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 A Rose By Any Other Name

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riders57

riders57

Posts : 554
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 62

A Rose By Any Other Name Empty
PostSubject: A Rose By Any Other Name   A Rose By Any Other Name EmptySat May 07, 2016 1:41 pm

A Rose By Any Other Name part 1


Elspeth Honoria Cadwalader Braun – Elli to her parents when they were alive, Miss Braun to the general population, and Miz B to her long-time employees – sat ramrod straight in her father’s old desk chair.  Although her dark hair showed signs of gray in its tight bun, her face remained unlined but for the furrows by the sides of her generous mouth.  She put aside the water-color sketch she’d been examining – “Queen of the May” it was labeled and showed five young women in white with the wide skirts of a by-gone era, the one in the middle crowned with a ring of pansies and other spring flowers, her lap filled with more flowers while her attendants each clasped small nosegays.  As her eyes turned from the sketch, the softness in them disappeared.  She paused and drew a deep breath as her features hardened into firm lines.  “Enter,” she called in response to the knock that had recalled her to the present.


Henry Jamison mopped his brow, ran a hand over his head smoothing the remaining strands of hair, and tugged at the stiff collar to his best dress shirt before opening the door and pausing on the threshold.  “Miss Braun, you wished to see me?”


“Yes.  Did you bring the records as I instructed?”


“Of course,” he replied, hesitated, straightened his shoulders, and walked forward to place the account ledgers on the desk before her.  He remained standing in front of the desk, lips pursed, his resentment at having to be servile to a mere woman barely contained.


Elspeth glanced dismissively at the man standing before her and turned her attention to the books.  “Sit down, Mr. Jamison.”


“Yes, ma’am.  Thank you ma’am.”  He sat and tried to contain his impatience.


Elspeth examined the books, scrutinizing each entry closely.  The room was silent except for the occasional sound of a page being turned, the buzz of a fly that had snuck in, and the loud ticking of the clock on the mantel over the empty fireplace.


Jamison squirmed in the chair placed squarely in front of the desk.  He swiped at the fly that flew around his head and tried to ignore the trickle of sweat making its way down his back even as he shivered in the chill emanating from the woman before him.  Elspeth ignored him as she examined the account entries.  She looked at one page, turned back to examine the previous page, and resumed her slow progress through the pages, occasionally turning back before proceeding to the next page.


Finally, Elspeth closed the accounts, clasped her hands, placing them on the books before her, and considered Jamison.  His eyes darted towards her unswerving gaze before hastening away to roam the bookcases behind her, the corners of the room, back to her, and finally to his hands clasped tightly in his lap.


“As I suspected.”


“Ma’am?”  Jamison’s head snapped up.


“Try not to be more of a fool than absolutely necessary, Mr. Jamison.  I have overlooked your incompetent and dilatory approach to the position I offered you out of affection for your sister, my dear friend Lily.”


Jamison flushed and clamped his lips tightly, looking down to conceal his wrath at being spoken to thus by this, this uncouth bumpkin.


“But no longer can I ignore the irregularities.  As I suspected, there are at least ten thousand dollars missing.”


“Are you calling me a thief?”


“Not yet.  At the moment I am calling you a fool.  The auditors will be here in three weeks.  At that time you shall account for all the bank’s funds or I shall have you arrested.  Did you really think I would not notice your embezzlement?”  She paused a moment, drew breath, and announced one word – “dismissed.”


Jamison’s face first paled then flushed.  He rose to his feet and took a step toward the desk, his fists clenched.  


Elspeth stayed where she was, eyebrows raised.  “You dare?”


With a muttered oath, Jamison dropped his hand and turned away as the door opened.  Elspeth’s houseman stood there, his features blank.  “Ma’am, shall I escort Mr. Jamison out?”


Jamison turned and stalked out of the door, pushing past the man.


Elspeth allowed herself a satisfied smile.  “No, thank you, Higgins.  I believe that will be unnecessary.”


Higgins’ somber face lightened briefly.  “Yes, Miz B.”  He turned and closed the door quietly as he left.  Elspeth let out a deep sigh, looked once more at the watercolor she had placed on her desk before the interview, then turned and placed it back on the shelf behind her.


~~~oOo~~~


Elspeth turned from her contemplation of the fields through her study window as she heard the door open behind her.


Higgins coughed.  “Sorry, Miz B., but those men you were expecting are here.”


She compared the watch pinned to her dress to the clock on the mantel and said, “Show them in, please.”


“Yes, Miz B.  In here, please.”  Higgins opened the door wider and stepped aside to allow Heyes and Curry to enter.  They were neatly dressed, although ready for work.  They entered and stood hats in hand.


Elspeth examined them.  “You are late,” she announced.  “I said to be here at ten in the morning and here it is nearly noon.”


The partners glanced at each other.  “Well, ma’am.”  Heyes began.  “It’s a little hard to predict exactly when we’ll arrive when we’ve ridden a long way at your request.”


“And we thought you’d appreciate us cleanin’ up some first,” Curry contributed.


“Hrmmph.  What I appreciate is punctuality.”  Elspeth moved behind the desk and sat, waving her hand briefly at the pair.  “What is done is done.  Be seated.”


“Yes, ma’am.”


Curry pulled a second chair up to the desk and the two seated themselves, settling comfortably into the chairs.  “How can we help you?”


“Which of you is Jones, and which is Smith?”


Heyes smiled his most dimpled smile.  “I’m Joshua Smith, ma’am, and this is my partner, Thaddeus Jones.  Now, Big Mac said you had a job for us?”


Elspeth leaned towards the smiling men before her.  Shaking herself mentally, she straightened her shoulders, pressed her back against the hard upright of her seat, and resumed business.  “Yes, Mr. McCreedy said you two could handle this job.  But I must say, you are not what I expected from trail hands.  I am not certain that you will do.”


“It’s not our favorite occupation,” Heyes chuckled.  “But for Big Mac we’ll make an exception.”


“Yeah, as long as it don’t involve that da… that bust of Caesar,” Curry commented.


At that Elspeth chuckled and relaxed.  “So I see you are aware of Mr. McCreedy’s odd obsession.”


“Yes, ma’am.  We’ve dealt with it before.”


“And won’t again,” the Kid announced firmly, then smiled at her.  “Ma’am.”


Elspeth examined the two more favorably.  She smiled.  “Call me, Miz B., most of my employees do.  I assure you, this job does not involve that bust.  It is quite a simple task.  I have two-hundred cows that I need trailed to Mr. McCreedy’s ranch to breed with those Brahma bulls he owns.  Then you will return them.  One week for breeding, mind you.  No longer.  At least three mountings per cow.  If his bulls cannot perform as promised, I expect him to inseminate my girls artificially.  I will not pay for shoddy work.”


Heyes and Curry glanced at each other with eyebrows raised.


“Come, come, gentlemen, do not tell me that you do not know what artificial insemination is.”


“Oh, we’re aware of the practice, ma’am – Miz B.”


“Yeah, just not real comfortable with the thought,” Curry muttered under his breath.  


Heyes ignored him.  “Surely you have enough hands here to take your cows.  Why do you need us?”


“Yes, normally this would not have been necessary.  However, my foreman is too old for the trail; Hank broke his leg bronco busting two weeks ago, and Eb was snake bit.  They are the only men I would trust with my money.   My other hands are too inexperienced and too young.  Mr. McCreedy suggested you and assured me that you would protect the fees as if they were your own.  He speaks very highly of you two.”  


The two glanced sideways at each other and smiled.


Elspeth’s eyes narrowed and she examined the two closely.  “Very well.  Nonetheless, while you will take Mr. McCreedy’s fee with you, you will receive your pay once you return.  Now, Higgins will direct you to my foreman.  He can tell you what you need to know.”


They stood.  Heyes smiled once more.  “We’d prefer to be paid up front; you never know what could happen, after all.”


Elspeth looked at him coldly.  “I am sure you would, Mr. Smith.  Nevertheless, you will be paid upon completion of the job, not one moment before.”


Heyes’ smile disappeared.  He frowned at her.  Turning he consulted silently with Curry, before shrugging and turning back to Elspeth.  “Very well.”  His eyes hardened.  “But be warned, we do not take well to being cheated out of pay.”


Elspeth examined the two men staring implacably at her.  “Neither do I, gentlemen.  Neither do I.”  She raised her voice.  “Higgins!”  As Higgins entered the room, 


“Introduce these men to Rance.”  She turned back to them.  “My foreman,” she explained briefly.  She turned her back to the three men.


Heyes and Curry took one last look at her and walked out the door that was being held open by Higgins.


~~~oOo~~~


Higgins led them to the porch of the bunkhouse where a tall, lanky man sat with one leg bound between two boards and a set of crude crutches leaning against the wall behind him.  At their approach he put down the lariat he was braiding and nodded.  


“Is Rance around?”


“In his office.”  The man jerked his chin, turned, and spit a stream of chaw into the pot by his side.


Higgins nodded and held the door for Heyes and Curry to enter.  As they stopped inside to adjust to the dim light, Heyes turned to their guide.  “Let me guess, that was Hank.”


Higgins smiled broadly.  “Yes, he of the broken leg.”  He led them to the small office off to the side and knocked on the open door.  “Smith and Jones are here, Rance.”  He smiled again at the men and left.


The room’s occupant dropped his boots from the desk to the floor with a loud clunk as he pushed up the hat covering his face.  He stared at the two men before him and frowned at Higgins’ retreating back.  Shaking his head, he rose from his chair and came to meet the partners.  He was a short man, his head barely reaching their shoulders.  His lack of stature was compensated by a luxuriant handlebar mustache whose waxed ends stretched almost as broad as his shoulders.  He was wiry, with legs bowed from long days in the saddle, eyes set deep in a mess of wrinkles from too many years squinting into the sun, and skin the color of a fine cordovan saddle and just as leathery.


“Joshua Smith.  Nice to meet you, Mr. Rance,” said Heyes extending his hand.


Curry, noting Heyes’ slight wince as Rance pulverized his hand in a hearty handshake, contented himself with touching the brim of his hat.  “Thaddeus Jones.  Pleasure.”


“Pleasure’s all mine, all mine.”  He squinted at them.  “Actually, the name’s Vitak Rancic, but everyone just calls me Rance.”  He gestured them into the main room.  


“Come on and set a spell and let’s get to know one another some.”  He accompanied this with a sharp glance at the two.


Heyes and Curry followed him in and settled at the long table in the center of the room.  They nodded when Rance held up a pot of coffee keeping warm on the stove.  


Rance busied himself with the three cups then sat across from them.


“Miz B tells me Big Mac suggested you two.  Know him well?”


“Well enough,” Curry said smiling.


“Yeah – rumor has it one of you is his nephew.”


“That’d be me.”


Heyes rolled his eyes.


Rance straightened up and pinned them with a steady eye.  “Well make sure you all don’t favor him and try and cheat Miz B.  That’d make you real unpopular around here.  Everyone in this part of Texas knows Big Mac is clutch-fisted.”


Curry nodded.  “Uncle Mac’s tighter than the bark on a tree, alright, but we don’t allow that when we do jobs for him.”


“See that you don’t.”


~~~oOo~~~


Heyes ran his hand down the flank of the nearest horse tied to the rail.  “She’s a beauty alright.”


“Yeah, Miz B. insists on the best.  These’ll be your back-ups.  They’re well trained.”  Rance ran an eye over the stock he was offering and turned to examine the partner’s horses, currently resting in the paddock on the shady side of the barn.  He turned back to the horses before them.  “Now, Polka there, he’s real good at cutting the beeve you want from the herd, but he don’t care for being ridden for long stretches.  Blaze over there can go for hours, but she’s nervous in the middle of a herd.”


“Thanks for the insights.  That’s a big help.”  Heyes stepped back from the rail and turned towards the Kid, who was examining the wagon and talking with Garvey, the man Rance had introduced them to and who would be traveling with them as cook.  “Thaddeus, you about done there?”


Curry broke off his conversation, smiled at Garvey, and shook his hand.  He turned to Heyes and Rance.  “Yeah.  We’re good.  Need a few things before we start though.”


Rance nodded.  “Thought you might.  Figured we’d make a list and head into town.  We can pick up what’s needed, get Big Mac’s money, and maybe wet our whistles a bit before heading back out here.  I figure on taking Hank, too – the Doc needs to look at his leg.”


~~~oOo~~~


Helping Hank down from the wagon was a collective effort.  Rance tied the mules to the rail.  With Curry’s assistance, Hank lowered himself from the wagon and steadied himself with a hand on Curry’s shoulder.  Heyes reached into the back of the wagon and extracted Hank’s crutches.  While Hank balanced on one leg and caught his breath, Heyes moved around Curry, holding out the crutches.  In the process, Heyes knocked into a passerby.  


Jamison came to an abrupt stop as his stovepipe cascaded from his head onto the dusty sidewalk.  His chest swelled, the buttons on his brocade vest straining.  “Fool!” He spat.  “Don’t you know to get out of the way of your betters?”  He snatched his hat from Curry’s hand, tugged at his vest, and shoved past them, sending Hank off balance once again.


Rance hurried to help Hank.  He took the crutches from Heyes, who was still holding them out absently a frown on his face as he watched the portly man stride away from them and into the nearby bank.


“And just who was that charmer?” Heyes asked.


“Henry Winthrop Jamison the third, just our luck,” Rance answered, a sour look on his face.


“Yeah,” Hank commented.  “From some fancy Eastern family.  Thinks he’s too good for the likes of this town.”


“Owns the bank, does he?” Heyes asked.


“Joshua.”  Curry’s eyes telegraphed a warning only his friend could read.  Heyes smiled blandly at him and turned his attention back to the others.


“No.  Miz B owns the bank.  He works for her.  Miz. B was friends with his sister and his late wife.  Man hates working for a woman we hear.”  Hank chuckled.  “I think he just hates working.”


“Enough gossiping like schoolgirls,” Rance chided.  “We got things to do.  Hank, go see the Doc.  Thaddeus, you got the shopping list?”  Upon Curry’s nod, Rance gestured to Heyes.  “Good.  Put it on the ranch account.  Come on, Joshua, we’ll get McCreedy’s money.  Maybe we’ll be lucky and not run into Jamison again.”


Hank slowly made his way down the sidewalk, stopping to turn back to the others.  “Meet you at Bar None for a drink before heading back.”  


Rance nodded and strode towards the bank, Heyes walking with him.  Curry shrugged, pulled out the list, and entered the mercantile.


~~~oOo~~~


Heyes stretched wearily and nodded to Garvey as he took the plate held out to him.  He walked over and placed it next to Curry, who was lying with his hat over his face.  “Thaddeus, supper.  Never knew you to miss supper.”


“Beans and tinned tomatoes ain’t supper.”  Nevertheless, he removed the hat from his face, sat up, and reached for the plate.  He glanced over at Garvey.  “What, no steak tonight?”


“Not my fault we broke the axle crossing the river and dumped the food into the water.”  Garvey glared at him. 


“Tell you what, on the way back you do the cooking. I’ll take the easy job and herd the dang brutes.”


Curry chuckled.


“Well, we’ll be at Mac’s tomorrow.”  With a grimace, Heyes began to shovel in the dismal repast.  “Suppose it could be worse, it could be raining.”


The night darkened as a cloud covered the moon.  “Now you’ve jinxed it.”  Curry finished his meal and stood with a groan.  “I’ll take first watch tonight.”  He strode off to mount up and circle the cattle.


~~~oOo~~~


The sun low in the sky sent deep shadows over the quiet yard.  A gentle breeze cooled the air.  The partners stretched their legs on the porch rail.  


Heyes removed the cigar from his mouth and sipped the brandy in his glass.  “This is the life, isn’t it?”  His genial smile took in his partner and their surroundings.  “Someday this will be us.”


“Someday.  For now, it’s enough that I’m not on the back of a horse.”


“Yeah.  One more day before we get back on the trail.”


“Big Mac is givin’ us a ham for the journey.  So no more tinned tomatoes.”  Curry chuckled.  “Good bettin’ on your part.”


“I knew he wouldn’t part with any extra cash.  This way at least we eat better.”


The two leaned back in their chairs companionably.


“Boys!”  Big Mac stomped onto the porch, his fist clutching a paper.


Heyes feet came off the rail with a clunk.  “What’s wrong, Big Mac?”


Curry smirked.  “Find out you need to help those bulls along…”  He trailed off and looked from Big Mac to his partner and back.


“You’re going to want to hear this.”  Holding the paper, Big Mac began reading its contents aloud:  “Brownsville Bank Robbed.  Brownsville is in an uproar, following last night’s diabolical attack on the bank.  Sheriff Schmidt has called in a posse to find the tracks of the evildoers, vowing to bring the miscreants to justice.  ‘It’s that Devil’s Hole Gang, for sure,’ he stated.  ‘Who else can open a Pierce & Hamilton ‘78 by manipulating the dial??’”


Heyes groaned and ran his hands through his hair.  “It just never ends, does it, Kid?”


“You can’t open that safe.  You need nitro.”  


“You’re missing the point.”


“I got the point.  Heyes and Curry at it again.  How much did we get this time?”


“Twenty, maybe thirty-thousand dollars in cash and securities,” Big Mac answered.  “Now, boys don’t worry.  I know you didn’t do it.  Why you’ve been sitting right here, eating my food for days.”


“And just how is that supposed to help us?”  Heyes glared.


“Why I just need to tell…”


“What tell them your nephew isn’t your nephew and is really Kid Curry and you’ve been lying all this time?”  Heyes snarled.


“Yeah; and oh by the way here they are.  Even if they didn’t rob the bank this time, the town can get its money back with the rewards for those two.”


Big Mac swelled, opened his mouth, and deflated.  “See your point, boys.”  He stared out across his land.  “So what are you going to do?”


The partners looked at each other.  “Not much we can do, Mac,” Heyes replied.  “We’ll trail the cows back and try to clear our names.”


“Again,” Curry muttered.  


Heyes sighed.  “Maybe we can clear our names before the news reaches Wyoming.”


Curry drained his glass.  “We don’t have that type of luck.”


~~~oOo~~~


The partners dropped their saddles on the fence rail and turned to find Rance leaning against the rail, his expression stern.  Puzzled, the two glanced at him and followed his gaze to several men leading a string of horses out of the field.  “What’s wrong?” Heyes asked.


Rance started and turned his attention to them.  “Just selling off some stock.  Miz B wants to see you.”  He turned and strode towards the main house.  Eyebrows raised, the partners followed him.


A somber Higgins showed them in to the study.  Elspeth handed Higgins a necklace and nodded then turned her attention to the men.  “Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones – I gather the journey was a success.”


“Yes, ma’am.”  Heyes smiled.  “Now, if we could just get our pay, we can see you’re busy.”


“Sit down, please, gentlemen.”  She motioned to some chairs, sat behind her desk, and ineffectually pushed at a strand of hair that had escaped her bun, her lips in a thin line.  “We have a problem.”


Heyes’ eyes narrowed.  “What problem would that be, ma’am?”


“You may have heard that there has been a robbery.  I have all I can do to keep the bank solvent until either we catch the thieves and recover the funds or my insurance reimburses me.  Unfortunately, because the Devil’s Hole Gang saw fit to burn the books, I cannot prove how much was stolen.”  She sighed.  “Jamison’s assistant claims twenty-thousand, but it should be closer to thirty-thousand.  The insurance company and the sheriff listen to men better than to a woman.”  She glared.  “There should have been thirty-thousand dollars, but I suspect that at least ten thousand of it had been misappropriated previously.”


She stood and paced the room before turning back to them.  “Due to these unfortunate events, I do not have the money I owe you at this time.  I am selling some of my stock and my jewelry.  From the proceeds I should have enough to keep the bank solvent and repay my debt to you.  That is the best I can offer you.”


Before the partners could respond, the door slammed open.  A teenage girl flung herself into the room.  “Auntie Elli, oh, Auntie Elli!”  She collapsed in tears against Elspeth.


“Lilith, compose yourself,” Elspeth commanded, patting the girl on the shoulder.  “Now sit down and tell me what has you so upset.”


Forgotten, Heyes and Curry blended into the background and eavesdropped unashamedly.


Taking deep gulps, the girl dried her eyes using the lace kerchief Elspeth held out to her.  “It’s Papa.”


“Of course it is.”


“No but… Papa, he says I have to leave.  The Sutters are heading to Philadelphia – leaving next Tuesday.  They’ve agreed to take me to the Garrison’s until it’s time to enter the Florenceville Seminary.”  She looked beseechingly at Elspeth.  “But I don’t want to go.  Why do I need to be finished anyway?  I’ve never even met Aunt Lily.”  She broke down in tears again, more quietly this time.


“That soon?”  Elspeth leaned against the desk.  “Perhaps that is for the best,” she murmured.  Shaking her head, she straightened.  “Lilith, you knew this day was coming.  Why, you will have a wonderful time at the seminary.  Just think of all the other young women your age.  I met Lily and your dear mother there.”


Lilith sniffed and looked defiant.  “I’m not going.”


“Of course you are.”  Elspeth smiled to remove the sting.  She walked to the bookshelf and picked up the watercolor sketch.  “Look, Lilith, this was from my days at the seminary, see there’s your mother Flora, and your Aunt Lily.”


Lilith touched her finger lightly to her mother’s face.


“Those were some of the happiest days of my life.  But then mother took ill, and father sent for me.  Then there was the war, and somehow I just never returned east.”  She braced herself.  “But you will enjoy it as much as I did.”


“But Papa says I can never come back here!” the girl exclaimed.  She jumped from the chair and stood wringing her hands.  “Papa says I have to stay there and make a good marriage, that if I come back here I’ll become a shriveled up…”  She gasped, reddened, and hung her head.


Elspeth smiled grimly.  “Harridan? Or did he say old maid?”


Lilith didn’t speak.


“Lilith, I am well aware of your father’s opinion of me.  Now this is nonsense.  You will go and you will learn to think before you speak and to become a charming young lady.  I will, of course, miss you, but you know you are always welcome in my home, no matter what.  Now come, you need to decide which of your belongings should accompany you and which should be freighted.”


She placed an arm around the girl, who muttered, “I’m sorry, Auntie Elli.” Soothing her, Elspeth walked her out of the room.


~~~oOo~~~


As the door closed behind the two women, Heyes and Curry looked at each other.


“That was strange.”


“True, Kid, but maybe useful.”  Heyes replied absently.  He walked over and picked up the sketch.  “I wonder what F.F. stands for.”


“Huh?”


“F.F.”  Heyes replied holding up the sketch.  “There’re names for each of the girls here:  Flora, Lily, Daisy, Petunia, and F.F.  F.F. must be Miz B., but I wonder what it stands for.”


“Heyes, forget about that.  What are we goin’ to do about gettin’ paid and clearin’ our name?”


“Don’t know.  Yet.”


~~~oOo~~~


Elspeth walked slowly into the room and started when she spied the two men seated in the chairs.  “Oh my goodness, you must forgive me.  What with young Lilith and all, I forgot you gentlemen were still here.”


“Well, ma’am,” Curry stated, “we figure we’re not goin’ anywhere until we get the money owed us.”


“Those chairs may become extremely uncomfortable if you sit in them that long,” Elspeth replied tartly, walking around and sitting at her desk.  She bowed her head momentarily and took a deep breath before facing them again.  “As I explained, I do not currently have the funds due to the bank robbery.  If you wish to work for me while you await your pay, you can fill in for Hank and do odd jobs around the ranch until I have your funds.  At least that way you have a place to sleep and your meals.”


Curry stood.  “And you’d pay us for that work too, I suppose.”


“Of course.”


“Except you ain’t payin’ us now, and we have no reason to think you’ll pay us later.”


“Now, Thaddeus, don’t be hasty,” Heyes soothed.  “After all, it’s not Miss Braun’s fault her bank was robbed, unless of course she robbed it herself.”


Elspeth cocked her head and examined him.  “What do you have in mind?”


“We hear the sheriff is convinced the Devil’s Hole gang did it,” Heyes spoke.  “We happen to have knowledge of that particular group of outlaws, and from what we’ve read of this job I don’t think they had anything to do with it.”


“And how would two trail hands know anything about it?”


“Well, ma’am, as I explained when we met, we aren’t trail hands if we can avoid it.  Actually, you could say that we are in finance – banks and railroads mainly.”  Heyes gestured at his partner.  “Thaddeus here is a security expert.  Why we’ve spent years studying the Devil’s Hole Gang and their brilliant leader – Hannibal Heyes.”  


Curry coughed.  “The gang would be nothin’ without the skill of Kid Curry.”


“And why have you studied that particular gang?”


Heyes dimpled.  “We seem to resemble the descriptions on the wanted posters.  After we were mistakenly arrested as Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, it took us some time to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we weren’t those miserable outlaws.  We decided it was in our best interest to find out everything we could about them.”


“Besides that twenty thousand dollar reward sounds pretty good.”  Curry commented.  


“So why don’t you hire us to find out who really stole your money, and to recover it if we can?  You can pay us once we succeed, along with the other money you owe us.”


“And what sum would you consider to be appropriate reimbursement for such work?”


“I believe the standard finder’s fee is ten percent.”


Elspeth contemplated to two men before her.  “If you do not succeed, I pay you nothing?”


“Yes.”


“You’d still owe us for the trailin’.  I don’t do that for nothin’.  Ever,” Curry interjected.


“I’ll pay you five percent, not a penny more.”  She smiled briefly.  “And, of course, the money I already owe you.”


“And cover a room and meals in town while we investigate?”


Elspeth considered them and nodded.


The partners conferred silently.  “Deal.”  They all shook hands.


~~~oOo~~~


“Did the newspapers get it right that the safe was a Pierce & Hamilton ‘78?”


Elspeth looked up from her concentration on the horses she was guiding into town to acknowledge the man perched next to her in the buggy.  “Yes, what does that matter?  Hannibal Heyes manipulated the dial and opened the safe as I told you.”  Elspeth responded impatiently.


“Because the Pierce & Hamilton ‘78 can’t be opened by manipulatin’ the dials.”  Curry answered from the back seat.  “Heyes tried unsuccessfully in Denver a few years ago.  The whole gang ended up gettin’ nothin’ out of that job.”


Heyes frowned.  “My partner is correct.  Heyes was unsuccessful that first time.  He has since found a way to open such safes – the only outlaw to do so – but his technique requires nitro, not manipulation or dynamite.  No, if your safe was opened by manipulating the dials, it had to be an inside job.”


Elspeth frowned.  “Are you certain?”


“Ma’am, if there’s one thing my partner knows, its safes.”


Heyes jumped in.  “Also you said the records were burned.  Why would an outlaw gang burn the records?”


“I did wonder at that.  But the sheriff says it appears the miscreants used dynamite after the safe was opened.  He speculates that the gang was trying to make it look as if they blew the safe, rather than through manipulation.  In so doing, the papers were accidentally burned.”  


Elspeth slowed the horses as they entered Brownsville’s main street.  “I considered the possibility that someone at the bank had arranged the robbery, but I can find no evidence of it.”  


Heyes raised his eyebrows.  “Did you have someone in mind?”


“Yes.”  Elspeth took a deep breath.  “I believe that Jamison has been embezzling money for some time now.  There should have been thirty thousand in the bank, but as I said Jamison’s assistant swears there was only twenty thousand.”


“Is Jamison related to the girl, Lilith?’


“Yes, he is Lilith’s father, and I am her godmother.”  Elspeth grimaced.  “It does make this all the more difficult.  But the sheriff says Jamison was dining with the mayor when the bank was robbed, anyway.  So he could not have done it, at least he could not have done it himself.”  She pulled the buggy up to the hotel.  “I will arrange a room for you and introduce you to the sheriff.”


~~~oOo~~~


“One room for these two gentlemen, please.  They are in my employ so you may put the room on my account.”


“A room facing the street, if possible.”  Heyes smiled pleasantly at the desk clerk.  The smile was not returned.


“Way I hear it, Miss Braun,” the clerk drawled, eying her up and down, “you’re selling off your things.”  He snorted.  “Just goes to prove Joe was right, running a business is too much for a lady.  Not sure your credit is any good here.”


Heyes and Curry exchanged glances over Elspeth’s head but kept silent.  Elspeth’s eyebrows drew together and a chill radiated from her.  “The Mayor is wrong, and you may tell your brother I said so.”  She unclasped the brooch pinned to her dress and placed it on the counter.  “Amethyst and silver.  It will more than cover their room and board.  Do not sell it; I will redeem it shortly.”


She stood glaring at the clerk until he gulped, nodded, and picked up the brooch.  As he turned the register to allow the partners to sign, Elspeth spoke.  “Leave your things here, and I will introduce you to the sheriff.”


“Impertinent upstart,” Elspeth sniffed as the three exited the hotel.


“Ma’am?”


“His brother, Joe Bartlett, is the Mayor.  The Bartletts arrived in the area shortly after the Brauns, but my father was the more successful and obtained most of the land around here, other than their small holding.  This town is built on our land, but Father Americanized our name for the town.  Now Joe and his brothers want to buy me out for too little money.  That will not happen,” she declared and moved briskly down the sidewalk towards the sheriff’s office.  Heyes and Curry hastened behind her.


~~~oOo~~~


The sheriff proved to be a genial old man, sporting a luxuriant gray beard and mustache and a shiny bald dome.  He passed around coffee then settled into his chair, his hands resting lightly on his rounded pot belly and his bright eyes taking in each person before him astutely.


“Now, Miss Braun, what can I do for you?”


“Sheriff Schmidt, allow me to introduce Mr. Joshua Smith and Mr. Thaddeus Jones.  I’ve hired Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones to look into this bank robbery in the hopes of recovering the money swiftly.”


“Won’t do that.  The posse couldn’t find any traces.  Of course, with the Devil’s Hole Gang, that’s to be expected; they’re too wily to be followed easily.  No, I’m afraid your money is long gone.”  He looked at Elspeth with concern.  “You did say you had insurance, right?”


“Yes, however the insurance company will not provide restitution until I can document how much money was in the bank, and, with the records destroyed, that is proving difficult.”


“That’s a problem all right.”  He stood and walked over to Elspeth, taking her hand and patting it.  “Why don’t you head on back to your home, Miss Braun?  Let old Horace do his job.  I was real fond of your daddy, so don’t you worry your pretty little head over this.  I’ll talk to Mr. Jamison and his assistant, and we’ll get you what you need.  A lady shouldn’t concern herself with such things.”


Fire flew from Elspeth’s eyes as she bit back a hasty retort.  Instead, she rose and stood, pulling her gloves back on.  “I will continue to worry, Sheriff, until such time as the money is restored.”  She turned to the partners.  “I will leave you to discuss the matter with the sheriff.  I expect you to keep me informed of your investigations.”  


“Yes, ma’am.”  Curry nodded.


“We’ll do that.” Heyes affirmed.


Elspeth looked coolly at the sheriff.  “Good day.”  She turned and walked out the door, her back stiff.


Heyes and Curry watched her leave, only to be recalled to their surroundings by the sheriff.


“Now then, you two, set yourselves back down and tell me what you’re really about here,” the sheriff ordered, all geniality gone and his shrewd eyes examining them.  


“I’ve known that little lady since she was knee high to a grasshopper, wild little thing she was.  Her daddy knew what he was about when he sent her east.  Damn shame she had to return.  There’s no man in these parts that could handle her and take on her troubles for her.  Still, she’s done a better job than you’d expect from a woman.”  He glared at the partners.  “So, I don’t hold no truck with a pair of scalawags trying to hornswoggle her into thinking they can solve her problems.”


Heyes opened his eyes wide.  “You have us all wrong, sheriff.”


“Yeah, we’d never do that,” the Kid affirmed, with his most innocent expression.


“See that you don’t or I’ll lock you up so tight a flea couldn’t reach you.”  He glared at them as they sat imitating a pair of choirboys.  “Rance told me you two were trailing cattle for her,” he said in a milder tone.  “What makes you think you can do anything to help with this here bank robbery?”


The two relaxed imperceptibly.  “It’s like this, sheriff,” Heyes began.  “We travel around and pick up the odd jobs here and there.  But we’ve done some investigating, mostly bank and train robberies.”


“Yeah, Sheriff Lom Trevors in Wyomin’ knows us real well,” the Kid volunteered.  “He can vouch for us.”


“Now, we’ve studied the Devil’s Hole Gang for a long time.  Everything we’ve heard about this robbery is just wrong for them.” 


The Kid opened his mouth, but before he could speak, Heyes continued.  “What my partner was about to tell you is that no one can open a Pierce & Hamilton ‘78 by manipulating the dial unless they know the combination.”


“And why set off dynamite after you opened the safe anyway?”


“When Heyes has opened such safes he’s blown them with nitro, not dynamite.  So if that safe was opened by manipulating the dials it has to have been an inside job.”  Heyes sat back, smiling at the sheriff.


Sheriff Schmidt studied them.  Finally he nodded.  “All right for now.  Come see me in the morning, after I’ve had some time to consider.”


~~~oOo~~~


Heyes nodded as Curry held up the whiskey bottle to refill his glass.


“Heyes, you figure it’s Jamison?  Or maybe the assistant?”


“Yes.  But the problem is how to get them to confess.”


“You’ll figure it out.  I just wish you’d do it soon.  That sheriff’s real suspicious of us.”


Heyes smiled.  “Relax, Kid, we’re the last people he’s going to think are Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.”


“I guess.”


They fell silent until they noticed Rance threading through the crowded saloon towards them.


“Mind if I sit for a spell?”


“Sure.  What brings you to town?” Heyes asked.  Curry pushed out a chair for him.


Rance spent some time settling himself.  He took a deep, appreciative gulp of his beer then pulled out a cigar and focused on lighting it.  “Well, you could say you two did.”


Curry’s eyes narrowed.  Heyes laughed.  “Sheriff talk to you?”


“He did.  You two really think you can help Miz. B get the money back?”


“We’ve had other cases where we’ve proved that Heyes and Curry weren’t involved.”  Curry answered.


Rance looked the two straight in the eye.  “I don’t give a gall-durned fig if it’s the Devil’s Hole Gang or the devil hisself that’s responsible.  I want to make sure Miz. B gets her money back.”


The partners nodded their understanding.


“So, Rance, how long have you worked for Miz. B?”  Heyes asked.


Rance leaned back in his chair and pulled the end of his mustache, thinking back.  “Worked for her?  Since she took over the ranch, I suppose.  But I’ve known her since she was a little bitty thing.  My daddy was the first person her father hired when he started his ranch.  I was a young ‘un.  My family had just arrived in this country, but Mr. Braun – he didn’t care.  He didn’t speak much English himself back then, though his wife eventually taught him to speak pretty well.  That woman, she was a real society lady, a Cadwalader from Baltimore I hear, but she never complained about the life she led here.  Only time I ever knew her to put her foot down was to insist that Miz. B go back east to school.”  


He laughed.  “Oh, the boss, he purely did hate being parted from his little girl, and she hated going.  She’d been his shadow since the day she was old enough to sit astride a pony.  We sure were glad to see her when she came back.  Higgins and his wife came with her to see she got back safe then just stayed.  Miz B was a lady by then, of course, but she jumped right back in helping her daddy.  We thought for sure that when he died, she’d sell the ranch and move back east.  But no, she just kept right on running the ranch and the other businesses as well as he did – maybe better.”  


He took a deep gulp, finishing his beer, and clapped the glass back on the table.  “Well, I best be getting back to the ranch.”  He looked at them seriously.  “You figure this out, hear?  Miz. B’s good folks, the best.”


“We’ll do all we can.”  Heyes affirmed.


“See that you do.”  Rance stood and strode out of the saloon.


The partners glanced at each other and finished the whiskey.
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riders57

riders57

Posts : 554
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 62

A Rose By Any Other Name Empty
PostSubject: Re: A Rose By Any Other Name   A Rose By Any Other Name EmptySat May 07, 2016 1:48 pm

A Rose By Any Other Name part 2


“Bartlett’s Emporium,” Curry read out loud.  “Let’s take a look.”


“You know we need to talk to the sheriff.”


“Since when have you ever been in a hurry to talk to a sheriff?  What harm’s a few minutes goin’ to do?  We can figure out what we’ll need for the trail when we’re done here.”


Heyes looked in the window filled with a display of dry goods, books, and small toys, then glanced at the sheriff’s office next door with a slight shudder.  “Guess it can’t hurt to wait a few more minutes.”  He joined his partner in the store.


The two poked around until they spotted a shelf of mechanical banks and wind-up toys.  The store keeper looked up and, seeing his customers’ attention caught, walked over.  


“Watch this.”  He reached into his pocket pulled out a coin and placed it in the hands of a metal man confronted by an equally metallic robber.  He then stopped to wind a key on the side of the device.  Instantly, the robber pointed his gun while the man threw up his hands and dropped the coin in the robber’s bag.  Heyes and 
Curry laughed.  


“I’m Bill Bartlett, owner of this establishment, anything I can help you gentlemen with?”


“Right now we’re just looking around, but that’s a fine line of toys you have here.”  Heyes smiled.  “Bartlett?  Are you any relation to the hotel clerk?”


“It’s worse, he’s the owner.  Yes.  I’m his brother, or one of them.”


“Right, I think I heard one of the brothers was the mayor?”


“Yeah, Joe.”  Bartlett frowned slightly.  “And you are?”


“Sorry.  I’m Joshua Smith and this is my partner Thaddeus Jones.”  Heyes smiled and shook the man’s hand.  Curry nodded and tipped his hat.


“So what brings you two to our town, if I can be so bold as to ask?”


The partners glanced at each other.  “Miss Braun hired us to look into the robbery,” Heyes explained.


Curry picked up one of the wooden windup toys.  “These sure are fancy toys.  I’m surprised to see them here.  Must be expensive to ship.”


Diverted, Bartlett smiled.  “Yeah, probably would be, but these are made right here in town.”


“Really!”


“Yeah, you wouldn’t believe it but the bank manager makes them.”  He chuckled.  “Man has dreams of being a great inventor, like that fella back east, Bell or something.  But for now, he makes toys as a hobby.”  He shrugged.  “Guess he started when his daughter was little.  I sell what he makes, and he pockets the profit.  Brings folks into the store though, so I guess we both win.”


“Jamison made that?”  Heyes asked, eyebrows raised.  “That is surprising.”


“Who would suspect, huh?”  Bartlett laughed.


“Yeah, who?”  Curry agreed replacing the toy.


“Well, Thaddeus, I guess we should be going.  Nice meeting you, Mr. Bartlett, but the sheriff is waiting for us.”


“Bye, Mr. Bartlett.”  Curry followed Heyes out the door.  “That’s a surprise.  Hard to picture Jamison makin’ toys.  Or havin’ a daughter for that matter.”


“Yeah.  Still, I don’t suppose it makes any difference.”  Heyes shrugged and pointed at the sheriff’s office.  “Sheriff’s waiting.”


“As many times as we’ve done this in the last few years, I still hate walkin’ into a sheriff’s office.”


Heyes shivered and chuckled.  “Let’s get this over with.”  He opened the door and the two walked in.


The sheriff glanced at them.  “All right, Ezra, why don’t you go do the rounds?”


The boy he’d been speaking to gulped, his Adam’s apple on a skinny neck bobbing up and down, his eyes wide.  “All by myself?  Sure!”  He hustled past the partners and out the door.


The sheriff looked after him, shaking his head.  “Pitiful.  Town’s stuck with a boy who’s still wet behind the ears and an old man like me.  No wonder we had our first robbery ever.”  He sighed.  “Have a seat, boys.  I checked you out.  That Sheriff Trevors says if you say Heyes and Curry didn’t do it, then they didn’t do it.  Says you two know them better than anyone.  And Rance said you didn’t take the money you were carrying to McCreedy.  So I guess I’ll have to trust you for now.”  He sat behind his desk.  “What can I tell you?”


“Why does everyone think it was the Devil’s Hole Gang?” Heyes asked.


“Well, first because the dial was manipulated.”  He held up his hand.  “I heard you already.  You say it can’t be done.  Maybe you’re right, but it’s just possible Heyes had some help on that.”  He stood and walked over to the safe, glanced at the partners, and ostentatiously moved his back to block their view as he opened it.  He reached in and pulled out a sheet of paper.  “Here, take a look at this.”  He handed the sheet to Heyes.  


Curry leaned over to look at the paper Heyes was holding.  It was blackened and only a small portion of the page remained legible through the char.  It read:


48R. Tuesday good.  Kyle.


“Jamison says 48 right was the last digit of the combination,” the sheriff explained.  “And that gang is known to include one …”


“Kyle Murtrie,” Curry finished for him.  “Can’t be him though.”


“And why not?” 


Heyes explained.  “Sheriff, I can see why you thought it was the Devil’s Hole Gang, but my partner’s right.  We once had the chance to talk to Kyle Murtrie – didn’t arrest him because we were trying to get a handle on the whole gang.  Anyway, Murtrie can’t read, much less write.  No this is a put up job.”


“You sure?”


“Sure that he can’t write?”  Curry asked.  “I am.  In fact, I’m not even sure he can count much past ten.”


“So, as we thought it’s an inside job.”  Heyes affirmed.  He thought for a moment.  “What can you tell me about this Jamison and his assistant?  You sure it isn’t one of them, or even both of them?”


The sheriff snorted.  “I sure would like it to be Mr. Henry Winthrop Jamison the third.  Man’s got no loyalty.  Miz. B’s daddy gave him the job at her request.  Is he grateful?  No.  Man’s not worth a wart on her daddy’s backside.”  He groaned.  “But he couldn’t have done it.  He was drinking with the Mayor when the robbery happened – sorry I should say ‘conferring on weighty matters that you wouldn’t understand, my good man.’”  


“What about his assistant?”


“Silas?  Not a chance.  Silas Limpet wouldn’t think of it.  Man’s afraid of his own shadow and as honest as the day is born.  He’s a deacon of the church and frets if so much as a penny is mislaid.”


Heyes and Curry were silent.  Then Curry frowned.  “How do you know when the robbery happened?  I mean it’s not like someone watched the safe be opened and the money taken.”


“Dynamite makes a pretty loud bang when it goes off, son.”


“Of course, I forgot the dynamite.”


Heyes frowned.  “How do you know the dynamite didn’t open the safe?”


“Because if it had, we’d have some charred money as well as charred books.  But the safe was empty except for them.  I figure they wanted us to think they’d dynamited it, so they waited until after they got the money and were heading out before they blew it up – a long fuse line might give them as much as five minutes.  That way they didn’t have to wait to head out, and that’d be why the posse couldn’t find any sign of them.”


“The money could have been taken any time before that, though.”


“Not until Silas left.  He says he counted everything that night, just like he does once a week.  That’s why he says it’s twenty thousand, not the thirty thousand Miss Braun insists.”  The sheriff frowned.  “Silas seemed real unhappy about it being twenty thousand – said he counted it three times to be sure.”  He was real put out by the books, too.”


“What about the books”  


“Apparently Jamison put them in the safe when he closed up after Silas finished counting.  Silas has been having a hissy fit because he hadn’t been able to check the total against the books.”  He shook his head.  “You’d think he was an old biddy hen who lost her chicks, way he’s been carrying on.”


“Still, what if Jamison took the money when he was closing up?  Then he would’ve had time to get himself an alibi before the dynamite went off,” Heyes mused.


“Then who set off the dynamite?” Curry protested.


“There is that.”


“Don’t know as I can tell you any more than that, boys.  You got any more questions?”


“Tell us more about Jamison.”


“I just finished telling you it couldn’t be him; Mayor swears they’d been together for nearly two hours when the safe blew.”  The sheriff huffed in exasperation.


“Humor me.  If he and Miss Braun dislike each other so, why is she his daughter’s godmother?”


“Lilith?” the sheriff laughed.  “That’s easy.  Jamison’s wife, God rest her soul, a real sweet gal, was a friend of Miz B’s from that fancy school back east.”  He settled into his chair and propped his feet up on his desk.  “Way I remember it – I was sheriff back then mind you.  I’d retired since then, but the last sheriff went off to make his fortune in California or some fool place, so I agreed to fill in until they found a new one.  Just my luck.  Now where was I?”


“You were telling us about Jamison.”


“Oh, yeah.  Well, Jamison’s sister is an old friend of Miz B’s and so was his wife as I said.  After the war was over one or the other of those ladies, or maybe both, wrote to Miz B saying that the Jamison’s wanted to make a fresh start and did she think there was a job for him out here.  Long story short, out they came.”


“So he’s been here a long time.”


“Yeah, kind of surprising.”  The sheriff stood up and walked to the stove to refresh his coffee.


He settled back into his chair.  “He wasn’t so bad when he first came; a little too sure of his own worth, but he managed the bank well enough, and his wife kept everything pleasant.  But they weren’t blessed with children.  Eventually though, Lilith came along and Miz B was her godmother.  But Lilith’s mama, well now, she never did really recover.  She was gone within the year.  Real shame, a fine woman.”  The sheriff paused and took a deep gulp of his coffee.


“Jamison went to pieces after that.  Crawled inside a bottle and stayed there for a long time.  Lilith is the only thing that pulled him back.  She’s the apple of his eye, and a taking little miss she is.  Spoils her, he does.  Nothing’s too good for her.  But Miz B now, he blames her for his wife’s death.  Says if they’d been back east, there’d have been better doctors and that blessed woman’d still be alive.  Yeah, he may be sober these days – most of the time – but he hates it here and just about everyone here.  Don’t know why he doesn’t move back east.”  The sheriff stopped, shaking his head and drinking his coffee.


Heyes and Curry glanced at each other.


“Anything else you want to know?”


“No, sir, not for now,” Curry answered.  


The partners stood, nodded farewell, and left.


~~~oOo~~~


As they paused on the sidewalk, Curry asked, “Now where, Heyes?”


Heyes surveyed the street, took a step toward the saloon then turned back to his partner.  “Let’s go see the bank.”


Curry nodded.


Heyes stopped short inside the bank and took a deep breath.  “Just smell that.  Might be my favorite scent in the whole world,” he muttered to Curry.


His partner examined the activity inside the bank.  Workers pounded and sawed as they replaced the destroyed counter, the damaged safe planted behind the workers, its door hanging open and scorch marks staining the interior.  He inhaled and choked on the sawdust in the air.  “What smell?”


“Money, partner, money.”


Curry chuckled and nudged Heyes, directing his attention to the corner where a table was placed with a lockbox on it and an armed guard beside it.  Tellers were standing nearby ready to handle what business they could.


A small man, his thin grey hair neatly arranged atop his head, a scrawny neck arising from a stiff collar, bustled up to the two.  “I’m the assistant manager of the bank, may I help you gentlemen?  Please excuse the renovations…”


“We’d like a word with Jamison,” Heyes answered.


“May I tell him to what this is in relation?  Mr. Jamison is a very busy man, you know.”


“Tell him it’s in relation to the robbery.”


“Oh!  Of course, of course.  Certainly.  Are, are you with the insurance company?”


“No.”


The small man paused, waiting for Heyes to continue.  When he didn’t, the man examined them hesitantly then pulled his neck in like a turtle seeking the safety of its shell.  “If you would step this way, you may wait in the outer office while I see if Mr. Jamison is available.”  Turning he indicated the door to the offices by the temporary teller station.


As Heyes and Curry moved to follow him through the door, the guard stepped in front of them. 


“One minute.  Your guns, please,” he said, not nmoving 


The partners stopped and looked at the guard in surprise.


“No one goes into the offices armed.  I have my orders.”


Heyes grimaced.  “Of course.”  He bent down and unstrapped his gun belt, handing it to the guard who placed it on a chair behind the table.  He turned and looked at Curry.  Curry stood glaring at the guard who returned the stare but said nothing although his hand crept towards his own weapon.


Curry slowly removed his gloves, folding them carefully, and tucking them in his vest pocket.  He reached down and untied the thongs securing his holster to his thigh.  He unbuckled his belt and stood holding the holster in his hand.  He pulled his gun out just far enough to insert a small strip of leather as a trigger guard before settling the gun back into the holster.  Finally, he placed his weapon next to Heyes’.  “No one touches it.”


The guard swallowed, nodded, and stepped away from the office door.  The assistant manager peered timidly around the guard.  “Gentlemen, come in and be seated.  I shall speak to Mr. Jamison.”


Curry settled comfortably in a chair and watched Heyes pace around the room.  Heyes stopped and examined a framed etching of a Conestoga wagon, its canvas cover replaced with two masts and full sail, being blown along the prairie by the wind.  “Ha!  It’s called “Prairie Schooner,” he told the Kid, chuckling.  He continued pacing.


“Will you sit down, you’re makin’ me nervous.”


Heyes glared briefly then picked up a copy of Scientific American from a side-table.  “Look at this drawing.”  He held up the magazine cover for Curry to see.


“What is that?”


“I don’t know.  Oh, it’s called ‘A better mousetrap.’”  Heyes began reading.


Jamison appeared in the doorway tugging the points of his vest down as he turned to examine his visitors.  He strode forward, an expression of outrage on this face.  “You.  You’re that ruffian that assaulted me a few weeks ago.”  He opened the door to the bank lobby.  “Guard, guard!  Escort these, these persons from the premises.”


All activity in the room ceased as the inhabitants turned towards the pair.  The guard by the lockbox started then headed towards them, his hand reaching for his gun.


Heyes plastered on a smile that did not reach his eyes.  “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.  Miss Braun hired us to investigate the robbery.  And, for the record, I did not assault you; you walked into me.”


Jamison’s face turned red.  He now stood directly in front of Heyes.  “Poppycock.  Even that woman has more sense than to hire lay-abouts such as you.”


Curry’s eyes turned to ice.  “You callin’ my partner a liar?”


Jamison turned to Curry, fury written on his face.  As he looked into Curry’s chilling stare, he blanched.  “No, no, of course not,” he placated.  “I’m sure this is all just a misunderstanding.  Won’t you two step into my office?”  He gestured for the guard to return to his post.


A collective sigh ran through the spectators and the noise slowly resumed as they returned to their business.


Jamison grimaced and shut the door, gesturing for the partners to sit.  “What do you want?” he asked sourly.


Heyes and Curry seated themselves and took their time.  Heyes leaned over, opened the humidor on Jamison’s desk and handed Curry a cigar, taking one for himself as well.  Curry sniffed the cigar and smiled his appreciation as he lit up.


Jamison’s eyes narrowed.  “Well?”


“What can you tell us about the robbery?” Curry asked.  Heyes busied himself with lighting his cigar and examining the papers on the edge of Jamison’s desk as Curry spoke, reading them upside down as best he could.


“Nothing you haven’t already heard, I’m sure.  The safe was opened by manipulation…”


“How do you know that?”


Jamison huffed.  “Because,” he enunciated, “the scorch marks from the dynamite are on the inside of the safe, not the outside.  Even imbeciles such as you should be able to understand that.”


Curry raised his eyebrows and glanced at Heyes, who appeared not to have heard.  As Curry resumed questioning, Heyes surreptitiously slid several pieces of paper out of the pile before him.  “And why would robbers bother blowin’ up the records?”


Jamison huffed again.  “I doubt they intended to.  The papers probably just got caught in the explosion.  Do you have any other idiotic questions?  I’m a busy man.”


Heyes stood.  “Not for the moment.  Come along, Thaddeus, we shouldn’t bother such a busy man.”  He turned away and headed for the door, tucking the folded sheets of paper into his vest pocket once he had turned.  Stopping at the door he turned back to Jamison.  “I assume you have no problem with us examining the safe and the area around it.”


Jamison rolled his eyes.  “Do what you want, you will anyway.”


The two exited.  “Gee, Heyes, we seem to have annoyed the man.”  Curry grinned.


“That man was born annoyed.”  Heyes headed towards the ruined safe.  


Curry shrugged and followed him, stopping to collect their guns from the guard as they passed.  Heyes glanced at the safe, peered at the counter measuring the distance, and examined the floor.


“What are we lookin’ for?”


“Anything we can find.”  Heyes toed a boot through a pile of debris spreading it for closer examination.  Eyes narrowed, he stooped and picked up a candle and a spring.  “What do you suppose this spring is for?” he wondered aloud.


“I’m sure you’ll figure it out,” Curry replied.  He walked over and joined his partner in examining the debris.  “Look.”  He stooped and picked up a length of fuse cord in the jaws of a small clamp.  “Sloppy work that; waste of good a fuse.”  He looked around.  “You about done?”


Heyes didn’t respond.


“Joshua!  I said are you about done?”


“Sorry.  Yes.  Give me that fuse would you?”  Upon Curry’s handing the clamp holding the fuse line over, Heyes wrapped it, the candle, and the spring into his bandana and tucked them in the pocket of his jacket.  “Well, are you coming?”  He grinned at his partner’s exasperated snort and preceded him out of the bank.
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riders57

riders57

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A Rose By Any Other Name Empty
PostSubject: Re: A Rose By Any Other Name   A Rose By Any Other Name EmptySat May 07, 2016 1:53 pm

A Rose By Any Other Name part 3 (conclusion)


Curry yawned and stretched.  Observing Heyes sitting beside a small table, he spoke.   “What’re you lookin’ at?”


“Hmm?”


“Heyes! I asked what you were doin’!”


Heyes looked up.  Taking in Curry’s bloodshot eyes and squint against the morning glare he grinned.  “Too bad you can’t hold your liquor like you used to.  Must be getting old.”


“Speak for yourself, old man.”  Curry climbed out of bed and walked to the dresser.  He peered in the mirror and shrugged before getting ready to shave.  “So what’s got you so focused this early in the mornin’?”


“These papers I took from Jamison’s office.”


Curry abandoned his shaving and looked over Heyes shoulder.  “P-a-t-e-n-t.  What’s he doin’ with a patent?”


“Seems he has a patent for some dang device that you could set the night before and it’d have warm coffee ready for you in the morning.”


“Sounds like a good idea.”


“Yeah, but he can’t sell it.  See, this company here wrote that it wouldn’t work, and it’d be too expensive for anyone to buy if it did work.”


“Hmm.”  Curry walked back and resumed shaving.  “So what’s that got to do with the robbery?”


“Don’t know, but I have a feeling it’s important.  I just don’t know why.”  Heyes stood and began pacing.  “I mean what’s the good of something that doesn’t work, and why does a bank manager want a patent anyway?”


“Seems like he pictures himself some big inventor.”  Now dressed, Curry clapped his hat on his head and picked up Heyes’ hat.  “It’ll come to you, but it’d come better if you ate somethin’.  Come on, partner, let’s get us some breakfast.”


Heyes frowned down at the papers, folded them away in his saddle bags, and joined Curry.


~~~oOo~~~


“Gentlemen, have you made any progress?”


Once again settled in Elspeth’s study, the two men glanced at each other.  “We’ve made some progress.” Heyes began.


“Yeah, we’re pretty sure it was Jamison.”  Curry supported his partner.


Elspeth frowned.  “’Some progress.’ ‘Pretty sure.’  Obviously you have not solved the mystery.”  She rose and paced the room before stopping before the windows and looking out over the landscape.  “What is the difficulty?”


“Jamison has an alibi,” said Heyes.


“I was already conversant with that inconvenient fact.”


“Yeah, well all we have to do is break that alibi.”


“Then I suggest you do that, gentlemen.  My largesse is limited; I will not be supporting you indefinitely.  You have until the end of the week.”  She walked over and opened the door.  “Good day.”


~~~oOo~~~


Heyes took a sip of the whiskey before him and glared at the wall behind the Kid’s shoulder.  “I don’t know, Kid, I just can’t figure it out.”


Curry looked up from the cigar he was lighting.  “You will.”


“But how could Jamison be in two places at once?  We know he was at the Mayor’s for two hours before the safe blew.”


“Yeah.”  Curry took a deep puff.  As he blew smoke rings he spoke slowly.  “Maybe… Nah, never mind.”


Heyes focused on him.  “Maybe what?”


“Well, what if he did somethin’ like that patent he wanted and set a timer on the fuse?”  He shook his head.  “But why would the Mayor lie?  And to have a long-enough fuse, you’d have fuse cord everywhere.  There’d be scorch marks all over that bank.  Nah, it’s just too long a time.  A half hour maybe.”  He picked up his glass.  “Well you’ll figure this out.”


Heyes grunted and sipped his whiskey.  Suddenly he banged his glass on the table.  “Out of the mouth of babes.”  He grinned at Curry who looked back warily.  “Drink up, Kid, we should get some dinner; it’s gonna be a late night.”


“Huh?”


“We’re gonna pay the Mayor a little visit.  If we’re lucky he’ll never know.”  He strode towards the door then turned back to his partner.  “Might visit Jamison, too.”


~~~oOo~~~


Late the following morning, Curry and Heyes could be found in Elspeth’s study again. 


“I have arranged for everyone’s attendance as you requested, gentlemen.  Now, do you wish to explain why?”  Elspeth studied the two men before her.


Heyes smiled dimples rampant.  “Ma’am, we’ve figured it out.  But I’d like to wait until everyone gets here to…”


He was interrupted by the opening of the door.  “Sheriff Schmidt, to see you, Miz. B,” Higgins announced.  He held the door and allowed the sheriff to enter.


“Now, Miss Braun, you know I’m at your service, but was there something in particular you wanted?” Schmidt asked as he entered.  He nodded to Heyes and Curry.


“Please be seated, Sheriff.  Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones asked that I requested your presence.  Perhaps now that you have arrived, they will be kind enough to explain to both of us.”


He turned his attention to the partners.


Heyes smiled again.  “Just a little patience.  We need everyone here.”


Schmidt nodded briefly and settled himself in a chair.  All was quiet as they awaited the others.


With a brief knock, Higgins again opened the door.  “Mayor Bartlett, ma’am,” Higgins announced, his face expressionless.


“Really, Miss Braun, I have important business to attend to.  I can’t be dropping everything for some woman’s whim.”  Bartlett huffed as he entered and glared at the assembled company.  “Let’s get on with it.”


Elspeth nodded.  “Very well.  Mr. Smith, I believe the floor is yours.”


“As you may know, Mayor, my partner and I were hired by Miss Braun to investigate the bank robbery.”  As Heyes spoke, Curry quietly walked over to stand near the door.


“Of course, I know.  Nothing happens in this town that I don’t know about.”  Bartlett turned to glare at the sheriff.  “Sheriff, we don’t pay your salary to indulge some woman in her foolishness.  If she wants to waste her money that’s her business.  I expect you to do your job and mind the town.”
Schmidt’s eyes narrowed.  “I do my job just fine, Joe.  Part of that is finding out what happened at the bank.  Why don’t you let these two explain?”


“If I may continue,” Heyes interceded.  “What troubled us was the timing of the robbery.  After all, it was obvious who had done it from the first.”


“Yeah, it was an inside job, all right,” stated Curry.


“The problem was that Mr. Jamison had an alibi.”  He smiled briefly and coldly at the Mayor.  “With you, in fact.  What we couldn’t figure out was why you would lie about how long you were with Jamison.”


He paused.  Mayor Bartlett glared at him but said nothing.


“Well, man.  Get on with it.  What did you find?” the sheriff asked.


“Certainly.  Thaddeus, if I may?”  Heyes held out his hand as Curry extracted a paper from his vest pocket and offered it.  “Thank you.”  Heyes opened the paper.  


“Now, what I have here is a loan agreement.”  He smiled at the Mayor.  “Signed by you.  It says here that the loan, for no interest I might add and a flexible repayment obligation...  Anyway, it says that the loan is to be secured by the purchased properties, which include the bank and a certain ranch…”


“What?”  Gasped Elspeth.  “Why would you think that I would sell my property to you of all people?”


“Let me see that!”  The Mayor grabbed the paper from Heyes as the sheriff moved to read it over his shoulder.  “Where did you get this?  You’re a thief.  How did you get into my safe?”


The sheriff’s eyebrows raised, and he exchanged a look with Elspeth.


“So you admit that’s your signature?”  Curry drawled.


The sheriff twitched the paper from his hand and examined it closely.  “Yup, that sure looks like your signature, Joe.”  He continued to study the paper.  “And it’s dated the day of the robbery, too.  Why would Jamison extend a loan to you for no interest for a ranch that wasn’t for sale?”


Bartlett, his face red, sputtered.  “You’re questioning me?  How do you know these two ruffians weren’t the robbers themselves?”


“Because we were trailin’ a bunch of cattle down to Big Mac for Miss Braun here at the time.”  Curry replied.  “We couldn’t have done it.”


Bartlett glared at him.


“Joe, I know you don’t like Miss Braun here.  Heck the whole town knows that.  And this loan looks mighty fishy to me.”  The sheriff looked at Bartlett, his hand on his pistol.  “You’d best explain what’s going on.”


Bartlett glared from person to person.  Finding no sympathy among his captors he surrendered.  “Oh, for goodness sake.  What difference does it make when Jamison joined me that night?  He’s a gentleman.  Surely, you can’t seriously suspect he had anything to do with robbing his own bank.”


“But it wasn’t his bank,” Heyes interjected.  “It belongs to Miss Braun here.  Just like the ranch you wanted does.  Did you think that if the bank was robbed Miss Braun would be forced to sell the ranch and you could get it at a bargain?”


Elspeth stood.  “You are a fool, Joe, and you always have been.  Money might be tight at the moment but I have no intention of selling the ranch, not now, not ever.  And I would never sell it to you.  You and your brothers have despised me since I took over the business, and ignored me before that.”


“Women have no sense for business,” Bartlett declared.  “I’m doing you a favor.”


“When did Jamison really arrive that evening, Joe?”  Elspeth asked, staring at him until he cast down his eyes and turned away.


“About 9:30,” he muttered.


“How long before the explosion was that, sheriff?”  Heyes asked.


“Twenty – thirty minutes.”  


All started as Higgins again knocked on the door and opened it.  “Mr. Jamison, Miz B.”


Jamison looked questioningly at Bartlett, who would not meet his gaze.   Elspeth had resumed her seat behind the desk.  The partners stood casually – Curry by the door and Heyes by the windows to the patio beyond.  


“You were explaining how the bank robbery happened,” the sheriff stated turning to Heyes.


“Yes.  Well as we know Jamison here got to the Mayor’s around nine-thirty that evening, not eight o’clock as we all thought.  But that’s still before the safe was blown.”


“There.  You see?  I keep telling you, I had nothing to do with it,” Jamison blustered.


“We know that it was an inside job, because you had to have the combination to open that type of safe.”


“But there was a note from a known member of the Devil’s Hole gang,” exclaimed Jamison.


“A note from a member who can’t read or write.”  Curry dismissed him.


“As I was saying,” Heyes continued, “so the question was how to set off the dynamite at a certain time and how to establish an alibi for that time.  What better alibi than a meeting with the Mayor?”


He paused and smiled at Jamison, who looked back warily.  “You’re quite the inventor we hear.  All those toys at Bartlett’s emporium and all.”  He reached into his pocket and pulled out yet another sheaf of papers.  “I see you even have a patent for a delayed action coffee maker.”


Heyes paced before the windows and reached into another pocket.  “When we examined the scene of the crime we found the strangest bits and pieces.  A short length of fuse, a clip, a spring, and a candle stub.”  He held each item up as he spoke.


“I’d say you used your mechanical knowledge to set up a timing device with this candle to light a long fuse – held by this clip here, so you could get to the Mayor’s house in plenty of time before the explosion.”  He looked steadily at Jamison.  “The reason the posse could find no trace of the gang was because there was no gang.  No one rode out of town after the safe was blown except the posse.  No one remembers seeing any strange people or horses in town at the time of the robbery or right after.”


“Sheriff, are you going to permit this tramp to accuse me?”  Jamison demanded.  He extracted a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his brow.


“Seems to be doing a pretty good job of it,” the sheriff answered.  “Why don’t you explain why you’ve been lying about when you got to the Mayor’s.”  He held up a hand.  “Don’t bother to deny it.  Joe here already admitted it.”


Jamison stood breathing heavily glaring from person to person.  The Mayor looked down at his shoes and shuffled his feet, not meeting Jamison’s eyes.


The tableau was broken by yet another knock on the door.  This time Rance entered, a grin on his face and a package in his hand.  “Found it just where you thought, Joshua, Thaddeus.  In Jamison’s study in his house.”  The ranch foreman handed the package to the sheriff.


Jamison’s eyes popped.  “You searched my house!  How did you open the safe?  Tell me now.”  Suddenly his face went white, and he abruptly closed his mouth, his eyes darting to the door, the window.


Rance gripped his shoulder.  Jamison attempted to shrug away, but Rance’s grip tightened.  Jamison glowered by subsided.  


“Don’t know anything about your safe,” said Rance.  “I found that in your desk.”


Jamison turned to stare at him.


The sheriff opened the package and laid the bundle of bills he found inside on the desk in front of Elspeth.  “Guess this settles it.  Jamison, you’re under arrest for grand theft.  Mayor, you’re under arrest for aiding and abetting.  Why don’t you count it, Miss Braun, and see if it’s all there.”
Elspeth nodded and counted.  “It comes to twenty-five thousand dollars.”  She stood and walked over to Jamison.  “Why?  Why would you steal from this town?”


Jamison shrugged off Rance’s hold on his shoulder.  “I didn’t steal from the town.  I took it from you.  You’re the problem.  Because of you, my beautiful Flora is dead.”


Elspeth shook her head.  “Take your prisoners, Sheriff.  I need to consider.”  She turned her back on the room and walked over to the watercolor sketch of the young girls.


~~~oOo~~~


“How dare you?”


“I’ll have your badge for this, Schmidt!”


Schmidt shut the door to the room holding the cells in which he and the partners had just placed Jamison and Mayor Bartlett.  “Taking my badge is no threat.  I don’t want it.”  


He turned to the partners.  “I appreciate your help.”  He looked shrewdly at the two.  “I’m kind of surprised that the Mayor left those loan documents lying around for just anyone to see.”


Heyes smiled.  “You just have to look carefully, and it’s amazing what you can find.”


“Uh, huh.”  The sheriff sighed.  “You two going to stick around for the trial?  Judge ain’t due to town for three more weeks.”


The partners stared at each other.  “Well, Sheriff, it’s like this…” Heyes began.


Schmidt held up a hand.  “I figured you wouldn’t.  Just let us take statements from you before you go.”


“Yeah.”


“Sure thing.”


The two hustled out of the office.  Schmidt watched them and smiled to himself.


Heyes and Curry paused outside.  “Now what, Heyes?”


“Let’s get our money and get out of here.”  


As Heyes spoke, Elspeth pulled up in her buggy, her face stern.


“Miz B.”  Curry tipped his hat and reached out to tie the horse to the rail while Heyes helped her down.


“Surprised to see you here this quickly, Miz B.”  Heyes commented.


“What.  Oh.  Yes.  I have a little business with the sheriff.”  Elspeth looked blankly at them for a moment.  Then her gaze sharpened.  “Thank you for your assistance, gentlemen.  If you’ll come by the house at ten tomorrow, I will assure that you are paid.”


“Our pleasure, ma’am.”


With another nod, Elspeth squared her shoulders and headed in to the sheriff’s office.  The partners shrugged and moved on.


~~~oOo~~~


The morning sun twinkled off the dust particles lingering in the air of the quiet room.  A slight breeze from the open windows stirred the curtains.  


Elspeth turned from her contemplation of the watercolor sketch as the door opened and the partners entered.


She smiled.  “Please be seated, gentlemen, and we can conclude our business.”


“Morning, ma’am.”  Heyes settled himself comfortably.  Curry reached into his pocket and pulled out a small package, handing it to Elspeth before seating himself.  “Bartlett, at the hotel gave this to us.  Said the room was with his compliments.  Didn’t seem real happy about it though.”


Elspeth smiled.  “I doubt he was.”  She opened the package and removed the brooch that she had used as collateral for their hotel bill.


A speculative look in his eye, Heyes watched Elspeth’s face.  “Did you know the Mayor and Jamison were out?  Saw them leaving the breakfast room at the hotel as we came in.”


“Yes.  I knew.”


“That gonna be a problem for you, ma’am?  We were plannin’ to leave once you paid us.  After we gave the sheriff our statements of course,” said Curry.


“No need to give statements.  Sheriff Schmidt and I spoke with those two yesterday evening.  The mayor is resigning and turning over five thousand dollars to the bank.  Jamison has surrendered all claims to the twenty-five thousand dollars that were found at his house.  He will be accompanying Lilith back east when she leaves for school Tuesday.”  She looked at the two men before her.  “He will not be returning.”


“So that’s it?  No trial, no jail?”  Curry asked.


“No.”  She looked at the two men.  “We settled it quietly.”


“Why?  If you don’t mind my asking,” said Heyes.


“Do you not believe that sometimes a man should be given a second chance?”


Heyes and Curry glanced sideways at each other.  


“We can understand that,” Curry affirmed.


“I was certain you would,” said Elspeth.  “Bartlett is a fool, but he did not deliberately set out to rob the bank.  Jamison, well we must consider Lilith.  What would this do to her?  I will pay for her schooling myself – directly to the school so there can be no question.  As for Jamison, he will be Philadelphia’s problem from now on.”


She reached into her drawer and removed an envelope.  “This should contain the amount we agreed upon, gentlemen.  Please count it.”  She held out the envelope.


Heyes took it and opened it.  While he counted, Elspeth lifted the sketch from its place on the shelf and held it, examining it.  “Who knows,” she murmured, “maybe Jamison will redeem himself back east.”


“All there?”  Curry looked at his partner.  Heyes nodded.


“Then, unless you have any further questions, gentlemen...”


Heyes and Curry stood.  “Just one,” said Heyes.  “What does the ‘F.F.’ stand for in that painting you have there?”


Curry raised his eyes to the ceiling.  


Elspeth looked quickly at Heyes and laughed.  “It is from my school days.  Friendships can last a lifetime.  Flora, Lily …” She pointed to each girl in turn.  “Daisy, Rose, and me.  They always called me their floral or frontier friend – F.F.”


Elspeth smiled.  “We all go by many names in our lives, don’t we, Mr. Heyes and Mr. Curry?  Have a good journey.”


Before they could react, Higgins was at the door to show them out.  Eyebrows raised, they left, after wishing Elspeth farewell.
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