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Keays

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Posts : 1431
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 60
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: Heading Home   Wed May 18, 2016 1:19 pm

“You need to go talk with your father,” Steven prodded his wife.  “You know that we’re leaving this evening, and you shouldn’t go with this rift between you.”


Bridget stood looking out upon the street from the window of their hotel room.  Her mouth hardened at the words her husband said, but she didn’t’ move her gaze from the activity going on beneath her.  People were walking to and fro, entering the mercantile, or the saloon, or any other number of activities that citizens pursued while spending the morning in town. 


‘How can they carry on like this?’ she thought, with a rising resentment.  ‘How can they go on about their daily business, knowing that a good man has died for no reason?’


“Bridget,” Steven continued.  “It’s not your father’s fault.  You know that.  Please, go and talk to him.  You know darn well that he’s blaming himself for this.  He needs you, of all people, to tell him that you don’t blame him.”


Silence.  Bridget continued to gaze out the window.


“Bridget!”


“Yes!” Bridget finally acknowledged him.  “Alright.  If you’re going to insist; let’s go and talk with him!”


Swinging away from the window, she snatched up her shawl to ward off the morning chill and stomped towards the door of their room.  Steven sighed, and gathering up his jacket, he followed her out of the room.  This wasn’t really what he’d had in mind.


“Bridget!” Steven called after her, as they hurried along the corridor.  “Come on, wait for me.”


With an air of impatience, Bridget stopped to wait for her husband to catch up.


He came up beside her and slipped an arm around her waist.


“Come on,” he said.  “Don’t be like this.  I know you’re hurting.  But so is everyone else.” 


 Bridget snorted derisively.  “I know you don’t think so.  But a lot of people here are going about their daily business, because that is the only way they know how to deal with it.  Don’t judge them so harshly.  You’re not the only one feeling this loss.  Please, go to your father honestly.  He’s hurting too.”


Bridget sighed, but her defenses began to come down, and finally, she nodded.


“Alright,” she agreed.  “Let’s go and talk with him.”


Steven smiled.  “Good.”


Xxx


Steven and Bridget were just about to ascend the porch steps, when David exited his front door, on his way to start his rounds.  He smiled as he spied the young couple, and he carried on down the steps to greet them.


“Good morning,” he said.  “Coming for a visit?”


“Yes,” Steven concurred.  “We’re going to be heading home in a few hours, so thought we would get our goodbyes in now.  How is he?”


“He’s doing fine,” came David’s generic answer.  “I’m sure he would appreciate the company.”


“Good,” Steven responded, and the two men exchanged glances, which were not lost upon Bridget.


“I know,” she stated, pointedly.  “I’ll go and speak with him.  Is Mama here?”


David smiled.  “Yes,” he concurred.  “She’s a bit rattled though.  Sally is proving to be a bit of a handful.”


“I thought Mama could handle anything,” Bridget commented, with a bit of a twinkle.


David laughed.  “Well, this one is proving to be a challenge.  Hopefully, the child actually went to school today.”


“Lesson learned, perhaps?” Steven asked.


“Perhaps,” David agreed.  “Well, I must be off.  I expect, I’ll see you later, before you leave.”


“Most likely,” Steven agreed, as he and his wife approached the stairs.  “Have a good day.”


Entering the house, they both greeted Tricia, who was busy clearing up the kitchen after a hasty breakfast.  Eleanor was in her bassinet, on the table, playing with her brightly colored toys.


“Hello,” Tricia greeted them.  “I take it you’re here to see your father.”


“Yes,’ Bridget agreed.  “Is he up to company?”


“Oh yes,” Tricia assure her.  “Your mother’s in there now.”


“Thank you,” Bridget said, and knocked quietly on the guest room door.


A gentle ‘come in’ responded from inside, and the couple entered the bedroom.


Belle smiled and got up to give her daughter a hug, then did the same to her son-in-law.


“Good morning!” she greeted them.  “We were beginning to wonder if we were going to be seeing you, before you headed for home.”


“Yes, Mama,” Bridget accepted the mild reprimand.  “We wouldn’t leave without saying goodbye.”  She looked down at her father, feeling a little uncomfortable with the connection.
“Papa.  How are you this morning?”


“I’m doing better, Bridget,” Jesse told her.  “I’m glad to see you.”


Bridget nodded, but she broke eye contact quickly and returned her attention to her mother.
“How is Sally?” She asked.  “David mentioned that she is being difficult.”


Belle rolled her eyes.  “That child!  She can be a handful.  She seems to have forgotten all about her ordeal and only has thoughts for that silly dog.  It was all I could do to get her off to school this morning.”


Bridget smiled.  “It looks like they have a new dog, whether they want one or not.”


“You folks are going to be needing a new ranch dog, aren’t you?” Steven asked.  “Maybe you could take him?”


“We’ll see,” Jesse commented.  “He seems pretty attached to Sally.  Even if we did take him, he might not stay on the ranch.”


“But a ranch dog, in town,” Steven theorized. “That could be more trouble than it’s worth.”
“I know,” Jesse agreed.  “We’ll see.  Ultimately, it’s going to be up to Hannibal and Miranda, whether they want a dog in town, or not.”


Belle laughed.  “I think, it’s going to be up to Blu,” she told them.  “That dog has ideals of his own.”


There was a consensus of agreement on that statement. Belle glanced at her husband, then at Bridget, and finally, she sent a meaningful look to Steven.  Steven gave an imperceptible nod, and Belle responded.


“Well,” she said with intent.  “I believe, I will go and join Tricia for a cup of tea.  Would you like to join us, Steven?”


“Why, yes, I would, Belle,” Steven responded and held out his arm for his mother-in-law to take.  “Thank you for the offer.”


Bridget rolled her eyes, knowing full well that she was being set up.  Once they left the room, she glanced down at her father, feeling a little awkward now that the time was here to make amends.  She sat down in the chair that her mother had just vacated, and avoided her father’s eyes.


Within moments, she felt the warmth of his hand on her’s, and she glanced up to meet his gentle gaze.


“Are you angry with me?” He asked her.


“A little,” Bridget quietly admitted, and looked away from him again.  She felt his hand gently squeeze hers.  “I don’t know why nobody ever listens to me.”


“I’m sorry,” he said.  “I’m so sorry.  I should have listened to you.  You don’t know how much, I wish that I had.”


“Steven says that it’s nobody’s fault,” she reiterated.  “That the sheriff would have gone out there anyways.  That this was his job, and he knew the risks.”


Jesse nodded.  “Perhaps.  I still feel that I egged him on, though.  His own common sense was telling him to be cautious, and I…” Jesse’s words caught in his throat, and he shook his head with regret.  “I don’t think that I’ll ever forgive myself.”


Bridget felt her own throat tighten, and tears sting her eyes.  Suddenly, all she felt, was overwhelming love for her father, and compassion for the pain that he was feeling.


“Papa!” she cried, and came onto the bed, to embrace him.


She felt his good arm wrap around her and hold her close, while he felt tears of both regret and relief roll down his cheeks.


Xxx


“How is he, really?” Steven asked quietly, so the couple in the guest room wouldn’t hear him.


“He really is doing better,” Belle assured him.  “David won’t let him go home yet, but I’m sure we’ll go soon.  Are you sure you and Bridget have to get back?  You could stay over for another couple of days.  You could stay out at the ranch, if you’d like to.”


“No, sorry, Belle,” Steven declined.  “We can’t.  I have cases that need my attention, and we both miss the girls.  We’ll all try to get back here for Thanksgiving.”


“Alright,” Belle accepted that.  “Hopefully things will be more or less back to normal by then.  Although, I suppose, in some areas, it’s going to be a long time before it feels normal again.”


“Yeah.  How is Merle handling it?”


Tricia and Belle exchanged glances.


“Not well,” Tricia answered.  “David is helping her, though.”


“I had no idea that she and Carl were that close,” Belle admitted.  “They were very good at keeping that quiet.”


Whatever conversation was to follow, was abruptly interrupted by footsteps coming up the outside stairs, followed by a determined knocking on the door.


“Oh, what now?” Tricia grumbled, as she wiped her hands and headed over to open the front door.  “David’s not here.  He’s on his rounds.”


“Oh, ah, I ain’t lookin’ fer the Doc,” came Kyle’s voice from the porch.  “Jest wanted ta’ let ya’ know that the posse’s comin’ back.”


“Oh!” Tricia responded.  “Yes.  Thank you, Mr. Murtry. Is everyone alright?”


“Fer as I can tell,” Kyle told her, as his voice trailed off down the porch.  “There’s a few more of ‘em comin’ back as what went out, too.”


Tricia returned to the kitchen.  “I’m going to go and take a look.  Are you coming?”


“Oh yes!”  Belle agreed.  “Steven?”


“Sure, I’ll come along,” Steven responded.  “I’ll just let Bridget know where we’re going.”


The two ladies threw on their shawls, and Tricia quickly wrapped Eleanor up in a blanket.  Eleanor protested at the interruption, but her mother ignored the comments as she scooped the baby up, and everyone headed outdoors.


It seemed that half the town was congregating at the jailhouse, and there was quite a crowd gathered around outside the office, by the time the posse pulled up in front of it.


A number of hearts jumped into throats at the sight of two of the horses packing what was obviously dead bodies wrapped up in bedrolls.  A quick collective reckoning of people still sitting astride, soon put hearts and minds at ease when all the posse members were accounted for.


“It looks like they got the youngest boy,” Steven commented.  “But that other fella, that’s not Emmett, is it?”


“No,” said Beth, who had come up to join them, her own bundled up baby on her hip.  “I don’t recognize him.”


“That’s some drifter that would often show up around this time to do some work for the Bairds,” Clayt informed them.  “Don’t know what he’s got to do with all this.  Maybe he was at the ranch when it all happened.”


“Well, there’s Miss Baird, at least,” Belle stated, as her lips tightened in anger.  “That young woman gave poor Sally the fright of her life.  I hope she gets what’s coming to her.”


“Really, Mama,” Beth teased her.  “That’s not very charitable.”


“Charity for those who deserve it,” Belle responded.  “I do try to forgive people for their mistakes, but anyone who would treat a child like that, doesn’t deserve charity.”


“It seems to me, that Joe agrees with you,” Beth observed, as Joe had taken Courtney by the arm, and hauled her out of the saddle.


Her protesting continued all the way into the sheriff’s office.


“Hey, Wheat! Ames!  Yer back!”


“Always one fer statin’ the obvious, ain’t ya’, Kyle?” Wheat mumbled.  He walked over to Luke and gave him the same treatment as Joe had given Courtney.


“Ouch!  Watch it, ya oaf!” Luke complained as he struggled to stay on his feet.  “I’m wounded here.  I need a doctor.”


“You’ll get a doctor, when he’s got time fer ya’!” Wheat informed him.  “Fer now, you can sit in a jail cell, with yer girlfriend.”


“She’s not my girlfriend!” Luke responded, in a tone that suggested, that he stated had that fact numerous times already.


“Well that’s good,” said Wheat, as he gave Luke a shove.  “’Cause where yer goin’, you ain’t likely to be seein’ much of her.”


“Damn!” Luke cursed, as he stumbled from the shove.  “One would think that I was the one who kilt yer sheriff, the way yer treatin’ me.  I didn’t do anything.”


“Tell it to the judge,” Wheat snarked, then sent a crooked smile to his partner.  “I always wanted ta’ say that.”


Lom came back to get Seth down from his saddle, and noticed the crowd quieting down. A sense of menace was suddenly in the air.  Seth paled as he looked around at his former neighbors, who were all glaring at him.


“You folks back off,” Lom warned the towns people.  “This lad is under arrest, and he’ll face trial.  It’s very likely that he ain’t even the one who pulled the trigger, so let’s not have any trouble here.”


Grumbling began to grow, as people were not inclined to take Lom’s advice.


“Oh dear,” said Belle. 


“Don’t worry, Mama,” Beth assured her.  “Here comes Jed.”


Sure enough, Jed, still mounted on Gov, moved his horse over to stand beside Lom.  He sat easily in his saddle, with his right hand resting casually upon the grip of his gun, but his eyes meant business.  The grumbling stopped, but not all the men backed away.


“How do ya’ know, he didn’t do it?” asked one fella.  “Them Bairds is all the same.”


“Yeah,” voiced another.  “I don’t care which one pulled the trigger.  They’re all guilty as far as I’m concerned.”


“This man is going to stand trial,” Lom repeated.  “I won’t tolerate a mob takin’ the law into their own hands.”


“Yeah?  And who are you?  You ain’t the law here.”


“Hey!” came Joe’s voice from the office door.  “What do you think you’re doing, Russ?  And you, Clive.  Go on home, and leave this to the law.  Or do you not accept me as a representative of the law here, either?”


All eyes turned to Joe, and hesitation showed within the group.


“Do you think that this is what Carl Jacobs would want you to do?” Joe asked them.  “He was a good man, and believed that folks had the right to live in peace and to raise their families in a safe, law-abiding community.  He died upholding that belief.  And now, here you all are, denying him that?  Go on home to your families.  Let us deal with this.”


A little bit more grumbling followed this decree, but most of the crowd did start to disband.  The last couple of hold-outs, shuffled their feet, glanced at the Kid and then back at Joe again.
“Yeah, well if you say so, Joe,” Russ mumbled.  “We just don’t want them Bairds getting’ away scott free is all.”


“You see those two bodies over there?” Joe asked them.  “That’s ole’ man Baird, and Emmett.  Do they look like they got away with something?”


“No, I guess they sure didn’t,” Clive agreed.  “C’mon, Russ.  Let’s go get us a beer.”


Tensions relaxed and Lom turned back to the prisoner.


“C’mon, Seth,” he said.  “Get down.”


Seth swung his right leg over the neck of the horse and allowed himself to slide to the ground.  Lom took his arm and headed him in the direction of the office.  Joe hung back a few minutes, and gave some final orders to the posse.


“Floyd, would you take those two down to the undertakers?”


“Sure, Joe,” Floyd agreed, and taking the two horses by the reins, he led them off, down the street towards that establishment.


“Clancy and Sam, you fellas take care of the horses.  And don’t let Eric boss ya’ around.  Considering what these horses have been through, they’re all in good shape.”


“I’ll look after Gov, myself,” Jed commented, as he swung down to the ground.  “He’ll be happier out with his buddies.”


“Yeah, okay,” Joe agreed, as he then tipped his hat to Tricia.  “We do have two men wounded.  Is your husband in town?”


“No,” Tricia told him.  “He’s out on his rounds.  But I believe John is available.  Why don’t you take the men down to him?”


Joe nodded.  “Bernie!”


“Yeah.”


“You know where John and Mary live, don’t you?”


“A’ course.”


“Well, make sure that Kurt gets there, alright.  Ames, how about you?  Are you feeling better now, or do you want to see the doc as well?”


Ames was still looking a sorry sight, but Kyle had him by the arm, and he grinned a tobacco stained smile.


“He’s alright,” the little ex-outlaw insisted.  “Once Wheat is done in the jailhouse, we’re all goin’ over to the saloon, ta’ celebrate.  Hey Kid!  Ya’ wanna join us?”


“Ah, not this time, fellas,” Jed told them.  “I got other things to do.”


Beth smiled and sidled up to her husband, and Jed wrapped his arm around her waist.


Kyle’s grin grew.  “Yeah, okay,” he acknowledged.  “I see yer point.  C’mon Ames, let’s go.  I gotta give thanks fer my narrow escape from the claws of a downright, dangerous woman.”


“Yeah, okay,” Ames agreed, as he and Kyle prepared to departure.


“Are you sure, you’re alright, Ames?” Joe asked again. “I know this wasn’t the first time for you, but you still seem to be taking it kind’a hard.”


Ames looked back at him, and swallowed, his complexion still pale sad.  “I’m okay,” he said.  “I just don’t like killin’, is all.”


“There’d really be something wrong with ya’, if ya’ did,” Joe pointed out.  “You’re a good man, Ames.  Go and have a few beers with your friends.”


“Yeah.”


Kyle grinned and slapped Ames on the back.  “You go and save the day agin?” he asked his buddy.  “Well, I’ll be.  You’s turnin’ inta a regular law man here.”


“Not really,” Ames mumbled.  “I didn’t mean to kill nobody.  Neither time.  It just…happened.”


“At least it happened for the right reasons,” Jed put in.  “Joe’s right.  Go and relax.  Have a couple of beers.  Wheat’ll probably be over to join ya’ soon.”


“Yeah, c’mon,” Kyle insisted, getting antsy.  “It’s been real dull around here, since you fellas all run off.  Let’s go.”


Ames nodded, and the two friends departed.


“Well, that takes care of them,” Joe commented.  “Ah, Bernie!”


Bernie pulled his horse to a halt.  “Yeah?”


“Tell John that we have a wounded prisoner as well,” Joe reminded him.  “Ask him to come up to the jailhouse as soon as Kurt gets seen to.”


Bernie tipped his hat, and the two young men carried on their way.


“Okay, everybody’s accounted for,” Joe surmised.  “Now for the paperwork.”


Steven grinned.  “I don’t envy you that, Deputy.”


“Yeah,” Joe grumbled.  “Oh well.  It’s all part of the job.  I’ll see you fellas later.  Ladies.”


“See you later, Joe,” Jed told him.  “As for me, I’m going to get Gov taken care of, and then spend some time with my family.”


Clayt stepped in and prevented him from going anywhere.  “Thought you’d like to know, there’s a telegram waitin’ for ya’ at my office.”


“Oh,” Jed perked up.  “That’s probably from Heyes.  Yeah, I should…”


“I’ll go and get it,” Belle said.  “You carry on.”


“Once you get cleaned up, why don’t you come over to our place for lunch?” Tricia offered.  “It looks like there’s quite a story to be told.”


“We’d love to,” Beth answered, before Jed could decline.  He was tired.  “We’ll see you shortly."


Xxx


An hour later, Jed was sitting at the table in David’s kitchen, reading the telegram that Belle had retrieved for him.


“Heyes and Miranda have been at Mac’s for a couple ‘a days now,” he informed the group.  “That’s good.  At least I know where he is.  As soon as we’re done here, I’ll send him another telegram, to find out when he’s coming home, and that Scotland Yard wants to hire us for a job.”


“It’s so exciting,” Beth gushed.  “Scotland Yard!  Almost as exciting as working for Pinkertons.”


“Yeah, I suppose,” Jed agreed.  “But it won’t amount to anything, if’n we don’t get Heyes signed in to that poker game.  Time’s wasting, here.”  He frowned, and his expression turned reflective.  “I wonder…”


Belle laughed at the simple comment that so succinctly described the expression on his face.


“You wonder what?” She asked.


“Oh, ahh,” Jed came back to the present company.  “Sendin’ telegrams back and forth is really wastin’ time we don’t have.  I’m just wonderin’ if Red Rock would have one of them new-fangled telephones.  It ain’t that big ‘a town, so it probably don’t, but if there is, I could head in to Denver get in touch with him that way.”


“Those telephones are certainly an amazing invention,” Jesse commented from his wheelchair.  “They’ve been around for quite some time now, but I’ve never lived anywhere that had one. They must take a bit of getting used to.”


“I can’t imagine it,” Belle said.  “Talking to someone who’s way on the other side of the country. I declare, communication is becoming more and more sophisticated with every year that passes.”


“That’s why Heyes and I got out of the outlawin’ business,” Jed said with a grin.  “The telegraph was bad enough, but a horse can’t outrun the telephone.”


Beth smiled at him, and gave him a playful jab.  “Oh come on,” she teased him.  “There were more reason than that.  You were both tired of the life, and you knew that what you were doing was wrong.”


“Yeah,” Jed agreed.  “But technology played a big part in helpin’ us ta’ make that decision.”


“You were wise to get out of it, when you did,” Jesse told him.  “You’d both probably be dead by now, if you hadn’t.”


“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Jed agreed, and then coughed after taking a bite of his sandwich.


“Oh my,” Belle commented.  “That cough is sounding worse.  Spending a chilly night in the mountains probably wasn’t the best thing you could have done.”


“David will be home soon,” Tricia informed them.  “Maybe you should let him have a listen.”


Jed groaned.  “I’m alright,” he insisted, but then coughed again.


“I think you better see David,” Beth joined the opposition.  “Maybe it’s not such a good idea for you to go to Denver right away.”


“Aw, Darlin’, I’m fine.”


“No,” Jesse interjected.  “The ladies are right, Jed.  If your lungs are feeling anything like mine, you want to be careful.  It’s an easy thing for pneumonia to set in. You don’t want that.”


Jed sighed.  “Yeah, I know."


“I could always get in touch with Hannibal,” Steven offered.  “We’re heading back to Denver anyway.  You find out if Red Rock has a telephone, and I’ll make the call.”


“That’s a good idea,” Bridget concurred.  “It’ll give you a chance to rest up, Jed, before you have to be there for this job.”


“Yeah, I suppose that could work,” Jed agreed, albeit, reluctantly.  “Finney could tell you what information to pass along.  That is, if he is who he says he is. Still, I feel like I should be the one…”


“Let’s wait and see what David says,” Tricia suggested.  “If he says that it’s okay for you to go, then it’s settled.  But if not…”


Jed groaned.


Just then, the front door opened, and David himself came into the foyer.


“Hello,” he greeted the gathering.  “We have a full house today.  You fellas got back sooner than I thought you would.”


“Yeah,” Jed confirmed.  “The Bairds weren’t too smart when it came ta’ hidin’ out.”


David carried on into the kitchen, and then stopped short in surprise. “My goodness,” he commented.  “Were you aware that there are two pink, squiggly things, lying on the floor?”


“Hey!” Beth protested, with a laugh.  “T.J. is not a pink, squiggly thing!”


“He sure is!” David insisted.  “Look at him.”


“You do have a point,” Beth concurred, as she looked down at her son playing on the floor.  “And I suppose, I might take more offense, if you weren’t referring to your own daughter, as well.”


David smiled.  “They do seem content down there.  Just don’t anybody step on them.”


To prove his point, he carefully stepped over the two infants, and made his way to the empty chair at the other end of the table.  He sat down and helped himself to a sandwich from the platter while Tricia ladled him out a bowl of soup.


“How was your morning?” she asked him, as she set the bowl down in front of him.  “Any surprises?”


“No,” David told her.  “Just routine.  How about you, Jesse?  It’s not too tiring for you to be up for lunch?”


“No,” Jesse assured him, sounding a little amazed himself.  “I’m fine.  I don’t think I’ll be up for much longer though.  I don’t want to push it.”


“Hmm,” David nodded his agreement.  “I hear there were some casualties on the manhunt.  Anything I need to deal with?”


“No,” Jed answered him.  “Some minor injuries, but John is looking after them.  Ole’ man Baird, and Emmett are both dead.”


“Yes,” David mumbled.  “I ran into Mr. Carlson on my way to the livery.  He informed me of the situation.  Seth and Courtney are both in custody?  Is that correct?”


“Yeah,” Jed concurred.


The doctor nodded again as he took some soup.  “A sad situation,” he said quietly. “Do we know who actually did the shooting?”


“No, not yet,” Jed told him.  “But ah, do you still have the bullet?”


“Yes,” David assured him.  “Steven told me that they can do tests on it to find out which gun was used.  It’s quite amazing what they can do these days.”  David frowned as Jed started coughing again.  “Eww, that doesn’t sound good.  Better let me have a listen to that after lunch.”


Jed groaned.


Xxx


David pressed the stethoscope against Jed’s chest and listened intently.


Jed sat still and stiff in the chair, his shirt and Henley settled into a small pile on the desk next to them.  He always felt uncomfortable under these circumstances, stripped to the waist, with David hovering over him.  It wasn’t natural.  But he tolerated it.  Once David insisted on something, there was no getting out of it.  The man could be a tyrant.


“Deep breath,” the doctor instructed.


Jed drew air into his lungs and instantly began coughing again. David listened until the coughing subsided, then moved the stethoscope to another section of his patient’s chest.


“Again.”


Jed complied and coughed again, but not quite as harshly.


“Hmm,” David mumbled.


Jed slumped.  “What?”


“Hmm?  Oh no, nothing.” David backed off, and letting the stethoscope hang from his neck, he sat down on the edge of his desk and folded his arms.  “They’re much improved.”


“Well, that’s good.  So then I can…”


“But…” David continued.  “Your little sojourn into the mountains didn’t do you any favors.  I really don’t think it’s a good idea for you to go to Denver at this time.”


“But Heyes and I have a job to do there,” Jed protested. “I need to get in touch with him.”


“Can’t you do that from here?”


“Well, by telegram, yeah,” Jed admitted.  “But that’ll be kind’a slow.  I thought I’d try that telephone thing that’s at the Brown Palace.”


David was skeptical.  “It’s my understanding that you need two of those things you know.  One at each end.”


Jed sent him a smirk, as he pulled his shirts back on.  “I know that, David.  I was gonna send Heyes a telegram from here and ask him if there was one in Red Rock.  That way we could actually discuss this job, rather than try doing it by telegram.  It’s important.”


“Nothing is more important than your health,” David countered, irritatingly, then held up his hand to forestall Jed’s predictable protest.  “Why don’t you send the telegram and find out first, if Hannibal has a phone at his disposal.  This could all be a moot point, if he doesn’t.”


“Yeah, I suppose.”


“And do you have to be the one who talks with him?” David continued to question.  “Steven and Bridget are heading back there tonight.  Why can’t Steven pass on the message?”


Jed sighed.  “It’s not that simple.  We need to discuss this.”


“From what I have seen of the way you and your cousin communicate, you don’t need a telephone to discuss anything,” David told him.  “Let him know that he’s needed back here by a certain date, and let it go at that.”


“There’s more to it than that,” Jed persisted.  “We need to go over a few things.  I don’t even know who this Finney guy is.  I’m hoping that Kenny can get some information on him, before Heyes gets back.  And Heyes might know something about ‘im.  He might not be a Scotland Yard man at all.”


David smiled at Jed’s suspicions.  “Who do you think he is?”


“I donno!” Jed snarked, and then coughed a little bit.  “Damn!” he cursed.  “I’m beginning to sound like Wheat.”


“And that’s my point,” David jumped at the chance.  “Mr. Carlson is not going to be getting better, but you still have a chance to.  Do you want to be like your friend for the rest of your life?  You’d have to move to California.”


Jed sent him a dirty look.  “I like it fine, right here.”


“Then look after yourself.  I think you’re being a little overly-cautious when it comes to Mr. Finney.  There is no reason for him to pretend to be someone he is not.”


“Sure there is!” Jed insisted.  “Look at Amy.  No one questioned her identity, and look what she did!”


“Is that what you think, Jed?” David asked him.  “That every new person who comes into your life is automatically doubted and put under scrutiny?”


“Yes!”  Jed told him.  “I ain’t riskin’ my family again.  There are people out there who would stoop to any level to get at us.  All that stuff with Mitchell and Amy proves it.  We have to be careful who we trust.  We have to be.”


Another mild coughing fit followed this declaration, and David waited for it to pass.


“I can understand your concern,” he conceded, once things settled down.  “But you can’t go through life feeling that way.”


“Why not?” Jed asked.  “It’s saved our necks more than once.”


“But, you’re not outlaws anymore,” David argued.  “There is no longer a reward out on your heads.  There’s no need to be constantly looking over your shoulders, waiting for the hammer to fall.”


“Well, I don’t agree,” Jed responded.  “I ain’t gonna barricade myself inside a fortress, but a little bit ‘a caution don’t hurt nobody.  If Mitchell, and Amy, and Julia Stanton could hold a grudge as long as they did, and act on it, then anybody can.  Now I don’t know who this Finney fella is, so I just wanna make sure that me and Heyes ain’t gonna be walkin’ into a trap.”


“Yes, alright,” David agreed, though a little reluctantly.  “I suppose you have a point.  But Kenny said that he would do some digging for you?”


“Yeah,” Jed concurred.  “Once they get home.  But they will be carrying on further east after that, so I’m hopin’ he’s got enough time to find something.”


“Kenny seems very resourceful,” David mused, needlessly.  “I’m sure he’ll find something.  Still, I ask that you hold off going to Denver.”  Again, David raised his hand to ward off the protesting.  “At least until you have to go for the job.  When is that?”


“The poker game starts in two weeks,” Jed surmised.  “If this job is legit, then we need to be there a few days in advance, in order to set up a plan.  And Heyes has to get registered to play.  I don’t even know if he will agree to that.  I don’t know why he didn’t tell me that he had been invited to play. That would be a real honor for him, to be invited into that game.  Why would he not say anything?”


“You’ll have to ask him that one,” David commented.  “I’m sure he has his reasons.”


“I know, but, gesh…well, anyway, now you see why I need to talk to him, and not just in telegrams.”


David sighed.  “I suppose you have a point.  But, please, find out first if there is a telephone in Red Rock, before you go running off to Denver.”

“I will,” Jed agreed.  “I’ll go send a telegram to Heyes right now.”


Last edited by Keays on Wed May 18, 2016 2:16 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Keays

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PostSubject: Re: Heading Home   Wed May 18, 2016 1:22 pm

Over in the jail house, Joe was having to deal with his own set of problems.


“How dare you lock me up like this!” Courtney was complaining.  “If my father was still alive, he’d never let you get away with this!”


Joe sat at his desk and rolled his eyes.  “You’re still not getting this, are you?” he asked her.  “If your pa was still alive, he’d be in one of those cells right along with you.”


“This isn’t fair!” Courtney continued, and stamped her foot before beginning her cell pacing, once again.  “I didn’t do anything wrong!”


“You’ve heard the charges against you,” Joe reminded her.  “What are you protesting?”


“It’s a daughter’s duty to help her family,” Courtney insisted.  “Even if they are a bunch of low down, dirty…oh, not you, Seth.  I guess you’re alright.”


Seth sat on the bunk in the cell next to his sister. He was sharing the space with Luke, but neither one of them seemed particularly amiable.  Luke had just had John check his arm, and bandage up the wound, but it still hurt like the dickens and nobody seemed to care.  Seth was scared about what his fate was going to be and the last thing he was concerned about, was the good opinion of his sister.


“Yeah, I’m alright,” he grumbled, sarcastically.  “Even if they don’t hang me for a murder I didn’t do, I’m still probably gonna do time, just for bein’ with them.  Then what?  I won’t be able to come back here, that’s sure as shootin’. I’ve got nothin’.”


“We’ve still got the ranch,” Courtney reminded him.  “I was going to sell it anyway.  Now we only have to split the money two ways.  You get out of prison, then you’ll still have a stake.  You can start new, somewhere else.”


“Don’t ya’ mean three ways?” Seth asked her.  “Ain’t you forgettin’ Isabelle?”


Courtney sighed dramatically.  “Oh, yes.  I guess, we will have to include her, won’t we?”


“And don’t forget about paying for a lawyer or two,” Joe pointed out.  “Both of you having to pay legal fees is going to take quite a chunk.”


“What do you mean, both of us?”  Courtney turned mean again.  “I didn’t do anything wrong!!”


Luke sat in the corner of his cell and sulked.  Damn, at least they’d have money to pay for lawyer fees.


Xxx


Red Rock, Texas


The hot wind blew through Heyes’ hair, as the young colt powered off his hind quarters and galloped joyfully across the open countryside.  On one hand, Heyes was rejoicing in the exuberance of the gallop, and on the other, he was feeling a little off balance at the difference between the Andalusian’s high stepping gait, and his own mare’s long and low, flat out gallop.  Both styles had their flair and power, but the new one did take a bit of getting used to.


Aside from that, Alejandro was living up to the promise he had shown in the training ring.  He was full of fire and power, yet he respected his rider, and moved easily off rein and leg.  He loved going for a gallop, but as soon as Heyes sat deep and asked him to slow the speed, the young horse responded instantly and came down to a high-stepping canter.


Heyes laughed and gave the stallion a pat on the neck.  Alejandro tossed his long, full mane and snorted with pleasure.  Heyes brushed back his own long, full locks, and pulled his hat back into place. He really should get a haircut.  He gave the stallion a few more strokes of appreciation, and the horse came down to a prancing trot, showing off his stuff and knowing that he was a magnificent creature.


Coming back into the stable yard, Carlo, the young groom, came out of the barn to meet them, and to take the horse’s bridle.


“Did you enjoy the ride, Senor?” he asked.


“Yes. Very much,” Heyes exuded, his dimples dancing along with the horse’s prancing steps.  He was almost reluctant to pull up and dismount.


“I will cool him off,” Carlo informed him.


Heyes nodded, suspecting that this was Carlo’s way of politely telling him to get off.  He dismounted and handed the reins over to the groom.  With one last appreciative pat to the grey dappled neck, Heyes walked away and headed towards the house.


It was habit now, for him to glance up to their balcony when returning from this direction, and sure enough, there was his wife, smiling at him from on high.  What she found so fascinating about watching him walking across the courtyard, was beyond him, but if that was what gave her pleasure, then far be for for him to deny her. He took off his hat and waved it at her, then brushing his long bangs off his face, yet again, he plunked the hat back on and continued into the house.


This side entrance was quiet and empty, which suited Heyes, as he wanted to get up to their room and get out of his riding clothes before dinner.  Even after just a short gallop, the heat of the afternoon sun had brought up a heavy layer of perspiration on his skin, and the dust was caking him form hat brim to boot toes.


Starting up the steps, he heard a soft noise on the landing, and looking up, he met his wife’s laughing eyes.


“You’re a fine sight,” she told him.  “Was having a ride on that colt worth the spectacle that you are now?”


“Yes,” Heyes responded adamantly, as he continued up the stairs.  “That was incredible.  I’ve never ridden a horse that moved like that before.  It was completely different from how Karma moves, and it really takes some getting used to.”


“Hmm,” Randa commented, as she took her husband by the arm and led him into their room.


“It’s like, both horses move forward, and of course, both are galloping,” Heyes continued to explain, as Randa took off his hat and began to unbutton his shirt.  “But that’s where the similarity ends.  When I’m riding Karma, she’s low and running flat out.  I can feel her hind quarters powering her body forward, and she’s going like the wind…” 


“Yes, she is fast,” Randa agreed, as she pulled off his shirt and began unbuttoning his trousers.


Heyes grinned foolishly, as he recollected his mare.  “Yes, she is.  But now, this colt.  I mean, you can still feel the power in him, you know?  But it’s like, he’s moving forward, but up at the same time.  You know what I mean?”


“Not really, no,” Miranda admitted, as she pulled his trousers down.  “Now sit down on the bed, and pull those boots off.”


“Oh, yeah.”  Heyes did as instructed, his gaze still distant and sparkling.  “It was like, he was at a full gallop, but prancing at the same time.  Almost like when Karma wants to run, and I’m not letting her.  She gets up on her toes and sometimes, rearing, but she wants to go forward.  You know?”


“Hmm hmm,” Miranda concurred as she pulled off Heyes’ trousers, one leg at a time.


“But with this colt, it’s controlled,” Heyes continued.  “He’s not fighting with me, He’s galloping forward, but he’s going up, too.  It was the strangest feeling…amazing, really.  Oh he and Karma would make a fine foal.  I’m sure of it.  I hope Carlotta will give us a breeding.  I’m sure she will, once she sees Karma.  I mean, who can resist her?  Oh!" He stopped talking and frowned at the large object setting in the corner.  "There’s a bath tub in the room.”


“Yes!  Mr. Observant!” Miranda teased him.  “I had it brought up, so that you could get a wash before we went down to supper.”


“Oh.” Heyes’ eyes came back to the present, and his gaze and smile were now for his wife.  “You’re amazing.”


“Yes, I know,” Miranda agreed. 


“What did you do with my clothes?”


“They’re over there, in a pile.  We’ll get them laundered in the morning.  Now get in that tub, and get cleaned up.  I’ll scrub your back, if you want.”


The shy, little boy dimples appeared through the grime.


“I’d like that.”


Xxx


Dinner had been cleared away, and the group around the table were settling in for an after supper drink, when Mac’s man made a discreet appearance in the small courtyard.


“Yes, Mike, what is it?” Mac asked him.


“Sorry to disturb you,” Mike said, as he came forward.  “but there was a telegram in town for Mr. Heyes.”


“Oh.  Well, there he is, give it to him.”


Mike turned to Heyes, and handed him the paper.


Heyes sat up eagerly, hoping that it was from the Kid, and it was.  Miranda watched his face intently, fearful that there might be bad news, then she frowned as she saw her husband do the same thing.


“What is it?” she asked him.


Heyes shrugged.  “I’m not really sure,” he admitted, then added quickly to put his wife at ease.  “Nothing here about Sally.”


Miranda smiled and did visibly relax.  “Good.  But what does he say?”


“Something about a job in Denver,” Heyes paraphrased.  “And the poker game.  Oh.  Damn.  How did he know about...?  No, never mind.  Ahh.”  His frown deepened, and he glanced over at Mac.  “Does Red Rock have a telephone?”


“A telephone!?” Mac bellowed.  “What does he need a telephone for?”


Heyes shrugged.  “I donno.  He’s just asking.  Does Red Rock have a telephone?”


“Do you think Texas is still in the 17th century?”  Mac demanded.  “Of course there’s a telephone.  It’s at the hotel.  Doesn’t the town you live in have a telephone?”


“Well.  No, it doesn’t,” Heyes admitted.


Mac snorted.  “And you northerners call us heathens.  Why, Galveston’s had a telephone since ’77! Can’t say that it worked very well, mind you.  But there was one there.  Never did have much use for those contraptions, myself.  Didn’t figure they’d last.  You can hardly hear a damn thing on them.  Best to stick with telegrams, and other written correspondence, as far as I’m concerned.  That way you know your message is at least getting through.  Silly things are useless.  Can’t see the point in them, myself.”


“But the hotel in town, does have one?” Heyes asked for clarification.  “One that works?”


“Well, no,” Mac admitted with a touch of embarrassment. “I can’t say that’ it actually works.  Can’t hear a dang thing, just a lot of blasted crackling in your ear. What damn good is that?”


“Why say that there’s a phone in town, if it doesn’t work?” Heyes argued.


“You didn’t ask me if it worked!” Mac reasoned.  “Just if we had one!”


“Would you like me to send a reply?” Mike asked, interrupting this debate.


“No,” Heyes mumbled. “What’s the point of telling him?  How would be make a call from Denver to a phone here, if it doesn’t work?”


“Don’t worry about it, Mike,” Mac told his man.  “We’ll go into town and deal with it in the morning.”


“Yessir, Mr. McCreedy,” Mike replied, barely concealing his relief.  “Goodnight.”


“Yes, yes, goodnight.”


Mike tipped his hat to the ladies, and departed.


Heyes continued the contemplate the telegram, the scowl on his face growing, rather than dissipating with the news.


“Hannibal, what is it?” Miranda asked him. “It sounds like good news?” 


“What?  Oh yes, I suppose it is,” Heyes confirmed.  “But how did he know about the game in Denver?  And what’s this about a job?”


“That’s probably why he wants to talk with you on the phone,” Randa pointed out. “But we’re heading home soon. It will all get cleared up then.”


 “Yes, I suppose.”


Miranda settled back, but was not fully convinced that her husband was content with this.  Something else was bothering her him, something that he obviously did not wish to discuss.  At least not here and now, in company.  That’s was alright.  It could wait until they had retired to their room for the evening.


“It will be nice to go into town, tomorrow,” Carlotta commented.  “I have not been for some days now.  There are some fine shops.  Perhaps while the men are attending to their business, we can do some shopping.”


“Oh yes,” Miranda agreed.  “That would be lovely.”


Xxx


“What about the game in Denver?” Miranda asked, as she and Hannibal settled in for the evening in their room.  “Isn’t that the one you were hoping to get an invitation to?”


“Yes.”


Miranda waited, but nothing more was forthcoming.


“Well?” she asked again.  “Why is Jed bringing it up in a telegram?”


“I donno.”


Miranda sighed as she pulled down the sheet on their bed.  “Lying by omission is still lying, you know.”


“Arrgg!”


Miranda smiled, then she knew that she had him, when he sat down on the edge of the bed, and ran his hands through his hair.


“Did you get an invitation to it?” she pushed.


“Fine,” Heyes snarked.  “Yes, I did.”


“Well, that’s wonderful!” Randa stated, her smile sparkling up her eyes.  “So, what’s the problem?”


“I didn’t accept,” Heyes informed her.  “It’s no different than playing here, at Mac’s game; I’m not going to risk that much money on poker.  I have a family now to think about.  Maybe, once our business is more established, I’ll take the risk, but not now.”


“Oh, Hannibal,” Miranda scolded him lightly, as she sat down on the bed beside him.  “But it’s your dream.  You’ve always wanted to play in that game.  You always said what an honor it would be to be invited, as you, and not under some factious alias.  If you decline the invitation now, they may not offer it again.”


Heyes got to his feet and started to pace.  There was that feeling again, of being pushed into a corner.  Of being in a situation where just because he said so, wasn’t a good enough reason for his decisions to be accepted.  He was used to the Kid not letting him get away with it, but now he had a wife who wouldn’t let him, either.


“That’s a chance I’ll have to take,” he declared. “I’m not going to risk our money on a poker stake.  That’s not what responsible husbands and fathers do.”


“If it’s our money, then it should be our decision,” Randa pointed out.  “Why didn’t you tell me about this?”


“Because you’d just offer to give me your money to cover the buy in,” Heyes explained.  “and I’m getting tired of turning you down.”


“Then don’t turn it down,” Miranda insisted.  “Take it.  I’ve said it over and over again; the money is not just mine, it is ours.  You’ve always wanted an invitation to that game.  You’ll regret it, if you don’t go.  I want you to go.”


Heyes stopped pacing and stood quietly for a moment, contemplating his options.


“It’s a lot of money,” he stated.


“I know it is.”


“What if I lost it all?”


“I doubt that you will, but if you did, we’d survive.”


“I’ve lost more than that, before.”


“You’ve also won more than that, and more often than you’ve lost.”


“I really shouldn’t.”


“Yes, you should.”


Heyes sighed.  This was going nowhere.


“Tell you what,” he suggested.  “I’ll get in touch with the Kid, and find out what this is all about.  Then I’ll decide if I’m going to enter the game or not.  Alright?”


“How long do you have to change your mind?  Haven’t you already turned it down?”


Heyes shook his head.  “No.  I simply didn’t get back to them.  Somehow, I just couldn’t make the decision final.”


Miranda smiled.  Standing up, she went to her husband and wrapped her arms around his waist.


“You see?” she teased.  “You knew you wanted to do it, and now you can.”


“Yes, alright,” Heyes submitted.  “But let me talk with the Kid first.  It might be that this job he mentioned will prevent me from going to the game, anyway.”


“This is true,” she agreed.  “And you’re right; speak with Jed first, and then you can decide.  Now, let’s get to bed.  I’m tired, and it sounds like we could have a busy day tomorrow.”


Xxx


Heyes awoke with a start.  He was cold, and he felt bruised and battered, as though he’d had a bad fall or a bad beating. He tried to clarify his mind, so he could remember what had happened, and where he was, but nothing was coming.


A spasm of shivering rolled over him, and he reached down to pull the blankets up.  Apparently the heat of the previous day had dissipated and now the early morning chill was seeping in. He felt around for the heavy material but couldn’t find it. Opening his eyes to help in the search, he was surprised to find himself in complete darkness.  Even in the wee hours of the morning, there had always been starlight coming in from their open patio doors.


He brought himself up on an elbow and looked towards that door, but again, he could only see darkness.


His elbow began to hurt, and he realized that instead of being supported by the soft mattress, his arm was resting upon a hard and cold surface.  He frowned and reach down in search of the blanket again, but could not find it.


Worry and a touch of fear began to wiggle into his gut as the rough texture of his clothing brought memories of a horrendous past, flooding back to his consciousness. Almost frantically, he felt behind him, searching for the reassurance of his wife’s presence.


A knot hit his gut like a harbinger of doom, and a cold sweat instantly drenched him, when all his fingers found was hard, unyielding steel.  He was sitting up in an instant and feeling all around him for the edge of the bed. It wasn’t there! He wasn’t on a bed, he was lying on a floor; an impersonal and imposing floor.  He knew that this could only mean one thing.
But surely his senses were betraying him. This can’t be right! He can’t be here! He’s married now, has a family and a home. He can’t be here!


But he was.


He scrambled to his hands and knees, frantically feeling for a way out of this nightmare. Reaching out and searching with his fingertips, all he met up with was the cold floor and the four corners of the dark cell.


Fighting tears of anguish, he scrambled into a corner and hugged his knees to his chest. He sat there for what seemed an eternity, rocking himself back and forth and praying for this reality to be over.


Xxx


Miranda slowly drifted up from sleep. She wasn’t sure, at first, what had awakened her, but as she became more aware, she realized that Hannibal was having another bad night. She sighed, regretfully. His nightmares had been tapering off, to where she had begun to hope that they might leave him forever.  But this was not happening, and although they were less intense than they once were, they continued to invade their nights.


Even before she touched him, she knew he would be cold and damp with perspiration. He always was, and even though he often wouldn’t even remember having a nightmare during his slumbers, they often left him drained and tired the next day. Miranda recognized the signs, as they were almost always the same. His breathing was erratic and stressed, and though, in this dream he was silent, his jaw was tight and he was under duress.


David and Jed had both warned her not to touch him while he was in the throes of one of these nightmares, but she found that she couldn’t comply with that. Her first instinct had always been to comfort and soothe his troubled sleep.  And for her, this strategy tended to work. Never had he responded to her touch with violence, even if his nightmare was of that nature. Her touch and gentle voice had always calmed him, and she did not fear him while he was in this state.


She sat up and reached to the foot of the bed and pulled up the blanket that was folded there. She wasn’t feeling the need for it, but she knew that Hannibal would be cold and would appreciate it. So tucking it up and around him, she settled back down and began to gently caress his arm and whisper assurances to him.


“Shh. It’s just a dream. You’re safe, Hannibal.”


She felt his breathing begin to calm down, and she snuggled in closer, wrapping her arms around him and holding him in a loving embrace.


“It’s alright,” she continued in a gentle whisper. “You’re in our bed, and I’m with you. You’re safe.”


Hannibal drew in a breath and sighed deeply. With a quiet moan, his body relaxed, and rolling over, he took his wife into his arms and settled into a deep and peaceful sleep.


Xxx


As daylight took over their room, Miranda continued to lie beside her husband until he began to show signs of life. His eyes slowly opened, and he yawned and stretched and yawned again. She smiled and rubbed his arm.


“Good morning,” she greeted him.  “How did you sleep?”


“Good,” he graveled out in his morning voice, then he frowned and sighed.  “I think riding that colt took more out of me than I expected, though. It must be his different way of going; my muscles aren’t used to it.”


“Yes, perhaps.”


They lie quietly together for a little while, listening to the sounds of the household waking up, but neither one giving any indication that they were ready to proceed. Miranda snuggled in under his arm, and he held her close while he continued to stare up at the ceiling. He smiled at the resident rooster’s belated announcement of the day’s arrival, and then stretched again.


“I suppose we should get up,” he mumbled. “We do have to go in to town today.”


“Hmm. Yes, I know. But there’s no real rush, is there?”


“Well,” Heyes surmised.  “If I can get the telegram to the Kid this morning, then I might get an answer back from him after lunch. I would like to get this cleared up. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to head for home.”


Miranda smiled.  “Yes.”


“But I sure don’t feel like getting out of this bed,” Heyes admitted. “The thing is, I don’t really feel muscle sore, just dragged out.”


“Hmm.”


They continued to lie quietly together, but Miranda could hear her husband thinking. Finally, he came to his own conclusion, and the inevitable question was asked.


“Did I have another nightmare last night?”


“Yes.”


Groan.


“But it wasn’t a bad one,” Randa assured him. “You weren’t thrashing around or yelling out loud or anything. You were just upset. You settled quickly enough. I don’t think it’s anything to worry about.”


Heyes sighed.  “I suppose,” he grumbled. “I can’t remember it. Maybe that’s a good thing. I don’t know.  I wish they’d stop though. It’s not very nice for you to have to wake up and deal with them.”


“Oh, don’t you worry about me,” Randa told him. “Besides, they are becoming less frequent, and certainly not as intense. David’s not worried about them, so no reason why you should be.”


“I suppose,” he said again. “Well, let’s get up and get on with our day. Feels like it’s going to be another hot one.”


Xxx


The morning started out in the usual fashion; breakfast in the courtyard, with Mac’s booming personality dominating the ritual. Even when he spoke quietly, Big Mac had the tendency to rule supreme over his audience. Heyes used to find it irritating, that he could lose control over a room when Mac was present, but he had learned some humility during his time in prison, and now, he was more willing to set back and allow another to draw attention. On top of that, he had also become a master at circumnavigating a block in the system and could generally undermine the rancher whenever it suited him. Subliminally, of course.


By the time 10:00 am had rolled around, breakfast had been cleared away and a four seater open carriage was made ready for the group to make the trip in to town. Heyes assisted his wife into the carriage and waited for Mac to offer the same respect to Carlotta.  Mac did his husbandly duty, then sent a scrutiny to his guest.


“What’s the matter with you today?” he asked Heyes.


“What?” Heyes asked him, suddenly being brought back to the present.


“I don’t know what!” Mac boomed.  “That’s why I’m asking you.”


“Oh.” Heyes acknowledged his distraction.  “It’s nothing, Mac.  Just wondering what the Kid has up his sleeve.”


“Uh huh,” Mac grumbled as the two men settled themselves into their seats.  “You look like you’re seen a ghost. We need to get you in to town, get some good red wine into your system.  That’s what you need.”


“I’m fine, Mac,” Heyes insisted.  “Apparently, I could have slept better, but I’m good.  We’ll get this thing sorted out with the Kid, and then we’ll be on our way. Time to head for home.”
“Oh, well, if that’s the way you want to be.”


“Leave them alone,” Carlotta told her husband. “They have been away from home for some time now. I can understand them wanting to return there. Why must you take everything so personally?”



“I don’t take everything personally!” Mac protested, as the carriage jerked into motion and the group was on its way. “Didn’t I just ask the lad if he was alright? He looks a little piqued to me, that’s all. A day in town just might be the ticket.  Shouldn’t be too hot, either. Certainly no higher than 105. Nice balmy day! Might even take a walk around the town square myself.”



“You?” asked Carlotta. “You, taking a walk anywhere? That would be something to see, my husband. In the heat of the day, you would fall over from a heart attack. Do not be so foolish, and you may live to be an old man.”


Hannibal and Miranda exchanged smiles, but they kept their thoughts to themselves as they headed towards town.


Driving in to Red Rock with the McCreedy’s was proving to be quite an experience for Heyes and Miranda. Everyone in town knew them, and many of the citizens were interested in being on the big man’s good graces. He was rich and powerful and held sway over most things that  had anything to do with business dealings taking place in town.


Every person they passed sent the carriage a wave or a verbal greeting, and Mac lapped it up like the showman he enjoyed being. Heyes always felt a little uncomfortable with this amount of recognition and acknowledgement. The last time he’d had such an audience of people starting at him, was during his arrest and subsequent trial, and he took no pleasure in being reminded of those days.


Miranda was smiling with delight at being treated like royalty. The memories this type of attention brought back to her were pleasant ones. Being the young and beautiful wife of one of the most successful business men in the West had  had many advantages and perks. Being married to an ex-outlaw had also brought her attention, but not always of the desired kind. This open and friendly greeting that she was party to now, were making her day.


“Pull over at the telegraph office!” Mac bellowed up to their driver. “We have important business to take care of first thing.”


“Yessir, Mr. McCreedy.”


The team of flashy chestnuts was maneuvered over to the other side of the street and brought to a halt outside the specified office.


“No reason for all of us to go in,” Heyes commented, as he stood up to exit the carriage. “I’ll send the telegram and be right back out.”


“Fine, fine,” Mac agreed. “But don’t be all day about it. It’s hot out here!”


Heyes sent him a mirthless smile. Mac did often have the tendency to state the obvious.
Once inside the office, Heyes had to admit that it felt refreshingly cool, so perhaps Mac had a point. He smiled at the telegrapher, and that man came over, already armed with paper and pencil, and an ingratiating smile. He knew that this man was a guest out at the McCreedy place, and word had already made it around town as to this true identity.


“How can I help you?” he asked his customer, wanting nothing more than to please.


“Well, I’d like to send a telegram,” Heyes answered. “That is what you do here, isn’t it?”


“Oh, yes sir,” the telegrapher responded, and nervously rubbed his handlebar mustache, hoping that he had not offended. “Where would you like to send it?”


“Brookswood, Colorado,” Heyes informed him. “To Mr. J. Curry.”


“Oh!” he perked up. “Yes, of course.” He whetted the tip of his pencil on his tongue and began writing the address. “And what would you like to say?”


“Well,” Heyes considered. “Umm, ‘No telephone here. Why? Heading home Tuesday.’ And just sign it, HH.”


“Very good sir,” came the response, as the pencil finished scratching out its message. “I’ll send that right away.”


“Thank you, yes. It is urgent. And ah, we’ll be in town most of the day, with the McCreedy’s, so I would appreciate letting me know as soon as a response comes in.”


“Of course, sir.”


“Thank you.”


Heyes exited the office, then cursed when he found himself staring at an empty space where the horses and carriage should have been. He groaned and scanned the wide roadway, until he spotted the large vehicle waiting quietly over in front of the café. He stepped down off the boardwalk and headed over to meet up with the driver, Mike, who was standing at the horses; heads, and letting them have a drink.


“Are they inside?” Heyes asked him as he approached.


“Yes,” Mike confirmed. “Apparently it was getting too warm for the ladies.”


“Ah.”


Heyes continued on by and entered the café. He didn’t know what they were planning on doing here, as they had just finished breakfast, but it was admittedly cooler in here than it was outside. He spotted his group over by a window table and headed over to join them.
Miranda smiled as she spotted him coming their way.


“Oh, good.  You found us.”


“Kind of hard to miss that carriage,” Heyes pointed out. “Are you feeling alright?”


“Yes,” Miranda assured him. “It was  just getting too hot.”


“This heat can be difficult for those who are not born to it,” Carlotta remeinded them. “and being in the family way will only make it more so.”


Mac Coughed. “No need to go into particulars, my dear,” he rumbled. “Talking about such things at home is one thing, but we’re out in public now.”


The younger couple exchanged smiles at Mac’s obvious discomfort. Carlotta rolled her eyes.
“Oh, you American men,” she complained. “You don’t hesitate to spend time in the brothel, but one mention of a woman expecting, sends you all running for cover. I could never understand such silliness. And I am a catholic woman who has been told since girlhood that it is a shameful thing. That a woman in the family way should hide herself away for fear of men seeing her in such a state. I never could understand that. Nonsense!”


“Please, my dear, keep your voice down,” Mac whispered loudly. “You can be  heard as far as the mercantile. Some things should be kept private, that’s all.”


Miranda’s brow cocked with amusement.


“So, you think that a young woman must keep to her confinement, simply because she is expecting?” she asked a mortified Big Mac. “That she should hide herself away, in shame? What has she got to be ashamed about?”


Carlotta smiled and looked to her husband to await his response. Heyes sat back to watch, but chose not to get involved with this one; he knew when his wife was on a roll.


“Well,” Mac blustered. “How should I know? It’s just the way it’s done. I mean, seeing a woman…in that condition…I mean, it makes it obvious, doesn’t it?”


“Makes what obvious?” Miranda persisted.


“Well, that…that she’s had…”


Miranda leaned in close and lowered her voice. “Intercourse with her husband?”


Mac looked around him for fear that the roof was going to cave in upon his head. “Shhh!” he insisted. “Smith! Do something about your wife!”


Heyes sat back in surprise, then shrugged. “Like what?”


“I don’t know! She’s your wife, dagnabbit. Can’t you control her?”


Heyes chuckled at the first humorous thing he’d heard that day. “Nope,” he stated. “I enjoyed helping her to get into the condition she is in now. I start telling her what she can do or say, and she might not let me try again.”


Mac flustered. “Dammit! You young people are full of cheek. Why, in my day, a man never spoke about his wife like that—and certainly not in public!”


“Oh Mac, relax,” Heyes told him. “Besides, you’ve known all along that I’m cheeky.”


“I thought prison would have beaten it out of you!” he yelled, causing other patrons in the establishment to glance over at them.


“Thank goodness, it didn’t,” Miranda commented as she gave her husband an affectionate squeeze on his arm.  “He’s so much more fun just the way he is.”


Heyes grinned with pleasure just as the waitress joined them with the ordered tea. She caught the flash of manly pleasure and felt a rush of her own.


“Good morning, Mr. McCreedy, Mrs. McCreedy,” the young waitress greeted the local gentry. Those necessitates done, her eyes were then drawn irretrievably to the handsome face of their male visitor, and she smiled shyly.  Miranda’s brows went up in an expression of unsurprised humor. 


Carlotta felt slight irritation at the girl’s distraction and attempted to draw her back to her duties.


“Good morning, Senorita Suzanna,” the matriarch returned the greeting, and her frowned deepened when the young woman’s gaze did not leave the all-encompassing eyes that it was already fixed upon. 


She glanced at Miranda to seek a clue from the wife as to how to respond to this apparent affront.  Miranda smiled at her, and Carlotta caught the amused glint in her eye, indicating that the situation was normal.


This scenario was not a new one for Miranda. Her husband had that effect on many people, and not just young women. She had seen it over and over again; one look or word from him could distract a person into making mistakes, or missing a significant point. She ventured that this was one of the reason why he’d been such a successful con man. One look into those dark brown eyes, and logical thought would slip away.


She smiled now at the effect he had on people, but she remembered a time, not so long ago, when she was jealous and intimidated by the ability. Especially his ability to seduce a young woman with just a look.


She knew now that on most occasions, he was not being deliberately flirtatious. Her attempts to console or support a young lady in distress, simply had that effect. She knew that it was harmless. Her husband was not disrespecting her, and the responses from the young ladies were usually innocent enough.  This knowledge gave Miranda the freedom now to sit back and simply enjoy the show. Most humorous to her, was watching Hannibal trying to back out of a situation that his unconscious charisma had sucked him into. 


Now was no exception.


Heyes smiled back at the girl, which caused the young thing to blush as her heart did a violent flip flop, causing her to catch her breath over her own emotion. She had yet to acknowledge Mrs. Heyes and wasn’t even paying any attention to the tea that she was pouring from the pot.
Heyes, who had become more aware of his effect on young ladies ever since his wife had so adamantly pointed it out to him, had learned to be watchful of misadventure. He deliberately took his puppy dog eyes away from Suzanne and glanced nervously at his cup, where the tea was coming dangerously close to the brim.


“Ah, you might want to watch…”


“Oh!” Suzanne glanced down at the cup just as the hot liquid began to spill over.  “Oh no! I’m so sorry!”


Heyes nimbly jumped up and got out of the way, just as tea spilled out and dribbled off the table.


Miranda had to cover her mouth to stop from laughing out loud, while Carlotta again took her cue from the younger woman, and held her tongue. Mac, on the other hand was becoming more and more exasperated at, not only the waitress’ clumsiness, but at her total disregard for his presence.  He wasn’t used to being ignored, even if the object of her distraction was Hannibal Heyes, himself.


“Oh dear,” Suzanne continued, in her mortification.  Taking the towel, she had draped over her arm, she quickly began sopping up the mess. The tea pot in her other hand tipped, and more hot ta made its way onto the table.


Mac had finally had enough, and his heavy hand came banging down onto the table, rattling the tea cups, and the waitress’ nerves.


“Watch what you are doing!” He bellowed. “What good is a waitress who can’t even pour a cup of tea?”


Suzanne turned red, and her shaking hands became even more frantic in trying to clean up the mess. “I’m so sorry, Mr. McCreedy. I didn’t mean to.  I don’t understand what’s wrong with me!”


Carlotta’s brow went up. She was now understanding exactly what was wrong with her.  She now found the situation just as amusing as Miranda was.


“It is alright,” Carlotta tried to assure the child. “It is just tea. It is not important.”


“Not important!?” Mac exploded, as though it were a personal insult. “Why, I’ve fired people for showing this kind of incompetence!”


Suzanne’s eyes widened in fear, and her lower lip began to quiver at the thought of possibly losing her job.  She couldn’t afford to lose this job; her family needed her income.


Heyes astutely noted the young lady’s distress, and knowing that it was being caused by him, even though unintentionally, he tried to smooth over the troubled waters.


“Oh now, Uncle Mac,” he consoled. “That’s being a bit extreme, don’t you think? No harm done.”


“Don’t you ‘Uncle Mac’ me!” Mac retorted. “I’m the only one who can use that card, not you! Besides, I was only referring to the Kid! You’re too damn cheeky to be a nephew of mine!”


Heyes’ smile grew into a wide grin. “But Mac,” he teased. “You’re the one who’s always saying we’re family.  And since the Kid is my cousin…”


“Alright, alright!” Mac grumbled. “How did we get onto this? We were talking about this woman’s incompetency!”


Suzanne tried to shrink down to the size of a mouse as these two imposing men argued over her fate. She continued to wipe down the table, even though the spilt tea had long since been cleaned up.


Even though Miranda was still finding the whole situation humorous, Carlotta began to take pity on the waitress. Aside from that, she always looked forward to the opportunity to needle her husband.


“Senor Smith is right,” she stated, and then smiled reassuringly at Suzanne. “Do not worry. My husband rumbles like an old bear, but he is easily distracted. You will not lose your job. I will make sure of it.”


She sent Mac a meaningful look, and Mac snorted, but subsided, even though he continued to grumble his discontent.


Heyes’ face once again broke out into a wide, dimpled grin at the sight of Big Mac McCreedy being so easily deterred by his wife. It always amazed him, the power a woman could have over her man, and he knew that he was just as susceptible to it as the rancher was. Knowing it, however, never seemed to give him much defense against it.


Suzanne, though still trying to staunch silent tears as she continued to wipe the table, now sniffed and smiled at Carlotta. She was still too embarrassed and intimidated by the two men to now look either one of them in the eye.


“Thank you, Mrs. McCreedy,” she mumbled. “The tea is on the house.”


“It’s on the table, not the house!” Mac snarked.


Carlotta sighed with exasperation at her husband’s bull-headedness.


Suzanne looked crushed, and the tears might have started again, if it wasn’t for Heyes saving the day. He touched her arm, and when she automatically looked at him, he smiled his warmest smile, and her expression instantly softened.


“Thank you,” he said. “But we don’t mind paying for the tea.  Perhaps you could bring us a fresh pot?”


“Of course we mind paying for it!” Mac countered. “I don’t run a charity for inept waitresses—ouch!” He sent an accusing look to his wife, and Carlotta cocked a brow at him. She’d had enough of this.


Suzanne chose the easier path, and with the ascertain that Mrs. McCreedy had her husband in check, she focused her attention on the more attractive gentleman at the table.


“Yes,” she agreed, her wet eyes now sparkling with appreciation. “Yes, of course. I’ll be right back with a fresh pot.” And with that, she gathered up the teapot and damp towel and practically skipped off to the kitchen.


Heyes went to sit down again, only to be brought up short with a new surprise. “Hmm, it seems she missed the tea on the chair.”


“There! You see?” Mac pounced on the opportunity to be proven right. “Completely incompetent!”


“You brought this on yourself, you know,” Heyes pointed out as he used his napkin to dry off his chair.


“What do you mean?” Mac demanded. “What did I do?”


Heyes sat down and sent the rancher an irritated look.  “Suzanne has served both me and the Kid here before, and she has always been quite professional. Oddly enough, she always found the Kid to be more interesting than she did me, but aside from that, she never missed a beat.  This is all because of you and that silly poker game, and setting up the situation where the whole town now knows who I am.”


“What difference does that make?” All three of his companions sent Mac mildly incredulous looks. He shifted uncomfortably under their scrutiny. “Well, I mean, you’re not outlaws anymore. You’re not on top anymore. You’re nobody—has beens. Why should anybody care?”


“Gee, thanks Uncle Mac,” Heyes snarked at him. “You really know how to put people at their ease.”


Mac snorted. He preferred to keep people on their toes, not at their ease. You got more work and less argument out of them, that way.


“I wouldn’t put too much blame for this onto Suzanne,” Miranda told Mac. “I’m afraid my husband has that effect on many people, whether they know who he is or not. You, yourself took advantage of his ability to slip into a group and put everyone at their ease. He was able to weed out the snake in your grass, and trap him at his own game.”


Mac smiled as he recognized the truth of this, and then he started to laugh.

“You’re quite right!” he agreed. “You got yourself a good wife there, Smith.  Yessir, a good wife!”


Last edited by Keays on Wed May 18, 2016 2:39 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Keays

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PostSubject: Re: Heading Home   Wed May 18, 2016 1:44 pm

Brookswood
“Any response to my telegram, Clayt?” Jed asked the telegrapher, later on that morning.


“As a matter of fact, yes,” Clayt told him. “It just came in half an hour ago.  Do you want to answer it?”


“Probably,” Jed told him. “but I think I ought’a read it first.”


Clayt cocked a smile. “Yeah, probably.” He handed over the note and discreetly awaited Jed decision.


Jed quickly gave the note a look over, and then quietly cursed. “Damn.”


“What?”


“There’s no telephone in Red Rock.”


“I could’a told you that,” Clayt informed him. “It’s usually just the bigger cities that have those, and even then, they’re not always very reliable.  Especially if it’s a couple of states away.”


“Yeah, I suppose,” Jed grumbled, not doing a good job of hiding his disappointment. “I guess ya’ better send a reply.”


Clayt smiled as he got pencil and paper ready. As far as he was concerned, the fewer telephones around, the better for him. At least his service would get the message through, fast and clear. Unless some unscrupulous person, or persons cut the line. Clayt had no regard for someone who could be so low as to disrupt communication. Present company excluded, of course.


“Okay,” Jed began, as he thought about his response. “’Do you know Finney, Scotland Yard? Maybe job in Denver. Poker game.’ I guess that’ll have to do for now.”


“Fine. I’ll send it right away.”


“I’ll come back in an hour or so and see if there’s an answer.”


Clayt nodded distractedly as he set about sending the message.
 
Xxx


Red Rock, Texas


The clicking of the telegraph caught the clerk’s attention and he hurried over to jot down the information that was coming across the wire. He cursed when he realized that he had missed the first few words, but, as usual when this happened, he simply took down what he did catch, and hope that it would not matter.  Up to date, nothing untoward had occurred due to his lack of attention.


Writing down the few sentences, he briefly left his office and standing just outside the door way, he scanned the street in both directions, looking for a likely candidate. He smiled when he spotted one and waved to get the lad’s attention.


“Hey, Opie!”


The lad looked up from his mischief making and grinned, knowing that he was in for a nickel, maybe more.  He ran full tilt, bringing himself up to the telegrapher in seconds flat, and he waited with great anticipation for his instructions.


“Here ya’ go,” the clerk said as he handed over the note. “Find Mr. McCreedy, and give him this. You’ll get your nickel when you get back here.”


“Yessir!”


“And you better deliver it too. Don’t just throw it away and then come back here wanting to get paid. I’ll be seeing Mr. McCreedy later today, and if he says that he didn’t get it, there’ll be hell to pay.”


“I would never do that, Mr. Snodgrass,” Opie insisted. “That was Amos who done that.”


“Yeah, well just see that ya’ don’t. Now skedaddle. I don’t pay ya’ to stand around jawing about it.”


“Yessir!”


Opie snatched the note and was gone at a gallop towards the café. He’d seen the McCreedys’ large expensive coach outside that establishment, and it didn’t take a young genius to figure out that this was where he was likely to find his target.


Suzanne was heading back with a fresh pot of tea, when the front door of the café burst open, and a lad of about twelve nipped in and then stood there, looking around at the occupied tables. He spotted Mr. McCreedy in no time flat and made a dash for him. Not watching where he was going, the first thing he bumped into was Suzanne.


With a startled cry, the waitress tried to stay on her feet and save the tea pot, but it was to no avail. Opie hit the young woman full on, and all those involved lost the fight with gravity and went crashing to the floor. The teapot hit hard and shattered, sending hot tea and leaves splattering across the boards.


Started exclamations made the rounds of the establishment, and a number of gentlemen rose to come to the assistance of the young waitress.


Suzanne herself, was mortified. This was not turning out to be her day, at all.


“You clumsy boy!” she yelled as the contained tears from the previous embarrassment now took over her face. “Why don’t you watch where you’re going!”


Opie hardly missed a beat. He was on his feet in an instant, and continued on his way to the big rancher, who was bellowing with laughter at the spectacle. He didn’t get far though. Heyes was on his feet, and as Opie tried to pass him to deliver the note, the adult grabbed the boy’s arm and swung him around.


“Hey!” Opie complained. “I gotta deliver this!”


“It can wait,” Heyes told him, as he pushed him back towards the scene of the disaster. “You caused this, so you can help clean it up.”


“It’s not my fault,” Opie insisted. “I got a job to do!”


“It was your fault,” Heyes corrected him. “And I’ll deliver the telegram. It’s probably for me, anyway.”


“I gotta deliver it directly to Mr. McCreedy, or I won’t get paid,” Opie protested. “I ain’t got time for no stupid…”


“You’ll make the time,” Heyes told him. “Now go get the mop, and help clean up that mess.”


Opie was about to protest some more, but looking around, he found that the mood in the café was not in his favor. The other men, who had come over to assist, now all stood back, smiling, and allowing the opportunity for a lesson learned, to take place. Opie slumped and grumbled at the unfairness of his lot, but he stuffed the note into his pocket and dragged his feet over to the cook, who stood by the counter, holding out a mop, a bucket and a bag for the broken pot.


Suzanne was still on her hands and knees, her skirt wet with spilt tea and her face wet with tears. She was carefully gathering up the broken pieces of ceramic, when Heyes took her elbow and helped her to her feet. She sniffed and whimpered and tried to wipe her eyes.


“Thank you,” she managed to get out.


“That’s alright,”


“I’m so sorry. I’ll get you another pot.”


“Don’t worry about it,” Heyes assured her. “We’ll probably be leaving soon, anyway.”


Unfortunately, this was the wrong thing to say. Suzanne took it personally, and the subsiding tears now broke out afresh and she started babbling out more apologies.


Heyes tried very hard not to laugh at the over-reaction, and though he did succeed on the most part, a big smile did manage to force its way onto his features. To cover it up, he took Suzanne into a hug and gave her some comfort.


“You’re alright,” he assured her. “Now go on back, and get yourself cleaned up. It’s really not that big a deal, you know.”


“Mr. McCreedy is going to have me fired,” she whispered through her sobs.


“No, he isn’t,” Heyes insisted. “I won’t let him.”


She raised red rimmed eyes up to meet his gentle ones, and she managed a smile. “Thank you.”


Heyes nodded. “Off you go.”


Suzanne turned, and stepping around Opie, who was busy with his chore, she went into the back room to get herself re-organized.


Heyes headed back to his table, accompanied by a small symphony of applause from the other patrons. He smiled, and with a showman’s flair, returned a slight bow to the group and then sat down with his own party. Even they were smiling at him.


“I thought it was Jed who always came to the rescue of young, pretty ladies in distress,” Randa teased him.


“She’s not all that pretty,” Heyes countered. “Besides, that lad needed to learn something about manners.”


The two ladies exchanged a knowing look, while Mac laughed even louder than the first time.
Heyes sighed. He wasn’t going to get out of this one.


“She’s scared to death that you’re going to fire her,” he informed Mac. “I assured her that I wouldn’t let you.”


“Oh, I’m not going to fire her,” Mac assured him. “She’s been far too entertaining.”


“None of this was her fault,” Miranda pointed out. “Be nice to her.”


“I am being nice to her!” Mac protested. “I just said, I wasn’t going to fire her!”


“Perhaps you should suggest that she be given a raise,” Carlotta suggested. “Is not the owner doing very well in his business?”


Mac snorted. “Not my affair.” Any more discussion on wages was preempted by the arrival of a more subdued Opie. Mac was grateful for the interruption. “Ah! I understand you have a telegram for me.”


“Yessir,” Opie agreed while sending a resentful glance in Heyes’ direction. He pulled out the slightly soggy note, and handed it over.


“Fine,” Mac said and took out his change pouch to give the boy a tip.


“Ahh…” Heyes quietly protested.


Opie ignored the opposition and so did Mac, as he handed the lad a nickel for his trouble. Opie smiled, and snatching his tip, he took off again, at full speed and disappeared out the door.


“Mac,” Heyes pushed him. "You're never one to part with money needlessly. You did that just to spite me, didn't you?"


Mac waved him into silence and handed him the telegram. “It’s for you.”


Heyes frowned, but took the note and opened it up. “Hmm.”


“What is it?” Miranda asked.


“Well,” Heyes nodded confirmation. “There is apparently a job waiting for us in Denver, and it has to do with that poker game. It seems I’m going to have to accept the invitation to play, after all. I wonder if the patron is paying for the buy-in.”


“Who is the patron?” Mac asked.


Heyes shrugged. “He doesn’t say. Probably not important.”


“If you worked for me, you wouldn’t have to worry about incidentals like that.”


Heyes sighed. “Mac…”


“Yes, yes! Fine. Alright. I suppose you’ll be heading for Denver then.”


“Yes,” Heyes confirmed. “I’ve already booked us on the Tuesday train. I suppose I should inform the Brown Palace that I’ll accept the invite after all. As long as it’s not too late. That game can fill up quickly.”


“If they’re smart, they’ll make room for you,” Mac grumbled.


Heyes grinned. “Gee, thanks Uncle Mac.”


Xxx


Brookswood, Colorado


“Anything?”


“Yes,” Clayt confirmed. “You have two.”


“Two?” Jed queried. “Both from Heyes?”


“Nope,” Clayt corrected. “One from Heyes, and one from Laramie.”


Jed brightened up. “Oh! Already? That was fast.”


Clayt shrugged. “There’s nothing faster than a telegraph line. Don’t need no dang blasted telephones. Those contraptions just confuse the issue.”


“You sure you ain’t got a bit of a prejudice there, Clayt?”


“No! Just common sense!”


Jed held up his hands in surrender. “Fine. No need to get snarky.”


“Hmm,” Clayt grumbled as he handed over the two separate notes. “Let me know if you want to answer.”


Jed nodded, and again, quickly read through the messages.


He smiled after the first one; ‘Finney checks out. KR.’. Setting that one aside, he read through Heyes’ response and nodded his confirmation.


“Okay, send one more telegram, to Heyes.” Clayt was already set with his pencil at the ready. “’Meet you at Denver station.’ And I guess that’s it. I’m goin’ home. Thanks, Clayt.”


“No problem. David know that you’re heading out ‘a town?”


Jed stopped in his tracks and sent Clayt an annoyed look. “Do you have to know everything that happens in this town?”


Clayt shrugged. “Goes with the territory, I suppose.”


“Well, it ain’t none ‘a your business,” Jed told him. “but yes, he does know.”


“Have a nice trip.”


“I ain’t leavin’ yet!”


Jed turned and stomped out of the office, grumbling to himself. Clayt smiled and went back to his duties.  Sometimes it was too easy to get a rise out of Mr. Curry.


Xxx


Red Rock. Texas


“So, you’re just going to pack up and leave, is that it?” Mac asked as Heyes set their luggage down by the courtyard door.


“We’ve been here for almost a week,” Heyes pointed out. “You act like you want us to stay forever.”


“I do!” Mac bellowed. A distant sound of a dish crashing onto the floor, made its way to the foyer.  “I’ll pay ya’ fifteen thousand a year, dagnabbit!”


“Nope, not interested.”


“Why the hell not? It’s a good offer!”


Heyes sighed and stood up from setting down the last bag.


“We’ve got more going on at home, than you know,” Heyes explained. “We’re setting up sort of a landing place for young fellas coming out of prison.  You know, a place for them to come and find their footing, before trying to handle things are their own.”


“What?” Mac cursed, putting on an incredulous act. “What the hell for? Once a thief, always a thief, you ain’t gonna change that.” Heyes sent him a pointed look. “Well, present company excepted, of course.”


“Yeah,” Heyes griped. “Anyway, the Kid and I already have plans.  And it’s a good one. It’s important. I’m not going to back out on it now.”


“And just who do you have backin’ ya’ up on this?” Mac insisted on knowing. “Surely you and the Kid aren’t planning this little charade all on your own? Something like that takes money!”


“We know that, Mac,” Heyes assured him. “We’re not doing it on our own.  We have the warden, Ken Reece. Mr. Jordan out at the Double J. Steven is in on it, and Sheriff Jacobs. Not to mention some friends of mine, the Medgars.  You’re not the only rich rancher in the country, Mac. We have backing.”


Mac snorted. “They ain’t gonna be rich for long, throwing away their money on this nonsense.”


“It’s not nonsense!” Heyes insisted. “If I hadn’t had Jesse Jordan giving me a job and a roof when I got out, I don’t know what I would have done.  Probably would have gone back to flim flaming.” A distant look took over his expression, as his memories sent him back in time. “That, or I would have left the country altogether. Anyway, having a place to land, and people around you that are supportive, can make all the difference in the world. I figure it’s time I give something back.”


“Fine, fine. Get all sentimental on me.” Mac grumbled. “You ain’t the same man you were when I first met you boys.”


Heyes grinned appreciatively. “Thanks Mac!”


Outside, Miranda and Carlotta waited for the coach to arrive from the stables. The two ladies embraced and said their goodbye’s


“You must come to visit again,” Carlotta insisted. “And bring your children with you.”


“We will,” Randa assured her. “I know Sally would absolutely love this place. She would like nothing better than to live on a ranch, surrounded by animals.”


“Then you must bring her,” Carlotta emphasized. “And, I expect to hear from you, when your new one arrives. I want to know all about it.”


“Yes, of course,” Miranda agreed.


“Is that coach not here yet!” Mac complained, as he and Heyes stepped outside. “What the hell is the matter with Mike? I told him, 11:00 am, sharp!”


“It is only ten to,” his wife pointed out. “And besides that, here he comes now. He is early.”


“Oh yes,” Mac backed off. “Well, if you aren’t early, you’re late! I’ll have to have a word with him about his punctuality.”


The two flashy chestnuts who had driven the carriage from town, now came to an impatient halt, bringing the coach up level with the waiting passengers. Mike set the brake and stepped down to help Heyes load up the luggage, and then the couple were set to depart.


“Goodbye,” Randa said to Carlotta, and gave her another hug. “It was a lovely visit, and I will send word when I have it.”


“Good. Safe journey.”


“Well, Mac,” Heyes and the rancher shook hands. “If you want to send a donation to our new enterprise, it would be more than welcome.”


“Yeah, yeah. We’ll see how long it floats first. They’ll probably rob ya’ blind!”


“Maybe,” Heyes said, then turned and gave Carlotta a kiss on the cheek. “It was good to see you again. I’m glad everything worked out.”


“Of course,” Carlotta teased him. “Cannot have a Hannibal Heyes plan go array.”


“A Hannibal Heyes plan?” Heyes queried, innocently.


Carlotta just smiled. “Goodbye, Senor Smith. I will consider your mare, but I do not make any promises.”


“Good enough,” Heyes agreed.


He then turned to help his wife step into the open carriage, and nodded a final farewell to their hosts. “Goodbye.”


Miranda settled herself and waved. “It was lovely to meet you, Uncle Mac. I must say, you are everything that my husband said you were. Completely unforgettable!”


“I wouldn’t have it any other way!” Mac insisted. “Now, be gone with you! I have things to get done here!”


With final waves, and goodbye’s, Mike set the team in motion, and the coach and team headed down the stone inlaid drive on its way towards town.


Xxx


“Oh,” Miranda breathed as they settled into their seats inside their private roomette. “It was a lovely visit, but I am ready to go home.”


“Yes, me too,” Heyes agreed. “Mac can be exhausting.”


Miranda laughed. “The two of you together can be exhausting! I think you feed off of each other.”


Heyes nodded his understanding, then frowned a little, at his wife’s obvious fatigue. “You don’t have to stay over in Denver, you know,” he told her. “I have no idea how long this job is going to last. And it might be boring for you anyway. If you want to carry on home ahead of me, that’ll be fine.”


“We’ll see,” Miranda told him. “By the time we get to Denver, I might just be ready for a few nights in a bed that doesn’t move. It would be nice to visit with Bridget while you’re off playing your game. She and I rarely get the chance to visit, just the two of us.”


“That might be nice,” Heyes agreed. “I’m sure she’d be glad to have you. She can fill you in on all the happenings at home, while we’ve been away.  I’m sure Harry’s wedding will be on the top of the list.”


“I’m sure,” Randa concurred. “I hope it all went well.”


“I think we would have heard about it, if it hadn’t,” Heyes reasoned. “They’re probably off, enjoying their honeymoon, and the town, at least the bachelor members, are all breathing a sigh of relief.”


The whistle up front, blew out its warning and within seconds, the car gave a little jerk, and they were on the move. Heyes settled back, with a smile on his face. He was looking forward to getting home, too.


 
To be continued.
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