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 The Long Road Back - part Twenty-one - The Revenant - 3000words

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Cal

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PostSubject: The Long Road Back - part Twenty-one - The Revenant - 3000words   Fri Feb 17, 2017 9:56 am

---oooOOOooo---

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

---oooOOOooo---
Part Twenty-one
The Revenant
---oooOOOooo---

“What?...what y’want….?” 

Heyes’ eyes slowly opened to find the sun obscured by something large and hat shaped.  He had a dead arm, from the full weight of his still sleeping partner, being pressed down upon it.  He tried pulling at the arm and, too late, remembered the large knife wound on his shoulder.

“$£%&!” he spat in the slumbering one’s face.

“What? … what y’want... ?” started Kid, coming around slowly from comatose sleep. “No… nooo… noooo!” he moaned.

“No … what?” asked a groggy, proddy Heyes.  “Just wanted my arm back is all!”

“Nooo …I ain’t going to save nobody else…noooo …not till I’ve had me some more sleep … and move your lumpy arm will yer Heyes… the smell of the blood’s giving me a headache… now …hush up… let me sleep…” 

Kid hadn’t bothered to open his eyes.  Grumpily he rolled away from Heyes towards the precipice.

“I said …THERE’S FOOD READY …if you want it…” repeated Lom loudly, grabbing at Kid’s sheepskin coat and holding on.  “Unless you’d prefer to join Pratt …down there in the valley … with the Governor’s money.”

“There’s FOOD? …” Kid’s eyes shot open. “Aw noooo …The money…” he groaned, looking longingly down over the edge, and shaking his head in regret.  

He moaned loudly as the mother of all headaches took up residence behind his eyes, and settled in for the long haul. 

“Maybe we should go pick some of it up…” he winced, screwing his eyes as tight shut as he could manage, and covering them with his hands.

Lom pulled him back from the edge.

“It would take hours …just to get down there, by which time it would be dark and it hardly seems worth it … by morning it will just be wet mush … Good riddance to it… Kid?...  Kid? Are you alright?”

Kid was moaning loudly, sat shaking his throbbing head in his hands.  

‘The World’s gone mad… good riddance to $50,000 … Must be this kick in the head…’ he thought. ‘First Heyes …now Lom…’

“He took a knock to the head” explained Heyes, also sitting up and wincing, exploring the deep cut on his numb arm.  “He’s been throwing up … a lot … and he can’t see straight…” It would need stitching.  “I should think he feels like he’s been kicked in the head about now…”

“Give me a gun…I got a mule to shoot!” confirmed Kid from behind his gloved hands.

“Did you shoot …him?” Lom asked Kid quietly.  

They all knew Lom meant Crease.  

Kid froze for a second, but decided Lom didn’t deserve an answer to that one.

Heyes saw the uncomfortable interchange, and worried.  He examined his shooting hand; the tatty glove, the blackened finger tips. He put a smile on his face and jumped in to try poor oil on the rocky waters between his partner and the sheriff.

“Well … you better not go shooting nothing fer a while Kid… not till you’ve cleaned your gun …Mine got a dunking too …just like yours … and it went and turned on me!” 

He held up his ruined glove and burnt fingers for both the others to see.  

Kid squinted, risking just the smallest crack between his lashes.  Even that hurt. 
Vaguely, he saw the damage to Heyes’ shooting hand. He took out his own gun and looked at it, like it too might mis-fire all by itself.  He shrugged off his temper returning his gun to its holster and his aching head to his hands.

“Food? …that’s a good idea. I like that” he mumbled, squeezing his eyes back shut against the pain.  “Clean the guns …I like that too.  That’s a good idea.  But I mean it … I ain’t going off t’ try ‘n’ save nobody else’s life… not till I’ve had me some more sleep.  And a drink…” 

“I saw you near fling yourself over the edge …to try and save that piece of low life…” 

Heyes, though speaking to Kid, looked Lom pointedly in the eyes as he pointed this out.  

“You need to be a bit more discerning Kid … with who it is you’re trying to save.”  

Heyes slapped the back of his partner’s sheepskin coat, drawing a small moan from Kid with each slap.  Heyes noticed, and left off slapping carefully placing a protective, comforting arm over Kid’s shoulders.  
“I thought you were planning on flapping your wings and trying to fly there for a minute Kid” he quipped, but his careful gaze never left Lom’s face, not till the sheriff dropped his eyes to the ground. 

“Heyes?”

Kid sounded perplexed.  He looked up towards where his partner’s voice had come from, without opening his eyes, a deep frown showing he was trying to work something out.   

“Heyes? Just who… who… we gotta save next?”  

Heyes laughed at Kid’s question, and then winced as the sheriff probed the very sore cut on his shoulder.  His numb arm was painfully waking up.

“At least its clean…” Lom stated tersely.

“Oh well… that’s ‘cause I took a bath!” grimaced Heyes, ruefully.

“…But it’s still gonna need a stitch…” continued the Sheriff.

Heyes screwed up his face and shook his head in resignation.  He knew Lom was right.

“…And we ain’t got any whiskey left” finished Lom, informing Kid he wasn’t getting a drink any time soon, as well as letting Heyes know his stitches wouldn’t be either clean or painless.  

Both ex-outlaws moaned loudly and Heyes joined Kid in closing his eyes on this cruel World.

“But ... It’ll keep for now” Lom said, getting to his feet and smiling down at the partner’s sour faces.  “Get some food inside you first. Then… we can get to that later.” 

He pulled them both to their feet, ignoring the moaning and the protests, and started them towards the cave house.

---oooOOOooo---

It was a long walk back up the treacherous creek trail to the horses.  Well more correctly to wheat’s one horse and the two Indian ponies.  Weaver struggled more than the others, as he had the guns to carry, as well as Flower of morning.

“Why d’ leave them all the way back up here?!” he spat at the back of Wheat’s head, as his heeled boots slipped on yet another rock.

“When we heard the shooting, we thought we’d better set an ambush, and there ain’t anywhere in this here creek bed to hide horses.  Say… who were you shooting at anyway?” 

Wheat turned to assess just how exhausted Weaver was.  He almost smiled when he saw the red face and the blowing cheeks.

“Me” answered Haff through tight lips.

“Well if that’s so … How’d you get HERE? … On FOOT!?” asked an incredulous Wheat.

“I ran. Over the top of the ridge. I was trying to get ahead of them… while…” 

Haff slid his eyes to Weaver with a sneer,seeing the man’s interest.  He stopped and set his mouth to stone, shaking his head at Wheat.

“Them?” questioned Wheat quietly.

“While … WHAT!?” questioned Weaver loudly.

Haff would have kept silent, but Flower was coming around, and Weaver grabbed her around the neck, poking the pistol into her ribs while her legs dangled in the water.  

Haff relented, seeing Weaver’s intent to use Flower to persuade him to share.

“There were two of them…” he informed Wheat.  “On one horse … other was Crease … Bounty Hunter cut them loose…“ 

“Hog Wash!” spat Weaver.  “I got us loose… Didn’t need help from no Bounty Hunter…”

Haff turned to Weaver ignoring the interruption.  

“…And I ran the ridge while … you struggled here through the water … So I could get ahead of you… Cut you off … that’s all…”

Haff was a terrible liar.  Weaver and Wheat could both see he wasn’t telling it like it was.  

Wheat looked at his feet.

“And you nearly made it too… Haff… That’s some difficult ground …up there …you’d have had to cover … and on foot to … can’t have been easy…” he tried to cover.

“HOG WASH again!” spat Weaver.  “You were tryin’ to follow Heyes, Curry and the sheriff … They went that way …didn’t they?  Till I shot you …you didn’t even know I was behind you … “  he sneered. “You were after Heyes … and you sure weren’t on foot, neither… I was right behind you! I saw you chasing them!”

Weaver studied the Devil’s Apache a little closer, thinking the Indian’s fiercesome reputation was just that, a reputation, he was actually just another sappy fool. 

“YOU KNOW which way Heyes is heading with MY MONEY … don’t you?  Well you’re in luck …boy … ‘cause I’m gonna let you keep on chasing Heyes … and you better not be thinkin’ o’trying any tricks… or her life won’t be worth diddly squat!”

Flowers eyes shot open as the hand at her neck squeezed.  She rasped out a curse between clenched teeth and began to struggle.  

Haff gave her just the slightest shake of his head in warning, then stared into Weaver’s face with eyes like black granite.

“This way then” he said very quietly and deliberately.

---oooOOOooo---

Heyes cleared his throat, putting down the rabbit bones he been picking at.

“I owe you my thanks” he said to the Bounty Hunter through a mouth full of gristle.  

He spat it into the flames making them hiss.

“I guess you’ve started making a habit of saving people’s lives, ‘cause you sure saved mine.  Platt was all set to pull the trigger on me, from point blank range.”  

Heyes reached over, offering a rapidly jacket-wiped, greasy hand to the Bounty Hunter.  The man stared at the offered palm, then back up to the notorious outlaw. 

Heyes smiled.

“Oh … I know you don’t put too much store in the life of a man like me …I guess any man’s life, wanted dead or alive … right? …But… you see… I put a lot of store in all men’s lives, and especially in the life of a man that’s saved mine … and… whether you intended it or not … you sure saved the life of one sorry, reformed outlaw back there, friend…” 

Heyes fixed the man with his sincere brown eyed gaze.  

“Thank you.  I owe you my life, and I’ll never forget it.”

They stared into one another’s faces for just a second or two.

“Huhrrrrr…” said the Bounty Hunter, accepting the handshake.  

He nodded slowly to Heyes, returning the gaze with a questioning one of his own. 

‘Was this man admitting he was Hannibal Heyes, and claiming to be reformed?’  

But he couldn’t hold on to that doubt. He could see the truth right there in Heyes’ eyes. He smiled a small confused smile at Heyes, and Heyes smiled back broadly, flashing that dimple, as he looked to Lom and the Kid to include them in this happy impasse with the revenant.

“Well … while we’re on the subject of thanks” said Kid slowly, also wiping his greasy fingers on his jacket pockets. “As it happens… I owe you thanks for my life also…” he said, fixing the Bounty Hunter with blue eyed warmth.  (The Kid could manage opening them in the dull cave interior without too much pain.)

“Huhrrrr?” asked the Bounty Hunter, swinging his gaze around to Kid. 

He didn’t remember saving Jones’ life. The last time he’d seen Jones, Jones had hit him on the head.  Hard.  Seemed Jones was getting a taste of his own medicine just now.  He smirked knowingly at Kid’s pained expression.  Kid pulled the mangled metal dome from under his hat, and passed it across to the Bounty Hunter without a word.  Heyes and Lom watched fascinated as the man inspected the dome for damage, whistling up his lips, and looking back at Curry with incredulity written across his face.  He was obviously amazed anyone had survived that blow. 

Lom looked from the dome to Kid confused.

“Yeah … that saved my life for sure…” smiled Kid, nodding very slowly.  “You’re a pretty smart guy … and I guess Heyes is right… you’re starting to make quite a habit of saving people wanted Dead or Alive… and you can add another sorry, reformed outlaw to your list…” 

Kid reached a big paw across to be shook, fixing the man with blue eyed sincerity.  

“Thank you.  You saved my life also … and I won’t be forgetting it in a hurry neither.”

The Bounty Hunter looked taken aback, if he could speak I think he would have been rendered speechless. He stared at Kid Curry as if seeing him for the first time.  

‘Jed ‘Kid’ Curry, not Jones.  Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes, both reformed outlaws? …  Wanted dead or alive … but not killers…’ he thought.

It was the first time this had occurred to him.

Lom laughed, slapping him on the back and joining in with the hand shaking.

“Well if we’re making a clean breast of it… You already have my thanks, friend… And I think you’ve guessed …I was an outlaw once, myself… I road with these two, when they were a lot younger … even then …they impressed me with their thinking about robbing, without needing to kill… Yessir, they’re part the reason I quit outlawin’ … and got me an amnesty, so I could live honest… just like they’re trying to do now.  So, we’re all living proof… that a man can change and turn his life around …And I think you’ve changed too friend… Meeting these two, has that effect on people…”

Lom laughed again, looking at each of the boys in turn.  They seemed uncomfortable under that scrutiny, but Heyes managed a wide-eyed nod of agreement and a devilish grin.

The Bounty Hunter nodded slowly, then returned Heyes’ grin.

“Hah! …I knew I was right about you…” exploded Lom.  “I knew you were a good man to have my back!”

That made them all laugh, and deep down in the Bounty Hunter, very deep down, there WAS a change.  He sat quietly for a while and tried to figure out what it was. 

Kid started in on cleaning the guns, and Heyes complained loudly, as Lom attempted to stitch his shoulder wound.  

It took a while, but eventually the Bounty Hunter realised what had changed.  It was the way he felt.  

About everything. 

Nobody had called him friend, and meant it, not for years and years.  Nobody had thanked him, and meant it, for something good that he’d done for them …and he hadn’t felt… good about himself… THAT’S WHAT IS WAS …not for ages …not till that day he’d met Lom …not since …since … since the day when his folks had been slaughtered.  The day those outlaws thought it would be good sport …to hang him. 

This was a new way to feel.  A new way to view the World and the people in it.  And he liked it.  

He reached up to the hanging scar.  That day had altered the course of his life. Set the course of his life.  Now there was another scar. His fingers traced the jagged, rough stiches under his chin.  And his life had changed again.  

He looked at the Sheriff and the two notorious outlaws, outlaws he knew were wanted dead or alive, his favourite kind he reminded himself grimly, and found… 
   the rage had left him. 
          The need for revenge. 
                 The cold-blooded hate.
                            All gone.               
To be replaced by what? 
                  As yet, he couldn’t answer that.

---oooOOOooo---

When Weaver saw, there was only one horse, he took that for himself.  Red and Haff rode one of the Indian ponies, and tall Wheat Carlson sat the other, his boots practically sweeping the hard ground.  

The ponies were out in front. Weaver, with Flower in his lap covered by the pistol, followed at a little distance.  He’d tied her hands, and thrown a loop of rope around her neck.

Occasionally Haff and Red dismounted to study the hard ground for phantom trail tracks.

“Where shall we lead him?” questioned Haff quietly.  “Heyes and Kid were following the stream when I left them … if they know the creek trail … they will find Flower’s trail marker at the top … I managed to stand on it until we left… He didn’t see it …Then they’ll follow her trail to the sacred valley…”

“Well … we’ll just have to take him on a detour then … a long one … he can’t stay awake for ever…” whispered Red.

---oooOOOooo---

Kid worked oil into the gun’s metal, and held it up for inspection.  

“Here Heyes … maybe this will make you feel better … that won’t mis-fire again … and I’ve improved the balance for you…”

Heyes, who’d been complaining loudly about the lack of whiskey, weighed the gun in his sore hand, and pushed it into his holster with an appreciative nod for Kid.

“And …here you go friend…” said Kid, holding out the long barrelled pistol to the Bounty Hunter.  “I think Platt was wise …not to try fire that … Should be fine now … and I’ve reloaded it for you.” 

Kid placed the stock of the pistol in the Bounty Hunter’s outstretched hand, and pointedly, stood a while in front of the barrel in a display of trust. 

Lom and Heyes flicked their eyes to the potentially dangerous situation.

“Huhrrrr…” said the Bounty Hunter, putting the pistol away with a grateful nod, and everyone breathed a little easier.

“Guess we’ll start out of here first light” said Lom.  “I’ll go take the two horses up top, down to the canyon with the others, see them safe for the night.  Maybe I should stand guard.” 

“I don’t think there’s anything out there for us to worry about anymore, Lom” said Heyes.  “We all need proper sleep.  I got Weaver’s horse, she’s at the bottom of the cliff … even if he’s still alive … he’s on foot … and I’m pretty sure the Indians won’t come bother us. Tomorrow we’ll see if we can pick up Flower’s black pebble trail.”

He plucked the smooth ebony river pebble out of his pocket and sent it spinning into the air.

---oooOOOooo---
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The Long Road Back - part Twenty-one - The Revenant - 3000words
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