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 Missing Scenes

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PostSubject: Missing Scenes   Wed Mar 01, 2017 10:18 am

Time for a new challenge. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to give us your take on the prompt chosen by Stepha3nie in between 4,000 and 150 words.  Your topic is:


Missing Scenes
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PostSubject: Re: Missing Scenes   Wed Mar 01, 2017 2:20 pm

I've always wanted to be first out of the gate, but I can only do it by sharing something from 2013. Exactly what happened between Heyes and Blanche on that ill-fated cattle drive?

------------------

It was almost dark when he tied his cow pony up with all the others in the remuda. The cattle were settled down for the night. Around the camp fire thirty feet away, he saw the drovers Blanche had hired standing near the chuck wagon. Judging by the aromas wafting his way, dinner was just about ready.

He unsaddled the horse and wiped her down, giving everyone else a chance to get their meal before him. Truth be told, he was more tired than hungry, and he didn’t have much energy for the usual talking and card-playing that went along with supper on a cattle drive.

By the time he finished tending to his horse, the sun was down, and he felt the cool desert night air. Shivering, he pulled on his beat-up jacket and walked slowly over to the fire ring. He found Kid sitting by himself off to one side, holding a coffee cup. He sat down on the ground next to him.

“Figured I’d find you here,” Heyes said.

Curry reached behind him and picked up a plate, covered by another plate on top. He passed it to Heyes.

“I saved you some dinner. It’s still mostly hot, I think.”

Heyes removed the top plate. Steam rose from beans and potatoes. He dug in.

“Thanks for saving something for me, Thaddeus. Guess I was more hungry than I thought.”

“We’re the trail bosses. Cook’s always going to save something for us.”

“Hmmpph. Maybe you forgot who’s paying these men. That’s the real trail boss.” He pointed his fork at the chuck wagon. Blanche Graham sat at a small table, being served by the cook, and looking as comfortable and as much in charge as if she was sitting in her own hotel.

“Yeah. Guess she’s used to that.”

“Not for much longer, if everything works out right.” Curry didn’t answer. Curious, Heyes turned his attention away from the remnants of his supper. Curry was looking at Michelle Monet climb down from the wagon. She was pulling a red shawl around her shoulders as she looked around the camp. When she saw Curry, she waved.

Curry got up. “I’ll see you later, Joshua.”

“Be careful.”

“Don’t worry,” Curry said. “Nobody’s gunning for me tonight.”

“I know. That’s not what I meant.”

Curry paused. “Too late, Joshua.”

Heyes watched Curry greet Michelle and whisper something to her behind his hand. She smiled, took his arm, and they disappeared into the darkness.

Still a smooth operator, Kid, Heyes thought. He glanced back at Blanche. She’d seen the whole thing too, but she wasn’t smiling.

He got up and patted himself down, trying to remove some of the trail dust he’d been riding in all day. The dust rose in a small cloud around him, making him sneeze. He was aware that Blanche was laughing at the sight. He walked over to where she was sitting and gave her his best smile.

“Howdy, Blanche.”

“Howdy yourself, Joshua. I was beginning to think you were ignoring me,” she said. There was another camp stool next to the table. He unfolded it and sat down across from her.

“No,” he said, drawing the word out into three syllables. “Not a chance, Blanche.” She folded her hands on the table.

“How are things going?” she asked.

“Pretty well,” he said. “Your men know what they’re doing. We should be crossing the border tomorrow, right on schedule. Shouldn’t be any problem at all.”

“Unless El Clavo shows up.”

“Now why would he want to do that?” Heyes asked. “Me and him got a deal.”

“Because he didn’t get where he is by trusting people. He’s probably got some of his men following us. Maybe we should set up a guard.”

Heyes accepted a cup of coffee from the chef. He held it with both hands, letting the warmth seep through his thin leather gloves.

“Blanche, we’ve got someone watching out for rustlers already. I’m not worried about El Clavo following us. If he wants to waste time and effort on that, let him. Besides, me and Thaddeus can handle him.”

“Yes, I’ve seen how you handled him. I watched Michelle bandage Thaddeus up, remember?”

“Now Blanche.” He reached over to grasp her hand. She didn’t pull back. “We’ll be back in the good old U.S. of A. tomorrow. El Clavo can’t bother us there. Once we pass through that border station, everything will be put right. Don’t you trust me any more?”

“Oh Joshua,” she said, smiling and shaking her head. “Trust you? Just how far should I trust you?”

“How about as far as the border station. Alright?”

She was still smiling, but she didn’t say anything.

“Let’s go for a little walk before settling down, Blanche. You must be sore after steering that team all day.”

“No more than you are, Joshua, from being in the saddle. But you’re right, a short walk over to the river might be nice.”

“Then, if you’re ready?” He stood and extended his hand to her. She rose gracefully and took his arm.

They walked away from the circle of firelight. Soon, the only light guiding their way came from the millions of stars swirling in the luminous Milky Way above them.

“Do you ever look at the stars, Joshua?”

“Not too much, no.”

“Why not? Don’t you appreciate beautiful things?”

“Of course I do, Blanche. I appreciate you.”

She swatted his arm gently. “Oh Joshua, Joshua. Just what am I going to do with you?”

“Since you ask, Blanche, I do have a few ideas.”

“Oh, I’m sure you have ideas, Joshua. Lots of them. Most of them probably aren’t appropriate for a cattle drive.”

“The drive’s going to be over soon, Blanche.”

“And then what?”

“Well,” he said, “me and Thaddeus sell the beeves. We give you the third we owe you, and me and Thaddeus split the rest. You take care of your business, whatever that is, and then, I guess, we see.”

“And what will I see, Joshua?”

He paused, and turned her around to face him. He put his hands on her waist and pulled her against him. Her pale skin and fair hair seemed to glow in the starlight. Even though he knew what she was, and what she had done, he felt his own physical reaction to her nearness.

“What do you want to see, Blanche?” His deep voice was husky and low.

She outlined his whiskery chin with one finger.

“Maybe . . . some honesty?”

That wasn’t what he’d expected to hear. Surprise made him draw back a little.

“Blanche! I’m wounded. Why would you say that?”

“Oh Joshua . . . Smith, isn’t it? . . . because you lied so convincingly to El Clavo. How do I know you’re not lying to me?”

“Because the way I feel about you is completely different than the way I feel about El Clavo.”

“Uh huh,” she said. She stroked his hair as she snuggled closer. Her voice was almost a whisper. “How about putting your cards on the table, Joshua?”

“This is not the time for talking, Blanche.” He bent down a little to kiss her neck and distract her. Her skin was soft, and smelled nice . . . was she wearing rose water, maybe? . . . . he was getting a little distracted himself.

But she put her hands on his chest and gently pushed him away.

“No, Joshua, I think now is a good time to talk, when we’ve got some privacy.”

“I can think of better things to do, Blanche, while we’ve got some privacy. Lots more fun, too.”

She was shaking her head, almost regretfully, he thought. “No, Joshua. I’m a businesswoman first and foremost. My head rules my heart. Although, times like this, I almost wish that wasn’t true.”

He released her and stepped back. “Well, Blanche, have it your own way. I can’t guarantee we’ll get another opportunity like this.”

She hooked her arm through his and gently turned him around. “I rarely let a opportunity pass, Joshua, unless I see a better one.”

“Spoken like a true businesswoman,” he said. “What did you want to talk about, that’s more entertaining than what we were doing?”

“Oh, there are just one or two things I’m wondering about. For example . . . Smith and Jones? Couldn’t you two come up with better names than that?” He almost smiled at that. That was one question for which he had a ready answer.

“That’s how you know they’re not aliases, Blanche. You’re right, anybody could come up with better names than that. We get asked about that a lot, but there are plenty of folks in the world named Smith and Jones. We just happen to be two of them. If it wasn’t disrespectful to our families, maybe we’d call ourselves silly names like Hotchkiss or Rembacker. But we’re sticking with Smith and Jones, no matter how suspicious people like you get.”

“Alright, Joshua, fair enough. But I am wondering, what business brought you to San Juan? And before you speak, let me tell you, I don’t believe it’s for the cattle. Anybody who looks at you two knows you’re not cattlemen.”

“What do you think we are then?”

“Oh, Joshua,” she sighed, “I couldn’t begin to guess. Why don’t you tell me?”

“Cards on the table?” he asked. “Really?” She looked up at him, almost pouting. It was too bad that she was a murderer. He liked an intelligent woman. It didn’t hurt that she was so pretty, either. No wonder McKendricks' son had fallen for her. He sighed, dramatically, and hung his head as if he were ashamed.

“We do anything that makes us a living and isn’t too hard on the back.” He saw her mouth open to reply, and he held up one hand to stop her. “Yes, I know, a cattle drive is hard on the back. Well, Blanche, the honest truth is, we’re not as good at business as you seem to be. We got hired by a banker who told us he had found a diamond field, and he was setting up a corporation, selling shares, and whatnot. Turned out the whole thing was a con game. The diamond field was salted. We didn’t know that, but the locals thought we were part of his scheme. They were just a tad upset about losing their life savings. Me and Thaddeus decided to go on down to Mexico till things cooled off for us in the states.”

“And that’s your story? You were duped by some unscrupulous banker?”

“It’s not just my story, Blanche. It’s the honest truth. We’re wanted for something we didn’t do.”

“I see.” Even in the darkness, he could see she was biting her lip. He let her think about it while they walked slowly back to camp. Finally, he spoke up.

“Any other questions, Blanche?”

“No, Josh. Thank you for answering my questions. I hope you’re not insulted. It’s just that . . . well, my last relationship ended badly. I suppose it’s made me overly cautious.”

Heyes was grateful that the darkness masked his expression. Yeah, he figured murdering your husband was a bad way to end a relationship. He kept his voice neutral.

“Not at all, Blanche. You aren’t the kind of woman who keeps secrets or does things behind somebody’s back. Only a special kind of man’s going to catch you.”

He saw how she flashed a quick sideways look at him before averting her eyes. Heyes silently cursed himself. Sometimes the temptation to be clever was stronger than his common sense. He had to be more careful with her. It was still possible that she’d get suspicious and ride back into Mexico with her drovers. Luckily, her greed was probably a lot stronger than her caution, especially when she figured she was only hours away from $20,000.

“And I’ve already told you that you’re something special, haven’t I?” she said. He only grinned at her.

“I’m beginning to think you’re incorrigible, Joshua.” He laughed softly.

“You make that sound like a bad thing, Blanche.”

He saw her roll her eyes. They were almost back to the wagon. The campfire was lower now. The flames flickered light and shadow over the still figures of men curled up in their bedrolls, as close to the warmth of the fire as they could get without getting toasted. The only sounds were the crackling of the wood as it burned and the gentle, and not so gentle, snores, of the sleeping men.

“Well. I believe this is where I’ll take my leave of you, Joshua, at least till morning.”

Heyes took both her hands in his and leaned forward to kiss her lightly on the cheek.

“Good night, Blanche. Sleep well. Tomorrow’s going to be a big day.”

“Don’t I know it,” she said. She turned to climb up the high step into the back of the wagon. He put his hands around her waist and lifted her gently. She smiled her thanks and slipped carefully inside, pulling the drape down to cover the entrance.

Heyes took a moment to look around carefully. Everything looked good. Didn’t seem to be anything else he needed to do tonight. All of a sudden, a wave of tiredness hit him. He stepped carefully past the snoring herders to where his and Curry’s bedrolls were. He was pleased to see Curry already laying on his side, wrapped in his blanket with only the top of his head showing. He was even more pleased to see that Curry had laid out his, Heyes’, bedroll, too, and all Heyes had to do was pull off his boots, remove his gunbelt, and lay both close to where he could grab them in the morning.

As he settled under his blanket, Curry stirred and rolled over to face him.

“Everything alright?” Curry whispered.

“Just fine,” Heyes whispered back. “How was your little visit with Michelle?”

“Dandy,” Curry said. “Just fine and dandy.” Curry rolled back onto his side, his back to Heyes. Heyes figured that conversation was over. That was just fine with him. He adjusted himself in the most comfortable position he could find on the hard ground, and closed his eyes. Tomorrow would be a big day.
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PostSubject: Re: Missing Scenes   Mon Mar 13, 2017 3:41 pm

Wrong Train to Brimstone – Missing scene


Merdot MacDuff stood and scratched his head watching the two young men leave his livery yard.  Something about the way their eyes had hardened to dangerous flint, had unsettled him.
 
The dark one had said,


“…you’re sure gonna die a rich man MacDuff…”


And the fairer one had growled,


“…if you live long enough.”


It was meant as a joke, surely.  But the more he thought about it, the words sounded more and more like a threat to his life. 


Those young guys tied down their well-used hard ware, and he’d definitely seen that glint of menace in their eyes as they’d turned to leave.  They were young men that didn’t like to be crossed.  He could tell.  Were they planning to return and take exception to the way he’d dealt with them?


Now his dealings with them had been fair and square, of that he was sure.  In the eyes of the law he’d done nothing wrong, but they had gone away sour.


Why in tarnation had they changed their minds so darn quick, and rushed back here to buy back their horses, after only five minutes in Bramberg. The horses they’d rode in on looked exhausted, they couldn’t be thinking of taking them straight back out on the trail.



It didn’t make sense.


Unless…


MacDuff’s eyes narrowed, then opened wide in realisation. He hitched up his pants and did, what for him was, a fast run to the Sheriff’s office.


---oooOOOooo---


“There’s a train through here eight o’clock tonight… heading East… if you happen to be going that way” said the old homesteader, loading his supplies.


Heyes and Kid tipped their hats with tight smiles, in thanks for the information.
 
No horses, no stage, and no train till eight o’clock in a town where Wade Sawyer was a deputy.  


Didn't look good.

Wade Sawyer had chased them out of Kingsberg, and then stayed on their tail for days. He would know them on sight, and he must have an awful bad stomach because he was carrying around an awful big grudge.  His horse had broken a leg trying to follow the notorious outlaws down a near vertical scree, and he’d had to shoot it.  As they’d watched him slowly climb out of that drop, they’d both known just how far he was going to have to walk to find another horse. At the time that had been quite gratifying.


“We gotta get outta this town Heyes, and we can’t afford to wait on a train East tonight. We gotta get, and we gotta get now.”


The blue eyes flashed, trying to take in all directions at once.  They were using the wagon as cover, but the loading was almost complete.


“Don’t you think I know that?” groaned Heyes, screwing up his dark eyes and trying to cover all the angles he thought his partner couldn’t.


“The answers simple enough.”


When no more was forthcoming from the genius, Kid was forced to turn and shake his head in wide eyed bewilderment.


“WELL?”


“I gotta turn eighty-six dollars into a hundred …and quick” shrugged the genius.


“Pay that robbing horse thief a hundred …to buy our own horses!”


Kid shook his head with feigned disappointment in the genius.


“If we gotta buy them Kid, well then, they ain’t our horses.  ‘Sides, can you think of a better idea?”


Heyes’ eyebrows shot up in question.


Kid’s lips pursed up into a sneer, as he swallowed his objections down with a roll of his eyes, and resumed scanning the street for danger.


Heyes scanned the street also, for a saloon and a likely poker game. Trouble was, it was early in the morning. Not much poker got played before breakfast.  He noticed a couple of men stood on the other side of the street that looked as cagey and wary as he and Kid no doubt did. They remained behind wooden pillars whenever they could, looking out at the streets inhabitants with sidelong furtive glances.


‘Must be another coupla outlaws’ thought Heyes.


Suddenly, the wagon wheel in front of his nose began to turn as the homesteader slapped down the reins and whistled up his team.  Kid grabbed Heyes’ arm again and pulled him backwards into a side alley.


“Now what?” Heyes asked grumpily, he didn’t appreciate being man handled.


“Talk about the robbing horse thief… where do you think Ol’ Mean Merdot MacDuff’s heading now?” Kid chewed, following MacDuff’s rather comic flight across the street.


“That’s torn it” sighed Heyes, also watching the show.
 
“Guess the penny’s just dropped, that we were kinda desperate to get our horses back.”


There was an uncomfortable minute, when they both contemplated their thinly veiled threats to the horse trader’s future existence, and wished they’d kept their mouths shut.  At least they were equally at fault. 


They flashed a look at each other but said nothing by mutual consent.


Wade Sawyer appeared in the doorway of the Sheriff's Office a few minutes later and headed off towards the nearest saloon.


“Guess there’s no doubt who he’s looking for is there?” snarked Kid, sourly.


Heyes gave him a wistful look, then searched the other side of the street for the furtive partners he’d seen there earlier.  With a small smile starting to play on his lips, he noted, they had slunk back into the deep morning shadows just as the deputy had passed them.  The smile grew.


“Come on Kid, I’m thirsty” he said, pulling Kid by the arm this time, back along the alley behind them.


---oooOOOooo---
 
Half an hour later


Heyes watched the batwing doors from the alley at side of the saloon.  Kid had disappeared through the batwings a quarter of an hour since.  Heyes had told him to sit on a table nearest the side alley door, hopefully join a few locals for a friendly game or two of anything that could make them some money.  And, that if Kid heard a drunk, rattling up a din in the side alley, he should make his excuses and use the door asap.
 
Wade Sawyer had headed down towards the mercantile, checking out restaurants and a few cafés, for the two drifters as he went. 


A little judicious questioning, had told Heyes, that Bramberg sported three saloons and two brothels as well as a good selection of eating houses and one other livery.  Enough to keep the Deputy Sheriff busy for a while.


Heyes straightened his neck, and his hat, and strode purposefully for the bat wings.


“Boy, do I need a drink” he told the bartender with a huge sigh.  


“I’ll have a beer.  I’ll take a cold one if you’ve got it.  You wouldn’t believe the day I've had… A coupla drifters… just tried to steal my horse… Anyone here …own that big black gelding tied up out front?”


“That’d be mine, friend” came a laconic voice from a table over by the side door.


Kid sat with two others, one suited gentlemen looked like a travelling salesman and the other looked like he might live in the saloon, if they'd let him.  They were all eating ham and eggs.  It smelt very good.  Kid grinned at Heyes sheepishly, noting his partner’s eye roll.


“Why?” he said, as sternly as he could muster, wiping runny egg off his chin.


“Well …if you know my friend Wade Sawyer? …He’s the new Deputy here in Bramberg…”


“I know him. Know him well” stated Kid honestly.


“Well ...you better buy him a drink next time you see him, friend ...because if he hadn’t come along when he did … them two drifters would have had my horse …and yours … right from off the street… in broad daylight!”


Kid stood, looking concerned.


“It’s OK …like I said …good old Wade’s chasing them all over town now… relax friend …finish your breakfast” smiled Heyes meaningfully, his eyes filling with glee.


“Well then pull up a chair...” drawled Kid.  “Come and join us for breakfast …Ernie there …is a wiz with a frying pan.”


He smiled broadly at the barkeep.


“How do you happen to know my old friend Wade Sawyer?”


“Oh… me and Wade go way back…” smiled Heyes easily, proffering a bill to Ernie for the beer and the promised breakfast.


“It’s on the house boys” smiled Ernie, pushing the ten-dollar bill away. 


He hadn’t reckoned last night’s taking yet, and he didn’t want to get in to digging out change.  Last night’s takings had been excellent, with the BarT boys in town.  Ernie was feeling generous.


“Any friend of Wade Sawyer’s, is a friend of Ernest Pilsner” he said.


“I’m just glad Wade caught up with them two drifters he's been looking fer.  He was in here earlier asking about them. Seems ...they threatened that weasel MacDuff’s life, though how that tight-fisted, old goat has managed to escape death all these years, is beyond me. The descriptions he gave Wade …well ...they were so vague …Said they had killer’s eyes and walked like coyotes!  Like I told Wade… that would fit almost anyone.”


“Oh, I got a real good look at them myself” said Heyes, and preceded to describe the two drifters he’s seen skulking across the street earlier.


---oooOOOooo---


A couple of hours later


Stomachs full, and quite a few hands of a low stakes poker later, Heyes had upped his funds by twenty dollars and Kid was just about even.


The saloon had a few more patrons, and Ernie was enjoying some loud gossip about Deputy Sawyer’s efforts to apprehend a couple of would be murdering horse thieves, with three or four local cow pokes up at the bar.  He also regaled them with Heyes’ accurate descriptions.


And that’s when the two furtive drifters entered the bar looking for respite from the relentless midday sun. 


Heyes kicked Kid under the table.  They’d both feigned disinterest in the gossip, while hanging on every word, anxious to know where deputy Sawyer was last seen. 


The bar noise dropped significantly, till Ernie in a loud theatrical voice announced that he kept the best and coldest beer in Bramberg and that the first glass was on the house for the two new comers.  Amazingly, his very un-subtle head jerking towards the cow poke nearest the bat wing doors, went unnoticed by the two grateful recipients of cold beers. 


Heyes rolled his eyes and slanted a look to the side door.


“Think ...I better go …off load the last one, ‘fore I get me another beer” smiled Kid sheepishly, getting to his feet and sweeping his money into his other hand.


“Hah!” laughed Heyes.  


“That sounds like a good idea” he said sounding very Kyle-like, and mirroring Kid’s actions.


“Oh …don’t worry gentlemen …we’ll be back.”


They slowly ambled through the side door, making a show of being just acquaintances.


Once in the alley however, they ran to end, to look out onto the main street and watch, as Wade Sawyer was dragged through the bat wings by the cow poke sent to fetch him, and returned moments later with the two drifters handcuffed to march them straight to the jail house.


“Who were those two, anyway Heyes?” asked Kid, not feeling very comfortable at seeing other men arrested in their place.


“What have they done?”


“I don’t know, Kid.  But they were sure acting guilty of something, when I saw them this morning in the street. Whoever they are, be grateful, ‘cause they’re gonna keep Wade Sawyer busy, and off our backs till that train leaves tonight.  How about we go rent us a room, and get some sleep till then, just in case he decides to do his rounds this afternoon."


---oooOOOooo---


Seven o’clock


“Heyes, something’s happening over at the Sheriff's office” said Kid, staring into the street from the hotel window.


Heyes got up and stretched his back as he walked to his partner’s side.  They watched, unable to hear the words, as the very riled, newly freed, shorter drifter berated Deputy Sawyer with alarming chopping hand gestures, and much spittle escaping his mustachioed mouth.


Wade Sawyer looked uncomfortable to say the least.  Kid and Heyes smiled broadly, enjoying the show.


The taller partner seemed to be trying to calm the smaller one down, repeatedly pointing to his watch and looking over at the train station.
 
Wade Sawyer was shrugging apologies, and handing back the men’s weapons.  The small, mustachioed plaintive was practically jumping up and down as he checked his was still loaded.  Wade Sawyer threw an arm towards the restaurant adjoining the Sheriff’s Office, in obvious invitation to the two injured parties.


“Well… whoever they are …they sure got Sawyer rattled” laughed Kid.
 
“I never got me an invitation to dinner after a wrongful arrest.”


“You’ve never had a wrongful arrest” stated Heyes flatly. 


“Guess... if they’re in there eating …we better get dressed and get ourselves onto that eight o’clock east bound.  If I read that right, it looks like those other two clowns are planning to try make that train too.  Guess we’ve all had about as much as we can take of Bramberg… Brimstone, here we come.”


“Amen to that” sighed Kid.  


“Here’s hoping for an uneventful ride.  Like the man said… we happen to be going that way.”


And with that, they packed up and headed out for the train station.


---oooOOOooo---


Give yourself a pat on the back if you recognised Grant and Gaines...I had even more fun at their expense, in my story 'Yuma', in my story thread.
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PostSubject: Re: Missing Scenes   Mon Mar 20, 2017 1:28 am

Hannibal Heyes was shattered.


He was quiet as they rode to the next town, in search of work, poker, and comfortable beds, probably not in that order.


The Kid had been trying to get him to talk, something very unusual in itself.  Curry couldn’t even believe he was trying, after all the times he had wished Heyes would be as quiet as he was now.  However, after six hours, the quiet was even getting to Kid Curry.  He had tried singing, but that just resulted in glares from his partner, and kicking his horse to ride even a bit further ahead of the Kid than he had been.


“Heyes.”


No answer came from ahead.  He tried again a bit louder.


“Heyes!”  He could tell that his partner had heard him by a subtle tightening of his shoulders, but there was no answer, slowing down, or other acknowledgement.  Curry kicked his horse to move a bit faster, and slowly but surely came aside of his friend.


The black cowboy hat was low over Heyes’ brow, and with his head tilted down also, it was hard to see his face.  However, after almost thirty years of reading his cousin’s moods, the Kid knew exactly what Heyes was thinking, what demons were tormenting him.


Even in their outlaw days, Heyes had been bothered by a lot of what they had to do, to stay on top in the world where they had found themselves.  Often it was only Kid Curry who witnessed, or perhaps noticed Heyes’ inner struggles.  To their fellow outlaws, Heyes was alternatingly the charming rogue, or the vicious gang leader, depending on what was needed to accomplish their goal.


To Kid Curry, a lot of Heyes was still that shattered child, who had led him out of burning Kansas, vowing never to return, and never to allow himself to care and be hurt again.  Both Curry and Heyes knew that vow had been broken occasionally, but not seriously.  Only with the Kid did Heyes ever really open up.  Only with Curry did he allow himself to care.


This time it was that concern and love for his cousin that caused Heyes to open a crack that became a chasm.  After all the cons he had pulled, he had for once been sucked down into the depths, as so many others had been before him.  It was this aftermath of their outlaw actions that had always bothered Heyes.  It was this that resulted in Heyes searching out Lom Trevors, when the Kid innocently came up to him with the darned amnesty flyer.  It was this that had caused them to wander the West for the past three years, one step ahead of posses, bounty hunters, and every lawman they had ever met.


“Hannibal.”


Heyes’ shoulders tensed again, but he finally looked up and over at his cousin.


“You haven’t called me Hannibal in over 20 years.”


“You know, Heyes, I don’t think I ever called you Hannibal.”


Cool eyes slanted over towards Curry.  “I hate to correct you, Kid, but I think you used to when you wanted to torment me, like my brothers did.”


Curry’s eyes lost focus, looking into a past he usually avoided.  “Oh, yeah.  I had forgotten that.”  The Kid snorted.  “But I do think I remember you taunting me too.  Calling me Jedidiah Thaddeus, J.T. the Jelly Toad.”


A ghost of a smile flickered crossed Heyes lips.  “You know, Kid, that don’t even make sense.”


“No, Heyes, it don’t.  Didn’t then either, but made me mad as…as…”  He laughed.  “As a jelly toad!”


He looked over at his partner and friend, but he remained silent.


“Well, we’ll make Casa Roja tonight.  Not early but we should get there in time for some poker.”


Silence reigned for a while.


“Kid, I know we’re a bit low on funds, but I don’t think I’m up for any poker tonight.”


Curry was now very worried.  This was not good.  Heyes often used poker to keep his mind off other things.  If they just went to their room, he knew Heyes would be up all night, probably pacing.  He had a book with him, but hadn’t been reading it.  When they had stopped to camp, Heyes had just stared into the flames after supper, which he barely ate.  The Kid couldn’t honestly blame him.  Jerky and hard biscuits weren’t that appetizing, but a man did have to eat.


When they finally rode into Casa Roja, the sun was setting in the west, covering the entire town in its red rays.  The Kid took the horses to the livery, while Heyes checked into the hotel.  Normally they would share these tasks, and not split up.  Curry didn’t like the way Heyes was acting, so he thought the sooner they were accomplished the better.


Once they were settled in their room, Heyes stood at the window, staring out into the street.  He hadn’t said a word since the Kid had arrived.


“Heyes.”  


No response.


“Heyes!”


Hannibal Heyes turned towards his cousin, but didn’t meet his eyes.


“Kid, just leave me be, okay?  This ain’t gonna go away soon.”  He looked down.


Curry sighed, and put his hand on his friend’s shoulder.  Quietly he said, “I know, Heyes.  But I gotta get me some sleep tonight, so we’re gonna go get us a couple drinks and then you can stay up all night if you want.”


*****


The boys were in the saloon, backs to the bar, heels up on the boot rail.  They had both downed their first shot of whiskey.  It had been that kind of month.  Now they were nursing their second drink.  Heyes was really just staring into his whiskey, his thoughts beyond even Curry’s ken.  The Kid, as always, was watching the activity in the saloon.  Tonight of all nights, he didn’t want any trouble.


There were poker games as usual.  Curry hadn’t noticed that Heyes had been paying any attention to them, but after the second whiskey was gone, he said, “Hey, Kid.  I think I’ll go see if I can sit in on that game over there.  I got enough left over from the game with the Doc that I can use for buy in.  And still have enough for you for breakfast.”  A ghost of a smile passed over his face.


“Sure, Heyes, go ahead.  I’ll stay here and keep watch.  We both know I ain’t got enough for a buy in.”


*****


The rest of the night passed quietly, at least for a saloon in the West.  There were a couple brawls, but they were easily contained by the barkeep.  The men at the poker tables didn’t even bother to get up for either of these events.  They just kept on playing.


Kid Curry watched the patrons of the saloon as the night went into morning, and he watched Heyes.  He wasn’t as garrulous as usual, but the pile of chips in front of him had steadily increased, so Curry let him be, as he had asked.  


A couple of the pretty girls working the saloon had approached the Kid, but he had disappointed them.  It usually didn’t matter if he disappeared upstairs occasionally, while Heyes was busy with a poker game, as long as it was a friendly one, like this one seemed to be.  Tonight though, the Kid stayed at the bar.  He didn’t want to let Heyes out of his sight quite yet.  He also didn’t know what look he’d see in his cousin’s eyes if he went up the stairs.  It was probably too soon to see the tacit approval that normally passes between them by just a look, when the Kid would leave Heyes without backup for a while.
The crowd in the saloon thinned out, and even the game where Heyes was playing dispersed.  Even without his ready wit and winning smile to disarm his fellow players, he had managed to quietly win a significant amount, without annoying any of the locals.


Heyes stood and stretched, wishing his fellow players a good night, and approached the Kid.


“Ready to call it a night, Heyes?”


The lost look had started to come back into his cousin’s eyes, but Curry turned him towards the doors and led him to the hotel.


*****


They had quietly readied for bed, and Curry was happy to see Heyes settle in for the night.  The Kid was tired and quickly fell asleep, once his cousin seemed to be resting.  A while later, a noise awoke Curry, who instinctually had drawn his gun.  As he came awake he saw a familiar form at the window.


“Everything okay, Heyes?”


“Just couldn’t sleep.”


Curry re-holstered his gun and sighed.  “You need to talk?”


A glitter of a smile could be seen on his cousin’s face in the moonlight coming in the window.


“Are you really asking me that, Kid?”


Curry settled into his bed more comfortably.  “Well, I figured it was probably the quickest way for me to get some more sleep.”


“No, I really don’t feel like talking.”


Silence reigned again.


Heyes had assumed that his cousin had fallen back asleep, when out of the darkness, he said, “Heyes, what’s different this time?  We’ve been involved with a lot of women over the years of cons, schemes, and other jobs.  Grace Turner, Julia Finney, Leslie O-Hara, Alice Banion.  How is this different?”


Silence.  


“Because you didn’t get to bed her?”


“Kid!  You know that’s not it.  I didn’t …um…take advantage of even all those women you mentioned.”


“Yeah, I know that.  Just wanted an answer from you.”


After a moment, “I don’t know, Kid.”


Kid Curry sighed.  “Heyes, I think your lyin’.”


More silence.


“Ain’t it good to talk things through?  Isn’t that what you’ve always told me, when you had to discuss plans over and over and…”


“Kid.”


“What?”


“I think you’re doing a fine job of talkin’ enough for the both of us.”


More silence.  A breeze came through the window.


“Heyes, you really think it’s warm enough to have that window open?”


“Kid, will you please stop…”


“Because she chose to go back?”


A pause. “No.”


“Heyes?”  A tentative query came from Curry.


After a minute Heyes said, “No, Kid that really wasn’t it.  It was best for her to go back to Boston.”  After another pause.  “I couldn’t offer her anything.”


The curtains at the window fluttered in the breeze.  Again Heyes thought the Kid had gone back to sleep.


“You know Heyes, it’s really too cold to have that window open.”


“Oh, for the love of…”  Heyes slammed the window shut, and stalked back to his bed, flopping on it.


“Some day, Heyes, we will get that amnesty, and someday we will be able to settle down and marry.”


“You so certain, Kid?  Even when and if we get that darned amnesty, who would have a couple of washed up outlaws?”


“Well, speak for yourself, Heyes.  I’m not really up for sharing, so maybe we can find a couple of gals who would settle for one washed up outlaw, a piece.” The Kid smiled in the dark.


A deep sigh came from the other side of the room.  “You really think it’s still gonna happen?”


“Yes, Heyes, I have to believe that, or I think I’d go crazy.”


After a moment of silence, a reply came from the darkness, with a hint of a smile in it.  “So you’re sayin’, we just gotta have faith, huh, Kid?”


“Yeah, yeah, I am.”


Silence permeated the room.


“’Night Kid.”


“’Night Heyes.”


*****



The dawn came slowly, but with brilliant hues, as two riders headed west. 
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Keays

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PostSubject: A shot in the Dark   Thu Mar 23, 2017 11:01 pm

It was dark out. An unusual time for the fellas to be saddled up and headed for the next town when there wasn’t a posse breathing down their necks. But it could still be conjectured that they were being pressured into leaving, despite the calmness of their attitude and the dimness of the trail.

They trotted along casually, side-by-side, apparently not in any hurry. They’re conversation was quiet and seemingly unimportant to anyone not really paying attention. But the words conveyed worry and a layer of insecurity concerning their current situation.

“They were both in the same poker game?” Heyes repeated, incredulously, once again foolishly ignoring the Kid’s instincts. “Kid, you’ve come up with some crazy notions, but that’s the craziest.”

“Maybe,” the Kid concurred, “but they were both in that game, and now they’re both dead.”

“And they both lived in Hollistown. And they probably both did business at the same bank and went to the same church, and a whole lot of other things we don’t even know about.”

“That’s true.”

“You don’t sound convinced.”

“I’m not.”

Heyes would have continued with this conversation, but the road they were on sloped downwards, and Heyes’ horse picked up speed, putting him ahead of his partner and out of easy conversing range.

Kid didn’t bother pushing his horse to catch up. He decided that to continue with this discussion while his cousin was in his obstinate mood wouldn’t do either one of them any good. Heyes could be frustrating sometimes; always convinced that he was right until he had time to reconsider. The Kid’s instincts had often won the day over Heyes’ logic, and Heyes just needed time to remember this.

But then that time was suddenly snatched away from them when a loud report from a rifle cracked through the evening stillness.

Even though darkness made visibility difficult, the Kid still saw Heyes’ head snap back. Heyes’ gelding spooked and jumped forward, causing Heyes to fall backwards, hit the road and then continue to roll off the road and down the slight decline.

“HEYES!”

Before his cousin’s body had stopped rolling, Curry was off his horse and running down the slope towards him. He was vaguely aware of hoof beats disappearing into the night and knew, without really acknowledging it, that their assailant was heading for parts unknown. Jed didn’t really care about that at this moment; all he cared about was the fact that Heyes had been shot and was not responded to him.

“HEYES!” he called out again, fear causing his voice to be loud and demanding, as he threw all caution to the wind.
He skidded to a halt beside his prone partner, who had come up against some debris and settled there upon his back.

Heyes lay there, silent; his eyes closed and dark blood oozing from a wound on his forehead.

Curry’s hands were trembling as he clutched at his partner’s coat, hoping he would get some response.

“Heyes?”

Nothing.

Curry placed his ear against Heyes’ chest and was relieved beyond words to hear a heartbeat. Thank goodness. Once having ascertained that life still existed, Curry gently moved Heyes’ head so he could get a better look at the wound.

Like most head injuries, it was bleeding profusely, but it didn’t look like there was an actual entrance wound. Could they have lucked out? Could the shooter, whoever he was, have missed this shot and only wounded, instead of killing, his intended target? But they weren’t out of the woods yet, literally or figuratively, and Jed knew it.

Quickly taking off his own warm coat, he wrapped it as best he could around Heyes’ body. He then hurried back up the slope to where both the horses were dutifully waiting for orders. Going to his own horse, he pulled his small medical kit from the saddlebag, along with one of his undershirts, then hastened back to his partner.

While tending to the wound to at least slow the bleeding, Jed’s mind was in turmoil.

What was he to do? How was he going to get Heyes back to the ranch house without making things even worse? He couldn’t put Heyes across the saddle of his horse, not with an injury like this, but nor could he carry Heyes over to his horse and put him astride in the saddle. Not by himself.

He desperately looked around, trying to think. He could search for some long branches and make a travois, but that would take too much time. He had to get Heyes back to the ranch; back to where a doctor could take a look at him. Damn. Maybe someone else had heard the shot and was already coming to assist them, but he knew he couldn’t count on that. With the murders happening in this small community, most people were wisely staying safely at home during the night time hours.

What to do? What to do?

All other options were being discarded until only one course of action remained. He was going to have to leave Heyes here and ride back to the ranch on his own to get help.

He hated this idea. What if the shooter came back to finish the job? What if Heyes simply died in the meantime, from shock, or exposure, or just plain blood loss? But there was nothing else for it. He could not get Heyes up onto a horse by himself, and draping him across the saddle like a sack of potatoes would only cause the wound to bleed more. He had to leave him here.

Having decided this, Curry tucked in his coat more snugly around Heyes’ body, checked the head bandage to make sure it was staying put, then hurried back up to the horses.

Snatching up the reins to Heyes’ chestnut, he led the animal over to a small tree and tied him up there. He gave the anxious horse a pat on the neck.

“Sorry about this,” he assured the animal. “I know you don’t wanna stay out here by yourself, but you’re the best thing I can think of for a landmark. We’ll be back for ya’. Just relax.”

The horse did not appear convinced. Even through the darkness, Curry could see the whites of the animal’s eyes growing larger as realization came to it. The human was right about one thing; staying out here in the dark, with predators on the prowl, was not this horse’s first choice. As Jed moved away, he began to fidget and paw at the ground. He moved back and forth against his tether and even sent out a nervous nicker as the human mounted the other horse and turned tail on him.

Curry didn’t hesitate; he was aboard his own black in a heartbeat, and turning the animal around, booted him up into a gallop, back the way they had just come.

It was dangerous, galloping full out upon an unfamiliar road in the dark, but Curry didn’t care. He had to get back, he had to get help. Even at that, the road seemed to go on indefinitely. It couldn’t have been more than five miles back to the ranch, but even pushing the horse, full out, it seemed they would never get there.

Curry was beginning to fear that he had gotten turned around somehow; that maybe he was galloping off in the wrong direction, when finally, he saw the lights of the house come into sight up ahead.

He pushed his winded horse even harder as he pulled out his colt 45 and shot three bullets into the air. To his relief, he saw more lights coming on in the house, and then the yard itself brightened up with swaying lanterns. As he approached the yard, people had come out from the house and the bunkhouse to find out what the commotion was all about. Nerves were on edge, and rifles were out and ready.

“Who is that? Identify yourself!”

“It’s me, Mr. Carlson!” Jed yelled as he and his horse came into the light. “Ya’ gotta help us!”

“Thaddeus!” Jake acknowledged him. “What’s happened? Don’t tell me…”

“Yeah,” Curry concurred as he swung to the ground and hurried up to him and Rachel. “We got ambushed, about five miles from here. Josh was hit, but he ain’t dead. Ya’ gotta help us!”

“Oh no!” Rachel reacted, then spied Harvey standing by the barn. “Harvey! Ride into town and get the doctor out here. Right now.”

“But I just got back from…”

“Do it, Harvey!” Jake insisted. “Take one of my horses if yours is done in. But do it—now.”

“Yessir, Mr. Carlson,” Harvey grumbled and sent a seething glance to Rachel before doing an about face and entering the barn.

“We gotta hurry!” Jed insisted. “I don’t know how long he can hold on—we gotta hurry.”

“I know, son,” Jake assured him. “We’ll get him. Cory! Hamilton! Get the buckboard hitched up. Rachel…” But he turned to an empty porch; Rachel had already gone inside to get pillows and blankets and more medical supplies.

“Thank you, Mr. Carlson,” Curry stated, breathlessly. “I didn’t know where else to go.”

“You did right, Thaddeus. Of course, we have to bring him back here.” He put his hand on the Kid’s shoulder to give reassurance, then frowned. “Jeez, you’re freezing. Where’s your coat?”

“I used it to wrap He… him in,” Curry told him, then shivered big time as the sweat on his body began to cool.

“There’s coffee on the stove; go get yourself a cup,” Jake ordered him. “Then you can use one of my coats.”

“There’s no time for that!” Curry insisted. “We gotta get back out there…”

“We will,” Jake insisted, “but nobody’s going anywhere before the horses are hitched up. Now get in there and warm up.”

Curry nodded and started for the house.

Harvey came out of the barn, leading one of Jake’s horses and then swung himself aboard.

“Hurry up, now Harvey,” Jake ordered him. “I want that doctor here when we get back with Josh. No dawdling.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Harvey grumbled, but he booted the horse into a gallop and headed for town.

“Ron!” Jake ordered, as he spotted another of his hands still milling around. “Get this horse taken care of. Rub him down good, and get a blanket on him. Give him hay, but no grain. Give him some water in an hour.”

Ron looked disappointed. This is what he got for staying in sight of the boss. Still, he gathered up the reins of the lathered, and now steaming, horse, and led the animal into the barn.

Xxx

“I know we gotta be comin’ up to the stop soon,” Curry insisted, for the umpteenth time. “It’s gotta be just around this corner.”

The buckboard was moving along the road at a fast trot, the light from the two dangling lanterns throwing strange and contorted shadows upon the woods surrounding them. Fortunately, the two harness horses were familiar with this roadway and were moving ahead confidently without giving much concern to the bouncing shadows around them.

Still, Curry was clutching the edge of the seat with anxiety as he peered ahead, searching the road and the woods to either side, desperately seeking the spot where the shooting occurred.

Then they heard it, not too far ahead of them. A relieved, shrill sounding whinny came to them from out of the darkness. Both harness horses pricked their ears and picked up the pace. One of them whinnied back.

“There he is!” Curry pointed ahead at the dark shape standing out against the dark background.

Then the lights from the buckboard illuminated the horse who was still standing tied to the tree. The anxious gelding was steaming from nervous sweat. He tucked his head and began to paw the ground, telling them in no uncertain terms, to HURRY UP.

Jake pulled the team to a halt as Curry grabbed one of the lanterns and jumped to the ground. He skirted around the team of horses and began to scan the area where he was sure Heyes should be.

Jake came up beside him and they both searched the area. Then the light picked up the wool collar from Curry’s jacket, and the two men rushed over to it.

“Joshua!” Curry called to him, but still, there was no response. Once again, he put his ear to his cousin’s chest. “He’s still breathin’.”

“Okay,” Jake said. “C’mon. Let’s get him back up this slope and into the wagon. We can check him over better up there.”

“Yeah.”

“Easy, son. Take it easy. You get his feet, and we’ll take it slow.”

Jake got his hands under Heyes’ shoulders, and between them, the two men were able to half carry, half drag the injured man up the incline and over to the buckboard.

Setting Heyes up on the bed, Jake climbed up beside him and pulled him all the way onto the vehicle. Jed came up as well, and they got Heyes settled in between the pillows, and wrapped up even more snugly in the blankets that Rachel had provided.

That done, Curry removed the makeshift bandage around Heyes’ head and was then able to get a closer look at the wound. Taking some of the clean clothes from the med kit, he gently wiped away the blood and held the lantern up closer so they could see.

“Dammit, it’s still bleeding,” Curry said. “His cloths are soaked in it.”

“Head wounds always bleed a lot,” Jake assured him, not realizing that Curry had plenty of experience with head wounds. “It looks like the bullet just scraped across his forehead. Still, concussions are nothing to take lightly. We’ll get him back home, Thaddeus. Don’t worry; we’ll look after him.”

Jake climbed up to the driver’s seat to get the team turned around, while Jed jumped down to retrieve Heyes’ horse.

The animal was blowing and pawing like mad, scared to death that he was going to be left behind again. Once Jed untied him and started leading him to the buckboard, he had to jump out of the way for fear of being trampled. He had a feeling he wouldn’t even need to tie the horse to the wagon to ensure that it kept up with them, it was so happy to be back in good company.

But Jed tied him to the tailgate anyway, then climbed back aboard himself. He settled in beside his cousin as the wagon jerked forward, and they were headed back to the ranch.

Placing a hand on Heyes’ shoulder, he looked into his partner’s pale face.

“It’s all right, Heyes,” he said, quietly. “We’ll get ya’ looked after now. Then, I swear; I’m gonna find that bastard who done this to ya’.”


Last edited by Keays on Sat Apr 08, 2017 1:14 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Missing Scenes   Fri Mar 24, 2017 2:27 pm

Re-entering the saloon, Heyes led his former partner to a door at the back of the barroom.  He grasped the knob and swung the heavy door open before glancing over his shoulder and catching the barkeeper’s eye.  Heyes held up one finger and the man in the apron nodded his understanding.  He pulled a bottle of his finest bourbon off the back bar and sauntered in their direction.

“Come on, Jed, we can talk privately in here.”


“Jed’s dead and gone, Heyes,” said Curry flatly as he stepped across the threshold and looked around the barren room.  Heyes followed him into it.  A table was set up for poker in the center of the space.  There was a window, covered in heavy drapery to prevent prying eyes from seeing inside.   “Where’s the window lead to?” the Kid asked as the barkeep placed the unopened bottle and two glasses on the green felted table and left quickly, shutting the door behind him.  Curry pulled the curtains aside to check if the window was locked shut.


“No need to worry.  Two of my men are in the alley covering it; there’re two more out front.  You can relax.”


“Your men, Heyes, not mine.”


“Suit yourself.”  Heyes pulled out a chair, scraping it noisily over the rough, wooden floor planking.  He sat down and poured two generous portions of amber liquid into the glasses.  Curry took the one held out to him and sat across from his childhood friend. 


“All right, Heyes, let’s talk.  Where’ve you been the last five years?  You sent me that telegram in El Paso tellin’ me to watch my back and stay away from you, what, four months or so after we split? You said Burdon was onto you.  That was the last I heard from you until I saw your wanted poster in the Trinidad sheriff’s office a year ago.  Didn’t look to me as though you were worryin’ about lyin’ low.”  Curry tossed back his drink and put the glass down with a bang, keeping a grip on it as it was quickly refilled.  “Seems to me if you really needed me, you wouldn’t have waited so long to find me.”  The tenseness in his body spoke of his anger, but his face was relaxed, wiped clean of expression.


Heyes shook his head once, a grim smile springing to life.  “I’ve always known where you were, how do you think I knew to telegraph you in Texas?  You didn’t take my advice, though, did you?  No, you seem to have gone out of your way to make quite a name for yourself.”


Eyes narrowed dangerously, Jed stood up with both hands on the table, and growled, “That’s right, I did.  Enough of a name that Burdon had a hard time findin’ anyone to go up against me.   He tried hard, but after the first couple of hired guns, he couldn’t find anyone else stupid enough to give it a try.  Maybe I didn’t lie low, maybe I didn’t hide like a frightened schoolgirl, but I watched my back just like you said and I could’ve been watchin’ yours, too, only you didn’t want me ridin’ with you ‘til it suited you.  Conversation’s over.”  He was unprepared for how quickly Heyes’ hand shot out and gripped his forearm.


“Please, sit down.  At least hear me out.  I had good reasons to keep away from you.”  Heyes’ eyes begged for his cooperation, naked need shone in them, giving Curry a glimpse of the emotional anguish his former best friend was suffering.  It was unlike Heyes to be needy and his anger was overcome by his curiosity.  He sat and waited.


Heyes finished his bourbon and refilled both glasses before settling back into his chair.  He knew he had to find the exact words to convince the Kid to stay.  “You were smarter than me, Kid.”  He smiled as he saw his blonde friend’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise.  “I thought if I was clever enough, I could hide from Burdon and his merry band of thugs.  I was wrong.  It was only a few weeks after I sent that telegram.  I was working for an outfit punching cows near Bighorn, Montana; out in the middle of nowhere.   It was a perfect setup until I got cocky and decided I deserved a few days off.”


Curry slightly smiled.  He hadn’t forgotten Heyes’ arrogance.


“Me and a couple of the other hands rode into Billings to have some fun, play some poker, and visit with the ladies.  It was fun until one of the gals figured out I was the guy someone had been asking about.  She tipped off Burdon’s hired help that I was holed up in the only brothel in town.  If I hadn’t stayed so long…”  Heyes chuckled softly, “but at twenty it was hard to keep my pants buttoned up.”


“How’d you get away?” 


“I didn’t.  They damned near beat me to death before the other hands caught up with us.  If they hadn’t come looking for me, I wouldn’t be here.  As it was, I was laid up for almost two months; cost me my job and every last cent I had.”  Heyes took another slug of bourbon. 


“You’re lucky they didn’t just shoot you outright,” said Curry and as the words slipped from his mouth, it dawned on him maybe they hadn’t kill Heyes right away because they’d been looking for him.  He was the one Burdon really wanted.  The man who’d gunned down his son.  They’d tried to beat the information out of Heyes and it was plain his partner had covered for him.


“I’m not sure I’d call it lucky.”   Heyes could still remember the pain.  He’d never felt anything like it before or since.  “Anyway, it was a sure thing Burdon was going to keep coming.”


“You could’ve sent for me, Heyes.  I’d have come.”


“I know you would’ve.”  Heyes peered down into his empty glass, his empty life.  He’d made so many mistakes, but dragging his partner down wasn’t one of them.


“All these years, I thought you’d turned your back on me.  That ain’t it, though, is it?  You been keepin’ your distance ‘cause you thought you were protectin’ me.”  Curry lifted the bottle and refilled Heyes’ glass as he digested what he had just heard.  The anger slipped away and he felt the stirrings of happiness for the first time in a long time.


Trying to lighten the mood, Heyes answered.  “Way I hear it, the mighty Kid Curry don’t need protecting.”


“So why’d you turn outlaw?  You weren’t exactly a common criminal.  A criminal genius, ain’t that what Soapy used to say?”


“Some genius,” said Heyes, bitterly.  “You were right.  I messed it all up.  It was my fault Jen died.”


“Heyes, I was pissed off at you when I said that.”


“Don’t make it less true.  Then when I killed Scrivener, I couldn’t deal with it.  I hadn’t understood what you were going through when William died and, by the time I did, it was too late.  I knew I couldn’t draw Burdon to you, but I couldn’t take care of myself either.  I was a conman, not an outlaw.”


“You’re one now.  Pretty damned good outlaw from the way I hear it.”


“I am,” smiled Heyes, “but it was a long time coming.  I knew after Burdon’s men caught up with me, I had to find protection so I joined a gang; Jim Plummer’s gang.  He was only willing to take me on after I proved to him I could manipulate locks and safes.  I rode with him for almost a year and learned a lot.  It was a pretty good living until he ran off with thirty grand after a particularly successful job.  Me and a couple of the boys spent the better part of the next year hunting him down, but we never did find him.  We finally drifted south to Devil’s Hole territory and pulled some small jobs on our own.  That’s how we got Big Jim’s attention. 


The beating he gave me was shorter than the previous one and, when it was over, came with a job offer.  Santana is a smart man and he knew opening safes was safer than blasting them.  We started pulling jobs at night when the banks were closed and the trains were mostly empty.  The men loved it and accepted me for what I could bring to the table.  Jim started to bring me in on the planning end of it, too.”


“I read about Burdon’s bank gettin’ robbed.  Was that one of yours?”


“That and some of the other misfortunes he suffered.  I figured I owed him for robbing me of the best partner I ever had.”  Heyes smiled broadly. 


“Guess I owe him for that, too,” said the Kid.  He felt as though a heavy weight had been lifted from his heart.  So many years…wasted.  “Did you know I went to see Clem right after we split?  It was hard, but I’m real glad I went.  She looked good and Philadelphia was sure something to see.”


“Soapy told me.  We’ve been in touch.”


“He never let on he heard from you,” said the Kid, feeling his anger re-kindling, “even when I asked.”


“I made him promise not to, Jed…er, Kid.  I didn’t want you trying to find me.”


“Don’t you think I should’ve had a say in that, Heyes?  Why now?  How come it’s all right now?”


“I got word from Soapy a couple of weeks ago.  Burdon’s got cancer.  He’s dying.  It’s over.”


Conflicted blue eyes met brown before glancing off to a corner of the room.  “I can’t be pleased about that.  The man lost his wife when their son died.  They were marks in a con and it all got out of hand.  We helped to break a family and turned into the kinda men we grew up hatin’.  We became our own monsters.”


Heyes nodded slowly.  “Sure, in a way.  We’re thieves and gunmen, but we have limits.  I like to think that something of what our folks taught us stays with us; left to ourselves we might have gone straight, but Burdon never gave us that choice.   He’s so busy blaming us for William’s death he’s forgotten, or he’s lied to himself, about what his son really was. He’s the one who turned a psychopath loose on the world, not us.  Life is hard and we did what we had to.”  He paused.  “Have you ever wondered what our folks would say to us if they saw us now?”


“Nope.  I’ve only wondered if my ma would use a chair to stand on so she could slap me good and proper, or if she’d throw it at me.”


Heyes smiled in spite of himself.  “She had a good throwing arm, your ma.  I remember when she saw me running away from your apple trees.  She caught me right on the back of the head with rotting windfall full of worms.”


“Happy days,” chuckled the Kid.


“Yeah, great times and you’re the only one I can share them with.  How about it, Kid?  Come and join us.  I stayed away for your own good, and you’ve gotta believe that.  There’s no need anymore.  We can be a team again.”


“Again?”  The blue eyes glinted.  “It felt like you were in charge.  I ain’t in no hurry to go back to that.”


“I was just older, is all.  A couple of years matter at that age.  We’ve both gone out and become our own men.  We have our own strengths.”


“It’s been a long time.  I’m used to bein’ on my own and I’ve only got myself to worry about.”  The Kid kicked aimlessly at the leg of the table.  ”Besides, bank robbin’ doesn’t sound like my kinda thing…”


“How many times have you been stuck in some horrible town without a nickel to your name?  How many times have you cursed Burdon when you’ve had to leave some pretty girl behind you and move on?”  Heyes leaned forward, his tone dropping to a purr.  “How many times have you wished you could get drunk enough to sleep without dreams?  You’ll have backup at last, Kid; not to mention a future.  We can finally save up enough to go off somewhere and start the ranch we always talked about.  How about it?  Come with me…”


The square jaw clenched beneath a stiletto of blue ice.  Heyes held his breath waiting for a reply, but the only sound was the ‘tap, tap, tap’ of the toe of the Kid’s boot as it flicked carelessly against the table leg.  Heyes’ long fingers slid from his glass, and crept into a tense fist; waiting for the answer which was seemingly never going to come.


Suddenly both heads snapped around at the familiar blast of black powder from a gun.  They leaped to their feet in unison and grabbed for their own weapons.  There was the sound of a scuffle and male voices raised in altercation, spiraling to a crescendo.  Without a word, both Heyes and the Kid rose to their feet and lifted the table, jamming it in front of the door.  They strode over to the window and slid it open as silently as possible.  A mute conversation took place, the darting blue eyes appraising the window as an ambush before they fixed on the outlaw leader in question.  The brown eyes narrowed in defiance before relenting.  He was the one who had called the Kid here.  Hannibal Heyes had to prove himself and go first.    


A shout came from outside the room.  “Let him have it, Hank!”
 

Their eyes locked at the words being fired off after the next shot outside the room.  “Look, Wheat.  It’s a trap!”

Heyes didn’t need another prompt.  He gingerly peered out of the window before sticking his head out completely.  “It’s fine,” he draped a long leg over the sill.   “There’s nobody here.  Come on.”


The Kid quickly followed and both men slunk down the alley with guns drawn, prepared by a surge of adrenaline and tightly wound nerves to fight their way to freedom.  Heyes pressed himself against the wall to peer out into the street. 


“Hey, Mister.  Is that a Colt?”


The question came from a little blond boy with a home-made haircut.  Heyes stared out to the street.  If this was a trap it was a very covert one; women shopped for groceries, children formed knots of mischief outside stores, and the owner of the general store smiled and nodded at him as he lifted a crate from a nearby wagon.  Heyes looked down at the child and reflected on the fact that his mother obviously needed a considerably bigger bowl.  “Have you seen any other men with guns?”


“Just my pa,” the sprout replied.  “He’s going on a coyote hunt with Uncle Arthur, but ma says it’s just an excuse to go to the saloon.  He’s got a rifle.  Ya never answered me.  Is that a Colt?”


“No, sonny, this is a Colt.”  The Kid emerged from behind Heyes, holding the weapon in both hands to be clear to passing townsfolk that this was a controlled show-and-tell and not a quick draw.  He nodded towards Heyes’ gun.  “That’s a Schofield.”
 

“Bobby!” A tall woman stood in front of the general store, her hand raised to shade her eyes as she scanned the street.  The small boy murmured his thanks to the two armed men and ran to her.

“Got ‘im!” said a voice from behind them.  Both Heyes and the Kid stared at the sight of the hook-nosed, sallow outlaw swinging a dead rat by the tail.  “Preacher,” Heyes barked.  “What the hell is going on here?”


“It was a rat.  Wheat hates ‘em.  Makes him come out in hives.  It ran past Kyle.”  He held the deceased rodent higher.  “We got it though, didn’t take more’n a couple o’ shots neither.”


“What was all that about a trap?” Heyes demanded.


“Yeah, that shoulda been a clue to Wheat that there was rats about.  There’s traps laid.  They ain’t no use unless the critter runs into it, though.”


Heyes glared at his henchman.  “You mean I skinnied out the window for nothing?  I thought it was a trap.”


“Ya did?” Preacher snickered.  “I guess the boys’ll get a real kick outta that.”


“Round up the boys and head on back to the Hole, pronto!” Heyes’ tone warned the outlaw not to argue.  “I’ve got some business to complete; I’ll ride out later.”


“Heyes…” began Preacher.


“Head out now!”


With a shrug, the lean man walked away.  Wasn’t nothing to him if Heyes wanted to parade around without the safety of his gang. 


Heyes sighed heavily and turned back to the man whose laughter lit up his blue eyes.  “Well, I guess that’s blown it.  You’re not gonna join an outfit like this.”


Kid Curry folded his arms and stared reflectively out at the street.  “Ya know, Heyes.  When it looked like there was trouble we slipped right back into our old ways.  Neither of us said a word, but we read one another perfectly.  I thought we’d lost that.”  He shrugged.  “I guess I was wrong.”


Heyes bit into his lip, almost afraid to ask the question.  “What’re you saying, Kid?”


“I’m sayin’ that we still got it, whatever ‘it’ is,” he unfolded his arms and turned to face his cousin.  “I missed ya.  And I guess you need me.”


“I do?”  Heyes quickly re-phrased the words as a statement.  “I do.  That’s why I arranged this.”


“I thought you had it all worked out, Heyes.  The gang, the glory, and big dreams; but now I see that’s really all your silver tongue again.  Sure. Ya got men, but they range from lazy to downright dangerous.  You need me to watch them so you can come up with the schemes, doncha?”


Heyes shrugged.  “I wouldn’t go that far, Kid…”


“No?” 


“Not completely…”


“Heyes, this is me you’re talkin’ to.  No bullshit, huh?”


“Yeah, you’re right.  I need someone I can trust.  Look at what I’ve done so far, but with someone I can trust behind me, we’ll be rich.  We can save and get that ranch, Kid.  We could really do it.  They’re loyal enough, but downright dishonest.  I need a partner to be the best outlaw anyone ever saw.”


A wry smile played over the Kid’s lips.  “Dishonest?  Ain’t that one of the first qualifications for a robber?”


“If you’d been working with us, you’d have kept them focused, Kid.  They’ll listen to you.  I know you’ll get them working together.  We could achieve great things.  When we’re together we can take on the world.  I can’t do everything at once.”


“When I thought you had it all together I wasn’t interested, but now I see the truth; that there’s a job for me to do – that you actually need me…”


Heyes smiled widened to a grin.  “You’ll come?”


“But I ain’t interested in you being the boss of me, Heyes.  It’ll be like old times.  Partners or nothin’.”


Heyes cheeks pitted with dimples at the sight of that familiar warning glint in the blue eyes.  They were finally engaging properly again; that invisible barrier was lifting.  “Sure.  Partners.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

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Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb
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HelenWest

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Join date : 2013-09-09
Age : 56
Location : West of the Mississippi

PostSubject: Re: Missing Scenes   Sat Apr 01, 2017 12:22 am

Two men lay leaning their weary backs against their saddles with their feet toward a crackling campfire in the gathering darkness. They munched on the last bites of a charred jack rabbit Kid Curry had shot earlier.
 
“Straight. Us. Who would have believed it?” Asked Hannibal Heyes rhetorically.
 
“And poor. Dirt poor.” Added the Kid, spitting a bit of gristle into the fire, where it sizzled.
 
“Now that,” replied his partner, putting down his rabbit bones, picked clean while he was still hungry. “I believe. I don't like it, but I believe it.”
 
“Well, if you don't like it, what are you gonna do about it?” Asked Curry.
 
“Don't you mean we? What are we gonna do about it?” Heyes glared at his partner, the famous gunman.
 
“If I do anything about it, like I’m used to doing, they’ll put us away. Or hang us,” remarked the Kid glumly.
 
“You think I’m any more used to legit work than you are?” Asked Heyes. He used an old cactus spine to get a bit of meat out from between his teeth.
 
“Well, you can write and figure better than me, anyhow,” said Curry. He spat into the fire again.
 
“Would you stop that?” Griped Heyes, pulling his coat closer around him. “It’s getting really cold. Fire’s small enough without all that water.”
 
“If you think the fire’s too small, go find some wood to put on it,” snapped the blond outlaw.
 
“It's a high desert,” Heyes barked back. “There ain't much wood. And who made you the boss, anyhow? I thought I was the leader.”
 
The Kid corrected his second cousin curtly, “You led the gang. Ain't no more gang.”
 
“Or not for us, anyhow,” said the former gang leader with a longing look north toward distant Wyoming, where the Devil’s Hole boys continued their depredations without their famed leaders.
 
The two dissatisfied men stared into the dying fire in silence as the sky turned from deep blue to purple, with a fiery edge in the west. A chill wind was blowing.
 
“Gang or no gang, we need a plan, or we’ll starve. Or get caught.” Muttered Heyes. He got to his feet and searched around the edge of the fire light for something that would burn.
 
“Or both,” opined Curry morosely.
 
“No, in prison, they feed you.” Said Heyes, tossing a bit of dead cactus into the fire. He gathered up more dead grass and scrub wood as his eyes adjusted to the dark outside the ring of light.
 
“I don't like that plan,” said the Kid loudly, so his partner could hear as he walked around slowly, gathered fuel. Curry opened his bed roll.
 
“Me, neither,” said Heyes. He walked back to the fire and put his pile of fuel in reach for the cold watches of the night.
 
“All I know is, we need a plan,” stated Curry. “A new one, while we go for amnesty. Now that we’ve got out of Wyoming Territory.”
 
“Yeah,” said Heyes, opening his own bed roll. “Let me sleep on it.”
 
“And I can't think of a plan, too?” Whined the Kid.
 
“Plan all you like,” said the elder partner amiably. “But do it quietly. We rode all day today and yesterday and the day before that. And before that, it was a long train ride. I’m dog tired.”
 
“I was there for all that, you may recall. I'm beat, too. G’night, Heyes.”
 
“G’night, Kid.”
 
Dawn woke the partners early. There was precious little for breakfast. Mid-morning found the two amnesty seeking outlaws riding slowly across the vast, open country. It was chilly, and the dry wind parched their skin. The Kid shivered in his shearling coat.
 
An hour later, Heyes took a sip from his canteen – far less water than he wanted or needed, but there was almost nothing left. Curry reached for his own canteen and took a bare mouthful of water. The partners said nothing, but exchanged worried looks.
 
They struck across the shifting sand and loose gravel of the high desert. Finally, they hit a dirt road. They turned their horses onto it. They saw a sign board on a stone pointing to some town, but the grey board was so worn by wind and weather that they couldn't read the name.
 
“You sure it's safe to get that close to a town?” Asked the Kid in a hoarse voice.
 
“I ain't sure of much, right now,” said Heyes, coughing to clear his dry throat. “But if we want water and work, we got to get near people.”
 
“If we got to be in town, I'd rather play poker.” The famed gunman did not sound enthusiastic.
 
“Me, too, but we ain't got enough cash for a penny ante game.” Heyes patted his hip pockets and frowned. “Or I don't. Do you?”
 
The Kid shook his head. “No, Heyes. I got about a dollar and a half, maybe. Work, it is.” Curry was resigned. “And hope we don't get spotted.”
 
Heyes gave him a wink. “And when we get a stake, then we play poker. That’s the plan.” The pair shared a grin and turned their horses toward the nameless town.  
 
Predictably, their horses were soon tied outside saloon drinking from the water trough while their riders downed beers inside. “Say, barkeep,” called The Kid, “you hear tell of any work around here for a couple of men?”
 
“What kind of work?” Asked the mustachioed bartender as he wiped a glass.
 
“Oh, we can do most anything that pays,” replied Heyes.
 
Curry added, “We deal cards real good. You need dealers here?”
 
“Nah, we got dealers,” said the men behind the bar. “And we’re the only saloon in town. Say, Sam Taylor, a farmer outside town, said he could use some help.”
 
"Help doing what?" Asked the Kid suspiciously.
 
His partner elbowed him and whispered, “Beggars can't be choosers.”
 
The barkeep scratched his bald head. “I don't rightly know, but can't be too heavy, on a small farm this late in the year. Crops are all in, long since.”
 
“He’s a decent guy, is he?” Asked the Kid. “He’ll pay what he says?”
 
“Oh yeah, he won’t stiff you,” said the barkeep.
 
“Where's his farm?” Asked Heyes.
 
“About two miles north of here.”
 
When they had finished their beers, the two former outlaws rode north. They hoped to finish the day with more in their pockets then when they started and maybe with food in their bellies.
 
As the pair rode up to a small adobe farm house, they were greeted by a bandy-legged little man who had a rifle trained on them.
 
Heyes and Curry put their hands up. “Now, Mr. Taylor, we don’t mean no harm,” said the Kid. “We just heard you had work for a couple of men. That true?”
 
The old man nodded and slowly lowered his rifle. He looked cautiously at the strangers and spoke in sharp southwest accent. “Well, that is true. You look decently strong. Fifty cents an hour for each man.”
 
“Let’s see,” said the Kid, swinging down from the saddle. “What's the work?”
 
“Right over here,” said Taylor, as the two newly reformed outlaws followed him over a hill. He pointed at a scattering of big rocks and small boulders. Someone had started building a retaining wall to hold the slope of sandy soil between the house and the barn down the hill. “My last workers left me with the job hardly started. Too old and weak to keep it up. It's just a little hold-back wall to keep this hill from causing trouble for the barn and the lower fields. You might not think it, but we get bad floods and mudslides.”
 
Heyes and Curry exchanged uneasy looks. The rocks looked numerous and heavy. Very heavy.
 
“So, you guys think you can finish that wall for me?” Asked Taylor, who could see the doubt growing in his potential employees.
 
“Well . . .” Heyes raised one eyebrow skeptically and looked questioningly at his partner. “What do think, Mr. Jones?”
 
“I'm not sure if we're up for it at that rate, Mr. Smith.” The Kid was far from enthusiastic.
 
“Tell you what, boys.” Said Taylor. “I’ll throw in a real good taco dinner today and each day till you get done, with beer for you and feed for your horses.”
 
“Well . . .” Heyes, sensing more potential for benefits here, was still not won over. His partner played along, shifting from one foot to the other like he was tempted to walk away. Which he was.
 
Taylor looked speculatively back and forth between the two men. “Hm. Tell you what, boys. If you stick around long enough to finish the job, I'll give you a five-buck bonus.”
 
Heyes studied his mark and shook his head. “No deal. Ten. Each.”
 
“Ten bucks?!” Taylor scratched his chin. “Alright, alright, if you give me a buck back for the horse feed. Each.”
 
Sensing he had pushed Taylor as far as he would go, Heyes glanced at his partner, then he extended his hand to their new boss.
 
The pair of new workers asked a few questions of their boss about what he wanted. They led their hungry horses into the barn to eat. Then the new workmen rolled up their sleeves and got to work hauling stones and mortaring them into place. Taylor waved to the men he had hired and went to work in his barn, out of the gritty wind.
 
For a while the pair worked in silence. The Kid glared at his partner as he laboriously shuttled back and forth between the rock pile and the growing wall. Some rocks were so large it required both men to roll them along into place.
 
Finally, the sweating pair took a break. Heyes dipped a tin cup into the bucket of water Mr. Taylor had provided them and the Kid did the same. Curry growled, “What do you mean signing us up for this? We’re hardly started and my back is about to break!”
 
Heyes shrugged. “You agreed along with me. Our horses need the feed and water. We do, too. And a bed under a roof will do us good.  I figure we can finish tomorrow. With that bonus, then we’ll have a stake we can build on at the tables.”
 
“If we live to do it,” said the famous gunman darkly.
 
“Pace yourself,” said Heyes. “That’s what I’m doing.”
 
“I see you dogging it, Mr. Smith, doing more with the mortar than with the stones,” muttered the Kid. Then, as their boss emerged from the barn to look at their work, they went back to their labors.
 
"You got enough water, both for mortar and for drinking?” Asked Taylor, who had brought a bucket from the spring house down the hill.
 
“Could use some more, for both,” panted Heyes, dropping another stone into place. “Thanks.”
 
Soon Taylor rang the triangle for dinner time. The retired outlaws were more than ready for it. They gratefully sat down on the benches alongside Mr. Taylor’s table. The beers, cooled in the spring house, were wonderful, and the tacos were hot, delicious and plentiful. Taylor watched the strangers with care, but he saw nothing to worry him. Encouraged by their rest and their lunch, the boys returned to work that afternoon with a better will.
 
It was a long afternoon, but the thought of a good dinner and sleeping in beds was effective motivation. As the sun got near setting, Taylor came out of the house. “Here you go, Mr. Jones, Mr. Smith, eight hours work, four bucks each. See you in the morning.”
 
The Kid straightened up from placing a stone. He shared a questioning look with his partner. “Yeah, see you,” said Heyes. “Thanks for the dinner and the pay.”
 
The weary workers groaned as they climbed into their saddles. But their horses were almost frisky on the way back to town, thanks to the good drink and feed they had enjoyed that day.
 
Back at the saloon, the weary workers shoveled down hot stew.
 
“Say, mister, you want to buy a girl a drink?” A buxom working girl asked the Kid.
 
“Uh, what?” The gunman sat up suddenly, realizing he had almost fallen asleep over the last of his dinner.
 
The girl laughed and went to find a livelier patron. Heyes yawned and slapped his partner on his shoulder. “I never thought I'd see you too tired to enjoy a pretty gal. Guess we better go on up and make use of that room we signed for.”
 
As the two former outlaws climbed into their shared hotel bed, Heyes was yawning again. “Gee, between dinner, the livery stable, and the room, that pay is looking like not that much. You really want to stick around to finish that wall tomorrow?”
 
Curry yawned. He thumped the mattress, which was surprisingly springy and comfortable. “Yeah, I guess. I’m tired, but this ain’t a bad bed. Dinner was good. It’s got to be a long ride to the next work, and that might be worse. With that bonus, we’ll have enough to live on for a little while, poker or no poker. G’night, Heyes.”
 
“G’night, Kid.”
 
A rooster in the alley woke the partners at dawn with its loud crow. Groans came from under the covers. The Kid cursed freely. “I’ve set up harder than that mortar ever will,” he moaned.
 
“Come on, partner, get on up and face the day,” said Heyes cheerfully. Then the darker outlaw tried to get up himself. He uttered a string of his own curses. “Geeze, I don’t know if can even stand, forget hauling stones.”
 
“Now you see what I mean,” griped Curry as he finally managed to sit up. “Oh! My back feels like it's tied in knots.”
 
“Mine, too,” agreed Heyes, reluctantly struggling to his feet. “We might have to ride out of here and away from that farm and that wall to save our lives. Never mind the damn bonus.”
 
But hot biscuits, fried eggs, and ham did wonders for the aching pair of men. As they mounted up and headed out of town, they weren't sure of their plans.
 
“So, back to the farm, or off someplace else?” Asked Heyes, using his right thumb to point to the two options in turn.
 
“I don't know,” said the Kid. “I'd feel pretty ashamed if I couldn't finish one little wall. I'm a young man of 27. Now you, you might not be able to keep up, an old man of 30.”
 
“Why you!” Heyes took an ineffectual swing at his cousin, who spurred his horse down the road with Heyes on his heels. The pair laughed and loped toward the farm.
 
As the Kid bent to pick up the first rock, he moaned. “Gosh, they're heavier today. And the wind is colder.”
 
“Or you're not up to this, boy,” joked Heyes as he bent your start work. “Come on, your muscles will warm up soon. Ugh - don't know if mine will.”
 
Since they had started earlier on this second day, the workers felt like dinner time would never come.
 
But in time, it did. “Mr. Taylor, you sure make good tacos,” said Heyes through a mouthful of spicy beef.
 
“Thank you, Mr. Smith. More beer?” Said the farmer.
 
“Don't mind if I do,” said the man going by the name of Smith, with a grin.
 
“I'll join you,” said Jones. They clinked mugs.
 
"Ah, if you think I can cook, you should have tasted my wife’s tacos. Now there was a cook!” Taylor smiled at the memory.
 
“What was her name?” asked the Kid.
 
“Maria. Oh, she was a lovely girl when we met.” Taylor and the two wall builders exchanged stories for a while. It was good to laugh together.
 
But then the elderly farmer groaned softly as he got to his feet. “There now, you had best get back to it, or you’ll be awfully tired by the time you finish. Sorry to delay you. I get lonesome out here all by myself. It's good to talk to some nice guys.” He gathered up the dishes and headed for the kitchen.
 
“Here, let me get that, Mr. Taylor,” said the Kid.
 
Heyes smiled to hear his partner volunteer for work, tired as he was. The older outlaw added, “Yeah, we can haul in the water and do the dishes. You’ve been busy all day, too and then you cooked for us. We’ve enjoyed your stories.”
 
“Thank you, boys. This old man is grateful for your strong backs and good hearts.”
 
The afternoon was long and slow, but the smile their employer had given them kept Heyes and the Kid doggedly at their hard job. The stones got smaller as the wall rose, but the workers grew wearier by the hour.
 
As the sun got low in the sky and the wind grew icy, Heyes stood up from lifting another stone, one hand on his back. “Ugh. Don't know if I can make it, partner. I don't want to have to be back here in the morning. But I don't want to disappoint Mr. Taylor.”
 
Curry moaned as he stood, but he forced a smile onto his face. “We’ll get there tonight. You'll make it, Heyes, old man. You just do mortar and I'll do those last stones. Then we'll get that bonus and we can knock off for a couple of days and play cards.”
 
“No, you don't,” said Heyes. “Stones for both or neither. Pick up that trowel, Kid. I'll get that little stone to go in that hole.”
 
As the pair got back to work, farmer Taylor came up behind them with a bucket of water. Heyes looked at the Kid in distress – had their employer heard the nick name he had called his partner? Curry was unsure, as well.
 
“Help yourselves, boys,” Taylor said, giving no sign of suspicion. “The stars will be out soon. I'll do that last bit of mortar myself.”
 
“We shouldn't let you do that, but I think we will, sir.” Said the Kid. “Our backs are mighty sore.”
 
“Wait, do we still get that bonus?” Asked Heyes uncertainly.
 
Taylor reached into his breast pocket and pulled out several bills. He handed some to each of his employees. “There you go.” It was too dark to check the amount in the gathering evening shadows, but by now they trusted farmer Taylor completely.
 
“Thank you, Mr. Taylor,” said Heyes, putting out his hand. “It's been our pleasure to get to spend time with you.”
 
“Yes, it has.” Agreed his partner. He shook Mr. Taylor’s hand. “Thank you.”
 
"It's been good to have you, Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones,” said the old man. “You come see me if you ever get back out this way.”
 
As they tacked up their horses in the lamp lit barn, Heyes realized part of his pay was about to come out of his pocket. He pulled the bills out of his pocket. “Wait a minute, he forgot to hold back a buck for horse feed. Check yours, Jones. Did he take it out of your pay?”
 
The Kid checked his cash. “No – he gave us 15 bucks each, ten hour’s pay and bonus. We better remind him. He might think we stole the extra.”
 
They found Mr. Taylor feeding and watering his horse and cow. “Mr. Taylor, you gave us too much,” said Heyes. “We owe you a dollar each.”
 
The spry farmer shook his head. “No, no, you worked long and hard and even did extra for me. You keep it.”
 
“That's not fair,” said the Kid. “Look, I'll give you a dollar, so we’ll split the difference. How’s that?”
 
Farmer Taylor brayed with laughter. “And to think I worried when you two first came that you might be bandits! You are good men!”
 
Heyes and the Kid were both chuckling and waving to their new friend as they rode away.
 
“So, Kid, are you warming up to paid labor? Are we learning how to be straight up citizens? You think we can make it with this amnesty thing?” Asked Hannibal Heyes as they went out the gate.
 
Curry was skeptical as his horse walked in the starlight. “Well, maybe amnesty, and maybe work for pay. Maybe. Tonight, I need to sleep, but that bonus means tomorrow we can play poker. We earned that stake fair and square.”
 
“We did,” agreed Heyes with a twinkle in his eye. “So, when we gamble all that away, back to honest paid labor?”
 
The Kid shook his head with vigor. “Not on your life! From now on, nothing hard on the back!”
 
“I'm with you!” Laughed Heyes.
 

The pair spurred their horses down the trail.
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