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 Bluff

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PostSubject: Bluff   Fri Apr 01, 2016 11:40 am

Another wonderful prompt to tempt your fingers to get tapping and scribbling.  This one is chosen by Javabee, and it should certainly bring inspiration, so please give us your take on, using between one hundred and fifty and four thousand words on the challenge:


Yodel  Bluff   Draw


That can be a face off, a high cliff, headland, or riverbank.  A town name, someone pretending to be something they are not, or any other kind of misleading, lying, aggression, starting an acting but not following through, a broad stiff front on a boat, or 'having a rough, but not unkind manner.'  Apparently it can also be a clump of trees in a generally treeless area.  




Don't forget to to comment on last month's stories before moving on to April.  Late babies need as much love as early ones and it's the only thanks our writers get.         
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PostSubject: Re: Bluff   Fri Apr 01, 2016 8:40 pm

An old story to kick off the month. 


Calling their Bluff



‘Heyes, you’re such a liar.’

Dark eyes twinkled in the Kid’s direction as a dimpled grin spread across his face.

‘Aw, thanks, Kid, but I’m older than you.  I’ve had more practice.’

The Kid dropped his head to stifle a chortle as he watched the matronly figure recede down the wooden sidewalk.  ‘A lawyer?  You?’

Heyes shrugged.  ‘It’s the best way to find someone.  Especially if you put the word out that they may be in line for an inheritance.  They’ll find you.  I gotta be seen to be lookin’ for her and middle-aged women in small towns love to talk about things like that.  It’ll be all over town in an hour.’

The Kid smiled at his partner, crisp and smart in his neatly pressed suit.

‘So...?  How does it help Dorothy Murtry for you to put the word about town that she’s an heiress?  I thought we were after Stubby Potts?’

‘He romanced her out of nearly two hundred dollars and he’s gonna be back when he finds out that there’s a lot more where that came from.  He’s gonna pay Kyle’s sister back with interest.  No one messes with the Devils’ Hole gang and Kyle’s real upset that she’s been made such a fool of.’

‘Feel like letting me in on it?’ queried the Kid.  ‘You clearly got a plan.’

Heyes’ eyebrows arched heavenwards as his eyes twinkled mischievously.

‘Ooh, Kid.  You’re a big part of it.  You’re gonna call his bluff... as his love rival.’

The Kid’s face did more than drop, it fell heavily.  

‘No way, she looks like Kyle in a frock,’ he jabbed a finger into his partner’s chest.  ‘Besides it ain't right to court a friend’s sister.  There’s a code of honor, you know.’

‘Aw come on, Kid.  She’ll know it’s all an act.  You want to help don’t you?’

‘Get someone else to do it.  What about Wheat...?  Or Preacher?’

‘They’re his friends too.  What happened to this code of yours?  It’s gotta be you Kid.  Someone might know Wheat ‘cos he’s Kyle’s close friend and Preacher...?  I just can’t see him as the romancing type.’  Heyes shook his head and started to beam engagingly.  ‘It’s gotta look real and we need him desperate enough to act fast.  An expensive engagement ring should cover the cost for her.  He ain’t gonna do that unless his rival’s real handsome.  You’re the only one who fits that description, Kid.’

The Kid’s jaw firmed determinedly refusing to get sucked in by flattery.

‘I ain’t doin’ it, got that?  That’s my final word on it!’


oooOOOooo


Dorothy Murtry’s blue eyes glittered up at the Kid as she watched him wince yet again at another leaden stomp to his toes.  ‘Ooooh, Mr. Curry, this is marvellous.  I took dancin’ lessons from my pa ‘specially for this.’

‘Really?’ incredulity swarmed all over his face.  ‘You used to be worse than this?’

The Kid twirled her round the dance floor watching the suspicious glare from Stubby Potts from the sidelines.  

‘He’s watchin’ us.  It’s workin’,’ Dorothy’s prominent teeth protruded through her open-mouthed smile.  ‘I don’t think he can believe that I got a man as handsome as you.’

The Kid’s heart softened as he smiled at her.  There was way more than a touch of the desperate about this homeliest of homely old maids.  That was how Potts had managed to worm his way into her life’s savings and those of her father’s, thinking that they were investing in her husband-to-be’s future.  As soon as he had his hands on the cash he had dropped her like a hot potato, leaving her both destitute and mortified by his public pronouncement that he could never share a bed with such an ugly old hag.  There was really no need to add that extra touch of cruelty.  The man deserved a Hannibal Heyes plan.    

‘You’re a lovely person, Miss Murtry and you deserve so much better than the way he treated you,’ he twinkled straight into her heart.  ‘And it’s an honor to dance with you.’

‘Oooh, Mr...,’she paused as he let out a muttered curse and pulled his foot out from under her’s yet again.  ‘Sorry, should we sit down?’

‘I think that’d be a good idea.  How about some lemonade?’

‘Oh, yes please.’

The Kid wandered over to the trestle table and deliberately stood next the short, mono-browed, neckless Neanderthal who had been actively glaring at him while he had been dragged around behind the beat of the music.  He smiled at the troglodyte.  ‘Evenin’.  Good barn dance. Ain’t it?’

‘Is it?’ he snapped.  

The Kid looked deeply into his mud coloured eyes.  ‘You been starin’ at me.  Got a problem?’

The ape-like brow creased as the cogs visibly turned, assessing the prowess of his rival.  ‘Dotty’s my girl!’

The Kid snorted.  ‘You Stubby Potts?  I heard about you.  I understand that you threw her over, didn’t want her no more.’

‘You only want her for the money.’

‘Money?’ asked the Kid innocently.

‘Everybody in town knows about it.  Her uncle died.  Left her a fortune.  Now you’re suddenly interested?  Don’t make me laugh.’

‘I can’t guarantee that if we need to dance again,’ grinned the Kid.  ‘But she’s callin’ the shots.  Ask her out if you’re interested, it’ll be her decision.  It ain’t my fault it all went wrong for you.  I wasn’t even here.’

‘I’ve tried,’ snarled the simian.  ‘She ain’t said a word to me for four days.’

‘Not a word for four days, eh?  My grandpa would have told you that women like that are hard to find.  Maybe she’s a keeper?’

Both men gazed over at Dorothy, her heavy jowls wobbling against the lank, mousey hair which framed her coarse features as she chatted and laughed with a gaggle of local women.  The Kid could almost hear the greedy thoughts running through his companion’s head like ball bearings in a wooden maze as he turned back to the man.  ‘Look, I ain’t engaged to her or anything but I think she’s a real nice girl.  She’s fun and she’s a real good cook; a man could do a lot worse,’ a grin spread over his face.  ‘I hadn’t heard she was rich too so I gotta thank you, stranger.  Maybe I’ll get me a ring?  A girl like that deserves a real expensive ring.’

‘I got your number, mister!’

‘Maybe I’ll take her out to dinner tomorrow night.  Somewhere real fancy like, where they give you more than one set of cutlery and clean the tables,’ mused the Kid out loud.

‘You won’t get away with this,’ Potts growled.

‘Oooh, Miss Murtry!’ cooed the Kid across the dance floor.  ‘How would you like to take a stroll in the moonlight?  Just you and me?’


oooOOOooo


‘Where d’you want to stop?’

The Kid looked at her in utter confusion.  ‘Stop, Miss Murtry?  What so you mean, stop?’

She tried to flutter her eyelashes at him but the rapid blinking looked more like the onset of some kind of mild fit.  ‘Surely you don’t just want to walk, Mr. Curry?’ her grip on his arm started to tighten as her guttural giggle made the hairs on the back of his neck start to rise.  ‘There’s a nice private place right over there behind the bushes, real cosy?’

‘Miss Murtry,’ he spluttered as he pulled against her clasping hand.  ‘That AIN’T what I’m here to do.  You know that this is all a set up to get Stubby jealous.’

She turned and swung her clasped hands over his head until she started to pull him down towards her moist, pouting lips.  ‘You know it’s gone further than that.  Nobody ever treated me the way you do.’

He pulled back not wanting to be too rough with her, as the silver fingers of moonlight glinted off the hairs running across her cheeks.

‘No,’  he firmly gripped her arms and pushed her away and held her at arm’s length as hard, steely eyes glinted at her in the poor light.  ‘This is all a bluff and you know it.  Now, I’m gonna take you home and no more nonsense.’   

‘You’re just like all the rest,’ she whimpered at his back as he strode ahead.  ‘I thought you were different.’

The Kid let out a rasping breath of impatience and turned to face her.  ‘I am different.  I’m a complete fake who’s pretendin’ to court you.  Maybe you forgot that, but I ain’t.’

‘But you were so nice to me.’

‘Yeah, just like I’m nice to any other woman I meet.  There’s nothin’ more in it.’

Dorothy gave a little sob and dropped her head as a pang of sympathy cut through him.

‘Miss Murtry,’ he continued more gently.  ‘I’m tryin’ to help you, that’s all.  Let’s not confuse things.’

‘But...’

‘But nuthin’.’  He thrust his hands into his pockets and squared his shoulders.  ‘I’ve spent the last few days treatin’ you like a lady, that’s all.  Now I’m takin’ you home and tomorrow we go into town to stir up Potts even further like we planned, but it doesn’t mean a thing.  Got that?  This is how men should have been treatin' you all along.’

‘Why are you all so mean to me?  It ain’t my fault I look like this!’ she sobbed.  ‘Do you know how bad old maids get treated?  You outnumber us ten to one around here so there’s gotta be somethin’ real wrong with a woman who can’t get a man... any man; not even for half an hour.’  The Kid paused at the pain in her voice as she continued.  ‘All I want is the same as everyone else, but what do I get?  Ignored, used and abused.  Ugly men still get a choice don’t they?  They get a life.  They can have families.’

‘Miss Murtry,’ the Kid began.

‘Ooh save it!  I’ve heard it all before.  This is all about what my brother wants; stupid family honor.  We ain’t got no honor.  My brother’s a thief and my pa’s a mangy old beer hound.  What good is two hundred dollars to me?  I’ll still be alone.  It don’t buy me a life.’


oooOOOooo


‘Where the hell is she, Kid?’ demanded Heyes.

‘I dunno,’ the Kid muttered, looking away from Heyes’ disapproving glare.  ‘I took her home last night.  Ask her Pa.  I delivered her back, safe and sound.’

Heyes stepped back from the closed door, eyeing it impatiently.  ‘Well, there’s no one here now.  Where do you think they’ve gone?’

‘Town maybe?’

Heyes gave a hiss of irritation, he liked to run things when he was scamming anyone but Dorothy Murtry seemed to have as much focus as a bumble bee in a field of cornflowers.  She had been a liability, wandering off, talking too much and too loudly and exercising her first taste of feminine power in a town where she had been seen as a bit of a laughing stock.

‘When did you say that you’d see her again?’

The Kid shrugged.  ‘Just like you told me to, we were goin’ to pick her up and go into town.’  

They turned to see Stubby Potts striding over the dry, baked earth, its filigree of tiny cracks crumbling against his hard, percussive heels as he stomped towards them.  ‘What you want?’

Heyes nodded in welcome.  ‘I’m her lawyer.’

‘And I’m here to take her out,’ the Kid replied, raising a suspicious eyebrow.  ‘And you?’

Potts folded his arms as a superior smirk spread over his face.  ‘I’ve come to take my fiancé into town.  We’re gonna choose a ring; a real big one.  I saw her come back last night and I waited till you’d gone.  I got her.  You lost, stranger.’

‘Engaged?’ Heyes glowered at both men.  ‘I’m going to have to advise her against making rash decisions like that.  After all, she’s bound to be a target for fortune-hunters.’

‘I ain’t after her money,’ cried the Kid indignantly, slipping quickly into his role.

‘Not much you ain’t!, muttered Potts.  ‘Anyway it’s too late.  She taken.’

‘No she ain’t.  You said it yourself, you ain’t got a ring yet.’

Stubbs gave a treacherous smirk.  ‘Nope, but she got my late mother’s pearls.  That should hold her until I get a marriage certificate signed.’

‘Pearls?’

‘Yup, gotta be worth at least three hundred dollars.  I had to show her I was serious.  I’m gettin the weddin’ booked today, spoke to the preacher last night after I left here.’

Heyes threw the Kid a meaningful look.  The value of the pearls coupled with the public declaration of his intention was enough to assuage the Murtry family pride.  Get him to book the wedding and they were home and dry; more than that, getting Dorothy to stand him up at the church was all the revenge anyone could have wanted.

‘I’m gonna beat you there Potts.  It ain’t over until those church bells chime,’ the Kid declared walking towards his horse.’

‘You just want her for her money,’ sniped Potts.

‘And you don’t?’ demanded the Kid sceptically, throwing a long leg over his horse.

‘No, it’s love.  Sometimes you don’t know what you had till it’s gone.’

The Kid’s blue eyes glinted like flint.  ‘Yeah?  Well, remember that when you don’t get those pearls back.’


oooOOOooo


‘What is goin’ on here?’  Dorothy Murtry looked around her family home in horror.  It bore more than a passing resemblance to the Devil’s Hole, given that most of the gang were draped over various items of furniture none too decoratively.

‘You,’ she pointed at Lobo who had lounged back on her father’s bed.  ‘get off, right now. ’

‘Dotty,’ Kyle strode over to embrace his sister.  ‘I got the boys here to look for you, you’ve been gone nearly a week.  We’ve been worried sick.’

She snorted in annoyance, striding over and thumping at the booted feet propped up on her kitchen table until they were rapidly withdrawn.  ‘I sent pa a telegram.  Didn’t he tell you?’

Kyle shook his vacant head.  ‘Pa?  He ain’t made no sense for at least three days.  Been on a bender.’

‘That useless, no good, son of a...,’ her voice drifted off as she fixed the Kid with a mean look.  ‘You.  Why didn’t you look after him?’

The Kid looked irritated.  ‘That ain’t my job.’

‘Mind tellin’ us where you’ve been, Miss Murtry?’ demanded Heyes, folding his arms.

She flicked up hirsute eyebrows.  ‘I had enough of bein’ treated like some kind of prize heifer bein’ sold to the highest bidder.  Why you still here?’

‘We never got your message, Miss Murtry.’ Heyes voice adopted the dangerous calm that the Kid recognised as a sign that he was losing his temper.  ‘I don’t like people wasting my time.  We came here to help you and you just up and break that deal?  Folks’ve been worried and you’ve wasted a lot of my time. ’

‘Deal?  You call it a deal that I get paraded around town attractin’ all the lowlifes who want to be kept?  How does that help me after what happened?  I gotta live with all that after they find out I was never rich. I just look even more stupid.’

‘You agreed to the plan, Miss Murtry.’

She glowered at Heyes.  ‘I agreed to punish Potts and get my money back.  I never thought it through cos I was hurt.  Why couldn’t you just pull a gun on him, for god’s sake?  You’re the Devil’s Hole Gang!  Why did it all have to get so twisted?  Shown’ off that brain of yours; swollen-headed if you ask me.’

‘So where did you go?  We had Potts right where we wanted him.  He was goin’ to marry you, even gave you his mother’s pearls.  We were winning,’ declared Heyes.

‘You were winnin’.  I was losing as usual.  It was all just a game to you.  This is my life, but I guess that don’t matter when a woman ain’t pretty,’ Dorothy threw herself down on the rocking chair and furiously threw herself back and forth.

Heyes shook his head defensively and bit back his annoyance.  ‘That’s not true, we came to help but it was a complete waste of my time.’  

There was a gentle knock at the door and a grey haired man popped a head like a pickled walnut around the door.  ‘Dotty?’ he nervously eyed the eclectic array of vagabonds in the cabin before he continued. ‘Are you comin’?

She threw him a gentle smile.  ‘Yes, Immanuel, I am.  I came to speak to my pa but he ain’t here so I guess we should just go home.’

‘Home?’ demanded Kyle.  ‘You are home.’

‘No, Kyle, I ain’t.  This is my husband, Immanuel Weiss.’

‘Husband?’  Kyle’s jaw dropped, revealing semi-liquid, chewed-up tobacco.  

‘Yes,’  Immanuel announced, recognising the family resemblance and shaking Kyle firmly by the hand.  ‘You must be her brother?  We got married three days ago.’

Heyes’ colour started to rise.  ‘If you were getting married all the time then what the hell was all that about?  Why did I bother?’

Immanuel shook his head and smiled softly at his new bride.  ‘Married?  Oh no, sir!  I only asked her to marry me the day after the barn dance.’  He walked over and proffered his arm to Dorothy.  ‘I’m an unprepossessing widower and I’m sure that you’ve noticed that I’m at least thirty years older than Dotty.  I’ve liked her for a long time, as friends.  She’s a lovely, kind person but it never occurred to me to get married again until all this nonsense.  I didn’t want her to walk away with any of those bums who were just after her money.  I realised that I was jealous.  The rest, as they say, is history.’

‘You’re just after her money too,’ yelled Kyle.

‘Money?  She ain’t got no money?  She told me the truth.’

Dorothy stood up and walked over to her husband with a broad grin on her face.  

‘He’s the one with the money.  He’s got three general stores and I got me a lovely husband,’ as she approached the door she grinned at Heyes.  ‘Your bluff worked just not in the way you wanted it to.’

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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: Bluff   Sat Apr 02, 2016 1:48 am

Another oldie

Calling a Bluff?

“That’s right, I’m calling your bluff!”

Blue eyes met black.  “I’m not bluffin’!”

Hannibal Heyes’ brown eyes followed the action from his seat.

“That’s a might’ fancy gun ya got there, but I’m betting you don’t really know how to use it.  It’s probably all just for show.”

“You’d be bettin’ wrong, friend.  Now I don’t want any trouble, so how’s about we just forget it.”

“Nobody calls me a cheat and gets away with it!”

Heyes knew better than to interfere, but the situation perhaps demanded it.  “Look, friend, my partner here, he’s not bluffin’, and you did cheat.  Matter of fact, if you give me a chance to show ya…”

Black eyes regarded brown momentarily.  “Don’t ‘look friend’ me!  You gonna let your partner fight his own fight, or is he too used to hiding behind his mama’s skirts?”

Only Heyes noticed the barely imperceptible change in Kid Curry’s breathing.  Blue eyes did not leave those of his opponent.

Black eyes shifted back to Kid’s blue.  “Well?”

Without flinching, the ex-outlaw held his ground, his manner matter-of-fact.  “Well, what?”

“I told ya, and I’m still calling your bluff.”

“And I said, ‘I’m not bluffin’.  Now that hasn’t changed, and it won’t.”

“And I’m not a cheater.”

Heyes stood.  “So, gentlemen, what we have here is a stalemate.”

The stranger shifted his eyes between the two, but now addressed Heyes.  “Mister, you called me a cheat first.  Maybe YOU’d like to draw.”

Heyes glanced at Curry before regarding the stranger.  “Look, I’m not trying to start trouble.  But you did cheat, and I can prove it.  Simple as that.”

Suddenly, gasps filled the saloon.  “Get the sheriff!”

Kid Curry stood with gun drawn.  

The stranger lay on the floor with a bloodied left hand.  The black eyes searched for his pistol.  It lay where it landed, ten feet behind him.

Curry strode to the sidearm, kicking it further out of reach.  Satisfied the stranger was disabled for the moment, Kid returned to his bleeding partner and knelt beside him.  “Joshua?  Hey?”

Grimacing, Heyes’ brown eyes met Kid’s.  His hand clutched his side.  Smiling wanly, he lost consciousness.

~~~000~~~

“So, go over that one more time.”

“Look, Sheriff, I told ya three times already.  The story’s not gonna change.  Can I PLEASE just go see about my partner?”

“In a bit, maybe.  You’re the only one left standing, so run that by me again.”

The blond ex-outlaw sighed.  “Sheriff, ya got lots of witnesses in that saloon.  Somebody’s story’s gotta agree with mine.”

The lawman handed Kid a mug of coffee, then sat down at his desk to face the cowboy.  “Now, relax, son.  Nobody’s accusing you of anything.  Just run that by me one more time.”

Curry tried to lose the frustration he felt, but wasn’t altogether successful.  “We were playin’ poker, my partner and me, with those four other guys.  The one who pulled the gun – Trace, you called him?”

The sheriff nodded.

“Well, he kept winnin’, hand over hand.  One or two of the others said how lucky he was, and he just kept winnin’.  After a while, my partner said how he knew Trace was cheatin’ and all, and Trace told my partner he’d best watch his mouth.  And the others looked kinda funny at Trace, suspicious-like, and my partner asked him to roll up his sleeves.  He wouldn’t.  Then he drew his gun and waved it in my partner’s direction.”

The lawman’s brow furrowed.  “Go on.”

Kid sighed.  “Well, like I told ya, once he – Trace – pulled his gun, I asked him to put it away, real calm-like.  He wouldn’t, and I asked him again, and said it’d be best if he went outside to cool off.  Then, he stood up and backed away from the table, put the gun back in his holster, and challenged me.  I got up and faced him, and told him again to go outside – that I knew how to use a gun, but didn’t wanna have to.  He told me I was bluffin’, and I told him I wasn’t – a coupla times.  Then my partner tried to reason with him and wound up shot in the bargain.  And when I saw him draw, I drew and got in a lucky shot, after he’d already shot my partner.”

The sheriff regarded Curry.  “All right, son.  You’re right, your story didn’t change.”  He stood.  “I’ll walk with ya down to the doc’s to see how your partner’s doing, but I’ll have your gun belt first.  It stays locked up until we work this out to my satisfaction.”

Kid hesitated for a moment, then rose, undid his holster, and handed it to the sheriff.

~~~000~~~

“Just a flesh wound to his side – looks a lot worse than it is.  That bump on his head from the fall’s what dazed him.  He’ll be up and about in a few days, but until then he needs to rest.”

Kid Curry and the sheriff listened.  The blond man let out a breath.  “Thanks, Doc, that’s good to hear.  Can I take him back to the hotel?”

“Tomorrow, maybe.  Let’s watch him overnight.  If all goes as well as I expect, that shouldn’t be a problem.  But he’ll need tending.”

Kid smiled.  “I’ll watch him, Doc.  Thanks.”

The sheriff spoke, “Doc, what about Trace?”

The doctor regarded the lawman.  “Another flesh wound, and a broken knuckle.”  Then he turned to Curry.  “Just curious, son – was that fancy shooting, or were you just lucky?”

Kid eyed the medical man questioningly, his feelings guarded.

“The way you got his hand and all, he’ll be laid up a good while.  If you wanted to hurt a man just enough not to be able to use his shooting hand for a spell, you did a good job of it.”

Curry gulped, his usual coolness almost deserting him under the scrutiny of a lawman who seemed smarter than average – or at least more thorough.  He spoke in a low tone, almost apologetically, “Just lucky, I guess.”  With pursed lips, he looked at the floor, avoiding the gazes directed at him. 

The sheriff faced the physician.  “Doc, I’ll have both their gun belts.  No one’s going to be tempted to draw until I get to the bottom of this.”

~~~000~~~

“Ya know, Heyes, you look like a mess,” Kid Curry plumped pillows and got his partner settled into bed in their hotel room.  

The ex-outlaw leader winced.  “Damn it all, Kid, I’ll STAY a mess if ya keep yanking me forward!”
Curry stopped in mid-motion.  “Sorry, Heyes.  Just want ya better so we can leave.  I don’t like the way the sheriff is so interested in us. … Well, in me.”

Heyes took the last pillow, grimacing as he tried to find a comfortable position.  “I don’t like it, either.  But ya did what ya had to do.  There’s no way around that.”

Kid turned from Heyes to the window, taking a long look at the main street below.  “I know.  Guess I’m worried the sheriff suspects somethin’, but I don’t know what.  He took both our guns.  Ya know how nekkid I’m feelin’?”

Heyes flinched at the sudden sideways glance at his partner.  Blue eyes locked on his.  “I know.  But he took the other guy’s, too, didn’t he?”

Curry turned back to the bed.  “Yeah.  But I still don’t like it.  Says he has to piece everything together.”

“So, let him do his job, Kid.  So far, he doesn’t seem to suspect anything – from what you said, anyway.”

“I’m not sure, and I got a kinda bad feelin’ about it.  And hangin’ around here too long can’t be good, either.  We’re better off leavin’ town – the sooner, the better.”

Heyes chuckled.  “That’s always the best course for us, especially where a sheriff’s involved.  But, so far, so good, huh?  And hopefully, it’ll stay that way.  You said he seemed to believe you, and there’s lots of witnesses.  He’s just being methodical, I suppose.”  He yawned.

A look of concern.  “Y’okay?”

Heyes nodded.  “Just tired.”

“Ya need to rest.”  The blond man also yawned, and stretched.

“I’ll be fine, Kid.  Wouldn’t hurt you none to get some sleep, too.  Ya can’t stay up all night fretting about me and not expect to feel it the next day.”  Another yawn.  Heyes patted the spot on the bed next to him.  “Come on.  Lay down.  It’ll make the time go faster.”

Kid Curry knew when he was defeated.  “’Kay.”

Two ex-outlaws soon were dozing.

~~~000~~~

Two days on, Heyes felt considerably better, gingerly moving around – albeit, with some pain.  The headaches that resulted from his fall had practically disappeared.  The wound in his side itched a lot, to be expected with the scabbing.  However, the doc still recommended bed rest.

“Kid, how do ya expect me to read with all the racket you’re making?  The floor squeaks!  Can’t ya pace somewhere else?  You’re like a caged bird.  You’d think it was you laid up and me all worried!”

The blond man stopped in his tracks.  “It’s that sheriff …”

“Yeah, I know.  For two days now; I know.  Look, Kid, you’re probably worrying about nothing.  You’ve barely been out of this room, so he hasn’t really talked to ya since the day of the shooting.  What would he suspect?”

“I don’t know, but there’s somethin’ goin’ on.  Got a feelin’; not a good one.”

Heyes sighed.  “Ya gotta get your mind on something else.”  Pausing a moment, he extended his arm in his partner’s direction, offering his book.  “Come on, Kid.  Read to me.  Maybe it’ll help me get some of that sleep you say I’m always missing.”

Curry stared at the volume for several long seconds.  His expression dubious, he finally took it.  A brow arched as his eyes met Heyes’.

“Oh, sorry, page 55.”

“Thanks.”  Curry flipped to the designated spot.  Perusing, he started pacing again, slower this time.

Heyes waited.  “Just start at the top.”

“’Kay.”

The dark-haired man watched, expectantly.

Kid slowed further, but did not stop, eyes not leaving the volume.

Heyes fidgeted against the pillows, finally finding a comfortable spot.

A slight change of head position signalled the averting of blue eyes from left to right side of the book.

Heyes scratched his head, stretched, leaned back.

The page crackled as Curry turned it.

Heyes chuckled softly to himself and closed his eyes.

~~~000~~~

The next day, Kid Curry entered the lawman’s office.  “You want to see me, Sheriff?”

“Sit down, Jones.”

Curry kept his nervousness hidden as he seated himself

The officer picked up a stack of papers and ruffled through it.  “These are sworn statements from witnesses to the shooting.  They corroborate your story, so you’re in the clear.  Thought you’d like to hear that.”

Kid’s countenance brightened.  “Yes, sir.”

“But, there’s something interesting, too.  To a person, they said they’d never seen anything like it – your shooting.  They said you drew lightning-quick; no hesitation.  And dead aim, like a trick shooter.”

Blue eyes narrowed.

“So, that brings to mind your statement about it being a lucky shot.  One might say, more like quick and accurate – shooting just enough to disable the man.  And they said you told Trace you knew how to use a gun.  That true?”

Kid managed to keep his voice steady, and his nerves and patience in check.  “Sheriff, I told ya that, a couple of times.  I do know how to use a gun, and I generally hit what I aim at.  But, can’t say I’m that fast.  Was just lucky.  I told ya.  It’s a blur.  It all happened so fast …”  He shrugged.  “He drew, my partner went down … Suppose I just reacted.”

The sheriff’s brow furrowed.  “So, you don’t know if you aimed for his gun hand?”

Kid shook his head.  “No.  I was probably just tryin’ to hit his arm.”

“You weren’t trying to kill him?”

Curry suddenly rose.  

The lawman reacted in kind, hand on his gun butt.  

Kid instinctively reached for his hip, grabbing – nothing.  He closed his eyes momentarily, opened them, let out a breath.

Two pairs of eyes locked.  Several long seconds passed.

The ex-outlaw gulped and averted his eyes.  Finally, softly, “No.”

“No?”

Blue eyes studied the lawman.  The voice remained soft, but strong.  “No, I didn’t try to kill him.”

“You said it happened real fast.  But you’re SURE you weren’t trying to kill him?”

“That’s right.”

The sheriff sighed, rubbing his forehead.  “If I didn’t know any better, I’d presume you were someone I should know about.”  A beat.  “You’re quick, though.  Good reflexes.  There’s no doubt of that.  And you wear a fancy rig – low and tied tight, at the ready.”

Kid pursed his lips.  

“Jones, huh?”

“That’s right.”

“And your partner’s Smith?”

“Um hmm.”

“Coincidental?”

Kid summoned all the charm he could muster in an awkward moment.  “Sheriff, there are lots of people named Smith and Jones in the world.  I’d hope we’d have more imagination if we were tryin’ to hide somethin’.”

The sheriff considered Curry’s statement, scratched his head.  “All right – Jones.  I have to believe you until I hear something different.  So far, everything you’ve said’s held up.”  He came around the desk.  “Come on, let me buy you a drink.  I’ve put you through enough.”

“I appreciate it, Sheriff, but I really need to get back to my partner.”

“From what Doc tells me, he’s up and around some, and he’ll be ready to travel in a day or two?”

Kid nodded.  

“You two do seem anxious to leave town.”

Curry did not miss a beat.  His steady gaze held the officer’s.  “We have to meet a friend, and we’re overdue.”

“A friend?”

“A lawman – sheriff.”

“About?"

“A job.”

“And he’d vouch for you – if necessary?”

“That’s right.”

The sheriff moved toward the door.  “Sounds like your partner can take care of himself for a bit longer.  Now, about that drink.”

Checking his guardedness, Kid nodded.  “Okay.”

~~~000~~~

The sun shone brilliantly as the two strode abreast down the boardwalk.  Crossing the dirt road, they headed toward the nearest saloon.  

Suddenly, Curry noticed a glint.  A loud crack sounded.  As if in slow motion, the Kid tackled the sheriff, whose hat flew from his head, landing twenty feet behind him.

Deputies and others moved toward an alley opposite.

Shouts.  Shots.  Silence.

~~~000~~~

Hannibal Heyes sat astride his horse as he reached the sheriff’s office.  Shifting to keep an upright position, he appeared uncomfortable as he watched Kid Curry dismount and tie both their reins to the hitching rail.

The blond man looked up at him.  “Do you want to come in?”

Heyes shook his head.  “I had a hard enough time getting mounted.  Do what you have to do, and let’s get out of here.”

“Be right back.”

Kid opened the sheriff’s office door and went inside.  

The lawman was alone.  “Ready to head out?”

“Yup.  My partner’s outside waitin’, and I came to get our guns.”

Without hesitation, the sheriff stood and walked to a safe.  Turning the dial several times, he opened it and pulled out two gun belts.  He regarded the rigs before putting them on the desk.  “Look them over – everything’s there.  Nice guns, both of them.”

“Thanks,” Kid said nonchalantly as he reached for his holster and began buckling it.

The sheriff watched as he tied the rawhide string snugly around his thigh.  “Those quick reflexes of yours – probably saved my life.  Who knew Trace was a good shot with the other hand?  Although, I think he was aiming for you.  Far as I know, he had no grudge with me.”

Curry finished with his gun belt and faced the lawman.  “We’ll never know, will we?”  He smiled.  “A new hat might be in order, though.”

The officer held up a gray Stetson.  He put a finger through a gaping bullet hole in the front of the crown and turned it to show a smaller one in the back.  “You got that right, Jones.  We didn’t find the bullet.  If I ever do, I’ll keep it as a souvenir – and a reminder.”

Kid looked quizzically at the lawman as he reached for Heyes’ gun belt.  “A reminder?”

“Yup.  I’m grateful, and beholden to you.”

Curry felt his cheeks flush.  “No need.  Anyone woulda done it.”

The lawman chuckled.  “Maybe.  But I don’t think they’d have been as effective.”

Kid shrugged.

The officer put the hat down and extended his hand.  They shook.

“Thanks again.”

Curry was surprised at the warmth in the man’s voice.  “Bye, Sheriff.”

“You and your partner ride safe, Jones.”

Kid nodded, relieved.  He smiled to himself and strode toward the door.

As he reached it, the sheriff called after him, “KID?!”

He turned.  “Huh?”

_________________
Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything. ~ Wyatt Earp


Last edited by Remuda on Mon Apr 04, 2016 12:26 am; edited 1 time in total
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skykomish

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PostSubject: Re: Bluff   Mon Apr 04, 2016 12:05 am

Here is my old story for the topic Bluff.



Dead Man's Bluff




Well, Father, I jest can’t bring myself to answer yer question to yer face. Ya know I can read some, but I shore don’t write too good, so I found me somebody who would write my words jest like I say ‘em. They promised. And I read ‘em over, best I could, and I reckon they done a fair job of it.



Ya asked me how I can be shore there’s forgiveness and mercy in a world gone dark as coal tar and twice as bitter. That’s simple, Father. I know it ‘cuz I seen it. Hell, I lived it.



One thing I’s learned is that God Almighty ain’t too particular ‘bout who he uses to spread that there mercy. But I best get to tellin’ the story ya asked for.



Ya knows that I growed up hard. When I came nosin’ 'round yer church, lookin’ for work and a quiet place to live, ya seen it then. Ya told me, I needed sanctuary. I got that word right’ cuz I learned it once ya said it. Sanctuary is what I wanted. Ya gave me that, Father, and I need to thank ya agin, ‘cuz it’s a gift more precious than any other I ever got. Ceptin’ that there forgiveness and mercy ya wuz askin’ 'bout.



I can’t remember my Pa. Ma died when I was twelve. I wuz sent to my uncle’s place. Folks said I wuz real lucky seein’ as how my uncle wuz a preacher and willin’ to take me in and all, but them folks shore didn’t know what went on in that man’s house.



They say “charity begins at home.” Seems my uncle thought that hellfire and damnation started there too. I still got a few scars to remind me of that hard man. My cousin, Jude, felt the worst of it, though. His Pa wuz bound and determined to beat, cut, and burn the devil outta us two young ‘uns. Jude carried three burn marks on his face ‘til his dyin' day. Made Jude real memorable, those three scars did.



Jude used to protect me seein’ as I was smaller and meeker. Maybe that’s why I put up with somma the terrible things we done and seen, on account of Jude helpin’ me when we wuz kids. Leastways, that’s what I told myself when the shame would take me.



Things started goin’ bad when we wuz ridin’ with Captain Quantrill. Jude was chock full a hate and churnin’ anger. When we rode through Lawrence—ya know, up yonder in Kansas—I reckoned the killin’ would be enough even for Jude. But I wuz wrong.


Somehow, after we run off and left his Pa, Jude started blamin’ the slave folk, and thems that helped ‘em, for all his troubles. I ain’t shore why, but Jude just turned darker and darker towards them folk. When Captain Quantrill wouldn’t let Jude, or no other man either, kill women or children in Lawrence, Jude decided the Captain was jest too yella.


My cousin got some like-minded boys together, and we all skedaddled. He said he knew a spot not too far away, where some folks wuz helpin’ slaves run off, and robbin’ God-fearin’ men of their rightful property. He wuz fixin’ to put a stop to it. I told him I wuz thinkin’ a goin’ somwheres else. Jude, well, he jest laughed. He said I wuz too yella to leave him and would do as I wuz told. I reckon there wuz some truth to that, cuz I stayed with ‘em.



When we reached the place we wuz headin’, I seen that it wuz jest two small farms. Folks with women and children were scratchin’ out a livin’ in the Kansas sun. I wuz shore that Jude wuz mistook, and we wuz gonna be leavin’. Boy howdy, wuz I wrong.



I don’t remember much a that day. I guess my mind can’t take it in. I know there wuz screamin’. And men laughin’. Ya know the wicked kinda laughin’ when a man takes his pleasure in some other folks’ pain. I remember blood, and a knife cuttin’ white skin, and a pitchfork pumpin’ in and outta dead meat. Tears and gunshots. Prayin’and cursin’. Hopes and fears a dyin’. Whole parts a that time are done gone from me. I don’t know to this day if I helped with the killin’ or jest wandered around aimless-like.



When I came to myself, I wuz standin’ behind the corner of a barn. A bird of a woman with red curls wuz sprawled agin the wall with her dress ripped and bloody. I think the others thought she wuz a goner, but I heard her whisperin’ to a boy shiverin’ behind a woodpile. All I could see of him was blond curls and big blue eyes. His face was blotchy from cryin', but he wuz keepin’ real still.



When I started listenin’, I wuz shore I wuz hearin’ an angel sent from the Lord Hisself. Ya gotta understand that Jude’s Pa wuz a preacher who believed in scarin’ a body into heaven. He learned me my Bible verses, but they wuz all yammerin’ on 'bout God’s judgement and hellfire. After a bit, I cottoned on that this lady wuz quotin’ scripture, but scripture I ain’t never heard before.



I ain’t too book-learned, but I remember stuff I hear real good, and I can tell ya exact what she said. “And he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God hisself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all the tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor cryin', neither shall there be anymore pain.”* I found out later that, that there passage was from the Revealin' a John.


Then she started tellin’ her young ‘un that hate and revenge jest hurts them as done the hatin’. She had a funny way a talkin’. I’m thinkin’ that she wuz from Ireland, like ya, Father. She told her boy that all the killin’ and hatin’ over religion that she’d growed up with, had learned her that the only way to stop the killin’ wuz to let the hate go. Revenge jest keeps the killin’ goin’. She said that forgivin’ wuz best, but barrin’ that, walk away. Then she made her boy promise to walk away iffen he ever seen one of us agin. “No revenge, Jed,” she said. “It’ll eat ya up. Leave the reckonin’ to God. Promise me.” Then that young ‘un mumbled his Ma a promise.



After that, she started quotin’ the Good Book agin. She said, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”**


God’s love? Now that wuz a new idea for me. I ain’t never heard of God lovin’ before. And comin’ from this dyin’ woman—her body all torn and broke, she who wuz a lyin' there comfortin’ her scared son—it was mighty powerful. But to my shame, it weren’t powerful enough for me to step up and help her—or leave Jude. By this time, I wuz near as scared a my cousin as I been of his Pa. So I stayed hid. And when Jude and the others rode out, I rode with ‘em.


For fifteen more years I rode with my cousin. He jest got angrier and crazier. I did try to leave Jude sometimes. He used to hit me some, kinda like his Pa had when I was a young ‘un. Ever’ now and then, I’d tell Jude he wuz crazy mean and I wuz gonna leave. He told me that if I tried, he jest shoot me as I walked, so I‘d hafta kill ‘em first, iffen I wanted to go. I’d always back down, and Jude, well, he would laugh that mean and wicked laugh a his. I had a six-shooter Jude got for me, and he made shore it was cleaned and loaded. But he jest told me that I didn’t have the guts to shoot em. And I would stay. Guess maybe he wuz right.




Jude went for bounty huntin’. Said he was doin’ the Lord’s work bringin’ in thieves and murderers. He kept track of the things we’d done and explained that we wuz helpin’ to clear the West of sinners. He remembered them two farms in Kansas. He told me that we had missed two of the critters livin’ on them farms. Said they growed up to be Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. Heyes and Curry were still famous outlaws back then. He told me that he knew we’d done God’s work when we wuz in Kansas, 'cuz the two critters we missed turned out to be big-time outlaws. He decided to track ‘em down and finish the job.



We caught up with the Devil’s Hole Gang at some no account town called Moonshine. They didn’t have no sheriff. The gang wuz celebratin’ after robbin’ some bank. I remember wonderin’ how the son of that saintly woman had turned out to be a thief and a gunnie. By this time I wuz pretty shore that he couldn’t be any worse than Jude and me, no matter what he’d done.



So, anyway, in Moonshine we found Heyes and Curry. I didn’t know what Jude thought he wuz gonna do agin the whole Devil’s Hole Gang. My cousin fancied hisself a skilled gunmen, but I can’t believe he really thought he could take on Kid Curry and win. Sometimes I think he wuz tryin' to end it all in his own way.


Before I knew what wuz goin’ on, Jude wuz facin’ Curry in the street. The dark-haired fella, that Hannibal Heyes, he wuz standin’ a few feet behind his partner. The Kid was talkin’ real soft and quiet, like ya talk to a spooked hoss. I saw the moment, exact, when he recognized Jude. His eyes went wide and his mouth dropped open. For jest a second, a tremblin’ and cryin’ little boy peered out of the clear blue eyes. Then, quick as a lick, like the closin’ of a shutter, the little boy wuz gone, and there stood the icy gunnie.


Jude wuz goin’ on 'bout finishin’ the job, and clearin’ the land of vermin. That Hannibal Heyes wuz talkin' to Curry real fast and urgent-like. I don’t know if he cottoned on to who his partner wuz facin’. We hadn’t seen Heyes that day in Kansas, but that don’t mean he didn’t see us. Curry jest kept starin’ at Jude.


Real sudden-like, Jude went for his gun. Quick as lightenin', Curry had a shiny Colt in his hand. His gun barked once, and Jude’s shootin’-iron skittered across the dirt. Jude waited for the finishin’ shot, but Curry put his gun away. One of his men ran over and picked up Jude’s six-shooter.



Somethin’ broke in Jude. He started bellerin' and cursin’ like a rabid critter. He told Curry he was yella for not avengin’ his family. He started goin’ on 'bout what we’d done to his Ma and his sisters.



Iffen Heyes didn’t know who Jude and I wuz afore, he shore figured it out then. That there outlaw with the dark hair started toward us, pullin’ his gun outta the holster. Curry grabbed his arm and swung em 'round. They talked real urgent-like for a while. That fella, Heyes, he yanked his arm outta his friend’s grip. I heard Curry shout, “Let it go, Heyes. He ain’t worth it.”



That’s when I saw Jude reach into his boot and pull out his Derringer. Then and there, I reached the end of my rope. I didn’t think. I jest saw red. Next thing I knew, my six-shooter was in my hand, and Jude was bleedin’ in the street from a whole in the side of his head.


Them outlaws stopped arguin’ and stared at me. Curry walked over, and his partner followed. I looked at the gun in my hand and didn’t know what to do. Jude had called my bluff. He weren’t aware he wuz doin’ it, but he finally pushed hard enough for me to leave ‘em.


“He wuz my cousin,” I said when Curry and Heyes stood in front of me.


“You were there,” Curry said real hard-like.


“Shore wuz. Heard yer Ma, too. Yer a lucky man, Mr. Curry.”


“What does that mean?” asked Mr. Heyes.


“I heard his Ma the day she died. Any man has a Ma like that, even for a short time, is blessed by God Almighty.”


That’s when Hannibal Heyes slugged me in the face. Gave me a split lip, and I lost two teeth. His partner settled him down. Told him to let me be.


Curry stared at me lyin' there on the ground.


“Why?” he asked.



“The killin’ needed to stop. Ya kept yer promise to yer Ma, but the killin’ needed to stop. So I stopped it.”


I expected him to do somethin’ to me then, don’t know what, but somethin’. Instead he helped me to my feet and told me to leave town. Said that he and his men would see things cleared up 'bout Jude bein’ dead.



It wuz then that I understood that forgiveness and mercy weren’t some fancy tale. They’s real. Forgiveness ain’t findin' a soft warm feelin’ 'bout some fella that done ya wrong. Forgiveness and mercy, they’s a decision to let the bad stuff go. And for some reason, I ain’t never gonna understand, forgiveness heals.







* Revelation 21:3-4
** Romans 8:38-39

_________________
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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Silverkelpie

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PostSubject: Re: Bluff   Mon Apr 04, 2016 9:40 am

I have another 'Bluff' story I can post.

Calling His Bluff

Kid Curry felt the percussive attack on his leg before he glanced down to see a little boy of about five with a shock of white, blond hair kicking furiously at his shin.

The boy’s lack of strength along with the stiff leather of his boots muffling the attack prevented any real injury so he couldn’t help but smile in amusement at the determined frown on the little forehead as the child continued his assault with relentless enthusiasm.

‘Hey, what you doin’, little man?’

Great, blue globes slid up to him.  ‘You’re a bad man!!!  I hate you!!’

‘Such wisdom from one so young,’ laughed Heyes before he crouched down and gave the boy a gentle smile.  ‘What’s your name, son?’

‘Amos!’ the boy declared before he drew back his arm and aimed an undersized fist straight at the Kid’s most vulnerable spot.

‘Whoa there,’ he cried, using all his hair trigger instincts to leap back from the blow. ‘What the Sam Hill you think you’re doin’, boy?’

‘I hate you!’

‘Why?  What have I ever done to you?’

‘Bad,’ the boy shouted again, ‘it’s all your fault!’

‘What is?’

‘AMOS!  Just what do you think you’re doing?’  The yell came from a flustered young woman who clattered down the wooden sidewalk towards them.

The boy instantly feigned innocence, drawing aimless circles with his foot as his petted lip swelled impressively.  ‘Nuthin’... just playin’,’ he muttered, casually.

The girl approached, emotional patches of heightened color mottling her alabaster complexion.  ‘I’m SO sorry!  He gets like this at times.’

The Kid looked into the huge, china-blue eyes which gazed apologetically into his.

‘Havin’ trouble controlling your son, ma’am?’ asked the Kid.  ‘You want to stop that before he gets any bigger... and stronger.’

‘She ain’t my ma!’ yelled the boy, launching another attack at the Kid’s shins.

‘Amos!’

The cry cut right through Curry and Heyes, let alone the child, who was startled into inaction.

‘Pleeease, Amos!’ the young woman crouched down and grasped the child in a bear hug before standing up to wipe a surreptitious tear from her eye.  ‘I can’t apologize enough...  I’m sorry, truly sorry!’

The Kid beamed his most charming smile at her as her moist eyes twinkled engagingly at him.

Heyes groaned inwardly.  She was just his type; blonde, pretty and in need.  If he didn't handle this they could be acting as big brother to this apprentice lout before the day was out.  ‘Ma’am, no need to get upset.  No harm done.’

‘No, not now... but what about in a few years when he’s bigger.  You said it yourself.’

‘That ain't your problem.  That’s his ma and pa’s.  Just take him home,’ replied the Kid, smiling reassuringly.

The woman gave a little sniff of frustration.  ‘He is home.  I’m his sister and I’m all he’s got.  Our parents are dead.’  She seemed to shake herself back into some kind of composure before she gave them a watery smile as she proffered a hand.  ‘Josephine....  Josephine Carwithen and this is my brother, Amos.’

The boy scowled up at the Kid as Heyes felt the need to step in before the long, lingering looks between the blue-eyed couple became any more intense.

‘Smith, Joshua Smith and this is my friend, Thaddeus Jones.  You mind telling us just what little Amos here got against him.’

She gave a little regretful shake of her head.  ‘Oh....  He’s just got a thing about bank robbers.’  Her eyes widened in shock as she bit back her words, interpreting the men’s exchanged glance as startled denial.  ‘No, you don’t understand, that came out wrong.  He thinks that most strangers are bank robbers... especially when they wear guns like yours.  He’s had a thing about it since we he was orphaned.  You’re not the first he’s done this to,’ she gave a sheepish smile, ‘but you’re undoubtedly the most understanding.’

‘You lost your folks in a robbery, ma’am?’ asked a shocked Kid.

‘My father died about five years ago, just before Amos was born, but my mother...,’ her voice cracked with emotion before she quickly changed the subject and gulped deeply. ‘This isn't your problem.  Thank you, gentlemen, you've been very kind.  Say you’re sorry, Amos.’

‘No!  That’d be a lie... then I’ll go to hell and not to heaven with Ma.’

‘He’s got it real bad, ma’am,’ the Kid laughed gently.  ‘You don’t have to apologize if you don’t want to, son.  I ain't what you think I am, Amos, but you are right.  You really shouldn't say sorry unless you mean it.’

‘I’m at my wits end with him.  It’s only a matter of time before it affects my job.  I’m the local school teacher and it looks like I can’t control children.  It’s the only income we've got.’

Heyes tipped his the brow of his hat as he moved on, urging the Kid to do the same with urgent brown eyes.  ‘Well, it’s been real interesting.  Good day, ma’am.’

‘I don’t suppose...?’ she paused awkwardly as she turned and looked after their retreating backs.  ‘I know it’s very forward of me, but would you be interested in coming to dinner tonight.  I could show Amos that he’s wrong about you by getting to know you better.’

Josephine blushed appealingly as Heyes’ heart sank.  Food and a pretty girl...  there was no hope of getting out of this, especially as they were trying to save money.

‘I don’t just ask men in the street to dinner by habit,’ she added, hurriedly. ‘The men he usually chooses are rough, but you’re different.’

‘Sure are,’ Heyes thought silently to himself. ‘We’re probably the only real bank robbers he’s picked out.’  

oooOOOooo



‘Please, sit down,’ Josephine smiled invitingly at the two men as she directed them to sit at the table in the small, wooden house.  

The simplicity of the two roomed building testified to the poverty of the little family scratching a living on the edge of town, but it was scrupulously clean and a delicious smell wafted passed their noses as they took their seats either side of Amos.  The boy idly banged a spoon on the table, refusing to even acknowledge them.

‘Sure smells good.  Stew?’  the Kid enquired.

‘Pie.  Beef and ale.  My mother’s recipe.’

Amos stopped banging at the mention of his mother and glowered accusingly at the Kid who merely smiled patiently at him.

‘You like pie, Amos?’ he asked casually.

‘I ain't hungry!’ the lad announced.  ‘She don’t make it like my ma.’

Heyes pursed his lips before he spoke patiently but firmly.  ‘Do you think your ma would have been happy about you saying that when your sister’s worked so hard for you?  Made you a nice dinner?’

The boy gave a surly shrug before slouching untidily onto his elbow, resuming his para-diddle on the edge of the table.

‘Sit up straight, Amos,’ Josephine as she put down a dish of mashed potatoes with a clatter.

‘I want to go out and play.’

‘No, Amos.  It’s dinner time and we have guests.  Now, sit up properly and mind your manners.’

The boy thrust out his lower lip and started swinging his legs, kicking into both men’s legs under the table as they sat at either side of him around the square table.

The Kid caught the kicking foot and looked the boy straight in the face.

‘Amos.  Please don’t kick us.  It ain't a nice thing to do.’

‘I don’t want you here,’ the boy barked defiantly.

‘But your sister does,’ he dropped Amos’ foot and smiled at him.  ‘So I guess if you want her to be nice to your friends you’d better behave.’

‘Ain't got no friends.  Don’t know anyone here!’

The Kid’s eyebrows darted up in surprise.  ‘No one, Amos?’

‘We've just moved here from Denver and he’s not happy about leaving all his friends, but I needed the work.  I couldn't find anything in our home town.’

The Kid’s eyes glittered sympathetically at the boy.  ‘You’ve sure been through a lot, son, you have a special friend that you miss?’

Amos looked surprised at the question and found the answer tripping out in spite of himself.  
‘Pete.’

The Kid nodded.  ‘That sure is hard.  I had a special friend at your age.  We used to go fishin’.   You like fishin?’

Amos nodded before chewing on his lower lip.

‘You want to go fishin?  I could take you.’

The big, blue eyes hardened.  ‘I don’t wanna to go anywhere with you.  You’re a bad man!’

Josephine rolled her eyes and put a golden-crusted pie on the table.

‘Is that because we got guns, Amos?’ Heyes gently enquired.

‘Yes!’ the boy barked.

‘But not all men who wear guns like these are bad, Amos.  The sheriff wears his gun like this doesn't he?’

The boy’s eyes widened as confusion swirled around his mind.  Sheriff Jeffries did indeed wear his gun like these men.

‘You a sheriff?’

Heyes smiled.  ‘You heard of Sheriff Lom Travers?  He’s one of the best, most honest lawmen I’ve ever met.  We've worked with him... ridden with him on jobs.

The Kid grinned widely at Heyes’ creative spin on their relationship with their old friend.  They had indeed ridden with him on jobs, but none they wanted to tell Amos and his sister about.

‘See, Amos?’ Josephine smiled reassuringly as her chair scraped in towards the table.  ‘They’re lawmen.  They use those guns for good.  You could do that when you grow up.’

‘Why ain't you got a badge?’ demanded Amos, accusingly.

Heyes and Curry shared a look before the Kid spoke.  ‘We’re travellin’ to a new job.  We’re not lawmen at the moment.’

‘You’re not lawmen at all.’ snapped the boy, refusing to accept their dissimulation.  ‘You’re liars!’  Amos leaped down from his seat and ran for the door.  ‘I hate you.’

The Kid dropped a hand gently over Josephine’s as she started to stand.  ‘Leave him be for a minute.’  Her blue eyes darted to his full of hurt and confusion before he spoke again.  ‘He’s angry.  Real angry and that’s just fine.  He’s got a lot to be angry about.  He ain't a bad boy, he just needs to find a way to get rid of it.’

‘He’s real bright.’ added Heyes.

‘I know,’ Josephine dropped her head into her hands.  ‘That’s part of the problem.  He thinks too much and he‘s not mature enough to deal with those thoughts.  Maybe I should have stayed in Denver,  but I needed the work and I thought it had too many bad memories for him.’

‘You did your best.  He’ll realize that,’ murmured Heyes.

‘He saw her die.  It’s just not fair!’

‘Fair?’ snorted the Kid.  ‘I’ve been lookin’ for fair all my life.  It always seems to be one town ahead.’

Josephine shot him a tearful look.  ‘You have a way with words, Mr. Jones.’

‘Nope,’ replied the Kid.  That’s my partner.’

‘Can you smell anything?’ asked Heyes sniffing the air and looking over at the range with a confused look on his face, ‘something’s burning.’

oooOOOooo



The screams of the horse alerted them to the need to act fast and within moments Heyes had entered the burning building.  He quickly wrapped his jacket around the terrified animal’s eyes and led it to safety.

It had been a dry summer and the flames leapt quickly across the surface of the dry wood and straw, rapidly consuming anything in their path in an orgy of crackling, rapacious gluttony.  Bright fingers of red, yellow and orange flashed from any tiny hold they could find before they merged into a monstrous, roaring holocaust.

It was the crying that alerted the Kid.  It could be heard now that the terrified animal had been removed from the barn.  Amos was up in the hayloft surrounded in flames.  As the Kid climbed the ladder it became clear that the fire had started up here as the place was a veritable inferno and that the wooden floor was a creaking, friable, smoldering mess.  There was no way it would bear his weight and time was running out before it crumbled and dropped to the lower floor.

‘Give me your hand!’

‘No!’  the boy back away from him as the Kid cursed under his breath.

‘Amos, give me your hand.    I can’t come over there to get you.  The floor’s too weak.’  The boy looked at the outstretched hand as his eyes filled with tears and his bottom lip wobbled in terror as the heat started to penetrate his boots.  ‘Give me your hand now!  There’s no more time.’

oooOOOooo


‘You did it. My God, I thought you were a goner,’ Heyes worried face peered desperately into his partner’s as he supported him away from the collapsing building.

The Kid dropped to the ground and sucked in great gulps of refreshing oxygen before falling forward onto all fours as his back arched against the barking, retching cough whilst the acrid, burning smoke fought against the fresh night air.

Heyes pushed a tin cup towards his cousin.  ‘Drink this.’

The Kid gulped down the clear refreshing liquid and felt his guts churn.  The wave swirled ever higher until he could contain the smoke filled bile no longer.  He leaned over and was violently sick.

They sat together for a few minutes before a pair of black boots walked over and stood directly in front of them.

‘Sheriff Lennox Jeffries.  I hear you did a real good thing, lad.  Real brave.  Miss Carwithen told me all about it.’

The Kid glanced up before he shook his head.

‘Anyone would have done it.’

He shook his head.   ‘I don’t think so, son.  We could do with men like you working with us.  You need a doctor.’

‘I’m fine,’ the Kid replied simply, staring into the night with blank eyes.

‘I ain’t askin’.  You’ll have swallowed a lot of smoke.  He’s seein’ to the boy right now.  You’re next.’

They watched the sheriff walk away towards the group huddled around the boy as the Kid hissed an urgent whisper to Heyes.  ‘I feel sick to my stomach.  We gotta do somethin’ for that boy.’

‘Why?  What’s wrong?  The doc won’t be long.  He’s with him now.’

The Kid’s serious eyes gleamed through the darkness as the light from the flames cast sinister dancing shadows across his face.  ‘He wouldn’t take my hand.  He thinks I killed his mother.  Do you know what that feels like?  He really believes it.’

Heyes sucked in a breath as his voice dropped to a whisper.  ‘Kid, we never killed anyone in a robbery.  It wasn’t you.’

The Kid shook his head.  ‘You don’t understand, it’s more complicated than that.  What have we done, Heyes?  A child would rather die than take my hand.  What have we become?  Are we like the men who ripped our lives apart?’  

oooOOOooo  

         

Amos Carwithen strolled down the street, his mop of white hair now blanched by age rather than the sun.  It was his last day and he was in a reflective mood as he walked back to the police department where he knew that friends and colleagues would be waiting to see him off to a happy retirement with his beloved wife after his long, distinguished career.

How had he got here?

It had been a long, winding road but he had finally come to accept that tragedy is only one of life’s many textures, a good job too as this new war promised many more unnecessary deaths.  Everyone had sworn that the world would never be so foolish again after the Great War, but then the ability of mankind to make monumental mistakes should never be underestimated.

Not in his experience anyway.

That day had made all the difference in the world.  What would have happened if he hadn’t met those men?  Would he have lashed out at the world until he flushed away his future just like so many of the young men who had passed through his hands?  Or would he have simply perished in the fire?

He had learned so much after that evening, mostly the value of his own life, but those men had also made sure they taught him that anger is a wasted emotion unless it is channeled and focused into something positive.  It can eat through a heart like acid until the corrosive power of hate pervades every thought and action.

Poison, pure poison.

He had focused all his energies into trying to make sure that people were safe from the criminal fraternity and even his worst enemies had to concede that he had been extremely good at it.  He had learned to use his pain constructively and maturity had added perspective to his life.

He had forgiven himself for wandering away from his mother that day.  After all, he had been a normal, curious, little boy and children did things like that all the time.  It really hadn’t been his fault that she had been crushed under the hooves of that horse while looking for him, and he certainly hadn’t been responsible for the horse which had been startled by a stray shot fired in the air by the robbers trying to keep pursuit at bay.

Rationalizing the actions of the man who had fired that shot had taken longer.

He could still see the pain swirling behind the man’s blue eyes as he faced a little boy who refused to take his hand, even to save his life.  Amos had hated that man so much and told him why. He had looked at him with old eyes that had seen too much and couldn’t forget.  ‘You’re him,’ he had said.  ‘You fired your gun.  I saw you!  It scared the horse and she was in the middle of the road.’

The blond man had dropped his head and spoke in haunted, rasping tones.  ‘I’m not that man and he’s gone forever.  I promise you.  Now, for God’s sake give me your hand!’

Had it been him or had he been bluffing?

To this very day he just couldn’t be sure.

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

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PostSubject: Re: Bluff   Tue Apr 05, 2016 12:32 pm

Here's a little snippet from my current chapter.  If I feel the muse strike me, I'll write something else that's a stand alone.




Miranda stood on the small patio that was adjacent to the upstairs bedroom she had been sharing with her husband.  She had lain down as planned, and had actually fallen asleep for a couple of hours.  This pregnancy was certainly causing some changes in her stamina, and certainly in her ability to handle the heat.  That, if for no other reason, was why she would be happy to head for home after they had had a chance to rest up.  She was enjoying her stay so far, but the idea of cooler temperatures back in Colorado was feeling more and more agreeable as time wore on.


Her musings were ended abruptly when she spotted the man whom she knew to be her husband, but, for an instant, had not recognize him as such.  He was coming towards the house on his way from the stables and appeared to be deep in thought.  Wearing the same light and baggy cottons he had adorned that morning, he could easily have passed for one of the McCreedy hired hands.  Then, when the hot breeze that picked up the dust from his footsteps and sent it into gentle spirals did the same thing to his long dark hair, she felt a shiver of sexual excitement wash over her.


His hair had grown long during their travels, and his bangs, when not held in place by his hat, like now, often flopped forward and over his eyes.  The soft wind had picked them up and ruffled them down across his face and in an unconscious but familiar motion, he gave his head a slight flip and brushed the hair out of his eyes with one quick fluid motion of his hand.  It didn’t help much though, as the offending locks simply feel forward again, making him look like an unkempt stable boy in need of a haircut.
Then a loud noise from the direction of the stables shattered the illusion.  Her husband instantly tensed, his right hand dropping down to his hip in anticipation of grasping a gun that was not there.  It was over in an instant as Heyes realized that the noise was nothing to concern him, and he was back to being just anybody.  Just a man walking through the courtyard.


Miranda sighed.  So many different aspects to this person whom she had married.  He was a good man; she knew he was, and he was trying so hard to be a good husband and a good father, but the outlaw was still just below the surface.  He was so kind and gentle towards her and Sally, but the raw aggression he could show to others, still frightened her.  Could she live with that aspect of him?  Would it be fair to expect something different?  She’d known who it was she was marrying.  Had she really fooled herself into believing that there wasn’t that side to him?


Her hand went down to caress her slowly expanding belly.  She loved that she carried their child inside of her, but what about when the child was born?  Granted, he was a wonderful father to Sally.  It was a challenge sometimes, for both of them, having to deal with a precocious young girl, but they all seemed to be managing alright.  But a baby.  The thought terrified even her.  Would the West’s most successful outlaw, gifted conman and extremely talented gambler be able to keep his cool with a new born?  Would she?


Then again, her musings were abruptly ended when she noticed his eyes upon her.  Somehow, he had known she was up there, and his gaze had risen to make contact.  He smiled, all of his boyish, dimpled charm striking her like a bullet from a gun.  Her heart ached with her love for him and with her one hand still caressing her precious cargo, she smiled and waved acknowledgment.


Brushing his long bangs away from his eyes again, he waved back.  Then his attention was diverted as Mr. McCreedy, like a bull in his own china shop, approached him and engaged him in conversation.


“Smith,” he began.  “You done lookin’ at that damn horse?”


“Yes.”


“Good!  Come in to my study.  I want to have a word.”


Even Miranda could see the slight frown on her husband’s face as McCreedy walked on past him, not even waiting for acknowledgment of the request.  Heyes hesitated for a moment and sighed, then with another glance up to his wife, he nodded and waved a quick goodbye.


Xxx


“What is it, Mac?” Heyes asked as he walked into the coolness of the familiar study.


McCreedy was busy pouring out two glasses of sherry, then as Heyes entered the room he put down the decanter and quietly closed the door.  Heyes frowned.


“What’s with all the secrecy?” he asked.


“Nothin’,” Mac assured him.  “Just—men talk.  Here, have a drink.  Sit down.”


Heyes accepted the drink, but didn’t sit down.  Even now, he had a problem with being ordered around.  “What’s up, Mac?”


“Nothing.  Come on, relax.  You’re not hidin’ from anyone anymore.  Sit down.” And Mac concluded this request by taking a seat himself.


Heyes accepted the invitation then, and sat down opposite him.  He took a sip of the sherry and was impressed.  Big Mac certainly did know about quality.


“So,” Mac began.  “How is life treating you?”


“Better than it was,” Heyes admitted.  “It’s good.  I’m happy.”


“You found yourself a fine wife, that’s for sure,” Mac observed.  “Still, no itchy feet?  No missing the fast life?”  Heyes frowned again, wondering where this was going.  “You two boys had life by the short hairs,” Mac continued.  “Livin’ high, livin’ fast.  All the money and women you could possibly want.  I gotta admit, I wondered why you threw it all away on that silly amnesty bid.”


“Silly?” Heyes asked him.  “We got it, didn’t we?”


“Yeah, but at what cost?” Mac continued.  “You went from livin’ high on the hog, to an impecunious state that even a church mouse would have scurried away from.  Every time I spoke with you boys, you were broke.  And I can’t see you doing much better now.”


“You’re wrong, Mac,” Heyes insisted.  “Things are much better now.  And we’re not broke.  Our business is doing well.  Just because I didn’t have twenty thousand dollars to buy into your poker game, doesn’t mean I’m ‘impecunious’.”


“Your wife’s money.”


“No!  It is not Miranda’s money!” Heyes felt his hackles rise.  “The Kid and I are doing better than you seem to think, Mac.  Besides that, we don’t have that bounty hanging over our heads anymore.  That’s worth the price right there.  What’s this all about, Mac?”


“I’ve got a job to offer ya’,” Mac admitted.  “You and the Kid, if you want to let him in on it.  Ten thousand a year.”


“Each?”


“No, not each.  You do it yourself, or you bring the Kid in with ya’.  Pays the same; ten thousand.  That’s the offer.”


“Doing what?”


“Same thing you’re doing now; security, private detecting.  Only with a steady pay check,” Mac told him.  “With one child at home and another on the way, that should appeal to you.  The Kid, too.”


Heyes took another sip of sherry and considered it.  “I donno, Mac.  I’ve always been my own boss, you know that.  Working for somebody else, full time.  Doing the same job day in and day out.  Might as well be back in prison. Tell you what; if you wanted to hire us to do a job for you now and then, we could do that.  Just like we used to.  The only difference is; it would be legitimate now.  It’d be us, not Smith and Jones.”


“Yeah, but not very steady,” Mac complained.  “And what if I needed you right away?  It would take you a week to get here from Colorado. No, no.  I’d want you boys right here, where I could find ya’, when I needed ya’.”


“Where we would constantly be at your beck and call?” Heyes questioned and then laughed. “I might have been born at night, but not last night. I don’t think so, Mac.”


“Why don’t you talk it over with Jones first,” Mac suggested.  “He might have a different idea.”


“Then he would be welcome to come down here and do it,” Heyes countered.  “You said yourself, it really only requires one of us.”


“But the one I want, is you.” Mac told him.  “Oh, the Kid’s alright, and if all I needed was a fast gun, he’d be the man.  But I need someone with some brains, and that’s you.”


“The Kid is plenty smart, Mac,” Heyes told him.  “I’m sure he could handle anything you needed handling.”


“Hmm,” Mac grumbled.  “There’s smart and then there’s genius.  What’s the point of having money, if you can’t get the best?”
“Money doesn’t buy everything.”


“Wanna bet?  It helped to buy your freedom, and the Kid’s life.”


Heyes frowned. He’d never heard that version before, but it wouldn’t surprise him.  He swirled the dark amber liquid around in the glass and felt himself mesmerized by its fiery ambiance, but the desire to drink it had left his pallet.


“So you are calling in the chips on that one,” he observed.  “The Kid and I both owe you our lives, and you’re going to demand payment in full.  Is that it?”


Mac narrowed his eyes.  “Something like that.”


Heyes’ jaw tightened. Standing up, he set the glass of sherry down on the table and prepared to leave.


“Maybe we better forget about this poker game tonight,” he said.  “I think it’s best that Miranda and I leave first thing in the morning, and I’ll need my rest.”


“Oh, don’t be so melodramatic,” Mac insisted.  “Sit down, sit down.  You can’t blame a fellow for tryin’, can you?  That’s what I like about you, Smith; you’re fearless.  There aren’t too many men who would dare say no to me.”  He chuckled.  “Sit down.  Here, drink your sherry. Relax.  You called my bluff, yessir, you sure did.  You’re a real poker player, that’s for sure.  That’s what I like about ya’.”


Heyes accepted his drink and sat back down again, but he was anything but relaxed.


“Mac, why don’t you just tell me what it is you want?” he suggested.  “It might make things move a lot easier tonight.”


“I want you to come work for me full-time.”


“No,” Heyes answered flatly.  “I like where I’m living.  It’s a good town, with good people.  It’s home.”


Mac snorted.  “Home!  Home is where you hang your hat.  Since when have you bothered about home?”


“Well, that’s just it, Mac,” Heyes pointed out.  “When we were runnin’ from the law, we couldn’t settle anywhere.  It got to the point where I didn’t think I could.  Now, yeah.  I’ve got a place to call home, and it does matter.  I’ve got it good there, and so does the Kid.  I kind of doubt that he would want to leave it either.”


“Fine, fine, have it your way,” Mac retreated, throwing up his hands in defeat.  “But don’t say I didn’t offer ya’ something worthwhile.”


“I won’t, Mac,” Heyes insisted.  “Honestly; I’m happy where I am.”


“Oh, by the way,” Mac cautioned.  “We have some new players in the game tonight.  Fellas you haven’t met yet.  I’d appreciate it if you don’t let on who you are.  They might feel a little intimidated, having Hannibal Heyes sitting in on our game.  You understand?”


“You bringing me in as a ringer?” Heyes asked him.


“No,” Mac denied flatly.  “I just want everyone to feel relaxed and have a good time.  I haven’t spread the word around about who you really are, and I’d like to keep it that way.  At least until after the game.  Then you can have some fun with it, if you like.  Peterson knows, but he’s agreed to stay quiet about it.”


Heyes smirked, not seeing how Peterson could stay quiet about anything.


“He sure got quite a hoot out of it, when I told him, though!” Mac snorted.  “Thought it was a great joke, Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, nervous as newlyweds, coming into our bank and asking for a loan!  I don’t think I’ve ever heard him laugh that loud in my life.”


Heyes couldn’t help a grin.  The irony of that situation was not lost on him.


A gentle knock came to the study door, and Mac’s booming voice almost set the decanter to rattling.  “What is it!?”


The door opened cautiously and Juanita peaked in.  “Fifteen minutes until dinner, sir,” she informed her boss.  “Mrs. McCreedy ask me inform you.”


“Oh.  Fine.  Yes, we’ll be right there.”  The door closed and Mac rolled his eyes.  “Can’t get any privacy anymore!  Damn women all over the household.  Can’t imagine why I ever got married!”


Heyes sent him a sly smile.  “C’mon Mac, you’ve never been happier and you know it.”


Mac shot him a glance, then bellowed out a laugh.  “Dammit, you’re right about that!  You found me a good wife, Smith!” He raised his glass in a toast.  “Here’s to married life!”


Heyes raised his glass as well.  “To married life.”
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PostSubject: Re: Bluff   Fri Apr 08, 2016 12:53 am

A Fishy Tale
----------------

“Hey Wheat, what is that?”

“I don’t know! Touch it.”

“I ain’t touching it!”

“Well, then poke it with something.”

“What if it gits on me?”

“Alright then FINE! I’ll do it! Git out of the way.”………..”Hey! Where’d it go?”

“Don’t know. Wait...it's on the back of your pants leg.”

“WHAT!? GIT IT OFF!”

“Will you two shut up! What’s wrong with you?”

“Me and Kyle saw this weird little lizard and…”

“I think it was a salymander.”

“Shut up Kyle. It was bright orange with black spots. And it ATTACKED me!”

“Just be glad it didn’t eat you Wheat.”

“Not funny Heyes.”

“Well, if you two are done playing safari over there in front of the bluff, will you keep it down? You’ll scare all the fish off.”

“There ain’t no fish in this overgrown mudhole Heyes.”

“Yes there is Wheat when you ain’t running around the edge hollering about orange creatures.”

“Well, they all must be on a hunger strike. I ain’t had a bite all day.”

All of a sudden, a shot rang out.

“WHAT THE…Kid! What are you shootin’ at!?”

“Snake.”

“We ain’t never gonna catch no fish at this rate. I’m going back over there. You two behave.”

“Fine. C’mon Kyle.”

***************************************************************

“Caught anything Heyes?”

“A couple of sticks, that tree behind me, and an old boot. How ‘bout you Kid?”

“I got four on this string over here.”

“Wait…I GOT ONE!”

“Alright! Bring it over here and put it on the string with the others.”

Heyes took the fish over to where Kid was sitting. Curry had a rock sitting on one end of the string to keep the fish from swimming away. Heyes grabbed the string, lifted up the rock and…

“Uh-oh. DANG.”

“Uh-oh WHAT Heyes.”

Heyes’ hands were slippery from holding the fish he caught. Kid looked around to see his four fish on a string swimming off. This was followed by a look of death at Heyes.

“Sorry Kid.”

“SORRY!? IT TOOK ME ALL MORNING TO CATCH THOSE!”

“Will you two hush over there!? You gonna scare all two of the fish in there”

“SHUT UP WHEAT!” was yelled out in unison.

“Look Kid, I’m sorry.”

“Sheesh Heyes. Be careful next time. No…no, next time, get your own string.”

Brooding, Kid went back to his perch beside the water and threw his line back in.

***********************************************************

“Wonder what worms taste like?”

“Chicken.”

“How do you know Wheat?”

“’Cause Kyle, EVERYTHING tastes like chicken. Or if Heyes is cookin’, burnt chicken.”

“Well, I ain’t fishing with worms.”

“What are you fishin’ with then.”

“Bacon.”

“BACON!? Kyle, if Kid knew you’s wastin’ bacon, he flatten you.”

“Well, what Kid don’t know won’t hurt him!”

At that moment, Kid was walking by to another spot in front of the bluff beside the water.

“What is it that Kid don’t know?”

At which moment, Kyle threw his pole and all in the water to hide the evidence.

Kid stopped to stare for a moment, then shaking his head, continued on his way.

“Ah Kyle, what’d you do that fer?”

“Well Wheat, I didn’t wanna git flattened.”

“Well, what do you expect to fish with now? You ain’t gettin’ my pole.”

He thought for a minute.

“I got somethin’ back at the bunkhouse. Be right back.”

After he’d gone, Wheat went back to his fishing. He went to throw his line in the water, but when he leaned the pole back over his head, the hook caught in his hat. When he cast his line, his hat flew out in the middle of the water.

“AH DANG IT!”

“What now Wheat!?”

Heyes then saw what was floating out among the lily pads. The air was filled with laughter.

“SHUT UP HEYES!”

Wheat waded his way out into the water to retrieve his hat. On his way back out, he slipped in the mud and went completely under. Laughter once again filled the air. Wheat stomped back to the bank.

Heyes had walked around to sit beside Kid. “Hey Kid, I got a question for you.”

“Alright. What is it?”

“Where do fish keep their money?”

“What!? What kinda question is that!? Fish don’t keep no money.”

“It’s a riddle Kid. So…where do fish keep their money.”

“I don’t know Heyes. In their gills.”

“No…in the riverBANK!”

Kid gave Heyes ‘the look’. “That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard Heyes.”

“Well, ain’t you proddy today.”

“No, I’m just trying to catch us some fish and SOMEBODY keeps bothering me.”

Heyes got up and moved down a few feet from Kid.

A few quiet minutes passed before Kyle returned. He didn’t say anything to anyone as he walked up to the water’s edge. He caught everyone’s attention as he struck a match and lit a stick of dynamite.

“KYLE! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?” Heyes yelled.

“HIT THE DIRT!” Kid hollered.

Kyle threw his lit stick of dynamite into the water. A few seconds later, water and fish close to the surface flew everywhere. More fish floated to the surface, shocked senseless by the explosion. Kyle calmly walked out into the water and started collecting his bounty.

“I got dinner!” Kyle exclaimed, grinning proudly.

A/N - Please know I do not advise or condone this type of fishing. Obviously, it's very destructive to wildlife and the environment.

At least Kyle was happy.

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PostSubject: Re: Bluff   Wed Apr 13, 2016 8:53 pm

I had to do a new story for the challenge.




The train jolted to a start with passengers still in the aisle as exasperated brown eyes scanned the busy carriage.  His cheek dimpled at the sight of a slim brunette sliding into a window seat and headed straight for her.  He was cut off by the lanky man who barreled into him, thrusting a sharp elbow into Heyes’ ribs.  The dark brows gathered in a frown but he pushed on, reaching the seats just behind the stranger who inserted himself into the unoccupied seat next to the young woman despite the whole bench opposite being empty.

The ex-outlaw leader nodded a silent greeting to the woman whose brow creased in annoyance at the strange man beside her, spreading himself into her personal space with gaping legs and jagged arms, and turned to catch the eye of the man in the sheepskin coat following him down the crowded aisle.


“Crowded in here, isn’t it?” murmured the woman, pursing her lips.


“Yes,” replied the be suited stranger, peering down the décolletage masked by a demure white blouse, “but it suits you.”


Her hazel eyes widened in outrage, and she pulled her jacket closed.  “Perhaps another seat would suit you better?”


“There ain’t no other seats, ma’am,” the man watched the fair-haired man remove his sheepskin jacket and put it in the overhead compartment before sitting opposite him.  “The train’s full.   It’s always full on this stretch; full of hens and ankle-biters on a Saturday.  Folks go visitin’ for the weekend.  It’s a real pain for us professional travelers.”  He grinned round at the company.  “Sidney Burnley, salesman.  I travel in woman’s unmentionables.”


“That must be uncomfortable for you,” smirked Heyes.  “Joshua Smith and this is my friend and business partner Thaddeus Jones.”   He turned to the young woman.  “And you?  We might as well break the ice if we’re to journey together.”


“Miss Theda Moorcroft,” she replied.  “I’m going to see my aunt in Springfield.”


“You’re travelling alone?” asked the Kid.     


“It’s only three stops and my father saw me off.  Auntie May will meet me at the other end.”  Her eyes slid uneasily to the sprawling man beside her.  “What could happen?”


Heyes nodded.  “Nothing.  Not one thing, while we’re here.”  He gave the woman his most glittering smile, but the dark eyes turned frigid as they drifted over to the salesman.  “I guarantee it.”


“Aw there ain’t no need for all those dark looks.  I’m harmless.  Ask anyone.”  He turned and delivered quaggy wink to the young blonde across the aisle.  “You ain’t scared of me, are ya?”


The bearded man sitting opposite the blonde took one look at Burnley’s lascivious grin and squared his broad shoulders.  “I’m the lady’s husband.  Why don’t you ask me that?”


Burnley’s brows met.  “You ain’t my type.”


“Neither is she,” the man gestured towards his wife, his wild hair looking like it had recently been fed, and glowered at the salesman, “unless you wanna go through me first.”


Burnley rolled his eyes and returned to his own side of the aisle.  “Sheesh.  They let anyone in here, don’t they?”


Heyes fixed him with intense dark eyes.  “Yeah, it looks like they do.”  He flashed a smile.  “Maybe you could give Miss Moorcroft some room?  You’re kinda crowding her there.”


The man flicked up an eyebrow in challenge, but it lowered slowly at the implied threat in the chocolate eyes holding his gaze hostage.  He shuffled in his seat, backing off from the young woman.  “Is this one of them new trains with a necessary?  I need to pee.”


“I don’t think the lady is interested in your habits,” growled the Kid.  “That ain’t the kind of talk for mixed company.”


“We all do it.  What d’ya want me to say?” Burnley demanded.  “How am I supposed to ask where it is?”


“You could ask for the powder room, or the latrine,” the Kid countered.


“Fine,” he stood, speaking through his yellow teeth.  “I’m goin’ for a slash in the powder room.  Where is it?”


“That way.”  The Kid darted a look at the woman as he watched Burnley disappear down the aisle.  “I’m real sorry, Miss Moorcroft.  He’s real coarse around women.”


“Yes,” she nodded.  “But there are no water closets on this train.  Where did you send him?”


“Anywhere.  Hopefully he’ll open a door and fall off,” the Kid’s face fell.  “Darn, he’s comin’ back. Do you want me to move over there to keep him away from you?” 


They never had the chance to find out.  Burnley plunked himself back down in his seat with a harrumph.  “There ain’t none in here.  I have to tie a knot in it.  What were ya thinkin’?”


“Do you really want me to tell you that?”  The man was fixed by a stiletto of blue ice which penetrated what was left of his heart and pushed on into a kernel of self-preservation.  The nerve touched, the Kid continued.  “Don’t disrespect this lady when I’m around.  You’ve got to last three stops.  I’m sure even you can do that.”


“Sure,” Burnley muttered.  “That ain’t gonna be hard when the company is so darned ornery.  A man can’t pass the time with you snooty folks around.”


The lids narrowed over the arctic eyes and nodded, inviting further challenge, but Burnley simply rummaged about in his carpet bag and brought out a dime novel.  The title, scrolling in an arc of copperplate writing made both partners swallow hard and sit upright simultaneously.  There it was for the whole train to see, ‘Baffled By The Bandits’; and in a smaller font just below it, ‘The Further Adventures Of the Scoundrel Hannibal Heyes And The Gunman Kid Curry’.


Both former criminals instantly searched the cover for any indication that they might be identified, but the drawings were vague and cartoonish so both men released the breath they had been holding and relaxed back onto their seats in unison.


Burnley reached into his pocket and popped a ball of chaw into his mouth.  It didn’t take long to find out that Burnley was a bottomless pit of irritation.  The tobacco swirled around the gaping, masticating maw.  It squelched and squished noisily between jaundiced teeth and swirled in a mash of stained saliva as his loose lips smacked lustily in a vain attempt to contain it.  He paused, only to roll it around his mouth before collecting it in the back of his throat and propelling a great glob out into the aisle.


“Eeuuw!”


“Here now!  What d’ya think you’re doin’, ya great lummox?” cried the man across the way, lifting his wife’s skirts out of the way.  “This ain’t a saloon.  Git yourself some manners.”


“Yes,” the blonde woman sniped.  “Do I need to call the Conductor?  Behave yourself.”


Burley simply growled and shifted in his seat again, curling closer to his unfortunate neighbor, having lost interest in his book.  “So what do you like to do for fun, missy?  I could get off in Springfield too if’n you wanted to meet up.  We could maybe go dancin’?  I could take you to one of them fancy restaurants they got there?  Them ones with the spittoons all the way at the door.”  He leered even closer.  “How did you get so pretty?”

                       
A tousled head leaned over.  “Maybe she got your share?”  He turned to the young woman whose cheeks were burning.  “Do you want me to deal with him for you?”


Theda dropped her head and sniffed.  “No, thank you.  I don’t want a fuss.”


“Ya hear that, Burnley?  She doesn’t want a fuss.  Don’t make me cause one,” growled the gunman.


“If’n you lay one finger on me I’ll have the law on you,” the salesman retorted.  “I ain’t done nuthin’.”


“Make sure it stays that way.”


Hannibal Heyes sighed and looked out the window.  He wasn’t as unconcerned as he looked; he could see out of the window, but also observe the salesman from his peripheral vision.  Neither of them needed to explain themselves to a lawman, but the situation merited observation.

  
The train suddenly plunged into a tunnel and everyone blinked in the inky blackness but their attention was suddenly caught by the smacking, sucking, squeaking osculation of a juicy kiss.  There was silence, then a resounding, fleshy slap. 


“Hey!”  The train shot into the daylight again, and everyone in the carriage was drawn to the sight of Burnley clutching the scarlet fingers stenciled onto his cheek in the form of a handprint.  “I didn’t do nothin’.  Someone else musta kissed you.”


Everyone’s eyes fixed on the flaccid face the salesman clutched in indignation.  “It weren’t me.  I never touched her.”


“A likely story,” barked the irate husband across the aisle.  “Conductor!  Get this man out of here.  He ain’t fit to be around a decent woman.  Take him to the baggage car.”


The two women leaned forward and shared a curious look, eyebrows arched in question along with an arch smile as the burly conductor approached.  Hannibal Heyes shook his head and observed the scene carefully.   Both ladies wore dress gloves so were unlikely to have made the flesh-off-flesh smack he’d heard.  The husband, from his gesticulations, was clearly right-handed; and if he’d slapped the salesman without switching to the opposing seat the ruddy slap was on the wrong cheek.


“What’s goin’ on here?” the Conductor demanded.


Heyes glanced at the gunman sitting serenely to his left as the carriage filled with the hubbub of an outraged husband and two aggrieved females.   He knew that sweet, innocent face from their poker games and it was obvious to him that his right hand man was bluffing. 


A smile danced in the depths of the dark eyes as he glanced casually out of the window.  Yup.  The Kid had made kissing noises on his hand and then slapped the salesman on the face in the dark.


No doubt about it.            


          


   

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


Last edited by Silverkelpie on Tue Apr 26, 2016 9:18 am; edited 1 time in total
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InsideOutlaw

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PostSubject: Re: Bluff   Sat Apr 23, 2016 2:30 pm

“Did we lose ‘em?” yelled Wheat up to where the Kid and Heyes were lying prone at the top of the bluff.  He and the rest of the mounted gang waited impatiently for the verdict but the two leaders of the Devil’s Hole gang were concentrating all their attention on the scene below them.  A plume of dust rose off the dusty desert floor several miles away.


“Who would’ve thought that stinkin’ little minin’ town could raise a posse at all let alone raise one that could follow a trail?”  Kid Curry handed the field glasses to his partner and rolled over onto his back gazing blindly up at the clear, blue sky.  


Heyes lifted the glasses to his eyes.  “How many d’you think there are?” 


“Any is too many.  They got fresh mounts from that stage stop.  They can go for days; we can’t.”


“I’m serious.” 


The Kid turned over onto his stomach again and stared at the waning dust cloud.  The posse had stopped.  Again.  This had been the pattern for the last couple of days.  Every time the gang stopped, the posse stopped as well, keeping their distance.  Always out of reach of the outlaws’ guns.  “The same six or seven that were doggin’ us yesterday, and the day before yesterday.  Not enough dust to be much more’n that.”


“I figure we’ve got twenty or so minutes before they could catch up to us.”


Blue eyes shifted to the dark-haired man.  “They ain’t been tryin’ to catch up to us and I ain’t plannin’ on lettin’ ‘em.  That’s why I’ve been ridin’ my ass off for two days.”


Heyes crawled backwards a few yards and stood up where he knew he couldn’t be seen from below.  “That’s the point.  We’ve tried everything we can think of and they’re still on our tails; must be a professional tracker in the posse.  We’re gonna have to split the gang and the money up.  Pair off in twos.”


“The money?”  The Kid let his friend pull him to his feet with a helpful hand.  “You don’t usually do that.”


“I’m doing it now.” Heyes started down the rise towards his men, but was stopped short when Curry grabbed his arm and spun him around.


“Why?” demanded the Kid, his discomfort written all over his face.  “I don’t like the idea of handin’ my hard-earned cash to those knuckleheads for safekeepin’.”


“The way I see it, we don’t have a choice.  There’s a good reason the posse’s been real careful to stay just out of our range.  They know they’re dealing with Kid Curry thanks to Hank’s slip.  They also know there’re only seven of them and six of us and they aren’t riding worn out nags.  They’re hoping to pick us off one at a time as our horses give out.”


“Sounds like a smart plan to me.”  The Kid let go of Heyes’ arm and the two men carefully picked their way down the sage-dotted upslope.  


“We’ll split up three ways just in case they split, too, but I’m betting they’re gonna follow you and me.  That twenty grand reward has got to be looking good to them.  We can give the boys a chance to get away and we’ll stand a better chance of shaking them when it’s just us.”


“So far I ain’t likin’ this plan,” growled Curry.  


 “It’s all I’ve got, Kid.”


“So why divvy up the money, why not just give it all to Wheat?”


“’Cause if I’m wrong and they go after Wheat and Kyle or Hank and Lobo; we’ll minimize our losses.  Two thirds of six grand is better than nothing.”  


“Makes sense.”  


The partners fell silent as they neared their men.  


“Did we lose ‘em?” repeated Wheat, hopefully.


The Kid took the reins to his bay gelding from Lobo as Heyes untied the sack of stolen money from the horn of his saddle.  He hastily grabbed a portion of the cash and handed it up to Hank before digging deep for another fistful of bills.  “We’re splitting up.  Lobo, you and Hank stay together.  Wheat, you and Kyle; we’re gonna try to draw ‘em off.  Walk your horses for the first few miles so you don’t raise dust and they get some more rest.”  He thrust the sack up to the big, mustached outlaw and tucked the remaining cash into his coat pockets.  “If you get caught, maybe you can buy yourself a helluva lawyer,” said a grim-faced Wheat.  “Good luck.”  


Heyes and the Kid waited until their men had ridden out of sight then rode quietly up to the top of the bluff and walked slowly along its edge in full view of the waiting posse.  For several minutes nothing happened and it was plain that vigorous discussion was taking place amongst their pursuers.  Heyes could only wish he could hear the conversation.


“Looks like the drawin’ off part’s workin’,” said Curry.  Sure enough, the entire posse had veered in their direction and was closing the distance.


“Time to get to work on the shaking ‘em part,” answered Heyes as he sent his tired horse into a gallop.


oooOOOooo


The sorrel scrambled up the rocky hill, stumbling several times from fatigue.  Heyes gave the horse its head and sat quietly, letting the animal find its footing.  “Atta boy.  C’mon. C’mon.”  He could hear the clatter of the Kid’s gelding behind him.  They were leaving the desert scrub and climbing towards a thick pinyon juniper forest surrounding a rocky mesa.  The trees would offer them more opportunities than the arid open land had and the rocky, rising landscape would give them an advantage.  It was only a few hundred yards further, but Heyes knew they didn’t have much time left.  His horse was nearly spent.  The best part of another day had passed and they hadn’t been able to lose their pursuers.  Now the posse was getting close.  It was over.  They were done running.


As the two riders entered the shelter of the trees, they pulled up their exhausted horses.  Both beasts were thickly lathered.  Their heads hung down low and their sides heaved with the effort of drawing breaths.  Heyes dismounted and pulled off his saddlebags.  He tied his reins around the saddle horn, releasing his animal.  Curry dropped to the ground and leaned against his horse for support.  He rested quietly for a couple of minutes and then tied his reins as well and removed his saddlebags.  He gave the bay a gentle pat and then whipped off his hat, waving his arms and growling at the startled animals.  Without the weight of a rider, the revived animals took off bucking and kicking out in their eagerness to leave the humans behind.  The Kid watched them go and then turned to a panting Heyes.  “Hopefully, they’ll give us a few minutes.”


Heyes smiled sadly, “Where d’you wanna make our stand, partner?”


Squinting against the glare of the setting sun, the Kid pointed to a large jumble of huge boulders and broken trees resting at the foot of the mesa.  “That rockfall’s as good a place as any.  We can rest in the shade until the posse figures out what they’re gonna do with us.”  Wearily, the two men started walking.


“What you really mean is figure out if they want to take us dead or alive.”


“Yep, and then I guess we’re gonna have to figure out whether we fight or we surrender.”


Heyes frowned.  “If they give us a chance to surrender, we will.  If they come in for the kill, we fight.  How many bullets you got?”  He opened the flap of his saddlebag and did a quick inventory of his own ammunition.  


“I got a full box and maybe another fifteen rounds.  You?”


“Maybe forty or so cartridges.”


“That’s a little over one hundred rounds.  I reckon that’ll slow them down a tad, but not for long.  We’ll be sittin’ ducks.”


“That’s real encouraging, Kid.”


“Hey, I calls ‘em as I sees ‘em.”


oooOOOooo


After an unsatisfying dinner of cold beans, the Kid and Heyes were fighting off sleep.  They’d heard the posse arriving a few hours ago and had amused themselves listening to the scuffling footsteps as the deputized lawmen had found their own concealment to wait out the night.  


“We’ve got a few more hours to dawn.  I reckon they’ll make their move at first light.”


“I don’t know, Kid.  So far they’ve been more concerned with saving their tails.  If they rush us, they know someone’s gonna die real fast and it ain’t gonna be one of us.  I’m betting they starve us out.”  Heyes fell silent for several minutes staring at the empty tin cans from their dinner before adding, “You still got more cans of beans?”


“Don’t tell me the thought of dyin’ is workin’ up your appetite.”


“No.  Better.  I’ve got an idea.”


“What?  You plannin’ on fartin’ your way to freedom?”


Heyes turned a pained expression on his partner. “Just get me the beans.”  He started digging through his own bags, coming up with a can of peaches, two cans of tomatoes, a fork, and a can opener.  Curry produced three more cans of beans.  Using the opener, Heyes opened the can of peaches halfway around the top and bent the lid back.  He stuck the fork in it and handed it to the Kid.  “Eat.”


“I ain’t hungry.”


“Then dump it out but don’t open it any further.”


Curry squinted at Heyes trying to decide if he was serious.  He began eating the peaches.  Heyes dumped out the contents of the other cans into the dirt.  Using his spare socks from his bags, he quickly wiped out the cans and set them carefully to one side.  


“Oh, I get it.  We’ll starve faster if we throw our food out.  Save the posse some time.  Yep, that’s a real smart plan.”


“Shut up and fetch me something to start a fire with,” snapped Heyes.


“Least we’ll die warm,” grumbled the Kid.  He ambled around the boulders picking up splinters of wood and broken, dried branches of the crushed trees.


oooOOOooo  


The night sky glowed slightly to the east, but darkness still highlighted Heyes’ small, hot fire.  It was dying down to embers.  He blew on the flames fanning the coals to a red hot glow then took his knife from the shaft of his boot and stabbed at the coals, breaking them into smaller pieces.


Curry sat back and finished the peaches, watching his partner and wondering if the pressure had finally gotten to be too much for him.


“It’s right nice of you to light the place up for ‘em, makes it real easy for them to shoot us when they close in.”


Heyes ignored him.  He reached for one of the empty cans and snatched the fork from the Kid’s fingers.


“Hey!  I wasn’t done.”


“It’s ready,” said Heyes cryptically. Using the fork, he gingerly fished a glowing coal from the fire and slipped it into the can followed by several more.  


“What the hell are you doin’, Heyes?”


A delighted, maniacal smile assured the Kid his partner was acting normally, and he waited for an answer.


“The gang’s coming to our rescue, Kid.”


A brief look of worried disbelief scurried across Curry’s face, chased by a dawning smile.  “Heyes!  You really are the genius you think you are.”  Laughing, he added.  “Here, take my gloves.  You hold ‘em, I’ll fill ‘em.”  Soon the cans were lined up next to one of the boulders.  Heyes kicked dirt over the remaining fire and the shadows turned to absolute blackness.  He tore open his box of cartridges.  With a grin at his partner, he dropped some of the ammunition into a can and the Kid bent the lid shut.  In one swift, smooth motion, Curry lobbed the can out into the dark night.  


Almost instantly, the cartridges exploded and clattered within the cans for several seconds with one or two shooting out and ricocheting harmlessly off a rock.  As the noise died down, the swearing began.  A second can was thrown through the darkness followed by a third and a forth.  The phony gunfire erupted from every direction.  The posse snapped into action and returned fire into the woods behind them, shattering tree limbs and terrifying their mounts in the process.  Horses reared back in fear and several broke their tethers, galloping away madly from the ensuing chaos.  


Heyes waited until the shots died away, and then screamed at the top of his lungs.  “Wheat, Kyle, hold your fire.  Give ‘em a chance to surrender.  Devil’s Hole gang ain’t taking to killing now.”  He paused.


“Sheriff, you giving up or should I let my men keep shooting?”  He and the Kid smiled conspiratorially as the swearing started up again.  Without giving the lawman time to think, Heyes filled the last two cans in quick succession and Curry threw them out.  The subsequent burst of rounds caused the posse members to stand up from their hiding places, tossing down their weapons and putting their hands up.  “Call off your men, Heyes, we give up!” yelled the sheriff.


Heyes and the Kid came out from their hiding place with their guns drawn.


oooOOOooo


The Kid finished tying off the last deputized citizen to a small pinyon while Heyes checked the bindings holding the sheriff snugly against the rough bark of a juniper.


“You’ll pay for this, Heyes,” threatened the sheriff.


Heyes gave him a dimpled smile.  “We’ll see about that, Sheriff Clitterhouse.  Somehow I don’t think you’re gonna want word to spread you surrendered without us even firing a shot.”


“Might be kinda hard to keep that secret, Heyes,” grinned Curry.  “You know how things slip out when you least expect.  Why I bet you’ll be the laughin’ stock of the entire county in no time, Sheriff.”


The two outlaws could still hear the sound of the sheriff’s swearing floating down the hillside as they rounded up the string of horses before riding towards home. 

_________________
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“The purpose of life isn’t to arrive at death in perfect condition but to slide into it sideways with your hair mussed, your clothes disheveled, a martini in one hand and chocolate in the other, shouting ‘Whooeee, what a ride!’”--Hunter S. Thompson
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PostSubject: Re: Bluff   Sat Apr 23, 2016 6:11 pm

Finally a bunny - at least one scene's worth.

Bluff Till the End


Heyes chanced a glance over.  Curry was pale, his face clammy as he bent low over the saddle.


“They still there?” Curry gasped between clenched teeth.  The dark stain on his side grew.


“Yeah”


“How many?”  Heyes drew up sharply as his spent horse stumbled.  The abrupt stop flung foam from the lathered animal into his eyes.  He shook his head, clearing his vision as he chanced a look behind.


“I make at least twenty.”  


Dust showered them as a bullet nearly reached them.  Desperately the two lashed their mounts urging them up faster and faster.


“Too many to split up,” Curry groaned.


“No cover anyway.”  Heyes reined his horse sharply, his partner’s mount careening to a stop beside him, sending shards of shale over the edge of the bluff.


Curry sighed and slipped or fell from his saddle.  He shuddered as he leaned against his weary mount.  “There’s nowhere to go, Heyes.”


“I know.”  He glanced back at the posse rapidly gaining on them. Another shot fell two feet wide.  He looked over the edge of the cliff that blocked their escape.  Nothing.  A river raged thirty feet below.  He peered at his partner.


Curry was silent, his mouth in a grim line, he pulled his gun and gathering all his remaining strength he turned the barrel.  “I got five.  You?


“I’m spent.”


The two partners looked at each other.  Curry’s horse gave a slight moan and his forelegs buckled.  He nickered as he collapsed.  As one the partners took refuge behind his heaving sides.


“There’s a ledge down there,” Heyes said.


Curry cocked an eyebrow and crawled to the edge.  He peered over.  “No cover.”


“You got a better idea?”


“No.”


Heyes scrambled to the edge and lowered himself, hanging briefly by his fingertips before dropping the remaining foot to the ledge.  “Piece of cake.  Don’t be such a slow poke.”


Curry looked down at him and chuckled.  “Don’t rush me.”


He slowly turned, draped his legs over the edge and allowed gravity to pull him over.  He tried to steady himself with his good hand while his left arm dangled uselessly by his side.  Losing his grip he plummeted down.


Heyes clung to the small protuberance of an old root – probably rotten – and steadied his partner, stopping his descent.


The two leaned against the cliff behind them, sides heaving, eyes closed.


“Now what?”


Heyes opened his eyes and searched their surroundings, seeking any path.  Nothing.  He looked at the raging waters so far below.  “We could surrender; after all what’s twenty years?”


“Don’t seem like they’re too interested in the ‘alive’ part of that reward.”


Heyes silently acknowledged the truth of that statement.  This posse had been dogging them for days now.  It had fresh mounts; they didn’t.  “You know, your mother always said you gave up too easy.”


“Yeah, and Ma also said you were too stubborn for your own good and too crafty for mine.”


“Feel like swimming?”


Curry drew as deep a breath as he could with the rib broken by the shot that had passed through his side.  He glanced down. “Looks cold.”


“But it’s plenty hot here.”  Heyes cocked an ear to the shouts that were close enough to hear now.  “And getting hotter by the minute.”


“Yeah,” Curry gasped.  “You know a swim’s sounding good about now.”  He opened one eye to look down again.  “Sort of.”


“Together?”


“Always.”


Heyes bent and untied his gun belt.  He held out one end to his partner and best friend.  Curry looked deeply into his eyes then grasped the other end.


As the posse dismounted above, Heyes began to count.  “One…”


The posse’s leader thrust his reins into the next man’s hands and drew his sidearm.  He raced to the edge of the bluff.  Cautiously he looked over, gun at the ready.


“THREE!!”


As he aimed, the pair flew from their perch, connected by the thin strands of Heyes’ gun belt and a lifetime of experience.  His mouth dropped and his hand fell to his side, gun useless as the pair plunged to the raging waters below.
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MoulinP

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PostSubject: Re: Bluff   Sun Apr 24, 2016 2:08 pm

Bluff

The man in the red shirt and floppy brown hat pushed into the saloon. He paused for a moment to let his eyes adjust to the dim interior. As he made his way to the bar, his glance flicked over the few customers. There was nobody he knew and he swallowed a lump of disappointment.


“What can I get ya?” the bartender asked, polishing the bar in his direction.


“Beer.”


Red Shirt sorted through his handful of coins with a sigh. He stacked most of them on the bar in return for a foaming beer. Taking a long pull, he let out a long contended sigh. It was good to stop riding.


He had ridden long and hard. It had been several days since he had anything other than water and jerky. It was late evening and he was tired. A decent meal and a comfortable bed would be welcome right about about now. He also knew they were unlikely to be forthcoming unless his fiscal situation improved rapidly. If it didn’t, there would be no other choice but to spend another uncomfortable night outside on the ground.


In the mirror behind the bar, he saw no sign of a poker game about to commence. Even if there were, the players would just laugh at him if he put down his sixteen cents stake. No, he had to nurse this beer and hope his partner arrived before too long.


Pushing away from the bar, he took up a corner table. From there he could watch both the main street door and the smaller alley door, where men disappeared and then reappeared a short while later.


He wondered how long he would have to wait. He and his partner had separated three days ago and the plan was to meet up here in Lasso City. The first to arrive was to wait two days and then proceed. Red Shirt ran a hand over his face with tiredness. His partner had the easier ride and should be here by now. Another quick scan round the room told him he wasn’t. At least …


He hadn’t noticed before. He had been looking at faces. On a table in the middle of the room was a half-drunk beer. There were no other clues to the owner of the beer. Except one. Red Shirt sat up with interest now. On the back of the chair by the beer was a bandana. Common enough design true enough but there was something familiar about this one. One of the ends had a knot in it. The end he could see.


Red Shirt smiled. He hide it by taking a mouthful of beer. So? Where was he? The owner of the knotted bandana and the half-drunk beer. Red Shirt was halfway through his beer and feeling a little more relaxed when he found out.


The alley door opened. A man in a dark blue shirt and battered black hat came in. He scanned the saloon, eyes lighting on Red Shirt without interest before moving on. He went back to his beer and took a mouthful. He rubbed a finger over his top lip and scowled irritably.


Red Shirt studied Blue Shirt. He had his back to him but Red Shirt could spot a fellow weary traveller. Red Shirt grinned when Blue Shirt took off his black hat in a slightly awkward way. Carefully, as if there was something underneath he didn’t want to come off with it. His fingers patted down the straight dark hair. Blue Shirt leant back in his chair and stretched. He also yawned expansively before settling back to drink more of his beer.


Red Shirt sipped his own beer, thoughtfully. His jaw unconsciously moved in a chewing action.


A sudden commotion outside interrupted his musings. There was excited shouting and hurrahs, the odd celebratory gunshot. There was also a few boos. Then a man ran into the saloon.


“They’ve got ‘em!” he shouted. “I can’t believe it! They’ve gone and got ‘em!”


“Got who, Deke?” the bartender asked.


“Posse outta Laws Town is bringing ‘em in now. Gonna lock ‘em up in our jail for the night. Can you believe it?”


“Who?”


“They’ve only gone and got Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes!”


With a whoop and a holler, Deke was gone. The few customers and the bartender began to talk at once. As a man, they got up, pushing their way outside to view the spectacle. This wasn’t something you saw every day. This was history and they wanted to be a part of it. To be able to tell their children, grandchildren and anyone else who might be interested that they were there when the law finally captured the two most successful outlaws in the West.


Blue Shirt got to his feet with everybody else. Red Shirt remained seated but he watched Blue Shirt’s back. As Blue Shirt started for the door, snatching up his hat, Red Shirt quickly took a gulp of beer and followed.


Red Shirt and Blue Shirt stood side by side, although Blue Shirt was a head taller. Sure enough down the middle of the street rode a group of men. The front two wore stars on their shirts. The next two had their hands tied behind their backs. Behind them came six other men, some with rifles at the ready.


The party stopped down the street a little, outside the jail. The two captive men sat their horses patiently until men from the posse were ready to help them dismount. It may just have been a trick of light but one looked like he was wearing a red shirt, the other a dark blue shirt. Once they were on the ground, the posse formed a tight circle around them and ushered them into the jail.


Excitement over, the townsfolk moved away murmuring to each other. Red Shirt and Blue Shirt returned to the saloon and went back to their separate tables. Both sighed deeply.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________



On the hotel porch, two men sat and watched the events with interest. They had arrived in town late afternoon and settled into the hotel, bathed, dined and were now relaxing with a drink and cigars. Three long hard days they had been on the trail and were grateful for the rest. One was blond, wearing a light tan leather jacket over a white shirt. The other was dark haired, also wearing a white shirt with a string tie, under a brown corduroy jacket.


“That’s interesting,” Blond Hair said.


“Sure is,” agreed Dark Hair. He grinned and returned to suck life into his cigar. “This was a good plan. We don’t have to do a thing. Let the law do the work for a change.”


Blond Hair grinned at him. “Yeah ‘bout time they had summat to do.”


“And they’ve got plenty of work to do this time.” Dark Hair chuckled eagerly. “Figuring out exactly what went down.”


Blond Hair nodded and pursed his lips. “I think you’re right. Be good for ‘em. We’re doing a public service. Keeping ‘em on their toes.”


Dark Hair grinned. “Sure am. There’s nothing I like more than keeping the law on their toes,” he chuckled.


They both looked round as the maid from the hotel brought out a basket of laundry. Although dark, it was a warm night. The laundry would dry by the morning. As they watched, she pegged out a red shirt and a dark blue shirt.


Both men grinned as they sucked on their cigars.
____________________________________________________________________________


Three days earlier


“Right boys d’ya all understand what I’m asking you to do?” Heyes asked his men arranged in a semi-circle round him. He looked at the six men and scratched his cheek. Not perfect but at a distance, if you squinted or caught sight of them out of the corner of your eye …. They might just pass. In which case his plan would work.


The six men glanced at each other doubtfully. Wheat sniffed. “Dang fool plan if’n ya ask me …”


“Well we ain’t, Wheat,” the Kid told him firmly. “Ya had your opportunity to duck outta this earlier.”


Wheat sniffed again. “Yeah … well … there’s the young ones to look out for ain’t there? I outta be on hand ‘case things get … kinda outta hand … an’ they need my help.”


“Yeah Wheat an’ we’re real grateful you decided to participate …”Heyes started, and then wondered how he was going to finish. “Lending … your … reassuring presence to our endeavour,” he finished and flashed a quick grin. He stood hands on hips and gave the men a final once over.

“Okay,” he sighed. “If you’re sure there’s no more questions … best get on your ways, boys. Good luck.”


Heyes and the Kid watched as the Gang mounted up and moved out of the Hole. The Kid slapped Heyes on the shoulder as he stood with his arms folded.


“D’you reckon they can pull this off?”


Heyes twitched his head. “Well I hope so. Either way we’re gonna find out just how accurate those descriptions of us are.” Then he chuckled and rolled his eyes. “Sure must be some wild versions out there!”


Then Heyes grinned. “C’mmon, partner we’ve got us a bank to rob!”
____________________________________________________________________________


Heyes and the Kid were dozing in chairs on the porch of the leader’s cabin in Devil’s Hole. At least the Kid was dozing. Heyes was swinging his crossed leg and tapping the arms of his chair. He was anxious.


“Sure is peaceful here without the Gang ain’t it?” Heyes sighed, trying to make conversation.


“Real nice,” the Kid mumbled from under his hat.


“D’you think they’re alright?”


“Yep.”


“You don’t think they should be back by now?”


Heyes leaned his chin on an elbow and stared at the route into the Hole.


“Nope.”


The Kid raised his hat and looked over at Heyes’ back.


“You’ll hear ‘em,” he growled.


“I know! I know!” Heyes looked round. “Suppose summat went wrong?”


“Like what?”


“I dunno!”


The Kid growled again and dropped his hat over his face. “Go an’ pace or summat. Whatever it is jus’ do it quietly. An’ stop worrying!”


“Worrying! Who’s worrying?” Heyes demanded, swinging round.


“You are,” the Kid chuckled. “You’re like an ole Mother Hen.”


“Am not!” Heyes said petulantly and turned back to watch the trail in.


“Then you’re sure not doing a good job of somebody not worrying.”


Heyes growled and then sniffed. “That’s a double negative,” he spluttered finally.


The Kid thought he’d settled but then Heyes got up suddenly. He stalked to the middle of the yard. “They should be back by now,” he muttered, standing hands on hips, watching the trail for any sign of movement.


The Kid sighed and smacked his lips.


“There’s summat up. I know it.” Heyes continued to fume and crossed his arms firmly.


The Kid wisely said nothing and returned to his doze. A while later he smiled under his hat when he heard the three deliberate shots from the direction of Dead Land’s Point. Somebody was coming into the Hole.


It was ten minutes before six men rode into the yard. Two wore red shirts, two wore dark blue shirts and two wore white shirts. The Kid pushed back his hat and leaned forward. Heyes was all smiles now.


“See I told ya they’d be back,” he told the Kid smugly. “You worry too much Kid.”


“Yeah, Heyes,” the Kid said, rolling his eyes. “I must get that seen to.”


He joined Heyes in the yard as the six rode up.


“How’d it go fellas?”


“Jus’ like Heyes said it would,” said one of the Red Shirts.


Heyes smiled smugly.


The shorter Red Shirt took off his brown floppy hat. This time the blond hair came with it and the scruffy little man underneath gave his head a good itching.


“Sure am glad to get rid o’ that. Dunno how ya stand it Kid.”


“Good to see ya, Kyle,” the Kid grinned.


Heyes laughed and looked up, closing one eye against the sun. “Any trouble?” he asked the taller of the Blue Shirts.


“Naw! ‘Course I knew there wouldn’t be. Me being in charge an’ all.”


“Yeah, Wheat, right.” Heyes held the horse as Wheat dismounted. He looped the reins round the hitching post and turned to the other Red and Blue Shirts. “They let you go alright?”


“Sure. Didn’t take ‘em that long to figure out we weren’t Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry,” said Blue Shirt.


“And that we weren’t wanted for anything neither!” added Red Shirt.


Heyes laughed and clapped his hands. “Well done Hank. Well done Gid.” He shook hands with both men. “Welcome to Devil’s Hole fellas.”


“You mean, we’re in?” the red shirted Gideon asked, eagerly.


“Well yeah I reckon so. That was a brave thing you fellas did, pretending to be me and the Kid.”


“We was brave too!” Kyle protested. “Me and Wheat.”


“Sure you were Kyle. Somebody could hav’ spotted ya were Kid Curry and shot ya,” Wheat chortled, leaning nonchalantly against the post, arms folded. The black hat he had been wearing with the brown hair fixed inside now balanced on the hitching rail.


“Shuddup, Wheat.”


Heyes turned his attention to the two White Shirts. “Lobo? Preacher? How’d it go?”


Both shrugged. Preacher tugged at the string tie. “Brown ain’t my colour Heyes. The Good Lord prefers me in black.”


Lobo growled. “I’ve had this ALL the way back. How if anything happens, the Good Lord won’t recognise ‘im ‘cos he ain’t wearing black,” he sneered. Then he grinned. “Thanks for the loan of your jacket Kid. I feel real smart.” He looked at the light tan jacket admiringly.


“It was jus’ a loan, Lobo,” the Kid said, warningly. “Good to see all you fellas. Get the horses seen to and we’ll see you over at the bunkhouse in a whiles. We’ve got the money to split and then some celebrating to do.”


The six arrivals trooped off happily. The two leaders watched them go and the Kid slapped Heyes on the shoulder.


“Well Heyes your chicks are home safe. You can stop worrying now.”


“I wasn’t worried.” The Kid gave him a doubtful look as he turned to go in. “I wasn’t!” Heyes insisted, following him.

_____________________________________________________________________________


“It was real smart of ya Heyes, having us all dress as the Kid and ya,” Lobo said, later as the Gang recalled what had happened.


“I figured the sheriff would wanna go after the two fellas wiv the most on their heads.” Heyes grinned. “An’ that’ll be me and the Kid.”


Wheat sniffed. “Some kinda miracle that it worked,” he muttered.


Kyle laughed. “The real miracle Wheat is Heyes getting’ ya to shave off ya mo’stash.” The others all laughed now pointing their fingers at Wheat’s bare upper lip.


“Shuddup, Kyle. ‘Leastways it stopped yous chewing that chaw all the time,” Wheat hit back.


Kyle looked hurt. “Reckon Heyes did me a real good favour there. I ain’t never gonna chew that stuff agin.” He looked determined; the others looked doubtful.


“Ya shoulda seen the look on that sheriff’s face when he realised he ain’t got Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes,” Hank grinned.


“Yeah I bet it was a picture,” Heyes grinned. “It was a great diversion boys. Getting in and outta the bank was real easy with everybody looking the other way. I sure do thank ya.” Heyes raised his glass in salute.


“We sure do thank you Heyes, if’n you got the money,” Lobo growled.


“Sure I do. You’re earned it. Couldna done it without you boys.” Heyes nodded to the Kid and he got up to go get the money.


“Ya saying we don’t usually earn it?” Wheat was indignant.


Heyes looked round at him. “No I ain’t saying that at all, Wheat.” Heyes’ tone had taken on a hard edge. “I’m saying pretending to be me and the Kid was hard. All of ya’s. It ain’t easy to make it look believable. An’ ya did. Carried it right off.” Now Heyes’ mouth twitched into a smile.

“Bet that sheriff’s fit to bust. Sure would like to see what’s occurring in that town today.”


The Gang chortled.


The Kid was back in a little while with a stack of bills and a large bottle. The bills he gave to Heyes.


“What ya got there Kid?” Kyle wanted to know as the Kid started to unwind the metal tie on the top of the bottle.


The Kid looked at Heyes, counting out six even piles of money. Heyes paused in his dealing.


“Well fellas it occurred to me that this was a special job. Not least ‘cos you were all playing Spartacus …”


“Who’s that?”


“Ain’t that the Greek kid who rides with the Thursdale Gang?”


“Nah! His name’s Spiros.”


Heyes shut his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose. The he waved his hand dismissively. “Never mind,” he shuddered. “It’s a special job ‘cos it’s the hundredth job we’ve done since I’ve been in charge. So I figured that deserved a celebration. I got us a bottle of champagne.” He indicated the bottle the Kid was struggling to open. “Better get yourselves a clean glass, boys. It looks like it’s gonna blew ….” Heyes moved back quickly.  “Point it at the ceiling not me!”


The Kid just managed to do that before the cork exploded. Once everybody had a filled glass, Heyes raised his. “I’d like to propose a toast, fellas. To a hundred jobs big and small. Here’s to a hundred more!”


There was a cheer of agreement, followed by loud slurping and then tortured faces.


“Don’t think much of this ‘ere champagne,” said Kyle.


“Some pain, I’d call it,” said Wheat dumping the rest of his in the plant Kyle was nurturing.


“Hey! That stuff might kill Terry!”


Heyes and the Kid swopped grins. Time moved on but somethings always stayed reassuringly the same.


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

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Posts : 136
Join date : 2015-11-29
Age : 56
Location : Norfolk, England

PostSubject: Re: Bluff   Sun Apr 24, 2016 3:27 pm

MAP has assured me I can post another story for this challenge. Here's my second .... and the one I'm nervous about. When Heyes trotted out the names (you'll see) in "A Fistful of Diamonds", it sounded like they had used them before so I have used them here.
The dictionary tells me that bluff can also mean deception and I think that more accurately describes the last scene - a little bonus.

Bluff 2

“Telegram for Mr Heyes! Telegram for Mr Hannibal Heyes!”


All eyes turned to see the boy standing at the batwing doors, looking around nervously.
The town was tolerant of the Devil’s Hole Gang and its members openly walked the streets. The townsfolk generally left them alone and overlooked any minor transgressions. The Gang were free spenders and truth be told, many businesses depended on their custom. Whether the townsfolk knew who the individual members were, was open to debate. Somethings were best not to know.


In a far corner of the saloon, a group of men were talking animatedly over their beer. As they heard the boy’s announcement, their eyebrows went up and they looked at each other. They all looked at the one with brown hair and eyes, wearing a black hat with silver conchos. That one shrugged and rolled his eyes. Slowly he withdrew his feet from a chair, licked his lips and got up.


“Here, boy.” He raised his hand, beckoning the boy over.


The boy swallowed hard. Being up close to such a notorious outlaw as Hannibal Heyes could be and was intimidating.


Heyes sorted out a few coins and smiled tightly at the boy. “There ya go. Thanks.”


The boy grinned and skipped away. “Thanks, Mr Heyes.”


Heyes looked at the address of the sender on the outside of the envelope.


“Hmm.”


Heyes flopped back into his chair and returned his feet to the opposite one. The Kid and the rest of the table watched him with interest.


Heyes sniffed and tore open the envelope. He took the contents out with a frown. With a blink he read.


“Hmm,” he sighed again.


Across from him, the Kid was wide eyed in curiosity.


“Ya got a telegram?” he asked, incredulously.


“Mmmm,” sighed Heyes, obviously re reading it. He sighed and then stuffed the telegram back in its envelope. He slapped it on the table, sniffed and pursed his lips, thoughtfully.


The Kid tried again.  “Ya got a telegram? Here? Addressed to Hannibal Heyes?”


Heyes gave a deep sigh and nodded. He stared at a spot on the floor, tapping his fingers on the table. “Yep.”


The Kid rolled his eyes and glanced at the others. They all shrugged.


“Care to share, Heyes?”


Heyes started. “What?”


“The telegram?” The Kid pointed at envelope. “Summat I should know about?”


“No,” Heyes said, firmly. He gave another sigh and a puff. “D’you fancy a trip, Kid?” he smiled suddenly.


The Kid immediately looked suspicious.


“A trip? What sorta trip?”


“Er sorta vacation. Y’know warmer climate, longer days, change of scene …” He tailed off, lacing his fingers over his stomach. He grinned pleasantly.


“Why?”


“Spot of visiting,” Heyes elaborated but not telling the Kid anything. “Helping an ole friend out. Now I know you like doing that.” Heyes nodded, wide-eyed with eagerness. “Ya can’t resist the needy folks …”


“An ole friend? What ole friend?” the Kid was sharp.


Heyes sighed and was about to be flippant again. Then he frowned and was serious. He suddenly looked worried.


“It’s Soapy, Kid,” he said, quietly. “He’s been arrested.”


The Kid sat back in his chair shocked. “Soapy?”


“Yep.” Heyes swallowed. “He needs our help.”


____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

With a certain amount of trepidation, the Kid walked into the sheriff’s office. He was wearing his grey suit and no gun. The no-gun always made him feel nervous but at least he had the small derringer in his inside pocket. It would have to do. He took a deep breath and swept off his derby.


“Howdy, sheriff,” he said, brightly as he shut the door behind him.


The sheriff frowned at him and nodded in greeting.


“Clive Hotchkiss, sheriff er sheriff …?” The Kid stuck out his hand.


“Lombard.” The sheriff shook the hand briefly. “What can I do for ya? I’m a busy man. I’m holding a high profile criminal and there’s a helluva lot of paperwork to get through afore I can get rid of him.”


“Well sheriff it’s about that. You have the wrong man and I’m here to prove it.” The Kid unconsciously took a step back from the intensity of the sheriff’s glare.


“What! I know who I’ve got in my jail, mister! That’s Soapy Saunders!” The sheriff had leapt to his feet and was pointing at the door to the cellblock.


“No sir,” the Kid said, politely but firmly. “I think that’s my father you have locked in your cells, Mr Clyde Hotchkiss. If you would just allow me to see him I can confirm that to you.”


“Nobody goes near my prisoner!”


“Well sheriff I’m afraid I must insist. My father is elderly and not a well man. If anything should happen to him while he’s in your care then there will be consequences. I doubt this town could afford … and the publicity … If he’s not my father then there’s no harm done is there? I mean I only …”


“ALRIGHT!” Angrily, the sheriff snatched up the keys and stalked to the door. “Gotta search ya,” he grumbled when the Kid joined him at the door.


“Yes of course.”


The Kid handed over the derringer. The sheriff looked at it with distaste and sniffed before giving the Kid a cursory pat down. Opening the door, Sheriff Lombard held his arm.


“You ain’t going no further. That him?” He motioned to the cell at the end.


Soapy sat on the bed and looked up when he heard the door opening.


“Father!” the Kid gave an anguished cry and hurried down to the end cell. Behind him, the sheriff growled. He hadn’t expected a man dressed that way to be so quick and get away from him that easily.


Soapy stood up and came to the bars. He was pleased to see a friendly face but equally as confused to see this one.


“Kid …?” It wasn’t loud enough for the sheriff to hear.


“Father! Thank goodness, I’ve found you. How did you get here? Why did you disappear like that? The family have been so worried about you.” The Kid continued to express his relief at finding his father. “Don’t worry we’ll get this whole thing straightened out in no time. I’m so relieved you’re safe.” He patted Soapy’s hand that were gripping the bars.


Sheriff Lombard growled again.


“Alright, Mr Hotchkiss,” he sighed. “Knock on the door when you’re ready,”


The Kid smiled and nodded. He turned back to Soapy a look of concern on his face as the door clanged shut. A cold chill went down his back at the sound but he ignored it. He had to concentrate on the business in hand.


“Kid! What are you doing here?”


“We’ve come to get you out. Listen there’s not much time. How did this happen?”


“It’s was a con. The mark is a man named Derek Pascoe. He’s an animal feed merchant here in town. Except he’s dirty. Mixes in all sorts into the feed. Some horses belonging to a friend of mine got sick. Two had to be shot. My friend complained but he couldn’t prove that Pascoe was behind it but he knows he is. Had somebody snoop round his premises and saw him bulking out the feed.” Soapy shrugged. “My friend lost a lot of money when he had to shoot those two horses. The stud fees alone …”


“I get the picture Soapy so what was the plan?”


“I set up a ranch, just expanding into Nevada. It’s one of Silky’s set-ups so on the surface it looks legitimate. Makes a tidy profit as well. Pascoe couldn’t let me have the amount of feed I needed straight off without cutting off his existing customers. I told him I needed it straight away so I could start bringing horses down and that I was willing to pay over the odds. Only some of the payment would be in Mexican Pesos. The exchange rate at the moment is quite favourable so he would get more US dollars than the deal was worth.”


Soapy shrugged. “It was a good deal and legitimate business. It was supposed to be the snare, so I don’t understand what went wrong, Kid. I hadn’t got to the con yet. It’s been all by correspondence up until now. The con was going to be next week. That’s why I’m here. I was going to purchase even more from him, only this time all in Pesos. They were going to be counterfeit of course. I’d be safely back in Denver by the time he found out.”


“Do you think he recognised ya?”


Soapy shook his head. “We didn’t meet.” Soapy looked thoughtful. “I’ve been thinking about that, Kid, while I’ve been sitting here. Nothing else to do.” He laughed briefly. “I’m sure he mentioned a brother, unusual name. Jarman, I think he said. Perhaps …” He tailed off and then looked back.


Soapy patted the Kid’s arm through the bars. “It’s good to see you, Kid. Is Heyes with you?”


“Yeah. He’s gotta plan but he wanted to know what this was all about first. Does the brother live here in Eureka?”


Soapy shrugged. “I don’t know but something must have tipped Pascoe off ‘cos when the sheriff came to arrest me he knew who I was. Do you really think you and Heyes can get me out of this?” Soapy seemed a little desperate now.


“Sure Soapy we’ll do what we can. Heyes’ll figure it out. He always does.”


Soapy smiled. “I don’t mind telling you Kid, the thought of prison at my age … I’ll rest easier tonight knowing you and Heyes are on the case.”


“Leave it to us, Soapy. Heyes might not get to speak to ya ‘afore he puts his plan into action so just go with the flow, huh?”


“Sure thing, Kid and thanks.”


“I’d best get back. Keep holding up Soapy. We’ll both see ya soon. Without these in the way.”

The Kid smiled and gestured at the bars. “See ya.”
____________________________________________________________________________

“Help you?” Sheriff Lombard said, without looking up.


“Aloysius Rembacker, sheriff. Attorney at Law. I’m here to represent the man you have incarcerated in your cells and are calling Soapy Saunders. My card.”


Sheriff Lombard glanced at the card placed on the edge of his desk and then looked up at the man who had placed it. He saw a young man in a brown three-piece suit, with straight brown hair parted in the middle and slicked back both sides and wearing round, wire-framed glasses.


“Saunders has an attorney. A Mr Fisher!” the sheriff barked.


“Had sheriff. I understand my client had a visitor yesterday. A Mr Clive Hotchkiss? He’s asked me to represent the prisoner as I’m an expert in dealing with cases involving senior citizens.” Rembacker smiled pleasantly.


The sheriff growled. “Yeah I had a Clive Hotchkiss in here yesterday. Claims the ole man is his father!” He chuckled. “I’ve got it on good authority that man in there is Soapy Saunders.” He pointed at the door that led to the cellblock. “One of the best conmen there is. Law’s been after him for years an’ now I’ve got him in my jail.” There was more than a touch of pride in his voice.


Rembacker drew himself up. “Well that may be sheriff. I’m familiar with Mr Saunder’s work but I can assure you that is not him.” His fingers were in the pockets of his buttoned up waistcoat, adopting a lawyerly pose. “Mr Hotchkiss is fully aware of what his father looks like and he has assured me that you hold in your cell, Mr Clyde Hotchkiss.” He paused to let that sink in and saw that he needed to say more. “Mr Hotchkiss senior is elderly I’m sure you’ll agree. He suffers from senility. An unfortunate affliction that means he can become very confused and trusting at times. Why if you tell him his name is Soapy Saunders he’ll agree with ya!” Rembacker chuckled. “It’s a right shame sheriff locking up a harmless ole man like that ‘cos he agrees with ya!” He paused seeing the seed of doubt beginning to take bloom on the sheriff’s face. “Now may I see my client please? The sooner we get this sorted out and the ole gentleman safely back with his family the better for all concerned.”


Sheriff Lombard sighed. “I suppose there’s no harm in letting you see him. Alright.” He got up.
“But I gotta search ya.”


“Oh well certainly sheriff. I expect nothing less from a diligent and dedicated lawman like yourself,” Rembacker smiled, two dimples showing either side of his mouth.


Sheriff Lombard patted him down none too gently. Satisfied he picked up the keys to the cellblock and unlocked the door.


“I won’t be long. I just need to see for myself what condition Mr Hotchkiss is in and then I’ll be making my way over to the courthouse. Got Judge Whittaker already lined up to authorise his release.”


Another smile flashed as the sheriff grunted.


“Down the end. Knock when ya want out.”


“Thank you sheriff.” Rembacker kept the smile in place until the door was closed, and then he strode down to the end cell. Soapy was already on his feet and met him at the bars.


“Heyes!” Soapy grinned and the two men shook hands through the bars. “You and the Kid are taking an awful risk on my account.”


“Soapy, good to see ya. How are they treating ya?”


Both men kept their voices down in case they were overheard.


“Oh not so bad. Not so bad.”


“Listen Soapy, I ain’t got much time. You’ve gotta play a part if you wanna get outta here. You’ve got senility Soapy and you’ve gotta be frail and confused.”


“Frail I can do,” Soapy chuckled. “But confused?” he added, looking it.


“Yeah,” grinned Heyes. “That’s it. Your name is Clyde Hotchkiss and your son Clive visited you yesterday.”


“He did?”


Heyes widened his eyes. “The Kid?”


“Oh. Oh, Yes. My son Clyde.”


“Clive, Soapy.”


“Yes my son Clive. I must say it’s good to see you Heyes but why are you here?”


“You sent me a telegram!” Heyes looked incredulous. “To Burton Wells! For me! The real me! Telegram for Mr Hannibal Heyes don’t get said too often.” Soapy was playing confused a little too real now.


“I did? Oh, yes yes I did. I asked the lad who brings the food. He said he couldn’t read so I wrote it down for him. I wasn’t sure if they’d send it though. Or if it would get to you. I wanted you to get Silky. I didn’t expect you to come yourself. You’re taking an awful risk.”


“Not if you don’t let on. Listen Soapy I can get you out but you need to focus. You’re Clyde Hotchkiss and the Kid is your son Clive. Got that?”


Soapy nodded. “I see your plan now Heyes. But who are you?”


“Aloysius Rembacker. I’m your lawyer.” Heyes seemed quite proud.


“I understand,” Soapy nodded and then frowned. “Where did you get these names?”


Heyes patted Soapy’s hand that was gripping the bars. “Never mind about that now. Are you clear?”


“Yes. Heyes if you get me out of this you can ask me any favour you like. Any favour at all.”


“Yes, yes we can talk about who owes what later. Let’s get you outta here first. I’ll see ya Soapy.”


____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Half an hour later, a small party assembled in the chambers of Judge Whittaker. Aloysius Rembacker, attorney at law, Sheriff Lombard, who was handcuffed to Clyde Hotchkiss and his son Clive, all stood in front of the judge’s desk.


“We’re here to establish the identity of the prisoner and ascertain his fitness to stand trial. Would the prisoner state his name, please?” the judge asked.


Nobody spoke. The sheriff nudged Soapy. “That’s you.”


“Oh yes er …” Soapy stuttered out. He had been looking curiously around the room he found himself in.


“What’s your name?” the judge asked again, impatiently.


Soapy leaned over to Heyes who stood the other side of him. He whispered none too quietly.


“Young man, what’s my name?”


“Clyde Hotchkiss.”


Soapy smiled pleasantly at the judge. “What he said. At your service.”


“What are you doing in Eureka?”


“Where’s that?”


“Here. This town. Eureka, Nevada.”


Soapy looked blank and shook his head. “No. I’ve never been to Nevada. I live in Colorado. Ask my son. He’s right here.” He half turned to look at the Kid, standing behind them. “Isn’t that right, Clint?”


“It’s Clive, Father. And yes sir your honour, my father lives in Colorado. Denver to be exact.” The Kid smiled. “I sure don’t know how he got all the ways out here all by himself.”


“You’re not Jonathan “Soapy” Saunders?”


Soapy laughed. “Ha. Ha. Soapy that’s a funny name. Oh dear, oh dear me no.” He nudged Heyes to laugh. Heyes smiled indulgently. “My, my this is quite a little gathering we have here. Will there be tea later? Perhaps with those little cakes you can eat in one bite?” Soapy looked around hopefully.


“Perhaps later, Father,” the Kid said.


“Mr Hotchkiss …”


“Oh splendid! I hope you can all join Clint and me. That would be so nice.”


“Clive, Father.”


“Mr Hotchkiss,” the judge said, trying desperately to get Soapy’s attention. He looked longingly at his gavel.


Heyes patted Soapy’s arm and motioned to him to face the front again.


“Eh? Oh oh yes.”


“Mr Hotchkiss. Do you know Mr Derek Pascoe, the plaintiff in this case?”


Soapy looked thoughtful. “No. No, I don’t think so. I once knew a Darren Pascoe if that’s any help? Big fella. Red hair. Long time ago now. Wonder what happened to him?” He looked at Heyes as if he might know.


Heyes smiled and shook his head. Then he turned to the judge.


“As you can see Judge, my client is very confused and really needs to be at home in a familiar environment. Mr Clive Hotchkiss is very concerned about his father’s welfare and rightly so. It’s a big responsibility he has here as you can see.”


“Yes I can see that,” the judge, growled. “However, this man has been arrested as Soapy Saunders, on very good authority. We need to …”


“Excuse me for interrupting judge,” Heyes said with an easy smile. “This good authority? Might I know who is accusing my client of being Soapy Saunders?”


The judge looked down at his notes. “The plaintiff, Derek Pascoe has brought the case against Soapy Saunders. Apparently, his brother, Jarman has had dealings with that ole conman in the past and come off worse. He’s positively identified this man as Soapy Saunders.”


Heyes shrugged. “Then it’s a clear case of mistaken identity, Judge. This poor ole gentleman has trouble remembering his own name or that of his son. He doesn’t even know where he is let alone why.”


“Mr Jarman Pascoe has made a sworn statement that his man is Soapy Saunders,” the judge said, firmly, waving the gavel at Heyes and Soapy.


“I want to go home now Clint,” Soapy said, mournfully. He turned to look at the Kid. “Will you take me home please?”


The Kid put his hands reassuringly on Soapy’s shoulders. He and Heyes exchanged glances as he did so. “It’s Clive, Father,” he said, gently and then looked at the judge. “Clint’s my twin brother, Judge. I guess we look a lot alike.”


“Judge, I understand that my client is accused of buying animal feed from Pascoe and paid part of in Mexican Pesos. That’s quite legal, Judge. What proof have you that connects my client with this transaction?”


“The man transacting the deal was Soapy Saunders, this man in front of us here,” the judge said.


“Was my client actually seen transacting the deal with Pascoe?” Heyes was standing hands on hips now.


The Judge looked at the sheriff. “How was the deal transacted Sheriff Lombard?”


“I want to go home now, Clive.”


Sheriff Lombard rubbed his chin. “Well I understand it was by letter,” he mumbled. “But there was gonna be more …”


“So nothing illegal has taken place.” Heyes summed up. “Judge, I ask that you release my client immediately. This has clearly become a travesty of justice!” Heyes glanced at the Kid. “I shall take instruction from my clients later about suing for wrongful arrest. No doubt, there will be adverse publicity. Incarcerating a harmless ole man doesn’t go down well with the voters.”


“I want my father home Judge where he can be looked after properly.”


The Judge growled and did bang his gavel. “Alright! Sheriff, release this man into the custody of his son. And you young man keep a better eye on him in future!”


He gave the sheriff a glare. It was obvious to him now that the prospect of arresting Soapy Saunders had coloured the normally thorough sheriff’s perspective.


The sheriff started to protest to no avail. Shoulders slumping in defeat, he produced the keys to the handcuffs. Soapy was free.
____________________________________________________________________________

“Are you ever going to tell him?” Rose asked.


Heyes and the Kid had brought Soapy home to his relieved daughter, Rose. Preparing to leave the next day Heyes gathered the reins in his hand. The Kid had already ridden away to check on train times, leaving Heyes to say a private good-bye to Rose.


“Nope.”


Rose studied his face. “Do you really think he can’t handle it?”


Heyes sighed. “Ain’t exactly up to ‘jus me is it? Your Pa and me decided all those years ago Jed didn’t need to know. He never knew Jonathan Curry. Knew of him yes but Jonathan never did visit his Pa when Jed was a boy.” Heyes tightened his lips and smiled. “Not like he came visiting my folks.” He looked wistful at the memory.


Rose touched his cheek and gave him a look of sympathy. She knew just how hard it was for Heyes to see her sometimes. Although they hadn’t known about each other until they were teenagers, it still brought back hard memories for both of them.


“But even so …”


“No Rose.” Heyes gathered her hands in his. “It wouldn’t work. Jed’s Pa cut Jonathan Curry outta his life afore Jed was born. Wouldn’t have his name mentioned in the house so Jed has this image in his head ‘bout him. It ain’t right but it’s there. I reckon it’d stir up all sorta things, best laid to rest.”

Heyes shook his head. “Soapy an’ me decided it was for the best that Jed didn’t know.” He inclined his head. ”An’ they get on okay that way. Jed just knows him as the kind ole Jewish fella who befriended me when we split after Valparaiso.”

Heyes rolled his eyes. “And who just happens to be one of the best flimflammers in the business.” He smiled.


Rose sighed. “I just know that if I had another relative …. I’d want to know that’s all. Two relatives!” She pointed at herself.


Heyes squeezed her hands. “I know, I know. Honestly, Rose believe me. This is the best way for Jed.” He shrugged. “’Sides Soapy gets to know his nephew without all the baggage that would come with it if Jed knew who Soapy really was.”


Heyes leaned forward and kissed her cheek. “’Sides you’ve got me as a coz. What d’ya want another one for?” he grinned.


Rose laughed and threw her arms round his neck. “Oh you!” She hugged him tightly and then let him go. “You take care, Heyes.”


“I will,” he nodded, gathering up the reins, once again. “You know me.”


“Yes that’s exactly why I worry!” she laughed.


Heyes mounted up and grinned at her. “See ya Rose.”


“Bye Heyes and thanks for bringing Pa home to me.”


Touching his hat in acknowledgment, he smiled and set off after the Kid.


Rose waved until he was gone.

_________________
Kid Curry and that other fella; Hannibal Heyes and whatsname
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Nancy Whiskey

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PostSubject: Re: Bluff   Tue Apr 26, 2016 7:46 pm

Heyes crouched; statue still, breathing shallow.  Determined not to betray their position to his determined foe.  The light footfalls that inexorably sought them out. 

The petite woman at his side could not hide a sharp intake of breath as she struggled to maintain her composure.  The subsequent small rustle of fabric alerted the sharp ears in their direction, head turning quick as a whip.

Grabbing her arm to steady her Heyes put a long finger to his lips to quiet her.  His expressive brown eyes directed her to move slowly away from him.  A small inclination of her head and a flicker of hazel flecked green eyes acknowledged and she backed gradually away, silent as a butterfly.

Heyes gently manoeuvred himself in the other direction, drawing attention if need-be away from the woman.  Both of them could hear the increasingly frustrated grunts as the hunter failed in his attempts to lure at least one of his targets into the open.

Easing herself from her hiding place, keen for a better view Elaine stumbled and their pursuer was on her like a hawk.  Winded she finally exhaled as the surprisingly strong arms caught her by her skirts, shrieking in ear-splitting jubilation.  Heyes caught the perpetrator by the waist and wrenched him off, catching him off balance and twirling round the bellowing figure. 

Yanking off the blindfold the triumphant dark-headed imp shrieked.  "I found her Daddy!  I found Mommy!"  Plump little cheeks, shining with pride.

Nimble little hands reached out to Elaine who was clutching her ribs in laughter, relived she was finally able to breath.

"You're 'it' now Mommy, that's the rules and Daddy says we must obey the rules."  The excitable little hero turned chocolate eyes on Heyes.  "Isn't that right?"  Heyes exhaled and nodded in accord.

"Sure is son," grinned the dimpled, doting, Dad.  Laughing he tossed the handkerchief to his wife but was interrupted by a knock at the door.

Leaving Mother and son starting another earnest round of blind-mans-bluff Heyes made his way to the door.  Pulling it open to reveal his cousin.

It suddenly struck Heyes that Curry was looking thicker round the middle now he had settled down, but he still had the prettiest woman in town on his arm.  Not counting Elaine...

"C'mon in, good to see you both," leaning in for a kiss from the willowy Tabitha.  "Ready for the onslaught?  We could do with reinforcements," indicating the shrieks, giggles and gasps rocking the other room. 

Tabitha eagerly led the way as the cousins shared an age-old companionable glance.

"D'you know Jed, there are sometimes I really miss the peace and quiet of the old days."

_________________
Tomorrow  I will no longer be reckless or feckless.  I will do everything with both reck and feck!
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cjp242



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PostSubject: cjp242   Fri Apr 29, 2016 7:59 pm

Bluff


I'm loitering in a small saloon in Browntown, sipping a beer. It's a quiet evening. There's penny-ante poker games at a couple of tables, but I'm on my own – the Kid's on the road, deliverin’ – so I watch the players real careful, not just fer their skill and any tells I can pick up early, but to see if they're stayin' sober and takin' losin' peaceable. I'd rather not be lookin' down the barrel of a gun without the Kid at my back.
At the table behind me an old man is regaling anyone who’ll listen with tall tales of Injuns, gold strikes, an’ cattle rustlin’ – the sorta thing you might hear in any saloon west of the Mississippi, just background noise, not worth listening to. Then his voice rises higher with excitement…

‘… saw Wes Hardin once, a man so mean he shot a fella fer snorin’. I was passin’ through Waco when he gunned down two hombres, there in the street, right in fronta my eyes. Had his holstas sewn inta his vest, and drew his guns out crosswise, that fast, blink an’ you’d uv missed it. Heard he'd killed more ‘n 40 men … but I've seen a couple faster, yes sirhee!'

He pauses for effect and to draw on his beer. Now I’m listenin’ to every single word, an’ his buddies egg him on. ‘Who cud be faster than Hardin?’ ‘Have ya seen Kid Curry?!’ 'whoee!'

‘Why no boys, itweren’t Curry, never seen Curry. I've heard tell he’s the fastest, but I reckon these two I saw wuld give him a run fer his money.’ I’m all ears now, anxious to hear about any possible rivals to my partner, Jedediah ‘Kid’ Curry aka Thaddeus Jones.

‘I were stayin’ a spell in Matherville, afta bein’ laid up by a cave-in…' I keep my back to them and pull my hat lower, listening intently, because I know what the old man’s talkin’ about now, and I, Hannibal Heyes, former leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang, was right there under the alias Joshua Smith.

‘…an’ a fella named Danny Bilson rides inta town. Sure looks the part, sharp suit, fancy waistcut, shiny boots, walks with a kinda swagga. Only bin there one week, when he buys the saloon, cash down – it’s the talk uv the whole town, and all the gals who're no betta than they aughta be start clusterin’ round. Marilyn's the prettiest of the whole bunch an 'a favourite with Jo Short, one uv the ranchers thereabouts, so the two men start an altercation – now, Jo was an ornery crittur, mean as a grizzlie, an’ he had a reputation among us – nobody who knew him tangled with Jo, so's we try an’ warn off the new fella, who’s liked well enuff an' always has a big toothy grin plastered over his face, but he don’t listen… and blow me, but he guns down ol’ Jo, slicker th’n spit offa griddle.

‘Now, I'm not sayin' it weren't a fair fight, Jo'd brought the bullet on hisself an’ we was pleased to be rid of him, but we start to spec’late how Danny had got his pile. He said he'd worked a profitable claim and at first we’d believed him, though he was sleek as a cat, not a hairy coon like the miners we knew. Anyhow Bill Biggins, the sheriff, when he sees the fast draw, takes a look through his wanted posters. Doesn’t find nothing. But afta another coupla cowboys are six feet under, we start to regret the loss of the old devil, Jo, now we’re stuck with the new one. Aint never seen a shark, but I heard they got a row of big front teeth and I reckon Bilson had much the same look.

‘Anyways, one day a coupla driftas mosey into town. Nothing ta look at, sorta dusty an' down at heel. An' they go inta the saloon fer a drink, an' accordin' to Marilyn – she reckoned they knew him cos she saw ‘em in the back room havin' words.

‘An’ we wondered what that were all about, but they stuck around town 'bout a week and nothing more happened – they was quiet fellas, minding their own business – so we lost interest.

‘Then one day these two driftas decide it’s time ta move on, an' Bilson, he goes plumb crazy. He’s out on the street, shootin' his mouth off, standin' up on his hind legs yellin' at one of 'em – handsome young fella with a mustache, but you could see by his clothes not a cent to his name, so we knew he couldn’t be no shootist. An’ hearin’ the ruckus, ol' Mort sticks his head out the funeral parlor and started sizin' him up fer a wooden overcoat.

‘This young cowpoke's a real peaceable fella, tryin' to make it over ta his hoss ta git outta town, but Bilson’s all riled up an' feelin' mean – says how the young un’s a sore loser, an’ plannin' to creep in at night ta shoot him in the back. An’ that were odd, cos those strangers had set tongues waggin' when they rode in, so we knew all what they’d bin doin’ an’ that kid weren’t no gambler an’ hadn't lost a dime.

‘Now, the sheriff in Matherville had this rule, if you start a fight, you'd betta lose or you'll have an appointment with the noose, so if the shootin' started, Bilson was a walkin' corpse either way. An' we were kinda sorry fer the young fella, but glad to be rid of the smilin' devil, an’ we scattered outta the line uv fire, to watch the show from a safe angle. An' Bilson works hisself up some more till he goes fer his gun, first. An’ dang it, next thing we know he's lyin' on the ground breathing his last, and the young fella – his name wuz Jones, Thaddeus Jones – he wuz standin' there with his gun in his hand – one moment it’s in his holsta, the next smoke’s cumin’ out the end of the barrel, and Danny plugged straight through the heart. It were that quick I never saw it. You ask anyone who's the fastest, an' none of em's heard of Thaddeus Jones; everyone says 'Kid' Curry could outdraw the devil hisself, but I reckon if those two ever face each other, why that would be a fine sight!’



I sit there smilin', an' finish my drink. The old man's tellin’ the story just as we intended, how any eyewitness would see it, how we wanted it to appear… but appearances can be deceptive. Bilson hadn’t run mad at all. My partner and I spent months huntin’ him down and trapped him in his lair, so like any cornered beast, he turned to defend himself. You see, Danny Bilson, had bin prospectin’ just like he said – with me and the Kid and an old man named Seth. Then he stole all our money, leaving us fer dead in the desert. Old Seth’s bones are bleaching there still, but bull-headed determination carried me and the Kid out, with just one thing in our minds, so, finally, we tracked Bilson down to Matherville.

At first, we're both fumin', impotent, until we see Bilson shoot down a fool loser, and the sheriff lets him walk away scot free. Then the Kid strides inta the lawman’s office wi’ me trailin’ in his wake.  An’ this is odd in itself, cos Kid is none too fond of men sportin' tin stars and usually it’d take wild horses to drag him anywhere near. But he marches in, straight as one uv his own bullets, and he asks how come Bilson aint in jail. And if there had been folks listenin' in, I guess they'd uv thought he was talkin' ta the sheriff, but he's really talkin' ta me. He's explainin' how, workin' together, we can bring Bilson down and escape a hangin' party, but typical Kid, he don't waste words on spellin it out, and in any case, he knows if he comes out plain, I'll argue, that I'll balk at deliberately setting him up against another fast draw.  


As we come outta the office, I ask, ‘Alright, what was that all about?’

‘I dunno. Could be I was thinkin’ uv pushin’ our smilin’ friend inta a fight.’

‘What! But yer not thinkin’ that any more, right?’ Of course, the Kid says that’s the last thing on his mind, an’ I guess in a way he’s speakin’ the truth – I’m the one with the words.

So back at our hotel room, he starts to clean his gun, and says, why don't I go down to the saloon fer a few hands of poker, make a few dollars an' have a little fun before we leave.

I run my hat round in my hands a couple of times and check, 'You sure? If yer OK here on your own, I'll go over to the saloon now.' He nods and gives a small, tight smile, 'Ya do that, Heyes.'

But of course, Jedediah Kid Curry and Danny Bilson, and I, we all know I hate Bilson's guts, and there's no way on earth I'd drink and go play poker in his house, without I had some particular reason. And, as the Kid also knows, I'm a liar, even to myself: if all I'm doing is going into a saloon to play cards, as I've done countless times, and have a nice friendly chat, where can be the harm in that?

After just a couple of hands, I get up to leave and Bilson strolls over.
‘You leavin’ town Joshua?’
‘That’s right, learnt a long time ago when you got a losin’ hand you just toss it in.’
‘How does yer friend Thaddeus feel about that?’
‘You’ll hafta ask him that.’
‘Yea, I just might do that.… Ya know, you I understand, you know how to lose, but I’m just not quite so sure about Thaddeus. How does he feel about losin’, huh?’
‘I said, you’ll hafta ask him that.’
‘Yea, I will.’
‘On second thought Danny, doan ask him. The smartest thing fer yu ta do is lay low fer a while. We’ll be ridin’ outta here in ten minutes.’ Nicely judged, I thought.

I go get Thaddeus – the Kid – and watch the two shootists face off. Then doubts creep in – I’ve bin telling myself Kid is the fastest gun in the West and would never be fool enough to set up the fight unless he could take Bilson. But then I start to reflect on how hard he's taken Seth's death – there was something of our own grandpa about the old man, and it occurs to me Kid, who's ruled by his emotions, might be getting the death of his family mixed up in his head with this latest killin'. Then I face the truth, Kid don't wanta die but he's kinda careless with his own life. Now I'm really scared, what have I done? But there’s no way to stop it now.

Of course, the Kid walks away – I aint a man who feels scruples about lying and if truth be told, I'm a little prone to exaggeration – a top poker player don't lose to a three-fingered chuck wagon driver with one eye in a hole like Apache Springs – but that the Kid is the fastest gun in the West, that's Gospel. If it weren’t I’d uv lost my partner long ago.

One thing I should tell you about the Kid, he’s the most honest outlaw, the most honest man, I know. He would never shoot anyone in the back, and if Bilson had held his nerve and called our bluff, he coulda sat tight in his saloon without harm comin’ to a hair on his head. But my silver tongue combined with Kid's – what shall I call it? – his aura, that tipped Danny over the edge. And of course, being a back-shooter himself inclined him to think the worse of others.

An' I reckon there were a touch of hubris too – I'd come across that word inna book and it means someone too cocky by half trippin’ over his own spurs, and that were Bilson all over.

And as we walk away from the body, not wantin’ to admit I set my best friend up against a killer while I stood by,  I say, ‘Kid, now I know why you talked to the sheriff, ya had a hunch Danny was goin’ to challenge you, didn’t ya?’

‘I guess that’s what it was Heyes a hunch. It sure wasn’t a hope. I think Danny coulda outshot me easy shootin’ atta target, maybe a plate, but I got lucky he was shootin’ at a target that could shoot back. I guess that made the difference.’

Then the Kid kicked on his horse – which was just as well or I woulda flattened him. But lookin’ back on it now, I guess he meant he weren’t like Danny, gunning down raw meat – he’d been willin’ to put his life on the line against a skilled shootist to get justice for old Seth.

Anyway, that was the last word said on the matter. I did try and broach the topic once, after the Kid woke  sweatin’, but the look he gave me … I won’t ever mention it again.



… the conversation behind me has moved on to the price of beeves, and I walk out to my horse. I'll take the road to Abilene to meet Kid before he reaches town. My partner’s one of a kind – a fast-draw that shuns the adulation that’s part and parcel of his profession, he sure as hell won't want to be fawned over cos of Matherville. What shall I say? …a grin splits my face – I'll tell him the law in Browntown is good ol’ honest Curt Clitterhouse.
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