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 Reunion

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PostSubject: Reunion   Sat Sep 01, 2018 10:03 am

Don't forget that members can nominate both chat topics and challenge topics at any time. Just message admin with them. Time for Nebraska Wildfire's suggested topic for September.


St Patrick 12 Reunion Christmas


Please remember to comment on last month's stories before moving on to September's challenge. Comments are the only thanks our writers get  
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Cal

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PostSubject: Re: Reunion   Fri Sep 07, 2018 12:58 pm

OK... several of you lovely people wanted a continuation from August (See last months challenge by Cal if you don't know what I'm on about lol)..... your wish is granted... sorry if its a bit rough on the grammar...

Reunion
 
It was an unremarkable office; a large desk, several chairs of different degrees of comfort and a second door to the rear.  The window gave a view inwards, to what appeared to be a parade ground of some sort.


Kid’s anxiety levels rocketed upwards. He warily took in the surrounds, then his blue gaze settled on that second exit. Wherever that second door led, that must be where the enormous armed guard was now located. He purposely stood, where he could see both exits and the window, arms folding around his chest as he planted his feet.


The Governor watched Kid survey his office, and seemed just a little less sure of himself as he invited them to sit, in two of the less comfortable chairs near the desk. 


Kid remained motionless.


Heyes stated that they were just fine as they were, it wasn’t like they were planning to be staying any length of time.


“Gentlemen… We might as well make ourselves comfortable” said the Governor, as he walked over and sat behind the desk, in his plush upholstered armchair, his right hand dropping from view to his lap.  


Kid merely straightened, and the Governor’s hand quickly reappeared, palm open, facing towards the gunman in an almost apologetic gesture.


The tension was palpable.  


The Governor clasped his hands together, to keep them from straying further, and attempted a smile.


“Now…now… I understand that you must be … rather uncomfortable …with your present situation gentlemen…” he started carefully.  “But you must see… this is a first for me also.  It’s not every day… the likes of… men… such as yourselves… come walking into my office… voluntarily.  We’re all a little on edge.  That’s only to be expected.  Now …you still have your guns… I remain unarmed… as you can see… though… of course, I am not unprotected.  Can’t we sit and discuss… arrangements …in a civilised manner?”


Heyes guessed 'arrangements' hadn’t been the man’s first choice of word.  He listened, fascinated.  He could see a sheen of sweat starting to bloom on the other man’s forehead.  There was no doubt at all in Heyes’ mind, that this man knew exactly who they were. He’d seen that sheen before, when many a man had sat under the steady gaze of a fully armed Kid Curry, whilst he himself had encouraged them things would go better for them if they fully cooperated. 


This time was different.


This felt more like a poker game, with the highest stakes imaginable on the table.  He schooled his face to a blank stare.  His demeanour quietening and leaving little doubt that he was indeed Hannibal Heyes, former leader of the Devils Hole outfit.


Arrangements?”


He repeated the word, drawing it out, and seeming to chew it around in his mouth, as he removed the glove of his gun hand.
 
Arrangements ...have all been made.  You release the prisoner… We see he gets to Lom… Sheriff Trevors... Alive.  There don’t seem to be no other …arrangements… to discuss.”


Kid moved a fraction to stand at Heyes’ shoulder.  He too had removed his gloves.


The Governor looked them squarely in the eyes, carefully placing his hands flat on the desk before him.


“What would you say Gentlemen… if I told you… that there is no such prisoner to collect… It being… just a ruse… cooked up by Sheriff Trevors... to get you here.”


The poker faces held.


“One…” continued the Governor undaunted. “… that I for one… doubted you would ever comply with… And yet …here you are... in my office.”


Maybe the faintest twitch. 


“And...” 


The Governor gathered his resolve. 


“That Sheriff Trevors ...and the Territorial Governor himself…. will both be in this very office… first thing …tomorrow morning?”


The boys took a second to look at each other, just to make sure they were on the same page. 


They were.


Kid’s gun was in his hand in a flash, and he quickly moved to the outer door to see what resistance they would meet on their way out.


Heyes, also gun in hand, covered the Governor, who had remained seated.


“I’d say…” he said, rolling his eyes and sneering up his mouth in mock thought.  “I’d say …You were gonna have quite the reunion there.  Pity is… we’re planning to be missing it!”


He joined Kid at the door, keeping the gun trained on the seated man as Kid carefully opened the door a crack.


“Well that would indeed …be a great pity… Mr Heyes…  Mr Curry…“ said the Governor slowly, looking down the barrel of Heyes' gun.  “I’ve been led to believe …you are not an unintelligent man, Mr Heyes.  Is it beyond your whit… to fathom …WHY … The Governor would wish to make such a trip …to the Penitentiary…in the company of your friend… Trevors?"


Heyes' eyes narrowed in annoyance at the slight.


"I can assure you … neither has made such a trip …before” finished the Governor, seeing the change in Heyes.


Kid’s head was in the vestibule.


“Clear!” he rasped in disbelief, the security around here was shocking.


But Heyes’ attention was all on the seated man.  His hand found his Partner’s shoulder.


“Wait a minute Kid…”


---oooOOOooo---
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riders57

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PostSubject: Re: Reunion   Fri Sep 14, 2018 10:41 am

Not a new one.  Thought I'd play with an oldie at least.  


Just What They Needed


Heyes lay on his bunk, engrossed in the book he was reading, ignoring the clamor throughout the bunkhouse.  While the gang had successfully stolen a payroll from a train ten days previously, they had lost two men in the process.  Big Jim had a strict rule about laying low for a time after a robbery to avoid any posses, and with their losses they were laying low longer than usual.  The men, however, were eager to get to town to spend the money they had taken, so cabin fever was running high, and the bunkhouse was even louder than normal.


Heyes had joined Big Jim about ten months earlier, and had to admit Big Jim seemed to run a gang better than the others he had experienced in his short life, but still these were not men who lived calm, sedate lives and their leisure time reflected this.  Over the last year or two, he’d become accustomed to the noise of gangs and did his best to fit in.  He was younger than the others and smarter – both traits made it difficult at times.  Generally he managed to get along with most anyone, but none of the men were what he would call a friend, and sometimes he was so lonely it hurt.


The door to the bunkhouse swung open, and Big Jim strode in.  The clamor died down as the gang members waited to see what Big Jim had to say.  Heyes sat up.


“Men, enough time has passed since our last job, it’s time to go to town.”  Big Jim proclaimed.  Hurrahs arose after this announcement.  “Alright, alright, enough.  You men clear out of here; I need to talk to Wheat and Hannibal.”  He watched them leave, then closed the door and turned to face Wheat and Heyes.   
 
 “Wheat, Hannibal, I need your assistance when we get to town,” Big Jim began.  Wheat puffed up at the knowledge that Big Jim still relied on him, even if he did have to share the relationship with that… with Heyes.  Heyes looked from Big Jim to Wheat, waiting to hear what Big Jim wanted.  “As you know we are short men at the moment, so we need to keep an eye out for likely candidates.”


“Well shoot, Jim, any of the boys can help with that,” said Wheat, visibly deflated.


“Yes, normally,” replied Big Jim impatiently.  “But this time I’m looking for something special -- a gunnie.  Now hold on…” he stated, holding up a hand as the two appeared to be about to speak.  “You know I don’t hold with shooting during a job, just riles people up against us, but we lost two good men on that last train job when the guards started firing on us.  If we had us a gunnie who could hold his own, the guards wouldn’t dare fire.  But we need to be careful; most of those men are too hot to handle, and I want one that will listen to directions and not shoot first – and definitely not shoot to kill.”


“How we gonna find someone like that?” asked Wheat.


Heyes still said nothing, but possibilities began flickering in his brain as he listened.


“That’s why I’m raising it with you before we get to town.”  Big Jim looked around clearly ready to change the subject.  His eyes lighted on the book on the bed beside Heyes.  “Hannibal, you’re reading dime novels now?  Beneath you, isn’t it?”  He picked up the book, as Heyes made a grab for it.


Wheat took the book from Big Jim and smirked, glad to have something to torment Heyes about.  “Kid Curry and the Valley of Vengeance,” he read aloud, looking at it.  It was a paperback, illustrated with a drawing of a long-haired, handsome giant holding a scantily clad saloon girl in one arm while brandishing a gun at a horde of desperados.  “Hoowee, boy, this what you’re spending your time reading?  And here we all thought you was so smart an’ all.”
  
Heyes turned red and glared, reaching for the book.


Big Jim gave a short laugh.  “Kid Curry, huh.  I’ve heard of him; if he’s anything like his reputation, maybe that’s who we should be looking for.”


“He’s a cold-blooded killer,” said Wheat.


“No he ain’t!” shouted Heyes.


Big Jim looked at the two of them.  “You two know him or you just fighting over nothing, as usual?” 


Wheat had not taken kindly to Heyes’s arrival, or to the growing reliance Big Jim placed on him, consulting Heyes when developing his plans and generally watching over him.  Big Jim, moreover, did little to reduce the tension between them.  While he appreciated the usefulness of Heyes’s genius, he considered Heyes to be overly cocky, and felt that the rivalry between the two men would keep either from attempting to take over leadership of the gang successfully – at least as long as Big Jim was around.


“I met him once; don’t look much like that cover,” Wheat said.
  
“When?” both Big Jim and Heyes asked together. 
 
Wheat looked a little embarrassed.  “Back about five, six months ago, in Texas.”  


Big Jim and Heyes knew this must have been during the period when Wheat had left the gang, his nose out of joint because Big Jim had brought in Heyes and was listening to “that upstart” over Wheat who had been second-in-command.  Wheat had returned, but he hadn’t spoken much about his time away.


“I was riding from a town -- I’d had a bit of trouble there.”  He coughed.  “Anyway, I came upon a wagon being attacked by raiders.  As they came into sight, I could see a couple of men down, the father and son I learned later.  I watched this blond boy shooting it out with the raiders and saw him down two of them and injure another.  The raiders pulled out and took off.”  Wheat paused for a moment.  “I was too far away to help, but I came up after.”  Heyes looked at him, knowing that Wheat had probably held back until he saw the danger was over; Wheat wasn’t one to risk his skin over strangers.


“Well dang if that kid didn’t swing his gun on me, till I convinced him I wasn’t one of the raiders.  He was young, didn’t look more’n’ fifteen.”
  
“He’s seventeen, no just turned eighteen,” Heyes blurted out, then stopped short.  Surprised, the other two looked at him, then, eyebrows raised, Big Jim indicated to Wheat to continue his story.


“As I said, the father and son were dead.  So were two of the raiders – shot by this kid.   The woman was hysterical, weeping and wailing.  This boy just looked real mad, eyes like chips of ice, pulled her up and told her to get together what she could take on a horse; they were getting out of there.  She wanted to bury her family.  Coldest voice I ever heard -- that boy telling her that burying them wouldn’t make no difference, they’d be just as dead, and we had to go, the raiders would be back in bigger numbers, and he didn’t intend to stick around so she could either come with him to a town where she’d be safe or he’d shoot her on the spot, ‘cause that would be kinder than what the raiders would do to her when they came back.” 
 
Wheat shook his head.  “What he said was true, but it was cold, inhuman even.  Didn’t give her no time to grieve, just grabbed her and threw her up on the saddle of one of the dead men’s horses.  Then he looked at me and asked me did I have anything to say, or was I planning to hold off the raiders all by myself.  I decided to go with them – to see what I could do to comfort that poor woman and maybe protect her from this boy.  In the ride to town, I learned he was Kid Curry.  Well when we got to a town, he stopped at the outskirts, said it wasn’t safe for him in that town but that there was a railhead there and the woman could take a train back east where she’d come from.  Then he left.” 
 
Wheat stared at the far wall, remembering. “That boy was cold and grim the whole way, barely spoke the entire time and no comfort at all to this woman -- seemed real angry with her and her family for traveling alone like that.  Course it was pretty stupid; just the sort of thing greenhorns do, likely to get them killed, and it did.  But I’m telling you, that boy is a killer.  We don’t want him in the gang.”


Big Jim thought for a moment, then turned to Heyes.  “Hannibal, you said he was seventeen or eighteen, not fifteen; how would you know that?  And why don’t you think he’s a killer like Wheat says?”


Heyes thought hard, considering his words before answering.  “We rode together when we were kids, first out on our own; he’s a couple of years younger’n me.  He was good with a gun even then, but he didn’t have a reputation.  We tried droving and hated it.  So we traveled together making money as best we could; he’d win some in shooting contests and I’d make some playing poker.  He’s pretty good at poker too – he can read a man better than anyone I’ve ever met.  But eventually we parted ways.  I joined the Plummer gang, then here, and I haven’t heard from him since.  The Kid Curry I know is no killer.  I don’t believe he’s changed that much.  He may have killed, but he’s no killer.  From what Wheat says, he was alone and trying to protect a family against a number of armed men – that don’t sound like a stone-cold killer to me.  Maybe he sounded angry because he was upset with the killing.”


“Why did you separate?”
  
“I don’t know; we were young, children really; these things happen.”


Big Jim turned at the door.  “It doesn’t matter, not likely to see him around and it doesn’t sound like someone we want to go looking for.  Keep an eye out in town next week and let me know if you see any candidates for the gang.”  He left with a brief wave of his hand, without looking at them again.  
Wheat looked at Heyes eyes narrowed, before snorting and stalking out. 
 
Heyes sighed sadly and lay back on his bed with his hands behind his head, remembering Kid Curry, worrying about his anger – or was it remorse and pain over the past -- the day Wheat met him, and wondering what Wheat would say if he found out they were cousins.


~~~oOo~~~


The gang rode in to Harlan’s Folly then split to spend their money in their own ways.  Harlan’s Folly was a “safe” town, making its money catering to the various gangs and outlaws in the area.  Bounty hunters knew to avoid the town; they weren’t welcome.  It could be downright dangerous for them and not just from the outlaws; the townsfolk didn’t take kindly to them, either.  Their presence was bad for business.  It was a rowdy town with a plentiful supply of gambling halls, brothels, and saloons.  The gang loved it – here they could kick back, relax, and take care of their bodily needs.


Most of the gang headed straight for the sporting houses.  Big Jim, Wheat, and Heyes checked in to one of the nicer hotels.  Wheat offered to stand Big Jim to a steak dinner, not including Heyes in the invitation.  Heyes shrugged it off; he wanted time by himself anyhow.  After he bathed and changed, he headed out to find a good game of poker away from any of the gang members.


Heyes had been playing for ome time and was winning.  At first he’d played it safe, winning but not so much that the others would resent it.  As he got involved in the game though, he forgot to be cautious.  One man called Heyes a cheat, but when no one else at the table backed him, he swept up his remaining funds and left to go drown his sorrows at the bar.  Heyes bought the table a round and settled back into the game, though he was more cautious now and made sure to lose occasionally.


Finally, Heyes stood up to take a break.  As he headed to the door, the man who had called him a cheat grabbed his arm and swung him around.  “Think you’re so smart do you?” he growled.  “Well me and my friends have ways of dealing with cheats like you.”  With that three men joined him and helped hustle Heyes out the door and down the street to a convenient alley.
 
A young man coming from the upstairs rooms of the gambling hall paused at the top of the steps, watching the men exit.  His eyes narrowed, then with a quiet nod at the girl he’d been visiting and a final kiss, he came down the stairs.  At the bar, he stopped for a moment, pondering, then paid his tab and exited turning the same way as the men he had watched leave.
 
Heyes knew he was in trouble.  He looked desperately around for someone from the gang, but saw no one.  “Look, I wasn’t cheating; I was just lucky, but tell you what, I’ll give you back the fifty dollars you lost, and we’re even.”


“No, we’re not even till we teach you not to try to play a man’s game, boy.”  With that, two of the men held Heyes while the other two started swinging at him.  


Heyes was getting weaker, not sure how much more he could endure, when he heard a voice, “Four on one don’t seem like very good odds to me.  Why don’t we even it up some?”


Heyes tried to see who had spoken but couldn’t focus through the blood running in his eyes.  A form stood at the end of the alley, looking in at the five of them.  The voice was familiar, but in his groggy state Heyes couldn’t tell which member of the gang it was. 
 
The men holding him laughed.  “Well look’a here, we got us another boy don’t know to mind his own business and not mess with men.  Four to two don’t seem like much better odds to me boy, so get going.”


“I count the odds differently.  There’s the two of us and my six bullets against the four of you.  NOW let him go and get out of here.” 
 
The four men looked at the interloper and dropped Heyes, who sank to the ground.  They laughed and started to pull their guns when, suddenly, two shots rang out and two of them dropped their guns, their hands stinging, while the other two found themselves staring into the business end of the same pistol before they could even draw.
  
Heyes, who had regained his breath and his gun, stood up.  “You heard the man, leave, and maybe we’ll let you live.  Leave the guns where they are,” he added as the men bent to retrieve their weapons.  All four looked at the boys and hastened out of the alley.


At that moment, Wheat and Big Jim, walked up.  They had caught the end of the confrontation and now looked at the two boys, who were staring at each other, grinning with delight, Heyes with blood running down his face, a split lip, and rapidly blackening eye.  Big Jim looked at Wheat – “He who I think he is?”


“Yeah, that’s Kid Curry.”


Big Jim looked him over.  Kid Curry looked back calmly, waiting to see what would happen next.


“Hannibal, get cleaned up, then you and Mr. Curry can join us at the Golconda Saloon,” Big Jim ordered.


“Come on, Heyes, you never could keep out of trouble.  You gotta stop winnin’ so much, it’s plumb annoyin’ to folks,” the Kid commented, swinging Heyes’s arm over his shoulder and helping him walk.
  
“You gotta work on your timing.  You couldn’t have come a minute or two earlier?”  Heyes growled then he grinned painfully.  “Sure is good to see you, Kid.”


~~~oOo~~~


The Kid sat on the bed, watching Heyes clean up, noting how he’d changed.  Heyes was a boy no more.  He had filled out some, though still lean, and hardened.
  
“… so, after Plummer disappeared, I headed out and eventually met Big Jim.  He’s a good leader and a friend.”  Heyes had been talking non-stop since they entered the room.  There was so much he wanted to say to the Kid, but somehow couldn’t, so he talked about anything, everything, to delay the inevitable.  Finally, he straightened up and looked at the Kid. 
 
The Kid still looked young, but he’d changed too.   He was taller, about as tall as Heyes now, but it was his eyes that showed that he, too, had done a lot of growing up since Heyes had last seen him.  If even half the stories Heyes’d heard were true … but was Kid a killer now?  Heyes didn’t think so; he hadn’t hurt any of the men beating Heyes.  Of course, that could’ve been because he was still mad at Heyes.  He had to find out.


“Kid, I’ve sure missed you.  I don’t remember why we split, but if it was something I did, I’m sorry.”


The Kid stood and leaned against the wall.  “Heyes, I missed you too.  I ran into your buddy there, Wheat, a while back...” 


“He’s not exactly my buddy.”  


The Kid smiled.  “Yeah, he made that real clear while we were ridin’.  Anyway, through Wheat I learned you were ridin’ for Devil’s Hole, so I worked my way up here to see how you were doin’.”


“I’m doing great, Kid.”
  
“I could see that.”
  
“No really, that was, that was … an exception.”  Heyes couldn’t stop grinning, even though it hurt.  Then he sobered and looked at the Kid.  “Guess we should go join Big Jim and Wheat.  You’ll like Jim, I think.  Big Jim’s a good leader, and he listens to me.”  He drew a deep breath, “we’re getting quite the name up here.  I got a three hundred dollar price on my head.  Guess that’s nothing to be proud of but… Look Big Jim is looking for someone special, maybe you could... That is if you want to?  If you don’t, I understand.”  He peered at the Kid, trying to gauge what he was thinking, but Curry had always had a good poker face and was using it with Heyes now.


The Kid watched Heyes for a moment, considering, then exhaled slowly.  “What’s he looking for Heyes?  I won’t hire out my gun.”


“We lost some men in the last job, and Big Jim thinks if we had someone who was good with a gun and the guards knew it, we wouldn’t have problems with them anymore.  But Big Jim don’t hold with killing, so he don’t want a killer.”  Heyes paused and glanced sideways at Kid.


“You wonderin’ if I’m a killer?” the Kid asked sadly.


“No!  Honest, I’m not.  It’s just, Wheat told us how you met, said he watched you kill two men and leave them and the others lying there.  And there’s all those stories about you.”  He grinned for a moment.  “I can’t believe there’s a dime novel about you.”  Then he sobered.  “Anyway, I said you weren’t a killer, but I guess things’ve been hard for you.  If you don’t want to try, I understand.  If you’d rather, I’ll leave with you instead.  If you let me, that is.”  He paused a moment and looked away, not meeting Kid’s eyes.  “I don’t want to lose you again, Jed.”


“Heyes…” Curry began, stopped, and started again.  “Heyes, I have killed.  You know those two weren’t the first, probably won’t be the last.  I’ve never started it, though.   If I can, I avoid shootin’, and I avoid killin’ when I have to shoot, but there were six of them and just me.  I didn’t have time to be that precise. As to leavin’ them lyin’ there, we didn’t have time to bury them.  I’ve learned to do what has to be done and move on.  I don’t think about it.” 
 
Heyes could tell that last sentence was a lie.


“Anyway, yeah I’d consider joinin’ if no one expects me to kill.  I…”  He looked away from Heyes.  “I don’t want to be apart anymore either, Heyes.”


“Aw, Kid,” Heyes began.  “Kid, let’s go talk to Big Jim and Wheat.  At least it’s a start.”


~~~oOo~~~


As they walked to the Golconda Saloon, Heyes tried to tell the Kid what the gang was like.


“… so that’s most of them.  I get along fine with them, though they’re a rowdy bunch, but it just ain’t the same.  Wheat, now, well Wheat was second-in-command when I joined.  He still is, more or less.”
The Kid looked at Heyes and raised an eyebrow.


“Yeah, well -- I’m good at this, Kid.  You know me, I can plan anything, and I know locks.  I can open some safes without dynamite -- you remember, right?  Anyway, Big Jim has been listening to my plans more and more, and Wheat ain’t too happy about it.  But really Wheat’s a good guy, and he don’t give me too hard a time.  Now, I think you scared him when he met you, and maybe we can use that.”  
He stopped and turned to face the Kid.  “Are you really okay with joining a gang?  I know it’s not the way it used to be, not what we thought we’d be doing, but I eat regular now and have good clothes and money and a bed and a roof.  It’s a lot better now, and with you here by my side again, who knows how far we could go.”


“Yeah, I’m okay with the outlaw life.  I haven’t exactly been livin’ pure since we were apart, though I don’t have a price on my head.”  The Kid started walking again and grinned.  “I’ve got a dime novel instead.  I like the easy money too – sure is good to eat regular again - and I’m not surprised you’re good at it.  I’ve never met anyone like you for schemin’ and connivin’.”


“Well, gee thanks, Kid,” Heyes muttered sarcastically.


“Ya know what I mean, Heyes.”


“Yeah, I do.”


They had reached the Golconda.  They stopped for a moment, looked at each other, and shrugged slightly before heading inside together to convince Big Jim that the Kid was just what the gang needed.
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Nightwalker



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PostSubject: Overdue Reunion   Sun Sep 16, 2018 1:50 am

Well, I didn’t intent to chime in, at least not that fast, but for I had this story that fits the requirements and it’s not problem that it was already published elsewhere ... here we go ...

Note: Alternate universe - Heyes and Curry had to split up in their teenage years. When they meet again years later they find themselves in a difficult situation.


Overdue Reunion



Well, there they stood - in the middle of the main street facing each other down. It would have been a big joke, if it wasn't so serious: Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry - prepared to kill or be killed.

His heart sank; no way out remained. He couldn't even think of one anymore, he had tried everything. One of them was going to die today. Who? The devil might know...

Would he be able to pull the trigger, he asked himself, or might he not even hesitate 'cause his well-trained reflexes would take over?

He knew he would die today - one way or the other...

The evening sun already cast long shadows and gilded the sky.

-o-o-o-

The eyes of Jedediah Curry and Hannibal Heyes were locked. They stared at each other in silence. Time seemed to stretch as if the whole world would hold its breath.

“Hannibal Heyes, you’re under arrest, in the name of the law! Drop your weapon and nothing worse will happen.” U. S. Marshal Curry ordered but the only response he got from his opponent was silence.

“C’mon Heyes, you know you can’t outdraw me,” he called after a while.

“That’s right. The question is: will you outdraw me, Marshal?” Heyes replied seriously.

“Will you, Heyes?” Jedediah Curry asked softly.

“I won’t return to jail!” Heyes choked hard. “I’m sorry, but I can’t.”

“Then we’re damned, Heyes,” Curry stated sadly. “I can’t let you go. You know that.”

Heyes knew it indeed; too many spectators here. Marshal Curry’s reputation would be destroyed and maybe he would have to face a trial, too. Heyes had no intention of drawing his younger cousin to the wrong side of the law. It wasn’t his fault, that Heyes had made bad decisions in his past that spiraled him deeper and deeper into this mess.

They had been friends throughout their childhood, best friends. Heyes couldn’t remember one single day without him. Even when their families had been murdered and they spent their early teenage years in an orphanage they had been the only comfort for each other. They had shared both – the good times and the bad times.

Maybe they still would be friends and maybe partners, if they hadn’t split up some time after they ran away from the orphanage.

Jed had been a good boy. His kindness, good manners and handsome face opened doors for him, that would always be closed to his rebellious cousin.

Already in his youth, Heyes tended to get into trouble, sometimes without it being his fault, he always appeared to be at the wrong time in the wrong place. He questioned everything, challenged everyone and accepted no authority.

Usually his cousin backed him up or talked him out of his less brilliant plans. Jed’s calmness, his different point of view and his distinct sense of justness had always been a good complement to his own passionate nature. But when Heyes was suspected of aiding and abetting a bank robbery…he was on the run before he even knew what else he could have done.

Heyes breathed in deeply. He squared his shoulders.

“Then do, what you have to do.” Heyes wetted his lips and added in his mind. ‘At least it will happen by the hand of a friend.

He braced himself for the final bullet. But nothing happened.

He can’t do it,’ Heyes realized. ‘And I don’t want to die. But I can’t live in that hell again either.

He knew it had been a stupid idea trying to cross the territory, knowing his cousin was around here, but the posse behind him left him no other choice. It played out the way it had to do. U. S. Marshal Jedediah Curry simply knew him too well, to leave Heyes the slightest chance of escaping him.

They had met each other several times during the last few weeks. Always trying to find a way out of their dilemma … always without success.


A Couple of Weeks Earlier



Hannibal Heyes knew it was a risk to take a rest, but his horse wouldn’t last much longer. If it collapsed as he was being pursued he might end up with a broken neck. That damned posse was fast and smart, but his last delaying tactic should have bought him a least an hour head start.

He hunched down at the bank of the small creek to wash sweat and dust off his face.

“Hold it right there!” a strong voice ordered him from behind.

Heyes raised his arms and turned slowly.

Not far away stood a man of about his height and age. His head was covered with blonde curls and an U. S. Marshal’s badge was pinned to his tan vest. Sky-blue eyes fixed on him. The face seemed strange and familiar at the same time to him.

“Jed?” Heyes asked cautiously.

“Han!” A wide infectious smile lit up the marshal’s face.

Heyes could not help but return it. Nobody had called him that in years.

“It’s ‘Heyes’ now, Jed,” he told him softly, “but it’s good to see you again. You look well.”

“And you look awful!” Jed Curry replied seriously. “May I trust you?”

Heyes nodded and lowered his hands, while Jed slipped his gun back into its holster.

“Heyes, huh?” the voice was strange to him, but amiable and warm like a campfire in the night. The last time they had met Jed’s voice was just beginning to break.

The outlaw shrugged sheepishly. “They have to call me something.”

Jed Curry nodded slightly.

Slowly they stepped closer while they studied each other. There was no resemblance between them, there never had been. One as bright as the day, the other as dark as the night. One inside, one outside the law. Two sides of the same coin.

A few minutes went by before they simultaneously moved to hug each other.

It felt like coming home after a long journey. They had been separated for years, but there still was a distinctive connection. Slowly they stepped apart, turned and walked down towards the water.

“Heyes, what happened?” Jed asked after a while. “I heard the rumors, but never believed it.”

His friend heaved a sigh before he started to explain.

“I was running an errand for Mr. Goldblum the day the bank was robbed by a gang of incompetent outlaws. They came running out of the bank and one of them stumbled right into me, leaving me blood smeared and with a bundle of dollar bills at my feet at the scene of crime.”

Heyes shook his head. “That useless couple of drifters left me there as a suspect. What do you think would have happened to me? Who besides you would have believed me? The sheriff never liked me anyway.”

“You gave him no reason to do so, if I recall it right.” A short smile crossed Jed’s face before he got serious again. “I missed you, Heyes. You should have taken the time to tell me what had happened. I would have followed you where ever you were going to.”

Jed earned a warm glance from his cousin’s dark brown eyes.

“How could I, Jed? You were safe there and my visit would have made you a suspect, too. You were better off without me.” Heyes smiled regretfully at him. “I often wished to have you at my side. You’ve always been more trustworthy to me than my own conscience.”

They fell into a companionable silence.

“You know, I have to turn you in,” Jed Curry mentioned gently.

“Jed …” Heyes tried to object but wasn’t able to find the right words for the first time in his life.

“Please, Han … Heyes …”

“Jed, no!” he begged him desperately.

“I can’t!” Jed Curry stated firmly but with regret.

In the blink of an eye Heyes’s gun cleared leather.

“Sorry, Kid…” his voice faded while he slowly moved back towards his horse.

Heyes!” The concerned and desperate sound of Jed’s voice broke his heart.

The dark-haired outlaw shook his head in regret. “You don’t know what you’re asking, Jed. Please, do us both a favor and forget me. Don’t cross my path again.”

Heyes swung up onto his horse’s back and spurred it on.

Jed Curry lowered his hands following his friend with his eyes.

“How could I ever forget you?” he murmured under his breath.


Day of the Duel




Still they stood in the middle of the street. The spectators were getting tired and some of them had already left.

Several emotions flashed upon Heyes’s expressive face but he was too far away for Jed to read them. Although he knew his friend had made a decision. His chest constricted.

Jed still hesitated when Heyes’s hand reached out for his gun, but his colt cleared leather faster anyway.

One shot sounded.

Heyes was thrown back when Jed’s bullet hit him. A dark spot spread where blood seeped into his shirt. The gun dropped to the ground. Unbelieving he lowered his eyes, just to face Marshal Jed Curry again with a questioning look.

“You’ve ever read a warrant that explicitly calls for ‘turn in dead’?” Jed noted dryly while he strolled to his friend. “You really thought your clumsy trick with the back drawn shoulder would make me shoot my cousin?”

“No?” Heyes asked, each word dripping of sarcasm. “You prefer to send me back to hell instead?”

“I would - ‘Where life is, is hope,’ Grandpa Curry used to say -” Jed confirmed seriously, “but first I’ll turn you in to the doctor. You’re badly injured and not in any condition to travel.”

Heyes followed him with questioning eyes and furrowed his brows. Jed patted his good shoulder.

“Don’t ask! This will give us more time to come up with a plan,” he murmured.

Then he grabbed him and guided him off the street. His stance left no question to the spectators as to who was master of the situation. U. S. Marshal Jed Curry deserved his outstanding reputation.

-o-o-o-


Dr. Martin, an experienced man in his mid-fifties, took care of Heyes’s wound. It had been a smooth shot through the biceps and the bleeding was soon stopped. With a wink towards Jed he declared the patient mustn’t be moved for at least a week, due to his injury. He patted his patients back and left the cousins alone.

Heyes endured the treatment in silence. His eyes took in every detail of the room and the exchange between the two men.

“He’s someone you can really trust,” he stated when they were eventually alone.

Jed nodded. “He owes me a favor.” He studied his cousin in silence.

“Heyes, what happened to you after you left me?” he finally asked.

“That’s a long story. I hope I’ve got time to tell you about it someday,” he replied. “Let’s just say I hooked up with the wrong crowd and made the wrong choices. One day I realized that there was no way left to repent. Now I run that little gang of mine. Certainly, you have heard about us….”

Jed smiled and nodded.

“What about you?” Heyes asked. “You just had to become a lawman, hadn’t you?”

“Sure. I always wanted to protect good folks.” Jed smiled again. “Just like I did today.” He thought it over and added, “At least a pretty good bad fella.”

“Strange kind of protection, you showed lately, Jed,” Heyes complained. “Couldn’t you have become a bank clerk instead?”

“You mean we would have met earlier then?” Jed grinned. “Obviously you threatening me?”

Heyes shrugged sheepishly and grimaced in pain.

“Will you give me your word, you’ll stay here until we have made a decision how to go on?” Jed asked him seriously.

“Sure,” Heyes smiled at him, looking like the personified innocence.

“Heyes, I know when you’re lying…” Jed scolded him softly. “Do I really have to put handcuffs on you?”

Jed’s sad and worried glance wasn’t lost on his friend, but he still hesitated. He didn’t always tell the truth – indeed he was an outstanding liar – but he never broke his word, once he gave it.

“Say it!” Jed ordered him strictly.

Heyes sighed and rolled his eyes.

“Well Jed, I give you my word, I won’t leave until we find a solution together for our mutual problem.”

Jed Curry gave him an acknowledging nod and smiled in relief.

“Thanks. I know, I can trust you - now.”


A Few Days Later




They had argued about their situation for days. Still they hadn’t got a plan that helped them out of their dilemma. Heyes refused to return to jail and Jed had no intention of letting him escape. Not even the silver tongue could make a change there.

It was about noon when Jed Curry entered the doctor’s house again, bringing lunch and a folded paper.

“See what I received in the latest mail.” Jed handed the paper to his friend.

Heyes scanned it rapidly. “Amnesty?”

Jed Curry nodded.

“It’s not, that you’re the greatest threat to the West, Heyes. Neither you nor one of your gang has ever hurt anyone seriously. It’s all about the money. Is there any chance you could return some of it?”

“Nope, already spent it. But I could get us some…” he grinned deviously.

“Heyes you will have to change your habits, if you want to go straight.”

“Will I?” Heyes asked dubiously.

Jed nodded.

“But where will be the fun then?” Heyes sounded a bit frustrated now.

“Gone with the danger of being shot or imprisoned!”

Heyes pursed his lips. “That’s a good deal, huh?”

“Sure.” Jed Curry grinned and nodded again. “C’mon Heyes, we’ll find something else for you.”

“What might that be?” Heyes asked sullen.

They thought it over in silence, finally broken by Heyes.

“That’s it - security specialist!” hope flashed across Heyes face.

“What’s that mean?” Jed Curry looked dubiously at his friend.

“I’ll check the security of banks and trains.”

“You mean …?”

“Yes, I try to bust it and get paid for it.”

“And you think that’s working legally?” Jed asked still not convinced.

“Why not?” Heyes shrugged but his eyes started to sparkle again. “And the best is, I already have the reputation to be a safe specialist! I could license a vault as ‘Heyes safe’!”

Grinning they faced each other.

“Heyes, you’re a genius sometimes!”

“Sure, I know that, but I’ll keep quiet and enjoy it! I’m sure, I won’t hear that often again.”
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RosieAnnieUSA

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PostSubject: Re: Reunion   Sun Sep 16, 2018 7:07 pm

“Five dollars a night? For one room? Are you kiddin’ me?” Hannibal Heyes’ voice rose in disbelief.

The desk clerk was not intimidated by the dark-haired cowboy. 

“No, sir. It’s not just a room. It’s a suite, very comfortable, with bath and full breakfast. The price is very reasonable for what you get.”

“I bet it is. You’re sure that’s the only room available?”

“Absolutely sure. Except the Presidential Suite. That’s ten dollars.” 

Heyes took off his hat and slapped it against his thigh, creating a cloud of dust. The clerk sniffed disapprovingly but said nothing.

“I can’t believe every other room’s taken.” He pointed a gloved finger at the cubbyholes lining the wall behind the clerk, all but a few containing keys. “It looks like most of the rooms are available.”

The clerk shook his head. “No, sir. Every room in town’s reserved for the reunion. Many guests are arriving early tomorrow morning. If you hadn’t come a day early, the Continental Suite would’ve been gone, too. The inexpensive rooms always go first. There’s no lodging available anywhere in town, unless it’s sleeping in the stable with your horses.”

Heyes put his hat back on. “I got to talk to my partner first.”

“Of course, sir. But don’t take too long.”

Jed Curry was waiting at the hotel’s hitching post with the horses.

“Oh, no. I know that look. They’re full, aren’t they?”

“Almost. Cheapest room they got is a suite for five dollars.”

“A suite?” Curry’s eyebrows rose with interest. “Is breakfast included?”

“I should’ve known you’d ask that. Yes, breakfast is included, and baths, too.”

Curry turned away and started unbuckling his saddlebags. “That’s all I need to know. For once, we’re flush, and we got more’n enough to cover the cost. I ain’t sleeping rough one more night.”

“Fine.” Heyes went to get his saddlebags. “At least I can rely on you to get our money’s worth at breakfast.”

“You’ll need five dollars’ worth of soap just to get that trail dust off you. Besides, that next job you lined up for us sounds like a humdinger. I want to rest up before we go to Austin.”

The clerk looked up in surprise as the cowboy returned, with an equally dusty and dirty companion.

“We’ll take the Continental Suite,” Heyes said. “Just for tonight.”

“A wise decision, sir, given the circumstances. The five dollars is payable in advance.”

“Figures.” Heyes looked at Curry, who only smiled benignly and flipped the register open. Heyes grudgingly reached inside his vest to extract coins.
 
“Thank you, gentlemen. Here are your keys. Your horses are out front, yes? I’ll have a boy take them around to our stable. Their care is included as well. I’m sure you’ll enjoy your stay. By the way, all are welcome at the reunion, even strangers like yourselves. It’s sure to be an enriching experience.”

Curry looked up from signing his name. “What reunion is that? Family?”

“In a way, yes. Every year, the First Baptist Church holds a 3-day reunion and revival for all its members who’ve moved away. They call it a family reunion. That’s why the town’s sold out.”

“The whole town? Sheesh. Must be a lot of people coming for this shindig.”

“This hotel is completely booked, save for the suites, and all the other lodging in town is full, too, except maybe rooms at the saloon. Not too many Baptists go there.”

“At least, not when other Baptists might see them,” Heyes said. 

When the men entered their suite, they dropped their saddlebags on the floor and stared at the luxurious surroundings.

“Reminds you of the old days, don’t it, Kid?”

“Sure does. Spending money like water and enjoying the high life. Got to say, I miss that part of it.”

“Thanks to a decent job that actually paid us for once, we can enjoy that high life tonight before we head south. I admit I wasn’t looking forward to another night sleeping under the stars either. But before we get those baths and go for dinner, I’d like a whiskey, followed closely by another whiskey.”

Curry put a companionable hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Now that’s my kind of Hannibal Heyes plan. Lead the way, partner.”

The nearest saloon was only a five-minute walk from the hotel. “Convenient,” Heyes noted. “A man can’t get too lost after a late night.”

Only a few tables were occupied. No one was seated at the bar except the bartender, who was idly reading a newspaper. He looked up at the sound of the squeaking doors.

“Welcome to the Iron Rail, gentlemen. How about some liquid refreshment to wet your dry throats?”

Heyes grinned. “Now that’s the kind of hello I like from a barkeep. Two whiskies, in clean glasses.”

The man folded his newspaper and got up. “That’s the only way we serve drinks here. This is a high-class place.”

Curry looked around at the dingy tables, the piles of dust accumulated on the uneven plank floor, and the lurid paintings faded by years of cigar smoke. “Don’t pay my friend no never mind. He wasn’t brought up proper like me.” 

The bartender served up two glasses. He pointed towards a shelf of whiskey bottles. “How fancy you boys feeling today?”

“Something in the middling range. My mama told me not to put on airs.”

“Your mama was a wise woman. Kentucky bourbon sound about right for you?”

“When does bourbon ever sound wrong?” Full glasses in hands, Heyes and Curry touched their glasses together with a gentle “clink” before sipping.
 
“You own this place?” Heyes asked the bartender.

“That I do. Lock, stock, and barrel. Name’s Fred Bleeker.”

Heyes pointed to himself. “Joshua Smith, and this proper man next to me is Thaddeus Jones.”

Bleeker snorted in mild disbelief. “Whatever you say. You ain’t Baptists, are you?”

“Not recently,” Curry said. “Why?”

“You might want to buy yourselves a bottle. Might be harder to get a drink once there’s more Baptists in town. Some of the church ladies are all for this new-fangled temperance movement, and they got the idea it’s their mission in life to make it hard for the rest of us to enjoy a drink.”

“I’ve heard of this temperance business,” Heyes said. “The Women’s Christian Temperance Movement, ain’t it? They got some crazy idea to shut down saloons because – well, I ain’t sure why precisely – but they don’t want anybody to sell alcohol, anywhere.”

“That’s it. They’re saying they want a full prohibition on sales of beer and whiskey and everything good. They’d like to put me out of business in one fat hurry. You ever hear of such a damn fool thing?”

“Not lately. How could they put your saloon out of business?”

“They stand out on the sidewalk in front and preach gospel and sing temperance songs.”

Heyes and Curry looked at each other, puzzled. “That ain’t illegal. Is it?”

“No, it ain’t illegal, but it sure ain’t good for business. That’s why I say, buy a bottle to take with you, unless you’re fine with pushing through a picket line of church ladies.”

“Yeah, I see how that might be a problem for a decent man who’s got a powerful thirst,” Heyes said.

“And we are definitely decent, law-abiding people,” Curry added, earning a sideways frown from his partner.

“How do these ladies feel about poker?”

Bleeker snorted, loudly this time. “Games of chance? What do you think?”

“I think, maybe they don’t like that either.”

“You think right. I talked to the sheriff about making them move, but he says, they’re just exercising their constitutional rights. I say, why can’t they exercise them rights away from my front door? Men got to have someplace to go and relax.”

“Amen to that,” Heyes said. “On that subject, how about a refill, Fred?”

“You got it.” He got the bottle to pour but froze in mid-motion, holding the bottle in mid-air. “Oh no. Not again.”

Heyes and Curry looked around, alarmed. Their hands rested on their guns. “What is it?”

He put the bottle down with a thud. “Just what I was telling you, boys. Looks like the show’s about to start.”

Both men turned to look. Two women stood outside the swinging doors, staring in.
 
Curry turned back to the bar. “You mean they’re going to start singing?”

“And block the door while they do it. Damn it all! Ain’t they got nothing better to do than ruin my business?”

More female faces appeared, crowding together on the sidewalk. The bar patrons who’d been drinking peacefully at their tables staggered to their feet.

“Tell you what, Fred. We’ll take that bottle and thank you. Is there a back way out?”

“In a saloon? Are you kiddin’ me? I got two back ways out.”

Heyes threw some coins on the counter. “Maybe we’ll use those back ways to come in later, if there’s a female picket line out in front. We were hoping to play some poker after we eat.”

Fred’s grin showed the gaps between his brown teeth. “With any luck, those ladies will go home to make dinner for their families, and we can get back to serving liquor here without no show out front. Problem is, there ain’t no telling’s what’s gonna happen once they get started.”

“Nope, I guess not.” Fred guided the men through a door behind the bar, along with the few remaining drinkers, and they found themselves in an alley where the small group dispersed.

“Let’s get out of here while the getting’s good,” Heyes said, tucking the bottle under his arm.
 
“You go ahead,” Curry told him. “I want to get a look at the show.”

“Are you crazy? We’re the kind of men they’re preaching against.”

“I want to see how many come. Maybe it ain’t so bad as Fred says. Anyway, why’re you arguing with me? If I stay here, it means you get the first bath.”

“Can I help it if I’m concerned about the welfare of my partner? Alright, I’m going. Don’t be too late. I’m gonna need some nourishment soon.”

“Not a chance.” As Heyes went right, Curry went left, circling around to the street in front of the saloon. 
 
The group on the sidewalk blocking the saloon’s swinging doors didn’t seem intimidating. He saw six women, dressed simply and modestly in gingham dresses and large bonnets that obscured their faces. Each one carried what he assumed was a Bible. Passers-by walked around them without a second glance. He leaned against a hitching post, preparing to wait and see what developed. One stout woman dressed all in black raised her hands, trying to get the group’s full attention. She took papers from the back of her Bible, and gave each woman a page, which they all studied intently. Then she took out some round thing and made a musical tone on it. The ladies all tried to hum in tune with the note. Curry crossed his arms and tried to get comfortable.

The leader waved her hand and counted down to four. The six women started singing, with more enthusiasm than skill, something about demon rum and rescuing lives. When the chorus repeated “lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine” a few times, Curry got restless. He looked around and saw a few people in the street stopping to watch and listen for a moment, then apparently lose interest almost as quickly as he had done. 

The song went on for a few more off-key verses. When it ended, a few passers-by applauded listlessly, earning exasperated looks from the women.  Curry watched the group start to split up. He imagined Fred Bleeker would be happy that this interruption to his business had been brief.  

He stood up and dusted off the seat of his pants. He thought maybe he’d go for a walk around the town, check out the sheriff’s office and scout paths out of town, should they need to make a quick exit.

Suddenly, he felt someone was watching him. He turned around slowly, trying to appear calm, but all semblance of calm left him when he saw her startled expression and her big brown eyes that widened with surprise.

He felt his jaw drop, then closed his mouth self-consciously. Mimicking her pose, he took off his hat and held it against his chest.

“Hello, Grace. Fancy meeting you here.” He watched the play of emotions wash over her face, passing too quickly for him to interpret. She walked towards him, slowly.

“Hello, Thaddeus.” The shy smile he remembered appeared. “Are you here for the reunion? It doesn’t really start until tomorrow.”

“No, me and Joshua are just here for the night. We’re heading out in the morning.” She stood only a few feet from her, so near that she had to look up to see his face. 

“Oh. I see. You’re a day early anyway.”

“That ain’t like us. We’re usually a day late and a dollar short.” She laughed, as he’d hoped she would do.

“What’re you doing here, Grace? Thought you were going back to Boston.”

She nodded. “I was. The stage was delayed here for a few days, and I got to meet some people from the Baptist church. They’re doing so much good here, Thaddeus!” Words started to rush out of her. “They’re running a program for unfortunate women, helping them to leave their work in saloons and the like. And the temperance movement I’m involved with helps dipsomaniacs give up alcohol and recover their lives. I was so impressed by all the good works happening here! I felt God brought me here to do his work. I decided to stay and fulfill my mission here.”

“You’re not preaching, are you?”

She laughed again, more robustly this time. “No, Thaddeus. I learned my lesson. I can do God’s work in different ways. I was blessed to find that out.” She looked him full in the face, all shyness gone. “I know I promised you I’d go to Boston. I hope you can forgive me for not following through with my promise.”

“”Course I do. Anyway, there ain’t nothing to forgive. You got to do what’s right for you.” He bent lower, almost whispering to her. “Are you happy, Grace?”

She looked away, not willing to meet his eyes. “Very much so. Everything has worked out so well here, that I really do think I was led to this town and to this church.”

He put his hat on. “Well. I’m glad to hear that. You deserve to be happy. You’re a good woman.”

“Thank you, Thaddeus. You’re a good man.” He shook his head slightly. 

“You don’t really mean that. I got my faults, lots of them. More’n you know.”

“No, I do mean it. You truly are a decent, kind man.” A wry expression crossed her face. “Even if you didn’t come here for the reunion.”

“Thank you, Grace.” They smiled at each other. “Are you . . . are you seeing anyone special?”

She blushed. “Yes. I am. He’s very kind. I think . . . I like to think we have an understanding.”

‘That’s good. That’s good.” He took a deep breath. “You’re part of this temperance movement, huh?”

“Oh yes. I’ve seen how demon rum destroys lives. Not just the life of the inebriate, but of his wife, his children, his community . . . it’s truly awful. If we’re going to save lives and save families, alcohol must be prohibited.”

“You’ll pardon me if I don’t join you on that. Me and Joshua, we enjoy having a whiskey or two. It don’t hurt us none.”

“I suppose not. It hurts so many other people, though.”

“Maybe.” He reached out and took her hand gently in his. She didn’t pull away. “It was good to see you, Grace.”

“You, too, Thaddeus.” 

“Goodbye, Grace. Take care of yourself.”

“I . . . yes. Goodbye, Thaddeus. I’m glad I saw you.” She looked at him full on, seriously, intently. “I really do wish you all the best, you know.”

“I know. Same to you.” She withdrew her hand from his and hugged her Bible to her chest. It looked like she was armoring himself. 

He tipped his hat. “Good night. I hope you enjoy the reunion.”

“I will. Good night, Thaddeus.”

He gave her one last smile, then stepped around her, going back to the hotel. She watched his retreating back for a moment before walking away in the opposite direction.

When he returned to the suite, he found Heyes reclining on the couch, feet propped on an expansive ottoman, holding a book in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other. His hair was still damp from the bath, and he had changed into the mostly-clean clothes that he’d packed in his saddlebag.

“Good timing. Your bath should be ready just about now.”

Curry sank down in an overstuffed armchair. “Thanks for getting that organized.”

“My pleasure. It’s easier to be around you when you don’t smell more like a horse than your horse does.” He put the book down on the couch. “How was the performance?”

“I’ve seen better.”

“I bet.” Heyes’ eyes narrowed. He looked more closely at his friend. “Did anything happen?”

“Happen? Like what?” Curry took off his hat and placed it on an end table. 

“I don’t know. You look kind of funny.” He sat up straight, feet on the floor. “Anything happen I should know about?”

“No. Nothing you need to know about.”

“So something did happen.”

“No.” He reached across, and Heyes gave him the whiskey. He watched Curry drain the glass.

“There’s plenty more. You can even have your own glass.”

“This is good for now.” He stood up slowly. “Think I’ll grab some fresh clothes and go for that bath. Down the hall?”

“Yeah. To the right.”

“Good.”

“Kid?”

“Yeah?”

“Anything you want to talk about?”

Curry shook his head. He felt about a hundred years old.

“No,  nothing. When I come back, let’s find some food, alright?  Some honky tonk where they got big steaks, lots of whiskey, and none of the women carry a Bible or talk about temperance.”

“And people say I have all the good ideas.”

He looked at Heyes’ concerned face. It was good to have a friend who accepted his moods and silence, without needing to know details. “Thanks, Heyes. Thanks a lot.”

“You’re welcome, Kid.” Heyes picked up his book again and began to read.
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PostSubject: Re: Reunion   Fri Sep 21, 2018 5:47 am

Hello. I waffled on putting this here but it does have a reunion in it and mention one. This started with a snippet I'd jotted down at the end of another fic and I decided to write it. As always, I meant for the story to be short and it is going to be longer than anticipated.

Lock Smith


Heyes glanced around the dingy saloon. The sawdust was littered with cigar butts as well as vomit, stale beer, and tobacco juice. He could smell all of the above, piss, and horse dung. It was definitely putting off both his appetite and his thirst. Too bad there wasn’t another saloon in the town. Supposedly poker and faro games started up at 6:00 PM. He glanced at his pocket watch. He had 30 minutes.

“Joshua Smith? Is that you?” a woman’s voice exclaimed.

Heyes looked to see a brunette saloon girl bustling over to his table. When she got close enough, he recognized her as Miss Lydia Love. She’d been a dance hall girl in a town he and the Kid had stayed in while completing a job for Lom. He remembered the conversation they’d had about pseudonyms, as she’d asked why he hadn’t taken one having such a plain name.

“Miss Love, nice to see you again,” Heyes said, standing and pulling out a grimy chair. She smiled at him as she sat and he recalled that she knew him as an ex locksmith turned temporary deputy thanks to a lie he’d spun to excuse certain talents. She looked around the saloon hopefully and he remembered that she and the Kid had gotten along rather well.

“Call me Lydia. It’s great to see a friendly face!” She looked around once more as if his partner might materialize. “Isn’t Thaddeus with you?”

“Unfortunately not. You’ll have to make do with my company instead,” Heyes said with a charming grin. 

Lydia laughed. “It isn’t that, I just hoped to see him again. He owes me a dance, remember.”

“As long as it isn’t a jig,” Heyes said with a grin and she laughed, partly in on the joke.

“You teased him about that, but he was a fine dance partner,” she said. “He won’t be meeting you at all?”

Her eyes were sad despite the smile and he wondered how she’d ended up in this piss pot of a bar. Heyes briefly debated what to tell her. She only knew them as Smith and Jones and she was fond of the Kid. He didn’t sense ill intent, but something made him hesitate. You’re getting paranoid, he told himself. “Thaddeus will be in tomorrow afternoon. I’m sure we can stop by again.”

Lydia beamed. “I’d appreciate it. Or I could come see you, as I’m off in the afternoon. You at the Twisted Briar?”

He nodded. It was the most economical yet clean hotel in town. 

“Then I’ll head to their dining room tomorrow! Do you mind buying me a drink? Terrence will raise cane in a minute if I’m not working.” 

Hannibal Heyes raised his finger and the bartender brought over drinks. As soon as he left, they clinked glasses. 

“Cheers. Lydia, don’t take this wrong, but…”

She laughed again, wryly this time. “How’d a classy gal end up in this cheap place? I started heading further west not long after you two left and only made it as far as here. I needed to work again to get back on the trail. I mean to make it to California and if I have to walk in piss drenched sawdust to do it, I will.”

“I admire a woman with determination,” Heyes said. He bought her another drink and idled by the time with her until 6:00 PM. 

Not much long after that, a crowd of men did pile in and divide up into faro and poker. Heyes went to the poker table, noting the fact that the crowd seemed like they’d be at home in Devil’s Hole. They were all rough and distinctly unwashed, though that wasn’t unusual with cowboys or outlaws. Heyes couldn’t decide whether the air of menace or halitosis they exuded was worse. 

“I’m Jethro Jackson,” the largest and ugliest of the bunch said. “That’s Sol, Lefty, Bart, and Ned.”

They each nodded in turn. 

“Joshua Smith,” Heyes said.

Lydia brought their drinks and squeaked as the leader pinched her behind. “Jethro, if you want that kind of thing, go to Louella’s down the street.” She batted his hand off of her. “You can buy me a drink, though. I might even let you walk me home.”

Heyes relaxed; she handled him just fine. 

Jethro smiled at her. “I might take you up on that.”

The poker game proceeded with very little chit chat. They drank and smoked and that was it. Unfortunately the seriousness didn’t translate to a satisfying game. 

Jethro was what Heyes thought of as an erratic player. He played every hand, bet more than anyone else, and raised and raised without thought. Heyes played the long game and won, but not too much. No point in rushing. Sometimes Jethro had a decent hand, but it was clear to him that most of the time he didn’t, including just then. 

Heyes glanced at his three kings. “I’ll see your twenty and raise you twenty,” he said.

Jethro frowned and Heyes tried not to smirk as the rest folded and the two went into the kind of showdown he always won at—poker. He displayed his kings and Jethro looked and then tossed down two pair. 

“Good guess,” Jethro said as Heyes took the pot. 

Hannibal Heyes had definitely not guessed, but he didn’t push his luck and explain. Not without the Kid here to back him up.

“Need some refills?” Lydia asked, bringing over a bottle. 

“So what do you do, Mr. Smith?” Jethro asked, sneering. Of course, his face sort of naturally did that so Heyes didn’t take offense. “Other than play cards.”

“He’s a locksmith,” Lydia replied. “And a good one.”

Heyes wished she hadn’t said that when he saw Jethro’s sudden interest. “Retired, alas.”

“That's a shame since you can make good money if you pick the right locks,” Lefty said.

They all laughed. Heyes smiled; his unease only in his eyes. “I wouldn’t know about that, but I do know a good deal about poker. How about we get back to the game?”

And so they did. 


***

Later that night, Hannibal Heyes smiled at the men easily despite feeling trapped. Four of the five from the poker game had circled him and the girl and this time they all had weapons out. Unfortunately, they’d taken his own.

“Can I help you, gentleman?” Heyes asked pleasantly, although his eyes were cold. They were alone outside the Twisted Briar Hotel.

“You’ll have to if you don’t want a world of hurt,” the leader, Jethro, said with a grin that highlighted missing teeth. 

Lydia let out a frightened noise and Heyes stepped in front of her protectively, although he didn’t trust her much more than the men surrounding them. She’d arrived with them, after all. He had the sinking feeling this had something to do with the fact she’d said he was a locksmith.

“You’re a picklock?” Jethro asked, cementing his fear.

“A locksmith,” Heyes corrected. “There’s a difference. As I said earlier, I haven’t plied my trade in years. Why are you here?”

Lydia moved next to him and bit her lip. “As soon as you left, they were saying they wished they’d asked you to open a lock for them. They…they insisted I take them to you.”

Heyes noticed the grouping of fingerprints on her arm that would no doubt bruise and frowned. 

Jethro grinned. “We need a ‘locksmith’ to work for us. We got ourselves a couple of fancy locks we can’t pick.”

“We cain’t blast ‘em either,” Ned, the shortest of the group piped up.

I see this gang has a Kyle, Heyes thought. 

“Can’t destroy the whatsits inside and pick ‘em neither.”

“Mechanisms,” Heyes said. “If you wanted to hire me for a legitimate job, you didn’t need to surround me in the dark. Besides, I’ve retired. If you need a locksmith, I bet there is a perfectly good one in town.”

“We don’t want to use the one in town,” Jethro said menacingly. “We want one that ain’t from around here that will keep his mouth shut. We’ll pay you well.”

“I’m sorry, I have another appointment tomorrow,” Heyes said, remaining pleasant. He was calm and hoping that would help Lydia, who was terrified.

“We ain’t askin’ you, we’re tellin’ you,” Jethro said, levelling the short barreled shotgun at him. 

Lydia gasped and clutched his vest from behind as if she might like to hide under it.

“Ah.” Heyes weighed his options. Why did they have to come a day too early for the Kid to be around to help? Heyes would try to be long out of trouble by the time Kid got to town but if he couldn’t manage it, Kid would find him. At that thought, he paused. He’d told Lydia that Thaddeus was coming tomorrow. Careless. “If I decline your generous offer?”

“Then we take it out on the girl,” Bart said. 

The thin, silent member of the gang took that as an invitation to paw at her hips. Heyes knocked the man’s hands off of her and would have hit him, but the man’s six-gun was suddenly in his face.

“Sol,” Jethro said, stopping the man. He looked at Heyes and continued, “Go down the alley and get in our supply wagon.”

“Please don’t hurt him,” Lydia said, hesitantly putting a hand on Jethro’s arm.

“Oh don’t you worry, sweetheart, you’ll be coming along,” the man replied.

Lydia staggered back, hitting Heyes who steadied her. “What?” she asked.

“Walk!” 

And Jethro gave them both a little shove and they started the walk down the narrow alleyway beside the hotel. Two men were on either side of them, one was in front, and Jethro was behind. Boxed in. If he’d been with the Kid, Heyes would have risked a move as the alley was tight for their adversaries as well as them, but Lydia wasn’t going to give him any backup. 

A door on the side opened and everyone froze, but the maid standing there just dumped a pail of refuse into a ditch by the hotel. She was short, had coffee colored skin, and pretty eyes; she made accidental eye contact with Heyes, and froze a moment, startled, before looking down. A tense moment passed and she closed the door. 

“That girl saw us,” Lefty said. “Want me to go in after her?”

Jethro paused. “No. Nobody’s gonna believe anythin' she says.”

My partner will, Heyes thought. At least he’ll know how many there were. 

The group finally came out of the alley behind the hotel where there was a wagon waiting with a powerful farm horse hitched to it and the last poker player from the game in the box seat. There were also four horses.

“Gentleman,” Heyes began, but Jethro hit him from behind with his pistol and he fell, unconscious.

Lydia cried out and two of the men hauled him into the back of the supply wagon and tied him up.

Jethro laughed at her distress. “Get in there with him afore I make you. Don’t want to miss the fun.”

“You don’t need to take me with you and you know that Terrence will notice my being gone!” Lydia tried. “He has people who will miss him, too!”

“Then let’s hope you both do everythin’ I say so you get back safe. Get in the wagon, Lydia,” Jethro said. He said it in a way that made her not want to make him repeat it.

She got in the wagon and they tied her up and put her down by Joshua, who was still unconscious. Lydia began to sob as the wagon started to move. How had it gone so wrong? She had been looking forward to reuniting with Thaddeus but then she’d mentioned Joshua was a locksmith and it had gone south. 

Lydia Love had followed Mr. Smith at their insistence and stopped him so that the men could surround them. She hated her part in it but she was terrified of Sol. If she could get away, she would, with or without Joshua. Hopefully with, but Lydia had seen the way the men were looking at her. She’d do anything to escape.


Last edited by elleree on Sun Sep 30, 2018 11:18 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Reunion   Sun Sep 23, 2018 5:47 pm

FYI.  The earlier parts of this story were posted for challenges last fall and this spring.  (Separation August, September, October, November 2017, March, April 2018.)  Here is the conclusion, as requested.

In the time since Billy had been born, and I had come back to work at the Arapahoe County Hospital, I had requested to be assigned to the maternity ward.  I felt the most empathy with the women coming for the birth of their children.  It was usually the happiest ward, when the mothers came through their pain and had a beautiful baby to take home with them.

Sometimes it was also the saddest when we lost either the mother or the child.  I was in tune with those times too, as there was still a deep place in my heart where I missed Jedediah, even though I continually told myself I should not.

Billy, of course, was still the light and focus of my life.  He was named William, after my father, and Joshua, as I thought Jed would have liked that.  He was a rambunctious toddler, keeping my Aunt Myrtle busy, during the times I worked at the hospital, and giving me profound joy, in the time I spent with him.  He had beautiful golden curls and those brilliant blue eyes.  He was a happy, laughing child, as I imagine his father must have been in his youth.

That particular Saturday night though, was slow for women having babies, but not for bar fights.  The saloons were overflowing, and as usual, that meant we received an influx of patients.  That night we had everything from a black eye or cut across the cheek, to knifings and broken bones.

The regular duty emergency room nurses had it under control, until the shooting victims came in.  It appears that a mean drunk had decided to shoot up one of the seedier saloons, and we ended up with some men who simply had a graze to those who would spend that night fighting for their lives.

As one of the best trained and most experienced nurses, I was asked to help prepare one of the more serious victims for surgery.

I arrived at the surgical ward to witness a noisy scene.  Mike, one of our orderlies, was trying to deal with the men who had carried in the man who had been shot.  They were still in the waiting room, but we needed to prepare the patient for surgery.  Often in these situations, the victim’s friends had fled, not wanting to get involved with any law investigating the situation.  I decided it boded well for this man, that he had such dedicated friends.

“Now, boys, we need to have you leave…” Mike began.

“Not until the doctor is here,” a determined voice demanded.  I saw the back of the speaker, his dark hair swaying as he shook his head.  It was the voice of a man used to being listened to and obeyed.

He stood over the patient, and with two other men at his back.  One was a tall, broad man with a mustache, who I had never seen before.  Another man was standing behind him.

“What do we have here?” I asked in my most professional voice.  It usually resulted in compliance.

It was at that moment that the third man moved from behind the second.  I stopped, speechless, when I saw the source of those brilliant blue eyes that looked up at me every day from my son’s face.  It was Jedediah.  He looked equally stunned.  

“Bessie,” Hannibal Heyes again took control of the situation.  “Our friend, Kyle here, is in bad shape.”  His face was utterly serious.  “Can you help us?”

My professional training kicked in at his request, and I tore my eyes away from Jedediah’s, and went into triage mode.  

“The sooner we can get him readied for surgery, the sooner the doctor can try.”  I looked up at Heyes honestly, avoiding Jedediah’s eyes.

By that time two other nurses and another orderly had arrived.  Even Heyes had to relinquish control.  He nodded and Jedediah and their other friend backed off as we whisked the patient off to prepare him for surgery.

“What on earth is going on here?”  Doctor Sorenson had arrived.  “Why isn’t the patient ready?” he demanded.

“He will be as soon as you are, Doctor.”  Again my professional demeanor helped calm the situation.

I chanced one look at Jedediah as Heyes led them to the waiting room.  He had not looked away, and I almost stumbled as that intense gaze met mine.

“Are you all right?” Mary, one of the other nurses whispered, and broke the spell.

I nodded and fled into the surgical suite.


It was two hours later, when Mary brought them in from the waiting room.  The surgery had gone as well as could be expected.  Dr. Sorensen had removed the bullet, and the patient was still holding his own.  We would have to wait to see if he could fight off any infection.  I was sitting by his bed, still doing post-operative monitoring.  Soon another nurse would relieve me, but she had not yet arrived, when they came in quietly.

All three had cleaned up some.  I do not know if Mary had insisted, to help avoid any further contamination, or if they had done it on their own.  Heyes and Jedediah had held back and let the larger man approach first.

“Kyle,” the man looked like he wanted to cry, but would not in front of us.  He sniffed, and cleared his throat.  “It’s Wheat.  You better fight this, so we can go back, uh, home, soon as we can.”

I stood up and offered him my chair.  

“Oh, no ma’am, I can’t take your chair.”

“I’m assuming you might like to stay with him for a while?” I asked kindly.  He seemed to have a genuine affection for the smaller man in the bed.

Wheat nodded.

“Another nurse will be coming soon, so I’ll just have her bring in another chair.”  I smiled as he sat down.

“I’ll go fetch a chair,” Jedediah looked at me and then turned to leave.

Heyes nodded for me to follow, but I reluctantly shook my head.  “I need to stay and monitor him.”

Heyes smiled wryly.  “Wheat and I have watched over a shooting victim before.”

I still paused, even though I had finally realized who these friends of Hannibal Heyes and Jedediah Curry might be.  I said, “I best let him know which chair to bring.”

Heyes nodded and opened the door for me.

I looked one way down the hall and saw no one.  Then I turned and there he was, holding the chair.  I opened the door for him, and glanced down, before I was lost in those blue eyes.  Staying in the hall, I tried to steady my breath, until he came back out.

“Bessie,” he almost whispered, but it was all he said before I melted into his arms.


My heart was filled to bursting, as I sat on the steps leading to Aunt Myrtle’s back garden.  Heyes was leaning against the railing on the other side of the steps, a bemused look on his face.

Jedediah, my lovely Jedediah, was sitting in the grass, a chortling Billy in his lap.  
 
They had taken to each other like they had always known each other.  Billy had given him a wondering look, when I first introduced them.  I had expected some usual shyness.  Jedediah certainly was as shy as I could ever imagine Kid Curry being.  He seemed like he was afraid he would frighten the boy.

Then Billy reached out towards his father, and easily went into his arms.  Jed was still careful, but soon enough they were both laughing, twin sets of blue eyes dancing in the sun.

“His name is William Joshua,” I said quietly.

Hannibal Heyes had a surprised look on his face, one I could tell was not usual.

“My father is William.”  I sighed.  “He’s yet to come see us since Billy was born, but I thought it was a good name nonetheless.”

Heyes simply nodded, and quietly said, “Thank you.”

I met his gaze, and something I could not read was there.  “I thought Jedediah would have suggested it.”  I smiled wryly, my eyes meeting his.  “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to use Hannibal, even for a middle name.”

He tried to look offended, but then just laughed freely, it seemed for the first time in ages.  Jedediah looked up at us, a question in his eyes, but Heyes just shook his head at him, and he went back to playing with his son.

“We got amnesty, finally, a while back,” Heyes offered.

I nodded.  “I imagine most of the people in the United States, and maybe beyond, have heard that news.”  I waited for more.

“We went back to Cottonwood, again, after we had the amnesty.”  He sighed and looked towards his friend, definite sorrow in his eyes.  “Your father still wouldn’t tell us where you were.”

“You were to Cottonwood before that?” I asked, surprised.

He nodded and looked over to me.  “He does love you.”  He then looked back towards Jedediah.  “When your father told us you were carrying the Kid’s child, it almost killed him, not to be able to see you.”

“But before the amnesty?”

Heyes paused, but then nodded.

“Papa was right.”  I straightened my shoulders.  “Either you would have been caught, or it would have been unsafe for me and Billy.”

“You didn’t want to see him?” Heyes asked.

“I didn’t say that.”  I paused, but then met his eyes.

Heyes slowly smiled, and I saw what all the women saw in him.  Then I looked at Jedediah and Billy, and all other thoughts left my head.

“After the amnesty we tried again.”  I looked back at Heyes, and there was some accusation in his gaze.

“Did you tell Papa who you were?  I can’t imagine he would send Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes to his sister’s house, after his daughter and grandson.”

“No, I imagine he still thought a drifter wasn’t good enough for his daughter.”

I looked at him then, wondering what was all in his gaze.  At that moment, Billy cried out, after taking a tumble in the grass.  I automatically moved, to go soothe him, but he had turned towards his father, who was rocking him gently.  As his tears subsided, I looked from my boys to Hannibal Heyes.  He had an utterly sorrowful look on his face.  I started towards him, until Jedediah caught my hand.  He shook his head slightly, and pulled me into the grass, to sit beside him and our son.


**********************************


In some ways I had done well after Joshua left.  I had always been a strong person.  I had to be, with the family I’d had.

In other ways, something in me had died, the day they rode out of my life.

I’d always had a strong personality, probably as a defense.  The folks of the town, were used to that.  After the boys had left, it became as sharp as a razor.  The folks noticed but said little.  I was not the first woman whose husband had ridden out of town.  I would not be the last.

I tried to keep that hard shell between me and Dea, but I simply could not.  Whenever a sharp word would leave my mouth and make its way to her, her eyes would fill, and I would melt.  She of course had been born with blue eyes, and I had wondered if she would keep them, with some Curry blood running through her veins.  Joshua had told me that his mother had been sister to Thaddeus’ father, and had eyes as blue as any Curry.  Dea’s eyes did turn chocolate brown eventually.  Those eyes, along with the dimple and her brown curls, made it impossible for me to be cruel to her.  He may have deserved it, but she did not, and I knew if I ever saw him again, I would not be able to be cruel even to him.

I had wondered if they would ever come back, especially after I had heard the news of the amnesty.  As time continued on, with no word, I had decided I needed to stop dreaming.

The farming had turned out to be no problem.  There were always some young men more than willing to earn a few dollars to plant and harvest the small fields I had.  Some were just passing through, needing a stake.  Some thought there was a more permanent place for them.

I made certain they all left eventually.  I had learned my lesson.

George, the nephew of the mercantile’s owner, had made some overtures, at a church picnic or two.  He was a nice enough young man, looking to inherit the store eventually.  He often made me laugh when I went in for supplies, and he always had a smile for Dea.  He had also decided to ignore all the rumors the ladies of the town had made certain he had heard about me.  As nice as some of them often were to me, I’m certain they thought he was too much of a catch for a woman from a low background like mine.


Spring had come again, and I was sitting on the porch.  Thaddea was sitting at my feet, making a chain with a handful of violets we had gathered.  I knew I could survive the rest of my life with just me and Dea, but I was not certain I wanted to.

Just as the sun had started to kiss the horizon, and I knew I needed to at least whip up some scrambled eggs for our supper, I saw riders at the end of our lane.  I sighed.  We occasionally still had friends and old acquaintances of my pa and brother show up.  I kept a shotgun handy for such situations.  After feeling a sting of a close buckshot ricochet, most men moved on.  I’d only had to seriously wound one.  The sheriff had handled that situation for me, as the man ended up being wanted with a bounty.  I had bought a new rocker that fall.

I had grabbed up Dea, and deposited her inside the house.  Just as I had lifted the shotgun from its usual place beside the door, I took another look at the figures coming down the lane.  They were closer and I could see more details.  One man wore a brown hat, and one a black one.  The third horse carried a woman and child I had never seen before.  The little boy had golden curls, and when he turned to look at me, I saw the same brilliant blue eyes that used to shine from my daughter’s face.

As Joshua urged his horse into a faster pace, I snatched up Dea and ran down the steps towards him.
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PostSubject: Re: Reunion   Sun Sep 23, 2018 8:28 pm

This is from a story-in-progress that should be posted in full to An Archive of Our Own in the next week or so.  Taking a break from my sure-to-be-a-hit current writing project "Faculty & Professional Tutors, the Writing Center, and STEM" for a moment to post this story, which has given its writer far more pleasure than that other project.  It's a reunion of sorts, and it's one of my Blue Sky stories (the Ella and Alias Investigations series). ETA: the full story is available here:  https://archiveofourown.org/works/16134776/chapters/37697378



The noon train arrived in Blue Sky, Montana, and that particular day, only one passenger disembarked.  As he left the station, he looked around the main street, trying to get a sense of the place.  Funny that someone as famous as Hannibal Heyes would end up living in such a small town, he thought.  Wouldn’t he be more at home in a big house somewhere with lots of land?  Or else someplace like San Francisco, or Denver, or even Chicago?  Well, not Chicago – not Western enough.

But then, maybe he’d had his fill of such things.  Or his fill of being recognized in public, now that his picture was out there for all the world to see.  Jonathan’s mother had always said . . . well, she’d been showing him Heyes’ picture in the papers ever since he’d gotten amnesty, and the first pictures had appeared.  How long ago had that been?  The press had had a field day with that, all right.  Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes, who’d never been photographed before, were suddenly depicted all over the newspapers, first by sketches and then, inevitably, in photographs.

“See how handsome he is?” mama had said.  “But he was so much younger, back when I . . . well.”  At that, she’d blushed slightly, and hadn’t continued.

Walking up Main Street, he was momentarily confused by a sign that said Chadwick & Heyes, Law Offices. Surely that would have been news, if the legendary ex-outlaw had become a lawyer?  Surely it would be mentioned in the press, from time to time, at least when one of his more notable trials came up.

But just as he was making up his mind to go in and inquire, he looked across the street and down a couple of doors, and there it was:  Heyes & Curry Security Services.  Just like he’d read about.  It was puzzling how there were two Heyeses, but he wasn’t going to concern himself about that now.

He was finally going to meet his father.

###

There was a small, somewhat unkempt blond man behind the desk.  Surely that wasn’t Kid Curry – if so, the photographs were extremely flattering, and the reality came nowhere near the legend.

“Excuse me,” he said.  “I’m looking for Hannibal Heyes.”

“Well now,” drawled the man, “Things were slow at the office today, so he and the Kid’re gone for a ride.  Think he’ll probably just head home from there.  Y’can’t miss the house – it’s the big white one with the porch that wraps around, just outside of town.”

He thanked the man, and left.  Just before the door fell shut behind him, he heard a female voice saying, “Kyle!  What were you thinking?  You know we don’t give out the bosses’ home address.  Especially not to a stranger come in off the street.”

“Sorry, Gloria,” he heard faintly, but the rest of the apology was lost in the small town street noises – the creaking of a wagon, a horse’s snort, a pair of women talking as they walked up the street, marketing baskets in hand.

###

There was no mistaking the house.  It was set back from the road, and it was indeed, the biggest house in town.  The wraparound porch contained a porch swing and a couple of rocking chairs, situated so that folks could talk together, or read and think separately.  It was well-kept and looked like a real home – a place where people were happy.  There were flowers planted near the house, and more in hanging baskets on the porch, and behind the house, he saw a small apple orchard.  Well, Heyes had ended up with a nice life for himself.  And that would make it all the easier to ask for what he and his mother were owed.  If only it weren’t for those letters, getting her hopes up again.

“He knows that I’m a widow, now,” she’d said.  “He’ll be coming along any day.”  The letters kept coming, a trickle, just enough to keep her dreaming.  But no visit, and no ticket folded into one of the letters, no invitation.  So finally, when he’d come across an article in a newspaper that mentioned the town where the former outlaws were living now, Jonathan had decided it was time to take matters into his own hands.

Up the porch steps, he knocked on the front door.  A moment later, it was opened by a blonde woman, tall and slender.  He wondered if this was a wife, a sister, a housekeeper.  Why had it not occurred to him that Heyes might be married?  Those letters.  How could a married man have sent them?  He must not be so happily married as all that.

The woman held a teacup in one hand.  There was something both distracted and slightly imperious about her manner that suggested she was not the housekeeper.  “Yes?” she asked, her mind obviously elsewhere.  She looked over his shoulder, at a passing wagon.  

“Ma’am?” he asked.  “Does Hannibal Heyes live here?”

And now she looked directly at him for the first time.  Her expression didn’t change, but the teacup fell from her hand and smashed on the wooden floor.  Tea splashed around her, some of it landing on the skirt of her pale grey dress. “Oh,” she said.  “I think you’d better come on in.”

The woman made her way to the sideboard, where she poured something from a cut-glass decanter into a tumbler.  Casting another glance at her visitor, she gave a strained smile, and downed the contents of the glass, very quickly.  Then she put it down, picked up a framed photograph, and joined her visitor on the settee.

She handed him the picture, which depicted a couple with a small child.  It was the woman herself, and a man who could be no one other than Hannibal Heyes, though this photo was clearer by far than the newspaper photographs he’d seen of him.  The child was a girl, no more than three years old, with large dark eyes and dark hair, and features that, even at her young age, echoed her father’s.  “This is our daughter Rachel.  She died six months after this was taken – it’ll be three years in February.  One of those late winter epidemics.”  Her dark blue eyes met his brown ones.  “While I hardly like to describe my husband in terms of a prize stallion, he certainly seems to breed true.”  She looked down at the picture and then back at him.  “I’m sorry.  That was vulgar of me.  This is just . . . unexpected.”

“My name is Jonathan Russell.  But my mother tells me by rights it should be Heyes.”

The woman took a deep breath.  “By the looks of things, I’d say your mother could be right.”

###

They chatted awkwardly for a time, Jonathan telling his father’s wife about his life, past and present.  She seemed eager to learn about him, yet she never fully relaxed.  Finally, they heard the sound of booted footsteps on the porch.  The front door opened, and two men entered – none other than Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes.

The blond man turned to his friend, a look of astonishment on his handsome face.  “Heyes, he looks just like—“

But he broke off, as Hannibal Heyes stopped and stared, frozen in place, as though he was seeing a ghost of his younger self.

 More than the newspaper photos, more even than the stiffly posed portrait Mrs. Heyes had showed him.  Here he was, right in the same room as his father.  Jonathan felt dizzy.  Setting aside the difference in age, he could have been looking into a mirror.

Mrs. Heyes rose, and swept Curry out of the room along with her, and Heyes and Jonathan were alone. 

###

The resemblance was remarkable.  Heyes looked at the boy’s dark eyes and heavy, well-defined brows and his thick, dark-brown hair, worn a little shorter than Heyes wore his own.  He was slender and of middle height, perhaps an inch or so shorter than the older man.  He had the square face, the small nose, the wide mouth and well-defined cheekbones.  Heyes suspected that if he ever relaxed enough to smile, he’d even have dimples.

When Rachel was alive, before it hurt too much to talk about it, they used to joke about how much his little daughter had resembled him, even at her early age.  The rather crude remark about Heyes breeding true had been bandied about more than once, though only in private.

There was no point in denying that Jonathan Russell was his son, saving a remarkable coincidence.  

“You are how old?” he asked.

“Seventeen last month,” said the boy.

Seventeen.  Heyes was thirty-eight now, so he’d have been about twenty-one when the boy was born.  Not yet the leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang, but already an outlaw.  Twenty, twenty-one when he’d impregnated the boy’s mother.  From time to time, he’d wondered idly if maybe he had left a piece of himself behind somewhere, and Jonathan’s appearance certainly seemed to confirm it.
But who could the mother be?  He’d confined his attentions, in those days, to saloon girls and to the occasional experienced widow – women who knew how to manage these things.  Women who knew, bluntly, how to prevent conception.  At least, so he’d assumed.  Had there been an innocent farmer’s daughter?  No, he’d tried to steer clear of such involvements – more successfully than the Kid, he thought.  But the Kid was better at knowing just how far he could go with the more respectable young ladies.  He’d lost his heart far more often than Heyes had, but he had also been better at keeping the two things separate.

Anyway, they hadn’t been together then.  When Heyes was twenty, twenty-one, Jed had left him for a time, longing for a more honest life, a more stable one.  Left on his own, he’d drifted from one thing to another, riding for awhile with Jim Plummer’s gang.  He racked his memory, trying to think who the mother could have been. . . . 

He looked at the boy.  “I’m really sorry, Jonathan, but . . . could you tell me your mother’s name?”

Jonathan was clearly taken aback by the question. “Adelaide Russell.  Would have been Adelaide Peterson when you knew her.  But she said you never knew her real name.  Not back then.  The name she went by, in those days, was Misty Rose.  But you know that now – the letters you’ve been sending.”

And suddenly, Heyes remembered.  Misty Rose, new to the saloon trade.  Young and beautiful and too innocent for the world she’d entered.  Had turned to the work after her family all died of influenza, in one of the periodic outbreaks that could sweep a region, and she the only one surviving.  She’d lost the farm and had nowhere else to go, no other way to survive.  She was more the Kid’s type, if he’d been there – naive and impressionable and very romantic.  That was too likely to lead to complications for Heyes’s taste, ordinarily.  But she had seemed to understand what her work at the saloon entailed.  She was lovely and eager, and she’d taken a fancy to him, so for a summer, when the Plummer gang had gone to ground not far from the saloon where she worked, he’d availed himself of her favors.  Might have even let her think she’d touched his heart more than she actually had, because it helped him with the story he was creating about himself.  He’d liked to imagine himself as the outsider, the outlaw driven to doing wrong by the wrongs society had done to him.  Years later, when his wife had introduced him to the writings of Lord Byron, he saw his youthful self-delusions echoed in the heroes of the man’s poetry.

He'd even written her a regrettable farewell letter, which Ella would have called Byronic, if she’d known about it.  And he had an uncomfortable feeling that she was going to know about it, and soon.

Jonathan returned to the subject of the letters.  “But why did you start writing her again, then?” 

“Writing her again?  Jonathan, I’m afraid I hadn’t thought about your mother in years, ‘til just now.  I didn’t even know her real name, much less where to find her.  If I’d have known about you, I would have sent money.  Tried to get to know you – at least since I’ve been straight with the law.  But I wouldn’t be sending your mother love letters.  I’m sorry to say it, but I barely remembered her until you showed up.” He turned his glance towards the door to the other room.  “Strange as it still sometimes sounds to me to say it, I’m a happily married man.  And I have been for the last seven years.”

Jonathan frowned.  “But you can find things out, like the Bannermans do.  There’ve been stories in the papers about some of the things you and your partner have found out for your clients.  And why do the letters tell all kinds of things only you and ma could know?  Why have you been promising her a future?”

“But I haven’t.  I’m sorry if someone’s been playing some kind of a cruel joke on your mother, Jonathan.  Look, I see the resemblance between us.  My partner and my wife see it, too.  And the numbers add up.  I’d like to get to know you.  But I’m not gonna be courting your mother.”

Jonathan shook his head.  “I was hoping . . . that is, she’s been so certain that . . . we’re at the end of our . . . well.”

Heyes gave a rueful smile.  “I’m sorry you’re not finding the answer you were looking for.  If there’s anything I can do to help, I will.  But I can’t promise what I’m not free to give.”

“Mother’s not quite rational about this.  She seems to think you’ve made some promises.  Well, the letters you see, and . . . she’s talking about seeing a lawyer about it.  Just to bring you back to your senses, she says.”

“Lawyers, eh? Well, that could be . . .” Heyes faltered for a moment, a strained smile playing across his lips.  “Could be real awkward.”

They fell silent, neither quite knowing what to say next.  Shortly afterwards, Mrs. Heyes came back into the room, inviting Jonathan to stay for dinner, at least, and for the night, if it suited his purposes.

Confused, Jonathan declined and took his leave shortly afterwards.  He had too much thinking to do, and needed to be alone.


Last edited by chelseagirl on Sat Sep 29, 2018 7:18 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : adding location of full story)
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MoulinP

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PostSubject: Re: Reunion   Sun Sep 30, 2018 1:31 pm

Very quick challenge as I only came back from holiday yesterday but two reunions in one here.

“Josh, can you come home please?” Mary said, as soon as he’d picked up the telephone receiver.


“I’m right in the middle of something Mary. What’s so important it can’t wait until I get home later?”


“We have a visitor. Someone we haven’t seen for a while.”


“Who?”


“Just come home Josh,” Mary said. “You’ll be glad you did.”


He heard the click of the receiver replacing at the other end and he growled. “Impossible woman!”


He narrowed his eyes. Mary rarely telephoned him at work and she had never before asked him to come home. So it must be important although she didn’t sound upset or worried. She would have told him if it was bad news wouldn’t she?


Frowning in frustration, he shuffled the papers he had been working on into a pile and stuffed them back into their folder. Then he tidied the rest of his desk and switched off the desk lamp, marvelling as always, at how electric light had transformed their lives in so short a time. Snatching up his keys, he got up and went to the safe. He bent and tried the handle. Satisfied that it was locked, he nodded. Returning to the desk, he thrust the folder under his arm and cast his eyes around the room as he walked to the door, checking to see that everything was away that should be away. He took his jacket from the coat stand and draped it over his arm. From the top of the coat stand, he took his hat. Positioning it comfortably on his head, he gave the room a further check. Outside in the main office, he turned and locked the door.


Dropping the folder on his secretary’s desk he said, “I’m going home early. There’s some emergency apparently.” He shrugged into his jacket. “I’ll look at those tomorrow.”


“Yes sir. Good night Mr Mayor.”


“Good night Carole, John.” Heyes nodded at the other occupant, his assistant.


He ran down the wide elegant carpeted staircase and out onto the boardwalk, where he paused to do up his jacket, and flipped open his pocket watch. He nodded, tight lipped at the time before setting off in the direction of the livery.


It was a five-minute walk from the Town Hall to the livery stable. Usually it took him much longer. The townsfolk always found some reason to stop him. Asking him to do things, complaining about something the Town Council had done or not done, enquiring about a by-law, asking after his family, telling him their problems, all manner of things. Forty-five minutes was his record and some nights he had a queue! Yet they all knew where his office was. He’d even had it signposted. Why didn’t they come and see him there? No, they preferred to stop him on the street. Heyes accepted it with good grace and carried a notepad and pencil to write down their complaints and requests. At home, it had become a familiar greeting ritual to ask him how many items where on the list. Mary and the children would just smile. Despite all his complaining they knew secretly, he liked all the informal attention. And they all knew why people did it. He got things done.


Outside the livery, he smiled, as he looked at his watch. Tonight was almost speedy; seeing fifteen minutes had elapsed. Snapping the pocket watch shut, he entered the livery. He didn’t have to wait for his horse to be saddled, it already was. He never understood how that happened. Did his staff telephone ahead once he left the office? Or did the word go out as he made the walk through the town? Either way he was grateful that he wasn’t delayed any longer and could start home straight away.


He rode home wondering what the emergency was. All three children were still away and weren’t expected back anytime soon. Susan, having finished studying for a Fine Art degree at University College London, had taken off to tour Europe. Harry and Billy were in Denver. The elder in his first job as a trainee detective with the Bannerman Detective Agency; the younger in his last year at school. There was only Mary and Heyes at home. He smiled ruefully as he rode. It was nice just the two of them. They’d only had that first year on their own before Susan arrived. Of course, he loved his kids and he liked having them around. Sometimes though it was nice just to be a married couple again and not be anyone’s father.


So what could the emergency be? He growled. He hated mysteries. Spurring his horse a little faster, he was soon cantering up the drive of Amnesty. John Beecher, their liveryman cum gardener came out to meet him with a broad grin.


“What’s going on, John?” Heyes asked as he dismounted.


John chuckled. “Reckon you’ll find out soon enough.”


Heyes growled as he handed him the reins. “Will I like it?”


“I reckon.” John chuckled as he led the horse away.


Heyes gave him a look and started up the path to the house. Reaching the steps, he stripped off his gloves. Pausing by the door, he took off his hat and fluffed up his hair, before pushing the handle down.


“Hallo,” he called as he entered the hall. “I’m home.”


It wasn’t Mary who appeared in the drawing room doorway shortly afterwards. For a moment, he didn’t believe his eyes and then he did.


“Susan!”


“Pappy!”


Susan ran lightly across the hall. Heyes dropped his hat on a chair and enfolded her in a tight embrace.


“When did you get home? Why didn’t you tell us you were coming? Sweetheart! Are you well? You look well.”


“Yes Pappy I’m very well. I see you’ve got greyer,” she laughed, stirring his hair.


“Never mind that.” He flicked her hand away in irritation. “Where’s Mama?”


“I’m here,” they heard Mary call.


Heyes took Susan’s hand and kissed the fingers before they walked hand in hand into the drawing room. Where Heyes received another surprise. Mary was perched on the edge of the sofa but she was holding onto a very small boy. Susan held her hand out to him and Mary let him go.


“Pappy, I’d like you to meet … .” Susan pulled the boy into her arms. “My son, Alfie.” She grinned the full double dimple, delighted at his nonplussed expression.


Heyes looked from Susan to Mary, back to Susan, to the boy, and then back at Mary, who by now was by his side.


“What? How? When?” he spluttered, grateful to feel Mary’s hand on his arm.


“Not my natural child. Obviously,” Susan said, rolling her eyes dramatically.


A doctor had told them when she was a teenager that due to a physical deformity, Susan would never be able to have children of her own. She was never sad about it but the knowledge had made her promiscuous. Nothing to lose but all the fun, she had told her parents glibly. Unfortunately, her laisser-faire attitude to life had plunged her into trouble. The only way out had been to go to Europe and let the dust settle. Three years later, trouble forgotten but her zest for life remained undiminished. Now she was back to turn Heyes and Mary’s lives upside down again. Right from the off it appeared.


“Alfie and I met in Sienna. He didn’t appear to belong to anybody so … .” Susan shrugged. “I adopted him. Alfie this is Grumpy. I mean Grampy. Alfie è questo Grumpy.”


Heyes looked at Mary.


“Do you understand any of this?” he asked.


“Yes, darling,” Mary laughed, obviously delighted. “We have a grandson.”


“But … you can’t just … .” Heyes began as Mary guided him into a chair before his legs gave way.


“Well I did. US Immigration were fine about it. They stamped all the paperwork in double quick time and Alfie and me were on our way … lickety split as the say.” She grinned.


Heyes stared open mouthed. “Have you any idea what people will think?” he asked, several octaves higher than his usual baritone.


“Let them think what they like. Alfie and me are very happy. Aren’t we Alfie? Alfie e mi sono molto felice. Non siamo?”


Si, Mama,” said Alfie.


“Oh, Pappy, how’s your Italian? I’m afraid Alfie doesn’t speak much English yet.”
Heyes dropped his head into his hands. Mary sat beside him and put an arm round his shoulders. “Cheer up Josh. Our daughter’s home,” she said, excitedly.


“I know,” Heyes groaned. “I’ve got a headache already.”


“Isn’t it exciting?” Mary squealed, ignoring him. “Josh, we have a grandson!”


Heyes raised his head and looked at Mary in astonishment. “Yeah. That’s why I’ve got a BIG headache. She’s not married!” he hissed. He looked at Susan and Alfie and then narrowed his eyes. “And … .” He
flung his hand out in their direction. “The boy looks like her!” He turned to Susan. “Are you sure he’s not yours?” he demanded and then realised the absurdity of that question. He squeezed his eyes shut with a wince.


“And ruin this figure?” Susan was incredulous, looking down at her trim body. “Don’t be so ridiculous! And … .” She put her nose in the air. “For your information I’m still bereft of monthlies!”


Heyes looked at Mary, tight-lipped, shook his head and rubbed his cheek.


“Susan’s home,” Mary whispered, rubbing his arm.


“Ye-ah.”


ASJASJASJASJ


The Kid stood at the bar of the saloon and slowly sipped his coffee. It was a little too early for anything stronger and he wasn’t going to be here for long. He looked up in interest as Heyes came stormed through the doors, marching with determination up to the counter, ignoring the greetings coming his way.


“Whiskey!” he growled at the bartender.


Fred took one look at Heyes’ face and rushed to grab a bottle without questioning the unusual request. He filled a glass, with a shaking hand and watched, along with the other few occupants of the saloon, as Heyes downed it in one, before requesting a refill.


The Kid raised an eyebrow and smiled ruefully. Something had his partner riled up so early this morning. As Heyes downed the second glass, the Kid decided he ought to make his presence known.


“Howdy Heyes,” he said, cheerfully, joining his partner.


Heyes looked round at him wide-eyed. The Kid wasn’t supposed to be here.


“You’re … what?”


The Kid chuckled at his flummoxed partner, grabbed his arm and stirred him over to a table. He nodded to Fred to bring their drinks.


“Come and tell me what’s wrong.”


“Susan!” Heyes growled as he sat down.


“I take it you mean your daughter Susan?” the Kid queried.


Heyes glared. “Do you know any other Susan who can make me drink whiskey at 8.30 in the morning?” He reached for the bottle and poured himself a third glass, knocked it back and slammed the glass on the table.


“What has she done? I thought she was still in Europe.”


“She come home. With a boy.” Before the Kid could say anything further, Heyes indicated the height of a small child. “That high.” He raised his hand a little. “Mebbe there.” He looked disgruntled. “I’m a grandfather,” he said, bitterly.


The Kid chuckled briefly and then sobered. He could tell that Heyes wasn’t finding the news amusing.


“But …,” he started.


“He’s not hers. Well yes he is. Mebbe.” Heyes sighed and toyed with his empty glass. “I’ve acquired a grandson. An ITALIAN grandson.”


“Well you went and had a daughter Heyes. Caroline and me decided to stick to boys.” The Kid sat back. A flicker of sadness crossed his face but when Heyes raise his head to give him the look, his face was innocent.


“I didn’t exactly plan it y’know,” Heyes spat.


“Didn’t you tell me that science recently discovered that it’s the male contribution that determines a child’s sex?” The Kid bit his lip.


Heyes looked at him incredulously. “I still didn’t have any say it in,” he ground out between gritted teeth.

Then he looked away as his mouth twitched into a smile, which became a chuckle, then a short laugh.


The Kid grinned and patted his partner on the back. “Congratulations, Heyes.”


Heyes sat back. “Thanks. I think.” He frowned. “Why are you here? I wasn’t expecting you until next week.”


The Kid sighed. “Ah, it seems I still can’t get the hang of railroad timetables. I forgot the asterisk,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Thought I was on a fast train. Cowdry and me’ll be here for a few days.”


ASJASJASJ


A few weeks later …


“What on earth is going on here?” Heyes thundered as he walked into the hall. It resembled an untidy warehouse, full of trunks and boxes. A procession of deliverymen brought more objects in.


“Susan happened that’s what,” Mary said, obviously flustered and close to tears.


Heyes sidestepped a life sized bronze statue of a naked woman with outstretched hand in provocative pose. After giving it a glare of disgust, he joined Mary in the middle of the hall. Hands on hips Heyes looked round shaking his head. Mary drabbed at her nose with a handkerchief.


“She shipped everything home!” Mary cried. “What are we going to do with it all, Josh?” Tears overwhelmed her and she retreated to sit on the stairs, her face in her hands. Mary was usually more stoic than this but seeing her hall disappearing was too much.


“Hey! Hey! Hey!” Heyes sat next to her and put his arms round her. “Hey, darling, we’ll sort it all out,” he said, gently.


Mary sniffed and recovered quickly. “I know,” she gasped, dabbing her eyes.


“Might have to rent a barn,” Heyes sighed, looking round at the chaos.


Mary managed a smile. “I love having her home, Josh, but she does turn our lives upside down.”


Heyes looked at her sadly. “I know.” He swallowed hard as more boxes appeared. “Where is she by the way?”


“She took Alfie into town to buy him new shoes.”


“Ye-ah, ‘course she did.” Typical Susan. “Was she expecting this?”


“If she was, she didn’t say a word to me. You?”


“No not to me either,” he sighed. “Well.” He levered himself up with a grunt. “I suppose we’d better try and make some sense of it all. I’ll have John come up to give a hand.”


Before he could get further, the delivery foreman approached him with a clipboard.


“That’s all in now. Sign here please.” He offered Heyes one of the new Parker Jointless fountain pens to use.


“I’ve no idea if it’s all here!” Bizarrely Heyes had a flashback to an incident years ago when he had first worked in The Hardware Store. An unusual delivery that had taken all his ingenuity to sort out. He hoped he wouldn’t have to employ it again with this little lot.


“There’s nothing left on the van and the manifest has all ticked off. Miss Smith should get in touch if she thinks there is anything missing.” The foreman shrugged. “This shipment has come a long way. Lots of opportunities to lose a trunk.”


Heyes glared and signed. “Ye-ah,” he smacked his lips. “No doubt she will.”


As Heyes saw him out, a buggy came up the drive. “Ha!” He looked back at Mary. “Of course, impeccable timing!”


Susan pulled the horse and buggy to a halt by the steps. John followed up the path from the stable and held the horse as she got out. Then she turned and lifted Alfie into her arms. The delivery truck was making its slow way round the turning circle and away.


“Was that my stuff?” she asked excitedly.


“Uh-huh,” Heyes nodded, standing hands on hips. “Nice of you to tell us.”


“Oh.” Susan rolled her eyes dramatically. “I didn’t know precisely when it was coming. I think it’s a day early.”


With that, Heyes had to scramble to accept Alfie, thrust into his arms. He growled. “Susan!” He followed her in. She stood, hands on hips and surveyed the scene, a big grin on her face.


“All my things! Now I really feel that I’m home for good.”


“Your mother’s been in tears,” Heyes said dryly behind her.


Mary stood up from the stairs at the other side of the hall from where Susan and Heyes stood.


“Susan, what are going to do with it all?” Mary asked.


“Oh Mama, it’s not so bad,” Susan started forward. “It just looks a lot because it’s all higgledy-piggledy. Once it’s straightened out, it’ll be fine.”


Mary looked at Heyes helplessly.


“This is the first thing that gets moved!” Heyes indicated the naked woman statute.


Susan turned and put her arm protectively round the statute’s shoulders. “Pappy I think this piece of work clinched me getting a first! The examiners all said it was quite remarkable and so lifelike.”


“Don’t you tell me, it’s you!” Heyes roared, shaking a finger at her.


Susan looked shocked. “No of course not! This is my good friend Foxy. I wrote you all about her. Daughter of an Earl I think she said. We had such an exciting time together with Jenny, our other room mate. She was Australian. I have a painting of her somewhere. Quite multi-national our room.”


“I don’t care who it is. It’s NOT staying in the middle of MY hall!” Heyes said, through gritted teeth.


“No of course not, Pappy. It should stand against a wall, preferably blank – no hideous wallpaper and be the focal point.” She turned away. “We’ll move it into your study where you can look at it in private. Now … .”


Heyes and Mary looked at each other open mouthed.


Nuove scarpe, Grumpy!” Alfie suddenly squealed, pointing at his feet, successfully distracting Heyes from murdering his daughter.


“Hmm, very nice.”

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

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PostSubject: Re: Reunion   Sun Sep 30, 2018 5:51 pm

He lay in his bed, it was still mostly dark outside, the sun just rising over the horizon.  A small sliver of light peeked through the curtains.  He looked next to him, his wife’s back faced him as she slept. He smiled, what a life he has made for himself; a family, a successful business.  Things he never thought were possible.  A reality that had been hoped for but suppressed so deep into his subconscious that it seemed impossible to ever believe and here he was living it.  


He picked his pocket watch up off the nightstand and moved it into the dim light - six am.  He sighed quietly as he closed the watch and stared at the dark ceiling.


“Can’t be more than six,” a quiet whisper came from the other side of the bed.


He smiled as he rolled towards her.  “I’m sorry,” he almost purred as he wrapped his arm around her and pulled her close.  “I didn’t mean to wake you.”


“You didn’t,” she snuggled closely, breathing him in.  “I’m as anxious as you.”  


He lifted his head up, “Really?”


She rolled on her back, looking up into his face she pushed an errant strand of hair off his face.  “Really.”  She lifted her head and gave him a soft kiss.  “I’ll make breakfast.” He opened his mouth to say something but she gently put her fingers over it. “You have a long journey, I’m making breakfast.”


He smiled and nodded.


***


The brown haired man opened the closet door and reached up to the top shelf.  Stretching as much as he could, his hand searched the far back corner.  He patted around, feeling for the item he couldn’t see.  A small smile spread across his face as his fingers found the object of his desire.  Bringing it down, he smacked it across his leg, relieving it from some of the dust that had accumulated. Holding it in both hands, dimples appeared,  “It’s been a long time old friend.” Brown eyes gazed at the well worn hat with the hole in the front crease; it had seen better days a long time ago.  For some reason, he just couldn’t part with it, perhaps it was the shared memories.  In any case, it was the right choice for today's journey.  He placed the black hat on his head and reached into the closet again, searching for another old friend.  Pulling it out he stated, “You kept me warm back then, I’m counting on you again.” He slipped his arms into the heavy coat and headed down the back stairs to the kitchen.  


“Smelled breakfast?” he asked as he stepped in the kitchen, brown eyes meeting blue. “Only explanation as to why you are up early.”  A dimpled smile reached shining brown eyes as he caught a glance of the sheepskin coat and brown hat on the side chair.  “Great minds, Kid.”  Heyes laughed as he gestured towards himself with his hands.


“Only seemed right,” the blue eyed man replied.  “Figured it's gonna be cold and we haven’t been out on the trail for a long time.”


“The two of you gotten soft?” inquired the woman making the food.


Heyes looked at his partner, the two men snickered.


“Yeah, sweetheart, I think you can say that,” he laughed.


“Speak for yourself,” Kid tried to say seriously but unconvincingly as he too began to chuckle.


Laurie rolled her eyes,  “Okay, try to convince yourselves of that before you reach the Hole.”  She placed a sack on the table, “This should hold you over until you stop for the night.”  Smiling, she placed her hand on the brown haired man’s shoulder.  “Be safe.”


“We will,” the men replied.


Standing up Heyes said, “We’ve had our amnesty for a long time, people know.”


“It only takes one,” tears welled in her eyes.  


“I promise to bring him back,” Kid stated as he grabbed the bag and headed towards the door.


***


“Oh,” the man in the black hat sighed as he slid out of his saddle.  He put his hands on his sides and tried to stretch his back.


“You got soft, Heyes,” Kid stated. “Ugh,” he grunted as his feet hit the ground.


“I got soft?” The partners' eyes met. 


“Okay,” the blonde man said as he put his hand up to end the argument before it started.  “We got soft.” 


Brown eyes twinkled, “Laurie was right,” he snorted.  “It’s been a long time since we rode sun up to sun down.”


“That’s a good thing.”


“No, Kid, that’s a great thing!”


“Heyes, you do realize that if we keep this pace, we’ll be a day early.”


“That’s the plan.”


Blue eyes looked inquiring.


“Thought it would be good to get to the Hole before everyone else does.  Get a chance to look around before everyone else shows up.”


“I like the plan,” Kid nodded.


As if time hadn’t passed, the two men worked in harmony setting up camp for the night.  Words were not spoken, words weren’t needed as both men knew each other as well or perhaps better than they knew themselves.  They had been joined at the hip so to speak for so long that everything came naturally with ease.  


Finally sitting by the fire, they stared at the flames quietly as they ate the food that was packed for them. Lost in their own thoughts, the only sound was the crackling fire.


The blue eyed man took a sip from his cup and chuckled.  “Heyes, your coffee makin' abilities haven't changed!”


“Thanks,” he said as he too took a sip and nodded his head in approval.


“It wasn’t a compliment.”


“It wasn’t?”


“No!”  Kid looked at him like he was crazy.


“You always liked my coffee.”


“No, I didn’t.”


“I always made the coffee,”. Heyes said indignantly.


“Doesn’t mean it was good,” Kid replied.


“Well, you drank it.  Kept us warm…”


“Okay,” the blonde partner interrupted.  “The coffee is fine.  I just got used to Laurie’s coffee.”


“Yeah, that’s good coffee.” Heyes smiled then added, “She’s cooking on a stove not on a fire.”  Under his breath he added, “Makes a difference.”


Kid shook his head.


“Can’t believe we’re headin' back to the Hole,” brown eyes met blue. 


“Never thought we’d go back.”


“Me neither, Kid.”


****


Up before dawn and back in the saddle the two ex-outlaws approached their final trail in early afternoon.  As they approached, they paused and looked at each other.  The man in the sheepskin coat shrugged, pulled his gun from its holster and shot it in the air.


“Just seemed right,” he stated.


The man in the black hat nodded.  They rode a few minutes in silence before he added, “Can’t believe we’re heading back.”


“Can’t believe someone convinced Wheat that people would pay to come here,” Kid laughed.


Heyes joined in.  “Oh, I can.” He laughed harder.  “Convincing Wheat he’s the big shot and gets to tell everyone what a great leader of the Devil’s Hole gang he was, that’s easy.”


“Ya got a point, Heyes.”  Kid pulled his horse to a stop.  Turning towards his partner he got serious.  “Did you ever think we would get out of here?”


“I guess back then, never thought about it.  After we went to Lom, never wanted to think about it.  Just wanted to stay alive and out of jail.”


“We did good Heyes,” he nudged his horse forward.


“Yeah, Kid, we did.”  Lifting up the black hat, he ran his fingers through his hair before placing the hat back.  “We got amnesty for us and everyone in the gang and better yet, none of them ended up dying while they were with us.”


“What do you think it's gonna look like?”


“I don’t know,” the brown haired man stated.  “Just hope they cleaned it up a little or no one is gonna want to pay to stay.”


“That’s for sure.”  The blonde man paused, then asked, “You think they’ll be happy to see us? I mean, we didn’t jump in and help with this.”


Heyes slowed his horse.  “Of course they will.  We got amnesty, we all have lives.”  He thought a moment and added, “It a reunion, Kid.  Of course they’ll be happy to see us!”


The partners turned the final corner and entered the compound to the sound of whoops and hollers from the group of men waiting anxiously for their arrival.


They stopped dead in their tracks, stunned that they weren’t the first to arrive.  “What!” Heyes exclaimed. “You weren’t due here until tomorrow.” 


“Well we’s know ya long enough, to know yous was gonna be early,”. Lobo stated.


“Yup,” Hank agreed.  “Wheat wanted to make sure everythin’ was done when ya got here.”


Heyes and Kid searched the crowd and spotted Wheat standing off to the side, chest puffed out.  


“As ya say Heyes,” Kyle spit his tobacco to the side and then smiled his lopsided smile.  “It’s better to be a day early than a day late. So we's figured you’d be a day early and ya is!”  He nodded enthusiastically.


The partners looked around, “Wow,” they said in unison.


“If the Hole looked this good when we were here, we might not have wanted to leave,” Heyes stated.


“Ain’t that the truth,” Kid chimed in.


“Well are you gonna sit up there starin’ down or get off your horses and let us show you around,” Wheat asked as he moved in towards the two ex-leaders and signaled to the rest of the gang.


As Heyes and Kid dismounted, they were handed a glass.


“It’s the good stuff,” Kyle grinned.  


“Make a toast,” Lobo called out.


“Yeah,” the gang joined in.  “Make a toast.”  The men, including Wheat, stared at Heyes with anticipation.


Heyes looked around, and smiled his million dollar smile, then nodded.  Raising his glance he proudly said, “To the Devil’s Hole Gang.”  


“To the Devil’s Hole Gang,” the gang replied and then downed the good stuff.
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InsideOutlaw

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PostSubject: Re: Reunion   Sun Sep 30, 2018 9:02 pm

A change in his horse’s gait caused Hannibal Heyes’ head to jerk upright and he blinked in the harsh sunlight.   The bay gelding’s usual long, smooth walk had become jarringly shortened as it negotiated a particularly rocky section of trail.  He’d fallen asleep in the saddle, bone-tired, and still a long way from Denver.


Heyes felt the back of his neck burning from exposure so he turned up his shirt collar to shade the skin not covered by his bandana.  August had so far been unrelentingly hot and the mountains were as dry as he’d ever seen them.  Grasshoppers clacked noisily out of the way of his gelding’s hooves and the sere brush crackled and rustled as they passed by.  Wildflowers had bloomed and died premature deaths. The aspen trees were turning weeks early, many golden leaves already scattered across the trail.  Lakes he’d passed were drying up, banks revealed in concentric rings of baked soil, small turbid puddles all that remained.  The streams and creeks that fed them trickled lifelessly and it had proven a major challenge to keep both horse and rider hydrated, contributing to his exhaustion. Heyes could smell smokiness in the air and wondered how close the nearest fire was—they were everywhere this summer.  He’d seen a huge column of black, oily smoke reaching for the sky to the west of the Divide; too far away to be dangerous yet a constant, ominous reminder of the severity of the current drought.


Patting his chest pocket, he felt the bulge of the packet he’d been given by his fellow ex-outlaw, Sheriff Lom Trevors.  The latest in a long line of new territorial governors of Wyoming was very eager to have his missive delivered to Colorado’s governor quickly and discreetly.   Lom had made big hints this could be the job to win them the amnesty they’d long awaited but only if it was completed by next Friday.  If they were delayed, the governor would not be forgiving.  That’s why Heyes was riding alone.  Kid Curry, his partner, had come down with a bout of food poisoning after eating at the saloon in Porterville and had been so sick Heyes had reluctantly left him holed up there so the delivery wouldn’t be late.  The Kid would rest up until he felt better and reunite with him in Denver before Friday noon.  


The unmistakable sound of a cocking gun disturbed his reverie and caused him to reflexively reach for his own weapon.


“I wouldn’t do that, Heyes.  I got a bead on the back of your head, you’ll be dead afore you hit the ground,” growled someone behind him.  


Carefully, Heyes eased his hands up in the air, his right still gripping the reins.  


“That’s better,” said the disembodied voice.  “You know the drill--left hand, two fingers, and real, real slow and careful-like.”  Heyes’ Schofield landed with a soft thud and a puff of dust before he heard the noisy approach of his captor.  A man stepped into his field of vision, picked up his gun, and moved a safe distance away from both horse and rider.  “Good.  You keep listenin’ and you’ll keep breathin’.”


“Mister, I don’t know who you think I am, but…”


“I damned well know who y’are.  You’re Hannibal Heyes and you’re worth ten large to me dead or alive so shut your trap and git off your horse.” 


Heyes studied the man briefly.  He was gaunt, greasy blond, sported a thick droopy mustache, and his sharp, dark eyes stared into his own.  They held no fear, only resolution.  Without breaking eye contact, Heyes slipped out of the saddle, his hands still raised.  


“Now take off your boots.”


“What?”


“You heard me, take off the boots.  I ain’t askin’ again.”


Awkwardly, Heyes lifted his left boot and slid it off, then his right.  He stood up and gave the man a defiant glare, but the lean man simply lowered his gun slightly and fired.  With a strangled cry, Heyes fell to the ground clutching his wounded foot and cursing foully.  His horse skittered away, terrified, as he rolled in the dust for a few minutes trying to master the pain while his tormentor holstered his weapon and watched impassively.  Finally, he lay curled up in the dirt, gasping for air.  The man stepped forward, pulling a set of handcuffs from an inner pocket, roughly yanking him up into a sitting position, and expertly securing his arms behind his back.


“Son of a…, what’d you do that for?!” Heyes’ ground out through gritted teeth.


For the first time, the man allowed himself a smile.  “Insurance.”


Heyes looked up at his captor, confused.  “What?”


The man gave him a filthy, tobacco-stained grin.  “Everyone knows you’re a slippery devil.  This way, if you do git away from me, you ain’t gonna git far.”  


With a groan, the dark-haired man sank onto his back, his foot throbbing painfully, his sock soaked with blood, the bullet having gone clear through.  “Who the hell are you?”


“Cyrus Elwood Lamford, at your service,” the man said with a slight bow.  “You can call me Mac.”


Trying to push the pain out of his consciousness, Heyes focused on the conversation.  If he could keep Lamford talking, he might find a way out of this.  “Mac?  Why Mac?”


The dirty man, shrugged.  “I like Mac, don’t like Cyrus or Elwood.”  


“So why’d you tell me your whole name?”


“’Cause that’s what my mama christened me, God rest her sweet soul.”  Turning away from his prisoner, he walked over to the two horses, snatched up their reins and led them back.  “Where’s your partner?  I been followin’ you since the border and I ain’t seen hide nor hair of ‘im.”


Heyes was relieved to hear it.  He had no way of knowing whether the Kid was a mile or a hundred miles behind him; not that he didn’t hate knowing he was on his own.  He shook his head ruefully.  Something always went wrong when they separated.  “We split up.”


Mac chuckled.  “You think I’m beef-headed?  You don’t go nowhere without Curry watchin’ your back.”


“Do you see him watching my back?” Heyes struggled up again, wincing but thinking as fast as he could.  “We had a dust up a few months back.  Broke us up.”


“Yeah?  What about?”


Figuring a partial truth might be convincing, Heyes said, “I quit outlawing, the Kid didn’t want to.”


Mac roared with laughter.  “The great Hannibal Heyes, retiring?”


“Why not?  I’m not getting any younger. Look at me.  Do I look like a big-shot outlaw?”


Heyes’ dusty, old gray coat and the worn holster around his hips made Mac hesitate.  He’d seen Heyes robbing a train a few years ago.  He’d been all duded up with a silver-conchoed gun belt and silk vest.  The only thing left was the fancy black hat and it, too, had seen better days.  “You do look a mite down on your luck.”


“Yeah, the lawful life don’t pay so well,” muttered Heyes.  Mac grabbed his arm and hauled him to his feet.  Heyes stumbled as his wounded foot touched the ground and cried out, “Hey, take it easy!”


“Don’t matter none to me where Curry is as long as he’s not here.  The ten grand I’ll collect on you is more’n enough to feather my nest without tanglin’ with the likes o’him.”  His eyes narrowed as he noticed Heyes’ bulging chest pocket.  “What you got there?”  He reached out and pulled the governor’s packet out, holding it up by the corner and squinting at the lettering.  “This yer cash, Heyes?”


Heyes moaned, both from pain and defeat.  He had no idea what the packet contained, but he knew he could kiss the amnesty goodbye if Mac took it.
 
Tucking the reins under his arm, Mac tore open the large manila envelope and peered inside.  “Ain’t nothin’ in here but some damned paper.”  Unable to read, he threw it aside; several sheets of paper spilling out and scattering.  “C’mon.  We’re gonna git your tail back in the saddle and head on into Denver so’s I can cash you in.”  


Heyes kept glancing over his shoulder at the torn envelope as he was dragged by his arm, hopping as best he could to keep up, towards his horse.
 
***


Kid Curry reined his horse up at the top of a small rise.  The animal was lathered on its neck and chest and blew its nostrils to clear them of the trail dust before he lifted his shaggy head and sniffed the air inquiringly.


“I know, buddy, I’m hot and thirsty, too,” said the Kid, “but we’ve gotta catch up with Heyes.”


The horse snorted disdainfully.


“How ‘bout we find us some water and then we press on?”


Shaking its head, the horse started to paw.


“Hey, I ain’t feeling so good either.  If anyone should be bellyachin’, it’s me,” said the Kid unaware of the irony.  “Lom’s the one who screwed up.  He told Heyes Friday instead of Thursday.  Now I’m the one bustin’ our butts makin’ sure the governor’s packet arrives Thursday like it’s supposed to.  C’mon.”  Curry gave his irritated mount a boot in the sides and together they half-slid, half-leapt down the hillside. 


***


The lengthening shadows foretold dusk’s arrival but Heyes hardly noticed.  For the past few hours, he’d ridden along slumped in the saddle, uninterested in his surroundings, his wounded foot out of the stirrup and banging painfully every stride.  Looking down, he saw the bleeding had stopped and his sock was drying but not before his mount’s side had been dyed red.  At least the wound was clean by now.  He must’ve leaked a gallon of blood.  No wonder he felt light-headed.  He wiggled in his saddle, trying to ease the ache between his shoulders.


“Stop squirmin’ about.  We’re stoppin’ up ahead for the night,” said Mac. 


“It’s about time,” grumbled Heyes.


“What’d you say?”


“I said, I’m fine.”


“You did, huh?  Don’t look so fine to me.  Nosiree, you look like somethin’ the varmints got,” laughed Mac, leading Heyes’ gelding into a small copse of blue spruce and halting.  He swung a leg over his saddle horn and slid to the ground.  Walking back to his captive, he smiled as he examined the damaged, swollen appendage.  “Looks pretty sore.”  He reached for Heyes’ arm and yanked him out of the saddle.  


“Argh,” cried out Heyes as he hit the ground before he clamped his mouth shut.  He be damned if he’d give this sadist the pleasure of knowing how much he was hurting.  He struggled up and limped over to the largest tree.  Leaning heavily against it, he lowered to the ground, his injured foot out in front of him.  Once seated, he glowered at Mac while the man went about the business of setting up camp.  


Chores completed, Mac started a fire and put a pot of hot water on to heat up.


“You gonna clean up my foot?” asked Heyes.


Mac gave him a tight, mean smile.  “Why would I waste precious water on the likes of you?  I’m makin’ coffee.”


“What’d I ever do to you?”


“Nothin’, but you done enough to others.  I ain’t here to pamper you, Heyes.  You’re lucky I didn’t just put one between your eyes.  Might’ve been easier.  Still could, I guess.”


“Could you at least uncuff me?”


“Nope, don’t see no reason to.”


“How am I gonna drink?”


“You ain’t.”  Mac grabbed a lead rope and walked over to Heyes.  Squatting down, he tied Heyes to the tree and gave the rope a tug.  “Ain’t gonna eat neither.  Way I see it, the weaker you are the less trouble you’ll be.  Soon you’ll be someone else’s problem.  Right now, your mine and less’n you want me solvin’ my problem the easy way, you’ll shut up and leave me be.”  He stood and returned to the fire, ignoring his prisoner for the rest of the evening.


Heyes watched him warily until Mac kicked dirt over the spent coals and crawled into his sleeping bag.  He kept watching until he was sure from the loud snores that Mac was asleep.  Only then did he relax and let sleep seep into his own spent body.


***


The three quarter moon and the small lantern he’d lit allowed the Kid to continue along the clearly defined trail at a slow walk until late into the night, but both he and his horse were fading fast.  He didn’t want to risk killing the animal nor did he want to waste time sleeping.  If he and Heyes failed to deliver the packet on time, it would spell trouble for their amnesty chances.  They’d come too far and worked too hard to fail.


He lifted the light higher to illuminate the rocky ground and, as the shadows fell back, he noticed something out of place.  A piece of paper, trapped by a chokecherry bush, fluttered in the soft night breeze.  He stopped his horse and dismounted, carrying the lantern with him.  Carefully, he extricated the sheet and held it up to the lantern.  His eyes widened as he read.  He lifted his head and looked frantically about, the lantern casting its glow.  He saw another sheet and then another even further away.  When he reached the third one, he saw the manila envelope half-covered with dirt.  Running to it, he snatched it up and turned it over.  It had been torn open but it was unmistakably the packet Heyes had been carrying.  Swinging the lantern around, light bounced crazily off trees and shrubs, until the Kid saw what he’d dreaded finding.  A large stain of blood. 


His knees weakened and his hand rested on his gun butt as he issued a soft curse.  Why did things always go so wrong when they split up? 


***


Dawn saw Heyes and Mac in their saddles.  The night had been long for Heyes.  His foot continually woke him up and his thoughts made sure to keep him up.  No matter how he’d looked at it, he was in terrible trouble.  Mac had coolly crippled him.  There was no way he was getting away on foot.  But, in the wee hours of the morning, he’d come up with a desperate plan.  One he was waiting to hatch. Heyes knew this country well from his outlaw days. The narrow trail they were on would skirt along a cliff face in the next mile.  


Heyes bided his time, running past robberies through his mind in great detail—anything to take his attention off the pain creeping up his leg.  He'd seen the red tendrils of infection snaking up his calf from under his sock and he knew he was beginning to fever.  


As the land fell away to his left steeply, he focused all his attention on the back of the rider ahead of him.  Mac’s horse was tipping his head to one side, peering down the steep drop off.  Heyes waited until the narrowest section of the trail before raking his heels into his horse and screaming with anger and pain.  The frightened bay charged forward, all four hooves digging into the trail with terror, and plowed into the hind end of Mac’s horse, sending it off the trail and plummeting down the hillside, its legs frantically trying to keep up with its body.  Both horse and rider tumbling end over end.


The bay galloped on, his rider bouncing crazily from side to side with his hands tied behind his back.


To be continued

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“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 Mon Oct 01, 2018 10:57 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Reunion   Mon Oct 01, 2018 1:15 am

Reunion

He entered the saloon, pausing to let his eyes adjust to the dim interior from the brightness of the outside.  The good weather had allowed him speedier travels than expected and he had arrived a day early, giving him perhaps a rare opportunity to relax solo until his colleagues showed up. 

They had chosen well.  This place barely a town, called Reunion, had no sheriff; no law at all, it seemed.  Off the beaten track, it might be hospitable to the thieving kind, so long as they kept their noses clean.  But they meant no trouble, and no one there should know them.

Bellying up to the bar, he ordered a beer and looked around.  The usual games of chance as might be found in any respectable gambling establishment worth its salt surrounded him, although, being the middle of the afternoon, only one game was in progress.  He might be tempted to take a chance later, but now, glass in hand, he settled in at a table and immersed himself in thought.

His colleagues were his friends – well, most of them anyway – the co-leaders of the outfit more bosses than anything else.  His good-time-Charlie exterior got on well with his peers but belied a sometimes more contemplative soul; and while the respite from his cohorts would give him time to think, he would not want to stay there long – that occasional philosophizing having gotten his old man in trouble in his own heyday.

A scion of a prominent Eastern banking family, his father, a third son and a romantic at heart, yearned for adventure and answered the call of the West.  Angered by the massacres at the Alamo and Goliad but too young to have taken part, he headed to Texas anyway.  There, after years of exploration and life as a solitary mountain man, he wanted a family and took a half-Anglo, half-Tejano wife and fathered several children.  Tiring of domestic bliss after some years, he took off to the gold fields of California, never to be heard from again.

Thus was the background of one Andrew Wolf Riggs – Andy for short as a young boy, but his prowess and patience at hunting had led his mother to christen him Lobo from his middle name, and he went by that ever since, save a vow to answer to Andy were he ever to run into his father again.

How he had arrived at this moment, or any moment for that matter, well, he certainly knew but tried to make sense of beyond the true story.  Perhaps fascination with fanciful tales from his father in early childhood led him to flights of his own imagination.  He had followed in his father’s footsteps for a while but cut short his own experience as a trapper in the West Texas hills because the solitary life weighed on him just as it had his dad, and his mother had taken ill.  Arriving just in time to say goodbye before she passed, he soon after left again as Texas seceded, heading to western Nebraska Territory.  Falling into petty thievery to eat between paying jobs, he drifted but was still there when Wyoming Territory was declared.  In and out of trouble with the law, but nothing serious, he had fallen in with the Devil’s Hole Gang, becoming right hand to its leader, Big Jim Santana, before Big Jim was captured and Hannibal Heyes had taken over.  Now, with Kid Curry as Heyes’s right arm and Wheat Carlson third in command, he was content just to be part of the gang, away from leadership and its resulting responsibilities.  His years with them were the longest he had stayed in one place, and how long that life would satisfy him he did not know.  Perhaps the camaraderie of the outfit replaced the family he had lost, but he would not dwell on it.  Finished with drumming banks in surrounding towns, he would wait patiently on Kid and Hank before all three returned to the Hole.

“Well, look what the cat drug in.”

Startled back to the present, he looked up to see a familiar face.  “Hello, Mae.”

He stood to offer her a chair, and she sat.

“Polite as always.  I guess those fancy Eastern manners never leave ya.”

He chuckled.  “You know that was my ma’s doin’.  Pa had nothin’ to do with it.”

“So you’ve always said.”  She paused.  “Ain’t ya surprised to see me?”

“Nope.  Figure I’ll run into people I know here and there.  Just never know who.”

“Well, it ain’t every day ya run into your wife.”  She paused.  “But it’s ex-wife now.  I finally got a divorce.”

He nodded, not surprised.  “Ya did the right thing.”

“Wasn’t sure I should, but I went back to my own name, so in case ya ever want to look me up again, it’s Parker, not Riggs.”

“Ya do what ya have to.”  He sighed.  “I’m sorry, Mae.  Really didn’t give us a chance, did I?”

“Nope.  I was a fool to think you’d be back.”

“How long did ya wait?”

She grabbed his beer and took a swig, and shrugged.  “Too long.”

He nodded in understanding.  Everyone did what they had to do. He had made a living out of it.  He took note of the place.  “Still in a bar, huh?”

“Yep.  Once a barmaid, always a barmaid, I guess.”

“I guess,” Lobo echoed.  He got the barkeep’s attention and signalled for two beers.

They waited while the brews were delivered.  Mae thanked the barkeep and lifted her mug to toast the moment.  “To reunions.  I knew this town might lead to somethin’.”

Their glasses clinked and they drank.  Lobo looked at her, taking in the coincidence.  “Reunions.  In Reunion?  Really?”

“Yep.”  She smiled and took another sip.  “What’re ya doin’ here?  Couldn’t be to see me ‘cause ya didn’t know where I was.”

“Waitin’ on some friends.”

“Another reunion?”

His voice was quiet.  “No.  Just meetin’ them here.”

“Then what?”

He shrugged.  “Back to where we live.”

“Oh.”  She sounded wistful.  “I guess there’s no chance, then … you and me?”

Lobo sighed.  “I’m sorry, Mae.  Ya know you’re better off without me.”

“Am I?  Ya never gave us a chance.”

He smiled.  “As my grand-daddy’s lawyer might say, ‘I rest my case.’”

She looked at him with pursed lips.  Their courtship had been quick and the marriage quicker, but there would always be a place in her heart for him.  And she knew he had loved her, once.  Maybe he still did.  She leaned in and kissed him on the cheek.  “Where are ya stayin’?”

“Was gonna get a room at the boardin’ house.”

They owed each other nothing, but he had been her husband.  She was impetuous, even oddly hopeful.  “Got room at my place.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.”

Mae looked around.  “This place is empty.  I think I can get off early.”

“Okay.”  He paused.  “Seems like old times.”

She said flatly, “Some things never change.  I don’t think either of us ever will.”

“Prob’ly not.”

She lifted her glass.  “To now.”

He did the same.  “To now.”

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