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Join date : 2016-10-21
|Subject: The Long Road Back - Part Ten -The Columbine Train...Again! - 3000 words Thu Feb 16, 2017 11:11 am|| |
---oooOOOooo---Kid was hidden behind a disguise of round, wire-frame glasses and one of Mr Wong’s moustaches. He took his time to be sure to select the carriage occupied by the most female passengers. The train’s departure was imminent. Heyes had told him his job was to protect the passengers, especially the women. “After all, Kid, it’s what you do best!” Heyes had broadly smiled with a wink. “Try to blend in. Find a group you could easily be part of … just follow them onto the train …and sit real close to them.” Heyes hadn’t wanted his partner back where the gold was supposed to be. Back where a certain murdering gunslinger, calling himself Kid Curry, was sure to be. A man that might just rile his partner enough, that he would forget a lifelong habit, and go and commit a murder himself. No, once he, Lom and the Bounty Hunter had got the gang leaders corralled in the baggage car, he was sure Wheat, Kyle, Haff and Wong, with a little help from The Kid, would be able to go round up the rest of the gang. Of course, he’d planned to have Haff get the gang’s horses moved and hidden by then as well, and Wong would’ve had time to move the passengers back out of harm’s way. ‘Should run like clockwork’ thought Heyes, stood on the platform at the end of the train, with a faraway look in his eyes. ‘Lom can then declare that these scum aren’t us, and everyone will know we had nothing to do with the killings. Wheat will even be clear to go back and re-claim Devils Hole. What could possibly go wrong?’Kid seated himself across form a couple of likely gals. Young and pretty. He tipped his hat, and smiled warmly. Even disguised, Kid was handsome, in a studious, sensitive sort of way, the blue of his eyes magnified by the lenses. ‘Very charming’ thought the ladies. The younger gal, opposite, blushed very attractively. ‘Heyes had told him to blend in,’ thought Kid. ‘Look like he was part of a family group. Well, these girls could be his cousins. Both blond. The younger one had curls. The elder, intelligent, blue eyes. Close enough.’As per Heyes’ other instructions, he’d bought a newspaper, that he was supposed to hide what was left of his well-known face behind, for the entire duration of the ride. ‘A little delay for some harmless flirting wouldn’t go amiss though.’ He gave the ladies another warm smile. Kyle had passed the word to Lom, when he’d finally come into Yeller Dog for some new fuses, caps and such, that Wheat was being watched very closely: He couldn’t have made the journey himself. Weaver didn’t have a lot of trust in Wheat, but he’d agreed that the raid was to go ahead. The location was given as, just passed the embankment at Slowhand Pass, which had been Heyes’ preferred option. That left Kid just over two hours to get to know his traveling companions a little better. Nobody else in the carriage was paying him the least attention, accept the ladies of course.Kid looked around and acknowledged Professor Tung and his well-dressed, well-spoken Indian Ward, with the merest nod. They were sat at the very end of the carriage near the door. They in return, nodded briefly, and then continued their conversation with the pair of well-proportioned ladies sat opposite them.“Didn’t I tell you Millicent, my dear …There was more to our young Mr Haff than meets the eye …Ward to a Professor! …I just knew it …And on a Lecture Tour of the Mid-West too… How exciting… Thank goodness Mr Wong could spare you.”Veronica beamed at Haff like a proud mother hen. Haff was all smiles and sophisticated charm.
The Long Road Back
(Haff & Wong seven)
The Columbine Train …Again!
---oooOOOooo---Heyes, Lom and the Bounty Hunter, were still on the platform standing next to the baggage car at the very rear of the train. Lom had made a lot of fuss supervising the stowing of the apparently very heavy safe in the baggage car. He pronounced that its timely delivery, to a Columbine Banker, was his own personal responsibility. He made sure everyone in the station knew just how precious, and just how heavy it was. Finally, insisting loudly that at least one of his hired guards should be allowed to travel with it in the car. One look at the tall, menacing Bounty Hunter and his dark companion, with their tied down guns, and the railway staff had agreed to it. If there was any trouble, well they could handle it. Fine by them. Lom had been very quiet on the subject of how Heyes and Kid knew where to find a safe. He’d even got a wagon and helped them recover it. Heyes had just smiled his most innocent smile and said enigmatically, “Well we had to put them somewhere …when we’d finished with them.” The Kid had decided a shrug was all he could afford to contribute. (Good grief, how guilty did Lom feel about calling Heyes a killer, to go along with that?)
Considering where the Brooker 202 had been for years, it had cleaned up surprisingly well. Heyes had had to patch up the crest painted on the front, and oil the dial a bit, but other than that, it looked almost un-tampered with. ‘Two mountains!’ Heyes had thought when he’d seen the minimal damage, mere dents and scratches to the bodywork. ‘These things are incredible.’‘It’s certainly good enough to fool Weaver’ he thought seeing the safe pushed into the corner of the open car.Heyes hid most of his face behind a large white handkerchief, which he coughed into at regular intervals, whilst he waited for the train to show signs of leaving. It was both a useful disguise and a deterrent. No one even tried to engage him in conversation, which was just as well, he was already sweating and feeling light headed again. He’d made a good recovery, considering, but he was still looking very pale and thin. He carefully checked his silver pocket watch, staring at the station clock and willing its hands to move faster. Most of the passengers were aboard, but there was still quite a crowd on the platform. He turned his face away from the crowd, ostensibly to look back along the platform and immediately wished he hadn’t. He buried his face in the cloth again, blowing hard. He was sure he’d caught a glimpse of a big tin star on the vest of a distinguished looking gentleman stood only a few yards behind him. He wished he’d let a short beard grow in, to help with disguising his well-known face, but he’d shaved this morning out of habit. He set his hat lower over his eyes and studied his boots.Eventually the train’s guard walked up behind them with his whistle and his flags. “At last” snarked Lom, keeping the grumpy persona.Heyes looked up and glanced at the guard. His eyes went wide: Had he recognised the man from a train robbery? He signalled with his eyes to Lom and the Bounty Hunter to get moving and board the train, pushing them towards the closest passenger car door and man handling them up the step.“Gentlemen,” said the guard. “ALL ABOARD!” A piercing whistle rang out.Heyes slammed the door behind The Bounty Hunter and quickly launched himself into the big gap of the Baggage car sliding door. He heaved the door shut and stood with his back to it to catch his breath.Lom and the Bounty Hunter exchanged a confused look as they sat on the last bench, closet to the connecting door. The plan had been for both Heyes and the Bounty Hunter to be in the Baggage car as guards to the imaginary gold shipment. Lom rolled his eyes letting them come to rest on the locked connecting door. ‘Now just why would Hannibal Heyes want to be all alone …with a safe?’ He sighed deeply shaking his head slowly, folding his legs and his arms. ‘Didn’t take a whole lot of imagination to answer that one.’
---oooOOOooo---As it turned out there was a further delay in departure, so Kid had a little more flirting time, as the train wheezed and clanged and groaned, still sat at the station platform. Lom had some more stewing time, but he found himself shaking his head when the Bounty Hunter asked, by gesticulating with his cigar, if he should join Heyes in the baggage car with the safe.“Smith will have the doors open when the time comes” Lom assured him quietly.The guard waved his flags dramatically at the engine driver and shouted incomprehensible things at someone behind the train. Heyes still trying to catch his breath, had a little extra time to worry about how this delay was going to affect the rest of his plan. After a particularly large shudder and a sonorous bang, the train finally got underway, fifteen minutes late. “Ah …moving at last,” smiled Kid at the ladies. They nodded indulgently.Heyes relaxed, catching his breath at last and wiping his sweaty brow with the handkerchief. That delay shouldn’t affect his plan at all. He blew out a long restorative breath looking about him in the gloom of the baggage car for the lamp he’d placed there earlier. He quickly got it lit, holding it high to send its light off into every corner. Heyes’ whole face lit up with a huge grin of sheer glee, as his eyes came to rest on his metal nemesis, the Columbine train’s Brooker 202. It hadn’t been out of Lom’s sight since the recovery, but now, thanks to a little last minute flim-flam pretend panicking on his part, he’d bought himself just over two hours of alone time with that elusive lady. He quickly checked the connecting door was locked. Just him and the Brooker. The grin turned devilish. He removed his gloves, slowly, flexing his long fingers. He approached the lady of his dreams, or should that be his nightmares, with a warm seductive smile and breathed, “You’re all mine…”
---oooOOOooo---“Tickets” shouted the guard entering Curry’s carriage. Kid fished in his jacket pocket and offered up his ticket with a smile. A troubled look crossed the guard’s face as he handed back the stub to the bespectacled cowboy with the blue eyes. Kid held the smile, but he’d seen that look too many times not to recognise it. The guard was wondering where he’d seen this face before.“Thaddeus, would you be a dear and reach me my bag?” asked the young lady opposite. Kid beamed at the delighted recipient of his charms, passing over the requested carpet bag. “Of course, Gabrielle dear, anything to assist my beautiful traveling companions. And Charlotte, dear, may I assist you in any way at all?” Charlotte turned scarlet and mumbled a small negative into her gloved hands, Gabrielle returned Kid’s beam, with confidence, delighted that this handsome man regarded them so warmly, after so brief an acquaintance. It’s strange that she hadn’t detected that, rather lovely, Southern drawl earlier. Kid noted the small shake of the guard’s head as he moved on up the carriage with relief. He none the less set his hat lower over his eyes, and opened the large broadsheet newspaper in his lap as per Heyes’ instructions. The glasses made it impossible for him to actually read any of the words, but he looked rapt.Gabrielle and Charlotte exchanged a look of confusion. They were now effectively cut off, from further flirting with the sensitively handsome Thaddeus Jones, by the screaming headline:
WHEN WILL THE GOVERNOR TAKE ACTION?
HANNIBAL HEYES AND JED ‘KID’ CURRY MURDER SPREE CONTINUES UNABATED
The citizens of Wyoming Territory demand…
---oooOOOooo---An hour or so laterHaff excused himself from their charming company and walked slowly to the back of the carriage. Professor Tung smiled at the ladies, encouraging them to continue with their fascinating discourse. Haff caught Kid’s eye for the briefest second. Kid’s nod was equally undetectable.Haff had been told by Heyes, to leave the train at the water stop, not far from the planned raid, and assume the outward appearance of the Devils Apache complete with war paint and his beloved paint pony. Find and hide the gangs horses, then replace the Weaver Gang’s version of the Devils Apache at the robbery scene.Kyle had said that a particularly swarthy-looking outlaw from Weavers gang, called Collins, had been ribbed mercilessly back at the Hole, about pretending to be the Devils Apache on previous raids. Haff was looking forward to meeting Collins.
---oooOOOooo---Heyes had a rather serene, satisfied smile on his face as he got up and went to the connecting door and unlocked it. Then he went and slid the heavy carriage door to the outside slightly open. He saw the embankment at Slowhand pass roll by. He screwed up his face, anticipating the rush of brakes as the driver saw the disrupted rails ahead of the train. True to Wheat’s message, the screaming of the rails started up right on schedule. Heyes smiled, so far so good.“Stand and dee …liver!” shouted a whiney voice from up by the engine.Heyes shuddered, that wiped the smile off his face. He didn’t think he sounded anything like that! “Who says so?” asked a rather exasperated sounding engine driver.“Hannibal Heyes!” shouted a voice that wasn’t all that dissimilar from the Kids, thought Heyes, but this had sounded like a threat.“And Kid Curry!” completed the whiner. Heyes closed his eyes and shook his head. Definitely nothing like him!Lom grabbed the Bounty Hunters elbow and jerked his head to the rear door. They both quickly left the carriage, before the Weaver gang entered any of the passenger carriages. Heyes quickly got the door locked behind them, the Bounty Hunter looking quizzically at the lock picks in Heyes’ hands. Heyes pushed them into the side of his boot with a throw away shrug. He took out his gun and went to stand at Lom’s side as he slid the outer door open just another crack. “This is it” he said grimly to his companions.
---oooOOOooo---Kid, further up toward the front of the train, had also heard the encounter up at the engine very clearly. His anger at hearing another man use his own name, whilst waving a six gun around, was white hot in seconds. He folded the newspaper deliberately, giving himself a minute to calm down and collect his thoughts. The ladies opposite him were pale with shock, holding their hands to their faces. “It’s Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry!” whispered Charlotte. “We’ll all be murdered….”“It’s all right, ladies” Kid assured them, bristling with affront at what these lowlifes had done to his reputation. He tried hard to put a less dangerous expression on his face. “I won’t be letting …anything …happen to either of you.” Gabrielle noticed the note of cold menace in the words, the steel in the blue eyes and wondered at the mercurial changes in this man. The lovely Southern accent was gone, again. She grasped Charlotte’s hand and put her chin in the air. Let any man try anything, including the handsome Thaddeus Jones, she was ready. She patted the little sleeve gun she wore under her shawl and blouse cuff for reassurance.Weavers gang were starting to board the train. An Indian ran a paint pony up and down the length of the passenger carriages hollering a war cry that sounded very non-Native American to Kid’s ears. The guy had smothered his face in red and white paint and had a moth eaten headdress of feathers trailing out behind him.Some of the women screamed.“Calm yourselves and exit the tlain… Quickly on the reft side…” said a rather tall grey wrapped figure pretending to be The Chinaman. Kid would have found all this comical if shotguns weren’t being waved in the passengers faces: And the use of other familiar names rankled with Kid too. He stood and offered an arm to each of the young ladies.“Lobo, Get them all out on this side!” barked Brake as Heyes.“Hank and Red, push them up there by the rocks” ordered Maggott as Kid.“Preacher …it’s time to start up a little collection!” drawled Weaver.A tall sallow looking outlaw, dressed completely in black, began to address the passengers using the engine steps as a pulpit.“Now folks …I surely do hope none of you is thinking of holding out on us …coz The Kid there, he’s just itching for some target practice! Be generous in your benefaction. Bless you all.”The passengers were making their way towards the engine to line up against some rocks there, the ladies moved to be towards the back. The gentlemen formed a protective line in front of them.Kid rolled his eyes, as he stood by the tracks still helping ladies climb down from the train. He had to admit that did sound just like The Preacher, but if that gun swirling, hungry-looking, murdering son of a bitch came anywhere near the ladies… A small cough got Kid’s attention. Millicent held out her arms to the strapping young man offering assistance. Kid circled Millicent’s waist, well he grabbed as much as he could as Millicent’s full weight fell on him and shifted his feet to try and allow her ample skirts to clear the train. He was struggling just a little, his nose tickled by the copious feathers of her hat, when he looked down the length of the train to the baggage car and saw that they had a problem. A big problem.At the back of the train, behind the baggage car occupied by Heyes, Lom, the Bounty Hunter and the Brooker 202, there was a new carriage, one that hadn’t been there when they boarded. It looked like a strongly reinforced carriage: An armoured carriage. The sort of carriage that was used to carry gold shipments.