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 The Long Road Back - Part Eight - Reunion - 4000 words

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Cal

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PostSubject: The Long Road Back - Part Eight - Reunion - 4000 words   Wed Feb 15, 2017 5:33 am

---oooOOOooo---

The Long Road Back

(Haff & Wong seven)
By Cal

---oooOOOooo---
Part eight
Reunion
---oooOOOooo---
After sunset

Kid woke to find he was trussed up and gagged, sitting on his bed roll.  

‘Not again!’ 

He stared wildly around him till his eyes fell on the small Chinaman on the other side of the fire.  He growled menacingly through the gag.

“Ah, you’re awake …again …Mr Curry”

Kid glared. If he had a bullet in his hand, and this had all been some kind of dream …well he’d… more growling.      

“I could not be certain how you would react …until I knew what Haff’s news would be …I’m sorry… but I had to …incapacitate you …again.”

‘Haff’s news!’  Kid’s eyes went wide.  ‘Haff had brought news of Heyes.  Why would Mr Wong think he’d react badly to that …unless Heyes hadn’t made it?’  Kid kicked and fought at his bonds trying to say “Is Heyes alive?” through the gag.

Haff came and squatted next to him. Fixed him with a hostile glare.  “When I left him …your partner was alive.  The Shaman thinks he will be …well again …given time.  Shade of Morning is attending to his needs … her daughter also …Lone Wolf makes a journey to the sacred lands now… to give thanks …for Heyes’ safe return.” 

Haff was very obviously upset about something.  His customary smile was absent.

“You will remain tied and gagged …until I know I can trust you …with the safety of MY PARTNER!”

Kid attempted a smile through the gag at the good news about Heyes, and tried to fix his friend with the full baby blue innocent eyes.  Haff was impervious.  He’d already moved away.  Kid sighed, at least the Indian encampment couldn’t be that far away. Heyes was there, and he was alive.  What a relief. He didn’t feel nauseous or drugged this time either, so that was good.  

He took a look around.  

Kyle and Wheat were settling themselves down by the fire, no doubt grateful not to be spending another night in the cold store room back in Yeller Dog.  Haff was checking the bonds of Lom and The Bounty Hunter tied back to back on the other side of the fire.  

Lom was awake, but similarly bound and gagged.  The Bounty Hunter was still out cold, or maybe he was drugged now.  Well that was a good thing, he was trouble, and a complication.  

Kid felt his own bonds were entirely unnecessary and he wasn’t shy of sharing the fact, loudly.

Wong was also feeling restless.  He looked over at Haff and shook his head slightly.  He did not believe Mr Curry was any longer a threat to any of them, but he’d promised to let Haff make the decisions …for the time being, at least.  Even encouraged him to do so.  Haff hadn’t taken Wheat and Kyle’s report of the evenings events too well, especially the bit about facing down Kid Curry in defence of his partner.

Haff came and dragged Kid unceremoniously to the other prisoners.  Wong winced.  Then, taking up a rifle, Haff took up a guard position and glared menacingly at all three of his charges.  Wong couldn’t help feeling partly to blame; he had after all suggested that Kid put aside all worry and other negative feelings, to remain calm and clear headed in pursuit of his goal.  Of course, Wong had suggested Kid concentrate on the goal of clearing his name from the murder charge, it was Kid who’d decided that his only goal was to find Heyes.  

Wong looked at Kid who was obviously extremely frustrated with his present circumstances. ‘Not an easy man to influence’ he thought.  ‘Not a man to take readily to suggestion. 
                There was a word for it …resistant?
                                                                  Ah yes …stubborn!’ 

---oooOOOooo---

“No …. No …. I said NO!” Heyes grabbed the blanket with both fists and held it firmly under his chin.  “It ain’t right! …It ain’t decent! …A man needs a little privacy… Let go!”

The ladies giggled and simply threw the blanket over his head.  His leg dressing stank.  He needed washing, the wound needed re-dressing. The wounded leg was tied down which affectively kept Heyes where they wanted him.  He was too weak to put up a real fight. 

The ladies started a bright cheerful chatter, effectively ignoring Heyes’ protests.  Lone Wolf, highly respected Shaman and healer: Husband to one, and father to the other, had left clear instructions on care for the wound.  He himself was undertaking a journey of thanks to the tribes sacred lands, and had entrusted this task to them. They felt the honour deeply.

Shade of Morning was big enough to cast quite a shadow at any time of day.  She changed the smelly poultice on Heyes’ leg by pulling the old one free of the copious dark hairs with a firm jerk and then encouraging her daughter to be free with the brown gunk that replaced it. 

When they had rebound the wound, she roughly slapped Heyes’ white thigh with a big fleshy hand, trying to give her ungrateful charge some reassurance that the wound was looking good.  Unfortunately, her language was quite guttural and rough sounding to Heyes’ un-tuned ears.  He took the reassurance for more threats to his dignity.  

Heyes scowled and whined “Noooo….”, pushing the blanket down to cover as much of himself as he could. 

Shade of Morning laughed openly in his face, no doubt telling him she had two strapping sons; Heyes didn’t have anything she hadn’t seen before.  

Her daughter, the beautiful and petite Flower of Morning, smiled sweetly and cupped Heyes’ cheek (The one on his face! Get your mind out of the gutter!) brushing his lips with her thumb and trying to push up the corners of his mouth into a smile.  She missed that dimple she’d seen there when the handsome, if delirious man, had first come into the camp.  

Occasionally, one of the ladies would try to sooth Heyes by repeating some of his English words back to him.  Flower of Morning felt this was such a time.

“Noooo …nooooo…Pair of Hussies…” soothed Flower of Morning. “Ain’t decent… tint right…”

“Yes you are” sulked Heyes, knowing neither of the ladies understood him.  “Where I come from, we’d have to be married … and EVEN THEN …oh what’s the use…”  

He lay with his arms folded tightly across his chest, fuming.

Shade of Morning said something to her daughter that made her giggle.  While her mother left to prepare food, Flower of Morning sat cooling Heyes’ brow, which was nice, so he toned down the scowling 
                                             …just a bit.

---oooOOOooo---


Something woke Heyes up. The jangle of leather harness outside of the tent.  His curiosity was sparked and so was his dread.  

He listened intently.

If it was Lone Wolf, or one of his sons come back already, he could be in for more …Indian medicine …or ceremony …or singing …or interminable drumming!  

If it was Haff back, he might get some answers about Kid.  Find out what had been going on in the real World while he’d been a guest of …the two hussies!

If it was someone else …well …he wasn’t in any position to defend himself.  He hadn’t seen his clothes, his hat, his gun or any of his other possessions since he’d got here.  Whenever that was. And his leg was securely tied.

Heyes sighed deeply, closing his eyes on this World he’d fought so hard to return to. What’s the use?
---oooOOOooo---

Haff put his head through the flap of the tent and grinned at Heyes.  He locked eyes with Flower of Morning, sitting quietly at the back of the tent, and smiled with a blush.  He made an ostentatious wink to Heyes and disappeared again. 

“Haff?” called Heyes, fearing he’d be abandoned again.

When Haff came back through the flap of the tent he was dragging a bound and gagged Kid Curry behind him.  Haff’s scowl for Curry melted to love-struck soppiness the moment he laid eyes on Flower of Morning again. He pulled Kid roughly in his wake and pushed him towards Heyes’ bed.  

“See …there’s your partner …he’ll live!” he said, leaving Kid standing there. 

He went around to the other side of Heyes’ blankets, and took up both of Flower of Morning’s hands in his own.  Receiving an encouraging smile, he took her in his arms and kissed her deeply.  They went to the back of the tent and sat quietly gazing into each other’s eyes.

Heyes had followed all this with incredulity.  Losing sight of Haff behind him, he turned back to his hog tied partner, beaming at Kid’s indignant grunting. He laughed just a little, which hurt, so he made himself stop.

“Oh …They do that a lot” he smiled, rolling his eyes as though he hadn’t noticed Kid’s predicament.  He looked Kid up and down.  “See you managed to stay out of trouble, kid” he smiled “What did you do this time?”

“Oh he tried to find out where you were …by threatening my partner…” answered a distracted Haff casually. “Oh …and when I took the gag off this morning, to let him eat, he kept insisting to Lom …that he wasn’t a murderer …whilst threatening to kill both me and Wong …if we didn’t bring him straight to you this morning.  So we just …put the gag back on…”

“Sounds about right” said Heyes. “Lom’s here?”

“Close by …Wheat ‘n’ Kyle are watching him… he’s a bit mad at The Kid though.” 

Haff’s lips were busy again.  Heyes screwed his face up in feigned disgust hearing the smooching.

Kid was jigging about, now with his back to Heyes waving his tied hands in Heyes’ face, whilst growling something like “Come ON!” through the gag. 

Heyes casually reached up to untie his partner’s hands as Wong came in.

“I do hope you’re not planning to follow through with any of your threats, Mr Curry.  I would hate to have to…incapacitate you …once more” he smiled at Heyes.  

Heyes laughed again, at Kid’s indignation, but had to stop to groan loudly clutching his belly.

“Mr Heyes you are looking …well …it is very gratifying, to find you alive at least” said Wong looking worried.

“Do I look that bad?” asked the invalid, blowing hard to control his pain.

“You look like crap, Heyes!” said Kid, who’d finally pulled his own hands free and had managed to spit out the gag at last.

“Well thanks …and hello to you to …Partner.  I got bitten by a rattler AND a darned Indian, remember?” said Heyes ruefully, holding his stomach.  

“Saved your life …you ungrateful curr…” mumbled Haff from behind the bed.  “And you taste worse than crap!” 

Heyes smiled wistfully up at Kid, ignoring Haff. “I look that bad, huh?”

“You look …AWFUL Heyes …and are you naked under that blanket!?” said Kid, looking back at Haff’s young lady with incredulity.

Heyes suddenly realised he had allies.  He could regain some dignity.  “Kid, find my clothes …my hat … my gun …and check they haven’t eaten my horse. They been feeding me some …weird stuff.”

Haff, still holding one of Flower of Morning’s hands, blew out a long breath, “Of all the ungrateful… THEY …have just saved your damned life! And the price won’t be that high-strung, prancing mare of yours…”

Kid and Heyes exchanged a look.  Their funds were very low.  This was a problem they hadn’t bargained for …PRICE?

“Well …tell your girlfriend …to keep her hands to herself at least…” sulked Heyes.

“I can’t” said Haff walking back to the bed. “I don’t speak their language.”

Wong, Kid and Heyes looked at him perplexed. 

“Well …how did you get them to help Heyes?” asked Kid “Agree …a price?”

“Oh I didn’t.  Lone Wolf …he understands just a few words in Apache … a few less in English…” explained Haff.  “I could say …snake bite …rattle my hand.  If they hadn’t recognised Heyes …as the Big Chief of Devils Hole …I don’t think either of us would have been welcome here that night…” explained Haff.  “As it was …they seemed to take it as some kind of honour to have him here… it was something …about their sacred lands…”

Heyes looked smugly at his partner, “I’m the Big Chief of Devils Hole, huh!”

“Were …the Big Chief Heyes” reminded Kid.  “Were …the Big Chief. They might not like you so much …when they realise you’re just another saddle bum …called Smith.”

Heyes fumed, he suddenly felt exhausted.  “I’m gonna need to know everything that’s happened …after I get some sleep…”

Seeing her charge closing his eyes, Flower of Morning shooed all the men, including Haff, out of the tent.

---oooOOOooo---

Several days later

“…And the Bounty Hunter is convinced we’re a couple of deputies …working for Lom …that look enough like us …to fool the gang… He bought that?!” 

Heyes was sitting up, looking at Curry with surprise.

“Told you, he wouldn’t know what to think, next time he saw us” said Kid smugly.  “I think he was just so grateful I didn’t shoot him; he was willing to believe anything.  Even that …I’m not me.”

“And he thinks Wheat’s, Preacher, and I’m a hostage… to the gang…”

“Something like that…”

“Well if you’re suddenly so darn good at persuading people Kid, how come Lom still thinks we’re a pair of murderers!”

“I don’t know Heyes.” 

Kid gave it some consideration. 

“I think he’s got a bit of a blind spot …when it comes to me… Wheat’s got him roped down about half a mile out …I haven’t been back there.  Thought I’d give him time to cool down.  Do you think you’ll be up to persuading him soon?  You’re looking a little better …maybe you’ll be up to riding in a few days?”

---oooOOOooo---

Later still

Heyes wasn’t ready to ride.  

He was weak and hadn’t even tried to put weight on his leg again yet. The first attempt hadn’t gone well.  At least he was fully dressed, even had his hat.

Kid stayed close.  Haff and Wong left to spell Wheat and Kyle now and then. 

Heyes had plenty of company each day but although getting stronger, couldn’t do much.  He got bored.  Kid had given Heyes his Dime Novel, and it was a measure of how bored he was, that Heyes was reading it, when Wong came into the tent.

“Mr Wong, do you have anything to read in your pack, better than this?  This is…” Heyes was lost for words.

“Banal?” offered Wong.  

Kid looked hurt. 

“Here, I thought you would appreciate this, I found it in my bag.  I picked it up in Yeller Dog.”  Wong handed over the tightly folded, thin newspaper from the hotel reception desk.  

Heyes looked incredibly grateful for the newsprint and opened it immediately.  His eyes went wide as he read the headline.  

“Lone Wolf and his sons have returned” continued Wong.  “Haff is talking with them now.  One of the sons has some English, it seems.  We must start working on our plans, should we not.  When do you think you will be ready for such a task, Mr Heyes?”

“Have you read this Mr Wong?” said Heyes in wonder, ignoring the questions.

“No …I’d forgotten I had it” Wong and Kid approached the bed and were reading the headline over Heyes’ shoulder.  

“Oh …I see…” said Wong.  Kid smiled broadly.

“I think I’m feeling strong enough to talk to Lom now, Mr Wong, Don’t you?” smiled Heyes “Could you ask Haff to go fetch him …when he’s finished talking to our hosts, of course.”

Heyes and Kid shared a relieved smile.

---oooOOOooo---

The Bounty Hunter was having a bad time.  

His head thumped, his stomach still felt turned over. He was tied and gagged, prisoner of The Devils Hole gang.  The Chinaman had drugged him with something the first night, maybe more, he couldn’t tell.

He vaguely remembered that mad eyed savage dragging Deputy Jones off, was that the first morning?  Jones was shouting something about murder, at the sheriff.  Nothing had been seen of him since.  He felt bad about that.  If he hadn’t let The Preacher jump him, the tables could have been turned.

Moondance and the Preacher had told him nothing.  They kept a surly silence around both their prisoners. The Indian and the Chinaman were worse.  

He couldn’t understand why he was still alive.  

They must think he knew something.  Something valuable to them that they couldn’t beat out of Jones.  Or why not just kill him and the sheriff.  

That had been a shock too, to realise the sheriff was drugged, not dead.  What other nasty tricks did that Chinaman have up his sleeve?

The Indian, The Devils Apache, was back, talking to The Preacher.  Savage looking brute.  Hadn’t he heard a rumour somewhere that the Devil’s Apache had once scalped a deputy over in Torrents Gap, whilst breaking Moondance out of jail.  

He held his breath as Haff approached the two remaining prisoners.  Haff grabbed Lom by the arm, pulling him to his feet, while Wheat covered both prisoners with a rifle.

“They want to talk to you Sheriff” said Haff. “Move!”

The Bounty Hunter slumped back against the rock, releasing his held breath and hoping Lom would tell whoever they were, whatever it was they wanted to know, and that the Indian wouldn’t come back for him anytime soon.

---oooOOOooo---

Haff pushed the tall Sheriff through the flap of the tent, searching for his partner.  When he saw Wong, he jerked his head back outside and the two diminutive partners left, speaking in earnest in their own dialogue.

“Heyes.” 

Lom still had his hands tied behind his back.  Heyes was sat up on the blankets trying to look as relaxed as he could under the circumstances.  Kid was on his other side, cleaning the Colt, or was he just polishing it, it didn’t look to be in pieces.  Heyes untied Lom's hands while Kid stared coldly at him.  

“You look awful” said Lom, taking in Heyes’ sweaty pallid skin, gaunt features and obvious discomfit.

“So everyone tells me” said Heyes, sounding just a little peeved. “I see you’ve been keeping up with the news, Lom.  Just how many people are we supposed to have murdered …now?” He meant to smile, but winced instead.

“It was six, last I heard.  And what do you mean …supposed to?  You don’t think I swallowed any of your lies, do you Heyes?  I’ve known you two, too long to fall for any of your clap trap.  Here you both are … in Southern Wyoming … Not even a day’s ride from the Hole … even Kyle thinks The Kid’s gone off the rails and taken up with killers. He rode in with Weaver you know?!”

Kid shook his head to Heyes.  “He was drugged” he offered as explanation.

“Did Weaver not take kindly to you coming back Heyes?” continued Lom regardless, “He put a bullet in you? And that Bounty Hunter, that was tracking you and Weaver Kid? You should know …he saved my life.”

Kid looked very confused. 

Heyes sighed heavily.

“Lom, look at me.  You know …I’m not a killer.  I’m glad you’ve heard about Weaver running things at the Hole though. And I haven’t been shot, I jumped on a rattler …I was on my way over to…”

“Yeller Dog.  I saw the telegram you sent Wheat.” Lom threw the scrap of yellow paper at Heyes.  “I had Wheat and Kyle prisoner for over a week.  Took them there myself.  I thought you and The Kid would show  …Didn’t think you’d send …the Chinaman” he sneered.

“I didn’t Lom.  You’ve got to start listening to me.” 

Heyes had to take a couple of breaths before he could continue. 

“Wheat’s told you, Kyle’s told you, Wong’s told you, The Kid’s told you, now …I’m telling you …WE’RE NOT BACK AT DEVILS HOLE …WE AIN’T MURDERING ANYONE!”  

Heyes looked drained but he fixed Lom with a dark eyed glare.  

“Weaver knows we’re out of the business, Lom.  Probably thinks we’re in South America.  He’s got a couple of murdering gun happy low lifes, using our names.  …They’re using all the old gang’s names …to put the blame on us. No one’s looking at them for those murders.  They can literally get away with murder Lom…they know they ain’t gonna hang!”

Heyes took another restorative breath.

“Lom, they’ve even got an Indian running around frightening the passengers for Christ’s sakes.  Haff wasn’t even with the gang when we ran things.”

“And I’m supposed to take your word for that, am I Heyes? And I suppose, you didn’t get blown out of jail in Louvides …by Kyle, right? …I’m supposed to believe you were in a whole different State …rescuing a Professor Tung from certain death. Right?” sneered Lom. “Who do you think you’re talking to here?”

“No Lom …Here” Heyes looked beat.  “Read it fer yourself.  There’s been more killings.”  Heyes handed over Wong’s newspaper. Lom read the headline:

4th OF JULY HEIST BUNGLED
TWO DEAD BUT 
GANG LEAVE EMPTY HANDED
             
-------
Terrified passengers have told this
Reporter that Hannibal Heyes and 
Jed ‘Kid’ Curry, leading the notorious 
Devils Hole Gang, have failed to…

Heyes couldn’t wait for the sheriff to read the whole article.

“You’ll see the gang used all the names Lom.  Me, Kid, Wheat, Preacher, Moondance, Lobo, Hank …and like I said …they even got an Indian and a Chinaman running around.  Mr Wong …never even went on any of the train robberies!”

“Yeah …Yeah …I can read.” Lom’s brow creased in worry, the foundations of his certainty beginning to crumble.

“Well you know where Wheat and Kyle were Lom.  You can see …where I was …”

“Don’t mean The Kid wasn’t there …” said Lom belligerently, not wanting to let go of the strongly held beliefs he’d been acting on for weeks just yet.

“LOM…” Kid sounded vicious.

“Lom it’s not us.” Heyes puts a hand up to stop Kid.  “You can see its not us …can’t you?” 

Heyes sees doubt writ clear across Lom’s face and knows he’s winning.  He puts on a conciliatory tone. 

“Haff was here …with me, Wong and Kid were just outside Yeller Dog …coming to meet …Wheat and Kyle.”

“Yeah …Wong had me hog tied!” spat Kid menacingly.

“Preacher’s …in Carson City …visiting family, Lobo …took a bullet, bad …he’s been recuperating …at Kyle’s sisters place for months, Hanks there with him.  None of the names they were using …were real Lom. Its weavers gang.  Its Weavers killers. Not us. NOT ANY OF US!” 

Heyes took a long meaningful look at his cousin, now stood glaring at Lom.

“I can see you couldn’t have been there Heyes, nor Wheat …nor Kyle…” Lom conceded “Doesn’t explain why you …AND THE KID HERE …are running around Wyoming, practically at the Hole.”  

Lom fixed his gaze on Heyes searching the lie. 

“You sure you weren’t up here …trying to talk some sense …into your HOTHEAD cousin, Heyes?”

Heyes was feeling exhausted.  He could see there was unfinished business between Kid and the sheriff, but it would have to wait.  He told Kid with a look to let it pass.

“It does explain it, Lom” he said quietly.  “You know it does.  We knew as soon as we heard about the killings …and Kyle blew us out of Louvides” Heyes rolled his eyes in submission of that lie, “…that the amnesty was blown …that you’d be gunning for us …just like you are.” Heyes sighed.  “We knew we’d have to put it right. Clear our names …or we’d have no chance at the amnesty…”

“Amnesty? …After THIS!” Lom slapped the paper “You’ve gotta be kidding me!”

“What choice do we have Lom?” said a cold voiced Curry. “We’ve done it before.  Put things right.  We’ll have to do it …again, is all.”

“Come back from MASS MURDER!? Convince the Governor …it wasn’t you? HOW!? How you gonna do that?  You gonna ride into Devils Hole and …BEAT confessions out of the Weaver gang?”

Kid looked a bit lost.

“No …no …but Heyes here will think of something …won’t you Heyes?” 

Kid put a hand on his cousin’s shoulder.  Heyes slumped, like that hand was weighing heavily on him.  He looked skywards, then rolled his eyes around the tent.  His eyes came to rest on Kid’s ludicrous Dime Novel.  

He smiled sceptically.

“Yes Kid …I’ll think of something.  I always do.”

---oooOOOooo---
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