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 Settling Wheat – Part Fourteen (Gruber)

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MoulinP

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Age : 56
Location : Norfolk, England

PostSubject: Settling Wheat – Part Fourteen (Gruber)   Sun Jul 09, 2017 1:40 pm

Settling Wheat – Part Fourteen (Gruber)


“How long ya been a federal marshal?” the Kid asked, hoping making conversation would help pass the time as he and Gruber rode to Hardy City.


The Kid saw Gruber stiffen at the question.


“Why d’you want to know?” came the clipped reply.


The Kid shrugged and grinned. “Jus’ making conversation that’s all? Bet ya work on all kinda strange cases huh? Y’know in your line of work.”


“Some.” Gruber looked away. “Can’t talk about it. Government business.”


The Kid narrowed his eyes and frowned. Something wasn’t sitting right and he couldn’t place what it was. There had been nothing out of the ordinary yesterday when they first met, other than the irritation of the man writing everything down. Heyes had explained that to him and he accepted the explanation. Yet today the man was silent and if the Kid wasn’t mistaken, nervous. If they were gonna work together, the Kid needed to know why that may be. So, he pushed a little harder.


“D’ya work all over? Or just Wyoming?”


Gruber licked his lips. “Just Wyoming.”


The Kid nodded. “Enough work to keep ya busy then? Just Wyoming?”


“For now.”


The Kid frowned harder. For a long time he had been adept at getting folks to shut up. Well one  particular folk anyway. Now he was used to drawing folks out. Clients wanted his help but sometimes they were reluctant to open up to him in case he thought they were being silly. Judging by the success he was making of his business, he had perfected the art. However, this was a different situation and required another approach. Frantically he racked his brains in order to keep the conversation going.


“I’ve known a few federal marshals in my time,” he said, idly. “Mind you, it was a while back. Might be retired or dead by now for all I know. You ever hear of ole Marshal Walker? He worked outta Cheyenne for a spell. Oh, no wait. Mighta been Denver. Or was it …. ?”


“Mr Jones, if you don’t mind, let’s just ride without the chatter.” Gruber trotted his horse forward a few yards to make the point.


The Kid shrugged. “Sure. Whatever ya say, Marshal,” he muttered, curiosity aroused even further.


He obediently rode behind the marshal in silence for a few miles.


Then two miles outside of Hardy City, Gruber drew rein and stopped. He waited for the Kid to catch up.


“Mr Jones, I’m not sure I fully understand why Sheriff Trevors has kept you deputised. I know you helped bring in those two men who kidnapped your employee so I understand he was making it official that night. What I don’t understand is why you went with him to see Sam Flixton or why you’re STILL a deputy. It’s highly unusual to keep someone casually deputised like that still a deputy without a specific reason. I get that Sheriff Trevors thinks you’ll be useful to me in these negotiations with Mr Flixton but he was almost insistent that you came along today. That has me more’n a little curious. Now why d’you suppose that is?”


The Kid grinned as he rode up and stopped. “So ya wanna talk now?” he said, pointedly and then not expecting an answer followed up. “Lom knows Sam’s a cautious man. If ya want co-operation from Sam then I can vouch for you. Sam knows me and knows the company I keep. Anyone can pin on a tin star and call themselves a federal marshal, Marshal.”


In answer, Gruber kicked his horse forward. Whether Gruber accepted that explanation, the Kid couldn’t tell. So this time, the Kid kept pace, casting sideways glances at his travelling companion every now and then.


“I think I’ve figured it out,” he mused.


“Figure what out?”


“You.”


Gruber shook his head, dismissively. “No you ain’t.”


The Kid pursed his lips and looked round. To his right scratching around in the undergrowth he spotted a couple of ring-necked pheasants. They were juveniles and hadn’t taken flight at the sound of horses approaching. He wondered how Gruber would react if … . The Kid drew his Colt unnoticed by Gruber, took aimed and fired two quick shots. Two squawks, a flutter of feathers and two ex-ring-necked pheasants lay on the ground.


Gruber fought his startled horse, whipping it round to see what had caused the gunfire.


“What the hell … ?” he started, looking horrified, angry and scared all at the same time. His hand
had closed on the grip but he hadn’t drawn his gun. As soon as he’d touched it, he had flinched away. A fact that hadn’t gone unnoticed by the Kid.


The Kid beamed, pleased that he had made the shots, twirled the Colt with his legendary flourish and dismounted with a pat to Blackie’s neck. After what had happened to Heyes, he had taken a risk that he might have scared the unpredictable horse. But no, he just sidestepped the once and tossed his head in protest. Good as gold.


“Dinner,” he declared as he tramped off into the undergrowth to retrieve an evening meal. Probably best if they were hung for several days, he mused. Taste better, he added, surprising himself at how refined his palate now was.


By the time he re-joined the trail, Gruber had his horse under control.


“Did you have to do that?!” he yelled.


“Nope,” the Kid answered, reaching into his saddlebags for lengths of latigo. “Opportunity too good to miss though.”


“Well next time … .”


“There won’t be a next time,” the Kid interrupted, attending to what he was doing. “These’ll be plenty to feed three adults and three little children. Joshua ain’t eatin’ much at the moment.”


Gruber sniffed and sat his horse waiting for the Kid to finish tying the feet and wings of the birds. As he did so, the Kid noted that Gruber was trying to calm his breathing without appearing to do so. Yep definitely something up alright. A few minutes later, he had finished and the birds safely wrapped in oilskin and tied on the back.


“Alrighty, let’s get on,” the Kid said, mounting up.


Gruber eyed him suspiciously, as the Kid fell into step beside him. His gaze fell on the sidearm the Kid had used to dispatch the two unfortunate birds. A model of Colt that was a few years old. In a holster that was worn with use but again looked a few years old.


“That was er pretty good shooting, Mr Jones.”

The Kid grinned. “Awh! That weren’t nothing. I’m a little outta practice. Surprised I hit ‘em at all first try. Figured I’d just get ‘em in the air and get ‘em there.” Which would be the harder shot, the Kid thought. Would Gruber pick up on that?


Gruber nodded. The Kid rolled his eyes. Apparently not.


“Sheriff Trevors said you live in Boston and you’re here visiting a sick relative?” Gruber asked, slowly.


“That’s right. ‘Cept he ain’t sick. Well sick of being in bed I suppose. He had an accident. Busted his arm and foot so he’s stuck in bed. Hopes to be up in a day or two if the doc lets him,” the Kid said, pleasantly. He wanted to keep the conversation going in case Gruber let something slip. The Kid had a feeling he might. He had his suspicions about Gruber.


“And then you’ll be going back?”


“Kinda like to get this settled first. Hate mysteries, don’t you?”


Gruber nodded. The Kid went on.


“Hope we get this sorted quickly though. My wife’s in the er family way. Be our third. Sure was torn ‘bout coming all the way out here.”


Gruber frowned. “Then why involve yourself any further? I’m back to my original question, Mr Jones. Why did Sheriff Trevors deputise you? AND who is this … Walter Brown?”


The Kid smiled. “Like I said, I’ve met Sam Flixton before. I can help ya if I come along. Lom knows er Brown. He’s helped out with a few jobs before. Good man.” The Kid paused. “Marshal Gruber if ya don’t mind me saying so, ya seem right suspicious of men trying to help ya do ya job.”


“Men who aren’t trained lawmen. This is a delicate operation and should be handled carefully. If it goes wrong … .” Gruber bit off what he was about to say.


Yeah that’s why I’m going along, the Kid thought. Then he had it.


“This ya first case?” he asked, suddenly.


Gruber gritted his teeth.


“All on ya own?”


Gruber chewed his lip.


“Without supervision?”


Gruber took a deep breath and looked away.


“Ha! Ha!” the Kid laughed, triumphantly. “That’s it isn’t it? You’re a greenhorn!”


“I’m in constant touch with my superiors,” Gruber forced out.


The Kid was laughing hard. Partially at his own expense, for being so slow. Then he sobered
quickly. That was wrong of him and Gruber was looking distinctly uncomfortable.


“I’m sorry, Marshal. I guess lawmen have to learn the ropes like anyone else. They don’t just appear one day fully experienced.”


“No, Mr Jones, we don’t,” Gruber conceded.


“Well Marshal now we’re getting somewhere. I’ve been deputised before y’know and I know a thing or two ‘bout the workings of the law.” Mentally the Kid crossed his fingers at that point.


“But you live in Boston?”


“That’s now. Ain’t always. Lived a lot of my life so far in Wyoming. Almost a local.”


Gruber nodded. “So er you’ve been a deputy before? In Wyoming?”


The Kid shook his head. “No, never in Wyoming no. Here and there though. My partner and me. Why one time, down in Big Ben, New Mexico, Smith and me had to escort two bank robbers back to Junction City where they’d robbed the bank. Caught the rest of the gang trying to rescue their friends along the way. Ended up bringing all four of ‘em in. How’s that for luck, huh?”


Gruber smiled weakly. “Is it Smith who you’re visiting?”


“That’s him. He owns the Hardware Store in Porterville these days.”


“And it’s his plan you say?”


Gruber said it casually but it came out sounding suspicious. Or, at least it did to the Kid. Old habits reasserting themselves? Must be being out West again, he thought. Might be best to play it down a little. He grinned. “He’s a reader. Always got his nose stuck in a book. Dunno how he finds time to run a business with all that readin’. Guess he musta read something similar and thought he could make use of it. Pretty good plan, huh?”


&&&&&&&&&&&&


Sam Flixton stood behind his desk, arms akimbo. Marshal Gruber and Deputy Jones had outlined Heyes’ plan to him. He shook his head.


“I’m sorry gentlemen, you’ve had a wasted journey. I’ve decided not to put in a complaint against Jeremiah Curry.” He sat down looking nervous.


“Now Mr Flixton …,” Gruber began.


“Sam it isn’t Jeremiah we want to get in all this. It’s Nathan Bloodstone. He’s the dirty one. Bloodstone is just using poor Jeremiah,” the Kid interrupted, receiving a look of irritation from Gruber.


Sam took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Yes I can see that but I just don’t know … .”


“Regardless of whether ya put in a complaint or not, the threats are still gonna keep happening. And they will only get worse. Believe me. I’ve seen it happen before. Someone could get hurt an’ I know ya don’t want that do ya, Sam?”


Sam looked worried. He felt torn in half. Looking at the two lawmen in front of him, he knew they were right. Bloodstone should be stopped. If not now, then there would be other crooked land deals. Innocent people could get hurt. Perhaps lose everything. Sam shook his head. He was a quiet man. He just wanted to get on with his life. Run his own business. Take care of his family and employees without interference. And this was interference.


“No gentlemen, I’m not going to make a complaint,” he said, firmly.


“Mr Flixton, if you don’t then we can’t investigate Bloodstone,” said Gruber. “All we’ll have is a suspicion.”


As far as Gruber was aware, there was no other Curry dimension. It might come out eventually, perhaps in court, but until then the Kid wanted to keep this simple. All Gruber knew was that the kidnap of Paul Cowdry, coupled with a casual conversation with the editor of the Porterville Bugle had led in the same direction. To Jeremiah Curry and Nathan Bloodstone. When the Porterville sheriff had brought the matter to the federal authorities, the later, already a person of interest became the reason for Gruber being here.


“Sam, Jeremiah leads us to Bloodstone. We need to get him. There is no other way.”


Sam groaned and covered his face with his hands. “I make paper! I’m not a detective!”


“Ya don’t need to be Sam. We’re doing the detecting.” The Kid flicked his hand between himself and Gruber. “If ya don’t make a complaint then this will jus’ go on and on until something serious happens but as Gruber says by having the complaint in place, it does allow us to continue our investigations. All we’re asking for is a little bit of help. There’s no risk to you.”


“Can you guarantee that?”


The Kid and Gruber swapped glances. Nothing was certain of course.


“Mr Flixton, we have our eyes on Curry. We’ll know what his next move will be before he makes it.”


The Kid had been about to say something similar. He was surprised by what Gruber had said. Gruber was making a huge assumption that Wheat would make contact with Jeremiah Curry and gain his confidence that easily. He was putting a lot of trust in a man he’d never met and whose involvement he was suspicious of in any case.


Sam sat back and folded his arms. The expression on his face told them both that he was experiencing an almost physical pain. Finally he sat forward again, rested his elbows on the desk and his chin in his hands. Eyes closed, he let out a long shaky breath.


“You want me to write you a formula that will fool Jeremiah Curry into thinking he has learnt how I use fibrous talc?” Sam swallowed nervously. Opening his eyes, he saw the Kid and Gruber nod.

“And make a complaint against him. That’s all?”


“Yeah pretty much,” the Kid smiled, pleasantly and looked at Gruber. He was in charge after all. Gruber nodded.


Gruber and the Kid watched in embarrassment at the agony on Sam’s face. It seemed a long time before that man shook his head. “I’m sorry gentlemen I just can’t do it. I like Jeremiah and I’m sure we can work this out between us. I’ll er … go see him. In a day or two.” He scrapped back his chair and got up. “Now please excuse me, gentlemen. I have work to do.” He almost ran out of the room.


The two remaining men looked at each other. They had tried but failed.
 


&&&&&&&&&&&&


Gruber and the Kid rode back towards Porterville in silence each lost in the own thoughts. Then suddenly Gruber spoke,


“Mr Jones, I don’t think you’re who you say you are.”


“No? Who d’ya think I am?”


“I don’t know. I haven’t figured that out yet but I’m working on it.”


The Kid shrugged. “When ya figure it out let me know. Folks have been calling me Thaddeus Jones for years. I hate to think they’ve all been wrong.”


Gruber looked at him. “Oh I will, Mr Jones. I surely will.”


&&&&&&&&&&&&


Ben had finally declared the plaster dry. Heyes was eager to get out of bed but found he dizziness frustrated him at his first attempt to stand up. It was several minutes before the feeling passed and he could try again. Eventually Ben and Mary were able to manoeuvre him into an armchair.


Heyes had wanted to go a little further. Out of this room at least. It was beginning to feel like a prison cell. Comfortably appointed but a prison cell all the same. Ben had thought otherwise. Moving from the bed and the few steps across the room to the chair was enough for a first day out of bed. Once Ben and Mary had left him to read, Heyes decided that the decision should have been his. After all, he knew how he felt and what he was capable of didn’t he? Feeling the call of nature, he’d briefly considered the chamber pot and glared at the commode still taunting him with its convenience (no pun intended), but they were only passing thoughts. Instead, he crutched his way slowly along the landing, keeping an eye out for Mary, as keenly as ever he had for a posse. Mission accomplished. By the time he was halfway back he was reconsidering the wisdom of this little trek. The bathroom was further away than he remembered and crutching along was more difficult and awkward than it had seemed at first.


Then Mary caught him. At first, he tried to bluff his way out. Saying he was fine and could walk miles. All to no avail. He had never been able to con Mary and it soon became apparent that he wasn’t fine. If Cowdry hadn’t come along at that moment, Heyes would have collapsed on the landing in an undignified heap.


Back in the bedroom, despite Mary’s insistence he get back into bed, Heyes returned to the chair, promising to be good. Left alone again, he reflected on his little trip. It hadn’t been entirely successful. He realised that he shouldn’t have done it. Before he knew it, exhaustion over took him and he fell asleep.


Which is how the Kid found him, startling him awake.


“Sorry Heyes didn’t mean to wake ya.”


“S’okay,” Heyes mumbled, knuckling his eye. “I wasn’t asleep,” he yawned.


The Kid grinned and flopped into a chair. “Came to tell ya how we got on with Sam today.”


Heyes wasn’t fully awake. “Sam? Oh yeah Sam. How did it go?”


“Not so good.”


Heyes widened his eyes. He was still trying to wake up. “No?” he yawned again. “What um … ?”

He cleared his throat and frowned. “What did Sam say?”


“He’s not gonna make a complaint.”


“That’s … .”


“I know Heyes, we tried to persuade him. Told him ya plan. How it was Bloodstone we were after not Jeremiah.” He paused, shaking his head. “I don’t understand the man. He said he was going to go talk to Jeremiah an’ try and work it out between them. Try an’ reason with him I guess. But there may not be time for that. He don’t understand the full picture Heyes and I don’t think he wants to.” He paused looking at Heyes sadly. “He’s gotta come round soon Heyes. Wheat sent a telegram. He’s made contact with Jeremiah Curry. Sounds as though he’s gonna be making a trip out to Flixton’s Mill.”


“That was quick,” Heyes said, sounding surprised.


“Gruber and me are ridin’ up there tonight to meet Wheat just outsida town.” He rubbed a hand over his face wearily. “All this ridin’ around … . How did we used to do this Heyes? I’m beat.”


Heyes smiled and nodded. “Yeah I know what you mean. It’s wearing me out just listening to you.”


The Kid gave him the look and then noticed something. “Hey ya outta bed.”


Heyes grinned. “Ye-ah. Wondered when you’d notice that. And I’ve been all the way to the bathroom and back,” he added, showing off.


The Kid grinned and gave Heyes’ shoulder a shake. “That’s just great partner.” Then he sobered.

“I think I might have a problem with Gruber,” he said, slowly. He winced. “Well two kinda.”


“What d’you mean?”


“He’s suspicious.”


“Of who?”


“Me!” The Kid leaned forward in his chair. “He’s a greenhorn, Heyes. First trip out without a nanny an’ if I’m not mistaken he thinks I’ve been sent to check up on him.”


Heyes grinned ruefully. “Well you are kinda aren’t you?”


“I’m just making sure that this goes okay. So that it all works out right in the end.”


“In your favour?”


“Yeah, in my favour if I can,” the Kid conceded. He sighed. “I dunno Heyes. This is tricky enough as it is but now I’ve gotta nursemaid a baby lawman.” He shook his head in despair.


“You’re equal to it Kid.”


The Kid grunted doubtfully. “Could do without it Heyes.”


“Kid, Gruber is the least of your problems. Wheat going to see Sam, that’s your problem.” Heyes paused and looked reluctant to say anything further. “You know how he can be. You’ve gotta be there to stop Wheat from being … overzealous.”


The Kid dropped his heads in his hands with a groan. Heyes gave him a look of sympathy.


“I wish there was more I could do to help Kid. I’m afraid this is all on you.”


The Kid looked up. “I know Heyes. Having ya awake and that ole brain of yours working is a big help. Believe me.” He smiled and gave Heyes’ arm a shake. 


&&&&&&&&&&&&


In the dark, Wheat thought he heard horses. The Kid he was expecting but he assumed he’d come alone. Remaining in the cover of darkness for now might be wise until he was sure one of the riders was the Kid.


The riders dismounted, tied their horses to the hitching rail and cautiously stepping up onto the porch.


Hidden around the side of the cabin, Wheat drew his gun. He’d stashed his horse some yards away in the woods and approached the derelict cabin on foot. Even though this was a legitimate rendezvous, he was still a wanted man and it always paid to be cautious. 


“Walter?”


That did sound like the Kid. Wheat edged closer to the corner of the building in the hope that he could see for sure.


“Walter, I know ya here.”


It was the Kid. Wheat was sure now but he didn’t know who the other fella was. He stepped round the corner slowly and quietly.


“Is there someone here?” the other voice asked, in a whisper.


The Kid gave a small chuckle. “Oh yes.” Then louder. “Walter, it’s me. Stop foolin’ around. We ain’t got all night!”


“Well now Kid, I ain’t foolin’. I’s just gotta be wary. Ya coulda been anyone,” Wheat said, stepping out of the shadows, and holstering his gun.


The Kid grinned but his companion jumped, as the shadow coalesced into Wheat. If he wasn’t mistaken, the other fella almost darted for cover behind the Kid. Wheat puffed up; his full intimidating mode was already working.


“Howdy, Walter,” the Kid grasped his hand, gave him a hearty handshake and pulled Wheat closer. “It’s Jones,” he hissed.


“Jones,” Wheat acknowledged, turning it into a greeting.


“And this is, Gruber.” Mischievously, the Kid waited until the two men were shaking hands before adding. “Federal Marshal Gruber. Marshal, Walter Brown.”


There was enough light for the Kid to see Wheat’s face take on a look of pain as if the hand he was shaking had suddenly become red hot.


“Marshal,” Wheat growled and sending a look in the Kid’s direction, that told of his displeasure.


“You have news, Brown?” Gruber asked.


“Ye-ah,” Wheat confirmed and looked at the Kid before he continued.


The Kid nodded. “Marshal Gruber’s been sent from Cheyenne to investigate, Walter. He’s leading this operation now.” The Kid widened his eyes. Yes, really, he nodded in Wheat’s direction.


Wheat didn’t look convinced and the Kid nodded again. Wheat drew himself up and hitched his pants. “Well here’s what I found out so far. I’s were lucky. I overhead Curry and that Nathan Bloodstone talkin’ in the saloon. Seems like they were still in the market for a spot of intimidation doing. So when Bloodstone left, I approached Curry and I er volunteered my services shall we say. He snatched my hand right off. Curry has engaged me to lean kinda heavy like on Flixton so ya best tell ‘im to expect me in the mornin’ Kid er … Jones.”


“What are you gonna do, Brown?” Gruber asked, sharply.


Before Wheat could answer, the Kid spoke. “That’s alright, Marshal. We’ll go see Sam again tomorrow. We’ll just make sure we’re there afore Walter arrives that’s all. There won’t be no leanin’, heavy or otherwise. We jus’ have to make Curry believe there has been, that’s all. That’s alright, Walter, isn’t it?” The Kid looked pointedly at Wheat.


Wheat sniffed and looked disappointed. “That’s right. There won’t be a hair harmed on Flixton’s head. Ya can count on me to play this straight er Marshal.” Wheat glanced nervously at the Kid. He didn’t like the way this federal marshal was looking at him. Kinda suspicious like. It didn’t occur to him that he looked suspicious.


“You’d better, Brown. Jones and me are close to convincing Flixton to go along with this. He don’t need no upsetting. Did er … did he ask ya to do anything else?”


“Like what?” Wheat frowned. “He didn’t want me to kill him if that’s what you’re asking. I don’t hold with that Marshal. That ain’t my game.” He looked to the Kid for reassurance, who nodded.


“I know what the Marshal is trying’ to say, Walter. If Smith is right, did Curry mention a safe?”


Wheat sniffed. “Yeah he did.” He rubbed his chin. “I said I might know someone. Didn’t go into any details like. Didn’t wanna play all ma cards at once did I?”


“Good thinkin’ Walter,” the Kid smiled.


“Did Curry say what he wanted? And who’s safe did he have in mind?” Gruber asked, eagerly.


Wheat shook his head. “Naw! He ain’t stupid enough to say what he wanted but it’s somethin’ in Flixton’s safe alright. I said I’d introduce him to someone I considered suitable, tomorrow night. Will ya man be ready by then?”


The Kid licked his lips. He hadn’t mentioned anything to Cowdry yet. He had been hoping that the need for him to impersonate Hannibal Heyes wouldn’t arise. Apparently it now had.


“I’d better go with Brown,” said Gruber, before the Kid could speak.


“NO!” the Kid and Wheat chorused.


“Beggin’ ya pardon, Marshal but you don’t look like a safe breaker to me,” Wheat said, a little too quickly.


“And just what does a safe breaker look like Mr Brown?” Gruber demanded.


The Kid grinned. “What Walter means, Marshal is ya don’t look … .” The Kid looked Gruber up and down as he thought of a description. “Er shifty enough.”


Gruber scowled. “D’you know a safe breaker?” he snapped, realising he was losing any semblance of control over this situation.


“We don’t need a safe breaker, Marshal. We just need someone who can play a safe breaker,” the Kid said hoping to defuse the suspicious looks flying about all around him.


“Exactly. Then I can … ,” Gruber began.


“No Marshal with respect, it ain’t you.”


“Naw! Ya wouldn’t be convincing enough. ‘Sides his man looks like Heyes. Jus’ in case Curry checks ‘im out.”


“Heyes?”


The Kid and Wheat swapped glances. This was another detail in the plan that the Kid and Lom decided Gruber didn’t need to know. The Kid rubbed his chin as he desperately thought of a way out of this, willing Wheat not to say anything further. No such luck.


“Yeah, those Bulmer brothers thought his man was Hannibal Heyes,” Wheat chortled. The Kid swallowed nervously as Wheat went on. “’Course he ain’t but they thought he were … so why don’t we capitalise on their mistake?”


The Kid looked at Wheat in surprise. “Capitalise?”


“Yeah, it means take advantage of er Jones.” The Kid shot him a look. Wheat sniffed. “We say I know Hannibal Heyes and his man here can come along with me as him. If Flixton writes a fake formula like Smith’s plan says we need, we’ll give it to Curry. Say ole Heyes found it in Flixton’s safe jus’ as we’d planned.”


“He’d never believe that. Hannibal Heyes was given amnesty years ago and no one’s heard of him since,” Gruber scoffed.


Wheat pursed his lips. “Yeah, yeah. That’s exactly why IT IS believable. Ole Heyes was a sly ole fox so it’s jus’ possible he’s still around. Lying low.” Wheat noticed the look the Kid gave him. “So I’s heard anyway.”


Gruber frowned. He looked at the Kid. “Is that … true? Hannibal Heyes is still … .”


The Kid shrugged. “Gruber that’s not the point. Cowdry ISN’T Heyes but er he must LOOK like Heyes for the Bulmer brothers to think he was. So let’s go with what Walter says. My man Cowdry will go along with him saying he is Hannibal Heyes. That should impress Jeremiah enough so he don’t look at the formula too closely.”


Gruber shook his head and sighed. He was missing something. He knew it.


“But if Mr Flixton has moved the formula then … ?” Gruber asked.


The Kid interrupted. “He may wella done. Sam’s a cautious man but we don’t need the actual formula do we? Just a formula that is good enough to convince Curry.” He paused and frowned at Gruber. “I thought I explained Joshua’s plan?” He was beginning to think that Gruber wasn’t keeping up.


Gruber frowned. “Well yeah ya did. I suppose I didn’t take it all in, first go round. It’s kinda complicated.”


The Kid and Wheat swapped glances, both thinking different things. Ya don’t know a Hannibal Heyes plan, thought Wheat. You’ve gotta be a mite quicker on the uptake if ya wanna be a proper federal marshal, thought the Kid.


“I’m not sure I can allow involving another civilian … .”


“I don’t think ya get a lot of choice, Marshal. Cowdry is good at thinking on his feet.” The Kid paused. “’Course if he says no … then ya might get ya chance. Now Walter let’s talk about how we’re gonna play it tomorrow at Flixton’s.” The Kid pulled Wheat aside, settling the matter of who was impersonating who.


Gruber had no choice but to look on as the Kid and Wheat discussed their strategy for the next day. Just who was in charge here? Gruber swallowed. He was only just coming round to admitting to himself that he was a little out of his depth. Yet there was no way he was going to ask his superiors for help. That would be admitting that he wasn’t ready to be a fully-fledged federal marshal. Jones and this fella Walter Brown seemed to know what they were doing. He’d go along with them. For now. But if he found anything he didn’t like, he’d call them on it. If he could spot it, of course.

_________________
Kid Curry and that other fella; Hannibal Heyes and whatsname
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