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 The New Teacher Part Two #1 (5,700 words)

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Cal

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PostSubject: The New Teacher Part Two #1 (5,700 words)    Fri Apr 14, 2017 1:09 pm

---oooOOOooo---


The New Teacher
by Cal


---oooOOOooo---


PART TWO


scene 6 2,300 words


Jedediah ‘Kid’ curry


Alias


Thaddeus Jones


Kid watched his partner closely. 


For a break from a town, where the sheriff new Heyes on sight, this was more like a picnic parade.  Heyes was deep in conversation with the smaller girl, chuckling and grinning like… like… well Kid didn’t know. But he did know, his partner wasn’t behaving anything like… the Hannibal Heyes he knew. 


Guess that’s what a morning playing school teacher does to a man, thought Kid.


Heyes wasn’t using his head. 


Kid would have to do their thinking for a while.


“We’re gonna need some trail supplies, if we’re heading up there and out that way,” he called ahead to Heyes, shifting his gaze to the tree line out to the North beyond the town. 


“I’m just about cleaned out of everything... ‘less you already got us re-supplied.”


“No” said Heyes, pulling his horse to a halt, pulled back from wherever he’d been letting his mind roam to. 


Worry crossed his partner’s face for the first time since they’d met at the school house.  Good, thought Kid seeing his partner’s wily expression, as Heyes quickly assessed their situation.


Heyes got down from his horse, leaving Frankie in the saddle.  Fred had had far too much energy to ride for very long and had been running along in front of the horses for some time.  He jerked his head to Kid to come join him, so they could talk quietly.


Kid let Heyes fill him in with the mornings revelations, tutting and groaning as events were recounted.  How the younger girl turned out to be Wendel Widget’s daughter, and how she’d remembered them from the train robbery.  How he’d only just managed to clear the street before Sheriff Abe Brent put in an appearance, and how he’d cleverly got the children to help plan them an escape route and bamboozle Frankie at the same time.


Heyes’ eyes shone with glee as he recounted this last bit.


Kid gave him the satisfaction of agreeing that the plan had been genius but that impersonating a teacher might be seen as trouble in some quarters.  The deflation in the genius’ spirits was minimal.


Kid looked up at the serious little girl, that had accosted him in the street in front of the school house, telling all the World just who and what he was, with worry.  But he quickly put a smile on his face, unconsciously rubbing at the hand that she’d once bitten a long time ago.


Unlike Heyes, he didn’t see an ally, he saw a big problem.  Wendel Widget’s daughter.  Wendel Widget, that had single-handedly engineered and overseen the building of the territories railroad through some of the most difficult terrain there was. 


A railroad they’d hit on more than one occasion.


Kid’d convinced himself that his own problems, the draw, the robbery, the backsliding, had all been cancelled out by the need to get Heyes away from the town of Clearwater as quickly as possible.  It would be selfish of him to worry his partner any more than he already needed to be with unimportant details of his own trip to town or any hold ups he may have inadvertently been drawn into.


“I could take Frankie back to town and get the supplies we need” he suggested helpfully.


He knew the sheriff was out of town.  He’d seen him leave with his deputies and the school teacher. 


Strange that, the way they took off after Janx, he thought.


He’d convinced Theodore Smith to leave out his own part in the hold up.  The school teacher had been very accommodating and easy to convince about that.
Almost too easy. 


He’d looked at Thaddeus Jones with a look in his eyes, just like Heyes sometimes gets when he’s seeing right through somebodies lies.  Like he’d understood an awful lot more from Kid’s words, than the actual words Kid had used. Like he knew what Kid was thinking. 


Must be all that practice they get second guessing authors, thought Kid.
But the teacher had said that he just intended to report the robbery to the local sheriff, as a matter of civic duty.  He certainly didn’t say he was hell bent on charging back out of town as soon as he hit town, to go round up the culprits with a posse.


Strange.


But convenient. 


Brent didn’t know Kid, and Kid wanted to keep it that way.  Kid could go into town and fetch their supplies.  Then, little Frankie could take him to this Stumpery, whatever that was, where Heyes could wait for him.


Heyes had gone quiet, thinking.


Kid pushed his point a little harder.  He didn’t like the idea of heading up into the woods and the mountains without enough ammunition and some coffee, and some whiskey, and some food. He was starting quite a long list in his head.


“You know Heyes, if she’s Wendell Widget’s daughter… and Steadman Spencer’s niece …and someone were t’see her with us… They could get all the wrong idea about us…We could be facing a kidnap charge if we were to get caught.”


“Mmmmmmm…” said Heyes non-committally. He’d already thought through all the angles.


His eyes flicked back to Frankie, then to the rather love-struck Mary Beth in Kid’s saddle and he smiled devilishly.


“Fred” he called.


“Yessir” chirped up Fred, still embodying the fastest gun in the West.


His eyes had slipped back to Kid in wonder a few times.  Frankie had whispered to him that Mr Jones was the real Kid Curry.  Frankie had never told him a lie.  By jumping off the horse and scouting around corners up ahead, he’d had a chance to look back and quietly check out the fastest gun in the West.  He was convinced Frankie had steered him right again.


Now he came running back to Heyes’ side.


“I want you to go on ahead and scout out the lie of the land… anything unusual between here and your home… come back and let us know.”


They watched the small blond Kid Curry wannabe skip off up the trail with another, rather deeper


“Yessir.”


“Mary Beth” barked Heyes.


The girl physically jumped where she sat in the saddle.


“You’re going to accompany my partner, Mr Jones here, and help him get us a few supplies.  Think you can keep him outta trouble, long enough to get him back to the Stumpery, in one piece?”


“Yessir” she gushed turning a shade of scarlet, beyond anything she’d already achieved that day.


Kid groaned quietly, he hadn’t missed the cow eyes and the giggling issuing from the girl since she’d met him.


“Heyes?” he breathed at his far too happy cousin. “You sure about this?”


“Yeah… Frankie and I have got some details of our plans to iron out Kid.  We’ll all meet up at the stumpery later.  You got money?  You get paid?”


Kid patted his breast pocket and sourly nodded, managing to shake his head at the same time.  Heyes was on a roll.  He wanted things his way.  No point arguing.


“Heyes… You’re playing a dangerous game here… with our freedom… I just hope you know what you’re doing” he warned, but he put a pleasant enough smile on his face and addressed the girl. 


“Come on Mary Beth… lets go get us some supplies.”


---oooOOOooo---


Kid hadn’t missed the way the couple running the mercantile sneered at Mary Beth as she entered the well-stocked shop.  He’d sent her in ahead to start putting together the supplies he’d listed.  He himself had slipped into the saloon next door to pick up a bottle of whiskey and down a cold short beer in one. 


When he entered the shop, himself he saw the wife standing just feet away from Mary-Beth, arms crossed and toe tapping. The teen seemed transfixed on a barrel of shiny red apples.


“Is there a problem here, Mrs…err… I’m sorry I didn’t catch the name” asked Kid politely.


“There isn’t going to be a problem” said the wife, without taking her eyes of Mary Beth. 


“It’s Sugden, Mrs Sugden and to save you asking… We don’t give credit.”


Kid saw that Mary Beth had already gathered his provisions onto the counter, where the husband, Mr Sugden, was making a point of not packing or tallying the amount to be paid.  He walked over to the man, again with a friendly smile on his face that didn’t touch his eyes.


“I’d also like a box of rifle rounds …and a box of 45s to go with that.”


The man reluctantly fished under the counter for the required items.


“Thankyou.”


Kid turned to see Mary-Beth staring back at Mrs Sugden in terror, now all too aware of the close scrutiny she was under.  With a flick of her eyes to Kid, she dropped her gaze to the floor and looked for all the World like she’d have liked a big hole to open up and swallow her whole.


“Mary-Beth” called Kid kindly. “You got all that done in double quick time.”


He drew a thin wad of cash out of his breast pocket. The Sugdens melted into obsequiousness at the sight of the money, Mary-Beth forgotten about.


“Why don’t you pick yourself out something nice… as a thankyou from me” 
smiled Kid, ignoring the Sugdens and expecting the girl to head for the ribbons, and drapery section, at the rear of the shop.


Mary-Beth made a pocket of her rather dirty apron and carefully selected seven of the reddest, shiniest apples.  She carefully placed them, like precious rubies, onto the counter top.


“Seven?” questioned Kid.


A small nod, but Mary-Beth’s eyes never left her treasure.


“Alright - ey” said Kid, finally giving the obnoxious owners of the shop a sliver of his attention and handing over the money. 


“I want this all packed ready for travel, and pay particular attention to those apples.  I don’t want any of them bruised.”


---oooOOOooo---


Outside on the street a little later, Kid’s horse was stamping in protest as he tied supplies to the back of its saddle.


“Why’d they look at you that way Mary-Beth?” he asked the girl quietly, as she handed him more of the supplies.


“Momma …may have accidentally …forgot …to pay for… some flour last week… and we was in the shop with her… and Fred may have …accidentally …knocked over a can or two of peaches…”


“Your Momma’s been trying real hard t’ feed you, huh?” said Kid, not unkindly.  “That can be real tough …on everyone.”


He asked with a lift of his blue eyes to the saddle, if Mary-Beth would like to ride out of town on horseback.  She declined, with another small shake of her head, preferring to walk alongside the handsome Mr Jones, hugging her sack of treasured apples to her chest. 


Frankie had whispered to her and Fred earlier, that Mr Jones was really Hannibal Heyes’ partner in crime, Kid Curry.  A small piece of Mary-Beth really wanted to believe that was true, even if she knew she was old enough to be able to tell the difference between real life from make-believe.


“Will you camp at the Stumpery tonight?” she asked after a few strides.  “It’s real quiet and peaceful there.  Hardly anyone remembers it anymore now the founders have mostly all died. Well there’s Mr Maxwell of course but he’s real old. I got the feeling, Mr Smith didn’t want to stay in town tonight.”


“Maybe” smiled Kid.  “Depends if there’s any daylight left once we get there.”


“Oh …it’s not far” she laughed.  “Just out of the way… and forgotten, is all.”


Some loud voices got both their attention. 


Across the street, two men with tied down guns were forcibly ‘helping’ someone off the premises of the land office.


“Its land grabbing robbery …is what it is!” shouted the man, as he stumbled onto his knees into the street.


He picked up his hat, and batted it against his knees, as he stood.


“Steadman Spencer …won’t stop …till he owns every inch of this here town. He’s a mine owner … He’s not the Mayor… and he ain’t the law… We got us Elders here in Clearwater… When Mayor Widget hears about this… there’ll be hell to pay… I promise you that…”


He weaved on up the street, muttering and continuing to slap his hat on his legs with frustration.


As Kid and Mary-Beth came alongside the office, Kid careful to hide his head behind the horse’s neck, Steadman Spencer himself, joined the two ruffians on the boardwalk.


“Do you want Mr Fielding …to meet with an accident, Mr Spencer” asked one of the hired muscle, quietly.


“We don’t want him to go… bleating …about Town ordinances, to your brother-in-law, now do we?”


“No, Lyle.  Just let it play out this time… You don’t have to worry about that idiot, milk-sop my sister went and married.  He was just living proof that money, and business brains, don’t necessarily have to occupy the same body. You don’t have to worry about him. Not anymore.  I’ve taken good care of Mr Wendel ‘Bleeding heart’ Widget. I think we’re gonna have us a new election fer Mayor … real soon... Especially when I tell the whole town… how Wendel’s set on settling in Boston …with his widder Coleman and her two strapping sons and charming daughter …and of course …that he has no intention of ever coming back to this God forsaken backwater... or that batty sprog my sister popped out for him.”


“Yeah, that Mrs Coleman’s a real accommodating widder, ain’t she?” laughed the second hired muscle.  “Mayor Steadman Spencer … Has a real nice ring to it boss.”


Kid’s heart went out to the “Batty sprog” in question.


And Mary Beth got her first look at Jedediah ‘Kid’ Curry, the West’s most notorious gunslinger.


---oooOOOooo---



Scene 7 1,400 words

Hannibal Heyes

Alias

Joshua Smith


Heyes watched Kid and the love-struck Mary-Beth head off towards town.  He smiled knowingly at his younger cousin’s sigh of resignation, as he’d wise-cracked to the girl about keeping Kid out of trouble.  

This was his problem.
 
He was the one Brent had caught and jailed.  

This way Kid would get a chance for a beer after his long journey to Clearwater.

Something the Kid had said struck Heyes as very true.  Something he himself hadn’t thought of, and he berated himself for the lapse, never mind that he’d also gone without sleep for too long and food since yesterday’s breakfast.  

Of course, he couldn’t just ride off with Frankie in tow, how would that look!

He glanced at the town map provided by the class inmates.  He smiled at several landmarks, like ‘The best climbing tree’ and ‘Weird Harry lives here’, and noted that the path indicated for the getaway, skirted around what was marked as ‘Frankie’s House.’ A large swathe of white paper was all indication given of the layout of the grounds of said house.  

“Mmmmm” he mused, nodding to himself.

He smiled up at his little apprentice and mounted the horse behind her.

“You know, Frankie. When you planned your getaway through here… I think you forgot about the people in these houses.  They might come out into the yards and see you and your men riding off after the bank job.”

“Hmmmm” said Frankie, mirroring Heyes with a purse of her lips and an almost disappointed sigh. 

“We won’t be coming through here in the day time.  It will be very late at night.  I didn’t have time to write everything down in the school room, but we can put sacks on the horses’ hooves, and walk out through these houses, just like you did in Jonesborough, when you opened the Brooker 202, on May twelth.”

Heyes, sat behind the little font of all knowledge of his past crimes, and screwed up his eyes in thought. He was trying to think if he would have been able to remember the date of the Jonesborough bank robbery. 

Now she came to mention it, he thought it was in mid-May, a couple of years back, and he had decided on a stealthy exit from town through the small hamlet of houses, out to the West… 

The sheriff had headed off South, straight down the main trail.  The posse never even caught sight of them once. Newspapers had speculated for weeks how the Devils Hole Gang had mysteriously melted into thin air after the raid, until that is one small boy had come forward, to report that he’d seen a pack of silent, Ghost riders, cross his back yard that night. 

Heyes looked around him.  

Yes, this was a similar set up to Jonesborough.  He laughed at the yellow ribbon-ed, be-spectacled, criminal genius in front of him.

“Well if you’ll allow …a little finessing …to your plan, Frankie” he smiled.  “I think you should go into the bank as soon after closing as you can manage.  Give you time to work on the safe …and give your boys a chance to be a long way away by morning …when they discover the banks been hit.”

Frankie turned in the saddle and fixed Heyes with a withering look.

“Obviously” she stated flatly.  

“But no one will know the banks been robbed until they open the safe at eleven thirty on Thursday morning.  They never open the safe before Uncle Steadman and his guards get to the bank.  And Uncle Steadman never gets to the bank on collection day before eleven thirty.”

Heyes barked an incredulous laugh.

“Thursday morning?”

“Yes, because this Wednesday is when all Uncle Steadman’s money is put in the safe overnight.”

“This Wednesday?”

“Yes.”

Heyes shook his head into his hand thinking where were the Frankie’s of this World, when he was working so hard to pipe jobs for Devil’s Hole.  Risking bribing underpaid bank clerks and security guards.

“You really have thought about this, haven’t you?” He said at last. “How long have you been planning to rob your daddy’s bank, Frankie? And why would you even want to do that?”

Heyes carefully nudged the horse towards the front of the large manor house that dominated this part of Clearwater.

“Since Mummy died. Because I know I can be good at it.  I’m gonna show Daddy I’m not… a waste of education… I can be real good at something.  The best at something, like him.  My Daddy built the tunnel, and the track and the bridge that spans Brown water falls that everyone said was… near damn impossible... 

And my mummy told me,

He may not have a practical bone in his body when it comes to business, but he’s the best engineer on this continent… or any other… He’s the best there is …and I’m very proud of him and so should you be…  Don’t listen to grouchy old Uncle Steadman. He doesn’t have the vision your father has… to see what this country can become… he’s too busy looking down …into his pocket book!” 

Heyes raised his eyebrows at the profanity, but realised this kid had an uncanny knack of remembering people’s words verbatim.

“The Best?” he questioned, deciding to ignore it and pretending to sound just a little bruised by where that left him.

“Well” said Frankie turning to face him again. 

“You’re getting old, Hannibal Heyes, and you haven’t done a robbery, like you used to, in the Newspapers, not for ages.  I think when I grow up and be a famous outlaw …you won’t count.”

She shook her small head for emphasis.

“Oh…” nodded Heyes, trying to put a serious look on his face.

“Thank you.”

“For what?” asked Frankie, pulling the horses rein to take them round in an arc and head for the trail that skirted around the grounds of the mansion.

“For putting me right… on my future plans… Its time I gave way …and let you younger outlaws get a crack at my title” nodded Heyes, nudging the horse with his knees back to its original path.  

“I should go tell the Governor, I don’t want to be an outlaw no more… See if he can find me and kid an easier job… with regular pay… and soft beds… and a chance to settle down somewhere nice… like Clearwater …and start a family…”

With a sweetheart!” asked Frankie incredulously.

“Maybe…” mused Heyes, pulling to a stop in front of the Gates of Frankie’s House.

“Right now,” he sighed. 

“It’s time to return you to your family.  I got a good map here.  I’m sure I can find the Stumpery on my own.  Maybe I could cut off this corner by heading across your Daddy’s land.  Do you think that would be a possibility?”

Frankie looked around, almost startled to find herself so close to the gates of her own home.

“But…”

The argument trailed to nothing at a look from Heyes. 

She sighed out her disappointment, and slid off the horse.  She looked up towards the house with foreboding, then out across the rather wild swathe of ground that had once been her mother’s pride and joy, deep in thought. 

“My daddy’s in Boston with my new mummy and her children.  There’s just Trinni and Dankworth up at the house, and they do sleeping in the afternoon, and I’m not allowed to disturb them” she said sourly.

“Uncle Steadman sent Mr Maxwell away because…

Your mother oughtn’t ‘ve given Maxwell ideas like that… above his station …like he was part of the family… speakin’ out when it wasn’t his place… it was time fer him t’leave…

So, Mr Maxwell moved to the Stumpery …just ‘til my Daddy comes back from Boston… with the other… Misfits and nobodies… And he doesn’t look after Mummy’s garden like he used to anymore.  Uncle Steadman’s guards don’t hardly never leave the house, so I guess, it would be alright for you to go across the grounds …as long as you stay out of sight of the house.”

Her voice had been getting quieter and quieter, as she came to realise at some level, that the adventure was coming to an end, and that Hannibal Heyes was going to leave her to return to the house on her own.

Heyes felt he was being given a puzzle to solve.  One for which he only had half the pieces.  The look on this kid’s face when she looked at that huge house was heart-breaking. 

They were both quiet, reluctant to leave each other for several minutes. 

Eventually, it was Heyes who folded.

“Do you get to go play with your friend Fred… or visit with Mr Maxwell at the Stumpery… after school ….sometimes?” he asked her innocently.

“Ye….es” she said slowly. 

“They like it when I don’t come back till late…. I can’t …get under their feet… or be asking too many darn questions about when Daddy will be home.”

“Well then… don’t see why today should be any different.  In fact, how would that look if you turned up early from school today? Real suspicious …I would think… No, I think you should head on over to the Stumpery and find your good old friend Fred don’t you? You might even get a lift from your new teacher.”

Heyes held out a hand.  His eyes held a sincere invitation.

Frankie stood bamboozled again for just a second, then her eyes went big and round and Heyes caught a flash of a fleeting, real smile of joy on her face. He could hear Kid arguing against this move in his head,

It’s stupid Heyes… we can’t make a quick getaway …with an eight-year-old in tow… and she’s Wendel Widget’s daughter!

But, Heyes knew that, that brief smile had made the risk worth it.


---oooOOOooo---


Scene 8, 1,300words

Frankie

I’m kinda glad Hannibal Heyes is not normal and a bit confused. 

First, he took me home and said I should go to the house.  Then he forgot he’d said that, and said I should go and visit Mr Maxwell and Fred Janx over at the Stumpery and I could ride with him.

It’s confusing.  

And he wanted to go through Mummy’s garden, instead of using the easy trail, which is silly, but I don’t want him to change his mind again, so I didn’t say it would take a lot awful lot longer, especially on a horse.  

He was happy to go this way. I don’t mind how long it takes to get to the Stumpery, as long as we’re going there.
I haven’t been through Mummy’s garden for a very long time.  

When I said goodbye to Daddy.  We just looked at the garden.  Daddy did staring out to Mummy’s tower, but we didn’t try to go there.  There are a lot of thorns and holes and things now.  

Daddy said,

“When I get back Little Lady, I’ll bring me a whole parcel of gardeners with me… and we’ll finish making your mothers maze, and I’ll plant you an orchard full of fruit trees … just like she wanted… and them pink flower bushes she liked… you just see if I don’t.  And we’ll build us a real tower, from stone, not just wood… with a spiral staircase like in one of your books … and you shall be queen of all you can survey.”

Daddy went to build a new tunnel for his railroad, and no parcels have arrived since he’s been gone, so I guess he couldn’t find any gardeners.  It alright though because I didn’t want to be a Queen. 

I’m going to be an outlaw.

Uncle Steadman said I was wrong, when I said I saw Daddy, in my room, by my bed, when it was dark.  Uncle Steadman said I must have dreamt it, because I never stop asking questions, all day, every damn day, about when Daddy’s going to come home.  Uncle Steadman said Daddy found a new family, with a new mummy, in Boston and he’d probably forgotten that he’d left a little something behind.


Uncle Steadman is wrong about that.
 
My Daddy can’t forget about things, not even little things.  I heard him doing shouting at Uncle Steadman, he said

You think I can just forget about something like this! What you’ve done.  I’m afraid that’s just not possible! I’m only glad that my Emma wasn’t here to see this.  She warned me about you…”

It was dark. 

I don’t think I was dreaming like Uncle Steadman said because I was at the top of the big stairs and it was very cold.  I do dreaming when I go to sleep, in bed.

But I was wrong about Daddy being at home because he wasn’t there in the morning.  He must have gone back to Boston, to do sweet-hearting with my new mummy, like Uncle Steadman’s guard Mr Lyle said.

We’re nearly at the maize already. 

I don’t know why my mummy wanted to grow maize in her garden.  There are fields and fields of maize around here.  Maybe she wanted to do stilling, like Fred’s Pa.

Hannibal Heyes’ horse has tripped up over the strings, and a thorn bush, and I don’t think it will be able to walk much further this way.  Maybe I should try to explain to Hannibal Heyes that there’s a perfectly good trail around the outside of Mummy’s garden.

But…

There is Mr Maxwell’s spade... and someone’s been doing digging.  

Maybe Uncle Steadman has realised Daddy is going to do shouting again, when I tell him Uncle Steadman told Mr Maxwell to leave. 

Maybe Mr Maxwell has come to do mummy’s garden because Daddy forgot to send a parcel.

I do jumping off the horse, because I can run much faster than the horse and I can do jumping over the strings.

Mummy and Mr Maxwell and Me, we did the strings.

Mummy said,

“If my baby girl wants straight lines and towers, then my baby girl shall have straight lines and towers. We shall have a maze, like no other… You run to the top of the tower Emelda-Francesca, and shout out when we’ve got the lines just right…”

My mummy was the only one that ever called me Emelda-Francesca because that was my name.

The tower is just a platform really with a ladder.  If I climb that I will see Mr Maxwell.  Hannibal Heyes pulls at my arm, but I want to see Mr Maxwell.  

I want to climb the ladder.

Hannibal Heyes isn’t nice. 

He’s put a nasty glove over my face and he’s doing snatching, and hugging, and I don’t want him to, so I do kicking. 

I want to see Mr Maxwell.

I want to see Daddy. 

I want to see mummy.


---oooOOOooo---

I don’t remember how I got back on the horse, but Hannibal Heyes is whispering in my ear.  He’s saying,

“Shhh now… Shhh now… you starting to be able to breathe a little better now, huh, kid? That’s it…  nice and easy does it … Guess you had a bit of a shock back there, huh? Got to say, I did to… Not every day you come across a freshly dug… well … don’t you go giving that any mind now … Just try ‘n’ breathe easy… In slow… that’s it …and out slow… That’s better now, isn’t it? 

I thought your heart was going to jump right out of your chest. 

You want to find Mr Maxwell, right? Well alright-ey, I think that’s a good idea… I want to see Mr Maxwell myself… Think I got me a whole parcel of questions for Mr Maxwell.”

Now Hannibal Heyes is talking about parcels. 

It’s confusing.

“We’re back following the map… now …see,” he says.  “We’re back on the trail… I think this way’s easier on the horse, don’t you?  But I’m going t’ be needing your help knowing where to turn off… see… it just says here … turn up ‘where the Crane twins broke a toe’ … Well… I don’t know where that is.”

I tell him I’m doing breathing.  

I tell him that I was right that the trail was the best way to go, and that the …other way was just silly… and I tell him that I will show him where the Crane twins broke a toe, but I don’t like him holding me and I know how to stay on a horse all by myself.
 
He says,

“OK… Just as long as you don’t go taking off again… Yes… I get it…OK …alright… Here …you take the reins then… I see you’re feeling better now, huh?”

I tell him I am, but I don’t say anymore.  I want to do quiet and I want to clean my glasses, because they have gone all dirty.


---oooOOOooo---

He does whistling when I take the horse into the trees past the big rock, and it gets very dark. 

He says,

"So... this here's the way to your outlaw hideout, huh..."

I told him we're going to the Stumpery. 

I have cleaned my glasses and it is not difficult to find the Stumpery if you know where it is. 

Mr Maxwell says,

“Iffn you don’t know where it is… you might as well go seek a hole in Steadman Spencer’s wallet.”

I’ve looked at Uncle Spencer’s wallet.  It doesn’t have a hole in it.

Mr Maxwell lives in the first big stump of the Stumpery.  Fred Janx is waiting for us with Mr Maxwell.

Fred shouts,

“Didn’t I tell you? Didn’t I tell you!?!”


---oooOOOooo---


(scene 9 1,450 words)

Jed Curry

Jed ‘Kid’ Curry walked alongside Mary- Beth to the outskirts of town.  He’d been asking her what she knew of Frankie’s Pa.  

Mary-Beth didn’t know much:

Just that he was almost as …different… as Frankie.  

Once she’d seen him giving a speech, and stop right in the middle of talking, and take off, to go write down something important, about the next bridge or tunnel or something he’d been working on, and just left all the towns folk standing in the street.  But he was well enough liked, and of course almost famous, to be voted town Mayor for four years straight.  

He was always away a lot, but since he buried his wife, Mr Maxwell said, he’d darn near managed to bury himself too, in his engineering work.  Left Spencer to manage the mine.  Now, Spencer says, he’s been off courting a widder lady up in Boston, and it don’t rightly sound like he’s ever planning t’come back to Clearwater at all.  
Mary-Beth supposed that Wendel Widget would send for Frankie when the wedding was all done and dusted, on account of Frankie not liking too many people around her, making a fuss.

Kid listened intently.  

It didn’t quite match up to what he thought he’d heard in Steadman Spencer’s words.  Sounded to him, like Wendel Widget wouldn’t be wearing a wedding suit any time soon, not unless Spencer had had the decency to bury him next to his wife, in one. 

“What do you know about Steadman Spencer back there then, Mary-Beth?” he asked as he handed her up onto the horse and climbed up behind her.  

“He seems like a whole other kind of person.”

Mary-Beth said nothing for a while, taking the reins and guiding the big black gelding towards the tree line.  Then, when they were a little clear of any prying ears she spat out,

“He’s the reason Mrs Laidlaw and her two young’uns are dead, sure as if he took a gun and shot them his self!”

The venom in the words, from such a meek creature as Mary-Beth, took Kid by surprise. 

“How …do yer make that out?” he asked kindly, putting a calming smile in his voice.

“Well… he sacked Mr Laidlaw last Fall... right before a real hard Winter… and Pa… and Cress Jenkins… and old Mr Sparrow… He knew Mr Sparrow was too old to find another job… And he just told Mr Maxwell he wasn’t welcome at the big house… and Mr Maxwell is definitely too old to survive any kind of winter at the Stumpery… It’s as good as murder, is what it is… There’s been others too… but …some left to find work elsewhere… even tho’ Pa told them… to bide their time… Steadman Spencer is riding for a fall… a big one!”

Mary-Beth twisted in the saddle to nod this last, with her chin jutting out in defiance.  She suddenly looked mortified at her own boldness, and twisted back and seemed to sink into the horse’s neck. 

“Pa says… it will all be different …when Mr Widget comes back…” she said quietly, but Kid suspected that Mary-Beth was only just realising what Spencer had said back in town.

Wendel Widget wasn’t coming back.

Her shoulders slumped even further.  Kid lifted a gloved hand and patted one of her shoulders in reassurance. 
He didn’t feel it was enough.

He didn’t feel like asking anymore questions.


---oooOOOooo---

When they got in under the trees, he let his eyes close for a bit.  Mary-Beth guided the horse, and he knew that if he waited just a few minutes, his vision would adjust from the bright sunshine, and he could start looking out for land marks. 

He also shut his eyes on his partner’s voice.

Heyes was in his head, saying

“There you go again… what is it with you and lost causes? … You can’t afford to get involved… not this time… Brent knows who I am …and we got to leave Clearwater… NOW!”

But Kid couldn’t stop himself pondering the girl’s plight.

He felt like someone had handed him a puzzle, but only given him half the pieces.  The desperate men he’d …seen …on the road into town, the girl and her hungry family hiding out here in the woods, Spencer telling his henchman that he’d taken care of Widget.  

It all added up to ugly.  And wrong.

And, Heyes was right, he couldn’t afford to get involved, yet somehow, he knew that he already was.

The trees were getting taller and wider in girth, the closer they came to the base of the ridge.  More light was beginning to filter down to the forest floor, then suddenly, a glade opened up with sunshine pouring in all around them. 

Several ancient tree stumps, the size of small cabins, were in the glade.  They had make shift rooves and rough shaped doors. The biggest even had a window on one side.  Between two was strung an old wagon sheet to provide shade for the family sat out around a cooking fire.

The mother stood where she’d been stooped over the pot on the fire and stretched her back.  She shaded her eyes and strained to see the horse emerging from the shadows.  Alarmed, she quickly shooed the surrounding brood into the stump house and reached for an old shot gun leaning against the door.

Mary-Beth jumped from the horse and ran to greet her with the big sack of apples clutched to her breast.  
By the time, Kid dismounted and looked for some grass to picket his horse, the family were gathered around Mary-Beth, chattering loudly and staring in wonder at the sack of apples, the shot gun forgotten.

“Mr Jones… this here’s Mrs Jenkins… Mr Jones” introduced Mary-Beth as kid approached the group.  

The woman wiped her hands on her apron and then, thought better of offering a hand to shake.  She stood tall and greeted him civilly, though she still eyed the stranger warily.

“Ma’am” he said, lifting his hat rim.  “I’m very glad to make your acquaintance. I’ll be meeting with my Partner here …in just a little while…”

Kid stared around the glade, not seeing his partner.

“…and then we’ll be moving right along” he assured her.

Mary-Beth let out a little disappointed sigh, that Mrs Jenkin’s smiled at looking again at the handsome young man the girl had rode in with.  She thought maybe, she should calculate his age again, on the short side.  It wasn’t easy to guess anyone’s age in these hard times.  People had to grow up fast.  Seems Mary-Beth was growing up a little too fast.

“Well… Chores won’t do themselves…” she said, finding a knowing smile for Kid.  

“Thank you kindly for the apples, Son.  The young’uns don’t see much fresh grub these days… So… that was very kindly of you…” 

She filled these words with just enough question that Kid may have had an ulterior motive. 

“If you just want to go wait your friend …over there….” 

She pointed back towards his horse.

“I’ll be sure and fetch you over some nice fresh water …soon as Bridget gets back from the Clearwater.”

Mary-Beth looked shocked.

“Momma’s fetching water… all on her own… I better go help…” she called over her shoulder, already walking to the far side of the glade. 

“There’s seven apples Mrs Jenkins… I brought one for everyone… including little Homer…”

Mrs Jenkins looked at the nearest stump house, and her eyes closed in prayer for just a second. 

Kid caught the look and guessed that ‘little Homer’ wasn’t well enough to eat apples. 

Something needed saying.  

He glanced back at his horse. The saddle, and his pack, lay across the log he’d been invited to wait on.

“Er … Mrs Jenkins… If you’d like …I got some new coffee in my pack... and some water in my canteen… if you’d like…”

The woman came back from whatever dread Mary-Beth’s innocent words had sent her to, and she eyed the young man again as if she’d only just registered his presence.  

Then his words, penetrated her distraction.

“Oh… sonny… It’s been so long since I tasted proper coffee… I’d walk through an Apache camp … nekkid… to get my hands on a cup!” 

Kid barked with laughter, and not a little shock.  

Yep, something needed saying to release the tension, and that did it.  

He quickly got a pot of coffee brewing on the fire and with the return of the water carriers, Mrs Jenkins, Mary-Beth’s very pregnant Mother and Kid, sat in the shade of the Wagon Sheet, drinking their fresh coffee while Mary-Beth counted out the apples to the children. 

Apples for Fred and Homer remained in the sack.


---oooOOOooo---


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The New Teacher Part Two #1 (5,700 words)
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