What is it?”




“It’s made from grapes. We make it ourselves.”




“Grapes?”  Heyes took a sip.  It was definitely liquor, but had a faint fruity aftertaste.  “Yeah, it’s good.  I can drink this quite happily.”  He downed his glass and lifted the bottle to top up Conrad’s empty glass.




“No thanks,” he covered his glass.  “I’m racing tomorrow.”




“Ah, come on,” urged Kid.  “It’s a fruit drink.  How bad can it be?”



Conrad sat back, a knowing smile playing over his lips.  “Enjoy yourselves, but it’s stronger than you think.  I’ll just lay off for tonight.”




oooOOOooo




The grappa flowed like water, the mouth-watering food was plentiful, and the company of Conrad’s stunning cousins tempting; but it was all topped off by a musical diversion around the piano to round off the evening.  Conrad had undersold his musical skills – he had the touch of a concert pianist and the soaring, ringing tones of an operatic tenor.  




Eventually, two merry ex-outlaws staggered and weaved their way back to Mrs. Plant’s lodging house; stumbling, humming and snickering through the darkness to their room.




oooOOOooo




Heyes buried his head under the covers, but the movement seemed to stimulate an unfortunate series of events.  His stomach started to heave, his gullet spasmed, and his mouth started to water.  He opened his eyes; his brain screaming silently at the vicious assault of the daylight on his aching eyeballs.  He ran for the chamber pot, retching and trying desperately to swallow down the swirling contents about to be ejected from his protesting belly.  




Too late.  It was all over the floor.  




What was he going to tell Mrs. Plant?  He grabbed the bedspread and mopped up the worst, before using water and soap from the washstand to clean down the floor boards.  He looked guiltily around, content that he had successfully covered his tracks.  He could sneak the quilt out later to get it laundered and she’d never know the difference.




Kid stirred.  “Feelin’ bad, eh?”




“No worse than you I guess.”




Kid chuckled.  “Hey, I ate more than you, so I lined my stomach. How strong was that grappa?”




“Don’t!  I need to go to the pharmacy to get something for my head before we go to the race.  Let’s hope there’s not too much shouting.”




oooOOOooo




Heyes’ worst fears were realized.  He cringed in pain at the screaming, yelling and hollering which accompanied Conrad and his mount across the finishing line, well ahead of the field.  He leaped from his mount, punching the air in delight and cut his way through the crowd towards Sabrina.  He bowed his head gallantly and took her hand, kissing it gently.  




“Thank you for coming.  This has made this the most special day for me.  I can’t tell you how much it means.”




“Look!  He’s kissing the only part he can reach,” snickered a passing blonde.




The Kid fixed her with his most chilling glare, hearing Sabrina choke back a sob.  “If she was a man I’d crack her on the jaw!” he snapped.




“That’s Angela Capaldi,” muttered Sabrina.  “She’s made my life a misery since school.”




“Capaldi?” murmured Conrad quietly.  “She’s singing later, isn’t she?  I saw her name on the program.”




“I’m leaving.”




Conrad clasped her hand.  “Please, don’t.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s that there’s all the difference in the world between short and small.  There’s more than one way to cut these folks down to size.  Please.  Don’t let her win.  At least stay for a while.”




The Kid nodded.  “He’s right, Miss Fontana.  Folks like that are bullies.  You’ve got to hold your head high and ignore them.”




“Hold my head high?  Is that some sort of crack?”




“No!  I would never...”




Sabrina eyed him uneasily.  “I’ll stay for a while, just so she doesn’t think she’s won.”




oooOOOooo




“Ladies and gentlemen, we would now like to present Angela Capaldi to sing an aria from ‘Rigoletto.’  For our listening pleasure and to make today doubly special, our very own champion, Conrad Painting, will accompany her on the piano forte.”




Conrad placed a hand over Sabrina’s.  “Please stay and listen. Promise me you won’t go until I’ve finished.”




Sabrina chewed on her bottom lip.  “I don’t want to listen to her showing off.  I’ve had this since I was a child.”




He grinned engagingly.  “Trust me?  Please?”




She gave a reluctant nod.  “Fine.  I’m going right afterwards.  Little Miss Perfect has had a lifetime of applause.  I don’t need to hear any more.”




Conrad’s face split into a wide smile before darting to the stage where Angela was primping and preening before her performance.  He allowed his expert hands to explore the keys in an impressive display which made Sabrina stop short and arch an eyebrow in surprise, before Angela attempted the first few haltering words.  




She stopped holding up a hand.  “You’re in the wrong key.”




Conrad shook his head.  “Nope.  ‘Caro Nome’ in ‘E.’  Do I sound like I don’t know what I’m doing?”




She pouted, starting again.  “Caro nome che il mio cor...”  She stopped, stamping her foot in anger.  I told you!  It’s in the wrong key.”




“No.  You are.”




The audience was staring to get restless.  “You know NOTHING about classical music, you... you... goblin!”




“Conrad’s our champion!”  Yelled someone from the crowd.  People started booing and hooting at her to get off, before ‘somebody’ threw popcorn.  




“I saw that, Thaddeus,” hissed Heyes.




“Good.  I hope she did too,” grinned the Kid.




The deluge started.  Bread rolls, cakes, paper hats and anything people could lay their hands on cascaded onto the stage until Conrad stood, holding his hands out in appeasement.  “Folks!  Please, let’s show our little prima donna how it’s done.  There are a lot of Italians in this town, so I’m sure you all know the words to, ‘La Donna è Mobile.’”




There was a loud cheer as he sat down and began a rousing, joyful performance.  Kid looked over at Sabrina; a smile was playing over her lips.  “Bet you’re glad you stayed now, eh?”




“I sure am.  I’ve listened to Rigoletto all my life.  He did start in too high a key so that she’d start screeching.  Now I know what he meant when he said there was more than one way to cut her down to size.  There’s a lot more to Mr. Painting than meets the eye, isn’t there?  I think I might stay for the rest of the evening.”  




oooOOOooo




“MR. SMITH!”  Mrs. Plant was waiting for them.  “Where is he?  Where is that... that creature!?”




“Who?”




She glared at Kid.  “Jones.  What have you done to my counterpane?”




He shook his head in mystification.  “Nothin’, honest.”




“Don’t lie to me.  I found it under the bed.  I always regret it when I don’t follow my instincts.  I knew you weren’t to be trusted.”




“Ma’am, I swear...”




“I’m sure you do.  Like a trooper!  You’re going to pay for it.”




Heyes bit into his lip.  “Under the bed?”




“Yes, hidden there.  You foul, disgusting...”




“Ma’am, we’re sorry.  Of course we’ll pay to get it cleaned.”




“Cleaned!  You’ll pay to replace it.  I burned it.  I want forty dollars.”




Heyes frowned.  “Ma’am, you’re talking about the quilt?  I thought you said you made the counterpane.  We are talking about the quilt, aren’t we?”




“Of course we are.  My counterpane.  I want forty dollars for the material and labor, and don’t you even think of trying to cheat a poor old widow woman, or I’ll have the law on you.”




“Joshua, we only made fifty dollars for our job here,” hissed Kid.




“And then there’s your bill...”




oooOOOooo




“Well, Genius?  How much have we got left?”




Heyes darted a look at Kid.  “Three dollars and sixty cents.”




“That’s less than we had when we arrived here.”  Kid shook his head and looked around at the cold, sank streets.  “I dunno, we finally get paid for a job and you had to damage the counterpane.  You were even warned.  What are we supposed to do now?  It’s pourin’.”




“Do you think any of Conrad’s folks would help?”




A pair of blue eyes slid sideways.  “We could ask; as long as you promise to stay off the grappa.”

_________________
Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb
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riders57

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PostSubject: Re: Alcohol   Fri Jan 08, 2016 11:28 am

Eye of the Beholder


“I am here today to tell you, my brothers and sisters, that the Lord does not want you to despair.  I know this from my own experience.  Yes, my brothers and sisters, I, too, despaired of God’s grace; I wandered lost in the wilderness.  But you have heard, and I’m here to say it’s true – the Lord works in mysterious ways, his wonders to behold.


“When I first came west to preach the gospel, I thought I had arrived in paradise.  Freed of the constraints of living crowded together, people could live as Jesus had taught, share peace with our neighbors.  I thought I had found the Garden of Eden, dry though it might be.  In my foolishness I thought I would be preaching to believers, those who followed the gospels of our Lord.”  The preacher looked out on his spell-bound audience.


“I was wrong.  What I encountered was evil and debauchery.  The Lord’s words were taken in vain.  Thieves and killers roamed at will.  It seemed sin abounded everywhere I turned.  In my arrogance, I thought that I would save them.  But I soon saw that my words fell on deaf ears, or so I thought.  The sin and debauchery continued.  I had failed utterly.  Yes, my children, I despaired.  And in my despair I lost my way.


“I wandered long in the wilderness.  I left my flock and took to drink.  Man seemed too riddled with sin to hear the word of the Lord.  Finally, I came upon a town where I could lose myself in drink, while despising the foibles of those around me.


“But the Lord took pity on me.  He sent a man to help me find my way home.”  The preacher looked up and smiled at his audience.  “Now, this man did not come dressed in robes or driving a golden chariot.  We did not see him descend from heaven on angel’s wings.  No, he arrived in the usual way, on horseback – he and his friend.  Why they came, they never explained, just told the curious that they had recently completed a job and had stopped to rest their horses.”


He smiled.  “They were peaceable men.  You wouldn’t have thought it to look at them.  They looked hardened, men who could take on the west without fear.  And their appearance on the scene caused fear.  Yes, my children, they caused fear in the apparently fearless.  One man ruled that town by fear.  But he, too, was afraid - afraid that someday his power would not be enough.  These visitors, they frightened him.  So he tried to stop them, to control them.  He threatened them and provoked them.


“Now the stranger’s friend, he backed down.  But this one man, the stranger, did not.  He bowed to the man’s rules, not out of fear but to keep the peace.  For me, it was salvation.  I thought I had finally found the perfect man of God of whose existence I had despaired.  No matter the provocation, this man turned the other cheek.  I realized I had been too quick to despair and resolved to abstain from the alcohol with which I had been solacing myself.


“But the Lord knew, and wanted me to know, that men are not all evil or all good.  Not even his messenger.  On the day I was to leave, my savior was pushed too far.  He broke.  He shot his tormentor.  But again, it was not out of evil intent, or even out of fear.  It was simply that the man had to be stopped, and stopped he was.  I realized later, that my angel could have killed his tormentor, but he did not; he gave that man a second chance, just as he gave me a second chance.


“I was shocked, shocked that my man of God could commit such violence.   My angel had feet of clay.  But he explained what I had been too foolish to understand.  We are a mixture of good and evil; God and the Devil battle within each of us.  It is in ourselves that we must find the strength to perceive God’s desire.  Men like me, men of the cloth, we are as flawed as yourselves, but our job, my job, is to help you find the strength to live God’s life and to help myself find that strength as well.  There will be failures, but there will also be successes.  And that is why we are here today to succeed and to forgive ourselves our failures and those of each other.  Amen.”


The Reverend Spencer bent his head, spent from his sermon, hoping that he had made a difference, even if only a little one in one person.  He knew if he had then today he had succeeded.
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PostSubject: Alcohol   Fri Jan 15, 2016 7:06 am

This silly little story came to me in the early hour's on New Year's Day. I only had one glass of red - honest!
Apologies for stealing a line from an old TV ad. It just seem to fit and I couldn't resist.

Alcohol

“Kid, are you sure you know what you’re doing? That’s the fastest duck in the West.”
Heyes looked concerned.


“The fastest …” The Kid looked at him sharply, convinced he had heard wrong. “What?”


“Duck.” Heyes nodded his head at the Kid’s opponent.


A moment ago, the Kid had been squaring up to a man. In his place was now a large white duck sporting double guns. Its wings flapped over the hilts of the ornately decorated Colts.


“Make your play, Curry,” the duck, quacked. “If you think you’re fast enough!”


As the Kid watched open-mouthed, the duck’s wing tips grasped the guns with lightning speed.

The Kid barely had time to react, only manging to lift his gun clear of its holster before two bullets slammed into his body. 


In slow motion, the Kid crumpled to the ground. He dimly heard Heyes cry out. He lay staring at the blue sky in disbelief; Heyes’ anxious face leaned in and then … nothing.





As Heyes came into the room, the Kid started awoke. He frowned. This wasn’t his room. At least not the one he thought he went to bed in last night. This was his room in the leader’s cabin at Devil’s Hole. He hadn’t been there in over two years.


“Brought you some coffee Kid,” Heyes said, setting the coffee down on the nightstand.


“What’s going on?” the Kid demanded, sitting up.


“Coffee. I brought you coffee.”


The Kid was looking around wildly.


“No this ain’t right!”


Heyes shrugged. “You haven’t even tasted it yet,” he said, disgruntled at the insult to his coffee making.


Now the Kid looked at him and then peered at him wide-eyed.


“Heyes!” He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. “Your … your face.”


Heyes touched his face. “What’s wrong with my face?”


“It’s bright green!” It was true; Heyes’ face was pea-coloured all over.


Heyes grinned. “Oh its camouflage,” he explained.


“Cama what?”


“’Flage. Our boys in blue are testing it. It’s a disguise.”


“Disguise for what?” The Kid was almost shrieking.


“I haven’t finished yet. There’s more colours to paint on.” Heyes backed away. “When you get up you won’t be able to see me. I’ll be blending right in.” He smiled pleasantly.


“Blending into what?”


Heyes had gone. The Kid flopped back onto his bed, groaning loudly.




The Kid woke to a siren blearing. He blinked. The ceiling didn’t look familiar.


“Come on Kid, its fried use-ups for breakfast. Your favourite!” Heyes said.


The Kid raised his head and stared at Heyes, who was on his feet. He appeared to be wearing some kind of uniform. A prison uniform complete with cap. The Kid looked round quickly. They were in a cell.


“Heyes what’s going on? Where are we?” The Kid bolted up.


“Same place we’ve been for the last four years Kid. Wyoming Territorial Prison.”


“What?”


“Now come on. Grab your ball and let’s get breakfast.” Heyes was wide-eyed and eager to get going.


In his hands, Heyes held a black metal ball the size of a basketball. It was on a chain attached to his ankle. As the Kid looked, he had one too, resting on the end of his bed.


The Kid gasped. He flopped his head back, shock sending him back to unconsciousness.






The alarm clock under the Kid’s pillow went off. He groaned softly and put his hand underneath the pillow to silence the alarm. He glanced over at Heyes, who was on his back, snoring gently.

The Kid got up as quietly as he could so he didn’t disturb him, collecting up his clothes and tiptoeing into the main room.


The Kid dressed quickly and headed out. He was pulling the early shift in the livery this morning. He didn’t mind. It was nice walking into an empty town in the morning. Especially if there was still a nip in the air. This morning there was even a light mist, making the town seem extra quiet.


As he neared the livery, he heard singing. At first he thought it was coming from the chapel next door but as he got nearer he realised it was coming from the livery stable.


He heard a tapping and then “Okay everybody, make this the last run through. The man will be here soon.”


Curious the Kid tried the passenger door. He didn’t expect it to be open and it wasn’t. Frowning he unlocked the padlock and crept in. And stood open-mouthed in the shadows.


He just couldn’t be seeing what he was seeing!


All the horses were standing in the middle of the stable. Song sheets were open on music stands in front of them and they were singing. The older geldings at the back were the baritones, the younger geldings in the middle were the tenors, the mares were the harmony and one young filly was a pleasing soprano. Their conductor was a donkey.


“No! No! No!” cried the donkey, tapping his baton furiously on his podium. “Once more from the top!” He sighed, with exasperation. “We’ll never get this right in time for the show!”


The horses grumbled nickering under their breath and the younger horses shook their manes. A few stamped their feet and donkey conductor had to tap his baton again.


“Okay just the chorus then! On three …”


The Kid turned and walked out, holding his head in his hands.





“Are you getting up, sleepy head?”


The Kid opened his eyes to find Heyes leaning over him, with a look of concern. He looked round startled and was relieved to see he has in his bunk in the little house he shared with Heyes.


Heyes smiled pleasantly when he realised the Kid was awake and stood hands on hips.


“’Bout time you got up Kid. I’ve made you coffee. It’s by the side of your chair.”


The Kid nodded, automatically. Heyes left him to get up. A few minutes later, the Kid stumbled into the main room.


Heyes was perched on the edge of one of the easy chairs, shelling peas into a pan. At the same time, he was reading the newspaper spread over the floor. The Kid collapsed into the chair he called his and sipped the coffee Heyes had made.


“Heyes, I’ve had THE worst dream!”


“Yeah?” Heyes murmured eyes on the newspaper. “Beat you to the draw did I?”


“No not you.” He paused wondering whether he should go on. “A duck.”


Heyes looked up slowly. “A duck?”


The Kid looked a little sick and nodded.


“Then I woke up in my bed in the Hole and your face was the colour of them peas!”


Heyes raised an eyebrow. “Yeah,” he breathed.


“And then I dreamt I had woken up in prison and you were trying to get me to go eat fried use-ups!”


Heyes rolled his eyes.


“And then I walked into the livery and the horses were singing!” He paused. “Opera!”


Heyes just stared at him. “Kid, you’ve got seriously weird since we’ve gone straight. D’you know that?”


“I know,” the Kid agreed, shocked that he couldn’t do otherwise than agree. He put his hand over his eyes and shook his head. “I’m telling you Heyes. Dunno how much I had to drink last night but never let me have alcohol again.”


“Alcohol? You didn’t drink any alcohol last night,” Heyes frowned.


The Kid looked at him in horror.


“New Year’s Eve and I didn’t drink?”


Heyes shook his head. “Nope. You said you were taking a stand and you were never gonna drink alcohol again.”


The Kid looked at him open mouthed.


“I … said that?” He prodded his chest.


Heyes nodded. “Yep.” He peered at something interesting in the paper.


“Naw! That can’t be right.” The Kid shook his head dismissively.


“Well,” Heyes sighed, getting up. “That’s what you said afore we went out last night.” He grinned at the Kid broadly. “But I had a good time!” Taking the pan of shelled peas, he walked over to the kitchen area. The Kid grimaced at his back.


“Say what’s that smell?”


“Chicken,” Heyes called. “I’m cooking lunch and that reminds me …”


Heyes picked up a cloth and bent down to open the range door. As he did so, an angry voice said

“Shut that door! I ain’t done yet!”


“Ooh, sorry!” Heyes hastily shut the door, rolling his eyes.


The Kid stared in disbelief and scratched his head. “Heyes? Did …?”


Heyes turned and walked back. He stretched his neck waiting for the Kid to say more. The Kid looked up at him about to say something, saw the look on Heyes’ face and thought better of it.


“Don’t matter,” he murmured instead.


Heyes shrugged. “Say how’s the coffee?” he smiled, touching the Kid’s arm. He turned away to pick up the newspaper.


The Kid was still pondering what he’d heard. “Good,” he said, absently. Then realised what he’d said and he looked up in horror. Heyes’ coffee was never good! 





The Kid found himself pushing an upright piano. He didn’t know why he was but it seemed important that he did. He stopped for a moment to wave his hat in front of his face. He was in a desert and it was hot. In fact, it was real hot and he was real sweaty. A cool beer would go down a treat right now. Glancing up at the sun he figured it was just about midday. He wasn’t gonna get that cool beer for lunch if he didn’t get this piano moving faster.


With a weary sigh, he put his hat back on and dropped his shoulder down to continue pushing the piano.


“Say you know what would make this go a lot easier?” a voice said suddenly.


The Kid stopped and peered round the side of the piano. On a stool attached to the piano sat a small white dog. The Kid stared and the dog seemed to smile.


“We need a work song,” the dog said, eagerly. “D’you know any?” The dog looked at the Kid expectantly. The dog sounded like Heyes.


The Kid continue to stare. “You … spoke?” He wasn’t at all sure.


“Well of course! I’m your partner.”


“Heyes?”


The dog looked disgruntled. “Well … I prefer Mr Heyes but if you insist …”


“Heyes?” The Kid had straightened up now and was peering at the dog hard. “Dogs don’t speak!”

He shook his head, furiously.


“Ah! That’s what we want you to believe. We can, we just choose not to. We’re enigmatic.”

The dog seem to smile again, knowingly. Then the dog swivelled the stool so it was facing the piano, and it rested its front paws on the keys. “Now about this song …. You hum it son, I’ll play it!” He played a few notes in emphasis.


The Kid pulled his hat down over his eyes with a groan.





 “How is he?” Mary asked, putting a hand on Heyes’ shoulder. Heyes was sitting on the side of the bed.


“Not good,” Heyes murmured, wringing out the wet cloth. He soaked it in cool water and reapplied it to the Kid’s forehead. Heyes looked concerned and then smiled weakly at Mary. “I’ve seen him drink a lot but he’s never been like this before.” He frowned. “I’m sorry Mary.”


Fallen insensible last night, New Year’s Eve, several of the townsfolk had carried the Kid to Mary’s house. It was nearer than the house he shared with Heyes. The Kid was now lying on her spare bed.


Heyes had dozed in the chair for the rest of the night, alert to every sound the Kid made. And he had made plenty! Heyes hadn’t made out a lot of it but the Kid had been in considerable distress at times. Heyes had got up to him and tried to calm him, talking gently. Whether that had helped or not Heyes was undecided. He just knew that his partner was in a bad way and he needed to do what he could.


Mary shook her head. “Don’t be silly. What was he drinking to get him in this state?”


Heyes shook his head. “He was fine when I left him. Mellow I think you could call it.” He smiled at the memory and looked back at the Kid. “Whatever it was didn’t agree with him.”


“He’s sweating. That’s a good thing. All the nasties coming out.” She sighed and sat down in the chair Heyes had dozed in. “You men!”


Heyes looked at her sharply. “We ain’t all the same, y’know Mary.” He felt honour bound to defend his sex.


Mary prodded his knee playfully and smiled. “I know. How do you feel? You weren’t exactly sober.”


Heyes cleared his throat and looked back at the Kid. “Could of done with a bit more sleep in a bed if I’m honest,” he confessed.


Mary got up and turned him by the upper arms to face her. “Well in that case, why don’t you go and lie down on my bed for a while. I’ll watch him.”


Heyes shook his head. “No ma’am, we’ve put you out enough already. I couldn’t do that.”


“Joshua,” Mary sighed. “Don’t be stubborn please. If he wakes, I’ll call you. Promise.”


Heyes looked at her. He knew he was falling in love with this woman and felt himself flush when she stroked his cheek.


“Josh?”


Heyes looked at the Kid and then back at Mary. He nodded. “Okay.” She stepped back as he stood. “Promise you’ll call the moment he wakes up? Or if he gets worse?”


“Yes I promise. Now go!”


Heyes slid his hands round her waist and pulled her to him gently. He lowered his head and kissed her softly.


“Oh Great! Here I am at death’s door and you’re smooching!”


“Kid!” Heyes broke away quickly and turned to the bed. He realised that in his excitement he had made a mistake. “Hey, kiddo,” he covered gently. He sat down on the edge of the bed. “How you feeling? You look awful by the way.”


The Kid false smiled. “Thanks.” He put a hand over his eyes. “Not so good, Hey … Josh.”

Suddenly, he started up and looked around wildly. “Where am I?”


“Mary’s spare bedroom. We had to carry you here last night. You’d passed out.”


“What?” The Kid stared. Was he dreaming? He had never had so much to drink that he’d passed out before. He groaned.


“What did you drink last night after I left you?”


The Kid put his head back trying to remember. A swirl of unrelated and bizarre images came to mind. Deadly ducks, rehearsing horses, pea green faces, a large metal ball, talking chickens, drinkable coffee, a piano playing dog. None of it made any sense. He shook his head.


“I dunno. I was wiv Jeannie …” He glanced at Mary. “Y’know perhaps I’ll tell you later, Joshua. Best get up and out your way ma’am.” He started to swing his legs over the side of the bed and groaned as the room swam.


“You just stay right there, Thaddeus and do some more sleeping,” Mary said. She nodded. “I’ll leave you to talk.” She touched Heyes fondly on the shoulder and he smiled at her as she disappeared.


Even in his befuddled state, the Kid couldn’t fail to notice the looks between Heyes and Mary.


“She’s a good woman, Heyes,” he said, quietly.


Heyes looked back at him and nodded. “Yes she is,” he agreed tightly. Then settling himself more comfortably on the bed he frowned. “Now what did you want to tell me?”


The Kid frowned and put a hand to his forehead trying to remember.


“I hooked up with Jeannie after you left.” Of all the saloon girls, Jeannie and the Kid were the most friendly.


“We went upstairs and er celebrated the New Year.” He nodded at Heyes who rolled his eyes in understanding.


“And er when we came back down, a lot of folks had gone home. Or elsewhere. But er there were a few still around sitting in the middle of the saloon talking. And …” He paused and Heyes had to motion for him to continue.


“We joined ‘em!” He smiled pleasantly at Heyes.


“And they were having a drinking game so we er joined that too!” He looked sheepish.


“Ah,” nodded Heyes. He was beginning to understand.


“There was some green stuff. Tasted of aniseed. I liked that,” the Kid said wistfully.


“Absinthe! You knucklehead! That stuff’s dangerous!” Heyes growled and got up. “No wonder you passed out!”


“Didn’t seem that strong!”


“No but it does things to you.” Heyes waved his hand dismissively. “Gives you hal-loo-sin-nations and all sorts.”


The Kid groaned. “That explains why my dreams were so bizarre!” He covered his eyes. “Heyes! They were SO bad!”


“Yeah I figured they weren’t normal,” Heyes sighed, sitting down on the bed again. “Do as Mary says get some more sleep.”


“Yeah if you don’t mind I think I will.” The Kid made himself comfortable again.


“I think it’ll be awhile before you drink alcohol again,” Heyes smiled. He patted the Kid’s arm.
“Happy New Year, Kid.”


“Yeah Happy New Year, Heyes,” the Kid murmured as he fell asleep. This time he had no dreams good or bad.




Historical note:

In the 19th century, Absinthe was a popular drink although reputed to have hallucinogenic properties. The US government banned it in 1912 to bring it in line with most of Europe, where is some countries, a ban had been in place for some time. France, where it was the most popular, held out until 1914. Curiously, it was never banned in the UK!


However, in 1999 the hallucinogenic effects were conclusively disproved. The hallucinogenic reputation has been attributed to poisonous additives in cheaper versions, such as oil of wormwood, impure alcohol and copper salts used to give the distinctive green colouring.
In the last twenty years, the bans in most countries have been lifted and absinthe has gained in popularity again, although its production is strictly regulated. The EU lifted the ban in 1988 but France defied the regulation until 2011.


Author's note:

Some readers may have recognise a line from a TV ad of yesteryear. For those of you who don’t know it here is the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgzEBLa3PPk


I was delighted to discover that it first aired in 1971 – perfectly contemporary with the show but dismayed to realise it was really THAT long ago!

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Kid Curry and that other fella; Hannibal Heyes and whatsname
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Keays

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PostSubject: Re: Alcohol   Wed Jan 20, 2016 1:15 am

If I had known that the second part of my 'Ice' story was going to fit into this month's challenge so nicely, I would have held off posting it altogether, until now.  So, here it is anyway.


Hannibal and Jed locked eyes as both of them knew what was about to happen.  Jed felt the ice beneath his feet crack apart and the dark river water began to seep into his boots and surround his already wet and freezing feet.


“KID!  RUN!”


“HEYES!”


The whole section of ice beneath the Kid and his horse completely broke apart and both of them dropped like lead weights into the rushing current, only to be jolted to a stop as their feet hit the river bottom, twelve inches below the ice covering.  Man and horse stood frozen in time as surprise and disbelief overwhelmed their instincts.


More rifle shots, and the sounds of men yelling from behind him, finally got the Kid to react.  Heyes’ eyes were like cold chocolate saucers as he spied the posse men galloping their horses out from their hiding spots, and headed them onto the ice covered river.  If the waterway was that shallow, there was no need for caution and they came on, full speed ahead.


“Kid, hurry!”  Heyes yelled at him.  “Mount up!  We gotta go!”


Curry didn’t need any encouraging.  Despite boots weighed down with water, he pulled himself aboard his antsy horse and they were all into a stiff gallop and heading into the cover of falling snow and trees blanketed in white.
 
Out on the river, the two lead horses suddenly put on the brakes.  Just because their riders were stupid enough to attempt this crossing, that didn’t mean that a sensible horse had to agree with it.  Digging in their heels, they tried to stop, but the icy surface wouldn’t give them a foothold.  One of the horses lost its balance and ended up sliding along on its belly until finally coming to a halt against a snow pile, his rider looking comical and helpless upon the animal’s back.


The second horse wasn’t so lucky, and he and his rider kept on sliding until they reached the section of ice where the posse had begun shooting at the surface.  Their efforts to break the integrity of that bridge proved successful, though unfortunately for them, delayed.  The ice gave way, and both horse and rider slid into the deep waters of the body of the river.  The only thing that saved them was the fact that, though deep, the current flowed slowly in that section, so neither of them were pulled down to be dragged under ice where they would surely have drowned.


The cold was paralyzing though, and both would have drowned anyway if it hadn’t been for the fast thinking of their companions.  The deputy whose horse was still stuck on its belly, grabbed his lariat and making a quick swing, he threw it out to his buddy, who was just barely able to grab hold.  But knowing that his life counted on him being able to grasp that rope, gave strength to his fingers, and he was pulled out to safety.


A number of the men had dismounted by then, and getting ropes around the frantic horse and attaching those ropes to their own saddle horns, they were able to haul the kicking, thrashing animal back onto solid ground.
 
“Well, that’s it, Kid,” Heyes prophesized as they sat their horses on top of the little knoll and watched the fiasco down on the river.  “They’re stuck on the far bank now, with a man and horse who will likely freeze to death if they don’t get seen to.”


“They ain’t the only ones,” Kid grumbled, as he took his feet out of the stirrups and pulled off first one boot and then the other, and dumped out the water that had collected in them.  “My feet are ice cubes.  We gotta find shelter, Heyes.  And this snow ain’t lettin’ up.”


“Yeah, you’re right,” Heyes agreed.  “C’mon.  We’ll find something, Kid.”


Heyes turned his horse to head away from the river, and the Kid’s horse followed his buddy, while the Kid worked at balancing in the saddle and pulling his second boot back on.


Two hours later, the sun was on its downward trek and the snow was still falling.  Heyes was kicking himself.  They should have stayed right there by the river and built a shelter.  There had been evergreens there and their boughs could have been cut down and used to line the inside of that shelter and insulate them against the worst of the cold.  They might even have found some wood that was protected and dry enough to start a fire.


But Heyes hadn’t felt comfortable, stopping right where the posse had last seen them.  Even if the chase was called off for that day, the lawmen would be back.  They’d find a way to cross that river and then head straight to that spot to pick up the outlaws’ trail.  Heyes and the Kid both knew they couldn’t stay there.


Now night was coming, and both men were wet and exhausted and shivering with the cold.  Their horses weren’t much better off.  Kid’s black especially, was having a hard time of it. Though Heyes’ chestnut had gotten one of his legs wet, all four of the black’s lower legs had gone into that river, and now the water on them had frozen, and his black hair had turned white with frost.  They were going to lose him, if they didn’t find shelter soon.


Finally, Heyes pulled up and turned back to his partner.  Jed was hunched over his saddle horn, shivering, and trying to ignore the aching in his freezing feet.


“I’m sorry, Kid,” Heyes whispered, as he too, was freezing and couldn’t seem to stop his teeth from chattering.  “I took a gamble that we’d find a cave, or something, but it looks like I lost that one.  There’s a copse of trees over there.  We’ll stop, and I’ll put up as best a shelter as I can before night fall.  Maybe we can even get a fire going.”


The Kid nodded, but didn’t say anything.  Heyes turned his horse towards the trees and tried to get his feet to move in a kicking motion to get the animal going.  They stumbled on, towards their destination, and Heyes thought idly how ironic it would be if they died out here tonight, of all nights.


“Heyes, wait,” Kid croaked out.  “Hold up.”


 “What?”


“You smell that?”


Heyes lifted his head and did his best to sniff the cold, snow filled air.  He wasn’t getting anything.  Jed shook his head, and pointed in another direction.


“No, that way.  Wait for it.”


Heyes looked off into the distance and waited.  Then a small stirring of a breeze hit his face and his eyes lit up with hope.


“Wood smoke!”  he said.


Kid did his best to smile.  “Yeah.”


“Yeah!”


Turning their horses in the desired direction, they did the best they could to get them moving.  Fortunately, both horses had also picked up the scent of wood smoke and knew from past experience, that it usually preceded warmth and food.  As tired as they were, they picked up a stumbling trot and kept it going all the way.


Within twenty minutes, they spied the ranch house not too far off.  The coming dusk, and falling snow had kept the warm lights of the house hidden from view, until the riders were almost upon it.  Their hearts soared with relief, hoping against hope that the inhabitants wouldn’t turn them away.  Surely they wouldn’t; not on this night, of all nights.


The horses stopped on their own, right in front of the porch, and Heyes slowly eased himself down to the ground.  The Kid started to do the same, but Heyes stopped him.


“No, Kid,” he said, hoarsely.  “Stay there.  You shouldn’t even try to stand on those feet.”
Jed nodded and settled back into the saddle.


Heyes grabbed hold of the hand railing and tried to pull himself up the steps but his limbs were not cooperating.  He pulled his woolen scarf even further away from his mouth, and called out.


“Hello…!”  It sounded weak and wretched, even to him.  “Hello…help…”


A dog started to bark, and then the animal itself came charging towards them from the nearby barn.  The men and horses were so tired, that none of them even reacted to the guardian, and the dog stopped, confused as to why these strangers were not taking him seriously.  This was a fine thing; roused out of his nice warm bed of straw to come out here and do his job, and nobody even cares?  He started barking again and put a little bit more emphasis into it this time, and kept it up until he got the desired result.


 
Inside, the ranch house was a warm and welcoming family scene.  Two teenage girls were sitting by the imaginatively decorated tree that their father and brother had brought into the house for the special day.  The mother was in the kitchen, tending to the two large wood stoves where four savoury birds were roasting, along with chestnut stuffing and root vegetables.  On top of one stove, one large pot of potatoes was on the boil right next to another large pot of chicken and vegetable soup. On the other stove top, two freshly baked pies were cooling in anticipation of dessert.


The whole house smelled like pies and roasting meats, and the family rooms were brightly lit with candles placed around in various positions of both strategy and decorum.  A healthy fire was crackling away in the large stone fireplace, while the two men of the family busied themselves, playing a casual game of checkers.


Laughter, conversation, and a warm glow of holiday spirits filled the house to bursting.


And then the dog started barking.


“What’s ole’ Jake barking about now?”  the man of the house complained. 


“Maybe the Johnstons decided to come for Christmas dinner after all,” his wife suggested, but with a strong hint of scepticism.


“I can’t imagine anyone coming calling on a night like this, Christmas or not,” the husband countered.  “Well, he’s not stopping, so I guess I better check it out.”


The large rancher pushed himself away from the table, and donning his coat and boats, took the shotgun down from its resting place above the front door.  His son stood up and joined him at the threshold, just to be on hand in case is was something serious
.
The husband took a deep breath, in order to prepare for the blast of cold air that he knew would invade their warm cocoon, and then taking hold of the latch, he opened the door with the intention of slipping outside, and closing it behind him again, as quickly as possible.


But the sight that the porch lantern brought to his eyes, stopped him in his tracks, and he totally forgot about closing the door.  He felt the presence of his son coming up behind him, and looking over his shoulder.


The first thing they both saw was a man, hunched over at the waist, a gloved hand trying to hold onto the railing, and one boot set up on the lower step.  And there he stood, as though frozen to the spot, unable to proceed any further on his own volition.  They couldn’t really see his features, he was bundled up, from head to toe, and on top of that was thick layers of snow, attached to the man’s clothing like icing on a cake.


“Oh, good Lord,” the rancher finally whispered.  “What in the world…?”


The form attached to the railing, moved slightly.


“Help us…”  it croaked.  “We got lost.  My friend…fell in the river…”


The rancher rushed forward just as Heyes’ knees buckled and he was starting to sink down.  But the large man caught him, and pulled him back up.


“No…my friend,” Heyes insisted.  “He’s worse.”


“You look bad enough, yourself,” the rancher told him.  “Don’t worry about your friend, we’ll see to both of you.  Here Brett, help this man in, and then come back and help me with the other one.”


“Yes, Pa,” Brett dutifully agreed, and was already pulling on his own boots and coat.


“June!”  the husband called back into the house.


“I’m already getting a place ready for them, right by the fire!”  came the response from inside.


 
Within minutes, the two strangers were sitting down by the fire, as the layers of wet and stiff clothing were being pulled off them.  Neither of them were in a state to resist, and soon they were re-bundled up in warm flannel and heavy blankets, with their feet as close to the fire as safety allowed.


“Here you go, boys,” the rancher offered them two cups filled with coffee.  “I added a shot of whiskey to these.  You have the fire warming you up from the outside in, and this oughta warm you up from the inside out.”


“Thank you, mister,” Heyes managed a dimpled smile.  “We’re beholdin’.”


“Oh nonsense!”  June stated as she brought in two bowls of steaming hot soup.  “We would hardly turn you away on any day of the year, but on this day, of all days!  Of course you’re welcome in our home.  Dinner will be at least another hour, so you get yourselves around that soup, and you’ll soon be feeling better.”


“Yes, ma’am,” Heyes accepted the bowl.


“Thank you, ma’am,” Kid seconded.


“I’m Marshall,” the rancher stated, and both men tensed, ever so slightly.


“Marshall?”  asked Heyes, cautiously.


“That’s right.  Douglas Marshall.  This is my spread.”


“Oh,” came the relieved response from both ex-outlaws.


“This is my wife, June.  And our son, Brett, whose out there looking to your horses.  And our two daughters, April and May.”


The two girls smiled warmly at their guests.  Indeed, once they had been relieved of their layers of winter bundlings, the two girls’ eyes had widened appreciatively, and they continued to gaze admiringly at the two handsome men.  Heyes and the Kid smiled back at the girls, and both made a mental note to watch themselves where they were concerned.  They didn’t want to wear out their welcome.


“I swear, you two must have a guardian angel watching over you,” Marshall continued.  “This house is the only one for miles around, and by the looks of things neither you nor your horses would have gotten much further.”


“It was the wood smoke,” Curry informed him.  “We could smell the wood smoke from your stove.  It led us right here.”


“Well, that’s still a miracle,” June added.  “There can’t be more than two days out of the year, when I have both those stoves on at the same time.  If it hadn’t been for that, why you would have stumbled right on by.  Somebody up there likes you, that’s for sure.”


Heyes and the Kid exchanged smiles and tapped their two coffee mugs together in a salute.


“Yes ma’am,” Curry agreed.  “I expect you’re right.”


April and May sat across from the ex-outlaws and continued to admire the view.  Dimples!  And such lovely eyes, like warm melted chocolate.  Blond curls, and blue, like the ice outside, but warm now with the fire and whiskey soothing away the freeze.


“This is going to be the best Christmas ever,” April commented.


May nodded in total agreement.
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Stormr

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PostSubject: Re: Alcohol   Wed Jan 20, 2016 9:00 pm

As dusk began to set in two riders approached town from the east. Flaming crimson painted the town and buildings; so much so, it looked eerily as though the town was on fire.  As they made their way down the main street, the pair took note of everything as a smattering of townfolks were scurrying off, most likely to their homes for dinner. Passing the Sheriff’s office with an unknown name stamped above it, they smiled, nodded at each other and directed their mounts towards the only building in town that appeared to have life in it.

Dismounting in front of the saloon, Kid Curry stated, “One drink and then we check into the hotel.  I need a bath and then I want to eat.”

“Agreed,” Hannibal Heyes stated. “Well, maybe two,” he smiled.

Kid chuckled and smacked the back of his partner’s back.  “Sounds like a plan.”

Tying their horses in front of the water trough, they headed in unison through the entrance.  As they cleared the swinging doors, the stench of stale alcohol hit their noses as it permeated every inch of the dilapidated establishment.  

“You sure you’re thirsty?” Curry inquired.

Brown eyes glared at blue ones as Heyes proceeded to the far end of the bar. Leaning on the rail he took in his surroundings.  Besides the two of them, there was the bartender busily doing nothing except hanging out with what appeared to be a couple of friends or regulars, one person sitting hunched over at a table obviously having had a few too many drinks, and a man playing solitaire at one of the assorted well-worn poker tables.  Besides the inhabitants, there was an old probably very off key piano in the corner, the remnants of what looked like a stage, a deer with only one antler hanging crookedly on the wall, and a sadness about a place that once was something.  

As he looked around Heyes could imagine the place packed with people; poker games galore, the piano playing and dancing girls.  Now, it appeared to be a shell of its former self as time had moved on and left the building behind. As his eyes made their way around the room, they landed back on his partner, who was staring at him.  “What?” Heyes asked sounding startled.

“Just wonderin’ when you was gettin’ around to bein’ back here.” Kid responded.

Heyes looked confused.

“You looked like you was a million miles away,” Curry explained.

“Oh,” the brown hair man sounded sheepish.  “Just imagining what this place used to be like.”

“Well it ain’t like that now,” he snorted. “And I don’t know if we’re gonna get served any time soon.”  Kid nodded his head towards the bartender who hadn’t taken any interest in the new arrivals.

“Excuse me,” Heyes called out.

No response.

“Excuse me,” Heyes called louder.

Annoyed that his attention had been taken away from his friends, the bartender turned and barked, “What!”

“My friend and I would like a drink.”

“Ya got money?” the surly man growled.

“As a matter of fact we do,” Heyes smiled.

The man stood staring at the pair.   Heyes looked at Kid, Kid looked at Heyes.  They both turned back to the bartender.

“Well?” the bartender grumbled.

Heyes gave a ‘you got to be kidding me’ look to his partner, reached into his pocket and placed the money on the bar.

“What will ya have, boys?”  The bartender smiled as he walked towards the pair, all fire and brimstone replaced by vim and vigor.

“Two shots of whiskey and two beers,” Kid replied.  

Heyes raised an eyebrow.

“The whiskey to get the dust out of our throats and the beer to quench our thirst,” the blond explained.

The bartender nodded in approval.  “Been on the trail long?” he inquired.

“Couple of weeks,” Heyes replied.  

The partners picked up their whiskey and downed it in one gulp.

“Just passing through?” he asked.  “Oh, and the name’s George.”

“Not sure,” Heyes sized the man up.  “Have a little time before the next job, but it looks like the town is kind of quiet.”  He sipped his beer.  

“Quiet,” the bartender chuckled.  “That’s pretty much an understatement; basically a ghost town at this point.”

The partners exchanged a glance; quiet might not be a bad thing.

“This place is huge; looks like it was a show stopper at one time,” Heyes stated as he admired the room.

“Yeah, it was,” the man sighed remembering better times. Absently he wiped down the bar.  “That was before the mine closed.”

“What happened?” Kid jumped in on the conversation.

“Cave in at the mine west of town,” George answered.

“Bad?” Heyes asked.

“”Yup,” he solemnly answered.  “All were lost.”

“All,” Kid gulped, almost choking on his beer.  

“Dangerous job,” Heyes added.

“Yeah, especially when the guy with the dynamite was drinkin’ all night long.”

“Oh,” Heyes looked on with interest.  “How do you know?”

“Two men got out, and talked before they died.  They said Huey Carpenter lit too much dynamite and it blew out the support beams, huge explosion."  He paused a second, "Complete cave in.  All souls were lost."  He shook his head in sorrow, "I can remember it like it was yesterday...the noise...the quiet...and then the fire.  The sky was so red; it looked like it was on fire."

“How do you know Huey was drinkin'?” Kid took another swig of his beer.

“He was in here hoorahin’ the town the night before.  Celebratin’ some damn fool thing.”  

“Didn’t he know he had to work the mine the next day?” Heyes quizzed.

“No, supposed to be his day off.  Six days down, one up.  Problem was the other dynamiter was sick as a dog.  They called Huey ‘cause they had to move on to the next section.  Darn fool was too stupid or still too drunk to know better.”

“Didn’t anyone try to stop him?” Kid asked.

“Nah.”  The bartender made a dismissive gesture with his hand.  “They probably didn’t even notice.  You lose your smell workin’ down there and it's not unusual to sway a little in the sunlight after workin’ in the dark all week.  This was Huey’s seventh day down,” George stated.  “Ya can’t go blamin’ the poor souls that worked with him.” He hung his head.

“No you can’t,” Heyes said trying to soothe the man.  He raised his beer in a salute before taking a swig.

George looked up and gave a tight smile and then shook his head.  “I’m sorry boys.  I shouldn’t be talkin’ about this to you.  You didn’t come in here to have the weight of the world dropped on ya.  You came in to get the dust out of your throats and quench your thirst.”

“We asked,” Kid stated.  He raised his beer and then took a gulp.

“That ya did,” George lightened up a bit.  “And as bartender it's my job to answer your questions.”

“That it is,” Heyes half chuckled.

“Well, now I think it's my turn to ask a question.”

The partners looked at each other and then back at the man behind the bar.

“You said you were a couple of weeks out from a job.  What do the two of you do?”

“Anything not hard on the back,” Kid replied.

The bartender raised an eyebrow.

Heyes smiled, “What my friend means is that we do a lot of different things.”

George looked on with interest.

“Just a variety of things.” For some reason Heyes felt tongue-tied and scrutinized.  “Like security and stuff.”

‘Stuff?’ Kid mouthed at Heyes.

“Ah, you’re experts,” George smiled and nodded.

“Yeah, something like that,” Kid chuckled and took a long draw of his beer.

Wanting to change the subject, the less than silver tongued man asked, “So George, how quiet is the town?”  

“Pretty quiet.”  He waited a beat.  “Most folks moved on.”

Kid turned and looked down at the end of the bar; the two men that were there earlier were gone.  “Hmmm.”  He turned and looked at the rest of the saloon; the setting sun sending more and more shadows over the walls.

“What’s the matter, Thaddeus?” Heyes asked.

“Didn’t hear anyone leave.” He placed his hand on the butt of his pistol.

“Leave?” brown eyes scanned the saloon.  “Where did everyone go?”

“Everyone?” George inquired.

“Yeah, everyone,” Curry repeated sounding somewhat uneasy. He continued to scan the area.

“There weren’t no one here but you two,” George stated as he stared at the pair.  

A thick smell of alcohol wafted past the partners before the batwing doors squeaked.

“There were two men at the end of the bar, one guy slumped over at that table and a man playing solitaire,” Heyes defiantly stated.

George chuckled.  “Bet the sky was red when you came into town too.”

Kid and Heyes looked at each other as their eyes bugged out a little.  “Ah-ha,” they said and nodded in unison.

George chuckled again.  “You two must be somethin’ special…some kind of experts!”  He laughed a whole hearty laugh.  “You saw two men at the end of the bar?”

They nodded.

“A man playin’ solitaire?  Another at that there table?”  The bartender chuckled again as he shook his head.  “There’s a first for everythin'.”

“What do you mean?” Heyes anxiously asked.

“Last guys in the bar that night; the night before the cave in.  Never showed themselves to anyone else.  Guess they figure they can trust you to keep a secret.  Must be somethin’ about you two.”

“Nothing special about us,” Heyes stated.  “Nope, nothing at all.”  He looked at his partner, “Well,” he downed the last of his beer. “Think it's time to go.”

“Couldn’t agree more,” Kid stated as he gulped his beer and put the mug on the bar.

“Nice meeting you, George,” Heyes tipped his black hat at the man.

The blond tipped his hat and the pair hurried through the doors.  As they reached the boardwalk they heard George call out, “Huey, Huey, time to go home.”

“Really want a bath, bed and hot meal tonight, Kid?”

“Nope. Was just thinkin’ I feel like ridin' for a little bit longer.  Maybe sleep under the stars ten, twenty, thirty miles from here.  Heck I’m so awake I can just keep ridin’ as long as the horses can go.”

“Couldn’t agree with you more!”

With that the men mounted their horses and kicked them into a gallop as they headed out of town in the opposite direction of the mine.

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Silverkelpie

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PostSubject: Re: Alcohol   Mon Jan 25, 2016 9:38 am

This is a sequel to the 'Hole In The Ground Gang'.  If you haven't read it, here is the link.  http://aliassmithandjones.canadian-forum.com/t8-the-hole-in-the-ground-gang 






High Spirits


Nancy Rowe stared at the huge portrait of a reclining nude being held by her two handymen; the picture that is, not the nude.  A painted nail tapped at her rouged lips before they parted, contrasting yellowing teeth with the scarlet slash of her smile.  “Yeah, it’s fine.  No damage.  I’d have thought she’d have offended the temperance league, but I guess they were too busy smashing up the hooch.”  She waved a shedding feather boa in the general direction of a curtained off area of the salt mine.  “Put it in there for safekeepin’ and then you can put my brass bed together.”  She flicked the end of her wispy stole over the nose of the blond man, making his nose crinkle.  “Be real careful with it.”


“I’m always careful,” the Kid replied, struggling with the weighty gold frame before setting it on the ground. 


“Oh, honey,” the bar owned purred. “It’s fine to make mistakes, just don’t get caught.”


“We’re doing our best,” murmured the dimpled dark man at the other end of the burden.


“Sweetie, you two could do your very worst and have us look forward to another visit.”


“Get your end, Joshua,” the Kid gave Nancy a pained look.  “Sheesh, this thing weighs a ton.”  


Sheriff Flaherty cleared his throat.  “Can we get back to the point?  I’m a busy man.”            


Her expansive bosom inflated in indignation, her pancake makeup cracking with her rictus scowl.  “This is a health club.  My members come here to take medicinal beverages and invigorating activities in convivial surroundings,” she arched a brow, “in the soft hands of experts.” 


Flaherty’s eyes narrowed under bushy-caterpillar brows which partnered his moustache.  “Kansas has been dry since 1881, Nancy.  Your saloon and brothel was shut down; smashed up by the temperance league.  Do you really think we’re gonna buy your argument that this hole is a health club?”  He cast out a hand to the cave-like walls of the salt mine.  “All you’ve done is move your stock to the John Blue Mine and open up under the banner of a health club.”

 
“That ain’t true.  My stock was already here,” smirked Nancy.  “If’n it had been at the bar them embalmed old biddies would’ve smashed them too.  They’re only jealous that their husbands bring their honey to us instead of laying it before the queen bee at home.”   


“The hate that what men spend here,” Flaherty retorted.


“They hate what their men want to do to ‘em,” Nancy flicked away a tendril of bleached hair with a lacquered talon.  “Men are like tumbleweed.  Keep ‘em watered and bedded, they’ll flower, but when they go to a home as dry as their shriveled wives nobody’ll blame them for rollin’ off down the street.”


Disbelieving eyes glanced around the mine.  “So whatcha growing in here, Nancy?  Mushrooms?”


Her folded arms bolstered her obstinacy.  “Seems so.  You brought enough b*llsh*t.”


The lawman shook his head.  “Enough!  I’m closing you down.”


A man stepped out of the shadows, his hooked nose casting shadows in the flickering light.  “I am Bernard Schulmeyer, Attorney at Law.  When the law was enacted the legislature permitted on-premises sales of liquor in private clubs.  As Miss Rowe’s legal advisor I can assure you that I have done everything in my power to ensure we kept to the letter of the law.  The membership fee may be nominal, but they still have to pay to join.  The people here are paying members and the public are not permitted entry.”


“That includes the temperance hags,” snapped Nancy.  “Schulmeyer is my Bill’s lawyer.  He kept him outta jail for that robbery in Brimstone.  He’s real good”


“Yeah, but he can’t show his face around here ‘cos he got off on a technicality.  He’s as guilty as hell and the railroad want the gold back.”  Flaherty huffed away his incredulity.  “This is an old mine.  It’s a hole in the ground, not a damned country club.  You’re always findin’ these loopholes, Bernie.  The mayor’s getting’ real tired of it.”


“Damn the mayor and that sister of his.  They give me the creeps with them donkey smiles of theirs,” Nancy declared.  “They could eat watermelon through a picket fence, the pair of ‘em.  And if they harass me for Bill’s loot one more time, I’ll be the one swingin’ an axe.”       


The lawyer smiled.  “It’s my job to find the loopholes.”  A book was suddenly produced.  “Check the words for yourself.”  Schulmeyer poked a stubby finger at the page.  “There’s no definition of a private club.  It just says an ‘establishment.’  It doesn’t even say there has to be a building.”


“A mine ain’t no establishment.  It’s a hole.”


“It doesn’t change what the law,” Schulmeyer smirked.  “It’s not a building, but it’s still private premises you can buy and sell,” one eyebrow flicked up, his aquiline profile throwing the shade of an eagle on the wall in the lamplight, “just like the country club.”


“This is just plain dumb!” spluttered Flaherty.


“No, Jim.  It’s as smart as smart can be.  It can’t be burned or smashed, there’s only one way in or out, and it’s just outside of town.  If them temperance biddies bring them winterkill, pursed lips round here, I’ll see them off.” Nancy’s painted eyes blazed at the lawman.  “You mark my words.  Me and my girls’ll lay ‘em out.  Men are too gentlemanly to fight ‘em, but I got a right to protect my property, even if she is the mayor’s dry stick of a sister.  They ain’t hit the Gentleman’s Club frequented by suited stiffs.  It’s only the poor workin’ man who can’t kick back and have a drop of golden joyful.  That just ain’t fair.”


“If you want to close this place down you’ll have to do it legally,” Schulmeyer added.  “The definition of a Gentlemen’s Club fits us too.”


The sheriff shook his head.  “What’s in this for you, Bernie?”


The lawyer’s eyes slid sideways as he grinned lasciviously at Nancy.  “Just the joy of doing a good job for the little fella.”


“Let’s keep your little fella out of this, shall we?” scowled Flaherty.  “I’m gonna have to speak to the mayor and the county attorney about this.”


“You do that,” grinned Nancy, her shoulders emerging haughtily from a peignoir like a bodega Venus.  “And remind them that I know them all.  If’n they’ve a mind to forget, I’ll make sure everyone remembers their little peccadilloes.”


oooOOOooo


The Kid stretched out on his cot and peered glumly at the glinting walls of their curtained-off cubicle.  “This ain’t much better’n jail.”


Heyes looked up from his book.  “Huh?  We can walk out of here any time we want.  There’s food, drink, and women.”


“There’s no window.”


Heyes turned a page.  “It’s a mine, what d’ya want to look at?  A colony of bats?”


“I feel cornered when I don’t have an escape route.”


“You could run further down the mine,” Heyes flicked a glance at his edgy cousin.  “They’ve boarded up the tunnels to stop drunks wandering off too far and getting lost, but I’m sure you could get through if you put your mind to it.”


“Why would I run into a hole?  I ain’t a bear.”


Heyes rolled his eyes.  “You’re sure part-grizzly at times.  We’ve got an easy job here, building compartments to split the mine into rooms for the girls to take customers and make chambers into bar rooms.  Stop complaining.”


“I’ve just got this real bad feelin’,” his head snapped to the right, following a sudden noise echoing off the walls.  “What was that?”


A deep howl blasted through salt mine, bouncing off the multi-faceted rock crystals.  “I heard it that time,” murmured Heyes.


They both leaped from their bunks and ran into the body of the mine.  They paused, initially confused by the sounds resonating in a circle of emotion around the hard walls until a petite brunette in a feathered head dress appeared in the non-curtained side of the corridor.  She pointed up towards the exit.  “Gus Muirhead has gone loco!”


They followed the next cry, running up to the entrance, where a pink-faced man leaped up and down on the spot as Nancy did her best to calm him down. 


“It was her I tell you.  I heard her distinctly.   It was my wife’s voice.”


“A town’s woman sneaked in here?” asked the Kid. 


“No, you don’t understand,” Gus shook his head.  “Maggie’s dead.  Buried almost two years past.”


“It’ll just be someone who sounds like her,” Nancy dragged up a chair.  “Sit down and I’ll fetch you a drink on the house.” 


The man allowed himself to be lowered into a seat and pulled out a large spotted handkerchief to mop his brow.  “It weren’t nobody else.  It was Maggie.  I was just takin’ off my pants when I heard her say, ‘How much?  Who knew someone that cheap could be so expensive?’’ It was definitely her.  I’d know that female growl anywhere.”


“You must have misheard another couple, honey.  There are only curtains in between.  We ain’t got real walls yet.”  Nancy turned to the working girl walking into the main chamber, tying on her dressing gown.  “Did you hear anythin’?”


She shook her head.  “Nope.  He just started runnin’ down the corridor like the devil was after him hollerin’ about his wife.”


“How much did he have to drink?” demanded Nancy.


 Gus fastened his trousers and thrust a battered hat on his head.  “I’m leavin’.  This here place is haunted.”


“How can it be haunted by your dead wife?  What would she be doin’ here?” snorted Nancy.  “Did a lot of minin’, did she?”  She dropped to sotto voce, so only the ex-outlaws could hear, “or miners…?”


The whites of the fearful man’s eyes flashed in the lamplight as they searched the ceiling.  “I dunno, maybe this mine runs under her grave?  All I know is that I heard her, clear as I hear you now.  I ain’t hangin’ around here.”  He turned on his heel and stomped away.


“Well, that’s got to be the strangest thing I’ve seen since I saw Kyle with a book,” muttered the Kid, examining the ceiling with the madam.


“Yeah, but it was hollowed out so he could hide booze,” Heyes replied.  He stared off into the night at the shade of the departing customer.  “I’d lay odds drink was at the heart of this too.”     


oooOOOooo


A homely matron in a nightgown ran screaming into the corridor, her head a festival of wiggling rag curlers.  The sleepy occupants of the mine forced open bleary eyes in shock and fumbled their way out of curtained cubicles to see what was happening.  The Kid fastened his pants over his Henley, Colt at the ready.  Blue eyes fixed on the unknown face, lit by the nightlights illuminating the main aisle of the mine.  “Ma’am?  What are you doin’ in here?” 


She bustled over and grabbed his arm.  “It’s me; Nancy.  Are you blind?”


He blinked down at the familiar voice coming from the completely unrecognizable face.  “Nancy?”


“Yeah, it’s Nancy,” the steely glint in her eyes suddenly coupled with her voice to make the un-made-up face detectable.  “Did you see him?” 


“See who?  You look different,” he groped around for something positive to say about the woman who was as plain as brown bread without her cosmetics.  “More innocent…younger even.  What’s up?”


“It was Bill, my intended; right next to my ear.  If’n he didn’t come after me, he must still be in there,” the Kid saw the closest thing to fear he had ever seen flicker in this redoubtable woman’s eyes as she pointed to her cubicle.


“Your boyfriend?  He’s here?”  The Kid peered into the shadows. “I’d have seen anyone followin’ you so he must still be in there.  Why’re you so scared?”


“Because it can’t be him.  It just can’t…”


The partner’s eyes met in an unspoken conversation.  Heyes nodded and they moved in unison, sweeping back the curtain and swinging into Nancy’s private area.  They turned questioning looks on their employer. 


“There’s nobody here, Nancy,” Heyes cast out a hand to the empty room.


“It must’ve been a dream,” shrugged the Kid.  Nobody would’ve got past me out there.  I’d have seen them.  Our cubicle is right opposite yours.”


“I felt his hot breath on my face.  I could smell tobacco.”  Her curlers trembled with emotion.  “He was as real as you are.”


“Like Thaddeus said, it was a dream.”  Heyes nodded over to the gathering employees huddling into dressing gowns as the disturbed sleepers came back to life.  “Do you want one of the girls to sit with you?”


She started to shake her head, but seemed to think the better of it.  “Maybe I need a drink?  No, on second thoughts, I’ll have hot milk.  I don’t want to hear any more voices.  Maybe it was my imagination after all?”


I ain’t so sure, Nancy,” a peroxide blonde pouted.  “I didn’t want to say anythin’ but I’ve been hearin’ things too.  Weird things…”


“What kinda things?”


“Gigglin’, real high, squeaky laughin’,” she shuddered, “but it’s the scratchin’ that really gets to me.  It’s like we got elves.”


Heyes’ face lit up with suppressed laughter.  “Elves?  Like the little fellas with pointy ears?”


“I knew you’d laugh,” the girl pouted.  “Astrid heard it too.”


A dark girl nodded reluctantly before dropping her head in shame.


“What’s goin’ on?” Nancy threw up her hands.  “The word’s gone mad!  First ghosts, now elves.  What next?  Dragons?  You’ll be tellin’ me bigfoot’s tendin’ bar.”


The Kid’s brow furrowed.  “Maybe there’s somethin’ in the water?”


“Or the air,” Heyes’ nose twitched.  “This is a disused mine.  There’s such a thing as a gas called White Damp.  It causes hallucinations before it really gets to you.  We need to move everyone up to the mouth of the mine.”


“Gas?”  Nancy’s eyes bugled.  “Why didn’t anyone tell me there was gas in mines?  We’ve gotta get outta here.”


“Your place is smashed to bits and it’s gone midnight,” Heyes shook his head.  Everyone grab your mattresses and blankets and we’ll make do near the cave mouth until the morning.” 

“I’ve got big tents in the back store room of my old place for when we get busy with all the miners in the summer,” Nancy smiled coyly.  “I’ll pay you ten dollars apiece to go fetch them and put them up.  It won’t take more’n half an hour to get them back here.  We could be all tucked up by two; with no elves, ghosts, or gas.”


The partners paused, considering the offer in a mute conversation.  Ten dollars was ten dollars and easy money won the day.


“You got it,” the Kid replied.  “Judgin’ by the mess of the place since I last saw it we ain’t gonna need keys.”     
       

oooOOOooo


Four Forks was dark and subdued by the time the pair of horsemen trotted down the main street.  It was past one in the morning and it was a weeknight, so farmers, miners, and the old all long abed.  It didn’t take long to find Nancy’s place, a splintered, shattered ruin on the loose side of town; a place where the louche and infamous rubbed shoulders with the dissolute and licentious.  They stopped in front of the smoking sepulcher of indulgence and tethered their horses to the rail outside.

“I hope this ain’t wild goose chase,” the Kid rested his hands on his hips and looked up at the building.  “Those tents could’ve been burned or wacked by an axe.  They could be completely useless.”


“If they’re in a store room they might still be alright.  It was the booze that got the brunt of it,” Heyes finished tying off his mare.  “If they’re damaged it’ll be the end of Nancy’s business until the building’s repaired.  The mine’s not fit to be lived in, not with White Damp sending everyone loco.”


They stepped up on the porch, but stopped dead, their instincts singing a silent warning.  Their eyes met in the moonlight, the Kid’s brows arching in query, and a miniscule nod in response confirming that Heyes had heard the sounds coming from inside the building too.  They paused, necks craning to catch the least creak, and were rewarded by what sounded like the cracking of splintering wood.  Someone was inside.


“Temperance crowd?” whispered Heyes.


“At this time?” the Kid responded, quietly.  He drew his gun.  “I doubt it.”  


They slunk in through the unlocked doors, treading gingerly through the shards of glass and scorched floorboards.  Almost everything usable had already been retrieved and moved to the mine, but there was always the likelihood of a lone opportunist sorting through the remains of the bar to see what they could swipe. 

        
A light glimmered through the darkness leading them to the sounds of rooting and shifting coming from the back room.  They took position either side of the door, peering through the gloom.  They were pretty sure that the man was alone; crouched over the remains of a cupboard oblivious to the silent sentinels behind him.

       
“Looking for anything in particular,” Heyes’ dark-brown baritone drifted smoothly through the darkness.


The figure jerked in shock, dropping the broken door of the cubby with a jerk.  He swung around, blinking accusingly at the interlopers in the lamp light.


A smile twitched at the Kid’s lips.  “Well, I’ve seen it all now.  It ain’t often you see a burglar in a three piece suit and a derby.  Is this a formal break-in or can anyone join in?”


The stranger clambered to his feet.  “Put those guns down.  I’ve every right to be here.”


“Yeah?”  Heyes shook his head.  “And I’m guessing you’re so dishonest I can’t even be sure you’re lying.”


“I’m Mayor Montgomery,” the ex-outlaws suddenly recognized the prominent teeth and high cheekbones he shared with his axe-wielding, temperance-warrior sister.  “I’m checking out the damage.”


Cynical blue eyes drifted over the pulled up floorboards and the jimmy lying beside the panels wedged from the walls.  “By breakin’ up the rest of it?  It looks like a search to me.”


“Rubbish,” snorted the Mayor.  “My sister was involved in the activity which smashed up the place.  I felt beholden to see the place for myself.”


“Under the floor and behind the walls?”  Heyes’ cheeks dimpled as he glanced around at wall discarded panels lying around like scattered playing cards.  “Nope, you’re looking for something.  What?”


“Don’t be ridiculous,” Montgomery stammered.  “What could I possibly be looking for?”


Heyes’ eyes narrowed.  “Did you put your sister up to raiding Nancy’s place?”


“Of course not.  Why would I do that?”

             
“To make the kind of search we caught you doing.  Nancy sure wasn’t going to let you pry off boards when she was around.   What’re you looking for, Mr. Montgomery?”


“Nothing,” he simmered, defensively.  “It was like this when I arrived.”


“Sure it was.  That was why we heard the wood crackin’ when we crept up on you.  I think we need to take you over to the sheriff.”


Montgomery threw off the shock of discovery.  “Who are you to question me, creeping about here at this time of night?”


“We’re in the employ of Nancy Rowe.  She sent us here to get something,” Heyes replied.


“She did?”  Montgomery’s grey eyes gleamed in the lamplight.  “What?”


“None of your business,” the Kid retorted.  “Come on.  We’re takin’ you over to the law.”  His turned at the creak of a floorboard behind them.


“No need, boys.  I’m already here.”  They spun around to see Flaherty stepping carefully over the debris littering the floor.  “Yeah, we took this opportunity to look for the gold her boyfriend stole from the train over by Smoky Hill.  It was never recovered.  We’ve looked everywhere.  Even that mine she’s campin’ out in.”


Heyes shook his head.  “Gold?  We wouldn’t be working for her if she was hiding stolen property.  We stay well away from criminals.


“With respect, Mr….?”


“Joshua Smith.”


“Mr. Smith, you’re an odd job man.  She’s hardly likely to tell you, is she?” grinned the sheriff.  “She sent you for something?”


“Tents.  There’s gas in the mines and we can’t stay in there after all,” Heyes cheeks dimpled.  “I’m guessing she hasn’t got a fortune hidden anywhere or she wouldn’t be living poorer than a dirt farmer.”  He paused hooking the mayor with a questioning glint.  “You had to get her out of here so you could really turn the place over.  You sneaky, low-down, dirty….”  A nudge from the Kid reminded him to clear the note of admiration from his voice.  “How do you know she didn’t take it with her?”


“We’ve searched the place time and time again, before you got here.”  The sheriff replied.  We knew we had to go into the fabric of the building.  We’ve searched the mine too/ ”


“Nothing to do with us,” Heyes shook his head.  “Let’s get the tents and leave them to it.  It’s up to Nancy to decide what she wants to do.”


“And you know we’ll tell her,” the Kid warned.  “We ain’t takin’ sides.  Nancy’s likely to get so ornery she’d make a freight train take a dirt road.”


“Yeah,” the lawman nodded.  “Nancy’s a special kind of vengeful, but I’ll deal with her.  I’m beginnin’ to think she ain’t got any idea where it is.  Her place is in ruins and she’s moved into a hole.  I guess Bill Catchpole either lost it, or disappeared with it himself and deserted Nancy.  Ain’t nobody seen him for a year.”


oooOOOooo
                

The partners watched Nancy simmer; impressed at her creativity with invective and curses.  They’d never heard such an extravagant and embroidered tirade in their whole criminal career.  She even split up words to insert extra profanities.   

“That @*%$&^% Mont*&^%$£^ gomery!  He named the *&£%^$ street he “$*&%$ owns after his *&^%%$£* wife. What a grand *$£^%$*^& statement of his love!  Cold, hard, cracked, and only gets plowed around the holidays.  Wait till I get my ^%$*&%$ hands on him and that *&$^&$ stiff-*$^$£%^ sister of his.  I’ll *&£$£^* make them pay for this *£$&^%* mess.”


“We’re sorry, Nancy,” mumbled the Kid.  “We thought it was best to come clean with what we found.”


“Ya did right,” she announced, “get them tents up real quick and there’ll be an extra ten dollars in it for both of you.  Tomorrow I’ll get men rebuildin’ my place and we’ll be back in business before we know it.  I’ll show ‘em what a real *&£%$% woman can do.  As if Bill Catchpole left me?  No man ever left me.  Not ever!” 


She swept off into the mine, her epithets bouncing off the hard walls in ever decreasing circles all the way.   The worn velvet curtain to her private chamber was dragged aside to allow her to throw herself on her bed to wipe away the burgeoning tears in private.  “How dare they!?  I’m no pathetic weakling who lets a man walk away the minute he comes into money.  Nobody double-crosses me.”  Her gaze drifted over to the huge picture of the reclining nude propped up against the wall.  She stood and dawdled over to it, sniffing back anger and frustration.  “They never give a woman credit for anythin’.  I run a business and out-deal every man in town.  They’ll never find Bill unless they open this mine up again.”  She picked idly at the paint covering the frame.  “Those dumb asses couldn’t find the gold if it was right under their noses.  Hell, they couldn’t find it when it was hangin’ on the wall right in front of ‘em.  This time next year should be long enough to throw them off the trail,” She grinned, patting the frame gently, “then me and my portrait are headin’ out to San Francisco.  A woman can lose herself somewhere that big….”     


Historical notes

White Damp was one of the many names for carbon monoxide in mines.  It causes mood changes, hallucinations, and light-headedness in small doses.

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

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PostSubject: Re: Alcohol   Tue Jan 26, 2016 3:44 pm

Righteous


I stared at the bottle.  I promised myself I wouldn’t do this again but, like the useless lump of benighted flesh that I am, I went out and bought another one.  This one would be the last; definitely the last.  I know I’ve said it before, but I mean it this time.  It had cost me everythin’, this stuff; my wife and kids, my job, my friends, and even my health.  I wish I could say that it’d cost me my self-respect, but I lost that decades ago durin’ the war when I was so filled with hate that I forgot to see the humanity in anyone who didn’t agree with me.  I was righteous.
 

I spent years blamin’ everyone else for everythin’; the night horrors, the flashbacks, and the uncontrollable bursts of temper, but I eventually had to face the truth.  It was me.  I hated who I was and what I had become.  I was a man full of hate and devoid of self-responsibility.  Everyone was to blame for the world’s ills but me; from the people who celebrated when the South’s economy collapsed with the abolition of slavery and the cost of war, to the carpetbaggers who swooped in to profit from the bargain prices.  I was totally blind to the fact that I had acted in self-interest too; for what was best for me financially; to listenin’ to bellicose politicians and demagogic preachers to cherry pick the slogans and war cries which backed up my already hardened views.  People who disagreed were dumb, worthless, and godless.  Wasn’t slavery in the bible?  Didn’t they deserve anythin’ they got in this life and the next?  I was smart and educated, so surely I knew better than a dumb laborer.  Wasn’t I righteous? 

And I made sure they really got it.  I swept down on them with a flamin’ sword of vengeance   How had my hate grown to such a degree?  It had started as irritation and mutterin’ under my breath at dissenters and had culminated in bein’ part of a splinter group from Quantrill’s raiders.  We torched, stole, and violated.  It was easy to think of them as a lower kind of  human when men were fightin’ back; it became a little harder when I faced screamin’ and cursin’ women, scrappin’ like a wild cat caught in a trap, but it was the little ‘un who finally got me.  I thought I was visitin’ the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation but ... it was impossible to look into those big blue orbs and not see the eyes of my very own precious Virginia.  The injured innocence kicked me in the belly like a mule, and stripped me back to the bone.  I climbed to my feet, wipin’ his mother’s blood from my jacket and saw him starin’ at me from the doorway like a little blond angel.  He was completely still; I know now he was rooted to the spot in fear, but it seemed unworldly in the chaos goin’ on at the time.  I still see that face every night in my dreams, before he turned and ran.  I let him go, creeped out by the old eyes in a young face.  They were the mirror which finally forced me to see what I’d become and the vortex of spiralin’ enmity in which I had spun a net of real evil.  What kind of man does that to a little boy’s ma right in front of him?  How can he claim to be righteous?


I gave up after that and went back to the farm, but I couldn’t take to that or the schoolteachin’, so joined the railroad.  At least the speed gave me some excitement.  My body craved the rush.  There was nuthin’ normal about what was left of my mind, my brutalized mind flinched at the soft touch of gentle flesh and kind words.  Whiskey numbed the angst until Margaret couldn’t take another excuse, another curse, or another blow.  She up and left me, takin’ Virginia with her.  More booze was the answer again.   It wasn’t so great the next mornin’, but in the moment it made me feel righteous enough.


All those hangovers made me miss work.  I got fired from the railroad and then from the place I tended bar; mostly because I tended to myself more than the customers.  I was a drifter and a saddle tramp, takin’ anythin’ I could get to keep body and soul together.  Lack of money helped me to kick the habit, or maybe it kicked me.  I’ll never really know, but I hardly touched the stuff anymore.  Not until I saw him.  He was full-grown now, but I’d know those blue eyes anywhere, but the only question in them this time was when to strike.  When you look right into a man’s soul while he’s examinin’ yours, it ain’t the flesh you recognize, it’s the spirit; and even though he moved like lion and wore a tied down gun, I could see his heart still bore righteous pain.


And I ain’t afraid to say he scared me.  I know he saw me.  That cold, blue stare pieced my very essence, releasin’ whatever strength I had left like so much water tricklin’ through graspin’ fingers.  My memory went right back to the war, but this time I wasn’t caught up in righteous anger.  I saw things through that kid’s eyes now that time and life had added distance and defeat.  I was a ruttin’, bloodthirsty beast; unfit for the company of anyone or anythin’ but a bullet.  Margaret was right to take Virginia away.  Everyone was righteous but me.

                               
My tremblin’ hand reached out and grasped the neck of the bottle.  I knew he was comin’ for me.  Did I want to be here when he arrived?  Could I reap what I had sown?  I pulled out the cork and raised it to my lips, tippin’ it back and pourin’ it down my worthless gullet until every last drop was drained.  That should be enough to do the job.  I put down the empty morphine bottle, already feelin’ the numbness spreadin’ across my foggy brain.  Now for the whiskey.  That should take me out of this veil of tears nicely and present me in front of my maker to do what I can to make amends.  They say he forgives miserable sinners; now that would be righteous indeed – so why am I so afraid?
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HannaHeyes

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PostSubject: Re: Alcohol   Sun Jan 31, 2016 1:48 am

A/N -- This was inspired by an actual experience I had once on a vacation...except there was no alcohol involved.

A Small Mistake

The ceiling looked fuzzy and appeared to be moving slowly in a circle as he lay on his back. Kid Curry blinked his bloodshot eyes a few times trying to focus on what he was looking at. Finally, after a few seconds, the couple of cracks on the ceiling came into focus. He groaned as he brought his hand up to rub his forehead. He sat up slowly on the bed and the room swam as he became partially upright. He leaned on his elbows for a moment or two then sat completely up. Apparently, he had slept in his clothes since he was still fully dressed, boots and all. His shirt was untucked and halfway unbuttoned, his jacket was in the floor, and his hat was nowhere to be seen. His head was pounding as he held it in his hands. "How much did you let me drink last night Heyes?"

He made his over to the basin to wash his face. He splashed on some cold water and softly wiped his face off. It was then he noticed the silence in the room. No movement, no soft snoring, nothing. Kid slowly raised his head to look over at the other bed. It was empty. "Heyes?" He looked around the small hotel room. The only thing he saw that belonged to his cousin were his saddlebags. There was no sign of his hat, jacket, or gunbelt. Curry then realized his partner hadn't returned to their room the previous night.

It even hurt his head to try to think. Last night was mostly a blur. He remembered he and Heyes had went to the saloon to celebrate after arriving in Porterville and hearing from Lom that the amnesty had finally been approved. They must have celebrated pretty heavily. Curry tried as hard as he could to remember more. It seemed like he had left the saloon before Heyes. He could recall Heyes had found a lady friend to talk to. So, yes, he had returned to the hotel before his partner. He had left because he had felt like he was going to throw up. But that was all his brain was willing to let him see. Next thing he knew he was waking up to a throbbing headache and a swirling ceiling.

Maybe Heyes had spent the night with his saloon girl. Kid just wanted to lay back down but decided he needed to go check. Slowly, he stood up and stretched. He had yet to locate his hat. He checked the chairs, the dresser, under the bed, it wasn't to be found. He picked his jacket up off the floor and put it on. Then he stood in the middle of the room trying to think what he had done with his hat. He didn't know. As he scanned once more around the room, his eyes caught a glimpse of something brown under the pillow on his bed. He went and picked the pillow up and there was his hat, squashed. He had no idea what had possessed him to put his hat under his pillow and sleep on it. He pushed it back into shape and plopped it on his head.

Walking out of the hotel door, Curry squinted as sunlight attacked his eyes. "Why couldn't it have been cloudy today?" He pulled his hat a little lower to shield his face from the blazing ball of fire in the sky and started toward the saloon.

oooooooooo

"Mornin' Mr. Jones! Little early for a drink ain't it? Thought you would have gotten enough of that last night." The bartender smiled as he wiped down the tables.

Kid walked slowly over from the batwing doors. "You mind talkin' a little softer? My head's about to bust."

The bartender laughed. Curry cringed. "Ain't no wonder! I don't know what you and your partner were celebratin' last night, but you sure put away the alcohol."

"Well, my partner's why I'm here. He didn't come back to the hotel last night. Did he spend the night with Elaine?"

The bartender thought for a second. "No. If I remember right, he staggered out of here an hour or so after you left." Then he laughed again. "You tellin' me you lost him?!"

"Thanks," Kid sneered. He could still hear laughter as he stepped back out onto the boardwalk. "Where are you Heyes?" He started on his way to check the cafe when he heard his name called. Looking around, he saw Lom coming out of the hotel.

"There you are. Follow me, I need to talk to you," Lom said as he reached him.

"I can't right now. I need to find Heyes. He didn't come back to the room last night."

Lom raised an eyebrow. "Like I said, follow me." He turned to walk to his office.

Kid swung him back around. "I'll come talk to you when I find Heyes, Lom." His blue bloodshot eyes said the conversation was settled.

Lom brushed off Kid's hand. "Heyes is what I need to talk to you about. I know where he is. Now, come on." He turned once again to head to his office.

Kid's eyes widened. Even that hurt his head, but he didn't pay it any attention at the moment. "Well, spit it out! Where's he at?"

Lom stopped. He sighed and rolling his eyes said, "He's in jail."

oooooooooo

Kid followed Lom into the sheriff's office and looked in the cell. Sure enough, there was his cousin lying on his stomach snoring softly, one arm hanging from the bunk, his jacket and hat still on. Curry was aghast. "Why in the world did you arrest him?" he asked angrily.

Lom ignored the aggravation in Kid's voice. He was pouring two cups of coffee. "I'm sorry Kid. I didn't want to, but I had to."

"Why?!"

Lom motioned for him to come sit down in front of his desk. Curry complied and the sheriff handed him a cup of coffee. "Here. You look like you need this bad." Lom took a sip of his own cup. "I had to because a judge insisted on it and I believe he would've caused one heck of an uproar if I didn't."

"The judge here in Porterville?"

"No. He's from a town in Montana and he's staying in the hotel. Had Deputy Wilkins drag Heyes in here right before I was leaving to go home."

"From Montana?"

Lom took another sip of coffee. "Yeah. Remember that story you told me a while back about that Fred Philpott guy claiming to be you and almost getting hanged?"

"You mean it's THAT judge? He was pretty aggravated with us by the time that whole mess was straightened out. Said he never wanted to see us again. What exactly happened last night Lom?"

"Well, from piecing together the slurred story Heyes told and what the judge and Wilkins said, this is what went on last night..."

ooooooooooo

The previous evening...

Heyes was nuzzling the neck of Elaine when he was approached by his cousin. He looked up to see Curry standing with his head down slightly and his hand on his stomach.

"Hey...Joshua, I gotta go. Are you comin' with me or what?"

Heyes gave him a goofy grin. "Where's you goin'? The night's shtill young!"

Kid looked up at his partner with one arm around the saloon girl and the other holding an almost empty bottle of whiskey. "It's around mid...(hic)... night and I've drunk sho much, I feel like I'm gonna throw it all back up."

"Throw up? You don't usually have any problem holding your liquors."

Kid put a hand on the bar to help steady himself. "I know. I think I ate too many of those eggs at the end of the bar. They ain't settin' right with me. I'm goin' back to the hotel room."

Heyes was still smiling. "Okay. I'll be over a little later." With that, he slapped Kid on the shoulder which almost caused them both to lose their balance. Then he turned back to his lady friend. "Now then. Where's were we at?"

OOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Curry walked unsteadily out of the watering hole. He almost walked straight into Deputy Wilkins who was on his way to take over the night shift at the sheriff's office.

"Whoa there Mr. Jones."

"Sh...shorry."

"Where are you headed like this?"

Kid started to answer, but his stomach heaved and grabbing his mouth, he ran around the side of the saloon into the alley. Wilkins followed after the sound of retching had stopped. Kid had his hand on the side of the building to hold himself up. "Well, that helped." He looked up as Wilkins arrived.

Wilkins tried not to look at the puddle of amber liquid and egg pieces now lying in a puddle on the ground. "Mr. Jones, I can't let you run around town drunk like this."

Kid rubbed his arm across his mouth. "Don't worry Deputy. I was headed to the hotel."

Wilkins looked at Curry. "Alright. Come on. I'll walk you over there."

Kid straightened up and started walking with Wilkins beside him. He stumbled once and the deputy grabbed his arm to steady him. Slowly, they made their way across the street to the hotel. "You gonna be okay to get to your room on your own?" Wilkins asked turning loose of Curry's arm.

Kid started to nod his head, but thought better of it. "I'll be jusht fine." He went in and eventually made his way up the stairs and to the room. Wilkins watched from the lobby until Kid disappeared through the room door.

OOOOOOOOOO

About an hour later, Hannibal Heyes staggered his way out of the batwing doors. He sung to himself as he unsteadily made his way to the hotel. Once inside, he waved at the night clerk who was sitting behind the desk reading the newspaper. "Hi!" he called out.

The clerk quickly shushed him. "Not so loud! We got people trying to sleep here. Now, I'm going to ask you to leave before I go get the sheriff."

Heyes looked offended. "Excuse me, but I'm shtaying here. My room's right up there," he finished pointing up to the second floor.

It was the clerk's turn to look offended. "Well, may I suggest you get to your room and be quiet the rest of the night."

Heyes smirked at the clerk and slowly made his way up the stairs, only stumbling twice. When he arrived at the top, he stood still for a moment until the world stopped spinning. He then made his way to the third door down and knocked on it. "Hey K...Thaddeus. Open up, it's me," he called in what he thought was just a loud whisper. He waited, but there was no answer. He raised an eyebrow and called louder. "Thaddeus!" He banged on the door. Still no answer.

Inside the room, a small balding man had been jerked out of a peaceful sleep. He sat up in bed and looked at the door. He heard a voice and someone banging on the door. He got up, put on his robe, grabbed a derringer from the nightstand beside the bed, and walked over to the door.

Inside room number four, Curry was passed out, sound asleep.

"Alright then. I'll jusht get in my own way." Heyes swayed as he reached inside his gray jacket and pulled out a lock pick. He had just bent dizzily over to insert the instrument, when the door swung open. He looked up into the barrel of a small gun.

"What are you doing out here at this hour banging on doors and yelling?!" the man grumpily demanded to know.

Heyes stood up and Judge Carter from Montana finally got a good look at the troublemaker. "YOU!"

"Huh?" Heyes was confused. "I'm shorry sir. It sheems I am at the wrong place."

Judge Carter glared at him. "I would certainly say so! You caused me enough trouble back in Montana. Then I come to Wyoming, and you show up, STILL making trouble for me."

Heyes smiled as he partially recognized the upset man. "Really, I'm shorry. I'll just be going now." He turned to go, but the judge grabbed his arm, still pointing his weapon.

"Oooh no you don't! I'm going to do what I should've done last time...have you thrown in jail!"

Heyes was starting to get irate. "Now look here. I jusht made a mistake and knocked on the wrong door. Lasht time I heard, that wasn't a criminal offense."

"No, but disturbing the peace is. And you're clearly drunk as a skunk swimming in moonshine." The judge jerked on Heyes' arm almost making him fall. He pulled him in front and put the derringer in his back. "Now, MOVE."

Heyes reluctantly started down the hallway and back down the stairs. "Now, there's no shense in this. I'll just go in my room and you won't hear a thing from me the rest of the night."

The judge ignored him as he herded him out the door. Deputy Wilkins was just down the boardwalk making one of his nightly rounds. The judge looked and saw him. "Sheriff! Come here. I've got you a prisoner."

Wilkins walked up to them. "It's deputy, not sheriff." He looked at Heyes. "What are you doing to Mr. Smith?"

"You know this miscreant? Well, it's what he was doing to me! Banging on my door and yelling in the hotel hallway. I want him locked up for disturbing the peace."

"Thish is just a big mishunderstanding," Heyes said trying his best to look innocent.

"You're not innocent of anything. Probably haven't been in your whole life," Judge Carter growled.

Heyes bit back a smile at the mostly true statement.

"Now I INSIST he be put behind bars!"

Wilkins truly looked sorry as he sighed. "Well, come on. Follow me." The deputy took hold of Heyes' arm from the judge and led the way down to the sheriff's office.

Lom looked up from putting away his paperwork for the night as the threesome noisily came through the door. Upon seeing Heyes, he sighed inwardly. "What's going on here?"

"Well Lom, it's like thish...,"Heyes started.

The judge broke in. "Sheriff, I'm Judge Carter from Montana. This heathen was disturbing the peace at the hotel and needs to be locked up!"

Lom kept looking at Heyes who smiled as innocently as he could in his current state of mind. "This true Mr. Smith?"

"I jusht got mistaken on what room was ours. I didn't mean to wake up Satan here." He pointed a thumb at the judge standing to the side of Wilkins.

Judge Carter gristled at the remark. "I also think he was going to break into my room. He was bent over looking at the lock when I opened the door! Now I absolutely INSIST that he be jailed or I'll just have to go to a higher power and have your job as well Sheriff," Judge Carter grumbled.

Lom closed his eyes and sighed loudly. "Alright Wilkins, put him in the cell."

"But Lom...," Heyes started to protest as the barred door slammed shut on him.

"I'll take care of him Judge Carter. Just go back to the hotel and try to enjoy the rest of your night," Lom said.

"Enjoy the night...," the judge muttered sarcastically to himself as he left the sheriff's office.

"Wilkins, go finish your rounds so I can go home," Lom instructed. The deputy left the office leaving him alone wih the inebriated ex-outlaw.

"Lom, come on. You're not going to really leave me in here are you?" Heyes asked holding on to the bars to steady himself.

"Sorry Heyes, but if that hateful old judge sees you loose at the hotel again, he's going to cause one more of a ruckus and you don't need that when you just got amnesty. We'll just wait until he leaves town and then let you out. Nobody will ever know except us. You want me to go over and tell the Kid?"

"No. I couldn't get him to wake up. He'sh probably out cold."

"Well, I'll tell him first thing in the morning. Why don't you lay down. Sounds like you got alot to sleep off."

Heyes nodded and sat down on the bunk. He was awful sleepy all of a sudden. Before long, he too was out cold.

OOOOOOOOOOOO

"And that's what happened," Lom finished.

Kid had drained two more cups off coffee while listening to the story. Heyes still hadn't stirred. "You gonna let him out now?"

Lom finished off his own cup. "Not yet. There's a stage coach leaving in about fifteen minutes. I'll go over and see if our friendly judge is on it. Maybe he was just passing through. You can stay here with Heyes."

"Alright. Thanks Lom." Kid found himself needing more coffee. He went to make another pot.

A few minutes later, there was a groan coming from the cell. Kid walked over to the bars. "Mornin'."

Heyes pushed himself up very slowly to a sitting position. "It sure isn't a good one." He held his head in both hands.

"I knew better than to leave you alone in the saloon last night," Kid smiled.

"Coffee," was all Heyes said.

"It'll be ready in a minute. Heard you ran into a friend of ours."

"He ain't no friend of mine. I don't know how that old hateful coot could have any friends at all."

Curry laughed softly. "Heyes, maybe we should take it easy on the drinkin' for a while."

Heyes raised his head and looked at his cousin with bloodshot brown eyes. "Now where's the fun in that?" he smiled. Kid laughed again.

They sat in silence for a few minutes, both nursing throbbing heads when Lom came back in the office. "Well Heyes, you got lucky. Judge Carter just left on the stage." He grabbed the cell keys and unlocked the door.

Heyes still sat there. He prepared to stand up. When he did, the world tilted again. He grabbed hold of a bar, then getting his balance, walked out of the cell and sat down in one of Lom's chairs. The coffee was hot enough by then and Curry handed him a cup.

"You two need to behave now," Lom lectured. "That amnesty hasn't been announced yet."

Heyes sipped his coffee. "Don't worry Lom. Think I'll stick to playing poker with just a beer or two for a little bit."

"Want to go get some breakfast?" Kid asked.

"If you feel even half as bad as I do, I don't know how you could think of food right now," Heyes said.

"I threw everything in me up last night in an alley. I'm hungry." Kid walked to the door. Heyes reluctantly followed.

"You're always hungry," Heyes muttered.

"What?" Kid asked as he went out the door.

"Nothing. Let's just go. See you later Lom." The door shut behind the two hungover ex-outlaws.

"See you boys." Lom smiled as he watched them go.

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Last edited by HannaHeyes on Sun Feb 07, 2016 11:23 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Remuda

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PostSubject: Re: Alcohol   Mon Feb 01, 2016 1:16 am

Respite

He strutted into the saloon like he owned the place.  The creak of swinging doors and that certain something called presence caught the crowd’s attention.  The assemblage parted like the Red Sea, but no Moses he.  Focused on the bar ahead, his stride sure and true, an eye glance to one side caught only one face of the assembly but a moment.  He winked, smiled.  She heeded the silent summons, arriving by his side as the sea of humanity parted once again.  He did not flinch at being the center of attention; indeed, his swagger courted it.  One boot heel on the rail and he had a whiskey in front of him without uttering a sound.

The tied-down sidearm commanded respect.  The gaudy rig worn low on one hip smacked of cockiness.  But, truth be told, he had yet to meet someone faster than himself, although a recent acquaintance might fill the bill if not for the unlikely proposition that gent were still alive.  His recent good fortune a secret only to himself, he had arrived in town but a month before, buying this showplace of a saloon and gambling hall with but a flash of gold dust and smiling demand of the owner to name his selling price.  After all, his charisma immediately had him on a first-name basis with the president of the bank:  Gold spoke volumes.

Proverbial storm clouds could not dampen his sunny outlook.  Indeed, a sinister side hidden beneath the outward charm had taken care of any challenge.  That last alcohol-fueled celebration caught his partners unaware, and he wished he might have been a fly on the wall the next morning as they emerged from their drunken stupors.  But, no worries there; he had executed well.  Once again, he laughed out loud at the recollection of stealing away in the parched desert night with all provisions and four-legged beasts, his plan having come to full, unsuspected fruition.  Why share a good thing?  Their collective efforts not forgotten, though, he would toast their memories.

So, here he was.  Clinking his glass with hers, he threw back his drink in one smooth motion.  A second one appeared.  He grabbed it, motioned with his head to the back of the room, and steered the young woman through another parting of the crowd to a table in the rear.  Seated, he nursed the whiskey and pulled the barmaid close, the observant eyes and ever present smile overseeing the beginnings of the empire he envisioned – no one ever the wiser.

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Stepha3nie

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PostSubject: Re: Alcohol   Mon Feb 01, 2016 3:41 am

I'm sure it's still before midnight somewhere. Sorry for the late entry.

This was inspired by one of our side-tracks during last week's chat. I hope you like it.


Alcohol


A big, satisfied grin spread across his face, making dimples appear and eyes sparkle. Only a genius could ever have dreamed this up, even the Kid would have to agree.
 
Happily, Heyes let the front legs of his chair drop back to the floor, jumped to his feet and strode towards his cousin’s bedroom. Without thinking, he threw the door open, stepped in and called out “Kid, I got it!” only to beat a hasty retreat when confronted by the business end of a Colt Peacemaker.
 
“Hey, put that away, will you?!”
 
“Whaddaya’ ‘xpect, wakin’ me like this?” But the yawned answer was accompanied by the reassuring sounds of a gun getting decocked and holstered.
 
Once it was safe, Heyes re-entered the chamber and plunked down on the foot end of his partner’s bed. Ignoring the tired, but pointed glare, he slapped the Kid on the leg and repeated with another big grin: “Kid, I got it. I worked out a plan to rob the bank in Glenrock. And they won’t know it was us.”
 
“And you couldn’t wait until mornin’ to tell me?”
 
“I thought you’d be interested to know.” The look of hurt innocence was just too earnest to be real. “And I thought I’d better fill you in on a few details before I tell the men.”
 
“Alright. Let’s hear it. But it better be good. And safe. I hope you do remember that we need to be able to ride through Glenrock without them formin’ a posse.”
 
Despite still looking doubtful, Kid Curry scooted up to the headboard of his bed to sit more comfortably. Long experience had taught him, there would be no getting back to sleep while his cousin was this excited.
 
Eyes sparkling, Heyes drew a leg under to get more comfortable and leaned forward. “That’s the best part. Trust me,” ignoring his partner’s eye roll, he continued. “What I figure is this…”
 
And while listening to this latest Hannibal Heyes plan, Kid Curry’s eyes began to sparkle.
 
 
oooOOOooo
 
 
The next morning, after breakfast, the fastest gun in the West sauntered to the bunkhouse and called the men together to hear Heyes’ latest plan.
 
”About time,” came a rumble from where Wheat was getting to his feet.
 
“What was that, Wheat?”
 
“I said, that’s fine, Kid.” Wheat hitched up his pants and shouldered past Curry, followed by Kyle, Lobo, Merkle and Hank. None of them saw the smile playing around their second-in-command’s lips, when he followed them out into the open.
 
Once everybody had trooped into the leaders’ cabin and found a place, Heyes addressed his men.
“I know we’re all running a little low on funds.” The opening statement brought forth a chorus of agreement, though not all sounding entirely friendly.
“But I’ve worked out a way to change that.” This announcement was greeted by cheers.
“Kid and I have scooped out several possibilities, as you know, and we think it’s time to pay the bank of Glenrock a visit.”
The cheerful looks were replaced on most faces by more pensive ones, and eyes flicked from one of the leaders of the Devil’s Hole gang to the other. They all knew that Glenrock was a place they had to pass through on occasion, a place for stocking up, and none of them were eager to give up on it. Having to avoid the town would be a big inconvenience. Before Wheat managed to get out more than a hostile snort, Heyes continued.
 
“You’ll agree it’s important that the people there don’t know it’s us that’s hit them. If they find out, we can say goodbye to Glenrock for good. But I’ve figured out a safe way to do it. Kid and I planned it all out. All you need to do, is stick to the plan!” A meaningful, dark stare sought and kept the eyes of each outlaw in turn for an uncomfortable moment.
 
“We can’t all ride in together. That would draw attention, people would remember and connect us with the job. Me and the Kid will go first, to make sure it’s still safe to go on. Over the next day, the rest of you will arrive. Kyle, you’ll ride together with Wheat. Merkle with Hank. Lobo, you alright alone?”
Once the outlaws had nodded, Heyes continued.
“Come in from different directions and at different times. Kid and I will spread the word that we’re waiting on some men for rounding up mustangs. The army always needs remounts. Then it won’t draw attention when we’re seen together.
 
“We’ll wait a day to get our horses rested and let people know we’ll head out the next morning. During that night, we’ll crack the bank and I’ll open the safe. Now comes the important part: Nobody must see or hear us!”
 
“After we have the money, we’ll stay the rest of the night at the hotel and ride out the next morning after breakfast. But we’ll make sure the town believes that whoever robbed the bank took off during the night.”
 
Heyes stopped and looked around at the men’s faces to gauge his success so far. By now, almost a year after Big Jim’s capture, he was firmly established as leader, and the gang had come to expect more of him than the simple “ups and away” (blow up the safe, shoot up the town and hope to get away) most other gangs seemed to favor. But unfortunately, leading an outlaw gang meant that the men did not always agree and follow orders. After all, it was their lack of discipline and dislike for authority which had driven most to their current profession. Luckily, he had his partner, well known for his gun skills, to support him. None of the other gang members were crazy enough to risk a confrontation with Kid Curry. But Heyes preferred to use his silver tongue to get results.
 
As he had anticipated, it was Kyle who spoke up first. “But Heyes, how will we make ‘em think it weren’t us?”
 
“You’ll like this part,” the outlaw leader smiled. “You, Kyle, bring enough dynamite to blow the safe. We’ll set a long fuse and make sure it only blows up when we’re safely back at the hotel.”
 
“Why blow the safe when we’ve already gone and emptied it?”
 
“We blow it to make people think someone else is robbing the bank.”
 
Finally, understanding spread across several stubbly faces and Kyle’s blue eyes lit up.
 
“That’s right smart of you, Heyes.”
 
Hearing this, Wheat frowned. “Nah. Won’t work. Who ever heard of a gang blowing up a safe and then not riding out of town hell bent for leather? I’d like to see you makin’ enough noise for that,” he snorted. “Stayin’ in town after a job, huh? Not exactly what I’d call smart,” he concluded with derision.
 
Heyes’ smile grew into a broad grin. He’d banked on the burly outlaw to object.
 
“But that’s the beauty of it, Wheat. Nobody will suspect US, BECAUSE everyone knows that bank robbers don’t stay. As for horses galloping off – I’ve thought of something.”
 
Wheat’s sneer turned into a scowl.
 
Seemingly oblivious, the outlaw leader continued, “We’ll catch a few broomtails on the way, halter-train them and stash them close to Glenrock. During the job, one of us will get them into position near the bank. When the safe explodes, they’ll spook and run, making folks think it’s the outlaws riding off.”
 
Heyes’ grin became infectious, and first Kyle, then Merkle and Hank laughed out appreciatively. Lobo shook his shaggy head, weighing up what he’d heard, then began to nod his approval. And even Wheat reluctantly had to accept that the pesky upstart seemed to have thought of everything.
 
The Kid and Heyes exchanged a look. So far, so good, but there was still the difficult bit to get across.
 
“Just one more thing,” Kid Curry started off to get the men’s attention. When the room was quiet again, he added “It’s important that none of you get drunk!”
 
“What?”
“Why?”
“You gotta be kiddin’!”
 
“Listen!” their leader’s baritone drowned out the various protests. “I need you sharp; and not only during the job. While we’re in town, we can’t afford to attract attention. So, no drunken boasting, no hurrahing or fighting, no fumbling the dynamite and no spooking the horses before time! Remember, for this plan to work, you’re supposed to be a bunch of newly hired horse wranglers. You’re out of funds. You don’t have much money; just enough for food and maybe one or two beer!
“We don’t want any of the townspeople remembering us. Can you get that into your heads? We’ll all have us a good time once we’re back here.”
 
When the men still didn’t look too happy, Heyes tried to soften the blow.
 
“There’s $25,000 in that safe. Isn’t that worth staying dry a few days?”
 
The Kid threw in his support. “I’ll set out a prize for whoever drinks least. One bottle of the finest whiskey.”
 
Any thoughts of protest were drowned by the expectation of money and extra drinks, and the plan was accepted by a chorus of cheers and claps on backs.
 
 
oooOOOooo
 
 
When the day drew to a close, Heyes and the Kid shared a last coffee on the porch of their cabin. The rest of the gang had retreated to the bunk house earlier for a pre-robbery celebration, and the leaders were alone.
 
“You think it will work?” Dark eyes sought out blue, looking for re-assurance.
 
“It’s your plan. Shouldn’t you be sure?” came the teasing reply.
 
“Oh, I am. Reckon it went as well as could be expected. Now it’s all up to us, partner.”
 
The two cousins exchanged a smile and clinked their cups together. “To keeping the Devil’s Hole gang dry!”
 
 
oooOOOooo
 
 
A week later, two men rode into Glenrock. They stabled their horses, a sorrel and a dark bay, at the livery and headed to their chosen hotel. After securing a room overlooking the main street, they reserved two more, for their hired wranglers who were expected to arrive the following day.
 
The next morning, after breakfast, the same men, one blond, the other brown-haired, lounged on the hotel porch, smoking cigars with obvious relish.
 
 
At the same time, two of the men they were waiting for could only dream of relaxation and rest.
 
“I tell you, Kyle. I knew it. I just plain knew Heyes would saddle us with getting them broomtails sorted out.”
 
“Well now, Wheat. He said whoever caught most wouldn’t have to take care of ‘em. Seemed fair to me.”
 
“Huh. But it’s not smart. Who catches most horses? Them who’s good at it. And them’s the ones who’s best at lookin’ after ‘em, too. And that’s not us!”
 
After spitting a glob of tobacco juice, Kyle replied “Lookin’ at it that way, you got a point.”
 
Feeling encouraged, Wheat continued to grouse “And not even a drop to wash the dust down! No drinking!” The last bit was delivered in a mocking imitation of their leader. In his normal voice, outrage radiating with every word, the burly man continued, “Can you believe it? He had the Kid search my saddlebags!”
 
“He sure did. A shame he found your bottle, too.” A slow grin bared tobacco-stained teeth. “But he never searched mine,” the smaller outlaw drawled with a wink.
 
Suddenly, the rest of the day didn’t seem quite so dreary any longer.
 
 
A bit closer to town, but in the opposite direction, another pair of riders were grumbling along similar lines.
 
“What did ya’ havta go and catch two horses for, Hank?”
 
A dark look accompanied the answer “How was I ta know the special prize was only not havin’ ta drive the dang horses?”
 
“Now we have ta take the longest route, but still get into Glenrock afore Wheat and Kyle. No time ta enjoy the ride and then stayin’ dry longer in town.”
 
“I know. Now! And after all the hard work. I expected an extra bottle. Ya’ know, I half feel like getting’ drunk just to show ‘em.”
 
 
A single rider, approaching Glenrock from yet another direction, didn’t look happy either. Shaking his shaggy, dirty-blond head he thought back to how the Kid had hung around when he packed his gear at the Hole. As if he’d known he’d intended to take along a little something to fortify himself.
Then the ‘friendly’ reminder that, this time, everyone needed to stay sober. As if he was the only one who liked to party a little. Not fair, singling him out like this. The others were probably having a good laugh about him behind his back. And a drink. After all, each of the gang had some red-eye stashed in their saddle-bags, maybe with the exception of their leaders. Maybe.
 
 
An hour after arriving in town, Lobo’s mood hadn’t improved. He would have to share a room with either Merkle and Hank or Wheat and Kyle. Why did their leaders have to be so tightfisted and didn’t allow for another room? Especially, since they planned to come into some more money pretty soon. It wasn’t as if they couldn’t afford it.
To add insult to injury, he’d been sent to get a supply of ropes and hobbles and talk to the livery men, just as if they really planned to hunt for mustangs. What a waste of time and money. He’d been on the trail nearly a week and not a drop to drink, apart from water. He eyed the saloons with true longing. But he knew there’d be hell to pay if he didn’t get his purchases back to Heyes on time.
Later, he promised himself.
 
 
The sun was almost setting, when Hank and Merkle rode down the main street of Glenrock. They turned in surprise, when they were hallooed by a familiar baritone voice coming from the Red Dog Saloon.
 
“Hello there, boys. We’ve been expecting you for a while. Good you’re finally here. We got you a room at the Glenrock hotel. Just stable your horses at the livery over that way, and then you can rest up. We can talk tomorrow”
After delivering this welcome, the speaker gave a jaunty wave, flashed a dimpled smile and returned through the batwing doors into the building.
 
The dusty riders shared a look.
 
“Did I hear that right? Did he just tell us ta wait at the hotel?”
 
“Yep. And I bet he and the Kid are havin’ themselves a good time at the saloon.”
 
“So much for ‘never asking their men to do anythin’ they wouldn’t do themselves’!”
 
On arriving at the indicated livery, the men couldn’t help but notice the building two doors down the street. After all, it sported a large sign, ‘Lone Rock Saloon’. Taking care of their horses didn’t take long. Once again outside, the men’s eyes went back with longing to the building sporting the sign. With a sigh, Merkle turned away and towards the hotel, when he felt a tug at his arm.
 
“Wait a minute. Are you really so tuckered out?”
 
“No, but you heard Heyes. He expects us ta wait at the hotel, not a saloon. Dontcha’ think he’ll watch for us?”
 
“Yeah. He would. But he wouldn’t need ta know about a little extra ‘medicine’ in our saddle bags.” The word ‘medicine’ was accompanied by a nod towards the Lone Rock and a mischievous glint in the thirsty man’s eyes.
 
A few minutes later, two members of the Devil’s Hole gang quietly made their way to the hotel. It would have taken a very keen watcher to detect the little spring in their steps.
 
From his vantage point in the Red Dog, Kid Curry nudged his partner, “Heyes, looks like your plan might be working after all.”
 
“I keep telling you, you gotta have a little faith, Kid. Now, Wheat and Kyle need to do their share without a hitch. Do you think I was too hard on Wheat?”
 
“No, taking away his bottle was necessary. It should do the trick. What do you think, will they come in tonight?”
 
“I wouldn’t bet on it. And it doesn’t really matter. I can work it either way.” A chocolate sparkle, accompanied by a dimpled grin, flashed towards the blond man. “And we have most of tomorrow to get them in shape.”
 
The last statement was answered by a broad grin and merrily twinkling blue eyes.
 
“To your plan, partner! Cheers.”
 
Two whiskey glasses clinked together; then their content was quickly downed.
 
 
oooOOOooo
 
 
Two dusty riders entered Glenrock at a time too late to be called morning but still too early to be noon.
 
Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry watched them approach from the hotel porch. Quickly exchanged glances was all the communication they needed.
 
When the men came close enough, Heyes’ baritone greeted them. Maybe a tad louder than strictly necessary.
 
“Hi there, boys! Glad you made it. We expected you yesterday. No trouble on the way, I hope?”
 
“No. No trouble.”
 
“Just thought we’d keep an eye on them broomtails for a lil’ longer, was all.”
 
“Ah. Good. There’s a room reserved here at the hotel for you.”
 
When the men started to dismount, Kid Curry was quick to point out to them, that their concern for equine welfare demanded that they tend to their horses first. Knowing they had no choice, Wheat and Kyle settled back into their saddles and, with slumped shoulders, rode off towards the livery.
 
Heyes and the Kid exchanged another glance. Neither of them had missed the winces or the general hung-over appearance of the latecomers despite their attempts at covering it, and Kid smiled “It’s almost too easy.”
 
 
oooOOOooo
 
 
Early afternoon saw the Devil’s Hole gang assembled in the Red Dog Saloon, the classiest of the three drinking establishments in town. They had a back corner all to themselves and were talking business. Officially, when anyone came into hearing distance, mustangs; otherwise the last preparations for their real job.
This was the first time any of the gang members, except the leaders, had a chance to spend time in the saloon since arriving in town. Heyes had kept them all busy with tasks. Now, he had finally relented and paid for a round of beer. The men would have enjoyed it, but for their leader harking on about the job. Didn’t he realize this wasn’t their first bank, they were professionals, most of them with more years of experience than him. Granted, the mode of getaway was new, but not too difficult to remember.
But Heyes seemed set on testing them – their knowledge and understanding, but even more so, their endurance.
 
When the dark-haired leader warned them yet again about staying sober and not attracting attention, a vein in Wheat’s temple began to pulse visibly. It was the Kid’s right hand seemingly casually patting the butt of his Peacemaker whenever he glanced his way, which kept the larger man from giving that upstart smart-mouth a proper reply. Confiscating his whiskey. Saddling him with the nags. And then selecting him for taking all their horses to the blacksmith to check their shoes would hold. He was sick and tired of smelling like a horse. Ornery beasts that they were.
 
Kyle couldn’t understand why Heyes kept going on about not drinking. Didn’t he know by now that they were never too drunk to perform their duties? It reminded him a bit of school. He hadn’t enjoyed school. And now he felt thirsty, after all this talk about beer and whiskey.
 
Lobo was still annoyed with Hank and Merkle. They had indeed joked about him not bringing any ‘provisions’. And he didn’t look forward to sharing the rather small hotel room with Wheat and Kyle. With only one bed! And did Heyes really expect them to stay there all day?! He, for one, was going to enjoy himself a bit. This wasn’t the only saloon in town. Hey, they were outlaws, not the temperance league!
 
Hank and Merkle didn’t feel too good. One of the bottles yesterday must have been bad, even though it had tasted alright. To make matters worse, Lobo still seemed mad at them, and all the jobs Heyes had given them today had involved running errands from one end of town to the other, out in the relentlessly burning sun. Their heads hurt and the endless preaching from their leader didn’t make things better. Also, it was unfair, singling them out for a tongue lashing for partying, after Wheat and Kyle had so obviously done the same. Didn’t Heyes know that the best cure was more of the same? Dog’s fur or something.
 
A little later, Heyes and the Kid left the rest of the gang to take care of a few more preparations themselves.
 
 
oooOOOooo
 
 
About an hour after midnight, Kid Curry took up his customary lookout post at the window of the bank. Between making sure that nobody paid the building any undue attention, he managed to sneak glances at his partner who crouched next to the safe door.
 
Heyes had his ear pressed to the cold metal of the Brooker 101, listening for the tiniest difference in noise while he slowly, carefully turned the dial. Two numbers were already scrawled in chalk on the front of the safe, only one more to go. On hearing the last distinctive click, a beatific smile spread across the outlaw leader’s features. He loved this challenge, this dance, the teasing-out of secrets. It gave him a high like nothing else.
 
He entered the combination on the dial, pushed down on the handle, and slowly, triumphantly he pulled open the door.
 
 
oooOOOooo
 
 
Later, back at the hotel, Heyes and Curry waited for the next bit of this job to play out. Even though everything had happened exactly as planned so far, things might still go wrong. Heyes checked his pocket watch once more.
 
“It’s time, Kid. Any second now, “ the rest of what he meant to say was drowned by an explosion. Fearful whinnies could be heard in the aftermath and then multiple hoof-beats, quickly growing fainter.
 
Big grins on faces, the partners slapped each other on the back. On hearing voices and footsteps from the corridor, they put on game faces and joined the throng of bewildered people outside. They made sure to accidentally bump into people or step on feet, thus guaranteeing that some people would remember them being there.
 
When they reached the porch amidst a group of men, the first shouts of “The bank’s been robbed” could be heard. It was soon established that the gang had ridden out southwards and the sheriff got busy organizing a posse to ride out as soon as there was enough light for tracking.
 
After watching the posse ride out from their window, Heyes and the Kid got busy packing gear. Among the bundles for the pack-horse was one precious sack of oats, now containing considerably less grain – the mustangs had been thankful recipients – but lots of bank notes instead, packed into neat, bandana-wrapped bundles. Chores done, they enjoyed a good breakfast before tackling their last task.
 
“You sure we wanna do this?” Kid Curry clearly still wasn’t too keen on this part of his partner’s plan.
 
“I know. It’s a temptation. Unfortunately we never leave a man behind.”
 
“Yeah.” A sigh. “Reckon they’ve done their job. Are you ever gonna tell them that was your plan all along?”
“Not before we’re back at the Hole,” came the laughing reply.
 
Neutral expressions in place, they knocked on the sheriff’s office door and asked the tired deputy to release their bunch of hired mustang wranglers, who had been locked up the previous day, after wrecking the Painted Pony saloon in a drunken brawl.
 

After the fine was paid, the hung-over, battered men received a stern talking-to from their employers and the deputy, then the Devil’s Hole gang rode away from their latest successful job.

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