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PostSubject: Lock   Tue Aug 01, 2017 9:18 am

August already affraid  and it's time topic a topic for this month's story challenge. Your challenge is to give us your take on the topic in between 4,000 and 150 words on the word


safe Lock  Jail


That can be an actual lock, a lock of hair, or even a canal lock (if they had such things in the old West - if they did, I'm sure you'll tell us). Start writing!
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Silverkelpie

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PostSubject: Re: Lock   Wed Aug 02, 2017 3:27 pm

Alter Ego - Part Four

"She lied. What do you expect?" 

 Heyes put his weight on one leg as he hooked his thumbs in his belt and queried. "So? How you gonna kill her then?"

Abigail couldn't believe her ears. “What!”


She turned on her heel, but Heyes’ hand darted out and grabbed her by the wrist. Abigail swung her arm in a huge circle, breaking his grasp, only for him to catch the fabric on her dress and lock onto a great gathering fold at the front. He held her at arm’s length as she punched and kicked impotently, the cloth gathering around her throat in a tight ball in his hard fist.

Heyes sanguine demeanour belied the wildcat he held at a distance as he spoke casually to his partner.  "You gonna strangle her with your bare hands?  Not sophisticated but it'll get the job done I suppose."

The Kid turned his chilling gaze back to the woman writhing at the end of his arm before Heyes drew his attention back to his partner again. "A shot to the head would be quicker? Want me to do it?"

Abigail's eyes watered as she choked and struggled against the grip whilst Heyes’s brown eyes drifted over to her, drawn by her fight. "There's a river over there. How about drowning? Drowning’d work."

“You’re a monster! Let me go.”

Heyes mused this over and seemed to think the better of it. "No, you're right. Too wet. Or hanging maybe? What about hanging? One thing's for sure. I wouldn't do it that way."

The Kid snorted in frustration.

"We both got knives. No, I guess you've thought it through. Far too messy."

Heyes examined his grip before looking straight into Abigail’s furious face. Stray locks of her hair were wound into his fist. That had to hurt. "Maybe I should use both hands and put them right around the throat? That fabric’s starting to tear." He toyed with the grass with his toes for a few moments before he spoke again. "Or a rope? You could get me a rope from my horse? I’ve got some."

Kid Curry exploded at his annoying partner. "Oh, for cryin’ out loud! What can we do with her? We can’t kill her, Heyes.” 

Heyes gave the Kid a satisfied nod and shook his head with a smile of relief.  "No. Now you ask.  I don't want either of us to do it. It took you a while but we got there in the end." Heyes glared at Abigail. “It doesn’t do you any harm to hear us consider it though.”

He released her and led her over to a tree and pushed her to a seated position. He examined her. The dress was ripped and the flesh was reddening already, but he was satisfied her injuries were only superficial. "Stay there." His eyes transmitted an unnecessary warning.

He smiled at The Kid. “I knew you didn't have it in you. Not even for a woman who was going to hand us over to McCully. You ain't that man."

"I wasn't," croaked Abigail.

"We'll deal with you in a minute," barked Heyes.

The Kid closed his eyes and dropped his head. "McCully? Gettin’ us arrested is one thing, but McCully? I can't believe she would do that to us.

Heyes gave him a wry smile. "So, what did she say about it?"

"She denies it, but she would, wouldn't she?"

"Well. Let’s see, shall we?"

He towered over her, his dark eyes penetrating her soul. “Well?"

She stared back at him, her chest rising and falling in fear and exertion.

"Nothin’ to say? Not much of a defence?" His dropping of his ‘g’s told her Heyes’ anger robbed his accent of its polish.

"I can't. I really can't. But I’m not prepared to see you hurt."

He crouched, leaning on his knees, reading her every move. "Abi, listen carefully. I need you to tell me what's going on, otherwise things could get unpleasant for you. I'm sorry about that, sorrier than you'll ever know, but if you don't tell me you'll leave me no alternative."

“No alternative to what?” Her eyes turned to his, full of resignation and fear. "You’ll have to do what you need to. I can't. Lives depend on it."

"Whose life?"

"Many lives over time but-“ she stopped, biting back her words, having already said too much.

He watched her mute stare, wondering why she didn't speak. Why she refused to defend herself. He knew her well enough to know she was articulate enough to try to bluff her way out of this. The stakes had to be high.

"Is someone going to die soon?"

Her eyes opened, almost pleading. "No one will die if you let me go back. Nobody. Just leave here as soon as you can."

He scrutinised her. She looked like she was telling the truth, in fact she appeared to be placing her own safety behind her current assignment in the habit he found infuriating. She had no idea what he had planned for her.  She couldn't be sure whether or not Heyes would really do something to her if his life was at stake, yet she stuck to that damned secrecy which drove him insane. 

He scratched his cheek and thought back to what she had told him. It was a matter of life or death. She was guarding someone. She didn't need gun skills. Frank McCully was in the equation. Who could she be protecting? His agile mind ran through the fragments, doing his best to piece them together into a viable theory. It hit him like a kick from a horse, right between the eyes.

He sucked in a breath and stared at her. "Abi? It’s us. You're here to protect us."

Her eyes widened and filled with tears and confusion. "How? How did you know?"

"Who else needs protecting when McCully’s around? It’s got to be criminals and who else is around Everlasting with a price in their head, dead or alive? This is our territory."

"You sure about this, Heyes?” The Kid’s jaw dropped open, “She could be tryin’ to draw us out for him."

He shook his head. "Nope. She's done everything she can to stop me seeing her. She almost begged in the summerhouse. She's drawing out McCully."

"Why? Why would the law care about that? He kills criminals."

"Yes, he does, but he also makes criminals to fight to the death rather than be brought in." Abigail spoke at last, knowing the game was lost. "And they kill the law because they think we're all as bad as he is. In the last year three Pinkerton agents have been killed because the outlaws think they'll be shot anyway. We have to stop McCully and let them know we consider murder to be murder. They need to know the law is fair and applied equally. They can do their time and then live as free men. We can’t live by the gun like this."

"Why us?"

“Mostly your reward money.” Unblinking eyes looked straight into his. “Intelligence told us he was after you. We leaked it to him you had nursed me when I was shot by the Pattersons and then let me go after a few emotional entanglements. He has no idea I'm a Pinkerton. In fact he doesn't even know there are female Pinkertons. He's paying me to stay in Everlasting and pose as Abigail Ansell, even into making eyes at the Bank Manager to make sure I could be around when you robbed the Bank. I got engaged on his orders. He thinks he's running the show and it was only a matter of time before you robbed a bank in this area.”

"And to make arrangements to see us?"
 

She shook her head. "He knows you're too sophisticated than to fall for that. He thinks I'm setting you a challenge knowing you can't resist one.”

Heyes arched a dark eyebrow as his eyes bored into her. "It could be argued you did exactly that."

"No. You were never going to be there and I tried my best to keep you away when you arrived. We have agents planted to rob the place, but if we’d done it too quickly it would have looked suspicious. The agents can pass for you both to someone who's never seen you and is going on the descriptions. They'll be at a planned assignation and McCully’s gun will have been tampered with. That's my job. The only problem is you two turned up and almost blew the whole plan."

"How do you know he's never seen us?"

"He told me so."

Heyes narrowed his eyes and stood, letting out a long slow breath. It figured because they never mixed with criminals unless they were with the gang, and they were tested and loyal. So, McCully had never seen Heyes and Curry, but they had made sure they had seen him. Their lives depended on it.

"Why didn't you tell me this before now, Abi?" asked Heyes.

"I couldn't. I wasn't allowed to and it couldn't get out, but you guessed. Even if this didn't work out we had to find a way of winning him over so he'd use me again if he went after someone else. He's a mass murderer and he'll continue to kill unarmed people. If he's not stopped he'll undermine the rule of law and endanger more of my colleagues as criminals treat all arrests like life or death. And he's not just killing criminals; he's also killing men, women and children who don't stand a chance. They’re defenceless. For that reason alone I have to do this. He's a cold blooded murderer." She dropped her head. "Besides, if I had told you there would be no way you'd keep out of this. You’re too damned bloody-minded for your own good."

"You’re no better. What if he found out about you?"

She looked him straight in the eye. "We all know what he'd do. He shoots unarmed men in the head when their hands are handcuffed behind their backs so a woman who double crossed him wouldn't be a problem for him, but there would be someone else to take my place."

Heyes shook his head as he bit his lip. "I can't let you risk your life for mine, Abi. Does he know your real name?"

"Yes. Why not? If anyone of the gang had talked you might have told them my real name. It wasn't worth the risk to lie."

“The Devil's Hole Gang don’t talk, Abi. I make sure of that. I also don’t tell the gang about people like you. You need to protect yourself more.” He rubbed his face and turned towards the Kid who was staring at them, transfixed with horror at what he might have done.

"This could be a lie," he muttered. "She could have been settin’ us up to hand us over."

"Except for one thing, Kid," Heyes shook his head. "She pushed and pushed for me to keep away."

"Double bluff? She's a real good liar."

"She's not too bad but she ain't a poker player, Kid. In fact, she's real easy to read for anyone skilled at it. Right from the first day in the cabin, remember?"

"You sure?"

"It's a gamble, but I'll stake my life on it, Kid."

The Kid mused on everything he’d heard before he spoke again. "It sounds like you already have, Heyes."

The Kid turned to her, struck by Heyes’ certainty. He leaned over and stretched out a hand towards her bruised neck. Shame kicked him in the guts as she flinched at the approaching hand and stopped short.
 

He was suddenly caught in a vortex of abhorrence, seeing himself through her eyes as his stomach turned over.  Adrenaline still filled his system and it charged every emotion with a special power. The bile rose in his gullet, fired by his anxious episode until he clutched a hand to his mouth and ran behind a tree revolted at what he might have done. He had turned into one of the men he hated.

Abigail glanced at Heyes in surprise as the loud retching and heaving drifted over to them. He smiled tenderly and gave her a reassuring pat on the back on the knee. "I guess the Kid believes you too. It's his way of saying sorry."

He straightened and looked into the trees, following the Kid's movement. His pensive eyes dropped to her and drank in the woman whose confusion melded with her clear irritation at the men who were treading all over her carefully-planned operation. "Catch your breath. I need to speak to the Kid so we can decide what we're going to do with you."

Fire flashed in her eyes. "You're going to let me get on with my job. Too much time has gone into this and it could cost lives if we have to start again. I simply won't tolerate interference. Not this time. Am I clear?"

He turned and fixed her with a cold grin. "I hear you. You're unarmed in the woods with two criminals and you're in no position to give orders. Am I clear?" His eyes softened but the set of his jaw told her he meant business. "Rest a while. We'll talk, but I'm in no mood for ultimatums, Abi."

                                                                     ~ 
"You alright?"


The Kid turned bleary, red-rimmed eyes on his cousin. "You believe her, don't you?"

Heyes’s eyes glittered with sympathy. "Yup. She’s not the sort to allow anyone to be slaughtered, it goes against her values. I got to know her mind when I questioned her in the cabin. I explored her and tested her. I even know her breaking point. It wasn't pretty." He turned and sat on a fallen tree as he paused, lost amongst the troubling memories which came flooding back to him from that night. "You didn't see that side of her until now. You didn't have the chance to know her so deeply. Don't beat yourself up over it."

"Just how hard were you on her?" the Kid asked, his face drawn and weary.

"Real hard," Heyes flickered a reassuring smile. "Harder than you were. I broke her, remember."

The Kid sucked in a breath. "The thought of what I might have done is killin’ me."

"No, I know that would never happen," replied Heyes with a shake of his head. "It's not in you. You never act in cold blood without real good reason. You knew you didn’t have enough. Your instincts won out."

"Fine, so I ain't the brains of the outfit."

"I wouldn't say that. You see things I miss all the time. You got real good instincts. It's clever, just a different type."

"Huh? Instincts so good I kidnap an innocent woman?"

Heyes laughed softly and patted his shoulder. “Ooh, Kid. You can say a lot of things about Abigail MacKinnon, but innocent isn't one of them. She'd turn us in, but she wouldn't let anyone kill us. That's about as far as I'll go."

The Kid dropped beside him on the log and supported his pale face in his hands. "I was hit by what I nearly did. I was like the men who hit our place when we were kids. My stomach turned over at the thought of it."

“Yeah.” Heyes stiffened and gripped the Kid’s forearm reassuringly, knowing the visions which filled his mind with nightmares. "You ain't that man. You're better than that or I wouldn't be sitting here with you, family or not."

He laid an arm on the Kid’s shoulder. "Well, partner. The question is where do we go from here? Do we hot tail it outta here and let McCully target someone else, or do we get involved and help her?"

"She don't want our help. She's got agents ready to take our place."

"They ain't got the vested interest we got."

"True," The Kid sighed.

Heyes paused. "We got two big advantages though."

"What?"

"We know what he looks like, but he doesn't know what we look like."

"And the other?"

His grinned widened. "We got you. You’re the man who feigned a bad chest to stop from getting adopted, and taught me to do the same. You kept us together until we could go off on our own.Now if you can do all that when you’re a little boy, what can you do as an adult? There’s grown men who can’t keep a family together. You’re remarkable. You’re way better’n McCully at every single thing you do. Especially with a gun."

The Kid raised his deep blue eyes to his cousin. “I could’ve killed her, Heyes.”

“But you didn’t. You chose not to because you’re better than that. She’ll understand. I guess we’ve got to tell her about more about our past so she understands how protective you are.”

“What am I gonna say to her, Heyes?”

The sound of hooves clattered in the background, making both men turn. “How about, why are you stealing Heyes’ horse, Abi?” Heyes leaped to his feet. “Stay here, I’ll get her.  That damned woman is impossible.”

                                                                           ~
She was lighter and on Heyes’s mount, but he was a superior horseman on a larger animal and it didn’t take long before she heard the percussive pounding of his horse battering across the dry road towards her. She turned.  She could see him high in the saddle with a forward seat, urging his mount on faster and faster towards her. She gritted her teeth and pressed in with her heels, but the pulsating thumps behind her were getting inexorably closer and closer.  The adrenaline flooded her system and her heart beat like a drum which filled her ears, but somehow the horse refused to go any faster. The mare’s ears flicked back listening to the pursuit, but the thump of the hooves got louder, pounding a tattoo which told her Heyes was gaining on her. The dress fluttered in the wind as she rose in the saddle, the petticoats annoying her as they flapped around and robbed her of anything but comedy value.   


Her peripheral vision caught the shadow of the chasing man closing in, arm outstretched before a hard hand grasped at the reins. The reins tightened pulling the beast to a halt. “Whoa there, Gypsy. Good girl.” He glared at her. “That was aimed at the horse. Not you. What the hell are you playin’ at, Abi?”

“If he didn’t want me taking his horse, he shouldn’t have brought me out here.”

“That’s my damned horse. This isn’t over, Abi. You can’t go running off.”

She raised her chin. “Oh, it’s well and truly over. You need to put as many miles between yourself and Everlasting as possible so I can get on with my job.”

Heyes gathered the tethers in his hands, his jaw firming. “No, it isn’t. For a start you need to understand what happened back there and why.”

She tilted back her head, eyes flashing. “You discussed more convenient ways to kill me after your cousin kidnapped me.  What else is there to discuss?”

"There’s why.” He paused, his voice softening. “He’s real protective of me.” 

Her brows gathered. “Most relatives are. It’s not an excuse.”

He shook his head. “The reason we were orphans is that our families were wiped out in the border wars. We survived but we saw it. The Kid saw a whole lot more than me. He ran to our place and hid me after watching his family slaughtered before his eyes. I was stupid enough to run towards the place when I saw them, but he caught me and grabbed me. If he hadn’t I’d be dead too. Even after all that he thought about saving others. It’s why he became a fast gun. He needed to stop men like them.”

He dropped his head. “Nobody really cared, not enough to keep us out of a home. He saw it all and it affected him.” 

Her jaw dropped open. “Where was this?”

“Kansas. Our folks were involved in the underground railroad. Some pro-slavery folks decided to teach our kind a lesson.

“Oh, Hannibal!” she reached out and grasped his arm.

“He did everything he could to keep us together by lying to the authorities and saying we were too ill to get adopted as cheap labour. Then we ran away and he looked after me all by himself,” his shrug was weak. “The thought of McCully putting a bullet in my head was enough for him. I’m sorry you experienced that, but he thought you were setting us up.”

Her mind ran with everything she knew about the gunman, picking out his squeamishness around violence connected to women and remembering the man who fixated on the little girl when they broke into the undertaker’s office in Bannen.

Her brow creased. “Poor Jed.” Soft brown eyes fixed on him, “I’m sorry, Mr. Heyes.”

A slim brow arched. “Back to Mr. Heyes again? I was Hannibal a few seconds ago.”

She dropped her head. “A few seconds ago you were a child and watching your family die horribly. I’m so sorry. I really am.”

He urged his mount into action, ponying her mare along with him. “Good, because that’s why you and him need to clear the air, for both your sakes.”

Her brows curved in surprise. “Why for my sake?”

“Because I’m not finished with you yet, Abigail MacKinnon, and if you’re going to be around you need to understand a few things about us.”

 She opened her mouth, but he kicked the pace to a canter and left her reply hanging in the air.

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

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PostSubject: Re: Lock   Sat Aug 05, 2017 6:57 am

This is a little long (3000 words) but some of you will have read the first 1000 words before and can skip straight to the second section. Hoping this develops into quite a tale. Calx


Challenge - LOCK


Of all the Towns


Heyes’ mare danced in front of the way marker.  He had trouble keeping her there, obscuring the sign, as he only had use of his left hand. 


His right arm was strapped heavily across his chest, under his blue grey winter coat, immobile and thankfully no longer giving him too much trouble.  Kid had pulled the shoulder back into some sort of order, but they both knew Heyes needed to see a doctor, and quick. What were the chances a tree would drop a limb like that, just as they were passing underneath it.  Luckily for Heyes, his younger cousin had a way of staying calm and dealing with stuff, even when having obscenities hurled at him by a less than grateful partner.


‘Geez, it had hurt.’
 
Heyes had passed out for a while and woke to the breath-constricting hug of heavy bandaging and the insistent nag from Kid to try wriggle his fingers.  All fingers wriggled on command, and now the arm and shoulder felt comfortably numb. Still, they needed to find a town and a doctor before nightfall, and he’d been so pleased to see the way marker up ahead, he’d pushed on to read it.


“Five miles… that way.  Lesbastion? Never heard of it… quite small… Hopefully too small for a jailhouse… I need a drink …and a bed… Need to get this arm looked at…”


Heyes didn’t leave any gaps for comment, he pointed the way and encouraged Kid to pass him and take the lead.


Kid slowed, giving his partner a long cool look, from the mud-spattered boot heels to the battered black hat pushed right to the back of Heyes’ head.  He said nothing, not even slowing as he passed the dancing mare, and walked his big black gelding on down the road. 


He could read his partner like a book.  He didn’t have to look back to see the devilish grin he knew would be on his cousin’s face.
 
Heyes jogged alongside and managed to tone down the grin to a warm smile.


“Lesbastion… sounds like a real peaceable town” he said, quickening his mare’s pace a little.


“Think I’ll take me a look at that sign” said Kid suddenly, flashing his horse around on a dime, and jogging back to the way marker.


Heyes’ shoulders dropped, and the smile slid off his face into the dirt.


“HEYES!”


Heyes’ eyes shut, he didn’t turn.  He already knew what the sign said, but he really did have need of a doctor and a bed for the night; a real one, not just a bed roll on hard ground.  Now he’d stopped to think about his arm, it was starting to trouble him again.


“HEYES? DID YOU SEE WHAT IT SAYS HERE?”


Heyes rolled his eyes skywards lip syncing the words of the sign as Kid read aloud.


“BY TOWN ORDA…NANCE, SUBJECT TO THE MAYOR’S WISHES, ALL ARM…OUR…MENTS MUST BE SUR…RENDED AT THE SHERIFF’S OFFICE ON ENTERING THE TOWN AND MAY BE RE…DEEMED UPON LEAVING.  WE ARE PROUD TO DECLARE LES…BAS…TION A NO GUN TOWN.”


Kid’s head shook from side to side, his mouth hanging open in wonder.


“A NO GUN town?  Is that even …a THING? Can you believe that?  …. HEYES?.... Can you believe THAT????”


Heyes sat his mare, quietly studying his hand as it rested on the saddle horn in front of him. A dull ache was setting into his strapped arm, and he could have sworn someone was trying to take a bullet out of his shoulder with a rusty can opener.


He breathed slowly.  There really wasn’t anything he could say to Kid, that the Kid would listen to.


Kid came back along the road to join him.  A predictable rant issued forth mostly about needing to move on to the next town.  Heyes must have been doing a better job of hiding his discomfort up until now than even he thought, because when Kid got up close enough to look Heyes in the face, he stopped abruptly, mid rant.


Heyes saw the blue eyes dart around and close slightly.  He watched Kid pull his slicker out of his pack and start unbuckling his rig.


“What you doing now?” he asked quietly.


Of course, he already knew the answer.


“You gotta get yourself to a doctor… now Heyes… So, take off your rig… I’ll hang back … come in to town after dark… I’ll get our guns hid real good… up on the Hotel roof like last time…”


Heyes almost laughed but shook his head. 


Kid had a good memory. 


They had tried that, a long time ago now, in Utah, in a no drinking, no cussing, no shooting town called Ecclesiastes.  Kid’s memory wasn’t that good perhaps.  It didn’t end well.  It’s hard to go get your guns when you have to leave town in an awful hurry, if you have to scale a three-storey building just to do it. 


‘Guess them guns are still up there.’


Heyes chuckled to himself.


“No… no Kid… This time we’re gonna ride right into town… just like the law abiding, honest citizens we are… and ride right on up to the Sheriff’s office and hand in our hardware … Like a pair of Texas rangers…


He raised his good hand to stop the tirade promising to burst from Kid in its tracks.


“… AND… we’re gonna smile while we’re doing it… just like no outlaws ever would… then… we’ll get us a room… and you can go get me a doctor…”


He winced, cupping his sore shoulder.


Kid’s face was stony.  If he had any arguments, they died on his tongue with that wince, just as Heyes’ had known they would.  Heyes watched as Kid’s lips moved in silent cussing.  The gun belt was re-buckled and tied, the slicker stowed, and the gelding pushed to a slow canter towards Lesbastion without another word.


Heyes followed, slowly, holding his arm tight against every bump in the trail.


---oooOOOooo---


Less than an hour later they rode slowly down the main Street of Lesbastion, hats set low over their eyes. 


Heyes wasn’t showing any signs of being in particular discomfit, but the empty sleeve of his winter coat had pulled free of the pocket and was flapping around in the stiff breeze. The fact that he could do very little about it, just added to the feeling of vulnerability he was already experiencing, since Kid had unhitched his rig and set it over the saddle horn in front of him.  


Like Kid said, better doing that out in the sticks than stood in a Sheriff’s office.  


The frustration of not even being able to unbuckle his own gun belt had soured the ex-outlaw leader’s mood.  Not even the promise of a drink and a soft bed could lift it.


Kid stopped his horse in the middle of the street, right out in the middle of the wheel ruts, to glance over at the name above the door.  A brief look over his shoulder to see Heyes’ imperceptible head shake, and he mosied closer to the hitching rail and stood down.  His arm lifted towards Heyes to offer assistance, and quickly found something else to do; a hat adjustment, lifting it clear of the blond curls for just long enough to give them a wet-dog style shake.


That look from Heyes would have dried his hair instantly if it had been wet.


The gunslinger squared up to the door.  He had both their rigs over one shoulder.  The cornflower blue eyes never blinked. Slowly he started up the steps to the boardwalk.


“Ahhh! Geez…. ****!”


Heyes hit the ground behind him with very little grace.


“I’ll thank you to mind your manners young man!” scolded a passing elderly lady.


“Yes… Ma’am” growled Heyes between gritted teeth.


“Ma’am” said Curry touching his hat.


Heyes was right behind him now. Time to do this. He squared up to the door again, standing his full height and grabbed the door handle.


The door didn’t budge an inch. 


Kid nearly head butted the door with the force of his determination to get this over with.  Heyes assuming his partner was competent enough to open a door, walked straight into the back of him.


“****! My arm… COME ON… this is no time f’r cold feet K…”


“ITS LOCKED! … alright?” said the gunslinger trying to regain his poise.


“Young man! … I only just now requested that you temper your language…” said the Scold returning to their side.   “Is it too much to ask that you keep a civil tongue in your head?”


Kid gave her the smile Heyes couldn’t quite muster.


“I’m sorry for my partner’s cussing Ma’am… but he’s in a might of pain… see a tree branch dropped on him …and put his shoulder out.  Do you have a doctor in town… Ma’am?”


Heyes leaned heavily on the locked door, rubbing at the offending arm and sweating visibly.


The lady softened and took on a concerned air.


“No… no… not permanently.  He comes by when he can.  At least once a month… but we haven’t seen him for some time now...”


“Is there another town … nearby… with a doctor Ma’am?” asked Kid, ignoring the exasperated sigh coming from behind him.


“Lord sakes Son… you can’t put …him …back on a horse… There’s nowhere within a coupla days anyways… Your friend need help… NOW… The very idea…”


“Yes Ma’am”


“You help your friend along to Mr Lucas’… over there …and I’ll fetch Mrs Alderly… She’ll know what’s to be done.”


“Mr Lucas’?… Mrs… Alderly???” said Kid, looking up at the sign above the locked door in disbelief.


The sign read Sheriff Lesley P Alderly.


The woman looked pityingly at the rather slow cowboy.


“Yes…. Mrs Alderly… Now just you concentrate on getting your friend over to Mr Lucas’... Right away!”


Her wagging finger took Kid’s attention over to the Undertakers across the street.


Kid smiled.  A lady sheriff? He’d never known that either.  That could explain the No Gun ordinance. Perhaps this town wasn’t going to be so bad after all.


“Yes Ma’am…” he grinned, reaching a hand back to his growling partner.



“But he ain’t …not even near dead …Ma’am…”he chuckled hearing Heyes’ hackles rising.


The lady was already crossing the street in the opposite direction on her errand of mercy.


“I can see that for myself young man.  Now… You watch your sass!” she threw back over her shoulder.


Kid turned to Heyes not entirely sure what his cousin would make of the idea of visiting the Undertakers.  Heyes growled out his compliance, sighed heavily, pulled himself to his full height, straightened his shoulders best he could and led the way.


“Yeah Kid… Mind your sass” he smirked as he passed his too amused partner.


They marched across the street to the Undertakers, Kid bending Heyes’ ears with his theory that the town sheriff was a woman called Lesley Alderly. Heyes wasn’t in the mood to even give that lame-brained theory an answer. 


Mr Lucas kept a neat and comfortable parlour at the rear of the work shop, with deep plush sofas for the newly bereaved to rest their grief, whilst he led them through the funeral expectations of the modern, up to date, fashionable recently departed.  He didn’t seem the least put out, that two strangers said they were to wait there for Mrs Alderly to say what was to be done about Heyes’ arm.


Kid, still sporting the lethal shoulder-ware, stood at the parlour door and looked about as comfortable as a groom on his wedding day.  His eyes flicked between the workshop and the street beyond, and the lace covered window set in the back wall of the small parlour.


Heyes availed himself of one of the comfortable couches, finding cushions to prop up his injured arm.


“What are you worried about Kid?” he asked, eyes closing as his unwashed greasy head lolled back on the anti-Macassar adorning the back of the pristine upholstery. 


“This here is a real peaceable town…. No guns … No Sheriff …male or female … a locked-up Jailhouse… and we’re on the right side of the locked door f’r a change! I think this could be a good place for us…”


“You forgot … no doctor… Heyes.  That was the whole point of risking a place like …this… remember?” hissed Kid from the door.


Heyes chuckled.


“What you beefing about… you still got your rig ain’t yer… You can’t… surrender it… if there ain’t no one to surrender it to…”


That sofa really was comfortable.  Heyes thought, just this once, he could just close his eyes like the Kid could, and be asleep in seconds.


“And no Saloon …Heyes…” drawled Kid.  “Did you see any Saloon out there on the street? …Coz I sure didn’t… What kind of town doesn’t have a Saloon?”


Morpheus abandoned Heyes.


“Huh?”


He hadn’t noticed.  That could put a crimp in his plans to play a little poker.  Wasn’t a lot else he was fit for till his arm healed up. How else was he to get them some money?


The sofa wasn’t that comfortable anymore.  A sharp pain stabbed his shoulder.


“Company” hissed Kid.


Heyes groaned, attempting to sit up a little straighter.


“Here he is, Mrs Alderly… I found him …by the Sheriff’s office… His ‘friend’ …there… was talking about putting him back on his horse… The very idea I said…. I told him…. Mrs Alderly will know what’s to be done… I said…”


“Thank you, Olive… I’ll take it from here…” said Mrs Alderly sweeping into the parlour passed Kid as he touched his hat with a silent Ma’am.
 
Mrs Alderly was the sort of person that commanded a room just with the aura of expectation that surrounded her. She turned to the smaller lady with an indulgent smile.


“Olive… Would you be a dear… and go and fetch the Sheriff?”


Olive looked slightly peeved to be so summarily dismissed, but took it in good part and turned on her heel and left. 


Heyes saw Kid’s eyes harden to flint.  Guess his theory of a nice weak woman sheriff, susceptible to his charms, just got blown out of the water and now he had a real sheriff to deal with and the parlour only had one exit.


“The Sheriff Ma’am?” Heyes asked quickly, drawing Mrs Alderly’s attention away from the riled gunslinger.


“That would be your husband Ma’am?”


“Yes” confirmed Mrs Alderly with a curt nod, approaching Heyes and telling him with a queenly gesture not to attempt to rise in her presence. 


“You’ll be wanting to surrender your arms to my husband’s care no doubt?”


“His arm Ma’am?” said a distracted Kid from the doorway.


“Your guns …young man… your guns! Or do you always wear them that way… over your shoulder? … No doubt you read my ordinance… Lesbastion is a no gun town … “


“Your ordinance Ma’am?”


“Ahh…” smiled Heyes drawing her attention again from his flustered partner.


“That would make you the Mayor of Lesbastion ma’am?”


 “Indeed!” confirmed Mrs Alderly finding this chatter unnecessary.


“NOW… I’ve asked Henry, to join us here presently.  There isn’t much about bone setting that Henry doesn’t know, you’ll have the use of that arm again for gainful employment in no time Mr…er…Mr…?”


Heyes’ eyes sparkled with mirth as he filled them with sincerity for the town’s Mayor.


“It’s Smith, Ma’am… Joshua Smith… but I’m pretty sure nothing is broken… there’s no need to bother…”


Light footsteps in the workroom got all their attention.


“You must be Henry?” said Kid, still standing sentry at the door but stepping aside to let a huge man mountain swathed in a leather apron enter the parlour.


“Yes… heard I was needed” whispered the colossus in a high falsetto.


“Henry… Mr Smith here has met with an unfortunate accident… seems he was careless enough to ride under a tree when it dropped a branch.”
Heyes’ mouth opened, but the force of nature that was Mrs Alderly did not give ground.


“His arm may be broken” she continued with not so much as a thought for even the briefest of introductions.


Heyes looked a might put out. No one seemed to be listening to him properly.


“There was nothing careless about it… and as I was saying… it ain’t broke…” he started as tactfully as he could manage.


Kid could hear the edge.


“Thank you, Henry…” said Mrs Alderly waving the giant towards Heyes as if he wouldn’t make the sofa without her direction.


Henry nodded deferentially to the lady, and sat precariously next to Heyes on the sofa.  He unwound all the bandaging and carefully probed the arm and shoulder never once making eye contact with his patient.


Heyes dropped his head in defeat, and carefully avoided seeing the smirk on the Kid’s face.


Henry was extremely gentle, his grip just like his voice, soft and calming until it wasn’t.  Suddenly he gripped Heyes’ shoulder and arm and pulled and twisted. A small pop and a twang accompanied Heyes’ expletives turning the air blue.


“Sorry” said Henry looking Heyes in the face for the first time. 


“Your fingers should go pink now …and they’re gonna throb some… but …you had some of your workings trapped up in there. At least you didn’t kick me.  Most of my patients try and get in a kick and a bite or two when I do that.”


Heyes, blinking back tears, looked dumbfounded by the idea that he should kick or bite the man.


“Guessing most of your patients have four legs Henry?” said the Kid helpfully.


Heyes, quick to recover, shook his head ruefully, hardly believing what he was about to say.  He smiled weakly, gingerly rotating his arm at the shoulder, noting the heaviness and tingling in his hand.


“Thank you… Henry…. I think? …You got it there… Thank you… I think you really got that… ”


He beamed a huge full dimpled smile, filling the room with its warmth.


Kid came over to stare at Heyes, who now seemed to have full use of his arm, fascinated by events. He nodded appreciatively for the Blacksmith’s skill, then remembered the lady in the room.


“My Partner apologises for the cussing Ma’am…” he said falteringly. 


 “He’s usually more mindful of a lady’s presence.”


Mrs Alderly raised a wry eyebrow not at all put out.  Something told Kid it would take a lot more than a little cussing to fluster this lady.


Over by the door there was a small cough.


“Did I hear a Sheriff was needed here?” said a tall white-haired fellow, sporting a tin star big as a hogs head on the front of his leather vest.


The boy’s eyes locked in alarm for just half a heartbeat. Kid swallowed.  Heyes recovered first.


“Sure did, Sheriff…” he smiled.  “My partner and I …understand …this here town …is a no gun town!”


Kid’s face was unreadable.  He still held Heyes’ gaze as his hand involuntarily tightened on the leather belts of their shooting irons.


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