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 Temptation

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PostSubject: Temptation   Tue Mar 01, 2016 8:03 am

So let's get these keyboards clattering and pens scratching.  With such an irresistible topic how can you possibly resist?  Chosen by Stepha3nie, your topic for March is

Devil Temptation Devil


So get writing, but don't forget to comment on February.  Comments are the only thanks our writers get.
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PostSubject: Re: Temptation   Sat Mar 05, 2016 7:45 pm

Despite the title this isn't a ghost story, or in the least melancholy.






Curry’s Ghost




The dark eyes peered into the amber depths of the glass, seeking escape as much as a solution, but Heyes couldn’t afford to get drunk.  The Kid needed to be sprung from jail before he was transported to prison; because the minute he entered the Wyoming State Penitentiary there was a very real chance that he’d be recognized as Kid Curry, and not the damned fool who punched the local fat cat’s drunken son for annoying a woman in the street.  He’d always warned him that his needy people would be the death of him, but he’d hoped it’d only been a bad joke. 
Money.  That’s what he needed.  The fine stood at only a hundred and fifty dollars; a choice between a hundred and fifty dollars or thirty days; and he had twenty three dollars and fourteen cents.


A muscle flexed in his jaw.  The Governor was expecting them in ten days, and it wasn’t going to go down well if they didn’t show up.  Should he just go in there and break him out?  Lom knew they were here and a jail break was likely to get back to him.  The only thing going for them was that the Kid had already sported a split lip and the mother of black eyes from trying to hog-tie an ornery calf for branding when he when into the affray.  It made slightly harder to identify him when he was healed; but not much.  It was a tough one sure enough.


“Buy you a drink?”


Heyes looked up at the middle aged man shrouded in the grayness of shabby respectability.  His hazel eyes smiled like an angel backlit by roguish hellfire.  The natural connection caused the irritation at being interrupted to fall away from Heyes’ face, but didn’t go quite as far as a welcome.  “I’ve got one, thanks.”


“Got too much on your plate, son?”  A pair of surprisingly dark brows raised under a mop of madly-messy white hair.  An Irish brogue floated musically across the smoke and tinny music of the saloon.  “I’ve seen that look before.  If you want to talk about it, I’m a good listener.”


“I’m not much of a talker,” Heyes replied, without a hint of irony.   


“I don’t mind,” the stranger slid into the seat opposite.  “I’ll talk.”


Heyes made to rise, but the man grabbed his arm along with his attention.  “I saw what happened to your friend.  It wasn’t fair.  The other fella went for him when his back was turned.  It was a complete fit up and he got his pals to lie for him in court.  It was real harsh of the little gal not to tell the truth.  I’m guessing her family is intimidated by the prospect of going up against the richest family in the county.  No, not fair at all.”


Heyes’ glare hardened.  “So?  Why didn’t you speak up?”


The man shrugged apologetically.  “I...well.  I kinda couldn’t.  I’m not really in a position to approach the law.”


“I don’t care if you’re wanted for murder.  You’re coming with me over to that jail house right now.”


The man stiffened.  “I can’t.  I really can’t.”


“So what’s stopping me from putting a gun in your ribs and taking you there myself?  You said yourself there’s an innocent man in that cell.”


“Mainly, the fact that I won’t ‘remember’ a thing if you do.”  The man defiantly gestured back to the seat.  “Look, sit down.  I want to help, but there might be another way.”


Heyes scowled silently and dragged out the chair.  “Talk.”


“The name’s Gene Morton.  Short for Eugene, like my father, and his father before him.  I came from Cork, but he was originally a Donegal man, much further north....”


Heyes leaned forward.  “Maybe when I told you to talk I should have been more specific?”  He paused, punctuating his attitude with gathered brows, “for your own good.”


Gene nodded.  “I’d like to help you get your friend out of jail.”


“Great.  I’ll take one hundred and fifty dollars, please,” growled the ex-outlaw leader.


“I’d love to, but I’m as poor as a church mouse.  That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.  I have a proposition for you.” 


“It’d better be good.”


Gene smiled.  “It’s better than good.  I want to help you break him out of there.”


Heyes’ chair scrapped against the floor as he stood.  “Goodnight.”  He turned and strode out of the batwing doors, leaving them clattering into the pursuing Irishman’s chest.  He continued down the sidewalk, rolling his eyes at the pattering feet pursuing him. 


“Wait!”


Heyes swung around, his fists balled.  “Look, unless you’ve got back up I’d walk away fast.  I’m in no mood for hare-brained schemes.  I’ve got things to deal with.”


“But that’s just it,” grinned Gene.  “I have got back up.  The best there is.  Would your friend be up for a bit of harmless deception to get him out of there?”


“Harmless? snorted Heyes.  “Sure.  Why do you care in any case?”


“I have a deep sense of right and wrong.  I live by it, but it just seems wrong to punish an innocent because I succumbed to temptation and can’t face the law.  If things were fair I’d have been in a position to speak up for him, but I’m not.  It behooves me to do whatever I can for the poor unfortunate man.”


“You want to break him out, go ahead,” snorted Heyes.  “You won’t get past the sheriff.  You’ll be headed for the State Penitentiary right along with him.”


“What if I could guarantee that none of us were?”


“You’re drunk.  Leave me alone.”


“I can assure you that I’m not.  All I’ve come to do is make sure you get yourself an alibi.  The way you defended him in court would make you the prime suspect.  Just leave the rest to me.”


Heyes’ brows gathered in confusion.  “Just what difference does it make to you?”


“I’m a man of god.  I can’t see an innocent punished because of my failings.  I have deeply held principles, but not the money to bail him out, but I think there is a relatively simple solution though.”  He watched the doubt glitter in Heyes’ eyes.  “I see you are a doubter.  That’s fine.  Just listen to me.  Please.”


“Aw, what harm can it do?” muttered Heyes.  “Come on back to the bar.  I could do with a laugh.”  


oooOOOooo              


“Come to pay the fine?” asked the Sheriff.


“I haven’t got the money, Mr. Lomax, and I’m not likely to get it before tomorrow either. Heyes shook his head.  “Can I see him?  Tell him goodbye?  I’ve got a job I need to head off for and I can’t afford to lose it.  I’m on the two o’clock train.”


The lawman looked him up and down.  “You can if you check that sidearm.”


Heyes unbuckled his gun belt.  “Sure.”  He held out his arms.  “Want to search me?”


Sheriff Lomax grinned.  “You’re fine.  Jail breakers don’t usually walk in politely and hand over their guns.”


“I suppose not.”  Heyes’ eyes glittered innocently.  “I couldn’t do your job.  Is it this way?”


He followed the lawman towards the cells where a curious frown flashed over the bruised features of the blond prisoner who peered through the bars.  “Joshua?”


“Thaddeus, I’ve come to tell you I can’t raise the money.  Oh, and I brought you a book.”


“A book?”  The lantern jaw firmed.  “It’d better be a damned good one to make up for no money.”


“It sure is.”  Heyes raised it to his nostrils.  “I love the smell of books.”


“Smell?  You do know how reading works don’t you?  Unless it smells of one hundred and fifty dollars I’m not interested.”


“Don’t be like that.  It’s Edgar Allan Poe.”


“That one you told me about?  Yeah, I'd probably freak out too, if a raven flew into my house.  The poem holds up but it ain’t my kinda thing.”


“No, not that one.  It’s a collection of short stories.  There’s a great one about a man scared of being buried alive.”


“Great.”  The Kid slumped on his bunk.  “You’re just a regular little ray of sunshine, ain’t ya?”


Lomax turned the key in the lock and ushered the visitor in.  “Just let me know when you want to leave and I’ll let you out.”  He flashed a grin at the fair man who raised a hand.  “Not you.  You’ve got your lovely book to finish.”


He wandered over to the pot-bellied stove and poured himself a cup of coffee, watching the two men with wry amusement.  It was fascinating to observe the prisoner’s stiff demeanor as he glared at his friend who talked at him with earnest intensity.  Yup, these weren’t your average drunks around town.  This pair had something about them and they could easily make something of themselves.  Hopefully this incident would be a wakeup call for them.


The window beside the cells shattered suddenly, shards of glass scattering the floor and causing the two men in the cells to jolt against the far wall.


“What the…?”  Lomax plonked down his coffee and bolted out into the street.  “I see you Billy Wright.  You wait until I see your ma, you’re for it!”


“Lynch mob?” the alarmed-looking dark-eyed man asked the sheriff as he marched back into the building.


“Scallywags,” he retorted.  “I tell you, them Wright boys are wrong ‘uns.  They’re gonna see more’n their fair share of this place in a few years.  Are you alright?”


“Fine, Sheriff.  I don’t mind staying here if you want to go after him,” ventured Heyes.


“Can’t do that.  I’ve got to stay here as long as there’s a prisoner, even if there’s someone with him.”


“We ain’t gonna do anythin’,” shrugged the Kid.  “How can we, locked in here?”


He propped his hands on his slim hips.  “I ain’t takin’ the risk, so you two just settle down and enjoy your visit.  I’ll get that window fixed by and by.”        


oooOOOooo


“Who are you?  It’s five thirty and it’s still dark.”  Sheriff Lomax squinted at the stout, moon-faced man in front of him scratching a thick growth of stubble and bearing a tool box.


“Jimmy Redmaine.  Mr. Quinn sent me over to fix your window.  I’m doin’ odd jobs for him,” the man replied in a thick Southern accent.  He wandered over to the broken window and tapped at the covering boards.  “Yeah.  It won’t take long.  I need to cut the glass to size.  Can we open the back door and I’ll do it in the back yard?  There’s always some dang fool’ll play with it if you put it out on the street and don’t start me on what the kids do to the putty. ”


“The Back Maria is gonna be here by six to take the prisoner to the Penitentiary.  They’ll use the back yard.”


“I won’t be workin’ there by then.  I’ll just cut it to size and putty it in as I fit it.  It’ll take ten minutes to cut it after measurin’.  It’s January.  I ain’t gonna hang about in the cold.  Quinn said you’d want it done early so you could get on with business.”  Jimmy eyed the coffee pot under the brim of a tattered hat.  “Any chance of a cup of that?  It smells real good.  ”I hate these early starts.”


“Sure.  Get your glass cut and there’ll be a cup waiting for you,” Lomax stood.  It’s time the prisoner was up anyway.  He’ll be out of here soon.”  He clattered a tin mug on the bars until a bleary, tousled head poked over the top of a rough blanket.  “Time to get up.  You’ll be out of here soon.”


The Kid propped himself up in his bunk and delicately blinked away the sleep from his bruised eye. 


“Ya want some coffee?” yelled Lomax.  “The prison wagon’ll be here soon.  Get yourself ready.”


“Sure.”  He swung his long legs over the side and propped his head in his hand, pausing to glance at the glazier bustling in from the back yard.  Both men gratefully accepted the mugs of steaming coffee being proffered by the lawman. 


“Gee, thanks.  Just how I like it,” Jimmy grinned.  “I like my coffee I like my women; dark, bitter and hot.”  He put down the cup and started prying off the boards.  “Do you fellas like a joke?  Have you heard the one about the blind prostitute and the elephant?”


All the men turned to the twinkling handy man, sipping their coffee and allowed themselves indulged in a never-ending flow of risqué wit and merriment from the workman who operated in the aisle outside the cells like a king holding court.  Occasionally one of the others would cut in with their own punch lines and ripostes until the whole jailhouse was rocking with laughter.  He worked seamlessly, the repartee never once interrupting his work, and before long the broken window was prepared for the new glass to be fitted.  A couple of uniformed men appeared at the back door, smiling slightly at the unexpected merriment bouncing off the walls.  “Hi, we’ve come to take the prisoner to the penitentiary.  Is this the Redbridge jailhouse or have we backed up to the saloon instead?”


“Since this fella showed up to fix the window we can’t be sure.  He’s a laugh a minute,” Lomax chortled.  “If he keeps this up I’ll be throwin’ cowpokes outta the place.”


“Well, I gotta go and get that glass I cut.”  Jimmy opened the back door onto the blackness of the winter morning.  “Unless you ran it over?”  He smiled at the shaking heads.  “Nah, I guess you might be worried about someone breakin’ into your wagon?”


“Not many do that,” laughed the taller prison guard.  “Any chance of some of that coffee before we go?”


“Sure, help yourselves,” Lomax retrieved the box of prisoner’s possessions from the cupboard.  “I’ll get his stuff.”


The smaller guard peered at the Kid’s black eye and split lip.  “Is this one a fighter?”


“Nah, he’s a real easy-goin’ fella.  It was wranglin’ beeves what did that to him.”  Lomax plonked the box on desk.  “You’ll have no trouble with him.  He ain’t the sort we usually get in here.”


“Let’s get him loaded up.”  Lomax opened the cell door and led the subdued man out to the prison wagon.  The back door to the jail house was the only source of light apart from the bull’s-eye lantern held by the smaller guard.  The Kid climbed inside and sat on the wooden bench while he was shackled at the ankles and feet.  The door was then slammed and locked.


Jimmy observed the whole thing in silence before he spoke up again.  “Did I tell you fellas the joke about the prisoner on escort?  A police officer was escorting a prisoner to jail when his hat blew off.  "Shall I run and get it for you?" asked the prisoner obligingly.  "You must think I'm stupid," said the officer.  "You stand here and I'll get it.””


The officers started laughing again, following Jimmy towards the door as he took his panes of cut glass to the window in the cell corridor.  The glazier continued.  “Or the one about the burglar who broke into a house and heard a voice telling him that Jesus was watching him…,”


The guards stepped back into the corridor of the jailhouse, listening to the handyman as he prattled on and on, puttying the glass into the window.  “…the same idiot as named that great big dog Jesus…”


More laughter ran around the building as Jimmy carried on, the jokes getting more and more spicy, entertaining as he deftly pushed in the putty around the replacement glass.  “…and then the elephant said, “I’m not saying it’s not useful.  I just don’t see how you can pick up a bun with it.””


The quips became faster and saltier, Jimmy turning to drink in the smiles until he finally smoothed off the putty and wiped his hands on a cloth.  “Well, I gotta get outside and do the other side.  Can you make sure nobody cleans this window for at least a day, Sheriff?”


Lomax nodded.  “That should be easy enough.  Ain’t nobody cleaned the old one in all the eight years I’ve been here.”  He turned to the prison officers who had stepped back inside to enjoy the show.  “Hadn’t you two better get goin’?  I’d never leave a prisoner sittin’ outside on his own like that.”


“He’s fine,” the taller one pointed outside.  “I had my eye on the wagon the whole time.”


Jimmy picked up his tool box and strode out the back door.  “I’d want to check, if it was me.”  He tipped his hat.  “See ya!”  And he strode out into the darkness to deal with the other side of the mended window.


“He’s right,” agreed Lenox.  He grabbed a lantern and strode up to the door of the wagon.  He stood on tiptoes and peered into the shadows though the back hatch.  “He’s gone.  He ain’t there!”


“What!?  Whatdya mean?”  The tall guard brought out his jangling keys and quickly opened the door.  They all blinked into the darkness.  “He’s right.  He’s gone….”  He lifted his lantern and shone it inside catching the pale battered face blinking against the invading glow.  He held up manacled hands to shade himself from the caustic radiance and nodded at the lawmen.
“Phew!  That’s a relief.  He’s in the back.  That’s why we couldn’t see him.”  The tall guard slammed the door shut and re-locked it.  “I’ll sign the handover book now.”


“Hey, when you left him out here it’d have been on your head if’n he got away.”  Lenox thrust the ledger under his arm.  “Have a good journey, boys.  See ya next time.”


oooOOOooo


Wyoming State Penitentiary  


The keys rattled on their ring of pig-iron at the door to the armored wagon before the guard pulled open the door.  “What the ^&*%!  Where the *$*” is he?”


“Did you stop anywhere?”  The receiving officer peered into the completely empty prison vehicle.


“No, we never *&^~&$^% stopped anywhere.  He was locked in at the jailhouse and we never stopped once.”


“Well, did you lock him up properly?”


The tall guard held up the keys.  “You just watched me unlock the *^~$*”£ lock.”  He turned to his shorter companion.  “Tell him, Bill.  He was in there.  He even waved at us, manacled hand and foot, as we closed the *~%$£~@* thing.  It’s like he’s disappeared into thin air.”


oooOOOooo


Kid Curry raised his face to the sun and winced as his split lip protested against the spreading smile.  The birds darted about, catching flies and living life in the moment as a salutary example of joy.  “I can’t believe that worked.  I thought you were insane when you told me about this, Joshua.”


“I’ve got to admit that I thought the same when Gene came forward, but once I started listening to him he made a lot of sense.  We even had time to practice it.”


The Kid nudged his horse forward and turned to the man with wild white hair riding between them.  “Where did you learn all that stuff?”    


“I used to be an ingénieur.”


“On the railways?” asked the Kid


“On the stage,” Gene smile enigmatically. 


“They’ve got engineers on stagecoaches now?” frowned the gunman.


“In the theatre.  We help to design things; illusions, tricks, magic, and the like.  I used to be on the stage.  That’s how I came to America.  I was one half of ‘The Dueling Wizards’; a great act, but a lousy partnership.  We ended up hating one another and went our separate ways.  Ingénieur’s have to know a lot of stuff, including how to fix and build things.  It’s helped me turn my hand to almost anything.”


The Kid shook his head.  “Hide behind a pane of glass.  You’ll be invisible….”  It was the maddest plan I ever heard in my life.  Yeah, I could see Joshua slippin’ into the wagon to pick the locks, but to stay hidden in the yard, behind a pane of glass to look invisible?  I took a lot of persuading.”


“Pepper’s Ghost is what they call the trick.”  Gene nodded.  “They’ve been doing stuff like this since the middle ages with a thing called Camera Obscura, but it’s been used on stage for decades now.  The glass is placed at 45 degrees to where you want the effect and by the use of lights and reflection you can project the image of the person into the other space as though they were there.  We usually make things look like their floating in space, but we can make it look like someone is in a room when they aren’t,” he chuckled, “or in this case, a prison wagon.” 


“Well, they fell for it.”  The Kid shook his head.  “They ‘saw’ me sitting in the prison wagon waving at them.”


“When you were really next to it behind a pane of glass with Joshua holding up a black light to copy the movements of their lamps, the glass projecting your image through the window of the wagon.” grinned Gene. 


“Sittin’ on a barrel to make it the right height,” laughed the Kid.


“I tell you, Joshua.  You’re a natural.  When you told me you used to be a locksmith, it made this real easy.  I came up with the distraction and an excuse to have glass in the back yard.  You got to break in and release him.”


The two ex-outlaws exchanged a conversation in a glance.  “Yeah, that was real lucky.”  The Kid felt the need to change the subject.  “Lom isn’t gonna be happy if he hears I was in jail.  He might still put two and two together.”


“Lom?” asked Gene.  “Your sheriff friend who gets you jobs?  That’s easy.  I’ll just swear you were with me.  It must have been a different Jones.”


“Yeah, Thaddeus.  There are a lot of people called Jones in the world,” Heyes’ cheeks dimpled.  “There’s got to be at least one of them called Thaddeus; but the escape won’t be reported here.  It’ll be at the penitentiary where they find you gone, and we never went anywhere near there.”    


The Kid arched his brows cynically.  “Yeah, well, I don’t suppose we’ve got much choice.  Tell me again why you couldn’t just give evidence, Gene?”


“If I did that, I’d have to give evidence in court and I know the judge personally.  I had no excuse for being in that part of town.  Absolutely none.  They’d have known that I gave into temptation and succumbed to the sins of the flesh yet again.  I couldn’t let you sit in jail because of my weakness, and the sheriff doesn’t know me, only the judge.”  Gene smiled ruefully.  “I have a great weakness for the ladies.  I hold off as long as I can, but I have to give in and visit a fleshpot about once a month.  I’d go mad if I didn’t.”


The Kid’s brows furrowed.  “Once a month ain’t bad.  I know men who use those places more often than that.”


“Yes.  Once a month isn’t much for your average man,” Gene nodded, the January wind tugging at his jungly, wild hair, “but it’s pretty good for a Priest.” 


Historical notes


A prison wagon was often called a Black Maria in the USA, until the term Paddy Wagon became more popular.  There are a few theories relating to various infamous ‘Marias’ but the most popular relates to a famous racehorse from 1826 in Harlem and once which swiftly transports prisoners to jail.




http://www.word-detective.com/2008/11/black-mariapaddy-wagon/        


Pepper’s Ghost is a variation of the Camera Obscura technique which has been performed for centuries.  It is an illusion technique used in theatre, amusement parks, museums, television, and concerts. It is named after John Henry Pepper, a scientist who popularized the effect in a famed demonstration in 1862. It has a long history, dating into the 16th century, and remains widely performed today. Notable examples of the illusion are the Girl-to-Gorilla trick found in old carnival sideshows and the appearance of "ghosts" at the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. Teleprompters are a modern implementation of Pepper's ghost. Examples of concert illusions based on Pepper's ghost are the appearance of Tupac Shakur onstage with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg at the 2012 Coachella Music and Arts Festival and Michael Jackson at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards.  




A black light was a lantern used often by thieves and criminals.  It shone light through one bull’s-eye lens, which was protected by flaps which could be closed to quickly block out the light or ensure it shone in only one direction.

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Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb
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PostSubject: Re: Temptation   Mon Mar 07, 2016 12:19 pm

The nimble fingers danced over the combination lock of the Brooker 150.  It was an older model, a good sturdy safe, but far from uncrackable.  He’d been working on it for about fifteen minutes now and he had to be getting close.  It was a matter of elimination; working through the numbers until he heard the click, but the sound was so low and muted it was hard to detect.  The elation he felt at each tiny tick was hard to beat; it made the adrenaline surge through his body in an exquisite wave of anticipation. 
There!  There it was.  He needed to find only two more to get the thing open.  Nearly there.  He heard the rustle of fabric behind him.  The Kid had moved in the chair, probably draping his leg over the side in the way that he does when he’s spreading out to relax.  Was this taking too long?

Back to business; even the smallest distraction meant the difference between success and failure and he had a living to make. 

What was that noise?  Heyes turned to scowl at the banker who observed events with anxious grey eyes.  “Sshh!”

The man glanced at the Kid’s admonishing frown and nodded silently.

Heyes returned to the safe and pressed his ear up against the door, biting into his lip.  He must be getting close to the time limit.  If he didn’t open this soon it’d all be over.  His fingertips glided back to the dial and spun it anticlockwise, slowing it down until he could detect every movement of every cog.                 

There!  Another one; just one more to find.  He slowed down the dial, pushing it as slowly as he possibly could.  Just a smidgeon more, another little turn and done it.  The click hit him like a visceral crescendo of anticipation, causing his eyes to close in ecstasy and grin.   He reached up and grabbed the handle, twisting it quickly and pulling the door open.  The slim brows arched at the neatly stacked piles of money, the bills all banded by paper wrappers.  He heard a long, low whistle behind him.
          
“How much do you think is there?”

“I can tell you exactly, right to the penny,” the manager replied.  “I take great pride in keeping excellent books.”

Heyes stood, straight from the crossed-legged position without a sign of strain.  “How long?”

The Kid looked down at his pocket watch.  “Just a little over seventeen minutes.”

Heyes nodded and smiled at the banker.  “I warned you, Mr. Francis.  That safe is stupidly easy to open.”

“You win. I’ll sign.  I’d never have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own two eyes.  You walked straight in the bank and would have been out of here in less than twenty minutes with all the money in the place.”  He pushed back his jacket to prop his hands on his hips, betraying a lush waistcoat.  “I need a new safe.”

The Kid flipped open a catalogue.  “Here you go.  This is the one you need.  The new Chapston’s 450 with time lock.”  He gestured over to his partner.  “He tried to open that for three weeks and never succeeded.  If he can’t open it nobody can.”

“I’ve got to say this is the most original way of selling security I’ve ever seen.  If I hadn’t seen you at the World’s Fair at Philadelphia I’d have thought twice about letting two famous criminals look over my security systems.”

“Well, the Governor himself gave us amnesty, and asked us oversee his systems personally,” grinned Heyes.  “If we can’t break it, it’s worth having.”  He pulled out an order form.  “Sign here, and here, and just at the bottom here...”

They watched the man blow the ink dry before handing over the paperwork.  “It’s been great to meet you.  My wife asked if you’d like to come to dinner?  She seemed real excited at the thought of meeting two real-life outlaws.  I can’t think why, but we like to try to please the ladies, don’t we?”

The cheeks dimpled.  “We sure do, but my partner and I have an appointment in the next town.  Please give her our apologies.  Thank you for your business, Mr.  Farnsworth.  It’s been a pleasure.”

The banker watched the two men stroll over to the door.  “Don’t you two ever get tempted to go back to your old life?  You just had me in here alone with an open safe, and you’re both armed.”

Blue eyes met brown, and shared an oft-had look of resignation.  “No, Mr. Farnsworth.  We don’t.  Sure we could take that money, but we’d never be able to enjoy it.  We couldn’t buy any of the things that make life worthwhile, like a real home, a family, or roots.  We did some dumb things when we were young, but I like to think we learned from our mistakes.”

“Yeah, but you’ve got memories to beat them all,” twinkled the manager.  “Sometimes, I wish I’d given into temptation more often.”

“Yeah,” nodded the Kid.  “Maybe sometimes it can get so borin’ that eatin’ that apple is just a little temptin’, but when you’ve bitten into a few worms you learn there’s more pain in surrenderin’ than there is in resistin’.”  He shrugged.  “You learn....”

“I guess you do.”  The banker opened the door.  “Thanks again, Gentlemen.  It’s been great.  You’re welcome back anytime; during opening hours of course.”  He guffawed loudly at his own joke, and only the closing of the bank door shut it out as it closed behind them. 

They continued down the sidewalk until Heyes broke the silence.  “I’ve gotta say, Kid.  That safe sure was tempting.  All that money just sitting there, us both armed....”

“Yeah, well.  You know the old sayin’.  Money is the root of all wealth.”

“I don’t think that’s right, Kid.  I think it’s evil.”

“Nope, Heyes.  That’s just what they want you to think so they can keep it all to themselves.”
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Moonpie
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PostSubject: Re: Temptation   Wed Mar 16, 2016 5:43 pm

Temptation

She was a beauty that went without saying; but she was off limits, especially for an ex-outlaw.  He sighed heavily and stared longingly through the window with velvet-brown eyes.  The shadows obscured him, which was a good thing, because anyone seeing him lurk about in the darkness like this would instantly call the law – and he certainly couldn’t afford that.


She would still have had a special allure, even without that paint.  Her sleek lines and sensuous curves ensured that.  He paused, allowing himself to dwell on the feel of her voluptuous contours and the thrill of pressing up against her to hear her tick.  He imagined caressing her softly with the slightest touch of his fingertips, working on her as only he knew how until she yielded to him, opening up with a sigh to reveal her precious treasures.  She sure didn’t give those up easily.  The very heart of her was always guarded and reserved; to the point only that wealthy middle-aged man was really the only one who saw all of her.  She was too good for this place, for this domestic, mundane, setting.  She should really be somewhere much busier and on show for everyone to admire, but she was a trophy of the man’s wealth as much as a treasury in her own right.


It was time to go.  He knew he would never be allowed near her, but it did no harm to dream.  Tonight when he was in bed he would allow himself to dwell on the thought of climbing through the window and being the thief that he was, or at least, the thief he used to be. 


Hannibal Heyes kept to the wall, shrouding himself in blackness until he reached the street again, visions of her elegance dancing in his mind’s eye.  Memories of her refinement and artistry would have to be enough to hold him.  It was unusual to see something so wondrous in the house of the man who’d just employed them to do some casual laboring.  Now if he’d still been an outlaw it would sure have been tempting to break into that house to see what was worth such a coffer.  Yes, the Brooker 202 sure was a wonderful safe.  She was a real beauty.
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Stepha3nie

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PostSubject: Re: Temptation   Mon Mar 28, 2016 7:44 pm

This isn't quite the story I wanted to write. But it was the only one I could get to paper or rather on screen. It developed around a few paragraphs about temptation which I jotted down over a year ago. It goes as far as it would tell me. I leave it to the reader to make up their own minds about the last paragraph. After all, readers should have an active role during the reading process - shouldn't they?



Temptation
 
The job offer had come at just the right moment. They had run out of funds once again. So, even though they had some misgivings about helping out another of Colonel Harper’s friends, they had agreed to make sure a certain delivery would arrive safely. All they had to do was sit in the boxcar with it for the three day journey and protect it from any would-be thieves.
 
Easy.
 
What they hadn’t counted on was the boredom. Usually, they enjoyed a break like this, with no actual work to be done, light on the back, but there were no saloons or restaurants – or books – on this train.
 
The first day, they enjoyed; relaxing, looking at the scenery, taking naps. During nighttime, they took turns keeping watch. The second day, Kid spent some time cleaning first his then Heyes’ revolvers. As an afterthought he also gave both their rifles a good going-over. Heyes read the newspaper. Twice. Then he practiced some card tricks. They tried playing cards for a while, but with just the two of them it wasn’t really fun.
 
Now, it was close to dawn of the third day. Suddenly, Hannibal Heyes opened his eyes. He was glad to be awake; his dreams hadn’t been restful. Full of running from lawmen and bounty hunters, a laughing governor, a voice taunting him about traps, and an iron door clanging shut behind him. His long johns and henley were clammy with sweat. When he sat up, his partner shot him a questioning look.
 
When Heyes offered to take over the watch, Kid Curry was quick to agree, and after lying down, he was even quicker asleep.
 
Heyes needed some fresh air, so he got up and walked over to the sliding door of their rolling strongroom. After opening it wide enough to lean out, he felt he could breathe easier. The cold air helped draw his brain out of the remnants of his dreams. He gulped some deep breaths, then found a safe position, holding on to the door and its jamb.
 
The rhythmic rumbling and jostling of the train in motion helped to calm him, as it usually did. Looking out at the dark landscape rushing by made him feel connected to it all. His eyes became unfocussed; still gazing out, he was now scanning the world where his plans came from.
 
He trusted his instincts – he suspected any outlaw who didn’t had a short career. And he had not only been in the business for a long time, he had become one of the leaders of the most famous, most successful gang in the West; together with his partner, cousin, best friend. Then one day, they had left it all behind. For a chance at getting amnesty and a fresh start in life, without warrant posters offering $10.000 for each of them, dead or alive.
 
Kid Curry had been handed the flyer with the amnesty offer, and Heyes’ instincts had told him it was time to get out of the business. Unfortunately, it turned out to be not as simple as they had hoped. The governor had agreed to an amnesty, but only after they had proven they were really going straight. They had to stay out of trouble for one year, while still being wanted, and they couldn’t tell anyone about the deal.
 
Then another year was added on, because times were difficult for the governor and it would be political suicide to grant amnesty to the most famous bank and train robbers. More time passed, a new governor was elected, agreed to the same deal, but he was soon replaced by another successor. The deal was negotiated once more, but with the year starting afresh. So far, they had gotten promises from six governors in succession (counting Governor Morgan twice), but still no amnesty. On bad days, the cynical side of Heyes thought they never would. The governor, no matter which one, had already achieved his goal – Heyes and Curry were out of business. What profit now in keeping his word to them? But Heyes couldn’t help being an optimist at heart. It would happen. Somehow they would make it, they just had to be careful and persevere.
 
Heyes felt calmer, but now he was getting cold. He left the door an arm width open and quietly went back to his cot to don his clothes. No sense in waking up the Kid and have both of them lose sleep over his nightmares. Seeing his cousin burrow deeper under his blanket, Heyes grabbed his own with a smile and carefully draped it over the sleeping form.
 
After walking back to the open door, he leaned against the jamb and looked out again. Where had he stopped his musings? Yes, trust his instincts.
 
Right now, his instincts told him, that he should pay attention to his unsettling dreams. Why would they warn him about traps, lawmen, the governor and getting locked away in prison – when they were doing a job for Mr. Silverman, who happened to have political connections and had hinted that this job might gain them influential friends?
 
Was it just because they got chased more often since going straight? Could it be because transporting money for Mr. Greer, another of Colonel Harper’s attorney friends, some years ago had left them feeling used and duped? Was this job a trap? Had the current governor become tired of the telegrams and visits from Sheriff Lom Trevors, who had brokered the original and all following deals on behalf of Heyes and Curry?
 
If it was a trap, he had to figure out what kind. Would a bunch of lawmen greet them at their destination, instead of the lawyer they had been instructed to make the delivery to? It seemed unlikely. If the job was simply a ploy to arrest them, it could have been done easily when they first boarded the train. Why wait until a long journey’s end?
 
Heyes had sometimes speculated that the governor (whichever was current) would prefer to get proof of them breaking the law to getting proof of them deserving amnesty. Could this now be a trap supposed to catch them at doing something illegal? Did he still think Heyes and Curry couldn’t be trusted, would steal if the sum was high enough? Maybe overhearing the amount of money they were guarding hadn’t been an accident. Silverman could have arranged it on purpose.
 
The governor, Colonel Harper, Silverman - did they really think they could tempt him so easily? Simply stick Hannibal Heyes in a boxcar with a safe full of money for a long journey, and the outlaw wouldn’t be able to resist. Really?!
 
The money in the safe was more than they had ever stolen. They could use it, no doubt, but it was far from enough to make him even consider giving up the amnesty for. Besides, he had given his word. And he had a thing about keeping promises. Couple that with the stubborn streak he shared with his cousin, and he would deliver the money to the right man, even if it killed him. This same stubborn streak occasionally also gave him an almost perverted sense of pleasure in not giving up on the amnesty. He would wear the governors of Wyoming down.
 
He had to admit that the safe itself posed a certain temptation. She was singing to him, the siren-song he had heard so many times and which never failed to attract him. She was enticing him even now to come closer, lean against her, touch her, caress her, put his hands upon her, play with her, listen to her, like only he knew how to. But he had come across this model several times in the past and knew she held no new allure, was no challenge for him.
 
He might be tempted to test if his skills were still sharp. Even though he did not want to use them for lawless activities, he was still proud of them. It would probably make him feel less somehow, if he was no longer the best safe-cracker in the West. But there was no sense dwelling on this line of thinking. There had been opportunities to indulge without truly getting on the wrong side of the law since they started their quest. There would be again, doubtless. He knew he still had his skills, even if no longer quite his old speed. It was unlikely he would ever lose his abilities as long as his hearing did not let him down.
 
If this was a trap, then the greatest temptation was to step away from a battle of wits. If they wanted to test him, he longed to shout in their faces that he had seen their plot from a mile away. He longed to show off his cleverness. And if that included showing off skill and restraint at the same time too – he had to admit he was more than ready to give in. Maybe he could leave a little message in the safe, on top of the money? Something like “Sorry, we don’t do this anymore”.
 
Yes, this temptation might just prove too much.
 
Then again, maybe this exactly was the trap – they expected him to open it, for whatever purpose, and had the safe rigged to explode when he did. Wouldn’t that be a headline? “Heyes and Curry killed”, “Famous outlaws last heist.” Then again, how did the plotters intend to get the money out if he didn’t try to open the safe? Wouldn’t they get blown up instead? And why would they store all the real money in it in the first place? This time, he and the Kid had made sure that the money wasn't exchanged for newspaper clippings, like that time they worked for Attorney Greer. So, probably there was no deadly booby-trap.
 
What else? What was his instinct trying to tell him? Was it a warning of danger to come? Or could it be that this was just one last test? Was the governor finally willing to sign the amnesty papers, if they resisted temptation for three days? In this case, he would be just too happy to resist it and the safe at his back.
 
During his musings, the scenery outside had gotten lighter, the black and greys had been replaced by brighter colors. Sunrise had tinted the eastern sky in an array of reds and oranges. A new day had truly begun.
 

Heyes knew what to do. But it would be better to talk it through with the Kid. He’d wake him in a moment. A happy smile spread across his face, bringing out his dimples. Yes, this would be a good day.




End




As always, I'd love to hear your comments.
And if you don't mind, please let me know what you think Heyes will do. He wouldn't tell me.

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

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PostSubject: Re: Temptation   Thu Mar 31, 2016 4:51 pm

“Dammit, Heyes.  She’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.  Can’t we stay just one more day?”

“No, we can’t.”  Heyes shook his head.  “I got a telegram from the governor and he insists on us heading to Laramie for a job.”

Doubtful blue eyes glinted from across the room.  “But you can’t show me this telegram?”

“I told you I lost it.”  Heyes flipped open his carpet bag.  “You can always send one to check if you don’t believe me.  Why so suspicious anyway?”

“You never liked, Margaret.  Not from the moment you laid eyes on her.”

“Liked her?”  Heyes shook his head.  “I like her just fine.  She’s beautiful, clever, and funny.”

“But?”

“But what?  The word never left my lips.”

The Kid folded his arms.  “I could hear it in your voice.  What’s up?”

“Nothing.  Not one thing.”  Heyes shrugged.  “Maybe I’m a little bit jealous.  Let me make it up to you.  Why don’t you make an arrangement to see her one last time before we go?  Tell her you want to make it a special evening.”  His brows arched.  “I’ll get a message sent to her.  I’ll even help you to write it.”

“I don’t need you to help me write it!  Don’t be so arrogant.”  The Kid strode over to the window and gazed out at the town below.  “I write every bit as well as you.”

“Sure, I’m just trying to help.  I’m only trying to be a good buddy.  She’s great.  I’m sorry you have to leave here.”  The dark eyes widened.  “You knew we’d have to leave sometime.”

The gunman’s shoulders dropped, his tension dissipating.  “I know.  It’s just that she’s, well…kinda special.”

Heyes nodded slowly.  “Yeah.  But you can’t settle down, it’s just asking to get caught.  We’ve talked about this.” 

“I guess,” the Kid scratched his chin pensively.  “Maybe we could come back here after we get amnesty.”

“Sure.  It’ll be the first place we come.”  A smile tugged at Heyes lips.  “Just have a good enough time tonight to hold you for a while.  How about I send a note so you can get ready for your date?  I’ll tell her you’ll pick her up at eight.”

~~~~~
 
Heyes sat in the bushes overlooking Margaret Williams’ house, peering through binoculars at the men who tied up their horses and strode towards the front door.  They wore tied-down guns and moved with practiced menace.  He didn’t miss the rifles on the holsters attached to the saddles either.  These were not the kind of men who normally visited a rural school teacher.

He watched them knock on the door, and be greeted by the woman inside.  The reception was stiff and formal, so they clearly weren’t old friends or relatives, in fact the way the tall mustachioed one held out his hand to introduce the other two looked very much like he was introducing them.  He scanned their chests.  Nope, no stars.  Bounty hunters?  They weren’t the type to call for afternoon tea, that’s for sure.  

Heyes lowered the binoculars and paused in deep thought.  He was sure there had been something about her he didn’t trust, and now he was as certain as could be without walking into her home himself.  There had been a flicker in the beautiful green eyes when she’d met the Kid in that general store; it was fast, and soon covered, but that was a tell in itself.  The practiced poker player didn’t miss it from his vantage point by the door, and he had harbored suspicions about this woman ever since.  He couldn’t tell the Kid; he could be as stubborn as a ox when it came to the fairer sex.  It was wiser to play his cards close to his chest.   

This was going to eat the Kid alive.  How was he going to tell him?

~~~~~
 
The binoculars were lowered from a pair of arctic blue eyes as the Kid stared over at Margaret’s house.  The men could be seen clearly through the window, seated around the very table to which the Kid was expected in a couple of hours.  He sighed.  “What made you check, Heyes?”

“I dunno.  I’ve got your back just like you get mine.  It works both ways.”

A muscle flinched in the gunman’s neck.  He had retreated back into himself; better to show nothing than vent the anger swirling in his belly.  “You knew.  How did you know?”

“Tiny things; the way she stiffened, her voice tightened, the way she didn’t smile from her eyes.  I didn’t know though, I only guessed.  I just thought it was worth checking out.”  His voice softened.  “I’m sorry, Kid.  I really am.”

The Kid gave a curt nod.  “Come on.”  He stood, turning to walk back to his horse, “and thanks, Heyes.”

“Yeah, temptation’s laid out there as a trap for everyone, Kid.  That’s why we’re partners; to spot them because we don’t have the same weaknesses any more than we have the same strengths.  You’ve done the same for me.  You’ll do the same again.”  He playfully patted his cousin’s shoulder.  “Let’s get outta here, huh?”

~~~~~

Margaret sat quietly by the window, her pretty head bowed over her embroidery.  A sudden rap at the door shattered the silence.  She darted a glance at the men pressed against the wall, but they merely nodded and gestured with their eyes for her to open the door.

It slowly opened with a creak but she started in surprise at the people standing on the threshold.  “Mrs. Roberts, Reverend Spencer?  I wasn’t expecting you.”

The older woman observed her through pebble spectacles.  “So I gather.  May we come in?”

Margaret hesitated.  “It’s not the most convenient time.”

“Do I need to remind you that you live in a house provided by the local townspeople and that we can inspect the premises at any time we please under the terms and conditions of your employment?” sniped the Rev. Spencer.

“Well, no.  But…”

“But nothing,” Mrs. Roberts laid a hand on the door and pushed it open.  “We are coming in.”   She gazed at each of the three men in turn.  “And who might these persons be?”

The tallest of the men pushed himself out of the corner he had been leaning against.  “Persons?  We ain‘t no persons.”

The worthies exchanged a glance.  “You are not permitted gentlemen callers until you have been employed for three years, and even then, only if you have faithfully performed your duties and attended church to our satisfaction,” Mrs. Roberts replied.

“And after you have sought, and been given, approval from the School Governors,” the churchman added.  “I do not remember any such permission being sought,” he cleared his throat, “or being given.”

“They are not callers,” Margaret replied.  “They’re lawmen.  They’re looking for a dangerous criminal.  You would want me to help support law and order, wouldn’t you?”

“We would,” the matron looked down her pinched nose.  “Perhaps you could explain where you are sworn in as sheriffs, gentlemen?”

“Well, we ain’t exactly sworn in, ma’am.”  The oldest shuffled scuffed heels across the floorboards.  “We’re more kinda independent.  Freelancers.  Like travellin’ salesmen, but for justice.”

“Just as we were informed,” nodded the older woman. “Bounty hunters.”  She turned back to Margaret.  “So who are they waiting for?”

“Kid Curry, ma’am,” the tall man replied.

“And why?” demanded Mrs. Roberts. 

“’Cos he’s comin’ here to see her,” sniggered the littlest man.  “That and the bounty on his head.”
 
“So our information is correct,” declared the minister.  “You have been dallying with a criminal?”

“No!”

All faces turned to the young woman.  The tall bounty hunter scowled.  “But you said he was comin’ here to meet you.”   

“He was,” she glanced at her employers, “but it wasn’t an assignation.”

The churchman’s lip curled.  “You have a wanted gunman visiting your home and it wasn’t pre-arranged?”

“Not exactly,” Margaret began.  “I was leading him on to turn him in.”

“Leading on a criminal,” gasped the older lady.  “Shocking behavior.”

“It simply cannot be countenanced,” agreed the Rev. Spencer.

“I only saw a man I recognized and tried to turn him in,” protested Margaret.  “They held up a train I was on once.”

“Did you speak to the sheriff about the fact that a wanted gunman was in town?” demanded the minister.

Margaret paused.  “Well, not exactly….”

“You either did or you didn’t.  Which is it?”

Red spots of stress started to appear on Margaret’s cheeks.  “I contacted these gentlemen.  They are the law.  The sheriff’s a good man, but he’s elderly and I thought he was no match for a famous gunman.”

“Miss Williams, I have heard enough.  Please pack your bags and go first thing in the morning.  It is clear that you have not lived up to the standards we expect of a teacher in this town.  You put your own need for the reward money above the safety of this town.  That and the fact you have clearly invited this gunman here under the pretence of an assignation.  Your conduct is unseemly, indecent, and immoral.”  The Rev. Spencer glared at the men.  “Get out of here.  All of you.”

“We ain’t goin’ nowhere, mister,” growled the tallest man.  “Kid Curry is on his way here and we aim to take him in.”  

“Kid Curry is not on his way here,” smirked the matron.  “That is why we are here.  Do you really think the Reverend and I would risk our lives in such a foolhardy manner?”

“What do you mean he ain’t comin’,” demanded the smallest man.

The woman shared a look with the minister before replying.  “We were warned.”

“Who by?”  The tallest bounty hunter barked. 

“A gentleman came to see me this afternoon,” Rev. Spencer, pulled himself up to his full height of five foot six inches.  “He advised me that he had had his heart broken by Miss Williams.  They have had a secret understanding for some time, only for her to throw him over for this Curry person.  I believe he warned him to leave the county.  The poor man was heartbroken.”      

Margaret’s mouth dropped open.  “What?  I haven’t been seeing anyone.”

“A likely story,” sniffed Mrs. Roberts.

“It’s true!”

“What did this man look like?” the oldest man’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. 

The pastor held up his hand.  “About yay tall, dark eyes, brown hair, a very pleasant young ,man.  Educated, I’d say….”

“Hannibal Heyes,” cried all three men in unison, running for the door.  “What way did he go?”

“What?  He’s here too?”  Margaret’s brow furrowed.  “I never saw him at the robbery, only Kid Curry and he was alone in the store when I bumped into him in town.”

“Forget it, lady,” the shortest man turned at the door.  “The deal’s off.  You blew it when you let Heyes get wind of this.”

“Where are you going?”

“To see if we can pick up on their trail.  They’ll have headed straight out of town the minute Heyes left the church mouse.”

“What did you just call me?” demanded Rev. Spencer.  But he was arguing with empty air.  All three men were already running for their horses. 
 
“What are you waiting for,” Mrs. Roberts turned back to Margaret.  “Get packing.  You are still sacked.  Perhaps the next time you are tempted to claim a reward you will retain your dignity?”

“Dignity?  You dried out old hen,” snapped Margaret.  “You’re just upset that I was going to get that money without you having a cut.  Yes, I’ll leave, but before I go I’m getting every penny due to me as well as a month’s notice and a letter of reference.”

“You have been dismissed.   You’ll get exactly what you are due up to today and nothing more.”

“Really?”  Margaret replied archly.  “Then I’ll have to tell the townsfolk about irregularities in the books.  Not to mention you and the Reverend’s illicit relationship.”

“What!?  That is a complete lie.  No such thing has happened!”

Margaret’s green eyes gleamed, a feline smile playing around her lips.  “You know that, and I know that, but will everyone else?  Don’t tempt me; all I want is what’s fair.  Don’t make me call your bluff.”

~~~~~

Two pairs of eyes peered through the back window, glittering with amusement.  They listened to the receding hoofs of the bounty hunters as they headed off into town to find out what way Heyes and Curry had headed out of town.

They dropped into the shadows and ghosted their way back to the horses tethered in the nearby copse.  “I just wanted to see what we were up against, Heyes.  I didn’t expect a full on floorshow.”

“Yeah, it was interesting how she just turned all of a sudden.  I’d say you had a lucky escape with that one.”

“In more ways than one, Heyes.”  The Kid mounted his horse.  “North or South?”

“How about South?  There’s a riverboat I want to visit.  The tables are famous.”

The Kid tugged at the reins.  “Sounds temptin’.  South it is.”
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PostSubject: Re: Temptation   Thu Mar 31, 2016 6:01 pm

I originally called this Unburdening but a few amendments and I think it will stand as Temptation too.

Temptation

Heyes walked up the hill, carrying a small three-legged stool in one hand and in the other, a bag with flowers peeking out of the top. Reaching the spot he had headed for, he planted the stool firmly. Sighing he sat down, took his hat off and put it on the ground by the side of him. He finger combed his hair back and sat for a moment. After a while, he took a deep breath. Then he leaned forward and patted the top of the headstone.


“Hey, Mary, how you doing?”


Swallowing a lump, he read the inscription on the headstone. It said: Mary Elizabeth Heyes, beloved wife of Joshua, mother of Susan, Harry and William. Then it listed her dates: September 9, 1858 and July 1, 1909, the latter two years ago today.


Heyes looked away. He had been without her for two whole years and his eyes watered. The pain wasn’t getting any easier. Oh, it wasn’t the sharp stabbing pain it had been when she was first killed. Now it was just an ache.


He had hardly visited her grave. He knew he should but he found it difficult. Somebody had though. There were flowers already on the grave, some fresh. He smiled and licked his lips. It was good that she wasn’t being forgotten. He nodded. That’s how it should be.
He unpacked his own flowers now.


“Got your favourite, Mary. Hope you like ‘em,” he smiled as he placed them.


“Now let’s see. Let me bring you up to date with what’s been happening. Where to start? Where to start?” He stared off into the distance for a moment. “Oh I know.” He licked his lips. “Susan’s having a good marriage with Leo, Mary. You’d of been proud of her after the dances she led us. Wish you coulda known him for longer though. He’s a good man and he’s doing well with his art school. Oh guess I didn’t tell ya. I bought that big ole barn from the Kid. Y’know the one out back of your little house? Leo is using it to teach painting and drawing. Offering holidays to rich eastern folks who wanna draw the real West. Had quite a take up.”


“And Alfie, he’s a cheeky little devil but he’s a good kid. They’re a proper little family now and they’ve settled in real well at Amnesty.” He paused. “It’s their house now.”


He lapsed into silence for a moment. “Don’t get out there much these days.” He shook his head. “I had to go Mary. I couldn’t stay there. On my own. Without you. I know we designed and built that house together. I know it was where we brought up our kids. I know all that.” He swallowed and shook his head.


“It was torture Mary. Rattling around there on my own. So quiet. And everywhere I went, you were there. I never slept in our bedroom again y’know. Couldn’t. Could barely go in there. So I had to go. Hope you understand?” He looked at the headstone as if expecting an answer.


“I moved into your little house. Where we lived when we were first married. D’you remember? It was our little love nest.” He cleared his throat and sighed.


“We thought we had found the perfect tenants didn’t we?” He shook his head.


“When I asked them to leave, they trashed the place! I gave ‘em plenty of notice and offered to find them another place.” He sucked air through his teeth. “But no! Anyway, they did me a favour really. I had the place gutted and redecorated like I want. Now don’t you go rolling your eyes at me ‘bout my taste. Susan has already given me “the look” on more than one occasion. It’s how I want it.” He paused considering what to say next.


“I took my resignation back after you … I needed to keep busy. Susan stands in as Lady Mayoress now, when I ask. I don’t ask too often. I know she don’t like it and er …” He smiled and laughed gently. “You know how diplomatic our daughter can be? Her plain speaking don’t always go down too well.” He rolled his eyes and sighed. “I’m gonna give that up soon. Nearly done.” He put his head down and was quiet for a moment.


“Anyway, Harry is doing fine. Don’t get to see him too often though. When he does come home, he just turns up outta the blue.” He smiled. “But I think he’s alright. Harry Briscoe rings me every and now and then to tell me what a good boy he is and how well George Bannerman Junior thinks of him.” He tutted and shook his head. “Leastways I think he’s talking about our Harry!” He smiled and rubbed his eyes. “Never can tell with ole Harry.”


“Billy is getting on well with his doctorate.” Heyes sighed. “I don’t see him much either. Guess it’s hard for him to get away. San Francisco is … a fair distance.” He tailed off. “When he does come home he … generally goes out to Amnesty. Sue has kept his old room for him.” He paused, staring into space. “I think I’m losing him, Mary. Perhaps I should make an effort and go see him.” He sighed. “I dunno.”


Heyes took a deep breath. “Anyway, that’s the news about the kids.” He paused. He eyed the grave as he considered what to say next. Then he glanced around the graveyard to see if there was anybody within earshot. There didn’t appear to be.


“I er have something to … say about me.  I dunno if you’ll be alright with it but I … I gotta tell ya Mary.” He swallowed and looked away, wringing his hands.


“A man has needs, Mary and you and me … well it was … the best. I never looked at another woman. Didn’t need to … but er, things are different now. I guess you know that. Thing is I didn’t go looking. I never figured there would be … never wanted … anybody but you.” He licked his lips and took a deep breath.


“She came out of nowhere and … it’s quite ridiculous … really.” He gave a nervous laugh. “She’s young. Billy’s age. And … she’s not … at all like you … or any woman …” He sniffed.


“Anyway she delivered to the Hardware Store a few months ago. I was standing in for Dan. D’you remember my manager? He had to go outta town unexpected ...” He sighed. “She drives a big ole delivery wagon and a team of four horses! Drives ‘em over the mountains an’ everything.” He shook his head. “I dunno how she does it. She’s a little bit of a thing.” He shook his head again. “Petite I think they call it” He took a deep breath.


“She makes me laugh, Mary. Really laugh and I ain’t done too much of that lately. She … I’ve … been playing poker … just for … just for summat to do. Stop being on my own y’know. And she joined the game one night.” He smiled at the memory. “Funny little thing. Wears the most ridiculous hat! And pants! Can you believe it?” He shook his head.


“The rows I had with Susan ‘bout how women shouldn’t wear pants and here I am …” He looked down at his hands. “I dunno Mary.” He took a deep breath.


“Anyway she joined the poker table I was at and we got talking. And laughing. And sparring. She gave me back as good as I was giving her. It was kinda fun.” He shook his head, smiling. “She’s just outrageous. Tells the most implausible stories but the way she tells ‘em … she has me howling with laughter. Now y’know I rarely laugh like that. Well … she makes me. A lot. I can’t help it.” He sniffed and looked away. “She fascinates me, Mary. There’s jus’ summat about her.”


“I wiped her out that first night. She couldn’t afford a hotel room. She was gonna bed down with her horses but … I didn’t feel too comfortable with that … as I … was responsible an’ all.” He took a deep breath.


“So I … offered her the spare bedroom. That’s all … just the spare bed.” He nodded his head. “Woke up in the morning an’ she’s in bed with me!” He rolled his eyes. “She said she was cold.” He looked away and sighed.

“Nothing happened Mary I swear. Told her to get.” He paused, considering what to say next.


“She comes to Porterville a lot. It’s on her delivery route. I generally see her in the saloon, playing poker.” He frowned hard. “She is a good player,” he conceded, nodding. “’Xcept … I’m better.” He looked away.


“She stays most times. In the spare bed. ‘Least ways that’s where she started off. There’s just summat about her Mary. I dunno what it is. I kept finding her …” He put his head down and ran his hand through his hair. “… in the morning … beside me. Naked. Sometimes she’d be snuggled up to me and … she kept telling me she was cold in that spare room.” He sniffed and looked at the sky. “I dunno. I put more blankets on the bed. I put thicker drapes at the window. I painted the walls a warmer colour. I even slept in there myself. Woke up dripping with sweat.” He puffed and looked away.


“I know Mary. Why didn’t I try and stop her? I did! Locked my door. That’ll stop her I thought. Yeah but I had to get up in the night. I was sometime and when I got back … there she was … asleep. I could of gone in the other room I suppose.” He put his head down. “But I didn’t. I climbed in next to her and she snuggled. It was nice.” He paused.


“Then ‘nother night I thought I’d lock her door.” He pursed his lips. “Big mistake Heyes. I should of expected the screaming and banging. Dunno what I was thinking. She gave me such a tongue lashing.” He laughed humourlessly and rubbed his forehead. He groaned. “She still turned up during the night though. Dunno when. She was just there in the morning. Those big grey eyes looking at me on the pillow. She just smiled at me, turned over and went back to sleep.”


“I dunno what she’s done to me Mary. I’ve started to feel things … that I ain’t felt since … .” Now he had tears in his eyes. “She kept … pestering me, tempting me …” He put his head down. “She seduced me Mary.” A sob escaped him. “I … gave in. An’ it was … a release!” His head was in his hands now and he shook it.


“Afterwards all I could think of was you weren’t the last woman I’d made love to. That hurt. That really hurt. I sat on the side of the bed for ages. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t touch me. She let me be. When I looked round at her I took one look and … well … you get the drift.” He swallowed.


“I didn’t betray you did I Mary? I mean … you’re … life has to go on right?” He looked at the silent grave. “I love you Mary. I love you very much an’ I’ll never stop loving you.” He scrubbed at his face where the tears had rolled. “She’s just bewitched me!” He sniffed.


“I asked her once what it was. She said she wanted experience. Ha! She seduced me. I’d say she was the one with experience!”


“I dunno how I feel about her. She’s just … so different. Jeez she comes home … home? She comes back in the most disgusting state sometimes. Dunno what she does to get herself like that.”


He looked thoughtful. “I throw her in the bath and scrub her till she’s pink and then she’s … soft an’ … I can’t leave her alone, Mary! I jus’ can’t.” He put his head down. “I haven’t written a word since … you left me. Rob was real understanding at first but just lately … he wants the book I was working on finished so he can publish. Guess I’m just a source of income to him huh? Anyway we had angry words on the telephone an’ I told him to print what there was and let the readers decide the ending!” He laughed and wiped his hands wearily over his eyes.


“He took me at my word didn’t he? Published it in weekly instalments and held a competition for the best ending.” He sighed. “And the prize? Best five get to have dinner with me and discuss it. Then he wants me to decide the winner! Jeez! I’ll have to spend six weeks in Boston!” He shook his head and looked away.


“Haven’t seen the Kid in over a year. He and Caroline are fine but they had some trouble with two of their boys. The older two. Joshua and Christopher were involved in an automobile accident. Josh was fine. Just a few bumps and bruises but Chris … well it was touch and go for ages. I think that fear has receded now but its unlikely he’ll ever work again.”


Heyes was silent for a few moments wringing his hand then he burst out, “I can’t do it, Mary!” He shook his head. “I can’t be apart from her for six weeks! It’s hard enough when she’s away … but six weeks!” He took a deep breath and wiped his face that was wet. “What do I do?”


He put his head down and shook it. Then he looked up and sighed.


“Have to tell you though … it’s kinda nice … having somebody in my life again. In that way.” He licked his lips.

“You don’t begrudge me do you? Please don’t be disappointed in me, Mary. I never thought …” He put his head down. “I dunno where it’s going ... . Mebbe I’m just’ lonely. Y’know the kids are all grown and got their own lives now. Don’t need me anymore.” He sighed.


“Tell you summat. Having a mistress ain’t sitting too well with me.” He gave a deep sigh and got himself under control.


“Folks in town think I’ve gone crazy!” He smiled faintly. “Maybe I have.” He laughed humourlessly and shook his head. “They’ve all guessed of course and they can’t understand it. I’m their Mayor for Chrissake!” He laughed again, rubbing his temples. “That makes six hundred of us.”


“The kids think I’ve lost my mind too. Susan told her … can you believe? To just f*** me and get it over with. That was afore we … actually got around to it. I think she thought that once we did that would be the end of it. That I’d get it outta my system. Well it didn’t quite work out like that.” He paused.


“She’s here for a few days every two weeks or so. Harry … I think Harry is attracted to her. When she scrubs up she’s … well she’s just gorgeous … and Billy.” He swallowed hard. “Well Billy … won’t talk to me. About her. About anything really. We argued. He thinks I’ve betrayed you. Have I Mary? If I have, then I am so sorry.” He shook his head and rubbed his face. “I should have been stronger but …” He swallowed hard. “Here I am a sixty year old man and she’s a child! I should know better but she … there’s jus’ summat ‘bout her, Mary.” He looked up at the sky biting his lip.


Finally, he took a deep breath. “Anyway I had to come and tell you how things were. I hope you can understood.” He paused.


“I miss you, my darling. I’d do anything to have you back with me … but I know that’s not possible.” He sighed. “I will always love you, Mary Elizabeth Fletcher. How could I not? You were everything I had dreamt about while I was trying to get a normal life. And you’re the mother of my beautiful children.” Suddenly he smiled. “Troublesome children I should say. Awh but I love ‘em because they’re part of you too. The troublesome bit is me I think.” He smiled. “Anyway that’s what I came to say.” He sighed. “I’m glad I’ve told you.”


With a groan, he got up slowly and looked down at the grave. He stood for a moment with his hand on the headstone, his head bowed. Then he folded up the bag and put it in his pocket. He picked up his hat and positioned it carefully, low down over his eyes, in true Hannibal Heyes style. If he should meet anybody before he reached home, it meant do not talk to me. Then gathering up the stool, he paused for a moment and nodded.


“See you my darling. I’ll try and come more often.” He sighed. “But if I don’t manage it then know that you are always in my heart. Even now.”


He walked away, wiping the last of the moisture from his face.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________


“How did it go?” she asked, hands in her pants pockets, as Heyes came in. She had bathed and her long curly hair was soft and loosely arranged over her shoulders.


Heyes looked round and frowned. He’d forgotten she was here. He pushed the stool under the table, turned and hung up the bag on the coat stand. Keeping his back to her, he took off his jacket and hung that up as well. He paused for a moment before taking his hat off and put it on the top of the coat stand.


He turned round slowly and stood hands on hips, sucking air in through his teeth. She could see the muscle twitching in his cheek. She knew him well enough now not to push him. He would talk to her in his own time.
She nodded and went to sit on the sofa.


He went to the little table and poured himself a whisky. He didn’t offer her one. She watched him out of the corner of her eye as he downed it, and then he dropped the glass deliberately onto the tray. All of a sudden, she felt very nervous about what he would say when he spoke.


“I think I feel better,” he murmured, finally. “I’m glad I went,” he added, with a nod and a smack of the lips.

Then he sniffed and looked up, searching for her. He smiled faintly when he found her. As he took a seat in the wingback chair, he motioned her over. He pulled her onto his lap by the waistband of her pants. “I don’t know about you, Tulsee Murdoch, the most troublesome of women,” he murmured as she settled on his lap.


“Your troublesome woman, Heyes. All yours,” she grinned and gave his shoulder a prod.


He grinned at her. “Yeah,” he breathed doubtfully. He looked at her and swallowed. “I think she understood,” he said, quietly.


“I’m glad. I know it’s been tearing you up,” she said, smoothing back his hair.


“Yeah. I think I’ve made my peace with her now. We can move on.” He smiled as his thumb caressed her cheek.


“Where to Heyes?” she grinned.


“Now that I don’t have the answer to.” He was grinning now, his hand rubbing her thigh and hip. “Let’s just see what happens shall we?”


The kiss he gave her would go a long way in deciding that.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A few months later, Tabitha Ann to give her full name (but never ever call me that!) became the second Mrs Heyes. It was a while before Heyes told his children that they now had a step-mother. The news did not go down too well.

_________________
Kid Curry and that other fella; Hannibal Heyes and whatsname
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HelenWest

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Posts : 1459
Join date : 2013-09-09
Age : 55
Location : West of the Mississippi

PostSubject: Re: Temptation   Fri Apr 01, 2016 1:12 am

Tempted to Death

This is based on a dream. Given the challenge, I was, you might say, tempted to finally write it up. You will find temptations scattered throughout, but which ones should be resisted and which not?

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“Do ya’ think he’s gonna die?”

The nearby voice woke a man who had been deeply asleep.

“Don’t talk like that! It’s bad luck,” said another voice.

The newly woken man lay with his eyes still closed, trying to figure out what was going on. The first thing he knew was that the left side of his chest was a mass of pain that made each breath agonizing. And he was too weak to even feel around with his hand to find out what hurt so much. He fought to keep breathing. He felt completely exhausted. Each breath was a torment, long and rattling. One, two, three, four, he counted the struggling breaths and then lost track in the sheer labor of living. Nothing had ever seemed so hard. Why should he keep up this awful fight? It was a terrible temptation just to stop trying, to let go, to let this torture end. He couldn’t remember why it was important to live.

Instead, he tried to listen to the quiet voices he heard nearby, to hold onto those presences in the dark.

“Well, all I know is, I never seen a man shot that bad come through it alive.”

So that was what was hurting so much. A bullet wound. Yes, the wound had the all-too-familiar burning pain. Or wounds. Now that he paid attention to it, he could tell that there were two wounds in his chest.

“He’s tough. He’ll live. He’s got to.”

“Now who’s makin’ bad luck? I don’t want him to die, neither. We none of us do.”

There was the soft sound of cards being dealt and the crackle of a fire. But the fire seemed to throw no heat. The wounded man felt horribly cold, but at least glad that someone seemed to care. Or they did care if the man they worried would die was the same man they were sitting next to playing cards.

“He never told us the other half of that plan to get us $50,000. We did all he wanted on the first part getting us here to this house. But how to get the money he talked about, nobody knows but him.”

“I know that. The whole gang knows that.”

So, that was why these men cared about the wounded man lying so still near them. Money. That was all. Maybe he shouldn’t bother to live, after all. He drew another long, terrible breath.

The cards riffled again.

“Unless he told the Kid.”

“If he did, the Kid ain’t said nothing about it. And we been here two days, waiting for Heyes to wake up.”

There was a pause. The unstated end of the sentence was surely “or die.”

“But Heyes and the Kid tell each other everything, don’t they? I don’t know ‘em like you do.”

Heyes. So that was his name. Of course it was. In the fog of pain and the fight of continuing to breathe, he had almost forgotten.

“Yeah, they’re like that. I been with the Devil’s Hole three years, almost. They fight, but they talk.”

There was the sound of cards moving again, but the voices stopped. Heyes drifted, almost asleep again. He was so thirsty, but it was much too much trouble to open his eyes and try to open his cracked lips to ask for a drink. It was so tempting to just not bother.

There was the click of a lock opening and the creak of a door swinging on neglected hinges. The sound of the cards stopped suddenly. Heyes was awake again, but he kept his eyes closed. It seemed the safest thing. If he opened his eyes, they might make him do something. He wasn’t up to doing anything. Maybe not even breathing. But still, he listened.

Heyes heard footsteps coming toward him across a wooden floor. A very familiar tenor voice asked, “Well, Doc, how is he?” It was the Kid. He sounded worried.

“Give me a minute to look him over, Mr. Curry,” said an unfamiliar baritone voice. Someone pulled back the blanket and Heyes began to shiver. He was so cold.

The doctor said, “Well, he’s alive. That’s more that I felt sure of yesterday.”

“Yeah.” Curry tried to sound casual, but Heyes recognized the uncertainty in his partner’s voice.

A gentle hand felt along the wounded man’s ribs.

A tiny gasp escaped from Heyes’ lips.

The doctor continued, “And he’s conscious, at least enough to hurt when I got too close to his wounds. But he’s terribly weak. We have to get him awake enough to get some liquid and nourishment into him, or he won’t make it much longer. It won’t be easy. He’s lost a lot of blood.”

“I know. He bled all over me.”

“And me, when I dug those slugs out of him. The good thing is, I don’t feel any excess warmth. No infection, thus far. If you can keep the wounds clean and dressed like I showed you, he’ll have a chance.”

“But right now, we have to wake him up enough to get something down him. You talk to him. He knows your voice, Mr. Curry.”

“He ought to,” said the Kid. “Heyes! Heyes! Wake up, partner!”

Heyes was so tempted to ignore the insistent, familiar voice. So tempted. But he concentrated as hard as he could and managed to open his eyes. The world looked blurry. The wounded outlaw blinked. His eyes felt dry and grainy.

“Hey there, partner! How are you?” the Kid spoke with a forced cheerfulness that didn’t fool Heyes.

The portly doctor leaning over Heyes put up his hand. “No, don’t try to speak, Mr. Heyes. Save your strength. You must try to drink something.” He reached for a mug. As he turned back to his patient, he saw fear in his eyes. “Don’t worry. I’m Doctor Bates, Mark Bates’ uncle. Mark is that young man who joined you recently. I may not like having my nephew be a thief, but I won’t turn you in.” The uneasiness retreated from Heyes’ distressed brown eyes.

Heyes fought to keep his eyes opened and to keep breathing. He didn’t know if he could drink anything, but he was fiercely thirsty. As a mug approached his face, he opened his lips. The doctor spooned cool water into Heyes’ mouth. It tasted good. It was hard to swallow while he was lying down. Heyes coughed. The cough hurt more than he could believe.

The wounded outlaw didn’t remember passing out or falling asleep. But he must have, since he was waking up again. It was darker than it had been. It must be night, or nearly.

“Heyes,” came the gentle voice of the drunken thief they called the Preacher. “You want some broth? We got some nice and hot for you.”

The wounded man nodded as well as he could. He had to be stronger. He couldn’t have nodded when he had been awake before.

The Preacher spooned a little broth into Heyes’ mouth, cautiously. It was warm, delicious beef broth. The wounded man swallowed more easily, now. He smiled his thanks. He swallowed all he could, first of broth and then of cool water.

The healing man opened his eyes. Again, he had slept without knowing it. Sunlight was streaming into the unfamiliar room through coarse curtains. The stove seemed to be giving more heat. He saw his partner sitting on a chair by the bed, smiling at him. “Heyes, how are you?”

“Hurts,” whispered the wounded man hoarsely. “Hungry.”

The Kid smiled, cheered that his partner was now strong enough to speak. “Well, I ain’t surprised it hurts. You took two pistol shots in the back from the Duvall Gang. We drove ‘em off, don’t worry. They didn’t follow us up to this house, we think. You was hit so bad, and when your lung went all flat, we thought we’d lost you for sure. But Bates’ uncle the doc dug out the lead and patched you up.”

“Doc?” asked Heyes cautiously.

The Kid said, “He had to leave. He does have other folks to help. But he showed us how to nurse you. I guess it’s good you’re hungry. I got some soup for you. You want me to help you sit up a bit so you can eat it better?”

“Careful,” gasped Heyes. His partner did his best to be careful as he helped his weak partner to sit up, but the wounded man hissed in pain and nearly passed out. The Kid plumped up a couple of pillows to support him. When his partner had recovered a bit from the exertion, Curry spooned some soup into him. He couldn’t take much before he fell asleep.

Suddenly, Heyes’ eyes opened again. It was getting dark. He could hear an argument going on in the next room.

“I don’t give a damn if the Duvall Gang is coming, I ain’t leaving Heyes!” said the Kid’s voice loudly enough for Heyes to follow every word. “We can hole up here and shoot it out. I can outshoot any of those boys with my left hand before breakfast and twice on Sundays!”

“I like Heyes as much as any man, Kid. But think straight. You’re leading this bunch now. You got to watch over your flock – all of ‘em. There’s ten of the Duvall boys and four of us, not counting Heyes, now that Gonzalez is dead. How long can we hold out? How many of us might get shot?” the Preacher argued. There was silence.

The exchanges after that were too quiet for Heyes to follow. He dropped off to sleep again.

But he didn’t sleep long.

“Heyes,” said the Kid in a soft, strained voice. The wounded outlaw opened his eyes in the dark.

“Yeah,” said Heyes. He coughed and almost lost consciousness. The pain seemed worse than ever.

The Kid repeated, “Heyes.” He sounded agonized. “Heyes, the Duvall boys are riding this way. They found the house. They got a lot of men. A lot more than us. They know who we are. For $15,000 in reward money, they’ll fight damn hard. Heyes . . .”

“Go! Get the men away safe!” Heyes choked out.

“Heyes, we don’t got a wagon to carry you out of here.”

“I know. What does it matter who buries me?” Heyes voice was very low, but hard. So this was it. He had come to hope that he might live. That hope was gone.

“Heyes, I wanted awful bad to stay and shoot it out for you . . .” The Kid couldn’t finish the awful sentence.

“I know.”

“Heyes. I . . .” The Kid took his partner’s hand.

“I know. Good-bye, partner.”

“Good-bye.” Heyes couldn’t see his partner, but he heard the hard catch in his voice. The Kid shook Heyes’ hand, though his wounded partner had no grip at all.

The door closed. There was soft talk that Heyes couldn’t hear. But a bit later, he could have sworn that he heard his partner’s voice from the next room saying, “I can’t do it. I’ll get the men out safe, then I’ll be back for you, Heyes, I’ll be back! I swear it!” The wounded man had to be imagining that voice. He was too sleepy. He had to be dreaming. There was no way the Kid could come back for him, Heyes knew that. It was a fantasy. But it was such a temptation to believe it. He didn’t want to think his cousin could ever abandon him to die.

It wasn’t much later that Heyes heard the horses riding away. He was alone.

Now, it really was time to give up, to stop fighting. If he lived, it would just mean the Duvall boys would hurt him worse. They would shoot him again. This time, there would be no recovery. There really was no use to try to keep breathing, with that awful pain that struck him with each breath. If only there was another way, but Heyes was too weary and in too much pain to think. It was so hard. He just wanted to give up. Could there possibly be another way? Might the Kid really sneak back?

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Heyes woke suddenly, but kept his eyes closed. Someone was outside the door. Heyes made what preparations he could for greeting hostile company. Then the stranger had opened the door into the room where the wounded outlaw lay in bed. He heard the sound of a match being lit and smelled the kerosene of a lamp.

A voice he didn’t know said softly, “They left somebody. Must be hurt too bad to ride.”

Two sets of footsteps crept closer. The floor creaked. “Oh my God! It’s Heyes. They left Hannibal Heyes! Look at that dimple. Why would they do that? Their leader.”

“You know Horter shot him. Shot him bad. He’d dead, Pat. Heyes is dead.”

“Are you sure?”

“He’s white as a sheet, he ain’t breathing. His arms are crossed over his chest like they do with a man in his coffin. That ain’t a live man, that’s a corpse.”

There was silence for a moment.

“You think his ghost is around here someplace?”

“Do you believe in ghosts?”

“Don’t you?”

The footsteps hurried back across the floor the other way. The lamp was blown out and the door slammed.

Heyes let out the breath he had been holding. He didn’t know why he had done this bit of play acting. Maybe it would buy him an hour. An hour more of this agony. Or maybe less. But somehow, he had to try.

Sometime later, in the dark, Heyes heard more footsteps and the door to his room opened again. Again, the lamp was lit.

A hard voice Heyes hadn’t heard before said, “So, there he is. Hannibal Heyes. Dead as a doornail. All we got to do is set up some kind of go between and turn in the body to get $7,500. The best deed he’s probably ever done, getting us that money.”

“Don’t say that! He looks like he’s nice. Or he was.” The voice was a woman’s. Heyes heard her soft steps approaching. “Poor man!” Heyes felt her fingers brush back a lock of hair off his brow. He held his breath for dear life. The gentle hand pulled back swiftly. “Gracious! He’s still warm!”

“Well, I guess he ain’t been gone long. And somebody left a fire going in that stove.” There was the sound of the stove door opening. “It’s dying down. We need to keep it cold in here until we can line up somebody to come get him off to the law. We don’t want him to spoil.”

“Don’t be disgusting, Dan,” exclaimed the woman.

“Just being practical, honey.” Heyes heard the sound of a kiss.

“Dan! Don’t be scandalous!”

“Come on, where else in this little house stuffed full of outlaws can we get the privacy to do some smooching?”

“There’s a dead man here!"

“So, he can’t watch and he can’t tell. Come on, Trixie, honey. I can put him in that arm chair and we can have the bed.”

“No!” the woman was horrified. “I don’t want you to touch him and I refuse to lie in the bed where he’s been. Don’t you dare disturb the poor man’s body!”

“Oh. Well, he’s gonna be disturbed when the law comes for him. But until then, I guess he can lie there in peace. We can have the chair. Hm.” Heyes heard the man blow out the lamp.

At first Trixie sounded restrained, but then she seemed to forget the dead man lying so near as her man wooed her. Heyes finally dared to breathe shallowly while the couple cuddling in the chair was breathing so much harder than he was. But he wasn’t exactly relaxed. He was facing more than one possibility of painful death.

“Ouch!” cried Dan.

“What is it?” asked his girl.

“That pin of yours stuck me. I’ll take it off.”

Heyes heard the man cross the room and put the pin on the table by the bed. Then he was back to his girl. “No, Dan. Not here. I just can’t take off my clothes with Hannibal lying over there, all white and still.”

“Close your eyes, then.”

“No. I can’t do it.”

“Alright, alright,” Dan gave in. The couple left and the door shut. But they forget to retrieve the pin from the table.

Sunlight blazed through the curtains and woke Heyes. He yawned. The pain in his side seemed a little less, but he was horribly hungry and thirsty. Would he die before the Duvalls discovered he was alive and shot him? He opened his eyes and looked around. He noticed lying on the bedside table a gold pin with a green stone set into it. It sparkled in the morning light. He wondered how much it was worth. Hundreds, at least, he guessed. They had forgotten it, Dan and Trixie. Maybe they wouldn’t miss it.

Or maybe they would. Heyes heard the door lock rattle. He quickly resumed his pose of death.

A high, young voice said, “Golly! There he is! Hannibal Heyes hisself.”

“What did I tell you?”

“So Kid Curry really rode off and left him?”

“With us guys on his tail, he sure did. Where are you going, Henry? Do you really want to get that close to a dead man?” Heyes heard footsteps approaching and what sounded like a pocket knife opening.

“I want a souvenir.”

Heyes’ had to struggle as hard as he ever had in his life not to move or breathe.

“You do?”

“Sure. He won’t miss it.” Heyes’ heart pounded. It seemed impossible not to breathe.

“Don’t touch him!” a third voice said. Heyes thought it sounded like Dan’s. “We don’t want to mess up the bounty on him.”

“He won’t miss a little finger.”

“Leave him be, Henry.”

The footsteps retreated. The door slammed.

Heyes let out his breath. Possums had his sympathy. This playing dead thing was a lot harder than it looked.

Now, the hours went by with dreadful slowness. Heyes could hear voices in other parts of the house. The light crept across the wall. He grew hungrier and hungrier; thirstier and thirstier. He passed out and woke again, even more ravenous. He drifted in and out of sleep, feeling weaker by the hour. He dropped off and then the afternoon light woke him, or a voice outside the door did. Was that his mother’s voice? No, he had been dreaming. Heyes was still alone. And there was no food, no drink, no company.

The Kid would come back. He would, surely. Unless that final promise had been a hallucination or a dream. Now the wounded man was far from sure. Enduring this time in silence was terrible. He needed help. He was dying. He could feel his last strength ebbing. With no food or drink, his will was running low. He could call for help. Surely even the hardened outlaws in the house would help him. A fellow human being needed help – how could they turn him down? But they were the ones who had shot him.

The shadows grew darker. And it grew colder and colder in the bedroom. Heyes began to shiver harder and harder. If someone came in now, he could not possibly carry off the illusion of being dead. He couldn’t stop shaking. He was terrified, but still silent. He passed out again.

He woke. He felt so weak, he could hardly keep up the struggle of breathing. It was so hard. He was dying. Why not just let it happen? But he fought on. The Kid would come, eventually. He had to.

A sharp sound woke Heyes. Someone was in the room. He opened his eyes, but it was too dark to see anything. He heard a match struck.

“Heyes?” The voice was the Kid’s. He had come at last, climbing in the window. There was no mistaking the gust of cold air blowing in the opening, with a swirl of snowflakes.

Heyes tried to reply, but he was too weak and his lips and throat were too parched. He felt a little water trickle in his mouth. It was like the breath of life returning, but oh so little of it coming so slowly. They could take no chances on Heyes’ coughing.

“Thanks!” he croaked.

“I’m taking you away,” said the Kid as he pulled back the covers and began to shift Heyes to make it easier to lift him.

“No. Dying.”

The Kid murmured softly, then grunted and took his partner in his arms. “I ain’t giving up. You’re comin’ with us. Yeah, all the boys are there in the trees. Even brought some more friends.”

Heyes smiled in the dark. Maybe it was just for money, but the boys wanted him alive. If they wanted it, he would keep trying, too.

The Kid staggered toward the window, struggling to balance his partner’s weight. A pair of strong arms reached in the window and a larger man cradled the wounded man, who devoted himself to not weeping or moaning with the agony of being moved.

There was a sound outside the bedroom door. The Kid vaulted through the window. The door flew opened and bullets flew toward the open window. The Kid fired back, then turned and ran.

Heyes wasn’t sure what happened after that. He knew that his wounds were bleeding badly. He knew that he was jounced around over a saddle, padded by blankets but still very uncomfortable. He knew that he was carried a long way. He knew that he passed out. No one could have slept.

Heyes was aware again. He heard voices and felt the unmistakable sensation of a train in motion. He head the whistle blow. “Put that blanket over him, Preacher, while I build up the fire in the stove.”

“Kid, he’s dead. He’s got to be. Nobody could live through that trip from the house in the woods to where your lady friend got us on this train.”

“He’s alive, I tell you,” Curry insisted.

“He’s cold as a frog. I touched him.”

“Sure he’s cold. We carried him miles through the snow. But now he’s on this warm train car and he’ll be fine.”

“Kid, he’s got to be dead,” the Preacher sounded very sad, but convinced.

“When I was carrying him in here, I could feel his blood flowin.”

“You’re just givin’ in to wantin’ him to live, Kid.”

Heyes moaned.

“You really are alive!” crowed the Kid. He helped his partner to a little water from his canteen.

Heyes coughed, but then he whispered, “You came back for me. I couldn’t die on you. Much as I wanted to.”

Curry and the Preacher laughed joyously. The Kid gave Heyes some more water.

“What’s that cooking?” asked Heyes hoarsely. They could hear his stomach growl.

“You’re smelling the steak cooking over in the dining car. You can’t have none. You ain’t well enough,” scolded the Preacher protectively.

“I never been so hungry. It smells awful tempting,” whispered Heyes.

The Kid laughed again and the Preacher laughed with him. They began to think that Hannibal Heyes might just live.


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PostSubject: Re: Temptation   Fri Apr 01, 2016 3:53 am

Stranger In Town
This is the next part of my Parkersville story, which I am slowly working on and do intend to finish in this lifetime. It's found in my section in the Writer's Area if you care to read it. Temptation does play a small part at one point in the chapter.

Since it’s been so long, a brief recap of where we left our heroes:

Sweet relief washed over Heyes as he gazed at the spectacle playing out before him. His wounded cousin was safe in the Parker’s guest room, relaxing in a steaming tub, with a bevy of female servants fussing over him. Overseeing the unexpected scene was the lovely, and ever watchful Mrs. Sophie Parker. Wearing a sensible, plain cotton dress, she still managed to carry an air of elegance and authority. An expensive black lace handkerchief peeked from beneath one cuff, hinting at the finery she more often wore.

Still posing as the citified Henry Hubble, Heyes slowly tore his eyes from his cousin and faced his prepossessing adversary. Her derringer, resting ominously in one hand, served as a painful reminder of the damage she had inflicted on his partner. With a deep, calming breath, Heyes began his charade.

Xxxxxxxxxxxxx


“It’s a pleasure to see you again, Mrs. Parker. I believe we met this morning at the general store.” Heyes was determined to somehow walk a thin line between mild-mannered cowardice and charm.


“I’m well aware of that, Mr. Hubble, but it doesn’t explain why you’re here. As you can see, I’m preoccupied with other matters.” Annoyed at the interruption, she nodded towards her prisoner.


For his part, the Kid had recovered quickly from the sudden appearance of his long awaited cousin, and managed to assume a convincing poker face. Avoiding eye contact, the gunman pretended to be absorbed in his bath, as he breathlessly waited for his brazen partner’s next move.


“Is...is  he dangerous, ma’am?”, Heyes purposely stuttered, and took a defensive step away from the Kid. He gave his partner a fearful glance and saw the familiar blue eyes flicker in amusement.


Mrs. Parker sighed with irritation, unimpressed with her guest’s gutless reaction. “Mr. Hubble, even you should be able to see we are perfectly safe. Not only is the prisoner injured, but as I said before, I have this.” She confidently patted her weapon and glanced at him impatiently. “Now, please focus, if you will, and tell me why you are here.”


“Yes, ma’am.” He drew his eyes back to the lady. “I’m your new bookkeeper, and I have the weekly financial report for your review.”


Mrs. Parker tipped her head, and raised a fine, dubious brow. “Impossible. I clearly ordered a strict freeze on hiring.”


He nodded sympathetically. “A wise move, ma’am, considering the dismal state of your financial affairs.”


Mrs. Parker almost gasped with displeasure at this stranger’s presumptive words. A moue of disapproval appeared on her cupid’s bow lips, and an unattractive frown burrowed across her typically serene forehead.


Strategically offering one of his more disarming smiles in apology, he wondered if he had gone too far, too soon. “I hope you won’t be put off by my frankness, ma’am, but I believe in being perfectly straightforward. You see, I’m serving as an unpaid apprentice of sorts, in hope of obtaining employment in the future. Mr. Blake has approved it, and your man Levi has checked me out thoroughly. I assure you it’s completely aboveboard.”


She shot him a sideways glance, and a few concerned moments ticked by as he slowly realized his dimpled smile wasn’t having the impact he was accustomed to. Had he overdone his timorous act, or been too forward in his demeanor? It wasn’t often that a mark made him second guess himself. He eyed her gun as he quickly thought back, trying to determine where he might have gone wrong.


“Any time now, Mr. Hubble.” Startled, he jumped a step when she spoke. Mrs. Parker was looking at him thoughtfully with an outstretched arm, impatiently reaching for the document. Realizing she wasn’t going to dismiss him immediately, he let the breath he’d been unconsciously holding slowly escape from his lungs.


Without a word he hastened to place the report in her hand. She gracefully seated herself in a richly upholstered chair, positioned her gun within easy reach on the nearby desk, and began methodically perusing the contents.


“Are you quite certain of these figures?” Each page she scrutinized seemed to confirm the dismal financial health of her flailing company, not to mention the impending doom of her beloved town.


“Yes, ma’am. I’ve recalculated the totals myself and can verify their accuracy. However, I can’t speak to the original figures. They were provided by Mr. Blake.” His brown eyes narrowed, as he searched her face for a sign she might suspect her duplicitous head accountant of wrongdoing.


Unaware, she continued to scan the report. “Mr. Blake has already been ordered to complete a thorough audit, verifying those figures as well. If allowed to stay, you would expedite the auditing process, I presume?”


“Of course, I’ll do my best, ma’am,” he reassured her.


She inspected the young man with his slicked back hair and ill fitting brown suit with skepticism. “Your best may not be enough. According to these reports, it will take a small miracle to save the town.” She sighed. “Everyone will suffer, even you, Mr. Hubble. Your hope for a paid position is a pipe dream, at best.” Frustrated, she tossed the papers aside.


With a twinkle in his eye, Heyes took off his spectacles and laid them on the desk next to the document. “Since we agree my future is tied with your success, ma’am, perhaps I can help you achieve the miracle you’re looking for.”


She looked up, surprised. “Mr. Hubble?”


“I know I’m a stranger in town, and it’s clear you have other challenges to deal with,” he glanced pointedly at the Kid with feigned disdain. “However, I’m certain I could recommend a modern bookkeeping system that would reduce the incidence of error and reveal, uh,” he looked at her with as much concern as he could summon, “other unfortunate inconsistencies.”


“Inconsistencies? What do you mean?” She stood, straightening herself; he finally had her full attention.


He lowered his rich baritone a notch. “I don’t want to misspeak, ma’am, but do you think it’s wise to put Mr. Blake in charge of auditing his own work?”


She blinked, and he observed several emotions pass fleetingly across her face. Did this indomitable lady have have a soft underbelly after all? Whatever he saw, she immediately composed herself, and returned to her original state of stoic control.


She glanced at Bess and the other servants who were still hovering over the Kid. “I believe it’s time to tend to your duties elsewhere, ladies.”


“Yes’um. We just finished.” Satisfied, Bess took a step back and admired her handiwork. The cook, turned barber, had given the Kid a close, clean shave and his blond curls a quick, but effective trim. She and the maids gave his pillows one last fluff and promptly gathered up their things and left. Seemingly preoccupied with his bath, the prisoner was actually hanging onto his partner’s every word.


Mrs. Parker turned to her guest. “Go on, Mr. Hubble.”


Heyes waved his hand towards the Kid. “Sometimes thieves use guns, like this unsavory fellow, or sometimes they wield a pen. Either way, honest folk are relieved of their valuables. Mrs. Parker, with your permission, I would like to conduct my own independent audit, to see if I can identify any unusual activity.”


She raised a shrewd brow of inquiry. “And Mr. Blake need not worry himself with this, I presume?”


Heyes smiled to himself. She caught on fast. “Yes, of course. Let’s just say his involvement could be, uh, counterproductive, to say the least.”


Stepping towards the window, she pulled back the white, lacy curtains, and gazed outside for a moment, absorbing the possibility of Blake’s betrayal. She finally turned and locked eyes with him knowingly. ”And what would be in it for you, Mr. Hubble?”


“Me?” He adopted his most innocent look, his brown eyes wide. “Only a job, Mrs. Parker. Perhaps even a Senior Accountant position, if one should become,“ he coughed, “unexpectedly vacated.”


“I see.” She considered him thoughtfully, deciding there was much more to this young man than meets the eye. “And where did you say you received your training?”


“I didn’t say, ma’am, but I’m proud to inform you I’m a recent graduate of the Philadelphia School of Accounting, with honors.” Heyes smugly puffed out his chest, enjoying his story, “It’s in Pennsylvania, ma’am.”


“Yes, I know where Philadelphia is, Mr. Hubble. What’s the name of the Dean there?”


Heyes thought fast. “Dean Horatio Johnson, ma’am. A fine man and a personal friend of my family.”


“And your family?”


Glib as always, his story rolled off his tongue without missing a beat. “I’m the eldest son of Dr. Samuel Hubble, of the Boston Hubbles. Perhaps you’ve heard of them?”


“Why would I? Eastern society means very little here in the west.” She retrieved her gun and scowled. “If your family is so well connected, why haven’t you already acquired a prestigious position?”


“The west is where the future lies, Mrs. Parker. I believe in the self-made man, and no better place to achieve it than here. I could easily rest on the laurels of my father, but I want to build my life on my own accomplishments. It’s the American way, isn’t it, ma’am?” The adrenaline running through his veins from the risky con gave Heyes a glow which Mrs. Parker mistook for passionate, but callow ambition.


She gave a short, caustic laugh. “It’s also the American way for the accused to be innocent until proven guilty, Mr. Hubble. You’d better have cold, hard evidence of these “unfortunate inconsistencies” as you call them.”  She looked him square in the eye, “I don’t take kindly to a newcomer wrongly accusing a faithful employee for the purpose of stealing his job. I’ve worked with Mr. Blake reliably for many years. Do we understand each other?”


“Perfectly.” Heyes thought back on the conversation he’d had with Blake just that morning. The man had managed to insult Mrs. Parker up one side and down the other, and here she was, defending him. Two-faced snakes like Blake didn’t last long at the Hole with the Kid there to weed them out. This woman was facing the trials of leadership alone, and Heyes felt a pang of sympathy for her despite himself.


“Hmm.” She unconsciously patted one of her dark, silky curls back in place as she carefully considered everything he’d said. “Very well, Mr. Hubble. You intrigue me, and appear resourceful enough, so I’ll allow you to stay.”



“Thank you, ma’am.”


“However, there is one other thing.”


“Ma’am?”


“If you want to be a westerner and work for me, you will need to carry a gun.”


“Nooo, a gun is out of the question.” He shook his head emphatically, trying to hide the glee he felt at her words. ”I’m a peaceable man, just a pencil pusher, really.” He positioned his spectacles back on his nose, and once again began nervously rolling the brim of his hat, completely in character.


“Mr. Hubble, I must insist. You need be able to defend yourself, especially in a town where outlaws are lurking.”


“Outlaws, ma’am?” Heyes gulped. “Lurking?”


She glanced towards the Kid. “Surely you aren’t so naive to think his gang isn’t coming for him. The entire town is armed and ready. You must be too.”


“But, ma’am, I wouldn’t know the first thing about how to....”


She interrupted, “Then you must learn. It’s just a matter of time before Hannibal Heyes appears to rescue his partner. He’s dangerous and could be anywhere. We must be prepared.” She looked at him pointedly. “All of us.”


Secretly pleased his infamous reputation had preceded him, Heyes squelched a smile, and carried on with his objections. “With all due respect, Mrs. Parker, I must seriously draw the line at carrying firearms. My dear mother would be horrified if she thought I was part of such uncivilized behavior.”


“Your mother isn’t here, Mr. Hubble. I have just the thing.” She shook her head in disbelief at his spinelessness; the last thing she needed was a mama’s boy. She stepped towards the door, wondering how the same man could seem so competent in one area, and completely useless in another.


“You don’t mean to leave me alone with this criminal, do you?” Heyes managed to muster another look of poltroonery as he nervously gazed at the Kid, who did everything he could to avoid smirking.


She sighed in exasperation. “You’ll be fine. Here.” She handed him her gun. “Don’t point it at him unless absolutely necessary. We can’t afford an unfortunate accident. He’s worth more to us alive.”


Holding the gun at an awkward angle, he continued to protest. “But ma’am….”


“Stay here.” With a click the door closed behind her. This was the chance he’d been hoping for. He deliberately waited a few moments to make sure she was gone before whipping around, and closing the gap between himself and his partner.


“It’s about time you showed, I’d almost given up on you,” deadpanned the Kid. His poker face was still intact, but from the sparkle in his blue eyes Heyes knew his cousin never doubted he would come.


“Shhh! Keep your voice down.” Heyes nodded at the comforts surrounding them in the well appointed room. ”To think I thought you were hurtin’!” The comment was delivered with a dimpled smile, as he reverted back to his normal manner of speech.


Lowering his voice, the Kid couldn’t help but break into a grin. “Oh, I was hurtin’, alright. You just kind’a missed that part.”


Heye’s smile soon turned into a scowl as he took in the severity of Kid’s injury for the first time.


“How bad is it?”


“She clipped me good, but I can make it. Let’s get out’a here.” Overzealous, the Kid began to lift himself out of the tub, placing too much weight on his injury. A wave of pain and nausea rolled over him. He grunted, and eased back into the comfort of the warm water.


Heyes shook his head with regret. “It’s no good, Kid.”


Exasperated, the Kid growled. “What’re you waitin’ for? You’ve got a gun, Heyes, use it!.” He’d had enough of Mrs. Parker’s brand of hospitality.


The temptation to grab his partner and bust him out, guns blazing, was almost more than Heyes could bear. They’d done it before, but never with odds this poor.


“With the shape you’re in, we wouldn’t get 10 paces out that door. She has the entire place locked down. Trust me.” The Kid was pale as a sheet and a cluster of red was seeping through his white sling from the exertion of trying to lift himself. Heyes shook his head in dismay. To think he’d thought, for even one moment, to pity the woman who’d done this to his partner.


The Kid saw the worried look of concern on his cousin’s stubborn face, and knew he would never convince him. Resigned to doing it Heye's way, he spoke reassuringly. “Things looked up as soon as they started doctoring me.” He raised a brow, “I don’t suppose you had anything to do with it?”


Relieved at the change of subject, Heyes adopted a smug grin. “You don’t suppose right, partner. Lets just say I gave her good reason to keep you alive.”


The Kid thought for a moment. “The gem?”


“Yeah. She wants it real bad, Kid. I gave her some incentive to treat you right, that’s all. Looks like it worked.”


“You mean you threatened her.” The Kid’s eyes sparkled knowingly.


“Well, yeah, there’s that.” Heyes wide grin made another appearance. “She also wants the payroll back and the reward on our heads to boot.”


The Kid knew his partner had something up his sleeve. He looked at his cousin expectantly. “What’s your plan?”


“Let’s just say our gun-happy Mrs Parker is up against more than just a gang of outlaws. You sit tight and…”


Hearing steps approach, he quickly stepped back from the tub and faced the door. Mrs. Parker entered holding an unmistakable Colt sixgun.


Switching character seamlessly, Heyes held the derringer at arm’s length with two fingers, as if it was a dead fish. Grimacing, he gestured towards the colt. “That’s not for me, is it?”


“Yes, Mr. Hubble. Curry won’t be needing this anymore and it’s in good condition. You might as well put it to good use. I’ll get Levi to show you how to use it.”


Heyes did his best to look reluctant as he tightened the familiar holster around his hips. The Kid’s eyes flickered with satisfaction, knowing his beloved Colt was now safe in his partner’s hands.


Xxxxxxxxxxxxx

To Be Continued….

_________________
"If I asked for a cup of coffee, someone would search for the double meaning." Mae West
coffee 


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PostSubject: Re: Temptation   Fri Apr 01, 2016 4:39 am

This was posted at 3:30am my time.  Please forgive me for being late.


Temptation



     “Hotel first?”  The sideways slide of dark eyes took in the bustling resort of Calistoga Springs.  “Or drink first?”  

    “I'm thirsty.  Let's start with a beer.”  Curry swiped at the dust around his eyes.  “At the Lady Luck or the Silver Dollar?”

    Brown eyes twinkled above a wide smile.  “We could use a little luck.”

    “Or a little lady,” Kid replied with an answering grin.

                                               ________________________________


    A beer and a half later, Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry leaned comfortably against the satiny bar at the Lady Luck observing the poker tables. 

    “Lots of money in these games,” Heyes whispered. 

    “Ain't that why we came?”

    “Yep.”

    “Are ya sure you can manage not to lose too much?”

    Brown eyes widened.  “These are wealthy amateurs, not professional gamblers.  I'll have trouble managing not to win too much.”

    “If ya say so.”
   
    “You gotta have a little faith.”

    Suddenly the Kid's blue eyes turned to ice.  His right hand crept toward his hip.  Heyes followed his partner's gaze, and a sly smile teased out a dimple.  He pushed away from the bar, slapped the dust from his trousers and tugged at the hem of his corduroy vest.

    “No, Heyes.  We're outta here.  That women ain't nothin' but trouble.”

    A petite vision in jade green velvet leaned against the upstairs railing.  Glistening mahogany curls fell in ringlets to grace one creamy, bared shoulder.  Sapphire eyes sparkled with delight when they spied the duo by the bar.  With a graceful nod she swept own the stairs toward Heyes and Curry.

    “We gotta go, Heyes.”

    “She's seen us”

    “I know.  We gotta get outta here.  Outta the whole town.  Maybe the state.”

    “But, she looks happy to see us.”

    “Yeah, like a cat's happy to see a mouse!”

    “Mr. Smith.  Mr. Jones,” she called in a throaty contralto.  “How nice to see you.”

    Heyes' grin stretched until it reached his eyes.  He kissed her lightly on the cheek.  “We're delighted to find you here, Miss—”   He stopped when she gently pressed two finger to his lips. 

    He raised his eyebrows.  “What do I call you?”

    “Trouble,” mumbled Curry.

    She lowered her eyebrows in a reprimand for the blond, before smiling wickedly at his partner.  “Temptation,” she suggested  with a laugh. 

     Curry rolled his eyes

    “It's Vivian Mason, now,” she whispered.  “It's good to see you, Joshua.  And you too, Mr. Jones.  May I buy you a drink?”

    “The lady shouldn't buy,” objected Heyes.

    “But I own this establishment, and I also have a business deal for you.” She laid a  hand on his sleeve. Heyes tucked her hand in the crook of his arm.  Shaking his head, Curry followed them to a table in the back.  At Vivian's gesture, a barmaid hurried over with a bottle and three glasses.

    “To old friends,” she murmured with a raised glass. 

    “Friends,”scoffed Curry.  His eyes darted about the gambling hall.  “Nice place.  Mind if I ask where ya got the money to buy it?”

    With only a frown for Curry, she switched her attention to Heyes. 

    He clinked glasses with her.  “You know, Thaddeus.  Things could of gone worse.”

    “Yes,” purred Vivian, “you could of ended up behind bars.  I took your money, but left you your freedom.  If I had turned you in, I wouldn't need your help now.”

    “Are you threatenin' us?” 

    “No.” She lowered her voice to a bare breath. “Mr. Curry, I am trying to offer you—well, your partner—a business proposition.”

    Curry snorted.  “Yeah, you've propositioned him before.”

    “Vivian, you have to admit, the last time we saw you was expensive,” Heyes added.

    “Let's say that I would like to make that up to you.”  She placed her hand on his, toying with his fingers.

    His mouth returned her smile, but failed to grace his eyes.  “How are you going to do that?”

    “The Silver Dollar Saloon hosts a high stakes poker game every Saturday night.  They invite wealthy men visiting the spas here and some local business men.  No professional gamblers, but they do have some good players.  Mitch Clancy, owner of the Silver Dollar, is the host and usually the best card player.  You could beat him in your sleep, Joshua, and I can get you invited.”

    “We don't have the money for a high stakes buy in.”

    “I 'll stake you for the game.  No risk for you at all.”

    Curry glared and the woman.  “Why would you do that?”

    “Because they won't let women play, and I don't like Mitch Clancy.”

    Heyes sipped his whiskey and exchanged a glance with his partner.  “You're a practical woman, Vivian.  You won't risk,” he paused, “How much is the buy in?”

    “Ten thousand.”

    He whistled at the amount.  “As I was saying, you won't risk that kind of money just because this Clancy is someone you don't like.  What's the real reason?”

    She paused and straightened her skirts.  “I owe him money.  And I don't like being in his debt.  He's not a nice man, Joshua.”

    “How much do you owe him?”

    “Ten thousand.  He loaned it to me when I bought this place, but he's holding it over me.  Pressuring me to pay him back.”

    “Why not just give him the ten thousand instead of staking me for the game?”

    “Because I need that money to make payroll next week and meet other expenses.”

    “You're willing to risk money you need to operate this place to stake me in a poker game? Sounds kinda risky.”

    “I've watched you play poker, Joshua.  I'm not risking much.”

    “What split did you have in mind?”

    Curry raised his eyebrows and frowned.  “You aren't considerin' this, are ya?”

    “Doesn't hurt to listen, Thaddeus.” Heyes returned his attention to the lady.  “The split?”

    “Bring me back twenty thousand dollars and anything above that is yours.”

    “Leaving that game with more than twenty thousand is going to be hard.  How 'bout we split anything over ten thousand?  Sixty/forty?”

    “Why don't you keep anything over twenty thousand, and I refrain from introducing you both to to the sheriff.”

    Heyes and Curry followed her gaze.  A tall man with broad shoulders stood near the main entrance to the Lady Luck.  A shiny tin star was pinned to his vest.  He tipped his hat to Vivian.  She raised her hand in a small wave.

    “You are threatening us,” Curry accused.

    “I prefer to think of it as gentle persuasion.  Besides the stake money is mine.  What do you have to lose?”

    “Twenty years,” Curry muttered.  

    Brown eyes met blue in a quick discussion.  Curry shrugged. 

    “I guess we have a deal, Vivian,” Heyes said.  “What do I do to get invited to this game?”

    “Do you have some nicer clothes with you?”

    “We've got our good suits.”

    “Not the same brown and gray things you wore in Denver?”  She sounded dismayed.

    “What's the matter with our suits?” Heyes challenge.

    “Oh, where would I start?”  She pushed her chair away from the table.  “Never mind.  Do you have a hotel room?”

    Heyes shook his head. 

    “Good.  Finish your whiskey while I speak to the front desk clerk.  Once I go back upstairs, ask for the best available room.”

    “Vivian, we may mot be able to afford your best room.”

    “Don't worry,” she replied quietly, “it will be on the house.  I need Clancy to think you are wealthy.  So wear your, um, best clothes, and order an expensive dinner.  I suspect you have had practice playing the big spender.  Mr. Jones will pose as your security.  Flash some money around and play poker.  I suspect that is what you were planning to do anyway.  I will take care of securing you an invitation to Clancy's game on Saturday.”

_____________________________________

   
    Saturday night the backroom at the Silver Dollar was lit by a large chandelier made of elk antlers and fat candles.  The leather chairs around the felt covered poker table were deep and comfortable.  Cigar smoke hung in a low cloud that dispersed the candle light in thick streams.  The clack of chips, the clink of glasses, and the murmur from the gambling hall outside the thick double doors were the only sounds.  Squatting in the center of the table was a pile of chips totaling just over fifteen thousand dollars.

    “I'm going to call, Mr. Clancy.”  Heyes broke the silence and added another a stack of chips.

    Clancy smiled and fanned out a flush, queen high.  He reached for the pile.

    “Not so fast,” cautioned Heyes laying down a full house.  “I believe these are mine,” he beamed as he raked in the pile of chips. 

    Curry scanned the other players from his seat against the wall, wishing he had his colt at his side instead of the “pea shooter” tucked into his coat pocket.  No one seemed upset though.  Even Clancy acknowledged Heyes' win with a gracious nod. 

    “Good hand, Mr. Smith.”  Clancy pushed his chair away from the table.  “I think that I need some more chips.  And it's time to send for sandwiches.  Deal me out for a hand or two, gentlemen.”

    Their host strolled to a low table in the corner.  A man with a tied down six-shooter stood next to the table.   Clancy handed him a pile of crisp bills.  “More chips, Silas.”  Silas counted the bills and then placed them neatly into a strong box.  After a tallying a pile of chips, he handed the stack of colored disks to Mr. Clancy.  “Silas, please go to the kitchen and bring back a tray of sandwiches for my guests?”

    “Of course, Mr. Clancy.”  He left  through a side door that opened onto a quiet hallway. 

    After his man had left, Clancy replaced a bar on the inside of the side door and returned to the table.  He watched the poker hand in progress and lit a cigar. 

    A few minutes later, Clancy rose to answer a soft knock.  “The sandwiches, my friends,” he announced, lifting the bar that secured the door. 
   
    The door flew open hitting the wall with a thud.  A dark clad arm shot forward and clamped around Clancy's shoulder.  A shiny colt jabbed into his neck.  The man holding Clancy was masked with a handkerchief, and his hair was hidden beneath his hat.  Three other masked men sprang into the room holding steady six guns on the men at the table.  A fourth man pointed a revolver directly at Kid Curry. 

    “Freeze, Mister.  Take your hand away from your coat. Real slow like.”  Curry did as instructed.  The masked man opened Curry's jacket with the barrel of his revolver.  He removed the Derringer from the inside pocket with his other hand and shoved the small pistol into his belt. 

    “Now everybody jest keep yer hands where we can see 'em,” instructed the man holding Clancy.  He cocked his head at one of his henchmen.  “Get the money.  The rest of you.  Tie 'em up.” 

    One man scooped up the strong box open on the table.   The others quickly lashed the poker players to the chairs.   Within minutes the leader was backing out into the hall, dragging a wide eyed Mitch Clancy with him. 

___________________________________
   

    The Sheriff, a man named Ferguson, stuck his pencil behind his ear and walked over to Heyes.  All of the poker players were gathered in the back room of the Silver Dollar.  Mitch Clancy was still missing.

    “Name?”

    “Smith.  Joshua Smith.”

    “How much did ya lose, Mr. Smith?”

    “Twenty-seven thousand four hundred sixty-three dollars, Sheriff.”

    “Kinda precise, ain't ya.  You a Banker?”

    “I've dabbled in banking.” 

    The Kid stared at him.

    “I'm rather particular when I'm winning at poker and someone steals everything,” Heyes explained.
   
    “Have you had your poker winnings stolen before, Mr. Smith?”

    “It's happened.”

    “Hmmpf.  Where're you staying?”

    “The Lady Luck.”

    “Did you see anything that will help identify the thieves?”

    “No.  I had my back to the door.” 

    “You can go, but don't leave town.”

    “Am I a suspect?”

    “Everyone is suspect 'til we find Mitch Clancy.  Just don't leave town.”

    Curry started to follow Heyes toward the door, but was stopped by Sheriff Ferguson. 

    “Where d'ya think yer goin'?”

    “He's my security man and traveling companion,” Heyes answered.

    “Don't he talk?”

    “Of course, he talks.”

    “Then let him,”snarled the lawman.

    “What's your name, security man and traveling guy?”

    “Thaddeus Jones.”

    “How long have you worked for Smith?”

    Curry's eyes found Heyes.

    “About three years.”

    “Before that?”

    “I did security for a rancher down in Texas.”

    “This rancher gotta name?”

    “Big Mac McCreedy.”

    “Did you get a look at the bandits?”

    “They were all masked and had their hats pulled low.  Nothing to notice.  Real professionals.”

    “Thanks for the information, Mr. Jones.  You stay in town with your boss.”

    “By the way, sheriff.  How much did they get away with?”

    “Over eighty thousand dollars.”

    “That's a lot of money.”

    “Yep.”

____________________________________

      “Where's Miss Mason,” Heyes demanded when he and the Kid entered the Luck Lady.

    “In her office,” the bartender answered.

    Heyes beat Curry up the stairs.  After a quick knock, he pushed through the door with his partner on his heels.

    “What happened?” Vivian asked. 

    “You set us up,” Heyes accused.  He treated Vivian to an outlaw leader glare. 

    “I did no such thing.  Why would you think that I had something to do with the robbery?”

    “Because now you have over eighty thousand dollars instead of only twenty thousand.”

    “I am not a thief.   You and Mr. Kid Curry have the skills to do this.  I should be blaming you two.”

    “But we didn't do it.”

    “Neither did I.”

    The threesome stared at each other. 

    Curry broke the silence.  “She didn't do it, Heyes.” 

    “When did you join her side?”

    “There were four of' 'em, and they knew what they were doin'.”

    “By the time she split the money with them, she wouldn't gain anything over the deal with us.”

    “Yep.  And she's too smart to have that many people in on the job for no gain.”

    “Well thank you for admitting that I have intelligence.”

    Curry pinned her with his eyes.  “I didn't mean it as a compliment.  It's just a fact.”

    Heyes stalked over to the window and poured himself a drink from a bottle set out on a table.  He sipped the whiskey while studying the street below.  “Who did it then?  Was it just a robbery?  Clancy had tight security, until he opened the side door.”  He sank onto a settee, his eyes  flicking back and forth between his two companions. 

    Vivian sank down next to him.  “Clancy opened the door for the robbers?”

    “He thought it was his man Silas with the sandwiches.”

    “He sent Silas out of the room?”  She ran a finger up and down Heyes' arm.  “It was Mitch Clancy.  He doesn't use Silas as a waiter.  That man is his top security thug.”

    Heyes clasped her hand to stop its wandering, but he didn't let go of it.  “Why would Clancy rob his own game.”

    “Eighty thousand dollars.”

    “But he would have to pay off the outlaws.  It's not worth it.”
   
    “Unless they already work for him,” Curry added.

    “But why?  He's a wealthy man.  Vivian even owes him money.”
   
    “Yeah, and he's been pressuring her to pay up.”

    Vivian bit the inside of her lip.  “He's also been trying to sell off some mining assets.  Maybe things are not as rosy as Mr. Clancy wants everyone to think.”

    A knock on the door stopped the conversation. 

    “Who is it?”

    “Sheriff Ferguson, ma'am.”

    Heyes stood up and darted a glance at Curry.  The Kid's eyes were scanning the room for another exit. 

    “Relax,” mouthed Vivian. 

    With a deep sigh, Heyes sank down onto the settee.  Vivian opened the door for the sheriff.  Ferguson tipped his hat to Miss mason, but frowned at the two men.

    “Clancy said you boys would be here.”  The sheriff drew his gun.  

    Heyes stood up slowly.  Curry stood with his hands in view.

    “What's going on, Sheriff?” asked Vivian, affecting slight tremor in her voice.

    “Mitch Clancy's back.”

    “Is he all right,” asked Curry.

    “A little bruised, but he'll mend.  He's accusin' you of settin' up the robbery, Ms. Mason.  He says that you are in this with those two fellas over there.   Claims his men saw them arrive, and that you greeted them like old friends.”

    “Why would I rob anyone?”

    “Because you owe Clancy money and can't pay.  He was real clear about that.  He even offered to produce the paper work.”

    “I admit I owe him money, but that doesn't mean I robbed his poker game.  Mr. Smith lost money too.  Would I rob my own fiend?”

    “I don't like this, Miss Mason, but I have to consider Clancy's accusations.  How well do you know Mr. Smith?”

    “Not well.  We met once in Denver.  I let Clancy know that he was a good poker player interested in a high stake game.  That's all.”

    “Miss Mason is telling the truth,” added the Kid.

    “She sure is, Sheriff.  She and I met once in Denver.”

    “I'll need names of people who can vouch for you, Mr. Smith.”

    “Sheriff Lom Trevers in Porterville, Wyoming and Clementine Hale in Denver,” offered Heyes. 
    “Write 'em down.”

    Heyes wrote the names and handed the paper to the sheriff. 

    “Miss Mason, you need to stay in town as well.  It'd be best if ya kept to the Lady Luck until this is all sorted.”  He left with his deputy trailing behind.

    Heyes sank back onto the settee with an explosive sigh once the door was shut.

    “Vivian, do you have a back door and some horses we can use?” asked the Kid.

    “You're not leaving me alone in this mess.  Besides if you disappear what is the sheriff going to think.”

    “She's right, Kid.  He'll think we pulled the job.  How long do you think it will take him to compare our descriptions with our wanted posters and come up with Heyes and Curry?”

    “About as long is it will take Miss Vivian Mason to walk to his office and tell him who we are.”

    “I wouldn't do that.”

    “You've already threatened it,” Heyes reminded her.

    “I have day dreamed about you in hand cuffs, Joshua, but I don't want you behind bars.”  She sat next to Heyes ad took his hand in both of hers.  “Running is a bad idea.   We need to prove that Clancy stole the money.”

    “How?”

    She gazed through lowered lashes and chuckled.  “I recorded the serial numbers from the bills I gave you for the poker stake.”

    “You recorded the serial numbers?”

    “I was nervous.   L gave ten thousand dollars of my money to you.  But now it's working to our advantage.  If you can recover it, I can prove that it's the stolen poker money.”

    “You want us to find it?”

    “I don't know how to break into a building and open a safe, but I am sure that you two can manage it.”

    “Why don't we just tell the sheriff and have him search Clancy's place?” asked the Kid.

    “The sheriff isn't going to search Mitch Clancy's saloon or home without evidence.”

    “How do we explain showing up with money from Clancy's safe, Heyes?”

    “I'm working on it.”  He poured another whiskey.  “Vivian, did you record the serial numbers on all the bills?  The hundreds and the twenties?”

    “Yes.  Does I matter?”

    “It might.”  A smile worked its way from dimple to dimple.

    Curry grinned.  “Ya gotta plan.”

    “I think so.  Vivian, I need a hundred dollar bill.”

    “I think I've trusted you with enough money, Joshua.”

    “If you want the rest of it back, I need the hundred dollar bill.”

__________________________________


    Heyes and Curry walked into the Silver Dollar and took places at the bar. 

    “A bottle of your best Cognac,” ordered Heyes.  “I heard that Mr. Clancy made it back.  Is he here?”

    “I'm here, Mr. Smith.” Clancy joined them.  His face was bruised and he favored his right leg as he walked.

    “I'm glad you're safe, Mr. Clancy.  Has your game been robbed before?”

    “No, this is the first time.”

    “I guess that I was just unlucky for me then.”

    The bartender returned with the bottle and two glasses.  Heyes handed him the hundred dollar bill.  “May I take it, Mr. Clancy.”

    Clancy reached for the bill and examined it carefully.  “It looks fine.  Go ahead and give Mr. Smith his change.”

    The bartender returned with the change and poured two glasses.

    “Care to join us, Mr. Clancy,” Heyes asked. 

    “Thank you, but I still have work to finish before I can go home.  Enjoy your cognac.”

    Heyes rotated the bowl of the snifter before tasting the amber fluid.  “Let's finish these and move on,” he whispered.  “We've got work to finish too.”

___________________________________

      Mitch Clancy's dark house hunkered amid a clump of trees, a looming shadow in the moonless night. 

    “What makes you think he stashed the money here, Heyes?”

    “It wasn't found on him when he turned up in town.”

    “Let's get this done.”

    They crept onto the porch.  Heyes inserted a knife between the window panes and teased open the lock.  He stepped into the room, and Curry slipped in after him.  It didn't take long to find Clancy's study.  Heyes picked the locks on the roll-top desk and searched it for any sign of the stolen poker money.

    Curry searched the rest of the room. 

    “I can't find anythin', Heyes.  Any luck with the desk?”

    “Nothing.  I guess it's not in this room.”

    “We can't search the whole house.”

    “We can't afford not to.  Do you want that sheriff checking us out?.”

    They prowled back to the door.  Curry looked over the room one more time.  “Wait a minute.”  He glided to the back wall and lifted a cloth that was draped over a round table.  “Heyes.  I found it,” he hissed.

    His partner had an ear pressed to the safe in a heartbeat.  Within minutes a soft click told Curry that Heyes had succeeded.  Pulling a candle out of his pocket, Heyes sheltered a match as he lit it.  By the flickering light, he rifled through the safe.

    “Look at these, Kid.  Clancy has some major debts.  He's been speculating and doing a poor job of it.  He needs cash.”

    “Where's the money?”
   
    Soon Heyes lifted a familiar strong box from the safe.  He pulled a paper from his pocket and squinted carefully at the bills inside the box, comparing the numbers on the twenty dollar notes with those on the paper. 

    “Got one,” he announced triumphantly, pocketing the money.    He quickly replaced the contents and closed the safe.  “Let's go.”

___________________________________
   
    Heyes and Curry were sitting on a porch outside of the Lucky Lady the next morning when the sheriff escorted  Mitch Clancy to the jail in hand cuffs. 

    “Lock him up.  I'll be along shortly,” Sheriff Ferguson instructed his deputy.

    “Mr. Smith,” he began,“it sure was lucky how you got that stolen twenty dollar bill as change when you bought the brandy last night.  Sure was handy that Ms. Mason had the serial numbers all recorded.  You might almost think that she was plannin' somethin'.”

    “What would Miss Mason have to gain by Mitch Clancy going to jail?”

    “Less competition?”

    “Still doubting me, Sheriff?”   The lady in question joined them on the porch. 

    “Not really.  It just seems peculiar.”  He tipped his hat.  “Good day to you ma'am.”

    Heyes looked her directly in the eyes.  “He's got a point you know.  This has worked out well for you.”

    “We work well together.  Maybe I should hire you to manage my gambling hall.”

    “Vivian, are you trying to tempt me,” teased Heyes. 

    “Is it working?”

    “Oh you're tempting, but working for you would cost more than we could ever afford.”

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