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 Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr

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Which one of our wonderful writers wins your vote to go through for the finals of Story Of The Year?
1. There are many ghost towns in the West and the boys appear to have wandered smack bang in the middle of one.
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 17% [ 3 ]
2. Hannibal Heyes has a cunning plan, but is it even more cunning than the one he shares with the gang? Muahahahaha!
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 6% [ 1 ]
3. Rounding up the herd leaves a foal alone and vulerable. Will their horses have an opinion? You betcha.
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 11% [ 2 ]
4. A wounded Heyes has to play possum. Can the Kid get him out, and will that canoodling couple please behave?
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 17% [ 3 ]
5. Vivian cannot be trusted, so is she behind the robbery? It too tempting to suspect her, or is it?
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 22% [ 4 ]
6. We find out why Clitterhouse hates the boys so much, and it involves a 'can-do' attitude.
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 17% [ 3 ]
7. A witness to the death of a smiler recounts a tale of derring-do and death, leading to mixed memories for a listening stranger.
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 10% [ 2 ]
Total Votes : 18
 

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PostSubject: Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr   Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr EmptySat Oct 01, 2016 6:00 am

So, time to vote on the next four months of winning stories from 2016.  Which one stayed with you and delights you to see again?  Which tale grabs you and sits in your memory?  Only one way to find out.


Time to vote


As usual I will post the winners so you can remind yourselves of the winners




January - Alcohol Drink


Stormr and Stepha3nie


February - Horses  cowboy 11


Keays




March - Temptation safe


Helen West and Skykomish


April - Bluff  Yodel


InsideOutlaw and cjp242 


Last edited by Admin on Sun Oct 09, 2016 5:42 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: January - Alcohol - Stormr   Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr EmptySat Oct 01, 2016 6:03 am

January -  Alcohol - Stormr


As dusk began to set in two riders approached town from the east. Flaming crimson painted the town and buildings; so much so, it looked eerily as though the town was on fire.  As they made their way down the main street, the pair took note of everything as a smattering of townfolks were scurrying off, most likely to their homes for dinner. Passing the Sheriff’s office with an unknown name stamped above it, they smiled, nodded at each other and directed their mounts towards the only building in town that appeared to have life in it.

Dismounting in front of the saloon, Kid Curry stated, “One drink and then we check into the hotel.  I need a bath and then I want to eat.”

“Agreed,” Hannibal Heyes stated. “Well, maybe two,” he smiled.

Kid chuckled and smacked the back of his partner’s back.  “Sounds like a plan.”

Tying their horses in front of the water trough, they headed in unison through the entrance.  As they cleared the swinging doors, the stench of stale alcohol hit their noses as it permeated every inch of the dilapidated establishment.  

“You sure you’re thirsty?” Curry inquired.

Brown eyes glared at blue ones as Heyes proceeded to the far end of the bar. Leaning on the rail he took in his surroundings.  Besides the two of them, there was the bartender busily doing nothing except hanging out with what appeared to be a couple of friends or regulars, one person sitting hunched over at a table obviously having had a few too many drinks, and a man playing solitaire at one of the assorted well-worn poker tables.  Besides the inhabitants, there was an old probably very off key piano in the corner, the remnants of what looked like a stage, a deer with only one antler hanging crookedly on the wall, and a sadness about a place that once was something.  

As he looked around Heyes could imagine the place packed with people; poker games galore, the piano playing and dancing girls.  Now, it appeared to be a shell of its former self as time had moved on and left the building behind. As his eyes made their way around the room, they landed back on his partner, who was staring at him.  “What?” Heyes asked sounding startled.

“Just wonderin’ when you was gettin’ around to bein’ back here.” Kid responded.

Heyes looked confused.

“You looked like you was a million miles away,” Curry explained.

“Oh,” the brown hair man sounded sheepish.  “Just imagining what this place used to be like.”

“Well it ain’t like that now,” he snorted. “And I don’t know if we’re gonna get served any time soon.”  Kid nodded his head towards the bartender who hadn’t taken any interest in the new arrivals.

“Excuse me,” Heyes called out.

No response.

“Excuse me,” Heyes called louder. 

Annoyed that his attention had been taken away from his friends, the bartender turned and barked, “What!”

“My friend and I would like a drink.”

“Ya got money?” the surly man growled.

“As a matter of fact we do,” Heyes smiled.

The man stood staring at the pair.   Heyes looked at Kid, Kid looked at Heyes.  They both turned back to the bartender.

“Well?” the bartender grumbled.

Heyes gave a ‘you got to be kidding me’ look to his partner, reached into his pocket and placed the money on the bar.

“What will ya have, boys?”  The bartender smiled as he walked towards the pair, all fire and brimstone replaced by vim and vigor. 

“Two shots of whiskey and two beers,” Kid replied.  

Heyes raised an eyebrow.

“The whiskey to get the dust out of our throats and the beer to quench our thirst,” the blond explained.

The bartender nodded in approval.  “Been on the trail long?” he inquired.

“Couple of weeks,” Heyes replied.  

The partners picked up their whiskey and downed it in one gulp.

“Just passing through?” he asked.  “Oh, and the name’s George.”

“Not sure,” Heyes sized the man up.  “Have a little time before the next job, but it looks like the town is kind of quiet.”  He sipped his beer.  

“Quiet,” the bartender chuckled.  “That’s pretty much an understatement; basically a ghost town at this point.”

The partners exchanged a glance; quiet might not be a bad thing.

“This place is huge; looks like it was a show stopper at one time,” Heyes stated as he admired the room.

“Yeah, it was,” the man sighed remembering better times. Absently he wiped down the bar.  “That was before the mine closed.”

“What happened?” Kid jumped in on the conversation.

“Cave in at the mine west of town,” George answered.

“Bad?” Heyes asked.

“”Yup,” he solemnly answered.  “All were lost.”

“All,” Kid gulped, almost choking on his beer.  

“Dangerous job,” Heyes added.

“Yeah, especially when the guy with the dynamite was drinkin’ all night long.”

“Oh,” Heyes looked on with interest.  “How do you know?”

“Two men got out, and talked before they died.  They said Huey Carpenter lit too much dynamite and it blew out the support beams, huge explosion."  He paused a second, "Complete cave in.  All souls were lost."  He shook his head in sorrow, "I can remember it like it was yesterday...the noise...the quiet...and then the fire.  The sky was so red; it looked like it was on fire."

“How do you know Huey was drinkin'?” Kid took another swig of his beer.

“He was in here hoorahin’ the town the night before.  Celebratin’ some damn fool thing.”  

“Didn’t he know he had to work the mine the next day?” Heyes quizzed.

“No, supposed to be his day off.  Six days down, one up.  Problem was the other dynamiter was sick as a dog.  They called Huey ‘cause they had to move on to the next section.  Darn fool was too stupid or still too drunk to know better.”

“Didn’t anyone try to stop him?” Kid asked.

“Nah.”  The bartender made a dismissive gesture with his hand.  “They probably didn’t even notice.  You lose your smell workin’ down there and it's not unusual to sway a little in the sunlight after workin’ in the dark all week.  This was Huey’s seventh day down,” George stated.  “Ya can’t go blamin’ the poor souls that worked with him.” He hung his head.

“No you can’t,” Heyes said trying to soothe the man.  He raised his beer in a salute before taking a swig.

George looked up and gave a tight smile and then shook his head.  “I’m sorry boys.  I shouldn’t be talkin’ about this to you.  You didn’t come in here to have the weight of the world dropped on ya.  You came in to get the dust out of your throats and quench your thirst.”

“We asked,” Kid stated.  He raised his beer and then took a gulp.

“That ya did,” George lightened up a bit.  “And as bartender it's my job to answer your questions.”

“That it is,” Heyes half chuckled.

“Well, now I think it's my turn to ask a question.”

The partners looked at each other and then back at the man behind the bar.

“You said you were a couple of weeks out from a job.  What do the two of you do?”

“Anything not hard on the back,” Kid replied.

The bartender raised an eyebrow.

Heyes smiled, “What my friend means is that we do a lot of different things.”

George looked on with interest.

“Just a variety of things.” For some reason Heyes felt tongue-tied and scrutinized.  “Like security and stuff.”

‘Stuff?’ Kid mouthed at Heyes.

“Ah, you’re experts,” George smiled and nodded. 

“Yeah, something like that,” Kid chuckled and took a long draw of his beer.

Wanting to change the subject, the less than silver tongued man asked, “So George, how quiet is the town?”  

“Pretty quiet.”  He waited a beat.  “Most folks moved on.”

Kid turned and looked down at the end of the bar; the two men that were there earlier were gone.  “Hmmm.”  He turned and looked at the rest of the saloon; the setting sun sending more and more shadows over the walls.

“What’s the matter, Thaddeus?” Heyes asked.

“Didn’t hear anyone leave.” He placed his hand on the butt of his pistol.

“Leave?” brown eyes scanned the saloon.  “Where did everyone go?”

“Everyone?” George inquired.

“Yeah, everyone,” Curry repeated sounding somewhat uneasy. He continued to scan the area.

“There weren’t no one here but you two,” George stated as he stared at the pair.  

A thick smell of alcohol wafted past the partners before the batwing doors squeaked. 

“There were two men at the end of the bar, one guy slumped over at that table and a man playing solitaire,” Heyes defiantly stated.

George chuckled.  “Bet the sky was red when you came into town too.”

Kid and Heyes looked at each other as their eyes bugged out a little.  “Ah-ha,” they said and nodded in unison.

George chuckled again.  “You two must be somethin’ special…some kind of experts!”  He laughed a whole hearty laugh.  “You saw two men at the end of the bar?”

They nodded.

“A man playin’ solitaire?  Another at that there table?”  The bartender chuckled again as he shook his head.  “There’s a first for everythin'.” 

“What do you mean?” Heyes anxiously asked.

“Last guys in the bar that night; the night before the cave in.  Never showed themselves to anyone else.  Guess they figure they can trust you to keep a secret.  Must be somethin’ about you two.”

“Nothing special about us,” Heyes stated.  “Nope, nothing at all.”  He looked at his partner, “Well,” he downed the last of his beer. “Think it's time to go.”

“Couldn’t agree more,” Kid stated as he gulped his beer and put the mug on the bar.

“Nice meeting you, George,” Heyes tipped his black hat at the man.

The blond tipped his hat and the pair hurried through the doors.  As they reached the boardwalk they heard George call out, “Huey, Huey, time to go home.”

“Really want a bath, bed and hot meal tonight, Kid?”

“Nope. Was just thinkin’ I feel like ridin' for a little bit longer.  Maybe sleep under the stars ten, twenty, thirty miles from here.  Heck I’m so awake I can just keep ridin’ as long as the horses can go.”

“Couldn’t agree with you more!”

With that the men mounted their horses and kicked them into a gallop as they headed out of town in the opposite direction of the mine.
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PostSubject: January - Alcohol - Stepha3nie   Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr EmptySat Oct 01, 2016 6:05 am

January - Alcohol - Stepha3nie

Alcohol


A big, satisfied grin spread across his face, making dimples appear and eyes sparkle. Only a genius could ever have dreamed this up, even the Kid would have to agree.
 
Happily, Heyes let the front legs of his chair drop back to the floor, jumped to his feet and strode towards his cousin’s bedroom. Without thinking, he threw the door open, stepped in and called out “Kid, I got it!” only to beat a hasty retreat when confronted by the business end of a Colt Peacemaker.
 
“Hey, put that away, will you?!”
 
“Whaddaya’ ‘xpect, wakin’ me like this?” But the yawned answer was accompanied by the reassuring sounds of a gun getting decocked and holstered.
 
Once it was safe, Heyes re-entered the chamber and plunked down on the foot end of his partner’s bed. Ignoring the tired, but pointed glare, he slapped the Kid on the leg and repeated with another big grin: “Kid, I got it. I worked out a plan to rob the bank in Glenrock. And they won’t know it was us.”
 
“And you couldn’t wait until mornin’ to tell me?”
 
“I thought you’d be interested to know.” The look of hurt innocence was just too earnest to be real. “And I thought I’d better fill you in on a few details before I tell the men.”
 
“Alright. Let’s hear it. But it better be good. And safe. I hope you do remember that we need to be able to ride through Glenrock without them formin’ a posse.”
 
Despite still looking doubtful, Kid Curry scooted up to the headboard of his bed to sit more comfortably. Long experience had taught him, there would be no getting back to sleep while his cousin was this excited.
 
Eyes sparkling, Heyes drew a leg under to get more comfortable and leaned forward. “That’s the best part. Trust me,” ignoring his partner’s eye roll, he continued. “What I figure is this…”
 
And while listening to this latest Hannibal Heyes plan, Kid Curry’s eyes began to sparkle.
 
 
oooOOOooo
 
 
The next morning, after breakfast, the fastest gun in the West sauntered to the bunkhouse and called the men together to hear Heyes’ latest plan.
 
”About time,” came a rumble from where Wheat was getting to his feet.
 
“What was that, Wheat?”
 
“I said, that’s fine, Kid.” Wheat hitched up his pants and shouldered past Curry, followed by Kyle, Lobo, Merkle and Hank. None of them saw the smile playing around their second-in-command’s lips, when he followed them out into the open.
 
Once everybody had trooped into the leaders’ cabin and found a place, Heyes addressed his men.
“I know we’re all running a little low on funds.” The opening statement brought forth a chorus of agreement, though not all sounding entirely friendly.
“But I’ve worked out a way to change that.” This announcement was greeted by cheers.
“Kid and I have scooped out several possibilities, as you know, and we think it’s time to pay the bank of Glenrock a visit.”
The cheerful looks were replaced on most faces by more pensive ones, and eyes flicked from one of the leaders of the Devil’s Hole gang to the other. They all knew that Glenrock was a place they had to pass through on occasion, a place for stocking up, and none of them were eager to give up on it. Having to avoid the town would be a big inconvenience. Before Wheat managed to get out more than a hostile snort, Heyes continued.
 
“You’ll agree it’s important that the people there don’t know it’s us that’s hit them. If they find out, we can say goodbye to Glenrock for good. But I’ve figured out a safe way to do it. Kid and I planned it all out. All you need to do, is stick to the plan!” A meaningful, dark stare sought and kept the eyes of each outlaw in turn for an uncomfortable moment.
 
“We can’t all ride in together. That would draw attention, people would remember and connect us with the job. Me and the Kid will go first, to make sure it’s still safe to go on. Over the next day, the rest of you will arrive. Kyle, you’ll ride together with Wheat. Merkle with Hank. Lobo, you alright alone?”
Once the outlaws had nodded, Heyes continued.
“Come in from different directions and at different times. Kid and I will spread the word that we’re waiting on some men for rounding up mustangs. The army always needs remounts. Then it won’t draw attention when we’re seen together.
 
“We’ll wait a day to get our horses rested and let people know we’ll head out the next morning. During that night, we’ll crack the bank and I’ll open the safe. Now comes the important part: Nobody must see or hear us!”
 
“After we have the money, we’ll stay the rest of the night at the hotel and ride out the next morning after breakfast. But we’ll make sure the town believes that whoever robbed the bank took off during the night.”
 
Heyes stopped and looked around at the men’s faces to gauge his success so far. By now, almost a year after Big Jim’s capture, he was firmly established as leader, and the gang had come to expect more of him than the simple “ups and away” (blow up the safe, shoot up the town and hope to get away) most other gangs seemed to favor. But unfortunately, leading an outlaw gang meant that the men did not always agree and follow orders. After all, it was their lack of discipline and dislike for authority which had driven most to their current profession. Luckily, he had his partner, well known for his gun skills, to support him. None of the other gang members were crazy enough to risk a confrontation with Kid Curry. But Heyes preferred to use his silver tongue to get results.
 
As he had anticipated, it was Kyle who spoke up first. “But Heyes, how will we make ‘em think it weren’t us?”
 
“You’ll like this part,” the outlaw leader smiled. “You, Kyle, bring enough dynamite to blow the safe. We’ll set a long fuse and make sure it only blows up when we’re safely back at the hotel.”
 
“Why blow the safe when we’ve already gone and emptied it?”
 
“We blow it to make people think someone else is robbing the bank.”
 
Finally, understanding spread across several stubbly faces and Kyle’s blue eyes lit up.
 
“That’s right smart of you, Heyes.”
 
Hearing this, Wheat frowned. “Nah. Won’t work. Who ever heard of a gang blowing up a safe and then not riding out of town hell bent for leather? I’d like to see you makin’ enough noise for that,” he snorted. “Stayin’ in town after a job, huh? Not exactly what I’d call smart,” he concluded with derision.
 
Heyes’ smile grew into a broad grin. He’d banked on the burly outlaw to object.
 
“But that’s the beauty of it, Wheat. Nobody will suspect US, BECAUSE everyone knows that bank robbers don’t stay. As for horses galloping off – I’ve thought of something.”
 
Wheat’s sneer turned into a scowl.
 
Seemingly oblivious, the outlaw leader continued, “We’ll catch a few broomtails on the way, halter-train them and stash them close to Glenrock. During the job, one of us will get them into position near the bank. When the safe explodes, they’ll spook and run, making folks think it’s the outlaws riding off.”
 
Heyes’ grin became infectious, and first Kyle, then Merkle and Hank laughed out appreciatively. Lobo shook his shaggy head, weighing up what he’d heard, then began to nod his approval. And even Wheat reluctantly had to accept that the pesky upstart seemed to have thought of everything.
 
The Kid and Heyes exchanged a look. So far, so good, but there was still the difficult bit to get across.
 
“Just one more thing,” Kid Curry started off to get the men’s attention. When the room was quiet again, he added “It’s important that none of you get drunk!”
 
“What?”
“Why?”
“You gotta be kiddin’!”
 
“Listen!” their leader’s baritone drowned out the various protests. “I need you sharp; and not only during the job. While we’re in town, we can’t afford to attract attention. So, no drunken boasting, no hurrahing or fighting, no fumbling the dynamite and no spooking the horses before time! Remember, for this plan to work, you’re supposed to be a bunch of newly hired horse wranglers. You’re out of funds. You don’t have much money; just enough for food and maybe one or two beer!
“We don’t want any of the townspeople remembering us. Can you get that into your heads? We’ll all have us a good time once we’re back here.”
 
When the men still didn’t look too happy, Heyes tried to soften the blow.
 
“There’s $25,000 in that safe. Isn’t that worth staying dry a few days?”
 
The Kid threw in his support. “I’ll set out a prize for whoever drinks least. One bottle of the finest whiskey.”
 
Any thoughts of protest were drowned by the expectation of money and extra drinks, and the plan was accepted by a chorus of cheers and claps on backs.
 
 
oooOOOooo
 
 
When the day drew to a close, Heyes and the Kid shared a last coffee on the porch of their cabin. The rest of the gang had retreated to the bunk house earlier for a pre-robbery celebration, and the leaders were alone.
 
“You think it will work?” Dark eyes sought out blue, looking for re-assurance.
 
“It’s your plan. Shouldn’t you be sure?” came the teasing reply.
 
“Oh, I am. Reckon it went as well as could be expected. Now it’s all up to us, partner.”
 
The two cousins exchanged a smile and clinked their cups together. “To keeping the Devil’s Hole gang dry!”
 
 
oooOOOooo
 
 
A week later, two men rode into Glenrock. They stabled their horses, a sorrel and a dark bay, at the livery and headed to their chosen hotel. After securing a room overlooking the main street, they reserved two more, for their hired wranglers who were expected to arrive the following day.
 
The next morning, after breakfast, the same men, one blond, the other brown-haired, lounged on the hotel porch, smoking cigars with obvious relish.
 
 
At the same time, two of the men they were waiting for could only dream of relaxation and rest.
 
“I tell you, Kyle. I knew it. I just plain knew Heyes would saddle us with getting them broomtails sorted out.”
 
“Well now, Wheat. He said whoever caught most wouldn’t have to take care of ‘em. Seemed fair to me.”
 
“Huh. But it’s not smart. Who catches most horses? Them who’s good at it. And them’s the ones who’s best at lookin’ after ‘em, too. And that’s not us!”
 
After spitting a glob of tobacco juice, Kyle replied “Lookin’ at it that way, you got a point.”
 
Feeling encouraged, Wheat continued to grouse “And not even a drop to wash the dust down! No drinking!” The last bit was delivered in a mocking imitation of their leader. In his normal voice, outrage radiating with every word, the burly man continued, “Can you believe it? He had the Kid search my saddlebags!”
 
“He sure did. A shame he found your bottle, too.” A slow grin bared tobacco-stained teeth. “But he never searched mine,” the smaller outlaw drawled with a wink.
 
Suddenly, the rest of the day didn’t seem quite so dreary any longer.
 
 
A bit closer to town, but in the opposite direction, another pair of riders were grumbling along similar lines.
 
“What did ya’ havta go and catch two horses for, Hank?”
 
A dark look accompanied the answer “How was I ta know the special prize was only not havin’ ta drive the dang horses?”
 
“Now we have ta take the longest route, but still get into Glenrock afore Wheat and Kyle. No time ta enjoy the ride and then stayin’ dry longer in town.”
 
“I know. Now! And after all the hard work. I expected an extra bottle. Ya’ know, I half feel like getting’ drunk just to show ‘em.”
 
 
A single rider, approaching Glenrock from yet another direction, didn’t look happy either. Shaking his shaggy, dirty-blond head he thought back to how the Kid had hung around when he packed his gear at the Hole. As if he’d known he’d intended to take along a little something to fortify himself.
Then the ‘friendly’ reminder that, this time, everyone needed to stay sober. As if he was the only one who liked to party a little. Not fair, singling him out like this. The others were probably having a good laugh about him behind his back. And a drink. After all, each of the gang had some red-eye stashed in their saddle-bags, maybe with the exception of their leaders. Maybe.
 
 
An hour after arriving in town, Lobo’s mood hadn’t improved. He would have to share a room with either Merkle and Hank or Wheat and Kyle. Why did their leaders have to be so tightfisted and didn’t allow for another room? Especially, since they planned to come into some more money pretty soon. It wasn’t as if they couldn’t afford it.
To add insult to injury, he’d been sent to get a supply of ropes and hobbles and talk to the livery men, just as if they really planned to hunt for mustangs. What a waste of time and money. He’d been on the trail nearly a week and not a drop to drink, apart from water. He eyed the saloons with true longing. But he knew there’d be hell to pay if he didn’t get his purchases back to Heyes on time.
Later, he promised himself.
 
 
The sun was almost setting, when Hank and Merkle rode down the main street of Glenrock. They turned in surprise, when they were hallooed by a familiar baritone voice coming from the Red Dog Saloon.
 
“Hello there, boys. We’ve been expecting you for a while. Good you’re finally here. We got you a room at the Glenrock hotel. Just stable your horses at the livery over that way, and then you can rest up. We can talk tomorrow”
After delivering this welcome, the speaker gave a jaunty wave, flashed a dimpled smile and returned through the batwing doors into the building.
 
The dusty riders shared a look.
 
“Did I hear that right? Did he just tell us ta wait at the hotel?”
 
“Yep. And I bet he and the Kid are havin’ themselves a good time at the saloon.”
 
“So much for ‘never asking their men to do anythin’ they wouldn’t do themselves’!”
 
On arriving at the indicated livery, the men couldn’t help but notice the building two doors down the street. After all, it sported a large sign, ‘Lone Rock Saloon’. Taking care of their horses didn’t take long. Once again outside, the men’s eyes went back with longing to the building sporting the sign. With a sigh, Merkle turned away and towards the hotel, when he felt a tug at his arm.
 
“Wait a minute. Are you really so tuckered out?”
 
“No, but you heard Heyes. He expects us ta wait at the hotel, not a saloon. Dontcha’ think he’ll watch for us?”
 
“Yeah. He would. But he wouldn’t need ta know about a little extra ‘medicine’ in our saddle bags.” The word ‘medicine’ was accompanied by a nod towards the Lone Rock and a mischievous glint in the thirsty man’s eyes.
 
A few minutes later, two members of the Devil’s Hole gang quietly made their way to the hotel. It would have taken a very keen watcher to detect the little spring in their steps.
 
From his vantage point in the Red Dog, Kid Curry nudged his partner, “Heyes, looks like your plan might be working after all.”
 
“I keep telling you, you gotta have a little faith, Kid. Now, Wheat and Kyle need to do their share without a hitch. Do you think I was too hard on Wheat?”
 
“No, taking away his bottle was necessary. It should do the trick. What do you think, will they come in tonight?”
 
“I wouldn’t bet on it. And it doesn’t really matter. I can work it either way.” A chocolate sparkle, accompanied by a dimpled grin, flashed towards the blond man. “And we have most of tomorrow to get them in shape.”
 
The last statement was answered by a broad grin and merrily twinkling blue eyes.
 
“To your plan, partner! Cheers.”
 
Two whiskey glasses clinked together; then their content was quickly downed.
 
 
oooOOOooo
 
 
Two dusty riders entered Glenrock at a time too late to be called morning but still too early to be noon.
 
Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry watched them approach from the hotel porch. Quickly exchanged glances was all the communication they needed.
 
When the men came close enough, Heyes’ baritone greeted them. Maybe a tad louder than strictly necessary.
 
“Hi there, boys! Glad you made it. We expected you yesterday. No trouble on the way, I hope?”
 
“No. No trouble.”
 
“Just thought we’d keep an eye on them broomtails for a lil’ longer, was all.”
 
“Ah. Good. There’s a room reserved here at the hotel for you.”
 
When the men started to dismount, Kid Curry was quick to point out to them, that their concern for equine welfare demanded that they tend to their horses first. Knowing they had no choice, Wheat and Kyle settled back into their saddles and, with slumped shoulders, rode off towards the livery.
 
Heyes and the Kid exchanged another glance. Neither of them had missed the winces or the general hung-over appearance of the latecomers despite their attempts at covering it, and Kid smiled “It’s almost too easy.”
 
 
oooOOOooo
 
 
Early afternoon saw the Devil’s Hole gang assembled in the Red Dog Saloon, the classiest of the three drinking establishments in town. They had a back corner all to themselves and were talking business. Officially, when anyone came into hearing distance, mustangs; otherwise the last preparations for their real job.
This was the first time any of the gang members, except the leaders, had a chance to spend time in the saloon since arriving in town. Heyes had kept them all busy with tasks. Now, he had finally relented and paid for a round of beer. The men would have enjoyed it, but for their leader harking on about the job. Didn’t he realize this wasn’t their first bank, they were professionals, most of them with more years of experience than him. Granted, the mode of getaway was new, but not too difficult to remember.
But Heyes seemed set on testing them – their knowledge and understanding, but even more so, their endurance.
 
When the dark-haired leader warned them yet again about staying sober and not attracting attention, a vein in Wheat’s temple began to pulse visibly. It was the Kid’s right hand seemingly casually patting the butt of his Peacemaker whenever he glanced his way, which kept the larger man from giving that upstart smart-mouth a proper reply. Confiscating his whiskey. Saddling him with the nags. And then selecting him for taking all their horses to the blacksmith to check their shoes would hold. He was sick and tired of smelling like a horse. Ornery beasts that they were.
 
Kyle couldn’t understand why Heyes kept going on about not drinking. Didn’t he know by now that they were never too drunk to perform their duties? It reminded him a bit of school. He hadn’t enjoyed school. And now he felt thirsty, after all this talk about beer and whiskey.
 
Lobo was still annoyed with Hank and Merkle. They had indeed joked about him not bringing any ‘provisions’. And he didn’t look forward to sharing the rather small hotel room with Wheat and Kyle. With only one bed! And did Heyes really expect them to stay there all day?! He, for one, was going to enjoy himself a bit. This wasn’t the only saloon in town. Hey, they were outlaws, not the temperance league!
 
Hank and Merkle didn’t feel too good. One of the bottles yesterday must have been bad, even though it had tasted alright. To make matters worse, Lobo still seemed mad at them, and all the jobs Heyes had given them today had involved running errands from one end of town to the other, out in the relentlessly burning sun. Their heads hurt and the endless preaching from their leader didn’t make things better. Also, it was unfair, singling them out for a tongue lashing for partying, after Wheat and Kyle had so obviously done the same. Didn’t Heyes know that the best cure was more of the same? Dog’s fur or something.
 
A little later, Heyes and the Kid left the rest of the gang to take care of a few more preparations themselves.
 
 
oooOOOooo
 
 
About an hour after midnight, Kid Curry took up his customary lookout post at the window of the bank. Between making sure that nobody paid the building any undue attention, he managed to sneak glances at his partner who crouched next to the safe door.
 
Heyes had his ear pressed to the cold metal of the Brooker 101, listening for the tiniest difference in noise while he slowly, carefully turned the dial. Two numbers were already scrawled in chalk on the front of the safe, only one more to go. On hearing the last distinctive click, a beatific smile spread across the outlaw leader’s features. He loved this challenge, this dance, the teasing-out of secrets. It gave him a high like nothing else.
 
He entered the combination on the dial, pushed down on the handle, and slowly, triumphantly he pulled open the door.
 
 
oooOOOooo
 
 
Later, back at the hotel, Heyes and Curry waited for the next bit of this job to play out. Even though everything had happened exactly as planned so far, things might still go wrong. Heyes checked his pocket watch once more.
 
“It’s time, Kid. Any second now, “ the rest of what he meant to say was drowned by an explosion. Fearful whinnies could be heard in the aftermath and then multiple hoof-beats, quickly growing fainter.
 
Big grins on faces, the partners slapped each other on the back. On hearing voices and footsteps from the corridor, they put on game faces and joined the throng of bewildered people outside. They made sure to accidentally bump into people or step on feet, thus guaranteeing that some people would remember them being there.
 
When they reached the porch amidst a group of men, the first shouts of “The bank’s been robbed” could be heard. It was soon established that the gang had ridden out southwards and the sheriff got busy organizing a posse to ride out as soon as there was enough light for tracking.
 
After watching the posse ride out from their window, Heyes and the Kid got busy packing gear. Among the bundles for the pack-horse was one precious sack of oats, now containing considerably less grain – the mustangs had been thankful recipients – but lots of bank notes instead, packed into neat, bandana-wrapped bundles. Chores done, they enjoyed a good breakfast before tackling their last task.
 
“You sure we wanna do this?” Kid Curry clearly still wasn’t too keen on this part of his partner’s plan.
 
“I know. It’s a temptation. Unfortunately we never leave a man behind.”
 
“Yeah.” A sigh. “Reckon they’ve done their job. Are you ever gonna tell them that was your plan all along?”
“Not before we’re back at the Hole,” came the laughing reply.
 
Neutral expressions in place, they knocked on the sheriff’s office door and asked the tired deputy to release their bunch of hired mustang wranglers, who had been locked up the previous day, after wrecking the Painted Pony saloon in a drunken brawl.
 

After the fine was paid, the hung-over, battered men received a stern talking-to from their employers and the deputy, then the Devil’s Hole gang rode away from their latest successful job.
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Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr Empty
PostSubject: February - Horses - Keays   Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr EmptySat Oct 01, 2016 6:08 am

February - Horses - Keays



    
 
  “Excuse me, the mare's not for sale!” Heyes announced with a little more heat than necessary.
 
 
  The old man straightened up and scowled at him.  “That's fine ‘cause I ain't lookin' to buy her!” he snapped back.  “I just come over ta’ get reacquainted.”
 
 
  Heyes frowned.  “What do you mean?”
 
 
  “Just that sonny,” he said.  “I saw her parked here and thought I knew her.  I just come over to confirm that.”
 
 
  All three men perked up at this statement.  This was promising.
 
 
  “You know her?”  Jed asked him.
 
 
  “Sure do,” he answered.  “This here is Karma-Lou, and she was one of the nicest fillies I had go through my place.  Not easy to forget this one.”
 
 
  Heyes' jaw dropped even more.  “You're the livery man!”
 
 
 “Yeah, well, I was,” the man agreed.  “I'm retired now; my son's took it over.”  He walked up to Heyes, his eyes squinting in order to scrutinize him.  “Yeah, and I knows you too.  Mister 'I have no idea'--ha!”
 
 
  “What?” Heyes was confused.  What was this old codger going on about?
 
 
  “That's what you said to me!”  the old guy accused Heyes as he started poking him in the chest with his finger.  “You didn't even have a name for 'em, did ya?  Fine gelding that one—you oughta be ashamed of yourself!  I tell ya I almost took that filly back right then and there.  You didn't deserve her! 'I have no idea'!  Goddammit!”
 
 
  “You're the livery man Heyes got her from?”  Jed asked incredulously.
 
 
  “Yeah, ain't that what I've been sayin'?”
 
 
  Jed laughed and stepped forward to shake the man's hand.  “You have no idea how happy we are to see you!”
 
 
  “Really...”
 
 
  “Yeah,” Jed assured him.  “I'm Jed Curry, this is Joe Morin and that abuser of horses over there is Hannibal Heyes.”
 
 
  “Yeah, I know who ya are,” he admitted, “made me regret even more givin’ ya that mare.  We all know how outlaws treat their horses.”
 
 
  “Sir, ah...Mister...?  Heyes was fishing.
 
 
  “Logan, no 'mister', just Logan.”
 
 
  Heyes smiled, understanding that sentiment.  “Logan, I can assure you that Karma has been well looked after.  Even while I was serving time, she was with friends who treated her like a princess.  No reason at all for you to be concerned.”
 
 
  “Yeah, well,” Logan’s stance softened a bit.  “I gotta admit she do look good—and ya still got her, so that says somethin'.”
 
 
  “It does!”  Heyes agreed.  “I have to tell you Karma is the best horse I've ever had and I'm real attached to her if you must know.”
 
 
  “I'll say.” Jed commented.  “I think he'd sleep out in the barn with her if he was able to.”
 
  
“Uh huh.”
 
 
  Heyes cut in before Jed could open his mouth again.  “Say, Mr.  Logan...ah, Logan.  Sorry.  You are actually the very person we've been looking for.  We'd like to talk with you for a few minutes if we can.  How about we buy you a beer?”
 
 
  The three men made to turn back to the saloon, but Logan simply stood there glaring at them.
 
 
  “You mean to tell me you're just gonna go right back into that saloon without tending to these horses?” he demanded with incredulity in his tone.  “These animals are tired and all you can think about is getting a beer for yourselves?”
 
 
  “Well, we don't usually...”
 
 
  “A man looks after his horse first, before his own needs or he don't deserve a horse!” Logan carried on.  “All three of these horses are fine animals and you're just gonna leave 'em standing out here in the sun while you go back into the saloon to drink your beer?”
 
 
  “Oh no, no!” Heyes insisted as he motioned the other two men forward.  “No, we're taking 'em to the livery.  I mean that's exactly where we were headed when we ran into you here.”
 
 
  “Yeah,” Jed agreed.  “We were just about to get 'em settled.”
 
 
  Logan looked from one man to another, and then settled on Joe.  “What about you?” the old man asked.  “I see you're wearin' a badge—lawmen are no better than outlaws when it comes to lookin' after their horses!  I tell ya, you should all be taken out and shot.”
 
 
  “Hey!” Joe was incensed.  “I was raised on a ranch, been looking after horses all my life.  I don't go neglecting....”
 
 
  “All your life!” Logan snorted.  “Damn, I got corns on my feet older than you.”
 
 
  Heyes and Jed exchanged humorous looks but quickly dropped them when Joe gave both of them the eye.
 
 
  “Oh, come on now, Joe.  Don't take it so seriously,” Heyes told him with a placating hand on his shoulder.  “Logan's right; we need to tend to the horses before we do anything else.”
 
 
  “Fine,” Joe snarked as he untied his mare and started leading her away.
 
 
  “Hey, young fella!” Logan stopped him.  “Livery stable's that 'a way.”
 
 
  Joe grumbled but, turning Betty around, he carried on in the new direction.
 
 
  “We still want to talk with you, Logan,” Heyes reminded him, as he and Jed got their horses organized.  “is there someplace we can meet up with you later on?”
 
 
  “Yeah, I suppose,” Logan agreed.  “Come on out to my place after supper.  I ain't invitin' ya for supper—my daughter-in-law has enough to contend with without me bringin' home three more mouths ta feed without warnin'!”
 
  “Oh no, that's fine,”  Heyes assured him.  “we don't want to intrude.  We just want a word with ya about Karma, that's all.”
 
 
  “About the horse?”
 
 
  “Yeah.”
 
 
  “Okay, I suppose that'll be alright,” Logan decided.  He was always willing to talk horses.  “Just ask my son over at the livery, he can give ya directions.”
 
 
  “That'll be fine,” Heyes agreed.  “we'll see you after supper.”
 



 XXX


 


 It didn't take long for them to find the correct address.  Old man Logan was sitting comfortably on the front porch of a quaint little home that smacked of a lady's touch so the boys couldn't have missed it if they'd been trying.  Kid opened the small picket gate and they walked along the neat flower lined path to the steps and up onto the porch.
 
 
  “Evenin',” Jed greeted the old man.  “Nice place here.”
 
 
  “Yup,” Logan agreed as he puffed on his pipe.  “Set yourselves down.  I told Shirley not ta’ bother herself with ya’, but she insisted on makin' coffee and and havin' some sweets for ya’.”  he snorted. “Ya’ knows what women are like.”
 
 
  “Oh,” Heyes smiled, “well, that's very kind of her, but there wasn't any need...”
 
 
  “That's what I told her!”  Logan insisted and shrugged.  “Shirley!  They's here!”
 
 
  Both men cringed slightly at Logan's booming announcement, and then they quickly took off their hats and smiled a greeting to a young, rather plump woman who suddenly put in an appearance.  She was already laden down with a tray of coffee cups and a plate of sliced cakes and cookies.  Heyes quickly opened the screen door for her and offered to take the tray.
 
 
  “Oh, no need,” she assured him and smiled brightly.  “You just sit yourselves down there and relax.  There's lots more where this came from, so don't be shy.”
 
 
  Jed smiled.  “Yes, ma'am.”
 
 
  “Papa tells me you're here to talk about Karma-Lou,” Shirley commented as she set the tray down on the little table and handed out the coffee cups.  “I sure do remember that filly!  What a handful.  Of course, Clyde and I weren't married at that time—heavens I was still in school, not even thinking about wifely things.  But Clyde used to take me to the livery to show off the new horses and...well, other things.  Anyway, I just about dropped my drawers when I saw that filly—what a pretty thing!  I so wanted my Pa to buy her, but after Clyde let me ride her a few times, I realized she was too much horse for me.  I sure was heartbroken though, when I heard that Papa Logan had traded her off to some no-good saddle tramp.  So how did you come to acquire her, Mr...?”
 
 
  Heyes smiled sweetly as he sipped his coffee.  “Name's Heyes, Mrs. Logan, and this is my partner, Mr. Curry.  I'm the no-good saddle tramp your father-in-law traded her to.”
 
 
  “OH!”
 
 
  Logan was snickering under his breath and shaking he head.  That little ditz always was putting her foot in her mouth.
 
 
  “Oh, dear me, I'm so sorry.  I didn't mean...”
 
 
  “That's alright, ma'am,” Heyes assured her.  “I suppose at the time I did resemble a no-good saddle tramp but, rest assured, once we got to know one another, we got along just fine.  She's a real good horse.”
 
  
Shirley smiled with pleasure.  “That’s nice to know.  Of course the fact that you still have her, would suggest that it all went well.  Well, I have cleaning up to do, before Clyde gets home, so I'll leave you gentlemen to your chat.”
 
 
  “Yes, ma'am.”
 
 
  “Thank you, ma'am.”
 
 
  Both partners were quick to their feet as the lady left the porch.  Then they sat themselves back down again and took advantage of the cake.
 
 
  “You get them horses settled in alright?”  Logan asked.  “And don't lie to me, cause I'll be askin' Clyde about them when he gets home.”
 
 
  The two men almost chuckled at the tone of voice being directed their way but they were too busy munching on cake.
 
 
  “Oh yessir,” Heyes swallowed and gave him the reassurance.  “they're all settled in.  Your son did a fine job of tending to them.”
 
 
  “He better had!”  was the snark back at them.  “I'll tan his hide if'n he don't, and he knows it!”
 
 
  “I can believe that,” Jed mumbled behind his coffee cup.
 
 
  “What's that!?”
 
 
  “Nothin',” Kid assured him.  “Just agreein' that's he's a fine hand.”
 
 
  “Hmm.  So what's so all fired important that you come all the way back to this town lookin' fer me?”
 
 
  “Well,” Heyes settled in, “a rancher friend of ours looked after Karma while I was, well—incarcerated, and he bred her a couple of times.  Got a real nice colt and filly out of her.  In fact, they're so nice that he's going to use the colt as his new foundation sire.  Now the colt is papered on his sire's side, but we have nothing to show for Karma.  It's obvious she has quality, but you know how it is; people buying a papered horse, they want to know both sides of the lineage.  So, he hired us to track down where she came from, in the hopes that we can discover her breeding and maybe even find papers for her, if any ever existed.”
 
 
  “Well,” Logan sat for a moment, puffing on his pipe.  “That's quite an undertaking, considerin' how much time as gone by.”
 
 
  Heyes' heart sank.  “So you don't remember who you got her from?”
 
 
  “Course I remember!”  Logan was insulted.  “I remember every horse that came through my place and most of the people too.  I remembered you, didn't I?  Mister 'I have no idea'!  Dang!  Albert turned out to be a real fine horse for me too.  He was real popular, and I hired him out plenty of times, never a complaint—not like that damn filly of yours.  Pretty as she is, I got the better end of that trade for sure.”
 
 
  Heyes was feeling impatient, but he played along; they'd get to it in time.  
 
 
  “I agree he was a fine horse,” Heyes stated, “but I'm happy with the way things worked out.”
 
 
  Logan took a moment to spit in the spittoon.  “Good.  Satisfactory trade all around then.”
 
 
  “So,” Heyes tried to move things along, “who was it you got her from?”
 
 
  “Oh, a horse dealer I often bought off’a back then.  He come through with a string of about five horses to see if I was interested in any of 'em,”  Logan explained and then shook his head ruefully. “Damn I got sucked into that filly right away.  I shoulda known better too, bein' in the business and all.  Just cause they's pretty don't mean they make good rentals.  And she didn't, that's for damn sure!  I can't remember how many times she came trotting back to the barn sportin' an empty saddle or haulin' a surrey with no driver.  
  “She ended up costin' me more than I was makin' offa her and that don't even take in all of the complainin' from customers!  Damn!  Then you showed up, a stranger in town, just passin' through and I saw a prime opportunity to unload her.  Your trade-in was sound and I figured he couldn't possibly have had a worse attitude than that filly.
 “Even at that, though, I'd had my doubts about you.  If I hadn't a been so desperate to unload her, I don't think I would have gone through with that trade.  I don't like handin' over a horse—any horse—to someone who's gonna abuse 'em, even a prima donna like her.  Yessir, I kicked myself over that trade.  I shoulda just offered ta buy that gelding off ya, and let ya find yerself another horse elsewhere.”




  “Well I'm sure glad you didn't,” Heyes piped in.  “Not only was I in a hurry at the time, but like I said, Karma has turned out to be the best horse I ever had.  She just needed time to settle down and learn to trust again, that's all.”
 
 
  “Hmm.”
 
 
  “So, this fella you got her off of, he still around?”
 
 
  “Oh, I haven't seen him in years.  Mighta been hung for horse stealin' for all I know.  Some of them animals he brought in were kinda dubious.”
 
 
  “How do you mean?”
 
 
  “Well, he couldn't always show a bill a' sale and though he could produce papers when pushed, I suspected they were forgeries.” Logan explained.  “I never asked no questions, though.  Weren't my problem if he were sellin' stolen property, as long as I covered my own backside.  That's why I never included any papers he mighta given me fer some a them horses.  I sell horses with forged papers then that's when it could come back onto me.  Doin' a trade and havin’ no paperwork is always the best way when dealin' with those kinda' characters.”
 
 
  “Why deal with them at all?”  asked Kid.  “If ya knew the horses were probably stolen, isn't that kinda supportin' their trade?”
 
 
  Logan sent Kid a look that would have shred bark.  “Most of my stock came from horse dealers comin' through town.  I'd a' gone outta business buyin' horses at auction or countin' on trade.  What do I care about their ethics?  If they're stealin' horses, they're the ones gonna hang, not me.”
 
 
  “You said Karma came with papers,” Heyes struggled to get the conversation back on track.  “You wouldn't happen to still have those papers, would ya?”
 
 
  Logan sat and puffed on his pipe.
 
 
  “Probably,” he finally admitted.  “I should a' destroyed all them papers as soon as I got 'em. I always meant to, but they just kept pilin' up in the old trunk and I never did get around to burnin' them.”
 
 
  “So, those papers might have this fella's name on them,” Heyes surmised hopefully.
 
 
  “They'll have ‘a’ name,” Logan agreed.  “can't say as it'd be his real name though.”
 
 
  “No, no I understand that,” Heyes assured him, “but it's still another lead.”  He sat back, taking another sip of coffee.  “I'm just surprised she doesn't have a brand.  A horse of her quality I would have thought...”
 
 
  “What are ya talkin' about?”  Logan snapped at him incredulously.  “I thought you said you were fond a' that mare, 'I take real good care a' her'!  You said!  Geesh—don't ya never brush her!?”
 
 
  Heyes was taken aback by the onslaught.  “Of course I brush her, and I do take good care of her!”  He was feeling rather defensive.  “I've looked for a brand on her—I can't find any.”
 
 
  “Jesus!  You numbskulls!  You sure you got yourself a mare there?  Ya might have a gelding and ya just didn't notice!”
 
 
  “Now that's hardly...”
 
 
  “It's right there for anyone with a lick a' sense,” Logan continued.  “Course it's been tampered with so it don't really look like a brand no more.  That's another reason I think she was stolen.  No reason to tamper with a brand if it's all legit.”
 
 
  “Well, where is it then?”  Heyes was still stinging from the onslaught.
 
 
  “On her, it's on the inside of her right thigh, about half way up between the hock and crop.”
 
 
  Heyes considered that and frowned.  “Yeah, there is something there I'll grant you.  But I've taken a good look at that and it's just an old scar.”
 
 
  “Sure, that's what it looks like to anyone who doesn't know what they're lookin' at,” Logan informed him with a touch of sarcasm.  “That's the whole idea of tamperin' with a brand, ya know—so's people can't read 'em!”
 
 
  “Then how is that supposed to help us?”
 
 
  “Oh, for Christ's sakes!”
 
 
  “Papa, please!” said the voice from inside the house, “Don’t curse the Lord's name!”
 
 
  Logan snarled and rolled his eyes but he did quiet his tone.  “Have ya ever shaved off the hair and taken a real close look at it, or did ya just assume?”
 
 
  “Oh, no I guess I never...”
 
 
  “That's what I thought.  Bloody greenhorn.”
 
 
  “Well, not being a horse thief myself, I don't know the finer tricks of the trade!”  Heyes was getting mad.
 
 
  “You tryin' to tell me that you two never stole horses?”  Logan was incredulous.
 
 
  Heyes and Jed exchanged slightly guilty looks.
 
 
  “Well, I suppose when we were desperate,” Kid confirmed with Heyes.
 
 
   Heyes kind of shrugged and nodded.  “And we did buy some a few times that we knew were stolen.”
 
 
  It was Kid's turn to shrug and nod agreement.
 
 
  Logan snorted.  “Just what I thought!  You just never got caught at it is all.  Lucky too, you don't have the knack fer it.”
 
 
  “Well, we were better at other things!”  Heyes felt the need to defend their chosen profession.
 
 
  “Yeah, whatever.” Logan dismissed his defence.  “I tell ya what; I'll meet you fellas at the livery tomorrow morning and we can shave off the hair and take a good look at that brand.  I can also look around in that old trunk and see if I can find her papers.  Will that suit ya?”
 
 
  Heyes smiled.  “Yes, it would.”
 
 
  “Fine.  Now be off with ya!  I wanna enjoy what's left of my evening in my own company.”
 
Xxx



 “Mornin' Clyde,” Jed greeted the young livery man, “how'd they spend the night?”
 
  
“Fine,” Clyde assured them.  “They're obviously used to being away from home, don't seem to bother 'em at all.”
 
 
  “Betty's not used to it,” Joe commented, “but she does seem to be settling in alright.”
 
 
  “Yeah, it's good for them to get out and about,” Heyes mumbled as he carried on into the barn to check up on his girl.  “Betty'll be real seasoned by the time we get home.”
 
 
  Curry and Joe followed Heyes into the barn and walked over to an indoor pen that had all three horses settled in together.  Karma nickered at her man as he approached and began tossing her head in anticipation of some attention.
 
 
  “What a ham,” Jed commented as Heyes scratched his mare's ears.  
 
 
  “Why don't 'ya bring that mare out into the sunlight?” Clyde called from the door.  “I brought an old razor with me this morning so we can shave off that hair and see what we got.”
 
 
  Heyes nodded, and grabbing a halter that was conveniently hanging by the pen gate, he slipped it onto Karma's head and led her out towards the exit.  Jed quickly closed the gate so the other two wouldn't follow and then everyone headed outdoors.
 
 
  Clyde had a bucket of water set aside and was getting his hands soaped up in preparation of the shaving job at hand.  Heyes tied Karma to the fence post and then everyone was huddled around her hind quarters all in anticipation of what they were going to find.
 
 
  “Move her tail outa the way,” Clyde instructed.  
 
 
  Heyes did so and Clyde rubbed his wet, soapy hands over the area of the scar and then took out his straight razor.
 
 
  “Maybe you better let me do that,” suggested a nervous Heyes.  “I don't want you to cut her.”
 
 
  “I won't cut her,” Clyde assured him with a bit of an edge.  “If I can shave my own face without nickin' it, I'm sure I can shave a horse's ass.”
 
 
  Clyde began to scrape away what little hair was in that area and though he did have to be a bit careful with the scar having caused the skin to wrinkle and ridge up a bit, it didn't take him long to produce a nice clean, bald spot.  He took a piece of burlap the wiped the area dry, and then all four men huddled in around her hind quarters and were bent over and peering at the scar.  Karma herself tolerated this indignity with grace, though she did keep her ears flicked back, wondering what in the world those humans were up to back there.
 
 
  “Now ain't that a sight fer sore eyes?!”  came Logan's snipe from the direction of the road.  “Ain't none of ya ever seen a horse's arse before?”
 
 
  “Oh, hey Pa,” Clyde greeted his father, obviously used to the old man's temperament.  “You were right, that for sure is an old brand.”
 
 
  Logan snorted.  “Course I was right; ya can't be in this business as long as I was and not recognize a tampered brand when ya see one.”
 
 
  The other three men straightened up and passed bewildered looks between them.
 
 
  “I don't see no brand there,” Jed finally owned up for them all, “it just looks like scarring...”
 
 
  “Ohh for...”  Logan grumbled, “How the hell did you two get to be so 'notorious'?  Ya can't see nothin' fer lookin'!”
 
 
  “Well, we....”  Heyes felt the need to defend their reputations but he never got the chance to finish.
 
 
  Logan grabbed him by the shirt sleeve and yanked him down to hock level.  The old man used his finger to trace out the older scar, totally ignoring the newer scar that had been slashed across it.
 
 
  “There!  See!”  he demanded.  “What does that look like to you?”
 
 
  Heyes looked and being a tactile person by nature, he ran his fingers over the scars but still was having a hard time seeing what the old man saw.
 
 
  “Oh, I can't believe this,” Logan complained, but he did release Heyes from his grip and they both straightened up.  Heyes met the Kid's gaze and shrugged.  “Get me a piece of paper from the ledger and that pencil,” Logan ordered his son.
 
 
  Clyde went and got the items and Logan squatted down again.  “Get her tail outa the way,” he demanded, and he set about drawing out the lines of the scar as he saw them.
 
 
  Karma glanced back at these proceedings as far as her tether would let her.  This was very strange indeed.  Why couldn't these humans just go away and let her finish her breakfast?  Besides, she had to poop, but with everyone clustered around her hind end like that, she didn't think it would be appreciated at the moment.
 
 
  Fortunately, it didn't take long for Logan to draw out the pattern of the scarring.  He straightened up and Heyes released the mare's tail.  Finally!  Karma swished it a couple of times to get the kinks out of it, then lifted it and tended to her business.
 
 
  “Oh, crap!”  Logan complained as he quickly stepped out of the way.  “Clyde!  Get the pitchfork and clean that up!”
 
 
  Clyde went to attend to his duty while the other three men clustered around Logan to take a look at what he had drawn.  Logan flattened the piece of paper out against Karma's flank and then taking the pencil, darkened the lines that he felt constituted a brand.
 
 
  “There, see?”  He pointed out, “now don't that look like a horse shoe to you?”
 
 
  Everyone scrutinized the drawing.
 
 
  “Well....”  Heyes shrugged again and putting a finger on the page tried to follow the outline of a horse shoe.
 
 
  Logan impatiently slapped his hand away.  “Not that way!”  he snarked.  “Here, it's upside down with the open end at the top.  See it?”
 
 
  Three creased brows leaned in closer.
 
 
  “Oh yeah, I can see it,” said Joe.
 
 
  “Ya can?”  Jed questioned the validity of that statement, “all I see are a bunch a' lines.”
 
 
  “No, it's pretty plain now that he's pointed it out,” Joe insisted.  “It's an upside down horse shoe.”
 
 
  Logan grinned with pleasure.  “It's a good thing them two brung you along, young fella.  At least you got eyes in yer head ta see with.”
 
 
  Heyes and the Kid exchanged irritated looks.  Logan seemed to have latched onto Joe as the intelligent one of the group and brought him in even closer.
 
 
  “And ya see here,” Logan continued to explain the drawing, “inside the horse shoe?  Lookit that, don't that look like a backward ‘S’, or maybe a ‘Z’”.  Might even be a ‘2’.”
 
 
  “Yeah!”  Joe agreed, getting excited.  “Yeah, I can see that!”
 
 
  He went back to view the actual brand again now that Karma's morning toiletry had been cleared away.
 
 
  “Yeah,” he confirmed, “now that it's been pointed out, I can see that right here.”
 
 
  “Yeah, but still,” Heyes was feeling left out of the loop, “there's a lot of 'maybe's' in there.  If we don't know exactly what the brand is, how are we going to track it down?”
 
 
  “Well, Calhoun; that's the fella that brung them horses to me, he usually come up through Wyoming way.  If she were stolen, no self-respecting horse thief would try and sell her in the state that she was stolen in.  It might take some time, but you could narrow it down.”
 
 
  “We could send the drawing to Beth,” Jed spoke up.  “If anybody would know how to track down a brand, she would.  Being a rancher's daughter an' all.  Maybe she or Jesse might even recognize it.”
 
 
  Heyes nodded.  “That's a good idea.  She could track the brand from her end while we carry on following the trail—as cold as it is.  But, it’s going to take weeks for her to get it and then track it down.”
 
 
“So, we’ll still be workin’ on it from this end, too,” said Jed.
 
 
  “Well there ya go,” Logan crumpled the piece of paper into Joe's hands and started walking into the barn.  “I'll see if I can find them registration papers; I'm sure they're in that trunk somewheres.”  Then he yelled out from the interior of the barn, “Why don't you fellas go get yourselves some breakfast or something?!  Come back in an hour.”
 
 
  Clyde untied Karma and led her back to the pen where she hoped her friends had at least left her some hay for breakfast.  The three men suddenly found themselves abandoned.
 
 
  “Well,” Jed finally commented, “let's go eat.”
 
 
  “Oh, yeah.”
 
 
  “Okay.”
 
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PostSubject: March - Temptation - Helen West   Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr EmptySat Oct 01, 2016 6:10 am

March - Temptation - Helen West



Tempted to Death


This is based on a dream. Given the challenge, I was, you might say, tempted to finally write it up. You will find temptations scattered throughout, but which ones should be resisted and which not?


00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000
“Do ya’ think he’s gonna die?”


The nearby voice woke a man who had been deeply asleep.


“Don’t talk like that! It’s bad luck,” said another voice.


The newly woken man lay with his eyes still closed, trying to figure out what was going on. The first thing he knew was that the left side of his chest was a mass of pain that made each breath agonizing. And he was too weak to even feel around with his hand to find out what hurt so much. He fought to keep breathing. He felt completely exhausted. Each breath was a torment, long and rattling. One, two, three, four, he counted the struggling breaths and then lost track in the sheer labor of living. Nothing had ever seemed so hard. Why should he keep up this awful fight? It was a terrible temptation just to stop trying, to let go, to let this torture end. He couldn’t remember why it was important to live.


Instead, he tried to listen to the quiet voices he heard nearby, to hold onto those presences in the dark.


“Well, all I know is, I never seen a man shot that bad come through it alive.”


So that was what was hurting so much. A bullet wound. Yes, the wound had the all-too-familiar burning pain. Or wounds. Now that he paid attention to it, he could tell that there were two wounds in his chest.


“He’s tough. He’ll live. He’s got to.”


“Now who’s makin’ bad luck? I don’t want him to die, neither. We none of us do.”


There was the soft sound of cards being dealt and the crackle of a fire. But the fire seemed to throw no heat. The wounded man felt horribly cold, but at least glad that someone seemed to care. Or they did care if the man they worried would die was the same man they were sitting next to playing cards.


“He never told us the other half of that plan to get us $50,000. We did all he wanted on the first part getting us here to this house. But how to get the money he talked about, nobody knows but him.”


“I know that. The whole gang knows that.”


So, that was why these men cared about the wounded man lying so still near them. Money. That was all. Maybe he shouldn’t bother to live, after all. He drew another long, terrible breath.


The cards riffled again.


“Unless he told the Kid.”


“If he did, the Kid ain’t said nothing about it. And we been here two days, waiting for Heyes to wake up.”


There was a pause. The unstated end of the sentence was surely “or die.”


“But Heyes and the Kid tell each other everything, don’t they? I don’t know ‘em like you do.”


Heyes. So that was his name. Of course it was. In the fog of pain and the fight of continuing to breathe, he had almost forgotten.


“Yeah, they’re like that. I been with the Devil’s Hole three years, almost. They fight, but they talk.”


There was the sound of cards moving again, but the voices stopped. Heyes drifted, almost asleep again. He was so thirsty, but it was much too much trouble to open his eyes and try to open his cracked lips to ask for a drink. It was so tempting to just not bother.


There was the click of a lock opening and the creak of a door swinging on neglected hinges. The sound of the cards stopped suddenly. Heyes was awake again, but he kept his eyes closed. It seemed the safest thing. If he opened his eyes, they might make him do something. He wasn’t up to doing anything. Maybe not even breathing. But still, he listened.


Heyes heard footsteps coming toward him across a wooden floor. A very familiar tenor voice asked, “Well, Doc, how is he?” It was the Kid. He sounded worried.


“Give me a minute to look him over, Mr. Curry,” said an unfamiliar baritone voice. Someone pulled back the blanket and Heyes began to shiver. He was so cold.


The doctor said, “Well, he’s alive. That’s more that I felt sure of yesterday.”


“Yeah.” Curry tried to sound casual, but Heyes recognized the uncertainty in his partner’s voice.


A gentle hand felt along the wounded man’s ribs.


A tiny gasp escaped from Heyes’ lips.


The doctor continued, “And he’s conscious, at least enough to hurt when I got too close to his wounds. But he’s terribly weak. We have to get him awake enough to get some liquid and nourishment into him, or he won’t make it much longer. It won’t be easy. He’s lost a lot of blood.”


“I know. He bled all over me.”


“And me, when I dug those slugs out of him. The good thing is, I don’t feel any excess warmth. No infection, thus far. If you can keep the wounds clean and dressed like I showed you, he’ll have a chance.”


“But right now, we have to wake him up enough to get something down him. You talk to him. He knows your voice, Mr. Curry.”


“He ought to,” said the Kid. “Heyes! Heyes! Wake up, partner!”


Heyes was so tempted to ignore the insistent, familiar voice. So tempted. But he concentrated as hard as he could and managed to open his eyes. The world looked blurry. The wounded outlaw blinked. His eyes felt dry and grainy.


“Hey there, partner! How are you?” the Kid spoke with a forced cheerfulness that didn’t fool Heyes.


The portly doctor leaning over Heyes put up his hand. “No, don’t try to speak, Mr. Heyes. Save your strength. You must try to drink something.” He reached for a mug. As he turned back to his patient, he saw fear in his eyes. “Don’t worry. I’m Doctor Bates, Mark Bates’ uncle. Mark is that young man who joined you recently. I may not like having my nephew be a thief, but I won’t turn you in.” The uneasiness retreated from Heyes’ distressed brown eyes.


Heyes fought to keep his eyes opened and to keep breathing. He didn’t know if he could drink anything, but he was fiercely thirsty. As a mug approached his face, he opened his lips. The doctor spooned cool water into Heyes’ mouth. It tasted good. It was hard to swallow while he was lying down. Heyes coughed. The cough hurt more than he could believe.


The wounded outlaw didn’t remember passing out or falling asleep. But he must have, since he was waking up again. It was darker than it had been. It must be night, or nearly.


“Heyes,” came the gentle voice of the drunken thief they called the Preacher. “You want some broth? We got some nice and hot for you.”


The wounded man nodded as well as he could. He had to be stronger. He couldn’t have nodded when he had been awake before.


The Preacher spooned a little broth into Heyes’ mouth, cautiously. It was warm, delicious beef broth. The wounded man swallowed more easily, now. He smiled his thanks. He swallowed all he could, first of broth and then of cool water.


The healing man opened his eyes. Again, he had slept without knowing it. Sunlight was streaming into the unfamiliar room through coarse curtains. The stove seemed to be giving more heat. He saw his partner sitting on a chair by the bed, smiling at him. “Heyes, how are you?”


“Hurts,” whispered the wounded man hoarsely. “Hungry.”


The Kid smiled, cheered that his partner was now strong enough to speak. “Well, I ain’t surprised it hurts. You took two pistol shots in the back from the Duvall Gang. We drove ‘em off, don’t worry. They didn’t follow us up to this house, we think. You was hit so bad, and when your lung went all flat, we thought we’d lost you for sure. But Bates’ uncle the doc dug out the lead and patched you up.”


“Doc?” asked Heyes cautiously.


The Kid said, “He had to leave. He does have other folks to help. But he showed us how to nurse you. I guess it’s good you’re hungry. I got some soup for you. You want me to help you sit up a bit so you can eat it better?”


“Careful,” gasped Heyes. His partner did his best to be careful as he helped his weak partner to sit up, but the wounded man hissed in pain and nearly passed out. The Kid plumped up a couple of pillows to support him. When his partner had recovered a bit from the exertion, Curry spooned some soup into him. He couldn’t take much before he fell asleep.


Suddenly, Heyes’ eyes opened again. It was getting dark. He could hear an argument going on in the next room.


“I don’t give a damn if the Duvall Gang is coming, I ain’t leaving Heyes!” said the Kid’s voice loudly enough for Heyes to follow every word. “We can hole up here and shoot it out. I can outshoot any of those boys with my left hand before breakfast and twice on Sundays!”


“I like Heyes as much as any man, Kid. But think straight. You’re leading this bunch now. You got to watch over your flock – all of ‘em. There’s ten of the Duvall boys and four of us, not counting Heyes, now that Gonzalez is dead. How long can we hold out? How many of us might get shot?” the Preacher argued. There was silence.


The exchanges after that were too quiet for Heyes to follow. He dropped off to sleep again.


But he didn’t sleep long.


“Heyes,” said the Kid in a soft, strained voice. The wounded outlaw opened his eyes in the dark.


“Yeah,” said Heyes. He coughed and almost lost consciousness. The pain seemed worse than ever.


The Kid repeated, “Heyes.” He sounded agonized. “Heyes, the Duvall boys are riding this way. They found the house. They got a lot of men. A lot more than us. They know who we are. For $15,000 in reward money, they’ll fight damn hard. Heyes . . .”


“Go! Get the men away safe!” Heyes choked out.


“Heyes, we don’t got a wagon to carry you out of here.”


“I know. What does it matter who buries me?” Heyes voice was very low, but hard. So this was it. He had come to hope that he might live. That hope was gone.


“Heyes, I wanted awful bad to stay and shoot it out for you . . .” The Kid couldn’t finish the awful sentence.


“I know.”


“Heyes. I . . .” The Kid took his partner’s hand.


“I know. Good-bye, partner.”


“Good-bye.” Heyes couldn’t see his partner, but he heard the hard catch in his voice. The Kid shook Heyes’ hand, though his wounded partner had no grip at all.


The door closed. There was soft talk that Heyes couldn’t hear. But a bit later, he could have sworn that he heard his partner’s voice from the next room saying, “I can’t do it. I’ll get the men out safe, then I’ll be back for you, Heyes, I’ll be back! I swear it!” The wounded man had to be imagining that voice. He was too sleepy. He had to be dreaming. There was no way the Kid could come back for him, Heyes knew that. It was a fantasy. But it was such a temptation to believe it. He didn’t want to think his cousin could ever abandon him to die.


It wasn’t much later that Heyes heard the horses riding away. He was alone.


Now, it really was time to give up, to stop fighting. If he lived, it would just mean the Duvall boys would hurt him worse. They would shoot him again. This time, there would be no recovery. There really was no use to try to keep breathing, with that awful pain that struck him with each breath. If only there was another way, but Heyes was too weary and in too much pain to think. It was so hard. He just wanted to give up. Could there possibly be another way? Might the Kid really sneak back?


00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000


Heyes woke suddenly, but kept his eyes closed. Someone was outside the door. Heyes made what preparations he could for greeting hostile company. Then the stranger had opened the door into the room where the wounded outlaw lay in bed. He heard the sound of a match being lit and smelled the kerosene of a lamp.


A voice he didn’t know said softly, “They left somebody. Must be hurt too bad to ride.”


Two sets of footsteps crept closer. The floor creaked. “Oh my God! It’s Heyes. They left Hannibal Heyes! Look at that dimple. Why would they do that? Their leader.”


“You know Horter shot him. Shot him bad. He’d dead, Pat. Heyes is dead.”


“Are you sure?”


“He’s white as a sheet, he ain’t breathing. His arms are crossed over his chest like they do with a man in his coffin. That ain’t a live man, that’s a corpse.”


There was silence for a moment.


“You think his ghost is around here someplace?”


“Do you believe in ghosts?”


“Don’t you?”


The footsteps hurried back across the floor the other way. The lamp was blown out and the door slammed.


Heyes let out the breath he had been holding. He didn’t know why he had done this bit of play acting. Maybe it would buy him an hour. An hour more of this agony. Or maybe less. But somehow, he had to try.


Sometime later, in the dark, Heyes heard more footsteps and the door to his room opened again. Again, the lamp was lit.


A hard voice Heyes hadn’t heard before said, “So, there he is. Hannibal Heyes. Dead as a doornail. All we got to do is set up some kind of go between and turn in the body to get $7,500. The best deed he’s probably ever done, getting us that money.”


“Don’t say that! He looks like he’s nice. Or he was.” The voice was a woman’s. Heyes heard her soft steps approaching. “Poor man!” Heyes felt her fingers brush back a lock of hair off his brow. He held his breath for dear life. The gentle hand pulled back swiftly. “Gracious! He’s still warm!”


“Well, I guess he ain’t been gone long. And somebody left a fire going in that stove.” There was the sound of the stove door opening. “It’s dying down. We need to keep it cold in here until we can line up somebody to come get him off to the law. We don’t want him to spoil.”


“Don’t be disgusting, Dan,” exclaimed the woman.


“Just being practical, honey.” Heyes heard the sound of a kiss.


“Dan! Don’t be scandalous!”


“Come on, where else in this little house stuffed full of outlaws can we get the privacy to do some smooching?”


“There’s a dead man here!"


“So, he can’t watch and he can’t tell. Come on, Trixie, honey. I can put him in that arm chair and we can have the bed.”


“No!” the woman was horrified. “I don’t want you to touch him and I refuse to lie in the bed where he’s been. Don’t you dare disturb the poor man’s body!”


“Oh. Well, he’s gonna be disturbed when the law comes for him. But until then, I guess he can lie there in peace. We can have the chair. Hm.” Heyes heard the man blow out the lamp.


At first Trixie sounded restrained, but then she seemed to forget the dead man lying so near as her man wooed her. Heyes finally dared to breathe shallowly while the couple cuddling in the chair was breathing so much harder than he was. But he wasn’t exactly relaxed. He was facing more than one possibility of painful death.


“Ouch!” cried Dan.


“What is it?” asked his girl.


“That pin of yours stuck me. I’ll take it off.”


Heyes heard the man cross the room and put the pin on the table by the bed. Then he was back to his girl. “No, Dan. Not here. I just can’t take off my clothes with Hannibal lying over there, all white and still.”


“Close your eyes, then.”


“No. I can’t do it.”


“Alright, alright,” Dan gave in. The couple left and the door shut. But they forget to retrieve the pin from the table.


Sunlight blazed through the curtains and woke Heyes. He yawned. The pain in his side seemed a little less, but he was horribly hungry and thirsty. Would he die before the Duvalls discovered he was alive and shot him? He opened his eyes and looked around. He noticed lying on the bedside table a gold pin with a green stone set into it. It sparkled in the morning light. He wondered how much it was worth. Hundreds, at least, he guessed. They had forgotten it, Dan and Trixie. Maybe they wouldn’t miss it.


Or maybe they would. Heyes heard the door lock rattle. He quickly resumed his pose of death.


A high, young voice said, “Golly! There he is! Hannibal Heyes hisself.”


“What did I tell you?”


“So Kid Curry really rode off and left him?”


“With us guys on his tail, he sure did. Where are you going, Henry? Do you really want to get that close to a dead man?” Heyes heard footsteps approaching and what sounded like a pocket knife opening.


“I want a souvenir.”


Heyes’ had to struggle as hard as he ever had in his life not to move or breathe.


“You do?”


“Sure. He won’t miss it.” Heyes’ heart pounded. It seemed impossible not to breathe.


“Don’t touch him!” a third voice said. Heyes thought it sounded like Dan’s. “We don’t want to mess up the bounty on him.”


“He won’t miss a little finger.”


“Leave him be, Henry.”


The footsteps retreated. The door slammed.


Heyes let out his breath. Possums had his sympathy. This playing dead thing was a lot harder than it looked.


Now, the hours went by with dreadful slowness. Heyes could hear voices in other parts of the house. The light crept across the wall. He grew hungrier and hungrier; thirstier and thirstier. He passed out and woke again, even more ravenous. He drifted in and out of sleep, feeling weaker by the hour. He dropped off and then the afternoon light woke him, or a voice outside the door did. Was that his mother’s voice? No, he had been dreaming. Heyes was still alone. And there was no food, no drink, no company.


The Kid would come back. He would, surely. Unless that final promise had been a hallucination or a dream. Now the wounded man was far from sure. Enduring this time in silence was terrible. He needed help. He was dying. He could feel his last strength ebbing. With no food or drink, his will was running low. He could call for help. Surely even the hardened outlaws in the house would help him. A fellow human being needed help – how could they turn him down? But they were the ones who had shot him.


The shadows grew darker. And it grew colder and colder in the bedroom. Heyes began to shiver harder and harder. If someone came in now, he could not possibly carry off the illusion of being dead. He couldn’t stop shaking. He was terrified, but still silent. He passed out again.


He woke. He felt so weak, he could hardly keep up the struggle of breathing. It was so hard. He was dying. Why not just let it happen? But he fought on. The Kid would come, eventually. He had to.


A sharp sound woke Heyes. Someone was in the room. He opened his eyes, but it was too dark to see anything. He heard a match struck.


“Heyes?” The voice was the Kid’s. He had come at last, climbing in the window. There was no mistaking the gust of cold air blowing in the opening, with a swirl of snowflakes.


Heyes tried to reply, but he was too weak and his lips and throat were too parched. He felt a little water trickle in his mouth. It was like the breath of life returning, but oh so little of it coming so slowly. They could take no chances on Heyes’ coughing.


“Thanks!” he croaked.


“I’m taking you away,” said the Kid as he pulled back the covers and began to shift Heyes to make it easier to lift him.


“No. Dying.”


The Kid murmured softly, then grunted and took his partner in his arms. “I ain’t giving up. You’re comin’ with us. Yeah, all the boys are there in the trees. Even brought some more friends.”


Heyes smiled in the dark. Maybe it was just for money, but the boys wanted him alive. If they wanted it, he would keep trying, too.


The Kid staggered toward the window, struggling to balance his partner’s weight. A pair of strong arms reached in the window and a larger man cradled the wounded man, who devoted himself to not weeping or moaning with the agony of being moved.


There was a sound outside the bedroom door. The Kid vaulted through the window. The door flew opened and bullets flew toward the open window. The Kid fired back, then turned and ran.


Heyes wasn’t sure what happened after that. He knew that his wounds were bleeding badly. He knew that he was jounced around over a saddle, padded by blankets but still very uncomfortable. He knew that he was carried a long way. He knew that he passed out. No one could have slept.


Heyes was aware again. He heard voices and felt the unmistakable sensation of a train in motion. He head the whistle blow. “Put that blanket over him, Preacher, while I build up the fire in the stove.”


“Kid, he’s dead. He’s got to be. Nobody could live through that trip from the house in the woods to where your lady friend got us on this train.”


“He’s alive, I tell you,” Curry insisted.


“He’s cold as a frog. I touched him.”


“Sure he’s cold. We carried him miles through the snow. But now he’s on this warm train car and he’ll be fine.”


“Kid, he’s got to be dead,” the Preacher sounded very sad, but convinced.


“When I was carrying him in here, I could feel his blood flowin.”


“You’re just givin’ in to wantin’ him to live, Kid.”


Heyes moaned.


“You really are alive!” crowed the Kid. He helped his partner to a little water from his canteen.


Heyes coughed, but then he whispered, “You came back for me. I couldn’t die on you. Much as I wanted to.”


Curry and the Preacher laughed joyously. The Kid gave Heyes some more water.


“What’s that cooking?” asked Heyes hoarsely. They could hear his stomach growl.


“You’re smelling the steak cooking over in the dining car. You can’t have none. You ain’t well enough,” scolded the Preacher protectively.


“I never been so hungry. It smells awful tempting,” whispered Heyes.


The Kid laughed again and the Preacher laughed with him. They began to think that Hannibal Heyes might just live.
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PostSubject: March - Temptation - Skykomish   Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr EmptySat Oct 01, 2016 6:13 am

March - Temptation - Skykomish






Temptation







     “Hotel first?”  The sideways slide of dark eyes took in the bustling resort of Calistoga Springs.  “Or drink first?”  


    “I'm thirsty.  Let's start with a beer.”  Curry swiped at the dust around his eyes.  “At the Lady Luck or the Silver Dollar?”


    Brown eyes twinkled above a wide smile.  “We could use a little luck.”


    “Or a little lady,” Kid replied with an answering grin.


                                               ________________________________




    A beer and a half later, Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry leaned comfortably against the satiny bar at the Lady Luck observing the poker tables. 


    “Lots of money in these games,” Heyes whispered. 


    “Ain't that why we came?”


    “Yep.”


    “Are ya sure you can manage not to lose too much?”


    Brown eyes widened.  “These are wealthy amateurs, not professional gamblers.  I'll have trouble managing not to win too much.”


    “If ya say so.”
   
    “You gotta have a little faith.”


    Suddenly the Kid's blue eyes turned to ice.  His right hand crept toward his hip.  Heyes followed his partner's gaze, and a sly smile teased out a dimple.  He pushed away from the bar, slapped the dust from his trousers and tugged at the hem of his corduroy vest.


    “No, Heyes.  We're outta here.  That women ain't nothin' but trouble.”


    A petite vision in jade green velvet leaned against the upstairs railing.  Glistening mahogany curls fell in ringlets to grace one creamy, bared shoulder.  Sapphire eyes sparkled with delight when they spied the duo by the bar.  With a graceful nod she swept own the stairs toward Heyes and Curry.


    “We gotta go, Heyes.”


    “She's seen us”


    “I know.  We gotta get outta here.  Outta the whole town.  Maybe the state.”


    “But, she looks happy to see us.”


    “Yeah, like a cat's happy to see a mouse!”


    “Mr. Smith.  Mr. Jones,” she called in a throaty contralto.  “How nice to see you.”


    Heyes' grin stretched until it reached his eyes.  He kissed her lightly on the cheek.  “We're delighted to find you here, Miss—”   He stopped when she gently pressed two finger to his lips. 


    He raised his eyebrows.  “What do I call you?”


    “Trouble,” mumbled Curry.


    She lowered her eyebrows in a reprimand for the blond, before smiling wickedly at his partner.  “Temptation,” she suggested  with a laugh. 


     Curry rolled his eyes


    “It's Vivian Mason, now,” she whispered.  “It's good to see you, Joshua.  And you too, Mr. Jones.  May I buy you a drink?”


    “The lady shouldn't buy,” objected Heyes.


    “But I own this establishment, and I also have a business deal for you.” She laid a  hand on his sleeve. Heyes tucked her hand in the crook of his arm.  Shaking his head, Curry followed them to a table in the back.  At Vivian's gesture, a barmaid hurried over with a bottle and three glasses.


    “To old friends,” she murmured with a raised glass. 


    “Friends,”scoffed Curry.  His eyes darted about the gambling hall.  “Nice place.  Mind if I ask where ya got the money to buy it?”


    With only a frown for Curry, she switched her attention to Heyes. 


    He clinked glasses with her.  “You know, Thaddeus.  Things could of gone worse.”


    “Yes,” purred Vivian, “you could of ended up behind bars.  I took your money, but left you your freedom.  If I had turned you in, I wouldn't need your help now.”


    “Are you threatenin' us?” 


    “No.” She lowered her voice to a bare breath. “Mr. Curry, I am trying to offer you—well, your partner—a business proposition.”


    Curry snorted.  “Yeah, you've propositioned him before.”


    “Vivian, you have to admit, the last time we saw you was expensive,” Heyes added.


    “Let's say that I would like to make that up to you.”  She placed her hand on his, toying with his fingers.


    His mouth returned her smile, but failed to grace his eyes.  “How are you going to do that?”


    “The Silver Dollar Saloon hosts a high stakes poker game every Saturday night.  They invite wealthy men visiting the spas here and some local business men.  No professional gamblers, but they do have some good players.  Mitch Clancy, owner of the Silver Dollar, is the host and usually the best card player.  You could beat him in your sleep, Joshua, and I can get you invited.”


    “We don't have the money for a high stakes buy in.”


    “I 'll stake you for the game.  No risk for you at all.”


    Curry glared and the woman.  “Why would you do that?”


    “Because they won't let women play, and I don't like Mitch Clancy.”


    Heyes sipped his whiskey and exchanged a glance with his partner.  “You're a practical woman, Vivian.  You won't risk,” he paused, “How much is the buy in?”


    “Ten thousand.”


    He whistled at the amount.  “As I was saying, you won't risk that kind of money just because this Clancy is someone you don't like.  What's the real reason?”


    She paused and straightened her skirts.  “I owe him money.  And I don't like being in his debt.  He's not a nice man, Joshua.”


    “How much do you owe him?”


    “Ten thousand.  He loaned it to me when I bought this place, but he's holding it over me.  Pressuring me to pay him back.”


    “Why not just give him the ten thousand instead of staking me for the game?”


    “Because I need that money to make payroll next week and meet other expenses.”


    “You're willing to risk money you need to operate this place to stake me in a poker game? Sounds kinda risky.”


    “I've watched you play poker, Joshua.  I'm not risking much.”


    “What split did you have in mind?”


    Curry raised his eyebrows and frowned.  “You aren't considerin' this, are ya?”


    “Doesn't hurt to listen, Thaddeus.” Heyes returned his attention to the lady.  “The split?”


    “Bring me back twenty thousand dollars and anything above that is yours.”


    “Leaving that game with more than twenty thousand is going to be hard.  How 'bout we split anything over ten thousand?  Sixty/forty?”


    “Why don't you keep anything over twenty thousand, and I refrain from introducing you both to to the sheriff.”


    Heyes and Curry followed her gaze.  A tall man with broad shoulders stood near the main entrance to the Lady Luck.  A shiny tin star was pinned to his vest.  He tipped his hat to Vivian.  She raised her hand in a small wave.


    “You are threatening us,” Curry accused.


    “I prefer to think of it as gentle persuasion.  Besides the stake money is mine.  What do you have to lose?”


    “Twenty years,” Curry muttered.  


    Brown eyes met blue in a quick discussion.  Curry shrugged. 


    “I guess we have a deal, Vivian,” Heyes said.  “What do I do to get invited to this game?”


    “Do you have some nicer clothes with you?”


    “We've got our good suits.”


    “Not the same brown and gray things you wore in Denver?”  She sounded dismayed.


    “What's the matter with our suits?” Heyes challenge.


    “Oh, where would I start?”  She pushed her chair away from the table.  “Never mind.  Do you have a hotel room?”


    Heyes shook his head. 


    “Good.  Finish your whiskey while I speak to the front desk clerk.  Once I go back upstairs, ask for the best available room.”


    “Vivian, we may mot be able to afford your best room.”


    “Don't worry,” she replied quietly, “it will be on the house.  I need Clancy to think you are wealthy.  So wear your, um, best clothes, and order an expensive dinner.  I suspect you have had practice playing the big spender.  Mr. Jones will pose as your security.  Flash some money around and play poker.  I suspect that is what you were planning to do anyway.  I will take care of securing you an invitation to Clancy's game on Saturday.”


_____________________________________


   
    Saturday night the backroom at the Silver Dollar was lit by a large chandelier made of elk antlers and fat candles.  The leather chairs around the felt covered poker table were deep and comfortable.  Cigar smoke hung in a low cloud that dispersed the candle light in thick streams.  The clack of chips, the clink of glasses, and the murmur from the gambling hall outside the thick double doors were the only sounds.  Squatting in the center of the table was a pile of chips totaling just over fifteen thousand dollars.


    “I'm going to call, Mr. Clancy.”  Heyes broke the silence and added another a stack of chips.


    Clancy smiled and fanned out a flush, queen high.  He reached for the pile.


    “Not so fast,” cautioned Heyes laying down a full house.  “I believe these are mine,” he beamed as he raked in the pile of chips. 


    Curry scanned the other players from his seat against the wall, wishing he had his colt at his side instead of the “pea shooter” tucked into his coat pocket.  No one seemed upset though.  Even Clancy acknowledged Heyes' win with a gracious nod. 


    “Good hand, Mr. Smith.”  Clancy pushed his chair away from the table.  “I think that I need some more chips.  And it's time to send for sandwiches.  Deal me out for a hand or two, gentlemen.”


    Their host strolled to a low table in the corner.  A man with a tied down six-shooter stood next to the table.   Clancy handed him a pile of crisp bills.  “More chips, Silas.”  Silas counted the bills and then placed them neatly into a strong box.  After a tallying a pile of chips, he handed the stack of colored disks to Mr. Clancy.  “Silas, please go to the kitchen and bring back a tray of sandwiches for my guests?”


    “Of course, Mr. Clancy.”  He left  through a side door that opened onto a quiet hallway. 


    After his man had left, Clancy replaced a bar on the inside of the side door and returned to the table.  He watched the poker hand in progress and lit a cigar. 


    A few minutes later, Clancy rose to answer a soft knock.  “The sandwiches, my friends,” he announced, lifting the bar that secured the door. 
   
    The door flew open hitting the wall with a thud.  A dark clad arm shot forward and clamped around Clancy's shoulder.  A shiny colt jabbed into his neck.  The man holding Clancy was masked with a handkerchief, and his hair was hidden beneath his hat.  Three other masked men sprang into the room holding steady six guns on the men at the table.  A fourth man pointed a revolver directly at Kid Curry. 


    “Freeze, Mister.  Take your hand away from your coat. Real slow like.”  Curry did as instructed.  The masked man opened Curry's jacket with the barrel of his revolver.  He removed the Derringer from the inside pocket with his other hand and shoved the small pistol into his belt. 


    “Now everybody jest keep yer hands where we can see 'em,” instructed the man holding Clancy.  He cocked his head at one of his henchmen.  “Get the money.  The rest of you.  Tie 'em up.” 


    One man scooped up the strong box open on the table.   The others quickly lashed the poker players to the chairs.   Within minutes the leader was backing out into the hall, dragging a wide eyed Mitch Clancy with him. 


___________________________________
   


    The Sheriff, a man named Ferguson, stuck his pencil behind his ear and walked over to Heyes.  All of the poker players were gathered in the back room of the Silver Dollar.  Mitch Clancy was still missing.


    “Name?”


    “Smith.  Joshua Smith.”


    “How much did ya lose, Mr. Smith?”


    “Twenty-seven thousand four hundred sixty-three dollars, Sheriff.”


    “Kinda precise, ain't ya.  You a Banker?”


    “I've dabbled in banking.” 


    The Kid stared at him.


    “I'm rather particular when I'm winning at poker and someone steals everything,” Heyes explained.
   
    “Have you had your poker winnings stolen before, Mr. Smith?”


    “It's happened.”


    “Hmmpf.  Where're you staying?”


    “The Lady Luck.”


    “Did you see anything that will help identify the thieves?”


    “No.  I had my back to the door.” 


    “You can go, but don't leave town.”


    “Am I a suspect?”


    “Everyone is suspect 'til we find Mitch Clancy.  Just don't leave town.”


    Curry started to follow Heyes toward the door, but was stopped by Sheriff Ferguson. 


    “Where d'ya think yer goin'?”


    “He's my security man and traveling companion,” Heyes answered.


    “Don't he talk?”


    “Of course, he talks.”


    “Then let him,”snarled the lawman.


    “What's your name, security man and traveling guy?”


    “Thaddeus Jones.”


    “How long have you worked for Smith?”


    Curry's eyes found Heyes.


    “About three years.”


    “Before that?”


    “I did security for a rancher down in Texas.”


    “This rancher gotta name?”


    “Big Mac McCreedy.”


    “Did you get a look at the bandits?”


    “They were all masked and had their hats pulled low.  Nothing to notice.  Real professionals.”


    “Thanks for the information, Mr. Jones.  You stay in town with your boss.”


    “By the way, sheriff.  How much did they get away with?”


    “Over eighty thousand dollars.”


    “That's a lot of money.”


    “Yep.”


____________________________________


      “Where's Miss Mason,” Heyes demanded when he and the Kid entered the Luck Lady.


    “In her office,” the bartender answered.


    Heyes beat Curry up the stairs.  After a quick knock, he pushed through the door with his partner on his heels.


    “What happened?” Vivian asked. 


    “You set us up,” Heyes accused.  He treated Vivian to an outlaw leader glare. 


    “I did no such thing.  Why would you think that I had something to do with the robbery?”


    “Because now you have over eighty thousand dollars instead of only twenty thousand.”


    “I am not a thief.   You and Mr. Kid Curry have the skills to do this.  I should be blaming you two.”


    “But we didn't do it.”


    “Neither did I.”


    The threesome stared at each other. 


    Curry broke the silence.  “She didn't do it, Heyes.” 


    “When did you join her side?”


    “There were four of' 'em, and they knew what they were doin'.”


    “By the time she split the money with them, she wouldn't gain anything over the deal with us.”


    “Yep.  And she's too smart to have that many people in on the job for no gain.”


    “Well thank you for admitting that I have intelligence.”


    Curry pinned her with his eyes.  “I didn't mean it as a compliment.  It's just a fact.”


    Heyes stalked over to the window and poured himself a drink from a bottle set out on a table.  He sipped the whiskey while studying the street below.  “Who did it then?  Was it just a robbery?  Clancy had tight security, until he opened the side door.”  He sank onto a settee, his eyes  flicking back and forth between his two companions. 


    Vivian sank down next to him.  “Clancy opened the door for the robbers?”


    “He thought it was his man Silas with the sandwiches.”


    “He sent Silas out of the room?”  She ran a finger up and down Heyes' arm.  “It was Mitch Clancy.  He doesn't use Silas as a waiter.  That man is his top security thug.”


    Heyes clasped her hand to stop its wandering, but he didn't let go of it.  “Why would Clancy rob his own game.”


    “Eighty thousand dollars.”


    “But he would have to pay off the outlaws.  It's not worth it.”
   
    “Unless they already work for him,” Curry added.


    “But why?  He's a wealthy man.  Vivian even owes him money.”
   
    “Yeah, and he's been pressuring her to pay up.”


    Vivian bit the inside of her lip.  “He's also been trying to sell off some mining assets.  Maybe things are not as rosy as Mr. Clancy wants everyone to think.”


    A knock on the door stopped the conversation. 


    “Who is it?”


    “Sheriff Ferguson, ma'am.”


    Heyes stood up and darted a glance at Curry.  The Kid's eyes were scanning the room for another exit. 


    “Relax,” mouthed Vivian. 


    With a deep sigh, Heyes sank down onto the settee.  Vivian opened the door for the sheriff.  Ferguson tipped his hat to Miss mason, but frowned at the two men.


    “Clancy said you boys would be here.”  The sheriff drew his gun.  


    Heyes stood up slowly.  Curry stood with his hands in view.


    “What's going on, Sheriff?” asked Vivian, affecting slight tremor in her voice.


    “Mitch Clancy's back.”


    “Is he all right,” asked Curry.


    “A little bruised, but he'll mend.  He's accusin' you of settin' up the robbery, Ms. Mason.  He says that you are in this with those two fellas over there.   Claims his men saw them arrive, and that you greeted them like old friends.”


    “Why would I rob anyone?”


    “Because you owe Clancy money and can't pay.  He was real clear about that.  He even offered to produce the paper work.”


    “I admit I owe him money, but that doesn't mean I robbed his poker game.  Mr. Smith lost money too.  Would I rob my own fiend?”


    “I don't like this, Miss Mason, but I have to consider Clancy's accusations.  How well do you know Mr. Smith?”


    “Not well.  We met once in Denver.  I let Clancy know that he was a good poker player interested in a high stake game.  That's all.”


    “Miss Mason is telling the truth,” added the Kid.


    “She sure is, Sheriff.  She and I met once in Denver.”


    “I'll need names of people who can vouch for you, Mr. Smith.”


    “Sheriff Lom Trevers in Porterville, Wyoming and Clementine Hale in Denver,” offered Heyes. 
    “Write 'em down.”


    Heyes wrote the names and handed the paper to the sheriff. 


    “Miss Mason, you need to stay in town as well.  It'd be best if ya kept to the Lady Luck until this is all sorted.”  He left with his deputy trailing behind.


    Heyes sank back onto the settee with an explosive sigh once the door was shut.


    “Vivian, do you have a back door and some horses we can use?” asked the Kid.


    “You're not leaving me alone in this mess.  Besides if you disappear what is the sheriff going to think.”


    “She's right, Kid.  He'll think we pulled the job.  How long do you think it will take him to compare our descriptions with our wanted posters and come up with Heyes and Curry?”


    “About as long is it will take Miss Vivian Mason to walk to his office and tell him who we are.”


    “I wouldn't do that.”


    “You've already threatened it,” Heyes reminded her.


    “I have day dreamed about you in hand cuffs, Joshua, but I don't want you behind bars.”  She sat next to Heyes ad took his hand in both of hers.  “Running is a bad idea.   We need to prove that Clancy stole the money.”


    “How?”


    She gazed through lowered lashes and chuckled.  “I recorded the serial numbers from the bills I gave you for the poker stake.”


    “You recorded the serial numbers?”


    “I was nervous.   L gave ten thousand dollars of my money to you.  But now it's working to our advantage.  If you can recover it, I can prove that it's the stolen poker money.”


    “You want us to find it?”


    “I don't know how to break into a building and open a safe, but I am sure that you two can manage it.”


    “Why don't we just tell the sheriff and have him search Clancy's place?” asked the Kid.


    “The sheriff isn't going to search Mitch Clancy's saloon or home without evidence.”


    “How do we explain showing up with money from Clancy's safe, Heyes?”


    “I'm working on it.”  He poured another whiskey.  “Vivian, did you record the serial numbers on all the bills?  The hundreds and the twenties?”


    “Yes.  Does I matter?”


    “It might.”  A smile worked its way from dimple to dimple.


    Curry grinned.  “Ya gotta plan.”


    “I think so.  Vivian, I need a hundred dollar bill.”


    “I think I've trusted you with enough money, Joshua.”


    “If you want the rest of it back, I need the hundred dollar bill.”


__________________________________




    Heyes and Curry walked into the Silver Dollar and took places at the bar. 


    “A bottle of your best Cognac,” ordered Heyes.  “I heard that Mr. Clancy made it back.  Is he here?”


    “I'm here, Mr. Smith.” Clancy joined them.  His face was bruised and he favored his right leg as he walked.


    “I'm glad you're safe, Mr. Clancy.  Has your game been robbed before?”


    “No, this is the first time.”


    “I guess that I was just unlucky for me then.”


    The bartender returned with the bottle and two glasses.  Heyes handed him the hundred dollar bill.  “May I take it, Mr. Clancy.”


    Clancy reached for the bill and examined it carefully.  “It looks fine.  Go ahead and give Mr. Smith his change.”


    The bartender returned with the change and poured two glasses.


    “Care to join us, Mr. Clancy,” Heyes asked. 


    “Thank you, but I still have work to finish before I can go home.  Enjoy your cognac.”


    Heyes rotated the bowl of the snifter before tasting the amber fluid.  “Let's finish these and move on,” he whispered.  “We've got work to finish too.”


___________________________________


      Mitch Clancy's dark house hunkered amid a clump of trees, a looming shadow in the moonless night. 


    “What makes you think he stashed the money here, Heyes?”


    “It wasn't found on him when he turned up in town.”


    “Let's get this done.”


    They crept onto the porch.  Heyes inserted a knife between the window panes and teased open the lock.  He stepped into the room, and Curry slipped in after him.  It didn't take long to find Clancy's study.  Heyes picked the locks on the roll-top desk and searched it for any sign of the stolen poker money.


    Curry searched the rest of the room. 


    “I can't find anythin', Heyes.  Any luck with the desk?”


    “Nothing.  I guess it's not in this room.”


    “We can't search the whole house.”


    “We can't afford not to.  Do you want that sheriff checking us out?.”


    They prowled back to the door.  Curry looked over the room one more time.  “Wait a minute.”  He glided to the back wall and lifted a cloth that was draped over a round table.  “Heyes.  I found it,” he hissed.


    His partner had an ear pressed to the safe in a heartbeat.  Within minutes a soft click told Curry that Heyes had succeeded.  Pulling a candle out of his pocket, Heyes sheltered a match as he lit it.  By the flickering light, he rifled through the safe.


    “Look at these, Kid.  Clancy has some major debts.  He's been speculating and doing a poor job of it.  He needs cash.”


    “Where's the money?”
   
    Soon Heyes lifted a familiar strong box from the safe.  He pulled a paper from his pocket and squinted carefully at the bills inside the box, comparing the numbers on the twenty dollar notes with those on the paper. 


    “Got one,” he announced triumphantly, pocketing the money.    He quickly replaced the contents and closed the safe.  “Let's go.”


___________________________________
   
    Heyes and Curry were sitting on a porch outside of the Lucky Lady the next morning when the sheriff escorted  Mitch Clancy to the jail in hand cuffs. 


    “Lock him up.  I'll be along shortly,” Sheriff Ferguson instructed his deputy.


    “Mr. Smith,” he began,“it sure was lucky how you got that stolen twenty dollar bill as change when you bought the brandy last night.  Sure was handy that Ms. Mason had the serial numbers all recorded.  You might almost think that she was plannin' somethin'.”


    “What would Miss Mason have to gain by Mitch Clancy going to jail?”


    “Less competition?”


    “Still doubting me, Sheriff?”   The lady in question joined them on the porch. 


    “Not really.  It just seems peculiar.”  He tipped his hat.  “Good day to you ma'am.”


    Heyes looked her directly in the eyes.  “He's got a point you know.  This has worked out well for you.”


    “We work well together.  Maybe I should hire you to manage my gambling hall.”


    “Vivian, are you trying to tempt me,” teased Heyes. 


    “Is it working?”


    “Oh you're tempting, but working for you would cost more than we could ever afford.”
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PostSubject: April - Bluff - InsideOutlaw    Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr EmptySat Oct 01, 2016 6:19 am

April - Bluff - InsideOutlaw 



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




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




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




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




“I’m serious.” 




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




 “It’s all I’ve got, Kid.”




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




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




“Makes sense.”  




The partners fell silent as they neared their men.  




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




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




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




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




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




oooOOOooo




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




“Maybe forty or so cartridges.”




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




“That’s real encouraging, Kid.”




“Hey, I calls ‘em as I sees ‘em.”




oooOOOooo




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




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




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




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




“No.  Better.  I’ve got an idea.”




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




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




“I ain’t hungry.”




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




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




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




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




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




oooOOOooo  




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




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




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




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




“Hey!  I wasn’t done.”




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




“What the hell are you doin’, Heyes?”




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




oooOOOooo




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




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




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




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




The two outlaws could still hear the sound of the sheriff’s swearing floating down the hillside as they rounded up the string of horses before riding towards home. 
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PostSubject: April - Bluff - cjp242   Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr EmptySat Oct 01, 2016 6:21 am

April - Bluff - cjp242


Bluff




I'm loitering in a small saloon in Browntown, sipping a beer. It's a quiet evening. There's penny-ante poker games at a couple of tables, but I'm on my own – the Kid's on the road, deliverin’ – so I watch the players real careful, not just fer their skill and any tells I can pick up early, but to see if they're stayin' sober and takin' losin' peaceable. I'd rather not be lookin' down the barrel of a gun without the Kid at my back.
At the table behind me an old man is regaling anyone who’ll listen with tall tales of Injuns, gold strikes, an’ cattle rustlin’ – the sorta thing you might hear in any saloon west of the Mississippi, just background noise, not worth listening to. Then his voice rises higher with excitement…


‘… saw Wes Hardin once, a man so mean he shot a fella fer snorin’. I was passin’ through Waco when he gunned down two hombres, there in the street, right in fronta my eyes. Had his holstas sewn inta his vest, and drew his guns out crosswise, that fast, blink an’ you’d uv missed it. Heard he'd killed more ‘n 40 men … but I've seen a couple faster, yes sirhee!'


He pauses for effect and to draw on his beer. Now I’m listenin’ to every single word, an’ his buddies egg him on. ‘Who cud be faster than Hardin?’ ‘Have ya seen Kid Curry?!’ 'whoee!'


‘Why no boys, itweren’t Curry, never seen Curry. I've heard tell he’s the fastest, but I reckon these two I saw wuld give him a run fer his money.’ I’m all ears now, anxious to hear about any possible rivals to my partner, Jedediah ‘Kid’ Curry aka Thaddeus Jones.


‘I were stayin’ a spell in Matherville, afta bein’ laid up by a cave-in…' I keep my back to them and pull my hat lower, listening intently, because I know what the old man’s talkin’ about now, and I, Hannibal Heyes, former leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang, was right there under the alias Joshua Smith.


‘…an’ a fella named Danny Bilson rides inta town. Sure looks the part, sharp suit, fancy waistcut, shiny boots, walks with a kinda swagga. Only bin there one week, when he buys the saloon, cash down – it’s the talk uv the whole town, and all the gals who're no betta than they aughta be start clusterin’ round. Marilyn's the prettiest of the whole bunch an 'a favourite with Jo Short, one uv the ranchers thereabouts, so the two men start an altercation – now, Jo was an ornery crittur, mean as a grizzlie, an’ he had a reputation among us – nobody who knew him tangled with Jo, so's we try an’ warn off the new fella, who’s liked well enuff an' always has a big toothy grin plastered over his face, but he don’t listen… and blow me, but he guns down ol’ Jo, slicker th’n spit offa griddle.


‘Now, I'm not sayin' it weren't a fair fight, Jo'd brought the bullet on hisself an’ we was pleased to be rid of him, but we start to spec’late how Danny had got his pile. He said he'd worked a profitable claim and at first we’d believed him, though he was sleek as a cat, not a hairy coon like the miners we knew. Anyhow Bill Biggins, the sheriff, when he sees the fast draw, takes a look through his wanted posters. Doesn’t find nothing. But afta another coupla cowboys are six feet under, we start to regret the loss of the old devil, Jo, now we’re stuck with the new one. Aint never seen a shark, but I heard they got a row of big front teeth and I reckon Bilson had much the same look.


‘Anyways, one day a coupla driftas mosey into town. Nothing ta look at, sorta dusty an' down at heel. An' they go inta the saloon fer a drink, an' accordin' to Marilyn – she reckoned they knew him cos she saw ‘em in the back room havin' words.


‘An’ we wondered what that were all about, but they stuck around town 'bout a week and nothing more happened – they was quiet fellas, minding their own business – so we lost interest.


‘Then one day these two driftas decide it’s time ta move on, an' Bilson, he goes plumb crazy. He’s out on the street, shootin' his mouth off, standin' up on his hind legs yellin' at one of 'em – handsome young fella with a mustache, but you could see by his clothes not a cent to his name, so we knew he couldn’t be no shootist. An’ hearin’ the ruckus, ol' Mort sticks his head out the funeral parlor and started sizin' him up fer a wooden overcoat.


‘This young cowpoke's a real peaceable fella, tryin' to make it over ta his hoss ta git outta town, but Bilson’s all riled up an' feelin' mean – says how the young un’s a sore loser, an’ plannin' to creep in at night ta shoot him in the back. An’ that were odd, cos those strangers had set tongues waggin' when they rode in, so we knew all what they’d bin doin’ an’ that kid weren’t no gambler an’ hadn't lost a dime.


‘Now, the sheriff in Matherville had this rule, if you start a fight, you'd betta lose or you'll have an appointment with the noose, so if the shootin' started, Bilson was a walkin' corpse either way. An' we were kinda sorry fer the young fella, but glad to be rid of the smilin' devil, an’ we scattered outta the line uv fire, to watch the show from a safe angle. An' Bilson works hisself up some more till he goes fer his gun, first. An’ dang it, next thing we know he's lyin' on the ground breathing his last, and the young fella – his name wuz Jones, Thaddeus Jones – he wuz standin' there with his gun in his hand – one moment it’s in his holsta, the next smoke’s cumin’ out the end of the barrel, and Danny plugged straight through the heart. It were that quick I never saw it. You ask anyone who's the fastest, an' none of em's heard of Thaddeus Jones; everyone says 'Kid' Curry could outdraw the devil hisself, but I reckon if those two ever face each other, why that would be a fine sight!’





I sit there smilin', an' finish my drink. The old man's tellin’ the story just as we intended, how any eyewitness would see it, how we wanted it to appear… but appearances can be deceptive. Bilson hadn’t run mad at all. My partner and I spent months huntin’ him down and trapped him in his lair, so like any cornered beast, he turned to defend himself. You see, Danny Bilson, had bin prospectin’ just like he said – with me and the Kid and an old man named Seth. Then he stole all our money, leaving us fer dead in the desert. Old Seth’s bones are bleaching there still, but bull-headed determination carried me and the Kid out, with just one thing in our minds, so, finally, we tracked Bilson down to Matherville.


At first, we're both fumin', impotent, until we see Bilson shoot down a fool loser, and the sheriff lets him walk away scot free. Then the Kid strides inta the lawman’s office wi’ me trailin’ in his wake.  An’ this is odd in itself, cos Kid is none too fond of men sportin' tin stars and usually it’d take wild horses to drag him anywhere near. But he marches in, straight as one uv his own bullets, and he asks how come Bilson aint in jail. And if there had been folks listenin' in, I guess they'd uv thought he was talkin' ta the sheriff, but he's really talkin' ta me. He's explainin' how, workin' together, we can bring Bilson down and escape a hangin' party, but typical Kid, he don't waste words on spellin it out, and in any case, he knows if he comes out plain, I'll argue, that I'll balk at deliberately setting him up against another fast draw.  




As we come outta the office, I ask, ‘Alright, what was that all about?’


‘I dunno. Could be I was thinkin’ uv pushin’ our smilin’ friend inta a fight.’


‘What! But yer not thinkin’ that any more, right?’ Of course, the Kid says that’s the last thing on his mind, an’ I guess in a way he’s speakin’ the truth – I’m the one with the words.


So back at our hotel room, he starts to clean his gun, and says, why don't I go down to the saloon fer a few hands of poker, make a few dollars an' have a little fun before we leave.


I run my hat round in my hands a couple of times and check, 'You sure? If yer OK here on your own, I'll go over to the saloon now.' He nods and gives a small, tight smile, 'Ya do that, Heyes.'


But of course, Jedediah Kid Curry and Danny Bilson, and I, we all know I hate Bilson's guts, and there's no way on earth I'd drink and go play poker in his house, without I had some particular reason. And, as the Kid also knows, I'm a liar, even to myself: if all I'm doing is going into a saloon to play cards, as I've done countless times, and have a nice friendly chat, where can be the harm in that?


After just a couple of hands, I get up to leave and Bilson strolls over.
‘You leavin’ town Joshua?’
‘That’s right, learnt a long time ago when you got a losin’ hand you just toss it in.’
‘How does yer friend Thaddeus feel about that?’
‘You’ll hafta ask him that.’
‘Yea, I just might do that.… Ya know, you I understand, you know how to lose, but I’m just not quite so sure about Thaddeus. How does he feel about losin’, huh?’
‘I said, you’ll hafta ask him that.’
‘Yea, I will.’
‘On second thought Danny, doan ask him. The smartest thing fer yu ta do is lay low fer a while. We’ll be ridin’ outta here in ten minutes.’ Nicely judged, I thought.


I go get Thaddeus – the Kid – and watch the two shootists face off. Then doubts creep in – I’ve bin telling myself Kid is the fastest gun in the West and would never be fool enough to set up the fight unless he could take Bilson. But then I start to reflect on how hard he's taken Seth's death – there was something of our own grandpa about the old man, and it occurs to me Kid, who's ruled by his emotions, might be getting the death of his family mixed up in his head with this latest killin'. Then I face the truth, Kid don't wanta die but he's kinda careless with his own life. Now I'm really scared, what have I done? But there’s no way to stop it now.


Of course, the Kid walks away – I aint a man who feels scruples about lying and if truth be told, I'm a little prone to exaggeration – a top poker player don't lose to a three-fingered chuck wagon driver with one eye in a hole like Apache Springs – but that the Kid is the fastest gun in the West, that's Gospel. If it weren’t I’d uv lost my partner long ago.


One thing I should tell you about the Kid, he’s the most honest outlaw, the most honest man, I know. He would never shoot anyone in the back, and if Bilson had held his nerve and called our bluff, he coulda sat tight in his saloon without harm comin’ to a hair on his head. But my silver tongue combined with Kid's – what shall I call it? – his aura, that tipped Danny over the edge. And of course, being a back-shooter himself inclined him to think the worse of others.


An' I reckon there were a touch of hubris too – I'd come across that word inna book and it means someone too cocky by half trippin’ over his own spurs, and that were Bilson all over.


And as we walk away from the body, not wantin’ to admit I set my best friend up against a killer while I stood by,  I say, ‘Kid, now I know why you talked to the sheriff, ya had a hunch Danny was goin’ to challenge you, didn’t ya?’


‘I guess that’s what it was Heyes a hunch. It sure wasn’t a hope. I think Danny coulda outshot me easy shootin’ atta target, maybe a plate, but I got lucky he was shootin’ at a target that could shoot back. I guess that made the difference.’


Then the Kid kicked on his horse – which was just as well or I woulda flattened him. But lookin’ back on it now, I guess he meant he weren’t like Danny, gunning down raw meat – he’d been willin’ to put his life on the line against a skilled shootist to get justice for old Seth.


Anyway, that was the last word said on the matter. I did try and broach the topic once, after the Kid woke  sweatin’, but the look he gave me … I won’t ever mention it again.





… the conversation behind me has moved on to the price of beeves, and I walk out to my horse. I'll take the road to Abilene to meet Kid before he reaches town. My partner’s one of a kind – a fast-draw that shuns the adulation that’s part and parcel of his profession, he sure as hell won't want to be fawned over cos of Matherville. What shall I say? …a grin splits my face – I'll tell him the law in Browntown is good ol’ honest Curt Clitterhouse.
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr   Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr EmptyWed Nov 02, 2016 1:50 pm

Oooh!  I forgot to declare the winner for the second heat of Story Of The Year.  Sorry about that.  


Congratulations, Skykomish.  It's a great story amongst so many winners.  


Congrats1 Congrats1 Congrats1
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Silverkelpie

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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr   Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr EmptyWed Nov 02, 2016 2:06 pm

Congratulations, Skykomish.
Congrats 3

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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr   Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr EmptyWed Nov 02, 2016 2:25 pm

Congratulations, Skykomish Congrats 4
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr   Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr EmptyWed Nov 02, 2016 6:43 pm

Congrats Skykomish! cheers

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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr   Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr EmptyThu Nov 03, 2016 5:35 am

Congratulations, Skykomish.  I don't read nearly enough from you and really enjoyed this. 
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr   Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr EmptyThu Nov 03, 2016 5:52 am

Congratulations on your win, Skykomish
Congrats 2
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr   Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr EmptyThu Nov 03, 2016 9:42 am

Congratulations, Skykomish
Congrats 3
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr   Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr EmptyThu Nov 03, 2016 9:44 am

Congratulations, Skykomish  Guntoot

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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr   Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr EmptyThu Nov 03, 2016 9:46 am

Congratulations, Skykomish Congrats 4
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr   Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr EmptyThu Nov 03, 2016 10:12 am

Congrats, Sky -- Loved the story!

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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr   Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr EmptyMon Nov 07, 2016 9:08 am

Congratulations Skykomish -- great story!
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PostSubject: Re: Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr   Story Of The Year 2016 Jan - Apr EmptyTue Nov 08, 2016 8:42 am

Wow,  I just logged in and what a great birthday gift!  You are all so kind.  Thank you.  Vivian has more to say and I hope to appease her by telling the rest of her story soon.

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