Posts : 8723
Join date : 2013-08-24
|Subject: Resolutions Tue Jan 01, 2019 8:20 am|| |
Time for the first writing challenge of 2019. As it's a New Year I thought the perfect prompt to give you is:
Posts : 834
Join date : 2013-08-25
Age : 45
|Subject: Re: Resolutions Mon Jan 07, 2019 6:40 pm|| |
An oldie written many moons ago. Hope you don't mind seeing it again.
"Your call, Joshua."
Hannibal Heyes, alias Joshua Smith, contemplated his poker hand. "Fold. This one's too rich for me." Catching sight of his partner entering the saloon, he pushed back from the table. "Deal me out the next coupla hands. I'll be back directly."
"Josh, bring me back a beer if you don't mind."
Heyes smiled. "Sure, Cal. Anyone else?"
A chorus of "no thanks" came from the three other men at the table as Heyes raked in his winnings and headed for the bar. As he approached Jed "Kid" Curry, he gave his partner's shoulder an affectionate squeeze. The cousins had separated for several days to attend to different delivery jobs, and Kid had just arrived in town.
"Two beers," Heyes ordered from the bartender before turning his attention to Curry. "How'd it go?"
"No problems. Things are starting to look up." Heyes grinned. Handing his partner a beer, he hoisted the other to his lips. "Now we can relax for a few days."
Curry took a long swig and set the mug down. "Just direct me to the room and the bathhouse, and I'll be relaxin' before you can finish that beer.” He lowered his voice. “How’re things lookin' here?"
Heyes leaned in closer to Kid, their heads almost touching. "This is as good a place as any to hole up for a few days. And the poker's good, too. Sheriff doesn’t know us, and the town’s really welcoming to strangers. Can’t say anything bad about it."
Curry grinned, his blue eyes dancing. Removing his brown hat, he mowed a hand through the dark blond curls matted to his scalp. "Good to hear. Last thing we need is to head out too soon in this heat."
"My sentiments exactly," agreed Heyes. Nodding in the direction of the poker table as he ordered another beer, he continued, "I want to get back to that game. The hotel's across the street – room 206. Told them I'm expecting ya. Livery's down the street two blocks, and the bath house is next to it. Get yourself settled and come back. I'm buying – a nice steak dinner with all the trimmings."
"You're so good to me, Joshua!" Kid smiled as he slapped Heyes on the back. "Give me a couple hours and you're on."
"Good. Now back to the game." Heyes’ magnanimity dissipated as his focus returned to lady luck. He grabbed the extra beer and returned to the table.
Re-seating himself, Heyes placed the beer in front of Cal and waved off the older man's attempt to pay for it.
"Thanks, Josh. Right nice o' ya."
"Anytime, Cal. So, did I miss anything?"
"Well, probably nothin' important," opined Drew, another middle-aged man. "Somehow, we got to talking about the war, but you're probably too young to remember anything about it."
Heyes studied the man. Until now, he had not noticed that all four gamblers were considerably older than he – certainly old enough to have fought. "I suppose."
Ward, another of the players, asked, "So, Josh, did your daddy fight?"
Heyes, feeling uncomfortable now under the scrutiny of four sets of eyes, shook his head.
"Was he killt?" asked Sam, the fourth man.
"Yeah, he was killed," Heyes said quickly. "Now, where were we?"
Several of the men regarded Heyes before he suddenly glanced away, eyes table-ward. Drew noticed and interjected, "Aw, come on, boys, can't ya tell he doesn't want to talk about it."
Ignoring Drew, Sam asked, "On what side was your daddy and where was he killt?"
Heyes closed his eyes against the lightheadedness that washed over him. Consciously regulating his breathing, he looked up to face the questioner. Pausing for several seconds before speaking, he finally said, "Neither side. He was killed in the raids in Kansas."
Drew spoke again. "Sorry to hear that, Josh. Okay, boys, let's get back to poker."
"In a minute, Drew. Sorry 'bout your daddy, too, Josh," said Sam. "Cal, you were in Kansas, weren't ya?"
Cal put his beer down and turned to the questioner. "Maybe that's not proper conversation for right now, Sam. After all, we're here to play. Besides, we don't want to upset young Joshua any more than he might be already." With that, he encountered the now disturbed dark brown eyes of the ex-outlaw.
Heyes held his gaze. "You were in Kansas?"
Cal did not avert his sightline. "Yes, son, I was."
"Who were you with?"
Cal's voice was steady. "I rode with both Bloody Bill Anderson and Quantrill before headin’ east to join Wade Hampton's outfit and becomin’ a proper soldier. Somethin' to ya?"
Heyes glanced at the table momentarily before looking back at Cal. Given the timing of his war experience, Heyes presumed him to be about forty-five, but he appeared much older – drink perhaps? He had put away quite a few whiskeys over the last couple of days as they played. "Not sure. Those men did some awful things."
Cal's voice turned gruff, before becoming almost mournful. "It was war, boy, and war's hell. And sometimes ... Well, sometimes ... Just be thankful ya didn't see any of it."
Heyes swallowed, hard. "Excuse me."
The dark-haired ex-outlaw barely acknowledged the other men as he rose and strode to the bar, where he ordered a bottle of whiskey. Grabbing it, he left the saloon.
Kid Curry whistled and took the stairs two at a time. Reaching the door, he entered the hotel room just in time to dodge a glass that sailed past him and shattered on the opposite wall in the corridor. Two women in the hallway gasped as the shards rained down to the floor in front of them.
Curry tipped his hat to them in embarrassment. "Ladies."
The women's expressions went from surprise to disapproval as they eyed first Kid, and then Heyes, inside. Hiking their skirts a few inches, they moved carefully around the broken glass before hurrying down the hall.
Wordlessly, Curry dropped the bag of soiled clothing he carried onto the bed, then surveyed the room. Not finding what he sought, he approached the entryway to step back into the hall, and carefully moved the shards of shattered glass to one side with a boot, out of the main pathway. Then, re-entering the room, he closed the door noiselessly behind him.
He regarded his partner. Sotte voce, he demanded, "Okay, what was that about? I leave ya an hour or so ago in the saloon, and now you're almost drunk and throwin’ things."
Heyes stared back. "I'm not nearly drunk, Kid. Just stay outta my way."
Curry approached his cousin and placed a hand on his shoulder. Heyes violently shrugged it off. "Leave me alone, Kid."
"What happened, Heyes? An hour ago, you were gonna buy us a steak dinner. Now ..."
Heyes raised his voice. "I'm not hungry now, Kid. Here, you go eat." With that, Heyes stuffed some bills into Curry's vest pocket.
Taken aback momentarily, the blond man recovered quickly and pushed the bills back into Heyes' hands. "I don't want your money, Heyes. I just wanna know what's goin’ on."
Heyes scowled. "Nothing!"
Kid answered in disbelief, "Nothin'?"
"Heyes, you don't really expect me to believe ..."
Before Curry could finish his words, Heyes socked him in the jaw with a solid right – the punch sending the blond man crashing to the floor with a sickening thump. Heyes exited the room without a backward glance, slamming the door behind him.
In the livery stable, Cal Brundage steadied his horse, and himself, before saddling the animal. Pulling the cinch tight, he half-leaned against the mare before clumsily hefting himself up. Taking the reins, he let the animal set her own pace as he guided her out of the building.
Unnoticed by Cal, Heyes watched his former poker mate leave. Saddling his own bay, he rode it back to the hotel. Single-minded, but somewhat contrite, he entered the room he had left only thirty minutes before.
Curry lay on the double bed, holding his chin, seemingly dazed – perhaps half asleep. However, the blue eyes flew open as his partner entered and approached him. Heyes carefully moved Kid's hand away from the bruised jaw. Wincing, he stepped away and poured water into the washbowl on the night stand, returning with a wet cloth. He dabbed at the swelling.
Kid roused fully at the mention of his name.
Heyes placed the cloth in Curry's hand, motioning for him to hold it on the bruised jaw. He then regarded the blond man for a moment before turning to grab his saddlebags and gathering items to pack.
"Heyes?" Kid's voice quavered.
Finishing his packing, Heyes sat on the bed. "I've gotta leave for a few days. Wait for me here, okay?" Nodding at Curry's jaw, he smiled sheepishly, grimaced. "Sorry about that."
Kid grabbed Heyes' arm. He rasped, "Where ya goin'?"
Heyes glanced at the floor before looking Curry in the eye. "Not sure yet. Gotta take care of something."
Kid's voice grew stronger, but rueful. "Heyes, what is it? And so sudden-like?"
"Jed ... Don't. Just gotta take care of something."
"I've only seen you like this once before in the last few years. We were in Kansas ... Don't do it, Heyes."
The dark-haired man smiled. He tried to speak reassuringly, but missed the mark. "Don't do what? I'm not going to do anything."
"That guy in Kansas. You almost ..."
Kid locked eyes with his partner, his voice now strong. "You almost killed him."
Heyes held the gaze. "But I didn't. Turned out he wasn't there."
"There? You mean our farms, right?"
Heyes dropped his eyes.
"Han ... You always spoke of what you would do if you found one of them. After all these years ... Drop it ... Please??!!"
"I can't, Jed. It never totally goes away. I can't make peace with it the way you did." Heyes sighed and rose. "Just promise me you won't follow me. I'll be back in a few days."
The dark-haired man stopped, his back to Curry. "What?"
"Don't forget about the amnesty."
Heyes trailed Cal Brundage for a day and a night, and another day. The older man moved slowly, seemingly not running from anyone, or anything. Indeed, he drank as he rode. Heyes kept his distance when Cal fell out of the saddle. Though he was a local man, he did not seem to turn toward home, but meandered, riding away from town – west, but without direction.
Heyes camped a second night. He tried, but did not, could not, sleep. And yet, his resoluteness did not wane, nor did it fully engulf him. Instead, it enveloped him alternately as sadness, and anger – but without fury. He tried to sort his feelings, but could not pinpoint them. Perhaps time, and maturity, had tempered things that had raged tempestuously in him in his youth? Perhaps his partner's steady influence? He realized any and all, and other things could explain the confusion he felt – or not. Why were there no clear answers?
Still, he kept on. But to what avail?
While brewing coffee the morning of the third day, a gun clicked. Heyes startled.
"Just hold it right there."
Heyes looked up to see the object of his hunt approach him.
"Why are ya followin' me, Josh?"
The ex-outlaw stared at the man – and the Schofield in his right hand. He remained mute.
Cal stepped closer. "Now take that pistol out of your gun belt nice and easy and toss it over here."
Heyes did as instructed, showing his palms for added measure. He felt strangely calm.
"Now, again, why ya followin' me?"
"I'm not ..."
Cal's voice rose. "Now, don't lie, boy! You've been a-followin' me for days now. Don't think I'm some stupid cuss of a kid who ain't been around some." He paused. "Your mood changed soon as you heard about the war. Said your daddy was killt in the raids? You know I was there."
"Well, like I told ya, some ugly things were done. Whole families wiped out. And why? War's hell, boy! I can't ever forget that … But I suppose you can't, neither."
Heyes stared at the ground.
"Boy, that was twenty years ago! Ya can't keep that with ya and expect to live a happy life. I ain't. My daddy was a preacher, a good man. He named me Calvary. Said it would always remind me – of whatever needed remindin'. And I never forgot. And my daddy never knew what I seen, or done. And I'm not proud of it. Hardly any of us was."
Cal stopped. Bending down, he tossed Heyes' pistol back to him. "Here, boy, if you need to do somethin', do it and get it over with. I'm forcin' your hand."
Heyes looked at the gun, but did not reach for it. His eyes rested on his adversary. He saw – a man.
After several minutes, Brundage walked back to his horse and rode away.
Heyes watched him go, motionless.
Heyes stared at the campfire several hours. Reflections of a life wavered in the flames. His thoughts wandered. His head dropped into his hands. Looking up, he sighed, staring again at the embers – once bright and dancing, now retreated, fading as so long ago ...
Hoofbeats broke his reverie. He watched as his partner acknowledged him and dismounted.
Kid appeared contrite. "Sorry, Heyes, but that was a promise I couldn't keep. Not this long."
Heyes slapped him on the back. "It's okay. Glad ya didn't."
Taken by surprise, Curry blinked. "Yeah?"
"How ya feelin'?" Kid asked, cautiously.
Heyes swallowed hard. "Okay."
"Did anything happen?"
Heyes paused. "No."
"Not really. He talked a bit."
Kid’s brow furrowed. "HE talked?"
"Then he rode out."
Curry let out a breath. His shoulders relaxed. "Good. So, you're okay?"
Heyes gazed skyward before regarding his partner. He sighed. "I'll never forget, Kid."
"Neither will I, Heyes. And your resolution to get them?"
"I'll never forget."
Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything. ~ Wyatt Earp
Posts : 461
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 101
Location : Chicago, Illinois, USA
|Subject: Re: Resolutions Fri Jan 11, 2019 9:18 am|| |
Just a short ficlet, so I can play with all of you. This takes place the morning after "The Reformation of Harry Briscoe."
The knock on the door woke one of the two men sprawled across their beds. He rolled painfully onto his side and muttered something into his pillow. It might have been “shut up” or “go away” or something profane.
The knock came again, louder and more insistent. Eyes closed, the man raised his head painfully from the pillow.
“Who. . . “ his throat was dry. He coughed and tried to form words again.
“Who is it?”
“Still abed, are ye? Shall I come back later?”
“Yes! Later. Or never. Just go!”
He listened for a moment, dreading another knock, but none came. He sank down into his pillow, trying to block out the bright sunlight pouring in through the lace curtains and praying for silence.
“Hmmpph.” He covered both ears with his hands. It looked like even his most simple prayer would not be answered. Maybe if he just ignored the sound . . .
“Hmmpph . . . Heyes. Who was that?”
Hannibal Heyes rolled over to face the occupant of the other bed. The bloodshot blue eyes of his friend and partner, Jed Curry, were unfocused.
“Oh. Good.” Curry rubbed his eyes with his fists. “I feel awful”
“You look awful.”
“You look worse. You look sick." He rolled onto his back. "Why did I drink so much last night?”
“Same reason I did.”
“What reason was that?”
“We were celebrating with Harry Briscoe because he got rehired by Bannerman.”
“Oh yeah. He was buying.”
“Right. That’s the only good reason to go drinking with Harry.”
Heyes slowly pushed himself up to a sitting position. The room spun. His head ached. His mouth felt like he’d swallowed the Mojave Desert. His stomach made unhappy noises. He offered another prayer, this time to his stomach – “please, please, do not let me be sick.”
“There’s water on the dresser,” Curry pointed out, helpfully.
“That’s only going to make me feel worse.” Nevertheless, he got to his feet, swaying only a little. He took stumbling steps to the dresser and poured a glass of water from the pitcher. It didn’t seem like a good idea to drink it – his stomach still was threatening to rebel – but rinsing his mouth felt good. At least it wasn’t so dry anymore.
Heyes looked at himself in the mirror. He had to admit, he wasn’t a pretty sight. Bed hair, dark circles under his eyes, pale skin, and in serious need of a shave.
“You ain’t exactly a sight for sore eyes,” Curry told him.
“I look like I feel. And you don’t look any better.”
“Probably not. ‘Cepting I don’t think I’m as bad off as you. There’s fireworks going off in my head, but my stomach feels settled.” He pointed his index finger at Heyes. “And if you’re gonna get sick, make sure you do it in the pot. I ain’t cleaning up that mess for you.”
“I am not going to get sick. I’m not a child, you know.”
“No, you’re past thirty, and you’re still drinkin’ hard like a sixteen-year old cowboy in Dodge, fresh off a cattle drive.”
Heyes poured water into a bowl and put his face into it, coming up quickly.
“Did that help?” Curry asked.
“Yeah. Yeah, it did. A little.” He blinked at his reflection a few times.
“Why did we do it?”
“What? Going out with Harry, or drinking ourselves into hangovers?”
“Yeah. I mean, drinking mainly, although the bit about Harry is right, too.” Heyes walked over to his bed and sat down. “Like you said, we’re both over thirty years old. We ought to know better.”
Curry sat up, leaning against the headboard. “I feel a lot older than thirty today. I feel like I’m ninety.”
“Yeah, me, too. That’s what I mean, Kid. Maybe it’s time for us to do things differently. Maybe we should make some New Year’s resolutions, change how we live.”
“It ain’t New Year’s. It’s July. It’s too late.”
“Try not to be a pain in the ass, would you? You know what I mean.”
Curry ran his fingers through his matted blonde curls. “What time is it?”
“How the hell should I know?”
“Because you always know. Do you think it’s too late to get some breakfast?”
Heyes glared at him. “How can you think about food at a time like this? We got a decision to make about how we live our lives.”
“The only decision I’m interested in right now is, steak and eggs or bacon and eggs. I can’t do philosophy on an empty stomach. Don’t you want some food?”
“I may never eat again,” Heyes said. “The thought of food’s making my stomach turn cartwheels.”
“By the time we’re both shaved and presentable, you’ll be hungry.” Heyes only groaned and collapsed back onto his bed, rolling into a fetal position.
“I don’t want to eat ever again.”
“I’m going to find that maid and get us some hot water. Then we’ll get washed and shaved, put on some clean clothes, and we’ll go down to the restaurant. You’ll want food by then.”
Heyes pulled the pillow over his head. “All I want is peace and quiet. Do whatever you want, as long as you shut up about it.”
Curry regarded his friend with sympathy. “You’ll feel better after you’re clean. Don’t go nowhere.” Heyes heard the bedsprings creak as Curry got up but kept his head buried in the pillow.
“I’m not going anywhere, and you can’t make me.”
An hour later, both men, with clean-shaven faces, neatly combed hair and wearing mostly clean clothes excavated from their saddlebags, were seated in the hotel’s restaurant. Curry took a long, satisfying drink of his coffee while Heyes regarded his own coffee cup with suspicion.
“It ain’t gonna jump out of the cup and bite you. Drink it. It’ll make your head feel better.” Heyes took a few cautious sips, wincing slightly.
“I hate feeling like this, Kid. If you ever see me throwing back too many whiskies again, shoot me. Just make sure you shoot straight.”
“I always shoot straight.”
Heyes squinted at Curry’s peaceful face. “I can’t believe you ain’t as miserable as me.”
“I’m miserable enough. The difference between us is, I don’t like to bore other people by complaining.”
“Boring? I’m boring you?”
“Right now, you are. This ain’t the first time we had a little too much fun, you know.”
Heyes put the coffee cup into its saucer with too much force. It rocked a little and spilled hot liquid onto his fingers.
“Ow! Damn it!” He put his burned fingers into his mouth.
“That’ll teach you,” Curry said, calmly.
“Teach him what?” Both men turned at the sound of the deep voice.
“Nothing, Harry,” Curry told him. “He’s not capable of learning anything until his head feels better.”
“Hung over, are you?” Harry pulled a chair out and sat down, oblivious to the quick look passing between Heyes and Curry. “The wages of sin, boys.”
“Don’t tell me you’re feeling chipper this morning,” Heyes complained. “You were matching us, whiskey for whiskey.”
“Not really, no. I know my limits, I do. Now that I’m a fully reinstated operative of the Bannerman Agency, I have to hold myself to a higher standard of conduct than what you boys display.” Two sets of eyes hardened, and Harry retreated a little. “Not that there’s anything wrong with the way you boys operate, no sirree. It’s just that I’ve made a resolution to live my life on the straight and narrow from now on. No more shenanigans for me. And that includes over-indulging in vices like whiskey.”
“Funny you should mention resolutions, Harry,’ cause Heyes here, he was talking about making resolutions this morning in between visits to the sick bucket.”
“I did not get sick!”
“’Course you didn’t. Some stranger come into the room and did that while I was out. That’s going to cost you a nice tip for the maid, you know. She deserves extra for cleaning that up.” Heyes was sucking on his sore fingers again, so all he could do was glare. Curry only smiled benignly.
“You know, Heyes, that’s a good idea. I’ve made a resolution to live my life a new way, and you boys could do the same. You already went straight, so you can’t promise to live an honest lifestyle. You’re already doing that. A little more sobriety, though, that might be a good place to start. After all, you won’t always have a Bannerman agent watching out for you, like I do.” Harry tapped his own forehead with two fingers. “Got to stay sharp, and you can’t do that while you’re bellying up to the bar.”
“That’s what I was talking about earlier today. Harry’s right.” Across the table, Curry blinked in surprise. “I know, Kid, I never thought I’d say that either.” Now Harry blinked. “When we’re in the bag, we’re vulnerable. We could both get rolled, or worse. We’ve got to cut back on our drinking.”
Curry folded his hands on the table. “As much as I hate to admit it, you got a point. Being hungover ain’t a bed of roses.”
“If it is roses, all we’re getting is the thorns. Which is how I feel right now. Stuck.” Heyes swiveled in his chair to face Harry.
“How about us three make a pact, right now? You stick to your resolution to stay on the straight and narrow like us, and we’ll take it easy in the saloon. Especially since you won’t be around to watch our backs, like you done last night.”
Harry smiled broadly. “Now that’s more like the boys I know. Always trying to do the right thing. Let’s shake on it.” Each reaching across the table to shake hands, they almost knocked over the coffee pot. Only Curry’s quick reflexes saved them all from being burned with the hot liquid.
“Now, to seal our pact, how about you buy us breakfast?” Curry asked. “Since this is the last time you’ll be watching out for us.”
“Boys, it’s not only my pleasure, it’s my honor. Consider it done, breakfast with all the trimmings.”
Heyes smiled broadly. “You know what, Kid? You’re right. Suddenly I got my appetite back.”
“I told you before you’d be ready for breakfast. You’re not the only genius around here, you know.”
“Amen to that, Kid. Amen to that.”
Posts : 64
Join date : 2018-09-14
|Subject: Re: Resolutions Wed Jan 16, 2019 12:43 am|| |
This story was inspired by a discussion about what would happen to Kid Curry if he would lose his partner: "The boys are still hoping for amnesty when Heyes is killed by a posse while Kid gets away. How does Kid react? What will be Kid’s ultimate fate?"
So, if you don't want to be confronted with the death of a main character, please don't read it.
“That’s your fault!”
That were the last words he’d ever said to him. None of them knew that they would be.
He wouldn’t have blamed him ... he ...
There was so much he could have said instead, but none of them knew what would happen. It was just another run, just another posse. No reason, no time to think about anything else.
They had been so damn close. Kid Curry had been in lead when the shots rang out. He just ducked down on his horse’s back and spurred it, knowing Heyes would do the same. Just get away, there would be time enough for discussions later.
When he noticed that he’d lost his partner he waited in higher terrain. But he waited in vain.
The next morning, he returned, following his own trail. Cautiously he searched for tracks. He turned around a bush and froze. His heart went cold.
A dead horse and a pool of dried blood ... too much blood ...
He fell to his knees, trying to find the answer.Who? WHO?
But there was no way to find it. The dusty ground kept its secret.
Nevertheless, he knew it. It was Heyes’s horse laying there...
But he couldn’t...? He would have felt it, when...?
There was no other way: he had to return to Tingleton to get word about the outcome. Where they’d keep him. How he was. What had to be done to get him out again.
But the cold wouldn’t leave him.
Blood ... too much blood ...
And it was the last he’d ever saw of him.
The word reached him before he got himself into danger: “Heyes shot by posse!” It was the message of the year. It was the message that ended his hope.
There was no chance for him to see his body or talk to him one last time, no chance to bury him in peace, somewhere where nobody would ever find him.
They’d taken any chance away from him. One shot. One damn single shot!‘That’s your fault!’
These words haunted him.
There had been so many things he never had told him ... but ... there never had been a need to do so. Heyes had known about it anyway. Telling him would just have been a chance to regain his peace of mind.
But he wouldn’t get it.
He wouldn’t see him ever again.
He couldn’t even visit his grave. They’ll look out for him ... catch him ... try him ...‘Heyes’
How precious this word was, as precious as had been the man it belonged to.
He missed him, missed him so desperately!
He knew he had to get away before he made a stupid mistake and ended his life in misery, too.
And so, he left. Left the town, left the county, left the state. And he never returned.
Only three days after Hannibal Heyes got shot, Kid Curry died, too. At least he was never seen again...
Several Months Later
It was only a small town, high above in the Rockies. Just a few cabins, some more tents and a bargain store.
A dusty stranger rode into town. His bright eyes panned every corner, every street. He didn’t stop until he reached the small store. There he slipped off his horse, tied it at the rail and hesitated a blink before he entered the room.
It was small, not much of a choice, but it held what was necessary in these parts. Flour and corn, salted meat and beans, cans and dried goods, ammunition, clothing and any kind of provision that was needed that far out in the frontier.
His wary eyes took in all the impressions in a moment. They ended their stock-taking at the counter where a nondescript woman stood and watched him. He tipped the brim of his hat and strode towards her.
“Good day, Sir,” she said and waited for response.
All she received was the handover of a crumpled paper with a purchase list. Obviously insecure she accepted the note, scanned it and looked at her customer again. A heavy beard covered most of his face.
“You want to buy all this?”
A short nod answered her.
Uncertain at first, she began to gather the goods. When it came to pick up the heavy sacks, he suddenly stood behind her and gave her a hand. She startled but reined herself in immediately. There was no danger surrounding him, he ... just didn’t speak. Maybe he couldn’t. The strangest kind of men stepped through the store’s door, he just was a new sort of them.
When all was packed together, she told him the price and he paid with hard currency. He tipped his hat again, packed all on his horse’s back and was gone as soon as he had appeared. Only the silver dollars in her hand testified that he had ever been here.
He returned several times, never speaking a word, never meeting her eyes. She wasn’t sure if he even recognized her. But she did. There was something about him that wouldn’t let her go.
The periods between his visits differed, but over time they became more regular. His shopping list was almost always the same and after a while Sally Hartfield knew it by heart. About the time she expected him next, she prepositioned the wares, which he usually bought. Her feeling didn’t betray her. Only a few hours later he walked into the store, silent and with lowered eyes. When he gave her his list, she smiled at him and gestured towards the pile of goods.
“See, I’ve been prepared for you today,” Sally said and smiled at him.
Surprised he looked up and met her eyes. The glance of the light-blue depths struck her like lightning. Even in the shady store they shone in the color of summer sky, asking her a question.
“I thought that you soon would be running out of supplies, mister,” she stammered, trying to gather herself again. There was such a pain, such a sadness hidden in these eyes, like she had never seen before. Quickly she broke the eye contact and weaseled around the counter, trying to keep her hands busy as well as her mind.
“Do you need something else today? We have beautiful apples...”
He followed her with his eyes, but shook his head. With measured gestures he produced a couple of coins and paid the bill. Silently, his eyes lowered again, he tipped his hat and left with his purchase.
But something had changed that day. When he returned the next time, he stayed a while in town, strolled through the streets and had himself a beer in the saloon before he made off again.
The town prospered and over time it became a habit for him, to pass a while here. Sometimes he even took a meal at the newly established restaurant, but wherever he went he didn’t speak there either.
Townsfolk grew used to his sight, declaring him dull because of his lack of speech. Probably he was one of those, who came into the West to make their fortune but never found it. There were many of those stories told and nobody asked too many questions out here.
The man without speech never let out any sign if he cared about the rumors or not.
Sally got used to looking forward to his visits. He was dirty, he didn’t speak but nevertheless he was gentle and polite. She always greeted him with a smile, he always greeted her with a tip of his hat.
One day he was late. She stayed longer than usual in the shop, but he didn’t come. When the light faded, she the closed up and made her way home in the growing darkness. It usually was a peaceable town so she never would have expected, that two strong arms grabbed her when she passed by a narrow alley.
“Here we are, sweetheart, you’re quite what I was looking for!” A dirty stranger dragged her into the alleyway and pushed her towards the wall. He forced a kiss on her and she tasted his foul and alcoholic breath. When she tried to scream, he pressed his dirty hand over her mouth.
“Sssh, darlin’, you don’t want me to hurt you, do you? So, keep nice and quiet and we both will have our fun!” he said while his left hand started nestling on her dress.
“Hold it!” A strong, firm voice cut the air, accompanied by the sound of a cocking gun.
The man startled. He slowly raised his hands and drew back.
“Yeah, back off. Nice and easy,” the unfamiliar voice told him deceptively soft now. “Are you all right, ma’am?”
She tried to catch her breath and nodded. When she remembered the surrounding darkness she voiced hoarsely, “Yes, I am.”
“All right, pal. Get yourself going. I don’t want to see you here ever again. Just touch your gun, you’re a goner.”
A hero when threatening a woman, but faint-hearted when he faced a gun, the man hesitated just one moment before he fled without ever looking back.
Sally stumbled back on the main street and was surprised when she learned who rescued her. The fair-haired stranger holstered his gun as he watched her attacker run away. He nodded at her with a brief smile, before he walked her home in silence. She hadn’t expected anything else. When they reached her home, he did not try to follow her inside.
“I’ll see you in the morning,” he said, turned around and disappeared in the darkness, before she could even thank him properly.
The next day he showed up to pick up his supplies. He went over the occurrence as if nothing ever had happened. But one thing had changed. Since that day he always greeted her with “Howdy”
and “Good-bye, ma’am”
, spoken in his soft amiable voice. She wasn’t sure what to make of him. This man was sort of an enigma.
The year grew old and the nights got noticeably colder. Most of the huntsmen and trappers had already broken up their camp, heading south for the winter. The fair-haired stranger stayed. Reliable as clockwork he returned to get his supplies and lit up Sally's day without knowing it.
Snowfall set in and the business slowed down, but one customer always returned. One day, early in December she waited in vain. Maybe the snow had delayed him and he would come tomorrow. But he didn’t come, neither the next day nor the day after. On the third day she started worrying.
She began asking around but nobody had seen him for quite a while. All she got was a rough description where to find his camp and the good advice to leave him be. Most likely he had gone south as all the others, too. But the bad feeling wouldn’t leave her.
So, she told her uncle who was the shop owner that she would be a few days off, packed the most necessary things in a backpack and wrapped herself in the warmest clothing she owned. It took her hours of walking to reach the described clearing. The place was beautiful, surrounded by high trees, sheltering a frozen well and a new built cabin.
Folks must have been right with their assumption, because she noticed no smoke rising up from the chimney. She called herself stupid for her worries and the effort she had made just to stand here in front of a deserted cabin like a fool. The sun was still high in the sky and she decided to take a rest before she started her long way back to town.
Surely, he wouldn’t mind if she rested up in his cabin to get out of the icy wind for a while. She opened the unlocked door and entered. It took a few moments until her eyes adjusted to the darkness inside, still blinded by the bright shimmering snow.
It was cold inside, almost as cold as outside. A hint of cold smoke still hung in the air, but as it seemed, the man she was looking for hadn’t been here for days. The interior was spartan, the furniture obviously handmade; a table, a bench, a rough crate, some shelves and a bed were all she noticed.
Her eyes stopped at the latter one. She squinted her eyes. Then all the blood left her face. She dropped her bag, hurried forward and kneeled down beside the bed. The tall man lay in it, pale and silent, without showing any sign of life. She pulled off her gloves and touched him cautiously. His hands were as cold as ice, but his forehead was burning with high fever.
Sally sent a prayer to God and got herself started. There sat a good amount of wood beside the hearth so she first lit a fire. Next, she filled all the pots and cans she could find with snow and melted it over the crackling flames. She searched the place and the supplies she had on herself, and started tea and a broth.
Then she cared for the man himself. She had to get him warmed up inside and outside, before she could care about the fever. A cold cloth on his burning forehead, she washed his limbs with warm water and instilled hot tea in him now and then. He was barely able to swallow but it went better with every try.
She stayed with him for days, always at his side, holding his hand, telling him stories she had heard over time. When she found a tattered book in one of the shelves, she started reading for him: Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Story”. That kind of reading seemed strange to her for such a man, but what did she know about him anyway?
The reading seemed to give his feverish dreams a new direction. He started talking, murmuring incoherent words. He got heated, desperate before he fell silent again and tears seeped out of the corner of his eyes. Sally wasn’t sure if he would make it without the doctor’s help, but she wouldn’t let him lie here alone either. She did the best she could and finally the fever broke.
She spent almost a week in his cabin, caring for him, before he was well enough to even recognize her. By now she was used to his home as if it was her own. The equipment was limited but solid.
She was most fascinated by the wooden sculptures which were placed everywhere in the house. They were beautiful, rich in detail and full of life. They inhabited the table, the board beside his bed, the shelves and the crate where he stowed most of his belongings. The carvings showed a few animals but foremost people of any kind; men, women and children of different ages. One face met her over and over again: male, handsome, big expressive eyes and a smile hardly to forget, framed by striking dimples.
“My family,” the stranger told her in one of his rare clear moments, before the fever returned.
As he felt better, he tried to persuade her to return to town, but she wouldn’t listen.
“I’ll go as soon as you can make your way outside alone,” she said.
It became every day’s challenge to prove whether he was able or not. When he finally made it, she packed her belongings and said him good-bye.
“You can’t go alone,” he said, his voice still weak, everything but unfamiliar to her now.
“Yes, I can,” she said. “Who will stop me?”
“Nobody, but I’ll go with you,” he declared.
“You?” she laughed at him. “You’ll never make it to the far side of the clearing without my help. I’d rather stay for a week or so longer, but you won’t have me here anymore. And it’s everything but decent, now you’re better. I’ll go to town and send the doctor after you, to look you up.”
“Then take at least my horse. You can send it back with the doc coming for me.”
“All right, I’ll take your horse.”
With ambiguous feelings she returned into town. He uncle was more than relieved when she finally was home again. He scolded her for the risk she had taken, but she reassured him again, she was all right and nothing improper had happened.
Already the next morning Doc Pendleton rode up to the lonely cabin. Lashed to his horse he had the sturdy dark bay he led back to its owner. It was fully packed with all sorts of supplies needed to get through the most part of winter.
Time went by and soon the year neared its end.
Christmas day held a big surprise. When whole town was gathered in the small church attending Christmas service, a stranger joined them, late, but still in time. He kept standing in the back and nobody heard him chime in into the chorales, but he was there – clad in his best clothing, freshly-shaved, holding his hat in his hands. His handsome face surrounded by long golden curls and his bright eyes outshining the stars, he looked like an angel of light, sent down to earth for spreading the word of mercy. His eyes were filled with sadness and regret, as if he mourned the sorrows of the whole world. He didn’t notice the sensation he caused, he just waited and listened in silence.
His sight touched the heart of every girl and woman present, making them speculate about his origin and fate. More than one father or husband had to hush a compassionate female beside him.
After the service when people stood together for a short while nobody dared to approach him, but more than one pair of eyes watched him. He waited for the one person he knew. When she left the church, he stepped to her with a greeting nod, offered her his arm and walked her home. Slowly they passed through the town side by side. She didn’t expect him to talk and she wasn’t disappointed when she was right. When they arrived at her home, she turned around and asked him to join her for the evening. He just briefly shook his head.
“I have to be with my family,” he told her gently. “Merry Christmas, Sally.” His eyes laid warm on her for a while, before he turned around and left, back to the woods and his lonely cabin. Wherever his heart was, it wasn’t with her.
Back in the cabin only cold awaited him, cold and the knowledge of his loss. He lit a thick candle and placed it on the window sill. The only light in the darkening room. He lit a fire and started some coffee and stew. Then he sat down at the table and closed his eyes. Suddenly he wasn’t alone anymore. Instantly he
was there, he always was.
“You’re such a stubborn idiot,” Heyes scolded him. “She is very nice to you despite your eerie behavior. You’d almost scared me, if I wouldn’t know you better!”
“Heyes, what shall I do? I’m nothing worth. There’s nothing I have to give anymore. I bring ruin to all I love. I always did. There’s no way for me being around folks again.”
“That’s fine talk on such a special day! Shame on you!” Heyes shot at him. “You’ve got the greatest gift of all and today you even received the mercy of God. What else do you want? What else do you need? You were not that greedy when you still were with me!”
“When I was with you, I had everything,” the blond whispered. “I miss you, Heyes.”
His friend didn’t respond. He just felt a touch on his shoulder, light as the wing of a butterfly. He opened his eyes and was alone again, just like he deserved it.
“Don’t be mad at me, Heyes. I’ll try. I promise you, I’ll try,” Jed Curry murmured into the darkness. “Next year.”
“I know about your resolutions,” a warm, dark voice whispered in his mind. “Don’t try to fool me. You gave me your word. Keep it!”
(for those of you asking for a glimpse of his future)
Of course, he stands to his word. By the time he will be accepted and find his place in the small community. There's nothing outstanding about him, at least it's not obvious. His beautiful but sad blue eyes still make the ladies sigh and speculate about his past. One day he will find a wife who accepts him the way he is and supports him whenever he needs it without asking him questions. There's a quiet life and I see children, too.
But don't think the man isn't important. He's always there, when there’s trouble ahead and tries to calm the others down. He's wise and his advice and the compromises he finds are gladly accepted. There's more than one hotspur that might have followed a destructive path if it hadn't been for him. He doesn't change the world, but he surely changes the lives of those who met him...
Posts : 538
Join date : 2013-08-25
Age : 65
Location : Colorado
|Subject: Re: Resolutions Wed Jan 16, 2019 1:11 pm|| |
A Day Early, A Dollar Short - Chapter 5
The smoke increased as the afternoon wore on and the Kid could feel his eyes watering and his throat was sore, the taste acrid in his mouth. Mac had taken to coughing every once in a while. Curry heartily wished the man would choke to death and relieve him of the burden of keeping an eye on him. With both of them mounted, he’d had to split his attention between his captive and the tracks he was having difficulty following. Barefoot, Heyes wasn’t leaving much of a trail, only areas of soft soil and broken branches signaled his passing.
When the Kid saw the tiny cabin in the meadow, he thought he was imagining it. It appeared out of the haze like a mirage. A trail of trodden grass led from where his horse stood at the edge of the forest around the side of the decrepit building. How the hell had Heyes known this place was here? Spurring his horse and yanking Mac and the bay along behind, Curry rode up to the front of the house and leapt from his saddle. He untied the rope securing Mac and yanked him off the horse before roughly pushing him up the stairs and through the door ahead of him.
The Kid’s Colt was out of its holster and at the ready. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he saw what appeared to be a pile of torn fabric heaped upon an old iron bed frame. A soft squeaking of the coiled springs was his only clue the bed was inhabited. Gripping Mac by his forearm, he dragged him to a support post in the center of the room and tied him to it before turning his attention to the bed. Heyes’ face appeared, deep red with beads of moisture dotting his skin. Gently, Curry touched his forehead and snatched back his hand, shocked by the heat. He pulled a torn blanket off and shook the revealed shoulder, but Heyes only mumbled incoherently unable to awaken. When the Kid’s gaze reached his partner’s filthy bare feet and he saw the crude bandage, he rounded on Mac.
“What the hell did you do to him?” yelled the Kid.
Mac shrugged dismissively. “I didn’t want him running away so I shot him. Seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Curry seized the bound man by his shirt, his eyes blazing with hate. “You sonova…”
Calm, brown eyes looked back at the Kid. “You two are wanted dead or alive. I figured I was doin’ him a favor.”
The Kid felt a murderous rage exploding in his heart, but he knew if he gave into it he’d become what he’d always feared. With a frustrated growl, he released Mac and returned to kneel down by Heyes. How was he going to care for him with no medicine? As the dark head thrashed from side to side, he whispered quiet encouragement until the restlessness passed then turned his attention to Heyes’ foot. Carefully, he cut through the tattered skunk cabbage leaves with his pocketknife. The leaves fell open exposing the angry wounds and the marked signs of a deeper infection brewing within. He could tell Heyes had done a good job of keeping the wounds as clean as he could but they were still festering. Hurrying outside, the Kid grabbed a bar of soap and a clean towel from his saddlebags and pulled the canteens from the horn. He’d seen a well on the east side of the cabin as they’d ridden up.
As soon as Curry left, Mac tugged against the ropes binding him but it was no use. Giving up, he let his gaze sweep the cabin. A fine film of dust and mouse turds covered every surface and footprints, both man and animal, were visible on the rough plank floors. A bank of cabinets hung over a makeshift counter on one wall, doors sagging open, rusted cans visible. No one had visited this place in years and it showed. A pane was missing from one of the windows facing the rear and he saw Curry as he passed by.
He was confounded by the young outlaw. He’d seen the raw desire for revenge in the Kid’s eyes and had watched the fight for control play out across the man’s face. Truly, he was stunned he was still alive. Curry clearly wasn’t the stone cold killer his reputation made him out to be. Men had been killed for far less than what Mac had done to Heyes.
The sickened man shifted uncomfortably on the filthy bed. Groans and mumblings erupted from Heyes until the outlaw rolled over and opened his eyes, staring straight at Mac. Heyes cried out, “Pa, please help me,” and, against all reason, Mac felt a shiver down his back and an unwelcomed stab to his heart.
Grayed, warped boards covered the mouth of the well and the Kid savagely yanked them off, tossing them aside. He hung over the well’s edge and peered down into its depths but it was too dark to see the bottom. A wooden pulley was mounted on a beam set across the rocked perimeter and a frayed rope tied to a rotted pail hung suspended over the opening, the end of it secured to a ring set into the masonry. He untied the rope and pulled the bucket towards him. Using his knife, he cut the bucket away and tied the canteens to the severed end. Scooping up small stones he found in the yard, he weighted the canteens so they would sink then he lowered them into the well holding his breath until he heard the splash as they struck water. He gave the canteens time to fill before hauling them up and screwing the caps back on. He’d need to boil the water before he cleaned Heyes’ wound. Putting the canteens around his neck, he gathered up two of the smaller boards, tucking them under one arm before rushing back to the front of the cabin.
“Fire!!” screamed Heyes, jerking upright and startling both Mac and the Kid. The former had been peacefully dozing slumped against the post while the latter had been outside building a fire using the broken chairs and splintered boards. Curry had only just returned from placing Heyes’ cookpot filled with water on the open flames. He was stopped short by the terrified cry from his partner.
“Hey, hey, it’s all right. The fire’s a long ways away, it ain’t gonna hurt us,” said the Kid, soothing his partner while gently urging him to lie back down.
“The barn! The raiders are burning our barn!” Heyes fought the Kid but he didn’t have the strength to resist and he fell back.
“Naw, Heyes, you’re just smellin’ smoke.”
“But…but they got Ma, Jed. They…they…,” Heyes couldn’t finish, what he was seeing in his mind was so horrific he was at a loss for words, his face drained of all color despite his high fever, his eyes wide open and bright with fear and illness.
The Kid glanced over his shoulder at Mac who was listening, his own face pale. There wasn’t anything he could do about the audience and he turned back to Heyes. “Easy now, partner. It’s all right, you’re just havin’ a bad dream.” He held onto his friend’s flailing arms until he felt them weaken and, with a strangled whimper, Heyes stilled.
Weakly, Heyes protested, “But Pa…I have to help him.”
Stroking the dark, sweat-soaked hair, Curry lowered his voice. “Heyes, you’re all mixed up. That was a long time ago. Your pa’s past helpin’. No one’s hurtin’ now, ‘cept you.” Eventually, the terror-filled brown eyes staring up at him glazed over and Heyes passed out again. The Kid watched him for several moments and then stood and turned to his prisoner.
Mac’s eyes shone with an odd light and he whispered, “Heyes lost his folks to raiders?”
“That’s none of your damn business,” snarled the Kid as he picked up the ripped blanket he’d tossed aside earlier and spread it over his partner. Without looking at the bound man he left the cabin, struggling to maintain his composure.
Returning some time later, the Kid held a pot of hot water gripped in one hand and the soap and towel in the other and carried it all over to the bed and set it on the floor. Pulling the blanket off Heyes’ feet, he examined the wounded appendage before picking up the towel and dipping it in the water. He worked up a thick lather with the soap and began thoroughly washing Heyes’ foot while watching for any signs that his partner felt what he was doing. There weren’t any so he scrubbed hard enough to scrape away the scabs and dead tissue that were clotting the entry and exit wounds and started them bleeding again. The blood would help cleanse the foot.
When he was satisfied he’d cleaned the injury as well as he possibly could, he gently put the foot down. He didn’t want to wrap it again, instead choosing to let the blood freely flow hoping it would carry away any remaining filth. He washed out the towel with the leftover water and hooked it on a nail to dry. When he turned away from Heyes, he found Mac watching him again. “You gonna keep starin’ at me?” he snapped peevishly.
“Ain’t got nothin’ else to stare at.”
Ignoring Mac, the Kid crossed over to the cabinets and began pulling out the old cans of food from the lower shelf. Most of them were swollen with toxicity and he threw those to the floor, but he found several that he could use and set them on the counter. On the top shelf, he found an old hammer, a roll of baling wire, and a can of pine tar for waterproofing. He pulled each item down and placed it next to the cans. Reaching back up, he felt around the rear of the shelf and his hand nearly knocked over a bottle. He caught it and pulled it out. It was half-filled and labeled with crude X’s. Moonshine. “Yes!” he said triumphantly.
Mac read his mind. “Ain’t gonna help Heyes. That infection’s too far gone to be cured by tonsil paint.”
The Kid knew what Mac said was true. Deflated, he put the bottle down and his shoulders slumped with defeat.
“So what’s in them cans?”
“Beans and potatoes.”
“What’s that other one?” Mac nodded his chin at the green and black can next to the hammer.
“Pine tar.” The Kid picked up the can and couldn’t help noticing Mac’s interest. “Why? You wanna waterproof somethin’?”
Shaking his head, Mac gave the Kid a tight little smile. “Ain’t all it’s good for, Curry. It’ll draw out an abscess from a horse’s hoof and heal a cut in no time but it’s messy.”
“What?” The Kid looked at the can in his hand as what he was hearing started to sink in. “Are you sayin’ I can use this on Heyes?”
“I used to use it on my stock so I guess it’s good enough for him. Works drawin’ out the bad stuff.”
Skeptical, the Kid frowned. “How can I be sure you ain’t lyin’ to me?”
“Killin’ Heyes ain’t gonna help me much now,” said Mac. “It works. ‘Sides, it don’t seem to me like you have much of a choice. From the looks of that foot, your partner’s got one leg in the grave and he’s ‘bout to dive in.”
The Kid looked over at Heyes and back at Mac. “What do I do with it?”
“Smear it on thick and wait. Pus’ll start oozin’ out and take the tar with it. Clean ‘im up and put more on as soon as that happens. Keep doin’ it ‘til it stops. Then you wait some more and see which way the wind’ll blow.”
The Kid picked up the bottle of moonshine off the counter and sat down across from Mac, his back to Heyes’ bed. He’d treated the foot, cleaned out the bedding as best he could and seen to the horses, now all he could do was wait. Heyes was growing weaker by the minute as his own fear grew stronger.
The sun was setting and he was beginning to feel the effects of the past couple of days. He was bone-tired. He pulled the dried cork out of the bottle with his teeth and took a long pull of the caustic alcohol while considering the man across from him. He couldn’t figure Mac out. He’d wounded a man for convenience’s sake and had been unapologetic about it. The man wasn’t afraid to die, that’s for sure, he’d owned right up to what he’d done despite the Kid’s reputation. He had to give him that. That and the fact that he’d helped Heyes even if he was the one to hurt him in the first place. “Drink?” he asked, holding out the bottle.
“Naw, teetotaler,” said Mac. He added as though it needed clarifying, “Methodist.”
Curry couldn’t help smiling. “Somehow I didn’t take you for a God-fearin’ man.”
“Can’t say as I am. Me, I’m more of a man-fearin’ man.”
The Kid took another swill of booze, “I reckon there’s more men ‘fraid of you than you of them.”
Mac bristled at the observation. “Outlaws maybe. I ain’t never killed no law-abidin’ folk.”
“So how d’you know who’s law-abidin’ and who’s not? Or do you enlist ol’ Saint Peter’s help passin’ judgment?”
Mac’s eyebrows shot up. “Don’t tell me you got religion.”
“My maw put the fear into us; made all of us go to services every Sunday. Some lessons took, some didn’t,” the Kid wistfully thought of those hard wooden benches piled full of squirming Currys. All passed now, and Heyes fixin’ to follow.
“Is your maw proud of you? First commandment is ‘thou shall not steal.’ You and your partner broke that one all to hell. A few others, too, I’d bet.”
Curry glared at him. “I reckon she’d be ashamed of what we’ve done in the past, but if she could see us now, she’d be proud enough.” He thought of the amnesty for the first time in days. They’d worked so hard. Was it gone forever?
Mac’s jaw tightened with outrage and he sputtered, “You’re a damned gunslinger, you kill all the time!”
Frigid blue eyes regarded him. “Only ever killed two men and both of ‘em deserved it. You shouldn’t believe what you read in the dime novels.”
Mac snorted with derision. “C’mon, Curry, you ‘spect me to believe you only killed two men? You’re the fastest gun in the West. You must have every wanna-be shootist callin’ you out on a daily basis.”
The Kid thought of Danny Bilson. He could still see Danny falling to the street, his face forever shocked by his own demise. He took another swig wishing alcohol could wash that memory away, but it never did. “I’m good enough I don’t have to kill, but I’m also smart enough to know when I have to and I’ve only had to twice.”
“Man with your reputation, I’d have figured you’d enjoy the killin’ for the fun of it.” Mac shifted his position. His arms were falling asleep.
“You might find it fun, but I don’t see anything good in it. I killed my first man when I was too young to know better but I’ll never forget how I felt after. I made a resolution right then to make damn sure I never had to kill again.”
“But you did.”
“Some men are hell-bent on hurtin’ others. Like a mad dog, they need puttin’ down.”
“So you kill out of a sense of community?” roared Mac with an angry laugh. “That’s the most self-servin’ bull I’ve ever heard!”
Curry got to his feet and looked at Heyes for a long moment then shifted his eyes back to Mac, asking softly, “What about you, how many men have you killed? Are you hell-bent on hurtin’ others?”
“I do what I do for a reason.”
“You could say that of both of us,” nodded the Kid. “It’s dusk. Game’ll be on the move. I’ll go see if I can find us some fresh meat. As long as you don’t object to my killin’?”
Mac watched the door swing shut behind the famed outlaw and he stared at it for a long time.
“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 : 244
Join date : 2015-11-29
Age : 60
Location : Norfolk, England
|Subject: Re: Resolutions Wed Jan 30, 2019 8:46 am|| |
New Year’s resolution to self: write more about the Kid. So with all good intentions that what I started to do. Then Heyes piped up that I had to back up and start earlier on in the story. He had a resolution as well, he pleaded, (rather pathetically, I thought). As usual, the silver tongued one was right. So this follows on immediately from where I left off in The Kid’s Theme.
ResolutionsHeyes sat slumped in the armchair, a letter held loosely in his hand. He stared into space, his thoughts in turmoil. Where was he? What was he doing? Why couldn’t he have waited? A shaking hand scrubbed at his eyes. Why now? Not now. It wasn’t fair!
He shook his head. No, HE hadn’t been fair. Getting married. Leaving the Kid to manage on his own. He’d thought the Kid was happy for him. Liked Mary. Perhaps that had all been an illusion. Things were going good for HIM but not for the Kid. He tried to imagine how that must feel. Had he really been so caught up with Mary that he had failed to see what he was doing to the Kid? Did the Kid REALLY think he’d turn his back on him, his best friend, his partner, his cousin, his family? The Kid was right. He did have a new partner but one not in the same way as the Kid. Mary would never be, COULD never be the same sort of partner as the Kid.
He shook his head furiously and tossed the letter aside, in disgust. For a moment, he gnawed at his thumbnail, only to reach forward and retrieve the letter. He smoothed it over his thigh. This could be the last communication he ever had with the Kid. He shouldn’t treat it like that.
He sniffed and swallowed the lump. Through involuntary watering eyes, he read the letter again, for the umpteenth time. He almost knew it off by heart. Yet the spelling still made him smile. His finger traced one particular word, following the pen strokes and the overlaid correction.
He composed himself and sat up straighter. Come on Heyes. Think calmly, he told himself. Are there any clues? What is the Kid NOT saying?
He studied the letter again, reading every word aloud slowly.
“Dear Heyes. Sorry to run out on you ‘for you gets back but you’re always saying you should take oppurtunites when they arise. Well an oppurtunity arised fer me. I met a woman. Her name is Caroline Fairfield. She is from Boston. She was on her way home from San Francisco. The train came off the tracks just outside Porterville. Lom will tell you all about it. Anyway the passengers had to be put up in town ‘for they could get on. That’s when I met her. She offered me a job that sounded kinda interestin so I’ve gone back East with her to take it up. Bet you are surprised. I think it is best thing for me. Your all settled and Mary is a great gal and I wish you all the best but there’s not a life for me here now. Know you will worry if there is guns involved so I think this is for the best. Will write when I gets settled. Kid.”
Opportunities? What opportunities could the Kid have in Boston? Who was Caroline Fairfield? Somewhere in the back of his mind that name meant something. Fairfield? Why did he know that name?
He put a hand to his forehead, trying to think. Yet he couldn’t. He couldn’t keep his mind clear. All he kept thinking was why had his happened now? Heyes felt tears well up as he thought on it. By marrying Mary, he had lost the Kid. Perhaps it WAS either or and not both. If that was the case, then it was a hard thought to deal with.
He barely looked up as Mary breezed in.
“Oh good you’re home. Sorry I was a long time. I saw Pa and he kept me talking.” She shrugged off her jacket and hung it up. “On the way back everyone in town seemed to stop me and ask how I was, how was the journey, how did the honeymoon go?” She laughed. “I didn’t tell them anything intimate of course. I wouldn’t tell anyone about that!” She sailed passed him to the kitchen. “Janet said she stocked the icebox and the larder for me. I’ll just go and see what she’s left me … .” The kitchen door swung shut behind her.
Heyes took a deep breath and tried to master himself. He hadn’t fully accomplished it when the kitchen door opened again. Mary appeared slowly and looked at him.
Realisation that something was wrong had set in. She looked at him with concern.
“Is everything okay? Did you see Thaddeus?”
He met her eyes and shook his head.
“Why? What’s happened?”
Mary sat on the sofa near him.
“His gone,” Heyes said softly.
“Gone? Gone where?”
Heyes hesitated. With a ragged breath, he held out the letter to her.
Mary took it from him, gave him another concerned look as he turned away from her, then bent her head to read.
“Pa said there had been a train wreak while we were away,” Mary confirmed, when she had finished. “He didn’t say anything about this,” she tailed off, as she handed the letter back.
“Guess not. One less troublesome ex-outlaw out of the way.” He tried a smile but it wasn’t convincing.
“He said he’d write,” Mary said, squeezing his arm, trying to be reassuring.
“Yeah,” Heyes agreed. “Thaddeus isn’t big on writing.”
Mary took a deep breath. She could see her husband was hurting. They’d had such a great time while they were away. San Francisco was a revelation. She had never been to such a big city. Never seen the sea. Everything was a wonder to her. Heyes had been to San Francisco before of course but this time they had visited places he’d never had the time, opportunity, or reason to see. The museums, art galleries, theatres, libraries all were exciting to him as well. Now all that happiness and enjoyment of their new life together had come crashing down.
As if reading her thoughts, he said. “Maybe this is the payback for us being so happy,” he forced out softly.
“No! Josh don’t think that! Thaddeus says, there was an opportunity and he went for it. Working in the livery wasn’t what he wanted. You know this. Whatever the opportunity was, it had to be better for him than that. Thaddeus is making a new life for himself. I’m sure he’ll be back when the job is finished. I mean Boston isn’t really the sort of … .” Mary stopped and bit her lip. Perhaps she’d better not go any further.
Heyes took a deep breath and stuffed the letter back in its envelope. “Maybe.” He rested his cheek on a fist. “I can’t help feeling I’ll never see him again.”
“He’ll write, Josh. Whatever this is, he’s excited about it. He’ll want to share it with you.”Heyes grunted, doubtfully. “Maybe you can go see him.” Mary looked optimistic.
“Where?” he asked in challenge. “There’s no address.”
“Caroline Fairfield sounds like a woman of means. I’m sure she won’t be hard to find.”
“Yeah, that’s what worries me,” Heyes growled. “I know that name, Mary. Fairfield. I know it. I just can’t remember from where.” Finally, he shook his head. “I can’t get it,” he sighed in frustration. “But it’ll come to me.”
He looked at her and smiled. Reaching out he took her hand. “How was Luke? Relieved that I brought you back unharmed?”
Mary smiled. “Oh I didn’t show him the bruises,” she laughed.
“Ha!” then he sobered. “I’ll never ever hurt you. You do know that don’t you?” he asked, anxiously.
Mary smiled. “Yes of course. I was joking.”
Reassured, Heyes reached for her. He kissed her gently and then held his forehead against hers. “If the Kid doesn’t write then I’ll have to go to Boston to find him.” He pulled her onto his lap. He looked at her sadly and stroked her cheek. “But it’ll have to wait. We’re pretty poor right now. Nice though our honeymoon was, it can’t last, couldn’t last. We’re back to reality. You selling hats and me selling hardware. If I’ve still got a job.”
“I’m sure you have. Seth said he’d keep it open for you, didn’t he?” Heyes gave a nod. “Well then if I know Seth, he’s not going to turn away the best assistant he ever had.”
“The ONLY assistant he ever had,” Heyes corrected, with a smile. Then he sobered. “I will go to Boston, Mary.” She nodded and he sighed. “But I can’t just take off. I have responsibilities now.” He gave Mary a weak smile and stroked her cheek. “I kinda like my responsibilities too.” He hugged her tightly. “I love you, Mary”, he said into her neck. Behind her back, she wouldn’t see his watering eyes. I hope the Kid’ll understand this, he said to himself.ASJASJASJASJHowever, over the following months, despite his resolution, events conspired to keep Heyes at home. He secretly wrote a story for the local paper, The Pocket Watch Mystery, authored allegedly by Hannibal Heyes himself. It was so successful, the editor wanted more so Heyes obliged. Then Seth decided to sell The Hardware Store. There was several weeks of scrabbling around trying to obtain a mortgage before Heyes could secure the purchase. Then as a newly minted businessman there was the store to run, his way. Taking on an assistant, who needed careful training and who wasn’t ready to be left alone just yet. If ever. In the midst of it all, Mary found she was expecting their first child.
A few weeks before Christmas, finds Heyes working on a new story for the paper. He had been scratching away for hours. The balled up pieces of paper around the wastebasket mute testimony to the difficulty he was having. To his left was a small pile of pages filled with his handwriting. As he wrote, his forehead knotted in concentration.
He barely looked up as Mary came home. She sighed when she saw him. He had been sitting in that position three hours ago when she had left. Collecting the mail on her way in, she stood inside the door flicking through it. Bills, a few letters from friends and then one letter with handwriting she didn’t recognise. By the stiffness of it, a Christmas card. The handwriting was untidy and addressed to Joshua. She let out a breath slowly when she saw the postmark.
“Mail,” she said simply, placing the envelope on the desk by his elbow.
Heyes grunted but didn’t look.
“From there,” she said, firmly, tapping the postmark.
Heyes frowned in irritation at being disturbed and glanced where she tapped. His eyes widened. He didn’t need to see the postmark to know who had sent it. He recognised the untidy writing.
“Is it?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he sighed. He stared at it for a moment and then looked up at Mary.
“Well open it,” she laughed a hand on her swelling abdomen. “Or would you like me to!” She started to take it away but he grabbed it back.
“I’ll open it,” he said, firmly.
She smiled and rested a hand on his shoulder as he held the envelope at arm’s length in both hands.
“Go on,” she encouraged gently. “It’s what you’ve been waiting for. News.”
He grunted. He was nervous and he licked his lips. Then swallowing hard he reached for the letter opener. He slit the envelope open slowly. It WAS a Christmas card with an appropriate wintery scene. Inside he read in a different hand from the one on the envelope:
To Joshua and Mary, Happy Holidays, Caroline and Jed.
“Short and sweet,” Heyes murmured. On the left side of the card there was more. This in the same handwriting as the envelope.
Everything is good for me here. Settled in real well. Hope you and Mary are well and that married life suits you. Don’t worry ‘bout me. I’m doing good.
“I don’t know any more than I did a few moments ago. No address.”
“He sounds well, Josh and he’s thinking of you.”
“Yeah.” He didn’t sound convinced. “I wonder who Caroline is.” He set the card to one side.
“Didn’t the letter say he met a woman who offered him a job? That must be her.”
“Yeah but … .” He paused. “If the Kid’s her employee why are they sending a joint card? That don’t make sense,” he said, quietly. None of it made sense. He shook his head and sat back.“Will you put it on the mantelpiece please?” He held it out to her, his eyes falling on Mary’sexpanding waistline. His resolution to go to Boston and find out what was happening seemed endlessly delayed. It looked like it would be for the foreseeable future.ASJASJASJASJJedediah “Kid” Curry had made two resolutions for this New Year. Both would be difficult and daunting in their own way.
The first was to write to Heyes. Apart from the hastily scribbled note in the Christmas card that Caroline had insisted on sending to Heyes and Mary, there had not been any communication between the partners. Jed knew that Heyes deserved a better explanation for why he had ran out on him. He desperately wanted to explain his thinking. But how? Sitting here reading the newspaper wouldn’t do it. Jed tossed aside the newspaper and took himself off to the study. Strike while the iron is hot and all that.
He sat down behind the desk, puffed and took out a sheet of paper from the top drawer. He smiled at the embossed image of the house he now lived in, followed by the address, Fairfield Place, Waltham, Boston, Massachusetts.
Picking out the pen from the ink well he wrote:
January 6, 1885
and sighed. That was something at least. Lots more blank space to fill though so he wrote, knowing that interception was a possibility :
Hmmm, was Heyes dear? Was that the correct way to address him, albeit by alias? SHOULD he address him that way given the circumstances? The Kid balled up the paper and tossed it in the nearby waste bin.
Deep breath, he brought out a fresh sheet and wrote:
January 6, 1885.
Then on the next line:
My Dearest Cousin.
No, no, no! That’s how Caroline would write, he mumbled to himself in annoyance. The scrunched up paper followed the first.
January 6, 1885,
Nope, too familiar and he wasn’t sure if Heyes WAS still his partner. Or even if Heyes would want to be.
January 6, 1885,
Nope, too abrupt.
January 6, 1885,
Hope you received the Christmas card we sent.
The Kid groaned and put his head in his hands. Why was this so difficult? He sat up and looked at what he’d written. It was a good start. Yet what did he want to say now? Turning over the paper, he began to make notes, organising his thoughts by asking himself questions, as Heyes had told him to do.
Why had he left? Hmmm, that was complicated.
Where was he living now? Boston.
How was he getting on? Good.
What was he doing with his days? He thought about what he had been doing since he arrived there and wrote:
Escorting Caroline around Boston.
Learning how to ride on one of these tiny eastern saddles – bruises healed now.Studying the stock market.
Starting my own business – yes really!
The Kid hadn’t realised that Boston had a large Irish community. They had begun arriving over forty years previously, in vast numbers, as the result of famine in their homeland. From the beginning, they were despised and regarded with suspicion. However, through grit and determination, the community had pulled itself out of the gutter. The Irish community was now making a success of its new home, even boasting an Irish-born Congressman. Indeed, just yesterday, January 5, saw the first Irish-born mayor of Boston, Hugh O’Brien, taking the oath of office.
The Kid found himself in a position where he could help promote good ideas, either entrepreneurial or philanthropic, which needed support. His support, either financially or with practical advice. After all his years of taking, he wanted to give something back, make a difference. Learning how the Irish community had suffered, when first arrived, they became his main focus. Money wasn’t always needed for good ideas to work. Sometimes it was just a fresh pair of eyes. He’d take a look and told them honestly if he thought the idea would work. If more knowledge was required, he now knew people who might help and made the introductions. If a business, he took a small percentage, in shares or as a commission percentage on net profits. He had an office, a company name, Curry Investments, and an assistant. If philanthropic, he had learnt to his cost that anonymity was the best way and was content to be the mysterious wealthy backer.
Oh and playing golf, he added as an afterthought to his list.
How long did he plan to stay?
Here, the Kid put down the pen. He didn’t know was the simple answer. He felt settled here now. Yet how much longer COULD he stay? How much longer did Caroline WANT him to stay? What did he feel for her? What did she feel for him? He had awakened something in her he knew he had. Cool, aloof and haughty she could be in public. In private, in his bed, in his arms she was a passionate woman. She was stirring his blood there was no mistake about that. She was his wife and she was beautiful. And he … . Sheesh, he couldn’t bring himself to even think it.
He smiled. He wanted to know more about her, know everything about her. They seemed well suited, despite their differing backgrounds. They laughed at the same things, they were comfortable together and not afraid to be tactile in public. Her hand often strayed into his and vice versa. That was something their friends had noticed and a few close friends had even commented on.
THEIR friends? Yes, he had made friends. Lots of friends. He and Caroline existed within a large social set. None as close as Heyes of course but friends all the same.
When he had first arrived, Boston was soon abuzz with the news that Miss Caroline Fairfield, the beautiful and wealthy heiress, had unexpectedly met and married the notorious but reformed outlaw, Jedediah “Kid” Curry. Their sudden marriage was indeed the stuff of romantic novels. His presence was a curiosity and attracted many visitors anxious to meet and congratulate them. Over the following months, he had gradually weeded them out so only those he regarded as genuine became friends.
Things had just about settled down, when Caroline’s uncle had brought a court case, accusing him of forcing Caroline into marriage to control her money. The Kid’s and Caroline’s defence had sensationalised Boston. Both had made it obvious, without going into intimate detail that their marriage was anything but one of convenience. When the Kid had swept Caroline into his arms and kissed her on the courthouse steps in the full blaze of photographers, reporters and the curious, their union was effectively sealed.
Yet neither had utter the L word. The Kid wanted to know what Caroline thought. What were her plans now that they had proved the legitimacy of their marriage? Did those plans include him? He wanted to know but then again he didn’t. He was afraid to know. In case, … she told him to go. That wasn’t something he wanted to contemplate. The only thing he did know; was prepared to admit was that he didn’t want to go. The conversation at breakfast the other morning hadn’t helped any when Caroline had suddenly asked, “What are we doing, Mr Jones?” She still called him Mr Jones when they were intimate or alone. It made him smile that she had a pet name for him.
He’d stopped chewing for a moment, and then finished his mouthful slowly. She had nonplussed him. He hadn’t expected to have that conversation then and there. He did know what she was meaning though but he was unwilling to answer. He needed to think about it some more. Choose his words carefully. Plan it all out. He swallowed and took a deep breath as he thought how to reply.
“I think … we’re being married. That’s what I think.” He looked at her earnestly. “And doing a pretty good job of it.”
“Yes I think so too,” she agreed. She had seemed relieved. “You … do like it … here don’t you?” She looked eager for his answer.The Kid had considered carefully. Heyes was always telling him never rush into things on impulse. That had worked well hadn’t it? Rushing off to Boston with a stranger, a NEEDY stranger, Heyes would probably count as one of those impulsive things.
“Well …” Stalling he picked up his orange juice, took a deep pull, before setting it down deliberately slowly and looking thoughtfully at it. “Well ma’am it ain’t what I’m used to. Guess you know that but it does have it’s attractions.” Here he was, used to facing down deadly gunman and he’d bottled it; he knew he had. He hated himself for it. Still staring at his glass, he nodded.
“And … what might they be?” Caroline asked, nervously.
He considered carefully before he answered. There was still time. Caroline had given him another opportunity but no. His nerve faltered once again.
“Paved sidewalks!” Now he did look at her. He was serious but his sparkling blue eyes told of his playfulness.
A laugh burst out of her. “Paved … paved sidewalks?” She looked incredulous.
“Yes ma’am,” he confirmed. “An’ cobbled streets. Where I come from you can take your life in your feet crossin’ them streets sometimes. All that mud and muck churned up by the horses and wagons. And the sidewalks they ain’t much safer either. What with the loose boards and missing steps. A man really has to watch his step. It’s dangerous.” He was emphatic. He picked up the knife to butter a second piece of toast.
Caroline dabbed at her mouth with her napkin to hide her smile.
“That’s not exactly what I meant Mr Jones.”
“I know what you meant.” His voice was harder now and he glanced at her quickly. “There are other attractions too.” Buttering his toast took his concentration for a few moments. “We’re rubbing along quite nicely aren’t we?” he said finally, so quietly she barely heard. He didn’t look up.
“Yes Mr Jones. Very nicely indeed.”
Thinking back to that conversation made the Kid smile. They WERE rubbing along nicely together and he really didn’t want to do or say anything that might change that.
Yet his second resolution this New Year was tell his wife how he felt and live with the consequences if they were bad. Hearing her arrival in the hall, perhaps now was the time.
“Hi,” he greeted.
Caroline spun round. “Oh, Jed.” She looked him up and down. “I thought you would be ready be now.” She made for the stairs, obviously in a rush.
She paused and looked back. “The Joslins. We’re dining with them tonight. I’m sorry I was delayed. We’re going to be late.” She progressed up the stairs as he groaned.
“Caroline, can we talk first?” he cried, following her. “I’m sure they won’t mind if we’re a little late.”
“Jed, there’s a difference between being fashionably late and rude. We’re in danger of being the latter if you don’t hurry up. Cowdry will be waiting for you.”
“Caroline … Awh!”
Her bedroom door had shut on him.
He tossed his hands in the air. His second resolution would have to wait. Just like his first. Would he ever get them done? Fate seemed determined to stop him.
Kid Curry and that other fella; Hannibal Heyes and whatsname
|Subject: Re: Resolutions || |