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 Matches

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PostSubject: Matches   Sun May 01, 2016 10:02 am

We have a great prompt for you this month, brought to you by Riders.  Get those synapses snapping and nurture those neurons until you come up with a story based upon the prompt of:    

Firework Matches Night

Don't forget to finish your comments on April's stories before you move on to the new challenge.  Comments are the only thanks the writers get.


Now, time to write!
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PostSubject: Re: Matches   Sun May 01, 2016 2:38 pm

To kick off the new month I'll post an old one which is a story about a bad match...


Lover’s Leap

Gloria Mundy had suffered a lifetime of pretentious, educated Latin speakers snickering behind their hands in her native Boston, especially when she was sick; but that was soon to be behind her.  The lumbering coach which made her head nod in time with the rhythmic motion was taking her to a new life as a married woman.  This time next week she would be Gloria Llewellyn.  

It was the only positive she had.  Her future as an impecunious woman in the barely tamed west was terrifyingly precarious.  For all she knew, Louis could be a liar, a toothless old coot, or a ruffian – but if she was very lucky he could look like one of the two men sitting opposite.  Being a mail order bride was a sheer leap of faith, but it had to be better than a life scrubbing floors and emptying chamber pots.  Surely his exquisite, elaborate verse and copperplate handwriting were indicative of a creative, sensitive man?  

“And I said to him...,” the Philadelphian had been monopolising the conversation since he had climbed into the vehicle and had bored everyone rigid before the luggage had even been loaded.  According to him, the west had never been wilder, wickeder or more wanton, and his soliloquy was making Gloria increasingly unsettled.  The fair haired man gave a long, grunting snore and crossed his long legs at the ankle, briefly cutting off the anecdote with what may, or may not, have been a kick.  She was certain the pair were feigning sleep to avoid talking to the droning fellow, “and I could swear he’d never seen one that big in his life.”

There was a screeching of brakes and she pitched straight towards the man with the dark blond hair.  Her hands
instinctively shot out, grasping at air, until they clutched at a firm, muscular chest.  She turned puce with embarrassment at the smile tugging at the corners of his mouth whilst long fingers curled around her elbows, supporting her to back to her seat.  He fixed her with eyes twinkling like a calm sea on a sunny day, and his voice rang with restrained laughter.  “No need to fret.  This is one of the few advantages of ridin’ with your back to the driver; we get thrown back in our seats.”

“Why have we stopped?” demanded the easterner, pushing the glasses back up his long nose.

A gruff voice drifted in from the window.  “’Cos it’s a holdup!”

The Kid threw a glance at Heyes and groaned.

“Got somethin’ to say, Stranger?”

The Kid shook his head ruefully.  “Yeah.  Ain’t there any honest folks about any more?”

“Not many,” snickered the robber.  “Even white lies colour a man’s soul.”

Heyes arched his eyebrows in query.  “That’s a bit profound for an outlaw, isn’t it?”

“I do my best, Stranger.  Now, out of the coach and hands up.”  

“This has happened before?” asked a tremulous Gloria.

“More times than we can count,” grumbled her dark haired companion, rising from his seat.  “You’ll be fine.  Come on, let’s get this over with.”

oooOOOooo


“Hand over your money.  All of it.”

“All of it?”  The easterner’s blue eyes danced with mischief as he grinned at the masked man holding the gun.  “But most of it’s tied up in land.”  

The Kid’s stomach sank at the metallic click of the cocking gun, but the potential danger seemed to go unperceived by the dude.  Was this idiot deliberately provoking the man holding up the coach, or was he as stupid as he appeared?  Blue eyes fixed rigidly on the gun.

The man raised the weapon to point directly at the easterner’s head, his bandana rising and falling with increasingly exasperated breath.  “Are you dumb?  Empty your pockets.”

The man gave a little sniff of derision, reaching into his pocket.  “There’s no need for that gun, your accent is terrifying enough.”

“You gotta be the most annoyin’ critter who ever walked God’s good earth,” growled the masked man.

“You want to try taking a coach journey with him,” muttered Heyes. “Take him with you, he’s worth money.  Please, I’m begging you.”

The crinkles forming around the robber’s eyes, betrayed the grin spreading under the mask as an unspoken alliance seemed to form between the criminal and the ex-outlaws at the expense of the Philadelphian.

“I ain’t no kidnapper, but you got my sympathies, Friend.”  The man shook his head as the Kid proffered a handful of scrunched-up dollars.  “Keep it.  You gotta ride on to town with him.  You’ll need a stiff drink by then.  I ain’t no savage.  Toss those mailbags down.  That’s what I really came for.”

The Kid nodded, a conciliatory smile twitching at his mouth.  “Thanks.”

“I just want the mail,” murmured the robber.

Heyes and Curry shared conversation in a glance.  What was going on here?  The coach had stopped without a single shot being fired, the road hadn’t been blocked and only the young woman seemed to be genuinely worried about the prospect of being held up; now the thief didn’t seem to want anything but the mail .  The driver was clearly in on this, but what about the loquacious easterner?

“You looking for anything in particular?” queried Heyes, casually.

The robber flicked up a pair of grey eyes from the mailbag.  “A letter from a woman,” he uttered, mysteriously.

The driver turned casually in his seat and began to toss down more mail bags.

“A woman?” the Kid demanded.

“Yeah.  There’s weddin’ we gotta stop.”

Gloria blanched and her knees began to tremble.  “Why?”

“None of your business.”

Heyes surveyed the mounting anxiety in the young woman beside him.  He frowned before pressing on with his questioning.  

“How do you know she’s written?”

The robber gave a snort.  “It ain’t none of your business.”

The Kid’s brows knotted.  “What’s it to you if someone wants to get married?”

The robber stood, hoisting the bags over his shoulder before he replied.  “It still ain’t none of your business.”  

“Do you know what is my business?”  A ghost of a smile played over the Kid’s lips as he strode towards the bandit.  

“Somethin’s real wrong here.  I’ve seen enough robberies to know that”

The robber never knew what hit him.  One kick was enough to knock the weapon from his hand, before a fist crashed into the bandana wrapped jaw.  Heyes leaped at the same time, dragging the driver from his seat, quickly dispatching him with a blow.  Ice blue eyes fixed on the easterner while The Kid picked up the outlaw’s gun.  “Now, Mister, you’re just too causal.  You’re in on this too, ain’t you?”  A quick check showed that the robber’s gun was empty, before the partners retrieved their discarded weapons.  

The man raised his hands in contrition.  “Don’t be silly.  Put that gun down,” he gulped heavily and fingered his collar nervously.  

The Kid glowered at him before gesturing towards the men groaning on the ground.  “Right you two.  On your feet, right now and get that mask off.”

The robber complied, dragging away his mask to reveal an angular, sallow face set with deep-set eyes.  

“How far are we from Palisades,” demanded Heyes.

The driver climbed unsteadily from his knees.  “About half a mile.”

“Good,” barked Heyes.  “It won’t take long before you lot are in front of the sheriff.  Will it?”

The Philadelphian shook his head.  “There isn’t a sheriff in Palisades.  Didn’t you enjoy the show?”

“Show?” snapped Heyes.  “What do you mean?  And what kind of town has no sheriff?  Who’s in charge of the law?”

“The mayor,” persisted the easterner.  “Mr. Smith paid for Mr. and Mrs. Jones from Boston to experience the Wild West.”  

The tall man shook his head in confusion.  “She’s from Boston, she said so, and you two fell asleep almost right away after introducing yourselves.  You don’t dress like easterners, but I thought you’d gone shopping to make yourselves look less... civilized.”

“What the Sam Hill are you talkin’ about?” barked the Kid, indignantly.  “And what do you mean, ‘less civilized?’”

“Palisades, ‘the shoot ‘em up; no mercy town.’  I’m your guide.  Why else did you think I was telling you all those stories about the old west?”

“Because you’re a real borin’ know it all?” ventured the Kid.  

Heyes brow furrowed.  “Are you telling us that this isn’t a real hold up?”

“Of course I am.  My name is George Willard and I’m your guide.  I wrote to you...,” George paused, indicating the unmasked robber.  “This is Alvin Kittlebury.  He’s a lay preacher.  That’s why he didn’t take any money.”  He dropped his head and muttered.  “This is terrible.  If you’re not the right Smith and Joneses, where are they?  Are they on a coach heading off to who knows where?  Oh, this is just awful.  Absolutely nothing will happen to them.”    

Heyes shook his head in confusion.  “Well, we’ll see when we get to Palisades.  Thaddeus, tie them up,” he turned to Gloria.  “Just what is your place in this, ma’am?”

“I’m going to Palisades to get married,” she shot a nervous look at the assembled ‘players,’ lined up against the coach.  

Heyes pinned the easterner with a glare.  “What was all that talk about a wedding?”

George’s eyes widened.  “Acting.  Pure fiction.  We need some kind of story when we refuse to take passengers’ money.  We didn’t know you were getting married, ma’am.  We don’t frighten folks; that’s why we joke with the robbers.”

“Who are you marryin’?” asked Kittlebury.  “I don’t know of any weddin’s planned and it’s a real small town.”

“Louis Llewellyn.”

“Louis Llewellyn?”  The three local men started to laugh.  “Are you sure that’s his name?” sniggered George.

“Yes.  I have his letters here in my reticule.”

“I take it you ain’t seen his picture, then?” chortled Kittlebury.

“Why?” Gloria felt chills spreading from a heart which seemed to judder to a halt.

“Well, he’s...,”

Gloria cut off the preacher.  “What?  A drunk, a thief.  Is he violent?”

The driver shook his head.  “I’ve known Louis all his life and I can truly say that he’s none of them things.”

“What then?  What’s so funny?” she demanded.  “Is he dreadfully ugly?”

“No.  He’s far from ugly, in fact most of the women just adore him,” grinned the preacher.

“Is he a womanizer?” Gloria choked back a sob.  “Oh, I couldn’t take that.”

“He’s clearly more of a womanizer than we had him down for, but it ain’t no never mind,” snickered the driver.  “You’ll find out soon enough.”

“Turn around,” barked the Kid, approaching with the rope he found under the driver’s seat.  “Hands behind your back.  There’s a lot for us all to find out when we get to Palisade.”  

oooOOOooo

“There really ain’t a sheriff in Palisades?” the Kid demanded.

The squat little man, as broad as he was tall, shook his head.  “We don’t need one, this is a law abiding town.”

“No crime?” asked Heyes.

“None,” declared the Mayor.

“Except for your fake crimes?”

The mayor shrugged.  “This was a mining town, but the silver’s all but dried up.  We had to do something to keep the place going, so Mr. Willard had an idea.  He’d come from Philadelphia to run the newspaper.  There was a train full of easterners coming through here, on their way to experience ‘the real west,’ so we put on a train robbery, with fake robbers, and the local posse hunted them off, leavin’ all the passengers safe.  They loved it and spent a fortune at the hotel giving ‘statements.’  Well, after George here ran a piece out east we can’t keep them away.  The hotel’s so full we had to build another, the mercantiles can’t get stock fast enough and folks have finally got a reason to stay.”  He grinned cheekily, “Palisades was very nearly a ghost town, but we’re full of tourists.  It’s our major industry now.”

“But we were held up, and this lady was terrified,” barked Heyes.  

“Please accept our apologies.  Your stay in Palisades will be on us, meals included, of course.”

“I don’t suppose we got much choice,” growled the Kid. “No sheriff?  How come the bank’s never been robbed?”

The mayor shrugged.  “Too many men with guns, I guess, and the folks going around wearing stars shooting at actors pretending to commit crime.  They probably think they’ll be dropped where they stand.  We have three major incidents a day – all planned and rehearsed, of course.”  

“Who pays for folks to do that?” queried Heyes.

“The business tax pays their wages.  After all, they owe their trade to the easterners attracted to town.  One hand washes the other.”

Heyes shook his head in bemusement.  “Madness, utter madness.”

They turned as the door opened and a flustered woman in her thirties stomped up to Gloria.  “Is it true?  Are you here to marry my Louis?”

Gloria blanched.  “That’s why I came.  Who are you?”

“Mrs. Llewellyn, and I can tell you that this marriage is off  It’s not legal.”

Gloria felt a chasm of emptiness eat at her.  “I’m sorry.  I had no idea.  He didn’t tell me about himself...”

“Of course he didn’t, or you wouldn’t be here.”

Gloria’s voice rasped with emotion.  “No.  He sent wonderful poems, he courted me.”

The woman’s eyes narrowed before she swiveled on her heel.  “I’ll kill him!”  

Gloria rubbed her eyes and wandered aimlessly out into the street, sitting on a bench drenched in bright sunshine as caustic as her stinging tears.  How stupid had she been to give up her position and spend her life savings to travel thousands of miles for a lie?  She opened her little bag and ran grubby coins through her fingers.  She had sixty five cents.  A rasping sob suffocated the strangulated little cry fighting its way through her mounting anxiety.  Yes, she had a room for tonight and food, but what about tomorrow?  Her eyes drifted over to the whooping crowd hanging around the saloon, attracted by the jangling, tinny piano music drifting in the air.  A woman could just be seen above the batwing doors her pale arm holding aloft a bottle, whilst scarlet satin drifted inexorably  south from her ample bosom.  Was that what she would become?  

“Miss?”  She looked up to see the fair man from the coach smiling at her through her filter of tears.  “Are you alright?”  
“For now,” she sniffed.

A frown flickered across his brow before he sat down beside her.  “So... the wedding’s off?”

She nodded, catching a sniffle in an over-washed, limp handkerchief.  He sat quietly, waiting and watching, until she was ready to talk.  “Have you any family?”

“No.”

“Money?”

Her gasping, heaving shoulders told him all he needed to know.  “Where do you need to get to, darlin’?  Where will you be safe?”

“Where?” she gave a hopeless, mirthless laugh.  “Yesterday?  A month ago?  Anywhere where I’ve never heard of, ‘Louis Llewellyn.’”

Mrs. Llewellyn stomped up to them, dragging a red-eyed lad behind her.  “This is my son.” she declared angrily.  “I’ve brought him for an apology.”

Gloria groaned.  “Look, I’m sorry.  I didn’t know he was already married and I certainly didn’t know he had a son.  Do you really think I’d have travelled all the way from Boston for this?”

“Married?” she snorted, pointing at the boy. “THIS is Louis Llewellyn...  He’s thirteen and up to his ears in trouble.  I brought him to apologize to you.”

Gloria’s eyes widened.  “What?  But his letters, the poetry...?”

“I copied them from school books,” the lad simpered, his ear getting redder and redder by the moment, pinched between his mother’s unrelenting fingers.  “In my best writing.”  

“He’s too clever by half; and willful.  This is all because he’s been told that as long as he lives under our roof, he abides by our rules.  He thought if he had a wife, she’d make a home and he could do what he wanted.”

The Kid hooked her with a warning glare.  “Ma’am, this lady is stranded here because of your boy.”  

Shame flickered across her face.  “You must stay with us until you get sorted.  I just feel so responsible,” she tweaked the boy’s ear.  “I should never have taken my eye off him for a moment.”

“It’s all too embarrassing.  I can’t stay here.”

The church bells started to peal.  “Ten to twelve,” mused Mrs. Llewellyn.  “The Indian attack starts at noon.  We’d best get off the street unless we’re prepared to act, and frankly, I’m not in the mood.”

“Indian attack?” Gloria’s eyes widened in horror.

“Sure.  The local Shoshone ride through at noon every day and fire off a few blanks, before our boys chase them off.  It won’t be as good as usual though, Margaret Thompson just got married, so they’ve got nobody to kidnap anymore.”

“Huh?”  The Kid ran his fingers through his hair as his brow furrowed.  “Kidnapped?”

“Not for long. Hank Simpkins would catch up and rescue her.  She was fearless,” she tweaked her son’s ear.  “They’re desperate to replace her.  She was in three raids a day and was just wonderful.”

The Kid arched an eyebrow.  “How well do they pay?”

“Ten dollars a month.  It was the centre piece of the whole attack.”

“Really?  That’s better than most men earn.”  A grin spread over the Kid’s face.  “You gotta be pretty fearless to come all this way on your own.  How about it Miss Mundy?  You fancy leapin’ off a horse or two while you get some money behind you?”

“They’d never hire me.”

“My friend can be pretty persuasive when he puts his mind to it.”

Her eyes glittered with doubt.  “I’ve never done anything like it.”

“Joshua and I know a bit about fancy ridin’.  We can stay a few days.  I’ll teach you.”

Temptation swirled in her eyes.  “Do you think I dare?

“Darlin’, you came all this way for a new life.  Surely you’re brave enough to leap at the chance when it’s put right in front of you?”  



Historical Notes

The town of Palisade, Nevada actually did start faking robberies, Indian attacks and shootouts from the 1870s and build a budding tourist industry out of visitors from the East coming to see the 'Wild West.'  They made sure that they were mentioned in newspapers and Dime novels to court publicity for their 'shows.'  It is now a ghost town.  Alvin Kittlebury was the religious man who really did play the bad guy and the town was so law abiding that they had no need for a sheriff.

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PostSubject: Re: Matches   Wed May 18, 2016 11:08 am

This comes in at just under 4,000 words, if you don't count the author's notes at the end.  There is a slightly more fleshed out version I'll post above.

Sliding


The clock chimed the magic moment.


“All right, children.  Gather your things and exit in an orderly fashion.”


“Yes, Miss Meechum,” the students chorused.  Chaos erupted as the children exploded from their chairs, flinging their slates, rulers, and sundry into their book bags.


There were no stragglers on this dreary Monday.  Susquehanna Meechum shut the door and surveyed the room.  Studying the disarray of her rows of desks, she moved among them straightening them as she walked to the front of the room.  Satisfied, Susquehanna pinned her hair back into its neat bun and unlocked the door in the back that lead to the two rooms allotted for the teacher’s quarters.


Entering her quarters, she began her evening routine.  Walking slowly to the peg where her apron hung, she tied it about her dress, gathered the bucket, and exited to feed her chickens and see them safely into their coop for the night.  Upon her return, she stoked her stove and set about making a simple supper.    


Supper done, she looked out the window towards the town.  Whatever was happening in the town was not for her.  There would be a barn dance Saturday.  She was expected to help with the refreshments, but that was all.  To dance or flirt with the men would not be permitted.  She had been warned of the deportment expected of the teacher.  There had been the time she had been caught smiling and laughing with one of the ranch hands.  The school board had felt it necessary to warn her that such loose behavior would not be tolerated.  But that was years ago.  She smiled grimly to herself.  No one had even tempted her to engage in such unbecoming behavior in years.  At twenty-five she was an old maid and likely to remain so.  If only…


She wandered the room restlessly before resuming her routine.  Susquehanna pulled out her accounts.  She reviewed the school accounts.  After careful scrutiny, satisfied that they would balance, she turned to her own accounts, which showed a miserable savings of nineteen dollars and thirty-seven cents.  Susquehanna returned the books to their shelf and reviewed her lessons for the next day.  That task completed, she stood unmoving, looking around her sparsely furnished space. 


With a sigh, Susquehanna hesitated, considering her limited options.  Finally, she drew the curtain over the lone window, slipped off her dress and corset, and wrapped herself in her faded dressing gown.  She walked to her hiding place and withdrew a slim, leather bound book – her journal.  She held it remembering that halcyon summer, before the restrictions and, yes, the boredom of her life had caged her. 


~~~oOo~~~


“Hey, is this the Markum place?”


The young girl dropped the hoe she was wielding and swung around to face the road.  “Why?” she asked the two boys standing there.  They were ragged and barefoot, holding a basket between them.


“Cuz that’s where we’re looking for,” the younger, blond boy answered impatiently.  


“Sorry,” his older companion said, “Jed here sometimes forgets his manners.  Anyway we sure hope this is the Markum place ‘cuz this basket is getting real heavy.”


She smiled, “I’m Suzie Markum.  Not sure why anyone would want to come here though.”


“Old Widow Warner sent us here.”


Now it was her turn to ask, “Why? Why would she send you?”


The two set the basket on the road.  “We work for her.  I’m Han and he’s Jed.  Anyway, she sent us with this basket of plums and stuff and told us to bring back a couple of laying hens.”


Jed spoke, “How come you’re working this garden all by yourself?”


Suzie sighed.  “Because Mama and the baby died and Papa and the boys are out hunting for a few days, so I have to tend the garden, and the chickens, and the milk cow, and the house, and, and …” She stopped and gulped before glaring at them defiantly.


Jed nodded.  “At least you still have your Pa.”


“He’s a mean old cuss and the boys are no better,” she stopped, looking frightened.  “Never tell anyone I said that or I’ll get a beating for sure,” she begged.


Han grinned.  “We never tell adults anything if we can help it.  Find we’re better off if they don’t know any more about what we do than absolutely necessary.”  He reached into the basket.  “Here have a plum.  They’re real good.”


“Oh, I shouldn’t; I need to can them for the winter.  My Pa would be real mad.”


“How’s he gonna know if any are gone if you don’t tell him?”  Han asked.


She looked struck by this thought then grabbed the plum and devoured it.  “You two can come up to the house and get some water if you want.  Then we can get you those hens.”


For ten days the three ran wild while the weeds grew in the garden and the house fell dusty.  They roamed the countryside, building dams in the streams, skipping stones in the shallows, and forgetting their cares.    


The friends lay head to head watching the grasshoppers and sucking on grass they had plucked.  “How come you’re working for Mrs. Warner?” Suzie asked.


“We’re on our way south.  Gonna be cowboys and own a ranch someday,” Jed boasted.


“Don’t your folks worry about you?”


“Don’t have any.”


Silence descended.


“This is better,” Han declared.  “We can go where we want and do what we want.  We’re gonna be rich and famous someday, just you watch.”


She sat up.  “Oh, I’m sure you will.”  Then she sighed and looked into the distance.  “I wish I could travel.  Ma used to read me stories about all these different places and we’d make up tales about what we’d do if went there.”  She stood up, brushing the dust off her dress, and squinted at the sun.  “Time to get home; the cow needs milking.”


“You always have chores.  I hate chores,” Jed said.  “Han and me’ll walk you home, and then maybe we’ll go somewhere.”


“Where?”


“Don’t know, just different than here.”


“Well, someday I’m going to go to Paris.  That’s all the way across the ocean in France.  I may never come back.”


“Maybe we’ll go, too,” Jed countered.


Han rolled his eyes.  “Not yet, we don’t have enough money yet.  I got a plan for the other boys in town.  When I win that, maybe then we’ll get going.”


Suzie’s eyes grew wide.  “You’re gambling?” she whispered, impressed.


Han threw out his chest.  “Sure, got to get ahead somehow.”


Jed supported his friend.  “Yeah, Han has lots of good ideas.  Those boys better watch themselves at that barn raisin’ next Saturday.”  


The three strolled companionably down the road towards Suzie’s home.


As they drew in sight, Suzie let out a gasp.  “Oh, no. Pa and the boys are home!”  She began to run.


Jed and Han slowly followed.  


At the fence surrounding her house a man stood scowling.   “Git yourself in here, girl!  Ain’t I taught you better?”  He grabbed Suzie by her braid and hauled her into the yard.  “You two.  I see you sniffing around my girl again; I’ll give you a load of buckshot in your britches.  You ain’t pulling her into the gutter with you.”  He strode toward them and lifted the shotgun that had been resting by his side. “Git!”


The boys needed no further warning; they ran without a backward glance.


~~~oOo~~~


The bruise on Suzie’s face had faded to a pattern of green and yellow by the barn raising, and her back no longer ached from the beating her father had given her.  She stayed with the women, setting out the supper to be served to the men when the barn was completed.  She felt her father watching her, and she worried.  She’d seen him talking to Mrs. Warner earlier in the day.


Jed and Han had stayed away, although she was conscious that they were sneaking glances towards her.  Once when she looked up Jed smiled at her.  Another time Han winked and walked by whistling a tune she had taught them.


After the supper Suzie was startled as she carried a load of dishes when a voice spoke out of the shadows.  “Psst, Suzie, it’s Han and Jed.”


She stopped and looked around.  No one was paying any attention.  “I can’t be seen with you.  My Pa will kill you 
if he catches you talking to me.”


“We came to say good-bye,” Han explained.  “Jed and me are leaving.”


Aghast, she turned towards them, forgetting to be wary of being seen, her eyes brimming with tears.  “You’re leaving me?”


Jed shuffled his feet.  “Yeah, old lady Warner got mad at us, and, and…  Anyway we’re goin’ to Abilene.”


“Oh, I wish I could go.”


Han and Jed looked at each other.  Han spoke slowly, “Why don’t you?  You could dress as a boy.”


“But, what if someone found out I was a girl?”


“Well,” Han hesitated before taking a deep breath.  “If that happened, why I guess I’d just have to marry you.”


“Marry me!  We’re not old enough.”


“Well, I ain’t aiming to do it, only if we get caught.”


Suzie took a step towards them then stopped.  She hesitated.  “I wish, I wish…”


At that moment her father called her name.  “I’m coming, Pa.”  She turned to the boys.  “I just can’t.  Write me, won’t you?”


~~~oOo~~~


Susquehanna had never heard from them again, although lately she had begun to hear about them.  Everyone in Wyoming territory had heard of the Devil’s Hole Gang.  Returning from her daydreams, she put away the journal and turned toward her bedroom.


A knock sounded on the door.  She hesitated before drawing her dressing gown tightly about her and hurrying to the door.  “Who is it?  What do you want?”


“Ma’am, we’re real sorry to trouble you, but we have an urgent message.”


“For me?”


“Yes, ma’am.  I need you to open the door.”


Taking a deep breath and clutching the edge of her dressing gown with one hand, she reached out with the other to open the door.


As she unlocked it, it burst inward, revealing two men with guns pointed at her.


She gasped.


“No need to be afraid, ma’am.  We won’t hurt you if you just do as you’re told.  My partner here needs a place to rest up, and we need to get this bullet out.”  The speaker smiled at her, his dimples showing but his dark eyes hard.  


His companion entered behind him, hobbling, with one pant leg soaked in blood. “Ma’am, if you could just seat yourself over there and be quiet, I’d much appreciate it.  We won’t be hurtin’ you unless you try to yell or run or somethin’.  Then we’d have to tie you up and gag you.”  


“I’m sure that won’t be necessary, Kid,” Heyes commented.  “This lady looks real smart.”  He grinned, “After all, she’s a teacher, isn’t she?”


Susquehanna studied each of the men before her but saw no trace of recognition in their looks, just grim determination hiding behind their smiles.  “I won’t try anything.”  She sat where she had been instructed.  “How did you get hurt?”


Curry looked sourly at his partner.  “Let’s just say we were somewhere we shouldn’t have been.”


“It was a good plan,” Heyes argued.  


“I got shot.”


“Ma’am, I need,” Heyes paused.  “I can’t keep calling you ma’am.  I’m Hannibal Heyes and he’s Kid Curry, and we’re sorry to be bothering you this way.  Now what is your name?”


“Hanna, Hanna Meechum.”


The Kid lowered himself into a chair with a grimace.  “Pleased to meet you, Hanna.”


“That your bedroom in there?” Heyes asked. 


 She nodded.  


“Kid, you gotta lie down, and I gotta get that bullet out of you.”  He looked at Susquehanna.  “Hanna, you don’t faint at the sight of blood, do you?”


“I’m a teacher.  It takes a lot more than a little blood to make me faint.”


“I bet.  I remember some of the things we put our teachers through.”


The next hour left everyone’s nerves frayed as Heyes dug the bullet out and bandaged Curry’s leg.  When it was over, the Kid leaned back against the headboard, pale and breathing shallowly.  “You ain’t never gonna be a doctor, Heyes.”


Heyes glared at the Kid.  “This is all Wheat’s fault.  Hanford,” he exclaimed bitterly.


“I told you, you were makin’ a mistake.”


“When?”


“When you listened to one of Wheat’s ideas.”


Heyes chuckled.  “Yeah.  I have to get going.  I’ll be back when the coast is clear.”


Susquehanna had remained silent throughout the extraction of the bullet, mopping up the blood and helping to 
bandage the leg but not offering any comment.  Now she turned to Heyes.  “What do you mean you’ll be back?  He can’t stay here.”


Curry’s hand clasped his gun, lifting it off the bed and pointing it at her.  “I can’t ride, and there’s folks lookin’ for us.  I’m not goin’ anywhere so you’re just goin’ to have to be a good girl and keep quiet.  Don’t worry, no one will know, unless you tell them, and that would be a bad idea.”


Heyes stared at her until she blanched.  “I’ll be back when the coast is clear.  You just go about your normal business and don’t tell anyone he’s here.  If anything happens to the Kid – anyone finds out he’s here – I will make sure you regret it.  Are we clear?”


Eyes wide, she nodded.


“Good.”  Heyes clapped his hat on his head.  “Try not to cause too much trouble, Kid, until I get back.”  He turned and left, pausing on the other side of the door until he heard Susquehanna lock it again.


Susquehanna stood hesitantly in the doorway of her bedroom, looking at the Kid.  Her eyes wandered around the room.  As she made a move, the Kid’s eyes opened and his gun again materialized in his hand.  “Heyes warned you not to try anythin’.”


“I’m just trying to figure out where I’m going to sleep.  You’ve taken my only bed.”


He smiled at her.  “You’re goin’ to sleep right here next to me.”  As she started to protest, he stopped her.  “I don’t force myself on women, never have, never will.  Now get over here, you can sleep in what you have on or you can change, but you aren’t leavin’ my sight.”


They stared at each other until she dropped her eyes.  After she had reluctantly climbed onto the bed, he spoke again.  “Turn this way and give me your hands.”


“What?”


“I’m tyin’ them for the night then I’ll tether you to my wrist.”


“But why?”


“Because I need to sleep.  I can’t be sittin’ up watchin’ you all night, and I need to be sure you don’t try anythin’ while I sleep.  Now, give me your hands!”


~~~oOo~~~


In the morning, he untied her and turned his head while she dressed.


“What am I supposed to do about school today?  They’ll check on me if I don’t teach.”


He looked steadily at her, considering.  “The children don’t come in here, do they?”


“Never.”


“Then, you give your word that you won’t give me away and you can go ahead and teach like normal.  Just remember what Heyes said about regrettin’ it if anyone finds out I’m here.”


“I remember.  I won’t give you away.  You have my word.”


The day passed slowly.  Susquehanna was all too aware that Jed, no Kid Curry, sat in her rooms, prepared to hurt her and who knew who else if she slipped up and let anyone know he was there.  She also realized that she’d be ruined if the town found out he’d spent the night there, even if she was his prisoner.  


Curry’s leg hurt, but he forced himself to walk, knowing that he had to be able to get away if necessary.  


Finally, the long day ended; the children left; Susquehanna straightened the classroom and slowly entered her residence.  She stopped in the doorway as the Kid turned his gun on her, lowering it only when he saw she was alone.


She had had enough.  “Put that silly thing down!  I told you I wouldn’t give you away, and I won’t.  Now I have to go see to my chickens, unless you plan to shoot them.”


Curry’s eyes narrowed then he laughed and holstered his gun.  “Might be tempted to wring one’s neck, I’m starvin’.  Go see to your hens, Hanna.  Maybe we both need to relax some.  This is gonna be a tough few days for both of us.”


She responded with a slight smile.  “And I need to call you something.”


“Most folks call me Kid.”


“Don’t you have a name?”


“I do, but I don’t use it anymore.  Kid’ll do. Go feed your chicks then make us some dinner, why don’t you?”


Supper over and the few dishes washed, the two sat looking at each other.


“So what would you normally be doin’?”


“My accounts or preparing lessons or reading.”


“Well I’m not stoppin’ you.”


Susquehanna glared at him then walked over to her shelf, picked up a book, and began reading, her back turned towards the Kid.


He watched her, a wry smile on his face.  “Why don’t you read that out loud, Hanna?  Who knows I might learn somethin’.  At least it would pass the time.”


She glared at him.  “It doesn’t seem to me as if you are interested in learning anything.”


He laughed.  “Heyes’d probably agree with you.  Read it out loud anyway.”  As she glared at him, he smiled and added, “Please.”


“Fine.”  She turned around and began again, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …”


She read until her voice became hoarse.  “I have to stop.”


Curry looked at her.  “That was real good.”


“It was my mother’s favorite book.  We used to talk about going to Paris someday.”  Susquehanna stopped and stood abruptly.  “I need some sleep before I teach tomorrow.”


Curry looked at her curiously and nodded.  This time, once they had lain down, Curry didn’t bother to tie her wrists.


They settled into a routine that varied little from that first day.  During the day, Susquehanna taught her classes and Curry wandered the residence strengthening his leg with each day and trying to contain his boredom.  In the evenings Susquehanna read while Curry either sat and listened or did small repairs about her place.  They talked little, neither wishing to discuss their lives or their pasts.  Sometimes Susquehanna would look up and catch Curry studying her with a question in his eyes, but he did not ask.


Friday evening Susquehanna read, “… it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known,” and closed the book.  She sat for a moment looking at her lap then rose and set the precious book back on its shelf.  When she turned, Curry glanced at her then looked away and stood up, walking with little difficulty.  


“Heyes should be back soon.”


“Good.”


“You’ve changed, Suzie.”


Startled, she stared at him.  “When did you realize who I was?”


“Figured it out today.  Your name wasn’t Meechum.  You married?”


“No.  When they hired me they misspelled my name.  I just never bothered to correct them.  Somehow it didn’t seem important.  I was making a new start, getting out of Kansas, and I figured a new name went with the change.  That’s why I use Hanna now instead of Suzie.”  She looked him over and sighed.  “Guess we’ve both changed and both have new names.”


“Yeah.”


“Do you like it?  Outlawing, I mean.  You two always said you were going to be rich and famous someday, and I guess you’ve succeeded.”


“I guess.  The famous part at least.  Haven’t managed the rich part yet.  Money just seems to slip through our hands.  How about you?  Ever make it to Paris?”


She sighed again.  “Wyoming’s as far as I’ve managed.  With what I make I’ll never get there, and I’ll probably starve when I’m too old to teach.”


“You must have some beaus.”


“That’s frowned on.  They’re probably afraid I’ll get married and they’ll have to find another teacher.”  She smiled at him.  “You, you have adventures …”


He snorted and pointed at his leg in its bloodstained pants.  “I could do with less adventure.”


“You have no idea how I long to be free, to have an adventure.”


“I guess you’re havin’ one now.  Not many school teachers’ve been held captive in their own home for a week.”
She laughed before sobering.  “Tomorrow’s Saturday.”


“So?”


“So I need to go to the barn dance – to help with the refreshments,” she explained bitterly.


“A dance sounds like fun.  What’s wrong with you doin’ that?  I don’t figure you’ll tell anyone I’m here.”


“Dancing would be fun, but I’m not allowed.  It’s not ‘seemly’ for the teacher to dance.”


“That’s dumb.  You should go teach somewhere else where they ain’t so strict.”


“It’s not that easy to find another job, and if they knew I was looking, they’d fire me.”  She looked at him, her eyes wide.  “Take me with you when you leave.  I hate teaching.  I want adventure.  I want to do something.  Anything other than this.”


Eyebrows raised the Kid spoke slowly.  “I can’t do that, Suzie.  It wouldn’t be right.  Our life isn’t for a woman like you.  You wouldn’t want to be the women we know.”


“Maybe, maybe I could cook for the gang.”


“No!”  Seeing her stricken look, he temporized.  “Women ain’t allowed in the Hole.  It’d cause too much trouble among the men.  We’ll talk to Heyes when he gets here.  He can figure out something for you.”


Seeing his set expression she said no more about it then or the following day until she readied to leave for the dance.  “Will Heyes get here soon?”


“I suppose.”


“And you promise, when he gets here you’ll talk to him about me coming along?  Promise me.”


He looked away, hesitated, and answered slowly.  “I promise I’ll talk to him about you.”


~~~oOo~~~
Susquehanna made her way home quickly from the dance but paused on her doorstep.  Something felt wrong.  She looked around and saw darkness.  No light glowed from the lamp within.  She shook her head, of course it wouldn’t, that might alert someone that she wasn’t alone here anymore.


She entered quietly and listened but heard nothing.  In trepidation she hurried to light the lamp.  “Kid?” she called softly.  No answer.


Looking around, she spotted a lump on her table.  As she moved closer, she saw it was a note resting on a small leather pouch.


Hands trembling, she opened the note.  


Suzie, 


What a surprise seeing you after all these years.  Thank you for looking after Jed.  We hope this will repay your kindness.  


Your friends, 


Han and Jed


She crumpled the note before dropping it back on the table.  Picking up the pouch she threw it against the wall, where it broke open spewing silver and gold coins.  Ignoring them she sank down, rested her head on her arms, and sobbed.


Eventually she stopped, wiped her eyes, and stood. Walking rapidly to her hiding place she extracted the journal and walked to her stove.  There, she opened the journal and, grabbing her lamp, poured oil over the exposed pages.  Finally, she snatched up the crumpled note and, setting a match to it, thrust it onto the journal.  She watched as flames shot up.  When the fire had consumed the journal, she swept up the ashes and threw them out her door.


Done, she shut the door and looked around.  Spotting the spilled coins, she gathered them and placed the refilled pouch in her hiding spot.  She blew out the lamp and walked in the darkness to her bedroom.




Author’s notes:  Charles Dicken’s “A Tale of Two Cities,” was first published in 1859.


Abilene, Kansas was founded in 1857 as a stagecoach stop called Mud Creek.  It was renamed Abilene in 1860.  In 1867 the Kansas Pacific Railway came through Abilene and it grew to become the final stop on the Chisolm Trail, becoming one of the wildest towns in the west.  Wild Bill Hickok became Abilene’s marshal in April 1871.  He didn’t last long.  Involved in a shoot-out in which he accidentally shot his friend and deputy, Mike Williams, Hickok lost his job in December 1871.
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Silverkelpie

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PostSubject: Matches   Thu May 26, 2016 12:06 pm

Clear blue eyes narrowed as Kid Curry stared at the outlaw approaching the porch of the leader’s cabin.  “Heyes, is it just me or does he look kinda weird?”

The gang leader strode through the door and stopped in his tracks.  “What the…!?”

A smile twitched at the fair man’s lips.  “Yeah, I didn’t think it was just me.”

Heyes’ nemesis stomped up to them, seemingly blissfully unaware of his gawping colleagues.  “Right, all the livestock’s been fed, watered, and cleaned out.  Kyle cleaned the latrines, just like you told us to do.  We’re headin’ out in about half an hour.  We should be in town by nightfall and I’m sure lookin’ forward to it.  We’ve earned this.  I sure hope Bella’s available, I got a bit of a thing for her.”

“Is that thing you’ve got black?” chuckled Heyes.

The barrel chest puffed indignantly.  “Huh?”

“What’s with the hair and the eyebrows?” a laughing Kid demanded.  “They’re as black as the devil’s waistcoat; and you never had hair that color in your life.”

“Not to mention the moustache.  It looks like you’re balancing an eel on your top lip,” sniggered Heyes.

The eel twitched nervously.  “Nothin’… leave me alone.”

“Aw, come on.  You ain’t gone prematurely black.  You look ridiculous.”

Wheat thrust out his bottom lip and idly shuffled his feet.  “It’s just a little thing I got in the barber’s the last time I was in town.”

“What?  Coal?”  The Kid glanced at his smirking cousin.  “Ink maybe?”

Wheat’s blue eyes blazed from a reddening face.  “Bella made a comment about how grey I was gettin’, so I asked the barber for somethin’ to help out.  He gave me this stuff.”  He produced a box from his pocket.  “It’s called kohl.  He said men use it all over Europe to keep them lookin’ young for the ladies.  Most all the men in Italy use it he says, and they have at least thirteen little ‘uns each.  He uses it and he got eleven sons.  T’ain’t nuthin’ to be ashamed of.  It’s manly.”

“Are you sure about that?”  The grin widened into dimpled delight.  “You aren’t seeing it from our side.”

“Ain’t most of the men in Italy real dark,” sniggered the Kid.  “You ain’t got the colorin’ for it.  You look like you’re goin’ to foreclose on an orphanage, like the villain from some cheap melodrama.  It’s ridiculous.”

“The barber said it suited me,” Wheat protested.

Heyes folded his arms.  “Did he say that as you handed over money?”

“Ya gotta pay the barber, Heyes.  Ain’t nobody ever got a shave and a haircut at gunpoint.”

“You’re the one who got robbed, Wheat.  You can’t put black coloring on brown hair without looking like some desperate old man,” the smile softened.  “And you don’t need it.  You don’t look old.  You look mature.”

“Mature?”

Heyes leaned on the handrail.  “Sure, like a man, not a boy.  Good things mature, like fine wine.”       

The gunman dropped his head to conceal his burgeoning laughter.  “Yeah, and cheese,” he muttered.

“What’s he sayin’?” demanded Wheat.

“Ignore him,” Heyes glared at his next in command.  “Have any of the men seen this?”

“No, I just put it on in the latrines.”

“Take it off.  They’ll only laugh at you.  Seriously, Wheat.  It’s not a good look.”

Wheat stared into the warm brown eyes expecting a challenge but seeing only the worst possible response - pity.  He spluttered into the black moustache; pity was even more annoying than superiority. Heyes was right.  The Kid’s reaction was nothing on the hooting and roasting he’d get from the gang.  He nodded curtly, realization settling like mud filtering to the bottom of a puddle on a rainy day.  “I’ll go wash it off.”

“It’s for the best.  I promise you…,” but Heyes was already speaking to the stiff back of the man who strode over to the well and hoisted a bucket of water over his head before rubbing furiously at his face.  “I’m still goin’ to town, Heyes!” Wheat bellowed, before heading back to the latrines.

The Kid shook his head, watching  the man wash the color from his hair. “Sheesh, who’da thought Wheat’d do somethin’ so stupid for a woman?”

“I guess we’re all those kinda fools at times, Kid.”  He arched a wry brow in the gunman’s direction.  “Some more than others.” 

“Yeah, yeah.  I know.  I ain’t done anythin’ that dumb though.”

“One word, Kid.  Moustache.”

“Hey!  I like to wear one every so often.  It suits me.” 

“It looked like your eyebrows had come down for a drink.  All you attracted was crumbs.”  

The Kid opened his mouth to retort, but he was cut off by the shattering blast which cut through peace, scattering splintering chards of the wooden latrine in the air.  “Wheat!”  The Kid leaped down from the porch and started running towards the devastation followed by Heyes.  “Someone get buckets.  Bring water.  Wheat was in there.”

A disheveled figure staggered from the bonfire, a small plume of smoke rising from the tangled mass of wild straw-like hair which stood on end.  The red-streaked blue blinked through hairless lids beneath a forehead as devoid of hair as the newly-bald upper lip as the shocked man staggered into the sunlight, coughing up acrid soot.

“Wheat?  Are you alright?  Was anyone else in there?”  Hannibal Heyes dodged the charred embers still falling around them.  “What happened?”

Wheat beat out a smoldering patch of sleeve.  “I dunno...I still got all my fingers.”

“Preacher, Kyle, Hank…,” the Kid counted off the gang members.  “Yeah, we’re all here, Heyes.  Wheat must’ve been the only one in there.”

Wheat was obviously still dazed.  “I only went in for a…”

“Yeah, I know what you went in there for.  How can a latrine blow up?  I mean it’s only a hole in the ground.” Heyes brows gathered.  “Where’s Kyle?”

“Me?  I’m right here,” the voice echoed with outraged innocence.

Heyes swung around.  “What did you do?”

“Me?” Kyle’s mobile features rose to the challenge before falling like sand in an hourglass against the cold, hard stare.  “I weren’t even there.  I was in the bunkhouse.  Tell him, Hank.  I was in the bunkhouse."

“He was in the bunkhouse,” Hank dutifully replied.
       
“See?  I was in the bunkhouse.”

Heyes rolled his eyes.  “You’re the explosives man, and the latrine just blew up.  Who else do you think I’m going to question first?”

“I never dun nuthin’.”

“Where’s the dynamite?” The leader demanded. 

“It’s in the shed.  I ain’t keepin’ it under my bunk no more.  Not since that last time.”

“Preacher, come and help me get Wheat over to the bunkhouse so we can check him over,” called the Kid, stretching an arm around the dazed man.  “You don’t look hurt.”

“I ain’t so much hurt as, well…what’s the word?”

“Yeah, I think you missed the worst.  You’re just stunned.”

“Not as stunned as he’s gonna be when he looks in a mirror,” chortled Preacher.  “That explosion done gone and blasted the moustache clean off his face.”

“Huh?” Wheat turned a depilated face on his cohorts.  “My moustache?”

“And your eyebrows,” added the gunman.

Wheat stopped dead in his tracks, trailing fingers over his face.  “Nooo!  I ain’t been barefaced since I was fourteen.  What am I gonna do?”

“Well, you could paint in your eyebrows like them women at Bella’s cathouse,” snickered Hank.  “You could keep changin’ them to match your mood.  Arched for surprise, straight for angry…”

“You ain’t helpin’,” snapped the Kid.  “Come on, Wheat.  You need a seat.  Are you sure you don’t hurt anywhere?”

“Not that I can feel.  Maybe when my senses catch up with me I might notice it.”

oooOOOooo

“See, Heyes.  I dun told ya that I didn’t leave no dynamite in there.  There ain’t none missin’.”

“So, what caused this?  Sabotage?”  The leader’s brows knotted in concern.  “How do you know there’s none missing?  I don’t see the chart I told you to mark off.”

“I just knows.”

Heyes gave a huff of exasperation.  “What am I always telling you, Kyle?”

The little man shrugged.  “To get my finger out of there?”

“To keep an inventory if the explosives!  Sheesh, how else are we to know if anyone took any.”  The brown eyes rolled.  “Who was in the latrines last, before Wheat?” 

“I guess that’d be me.  I cleaned the place.”

“Cleaned it?”  Heyes eyes glittered with doubt.  He avoided the place for good reason.
 
“Yeah I threw that store bought disinfectant you got for us everywhere.  Loads of it.  It’s nearly all gone.”

“I bought enough to last six months,” Heyes scowled.  “You used nearly all of it?”

“Well, it was real smelly.”

“Yeah, I know.”   Heyes scratched his chin suspiciously.  “I think we need to speak to Wheat.”

Outrage exploded over Kyle’s disorganized face.  “Wheat ain’t no sabatoor .”

“I never said he was,” Heyes replied smoothly.  “He might have seen something.  Relax, Kyle.  I don’t suspect either of you, but when he’s feeling better can you ask him to come over to the leader’s cabin?

oooOOOooo       
 
Heyes looked up from his book.  “How are you, Wheat?”

“I’ve been better, growled the red-faced, hairless outlaw.  “You think it was sabotage?  By someone here?”

“I did, and then I started reading.  The disinfectant I bought, mostly because that place was like a zoo and needed taking in hand was something called potassium chlorate.  They use it for most disinfectants.  Now, I’ve gotta ask what you did when you went in there.”

One eye bulged.  “It’s a latrine.  What do you think I did when I went in there?”

“Not that.  Anything else.”

“Well I did sit there and light a cigar, now I was thinkin’ that it could be some kinda gas.  You know, like swamp gas.  I’ve heard tell of folks blown to kingdom come with swamp gas.”

“Yeah, lighting’ a cigar ain’t what I’d have done,” the Kid shook his head.  “It ain’t the most relaxin’ place to be.”

“Sometimes a man’s just got to sit and think.  I do my best thinkin’ in there.”

“Then no wonder half your ideas stink,” grinned the Kid.

“The kohl,” Heyes interjected.  “That black stuff.  What did you do with it?”

“I tossed it,” Wheat scowled.  “I made a big enough laughin’ stock in front of you two, I wasn’t gonna give the rest of ‘em the chance to rip me a new one, was I?”

Heyes slowly closed his eyes and sighed heavily.  “Yup.  That’s what I was afraid of.”

“What?  I toss all kindsa rubbish down there,” Wheat retorted.  “So do the rest of the men.”

“Well maybe this’ll make them think a bit more carefully about what they throw away, especially before they add a naked flame.  I take it you threw the match down there when you lit the cigar?” 

“Sure I did.  There ain’t no ashtrays in there.  What’s the problem?”

Heyes lifted his copy of Dobson's Encyclopedia and flicked it open.  “I looked up your kohl in here.  It used as a cosmetic, mainly in India and Arabia.  More importantly it’s made up of antimony sulfide.”

“So?” the Kid and Wheat spoke in unison.

The disinfectant is potassium chlorate, you add antimony sulfide to that and you have the ingredients of the stuff they make matches out of.   Add a naked flame to that and…,” Heyes made an exploding gesture with his hand, “poof!”

“Poof?”  The two outlaws spoke in unison once more.

“It goes up in a minor explosion.  If there was any methane there too,” Heyes nodded towards Wheat, “that’s your ‘swamp gas’; you’ll be lucky to walk away from that with your life.”

“Matches?”  Wheat’s bald brow furrowed.  “How the Sam Hill was I supposed to know you’d bought some kind of explosive to clean the place?”

 “How was I to know you’d throw your beauty products down there?” countered Heyes.          
 
‘Tweren’t beauty products.  It were pomade.  T’ain’t no different from when you slick your hair back.”

“I don’t do it to change the color.”

“The smell ain’t foolin’ nobody either.  Bella uses less perfume,” Wheat muttered.

“Yeah, well just remember when you go to see Bella, you won’t have those grey eyebrows or moustache,” Heyes slapped the book back on the table with a bang, “because you met your match in here this morning.  You just turned the latrines into the biggest match in the West.”

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

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PostSubject: Re: Matches   Sat May 28, 2016 1:45 am

I'm just gonna apologize now because this is pure and utter nonsense.


A Bad Match
(Inspired by a 1999 song with an extra verse added. I know. I get alot of inspiration from movies and music. Sorry  Rolling Eyes  )

Betsy Ann and Rhonda were the best of friends
all through their school-girl days.
One the daughter of Jed 'Kid' Curry,
the other of Hannibal Heyes.

After graduation Betsy Ann went out
looking for a bright new world.
Rhonda roamed all around the town
but all she found was Earl.

Well it wasn't two months after she got married
that Rhonda started gettin' abused.
She painted dark lashes, wore long sleeved-blouses
and make-up to cover her bruise.

When she finally got the nerve to file for divorce,
she let the law take it from there.
But Earl paid no mind to the sheriff's orders
and she wound up in a doctor's care.

Right away Betsy Ann came in from Montana
on a fast-paced stagecoach ride.
She held Rhonda's hand and they worked out a plan
and it didn't take them long to decide...
that to their pas they should write.

Goodbye Earl
Those two men there?
They're gonna take care of you, Earl
You feelin' scared?
You have a good sense to be, Earl
Ain't it dark?
Tied up in that tarp, Earl

Kid Curry got the letter and then got Heyes,
tellin' him about the news.
Heyes decided they should pay a visit
and make Earl pay his dues.

They quickly rode to town and when they arrived
Earl was found at the saloon.
They tapped him on the shoulder and then they said
to meet them in the afternoon.

Well Heyes had a plan and the Kid agreed
that murder wasn't what to do.
They'd get rid of him in their own way
and nobody would have a clue.

So dumb Earl showed up then just around the bend,
and thought that he would be alright.
Then Kid knocked him on the head and then Heyes said
"Let's seal him in this box real tight,
'cause the train just arrived."

Goodbye Earl
You're goin' south,
Way down south to Peru, Earl
Don't you come back,
or we'll have to get mad, Earl
Is that alright?
Good! You have fun on your ride, Earl
Hey!

(Again, I apologize. I heard the song and couldn't resist writing this.)

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PostSubject: Re: Matches   Sat May 28, 2016 10:19 am

Half way through May and I couldn't think of anything at all for this challenge. Then a chance remark to Hubby and a spot of googling later, I had an idea.

Matches

Two miserable looking outlaws sat at the base of a wide spreading tree, knees drawn up. They held the reins of two equally miserable looking horses. They were sheltering from the rain. Correction – deluge! The rain was torrential and taking cover under the tree had meant to be a temporary respite. It couldn’t go on much longer at this rate could it? They had a nice warm Hole to go back to. Not to mention a share of the money from the job the Gang had just pulled.


Today the posse had been quick off the mark and given them a hard chase, causing the Gang to split up in order to make their separate ways back to Devil’s Hole. Heyes and the Kid had been sitting there for hours and there was no sign the – deluge was letting up.


Neither of them had spoken for a while.


“Heyes.” the Kid finally broke the silence.


“Hmm?” grunted Heyes.


“Next time we go on a job, do me a favour, check the weather forecast first huh? This is the third job we’ve been stuck out in bad weather.”


Heyes rolled his eyes and looked away.


“Aw, what ya complaining about Kid? It’s jus’ a little rain,” Heyes said, hugging his knees.


The Kid turned his head and gave Heyes a look.


“A little rain?” he said, incredulously. “Heyes, if we sit here much longer, Mr and Mrs Noah are gonna be sailing by in an ark!”


Heyes gave him a broad smile. “Well that’ll be just fine. Mebbe they’ll be going our way an’ can give us a lift!”


Heyes was conscious that he got the look again, stuck his hand out to feel the force of the rain, grimaced and shook the cuff of his jacket where water had run down inside it.


“What is it with you an’ weather Kid? We go south, it’s too hot. We go north, it’s too cold. We go west, it’s too windy. We go east, it’s too dusty! Is anywhere jus’ right?”


They looked at each other. Heyes didn’t expect an answer, the Kid wasn’t inclined to give one and they both turned away.


Uncomfortable silence again ensued. Heyes hugged his knees and hummed, tunelessly. The Kid took out a knife and started to whittle a stick.


“Getting dark soon,” Heyes said, looking up at the already dark sky. He scratched idly under his chin.


The Kid grunted ambiguously.


Heyes sighed deeply.


“Wonder if the boys are back in the Hole yet?”


Another grunt. Followed by …


“If they are I bet they’re warm and dry.”


“Aw come on Kid! We lost the darn posse. There’s no way they can track us in this, even if they have an Apache wiv ‘em.” Heyes looked at the Kid with a grin but just got another look.


Heyes gave another deep sigh and turned away.


“Can’t even light a fire,” the Kid grumbled, whittling his stick to a lethal point. He looked at it speculatively. It might be coming in handy soon. “Wood’s too darn wet. An’ not to mention the matches got soaked when ya made us ford that river! At least a fire’d cheer us up. What we need is waterproof matches!”


Heyes and the Kid locked eyes. Then Heyes gave a husky deep-throated chortle.


“Waterproof matches! Ha!”


“Well I’m tellin’ ya, we need summat when ya around. Making us do jobs in the rain. How long we been stuck here now?”


Heyes sighed and reached into his jacket for his pocket watch. He flipped it open and read the time. “Two hours, thirty-seven minutes and … . “He nodded. “Ten, eleven, twelve seconds.” He returned the watch with another sigh.


Heyes received another look and he just shrugged, nonchalantly.


“It ain’t my fault it’s raining.” Heyes looked away again, resting his chin on his knees.


“No it ain’t. I can’t hold ya responsible for that.” Heyes looked back, amazed that the Kid wasn’t holding that against him. “But I did say that Saturday would be the better day but no ya decided Friday was the better day so Friday is the day we gotta do the job. The day when it’s raining. I bet Saturday will be clear blue sky and sun. THAT’S the day we shoulda done the job.”


“We couldn’t do the job on Saturday ‘cos I got plans on Saturday. I told ya.”


“Yeah ya mentioned summat. What plans ya got?”


It was obvious by his demeanour that Heyes didn’t want to say. He just looked away until his horse blew at him and he had to push the head away in irritation.


“Come on Heyes what plans ya got?”


“I’m gonna visit Charley,” Heyes mumbled.


“Come again?” The Kid thought he’d heard right but he wanted it repeated just to be sure.


“I’m going to visit Charley.”


Yes that is what the Kid had heard. “Oh that’s jus’ great Heyes! So your love life now decides when we do jobs does it?”


“NO!” Heyes was indignant. “Jus’ I booked her for the whole weekend. She’s mine for two whole days.” He gave the Kid a foolish lop-sided grin. “An’ nights,” he added with a chuckle.


The Kid rolled his eyes but decided not to continue with that topic of conversation. Heyes didn’t frequent working girls that often but when he did, he preferred the services of one in particular, Charley.


“Well,” the Kid sighed instead. “Reckon ya might be standing her up anyways if’n we can’t get outta here and back wivout catching pneumonia.”


Heyes could only sigh and grunt in agreement.

_______________________________________________________________________________________


The Gang regrouped in Burton Wells before pushing onto the Hole. Heyes had gone off to meet Charley and the others were relaxing in the saloon over a beer and a bottle or two of whiskey.


The town was tolerant of the Devil’s Hole Gang. The Gang members openly walked the streets and were free spenders. If the subject ever came up, many businesses depended on their custom. Heyes insisted that the Gang didn’t take advantage of this tolerance by freeloading. They would pay for everything just like everybody else. So the townsfolk generally left them alone and overlooked any minor transgressions. Heyes was even on nodding terms with the sheriff.


“Hey, there’s Heyes.” Kyle said, seeing his boss push through the batwing doors.


“What’s that he’s carrying?” Wheat asked, seeing Heyes struggling not to drop the unwieldy collection of … .


“Books!” The Kid looked round and cursed under his breath. He knew what that meant. Hours of Heyes taking over the kitchen table, scribbling down notes, one sided conversations, meals on the tray untouched and then … Just when the Kid had reached breaking point and was seriously considering moving over into the bunkhouse, Heyes would wake him in the middle of the night to tell him he’d got it. Through sleep dazed eyes he would have to listen to Heyes tell him his latest grandiose plan for their next job. Oh great! Something to look forward to then.


Heyes came over and dropped the big stack of books with a thud on the table.


“Hey, guys. Glad I caught ya ‘afore ya headed back to the Hole. Ya can help me carry this lot,” Heyes grinned smugly.


“What is all this?” the Kid looked in horror at the stack of books.


“Research,” Heyes told him.


“Research for what?”


The Kid had a quick scan down the spines at the titles. It was a very odd collection: science, maths, a play, gardening, domestic science … double take, domestic science? He rolled his eyes at Heyes.


“You’ll see.” Heyes squeezed himself into a spare chair and noticed all the Gang had a drink in front of them.

“Did ya get me a beer?” he asked, miffed that they obviously hadn’t considered him.


“Er Heyes, didn’t ya have an appointment?” Wheat smirked, stroking his chin.


“Weren’t ya all set to have a good time with Charley?” Lobo also smirked.


“I heard ya booked her for the WHOLE weekend,” Kyle grinned.


Heyes took a deep breath and looked at the Kid. Trying to keep a straight face, the Kid shrugged. “Weren’t expecting ya back ‘till Monday. Had to tell the boys summat.”


“Yeah but not the truth!” Heyes growled at him.

He took another deep breath and faced the others, who looked expectantly. “I changed ma mind,” he sniffed.
“I’ve got things to do. Important things with … these here books.” He gestured at the stack. “I thought I’d catch up with ma reading, amongst other things. I’ve gotta few ideas to make our next job more civilised.”


“Well what can be more important than spending quality time with Charley?” Kyle was puzzled, especially when Wheat started to chortle.


Heyes pursed his lips. Kyle had latched onto wanting to know why Heyes was back so soon.


“She stood ya up, didn’t she Heyes?” Wheat crowed. Kyle wasn’t the only one obviously who wanted to know.


“No. She jus’ had to go outta town unexpected. To look after her sick pa.”


The Gang laughed. “She stood ya up!” they hooted.


“She didn’t stand me up. I’d already changed my mind …”


“Yeah. Yeah. We believe ya Heyes.”


“Weren’t ya offered an alternative?” Kyle was incredulous.


“Yeah I was offered an alternative but I chose … not to. I told ya I …”


“Who were ya offered, Heyes?” grinned Lobo.


Heyes didn’t want to say but they were expecting an answer. He licked his lips.


“Sal. Or Big Edna,” he ground out.


“Big Edna! Whoo He Heyes she’s a gal.” whooped Hank.


“Sure is. The things she can do’ll make ya eyes water,” Wheat hooted.


“Big Edna, she’s my favourite,” grinned Kyle.


Heyes had seen Big Edna and she was … BIG, tall and wide. Heyes licked his lips. Some images you just didn’t want in your head. And certainly not the one of Big Edna and diminutive Kyle.


Heyes smacked his lips as they laughed. He let it go on for a few moments. When he scrapped back his chair and suddenly got up, the laughter died. Heyes had let them had their fun at his expense. If he had been on the other side of it, he would have found it funny too. However, now the expression on his face told them he’d had enough.


“Come’n fellas lets be getting back to the Hole.” His voice had taken on the hard edge of the notorious outlaw boss he was. “We’ve got money to split. But give a hand here first huh?” He pointed at the books.


The thought of money galvanised the Gang into action. If they were holding a competition to see who could drink their beer the fastest, Wheat won it but only just. Before Heyes knew it, the books had disappeared and the Gang were heading for the door. Smiling smugly to himself, he followed them out. Not before draining the last of the Kid’s beer though.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________


The Kid was cleaning his gun at the kitchen table in the leader’s cabin in Devil’s Hole. He looked up as Heyes came in and slapped an open book down on the counter.


“Right, now let’s see,” he said, pouring over it. Heyes also had something else in his hand but the Kid couldn’t quite see what it was.


“Glass jar, glass jar,” Heyes murmured.


He frowned at the cupboards and began opening doors and rummaging inside.


“Ah!” 


The Kid started to watch his partner with interest. No he wouldn’t ask! Not just yet. This could be interesting. If not fun, he added to himself as Heyes stuck his nose in the jar and pulled a face. Heyes was consulting the book again and murmuring.


“Put the … in the glass jar. Put the glass jar … in a pot … of water … on the stove. Pot. Pot. Pot.”


Heyes stood hands on hips and looked around for a pot or something to go on the stove and that was big enough to take the glass jar. Cooking was normally done on the stove in the bunkhouse so the kitchen in the leader’s cabin was sparsely equipped. He raised a finger as an idea came to him and he disappeared outside.


He was back in a moment with the old pot, his predecessor had used for a spittoon. He gave it a rinse round and then filled it with water, placing the glass jar in the centre. Then he dropped the things the Kid couldn’t make out in the glass jar.


The Kid rolled his eyes and went back to cleaning. Whatever it was he’d find out sooner or later.


As he waited for the pot to boil, Heyes flicked through the rest of the book. He was fully engrossed in something when the pot started to boil.


“Awh!”


The pot was hot, as he had just found out. He needed to move it to one side and he looked quickly round for something to hold the pot with and snatched up the oily rag the Kid was using for his cleaning.


“Hey!” the Kid protested, and frowned when it was thrown back at him. “Thanks,” he said, sarcastically.


Heyes had pulled the pot to one side and was standing over it, staring into it. Then he looked at the book, found the right page, and groaned.


“It didn’t need to be boiling … let it cool. Alrighty.”


“What are ya doing?” the Kid asked, not being able to stand it any longer.


Heyes looked round. “Letting it cool a little.”


The Kid shuddered and went back to cleaning with a sigh.


“Dip the head …”


The Kid looked up as Heyes was murmuring again.


“… all the striking surface is covered … and a … little way up the stick. Okay. Done that. What now?”


Heyes peered at the book again.


“Wait for a few seconds … harden slightly. Then place the … over the edge of the table. Like that? Yep. Oh I see!”


The Kid looked up and frowned. Heyes was … pottering. There was no other word to describe what Heyes was doing. He was dipping things into the glass jar, bringing them out, holding them for a short time and then setting them on the edge of the table. Then he was going back and inspecting them, lightly pushing his finger on the blobby end.


“Owh!”


The Kid looked up again. Heyes had his fingers in his mouth. Then he shook that hand before putting it under his arm. He scowled.


“Care to tell me what ya doing?” the Kid asked casually.


“Science,” Heyes growled.


“Oh.” The Kid rolled his eyes. That explained it then! “Want me to clean ya gun for ya?”


Heyes took his gun out of its holster and held it out behind him. The Kid tutted rolled his eyes and got up to take it. As he did so, he glanced at what Heyes was doing. Melting candles in a glass jar? He looked at Heyes.

Heyes looked back and sighed.


“It’s an experiment. It might not work.”


“What are these?” the Kid asked, pointing at some wax covered objects. He realised what they were but not why they were. He grinned. “Heyes! Didn’t ya Ma ever tell ya never to play with matches?”


Heyes smacked his lips. “Ya got me thinking the other day, Kid. ‘Bout waterproof matches”


The Kid felt Heyes’ forehead. “Ya don’t feel like ya got a fever,” he said, seriously.


“I haven’t,” Heyes said, irritably, ducking away. “I found a recipe, Kid. Waterproof matches do exist and it’s possible to make ‘em! See it’s right here in this book.” He thrust the open book into the Kid’s hand. The Kid was
still looking at him as if he had gone mad. “Look! Right there.”


Heyes stabbed his finger on the page. The Kid looked down and read. Sure enough. There it was. How to make waterproof matches.


“What book’s this?” he frowned, turning it over so he could read the spine. “The Boy’s Book of Science.” He looked at Heyes doubtfully. “Really?”


Heyes waved his hand dismissively. “It was the best recipe …” Heyes said in explanation. “Wouldn’t it great if I can do it?” he added, eagerly. “Think of it Kid. No more struggling to light a fire ‘cos the matches got wet. Ay? You’ll like that.” He was wide-eyed and nodding, enthusiastically.


“Yeah. Yeah I would.” The Kid pursed his lips and nodded. “Gonna make some waterproof logs as well?”


Heyes glared and snatched the book back.


“Leave me alone. This is real science I’m doing.” He turned back to the counter. “Waterproof logs,” he muttered under his breath. “I’ll give ya waterproof logs.”


The Kid grinned. He went back to the table and started to clean Heyes’ gun. Probably best to leave Heyes to get on with his er matchmaking!
____________________________________________________________________________


“I told ya to check the weather forecast next time we did a job!” the Kid blazed, when the Gang pulled their horses up after leaving the train they had robbed. “Didn’t I tell ya?” It was raining hard, the front of his hat dipping with the intensity of the drenching and water cascading down his front. He snatched off his hat and shook it. Growling, when his head got wet, he clamped his hat back on and spurred his horse over to the object of his anger. Who was ignoring him.


Heyes calmly dismounted and led his horse a few feet over to a tree where he tied it loosely.


“I can’t influence the weather,” Heyes grumbled, stooping down.


“What ya doing now?”


“Ain’t the weather to be picnicking, Heyes,” Wheat said, helpfully.


Heyes glanced up and sighed. “Ya boys get back to the Hole, Wheat. I’ll be along in a while. There’s summat I wanna test.”


Wheat looked at the Kid, who just made a face. He didn’t know either.


“Well I’ll think we’ll do jus’ that Heyes. I ain’t no duck! Come’n boys, let’s ride.”


The Kid sat his sad looking horse and watched the Gang ride away. He was tempted to go after them. Wheat had a point. He was no duck either. He sighed and looked over. Heyes was his partner after all, even if he could be a little weird at times. Like now. What on earth was he doing? Curiosity made his mind up and he walked his horse over and dismounted.


“Well, what ya doing?” he asked, seeing Heyes collecting relatively dry sticks from under the tree.


“I’m gonna test if my waterproof matches work.”


“Oh great! Ya coulda picked a damp day? A light shower maybe? No it has to be a monsoon!” He paused. “Agin!”


“No time like the present, Kid,” Heyes said, eagerly. He looked up, only to misjudge the edge of the tree canopy and get his face wet. He growled and retreated. Straightening up in the relative dry, he faced the Kid. “Ain’t ya even a little curious?” he asked, water dripping from his hat brim.


The Kid scratched his cheek. “Well, now ya come to mention it …”


Heyes grinned. He crouched down and arranged the sticks into a fire shaped pyramid. Then he rummaged in his jacket pocket and brought out an old tobacco tin. From another he brought out a box of matches, clearly wet.


He held them up. “This is our control.”


“Control?”


“Yeah every good experiment has a control. It something you can measure success or failure against. We know these are wet right?”


The Kid nodded.


“So we’re not expecting ‘em to light are we?”


“No not as wet as they are no.”


“Okay but let’s give ‘em a whirl anyway.”


He looked around for a suitable striking surface. The Kid kicked a large stone over to him. “Thanks,” he said, sarcastically as it hit against his knee.


Heyes tried several. As expected, there was no spark. He looked up at the Kid who nodded.


“So let’s see what happens if I try Heyes’ Patented Waterproof Matches.”


He grinned as he took the lid off the tobacco tin. The Kid stepped closer to see what Heyes was doing. As he watched, Heyes pulled back the wadding and there carefully suspended in rows were several objects covered in wax.


“Well here goes,” Heyes said, glancing up at the Kid as he took one out.


 He scratched the wax from the top with his thumbnail to reveal the striking head. As the Kid watched, Heyes struck the match and it flared. Wide eyed, Heyes touched it at various points to the small pile.


A few moments later, he slipped back onto his behind, pushed his hat back and hugged his knees. The small fire burning strongly beside him matched the brilliance of his grin.


“Well I’ll be …” The Kid was truly amazed. “Heyes, you’re a genius!”


Heyes looked shocked. “There was doubt?” he asked, seriously.


Author's note
I have to confess I had never heard of waterproof matches when I was told about them but yes they go exist and availably commercially. Below is Heyes' method for making waterproof matches - I have no idea if they actually work but I suspect they do.

Step 1: Melt the Wax
Put some old candles in a glass jar and the jar in a pot of water. Heat the pot over the stove, until the max melts.
Step 2: Dipping
Dip the head end of the match into the melted wax so that all the striking surface is covered and a little way up the stick.
Step 3: Hardening
Hold the match for a few seconds to allow the wax to harden slightly. Then place the match so that the head is suspended over the edge of the table.
Step 4: Finishing off
When the wax has cooled, but not completely hardened, pinch the end of the wax that meets the stick to form a tight seal.
Step 5: Striking
To light the matches scape off a bit of the wax from the head of the match and strike as usual.




Tips
You can cover the entire match with wax. This makes sure that any moisture doesn’t go up through the stick.
Excess wax on the head can smother your flame as the wax melts.
Store under waterproof conditions.
Waterproof matches are fragile as the wax can flake off if the match heads rub together or against something else. Store separately. 

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

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PostSubject: The Match   Sat May 28, 2016 12:51 pm

The Match
 
He stood, in a world all his own, his brilliant blue eyes taking in every detail of the information on the flyers pinned to the telegraph office notice board.  People came and went, sending and receiving telegrams, or simply stopping in to pass the time, gossiping with the telegrapher. All telegraphers knew everything about what was news in town, therefore, they were often the most popular man in town. Discretion rarely came into it.


The slim man standing by the notice board did not draw any attention. He was good at that; disappearing in plain sight. At first glance, there was nothing outstanding about him. To say he had a baby face really would not have been a correct description. The term tended to bring to mind an innocent and fresh countenance, rounded out with a chubby youthfulness. But this man was not chubby. His face, like his body, was lean and masculine and his blue eyes held anything but innocence.


And yet, at first glance, or at casual passing, most men tended not to take him seriously. He was just a kid, he looked like a kid—until they looked closer. Until they saw the hard glint in those piercing blue eyes. Until they took note of the impressive firearm that he wore, strapped low around his slender hips and tied down, the way a gunman would pack it. Then they’d take note. Then they’d back off.


Until he smiled at them. A wide, happy smile that exuded friendliness, and an open, honest personality. The smile would cause the sun-etched wrinkles around his eyes and mouth to crinkle, and belie his true age and maturity. Those first meeting him, would scrutinize this enigma, and decided through their own personality, whether this man was friend or foe.


But on this day, at this particular time, the man of contradictions was not concerned about meeting new people or what impression he was having upon them. He was contemplating the two wanted posters that were tacked to the message board. He drank in all the information, committing to memory every detail that the rather generic physical descriptions offered to him.



He frowned, but his frown held a determination to it that would not be denied. It was 1882 and Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were in their heyday. They were running rough-shod over three territories and with the lack of pictures and concrete information about them, they were almost arrogant in their cheeky lack of concern over being brought to task.


His mouth tightened in a line of conviction as his right hand rested upon the handle of the sawed off Winchester shotgun that was strapped to his waist.  The two outlaws were at the top of their game, but Josh Randall, professional bounty hunter, decided that it was time to bring them down.


Xxx


“We’re being followed,” Kid quietly informed his partner, as they rode, side by side, along the dirt trail.


Heyes frowned. “We are?”


“Yep.”


Heyes sighed, not even questioning how his partner would know this. “How many?”


“How should I know?” Kid asked him. “I just know we’re being followed.”


“Okay,” Heyes said, soothingly. He hadn’t meant to insult. “What do you think we should do about it?”


“You’re the thinker, Heyes,” Kid pointed out. “I let you know when someone is followin’ us, and you come up with a plan. That’s the way it works.”


Heyes frowned again. The two horses plodded along in the ensuing silence.


“Well?” Kid prodded.


“Well,” Heyes began, lamely. “we could split up.”


“That never goes well.”


“Yeah.” Heyes thought some more. “Well, we could split up, but circle around and come up behind them. We get the drop on them.”


“Yeah. Then what? We turn them in for the reward?”


“Ha, ha,” Heyes smirked, sarcastically. “At least it would give us an idea of how many there are, and what to do about it.”


Kid looked around at the rolling, but sparse hills that surrounded them. “Not much cover here,” he pointed out. “And with this dirt footing, it’d be real easy for ‘em to see what we’d done.”


“We could make a run for it.”


“On these horses?” Kid complained. “They weren’t in great shape when we bought ‘em. I don’t think either one of ‘em could outrun a donkey.”


Heyes growled with frustration. “Fine!” he griped. “My ideas aren’t good enough, let’s see you come up with something!”


This discussion was abruptly terminated by a loud crack from a Winchester. The little bay that Kid was riding, tensed, then crumpled like a paper sculpture. The Kid cursed as they both went down, and then he scrambled to get away from the dead weight of the animal.


Heyes’ chestnut somewhere found the energy to rear and then try to take off at a pathetic gallop. Heyes fought to bring the horse back under control, but more rifle fire added incentive to the animal’s panic, and it continued to rear and fight against the restraint upon its mouth.


The Kid, using his dead horse for cover, had pulled his colt and was shooting it in the general direction of the onslaught, trying to give Heyes a chance to find cover himself.


Heyes had different ideas, though, and finally getting his horse under control, he pulled his schofield and began pumping shots towards their opponent.


“C’mon!” he yelled as he maneuvered his horse closer to the Kid. “I’ll cover you! Get on!”


“I can’t!” Kid yelled back. “That first bullet went through my leg! Get to cover, or get out’a here!”


“Dammit!” Heyes cursed, as he sent the last of his rounds towards the only rock large enough to hide a man.


His mind was flashing from one option to the other. Making his choice, he grabbed his rifle from its boot and was about to dismount, when another volley of shooting came at them. He felt the searing pain go through his right arm, and he dropped the rifle. His horse reared again, then dropping down onto its hindquarters, it toppled over backwards, taking Heyes with it.


He hit hard, the wind being knocked out of his lungs. The ground that had previously appeared so soft and dusty, now felt like a rock strewn battleground, baked hard by a desert sun. Then the horse came down on top of him and he was certain that his ribs were crushed. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t breathe, and his rifle was out of reach. The situation did not look good.


Kid cursed as he witnessed the wreck in progress, and deciding that he didn’t have time to reload his empty colt, he made a grab for his rifle. More shots instantly thumped into the dead horse, right by the stock of the weapon, and the Kid jerked his hand back for fear of getting hit again. He glanced over to his partner, and Heyes was struggling to get out from under the horse, so that could at least reach his holstered schofield. Not seeing assistance coming from that quarter anytime soon, Kid gave one more effort to grab his rifle, but the result was the same, and jerking his hand back, he sighed and shook his head.


He swiveled slightly and began to re-load his colt, but as he looked back at his partner, his expression was one of defeat.
“I think we’re done, Heyes,” he said.



“We’re not done yet,” Heyes countered, and began to work his way out from under the horse. “All I need to do is get to one of my guns, and we’re back in business.”


“Uh huh.” Jed didn’t sound too convinced. He turned back towards their attacker and waited, hoping to find a target.


Meanwhile, Heyes wriggled and pushed, ignoring the searing pain in his arm. He gritted his teeth and gave one more serious push with his foot against the saddle, and was able to raise the animal just enough for him to pull his trapped leg out from under. He lay on his back, and gritting his teeth against the pain, he pulled out his handgun and began to load it.
Biting his lip in concentration, he maneuvered his body around and took aim at the rock. He managed to get off a couple of rounds before his arm decided to stop working.


“Dammit,” he cursed as he tried to get his finger to pull the trigger.


“What’s the matter?” the Kid yelled back at him.


“This isn’t gonna work,” Heyes told him. “I need my rifle.”


“Do ya’ think you can get it?”


 “Yeah! Cover me.”


Curry glanced back and was surprised to see Heyes already on his knees and getting ready to make a dash for his rifle. The Kid cursed and instantly turned back and began to fire. Heyes ran, bullets hitting the dirt around him, but he kept going, ducked into a roll and grabbed the rifle as he went over it. Then he was on his feet again and running towards the Kid. He dodged the bullets and diving in behind the downed horse, he came to a sliding skid on his hands and bumped up beside his partner.


His left hand instantly went to the bloody slice on his right arm, and he grimaced in pain.


“Is it bad?” the Kid asked him.


Heyes bit into his lower lip, as he delicately pulled the torn material away from the wound. “No,” he admitted. “but it hurts like the dickens.”


He pulled off his bandana, and the Kid took it and wrapped it around his partner’s arm, tying it snug, but not too tight.
Heyes settled, then both jumped as another volley of bullets came their way.


Heyes leveled his rifle along the horse’s barrel and using his left hand, began to fire, giving the Kid his chance to re-load a second time. Once their token return fire was complete, Heyes tended to the Kid’s injury.


“It’s not too bad, either,” Heyes observed. “Just sliced ya’ across the front of the thigh.”


“Yeah, I know,” the Kid agreed as he took his own bandana and tied it around his leg. “but it still won’t take much weight.”


More shots fired and both men ducked. The Kid began to fire back.


 “This ain’t gonna work, Heyes,” he grumbled. “He’s just sittin’ up there, waitin’ for us ta’ run out’a bullets. After that there’s nothin’ stoppin’ ‘im from mosseyin’ on in here and doin’ whatever he wants.”


“You sure you can’t put any weight on that leg?”


“I might be able to manage a slow, agonizing limp,” Curry informed him. “What did you have in mind?”


“We both fire what we got in our guns and then split up,” Heyes suggested. “If we can circle around behind him, maybe we can take him, instead of him takin’ us.”


“Sure,” Kid agreed, with mock bravado. “That ought’a work.”


Heyes’ dimples showed through the smudged dirt on his face. “Glad you agree with me. You ready?”


“Fire away.”


Both men began firing towards their adversary until the rifle and the colt clicked on empty.


“Let’s go!”


Heyes didn’t even get to his feet, when another rifle sounded from behind them, the bullet slamming into the dirt where Heyes’ hand had just been. The two ex-outlaws were brought up short, and they pivoted around to come face to face with the grungy looking man who had come up behind them.


He grinned a grin that showed more holes than teeth, and kept his rifle aimed at the two men.


“Howdy,” he smirked and then spit out to the side. “You fellas weren’t thinkin’ ‘a goin’ nowhere’s, now were ya’?”



“Woo hoo! We got ‘em!” came an exuberant claim from behind our boys.


Heyes and Curry slumped, as the man who had been pinning them down with rifle fire, now came strutting around them, to go stand by his buddy. It seems there had been two bounty hunters, after all.


The two hunters grinned and slapped each other on the backs, sending up billows of dust and unwashed odour into the air. Once the short celebration was over, Orville approached their captives and collected up the guns.


“You’ve made a terrible mistake,” Heyes began his usual spew. “We have every right to charge both of you with assault, maybe even attempted murder.”


Orville and Odin glanced at each other and began to laugh.


“Since you’re both wanted dead or alive, we can hardly be charged with murderin’ ya’, now can we?” Odin pointed out. “Now you boys just start walkin’ over that’a way, and we’ll get ya’ inta’ town, lickidy split.”


Heyes and the Kid exchanged a quick glance, as the Kid shifted his weight, trying to ease the burden on his injured leg.


“Ah, in case you ain’t noticed,” he said. “One of you put a bullet through my leg, so I ain’t gonna be walkin’ nowhere.”


“You ain’t walkin’,” Orville snorted. “You can still ride, can’t ya’?”


“Oh,” Kid’s brows went up in mock surprise. “You got some spare horses back there?”


“Hell, no!” Odin denied. “You can ride yer own damn horse.”


Another glance was exchanged between the cousins.


“Ah, excuse me,” Heyes said. “You fellas shot our horses. See?” And he motioned with his good arm over towards the two dead animals.


Orville and Odin stared at the mounds of dead horseflesh, expressions of confusion, then slow recollection drifting across their faces.


“Oh yea,” Orville muttered, then gave his partner a smack on the arm. “What’d ya’ shoot their horses fer?”


“What’d ya’ mean?” Odin complained. “Ya’ told me to!”


“Yeah, but ya’ weren’t suppose ta’ shoot ‘im in the leg as well.”


“How was I suppose ta’ know that I shot ‘im in the leg?” Odin defended himself. “I was shootin’ at the horse! His leg just got in the way.”


“Maybe you should’a learned how ta’ shoot!” Orville yelled. “Now what are we gonna do?”


 “And the way this arm keeps on bleeding,” Heyes chimed in. “I doubt I’ll be able to walk more than a mile or two. How far is it to the next town?”


The two bounty hunters stared at Heyes, the wheels slowly turning in their heads as they thought about the answer.


“Twenty miles?” Orville asked his buddy.


Odin nodded agreement. “About that, I think.”


Both Heyes and Curry groaned, shaking their heads.


“There’s no way my leg will hold up for twenty miles,” Curry told them.


“And I’m likely to pass out from blood loss,” Heyes added, then emphasized his prediction by grimacing with pain.


“You could let us ride your horses,” the Kid suggested, hopefully.


“You ain’t ridin’ our horses!” Orville complained. “Cause then we won’t have no horses ta’ ride!”


“Yeah,” Odin agreed. “I ain’t walkin’ twenty miles in ta’ town.”


“Well,” Kid continued. “Maybe we could all ride double. I’m sure your horses are strong enough to carry two people apiece for twenty miles.”


“I got an idea!” Odin announced, ignoring the Kid’s suggestion. “Why don’t we just shoot ya’, then we can ride inta’ town, get us a buckboard, and come back out ta’ collect ya’. Shouldn’t take more’n a day.”


“Oh, well…” Heyes paled. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”


“No,” Curry concurred. “You don’t know who might come along and find us. Maybe somebody else who recognizes us, and they’d snatch that reward money right out from under ya’.”


The bounty hunters again presented the appearance of looking thoughtful.


“He’s got a point,” Orville finally admitted.


“Yeah,” Odin agreed. “So, why don’t you stay here and guard the bodies, while I go inta’ town and get a buckboard.”


“If you’re going to do that,” Heyes piped in, “then you don’t have to kill us. You can stay here and guard us, while your partner goes into town for the buckboard. We won’t try anything. Honest.”


“Yeah,” Curry supported the idea. “Especially with my leg the way it is. I sure wouldn’t get far, tryin’ ta’ run off.”


“And I wouldn’t be much help, supporting him, with my arm like this,” Heyes added. “We’d just stay put right here, until you got back.”


Orville and Odin exchanged looks, and then as one, made up their combined mind.


“Nope,” said Orville.


“Safest, just ta’ shoot ya’.”


The two rifles came up with intention. Heyes and the Kid both paled with surprise that their smooth talking plan hadn’t gone the way they had expected.


Heyes was just about to lay in a protest, when another rifle boomed from out of nowhere, and a splattering of shotgun pellets sent dirt flying up into the air right under Orville and Odin’s noses.


“Hold it!” came the command from behind a small rise of a hill. “You two, drop them guns!”


“Hey! Orville complained. “What do ya’ think yer doin’, mister?”


A slim, wiry man walked into view, his sawed off shotgun aimed squarely at Orville and Odin.


“I’m preventing you from committing cold blooded murder,” he stated, matter-of-factly.


“It ain’t murder,” Orville insisted. “These two is Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. They’s our prisoners, and they’s worth the same whether we take ‘em in dead or alive. We got every right ta’ kill ‘em, if we want to.”


“I know who they are. And maybe, by the letter of the law, you’re right,” the stranger said. “But in my book, shooting down two wounded and unarmed men, is murder. Plain and simple. Now drop them guns. I ain’t tellin’ ya’ again.”


“This ain’t no fair,” Odin complained as he and his partner deposited their guns onto the ground. “These two is our prisoners, you ain’t got no right, taken ‘em like this.”


“We’ll see about that,” the stranger responded. “I’ll let the sheriff in Sweetwater know that you’re entitled to half the reward. But I’m takin’ them in. Alive.”


“Well how are you gonna get ‘em there?” Orville asked, smarmily. “They ain’t got no horses.”


“That’s alright. We’ll borrow yours.”


“What!?” Odin complained. “How are we suppose ta’ get inta’ town?”


“You can walk.”


“Excuse me,” Heyes interrupted the negotiations. “There are a couple of items that all of you gentlemen seem to be over-looking.”


“Yeah? What’s that?” the stranger asked him.


“For one thing, both me and my partner have been shot,” Heyes continued. “They aren’t bad wounds, I admit. But we are kind’a still bleeding here.”


“You’ll get tended to in a minute,” their captor assured them. “You’re not going to bleed to death.”


“The other thing is,” Heyes added. “that I think all of you fellas are under the same misinformation.”


“Oh yeah? What’s that?”


Heyes smiled charmingly. “The assumption that we’re Heyes and Curry.”


“Heyes,” the Kid interrupted him. Heyes sent his partner an incredulous look, but Curry just smiled at him. “Take a look at his rigging.”


Heyes frowned, but his eyes dropped to the man’s holster. It was a simple rig, but custom made, designed to hold and to give quick release to the mare’s leg, Winchester sawed off shotgun that the stranger handled as though it were an extension of his own body. Heyes felt his heart sink as his eyes rose up to meet the blue piercing ones of the bounty hunter standing before them.


He tried to smile, but it came up as a resigned grimace. “Your name wouldn’t happen to be Josh Randall, would it?” he asked quietly, dreading the answer.


The boyish face broke into a grin and the dust-caked features metamorphisized into manly laugh lines. “It just so happens that it would,” he answered.


The two ex-outlaws groaned.


“Heyes?”


“Yeah.”


“I got the feelin’ we might’a just met our match.”


Last edited by Keays on Fri Jun 03, 2016 9:24 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Matches   Mon May 30, 2016 9:12 pm

It had been a match of wits and skill, one which had made a whole town hold its breath in the stony-cold obstinacy of the bloody-minded opponents who faced one another down, but only one of them tasted his own blood.

The dark man strode over to the tableau of despair; one man dead in the dirt the other replacing his gun in his holster, ramming down the vengeance and hate with along with the Colt .45.  They both looked down at the body; but they didn’t see a man.  He hadn’t been a much of a man in life so there was no reason to dignify him with the soubriquet.  He had been a bully, a user, a flim flammer, a rogue, and a thief.  He had been all that and more, or was that less, but now he was no more than carrion to be laid in a deep, dark hole.  The decay of the flesh would match the rotten soul; the man who called out other mother’s sons simply to mow them down as a warning not to mess with him.  But he finally called out the wrong opponent, taking the reticence in the clear blue eyes for fear.  That was a mistake, but he wasn’t the type to put humanity into the equation, given that he had none .  He pushed, goaded, and tormented until the gunman had no choice.  He had to shoot or die.  Was the blonde gunman taking the high road in walking away from him, or was it strategy?  Even the self-proclaimed genius couldn’t be sure, given what this man had done to his folks all those years before. 

Why didn’t they just leave town?  Had they both waited this out to allow the situation to develop, or had their inability to articulate their deep wounds simply been a festering boil needing to be lanced by some kind of move by this man? 
Who knew?  There was a clamour rising now the ringing of the shots had died off.  The blue eyes met the brown, suddenly thrust back to reality.  His friends were coming and being fast was no substitute for numbers.  They had to get out of here.  A line had been crossed and that fresh-faced kid had become a killer.  They could only hope that the witnesses would testify about who drew first when the town bully met his match.
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PostSubject: Re: Matches   Mon May 30, 2016 9:31 pm

I just played around with a Stevie Wonder song, seen through the eyes of the girl who had to be left behind...

Hey you were good at playing the fox boy
 When I was good you threw me a bone
 But I ain't playing hot for nobody
 Boy just you wait 'til I get you home
 I'll show you the way to love somebody
 Like you've never ever been shown before
 
Cause my love light's burning
 My whole life's yearning for you
 Hey Baby you were playing the part with the gun
 You tried to make me look like a lover
 But I took care of the law
 Just to show you I can be twice as cool Baby
 
If you want to learn how to love me
 You taught me in my own private school
 Cause my love love lights burning
 My whole life's yearning for you
 You met you your match
 When you play with my affection


 You met you your match
 When you tried to make me walk your line
 When you decided you would hurt me
 That's when your grape feel off the vine
 My mama told me that I better be mellow
 She said you're just a baby maybe too green
 
I told her you had to go
You had no choice
I had to shake off that dream
I told her that you were really cooking
My love is burning for a turn at the steam
Hey, cause


My love light's burning
My whole life's yearning for you
You met your match
When you told me you loved me
You met your match
When you told me that you wouldn't let go
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PostSubject: Re: Matches   Wed Jun 01, 2016 1:13 am

Just a short continuation of a story I hope to finish one day.  


Hopping Trains:  Hope

The old box car swayed, creaked in the darkness, its cracks somehow holding fast against the drizzle outside.  Jed wrapped his arms around himself inside the threadbare shirt.  The bit of warmth eliciting thus staved the chill, but did not stem the shakes.  Eyes peered his way.

“Boy, ya can’t be shiverin' like the dickens all night.  For the last time, stop bein’ a martyr and get yerself under the tarp with me.”

Cager’s voice finally hit home.  A defeated sigh preceded the boy’s moving toward the sound, crawling with the swing and sway, pausing as a loud groan threatened to topple the car.  The few yards gained, Jed groped for tarp’s edge.

“I’m holdin’ it up, Jed.  Keep comin’.”

The boy’s hand found the elder’s knee.  Straightening, he settled alongside Cager, leaving space between them.  The young man dropped the tarp, reached around to tuck them in.  The oiled canvas wreaked a dull dank, but warmed nonetheless.  

Cager reached behind his head, tugging at his rucksack.  “Rest yer head on this.  It’s big enough for two wayfarers.”  

A small voice, “Thanks.”

“There ya go.”  The elder waited a moment.  “See, that shakin's done gone.  Ya gotta be more comfortable.”

Jed nodded in the dark.  

Cager waited.  “Ya asleep already, Jed?”

The boy shook his head.

Cager’s brow knit; a smile followed.  “Well, no sound but I think yer movin' yer head. Can’t see a blasted thing in here.”  He reached into his pocket.  “Maybe if’n I light a match, jest a second or two so we don’t fire up this tinderbox.  It’ll be like the light of a thousand stars, carryin’ our ship toward the horizon, and onward toward mornin’.  If only for a second …”

The glow lit two countenances:  one wide in blue-eyed wonderment; the other a hazel-hued dance.  For a brief brace of seconds, clarity reigned, until thunder clapped.  Wet sluiced through a knot in a board, damning the flame, its light extinguished.  The odor of burnt wood hung long in the heavy air.  The match, now damp, was tossed aside like too many before it.  Yea, that it might have glowed as a star, night after night, or hurled itself earthward with the Leonids.  Its brightness lost in time, the boy sighed, his expression more relaxed.  He blinked at Cager, relaxed his head on the makeshift pillow, slumbered.  Yet one more night he would dream of Home and all he left behind.

***

Han tossed, waking yet again.  The patter on the metal roof now a steady rhythm, the fat drops found the fire, tossing sparks onto the hearth.  Weary, Han rose; moved his hard pallet further away.  Lying again, he fixed a stare on the flames, finally closed his eyes against the brightening illumination.  The afterglow behind his lids marched, its steady movement right to left, as a column of uniformed men some time before and just today rode straight on and then oblique, out of sight.

As Polly predicted, her father had welcomed him.  It was a cursory warmth perhaps, polite but distant:  a boy under his roof again, but not the son he missed.  Just as well, maybe.  In any case, he sent his prayers loft-ward.  Please, God, keep his Will safe, on the run though he be.  And this lad, Hannibal, seeking his own kin.  Yea, as a steady rain nourish the earth, so let the promise of Heaven pour safe watch on them all.


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PostSubject: Re: Matches   Wed Jun 01, 2016 9:36 am

I don't often write, but a write a poem about the brief bright life of the outlaw, comparing it to the match.

I know it's late, so don't worry about polling it 


The night and the blackout crave you:
pilot of heat,
purveyor of the innocent candle,
Thieves are the light we tamed
then fed to the night.
Wild, inviolate,
a sin, a prayer we never sent
away,
A dear which is always with us.
you live a life so brief,
Facing a sudden cleansing.
You, both Prometheus and thief
come as with steal an burst onto the scene,
until subdued by the law,
or snuffed out to pretect us from the fierceness of your worst
Have you really chosen such a life?
The gentleness in your eyes speaks of comfortable warmth
Stay within the safety of the hearth.
The life of the flame is bright, but brief.
But the home fires burn forever

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