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 The Long Road Back - Part Fourteen - A lot of truth in there… Somewhere! - 3400words

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Cal

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PostSubject: The Long Road Back - Part Fourteen - A lot of truth in there… Somewhere! - 3400words   Fri Feb 17, 2017 9:30 am

---oooOOOooo---

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

---oooOOOooo---
Part Fourteen 
A lot of truth in there… Somewhere!
---oooOOOooo---



The Bounty Hunter was a man of action, but only after he’d taken his time to work through all the angles.  

Weaver watched as the man sat pondering and twirling a silver dollar between his finger and thumb.  He could almost hear the cogs at work. He kept his council, hoping he’d said enough to bring the Bounty Hunter around onto his side.

‘With this guy …it’s just a matter of the size of the pot’ thought Weaver shrewdly

The Bounty Hunter had heard the numbers.  He liked the numbers.  But there was something he knew that apparently Weaver didn’t.

‘The only thing I can be sure of’ he thought, ‘Is that Deputy Jones …isn’t Jed Curry.  Jed ‘Kid’ Curry would have blown my brains out up on that ridge, especially after the way I’d treated him on the road to Louvides. Not proud of that. Kid Curry wouldn’t have had to worry about drawing attention to himself with the gang either, but Jones had sneaked into the gang’s camp and held guns on them.  He’d recruited me to do the same.  He’d tried to rescue that Sheriff, and the Indian had hog tied him and took him prisoner, same as me.  That was no act. No …I’m sure Jones isn’t Kid Curry.’ 

Next he turned his attention to Smith.  

‘Just how long has Jones known Smith.  Jones trusts him.  Jones believed he looked so much like Heyes, the gang were taken in.  Smith’s certainly a talker...he’s been spinning me some hogwash this last few weeks. Twin brothers can’t both be called Kyle! He’s sure got Jones under a spell though.  Believing him.  He knows Murtry and Carlson… tried to tell me Carlson was Preacher …pretending to be Carlson… Who does he think he talking to …I’ve checked all the dodgers! Moustache or no moustache that’s Wheat Carlson alright!”

The Bounty Hunter studied the coin.  It’d always helped him do his best thinking.

“And THEY call Smith… Heyes.  He had the lock picks …on the train… He’s certainly a schemer… It all fits Heyes’ description just a little too well… Maybe he is Heyes… in cahoots with a crooked Sheriff from back in their outlaw days… in here to take the gang’s hidden haul…’

He nodded to himself. It all fit.

‘The real Curry’s probably dead … gunslingers don’t often make it past thirty …perhaps that’s when Smith …Heyes? …also got injured … took a bullet …That’s why he needs Jones…to be Curry …watch his back …get him back in here …so he gets a chance at the haul.  Brilliant plan …who else but Hannibal Heyes would come up with something like that?’

Then he eyed the Sherriff.

‘That Sheriff is definitely a liar. He must ‘ve recognised Moondance Murtry … knew it was Carlson, not Preacher we’d captured.  He tried to ditch me real quick after that. He got them hog tied …said they were his prisoners.  That’s probably when they told him about the money… but he needed his friend Heyes to help him skin the gang.’

The Bounty Hunter’s eyes widened slightly as he realised Trevors had made a mistake.

‘Don’t worry about us HEYES… that’s what Trevors had said … Riding down the Devils Throat … Don’t worry about us HEYES …we know what Crease looks like.’

The Bounty Hunter smiled nastily to himself.  He was very satisfied with his logic.  It was all falling into place, now he had the missing piece of the puzzle. 

The gang’s money. 

‘I don’t think the gang realise Trevors ’s working with Heyes… when they had him drugged …they took him straight to Heyes at that Indian camp …kept him prisoner.  Trevors said Moondance had helped them escape …Hog wash! …Heyes and Trevors duped Jones and me.   Yes …Jones was a prisoner like me …bet Jones knows nothin’ …Maybe I should warn him… after all …it is my fault the Sheriff’s even alive … I should ‘ve just waited … let Django have his fun …’

The cigar was chewed, the coin spun.  

Heads.

Decision made. 

The Bounty Hunter nodded grimly.

‘If I’m leaving this place alive …and a rich man …I’m gonna need me some allies…’

He eyed his prisoners with disdain.  

Crease was grinning hopefully, glancing up the cliff towards the money, and probably the woman. The Bounty Hunter sneered. He remembered the farmer’s wife, and her children.

‘Not Crease …I’ll need the woman for leverage with the Indians …to get out of here through the Badlands North.  Crease is too stupid to see the need to keep her …whole…’ 

Weaver was poker faced, waiting, returning the Bounty Hunter’s scrutiny.

‘Weaver’s cold and calculating …but he is sane… greedy enough to see the size of the prize is big enough to share …and he’s willing to kill. He’ll see the need for the woman too… and I can easily put a bullet in his back once we’re out… of course, if I give him a gun, he can always put one in mine.’

The Bounty Hunter stared back to the camp where Lom, Heyes and Kid were talking quietly with the two teens.

‘No …Jones… good ol’ dependable, loyal Deputy Jones is my best shot for an ally here …after all everyman has his price …and I’d lay good odds he’s killed…’ 

He eyed the prisoners again.  

‘If Jones don’t bite …then maybe Weaver… but these two are worth as much dead as alive…’ a glimmer of a smile lit the Bounty Hunters eyes for just a second.

Weaver lifted his eyebrows in question.

‘One things for certain, these two have done enough talking.’

The Bounty Hunter stood up, pushing the silver dollar back into his shirt pocket.  He strode over to the prisoners eliciting a smile from Weaver, who offered his tied hands to be cut free.  

The smile didn’t last long, as the bandanna gags were pulled back into place.  Loud annoyed protests came from both prisoners, till the knots at the back of their necks, were pulled tight.  

The Bounty Hunter sat back down, leaning up against the tree, cigar in mouth, eyeing his prisoners with satisfaction. 

‘Let Weaver sweat some more… I’ll need to talk to Jones alone…’

He didn’t notice Kid coming over to spell him.

“Fresh Coffee’s up” said Kid, kicking the Bounty Hunters boot.  

The Bounty Hunter’s shocked face told Kid volumes.  Gave Kid reason to worry, but he didn’t let that show on his face.  He thanked his years of playing poker with Heyes.  

“Thought you could do with a break” he said casually.

The Bounty Hunter recovered quickly. He smiled, which Kid thought looked unnerving on that face.  He’d never smiled before.  

“Sure …sure …Could sure use me a coffee.”

“Maybe you could ask Smith, to bring me over another one, too.  My partner makes real good coffee“ Kid lied easily.  “Don’t want to be falling asleep on my watch now, do I?” 

Kid sat, taking out his Colt and checking for bullets in the chamber. He pushed up the brim of his hat with the gun and beamed up at the Bounty Hunter, his trigger finger hovering near the trigger. 

“Sure ..sure …more coffee …right.”  

The Bounty Hunter seemed reluctant to leave like he was trying to make up his mind about something.  Finally, he shot Weaver a warning look before striding back to the camp fire. 

Kid caught the look.

“You been putting ideas in his head …huh?” chewed Kid quietly, looking worried.

Weaver’s smug smile, despite the gag, was all the answer Kid needed.

---oooOOOooo---

A few minutes later

Heyes brought the coffee and handed it over with a smile. 

“I made the coffee” he stated simply.

Kid smiled at the implication.

“So …What did you want to talk about?” asked his bemused partner, sitting on his heels and taking back the offending beverage. 

Heyes sipped and screwed up his own face as he swallowed, making Kid grin broadly.

“Our friends here” said kid, indicating the two prisoners with the Colt, “Have been blabbing to the Bounty Hunter.  I don’t know what they been saying …but it’s sure made him jumpy.”

“Jumpy?” questioned Heyes, looking back at the campfire.

“Yeah …Like maybe he knows who we are… jumpy. Like …maybe he’s thinking on cashing in on who we are …jumpy” 

Kid also stared over to the fire where the Bounty Hunter sat eyeing Lom warily.

“See what you mean, Kid” said Heyes, standing and handing the awful coffee back to Kid.  

“I’d better get over there …see if I can work out what’s going on.” 

Kid looked at the mug as if it were poison, then threw it aside with a shake of the curls. 

When he looked up, Weaver was looking far too happy.  

---oooOOOooo---

Couple of hours later

Heyes came to spell Kid with guarding the prisoners.  Everything was quiet back at the camp.

“Learn anythin’ Heyes?” asked Kid quietly, as he stood and stretched. He was more than ready for a sleep. 

Heyes looked a little annoyed as he sat shaking his head, pushing the saddlebag of money against the tree for a backrest.

“Not a thing.  He hardly said a word to either of us, then he turned in early… but you’re right …something’s got him riled. I’ll have to give it another go in the morning.”

The partners exchanged a shrug and Kid walked slowly back to the remnants of the fire.  

Heyes had set out his bed roll and blanket.  He sat to pull off his boots. 

Then he heard the Bounty Hunter calling “Jones” in a hiss, off in the tree line to his left.  Kid looked up and saw the glow of the Bounty Hunter’s cigar, waved deliberately to show his position.  Curious, Kid replaced the boot, loosened the safety strap on the Colt, and went to investigate.

“Jones …need a word …follow me” hissed the Bounty Hunter and led the way back into the trees, to a moonlit clearing, where they could talk without being overheard.  

The Bounty Hunter turned and fixed Kid with a searching look, getting in real close to Kid’s face. The cigar smoke stung Kids tired eyes.

“Jones …Just how long have you known Deputy Smith?” breathed the Bounty Hunter. “And how much do you really know …about our friend …Sheriff …Lom …Trevors?” he continued without waiting for an answer.

Smoke caught in the back of Kids throat.  He coughed.  “Errm…” Kid was going to say that he’d known Smith and Lom a long time, when he realised he hadn’t listened to half of the lies Heyes had spun the Bounty Hunter this last week or so.  ‘Hadn’t Heyes said they’d only just got together to come North, at the Governors bidding, to help a local Sherriff? Why was any of this important?’ Kid shook his head.

The Bounty Hunter took Kid’s stumped looking face, and head shake to mean, ‘Not long …and not a lot.’

“Did you know Sheriff Trevors …was once an outlaw …right here at Devils Hole?  He knows Murtry and Carlson …he rode with them.  And the reason he knows you look so much like Kid Curry …is coz he once rode with Curry …AND HEYES!”

The Bounty Hunter studied what he could see of Kid’s face under the floppy brown hat in the moonlight.  He needed to see what his perspective ally was making of this new information.

“You don’t say…” said Kid quietly, wide eyed in feigned surprise, stalling for time, while his tired brain caught up with this new twist.

“I do say …in fact …I know so …AND I think he’s working with Smith… or should that be HEYES … Yeah …I think Smith is the real Hannibal Heyes! They been playing us for fools Jones.”

Kid looked genuinely shocked. 

“Sm..ith is… Hannibal Heyes?” he mumbled.

“This whole charade …the train robbery …just a Hannibal Heyes scheme to draw Weaver out of the Hole… its all been to get Murtry and Carlson back into Devils Hole long enough for them to recoup their hidden stash of stolen money …they had a mountain of it piled up back at the outlaw camp... and Trevors and Heyes …they’re planning to take all of it for themselves …Carlson told Crease he had over fifty …thousand …dollars stashed away.  That’ll pay for an awful lot of senoritas fer Heyes down in Mexico…” 

The Bounty Hunter made the cash amount sound like filthy rich. 

Kid nodded and silent whistled. Heyes had been telling him tales of Mexican senoritas and how they could live life high on the hog down in Mexico, just last supper.  With $50,000 they could live like kings. Was it that $50,000 the Bounty Hunter was talking about or was there another $50,000.  His tired brain wrestled to make sense of what he was hearing. ‘How had the news that me and Heyes had $50.000 got out? It had to be the same money right?  How could anyone else know about that? I’ve only just found out about it! Was Heyes talking in his sleep again!?’

“Why do you think Moondance blew up the Leaders cabin?” asked the Bounty Hunter wide eyed, probably sensing Kid’s confusion as scepticism.

Kid just shook his head and shrugged.

“To cover his tracks …so no one would know they had the money…” 

The Bounty Hunter had only just realised this himself and was really pleased with his logic. He had to be right.  He warmed to his subject. 

“Trevors and Heyes …they didn’t know Weaver had left Carlson with Crease …not till the train.  I don’t think they knew about that Marshal’s wagon either.  Weaver was supposed to be captured by us at the train …that’s why they needed us there …they thought we’d want to collect on the Weaver gang bounties… we’d leave with the train… leave them clear to come back in here for the money …but they needed Carlson alive …to show them where the money was. So …they needed us to make up the numbers …see? To get back in here.  They don’t need of us now…” 

The Bounty Hunter could see it all now, plain as day.  Jones was a good listener. Left space you could fill with thinking.

Kid nodded along, thinking ‘Wheat and Kyle …saved up $50,000?!?’ The Bounty Hunter was still talking.  Sounded like he was convincing himself more than Kid.

“Trevors had all the timings worked out …remember? He knew just when the posse would hit… But he made a mistake… called Smith, Heyes, in the Devils Throat…coming in here… probably didn’t think I’d remember…”

A lame nod from Kid. He remembered Lom calling over to Heyes about knowing what Crease looked like.  He supressed a groan.

The Bounty Hunter shook his head with a hollow laugh, slapping Kid on the chest with the back of his hand.  

“No …You and me, Weaver and most of his gang, we weren’t ever supposed to leave that train …now they’re gonna have to kill us.”

Kid just kept up the nodding, thinking ‘If …Wheat …did have a stash of cash hidden away in the Leader’s cabin …there was that cavity under the floorboards… that must be why Wheat and Kyle were looking for Mr Wong in the first place … when they blew us out of Louvides …they needed Mr Wong to help them with a plan to get back into Devils Hole and retrieve their savings from under Weaver’s nose… what did Kyle say …we could sure use Haff to put a scare into them and Mr Wong to help us think it out…’

Kid saw all the pieces fall into place. His face suddenly turned shrewd.  ‘Of course that’s it…’ He realised the Bounty Hunter was still talking.

“…And Moondance blew that shelf, remember? So… if that don’t clinch it … They’re never going back to Devils Hole.   None of them. They’re heading out fer Mexico.  All they got to do …is hook up with their Indian guides …and they’re out of here …in the clear …with $50.000.”

“$50,000” repeated Kid slowly.  “Wheat had it hid at the Hole this whole time. Now they got their hands on it …there’s nothin’ keeping them here.” 

“Exactly!”

The Bounty Hunter smacked Jones on the back with another unnerving, conspiratorial smile.

“But we can get it!” he sounded very excited and relieved that he’d made the right choice for an ally. “ …And we can get the rewards on all these outlaws …including Heyes …right from under Trevors’ nose. That’s a small fortune!  A two way split …right down the middle …don’t that just sound fine?”

“That’s a fortune all right. One for each of us.“ Kid managed a greedy smile and a nod.

The Bounty Hunter looked satisfied that Jones was thinking on the same lines as him.  There was just one thing bothering the Bounty Hunter

“Your right…” he said shaking his head.

“I…I am?” questioned Kid trying to remember what he’d said.

“There’s nothing keeping the gang here now.  They got the money.  They can light out of here …anytime. That Indian moved at least half the horses, said there wasn’t enough grazing for all of them down here.  Got those boys to help him.  They can just go …that cave house has a back door, right? They can just leave us here to starve …or die trying to cross the bad lands without a guide… leave us with the prisoners ...” 

Again the Bounty Hunter looked like this was only just occurring to him as the words formed in his mouth. 

“They could’ve gone already! …Taken the money …With Heyes and Trevors down here... Why would they wait? They wouldn’t! We gotta strike now!” 

He suddenly looked panicked. 

“You could be right…” said Kid, thinking ‘If they collected a hidden cache of money from the Leaders cabin, there was no need for Wheat, Kyle, Wong and Haff to hang around here any longer. Not with a Sheriff, a Bounty Hunter, Weaver, Crease… Heyes ‘n’ me …all down here.  If they’re headed for Mexico like us, they’d be fools not to be traveling through the night.  Flower of Morning could take them through the bad lands.  Wife!?!  She was probably their guide!’ 

It was obvious now he knew about the money.  

Kid’s face was grim.  He didn’t like being suckered.

“Right!” he said sounding a bit hacked off. “How we gonna strike?” 

The Bounty Hunter nodded approval.  He liked Jones’ attitude.

“You kill Trevors.” he said, like he’d just suggested Kid saddle a horse.  

“I’ll take care of Heyes, Crease and Weaver …We’ll have to do it silent …You got a knife?”

Kid nodded, not trusting himself to answer after hearing his cousin’s death talked about in so casual a manner.  He had to remind himself that this cold blooded killer he was stood next to, wasn’t wanted himself.  He operated on the right side of the law. No one was hounding this man down for a hanging.  Baying for his blood.  

Kid growled his distaste.

Again the Bounty Hunter read this as enthusiasm in Jones, and nodded approval.

“We can use those young ’n’s too …make a distraction down here… draw out any of the gang members still up there. If we’re lucky …we’ll be able to pick them off one at a time.  But remember…we’ve got to keep the woman alive… She’s our ticket out of here … “

Kid nodded sincerely. 

The Bounty Hunter pulled a hunting knife from a scabbard in his left boot and lofted it, licking his dry lips. 

“Ready?” 

Kid nodded enthusiastically eyeing the knife and lifted an arm in an after you gesture.

“Oh …I’ve got a stiletto in my pack …back at the camp…” he said.  “The Sheriff’ll be asleep …it’ll be easy…” he nodded with baby blue innocence.

The Bounty Hunter looked impressed.

“Right …come on…”

He turned to make his way back through the trees to the fire.  

Kid followed, silently pulling the Colt from his holster, turning it around in his hand so he could heft it by the barrel.  He screwed up his face in anticipation of the sickening thud, as he smashed the butt of the gun down onto the back of the Bounty Hunters head. Probably in the same place Kyle had hit him.

---oooOOOooo---
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