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 What's That Noise?

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PostSubject: What's That Noise?   What's That Noise? EmptyTue Oct 01, 2019 4:05 am

Time for a prompt for October, and suitable for those who love Halloween as well as those who hate it, your story prompt is;
Dance


What's that noise?
affraid
Feel free to take the prompt in any direction you want - romantic, scary, thrilling, angsty, mysterious, or just downright weird.


Please remember to comment on last month's stories before moving on to October, as comments are the only thanks our writers get.      
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WichitaRed

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PostSubject: Re: What's That Noise?   What's That Noise? EmptyTue Oct 15, 2019 3:58 pm

October challenge: What's That Noise


                                 
 
The breeze blowing along the trail carried a touch of coolness, a hint that summer was fading to autumn.
 
Except the day was perfect.
 
The sun shone down clear and bright, through row after row of white streaming clouds, and as Heyes and Curry rode by a seeding sunflower, a meadowlark landed, trilling its high-pitched warbling song, and Heyes smiled ear to ear bobbing along comfortably in his saddle.
 
“Considerin’ we slept on hard ground and woke covered in hoarfrost,” Curry shook his head, “can’t imagine what has you feeling so good?”
 
Making a soft chirking sound, Heyes shrugged, “just feels like a good day to be alive.”
 
Curry cocked one eye at his pal, “I for one, ain’t thinking that until we are safe and sound back at the Hole.”
 
A chuckle burbled up from Heyes, “telling you, Kid, we lost that posse.”
 
“Hope your right.”
 
“Been more than a day,” Heyes replied, purposely playing out the crooked grin, he knew rubbed against his pal’s spine, finishing up with, “I know I am.”
 
Urging his big bay into a long-legged lope, Curry snorted, “heard that before.”
 
They flowed down the grassy trail that wove through a valley with the wind flipping their coattails, until Curry reined in, “something up ahead.”
 
Heyes sharply asked, “what?”
 
“Not sure, but it is alive.” Curry threw a look to his partner, “might be an elk or whitetail.” Still, a frown darkened his face, and Heyes’ smile was no longer in sight.
 
When they arrived to the spot in the trail, Curry sat back, “whoa boy,” and stepped down, his gloved hand bending the grass, “tracks here.”
 
Leaning forward, Heyes too peered at the ground, “what kind?”
 
Curry looked up, his hat shadowing any emotions, he might be showing, “four-sets, all shod.”
 
Standing in his stirrups, Heyes scanned the sheer cut cliffs along with the scrub brush that dotted the valley like overgrown, rag-tag mushrooms. “Don’t see no one.”
 
Catching his toe in the stirrup, Curry swung a leg across his horse’s rump. “Me neither.”
 
Twisting one way and then another, Heyes searched again, his brow bunching like sundried leather.
 
“Worried about the posse.”
 
“Just plain worried.”
 
Riding on at a dogtrot, they suspiciously eyed each grouping of tumbled rocks where the bushes sprouted; and feeling their rider’s edginess, their wide-chested geldings flicked their ears, their long tails twitching sharply like a horsefly was harassing them.
 
At a grouping large enough to throw shadows across the trail, Curry’s head snapped to the left, “what’s that noise?”
 
Before the sound of his question faded, a man wearing a brown hat with the brim flipped back stepped a flashy, high-headed paint horse across the trail, and calmly as saying pass the salt, said, “don’t move an inch.” In his hands, lay a large bore, double-barrel shotgun. “I’ve rammed Ol’ Peg’s barrels with revolver balls along with 60-grains of shot, and I’d be proud to show y’all what that much lead can do to both man and horse.”
 
Heyes and Curry scowled at the double-barrel scattergun leveled on them, even as three men wearing homespun shirts, in sharp contrast to their pricy leather fringed chaps rode out, with another pair strangling behind on foot.
 
The pair circled about Heyes and Curry, and watching them Heyes thought, ‘they all look like Texas cowboys, what are they doing so far north?’ Even as he considered this, he took note of the men’s tied-down six-guns, and the carbines in their hands.
 
Brown hat, kneed his horse closer, playing out a bully’s grin, “All right, boys, drop them irons in the dirt.”
 
Heyes and Curry's eyes met, each reading in the others, ‘tight spot, any ideas?’
 
With the briefest of nods, Heyes rolled out a greasy showman smile, which did not come close to reaching his eyes, to the man bossing them about, “What seems to be the problem?”
 
Brown hat chuckled, bobbing the scattergun at Heyes, “You.... you’re the problem. I said, drop them irons in the dirt. If’n you don’t comply  than y’all be the ones hitting the dirt.”
 
The other outlaws edged out of range of the scattergun’s spray, seeing them do so gave Heyes a cold spot in his gut. Without moving, his eyes flicked from brown hat to the men, knowing Curry was doing the same and felt positive his pal was also deducing the same. Which was none of these men were ill at ease with the situation, they had all killed before, many times before, and no weight sat on their shoulders regarding doing it again.
 
“This is the last time I’m asking,” brown hat barked, his finger slipping through the shotgun’s guard ring to rest on the double triggers.
 
Slowly, Heyes lifted his Schofield, letting it drop, and at the sound of Curry’s Colt doing the same, a cold chill drifted over him that had nothing to do with the cool morning wind.
 
A short, stout built man walked up to Heyes, jabbing his leg with a rifle barrel. “Get down.”
 
Swinging to the ground, Heyes stared down into the man’s eyes like he could see clear through to his soul, “you any idea who we are?”
 
“Nope, and don’t really care neither,” the short man replied, snagging Heyes by the shoulder, propelling him away from his horse.
 
Another cowboy in a faded red shirt, pointed his carbine at Curry, “you too, on the ground.”
 
Curry’s face bunched, his eyes disappearing to his anger.
 
“I don’t mind shooting you off,” red shirt said sarcastically, “only, it most times spooks the hoss. So, get down!”
 
Hopping to the ground, Curry walked up alongside Heyes, before anyone could shove him into place.
 
“Appears y’all know your horseflesh.” Brown hat said, relaxing back in the seat of his saddle. “But, even if they was dinks, we would still be taking them.” He looked back down the same trail, Heyes and Curry had come up, “pair of ours done played out.”
 
Curry’s brows rose, and he shot a look to Heyes, who took a breath saying,
“you would do yourself fair to reconsider his bay. . .” he tipped his head toward Curry’s horse, “. . . beast only seems to care for him and is meaner than a rattler stepped on twice with everyone else. Ride out double on mine…” he eased out a dimpled smile, “and, we’ll do the same with his.”
 
“Well, now don’t that sound sweet.” Brown hat coo’ed, “almost like you care for our well-being and all. Bud grab the horses, Mike, their irons.”
 
“Mister, can’t we work out some sort of arrangement,” Heyes said with a smooth burr, working to hold on to his smile. “Leaving a person out here afoot, without weapons, is a sure-fire way to kill someone.”
 
A laugh, to be envied by any stage villain, erupted from brown hat, “y’all don’t need to be frettin’ none ‘bout anything out here killin’ you.”
 
His men chuckled darkly.
 
“We all will be puttin’ you down before we ride out.”
 
Heyes left eyebrow rose, his face hardening to granite.
 
“Find no witnesses allows me to sleep better at night.”
 
While brown hat was saying this, Bud led their horses away, and Mike scooped up the pistols, grinning into Curry’s face, “mighty fine balance.” He twirled the Colt, sliding it in his waistband alongside Heyes’ Schofield. Then spying the corner of a bill peeking from Curry’s vest pocket, he said, “come to think of it, hand over, what you got in your pockets.”
 
Releasing a disgruntled cough, Curry dipped his hand in his vest pocket. However, instead of grabbing the bills, he cocked the little derringer stored there that he had recently won in a poker game.
 
Knowing what was about to bust loose, Heyes looked straight up into brown hat’s leathered face, “killing folks tends to add dead or alive to a wanted poster, makes free-living harder to enjoy.”
 
“All our posters already say that, and we ain’t found it makes life any harder.” Brown hat leaned forward, resting the shotgun barrel across his saddle horn. “But, what does, is leaving folks to identify and track us.” He smiled huge as a man served a good meal, “now those are two points I find make free-living much harder to enjoy.”
 
Scrunching his nose, with his eyes following suit, Heyes’ voice dropped to a low growl, “you really plan on outright murdering us.”
 
Brown hat laughed heartily, “Hey, boys, this one’s a bit slow on the uptake, probably best we are puttin’ em down.”
 
The other five outlaws brayed like mules, and during their enjoyment, Curry withdrew the derringer.
 
Blood spurted from Mike’s neck, his eyes widening to the size of plates at the abrupt pain, and Curry leapt in retrieving his and Heyes’ pistols. As the man began to crumple, Curry fired double-handed at the bushwhacking outlaws.
 
By the time they thought to fire back, Curry had dropped, rolling away, even as their bullets thunked in the dirt where he had been standing.
 
From every which way, firearms were barking, and in the commotion, Heyes’ sorrel reared, tearing the reins from Bud’s hand.
 
Rising to his feet, Curry thumbed the pistol’s hammers faster than a turning mill house wheel, efficiently knocking three outlaws from their saddles.
 
In all the commotion, Heyes managed to pull Curry’s carbine from its saddle scabbard.
 
A lean, slack-jawed youth wearing long-fringed chaps came running, his Colt flinging bullets so close to Heyes they sang by like hornets.
 
Jacking a round into the rifle, Heyes fired rapidly, his bullet striking the man just below the knee; and fringed chaps, plowed into the ground.
 
Heyes stumbled, spinning about feeling like a scorching branding iron was being driven into the upper part of his right arm, and just as he got his feet under him, a second bullet burrowed in, not more than an inch from the first.
 
A screaming roar tore from Heyes and racking in one round after another, he fired wildly at the cutthroat gang’s leader. A bullet caught the paint horse in the head, and the animal flopped over with a shriek, pinning brown hat beneath him.
 
Racing over, Heyes stomped on brown hat’s pistol, even as he kicked the scattergun away, the man was reaching for.
 
Smoke swirled thick as November fog, with the sounds of battle echoing off the rock walls, and Curry shouted, “drop your guns, and scoot your backsides against those rocks, and do it now.”
 
Heyes noticed how the blood running down his arm made brown hat’s pistol feel slick in his hand when he picked it up. Without giving it more thought, he used the pistol to cover the men following Curry’s orders.
 
Pausing, Curry ejected his spent cartridges, reloading his Colt before gathering the outlaw’s weapons.
 
Each longarm, he flung off toward the rock walls, but the pistols he kept hold of, and when done, he tucked them in his saddlebag.
 
His cold anger filled eyes crawled over the outlaws. The amount of blood pooling on Mike’s shirt front from his neck wound, caused him to walk up to a shoulder shot man. Kicking him in the boot, Curry growled, “put some pressure on his wound,” motioning to Mike.
 
The coldness left his eyes as he joined Heyes, shoving his Schofield back in its holster, and looking up at his pal, softly asked, “You all right?”
 
“Been better.”
 
“Damnation!” Brown hat squalled, “y’all have to get this horse off me, think my leg is broke.”
 
Curry asked, “What should we do?”
 
Exhaling heavily, Heyes shook his head, even as brown hat called, “did you hear me?!  Get this damn dead horse off me.”
 
Heyes’ spun on his boot heels, his eyes glittering dark stones as he unveiled a smile, one reserved for those who opened the darkness he kept constrained under lock and key. “Shut the hell up, I feel as much sympathy for you as you felt for us.”
 
With a gulp, the man looked down and away.
 
“Hey…” Curry grunted, removing his bandana, “let’s tie that up, stop you from bleeding all over the place.”
 
With a nod, Heyes switched the sticky pistol to his left hand, keeping the others covered as Curry secured the cloth about the bleeding wound. Through gritted teeth, Heyes got out, “use mine, too, and make it tighter.”
 
“Bullets still in there.”
 
“You don’t have to tell me.”
 
Curry gave the cloth a sound tug, tightening it, and a mournful groan escaped Heyes, but with a sharp inhale he nodded he was fine.
 
“Ain’t never seen shooting like that,” said an outlaw gripping his thigh where blood seeped through his pants to well up about his fingers. His pale eyes searched over Curry, “who are you?”
 
As Curry opened his mouth, Heyes bumped him with the barrel of the pistol he was holding, “no reason to tell them.”
 
“Suppose you’re right.”
 
Heyes nodded toward brown hat, “no reason to give them a name to track.”
 
The outlaw leader’s brow furrowed, “why would we do that?”
 
With a quick glance to his arm that was paining him something terrible, Heyes responded, “I am a betting man, and I figure the odds are high you would come looking for revenge.”
 
Taking his rifle from Heyes, Curry reloaded it, returning it to the saddle boot, and while he was doing this, one of the outlaws asked, “you ain’t really gonna leave us like this?”
 
Turning around, Curry hooked his thumbs in his holster belt, his face betraying none of the boyish charm that had earned him his sobriquet, “better than how you planned on leaving us.”
 
Gathering up the outlaw’s horses, Curry paused next to Heyes, “need help.”
 
Heyes shook his head.
 
With a nod, Curry stepped into his saddle, half hitching the reins about his horn, he drew his pistol, and again nodded at Heyes.
 
Shoving the bloody pistol in the back of his waistband, Heyes stepped up to his horse, and with one step backward, he tucked his wounded arm tight to his ribs, launching himself into the saddle.  
 
Bud whined, “you can’t take our horses?”
 
Bitter laughter wrapped about Heyes’ words as he answered, “Isn’t that what you all planned for us?”
 
Bud’s eyes narrowed, trying to better make out Heyes and Curry “earlier… why’d you ask if’n I knew who you were?”
 
The flat closed-lipped I am tired of dealing with you smile of Heyes’ appeared, “no reason that I feel like passing on to you.”
 
“You wanted?”
 
Beneath Curry’s low pulled hat, his eyes slanted to his partner, watching him as he shifted, cradling his wounded arm more snugly across his belly.
 
Steering his horse, to circle well out of brown hat’s reach, Heyes chuckled down at the men, and before riding on said, “outlaw life is hard, isn’t it?”
 
Before Curry’s horse had taken more than a few steps to follow, the outlaw Heyes’ had shot below the knee, yelped, “leave me a hoss, shot like this I can’t go fetchin’ one.”
 
Reining in, Curry wryly said, “if you are riding with pals who will look after you, then you haven’t got a worry in the world.”
 
The man’s mouth fell open, and Curry took out after Heyes’ dragging the three horses with him.
 
Once they had some distance behind them, Curry released a snort, “Really, Heyes? Outlaw life is hard.”
 
“It is…” Heyes grinned over, pain sharpening the hard contours of his face.  “especially when you are riding with a leader so dumb, he couldn’t understand he was playing against his betters.”
 
“Betters?” Kid snorted, releasing the horses. “I sure didn’t hear you talking our way out of that mess.”
 
“Wasn’t worried.” Heyes looked back down the trail, “I heard what you told that man, about knowing who he rode with. Well, I know who I ride with.” He smiled at Curry, “and I knew you wouldn’t allow either of us to wind up dead.”
 
“Glad you had such faith,” Curry nodded toward Heyes’ bloody arm, “considering you’re the one sporting a few extra holes.”
 
“Like I said, outlaw life is hard.”
 
They fell quiet, rustling grass, the creak of leather, and the solid clopping of their horse's hooves keeping the silence at bay, until about a mile down the trail, they passed through some trees where there was a chorus of owls hooting, and Heyes cleared his throat, “you sorry we’re outlaws.”
 
“Not when I have a pal such as you to ride the owlhoot trail with.”
 
Heyes grinned over, and Curry returned it in kind.
 
The End

_________________
Wichita Red..."I'm not really a rebel, but I take chances. I have a good time and I live life the way I want to live it."
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PostSubject: Re: What's That Noise?   What's That Noise? EmptyWed Oct 23, 2019 9:13 pm

I have to apologize that it took me so long to return to the story line which I started in May and continued in June.
It turned around a young woman who woke up in the middle of the night, not prepared to find not one but two handsome ex-outlaws in her house, not knowing how they travelled through time and space and not knowing how to return. Just when they got a little more acquainted, the nightly peace was interrupted by unfamiliar noises...



A young woman - who now hoped she was still asleep when her dream started to turn into a nightmare - startled as well as her uninvited reformed outlaw guests who accompanied her in her nightly kitchen.

“What’s that noise?” Heyes asked their under-dressed host. “Anyone else here with you?”

“Not as long as no others came along with you,” she said and pulled the jacket tighter around her shoulders.

“Any pets?”

She shook her head.

Her visitors exchanged a short glance. Deliberately Kid Curry sat down his food, wiped off his hands and edged around the counter.

More noises, louder now.

“Thieves?” she asked no one in particular and panned the modest surroundings. There was not much to find in her house besides herself. Who would...? Why...?

Panic flashed up inside her, rooted her to the ground and wrapped her in a dark sphere of fear. Her only movement was the trembling of her body. The papers were filled with stories of what happened in such occasions, and the knowledge wasn’t suitable to comfort her.

The power was off. No power, meant no phone too. There was no way to call the police. She was all on her own, with a stranger in her house, looking for whatever he might seek – and it surely were no riches.

She jumped as she heard someone clearing his throat behind her. Swiftly, she spun around and found herself facing a blond-haired, blue-eyed gunman, handsome and kind, but with steel in his eyes and an attitude of controlled danger surrounding him.

Two pairs of blue eyes locked.

Suddenly she wasn’t scared anymore. His eyes were unbelievable familiar to her. She felt home, safe, like she had always known him. There was no way he would ever let someone harm her. She had never met him before - and she probably didn’t meet him right now – so how was it possible to feel that way?

More sounds pulled her back into present before she could fathom the bottom of her thought.

She received a reassuring smile from the blond.

“Make a stand or run?” her hero asked her.

“Run!!!”

“Where to?”

“Where? Clear off!”

“If there’s a place to run to – fine. Just running away is pointless. Once you start runnin’ it ain’t easy to stop again. So if you’re heading for nothin’ nothin’ might stop you – and there’s nothin’ you’ll find in the end. You still wanna go for it?”

She thought it over, hesitated and finally stated, “Nope. Let’s find out, who’s there and what they want...and make it a point that they went for the wrong place.”

“Now you’re speakin’!” A broad grin split Kid Curry’s face. He turned his head and faced his partner, starting a silent discussion. Fascinated she followed the unfolding nonverbal exchange.

Blue eyes asked a question.

Brown eyes narrowed, the brows above them knit.

The blond head tilted and indicated her.

Dark brows raised towards the hairline while the eyes below widened.

The look in the blond one’s eyes hardened a mite more, and something about the setting of his jaw changed.

Chocolate-colored eyes were rolled upwards, followed by a sight of surrender and a reluctant nod of the dark-haired head.

Smiling, the young gunslinger turned back to her again. “We’ll handle this. Just lead the way, we’ll cover you.”

In unison all three of them turned around and peeked out of the door, listening, but nothing unusual was to be heard.

Silently the threesome sneaked through dark rooms. The Kid went first followed by the lady of the house who indicated the direction while Heyes brought up the rear. Silently they searched for the source of the previous noises.

There – shuffling sounds! It was at the back of the house, probably around her bedroom – of course it had to be! When all this was over, she had to switch rooms or she would never ever get sleep again. It was way too busy in there.

They stopped in front of the door. Kid Curry drew his gun and then indicated the door to his partner. Heyes passed his comrades by and cracked the door open. Nobody was to be seen inside. Silently they slipped inside and closed the door.

Kid Curry took a quick glance around, taking in every detail. Suddenly he froze. “Hold it right there!” he hissed, pointing his gun towards the wall behind them.

His two companions whirled around, eying the potential threat. Heyes frowned while their lady friend bite away a smile. “Kid, that’s just a poster,” she said.

“A poster? Man-sized and colored? Of gunmen?” Heyes asked and tilted his head. “Don’t they look somewhat familiar, Kid?”

The Kid holstered his weapon and took a closer look. “It’s...us!? What is it? That’s sort of a wanted poster?”

She blushed. “No, it’s not! It’s just...uh...How to explain?” she stammered and finally gave in with a shrug of her shoulders. “Well, kinda.”

“You have wanted posters on your wall? Of us? In your bedroom?” the sexiest gunslinger of the West asked her bemused. “What kind of place is this, huh?” His voice was soft and low and recalled images of silk and velvet.

Her face-color deepened, almost illuming the surrounding darkness.

The curly blond stepped a little closer and looked the poster up and down. “Hey, I look good!” he stated with an appreciative smile on his face.

“You look good?” Heyes chimed in. “Maybe. On a second look. First of all, it’s me there, who catches the eye! All handsome, self-confident, superior...” He adopted a heroic pose as he went on praising himself while his partner rolled his eyes. “Just look at that stance, that glance, it all tells you I’ve...”

“...got no clue!” the golden-haired cut him off.

“What!?” Heyes shot at him, taken by complete surprise.

“You’ve got no clue! Not the faintest idea!” Kid Curry claimed, grinning smugly. “You’re always posin’ that masterful when you’re bluffin’!”

“I - what?!? Now wait a minute...!”

Curry developed a self-satisfied grin while his partner was about to explode. Before a beautiful friendship could abruptly come to an end, the young woman piped up. “Will you shut up - both of you!” she hissed, indicating the window. Shadows moved, where no movement was to be expected.

All three of them turned around and none too soon.

The shadows outside condensed to a dark shape. Seconds later the windowpane moved upwards. Slowly a head slipped in, slim shoulders and the rest of a slender body followed. With a low thud the figure landed on the floor. Two handsome cowboys exchanged an amused glance and shook their heads.

“That’s an amateur if I ever saw one,” Heyes scoffed barely audible.

Their host nudged his side, indicating the new arrival on the stage of her bedroom. Then she faced the newcomer again. With all of her willpower she suppressed her instinct to run. Before the returning fear had a chance to get the better of her, she heard the sound of a cocking gun.

“Hold it right there!” Kid Curry’s voice was cold and had a dangerous edge about it.

Her third uninvited guest of the night, about to struggle to his feet, startled and dropped to his butt. The hood of his shirt slipped back and revealed a dark shock of hair above a fairly handsome face. When the young man lifted his head, the lady of the house drew one step back, and inhaled sharply.

“You know him?” a baritone voice whispered in her ear. She nodded. “Who is he?”

“It’s Jake. He is...was...well, I don’t know...a sort of friend of mine.”

“Complicated friendship, huh?”

“You can say that. I know him all of my life, but sometimes he just drives me crazy!”

“I know that sort of thing,” Heyes replied emphatically, which raised a huff from his fair-haired partner who added, “You can say that twice!” His dark-haired friend turned toward him and beamed him a bright smile that twinkled in his eyes.

Meanwhile their host placed her hands on her hips and scowled. “What do you want Jake? Scare me to death!?"

“No, darling, I...”

“Don’t you ‘darling’ me!” she snapped, while behind her back two pairs of outlaw-eyes met for another amused glance. “We made a clear split! I told you not to knock on my door again as long as you’re hanging out with those nasty friends of yours. And that didn’t mean you should use the window instead.”

“I didn’t knock...”

“Jake!”

“You really think this is the point, son!?” Heyes scoffed.

“Who’s that?” Jake asked in puzzlement.

“You’re not the only one with friends,” the only female present told him.

“That’s friends of yours? What do they think they are? A pair of Texas Rangers?”

She smiled, all self-confident. “Not exactly, something way better. And if you’re lucky you’ll never find out. They’re gonna help me – like real gentlemen do. So, you better get going!”

“No, darl...uh...babe...uh...oh, come on, Jocelyn. I just came here to warn you.”

“Warn me?”

“That’s why you break into a lady’s house? In the middle of the night? Are you crazy?” Kid Curry snapped. He drew a menacing step closer, but a slender hand held him back.

“Well, yeah...” Jake stammered. “I mean, no! I mean you better be very careful, Josie. Wes is looking out for you.”

“For me? Why the heck would he do that?”

“To...well...just as insurance.”

“What‘s that supposed to mean?” Heyes inquired.

“For the money I owe him...”

“What money?” Kid Curry cut in.

“Debts from the last poker game.”

“The dead sure one you told me about? All of them players unexperienced and drawing on inside straights?” Josie pressed on her friend.

“Well...”

“Let me guess: you lost your last shirt...”

“...and a little more. I know the attitude,” Curry chimed in, glancing sideways at his friend.

“How much of a little more?” Jocelyn asked cautiously.

Jake just hemmed and hawed.

“How much?” Heyes barked.

The young gambler named a sum that made the girl’s eyes grow wide and raised a whistle from the boys.

“You can’t be serious!” Jocelyn gasped.

“It was dead sure! It was only a matter of time...”

“Oh yeah, a matter of time until something like this had to happen. Where have you had your brains?”

“Just stop it, alright! I’ve got a plan! I’ll go for a little job and pay him off. I already talked him into it. Everything will be fine! I just need your help.”

A pair of outlaws looked at each other, one of them mocking the other one pouting.

“That’s your stupidest idea ever! You’re asking for trouble!”

“But, darl... Jocelyn, listen! It will be quick money, just an easy little job.”

“Easy? Nothing’s easy, where Wes is involved.”

“I’ve thought of everything. It’ll work like clockwork. Only one little bank job would solve the problem!”

“A bank? Are you crazy? Why would you want to rob a bank?”

“That’s where the money is kept,” he answered and shrugged. Heyes and Curry exchanged a broad grin.

“Great! So why not break in into the mint?” Jocelyn scoffed. “That’s where the money is made!”

“Are you serious?” Jake’s eyes lit up.

So did a pair of dark-brown eyes, while a pair of blues rolled upwards.

“No,” she snapped.

“But...”

“No!”

“You know, you’re right about the mint. We could...”

“No!”

“Just one single job!”

But Heyes took over again, “In my experience one job never means one job. One leads to another, this one to the next and faster as you can spell ‘armed robbery’, you’re deeper into the mess than you ever wanted to be. Trust me, there’s no such thing as ‘just one job’...”

Kid Curry nodded confirmation. “Money’s never enough. Your partner’s too excited. The next place is just too temptin’. Next time everythin’ will be easier...”

“The next job will solve all your problems,” Heyes continued. “But it just doesn’t work that way, ‘cause it creates a million new ones. It’s easier not to start, than to stop. Believe me, we know what we’re talking about! The way back to the straight and narrow is a might long and stony one.”

Jake chose to ignore the men, his eyes trained on his friend.

“I already said no, Jake, and I meant it.”

“And let’s face it,” Heyes added, “if this Wes guy ain’t as dumb as a brick, he’d never let you off, once you started to make money for him.”

“Who did you say they are?” Jake asked suspiciously and squinted his eyes.

“I said nothing, but they do have a point. You won’t talk me into this. I know better than that. We both do!”

Jake heaved a deep sigh. “Alright, but if you won’t help me, please, go away. At least for a while.”

“You think I would leave this house? My house? Built by my great grandfather where he met his wife-to-be and he fell in love with her? It’s everything I own!”

“I just...care about you, you know that.”

She huffed. “In a very strange way as it seems to me.”

“So, you won’t help me. You won’t leave, but you can’t stay either. What’re we gonna do now?”

“You’ll think of something.” Her voice was soft and filled with trust and a hint of resignation. “You always do.”

“There’s not much of a choice, huh?”

“And she didn’t say she wouldn’t help you,” Heyes interjected. “There must be a legal way to get even.”

“Well, if you’ve got enough funds to loan me...”

Threefold head-shaking answered him.

Jake sighted. “If I had at least a stake! There’s another game on Friday, and I know there’s still room for another player.”

Pouting, Jocelyn casted her eyes down. “There is one thing I could do to help you, but...”

“What is it?”

“There’s a ring.” She hesitated to continue and heaved a sigh. Then she opened a drawer of her dresser and produced an antique ring: braided golden bands twisted together and ending in leave-shaped gems of noticeable size and brilliant green color. Their fire sparkled lively in the dark of the night. “My great grandmother’s wedding band, the only heirloom I’ve got besides this old house. It holds dear memories. It’s given from mother to daughter on their wedding since her husband gave it to her. I just own it, because mom...” Her voice trailed off.

Gently, Jake took her hand and looked her deep in the eyes. “I know, Jocelyn. And I know it means everything to you. I’d never ask for it. But if you give it to me by choice, I promise I’ll bring it back to you no matter what. It would cover the buy-in and I won’t put it in any risk. I could make up my debts and even get ahead again.”

“...or they’d skin you alive once more,” Heyes objected. “The longer I think about it, the entire thing seems pretty much like a scam to me. Too many coincidences for my liking.”

Jake rubbed his chin. “Maybe you’re right. But I’m quite a player, and I don’t know how they managed to fleece me.”

“A crooked game?”

The young man shrugged. “I didn’t notice it. If I had any evidence, I could make it work in my favor. There’s a lot of important people there on Friday...”

“...meaning other crooks...” Josie translated in disgust.

“...Wes has a reputation to lose – and more. He would have a real hard time, if word spread his games were not straight. A lot of boys would be pretty pissed, boys you better not cross.”

“Sounds like a chance,” Heyes confirmed.

“But how would I spot it?”

Two ex-outlaws exchanged a long glance. Kid Curry finally shrugged and left the room.

“Where’s he going?” Jocelyn asked.

“Getting my deck of cards. Where can we set up a game?”

-o-o-o-o-



The young woman led them back into the kitchen, where they met Kid Curry with the cards. Jocelyn lit a couple of candles, opened a bottle of wine and all four of them settled down around a kitchen counter.

Heyes took his hat off, stretched his fingers and started shuffling the deck. First, they played a few easy hands. Jocelyn turned out to be an average player, but Jake showed true talent. They only played for matches, but most of the pots went to him or Heyes.

“Keep your eyes on everything,” Heyes told his scholar, “but never let on. It’s not only the cards, it’s the drinks, the girls, any kind of distraction.” Then he started doing his magic. The cards moved like they had their own will, but always in his favor. He repeated some tricks slowly and explained to Jake how to spot certain cheats. As the night wore on, Jake’s knowledge grew as well as his awareness. He even tried a few tricks himself.

“Don’t let temptation get the better part of you, Jake. What you’re doing is mighty risky. If they catch you cheating, they’ll rip you apart. So. Don’t. Cheat. Ever!” Heyes empathized. “Nobody of us wants Jocelyn to get hurt. And I have the strange feeling she would be hurt, if you got hurt.”

The young gambler looked up and met Jocelyn’s eyes. They both kept silent, but both of them blushed.

Kid Curry cleared his throat noisily. “Dawn must be coming soon.”

The kids broke their eye contact. Jake stood and rolled his shoulders. “Then I better get going, huh?”

“That’s the first thing you said tonight that makes absolutely sense!” she replied.

He stretched his shoulders again and tried to pass her by, heading for the staircase.

“What you think you’re doing?”

“Get outta here.”

“Oh, no. No, no, no. You’ll leave right the way you came in.”

“Through the window?” He stared at her in disbelief.

She nodded.

“But I could break my neck!”

“I doubt we’ll be that lucky...”

“Come on...”

“I don’t want anyone see you coming out of my door this early!”

“You won’t push me outta that window, will you?”

She gave him a long, thoughtful look, before she shook her head, grinning.

“Alright, I’ll see you to the back door.”

“I didn’t know your house had one.”

“It’s hidden. I don’t know who built it and why, but it comes pretty handy right now.”

Jake followed her, nodding at the boys before he left. “See you ‘round.”

Only seconds later a dull niose was to be heard from the hallway, followed by a painful moan.

“Ouch!”

“Stop whining, Jake!”

“Your furniture is attacking me!”

“It’s rather your own clumsiness getting back on you!”

A second thud sounded.

“You’re doing this on purpose, aren’t you?” the male voice asked.

“Nope.” A smile lit up her face, unseen, but definitely heard.

“You wanna kill me?”

“No. You’ll live. And you’ll remember what stupid idea it was to ambush me in my own house...” She led him to the secret door, peeked out and whispered, “And don’t forget about your promise. I want my ring back.”

“I’ll never forget I owe you a ring!”

“My ring! And don’t try anything funny. You’ll live to regret it, if you cross me!”

“Sheesh, Josie, what’s gotten into you?”

“Something that was always there, but I didn’t know about - my true self,” she said, smiling. “You better get used to it.” Then she kissed him on the cheek, before she pushed him out and slammed the door shut.

For a moment she leaned her shoulders against the wood. She felt good, so unbelievable good. She wouldn’t run anymore. Now she knew what she was capable of. She would master her life better than she did before. Oh, life tasted so sweet to her today!

With a happy smile on her face Jocelyn returned to the kitchen. On the threshold she stopped. Something felt wrong. The room felt...empty. It was empty.

She searched room, then the entire house. Her visitors had gone. Sadness tried to get hold of her, for the things she had lost, for the friends she had lost. But were they really gone? Had they actually been here in first place? She felt inside herself and there she found them. Two men who would always be close to her. Her smile returned. Some things can’t be taken away from you, no matter what.

She returned to her bedroom and surveyed the room. Everything was like it was expected to be. Everything in its place, even the mess. Maybe she would clean up tomorrow. The door of the closet stood a crack open. She gave it a shove, but it wouldn’t close. Something blocked it. She reached down and picked it up, eyeing the object in her hand in surprise - a brown floppy hat. Funny. She had searched for her replica of Kid Curry’s hat for weeks and couldn’t find it. And now it lay right at her feet. She really needed to clean up. First thing in the morning! Well, maybe after breakfast...

Gently she placed the hat on her dresser before she went to bed again. The dawn was already breaking, but there was still enough time left to get a little more sleep.

Jocelyn Jones snuggled into the pillows and returned to dreams of cowboys, rogues and outlaws...

Epilogue



When Jocelyn and her friend left the room, Heyes and Curry turned to face each other.

“What we’re gonna do now?” Kid Curry asked.

“Return home.” Heyes said, stood up and slapped his battered hat on his head.

“Home...” Kid Curry pondered the thought. “You know, I really like the layout of this house.”

“Huh? What you talking about, Kid?” The schemer threw him a puzzled glance before he turned around, heading for Jocelyn’s bedroom. His friend fetched their belongings and followed him.

“Just sayin’,” the blond said and shrugged. “If I should ever build one this would be just perfect. But that’s not what you meant, I guess.”

“Hell, no! I was talking about getting back in our own time. Back where we belong, you know.”

“Oh. How?”

“Taking that door.” Heyes pointed towards the closet.

“This one? Where does it go?”

“Back home.”

“How would you know?”

“It just figures,” Heyes told him firmly.

“How?”

“Look, we searched the whole house, passed every door. This is the only one left. It has to be the right one!”

“And if not?”

“It is. Trust me.”

Kid Curry just stared at him skeptically.

Heyes heaved a deep breath. “Alright, then we’re licked,” he admitted and shrugged. “In that case I’ll think of something else. Now, just give it a try, will you?”

“But I don’t know how!”

“Maybe you don’t have to! Just do it!”

“You’re crazy, Heyes, you know that?”

“Being your partner for a lifetime held its risks,” Heyes teased him and paused. He addressed his partner with a warm smile. “Go on, Kid, get us outta here. I know you can make it.” Barely audible he added, “At least I hope so.”

Hesitantly, Curry went to the door and turned the knob. “We came here just in time, huh? But why her?”

“How would I know? A needy one was calling you and you jumped into it, head over heels, like always. That was not the kind of smooth escape I was hoping for.”

The Kid just opened the door but spun around.

“Hey, it wasn’t me who...!”

“Just go! Let’s get outta here before others line up for your help.” Heyes pushed his partner through the dark opening. “If we’re lucky, Bill Manson is long gone now and we can make a couple of miles before he finds out where we’ve been gone.”

He took one last long look around and smiled. The Kid had been right: the floorplan was just perfect. He had already memorized it, just in case...

One beat later he followed his friend - hopefully back into their own time and space. And back to the long and winding road towards amnesty.
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Nebraska Wildfire

Nebraska Wildfire

Posts : 150
Join date : 2016-12-10
Location : The Sonoran Desert

What's That Noise? Empty
PostSubject: Re: What's That Noise?   What's That Noise? EmptyThu Oct 24, 2019 6:53 pm

Lydia was thinking of nothing other than how much she was enjoying the dramatic landscape, when she started to hear that horrible noise again.  The russet ridges of the Southwestern scenery had enthralled her and lulled her into a pleasant mood, until she heard the thump, thump, thump once more.  She sighed deeply as she found a safe place to pull over.

Once she was stopped, she looked in the rear-view mirror.   Not unexpectedly, there was no one coming on this desolate stretch of road, so she opened the door and slowly walked around the car, until she found the problem.

Yet another flat tire presented itself on the front passenger side.  She contemplated at her beautiful, but empty surroundings once more, before she collapsed with a groan on a large rock bordering the road.  Even without double-checking, she knew the spare tire in the trunk would be of no use.  It had given up its air earlier that morning, when she had gone through another patch of rough road.  The resultant gash was beyond her simple repair kit.  She wasn’t certain she had the gumption left to see if the current flat would be fixable.  It already had one mend.  Or was it two?

She sat unmoving in the sun long enough that the top of her head was definitely hot before she decided she had to do something or she would not make it to any town before nightfall.  Here in the desert, it was not a good idea to be out alone overnight.  She had some water with her, but nothing to make a fire to keep the coyotes and other animals at bay.

Eventually she did open the trunk, getting her hat out of the back seat first.  After a sip of her precious water, she hauled the car jack out and had just placed it on the ground, in preparation to set it properly beneath the frame of the car, when she heard another noise.

She paused, letting the jack settle quietly into the sand.  It was also a sound she had heard before, but not for a little while.  It was definitely not an unwelcome sound.  She had walked around the back of the car, just out onto the road, as a truck lumbered into view.

Holding onto her hat in the warm desert wind, she waved down the approaching vehicle, worried that it might drive on past, if they didn’t happen to see the flat tire.

A wave of relief washed over her, as the driver downshifted and slowed, stopping behind her car.  Now was the time, in the novels she read, that a handsome prince charming would appear and save her from certain doom.  She smiled, hoping the person was at least friendly.

Slowly the driver’s door on the truck cab opened, and a tall, lanky man, with a well-used cowboy hat made his way out.  “Howdy!  You all need some help?”

With the intense sun, she could not see under the brim of his hat, but knowing she was desperate she answered as politely at the heat allowed.  “Yes, sir, I’d be mighty beholding, if you could help me with this tire.”  She sighed deeply, wiping the sweat off her brow.  “I have another flat.”

A deep, generous laugh emerged from his mouth, as he came closer.  “Yeah, these roads can really cut up the tires.  You got a spare?”

As he finally stood before her, she could see his face clearly.  There were lines in his face, and gray hair under the hat, but the beauty of his blue eyes took her breath away.  He was still a handsome man, even at his current age.  He must have been drop dead gorgeous when he was younger.

“Ma’am?”  He peered at her, gently reaching out a hand to take ahold of her shoulder.  “You alright?  Need a drink of water?”  He smiled just as she was almost able to speak again.  “It’s just a bit warm out here today.”  When she didn’t reply immediately again, he looked past her to see the jack.  He bent down to adjust its placement, but smiled back up at her, asking again,  “You got a spare?”

She finally had to look away as he bent over and started to crank up the jack.

“Yes, sir, but I’m afraid it has a puncture too.”

“Oh.”  He paused and looked first at her tire, then at his.  “Well, I imagine the spare I have will work to get you to town.”  He stopped to loosen the lug nuts.  “Old Clete at the garage should be able to fix you up, either with a patch or new tire.”

“I surely hope one of them can be patched.”  She briefly took off her hat and fanned her face, as it was bright beet red, and not just from the heat. 

“You have some water?  To drink?”  He stopped before he continued to raise the jack.

“Yes.  Do you need some?”

“No, ma’am, but you look like a drink might be a good idea.”  He bent down to finish cranking up the tire.

As she did take another drink, now knowing she’d not need it for the coming night, he swiftly replaced her tire and tossed the second flat in the trunk.  He smiled at her once more, as he himself took a drink from his canteen.

“I’ll just follow you into town, to make certain you get there with no problems.  Miss?” He looked at her with curiosity.

“Miss Horner, sir.   Miss Lydia Horner.”  She couldn’t help but smile back at him.  “And to whom do I owe my thanks?”

“It’s just Jed, ma’am.  The name is Jed.  Sorry I didn’t introduce myself earlier.”


Once they pulled up in front of Clete’s Garage, Jed hopped out of his truck.

“Got another victim of our wonderful roads for you.  Miss Horner here has two flat tires.”

“I’m hoping you can fix at least one.”  Lydia sighed.  “I don’t know that I have the funds for two new ones.”

A hunched over man came out of the shade of the building, wiping his hands on a greasy rag.  “Well, I’ll see what I can do, but no promises.”

She nodded, but wiped her brow again.

“Why don’t you go over to Billy’s Saloon there across the street?” Jed nodded.  “You could get yourself something cool to drink and maybe something for lunch.”

“A saloon?”  Images of gunfighters and poker players of the Old West crossed her mind and she shook her head.  “Maybe I’ll just wait here in the shade of the porch.”

“Suit yourself, but stay out of the way.”  Clete glared as he took the spares back into the depths of the garage.

“Oh, Miss, it ain’t like that.”  His smile crossed Jed’s face again.  “Shouldn’t be anyone in there but Billy and ol’ Heyes himself.  Even Miss Preston, daughter of the banker, and soloist at the church has lunch in there sometimes.  Only place in town open this time of year.”

She peered across the street again, still hesitating.

“I’m meeting my partner there myself.”  He smiled confidently at her.  “I just need to stop over to the mercantile first, or I’ll forget what brought me to town in the first place.”

Lydia finally nodded, thinking if the saloon turned out to be a place she didn’t want to be, she’d    head over to the store, to see if they had anything she could make into a lunch.

“See you there soon as I’m finished.”  Jed tipped his hat and sauntered down the street, but not before he took a look back to make certain she wasn’t still standing in the sun.

She smiled and waved at him, as she determinedly started to cross the street.  She paused for a second to check for traffic, but then laughed quietly to herself as there was none.  Straightening her shoulders, she walked up the stairs to the door of the saloon.  It still had the batwing doors, which gave her another pause, but then she pushed through.

After the noon sun blazing in the street, she was temporarily blinded by the dark interior of the building.  She stopped for her eyes to adjust.

“Needin’ something miss?”  Eventually she could see the bartender wiping down a couple of glasses.  He seemed friendly enough, just curious.

“Um.”  She cleared her throat.  “I was told I could get some lunch here?  I had yet another flat tire on the road just outside of town and this nice man, Jed I think he said his name was, helped me get here so that Clete over there could fix it.  He said I could get some lunch here while I waited.  Jed, that is, not Clete.”  She stopped, clutching her purse, as she realized she was rambling.

“The Kid helped put on your spare?”  A deep voice came from the depths of the saloon.  She still couldn’t see well, but peered over into the back corner from which it seemed to originate.

“Still helping out the needy.”  This phrase did not carry quite so well across the deserted floor, but then his voice raised again.  “Billy, why don’t you make up a tray of sandwiches, rather than just that one I had asked you for.  The Kid’s bound to be hungry too, if he’s been on a mission of mercy again.”

“Sure enough, Mr. Heyes.”  Billy smiled at Lydia as she cautiously approached the bar, steering away from the still ominous voice in the corner.  He leaned towards her lowering his voice a bit.  “Don’t worry about Heyes back there, ma’am.  He may sound rough, but he’s got just as soft of a heart as the Kid does.”  The bartender turned to go into the back.  “Maisy, we got us a lunch rush today.  Three whole people!”

“Well, that might take me a while to make that many sandwiches.”  A woman’s voice grumbled from the back room, but then laughed.  “They gonna want soup?”

Billy looked back towards Lydia, his eyebrow raising in question.

“No, sir.”  She shook her head.  “I’d be happy with a sandwich and something cold to drink.”  She smiled at the thought.

“You need a beer?”  He looked at her quizzically. 

“Oh, no!”  Her face had lost its flush in the relative coolness of the saloon, but it turned bright red again.  “Maybe just a root beer or coke?”

He reached into a cooler, popped the top off of a bottle and handed it to her.  “Here you go.”  Then he turned back towards the kitchen from which grumbling could be heard.  “Coming, Maisy.”

She just held the bottle for a moment relishing the cold.  Then she let the refreshing liquid trickle down her parched throat.  She sighed.

“If it weren’t so darn hot, I wouldn’t mind a bowl of soup, not that anyone asked me.”

Lydia turned towards the far corner.  Now that her eyes had adjusted, she could see a slender man sitting at a table in the back, playing a game of solitaire.  He had on a disreputable old black cowboy hat that looked like it was falling to pieces.  It was pulled low over his face, so all she could see were a pair of bright eyes and a mass of pure white hair.

“Might as well come join me.  I won’t bite.”  The man pushed out a chair by him.  “I need to hear the story of what all the Kid did for you, before he comes in here with his own version.”

“Does he exaggerate often?”  She took another sip of her cold drink before she gathered the courage to approach him.   “He seemed very kind and helpful.”

“I shouldn’t scare you.”  The man laughed as she came closer.  “He is kind and helpful, to anyone who needs it.”  He patted the seat of the chair.  “Why don’t you sit on down and tell me everything.  The Kid will downplay whatever he did.  I tease him that he can’t get to town without saving a baby bird or wayward traveler.”

“Well, I was in sore need of help, with my spare tire already flat from a puncture this morning.”  

As she sat down, he pushed up his hat with one finger.  He gave her a friendly smile and she saw a dimple appear right before his dark, sparkling eyes captured her attention.  His hair was snow white, but glorious and abundant.  She had to stop herself from reaching out to see if it was as soft as it looked.  

As dry and deserted as the landscape was around this small town, she decided they were doing something right, if there was not one but two men who were still so handsome at their ages.

“Now tell me your tale.”  He gathered the cards from his game, shuffling them with no effort or attention, and setting the deck on the table before them. 

Before she could gather her scattered nerves enough to utter one word, the bat wing doors swung open and in walked Jed.

“Heyes, I sent a young lady in here to get lunch.  Hopefully you didn’t scare her away.”  His eyes must have adjusted easier than Lydia’s had, as he almost immediately noticed her sitting at the table.  “Well, it looks like at least he got you a cold drink.”

Suddenly, something clicked in her tired brain, and a connection that she had not made earlier occurred to her.  She looked from one of them to the other.

“You called him Heyes and he called you Kid.”

The man in the black hat sighed and started to shuffle his cards again.  “Kid, please don’t tell me that you brought in another one of those damn tourists who want to see what the famous outlaws look like now that they’re old.”

“Heyes, you forgotten how to be polite?”  The Kid smiled at Lydia as he took off his hat and sat on the other side of her.  “He ain’t usually this cranky, just when it gets so hot.”

“We should have retired in Colorado.  Would be beautiful this time of year.”  

She marveled at how his hands moved over the cards with no effort.

“We tried that, Heyes.  You complained about the cold in the winter.”

“Yeah, I guess I did.”  He drained his beer and dredged up a smile for her.  “Well, did you come out here to see us?”

“Um.”  Lydia looked from one of them to the other.  “No, not really.”

“Honestly?”  Heyes looked skeptical.

“Well, I had heard that you two were living somewhere out here, but I didn’t think I’d be lucky enough to meet you.”  She smiled from one of them to the other, glad that her luck had given her such lovely lunch companions.

“Then why are you out here?  Besides gathering flat tires?”

“I had traveled from Chicago to visit a couple of the native reservations.”  She smiled from one of them to the other.  “I’m an art history student and am writing my thesis on Hopi pottery.”

“Oh.”  Heyes looked like he was disappointed, but the Kid broke out in a huge smile when he noticed Billy come with a tray full of sandwiches and more cold drinks of their choice.

“Now, Miss Horner, why don’t you ignore my grouchy old friend and tell us all about what you’re studying, while we enjoy this nice lunch.”


Last edited by Nebraska Wildfire on Fri Nov 01, 2019 9:08 am; edited 2 times in total
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InsideOutlaw

InsideOutlaw

Posts : 538
Join date : 2013-08-25
Age : 64
Location : Colorado

What's That Noise? Empty
PostSubject: Re: What's That Noise?   What's That Noise? EmptyThu Oct 31, 2019 12:14 pm

A Shot In The Dark


“I don’t like this, Heyes,” groused an uneasy Kid Curry as his horse snorted nervously.  The trail the two partners had been riding for the past few hours had become noticeably narrower as it threaded its way into a dense forest of young, autumnal aspens sparsely shaded by tall, old growth blue spruces.  The tightly clustered trees made it hard to see any distance and the rapidly setting sun made the shadows grow deeper by the minute.  A light wind rustled leaves, sweeping up a woodsy fragrance and masking all other sounds.  It was taking all of the Kid’s concentration to stay on the path when he should’ve been watching their surroundings.  He was disoriented and he was irritated.  “Slick’s gettin’ antsy, too." He stroked his gelding's neck.  "Something’s out there and I can’t see past the end of my damn nose.”


A deer broke from cover and dashed across the trail a few yards in front of the riders causing both horses to spook and try to spin on their heels.  “Easy!” said Heyes as he pulled up his dark bay.  “It’s a doe, you idiot, not a grizzly.”


“You best not be talkin’ to me,” growled the Kid.  His own horse was jigging underneath him, its mouth compulsively worrying the bit.  “What’re we doin’ out here anyways?   We ought to be holed up in the hotel at Abbotsville by now, not traipsin’ around the woods in the middle of nowhere.”


“I told you.  There’s something I’ve gotta take care of,” snapped Heyes.


The Kid stopped his horse and looked back at his friend.  “That’s all you told me!  You think you could elaborate on that a tad?”


“You’ll know soon enough, we’re almost there,” said Heyes as he neared his partner.


“You said that an hour ago!”  


“And it’s still true.”  The dark-haired ex-outlaw rode by without looking at Curry.


“Heyes!”


A soft glow lit the trunks of the trees long before the Kid saw the large, weather-beaten shack concealed in the forest.  Someone had arrived before them and a plume of smoke arose from a crumbling chimney but there were no horses tethered in the vicinity and no signs of movement within the shack.  “Who’s here?” he whispered to his partner who was already swinging out of his saddle.


Heyes turned away from the Kid.  “You’ll see.”  He said as he strode towards the cabin.


Thoroughly annoyed, Curry dismounted and hurried after him, his hand resting on his Colt—just in case.  Reaching out he seized Heyes’ arm and swung him around to a halt.  “That’s not good enough.  Shh!”


“What?”  Heyes tried to pull his arm free, but his partner doggedly held onto it.  


A thump from inside the cabin caused the Kid’s hand to clench even tighter.  “What’s that noise?”  


“I didn’t hear anything.  Let go of me.”  


“You need to tell me who’s inside that shack.”  The Kid’s jaw jutted stubbornly and his eyes held a glacial threat.


Frowning, Heyes glared back.  “I don’t know who’s in there but there’s one way to find out.  I’m going in.”


“No, you ain’t, not until I check it out.  You’re the one who’s always sayin’ we can’t be too careful!”


Heyes tore his arm away.  “When did you get to be such an old biddy?” He started for the cabin again.  


“Heyes…” growled Curry.  Infuriated by his partner’s recklessness, the Kid drew his Colt.  If there was someone in the cabin he knew how to bring them out.  He fired a shot in the dark sky.   


Heyes spun around in shock before dropping to the ground and screaming, “GET DOWN!!”


Reflexively, the Kid dove to the dirt as gunshots erupted from the cabin drilling into tree trunks over his head.  Masculine yelling and feminine screams added to the chaos.  He lifted his Colt to return fire, but was stunned to see Heyes waving his arms and yelling, “Stop! Stop!  It’s us.  Dammit, Wheat, hold your fire!”


“Wheat?” mumbled a confused Kid Curry.


The door opened a crack and a familiar mustached face appeared.  “Heyes, that you?  What the hell…you said it was gonna be a surprise.  You didn’t say nothin’ about us gettin’ shot at.”  


The door swung wider and Kyle Murtry’s grinning visage peeked around the jamb.  “Hoo wee!  I was sure surprised!”  A moment later, Lobo and Hank stepped out next to Wheat and the Kid could see Preacher hovering in the background as Heyes dusted the soil from his trousers.  An unfamiliar woman wearing a feathered boa tucked herself under Lobo’s arm, smiling tentatively.  “Y’all gonna introduce us to your friends?”  Other girlish voices tittered from within the cabin.


“Howdy, boys,” said the Kid, holstering his gun as he rose to his feet.  “What’s goin’ on here?”


“Surprise!” yelled Kyle, waving his hands until the others joined in and added their voices.  “Happy Birthday, Kid!”


Heyes stood with his hands on his hip, consternation written across his face.  “It was supposed to be a surprise.”


“Heyes, it ain’t my birthday.  Is it?” asked Curry, sheepishly.  “Guess I lost track of the days.”


“Yeah, you did.”  Heyes was shaking his head.  “And, ‘cause it’s your 30th, I figured I’d do something special.”


“Heyes got word to Wheat to round us up, get us some lady friends, and meet you here,” said Hank, proudly.  


“We ain’t seen you two in a coon’s age,” chuckled Kyle.  “We’s got lots of catchin’ up to do.”


The Kid threw his arm across Heyes’ shoulders and gave him a squeezing hug. “You got the old gang together!  Now, I get why we’re in the middle of nowhere.  Lom would skin us alive if he knew we were fraternizin’ with these old reprobates.” 


“I probably should, but I let Heyes’ silvery tongue overrule over my good sense,” said a deep voice from behind the Kid.  “Glad to see no one’s bleeding.  Sounded like a war when I rode up.”


“Lom!”


“Happy birthday, Kid,” said Lom, holding up a bottle of premium whiskey.  He passed the bottle to the blond ex-outlaw as he walked by before trotting up the steps and following Wheat and Kyle indoors.


“Quit jawin’ and come on in, you two.  Stew’s gettin’ cold and the ladies are gettin’ warm,” laughed Lobo as the rest of the gang re-entered the shack.


The Kid turned to his partner.  “Heyes, I’m sorry…”


“For what?  For watching my back through thick and thin?  For being the best damn friend and partner a man could ask for?  You’ve got nothing to be sorry about, Kid.  Happy Birthday.”  Heyes gave him a bear hug before clapping him on the back.  “Now, can I go in?  Tonight we’re gonna forget about amnesty and the last three years of eating trail dust and we’re gonna tie one on for old time’s sake.”


“That…sounds perfect!” grinned the Kid.


Together, they walked through the doorway and swung the door shut behind them as cheers erupted. 

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