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 Friends And Foes - Part 2

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Silverkelpie

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Posts : 1374
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 56
Location : Over the rainbow

PostSubject: Friends And Foes - Part 2   Sun Dec 18, 2016 9:37 pm

She awoke to the sun beating in through the window.  There had been dreamlike memories of water being dripped over her reluctant lips until her raging throat was quenched, but she knew no more than that.  She had no idea where she was or how long she had been there.


Her whole body was raked with pain and she lacked the strength to even speak.  A concerned pair of blue eyes hovered into view.  “How you doin’?”


The blurred face started to come into focus and she started slightly at the realization that Kid Curry was standing over her, stroking her matted hair.  She tried to speak but no sound came out of her ravaged throat.  “Sit up, darlin’.  Try to drink some water.”


He propped her up against his firm chest and put a glass to her lips, encouraging her to drink until the glass had been drained.  Her foggy mind tried to make sense of all this.  Kid Curry was not a member of the gang she had followed. Why was he here?  Did he know who she was?


“You’re safe.  No one’s  goin’ to hurt you while I’m around.”


“What?  Where?”  She croaked as he laid her back down.


He smiled.  It lit up his face with a gentleness she hadn’t seen at the train, making him suddenly seem more human than before.  “You were sick.  We found you in the barn.  Why’d he put you there?”


“Who?”  She shook her head in confusion.


“Frank Patterson.”


“Patterson?” 


“What’s your name?”


Her voice started to give out with the exertion as he could see that his questioning was getting him nowhere.  It would have to wait.


He took a damp cloth and mopped her face before continuing down to her neck.  Cooling waves of refreshment washed over her as she gave in to the weakness and relaxed into the lumpy mattress.


“Go back to sleep.  We’ll try to get you to eat somethin’ when you wake up.


oooOOOooo


The shrill shriek of the birds announcing their delight at the new day was her wake-up call as she struggled to open her leaden eyelids.  They flickered to a pair of kindly brown eyes dripping over her like molten chocolate as the man gave her a dimpled smile.  “Good morning.”


Abigail took a deep breath as her hands fluttered weakly by her sides, too debilitated by illness and her injured arm to support her leaden weight to sit up.


“Let me help you.”  He placed a hand under each arm and supported her weight with while he arranged her pillows in a sitting position.  He settled her back.  “Better?”


She nodded, confusion still reigning behind her dark eyes.  He answered as though he had read her mind.  “You’re in a cabin, a different one to the place you had been in.  We took you from those men.  You’re safe now.” 


He grinned at the bewilderment crowding her face but made no effort to clarify any further.


“How?”


He shrugged, examining every micro expression carefully.  “That doesn’t matter.  Those men are in jail in Bannen.  The law’s taking care of them.  We’re taking care of you.”


“Really?”


He nodded and handed her a glass of water.  “Drink.”


It was an order, not a request, but she was happy enough to comply and gulped greedily at the contents as he held it up to her mouth.


“What’s your name?”


She briefly thought about inventing a new identity before she thought the better of it.  It was always better to stick to the story unless there was good reason to do otherwise.  She gave the name under which she had entered Pearl’s employ.  “Abigail.  Abigail Ross.”


His eyes bored into her as he sat on the bed and faced her, their intensity making her wonder what more lay behind their dancing lights.  If the other man was Kid Curry this surely must be Hannibal Heyes.  He was far younger than she had expected, and even appeared to have a patina of respectability.  If you weren’t observant enough to spot the shifting devilment in the eyes, he could even pass for a professional man.


“Well, Miss Ross.   Suppose you tell me how a Scottish girl like you ended up in a barn with a bullet in her arm in these parts?  You’re a long way from home.  That is a Scottish accent isn’t it?”


She was weak but her natural cunning started to kick in as she detected an undercurrent to the question.  “Yes.  It only grazed me, but I could see it was getting infected.  Am I in Bannen?  Are you a doctor?”


His eyes narrowed as he recognized the verbal joust that was just beginning.  It surprised him slightly considering her weakened state but he was quick to identify an agile mind behind the enormous eyes assessing him so shrewdly.  He grinned.  “You answer my question and I’ll answer yours.”


She gave him a weak smile.  “I had a job.  I hated it and ran away.”  Her doe-like eyes widened innocently.  “You’ve no idea what those women were expected to do.  I couldn’t stay there.  I was afraid that I’d be forced to stay and be like them.   You read stories like that all the time in dime novels.  Those men seemed to think I was following them and shot me before they even realized I was a woman.  I think that scared them and they didn’t know what to do with me.”


Heyes nodded silently.  He wasn’t buying it.  He had known Pearl since she had fed him and the Kid as adolescents and that there was no question of conscription at her place.  Alarms triggered in his head as he detected her lies one after the other.  There was a lot more to this than met the eye and he intended to get to the bottom of it, after all he’d been informed that the county was full of men looking for specifically for them.  If she wasn’t connected to the other gang she might be connected to bounty hunters.  That wouldn’t normally bother him, but they were getting a lot nearer than usual and there were far more of them than was comfortable.  


She gazed at him through long lashes.  “So.  I’ve answered you.  What about my question?  Why am I here?”


“I’m not a doctor but you were seen by one.  You weren’t fit to travel too far.  This was the first safe place to bring you.  ”


“Did the doctor say I couldn’t travel?”


“Sure.”


“When was he last here?”


He leaned forward and slammed her with a determined glare.  “Enough.  You’re still weak, but past the worst.  Tell me the truth.  Pearl never forced anyone to do anything in her life, and you know that you’re with Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.  You were on the train we robbed at Hillside Bend.  Stop playing games and tell me why you were following the Pattersons.”


She made sure that outrage exploded over her face as she quickly processed this information.  “You’re Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry?”  This was bad.  She couldn’t deny being on the train at Hillside Bend but she had hoped that they had forgotten her.


He flicked up an eyebrow.  “You know who we are.  You tend to stick out in a crowd, you know, especially when you stand up to the Kid.  Not many have the guts to do that, male or female.”


Her mind ran like quicksilver, so she dropped her head and changed the mask.  “I know.  I had hoped you wouldn’t remember me.  I was afraid that you might not let me go if you knew I could identify you.”  Her eyes widened with engineered pathos.  “It’s been a really frightening time, to go from one set of outlaws to another.  If you thought I didn’t know or care who you were you might just let me go.”


Heyes cheeks dimpled into a grin as he patted her knee as he searched her gaze appraisingly.  “Well, it’s your call if you don’t want to tell me.  You’ll talk eventually.  There’s nothing but time out here, but one thing’s for sure, the idea of being with Heyes and the Kid doesn’t scare you.  In fact, I don’t think there’s much that does.”  He stood up and towered over her with folded arms.  “Hungry?”


She nodded as she tentatively swung her legs out of the bed, pulling the covers quickly back over them as she realized for the first time that she was wearing nothing but a man’s shirt.  “Who undressed me?” 


He twinkled with mischief.  “Does it matter?  You were a mess.  You’d been in there for days in a fever, you’d been sick.  You were covered in blood, and left lying in your own waste.  Your clothes have been burned.  It would have been stupid to do anything else with them.”


“It matters to me,” the words came out weakly as the daunting prospect of these men tending to her overwhelmed her.  Her cheeks burned with indignation and shame but her eyes flashed in naked challenge.  “Why didn’t you send me to town with the outlaws?  There would have been women to look after me, unless...”  She glowered at him accusingly.  “They didn’t go to town.  Maybe you killed them?”


His smile warmed.  “Nope.  We didn’t kill them and when you get to town you’ll find out that we left them for the law to find with evidence from the killing.  It was important for the authorities to see that we weren’t responsible for that death, but it’s good to see that there’s a real woman in there, under all that front.”


 He turned to walk out of the cabin. 


“I can spot a player at a thousand paces and you’re one as sure as I stand here.  Let me break it down for you.  On the train at Hillside Bend you were dressed too expensively to end up working as a maid at Pearl’s.  Then you lie about why you were followin’ the Pattersons.   You claim to have run away but you took nothing with you.  A woman poor enough to work as a maid in a brothel wouldn’t do that.  She’d take what little she had, because that little bundle would be all she had in the world.  You might not know many people like that, but I spent my life among them,” he pulled the door open a crack, “then you pretend not to know who we were.  You got an unhealthy interest in outlaws. Abigail; if that is your name.  I’ll leave you to use the chamber pot then we’ll make breakfast.”  His eyes glittered dangerously at her.  “We got a lot to find out about you, girl and I’m going to make sure there’s nothing else out there ready to bite us on the backside, but one thing’s for sure.  You’re more than an innocent bystander and you know something about the men asking questions about us.  I’m gonna find out what that is before you go anywhere.”


She tilted her head defiantly knowing that she’d been rumbled in her moment of weakness.  “I don’t like being patronized.  I’m not a girl.  I’m a woman.  And don’t you forget it.”


He looked her up and down before he fixed with the intense certainty as her face turned crimson.  “I’m not likely to, ma’am.  Not while you’re wearing nothing my shirt.”


oooOOOooo


The Kid helped her over to the table, supporting her against her unsteady gait as she pulled a blanket around herself to protect her modesty.  “What’s your name?” 


He turned in surprise.  “You know my name.  It’s Kid Curry.”


She shook her dark head, her wild curly hair exploding to an untamed jumble of corkscrews since its release from restraining grips and clasps.  “No, your first name.  I can’t call you ‘Kid’.  It sounds silly calling a man your size that.”


“Everyone calls me the Kid.”


“No.  Nicknames are a man thing.  What’s your real name?  What do your family call you?”


He glared at her with a stiletto of blue ice, remembering her comments at the robbery.  “My family ain’t your business, lady.”


The abrupt arctic chill in his eyes shocked her.  “What’s wrong?   Did I say something?”


He plunked her down on a chair.  “You say too much.  The sooner we get you out of here the better.” 


“What?  What did I do?”


“Leave him be.”  Heyes put down a plate of scrambled eggs in front of her with a clatter. 


She glowered at both of them, unsure what she had done to provoke the blond man.  She picked up the tin mug.  “Urgh!  Who made this coffee?  It’s horrible.”


Heyes sat up looking wounded.  “What’s wrong with it?”


“What’s in here?”


Coffee and water.  What do you think?”


“No old socks?”


He glared at her whilst the Kid stopped playing with his food and shoveled a forkful into his mouth with a satisfied smirk.


“Don’t push it, Abigail, or whoever you are?”


She fixed him with a steady look.  “My name is Abigail.  Abi to my friends.”  She pursed her lips.  “You can call me Miss Ross.”


Heyes assessed her, looking for tells and clues in her body language.  “I reckon that’s the first true word you’ve spoken, Abi.  I’m not sure about the surname though.”


She gave an impatient snort.  “When are you going to give me some clothes?  I can’t keep sitting around half naked.”


“We ain’t got any women’s clothes,” the Kid snapped.  “Just count yourself lucky we found you at all.”


She sighed deeply and began to eat her eggs, dropping her fork about halfway through.


Heyes narrowed his eyes.  “What’s wrong now?  Food not good enough either?”


“It’s fine, thanks.  I’ve had enough.”


“Got a name yet?” Heyes pushed.


She paused.  “It’s Abigail.  Abigail MacKinnon.”


Heyes darted a look at the Kid.  “Why’d you lie?”


She looked from one to the other, her chest heaving with indecision before she spoke again.  “It’s time to come clean.  I’m a Pinkerton Detective.”


The Kid let out a bellow of laughter.  “Now you’re just bein’ stupid!”


Her eyes widened with indignation.  “I am.”


“You’re a woman.”


“You noticed,” she barked.


“Sure did.  No doubt that saved you from a barrel load of trouble, if not your life,” the Kid returned to his eggs.


“Look.  I’m called Abigail MacKinnon and I’m a Pinkerton Detective.  I was following the fake Devil’s Hole Gang to find out where they were hiding.”  She dropped her head in shame.  “I got careless.  They moved out before I was ready and I had to get closer than I wanted.  You found me, that’s about it.”


Heyes leant on the table and fixed her with a mean glare.  “You were already out here when they started working this area.  You were at Pearl’s place.  We checked.  The Pinkertons are based in Chicago.  No Eastern detective would have had time to be involved in the hunt for the fake Devil’s Hole Gang that fast.”


“I was already here.”  She narrowed her eyes and held his gaze.  “I was sent for you.”


The Kid let out a snort of contempt.  “Stupid.  Just stupid.  You expect us to believe this rubbish?  A woman detective?”


“Yes, because it’s true.  Do you know how often I went up and down that line before I got to see what you looked like?  I went after the fake gang because they were killers.  You could wait.  It was no accident that I was on that train at Hillside Bend, but I had to prioritize the worst crime when it presented itself.”


The men exchanged a silent conversation in a look of derision as they stood up and cleared the plates.


“There are no female Pinkertons,” Heyes reached over to take hers.


“You mean there weren’t.  There are now.”  Her mouth firmed into a line.  “There have been female Pinkertons since the war.  Women even guarded President Lincoln.” 


“Yeah, well, he was shot.  She could be right.”  The Kid shook his head.  “Lord.  What is the world comin’ to where that could even be considered?”


“If you are a Pinkerton, why are you telling us this now?” Heyes demanded.


“I thought I could lie to you but you weren’t buying it.  You’re holding a law officer against their will and you need to know that.  You need to take me to a town.  There’s nothing else for you to know or do,” She spoke with great authority and maintained a steady tone against the gaze of two of the most notorious outlaws in the west.  Whoever she was she was gutsy, but neither man was sure they could believe the wild tale she now told. 


Heyes walked over to the door and darted a look at his partner.  “Whatever we’re doing we aren’t holding you against your will.  You’re free to leave anytime, but you’re not well enough to travel yet; not to mention the fact you haven’t got a horse, or clothes.  We’ll take you back when we’re all good and ready, in the meantime we’ve saved your life and we’re keeping you safe and well.  You’d do well to remember that, Miss MacKinnon.  Now, do you want help to get back to bed or can you walk?”


She knew that the last comment was simply a means of driving home her vulnerability at their hands so she stood up in a great show of obstinacy and started to wobble her way to the bed.  She cursed loudly under her breath as her legs started to give out beneath her.  Strong arms caught her before one wound its way around her waist.


“Seems like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, Miss MacKinnon.  Let me help you and this time I’d recommend that you don’t ask me to let you go until you know you’re safe.  I saw a lot last time you fell.  It’ll be even worse dressed only in a shirt.”


She looked into the burning blue eyes and swallowed down a knot of helplessness as her impotence began to sink in.  Whatever they intended to do with her she was not going anywhere any time soon, but surely she would be fine?  They treated people well and behaved honorably towards women, didn’t they?  A worm of worry niggled at the back of her mind; those rules applied to the public during robberies and were probably strategic.  What did they do to their enemies when nobody else was around?        
                     
oooOOOooo


 She slept a lot, and her strength continued to rally as her arm began to heal under a  regime of salt and honey, but she still had nothing to wear other than a shirt and a bed sheet.  Her anger grew, knowing that it was a deliberate tactic to keep her off balance and increase her reliance on them.  So much for not holding her against her will.  How could a woman set off through the wilderness barefoot and half naked?


Heyes had repeatedly questioned her intently on who she was, who she knew in the agency, the information she had on them, and who had sent her; but Abigail steadfastly refused to tell him anything, confirming only  that they could contact the Chicago office to confirm her identity.  He was clearly getting as frustrated with her as she was with them.  The impasse needed to be broken and the time had come for her to take control of the situation as the gunman’s blue eyes increasingly chilled her to the bone. 


He was a powerful and menacing presence, simmering in the background while their tolerance for her was wearing thin.  It was only a matter of time before her questioning was handed over to him and that had to be avoided at all costs.  There was something frightening and unpredictable about the gunfighter who looked at her as though he hated every fiber of her being. 


She had to get out of here.


oooOOOooo


“I’m gettin’ some supplies.”  The Kid pulled on his gloves.  “Need anything?” 


“Clothes.   Any kind of clothes.”


He looked right through her with eyes like a Mediterranean storm.  “I’m goin’ for food.  I know nothin’ about women’s clothes.”


“Men’s then; working clothes, trousers, anything.  You can’t keep me like this.”


He darted a look at Heyes with a discrete smile playing around his lips.  “You’re fine.  We can’t see a thing improper.  That sheet is long and you have a long sleeved shirt on.”


She let out an impatient huff. “When are you planning on letting me go?  You must know by now I’m not going to reveal what we’ve got on you.”


Dark eyes glittered at her from across the cabin.  “When you’re fit to travel Miss MacKinnon.  We don’t want to harm you by setting out too soon.”


“I’m fine now.  Stop this masquerade and take me back right now.  I’ll go with him, dressed like this if I have to.”


“You ain’t ready.”  Her stomach lurched at the chill in his eyes.  “We agreed that I make that call.  Maybe when I get back we’ll have a chat, just you and me.  I can promise you that I’ll do whatever it takes to find out exactly what I need to know.  I think Heyes has been far too soft on you.”


He registered the brief flicker of fear before she pulled herself back together.  “It’ll be no different.”


“That’s for me to find out, ain’t it, Abi?  It’s up to you to decide if we do it the hard way or the easy way.”  The gunman strode over to the door.  “I’ll see you when I get back.” 


oooOOOooo


The Kid’s words were still ringing in her ears when Heyes left the building to tend the animals so she had to move fast.  She rummaged around until she found a pair of brown suit trousers.  They were huge but the grey ones were broader and would have been even worse.  She slid them on and fastened them with a rope around the waist folded the ends back multiple times. 


Shoes were pointless.   She would have to go without as there was nothing even close.  Why would they burn her shoes?  Did they ever intend to let her go?  She stood behind the door with a huge earthenware jug in her hand, her heart pumping so hard she felt sure it could be heard as far as the barn.  There was no way she was going to let a man like Kid Curry interrogate her. 


After what seemed like an eternity, the door creaked open.  She raised the jug, the handle feeling increasingly warm and slippery in her nervous, sweating palm as the adrenaline pulsed through her system.  She brought it down sharply on the dark head just as he appeared through the door.  Her hand slipped, as her injured arm let her down, and it bounced off the door decreasing the impact on her victim, but the cry and the trickle of red confirmed that she had made her mark.  He dropped to his knees, clutching his head. 


She bolted out the door.  A quick reconnaissance had her heading towards the barn, where she grabbed a saddle and threw it on the horse who snickered and flicked his ears at her as though he wondered what all the fuss was about. 


Without warning, she felt herself grabbed around the waist and lifted off her feet. 


“Goin’ somewhere?”  She twisted around and stared into a pair of angry blue eyes.  “Thought I’d gone?  Thought wrong, huh?”


There was no point in trying to defend herself against this furious man.  One look at his partner was about to confirm her actions, and he was dragging her back to the cabin to face the consequences.  The Kid swung her inside, where Heyes sat clutching his head with a trickle of blood spreading its way down his pale face as his bleary eyes darted up to greet their entrance.


“Look what I found.”


Abigail glanced at the enraged face before she swirled round in surprise at the other voice behind her.


“Howdy boys.  What’s the hellion done now?  Has she hurt you Han?”


It was Pearl and she seemed to show no surprise about her being here.


Heyes groaned and stood glaring at Abigail, a trail of blood etching its escape from his injured scalp.  “What the hell do you think you’re playing at?”


The mask of charm slipped and she found herself staring into the cold, hard eyes of one of the most intimidating men she had ever encountered.  He had hidden this side of himself behind the twinkling eyes and dimpled smile full of positivity, but she really should have known better.  How could anyone control a gang of outlaws without a hard edge?


The certainty formed in her mind that they were a team; the strengths of each one bolstered the other, but neither could survive in their world without the shared ruthlessness, the fear they could engender in anyone who crossed them.  It was more obvious in Kid Curry, but she had been a fool to think that he was the dangerous one.  True danger lay where it could not be seen, where the unwary could be trapped, and she had walked straight into this thinking she was escaping a confrontation with the Kid.  She would now give anything to face him rather than the cold fury of the man who now glared at her with revenge on his mind as he seemed to grow in stature, his whole demeanor changing before her very eyes. 


Abigail’s stomach turned over and her accent strengthened.  She lapsed into the unguarded Gaelic syntax of her mother tongue; a sign of stress not lost on Heyes as she stuttered and stammered her reply.  “You weren’t letting me go... what did you expect at all?”


“What do I expect you to do?  I expect you to do as you’re told, woman!”


Abigail released the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding before she shouted back.  “For how long?  You can’t keep me here.  I swear.  I’ll keep trying.  Either let me go or kill me.”


“Don’t tempt me,” muttered the Kid.


She swung around.  “The law coming after you is an occupational hazard, just as you fighting back is for me.  We all know the deal.  This...” she gestured around the cabin to the bed sheets discarded on the floor, “whatever it is; is not the way, and you know it.”


Heyes ignored her and strolled passed her with a stony face.  He stopped at the horse trough, dipping his head in the water before throwing it back, scattering a halo of drips everywhere as he washed the fog from his mind. 


“Why’d you come back?” he asked the Kid.


“I bumped into Pearl.  She needs help.  Two girls have gone missing from her place.”


“They’ve been with me years, Han.  Real good girls, rode out and never came back.  They’d never do that.  They left everything, money, clothes; the lot.  The sheriff ain’t interested.  He says workin’ girls go missing all the time.  Something’s happened to them and I have to find out what.  I have to help them.”


He nodded as he rubbed his concerned face thoughtfully.  “Where’d they go?”


“Bessie’s Pa died and she went for a physic reading out at the Schmidt’s place.  The girl there does them.  That’s the last anyone saw of them.  No sign of the horses, the wagon, nothin’.  Two women in summer dresses don’t just take off cross country, Han.  They ain’t dressed for it.”


He turned towards Abigail and fixed her with a chilling look.  “Kid, tie her up, I ain’t finished with her yet.  Pearl, come with me.  We need to talk.”


oooOOOooo


The room had an atmosphere of heightened anxiety and Pearl’s alabaster skin had touches of pink fighting through the heavy powder, the nearest she ever got to being flushed.  She was an unusual madam for her time, taking only girls who had it together.  She allowed them the luxury of the choice of patrons, protected them from violence, and paid better than most.  This rarely happened in establishments run by men, and as a result her girls stayed with her for a long time and kept their looks better than the drug and alcohol raddled souls who sought oblivion over the reality of their short, harsh lives.  Her long-time employees felt a loyalty and indebtedness to her, knowing the alternatives were a big step down.  Both men knew that neither of the girls would have run off.  There was nowhere for them to go but down, and were genuinely concerned for their welfare.      


“Dora and Bessie have gone missing.”


Heyes flashed a look at the Kid.  “Dora?  The blonde one?  You liked her didn’t you, Kid.  She’s a young widow.”


“Sure is.  Lost her husband at twenty three.  She’s got a young boy to support.  She wouldn’t just leave him, Han.  He’s her whole world.”


Heyes sat.  “Tell me what you know, Pearl.”


“They went out to the Schmidt’s place this morning for a psychic reading, they haven’t come back.  I’m real worried, Kid.  They wouldn’t have gone off on their own.  The sheriff’s not interested.  He said working girls go off all the time.”


Heyes sighed, “Of course he did.  He isn’t interested in anything other than collecting bribes or rewards.  What do you think happened?”


“It’s bad, I just know it is.  They’d have told me if they were leaving.  Bessie’s been with me for years and Dora’s a real sweet girl.  Bessie’s pa died, that’s why she wanted a reading.”


“Where is this place?” the Kid demanded.


“About ten miles out east, on the way to Twin Rivers.”


“Who are these people?  What do they do there?”


“German farmers.  The Ma and Pa hardly speak any English, but they take in boarders, usually people who can’t get to town before sundown ‘cos it’s just too far.  The son Kurt is a bit simple but friendly enough, the daughter Amy is real sweet.  She’s early twenties and does séances.  That’s why the girls went there.”


“Do you want me to ride out and have a look for them?”


“I can’t ask you to do that, Kid.  It’s a long way past town.  You wouldn’t get there until nightfall.”


The Kid folded his arms.  “I’m going Pearl.  Is there anything else I need to know?  Has anyone been leaning on you?” 


“No, the mayor leaves me alone.  When the boys can’t afford the high end of the market they end up in his places, so he’s happy enough.   You want some of my boys to ride with you?”


The Kid shook his head.  “No, Pearl.  I’ll work alone.  I’ll leave now.”


Heyes gave her a look full of regret.  “I’m real sorry, Pearl.  We’d both go but we got her to look after.”  He tilted his head towards the barn where Abigail had been left bound hand and foot by the Kid.


She flicked up her eyebrows in query, more questioning than concerned.  “What’s goin’ on here?  I ain’t never seen you boys do anythin’ like this.”


“We ain’t never seen anythin’ like this either, Pearl,” snorted the Kid.  “She claims to be a Pinkerton.  Have you ever heard the like?  She seems to know a bit about the Patterson boys, and about us; more than a woman should who ain’t met us before.  But we need to know who’s she’s really involved with and if someone else is settin’ us up.”


“There are men all over the county contacting people we know to ask them questions,” Heyes added.  “Some of them are direct, others more sneaky.  There’s something going on and she knows something about it.”


“Won’t talk, huh?”


“Nope.  As soon as she does she’s outta here.”


A grin spread over her face.  “What you gonna do if she don’t talk?”


The Kid ran a hand through his tousled hair and shook his head.  “I don’t know, Pearl.  Just let her go, after givin’ her a fright about gettin’ involved with outlaws.  I’ve got a theory that it’s a lover of her’s who’s put her up to this.  She seems well-educated and nearly as smart as Heyes, but when it comes to choosin’ men she’s as dumb as a box of hair.”


“What if she’s tellin’ the truth?”


Heyes hooked her with a questioning look.  “You can’t believe she’s a Pinkerton.  A woman?”


“Why not?  Some of the most successful spies durin’ the war were women.  We’re gettin’ everywhere now, doctors, lawyers, pharmacists; especially in the West where the rules are more “flexible”, shall we say, and folks are just grateful to have someone around with some learnin’?  She could be tellin’ the truth.”


The men exchanged a look before they quickly dismissed the idea. 


“Nah.  She’s got a boyfriend and he’s more interested in us than’s healthy,” retorted the Kid.


“Maybe her boyfriend is a Pinkerton?” Pearl suggested.


“That’s more likely,” Heyes agreed, and that’s exactly the type of information I need to get out of her.”
 
The Kid strode over to the table and picked up his hat.  “I’ll get it outta her when I get back.  She’s scared of me.  I can see it in her eyes.  She’s gutsy but it’s there, and that’s how we’ll crack her.  You saw the state of her when we brought her here, Pearl.  You even cleaned her up.  What a mess.  She wasn’t able to travel before now anyway, so we went gentle."


“Looks like she changed the rules.  Gentle’s over.”   Heyes’ eyes glittered dangerously across the table at Pearl as he held a cold compress to his scalp.  “We’ll get rid of her soon, but I want to know everything she does first.” 


oooOOOooo

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PostSubject: Friends And Foes - Part 2   Sun Dec 18, 2016 9:37 pm

The Kid rode out into the gathering dusk.  He covered the ground right up to the Schmidt’s place without any sign of the wagon the girls had ridden out in.  He systematically searched the Schmidt’s outbuildings and outhouses as best he could in the bad light.  There was no sign of the women or their transport.


Looking in through the window he saw the family sitting round a large table in a meager, unkempt shelter.  Ma, Pa, a lad with a deformed mouth, and pretty redhead were gathered around the table deep in conversation, but there was still no sign of the girls.  It was time to ask some questions.  He hammered on the door, habit ensuring that he didn’t stand directly in front of it, but off to the side.


He heard a clamor of unintelligible voices inside before a male voice called out.


“Ja?”


“Sir, I’ve come from Bannen.  Two ladies came here today.  They didn’t come home.  Open the door.”


He heard scrabbling and more talking before the door opened a crack and a grizzled face appeared. 


“Sir, I’m coming in.  I need to speak to you  about the women.”


The door opened up, throwing a trapezoid of light onto the ground.  “My folks don’t speak much English, Sir.  Can I help you?  My name is Amy Schmidt.”


The Kid looked down at the petite girl.  She looked pretty and dressed well, but that in itself seemed alien in the disarray and clutter of the squalid cabin.  The room was quite large but had been divided into two by a large stained curtain which hung behind the table.  Her family gathered behind her, an eclectic mix of incongruous shapes and sizes. 


“Ma’am, Pearl Du Bois sent me.  Two ladies came here for a reading today.  They haven’t been seen since. “


“Yes.  They left hours ago. Mister...?” 


“Black,” replied the Kid.  “How long ago?”


He paused while Amy explained his questions to her folks in German and listened to the answers.


“About two o’clock I think.”  Amy paused.  “This is terrible.  Those poor people.  What do you think has happened to them?”


“That’s what I’m hoping to find out, ma’am.  You folks mind if I have a look around?”


Without waiting for them to agree he walked to the back of the room and swept back the large sheet acting as a divider.  He looked behind it but could see nothing but a few hammers, saws and other tools leaned up against the wall.  He guessed that it was split from the living area to be used as workshop. 


“Any other rooms?”


The old man and woman garbled something to the girl.  “Yes, upstairs.  Mama apologizes for the mess.  We weren’t expecting anyone.”


The Kid followed the old man up the rickety wooden stairs and walked through each of the three shabby rooms in turn.  He looked curiously at the girl, wondering where she fitted in the hovel he saw unfolding before him. 


“I was told that you take in boarders.  Where do you put them?”


“They have Kurt’s room.  He’ll either sleep in the barn or in front of the stove, if it’s winter.  Would you like to stay Mr. Black?  It’s getting very late to ride back to town.”


He looked round this bleak cabin, thinking most of the hideouts he had used were more homely.  “No thanks, ma’am.  I’ll get back to town.  I think Miss Du Bois will be worried.  She’ll want to know if I’ve found anything.   If you don’t mind I’ll take a look around the outhouses and barns before I go.  Do you have a light I can borrow?”


oooOOOooo
                                                       
He stopped about a mile away and left the road, taking his horse behind some trees.  Creeping back he lay silently on the ground near the road and waited.  It took about fifteen minutes before the Kid could clearly hear the rattle of the bridle and the panting from his stalker’s mount.  The moon was bright enough for him to clearly see the face of the German boy with the twisted mouth as he passed by on the road to Bannen.


Was he following him or was it just a coincidence?


oooOOOooo


Abigail twisted around in the straw at the sound of the barn door opening.  It was Hannibal Heyes, his stony face betraying his dark mood.  She felt the rope around her ankles being sliced before he leaned over and grabbed her good arm to drag her to her feet.


“What is it with you men locking women in barns?”  It was a half-hearted attempt at lightness, but the hostility in his silent glare made her instantly regret it.  


He pulled her out into open air and across to the cabin, stumbling and protesting all the way.  “Slow down.  My legs aren’t as long as yours.  There are stones.  I don’t have any shoes on you know.”  She missed her footing on the porch steps, stubbing a toe.  “Ow!”


He yanked her through the door and pushed her into a chair, taking an opposing seat across the table.  Abigail’s her heart pounded in her chest as she twisted her still bound hands behind her back.  The mood had clearly turned very dark indeed. 


“I guess things have changed.  We’re quite clearly keeping you here against your will now.”  He leaned back on his chair, swinging on the two back legs as he watched her bite her bottom lip.  “We’d all better put our cards on the table if we want you out of here.”


“That would be nice,” she replied snippily, shrugging her unkempt hair from her face as a corkscrew curl kept tumbling in front of her right eye.


“Tell me the truth, and no more games.  I’m losing patience with you,” he replied calmly.  “Why were you following the Pattersons?  I also want to know who you know and everything you were told to find out.”


“I’ve told you that until I’m blue in the face.  I was investigating them, just as I was investigating you.  I work for Allan Pinkerton.”


He stood up and walked over to her, holding eye contact all the way before he leaned over and placed his face inches from hers.  “Are you still gonna keep that up?”


“It’s the truth.”


“Who is he!?”  She jumped as he yelled straight into her face, his hot breath burning into her cheek. 


She garnered her fire and yelled right back.  “Who!”


“The man behind this.  What does he want with us?  What did he send you to find out?”


“Allan Pinkerton. He wants you in jail.”  She turned to face him as she barked her reply, “and so do I.”


“Be very careful, Abigail.  My whole life hangs in the balance if I’m caught, not to mention my cousin’s.  I’m not above doing what it takes to avoid that.  This is not a game.”


“Your cousin?”  Her brow crinkled.  “Kid Curry is your cousin?  That makes sense, family loyalty, I suppose.  There are a lot of criminal gangs made up of extended families.”


“You didn’t know that?”


She shook her head.  “Why would I?  All I know is that you were petty criminals for some years before you joined the Plummer Gang.  Then you moved on to Devil’s Hole.  I know you through your criminal records, Mr. Heyes, and you were not always so loyal.  You two split up for some years, didn’t you?  Why was that?”


“I’ll ask the questions here.” 


“You’ll get exactly the same answers as you’ve already been given.”


“What’s the name of the man who sent you here?” 


“Allan Pinkerton.”  She stared steadily ahead.  “You can ask the Chicago office and they will confirm that I’m employed there.  That is all I’m prepared to tell you.”   


He paused, deep in thought.  “What if I play your game and accept you’re a Pinkerton?  What’s the name of the man you report to and where is he staying locally?”  


She sat in mute defiance.   


“One last chance, Abigail.  I need the names and whereabouts of the men you are giving information to and who’s your informer.”


“You’ll find out at your trial.” 


He put out a hand and entwined a hard fist in her hair and dragged her backwards until the chair balanced on the two back legs.  He brought his face close to hers until his hot breath burned into her cheek.  “Say that again.”


Abigail felt the dragging pain at the back of her head as shards of pain lanced across her scalp.  He held her, balanced between his painful grip and a clattering fall to the floor but her stubborn nature wouldn’t let her acquiesce.  “I won’t be the last.  Others will come after you no matter what you do to me.”  She darted her eyes to meet his, unable to move her pinioned head.  “That can’t be a surprise to you.  Many people want you put away.”


His eyes glittered dangerously.  “Maybe you’ve got another motive?”


“Such as what?”


Intense brown eyes seared into hers.  “Maybe you like outlaws.  Some women are attracted to dangerous men.”  He continued, whispering in her ear as he nibbled gently on the shell.  “Is this dangerous enough for you or do you like pain?  I can arrange that, real soon.”


She writhed in the chair but was unable to turn away.  Her breath began to come in great gulps of panic.  “Let me go.  Right now!”


He quickly identified the uncertainty in her voice.  This was new and he knew he was getting to her in a way straight physical intimidation hadn’t.  “Then talk, sweetheart.  Start telling me what I want to know or I’ll take you right now on that table and keep using you until you do.”


She started to buck, trying to kick out at him before he let go of her hair and she rattled to the floor, jarring her elbow painfully on the wooden planks.  She shuffled clumsily backwards, kicking out at him wildly as he strode over to her.  “Talk!”


“Go to hell.”


He picked her up, holding her by her underarms as she started to scream and rage in a language he didn’t understand.  “Finally, we’re getting somewhere.  Tell me what I want to know and it’ll all stop, Abi.”  


Her bound hands formed impotent claws behind her back as she jerked herself frantically away from him, but he was too strong.  His free hand roamed carelessly across her full mouth, caressing her fragile jaw before settling on her throat in a gesture of complete domination. Their eyes burned into one another, as he searched her face for surrender.  “Names, Abi.  I want names.”


“Never.  You’ll have to kill me first. I won’t tell you a thing.”  A deep helpless sob escaped.  “Please.  Don’t do this.  It won’t get you anything.”


He watched the single tear run from the blank, hopeless eyes.  She had given up; she had reached the bottom.  He had found the weakness he had been looking for and shame kicked him in the guts.


His eyes softened and a warm, caring smile of reassurance spread over his face.  He pulled her upright and left her standing, head bowed.  He picked up the seat, but as he put out a hand to lead her forward she kicked out madly, screaming like an animal and recoiling from his touch.  He put his arms around her in a tight embrace as he felt her tremble against him.  “Hey, hey! It’s fine.  I’m not gonna do anything to you.  I never was.  It was a test.”


He felt her stiffen in disbelief as he continued to hold her, rocking her from side to side as he whispered gently in her ear.  “I’m not that kind of man.  I needed to find your weak spot to get the truth out of you.  I did that.  I got you to the place where I’d get as much from you as I you’d ever give.  Nobody is gonna hurt you.  It’s over.”


He pulled back to look into the confused face, refusing to believe his assurances.  Doubt and fear crowded her expressive face, her eyes widening as he took out the knife from his belt.  He sliced through the rope binding her hands, and led her to a seat before backing off, his hands raised in surrender until he stood in front of the range.  He dropped his head and folded his arms as he allowed her collect her rasping breath and shattered nerves.  She crouched over and nursed her injured arm, staring off into the corner, the floor, or her feet; staring at anything but him. 


A wave of guilt washed over him. He was better than this, but he was fighting for his life.  He had to be sure, but now that he was, he would make it up to her.  “I’m sorry.  I really am.  I had to get the truth.”
 
Accusing eyes darted up at him.  “By threatening to rape me?”


“By doing what it took to strip away all that front.”  He frowned.  “Don’t look at me like that.  You’re a professional and so am I.  We both know this life risks everything.”  He raised his hands in appeasement once more.  “And that doesn’t mean I’ll take everything.  I just had to know what you’d give up when pushed to your limits.  I know the answer now.  If you were just a random woman you’d have told me everything far earlier.  I believe you.  You work for Pinkerton and you’re loyal to your colleagues.  What you do there remains to be seen.”


Her slim brows met in a scowl.  “I am a detective, and a damn good one.”  


“Yes.  You probably are.  I’m a thief, and a damn good one.  I’m sorry, but I had to know who was out there looking for us.  At least I know they’re Pinkertons.  That’s a whole lot better than rival criminals at least they play by some rules.”  He smiled softly.  “How about some whiskey?  You look like you need a pick me up.”


She eyed him suspiciously.  “Are you trying to get me drunk?”


He flicked up an eyebrow.  “I thought we just established that I don’t need to.”  He put down two shot glasses and poured out some amber liquid.


Her stomach fluttered with nerves as she picked up the glass with a trembling hand.  “So?  What the hell was that all about?”


Heyes sat down opposite her and took a sip of whiskey.  “I’ve never seen a prettier lawman, that’s for sure.”


She scowled and backhanded away tears.  “I’m not a lawman.   I’m an agent.  If anything I’m a law woman.”


“Yup, and I didn’t believe you until I saw how desperate you were.  You had nowhere to go.  You were scared to death and I was starting to think I’d never see that.”  He raised his glass to her.  “You’re a brave woman, Miss MacKinnon.  More than a bit foolhardy, but gutsy as hell.  If you’d been a man it’d have been easier.  We could hardly call you out for a beating.  What could we do with you?  If it’s any consolation you’re more loyal than any man I ever questioned. ”


She gulped as she felt her thumping heart start to subside at last.  “So?  What now?  I’m still your prisoner and I have been from the start, no matter how much you want to dress it up as recuperation.  Just what do you intend to do with me?”


He stared into her deep brown eyes regretfully.  “I’m gonna let you go.”  He shrugged.  “I have to.  I’d like to know you better though, you’re really quite remarkable.  In all my born days I’ve never met anyone quite like you.”


“The Kid said that he had the final say on that.”


“Yeah, he does a good scary stare, but that’s as far as it goes with him and the ladies.  He’s a pushover so I had to yank something else out of the bag.”  He dragged out a chair for himself and beamed his most charming smile at her.  “You’re not in a hurry are you?  You wanted to get to know more about us, why not stick around for a bit?  I never met a law woman before.”  He flicked up a mischievous eyebrow.  “Maybe you’ll reform us?”


She glowered at him.  “I’m not ready to be flirted with, not after that little display, Mr. Heyes.”


Shame chastened the face, the dimple dropping from his cheek.  “I’m sorry, truly I am.  I don’t like frightening people but it was the only way.  It was either me or the Kid, and he’d never do anything like that to a woman.  I guess you’d got a bit desperate.  It was my last effort.”  He leaned over the table, “but we both know the dangers.”  He rubbed his wounded head as he gazed at her, driving home his point, none too subtly.


“I’m sorry I hurt you, but I thought things were going to get tough.  I had to get away as fast as I could.”


“Well, as it’s only a matter of time now so how about a truce?  Let’s get to know one another like equals.  One professional to another?”


She flashed a glare at him.  “I still intend to bring you in, and I’m very good at what I do.”  She grimaced at the irony of her own words, “generally.”


“And I intend to do what I can to stop you.  We could call this neutral territory though.”  He grinned.  “We all have off days, there’s no need to be embarrassed.” 


“A truce?  If it helps,” she shrugged.  “What does that mean  to me?”


“It means we’re pleasant to one another and stop crowning one another with pottery.  You realize you’re useless now as far as we’re concerned?  We know you.  You won’t get near us without us knowing why.”


Abigail glanced down at the floor.  “I guess they’ll send someone else.”


His eyes narrowed, sensing duplicity.  “Hmmm.  They might have done that already.”


oooOOOooo


The men sat at the table the next evening, a tired Kid stretching out after his journey back.  “I couldn’t find a thing.  It’s like they disappeared off the face of the earth.  I told her to keep her girls in town and use any influence she has to raise a stink.  She’ll definitely have some politicians and business men as clients, so that might help.  The sheriff ain’t interested.”


“’Cos there’s no money in it, no reward.  I’ve got no time for dishonest lawmen.  At least when we’re dishonest, we’re honest about it,” muttered Heyes.  “Only the worst have ethics for sale.”  He shot a glance at Abigail, whose face lit up in anger.


“Neither are mine.  Don’t look at me like that.”


The Kid shook his head and nodded towards Abigail.  “How sure are you she’s tellin’ the truth?”


“I’m sure.  Absolutely sure“


“Then that’s good enough for me, but women in the law.  How they goin’ to deal with the likes of me?  It’s madness.”


You don’t need physical strength to pull a trigger Mr. Curry.  Nor does it take muscles to be fast.”


“True.  It helps to have both though,” he turned to Heyes.  “When are we lettin’ her go?”


Heyes sat back and smiled as he gazed off aimlessly with his arms behind his head.  “We need to get her some clothes first.  I should’ve gotten you to get some from Pearl.  She’s not going anywhere with my trousers.  It’ll ruin the suit.”


“They look a lot better on her than they ever did on you” replied the Kid.  “What did you do to get her to talk?”


Abigail blushed scarlet as Heyes glinted devilment at her embarrassment.  “Let’s just say I made some advances.”


The blue eyes narrowed, reading the subtext, but things had clearly changed and it had been effective.  He gave her a lopsided smile and tried to lighten her caustic scowl.  “Yup.  That’d do it, Abi.  Horrible, I only hope he didn’t make his moves over a cup of coffee.”


She flicked a grateful glance towards him.  “I suppose it’s best to make a joke of it.  We’re still on different sides, we’re just different kinds of enemies now.” 


“Yeah, I guess we are.  I’ll ride out tomorrow and get you some clothes.  We’ll drop you two miles from town to give us time to get away.”


“Thank you, Mr. Curry.”


“It’s no problem.  I want to leave some money for Dora’s son before we go.  He’s only eight and his ma’s disappeared.  It’s a terrible thing.  The poor boy has nobody.”


Abigail gasped.  “She had a son.”


“Yup. His pa died three years ago.  That’s why she had to work at Pearl’s”


She shook her head.  “She’s dead; you do know that, don’t you?   I don’t believe she’d leave him, not without any other family.”


“We know,” muttered Heyes, “but the law doesn’t care, she just a prostitute to them.”


Abigail blinked slowly.  “That’s not true.  I care.”


“Yeah?”  snorted the Kid.  “Just what can you do about it on your own?”


She dark eyes blazed with determination.  “You’d be surprised Mr. Curry.  I can find out a lot.  I’m very good at it, and with a little help I’m certain that I can do more than just get information.”  She paused.  “You wanted to call a truce Mr. Heyes.  How about it?  I get the information and you two back me up?  No one else cares enough to do it.  What do you say?”


“Why would you care?” demanded the Kid.


“Because my father was murdered and it was one of the worst things that ever happened in my life.  It’s why I became a Pinkerton.  What hope does that little boy have?  I could help.  I could do something.”


The men exchanged a look.  “What can you do that we can’t?” Heyes asked.  “Dora’s boy needs a fighter.  He needs to know that she matters and that someone cares about him and his Ma or he’ll be angry for the rest of his life.” 


 “Your choice gentlemen.  I’m offering you a ceasefire, no questions asked to find the killer.  As far as the agency are concerned, I was never held against my will until I tell them different and no criminals are helping me.  They’ll know what I tell them.  It’s up to you.  Do you mean it or do you just talk a good argument?  If not I walk away and put all my energies into you.”


Heyes leaned forward.  “How can we trust you?”


She fixed Heyes with a gimlet eye.  “After what went on here yesterday, Mr. Heyes, the question is how can I trust you?  I’m out here on my own, you’re not.”


Heyes stood.  “Let me think on it.”  He gestured to the Kid to follow him, walking out to the porch where he leaned on the handrail and stared out into the cool night air.


The gunman closed the door softly behind him and eyed his cousin cautiously.  “Heyes, you ain’t considerin’ this.  Throwin’ your lot in with a Pinkerton?  We’ll be carted off before the end of the week.  It’s madness.”


“Is it?”  Heyes mused.  “I can’t think of a better way to find out how they work and that can only ever help us.  It might even help us to get to the bottom of what happened to Bessie and Dora.  I’ll have Pearl watch her every move.  We have a chance of spotting the other agents that way.  It’d be good to be able to recognize them to avoid a trap.”


“We can’t trust her,” muttered the Kid.


“Yeah, I know,” Heyes grinned.  “And she sure as hell can’t trust us either.”

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


Last edited by Silverkelpie on Tue Dec 20, 2016 5:56 pm; edited 5 times in total
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Keays

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PostSubject: Re: Friends And Foes - Part 2   Tue Dec 20, 2016 1:53 pm

We're off to a roaring start. Another great chapter. It's to your credit that I actually remembered the interrogation scene! A good example of the dark side of Hannibal Heyes, which we all know is lurking just under the surface. It reminds me of the scene in Exit From Wickenburg when he's trying to get information out of Mary Cunningham. Very intimidating, very powerful, but he knew when to back off.
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Nebraska Wildfire

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PostSubject: Re: Friends And Foes - Part 2   Wed Dec 28, 2016 5:15 am

Thanks so much for posting. I'm eagerly awaiting more. So interesting to see your interpretation of the boys at this stage in their lives.
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PostSubject: Re: Friends And Foes - Part 2   Sat Dec 31, 2016 1:03 pm

Thanks for your kind comments.  Part three is now posted and the last part should follow quite soon. Danke

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PostSubject: Re: Friends And Foes - Part 2   Sun Jan 01, 2017 6:28 pm

Wow. A very tense continuation of the story.
The interrogation scene was frightening. I find it hard to believe that the Heyes we saw in the series would go this far. Like Keays, I'm thinking of the scene with Mary Cunningham, where Heyes backed off far earlier even though he had reason to believe that she had ordered them to be beaten up for no apparent reason.

I'm a little surprised that the boys are willing to work with Abi on finding out what has happened to the girls - they have good reason to believe that more Pinkertons might be behind the disappearance, trying to find out what happened to Abi.
Could it be that (some of) the other gang have managed to escape and are seeking revenge on Heyes?
It's interesting how the dynamic between Abi and Heyes has shifted. He might have brought her to her lowest, but by doing so, he had then to concede power to her. How far is she willing to go to achieve her goal(s)? He can't know. Seeing the boys and Abi working together on a common goal promises to be exciting. How long will the truce hold, how far can they trust each other?

And what is going on with that German family? Should I be offended at how you describe them? Something seems to be off about them - and not only that the son has a typical German name while the daughter's name is not the least bit German.

Gotta read on.

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For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
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Cal

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PostSubject: Re: Friends And Foes - Part 2   Fri Jan 06, 2017 4:33 pm

Really enjoying this....On to part three...
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