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 Honeymoon's Over

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Keays

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Posts : 1433
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 60
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: Honeymoon's Over   Thu Jun 16, 2016 7:22 pm

Jed Curry stepped off the passenger car at the now very familiar train station in Denver and casually looked around for the confirmed Scotland Yard man. He wasn’t surprised when he didn’t spot him, as it was late. It was actually a relief, since all Jed really wanted to do was get a light meal at the saloon that he knew offered such fair after the café was closed, and then get to bed.  He hoisted his one piece of luggage into a more comfortable position and made his way, along with the few passengers who were disembarking here, through the depot and then out to the street.


Finney had informed him that the Yard would be covering his and his partner’s stay in Denver until after the poker game. Jed wouldn’t be staying at the Brown Palace, of course; that would be too much to expect, but he knew the hotel that had been chosen, and he was satisfied enough with that. He now headed towards that hotel to get signed in for his stay and prepare to meet up with Heyes on the following day. His partner and Miranda were due to arrive on the morning train, and Jed was looking forward to seeing them again.


The lobby was quiet, with only the night clerk present to attend to their guest. He had been asleep, but having done the night shift for many years, his inner clock had awakened him in time for the train from Brookswood. Even if there were no guests on the books, the night train often brought people to the big city, unannounced and looking for a hotel, and the clerk had to be ready to attend to them.


Seeing that Mr. Curry was expected that night, gave the clerk even more incentive to be up and alert in order to receive him. Once the initial anxiety of having the infamous gunman staying at their hotel, had worn off, Mr. Curry and his partner were generally very accommodating guests, and tended to tip well.  With that fact in mind, Jed was met with a large and friendly smile as soon as he entered the lobby.


“Ah, Mr. Curry. Welcome. Your room is ready for you.”


“Yeah, thanks,” Jed answered as he signed the ledger. “Ah, I’m meeting a friend here. A Mr. Finney. Has he checked in yet?”


“Indeed. Though I expect he is asleep now.”


“I expect he is, too,” Jed agreed. “I intend to be as well, just as soon as I get myself somethin’ ta’ eat. I’m sure I’ll be meeting my friend for breakfast.”


“Of course,” the clerk condescended, as he handed Jed the key to his room. “Have a good night, sir.”


Jed nodded as he took the key and then carried his own luggage up the stairs and to his room.
He’d barely had time to throw his bag on the bed, when a soft rapping at the door brought his colt into his hand. He stepped out of the direct line of fire and cautiously approached the wooden barrier.


“Who is it?” he enquired quietly.


“T’is I, Finney.”


Jed went to the door and opened it, just a crack. He relaxed and slipped his gun back into his holster as he opened the door wider to allow the Scotland Yard man to enter.


“Ah, cautious, I see.” Finney observed, with a smile. “Very wise.”


“Hmm,” Jed nodded. “Old habits.”


“Good to have.”


“I didn’t expect to see you until the morning—or at least, later in the morning.”


“I felt it necessary for us to connect privately, first,” Finney explained. “To make sure all is going as planned.”


“It is, as far as I know,” Jed told him. “I let the clerk know that you and I are friends, so people won’t wonder why we’ve hooked up. It’ll also give ya’ reason ta’ talk to Heyes, once he gets here. If you’re a friend of mine, then it ain’t too much of a stretch for people to assume that you’re a friend a’ his, as well.”


“Yes, my thoughts exactly.”


“Will you be staying at the Brown Palace, once the game gets going?”


“Oh, good gracious, no,” Finney informed him. “That would not do at all. We must carry on the pretense that you and I are good friends and have planned to meet here, and enjoy some casual poker and other such games of chance, while Mr. Heyes works his magic. He is booked in there, as are all the players. It must be assumed that anyone who can afford the buy in, can afford a room or even a suite at the Palace. But you and I, Mr. Curry, are simply observers in this little play. We must not appear to be too interested in the main event.”


“That makes sense,” Jed agreed. “On that note, shall we all meet up later, for breakfast? Heyes and Miranda are due in on the morning train. If we’re all going to be friends, we’ll need to carry on as such.”


“Indeed,” Finney agreed. “In fact, I am greatly looking forward to meeting Mr. Heyes. I have reason to believe that we may already be acquainted.”  He smiled, and offered his hand for shaking. “Goodnight, Mr. Curry.”


“Yeah.” Curry shook the offered hand, but an anxious frown had taken over his features at the detective’s casual remark.


Was he setting Heyes up to walk into a trap, after all? Just because Finney had checked out, that didn’t necessarily mean that he was on the up and up. Mitchel had been an official and so had Carson, and yet both of those men had caused Heyes no end of trouble. Did Finney have an old grudge to settle? Should he warn Heyes off? But he had informed Heyes of the identity of their patron, and Heyes apparently hadn’t been concerned enough about it to comment.
Maybe Heyes didn’t remember him. Or maybe Finney is mistaken, and he is not acquainted with the ex-outlaw leader. Jed figured that if Finney had come up against Hannibal Heyes in the past, then he would know it for sure, and not just suspect the acquaintance.


“Ohm,” Jed groaned as he shook his head to dislodge the negative thoughts.


It was late, and he was tired. Deciding to forgo a meal at this hour, he locked the door to his room and settled in for what was left of the night.


Xxx


Now it was Hannibal’s turn to sit quietly and covertly gaze upon his wife. After spending days on board the train, both of them, once again, were travel weary. Their last night of sleeping on what was beginning to feel like a salt shaker, had been a restless one for both of them. Now, talked out and tired, they sat facing one another, watching the familiar scenery flow past while their own private thoughts took over from conversation.


‘She’s so beautiful,’ Heyes thought, as his eyes gently caressed her curves. ‘How did a beaten down ex-outlaw like me, win such a lady?’ Heyes’ soft, admiring smile spread into a self-conscious grin when Miranda sighed and brought her thoughts back to the present. She glanced over at her husband and cocked an eyebrow.


“What are you thinking about?” she asked him, playfully.


He always felt a little stressed, when she asked him that question. His thoughts were for himself, but now, put on the spot, he had to come up with a generic answer that would satisfy his wife, but allow him to keep his musings private.


“You’re glowing,” he said. “You look lovely.”


Randa snorted. “Glowing! I feel like all I want to do is slip into a warm bath and soak the day, and the grime, away.”


“You look nice to me, either way.”


“I certainly hope that Bridget doesn’t mind me visiting, while you’re busy. It sounds silly, but I really don’t want to face those last few hours to get home. Not yet. Especially by myself.”


“I’m sure she won’t mind,” Heyes told her.


A gentle rapping sounded on the door of their roomette, followed by the anticipated announcement. “Denver City, folks. Twenty minutes.”


The couple smiled at each other.


“Finally!” Miranda sighed.


“Thank you!” Heyes called out to the steward. “Well,” he continued. “I guess we better get organized. Honeymoon’s over.”


Xxx


The platform was busy as the Heyes’ stepped down off the steps of the passenger car. People were rushing about, looking for arriving friends, or seeking out luggage and arranging rides. It seemed that nothing coherent could be heard in all the calling and greetings, not to mention the constant idle chugging of the engine, and hissing of releasing steam. Yet, knowing a voice so well, that it could be picked up in amongst the hubbub of this busy station, came in handy for an easy connection. Heyes was just giving his hand to his wife, as she carefully stepped down, when he heard the familiar voice amongst the chorus of other joyful greetings.


“Heyes!”


Heyes’ grin took over his face before he’d even turned around. His eyes instantly zeroed in upon his partner, and the two men fell into an affectionate, back-slapping man hug.


“Hey, Kid! It sure is good to see ya’!”


“Yeah, you too, Heyes. How was your trip?”


“Good! Especially once we got out of Yuma.”


“Uh huh. That’ll teach ya’. Howdy Miranda,” Jed gave her a big, little boy smile and moved in for a hug. “I hope you had a good time, too.”


“Yes,” she affirmed, all smiles and sparkle. “Santa Marta is beautiful. And Mr. McCreedy’s ranch is very impressive.”


“Uh huh,” Jed nodded. “Just like the man himself, I bet.”


Miranda laughed. “Yes!”


While this reunion between Jed and Miranda took place, Heyes had time to take note of the small, unassuming man who was lingering on the outskirts of this greeting party. Both men smiled in recognition.


“Mr. Finney,” Heyes greeted him in a tone of agreeable resignation. He’d always had a feeling that they would meet up again, one day. The two men shook hands.


“Aye,” Finney concurred. “T’is a pleasure to meet you, Mister—Smith?”


Heyes laughed. Jed and Miranda separated, and both stood back to watch this unexpected reunion.


“You know him?” Jed asked his partner.


“Yeah,” Heyes told him. “You remember; he was part of that expedition into Devil’s Hole, way back, when we were going for our amnesty.”


Jed looked blank. “What expedition?”


“You know, the one with the archaeologist,” Heyes elaborated. “That group who were looking for those tall, red-headed Indians.”


“Oh.” Jed’s face fell in recollection. “Ya’ mean the one where I drove a wagon load of explosives up to that mine, nearly got blowed up at least five times, and came back all bruised and bloody.”


“Yeah,” Heyes agreed. “That’s the one.”


“I also recall that you never got paid for that job, either.”


“See? Ya’ do remember.”


“Yeah, but you never told me about knowin’ Mr. Finney.”


“Sure I did,” Heyes insisted.  “I told ya’ all about how Mr. Alexander had planned his own murder by killing someone else who looked close enough to him, to make it work.  But then he ended up getting killed himself, anyway. Mr. Finney here, had tracked him all the way from England, hoping to find out where Alexander had stashed the stolen gems.”


“Yeah, ya’ told me all about that, Heyes,” Jed agreed. “But ya’ never told me the detective’s name.”


“Sure I did.”


“No. Ya’ didn’t.”


“I didn’t?” Heyes frowned. “You sure?”


“Yeah, Heyes. I’m sure.”


“Oh. Well. This is him.”


Jed looked like he was about to brain his partner over the head. “Ya could’a told me that you knew him, ya’ know. It would’a made things a lot easier.”


“I didn’t know that you knew him,” Heyes protested. “I didn’t even know he was here.”


“I told ya’ he was.”


“No ya’ didn’t.”


“I did!”


“When?”


“In the telegram.”


“Which one?”


“The last one I sent ya’! The one tellin’ ya’ about the job!”


“I think I would have remembered that.”


“Heyes!!”


Miranda laughed at the look that Finney was sending back and forth, between the two men. She touched him on the arm, and leaned in conspiratorially.


“Don’t worry, Mr. Finney,” she assured him. “This is just their way of showing how much they missed one another.”


“Ahh!” Finney nodded with understanding. “Male bonding.”


Both Heyes and Curry stopped their argument and sent an insulted look over to the Yard man, but before they had a chance to contradict this statement, they were pleasantly interrupted.


“Hannibal, Miranda!”


“Oh, Bridget!” Miranda waved to her. “How good to see you.”


Bridget hurried over to the group and gave Miranda a hug.


“Welcome back,” she greeted them. “I hope you have a lovely time.” And she switched from hugging Miranda, to hugging Hannibal. “You must tell me all about it. How was Santa Marta? Is the Alcalde as handsome and charming as Clementine insists? How was San Francisco? I can’t wait to hear all the details.”


“If you’re free to visit while Hannibal is busy, then I can tell you all about it,” Miranda informed her, and she sent her friend a mischievous smile.


“Of course! There is so much to tell you,” Bridget insisted. “Steven is so busy, getting caught up with his work that he has no time for me, these days. It’ll be lovely to have company.”


“We’re about to get some breakfast,” Jed intervened. “Would you like to join us?”


“Oh, thank you, Jed,” Bridget said. “But I can’t. I have errands to run in town, and then I must get home to the girls. I missed them so much. But, if you haven’t eaten yet, why don’t you all come over to our place for brunch? It would be lovely to visit.” Then her eyes fixed upon the stranger in the group, and she smiled, warmly. “Hello.”


Finney smiled and bowed slightly.


Heyes quickly took control.


“It seems I have been remiss,” he acknowledged. “My apologizes. Mr. Finney, this is my wife, Miranda.”


“Ah yes,” Finney accepted her hand and nodded. “A brave woman, you are, Mrs. Heyes.”


Miranda smiled. “Please, call me Miranda, or Randa, or Randi…”


Finney smiled. “A fine match for your husband. You seem to share a preference for many names.”


“Yes!” Miranda laughed. “I had noticed that.”


“And this young lady,” Heyes intervened, and directed Finney’s attention away from his wife. “Is Bridget Granger. She’s an old friend, and married to the best criminal lawyer in Denver.”


“Indeed?” Finney asked, his soft Irish lilt making everything he said sound friendly and inviting. “He must be a very busy man.”


“Yes, he is,” Bridget agreed. “Especially since we have been away from home for much longer than intended.  So much has happened since you left, Hannibal. It’s been so difficult.”


“That fire must have been devastating,” Randa agreed. “I’m sure it has been difficult...”


“So much more has happened, besides that,” Bridget continued. “If it’s not one thing, its…”


“Ah,” Jed cut her off with a touch on her arm. “Let’s leave the details until later. I expect Heyes and Randa are tired.”


“What else has been difficult?” Randa asked, suddenly concerned. “Is Sally alright?”


“Oh yes!” Bridget assured her. “She’s fine now. But it sure put a scare into her.”


“What put a scare into her?” Randa pushed. “What happened?”


“Nothin’ happened,” Jed cut in. “And here ain’t the place to discuss it.”


“Oh dear,” Bridget agreed, sheepishly. “You’re right, Jed. A train platform is not the place at all.  Brunch then? In about two hours? I’m sure Steven will put in an appearance for food. And you as well, Mr. Finney,” she included the soft spoken Yard man. “We have much to talk about, and it’s far more comfortable in our parlor, than in some crowded café.”


Her hopeful expression caused everyone to smile, and if there had been any assumption of declining the invitation, it was immediately terminated.


Bridget smiled with the unanimous acceptance, then whirled away and was soon gone from sight.


Jed gave an audible sigh of distress. He was hungry, but he also had to admit, that the Granger’s parlor and Sylvie’s home cooking would be much preferable over the local café.
Heyes frowned.


“What news is she talking about?” he asked.


“Not now, Heyes,” Jed told him. “It’ll wait.”


“What will wait?”


“Is Sally alright?” Miranda asked again.


“Yes, Sally is fine,” Jed assured her. “But I should warn ya’, you probably have yourselves a dog.”


“A dog?” asked Heyes.


Jed grinned as he slapped an arm across his partner’s shoulder, as the party left the platform. “Some news is best discussed sittin’ down, and after a good meal.”


“Fine,” Heyes conceded. “But we better get booked into a hotel first. Where are you staying?”


“You already have a room at the Brown Palace,” Finney informed Heyes.


“Oh.” Heyes wasn’t sure about that. “Is that necessary? I mean, a room at the Palace…”


“Aye,” Finney insisted. “Those who are booked into the game are expected to stay at the hotel. You two go ahead, and get settled. An invitation to your friend’s home is, perhaps, fortuitous. We do need to discuss things—privately.”


“Yes, we do,” Heyes said, pointedly, then sighed with some resignation. “Alright. We’ll get booked in at the Palace. We’ll meet you at Bridget’s place in two hours.”


“Yeah, Heyes,” Kid concurred. “You’re getting the whole treatment here. We’ll see ya’ over at there. But don’t be late, okay? I’m hungry.”


Xxx


Hannibal and Miranda stepped in to the lobby of the Brown Palace, and again stopped in awe at the opulent beauty of the edifice.


“Oh my,” Miranda breathed. “When we were away, it seemed like we were gone for months. Now that we’re standing here again, I would swear we were just here yesterday.”


“Hmm, I know,” Heyes agreed. “I certainly didn’t expect to be staying here again. I hope the Yard is paying for all this.”


“I’m sure Mr. Finney will go over that with you,” Randa commented, though her tone sounded concerned. “They wouldn’t insist that you stay in such an expensive hotel, without at least contributing to the cost, would they?”


Heyes shrugged. “I don’t know. I wouldn’t put it past some of these officials.”


“You skeptic,” Miranda teased him. “Let’s get booked in, and see what happens.”


The couple approached the front desk, and the clerk was quick to come to their assistance.
“Have you a reservation, sir?”


“Yes, I believe so,” Heyes concurred. “Hannibal Heyes. I’m here for the poker game.”


“Oh, indeed!” the clerk smiled. “I apologize for not recognizing you from your previous visit. You were so late in responding; we were beginning to think that you weren’t going to join us. In fact, you almost missed the opportunity.”


“Oh?” Heyes asked. “There’s a deadline?”


“There certainly is,” the clerk informed him. “And the game filled up very quickly this year. Probably because it’s the first year that we are holding it here, at the Palace. A much more fitting location for such a prestigious event, don’t you agree?”


“Of course,” Heyes agreed. “So, I was almost shut out, was I?”


“Oh, not almost, sir. You were,” the clerk continued. “But fortunately for you, we had a couple of cancellations just before I received you telegram. Very good timing, sir.”


Heyes smiled, wondering if it was good timing, or other forces at work.  “My good fortune.”


“Indeed.” The clerk smiled pleasantly. “And of course, we would appreciate it, if you would submit your buy in, as soon as possible.”


Heyes’ smile shifted to almost dangerous. “Submit my buy in?” he asked. “To whom?”


“Why, the management, of course,” the clerk responded, though his pleasant smile had disappeared and was replaced with a nervous one.


“You expect me to hand over $20,000 to the hotel management?” Heyes reiterated with a hint of incredulity.


“Yessir,” the clerk answered, and then swallowed. “It is custom, sir. It guarantees you a spot in the game, and ensures the management that you are serious about attending. It’s perfectly safe, sir. No one since…well…” another nervous swallow, “well…since you, has been able to crack this safe. And there is a guard on it, twenty-four-seven.”


“I don’t see a guard on it now,” Heyes observed.


“He’s on his coffee break.”


Heyes felt Miranda stifling a laugh, and then he had a hard time not joining her. The clerk visibly relaxed as he realized that the notorious ex-outlaw was finding humor in the situation.


“You need not do it right away, sir,” he added. “We realize that you may need to manage your funds. But if you could do it within the next few days, it would be appreciated.”


Heyes nodded. “Fine. I’ll look into it.”


“Very good, sir.” The clerk then motioned to the porter and that man instantly put in an appearance. “Escort these guest to room 210. Mr. Heyes is here for the game.”


“Oh!” came the response. “Yes indeed. Right this way sir, madam.”


Once up in the privacy of their room, Heyes sat down on the bed and laughed.


“That was close,” he stated. “I’ll have to talk to Finney about this. I don’t have twenty grand at my fingertips. I hope he has a back-up plan.”


Miranda came over to sit on her husband’s knee. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him on the cheek.


“I have a feeling,” she whispered in his ear. “that Mr. Finney is a very capable man.”


Heyes grinned. “You are sooo right.”


Xxx


“Oh dear,” Miranda complained as she tried to button up her skirt. She stood in front of the full length mirror, and frowned at the reflection coming back at her.


“What’s the matter?” her husband asked from his position at the water basin, where he was shaving.


“I’ve been wearing that light Mexican skirt for so long now, I hadn’t noticed.”


“Noticed what?”


Miranda tugged once again at the unyielding material. “I can’t seem to get these last two buttons done up.”


Heyes stopped shaving and looked over in her direction. She looked the same to him, but the material of her skirt did appear to be a little tight across her buttocks. He smiled with appreciation.


Miranda tried one more time, then gave up in disgust. “What am I going to do? I don’t want to wear my travelling outfit to lunch. It needs laundering. And it’s too chilly here for the summer skirt. I never thought that my clothing wasn’t going to fit me by the time we got home.” Her shoulders slumped with disappointment. “Ohh, and I was so looking forward to wearing the dress I got in San Francisco. It was snug fitting then, so I’m certainly not going to fit into it now. Oh dear.”


Heyes smiled at his wife’s distress over a matter that could so easily be remedied.


“We still have time,” he said, as he went back to his shaving. “Put on your travelling dress again, just for now, and we’ll go out and buy you a new outfit. Actually, probably two. One for casual, and one for the more formal dinners we’ll probably be attending while here.”


“I suppose there’s nothing else for it,” Miranda sighed. “I’m going to need a whole new wardrobe.”


“I wouldn’t get too carried away,” Heyes cautioned. “If Bridget still has her confinement wardrobe, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind passing them on to you. Beth probably has some as well. We’ll be fine.”


“Oh,” Miranda looked relieved. “As long as they won’t mind.”


“I doubt it. It makes no sense to buy a bunch of new stuff that you’re only going to wear for a short time. Confinement clothes and baby clothes all get passed around among families here.”


Miranda smiled. “Yes, that is more practical. And, as I recall, Beth had some lovely dresses.”


“Yep.” Heyes wiped the excess shaving cream off his face and began to get dressed in some clean clothes himself. “There’s some nice clothing stores right here, in the hotel. We can go there.”


“Those will be awfully expensive,” Miranda commented, practically. “Why don’t we just go to one of the little shops on Main Street?”


“Because, I’m here for the Biggest Game in the West,” her husband pointed out. “And I’m supposed to be a wealthy gambling man, despite my nefarious past. Or, perhaps, because of it. It’ll be good for my cover for us to be seen shopping in the more prestigious shops.”


Miranda sparkled. “I like your reasoning, sir,” she told him, as she slipped into her previous garments. “Shall we go?”


“Yes, we shall.”


Xxx


Brunch was a huge success, and not only because everyone was hungry. As much as they had both moved on to new lives, Hannibal and Jed had missed each other more than either of them was willing to admit. Now that they were again in one another’s company, and relaxing in a safe and comfortable environment, their banter, back and forth was lively and light hearted.
Finney sat back and quietly watched this exchange with humorous interest. For two prolific outlaws, whose notoriety had reached as far as Scotland Yard, they came across now as friendly and honest citizens. No wonder it had taken the law so long to finally catch up with them. They did not represent the typical, hardened criminals that most people tended to think of, when talking about the outlaws of the West.


On the other hand, Finney mused as the conversation swirled on around him, he knew from personal experience, that Heyes could turn hard and cold in an instant. He was not afraid to take control and make things happen the way he wanted them to. He also was not afraid to use a gun. This, and Heyes’ unconcerned attitude towards the outlaws in Devil’s Hole were what had made the detective suspicious of the man’s true identity in the first place.


Their guide had been far too familiar with the Devil’s Hole area, and with the gang that lived there, for Finney not to question his connections to them. But Finney had been on another case then, and he had learned not to get distracted. When you allow yourself to run after more than one rabbit at a time, both will end up in the bush instead of the pot. Although, in this case, it had been an easy choice to make. Mr. Finney had found himself beginning to like their guide, and that was not conducive to bringing down a criminal. Aye, it was a good thing that he had his focus elsewhere at that time. A good thing, indeed.


Now, he simply listening with interest, as these two men re-connected after their extended separation.


“How is ole’ Silky doing?” Jed asked. “Still as cantankerous as ever?”


Heyes snorted. “That old coot. He was downright nasty to me, when we first got there. I thought he was still angry over the Philpott episode. But apparently that wasn’t the reason.”


“That did happen a while ago now,” Jed pointed out. “I can’t see why he’d still be angry about it now.”


“You know what he’s like, Kid,” Heyes reminded him. “He can hold a grudge longer than a cat that’s been kicked.”


“Yeah, I suppose,” Jed agreed. “So what was he mad at then, if it weren’t that?”


“He was mad at me, because I got arrested and sent to prison!” Heyes informed him, his voice rising with the indignation of it all. “Like it was my fault! He said that it made everybody look bad, and I should have known better.”


“Geesh!” the Kid responded. “That old hoot-owl. I guess that made for a stressful visit.”


“Yeah, at first,” Heyes concurred. “But he settled down after a while. We ended up having some good talks. It was alright.”


“Okay, good.”


“He was very nice to me,” Randa put in. “I couldn’t believe how generous he was. It was almost embarrassing.”


Jed laughed. “Yeah, he did the same thing to Beth. I guess he was so surprised that we both ended up getting married, that he wanted to show his appreciation.”


“Well, he was very appreciative,” Randa emphasized. “And very kind.”


The partners looked at each other, and smiled.


“Oh!” Heyes suddenly perked up. “I ran into Yannack!”


“Yannack!? Yannack Banneck?”


“Yeah!”


“Yannack Banneck?” Bridget queried, skeptically.


“That’s exactly what I said,” Miranda told her.


The boys looked at the two women.


“What?” they both asked in unison.


“You don’t find anything—humorous, about that name?” Miranda asked them.


Heyes and Jed grinned at each other.


“Well…” Jed half-heartedly admitted.


“The way I see it,” Heyes explained, quite seriously. “He never made fun of my name, so I wasn’t going to turn around and do it to him.”


Now it was the two ladies who smiled at each other.


“Fair enough,” they agreed.


“How is he doing?” Jed asked.


“Good,” Heyes informed him. “He’s married, has a parcel of young’uns. He took over the fish market, and he seems to be doing quite well for himself.”


“He gave us some oysters,” Miranda chimed in.


“Ahh,” Finney commented. “A rare delicacy.”


“I heard ‘a them,” Jed admitted. “Ain’t never had any though.”


“They’re different, that’s for sure,” Heyes told him. “But good. Especially the way the cook prepared them. Hmm, I wonder if the Palace has any. They’d be worth a try.”


“If I recollect correctly,” Finney said. “I do not believe that oyster travel well. Perhaps it would be best to eat them fresh.”


“There you go, Jed,” Bridget teased him. “You’ll just have to take Beth back there, so you can try the oysters.”

Jed didn’t have time to respond to the gentle jibbing, as the front door opened and Steven’s voice could be heard from the hallway.


Last edited by Keays on Thu Jun 16, 2016 7:53 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Keays

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PostSubject: Re: Honeymoon's Over   Thu Jun 16, 2016 7:37 pm

“Hello?” he called. “Anyone home?”


“Papa! Papa!” Was the first greeting that met his ears.


The patter of little running footsteps could be heard as the elder Miss Granger ran from the nursery to receive a hug from her father.


“Hello there, little miss,” Steven returned his daughter’s greeting. “Are you keeping yourself busy and out of mischief, toady?

“Yes, Papa.”


Steven, his daughter in his arms, entered the parlor and smiled a greeting. His eyes lit upon Finney, and he stepped forward to introduce himself. Mr. Finney stood up and the two men shook hands.


“Good afternoon,” Steven said. “Steven Granger.”


“Kevin Finney. Scotland Yard.”


“Ah! The infamous Mr. Finney,” Steven observed. “Jed was in quite a pickle trying to find out if you were legitimate or not. I take it that issue has been settled?”


“Yeah,” Jed concurred. “Apparently he and Heyes know one another from years back.”


Steven smiled at Heyes but made no comment.


Then Sylvie hurried into the parlor and instantly took charge.


“Oh, good heavens, Mr. Steven!” she declared as she took Rosie from his arms.  “Let me take her. You sit yourself down, and I’ll let you your lunch.”


“Thank you, Sylvie,” Steven accepted the offer. He leaned over and gave his daughter a quick kiss on the cheek. “I’ll be in to see you, in a little while, Sweetheart.”


The child waved goodbye to everyone in the room and Sylvie carried her out. Steven gave his wife a kiss, and sat down for a much needed respite from his busy schedule. Once settled, he reached into his inside pocket and pulled out a letter sized envelope.


“Before I forget,” he said, handing the envelope to Heyes. “This is for you, from a woman in Yuma.”


Heyes frowned. “Oh?” He leaned forward and took the envelope. “Who is it from?”


Steven shrugged. “I think it best if you just read it.”


Heyes sent him a quick smile and, with Miranda trying to contain her curiosity, he opened the letter and gave it a quick browse over.


His smile widened. “Oh, it’s from Louise,” he stated. “Here, Kid. I’ll let you read it, since we did end up talking with her before we left Arizona.”


“Louise?” Jed asked. “Louise Carson?”


“Yeah.”


Steven looked confused. “You already spoke with her?”


“Yes,” Heyes told him. “We ran in to her at the café. She wasn’t too happy about it, as she didn’t want her fiancé to know about our past relationships.”


“Oh, I see,” Steven accepted that. “Yes, she did seem concerned about you seeing her there. Which is why she gave me the letter, I suppose. Still, it’s a moot point, if you’ve already spoken with her.”


Heyes shrugged. “Maybe.”


Sylvie made a discreet entrance, bringing in a sandwich and a cup of tea for her boss. Steven acknowledged her and began to eat.


Jed smiled.  “So, she’s engaged for real, this time,” he commented, as he finished reading the letter. “Good for her. I can see why she didn’t want her fiancé to find out about us, though.”


“Yeah, it made sense,” Heyes agreed.


“She was awfully anxious, at first,” Miranda remembered. “She tried to avoid us at every cost, but you know what Hannibal can be like.”


Jed nodded. “Uh huh.”


“I just wanted to talk with her,” Heyes protested. “Assure her that everything was fine. She was sorry to hear about Jenny.”


Jed’s eyes saddened. “Yeah.”


“Was this someone you knew during your nefarious early years?” Finney asked, his curiosity refusing to be contained.


Heyes and Jed looked at each other.


“Well…” Jed shrugged.


“I don’t know,” Heyes admitted.


“Nefarious?” Jed asked.


“They weren’t that nefarious,” Heyes insisted. “We were trying to go straight.”


Finney smiled. “Trying?”


The two ex-outlaws locked gazes again. Both shrugged. Steven started to laugh.


“They were trying, Mr. Finney,” he conceded. “But still, some of the things you fellas got up to during those years weren’t really…”


“We don’t need to go into that right now,” Heyes quickly interjected.


“Yeah,” Jed agreed. “I think the point is, we were trying.”


“Aye, of course,” Finney agreed. “So, this Louise knew you back then, I suppose, and she didn’t want her fiancé to know about that relationship.”


“There’s a little bit more to it than that,” Heyes explained. “She was dating a man who robbed a bank where he was the assistance manager, by persuading two young fellas to impersonate us and then pull the job. To avoid having to share the take with them, he killed them both. Jed and I went there to clear our names, only to find out that one of the young men that was murdered, was the son of a good friend of ours, Jenny, who was also in town, hoping to get to the bottom of it all.
“Louise was dating the assistant manager, who just happened to be married to someone else at the time. In the process of trying to convince her to turn against him, she figured out who we really were.”



“Ah,” Finney nodded in understanding. “And did she turn against him?”


“No, she didn’t. She ended the relationship, but she wouldn’t turn him in,” Heyes conceded. “And in the end, it didn’t really matter. She cleared us of the robbery and was intent on leaving it at that. Jenny, on the other hand, decided to take justice into her own hands. Once she knew that it was the bank manager who had killed her son, she walking straight into that bank and shot him dead. Louise agreed to stay behind and testify at Jenny’s trial, since, well obviously, Jed and I could not.”


“I see,” Finney said, sadly. “An unfortunate outcome. I can understand why she would not want this episode to rise up again, considering her intensions to marry. And what of your friend, Jenny? Was she acquitted?”


“Yes, she was.”


“Ah, good. Justice, rather than the letter of the law, winning out.”


“To some degree, Mr. Finney,” Heyes told him. “Her son, Caleb, was all she had in the world. She tried to carry on, but finally gave it up as a lost cause. She eventually took her own life.”


“That is tragic, indeed,” Finney commented. “What a shame. And all over money.” He tutted. “I’ve seen more misery over the greed for wealth, than over anything else. It can be a very sad world we live in.”


Heyes instantly felt uncomfortable, as though Finney were judging him and his previous lifestyle. But then he realized, that it was he, himself, who was judging. And the weight of all the people whom he had hurt, because of his selfish choices, came down upon his shoulders like a dark rain-heavy cloud.


Miranda strove to lighten the mood. “Louise did appear very happy with her life now, though. She’s very much looking forward to getting married.”


“Yeah, that’s good,” Jed responded. “She was a good person, just made some bad choices.”


Miranda smiled over at him. “Yes.”


Steven finished his sandwich and settled back to enjoy his tea. “It is nice to see you two back home again,” he said to the Heyes’s.  “Though, I’m afraid you’re going to find some major changes have taken place.”


“Hmm,” Heyes nodded agreement, relieved to be moving on to another topic. “We noticed some burned out areas on the way into town. I guess the back country is going to be even worse.”


“What a shame,” Miranda concurred. “It’s such a beautiful area. It’s going to take years for those trees to grow back.”


“Yes, it will,” Steven agreed. “Although, that’s not the changes I was referring to.”


“Ah,” Jed interrupted. “We hadn’t really discussed any of that.”


“You haven’t?” Steven asked, showing some surprise. “Don’t you think that he should know?”


“I was planning on waitin’ until after this job is done,” Jed explained. “He needs to be focused on the game for now.”


Hannibal and Miranda exchanged concerned glances.


“Why do people keep doing this to me? I am sitting right here, you know,” Heyes snarked with irritation. “What are you talking about?” There has been strong suggestion that more has been going on here than just the fire?”


“Are you sure that Sally is alright?” Miranda asked again. “What is it that we need to know?”


“Sally is fine, Miranda,” Bridget assured the worried mother. “But…”


“What?” Miranda demanded to know. “What aren’t you telling us?”


“Heyes,” Jed began, his expression regretful. “Carl Jacobs is dead.”


A pin hitting the carpet could have been heard in the ensuing silence. Heyes paled as the news hit home.


“W…what?” he finally stammered out. “How? What happened?”


 Miranda’s hand came up to her mouth as she gasped with emotion. “Oh no.”


“It all started when ole’ man Baird made the mistake of hitting Isabelle, right out there on the street, in front of the mercantile.” Steven explained. “Bridget got involved and that old fool turned around a hit her as well.”


Heyes’ mouth tightened. “He hit you?”


Bridget nodded solemnly, as Steven squeezed her hand.


“What an awful man,” Miranda growled. “And the way he treats his daughters is disgusting. I don’t know why he’s been allowed to get away with it for so long.”


“Under the eyes of the law, he was well within his rights to discipline his own daughters,” 
Steven explained, though he had the grace to look ashamed at this ruling. “There wasn’t really anything that anyone could do. But as soon as he struck Bridget, that changed the situation.”


“But it shouldn’t have!” Bridget insisted. “If it’s against the law to strike a woman who is not a family member, then it should be wrong to strike one who is. It’s not fair!”


“I agree,” Steven assured her. “The laws need to be changed. But it won’t be easy, so if you and Beth have designs on trying to change it, I would appreciate you re-thinking that.  You both have children to raise.”


“Yes,” Bridget agreed. “With two of those children being girls! You’re in the same boat, Hannibal. Doesn’t this bother you?”


“Ahh.” Heyes was taken aback by being suddenly included into this, apparently long running, squabble.  “Of course. Most of us want the best for our children. I have a feeling that I won’t have to worry about Anya. Between Abi and Hester, she’s growing up with a very strong sense of who she is. Sally might have problems…”


“I wouldn’t worry about Sally,” Jed put in, before he could stop himself. “She proving to be a very independent kind’a gal.”


“What has she done?” both Hannibal and Miranda asked at the same time.


“No! Nothin’ bad,” Jed assured them. “It’s just…once she gets somethin’ in her head, she’s gonna do it.”


“But what has she done?” Miranda asked again, feeling frustrated. “You keep on referring to Sally and to something that happened, but you won’t elaborate.  For goodness sakes, Jed, what did she do?”


“Well, after the Bairds abandoned their place, Sally got the idea in her head that their blue tic ranch hound was scared and hungry,” Jed explained. “She skipped school, in order to rescue it, and caused a whole parcel of us, ta’ get mighty concerned about her. She’s alright though. But now, like I said, I think ya’ might have yourselves a ranch dog, without a ranch, ‘cause that hound won’t leave Sally’s side.”


Bridget and Steven exchanged a subtle look, but decided not to elaborate with more details about the incident. Maybe Jed was right, not to tell his partner everything about what happened with their daughter. He’d find out about it soon enough.


Miranda sighed with resignation. “She’s her father’s daughter, alright.”


“Me?” Heyes was indignant. “She spends most of her time with you.”


“But she idolizes you.”


“You’re her best friend.” Then he frowned and looked back at the Kid. “The Bairds abandoned their ranch?”


“Oh yeah,” Jed continued. “It was one ‘a them, who killed Jacobs.”


Heyes’ expression darkened. “Which one.”


“We don’t know yet,” Steven cut in. “We’ll know better once we can run some tests on the bullet. Until then, it’s all conjecture. All we know for sure, is that Sheriff Jacobs rode out to talk to Baird about the assault on Bridget. The Robertson’s found him on the Baird’s property, gut shot. They brought him in to town, and David worked on him all night, but…” he shrugged with defeat. “…he couldn’t save him.”


Silence again settled over the gathering. Even Finney, who had only spoken with the sheriff a couple of times, could tell that to this group of people, the death of this man was a tragic loss. He could feel the dangerous mood slip over the gentleman he had first come to know as their guide. If he’d had any doubt about the ability of this man to run a gang of outlaws, it would have been dissipated now.


Heyes’ expression hardened and his dark eyes looked like thunder.


“Give me five minutes with that old bastard,” he growled. “and I’ll find out who pulled the trigger.”


“I’d a’ already done it, Heyes,” Jed told him. “If we could.”


“You’re not gonna let a little thing like the law, get your way, are you?” Heyes asked, with a hint of disgust in his tone. “It didn’t stop us when we ran Devil’s Hole. If we wanted to find out something, we found it out.”


Jed sat back with a look of hurt surprise on his face, but again, Steven stepped in to calm dangerous waters.


“You aren’t in Devil’s Hole anymore, Hannibal,” he pointed out. “And the law is the only thing moving this country forward. But you wouldn’t be able to use those tactics on him anyway. Both Baird and Emmett were killed. Seth is in custody, but I doubt that he was the one who pulled the trigger.”


“Why?” Heyes snarked. “You just going to take his word for it? Of course he’s going to deny it!”


“No, we’re not just taking his word for it,” Steven explained. “As I said, he is in custody, and he will stand trial. But we have all their guns in our possession. We can tell which gun belonged to which Baird by finger prints, and other methods of identification. We also have the bullet that killed Jacobs. Every gun leaves its own unique mark on the bullets fired from it. All we have to do is fire a bullet from each gun in question, and then we should be able to distinguish which gun fired the lethal shot.”


“You can do that?” Heyes asked.


“Yes.”


“Oh yes,” Finney concurred. “That technique has saved many a man from the gallows. And sent many a more to them, who would otherwise have gotten off.”


Heyes’ expression went blank for a moment, his thoughts turning inwards. More and more, he was appreciating the fact that he and his partner had gotten out of outlawin’ when they did. They never committed murder, and never would have, but the kind of technology that Steven and Finney were talking about, would have made his job as outlaw leader even more difficult. Could he even open the new safes that were being designed now? He almost didn’t want to try. He came back to the present when he felt Miranda’s hand on his. She smiled when he looked over at her.


“This is sad news to come home to,” she said. “Carl Jacobs was a good man.”


“Yeah.” Heyes nodded. “He helped me out. A lot.”


“Me too,” Jed concurred. “The Bairds ain’t too popular in Brookswood right about now.”


“No, I guess not,” Heyes agreed. “What about Isabelle, and Courtney? Do they know?”


“Isabelle doesn’t know,” Steven said. “We thought it best to wait until after their honeymoon.  As for Courtney, she was caught trying to help her father, so she’s also under arrest.”


“Really?” Heyes was surprised.


“Oh dear,” Miranda commented. “I can’t imagine that went over well.”


“Nope,” Jed agreed. “She still don’t get why.”


“A judge will help her to understand,” Steven grumbled, cryptically.  “Well, I better get back to work. There’s a lot to catch up on.”


“Will you be defending or prosecuting Seth?” Heyes asked, as the lawyer stood up from the table.


“Neither,” Steven admitted. “I know the defendant and was friends with the victim. I’m too close to it, to be effective in either capacity. I do, however, know the lawyer who will be defending him, and he’s a good man. Seth will probably wind up doing a couple of years for conspiracy, but I doubt very much that he’ll hang for murder. I truly believe that he didn’t do it.”


Heyes nodded acceptance. “Okay. If that’s what you believe, I’ll accept that.”


“Yes,” Steven reiterated. He leaned down and gave his wife another kiss. “I’ll see you at supper sweetheart.”


“Yes, see you then.”


“Hannibal, Miranda, it’s good to see you back home safe. We’ll have to hear all about your adventures, when things settle down.”


“That will be fine,” Heyes agreed, as all the men stood up to shake hands with their departing host. “We’ll see you again, before we head for home.”


“Good.  Mr. Finney, it was a pleasure to meet you.”


“Aye,” Finney agreed. “A good day to you, sir.”


“See you later, Steven,” Jed said.


“Gentlemen, ladies.” Steven nodded to the group in general, and made his departure.


“Well,” Bridget said. “Miranda, I have the feeling that the men want to talk business now. Shall we retire to the sitting room, for some tea, and gossip?”


Miranda smiled. She would have preferred to stay and listen to the plans concerning the poker game, but Bridget looked so hopeful of her company, that she could not refuse.


“That would be lovely,” she agreed. “Excuse us, gentlemen. We have important matters to discuss.”


Again, all the men came to their feet while the two ladies exited. While they were still standing, Jed went over to the cabinet and poured out three glasses of cognac. He smiled at Heyes’ raised eyebrow.


“Don’t worry about it, Heyes,” he said. “Steven gives me the run of their place. Besides, I want to make a toast.” He handed out the other two glasses, and the three men raised them. “To Carl Jacobs. There ain’t too many lawmen that I’d consider a friend, but he sure was one of ‘em.”


Glasses clinked and a sip was taken.


“Well,” Heyes said, taking the floor. “He’ll be missed. He was willing to take a chance on us, when others wouldn’t. I still remember the look on his face, when we told him about our plans to start an investigation service. I would have sworn, he swallowed his tin badge on that one, but he was willing to go along with it. He would have been a good partner in our rehab venture too. Here’s to him.”


More clinking, and sips.


“Aye,” Finney joined in. “I didn’t know the man, but I salute a fellow officer of the law, fallen in the line of duty. May peace and rest come to him.”


The final clink and sips, and the three men sat back down. They remained silent again, for a moment, each lost in their own thoughts.


“How’s Joe taking it?” Heyes finally asked.


“Hard,” Jed admitted. “But he stayed legal. He’ll take over as sheriff until an election can be organized, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins that anyway.”


“I thought he wanted to go back East and study law,” Heyes pointed out.


“Yeah,” Jed shrugged. “Things change. Pansy wants to get married, and Joe ain’t averse to the idea.”


Heyes nodded, then changed the subject. “Well, Mr. Finney,” he began. “I think we have a lot to talk about.”


“Ah, indeed,” Finney agreed. “Has your friend filled you in on any of it?”


Heyes sent a pointed looked over to Jed. “No.”


Jed scowled. “When have I had the chance? Besides, you didn’t say nothin’ about getting’ an invite to the game. Why not, Heyes? You know you always wanted to play that game.”


Heyes looked a little sheepish. “I can’t be putting out that kind of money on a poker game. Not now, not with one child, and another on the way. Which reminds me. Mr. Finney, you have me booked in at the Palace, but who is covering that expense? Our company is still young; we don’t have the financial resources for something like that. Not to mention, the clerk informed me that I am required to hand over the buy-in as collateral. That is a lot of money, Mr. Finney. Who is covering that? Who is responsible for the money, if I lose it? What payment…?”


Finney held up his hands to calm the barrage of questions. “I assure you, Mr. Heyes, that all of these matters have been arranged. Your stay at the Palace is being covered by the Yard. Tomorrow morning, you will find that the sum of $20,000 has been submitted to the game organizers in your name. You may pick up your receipt at the front desk. The Yard would appreciate you returning that money once the job is done, so please try not to lose too much. Anything you win, over and above the buy-in, will, of course, be yours to keep. As payment, you might say.”


“Well, that’s the rub, isn’t it?” Heyes commented quietly. “If I lose any, or all, of the $20,000, then I’m liable for it. I can’t afford that, Mr. Finney.”


“You can declare it as a business expense,” Finney suggested. “Perhaps if you look at it as a loan? You’ve handled large sums before, have you not? Raw diamonds, for example? I’m sure those stones were worth far more than this sum.”


Heyes shot a glance over to the Kid, then smiled humorously at Mr. Finney. “How did you know about that?”


Finney smiled back. “Ah, we have our ways, Mr. Heyes. Besides, from what I understand of your skills at the poker table, I fully expect you’ll be coming out ahead. The Yard would not risk such a sum on someone who was not capable.”


“Yes, I’m sure,” Heyes agreed. “Still, Mr. Finney, I’ll need to discuss this with my partner, if you don’t mind. It is his company as well. If I lose this money, it could ruin both of us before we’ve even gotten started.”


“Ah yes,” Finney agreed. “But if you succeed in capturing our culprit, it would put your young company on an international scale. Well worth the risk, don’t you think?”


“Certainly,” Heyes agreed. “But I still wish to discuss this with him, before making the final decision. If you don’t mind.”


“Of course not,” Finney accepted. “T’is a wise thing to do. But it would be a shame to let this man slip through our fingers, when we have him so close.”


“What has he done?” Heyes asked, his curiosity taking over from his caution. “More stolen gems?”


“No, not this time,” Finney denied. “Money and bonds, and an embarrassment to the aristocracy. It seems that he conned the wrong people, and with politics being what they are, the Yard was engaged to bring him to task.”


Heyes nodded, taking another sip of the cognac. “I certainly understand politics. So, who am I looking for? What does he look like?”


“Ah, now that’s our rub,” Finney acknowledged. “We don’t know.”


“You don’t know?” Heyes asked, incredulously. “Then how do you know, he’s even here?”


“The money, Mr. Heyes,” Finney answered. “Always follow the money.”


Heyes grinned and glanced at the Kid again. Jed just smiled. He was sitting quietly throughout this exchange, watching the two brilliant minds sparing back and forth. He already knew what the outcome was going to be; Heyes could never resist a challenge. And this high stakes poker game was already more than he could resist, even though he was putting on a fine, hard act of disinterest. Add to it another master thief, and conman, and Heyes was hooked.


Heyes himself, looked a little sheepish at the knowing light that was in his partner’s eyes. Heyes’ act was all for Finney, and Jed made it quite apparent that he knew it. Heyes almost rolled his eyes at, yet again, not being able to pull one over on his partner.


“Follow the money,” he repeated. “I recall an ex-Pinkerton agent saying the same thing.”


“And it’s the truth,” Finney reiterated. “The money led us here, and here is where he is. He’s a gambling man; he would not be able to resist the Biggest Game in the West.”


“Alright,” Heyes agreed. “If I do decide to take this case, how will I know him?”


Now it was Finney’s turn to smile and send a humorous glance to Jed. He knew Heyes was going to take the job; he was asking too many question for a man who was not interested.
“That is where your skill as a sham artist yourself, will come in handy,” the Yard man told him. “I expect you can spot a fake within the first ten minutes of a game.”


Heyes mused about this statement. It had taken him longer than ten minutes to weed out the snake in McCreedy’s game, but he had still done it. But that man was hardly a professional, and nowhere near the caliber the thief that they were now talking about. Still, Heyes was confident, that if a shyster, even one as devious as the one that Mr. Finney described, was in the game, he would weed him out.


Finney sipped his cognac and sat watching the thoughts flitting across Heyes’ face. The Yard man smiled quietly. “Are we in agreement, Mr. Heyes?”


“Oh yes, yes, you’re quite right, Mr. Finney,” Heyes agreed. “If he’s in the game, I’ll spot him. It’s still the matter of the $20,000, however.”


“Aye.” Finney nodded his understanding.  “Discuss it with your partner—and your wife. If you chose not to do the job, your stay at the Palace will still be on us.  But I have a feeling, Mr. Heyes, that you will be joining with us on this little caper.”


“You may be right, Mr. Finney,” Heyes agreed. “You may very well be right.”


Xxx


Settled in to the sitting room, with tea and biscuits, Bridget and Miranda quickly fell into relaxed conversation.


“I’m so pleased to know that you and Hannibal had a lovely trip,” Bridget told her. “And you’re so tanned! Did you not cover up, while you were down South?”


“Not the way the women here do,” Miranda confided. “I adapted very quickly to the local garb, and it is made to be cool and uninhibiting.” She laughed at Bridget’s raised eyebrows. “Nothing scandalous, I assure you! Although, some ladies who knew me in my former life, might think so.  Oh, but those cottons were so light and comfortable. I almost hated to go back to our typical western clothing. But I’m afraid it’s much too chilly now, for my summer wear.”


“Well, you’re looking healthy and vibrant,” Bridget told her. “And, perhaps in need of some confinement clothing?”


Miranda laughed. “Yes!” she stated. “I couldn’t believe it, when I tried to put on my dress to come here, I couldn’t even get the buttons done up. The Mexican skirts are so loose and unrestricting, that I hadn’t even noticed that my circumference had increased!”


Bridget laughed. “I’ve never heard it put that way before! But of course you can have mine. They might be a little short for you, but most of them have a hem that can be put down. Actually, you’re closer in height to Trish, and I’m sure that she’ll still have plenty of her dresses. Don’t you worry. Between the lot of us, we’ll have you well docked out for every stage of your condition. It’s so exciting! You and Hannibal, having a little one. After all the sad things that have happened since you left, this will be a welcome change.”


Miranda’s expression sobered. “Yes. I still can’t believe that Sheriff Jacobs is gone. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to hurt him.” Bridget hung her head, and Miranda sensed that she had touched on a raw nerve. She reached out and placed a hand on her friend’s arm. “Bridget, what is it?”


Bridget took a deep breath and controlled her emotions. “I feel like it’s all my fault. I told Papa and Steven not to push the matter. All those years, and nobody did anything about the way that old brute treated his family, but as soon as I got mixed up in it, the whole town was in an up-roar! I should have just stayed out of it. But he was hitting Isabelle, right there, in the middle of the street, in front of everyone! The injustice of it would not let me turn my back. But if I had stayed out of it, Papa and Steven would not have insisted that the sheriff confront that man. It’s my fault!”


“Oh no, Bridget,” Miranda soothed her. “No, it’s not. No one could foresee how this was going to end up. The sheriff was not a reckless, or a foolish man. He would never have gone out there, if he thought that the Bairds would react that way. How could anyone have seen that coming?”


“But I did,” Bridget insisted. “I knew there would be trouble, if Papa pushed it. I begged them not to, but they wouldn’t listen to me.”


“It’s a tragic thing,” Miranda admitted. “But the only ones to blame for it, are the Bairds. And it seems that they have already paid the ultimate price for their stupidity.  It may sound silly, but I do hope that young Seth doesn’t get hit too hard with this. It always seemed to me that his father and older brother had him under their thumb. If he went on the run with them, it was probably because he had no choice.”


Bridget nodded. “Yes, I suppose.”


“How is your father doing?” Miranda asked, neatly changing the subject.


Bridget smiled. “Better. David is letting him go home a few days. By the time you and Hannibal get back, they should be well settled into the old ranch house again.”


“I’m glad to hear it,” Randa told her. “It was very frightening for us, to hear about all this going on up here, but not be able to do anything about it.”


“I seem to recall that you and Hannibal had your own problems right around that time!” Bridget reminded her.


“I’ll say!” Randa agreed, and rolled her eyes. “What a proud and stubborn man, my husband can be sometimes!”


“Can’t they all?”


“Yes!”


And the two women broke up laughing.


“I’m so looking forward to getting home again,” Miranda admitted. “I’m ready for some quiet, and sleeping in my own bed. And I miss Sally so much. I never would have thought it possible.”


“She misses you as well,” Bridget told her. “It’ll be quite the homecoming, I’m sure.”


Miranda sent Bridget a suspicious look and voiced her concerns. “What are you not telling me?”


“What?” Bridget responded and instantly looked guilty. “What do you mean?”


“Come on, Bridget. Something has happened with Sally, and you and Jed aren’t telling us.  What is it?”


“Oh dear,” Bridget groaned. “It’s only going to upset you.”


Now, Miranda was really worried. “Bridget, what is it!”


“You have to promise not to tell Hannibal, until after the game.”


“I don’t have to make any such promise,” Miranda told her. “Tell me what happened, and I’ll decide what Hannibal needs to know right now.”


“Well,” Bridget began, reluctantly. “Apparently when Sally went out to the Baird ranch to rescue the dog, she ran into Courtney and some transient, who’s done work for them on occasion. I guess they decided to use her as a hostage or something, because they tried to kidnap her.”


“What!” Miranda practically jumped out of her chair. “And you weren’t going to tell us this? Is she alright?” Her voice turned dangerous. “Did they hurt her?”


“No, no!” Bridget assured her again. “She’s fine! She was pretty scared when Jed found her, but you know what children are like. By the time they got back to town, all she could talk about was the dog.”


“It’s a good thing Courtney is in jail,” Randa fumed. “Otherwise, I might do her bodily harm. If she hasn’t already been charged with attempted kidnapping, you can bet Hannibal will insist on it.”


“She has been,” Bridget assured her. “Both her and her friend. Attempted kidnapping and obstructing justice. I think she’s in more trouble that Seth is, at this point.”


“Good!” Randa hissed. Then she took a deep breath and a sip of her tea. Her expression became thoughtful. “I see what you mean about not telling Hannibal about this until after the game. He’s already hurting over Sheriff Jacobs. This will push him over the edge. He’ll want to pack up and head for home, right now. I mean, I want to pack up and head for home right now, despite being exhausted. But I realize how important this job is. Not only to catch this criminal, but for what it will do for Han and Jed’s business. It’s a rare opportunity. We can’t have him distracted.” She stopped talking and stared down into the depths of her teacup. Bridget waited for her to gather her thoughts. Finally, Miranda sighed and looked up. “We don’t keep secrets from one another. I really do need to tell him. He’ll be angry with me if I don’t. And this is something he needs to know about.”


“Of course he does,” Bridget agreed. “But not yet. And he doesn’t need to know that you know. Let Jed take the blame for this one, he’s used to it. Besides, he’s the one who chose not to tell you. He wasn’t even going to tell you about Carl Jacobs, but some things can’t be kept secret for long.”


Miranda smiled, though there was sadness in her eyes. “No,” she said, then shook her head. “Hannibal will know if I try to lie to him. I’ll tell him tonight, when we’re alone. But I’ll assure him that Sally is alright. It’ll be fine.”


Xxx


Mr. Finney had departed to tend to his own errands, leaving Heyes, Miranda and Jed to decide what they were going to do with the rest of their afternoon.


“I’m tired,” Miranda admitted as the taxi dropped them all off in front of the Brown Palace. “I’m going to go up to our room and just relax for the rest of the day.”


“Are you sure?” Heyes asked. “We could do some shopping, or take in some of the sights.”


Miranda smiled and placed a hand on her husband’s arm.


“No,” she told him. “I need some quiet time. You and Jed haven’t seen one another for ages. Go off and have some fun. Go to the saloon for a beer, or play some poker. I’m fine on my own. Maybe I’ll read one of those dime novels you picked up for five cents apiece.”


“Oh great,” Hannibal mumbled.


“What?” Jed asked. “Five cents?”


“Yes,” Miranda confirmed. “A whole bin full of Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry dime novels, on sale for five cents. Hannibal bought the lot of them.”


“Five cents apiece?” Jed repeated. “That’s down right insultin’!”


“Yeah!” Heyes agreed. “I could hardly just leave them there. Probably end up in someone’s wood stove.”


“So you bought ‘em all?” Jed asked.


“Well…yeah.”


“Okay,” Jed said. “I hope you enjoy readin’ stuff that ain’t true.”


“Of course!” Miranda teased. “That’s what makes it fun.”


Heyes and Jed exchanged looks, then Jed shrugged.


“Yeah, okay,” he admitted. “I see your point.”


“So,” Miranda continued. “You two go off and have some fun. I’m going to go up to our room and relax. Don’t worry about me. If you want to stay out for the evening, go ahead. I can always order something up from the restaurant, if I want to. Didn’t Mr. Finney say that Scotland Yard was going to cover the cost of our stay here, no matter what?”


“Yes, he did,” Heyes concurred. “So if that is what you want to do, then enjoy.”


“I will,” Miranda agreed. “I’ll see you both later. Have fun.”


“Shall I see you up to our room?” Heyes asked.


“Don’t be silly,” Randa told him. “Off with you.”


“Okay,” Heyes told her, and gave her a kiss. “I’ll see you later.”


The two men watched as Miranda entered the lobby of the grand hotel, and then disappeared into its depths.


“I think we both got ourselves some pretty amazing wives,” Jed commented, as they stood and watched.


“Yep,” Heyes agreed. “Couldn’t ‘a done better.”

Xxx
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Keays

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Posts : 1433
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 60
Location : Camano Island Washington

PostSubject: Re: Honeymoon's Over   Thu Jun 16, 2016 7:53 pm

The partners found themselves a quiet table near the back of the saloon, where they could have some privacy to talk. Mid-afternoon in these types of establishments didn’t offer up much in the way of entertainment, so, for now, they had the room pretty much to themselves. Still, they brought their beers over from the bar and laid claim on the table before things started to get busy, as they both knew that it would, soon.


“So,” Jed began, after his first gulp. “What do ya’ think?”


“About what?”


Jed shrugged. “The job.”


“Hmm,” Heyes murmured over his own mouthful. “I don’t know. It seems kind of risky.”


Jed laughed. “When has that ever stopped ya’?”


“Since I’ve had a family to think about,” Heyes answered him. “And a business to build. If I lose, it could ruin us.”


“Heyes,” Jed lectured. “When ya’ think about it, you’ve always had a family to think about, and a business to build. People have always counted on ya’. This ain’t no different.”


“Those fellas were adults—well, sort of,” Heyes pointed out. “In any case, they had a choice. If they weren’t happy with things, they could leave. Sally doesn’t have that choice.”


“No, but Miranda does,” Jed pointed out. “What does she say about it?”


Heyes snorted into his beer. “She’s all for it. She’ll even back up the buy-in, if I lose.”


“Well then, what’s the problem?” Jed asked, feeling exasperated at his partner’s reluctance. “Ya’ got my blessin’. We’ve always taken chances like this. This ain’t new.”


“I just don’t think it’s right, for me to be spending my wife’s money.”


“Oh come on, Heyes,” Jed chided him. “She’s a smart lady, she knows the risks. Damn, she married you, didn’t she? She just wants to help out. Why don’t ya’ want ta’ let her? It’s kind’a her company too, and Beth’s.”


Heyes considered this reasoning. He sighed. “I guess, I just don’t want to be owing anybody. You know. We’ve always managed to get by on our own.”


Jed laughed out loud. “Since when, Heyes? Neither ‘a us would’a made it out’a our teens, if it weren’t for others willin’ ta’ help us. We wouldn’t ‘a gotten the amnesty without Lom. You probably would’a died in prison without Kenny, and Morin. Hell, we’d both be dead if not for David. And neither ‘a us would have what we have now, if it weren’t for Jesse. So, where do you get this notion that we’ve always made it on our own?”


Another sigh from the independent one. Then he smiled, mischievously. “It would be fun, wouldn’t it?”


Jed smiled, his blue eyes sparkling. “Ya’ know ya’ want to. You’ve always wanted to get an invite to that game. Now, not only do ya’ have that invite, but it works into a real good job for our business. Ya’ gotta do it.”


“Well,” Heyes grinned. “When ya’ put it that way.”  Jed laughed and raised his glass in a toast. Heyes did the same, and they tapped mugs. “Let’s go play some poker.”


Xxx


Early evening found the partners still in the saloon. The place quickly filled up with patrons as the afternoon had begun to wane. Now, the establishment was hopping with poker players, casual bar drinkers and a few of the upstairs gals making their rounds in hopes of procuring their night’s wages. 


Both Heyes and the Kid stood up at the same instant, and began to collect their winnings from the game they had settled in to. These actions were met with suspicious looks from the other players.


“Oh, we’ll be back,” Heyes assured them. “It’s just time for a break.”


“Yeah,” Jed concurred. “I’m gettin’ hungry. What are the sandwiches like in this place?”


“They’re good,” one of the players told them, more in the hopes of keeping them in the saloon than to give them an honest critique. “We’ll be waitin’ right here for ya’.”


Heyes grinned and nodded.


Turning their backs on the game, they scanned the room, looking for another empty table. Heyes nudged the Kid and nodded towards a small table that was far enough away from the tinny piano music, so they could still talk.


“Go grab that one,” he said. “And I’ll order us some sandwiches and more beer.”


“Okay.”


Heyes got the bartender’s attention and placed their order. Two more beers were filled on the spot and Heyes paid and gathered up the refreshments to take to their table. He turned and then frowned when he spotted a scene that left him flat-footed.


Jed was standing by their table, his arm casually draped over the shoulder of one of the scantily dressed ladies of the evening. She was all over him, hoping to entice him upstairs, and Jed seemed to be all for it. Heyes hurried over, figuring that he better intervene before his cousin made a mistake that he would, hopefully, regret later.


“Jed, ma’am.” Heyes nodded a greeting to the disappointed young woman. “Ah, if you’ll excuse us, my friend and I have things to talk about.”


The lady adorned a well-practiced pout, but did move off to continue her hunt elsewhere.


“What did ya’ do that for?” Jed asked as they both sat down. “There was nothin’ goin’ on.”


“Hmm,” Heyes mumbled, as he set the beers on the table. “Maybe you’ve had a little too much beer.”


“I ain’t drunk, Heyes,” Jed snarked at him. “Like I said; that was nothin’.”


“It didn’t look like nothing. What’s the matter with you?”


“Nothin’!”


“Here we were, just talking about how good we have it now,” Heyes persisted. “What amazing wives we have, that were crazy enough to marry us, give us families and a place to call home. Now, I see you flirting with some saloon gal.”


“I ain’t your baby cousin no more, Heyes,” Jed reminded him. “I don’t need no lecture. I’d never betray Beth, you know that.”


“I thought I knew it,” Heyes commented. “What’s wrong? Have you and Beth had a fight, or something?”


“No, nothin’ like that,” Jed assured him. “I love her.”


“Yeah.”


“But…”


Heyes’ brow went up. “But what?” he asked, quietly.


“Don’t ya’ ever miss it, Heyes?”


“What? Carousing with saloon gals?”


“No, not that,” Jed elaborated. “I mean, our outlawin’ days. Bein’ foot loose and fancy free. You know, doin’ whatever we wanted, when we wanted, and with whoever we wanted. The freedom, you know. No cares, no obligations…”


“No home, as such,” Heyes filled in. “No family. Running from posse’s, getting shot at. Freezing our butts off, sleeping on the ground. Yeah, what’s not to miss?”


“C’mon Heyes, you know what I’m talkin’ about.”


“Yeah, I know,” Heyes acknowledged with a sigh. “Yeah, I do miss it, the fun stuff, anyway. Being a family man, and now, setting up a new business, does have its drawbacks. People expect us to behave to a certain standard now, there’s obligations and pressures. Of course, we had all that before, too; it’s just different now, a higher standard I suppose. But, I think the pay-off is worth it. Don’t you?”


“Yeah,” Jed agreed. “I ain’t sayin’ that I wanna go back to that. I love my life now. I love Beth and T.J., I love ‘em both so much, my heart aches sometimes. I’m just sayin’ there are times, like shortly after T.J. was born, Beth was so tired all the time. We didn’t…you know. For months. I can’t say I weren’t tempted, sometimes. But I didn’t do it. I wouldn’t do it. I kept thinkin’ about how I’d feel afterwards, and how much it would hurt Beth, if she ever found out. Naw. The guilt I felt about betrayin’ Jesse’s trust would be nothin’ compared to betrayin’ Beth.”


Heyes nodded. “Yeah. You hold that thought, Kid. Because sooner or later, she would find out. You don’t want to ruin what you have now. We worked too hard for it, went through too much hell, to just throw it away on a one-night stand. As tempting as it might be at the time.”


“No foolin’. So ya’ see, Heyes? Ya’ got nothin’ ta’ worry about. We was just talkin’, and that’s it.”


Heyes nodded and looked over towards the poker game. Unfortunately, the gal who had been nestling up to the Kid was directly in his path, and when their eyes locked, she smiled at him. He felt his heart to a quick skip; she was very attractive, but then he quickly diverted his gaze so as not to give her any ideas.


He sighed deeply and then noticed Jed grinning at him.


“Yeah, yeah,” he waved that look away.


The Kid laughed and decided that it was time to change the subject. “So,” he said, between chuckles. “How is ole’ Silky doin’, besides blamin’ you fer goin’ to prison?”


Heyes sighed. “He’s alright, but sometimes I think he deliberately tries to make me   uncomfortable. He blames me for you leaving, ya’ know.”


Jed snorted. “That old coot. He blamed me for you leavin’.”


The two men looked at each other, and both broke up laughing.


“He always did like to needle, didn’t he?” Jed commented. “Anything he could find, to throw us off balance. He sure ain’t changed none.”


“Nope,” Heyes agreed. “He hit me with a good one, that’s for sure. Right out of the blue.”


“Oh yeah? What?”


“Well, apparently he knew Miranda’s first husband.”


“What!?” Jed actually sat up straighter in his surprise.


“Yeah. They were business associates.”


“Ya’ mean William Thornton was a thief?”


“No, no,” Heyes corrected him. “Silky said that Bill Thornton was the most honest man he’s ever known, but also the shrewdest, at least when it came to investing. They were actually legitimate business associates. Ole’ Bill had no idea what a scoundrel he was in partnership with.”


“Well, I’ll be,” Jed commented. “That must ‘a made fer some interestin’ conversation.”


Heyes rolled his eyes. “Miranda enjoyed hearing about it, but I think Silky just brought it up to rub it in my face. Living off the money of my wife’s deceased husband. You know, that kind of thing.”


“Yeah,” Jed agreed. “I wouldn’t put it past him. Miranda don’t think that way though, does she?”


“No,” Heyes assured him. “Just the opposite, in fact. I don’t even have to discuss this job with her, or the risks involved. She’s already pushing me to do it.”


“Well, there ya’ go,” Jed emphasized. “Ya’ got the okay from both of us. There ain’t nothin’ holdin’ ya’ back.”


Heyes smiled and nodded. “You’re right,” he agreed, and raised his mug for a toast. “Here’s to getting back into the game.”


“I’ll drink ta’ that,” Jed agreed, and they tapped glasses.


“Speaking of the game,” Heyes commented as he drained his mug, “let’s go play some more poker. Then I, at least, will go back to the hotel room and spend some time with my wife.”


“Rub it in, why don’t ya’?”


Xxx


It was late by the time Hannibal returned to his suite at the Palace. He tried to be quiet as he maneuvered around their darkened bedroom, but he was a little bit drunk, and kept banging into things. Cursing in a voice that he thought was a whisper, but actually wasn’t, he ended up being successful in awakening his wife.


She stretched and then smiled at his lumbering attempts at discretion. “What time is it?” she asked him, and smiled again at the disappointed groan that escaped him.


“Sorry,” he mumbled. “I didn’t mean to wake you. It’s around midnight.”


“Did you and Jed have a good time?” she asked, though she could tell by his state of inebriation that they had.


“Yeah,” he confirmed, as he crawled into bed. “It was good to catch up on things. Thank you. I really shouldn’t have left you alone for so long, though.”


“That’s alright,” she assured him, as she snuggled in close. “I told you, you could.  I actually enjoyed some quiet time to myself. I had a lovely dinner brought up, drank tea, and read your books. It was very relaxing.”


Hannibal snorted louder than he intended. “Sounds entertaining.”


Miranda chuckled. “It was. Have you made a decision about the job?”


“Yeah,” Heyes confirmed. “I’m going to do it.”


“Good. I really think you would have regretted it, if you didn’t.”


“You’re probably right,” he agreed. “I would like to get home though. So much has happened since we left; I want to make sure everyone really is alright. I still can’t believe that Sheriff Jacobs is dead. It’s one of those things in life that shouldn’t have happened. There are so many lawmen out there who are bastards, why in the world…?”


“I know,” Miranda soothed him. “Life really isn’t fair sometimes.”


“Yeah. Well, at least the Bairds have been made accountable. Like Steven said, Seth will likely do time, even though he probably wasn’t the one who pulled the trigger. I don’t know about Courtney though. She might get off, since all she really did was try to help out her family.”


“Yes, I suppose,” Miranda commented, but now her thoughts began to whirl and a heavy silence settled between them.


“What?” her husband asked her.


“What do you mean?”


Hannibal chuckled. “You say that you can hear me thinking, well your brain suddenly switched into full gear. What’s on your mind?”


Miranda bit into her lower lip.  She couldn’t lie to him, and besides that, he’d know it, if she did. If only he hadn’t mentioned Courtney. If the subject hadn’t come up, Miranda probably could have managed to avoid telling him about the full extent of Courtney’s involvement, and the charges laid against her. Bridget was right, in that Courtney would probably end up in worse trouble than Seth, at this point.


Heyes frowned when an answer from his wife was not forthcoming. “Miranda?” he asked again, his voice now edged with concern. “What is it?”


“It’s Sally.”


Heyes felt a tingle of fear go through him. “What’s happened?”


“Everything is alright now,” Miranda assured him. “Sally is fine.”


“But?”


“Apparently, when Sally was at the Baird ranch, seeing to the dog, Courtney and one of their hired hands found her there, and attempted to take her with them when they went to meet up with ole’ man Baird.” Miranda felt her husband tense beside her. “It’s alright, though,” she quickly reiterated. “Sally got away from them. She’s safe, back with Belle. Apparently all she can talk about, is her new dog.”


“Dammit!” Heyes sat up in bed. “Forget this job, we need to get home.”


“But she’s alright, Hannibal. Rushing home now, isn’t going to change anything. Do the job, and we’ll head for home right after it. Talk to Jed about it, in the morning. He’ll know more about it.” She rubbed his back, in an attempt to relax him. “Lie back down. Everything is alright.”


Heyes sighed, then did as his wife instructed. “Well, you’re right about one thing, at least. I will be talking to Jed in the morning, and finding out why he didn’t tell me about this in the first place.”


Xxx


“JEDIDIAH!”


“Oh oh,” Jed mumbled to his in-laws, as they all hovered around their morning coffee. “He ain’t called me that since…”


Hannibal Heyes strode across the wooden floor of the café, ignoring the other patrons who were all watching him with some trepidation in their eyes. He stomped directly over to the casually laid breakfast table and slammed his opened palm against its surface. In another instant, that same hand was raised and pointing a finger at the slightly bemused blue eyes.


“You didn’t tell me the whole story, Jedidiah!” Heyes growled at his partner.


Jed sat back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest. “What whole story is that, Heyes?”


“That that bitch, Courtney, tried to kidnap my daughter…”


Several gasps of alarm sounded from a few of the other tables in the establishment, and Miranda came up behind her husband and laid a hand on his arm.


“Will you calm down,” she told him. “Come on. Sit. Have some coffee, before we get thrown out of this place.”


Heyes straightened up and did a quick survey of the room. For the first time, he noticed the other patrons all looking at him with eyes wide with concern. The young waitress stood still, clutching the slowly tipping coffee pot, as she considered the wisdom of approaching the table. Heyes took a deep breath and plastered on a fake smile.


“Sorry,” he said to the room in general. “Nothing to be concerned about.” He looked at the waitress. “I apologize Miss. And yes, my wife and I would like some coffee.”


“Yeah, I think ya’ better,” Jed commented. “Get up on the wrong side of the bed, this mornin’?”


Heyes’ eyes darkened as his gaze bore down on his partner again. Steven felt that it was time to step in and calm the waters.


“Don’t blame Jed,” he said. “I recommended that he not tell you, until after this job you’re taking on.”


Heyes ignored Steven and Bridget as he continued to glare at the Kid.


“And since when does someone else’s opinion matter more to you, than telling me the truth?” Heyes snarled at Jed.


“Since I happen to agree with ‘im,” Jed stated bluntly. “Come on, Heyes. She’s alright. I was gonna tell ya’ later. You runnin’ off half-cocked now, ain’t gonna make any difference. She’s home and safe, and Courtney’s locked up. Who told ya’ anyways?”


“I did,” Miranda admitted, as she and Han sat down. “I wasn’t going to, but, true to form, he knew I was holding back, and he asked me. I’m afraid that I’m not prepared to lie to my husband.”


“Unlike some folks,” Heyes grumbled, with a slight curling of his lip.


Aside from a sideways glance from the Kid, Heyes’ surliness was ignored.


“How’d you find out?” Jed asked Miranda.


Miranda sent a sheepish look over to Bridget, followed by accusatory ones from Jed and Steven.


“I couldn’t help it!” Bridget insisted. “She knew I hadn’t told her everything, and I’m no good at keeping secrets!”


“Great!” Jed complained. “It’s hard enough keepin’ secrets from Heyes without the women folk turnin’ against me.”


The waitress showed up then, and setting out two more coffee cups, she filled all the cups at the table, set the pot down and took out her note pad. Heyes noticed that her hands were still trembling from his onslaught, and he had the good graces to feel some repentance.


“You folks know what you would like?” she asked quietly.


Miranda smiled at her, to ease her anxiety. “I think I’ll have the oatmeal. Do you have any fruit to go with it?”


“We have canned peaches!” she announced, with a large grin. Apparently canned peaches were a big deal. “We also have cinnamon, and some milk to go with it.”


“Oh, that sounds lovely,” Miranda stated. “Yes, I’ll have that.”


“That does sound good,” Bridget agreed. “I’ll have that too.”


The waitress nodded, writing things down as she went.


“And you gentlemen?”


“Steak and eggs!” Jed announced. “Pan fried potatoes and a stack ‘a toast, with butter.”


“You’re going to get fat, eating like that,” Heyes scolded him. “It’s one thing when we were on the lam, or when you were working at the Double J, but you’re getting older now, and you sure ain’t as active. Better watch it.”


Jed sent him a minor scowl, knowing that he hadn’t heard the end of this yet.


The waitress looked at Heyes. “And you, sir?”


“Oh, ah, I’ll have the same as him.”


Jed snorted and the other three people at the table laughed.


“What?” Heyes asked. “I burn it off faster than he does. I can get away with it.”


“Yeah, right Heyes,” Jed told him. “It seems ta’ me that you put on a few extra pounds while you was away. Married life agreein’ with ya’?”


“You should talk,” Heyes countered. “It looks to me like your gun belt is getting a little tight. You’re not going to be able to keep up with Beth, pretty soon. She’ll have to find herself a younger, more athletic fella…”


“Gentlemen, please!” Steven protested through his chuckling. “Let us have a civil breakfast. One thing I hate, is going to work with a sour stomach.”


“Would you like the same as them?” the waitress asked.


“I’m afraid to now,” Steven admitted. “Actually, I think I will just have three fried eggs, and some of that nice thick ham that came in yesterday.”


“Yessir,” she agreed, and left to fill the orders.


Heyes took a gulp of coffee and had to admit that the caffeine was beginning to calm his mood. He sighed deeply, and allowed the strong aroma to invade his senses. That did feel better. He took in another gulp and glanced around to find everyone else at the table staring at him.


“Well,” he said. “Is anybody going to tell me what actually happened with my daughter.”


“It would be nice to know,” Miranda agreed.


“Yeah, I suppose,” Jed conceded. “But ya’ gotta promise me, ya’ won’t back out’a this job now. Ya’ gotta stay focused on it.”


Heyes grumbled to himself, but then nodded. “Alright,” he agreed. “As long as she’s fine.”


“She’s fine, Heyes,” Jed assured him, yet again. “I promise ya’, she ain’t even talkin’ about it anymore.”


“Well,” Heyes shrugged and then sighed. “What happened?”


“I don’t know what set her off, Heyes,” Jed explained. “She said that she just knew that their ranch dog needed help. You know what she’s like; she just picks up on things like that. It’s spooky.” Hannibal and Miranda both nodded. “Anyway, I was gettin’ ready ta’ head out to the Double J and I went out to the pasture ta’ get Gov, when I noticed that Fanny was missin’, along with her bridle.
“I got after her as soon as I could, but by the time I was gettin’ close to the Baird’s place, I spotted her, gallopin’ hell bent for leather, right towards me. I was able to stop Fanny, and get some idea of what was goin’ on, but I wanted to get her back safe, before goin’ after Courtney and her hired hand.
“I did get her back safe, too, Heyes. By the time we got back ta’ town, all she could talk about was that damn dog. He was followin’ her, by the way. Wouldn’t let her out’a his sight.
“I tell ya’ though, Heyes; it was Fanny who got her out’a that scrap. From what Sally was sayin’, it seems that mare knew somethin’ was amiss, and the first chance she got, she high-tailed it fer home.
“After that, Joe and I went after ‘em. We ended up trackin’ ‘em all the way up to where the Bairds were camped. Lom had taken a posse out after the Bairds, and we ended up meetin’ up with them. We got ‘em all.
“You know, ole’ man Baird actually tried to use Courtney as a shield against us? Can you imagine? His own daughter. The guy’s a dirt bag.”



“Yes,” Steven agreed. “It sounds morbid, but it’s probably better for him that he’s dead. If he wasn’t, he’d be in a lot of trouble right now.”


Heyes grunted. “If he’d gotten a hold of Sally, he would have wished he was dead. And this guy, the hired hand, who was in on it with Courtney, he’s under arrest as well?”


“Yes,” Steven told him. “On charges of attempted kidnapping. Actually, I hope Sally will be up to it; she might have to come in to testify.”


Heyes and Miranda exchanged glances.


“One thing at a time,” Heyes finally said.


“So,” Jed ventured. “Ya’ still gonna do the job?”


Heyes looked to his wife. “What do you think?”


“It sounds like she’s fine,” Randa told him. “And you know how much she loves her grandparents. I think she’ll be alright until we get home.”


Heyes nodded. “Yeah, okay. Alright. I guess it’s a go. All I have to do now, is get ready for it.”


Xxx


Hannibal and Miranda made their way down the staircase and to the lobby of the Brown Palace. Both were dressed for a formal gathering, and they made quite an attractive couple as they entered the lounge where the meet-and-greet for the up-coming game was being held. Heads turned as the couples’ presence was detected, and a lull settled over the quiet conversation.
Heyes made sure to stand up straight and presented his most elegant smile, as the host of the evening approached them. Heyes nodded acknowledgement, and the two men shook hands.


“Mr. Heyes,” he greeted him. “What a pleasant surprise that you were able to attend our little game, after all.”


“Yes,” Heyes agreed. “It was all in the timing.”


“Of course. I’m Mr. Hardy. If you have any question or concerns about the game tomorrow night, I am the one you talk to.”


Heyes nodded. “Fine. My I present my wife, Miranda Heyes.”


Hardy smiled politely and gave a little bow as he accepted her hand in greeting.


“Ma’am. A pleasure. You’re looking lovely this evening.”


“Thank you,” Miranda responded appropriately. “It is a pleasure to be here.”


“Of course,” Hardy agreed, as though that were obvious. “Feel free to mingle. Would you like anything to drink?”


“Well,” Heyes considered. “Red wine would be nice.”


“White, for me,” Randa interjected.


Hardy nodded, and raising his hand, he snapped his fingers at the waiter who was making the rounds. He made a quick motion that was apparently a pre-determined sign language for wine, and the waiter quickly disappeared to attend to the request.


Hardy’s eyes darted away from his guests as he sighted some more new arrivals.


“Excuse me,” he had the grace to say. “Please, enjoy yourselves.”


And with that, he hurried over to greet the next wave.


Heyes and Miranda smiled at each other over the impromptu exit of their host. The waiter approached them with a tray full of wine filled glasses, and offered the selection to them.


“Sir and madam,” he greeted them. “Wine?”


“Yes, thank you.”


They each took their preferred wine and then made their way further into the gathering in order to do just what had been suggested; they mingled.


Heyes knew that the eyes of the other guests were upon him, and though it made him feel a little on edge, he put on the fine act of being a gentleman comfortable within his element. He was not fooling his wife.


“Relax,” she whispered. “They’re just in awe of you.”


Heyes almost snorted, but remembered his situation and simply smiled. “Perhaps they are in awe of you. You do look lovely tonight.”


Miranda chuckled. “Fortunately, Bridget knew where to find some evening gowns for ladies in my condition. It’s very discreet, don’t you think?”


Heyes stepped back and opening admired his wife’s figure. “Very,” he agreed. “One would never know.”


“Never know what?” came an enquiry from behind him.


Heyes turned to find himself facing an older man and woman who had snuck up on them. He really was losing his touch when it came to watching his back. What a shame that Jed could not attend this little shindig. If ever he needed his partner’s keen eyes, this would be it.


“Oh!” Heyes smiled, and the two men shook hands. “Ah, my wife and I were just discussing lady’s fashions.”


The gentleman’s brows went up in surprise. “Indeed!”


Heyes chose not to elaborate. “How do you do,” he said. “I’m Hannibal Heyes, and this is my wife, Miranda.”


“Yes, of course you are,” came the response. “I’m Joseph Waring, and this is my wife, Penelope.”


“Ma’am,” Heyes greeted her, and the lady almost did a curtsy.


“How charming to meet you both,” she said, with a beaming smile. “And your dress does look lovely, my dear.”


“Thank you,” Miranda responded. “And what a lovely gathering this is. Are all the players here?”


Penelope looked around and nodded. “Yes, I think so. No one makes it every year, but it is a special game this time around isn’t it? How lovely to be invited to the Brown Palace. And it must be very exciting for you, my dear.”


“Yes,” Miranda agreed, though she noted a touch of snobbery in the comment. “But my husband and I spent the first few days of our honeymoon here. We had the best suite in the hotel and were treated like royalty. Weren’t we, Dear?”


Heyes grinned. “Yes, we were. And the concert at the Tabor Grand Opera House was well worth the price of the tickets. Have you folks been to the opera house?”


The Warings appeared a little squeamish. “Ah, no,” Mr. Waring admitted. “We have yet had the pleasure.”


“It is well worth going,” Miranda told them. “What a magnificent house it is. It almost makes the Brown Palace appear shabby. Anyone who’s anyone, in Denver society, must go, at least once.”


“Of course,” Mrs. Waring agreed. “We already had plans to attend the opera there, to celebrate Mr. Waring winning the game. He is a much superior player to anyone else here, so of course, he’s going to win.”


“Oh?” Heyes enquired, politely. “Am I the only new player to attend this year?”


“Oh, well. Let me see. There was one other new player.” Penelope began to search the mingling groups. “Oh, there he is. The single man over there, with the handlebar mustache.”


“Ah,” Heyes nodded. “I’ll have to make a point of introducing myself.”


“By all means,” Mr. Waring encouraged. “I believe everyone here is interested in meeting you, Mr. Heyes. But I think you are incorrect when you state that this is your first time at our poker game. Did you not attend once before? Some years ago now, when it was still at the saloon. And, incognito, as I understand?”


Heyes smiled, though he felt a twinge of disappointment. He’d hoped that incident had been all forgotten about. After all, there was no one here now, who had been present at that game.


“I stand corrected,” Heyes admitted. “I’m surprised that you would know about that.”


Waring laughed. “Oh, we all know about it. We also know that you proved yourself to be an honorable player, even back then. Otherwise, you would never have been invited to join us now. Once a thief, always a thief, as they say.” And he laughed out loud, again.


Heyes’ polite smile remained on his face, but his eyes darkened ever so slightly. “Never at the poker table, Mr. Waring.”


“Of course,” Waring agreed. “Come!” he insisted, as he took Heyes by the elbow and led him deeper into the gathering. “It’s time you met the other players. They certainly want to meet you!”


Heyes reluctantly allowed himself to be escorted away, and while Miranda stood for a moment, feeling left out, it did not last for long. Penelope quickly slipped her arm through Miranda’s, and the ladies followed in the wake of the men.


Xxx


Jed sat at a corner table in the saloon, watching the scenery, when he noticed a rather plainly dressed Mr. Finney entering the establishment. Jed sent a wave to him, and Finney nodded and made his way over.


“Oh dear,” he stated, as he sat down with a heavy sigh. “This is proving more difficult than I imagined.”


“Oh yeah?” asked Jed. “In what way?”


“Well, you see, I’m usually the one closing in on my opponent,” the Yard man explained. “I have been on the trail of this man for over a year, and now, here I am, forced to sit on the side-lines.”


“Yep,” Jed agreed. “It can be tryin’ at times.”


“Perhaps I should leave a message at the front desk, to have Mr. Heyes contact me once this gathering is over,” Finney mused. “That way he can fill me in on what he has discovered so far.”


“Nope,” Jed disagreed.


“Well, how else are we supposed to plan our strategy?” Finney asked, quite reasonably. “We cannot let this man get away from us. Oh, he’s a wily one, indeed. We must not under-estimate him.”


“Yep,” Jed agreed again. “But you hired Heyes to weed this fella out. Ya’ gotta relax and let him do his job, his way. One thing Heyes don’t like, is someone crowdin’ ‘im while he’s workin’ out a plan. He’ll get in touch with us, if’n he needs to.”


Finney smiled. “Aye, yes. You do have a point.”


“For myself,” Jed continued. “I plan on bein’ handy, but not noticed. The Palace is hosting a games night for those of us who can’t afford the big buy-in. There’ll be plenty ‘a fellas there, just hopin’ that some of the money from the big game will rub off on ‘em, just by bein’ in the vicinity. It’s a perfect place for us ta’ be hidin’ in plain sight.”


“I can see that you are well acquainted with watching your partner’s back.”


Jed smiled. “Mr. Finney, you have no idea.”


Xxx


Once the Heyes’ had been introduced to the other guests, Miranda instinctively knew to separate from her husband in order to allow him to mingle more freely. Men were more likely to speak openly and show their true character, when women were not part of the conversation. It happened naturally anyways, as it usually does in mixed gatherings. The men and women both tend to form their own splinter groups so that they can discuss subjects of interest to them, but not necessarily to the other.


Still, Heyes appreciated his wife’s intuitive sensibility, and he had no qualms about leaving her to her own devices for the time being. Circling the gathering like a lone shark, he zeroed in on his prey and causally moved in for the kill.


“Mr. Dickson,” he greeted the only other new-comer to the group. “It seems that we are the two greenhorns when it comes to The Denver Game.”


Dickson met Heyes’ eyes and nodded as he took a sip of red wine. “It would appear so. Though I understand that you are considered quite a threat at the poker table. It will be an honor to sit down with you.”


Heyes smiled, as he tried to pick up on any hint of an accent. He could not detect any. But if their quarry was as crafty as Finney suggested, then honing his vernacular to fit any region would hardly be a challenge for him. If the man they were after, was in the game, then Mr. Dickson, as the only other new-comer, was the most likely candidate. Heyes would be watching him.


“Thank you,” He responded. “Where do you play, normally? If you don’t mind my asking.”


“Back East, Mr. Heyes. New York.” Dickson informed him. “And yourself? You’re obviously a Western man, but have you played the circuit in any of the larger eastern cities?”


“No, Mr. Dickson,” Heyes admitted. “I can’t say that I have. I like the West, and really have no desire to leave it. Denver, San Francisco, and even Cheyenne, can offer just as good, if not better poker than anything back East.”


“How would know, if you’ve never played there?”


“Word gets around.”


“I suppose,” Dickson concurred. “Still, I understand that you may be a little rusty in your game. I can’t imagine that prison would offer much of a challenge when it comes to intellectual pursuits.”


Heyes’ poker face came into play. Dickson was feeling him out for the game ahead, and trying to see how easily he rattled. Just as Heyes was doing to him. Now was not the time to take offense.


“You might be surprised,” the ex-con informed him. “Perhaps poker was not the game of choice, but keeping your wits about you and understanding your opponent, can often be the only thing keeping you alive. And that’s very much like poker, don’t you agree?”


“I see your point,” Dickson commented. “I have a feeling that this is going to be a very interesting game.”


“I do believe you’re right, Mr. Dickson,” Heyes concurred, and he felt his own excitement begin to take hold. “A very interesting game, indeed.”


 
To Be Continued.
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