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 The Long Road Back - Part Twelve - The Magnificent Seven - 4350 words

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Cal

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PostSubject: The Long Road Back - Part Twelve - The Magnificent Seven - 4350 words   Thu Feb 16, 2017 11:14 am

---oooOOOooo---

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

---oooOOOooo---
Part Twelve 
The Magnificent seven
---oooOOOooo---

“Moondance …I want that door open.” Weaver spoke quietly and deliberately into the awed silence that had descended on the scene of the train robbery in the wake of the killing. 

“And I want it open in the next five minutes.” 

He flicked his watch case open and noted the time.

Kyle had pushed himself up to sit in the door of the baggage car where he could both hear Heyes, and prevent anyone else seeing inside.  He cradled the large bundle of dynamite on his lap.  In the dark behind him, Lom had his gun pointed at Weaver, Heyes and the Bounty Hunter had their guns trained on Brake and Maggot. 

With Wheat taken hostage back at the Hole, they couldn’t afford to just shoot, tempted though they were.  Heyes had decided Weaver would be leaving the scene with them. 

“Alive” he’d reminded the Bounty Hunter.  “Go ahead Kyle…” he whispered.

Kyle spat out a long brown stream of bakky, then looked balefully at the armoured car with a sniff and a shake of his head. 

“Ain’t gonna be able to blow that from the outside …err …Clint… Not and have me enough dynamite left over to blow a P&H. It’s not like we’d be stupid enough to try take the safe with us.  Like the Marshal said …it’d take nitro to blast our way in …and I ain’t brung me none of that …You’re gonna have t’ get them inside …to open it up.”  He looked as if he were giving something a lot of thought.  “Way I reckon it …we just about …got the short end of an hour … ‘fore this here trains due into Columbine.  There’s gonna be a posse out of there …’n’ on our tails real soon… so if you’re gonna get it open …you’re gonna have t’ get to it...” 

Kyle looked more than a little stunned about what he just said. It had sounded like he was just repeating Heyes’ words without bothering to listen to what he was actually saying, till the very end.  

Luckily, none of the gang leaders seemed to have noticed. The gun wasn’t actually still smoking in Weaver’s hand, he’d put it back into his holster, but the gang leader still looked like he might like to shoot someone else. His eyes began randomly squinting up at the corners.

Brake and Maggot exchanged a look of incredulity.

“You mean …you ain’t brung enough dynamite?” whined Brake, sounding dangerous.

“Oh …I brung me plenty o’ dynamite …plenty to blow a P&H safe …But like the man said …that there door is armour plated! Ain’t gonna scratch it with dynamite” opined Moondance the explosives expert confidently.

Weaver blew out a huge sigh of resignation.  He had no reason to suspect Kyle was lying.  He walked up to the door of the armoured car.  

“YOU …with the gold! YOU HEAR ME MARSHAL?”

“I HEAR YOU! I AIN’T DEAF.  Tell me …. Are you another Hannibal Heyes …SONNY?” shouted the Marshal.  “And I’d like to remind you …the penalty fer murder in this here territory …IS HANGING …by the neck …till you are dead!”

“This here is CLINT WEAVER …AND I RUN THIS HERE OUTFIT! …Heyes and Curry …THEY WORK FER ME! You sound like an educated man Marshal …I like that …So …it shouldn’t be too hard fer you to understand ... you either open up this door …or I’ll be letting THE KID murder himself another passenger …”

Maggot chuckled nastily waving the pistol.

“You may have heard Marshal … He already murdered one …ONE AIN’T ALWAYS ENOUGH! … HE’S JUST ITCHING TO BLOW ANOTHER ONES BRAINS OUT!”

There was a little distraction up at the engine as a husband had to catch his screaming, swooning wife. 

Or was that a fuming Kid Curry, catching a ham acting Gabrielle?

“You done real well, Kyle” Heyes whispered taking advantage of the distraction.  “Just stay where you are, luckily we brought us a spare gold shipment …”

“You understand me, Marshal?  I’ll give you five minutes to think it over. Then your gonna have blood on your hands!”

Weaver waved to one-eyed Lyons to bring up one of the passengers.  

The man perused his captives with a hungry sneer, fixing his one good eye on the younger ladies.  He didn’t seem to notice that nearly a dozen of the passengers, the older ladies and a few children, had already been spirited away by Wong and Kid to the far side of the engine.  He smiled nastily spotting Charlotte.  This time Kid was ready and in position; disguised again behind the spectacles, as the outlaw pushed those in front of Charlotte aside.

Gabrielle seeing the man’s intentions, genuinely screamed “No!” 

Kid stepped between the thug and both the ladies so that Lyon’s outstretched hand grasped his arm instead of Charlottes.  

“If you scoundrels must have a hostage …I think you’ll be taking me sir!” He said in his most affronted Southern gentlemanly drawl. “My sisters …have been indisposed enough!”

The outlaw made to push this dandy-sounding cowboy aside.  Kid stood firm, brooking him no further progress towards the ladies.  He stared directly into the man’s face. 

A brief flicker of recognition sparked in the outlaw’s eye, but it was quickly quenched as the man failed to place this moustached, bespectacled Southerner.

“I insist that you take me sir …and not inconvenience the ladies, further” said Kid stoically, standing his ground and using his height to full advantage to shield the ladies.

Gabrielle’s eyes went wide with gratitude, and on impulse, seeing Kid’s empty holster, slipped the loaded derringer from her sleeve into Kid’s pocket.  

“Do be careful, Brother dear” she mirrored his drawl by affecting her own.

“I’m sure I will be fine, my dear” he assured her, leaning in to briefly kiss her cheek. “This gentleman has simply been ordered to select a passenger, and I think, it is more proper and fitting that he select a gentleman, is all.  Do be sure to take good care of Charlotte” he said moving his eyes significantly to the cow-catcher.  “And don’t worry” he whispered for her ears alone.

“Of course, Brother dear” she said loudly, nodding her understanding and patting his jacket pocket as she embraced him, so that he was sure to feel what she’d placed there. 

Kid’s eyes filled with genuine warmth and gratitude as he smiled at Gabrielle’s brave actions.  She didn’t know he still had his Colt.  He held her cheek for just a second, as the one-eyed outlaw pulled at his arm.  

Something about the way this Southern dandy cowboy acted the gentleman, looking down his nose at the outlaws, registered with the one-eyed Lyons, just as Kid had known it would. Lyons decided this guy was ripe for a bullet between the eyes.  Better him than a screaming girl.  

He roughly pulled Kid to the front of the crowd.  Kid caught Wong’s eye as he passed the professor, sliding his gaze back towards the remaining ladies and the cow catcher again.  

Wong’s answering nod would have been undetectable unless you knew to look for it. Wong faded back. While all eyes followed the unfortunate, naive Southern cowboy’s progress towards certain death at the back of the train, Wong started directing the ladies towards the front of the engine, and out of sight, to the relative safety beyond the cowcatcher.

Kid let his arm be twisted behind his back and kept his head on his chest as he was marched towards the armoured car.

In the baggage car, Heyes, who’d been considering a plan B for Weaver. Having Kyle discover the Brooker, and so dummy the three leaders into the baggage car, groaned when he saw just who was being dragged out of the crowd of passengers.  

He growled frustratedly.  “K… Thaddeus …You just couldn’t keep your head down…”

---oooOOOooo---

“YOU GOT 30 SECONDS!” shouted Weaver.  “And don’t think we’re bluffing Marshal. The Kid’s killed plenty of times before …one more won’t bother him.”

Heyes closed his eyes, ‘Why don’t you wind him up …just a little more?’ he thought sarcastically.

“IS THAT A FACT?” shouted the Marshal from the armoured car, almost mockingly.  “Certainly …seems to have been the case …recently!”

“I’M THROUGH TALKING! THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE …” Weaver sounded close to the end of his patience. 

‘Almost frantic’ thought Heyes.

“YOU EITHER OPEN UP! …OR …” 

Weaver waved his arm impatiently at Lyons to get the chosen sacrificial passenger within his reach.

“Give him here…” he growled, grabbing Kid’s arm and pushing him towards the armoured door as though the Marshal would see.  

“MARSHAL! …YOU’RE GONNA HAVE THIS HERE PASSENGER’S BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS …YOU HEAR …YOU EITHER OPEN UP…OR I ORDER KID CURRY TO KILL…” 

Weaver took his own pistol out of its holster and pulled Kid closer.  Kid turned and looked up, removing the spectacles with his left hand, glaring straight into Weavers face.  Even with the false moustache, Weaver immediately knew whose arm he’d grabbed.  

“…..KID CURRY!?!” finished Weaver, startled, letting the pistol drop.  

Weaver couldn’t believe his eyes.  His stressed brain couldn’t take in this new twist.  His eyes opened and closed, squinting up in confusion, as he tried to compute what was happening.

“Sounds to me … like you got MORE THAN ONE KID CURRY OUT THERE …SON?!” shouted the Marshal “Or is he gonna shoot himself?”

Heyes looked pained, “Nooooo….” he groaned quietly.

Kid’s flat stare remained all threat.  Cool and unfazed. 

“Hello Squint …Heard I was on the payroll.”

“I knew I’d seen that face before” shouted Lyons excitedly, thinking Kid had just asked to join the gang.  He got up into Kid and Weaver’s faces swinging his good eye between them. 

“THIS HERE’S THE REAL KID CURRY!” he said, smacking Kid on the chest with the back of his hand.

“I’M KID CURRY!” screamed Maggot, drawing his Colt, spinning it extravagantly and firing into the air again.  

(Maybe I should have mentioned before: Weaver had found Brake and Maggot in a trick shot traveling show.  They’d just murdered the man they were working for to steal the take, when the Weaver gang came in to rob the show. Maggot hadn’t quite lost his showman dazzle, even if he did find shooting people more to his taste than fancy targets.)

Kid, the experienced gunslinger smirked inwardly, thinking ‘And that’s all six.’

“Yeah …but HE’S THE REAL KID CURRY!” said Lyons loudly. “TELL HIM SQUINT! …We held up a stage ...Wait a minute … If he’s here…” he started looking around wildly “ Maybe HANNIBAL HEYES…”

Weaver started looking wildly about him too. “HANNIBAL HEYES… WHERE?” he shouted looking up at the crowd by the engine.

“I’M HANNIBAL HEYES!” screamed Brake from behind him, moving to stand shoulder to shoulder with Maggot.

“No you’re not,” said a quiet, dangerous voice from the baggage car.  “I’m Hannibal Heyes.” 

Heyes stood smiling behind Kyle in the narrow opening of the baggage car door, holding the Schofield under Kyle’s chin.   

“…And I appear to be holding all the dynamite.”

“That is HANNIBAL HEYES!” called the engine driver, stood a few carriages up covered by one of the outlaw’s guns.  “I’d know him anywhere!  He stopped this very train …coupla years ago …you remember, Jim?”

“Yep! That there’s the real Hannibal Heyes alright …and The Kid too, well I’ll be! Knew these others weren’t right” confirmed the guard.  

“…And the Devils Hole Gang were real careful with the passengers!” continued the driver “Not like this bunch o’ murdering amateurs …”

Weaver started to raise his piece to silence the driver, eyes squinting uncontrollably.

Kid acted like lightening, freeing himself from Weaver’s left-handed grip, spinning Weaver’s arm up his own back and pulling his Colt from under his jacket to clobber Lyons with the butt, before bringing it to rest under Weaver’s chin. He rapidly put Weaver between himself and the rest of the gang and backed up towards Heyes. 

He’d heard the hollow click of Maggot’s empty gun with satisfaction, he knew Maggot was the only one of the outlaws with reflexes fast enough to match his own.  Maggot’s eyes went wide in shock, as he realised his pistol was empty, and fumbled awkwardly to reload.  Brake, who usually left shooting to Maggot, realised he’d have to step up.

Lom, seeing movement from Brake, fired over Heyes’ head to cover Kid’s dive towards the baggage car door.

Heyes had pushed Kyle aside and bashed Weaver on the head with the butt of his Schofield, as he helped pull Kid and a groggy Weaver up into the car. Lom started spraying bullets towards the other outlaw positions to cover them.  Kyle got the door slid back across to give them all more cover. 

Kid, spun in the small gap that was left and got in three good shots sending Maggot, Brake and Lyons guns into the air in rapid succession.  They all fell grasping their shooting hands as several fingers flew into the air also.  

‘Three at the same time’ he thought smugly. 

Heyes had noticed and rolled his eyes.  So had everyone else. 

Kid winced an apology.

The Bounty Hunter rapidly had Weaver tied up and left him with Kyle so he could join the others firing at the door sending the gang scattering for cover.  Those of the gang seeking passengers to hostage, were dumfounded to find they’d all gone. 

The passengers, seeing all the outlaws gaping at the spectacle at the rear end of the train, had all melted away under Wong’s direction to the other side of the tracks, and were now sheltering behind the engine.  The driver and guard dived onto the tracks, behind nearby wheels, as the firing intensified.  The outlaws had found cover of the rocks and bushes and had begun to return fire.

Suddenly, the armour plated door slid open and rapid fire from a Gatling gun sprayed out death into the clearing.  The combatants in the baggage car froze in shock.

The outlaws, those that were still alive, fell back out of range to make a getaway. They’d settle for the passenger’s valuables, robbing trains was just too dangerous.

“SOMEONE’S MOVED THE HORSES!” came a plaintive.

Haff began rifle fire from his position above them, on top of the rocks, which eventually persuaded the more intelligent amongst the retreating outlaws, that they were surrounded.  Literally stuck between a rock and a hard place.  Hands were waved in the air. Shot guns thrown aside.

“CEASE FIRING!” came a loud commanding voice from the armoured car.

A deathly quiet fell on the clearing after the roar of the Gatling gun.

“THIS IS MARSHAL WARWICK JOHNSON.  LEAVE YOUR WEAPONS ON THE GROUND …COME FORWARD WITH YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR...”

---oooOOOooo---

A Little Later, prisoners taken, passengers returning to the train

“We didn’t know a gold shipment had been added to the train, Marshall” said Lom, now sporting his big tin star.  “But I’m sure glad you were here, My deputies and I were a might outnumbered. That could have ended very differently.”

Heyes and Kid along with Kyle and The Bounty Hunter and a well bound Weaver were laying low in the baggage car hoping to be forgotten about.  Lom was talking to the Marshall just outside the door, blocking the door. The Marshal’s men, those not guarding the prisoners, were up ahead of the train fixing the rails.

“Nobody …knew about the gold shipment Sheriff …except those the Governor wished to hear about it …Wheat Carlson and the Devils Hole Gang!” said the Marshall shaking his head.  “I don’t know how these …Weaver gang …found out about it.”

“Good idea of …the Governor … to use a train shipment to set up an ambush to catch these killers…” Lom looked a bit embarrassed.  “Weaver’s killers …not Heyes and Curry as it turns out.”

“Yes …yes…” smiled the Marshal.

“Looks like …my deputies and me” blustered Lom, “…weren’t needed here after all …but we had to try to do something... to stop…” Lom came to a faultering stop.

“Yes Sherriff …Seems the rumours were true.  Weaver has killed Carlson and taken over Devils Hole.  And you’re wrong Sheriff.”

Lom looked wary.

“It’s fortunate that you were here …to confirm that none of the prisoners are Devil Holes gang.  It’s important to hang a man in the right name.”

“Yes …of course…” nodded Lom. “I’m only sorry I couldn’t have kept the Governor better briefed, Marshall …But it was just too dangerous …for my men on the inside…”

“Yes ...damned clever of you Trevors …using Moondance Murtry’s brother to take his part …I didn’t know he even had a twin …dashed clever!  And using deputies that look like Heyes and Curry…

“Thank you…” mumbled Lom awkwardly.  He wasn’t a good liar.

“I’d like to thank them …personally” suggested the Marshal.

“Well …no …. we have to be…” Lom began to waffle.

“I insist Sheriff.” 

The Marshal’s voice was suddenly full of steel.  Inside the baggage car Heyes and Kid looked up, exchanging a worried look.  Heyes smiled weakly at The Bounty Hunter.

“SMITH …JONES!” barked Lom.

“We’re wanted” said Kid quietly, raising his eyebrows.

“Seems so…” whistled Heyes softly. “Shouldn’t keep the Marshal waiting.”

They stood, brushing themselves down, straightening their vests and holsters, looking like a couple of kids about to see the headmaster.  

The Bounty Hunter got to his feet as well.

“Why don’t we go see where the professor’s ward has stowed the horses” he said to Moondance’s brother.  That was another one of the lies Heyes had sold him. “On your feet Weaver …if you know what’s good for you you’ll keep your head down and just keep walking. That’s the hanging Marshal out there.” 

He gestured with his gun towards the door.

Kyle smiled, “Well I think that’s a good idee!” he confirmed.

They exited right behind Heyes and Kid, making a discrete getaway as Heyes and Kid loudly greeted the Marshal proclaiming themselves to be Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones.

“Smith …and …Jones” repeated the Marshal, studying each face to an uncomfortable degree.  “Yes …I’ve heard all about you gentlemen.” 

He fixed Lom with a considering stare.  

“I believe …Trevors, it was you that introduced …Mr Smith and …Mr Jones here to the Governor. It’s an interesting situation we find ourselves part of here …is it not? Very interesting.”

The Marshal resumed his scrutiny of Heyes and the Kid.  They stood stock still like they were being studied by a venomous cobra.

“Very interesting” confirmed Lom, catching the man’s meaning.  “The Governor has taken a very close interest in Smith …and Jones’ …er …career.  How well they’d been doing… before these killings started…” 

Lom saw a way to make up to the boys, for the wrong he’d done them, thinking they were killers.  He straightened up and put some metal in his words.

“Well …I think the governors going to be very interested to hear …just how Smith and Jones here …have helped …to bring this murder spree to a halt, Marshal.  Don’t you?”

“Yes …yes…” the Marshal sounded distracted, looking at the ex-outlaws like exhibits in a museum.  

The boys shifted uneasily under the scrutiny, unsure whether to smile or try and look deputy-like.  A sudden whooping war cry from the bushes by the chattering passengers, caused a welcome distraction.

“HOLD YOUR FIRE!” shouted Lom quickly.  “HE’S WITH ME!”

“My boy!” shouted Wong as Professor Tung, coming forward from the crowd of excited passengers. “Thank Goodness, you’re alive ...  I was so worried about you…”

Haff was riding back towards the engine on his paint pony leading a bigger paint, with a tied up Collins, thrown over it.

“Yes Uncle,” smiled Haff in his best Eastern City accent, producing awed gasps from some of the passengers.  “I’m fine …And I have managed to rest this sack of valuables from this ruffian too.” 

He handed a sack to Wong.  

“I believe this is your brooch Miss Veronica.” 

He leant down from the pony to place the beloved heirloom in Veronica’s palm.  She nodded but couldn’t speak as tears flowed down her cheeks.
 
“More …deputies… Sheriff?” chuckled the Marshal.

“Ermmm….” Lom didn’t know how to answer that one.  

Luckily the Marshal smacked him on the back, laughing “Oh, believe me, I’m going to enjoy reporting this one to the Governor…”

Millicent strode forward and pulled Haff from his pony making him squark as she enveloped him in a bosomy embrace.  Heyes and Kid couldn’t help themselves but laugh at that one and the Marshal, and eventually Lom joined in.  

“Ladies and Gentlemen, it seems my ward has returned all your money and valuables” crowed Professor Tung, passing the sack to a tall distinguished looking passenger who immediately set about reallocating it. The crowd cheered and clapped and of course began to pronounce just how much money they’d lost.  

The Marshall fearing argument, felt he would have to take charge.

“Ladies and Gentlemen” he announced, “As soon as my men have fixed the rails, I want everyone back on the train.  Your valuables will all be returned to you in due course.”

---oooOOOooo---

Heyes, Kid and Lom felt, they’d been forgotten about, so used the opportunity to fade back towards the back of the train, saddlebags slung over their shoulders.  Looking to join the others by the horses.

Kid thought he was the only one that saw the larcenous look on Heyes’ face as they passed the open armoured door of the gold car.  He shook his head, and was just about to grab his cousin’s arm and drag him past, when the Marshals voice stopped them all in their tracks.

“Oh and …Deputy Smith …”

Three innocent choir boy faces turned back to the Marshal.

“Mmmmm?” questioned Heyes.

“You may like to know …just for your report of course… that there never was a P&H …nor any gold… on the train.”

“No gold?” repeated a deflated sounding Heyes.

Kid and Lom smirked.

---oooOOOooo---

Haff and Wong quickly separated themselves from the crowd, and drifted into the scrubby bushes at the side of the track, to be forgotten about.  Haff led the way to the string of horses he’d shown the Bounty Hunter and Kyle earlier.  They were good horses.  The two teens looked sheepish under cover of Kyle’s rifle.

They didn’t waste time with talk.  They each selected a horse and detached it from the string. The teens were thrown on a couple with their hands tied loosely to the saddle horn in front of them.  Heyes said they were needed to make up the numbers, after all they were about to imitate the returning Weaver gang riding back to the Hole.

Kyle found his own dun mare and helped the Bounty Hunter push Weaver onto his flashy grey, tying the outlaw’s hands to the saddle horn and passing a rope between his ankles under the horse’s belly.  The Bounty Hunter got up on a big sorrel and brought it up close up behind Weaver so he could hold a gun on the outlaw leader as they rode.

Lom fetched a couple of big blacks for himself and Kid. No one was surprised that Heyes made straight for a whinnying, prancing chestnut mare.  Kid took a long hard look at Heyes.  

His partner looked beat, pulling himself up into the saddle of that chestnut mare with a big white blaze.  He shouldn’t be letting his partner go on to Devils Hole like this. He should be insisting he stay with the train, go on to Columbine, and rest up some more.  But he didn’t reckon on his chances of persuading Heyes to do that.  

Wheat’s predicament was weighing heavily on Heyes. 

The Bounty Hunter had spun a few yarns of his own, filling in all the missing details about Crease Platt and his past crimes, and his nasty little habits with a skinning knife. It wasn’t pleasant to listen to. It was the most any of them had heard the Bounty Hunter say.

Haff helped Wong up onto the most docile looking horse he could find. Then he mounted his own beloved paint pony, her innate dominance helping him to take charge of all the spare horses.

‘Only seven,’ thought Kid as they mounted.  ‘Magnificent!  Seven …to storm Devils Hole and rescue Wheat.  A place that’s never been breached. Ever.’ 

Kid looked again at Heyes, breathing heavily after the mount, Wong uncomfortably perched on top of his horse in a suit and spectacles and the untrusted Bounty Hunter, and reconsidered his count. 

‘An invalid, a monk, an Indian, a Sheriff, a Bounty Hunter, Kyle and me … add in a tied up gang leader and a couple of terrified teens …and it don’t amount to much of a militia.’

“Don’t worry Kid” said Kyle, noticing Curry’s pained expression as he looked around the group.  “I still got me a whole parcel of the good stuff!”

Kid smiled.

“Let’s get out of here ‘fore they notice we’re gone” ordered a tired sounding Heyes, seeing everyone was mounted.  “Only chance we got of doing this, is to make it look like we’re with Weaver, coming back from the raid, with a posse on our tails.”

“Well by the time we get up to the Hole …the timings gonna be just about perfect,” opined Lom, looking at his pocket watch.  “Because there’s a posse due out of Columbine …any time now.  They may head for the tracks… but my hunch would be Sheriff Flannery gonna know the outlaws are heading for Devil Hole …and cut across country … try and head us off …before we can reach Dead Man’s Point” He snapped his watch case shut.

Again the Bounty Hunter thought this sheriff knew an awful lot about Devils Hole.

“Well what are we waiting fer…” called Kid, already near the gallop. 

“Let’s go!”

---oooOOOoo---
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The Long Road Back - Part Twelve - The Magnificent Seven - 4350 words
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