Give and Take
Posts : 8718
Join date : 2013-08-24
|Subject: Give and Take Thu Nov 01, 2018 5:26 am|| |
Time for a new challenge, and your prompt for November is
Give and Take
Your story can contain either giving, taking, or both. It can be philosophical or literal - and we all know a couple of men who were very good at taking, so this should be an easy one for you.
So, get writing!
Don't forget to comment on last month's stories before moving on to November, as comments are the only thanks our writers get.
Posts : 64
Join date : 2018-09-14
|Subject: Re: Give and Take Mon Nov 12, 2018 2:11 pm|| |
Inaudibly he slipped into the dark room, but she noticed him instantly. It was something in the way his presence changed the air. It was dark but his charisma filled the empty room with life and tension.
She watched him when he cautiously wavered his way through the room. He was approaching her, there was no doubt about it. If there had been any way for her to escape, she might have drawn back, but she wasn’t at liberty to do that. So, she just followed all of his movements in silence.
Slender hands produced matches and inflamed an oil lamp that was standing on a table nearby. He dimmed the light and turned around.
When his eyes met her for the first time, a gentle smile lightened up his face. With slow movements he bridged the remaining distance to her.
He stood close now, so close and studied her with his dark-brown smoldering eyes. “Here you are, my love. I’ve never seen one like you before.”
His eyes caressed every inch of her and his smile widened, showing a hint of his beautiful dimples now.
“You’re beautiful and you are strong. Your build is perfect. Heavens, I wouldn’t have believed someone who had told me that.”
With an appreciative look he took in her delicate outfit. His ardent longing was obvious. He ran his fingers throughout his dark silken hair, a gesture that almost aroused her, too. Slender hands reached out for her and then....
She would never forget his first touch – his hands were soft and warm and tender.
He stroked his hands gently along her sides, following her plenteous curves. A low sigh slipped off his lips.
Kneeling down in front of her, he placed the side of his face on middle of her body. She felt his cheek, warm and a mite scratchy because of the five-o’clock-shade that covered it.
After another caressing stroke over her middle-line, his hands started doing their magic.
Nobody else had touched her that way before. The sensation was completely new for her and she enjoyed every minute of it.
His lips murmured sweet words, his eyes shone and his tender hands, his nimble fingers ... oh ... they explored all of her secrets and knew so unbelievable well what they were doing.
He pressed his body against her, close, so close. She felt his warmth, his hot breath, his heart beating faster and faster when his excitement grew. And then he eventually triggered even her last sweet point, the last piece of the puzzle dropped in its place and she finally gave way. She knew that it was wrong, that she shouldn’t allow it, but she just couldn’t help herself.
A last firm movement of his strong hand and she fell for him, showed him all of her secrets. And his face beamed pure joy and ecstasy...
He did what he came to do and took everything she had to offer. But the experience he gave her was terrific and worth all its consequences.
When he was finished, he drew back slowly and gave her a last stunning smile while his eyes caressed her one last time.
“Pierce & Hamilton 1874,” he murmured gently. “I’ll never forget you, my love...”
Posts : 460
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 101
Location : Chicago, Illinois, USA
|Subject: Re: Give and Take Sun Nov 18, 2018 11:46 am|| |
Seth Green groaned when he heard the knock on the door. He knew that knock. He put his papers down, folded his hands and took a deep breath. “Come in.”
The door opened, revealing the formidable bulk of Miss Griswold. Five feet tall and five feet wide, she filled the doorway.
“Mr. Green, I must speak to you. That boy – “
He held up one hand to silence her.
“If there’s an issue with a boy you wish to discuss, you know it must be confidential. Please close the door behind you.” She bit her lip in frustration but complied.
“Will you sit down? And then you can tell me, slowly and calmly, what’s got you so upset.”
“I am not upset! I am frustrated. There is a difference, you know.” She pushed two chairs together and sat down across both. There was an audible protest from the chairs. She ignored the sound and rearranged her voluminous skirts, ignorant of her imminent peril.
“Of course,” he soothed. “What’s frustrating you?”
“These boys!” she fumed. “We took them in when nobody else would. And after all we do for them, providing a roof over their heads, providing education, providing food, clothes, everything, and what do I get in return? Not respect, not gratitude. I expect better.”
She didn’t notice his eyes narrow, or the harder tone in his voice. “I’m glad you said that, Miss Griswold, because now I understand the root of the problem you’ve been having here. You say, we don’t have to take in these orphans. As Christians, we do have to take in the orphan. As Christians, we do have to feed the hungry. As Christians, we do have to clothe the naked. Our Lord Jesus Christ makes our duty very clear. He does not command the recipient of our duty to say thank you.”
“No one can say I am anything less than a committed Christian, Mr. Green! Have I not served Valparaiso for ten years now? And I have certainly not been enriched in the process! No, rather, I am frustrated by the un-Christian behavior of some of these boys. They do not realize how good they have it here.”
“Why should they? They are orphans. They had it good with their parents. No matter what we provide for them at Valparaiso, it can never equal what they have lost. They don’t feel grateful because they’ve lost their families and their homes. They are angry. They feel cheated. They may even believe that God has abandoned them. You and I know that is not true, but they are children, and we are adults.”
“Well. I suppose. I see your point. But at the least, they can comply with the rules.” She leaned forward towards him, her bosom straining against the fabric of her dress. Seth caught himself inadvertently looking at the fascinating struggle of flesh against fabric and forced himself to look her directly in her face.
“What do you expect, Miss Griswold? What do you want from these boys that you don’t think you’re getting now?”
“A little respect. Not being challenged when I ask them to do some little thing, like clean up after themselves. Or when we ask them to do simple tasks, simple upkeep, so that they can eat, or that the building doesn’t fall down around their ears.”
He sighed. “That does sound reasonable on the face of it. But we are living in unreasonable times. The war has created more orphans than we can accommodate. The demands on us are greater than our resources. You know that as well as I do, since, as you say, you’ve been employed here for ten years. And so many of the children we admit are damaged by the terrible things they’ve seen since the fighting began back in the ‘50’s. We put them in bunkhouses, feed them donated food, stuff them into overcrowded classrooms, and in turn, expect them to study hard, perform chores cheerfully, and to be happy and grateful for all these gifts they never wanted. Is that logical?”
Seth watched her grind her teeth. She didn’t look any less frustrated. In fact, she looked more frustrated. Well done, he told himself. You’ve let off some steam, and now, she’s built up her own head of steam. He decided to switch tactics before she threw his own inkwell at him.
“But you didn’t come here today because of the general unsatisfying situation we all must endure. Is there a particular incident, or student, that has aroused your ire today?”
“The usual one. I just don’t know what to do with him, Mr. Green. I’ve tried paddling and detention. I’ve given him extra tasks, made him skip meals, and nothing gets through to him. He is incorrigible.”
“Ah. The Heyes boy. What’s he done this time?”
“He broke into Mr. Gridley’s desk and found the mathematics final in the drawer. He then copied all the answers, and he’s been selling them to other students.”
Seth was curious. “Selling them for what? The boys don’t have any money.”
“Food or favors. For example, he’ll give a boy the answer key in exchange for his turn washing dishes. That sort of thing.”
“I’m curious. How did he get the test in the first place? Mr. Gridley’s desk has a lock.”
“He picked the lock.”
A look of doubt crossed Seth’s face. “No, really,” she insisted. “He knows how to pick locks.”
“How would he know that? His father was a farmer, not a locksmith.”
“I don’t know how he knows, but he knows.” Now her voice became more firm. “You can ask him yourself. Either somebody showed him, or he figured it out for himself. He’s very clever, you know.”
“Alright. Let’s agree that he got into the drawer, but not about how. It could have been left unlocked, you know. Did anyone see him pick the lock?”
“No. But it had to be him.”
“For me to accuse him of theft, I need better proof than ‘it had to be him’. There are 150 boys here.”
“Alright,” she admitted grudgingly. “But I know he gave the answers to that little friend of his, the Curry boy. As you know, the Curry boy is not clever at all. He never saw a test he couldn’t fail in some spectacular fashion. And suddenly, he did well on a mathematics test.”
“Maybe Heyes tutored him. I’ve seen his grades, and he does very well in math. And the boys are close friends, I’m told.”
She looked at him with pity. “Mr. Green, sometimes I think you are just too good for this world. You do try to see the best in everybody, don’t you? Just don’t let that blind you to facts.”
“Let’s make sure we have all the facts, then, because I’m not going to accuse any boy without cause. Did any boy tell you, or another adult, that Heyes had offered to sell him the mathematics test?”
“No. But Mr. Gridley found him in the room, after class ended, when he had no reason to be there.”
“How did that happen?”
“Mr. Gridley left his good pen on the desk. When he realized, he went back to get it. It wasn’t ten minutes since class had ended, and Heyes was still there.”
“Sitting on the desk, seemingly just looking out a window. Mr. Gridley told him to go back to the residence hall and make sure his chores and homework got done.”
“And then what happened?”
“Mr. Gridley got his pen, and then he wondered, what was the boy doing there, really? He checked his desk, and the drawer was unlocked. He saw that the mathematics test was there, but the papers were out of order, so he knew someone had been there, but wasn’t sure any damage had been done. Not until the test was given, and then he knew.”
“I see. Circumstantial evidence, no smoking gun. Have I got that right?”
Miss Griswold glared as hard as she dared to a male supervisor. “I suppose so,” she grunted. “He’s too clever to get caught with his hand in the cookie jar.”
“I agree that he’s an exceptionally clever boy. And you want me to talk to him, do you?”
“Of course! I hope you will put the fear of God into him. Nothing has made an impression, as I’ve told you. You’re the headmaster of this orphanage. You need to get tough with him.”
“That’s already been tried, hasn’t it? He’s been paddled. He’s been denied food, denied privileges.He's been assigned extra chores. You told me the previous administrator even locked him in a wardrobe overnight to ‘teach him a lesson,’ didn’t you? What kind of lesson that’s supposed to teach a vulnerable child, I don’t know, other than to hate authority figures.”
“He’s a tough boy. He requires a strong hand to set him on the proper course of behavior.”
Seth looked away for a moment, wondering if he could ever get through to this woman.
“Miss Griswold, I don’t believe he’s tough, anymore than I believe most of the boys here are tough. In fact, I think he’s fragile. He’s been broken by his losses, by the things he’s seen that no child should ever see, and he’s acting out. He doesn’t have the tools to do anything else. The corporal punishment he’s received here has only caused him to rebel more.”
She pushed herself to her feet. The chairs seemed to sign with relief. “Mr. Green, I say this with all due respect; you are new to this job. You don’t know these boys as well as the staff do.”
“No, I don’t. That’s a big part of why I was hired as headmaster. I assume you have him waiting in the hallway?”
“Of course, Mr. Green. I’m nothing if not efficient.”
“Give me five minutes to review the files. Then you may bring him in.”
“Certainly.” Alone, Seth pulled the files on the two boys and reviewed them quickly. When he heard the knock on the door, he was ready.
“Come in.” The boy entered hesitantly and closed the door behind him quietly. “Please sit down, Hannibal. I need a quick moment to organize my paperwork, and then we can talk.” The boy settled himself lightly on a chair. Seth aimlessly moved papers around on his desk while surreptitiously studying his guest.
Hannibal Heyes didn’t look like a major threat to the proper order of the Valparaiso Home for Waywards. He looked like a typical skinny 14-year-old boy who was lurching into manhood by fits and starts. On closer examination, Seth noted the large dark wary eyes that observed and filed away everything they saw. They were the eyes of a wounded animal. Not much different than so many of Valparaiso’s boys, but this child-man was known by everyone to be unusually intelligent and much too cunning for his age.
Seth clasped his hands on top of his papers and gave the boy a reassuring smile. “Do you know why I wanted to see you, Hannibal?”
The boy shrugged. “I must be in some sort of trouble, except I don’t know what kind. I ain’t done anything wrong.”
“Haven’t done anything wrong.”
“Haven’t done anything wrong.”
“No, that’s not it. I asked you here because a younger boy might be in trouble, and I wanted to see if you could help him. I’m hoping that you and I can have a good give and take on this problem, and that you will give me honest answers. Even if you think I won’t like your answers.” Seth smiled at the surprised expression that passed over the boy’s expressive face. “Would you be willing to consider doing that?”
“Yes, sir. Sure.”
“Good. I knew I could rely on you. You’re already fourteen, right?” A nod. “Young to me, of course, but old enough to accept some adult responsibilities. Part of that is setting an example for younger boys. You recognize that, don't you?”
Seth steepled his fingers. “How is your friend Jed Curry doing with his studies?”
“He does alright, sir.”
“Not according to his file, which I read before you came in. He’s not doing very well at all.”
“Why’d you ask me, if you already knew the answer?”
“I wanted to get your perspective.” Seth could almost see Heyes’ consider the new word, discern the meaning, and then file it away. “You are his friend, aren’t you?” Heyes nodded, almost imperceptibly. Like a hunted animal, suspicious of everything, completely untrusting.
“Jed has not had a stellar academic record. Yet on the last mathematics test, he did better than he’d ever done before. So did two of the other boys who’ve not done well to date. Mr. Gridley is wondering how that’s possible.”
Heyes almost snorted with contempt. “It sure ain’t got anything to do with Mr. Gridley. He don’t care if anybody fails or passes, so long as he’s getting paid to write on the blackboard for an hour and drill the multiplication tables.”
“If it’s not Mr. Gridley helping Jed and the other boys improve, then who?”
“I couldn’t say, sir.”
“What would you say if you could say?”
The boy smiled.
“You know what Mr. Gridley thinks?”
“Mr. Green, if Mr. Gridley thinks anything, that’s news to me. He’s numb as a box of rocks.”
“You’re not afraid of me, are you?”
Heyes shrugged. “I figure you can’t do me worse than the others who sat in that chair. Besides, you said you wanted to have an honest give and take with me, didn’t you? I’m only doing what you asked for.”
Seth smiled in return, refusing to take the bait. “I did say that, didn’t I? I hope you’ll continue to be frank with me. Not everyone is, you know.” A nod.
“You’re doing very well in that class. He must be teaching you well.”
The boy’s big brown eyes narrowed in anger. “He ain’t taught me nothing. I just take the books and work through the problems myself. I don’t need him for that.”
Seth was intrigued. “All of the math books?” Heyes nodded. “By yourself? How did you do that? And more importantly, why?”
Heyes shrugged nonchalantly. “I got bored sitting in class, so I just kept working the problems so I didn’t start snoring and get in trouble. Mr. Gridley don’t care what anyone does, so long as they don’t bother him with a question or talk out of turn or snore when they fall asleep.”
“I see.” He looked at the boy with new respect. “Do you know what teachers think when a poor student suddenly improves dramatically? That the student has cheated. Maybe the student got a copy of the answer key before the test. He memorizes the answers, and suddenly, he gets an A. It doesn’t make sense otherwise. You see?”
Heyes nodded slowly, cautious again.
“You know what I think? I think somebody may have gotten his hands on the test and shared it with other boys. For whatever reason. Maybe he thought he was helping a friend who’s been struggling. But that’s not helping someone. Not if teachers and administrators like me believe those results are the result of cheating. Do you understand?”
Heyes sat still, tense, waiting. If only Miss Griswold could see this boy now. The tough exterior the boy wore had slipped away, replaced by the fragile child who was waiting for, expecting, punishment. His slender fingers were compressed into fists.
“As you know, I’m new here. I’m not familiar with how these situations have been handled in the past. Let me tell you what I propose to do. I’ll ask Mr. Gridley to nullify the results – nullify means, erase them like they never happened – prepare a new test on the same material, and re-test the boys. If they know the material, they’ll do well again. If they did well because somehow, someone provided the test answers to them, they might fail. But at least they’ll do it honestly. How does that sound to you?”
Heyes’ tense body seemed to relax slightly. “That sounds fair enough, sir.”
“I’m glad you agree with me. And, I’m going to require Mr. Gridley, and all the instructors here, to never leave confidential testing material in the classroom. They should take tests home with them, so that test security is ensured. Does that also sound fair to you?”
“Good. The only unresolved issue is, how did the test results get to these boys? Any ideas on that?”
“I couldn’t say, sir.” A quick grin crossed the boy’s face and deep dimples appeared. It was a brief glimpse into the cocksure, happy child he’d been before . . . well, before. “And I wouldn’t say, even if I could. Sir.”
“I can’t say, either. I will say that I suspect someone copied the answer key and shared it with other students.”
“And what are you going to do about that, Mr. Green?”
“Had I direct evidence or a witness, I would punish the perpetrator. Because I have neither, I will take no action in this matter beyond what I’ve already told you. However” – the boy’s quick grin froze – “I hope that the thief, whoever he is, realizes that cheating does not help anyone; it only creates more problems for everyone, and particularly for the people he wanted to help. Do you think the thief will understand that?”
“I can’t rightly say what goes on in some person’s mind, sir. If he’s smart, though, I feel pretty sure he’s going to learn from his mistakes.”
“I hope so. It’s best for him, and it’s best for the other boys as well.” Seth stood up. “I’ve enjoyed this little give and take with you, Hannibal. I hope you have as well.”
Heyes got up. Seth could see relief flooding his wiry body. “Yes, sir, I have.”
“And one last thing, Hannibal. You might try tutoring those boys, instead of giving them the answers to the test. Learning is the goal of education after all.”
The boy's only reaction was to blink rapidly. His face didn't change. “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”
Seth looked at the door for a long moment after Heyes had left. He could only hope that the boy would eventually learn that honest effort beat stealing any day of the week. Only time would tell.
Posts : 538
Join date : 2013-08-25
Age : 64
Location : Colorado
|Subject: Re: Give and Take Sat Nov 24, 2018 9:00 am|| |
A Day Early, A Dollar Short – Chapter 3
A dark form highlighted by the morning light caught the Kid’s attention as his horse carefully picked its way along the rocky trail. A turkey buzzard drifted lazily on an updraft, swirling gracefully in a circle, dipping and rising on the thermals above the aspen-shrouded mountain. How could something so ugly on the ground be so beautiful in flight, mused Curry? As he watched, another bird joined the first, performing an aerial ballet, then another, and another until a squadron of scavengers filled the air.
The Kid’s stomach soured and it had nothing to do with his recent illness. There was only one reason for so many buzzards to flock together. He swallowed bile. He was torn between wanting to hurry along the trail skirting the cliff face and wishing he could manage to turn his horse around on the precipitous path and go back the way he had come. As he neared a tight bend, his eyes closed while he steeled himself against what he might find. He felt his horse turn the corner and tense up before erupting with a nervous snort. Blue eyes flew open to see one of the large raptors sink to the ground and hop towards the corpse of a dead horse reposed at the bottom of a long, gouged route ripped through the steep hillside. It wasn’t hard to read what had happened. He’d been following two sets of tracks, now there was only one. The other had died a terrible death but even at this distance the Kid could tell it wasn’t Heyes’ bay and he sent up a silent prayer of thanks to whatever God cared about ex-outlaws.
Mac fought through the thick shrubs, stepping over tangled roots, bending branches out of his way, and avoiding jagged, broken limbs. From the looks of it, Heyes’ horse must’ve left the trail at a full gallop. He chuckled. Critter might just make his job a helluva lot easier. It wasn’t hard to track the outlaw’s path and he wouldn’t be surprised to find Heyes skewered on a low-hanging tree branch. He’d be disappointed, though; he wanted the pure pleasure of snuffing Heyes.
He wished he’d just up and killed Heyes outright when they first crossed paths. If he had, Dickie would still be with him. He sniffed. Damned, he’d loved that horse beyond all reason; bred and raised him right there on the farm; broke him real careful for Andy. The boy’d only been eight when Mac had given him Dickie, but he’d manfully handled the responsibility of caring for the beast. He could still remember the look on Andy’s face when he put him in the saddle for the first time. Both he and his son had been so proud. This time a tear spilled and he wiped it, and the memory, away on a grimy shirtsleeve.
A small rock tumbled downhill as Heyes and his bay wove their way through a stony field. He wished he could hurry the animal, but the footing was too treacherous. Concealing his tracks by using rocky ground was slow going at best and he didn’t have a choice about which direction to take. Both man and beast were parched. They had to find water and water flowed downhill. He would follow the first dried up feeder stream he came across. He’d already decided against going back up to the trail, the climb would’ve taken too much time and energy. He was too weak and he couldn’t be sure the fall had killed Mac. The man might still be after them.
His foot swung free of the stirrup. It was too painful to put any pressure on the swollen limb and he had to constantly shift position to keep his leg from contacting the saddle. It hadn’t looked any better this morning when he’d cleaned it and changed the poultice, but it hadn’t looked any worse. He’d have to be grateful for that. He was still feverish and fuzzy-headed and it took all his concentration to stay upright and not drift off to sleep. The tea he’d brewed from the chokecherry bark had helped take some of the edge off, but it’d tasted terrible. At least a generous dollop of whiskey had made the awful brew a little more palatable, but he’d missed his morning coffee and ended up washing out his wound with the rest of the concoction. Heyes patted his shirt pocket reassuring himself his bindle of white willow bark was still there. He’d save that for a last resort.
What day was it? He couldn’t be sure. He was having difficulty keeping track of time but it didn’t matter anymore. The amnesty was as good as gone, all those years, all that risk, and it was gone. Maybe it would be better to just lie down and die. The look on the Kid’s face when Heyes told him he’d lost both the packet and the amnesty would kill him sure enough.
One of the buzzards turned to face the Kid as he crept towards the dead horse. The huge bird opened its beak threateningly and spread out its wings in warning. The others kept at their grisly meal. Each time he took a step forward, the angered bird would feint at him, snapping its beak and driving him back in a bizarre game of give and take. He had to get closer. He needed to see if there was another body hidden behind the huge corpse but he couldn’t just shoot the feathered ghoul. What if the rider had survived? He couldn’t risk a gunshot. The last thing he wanted to do was to let anyone know he was here. Losing all patience with the stalemate, he took off his hat and rushed at the birds, flapping his arms and hat. The scavengers coming in for a landing veered away, but the four on the carcass extended their wings, hissing at him, and bravely standing their ground. He skidded to a stop out of reach of their razor-sharp beaks and began lobbing small rocks and stones at them with deadly accuracy. He hit one in the face with a satisfying smack and the gruesome scrounger took to the sky, the others swiftly following.
The Kid circled around the body noting the bullet wound in the horse’s damaged forehead. That explained the shot he’d heard. He breathed a sigh of relief before turning his attention to the empty rifle scabbard and crushed canteens attached to the broken saddle, recognizing one of the canteens as his partner’s. He examined the saddlebags. Whoever had put the animal out of its misery had left a lot of gear behind. The man wanted to travel fast; he was going after Heyes on foot.
Turning away from the body, the Kid scanned the path of destruction coming down the hillside. A single, dusty boot lay discarded under a small bush and the Kid felt his blood run cold. It was Heyes’--the man had taken Heyes’ boots. Was his partner still alive? He scrambled up to it and looked for the other, finding it midway up the slope. Angry and furiously cussing as he climbed the hillside, Curry retrieved the second boot. Descending, he saw a single set of tracks cutting across the slope, clearly visible, and he walked towards them until he could see the impressions deep boot heels had made sinking into the soft soil.
The advantage was the Kid’s now. He and his horse were fresh from their long night’s rest and the slow progress he’d made on the rocky trail. He hurried back to his horse, tied Heyes’ boots on top of his bedroll, and mounted before riding away from the carnage.
Upon reaching the bottom of a narrow valley, Heyes found a damp streambed carved through the trees. He rode alongside it as much as the terrain allowed scanning the exposed rocks and stones until he found a small pocket of stagnant water. He reined up the bay and awkwardly dismounted; his head spinning. He steadied himself for a moment before tying the horse to a shrub. The animal shifted impatiently from leg to leg nearly as thirsty as its rider.
Heyes pulled the whiskey bottle from his saddlebag. He couldn’t risk a fire to boil water, but he hoped the alcohol would kill whatever was growing in the dank liquid. Dropping to his knees with difficulty, he dipped the bottle into the pool filling it to the brim. He waited a few minutes and then drank thirstily, being careful to stop before the bottle was more than half empty, leaving some of the diluted whiskey. After re-filling and corking, he struggled to his feet using the branches of a thorny bush and gouging the palms of his hand before noticing the plentiful rose hips ripening along the banks. He knew he couldn’t eat too many of them, they were too acidic. At least they’d provide some nourishment while his horse could forage on the brown grasses interspersed amongst the wild roses. A nicker drew his attention. His horse’s ears were pricked in his direction, and the hopeful animal was pawing the ground.
“Easy, pal. Let me get this put away then you’ll have your chance.” He limped to the bay and tucked the bottle in the saddlebag, untied the reins, and led the horse to the water. The animal drank greedily, draining the pool dry. Heyes patted him, his mind on what to do next. Sooner or later, he’d reach civilization but could he last that long? The way he felt it wouldn’t be long before he fell out of the saddle. He had to find a place to hole up until he got better or…didn’t.
The horse began to wander along the streamside, tearing at weeds while Heyes leaned heavily against the saddle, taking the weight off his damaged foot. As his mount ate, he gathered the rose hips, eating some, and tucking more into empty pockets. He discovered a small patch of wild onions as well as a clump of prickly pear tucked behind a cluster of rocks. The fruit was long gone, but he broke off the smaller, thinner pads. Looping his arm through his horse’s reins so the animal could continue feeding, he sat down on one of the rocks and used a sharp stone to carefully scrape off the needles from the cactus pads. A ray of sunlight penetrated the shelter of the trees and warmed the chill in Heyes’ bones as he worked. He wasn’t hungry, but he had to keep his strength up. The fever was wearing him down. Biting into a raw pad, he alternated between the cactus and the onions. The reins tugged gently at his arm as his horse grazed.
The last time he’d eaten cactus he and the Kid had been holed up in a box canyon hiding from a posse on their tails. Being on the run had taught them a thing or two about staying alive. As he chewed, his thoughts skittered aimlessly. Had Mac survived? Was he going to die alone? The Kid should be on his feet by now, but was he on the way yet? They’d always figured when they went, they’d go together. Heyes wondered if the Kid would ever figure out what happened to him or would his bones be scattered by animals, never to be found? As lurid images filled his fevered mind, his eyes grew heavy and his hands relaxed, his arm slipped from the reins. The last of his meal fell to the ground seconds before he did.
Hurting, Mac had slowed to a mincing walk carefully picking his way through the mixed spruce and aspen forest. Windblown trees impeded his progress forcing him to step over or around them. His stacked-heeled cowboy boots weren’t made for hiking and he wished he’d kept the flat-heeled ones he’d taken from Heyes. He couldn’t go any further. The sun was dipping below the mountainside and dusk would be coming on quickly. He’d camp here for the night and give his aching feet a rest. Limping over to a snagged tree, he sat down and tugged off one boot and then the other, moaning as he rubbed his blisters.
Adding to his discomfort, he’d lost Heyes’ tracks not long after he’d found the clearing where the outlaw had shucked his handcuffs. It had taken a long time to skirt that rocky hillside and pick up a trail again. His hand dropped to the cuffs now dangling from his belt. How the hell had Heyes gotten out of them without a key and with his hands behind him? Mac had taken every precaution he could think of and the man had still gotten away. Everything he’d ever heard about Heyes appeared to be true. The man was wilier than the Devil himself. If and when he caught up to Heyes, he wouldn’t make underestimate him again. This time, he’d plug him between the eyes the first chance he got.
The big fire crackled merrily but the man warming his hands over the flames was morose. Worry was eating at Kid Curry and it wouldn’t stop until he found his partner. He was pretty sure he was closing in on the man chasing Heyes and he’d hated having to stop for the night. He had to find Heyes before the man did. Trailing behind wasn’t going to work and neither was blundering through the forest in hopes of stumbling across Heyes. So the Kid had come up with a plan.
He tipped his face up and watched the long column of smoke swirl upward. Satisfied that it could be seen against the dusky sky, he got up. His bedroll lay near the fire, stuffed with his saddle blanket and extra clothes. He glanced at his horse. Tied and unsaddled, the animal browsed on a small sapling. The stage was set. The Kid melted into the surrounding forest and waited.
The smell reached Mac’s nose before he saw it. He looked up from his dinner of cold beans and watched the tendrils of smoke drifting across the canopy of trees. He waited for the plume to thicken into a forest fire but the billowing grayness simply dissipated into the sky. He had company. Could it be Heyes? Who else would be this far off the trail? Whoever it was, he’d check it out but he’d be damned careful doing it.
He waited a long time for darkness to settle around him, watching the flickering light of the distant campfire glow brighter through the heavy underbrush. When it was dark enough, he pulled on his boots before he picked up his gun belt and got to his feet. He buckled the belt, tied down his holster, and then walked slowly and silently toward the flames.
The Kid’s eyes kept closing and he would occasionally nod off only to have the weight of his head awaken him again and again. Every once in a while he would shake his arms and legs to keep the blood pumping. The moon slipped slowly past the stars and was sinking to the east when a tiny sound roused him from his stupor. He’d heard something. He was sure of it. Revitalized, he peered through the trees, his attention keenly focused, as the sky lightened with dawn.
Mac felt around for another stone in the thick brush. He’d been watching the man sleeping and was getting tired of waiting for him to roll over. He knew it wasn’t Heyes. Not unless he’d somehow managed to switch horses and gear in the middle of nowhere. But who else would be stumbling around in these woods? Could it be Heyes’ partner? Mac needed to see the man’s face. His fingers closed around another pebble and he pitched it at the sleeping figure raising a small puff of dust, but missed again. Damn it all! He had to get the man to roll over. No way was he getting within reach of Curry. If it was him, he’d shoot first and ask questions later.
Stealthily, the Kid crept up behind a man kneeling by a large bush. He was almost close enough to reach out when the man swung around, pistol in hand. Unconsciously, his own Colt leapt into his hand and his bullet sent the pistol flying from the man’s grip.
“Aagh, $#%--don’t shoot!” Mac thrust his pained hand in the air, the other hand gripping it tightly. Dark eyes peered at the Kid warily. Holding his gun on the man, Curry walked around him and retrieved the pistol, shoving it into his gun belt.
Mac followed him with his gaunt face. “I didn’t mean no harm, mister. I was just trying to get ‘im to roll over so I could get a good look at ‘im ‘fore I woke ‘im up.”
A cold, tight smile creased the Kid’s face. “He won’t be rollin’ over. Or wakin’ up.”
Mac frowned. “You killed ‘im?”
“I’m not in the habit of backshootin’.
The Kid pulled out a corner of the governor’s packet from inside his jacket and noted the glimmer of recognition in the man’s eyes. “This says you are. Where’s my partner?”
“I don’t know where Heyes is, he got away. That’s right, Curry, I know who you are,” sneered Mac contemptuously. “So who’s this?” he said, gesturing towards the bedroll.
“That’s the oldest trick in the book and you fell for it.”
Mac chuckled, “Your sneaky partner would be proud. Don’t look at me like that, far as I know, he’s still breathin’.”
Murderous blue eyes glared back at him promising to snip the fragile thread anchoring Mac’s soul to his body.
“You better hope he is.”
“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
Posts : 70
Join date : 2018-07-09
|Subject: Re: Give and Take Fri Nov 30, 2018 8:10 pm|| |
Okay, here is the continuation of the story I posted last month. I've been calling it "Dam Shame" because I enjoy horrible puns. If you're waiting for the update on Lock Smith, I'll have it under my name on fan-fiction.
*** Hannibal Heyes moved out of the water slowly to avoid splashing. He was drenched and his long dark hair was plastered to his neck. The only good thing about the rage he felt was that he wasn’t noticing the cold as much, though he had to keep his jaw clenched to stop his teeth from chattering. His anger might be red hot, but his body was freezing cold. He needed to get Kid, get warm, take out the guard, then steal some horses and head to their original destination of the trapper’s shack. Not necessarily in that order.Heyes crept up from the bank, moving carefully so the fallen leaves didn’t give him away. He paused to watch the group sleeping some distance away by the fire. The night was dark and his face was mostly in shadow, but the look on his face was darker still.Ross Kaden and Kid were away from the other group, apparently banished from the warmth of the fire. Ross was bent over and blocking his view of his partner. At least Kid was still alive; he had to be since Ross was working on him. Was he still bleeding? Heyes’ fists clenched and he looked for the one on watch duty and saw Dustin facing the woods in the opposite direction. Heyes took the opportunity to slip slowly closer to the horses tied by a copse of trees. The saddles and bags were in a line next to the hobbled equines. Kid’s saddle was on the outside so he sidled up quickly and grabbed his partner’s saddlebags with hands that were paradoxically so cold they felt like they were on fire. Needlepoints of flame were shooting through his oddly heavy hands. An owl hooted as he crouched low by the gear. A glance down showed that Kid’s bedroll was still tied to his saddle, meaning he was stuck lying on the cold ground and Heyes’ already anger-darkened eyes narrowed. He took the bag and retreated further into the dark.Heyes tried to ignore the lump of worry in his throat. How bad was Kid hurt? They’d thought he was dead at first and Ross had said he needed a doc. How far could he ride? Heyes had to rescue him tonight; this group wasn’t going to turn them in alive. Only Ross seemed to show any hesitation at the thought of their deaths. And lastly, just what was he going to do to the men that back-shot his partner? He fumbled the saddlebags open.Heyes pulled out a dry shirt, several bandannas, and changed tops as fast as his fingers would move. His dexterity had definitely taken a hit and he scowled, annoyed, at the full body shivering he’d started that he couldn’t quit. He pulled out a knife Kid had in his bag and smiled a hard smile. He checked the locations of the bounty hunters and then he back went for Clyde’s bag, which held their guns. Escaping a camp of bounty hunters while the Kid was badly hurt, maybe unable to help escape, was not the wisest idea he’d ever had, but Heyes didn’t have a choice. He wasn’t going to leave his partner to die and judging by how he was feeling, he didn’t have a whole lot of time to act, himself. Hannibal Heyes snatched the head bounty hunter’s bag, carried it off, and retrieved their guns. He loaded them as quietly as possible then tucked Kid’s gun into his pocket and kept his own in his shaking hand. Finally, he looked at the tack with the hunter’s saddles and went to work with the knife.When he was finished, Dustin was still watching the opposite way and Ross was still kneeling by Kid. Heyes finished changing clothes the rest of the way because he needed the warmth and it was more and more of an effort to think clearly. He moved in the darkness to ready the two horses whose gear he’d left unmolested.
***Ross Kaden had defied his brother by untying the wounded gunslinger. There wasn’t enough light to dig the bullet out and no one willing to hold the torch, so he’d cleaned it with carbolic acid and done what he could to stem the flow of blood. In the morning, when everyone was searching for the body of Hannibal Heyes, he’d remove the bullet. If Curry was still alive.Ross grimaced. He still couldn’t believe Clyde had shot the man in the back. He never would’ve when their father was alive, but he had to admit his oldest brother had been walking a dangerous line from meanness to something worse for some time. Dusty, on the other hand, had always been a nasty sun of a gun and the other two just followed along. He hadn’t known how bad it had gotten. Being the youngest, he’d been the one his ma held on to and he’d even gone all the way through school when the others hadn’t. Curry made a pained noise and Ross darted a glance at the supplies. Did he dare try to get some laudanum? It would start a row with Dustin and Curry might not be strong enough to withstand the drug. He did need to get new bandages, though.“I’m sorry,” Ross whispered. He truly was; he saw his own grief at his father’s pointless death in Curry’s reaction to the news about Heyes. Besides, they’d been thieves but they’d never hurt anyone. Unlike his brothers…Their father’s death had set loose the older Kaden brothers. That’s why his Ma had sent for him and he’d come home, leaving his apprenticeship as a clerk and his gal, to be their new moral compass. Fat lot of good it did. Josie was right. He should cut loose from his brothers and settle down with her. He’d left the family business some time before his Pa died because he hadn’t the stomach to capture human beings and that had been before the cruelty. Pa Kaden had been strict, but never cruel. Ross picked up a canteen and patted Kid Curry’s wrist, not wanting to jar his shoulder. “Mr. Curry, if you can wake up you should drink again. I’ve got jerky too, if you can manage.”The man groaned in response and Ross sighed, standing to get the other saddlebag with medical supplies. He looked around then stood, heading towards the saddles.“Still playin’ nursemaid to the gunnie?” Dustin’s voice was suddenly behind him.Ross stiffened. Dustin was the one he actually was afraid of; the others might be verbally abusive but they loved him and wouldn’t physically harm him. Dustin, on the other hand, had beaten him as often as he could when they were young until Clyde had found out and stopped it.“Aren’t you supposed to be guarding the camp? Walking the perimeter?” Ross asked, frowning at Dusty looking over Kid Curry.“You ain’t supposed to’ve untied him.”Ross sighed. “He’s injured badly and the bleeding wouldn’t stop. I’m just treating him—”“Far better than the thieving’ scum he is,” Dustin finished. “We ought to just kill ‘im. Where you goin’ anyway?”“You’re not killing this man,” Ross said.“You ain’t my boss.” Dustin stared at him and a tense moment passed between the brothers.“Clyde’s the one that said I could treat him. He didn’t say you could kill him. Look, I’ll re-tie him.” Ross bent down to tie Kid Curry’s hands loosely in front of him. The poor man’s eyes were closed and he was starting to shiver from the blood loss. “I just need to get the rest of the medical supplies. He’s going to need another new bandage soon and now that the bleeding’s stopped, I can risk leaving.”Dusty smirked at his brother. “I’ll guard the gunnie while you go get it.”Ross hesitated.“Go on, less’n you want me to save you the bother and just kill him?”“No.” Ross turned and headed for the horses.Dustin watched his brother, then turned away and bent down by the apparently unconscious gunslinger. “I recall I owe you a beatin’…”
***Heyes had to move quickly; Dustin Kaden being anywhere near Kid alone even for a short length of time was dangerous. Kid’s horse and Clyde’s horse were saddled and ready. He stayed behind the trees and knew all that Ross had to do was spot the saddled horses or the missing gear. Luckily they were too far from the fire for anything to be well lit and Ross was watching where he was walking.“Hello boys,” Ross said to the horses. He knelt down near all the saddles and as soon as he was crouched, Heyes put his gun to the back of the man’s head and cocked his six-gun with a little effort. At least the dry clothes and gloves had stopped him from becoming completely unable to use his hands.“If you even so much as breathe, I will fire,” Heyes said in a quietly hard voice. “Mr. Heyes? You’re alive?” Ross asked, surprised. He didn’t raise his voice.“Great observational skills,” Heyes replied. “I see why you’re a bounty hunter.”“I didn’t want to hurt either of you, so you don’t need to hurt me. I’m over here to fetch my bags to help your partner,” Ross said as Heyes used his gun free hand to force him to stand.“Oh, you helped him all right,” the ex-outlaw said venomously. “You and your family. Helped me, too.”The man’s shoulders slumped as he slowly turned to face Heyes. “I wanted to turn you in alive…and I could’ve yelled just now.”“And died right after.”“You don’t kill people, Mr. Heyes,” Ross Kaden said.“Unlike your family, that’s been true…so far,” Heyes said, meeting his eyes. Ross flinched and looked down. “Your partner’s still alive,” he said. “Look, I’m sorry. I did try to help you and I’m the only reason Curry’s still breathing. I don’t hold with hurting fugitives.”“Seems you’re in the wrong kind of work,” Heyes said as he took Ross’s holstered gun with his free hand. “Drop your gun belt slowly and quietly.”Ross hesitated then bit his lip. “I couldn’t get the bullet out of his shoulder. He bled an awful lot and frankly, I don’t know if he can survive a horse, but he really won’t survive with that bullet in him long. Take the bag at my feet, it has medical supplies. Then if you’re gonna kill me, do it now.”“You helped him, but you didn’t stop this from happening.” Heyes raised the gun and Ross closed his eyes. Heyes struck the man with the butt of his gun and then caught him, lowering him to the ground. He hurriedly tied him.
***Dustin Kaden grabbed the prone Kid Curry by his curly hair and lifted him off the ground. “You got any fight left in ya? Some gunslinger. Didn’t even kill any of us but you let me kill your partner. How ‘bout you wake up an’ move around? I’d love the excuse to blow your head clean off.”There was no response and Kaden released his hair, disgusted. He punched the still figure in the side a few times, which elicited only the slightest grunt. “Guess you ain’t gonna make any noise, either, which ain’t as fun.”Still crouching by Curry, Dustin turned to locate Ross so he could gauge how long he had to torture his victim. The bounty hunter was surprised when a tan gloved hand grabbed his six-gun out of the holster faster than he could follow. Dustin met the steel blue eyes of Kid Curry who cocked his own gun at him.“Stay real quiet,” Kid Curry said in an icy voice. “I’d love the excuse to blow your head clean off.”Dustin Kaden stayed still and looked terrified; this was the Kid Curry he’d heard about. Kid kept the bounty hunter in his sights. The problem was that he’d seen the opportunity and grabbed it, but he wasn’t sure he had the strength to get up. They were in a standoff and his grasp on consciousness was tenuous at best. He bit the inside of his cheek, trying to force himself to stay awake. He had to find Heyes.Dustin’s eyes darted to the left. He was going to make a move but before Kid had to react, the man collapsed into the dirt. Curry, fuzzy with blood loss, stared at the man before he looked up to see the figure behind Dustin.“Making a move without me, Kid? Awful risky,” Heyes said in a whisper with a broad grin for Kid, who was alive. Alive and conscious. But as Heyes moved next to his partner and got close enough to see his condition, his smile dropped. Heyes turned furious eyes on the unconscious gunman.Kid’s hand holding Dustin’s gun dropped in shock as he still stared at Heyes, then he shoved himself up to stand, instantly falling back. Heyes moved to help him automatically, easing him up.“Easy, Kid,” Heyes said in a low, worried voice. “Heyes?” Kid finally whispered, his left bloody hand grasping at Heyes’ shirt, as if he needed to make sure he was really there. Heyes nodded, his eyes understanding and apologetic. “It’s me, Kid. I’m sorry you thought I drowned. I didn’t mean… I didn’t think…” Heyes cut himself off. It wasn’t the time. “You’re okay?” Kid asked, still staring at his partner. The gunman’s face was pale and he was weaving as he sat there, unsteady and weak.“I am, but can you ride?”Kid managed a ghost of a grin and released his fistful of Heyes’ shirt to pat his arm. “Just get me a horse and we’ll find out. You sure you’re okay?” “Yes,” Heyes snapped quietly. “Why’re you asking me?“Because the side of your head’s got blood on it,” Kid snapped softly in return. “Plus you’re shiverin’ an’ your lips are blue.”“Oh.” Heyes had forgotten that Dustin had struck him in the side of the head with his rifle butt. “I’m okay just cold. Can you hold a gun steady?”Kid proved that his dirty looks worked just fine and gave Heyes one. Heyes smiled—relieved his partner was alive enough to be annoyed—and pulled out Kid’s gun. Kid grinned and took it, covering Heyes as he began tying up Dustin. Heyes gagged the man and glanced over to his partner who was just barely sitting upright, shivering, his eyes half lidded, but with his gun still held straight. He was paler than Heyes had seen before and he looked to be on death’s door. Heyes glared down at Dustin and then looked over at the other brothers sleeping by the fire. His eyes were dark and dangerous. “Guess I need to make sure they don’t follow.” “Heyes,” Kid said softly. “Whatever you’re thinking…Stop. We need to get goin’.”His partner’s voice brought him back and Heyes promised the men silently that if Kid…if things went south, he would destroy them whether it was 5 against one or not.Heyes bent down next to the Kid and helped him to his feet. Jaw clenched, Kid was just able to stay conscious but he couldn’t help but slump into Heyes. Heyes put an arm around his waist and helped him stay upright, heading for the horses. Unfortunately it wasn’t just the Kid stumbling; Heyes was slightly disoriented himself and he tried to shake himself out of it. Stumbling, numb, not as mentally quick…he was suffering from the cold for sure. Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry listed toward the waiting horses, moving in a joint session of give and take. His partner was getting heavier and Heyes wanted to go back and shoot each one of the Kadens through the shoulder, but it was taking everything they both had to keep walking. Heyes leaned Kid against a tree trunk and grabbed the horses. If Kid had been pale before, he was now white.“Kid…” Heyes said, worried. “We have to ride. Can you…?”He trailed off. They had to go now.“Y’ worry ‘bout y’ horse…” Kid managed to mumble, giving a pale, tight lipped smile. He would drag himself along for Heyes’ sake as long as he was able.“It’s gonna be the same horse. We’re riding double,” Heyes replied. “Okay, let’s get you up.”Kid shoved himself off of the trunk. “Heyes, y’shiverin’ an’ y’ lips’re blue,” he mumbled. “Take my coat off an’ put it on.”“I’m not moving that shoulder until we’re in the cabin and don’t you even try it. Just mount.”Kid scowled but wasn’t up to arguing so, with Heyes pushing, he managed to get on his horse. Of course when he sat down, his vision went dark and he pitched to one side, leaving Heyes holding on to his sheepskin coat.“Kid!” Heyes hissed, holding him on the horse with one hand. “Grab the horn.” Kid held on long enough for Heyes to mount up behind him. The dark haired man made sure the second horse was secure and then he headed their horse back towards the one place they might be safe. Might be. Kid was shivering from the blood loss and Heyes was shivering because he was wet; they were a sorry pair and the trapper’s shack was hard to find but not impossible. They weren’t even out of view of the camp when Kid passed out again, but Heyes had an arm firmly around his partner.“Hang on, Kid,” he said under his breath and then he went deeper into the woods, leading the other horse. Heyes hoped the bounty hunters slept late and gave them a large head start, but his real worry was that he wasn’t going to be able to stay conscious long enough to get them to safety or he'd be too disoriented to find the cabin.
|Subject: Re: Give and Take || |
Give and Take