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PostSubject: Start   Mon Jan 01, 2018 10:18 am

Time for the first topic of 2018 and as it's a fresh beginning the topic is 


Start
coboy 8


That can be either a noun or a verb with various meanings;


Verb
Begin or be reckoned from a particular point in time or space; come into being. Embark on a continuing action or a new venture. begin to move or travel. Cause to happen or begin. Cause (a machine) to begin to work. Jerk or give a small jump from surprise or alarm. Move or appear suddenly


Noun
The point in time or space at which something has its origin; the beginning. A person's position or circumstances at the beginning of their life. An advantage consisting in having set out in a race or on a journey earlier than one's rivals. A sudden movement of surprise or alarm.


Get writing
Writing


And don't forget to comment on December's Stories before starting on January as comments are the only thanks our writers get
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RosieAnnieUSA

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PostSubject: Re: Start   Tue Jan 09, 2018 12:49 pm

When Harry met Curry. And Heyes.
---------------------------------------


“Do you know what really gets my goat?”

The man in the fancy eastern-style suit looked up from his steno pad. “No, sir, Mr. Briscoe, I sure don’t. What?”

“It’s the misdirections about how I got to know Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.”

He raised his eyebrows inquiringly but kept his face blank. The way westerners talked sometimes bore little relation to English, but it was his job to make sense of this story.

“Misdirections, sir? Or do you mean, misconceptions?”

Briscoe waved one arm in the air. The lit cigar he held in his fist left a curved trail of smoke around him.

“Yes. Exactly what I said.” He directed a squinty-eyed glare at the young man sitting opposite him.

“Where you from again?”

“New York.”

“Aren’t I being clear enough for you, son?”

“Oh yes sir, perfectly clear. It’s just . . . “ The squint directed at him somehow got squintier. “It’s just that Westerners use some colorful expressions that readers of The New York World may not have heard before.”

“Uh huh.” Briscoe sat up straight, making the chair squeak. “You sure you can get all of this? Your readers will want the whole story.”

“Yes, sir, do you want to check my notes as we go along?”

“You know I can’t read that dang fool shorthand you use."

“No sir, I guess not. May I remind you that you get final approval of this article, so you can review it for errors before publication.”

Briscoe settled back, reassured. “That’s alright then. We don’t want any misdirections going out into the world, do we?”

“No, we don’t. Mr. Pulitzer himself told me to make sure I get everything you say recorded accurately, without editing. From the horse’s mouth, if you’ll pardon the expression.” Briscoe flashed an amused smile at him, and the man released a quiet breath of relief. Too many reporters had tried to get the real story – well, at least a version of the real story – from Harry Briscoe and had failed. He’d been told that, if he didn’t, he might as well not return to New York.

“If we might get back to your story, Mr. Briscoe. Heyes and Curry have publicly acknowledged a debt of friendship to you going back ten years, but won’t elaborate. Why do you think that is?”

“It’s like this, Jenkins –"

“Johnson, sir.”

“What did you say?”

“My name is Johnson. Not Jenkins.”

“Right.” Briscoe directed his beady-eyed glare to the cigar, which had gone out. Johnson quickly rose and struck a match to light it. Briscoe took a few long, contented puffs and swiveled in his chair to look out the window. Johnson waited, looking out the window as well, trying to see what was so interesting. After a long moment, he cleared his throat.

“You need some water, Jenkins?”

“I’m good. And it’s Johnson, sir.”

“I knew that. Just testing you.”

“Of course. So, why do you think Heyes and Curry won’t talk about your friendship with them?”

“I figure it like this. They got their view, and I got mine, and neither of us can talk for the other without saying things that might be out of turn. We don’t want to start anything, not that we’re not able to finish things. A man of the world like you, you understand.” He brushed his nose with two fingers in a gesture Johnson didn’t recognize. “A word to the wise is efficient, as the saying goes.” Puffing on his cigar, he swiveled to look out of the window again. Johnson blinked several times as he tried to make sense of what he’d just heard.

“Why don’t we just get started, Mr. Briscoe. Tell me how a certified agent of the Bannerman Detective Agency became friends with the two most wanted outlaws west of the Mississippi.”

“You got it. But you know, I’m not quite sure where to start.”

Johnson gave him an encouraging smile. “Start at the beginning, Mr. Briscoe. How did you meet them?”

“Alright. Makes sense. The beginning’s a good place to start.” he pointed at the steno pad. “You ready?”

“Ready.”

“Very good.” Briscoe stubbed out his cigar in an overflowing ashtray, ignoring the ashes he knocked onto the desktop. Leaning back in his chair, he laced his fingers behind his head and looked at the ceiling.

“It all started when I was running a secret operation to trap the Devil’s Hole Gang, and especially Heyes and Curry. I remember it like it was yesterday. Hard to believe that it’s already been ten years.”

Late in the evening, Hiram Johnson staggered into his hotel room. He sank into the rocker and closed his eyes for a moment. It had been one hell of a day. Briscoe’s recollections would need a lot of editing, but Johnson didn’t mind. This story was dynamite. And today was only the first day of the scheduled interviews! He took his flask from his pocket and took a good long swallow of whiskey. The liquid soothed his dry throat with its gentle burn. He rocked back and forth a little, thinking how collaboration with Briscoe could bring fame and fortune to them both. But, he reminded himself, it would take some serious work. Might as well get started. Grinning, he took out his steno pad and started to review his notes.

----------------
I’d already been a Bannerman man for several years at that point. Working mainly out of the Denver office, but I’d been around. Got hired in Cincinnati after the war. Bet that surprises you, doesn’t it? The West fits me like a glove, but I was born and raised in Ohio. I fought with the 1st Ohio Light Artillery, Army of the Cumberland, during the war. You look surprised, Jenkins. Don’t be. I was young when I joined up, mighty young, but I served. I saw the elephant.

During the war, I heard about the Pinkertons, how they guarded the President. Kept him safe, except that one night at Ford’s Theatre when there weren’t no Pinkertons around. Shouldn’t have taken that night off. Pinkertons claim they never sleep, but they sure as hell did that night.

But I digress. Stream of consciousness, that’s how I think. I’m linear that way. After the war ended, I was at loose ends. Tried a few different jobs, hated them all. Then I decided to follow my dream. I said to myself, detecting, now that’s some fine work for a man. Bodyguarding a President. Doing investigations. I wanted to protect honest citizens, solve crimes, track down criminals and maintain public order. It even sounded kind of noble to me.

I see what you’re thinking. You’re wondering why I didn’t just become a policeman. I’ll tell you why. I got a taste for travelling during the war. Saw a lot of different places. These detectives, they worked all over the country. Lots of change, lots of challenge. A policeman is stuck in one place his whole career. I’d been through the war. There was no chance I’d settle down in Cincinnati and walk a beat. The Bannerman Agency was new, and they were hiring. I started in the detecting business just as the detecting business was getting started. Everything just fell into place natural-like.

Oh, right, Heyes and Curry. Sorry, I digressed a bit. Anyway, by 1881, I was a manager in the Denver office. Hiring new agents, training them, running bigger and bigger operations. I figure that’s why Daley came to me with his idea. I had a reputation, you see. Who’s Daley? I’m coming to that. Just hold your horses, son.

Even back east, you heard of the Devil’s Hole Gang. Gentleman robbers, famous for treating people decently and they had a policy, no gunplay. People like you, writers, putting out dime novels about them, calling them Robin Hoods. I can tell you, they weren’t no Robin Hoods. They took other people’s money, and they spent it on themselves. Wine, women, and song. Maybe not song. Maybe other people’s songs. I’ve heard Heyes sing, usually after a few beers, and believe you me, his singing is scarier than his gunplay. He could’ve sung to a train full of passengers, and that’d scare ‘em off the train faster than Wheat Carlsen pointing a gun at them.

The most successful outlaws in the West. That’s what people called them, and it was true.  The way Heyes could tickle the tumblers and empty a safe without raising a ruckus. . . they were bleeding the railroads and banks dry. That’s why the rewards on them were so big, $10,000 each, dead or alive.
So how’d I meet them. . . well, this agent from the Kansas City office, Jeremiah Daley – told you I’d get to him - he came to me with a plan. There was a regular gold shipment from Wash Valley Consolidated Mining Company that the Devil’s Hole Gang had stolen twice. Daley said, let’s set a trap. Put out the word to all the wrong people that there’d be a quarter million in gold bars on that train. Fill every passenger seat on that train with the best Bannerman men in the country. Arm them to the teeth, and when that gang took the bait and attacked the train, we’d finish them off.

And he had an ace in the hole, a woman who claimed she could identify Heyes and Curry. There were no pictures of the boys, you remember, nothing more than descriptions on wanted posters that could fit a thousand men. Daley reminded me, the rewards on those two alone would pay for the whole operation. And when we finally destroyed the Devil’s Hole Gang, once and for all, it’d be a feather in my cap, and for the whole Bannerman organization. We were competing pretty hard with the Pinkertons at that time. If we could make this operation a success, why, we’d make that Pinkerton eye black. That’s a joke, son. The eye, you know? We never sleep? Never mind.

Daley convinced me it could work. Not that I was so hard to persuade. I wanted to see the Devil’s Hole Gang put down real bad, same as every other lawman. I didn’t care if we took Heyes and Curry dead or alive. Dead would be easier, far as I was concerned. If you cut off the snake’s head, there’s nothing left to bite you.

I see that look you’re giving me, Johnson. I ain’t ashamed to admit that I’d be sitting pretty, if I could pull this off. To be the man who brought down Heyes and Curry and that infernal gang . . . it would do a lot for my reputation. I could write my own ticket in the agency. The plan sounded foolproof. I called on Mr. Bannerman himself and convinced him to go ahead with Daley’s plan. Which was now my plan, since I was in charge.

I organized it all. Recruited the best agents from offices all across the west. I went to Wash Valley and Midwest Railroad and told them their special gold train would be guarded with Bannerman agents, and that we were going to wipe out the Devil’s Hole Gang. They were mighty happy to hear that. It was Midwest that put up the reward money for Heyes and Curry, and it was Midwest that insisted on the “dead or alive” bit. They thought that’d encourage bounty hunters, and it did. Personally, I don’t like bounty hunters. I don’t like their methods.
S
Am I digressing again? Sorry, son. But you wanted the whole story, didn’t you? Starting when I met the boys? I got to include all the details. Harry Briscoe is a stickler for detail. That’s the secret to my success. One of the secrets. There’s more, but if I told you all of them, they wouldn’t be secrets no more. Got to keep some things to myself.

Heyes and Curry, right. I’m getting there.

Finally, the day came. The night, rather. Bannerman agents boarded the train. The payroll was already loaded and locked into a safe. And one more thing was loaded – a Gatling gun. Don’t look so shocked, son. When I told you before that we were just as happy to take that gang dead as alive, I wasn’t funning you.

The train pulled out of Bramberg exactly on time. Everyone on the train was a Bannerman man, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at them. Some of the toughest men you’ll ever know were dressed as ladies, wearing wigs and dresses. It sounds funny, but it was necessary. We all knew the Devil’s Hole Gang was smart. They had eyes everywhere. Now there you go, making a face again. I mean, they had spies. Anyone watching the passengers board the special gold train wouldn’t see anything unusual. It wasn’t until the train was under way that I got up and addressed everyone.

Here’s the thing nobody knew, including me. Heyes and Curry were on the train. Yes, you darn well should look surprised. I already told you, only Bannerman agents on the train, and now you know Heyes and Curry were there. In their thieving days, they might’ve boarded a train so’s to be on the inside. The rest of the gang, they’d stop the train, and there’d already be someone on that train to keep things going right for them. Pretty clever, right? Wish I’d thought of that. Maybe I did, in the back of my head, because I knew the passengers on that train had to look ordinary.

They’d just made the deal for amnesty, and they were supposed to stay out of trouble. I didn’t know that at the time, of course. Nobody did. They had to get out of Bramberg fast because the sheriff there knew them. They needed to be on that train, because the next one wouldn’t be for a couple days, and there was no chance they could lie low that long. Funny, ain’t it? A train full of Bannerman agents, planning to take down Heyes and Curry, and none of us knew Heyes and Curry were on the train with us. Well, maybe it ain’t funny. More pathetic than funny. But they’re smart, you know. Smart and lucky. You got to be lucky to be successful. I don’t like to toot my own horn, but that’s something I got in common with the boys. I’m lucky. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. It’s best to be both, of course, and anyone who knows Harry Briscoe will tell you, he’s smart and he’s lucky. Trust me on that.

Why didn’t I notice them? Simple. Everyone on that train was a Bannerman man, but I hadn’t actually met most of them. I communicated with their office managers, but I didn’t meet them face to face until they boarded the train. Heyes said to me later, that was the only flaw in the original plan. I didn’t know the agents personally, and the agents didn’t know each other. That’s why Curry and Heyes weren’t recognized straight away.

He and Curry had bamboozled the real Grant and Gaines at the train station and stolen their tickets. They didn’t realize until they heard my briefing that they were surrounded by Bannermans. I tell you, it upset them some, and it sure as hell put them in a box. All they could do was sit tight and hope they wouldn’t get recognized.

You know the end of the story. Turned out that Daley and his ace in the hole, Sarah Blaine, were in cahoots with each other. Along with armed agents and a Gatling gun, Daley had suggested we pack up some fine whiskey so we could celebrate proper after we killed off the Devil’s Hole boys. Daley figured we’d wipe out that gang, get good and drunk on the whiskey, and then his gang – that’s right, his gang – would ambush the train and make off with the gold.

Thanks to some critical information provided by Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, that evil plan was ruined. The Devil’s Hole Gang did stop the train, but some trigger-happy Bannerman started shooting too soon, and the gang got spooked. They ran off. Not before we took down two of them, but that wasn’t the plan. We wanted all of them.

We picked up the two bodies, feeling pretty low over the collapse of our plan. My plan, officially. I told you, it was me who sold it to George Bannerman. Then this Sarah Blaine came in and told us one of the dead men was Kid Curry. That cheered me up considerably. I was feeling pretty perky until Heyes gave me some information. He said, that ain’t Kid Curry. He had some cock-and-bull story about how he had sheltered with the gang, got to know all of them.

I didn’t believe a word of it. Then Heyes said, I can prove it. He knew that dead man wore a particular ring with his initials. Heyes could identify him. Turned out he was right. I knew that Blaine woman was a liar. But why? Me and Heyes talked about it. He’s a smart, smart man, you know. Would’ve made a good detective.

Like I said, you know the end of the story. I arrested Daley and Blaine, got my men ready to face their gang, and when we did, we wrecked ‘em. Totally wrecked them. Sounds like a happy ending, right? Not so much. Yeah, we saved the shipment, we took down a gang, but it wasn’t the Devil’s Hole Gang. Far as we knew, they were still out there, planning their next job. We didn’t know that Heyes and Curry had already left that gang. Remember what I said about cutting the head off the snake? Once Heyes and Curry left Devil’s Hole, that gang ran out of steam. Just ordinary crooks without smart leaders. The promise of amnesty wrecked that gang more than the Bannerman Agency or any bounty hunter.

The fact that Daley, a respected Bannerman man, turned out to be a crook didn’t help the agency either. What was supposed to be a feather in my cap turned out to be not so much. The agency did its best to hush up the whole thing. Until now, of course. Now you know what happened. That's only the start of what me and the boys done together. Oh year, there's lots more stories, lots more. We'll pick it up again tomorrow, Johnson. I still got a job here, you know. I'm still a Bannerman man through and through.
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Nebraska Wildfire

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PostSubject: Re: Start   Fri Jan 26, 2018 4:21 pm

B
Here is a bit more of Marie's story, a continuation from last month.
  
  
The dead of winter had not quite started.  She knew they needed to make another trip out to the reservation, to insure the people were settled as well as could be expected, before the first large snowfall came.

Samuel had been napping fitfully.  His cough had gotten better, but she knew he could not go out into the cold.  She would have to make the trip herself.

She had put on a kettle, to brew a cup of hot tea, to fortify herself, when a knock came at the door.  Perhaps one of the tribal leaders had come with the news they needed, as it was known that Samuel was still sick.

She opened the door without thinking and there he stood.  He was in the gray coat, but he had a bowler hat on his head, and wore a brown striped suit.

“Sorry, to bother you, Mrs. Williams, but I was wondering if your husband was up for a visit.”

She stood still until the cold permeated her brain, and she simply nodded, letting him in, and shutting the cold out behind him.

“You have it nice and cozy in here, Mrs. Williams,” he said as he turned, his brilliant smile covering his face, and lighting up his eyes.

“The Lakota came and repaired the chinking before winter arrived,” she replied, still bemused.

He nodded.  “I’ve found that good deeds are their own reward.”

“You have?”  She became more confused by the moment.

“Who do we have for a guest, my dear?”  Samuel stood, a bit unsteadily in the doorway from the bedroom.  She could tell by the polite look on his face that he did not recognize Hannibal Heyes.

“Joshua Rembacker, Mr. Willliams.”  Heyes held out his hand and shook Samuel’s somewhat limp one.  “I’ve heard about your work among the natives, and have come to make a donation.”

Samuel’s eyes lit up more than she had seen them in quite a while.  “How wonderful, Mr. Rembacker.  Come sit close to the fire and warm yourself.”  He looked at Marie.  “Maybe some coffee?”  His gaze was asking her if they had any in the house.

“Of course, dear,” she smiled genuinely back at him, touching his arm gently before she went into the kitchen.



By the time the coffee was brewed and drunk, Samuel was fading fast.  With apologies, he let Marie escort him back to his bed, and left her to see Mr. Rembacker out.  Her husband was asleep as soon as she covered him with an extra quilt and shut the door.

Hannibal Heyes was leaning on the mantel, staring into the flames, when she returned.  His eyes reflected the fire, as he turned to look at her.

“Do you really have two hundred dollars to give for meat for the tribe for the winter?”  She had chosen a safe subject now that it was just the two of them.  The violet handkerchief was safely tucked away in her memento box.

He nodded, and turned to pull out a bag that had been in the pocket of his coat.  It was heavy as he handed it to her.  She opened it to see more twenty-dollar gold coins.

He shrugged, and said, “Sorry, but it’s not like I can write you a check from my bank account.”

She laughed dryly.

“I also left money at the doctor’s office.”

She looked up at him.  “What will people think, first the mercantile, now the doctor?”

“I had the Kid take the money into the doctor,” Heyes smiled.  “Doc Smelton won’t say anything, since we bring him quite a lot of business and pay him well.”  The smile left his face.  “We paid off the bill you already had, and left some for this winter.  It’s the least we can do, after the problems we caused.”

“You didn’t cause my husband’s illness.”  She stared into the flames.  “God did.”

He came to stand by her, and lightly put a hand on her shoulder.  “You gotta keep havin’ faith, Marie.”




The next summer found Marie Williams farther west, at one of the Navajo reservations.  She was still teaching, but now lived with the commander of the local fort and his wife.  It had not been deemed proper for her to stay in a home by herself on the reservation, now that Samuel was gone.

She had gone to the trading post to see if they had yet received a new supply of the tea that she found was her only solace these days.  They had not.  She had noticed an ample supply of whiskey.  She laughed dryly as she trudged down the dusty lane back towards the school house.  Perhaps she should take that up as her drink of choice, as it seemed to always be in supply.

She had been organizing the school in preparation for the coming fall.  It had been left in disarray by the last teacher the bureau had been able to find for the tribal school.  She was stretching the meager funds provided to her to their limits, and hoped she had enough to educate the children.

As she approached the school, she noticed a brown gelding ground tied outside of the building.  It did not look like any of the military mounts, nor any of the Navajo ponies.  She paused until she saw him sitting in the shade of the back porch, his hat pulled down over his face, leaning against the back wall.

She stood still for a moment longer, until she decided to continue on to the school.  She walked into the front door, and sat down to continue to sort the remaining books.  She heard the door open behind her, and felt his stare.

“How did you find me?”  She turned in her chair, and met his eyes.  They were as deep and soulful as she remembered.

“Mr. Childers at the mercantile said you had left this post as your forwarding address.”

“I did that for any letters from our families back east.”  She turned back to her sorting.

“And did they?” he asked quietly.

“What?”  She turned to look at him, questions in her eyes.

“Did they write you and tell you to come back east?”  There were more questions in his eyes.

She nodded.  “I told them there was still work here.”  She coughed.

“Until you kill yourself too?”  His voice was harsh, and she glared at him.

“It’s just the dust from my walk into town.”

He looked deeply into her eyes, and then seemed to memorize details of her from head to foot.  She was no longer the pale, mousey, easterner he had first met during that train robbery that seemed so long ago.  She was now a westerner, with her face bronzed, her hair bleached to a sun kissed mahogany, with light in her eyes.  He held her gaze, as he counted out five twenty-dollar gold pieces, onto her desk.

“For the children.  Buy more books.”

He tilted her chin up, touched her cheek briefly, and then was gone again from her life.
        
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PostSubject: Re: Start   Wed Jan 31, 2018 5:55 am

“Looking back over the last ten years, d’you know what bugs me most?” asked Kid Curry.  He was propped against the thick fleece underside of his upturned saddle with his legs stretched out comfortably in front of him, a woolen saddle blanket tossed over them to keep out the night’s chill.  The collar of his sheepskin coat was turned up and his gloved hands held a steaming cup of coffee as the stars overhead shone brightly in the cold, moonless night.  Moonless had been the only thing that had saved their hides today. 


Heyes was across from him, hunched over next to a small, economical fire, repairing a rein.  It had snapped in half earlier in the day when his horse had stepped on it as he’d vaulted off to take cover from the bullets whistling around them.  They’d sought high ground and nearly exhausted their ammunition in an effort to dissuade the posse from further pursuit.  It hadn’t worked and they’d decided to press on hoping to outrun the lawmen before their horses were as depleted as their bullets.  He could still smell the odor of gunpowder permeating his gray jacket.  


He’d caught his gelding, hastily knotted the broken ends and, luckily, the repair held as the two men had kept running for their lives from the angry mob on their tails. It had taken another three hours and the dark of night to lose the posse.  One more hour and they’d found a suitable spot to hole up in.  


The enormous slab of Navajo sandstone hiding them had fissured from the tall cliff looming behind them and slid its way to the ground coming to rest intact and upright.  It listed at an eighty degree angle against a large boulder like an open fan resting against a buxom woman’s chest.  They couldn’t have asked for better concealment.  A pack of coyotes yowling mournfully across the valley signaled other creatures had been less fortunate.


Heyes carefully worked an awl through the damaged end of the longest piece of rein, punching new holes in order to lace the shortened leather to the bit.  His attention was completely focused on the task at hand and he replied to his partner with a distracted, “Hmm?”


Curry’s eyes narrowed and his mouth curved into a slight smirk. “You, Heyes, you’ve bugged me most over the last ten years.  I don’t know how I lasted this long with you so wrapped up in your own thoughts. Guess it’s ‘cause none of the ladies wanna have anything to do with you. More for me.”  


“Good.”


“Good?”  The Kid saw his chance and started laying on the lies.  “You think it’s good those two little fillies in Pueblo said you were the butt-ugliest man they’d ever seen?  What about Millie? She said you smelled like a varmint.  She said I couldn’t pay her enough money in the world to make her take up with you.”


“That’s nice.”  Heyes continued poking the leather strap until he yanked his hand from the rein, “Ouch!”  He plunged a finger in his mouth. “Stop distracting me!” 


“I’m the one who needs distractin’,” observed Curry, only to receive a dark glare.  “You know, havin’ that posse run us to ground is the most excitement I’ve had all year.  How long have we been holed up in the cabin workin’ on this plan?  Four, five weeks?  And what do we have to show for it?  We dragged that damn safe to hell and back and still couldn’t get it open.”


“Don’t start, Kid!”  Heyes threw down the reins and stood up, clearly annoyed.  “You were the one who said it’d be a piece of cake!  Easy money, isn’t that what you kept saying?”


“It would’ve been, too, if Kyle hadn’t gotten the dynamite wet durin’ the stream crossin’.”  The Kid chuckled.  


Realizing his partner had only been prodding him for fun, Heyes visibly relaxed and grinned.  “Yeah, it was almost worth it to see the look on Wheat’s face when we stepped aside as leaders.  Who knew a body could go so pale?”  Using his sleeve, he picked up the battered tin pot from the fire and poured himself a mug of coffee.  He retrieved his reins and used his foot to kick sand over the coals of the fire until their soft, red glow was extinguished.  Heyes walked over to the Kid and tossed the mended tack to one side before sitting down and leaning back against his own saddle, mug in hand.  “So what bugs you?  Besides, me that is.”


Curry stared out into the darkness.   “Here we are, ten years down the road from Valparaiso, and what do we have to show for it?”


“Well, I do see some gray hairs sprouting up on your rooftop.”  Heyes sipped from his mug.


“I’m serious.  Did we really just quit our gang?”  Curry didn’t sound particularly upset at the concept, he sounded almost hopeful.


“Think of it as a vacation.  Wheat’s been yammering for years he’d be a better leader.  Well, the boys are about to find out.  My guess, we’ve got a month or two to relax before they beg us to come back.”


“There’s only one problem, Heyes.”


“What’s that?”


The Kid put down his mug and, reaching into his pants pocket, withdrew a handful of change and carefully counted it.  “I’ve got ten dollars and fifty-two cents and I’m bettin’ you don’t have much more.”


Heyes sighed.  “Less.  Seven dollars and thirty-three cents.”


“You know without lookin’?”


“It was change from the last twenty I broke.”


Curry closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the soft fleece.  “Times like this I wished we’d been a bit better about savin’ some of our hard-earned dinero.”


“Why?  It wasn’t like we were saving for a rainy day.  Hell, Kid, we never knew if we’d be alive one day to the next.  Still don’t.” 


Grinning, the Kid eagerly asked, “So what d’you wanna do?  We could ride over Laramie way, find us a saloon off the beaten path and have a little fun, make a little walking-around cash.  Then we could go south.  Get us some pretty senoritas and soak up the sun.”


Heyes frowned, put down his empty mug, and pulled his own saddle blanket over him.  “There’s fifty grand in that safe at the bottom of the lake.  The law thinks we’ve got it and I don’t think they’re gonna let that slide.  They’ll be looking high and low for us from here to the border.”


Pondering their situation, it was a few minutes before the Kid spoke again.  “I’m getting real sick of runnin’ all the time, partner.  You said it yourself, we ain’t long for this world.  Times are changing.  It ain’t gonna be long before every wide spot in the road is linked up to the local sheriff by one of them new-fangled telephones.  We’re livin’ on borrowed time.”


“Geez, you’re real cheerful tonight.”


“Maybe we should give Miss Birdie’s flyer another look-see.”


“Don’t start, Kid…”


“I know, I know,” said Curry, holding up a gloved hand to stave off an argument.  “It’s for chicken thieves but, think about it for a darn minute, Heyes.  Maybe the governor was hopin’ to get penny-ante crooks off the streets, but if you pitched it just right even he’d have to see it could solve a lot of his problems.  We’re the biggest outlaws in the West.  If he got us to quit, all those bankers and railroad tycoons would be so grateful he’d write his own ticket forever.”


Heyes gawked at his partner, speechless for a moment.  The Kid had a point.  Recovering, he smiled.  “What do you mean me pitch it?”


“You’re the one with the silver tongue.”


“You’re sounding awful silvery yourself right now.”  Heyes sat up, his blanket sliding down to his waist.  “You know, you may just have something here, partner.”  


Delighted, Curry smiled broadly.  “You think it could work?”


“Yeah, I do.  What have we got to lose?  If it works, we get to start over, make new lives for ourselves.  Hopefully, ones where we don’t get shot at all the time; if it don’t, we keep on keeping on.”


“So, we’ll do it?”


“I mean we can’t risk going to the governor ourselves.  He’d just lock us up and throw away the key.  We need us a go-between.  Someone to parlay for us.”


“Who?”


“I don’t know.  It’s gotta be someone on the right side of the law otherwise he’d end up locked up, too.”


“We don’t know anyone honest, Heyes.”  A gleam in his eye, the Kid sat up, too, excited.  “We could send Clem.  She could talk the clouds outta the sky.”


“Naw, politician like the governor would never listen to a gal, even a gal as smart as Clem.  It’s got to be someone he’d respect.”


“Judge Hanley?”


“He’d be good, but he doesn’t really know us all that well, Kid.”


They sat silently contemplating their friends and acquaintances for some time.


“I’ve got it!!”  Heyes sprang up.  “Remember our old buddy, Lom?  Rode with us early on.”


The Kid looked stunned at the suggestion.  “He’s a sheriff, Heyes!  He’s just gonna lock us up, too!”


“Not if we approach him right.  Remind him of his old friends and how we’ve never troubled his town.”


Grinning evilly, Curry said, “I wonder if ol’ Lom ever fixed that back door of his?”


“I say we ride for Porterville in the morning, pay Lom a visit.”  Pleased, Heyes sat back down and pulled the saddle blanket back up to his chest.  “Who knows, Kid, this time next week we could have amnesty.”


The Kid slipped his hand inside his sheepskin coat and withdrew a dented flask, lifting it up and saluting his best friend.  “To amnesty.”  He drank and passed it to Heyes.


Taking the flask, the dark-haired outlaw leader drank deeply, choking slightly as the firewater burn his tonsils.  He returned the salute.  “To a fresh start.”

_________________
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

“The purpose of life isn’t to arrive at death in perfect condition but to slide into it sideways with your hair mussed, your clothes disheveled, a martini in one hand and chocolate in the other, shouting ‘Whooeee, what a ride!’”--Hunter S. Thompson


Last edited by InsideOutlaw on Thu Feb 01, 2018 11:50 am; edited 1 time in total
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MoulinP

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PostSubject: Re: Start   Wed Jan 31, 2018 5:38 pm

Sneaking under the wire, my story sort of follows on from Inside Outlaw's

Start

Heyes and Curry sat in a saloon in a nameless town, fifty miles from Porterville. The night before Lom Travers, their friend and the sheriff in Porterville, had told them the Governor of Wyoming had given them a provisional amnesty. If they could stay out of trouble. After a year or so of honest living, they might at the Governor’s discretion, receive a full amnesty. Then they would be free men.


For now though, Lom had told them to get out of Wyoming. So early the next morning they had saddled up and ridden across the border into Colorado.


Heyes and Curry sat, each with a beer in front of him, silently contemplating what life now meant. The Kid sat hunched over, his arms on the table, staring into his beer. Heyes looked more relaxed, sitting back in his chair with one arm resting over the back. The two fingers of his other hand idly rubbing the condensation on his glass. They had sat like that for twenty minutes, not moving, apart from the occasional sip of beer.


“So,” the Kid said, breaking the silence with a nod. “What do we think?”


Heyes licked his lips and swallowed. “I think we’ve been given a second chance,” he said, quietly.


The Kid nodded in agreement. “Can we do it?”


Heyes sucked air through his teeth and swallowed again. “I don’t know.” He sat forward, mirroring the Kid’s posture. “One thing I do know, Kid, is we won’t know unless we try.”


He took a sip of beer to wash down the lump in his throat.


The Kid nodded again. “Are we gonna stick together?”


“Of course!” Heyes frowned shocked at the suggestion they should split.


“I just figgered … that you might stand a better chance on your own.” The Kid risked a glance at his partner. “You’ll make it but I doubt if I will.”


Heyes shook his head furiously and folded his arms on the table. “Now Kid you’ve gotta have a little faith in yourself.” He looked at his partner who was frowning. “We’re gotta do this
together or not at all.”


The Kid suddenly grinned. “Well now Heyes, that’s ….”


“Kid, I can’t do this without you,” Heyes interrupted. With a tight-lipped smile, he patted the Kid’s arm in emphasis. “Together, Kid.”


The Kid nodded and put his head down. Heyes withdrew his hand and they went back to silent contemplation again. After several minutes, the Kid spoke again.


“Any ideas what we do now?”


“Well, Kid, I’ve been thinking ‘bout that as we rode here. We gotta find somewhere safe.”


The Kid pursed his lips and lifted his beer to his lips. “Easier said than done, Heyes.”


“Yep,” Heyes agreed. “And we’ve gotta stay away from crooks and temptation. And go by different names. Lom called us Smith and Jones. That’s who we’ve gotta be. Mr Smith and Mr Jones.”


“Who are you?”


“I’m Smith!”


“Why are you Smith?”


“’Cos Lom was looking at me when he said it,” Heyes spluttered.


“Then that means I’m Jones. Right?”


“YES!” Heyes hissed, rolling his eyes in disbelief. “We’ve already started using ‘em. Be confusing if we changed now.”


“I’m jus’ tryin’ to get things clear. So there’ll be no misunderstandin’.”


Heyes nodded in acceptance. “Yeah, it’s good to get things clear right from the start.”


The Kid took a drink. “Do I get another name? Y’know just in case …” He shrugged.


“In case of what?”


The Kid looked disgruntled. “Well … I’ve really got two names.” He dropped his voice.

“Jedediah Curry.”


“You’ve got three names,” Heyes told him, taking a drink.


The Kid winced. “That’s just a …”


Heyes shook his head and raised a finger at him. “You have a middle name.” He frowned.
“Can’t remember what it is though.”


“It’s Thaddeus.” The Kid wrinkled his nose. “Don’t care for it much but it was my Pa’s.”


Heyes widened his eyes. “Yeah ‘course,” he said, quietly and for a moment both their thoughts turned to Thaddeus Curry.


“Thaddeus Jones,” Heyes mused, trying it on his tongue. “It has a certain … something about it.” He raised his glass to hide his smirk.


The Kid gave him the look.


“Okay, Mr Smith how should we address you?” he flung back; determined Heyes wasn’t getting away with that.


Heyes smiled slowly. “Mr Smith will be just fine.” He sobered and cleared his throat when he saw the Kid’s unamused look. “Joshua. That’s my middle name.” He paused. “I think we oughta have first names that feel like ours don’t you think?”


The Kid nodded. “Makes sense.” He paused. “Less chance of slippin’ up I guess.”


“Yep,” agreed Heyes. “And Joshua is better than my real first name!” He rolled his eyes.

“Dunno what my folks were thinking.”


The Kid grinned. “Your Ma insisted on calling ya that. Even when ya asked her not.” He paused. “No one else did ‘cept Big Jim Santana.”


Heyes shook his head. “Never understood why he insisted on it. Ma told me she’d picked the name special and as that was my name, she was gonna call me by it.”


They raised their beers and sipped in unison.


“Your Pa always called you Heyes.” The Kid frowned. “Was that ‘cos he didn’t like Hannibal?”


Heyes shook his head and took a deep breath. “Pa was one of eight boys. Grampa Heyes called them all Heyes. I guess it was easier not to have to remember every name.” He rolled his eyes and took a sip of beer. “Pa just carried on with the family tradition, even though there was just me.”


The Kid grunted. He looked like he wanted to say something. He glanced at Heyes, unsure whether to or not. With a sigh, he decided to.


“D’ya think we’ve really got a chance, Heyes?”


Heyes widened his eyes. “I dunno, Kid. But what I do know is unless we give it a go then there’s no chance. This way we’ve got some chance.” He looked at his beer. “It isn’t gonna be easy but I’m prepared to give it a go.”


The Kid sat digesting his words and then he nodded. “Got a plan?”


“Yep.”


Nothing further was forthcoming and the Kid motioned to Heyes to speak more.


“Oh you wanna know what it is,” Heyes grinned.


“Now you mention it,” the Kid gave him the look.


“Hmm.” Heyes rubbed his chin thoughtfully.


“Heyes!” The Kid’s growl was low.


“We’ll have to get jobs.”


“Yeah, I figgered that much. Where?”


Heyes winced. “Wherever we can.”


“Doing what?”


“Anything legal I reckon.” Heyes took a sip of his beer.


The Kid looked at him hard. “Ya sure you wanna stick together?” he said, doubtfully.


Heyes smacked his lips and nodded.


They went back to silent contemplation for a moment then Heyes suddenly put a hand on the Kid’s arm. The town sheriff had just walked into the saloon. They both put their heads down but watched him under the rim of their hats. The sheriff had a word with the bartender who pointed in their direction.


The Kid growled, his right hand hovering close to his gun.


“Easy!” Heyes hissed. “We haven’t done anything wrong,” he said, trying to be reassuring but his hand had dropped to his side as well.


The sheriff reached them.


“You boys just passing through?” he asked, casually, looking from one to the other cautiously.


Heyes looked up and smiled. “Yes sheriff.”


The sheriff looked at them suspiciously.


“The bar keep says you’ve been sitting here not talking or drinking for half an hour now. You waiting for something?” He paused. His eyes flicked from one to the other but came to rest on the Kid. “Or someone, perhaps?”


They both shook their heads.


“No sir Sheriff, we’re just having a break from the trail. We’ll be moving along soon as we’ve finished our beers,” the Kid quickly.


“Unless … you know of any work, sheriff? ‘Cos we’re looking for work too.” Heyes added, with a friendly smile.


The Kid gave him the look.


The sheriff still looked unsure. “Well … I might … know of something. What sorta work ya looking for?”


Heyes grinned. “Oh we can turn our hands to most things, sheriff. So long as it’s legal and not too hard on the back.”


The Kid gave him the look again.


“Okay Mr ….?”


“Smith.” Heyes got up and offered his hand. “Joshua Smith. And this here’s my partner, Thaddeus Jones.”


The Kid swallowed nervously and took a deep breath. He felt like he was about to lose his lunch. If he’d had any lunch that is. He glanced at Heyes, who was gesturing at him to get up.


The Kid hurriedly got to his feet and shook the sheriff’s hand. Boy that felt strange!


“Well Mr Smith, Mr Jones come along with me. The boy who helps out in the Mercantile is laid up with the grippe. The owner wants some wagons loading and the deliveries done by the time it gets dark. Don’t pay much but they’ll be a couple of dollars in it for ya.”


“That sounds like just the job we’ve been looking for,” Heyes grinned. Especially as we only have fifty cents between us, he thought. At least this way they could get a hotel room tonight and some dinner. Who knows what might happen tomorrow. “After you, Mr Jones.” He motioned for the Kid to follow the sheriff.


Heyes smiled smugly at his back. “Told you I had a plan,” he said in a low voice that only the Kid heard.


ASJASJASJASJ


They spent the afternoon loading up a buckboard and making deliveries. The owner of the Mercantile, a short, lean man with thinning, grey hair, insisted on going with them. He said he didn’t know them and by implication, didn’t trust them. They ought to be offended but decided they needed the money and the comfort it would bring more than their egos massaging. So he sat wedged between Heyes and Curry, as the Kid drove. Heyes tried making polite conversation but the man kept his comments short and only talked spontaneously to give directions. Eventually Heyes gave up and watched the passing scenery.

Humming tunelessly provoked a growl from the Kid to shut up. At each stop, they unloaded the buckboard again. Twice. Until Heyes snatched the manifest from the mercantile owners hand. This time when they loaded up, items were the order of delivery, no unnecessary unloading. Which provoked a smile from their boss, not a pretty sight, but grateful nonetheless. He rewarded them with an extra dollar. 


Later, satisfied that they had done a good job and eaten a good dinner, both lay on opposite sides of a soft bed. The Kid had his hands behind his head contemplating the ceiling. Heyes was reading the complimentary newspaper he’d picked up from the hotel lobby.


“Y’know Heyes. I think that was good start. We did an honest job and got paid real honest money.”


“Yep.”


“Kinda gives ya a nice warm feeling, don’t it? Knowing we helped someone out today.”


“Yep.”


“Think I could get used to this.”


“Yep.”


Heyes gave the newspaper a shake as he turned the page. The Kid lifted his head.


“Heyes are you listening to me?”


“Yep.”


“What did I say?”


“Oh something about a nice warm feeling,” Heyes said, casually, peering at something interesting in the paper. “Better watch that Kid. Especially if it feels like its running down your leg,” he added with a smirk. “Hey!” The last was in response to a pillow thrown at him.


“Don’t start Heyes. Jus’ don’t start.”

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

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PostSubject: Re: Start   Wed Jan 31, 2018 6:44 pm

New Start, New Hopes


July, 1860


To Maud Hammonds, Richmond, Virginia


Dearest Sister,


I've finally arrived here in Kansas. I can't believe I'm finally out west to make my fresh start! Well, maybe not too far west, but anyway... I made it! That train ride seemed to never end. I'm getting settled here in the town of Lawrence. It's still hard for me to believe they hired me as the new school teacher! The schoolhouse isn't all that big. All the grades are in one room. But they've managed to get some new books and tell me there's about twenty children that go here. I was expecting a lot more, but I have to remind myself I'm not in the east anymore. There isn't as big a population here as there is back in Virginia. I've already got the school room ready and am now making out lesson plans. I'm so excited! I can't wait until school starts!


Love,
Sylvia


oooooasjooooo 


September, 1860


Dear Maud,


Things are going better than expected! All the children, for the most part, have been well behaved so far. There's this one little boy that will ask a million questions if you let him. You can't hardly get him to hush sometimes. He has a story for everything. He seems very smart for his age. 


That boy's younger cousin goes to school there too and I've overheard some of their conversations. They argue, but I find it hilarious! The younger one usually stomps off while the other stands there smiling. The other children have their moments, but those two seem to be the most animated. I'm enjoying teachings kids that really want to learn. I feel content here. I'll write you again soon. Give my love to the family.


00000asj00000


November, 1860


Dear Maud,


Things are going good. Remember those two kids I was telling you about in my last letter? I've come to find that they need to be watched closely. The older one, his name is Hannibal Heyes, he's not only smart, he's clever. He gets good grades, but let me tell you, he has one more of a mischievous streak. I asked him a couple weeks ago about an incident involving a bucket of water balanced precariously on the outside of the back door where the children exit to go to recess. Coincidentally, the class bully seems to always be the first one out that door. But, Hannibal's reply to me was, "I'm not going to say I did put that bucket there, and I'm not going to say I didn't because one of those statements is a lie, and as you know, it's not right to lie." I just looked at him a little confused while he smiled at me then went outside with the rest of the children.


His cousin, Jed Curry, is just as bad. I asked him one day about rocks that kept getting thrown over the schoolhouse trying to apparently hit a can that was sitting there. All he said was, "T'weren't me.", then walked off. What could I do? Again, I didn't actually see him doing it. Where you see one, the other isn't far away. And if you don't see one of them, you can almost bet that something's going on. You just can't catch them. 


I know they had something to do with the kid I found hanging from a neighboring clothesline. He wasn't hanging by his neck, there were about a hundred clothes pins holding him up. I didn't actually see  who did it, but earlier that day, the kid hanging from the line had been picking on one of the smaller boys in a lower grade. A younger boy that Hannibal and Jed are friends with. I'll end this letter now. I'm exhausted and want to go to bed. Love to you and the family.


oooooasjooooo


January, 1861


Dear Maud,


Things are going... okay, I guess. Hannibal and Jed continue to make me anxious. Hannibal has an answer for everything. Once again, I found myself asking him if he was responsible for something and his reply was, "I plead the fifth amandment." I don't think a New York lawyer could trip this child up into confessing something. 


Jed's quieter but like I said before, he's just as bad. For show and tell one day, he brought a rat. A LIVE RAT! You know I'm terrified of those things just as bad as I am snakes. I told him that he was supposed to bring something that wasn't alive and what does he do? He says, "Okay,", and lets the thing LOOSE IN THE ROOM! I couldn't help it. I climbed on top of my desk screaming for somebody to catch it. Jed then throws his hat over it and caught it. I yelled for him to take it outside and let it go. He did what I asked but was very nonchalant about it.


Oh, and apparently, Hannibal likes attention. I was asking the younger kids what squirrels eat. They said acorns. Then Hannibal stands up and says, "You know why they eat acorns? 'Cause they don't like mexican food." Where does he come up with this stuff? I'll write you more later. I need to have some lavender tea and try to relax. Love to you all.


oooooasjooooo


February, 1861


Dearest Maud,


Is there any way I could convince you to come out here and be a teacher's aid? I need help. Hannibal and Jed are really starting to frazzle my nerves. When I actually DO catch Hannibal in the act and stand him in the corner, he's not thinking about what he did. He's thinking about how he can do it again and not get caught. One day, I saw him outside selling answers to the next test. How he got them, I still don't know. Anyway, I pulled him inside and told him that I never wanted to see him doing that again. And do you know what his answer was?! He said, "Well, I suggest you close your eyes then." 


Jed's obviously been around him too long. One day, I had been asking questions to be on the next test, just to help them study. Jed raised his hand so I said, "Yes, Jed?" And he asked, "Why are you asking us all these questions? You're the teacher. Ain't YOU supposed to know the answers?" Then, the following week, I was discussing how mammals make milk for their young to drink. Again, Jed raised his hand. Against my better judgment, I asked him what he wanted. He asked this question: "Whoever was the first person to look at a cow and decide to drink whatever came out of the underside of it?" I said I didn't know. Then Hannibal had to get in on the conversation and said, "Good thing they weren't looking at a bull." How do you come back to something like that? I wanted to both laugh and choke him all at the same time because the smaller kids started asking what that was supposed to mean.


I'm telling you, Maud, I'm having doubts about becoming a teacher.


oooooasjooooo


March, 1861


Dear, dear Maud,


I feel as if I'm going crazy. I've NEVER come across kids like Hannibal and Jed. I've sent notes home to their parents, and they do come back signed, but I have a sneaking suspicion the signatures have been forged. Hannibal came in one morning and told me I needed to get more sleep so I wouldn't be so proddy. All I could say was that I wished I could.


Here are some more recent replies from the world of Hannibal and Jed. I had the class studying science one day and those two ended up causing a small explosion in the building. One of them had matches. I'm going to have to start frisking them when they arrive in the morning. Anyway, I yelled, "Clean up that mess!" Hannibal turned, looked at me calmly and seriously and replied, "You better do it, Miss Hammonds. Ain't nobody can clean as good as you can." Then, the bell rang, and they just left!


Then, another day, Hannibal came to me and asked if could he be punished for something he didn't do. Well, I said of course not, that it wouldn't be fair. He got that big, dimpled smile on his face and said, "Well, then, I guess I can tell you I didn't do my homework." HE GOT ME AGAIN! A ten-year-old shouldn't be outwitting me like that!


Even Jed's got me good. One day during history, I asked where was the French/English peace treaty from 1800 signed. Jed spoke up and said, "Probably on the bottom." How can....I mean..... technically, he's right.... but...


The next week, the class was supposed to write an essay about an animal. I looked at Jed's and it was the exact same one his older brother had handed in about their dog. I told Jed, "This is the same as your brother's." Jed's reply: "Of course it is. It's the same dog."


The last straw that day was when I gave the class a test. I looked up and said, "Jed, I hope I didn't just see you copying Han's answers." His response: "I hope you didn't either."


I'm telling you, these two will end up terrorizing the country some day.


I'll write you later. I need a break.


April, 1861


Dear Maud,


I'm coming home.


Love,
Sylvia

_________________
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PostSubject: Re: Start   Wed Jan 31, 2018 7:19 pm

“Don’t start.”

“What d’ya mean, ‘don’t start’? You started it.”

Heyes turned a sour glare on the Kid. “I never. You started it. Or rather, you failed to start it. That’s the whole damned problem.”

“I wouldn’t have needed to start it if you hadn’t been so damned clumsy. You lost your temper and tore Mrs. Butterworth’s drapes. All you had to do was take down the pole, but you wouldn’t go get a ladder. You had to stand on a stool.” The Kid’s eyes narrowed. “I warned you, but you wouldn’t listen.”

“How was I to know the stool leg was about to break?”

“Oh, gee. I dunno. How about the weight of a great galoot bein’ too much for them spindly legs?” The Kid’s cold grin underscored his sarcasm. “And I’m talkin’ about the stool this time.”

“It was instinct to grab out at something.” Heyes held up the torn fabric. Look it’s a straight line along the top all we’ve gotta do is sew it up.” His foot fiddled with the treadle. “This sewing machine will match it up like a professional—if we ever get the damned thing started.”

“I don’t see how this is my fault,” The Kid peered underneath to check the machinery. “You tore it, you had the idea to fix it so it doesn’t come out of our wages, and you can’t get the thing goin’.”

“It looks real easy. If a woman can work out how to use one of these I must be able to.”

“Yeah, ‘cos everything a woman does is real easy,” muttered the Kid. “I can’t wait to see you produce milk when you’re done with this contraption.”

Heyes punched out at the machine in frustration. “I give up. I’ll never be able to get this darned thing going. We’re just gonna have to turn ourselves in and throw ourselves on her mercy. There’s not a switch or wheel I haven’t pulled, turned, or pushed. It’s broken.”

“No it ain’t. You just can’t work it.”

“Neither can you,” Heyes sat back with his arms folded.

“Yeah, but I don’t need to. I ain’t ripped anythin’. Why don’t you stick your head down and try listening to the wheel like a safe? You might hear somethin’ click. Inside or out of that skull of yours.”

The dark eyes hardened. “Why don’t you stick your head right up your—”

“No need to get proddy because you can’t manage women’s work, Heyes. Even a stone cold genius has to admit when he ain’t up to the job.”

“Maybe if I was one of your needy people you’d be more helpful? You’re head gets turned easier than an owl’s as soon as a woman appears.”

“It ain’t that I think women are better’n you,” the Kid grinned. “It’s more about me thinkin’ you’re way worse. After all, I’ve known you all my life.” He stood. “We’ve got no choice. You gotta own up.”

“Me? You wouldn’t get me the ladder. It’s your fault.”

“I was busy. Get your own damned ladder.”

“You’ve changed,” Heyes’ brow creased. “We don’t work like a team like we used to.”

“That’s because you mostly don’t work. You sat and read that newspaper while I dismantled the bed and moved it all by myself.”

The cheeks dimpled with mischief. “You’re better at that stuff than me.”

“Judgin’ by that sewing machine everyone’s better at stuff than you.” The gunman’s long finger prodded his cousin’s chest. “There ain’t a lot of call for safe crackin’ in the amnesty line, so you’d better pull your finger out and find a new skill. Preferably somethin’ that pays.”

“I suppose we could spend some time learning a new skill,” mused Heyes. “Then we won’t end up in trouble like this.”  

  “We?” The cynical blue eyes glittered with disdain. “What’s with the ‘we’? I ain’t done a thing.”

“Don’t I know it,” snapped Heyes. “We’re supposed to be clearing this room to decorate it. So far all that’s moved is the bed. This damned sewing machine is broken. I swear it is. All you’ve done is stand there and laugh.”

“I’m helpin’ you.”

Heyes’ mouth firmed into a line. “Not so anyone would notice.”

“You want help?” The Kid lifted his hat and jammed it on his head. “I’ll go break the bad news to Mrs. Butterworth. It was a dumb idea anyway. A blind man would see a line of your stitchin’ from the next ranch. It’ll look terrible, but I guess that’s fine with you.”

“What d’ya mean by that?”

“My good hat. That’s what I mean by it. You couldn’t sew to save your life. You’d better hope we ain’t on mail bags if we ever get caught.”

The door clattered behind him, leaving Heyes staring at the machine once more. His frustration now went way beyond rescuing the drapes. He resented being bested by a domestic machine he’d seen children operate. Why couldn’t he work out how to start the damn thing?

*****

   Heyes rose to his feet as the matron entered the room. “Mrs. Butterworth I’m real sorry. I just fell and caught the drapes on the way down. I’ll pay for them.”

Her grey eyes glittered with amusement as she pinned the ex-outlaw leader with the kind of hard stare which stripped away any man’s swagger and bravado. “So I hear. Don’t worry about those horrible old things. I’m making new ones anyway. They came with the house. They’re going in the rag bag for quilting. Just get them down and carry on.” She made to leave and turned at the door. “Can you put that sewing machine in the other bedroom please? I don’t want it damaged.”

“Sure,” Heyes paused. “Mrs. Butterworth, is this thing broken?”

“No,” she frowned. “Why do you ask?”

“Well I put my foot on the treadle and it didn’t work.”

“Did you release the clutch?”

The dimple dropped from the cheeks and the dark eyes crowded with confusion. “The clutch?”

“Yes.” She pointed to the big wheel set on the side of the machine. “See this here? The solid wheel in the centre of it is the clutch. You just turn it like this—” she deftly moved it, “—and there you go. It’s all set.”

“That’s it,” Heyes’ jaw dropped open. “I didn’t even know that was a wheel. It just looks like the centre of that big one.”

“That’s it. Yes, a lot of people make that mistake. They learn though.” She paused, her face alight with curiosity. “Do you do a lot of sewing, Mr. Smith?”

“Nope,” the Kid cut in. “He’s more interested in machines and gadgets. He can’t see one but he needs to know how it works. In fact he spends a lot of time watching work.” He grabbed the sewing machine. “Come on, Joshua. Lift it up at your end.”

“I’m efficient, Thaddeus. I spot the best ways to get things done,” Heyes hefted the sewing machine and found it to be surprisingly light.

Mr. Butterworth’s knowing smile assessed both men. “Well, Lom Trevors did say that the person who got you work for them would be very lucky. I guess that sentence could be read all kinds of ways.”

The men watched the woman’s skirts disappear around the corner before a pair of dark eye scowled at his grinning partner.

“Joshua, don’t start with me.”

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



Posts : 32
Join date : 2017-04-18

PostSubject: Re: Start   Wed Jan 31, 2018 9:41 pm

I didn't think I would have anything this month but driving home from work today this came to me, for what it's worth (not much).

Start


The youngest and newest member of the Devil’s Hole Gang sat facing the forest on a boulder just outside the ring of light from the slow-burning campfire. The just turned twenty-year old drew the most undesirable watch in the dead of night but he wasn’t complaining. Sleep normally came easy to Jed Curry but not tonight. Tonight, he had a lot on his mind and the dark solitude was conducive to serious thoughts.

His right hand dropped to the revolver tied to his hip as he peered into the darkness, wondering if he should go investigate the rustling sounds coming from the right. Deciding the noises were consistent with normal night wildlife he rose to his feet anyway. Restless energy from the hours of waiting and an unsettled mind drove the nascent train robber to prowl the perimeter of the camp.

As his feet traced a circle his thoughts centered around how his life had circled back over the years. Three years ago, he and Heyes had separated over thievin’ for a living. Not that he was morally opposed to stealing what was needed, he wasn’t, the reality of survival had seen to that but he took no pleasure from the act itself. Food, clothes, or a bit of cash for a roof over their heads when the work dried up was how the stealing began. No, the problems started between them when Heyes started to enjoy the thrills of breaking, entering and leaving with the increasingly easy and bigger pickings. It seemed now that Heyes had been way ahead of him, as usual, in figuring things out.

Curry turned from the surroundings to check the camp. All was as quiet, well as quiet as ten snoring men sleeping in the rough could be. Kid’s eyes narrowed as he watched his best friend restlessly toss and turn, hoping he wasn’t the cause of Heyes’ disturbed sleep. Heyes had not been overly thrilled to see his younger cousin in Harristown several weeks past, broke, and with a budding reputation as a fast gun. Even with the skillful persuading by his new safe-cracking, intelligent protégé, Big Jim Santana had not been inclined to accept the young man into the gang, calling the blond a wet-behind-the-ears boy.

Kid smiled fondly into the dark, remembering Heyes’ reflexive defense of his cousin, insisting that Curry was far from naïve about the ways of the world and could more than hold his own among the older men. The young gunslinger rubbed his sparsely whiskered chin, he knew he looked closer to sixteen than twenty, which was an advantage if they were working a con like they had when they were with Silky but in the world that he and Heyes had separately moved into the boyish appearance was a distinct handicap.

A distant train whistle echoed in the valley, reminding the youngest gang member of the new career he would start tomorrow. The promise of thrills, adventure, large living, and companionship as a gang member held an undeniable appeal. Kid was tired of always scrounging to exist, scratching a meager living out of dead end jobs that never seemed to last, and although he would never admit it, he was lonely on his own. The moral high road wasn’t so high if you were slogging through mud and around big immovable boulders the whole way with no one to share the burden.

Curry checked on the dozing horses, to make sure all was well. They would be running hard tomorrow and maybe longer. He continued walking the perimeter on his surveillance of the surroundings. The soft summer breeze rustled the leaves of the cottonwoods and his too long curls. He settled his hat more firmly on his head and peered through the trees at the men.

Heyes had come fully awake and sleepily scanned the camp for the man on watch. Hannibal Heyes had pulled himself up on one elbow as he looked around.  Not immediately finding who he was looking for, Heyes sat up suddenly alert. Jed wouldn’t leave without saying good bye, Heyes was sure, no matter how much Heyes had tried to push his younger cousin away. And the Kid would never leave the camp unguarded.

Kid’s blue eyes widened as he met the searching brown of his now awake cousin. Their eyes held for several moments. Kid nodded confidently and was grateful for the cloak of night. Heyes was too perceptive. He stepped back into the shadows among the trees. Heyes’ eyes narrowed as his gaze intensified, trying to read the blond’s thoughts, unsuccessfully, before he dropped back down into his bedroll.

Curry read the fleeting flashes of panic, hope, disappointment, concern, and acceptance that passed successively across his best friend’s face. Kid knew if he decided to not go through with tomorrow’s plans Heyes would square it with Santana and the rest of the gang. What Heyes hadn’t realized yet was that Kid Curry would not be able to square the lost opportunity for a shared future, no matter what that may be, with himself.


Tomorrow would be the start of a new period in his life. He would be wanted.  There would be no retreating across the line to law-aiding or even precariously balancing on the line as he had been for the last few years on his own. He would now live and die as an outlaw. Kid Curry would be a member of the Devil’s Hole Gang. He would watch his cousin’s back, do his best to ensure the safety of the gang members, and live his new life being the best he could for as long as he could. The odds for someone with a reputation to be as good with a gun as he was to live past thirty were long anyway, without adding being wanted. He was going to live life to the fullest in the time he had. He was determined to savor the pleasures of his ill-gotten gains, plentiful food, good whiskey and cold beer, and soft beds filled with soft women, the consequences be dammed. The plan for the start of his new life is going to be thrills, adventure, fun, and living fully in the moment. Curry straighten up to his full height and stepped out from the trees. He surveyed the slumbering gang members, his troubled gaze resting for a long moment on his cousin’s form, sleeping tranquilly wrapped in a bedroll and he found a peace with his decision.
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