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 Friends And Foes - Part 4

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Silverkelpie

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Posts : 1346
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 56
Location : Over the rainbow

PostSubject: Friends And Foes - Part 4    Wed Jan 04, 2017 5:39 pm

Friends and Foes


Part 4

‘Mrs. Benson’ sat opposite the sheriff, her normal Scottish accent back in play.  “I have here a letter of authority from Allan Pinkerton himself.  Please contact the agency by telegraph if you wish to verify my identity.  I’d never normally carry this in deep cover, but I need to speak to you about a few things which necessitate supporting documentation.”  She leaned forward.  “Please check.  In fact, I insist upon it.  I’ll wait.” 

oooOOOooo

The man glowered at her from under tufted brows, which when combined with his wiry frame and dun-colored hair gave him to look of an irritated Jack Russell Terrier.  He discarded the reply from the Pinkerton Agency with a mute shake of the head at the madness of the modern world and slumped untidily into the seat opposite.    

“I don’t think I need tell you that I require the utmost discretion in this case.  You can tell no one who I am.  Mr. Pinkerton will take the matter up with the state Governor himself if it gets out.  You’re the only person who knows.  It couldn’t come from anywhere else so you can be the only source.”

“I can’t spare no men to look into the death of two whores.  We’re stretched enough looking after the respectable folks.”

Abigail swallowed down her distaste for the man.  “I’m not asking for men or any other resources, Mr. Thompson.  I simply want to know a few things.”

“Such as what.”

“Let’s start with crime in the area.  Has anyone else been killed in circumstances that are even remotely similar, regardless of how they made a living?”

“Of course not.  What kind of town do you think I’m running here?”

She fixed him with intense brown eyes.  “Since you ask, one in which the brutal murder of two women and the kidnap of an innocent child doesn’t even merit you making the effort to leave the office.   That’s not good in anyone’s book.  I was taught that justice is blind, but you also seem to want to make her as deaf and dumb too.”

He half stood, leaning on the desk as he glared at her with beady eyes.  “It’s a good job you’re an old woman or I’d make you regret that remark.  What the hell are they doin’ employing’ an old baggage like you.”

Abigail smiled secretly to herself but somehow she knew that she was getting more respect than she would get if he knew that she was really only twenty four.  “It’s called wisdom, young man, and people say things around old ladies they won’t say to a man with a star.  It’s also about getting results and you will be judged on whether you help or hinder me in getting them.   Now, killings in the area, please?”

He muttered under his breath as he brought out a large ledger.  “There’ve been occasional bushwackin’s, but nothin’ like the whores.  There are shootouts and a few stabbin’s in bars.  A couple of fellas slap the wife a bit too hard and end up in the cells for the night until they cool down.  This is a good town.”

“How occasional are the bushwhackings?”

“One, twice a year.  Nobody killed though.  Except for old man Schmidt.”

“Schmidt?”

“Yeah lives out.”

“I know where he lives.”  Her brow furrowed.  “When and how did he die?”

The sheriff looked at her quizzically, bemused by her local knowledge.  “He was shot.  His body was found just on the outskirts of town the day before yesterday.”

The old woman paused in thought before she spoke.  “Through the head?”

“Yeah.  How’d you know?”

She nodded quietly.  “I didn’t.  It was a guess.  Do you have descriptions of the bushwhackers?”

“Three men, heavy-set, masked.  One little.  I ain’t got nothin’ more.”

“Any pattern?”

The lawman shook his head.  “Random.   There are all kinds of victims, usually folks passin’ through.  There weren’t hardly anyone local until Schmidt.”

“Or the women.”  She nodded, knowing that he thought he was being far from helpful.  “I have a job for you.  I want to know if Dora or Bessie sent telegrams to anyone.  If so to whom?  I want details; what the content was, the replies which came back, everything.  There was a telegram in Dora’s room dated the week before she was killed saying that someone with the initials RD was going to visit.  Find out about that.”

“How the hell did you find that out?”

Abigail pulled a censorious face.  She enjoyed playing a part, especially when she could wind up the feckless or judgmental.  “Language, young man.”  

He pursed his lips. 

“I told you, old ladies have a way of getting people to help them.  Please understand that if you underestimate people it only ever makes it easier from them to get one over on you.  I would prefer that we work together.  If we don’t, I can make you look like an incompetent fool by pointing out to the Governor that you could have found all this out for yourself but didn’t bother. ”

“I’ll get on it.”  He grumbled muttering through a grudging breath.

“One more thing.  I need a description of anyone who made enquiries about adopting David Benson. and anything else they have on them, all the supporting documents.  Anything at all, no matter how small.”  She stood and walked over to the door.  “Shall we say, tomorrow?  None of that should be hard to get for a man wearing a badge.”  

Sheriff Thompson glowered at her receding back as she walked out.  If they had sent a man he could fight him, even provoke him into drawing, but what was he supposed to do with an old woman, call her out in the street and beat her to a pulp? 

oooOOOooo

Heyes and Curry sat in Pearl’s drawing room in a black mood.  “Where the hell is she?  She told us that she was comin’ back to town.”

“No one’s seen her,” said Pearl.

“I don’t like this,” muttered the Kid.  “She’s vanished off the face of the earth.  Do you think she’s headed out to the Schmidts on her own?”

“She’s ornery enough to do just that,” Heyes muttered.

“What did you find out in Paris?”  Pearl asked.

“Seems that a blond boy’s been selling horses, jewelry; anything he could get his hands on for years in Paris.  Even clothes if they’re good quality.  He sold the horses late that day, but he did one thing that was unusual.  He sold a lot of valuable jewelry, the kind of stuff he didn’t usually get, some of it engraved.  Jimmy Goldman wasn’t willin’ to hand it over though.  He even threatened us with the law if we didn’t get out of his shop.  We thought it best to walk away discretely.  We didn’t want to face the law, even in Paris.”   

“Where would Dora and Bessie get anythin’ like that?” snorted Pearl.

“They wouldn’t, unless they suddenly came into money.”  Retorted the Kid heavily.

“That blond boy, could it be Kurt Schmidt?”

Heyes shook his head.  “No, Pearl.  He said it was a smart boy, and that he was American.  He has a cleft lip.  Do you know him?”

“Can’t say I do.  It sounds like Kurt but he sure ain’t smart and he hardly speaks any English.  I think he struggles with his own folks’ language, let alone anythin’ else.  Everyone knows him and he couldn’t even pretend to be smart for ten minutes.”

Heyes nodded.  “Let’s get down to the Middletons and see what they know.   Abi said she was concentrating on the ‘respectable people’.  We’ll take another turn about town and see if we can see her.  If not we’re heading out to the Schmidts.  That damned woman us as stubborn as a hungry mule.”

“Good luck, boys,” Pearl watched them leave with a sigh.  “Time to get back to work.  Appetites never cease and there’s money to be made in caterin’ to them.  If you need any more back up from my boys just ask.”

They strode out into the caustic sunlight and glanced around the streets of Bannen.   Heyes nodded over to an alley.  “I was told Middleton lives down here.”

oooOOOooo

The ramshackle building testified to the poverty of the Middleton family.  The clapboard finish was covered in peeling, blistered green paint and the front yard sprouted dominating weeds which arrogantly defied the pecking of the skinny chickens darting around.  They flicked their scrawny necks back and forth as they scuttled away from the visitors to what was little more than a glorified hut.  The Kid paused as a stout woman in her sixties dressed in black passed them and carried on down the alley towards the main street.

“What.”  Heyes hissed.  “What’s wrong?” 

He shook his head and looked back seeing everything and nothing.  “I dunno.  There’s something wrong but I can’t put my finger on it.”

They both stared around, intently searching for danger with a practiced eye, but everything remained resolutely normal.  Children played, washing dried on the lines, an old woman walked on, and birds flew over head.

“I guess that someone just walked over my grave,” mumbled the Kid.

Heyes frowned and glanced around once again.  He trusted the Kid’s instincts and he had regretted any occasion where he had dismissed his intuition as mere fancy.  “Let’s get on in case someone’s following us, we’ll leave the back way.”

oooOOOooo

“What do you want?”  The blind man faced them, his head inclined down at a slightly unnatural angle to maximize his ability to hear.  One eye was permanently closed, hidden behind the impenetrable scars which ravaged his face.  His nose was hideously twisted and the light brown hair sat in tufts over the now healed, but seriously contracted, flesh of the white and purple mottled scalp.  The other eye had the appearance of some abominable, unseeing marble, rolling back in his skull.

“Sir?  We are friends of Dora Benson.  We’re trying to find out what happened to her.  Can we talk to you?”  Heyes politeness was echoed in his smile.

“Talk to me?  What the hell’s going on here?  I just told those women where to go.  Why’d you think I’d do any different for you?”

“Women?”

“Yeah.  They’ve just gone.  You must have seen them. Two of them.  One was Scottish.”

Heyes darted a look at the Kid.  That had to be Abigail.  They exchanged a smile knowing that she was out there; somewhere.  But why hadn’t they seen her?

“No, sir.”  The Kid cut in.  “We know nothin’ about that.  I’ve known Dora for about two years and I was shocked to find out that she’d been killed.  I was even more shocked to find out that the law are doin’ nothin’ about it.  I want to help if I can.” 

Heyes looked deeply into the man’s distorted face.  The explosion which killed Dora’s husband was clearly violent and Ben Middleton had been lucky to survive.  Middleton’s thin lips opened again.  “One of them said she was Phil’s mother but I was having none of it.  I knew she weren’t and sent them off with a flea in their ears.  Threatened them with the law if she didn’t clear off.”

“Phil Benson’s mother?”  Heyes processed this information as his stomach started to sink.  “A fraud?  How would you know that she wasn’t who she said she was?”

“None o’ your business.”  barked Ben Middleton.

“Sir, one of those ladies was a friend of ours and she has now gone missing.  If she’s goin’ around with someone who’s not who they say they are, I’m worried.  How would you know that the other woman was an imposter?”

“I just do.  She’s dead.  Phil told me so.  Now get the hell out of here.”

“Sir,” the Kid interjected.  “Can we speak to your wife?”

“She ain’t here.  She works in the laundry.”

Heyes frowned.  “You have an Eastern accent.  Where are you from?”

The man gave an urgent huff of irritation and started to close the door but the Kid wedged his foot in the door.

“Mister.  Everyone at Pearl’s says that you and Dora were real close.  Don’t you want to help her?  Don’t you think that you owe it to her son at least?”

He hesitated.  “David?”

“Yes.  We’ve known Pearl since we were boys.  Ask us anythin’ about her or Dora if you doubt who we are.  Please?”

His shoulders sagged and his voice softened.   “I can’t help you.    I was real fond of Dora and I would take the boy if I could afford to but we’re hand to mouth as it is.  I really don’t know who killed her.  All I know is she was real excited about something and it was going to change her life.  I don’t know anything more than that.  She said it would be a surprise.  She deserved it.  I got a pittance from the mine for being injured but she got nothing ‘cos Phil died; not a penny, because they blamed him for the explosion.  That was a croc too.  I was there and it wasn’t his fault.”

“Coming into money?  When did she say that?”  Heyes and the Kid exchanged a glance

“A few days before she died,” Middleton shook his head.  “If I knew who killed her I’d be shouting it in the streets.  I damn myself to hell that I couldn’t do more for her or her boy.  She shouldn’t have had to do that.  That place, those men.  The very thought of it broke me.”

They both heard the emotion catch in his voice.  The Kid put out a hand and gently touched his hand.  “Thank you, sir,” he spoke softly and reassuringly.  “Can we let you know if we find anything?  Will that help?”

The unseeing head twitched.  “You’d do that?”

“Yes, sir.  We will.”  Middleton proffered a hand and the Kid took it and shook it in agreement.  “I can promise we’ll do our best for her and her boy.   If you need us tell Pearl.  She can find us for you.”

“Thanks.  I will,” Middleton replied, uncertainly.  “What’s your names?”

“Pearl calls us her boys. Just tell her that.”

Heyes started striding out as soon as the door was closed. 

“Where are you goin’?” demanded the Kid.

“I’m gonna find those women that were here.  One of them’s Abi.  The other’s a fraud and I want to speak to her.”

“We only saw one woman.  The old lady.” 

Their eyes locked.  “What has she done with Abi?”

oooOOOooo

They saw her in the distance and she sure moved fast for an old lady.  Heyes nodded towards her.  “That’s her.  She was the only one who walking away.  Abi’s got to be in one of the buildings down that lane.”

They quickened their pace, gaining ground on her, but they had to be careful.  Two young men couldn’t be seen to be browbeating an elderly woman in the street.  They timed their approach splitting up so the Kid could approach her from the front after ducking down another alley and overtaking her as she reached the main street.

She saw the Kid coming, wondering how he had managed to get in front of her.  It was time to cross the road, and quickly.

As she stood at the sidewalk ready to step down into the busy road a gloved hand curled around her left wrist.  “Ma’am.  I’d like to talk to you, if you don’t mind.  We just saw you leavin’ the Middletons’ place.”  It was Heyes.  He had closed in from behind in a pincer movement.

She switched to her American accent as she glared through her veil at the hand holding her wrist.  “I don’t have time young man.”

Heyes hung resolutely on as he nodded to the Kid that they had the right woman.  “Ma’am, we want to know where our friend is.  You were with her recently at the Middleton place.  Two women walked away from that house, but only one reached the main street.”

“I know nothing about your friend,” she pushed her way forward but the Kid swung an arm around her waist and they quickly negotiated her back into the alley behind. She fought, but they held an arm each as she was lifted mere inches from the ground.  To the casual observer she was an elderly lady who was being assisted by two young men.  Her only way out was to cry out for help, but she was really in no position to raise her profile.  She was firmly pushed against the wall and the Kid leaned with his hand over her head and lowered his face down to hers with burning eyes.  “Ma’am?  I want to know where our friend is please.”

“I can’t help you.”

She pushed forward but the Kid placed a hand gently on her shoulder and held her against the wall.  His face got closer to hers and dropped to a snarl.  “Ma’am.  Don’t play games with me.  Where is she?”

Abigail swallowed down a knot.  They clearly didn’t recognize her, she needed to misdirect them.  “She’s in the sheriff’s office.”

“Really?”  Heyes was clearly not buying it.  “That’s the other end of the main street.  How’d she get there faster than you?”

“She younger than me.  She’s faster.”

“You move pretty well for a woman your age.”  Heyes was examining her, his scrutiny making her uncomfortable but at least the light in the alley was poor so any faults in her makeup were probably going unnoticed.  “I’ve had enough of this.  Let me go.  Right now or I’ll call for the sheriff.”

“Ma’am. what’s your name?”

She glared at them.  “Right!  That’s enough. Helmmmm....”

The Kid clamped a hand over her mouth.  “I did warn you, ma’am.”  She let out a sigh as he spoke again.  “I’ll take my hand away if you behave, but if you start up again we’ll gag you and take you somewhere quiet to question you.  Now, where is our friend?  Has someone got her?  Your son, maybe?”

She nodded her head slowly.  He lowered his hand.  “I’m flattered gentlemen; very flattered.  You care.”  She had switched to her own voice and watched as confusion crowded their faces.  “Yes.  It’s me.”

“Abi?”

She nodded.  Her secret was out.

Heyes sucked in a breath.  “What the...?”

“For heaven’s sake, Jed.  Let me go.  It’s me.”  Her eyes darted from one to the other behind the pebble glasses.  “I believe that there’s a restaurant a few doors away.  Let’s talk there.”   

oooOOOooo

They sat at the table as they gawped at her disguise.  Neither of them had ever seen the like in their lives.

“Och, for heaven’s sake.  Stop staring at me.  Have you never seen an old lady before?”

“I ain’t never gonna look at them in the same way again, that’s for sure.  How did you do that?  He said there were two women,” the Kid replied.

“He’s blind Kid.”  Heyes grinned at him.  “She used both voices.”

“Ah.”  The Kid looked slightly ashamed at his question.

“You do one hell of a disguise Abi?  You got any others?”

“No.  Who’s got the time?”

His eyes danced with mischievous lights as he sat back and grinned pensively.  “Yeah.  Right.”

“Why were you pretendin’ to be Dora’s mother-in-law?”  asked the Kid. 

She dropped her eyes as the pretty waitress came up to the table.  The Kid lit up like a Christmas tree as he beamed his most charming smile at her.  The girl was clearly receptive and looked coyly through her long lashes.  “What’ll it be?”

“Coffee please, and pie?  You got any pie?”

“Sure.  Apple or Cherry?”

“Apple.”  Both men spoke together.

The waitress grinned coquettishly at them.  “And your mother?”

She lifted her head and smiled.  “Ooh, Cherry I think, but they’re not my sons.”

“No?”

She leaned forward and grasped the Kid’s hand knowing that the waitress had been eyeing him hopefully.

“He’s my husband.”

The Kid spluttered and tried to pull his hand away but she held on tightly.

“Don’t be embarrassed, darling,” she grinned at him fondly before turning back to the waitress.  “My father thought he was marrying me for my money, but I know better.  You don’t get passion like that between the balance sheets.”

The young woman looked in amazement at the crone who seemed to be able to satisfy the virile, handsome young man who looked more than half her age.  The Kid, on the other hand, seemed to color from the neck up as Abigail pushed her glasses back up her nose with one finger and coughed unhealthily into her handkerchief.

“Errr, yes.”  The waitress murmured before she walked away as the Kid hissed at Abigail.

“What did you do that for?  She was smilin’ at me.  She liked me.”

She leaned forward as Heyes chortled quietly into his napkin.  “Because you were strong arming me in that alley.  You threatened to gag me.  Did you really think I’d let you off scot free?”

His eyes fixed on her.  “I swear, Abi!  She thinks I like little old ladies for their money.  When this is all over...”

She smiled as she finished his sentence for him.  “You’ll laugh about this.  Everyone else thinks it’s funny. Look, they’re all looking out from the kitchen.  They’re laughing.”

“Back to business,” muttered Heyes as he swallowed down his mirth.  “Why did you pretend to be Mrs. Benson.”

“Because it was the best way to get people to open up to me.  I’ve learned nothing new except the valuable fact that Ben Middleton seems to know the real Mrs. Benson.   That raises another question.  How does he know her?”

“He told us she was dead.”

“Hmmm, still.  He seemed really certain and people estranged from their family often just claim they’re dead to avoid questions.  Phil Benson was estranged from his family but Ben Middleton had the air of someone who knew first hand, and not just anecdotally.  I’m going to look into his past too.  It’s better to get some facts than run on assumptions.”

The waitress arrived with their order.

“Thank you, dear,” Abigail smiled and watched the girl beat a hasty retreat from their table.

“We did get something interesting.”  Heyes smirked at the Kid’s discomfort.  “Dora had told him that there was something big coming up, something that would change her life.  She didn’t tell him what, only that she was real excited about it.”

“Hmm, I wonder if it was related to the telegram I found in her room.  It was sent the week before she died saying that someone was coming to visit.  It’s signed simply RD.  I’m trying to find out who sent it.”

“Why didn’t you tell us about that?” asked Heyes.

“For the same reason I didn’t tell you about my disguise.  I want to help but I don’t want you to know everything I can do or how I work.”  She glanced from one to the other.  “We won’t always be on the same side, but surely you thought I’d look at their rooms?  It’s basic common sense.”

Heyes narrowed his eyes.  “I guess we’ve done all we can in Bannen except to get the psychic reading and find the prospective adopters.”

She nodded.  “We’re closing in.”  She flicked up her eyebrows.  “We need to look at the page from the ledger and see what we can decipher from it and tomorrow we can head off to the Schmidts” place and get that psychic reading.  I guess there’s no point in going anywhere other than the cabin tonight so at least I can go without this heavy disguise.”  She paused and stroked the Kid’s hand enticingly.  “Unless, darling, you prefer me like this?”


His hard fist gripped her hand.  “Do that again and I’ll crush your fingers,” he hissed, quietly.

The waitress passed by and her eyes fixed on the man’s long fingers wrapped around the old woman’s hand before she looked straight into his eyes with a look of total disdain.  His heart sunk as she walked away, shaking her head slowly while Heyes and Abigail choked with laughter.

oooOOOooo

The Schmidt place sat about ten miles from town.  It was just far enough to convince tired travelers to stay the night if it was starting to get dark rather than try to make it into town before it got too late to travel in unknown country.  Tiredness was the only reason that anyone would stay at this bleak, stark place.  Homely it was not.

The Kid saw a lone figure in the distance, riding slowly towards them, leading two horses behind.  Too far away to identify much, he guessed the rider was male because this wasn’t the kind of country where women would ride alone.  The man was riding from the wild land which led to the rocky lowlands of the mountains.  This was not an area for anyone to take the air, it was full of bears, mountain lions, and wild men.  Heyes threw the Kid a look knowing that it would take someone quite confident in their ability to defend themselves before they’d ride out in country like this. 

“I want you to stay here, Abi.  Hang back.”  The Kid shot over his shoulder.  “We’re goin’ to talk to him.”

The Kid recognized the figure as they approached.  It was the German boy with the twisted mouth from the Schmidt’s place.  Kurt Schmidt paused seeing the two men, recognizing the blond one who had come to their house looking for the two women who had disappeared.  He stopped and gave a crooked smile.  “Guten Morgen.”

“You speak English, boy?  Heyes asked.

“He didn’t speak any when I was at their place, only his sister.  Don’t trust him.  He followed me out.” 

Heyes shuffled in his saddle.  “How we gonna find out what he’s doin’ out here?”

Kurt grinned at them again.  “Why’s he got two horses with him when he’s riding alone?”  The Kid asked suspiciously.

Heyes rode over to him and pointed to his bag.  “WHAT’S IN THERE?”  He yelled.

“He ain’t deaf, Heyes.”

He stretched out a hand and gestured with his fingers indicating that he wanted the bag but Kurt gave them an empty look and did nothing.  Heyes rode right up to him and took hold of the bag but Kurt shook his head and pulled back on it until he saw the chilling look in the dark eyes and reluctantly let go. 

“What’s this?  A dress?” demanded Heyes.

“Must be his sister’s.  She’s quite pretty,” the Kid replied as Heyes pulled it out.  Scarlet silk and ribbons tumbled and unwound their way out of the bag. 

“Doesn’t look much like a farm girl’s dress to me,” said Heyes, looking at the low cut front of the evening gown. 

The Kid looked the expanse of fabric and mentally matched it to the petite redhead he had met.  “Too big for her too.”

The German boy was beginning to look even more uneasy as Heyes put a hand out to take another bag.  The Kid saw the keen look in his eyes and a flash of movement as the boy went for a gun but his lightening reflexes felled him with a single shot through the shoulder.   He toppled the ground with an ominous thump uttering a soft groan.  Heyes threw the Kid a worried look and jumped down from his horse to check the boy. 

“Help me,” he groaned.

They glanced at one another in surprise.  “I thought you didn’t speak English, boy,” barked the Kid.

“I do, please help me.  The pain is terrible...” 

They looked at one another, the description of the blond young man with a cleft lip given to them at the stables in Paris consolidating in their minds now they discovered that the boy spoke perfect English with an American accent, but why wouldn’t he?  He’d lived in the States all his life as far as they knew.

Abigail thundered up on her horse and leapt down to tend the wounded youth, throwing an accusing look at the Kid.  “What have you done!?”

The boy’s eyes flickered and rolled up in his head as he passed out with a hollow groan. 

“What did you do?” she raged.

He looked at her coldly.  “He’s Kurt Schmidt.  He was going to shoot Heyes.  I had to.” 

“What?”  She yelled in a frenzy.  “The sheriff told me he’s simple.  He wouldn’t have meant any harm.”

“He was dangerous.  He was going to kill.  I saw the look in his eyes.” 

“How could you?  Did you think I’d just watch you shoot a boy and do nothing?” 

Heyes bent over the lad.  “He’s only fainted.  We need to get him into town.”

“He speaks perfect English.  He now fits the description of the boy who sold the missin’ horses in Paris.  He’s the one who sold Bessie and Dora’s horses,” the Kid barked, dismounting.

“That’s no reason to shoot him.  You didn’t have to.  You can outdraw a farm boy.”  Abigail gave him a hard stare.  “Even I could outdraw a farm boy!”    

The Kid gave her a chilling glare, his eyes echoing the icy tone in his voice.  “I did what I had to do.”

She held his gaze, refusing to be intimidated, clearly not accepting his version of events.  “I won’t be hanging back again.  I’ll be right up front to see exactly what you do and how you do it,” her eyes narrowed.  “And I’ll remember it all.”

The Kid strode over to her, his eyes boring right through her as the truce stared to disintegrate before their very eyes.  “I was tryin’ to protect you both.  If you don’t want to accept that, we’re headin’ for trouble, lady.”

Abigail tilted her head back so that she could meet the eyes of the much taller man.  “Really?  You’re going to shoot me too?  Go ahead!” 

He remained tense as he glowered at her in silence.  He drew in a breath and opened his mouth in preparation to reply before he was distracted by Heyes’ call.  “Kid, look at this.”

Heyes had opened the other bag.  Another dress, this time a child’s in blue silk, spilled out along with jewelry, trinkets and books.  The dress was covered in blood.  “The books are in English, so I’m guessing they’re not his.”  He opened it.  “A family bible, embossed in silver, name of Clark.” 

Abigail ran forward to look at the garment in shock as the bitter Kid ignored her.  “I told you he was dangerous.  Are there any children at the Schmidts’ place?” 

“No.”  She watched a muscle in the Kid’s granite jaw flicker as her realization set in. “I’m sorry.”

“You went with your instincts,” he shrugged, not meeting her eyes, “just like I had to.” 

She knew that this comment was laden with meaning beyond this incident, but he was cold.  The playful side had gone.  Had she killed it? 

“No.”  She insisted.  “I’m really sorry.” 

The Kid ignored her and took off his hat, running his hand through his unruly hair before strolling over to Heyes who stood  regarding the sad collection of belongings reflectively. 

“Where’d he come from?”  He raised his head and gazed out towards the pass, the expanse of sky reflecting in his deep blue eyes.  “Let’s get over there.  I’ll tie him on his horse.”

oooOOOooo

They retraced Karl’s route and it didn’t take them long to see smoke in the distance and they headed towards it.   The small fire sat in the dip cut out of the landscape by the river as it wound its way through the valley.  A horseless wagon sat beside the small, smoldering pile where a woman and a man lay on the ground covered in blood.  A small, almost naked, girl wandered aimlessly around the site, bawling her heart out as the sharp stones cut into her little soft feet.  She could have been no more than two years old and the thin mountain sun had already beaten down onto her bare skin making it raw and angry.  The contents of various bags lay scattered around the area with fabrics fluttering faintly in the breeze in a scene of utter devastation.  Abigail sucked in a breath of horror and leapt down to her, but the Kid was faster and snatched the girl up in his arms before she reached her, cuddling her close.  “Hey... hey, my baby.  You’re fine now.” 

He clutched at a piece of fabric and wrapped her in it, covering her sunburn before he sat down with her and hugged her closely to his hard chest.  “Get me some water.”

He glanced over at the toddler’s parents and adjusted his position so that she was shielded from the horror as Heyes handed him his canteen so that the thirsty child could drink.  “Here, darlin’, be a good girl and drink this while the lady sees to your ma and Pa.”  Abigail watched him gently rock the girl back and forth before soaking some fabric and starting to bathe her cut feet as the child screamed in protest.  “Ssshh, darlin’.  Let me sort those for you.  I’ll make it all better.”

She was struck by his gentle patience before she turned away and took the woman’s hand, looking closely into her face.  “She’s still breathing.”

“So’s he,” yelled Heyes.  “Kid, help me get those horses back on the wagon and let’s get them into Bannen as soon as we can.”

oooOOOooo

It took them just under three hours to get the injured gently back to town in the wagon.  Abigail sat in the back and tended the wounded as best she could, trying to give whatever medical help she was able.  The man was the worst hurt, shot right through the arm and it appeared that most of the blood covering the family had come from him.  The woman had recovered her senses and told them that the Clark family had been held up by two short, stocky men.  Her husband had been shot when he resisted and the woman had been beaten with the butt of a rifle when she had pulled a gun from the back of a wagon.  They had then been left for dead after the raiders took anything of value with them, including the horses.

The family had been deposited at the doctor’s offices and Abigail sprinted over to the sheriff, acutely aware that he was about to see her without her disguise for the first time.  

“Yes, miss?  Can I help you?”  Sheriff Thompson stood as she came into the room.

“I don’t expect you’ll recognize me, but I’m Abigail MacKinnon.  We spoke earlier about the murders?”  She watched the confusion reign behind his eyes as he recognized the voice but not the slight, girlish figure that stood before him.

“No!  You ain’t her.  That old rat-baggage?”

“Sheriff, you can waste time debating my masterly of the art of disguise or you can come over to the doctor’s office.  I believe that we have caught your bushwhackers, or one of them anyway.”

oooOOOooo

Both Heyes and the Kid’s hands fell down by their guns as the sheriff walked into the doctor’s office.

“Who are these guys?”

She stood squarely in front of them.  “They are my colleagues.  Their names are of no accord to you, Mr. Thompson.”

A cynical look fell over his face as he eyed Abigail triumphantly.  “I knew that the Pinkertons wouldn’t leave an investigation to a woman, and certainly not to a slip of a girl.  Why didn’t one of you come to see me instead?”

They weren’t in a position to break cover.  I was.”  She shook her head in resignation, used to the assumptions which came with her sex.  “Does it matter?  Kurt Schmidt is one of the criminals.  He’ll be able to name the rest of them.”

“Where’s the doc?”

“He’s looking after the Clarks with his wife.”  The dark eyes briefly lighted with disdain as he glanced down at Kurt.  “They come first.”

“They sure do.”  The sheriff agreed.  “I don’t speak no German.  I’ll get my deputy Groenig to do it.  He’s got German from his folks.  I’ll go get him.”

“He speaks English just fine,” the Kid replied.  “He spoke it to us when he got shot.”

“He does?” Sheriff Thompson sucked in a breath.  “I guess he let folks in Bannen believe that so he wouldn’t be suspected as a robber.  Is that true Kurt?”   The sheriff poked him in the wound.

“Leave me be.  It was a way to keep me outta school so I could help pa on the farm, is all.  I made out I was simple so school didn’t want me.  I didn’t want them neither.  They made fun of my lip.”

“And later it was useful for the bushwackin’?  They were always loners those Schmidts.  They kept themselves to themselves.  The young ‘un wasn’t of school age when they moved here.”  He prodded Kurt’s shoulder again.  “Well.  What do you know?  Who’s your friends?  Talk.”  He jabbed the wound again as the Kid stepped forward.

“Leave him be.  I don’t hold with torture.”

“Why?  Are you soft?”  He prodded the screaming boy again.  “Talk!”

“I said, leave him be!”  The Kid forced the lawman away from the wounded man with jolt to the shoulder.  He reacted instinctively and went for his firearm but found the Kid’s gun in his nose before he could even start to straighten up.

He raised his hands in capitulation, stunned at the speed of the gunman that stood before him.  “Sure.  I ain’t gonna mess with professionals.”

“We’ll question him,” barked Heyes.  “We’ll let you know what we want you to do.”

“We got the murderer of those whores now.”  He eyed the group with hostility.  “You ain’t needed here no more.”

“I never.  I never murdered no one,” yelled Kurt.

“You expect us to believe that you murdering basta....”

Abigail cut him off.  “The way they operate isn’t the same.  A bullet in the arm and a head injury doesn’t come close to a deliberate shot through the head and a slow strangling.  This case isn’t closed.  We’re going nowhere.”

“How’d you know that?”

Abigail glared at him.  “You said it yourself. We’re professionals.”

“So who are the other two?” asked Heyes. “Who else is there around here?  There’s only one more man in the household and the sheriff told Abi he was dead. “

“Oh, for heaven’s sake.  It’s obvious,” Abigail threw up her hands.  “It’s the girl.  They’re all described as heavy set.  They pad her up with jackets and she makes sure that she doesn’t speak.  Add the Father and son speaking good English and nobody around would dream it was them under a mask.  Pa Schmidt’s dead and suddenly there are only two robbers?  Do you think that’s just a coincidence?”

“Don’t talk rubbish girl.  A woman couldn’t carry that off.”

“No?  Did you think I could look sixty years old?”  She shook her head in exasperation at the male’s ability to dismiss female criminality.  “Search the place.  Look for the disguise; padded Jackets.  Look for a man’s hat with long red hairs in the crown,” she glared down at the wounded man.  “Tell them Kurt?  We’ll even find things that you just had to keep, eh?”

“How’d you know?”  Asked the wounded boy weakly, caught out by her certainty.

“See?  Now when you’re all finished with this nonsense, you need to go and bring her and her mother in for questioning.”

“Nope,” the sheriff replied.  “I’m getting a posse and we’re razin’ that place to the ground.”

“No, you’re not,” Abigail planted her feet in front of the lawman.  “He may very well be guilty of some murders, but that does not mean he’s guilty of them all.  I’m not interested in fitting someone up to clear up a crime. I want the real killers to be found.  It doesn’t help the people of this town to have murderers walking free.”

“So you ain’t gonna do nuthin’?  That’s loco.”

 “Go and arrest them by all means, but that’s it.  No destruction and no burning.  We’re going out there tomorrow and we’ll look at all the evidence, not burn it down as an act of stupid revenge.  Until then I don’t want you to tell anyone that Kurt is here.  Nobody outside the law.  Let them worry and see what that makes them do.”

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


Last edited by Silverkelpie on Fri Jan 06, 2017 1:39 pm; edited 4 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Friends And Foes - Part 4    Wed Jan 04, 2017 5:42 pm

oooOOOoo

The posse was dispatched but they stayed behind and allowed them to bring in the Schmidts on their own.  It had been a long day and there were many heightened emotions still running through the group.  They needed to rest and Abigail noted with deep concern that the gunman hadn’t said a word directly to her or looked her in the eye since their quarrel.  The Kid strolled outside and rubbed his tense face.  This law work was harder than he thought and he was ready to swing for Abigail after their confrontation out in the plain. 

“Jed.  I have to speak to you.”

He stiffened at the sound of her voice behind him and quickened his pace, his irritation rising.  He heard the patter of her feet before a hand grasped his arm.  He shrugged her off and strode on.  Didn’t she know when to give up?

She ran in front of him and stood in his way in a misguided attempt to appeal to his better nature.  “Please.  We have to talk.”

“Get out of my way, Abi.”  He growled impatiently.

“Jed...”

His eyes cut through her like daggers of blue ice.  “Move or I won’t be responsible for my actions.  I ain’t in the mood for this.” 

“No.  I need to talk to you.”

Without a word he grasped her by the top of the arm and dragged her into the nearest alley.  He thrust her up against the wall and held her with one hand as his eyes glinted through the darkness with the hardness of diamonds.  “You want to talk?  You got my full attention, sweetheart.  Just remember that a killer’s got you in an alley, so don’t do anythin’ stupid.”

“No, he hasn’t.” 

She spoke calmly but he could hear her swallowing hard as her breathing quickened against his grasp.  He moved closer, his hot breath on her face.  “You sure about that?”

He watched her eyes well up with emotion but it wasn’t fear, it was regret, and her next words cut through him.   “Yes.  I’ve never been surer of anything in my life.  I’m sorry, Jed.  So sorry.  I am just getting to know you.  That’s my only excuse.  I’m in a world of criminals and rogues.  It’s taken me a while to realize you’re not...” she paused, “well..., very usual.  I’m alone out here and all I have to measure you by is what I already know about people.  But every now and then you show me that I know almost nothing.  I’m sorry.  I was wrong.”

He gazed right into her, lost in his own thoughts and memories before he spoke quietly as though scattering a nightmare.  “A killer.  The man with the fast gun.  That’s what you see.”

“You’re wrong.”

A sardonic laugh cut through the night air.  “Yeah?  You thought exactly that until Heyes found the bag.

“I know.  I understand better now.  I really do.”

He pulled back and looked deeply into her, his eyes still swirling with doubt as she spoke again.  “I’m sorry.  I should have listened to my heart and what I’ve learned about you.  I was wrong and I’ll tell that to anyone, even Alan Pinkerton.”

He closed his eyes and pushed her away.

“Go.”  He sighed hoarsely. 

“Please talk to me.”

“Just go.  I ain’t leavin’ you down an alley.  You’re just dumb enough to stay down here and pick a fight with a raccoon.”

“No, I’m not...”

He pulled her into the street.  “Go, woman.  Just go!  Will you ever listen to anythin’ you’re told?”

oooOOOooo

Heyes stood over a sobbing Kurt Schmidt, his eyes as dark as the inky corners of the room, before he turned and walked out of the jailhouse.  He had to know if this man was responsible for the death of two helpless women and he was glad to find out the truth.  Unlike the sheriff he was not interested in finding a scapegoat; he dealt only in truth when it came to righting wrongs.  He didn’t have the Kid’s scruples, but he didn’t use the sheriff’s blunt instrument either.  His methods were pointed and comprehensive, but they got answers.  If the lawmen hadn’t been sitting in the next room he was sure he’d have gotten a few more.   

He nodded to the deputy on his way out and strode out into the cool night air.  It felt good to be free from suspicion because he was known as one of the Pinkerton Agents.  He could get used to this.  His heart was still beating with emotional intensity as she stepped out onto the street and saw a lone figure standing on the sidewalk gazing aimlessly down the street.  “Abi?”

She turned, her smile thin and unconvincing.

“Are you alright?”

She shrugged indifferently.  “Yes, I’m fine.”

He looked deeply into her eyes and hooked an arm through hers.  “No, you’re not.  Walk with me.  Talk to me.”

“I’m fine.”  Her voice was stronger this time but her face was still impassively stony.

“Yeah?  This is me you’re talkin’ to. What’s wrong?  Is this all too much for you?”

He felt her sigh deeply.  “I’ve upset Jed, really badly.”  Her eyes then flashed deliciously, unable to let the slight by unchallenged.  “And no.  This isn’t too much for me.  You two are just not what I expected.  Not at all.”

He stopped and turned to look at her, already knowing the answer.  “How did you upset him?”

“Out there today, when I thought he’d shot that boy unnecessarily.  He’s so angry at me he could barely even look at me most of the day.  I’ve tried to apologize but he was still furious and so... cold and so...”  She was the outsider here and she could never forgot that fact, so her sentence simply drifted off into the wind, unfinished, unwilling to sound too critical. 

He smiled at her.  “It’s fine.  He’s fine.”

“No. It’s not.”

“I’ve seen you not give a damn what people think of you.”  His eyebrows met in a frown.  “Why does this matter to you so much?”

“I deal in truth, no matter how harsh.  He’s not a cold killer.  He’s a surgeon’s knife, not the henchman I was told he was.  I was unfair.”  She paused, pointing to her heart.  “That’s not good enough, not for me.”    

The frown dissipated into surprise.  “You need to understand somethin’ about the Kid.  He feels more than he says, but he’s fair, real fair.  If you’ve apologized, and meant it, he’ll listen to you.”  He turned her so that he faced her directly and looked deeply into her eyes with a smile.  “When his anger wears off he’ll tell you that, but sometimes with men you have to let them work things through on their own before they’re ready to talk.”

She groaned.  “So?  You’re teaching me about men now, Mr. Heyes?”

His tone was laden with meaning.  “Do you want me to teach you, Abi?”

Her stomach gave the now familiar flip as she darted her eyes away in embarrassment.

He smiled.  “You didn’t say no.”

He caught her chin with a crooked finger and drew her face up to look directly into his.  “I’ve never met anyone like you before.  You still have the ability to surprise me and not many do that.  Most would think that you’d be very experienced around men, but you’re not, are you?”

Her cat-like eyes shone as the moonlight illuminated her pale skin.  “That depends on what you mean by experienced, Mr. Heyes.” 

“You know what I mean, Abi.”  He whispered as he drew her close to him.

He felt her tense and he released her immediately, concerned flickering over his face.  “I’m sorry.  I thought I sensed something between us.”

She dropped her head.  “Whatever you sensed, Mr. Heyes, it needs to stay exactly where it is.”

He tilted his head, the disquiet feeding through to his voice.  “Is it because of what I did to you at the cabin?  I wouldn’t have.  I would never do that to a woman.  It was a strategy. It’s not who I am.”

“No.”  She shook her head and darted a smile at him.  “I know you wouldn’t and nor would Jed.”

“What then?”

“This is only a temporary truce.  I can’t get involved with criminals, Mr. Heyes.  You’re clever, kind, and as handsome as the devil himself; but you’re still a criminal and I simply can’t afford to get involved with a man like you.”

“Male lawmen do it all the time.  Ask Pearl.”

 “Do you know how good I have to be?  To be simply allowed into my world, let alone get respect?  I can’t.  I just can’t.”  She frowned, “quite apart from the fact that I’m not the kind of woman to throw herself at anyone, we’ll be on opposite sides again very soon.”

He folded his arms, his cheeks dimpling.  “So?  You think I’m handsome?”

“You know I do.  Stop fishing for compliments, it’s very unattractive.”  She thrust her nose in the air in mock piousness.  “So is Jed.  You are a very winsome family.”

His eyes glittered through the darkness in honest delight.  “You are one of the most honest people I ever met.  Don’t get me wrong; you lie through your teeth, but only for the right reasons.  You can’t be bought and you don’t cheat.  Do you know how many women with your looks would use them to get what they wanted?  Even to draw us in?”  He grinned.  “At least when it happens I’ll know that it’s not that kind of trick.”

She frowned.  “When what happens?”

His smile danced with devilish temptation.

“It’ll never happen,” she snapped.

Scintillae of roguishness shone in the dimpled smile.  “No, Abi.  When.  I’m starting to realize that you and me are made from the same stuff, just different sides of the same coin. There’s a whole lot of fire under that stiff front.  Now let’s turn in.  I think this is getting too far from the business in hand.”

They strolled on, back to the hotel they were using for convenience.  The stars which seemed to stretch endlessly above them twinkled as defiantly as the spirits of the people below.

“I questioned Kurt.  He says that when they came across the women they were already dead and disposed of the bodies so they could sell anything valuable.”

And you believe him?”

“I do.  He’s not bright enough to be very creative.  I don’t think I got everything out of him though.”

“What about the jewelry he sold in Paris?”

Heyes stopped in his tracks.  “How the hell...?

“How do I know that?” Abigail replied.  “Do you really think we don’t have informants in places like Paris?  It only took a couple of telegrams.  Did you ask him what he knows about the murder of his father?”

“He says he went off alone one day and didn’t come back.”

“I suppose that may be true in a way.  He’s what links the Schmidts to the killers of Bessie and Dora though.  He was shot by a single shot to the head like Bessie, execution style.”

“It might not be a link.  Lots of people have guns and Schmidt wasn’t popular.” Heyes pointed out.   “So you think he knows who the killers were?”

“Possibly, but he’ll have been indoctrinated since birth about not cooperating with the law and he’s not bright enough to realize he’ll be in the frame for the killings unless he helps us.  Maybe the sister will be of more use to us?”  Her rueful smile was caught in a watery moonbeam.  “Ironically this might have been one time where you’d have been more successful under your real identity, Mr. Heyes.”              

“Abi, can I ask you something personal?”

“What?”

“Why will you only call me Mr. Heyes?” 

“I don’t do gang nicknames.” 

“Everyone else calls me plain old Heyes.”

“I would call you by your real name,” her tinkling laugh cut through the night as she looked up at him, “but I hate it.”  She shook her head.  “I can’t call you Hannibal.  I just can’t.  It makes me think of elephants climbing up mountains.  It’s ridiculous.  What in earth were your parents thinking?”

oooOOOooo

Abigail walked into the restaurant the next morning and all eyes were on her.  Everyone in town knew she was the female Pinkerton, even if they didn’t know that she was also the formidable Mrs. Benson.  The Kid gallantly stood, as always, as she approached the table.  She smiled at him.

“How are you?”

His deep blue eyes smiled at her.  “I’m fine.  How are you?”

“Worried.  Worried about upsetting you.”

He grinned.  “But putting us away for twenty years ain’t gonna upset me?”

“That’s the sentence for things you actually did, not for things you didn’t.  You didn’t deserve that kind of judgement from me.  I truly am sorry and I’ll never misjudge you again.  I give you my word that I’ll trust you where you deserve it.”  She smiled.  “However rarely.

His eyebrows flicked up. “There ain’t many in law whose word I’d take, Abi, so I suppose that works both ways.”  He reached out to take her hand.  “I’m sorry.  I guess you just didn’t know me well enough but I’m happy that you do now.  Now, that old lady stunt in here yesterday is somethin’ else entirely.  I still owe you for that.”

She laughed.  “Oh yes?  Just what do you have in mind?”

He flicked up a mischievous eyebrow.  “When it happens you’ll know.”

“Well, you two made it up.”  They looked up and a smiling Heyes entering the restaurant.

“Nothin’ to make up, Heyes.  Just promisin’ revenge for the little old lady stunt.”

Heyes laughed as he sat down.  “I’ll look forward to that.  You earned it, Abi.”

The Kid leant forward and fixed her with a theatrical glare.  “Abi, if you tell anyone in here that I’m your pa or anythin’ stupid like that I’ll dump you in that horse trough.  You got that?”

She grinned.  “Got it, Mr. Curry.  I’ll behave.”

They ordered breakfast and started dissecting the evidence.  All eyes turned to Heyes as he spoke in subdued tones, trying to make sure that they weren’t overheard.  “I took time to speak to the Schmidt boy last night.  They’re thieves and murderers; but he says he wasn’t there when Bessie and Dora were killed.  He won’t say more at the moment, not yet.  I don’t think he realizes how much trouble he could be in.”  

Abigail shrugged.  “He doesn’t trust the law.  It’s very common.”  Her eyes widened.  “I got the information from Boston.  I think I know who did it and why.  I wish we could get that jewelry he sold in Paris.  I really do.  The jeweler claims it’s been stolen.”

The Kid stared into his coffee cup.  “Why?  What did you find out from Boston?”

“Ben Middleton probably isn’t who he says he is, and Mrs. Benson died years ago.  That’s what gave him away.  He knew.  He absolutely knew that Phil Benson’s mother was dead.”

“So who is he?”

She shrugged.  “I have an idea but I need to check.  I’ve asked the Sheriff to bring him in along with those who want to adopt David.  They’re also from Boston and I think they have connections to Ben Middleton’s real family.”

Heyes and Curry exchanged a glance as the Kid spoke.  “This isn’t fair.  How can we guess if we don’t know as much as you do?”

“Fine.  Ben Middleton doesn’t seem to exist, but Phil Benson’s Mother’s maiden name is Middleton.  You should bear in mind however that many births are never registered in the USA, so it’s not absolute proof that he’s using a false name.  It’s a common mistake to use the mother’s maiden name as an alias.  It helps us.”  She shrugged.  “In Scotland they’ve had to register births since 1855, but not here.  There’s talk that it’ll be compulsory, but it isn’t yet.  If it was it’d be easier to check.”  

The two men looked at one another processing this information.

“Phil Benson’s father is also dead: two years ago, but it looks like he remarried when he was quite old.  He left his money to his surviving children so Phil Benson wouldn’t have been entitled to a share as he predeceased him.  That also rules out the boy as someone who could inherit too.  Dora had contacted a lawyer to find out about the will by telegraph.  The sheriff got that information for me.”

“Bigamy?”

She shook her head.  “No, his first wife died, but they’d lived apart for years.  He was a horrible man apparently, a violent alcoholic who was a real snob.  He had no reason to look down on anyone, his background wasn’t unlike poor Bessie’s but he worked hard and built up a future.  He owned a plumbing supply business and started getting above himself when he opened his second shop.  He alienated his family and they all sided with his wife when she left him after one final beating.  She died in poverty, the poor soul.  She certainly wasn’t the genteel matron I portrayed.  She was a washerwoman because he wouldn’t give her a penny.  Incidentally she also had another son.  An older boy.  He died five years ago but there had been a warrant out for his arrest as he beat the proverbial out of his father.  He was close to his mother and hated his father.  The second marriage was to a woman called Ruth Thornhill and she married a Robert Davis after Andrew Burton died.”

“So why would anyone murder Dora and Bessie for that and why want the boy?  He didn’t even have an inheritance.”

“That’s what I need to prove, and I need to get everyone together for that.  Andrew Burton, the man who wanted to adopt, was a blind man.  The other couple were quite aggressive, especially when they found out that the asylum had already allocated David to Andrew Burton.  Oh and old man Schmidt was killed in much the same way as Bessie.” 

She looked at their plates.  “I was up early this morning and the sheriff is bringing in everyone involved in this so we’ll see then.”  She paused.  “Well?  You have all the same information as me.  Have you guessed yet?”              

oooOOOooo

The sheriff’s office was full of people.  The two cells held the Schmidts and the room contained a collection of people including the sheriff and his deputies.  One man in a grey suit looked familiar as the Doctor’s friend and assistant from their night the Clark family were brought in.  All eyes, except for Ben Middleton, turned as they walked in and the sheriff proffered a seat to Abigail. 

“Got them all here as you asked,” he looked at Heyes.  “I guess you want to ask the questions Mr. ..?”

He smiled and looked at Abigail’s irritated face as he neglected to introduce himself.  “I’ll certainly start.”

He stood in front of the assembled group noting that the woman with the pointed nose and her husband were glaring at.  “As agreed with the sheriff, I questioned Kurt Schmidt last night.”

He leant against the sheriff’s desk and folded his arms casually, watching the reactions of the assembled group.

“He says they didn’t kill the girls.  They had a reading with his sister and they sometimes used that to spot a potential victim.  Bessie’d lost her pa and wanted to get a message from him.  Dora seemed excited about a large sum of money and a bright future, and that’s why they became a target for the Schmidts.  They thought that she may have some of it with her.  Apparently the lad would track people and hold them up before the others moved in.  He told me the girls they were already dead when he found them.  He says he didn’t see anyone else around, but I don’t believe that last part.”

The Kid cast his mind back to the boy who followed him from the Schmidt’s place that night and gave a wry smile at what might have been if he’d been less vigilant.  Being held up by the Schmidts held no terrors, but things could have turned nasty if they’d drawn on him. 

“How can you believe he just happened on the bodies?” demanded the sheriff.

He shrugged.  “They’ve been doin’ this for years.  The old man had started robbin’ that way when he was a militia member for the confederate side during the war and just kept doing it.”

“So.  They just took the horses and sold them on?” asked a deputy .

“After throwing’ the bodies down a well.  They didn’t need folks examining what they’d been up to and they were too greedy to pass up the price of the horses.  Greedy is behind this whole thing.”

“Why are we here?” demanded the woman.  “It’s obvious that those people killed those poor women.  It’s ridiculous that respectable people are treated like this.”

“Is it?”  Asked Heyes.  “Those robberies have been going on for at least fifteen years in one form or another and there’s never been a death.  Why would they start now?”

“They’re criminals.  They’re all the same,” she barked.

Heyes flicked up an eyebrow and fixed her with a gimlet eye.  “No , ma’am, they’re not, and my experience is really quite considerable in that area.  This man and that girl, are thieves, not killers.”

“They fought back.  They killed them.  They were violent with the Clark family.  Really violent,” snapped the sheriff.

“The Clark family was more violent than any others but they still only beat the woman and shot the man in the arm.  That was the only robbery after old man Schmidt died.  They dynamics of a gang can change when they lose their leader.  The more scared the robbers are the more likely they are to use violence, and they didn’t have their pa’s steadying influence anymore.  A bullet in the arm and a beating’s a different mindset to a shot to the head and a slow strangling.”  Heyes’ eyes seemed to turn even blacker as he spoke.  “It takes a lot of cruelty to strangle a woman with your bare hands, or a lot of hate.  That sort of sickness grows.  There would be a pattern.  It doesn’t just happen once and then disappear.”  He paused.  “Either that or a one off explosion of hate fuelled by real passion, and theft isn’t a strong enough motive.  Not when they’ve been doing this all their lives.”    

“So?  You’d better tell us how that relates to us or we are leaving.  Right now.”

“You ain’t goin’ anywhere until I say so, ma’am,” growled the Kid.

Heyes threw a look at Abigail.  “This takes us to Miss MacKinnon’s part of the investigation.”

“Thank you.”

“I know that voice.  You came to my door with that other woman.”  Ben Middleton shuffled in his seat, his head cocked receptively.

“Yes, Mr. Middleton.  I did.  But that’s not actually your name is it?”

The man froze.  “Yes, it is.”

“Can you evidence that?  Is there anyone from your youth who could testify as to your identity, documents perhaps?”

“I got no documents and no one would recognize me.  Not after the explosion.”

“True, but there are some things which don’t change, like your handwriting.  Your hands  are unaffected.  Dick Turpin was identified when an old school teacher recognized his writing.  What school did you go to?”

“I didn’t go to school.”

“You’re lying, Mr. Middleton and if we search your house we’ll find examples of your handwriting.  You’re a musician, most say a superb one, yet you apparently took that up only after the accident.  That speaks to me of a fairly good education.  In fact, I think you’re classically trained, I’ve heard you playing in Pearl’s place.  Should we ask your wife on her own?”

“Leave her out of this.”

“I’m trying to.  Work with me not against me.  Do you recognize anyone else’s voices?”

“No.  Well, maybe some of the men.”

“Mr. Middleton.  I think your name is really Benson.  I can prove it if you make it necessary, but you were hoping that you were so disfigured that you were able to reinvent yourself, weren’t you?”

The man shifted in his chair.  “You can’t prove anything.”

She paused and smiled.  “I can if I have to.”

The sharp nosed woman glowered at him.  “You’re Philip Benson.”

“No, of course not.  What kind of a man would stand by and let his wife go into a brothel?”

“No, you’re not Philip Benson,” said Abigail.  “You’re his elder brother Michael, aren’t you?”

The blind man shuffled in his seat.  “Mr. Benson.  The charges your father brought appear to be trumped up at best.  You were defending your mother from yet another beating weren’t you?”

“I....”

“You ran away to be with your brother and to escape the assault charges, didn’t you?”  The census shows that Dora Blyth was a maid there in along with both sons.  You eventually met all up and lived as neighbors near your mother.”

“That doesn’t prove a thing.”

“Mr. Benson.  I can prove this if you push me to.  You weren’t Dora’s lover.  You were her brother-in-law and she had a kind heart.  Everyone who knew her said so.  You weren’t paying a prostitute.  She was giving you money to help you and your wife.  She wasn’t just supporting her son, she was supporting both households.  For her sake please tell the truth.  Don’t let your stupid pride get in the way.”

He dropped his head in shame.  “I’m a wreck.  A hopeless cripple.  She was a wonderful person and I had to end up living off her.  Look how she earned her money.  I couldn’t live with myself.  I am Michael Benson and I did beat the life out of that old son of a...”  He paused, breathing heavily.  “I watched him beat my mother for years until I snapped.  I found myself on the run from the law so I went to my brother and changed my name to Middleton.  I took mother’s name maiden name; my Grandpa was a fine man.”  A flicker of a smile flashed over his scarred face.  “I met my Becky. We got married, but what kind of life have I given her?  What future is there for her?  She works from dawn till dusk.  My mother eventually registered me as dead because he kept sending investigators after me.  He was a vengeful, horrible man who saw his family as possessions.  He couldn’t bear the fact that we’d rather live in the gutter than be near him so he punished us in any way he could.”  The man dropped his head in his hands as everyone in the room stared at him.

“There’s a warrant for you?”  Asked the sheriff?

Heyes threw an arm out feeling the Kid stiffen beside him.

“There is sheriff, but I hardly think he’s a flight risk,” Abigail replied.  “Besides, he’s a very wealthy man.  I think he can easily fight this case with the help of a good lawyer, but the statute of limitations has probably expired anyway.  I don’t have the date of the charges, though, or the exact nature of the crime.  There’s a longer period or beating a man over sixty in that state, for instance; so I don’t want to mislead anyone with false hope.”

“What?”  The pointy nosed woman couldn’t help herself.  “Wealthy?”

“Yes,” replied Abigail.  “He’s the eldest born legitimate son.  In fact, only Philip and Michael were legitimate.  The second marriage was quite late, and the second wife lived as a common law wife until they were able to legally marry much later.  Their daughter was legally illegitimate, and a later marriage doesn’t change that status for inheritance law.  It’s really quite a motive.  With nobody around to challenge the legitimacy the girl from the second marriage would get everything.  With Michael around she’d get nothing at all.”

“Isn’t it illegal to register someone as dead when you know they’re alive?”  The woman demanded.

“It is if there’s an intention to defraud, but the woman who registered him is dead.  Any charges would die with her, unless you could prove that he was in on it beyond all reasonable doubt.  I haven’t heard anything here to confirm that.”  She paused and spoke with deep emphasis.  “And I would caution Mr. Middleton that he shouldn’t say anything more about it without consulting a lawyer.”   

“I’ve heard enough.”  The woman stood up and took a step towards the door, but stopped in her tracks when she looked into Kid Curry’s cold blue eyes.

“Sit down, ma’am.”  He quietly instructed.  “I won’t ask nicely again.”

“Thank you.”  Abigail nodded in his direction.  “Anyone thinking of leaving should remember that this place is full of lawmen.  Isn’t it sheriff?”

“Yes , ma’am.”  Sheriff Thompson sounded unsure as to who he should be stopping, but pretty sure he should act as though he did.

“And that brings us to the motive of the crime.  Dora had contacted someone with the initials RD.  In his second marriage Benson had a daughter called Ruth, she’d be about eleven now, but she was named after her mother.  She married a Robert Davis after Andrew Benson senior died.  Two adults with the initials RD.  That’s you isn’t, Mrs. Davis?  You’re Ruth Davis and you answered her.”

“What me? No.”

Heyes fixed her with a hard stare.  “What is your name, ma’am?”

“It’s Mellor.  Hannah Mellor.”

“Well, that’s strange because you told my partner and me that it was Hislop.”

“And you also told the orphanage that your name was Mellor.  Do you want me to get the superintendent in here to indentify you?  It’s the easiest thing in the world to prove who you are and who you claimed to be.  A few visits to neighbors at home from some Pinkertons bearing photographs will do it.  The telegraph company have already informed us about the contents of the telegrams and who sent and received them.  It was you communicating with Dora, wasn’t it Mrs. Davis?”

“So what?” she snapped, aware that her subterfuge wouldn’t last.  “It’s not illegal to give a false name and the boy is just lovely.  When I heard how poor she was and then that he was in an orphanage, I wanted to help.”

“Or you wanted to have complete control over these people threatening your future plans.  When Dora was dead there was a chance that Ben Middleton may not be able to prove his claim because he had been living under another name for so long and was seriously disfigured.  You holding the child was a way to make sure.”  The woman glared at Abigail.  “Except the orphanage didn’t want to give you the boy.  Someone else had already applied and a deal had been struck with a man blind called Andrew Burton, also from Boston who appeared to be wealthier than you.  The deal could have been broken but you annoyed the superintendent by browbeating him and he stuck to the original adoption.  Mr. Andrew Burton was a blind man with a very loving wife and David was to be handed over any day now.  You had to try to steal him.”

She looked at Ben Middleton with a smile.  “Why did you pretend to be someone else, Mr. Middleton?”

“I’m already livin’ on handouts.  I got a small payout from the mine but it don’t keep us.  They’d never give me the kid, but I couldn’t leave him in there.  I owed it to my brother and to Dora.  I borrowed smart clothes, put on my best accent and lied.” 

“And that’s when you tried to take the boy from school,” added the Kid, staring at the woman.  “We were both there, ma’am.  We saw it.”

“I found it quite difficult to find Andrew Burton, but it became clearer when a colleague read the will.  Mr. Burton senior was also called Andrew.  How fitting to choose your father’s name for the adoption, Mr. Middleton.  He left all his money to be shared equally amongst his surviving children, thinking that both his sons from his earlier marriage were dead and gone.  A total of over forty thousand dollars, two houses and a business which is growing by the day as people take up indoor plumbing.  He left only a small income for his wife, but then he was quite a misogynist and it wasn’t really a love match by all accounts.  You led him a merry dance, Mrs. Davis, or so my colleagues in Boston were told.”

“Misogynist?  What’s his religion got to do with this?” demanded the sheriff.

Abigail smiled coldly at the woman. 

“You wanted it all.  Controlling your daughter’s share and an income wasn’t good enough for you.  You were incensed to learn that Dora was enquiring about the will and when you investigated you found that the survivor from the mine had been blinded and was living under a false name.  The widow got nothing but he was closely associated with her and was even reputed to be her lover.  You assumed that Phil Middleton still alive and was eligible to inherit his father’s share because he’d swapped identities with the dead man to get the payout from the mine.  You’d lost the money.  It didn’t cross your mind to worry about Michael.  You all believed he was long dead.”

“You can’t prove a thing.”

“I can.  She told Ben Middleton she’d been communicating with someone about coming into money and life was going to change very soon.  She also told the Schmidts and wanted to know what her wonderful new life would look like.   I think that she wanted to surprise him when she got all the facts and knew he would take care of her and her son.”  Abigail sat on the edge of the desk and folded her arms.  “Dora had got tired of a life of prostitution and saw that people simply don’t manage to work their way out of it.  She swallowed her pride and acted for her son’s sake but when she contacted her father-in-law to eat some craw, he had died.  His new wife replied from the business and there were quite a few communications going back and forth before she arranged to meet her.  The telegraph stations have a record.  It was delivered to you.  You arranged to meet her on the day she died.”

“That doesn’t mean I killed her.”

“No, but there was a witness.   Someone who followed them out to rob them.  Someone who later blackmailed you, Mrs. Davis.  Wasn’t there Kurt?”

The German boy stammered and stuttered to a standstill but Abigail pressed on.  “Kurt.  She’s got no money, she’s going to prison and she’s trying to set you up for this murder.  Tell the truth for heaven’s sake.”

“I...”

“Kurt.  I think they killed your father when he tried to get more money out of them.  Now they’re trying to hang you and your sister for their crimes.”

The Schmidts said nothing, an upbringing of being taught not to trust the authorities taking its toll.  Their refusal to help was infuriating, causing Abigail’s hands to harden into little fists of frustration.  “Please.  Don’t let her get away with this.  They’ll blame you.  They’ll hang you for her crime.”

“They’ll never believe us anyway,” Amy murmured.  “What’s the point?”        

“Maybe this’ll help?”  Heyes reached inside his hat before he unfolded a collection of glittering chains and lustrous pearls from a cloth and placed them on the table.  “This one here’s got an inscription, ‘to Ruth from Robert’.  It’s got a date too.  I’m guessing it’s your wedding ring.  When did you get married, ma’am?”

Abigail glared at him absolutely speechless as he beamed his most dazzling grin at her.  There was only one way he could have possession of that jewelry.  He had broken into the safe in the jeweler’s shop where Kurt had sold off the goods.

“Have you got photographs at home, ma’am?  I bet you’re wearing some of your jewels in them?  Or we can trace the jeweler who made or sold them.  The boy here took these to Paris and sold them.  We can prove these are yours.  These link you to the Schmidts, and you didn’t report a robbery.  That means you were voluntarily handing over your property?  Were you buying their silence by any chance?  It’s the only logical explanation. ”

The woman began to go puce as her husband began to declaim his innocence.  “I had nothing to do with it.  I was there, but she shot the big one and Dora started fighting so she strangled her.”

“Shut up!” yelled Mrs. Davis, lashing out at her husband.  “We were robbed.  That’s how he must have gotten them.  We were robbed.”   

“The bodies don’t agree with that account, sir.”  Abigail cut in, ignoring the woman’s attempt to prevaricate.  “Bessie’s nails were broken on one hand.  She was fighting for her life.  I’d say that someone shot her because she fought too well.  One woman couldn’t do that alone.  Not with another woman fighting too.  Her nails also show that she fought.  Even with decomposition those things can be found on a body.”

“She shot her.”  Amy pointed at Ruth Davis.  “He strangled the young one when she wouldn’t tell them about some man called Philip.  They gave us what they had to shut us up; everything valuable that woman was wearing, and promised us more.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  We don’t kill.  I guess they would have killed us too but we were armed and outnumbered them.”

“Was she expecting to meet you out there on the plain?”  Abigail asked Robert Davis.

“We wanted to pay Dora a small sum to disappear but she’d done her homework and thought that someone was entitled to a cut of the will.  She was smarter than we thought and couldn’t let her meet with a lawyer.  We had to follow her.”

“Shut up!” cried Ruth.

“I will not, woman.  You already put a noose around my neck.”  Robert Davis stood up.  “I haven’t been able to eat or sleep since it happened.  It’s a nightmare.”

“It begs the question.  What did you intend to do to the boy?” demanded Abigail.

“Nothing.  I’m not an animal.”  The woman clamped her jaws shut and stared off at the wall, refusing to expand any further. 

“That’s a matter of opinion, ma’am.”  Heyes eyes burned into the woman in fury.  He had sworn to kill Dora’s killer but what could he do to a woman, especially when it was clear that the law was already taking care of things for him.  Maybe Abigail’s way was better?

“He’s disappeared.  What have you done to him?” yelled Sheriff Thompson.

“The boy’s fine.  We removed him to safety,” said Abigail

The sheriff’s eyes glinted at Abigail menacingly.  “The way the law is in this country, ma’am, the president himself can’t override the authority of an elected lawman.  What do you think you’re playin’ at?”

Abigail smiled the smile of one used to handling angry people.  “I didn’t override anyone, Mr. Thompson.  You did nothing.  The boy came of his own free will and has been kept safe and well with a trusted family.”  She spoke sweetly but with calm authority.  “If you can be clear about what investigation of yours I hampered I’ll be happy to answer in any court of law.  I don’t intimidate easily and I would like to point out that you still haven’t even visited the Juvenile Asylum and you only sent a deputy to ask the questions as I directed.  The boy has now been away from there for almost a week.  You did nothing.”

“You can’t prove we weren’t robbed,” ranted the woman.  “They’re known criminals by their own admission.  They’re blaming us for their crime.”

“Except for one thing, Mrs. Davis.”

Abigail strode over and grasped her arm, pulling up her sleeve, revealing track-like scars on her forearm and on the backs of her hands.

“Cuts heal quite quickly but deep scratches will leave scars that take much longer to disappear.  I believe that if we search your husband he will have scars too as he dragged Dora away to let you deal with Bessie.  I examined the bodies.  They were too badly decomposed for me to identify defensive injuries but their nails were broken where they fought and scratched for their very lives and human skin was under their nails.   They never stood a chance.  Bessie was bigger than you but you not only had the element of surprise, and you had a gun.  Dora?  Well, women just aren’t a strong as men.”  She dropped the woman’s arm and smiled at the dignified gentleman in the grey suit who had been sitting silently all through the discussion. “Ciamar a tha sibh?”

The man nodded and replied in their native Scottish Gaelic. 

“Tha gu math, tapal leibh,” he replied

“This is Doctor MacKay.  He is countryman of mine and a very eminent surgeon who works for the Pinkerton Agency.  Some of you may have met him when he assisted the local doctor with the Clark family.  He studied with Dr Joseph Bell in Edinburgh who has used medical science to solve many murders in a way which has influenced the world and is changing detection very dramatically.  He is a very clever man with an eye for detail,” she smiled at him.  “I’m very lucky to have him here, but he was passing through on this way out west for another case and was kind enough to take a detour.”

“I’m always happy to help, Miss MacKinnon.”  The doctor spoke in a sing song highland accent. 

She paused as Heyes and the Kid wondered how many more Pinkerton employees were in this town as their hearts started to sink.

“He has examined the bodies and measured their fingers and he can explain how hard they fought and scratched.  If those scratches match the finger span of the dead women we can not only place you at the time of the murders, but we can prove that you are the only ones there who were scratched.  He has also examined all of the Schmidts, including the father’s body.  They were not scratched but those women clawed at their killers.  I took the skin samples from under their nails myself.”

“The absence of scratches on any of them will also show that they are unlikely to have murdered those women.  When you couple that with proof of when you journeyed here and those marks must have been made in the vicinity of Bannen and that you handed over your property to the Schmidts, and, well.  It really couldn’t have been anyone else.”

“I’ve heard enough.  Mr. and Mrs. Davis. you are under arrest for the murder of Dora Benson and Bessie... Bessie,” he floundered hopelessly.

“Mann.”  Yelled out two deputies simultaneously, as they eyed each other curiously and they wondered just how well the other knew the dead prostitute.

“Bessie Mann,” the sheriff completed the sentence.

“I want a lawyer,” bellowed Mrs. Davis as tears started running down her face.

“You’ll get one.  But in the meantime you go in that cell alongside that girl you tried to set up for murder.  It’s the only place I got to put you.  If you get scratched there’s a doc here who can measure them for us.”     
  
oooOOOooo

“What now?”  Ben Middleton hung his head fearfully, afraid that the warrant would be exercised and that his dreadful lot was about to get even worse.

“I’m going to take you a lawyer’s office and you’re going to claim your inheritance.”  Abigail smiled at the unseeing man, but he could hear the warmth in her voice.  “I really wouldn’t worry about those charges too much.  A court will see them for what they are, I’m sure of it.  Especially when the whole story comes out.”

She paused and he heard her crouch down to be near his face as he gently placed a hand on his.

“You can give David a good life.  Just as Dora would have wanted.”

Abigail saw him gulp.  “You said that woman had a daughter, of about eleven?  What will happen to her?”

“She’ll go to family or go into care.  She also has an inheritance.  I’m sure that a court can come up with something for her.  They’ll place her as a ward of court with someone they trust.”

He nodded.  “It’s not her fault, what her mother did.  We could take her if she wants to come.  She’s family, sort of.  My Becky always wanted a family but after the explosion... well, you know.  We would make her safe and welcome.”

Abigail tightened her hand as his voice trailed off, cracking with emotion.  “You’re a very fine man and credit to your mother.”

“Thank you Miss...?”

“MacKinnon.  Abigail MacKinnon.” 

oooOOOooo

“Mr. Heyes!”  They heard her coming before they saw her, confronting the outlaws in the lobby of the hotel.  “You stole those jewels.”

They grinned at her accusatory, glittering eyes full of fire and spirit.  “Abi, how could you accuse us of somethin’ like that?” laughed the Kid.

“They wouldn’t hand property that valuable over to us without a warrant.  You expect me to believe that you just asked nicely and waltzed away with them?”

“You couldn’t have nailed them without producing the evidence.”  Heyes replied.  “That’s what connected them to the Schmidts.”

“And just what were you going to do with them if they hadn’t been needed?”

The two men exchanged an enigmatic glance. “But they were, and you couldn’t have done it without us,” Heyes smiled.

“You said you wanted them,” added the Kid.

“Yes, but you’d already stolen them!”

“Borrowed,” Heyes twinkled with innocence.  “Just in case.”

“Do I look like I came down in the last shower of rain?”

“Not anymore,” the Kid looked her up and down.  “You look much better now.”

“You’ve got them all back now anyway.  There’s no point crying over something that never happened.”

“It did happen, Mr. Heyes.  You promised me a truce.  I held up my end of the bargain.  You went stealing.”

“You really did hold up your end.  Great work, Abi.  Very impressive.  I’ve never seen anything like it. The way you put all those facts together to come up with a motive, and then the science to prove that the girls could have made those scratches and they could only be done around the time of the crime.”  Heyes folded his arms.  “I tell you.  If detection keeps movin’ forward like that we may have to consider goin’ straight.”

“Go straight?  I don’t think you could do that if your life depended on it.”  She threw up her hands in exasperation.   “But thanks.  I don’t really think I could have done it without you.  I mean that.  If only you’d considered the right side of the law as a career.  You’d have done well.”  She frowned.  “But let’s get back to those jewels.”

“Thanks Abi, for Dora and Bessie; and especially David,” the Kid spoke quietly and refocused them on why they were all here, on the same side for once.

“You’re welcome.”  She looked down at the saddlebags in their hands.  “So.  This is goodbye?”

The Kid nodded.  “I guess it is, yes.”

“The next time we meet.  I suppose it’s not goin’ to be pleasant.”

“Yeah, Abi.  It’s all over.  This is goodbye and the end of the truce.  We’re enemies now.  I guess.”

“Best enemies,” she agreed.  “It’s been interesting.  I’d even go so far as to say that it was fun at times.”

 “Yes, this is goodbye; for now.”  The Kid eyed her cautiously.  “Are you still gonna hand us in Abi?”

“I’m afraid so, Jed.  To do anything else would be dishonest.  You’re not the first criminals I’ve been fond of and I’m sure you won’t be the last.”

“Well.  At least you’re honest, Abi.  They’re few and far between in your profession.” 

“Coming from you, Jed.  I’ll take that as a compliment, but I do work with many honest men.”

“It was meant as one.  There’s a future for women in the law if they can find more like you.”

Her smile warmed as her accent seemed to strengthen.  “Och, Jed.  That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.”

He grinned.   “You earned it.  You got my respect. Abi, and I don’t say that to many lawmen, women...law... people.  Nope.  We can’t have women.  ‘Law people’ is too hard to say.”

He approached her cautiously and laid a hand on her shoulder.  “Can I kiss you goodbye?”  He hurriedly qualified the request as he smiled softly at her.  “Like a sister.  As friends.”

“Friends?” She smiled at him.  “That would be very nice.”

He leaned over and gave her a peck on the cheek before looking deeply into her eyes.  “Goodbye, Abi.  Until next time; whatever, whenever.”  He strode over to the door and turned.  “Don’t be long Heyes.  We gotta go.”

She examined him as he stood by the door.  He was still the man with the dancing eyes, the man with a code all of his own, but he was now so much more than that.  He was a damaged and confounding human being and it was clear that his intelligence and humanity lifted him from the norm in any company, but that was even truer in the criminal fraternity.  He arched his brows.  “What do you think would have happened if we’d met normally?  At a dance or if we’d been introduced through friends?”

He approached her with genuine warmth in his face, reminding her of the frisson of excitement he could arouse in her.  Yet again she beat it down, hiding it behind a shield of professionalism.  She shook her glossy, dark head.  “I’ve no idea.  I can’t imagine you doing anything normal.”

He smiled.  “And I can’t imagine you as a housewife and mother.  It wouldn’t be enough for you.”

“The truce is over, Mr. Heyes.  We’re enemies again.”

“Best enemies, just as you said.”  His eyes narrowed.  “Maybe that’s easier than a truce.  It kills hope.  It allows me to act?”

“Act?”

“Yes, darlin’.  Act.”  He moved closer, his intense eyes burning into her. “I’m a thief.  I take.  I live a life bending the rules.   I don’t have to ask if I can kiss you too.” 

“Well, if you have to.”

His lips pressed against hers, tentatively at first.  His arms wound around her before he pushed into her with more hunger.  He pulled back running his hands over her shoulders and down her arms. He caught her hands in his, drawing them up and kissing the fingers delicately.  “There are some things you just have to leave behind,” he pushed her against the wall with a groan.  “I’m sorry.  So sorry.”

Before she knew it he had snapped on a handcuffs, fastening one hand firmly to the door knob of the drawing room door.

She rattled it furiously as he stepped back, laughing.  “What are you doing?”

“The truce is over, darlin’.  It’s you or me, and it sure as hell isn’t gonna be me.”  He looked down at her regretfully.  “I am truly sorry.  I don’t know if it helps, but you’re one hell of an opponent.”  His eyes glittered strangely and his voice dropped to a purr.  “And one hell of a woman.”

“We agreed we’d part as friends.  I was going to let you ride out of here.”

“Maybe, maybe not.  I can’t take the risk.  Look on it as an occupational hazard. It’s nothing personal.”

He leaned over and kissed her gently again before he stroked her hair as she tried helplessly to wriggle her way out of the manacle.

“I’ll kill you when I get out of this.”

 “Aaah, yes.  I nearly forgot.  I’m glad you reminded me.”  He searched through her mad curls before finding her lock pick.

“It’s for your own good too, Abi.  You really don’t want to follow us into The Devil’s Hole.  This way we’ve got it covered.”  He twinkled at her with feral eyes.  “Someone’ll find you and let you out.  They’ll have to; you won’t get out of that on your own.  It just buys us enough time.”

His last words seemed to linger as he closed the front door of the hotel behind him.  “Until next time, Abi.”  

She laughed to herself as fumbled in the waist band of her skirt and pulled out another lock pick.  “Oh, Mr. Heyes.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  If you underestimate someone it only ever makes it easier for them to get one over on you.” 

oooOOOooo

Historical notes:

Allan Pinkerton the founder of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, grew up in Scotland and was a cooper (barrel maker) with many contacts in the licensed trade.  He emigrated to the USA when he became disheartened with in his fight for universal suffrage (Chartism).  His agency became a precursor for the FBI. 

Kate Warne was a young, childless widow who became the USA”s first female Private Detective in 1856 when she was employed by the Pinkerton Detective agency.  The Sûreté in France had used women for undercover work since 1811 but they were not full time or professional detectives. 

She specialized in collecting information that no man was able to gather and at working under cover.  Very skilled at wearing disguises and changing her accent at will, the former actress could pass as a male or a female, even at close quarters.  She was part of the team that discovered and foiled the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln on his way through Baltimore to Washington DC.
 
She was skilled with firearms and acted as an armed guard to the President.

She was so successful that she was made supervisor of the Pinkerton Female Detective Bureau and trained other female operatives.
Her true identity is elusive and there are many versions of her name.  She died of a fever aged thirty five and was reputed to be Allan Pinkerton”s mistress.  When Allan Pinkerton died he was buried next to her.  He had personally nursed her through her final illness.
In the only known photograph of her, she is disguised as a male military officer. 
 
Helene Jegado was a French serial killer who poisoned at last 36 people with arsenic, taking a ten year break within her 18 year killing spree.

Dick Turpin was a notorious highwayman who had been living under the name of Palmer.  A former teacher identified his writing on a letter he wrote to his brother-in-law.  He was executed in 1739 when his true identity was revealed by his ex-teacher.

Dr Joseph Bell was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s mentor when he studied medicine in Edinburgh.  He used science and logical thinking to solve both criminal and medical mysteries and is widely credited as being the father of forensic science and the inspiration for the literary character Sherlock Holmes.

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


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PostSubject: Re: Friends And Foes - Part 4    Thu Jan 05, 2017 9:22 pm

Really enjoyed the story.  Some of my favorite lines:

“Nah,” Heyes replied.  “I prefer something really complicated.  Common names always seem too false to me.  I want something that doesn’t sound like you could make it up on the spot.”

Have you ever sat in the bunkhouse when The Hole is snowed in?  It’s like a quiltin’ bee gone bad.  Really bad.

I’m not about to let anyone take a risk like that either.  Not even him.  

“No, sir.  The Kid replied with the simple crispness of new snow.

He was still the man with the dancing eyes, the man with a code all his own ... He was a damaged and confounding human being and it was clear that he Intelligence and humanity lifted him the norm...

Thanks for posting!
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Silverkelpie

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PostSubject: Re: Friends And Foes - Part 4    Fri Jan 06, 2017 1:02 pm

Thanks for your kind words, Nebraska Wildfire.  They are really appreciated.

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PostSubject: Re: Friends And Foes - Part 4    Sun Jan 08, 2017 7:41 pm

I enjoyed this whole story a bunch.  They were quite rough with Abi when they first met her, and I guess that they needed to be.  I liked that Heyes told Abi (after they had both threatened her with violence) that the Kid wouldn't ever hurt a lady.  I liked all of dialogue at the end when they were taking their leave. NB has it above so will not rewrite it here, it speaks volumes.  there must be more to come as Abi and Heyes had 2 children together?
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PostSubject: Re: Friends And Foes - Part 4    Mon Jan 09, 2017 8:10 am

Many thanks or your kind comments, Gin.

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PostSubject: Re: Friends And Foes - Part 4    Mon Jan 09, 2017 7:12 pm

Great story... Particularly enjoyed the interaction between Abi and Kid... It was easy to picture and moved along at a good pace to keep me engaged all the way through. Really good read
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PostSubject: Re: Friends And Foes - Part 4    Mon Jan 09, 2017 7:20 pm

Thank you, Cal. Danke

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PostSubject: Re: Friends And Foes - Part 4    Sun Jan 15, 2017 1:37 pm

Really enjoying this series again! The interaction between Abi and Jed was great. And the ending was perfect. Even without knowing they'll meet again, we know they're going to meet again.
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PostSubject: Re: Friends And Foes - Part 4    Sun Jan 15, 2017 2:42 pm

Thanks so much, Keays.  The comments  do make me feel that people enjoyed the re-posting.  It was worth doing.

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