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 Long Road back - Part Two - Wake up and smell the coffee 3000 words

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Cal

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Join date : 2016-10-21

PostSubject: Long Road back - Part Two - Wake up and smell the coffee 3000 words   Sun Feb 12, 2017 11:13 am

---oooOOOooo---

The Long Road Back
(Haff & Wong seven)
By Cal

---oooOOOooo---
Part Two

Wake up and Smell the Coffee

Heyes and Curry have followed the trail of Haff and Wong East to a city

“Is it them?” asked Kid.

“Who else could it be?”

“Well, I never figured Haff and Wong …to open a tea shop.  Especially … not one …this fancy…”

Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry stood across the street from the Tea Shoppe.  The shop had a sign out front claiming to be:
a purveyor of exquisitely flavoured, genuine China tea, as imbibed by the Queen of England herself

They watched as several ladies entered the shop in a waft of perfume, hats and ribbons, carrying their purchases wrapped in pretty boxes, and proclaiming themselves passed ready for one of Mr Wong’s afternoon teas. 

“This is it my dear. Come along Millicent. It’s quite the ‘de nouveau’ place to be seen” came a mature ladies voice from somewhere behind the boys.

“I do hope, Mr Wong won’t think it gauche of us, to choose the fabric while we take our tea, Veronica dear” said a rather stout lady, as she passed them.

“Of course not, Millicent” answered her equally well-proportioned companion.  “Why, only yesterday, Young …Mr Haff …helped me pick out the perfect shawl for Fridays Church social.”

Millicent flushed, holding a white gloved hand to the perfect O formed by her lips.  “Who would have thought it dear, from savage… to gallant!  It scarce seems possible.” 

Veronica linked her arm in Millicent’s and both the ladies took a great deal of care crossing the street.

“Well I guess that clinches it.  Shall we Joshua?” smiled Curry, sweeping a hand towards the Tea Shoppe in the ladies’ wake.

“Well, gee Thaddeus, maybe Young …Mr Haff …can help me pick out the perfect shirt to wear to the casino this evening.” smirked Heyes, dark eyes twinkling with mirth.

The two ex-outlaws, resplendent in their finest city suits, well, their only suits, crossed the street.  The only thing that marked them out for ‘Westerners’, were the tied down six-guns, they wore slung low on their hips.

The door opening set off a tinkling bell, designed to draw the attention of the proprietors within.  Haff looked up with a warm welcoming smile on his lips.  He was dressed in a dark frock coat and striped pants with a stiff collared shirt and a ribbon tie.  His gleaming, long black hair, partly plaited and held back off his face with a beaded head band, flowed over his shoulders. This vision of sophistication stopped Hannibal Heyes and Jed ‘Kid’ Curry in their tracks.  

Haff looked …clean!

Shock crossed all three faces.

“Find our new guests a table, Haff.  By the window perhaps” came a familiar sounding Oriental voice from the back of the room by the group of ladies. 

The ladies had all stopped talking mid-sentence, and were seemingly mesmerised by the appearance of the two handsome, if dangerous looking men, in their ‘de nouveau’ tea shop.

“It is certainly unusual for the Western man to develop a liking for tea ladies” smiled Wong, himself a mass of coloured silk robes and a pill box hat.  “But hardly unpresedented.  Haff, make our guests comfortable, I will be with them shortly.”

Haff, not trusting himself to say anything at all, swept an arm towards the window seats.  Heyes and Curry, now over the initial shock, and feeling relaxed enough to feel just a little smug that they’d managed to sneak up on Haff for once, tipped their hats to the ladies and followed their diminutive host to the window.

“Yes, we’d like some of your excellent tea, thank you kindly …Young…er…man” said Heyes, loudly for the benefit of the room.

“And cake!” said Kid, equally as loud, making Heyes smile.  “But make mine a coffee!” Kid whispered for Haff’s ears only.

“Mr Haff!  Would you be an absolute dear and hold up these swatches for us to compare?” came Millicent’s warbling contralto from the back of the room.  Haff looked like he would like the floor to open up and swallow him, but he plastered a friendly smile on his face and returned to wait on the ladies.  So it was Wong that bought …tea …. over for both ex-outlaws.  

Curry tried and failed to look grateful. ‘No coffee …no cake?’

---oooOOOooo---

Heyes surveyed the room over the rim of his china cup.  

Curry tried to hide his smirk with his cup as he listened to Haff’s attempts to play the young gallant for the ladies.  They all but pinched his cheeks.  “What is this?” he grinned to his partner.

“Got to be an Opium Den” opined the wise one, staring at the back wall of the shop as though it was transparent and he could see the den of iniquity behind it.  “That …or it’s a front …while they pipe a bank.”  

Heyes switched his gaze to the window.  Across the street was the imposing edifice of the Rapid City First National Bank.  Heyes knew that bank well.  It had been one of their biggest jobs.  Looking at it now, he could hardly believe they’d had the nerve to tackle such an important bank.  Right smack in the middle of the city.  It had only been his months of careful planning and, of course his genius, that had led to them getting away with that one.

Just.

Actually, it had been a very close call and they’d returned to train robbery for nearly a whole year after that!

“That bank!” squawked Kid a bit too loudly as he followed Heyes’ gaze.

“No …couldn’t be …gotta be an Opium Den…” said Heyes quietly.  “There’s only the two of them now.  No gang, remember. They’ve left Devils Hole.”

“Well I sure don’t believe Wong’s got Haff into that monkey suit …to serve tea for the sheer joy of it …it’s gotta be a front fer something…” Kid whispered, covering a laugh with a cough as Haff declared ‘Candy stripe to be all the rage this season’ to his rapt audience.

“Well it’s certainly not their usual low profile is it?” Heyes remarked, screwing up his face in pain, as the ladies all giggled and simpered over Haff’s fashion advice.  

“It’s taken us long enough to find them, Heyes” said Kid, rolling his eyes.  “And its worrisome, that we haven’t been able to contact Lom and explain about the jailbreak in Louvides or the train robberies in our name. We don’t need to waste anymore time, let’s just call Wong over and ask him for that alibi.  He owes us.”

“We wouldn’t have found them now Kid, if we hadn’t of overheard that lady tell her friend about ‘the very latest Chinese Tea Shoppe in town, where the waiter is …Can you believe it? … an extremely handsome …tamed savage’ ” he mimicked.  Both the boys look back at Haff with a question writ large on their faces.  Handsome?  “I’m seeing it, and I still don’t believe it” opined Curry.

“I don’t know …We’ve taken this long Kid …these things can’t be rushed.  Wong’s a Wiley old bird …can’t just come straight out and ask him...”

“Yeah …like I said Heyes …let’s come back later …and ask …after you’ve softened him up a little with your silver tongue.”

Heyes and Curry left the tea shop with an invitation to return later that evening.  Wong said he and Haff had rented rooms above the shop. As Curry left, looking like he couldn’t quite shake the tang of the bitter tea from his tongue, he turned to Haff and promised to bring a bottle of the good stuff with him.

---oooOOOooo---

Later that evening

Wong has lit a long stem pipe and Heyes a fine cigar.  They sit opposite each other over a game of Go, each with a bowl of stones.  Wong had wondered at how quickly Heyes had understood the elements of judgement and balance required for the game and was pleased to have found both a new student and a worthy opponent. 

Haff and Kid had gone to buy a second bottle, having made short work of the first. 

The favour remained unasked.

“Why here?” asked Heyes.

“Haff had never seen such a city” replied Wong.

“He doesn’t strike me as someone who would enjoy city life.”

“Oh …he’s not …and I think he’s beginning to realise that for himself” Wong chuckled “But he hasn’t decided to leave yet. He remains …I think… fascinated.”

“With what?” Heyes watches Wong’s move shrewdly, determined to remain undistracted.

“People maybe …but mostly …women.”

“Women?!” smiles Heyes, distracted.

“Yes, before now, he’s …had little opportunity with …the fairer sex.  He’s fascinated and …curious.”

“Well if he’s looking for a woman, I think he’s looking in the wrong place…” smirked Heyes “How old is he anyway? He’s certainly getting …smothered …in that tea shop.  I guess …at least he’s made an effort …he looks like he took a bath!” 

Heyes saw that he’d have to get his mind back on the game …quickly.

Wong smiled serenely as he surrounded Heyes’ stones.

“He did, yes.  And the suit was his idea too. He is older than you …I think …Mr Heyes…and I think …soon …Haff will have had all the city experience he can take.  That, or the City ladies will find another tea house to be …their ‘nouveau’ place to be seen. We will soon have to be moving on I think.” 

“Things getting a little too warm for you here in the big city Mr Wong?” says Heyes knowingly. Not a twitch from Wong. “Where will you go?”

“Wherever Haff decides next.  It is his path we tread now.” Wong wasn’t disposed to answer the first question.

“Not your path?” Heyes smiled. Surely, Wong was working an angle in all this. Wong’s face remained serene.

“We seek Haff’s destiny now Mr Heyes. Mine …has been fulfilled.  I believe it was you, yourself, who pointed out that Haff was following the wrong path.  And I will no longer impede his search for his true destiny.” 

Wong eyed his pupil carefully. 

A trap was set.

Heyes smiled, seeing the trap, he wasn’t buying this benign Wong in retirement line.  Balance and judgement.  He carefully placed his next stone.

“What if Haff’s destiny is to return to his people.  Where would that leave you?” 

“And who are Haff’s people Mr Heyes?”

“Apache?”

“No.  Haff is Indian, certainly he is … ‘of the people’ …but which people? Apache sold him to the mines, they took him …from another tribe perhaps.  He may have other blood too; it is anyone’s guess.” 

Wong watched Heyes carefully.

“And you …what are you Mr Wong?” 

Heyes returned the scrutiny.

“Chinese.”

Wong placed stones with confidence.

Heyes smiled at the parry, ‘these two sure knew how to avoid answering tough questions’ he thought.  He decided on a more direct line. Upset the balance.

“Haff once told us that in China, you were a shaman to a great chief.  That there’d been trouble for you involving a woman …the chief’s woman no less.”

Wong eyed Heyes shrewdly, puffing on the end of his long pipe for several minutes.  Heyes knew to leave the silence unbroken.  He was being judged.

“You want to know my history Mr Heyes.  Are you also willing to share yours? Or shall we just smoke and enjoy our game, here and now …The past can be a painful place to visit.”

Heyes’ dark eyes twinkled. There was just the merest crack in the façade. 

“Tell me just one thing then, Mr Wong.  How has your destiny been fulfilled?” 

Heyes made a surprisingly good move next which elicited in Wong, the smallest register of shock.  His eyebrows lifted just a fraction.  Heyes smiled wolfishly.

Wong looked across at Hannibal Heyes, his student and now, proven worthy opponent, with some pride.  ‘Such talent should be rewarded’ he thought.

“By falling in love Mr Heyes.  Nothing more, nothing less.”

“Oh...” Heyes looked a little bashful.  He thought that would be it, but he was surprised by Wong’s sudden willingness to share.

“I also was a good student” began Wong, looking introspective.  “A better student than I was a fisherman.  Yes, my father was a fisherman.  And as you know, I …am a terrible sailor!”

They both laughed.

“A monk came to our village.  He saw something in me.  My destiny perhaps, and so he bought me from my father.”

“Your father sold you?!”

“Compensation …then …for the loss of a son …even one as disappointing as I.”

Heyes nodded, that seemed fairer.

“The Temple was a place to thrive for a mind such as mine.  And the Arts gave me strength and skill.”

“Arts?”

“Monks are great warriors in China Mr Heyes.  To be both loved and feared.”

“So this Temple, that’s where you learned your healing?”

“That …and much more.” 

Wong looked at Heyes smiling genuinely.  He’d also surprised himself that he’d shared so much.  

“I think, in China Mr Heyes, you too …would have been chosen …to become a monk.”

Heyes looked alarmed. 

“Promise me, Mr Wong, you’ll never repeat that when the Kid’s around!”

The move Heyes made next was an error.  The smallest sigh of disappointment was all it elicited from Wong, but Heyes didn’t miss it.  

Judgement and balance.  

He screwed up his face, staring at the board, then a smile slowly spread across lips, his eyes twinkling again at the enigmatic Chinaman.

“Monks and women don’t usually go together.  You sure that old monk saw your destiny?”

“Perhaps not…” Wong raised his pipe to acknowledge Heyes’ attempt to wrong foot him both in the game and the conversation. “But he was right to take me from my village.  My mind …like yours …would have taken me down dark and dangerous pathways without guidance.”

Heyes wondered what guidance he had benefitted from.

“As it was,” continued Wong “I thrived and was chosen to be honour guard to an Emperor.  An Emperor terrified of assassination.  Even his own guard were suspect, but monks, such as I, were trusted. It soon became apparent to me that I would find my destiny at the palace because …luck was with me.”

“Luck?”

“Yes luck.  Call it …coincidence …beginners luck …intuition …a hunch …call it what you will, it is a sure sign you are on the right path to your destiny.  An omen if you will.  Have you never noticed such omens Mr Heyes?”

Heyes thought back to the few days Lom Trevors had left them in Porterville while he went to the Capital to sound out the Governor at the beginning of their quest for amnesty.  Had that been beginners luck? It was certainly coincidence that all the dynamite went up at the same time.  It could all have ended very differently.  He smiled, perhaps him and Kid were on their right path now. They surely didn’t have no beginners luck when they first started robbing banks and trains.

Wong saw the smile and continued.

“The first month I was at the Palace I saved the Emperor’s life by preventing an assassin from entering the grounds.  But it had only been by the purest luck …a mere coincidence …that I had been in the position to stop the assailant.  I was rewarded with duty to guard the inner Palace.”

“Don’t sound like much of a reward to me” said Heyes, thinking that just sounded like more work.

“Ah, but but you see …now I was sure …Mr Heyes… that my destiny awaited me at the Inner Palace, and that’s where I found her, a treasure above all others.  One look into those eyes …and I knew I had touched the very soul of the World.  I had at last succeeded …in becoming one with all things. I had found my true path …my destiny.”

“A pair of pretty eyes can do that to a man” smirked Heyes.  “Even to a monk …well …especially to a monk!” he chuckled.

“Mr Heyes,” Wong fixed Heyes with an earnest stare, “I know what I saw …and I know what I felt.  I was both lost and found.  In that moment my destiny was set.”

“What happened?” asked Heyes, catching the mood and sobering his features.

“They killed the girl of course.  She was forbidden to look on another.”  

Heyes wished he hadn’t chuckled.

“They saw my great suffering, so I was banished …to live on …without my love.  Death was deemed too easy a punishment for my crime.  But, they had freed my soul to follow a darker path, it sought vengeance on a World that had wronged it, robbed it of so great a treasure.  And so I began to take the treasure of others, and I made certain they knew who it was, that had robbed them.  My name became renown and feared.”

“You became an outlaw!” 

“Yes Mr Heyes, nearly as famous and successful as Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry I think …in my own way.”

“What happened?” Heyes looked at Wong with new eyes.  “What brought you to the West?”

“I was hunted.  Others were punished for sheltering me.  I had many …’close calls’.  Call it fate, destiny, omens, but my guess would be …that I had to be punished for my crimes.  Months on that wretched ship …then years in that hellish mine were my fate, I suppose.”

“So you had to run …‘cause a posse was after you …even before you left  China?”

“Yes Mr Heyes ...and it seems destiny will chase me to the ends of the Earth.  Haff was my enlightenment …my way …from the mine back to my true path, but I fear I may have lead him back into my old ways …not realising I was only helping him to repeat my mistakes …Now I am resolved never to misdirect him again.  He must choose the path we follow … search for his own destiny …however reluctant he may be …to do so.”

Loud singing could be heard from the street below the window.

“Ahh …It seems Haff and Mr Curry have consumed the second bottle already.”

---oooOOOooo---
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