Posts : 196
Join date : 2016-10-21
|Subject: The Long Road Back - Part Eleven - Lessons in Larceny (3300 words) Thu Feb 16, 2017 11:12 am|| |
---oooOOOooo---Kid twisted his head to look back, so that he could follow the Heyes and Curry wannabe’s progress to the rear of the train, as he assisted Veronica and Millicent to join the rest of the passengers up at the Engine. “You better just keep walking” he growled under his breath, to the backs of the outlaw’s receding heads. “Just as far away from the passengers …and especially the ladies …as you can.” Neither lady was disposed to let go of Kid’s arms, so he soon found himself surrounded by women, including Gabrielle and Charlotte, at the back of the group of passengers. He was almost hidden behind their hats and feathers. He had a fine view of the action from here, well he would as soon as he lost the specs. He also found himself agreeing with Heyes, which was a surprise, that his place was here, as protector to ladies and the rest of the passengers. He’d argued otherwise.The two outlaws stopped outside the door of the armoured car, ignoring the baggage car completely.“You in the carriage …this here is HANNIBAL HEYES …” squawked Brake.“And JEDEDIAH …KID …CURRY…” shouted Maggot grandly, drawing the Colt swiftly, spinning it several times, and firing several bullets up at the door with a whoop. ‘The dark one kinda sounds like Heyes’ thought Kid. ‘But that hungry-looking lowlife …He don’t sound nothing like me.’ His glasses were off, so he could keep a close eye on proceedings. He’d seen that draw. ‘Gotta admit …that draw was pretty impressive… but that idiot’s spilling bullets so wildly …he near killed two of his own.’Kid shook his head with disapproval. The ricocheting bullets had pinged back off the door, one barely missing Weaver as he strode up to join the other two, and another making Brake jump as it pinged of a rock near his boots.“PUT THAT AWAY you $%^&&£% idiot,” Weaver growled. “Before you shoot yourself as well as us!” This was loud enough for Heyes, Lom and the Bounty Hunter to hear quite clearly, though Heyes didn’t think Weaver meant for anyone else to hear. They looked at each other, mildly surprised that Weaver would talk to these two like that.“Careful Squint…” sneered Brake dangerously.“Yeah …next time …I may not miss,” finished Maggot, with quiet menace.Heyes’ eyebrows shot skywards. ‘Weaver’s got himself a parcel of trouble there, and there don’t seem to be no one to watch his back for him, neither.’ Heyes didn’t know how close he was. Since Weaver had brought these two dangerous, murdering gun heads into the gang, Phil Anker, Weaver’s former lieutenant and current Preacher impersonator, had washed his hands of Squint Weaver and his high rolling new ideas. Stage robbery was a lot easier. Him and his partner one-eyed Jake Lyons, planned to be moving on. All they needed was one last good score here, and Weaver wouldn’t see them for dust. Maybe some of the other gang members would join them. No, Weavers back was unwatched, and he knew it.“HANNIBAL HEYES and KID CURRY… that’s who’s out here…” confirmed Weaver loudly, to the armoured car door. “AND … Moondance done brung enough dynamite …to blow this whole train SKY HIGH!” continued Brake as Heyes, taking over once more. “So …if’n you’re planning on livin’ to see tomorrow …you better get this door open real quick …” Inside the baggage car, Heyes mouthed Brake’s words, ‘You better get this door open real quick’, wagging his head back and forth with a sneer. “Who does he think he is?” he whispered to no one in particular. That made Lom smile. “You” he stated quietly. Heyes sniffed and shook his head with a snort.“Yeah, he sure ain’t Heyes” sneered the Bounty Hunter. “I look more like Hannibal Heyes than he does…”Heyes and Lom exchanged a look of brief panic. The Bounty Hunter was so quiet; they’d almost forgotten he was there. Heyes had been spinning The Bounty Hunter all kinds of lies during his recovery period, just to fight the boredom. Kid had admonished him for it, calling it a dangerous game. Heyes had laughed saying, “Lying sharpens the mind, Kid. You gotta have a real good memory to spin a complicated web. Gotta keep my hand in, don’t I?” Kid was afraid Heyes was enjoying bamboozling the Bounty Hunter just a little too much. “You better be careful Heyes …he’s not stupid …but he is dangerous …You make one slip …and did you really convince him that Wheat …who he thinks is Preacher …was pretending to be Wheat …at the Hole …coz Weaver was more likely to believe Wheat would pipe a job …than Preacher?” Heyes had just grinned devilishly and nodded. Now, Heyes was thinking, ‘I better be more careful around the Bounty Hunter.’A distinguished, confident sounding voice from within the armoured car got everyone’s attention. “My name is Marshal Warwick Johnson…” Lom, Heyes and the Bounty Hunter raised their eyebrows, wide-eyed. They all knew Marshal Warwick Johnson by reputation. He was a war hero and a just man. His reputation mostly hung on the number of outlaws he’d rounded up and hanged. Heyes recalled seeing the flash of tin on the chest of the man on the platform and whistled silently. ‘Yep, I definitely need to be more careful.’“You won’t be blowing your way into this here carriage …son” continued the Marshal. “It’s fitted with the very latest there is in armoured plated protection! Me and my men …are here to see, that this gold shipment, gets to the proper authorities in Columbine, and there’s nothing you can do …to prevent us doing just that! Why you’d need nitro-glycerine to blow this door …sonny …and I don’t believe you brought any of that with you …not on horseback you didn’t!”There was no answer from the three outlaws outside the door. Each had a pained expression on their faces, taking this new information in.“AND …even if you DID get through the armour plated door SONNY …I don’t believe even Hannibal Heyes …IF …that is indeed who you are? …would be able to open our brand new P&H safe …not without nitro he wouldn’t. YOU SIR …are WASTING MY TIME!”Heyes smiled. He liked what he was hearing, especially the Marshals scepticism about the identity of the whiney sounding outlaw. He almost laughed, but managed to stop himself. ‘The Marshal may be over-egging his advantage somewhat; a good dynamiter could blow a P&H, but Weaver don’t know that. Oh yes, Weaver certainly got problems. Just not sure if Weaver’s smart enough to know just how many problems he’s got!’
The Long Road Back
(Haff & Wong seven)
Lessons in Larceny
---oooOOOooo---Haff, atop his paint pony, bare chested, full war paint and impressive feathers, located the gang’s horses easily enough. They weren’t hidden, just held back a little way off the track, far enough away so they wouldn’t be spooked by explosions. They were being guarded by a couple of half-grown, half-starved, grubby looking boys, playing a grid game in the dust with sticks. Haff had seen these two before, hanging around outside the saloon in Harris town. He remembered them saying that they’d come to join the Devils Hole Gang. Wheat had told them to go back to their farms, and grow up some, before they came looking to get themselves killed again. Haff also knew, Wheat had flipped them a coupla dollar for a meal, even though he’d denied it later.‘Guess Weaver ain’t got Wheat’s scruples about using kids,’ thought Haff. ‘Wasn’t right.’Haff walked in on the boys’ game. He smiled at them. They looked terrified. “Hey Zeb …that there’s the real Devils Apache!” cried the youngest, looking really shocked. “I done saw him one time in Harris town… Is he gonna scalp us?”The elder of the two put himself in front, of what Haff guessed to be his brother, and stammered out, “Wh…Wh…Wheat ain’t here …y…y...you better not c…c…come any c ..c…closer… I g ...g ...gotta g …g …gun …you understand a …G …G….GUN!” He waved an ancient pistol that had probably seen duty in the war. Which war Haff could only guess at, but if they fired that, they were likely to do themselves more harm than him. He liked the boy’s gumption though.“Y..Y…You ain’t wanted here …G…G…GO! …or I’ll f…f...fill you f…f...full o’ lead …DO YOU UNDERS…S…STAND ME?!”“Yes, surprisingly, I do understand you.” Said Haff in his best, newly acquired Eastern city accent. “And …I’m about to do you both …a tremendous favour…” The two dirty little savages were wide eyed in astonishment. They looked at each other as if they needed reassurance they hadn’t been hearing things. Haff used their moment of shock to leap from the paint pony, disarm the older boy and wrestle both boys to the ground. He got them tied, gagged, and thrown over two of the string of horses in just a few minutes. Replacing their battered hats, he reassured them, “You’ll thank me for this one day …And you’re very welcome, by the way.”He led the entire string off, further back from the track, to hide them behind a close crop of brush trees. Tying his new charges to one of the larger trees. “Shhhhh!” he said with a finger against his lips. He took the large knife out of its hidden scabbard between his shoulder blades with lightning speed and promised, “I’ll be back …to cut your bonds …not your throats …IF …you stay quiet…”
---oooOOOooo---Kid growled under his breath “Come on, time to be moving this along…” He was thinking about the trains late arrival in Columbine. A posse would really complicate things further. Heyes’ plan should have taken twenty minutes, tops. The clock in Kid’s head was ticking on relentlessly.He’d heard the Marshal’s words clearly and he could see that the door of the baggage car was open just a fraction. Like Heyes, Kid could see the gang were stymied. He let his right hand drift to the butt of his colt pushed, Tapscott-like, down the back of his pants. His holster was empty but he hadn’t minded throwing away that relic Lom had found for him in Yeller Dog. He carefully noted the positions and weapons of all the gang members. ‘ Plan was fer Kyle and Wheat to discover the Brooker and dummy the three leaders into the baggage car. Kid could see Kyle, pulling a large bundle of dynamite from a sack and strolling back towards the rear of the train. Wheat was nowhere to be seen. Kid checked all the outlaw positions again. ‘Definitely no Wheat. Strange’ thought Kid. ‘That Marshal’s right about one thing … Kyle didn’t bring no nitro. That gold shipment’s going nowhere.’ He almost smiled, imaging the Weaver gang using all the dynamite to blow the armoured car door off, then dragging a huge Pierce and Hamilton safe full of gold up the nearest mountain. ‘That couldn’t happen twice’ he thought ruefully. ‘But this sure is going to be another disaster …just like the last time this train was hit …Of course …this time, the train passengers are facing a gang of killers…’ Kid closed his eyes for just a second, any thoughts of mirth forgotten.Gabrielle had noted Kid’s keen interest in the outlaw’s positions and the fact that he needed to remove his spectacles to see them.‘There’s more to Mr Jones than meets the eye’ she thought shrewdly.
---oooOOOooo---“Moondance, get up here!” called Maggot, still feeling the need to wave the pistol around and fire it randomly into the air. ‘That’s five’ thought Kid.“I’m giving the orders!” Weaver snarled, grabbing Maggot’s shooting arm. “MOONDANCE GET UP HERE!” he shouted glaring into Maggot’s face. “and …I’ll say when …and if …we blow the door!”Heyes watched, through the crack of the door, fascinated. Weaver was really showing signs of stress. ‘Interesting.’ Heyes could also see Kyle coming forward, carrying his beloved dynamite. He had a big excited grin on his face. Heyes groaned. Strangely, Heyes couldn’t see Wheat anywhere. ‘Trust Wheat to stay out of sight when things got tricky.’ Heyes’ eyes narrowed. ‘Wait a minute …this train was Wheat’s idea! ... If Wheat had known there was a real gold shipment; if that’s why he’d needed Mr Wong and Haff … to help him rob …a gold train!’ Heyes cursed under his breath. He scanned all the outlaws he could see for signs of Wheat. He found none. He looked at the large bundle of dynamite in Kyle’s hands.‘Kyle could kill us all …if he tries blow that door …with us still inside this baggage car.’Heyes scowled, but he had his thinking face on.
---oooOOOooo---Haff was blissfully unaware that Heyes’ original plan had gone completely awry. He approached the scene of the train robbery from behind the passengers. He saw his partner, Wong, bespectacled and suited as Professor Tung, towards the front of the group. He was protesting loudly about emptying his wallet. And Kid, tall at the back, surrounded by most of the women. Haff grinned. ‘Trust Kid.’Then he saw his prey. The loud war-painted non-Apache, Collins was still on the heavy paint pony, kicking up dust and frightening the passengers. He rode carelessly around the passengers, sometimes getting in much too close and frightening them.‘Nothing like me at all!’ thought Haff, disgusted.Haff himself had rarely been on train robberies, Wong preferring banks. The few he had been on, he’d simply ridden in, all war paint and feathers, to grab the haul from Wheat, and gallop off to the Hole before any posse was likely to catch him. Wong’s thoughts had been that once the passengers knew for certain that their money was beyond return, they would be less likely to cause trouble for Wheat and the gang. Posse’s would know chasing the gang wouldn’t get them the money back. Quite a disincentive. Like Heyes, Wheat hadn’t allowed personal items to be taken from the passengers, just money. This idiot; this Collins, was revelling in intimidating the passengers into compliance. And it was working too. The passengers threw their watches and jewellery, all their money and other valuables into a sack held out by the sallow Preacher figure as he came along the line. “But it’s a mourning brooch…” cried Veronica in distress. “My husband and baby’s hair are plaited in there. That’s all I have left of them…” She gasped as the precious brooch was ripped from her bodice and pushed into the sack by one eyed Jake Lyons. “But it’s worthless to anyone else…” she wailed. Kid tried to reach the distressing scene, but was cut off by the screeching Collins, circling around the back of the passengers, and pushing the paint to nearly trample him.Haff saw his chance and leapt, catching Collins off guard. He pulled the screeching man off the pony and into nearby bushes. Kid, seeing Haff, grabbed the heavy paint and started shouting, “YOU COULD HAVE KILLED ME YOU IDIOT!” at the empty saddle. He kept the pony throwing dust to create more confusion. Haff was back and jumped up on the pony and started mimicking the awful screeching Collins.Professor Tung, who’d pushed his way back through the crowd, was calling Veronica’s name loudly, and shouting “YOU CAD SIR!” to create even more of a diversion for Haff. He pulled Veronica into an awkward embrace, she being considerably taller than Wong, and held her while she wept openly. Millicent was frozen speechless at her side, shocked to her core at Veronica’s ill treatment. With a dramatic high-pitched war cry, The Devils Apache suddenly raced back around to the front of the passengers, grabbing the sack out of Phil Anker’s hands, and kicking the paint to rear and prance, swirling dust in all the other outlaw’s faces. With a final screech, he left the scene of the robbery at the full run, presumably heading back to Devils Hole.Phil, One-eyed Jake and the other outlaws, still waving their guns at the passengers, swore loudly at Collins and coughed and squinted up their stinging eyes against all the dust.In all this commotion, a grim faced Kid, shouted to Wong that they needed to get the women to the far side of the engine, away from any gun play as soon as possible. Wong grabbed Veronica and Millicent by their arms and started for the cow catcher immediately.
---oooOOOooo---Back at the rear of the train “Kyle!” hissed Heyes, seeing the three outlaw leaders distracted by the noise, dust and rumpus created by the Devils Apache up at the engine. “Over here.”Kyle glimpsed Heyes as he passed the baggage car door, on his way to the armoured car, and stopped in his tracks. He looked poleaxed for just a second, looking between the two rear carriages of the train, confused. “This way” Heyes hissed in his best Gang leaders hiss.Kyle walked slowly to the slightly ajar door and pulled it open just a little more, to stick in his head without shedding any light on those inside. He looked up at Heyes, looking very worried. He’d just realised this wasn’t going to plan.“Where’s Wheat?” hissed Heyes, a little too aggressively.“Crease has got him,” whined Kyle quietly.“Crease!” Said Lom and the Bounty Hunter together looking worried.“Crease! Who's Crease?” hissed Heyes.“A real nasty lowlife” supplied Lom.“Worth $5000,” supplied the Bounty Hunter. “Dead or alive.”“Weaver done told Crease …he should kill Wheat ..real slow like ..if’n he don’t make it back to the Hole …with the gold,” whined Kyle in a whisper. “What we gonna do, Heyes?” Heyes looked very troubled and wiped his mouth with a gloved hand.“Guess we have to keep Weaver alive…” he said weakly.
---oooOOOooo---Maggot watched the Devils Apache leave with the loot and turned happily to smile at Brake; at least that part of their pay was in the bag. That’s when he noticed Moondance. Moondance was looking in the wrong car. He tapped Brake’s arm with the barrel of his gun. “What’s that idiot doing?”“NOT THAT ONE!” squealed Brake. “HEY SQUINT …your idiot dynamiter got the WRONG CAR!”One of the newest recruits to the gang, had the misfortune to be standing a little too close to Weaver, when he snorted with laughter. Weaver, who was feeling the stress of being out of his depth, took it personal. He was regretting not bringing Carlson along. Carlson knew how a train robbery should be done, but he wasn’t about to admit this mistake to his men. He wasn’t going to look foolish. Have people laughing at him. He needed to take back control. “I said …I give the orders around here! And NOBODY CALLS ME SQUINT!” He took out his pistol and he shot the unfortunate laugher stood next to him between the eyes. The man died with the smile still on his face. He was expendable. Weaver could still see a value in the Heyes and Curry lookalikes. Just. “Anybody else feel like laughing?” he questioned, relishing the awed gasps and sudden silence that fell upon the clearing. He swung his gaze around the other gang members, noting with satisfaction just how quickly they dropped their gaze when his fell upon them. Finally, he took a long cool look at Brake and Maggot. The two were wide eyed. Shooting one of their own, that was knew to them. They looked like they might just find a little more respect for Weaver in future.That's not how they would have done it, but both Heyes and Curry had to give Weaver his due, he’d got everyone’s attention.‘Good’ thought Weaver. ‘Time to move this along.’