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 Sow

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PostSubject: Sow   Fri Sep 01, 2017 9:31 am

Time for a new challenge, and it's your turn to give us your best take on the challenge topic in between 4,000 and 500 words on the topic


overreact SOW  pig


That is another of those multi purpose words, so it can mean a female pig, sowing seeds, or the implications of the bible saying 'reap what you sow' as in a karmic receiving of justice or getting what you deserve - and what you deserve can be good or bad. That should give you a free hand for some very varied stories for September. 


Don't forget to comment on August's stories before moving on to September. Comments are the only thanks our writers get.       
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PostSubject: Re: Sow   Wed Sep 06, 2017 7:36 pm

another rather long segment... but I hope you enjoy more from Lesbastion...
“Sow” Challenge – “Of all the Towns” continued.
 
Sheriff Lesley P Alderly unlocked the jailhouse door then stood aside to invite the two ex-outlaws to enter first.  Neither looked particularly grateful for the invitation. 


Heyes had used his now functioning right hand to prise their rigs out of a reticent Kid’s grasp, and tried to pass them over to the town’s sheriff whilst they were still stood in the Undertaker’s back parlour, but the sheriff had insisted that they both accompany him to his office. 


So here they were, voluntarily walking into the jailhouse.


“We really don’t need a receipt …nor nothing… We’re pretty sure we can trust you…” smiled Heyes warily.


“It’s a token… Everyone gets a token… Mayor’s rules…” explained Sheriff Alderly, coming in behind them and waving the boy’s attention over to the far wall.


Kid stopped in his tracks, staring at a wall of gun belts, each hung on a long nail, strung out across the whole width of the office wall. Empty nails sported a metal disc with a hole in the middle and a number engraved on it.


“Yes… Just pick yourselves out a spot Boys …and hitch your rigs…. Be sure and keep that marker safe.  This office is locked up tight when I’m not here… Well… most times when I am here too… so they won’t be tampered with…” sighed out the Sheriff, losing at least two inches of his height as he visibly relaxed and seemed to deflate some. 


He unhitched his own rig, that looked shiny, stiff and hardly used to the two ex-outlaws, and threw it onto a nail by the untidy office desk. The boys went over to admire the impressive display.


“What’s called for here … is a brew of my special Java… Mayor don’t hold with strong liquor in the meeting house…. But I keep me a medicinal bottle here in the office… for when’s its called for… in the event of someone meeting with an unfortunate accident…”


The boys followed the preparation of the welcome coffee, along with the secure re-locking of the jailhouse door, and the checking and re-checking of the street through the small barred window, with amusement.


“Um…Sheriff…?” started Kid, wondering if he could select the highest nail on the wall to prevent anyone getting a good look at his Colt.


“Call me Lesley” said the rather distracted Sheriff.  Seeing their smiles, he added,  “Oh I know it sounds kinda… You know ‘fem…in…nine’… Some lame brained idiots that ride through this here town …think we got us a lady Sheriff when they read that sign out there…”


The sheriff invited them to share the joke with a wave of the tin mugs.
“Really?” scoffed Heyes, seeing Kid’s chagrin.


“…Yes… Can you believe that? But I come from a long line of Lesley’s… My Pa was a Lesley… His Pa was a Lesley… So …I own it proudly… Lesley I is… and Lesley I’ll always be…”


The Sheriff looked around the office like he was looking for someone to back him up.  He seemed to find what he was looking for and walked back to his busy desk.


“Now you take this critter over here….”


The Sheriff pointed over the desk to the wanted posters adorning the walls there.  He was pointing to two very familiar dodgers.


“You think …Mr HANNIBAL HEYES… don’t get a few looks …when he says his name out loud?”


Kid’s turn to enjoy the complicated parade of emotions flashing across his cousin’s face.


“Now…God only knows what possessed his parents … to go giving him a name like that… Some would say… they’s be partly to blame fer how he turned out… They say….you reap what you sow… But well …He surely owns that name…blabbing it about all the time…Everytime him and Kid Curry go doing a robbery… he announces hisself… And now… well… There ain’t an honest man in these parts … who’s blood don’t run cold… just hearing that name… HANNIBAL HEYES …Yes Sir… no one’s laughing at him now…”


The Sheriff nodded sagely at the wisdom of his own words.  Kid and Heyes followed suit, each trying, badly, to mask their own thoughts.  Kid amused, and Heyes’ face just shouting that he’d love to argue the point, but was being forced to smile and agree. 


Kid couldn’t help himself.


“Shame his Ma ‘n’ Pa …couldn’t have come up with a more manly name… like… Jed f’r instance…”


Heyes’ bottom lip dropped just a little, in disbelief at Kid’s nerve, but the Sheriff just rode on seeing he’d captured his audience’s attention.


“Yes… yes… You see …Mr Hannibal Heyes there… he knows… that if you’ve been saddled with a handle like that… that’s likely to get you into trouble… well… What you have to do …is own it… They say his eyes are black as flint when he announces just who it is doing the robbing …like he’s just daring someone to snigger… so he can…”


The Sheriff mimed firing a pistol. 


Heyes wasn’t even bothering to cover up his chagrin anymore, but the sheriff wasn’t noticing.


“So…  Lesley I’s called… and you boys gets to call me Lesley too… just like everyone else does around here… you’ll get used to it.”


They were invited to take the weight off their feet on a wooden bench over by the desk.  The desk was summarily cleared into a drawer, as three mugs, each liberally laced with a clear liquor, were carefully filled with hot steaming Java.


“Thank you…. Lesley” smirked the Kid, relishing Heyes’ confused mutterings and head shaking.


The sheriff took his place behind the desk, and raised his mug for a quick salute before sipping at the contents, as if it were the nectar of the Gods itself, and closing his eyes in rapture.


“Enjoy your medication boys….” he sighed.  “Best brew on God’s clean Earth…. Old Murph finally got the recipe right… Geez… don’t that just…” He visibly shuddered, “… hit the spot.”


Heyes, noticing the Sheriff was now sat with his back to the Wanted posters, relaxed just a little and smiled a warning headshake to Kid to wipe the silly smirk off the gunslinger’s face. They clinked mugs and took an exploratory sip. 
Their eyes watered. Their breath evaporated as the alcohol fast tracked to their brains.  Kid struggled to laugh out a whoop of shock, as Heyes chuckled a spluttering cough.


“What is that?!” he choked.


“Poitin! The best poitin this side of the County line!” declared the Sheriff without opening his eyes.  “Heaven’s own liquor from the Old Country! Murph’s got the recipe right this time… He added molasses… and… well…. Glory be…Heaven be praised….Woooheeee!”  


Slowly the Sheriff’s eyes re-opened. 


“Would you boys ….like a little more?”


Both boys unconsciously covered the tops of their mugs, as they smiled at the sheriff and took just another small sip of the ridiculously powerful brew.


“Maybe…” squeaked Heyes through his rapidly constricting throat, “...not quite …so much …molasses …next time“


Kid exploded in laughter. 


Within ten minutes, a jovial friendly atmosphere had replaced the wariness, and the boys were beginning to relax as the Piotin spread from their brains to their toes, and warmed their fingers. Then, a window slid open at the back of the jailhouse and two elderly housebreakers eased themselves carefully into the room, under the dark blind at the window, to form an orderly heap on the floor. 


Kid and Heyes giggled, watching the show.


“Was it Java… I’m smelling?” said the first intruder with a grin.


“I was thinking …my throat must have been cut…” said the second, pulling his friend to his feet. 


“Murph’s on his way!”


When they stood, the boys could see that the housebreakers, were in fact, Mr Lucas and his elderly assistant from the Undertakers, still dressed in their black aprons and white shirts from the workshop.  They each quickly gathered a mug, and helped themselves to ‘coffee’.


As promised, a small leprechaun of a man soon followed them through the window and filled his cup also. He introduced himself as Murphy, the town’s printer, copyist and fixer of all things mechanical.


“My arms feeling a lot better already” grinned Heyes happily to the Kid taking a longer sip.


---oooOOOooo---


After another half an hour or so, the window blind was assaulted once again, as Henry squeezed his considerable bulk through the narrow window. 


“Don’t no-one use the door ‘round here?” mumbled Kid almost incoherently to the desk top, watching the man mountain nimbly slide into the office.


Heyes, feeling very much better in deed, greeted the blacksmith like a long-lost friend, offering to pour the coffee, and the liquor, for the near giant. 


“Just a little fer Henry…” cautioned the Sheriff.   “He don’t hold his liquor too good, and he has to finish the bank's new door this afternoon.”


He came to join Heyes and Henry at the stove. He searched the blacksmith’s face for clues.


“Did the Mayor …clear the Street yet… Henry?”


“Yep” said Henry, accepting a mug of lightly laced Java from Heyes.


“Mrs Alderly done organised a collection party …to go out ’n’ get that limb that dropped on Mr Smith… She told Stetler to take out his whole mule train and drag it in... Then she said… she’s headed out to the Grigg’s place …to see t’ old Ma Grigg’s leg dressings.”


“Huh?” smiled Heyes in wonder, and not a little drink.  “You know …There was no need to go send out a posse ….t’ round up that tree… I don’t think it was fixing to murder me… it was just an accident” he giggled. 


Over at the desk, re-fills were underway from a second bottle from Lucas’ deep apron pocket.  Muted cheering accompanied the pour.


“What’s the penalty for knocking a man off his horse …anyways?   Hanging??” giggled Kid, catching the laugh.  “You planning on hanging that tree… ???”


It was a mark of the strength of the liquor, that this, was greeted as an hilarious joke by the crowd at the desk.


“We ain’t gonna hang it…” spluttered Lucas through his laughter.


“…No… We’re gonna chop it up … in t’ li’l’ biddy logs …in a log cutting contest …come next Hairdown!” finished his assistant, Sloane.


“You mean … Hoedown? …Friend” hiccupped Kid.


“No… no… around here …we have us a Hairdown… Ain’t that right boys?” Sloane shot back.


The Sheriff, who had wandered off to admire the wall of gun belts, thought he had another opportunity to educate the newcomers. 


They didn’t get too many newcomers in Lesbastion, and they didn’t really have much need for a Sheriff.  It was almost an honorary title, to keep the Lady Mayor happy.  Her presence ensured that the town was well run, and she was the closest thing they had to a medical doctor, so it was in everyone’s interest to ensure she remained happy, and in town. 


Lesley P Alderly knew it, but it didn’t bother him none. 


Newcomers gave him a chance to do some strutting as Town Sheriff, and ‘educating the ignorant drifter on the ways of the town’, was one of his favourite things.


“We got us a nice …quiet …spot here boys” he began, holding sway from the wall of guns, ostensibly studying them like museum exihibits.  “Don’t see too many visitors here abouts…  We reckon the signs …we put out ….puts a certain rowdier element off coming… Sends them… on to Butte… or maybe even Charfalls …If’n they ain’t in a hurry …to get somewhere else… that is.“


Heyes and Kid sat back, trying to focus and play appreciative audience, whilst clunking their newly re-filled mugs together with hyena-like grins.  This was one of the friendliest Sheriffs they’d ever met.


“Keeps them out of our hair…” said the Sheriff, seeing his audience set.


“Oh… We let the ladies think they got us all nice and tame… We don’t carry guns… We take us a short beer now and then …at the Meeting House… They don’t have to know …about us playing poker every now ‘n’ then… And things go along just dandy… Just how everybody likes it.”


All the locals nodded to confirm this.


“But…” continued the Sheriff pompously.


“Come the last Saturday in every month… the Mayor… well… She rounds up all her ladies …and they go off …a visiting the needy… the smaller homesteads …and farms… that needs visiting hereabouts… Keeping the community together she calls it… “


He shook his head at the mysteries of womankind.


“Sounds like a roundup …of quilting …and ministering t’ thems that’s sick….and a whole lotta picnicking … and just plain clucking to me… But they look forward to it… Say it’s a chance fer all them ladies to let their hair down...  And …well… we MENFOLK... well… We looks forward to it too…”


A small cheer issued from the gathered locals.


“See… whilst the ladies are out of town… visiting ‘n’ such… We …have us one heck of a Hairdown… right here in town!“


Kid and Heyes’ eyes filled with thinly suppressed glee as they nodded along with the others.


“We have… contests … and gambling … and fighting… and drinking… and …ALL SORTS OF ENTERTAINMENTS RIGHT OUT IN THE OPEN!”


The Sheriff looked very pleased with his monologue.


“And next one’s this Saturday!” declared Sloane, rather stealing the Sheriff’s thunder.


The crowd all lifted their mugs with a cheer for Sloane.  The Sheriff went back to his study of the gun belts, with just the wiff of a sulk about him. Loud chattering consumed the desk as previous Hairdown exploits were recounted to the two drifters.


“You know…” said the Sheriff, several minutes later, “…This is quite a rig… Got the kinda balance you have t’ build in…”


He’d pulled Kid’s Colt from its holster, and was weighing it in his hand.  Kid’s alcohol fuelled smile froze on his face.  Heyes’ Poitin-addled brain went into overdrive, trying to sober up in an instant.


“Afore I came to Lesbastion …and was made Sheriff…” continued Lesley P Alderly, “…I worked in the family business, as a Gunsmith, over in Charfalls… Guns …is something my family knows a thing or two about… and this here gun …it sure has seen some use… But it’s kept …proper… cleaned … oiled… action is real smooth… and it’s been worked on… moulded… perfect balance… Only time I’ve ever seen a gun like this…”


If the Sheriff was trying to pull back their attention, he’d succeeded.


“My gun is always clean …and oiled… and kept …proper …Sheriff… I like it that way” said Kid slowly, dropping the temperature in the room considerably.


Hannibal Heyes’ nimble mind was surfacing through the alcoholic fog.


“What Mr Jones means…” smiled Heyes, quickly stepping in to stop things turning ugly.   “…is… Well…You can see f’r y’urself… Our guns are very important to us… Well… that’s because …you see… That’s how ….er… we make …our living.”


Kid could not believe what he was hearing.  He’d sobered, near instantly, as he’d heard the hammer of his Colt being drawn back.  He slid a disbelieving look sideways at his partner, but seeing the guile in Heyes’ smile, decided to work hard to keep a smile on his own face too.


“Yep… that’s right Sheriff… I mean… Lesley” he said tightly.  “WE… make our living… with our guns.” 


He tried hard to make it sound casual, unimportant, but it came out a bit too much like a question to his smiling partner, who was refusing to meet his gaze.


“I gotta admit… we were a bit worried …at first … when we saw those signs you got out…”  Heyes said cheerfully. “Didn’t think …a ‘No Gun Town’ would welcome a coupla professional Shootists… like Thaddeus and me …But well… I needed a doctor… or a Blacksmith… as it turned out…”


He smacked Henry on the back in gratitude, watching the doubt cross the townsfolk’s faces, but he kept beaming at the Sheriff and pointedly ignoring a bristling Kid beside him.


“Son… Are you trying t’ tell me… You two… are nothing more than a coupla HIRED GUNS?!” asked the Sheriff feeling a little out of his depth, replacing Kid’s Colt in the soft well-used holster, and eyeing his own pristine rig now adorning the nail behind the two self-proclaimed gunslingers.


Kid soberly watched Heyes. ‘Yes ...Heyes … IS that what you’re telling this Sheriff … whilst we’re sat here… right in his jailhouse …drinking his liquor?????’ he said with his eyes boring into the back of his partner’s head, whilst managing, somehow, to hold smiling-faced civility for the Sheriff.


“No… NO!”  laughed Heyes, grinning at Kid, and slapping him too hard on the back, “No… Not at all Sheriff… Not at all…”


The tension was cut, and the company all relaxed as if their strings had literally been cut releasing their shoulders.


“I said …We were Professional Shootists,” stated Heyes into the relieved sighing. 


Kid was trying hard to keep up.  He wished he hadn’t taken on quite so much Poitin, or perhaps a little more ‘Java’.  And he was beginning to worry just how much Heyes had imbibed.


“You’ve heard of Wild West Shows… Haven’t you Sheri’…er…Lesley?” smiled Heyes, throwing his arms wide and slapping Kid on the back again.  “We’re the famous ‘Diablo Brothers’… Best trick shot …and dead eye accurate …Shootists this side of the Mississippi! We were on our way to Springfield County… To a big show field up there … They’re having themselves a little ‘Hairdown’ of their own… I guess….Why…I even heard tell… they’ve gone ‘n’ got themselves some live buffalo… and a fire eater!”


Heyes’ dimpled cheeks shone like a little boy at Christmas. Then he sobered, cupping his erstwhile injured shoulder.


“When I had my little accident… well… all our plans had t’ change…”


Heyes turned to Kid, eyes full of regret. 


“Don’t suppose …we’re gonna make that show now… Thaddeus… Shame… Coz all that money they were gonna pay us… That would have seen us right for months!”


Kid took Heyes’ lead, with a wistful smile and a regretful head shake. It was all he dared risk.  He could quite happily have throttled Heyes.


The Sheriff looked at them anew.


“I thought you said …y’ur name…was Smith… and his …was Jones?  Don’t sound too much… like any pair o’ brothers… I ever knew.”


“That’s just Show Business Sheri’… erm… I mean… Lesley,” smiled Heyes not even a little wrong footed.  “You’d be surprised how many times …people don’t believe us …when we tell them our real names are Smith and Jones… Nobody’s gonna pay good money …to see a coupla Sharp shooters named …Smith and Jones….  No… When we put on a show fer a Town… We use our stage names ….Alejandro and Jesús Diablo.”


Heyes painted an imaginary banner across the jailhouse wall with his hands. 


“We put out handbills… “ he smiled at the Town’s Printer, “The best Shootist Brothers the West has ever seen! Brings in the crowds from miles around.


The Sherriff’s eyes narrowed, taking in the swarthy looking Smith and the blue eyed, curly headed blond, Jones.


“You mean to tell me… He passes fer …”


“Oh…oh… Well… we don’t let anyone get real close… not when we’re shooting” improvised Heyes, realising that he may just have allowed the alcohol, to let his silver tongue, take the story telling a might… too… far.


Kid’s face was a picture, ‘… a might too far’ wasn’t even close!  
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PostSubject: Re: Sow   Fri Sep 08, 2017 2:12 pm

Alter Ego PART FIVE

Kid Curry walked back into the clearing and fixed Abigail with eyes full of contrition and shame. "I'm sorry Abi. Real sorry."

 Soft eyes drifted over to him, her physical vulnerability hitting him like a blow to the stomach as Heyes lifted her from the horse. Her tiny waist was only about the size of his thigh and her soft, white hands with their long, delicate fingers plucked at her skirts where she subconsciously worked at the fabric. How could he have even have thought about grasping her around the throat?

The weak smile warmed her face as she walked over to him. “I’m sorry, Jed.” She embraced him before she pulled back and examined him. "I'm fine. Honestly. Come and sit. Talk to me." She wandered over to a tree and settled down, patting the ground next to her.

 He crouched beside her and looked at her throat, the burning redness and congestion already promising intense bruising, especially where now torn fabric had dug in to her pale flesh. His stomach rolled with self-reproach. She was no more than five foot four and built like a sparrow. What chance did she stand in a physical confrontation with a man who had at more than seventy pounds on her?

 "I thought you were going to get us killed. I was wrong."

 She nodded. “I know what you thought. Come. Sit with me."

 She drew her knees up and wrapped her arms around them in a gesture he read as self-protection as he closed his eyes and slid his back down the tree trunk until he dropped on the ground beside her.

 "Look, I think we got off on the wrong foot somewhere. You thought I would shoot a boy and we sorted that out. I thought you'd hand us over to a man like McCully. I hope you'll forgive me.”

 "I do forgive you. You run on your instincts and act too fast sometimes," she shrugged. “A wise man once told me we all do that at times. It’s fine. I understand.”

 He looked at her, her eyes downcast still staring off to her feet through her long, black lashes. "It would help if you could bear to look at me."

 She gave him a sideways look, her rueful smile lit with regret. "We're really not that different, you know. It's our past. It's changed us. If things hadn't turned out like they did I'd have been married and running a home. I'd be a different person. So would you. I can't blame you for that. I understand it."

 His voice dripped with sorrow. "And kids. Maybe even kids."

 She turned her head to look at him properly, picking up on the tone and sensing he was no longer talking about her. "Yes. Definitely children."

 "And a home. Just stay in one place and make friends. Build a future." He stopped himself realizing he was getting caught in his feelings again and met her gaze.

 She smiled at him. "Go on."

 He shook his head and narrowed his eyes with a blue twinkle, realizing she was drawing him out. "You had no time for a man in your life? You‘ve got no need to run."

 “No need? I have every need; it’s just not the same reason as you.” She shrugged. "I'm too much like hard work for most men. I won't do as I'm told, as you've probably noticed. There’s no place for women like me in this world. I don't fit in.” She reached out and took his hand. “That’s hard, but I’ve carved out an area to make it fit.”

 He caught the angst in her voice, knowing better than anyone how it felt to be misunderstood. "Abi, can you forgive me? I promise I'll never do anythin' like that again."

 “There’s nothing to forgive.” She gave huge sigh before she stood and shook the grass from her skirts. "It's a dangerous life. I have to expect a few bruises. We reap what we sow."

 "Not from me you don't

 “I know, Jed. Don’t overthink this. It’s another lesson, huh? We know one another better now.” She walked off towards the river but he stood and followed her, standing right in front of her with a nervous smile. “Remember you did this in Bannen to make me talk?"

 She stopped and regarded him with gentle eyes before her face broke into a smile. "Yes, Jed, if you want my forgiveness then have it, freely and from my heart. It's fine. It's forgotten. But will you leave this place? Take your partner and go. Go as far away from here as you can and don’t come back. It is dangerous for you here, but not because of me." She took his hand and drew it to her lips, kissing the knuckles with velvet lips. “We’re even. No bad feelings, huh? I need to go and think about how I’m going to explain all this to McCully. Someone will have seen us and he’ll know. Just give me time before we go back, please.”

 He watched her back recede as she walked away to bathe her wounds in the river as he felt Heyes’ hand in the centre of his back.

 "Just let her be, Kid. She’s right. Someone’ll have told McCully."

 "What did you tell her, Heyes?" He gulped down a knot of angst before Heyes spoke again.

 "The truth,” he folded his arms and shifted his weight onto one leg. “Just be glad she’s not angry at you. She has a Scottish temper, remember what she did in the cabin? She smashed me on the head with a jug."

 "I’d be happier if she smashed me with somethin’. I deserve it." He mulled over the words, suddenly coming to a decision as he fixed Heyes with a determined gaze. "You wanted to know if we should leave or get involved. We stay. We get involved."

 "Are you serious?"

 "Ain't never been more serious in my life. McCully doesn't know us and if anythin' goes wrong she'll get a bullet in her brain. I ain't gonna let that happen. I owe her. Then we’re even."

 Heyes threw him a huge grin. "We'd need to be real careful. The men from the bank could recognize our voices."
 "So we don’t go to the bank. There must be a way to trap McCully?"


 Heyes’ eyes sparkled as only his could. "There's a way to trap anyone, Kid. I bet nobody ever tried to pull a flim flam on McCully before. In fact, I don't think he'd be expectin' it at all."

 

Abigail returned from the river, dabbing at her neck with a damp handkerchief trimmed with delicate lace. "Well? What have you decided?"

 Heyes’ cheek dimpled. “We're goin' to take you back. You're right. It would cost lives to start again and I couldn't have that on my conscience. But we stick around to make sure you're safe."

 "You can’t!"

 "I can and I will, Abi." Heyes examined at her neck. "We need an explanation for that." He leaned over and released the clasp on her string of pearls before dropping them into his jacket pocket as she cried out in indignation.

 "Those are from the agency. Mr. Pinkerton will want them back."

 He gave her lingering look filled with thinly-veiled intolerance. "Lady, he needs to thanks his lucky stars he gets you back. You got robbed, they stole your necklace. That’s how your neck got bruised. You went to the first man you found for help and he rode you around to look for them. That man was him." His eyes glittered at her to quieten the objection on her lips. "The maid saw you with him. You need a story to go back with. Don’t crowd me, lady, or I might change my mind completely."

 


"All my male boarders sleep on the ground floor, dear. Only the ladies are allowed upstairs. No men. This is a respectable place."


 Mrs. MacPhee peered through her round spectacles as Kid Curry saw himself reflected in the twinkling crescents of the thick lenses. She drank in the man in the crisp suit and starched collar before her. He looked decent enough, but there was a rawness about him which worried her enough to find out more.
 
 "Respectable? Of course. That’s why I chose it, ma'am."


 He threw her his most charming smile as he put down his hat and tried the wrought iron bed. The springs squeaked as he bounced, his arms akimbo like a child. "Comfy, ma'am. Real comfy."

 "What business did you say you were in, Mr. Black?"
 "I didn't, ma'am."

 "Oooh?” she vocalized a range of notes querulously. "I do like to know who's in my home. It’s only right."

 "Sure it is. If you were my mother I'd be makin' sure myself. You got any family, Mrs. MacPhee?"

 "No, Mr. Black. Mr. MacPhee died years ago and we were never blessed."

 "How sad, Mrs. Black and I have a boy and a girl. I couldn't imagine life without them. Especially my baby girl." He tilted his head and observed her. "I bet you'd have been a wonderful mother. You have such kind eyes. Very beautiful."

 "Oh, you flirt!" A hand leapt to her chest as the landlady’s train of thought slammed to a halt. The Kid stepped into the void.

"I'll take it. It's got a real family feel to it. Who wants a room near a saloon bar? A man’ll never get any sleep." His eyes swept across the frilly curtains, the doilies, and the Broderie Anglaise trimmed pillows yet managed to speak without a trace of irony. "It's just what I'm lookin' for."


 

"This is my new boarder. Mr. Black."


 All the faces lining the long dining table turned to face the newcomer as Abigail choked on her glass of water as she took in the Kid’s sapphire eyes and tousled hair.

 Mrs. MacPhee bustled over to an empty place and pulled out a chair. "This is your place, Mr. Black. I like to try to maintain boy, girl, boy, girl, like they do at fine dinner parties."

 "Fine dinin’ is fine, ma'am," the Kid grinned.

 "This is Miss Ansell and Miss Pickering,” she indicated the man opposite. “This is Mr. McCully, and at the end there, we have Mr. Stanton. He travels in ladies’ underwear."

 A man as plump as a bear preparing for hibernation smiled in welcome to the newcomer.

 “Ya, do?” the Kid smirked at the salesman and took his seat between Abigail and a pretty, young blonde with large, clear, blue eyes set in a porcelain face. He smiled a greeting to Abigail. "Miss Mansell." He deliberately mispronounced her name as he nodded to her, before turning to the other woman to begin a powerful charm offensive. "Miss Pickering, it's a great pleasure."

 "Mr. Black," Abigail tapped his shoulder knowing the maid had seen them together. "We've met before haven't we?"

 He feigned irritation at being interrupted in his pursuit of the blonde by his side. "We have? At church maybe?"

 "You helped me look for the robber. I'm much recovered thank you. They never caught the man you helped me look for." Her fingers leapt to her bruised neck, hoping he would pick up on her cover story.

 "I'm sorry to hear that, ma'am. Real sorry." His brow creased with concern and he hoped he was displaying the right level of indifference before suddenly remembering her. "Oh yes. How are you? I rode you around to see if you could see him."

 "Yes, thank you."

 "Did the sheriff find the men responsible?"

 “I just told you that they didn’t.” Her dark eyes glittered at him, pushing her next point with great meaning. "I'm sure arrests are imminent," she purred. "Really soon."

 The Kid nodded. "I hope so, ma'am. It’s an awful business when a woman can’t walk the streets in safety. Someone said you'd been in a bank robbery too? The Innocents no less. You appear to be a magnet for troublemakers. I’ll have to avoid you."

 "I've been unfortunate,” she agreed. “I do seem to be making a habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

 "That's quite a run of bad luck. I'd stay indoors if I were you. They say these things always come in threes."

 She fixed him with her dark eyes. "Oh no, Mr. Black. My problems definitely come in twos." He ignored the obvious jibe and grinned at her as she spoke again. "Are you staying long?"

 "I’m not sure. That depends on my work." He smiled and turned his back to Abigail again, shutting off her line of questioning.

 "What line of business did you say you were in?"

 The question came from Frank McCully who observed him coolly from across the table.

 "I didn't, Mr.?”
 
 "McCully. Frank McCully."


 The Kid turned and faced him. "I'm a security consultant, Mr. McCully. And you?"

 "Me? I’m in Asset Recovery.”

 "What does that involve?" the Kid’s stomach tightened, knowing what he recovered and how.

 "Oh, it's not too far from your line. When something valuable goes missing I try to recover it or at least a proportion of the value."

 "Interestin’. We must have a long talk."

 "And what are you here for?" asked McCully. "The bank was robbed recently. Are you here about that?"


 The Kid shook his head, refusing to disclose a thing. "Nope."


 "Here for long?" asked McCully.

 "It depends."

 "On what?"

 "On many things." Kid Curry’s grin widened, refusing to disclose more as Frank McCully sat back and narrowed his strange, pale eyes. The outlaw turned back to the young blonde beside him. To the casual observer the Kid was consumed by her explanations on how she taught school to all ages, ignoring the dark-haired woman beside him.

 "Mr. Black?" The brown-haired maid he had flirted with recognized him as soon she entered the dining room.

 "Meg? I was hoping to see you.” His eyes flicked back to Mrs. MacPhee who sat scowling at the head of the table. "It was due to her I chose this place. She spoke so highly of it.”

 "I hope so. I don't hold with anyone carrying on with the help."

 "No, ma'am. I helped a pretty girl with her heavy shoppin’. My Ma raised me to be a gentleman. Ain't seen her before or since. Ain’t that right, Meg? Besides, I’m a married man."

"Yeah. I saw you go off with Miss Ansell though. Do you know her?" demanded a wounded Meg.

 "Who?"

 "Miss Ansell. She went off with you on your horse."

 All eyes darted between them.

 "Ah yes. The panicked young lady who had her necklace stolen." He said as she turned back to Abigail. “It’s all go around here, ain’t it?”

 "It was a traumatic day,” her hand darted to her bruised throat.

 "Pleased to be of assistance, ma'am."

The downward intonation in his sentence made it clear he was dismissing her to resume his quest for the blonde on his left hand side. Abigail had clearly underestimated his ability to think on his feet. She pushed back the half empty soup bowl in front of her and resolved to get him on his own. What exactly was the Kid was up to?




Heyes pushed himself to a sitting position on his bedroll as the faint sound of a metallic tinkering drifted over from the door. The Kid had already sprung up, his gun drawn, before Heyes issued a subduing hand signal.


 He took his place behind the door as it slowly opened and a shadowy figure crept in, clicking the door closed as the Kid struck a match and filled the room with an expanding bubble of golden light from the oil lamp.


 "Good evening, Abi. We’ve been expecting you."


 She swirled round to the voice behind her and saw Heyes holding a gun on her whilst a grinning  Kid sat in the bed.
 "Put the gun away," she hissed, before she turned her back on a bare-chested Kid. "And are you going to put some clothes on? I need to talk to you."

 "Why? If you break into a man’s room you’ve gotta expect things like this,” he retorted with a broad smile. “You never got dressed for near enough two weeks at the cabin."

 Her face flushed. "And whose fault was that?" She turned back to Heyes. "Are you going to put that gun away?"
 "Nope, if you come sneaking into our room you take what's coming. What do you want?"

 She glowered at him before crossing over to the bed and sitting on the end. The Kid grinned at her, his well-muscled torso glinting in the lamplight as she hoped he only sat naked from the waist up. Maybe breaking into their room wasn’t such a good idea?

 "What are you two doing here?" she demanded, looking away from the distractingly tight body.

 "We paid for a room," the Kid answered. "There was no need for Heyes to sleep outside when we’ve got this. Not when it’s on the ground floor and he can get in through the window."

 "It's my turn for the bed tomorrow, Kid," Heyes reminded him.

 "Put your gun down, Mr. Heyes. It’s not a toy."

 Heyes strode over to her, his pistol still drawn, but pointing to the floor. “I can't trust you Abi. There may be back up coming. You’re here on a Pinkerton operation, after all."

 "Och, for heaven’s sake. Do you think I'd have turned up here if I had a gang with me? McCully would have noticed them right away. Who do you think it is? Meg? Stanton with his ladies’ underwear?"

 "If you have, we’ve got a hostage." Heyes eyes twinkled at her.

 "Behave yourself, Mr. Heyes," she shook her head, her long curls tumbling around her waist. "I've come here to find out what you're playing at? Are you mad? He’s Frank McCully. You’re playing with fire.”

 The Kid crossed his muscular arms and smiled at her. "We've come to help you. He’s dangerous."

 "I don't need any help. Especially not from you. You might as well wear a target." She arched a brow. “But wearing anything would be pretty good right now.”

 “Pinkerton shouldn’t be puttin’ you in places like this on your own,” the Kid relied with determination. "We ain't askin', Abi. There ain't anythin' you can do about it."

 "No?" Her determined eyebrows rose.

 His eyes glinted like flint in the lamplight. "Then maybe Heyes should take you out of here and leave this to me?"

 “You’re talking about killing him?” She gasped in horror. "You wouldn't dare."


 "Abi, the Kid is quite determined to make sure you're safe after yesterday. He feels he owes you," Heyes gave her a mischievous flash of his eyebrows. "I'll look after you. I can be real entertaining when I put my mind to it. I can do tricks and everything."

 “I don’t doubt it, Mr. Heyes. I’ve seen your file,” Abigail huffed. "I have a job to do and you two are going to mess this up. What if someone recognizes you? Just what are you doing? I can't sit back and let you kill McCully anymore than I would let him kill you."
 
 The Kid looked wounded. "We ain't gonna kill him. We ain't killers Abi. We’re way more sophisticated than that."

 "What then? Why are you here?"

 "I'm here to make sure you're safe. I hurt you, so I owe you. I need to make up for it."

 Her face softened at his earnest tone. "You don't owe me anything, Jed. Get out of here. Please. You’re the ones who are in danger."

 "I don't care, Abi. I scared you real bad and your neck’s still bruised. I hurt you like I never hurt a woman in my life. Either you come with us or I stay here. It's a straight choice, but one way or another I'll make sure you're safe. I owe you, and you need backup around McCully."

 "Jed, this is too dangerous. I can't let you do this, you've held up the bank in this town. This is just plain crazy. This job is no worse than anything else I've done over the years. If you really want to help, then don't give me anything else to worry about."

 "You aren't going to change his mind, Abi. Not when he's in this mood." Heyes put his gun away and walked over to stand in front of her. "He feels he owes you and you may not think this is any different, but it is. Frank McCully is treacherous. As dangerous as they come. I wouldn't be surprised if he was already planning on putting a bullet in your brain if he thinks it'll save him from paying you once you've outlived your usefulness."

 "Don't you think I've thought of that?"

 The Kid shook his head and muttered in exasperation. "Your ma must lie awake every night."

 Abigail glared at him, refusing to speak as a grin of realization spread over Heyes’ face. "She doesn't know, does she?"

 Her porcelain brow wrinkled as she tilted her head provocatively. Heyes chuckled, darting a look at the Kid. "What does she think you do?"

 "None of your business."

 "I bet she'd have a conniption fit if she knew you were in a bedroom in your dressing gown with two outlaws at two in the morning."

 "And one of us as naked as the day he was born," the Kid chuckled.

 She stood and pushed her way passed Heyes, heading for the door. "If you don't get out of here I'll have to let Allan Pinkerton know. He may send someone out for you himself. Don’t say I didn't warn you."

 Heyes shot out a hand and caught her arm. "You aren't gonna do that Abi, otherwise you would have already have told him."

 She glared at his hand as his face dimpled in a smile.

 "No?" She muttered in challenge as she met his eyes.

 "Nope." He shook his head slowly. "You're gonna let the Kid look out for you. You do your job. He'll do what he has to in the background and no one's upset. More importantly, no one’s hurt. Look on the bright side. We won't have time to rob anything when we're looking out for you."

 She glanced over at Jed, still trying not to look at his glistening torso. "You don't have to do this."

 "I do, Abi. I sickened myself in those woods so God only knows what you must have thought," he beamed a determined smile. "I'm gonna make sure you're safe one way or another. At least this way I'm just a businessman in the background."

 Her chocolate eyes glittered at him. "You make sure you stay in the background?" She whirled away and stood with her back to him, sure of his nakedness, as he tugged back the sheets to stand, "and more importantly; right now, you stay in bed."

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Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb
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PostSubject: Re: Sow   Sat Sep 16, 2017 6:00 am

This is the conclusion of the chapter that I posted last month.  I think each piece could stand on its own, but if you'd like to read the first part, it's in the August challenge, "Lock."
 
Just a warning.  I have yet to write an actual death scene for either of the boys, but this is Heyes' explanation of what brought him to Ellie, and it's not happy.



My mother always told me that you reap what you sow.  Considering who she married, I guess she would have known the truth of that saying.  

I thought if I worked hard, I'd be able to rise above my family's outlaw past.  Based on some of my recent choices, I wonder what has been sown.


I was sitting in the rocker, close to the fire, mending some of Joshua's work clothes.
 
“I know I gave Pa’s and Silas’ clothes to the reverend to give to the poor, but we have enough money from the harvest to buy you some new.”  I neatly finished a tear he had made getting caught on one of the fences.  “I bought myself cloth for a new dress after all.”
 
He shook his head.  “You keep that for the spring.  I don’t need anything new this winter, just doin’ chores.”  He was sitting on the hearth near the fire, mending some of the tack.  The firelight flickered on the planes of his face.  He still did not smile much, but some of the tension had gone out of him.  Most of the sorrow remained.
 
“Well, then, what about a new hat?”
 
He scowled.  “I like my hat.”
 
“You cain’t tell me you don’t come in with a wet head every time it snows or rains.”  I scowled back, but my eyes were dancing.
 
“That’s only because it snows sideways here, just like when I lived in Wyoming.”
 
I waited for him to say more, but instead he became very quiet and focused intently on his leatherwork.
 
“It’s like that hat is an old friend,” I said almost to myself, but not quite.
 
He nodded slightly, but kept his eyes down.  If I didn’t know better, I would have said his eyes glistened in the firelight.

     You reap what you sow…
 
We were quiet for a while, as I worked on reinforcing a band on my apron.
 
“You told Pa you were from Kansas.”
 
He just nodded.
 
I waited.
 
He cleared his throat, and rubbed his eyes.  “I grew up in Kansas.”
 
I stitched some more.  He finished and stared into the flames, seeing something different.
 
“You said your family was all gone.”
 
He nodded.  “Most were killed during the border wars.”  He got up and brought us both a cup of coffee.  He sat down in front of my chair, leaning against my knees, still staring into the flames.
 
“One cousin and I survived.  Well, we almost starved, until we started stealin’.”  He took a drink of his coffee, licked his lips, and scrubbed his face with his hand.  Again, there was a dry, bitter laugh.  “We found out that we were very good at stealing.”
 
     You reap what you sow...

“That’s when you became an outlaw.”
 
He nodded.  “I had never been good at anything before, even when our parents were still alive.  We were always in trouble for something or another.”
 
“We?”
 
“Yeah, my cousin and me.”
 
“Is that Thaddeus?”
 
He turned to look at me, with some wonder in his eyes.
 
“You mumbled that name, when you were feverish.”
 
He looked back down, and quietly asked, “Is that the only name I called?”
 
“You were asking for some kid.”  I took a breath and then asked, “Are you married and have a kid?”
 
He laughed, the first one I had heard from him that was sweet and gentle.  “No, Ellie, I’m not married.  Never been.  Not even once.”

I glared at him, until I saw a soft smile. “It’s what I call … called my cousin.  He was younger than me.”
 
I waited a minute before I asked, “Was?”  I wanted to know more but didn’t want to scare him into silence yet again.
 
He took a deep breath, and let out a sigh, that sounded like it carried all the sorrow in the world.  He continued very quietly.
 
“We got to be too good at stealing.  We had sheriffs, bounty hunters, everyone after us.”
 
“You were wanted?”
 
“Yeah.”

     You reap what you sow...
 
“You didn’t have any money on you when you came here.  The others have the haul?”
 
He shook his head.  “Thaddeus and I had stopped stealin’ a couple years ago.  We were trying to go straight.”
 
“Why?”
 
“The governor of Wyoming had promised us an amnesty.”
 
“Must not have been that good.”
 
He looked up at me sharply.
 
“I heard that was just for petty thieves.  Even Pa and Silas wouldn’t have been given amnesty.”
 
“The governor said we had to prove to him that we deserved it.  We had been trying for two years, when … when this last posse got on our trail.”  His voice trailed off.
 
     You reap what you sow...

“What happened to Thaddeus?”
 
He was quiet for so long, I thought I had scared him into silence.
 
Finally, as if he had to dredge it up from the depths of his soul, he continued.
 
“They had been after us for a day, and nothing we tried would shake them.  They were gaining.  I was going to suggest splittin’ up, not that anything good ever happened when we did that, but …
 
“Thaddeus stopped suddenly and turned back.  Took six shots.”  Joshua laughed almost silently.  “Every one of those bullets hit a target.  Six of the posse.  He knew that would stop them for a while.”
 
He put his face into his hands for a couple minutes.  I stitched.  When he looked up there were tears trailing down his face.  He didn’t bother to wipe them away.
 
“He knew.  He knew if he did that it would stop the posse, but he knew there would be a chance one of them would get a shot off at him.  They did.  Hit something that made him bleed like a red waterfall.”
 
     You reap what you sow...

He took a deep breath and continued.  “He held his bandana against the blood as long as he could.  We got off the trail then and I looked to see if I could do anything more.  I packed it.”  His face looked bleak.  “We rode on. We had to.  When he couldn’t stay on his horse any more, I rode behind him.  That slowed us down, and at the next peak, I looked back and saw they were closing again.
 
“Then I made the dumbest decision of my life.  Me, who is supposed to be so smart.  I took him off trail, over a rock fall.  I figured if we could stay on the rocks long enough, we’d lose them and I could get him help.”

Joshua was full out crying.  “The horse slipped, and we fell.  I tried to get under him, but I couldn’t.  The …”  He took a deep breath.  “Thaddeus hit his head on the rocks.  Hard.  There was more blood.  I carried him under a rock overhang.”

     You reap what you sow...

He stopped, sobbing.  I knelt on the hearthstones beside him and took him in my arms.  We stayed that way for a while, until he quieted.
 
“I felt for a pulse, for a breath.  There was none.”  He cleared his throat.  “I covered him up and took off on the other horse.  I didn’t want them to find his body and drag it in for the reward.  I took off back across the rocks and led the posse away.
 
“I didn’t care anymore what happened to me.  I rode until the horse slowed enough for them to catch up again.  That’s when I got shot.

“The pain made my brain engage again enough, that I led the horse across another rock fall.  I figured this time they’d either catch me or I’d fall again and maybe join my cousin.”

His laugh wasn’t so dry through the remnants of the tears.  “That time I lost them.  After I realized that, I let the horse have his lead.  We ended up here.”
 
We sat on the stones until the fire burnt to embers.  Joshua got up then to bank the coals, and turned back, extending his hand to pull me up.  We walked hand in hand to my bedroom door.  When I made to pull him in, he shook his head.
 
“Just lay with me, Joshua.  We neither of us need to sleep alone tonight.”  I looked quietly up at him, and he finally nodded.
 
“Let me check everything, and I’ll be in.”  His eyes were dark, and red rimmed.  He never let us go to sleep without a perimeter check of the place.  Caution seemed ingrained in him, even if it had finally failed him.

I figured that was as much as I could expect.  I went into my bedroom as he put on his old coat and disreputable hat.  The gun belt went on too.  He never left the house without it.

I was settled in bed, reading by the only lamp I left lit, by the time he returned.  I had left my door open, which wasn’t unusual in the winter, to get heat from the fireplace.  I heard him hang up his hat and coat.  Then he walked across the floor and stopped at my doorway.
 
I looked up from my book.  “Everything settled for the night?”
 
He nodded, but didn’t move from the door.
 
“It’s gonna be cold tonight with the wind.”  I looked at him.  It had to be his decision at this point.
 
His eyes were dark and unreadable, nothing usual for as long as I had known him.
 
He started to unbuckle his gun belt as he walked into the room.  He hung it over the headboard, and turning sat on the bed to pull off his boots.  He unbuttoned his shirt still facing away from me and then stood to take off his pants.  As he got under the covers with me, I turned the lamp off.  I settled into his arms, and we drifted off to sleep in the warmth under the quilts.
 
     You reap what you sow...
 
By the time the spring thaw came, I figured I was about three months along.  During our first trip into town to restock on supplies, Joshua sold the pelts he had acquired during the winter.  He bought two new shirts, and some fabric for a couple new dresses I would soon need.  We also stopped by the reverend’s home, and I became Mrs. Joshua Smith.


I know Ma was pregnant with me when she married Pa.  I had always thought the fact that he actually married her had shown that he had cared for her in his own way.  Now I wondered.


When the summer travel resumed, I learned the result of what I had actually done.
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PostSubject: The Reckoning   Tue Sep 26, 2017 5:19 pm

What do you know, I finally had half a bunny hop.  This is going to be short, in part because I only had half a bunny but...

The Reckoning


Phileas J. Brume was an imposing man.  Not a nice man, but an imposing one.  The jingling of the fobs fastened to the silver watch chain over his vested bulk announced his arrival some time before the rest of him hove into view, like the tooting horn of a tug towing a stately galleon.  Those who heard the sound frequently found other places to occupy themselves; those who could not retreat shrank in his presence.


Henry Weatherpot believed that in the six months he had worked for the man he had shrunk at least two sizes.  Indeed, he was certain he had become invisible, trailing feebly in the shadow of the great man.  But Ma and Sissy and baby Ruth needed all the meager wages he could spare them.  And so, Henry swallowed his resentment and trudged in Brume's wake, the paper-thin soles of his best, his only, shoes making faint traces in the dirt, raising dust to settle in the frayed and threadbare cuffs of his only trousers.


Despondent, Henry trudged, notebook in hand, as Brume made his rounds and collected the rents from his many businesses.  Henry watched as first one shop owner then the next, whispered "Yes, sir, Mr. Brume, sir," and hesitatingly handed over a sheaf of bills.  Brume snatched the bills, quickly counted and deposited them in the bag hanging from his belt, and called out the amounts to Henry to write in the notebook.


At Fine Dry Goods, Joseph Harlow - Proprietor, the process crawled to a halt.  


Brume's eyes narrowed.  "Harlow, you are a dollar fifty short."


"Yes, sir.  I know, sir.  But Elijah took sick and couldn't make deliveries this week so I had to close shop and deliver myself."


"You have an obligation to pay your rent."


"I know sir, and I swear I will next week and make it up to you."


"Hmph.  Out of the goodness of my heart, I will give you two days.  In two day's time, you will pay me four dollars to compensate me for my generosity."


"Two days!  Four dollars!  But how can I get that much money in that time?"


"That is your business.  You signed a contract.  I am not a charity forever coddling those too spendthrift to own up to their responsibilities."


"but, but... Sophy's expecting another baby any day, and Elijah's still sick, and..."


"It is not my business how you arrange your life.  Two days or I'll have the sheriff turn you all out."  He turned his blue eyes on Henry, shrinking in the corner.  "Write that down.  What do you think I pay you for?" he said as he headed towards the door.   Upon reaching it he stopped and snarled, "Open the door, you incompetent numbskull.  My generosity keeping you on never ceases to amaze me."


"What generosity?" Henry mumbled too quietly for Brume to hear.  He turned to obey the order but stopped when the frantic shopkeeper grabbed the tail of his jacket.


"Please, sir.  Help me."


Henry gently disengaged the man, shaking his head.  He scurried to open the door for Brume, who was glaring impatiently.


Brume stomped through.  "Fools.  Fools and crooks, thinking they can whine and avoid what they owe."


~oOo~


"Sally, you and the gals always make us feel so welcome."  Heyes smiled at the blowsy woman with the make-up raddled face and improbably brassy hair standing beside him.


She grinned back, two gold teeth gleaming.  "Ah, go on with you.  You and the Kid and the boys are the girls' favorites, you know that."


Curry's blue eyes twinkled as he spoke.  "Bet you tell all the customers that."


Sally guffawed.  "I do.  But with you fellas I mean it."


A scantily clad young woman leaned over the railing to call downstairs.  "Sally, that old B... Brume is coming."  At that the various women who had been lounging in the parlor gathered their things and rushed up the stairs, leaving Sally and the two outlaws alone.


Before Sally could answer the questions in the men's eyes, Brume strode in, followed by his shadow.  "Time to pay up," he demanded curtly, coming to port so that Sally leaned back to avoid contact.


"I told you yesterday, we need more time.  This winter was slow and the pace is just starting to pick up," Sally retorted.


"And I told you, no more credit."  Brume turned to Henry.  "Get the sheriff, boy, and have him evict these harlots."


A gasp sounded from the women hanging over the bannister on the floor above.  The partners exchanged frowns and turned as one to the the pair before them.


"Excuse me, Mr...." Heyes began, his voice deep and his eyes conveying a warning.  "May I..."


Brume dismissed him.  "No, you may not.  This is none of your business.  I do not consort with the type of," he paused to look the two up and down before completing his sentence, "persons who would waste their money in a common brothel."


Curry folded his arms, his eyes icy.  "There's nothin' common about Sally's."


Brume ignored him and turned his attention back to Sally.  "I said get out, woman, or I'll have the sheriff jail the lot of you."


"And if I tell him you're the money behind this enterprise?"


"What of it?  The sheriff knows which side his bread is buttered on.  He'll do what I say."


Henry shrank from the confrontation.  Seeking to become as invisible as he felt, he sidled back to disappear behind the curtains, only to find his way blocked by two angry outlaws.  "I'm so sorry.  I can't... I need..." he began, then shrugged hopelessly.


Heyes considered him for a moment before stepping around him to place himself between Sally and Brume.  "Now, friend, I'm sure you'll see that it is in your business interests to reconsider."  Heyes smiled as he spoke, but the smile was not reflected in his smoldering eyes.


Sally murmured quietly.  "You can't help."


Brume dismissed Heyes and turned.  "Two hours, then the sheriff will deal with you and your lot."  He began to stride out of the room only to find his way blocked by the Kid.


"I think you should hear my partner out."  His lips curled in a semblance of a smile.  "If he says it's in your best interests to do so, it is."


Brume swelled.  "Are you, you cretins, presuming to threaten your betters?"


Curry narrowed his eyes.  "Better'n what?"


"Scum, curs,"  Brume spat out.  He shoved Curry to the side.


Before he could sail past, Curry drew back and cold-cocked him.  Brume fell back, striking his head on the stairs and shaking the building as his girth crashed to the floor.


Cheers drifted down the staircase before the women were rendered mute by a glare from Sally.  She held up a hand and bent over the man.  "He's alive."  She straightened, drew back her boot, and kicked it deep into his side.  She turned to Heyes and Curry.  "Well, I guess we'll let you know where me and the girls end up.  We need to skedaddle before the sheriff shows."  She paused for a moment before swinging around to glower at Henry.  "And don't you be thinking about speeding them up any, neither." 


Henry glanced at his recumbent tormentor and, for a second, a grin flitted across his weary face.  The grin disappeared as he found himself the center of attention.  "No, no, wouldn't think of it."   His shoulders slumped and he stared at the dusty surface of his well-worn shoes.  "But, but...  What'll I do about Ma, and Sissy, and little Ruth?  Brume'll fire me for sure, if he doesn't find a way to have the sheriff arrest me."


The three looked at each other then back at the wretched clerk, who was wringing his hands and moaning softly to himself.


"Heyes," the Kid whispered.


"I'm thinking."  Heyes bent his head and paced the hallway, walking absentmindedly around Brume.


"Think fast."


Sally watched him skeptically.  She shook her head.  "Yeah, well while you do that, the girls and I are gonna pack up.  Would you boys help us haul things out of here?  I'd give you a discount once we've set up shop again."  She looked around.  "Damn shame.  This is the nicest establishment we ever had."


As Sally moved towards the stairs, looking up at the women awaiting instructions, a grin lit Heyes' face.  "Sally," he said, dimples showing.  "Hold up on that.  I think we can give this gentleman..."


"Brume," Sally stated.


"Brume, a taste of his own medicine."


"The sheriff's gonna be lookin' for him soon," the Kid warned.


"When did a sheriff ever bother us?"


"Well..."



"Don't start."  Heyes turned his attention to Henry.  "I take it you aren't too fond of your employer."


"He's a stingy bully."


Heyes nodded.  "Then maybe you can help us."


"Me?  No.  I couldn't.  Could I?  I don't know."  Henry paled, glanced once more at the still form, and gave himself a shake.  "Guess I don't have many options at this point, and the Good Book does say, 'as you sow so shall you reap.'"  He grinned at the others.  "I'm in."
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Nell McKeon



Posts : 32
Join date : 2017-04-18

PostSubject: Re: Sow   Wed Sep 27, 2017 10:24 am

This story is a stretch to fit the prompt but I ran out of time and this is all I have to offer.


One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure


“Kyle’s upset”

Heyes flicked his eyes up to momentarily rest on his partner standing on the other side of the leader’s cabin’s large table before returning his attention to the map before him.

“So?”

“So that’s got Wheat upset.”

“Wheat’s always got something to crab about.”

“And it’s got Lobo upset, and Preacher upset, and Hank upset, and …”

“Okay, Kid. I got it. The gang’s upset.”

“Everyone likes Kyle. If you can put up with the dirt, Kyle’s a nice guy. He’ll do anything for you. He’s kinda like a pet.”

Heyes, his attention still on the map where he was carefully using a ruler to measure the distance between pencil points, distractedly responded, “Uhm, so deal with it.”

Kid Curry, the co-leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang and the one responsible for the daily operations of Devil’s Hole, especially in the period leading up to a big job, heaved a restrained sigh.

“I am dealing with it. That’s why I’m talking to you.”

“Okay, talk.” Heyes scribbled some numbers on the pad beside the map.

Kid walked over to the stove, lifted the lid on the coffee pot and peered inside. After a moment of hesitation, he poured two cups. Curry placed one at Heyes’ elbow before sitting down at the table across from his partner.

“Well, you know Kyle’s birthday is at the end of next week. The boys normally take Kyle into Harristown to celebrate. Even the girls at Lottie’s take pity on Kyle and show him a good time for his birthday.”

Kid sipped at his coffee tentatively and grimaced. He got up from the table and retrieved the whiskey bottle from the cabinet and poured a healthy measure into his cup.  Curry watched Heyes take an appreciative swallow of the unadulterated brew without pausing in his further perusal of the map before replacing the bottle without offering any to the absorbed leader of the gang. Kid sat back down.

“So, as I was sayin’, Kyle’s birthday is next week. But as we’ve been holed up here for the last three months ‘cause of that pesky bounty hunter hangin’ around and the job is planned for the week after next that leaves Kyle with no party.”

“He can celebrate and hurrah after the job.” Heyes started drawing arrows and circles on the map.

Kid idly watched Heyes for a while, sipping his doctored coffee. Heyes paused for a moment in his drawing and stared into space. Kid continued his report on Kyle.

“No party and no presents. Everyone likes presents on their birthday, especially Kyle. We haven’t had a birthday celebration for any of the gang in a while. No one says they care but everyone knows Kyle cares. And I bet others do too but won’t say anything. No one’s been able to get to town to buy anything. That makes people feel bad, Heyes. And when they feel bad they grumble. Yeah, once the job is over, things will be good but it’s best to head into what we have planned with everyone at their best. I think we should plan a little party here. It won’t be the same but at least Kyle’ll feel special for a day.”

“Good, good, you do that,” muttered the busy robbery planner.

“Heyes, I’m talking to you but maybe I should say I need to talk with you.”

“Huh?”

“Heyes, I need that genius brain of yours for just a few minutes. Pay attention!”

“What? Kid, I heard everything you said. Kyle’s upset ‘cause he ain’t getting a birthday party. How old is he that he’s upset about a party?”

“You might have heard it but you ain’t listen’. Not just Kyle’s upset. It’s the whole gang. And you know, I’m not sure how old Kyle will be, older than me and probably you too. I know he’s older than me since he thinks it’s funny to call me a younglin’ instead of Kid when he’s had way too much to drink.”

Heyes looked up in disbelief. “And you let him?”

Kid shrugged his shoulders and sheepishly answered, “Well, not exactly, I pretend I don’t hear him. He’s only done it a few times and I think it makes him feel better that I’m the youngest gang member. Besides, Kyle’s hard to stay mad at.” He straightened up, leaned across the table towards Heyes and continued, “I can get Hognose, who’s the best cook around here to make a cake and somethin’ special for dinner. Ain’t no women but I can’t do anything ‘bout that. You can make sure Kyle wins at poker…”

“I don’t cheat and I don’t throw games,” Heyes protested.

“Everyone knows you play honest poker but that doesn’t mean you can’t play a little less good on one night.”

“Humph, why should I? He’ll know anyway.”

Kid gave his partner a steady measuring look, not backing down from the brown-eyed stare of affront from his partner. Heyes returned to studying his notes.

“Maybe. I’ll think about it.”

“Good, thanks. That leaves the problem of presents. The look-outs haven’t reported seeing that bounty hunter around in a week or so. From the looks of things and what I can see of his tracks when I was out hunting last, he probably finally left and I’ll keep checking. But, I know you don’t want anyone leaving the Hole so close to the next job so what are we going to do about presents?”

Heyes once again looked up and stared at his partner. Kid was serious. He really was concerned about presents for a hardened gang of outlaws and not just any outlaws but the most successful gang of outlaws in the West. Outlaws that if they could wait two more weeks would have plenty of money to spend on whatever they wanted.

Heyes rubbed his chin, felt the stubble and realized maybe a little party to let off some unwanted excess energy prior to the upcoming train robbery might not be a bad idea.

“Let me think on it, Kid.”

“Thanks, Heyes. You can go back to your final plannin’ now.”

~~~~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~~~~

Heyes and Kid entered the bunkhouse the next afternoon as the men were gathering after a day of maintenance work on the various buildings. The gang members were hot, tired, and somewhat surly when they greeted their leaders with grunts and nods.

Heyes walked towards the table as Kid leaned back against the door with his arms crossed, a small cloth sack hanging from his left hand, watching the room.

“Gather ‘round boys, I’ve got something to say,” announced Heyes in a no nonsense tone.

Backs slightly stiffened and expressions ranged from blank to belligerent on the Devil’s Hole Gang men’s faces but they quickly sat and stood around the bunkhouse table. Preacher glanced at Kid by the door, noticed the twinkle in the blue eyes and the slight tug at the mouth, indicating a suppressed grin and he relaxed back into his chair.

“Well men, it seems that Kyle is going to be missing his birthday celebration in Harristown next week. It also seems that we’ve missed a few birthdays this year. So, I’ll tell you what we’re going to do.” Heyes announced in a booming voice.

“We’re gonna have ourselves a gang birthday party next week, with Kyle as the extra special birthday boy. Presents for everyone! We can take a day off from non-essential chores, play poker for as long as you want and Hognose will make a birthday cake and cook something special, won’t you Hognose?”

Hognose nodded, “Yep, I can do that Heyes, we got a nice smoked ham in the smokehouse, Kyle’s favorite, some smoked fish too or venison from that deer Kid got and I can see what we got growin’ out back that’s ready for pickin’.”

Kyle jumped up and slapped his best buddy Wheat on the back, “Whooee! See Wheat, I knew Heyes wouldn’t forget. He was just foolin’ me by pretendin’ my celebration ain’t important. Thanks Heyes, I always say you’re the best ever leader. But what are we gonna do about presents? Kid won’t let us go into town.”

Heyes broke into a full-dimpled grin as his brown eyes shot over to the door and a brown head slightly inclined in gratitude as he met his partner’s twinkling blues and wide smile.

“The Devil’s Hole Gang is known for doing the impossible and being innovative and resourceful.”

Kyle leaned over and whispered to Wheat, “What’s innovative, it’s good, right?”

Before Wheat had a chance to respond, Heyes continued, “So, we’re going to be innovative, that is we’re going to make something up that’s new from something old for presents. The Kid put a box on the leader cabin’s porch that everyone is going to put in a few old items that they don’t want any more. Do that by tomorrow night. The rules are that Kid and I are going to step outside. You’re going come out one at a time to draw a slip of paper with a man’s name on it out of the sack the Kid has and I’ll whisper it to you if you can’t read my handwritin’. The name you draw is the person you have to make a present out of the things that are in the birthday stuff box on the porch. Keep the name to yourself so no one knows who is making whose present. You have to use at least one item from the box, and anything else you can find that no one is using or wants or is lying around the hole. That gives everyone a week to work on the present he’s making. Any questions?”

A few men spoke up and Heyes answered their questions amiably. He could tell that the gang was initially hesitant, not sure of what to make of the idea but the enthusiasm was building. Men were smiling and laughing at a few outrageous or rude suggestions for homemade presents. Kyle was bouncing up and down in his chair.

“Come on Kid, let’s go outside to get the show on the road.” Kid turned around, opened the door and with a last look of satisfaction at the scene around the table, exited the bunkhouse. Heyes followed closely with Kyle’s excited high-pitched insistence of “Me first” ringing in his ears.

~~~~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~~~~~

Curry dragged the large box of the men’s discarded trash items into the cabin and dumped the contents on the table to make sure nothing unsuitable or dangerous found their way into the material to be used for the presents. Kid was rummaging around the contents, pulling a few items off to the side.

“Well, anything good in there?” Heyes asked from across the room.

Kid looked over his shoulder. “It depends upon what you mean by good. There’s a few tin cans of various sizes, a broken leather bridle, bits of latigo straps, leather pieces, a jar of buttons, a roll of string, an old shaving brush, some fairly nice feathers on a leather headband. I wonder where that came from,” he laughed.

Heyes, his curiosity getting the better of him, sauntered over to join his partner. He picked up a dried-up corn cob in one hand and a ripped plaid shirt in another. “There certainly is a variety of stuff, isn’t there?”

“Yep, these cards yours?” asked Curry, indicating a rubber-banded deck of well-worn pasteboards.

“Yeah, it’s a few cards light. What did you contribute?”

Kid pointed to an old wooden comb, missing half its teeth and a large rounded belt buckle. “It should be fun to see what everyone makes with this old stuff, won’t it?”

Heyes watched his partner look at each item on the table with delight, no matter how trivial it was, as if they were found treasures. Curry was really having fun, planning the party, meeting with Hognose over the menu, like he was some gent talking to the caterer. He had already arranged with Preacher for some home brew to supplement the limited amount of alcohol still in the Hole. Dutch, Hank and Quint were going to provide the music on a washboard, a makeshift drum and a string bass. Curry had even talked Heyes into playing a tune or two on the old guitar. Talk about Kyle, Heyes thought, Kid was really a big kid sometimes too, a real younglin’.

Heyes was chuckling to himself. He casually asked, “So, what name did you pull out of the sack?”

Curry has started to put the items back in the box, ready for the transformation from trash to treasure. He looked up, smirked, and answered, “I can’t tell you, it’s a secret.”

“Come on Kid, you don’t keep secrets from your partner. You can tell me.”

“Nope, them’s the rules. You made the rules, Heyes, not me.” With that statement, Curry lifted the box and left the cabin to do his rounds after leaving the trash trove on the porch.

~~~~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~~~~

All the next week found men sneaking up to the porch and surreptitiously smuggling items from the trash present box away into parts unknown. For once, the chores were done quickly and efficiently with nary a complaint. The men used their squirreled away free time to work on their gifts. Heyes watched the gang’s activity with a bemused eye. The satisfied leader of the gang silently congratulated himself on his scheme to keep the men occupied, out of trouble, and not letting unproductive energy and nervousness build before the coming complicated and somewhat riskier than usual train robbery plan.  Kid Curry might have had something to say regarding Heyes assigning himself the credit for the birthday party but Kid was too busy to notice.

Finally, the day of the party arrived. The leader’s cabin was hosting the party proper. The Kid, Quint and Lobo festooned the cabin with paper cutouts of presents strung on string. The dinner feast was the finest in the Hole that the men of Devil’s Hole could remember in a long time. Preacher had even produced two cached, purloined bottles of wine to go with the dinner. The music along with the whiskey and shine would be kept for the night’s poker game being held in the bunkhouse. Kyle’s child-like wonder when the birthday cake was carried in, complete with a few candles, brought smiles to all of the hardened outlaws.  Heyes plucked out a simple rendition of Happy Birthday on the slightly out of tune guitar while everyone sang an enthusiastic rendition of the song.

Wheat stood up, slid the birthday cake from the center of the table to right in front of Kyle. He fondly found the blue eyes of his best friend and warmly suggested, “Why don’t you make a wish and blow them out, Kyle. Happy Birthday!”

Kyle looked around for a minute in confusion and not finding what he was looking for, spit his tobaccy into the glass before him. He took a great big breath and then blew with all his might, extinguishing the candles on the cake.

Heyes grimaced as he stared at the brown globs in one of the few nice glasses he and Kid owned.

Kid glanced at his partner beside him, leaned in to whisper, “It’s better than all over the cake.”

“Can’t argue with that.”

Everyone clapped and the cake was cut into pieces and passed out to each man. A beaming Kyle looked up hopefully at Heyes.

“You want something, Kyle?” Heyes asked innocently.

“Uhm, yes. I mean not just me but everyone. Everyone is gonna get a present, right Heyes. Can we have them now? Can we?”

“Kid, why don’t you get the box of wrapped presents and we’ll pass them out. It seems a birthday party isn’t complete without the presents. Remember, no telling who made what. Unless, of course, we can’t figure something out.”

All eyes, in spite of themselves, watched the young blond notorious gunmen disappear into his room only to emerge moments later with a big box filled with presents wrapped in assorted materials and with various levels of skill.

Heyes reached in, read the writing on the wrinkled brown paper, tied with string and handed the gift to Lobo.

Lobo carefully unwrapped the present and held up a leather strip fashioned into a hat band, which had a spray of bristles and feathers artfully arranged on one side.

“Wow, this is a pretty nice hat band. It’s as good as I could buy in town. Hey wait a minute. Are those the bristles from my old shaving brush?” Lobo looked pleased and somewhat surprised as he peered around the table, trying to figure out who to thank.

Wheat was already busy unwrapping his small package to uncover a wooden mustache comb, which he promptly used on his large luxuriant mustache. As Wheat preened, Kid thought to himself, whoever had Wheat was skilled in sizing his old head comb into a mustache one for Wheat.

Kid was handed a large, relatively heavy gift, covered by what looked like a stretched faded red long john leg tied at both ends with string. Curry laid one end on the table and untied the string as he pushed the material down. It revealed a long piece of sanded wood with hooks along the bottom and metal rings on the back with rope ties attached to the rings. A jar of buttons was stuffed into the bottom of the long john leg. Kid opened the jar with amusement and pulled out a few buttons. Each button was attached to a string of different lengths with a loop at one end. Kid held the wooden rack up, hung two of the buttons on the hooks and laughed.

“They’re targets. The buttons are targets. That’s pretty clever. Thanks, it will be fun to practice with this.” Curry stated with genuine pleasure.

The next gift was small and was tucked into a sock, tied with a bow made of dried cattail leaves. It went to Hank. Hank looked dubiously at the package in his hand and tentatively brought it close to his nose for a quick sniff. Finding the smell acceptable he tore the bow and shook out the sock. A nicely carved corn cob pipe with a polished wood stem fell onto the table. Hank smiled, and plucked the pipe from table top and popped it into his mouth.

“Anyone got any smoking tobacco?” asked Hank hopefully.

Heyes piped up, “If you wait a minute, I think I have a cigar in my room you can use for the tobacco.”

“Thanks, Heyes.”

Heyes pushed the box of presents to Kid to finish handing out as he went to retrieve the needed cigar.

Kid brought out a thin flat item. He read the fine cursive writing on the paper and passed the package to Dutch.

Dutch tore the paper and held up a neat large square of plaid cotton, which separated into three separate squares. Dutch turned to Preacher sitting next to him.

“Thanks for the bandanas, Preacher.”

Preacher held up his glass of wine in acknowledgement. “You’re welcome. But how did you know they were from me?”

Dutch smiled as he tied one bandana around his neck. He held up one of the other bandanas and pointed to the edge seam before carefully folding the two up and put them in his pocket. “The stitches are small and neat and the hem along the edges are straight. No one else here has that sewing skill, not even Lobo.”

Kid tossed Hognose his present. The cook eagerly caught it and proceeded to pull off what looked like the other leg of the faded discarded red long johns from the awkwardly shaped object. Everyone burst out into uncontrolled laughter.

Wheat pointed and slightly piqued stated, “It’s a piggy bank. See a sow for a hog, you know Hognose, the former pig farmer.”

Kid was wiping his eyes of tears, he was laughing so hard that Heyes elbowed him in the ribs to tone it down.

Heyes got himself under control and agreed, “So it is and a pretty ingenious sow bank at that.” And it was. The body was a polished sideways tin can. There were 4 nails and a small double row of short wires protruding from bottom representing legs and teats. A round wooden disc with a short corkscrewed piece of thick wire for the tail formed the access into the interior of the piggy bank from the opened end of the tin can. A smaller can sat attached at the edge of the top of the body can and was decorated with buttons and wire to form the head and face.

Hank solemnly thanked Wheat, “Thank you Wheat. The bank will come in handy. Maybe I’ll start saving a little bit of my share of the take so I’m not always broke between jobs.”

Wheat’s look of annoyance morphed into one of smug satisfaction.

Preacher revealed a bottle encased in a basket of leather bridle straps with a long loop to hang it on something. Preacher shook the bottle. It was empty. “The lord giveth and the lord taketh away. Thank you, Sir, for the bottle holder.”

“Where’s mine, Kid? Where’s my present,” whined Kyle who could barely control his excited anticipation.

“Here, Kyle. Catch.” A large bundle came soaring across the table and thudded Kyle in the chest before he cradled the object with his arms against his body. Pieces of shredded paper rapidly went off in all directions like confetti. Kyle held his present aloft proudly, a spittoon fashioned from a large tin can. The maker having taken his time to bang in and out the tin to make the classic spittoon flared shape and polished to a shine.

Heyes muttered out the side of his mouth to no one in particular as he one again grimaced at the glass sitting in from of Kyle, “Now he gets the spittoon. We should have given him the present first.”

“Here Quint.” Curry handed over a small neatly wrapped box. Quint peered inside the box and pulled out a jews harp made from a rounded metal belt buckle and a dried cut cane reed. The outlaw grinned and placed the homemade instrument in his mouth and started to play a tune. It sounded surprisingly good and the men started clapping in time. Kid gave a knowing look to his partner, so that was what Heyes was doing down by the stream the other day.

One gift remained.

“The last one boys before we can head over to the bunkhouse and party hardy.” Curry called out.

Kid handed a slim gift, wrapped in newspaper to the leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang. He watched carefully as his partner unwrapped the package, trying to gauge Heyes’ initial true reaction. Heyes held up what he immediately ascertained was a finally crafted bookmark. A soft piece of 6-inch leather had been pierced along both sides as were the ace of spades and the ace of diamonds, which were sewn on along the side with latigo, an ace on the front and back. The ends of the leather latigo were slightly longer, one longer at the top of the bookmark and the other at the bottom. Each longer end was weighted with a bullet in the center of a leather knot. Heyes now knew why his partner wouldn’t divulge whose name he had drawn. Only Kid would choose to craft this as s present for him. Heyes sought his partner and held Kid’s vulnerable blue eyes.

“Thank you to whoever made this for me. It’s perfect. I hate bending the pages of a book and the slips of paper I use now as bookmarks keep falling out. Thanks. One man’s trash is another man treasure. I know I’ll treasure this.”
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