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 Friends And Foes - Part 1

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Silverkelpie

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PostSubject: Friends And Foes - Part 1    Thu Dec 15, 2016 11:44 am

Friends and Foes

Part 1



Kid Curry looked deeply into the provoking, irritated brown eyes.  “Ma’am, give me your hand.  I’ll help you down.  Ain’t nobody gonna get hurt as long as everyone does what they’re told.”


Abigail MacKinnon glowered at him, her tight, black curls shimmering as they bounced around in reaction to her angry tremor.  “I don’t need help from the likes of you.  I can get off this train on my own.” 


Her lilting Scottish brogue surprised him slightly as he took in the intense, accusing eyes.  They were as dark as Heyes’ but more almond shaped, almost feline, in appearance, but much she was getting on his last nerve.  “It’s about three feet of a drop without a railway platform.  I ain’t goin’ to let you turn an ankle on our account.”


He smiled patiently before putting his hands around her waist, lifting her easily off the steps.  She exploded in anger and started to buck and writhe in his arms.  “Take your hands off me!”


Heads were turning, both outlaws and passengers catching the fury in her voice.  He didn’t need this: he had a job to do; to make sure that the passengers were corralled into a controllable group outside of the train and to ensure that the outlaws guarding them behaved as they should.  She was a distraction and he had had enough.  “As you please, ma’am.”   He let her go, a mischievous grin spread on his face. 


She was still a few inches from the ground and the drop took her by surprise as she tumbled backwards down the small incline, landing in an undignified tumble of petticoats and frilly drawers in the dust.  “You did that deliberately.”


He tipped the brim of his hat in a gesture of mock civility.  “Just did as you asked, ma’am.”  His eyes hardened.  “Best get yourself over to the grass and take a seat.  I need everyone away from the train.”


She glared at his receding back as she rose to her feet with as much dignity as she could muster, dusting off her blue dress and rearranging her coiffure.  “If I were a man I’d drop you where you stand.”


He turned slowly and deliberately, pinning her with a hard stare, looking her up and down, before he spoke in calm, but chilling, tones.  “I wouldn’t recommend that you or anyone else try it.  Now do as you’re told and go and sit down.”  He waved a dismissive hand.  “Wheat!  Help the lady.”


“You enjoy throwing your weight around, don’t you?  I’d bet your mother’s really proud to call her son a thief.”


She noted that her words had landed as he stiffened slightly before he walked silently away to join the rest of the gang.  The mustachioed outlaw stretched out a gloved hand towards her elbow.  “Ma’am, best come over here with the rest of the folks.” 


She jerked away.  “I can go by myself.  I don’t need you manhandling me too.”


“Good,” he grinned.  “Any chance of you doin’ me that any time soon?  Kid Curry ain’t as patient with me as he was with you.  We don’t want him comin’ back, do we?”


She narrowed her eyes and stared off at the tall lean figure.  “Maybe I don’t scare as easily as you do?”  


“Lady, that’s for damned sure.  I ain’t dumb enough to pick a fight with him even if you are.  Now git movin’.” 


oooOOOooo


They had ridden furiously for about two miles before they walked the horses to allow them to rest.  The bulging saddlebags flopped satisfyingly against the sweating horseflesh as Heyes drew up to his tense partner.   “Quite a job, huh?  Good haul.”  His brown eyes glittered as he beamed an encouraging smile at the uncommunicative man beside him. 


“Uh huh.”


Heyes narrowed his eyes.  “What’s up?  It all went well, didn’t it?”


The Kid gave an indifferent shrug.  “Sure.”


The leather saddle creaked as he turned to face the stony faced man beside him.  “Let’s have it.  What’s wrong?  Was it that woman?”


The Kid’s eyes flicked over to his cousin in surprise.  “How’d you know about that?”


“Preacher told me.  What she say?  It looks like she got under your skin.  Some women are real gifted at that.”


“Yeah, like you’re gifted at gettin’ into a safe.”  The Kid flicked up an eyebrow.  “Nothin’ much.  She just annoyed me, that’s all.”


“I heard you’d let her take a tumble.  Isn’t that enough to salve your pride?”  He grinned, dimpling his cheeks.  “Hurt her dignity. I’d say.”


“S’pose.”


They rode on in silence, the gunman feeling the intensity of Heyes’ scrutiny as they continued until he felt fit to burst.  “What?  What do you want?”


“She got to you.  I can tell.  What did she say?”


The muscle in his jaw flinched before he spoke.  “She said that she hoped my ma was proud of me.  It got me thinkin’.  Thinkin’ too much.  It’s just that time of year.  The month...when it happened.”


Heyes took a deep breath knowing exactly what seam of pain the woman had mined.  “She wouldn’t have known what happened to our folks, Kid.  She was angry, just lashin’ out.  Don’t let it get to you.”


“Yeah,” the Kid nodded curtly, kicked his mount into action and galloped off, his stiff back standing out starkly against the low winter sun which painted purple dashes across acres of mackerel skies. 


oooOOOooo


Pearl Du Bois propped her hands on her hips and squared up to the burly man in front of her.  “A drink?  We ain’t a bar.”


 “You serve drinks,” he protested.


“Yeah, to patrons while they’re waiting.  This is a high class establishment.  You only get a drink if you’re bookin’ one of the girls.”  She cast out a hand to the array of women in peignoirs and pinched-in corsetry.  “If you want to drink here you gotta book a girl.”


“I ain’t in the mood,” he growled through a messy moustache.  “I had a hard day.”


“You ain’t in the mood for a pretty girl?” Pearl smirked.  “This ain’t the place for you, my friend.  That’s what we sell.”


The man’s dark eyes burned into the madam.  “I’ve been told you look after folks here.  I got a good reason why I can’t go to the saloon.  I got seven men outside lookin’ for a good time.  I’m sure you can leave me to drown my sorrows on my own for that money.”


“Seven?”  Pearl’s eyes danced with lights of cupidity.  “Are they gonna pay?”


“Cash,” the man nodded.  “They got some steam to burn off too.”


“So why can’t you go to the saloon?” Pearl queried.


The stranger shuffled and looked down at his feet. “We’re kinda...  The law might mistake us for someone else.  I need to lie low.” 


Pearl nodded slowly.  “Sure.  I can help, but I run a tight ship.  I got men who’ll plug any of ya at the first sign of trouble.”  She pointed a lacquered fingernail at the door.  “Whatever you do out there, stays out there; it’s neutral territory.  In here you leave weapons at the door, no violence, no spittin’, and you pay upfront.  In return I’ll give you the best security to guard you so you can really relax and have fun.  None of my people ever speak to the law.  You’re as safe as houses here whether you’re a bishop, politician, or a thief.  That’s how I built my reputation.  It’s one hundred dollars apiece.  Deal?”


“Deal.  I heard good things about this place.  We can’t usually afford high end like this, but we got paid today and deserve a treat.”  He glanced at the burly security men by the door and proffered his gun, butt first.  “To show my good will. And that’ll be seven hundred dollars?”


“Eight hundred, there are eight of you.  You get the facilities, so you pay too.  It ain’t my problem if’n you don’t use them.”  Pearl gestured towards the security men at the door.  “Let ‘em in, boys.”  She sashayed over to a paneled door which swung open to reveal a collection of settees, loves seats, and chaise longues in florid greens, purples, and crimsons.  “Ain’t it just beautiful?  I had it shipped in from New York ‘specially.”  She watched a random gaggle of rogues shuffle in, the smallest spitting on his palm to spam down his unruly hair as he grinned uncomfortably at a sultry woman with chocolate eyes.  “Oh, and no swearin’.  My girls are ladies.  They’re the only ones who get to cuss.”     


oooOOOooo


The skeletal man gathered an impressive gout of phlegm and fired it at the brass spittoon.  He missed the top, and watched it slide greasily down the side towards the floor.  He reached out an arm and grabbed the wrist of the woman topping up his beer from an earthenware jug.  “Put that down and c’mere.”


She pulled back, but he held fast.  “I’m the maid.  I’m not here to do anything but serve drinks and clear up.”  She gestured with her head towards the door.  “There are rules here.”


“Let ‘er go, Sam.  Ain’t you got enough to keep you busy?”  The man with the dark moustache looked her up and down dismissively.  Clearly the stained apron and thick glasses glinting in the light didn’t compete with the milky flesh spilling over the tightly-laced corset of the woman suggestively toying with the cigar nearby.  “We paid good money for high class whores.  Quit botherin’ the help.”


The thin man released the maid who moved discretely away.


 “Why are you looking at cornbread when we got prime steak?” laughed the dark stranger. 


Sam leaned forward and took the cigar from the doxy.  “Yeah, you’re right.  There’s real fine flesh here.”  He nodded over to the woman melting back into the shadows cast by the oil lamps.  “No man ever spent a hundred dollars for a whore like her.  She ain’t high class material.”  Sam hunched forward on his chair, lowering his voice conspiratorially.  “How’re you doin’?”  


The dark man with the moustache leaned forward.  “How’d you do it, Sam?  You never seem to be bothered when you shoot someone.  I keep seeing his face over and over in my head.”


“Pull yourself together, Frank,” Sam hissed.  “He was warned what would happen if he didn’t get that security box open.  He was delaying deliberately.  You saw for yourself that the other one got it open fast enough after that.  It did the job.  You had to shoot him.”


“Yeah, I guess.”  Frank drained his glass.  “He was my first though.”  He raised his eyes to meet the gaze of the spindly man.  “It don’t bother you at all.  How many have you killed?”


“That ain’t somethin’ you ask any man,” Sam snapped, the hollows around his eyes gathering deep shadows.  “Git yourself a woman and put your mind on somethin’ else.”


The venal glare pierced the burly man’s confidence, causing him to glance away.  “Sure, boss.  He stood, gesturing with his head towards the coffee-skinned woman reclining in front of the fire.  “C’mon, you.  You’ve got a hundred dollars to work off and I want my money’s worth.”


The door burst open and Pearl burst in flanked by a wall of armed muscle behind her.  “You gotta go, the lot of you.”  The metallic click of weapons cocking underscored the seriousness of her message.  “You’ve had some fun, so here’s half your money back.  Now git.  I heard about today’s payroll robbery and you fit the descriptions.”


“I thought you said everyone was welcome here,” growled Sam. 

“I said thieves and politicians, not killers,” she banged down the cash on the bar.  “The law were here lookin’ for information and I don’t need that kinda heat.”  Her eyes widened to a glare.  “I didn’t tell ‘em a damn thing, but I want you gone.”

“Is this some kinda trap?” Frank growled.


“If it was a trap, these men’d be wearing badges,” Pearl swept aside in a cloud of powder and cologne to allow the men to do their jobs.  “As it is, we just want you gone.”


“Sam!” bawled Frank.  “Get the men.”


“Are you gonna fold because some madam gives you orders?” a small man emerged from the corner shrouded in nebulous shadows.   


“I ain’t no fool,” Frank retorted.  “She gave us the chance she promised.  Her deal is over.  We git while the goin’s good.  I ain’t dumb enough to think she ain’t got enough back up, or a man ready to ride out for the law.  You don’t get to charge money like this without thinkin’ through the details.  We go.  Get the rest of the gang.”


“But...”


“No buts.  Do as you’re f*****g told!”


The maid edged towards the door, watching men scuttle out from adjoining rooms pulling on their shirts and stumbling into their pants.  “Where are you goin’?” growled Pearl, glowering at the girl.  “Get this salon cleaned up and ready for the next party.”  


“They’re killers?” the maid queried.


“Murderers ain’t welcome here, girl.  I have standards.”  She nodded towards the huge black man totting a rifle by the door.  “Make sure they’re gone, Bert.  And don’t be fooled by what the law said.  They ain’t The Devil’s Hole Gang, so you don’t need to worry about takin’ on Kid Curry.  They’re imposters.”    
 

oooOOOooo

Heyes scrutinized the newspaper with hungry eyes.  “This is bad, Kid.  Real bad.”


The fair head nodded in agreement.  “They killed someone and put our name all over it.  That’s a hangin’ offense right there.”  He kicked out at the leg of a chair.  “It’s the third robbery in the county where a gang claimed to be us.”


“Folks cooperate because they know they’ll be treated well by The Devil’s Hole Gang.  That won’t last either.  We’ve gotta get them, and fast.”


The Kid swung into the chair like it was a horse and leaned his chin on the back.  “No argument there, but how? “The descriptions could be anybody but my guess is that it’s an outfit from another territory.  No one seems to know them.  I’ve got nothin’.”


Earnest dark eyes flicked up to him.  “Any gossip.  information?  Someone must know somethin’ at the railroad, where else are they getting information about the payroll transport?”


“Let’s start with Pearl,” the Kid grinned.  “If anyone knows what’s going on around here it’s her.  We owe her a visit anyway.”


oooOOOooo


Pearl Du Bois’ sailed through the patrons of her sporting house like a galleon in full sail, her yellow hair a beacon of welcome and her well-upholstered frame a walking hug.  There were clearly some people she didn’t mind showing her softer side to.  “Hi’ya, boys,” she chortled, her jiggling bosom mirrored in the fat bulging over the back of her ruthlessly laced corseted bodice.  “Long time no see.”


“Good to see you.”  Heyes embraced her, his eyes twinkling as his dimpled smile spread over his face.  “We haven’t been in this neck of the woods for a good while, Pearl.  You got somewhere private we can talk?”


She flicked up a penciled eyebrow as she gestured with her head towards the backroom with a knowing look.  “Sure.  I’ve been half-expectin’ you.  You boys hungry?”


“Always Pearl.  You know that,” grinned the Kid.


She led the way, a cloud of perfume drifting behind her.  “You know, it’d be nice if you boys could just make a social call once in a while for old time’s sake.  I never see you unless you want somethin’.”  She pulled open the door, a smile of resignation etched through the heavy makeup.  “But I guess you always want somethin’.  You pitched up here as nippers wantin’ a roof over your head for the winter.  You’re like two baby birds with their mouths open every time the mama comes back to the nest.”

             
“You’re right, Pearl.  We’re real busy.  We should make some time to see you,” Heyes eyes glittered with innocent regret.  “We owe you.”


“Yeah, you owe me but somehow that turns into me givin’.  How does that work?”


A smiling Kid closed the door, holding the velvet-brown gaze of the dusky woman just outside until it slid to.  “You’re a natural mother, Pearl.  That’s how.”  He turned.  “You know that we’ve always got your back.  If you ever need us, we’ll be here for you.”


She slipped into a chair, her statuesque bosom thrust forward.  “Yeah, I do.  I guess you’re here about the fake Devil’s Hole Gang?  They were here, you know.  I chucked them out.  I’ll tell you what I can.”


Blue eyes glittered gratefully in her direction before the Kid took a seat.  “Thanks.”

 
Heyes’ long fingers slowly slid a wedge of notes over the polished surface of the table as he held her gaze.  “For your time, darlin’.  Think of it as a gift.”


Her plump little fingers reached out and grasped the notes.  “Payin’ this time?  You mean business.”


Heyes sat back with a huge grin and tilted his hat to the back of his head with his forefinger as she wedged the money in the depths of her smothering cleavage.  “We sure do.  Someone’ll swing for that death and I need to make sure it’s the right man.”


“They passed through.  They looked like trouble from the start, but flush with money. Too flush.  As soon as the law came askin’ about a gang who killed a guard I showed them the door.  I didn’t know who they were when I let them in, boys.  Honest I didn’t.”


“Got any names?” asked the Kid.


“There was a Will.  Will Patterson.  He was a Texas boy judgin’ from his accent.  He was the little one who took a fancy Monica and was quite talkative.  There was a Sam and a Frank too who seemed to be in charge.  They weren’t so friendly.  The new girl would have known more but she’s run off.  That same night,” her eyes brightened with her recollection.  “She asked quite a few questions about you two though, seemed quite fascinated by you.”  


“New girl?” Asked Heyes, his interest piqued.  “What exactly did she want to know?”


“Yeah, dark haired little thing.  Scottish or Irish, somethin’ like that.  She didn’t really fit in here.  I usually get the innocent ones to work as maids to see if they show any potential for movin’ on.  She was real popular, but she weren’t interested and ran off that night.  Some are easily shocked,” she let out a bellowing laugh as the men smiled in unison at her contagious mischief, “but maybe she wasn’t as innocent as I thought to run off with that lot.” 


Heyes sat back.  “What did she ask?”


“If we knew you, did you come around here very often, what you look like; anythin’ she could find out.  We told her nothin’.  I guess she had a thing for a bad boy ‘cos she seems to have run off with that other lot.”  She stretched into an unladylike, gaping yawn as she leant back in her seat.  “Sorry boys.  It’s been a long day.  The steaks are here for you.  I’ll get Monica to give the full rundown on their descriptions while you eat.”


Heyes flashed a look at the Kid.  “I don’t like this.  She’s been asking questions at the same time as another gang were pretendin’ to be us and disappears with them.  She’s part of this.”


“I’d say so,” replied the Kid.  “I’ll ask a few questions, see what I can find out about her.  You can concentrate on how they know the best payroll to hit.”


oooOOOooo


“The fake Devils Hole Gang have struck in three locations now.” Heyes’ gloved hand indicated on the map to show the assembled gang the pattern.   “There. There and there.” 


He turned at Lobo’s voice.  “They ain’t bright.  You’re gonna get caught hittin’ the same line all the time.”


“Nope.  And that’s how we’re gonna catch them.  The next payroll comes through here Thursday.  We need to find out where they’re gonna strike.”


“Could be anywhere along the line,” muttered Wheat.


“Right.  So we need to narrow it down.  There’s gonna be areas where it isn’t feasible, like here, here, and here.  It’s too difficult to get away from there,” he pointed at a green area on the map, “so there’s only one path for a posse to follow and that would lead them straight to you.”  He gestured towards two other points on the map.  “By my reckonin’ it’s gonna be here or here.”


“You got second sight now?  There are hundreds of places it could be.”


Heyes turned and glared at Wheat.  “I know that.  The Kid’s onto somethin’.  We reckon that the girl from Pearl’s place knows somethin’ about this.  She arrived that week and left the same night as them.  She could be involved with one of them and we’re tryin’ to find her.  She was last seen headin’ off the same night and hasn’t been seen since.  We’ve got a direction of travel though, and her horse was found wandering in this area.  So if any of you meet a dark-haired Irish woman wearing glasses she’s probably one of them.  That also means we know where they are within about fifty miles.”


His dark eyes scanned the assembled outlaws.


“We’ve got three days till Thursday.  The robberies took place within twenty miles of each other.  The hideout’s gonna be a day’s ride from any of those so by my reckonin’ there’s about 900 square miles to be searched for the hideout, but it’s more likely to be smack bang on the middle of the three sites, into the area the girl was seen headin’ for.  We can ignore areas where it’s just not accessible, that narrows it down by quite a bit.  I’ve done each group a map so you know your own patches.  We search in groups of two takin’ the most likely areas and we meet back here Wednesday night.”


“It’s hopeless.”


Heyes turned a simmering gaze on Wheat.


“Any time you want to leave this gang is fine by me.  We need to sort this or any one of us could be hanged as accessories to murder.  You help deal with this or you go.  It’s that simple.  There are men in this area looking for the Devil’s Hole Gang and they got as far as Bannen.  Someone’s feedin’ them information and we need to plug that leak.  They’re behind us and we’ll swing if we don’t sort this fast.”


Wheat shuffled in the dirt.  “I didn’t say I wouldn’t help.”


“Good.  The areas I want covered are here, here and here...”  Heyes flicked a glare at Wheat.  “You and Kyle take the east and I want you to look like your lives depend upon it.”  The dark eyes scanned the gang.  “You all need to, because they really, really do.”

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

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PostSubject: Re: Friends And Foes - Part 1    Thu Dec 15, 2016 11:45 am


oooOOOooo


She came to in the dank, rancid darkness and let out a small groan as the burning ache in her arm exploded into a sharp pain at her first movement.  She swallowed down the rising ball of bile in her throat, trying not to vomit, but would it make the surroundings any less revolting?  What animals had been kept in this building?  She carefully sat up and tried to support her wounded limb with her other arm.  At least it was just a flesh wound.  The bullet had simply grazed the skin as it whipped passed, she would soon heal as long as the infection didn’t set in any further. 


She collapsed back into the straw and tossed in her raging delirium, bathed in sweat.  They had captured her as she quietly followed them from Pearl’s place, and she damned herself to hell for being so careless.  The whole thing had been so rushed that she failed to take the proper precautions like staying far enough behind.  She hadn’t even had time to grab her eyeglass so had to keep the gang in sight, and that had been her undoing.


She pulled aside the torn sleeve to look at the angry wound and sighed.   The pollution from the injury was rapidly spreading and her fever made the heat, the pain, and the stench even more unbearable.


Very soon, she was beyond reason.  No one tended to her other than to occasionally bring some brackish water or leave some ghastly food which remained untouched as she sank further and further into the darkness; at least the deep, silent, velvet-blackness of total oblivion was a relief from pain.  


oooOOOooo


Kid Curry crouched low behind the well with his gun drawn, silently gesturing with his free hand for Wheat and Kyle to keep down.  The door to the cabin opened and a tall, thin man with a shark fin nose strode out carrying a bucket.


“Looks like he’s headed towards the well,” Kyle hissed.  “The Kid’s there.”


“I can see that,” muttered Heyes.  “Get ready.  They’ll know we’re here as soon as the Kid strikes.”


“Are you sure this is the right gang,” hissed Wheat.  “They could be anyone.”


“How many gangs of men are there in these woods who hide at the sight of anyone coming near?” Heyes demanded.


“Well, there’s us...”


“Precisely.  We’re outlaws, you numbskull.  It’s what we do.”  Heyes rolled his eyes.  “Now keep your eyes on that cabin.  I’ll cover the Kid.”


The stranger grabbed the well rope and hooked on the bucket, completely oblivious to the gunman sneaking up behind him.  The sound of a metallic click behind his right ear made him let go and the receptacle cropped into the echoing depths, the handle whipping round and round until the bucket hit the water at the bottom.  “Not one word, friend.  Get those hands up.”


The man nodded, thrusting his arms in the air and staring silently ahead with his dun-colored eyes.


The Kid drew the man backwards, back towards his compatriots hidden in the bushes.  “This way.  Stay silent.”


“Are you the law?”

                 
“I told you to stay silent.”


The door to the cabin opened, “Hey, Sam!  Can you... ?”  The mustached man blinked in disbelief at his friend being held at gunpoint.  “Jees...” 


The door slammed and the cabin ran with urgent shouts and orders.  The Kid tightened his grasp on the thin man’s arm and dragged him over to the rest of the outlaws hiding in the bushes, using him as a human shield all the way.  He threw him to preacher and Hank as soon as he gained cover.  “Tie him up.  Gag him.”  He crouched down behind Heyes.  “What now?  We’ve been seen.”


“We play our hand, I guess,” Heyes replied.  “It’s all we’ve got left.”  He stood darting forward to the barn and peering around the edge.  “Hey, you!  You, in the house.  You’re surrounded.”


“You ain’t takin’ us alive.”


“Well that’s a pretty dumb move.”  Heyes rich baritone danced with mocking tones.  “You want to find out what you’re up against?  Let them have it, boys.”


The cabin suddenly faced a fusillade of shots, battering into the walls, windows and doors from every direction, splintering the wood and shattering the eardrums with a shower of explosive bursts.


“We still ain’t comin’ out without a fight.”


Heyes called out once more.  “We’re well armed and we’re ready to blast you out unless you lay down your arms and come out peacefully.  It’s your call.”


“Blast us?  What kind of posse are you?  We ain’t comin out.  We’re just gonna be hanged anyway,” the voice echoed from the cabin.


“That’s where you’re wrong,” yelled Heyes.  “We’re not the law.  We’re The Devil’s Hole Gang and we’re as mad as hell about you using our name to kill a man.  Are you going to face us like men or do we have to drive you out of there?”


“Ha!  And just how do you propose to do that?” a mocking voice demanded.


“What are we famous for?” Heyes responded.


“Stealin’.”  The voice took on a mocking tone.  “Oh, and not shootin’ folks.”


Heyes glinted an amused look at his team over by the bushes.  “Yeah, and when we can’t break in, how do we get at the money?”


The voice from the building was getting impatient.  “I dunno!  What kinda dumb quiz is this?”


“We blow the thing open,” Kyle positively squeaked with delight. 


“That’s our explosives man,” chortled Heyes.  “He really enjoys his work.”  His cheeks dimpled into a smile.  “So much so, that he’s set some dynamite under you.  I’ve got to warn you that he never bothers with any of that twenty percent dynamite.  Oh, no.  He only uses the most powerful sixty percent nitro sticks.  That stuff really gives the best blast, and he’s put some under each corner of that place you’re sitting in right now.”


He paused, letting this information sink in.  “You know exactly what that does, but just to drive your position home we put some under the outhouse as a demonstration.  You might want to watch out of the back window.  Let ‘er go, Kyle!”


“Sure thing, Heyes.”


There was a long pause before the lighted fuse could be seen fizzing its way towards the little wooden building.  The light disappeared under the wooden slats and there was an almighty crashing blast.  The planks shattered and flew skywards revealing the centre of the shed as nothing more than a tower of hungry fire.  The shards and splinters scattered all around causing the outlaws to duck and avoid the smoldering fragments showering down on them.  Wheat sniffed and crinkled his nose in disgust at the matter plopping around their hiding place.  “Couldn’t ya have picked a barn, Heyes?  It’s a sh*t storm.  A real one.”


“You hear that?” Heyes called.  “I’ll give you to the count of twenty, and then you’re going to be what’s splattered around this place.  One!”


“You don’t mean it.  You’re bluffin’.”

 
“Two!”  Heyes jaw tightened.  “I don’t take kindly to the likes of you using our name and reputation.  You’re not dealing with amateurs here.”  He paused.  “Three.”


“The Devil’s Hole Gang never shot anyone,” the voice sounded suddenly less confident.  “This ain’t your style.”


“We don’t shoot the public,” Heyes growled, “but we’ll sure as hell deal with anyone else who gets in our way.  They never say we never shot anyone in a robbery.  Nobody says we never killed anyone.  Four!”


“What do you want?”


“Five!”  Heyes glanced over at the Kid, both silently acknowledging that the bargaining had begun.  “If we’re getting the blame for all those jobs, we want the money.  All of it.  Then we want you out of our territory and a promise that we never see you within a hundred mile of Wyoming ever again.  Six!”


“All of it?”


“Seven!  Yes, all of it.  You should’ve thought about that before you bandied our name about.  It’s our reputation. So it’s our money.  Eight.”


“You’ll blow up the money too.”


“Nine.  Yeah, well, I thought about that and I’m prepared to take the chance.  Are you?  Ten!  That’s halfway through.”


The voice from the cabin started to ring with panic.  “What’ll you do to us?”


“Eleven.  We’re not unreasonable men, unless you’re unreasonable to us.  We want the money and we want you out of the area.  Twelve.”  


“So you’ll let us go?”


“Thirteen!  Some say that’s unlucky,” Heyes smirked, “but it’s getting nearer to a number way more unlucky for you.  Fourteen.”


“We want your word you won’t kill us.”


“Fifteen.  My word?  Sure.  I’m not interested in killing you.”


“You promise?”


“Sixteen.”  Heyes shrugged.  “I promise I won’t kill you if you come out, but I can’t hold to what’ll happen if you don’t.  Seventeen.”


“I need your word that you won’t kill us,” the man was almost screaming now.


“Eighteen.  And you have my word.  None of the Devil’s Hole Gang will kill you.”


“Promise.  I want you to swear!”   There were some shouts from within the cabin, signaling spiraling panic in the other gang.


“Nineteen!  Yeah.  I swear.  Hannibal Heyes gives his solemn word that none of the Devil’s Hole Gang will hurt you.  One more and then the cabin gets blasted to kingdom come.”


“Fine.  We’re throwing out our guns.” The door opened a crack and a hand tossed out a pile of weapons, one after the other.  “We’re comin’ out.  Don’t shoot.”  The burly man appeared first hands straight up to the heavens.


“We want you all out here,” barked the Kid.  “We were told there were eight of you.  We got one, you’re out here.  We want the other six with their hands in the air, and do it fast.” 


The men shuffled out, one by one, the smallest smiling nervously at the end of the line.  Heyes tentatively broke cover, holding his Schofield on them all the while.  “Hank, Preacher.  Check the cabin.  Make sure there’s nobody else there.  Wheat and Kyle.  Tie them up.”


“All clear in here, Heyes.”  Preacher’s sharp nose appeared around the door.  “We found this.”  Hank dragged out a strongbox.  It’s full of cash.”


“Is that all of it?” Heyes demanded. 


“Nope...” the burly man began.


“Where is it!?”  Heyes yelled straight in his face, the anger surprising even catching seasoned gang members by surprise.  “Talk.”


 “We spent it.” Frank dropped his head.  “We went to a whore house.  We spent the rest on whiskey and supplies.”


Heyes nodded, holding the man’s gaze prisoner all the while.  “Which one of you did it?”


“Did what?” the smallest prisoner squeaked. 


Onlookers could have sworn Heyes’ whole face darkened.  “Who killed the guard?”


“Frank.  Frank did it. Yeah ,Frank,” three voices spoke in unison.


Heyes followed the hunted eyes of the men to the large man right in front of him.  “Well, I guess you’re Frank, huh?  That’s a real loyal gang you got there.”  He stared at the prisoner, his hands tied behind his back, the disgust rising in the outlaw leader’s craw.  “I should drop you where you stand, you piece of dirt, but I made a promise and I’m a man of my word.”  His fist shot out, catching the murderer right in the solar plexus.  The man doubled over and collapsed gasping on the ground.


“Here!  That ain’t fair, punching a man when he can’t hit back,” yelled the little man at the end. 


Heyes flicked a dismissive glance at him.  “Yeah, kinda like shooting an unarmed man in the chest, but maybe not quite as low, huh?  I ain’t no choirboy.”  He signaled to the Kid.  “Get them on the wagon, hands and feet tied.  I want this garbage out of my sight.”   


The Devil’s Hole Gang made short work of securing the men in the flat bed of wagon as the Kid approached his cousin.  “Are you alright, Heyes?”


Heyes pulled off his hat and ran his hand through his hair.  “Sure, yeah.  We got them.  Why do you ask?”


The blue eyes burned into him, full of knowing calm.  “You said ‘ain’t’.  You only talk like you did when you were a nipper when you’ve really lost it.”


“Do I?”  He pulled himself back up, his smile suddenly full of a lightness the Kid wasn’t buying.  “Then it’s a good job I worked it off, ain’t it?  I even promised I wouldn’t kill them.”  He paused.  “But I never promised any of them that the law wouldn’t.”    


oooOOOooo


The sheriff of Bannen paused at the door of his office, suddenly alert to the change of routine signaling something wrong.  The door was locked and there was no smell of coffee.  It was never locked and the night turn always had the pot brewing for those starting in the morning.  There was someone in the office all day and all night, and the night deputy should be there bright and alert to handover whatever had happened during the night.  When he wasn’t, something was very wrong.  He pulled out his key and entered the building, calling out as he went.  “Dave?  Where the devil are you?  If you’ve been sleeping again I’ll....”  He was cut short by the sight of the deputy bound and gagged in his chair and the cells full of men similarly restrained.  “What in the name of...?”


H e pulled the gag from the deputy’s mouth, watching him work his jaw free from the constriction. 


“What’s been going on here?”


“They said they were Devil’s Hole Gang, Sheriff.  They brought in the men they say killed the guard in that train robbery.  They were real mad about another gang claiming to be them, so they went right out and brought them in for us.”


“They did? The sheriff turned his keys in the handcuffs, allowing the man to rub his wrists.  “And this metal box.  What’s in here?”  He flipped it open, his eyes widening at the stack of banknotes inside.  “Cash?”


“The one who said he was Hannibal Heyes said it was almost everything they took.  The gang had already spent some when they caught up with them.  He says the rest of the gang are cowards will give evidence against the one who fired the shot.  The big one with the mustache.”


“Is that right?”  The sheriff lifted the note pinned to the top of the cashbox and smiled over at the men in the cells as he read it aloud.  “A gift from Hannibal Heyes and The Devil’s Hole Gang.”


“Do you think it was really them?” asked the deputy, pushing himself to his feet.

“Well, we knew the men who held up those three trains didn’t act like the Devil’s Hole Gang.  They don’t fit the descriptions neither.  I wouldn’t blame Hannibal Heyes if he did bring them in.  So the rest’ll turn on the killer you say?”


“That’s what he said.”


“Did you get a good look at them, Dave?”


“No, sheriff.  They wore kerchiefs and got the jump on me real fast.”


The lawman nodded slowly, turning over a stack of notes in his hand.  “Yeah.  Maybe we won’t tell the town that bit when we break this news, but you did a good night’s work, son.  Real good.”


“I did?” gulped the young man.


“Sure you did.  Now let’s sit down over some coffee and decide what we’re gonna say happened here last night.”                                  


oooOOOooo


The Kid pulled the wagon to a halt.  “I can’t see why we don’t just take this thing straight back to Pearl.”


“We never had time to search the place,” Heyes dismounted.  “There could be more money hidden here.  They could even have hidden stuff from robberies we knew nothing about.  If we’re real lucky we might need a wagon to take it away.”


“You’re dreamin’. Heyes.  The only hidden treasure around here was splattered all over us when you blew up the necessary.”


“Probably,” chuckled Heyes, “but I want to make sure.  Do you want to take the grounds or the cabin?”


“I don’t care,” shrugged the Kid.  “You take the house.  I’ll do out here.”


He watched Heyes disappear into the building and began to explore.  He looked for all kind of small signs, like disturbances in the soil, flattened grass, or moss growing on the wrong side of stone.  He was too experienced to fall for that old wives tale about it only growing on the north side; it depended on the gradient, the moisture, and the surface, but when you put all that together it was easy to spot if stones had been moved to a position where moss shouldn’t really grow.  His practiced blue eyes scanned as he strolled around.  What appeared to be a casual wander was actually anything but.


The inspection was systematic, grid-like and efficient, but the everything seemed to be overgrown and unused.  The use of this place was clearly just opportunistic hideout, but Heyes was right; it never hurt to look.  He peered down the well, but all he could see was the occasional glint of a watery meniscus in the dank, dark depths of the void.  It was too deep for anything to be easily retrieved so that was quickly dismissed as a hiding place.  He sighed and turned to the barn Heyes hid behind earlier.  It was ramshackle and dilapidated, settling back into the land from which it was hewn with the help of the invasive vines sending strangling tendrils across the roof and into every nook and cranny.  One thing caught his eye almost immediately; the padlock.  It looked new.


He strode over and gave it a tug.  It was pristine, with the brass still shining with a patina of recentness standing out against the peeling, rough wood of the building.  His curiosity mounted.  Why was this broken down old barn secured?  He took out his Colt and stepped to the side and blasted it to smithereens, aiming out into the empty yard beyond. 


“What the hell...?”  Heyes appeared, gun in hand.


“It was locked,” he put his gun back in its holster and stooped to pick up the biggest piece.  “A new lock.  What could be in there that’s worth lockin’ up?”


“That?  You didn’t have to shoot it, anyone could pick that.  Even you.”


“Thanks, but it’s quicker to shoot it.  Even you could hit it if you stood near enough.”


Heyes put away his Schofield with a smile.  “So, what did they need to secure?”  He pulled back the hasp and opened the door, and both men stepped back, hit by a feculent wall of funk.


“Whoa,” the Kid frowned.  “I don’t know what they were breeding in there, but I don’t want one.”


Heyes stepped inside, his eyes gradually adjusting to the poor light filtering in between the slats.  “I don’t see any animals.  The place is empty.”


There was a metallic clatter.  “Oh, for cryin’ out loud.  I trod in something...somethin’ sticky.  It’s a tin plate.  What’s that doin’ down there?”


“Kid...”


“It’s like gruel, or grits, or... sick?  Yeuch, it’s disgustin’.”


“Kid!” Heyes barked.  “Is that a body?”


He followed his cousin’s stony stare to the dark bundle in the straw before striding over.  “It’s a woman,” he reached out a hand.  “She’s warm; really hot.  She’s alive, I think.”  He reached out and lifted her in both arms.  “Outta my way.” 


It needed full daylight to see the full picture.   He carried her outside and laid her on the grass, delicately lifting the encrusted lace of hair shrouding her face.  It was stiff, still in the same armor of desiccated vomit which had hardened around her mouth and on her clothes.  “She’s burnin’up.  How could they leave her like that?”


“The b*stards left her here to die.” Heyes frowned down at the disheveled shred of humanity lying in her own waste.  “Get her in the wagon.  There are blankets in the cabin, I’ll get them.”


“She’s got dark hair.  Do you think she’s the same one who was askin’ about us?”


“Possibly,” Heyes called over as he strode towards the cabin.  “Pearl’ll know for sure.”     

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Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb
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gin16



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PostSubject: Re: Friends And Foes - Part 1    Sun Dec 18, 2016 8:14 pm

SK, I did read this but the one i read started with: Heyes scrutinzed the newspaper and ended with the sheriff and deputy deciding what they were going to say about getting the money back and the thieves being caught.  I enjoyed this longer version.
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Silverkelpie

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PostSubject: Re: Friends And Foes - Part 1    Sun Dec 18, 2016 9:38 pm

Thanks, Gin.  Danke   Part 2 is now up.

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PostSubject: Re: Friends And Foes - Part 1    Sun Jan 01, 2017 10:50 am

Ooooh, yes! Thank you, SK, for posting this Abi story!
I loved the short version for the monthly challenge - and even there had a suspicion who the dark-haired maid might be.
You introduce her as a feisty, self-assured woman, sparring with Kid and putting Wheat in his place. Funny, I had always assumed she would meet Heyes first of the boys.

Good story. I can well imagine Heyes and the gang hunting down other outlaws making trouble for them, I just hope the sheriff and his deputy will not be too dishonest about "their" catch.
Good job, Kyle blew up the outhouse and not the barn. I enjoyed Heyes' countdown. And I did notice that he was very careful about his promises to the bandits. He couldn't let the other gang simply ride away - he could never have trusted them not to return and make more trouble.

Loved the picture you painted of "mother ship" Pearl - I could really see her in my mind's eye. It was one of the parts that really made me giggle. Another was the back and forth between Heyes and the Kid about how to open a lock.
Good for Abi that the boys found her. And she is also really lucky that the gang, especially Sam, left her alone. But does she really look so different that Kid does not recognise her? It was Kid who carried her out of the barn and brushed her hair (yuck - thanks for the description) aside, wasn't it? 

Can't wait to read more. Off to the next section.

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PostSubject: Re: Friends And Foes - Part 1    Sun Jan 01, 2017 11:43 am

Thanks, Stepha3nie.  Maybe I should have upped the description a bit on the mess she was in when found?  I was aware that not everyone 's stomach is as strong as mine.  Very Happy 

Oh, and feel free to PM me with any typos you find.  I'm terribly blind to them but will amend immediately.

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